Category Archives: 3. Reviews

Not sure whether a game or trinket is worth the cash? Then check out the review section; new, old or obscure there is a chance we have had an opinion on it that may help you decide whether or not it is for you.

Review: Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

Call of Duty Modern Warfare completely redefined the wartime fps. Gamers seeking an orgy of death, mud, blood and bullets were usually catapulted backwards in time to fight as the allies in the second world war because developers were too afraid to put anything in front of your cross hairs other than an Alien, a Demon or a Nazi.

So when Infinity Ward set their bombastic war franchise Call of Duty in the modern day whilst dressing up Hollywood effects as gritty realism, it was like the rules for the fps genre had been completely re-written.

One of the most revered levels of Modern Warfare was All Ghillied Up, this was to be the obligatory stealth level. Just like every single platformer seems to be required to squeeze in an underwater level. With FPS titles developers seem insistent on behaving like angry librarians and ‘shushing’ us for an entire level. Forcing us to undertake laborious tasks as opposed to blowing things up and causing carnage, which we all know are the best bits of games.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

‘All Ghillied Up’ was different though, Infinity Ward took away the thinking by giving us a commanding officer to follow. We basically just had to do what the angry soldier told us to and feel like real spec ops officers crawling under lorries, and knifing enemies whose only crime was to have a cheeky cigarette.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

Without being forced to look at a radar to check we weren’t encroaching the enemy’s field of vision, or grip the crouch key slowly moving up stairs at a pace that would make a Stenna stair lift look like Concord, players were taken over by a level of tension seldom seen in games. Although Infinity Ward walks players through the level holding them by the hand, it’s a pretty impressive level that drips tension like an M60 spits bullets.

It is abundantly clear that All Ghillied Up had a huge effect on CI games because the Sniper: Ghost Warrior franchise seems to be built entirely around the concept of creating a tense, realistic thrill ride snipe ‘em up.

It is funny how things have changed, I remember when Sniping and Camping were the bane of the online community and how teenage virgins would curse the Sniping Camper for their misfortunes before threatening to locate the Sniper’s home via IP address and do horrible things to their mother.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

CI games have cemented what they learnt from their first foray into the sniping action genre when they created the amusing but average game Sniper: Ghost Warrior, and made the just as amusing, yet equally forgettable Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2.

The story is the same sort of nonsense you’d get from one of those action films with a gurning pensioner on the poster. Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Sylvester Stallone have been duped by their best friend who they shared an illustrious career with and now (enter inferiority complex creating Adonis of your choice here,) wants revenge.

While I type this I can’t help but feel like I am being a tad condescending towards SGW2. Action films are perfect escapism, and some are worth watching for the special effects alone. As Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 uses the CryENGINE 3, the same graphical powerhouse used for Nomad’s adventures in Crysis 3, Ghost Warrior 2 looks absolutely stunning.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

CI games have also done a pretty good job in pacing the action of SGW2 and play never feels formulaic, despite most levels following the same, sneak in, get the perfect spot, shoot a bunch of guys when the shit hits the fan pattern. There are certainly some brilliant moments and watching the bullet cam after setting up the perfect shot and seeing the bullet fly a mile in a matter of moments before embedding itself in a shower of ‘realistic gore,’ is disturbingly satisfying.

However, Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 is over incredibly quickly, our Steam account measured a little over 4 hours of play before reaching the end of the game. And that was with a fair amount of tea making. This was probably the major factor in SGW2 not feeling repetitive.

The story whilst not being very original, had managed to take a leaf out of CoD’s book and set itself over a period of time and places, as a result each section of the game had its own distinct, if not slightly clichéd feel. This helped give the game a greater feeling of variation.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2

What CI games seem to promise from their sales bumph on the steam page is that Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 is a sniping simulation that has taken the best elements from Battlefield and Call of Duty and created a thoughtful shooter heavily based in realism.

What they have actually done is made a shallow thrill ride of a title that looks better than most military shooters, but is ultimately forgettable due to the shallow gameplay, and short play time. If you are a PC FPS fan looking for the next ARMA 3 or just have a masochistic love of simulators, then Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 is not for you. Still, if you have fond memories of Crawling around with Captain Price in the undergrowth then I would recommend adding this to your Steam wish list, if it comes up in a sale for £3.99 its worth all 300 and 99 of those pennies.

