Tag Archives: Wii U

Earthlock: Festival of Magic (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Wii U)  

Developer(s) – Snowcastle Games

Publisher(s) – Snowcastle Games & Soedesco

Director(s) – Bendik Stang & Fritz Olsen

Producer(s) – Erik Hoftun

A turn-based RPG reminiscent of classic Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest games, Earthlock is a game developed by Norwegian outlet Snowcastle Games after securing $250,000 funding amidst a successful Kickstarter campaign, and later published by Soedesco Entertainment; currently one of the most prominent publishers of indie games in, having marketed games like Tower of Guns and Teslagrad to name but a few. Whilst not lasting anywhere near as long as games in the aforementioned tow major RPG series, it retains a lot of the addictive gameplay and satisfaction to be had for developing player characters, as well as a fairly intriguing story set in a wonderfully outlandish world.

Graphics – 7.5/10

The conceptual design of this game speaks to me as a combination of Final Fantasy IX and Star Wars, in that there is the element of futuristic steampunk technology, much like the classic Squaresoft game, and then there’s also the element of different alien species co-existing together, as the character Amon and his uncle Benjo scavenge together at the start of the story; reminiscent of how species exist together in the likes of Star Wars or Mass Effect. Specifically, the desert areas remind me a lot of the planet Tatooine. Though it may not stand out greatly on a technical level, the conceptual design certainly makes up or that.

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Earthlock is a story-driven turn-based RPG; the objective of which is to recruit the main characters to the party, and engage in randomly prompted battles in order to level up each characters to make them as strong as possible, in turn, advancing the main story. In addition, there are also side quests and causes to revisit previous areas, as there are places with stronger monsters, which players need to become stronger over time in order to go back to and explore. Though the gameplay formula has been replicated many times before, Earthlock still gives player a lot to play for in the time that it lasts. It also always addicting to level up characters, and gain new abilities that can be used in combat to achieve more of an edge in battle.

Controls – 10/10

The controls for these games are always very straightforward, and Earthlock is no exception. Exploration and combat are extremely easily to get to grips with, and players will not experience any unnecessary complications while playing. Seeing games like this surfacing within the indie gaming community since the start of the eighth generation has been a breath of fresh air following the unnecessary and frustrating changes made to the combat system in the Final Fantasy games since Final Fantasy XII, and the controls are a massive part of this. Earthlock is a game that gets turn-based combat right in this respect.

Lifespan – 7/10

Earthlock can take on average around 20 hours to complete, but if players are more thorough, and want to do everything possible, it can be made to last around 30 hours, and although this falls short of the average lifespan of a typical turn-based RPG, it’s still more than a reasonably long time for a game to last; especially one that was initially developed on a lower budget than the average mainstream game. To compare it to another, although the game may not have the phenomenal conceptual design of Child of Light, it still lasts a lot longer than a game in the same genre developed by a mainstream company.

Storyline – 7/10

Taking place in the fictional setting of Umbra, the story follows a young man name Amon, a scavenging adventurer, who eventually gets caught up in a huge conflict involving the Suvian Empire. The game’s plot is also quite reminiscent of that of both Final Fantasy IX and Star Wars, as many different characters from a multitude of different backgrounds form an extremely unlikely alliance to save their world from an impending threat. It’s always interesting to see these kinds of stories come together, and Earthlock, albeit to a smaller extent, tells this kind of story well.

Originality – 7/10

Though Earthlock draws a lot of inspiration from many different sources of fantasy and science fiction, as well as many classic series’ of RPGs, it still has a unique level of conceptual design that does well to make it stand out from a great deal of games; most notably in it’s character and enemy designs. Or example, in most Final Fantasy games, most, if not all of the main party, is made of humans, but in this game, almost every playable character is member to an entirely different species, and it makes the game seem extremely diverse in that respect.

Happii

Overall, Earthlock was a very enjoyable game to play, and I would recommend it to any fan of the turn-based RPG formula. It has massive abundance in gameplay and diversity in conceptual design, in addition to an intriguing story that does well to keep players gripped from start to finish.

Score

47/60

7.5/10 (Good)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch & Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Hidemaro Fujibayashi

Producer – Eiji Aonuma

Our years in development, and released as a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, as well as being the last game to be produced by Nintendo for the Wii U, and met with an overwhelming amount of critical acclaim, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild retains some conventions of the Zelda series, but gives players a much more open-world and open-ended experience than ever before. It also incorporates elements new to the series, such as breakable weapons, cooking food and brewing elixirs, using a variety of different armour sets and a massive variety of things to do and quests to complete, which puts many open world games to shame. Whilst this isn’t my favourite Zelda title (that honour would go to Ocarina of Time), Breath of the Wild has unanimously cemented itself as, in my opinion, one of the greatest video games ever developed, and most certainly worth the amount of praise it has been given worldwide.

Graphics – 10/10

Incorporating cel-shaded visuals reminiscent of games in the Wind Waker series, as well as Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild takes place in a post-apocalyptic Hyrule, which is mostly abandoned countryside with the exception of a few small settlements and towns, including Gerudo Town, Rito Village, Goron City, Zora’s Domain and both Kakariko and Hateno Village. Despite the devastation that ravaged Hyrule a century prior to the start of the story, the in-game world looks captivating to say the least. Hyrule still retains a staggering level of natural beauty, as well as curious ruins and additional places to explore.

