Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Castlestorm: Definitive Edition (Xbox One) - Review

Let me begin this review by admitting something. My son played the demo of this game constantly last year when it was first released on the 360. Yes, you heard me correctly, the demo. For some reason I never caved in and bought this game when it was first released, and instead just let my son play the demo over and over again. Cruel, right?

But now I am glad that I didn't buy it before. I did want it at the time it has to be said, but there was just so much going on on my 360 that I never felt like I had the time needed to commit to this game. So now I have the One, with far fewer games available on it, I am finally able to give this game some time and attention. I do still have a huge 360 backlog of games I must play, but they're being ignored now I have its new better looking big brother. 

So anyway, Zen made the very clever decision (I feel, anyway) to re-release Castlestorm as a 'Definitive Edition' on the next gen consoles. The Definitive Edition bags you the DLC campaigns 'From Outcast to Survivor' and 'The Warrior Queen' on top of the base game with its updated visuals. 

Now Castlestorm is MENTAL! Seriously, it is crazy. I'll try and summarise it here for you...
It's a tower defines game, with RPG elements, some hack 'n' slash gameplay and a little bit of building thrown in for good measure. I think that about sums it up, but hell grab a copy for yourself and see! This little description doesn't do it justice though, as really upon reading that how many of us can honestly say we want to play a game like that. On paper it sounds like Zen just didn't really know what they wanted to do with the game so threw everything they had at it and the kitchen sink. 

BUT it works. Very, very well. Yes its crazy, and I definitely wouldn't recommend you play it whilst high on strong pain medication. I tried it and it wasn't a nice experience which is why this review has been a long time coming. To not suck at this game you have to have your wits about you, for sure. The controls can be a little hard to get your fingers around, but eventually you will get there (if you;re not under the influence). But no matter how much you struggle to complete a level it is impossible to not have fun with this game. 

Now a few of you may know I am quite a fan of most of the elements of this game. I love RPG's and I love tower defines games. My favourite tower defines was Defense Grid on the Xbox 360, a game many moaned about when it was a Game with Gold (WHY?). I tend to measure, unfairly, any tower defense game I play against that one. In my opinion the sequel to that game did not measure up to the brutality of the first but thats a story for another time... Castlestorm faired well in my opinion against the hard slog that was Defense Grid 1, and actually was a fair bit more fun, although INFINITELY more stressful, it was in a good way.

If we're going to take this game down to basics then it goes something like this. You are presented with a cartoon-style world that has a castle at either end of the screen. One of them is yours, protect it at all costs. The other is the enemies, DESTROY IT! You have to do this whilst dealing with a barrage of enemies, wolves, knights and hammer throwing dwarves etc. etc. To do this you can use your ballista, which can also include exploding apples and flatulent sheep. OR you can use some troops that cost food, which you store in your castle. OR you can magically teleport your hero into the fray and have at 'em. See, complicated right? All of these abilities are mapped to the same buttons, but you toggle through them using your d-pad, which is where confusion may set in. It definitely did for me, leading to some not very lady-like rage screaming at my TV. 

I think that the game has quite a steep learning curve, but that may just be me struggling with the agility needed to swap between the abilities. By the way all of these abilities can be levelled up using your coins in-between levels. Castlestorm: Definitive Edition is exactly what it says...there can't possibly be a more definitive edition of this game. It is fantastic fun and very challenging and that is why I love it. It is refreshing to find a pick up and play arcade game that offers a greater challenge than many AAA full disc releases, and this it does by the bucketload. There is plenty to see and do in the world of Castlestorm and I highly recommend that you pick this game up!

8/10 BUY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition (Xbox One) - Thoughts

I know what you'll be thinking. This game has been out for ages and I have only just (literally five minutes ago) completed it. You've probably read everything about it (or everything you want to anyway) but I just wanted to stick my two cents in.

