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Posted:
2015-03-10

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

8.4

'Far Cry 4' on the PlayStation 4 is the next installment from Ubisoft Montreal in the storied 'Far Cry' series. This entry promises an open world full of action, improved graphics, and an almost cinematic element to its gameplay. The game came out with a ton of buzz but the question isn't about hype, it is about payoff. Does the team at Ubisoft continue to push the envelope or have they finally found themselves jumping the shark? Let's jump into the island world of 'Far Cry' and see just how well this title will pay off for its dedicated and passionate fanbase.

So what's it all about?

A good game will put you into the world of a disenfranchised hero. It is easy to root for the 'good guys', like Captain America, but it is harder for us to root for someone that doesn't fit the prototypical understanding of 'heroic'. In 'Far Cry 4' we get to follow a young man by the name of Ajaye Ghale. He is a Kyrati-American from Nepal who comes home to Kyrat in order to spread the ashes of his dead mother. Kyrat is a hyper fictionalized version of the Himalayas and it is there that most of the action takes place. On a simple trip to set his mother to rest, Ajay instead finds his home country in the midst of a deadly and disastrous civil war. The Royal Army of Kyrat takes on the helm of antagonist as they are led by an almost pirate like, insane, leader named Pagan Min. Min is set diametrically opposed to the 'rebel group' called the Golden Path. Ajay is thrown right in the middle of this war and forced to start making tough decisions almost immediately. What you do will help set the tone for how the game will unfold with every action having a huge consequence.

How does it improve upon Far Cry 3?

Director Mark Thompson loudly espoused his disappointment in how the narrative of the 'Far Cry' series clashed, initially, with the open world nature of the game. He felt that the open world aspect took away from the 'time critical' moments in the narrative and so there was always a clashing feeling. This has been corrected with the story of 'Far Cry 4'. While time is of the essence, you are never in a rush to accomplish your goals. The Civil War will continue whether you are actively fighting Min or not. And so it doesn't hurt you to take time out to explore and enjoy the scenery.

Outside of the narrative upgrade, which features a story based a ten year long insurgency in Nepal, the game itself plays a bit different geographically. While the map itself is roughly the size of 'Rook Island', it is much more mountainous and dense. There is no easy terrain to push through so you will always be trying to climb up or down, causing everything to add up on the clock. This isn't to say that the different lands are annoying. No, we found that the mountainous regions of Kyrat were an enjoyable upgrade over the tropical world of Rook Island. Fundamentally, though, they have a similar feel to one another. Lush green woods, big mountains, and bad guys with guns around every corner.

So how does it play on the PlayStation 4?

When you find yourself in the fictional world of Kyrat, you will almost immediately see that you are on your own in a world that wants to kill you. From the wildlife (Eagles?!) to the natives, everyone is out for your blood. That's the nature of life in a terrifying and violent sandbox game and it is something you'll have to live, or die, with. Fundamentally the controls of the game are similar and as easily used. You will still find your way shooting, stabbing, climbing, and grappling across the province of Kyrat. You'll do battle with enemies big and small while running into animals that are a little bit out of your league. The first time that you get killed by a giant tiger you'll laugh. The next seven times you get killed by an eagle you might instead want to throw your controller. Such is life, though.

How does it all look?

Almost every installment in the 'Far Cry' series has improved upon the one prior to it. There is no criticizing how 'Far Cry 4' looks. Upon booting up the game, and falling into the level, you will immediately find that you have something to see in every direction, for as far as your eyes can track. The deliciously sharp 1080p brings the world to life in front of you and the 30FPS mark holds up, even with the most exorbitant lighting and full screens worth of models and textures.

As you traverse the wild terrain of Kyrat you will see lush forests, climbing mountains, and prolonged expanses of desert. You'll run into beautiful giant elephants and a whole ecosystem's worth of animals. The view from your flying suit is simply admirable. It is one of the most enjoyable and most beautifully realized sandbox games in the entire genre. Many games of this style tend to repeat textures or recycle area styles. This isn't the case. With how detailed the production team got, you'd be convinced that this was a real life recreation.

It's your world, play in it.

One of the most admirable aspects to this entry into the 'Far Cry' series is that it offers you a true sandbox experience .There is no one way to accomplish much of anything. You have options and alternatives for every scenario. If you need help taking out an outpost then you can bait the place with raw meat to lure in the wild life. If you don't want to attack the base in broad daylight then go ahead and wait until the cover of night. Don't feel like being strategic? Hop on an elephant and roar your way through the outpost.

'Far Cry 4' is a complete gaming experience and it is one that PlayStation 4 gamers will want to partake in. From the beautiful graphics all the way to the compelling plot, there is something to keep you absorbed.

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Posted:
2015-10-28

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

8.5

The Talos Principle Deluxe Edition is a first-person puzzle video game which draws heavily from Greek mythology, originally created by the Croatian developer Croteam and later published by Devolver Digital. It was released on PlayStation 4 on 13 October, 2015.

Storyline

In The Talos Principle, you begin after awakening from a deep sleep and you find yourself in a strange world of ancient ruins mixed with advanced technologies, a bit of ruff with the smooth you might say. Your creator has bestowed you with the task of solving a complex series of puzzles, you must now decide whether to have faith in your creator, or to take the route and ask questions like, what is my purpose here, who or what am I, questions like this.