It’s also interesting as a Zelda fan to be able to identify the many different buildings that have appeared throughout the series that now lie in ruins, such as Lon Lon Ranch, the Temple of Time and the Bridge of Hylia. The game’s soundtrack also does extremely well to add to the atmosphere o this new Hyrule, as well as fit in with each respective situation the player may find themselves in, be that either simply travelling throughout the land in peace, or when battling monsters or mini bosses. It’s also refreshing to see that the conceptual design of the series in general has undergone some dramatic changes, concerning elements like Link and Zelda’s conceptual design, as well as the elements of futuristic technology that existed in mass before the events of the game, such as the Guardians, the shrines and the watchtowers scattered throughout Hyrule.

Gameplay – 10/10

The gameplay has also been dramatically changed to give players a Zelda experience like no other since. The main objective is of course to defeat Ganon, but players may choose to either put this off for as long as possible and go off and do many other things there are to do in the game, or they can even choose to go straight ahead to the final boss from the get-go. Either way, players will not be at a loss for how best they wish to approach the game. Players will also not find themselves with a lack of things to do, since there are a wide range of different side quests and collectible items to find, such as building your own house, completing all 120 shrines, finding all 900 Korok seeds, finding Link’s lost memories, filling the Hyrule Compendium and conquering the four divine beasts to name but a few. As far as gameplay goes, it is unanimously the most extensive Zelda game in terms of things to do, and I was thoroughly impressed from start to finish.

Controls – 10/10

In terms of controls, I also didn’t come across any unnecessary complications. The climbing system is actually reminiscent of what a lot of people tend to do when playing games such as Skyrim and Oblivion; trying to find the best route to climb up mountains despite how steep they may be. In Skyrim and Oblivion for example, players do this without the game encouraging them to do so, but in Breath o the Wild, this is actually an integral part of the gameplay, and is widely encouraged. The combat system can also present a welcome level of challenge in my opinion; especially against multiple enemies.

Lifespan – 10/10

With a massive amount of activity to engage in, Breath of the Wild can easily be made to last over the 100-hour mark, which dwarfs the lifespan of every other major entry in the Zelda series, as well as a vast majority of video games in general. Zelda games would generally last a long time prior, but the sheer scale of this game puts every one of them to shame in this respect.

Storyline – 10/10

The place of Breath of the Wild in the Zelda timeline is uncertain, as Nintendo have not revealed that, but the game takes place in the land of Hyrule 10,000 years after Calamity Ganon had attempted to invade the land, but was thwarted by Link and Zelda, with the aid of four divine beasts and futuristic technology developed by the Sheikah race. A century prior to the start of the story, Princess Zelda conducted further research on Sheikah technology and chose four champions to pilot the divine beast in case Ganon were ever to return. Upon Ganon’s return, he turned the divine beasts and the Sheikah technology against Hyrule, using it to ravage the land, while he remained confined to Hyrule Castle. After fighting the menace, Zelda return to Hyrule Castle in order to ensure that Ganon is kept confined there, whilst link is taken to the Shrine of Resurrection to awake 100 years after Ganon’s return, when he is then tasked with freeing the divine beasts, and to finally defeat Ganon, and drive him out of Hyrule once again.

Being the first main entry in the Zelda series to include voice acting, the story is a lot more emotionally charged than ever before, and it offers a much newer perspective on each character, excluding Link, who is still the same silent protagonist. Although the voice acting is a little below par, the game’s story is a welcome departure from many conventions of past Zelda titles; the portrayal of Princess Zelda herself, for me, being the best feature. Players are sternly reminded of the reason why the series is named The Legend of Zelda, since she carries an aura of mystery and beauty, and to a much greater extent than before, a great depth to her character that Shigeru Miyamoto was inspired by in the first place when naming her after Zelda Fitzgerald; the wife of the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Originality – 9.5/10

Breath of the Wild is definitely much more evolutionary than it is revolutionary in my opinion, which is why I would personally place it beneath Ocarina of Time. Regardless, the game takes the concept of open world gameplay, and introduces a wide range of new ideas and gameplay elements, making it one of the most unique titles of the eighth generation. It seems Nintendo has looked at a lot of limitations in open world gaming, and developed on them, such a in the case of climbing mountains compared to The Elder Scrolls games. I’ve heard people complaining that there isn’t enough in Breath of the Wild to make it seem like a Zelda game, but to me, that’s a reason that makes the game stand out so much in a positive way, since Nintendo have become accused by critics of merely recycling the games, and giving them a new coat of paint; particularly where games for the Wii U are concerned. But to me personally, the departures that this game seem to have taken from the rest of the series are positive ones, and it makes for the best Nintendo gaming experience in a very long time.

Deliirious

Overall, Breath of the Wild is most certainly one of the best games Nintendo have ever developed, as well as being one of the best games ever developed in general. There is a great deal of things to do, the world of Hyrule has never looked so compelling, and layers will be engaged in the story on an entirely different level to anything seen in the series before.

Score

59.5/60

9.5/10 (Outstanding)

Mighty No 9 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, 3DS, PC & Android)

Developer(s) – Comcept & Inti Creates

Publisher(s) – Deep Silver & Spike Chunsoft

Director(s) – Koji Imaeda & Kinshi Ikegami

Producer – Nick Yu

Released following an immensely successful Kickstarter campaign and a series of delays, Mighty No 9 is the brainchild of Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune, as well as several personnel from the development team of the original game In the series. Highly anticipated by Mega Man fans, it was released in mid 2016 to mixed to negative reviews by critics and gamers alike, and dramatically failed to live to it’s budget and expectations. Having played it, I can under stand why many of the original Kickstarter backers were deeply disappointed with this title.

