Tag Archives: PS4

Horizon Zero Dawn (PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Guerrilla Games

Publisher(s) – Sony Interactive Entertainment

Director(s) – Mathis de Jonge

Producer(s) – Lambert Wolterbeek Muller

Developed by Guerrilla Games and being six years in the making, Horizon Zero Dawn is an open world action adventure game, which relies heavily on creativity in battle, and present a very stern challenge similar to games of the same ilk like Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Assassin’s Creed. Personally, I was blown away by how great this game is. I had high expectations of it in the first place, but it did exceptional well to surpass those expectations, and deliver one of the best gaming experiences of the eighth generation.

Graphics – 10/10

The game’s visuals are phenomenal from both a technical and conceptual perspective. The level of detail is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on even the PlayStation 4, which is saying a lot since I’ve played a great deal of technically marvellous games on the system like InFamous: Second Son and Killzone: Shadow Fall. But more impressive than this, the game’s universe is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic earth whereby humanity has regressed to prehistoric culture, but the wild is infested with dangerous robotic animals made with technology that was widespread before the events of the game. The world in this title is extremely impressive to look at, and to me, it sets a new standard within the industry in terms of cutting edge graphics.

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Outside the main story and various side quests, The object of the game is to hunt animals around the world in order to develop the character, and to discover new materials used to upgrade equipment, weapons and storage capacity. There is a great freedom to be had in terms of choice of how to approach combat; the player can choose to take a more stealthy approach and use environmental hazards to subdue enemies without being detected, or they may choose to take the less subtle route, and go in all guns blazing. Upgrades provide the player with new abilities to assist them whilst taking all these different approaches towards combat. Morality mechanics also play a part in the game similar to Mass Effect whereby the decisions the player makes effects the outcome of the story, and player’s influence over NPCs. Whilst it’s a little bare compared to some other open world game, which is ultimately why I would have to place Breath of the Wild above it when comparing the two games, there is still a great deal of things to do within the game that will keep players entertained for an extraordinary amount of time.

Controls – 10/10

In terms of controls, the game doesn’t exactly re-invent the wheel. However, there are no unnecessary frustrations to be experienced with the control scheme, so it is deserved of a perfect score in this aspect. It’s also quire clever how the developers were able to implement the mechanic of scanning enemies and environments in order to assist players in how they choose to approach the situation, despite the fact that it isn’t the first game of it’s kind to implement such a feature.

Lifespan – 9/10

With plenty to do throughout the game beyond the main story, it can be easily made to last at least 60 hours. It’s actually quite surprising to me that a game of this level of technical innovation can encompass an open world of this size. I was impressed with how Far Cry 4 was able to accomplish a similar feat to this, but this game goes far beyond what the latter was capable of.

Storyline – 9/10

The story of the games follows a young hunter named Aloy, who has been shunned her entire life as an outcast to every other tribe situated throughout her homelands. As she has grown up, she sets out to prove herself as a member of the Nora tribe. But she soon discovers that she is only part of a greater destiny, and so she sets out to uncover it, and to also uncover the history of her world. Horizon Zero Dawn is very much a coming of age story reminiscent of a lot of Studio Ghibli films, and goes beyond that of a typical story found in many open world games. It’s immersing, emotionally charged and deals with the wonders and complications of a young woman trying to find her way in the world. Watching the development of Aloy’s character, in particular was a pleasure from beginning to end.

Originality – 8/10

The game is definitely more evolutionary than revolutionary. It’s not the first game of it’s kind to do many of the things that it doesn’t, but it does do them bigger, and all at once, one-upping the likes of Shadow of Mordor in my opinion. Where it truly stands out is in aspects such as it’s conceptual design, and variety in combat, which makes me feel re-assured that innovation is not just happening within in the indie industry, but also the mainstream scene as well.

Deliirious

Overall Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the best games of 2017, and unanimously my favourite PlayStation 4 exclusive so far. I’ve been impressed with many others such as InFamous: Second Son, InFamous: First Light and The Last Guardian, but to me, this game surpasses them all, making for a better IP than Killzone ever was.

