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Scouse Gamer 88 Assassin's Creed Header

Assassin’s Creed (PC, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher(s) – Ubisoft

Director(s) – Patrick Desilets

Producer(s) – Jade Redmond

PEGI – 18

Released in the holiday season of 2007, and originally intended to be released as a Prince of Persia game following the success of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Assassin’s Creed marked the start of an even more prolific series of games. Whilst the first game was met with generally favorable reviews at the time, future entries would go on to establish it as one of the definitive IPs of the seventh generation of gaming, and going on to provide a basis of sorts for several games made throughout both the seventh and eighth generations, including Batman: Arkham Asylum and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. As for my own personal opinion on the original game, it is admittedly quite typical. I feel that whilst it was a very decent game overall, the best of the series would be yet to come.

 

Graphics – 8.5/10

Set primarily in the Holy Land during the third crusade, the vast open world is lovingly crafted to represent the structure and architecture of three primary cities; Acre, Damascus, and Jerusalem. The attention to detail of what these locations would have looked like during this era is staggering (something the developers of the series would become renowned for as it would go on), and though the visuals on the technical level perhaps haven’t aged quite as well as other entries in the series, they were nevertheless cutting-edge for the time, and the game is still a joy to look at on the conceptual level. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

The object of the game, as the name suggests, is primarily to carry out assassination missions. Players gather information by pickpocketing, eavesdropping on intriguing conversations, and can take advantage of several different weapons and methods of combat to carry out each kill. But apart from that, there are also various sidequests to be completed throughout each of the cities, which improve the player character’s abilities. The player is also given access to new weapons and abilities after each main assassination throughout the story, such as throwing knives and additional armor. Again, more features would inevitably be added with later installments of the Assassin’s Creed series, but as far as this game goes, this provided more than just a blueprint for that. It provided players with an immensely addictive experience, going further than what Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time did. I always thought personally that The Prince of Persia revamp of the early 2000s could’ve done with a game being set in an open world, and this was Ubisoft’s answer to that concern. 

 

Controls – 9/10

The control scheme was almost perfect, which was relatively impressive, given that truly nothing like this game existed beforehand. But the biggest issue I had with it, was the one-on-one combat system. It works loosely similar to what it does in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with players locking onto one target at a time to attack them, whilst also being able to counter-attack other surrounding enemies in the process. Whilst it would be refined in later Assassin’s Creed games, I found it to be somewhat flimsy at times in the first, and it was at these points that I could tell that it was a new idea that needed tweaking if the series was ever to progress past this game. Luckily, however, the rest of the game’s mechanics were handled brilliantly; movement across buildings, streets, and rooftops is extremely fluent, which again, was impressive given that the idea was a relatively new thing at the time.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The biggest disappointment that comes with the first Assassin’s Creed game, however, is the amount of time that it lasts. Whilst not being criminally short, like a lot of other games of the seventh generation, it clocks in at around a total of 30 hours, which is good, but nowhere near the time it could’ve been made to last with the inclusion of a few more sidequests, as again, later games in the series would demonstrate; especially given how the size of the team expanded throughout the game’s development.

 

Storyline – 9/10

The story of Assassin’s Creed is something that would become disjointed over time, but the first lay the foundations for something special. It begins with the main character Desmond Miles, having been imprisoned by an organization named Abstergo. Their intentions are to uncover ancient secrets hidden in Desmond’s ancestral past through a VR machine known as the Animus, which allows the user to experience the lives and events of their descendants. The experiment’s overseer, Warren Vidic uses Desmond and the Animus to tap into the ancestral memories of Desmond’s predecessor, Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, who was a senior member of an organization known as the Assassin Brotherhood. Following a failed attempt on the life of Robert de-Sable, Altair is stripped of his rank, and ordered to carry out various other assassination missions in order to restore his status and reputation among the brotherhood. 

The events of the story, from the perspectives of both Desmond and Altair, unfold into something that will be completely unexpected by players, and truly helped massively to make this game stand out as a hallmark in telling an effective story in gaming throughout the seventh generation. Although fans of the series have had mixed reactions to the directions in which the story was taken, later on, there can be no doubt that the story in the original game was expertly presented. It’s exciting, tense, suspenseful, and without spoiling anything specific, ends on a masterfully executed cliffhanger that you will not believe.

