Thursday, 14 July 2016

Mighty No. 9 (Xbox One) - Review

Mighty No. 9 is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £15.99.

I have to admit this game was never on my radar. Well until that Kickstarter and all of the issues it ran into. I couldn't scroll down my Twitter page for ages without seeing someone raging about the delays this game had faced and problems receiving their codes.

Now I have never actually played a Mega Man game and apparently this is a "spiritual successor" from the same guy. I don't know, I mean the character you play as - Beck - looks enough like Mega Man to me that it could have been Mega Man 10 or whatever number they're on. Don't hate me for not knowing this, I can't even give you a good reason as to why I haven't played a Mega Man game, I guess I've just never gotten around to it. I'm sorry :(

Anyway let's get to talking about the actual game, eh?

From the off this game felt like it was trying to capture the old magic. Everything feels like it is supposed to make you feel nostalgic, but unfortunately it just didn't work for me. The music is good, but the menus felt cheap and the fact it screams "Mighty Number 9" every time you press a button on the menu quickly caused me a headache. It's infuriating. Which is strange cos I could listen to the little "Segaaa" voice all day. I still have to do it every time I play on the Mega Drive with my son.

Mighty No. 9 isn't very welcoming to newcomers in my opinion. There's no real back story, instead you are told that all of the robots in the world have been infected with a virus and you and the other Mighty's are the only ones that can save them because for some reasons you haven't been infected. The story isn't going to win anything, but does it really need to?! It's a platformer first and foremost and sometimes story sections just get in the way of a game don't they?

So obviously there are the usual buttons for a platformer, but I found that some of the tutorial tips were given too late to be of any use in that life and there were a couple of times I died before I could read the tip that had popped up on the side of the screen. This mostly happened when I had unlocked a new skill and hadn't yet been told how to use that skill.

I think the graphics in this game are a bit lacking. The backgrounds are drab and there are massive portions of the game that just feel empty and if you die a lot (you will) you end up running through these barren screens far too often. The enemies are pretty cutesy, they remind me a lot of the character design in the 3D Sonic games to be honest. The ones you meet throughout the levels offer very little in the way of challenge for the most part, although you will still find yourself having to retread the same areas when they're placed in particularly awkward positions. The bosses are where the real challenge - and anger - lie. Be prepared to hear there annoying one liners a fair few times.

I don't know, maybe it is that I'm just really, really shit at this game, but I found it to be incredibly difficult. A game being difficult isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as they are fun, but unfortunately Mighty No. 9 falls down in that regard too. Mighty No. 9 is just a long hard slog through a lot of lacking backgrounds. Skip this one guys.

3/10 SKIP IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan (Xbox One) - Review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is available now on Xbox One and is priced at £39.99.

I always put the Xbox (or PSN) store price in at the top of my reviews, as it doesn't change as often as instore or online prices do. The Xbox Store price will usually be the most expensive way to get the game and this is especially true with games like this. A quick Google search shows copies for £10 less already and this is sure to drop lower soon. With that in mind let's get to the review!

We're a household of Turtle fans here and we have been dying to play a good Turtles game. Every time one comes out we get ourselves all psyched up for it, buy it straight away and then sit back and wait for the feeling of utterly crushing disappointment to set in. Unfortunately none of them have ever managed to capture the magic and fun that a Turtles game should be. Luckily TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan changes that, well, slightly anyway.

Platinum haven't reinvented the wheel, but they have put together a really fun brawler. The cel-shaded graphics are amazing and the music in the game is perfect. The controls are responsive and the ability to switch between the turtles with the tap of a button (in single player anyway) is brilliant. It can fall into the slightly more button-masher-y category at times but for the most part I found it to be a fairly deep experience. No, I've not lost my mind, I know a brawler isn't deep, but I found myself having to think about tactics by pretty much the second boss fight when I was playing in single player.