The game features quite an extensive array of puzzles which you will have to solve, this is largely set in an impressive non-linear world, and the storyline becomes quite thoughtful dealing with our very nature of existence. In total the game has over 120 puzzles which with a storyline which is heavily influenced by primary mixing philosophy and ancient symbols with a puzzle solving twist.

Your primary existence should be to explore the civilization, understand the story that explains humanity and how it is linked to the advanced technology, finally coming to a conclusion based on the theories and clues which have been offered to you. The choices you make within the game has certain effects and consequences and you choose your own path to follow, just remember this, someone is always watching your every move.

The Talos Principle is played from a first-person perspective, there is an option to switch to a third-person perspective, so choice has been given here which is a nice added touch I was not expecting to see.

Gameplay

You take on the role of a robot which has a human consciousness and during your puzzle solving shenanigans you will have to locate the tetromino-shaped sigils by navigating various mazes and dealing with the obstacles which are found upon them. The obstacles mentioned might be enhanced created technologies like computer controlled drones or wall mounted turrets, should a player get to close to the drones they will explode taking out the player, these like the turrets can be disabled using jammers. The wall mounted turrets in effect shoot the player should they also get to close. Should you be hit by either a turret or a drone then the game is reset and the player starts the same level from the beginning.

As you progress through the levels you will obtain these hieroglyphics known as sigils, when you complete more puzzles and collect more sigils then further puzzles will then become active to participate in. There are also various items which assist the player in reaching the location on any given puzzle, for example, boxes enable players to reach higher levels, or on the flip side block certain drones from being able to attack you. A large fan that can be used to glide the player onto other objects, platforms during the puzzles.

The player's progress through these puzzles is sometimes limited by security systems that require the collection of specific sigil pieces which you will need to obtain in order to enter. Once the sigils for a given door or security system is used, they must then use the sigils to assemble a puzzle that will unlock that security system or door. Special star sigils can also be obtained by finding a unique solution whilst solving certain types of puzzles, once these Special Star Sigils are in your possession this in turn gives the player access to additional puzzles which are unlocked as a result. The player can also explore the open non-linear environments to find the computer terminals that include further puzzles to solve and unlock, they also contain various audio recordings and hieroglyphics depicted on the walls.

The Talos Principle Deluxe Edition features the Road to Gehenna expansion pack and this consist of four new episodes that take the experienced players through some of the most difficult challenging and advanced puzzles that have even been seen. The journey to Gehenna is filled with new characters and a new society with its own history and philosophy, this is much different to the original release, giving players a whole new world to explore and more challenging puzzles to solve.

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Posted:
2015-07-21

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

7.7

'Battlefield 4' is next in the long line of successful 'Battlefield' titles to be developed and released by EA Digital Illusions CE, otherwise known simply as DICE. This latest entry finds itself launched firmly into the next generation of video game consoles. We took the time to pop the game in our PlayStation 4 in order to see if the experience it gave us was much different than that of the Xbox One. We weren't at all upset with what we found out and we quickly found ourselves completely immersed in the fast paced, violent alternate history shooter. The question isn't how much fun we had though, it is how much fun will YOU have.

So who are we and who are we killing.

You drop into the shoes of Sergent Daniel 'Reck' Recker. You are second in command of a special U.S. spec ops. squad codenamed 'Tombstone'. The campaign in 'Battlefield 4' is much different than its predecessors. Instead of globe trotting through a storyline that bounces back and forth, you tend to follow one bit of string until it reaches its natural conclusion.

So, you play as Recker and you pretty much live up to your last name. The game begins in Baku, Azerbaijan. Tombstone Squad is trying to escape the city while it still has control of some vital information. Russian special forces are hot on your tail and it doesn't look at all hopeful that you and your men will escape. The chase sequences sends your squad into a vehicle that soon ends up plunged into the sea. Your C.O., William Dunn, takes some heavy damage during the escape and he ends up trapped in the backseat of the rapidly sinking car. Dunn orders you to save yourself and leave him behind. Your squad escapes while Dunn drowns in the wreckage of your getaway vehicle.

Once you escape your squad quickly hears of tension rising between the United States, Russia, and China due to an assassination of a Chinese presidential hopeful. From the intel you manage to glean, it appears that the United States was behind the assassination. From there you end up thrown into various forms of combat all over the world. With your blood pumping and bullets flying overhead you quickly learn not to ask questions, trust anyone, or hesitate to shoot when shot at. The campaign itself runs about 7 hours long though the more completionist players will likely add an hour or two to that number as they make sure that no enemy gets away.

Let's talk a little bit about how all of the gunfire shakes out. Most levels have you enter into a broad area that seems to funnel you in one certain direction. Even though these levels look massive you are rarely ever allowed to actually explore them. Instead you feel the invisible ropes of lazy developers keeping you on track. This isn't forgivable in the age of sandbox video games, but it didn't ruin the experience for us.

From there you will get into almost countless gunfire battles with an untold amount of enemies getting thrown your way. Though we have to defend some of the tweaks that DICE threw into their game. In order to prevent a stale play through there are certain elements that spice it up. You will run into special weapon caches that give you access to any weapons that you have previously come across. That means that going back and playing through the game will be a fundamentally different experience. An alleyway firefight that you had with only your basic rifle will look much different with a gun from later in the game.