 

Originality – 8.5/10

Despite Assassin’s Creed having its many influences, such as Ubisoft’s own Prince of Persia and Grand Theft Auto, the fact of the matter is that this series has always delivered something unlike any other before it, and it was all very effectively perpetuated with the original game. Since I first played through it, which was many years ago, I’ve come to have a newfound respect for the original game and everything that is accomplished at the time. During the series’ early years, especially after the release of Assassin’s Creed II, (which remains my favorite installment), I used to look at the original game as being simply the inferior blueprint. But after having played it again recently, I’ve since discovered a new appreciation for it.

 

Happii

Overall, Assassin’s Creed, whilst not being the best game in the series, still remains one of the defining gaming experiences of its time. It’s a game that still holds up, despite its few flaws, and I recommend it to anyone looking to revisit a seventh-generation classic. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Fallout 3 Header

Fallout 3 (PC, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Bethesda Game Studios

Publisher(s) – Bethesda Softworks

Director(s) – Todd Howard

Producer(s) – Ashley Cheng & Gavin Carter

PEGI – 18

 

Fallout 3 released in 2008 following a long dispute between Bethesda and Interplay over the rights to the franchise, was developed on the same engine as Bethesda’s previous seventh-generation hit, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but provided a very different take on the RPG genre, incorporating first-person shooting elements, as well as many of the gameplay elements from the original 2 Fallout games. Although I think the best of the Fallout series was yet to come following both the release of this game, and Fallout: New Vegas. The third game in the series is a moderately enjoyable title, despite the fact that it was such a radical departure from the original Fallout formula, (which in and of itself caused quite a divide between fans), and regardless of its flaws, still does fairly well to hold up.

 

Graphics – 9/10

In stark contrast to the world of Tamriel from The Elder Scrolls, Fallout 3, like in the original series, is set in the post-apocalyptic USA following a resource war fought between America and China, but the third is specifically set in a post-war Washington DC known as the Capital Wasteland. As such, several Washington landmarks are darted across the land, such as the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, but the environment is heavily irradiated and the city is in ruins. The visuals of this game are its most striking feature, going beyond what Oblivion delivered on the technical level, and providing something that most RPG fans at the time wouldn’t have been accustomed to, since although the first 2 Fallout games sold relatively well among the circle of PC games in the late 90s, the series didn’t find its way into the top echelon of games until the release of this title. The entire atmosphere of the game is wonderfully dark and gritty, and a lot of the locations found around the Capital wasteland make the player feel things emotionally that they will not expect to feel going into it. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game is an RPG first-person shooter hybrid; a lot like Borderlands without the use of cel-shaded visuals. Players level up using the SPECIAL system that had been perpetuated since Fallout 1, and experience points are also spent on improving attributes such as computer hacking, lockpicking, and proficiency in various different types of guns; again in a somewhat similar fashion to Oblivion’s character progression system. The game also has a new take on turn-based combat with the inclusion of VATS (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System), which allows players to scan enemies and aim for specific parts of the body that may be more vulnerable than others in order to gain the upper hand in battle. 

Especially when the player becomes stronger over time, using VATS can feel extremely satisfying, and watching the cinematic kills has become a beloved feature of the series since. But besides this, there are a plethora of secrets, side quests, and different locations to discover throughout the Capital Wasteland that will have players hooked for many, many hours. What I would recommend is that players find a copy of the Game of the Year edition, since not only will they be treated to even more content, but this version also fixes the game’s biggest flaw, which is the inability to play past the end. 

 

Controls – 6/10

The biggest problem with this game, however, is its control scheme; especially in the early stages of the game. Because the player character is not yet necessarily proficient enough in shooting or accuracy, the lack of accuracy can become a particularly big problem; in some cases, even to the point where players may switch off early doors. It’s no wonder Bethesda later enlisted the help of id Software to hone the FPS mechanics with Fallout 4 because it is a big problem that presents itself in a very profound way in this title, especially given the countless amount of FPS games that came before it. Mercifully, the game gets better to play as the player character progresses level by level, but patience can potentially wear thin with some players as well. The Pip-Boy system can also take a little bit of getting used to at first, but that doesn’t pose anywhere near as much of a problem as the shooting does early on. 

 

Lifespan – 10/10

Given everything, there is to do in this game, and the DLC, it can take way beyond 100 hours to complete, which is long enough for any gamer to enjoy. It easily outlasts Fallout: New Vegas, since, in that game, there’s hardly anything to do in comparison, but it also greatly outlasts the original 2 Fallout games. It’s no wonder the fanbase was largely split down the middle when this game came out since despite being such a departure, there was plenty to enjoy with this game.

