Friday, 23 September 2016

The Turing Test (Xbox One) - Review

The Turing Test is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £15.99.

I'm typing this fresh from completing it this morning. I played it until 2am the night before, before I had to give in and attempt to get some sleep and the minute I could today I jumped back in to finish it off. It really is a fantastic game (and it's easy to get all of the achievements). 

I came to it knowing a little bit about Alan Turing and The Turing Test but the game explains everything well anyway so you can go in blind and not miss out. So don't worry if you haven't fully researched Alan Turing and his accomplishments. You won't be alone. 

I always struggle to review a game like this. A game with a story so rich that I'm still pondering it hours - sometimes even days - later. I came to this expecting it to be primarily a puzzle game (which, obviously it is) with a story shoehorned in so that you feel compelled to continue. The Turing Test couldn't be further from this, for me at least. I made my way through the various rooms as fast as I could, hungry for the next story section. And right through to the very end it never disappointed me. 

It feels petty with a game like this to boil it down to it's various sections and discuss all of the elements that make it what it is. The game is slick and thought-provoking and the story is truly intriguing, which for me is so much more important than a game looking picture perfect. That isn't to say the graphics aren't great, they are, but they just play second fiddle to the meat of The Turing Test. The voice acting deserves some recognition here because The Turing Test features some incredible talent. The same can be said for the games soundtrack, often with a puzzle game I end up turning the music right down in the mix because they can be pretty annoying, but I never even considered doing it whilst I was playing The Turing Test, even if it did risk waking the kids up. 

As you work your way through the game you will unlock new ways to interact with your environment. I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game, they made sense to me and I never found myself completely stuck. I sometimes had to step back and think for a second but I never had to restart a level, which speaks volumes for the level designs. I had fun working my way through some of the more involved sections and can honestly say I never felt like I was burning out. 

I have one gripe with this game, yep, just one. It isn't a particularly big problem but my god I found it really annoying. After pretty much each chamber I encountered a significant load time. I'd be walking down the corridor to the next room when everything stops and the little swirly ball of doom would appear for anything from 30 seconds to two minutes. I hope they patch this, because it does remove you from the action and disturb the flow of the game quite significantly, which is a real shame for an otherwise perfect game.

I don't want to tell you to much about this game, I want you to experience it. It is easy to recommend this game to each and every one of you that read this review. It's an amazing experience and a lot of fun to boot. Go grab it! 
9/10 BUY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Monochroma (Xbox One) - Review

Monochroma is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £7.99.

It was pretty difficult to type up this review in all honesty. I mean I've had the game for ages and then family life just went crazy and I never had the chance to sit down and play it to review it. I have now, but this tab has been open on my Mac all week, waiting for me to type up my thoughts on the game. And I just couldn't do it.

I think the main reason for this is glaringly obvious. Monochroma looks very much like a Limbo clone. Unfortunately though Monochrome lives very much in Limbo's shadow and I've spent this week trying to work out how I can review this game without comparing it to Playhead's 2010 hit.

The answer is I can't. To do that would be to do both games a disservice. There aren't many games out there today that could claim to have not taken inspiration from a game or two. And that's fine. It's nice to spot those similarities, discuss the differences and the merits they bring to the game. Not all games can reach that balance though, and end up feeling like a cheap cash in on someone else's brilliant idea. Monochroma is the latter.

The game is good but if you have ever played Limbo (and with it being given away for free on Xbox One awhile back and it being available on a multitude of different platforms how could you not!?) you will not be able to stop yourself comparing the two games and Monochroma will consistently fall short.

The art style is lovely all in monochrome except for the odd splash of red a la Schindler's List making it ever-so-slightly different to Limbo. You play as a young boy, again, but this time you have to lug your brother around because he suffers a fall at the beginning of the game. This little brother will be the source of much frustration as you can't solve many of the puzzles with him on your shoulder as your jump distance is limited and you can't pull the levers and little brother is afraid of the dark, which limits where you can place him and will result in you killing him a fair few times because the only light source just so happens to be where the hurtling mine cart will end up. You have been warned, just like Limbo you will die a lot. And be responsible for your brother's end too. Tut tut.

