Tag Archives: Wii U

The Binding of Isaac (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS & Xbox One)

Designer(s) – Edmund McMillan & Florian Himsl

PEGI – 16

Created by Edmund McMillan, the same mind behind the infamously difficult Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac is a Roguelike that can be seen as a love letter to the original Legend of Zelda game, but with its own very unique twists. Regardless of how morbid this game can seem to many people, it’s also a particularly enjoyable one to play. But be warned: it isn’t for those who are easily offended.

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals, rendered in the same artistic style as Super Meat Boy, contain a lot of unique, yet taboo elements in things like the various power-ups that can be found in the game, and especially in it’s creature roster, with it being capped off by some of the most compellingly disturbing bosses I’ve ever seen in video games. The only gripe I have with it is that the settings can get a little repetitious at times, but the various DLC packages and re-releases fixed that problem to a certain extent.

Gameplay – 8/10

Playing out with mainly the dungeon crawling aspects of The Legend of Zelda series, it involves simply killing all enemies, and the boss at the end of each stage, then rinse and repeat. But each playthrough is different, as ever section of every stage is randomly generated, presenting players with new power-ups and a new challenge every time. It’s quite testing, but not to the point of being unforgiving, which after playing Super Meat Boy, was like a breath of fresh air to me.

Controls – 10/10

There are also no issues with the controls. There are obstacles present in certain areas of each stage, such as floor spikes and bombs that could detonate unexpectedly, but whether or not the player survives is entirely dependant on their own level of skill, which is how I think games like this should be. At times, players are required to think on their toes in order to accommodate for what abilities and perks they may or may not have; especially during boss fights.

Lifespan – 10/10

As each playthrough presents a new challenge and experience every time, the game quite literally has infinite replay value. I love to see this in any game, but it’s particularly noteworthy when an indie developer manages to accomplish this, since I hear many developers and critics citing that the budget may have been a factor in a game’s development cycle. But especially considering that this started out as a mere Flash game, and would have cost next to nothing to create, it says to me that the limitations stem from the developer’s imaginations.

Storyline – 8/10

The story is extremely reminiscent of the Bible story of the same name. It follows a young boy named Isaac, who once lived peacefully with his mother, until the voice of God called out to her to “cut her son off from the world’s evils”, and lock him in his room. God finally calls out to Isaac’s mother, demanding that she sacrifice her son to him as proof that she loves God above all. But before his mother can burst to kill him, Isaac jumps down a trap door in his bedroom to plunge into the dangerous depths below, and into a world of danger. The story is extremely controversial, containing a number of mature themes and taboos, including, suicide, child neglect, religious hypocrisy, infanticide; the list goes on. But above all, it’s very enjoyable for those willing to take heed to the lessons conveyed within it.

Originality – 7/10

Though there have been many Roguelike games to have come and gone, this is a game that stands out among most others. It goes where other games and developers are generally afraid to go. After Super Meat Boy, I resented the development of such a game. But The Binding of Isaac has made me respect Edmund McMillan a great deal more than I did as a developer; especially since this was also a very personal game for him, as many of the game’s events were in fact based on his own childhood experiences.

Happii

Happii

Overall, The Binding of Isaac, whilst being the most controversial game I’ve ever played, is also one of the more enjoyable. It has everlasting replay value, as well as a story and premise that has rightfully propelled Edmund McMillan into a very special place in gaming history.

Score

50/60

8/20 (Very Good)

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 player interest, there are other faults which 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. I 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 to 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 its 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 analogue 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 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 form 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 judgement. 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 sceptical that it would’ve stood out if the game was actually released in the 16-bit era.

Happii

Happii

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.