You also have a set of cool binoculars that you can use to tag your enemies with. This enemy tagging ability allows you to command your squad as they target specific individuals. This is a bit of strategy that stops 'Battlefield 4' from devolving into a mindless shoot 'em up. While we liked the ability to send our squad mates at a certain opponent, it still seemed like we were unable to shake the AI. The computer enemies seemed to be magnetized to wherever WE were, and not where the bullets were coming from.

As you play through the various disposable towns, and enemies, you will find that much of the world can be blown apart. You'll see sparks go flying from downed electric wires while glass, rubble, and so much dirt goes flying in the air after a huge explosion. Structures will crumble around you and you'll have a hard time not being completely invigorated by the spectacle. But that is what DICE does. They create spectacle and the fun doesn't stop because of it.

What we really learned to enjoy out of the 'Battlefield 4' for the PS4 was the theatrics of the entire thing. The character models are wonderfully realized by amazing voice actors. We have to give specific props to Michael K. Williams ('The Wire', 'Boardwalk Empire') for how he brought to life the character 'Irish'. Cutscenes look incredibly life like and there are moments where we can actually forget that we are playing a video game. The graphics for the PS4 version of the game can rival that of the PC at its highest settings. The smooth frame rate keeps the action going smoothly and we were enthralled by the impressive sound mixing.

Of course 'Battlefield 4' wouldn't be what it is without its multiplayer option. Once you play through the campaign you will find yourself engaging in the frustrating but enjoyable online game modes. Connecting through the PSN is a breeze but beating highly skilled teenagers is anything but.

We enjoyed 'Battlefield 4' for the way that it unabashedly fueled us with a testosterone filled romp. The storyline was intriguing enough to keep our attention and the production values of the game made us forget any of the other, smaller issues. Cool strategic tweaks like weapon caches and binoculars make this the best entry into the series yet.

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Posted:
2016-10-11

Jamie_Hall

Writer

3DS

6.8

LEGO Jurassic World comes by way of developer TT Games with a release by Warner Bros. Interactive. The LEGO series of video games has been, for years, one of the most consistently cashable franchises in all of entertainment. The teams ability to blend fun with true-to-fan adaptation means that the games are appealing to just about every demographic. Fans can play these LEGO games as adults or with their children and they make great casual entries. We picked up a copy of LEGO Jurassic World on the heels of the record breaking box office performance by the film. We found an interesting game that pushed the LEGO name in certain areas while falling woefully short in others. Here is our review for LEGO Jurassic World (cue Jurassic Park music).

So the LEGO games have always been focused on co-operative gameplay with players on the seat next to you. Mixing puzzles with platformer segments, along with a steady stream of hack and slash combat, you maneuver your way through various block based worlds. The LEGO team has divined the charm of their creation down to an easily applied skin and we’ve seen a ton of franchises get the benefit: Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Batman and now Jurassic World. The charm is here in full force and immediately we were smiling once the game loaded.

Jurassic World doesn’t just focus on giving you the experience from the newly released film as it instead opts to go all the way back to the legendary first film, and Michael Crichton novel, Jurassic Park. From there you are able to play through all three films proceeding it in order to get the full serving of Jurassic dinosaur action. This makes for a game that is deep in terms of content and wide in terms of scope with plenty to do and more to see.

If you’ve played prior LEGO titles then the typical M.O. you would expect is to start the game inside of a level hub. From there you would spread out and explore the world one level at a time, always returning to your hub in order to make character tweaks and inventory adjustments. This isn’t the case in LEGO Jurassic World. Instead the game presents itself as fairly open world in a sort of linear way. You start off the game on the iconic Isla Nublar, right off the coast of Costa Rica. From here you can work your way through the park and the rest of the island, stumbling upon different levels that you can go into. So instead of being assigned to a level hub where you are surrounded by instanced entry points, you get to feel like the whole of Isla Nublar is at your feet. This gives the game a more expansive feeling while sticking true to the core of the series.

Once you are inside of a level things will come back to their full familiarity. You pick one character out of the gigantic roster, including fan favorites Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler, and then push forward through large and unique levels that make you dive deeply into your backlog of LEGO skills. Each character has their own special ability, as is typical of LEGO games, and you can use them to their fullest extent. Alan Grant, as an example, has a Velociraptor claw that he wields in order to cut down vines or attack enemies. Ellie Sattler has the ability to dive head first into dino excrement in order to find hidden clues, not exactly an ability we’d be proud to have but it works for her.

If you have spent any measure of time playing LEGO games then you know how big of section that combat takes up in the game. Considering Jurassic World is full of man eating dinosaurs, combat would be pretty hard to have constantly. So in order to keep the game somewhat realistic to the series the amount of dinosaurs you fight are scaled back and instead you are given a new, and more exciting, gameplay element: Chase sequences. These sections of the game are pulse pounding races that have you running from dinosaurs feverishly trying to have you for dinner. You maneuver right to left in a downward facing hill while collecting the familiar studs that make up the core of the games collecting mechanic. You’ll create some new dinosaur driven memories with this mode as well as recreate some of the classic moments from the different films. It’s a great twist on the core gameplay mechanics while staying true to a series that is both fun and easy enough to acclimate to.

