Category Archives: 4. Opinionated Cake Hole

Here you will find articles of a highly opinionated nature. Hopefully you will be informed and entertained with pieces previewing up and coming titles or just dissecting news events in a more thorough nature. Unfortunately you will also probably be offended. Sorry.

Armiga Project

Armiga

Videogames are fickle beasts that constantly forge forwards in technological bounds leaving all but the most savvy of gamers behind. Unfortunately in this race for technical pixel perfection it isn’t just gamers that are left behind but sadly thousands of classic titles as well.

Unlike Cinema where technological improvements see re-releases in high definition, or books appearing on tablets and phones as opposed to just print, there are a glut of old games that unless you have a copy of the original as well as the antiquated hardware to run it, there isn’t really a way to enjoy it.

Now many older games are finally being re-released via emulation with tonnes of classic titles being re-released via Steam, Virtual Console, PSN and many others but still not enough is being done in order to preserve our gaming heritage.

Many players will simply choose to use emulators, unfortunately these don’t always provide a precise experience with many roms and emu’s providing bugs and glitches or even require tweaking to get working properly. To us geriatric old farts emulators also don’t provide the authentic experience of playing on the original console. If you emulate a Panasonic 3DO you can’t easily unplug player 2’s controller when you are losing. If you emulate other systems you don’t have to blow dust out of cartridges to make anything work, you don’t get to hear the whirr of the disk drive as the machine slowly spins to life.

Armiga

We were hugely impressed when we discovered the Armiga project. The aim of the base system is to emulate an Amiga 500 using modern day components and old. Yes, the system features a disk drive just like the older Amiga 500 and will allow you to create ADF images of all of your favourite games to play in the future. A useful feature considering how badly floppy disks are known to deteriorate.

The Armiga also has a HDMI output allowing you to plug the Armiga into a new LCD tv without having to mess around with flicker switches. There are also two USB ports and an SD card reader that will allow gamers to boot games from, and there is even an Ethernet connection.

Now, having an Armiga isn’t exactly the same as owning a classic Amiga 500. There is a fair amount of custom software making life easier for gamers wanting a classic fix to navigate around their disk images. The Armiga also has the ability to boot into Android 4.2.2 and thanks to it’s powerful dual core ARM CPU it can also be used to playback HD content without any problems.

Armiga

The Armiga is currently only guaranteed to work with roughly 90 per cent of Amiga games as well, which is a fair few and the team are commited to improving this figure. They also have stretch goals that include emulation for other classic systems as well.

You might be forgiven then that this is just a way of selling a cheap Raspberry Pi computer on the back of gaming nostalgia. However with the extensive amount of work that the team are putting in to re-create an authentic retro gaming experience that a traditional piece of emulation software alone can’t provide we would argue that the Armiga project is actually looking pretty good. If the system is capable of running Android smoothly and fluidly, then the Armiga also has the potential to serve as a basic home computer as well.

If you are interested in picking one of these systems up you can go and pledge on their indiegogo site here. The retro gaming time machine will cost just $139, but we would probably recommend picking up the Deluxe Edition for $199 as this model comes with a compatible 8gb SD card with all of the software pre-installed saving you precious time in setting the system up so you can spend longer playing it. Oh, and you get a t-shirt as well giving you an extra day to put off doing the laundry.

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Do People Really Like Professor Layton?

Layton

Now, I am fully aware in expressing the following viewpoint I may be tarring myself as a lazy unimaginative pillock. But…

Professor Layton is pants. There I said it. It’s probably one of the worst games I have ever played. I actually couldn’t bring myself to finish it and therefore am unable to class this piece as a review. My save game states I have played a little over five and a half hours, but it felt so much longer.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the first title in the franchise that consists of two trilogies, and an upcoming tie in with Phoenix Wright. It was the overarching plot that attracted me to Layton initially, after seeing the incredible cinematics for upcoming Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright I found myself in the wilds of ebay. While there, I was able to hunt down some fool willing to let their mint condition copy of Curious Village go for just £3.50. Bargain.

It would seem the people I bought the game from had no clear attachment to it, as upon booting up there were three different save files, all attributed to different names with no more than 40 minutes racked up between them.

