Archive for May, 2013

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Playing Lollipop Chainsaw is very much akin to eating a bowl of Lucky Charms without any marshmallows. You know that you’ve done it before, and you know that the experience has been sweeter. What you’re eating right now isn’t horrible exactly, just very very bland. This is the fundamental flaw with Lollipop Chainsaw. Everything in this game has been done before and the experience has always been that much greater. Especially when held up in comparison with Grasshopper Manufacture’s older games.

Ok, so this is my main gripe. Grasshopper Manufacture has made some of the funniest, darkest and most over the top ridiculous games this generation. Their most notable, in my opinion, being No More Heroes released on the Wii (yeah the Wii, not the clunky mess that was the PS3 port released last year) way back in 2008. So 2008, that’s roughly five years ago. So why does a game released five years later just come off as a weak watered down flavourless port of a much older game? Well this review hopes to find out.

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Right so maybe I’m coming off as a little harsh. Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t entirely without merits. As I mentioned, this game comes from strong Japanese pedigree. That said the humour is totally 100% spot on. You play as Juliet Starling, a zombie slaying high school cheerleader. And on her eighteenth birthday she goes to the park to meet her boyfriend Nick Carlyle. However after a massive zombie outbreak Nick gets bitten and the only way to save him is by Juliet chopping his head off and attaching it to her belt whilst keeping him alive. So yeah, very Japanese, very over the top and very funny. Indeed the majority of dialogue between the two star crossed lovers is some of the funniest this generation. But even the quips and jokes start to come off as crass and juvenile by the end of the game.

The other aspect that I feel deserves a special mention is the boss fights. Grasshopper never skimp when designing a good boss. And in a day and age where a lot of boss fights in games have been reduced to a few quick QTE’s its very refreshing to see some old school sensibilities are being preserved and kept in place. Challenging, although never to the point of frustrating, Lollipop Chainsaw’s bosses are something to be celebrated.

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Unfortunately this is where my praise ends. Its obvious from the get go that design wise Lollipop Chainsaw is a clone of No More Heroes’ and I hate to go on about it but it’s so blatant it’s hard to ignore. From the way the camera controls to how the environments look, hell even the way Juliet runs with her chainsaw echoes Travis running with his laser katana. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem but everything that made the combat and environmental exploration so fun has been taken out. None of the fantastic motion control is optional (never thought I’d find myself pining for motion) and combat is sooo slow and sluggish I found myself popping off to grab a coffee every time I was using a triangle button combo. Enemies are slow boring and dull. The weapon detection is also shocking. Landing a dropkick is a work of luck and retarded.

Again I know I sound like I’m being a douche but when a game is so obviously just a re skinned version of an older game yet it can’t even mimic what made that game fun in the first place then what’s the point?!

The environments are also a bug bear for me. Now I’m not saying that Santa Destroy in No More Heroes was the perfect sandbox to explore. It was far from it. But at least it did pass as a vaguely interesting hub. With freedom to explore the city, hidden collectables and
various shops and minigames scattered around the map there was always something to do. Again, not the case with Lollipop. There is no world map or any distractions other than traipsing from dull linear map to dull linear map. The levels in Lollipop feel boring, uninspired and empty. Not to mention that the prevailing sound track throughout the game is god awful stock pop punk guitar riffs that start to grate and annoy almost immediately. No scrap that. IMMEDIATELY.

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Lollipop Chainsaw is a very funny game. However that is not enough to distract from the fact that everything it does in the gameplay department has already been done to this standard a generation ago. Do yourself a favour. I take it that if you’re playing games it’s because you enjoy gameplay as opposed to oogling computer generated Japanese cheerleaders (otherwise you’d be on some hentai site and not here) if you are after some fantastic hack and slash games that have a touch of humour then go out and buy Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising or DmC! Hell I’d even suggest dusting off the Wii and plugging in No More Heroes. They all do what this game aspires to do but a thousand times better in every department. End of. Rant over. Peace & love x

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Oh my goodness. Oh my damn. Oh my goodness. I have not had this much fun with a fighting game since Street Fighter Alpha 3 on the PlayStation. And anyone who knows me knows that I do not make that statement lightly. NetherRealm Studios just seem to keep on tightening up their Mortal Kombat fighting engine to no end.

So where to begin? Surprisingly for a fighting game (but less so for a NetherRealm game) Injustice contains more meat than a butchers shop. And I guess the fillet steak would be the story mode. Injustice’s story is an epic to say the least. Spanning about 6hrs it poses the questions, what would happen if Superman took control? Which heroes and villains would stand by him? Who would oppose him? The whole thing is told with such passion and grandeur that sometimes you feel like you’re watching a Justice League film. The voice work is impeccable as is the script. Characters even banter mid match. It is all very Crisis on Infinite Earths with parallel universes and alternate versions of all your favourite heroes. And all just as enjoyable.

After you’ve exhausted story mode you will have accumulated a fair amount of access cards. These can be used in Injustices version of Mortal Kombats Krypt. Although not as extensive as the Krypt this is where you will unlock the majority of alternate costumes, backgrounds (a personal favourite being an old comic cover of Superman helping Santa down a chimney), character portraits and concept art. You will also unlock most of the single player battle modes. Whereas most fighting games sport maybe a couple of modes (arcade, survival etc) Injustice boasts about 20 different ways to play single player and accumulate exp. And I have barley scraped the surface of these! I’ve nearly completed the standard battle mode with all the characters and I’ve dabbled with a couple of other modes. And all this has taken me about 15hrs. So yeah, like I said before, a LOT of meat.

