Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Zombie Vikings (Xbox One) - Review

Zombie Vikings is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £9.59.

If you've read anything I've written before, including my Twitter, you know that I have a ready made four player set up at home. My kids love to play games and "help" me with my reviews. So they were super excited when I said we'd sit down and play this together after school.

The art style is lovely and I loved all of the different playable characters' designs. The voice over work is pretty good too. Unfortunately that's about all I have to say about Zombie Vikings that is positive. Oh I like the fact that you can play four player couch co-op too. Or, I did, until I actually played it.

Zombie Vikings is a side-scrolling hack and slash with about 30 levels, which is at least ten too many. The easiest comparison to make would be Castle Crashers. You know, if Castle Crashers was crap. And riddles with bugs.

Where to start with where this game fall short? The story is lacklustre and the "funny" moments are just completely cringeworthy. Seriously, I don't remember the last time I cringed so much at an attempted joke. And I'm not quite sure who this "humour" is aimed at, at times it's too infantile for adults and other "jokes" are a little too offensive for young children's ears. And mine actually, they really were that bad.

 If you want to play a game with 3 friends or family members or whatever do yourself a favour and don't pick this one up. Replay Castle Crashers. Or watch paint dry. Your friends will thank you for it.

Chime Sharp (Xbox One) - Review

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

People have repeatedly compared this game to Tetris and I have to say I disagree. Yes they're both games about placing blocks and clearing the board, but Tetris is so much more intuitive and simplistic than Chime Sharp. You don't need a tutorial on Tetris to know what you need to do. Chime Sharp tried to reinvent the wheel a little and didn't tell us that that was what they were doing, resulting in me playing the game for about an hour wondering why I was only getting 40% progression, thus not unlocking any new tracks or modes.

The reason for this, once you know is fairly simple, but it shouldn't be something that isn't clear from the off in my opinion. In Tetris the aim is to clear lines, hopefully more than one at a time, yeah? Well in Chime Sharp you clear blocks using "Quads" or blocks of at least 3x3. Simple enough. But you also have to try and use every part of the game screen. This is what the progression percentage is linked to, not how many quads you get or whatever. You're supposed to try and utilise the whole screen with your quads and doing so unlocks more of the song that is playing. So put a quad in one corner and then you never have to use that corner again. It is a fairly interesting mechanic, but it's one I'm not so keen on in all honesty, especially considering that the game NEVER TELLS YOU that that's what you're supposed to be doing.

You have a point multiplier in play that seems to be lost randomly. I ended up asking someone because I couldn't really see why I was losing my multiplier. Turns out that the fragments you have on the board (the pieces that aren't part of a quadrant) drop after some time. When they drop your multiplier waves bye-bye too.

As I mentioned before when you hit a certain percentage completion on each song you unlock new modes and new songs. In these modes is Sharp mode which sees the timer disappear and be replaced with lives. Earn more lives by forming the perfect quadrant and lose them by letting the fragments drop. You also get Strike mode which gives you 90 seconds to get as high a score as you can and Challenge mode which is basically the same as the standard mode but you have a dodgier board and a smaller variety of pieces to play with. Oh and you can practice any of the songs endlessly too.

In all Chime Sharp offers a pretty good alternative to games like Tetris, but to compare them properly is unfair on both. I'm a huge Tetris fan so I thought I'd love Chime Sharp too. Don't get me wrong I did enjoy my time with Chime Sharp and it does have that addictive "one more go" quality. Unfortunately though I found the colours used in game to be too bright in Chime Sharp for an extended play and whilst the game is addictive enough I feel like it just throws a little too much at you if you want those high scores. They both have their own merits, exclusive of the other, so if you're not a Tetris fan don't be put off by the people that tell you that is basically what Chime Sharp is. It isn't. It's much more than that, I just don't know whether I was ready for more yet.

Kitty Powers' Matchmaker (Xbox One) - Review

Kitty Powers' Matchmaker is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £12.39.

