Tag Archives: PS3

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

PEGI – 12

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 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 its budget and expectations. Having played it, I can understand 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 spend 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 from 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 first level of the game, there is a lot 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 centers 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 their 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


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.



5/10 (Far Below Average)

Play Manchester 2016

The beginning of October marked the fifth year of the Play Manchester gaming expo held at Event City venue. With it’s usual and varied blend of retro gaming cabinets, upcoming indie titles on display, and a wider array of new upcoming mainstream releases than last year’s proceedings, Play Manchester 2016 was even more exciting and diverse than in 2015, and just are star-studded in addition with a special panel present that I shall be covering further in the article. First, I perused the various indie games that were on show at the event, and I was impressed with the amount of range of different gameplay ideas and conceptual designs that the new up and coming developers had to showcase.

Snake Pass


The first indie game I came across was a 3D platformer unlike any other. Developed by Sumo Digital, Snake Pass is a game in which the player controls a snake in order to slither around a series of levels and hunting collectible items throughout. Players must learn to take full advantage of the game’s insanely unique control mechanics to reach high places, overcome imposing obstacles and puzzles, and leave no stone unturned, as there are plenty of items to collect through each level, it seemed. What impressed me most about this game, in addition to it’s impressive-looking visuals, was the game’s style of play. With a completely different take on getting around levels and uncovering secrets, it plays out like no other 3D platformer I’ve ever come across. The developer also explained to me various ways that players could choose to play the game, ranging from emphasis on speed, elegance or thoroughness. I personally believe if the developers plan to integrate this idea into the game further, it would most probably add even more replayability to it, but in the state that it was in at the time, it still impressed me very much.



Dragon Bros


Having discovered a greater fondness for side scrolling shooters since I first started blogging, having played more games like Contra and Metal Slug, I was also particularly amazed by another indie game made largely in the same vein, but with a very interesting twist on conceptual design. Dragon Bros, developed by the aptly named Space Lizard Studios, the game is insanely action-packed, filled with breathtaking pixel art and seemed a lot more accessible than the like of Contra; especially the first three games in the series. For me, Dragon Bros was my pick for the best indie title on display at this year’s proceedings; it was the most fun and addictive game, as well as the most interesting in terms of conceptual design. Though comparisons can be drawn between it and Bubble Bobble, since the main characters are two dragons coloured both green and blue, it takes place in a much different kind of world reminiscent of science fiction rather than the cutesy fantasy settings of the former.



Mao Mao Castle


Another game on display I become insanely addicted to, and have been playing frequently ever since the show, is Mao Mao Castle. Created by Asobi Tech, the game is an on-rail free-to-play browser game requiring the player to take advantage of various different mechanics to rack up as many points as possible to attain the highest score possible. The story centres around a cat with supernatural abilities trying to find a way home to a levitating castle in the skies. Reminiscent of the 8-BIT era, it takes influence in terms of conceptual design largely from the varied works of Studio Ghibli; made even more obvious by the fact that the developers had a plushy of the Cat Bus from My Neighbour Totoro perched on top of the projector used to display the game. Usually the game is controlled using a PC mouse, but the version on display at the show used motion controls, and plushies were up for grabs for anyone who could rack up exceptionally high scores. I managed to win one of the three available plushies, and have been racking up higher scores ever since. I highly recommend this game, as it excels in gameplay above even many mainstream releases, as well as it stands out amongst indie games. The link to play is below:




Another 3D platformer with a difference came in form of Unbox developed by Prospect Games. The player must customize and control their own box-shaped character, and have a wide range of different gameplay modes to choose from, include four-way multiplayer competitive modes, challenge modes, an adventure mode, and even a kart-racing mode; all of which can played to unlock new outfits for their box character, and to attain a wide range of collectibles like in Snake Pass, or most 3D platformers meeting industry standards. Just as unique as the former, it provides an extremely different take on the genre compared to games such as Super Mario 64, Jak & Daxter and Banjo-Kazooie, but also coming with possibly an even greater amount of variety in gameplay and potentially more replayability. Though it may not be as revolutionary as any of the aforementioned titles were at the time of their respective releases, it’s certainly an evolutionary title, and did stand out os one of the better games on display at the event.



Sub Level Zero


Another one of my favourite games on display at this year’s Play Manchester was Sub Level Zero; a lovingly crafted Roguelike shooter reminiscent of the classic game Descent developed some of it’s devout fans at Sigtrap Games. Procedurally generated, and with a map system heavily influenced by the Metroid Prime series, which I found to be particularly impressive, as well as surprisingly easy to interface with, Sub Level Zero also has a heavy influence on player character development, with upgrades for grabs, as well as a wide variety of different weapons to use during combat. In lieu of Roguelike tradition, it also offers a fair bit of legitimate challenge, like the likes of Rogue Legacy and Ziggurat. One of many games in display taking advantage of Virtual Reality Headset technology, this game also did extremely well to further alleviate what scepticisms I previously had with the idea back when I first tried the Oculus Rift last year at Play Blackpool. I found that it was a great deal of fun with the addition of VR technology, and made me believe to a greater extent that the concept will be able take off in time.