When I saw this alarm bells in my head rang out a tiny bit. I just shrugged these minor worries away though. Those save files probably belonged to some noob-like kids who didn’t fully appreciate the intricacies of Professor Layton. Surely I, a seasoned gamer of 21 years, would be able to understand the small nuances that makes Professor Layton great.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Professor Layton I really am a noob. The introduction gripped me, I loved the cinematics and while the very first puzzles Layton posed to Luke felt clunky and staged, it’s obvious the intro is just easing players in with a forgivable tutorial section.

Layton

When I arrived at St. Mystere for the first time I enjoyed the puzzle to figure out how to lower the drawbridge, this was a puzzle based within the context of the in game action so it made sense. I was also excited to enter St. Mystere and explore. Especially after the short animated cut scene that displayed a tantalizingly quirky Japanese interpretation of a rural French town.

Upon entering the town it became very quickly apparent that most of St Mystere’s citizens are only concerned with solving puzzles. To the extent that every single conversation usually result’s in Professor Layton being challenged with riddle. At one point not even the recent sight of a corpse belonging to a relative was enough to stop a resident quizzing the good Professor about penning in some pigs. This obsession with puzzles, whilst crucial to the gameplay mechanic of the game, makes all of the supporting characters incredibly two dimensional.

See something of interest moving in the background? Tap on it, and you’ll probably be asked to complete a puzzle. Think you can just ignore the puzzles and storm ahead in a bid solve the interesting mysteries that include disappearing townsfolk and murder? Well tough, members of the public will block your way to crucial areas if they feel like you haven’t solved enough puzzle’s, because despite the grisly murders no one seems to want Granny Riddleton’s Shack to become inundated with unsolved puzzles. Maybe they think she’s too old to be working and don’t want to over burden her for fear of causing a heart attack. Although that would seem strange seeing as they don’t seem to care about anyone else disappearing or dying.

This is incredibly infuriating and does nothing to build up the story of the game. It also does nothing to create a credible foundation for Professor Layton’s character as a super sleuth. Imagine how ridiculous Columbo would have looked if every time he wanted to interrogate a suspect he had to answer a ridiculous question involving a piece of string and some coins. Each little mini puzzle is a distraction which makes the overall game experience feel like one of those cheap puzzle books you buy for your gran when she has an extended stay in hospital. You know, the ones that no one under the age of forty buys because everyone else knows how to play videogames.

Layton

I wouldn’t mind so much if the puzzles themselves actually reflected or enhanced what was happening on screen but most of the time they are so far removed from the context I feel like I’m 8 years old again, trying to play a really unfunny version of Monkey Island but my Mum keeps interrupting me with my Maths homework.

Videogames can offer really rich, engrossing narrative experiences. The best example of recent years would be the cinematic thrill rides provided by the Uncharted series, OK so the puzzles aren’t the most difficult thing in the world, but the way in which the levels are designed to make players feel like they are constantly progressing is incredibly engrossing.

Not into action titles and want something a bit more cerebral? Fine, what about Telltale Games incredible Walking Dead series. These point ‘n click adventure titles mix a dark brooding atmosphere with a story that adapts to player’s choices.

Zombies a bit too adult? Fancy something a bit more anime styled? Well Level 5, the developers of Professor Layton managed to get the mix right at least once before with the seminal RPG Ni no Kuni Wrath of the White Witch.

In my opinion Professor Layton is a terrible game because the story is broken up needlessly by trivial puzzles that are boring to solve and add nothing to the overall narrative, atmosphere or general experience of the game. As a result I have no idea how Curious Village went on to cultivate such a huge following let alone act as the foundation for such a massive franchise.

If you think Tom is wrong and have a viewpoint that can help him appreciate Curious Village a bit more then please tell us in the comments section below or send us a tweet @itsnotjustgraphics

Nintendo Force

Nintendo Force

It was with great excitement that I received my copy of Nintendo Force. This independent publication was set up to plug a gap in America left behind by the demise of Nintendo Power.

I have to be ashamedly honest here and admit to not realising that Nintendo Force existed until I stumbled across their Kick Starter campaign.