I had played Kitty Powers' Matchmaker before when it was released on Android. My Twitter was full of screenshots and praise for the game and thanks to the Android Rewards app I had a few quid going spare so I grabbed it. I had a lot of fun with it whilst I was waiting in the car for my kids' to get out of their clubs or whatever I'd turn it on and just do a date or two.

When I heard it was coming to consoles I was a little concerned. I did wonder how it would translate to the big screen and more importantly a traditional controller rather than a touch screen device. Luckily my concerns were unfounded, the game is mapped to a controller like it was always supposed to be there. They work wonderfully.

So Kitty Powers' Matchmaker is exactly what it says it is, you play as a matchmaker under the tutelage of Kitty Powers. She'll guide you through the process of setting up your matchmaking empire, explain all the mini games to you and talk you through the traits of every singleton that comes through your doors as well as advertising in new places to get different types of people as you level up. Ain't she good?!

So singleton's will come in and ask you to find their soulmate for them. Then you give them a little ear piece and follow them on their date. You'll feed answers into this ear piece so make sure you listen to what their date is saying. They'll all have certain things they're attracted too, hair and eye colour being the first thing that they notice about each other. As the date continues you'll choose their food based on what they say they fancy and pull the Love Handle to choose topics of conversation. Everyone has different interests, occupations, guilty pleasures and bad habits and you can either be truthful and hope that your date respects that or lie and take your chances with the roulette wheel over whether they believe you or not. It's a very simple premise that is incredibly addictive. I've played it for over ten hours now and still go for "just one more date" when I put the game on.

You earn money through fees and tips and this money can be spent on new pages for your little black book, a salon or a gift shop and some new restaurants for your daters to enjoy. These restaurants unlock new mini games too. These include a game that sees you trying to hold in a fart by playing a higher or lower card game, or deciding whether or not to splat a spider that invades your table. They can also test your memory by giving you a Generation Game style conveyor belt full of pudding options that your date won't remember the name of, just the order in which they were shown. What's wrong with a traditional menu?! Well, I guess it wouldn't be as challenging that way. You'll also have the chance to play pachinko to decide who pays the bill and exercise your maths brain to work out how much to tip the waiter.

The variety of mini games keeps the game interesting. No date is the same and failing some of the mini games results in some pretty funny moments. It's a really fun little game, but I do wonder why it has been priced so highly. In my opinion an £8 or lower price would have suited this casual game better. Don't get me wrong, that isn't to say this game isn't fun because it really is and I will continue playing it long after this review is written and not just for the achievements!

iO (Xbox One) - Review

iO is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £6.39.

After trying this game for a fair while, and rage quitting wayyyy more than I should have done in just the tutorial levels the temptation to just review this as 'too hard, avoid' is pretty strong. But I am not a quitter! So I carried on trying and trying and trying and trying and my god this game is ridiculous I'm still trying and trying and trying to get through the game. I still haven't completed it. Something with this just hasn't clicked with me. So I was gonna hold off my review until that magical moment in which it clicked and I could finish it and tell you about all of it, but I'm starting to fear that that moment will never come. And maybe it'll be good to read a review from someone who well and truly sucked at this game (who am I trying to kid?!).

So here I am and I wasn't lying when I said I rage quit in the tutorial. I really did. I guess that -especially right now - I feel so spoilt with good games that I really hate having to replay the same section over and over and over. I have much less patience for that kinda trial-and-error gameplay now than I used to. I have much less patience in general these days.