Score

54.5/60

9/10 (Excellent)

Reus (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Abbey Games

Publisher(s) – Abbey Games

Designer(s) – Adriaan Jansens, Dennis Pullens & Nick Witsel

Programmer(s) – Bas Zalmstra, Maarten Wiedenhof, Manuel Kerssemakers, Dennis Pullens, Tim de Jager & Jacco Krijnen

Developed and self-published by indie developers Abbey Games, Reus is a unique type of real-time strategy game, whereby the player must create a world and influence the populace to maintain as peaceful a civilization as possible. Overall, I was extremely impressed with how original this game is, and I would recommend it to any fan of the strategy genre who may be wanting a much different experience to what they may normally be used to.

Graphics – 7/10

Making use of hand-drawn 2D graphics, I really like the conceptual design of this game. It gives it a deceptively innocent look about it, when in fact, it can become a wonderfully hectic challenge to maintain civility among the world’s people, and provide resources as and when they’re needed, and to not overdo it in any way. The game’s soundtrack can also add to this depth in deception, as it sounds very peaceful against a potential foreground of problems that muse be solved.

Gameplay – 7/10

The game puts the player in control of four ancient gods, who must be used to create different form of terrain across the planet to allow for the development of civilization, and it’s expansion. The more food and gold mines the people are able to utilize, the more prosperous it’ll be, but more prosperous societies may become greedy and complacent, and be the subject of envy amongst other civilizations that may exist across the world, thereby increasing the risk of conflict between them, and effecting the level of peace throughout the land. Though it may not be the first game to introduce mechanics of the same ilk, as it does draw inspiration from strategy games such as Empire Earth and Sid Meier’s Civilization, it does it in a very different way to either of the aforementioned, and provides a challenge unlike any other.

Controls – 10/10

As a strategy game, it is inevitably best played on PC, as it can be quicker to issue commands to the gods and carry out tasks as and when required through the use of hot keys. But on console, it’s not unplayable; it’s still quite easy to get to grips with the controls, and the overall gameplay system. In fact, it can arguably be seen as a greater challenge playing games like this on console. I felt the same way when I played Tropico 5 on PlayStation 4, and Reus is no exception in my opinion.

Originality – 9/10

To put it simply, I’ve never seen or played a game like this before. It’s 2D graphic design and unique way of playing makes it stand out from every other strategy game ever developed. It gives testament to how willing and capable indie developers are of creating new concepts for games of pre-existing genres. There’s been Don’t Starve, Five Nights at Freddy’s and Super Meat Boy to name but a few, and Reus is as every bit as innovative as those examples in my opinion.

Happii

Overall, Reus is an enjoyable and insanely unique gaming experience that comes highly recommended from me. As a fan of strategy games, I had a lot of fun playing this title, and I’ve no doubt that other strategy game fans will feel a very similar way about it.

Score

33/10

8/10 (Very Good)

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)

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PC & PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – The Chinese Room & SCE Santa Monica Studio

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Jessica Curry

Designer – Andrew Crawshaw

Developed as a spiritual successor to the game Dear Esther, and picked up by Sony after the developers failed to crowd-fund the game, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture turned out to be one of these games that is driven solely by story, and is told through a first person perspective with a fairly sizeable open world with nothing to do in it but walk around. After first seeing this game announced back in E3 2014, I was quite excited for what potential this game had; even going so far as to list as one of my top ten most highly anticipated games at that time. Upon playing it, however, I was glad I didn’t pay any additional amount for it on top of my PlayStation Plus subscription. I was bitterly disappointed by this title. Ben Croshaw of The Escapist described this game as a “walking simulator”, and that’s all, and exactly what it is.

Graphics – 8/10

The game is set in Shropshire in England in the early 80’s, and features a lot of staples of English architecture, such as Victorian style houses and local pubs. One positive thing I can say about this game is that the visuals were handled fairly well, being more impressive on the technical level as opposed to the conceptual level. The game’s soundtrack also does fairly well to add to the game’s deceptively calm atmosphere throughout.

Gameplay – 1/10

The game simply has the player walking around the town trying to piece together exactly what happened to the inhabitants who have mysteriously disappeared. There are no additional quest or combat elements, and the gameplay is almost non-existent. This is where it’s squandered potential comes into play, as there was definitely enough room to add more to it than simply walking around, making it feel like a very insulting gaming experience amounting to nothing more than a very long film.