In the UK we still have the monthly publication of Official Nintendo Magazine. You can subscribe to this publication from anywhere in the world and apart from the odd piece of regional information regarding game’s release dates there really isn’t a lot to stop ONM from catering to the American Nintendo audience.

NF & ONM

In fact, when you place NF next door to ONM there are immediate different levels of quality to the publications. The paper in ONM is more resilient and less likely to tear, and the front cover is a much nicer, glossier, and harder wearing paper than the cover of NF.

ONM is a lot more frequent as well, NF is bi-monthly whilst ONM is a monthly publication allowing it to provide you with information that is a little bit more up to date. However, in this day and age with the advent of the internet, I doubt most gamers rely upon Magazines as their source of gaming news. (We are pretty sure that most gamers use innovative, informative and entertaining news feeds such as Digestive Gaming Biscuit).

Nintendo Force

The team at Nintendo Force seem to realise that print has been usurped in up to date news by the internet. As a result, there are loads of really interesting articles that cover indie, retro and the latest games.

Because Nintendo Force are an independent magazine with a strong following, they obviously don’t have the restrictions that ONM have, especially when it comes to their covers. Looking at the back catalogue of cover’s that NF have run is a lot of fun. The issue that I received for January/February is Shovel Knight which isn’t just a massively creative and beautiful cover that continues around to the back of the magazine. It’s also pretty daring, there aren’t many Nintendo mag’s out there that would use an indie title that was funded by a kick starter campaign for their cover art.

Nintendo Force

There is a really nice interview with the guys over at Fresh Meat regarding the upcoming release of Fresh ‘n Tasty and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. We have a review of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath here if you don’t know anything about the game and want to get excited.

Nintendo Force

You may have seen the Nintendo Force site, and especially if you live in the UK wondered if it was actually worth subscribing too. I would say yes it is, even if you already subscribe to ONM, both magazines offer enough unique material to make them worthy of Nintendo fan’s coffee tables. NF have just offered up another 500 reduced rate subscriptions as well in celebration of Lucas’s brand new baby boy being born. As soon as I finish this post I will be going onto their website and signing up for a subscription.

If you are residing in the US though and you  are already enjoying everything Nintendo Force has to offer. I can also heartily recommend a subscription to Official Nintendo Magazine. Not many editor’s of Magazines are willing to be filmed in an ill fitted Pikmin onesie after all.

Why Developers Need to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Wii U

It seems the Wii U is in danger of being put away into the cupboard of obscurity and finding itself nestled in between a Dreamcast and a Virtual Boy.

I find this particularly irritating, because, like the Dreamcast before it, the Wii U holds so much untapped potential. The Wii U’s touch screen interface is a great innovation that when capitalised can lead to some truly brilliant gameplay experiences.

Unfortunately, like the Dreamcast it looks like no one is taking advantage of the hardware and, with no games, there may as well be no system. Maybe it’s something about consoles with screens on the controller that cause gamers to condemn them as novelties and therefore to failure.

In order to try and stop this from happening to the Wii U, I thought I might use my years of gaming expertise to highlight some ways developers could Wii U’ise their existing titles to improve and open them up to a new audience.

Obviously I’m so important and such a renowned expert on these matters that developers are bound to be reading this. But just in case any actually are I shall open with a small plea. Whether you decide to support Wii U or not, please don’t just settle for higher resolutions, more complicated textures and particle effects so microscopic you can’t see them anyway. Life like imagery is all well and good but gaming is an escape, and therefore innovation is required, not imitation and I feel that the Wii U is the strongest platform upon which both gamers and developers can unlock their imaginations.

1.GTA V

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OK, its not like Rockstar need any help selling GTA V, it’s already reached record breaking audiences, but I feel like putting it on the Wii U would greatly benefit the game.

Rockstar Leeds did an amazing job creating a unique experience for the DS with GTA China Town Wars and I’m sure they could do the same for Wii U. My biggest critique of GTA V is that the controls can become confusing at times and I often struggle with radio stations or switching between characters. Imagine the touch screen turning into a car dash when you enter a vehicle with controls for tuning the radio and real working indicator and headlight switches. Or, more usefully imagine the pad acting like a sat nav allowing you to type in addresses and seek locations without having the laborious process of pausing and waiting for the menu to load up.

