Monday, 15 April 2019

Outward (Xbox One) - Review

My son was very excited when Outward turned up in the post. We had decided earlier that week that we needed to put a little bit more effort into spending time just us two, before he's a teenager that doesn't want to admit to gaming with his Mum. We don't game together half as much as I'd like to these days, mostly because his friends will spam him with invites to play Fortnite and fill the split screen that I'm using until I give up and let him do it. This seemed like a good game to try out together after his little sister was in bed, and would hopefully be less frustrating than playing Lego games with him when he was smaller. 

It wasn't.

In fact, it may well have been more frustrating, but for once this wasn't down to my son. The days where he apparently couldn't follow simple instructions are long gone (hallelujah!) so there was no repetition of 'go to the left. No, the left. THE LEFT!' which made a nice change. We changed his settings to appear offline too (why didn't I think of this sooner?!) so my screen was my own. 

YES Outward is a couch co-op game - not many of those around anymore are there? I think this fact was the biggest draw for me and my son. It's nice to be able to sit down and play a game together, sat together, you know, the old fashioned way. A lot of the couch co-op games we do have (mostly Lego) have been played to death by now. We needed something new. 

We loaded up and made our characters. And I'm just gonna say it - man this game is not pretty. I don't want to descend into slating a game just because of how it looks, but the graphics on offer here make the game feel much older than it is, which is a shame. I'm not as fussed by graphics as my son is, but even I was taken aback. It's been a while since I've played a game that isn't visually stunning. That isn't to say I've stayed away from games because of their graphics - not at all - but more that games in general just seem to be presented better these days. 

The tutorial is huge and weaves around a big map which allows you to skip over certain parts if you want to. This game is pretty in depth, with a lot of different mechanics to learn. If I'm honest a lot of the tutorial went in one ear and out of the other. I felt like it was too much information - without much time to digest it. I learn by doing, and really you could just read the prompts and continue. I would have liked it if the tutorial required you to do a number of different things in succession to make sure you had a firm enough grasp of the concepts. Instead there was a room per concept, with a quick info panel to read and a dummy in the room to try it out on. It didn't really give you an idea on tactics. We wandered around what we hope was the whole of the tutorial level and entered into the game proper. 

The story is pretty interesting, but as ever I won't spoil that here. Suffice it to say that the world they've created has some pretty interesting ideas. Unlike some other RPG's you do not begin this game as a hero. In fact you're a very normal somewhat downtrodden, citizen of a town called Cierzo. 

In order to leave town you will need to collect some items that you will not be able to survive without, a weapon, a backpack and a waterskin. We quickly found these items and ventured outside. 

We died. 

You come to within the walls of Cierzo. My bag was somewhere near the gate but first I had to take care of the negative status' affecting my character. Bandages were applied and we took it in turns to rest on a bedroll. And we left again. 

We did better the second time, but still ended up being taken back to Cierzo to recover. Outward is a really challenging game, that required a lot of trial and error on our part. It's safe to say in our first hour, we didn't get far. 

My son really enjoyed it though. And I have to admit I am surprised. I thought that he would lose patience with the repetitiveness required to get better but I was wrong. He picked himself up and tried again, and even gave me a pep talk on not giving up. And when we finally killed out first monster he high fived me gleefully, more proud of this accomplishment than he's ever been of a kill on Fortnite. 

We're since spent many more hours exploring the world of Outward together and I have to admit they've been some of the best hours I've spent gaming in a long time. The game has many issues and I have to admit, I don't think I'd play it alone. But playing it with my son has been an immense pleasure that we've been unable to find anywhere else. It's a game that challenges both of us, which has allowed him to help me out of sticky situations. This doesn't happen with the Lego games we usually play together. 

It isn't the prettiest game you'll play this year. Hell, it probably isn't even as pretty as some games you played ten years ago. But the story is interesting and the world they've created is great. It's not massively populated, but it works well. And this game isn't going to break the bank. 

Friday, 12 April 2019

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 (Nintendo Switch) - Review

I first played Cook, Serve, Delicious when it was an iPad game and I was hooked immediately. It was fast-paced and frantic and I loved that about it. Couple that with control over the menu and having to think about the "buzz" your restaurant received and I played nothing but that game for hours on end. It was basically all I used my iPad for.

So when Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 came out on PC in 2017 I had to play it. Something didn't gel right with me though, and I spent nowhere near as much time with it as I thought I would. On paper it sounded right up my street - more food items, more challenges - but something just wasn't clicking. 

Fast forward to 2019 and it turns out the game is coming to Switch! Which has fast become my favourite console because it is actually accessible to a Mum of two game-obsessed kids who keep stealing my Xbox One. Not only is it coming to Switch, but it's coming to Switch on my birthday! I reached out to the developer with my fingers crossed and happily received a code. 

I downloaded it immediately and in the week prior to launch (and my birthday) I put in numerous hours of burger-flipping and latte making. I work in a school and the code happily coincided with my two week Easter break so I played it A LOT. I even played it whilst I re-watched Game of Thrones from the beginning ready for the new season. I am hooked. 

I don't understand why I didn't feel so positively about the PC version of this game after playing it on my Switch for the last fortnight. In 2017 I (mistakenly) believed that the original iPad game was the best version of the game and that the sequel had not managed to come anywhere near as close. Playing it again, two years later on a console I adore has completely changed that for me. And I haven't even been using the touch screen controls that have since been added. The button controls work really well. I mean, yeah it can be stressful to try and find the right button fast - especially when you also play Xbox and the X and Y buttons are switched which leads to much confusion - but it only adds to the pleasure of the game. 

There is so much content here too. The new console releases are up-to-date with the current PC build which is fantastic. There are so many different restaurants you can work in in the tower to unlock things for inside your own restaurant that, honestly, I don't know how anyone could get bored. All of the different restaurants offer different cuisines, which in turn, offer new ways to cook. 

The game also offers a co-op mode which is perfect for the Switch. Though be warned, it could quite easily lead to domestics. I played it with my son and ended up delegating him to just the chores. I couldn't handle watching him slowly read the ingredients and take an age to press the corresponding button. Hey, nobody is perfect. I'm working on it. 

Yes you don't just get to cook gorgeous looking meals in this game. As in real life a food prep station comes with chores. Take the trash out, do the dishes and flush the loo that your customer can't quite seem to get the hang of. Typing it like that it sounds a lot like my actual life with the tiny humans I've spawned. Luckily I don't have to set many mice traps in real life though. 

I am having so much fun with this game and honestly don't see myself getting bored. At just £12.99 this game is a steal for how much content there is and I can't see how anybody at all could say they didn't have fun playing it. The Switch is the perfect home for it, but for you guys who haven't yet bought one Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 is also out on Xbox One and I'm sure it will provide just as much fun. And that version will have achievements! I'm fairly sure I'll end up double-dipping and if that's not telling you how fantastic this game is, I'm not sure what will.