6/10

System: PC (AMD 8320 CPU, AMD ATI 7970 GPU, 8GB RAM)

Bought From: Steam £3.99

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Review: Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

Lara Croft  was once  at the pinnacle of her genre. She is probably still the most recognisable female character in videogames today but in terms of explorers she has been rather left behind.

Crystal Dynamics’ life has been made rather difficult by Naughty Dog. Many years ago Lara and Crash Bandicoot stood side by side, almost like a pair of unofficial mascots for the PSOne. Nowadays though, Lara is available on every system under the sun and Naughty Dog have sent Crash on to find a new home. Instead, they are working with Nathan Drake and he is desperate for Lara’s crown.

The Uncharted series provide the kind of exciting thrill ride that is usually reserved for the cinema. Bombastic and excitable plots are propelled forward with action style gameplay, adrenaline inducing set pieces and the kind of graphics that are usually the reserve for high powered PC’s.

So, with the latest reboot to the Tomb Raider franchise, Crystal Dynamics  had their work set out for them and as a result they decided that they were going to send Lara into a grittier world. A dirty world where she would have to hunt animals in the wild with a bow and arrow, face a tribe of cannibalistic lunatics and deal with the most realistic weather effects ever conjured up by GPU’s.

Tomb Raider

Crystal Dynamics seemed to have cottoned onto the fact that while a attractive young woman running around with two guns raiding tombs was a lot of fun in the nineties, gamers want characters to have four dimensions these days, not just three. Gamers want to be able to relate to their character or at least empathise with them in some way. So, Crystal Dynamics seemed to have taken a note out of the ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’ book and decided to make everything as miserable as possible for poor old Lara. Everyone knows, the more gritty and miserable something is, the more believable it is.

Obviously we don’t believe that there is a tribe of immortal Japanese warriors waiting on an island for their god queen to return. But, as gamers we are more readily willing to suspend our disbelief if a story and character has been cemented upon a foundation of some believability. Within the first hour or so of the game, Crystal Dynamics creates this foundation by forcing Lara to survive a horrific series of events including crawling through a pile of savaged bodies, and trying to escape an attacker with horrifying sexual undertones.

Tomb Raider

These events set Lara up to look like she is more fallible, no longer is she the gun toting super woman, bouncing around with duel pistols. She is a cold, frightened young adult armed with just a bow and arrow. She is less Bayonetta and more Clementine. We can’t help but get the feeling that Crystal Dynamics got fed up with creating games where most gamers wanted to date their antagonist. So they made one where even the most sexist pre pubescent oink could feel sympathy for their leading lady and look after her. Looking up walkthrough guides for levels, so that they could guide her to the end of sections unscathed as opposed to scouring the internet for the nudity cheat.

It was sad that prior to the game’s release the angry mob got wind  of a possible rape scene. It’s depressing that videogames are not given the same freedom of exploration of themes that other mediums are. Granted, historical title’s like Custer’s Revenge are an abhorent reminder of some of the trash that crawled out of the early primordial soup of  game creation. But that doesn’t mean that more modern games shouldn’t be able to broach more adult areas. In Tomb Raider, playing as a character trapped in a menacing environment does a great deal to make the player feel like the victim, sex attacks are by no means glorified in Tomb Raider. Maybe one or two gamers should be made to play Tomb Raider and be made to feel like a victim for once. Then they would be able to understand that rape isn’t the kind of thing you threaten over your Xbox microphone or on a YouTube video. On a side note, it was quite surprising that when Ellie faced a similar threat towards the end of The Last Of Us, no one even battered an eye lid. Even though Ellie was just a teenager.

The story of Tomb Raider is a reasonable affair, Lara and some friends on a university expedition are seeking ancient artefacts, when they stray to close to an old island and find themselves  ship wrecked. Unfortunately, it turns out  the island is guarded by a supernatural deity that refuses to allow anyone to leave.

Tomb Raider

At first, Lara must  evade the locals, assuming they are a bunch of survivors who slowly lost their minds to the superstitious relics on the island. It’s not long though before Lara discovers that their is method to their madness and their are supernatural forces at work on the island.

Core Design missed the opportunity to spring the supernatural elements on us in the same way that Naughty Dog did with the first Uncharted. Turning the first game into a terrifying survival horror in the final quarter was a masterstroke and gave the game more of an Indiana Jones feel.