Controls – 10/10

Mercifully, walking around is as easy as it is in most decent first person games, as there are no problems with the controls. But in a game where the only objective is to walk around, it would probably have been easier to get it right than to mess it up.

Lifespan – 3/10

Clocking in at around 4 and half hours, this is another aspect in which the game’s wasted potential sticks out like a sore thumb. Given the addition of more things to do, it could have been made to last a great deal longer. But given the fact that going outside for a walk would be a much more preferable alternative to playing this game, it’s just as well that it lasts as short a time as it does. I myself could only manage 20 minutes of it.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of the game centres around the player character trying to deduce exactly what happened to the inhabitants of Shropshire, and why they have disappeared so abruptly. The plot does take a few unexpected twists and turns, which is good, but not exceptional in my opinion. Overall, it still doesn’t come close to making up for the severe lack of gameplay. At the same time, the fact that the story isn’t even overly good cheapens the experience further, as there have been countless that have told better stories, yet have had much more in the way of gameplay.

Originality – 4/10

The developers were clearly trying to create something different with this game, but to me, there is hardly anything unique to talk about. The premise is relatively original, but short of that, there is of course no innovation in any other aspect, i.e graphics gameplay etc, which again to me, further cheapens the experience, and defeats the object of what the developers were clearly trying to do in the first place. When I looked at the awards this game has garnished, I don’t believe it’s deserved of any of them, since there were games in both 2015 and 2016 which had better stories; Batman: Arkham Knight, SteamWorld Heist and Undertale to name but a few. And it certainly didn’t deserve the award it got for creative gameplay in the UK from the TIGA Games Industry Awards; I had to laugh when I read that one.

Angrii

In summation, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture thoroughly deserves it’s designated title of walking simulator; it’s a modern example of wasted potential in video gaming, and in my opinion, should be avoided at all costs.

Score

33/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)

Overcooked (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Ghost Town Games

Publisher(s) – Team17

Released in late 2016, and published by Team17 after various expo tours to bring the game to the attention of wider audiences, Overcooked is a cooking simulator in which the objective is to raise as much money as possible in each respective level by preparing as many dishes as possible. I first became aware of Overcooked hen I went to my first expo, Play Blackpool 2015, and I had been following the progress of the game closely until it’s release. After playing the final product, I can say that I was not at all disappointed.

Graphics – 7/10

The game’s variety of conceptual design is heavily based on the layout of each level’s kitchen; many taking place in outdoor and indoor restaurants, whilst other levels take place in more varied locations, such as volcanoes and pirate ships. It also comes with quite an impressive soundtrack, but it’s the variety in scenery that truly makes the game stand out. It speaks of games with some of the most diverse settings conceived, including Super Mario Bros and Banjo-Kazooie to sight a few of many examples.

Gameplay – 8/10

The object of the game is to serve as many customers as possible in each level, and to finish with a possible total of three stars, similar to Angry Birds or 10 Second Ninja X. Interestingly, it alludes to the fact that 3 Michelin stars is the highest accolade a chef can attain in the cooking profession. It’s an extremely challenging game, but at the same time, it’s also extremely fun. It’s satisfying to be able to adapt to the layout of each kitchen, and plan your strategy in accordance with the food that is being ordered by the customers; much like being an executive chef, in fact. There are penalties for overcooking food, as well as sending the wrong orders, which is also an integral part of where game’s level of challenge lies. Whilst looking simplistic, beneath the surface, there is a system that is easy to learn, yet difficult to master.

Controls – 9/10

At times, the controls can be somewhat unresponsive, but not to the extent that it ruins the gameplay, like what has happened with many other challenging games that have been developed in the past. Most often than not if a player makes a mistake, it is down to how they perform in the game, which is how it should be. Apart from this one minor gripe I have, I was particularly impressed with how the developers had handled the controls scheme; it makes it unlike any other game I’ve played.