Even more impressively would be the ability to pre-view what characters are up to when you are not controlling them. If you are playing as Michael and want to switch to Trevor but want to make sure you aren’t going to end up in the middle of nowhere, imagine being able to see through his eyes on the tablet before you select him just to check out what he’s up to and where he is.

Rockstar if you want any more ideas as to how the touch screen controls can benefit Grand Theft Auto then please get in touch. I have plenty of thoughts as to how they could be used in the Strip Clubs but I don’t want it publicised just how dirty a pervert I really am.

2.Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes

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Now the MGS series isn’t really my cup of tea, in my humble but very strong and often outspoken opinion I feel its basically just a bit of a tech demo for cut scenes.

However, Hideo Kojima’s franchise has been good to Nintendo in the past, with a remake of the PSone classic for Gamecube owners who missed the original being one of the system’s must have titles.

Ubisoft have already proven with Splinter Cell that the Wii U is a great home for gadget laden espionage stealth thrillers. Along with being able to control a wide range of gadgets the tablet could act as the communicator. Instead of switching to a 15 minute cut scene, or having Snake sit stationary, Otacon or whoever it is that needs to know what Snake wants for dinner can talk through the tablet. This would add an additional layer of involvement for the player without breaking up the gameplay.

Maybe there could even be a section where Snake must navigate a corridor with a heart beat sensor. Players would have to breathe in a controlled fashion onto the Wii U’s touchscreen in a simulated breath control exercise that slowed Snake’s heart rate and made sure he could slip down the corridor undetected.

Snake could also hack into security cameras, giving him a kind of Siren: The Blood Curse third sight allowing players to navigate around enemies without raising an alarm.

3.Fifa

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EA’s decision not support Nintendo’s latest platform upset quite a lot of people who enjoy buying the same game they have bought every year for the past ten years.

I actually think that Fifa, and other sports licenses that EA own such as NFL would be perfect for the Wii U. Being able to use the tablet as a sort of ‘Manager on the sidelines,’ is a fantastic idea, allowing players to chose and change formations mid play, keeping opponents on their toes and the gameplay even more tactical and exciting.

EA, if by some small, tiny sliver of a chance you are reading this but still feel like its not worth bringing any of your sports licenses to Wii U, despite the superior control methods I have just pointed out. Please, could you reconsider and maybe just release Mutant League Football on Virtual Console. I’ll be your best friend forever.

4.Tomb Raider Definitive Edition

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Dear Crystal Dynamics, I know you have just released what you propose is the Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider for the Xbox One and more impressively the PS4 (I’m not trying to start a fight amongst the fan boys, promise,) but I feel like you could actually release a Tomb Raider Super Definitive Edition in the form of a Wii U version.

Now, Nathan Drake has surpassed Lara recently and become the adventurer everyone is talking about. As a big Uncharted fan I feel there is a bit that Lara could learn from the new boy. Especially in the form of Uncharted Golden Abyss on the PS Vita, where players must use the touch screen controls to make charcoal rubbings, clean dirt off of objects and at one point hold up the camera to a light in order to look through a piece of paper. Now, sometimes some of these moments do feel a little ‘tacked on’, and just an excuse to show off the hardware of the Vita, so why don’t you guys look at implementing something similar in a Wii U version but improve and fine tune the ideas. If you were to do this then Lara would be back on top of Drake (don’t be smutty minded at the back). There could even be a special un-lockable t-shirt that Lara wears if you complete the game that reads ‘Drake, The Last Of Us was better!’

5. Battlefield 4

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The Wii U really could do with a MMO FPS and I feel like Battlefield could do with the Wii U. Imagine a bomb disposal mode where players have to use the touch screen controller to defuse the bomb. Now imagine how tense that would be with people shooting at you on screen.

The pad could also be used to display control panels when entering vehicles like Tanks or Helicopters. It could even be utilised for the standard HUD thus clearing screen space and making life even easier for those hard-core gamers desperate to be the virtual best.