Hyper Sentinel


The last indie title I tried out was another space-based shooter reminiscent of the arcade classic Defender. Hyper Sentinel, developed by Ian Hewson, son of industry legend Andrew Hewson of Hewson Consultants who appeared on a panel at last year’s Play Blackpool show, it centres on not only shooting down various enemies that appear on-screen, but also collecting power-ups and defeating a boss at each level; normally in the form of a giant spaceship, somewhat reminiscent of Bosconian. Though it may not have been the most unique title on display at the event, with it’s influences blatantly obvious, it does o well to stand out from the game of it’s inspiration in terms of conceptual design, and was also quite fun to play too. It certainly presents as much of a challenge as the arcade classic, and is a must-try for any fan of the arcade era.



Tekken 7: First Impressions


One of many different upcoming AAA titles that were available to try out at Play Manchester this year was Tekken 7. After being sorely disappointed by the previous game, with it’s less than impressive conceptual design, many characters coming across as far too generic, and it’s almost impossible difficulty level at times, I was quite relieved to see how much the seventh game improved on the sixth in every aspect. I was also impressed to see how fluently it plays out in comparison to even the original trilogy of Tekken games, with moves being much easier and less frustrating to pull off. Also, like what Capcom have done with the advent of Street Fighter V, and what NetherRealm studios did with Mortal Kombat X, the developers have seemed to branch out conceptually in terms of character design, but in a way that still makes the game feel like it belongs to the series without them being too generic in design. Akuma from Street Fighter is also a welcome addition following relatively recent crossovers between the two series’. It also makes me excited for what additional characters Capcom may decide to add for when they will inevitably update Street Fighter V.

WWE 2K17: First Impressions


The main attraction on show in terms of AAA releases however, as officially announced by Paul Heyman of the WWE, was WWE 2K17. Boasting new wrestlers, a new submission system and the inclusion of Goldberg on pre-order, it marks the fourth WWE released since the publishing rights were acquired by 2K Games, and features all the usual gameplay modes synonymous with WWE games, such as the Triple Threat match, Fatal 4 Way, Royal Rumble and of course, the career mode; as well as the facility to create wrestlers. It is without a doubt the best looking WWE game ever developed, but in terms of gameplay, it did take me a little bit of getting used to; especially since I haven’t played a WWE game since the sixth generation, about the time when I grew out of it as a kid. Regardless, especially after getting used to the submission system, and being able to thoroughly enjoy the game for what it is, I was pretty satisfied with how the newer developers have managed gameplay in comparison to classic WWE games like War Zone, Attitude and Wrestlemania 2000. Though the Attitude era remains my favourite time of the company’s history, it was good to see how the WWE video game formula has been worked upon and handled in a way that works extremely well after so long.

The Tomb Raider Panel


In terms of guest speakers, however, the main attraction was the assembly of and talk with many of the developers of the original Tomb Raider from Core Design to commemorate the franchise’s 20-year anniversary; many of the panel not having seen each other in as many years. The panel consisted of Jeremy Heath-Smith, the game’s executive producer and co-founder of Core Design, Natalie Cook, who was the original character model for Lara Croft, Richard Morton, who was the lead game, level and environment designer for every game up to Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, Gavin Rummery, who was the lead programmer for Angel of Darkness, Heather Gibson, another level designer for the first two games, Andy Sandham, who designed levels and wrote the scripts for the third game, as well as The Last Revelation and Tomb Raider: Chronicles, Murti Schofield, who wrote the story of Angel of Darkness, Nathan McCree, who composed the original soundtrack for the first two games, and finally Stuart Atkinson, who worked as an artist on the second game. The panel were also to be joined by former Eidos Interactive CEO and industry legend Ian Livingstone, but he unfortunately had to pull out due to ill health. Regardless, I would like to take this opportunity to wish Mr. Livingstone a full recovery.