Lifespan – 7/10

The single player campaign mode has 28 different levels, as well as and end boss fight, which dependent on player skill, can take up to 4 or 5 hours to complete. However, the game was designed to be a primary multiplayer experience, whereby two players control two chefs at the same time, which can make for many hours of entertainment. There was also DLC released for the game in addition, but with or without it, it does have a great deal to offer in terms of longevity. The only thing it lacks is online multiplayer, which I think would go a long way to improving the experience even further, but that may be an idea to implement with a possible sequel. The idea of a second game would be particularly exciting to me, since there is potentially a lot the developers could do to expand upon the concept even further,

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story involves the chefs having to save the world from an entity known as the Ever Peckish by travelling the world and cooking. Although a story may not have been necessary, it is a nice extra detail the developers added to give the game that little more substance. The concept may sound ridiculous on paper, but some of the greatest games developed have had very outlandish stories attached to them, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing speaking from experience. For example, a plumber saving a princess from a dragon may sound strange, but it’s made for the most iconic gaming franchise ever created.

Originality – 8/10

As I pointed out, Overcooked is unlike any other game I’ve ever played; it’s gameplay layout and control scheme does extremely well to make it stand out from both mainstream and indie releases, which is why I had been excited about it ever since I first laid eyes on it. As I watched it develop, my excitement and expectations only increased as time went on, and in retrospect, I think it’s deserved of the accolades it’s received since it’s release.

To summarize, Overcooked is a charming; yet challenging gameplay experience that is certainly worth playing again and again. The developers had outlandish ideas ever since the game’s inception, and to see all these ideas come together so well in the final product made believe it was well worth the wait to see it fully released.

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Titan Souls (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita & Android)

Developer(s) – Acid Nerve

Publisher(s) – Devolver Digital

Designer(s) – Mark Foster & Andrew Gleeson

Programmer – Mark Foster

Drawing influence from some of the most critically acclaimed gaming franchises of all time such as Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls, and being met with critical acclaim itself following it’s release in 2015, Titan Souls is a top-down adventure game, similar in gameplay style to A Link to the Past, but with much of the same difficulty as Dark Souls. After playing this game for the first time at Play Manchester 2015, I was somewhat sceptical going back into it in an attempt to complete it, since I’d only played the first part prior, and was massively under the impression that things were only going to get insufferably harder after that point. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game is nowhere near as inaccessible as I feared that it would be, and ended up enjoying it very much.

Graphics – 10/10

Rendered in 16-bit graphics reminiscent of the fourth generation of gaming, the game looks even better than some of the classic titles of that era. Aside from the in-game world looking vibrant, colourful and extremely unique in terms of conceptual design, in both it’s setting and boss characters, the attention to detail regarding the environment, such as shadows in the forests, footprints in the snow and splashes in the water make it extremely enjoyable to take in whilst playing. In addition, due to elements put in such as overgrowing moss on buildings and snow mounts in the colder regions, very little about the in-game world looks replicated like what was typical of games of earlier gaming eras; it’s similar to how each cave in Skyrim was uniquely designed in comparison to how they were designed in Oblivion.

Gameplay – 7.5/10

The objective of the game is to seek out and kill a series of titans situated throughout the land, similar in many ways to Shadow of the Colossus. The player’s only weapon is a single arrow from a bow, which can be telepathically summoned back to the player upon firing, which is where the game’s intense level of challenge comes in. Players need to be able to move and dodge enemy attacks efficiently as much as they to be accurate in placing their attacks. The game can be made to look intimidating in terms of challenge, but speaking as a gamer that considers games like Dark Souls and the original Mega Man and Castlevania titles to be overly inaccessible, I didn’t find it to be unforgiving. Players will need to persevere, since death will happen more than once, especially as the player dies in one hit, but the satisfaction to be had after completing the game makes it more than worthwhile to play. Harder than completing the game is fulfilling the additional criteria during boss fights needed to unlock certain achievement within it; for example, knocking out all of the mountain titan’s teeth before killing it.

Controls – 10/10

Thankfully, there are no issues with the game’s control scheme whatsoever. It came as an especially big relief to me, as I’ve found that many challenging games, most notably in earlier eras of gaming like Castlevania and Mega Man, have suffered from having problems with the controls, which can be an unnecessary annoyance while playing. If a game demands that players need to be on top of their game to complete it, then the developers need to be on top theirs while creating it, I feel. Otherwise, it can largely contradict the point of making a game that hard at all.