Crystal Dynamics, EA, Konami, Rockstar and any other developers who have overlooked the Wii U for some of their major franchises, as you can see I have just given you some examples of how the Wii U pad can help improve the experience of existing titles. In doing so surely you can all understand that the Wii U’s hardware is more than capable of providing a captivating experience that far surpasses those of more graphically powerful systems. If we all club together we can create one of the greatest generations of games. Or we could just ignore this second screen thing and just carry on chasing the graphical white rabbit into the bottomless hole of increasing polygon counts and more complicated physics that become less and less impressive with each generation.

Is the Lego Movie Videogame, one Lego videogame too far?

Lego Movie

When I first clapped eyes on the trailer for the Lego film I was blown away by how good it looked. Warner Bros had decided in their fantastical wisdom not to try and emulate the reasonable CGI efforts of the Traveller’s Tales film Lego Batman The Movie. They decided instead to go for a much more extreme yet beautiful approach. The film was to be stop motion animation.

As a result it looks fantastic and as obvious as it sounds, using real bricks makes it look more, well, real. So when you watch the trailer for Lego Movie the videogame and there’s film footage right next door to the CGI game footage, the game footage looks, well a bit pants. It’s like placing a natural beautiful woman next to a giant Barbie Doll.

I know that Traveller’s Tales are very excited to inform us that this is the first title where all the scenery is made up of individual Lego bricks but it still isn’t enough for it to compare to the stop animated majesty of the film.

Lego Movie Videogame

TT are also keen to note changes to the traditional Lego gameplay. Rather than having the main character (in this case Emmet, the overly enthusiastic builder), take control of constructing items at the press of a button, players must now collect instruction sheets. Once these have been found, Emmet can figure out what it is he has to build, and players then have to place the required blocks into the correct order themselves. This is, on the face of it, a nice idea that strongly references real Lego. But to be honest, I don’t want to play a Lego simulator! Personally I play videogames as an escape, I don’t want things to be as realistic as possible, I don’t want the next Super Mario to be called Microsoft Plumbing Simulator 2014. If I wanted to play with a Lego set, I would play with a Lego set. It’s true that Lego is expensive and for the cost of the Lego Movie Videogame and console to play it on you probably would only just get a decent sized set. But Lego Videogames shouldn’t be an alternative to real Lego.

This new method of play just takes the old mechanic and stretches it out, giving the player an extra set of collectibles and even more complicated execution. In doing this, Lego haven’t re-invented the wheel like they had hoped, but given us some spokes, a tyre, an inner tube and a vague idea as to where the instructions are for us to put the whole thing together.

Lego City Undercover

Players are probably going to get bored very quickly. I really was hoping that Lego City Undercover was going to be the best game ever recently. The trailer promised a family friendly Lego equivalent to GTA V. In a way it delivered upon that promise, providing an open world with an amusing script and great voice acting that made me feel like I was living in a funny cartoon. Unfortunately, there were entire levels where I was forced to grit my teeth and carry out the same tasks that I had been forced to undertake in countless Lego Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Batman titles that sucked my initial enthusiasm and enjoyment out of the game.

This same criticism could also be levelled at GTA. Rockstar have developed their franchises a lot further than Traveller’s Tales have been able to, bringing the GTA open world style to the West with Red Dead Redemption and creating arguably the most exciting GTA game yet with a rich and exciting environment to explore. GTA V’s new three interchangeable character system also adds a new dimension to the old run and gun missions and this new dynamic has also drastically improved the story telling. The controls in GTA V have been tightened up too, indoor gun battles are no longer the arduous slog they used to be where doors would prove as much a hindrance as enemies.

GTA V

However, just as my line of thought and argument begins too, let me ask one final time, is the Lego franchise slowly running out of steam? Surely Traveller’s Tales can only keep slapping new faces and models onto old gameplay styles for so long, at some point they have to reach saturation and most gamers will have played enough Lego games to know how they are going to play.

Fifa 14

Having said that though, on cue every year a new Fifa title arrives and every year a new Fifa finds itself at the top of the best-seller list. Unlike Fifa and GTA though TT seem to be creating more titles than they are innovations. Even EA completely change their control scheme and graphics engine from time to time. Having said that though, people are fond of familiarity, like the cosy old sofa that all of your friends tell you smells like rotting curry, but you can’t bring yourself to throw it away because it fits your body so perfectly in its cosseting groove and getting rid of a sofa is a nightmare anyway. Especially in London when no one you know has a car.