I have to admit to being disappointed that it wasn't truly an open world setup. Instead you get a bunch of open levels that all revolve around one particular baddie from TMNT. Each of these big bads have numerous life bars you have to deplete before you can finish them off and a number of tricks up their sleeves to make sure you don't do that. I breezed through the first one (Bebop) with ease in single player and worried a little about how easy the game seemed to be but Rocksteady soon shown me the error of my ways. It looks me an hour to beat him...*hangs head in shame*

In single player mode though you do have the chance to play as each of the heroes in a half shell. I started off as Leo (duh) but as my son was watching my play I was soon switching between them faster than I'd have liked. The great thing about being able to switch between the turtles is that you are then in control of all of they special moves, and when used correctly these will literally mean the difference between winning or losing. All of the turtles have four abilities, which can be changed as you unlock more and upgraded as you level up. Getting the right combination of abilities is key to a successful boss mission. I found the Pizza Power one and the Cheerleader one to be of particular use in my many battles against Rocksteady (Pizza Power gives all of the turtles some health and Cheerleader speeds up the recharge time on all of the turtles abilities. They are a GODSEND).

The co-op mode is brilliant but unfortunately I found the lobbies to be pretty dead already. luckily I have two XB1's and a digital copy so we fired it up and played it together. Make sure you choose your favourite turtle at the beginning of the level because there is no swapping when playing multiplayer, which makes sense really as obviously they were hoping for teams of our to play. I don;t know why the lobbies were so quiet, I can only hope that once the game gets cheaper more people will jump on board.

The price is really the only crux of this game. It is a really fun game, which honestly did surprise me. But as fun as it is it, I can't imagine that it would have been anymore than £17.99 on the previous get, it'd have been one of the "premium" arcade games in my opinion. The price is what has scared people of, and who can blame them?! For £40 (and less) now you can get hundreds upon hundreds of hours with a game and this would really not keep anyone interested for that long. But honestly guys, when it drops to £20 JUMP on it, because it really is a right laugh to play.

7/10 TRY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Fragments of Him (Xbox One) - Review

Fragments of Him is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £7.99.

Fragments of Him is possibly the most stripped back game I have ever played. It isn't a game in any traditional sense of the word really, as you do very little to interact with what is on screen. You move around and press A and that's really it. It's more of an interactive story than a game, I guess.

I wanted to get out of the way right at the beginning, because if you're looking for something action-packed and fun-filled then this one really isn't for you. If you're looking for a game that's really different and is more like watching a show with a controller in your hand, then read on.

When I said stripped back I didn't just mean in terms of gameplay, Fragments of Him features a really minimal art style too. The game features highly detailed environments but there are no textures at all - everything is flat and looks like it is all made from the same material, save for a few thing that are important to story progression. It makes sense for the game though (or at least in my head it does) because the game explores the memories of a few people who all know the central character, Will. It feels like you're walking through a fairly hazy memory. You know there was furniture there, but you couldn't remember what colour and fabric it was. It's an idea that has been beautifully realised in this game.

As always I'm going to stay away from selling you about the story, so I don't spoil it for any of you. I feel that that is even more important with this game, because it is only the story that will keep you going through. There are no interesting gameplay elements that will force you to carry on, only the need to find out everything you can about these characters.

I found the story to be a really interesting, emotive journey but unfortunately I found the gameplay element of it to be so dull I did find myself wanting to rush through rather than take my time. Luckily the story is linear and there are very few places and things to interact with, and even fewer that aren't necessary in continuing the story so rushing through doesn't mean you miss anything. You basically spend the game filling in or taking away items to spark a voice over (the voice overs are excellent by the way) and there is one part in particular where I felt like I was doing this just for the sake of doing it, like the devs made us do it just to reinforce the fact that it is a game and not just a story. But I do find myself struggling to think of a way that this game could have been played differently, in all honesty, so I guess this critique is by-the-by.