The panel proceeded to provide an in-depth analysis of how and why Lara Croft was designed the way she was, and how the games themselves were designed the way they were and in what manner, and how both Lara Croft and Tomb Raider gradually went from a unique video gaming idea into a cultural phenomenon, and how it has managed to have such a profound effect on the industry as it has. Questioned were also raised by the audience concerning the reboot of the Tomb Raider series from Crystal Dynamics, and also about the degree of influence Naughty Dog took from Tomb Raider to develop their own Uncharted series. The team responded quite sternly in their answer to the Uncharted question in particular, commenting how many of the various gameplay features were heavily inspired by Tomb Raider, and the long-time Tomb Raider fans in the audience responded fittingly with an astonishing round of applause. Though I may personally prefer Uncharted to Tomb Raider, mostly due to the better start that Uncharted had in terms of controls, credit is due where it is due, and the team deserve props for helping to pioneer one of the most memorable video game series of all time, and so there response was justified in my opinion. Uncharted may have homed the great gameplay concept, but Tomb Raider established it, and has contributed a great deal to the popularity that gaming garnishes today. Especially with the recent release of Rise of the Tomb Raider on PlayStation 4, the talk with the panel was an appropriate reflection on where Tomb Raider has gone, where it is going now, and where it could go in the future. It was extremely exciting to sit in on an extremely insightful presentation, and the made 2016’s Play Expo proceedings all the better for it.

Overall, Play Manchester 2016 was a thrilling experience, and would like to take the opportunity to thank the organisers at Replay Events for the making it the best event it could possibly be, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them next year.


Pierhead Arcade: First Impressions


As a bonus, before I headed out to Manchester, Mechabit Games, a Liverpool-based developer, also invited me to try out the latest game they have been working on. Mechabit, who developed the RTS game Kaiju Panic, which was on display at Play Manchester 2015, and won my personal choice for best indie game of that year (shameless plug is shameless), have been working on a virtual reality game called Pierhead Arcade; a collection of interactive fairground games based in a virtual reality amusement arcade. After only having limited experience with VR gaming beforehand, I saw as an excellent opportunity to finally get hands on with the technology involved, so to speak. I wasn’t disappointed.

As I outlined in my Play Blackpool 2015 article, ever since I first heard about plans from of the industry incorporating virtual reality into gaming, I had a great deal of scepticism following the ill-fated release of such platforms as the Nintendo Virtual Boy, and early examples of motion controls before the Wii, such as the Nintendo Power Glove. Since first trying it, and going on to briefly trying it again at different expos, my scepticisms were gradually becoming all the lesser, as I slowly learned to understand how it could work if problems I would encounter would be fixed, such as blurry screens etc, and if there was adequate developer support for these platforms. But now after having seen games such as Battle Zone, and then having seen how much indie developers are beginning to support the platform along with mainstream developers, I now believe this may very well could be a future of gaming that could establish itself as here to stay; provided that developer support will continue, as what is looking increasingly likely, since the technology was on display at other major gaming expos this year, such as E3, Gamescom and EGX.

Pierhead Arcade itself not only takes advantage of this potentially successful technology, but presents players with an astonishing amount of variety, with games like Whack-A-Mole, Shuffleboard, Binary Dash and Skeeball to name but a few. The objective is to earn as many tickets as possible that can be cashed in for prizes, much like in most amusement arcades. There are also a couple of extras in the game, such as a claw machine, and a reception desk with various toys that can be played with, such as building blocks. Overall, the variety is staggering, and the game will make for hours of fun. I may do a full review of this game in the future, I would recommend that VR gamers try it out. Following up Kaiju Panic was always going to be a challenge for Mechabit in my opinion, but with this title, I’d say they’ve done a particularly good job of doing so.

In summation, I would like to again thank the organisers at Replay Events for providing me, as well as countless gamers across the country, with truly memorable experiences at the various Play Expo events this year, and I hope that you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

The Unfinished Swan (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Giant Sparrow, SCE Santa Monica Studios & Armature Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Ian Dallas

Producer – Max Geiger

PEGI – 7

First released in 2012, around the time when the idea of art in video games was perpetuated with other releases such as Journey, The Unfinished Swan went on to garnish critical acclaim as well as two BAFTA awards, for gaming innovation and best debut game. Unfortunately, I was less lukewarm to this title than many others were, and whilst it does have its unique aspects, I certainly don’t think it was enough to warrant a BAFTA award.

Graphics – 6/10

Many may argue that the visuals of the game are rather unique, and provide something that most gamers won’t have been used to at the time; but from my point of view, that couldn’t be far from the truth. Not only has the general art style been replicated many times since Frank Miller’s Sin City (indeed, it’s the same style I incorporate in many of my own paintings for Frame Over), but it wasn’t even the first time that this style had been used in video game development. There was Madworld before this title, which also continued the influx of cel-shaded visuals in gaming, which started out with Jet Set Radio. Nevertheless, they aren’t terrible graphics, and there are very few glitches to further mar them down.