Another wrinkle in the series is the ability to play as dinosaurs. This refreshing change of pace pops up after you begin to unlock characters in droves. Playing as Alan Grant may get boring, playing as a Velociraptor will never get dull no matter how long you do it. And really the dinosaurs are the star of the show anyway so why shouldn’t you be able to play as one?

Bonus content runs the day once more as LEGO continues to emphasize replayabililty with their games. Collecting studs is a primary component of filling out your bonus content catalogue but there is a ton more to find. The campaign mode is pretty short so there is a ton of added content to flesh things out, as well. You can replay the different chase scenes as the dinosaurs instead. You can also engage in Free Play mode with any number of special characters and these characters give you access to new content such as the LEGO minikits which allow you to build new items.

The biggest problem that LEGO Jurassic World has is that it lacks a bonafide supporting cast of interesting characters that the other franchises had no problem filling out. The presentation is also often lacking with backgrounds mostly mundane forest backdrops as is typical of the island. Still this is a solid entry into a solid franchise and definitely worth a playthrough.

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Posted:
2015-09-03

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

6.0

Tennis in the Face comes our way via the developers at 10tons LTD. The title was created for iOS operating systems, the PS4 and PS3, as well as the PS Vita. We picked up a copy for our PS4 and decided to leap into this peculiar little game. We were initially thrown off by the admittedly odd title but we soon found that this was truly an odd game for people who like odd things, and not tennis in particular. Sure there are the Roddick like headbands and the good old tennis rackets but there is so much more going on here than meets the eye. Keep on reading to see if this title is an ace or just another whiff.

In a typical game of tennis you’ll have anywhere between 2 and 4 players on the clay at any given time. The goal is to serve the ball into the appropriate side of the court, volley back and forth, and eventually land a scoring shot. After enough scoring shots you get to call yourself a winner, shake hands, and then do it all over again. This is literally nothing like Tennis in the Face. In Tennis in the Face your goal is to cause harm and devastation to the people that 'ruined' your professional playing career. You are Peter Pagassi (Andre Agassi, anyone?) and you became addicted to the Explodz soft drink in such an extreme fashion that he was no longer able to compete. To make matters worse everyone else in the city has become addicted to the drink! So now in order to exact his revenge, Pagassi must ace his way through baddie after baddie by serving some hot shots right to their faces.

Upon booting up Tennis in the Face you will quickly see where this game draws its influences from. Despite being on the PS4 the game unabashedly pulls from the 2D mobile app market that has been blowing up for the past few years. In every way except for the literal art style the game resembles Angry Birds. Pete Pagassi starts up in one corner of the level and he stares down a map full of moving actors, explosive items, and different obstacles to make his serve as difficult as possible. Your goal is to destroy everything in front of you by using a physics system and your handy tennis balls.

So where does Tennis in the Face begin to stand on its own accord? Well, for the most part in Angry Birds you fire your shot and then sit and wait. In Tennis in the Face you can fire off multiple shots and let them all do damage at the same time. Your targets, by the way, are all pretty colorful. You’ll be fighting soda obsessed clowns, cops, hipsters, lab techs, and even PR guys for the Slurm like company. If you play long enough you’ll find yourself in a map filled with caricatures of the actual development team at 10tons. Seeing any of the aforementioned baddies go flying across the level is pretty enjoyable, especially when they ragdoll into other enemies and cause a chain reaction.

You have all of your adventures in the not so quaint town of Oddington. The art in the background looks like something out of Dexter’s Laboratory or some other '00s Cartoon Network oddity. The levels grow harder progressively as you play the game and in true mobile app style they can still be solved with a few moves. At first the different puzzles, because that’s what they are, can be deciphered at a glance. But as you go further on you start to realize that luck and intense focus begin to play bigger and bigger parts. To make things a little bit easier as you play you will get access to cans of Explodz which, if you can believe it, explode. These bombs help you to chain together more damage in levels that require absolute mayhem to be unleashed.

Oddington is split into a Metro Map that showcases 8 different districts with up to 13 levels in each district. In order to beat a level you want to use the minimum number of serves as possible, much like Angry Birds. You’ll earn points, medals, and crowns based on how well you finish the level. The more crowns you win the more things you’ll unlock later in the game. Scores are racked up and accounted toward online leaderboards, creating a competitive reason to try and be the best at any given time.

Looking at how the game plays you can pretty easily guess that this used to be a mobile title and that would be correct. In 2013, 10tons dropped the game on Android and iOS and it’s pretty clear what we have here is an upscaled version of that same experience. Walking along that same concept we can quickly come to the conclusion as to why the content seems so thin in the game. Outside of the escalating difficulty it is pretty clear that the first few levels showcase everything you are likely to get from the experience.

Still there are some positives to take out of what is a rather thin title, content wise. The game is colorfully made and each level decorated with enough chaos so that your eye is always catching on something new. We really dug the Explodz angle that the game took and appreciated all of the tennis related humor and puns. While this is not a sports title there did seem to be moments where we felt skilled for accomplishing a particularly tough shot. On the whole the experience was rather focused and that is a pretty big deal for an indie developer. A lot of times these upscaled re-releases tend to go overboard in order to try and 'sell them' in a new way. Instead, 10tons stuck with what made the original an iOS hit and for that we are thankful.