Lifespan – 7/10

One playthrough of Titan Souls, depending how often the player gets themselves killed while playing, can be made to last roughly 5 to 6 hours. However, there is some replayability to be had if players want to truly master the game, and do everything there is to do in it, making for a experience lasting around 15 to 20 hours overall. I think with the size of the world the developers incorporated, they could have added a few more side quests to contribute to the game’s longevity, but regardless, the game does last a respectable amount of time for those willing to put as much time in it as possible.

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of the game follows a nameless traveler armed with a bow and single arrow, on a quest to defeat all the titans throughout the land, in order to harness the power of the titan souls, and realize a great truth and power. What bugs me about the story more than anything is that there is too much left unexplained in my opinion. There’s nothing with a level of ambiguity when it comes to a story, for example if it ends on an interesting cliff-hanger, or if there are certain aspects of characters or plot twists that are left open to debate. But since there does seem to be some kind of mythology attached to this game, I would have liked to find out a lot more about it. Shadow of the Colossus’s plot was somewhat similar, but there was more depth to it than there is in this game, making the players care more about what would be going on, or what would happen to the characters. But where Titan Souls is concerned, I was left wanting in this aspect; at least until a sequel may be developed.

Originality – 7/10

Though Titan Souls may not be the first game to do many of the things that it does by any stretch of the imagination, they are all done with it’s own unique twist which will make gamers, especially seasoned players of retro games, appreciate it to a great extent. It’s open to players both looking for a wondrous sense of nostalgia, as well as younger gamers looking to explore into how gaming used to be, but at the same time, being in for a different kind of experience to what was typically available to gamers back in the days of the Super NES and Mega Drive.

Happii

In summation, Titan Souls is a gaming experience well worth delving into. It’s challenging without being accessible, it’s visuals are marvellous to behold, and though it may be lacking somewhat in story, it provides an ample amount in what matters most; immersing gameplay.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

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)

Q&A With Huey Games

Following on from Play Manchester 2016, one game that has continued to impress gaming audiences since I first laid eyes on it is Hyper Sentinel; an arcade shoot ‘em up inspired by 2nd and 3rd generation classics such as Defender, Cybernoid and Uridium. Showcased at many expos, and being the subject of a recently successful Kickstarter campaign, the popularity of the game has been on the rise, and is set for full release later on this year on multiple platforms. Curious to find out more, I’ve conducted a Q&A with the game’s creative director and CEO of Huey Games, Robert Hewson, and the game’s principal developer, founder of Four5Six Pixel Jonathan Port. Here’s what they had to say about Hyper Sentinel:

 

What were the influences behind your game?

Jon: The most obvious visual influence is to Uridium, the twist and flip manouevre has never really been used since, so I thought it would be fun to have that in. In terms of gameplay, major influences are Defender for its frantic action and speed, Tornado Low Level (ZX Spectrum) which you could sweep back the plane wings to speed boost. I loved Cybernoid and its dramatic explosions, so there is definitely some influence there.  More recently Resogun, I like the way the enemies surround and suffocate you if you don’t keep on top.

What has the developmental process been like?

Jon: Development has gone very smoothly. I’ll often implement some features and then let Huey Games take a look. We’ll then go through a short iterative design cycle until the feature feels right. Using this process, some features make it in, and some get left out. It’s about making a game that feels consistent throughout.  To get such close design feedback from a publisher, but still have the freedom to create your own game has been an absolute pleasure.

Rob: It has been a genuine pleasure to work with Jon on the iterative process of enhancing and polishing the game. We seem to be on the same wavelength the whole time, I don’t think we’ve disagreed on any of the feedback we’ve given and it is always a delight to get a new build and see all the little touches Jon has added.

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Rob: We are on track for an early summer release now that the Kickstarter has passed its funding goal. Of course, there is still a week left on the campaign so we are hoping to hit a few more stretch goals too! You can check out the campaign at www.hypersentinel.com.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Rob: I think there was a moment after we’d been through a few rounds of iterative improvement when the boost and the dodge abilities came together, and the compelling loop of the gameplay was suddenly brought to life. After that, tweaking the way the enemies behave, the way the power-ups spawn and all those little details so that they work elegantly with those core mechanics, that is when we began to realise we’d found the fun, which is always the best moment!