Gameplay – 3/10

I couldn’t help but feel throughout playing that the developers decided to prioritize aspects such as visuals and story ahead of gameplay, since the core concept may be fairly unique, but in the long term, provide next to no entertainment value. The object of the game is to solve puzzles and bypass obstacles by shooting ink to reveal hidden locations, and to also collect balloons along the way to buy in-game items. It seemed like it could have developed into something bigger as it progressed, but by the third level, I found myself deeply bored by the entire experience.

Controls – 9/10

As it is essentially a first-person shooting game, the control scheme plays out fairly simply; even more so than the average shooter, since they’re fewer control mechanics to have to worry about. The only gripe I have with it is that the movement speed is somewhat slower than other FPS games, which can make the game drag on more than it most probably should have done.

Lifespan – 4/10

Completing each level, as well as collecting all the balloons within each level, will take under 10 hours; despite the fact that the game does have that small amount of replayability. However, I think it was just as well that the game lasted that little time since the game’s total lifespan outlasted my own personal interest in the game itself. It was a sure sign that developers at any kind of level can end up prioritizing all the wrong aspects ahead of the one that truly counts.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of the game takes the influence of many different children’s books and merges them into a fairly interesting and fully cohesive concept. It follows a boy called Monroe, who is pursuing an incomplete swan, which has escaped from a painting. The most interesting element of it is in the back-story, which can be discovered as the player progresses through the game. Though it does seem to play out like a children’s story, for the most part, there are certain elements, which make the story take on a much darker tone, going against the seemingly calm and tranquil atmosphere of the game and the soundtrack accompanying it all.

Originality – 6/10

The gameplay mechanics of using ink as a projectile weapon to uncover hidden objects and areas are definitely the most unique thing about it. However, I was left thinking that they could have been put to so much better use in order to keep the entire game as interesting as possible. There could have been much more added to each level for players to do. The lack of enemies throughout alone is enough to keep avid gamers from playing this title for any extended amount of time in my opinion.



Overall, The Unfinished Swan, though with fairly unique gameplay mechanics, was not entertaining enough for me to be able to praise it as many other reviewers have done since its release. The influx of indie games to come throughout the next few years following this game would yield more and better titles, but along with Journey, it started out with too much emphasis on visuals and story as opposed to entertaining gameplay.



5.5/10 (Below Average)

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

PEGI – 18

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 the 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 thing 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 extracurricular 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 part, 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.



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.



6/10 (Average)

Vanquish (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Platinum Games

Publisher(s) – Sega

Director – Shinji Mikami

Producer(s) – Atsushi Inaba, Keith Dwyer & Jun Yoshino

PEGI – 18

Released during the holiday season of 2010 amidst a plethora of many mainstream titles such as Fable III, Fallout: New Vegas and Gran Turismo 5, Vanquish was a third-person shooter made in the same vein as the likes of Gears of War, Uncharted and Mass Effect inspired by an anime series called Casshern, according to the game’s director and Resident Evil creator, Shinji Mikami. However, despite the positive reception this game has garnished and become an unsung cult classic of the seventh generation, I found it personally impossible to see the appeal.

Graphics – 6/10

The best thing about the visuals in the game is certainly its conceptual design. Reminiscent of any other anime series’ aside from Casshern, such as Gundam Wing and even Attack on Titan to a certain extent, there are bullets flying all over the place, futuristic settings and scenery, as well as elaborate armor and highly advanced weapons. However, the game loses points for the fact that compared to many other games at the time, the graphics aren’t anywhere near as technically sound, containing less textural detail than the likes of the two Mass Effect games released prior.

Gameplay – 6/10

The game’s strongest attribute, thankfully, is in its incredibly intense and fast-paced gameplay. Playing out very much like a cross between Gears of War and Lost Planet, the objective is to simply destroy everything in sight in a linear path, and bring down towering boss after towering boss whilst racking up as big a score as possible. Despite the many flaws this game has, it’s still quite enjoyable to play. The biggest problem I have with it is the fact that it is indeed so fast-paced leaves room for much else to include, such as side quests and additional secrets to add even more to the overall experience.

Controls – 6/10

Although the game plays out like a typical third-person shooter, there is also the ability to slide around in order to avoid enemy attacks and to move quicker across stages and from place to place in general. The problem is that his feature was a question of trial and error, and is very much unrefined, adding to the frustration that comes with this title. Perhaps if there had been a sequel, this may have been improved on, but it wasn’t to be, however, and to me, it seems very much like a failed experiment as a result.

Lifespan – 3/10

The game also lasts under the average length of a conventional linear third-person shooter, at about 4 hours; 5 at a stretch. I’ve always thought that games in this genre are inherently and painfully short with the exception of the Mass Effect trilogy (a trope still perpetuated to this day, based on reviews of The Order: 1886), but I think a game like Vanquish could have done with a much longer lifespan to make it at least stand out among many of the others, and maybe even be considered superior with the right amount of gameplay content, but it wasn’t to be.