 

Storyline – 6/10

The story of Fallout 3 takes place 200 years after the US is destroyed in the nuclear war with China. The player character is an inhabitant of Vault 101, and after reaching adulthood, his/her dad James, voiced by Liam Neeson, leaves the vault, causing the rest of the inhabitants to descent into chaos. After being hunted down by the rest of the inhabitants, the player character is basically forced out of the vault into the harsh and unforgiving environment of the Capital Wasteland and resolves to find his/her father. It sounds simple in scope, but events later unfold into something far bigger when it’s discovered why James left the vault and the number of different factions that become involved in the situation, such as the Enclave and the Brotherhood of Steel. As well as being pretty compelling, it also stays remarkably true to the source material of the original games and provides players with a fairly engrossing experience in terms of story. 

 

Originality – 7.5/10

What makes Fallout 3 game as unique as it is are a lot of things, such as the different approach to first-person RPG combat, the contemporary settings not normal for an RPG, and the amount of controversy this game created at the time. It becomes obvious very early on that game goes places where other developers would dare not go at the time. Places such as the Dunwich Building and Tranquility Lane make for experiences that I’d never felt playing a game before, and several of the other vaults darted across the Capital Wasteland have their own sordid stories to tell. A majority of this game’s story is told through its lore, and it’s awesome to experience. 

 

Happii

Overall, Fallout 3, whilst not in my opinion is the timeless classic that other gamers tend to praise it as, is still a very enjoyable gaming experience, and in my opinion, better than the original Fallout. It’s not the best entry in the series (in my opinion, that would be Fallout 4), but it’s still a very respectable entry despite its flaws, and one of the more unique western RPGs ever developed. 

Score

44.5/60

7/10 (Fair)

SG88 SoulCalibur Header

SoulCalibur (Dreamcast & Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Project Soul

Publisher(s) – Namco

Director(s) – Jin Okubo & Yoshitaka Tezuka

Producer(s) – Yasuhiro Noguchi & Hiroaki Yotoriyama

PEGI – 16

 

Released back in 1998 to widespread acclaim, to the point where it would be regarded as the second most critically acclaimed game of all time after The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, SoulCalibur was a fighting game series that spun off from the PlayStation game Soul Edge, improving on the former game in significant ways, and later going on to become one of the most recognizable fighting franchises in all of gaming. As a child, I spent an ungodly amount of time playing this game trying to unlock all the extras and secret characters, and to me, it still stands as one of the best games on the Dreamcast and one of the most definitive fighting games of all time. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

Seeing the game’s sixth-generation graphics on the Dreamcast whilst at around the half-way point of the fifth generation, the game in this respect was years ahead of its time. Everything from the character sprites to the stages is wonderfully polished and beautifully rendered; the attention to detail in this respect is staggering. It’s evident that this was as much of a labor of love as many of the best games released in 1998, such as Banjo Kazooie, Tekken 3, and Crash Bandicoot 3. The soundtrack to the first SoulCalibur may also be my favorite soundtrack to a fighting game ever; the intro to the game makes the very clear statement that all these characters have a purpose and that this is a fighting game unlike any other, and it certainly delivers.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Although it wasn’t the first fighting game to do this, SoulCalibur’s appeal is the ability to use weapons in combat as opposed to bare fist fighting as what is perpetuated in most fighting games. It also has a ton of unlockable content; the game is comparable to Super Smash Bros Melee in this respect. It has a load of characters and alternative costumes to unlock as well as artwork and beautifully told backstory, which whilst playing this game as a kid, did exceptionally well to endear me to this series to a greater extent than what I could’ve possibly imagined after having p[layed the like of Mortal Kombat and Tekken. 

 

Controls – 10/10

As well as there is no problems with this game in any other respect, the game’s control scheme is also flawless. Playing this game, was the first time I found myself being able to string proper moves together instead of merely button-bashing, which is what I’m normally used to doing whilst playing a fighting game. It made me feel like I had genuine skill playing it, and there’s never been another fighting game that’s made me feel that way since truth be told. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Though it did definitely perpetuate many ideas that had been adopted in fighting games long before it’s release, the developers took these elements and made it into their own fully cohesive concept in the respect of every element down to the fighters, the combat style, the range of locations and the mythology behind it all. It lay the foundations beautifully for what was to come, whilst also still holding up as an enjoyable game to play even after all these years.

 

Happii

Overall, the original SoulCalibur remains to me, one of the best fighting games I’ve ever played. There are other genres of gaming that I’ve taken to better than fighting games, but I still revisit certain titles within it including Tekken 2, Dead or Alive 4, Ready 2 Rumble, and my favorite game in the series, SoulCalibur IV; the first SoulCalibur still fits into that category for me. 