The thing is the addition of a brother, or anyone that your character feels responsible for should add more charm to the game. You should feel scared for the characters - I know I did playing Limbo - and Monochroma falls incredibly short of the mark here. The only thing I felt after I'd killed off one or both of the siblings was annoyance at having to play that part again. The puzzles and platforming are so pernickety that repeating any section felt like a chore more or less straight away. There was one puzzle in particular that involved you having to drop down onto a barrel that is floating in water. The amount of times I either just missed the sodding thing or landed on it only to fall of it in the next second was just ridiculous. The controls are not responsive enough to allow for this and I ended up playing this section for ages because each time I landed in it I died and had to drag the frigging lit barrel back outside to the rain again. 

Overall I really didn't enjoy my time with Monochroma. I could;t help but compare it to Limbo for the extent of my play through and not one single part of Monochroma felt better than Limbo had. In fact, after playing this game I started up Limbo on my Xbox One (after only ever completing it on 360 previously) and just gloried in how magnificent that game is. Monochroma made me yearn for Limbo, and that can never be considered a good thing. Skip this one guys.

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

Monday, 19 September 2016

Pure Chess: Grandmaster Edition (Xbox One) - Review

Pure Chess: Grandmaster Edition is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £9.99.

We all know what chess is, whether or not we can actually play it. There have been loads of chess games released on various platforms over the years but Pure Chess: Grandmaster Edition is the first chess game to come to the Xbox One. I'd say that if you already have Pure Chess on any other platform I wouldn't necessarily bother with this one. Unless you realllllllyyyyy want some different chess pieces. This version does come with some pretty decent sets.

There are no gimmicks with this game, (though I have to admit I was disappointed that the Roman chess set didn't act like the magic chess sets from Harry Potter) it is simply chess. The interface is slick and easy to use and each time you select a piece it illuminates the legal moves for you. You can remove the HUD which shows you what moves have been made and which pieces have been taken by you and your opponent.

You can play online, with a friend or against the AI, which has various levels of difficulty ranging from Monkey to Grandmaster. There are also three Tournaments, increasing in difficulty for you to complete. The tutorial is great, even for someone who plays chess fairly well as it gives you plenty of handy hints and tips that you might not have considered before. There's an achievement for completing it too, so it's not all wasted.

There are different settings for you to choose from, but once you're into the game you can only really see the chessboard, which is a shame because the rooms are lovely to look at. You can choose between different genres of music too, which is nice. My biggest gripe is with the loading times when you've lost a tournament it takes forever to go back to the menu which ends up with me just ending up dashboarding it on numerous occasions. I don't really know why it takes so long to be honest.

I don't know whether I would recommend this game, just because chess is pretty niche. If you're after a chess game on a current gen console then go ahead. It's a great chess game, I'm just not sure who would choose to play this over most of the games available on the Xbox One.

5/10 TRY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Headlander (PS4) - Review

Headlander is available now on the PS4 and is priced at £14.99.

This game is weird. Really, really weird even by Double Fine's standards. You may have seen some of my screenshots on Twitter, they don't even go halfway to explaining how weird this game is.

In Headlander you play as a disembodied head. Yup, really. You're a head in a propelled helmet with sucky power that means you can suck the heads off other robots and steal their bodies. I can't even think of a better way to explain this.

You have been awoken by a group hoping to overthrow the AI overlord Methuselah. You being just a head will come in very handy on your journey through the ship "Starcophagus" (again, really) as there will be many doors that are blocked off to you that have a handy head sized vent just above them. Of course heads aren't really known for their weaponry so you'll need to headland on to other robots to better arm yourself against the bad guys. You can dock on to any of the robots you encounter, but most of them are useless in any real sense. Certain robots can get you through doors and if all else fails get on a robot with a laser and shoot the door into submission.