Score

47.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Super Smash Bros (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Sora Inc. & Namco Bandai Games

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Masahiro Sakurai

Producer – Shinya Saito & Masaya Kobayashi

PEGI -12

The latest Super Smash Bros game is a new variation of one of Nintendo’s most brilliant ideas for a series (one of which many gamers dreamed of before it was finally invented), with new characters, new game modes, new unlockables and new features in the form of compatibility with Nintendo’s Skylanders-esque Amiibo toy line. In my opinion, though it doesn’t match up to the quality of many other Nintendo games, and is not the best in it’s series, it’s certainly a worthy sequel, and one of the best video games on the Wii U so far.

Graphics – 8/10

Many people have argued the case that the newest game in the series either looks the same as Super Smash Bros Brawl, or even that Brawl actually looks better. Although I think there is some basis in the opinion that Brawl looks better, with more textural detail, there is also just as much diversity in stage design; if not, more so. So I happen to think that both games look as good as each other, since the visuals in both games have their own strengths, and they are played to extremely effectively.

Gameplay – 7/10

With most of my preferred features of the series kept intact, such as the trophy hoarding, variety in game modes and plethora of characters, I’ve found the latest game in the series to be particularly enjoyable, and definitely one of the standout titles of the 2014 holiday season following the disappointment I felt after playing Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. That being said, I was very sorry to see the departure of the story mode, since I believe that alone made Brawl the best game in the series in my opinion. The story mode was handled exceptionally well for one within a fighting game, and I see no reason why the same could be repeated and kept fresh at the same time with the inclusion of so many new characters, such as Pac-Man, Mega Man and Palutena from Kid Icarus.

Controls – 10/10

With so many different kinds of peripheral compatible with the Wii U, including the GamePad, the Wii remotes, a third-party controller and even a compatible GameCube controller, there’s no reason why either fans of the series or newcomers shouldn’t find a style of play to suit them; especially fans of the series, since virtually every previous control scheme is available, bar the one from the original game. However, I would impose the same precaution as I did in my review of Hyrule Warriors if playing with the GamePad; regarding not to tense your hands around it too much, which can result in prolonged cramping in the hands and/or fingers.

Originality – 7/10

Though there isn’t much present to differentiate this game from other fighting games, especially since the basic premise of Super Smash Bros itself has been around since 1999, the series’ general formula has been kept relatively fresh with the inclusion of new characters, stages, game modes and incentive. There have certainly been many fighting games throughout the years that have come and gone trying to be the next Street Fighter II, and failing profusely; especially during the fourth generation of gaming. The difference with many of them compared to Super Smash Bros is that elements such as character design are much, much weaker.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Super Smash Bros for the Wii U, whilst not living up to overwhelming hype spanning over 3 years, is regardless an enjoyable game, and it comes highly recommended from me. I’ve been a fan of Super Smash Bros since the GameCube era, and this game does an excellent job of bringing one of my favourite Nintendo franchises into the generation of gaming.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Super Mario Maker (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Group No 4

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Yosuke Oshino

Producer(s) – Tazashi Tezuka & Horiyuki Kimura

PEGI – 3

Partly inspired by the Super Nintendo classic Mario Paint, Super Mario Maker is a game in which players are given the facility to design their own Super Mario courses, and share them across the Internet with players from around the world. Personally, whilst I was mightily impressed with the practically infinite amount of replay value there is to be had with this title, I did have a few issues with it preventing me from being able to call it the ultimate Mario experience.

Graphics – 8/10

The templates available to players to create their own Super Mario levels consist of the conceptual and technological design of the original Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros U. By proxy, players will already know that they will eventually be in for a whirlwind of customisation options involving some of the most wonderfully outlandish conceptual design in video game history. If that weren’t enough, Nintendo have also added a few new elements into the mix that can be implemented, such as distorting scenery to add to a stage’s level of challenge, and a whole range of sound effects and scenery effects like fireworks, and funny noises activated whilst interacting with certain object in each stage. In some of the better level designs I’ve encountered so far, I’ve been impressed with how Nintendo have managed to keep the franchise relatively fresh and creative even after thirty years.