Tennis in the Face is a small title with a few hour’s worth of content, easy. Not a bad purchase but not revolutionary either. We enjoy the game as an 'on the go' title for the Vita but think you can pass on it for the PS4.

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Posted:
2016-01-04

Jamie_Hall

Writer

3DS

8.5

Luigi's Mansion 2 (also known as Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon in the USA) has finally landed on the Nintendo 3DS. This is an action-adventure video game developed by Next Level Games and published by Nintendo, this is the sequel to the 2001 video game Luigi's Mansion originally released on the Nintendo GameCube.

When a sequel to a game is released you may think that this means the original was a success and the developers will have made an even better job of the latest issue to the series. Experience from sequels to other games shows that this improvement is not always the case. There is also the situation where the initial game was indeed very good and the sequel is a bit of a let-down. Luigi’s Mansion 2, for me, is something opposite. This edition is good enough to make me want to play the original. Unfortunately, I do not own a GameCube to play it on.

Luigi, familiar to many gamers, obviously features in both games, and in Luigi's Mansion 2, again has the task of getting rid of annoying ghosts using the patent and aptly named Poltergust 5000, an improved version of the Poltergust 3000 from the original Dark Moon played on the Nintendo GameCube, a ghost hoover upper vacuum cleaner. However, this time it is not so easy, as first the ghosts need to be stunned before being sucked up, by activating a strobe function.

The game is simple in concept. In the single player mode Luigi needs to find and collect the pieces of the broken Dark Moon whose magical properties can pacify the ghosts. Ghosts of various kinds haunt various themed mansions in Evershade Vally and Luigi’s task is to beat each of them and discover hidden secrets and by doing so unlock new game areas and treasure caches. There are five mansions to visit and these mansions are split up into stages and after each stage you must return to base and start the next stage. Unfortunately, there is nothing else to explore except that which is necessary for the task in hand. There is also a co-op multiplayer mode playable either locally or using the Nintendo Network online.

The Poltergust is not limited to sucking up unfriendly ghosts. It can suck up piles of leaves to reveal hidden objects. It can tear away at wall coverings and other materials covering hidden clues, coins or treasure within the game. The enemy does not only consist of ghosts either, other enemies are afoot here. In the Scarescaper there are to be found all manner of other worldly creatures. In other modes up to four players, each with a differently coloured Luigi, can hunt in combination against Ghosts in a time limited mission. In team modes there are upgrades to be earned and a certain degree of customization as to the game's functions such as the number of floors in the towers in the timed competition and the general degree of difficulty for new and experienced players.

In more detail the plot runs as follows. Professor E. Gadd has a lab in which he observes and studies the friendly ghosts living locally. The Dark Moon is an object that hangs above Evershade Valley and is shattered into six at the beginning of the game. This, unfortunately, has the effect of rendering the friendly ghosts unfriendly. The professor engages Luigi to collect the pieces so that they can be reassembled and so return the ghosts to their previous amiable state.

There is a problem. After recovering the sixth and final Dark Moon shard Luigi meets and old adversary from the original game, King Bob. Luigi is captured and transported to a parallel dimension. It transpires that King Bob was responsible for the breaking of the Dark Moon and King Bob also shows that Mario, Luigi's brother, has been trapped in a painting by him. King Bob offers to restore Mario for the pieces of the Dark Moon so that he, Bob, can use their magical powers to capture the Mushroom Kingdom. Luigi refuses and finally battles with Bob and wins. He returns to Evershade Valley, frees Mario, and meets again with the Professor. They rebuild the Dark Moon and by doing so return the ghosts to their previous friendly behaviour and Luigi returns home.

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Posted:
2015-07-23

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Xbox One

4.1

Project Root was developed by OPQAM and Published by Reverb Triple XP, the title dropped in April of 2015 on the Xbox One and other consoles. This vertical arcade style shooter released to mostly middling reviews but the SHMUP genre is so thin on the XB1 that we almost felt obligated to give it a shot and see if there was something fun and salvageable here. So we gamely picked up a copy of Project Root on the XB1, downloaded it to our digital library, and quickly got to work. We found out quite a few things about Pablo Testa’s title, including why it should have been avoided in the first place.

The shoot em up genre used to be all of the rage back in the late 80s and early 90s. Bullet hell, as it is also called, thrived on gamers sweating the control sticks while they manipulated their tiny butt kicker in a storm of bullets and enemy fire. As games became more complicated, and the world moved away from vertical scrolling 2D, SHMUPs took an extreme back seat. Now we get the occasional retro inspired title but that seems to be about the extent of it for the time being. Enter Project Root.

Project Root combines the traditional joystick SHMUP gameplay with an open world approach to level design. This open world design, similar to flight or space simulators, allows the game to breathe and expand for the gamer to experience. In a well crafted title this is an awesome game design decision that should create some cool gameplay experiences. In a bad title this is a crutch that does nothing but exacerbate the core problems that the game experiences.

Project Root employs the traditional downward facing camera but it isn’t used as a restriction device, like in typical bullet hell games. Instead the camera moves with the player, allowing them to explore and craft their own journey through the levels in order to find the enemy targets. This works particularly well in more open ended missions but there are dreadfully few of those in Root. Instead you are typically consigned one of two tasks: Destroy all of ___ or Protect ___ for a certain amount of time. In and of itself this isn’t a big deal, that seems fairly typical of the genre, but with the other issues we run into this causes the mundane to really show itself off too much. A handful of side objectives try to give flavor to the gameplay but they are nothing more than a small diversion.