Graphics – 6/10

Although the game was an independently developed venture, the visual quality of the game does not match the budget the developers were given by backers of almost $4,000,000. Besides which, the game also suffers from a number of technical issues; especially concerning the Wii U version of the game. One of many insults to the backers is that the developers clearly didn’t send the time needed to polish the game before it was released to markets; especially coming as it did from a team of developers who experienced internal frustrations themselves from Capcom’s powers that were. From a conceptual standpoint, the game also fails to impress, with the developers seemingly taking basic elements and ideas from the Mega Man series, and building upon them in a very half-hearted manner.

Gameplay – 5/10

The game’s play also doesn’t live up to Mega Man standards, let alone those of the industry as a whole. Intended to present players with the traditional level of challenge the famed series was known for, this game at times can be even more unnecessarily unforgiving, as many casual players may struggle to get past even the first level. At least with Cut Man’s stage in the original Mega Man game, it was an appropriately fair introduction to the rest of the series, but with Mighty No 9, it seemed to have been designed with only veteran Mega Man players in mind, which for a lot of potential newcomers, causes needless problems.

Controls – 8/10

The original Mega Man game did suffer from minor issues with the controls in terms of unresponsiveness. But Mighty no 9 suffers with the same problem, but to a slightly greater extent, again, causing a lot of unnecessary frustration, potentially to both newcomers and veteran Mega Man players. Even throughout the fist level of the game, there are a great deal of platforming obstacles the player has to overcome in order to progress, during which unresponsive controls can cause a multitude of different issues at different points in the game; especially as it is based on a number of lives the player has, hearkening back to old-style gaming.

Lifespan – 5/10

Clocking in at around 6 hours, despite the fact that funding for the Kickstarter project was supposed to have been enough to reach stretch goals required to bring DLC to the game, Mighty No 9’s lifespan also criminally short; especially for a modern game. Most 2D platformers that are typically developed by Nintendo for example can be easily be made to last 15 to 20 hours given enough substance in gameplay; New Super Mario Bros U and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze are textbook examples of this. Six hours may have been impressive by 1987 standards, when the original Mega Man game was released, but in this day and age, especially against other kinds of games, it doesn’t hold up the same as it once may have done.

Storyline 3/10

Basically mirroring the plot and basic premise of Mega Man, the game’s story centres around a robot named Beck, the ninth in the Mighty Number android line-up, who has been tasked with eliminating his fellow Mighty Number robots after they have been infected with a computer virus; almost identical to how Mega Man must neutralize the robot masters. Almost every aspect of Mighty No 9 story was taken directly from that of Mega Man’s, as was the conceptual design, and has had not a great deal of real thought put into it. It’s especially underwhelming given the fact that the main appeals the developers wanted this game to have also failed to live up to thei respective expectations.

Originality – 3/10

Taking everything into account, the only hints of uniqueness this game has about it is in the conceptual design, which whilst may have been heavily borrowed from the Mega Man series, does minimally well do stand out among other games in general; but certainly not enough to make it do so to any great extent. Although this game certainly does not spell the end for challenging 2D side scrollers, since the likes of Rogue Legacy continue to impress gamers everywhere, it spells a particularly grim future for Comcept, as their latest project, Red Ash, failed to each it’s Kickstarter goals

Angrii

To sum Mighty No 9 up, I would describe it as a gaming travesty; a middle finger to Mega Man fans, as well as the Kickstarter backers. Though it may have been a once-promising game to players, especially those who played the beta, the end product is certainly something to be forgotten.

Score

30/60

5/10 (Far Below Average)

Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Intelligent Systems

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Directors(s) – Naohiko Aoyama & Taro Kudo

Producer – Kensuke Tanabe

As one of the last games internally developed by Nintendo for the Wii U, Paper Mario: Color Splash was released in later 2016, and ended up garnishing mixed to positive reviews upon release. Fans of the series, however, were not so lukewarm to the game upon pre-release, with many of them complaining about the departure from the formula of classic Mario RPGs such as the original Paper Mario and The Thousand Year Door for the GameCube. A Change.org petition was even started to have the game cancelled before release, which to me, is far too overly harsh. Personally, I think this was the best game released all that year, and the second best game on the Wii U for a number of reasons.

Graphics – 9/10

One common complaint out the game during pre-release was how much over-emphasis there was on the paper theme that has been re-occurring since the fifth generation of gaming, which to me, is one of the most ridiculous criticisms I’ve ever heard anyone make about any video game. There’s nothing wrong with the paper theme, as it is generally something different to the rest of the Mario series, as opposed to the 2D side scrolling or 3D platforming themes that came long before it. Color Splash is also set in a completely different place to what most Mario games are set in, which adds even more to the game’s unique look. Though the critics were right in saying that hardly any new characters are introduced, with everything else that has been undertaken with this game on a conceptual level, the series has been given a mostly fresh coat of paint, so to speak, with new locations, new items, a handful of new characters and a catchy new soundtrack thrown in for good measure.