Gameplay – 7/10

As mentioned, what this entails is players designing, sharing and playing a multitude of different Super Mario courses based on four templates of four classic Mario games. Different elements can be unlocked through either playing other people’s courses, or through the nine-day unlocking cycle; but there is another way of getting round this for anyone who would prefer to have these features unlocked even sooner. All that the player must do is experiment with the creating mode for 5 minutes at a time, at which point they will receive a notification that new features will soon be available, After this, the player can then set the date forward by a day in the system settings, reload the game, and the new features will become available. This can be done multiple times until all the features are unlocked. However, one problem that I think will always apply to this game is that the levels present will always vary in quality from either masterful to exceedingly boring, since content is almost solely user-generated. I’ve already encountered this problem whilst playing, and I don’t think this at least is likely to ever change.

Controls – 10/10

There isn’t hardly anything to say about the game’s controls, since it consists of a control scheme, which has already been around for thirty years, and has been perfected all this time. Super Mario Bros set the standard of how a 2D side scrolling video game should be correctly developed, and by proxy, there was never going to be an issue with controls.

Originality – 6/10

Though the entire concept of user-generated content and modding is by no means anything new to the world of gaming, Nintendo have still managed to at least keep the Mario franchise relatively fresh by adding a gameplay concept new to it, whilst along the way, adding new elements never seen in Super Mario stages before. Ultimately, the majority of what uniqueness this game holds lies with the player’s ability to design as many rich and varied courses as possible, and from what I’ve seen so far the quality of that has ranged from captivatingly unique to courses that Nintendo themselves would despair at if they were to see them for themselves.

Happii

Happii

Overall Super Mario Maker is a very decent game. It also has the potential to be even better still if Nintendo decide to provide players with even more course templates and elements as the next few months or years go on. In my opinion, it could potentially pave the way for Nintendo to make even more of these kinds of games, which could be extremely interesting if they decide to do so. It would be just another example of how this franchise could possibly continue to establish new trends in the world of gaming.

Score

31/40

7.5/10 (Good)

Tank! Tank! Tank! (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Bandai Namco Games

Publisher(s) – Bandai Namco Games

PEGI – 7

First gaining prominence in Japan as an immensely successful arcade game, Tank Tank Tank was then ported to the Wii U as a launch title in all regions, and has since become a free-to-play eShop download, and I would personally recommend anyone with a Wii U to play it. It is a critically wonderful console port of an arcade game, and offers a level of gameplay variety unusually fantastic for a game of its kind.

Graphics – 7/10

Though the graphics may not be cutting edge, as with many titles on the Wii U at this present moment, there is no shortage of vibrant and sharp cartoon-like visuals, as well as their being a plethora of different monster designs such as giant spiders and a robotic hydra. The main criticism I have about the game’s visuals, however, is how generic the design of each tank is. There is a series of different weapons that can be picked up throughout each level, which give tanks a different looks within the level, but each individual tank that can be selected for the beginning of a level do look pretty much the same as one another.

Gameplay – 7.5/10

The objective of the game is to take out every monster in each level within an allocated time limit. That may seem like all there is to the game, but regardless, it is extremely satisfying to do. A fair bit of incentive is also offered to player for playing through each level, such as new tanks to unlock and level up in a traditional RPG fashion. It is rare that so much variety is ever added to an arcade game. Most arcade games, like House of the Dead, are simply straight ports with little to no forethought put into them, and I need to commend Namco Bandai for their efforts with this port.

Controls – 9/10

He only bad thing I can say about the controls is that moving the tank can be a little awkward at first, but payers can get to grips with it fairly quickly; it certainly isn’t awkward enough to the point of completely annoying players or hindering gameplay to any great extent. Otherwise, however, there are no other issues to address.