 

Jon: Seeing people play your game at an expo and come away thrilled to have played it. When you are so close to the development of a game you never really know until you stand away and just let people play it on their own. It’s a scary moment as you take your game to its first public showing, but to see people really enjoying your own game is a special moment.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Jon: Hyper Sentinel was originally developed on an Apple centric platform. In order to get the game out to a wider audience we needed to move the code base to an engine that could target multiple platforms. The move to the Unity engine was the greatest technical undertaking. Most of the code has been re-written entirely from scratch to get the best out of that environment. We could have gone down the route of a quick code port, but we decided early on that we should do this right to make the best game possible.

Has your father Andrew had any input into the game?

Rob: Not so much. He attended the first meeting with Jon and could instantly see the potential of the game, but he is taking more of a back seat these days. His wealth of experience is there to tap into when we need it, but that is mostly on the business side.

What impact has your father had on your career as a developer in general?

Rob: I don’t think he really pushed me to pursue a career in the games industry, if anything he was a sobering influence because he knew first hand just how difficult it could be. However, there is no doubt that being surrounded by games from an early age – climbing through the shelves in the Hewson warehouse, attending trade shows, collecting posters and stickers – it clearly left its mark. I remember drawing the Hewson logo and dreaming up game ideas with my friends, so I caught the bug early. By the time I actually got into the industry dad had already left, and although I probably talked to him about it on occasion he considered it a closed chapter in his life. Until I convinced him to write his book, that is.

How well has the game been received so far?

Rob: It has been exceptional. Everybody who plays the game seems to enjoy and appreciate it. One of the most exciting things to see is that it is not just older retro gaming fans who love it, we had loads of kids coming back time and again to play it at the shows we have attended, which is a pleasure to witness.

Jon: The greatest thrill is to see people genuinely excited to play the game. Hyper Sentinel is a hi-score game at its heart, and its great to see people putting in so much time to stay on top of the score leaderboard! 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Rob: So far we can confirm Steam, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android and Amazon platforms. Hopefully we can add even more to the list soon.

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Rob: Figure out what the hook is for your game, the thing which makes it stand out from the crowd, and polish, polish, polish. Once you’ve finished polishing, polish some more. When you think you can’t polish any further, get some feedback, realise you were wrong and carry on polishing.

Jon: Did Rob say polish? If there is one thing I have learnt from Huey Games it is that a great game doesn’t happen instantly, it’s a process of building over and over from a simple core concept. For aspiring indie developers the most important thing is to finish your game, and that takes an awful lot of hard work and time. If you know you have a great game, just keep going until you get it into people’s hands. 

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

Rob: The game has its own website at www.hypersentinel.com (which currently goes directly to the Kickstarter while the campaign is live) and you can visit our company page at www.hueygames.com

Do you have anything else to add?

Rob: Thank you for having us and a massive thank you to everybody who has supported us along the way!

 

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank both Robert and Jonathan for agreeing to our Q&A session to say congratulations on the successful Kickstarter campaign Hyper Sentinel has had, and to wish them best luck with the game upon release. From what I played at Manchester, Hyper Sentinel seems like a particularly enthralling game, a compelling homage to the 80s classics the developers drew inspiration from, and I can’t wait to play the finished article.

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, & iOS Android)

Developer(s) – Cornfox & Bros.

Publisher(s) – FDG Entertainment

Director – Heikki Repo

First released on iOS in 2013, subsequently brought to consoles last year and featuring music composed by Squaresoft veterans Kenji Ito, and my personal favourite video game composer Nobuo Uematsu, Oceanhorn borrows a great deal from some of the best franchises in gaming, such as Legend of Zelda and Baldur’s Gate, and brings them together in one very satisfying and critically acclaimed gaming experience. Even after playing a few hours of Oceanhorn, I could tell that this is most definitely one of the greatest indie games I would have ever played to date, and something I would recommend to any fan of adventure games or RPGs.