Storyline – 5/10

The story follows DARPA agent Sam Gideon, who is called up to fight for American forces after one of their space stations are invaded by the Russians, who are threatening to destroy New York unless the Americans surrender. Aside from the story not being too well-conceived, the voice acting also leaves a lot to be desired; in lieu of Platinum Games tradition, I personally find. The voice acting in Madworld was tolerable, since not only did it incorporate a strong element of humor and a well thought out plot, but in Vanquish, there’s none of this and by that logic, it’s very much irredeemable in my opinion.

Originality – 5/10

To me, the only things that make this title unique are both the fast pacing and intensity of general gameplay and the added sliding ability. Unfortunately, the sliding ability makes this game stand out in the sense that a sore thumb stands out; unsolicited, yet persistent. Although it may have a small portion of artistic merit attached to it through its visuals, this is not Platinum Games’ most unique effort in this respect either; with the likes of Madworld and Bayonetta going far beyond what this game had to offer.



In summation, Vanquish will offer a fair amount of decent gameplay for a few short hours, but unfortunately, that’s all it does the way I see it. There was most definitely room for improvement in almost every other aspect, and while many people may think it is very much underrated, I believe it’s very much overrated.



5/10 (Far Below Average)

Titan Attacks (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Puppy Games

PEGI – 7

Titan Attacks is an arcade shooter extremely similar to Space Invaders, which involves the simple concept of shooting down oncoming waves of aliens and advancing through the many stages of the game. Although it’s a fairly fun game to play, I thought there are many other aspects, which left me wanting. I couldn’t help but compare it to Space Invaders, as at times, I didn’t know if I was playing that or Titan Attacks.

Graphics – 5.5/10

Not only does it play out almost identically to Space Invaders, but it also looks almost identical to Space Invaders. The character sprites are very similar, and in a way, I think the ship the player controls throughout the game is very similar to the one found in the arcade classic too. I thought the most standout and stunning visual aspect of this game was the scenery and the pretty wide variety of color palettes used throughout each of the five stages. They can positively add to the feeling of nostalgia, but every other visual aspect in the game would suggest to me that there wasn’t a great deal of effort or thought put into the game’s overall visual concept.

Gameplay – 7/10

I’m happy to at least say that this game is a fairly fun one. It’s pretty enjoyable to play, and the most original aspect of this game also happens to be the most satisfying in my opinion. Players have the option to spend in-game currency accumulated in each level on upgrades to the ship, such as improved weapons and shield maintenance. That aspect at least adds something, which didn’t come with the original Space Invaders, and it makes for an overall moderately exciting gaming experience.

Controls – 10/10

As expected, there are no problems with this game’s control scheme. Just like the best arcade games of the ’70s and ’80s, player progression relies heavily on skill. I’m pleased to see that the developers of this game at least seemingly designed it with that rule firmly in mind.

Lifespan – N/A (10/10)

It will take less than an hour to progress through each of the game’s five different stages, but once this is complete, it then becomes a survival-endless scenario. Players must follow the simple and age-old video gaming objective of repeating the game at progressively harder difficulties in order to gain the highest score possible. This is the kind of game that can simply be played at player’s leisure without the worry of making in-game progress in the sense that most younger gamers are familiar with nowadays, and there’s nothing wrong with a game like that if it’s done right, and it has been done right in this case.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

Again, as with every great arcade game back in the first and second generations of gaming, there is no highly developed story to Titan Attacks, but only a basic premise; to stop an alien invasion. There never needs to be a particularly deep story in an arcade game, as an attempt at which could possibly ruin it, since they’re solely about gameplay.

Originality – 3/10

The only things that make this title unique to Space Invaders are the diversity in set designs and the ship upgrade facilities, but there’s not much in this game to differentiate it from others past Space Invaders, unfortunately. Even adding that small RPG element has been a trope used in some other recent indie arcade games like Dead Nation and Mercenary Kings.



In summary, although Titan Attacks seems like nothing more than a heavy modification of an existing idea on the surface, it is still fun to play, and it doesn’t lose marks for getting some other aspects right too. Those things for me are enough to even save it from being considered an average game, in my opinion.



7/10 (Fair)

Theme Hospital (PC, PlayStation & PlayStation Network)

Developer(s) – Bullfrog Studios & Krisalis Software

Publisher(s) – EA

PEGI – 12

Theme Hospital is a simulator game, whereby the player must manage various hospitals by researching breakthrough medical advances, employing competent and committed staff, and of course, successfully treating as many patients as possible. The game is notable for it’s immersing gameplay and twisted sense of humor. If history has gone a different way, that humor may be seen as even darker by others, as the fictional and comedic diseases used in the game, such as Discrete Itching and Chronic Nosehair were put in to replace the originally planned inclusion of real-life illnesses into the game. While that does add some controversy, it was thankfully nevertheless tailored to be much more light-hearted and comedic, and most importantly, gameplay came first.