Lifespan – 6/10

It can take a good few hours to collect every tank in the game and their respective upgrades, as well as finish the main game. It’s particularly impressive, since one playthrough of a traditional arcade game tends to not even last an hour; for example, The House of the Dead can take an average of 40 minutes to finish. It’s just another way whereby the Wii U port has been effectively adapted for consoles, and how much thought went into the entire process, as opposed to simply porting it as it was.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

There is no clear-cut story to this game, but instead, simply a basic premise. Your character, modelled off your own likeness, must undertake a series of missions whereby certain cities and landscapes are being overwhelmed by menacing and towering monsters, and must be taken down with you little green tank. I think that it’s acceptable that this is the case, because often times, when arcade games try to incorporate a plot, it’s either nor very good or well thought out, or because the games generally tend to last for so little time, not enough time can be invested on the player’s behalf to care about anything that’s happening.

Originality – 6/10

The game does have both influence in terms of both visuals and gameplay; looking a lot like many other generic games set in urban cities, and playing out a lot like games such as BattleTanx and Battle City. But having said that, it also provides a very unique gameplay experience from the point of view of Nintendo console owners compared with a lot of other games they are most well known for releasing. Because of that, I think it’s pretty regrettable that this game has been disregarded to the extent that it has been outside of Japan.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Tank Tank Tank is a pretty enjoyable game, and especially since it’s now free to download on the Wii U, I would highly recommend anyone who owns the console to try it out for themselves. Though it may not have the same charm as the original arcade version, with the added feature of having the cabinet chair jerk the player around with every shot fired, the gameplay has been greatly handled for the console port, and will keep players entertained for a time abnormally long for an arcade game.

Score

45.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Tokyo & 1-Up Studios

Publisher – Nintendo

Director(s) – Koichi Hayashida & Kenta Motokura

Producer(s) – Yoshiaki Koizumi

PEGI – 3

Super Mario 3D World has been incredibly well received by critics even since before its release in all regions in November 2013, with publications such as Eurogamer, Joystiq and Destructoid giving the game perfect scores. Both the critical and commercial standpoints seemed to be that this was the reason why people should own a Wii U. But sadly, despite what a good game this is, it has been very much overlooked in both the US and the UK in particular. In my opinion, it’s nowhere near as great as a lot of the old Mario games, and not even as great as Super Mario Galaxy 2. However, I don’t think Nintendo deserved to have this game so widely neglect in the western market. It’s an enjoyable game and definitely one of the best Mario games in recent years, surpassing the likes of New Super Mario Bros 2 and its predecessor, Super Mario 3D Land, in quality by some margin.

Graphics – 8/10

Whilst the visuals aren’t exactly cutting edge, as indeed they’re not really supposed to be, the conceptual design of the in-game world and its inhabitants is typical of any Mario game; wonderfully weird. There’s a nice blend of both classic and new enemies to contend with as well as a mixture of old and new settings. Most of the different levels in the game are also very intricately designed and greatly encourage a certain level of exploration in order to find hidden items, which is always a plus. But sometimes, I can’t help but feel as if some of the levels are also recycled versions of old ones, as indeed has been the case in other recent Mario games. I also found a few of the boss fights pretty generic, as they were clearly recycled from Super Mario 3D Land. However, what sets this game apart from 3D Land is the fact that this game thankfully includes more original bosses than generic ones; a lot like the bosses found in the Super Mario Galaxy series. I’m also a sucker for water effects in games, and Super Mario 3D World certainly has great water design, too.

Gameplay – 8/10

Gameplay is the most important aspect of any game, and Super Mario 3D World certainly delivers in style. Massive improvements have been made on Super Mario 3D Land in that there is a lot more variety and things to do. As with the settings and enemies, the gameplay is a very exciting blend of both old and new element of the Mario franchise. The most classic example is the option to play as Mario, Luigi, Peach or Toad just like in the NES classic, Super Mario Bros 2. Each character handles differently and there are some level whereby different characters need to be played as in order to gain certain collectibles. The new cat suit also provides some very interesting new gameplay mechanics, giving characters the ability to climb up walls in order to take shortcuts and collect hidden items. There’s also another feature whereby the player can collect cherries, which spawn multiple Mario sprites to control at the same time in order to solve puzzles and reach hidden areas. This element was inspired by The Legend of Zelda game, The Four Swords, which would always be considered compelling. My only gripe with it is that there could’ve maybe been a few more side quests added, or at least the side quests that were included could’ve had more of a purpose; if only to make it stand out further as a platform game. Like for example, the stamps to be collected in the game are used to merely customize Miiverse posts.