Score

34/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Portal 2

Portal 2 (PC, Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Valve

Publisher(s) – Valve

Director(s) – Joshua Weier

Producer(s) – Gabe Newell

PEGI – 12

Released some years after the original game to widespread critical acclaim, Portal 2 is considered one of the best titles of the seventh generation, perfecting the formula of the original game and expanding on it in many different ways. Whilst I had a few issues to address where the game was concerned myself, it is still a decisive improvement over the first title and still holds up as being one of the more unique gaming experiences of the last decade or so.

 

Graphics – 8/10

One of the most notable improvements in the conceptual design of the game over the first. A lot of the settings were pretty much identical to one another in the original game before the end of GLaDOS’s trials, but in the second, the replication of textures and scenery is much less noticeable. It reminds me very much of the same improvements made with Skyrim over Oblivion, where every ruin or cave no longer looked the same as one another and had a lot more individual diversity to them. The inclusion of new enemies to have to deal with only adds to the conceptual design of the overall series in addition. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The core gameplay has remained the same as that of the original; the player must use the Aperture Portal device to create portals in order to solve puzzles and progress through the game. However, far more elaborate puzzles have been included that build on the premise of the original game, which has helped to diversify and broaden the entire concept. The inclusion of a plethora of easter eggs to discover throughout the game also does exceptionally well to expand on the mythology of the series, whilst at the same time, further linking it to the Half-Life universe. The ending boss fight is also handled wonderfully differently from that of the original game.

 

Controls – 10/10

There were no issues with the control scheme of the first game, and as the second game was built using the same engine and including the same principle gameplay features, there aren’t any issues to be had in the second game either. It’s actually quite impressive to me how the developers managed to further build on the concept of the original game without having to alter anything about its control scheme. They managed to keep things as simple as possible whilst developing a game to be as intricate as possible. 

 

Lifespan – 4/10

Where Portal 2 still doesn’t excel is unfortunately in its lifespan. The second portal game can be made to last a maximum of 3 hours, not counting multiplayer. This is the only factor whereby decisive improvement was not made but was for me, needed the most improvement in order for it to stand among the very best games ever developed. Maybe one day Valve will get around to making a third game in the series, but inevitably, this game’s short lifespan has left gamers, including me, wanting so much more. 

 

Storyline – 9/10

The game’s basic story is not too dissimilar to that of the first. The game’s main character Chell remains trapped within the Aperture Research Facility and must find a way out. This time, however, she is up against a new threat in addition to the facility’s supercomputer GLaDOS, but also a sociopathic drone robot named Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant. Wheatley appears as a friend at first, but his true intentions soon become clear and it is up to Chell to stop him and find a way to escape Aperture once and for all. The story, as well as most of every other aspect of the game, is also made even more diverse with its further developed sense of dark humor. Although GLaDOS still contributes to that side of it greatly, so does Wheatley, and it’s hard to pick a favorite out of the two. 

 

Originality – 9/10

As I alluded to before, the original Portal presented players with a new outside-of-the-box way of playing a puzzle game originally dreamed up by a group of programming students who were later scouted by Valve after their work on the game Narbacular Drop. But the second portal game went above and beyond what the original offered to players by keeping the concept fresh with new mind-bending puzzles to solve and backstory to discover. There are many why these games have gone on to become cult classics, and the main reason I attribute to that is because of how well it stands out from every other game that has been developed before and after.

 

Happii

In summation, Portal 2, whilst still far too short in my opinion, is an enjoyable time for the criminally short time it lasts and will provide players with a far more stern and entertaining challenge than its predecessor. Before they became focused on the maintenance of Steam, Valve was renowned for giving players something new to play that they hadn’t played before, and Portal 2 certainly does not disappoint in this respect

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Jet Set Radio Header

Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, Android & iOS)

Developer(s) – Smilebit & Blitworks

Publisher(s) – Sega

Director – Masayoshi Kikuchi

Producer – Kawagoe Takayuki

PEGI – 12

 

Originally developed as a Dreamcast exclusive back in 2000, Jet Set Radio is a skating game and was the first game in history to make use of cel-shaded visuals, which have since been popularized by developers all over the mainstream being used within the likes of the Legend of Zelda series and being the staple visual style of franchises like Borderlands and No More Heroes. Though I was able to appreciate the origins of this now iconic graphical style, I was, however, a lot more disappointed with how this game plays out than what I was expecting having seen just how highly regarded it is. For how much innovation there was in terms of visuals, it’s quite flawed in terms of its style of play; especially compared to other games of its kind.  