It can be difficult to review games like this. As much as I don't like to spoil stories for my readers I do like to play them out and let you know what I thought of the narrative in general. Games like this generally don't have much of a narrative, if any at all. These games have to be reviewed on different merits I guess; how intuitive the controls are, how responsive, the difficulty, the physics.

iO sees you control a disc that can shrink and grow. You use this ability to work your way through a myriad of levels which require you to grow to roll down a slope as fast as possible and then shrink quickly to fly the furthest. I guess my reactions aren't as fast as they used to be now, because it was always levels that did this that had me stuck for ages. I can't seem to get the damn thing to shrink fast enough to get it where I need it. Sometimes it did feel like the controls were working against me. The controls are intuitive, don't get me wrong, you use the left stick to move the disc side to side and the right stick to grow and shrink. But sometimes it felt like they (or possibly me) weren't fast enough for what was required. Let's be honest it's probably me.

iO looks incredibly barebones and it is a very simple game. It isn't for me, sadly, but that isn't to say that it isn't for everyone. I think the first two paragraphs of this review show quite well how I feel about platformers currently. Though with most platformers you do still get a moment to take a breath, stand still for a minute and assess what to do next. With iO you can't really do this, momentum plays a huge part in the solutions so pause for breath and face having to spend a fair while regaining the lost momentum. Some people will love this mechanics, but as I said I didn't get along with it.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Typoman: Revised (Xbox One) - Review

Typoman: Revised is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £10.39.

A quick look at Typoman: Revised on the Xbox One store and I immediately knew that I had to play this game. It reminded me of 2010's Limbo, a game that I love and still go back to to this day, seven years after it's original release (how has it been that long?!).

You begin your journey as Typoman as a head made from the letter 'O'. You roll your way through the game's prologue, gathering more letters with which to construct your body. By the end of the prologue you have a body, legs and an arm made up from the letters 'H', 'E', 'R' and 'O'. D'awww. You're not the only thing in the world constructed by letters though, this continues throughout the game as the bleak world is populated with objects made up of the letters of their name. The bad guys are also made up of words like 'fear' and 'hate' which morph into awful creatures. It's wonderfully done. Some of my favourite parts are the bridges made up of the word 'ROBUST'. I'm not going to say more now, for those of you who are going to play it, but keep an eye out for them.

You'll use wordplay to navigate your way through the game as well. As we've already touched upon, enemies are made up of 'bad' or 'evil' words and you'll have to use 'good' words to get past them. Switches will need to be turned 'on' and platforms will need to go 'up'. Luckily making up the words required is easy as you can pick up or drag the individual letters or enter the Word Scrambler and simply spell it out. Don't have the letters you need to create the word you want? No problem, spell out 'Lie' and see what happens.

Typoman: Revised offers a good few hours of gameplay in a beautifully imagined world. Along your journey you will fill up a journal with quotations found in secret areas of the game, but if you have ever played a game like this before you know pretty much exactly where to look - the ladder just above the checkpoint, or the rope swing sending you in the wrong direction.

After completing the campaign you will unlock two new mini games to enjoy. Or, rather, put yourself through to get the achievements as the case may be. When I first started playing the 'Antonymizer' I delighted in seeing how spelling out the different words required altered the appearance of Typoman, with my favourite being the one that gave him a little Pac-Man head. But this game mode soon became very dull indeed, and I found myself checking the achievement tracker to see how fast I could turn this off. I gave up in the end, at 52 words out of 165. I'll go back to it eventually, but it was leaving a bad taste in my mouth, so I wanted to stop before it changed my views on the game.

The thing is Typoman: Revised starts off brilliantly and continues to be brilliant for quite some time. The last chapter though, I felt, lost it's way a little an played a lot more like a simple platformer. There weren't as many clever puzzles to make your way through, instead the level boiled down to a lot of timing-based jumping which, whilst it can be fun for a while, just isn't what I had come to expect from the rest of the game. The final boss battle left a lot to be desired as well, after chasing him down for the entire game it boiled down to a very simple fight consisting of three turns each, four if you wanted the achievement for using a 'bad' word in the final boss fight. It wasn't bad by any stretch, but it lacked the imagination and charm the rest of the game had in abundance.

Overall I enjoyed my time with Typoman: Revised, despite my niggles with the last hour or so and the dull mini games. It's a clever, beautiful game that I will probably go back to in the future. If you think you might like a game that's a little mash up of Limbo and Letter Quest then have at it.