Controls – 10/10

There’s honestly not much to say about the controls, as there’s no problems with them. As I mentioned before, the Four Swords mechanic of controlling multiple sprites at one given time is particularly impressive, along with the character choice mechanic, which might’ve been missed by some fans of the series maybe. My rule of thumb is when a game has a perfect score in terms of controls, it simply means that there are no complications with them, even if there’s not much to say beyond that; unless, of course, there are some overly innovative elements worth talking about, which might make them even more deserved of a perfect score. But even if there are no new control elements, I don’t think there’s any need for a game to lose marks if the controls are implemented correctly, with no problems.

Lifespan – 7/10

On average, this game will take players around 15 hours to complete. Whilst this is a fair amount of time, I don’t think it’s that great. It seems to me to be somewhat deficient; especially given the amount of time Nintendo had to get this game out, and that there are a fair few recycled elements of Super Mario 3D Land thrown in there. I think if they really wanted this game to have the impact that Nintendo clearly banked it on having over the holiday season, they should’ve made it longer to again, make it a lot more notable when talking about the platforming genre. Nevertheless, 15 hours is just about acceptable for a platform game, and it’s worth playing; if only once.

Storyline – 6.5/10

This, for me, is the aspect in which the game falls shortest on in my opinion. Although it indeed strays away from the thoroughly exhausted plot of Princess Peach being the damsel in distress, as of course she is a playable character this time round, the story still follows the basic premise of a typical Mario game. Bowser has this time captured seven fairy-like creatures called Sprixies, and Mario and company follow Bowser into a new world known as Sprixie Kingdom in order to save them and defeat him once again. Personally, I liked the plot of the Super Mario Galaxy series, which introduced several new characters and creatures relevant to the story, and mixed it up a little bit more than usual. But unfortunately, I don’t see anything about this game’s story that makes it stand out among most others in the franchise. This is another element of the game that Nintendo probably should’ve spent a bit more time on to have the desired lasting impression they were looking for.

Originality – 7.5/10

Any Mario game is always going to stand out to at least a small extent. Whilst there’s not a great deal in this game to differentiate it from many other Mario games, there’s certainly enough to discriminate it from most of the more recent ones. Various new bosses and some fantastic settings separate it from most of the newest 2D side-scrolling games in the franchise, and there are also the few new gaming elements added that I previously discussed. I think if not for some of the recycled elements of Mario games placed into the mix, I think this game could certainly have had the intended effect on markets away from Japan that Nintendo sorely required to give the Wii U a much needed boost in sales figures throughout Christmas.

Happii

Happii

In summary, Super Mario 3D World is a fun and enjoyable game, and it is indeed worth playing through. There were many other titles released over the holiday period that unjustifiably hogged attention away from such a good game as this, but I believe Nintendo are capable of doing more with Mario than what they did with Super Mario 3D World.

Score

47/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Stick It To the Man (Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & Wii U)

Developer(s) – Zoink Games

PEGI – 12

Released in December on PC, and later for a multitude of different home consoles amidst an ever-growing influx of indie titles throughout the eighth generation of gaming, Stick It To the Man is a classic 2D side scrolling game with puzzle elements, which has been met with overwhelmingly positive critical response, leading many gamers and reviewers to label it the spiritual successor to Tim Schafer’s unsung hidden gem Psychonauts. After playing it, I was in the end unsurprised to find how it had garnished so much praise, since it is one of the more creative games of it’s kind I’ve played in recent years.