 

Graphics – 8/10

In terms of visual style, this game was groundbreaking at the time and would go on to influence the visual style of countless other games to come, such as XIII, Sly Cooper & the Thievius Raccoonus, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The character design is also very diverse with inspiration from street culture and hip hop music; it’s like if the movie The Warriors was set in the early 2000s. There are flaws with the technical aspects of the cel-shaded visuals, but this was to have been expected from the first game to use them.

 

Gameplay – 6/10

The gameplay, however, is not very satisfactory in my opinion. The story mode involves progressing through a series of courses whereby the player must rewrite graffiti spots to mark the gang’s territory; the scenario is completed when all the graffiti points have been marked. It’s really as simple as that; there is a scoring system for completing stunts (the logistics of which I will cover later on in this review), but the scoring system is only about as significant as the scoring system found in any old-school adventure game like the original Super Mario Bros or even Sonic Adventure to draw a closer comparison, as both that game and Jet Set Radio were released on the Dreamcast originally. There are additional characters to unlock, which give the game a little bit of additional incentive to play, but to me at least, it wasn’t enough to hold my attention for the full lifespan of the game. 

 

Controls – 6/10

The true dealbreaker for me where this game is concerned, however, was the control scheme. Games with similar mechanics have frustrated me throughout the years, such as Sunset Overdrive, but this game takes that disappointment to a whole new level. I’ve read reviews whereby people have said the controls weren’t enough to hamper their experience of the game to too great an extent, but to me, the controls make this game almost unplayable at times. The layout of each scenario seemed paramount for me to be able to draw any pleasure from playing this game; they can range from simplistic to overly complicated with each level, and if you’re enough of a stickler where the controls are concerned, it can become a very serious issue. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

For those who are able to get past this game’s many flaws, it can be made to last there around 18 hours in total, which for a game of its kind, isn’t too bad a lifespan. But to my way of thinking, I don’t understand how a vast majority of games, especially newcomers, will be able to bear with it for any more than one hour. Short of what I’ve already described, there’s not a great deal more to do in this game and more content and objectives could’ve been added to hold the gamer’s attention better. 

 

Storyline – 5/10

Although in terms of conceptual style I compared this game to the movie The Warriors, the plot is considerably more simple than that. It centers around a street gang named the GGs, who battle for street territory and credibility against various other gang members of the same ilk, all the while trying to avoid the police, who go to increasingly unnecessary lengths to apprehend them; all whilst under the commentary of a quirky DJ named Professor K. And when I say the police to ridiculous measures, I mean it; throughout the first level, they try to shoot the player with guns and use tear gas against them. But later on, they then make use of attack dogs as well as missile-mounted helicopters, all to try and catch a few kids on skates. I realize the developers did this as either comic relief or the purposes of gameplay mechanics (I’m not so dense as to not realize that), but it just doesn’t lend a great deal of integrity to the plot. 

 

Originality – 7/10

Although this game disappointed me overall, the fact of the matter is that its visual style has gone on to become one of the most popularly utilized throughout the industry since the turn of the century. Many games have come and gone that have not only made use of cel-shading but have built on the idea of it exponentially, making for some of the most visually stunning games of all time. But this game provided the original template by which all cel-shaded games have followed since. That being said, there have been more influential skating games to have come and gone, such as those in the Tony Hawk series, and it’s in that respect whereby this game failed to show as much innovation as it should’ve done. 

 

Niiutral

Overall, Jet Set Radio, whilst having gone on to influence a plethora of games since its release, was not the great game that I was expecting it to be; the controls are sketchy at best and the gameplay left a lot to be desired in my personal opinion. 

Score

38/60

6/10 (Average)

Scouse Gamer 88 Overlord Header

Overlord (PS3, Xbox 360 & PC)

Developer(s) – Triumph Studios

Publisher(s) – Codemasters

Director – Lennart Sas

PEGI – 16

 

Released in the early period of the seventh generation of gaming, Overlord puts the player in the shoes of a demonic tyrant on a quest to expand his power wherever possible and to hunt down each of the heroes who had destroyed his predecessor with the help of his army of minions. It’s an action-adventure RPG relying heavily on real-time combat and unit control comparable to Nintendo’s Pikmin. During the seventh generation, I spent a great deal of time playing this game as it was one of the most unique titles around at the time In my opinion.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The conceptual design of the game was very heavily influenced by the writings of JJR Tolkien and the Middle-Earth mythos. The setting and characters are seemingly ripped straight from The Lord of the Rings Complete with dwarves, elves, trolls, and even hobbits; albeit they’re always referred to as halflings In the game. The elven habitats are also quite reminiscent of Warcraft III. In terms of the technical side, the graphics were pretty much above average compared to what was being showcased at the time, but as a fan of Tolkein’s work myself, I was quite impressed with how good a job the developers made to perpetuate elements of such and combine them with the dark fantasy elements which I will soon elaborate on. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