Overall I really enjoyed this game. My brother and I used to play Tomb Raider on the first PlayStation together, well we mostly just locked the butler in the freezer and dicked about in the gym in Lara's mansion, but hey we had fun! So when the new one came out on the 360 we both bought it straight away. I never got around to playing it though and when we got the One we found Tomb Raider for like £15 so we picked it up on that instead.

Graphically it is pretty good. I find the faces are the worst part of it really, with mouths barely moving and some really over the top facial reactions at times, or of course no reaction at all. The world is quite stunning though and I like the little touches, like Lara's hair blowing in the wind. She also leans into the wind in a pretty realistic way which is quite cool.

The story of this game is alright. It's not brilliant but it is certainly not bad. My biggest bug bear with it is that throughout the dialogue Lara bemoans all the senseless killing, but then in gameplay she remorselessly pummels umpteen men to their death. It is not the killing that winds me up about it, it's that there is no parity between the character and the gameplay - even a few soundbites of Lara sounding remorseful would have made for less jarring gameplay. Or a cutscene where the player sees Lara accept what she has to do to get her and her friends to safety would have been nice. I know I'm nitpicking, but hey I guess it's kinda my job to do just that!

Another thing I didn't like so much were the noises that came from Lara. I have to say I tolerated her voice at best and found it grated on me quite a lot, but the moans and screams whenever she died were unbearable and didn't really tie in with what was happening on screen. At one point I think I'd thrown her down a river or something and her throat had been impaled on a huge wooden spear sticking up out of the water. I think that warrants more than a slight moan, right? Or when I threw her off a cliff face and instead of screaming each time she hit a rock, she just moaned a little bit as she floated down into the murky nothingness below. Very lacklustre.

At first I loved the bits where the camera would change view to make it all claustrophobic, in tunnels and squeezing through small spaces, but after awhile they feel a little forced, as do the quick time events. And the amount of times Lara falls and you have to direct her away from sharp objects is quite high. That isn't to say these bit aren't fun though, but if you're not a fan of the old quick time events then you may find this game a tad annoying.

This game does do pretty well with atmosphere and I have to admit I was really frightened of the wolves. I don't feel like they featured nearly enough really, although I have to say I found the game easier to play without them. They move to fast for me to get a steady shot off against them and I find myself mindlessly running to the nearest ledge, crying out for someone to save me. But still there could have been a few more. After a bit when I realised that there weren't that many of them, I found I was much less tense. I'd much rather run into a big gun-toting maniac than a wolf.

As I said though I did enjoy this game. I particularly enjoyed playing with the bow, and have found that up to now in my Xbox One collection this is the only game that allows me to do so until the long awaited release of Far Cry 4 next month (God I am so excited for that). This game tided me over nicely and I will be picking up the sequel as and when, but honestly, I don't think I'll find it to hard to wait for a price drop.

At the price this game is currently at I'd say you'd be daft to miss it. It's one of the cheapest games you can find on the Xbox One and it certainly doesn't feel like the cheapest. Ignore the disparity between gameplay and narrative and you'll enjoy it just fine. The game mechanics in themselves are good. But prepare for a lot of climbing. Seriously this island is all on an incline!

Monday, 6 October 2014

#GamesMatter Blok Drop U and Armillo (Wii U) - Review

There is a revolution over on Twitter at the minute. Anyone following Indie Gamer Chick will be aware of it. For those that aren't let me tell you what #GamesMatter is all about...

Indie Gamer Chick decided that there was just too much negativity in the gaming world at the minute and launched #GamesMatter a few weekends ago. Indie devs sent in codes for her to distribute to ANYONE who asked for them, with the understanding that we would then talk about them on social media to show the good side of gaming - the reason we all do it - the FUN.

It took off better than I think anyone anticipated and now Indie Gamer Chick seemingly spends all of her time on Twitter doling out codes. There are plenty more to come too, so if you don't already (why not?!) get over to Twitter and follow her!