Graphics – 8/10

Incorporating a wonderfully surreal and cartoony feel to it in terms of conceptual design, the in-game world looks unlike anything else I’ve ever seen in a video game before. The most remarkable thing about the game is settings, which are insane varied, ranging from trips into the main character’s subconscious to alien spaceships to city streets to inevitably, an insane asylum at one point. Even though the levels taking place in the city can seem a little repetitive, they are all kept distinctively fresh in their own individual basic structures, which in turn, add depth to the gameplay.

Gameplay – 7/10

On the topic of how the game plays out, it’s creative on a level that very few 2D side scrollers have been throughout the history of gaming; something which is extremely difficult to do in a market that was once saturated with games of the same ilk. Whilst it doesn’t have quite the same amount of variety as Psychonauts, it certainly hearkens back to what is arguably one of the most underrated video games of all time, relying on a strong puzzle solving element as well as certain degree of exploration.

Controls – 10/10

As the 2D side-scrolling genre had been long-since perfected by this point, it would have more or less same to assume that there wouldn’t be any problems with the game’s control scheme, and so there isn’t. It plays out as fluently and as wonderfully as any great game in the genre, but new control elements brought into it with the advent of this game also do little to unnecessarily complicate things either, which is always excellent to see.

Lifespan – 4/10

In my opinion, the worst thing about this game is the criminally short amount of time it lasts. Clocking in at about 3 to 4 hours, it only hearkens to the kind of standards of lifespan in games that were set throughout the third generation of gaming, and consequently, doesn’t count for a great deal in this day and age, when 2D side scrollers can be made to last many times longer on average. The fact that this game doesn’t indeed have quite a lot of depth to it made me feel as if it was far too much of a fleeting experience, and what little I was treated to ultimately left me wanting more of it than what was offered.

Storyline – 8/10

The game’s plot follows an averagely witted, yet humble man called Ray, who is walking home from work when an UFO suddenly lands on his head. He wakes up in hospital following a strange dream only find that he now has an imaginary spaghetti arms protruding from the top if his head that only he can see, which affords him the ability to read people’s minds and control certain elements of the world around him. Events unfold into a massive government conspiracy, which Ray finds himself in the midst of, and must use his newfound abilities to see it all through. The game’s story is clever, well written and extremely funny, providing a number of fourth wall-breaking jokes along with references to other popular games and some very humorous social commentaries.

Originality – 9/10

I feel the need to largely commend the developers of this game for their ability to make a game of this kind stand out among a deluge of similar titles that have been released across a period of over thirty years. It handles puzzle solving in a manner unique to not only the 2D side scrolling genre, but gaming itself, and whilst it does clearly have it’s influences, since gamers have been able to draw parallels with other title released over the years, it is still yet another example of how indie developers have done their best to provide a strong level of creativity across the gaming industry.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Stick It To the Man is easily one of the most standout 2D side scrollers I have ever played. Though I was left underwhelming with how short a time it lasts, I enjoyed what I experienced of it, and would still recommend it to any fan of the genre.

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt (3DS, Wii U, PC, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Image & Form

Publisher(s) – Various

Project Leader – Olle Hakansson

PEGI – 7

Somewhat similar to Terraria, SteamWorld Dig is a 2D platformer centering round the concept of mining and improving equipment. Though it isn’t quite as varied or as satisfying as the former, I still found it to be a fairly enjoyable game for how little time it unfortunately lasts.

Graphics – 7/10

In terms of both conceptual design and visual diversity, there is something fairly unique in this game. It’s set in an old Western town whereby it’s inhabitants are robots. It would have been interesting to see that concept explored a little bit more than it was, but that could be saved for a sequel potentially. As players delve deeper into the underground caves, there are also different setting present as well as different enemies and so on. My favourite aspect of this game in terms of visuals and sound, however, is the extremely effective use of lighting throughout, and how the game’s soundtrack adds to its atmosphere flawlessly.