The game is an immersing action-adventure RPG centered around combat to defeat oncoming enemies, puzzles to solve in order to progress through each level and complete each set objective, raising, developing, and modifying an army of minions and creating and customizing a base of operations in the form of a huge dark tower, again reminiscent of Barad-Dur from Middle-Earth; the overlord himself ostensibly being a carbon copy of the Dark Lord Sauron. 

This all gives the game all the enjoyability and variety in Gameplay that players can come to expect of a typical game within the genre and it makes for an insanely enjoyable experience. But I would above all recommend players finding and playing the Raising Hell edition released on the PS3 as it comes with additional side quests to complete. 

 

Controls – 9/10

The third-person combat mechanics are simple to get to grips with, as well as general movement; although additional mechanical are implemented during combat, or doesn’t feel too much like a mixture between turn-based and real-time combat that the Final Fantasy series has unfortunately adopted over the last few installments. The only minor gripe I had with the controls was that the minions can be a little awkward to control at times which can make it easy to accidentally lose minions in some pretty calamitous ways. But after a while of playing, it doesn’t pose too much of a problem In the end. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game also has a more than adequate Lifespan, requiring an average of 30 hours to complete to 100% counting the Raising Hell quests. Whilst it is a fairly long-lasting experience, the main issue that I took umbrage with to a small extent was that because the game has a fairly linear progression, it made it feel as if everything to do in the game, especially the objective of having to build the tower, would’ve worked far better if it had been part of an open-world game instead. I’m not entirely sure whether or not that was addressed in Overlord II, as I’ve only played it briefly, but nevertheless, it’s worth investing the required amount of time in the original title. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Overlord is that the new overlord, elected by a group of minions to rule them, is out for revenge against the warriors who dispatched the previous overlord, whilst expanding his newfound power and growing his minion army. Although it can be simply summed up in its basic premise, what makes the game’s story particularly interesting is the use of dark fantasy and black humor as I alluded to earlier. The minions provide a level of comic relief that certainly wouldn’t be found in Lord of the Rings, segregating it somewhat from the writings that inspired the game’s conceptual design. There are also minor plot threads introduced that deal vaguely with the aftermath of war and what it means for the people of the land the overlord wishes to conquer, but the comedy certainly outweighs any message of moral ambiguity. 

 

Originality – 9/10

Despite the fact that this game certainly had its influences in terms of both Gameplay and conceptual design, and that it seemingly had its fair share of detractors as a result of which, it regardless provides a level of uniqueness to the fantasy/dark fantasy genre that was a breath of fresh air at a time when the PlayStation 3 had not long been released and there was a certain level of dissatisfaction with launch titles like Ridge Racer 7 and Lair. It was exactly the kind of game the PlayStation 3 needed at the time before many other great games were subsequently released on the system and ostensibly not very many games like it since have been released. 

Happii

Overall, Overlord is a unique, immersing, and fun title with a wicked sense of humor to match. It’s as wonderful and fantastical as the books it drew influence from and at the same time provides a gaming experience that has never truly been seen again since. 

Score

47.5/60

7.5/10 (Good) 

Scouse Gamer 88 The Bridge Header

The Bridge (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Switch, Wii U, OUYA & Amazon Fire TV) 

Developer(s) – The Quantum Astrophysics Guild

Publisher(s) – The Quantum Astrophysics Guild

Designer(s) – Ty Taylor & Mario Castaneda

PEGI – 3

 

Programmed by Ty Taylor and inspired by both the artwork of MC Escher and the scientific legacy of Sir Isaac Newton, The Bridge is an intricate puzzle game combining black and white hand-drawn graphics with gameplay involving the manipulation and traversing of a series of stages to progress through. For many reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed this game and was extremely impressed with what it to offer in almost every aspect.