People go to the cinema and turn on their Televisions every night and watch the same plots rehashed over and over again with different character names from the meat grinder that is Hollywood. Maybe this kind of stagnating mentality will keep the Lego games going for as long as Traveller’s Tales are willing to keep applying new lacquer to the franchise. Who knows? Not me, if I did I would be able to see into the future and if I could do that, well, I’d have a lottery ticket and I wouldn’t need to be churning out this nonsense. I just hope that Traveller’s Tales are able to inject something new into the Lego franchise before gamers wake up and realise they have been playing the same game for the past ten years and this once quirky, unique, fun franchise becomes ridiculed and sidelined.

Should You Wii U ?

Just before Christmas, one of the longest running generations of gaming history came to a close as self proclaimed ‘hardcore gamers’ tried to get their hands on the latest consoles, clawing over one another like Zombies trying to break into Jerusalem.

World War Z

Being an attractive highly sought after male with a crazy other half who insists on trying to adopt every single child we come across aren’t the only points that Brad Pitt and I share in common. Just like he manages to survive the Zombie outbreak in World War Z, I managed to avoid the hype-induced pandemic that had brain-swollen idiots purchasing £500 pictures of Xbox Ones from eBay.

Xbox One Fool

I decided I wanted to be different, and as such I decided to buy a console from the company who dares to be different. So I purchased a Wii U.

I used to be a huge Nintendo fan boy and shudder when I think back to my days of secondary school, laughing at people with Sony ‘Gay,’ Stations, because I was a homophobic, narrow minded, opinionated little shit who felt the N64 was king. Later on, the Gamecube extended my extremism. Pikmin is possibly the only RTS that works on a console. Rogue Squadron 2 translated the epic scale of an intergalactic space battle into the living room in a way never seen before, whilst Luigi’s Mansion and Eternal Darkness were perfect polarities off the survival horror genre.

Then came the Wii. Whilst the sales figures were astounding, Nintendo couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. The Wii-mote had gamers waving their arms like they were parking a plane. Nintendo argued the new control scheme would create more immersive and unique experiences. Well, they were wrong, having tired arms and not being able to relax actually distanced players and only Nintendo themselves tried creating anything unique, whilst all other developers insisted on creating mini game compilations.

Wii Granny

This turned the Nintendo Wii into nothing more than a novelty item that the majority of owners put away after ten minutes only to stare at from time to time and wish it would play DVD’s. It also caused Nintendo to distance themselves from the core game playing market; those who are more than happy to buy hardware with the sole intent of playing videogames on, as opposed to those idiots who think that videogames are a waste of time and for nerds, yet make sure they have an overpriced smartphone with their mobile phone contract for no other reason than to play Angry Birds.

After sales of the Wii began to drop, Nintendo realised gamers were beginning to figure out that the Wii was just a Gamecube with a motion sensor. So they decided to bring their back catalogue kicking and screaming into the HD generation. Being Nintendo though, they simply weren’t going to make Wii HD. If Nintendo were in the business of making stationary, they would have been the guys to come up with the pencil, and rather than rest on their laurels and rake in the money they would have released the pencil with a rubber on it the following year, then the year after that we’d get colour!

Satoru Iwata President and CEO of Nintendo wanted a system that built upon the Wii’s control system and improved upon the graphics. But he also wanted a system that was compact and quiet, so parents wouldn’t object to it being in the living room, whilst keeping the price accessible. Nintendo really wanted to attract back the ‘hardcore’ gamer and burst their doors wide open to them, unfortunately none of them came back. Nintendo went from Yoshi’s Dream to Yoshi’s Nightmare in terms of home console sales over night and it’s easy to see why.