Gameplay – 9/10

Following on from the rest of the Mario RPG series, Color Splash introduces the feature of having to use cards to determine what attacks are used, and in what abundance the attacks are carried out. Cards are also used to heal and call temporary allies to Mario’s side, whilst unique cards found throughout the game, such as the lemon card and fire extinguisher card, act similar to how summons work in the Final Fantasy series, or they are otherwise used to solve puzzles either inside or outside of combat, giving the gameplay a very exceptional twist to it compared to other RPGs. It’s actually quite reminiscent of Nintendo’s early history, as they started out in 1889 as a playing card company. The cards with flowers on them especially speak of this, since the playing cards they manufactured were for a game called Hanafuda, meaning Flower Cards. The only criticism I would have against the game’s style of play is that a lot of the time, it can seem quite easy to progress through with a lot of meagre battles throughout; however, the game’s bosses provide more than enough challenge when confronted.

Controls – 10/10

Though the game introduces new elements to the Mario RPG series, the game poses no problems in terms of controls, as in essence; it functions on the same basic gameplay structure as the likes of Super Mario RPG and the original Paper Mario. It also makes some of the best use of the Wii U’s GamePad I’ve ever seen, as players use the GamePad to cycle through and select from their list of cards in order to attack enemies. It’s also used to solve puzzles throughout the in-game world; mostly involving creating means of getting to otherwise unreachable areas.

Lifespan – 9/10

The game can easily be made to last 35-40 hours, which for both a Super Mario game, and a Wii U game, is exceptional. Whilst I doesn’t quite live up to the average lifespan of an RPG, as many can be last to last over 100 hours, it will still provide players with hours upon hours of gameplay, as in addition to the main quest, there is also a plethora of different side quests to complete, such as collecting every card in the game, completing the rock, paper, scissor challenges and fulfilling the criteria listed on the lampposts of the main plaza.

Storyline – 6.5/10

Whilst the game does depart from many of the typical settings of a Mario game, and introduces a handful of new characters, the plot is not so unique overall unfortunately. Mario, Peach and Toad receive a letter of a paper Toad drained of colour sent to them from a region called Prism Island. They decide to investigate; only to find the main town deserted. They come across an anthropomorphic paint can called Huey, who explains that the fountain he was found in is powered by six stars called the Big Paint stars that provide Prism Island with colour. The party later discover that Bowser is draining the island of colour in order to enhance his own power. Mario and company resolve to restore the Big Pain stars, and thus put an end to Bowser’s plan. At first, the plot seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to other Mario games about 5 hours in, but then, they throw in the whole Peach gets kidnapped thing seemingly for the sake of it. As it happens, they also sneak in a fourth-wall joke about no one could have expected it to happen, which is part of the reason why I can bring myself to not punish the game too much for it. There are also references to older Mario games all over the place in some dialogue spoken by some of the more obscure characters, which keep thing relatively interesting. But overall, I found the story was about the only thing that I found to be wanting whilst playing this game.

Originality – 7.5/10

Aside from the plot of the game, the rest of it is quite unique compared to most other Super Mario games, and does fairly well to stand out from the rest of the Mario RPG series, which is why I’m thankful that the Change.org petition fell through. TechRadar’s Nick Pino described it is “a frightening example of how quickly, and harshly, we judge games we know next to nothing about”, and I agree with him fully on this. If we were so quick to pre-judge every game before its release, some of the best titles may not have hit shelves at all. The game stands out for it’s unique take on turn-based RPG combat, as well as its exceptional art style.

Happii

Overall, Paper Mario Color Splash was my favourite game of 2016. It’s enjoyable to play, very long with plenty of things to do in addition to the main game, and stands out in a style of play that to me, has not been explored enough in recent years, and for a game of this genre in this generation to feature the most iconic video game character of all time shows promise for the future of the genre.

Score

51/60

Great (8.5/10)

SteamWorld Heist (3DS, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox One & iOS)

Developer(s) – Image & Form Games

Publisher(s) – Image & Form Games

The Third game to be released in Image & Form’s SteamWorld universe following SteamWorld Tower Defence and SteamWorld Dig, SteamWorld Heist takes the series in yet another bold new direction in terms of gameplay, concept and story. Like the other two SteamWorld games before it, I found this game to be wonderfully varied, excelling in conceptual design and enjoyable to the last hour of gameplay. But due to the heightened longevity and replay value this game has in comparison with SteamWorld Dig, It is most definitely the best game in the SteamWorld series to date.

Graphics – 9/10

Despite the fact that SteamWorld Heist still incorporates some elements from the first two games, that the franchise has been taken to outer space in this instalment provides a new dimension in terms of visuals, so to speak. The steampunk influence found in the two previous games is much more prevalent, but at the same time, the overall conceptual design seems completely different in a way that works flawlessly. Character design is wonderfully diverse, and whilst it’s easy to come to the conclusion that individual levels seem like carbon copies of each other, it still does wonderfully well to deviate away from the deep caves and American west settings of the first two games. The soundtrack is also fantastic to listen to through; the majority of which being composed by the band Steam Powered Giraffe, and has since encouraged me to listen to more of their work, which I’ve found extremely enjoyable in itself.

Gameplay – 8/10

Providing a complete departure from any other gameplay formula found in the SteamWorld series, SteamWorld Heist is a 2D side scrolling turn-based RPG that plays out unlike any other game made in any similar vein. It is insanely addictive, as well as having a great sense of satisfaction to experience whilst playing it in devising as many clever strategies as possible to suit every enemy in every given situation in combat. Over the last few years, I have found a great deal of games that have incorporated both turn-based and real-time combat that I have been greatly let down by. But in this game, it works better than most others; if not, any other.