Gameplay – 7/10

Throughout, this game is pretty satisfying to play. There is a fair amount of incentive on offer for those who are willing to complete it too 100%, and attain every upgrade and ability. But I can’t help but feel that some kind of endless mode could have been added to it. One such idea I have that would make a possible sequel is that the player would have to use what minerals the mine from the underground to build and maintain a town or community.

Controls – 10/10

As a 2D side scrolling game, there shouldn’t really have been any issues with the game’s controls, and so there are none, thankfully. It incorporates a very simple gameplay concept, and therefore, a very simple control scheme, and though it does little to innovate the genre, what it does do had been handled properly.

Lifespan – 5/10

SteamWorld Dig can be made to last about 6 and a half hours in all, and as I alluded to earlier, I don’t think it lasts anywhere near as long as a game of either it’s magnitude or potential would permit it to. Like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, I believe there are a plethora of ideas that the developers of this game could incorporate to make a possible sequel to top it; all of these ideas coming together to make for a bigger and better gaming experience.

Storyline – 6/10

The story revolves around a robot called Rusty, who has come to a small mining town named Tumbleton after receiving a mining deed from his long-lost uncle. How the story develops doesn’t make for a terrible narrative in my opinion, and it is interesting to see which way it goes. But my gripes with it is that it is pretty hard to relate or empathize with the character of Rusty, since he is a character of only a few words, and would most probably have worked better as either a silent protagonist, or with much more dialogue than what its present. Though I won’t give away what happens at the end, how the story finishes would also suggest to me that a sequel should be merely set on some kind of basic premise, as opposed to having a story containing a beginning, middle and end.

Originality – 6/10

I think despite how much it differs from other video games, both visually and conceptually, I still found myself thinking of a plethora of different ideas and elements that the developers could have incorporated to make this game as good as it had the potential to be. There was the ideas I had about it having an endless mode and a much different and meaningful in-game objective, but there could also be elements like a much bigger open world attached to it, and even more incentive and variety in gameplay to make it as entertaining as possible.

Niiutral

Niiutral

However, despite the various qualms I had with it, SteamWorld Dig was a good enough game to hold my interest for at least those few hours. It’s certainly one of the better indie games I’ve played, and there is indeed potential for the developers to take the series to new heights.

Score

41/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

Star Fox Guard (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD & Platinum Games

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yugo Hayashi & Teruaki Konishi

Producer(s) – Tadashi Sugiyama & Atsushi Inaba

PEGI – 7

Developed alongside the long-anticipated Star Fox Zero with the working title Project Guard initially attached to it, Star Fox Guard is a tower defence game that much to my surprise received mixed reviews from critics upon release. Stephen Totilo of Kotaku on the other hand hailed the game as one of Nintendo’s most distinct titles in a long time, and I would agree with him; not only is this one of the best entries in the Star Fox series in my opinion, but it is certainly also one of the best games on the Wii U, and very much worth investing a great deal of time in.

Graphics – 7/10

Critics have descried this game’s visuals as bland, and in my opinion, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a fair amount of variety in enemy and boss design in particular, as well as stage design, with the game taking place on several planets and locations synonymous with the series, and featured in Star Fox Zero. Whilst it’s easy to criticize the game for recycling the graphics and conceptual design of an already existing title, there are still many visual elements that make it stand out from the former, and do well enough to outweigh what elements have been re-used.

Gameplay – 8/10

The concept of the game is to defend each base featured in each level from robots looking to invade and destroy them. The player must utilize a series of camera turrets positioned around the base to destroy the enemies before they reach the centre of the base. There are over 100 missions to complete, as well as the added facility to create customized levels and share them online with other players. I personally found it to be an extremely enjoyable and experience, as well as a challenge one without it being too inaccessible. There is also an RPG element to it in the form of levelling up and unlocking new weapons and items to help along the way, which gives it that much more replay value, and always works well in conjunction with a tower defence game.

