Monday, 14 March 2016

The Town of Light (Steam) - Review

The Town of Light is available now on Steam and is priced at £13.99.

It's really tough to sit down and write a review about The Town of Light because it is a game unlike any other I've experienced. I say experienced because you really don't 'play' The Town of Light - you inhabit it. It isn't fun and it isn't entertaining, it is a story that needed to be told. It is an experience that preys on your feelings, on your ability to empathise.

You play as Renee, or more specifically a voice within Renee's head. You must guide her through a recreation of a very real psychiatric hospital in Tuscany; Volterra. And when I say recreation I really mean it, just compare these pictures to the screens on the Steam store to see how well the developer has transported the real asylum to the game. Renee has returned to Volterra after its closure and you must walk around the peeling halls looking for anything that will spark a flashback - which are beautifully hand-drawn storyboards. The story comes in snippets and has a few different endings depending upon what you do with your time whilst in the asylum.

The game is fairly good to look at, a little clunky and rough around the edges but within the asylum's wards they are much better. The voice acting is a little jarring too, in my opinion. I can't really put my finger on why if I'm honest, it was just something that I noticed affected my immersion in the game. Another thing that affected the strength of this game was how few things could be interacted with in the asylum. The world is populated with plenty of items, but very, very few of them can be picked up and when they can be you can;t really do much with them anyway, other than more them around your screen in what is essentially a rather clumsy way which makes text difficult to read. But lets be honest, these things aren't what you really play a game like The Town of Light for, you play for the story, for the experience. I'm not going to go into details with you, because that will always detract from your own experience, but suffice it to say that this game features an extremely emotive narrative - it's dark and depressing with only flashes of hope.

The Town of Light is a powerful story. It isn't overly long, but it will stick with you long after you've finished. It's not a game you can say you have enjoyed (or at least I hope no one has enjoyed it!) but it  is one that will have an affect on you. The Town of Light is a solid, thought-provoking experience, but I struggle to recommend it purely because of how dark it can be and I don't want to be responsible for people's sadness. That being said though I think a lot can be taken from The Town of Light. If you're at all curious, go for it.
7/10 TRY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

The Solus Project (Xbox One) - Preview

The Solus Project is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £11.99.

The Solus Project is another addition to the Game Preview Program on the Xbox One, which features games that are not yet fully finished. Most of them lack a little polish, some campaign or even whole modes when they first enter the Preview Program but they're constantly updated until launch. I have to say The Solus Project is one of the most polished games I've played on the Preview Program yet. Graphically it is superb, with no jagginess or drop in frame-rate encountered, by me at least. The Solus Project is also the first Preview Program game that released on Xbox in the the same window as it did on Steam, something I think it should get a lot of credit for, let's face it that couldn't have been the easiest week of the devs life.

So The Solus Project is a survival game. Yep, another one of those. I for one happen to love survival games, so I was very excited to get hands on with this. Unlike many other survival games there isn't a constant stream of nasties ready to off you in a moments notice, instead with The Solus Project you get a more pure survival experience, with you having to keep an eye out for things like dehydration, starvation and exposure instead of yet another gang of rabid animals out for your blood or whatever. Another thing that sets The Solus Project apart is the fact it actually features a strong, intriguing narrative - unlike many survival games that see you set out just to see how long you survive, The Solus Project sets you on a fairly linear path towards one ultimate goal meaning you actually have a reason to root around in dark caves and explore the furthest reaches of this alien planet. You still have plenty of scope to explore, but for now at least once you've explored an island or cave your only option is to travel to the next, but with this game only being in Preview still it could possibly become much more open as development progresses.

The Solus Project is a really well-made, atmospheric survival game that I thoroughly enjoyed. I am really looking forward to future updates, and I will come back here and update this review when I can. As always with a Preview game I am loath to give it a star rating right now, it is still an unfinished game after all. This isn't to say that I don't recommend it though - I wholeheartedly do - it's more about being fair. If I gave it say, an eight, now then where would it be able to go to from there? I'm hoping for many more excellent updates in this games future, and I want the score I eventually give it to reflect that.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Ironcast (Xbox One) - Review

Ironcast is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £9.99.