Controls – 10/10

Another problem that seems to crop up with many RPGs to incorporate both turn-based and real-time combat is that the controls tend to suffer drastically. But in this game, the controls are perfect; no unnecessary complications arise, and overcoming the challenge of aiming as accurately as possible with short-range weapons, and managing to land a hit, adds even more of a sense of satisfaction whilst playing.

Lifespan – 6/10

Despite the fact that I was ultimately left wanting more in terms of longevity out of this title. I was pleasantly surprised to see how long it can truly be made to last. When I’d collected all 45 stars in the first area, I was left thinking I’d completed the game at that point, only to find that there was another stage to follow it up, and more stages in addition. Overall, including the DLC package, the game can be made to last at least 20 hours, which whilst is much longer than many mainstream releases, falls short of the average lifespan of a turn-based RPG. It was still an improvement on the lifespan of SteamWorld Dig, and I can’t help but commend the developers for this.

Storyline – 7/10

A distant sequel to SteamWorld Dig, the cowbots are now living an existence of slavery and oppression following the destruction of the Earth, and civilization has become an eternal struggle for survival. The plot follows Captain Piper, who attempts to recruit a team of mercenaries for hire to embark on a space adventure throughout the universe. Whilst the main plot may sound simplistic in scope, the story is kept fresh throughout with the incorporation of character development in each of Piper’s mercenaries as the adventure goes on, and clever humour thrown in for good measure.

Originality – 10/10

To put it simply, this game plays out not only like no other SteamWorld game before it, but unlike any other game in general. It incorporates a blend of turn-based and real-time combat that for once works flawlessly, and proves that indie developers can demonstrate as much initiative and excellence in gameplay innovation as any mainstream developer out there. I was extremely impressed with this title, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what direction Image and Form take in the next instalment within this wonderful gaming mythos.

Happii

Happii

In summation, SteamWorld Heist is a wonderfully addictive and satisfying gaming experience that I highly recommend. Despite the fact that I believe it could have been made to last much longer, what there is to do throughout is enjoyable to the very last hour, and certainly stands out to me as the best indie title of 2016 so far.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD & Platinum Games

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yugo Hayashi & Yusuke Hashimoto

Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto, Tadashi Sugiyama & Atsushi Inaba

Being the franchise’s first home console release for eleven years, and receiving mixed reviews upon release, Star Fox Zero brought the series back to it’s roots, but not without incorporating a plethora of new gameplay elements to perpetuate a great a deal of variety and replay value, as well as to satisfy both newcomers and veteran fans. There were some issues I had with the latest re-vamp of the classic Nintendo rail shooting game, but overall, I found it to be a fairly solid gaming experience, and certainly one of the more standout titles on the Wii U to have been handled by a third party developer.

Graphics – 7/10

As expected, the Lylat System has never looked as detailed or as polished as it does in this game. Many classic planets make an appearance, such as Corneria, Venom, Zoness and Fortuna, with the addition of new locations like Sector Alpha, Sector Beta and Aquarosa. What I was especially impressed with was how most of the classic locations had been redesigned so dramatically to fit in with the unfamiliarity of all the new locations. The only two locations, which stood to me as being arguably overly reminiscent of Star Fox 64 were both Corneria and Titania, but even they differed from their Nintendo 64 counterparts; especially in terms of their respective boss fights.

Gameplay – 9/10

Aside from an overhaul of graphics, there is also a massive overhaul of gameplay too. The classic rail shooting mechanics of the original Star Fox game takes precedent, but in addition, there are multiple vehicles that must be piloted in order to traverse different sections of certain levels, as well as completing different objectives. The Landmaster from Star Fox 64 is used in addition to the Arwing, as well as the new Gyrowing, which is used to hack into computer systems via a deployable robot named Direct-I, and the Walker vehicle, which is used for ground combat; an idea reworked from a gameplay feature incorporated into the cancelled Star Fox 2 for the Super Nintendo. Star Fox Zero also features side quests providing additional replay value; something that many Star Fox games have sorely lacked with the exception of Star Fox Adventure. Incorporating the addictive nature of the series, I found playing this game to be very enjoyable overall, and every bit as challenging as any other game in the series to date.

Controls – 6/10

The biggest reservation I had about this game whilst playing was how the control scheme worked in conjunction with the unique features of the Wii U. Aiming is handled by having players use both the control sticks and the Wii U GamePad’s gyroscopic controls simultaneously. There is an option the player can take to have the crosshair locked when steering, but the gyroscopic controls are then enabled again once the player starts firing their weapons, and in my opinion, it doesn’t work anywhere near well as the classic system. If the gyroscopic controls hadn’t have been incorporated, I would have thought much more highly of this game overall. But unfortunately, Nintendo tried to fix something that was by in large unbroken; and it made for an unnecessarily huge hindrance rather than a pleasure.

Lifespan – 10/10

Like both Star Fox and Star Fox 64, there is virtually infinite replay value to be had in this game. Aside from the main story quest, there is an arcade mode, which players can take on in order to beat their high score as well a multiplayer mode. One quick playthrough can take less than four hours to complete, but to complete the game to 100% can take anything between 15 to 20 hours, which to me was unprecedented for any game made in the same calibre.

