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

DIGESTIVE GAMING NEWS: 24TH FEBRUARY– 2ND MARCH

Kinect

This week has been a bit of a frightening one. Documents were leaked showing that GCHQ conducted an investigation into using our consoles against us, and Xbox Kinect was evaluated for use in spying on us in our own lounges. I had always suspected that Nintendo had managed to secrete a camera somewhere upon the Nintendo Wii, just to laugh at ridiculous westerners who were stupid enough to purchase a console named after a toilet technique, and play games that made players look like they were having an epileptic fit. GCHQ are a bit more menacing than Nintendo though and have motives for watching us other than pointing and laughing.

Between 2008 and 2010, a project with the codename Optic Nerve collected images of users through Yahoo’s webcam service. While it’s not certain whether the Kinect camera, or other camera’s for other consoles have been used. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden specifically mention that the camera within the Kinect device had been identified by GCHQ as a potential source of information.

Kinect

Rather than capturing terrorists, it seems GCHQ are more concerned with cultivating a huge databank of teenage boys wanking over characters such as Bayonetta. We can only imagine how excited they got when Lara Croft Tomb Raider Definitive Edition had been announced for Xbox One. That would grow their databases exponentially. GCHQ were probably also excited that they could open up a whole new specialist collection consisting of fat angry nerds crying whilst they beat off due to the realisation that Lara was only in 900p and not 1080p.

It’s just a bit of a shame that no one pointed GCHQ in the direction of Chat Roulette sooner because I can’t help but feel like it would have saved a lot of interns a lot of work and mental scarring.

Abe

In other dystopian news Fresh Meat released more screen shots for their upcoming remake of Abe’s Odysey. The game is called New ‘n Tasty and is a completely new ‘from the ground up’ rebuilding of the original with 3D visuals, silky smooth animation and improved music. In more Oddworld news, we also reviewed Stranger’s Wrath this week, which you can find here.

Nintendo Force also conducted an in depth interview with Fresh Meat in their January/February issue. You can see a brief overview of that issue here.

Sony Santa Monica

Abe’s not the only employee with an axe to grind this week either, Sony Santa Monica laid off an unspecified number of it’s employees after cancelling an unknown new triple A IP. Sony Santa Monica were the team behind the grisly, gore-tastic God of War, and whilst I am a huge fan of the series, the games haven’t changed a massive amount since their inception. Therefore it would have been great to see something completely new from the incredibly talented studio. Lord knows that the PS4 is crying out for exclusive killer IP at the moment. The Order: 1866 will only satiate so many for so long.

South Park

South Park fans in Europe also faced disappointment this week after Ubisoft announced that they would be censoring their own upcoming comedy RPG, South Park: The Stick of Truth. At least two minutes of footage are to be greyed out with a description from Matt Stone and Trey Parker depicting the incredibly graphic imagery behind.

I can’t help but wonder whether this is a marketing ploy on the part of Ubisoft to drum up hype about the upcoming game. Rockstar can testify to just how well controversy sells videogames. A more recent example would be Senran Kagura, whilst a group of outspoken people were up in arms about the concept of two scantily clad school girls fighting one another, a less outspoken group of people were ordering the game in huge numbers sending Senran Kagura flying up the pre-order charts.

If Ubisoft truly are worried that the content is too graphic for gamers than I think that is an even bigger outrage than if it were just a cheap marketing trick. It’s a sad state of affairs if the videogame industry isn’t confident to explore subjects with the same amount of profanity as other media. If that’s the case, then Ubisoft have weakened videogame’s stance as a legitimate art form in the eyes of its critics.

Nintendo Wi-Fi

And finally, while GCHQ are looking to tap into people’s lives through their consoles, Nintendo are looking to disconnect them. Nintendo announced they will be turning off the Nintendo Wi-Fi service that allows players to play online with Nintendo DS’s and Nintendo Wii’s on the 20th of May.

This is a shame, but Nintendo will be relocating resources to strengthen services for the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U. With the release of Mario Kart 8 and the new Super Smash Bros. later this year, they are going to need quite a strong enough infra structure. Especially if Nintendo expect to provide a flawless service to the most complacent species on the planet. Gamers.

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.

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

DIGESTIVE GAMING NEWS: 17TH – 23RD FEBRUARY

IrrationalGamesLogo

Ken Levine, God Father of Bioshock and head of Irrational stated this week that he would be closing the studio he helped to set up in 1997.

Mr Levine released a statement that claimed he was not able to create the kind of games that he was interested in at Irrational, so will be moving on with around fifteen members of staff whilst leaving the majority of the employees at Irrational facing unemployment.

Bioshock Infinite

Many within the industry have put this rather ‘Irrational’ move, (pardon the pun), down to a fact of economics. Whilst Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite were critical successes that had reasonable sales figures., the time and resources that these titles took to develop meant that Irrational’s owner, 2K games, would have received very little back in the way of profit.