Graphics – 5/10

While comic relief is added in the game’s graphics through some of the comedic looks of some of the patients with ridiculous diseases, such as Bloaty Head, there was never going to be much else in terms of concept in a hospital simulator game. There are a few full-motion videos adding a bit more to the game’s comedic value as well as the darker aspect of its humor, but other than these small elements, there’s not much else to look at, unfortunately.

Gameplay – 8/10

Theme Hospital was one of the most addictive games I ever played growing up, and that level of addiction still holds up to this day the way I see it. I remember it was one of the first games that made me understand how something that could be seen as being mundane and repetitive in real life can be made to seem extremely entertaining. There have been many other games come and gone that have tried to replicate that feeling with the same level of success; indeed most recently, I’ve been playing the game Papers Please, which could easily fall under this category, but very few have succeeded on the same level as this game.

Controls – 10/10

The simulation and real-time strategy gaming genre had been long since perfected prior to the release of Theme Hospital, and so it was unlikely to begin with that there would be any problems with the game’s control scheme, and so there isn’t. Theme Hospital, though relatively difficult to master, is simple to get to grips with.

Lifespan – 3/10

The biggest issue I have with this game, however, is that there is a fixed lifespan, making the game very short-lived for one in its genre. The game’s main mode can be complete in less than six hours, and for a game that can be made to last an infinite amount of time, that’s almost unforgivable. Unlike Rollercoaster Tycoon, there doesn’t exist any kind of endless mode, whereby players can just build and maintain a hospital, and stick to it; they simply have to meet all the hospital’s requirements, and then move onto the next until the game is complete. That, in turn, also affects the gameplay, as this makes it a lot less satisfying to play than it easily could have been.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

Theme Hospital doesn’t have any kind of established story or even much in the way of a basic premise; but nor did it need anything like that to be any more enjoyable. The only element of the story is in the game’s humor, which can make the ambiance of the game both funny and taboo at the same time, but otherwise, there isn’t much else to talk about in terms of story. There’s no need for the game to lose marks for not having something that it didn’t necessarily have to have.

Originality – 8/10

Simulator games had been around for some time prior to this, but this game was in a class of its own. It garnished a great level of popularity among players and is still unlike anything I’ve ever played since. It was instrumental in shaping a lot of my own personal viewpoints about gaming, and it’s my hope that more titles like this come along in the near future, with the same, or an even greater level of originality attached to it.



Overall, whilst it hasn’t stood the test of time, as well as other games of the 90s have, Theme Hospital is still fairly addictive and fun to play, and it’s dark and twisted humor and a great level of uniqueness has made it a cult classic, and I would still recommend it to anyone reading who hasn’t tried it yet.



7.5/10 (Good)

The Darkness (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Starbreeze Studios

Publisher(s) – 2K Games

Designer(s) – Jens Andersson

Producer(s) – Lars Johansson

PEGI – 18

After problems arose with development concerning publishing rights, with Majesco originally owning them before having to sell them amidst financial problems, it would have been very easy to assume at that time The Darkness would suffer as a result, most likely due to creative or artistic differences from the various different parties involved; thankfully, it doesn’t suffer to any great deal, and turned out to be a fairly enjoyable game. A linear first-person shooter, it introduces some very interesting gameplay mechanics into the genre, and does pretty well to stand out among many others in turn; this is especially impressive, as, at this point, the genre had dominated mainstream gaming

Graphics – 6.5/10

What I enjoyed most about the game’s conceptual design was it’s exceptionally dark tone as the player wanders around back allies and open streets of a very gritty-looking New York City. It all works extremely well to set the tone of the game and make it highly representative of the dark directions the game’s story is taken in. What I didn’t like about it, however, are the dream sequences in which the main character is placed in a World War I environment known as the Otherworld. In these sequences, in particular, I found there to be much less textural detail, and ironically, looked considerably less dark than in real-world sequences.

Gameplay – 7/10

At first, the game seemingly plays out like a run-of-the-mill first-person shooter, with the same kinds and variety of weapons that would typically be found in any installment of wither Medal of Honour, Battlefield or Call of Duty. As players progress, however, it becomes apparent that this title has a little more going for it than that. The player gains the ability to summon small dog-like demons in order to solve puzzles and attack enemies, as well as a pair of snake-like demons in order to reach otherwise impassable areas and see where enemies are positioned in order to gain a tactical advantage. There is also a couple of side quests involving collectible items, like most first-person shooters, which adds a little bit more to its longevity, but it all did leave me wanting a little bit more for how much variety there is in combat.