Storyline – 6.5/10

Being the third re-telling of the events of the original game, the story centres on the anthropomorphic Star Fox team, consisting of Fox McCloud, the leader, Peppy Hare, the seasoned veteran, Slippy Toad, the complacent mechanic, and Falco Lombardi, the cocky ace pilot. Their mission is to aid the Cornerian army led by General Pepper in saving the Lylat System from the invading maniacal scientist Andross. Though I have already experienced this story many times, and loved it, the main problem I had with this interpretation of it was the voice acting; despite the fact that almost all of the original cast from Star Fox 64 returned. In addition, I found it to be nowhere near as well scripted as Star Fox 64. To me, there wasn’t as much as there was in the former game that brought out the character’s traits and personalities. It was much like the same problem I had with the re-vamp of Ratchet and Clank; many returning characters, and not enough development. The developers tried adding a slight plot twist towards the end concerning General Pepper, but to me, it was too little too late.

Originality – 8/10

In terms of story, I wouldn’t say there was a great deal present to differentiate it from any other game in the series. However, from the perspective of both gameplay and conceptual design, there’s a great deal of uniqueness to experience. It will certainly provide both veterans and newcomers with one of the more special gaming experiences on the Wii U, and whilst the controls scheme can be infuriating at times, it’s not impossible to get to grips with. A lot of the boss fights are also very different to most boss fights in the series, with the strategy of beating Andross being something a little bit more than blowing his hands away, and then aiming for his eyes. It also nicely paves the way for a possible continuation of the series in the future, as well as the possibly of even more unique ideas to be incorporated in future games.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Star Fox Zero has it’s flaws, but it’s by no means one of the more frustrating games I’ve played. It’s addictive, challenging, beautiful to look at, and whilst it isn’t the best re-telling of the events of the original game, it does a good enough job at explaining the basic premise, and leaves the next direction the series could possibly take open to interpretation.

Score

46.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Yoshi’s Woolly World (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Good-Feel Co.

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Atsushi Kono & Naoya Abe

Producer(s) – Etsunobu Ebisu, Keita Kawaminami & Takashi Tezuka

The first Yoshi game to be release on a home console since Yoshi’s Story back in 1998, Yoshi’s Woolly World stays true to the core mechanics of all the other Yoshi games released throughout the years, but also provides a level of challenge unseen in most other games on the Wii U. Whilst this game isn’t as creative or unique as Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for example, It’s certainly a stern effort from Nintendo, and certainly goes above and beyond it’s Nintendo 64 counterpart.

Graphics – 8/10

Deriving influence from the Wii game Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the scenery and style of the game is made up of cloth and woolly textures, which look extraordinarily realistic; even against video games developed in more advanced hardware than the Wii U. The many different worlds found in the game, in lieu of the franchise’s tradition, also have their own themes and elements similar to any Super Mario game. Whilst it may not be as varied as Yoshi’s Island, which had much more menacing locations as well as innocent-looking ones, it still quite a bit of variety about it compared to most other games.

Gameplay – 8/10

The mechanics and the objective of the game is more or less identical to that of both Yoshi’s Island and Yoshi’s Story; clear each level and fight the boss at the end of the world, rinse and repeat. What makes Woolly World different from the others, however, is not the level of challenge involved in simply clearing each level, but the challenge of completing every level to 100%. The secret levels in particular can prove extremely testing to clear. Nintendo wanted gamers to be able to explore every nook and cranny of every level to find every secret, but they certainly didn’t make doing that easy. But this isn’t to say that the game is inaccessible. For those who are having too much trouble with it, there is simplified version that can be played instead to suit both parties of gamer; something I think should be done with every other video game that can be considered overly hard.

Controls – 10/10

Since this game plays out identically to every other previous Yoshi side scroller, there are no unnecessary complications with the control scheme. However, I did think it was somewhat interesting to be able to move Yoshi around in 3D environments throughout each overworld. It made me think about what may have been if Nintendo and Argonaut Games had still been in partnership with one another throughout the fifth generation of gaming, and that if a 3D Yoshi game had been released instead of Argonaut breaking off and making Croc: Legend of the Gobbos out of what ideas were left from the previous project.

Lifespan – 7/10

To complete everything in the game will take around 15 to 20 hours, which whilst being about the average of most side scrollers on the Wii U, is still fairly impressive. Classic side scrollers could only be made to last a fraction of that timescale, but their respective franchises have been kept fresh with the inclusion of new side quests and additional curricular activities; and Woolly World is no exception. I’ve highly anticipated this game since it’s announcement at last year’s E3, and I was satisfied to see that it lasts this long.

Storyline – 6/10

The plot of the game, again in lieu of Super Mario tradition, is very straightforward; Yoshi must rescue all the other Yoshis after being unravelled and scattered by the wizard Kamek, and must then take the fight to Bowser Jnr. The story of Yoshi’s Island was a little more interesting, since not only did it put players in the shoes of another character from the series, but it also explored the origins of Mario himself. But unfortunately, Woolly World doesn’t have very many interesting elements like that, and consequently, makes much less of an impact in terms of story.

Originality – 6/10

In addition to having an unoriginal story, the game itself is also somewhat unoriginal, bar the inclusion of a much longer lifespan, and a heightened level of challenge. The art direction may be much different to that of the rest of the Yoshi games, but of course, the same developer used the same visual gimmick in Kirby’s Epic Yarn. It may look very good and very realistic in this game, but it’s been done before. I don’t think recycling boss characters helped matter either.