Jeez, Ironcast is tough. As it stands I am yet to make it past day seven, if I ever do I will come back and update my review. So if you expect a review from someone who's completed it, you best look elsewhere because I haven't and I honestly don't know whether I ever will. But dammit I'm gonna keep trying - which is probably the biggest indicator I could give you of what I think of Ironcast.

Now I've got my little confession out of the way let's talk about the game. Ironcast is...well it's a crazy game that's a mash up of a match three puzzle game, with some turn-based tactical combat and RPG-ish levelling thrown in for good measure. I think. I can honestly say I've played nothing quite like this before.

Set in Victorian London you take control of an Ironcast - which is basically a big walking tank - in the battle for control of the Voltite. You then use the match three type game to fill your Ironcasts tanks, with orbs for things like Coolant and Ammo. NEVER under-estimate the importance of coolant - if you don't have enough of this you will overheat when you attempt to fire on the enemies tank. You get three moves per turn on the match three board, but you can fire, strengthen your defences or set your Ironcast walking towards the enemy as long as you have the power to do so. The match three gameplay isn't the same as say Candy Crush, as you can match in any direction. There are also switch nodes, which means you can collect two different kinds of power or scrap. Scrap is required to repair and upgrade your Ironcast in the Workshop, which you automatically go to after each battle. You also get access to Augmentations as you level up. Upon your death (which WILL happen) you get Commendation marks, which are used to give your Ironcast more permanent upgrades, rather than the ones given in the campaign - these are only available for the specific Ironcast you are using in this particular attempt at the campaign.

Usually with games I find tough I tend to give up and move onto a game that challenges me just enough, if that makes sense. But with Ironcast I've found myself keep going back, despite not being able to do it. If you're looking for something challenging, that's a bit different then Ironcast might just be what you're looking for.

7/10 TRY IT!

A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Action Henk (Xbox One) - Review

Action Henk is available now on Xbox One and is priced at £11.99.

Action Henk is a side-scrolling speed-runner which sees you take on the role of Action Henk (and his opponents when you unlock them by beating them) in a wacky race to get to the end of the course as fast as possible. Do this by running, jumping and of course butt-sliding. Because what good is a speed-runner if you can't go faster by sitting on your arse?!

The graphics are loud and colourful. The story and cut-scenes could quite gladly disappear without losing anything from the game at all in my opinion. In fact the cut scenes take you out of the fast and frenetic gameplay that suits Action Henk so well, which can get kinda frustrating. Or maybe I'm just a really inpatient person. Yeah, actually it's probably the latter.

So as well as a single player mode, which sees you unlock new skills and new avatars to play as you get a multiplayer, including LOCAL multiplayer - a mode many games seem to be forgetting about. We're a gaming family in this house, so any game that allows us to sit in the same room and play together is given a lot of attention. When Ark was updated with Local Splitscreen, my son and I spent almost an entire day building a village together. It was AWESOME.

Action Henk is a good little pick-up-and-play game that does get really difficult to master, but it feels like it could have been more. A track creator mode would have been great, and would have made the most of the settings and props available. It's a simple game done well, that relies on you wanting, nay needing, to beat your friends to the top of the leaderboards. I have to admit to falling prey to this myself for a little while, replaying the same level over and over in a vain attempt at beating someone to only end up giving up in a rage half an hour later having gotten within .3 of a second of them. I used to play a fair bit of Trials on the Xbox 360 and would gladly spend an entire day fighting my way back to the top of a leaderboard my friend had managed to leapfrog me on. We had quite the battle going, spanning months and neither of us got sick of doing it but I find I have much less time these days for this type of thing, meaning I care much less about being at the top of the leaderboard and more about just being able to get through the levels. This is a very personal thing though and in no way means that the game isn't enjoyable, all I'm trying to say is that you yourself know whether you fall slave to a leaderboard. If you do (and you enjoy it ) then this game is definitely for you. If not, maybe you should look at something else.

6/10 TRY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review. 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Layers of Fear (Xbox One) - Review

Layers of Fear is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £15.99.

Layers of Fear has now left Early Access and has come to Xbox One in all of it's completed glory and silly old me, decided to review it. Because apparently I'm not the type of person who hides behind a sofa at the mere hint of a jump-scare.