Controls – 9/10

The only gripe I had with the game’s controls is that it can be a little bit awkward to move the snake-like demons whilst trying to move around impassable areas or detect enemy patterns and positions. It can also be a little bit needless annoying, as they can only stretch to a certain distance, and without warning, they can immediately retract. Otherwise, however, the game plays out as any good first-person shooter should. Movement and attacking are straightforward, and it tried something different without messing with the core formula too much.

Lifespan – 6/10

The game lasts about the average length of time for a linear first-person shooter to last, which is around six to seven hours. As I alluded to earlier, it would have been nice to see the developers add more things to do within it to in turn add to its longevity, making it stand out even further than the average first-person shooter than what it already does, and therefore, it would have most definitely been held in much higher regard than what it was. For example, they could have easily expanded on the brief morality mechanics seen throughout the game.

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of the game involves a contract killer for the Mafia named Jackie, who becomes an assassination target, along with his girlfriend Jenny, for his uncle Paulie after a failed job, and later on requires a mysterious power known as the darkness, which gains him an edge over his enemies, but has unforeseen consequences, which unfold as the game progresses. Overall, the story is reasonably immersing, and there are elements of tragedy to it, along with the fact that Jackie is portrayed quite well as an anti-hero wrestling with his perceptions of right and wrong. However, one fatal flaw I found with it is that it would have made much more sense if Paulie wasn’t Jackie’s uncle because I personally found it unbelievable that an uncle would immediately decide to kill his nephew for losing some money, and the way this plot element was portrayed seemed nothing short of tacked on.

Originality – 7/10

I have to commend how well this game stands out amongst a genre that was already destined for commercial success throughout the seventh generation, given the launch and prior success of many other first-person series, such as Half-Life, Red Faction, Halo and Call of Duty. Like BioShock, but nowhere near on the same level, it presented players with a new way of playing these kinds of games, and did well to remind them that they don’t have to be anywhere near as generic as a vast majority of FPS franchises either were at that time or what would later become in the future.



Overall, The Darkness is a pretty enjoyable gaming experience, and I would recommend and FPS fan tries it at least once. Though flawed in several different ways in varying degrees, it made for a decent early seventh generation title that still holds up reasonably well.



7/10 (Fair)

Terraria (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation Network, Windows Phone, Wii U, Android & iOS)

Developer(s) – Re-Logic, Engine Software & Codeglue

Publisher(s) – Re-Logic, 505 Games & Spike Chunsoft

Programmer – Andrew “Redigit” Spinks

Producer – Jeremy Guerette

PEGI – 12

Terraria is a 2D platforming sandbox game, whereby the idea is to explore a huge open environment (including underground), build a house to accommodate non-playable characters such as a merchant, a demolitionist and a nurse, and to fend off waves of hostiles that try to attack either the player or their house. Whilst it is very addictive in gameplay and lasts only as long as the player interest, there are other faults that hamper the game to an extent, but nowhere near the extent to make it unplayable; by any stretch of the imagination.

Graphics – 6/10

Visually, this game is a nice throwback to the era of both the SNES and the Mega Drive, as it’s rife with 16-bit sprites and environments. The main concern I have regarding the graphics is that whilst it may seem unique to a lot of younger gamers, as they may not have played games from the 16-bit era, older gamers may not be so smitten by the visuals, as there is not that much unique about it in a conceptual sense. Most of the enemies found in the game pretty generic and typical, including zombies, vampires, skeletons, and even slimes, which have been a stable element in the Dragon Quest series for years. The most unique enemies in the game are without a doubt the demon eyes, which are floating eyeballs that attack people. Even the Wall of Flesh, the hardest enemy in the game, doesn’t seem overly original compared to other monsters of its kind that have been seen in video games prior, such as Melchiah from Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver or the Mother Brain from Metroid. For the most part, the enemies are pretty typical, but nevertheless, the 16-bit graphics are nicely rendered and to an extent, I could appreciate that the developers were trying to make the game stand out from a graphical point of view.

Gameplay – 8/10

The fact that the game’s conceptual design is pretty weak doesn’t at all change the fact that it is an absolute joy to play once players become immersed. It is extremely addictive, and it can obligate players to continue playing, whilst they may not be making progress in the conventional sense; a gameplay element very reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls series. However, it will take some getting into. A lot like Minecraft or Don’t Starve, it’s not strictly self-explanatory. I would recommend getting tips on how to play it effectively before trying it. At first, I saw little point in carrying on with this game, as from first impressions, it seemed like things were moving too slowly. I then watched a few videos of people playing it and a few tutorials, and I decided to give it another go. Before I knew it, it was half-past 2 in the morning. Although at first, I struggled to understand exactly what this game had going for it in terms of gameplay, it grew on me, and I came to be impressed with what there was on offer. I have played very few 2D side scrollers that offer this level of exploration and freedom, and whilst it’s not a very original idea in general, I enjoy playing it.