Tomb Raider does offer a lot more in the way of exploration than Uncharted does, but then again I’m not sure how great that is. Uncharted is a streamlined experience allowing players to progress forwards through levels with little in the way of back tracking. This helps  emphasize the game’s cinematic qualities. How often do you watch films where the lead character wanders around for twenty minutes trying to locate a key or figure out a particular jump. Tomb Raider loses this due to the level of exploration and the puzzles. This isn’t so much a negative, some people like to have lots of collectibles that will cause them to revisit the game time after time. Personally, I just prefer the seamless experience of Uncharted.

Tomb Raider

The combat and weapons in Tomb Raider have all been greatly improved. When you do endeavour to go off the beaten track and search for items, you can find salvage which can be used to upgrade  weapons with fun extra’s such as Rambo style fire arrows. The campsites are a particularly handy gameplay addition, as not only do they offer a chance to level up and save your game but once a Camp Site has been located, Lara can fast travel from one campsite to the other. This helps to alleviate some of the boredom from backtracking in the search for elusive items and extra salvage.

Tomb Raider is an excellent platforming adventure title, and even though it doesn’t quite manage to usurp Uncharted, Core Design have built an incredibly strong foundation from which they can continue the Tomb Raider series. The sheer fact that Lara has been going for so long, and is still regarded as gaming’s number one heroine is testament to her appeal. What Lara achieved is something a lot more impressive than what Nathan Drake has achieved so far. Who knows if over time Nathan will still be bounding around with Sully and Co. in the same way that Lara has found herself.

8/10

System: PC (AMD 8320 CPU, AMD ATI 7970 GPU, 8GB RAM)

Bought From: Free with GPU

Review: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is a title I have wanted to play since its initial release as an Xbox exclusive in 2005. Unfortunately, it came out in the same year as FEAR, Call of Duty 2 and Quake 4, so my first person shooter thirsts were more than adequately quenched by a sea of future classics.

I then meant to download it on Steam for PC, but it always seemed to be 
in the sales at the wrong time, lost amidst a digital dump of downloadable 
treasures. Then I noticed it on the Playstation Store. “Wow”, I thought. “I could play it on my PS3 and enjoy it as it was originally intended on a console”. But, getting off of the sofa, locating my credit card and engaging in a long
drawn out purchasing process without a keyboard and mouse seemed to be precisely the kind of hassle I intend to avoid when vegging out on the sofa 
like a rotting corpse.

Then I saw that it was available for PSVita, so when I was given 
some Playstation Store vouchers as a gift It seemed like the fates had aligned and I went ahead and purchased Stranger’s Wrath. Frustratingly, I wish I had bought it 9 years ago.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath on the PSVita feels like a vintage wine that has aged past it’s best, and instead of enjoying it at it’s flavourful peak, it must be used as a vinegary dressing for a salad. Time and the porting process have not been kind. Graphically it is OK, although the Vita’s incredible OLED screen does highlight a few jagged areas and muddy textures.

For those not familiar with the game, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is the 
fourth title released in the Oddworld Universe. It follows the exploits 
of a bounty hunter called Stranger as he journeys through Oddworld trying to 
earn enough money to fund an apparently life saving operation. Now I 
must warn you that this review will contain spoilers, because it is impossible to give a reasonable critique without revealing a few plot elements. (Even then it’s impossible for me to offer a reasonable critique if we are painfully honest). So if you already have your mind made up and you are going to play this game or are already half way through maybe look away now, as I don’t want to ruin 
some of the game’s remaining impact.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

There are gameplay techniques from wide ranging genres such as stealth 
titles, platformers and first person shooters. The action elements start off as great fun and the game’s weapons are ingenious. Stranger is armed with a crossbow that he can arm with a variety of critters, all with their own
unique effects. These range from fast firing hornets, exploding bats, 
electrified bugs and gaseous skunks.