If you want to "play" something that will stick with you after you've finished, that doesn't require much cognitive thought or interaction then maybe Fragments of Him is for you. It is a beautiful experience, and one that has stuck with me since I completed it. It's fairly short and I don't see why you would want to replay it in an hurry so I struggle to recommend it at full price. But I'm sure it will feature in a sale in the not so distant future, and maybe you'll have gotten sick of killing people over and over again by then. If so pick this up, brew up, sit back and play this.

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

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Technomancer (PS4) - Review

The Technomancer is available now on PS4 and is priced at £44.99.

It's been far too long since I've played Mass Effect so I'm open to any game that has any resemblance to it whatsoever, no matter how small. The Mass Effect series holds some of my fondest gaming memories and the wait for Andromeda is killing me.

Anyway when I read about The Technomancer I was pretty interested. I haven't ever played a game by this developer - Spiders - before so didn't really have any clue what to expect. I just wanted to play a space RPG again.

The Technomancer seems to have really divided people. There are a lot of my followers on Twitter who have really enjoyed their time with it, played through it multiple times and loved every second. Others are seeing it as more of a slog, something they have to get through without distracting themselves with other games out of fear of never actually returning to it. I don't quite understand how this game could be so divisive, it isn't like it has tried to re-invent the wheel and scared people off that way and, in my opinion anyway, it certainly isn't a terrible game.

Yes, graphically the game could be a little better overall but there are moments in this game that are truly gorgeous. The biggest part that lets it down visually is the animation of the NPC's. Facial movement in general is quite bad for a game of this gen, but as I say it's nothing too terrible. It isn't the most polished game and I found the frame-rate to be a tad patchy at times, but again I feel like I'm nitpicking.

So I'll start telling you about what I really enjoyed about my time with The Technomancer. First of is the ability to switch combat styles on the fly, which gives you three very different combat experiences. You can switch between Guardian, Warrior or Rogue class with the press of a button, with each class having a different set weapon it uses. For the most part I lean more towards Guardian because I love the fluidity of the staff fighting, but some enemies really require you to be able to change it up and try a new tactic. If you time a hit just right you are rewarded with a little slow-mo flourish, which I think is much cooler when you're playing as a staff wielding Technomancer. Yes, let's not forget about the ability that is after all the namesake of the game - all of the different combat styles are supported by Technomancy which are basically electrical abilities.

This makes a refreshing change for an RPG, where we are usually forced to pick a specific combat method and stick to it throughout. We're supposed to concentrate on one style of play and use all of our skill points expanding one tree. The Technomancer still utilises skill trees, but they are more free than is usual for an RPG and you can spread them more evenly or go all out on the one style of combat.

The combat is where this game shines the brightest in my opinion and luckily Mars is populated with loads of things and people that would't mind killing you. It's a lot of fun to show them whose boss. Each enemy fights slightly differently too - some of them band together and concentrate all of their efforts on your character, whilst others are easy to separate and pick off in a one-on-one fight. The combat really is fantastic in The Technomancer. It's gritty and tactical and oh-so satisfying when you deal the final blow.

Much like Batman though your Technomancer doesn't like to kill people, and will only knock them out unless you drain the serum afterwards. This links into the karma system, that isn't unlike the Renegade/Paragon system in Mass Effect. Draining serum from people ultimately kills them and no matter how bad this person is it is frowned upon to end another life when human life is seen as precious. If you find yourself running low on serum you can drain it from other life forms without taking the karma hit, as they are killed during battle rather than just knocked out.

As is fairly usual with an RPG you can recruit people to come and aid you on your travels. Anything you do around these followers will affect their opinion of you too and this does affect parts of the story. It all revolves around the different factions and I loved the fact that you couldn't just get any old information from everyone you walked up too. People are suspicious of you. Some will crack jokes when you ask them about people they don't want to be seen to be affiliated with. Others will tell you to fuck off. It was refreshing, as all too often this is where a game can fall down in terms of immersion...why on earth would everyone tell all about the big bad?! It wouldn't happen and in The Technomancer it doesn't, you have to learn how to play the game.