Those of a moobed disposition, sorry, ‘hardcore gamers’ as they like to refer to themselves, felt that the Wii U wasn’t powerful enough. The Wii U is certainly as graphically impressive as the PS3 and the 360, unfortunately the Wii U arrived just as Sony and Microsoft began promising the most realistic ever graphics with real fire that would actually burn your eyebrows off on the Xbox One and PS4. Epic games added fuel to the fire by demoing the latest Unreal 4 engine and stating that they wouldn’t be supporting Wii U. It certainly hasn’t helped the Wii U amongst the more intense gaming community that in it’s entire library of games there isn’t a single title that fully exploits the graphical prowess of the system to make a gritty and realistic world. The PS4 launched with Killzone Shadowfall, the Crysis of the console world, while Xbox One promised a blending of cinema and games with Ryse, where all the characters motions were captured using classically trained actors at Andy Serkis’s new motion capture centre.

It’s the environments of Killzone and Ryse that the more adult gamer wants to see. They want arteriel spray pissing everywhere like an exploded water main, perfectly rendered using the latest particle effect. They don’t care about how cool the new shadow effects look on a re-release of an 11 year old Zelda game.

Sad Link

Surely the pricing of the Wii U will lead it to becoming many gamers second console though? Unfortunately not, as cheap as £250 is when compared to a brand new Xbox One or PS4. Those of the serious gaming fraternity inhabit such disappointing lives that it’s very difficult to impress them as they extoll doom and gloom at every opportunity. They mistrust Nintendo’s promise that the Wii U’s pad actually helps to improve the console experience, probably because they are tainted by the disappointment of the Wii’s controls. To say the Wii revolutionised controller input is like seeing a flambé pudding in a restaurant and then calling the Firemen and claiming the place is on fire.

“Why don’t they just bundle the Wii U with a basic controller and make it even cheaper, I’d buy one then.” Is what most of the inspirationally challenged sweat producers tend to mash out on their Razer keyboards with pudgy fingers that overspill and miss their mark. Often resulting in the evolution of such hilarious new internet words like “pwn”.

Well, I’ll tell you for why, my chubby keyboard warrior. Because the pad is kind of the point of the whole system. Selling a Wii U without the pad would be like selling a chocolate éclair without the cream. Sure, you can’t leave the room that the system is in and OK, not all games make full use of the pad’s capabilities, a lot of the time its just a second screen, BUT it completely evolves the console experience.

Wii U

Say your partner is watching one of those generic by-the-numbers Disney ABC dramas like Castle or Grey’s Anatomy. Or say the system is in your bedroom and you fancy a quick game whilst they are sleeping/watching something. You can just turn on the gamepad and plug your earphones in and your away playing a full-blown game with console style graphics on a pad.

Sony are falling over themselves and have invested a fortune to deliver the same experience with the PS4 and the Vita, and although with Sony’s hardware its an optional experience, it’s a damned site more expensive.

PS4 PS Vita Bundle

The games that do take advantage of the pad do so fantastically. The Wonderful 101 would be incredibly difficult to control without being able to swipe a quick shape on the screen to align all of your heroes accurately. It finally offers a system of control that previously only PC gamers enjoyed with their Mice.

Lego City Undercover also does a fantastic job of using the pad to immerse players in the game experience. Characters from the . Satoru Iwata announced this week that the Wii U is to receive a firmware update that will allow the use of the pad to quickboot into a game. Meaning you will be able to bypass the system’s OS when first turning the Wii U on and jump straight into a game. This will cut loading times by 50%

In terms of the physical buttons on the pad, Nintendo have now provided players with the standard dual thumb stick and trigger buttons that Nintendo players have been calling out for since Sony released the Dual Analog. As a result the Wii U’s pad is probably the best controller Nintendo has ever made.

Even with all of these positives gamers still aren’t happy, keen to point out that the new Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze actually de-activates the screen on the pad if you are using the TV as the main display. Well my response to this is, so what? If you are not going to be looking at the screen on the pad surely its nice to have it disabled to improve battery life?

“Yeah, but if you are using the screen on the pad then the picture on the tv is disabled.”

My point still stands. The game may as well be displaying images of kittens wrapped in barbed wire being thrown into microwaves on the secondary screen, because if you don’t need to use it for controller input or aren’t even looking at it, then you aren’t going to see it. Whether you chose the controller screen or your TV, how many other consoles actually give you a choice?