I know that this review isn't making much sense, even as I type it, but honestly the game doesn't make much sense either. It is insane. At first it feels like a lot of fun. It's very tongue in cheek and for awhile it is a lot of fun to just pull the heads off unsuspecting robots. Unfortunately though, it soon gets stale. Combat can be very tricky and it's annoying to try and find another laser shooting bot when the one you were occupying gets blown up. Eventually you'll realise that the best way to navigate combat is with just your head, dodging the lasers and sucking the heads off the robots trying to kill you is often much easer and faster than trying to shoot them. Obviously, sometimes this won't work and these are the times that will have you screaming at the TV. The boss fights are even worse, and if you die you better be ready to repeat the whole effing thing. 

I expected more in depth puzzles from Headlander in all honesty. The puzzles are simplistic and don't make the best use of the whole you being just a head in my opinion. I'd have liked to have seen more emphasis on disguise based puzzles, rather than just navigating various rooms and enemies. It's a very shallow experience, something I haven't said of a Double Fine game before.

All in all Headlander is fairly fun for the first hour or so. But then the fun trickles away and you're just kinda going through the motions. I'd wait for a sale, guys.

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

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (Xbox One) - Review

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £11.99.

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is my favourite Zelda game, by far. So I guess it's easy to see why Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas piqued my interest when I first saw it on the Xbox One store, this game bares more than just a passing resemblance to Wind Waker, it also appeared to play like Wind Waker from what we could see.

Now this had me extremely excited, but I know that there are a number of gamers that hated Wind Waker and saw it as a complete removal from the Zelda series. I'm guessing they were as turned off by this game as I was excited, but hey, you can't please everyone right?!

Now if you're here hoping to hear that although this game looks like Wind Waker it is in fact a polar opposite then I'm afraid you should probably just stop reading now. There are so many factors to this game that are borrowed from Wind Waker. You play as a young boy (check) whose parents aren't around (check) and you're going to go sail the seas to find someone (check). You even have to find an old sword and shield on the island to help you on your quest and all of this happens in the first ten minutes.

The thing is you can draw similarities between most games, very few games are truly original these days. There is nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from other games as long as it is done well and Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas has that down pat. This game is so close to perfection that it makes the problems I have with it seem so much worse. The graphics are absolutely stunning, the music is enchanting (but obviously we were expecting that seeing as it's Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito at the helm) and the game is incredibly polished. But yeah, I have a few gripes.

First off I was incredibly disappointed with the sailing, at first at least. I've made my peace with it now, but have to admit to feeling completely disappointed when instead of being able to steer my vessel through these uncharted waters I just had to set a path to an island I'd heard of and automatically make my way there. The first few journeys are the worst because literally nothing happens, but eventually you unlock a cannon and can shoot monsters and boxes on your way to the next island. When I think back to how many hours I whiled away just sailing in Wind Waker this is probably a good thing to be honest, otherwise I might have been attempting to write this review based purely on how many mini games I had found whilst sailing.

The menu is a little bit pointless in all honesty. You level up automatically, the new skills and items you find map themselves to the face buttons (and are interchanged with a quick press of the d-pad which is brill) and there is NO REAL QUEST LOG OR MAP. This was by far my biggest gripe with the game, something that still annoys me now. There is a log, I guess, but it also keeps track of every conversation you have had so it is pretty impossible to find the snippet of information you need about where you need to go. It'd have just been nice to have a clear quest log with even small details of what you were meant to be doing. I found that after turning it off for the night, I had completely forgotten what I was supposed to be doing by the time I had turned it back on in the morning. But I have a really rubbish memory so maybe that's my problem. The desire for a proper map is probably down to my crap memory too, see as you continue you unlock new items and skills that allow you to explore more of each island. And I can always remember that there was somewhere that this new skill would come in handy but I can never remember where. A world map where you could then look closer at a map of each island would be invaluable for me. You do have a minimap when you're on an island, that colours in as you walk around, which is nice, but I'd like to be able to see a birds eye view.

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is a fantastic game. Even considering the quibbles I have it with I am completely in love with it and I know I will spend many more hours playing it. At £11.99 it's a complete steal. Go get it guys.

9/10 BUY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Slime Rancher (Xbox One) - Preview

Slime Rancher is available now through the Xbox One Game Preview Program and is priced at £15.99.