Stranger, in typical bounty hunter fashion, must capture different criminals in a bid to gain more ‘Moolah,’ (the games equivalent to cash if you hadn’t 
figured out the subtle naming.) Players receive more money for capturing outlaws alive so some of the Critters will only incapacitate targets as opposed to rendering them inert with a violent explosive death. This is a nice way of rewarding players for skillful play and will cajole a few into playing through levels in a stealth like
fashion. Unfortunately, the rewards aren’t really big enough, and 
the gameplay isn’t as addictive as titles like Hitman where it’s possible to get 
sucked into replaying the same level in five different ways in an effort to achieve the best rating. It is possible to set traps for AI enemies by luring them under cranes before dropping huge shipping containers onto their heads, however these traps soon lose their appeal. Partly because it feels so staged and partly because the Critter that is used to entice enemies over to certain areas is so annoying, it’s a lot easier and just as much fun to run in, Boombat’s blazing.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

About two thirds of the way through the game we learn that Stranger isn’t actually the species that he claimed to be and is actually a Steef. Steef have been hunted pretty much to extinction because the evil villain Sekto offers a small fortune for their heads. This means that Stranger is forced to team up with an indigenous tribe called the Grubbs who have been displaced by Sekto to bottle their water supply and sell it as expensive mineral water. At this stage in the game Stranger no longer needs to capture criminals for cash, instead any enemy that he captures is used as ‘Critter food’, essentially allowing the Critters to breed and give players more ammunition. Upgrades are also handed out at the end of each section by the Grubbs as a way of thanking the Stranger for his effort. As a result, exploration becomes completely unrewarded with little point as there is nothing to spend cash on and the Critters continuously copulate providing an endless ammunition supply.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

If Stranger’s Wrath was a film it would be a mixture of Chicken Run, 
Serenity, Avatar and The Last of the Mohicans. While this description of the plot might seem faintly damning, the plot itself is actually the best part of the game, despite the negative impact it has on the gameplay. The overall themes of Industrilisation, Anti-Capitalism and Socialism that are present in all other Oddworld titles are all present here and despite there being a lack of Abe it’s obvious what universe Stranger’s Wrath takes place within. The humour at times does wear itself a little thin, especially when the sound-bites of The Chicken’s and the Grubb’s are concerned. After hearing the same phrase bleated out in the same annoying voice for the fifteenth time, you may find yourself searching for the nearest cushioned implement to stuff your ears.

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

The confused identity of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is amplified in the PSVita version through the controls. At times, the touch screen controls are well implemented. To switch from 3rd person to 1st person perspective all you need do is double tap the touch screen. This makes engaging in combat after a platforming section feel seamless. However, there are other times when it seems like the developer just forgot about the touch screen altogether. The menu screens in the stores for instance are impossible to properly navigate and it doesn’t seem like you are actually able to scroll down through all of the items on the list.

Age has not been kind to Strangers Wrath;  gameplay features that were new and daring at the time of it’s initial release seem diluted and rather than being a game with plenty of well implemented and established ideas, there is just a sense of confusion. There still isn’t really a game like it that I can think of and had I played Stranger’s Wrath back in 2005, it may have felt like a more complete package,

Oddworld Strangers Wrath

Wrath is by no means a bad game and I wouldn’t want to dissuade anyone from playing it, but if you are going to, please do so after getting in a time machine and taking a trip back to 2005. If this isn’t possible (and I have a feeling it isn’t, I’ve probably just been watching too much Dr. Who again and not taken my medication). Then pick up a copy for the Xbox, it’s cheaper on eBay than on the Playstation Store and you will end up with a nice box to clutter your shelf with. If you are really lucky, it will have come from a smoke free environment and won’t make your lounge smell like an old video rental store.

Score: 5/10

PSVita

Bought From:  Playstation Store

Review: Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite

The first Bioshock was probably one of the finest first person shooters of all time.

On it’s surface, it’s a pretty basic corridor shooter set in the decaying post revolution under water world of Rapture. If you dive a little deeper though the action mechanic of the game becomes a lot more complex. Along with the usual line up of weapons, players could equip their character with Plasmids, a sort of steam punk science fiction equivalent to magic that allows players a wide range of powers including the ability to fire lightning bolts from your hands. It seems in Rapture all residents needed to do if they fancied having super powers was visit their local apothecary for a tonic and they were able to spit Bees out of their fists like McCauley Culkin’s worse nightmare.

Plasmids made combat within the game incredibly varied so Bioshock became an instant favourite amongst many gamers. There were a few who felt that the limited amount of exploration detracted from the experience and as a result Irrational provided just a Polaroid of Bioshock’s game world Rapture.

Irrational didn’t seem to be content with providing just a snapshot, and Ken Levine felt that he and his team could do better.  So he set about creating Bioshock Infinite. For the third game in the franchise (Irrational didn’t work on Bioshock 2, instead developer duties for that fell to 2K Marin who did a worthy job), players wouldn’t be returning to the world of Rapture, instead Levine decided to base Infinite in the same location as his aspirations and that was in the clouds.