Happii

Happii

However, despite what it lacks in both story and uniqueness, Yoshi’s Woolly World makes up for in its gameplay above all else. It’s still a very enjoyable experience, and I recommend it to anyone with a Wii U. It’s certainly a better exclusive than many Xbox One games, and will prove a challenge to any fan of the platforming genre.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

X-Type+ (Wii U)

Developer(s) – PhobosLab

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Starting out as a simple browser game developed by the proprietors of the site PhobosLab.com, I was at first surprised to find a game like X-Type+ appear on the Wii U Virtual Console. But after playing it, and seeing just how addictive it can become, I found myself increasingly less surprised by it’s inclusion. After all, Nintendo know a good game when they see one.

Graphics – 5/10

One of the less strong points of this game however, despite its addictiveness, is the fact that the visuals are almost non-existent. Even though this is an arcade game at its core, there have been many games release like it that have implemented much more breathtaking and interesting visuals than this. Essentially, all it encompasses is a blank background, and ship after ship that looks exactly the same. Though it may have started out as a browser game, I think even under those circumstances better visuals could have been implemented.

Gameplay – 10/10

The objective of X-Type+ is simple; destroy each ship that appears on screen, and rack up the highest score possible; all the while dodging bullet after bullet and rocket after rocket thrown at you. Like such games as Galaga and Gradius, it is incredibly addictive, and will compel players to play again and again in order to simply improve their high score and post it on either the website or the Wii U score board.

Controls – 10/10

The best way to play this game is to use a third-party Wii U controller. I found that with either the GamePad, or on the original website, the control scheme is not so easy to cope with, and poses a number of problems. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of using a keyboard to control PC games that aren’t simulators, and the GamePad also poses the same problem of the hands cramping up that I’d previously experienced whilst playing through Hyrule Warriors.

Originality – 4/10

The worst thing about this game, however, is how little it stands out compared to the likes of Galaga and Gradius. As I said, the visuals are almost non-existent, and do little to differentiate this game from other of its kind, and unlike many other recent games released within this particular genre, such as Titan Attacks, there are no new elements introduced, such as upgrades or experience points etc.

Happii

Happii

Otherwise, however X-Type+ is an extremely addictive game, and certainly one of the most interesting indie experiences available on the Wii U. Despite it’s flaws, it makes me wonder why Nintendo don’t keep a closer eye out for other indie developers to work with, as opposed to relying primarily on their own IPs to get by.

Score

29/40

7/10 (Fair)

Watch Dogs (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows & Wii U)

Developer(s) – Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher(s) – Ubisoft

Designer – Danny Belanger

Producer – Dominic Guay

I think the best way to describe Watch Dogs is as an open-world Grand Theft Auto-Assassin’s Creed hybrid. It’s a game that requires the player to unique use the city as their weapon; having control of things like bollards and traffic lights to catch criminals and to escape from police, or using the player character’s smartphone to access bank accounts or attain their personal details; information is power, after all. But especially after two years of waiting, I was unfortunately less than impressed by the now best-selling game in the UK.

Graphics – 7/10

Don’t get me wrong. Watch Dogs has some of the most brilliantly detailed visuals of the modern gaming generation; especially on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The problem I found was that there was nothing standing out in the conceptual sense. And the way I see it, having extremely advanced visuals can mean much less than as may be advertised if no creativity is put into the conceptual stage. Indeed, its by that token that I prefer the visuals in Ubisoft’s Child of Light than the visuals in Watch Dogs. To me, this is one of these situations. I’d say the most standout things about the visuals in Watch Dogs is how unique the city is displayed on the map; how it’s been made to look something a lot like an internal computer network. This technique has also been used in a lot of the cutscenes in the game, which does add a bit to the overall atmosphere of the game, but otherwise, there’s nothing else to differentiate it from most other games like it, unfortunately.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

Watch Dogs is a game that has story missions, side missions, and plenty of extra curricular activities thrown in for good measure, and it will make for a decent gaming experience for people who are able to get into it. But I wasn’t able to get into it. Normally, I can tell whether or not I’ll enjoy a game after playing it for about an hour or ninety minutes, but I’d been playing Watch Dogs for roughly three hours, and I found it nigh on impossible to get into. To me, it just seemed to start off very slowly and not pick up momentum like I believe a game should do in its early stages. This has been a recurring problem for me in the seventh generation in particular; with games that people have told me they believe to be classics, such as Red Dead Redemption and Fallout 3. The way I see it, Watch Dogs is a fresh new example of this; a game that will be viewed by many as being excellent, but one that I have too much difficulty gaining enough interest in to play it for any extended amount of time.

Controls – 8/10

Incorporating a gaming formula that has been long-since perfected, Watch Dogs plays out simply enough for the most art, but the biggest problem I found with it was that there are far too many menus, and by that token, it seemed to me that there was just far too much to have to keep track of whilst playing. To an extent, it reminded me unsentimentally of Fable III; though Watch Dogs is far less complicated than that, I can assure. But the thing is, as the hacking mechanics in this game are very much new to gaming, there was inevitably going to be an element of trial and error, so maybe if they were to simplify it for a possible sequel, it may make for a better game than this. But still, other than that, there are no outstanding problems.

Lifespan – 10/10

Watch Dogs’ lifespan is something I mustn’t fault it for. Regardless of how little I think of how this game plays out, it will easily make for at least 60 to 70 hours of gameplay, given everything that there is to do. One thing is for certain; those who find this game easier to get into than I will be rewarded, as there are many collectibles, many side missions and even additional missions to do when playing the game online, which to my excitement, seems to be a recurring thing in games these days.