In the game the camera keeps your ship fixed to the bottom of the screen in the traditional vertical scaling SHMUP style. This makes sense because it allows you to keep an eye on your forward and side targets, not allowing them to sneak up on you. However, and this is a huge game design flaw, this is an open world experience and ships can attack you from behind. So when you are stuck at the bottom of the screen in an open world you cannot defend your backside, which causes too many cheap deaths to occur when the action gets really crazy.

Still, your ship does come armed with quite a few weapons and defensive measures. You have your standard machine gun that will basically be shooting at all times, pumping bullets into aerial enemies. You also have a land targeting mortar weapon that does damage to ground units. Along the way you will run into your fair share of power ups that increase your rate of fire, add homing missiles, give you laser blasts that are capable of clearing out the screen and more. The weapon variation and their ease of use is easily the highlight of Project Root because it is here that the game most sticks to its genre. When the action is hot and the weapons are good, titles like Project Root can find prolonged success.

However there are some issues, and the mortar comes out to be one of the bigger problems in the game. In bullet hell titles you have to be able to rain fire, avoid damage, and push on toward your objective without ever really slowing down. The mortar itself is slow, inaccurate, and lacks the range necessary for you to accomplish the prior tasks. The enemies move fast enough to dodge the mortar and the impact of your ability to combat ground troops is dramatically lessened. At the end of the day you will likely just spam your mortar attack, hoping that the AI will goof and strafe into the blast radius of the gun. We don’t like relying on luck and dumb tactics in games that should require precision and talent.

Looking past the mortar issue we can look at Project Root in the eye and identify the largest problem: difficulty. The mortar problem only represents a small sliver of how difficult, in a cheap way, that Project Root is. Even playing on the easiest difficulty will leave you feeling a little anxious with how hard the game is. There are precious few lives allocated to the player and the cheap camera angles make you lose them faster than ever. Primarily you focus on upgrading your ship in order to stay alive because there are no checkpoints and the levels are huge and long. Missions last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, causing even the most skilled pilots to end up dead more than a few times.

Technical issues are also a big issue in Project Root. You’ll notice audio issues and stuttered frame jobs whenever the action gets intense. The biggest problem we saw was that the occasional enemy will fly right through walls and attack you when they shouldn’t be able to, routinely firing through obstacles. This was the final nail in the coffin for a game that punished people for playing it.

Project Root was a fine idea but technical issues and poor game design struck it down.

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Posted:
2015-07-23

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Wii U

8.0

Super Smash Bros on the Nintendo Wii U can be seen as a fighting style platform title which was developed by Bandai Namco Games and later published online by Nintendo. The game contains over 50 playable characters from various nintendo franchises.

The Super Smash Bros franchise has been a stalwart part of any self-respecting Nintendo fan’s library since the title first released on the Nintendo 64. Since that iconic release, Smash has gotten four releases on every Nintendo console in between, with the final release being Super Smash Bros for the Wii U. Many people were hesitant when the title was first announced. If the franchise ever took a poor step it could ruin what had thus far been one of the true golden franchises in video games. So with that slight bit of trepidation in our hearts we picked up the title for the Wii U and, within moments, found ourselves fully immersed in a fighting game that had no peers. Keep on reading to find out why you should run, not walk, to your nearest gaming store in order to buy this game.

While Super Smash Bros was also developed for the 3DS, and has its own merits, we will focus entirely on the Wii U version of the game. Most of us can remember our first time picking up Super Smash Bros for the Nintendo 64. For us it was freshman year of high school. At the time the internet wasn’t as big of a deal and there weren’t previews, demos, and other sneak peaks into the game being thrown at us every couple of months. So we went into the fighting title with relatively constrained expectations. We had heard that all of our favorite Nintendo characters would appear together in a fighting game. That was it. And then we got our hands on the title and the rest is history.

Fortunately the Wii U version of Super Smash Bros completely captures the golden age nostalgia of the first title while amping up the pressure and making it a game worth buying a console for. Many people were understandably concerned that the first Wii U iteration of the title would merely be a rehash of the less than perfect Brawl entry. Users complained that the prior entry pushed competitive gamers away from the center of attention with its floatier gameplay and slower speeds. This turns out to be a non issue, but we will get to that later.

The first thing gamers will notice after they boot up Super Smash Bros is that there has been a major graphical upgrade on everything in the game. While the Wii U is far from the strongest console for gaming right now, lagging behind the traditional powerhouses, it is still substantially better than the Wii and the Gamecube - both consoles that had previously been home to a Smash Bros game. Characters are richly detailed in HD glory, levels are full of intricate new textures and details, and the very backgrounds - always so popular, seem to be actually alive in the game.

Despite this graphical overhaul the core of the game remains the same. You want to knock out as many Nintendo characters from your designated platform as quickly as possible. Preserve your life, learn combos, and whatever you do - don’t get smashed. Rack up damage to your opponent and then line up a smash hit of your own to send them flying into basically outer space. There are few game mechanics more satisfying than successfully smashing an enemy into orbit.