 

Graphics – 8/10

Making use of a unique art style as opposed to cutting-edge graphics, The Bridge is presented entirely in black and white and illustrated in graphite pencil reminiscent of the works of MC Escher, who the main character bears a striking resemblance. The visual style works wonderfully well to perpetuate the atmosphere of the game, which is intriguingly morbid and dark. There is also cleverly effective use of lighting throughout the game to further add to this atmosphere. The game’s soundtrack also compliments the game particularly well, as it is incredibly subtle as well as foreboding at times.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game involves the player having to solve a series of complex puzzles whereby they must both navigate through with the player character and manipulated the stage around him in order to either access different areas of the stage or collect keys in order to progress to the next puzzle. As the game progresses, new elements are periodically added to further add to the challenge and keep the game fresh throughout. At one point, in particular, the player must begin to switch between two characters to access different areas and to collect different-colored keys corresponding to the different hues of both characters. The game’s mechanics make it a subtle, challenging, and enjoyable experience for the duration. There’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had for solving each puzzle, as they require a great deal of outside-the-box thinking to solve.

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls pose no problems regardless of how greatly it differs from traditional 2D side-scrolling titles. It’s particularly impressive how the developers have made the game work as well as it does. Over the last few years there’s been a great deal of innovation made with the 2D side-scrolling genre with games such as The Swapper, Limbo, Super Meat Boy and Stick It To The Man and The Bridge is yet another excellent example of this.

 

Lifespan – 4/10

Disappointingly, however, to complete the game to 100% can take there around 7 ½ hours, which for a game with this much innovation and enjoyment to be had is criminally short. Though lasting longer than other indie side-scrollers like the aforementioned Limbo and The Swapper, this game just needed that extra push in terms of longevity, in my opinion, to make it stand out more among the indie development community.

 

Storyline – 7/10

However, what does make this game stand out fairly well among the indie community is its story. The story follows an unnamed character navigating his way through each of the game’s puzzles in order to progress through. Elements of the story are revealed with each series of puzzles solved, and new story elements are introduced along with new elements of gameplay. With everything that comes with this game in terms of gameplay, controls, graphics, etc, they all work together in a very subtle way to contribute to the substance of the story on both conscious and subconscious levels in my opinion. But that, in and of itself, is where the quality of the story lies; that’s it’s particularly open to interpretation, much like the works of the people who inspired the creation of the game.

 

Originality – 8/10

The Bridge is a game that is unique in every respect, down to the graphics, gameplay, control scheme, and of course, the story. There are games that have come and gone that have necessitated the mechanics of manipulating not only the character but the environment around them (Fez, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and The Witness to name but a few), but none of them have been handled in such a way as to how it’s been handled in this title. It’s particularly impressive considering the general limitations that come with 2D side-scrolling compared to 3D open-world games.

 

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To summarize, The Bridge is a unique, subtle, and deliberately paced game, which will make players feel challenged, satisfied, and perhaps even inspired to create their own interpretive work of art. Though it doesn’t last as long as it really ought to do, what there is to enjoy can be done so thoroughly and it’s definitely worth playing through to feel the satisfaction of completing it.

Score

44/60

7/10 (Fair)

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Dragon Bros (PC & Xbox One)

Developer – Space Lizard Studio

Publisher – Space Lizard Studio

PEGI – 7

 

Developed by Liverpool-based indie outfit Space Lizard Studio, Dragon Bros is a run and gun side scroller drawing influence from many old-school NES classics such as Contra and Blaster Master, offering new generation gamers an insight into the tropes of the generation, whilst also offering older gamer’s with an appreciation for their routes a great sense of nostalgia; also catering to players of all skill levels with varying degrees of challenge. Though I had some issues with this title, I was pretty impressed with it, as it had a lot to offer that I could appreciate in terms of nostalgia value and the future of the indie scene.

 

Graphics – 9/10

Rendered in wonderfully detailed 8-BIT graphics, the game’s scenery and characters are overwhelmingly diverse without becoming too repetitive over the course of the game. There are four worlds each with its own themes, and new enemies introduced to keep things fresh on a conceptual level. The game’s soundtrack is also stellar. Composed by Gabriel Caruso, it blends 8-BIT music with rock and roll, complementing the feel of the game brilliantly; in particular, I was blown away by the game’s main theme, which is used in the first two boss fights.

 

Gameplay – 7.5/10

There are no unnecessary complications with the game’s control scheme, which was always going to be important in a game that can demand as much as it does of players in the higher difficulty settings. Some of the mechanics involved with controlling certain weapons also add to that challenge in an unprecedented way. The laser cannon is probably the best example of which, as it causes the enemy to gradually recoil over time, so they must, therefore, be careful to make sure not to fall off any platforms as a result of not paying attention.