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite is based in Columbia, a floating city built by a self-proclaimed prophet called Comstock. The flying paradise was created as a way of extolling the virtues and beliefs of the American people upon the world. Unfortunately, the Utopia is far from perfect and elitism and racism are rife amongst the population of Columbia. Just as Rapture fell to the greed and flawed ideals of a genius madman, Columbia also falls into a civil war.

In the first Bioshock when players arrived at Rapture the city had already been destroyed. Artefacts had been left around the city such as voice recordings and museums that players could see and listen to in order to gain a sense of what a great place it could have been. This made the whole locale even more realistic, and even spookier. Like a ghost town.

In Bioshock Infinite players are placed into the role of ex pinkerton Booker De-Witt who is tasked with going to Columbia and retrieving a young girl called Elizabeth. The game opens in a very similar way with players being rowed out to a lighthouse in order to travel to their destination. Where the games differ though is that when players arrive in Columbia, the city is yet to crumble into disarray. Players arrive just in time to see the powder keg of oppressed layers of society explode tearing the city from the sky.

Bioshock Infinite

Unfortunately this removes some of the magic from the location. In our opinion setting the game out in the open in the clouds was also something of a mistake. The lofty, huge open skies of Columbia lacks the terrifying claustrophobic atmosphere of Rapture.

One of Levine’s aim with Infinite was to open levels up more and allow for more exploration. He has been successful in doing this but there still isn’t the level of exploration that you would find with more RPG focused titles such as Skyrim.

Booker also has the skyhook added to his armoury. This can be used to bludgeon enemies to death in a particularly brutal display, or it can be used to traverse the many Sky rails In the game. Sky rails are littered around levels to help move cargo from place to place, however when Booker takes advantage of them he can quickly whisk around helping to alleviate some of the boredom from back tracking through levels. The Sky rails also help to speed up combat and give it an additional layer of strategy.

Bioshock Infinite

Its not just Booker’s new abilities spicing up the combat either. Elizabeth, the reason why Booker finds himself in Columbia, has the ability to open what the game refers to as ‘tears’. These are weak spots in the fabric of reality that allow Elizabeth to bring through items from other dimensions.

In a combat situation players may find themselves pinned down, however there may be several tears around that Elizabeth can utilise.  One may bring in extra cover for Booker to hide behind, a cache of powerful weapons that could be used to bombard enemies with or it could be a security bot which will ally with Booker and deal death on his foes from above.

As a result Levin and his team at Irrational really have blown open the world of Columbia and made combat a lot more interesting. There are still the weird psychokinetic powers that Booker can attain and level up during his travels. However these are no longer the gene splicing plasmids of old. In Infinite, these powers are called Vigours.

Infinite’s plot is also just as strong as the first Bioshock. At the outset, it does appear like the story is a bit of a rambling existential postmodern mess. As the game progresses though, it becomes very clear that Levine and his team know exactly where the plot is going and are experimenting with videogame narrative in a way few other developers have. Without wanting to give too much away, there was a show down with a spirit in a graveyard that was both terrifying and heart rendering in equal measure.

Even with the strong plot, improved combat and increased exploration, Infinite didn’t feel as strong as the original. It wasn’t because we felt jaded with the series, which is often a problem that the third title in a series will find. There were more than enough new ideas and fresh spins for Infinite to feel more like a cousin than a brother to the original Bioshock. Perhaps, the problem was that while each new addition to Infinite was a positive one, there were maybe too many.

Bioshock Infinite

What made Bioshock such a unique experience was the setting. With a terrifying world acting as the stage to the compelling and twisty narrative, the linear progression within levels wasn’t truly apparent. The moral choices that players were forced to make when dealing with the fate of the Little Sisters was also fantastic. Would you free the little girls from their slavery from collecting ADAM or would you kill them for their ADAM thus allowing you to level up your abilities quicker.

As such, it feels like Irrational have over egged their pudding with Infinite. And whilst there have been so many technical improvements, a little of the original title’s soul is missing.