If you have already played the 3DS version of the game and are worried about lacking any differences, then you will be happy to know that the Wii U title has a plethora of game mode exclusives. There is the traditional campaign, multiplayer head to head, and then a few other modes as well. Themed battles add a whole new spin to the way that you fight as they add in tasks right in the middle of your battles. These themed battles keep the gameplay fresh, hectic, and push you to always learn how to do something new in the game with new characters.

For a departure from the standard gameplay elements you can go ahead and boot up the Smash Tour mode. This Wii U exclusive pulls from the hit gameplay of Mario Party. You play on a digital board game with your own Miis. There are power ups all over the board. Your job is to collect as many of those power ups during your turns. When every player has run out of turns you will all then be zapped into a battlefield and you will battle each other in traditional Smash Brothers style, only you will be armed with the power ups and lives that you collected on the game board. This changes the fundamental nature of the game in a new and fresh way and it is a whole lot less gimmicky then we were at first concerned.

One of our favorite features in Super Smash Bros is the Eight Player Smash mode. The Smash Bros games have always been predicated on insanity, confusion, and taking advantage of the melee and ruckus that is going on on screen. Now you can have twice as many playable characters on screen at once, causing the violence to sometimes overwhelm you. Thanks to the Wii U’s improved hardware you never have chugging issues either. The game looks as gorgeous with 2 players on screen as it does with all 8. These new player totals allow for some truly hectic gameplay and it gives you and your friends so much more to do.

Playing Smash Bros is as fun with your buddy on the couch as it is when you play on the internet, and that is probably one of the stronger aspects of Super Smash Bros for the Wii U. Connecting with other plays was, in general, a breeze and competition was always heated. The Nintendo community has always been a bit more mature to play with, despite being on average younger, and games never really have a mean edge to them.

At the end of the day if you are even slightly familiar with the Smash Bros name then you know that you are getting this title. We don’t blame you.

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Posted:
2015-04-29

Jamie_Hall

Writer

3DS

7.5

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is a 2015 puzzle video game for the Nintendo 3DS, and this title is the sixth game in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. It was released in March 5 2015 and published and developed by Nintendo.

Nintendo has a stranglehold on what it does with its star IPs. One of the longest running video game characters of all time is Mario and, alongside him, is old pal Donkey Kong. The two iconic characters have quite a varied history behind them as they have co-starred in numerous titles along the way. Our most recent release, based on the two Nintendo juggernauts, is 'Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Tripping Stars'. The title released for the Nintendo 3DS and the Nintendo Wii U to almost immediate critical acclaim. As unabashed Nintendo fanboys we were hard pressed on deciding which console to pick the title up for. Ultimately we chose to pick up 'Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Tripping Stars' for our 3DS in order to see how the handheld console pushed the game.

Mario has done a little bit of everything during his time as the savior of Mushroom Kingdom. He's saved Princess Peach (...more than a few times). He's gone on to star in every competitive sport available. he's been saved by Luigi. He's traveled through time. He's even gotten his own disastrous live action film. Well, now things are going to amazingly change. In 'Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Tripping Stars', the focus of the game is on Mario's little henchmen: lemming like mini-robot Marios.

A mere glance at the back cover of 'Tipping Stars' will reveal to you that this is no regular Mario game. Instead, this is a game based around small yet numerous levels, strategy, and a keen eye for puzzle solving. THe point of 'Tipping Stars' is for you to help navigate your tiny robot Marios across a a level laden with traps and puzzles. You'll command more than just Mario, though. Many of Mushroom Kingdom's finest make their appearance and are usable in the game. You will use the touch screen to edit the levels in live action in order to help your robotic buddies get to the finish line. This involves building bridges, creating elevators, adding bouncing springs, and so much more. Along the way your guys will collect coins and items in order to increase their score.

The game sounds a little bit like a modified 'Angry Birds' title. The two definitely share similarities and we can thank the Apps crowd for the innovation behind this title. With every level being bite sized, Nintendo allows users to focus on finding perfection. Sure you may beat the level on your first try but did you max out all of the collectibles? Did you beat the level as quickly as possible? with a short level you can jump back to the beginning and use any new found knowledge to your advantage.

The primary game mode has you playing through 48 levels of mini Mario insanity. These levels range from the obscenely easy, at least at the beginning of the game, all the way to the head scratching difficult. Logical players who take immediately to the style of game will be able to finish it in a day, while those of us who are prone to getting stuck and giving up will likely take a bit longer. Much like those popular App games, you are awarded different prizes for beating each level. Beat the level perfectly and you'll be marked 'Gold'. Do it OK and you'll get silver, and so on and so forth.

If you happen to own both a Nintendo 3DS and a Nintendo Wii U then your purchase will net you both copies of the game. this is Nintendo's first foray into the cross purchase platform that will likely become increasingly popular. We happened to have both consoles but we wanted to give our first run through to the 3DS.

One of the more fun parts of the game comes at the end of every World that you enter. here you'll run into the bosses of the World. These bosses are typically demonized versions of your own mini robots. They add a bunch of speed and intensity to a game that is, for the most part, pretty relaxed. This is one of the only times that the game really changes its pace and tone.