 

Lifespan – 2/10

Where I had the biggest issue with this game is how criminally short the main story is; even taking into account the mini-games as well as the main levels. In total, the game can take there around 2 to 3 hours to complete to 100%. Whilst more intrepid players will get more than that out of it replaying it on the higher difficulty settings, many other players will most likely be left wanting more. But to me, even with bearing this in mind in addition, I was still left wanting more. That’s why I think a possible sequel would work well as a Metroidvania game, with elements like leveling up, or an even bigger arsenal of weapons to choose from.

 

Storyline – 5/10

The game’s story is also only vaguely touched upon, being portrayed through two cutscenes; one at the start, and the other after finishing it. It follows four infant dragons looking to save their home planet from the invading Mechaliches, whilst also trying to rescue their mother from their leader. While it may be reminiscent of the old way of telling stories within games, like what was done with NES games telling the story mostly through the game’s manual (the same effect of which perhaps intended by the developers), very little of that is actually told within the game, so if players want the details of the plot, they need to read the game’s Steam page. But regardless, the story does retain a slight feel of uniqueness about it, so I can appreciate it for that to an extent.

 

Originality – 6/10

By far the most unique thing about Dragon Bros is its conceptual design; very few indie games have stunned me in this respect as much as this game has, and it shows the vast amount of effort the developers put into making it. It also works well for me in particular because I’ve loved dragons ever since I was a kid, but bias aside, the 8-BIT renderings are as fantastically detailed as the likes of Rogue Legacy or Titan Souls. The one gripe I have in terms of uniqueness is that it arguably follows the tropes of its influences too much and that I think even more could’ve been added to make the gameplay to make it stand out among others.

 

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However, criticisms aside, Dragon Bros is quite an enjoyable game, and it comes recommended from me for any fans of old-school games out there, and players looking to experience these styles of play for the first time. It’s entertaining throughout for how long it lasts, and players looking for a challenge will certainly not be disappointed.

Score

39.5/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

Wreckateer (Xbox 360)

Developer(s) – Iron Galaxy Studios

Publisher(s) – Microsoft Studios

PEGI – 7

Released back in 2012, Wreckateer was one of the few games released exclusively for use with the Xbox 360’s ill-fated Kinect motion sensor peripheral. Providing a fairly unique twist on the premise of Angry Birds, I happen to think it as being better, though not without its flaws.

Graphics – 5/10

Conceptually, the game perpetuates the medieval fantasy archetype, and there’s nothing present to make it stand out visually to any great extent. On a technical level, the graphics are just below the standard of what players would have been used to at the time, which was surprising to me, since Microsoft Studios published the game, and around that time, there was more effort focused on Kinect games than there ever has been since, with the release of games such as Fable: The Journey, and more Xbox 360 games than ever being given some form of compatibility with the sensor; including Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim.

Gameplay – 7/10

The concept of the game is to try and steer cannonballs into castles using the Kinect sensor and try to decimate each castle in each level as much as possible. There are several different types of cannonball to use, and several different challenges throughout the game. The different types of weapons make for an amount of variety on par with Angry Birds, but in my opinion, it’s a lot more enjoyable, as well as more challenging and rewarding.

Controls – 10/10

In many games to use the Kinect, I’ve had quite a few issues regarding how it works and how difficult it can be to cope with at times, and has since made me extremely skeptical of it; especially against the Wii, which most likely compelled the creation of both the Kinect and PlayStation Move. But Wreckateer is so far the only game I’ve played that makes adequate use of the Kinect and poses no complications in the process.

Originality – 6/10

Although this game was heavily based on an already existing concept made popular by Angry Birds, Wreckateer took it into the realm of 3D and made a fairly good job of it, whilst also taking advantage of an unconventional control scheme, which is even impressive. So whilst there isn’t a great deal of uniqueness in terms of visual design, there is indeed a fair bit in terms of both gameplay and controls.

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Overall, Wreckateer is a fairly decent title, and in my opinion, one of which in 2012 that unfortunately, and unfairly fell through the cracks along with the likes of Dishonored and Mark of the Ninja. It may not be the first game to play out the way it plays out, but in my opinion, it’s so far the best.

Score

28/40

7/10 (Fair)

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

Developer(s) – Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher(s) – Ubisoft

Designer – Danny Belanger

Producer – Dominic Guay

PEGI – 18

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

Graphics – 7/10

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

Gameplay – 6.5/10

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

Controls – 8/10

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

Lifespan – 10/10

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

Storyline – 3/10

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

Originality – 4/10

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

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

Score

38.5/60

6/10 (Average)