Allowing player’s to use their imagination and wonder what Rapture would have been like before it had been destroyed was fantastic, and its not often that games actually allow players to engage their imagination. The original Star Wars trilogy was brilliant because it hinted to a civil war that viewers had to imagine and the aesthetics of the space ships and technology gave the film the look of a ‘used universe.’ The ridiculous story about a young boy joining a cult and following a weird hermit into space whilst falling in love with his sister was so much easier to believe when it was set against the backdrop of a huge space opera. The newer films, whilst they had improved visuals, were no longer grounded by any folklore and what was considered myth previously was made cold scientific fact. The magic had been removed.

Now, I’m not saying that Bioshock Infinite is as bad as the latest Star Wars films. However, by allowing players to see the decline of the Columbia and allowing for greater exploration, a little of the ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ has been removed in a bid to placate critics.

Bioshock Infinite

That’s not to say it’s a bad game. It is a thoroughly enjoyable title and one that, if you have not yet had the opportunity to play, you definitely should do so. The biggest benefit of the new locale in the series is that you won’t feel like you are missing out on anything by jumping straight in and playing the third game.

Score: 7/10

System: PC (AMD 8320 CPU, AMD ATI 7970 GPU, 8GB RAM)

Bought from: Steam Download

Review: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze

And so Nintendo welcomes Donkey Kong onto the Wii U with his first brand new adventure in four years.  Now, we feel very sorry for poor old DK as he must have a massive amount of pressure on his shoulders. Donkey not only has to look after Diddy and Dixie making sure they go to school and get a good education, but he must also look after elderly Gorilla Cranky, because there isn’t a nursing home under the sun that treats their residents like anything more than creatures in a zoo.

Along with his family, Donkey Kong also has to deal with some overweight Walrus and Penguin type creatures calling themselves the Snowmads who have decided to evict DK from his Island. Just when you think poor old DK should have had enough, he’s also got Nintendo on the phone. There aren’t many Wii U releases over the next couple of months so this one better be pretty damned good.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

As killer apps go, those Nintendo fans expecting Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze to come along and save their system are massively misguided. If Mario couldn’t achieve system saving sales success, then what kind of hope does Donkey Kong have? After all, Donkey Kong Country is a series that traditionally is a lot harder and less accessible to gamers than Mario is.

Donkey Kong Country is also a 2D scrolling platformer that doesn’t have the technical wizardry that Super Mario 3D World has. To the average Joe on the street DK is less superior than his plumbing counterpart.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

This is a shame because Tropical Freeze is a rich, colourful platformer. Retro Studios don’t explore the huge amount of variations on the platforming theme that Nintendo did with the latest Super Mario 3D World. There are still an extensive amount of ideas within Tropical Freeze though, that will keep players excited to unlock new stages and progress. The visuals are also stunning. Even though silhouetted levels are becoming something of a cliché nowadays, in Tropical Freeze, the hidden shadow stages are absolutely beautiful.

The massive variations between the different Islands also help to keep the aesthetics fresh and again, will propel you forward wanting to see everything right up until the final massive Walrus Viking Snowmad boss at the end. There are theatrical Lion King esque Saharan levels, Alpine levels with giant horn parping owls, and levels with bouncing jelly blocks that look so real you will shudder at the thought of poor old DK having to deal with his sticky fur.

Donkey kong Country: Tropical Freeze-18_PR_11

Our biggest complaint against DK isn’t towards the starring Gorilla, it’s more about the supporting Kongs. Donkey is joined by Dixie, Diddy and Cranky and players are able to choose which one of these characters they want to team up with after locating barrels hidden around the different stages. By allowing another character to ride on Donkey Kong’s back and treat him like a pony at the seaside, not only does DK get an additional two hearts on his health metre but he also benefits by gaining additional abilities. Diddy Kong can hover when jumping for slightly longer by using Diddy’s jetpacks. Dixie propels Donkey further by allowing her pigtails to transform her into a Chinook, or should we say a Chimp-nook. Cranky is able to bounce on his walking stick, sending Donkey Kong slightly higher, but also allowing you to traverse spiky ground. The problem is, Dixie’s abilities far surpass those of all of the other primates. Her skill to float like a helicopter effectively means she can do pretty much what Diddy and Cranky can do but slightly better. Therefore, the majority of the time, payers will find themselves picking Dixie Kong every time; apart from those very few moments where Cranky’s ability to navigate thorny ground is required. Character selection could have been refined a tad by Retro but, it’s hard to make too much of a fuss about this as it doesn’t really detract too much from Tropical Freeze. Should they get a chance to work on a third title, then its something Retro can definitely improve and build upon. Here’s hoping they don’t get the chance though and their next title will be a Metroid one. Well, we can dream can’t we?