It is strange that Irrational was shut down completely though. It’s almost as if Levine didn’t want to leave his legacy in the hands of someone else, like a spoilt child not wanting to share his drawings. What’s even stranger is that the studio were working on porting Bioshock over to the PS Vita, a project that seemingly has been put on hold. Provided that the Vita is as powerful as Sony would have us believe and its an easy job to port Bioshock over, I wouldn’t have thought it would take long before 2K games farm the project out to another studio to try and recoup some more money from one of their more expensive investments.

You can see our review of Bioshock Infinite here if you have not yet played the game.

Kiefer Sutherland

In other news Kiefer Sutherland has apparently told reporters that he has been working on a previously unannounced Mortal Kombat game. We assume that he means he has been doing the voice over work and not any character design. Otherwise it will soon also be announced that a moody teenage 80’s styled vampire and a gruff government operative whose fatality is to waterboard people to death have been added to the roster.

Microsoft took a further bashing in the current next gen war as Sony released the PS4 finally in Japan and announced that the sales of the PS4 are around double what Microsoft have managed to shift of their Xbox One console.

Hideo Kojima also added fuel to the fire of the current battle between Sony and Microsoft by releasing his very own comparison video for Metal Gear Solid Zeroes. It shows the upcoming stealth em up running on 360, PS3, PS4 and Xbox One. The comparison video, for those who can’t be bothered to watch it (lets be honest these things are so damned dull that not even the cinematic Kojima can make them interesting), shows the game looking best on the PS4.

While we are very firmly of the belief that its not graphics that make a game, but gameplay, when you are selling a system claiming to provide the ultimate gameplay experience and charging a premium over your competitors it’s a bit embarrassing when you don’t deliver. At the moment the Wii U has more titles running at 1080p 60fps than the Xbox One does. It also has more exclusive titles worth playing. Hopefully the internet will realize there really is no reason to hate Nintendo so much and then the Xbox One can become the new Wii U.

Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze

Nintendo released Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Wii U this week. Nintendo fans were excited because the software drought that is affecting all of the latest gen of consoles is hitting the Wii U hard. If you are thinking of picking up the game, then why not check out our informative, and amusing review here.

This is the end

For those who don’t remember the cinematic travesties that were Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter the Movie, Max Payne and so many others I’ll get arthritis in my fingers from typing, then get excited! A new videogame movie is coming out! Before we get too negative, rather than being based on a particular title, the film is actually to be based on the book Console Wars by Blake J. Harris. The book charts the console war between Sega and Nintendo and most intriguingly looks to have Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg at the helm. These are the guys responsible for the funniest film (In our opinion,) of last year This is The End.

Sony VR

And finally, not content with resting on their laurels over the success of the PS4 and the growing audience with PS Vita, it has been leaked that Sony are preparing to announce their very own Virtual Reality unit to compete with the Occulus Rift.

If you feel like we have missed anything out or are lonely and just want a chat please feel free to tweet us @notjustgraphics or just drop us a message below.

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

DIGESTIVE GAMING NEWS – 9TH TO 16TH OF FEBRUARY

This week was quite a heavy one for gaming announcements. Nintendo threw buckets of information at us with the latest Nintendo Direct.

Mario Kart 8 will be hovering onto the Wii U on May 30th and Bowsers minions, the Koopalings have all been announced as playable characters for the first time ever in a Mario Kart title.

Mario Kart 8

Little Mac was announced as a playable character for the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Whilst he lives up, or down to his name depending upon which way you look at it in terms of stature, Little Mac is able to deliver really powerful punches that send even Samus flying.

The game that joins two of the greatest super sleuths of all time finally got a release date. No, Mark Sloane and Jessica Fletcher haven’t got their own title, fans will just have to hold out for that one. But Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright finally got given a European release date of the 28th of March.

Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright

Gameboy Advance games are finally going to be finding their way onto the Wii U virtual console as well in the spring with Metroid Fusion, Mario & Luigi: Super Star Saga and Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 being the first titles to arrive.

Nintendo also dove straight into the free to play market with the announcement of Steel Diver, Sub Wars. We have been playing that quite a bit the past few days and you can see a review here .

In non-Nintendo news, The Evil Within was given a solid release date from Bethesda. We are very excited about this title as it is from Shinji Mikami the creator of Resident Evil. Resident Evil has gone through an identity crisis recently, morphing into an arcade shooter and losing the horrifying elements that gave the series the massive fan base it has seemingly deserted.

Early footage shows the main character running away from a chainsaw wielding mentalist. As he has no weapons he has to take to hiding in lockers a la metal gear solid. This cat and mouse gameplay should hopefully inject some fear and tension into the title and we can’t wait to get our hands on it when it arrives on the 29th of August.

Evil Within

Capcom released a new trailer for Ultra Street Fighter 4 that shows off new character Poison. She joins the other newbies Elena, Hugo and Rolento. There is still one new character to be announced, which along with the six new stages this new update sounds like it will be worth the Ultra prefix.

USFIV

Gearbox delivered a bout of bad news to Borderlands fans this week releasing a statement that said that Borderlands 3 is not currently in development. Borderlands 2 is such a large title though, we are sure there is still plenty of life left in the old girl yet, and besides, for the Borderlands uber fans Walking Dead developer Telltale games are working on a point and click adventure title that will fit into the series.

Borderlands

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.

…that make a good video game