Controls – 10/10

Amidst some critics concerns over the somewhat sketchy control scheme of Star Fox Zero, the controls in Star Fox Guard are seamless. Despite the fact that numerous different buttons can be used to shoot, the way in which the movement controls work are extremely well executed, and makes for some the most fun that can be had with the Wii U’s GamePad. I can’t help but think that if this game had been a launch title, the Wii U would have had a much more successful launch period than what it did. It does a better job of showcasing the potential appeal of the console than many other games released before it.

Originality – 7/10

As I alluded to, I agree with Stephen Totilo on his view that this is one of Nintendo most unique titles in recent years. It’s reminiscent of something that may have been found in Nintendo Land, which in my opinion, and many other critic’s opinions, is a game that deserves more credit than both the initials and current commercial success of the Wii U would seem to suggest. Arguably this game is better than Star Fox Zero, but although I can’t yet make that assessment for myself, I certainly found it to be an immensely unique and fun game.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Star Fox Guard is a distinct, challenging and enjoyable gaming experience; certainly one of the better of which to have been released since the Wii U’s launch. With the Wii U likely being phased out soon by the NX’s launch next year, this game is on the fast track to becoming a hidden gem, and it deserves a lot more recognition than that in my opinion.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Splatoon (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Group No. 2

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yusuke Amano & Tsubasa Sakaguchi

PEGI – 7

The newest IP to come out of Nintendo, Splatoon is the Japanese gaming giant’s answer to the likes of Call of Duty or Battlefield, offering players a non-violent third-person shooting game, in which the objective is drastically different from either of the two aforementioned examples, or any other game made in the same vein. Though I don’t think it’ll probably get anywhere near as much the attention as it deserves, it’s more than a substitute for the generic army game; it’s far better than any of them.

Graphics – 7/10

Aside from the game featuring a vast array of colours, giving the game an extremely vibrant feel, the conceptual design of each stage is quite interesting regardless of a couple of recycled elements. But much more significant than that are the subtle cultural references that have been alluded to in the design of the male and female characters. Aside from the characters elaborate resemblances to their squid counterparts; humans shape shifting into animals has been associated with Japanese folklore and Shintoism for centuries; the most prominent example being the story of Amateratsu. I’ve seen other examples in other Japanese media, such as in the film Pom Poko for example, but its interesting to see how subtly its perpetuated in this game.

Gameplay – 8.5/10

As well as the visual design having some very clever though behind it, more careful consideration went into the concept of gameplay, and therefore, a great deal of fun can be had out of it. The concept of the game is to use a variety of paint-based weapons to cover more of the designated stage in their colour paint than the opposition can in theirs. There’s also a single player mode, but for once, this is a game that does online multiplayer particularly well. I’ve never been a fan of playing video games online, save for in the Mario Kart series, but very few online games have captivated me as Splatoon has done.

Controls – 9/10

For the most part, there are no issues with the game’s controls. The Wii U’s GamePad functions are actually put to quite good use; particularly since while players are waiting for a match to load up, they can also play an additional arcade game reminiscent of Ice Climber on it whilst waiting. The one thing I would advise players to do, however, would be to turn off the motion control feature before playing, since I personally found that it could become more of a hindrance rather than an attention-grabber, and overtime, could possibly end up frustrating players.

Originality – 8/10

Uniqueness is a key factor that in my opinion, many mainstream shooters have been lacking in recent years. There were a few that stood out in the seventh generation of gaming, such as BioShock, Rage and Borderlands, but if others stood out, it could have been for wrong reasons; a prominent example of that being Brink. But Splatoon stands out from not only most shooter, but from most other video games. For something that may look silly and childish at first glance, there is in fact, and extremely interesting gaming experience to be had when exploring further into it.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Splatoon is most definitely worth a try, and another reason why the Wii U is a better console than its sales figures suggest. It could be argued that Nintendo have neglected to incorporate innovation in recent years, but this game is a prime example that they still aren’t afraid to try new things.

Score

32.5/40

8/10 (Very Good)