The above is a complete lie. I buy horror games thinking I can do it, that I'm not as soft as I think I am etc etc, and inevitably end up quitting out five minutes later because I can't cope with the stress of it. My family decided to do run throughs on the timed mode in Alien: Isolation and I almost constantly had my hands over my face just watching my brother and my dad play. When it came to my turn I screamed so loud I woke one of my children up and my mum shouted at me. Oops.

So I did plan on streaming Layers of Fear, initially. I thought people would possibly delight in seeing me struggle to continue, looking like a bad extra in a found-footage horror film. Thankfully I decided to try out the game first and ultimately decided on sparing you from my terrified shrieks. You're welcome. I've since read that some people are slating Layers of Fear, saying that it isn't scary enough to constitute a horror game. I want to know whether they played a different version than I did, because I spent my time with the game utterly terrified but compelled to continue because I had a review to do. So thanks guys, for forcing me to be a tiny bit brave.

I think I found this game worse because I am quite OCD about going around inspect every corner of a game world. I want to pick up every piece of paper, peek in every cupboard. This can get very time consuming. The kitchen in Layers of Fear took me forever to get out of because I lost track of which cupboards I had opened so had to start again - only to find there was nothing of interest in them anyway. But in Layres of Fear, as well as being time consuming it really adds to the tension. This game could possibly have cured my OCD, as after awhile I gave up wanting to look in every nook and cranny and just walked around with my head down until it became clear the game wouldn't progress unless I looked up and actually did something. Meanie.

I don't really know what else to say about a horror game. I don't want to go into story because I don't want to spoil anything. I guess I could tell you that the graphics are pretty damn good, but just looking at screens can show you that. The atmosphere is fantastic in this game, perfect really. I was super scared throughout my play through and can't really say I properly enjoyed my time with the game, because that would probably make me a fairly sick individual. But I definitely had an experience, albeit one that I wanted to end quickly. I don't agree with the people who said it was;t scary at all, but I guess if you're a hardcore hour game fan you should probably check out more reviews and opinions and decide for yourself. This game petrified me, but maybe that just means I'm a soft arse.

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

Prison Architect: Xbox One Edition (Xbox One) - Preview

Prison Architect: Xbox One Edition is available now for Xbox One and is priced at £19.99. It is currently in the Early Access section of the Xbox One Marketplace.

I was super excited when I first heard that Prison Architect was coming to Xbox One. I LOVE this game on PC but I love gaming on consoles more, so whenever I get the chance to play nine times out of ten I turn to a console. I was eager to try this one out but as the weeks went by and we got closer to the Early Access release I started to get worried. How well would the controls work without a keyboard and mouse? Would the game translate well onto our home consoles?

Well the answer is a resounding YES! I should have trusted the developers more, as they have delivered a fantastic experience onto the Xbox One. I'd argue that the controls work slightly better on the XB1 version than they do on PC, but maybe that's just because I am more at home with a controller. Prison Architect: Xbox One Edition works perfectly, much better than I had imagined it could.

Now obviously it is still in Early Access (I think I may have already mentioned that once or twice, haha) so there are things planned that will come in the future, including some of the scenarios for the Campaign mode and 'World of Wardens' which will allow players to share prisons. It doesn't have Achievements yet - I know that that's something that turns some people off - but they'll come eventually.

Prison Architect: Xbox One Edition is a game that already offers so much and yet still has so much more to give. I know I will be losing a lot of my time to this game. When any big updates come out I will come by and update this review. As far as I'm aware no date or price has been announced for the full release but I imagine it'll be more expensive when it does come out of Early Access (as was the case with Elite Dangerous). If it's something you think you'll ever have an interest in, pick it up now. Personally, I love to watch the games in Early Access coming together to be the final product, and as I mentioned this game has more than enough to keep you busy for now. I'm not going to give a score to a game that isn't fully released, but I have no qualms in recommending this game as it is now.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Pixel Piracy (Xbox One) - Review

Pixel Piracy is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £11.99.

Pixel Piracy is a pixelated pirate simulator that sees you take your pixelated pirate and his crew around the various islands, pillaging and plundering to your hearts content. Your main goal is to take out the four other main pirate Captains so that you become the best pirate to ever sail the pixelated seas.