SO this weekend Indie Gamer Chick sent me Armillo and Blok Drop U for Wii U after I asked for them. Yeah, that's really all you have to do. And for the purpose of #GamesMatter I thought I'd write a little about them over here.

Blok Drop U is a very simplistic puzzle game out now on the Wii U. No bells and whistles, just simple cube drawings. The aim of the game is to land your little red cube on any of the black land by removing the grey cubes.

Now I played this with my 5 year old son and at first I was worried that he'd tire of it in five seconds wanting to play something a bit more visually appealing. But it's a testament to the fun to be had with this puzzler that he and I both stuck it out to the end of the 30 levels. Zach loved it! And I have to admit that it was me who tired of it easier and gave him the controller. Zach had no gripes with it whatsoever and to a certain extent I'd say that the graphical simplicity of this game HELPS. It certainly helped Zach to focus on what needed to be done to complete the level. When we got to the end (after just over an hour) Zach was pretty upset, he wanted to carry on. The game IS short, but apparently there will be some more levels coming out for it at some point.

I think Blok Drop U is a solid puzzler game that doesn't need to be graphically simulating. It takes it down to the bare bones, and I think it is all the better for doing so. Everyone can afford to have this in their Wii U game collection.

8/10 BUY IT!

Now on to Armillo. This game is, understandably, so different to Blok Drop U. It's bright, colourful and has a story. Armillo is a space-travelling armadillo that finds his home being attacked by the Robotic Darkbots, so obviously, Armillo has to set this right. 

Straight away upon loading it Zach shouted 'It's like Sonic!' and there are definite similarities. Armillo is clearly a mascot, much like the blue hedgehog everybody loves. Armillo also has a little boost attack, which does look a lot like Sonic's rolling attack. In Armillo this works to attack enemies and to clear routes. 

The game operates within the boundaries of corridor like paths through the landscape. It isn't completely linear, there are a few different ways to go to get to the objective. There are boost arrows that will send you off in a predefined direction, but with a little bit of thought you can easily explore the entirety of the levels. 

The game, at first, feels fairly tranquil. As much as you are fighting the bad guys to save your friends, it can all be done at quite a leisurely pace. Until you get to the Darkbot territory, where you will have to rush through as Armillo cannot breathe. These parts are pretty stressful (think if the underwater levels in Sonic and that horrible music you got!) but it keeps the game interesting and moving at a good pace.

It's very cutesy, which both my children loved. My daughter is too young to play herself yet, but she watched this game open-mouthed and QUIET - which is very rare. There must be a certain magic to it, as my son asked to keep playing this, rather than turning to his beloved Mario Kart 8.

It does feel a little budget, but I didn't mind that. I think that some people may struggle to accept this game, but for I think it is a solid entry into the Wii U's catalogue. If you've got kids definitely get it. If you're bored of the ten-a-penny shooters give it a whirl too.

6/10 TRY IT!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Stick It To The Man (Xbox One) - Review

I bought this on the Vita awhile back and never got round to playing much of it. So when I got sent it to review on the Xbox One I was pretty happy that I skipped the Vita version. This game is now available on a multitude of platforms. So I figured, it must be pretty awesome, for it to warrant releasing on the new gen of consoles long after it was first released.

The idea behind this game is interesting enough and it is pretty novel. You play as Ray, a guy who after an accident at work ends up with a giant purple hand sticking out of his head. You know, as you do. He can use this to help him get around his environments, put stickers down and, weirdly, read peoples minds.

Great cardboard landscapes.
The art style is really cool. The game world is made up of cardboard cut outs, which honestly are pretty gorgeous. It is 2D and this game works all the better for it. The people Ray encounters are all flat paper cut-outs too and the stickers you collect to help solve everyones problems have a really neat white outline on them. The game really is beautiful in quite a non-conventional way.

The soundtrack is relaxing but I think this is quite a downfall. The gameplay itself isn't all that stressful and in parts feels a little boring. Usually a little peppy music would liven these parts up, making the game feel less of a drag until the next good thing happens, but with the peaceful tunes that run through Stick It To The Man you kinda feel like you could fall asleep. And I almost did a few times.