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

As to be expected with the Country series, Tropical Freeze is a very difficult game. However, the difficulty curve is so well judged you won’t feel like you’ve been cheated when you die. It might almost be said that Tropical Freeze is a game of polar opposites. There are levels that allow players to wander around rich and fertile jungles, exploring at will and looking for secret barrels and exits that will take them off to new areas. As there is no clock counting down a la Mario, you are afforded a more leisurely stroll when investigating the nooks and crannies of some levels. There are times though, when you will be catapulted down a mountain in an avalanche or on top of a rhino dashing away from a wave of lava.  When these moments occur, you will find yourself huffing and puffing like a Penguin getting into a hot bath because the game requires jet speed reflexes and laser guided precision.

If you are reading this and thinking, “Hmmm that’s nonsense I thought the latest Donkey Kong was a bit of a doodle”. Then you are either lying or have the kind of abilities that the Ministry of Defence want to take advantage of in their jet fighters.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze doesn’t try to re-invent the platforming genre. It doesn’t even take full advantage of the Wii U’s hardware. If you are using the TV to display the picture then the image on the pad is de-activated and Visa versa, when using the pad to display gameplay. At least you get a choice of which screen you want to play on, how many other consoles give you that?

And thankfully Retro haven’t shoe horned in some touch screen mechanics just for the sake of it, like so many other developers would have been tempted to. As a result Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is a well-refined 2D platformer. If you like hard-core old school gameplay then there are few titles available that come anywhere near as strong as this one.

Score: 8/10

System:  Wii U

Bought From: HMVDonkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Review: Luigi’s Mansion 2

Luigis Mansion 2

It must be hard living in the shadow of your older brother, especially if he’s shorter than you, you’ll probably end up with a bad back.

Aching spine aside its hard to feel too sorry for Luigi. Yeah sure he’s usually the support character but Nintendo have been celebrating the year of Luigi well out of 2013 and will continue to do so until the end of March this year.

Luigi also got to star in what is probably one of the strongest titles available for the 3DS. And while he only ended up with an ectoplasm saliva snog from a ghost dog as opposed to a dainty kiss from a Princess. Luigi was still saving not only the day, but his brother Mario as well.

Luigi's Mansion 2

The missions are perfectly sized, yeah remakes like Ocarina of Time are all well and good for the 3DS as you can impress friends with your palm powerhouse in a bid to alleviate the small todger syndrome that’s constantly nagging at the back of most hand held gamers minds. But, in all honesty, who actually wants to sit at home on a hand held when there is usually a console to provide a more impressive experience.

Luigi’s Mansion 2’s bite sized levels make it possible to play on the bus. One of my favourite things about the original on the Gamecube was the massive mansion and constantly uncovering new rooms within the same huge play area. This kind of level layout wouldn’t have worked on the 3DS and thankfully Next Level Games realised this. Rather than shoe horn home console level design into a hand held title, Next Level created lots of different smaller mansions providing a more accessible and arguably improved and more varied experience.

Towards the end of the game I was beginning to feel that objectives were beginning to get a bit more formulaic and a bit over familiar. However the boss battles and well judged increasing difficulty curve were enough to keep me interested.

Luigi's Mansion 2

The main criticism that we have towards the game isn’t so much a criticism of Luigi’s Mansion 2 but more of the 3DS itself. The controls are slightly irksome and highlight how much better the system would have been if it were born with a second analogue stick. When facing ghosts with your flashlight charged it is impossible to turn, so if a pesky ghost quickly goes past you find yourself furiously trying to strafe in a circle like a crab with an inner ear infection.

Where the game really comes into its own though is through the characterisation of Luigi himself. The animations during gameplay and the cut scenes build a more likeable, realistic and loveable character than Disney have managed in ages. In fact I would go as far to say, that with his limited dialogue Level 5 have created the most endearing computer animated character since Pixar’s Wall-E.

Luigi's mansion 2

Once you have finished the game if you are hankering after some more Mansion action, then there are plenty of collectible gems hidden away in secret coves that will have you hoovering  like a granny who’s taken the wrong dosage of her painkillers.