Lego City Undercover Wii U

I bought the Lego City Undercover bundle from Amazon,  I wouldn’t usually use Amazon and while their bundle was the same price as everywhere else, they also included an additional copy of Lego Batman 2 as well. It turns out that everyone has a price, and mine is the cost of an average port that suffers from terrible multiplayer controls.

To give you an idea of the size of the base unit its about 4 inches longer than a DVD case and probably 2 inches wider. You can rest it upright on the included pair of feet or just lay it flat. The length might be a little awkward for any hipsters with bare minimalist tiny shelves that really bring out the brickwork in their open plan flat in Hackney, those who actually deserve human rights should be fine though. It’s a really quiet system too, the only time it really becomes audible is when it’s reading from the optical drive.

When I was manhandling the system into place by the TV it felt really solid and well built. The pad also has no flex in it at all and the buttons seem perfectly balanced and unlikely to cause any problems in the future. Of all the Nintendo consoles I have owned over the years I have never had a single technical issue with any of them apart from when my Game Boy screen covering fell out after 12 years of service.

Aesthetically speaking, Nintendo really have created the blandest console ever. If the Wii U was the cuisine of a single nation you definitely wouldn’t say it was Japanese. It’s more British in that its completely inoffensive and very bland. This isn’t really a valid complaint in the argument as to whether or not you should buy a Wii U and I feel shallow for bringing it up but the N64, Gamecube and Wii were all very iconic designs, and the shape of the SNES pad is something that is imprinted into gaming culture’s collective consciousness.

However looks aren’t everything (thankfully, otherwise I’d be screwed, I may claim to look like Brad Pitt but I also think that a Cheese Burger Crust Pizza is a balanced meal so you can see how my view of reality is skewed slightly.) What really sells systems is exclusive titles and recognisable franchises.

The Wonderful 101

In my opinion, the following Wii U titles are all worth paying full price for: The Wonderful 101, Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, Sonic Lost World and Lego City Undercover. Lets also not forget that Batman Arkham City and Deus Ex both received overhauls in order to take advantage of the Wii U controller and provide the definitive versions. These are also worth picking up if you haven’t managed to play them already.

Pikmin3

If you take into account that Nintendo somehow, and I can only imagine it involved a ritual sacrifice, managed to gain exclusive rights to Capcom’s Bayonetta 2, plus the fact that we are going to be treated to Mario Kart 8 and a new Smash Bros this year, then the Wii U’s library actually looks a lot stronger than the PS4’s and the Xbox One’s. I’m also very interested to see how Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs will run on the Wii U. Ubisoft would be insane not to fully utilise the Wii U gamepad in a title that sees the hero running around hacking things with his PDA.

Watch Dogs

Can I recommend a Wii U then? Yes I can, despite the internet exuding negativity towards the Wii U like a fat person sweats, there are loads of great exclusive titles. There are also some great deals to be had out there as shops are desperate to shift stock. I recommend, and what I wish I had done, would be to get the cheapest base 8gb unit and then buy an external HD. You can find a list of recommended HDD’s on Nintendo’s website, and they are so easy to set up, that I can forgive the miniscule amount of internal memory.

Nintendo haven’t quite got the online services cracked just yet, but traditionally the big N felt that multiplayer was best served face to face with split screen modes. They are improving though and my experiences of Netflix and Lovefilm have been great. I have also watched a few films on the controller, the screen of which, doesn’t have the detail of the higher end tablets and is sharp and bright enough for it to serve as a viable alternative to your tv set. The touch screen also makes navigating the vast menus easier and less cumbersome than the 360 and PS3 counterparts.

For those that live in the UK iPlayer and other on demand services such as 4oD are not yet available. However, the BBC made a statement earlier in January that they want to bring iPlayer to the Wii U and Xbox One by the end of the year. Nintendo in their infinite wisdom still hasn’t allowed DVD playback, but then who actually wants to use their Wii U as a DVD player when you have a mint conditioned Panasonic Q under your TV that you want to show off.

ZombiU

Oh, and I shouldn’t forget, that there was a bit of a Zombie problem for the Wii U at launch (although not quite the same as the PS4 and Xbox One’s). Its called ZombiU and should be avoided like the rotting festering corpse of a title that it is.

Super Mario 3D World