I quickly used the one hour trial for this game during the summer holidays, it looked like the perfect game to enjoy with my kids and I really wasn't wrong! Don't be fooled by its bright and colourful appearance though, this game offers a rich enough experience for the adults to enjoy too.

Slime Rancher takes you to a faraway planet inhabited by different slimes. These slimes happen to have valuable shit. Literally, you are now going to make a living selling poo. Congratulations on your lucrative new career.

It's an extremely simplistic concept that has been executed perfectly in my opinion. You have a gun of sorts which allows you to suck up the slimes, food, poo, water and chickens and deposit them somewhere else. You buy different enclosures on your ranch like corrals for keeping your slimes safe, gardens to grow crops and coops for your chickens. There are different slimes to be found in the various areas, all of which have a different colour poo which all vary differently in their worth. And whatever you do don't put all of your slimes in one corral. It ends badly. See my recent Twitter pic if you don't believe me ( Why can you not save some space? Because slimes are disgusting creatures that will eat each others poo. They then become "Largos" and if they eat another different poo they become Tar and you can wave bye bye to your lovely ranch. Don't say I didn't warn you. There are a few other tips I could give you for when you start your ranch but I don't want to ruin it for the purists out there who like to go in knowing nothing. If you ever want advice, shout at me on Twitter.

The money you make from selling your slimes offerings can go towards upgrading your ranch or extending it. There are also upgrades for your gun, that later especially will prove invaluable. There are new areas to explore and areas that have little builders signs up, which show that there are plans for more spaces as the game progresses.

Slime Rancher is a game I have no qualms recommending now, even in its unfinished state. I've had a few crash problems, but honestly that's probably down to how much I was trying to do at once. This game is just so fun! And I've heard a whisper that any achievements you unlock in game will unlock on your Xbox One when the game does get fully released. Win win.

The Great Whale Road (Steam) - Preview

The Great Whale Road is available now on Steam and is priced at £10.99.

The Great Whale Road has released into Early Access, meaning the game is still in development and may change over time. The devs have said "We have been working on The Great Whale Road for over a year now, and we don't want to complete the game without your feedback" on the Steam Store page for the game.

I am a big fan of the Early Access/Game Preview programs, as it allows us to watch a game progress. The problem with these sometimes is that if you're a really early adopter there isn't always much of a game to play. This was my experience with The Great Whale Road (so far!) I played it for a number of hours over a few days but it ultimately felt like a very empty, unfinished experience. It certainly has potential but at the moment it is very barebones. There are a lot of areas in this game that you can't help but compare to others and The Great Whale Road never comes off favourably. The game shows a lot of promise as long as they listen to their fans advice on how they can improve certain features.

The Great Whale road is basically a text based story which sees you set off on an adventure to find out what happened to your people. You play the game through the seasons, so have different concerns for each one and times that are better for growing food etc. This sounds more involved than it actually turns out to be, but I'm sure it will be made better before the full release. You get given focus points to place into certain training or attributed for your people, like diplomacy, husbandry and warriors etc. Putting all of your points into diplomacy didn't seem to make much difference if I'm honest, but again maybe that's something that will be finetuned before the game is fully released. The art style is the biggest stand out for this game at the minute - it is truly beautiful to look at. I encountered a lot of bugs, some that completely crashed my game, resulting in an entire season being lost. Other bugs included my advisors details not being loaded so I could see none of the text - even the choices I could make.

Battling in The Great Whale Road is via a RNG card system. I have to admit to often finding RNG incredibly frustrating, as I'm sure many do. In this game it was incredibly frustrating as the only person who needs to be killed for a battle to be won is the leader of either side. They enter the board first and from there it is completely random whether you ever get another one of your men onto the battlefield. This meant that there were a number of occasions where the enemy team had four men on the board and I just had my leader, cornered. I find it difficult to accept losing battles just because I had such crappy luck, I like to lose because I wasn't good enough,  not because luck wasn't on my side!

Overall, I think The Great Whale Road shows a lot of promise. If you want to support the dev from the off go grab it now, but honestly I'd advise waiting for maybe the next update when hopefully the game will have fixed some of these issues.