One of the coolest aspects of this game came after you were finished with the primary campaign. In the level editor you were able to put to use all of your creativity in order to create the most fun and difficult level possible. Sharing the level through Nintendo's online network was a breeze. There is a reason to do this, outside of mere creativity, as you are rewarded if you do a popular job. Other players who test your created level can 'like' it or even tip you with bonus stars. These bonus stars can be used to unlock more miniature toy soldiers or new parts of the level to use in your designs. This incentive should drive the creativity of players for quite awhile as this game will no doubt have quite a bit of longevity to it.

For fans of the Mario franchise this is a must add to the video game library. The game caters to fans of the franchise by putting in just about every major player that has come along int he past couple of decades. You'll see your favorite enemies reprise their roles as obstacles in the different levels. You'll also see many old allies end up as your little toy soldiers. The levels are designed and fit perfectly with the Mario mood that we've come to enjoy: bright colors, sharp animations, and every frame leaks all the fun that you could have.

There were very few issues to mention to potential gamers. The beginning was a little bit too simple but things quickly heated up. I guess that the story mode itself is short for those of us who want deep content, but there is still more than enough to chew on with the additional creative mode. For fans of the Mario franchise, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars on the 3DS is a worthy choice.

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Posted:
2015-07-17

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Xbox One

7.1

EA Sports UFC on the Xbox One is the next in line of what EA Canada hopes to be a long lived, beloved fighting franchise. The developers over at EA have been trying to get their fighting game into the limelight as much as possible, especially with the rising popularity of E-Sports. We decided to pick up the game for the Xbox One and give it a go. We are only mild followers of the actual sport on television so we can't speak to the accuracies of the big fighters, but what we can do is assess the game for how much fun we had while it was with us. It turns out that EA Sports UFC is one of the most fun games on the Xbox One right now, thanks to its competitive and strategic fighting gameplay. Let's dive into the review.

The road to EA Sports UFC wasn't always a smooth one. Back in 2008 Dana White, the president of the UFC, had approached Electronic Arts to see if they would be interested in developing a video game based off of his league. From the reports that White let leak, the meeting did not go very well. EA essentially told Dana White that they didn't think UFC had a place in the video game world and that they didn't think it was much of a sport. So Dana White decided to go to THQ and there we saw UFC 2009 Undisputed release to critical acclaim. By 2012 EA was firmly in the camp of wanting a UFC franchise and so they purchased the rights from THQ for an undisclosed amount of cash. Dana White wasn't happy about any of this as he made his disdain for EA VERY clear. Still, we have to think he'll be smiling now.

UFC, for those who don't know, is a competitive mixed martial arts fighting league. Taking all different sorts of fighting techniques into account, the UFC allows fighters to showcase their skills against hand selected opponents in a giant octagon cage. The sport is definitely a 'blood sport' and it is revered and reviled for its violence. Most fights end in a knock out, broken bone, or choke out. Certain audiences can't stand to watch the violence while others lap it all up. For us, we think playing it on our home television is good enough.

Looking back at the old THQ UFC releases we always had the feeling, after playing them, that they were more of a button mashing event than anything else. And that struck us as completely wrong. Even though the UFC is a violent league, the matches are comprised of fighters who are beyond skilled with their abilities. Every move is carefully studied, calculated, and executed because if you lack perfection then you aren't going to last long. So why did all of our fights resort to button mashing while trying to score a knock out? The old titles ignored the capable ground game and nothing ever felt truly intuitive. That is the first place that EA Sports UFC showed us an evolution.

While EA Sports UFC isn't a completely intuitive game, you'll have to spend time learning the ropes, it handles in a way that rewards users for taking their time. Of course you can go into a fight and just slam away at the A and B button. Sometimes you might even be able to brute your way to a win. But if you play an opponent who has studied the ground game, rehearsed the combos, and learned how to grapple then you will probably lose in pretty sad fashion. Just like the actual UFC.

Once you pop the game into your disc drive and install it you will be sent to a big tutorial. This tutorial will teach you the basics of the game while 'training you' for your new career as a UFC fighter. As you go through these tutorials you will unlock points that you can spend later in the game on your fighter in order to level him up and make him even tougher. Also, these tutorials give you a good enough grasp on how the game works that you will be comfortable enough to jump into a match pretty much right away, even online against battle ready opponents.

As is the trend with most sport games nowadays, EA Sports UFC offers users the ability to create their own fighter and push him through a long and hopefully succesful career. You get to create your fighter from the ground up and design him in a way that adheres to the kind of fighting you want to be doing. If you want to be one of those knock out kings than weight your guy up and put an emphasis into that category. If you want to be tapping people out all over the mat, then focus on that.

Once you are created and in the UFC circuit you can compete for a contract to join the UFC. You will do this by playing through 'The Ultimate Fighter'. From there you will be assigned a weight class and pushed off into the world of brutal beatdowns and championship glory. In between matches you will have comprehensive training segments that help you beef your character up while keeping your skills sharp. Over time your fighter will collect damage and that damage will start to wear down on their body, just like in real life. The end game for career mode is a nice retirement with a great record in your back pocket. Once you are done playing in the career mode you can take your skills online to play human opponents.

While not being huge fans of the actual UFC we still found ourselves immersed into the game. The presentation is gorgeous, the graphics are wonderful, and the fighting itself is addictive once you find your way around the mat. We definitely suggest this game to anyone looking for a fighter to add to their collection.


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