Graphics – 8.5/10

The game’s visuals are vibrant, colourful, diverse, and though outdated compared to most mainstream releases, they are conceptually brilliant. Though in most aspects of this game, the most obvious influence had been The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, I found myself being able to identify a great of conceptual design deviating away from the latter in places such as house basements, which have a heavy steampunk feel to them reminiscent of the game’s main antagonist. Dungeons throughout the game, again much like the Legend of Zelda series, do extremely well to stand out amongst each other, and more than make up for the overworld areas, which can seem quite repetitious after a while.

Gameplay – 9/10

Oceanhorn is an isometric top-down adventure RPG, similar to Baldur’s Gate; Dark Alliance, but set in a much more open world than the latter. There is a heavy emphasis on exploration, combat, character development and dungeon crawling; like Wind Waker, it also features travel by sea along with combat elements thrown in during these sequences too. There is plenty to do in the game to keep player busy besides the main story, and the boss fights are challenging on quite a surprising level in my opinion; even the first boss was fairly difficult to contend with.

Controls – 10/10

I experienced no issues with the game’s controls whatsoever, as not only am I personally quite familiar with this in particular gameplay formula, but there have been countless isometric RPGs to have come and gone over the last 20 years, and it was to be expected that no issues would arise. The best thing about the controls, however is how well two different styles of adventure game, i.e Legend of Zelda and Baldur’s Gate, come together particularly well to form it’s own cohesive concept without presenting any issues with the controls.

Lifespan – 7.5/10

Overall, Oceanhorn can be made to last there about 16 to 20 hours, which for an indie adventure game is fairly impressive; especially considering that is started life as a smartphone game. I’ve found a lot of indie games to be short and sweet, such as Titan Souls and Xeodrifter, so a game like this to me, was a welcome breath of fresh air, and something that can have a great of time invested into it for those willing to explore it, which I personally always admire in any game at all.

Storyline – 7.5/10

The story follows a silent protagonist, whose father leaves the paternal home to traverse the Islands of the Uncharted Seas to seek and kill a giant sea monster known as Oceanhorn. The player character subsequently sets out to destroy Oceanhorn himself, and to discover what became of his father. It seems simple enough, but throughout, the character goes through an unprecedented amount of development, discovering things such as love and hardship throughout the way. It’s one of many ways that this game can be compared to the Legend of Zelda, and whilst I believe the character of Link has been further developed in a single game than what is present in this, it’s still a very solid effort in terms of overall story.

Originality – 6/10

Most players familiar with adventure video games will have very little difficulty pointing out what influenced this title, as they are blatantly obvious from start to finish in nigh on every aspect of it. However, all these ideas come together to form something, which I can find myself to describe as unforgettable to say the least. The elements of the games it borrows inspiration from are made to seem more like charms than rip-offs.

Happii

Overall, Ocean horn, whilst it clearly borrows influence from other games, is in my opinion, the best indie experience of 2016; it’s satisfying to play and beautiful to look at, with a stellar soundtrack, an enjoyable gameplay formula and a pleasantly surprising level of depth in it’s story. It’s certainly worth playing through at least once.

Score

48.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

The Last Guardian (PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Japan Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Fumito Ueda

Producer(s) – Fumito Ueda & Kazunobu Sato

Released in late 2016 following a lengthy development cycle, The Last Guardian is a follow-up to Fumito Ueda’s previous PlayStation 2 masterpiece games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. In development since 2009, Ueda was inspired to create the game on the back on fan opinion that the connection between Wander and Agro in Shadow of the Colossus was much more emotionally charged than Wander’s commitment to reviving Mono. Ueda expanded upon this by creating a friendship between a young boy and a towering creature called Trico. Whilst I did experience some difficulties with the game’s controls, as did many other players, I found that The Last Guardian ranks in as second in my opinion of the quality of the three Fumito Ueda games; not as good as Shadow of the Colossus, but better than Ico.