There are also plenty of bonus levels to be unlocked by hunting down and sucking up all of the troublesome Boos. The multiplayer is also a noble attempt, being able to partner up online with other players to suck up ghosts is interesting but not half as much fun as running around trying to get more points than the other players and grabbing the treasure before they can.

If you are looking for a charming, easily accessible title for the 3DS then we really recommend you take a look at Luigi’s Mansion 2 on the 3DS, trust us you will have a spiritual experience.

Score: 8/10

System: Nintendo 3DS

Bought From: HMV

Review: Steel Diver, Sub Wars

The Nintendo Direct announcement caused quite a stir last night amongst the Nintendo faithful. “What’s a Titanfall Beta?” Nintendo fans asked as they gathered around 3DS screens eager to hear Iwata’s hallowed words.

Nintendo Direct

There certainly was a lot for Nintendo fans to be happy about. Hot on the heels of the new Sonic exclusives announced last week, Capcom also stated that Monster Hunter 4U would be coming to 3DS in Europe and a new trailer for Bayonetta 2 was shown in all of its eye melting beauty.

Nintendo paraded their own wares as well. Bowsers Minions are to be playable characters in Mario Kart 8 and Little Mac was added to the roster in upcoming Super Smash Bros.

To be honest though, the thing that I found most exciting about last nights announcement was Steel Diver: Sub Wars. Iwata didn’t do a terribly good job in selling it though, claiming that it was “contemplative” slow paced tactical FPS.

Steel Diver Sub Wars

My favourite FPS’s and the ones I always flock to are those that are fast paced, with big explosions, colourful graphics a multitude of ridiculous weapons with names like BFG or Cerebral Bore. What Iwata seemed to be selling last night was Forsaken but with really bad lag.

As Steel Diver: Sub Wars is free though I though that I would give it a chance. This title marks Nintendo’s cautious toe dipping into the free to play market and as a first attempt it’s Admiral, sorry admirable. In single player mode the free version is limited to the first two levels, which are essentially tutorials and you can only choose one Submarine. The multiplayer mode is playable in its entirety though.

Due to Nintendo’s liberal amount of free content, Steel Diver feels more like an older Shareware game like Doom and Quake. Free to play titles nowadays tend to be so bloated with adverts it’s like playing an interactive infomercial.

How does Steel Diver play then? Well after playing through the first two missions of the single player (the only ones available in the free version,) it looks like it could be a really boring mess. The areas are lacking any detail to give them character. The radar only works for small periods of time so you constantly have to refresh it, which when combined with the sluggish controls make searching for that final enemy to kill a really boring chore.

3DS Steel Diver SubWars

But, the things that make Steel Diver’s single player mode so dismally boring are the exact same elements that help to make the multiplayer a tense and enjoyable game.

It’s a simple Team Death match style of play where the Red team and the Blue team compete to eliminate one another. Like Counter Strike there’s no re-spawning, so if you die you are forced to watch the rest of the game play out. If you leave the game early you lose any experience gained. This isn’t as bad as it sounds because the camera angles are so cinematic and the torpedoes move so slowly that you find yourself cheering them on as they try to connect with their target in a sort of natural aquatic bullet time.

The cumbersome lever controls on the touch screen, along with the members of crew that pop up to keep you informed of imminent collisions and how many torpedoes you have make you feel like you are actually in command of a giant submarine. There’s a sense that your vessel is populated by a few hundred souls who have their faith that you are going to captain them to victory and make sure that they see their families again.

Steel Diver

The most impressive thing that Nintendo have achieved with Steel Diver though is the perfection of team speak. Rather than listening to shrieking teenagers who seem to have no purpose in life other than to cause extreme irritation, much like genital warts, in Steel Diver gamers communicate through the use of Morse code, which is amusing, novel and helps add to the nautical theme of the title. It also takes a while to tap out messages so people only tend to communicate when they have something intelligent or really important to say.

Steel Diver is an incredibly addictive online hit that Nintendo should be able to capitalise upon by adding more submarines and modifications that people can purchase and carry more of their own presence into the virtual world. Currently you can purchase a single submarine for the price of just 89p or you can buy the full game which includes 18 subs, all of which are customisable, and you get the full single player mode for just £8.99.

Steel Diver should be a successful first step into the world of Free To Play for Nintendo and hopefully more companies will take note and adopt a more shareware style of distribution. Lets just hope that Nintendo’s next effort has a much better single player mode as well.