Controls – 9.5/10

Another thing that initially annoyed me was the mechanic of building and mining in this game. It took me a while to figure out how to do it as effectively as possible, and I was about to run out of patience when I accidentally discovered that the analog stick can be used to switch between two ways of building and mining when it’s pushed down. But as I said, I found that out by chance and it wasn’t self-explanatory. I guess by that logic, however, it would be much easier to play this game on a PC. But anyone reading this who is thinking of trying the game will now know, and there aren’t any other problems to address at all.

Lifespan – 10/10

As I previously wrote, this game will only last as long as the player’s interest, and given this game’s level of addiction and variety, that should indeed be a particularly long time. There is no obligation to complete the main objective at hand, and players will be encouraged to make other forms of progress in order to pass the time, such as building a bigger and better house. I, for example, have dedicated time to simply making an underground network simply to be able to explore the depths of the in-game world more easily.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

One thing I tend to keep in mind whilst critiquing a video game is that not every game has to have a story in order for it to be good. Therefore, if a game doesn’t have a story, but didn’t necessarily need one, It won’t lose any marks and will attain a perfect score in that axiom of judgment. There is no point criticizing a game for not having an element that it didn’t need, and Terraria is certainly one of these games. When I reviewed Don’t Starve some time ago, I thought that it didn’t have to have a story at all; but the fact of the matter is that it’s there, and it’s just not elaborated on very much, and so it lost marks. But with Terraria, there is no story; nor did it need one. Therefore there is no need for it to lose marks.

Originality – 4/10

This is the aspect in which the game was left wanting in my opinion. As I said, although it is addictive and fun to play, the developer’s desire to incorporate uniqueness in the visuals with the 16-bit style wasn’t fully realized the way I see it, as it was pretty weak in conceptual design with few standout enemies or visual elements. It’s because of this that I’m skeptical that it would’ve stood out if the game was actually released in the 16-bit era.



In summation, aside from Terraria’s lack of visual uniqueness, and in terms of gameplay, whilst it does indeed borrow elements from Minecraft and the Metroidvania style of play, and therefore lacks the feel of a fully cohesive concept, it was still fun to play and one of the more addictive games I’ve played in recent times, and it’s definitely worth the very generous asking price attached to it.



7.5/10 (Good)

Super Stardust Ultra (PlayStation 3 & PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Housemarque

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Harri Tikkanen

Producer – Ivan Davies

PEGI – 7

Conceived by the same team who developed both Resogun and Dead Nation, Housemarque, Super Stardust was another arcade shoot ‘em up similar to Resogun, but with arguably more variety in gameplay, as well as an endless mode thrown in for good measure. Personally, I think both this game and Resogun are as good as each other for various reasons.

Graphics – 7/10

The conceptual design of the game was fairly well done, and technically brilliant for what hardware was available at the time. The drawback it has when compared with Resogun is that there isn’t as much customization as there is in the former. For example, it isn’t possible for players to build their own ships. However, each level has the same degree of variety and helps it to stand out among not only Resogun but many other arcade indie titles too.

Gameplay – 9/10

Like many others, I believe that Super Stardust does indeed have much more variety than Resogun, with not only more game modes, but with players having to adapt to different styles of play by using different weapons for different situations. There are also not many arcade games in general that have been able to accomplish this to as great an extent as this game does, which is something to be greatly commended, as even some of the greatest arcade games could end up feeling repetitive after a while.

Controls – 10/10

As a gaming formula having been long-since perfected, despite it taking place on a very different kind of stage than in many other arcade games, there would have been major issues if Housemarque messed it up, and inevitable criticisms from old-school gamers and negative comparisons are drawn between it, and almost other classic arcade games of the first and second generations. Thankfully, however, Housemarque got it to spot on, and there are no complications with the game’s control scheme.

Originality – 6/10

The capacity in which this game stands out as best as it can, much like Resogun, is in comparison with every mainstream AAA title that is being released today. At the moment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to develop an original indie title, and its re-release on the PlayStation 4 may seem finite to those who may not have played it beforehand when it was released on PlayStation 3 back in 2012. Back then, the game was a breath of fresh air, so by that logic, it’s no reason for it to lose out on too many points in my opinion.



Overall, Super Stardust Ultra is an extremely worthwhile game, and one of Housemarque’s better efforts. The Finnish development company has made waves throughout the eighth generation of gaming, but arguably, it was this game that allowed them to begin their ascendance.



8/10 (Very Good)