That isn't to say this game doesn't hold some appeal though. It did draw me in for a time and it is an interesting concept. It is a short game, but again I think this only counts in its favour - any longer and it would have been a real drag. As it stands, I'd probably say it could even stand to be a little bit shorter just because, after awhile I was just eagerly anticipating the end.

The annoying thing is I don't have any huge reason for disliking this game. I can't really say that I did thoroughly dislike it. I just can't say I have any particularly positive feelings towards it either. It begins to feel very monotonous fairly early on and this isn't helped by the fact that all the minds that you read seem to repeat pretty often. There are certain times where you'll need to knock a guard asleep by using a 'zzz' sticker, which you will get from reading a guards mind. But each time you have to do this you get the exact same soundbite. It would have been nice to even hear ONE other variation to this really.

I'd say if you're looking to while away a few hours with something a little bit different then this game is worth a punt. Don't go in expecting to be blown away and you probably won't be too disappointed. If you bore easily and hate repetition STAY AWAY!

4/10 TRY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Destiny (Xbox One) - Review

I'm gonna start this by being totally honest with you. I didn't like Halo. In fact I'd go as far as to say I hated Halo. All of them. I kept trying them out and trying to like them but I just couldn't get along with it. The story interested me, but I just couldn't enjoy the gameplay.

So when everyone else started getting really excited about Destiny coming out I didn't listen. I thought that I wouldn't like it, and immediately wrote it off, thinking about saving my money for the upcoming Far Cry 4 instead. But we ended up with Destiny anyway. And I LOVE IT! Let me try to explain...

 I have a feeling that my enjoyment for this game comes from the fact that I ignored all the hype. I didn't read into it, I didn't even attempt to find out anything about it. So because of this when I first put it on I had no expectations. It had nothing to live up to for me, unlike many of the Xbox One games. And I honestly think this has been it's saving grace. There has since been a lot said about how disappointed a lot of people are with Destiny, a lot of people expected more. Like Watch Dogs it was massively hyped, had a good advertisement campaign and had many a gamer drooling at the mouth. And then, like Watch Dogs, for a lot of people it couldn't live up to that when it came to it.

So back to why I'm enjoying this game. First off this game is GORGEOUS! It really is. The worlds are beautiful and the kinda annoying load screens are nice to look at. You can customise your character by picking between three different classes and choosing whether they are male or female. The customisation is pretty good. There is enough choice, without there being too much.

The story in this game is where it is lacking. But I never expected it to be mind blowing anyway. The narrative is pretty sparse, and sometimes quite jarring. I actually felt like it was getting in the way more often than not. I didn't want a cutscene explaining why we were going somewhere, I just wanted to get there and kill some bad guys! I guess for me this game is just about having a bit of fun. Getting on it for half an hour of mindlessly blowing up some Dregs is good fun, and to be honest I don't need anything more from it.

The gameplay is what surprised me. I expected to hate it like I did Halo, but I don't. It feels good. The weapons feel substantial and I don't feel like it has the arcade-y feel that Halo does. Destiny reminds me a little of Diablo III, in that the need to get better gear really begins to take over. I LOVE getting new loot. And it can kinda feel like a grind in the same way that Diablo does - I don't mean boring, but like experience farming. It does feel pointless unless you get some cool shit and an EXP boost at the end really.

But I'm ok with that. Destiny is one of the first disc based release games that I would totally champion getting digitally, as it feels like that kind of game. It is very pick up and play, get on it for 20 minutes when you can't be bothered putting a disc in.

The biggest thing I hate about this game is the inability to pause. Don't get me wrong I understand why it is like this but still, when the postman knocks on it is annoying to not be able to pause!

But if you take it as a bit of fun, don't expect a mind-blowing narrative this game is a lot of fun. And isn't that all we want sometimes?

7/10 BUY IT!