Storyline – 3/10

The story of Watch Dogs involves a vigilante and hacking expert named Aiden Pearce, who is out to find the people responsible for the unintended death of his niece instead of him. At first, it may sound like a half-decent story of revenge reminiscent of many Steven Seagal films, but unfortunately, it doesn’t really develop into anything more than that. I know because I took the liberty of finding out what happens before playing through the game. I look at it in the sense that the story wasn’t particularly gripping from the start, and from my own point of view, I don’t think I would have been missing much. But the most annoying thing about the story has been another recurring problem found in games like Final Fantasy XIII, for example; when events are moving at a rate, which doesn’t allow for players to think about what’s actually happening. It all just happens regardless.

Originality – 4/10

In reality, other than the hacking mechanic and the whole computer network-styled visuals found in the menus and some cutscenes, there’s not much else to make to stand out among other open-world games. There are a few Easter eggs I was able to find darted around, but what open-world game doesn’t include an Easter egg or two? There were no other unique things I could find apart from these to point out, which was particularly disappointing for how much this game was hyped for so long.

Niiutral

Niiutral

Overall, I think Watch Dogs will only work with a specific kind of audience, and it doesn’t really have the full potential to appeal to everyone. It’s not one of the worst games I’ve ever played, but it’s by no means one of the best either. Maybe if I were to revisit it in the future, I could have a slightly different opinion of it, but so far, Borderlands has been the only game to be good enough for me to play for an overly long time until it started to pick up.

Score

38.5/60

6/10 (Average)

The Swapper (PC, Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Facepalm Games & Curve Studios

Publisher(s) – Facepalm Games

Writer – Tom Jubert

The Swapper combines elements of puzzle games and the 2D side scrolling open world aesthetics of a Metroidvania game. Me talking about this game in the same breath as the likes of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night may make the game sound exciting, but even with the inclusion of semi-open world, it doesn’t even come close to matching the quality of the aforementioned examples.

Graphics – 10/10

The most praise I can offer this game is in its visuals; they are more or less flawless. There are no graphical glitches, the design of the settings is wonderfully unique and the attention to detail on the developer’s part is staggering. There is also very effective use of textures such as lighting and shadows to add to the overall atmosphere of the game. Though it isn’t a survival horror, there is a heightened sense of urgency throughout that perhaps the player will feel in a much more different way than in the likes of Resident Evil 4 or Silent Hill. The game’s visual concept does draw similarities with Dead Space in it’s character designs, but there are plenty more differences to make it stand out in at least this sense.

Gameplay – 5/10

One way in which the game doesn’t stand out, however, and the one aspect it should have done to attain the most important points in my opinion, is in its gameplay. Players have to solve puzzles throughout by duplicating the player character and swapping in between the duplicates to perform multiple tasks at the same time. There is also one side quests, which involves finding a series of terminals giving details of the game’s back story, as well as ten additional hidden terminals throughout the game. Taking into account the size of the in-game world, and the amount of space available to include additional content, I don’t think there is anywhere near enough substance in gameplay compared to what could have potentially been added, and there is hardly any incentive for completing the game’s one side quests unless you happen to be playing it on a PlayStation console; in which case, there are PlayStation trophies to collect for each hidden terminal found.

Controls – 10/10

As a formula long-since perfected, there should have been no issues with the control scheme in any case, and so there aren’t. But it is also interesting to see how the developers have added some interesting gameplay mechanics to the 2D side-scrolling formula.

Lifespan – 1/10

Due to it’s lack of substance in gameplay, and it’s main focus being put on story (indeed, where there is normally a director and producer listed on most video game Wikipedia pages, there is only a writer on the Swapper’s page), this title can only be made to last two and a half hours tops, which, especially for an open-world game, is unacceptable. Since there was clearly room for so much more to be added, it seemed to me like that much more of an incredibly fleeting experience.

Storyline – 7/10

In a time when humanity’s natural resources on Earth have been exhausted, and they have resorted to deep space exploration to keep themselves alive, the story of the Swapper follows a person who lands on the planet Chori V and investigates a derelict ship called the Theseus. But in typical science fiction fashion, he/she ends up finding more than what they bargained for, and the unnamed person resolves to escape the ship with his/her life, and from the watchers; a murderous race of minerals with rudimentary intelligence, who had killed the initial crew of the Theseus. The story is interesting to follow from beginning to middle, but although I wont give away what happens at the end, I will say how I felt so jaded by it. There is a choice for the player to make at the end, but either way, it makes the story seem ultimately pointless. If the player makes one out of the two choices, another character even closes the game wit h the line “does it really matter anymore?” It makes me hope that there will be a sequel, albeit with major improvements to gameplay, that will elaborate on the game’s mythology. Otherwise, I think the developers may very well have ended up shooting themselves in the foot by making other gamers feel the same way.

Originality – 6/10

Despite the visuals of the game being top-notch in my eyes, and some standout modifications to the 2D side scrolling formula, in terms of overall gameplay, it seems neither evolutionary nor revolutionary. Great Metroidvania games have come and gone, such as Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow, and even some of the latest generations have yielded a few, such as the re-vamped Strider and Dust: An Elysian Tail. But It’s fair to me to say that this title doesn’t fall under that category.

Angrii

Angrii

To summarize, The Swapper is a much worse game than I previously thought whilst broadcasting it on Twitch earlier this week. Despite being impressed by its visuals and attention to detail, I hadn’t realized how short and lacking in substance it was, and I always begrudge video games like that being released in the first place.

Score

34/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)