Character customisation could have had a little more depth if I'm being picky. You get to pick from a few different facial presets, hair styles and then choose the skin, eye and hair colour. It works and still means there are lots of different combinations of Technomancers, but a little more option never hurt anybody.

The story is fairly interesting but isn't always so well executed and when it is stood side-by-side with the fantastic combat it really shows itself as the weak point of this game. It just isn't as well written as a lot of the other RPG's on the market - the dialogue can feel stilted and the voice acting and character animation is wooden. It's a real shame, because overall the story is pretty good, it's just the delivery that isn't. The button-mapping could have been a little better too. The O button is the dodge button whilst in combat, but it is also the skip button whilst in dialogue. At some points the game will switch seamlessly from combat to dialogue, and more often than not the combined with me attempting to dodge (mostly because I liked the animation when I was using the staff but other times it was just in case I hadn't actually killed my enemy with the last blow I had dealt). This lead to a few skipped first lines of conversation and me answering without knowing what the hell I had just signed myself up for.

For all of these little problems though I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Technomancer. The combat alone makes this game worth playing. But if you have a gaping hole in your life that only a space RPG can fill this one can probably keep you happy until Andromeda comes in and takes over our lives.
8/10 BUY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review. 

Friday, 1 July 2016

Lost Sea (Xbox One) - Review

Lost Sea is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £11.99.

Lost Sea sees you trying to escape the Bermuda Triangle after you crashed onto an island there. To do this you have to do a fair bit of island hopping, collecting tablets along the way that will allow you to move to another island depending on the number written on the tile. It is very simplistic, which is fine because it is done incredibly well, but before I get into it I wanted to point this out...I was expecting a pretty different game going by the description in the Xbox One store. Yeah it is an action-adventure game, I guess, but I would actually categorise as more of a rogue-lite game. Or a hack and slash. Hell, I'd have called it a board game before I called it an action-adventure, but maybe I'm being pedantic. It's just that the description painted a picture for me. A picture rich in detail and tactical choices. The reality is that Lost Sea is a fairly shallow experience, but it is a fun one. The artsyle is really nice and cutesy. The music is sublime. The only downfall is that the experience is just a little less deep than I had hoped for.

That's not to say there isn't anything positive about this game, because there are lots of positives for a casual gamer. Recruiting a crew member is really easy to do and means that you have a lackey to carry a tablet back to the ship for you. Some of them can unlock chests for you, others can build bridges and some of them will even revive you if you die (but only once). You can only have one crew member to begin with and have to earn the right to have more followers by buying it from the dock. The worst thing about crew members is that they will not fight for you, in fact they cower whenever an enemy comes close unless you buy another perk that means they'll just stand idly by instead. Any you "save" can be recruited at the cost of sending your current crew to the dock, where you'd think they'd just hop on the shop with you when you leave for the next island. Nope. You just leave them to their uncertain fate and carry on your merry way. Not. Cool.

The game is really easy to pick up and understand. You basically only pick stuff up, hit stuff and move on. The aim is to escape in one fell swoop, you cannot save your progress on this game. I like this mechanic but I know there are a lot who would hate it. I just find that Lost Sea is best when played in short, concentrated bursts. It's procedurally-generated which means that no two play-throughs will be exactly the same (obviously there's a limit on just how different they can be) and it is only a short game. If the tablets are good to you, you can get to the final island fairly quickly. And the best thing about this mechanic? When you die the tablets you had are converted into experience and coins for your next play-through so you can afford some upgrades straight away.

Lost Sea is by no means perfect. I mean, I wish you could change the camera angle for one - you can rotate the camera around your character but I wish you could lower it a little too. And I reallllllly wish it wasn't such a shallow experience. It does feel a little mobile-game-esque and whilst it isn't as bad as some other games of that ilk that have made the jump to consoles it still does feel like you may as well be playing it on your phone. I had fun with it though, and keep finding myself turning it on for "one more go" so it can't be all that bad, right?

7/10 TRY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.