Graphics – 10/10

In my opinion, it was well worth the wait to behold the transition from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4, as within that time, the graphics were given a dramatic overhaul to fit in with the standard quality of that of eighth generation gaming. But I found that both graphically and conceptually; the visuals far exceed the standards of an eighth generation game; in particular, the creature Trico’s features are intricately detailed, with it’s feathers reacting to respective indoor and outdoor environments accordingly, and it’s eyes giving it as much of an impressive emotional and lifelike appearance. The individual environments and dungeons are also something to behold, many of which reminiscent of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus; many of which interestingly posing the question as to whether or not they are the same areas just in a different span of time, tying the game in with the mythology of the other two games nicely.

Gameplay – 7/10

The object of the game is to guide Trico through many of the different dungeons and environments in order to both solve puzzles and progress through the game. There is also an element of combat to it, as the player is persisted throughout the game by the so-called suits of armour, and the boy must use both Trico and any nearby weapons to defeat them. The game borrows elements from both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to deliver a very unique gameplay formula, with payers having to fend off the suits of armour using multiple combat methods, and the player having to manipulate, and even climb upon Trico in order to reach otherwise impassable areas. The game is better than Ico in that the combat is a lot more intricate than the latter, since players simply had to hit monsters with a stick and advance to the next area, but it doesn’t measure up to the quality of Shadow of the Colossus, since it follows a linear progression as opposed to an open-world one, and consequently, there is less to do throughout. There is replay value to be had, since there are achievements to unlock for playing the game more than once, but what I found in particular was that the world in which the game is set offered more than enough scope for it to be developed as an open world game; especially judging by the opening sequence, which suggests that there were many more guardians in the world than Trico at one point. Nevertheless, what there is in gameplay is enjoyable as well as challenging, and there are a fair few secrets thrown in for good measure to uncover along the way.

Controls – 9/10

As I pointed out, I did have a couple of issues with the controls along with many other people who have played this game; most notably with Trico’s AI. Sometimes, the creature wouldn’t do what I either wanted or needed it to do right away in some given situations despite following the in-game instructions, and on occasion, this would also effect combat. But it doesn’t become as much of a problem as to hinder the flow of the game completely, and for the most part, Trico responds as well as what is needed to most commands given to it by the player. I particular, I do like some more subtle control features, like how the creatures instinctively catches barrels in mid-air when thrown. Features like that give the game a certain charm not found in every title in my opinion.

Lifespan – 6/10

One playthrough of The Last Guardian clocks in at around 10-15 hours, which is yet another improvement on Ico, as that game last only a fraction of that time. For a linear game however, that is about the standard time, which whilst may be fair, isn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary. Personally, I would have been willing to wait even longer if it meant the developers could make the game either last longer, or set it in an open world, which I’m hoping is what Fumito Ueda does with the next game he develops that ties in with the same mythology, if and when he does.

Storyline – 9/10

The story of the Last Guardian follows a young boy and the towering creature Trico in their bid to escape from a huge and elaborate prison. To do this, the boy and the creature develop an intricate and complete understanding of one another, which blossoms into a strong spiritual connection that becomes even stronger throughout the course of the game. Ahead of the release of this title, I had read articles expressing opinions and concerns that the game would not be released in time to fill a gap for games that primarily told stories, and consequently, it would not be as effective as it could be. In response to that, I say the game is as effective in terms of story as it can be regardless of the fact that it has been released after titles such as The Last of Us, Journey and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and despite of this, the game is better than any of those previously mentioned titles in my opinion. Regardless of the fact that there is no minimal dialogue with the exception of the occasional narration, the game is more emotionally charged and elaborate than many other story-driven games on the market, with the addition of offering more in terms of gameplay.

Originality – 9/10

This game in my opinion, is unique in story and gameplay, but most importantly, it’s unique in terms of general concept. It may not be the first game released to do many of the things that it does, following on from releases such as Papo & Yo and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, but it does these things better than both of these latter games, and more intricately too. I can honestly say that it is unlike any other game I’ve ever played, and one of Fumito Ueda’s most outstanding efforts to date.

Happii

In summation, whilst it does have it’s flaws, The Last Guardian provides a solid gameplay experience, excelling in the aspects of story, gameplay and visuals. It may not be as enjoyable as Shadow of the Colossus was, but it is worth at least one playthrough, and proved to be worth the wait of it’s development cycle, thankfully not succumbing to many of the complications that sometimes come with games that have had lengthy development cycles.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)