I encountered problems straight off the bat with this game. I found it incredibly hard to understand what I needed to do, the controls with which to do it and really the point of the game. YouTube is definitely your friend before you begin this adventure. I know people are sick of games holding our hands and telling us absolutely everything but this game takes it to the other extreme, it tells you nothing. As well as this I seemed to be plagued with bugs, well once I'd eventually gotten around to hiring a crew and fighting some pirates. The game crashed out a lot once I got into battles with the bigger ships, meaning I had to travel to them and begin the battle again. Not the most annoying bug but it is inconvenient, especially numerous times.

However, this lack of understanding how the game works may have been my own problem. My son who is seven seemed to take to this game like a duck to water and spent many hours on it (until Rocket League came out). Maybe young children have an innate understanding of games, their engines, designs and rules, or maybe I'm just a bit slow on the uptake but either way he didn't struggle at the beginning like I had and he quickly sailed through the game (see what I did there?!).

The game may have entertained my son for a few hours, but I have to say I found it incredibly dull, even when I did understand what I was supposed to be doing. For the first time in awhile I felt like I was playing purely for the review, rather than having fun with a game I have just been lucky enough to review. And at £11.99 I'd say it's out of it's league. You can get some real gems at that price, hell you can get some real gems at a fraction of the price. If you feel like there's a pixelated pirate-y hole in your life, have at it. Everyone else? Wait for a sale.

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

Prif Freedom 1 Headset (PS4) - Review

This was already posted on Honest Games Reviews. Click the link to see the score! (            

I have never used a headset like the Freedom 1 from Prif before. It's a single ear-piece bluetooth headset, much like the ones that used to be used for hands-free phonecalls in your car. At least I don't think anyone uses them for that anymore. It clips onto your ear and attaches to your PS4 via dongle. Easy-peasy.

It really is very simple to set up and use, but it took me ages to get it attached to my ear everytime I wanted to use it. This didn't get better with experience, I must just have odd-shaped ears or something, because even trying the different sized ear piece didn't help me. I just couldn't get it on comfortably, so much so that I couldn't bear using the headset for more than an hour - I had to keep reattaching it to my ear and when I did get it attached it dug in horribly. As well as the different sized ear-pieces, you also get another faceplate in the box so that you can customise the look of your headset. I prefer the look of the black one that it comes with, but I'm sure there are people out there that would appreciate the look of the camo one. 

I'd expect a headset like this to really struggle with sound quality, but I have to say that's not true. Obviously the sound isn't as good as the traditional stereo headsets but it's plenty good enough to hear your friends easily. There is also a really good feature that allows you to press a button and hear your own voice so you know you're not deafening your friends and that they can hear you clearly. This is actually a real worry because the microphone isn't on a long wire as is the usual, you do find yourself talking quite loudly to make sure your party can hear you. Use the Voice Monitor to check you're not going a little over the top. 

This headset is below £25 which would usually make it a pretty cheap headset. I do think that there are better headsets on the market for only £5 more though with more bells and whistles. If it wasn't for how uncomfortable I found the Freedom 1 I'd have given it a much higher score but I found it very uncomfortable to use, despite how well it worked. It did work well and the Voice Monitor is a great addition to any streamers out there who want to make sure they're being heard clearly, but I'd say make sure you are able to wear a bluetooth headset comfortably before making the purchase. 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

XCOM 2 (Steam) - Review

XCOM 2 is available now and is priced at £34.99 on the Steam store. It is also available at retail.

I had to buy a new gaming laptop for this review. No, I really did. My trusty old Macbook Pro that is still going strong almost six years after buying it has finally failed me and literally wouldn't run the game as it didn't meet the minimum specifications. *sob* SO I got a shiny new gaming laptop with Windows 10. I've wanted one for awhile really as there are still so many games that don't come out on Mac, so I guess this is a blessing.

Now, I don't pretend to know the first things about computers. In fact I know barely anything about their inner workings anymore, despite being able to use them for the majority of my life. I used to laugh at my Mum as she typed using one finger and struggled to open anything other than Solitaire. Now, I feel like that's how I look to my kids, albeit I'm a slightly faster typist. (Thanks, Uni!). SO yeah, I can't really go into the stats on my new laptop but I'll put a link to it at the bottom of this review. The only reason I am doing this is because I've read that a lot of people struggled to run XCOM2 on their rigs and I really haven't encountered any problems of the sort. The game has run damn near perfectly for me, with just a little lag sometimes when the battlefield view animations were running.

WhenI first loaded up the game I was really blown away by how it looks. I'd heard that a lot of people were disappointed with XCOM 2 graphically but I really think it's a beautiful looking game. I dunno maybe it's because I'm not really much of a PC gamer - I've always been primarily a console gamer, finding them much more accessible to someone as un-techy as me - and I know that some PC games now can look pretty much picture perfect. But there's something about XCOM 2 that is deep in the uncanny valley for me. I thought that the graphics - especially the facial animations and in particular the eyes - were really quite realistic.

Anyway, XCOM 2 sees you pick up 20 years after the events of XCOM - Enemy Unknown. Humanity lost the battle and the XCOM forces are now underground resistance fighters. I think this was an awesome decision on the developers part, and really served to add to the drama of the situation. I feel like it was a perfect fit for the XCOM franchise and it made the time constraints within missions make real sense. These time constraints are a big bone of contention for many, but I found them really refreshing. They really helped me mix up my strategies and approach things from angles I hadn't considered before. There's a multiplayer mode that pits you against other people. This is a mode I haven't had the confidence to try out for any real amount of time as of yet, but when I do I'll come back in and edit this review. Another reason I haven;t played much of the multiplayer is because the story in XCOM 2 is completely gripping. I'd put the game on 'for an hour' and end up finally turning it off four hours later, shattered and bleary eyed but having to admit defeat. Unfortunately I cannot run on less than four hours sleep, trust me I've tried (especially during this review).

XCOM is infamous for its difficulty level and lack of giving a shit about whether you care for your troops or not and you should definitely prepare to be responsible for a hell of a lot of death - and I don't mean of the aliens. Your troops will die over and over again, usually just after you've used a character just enough to become attached. In the process of writing this review I've learnt a new term; 'save scumming' which apparently is the act of reloading a save when the odds haven't been in your favour and you need to undo your mistakes. So at this point I have to hold up my hand and admit to save scumming BUT hear me out! I reloaded twice, because for some reason when I clicked to attack it didn't load the next bit where you choose who to attack and I attacked (and killed) one of my main squad members who was being mind-controlled. This happened to me twice and remain the only times I have reloaded my game. Don't get me wrong watching my beloved troops die is pretty heart-breaking, but it's part and parcel of the game so I'm at peace with it, kind of. But I am not willing to accept the death of my troops when they were killed because of a control not working. So shoot me.

Gameplay is split between the turn-based tactical battles and building your base, which is kinda like Fallout Shelter - you use your resources to build rooms that are essential in your fight against the aliens. The latter obviously takes up less time than the actual bottles do, but managing your resources isn't that much less stressful than trying to get all of your troops home. You will constantly be struggling for the resources to build what you need and stressing out about the time it takes for things to complete. I found that I always had less engineers than I wanted too. But maybe I'm just a much more stress-y person - my family will attest to that.

The battles in this game are on another level. You constantly have to adjust what you thought was your battle plan to try and get out alive - calling in an emergency evac to save your prized troop might be the best thing that you can do, but it will also leave you with one less troop on the field. I did this with my sniper I'd had from the beginning only for the majority of the rest of my team to die. Jeez was my sniper pissed - she was out of action for what felt like years and I was left questioning whether I should have just let her die, especially when she died a few missions after she had made her triumphant return.

I think this is what I like the most about XCOM 2 - the story is amazing, don't get me wrong - but everyones game will be slightly different. Each persons game is made up of the little stories they've made on the battlefield and in their memorial room. Two people could be discussing the same battle but there are infinite different possibilities within that each could have encountered. You might have had a 95% chance to hit one of the enemy forces and missed, whilst the other had a 32% chance and got a critical hit. It's unfair, demanding and brutal but it's a bloody brilliant game that I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with. Buy it people!

10/10 BUY IT!

This is the laptop that I've been using and I love it!

A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.