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Then there is the online mode. I haven’t had as much time to spend on here as I would have liked as I’ve been without the internet for a few weeks. However the experience I have had so far has been fine. Again you will find a lot of distractions here. Many different modes including King of the Hill and also daily challenges that will require you play as certain characters or perform certain moves or feats. And as soon as the internet is turned back on the first thing I shall be doing is hitting this up.

There are also the S.T.A.R labs. These mini missions which are character specific offer a further 240 (yes you read that right) ways to test your skills in a variety of different ways. Getting three stars on each of these will be a huge challenge for even the most hardened fighting fan!

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So how are the actual fighting mechanics themselves? Fun! Really really REALLY fun! I must admit that when I first played the demo of the game I didn’t really know what I was doing and I was quite underwhelmed by the whole experience. However when you start the game proper you are taken through a tutorial that takes you clearly and simply through everything. Character inputs are definitely more simple to input than any Tekken game and even the more standard Street Fighter games. No quarter circles or 360 degree analogue twirls here.

The amount of interactivity with the environments is also very admirable. Whenever you see the R1 button flash by your character name they will do something with the background. Be it grabbing a helicopter to smash into your opponent or using the bonnet or a car to propel yourself out of danger. A lot of the maps also have two to three different areas that you can access. By getting your rival to the edge of the screen you can smash them through to the next area in a very over the top DragonBall Z type action
sequence. Admittedly these can get a bit boring after you’ve viewed one of these for the umpteenth time but when you do it to an opponent online it tastes so sweet.

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There is also a system in place where you can bet, for want of a better word, chunks of your special meter against your opponent once per match. For example if your health is running low you can activate this move and wager a chunk of your special meter. If your opponent doesn’t bet as much as you, you regain a percentage of your health. If not you lose a percentage. It’s a clever risk reward system that adds another layer of depth to the action and can turn things around dramatically in an instant.

The music is also very good, especially during the story mode, nothing spectacularly memorable but quite a dark orchestral score that suits the mood perfectly. Think Dark Knight or Man of Steel.

Finally it would be remiss to ignore the Injustice game on the app store. A free and very basic version of the game. It would be easy to write it off except for one thing. Logging into the console and IOS versions of the game under your Warner Brothers account you can unlock new items, characters and skins for both editions. A great way of showcasing what is possible when portable and console version’s both get released’

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This game reminded me why I love DC so much. In fact after playing through the story mode I went straight out to buy a couple of more recent DC event stories that I had missed (Flashpoint and War of the Green Lanterns) both of which are very good! And with a season pass available with Flashpoint and Darkest Night costumes already included and new downloadable characters on the way (Lobo and Batwoman confirmed) there is even more content coming to this already bursting game. Buy this game. There is something here for everyone and so much fun to be had with every single aspect of this surprise hit. It may have come out of nowhere but injustice seems to be selling very well so far. Fingers crossed for a much deserved sequel.

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Oh Nintendo. Remember when your consoles used to be inundated with tough, amazing, weird hardcore games? Yeah I know. Feels like so long ago now. Well fear not desperate Nintendo fans. For those of you that bought a Wii U and have exhausted the obligatory Mario and family party games I am very pleased to announce that Earthbound is finally seeing a re-release on Virtual Console.

Many of you will have probably never heard of Earthbound before. To be honest my first encounter with the series was the choice of playing as Ness in the Smash Bros franchise. I clearly remember thinking to myself ‘who the hell is this kid? Why’s he attacking people with a yoyo?! WHY THE HELL IS HE PSYCIC?!!?!?’ and so on and so forth. It wasn’t until last year I managed to obtain a copy after spending a good couple of hours listening to the Retro RPG Podcast wax lyrical about how great and off the wall this game is. And boy oh boy is this forgotten gem worth every bit of cult classic praise that is showered upon it.

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I don’t want to delv too much into the story as pretty much everything that happens from the off, narrative and character wise, is a pure treat. But to give you a brief outline you play as a young boy called Ness. You are awoken one night to the sound of a meteor crashing near your house. Being the protagonist of the game it is your sworn duty to investigate the mysterious occurrence and off you go! You find that the meteor is actually the crashed vessel of an advanced Bee called Buzz Buzz who has travelled from the future to warn you that a being from the future called Giygas is going to destroy the world…..yeah I’m not making this up.

You then set out on your quest to save the world. However unlike pretty much every other JRPG nothing and I really mean nothing about this game is conventional. Along your journey you will be fighting hippies, intelligent piles of vomit and many other bizarre and warped creations. The only thing that could be called conventional in this game is the battle system itself. Very much inspired by the Dragon Warrior games of the day, the battles all take place in the first person and can be very tough and very challenging.

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The world of Eagleton is a pure unadulterated joy to explore. Using very simple and stylised pixel art (think Pokemon but a bit more 2.5D) the setting of the game, a 1960’s parody of western civilisation, very much compliments the visual style of the game, and visa versa. Indeed when I first booted up the game I was instantly put in the frame of mind that this is what a Peanuts cartoon would have looked like had Hunter S. Thompson written the screenplay for it! You see the themes both on a visual and physical level do get quite dark at times. This can make for quite a sinister experience. However the perfectly written humour never lets up so you are never as depressed as you would be playing, say, a Silent Hill game.

The music is fairly standard. Nothing sticks out in my mind as much as any of the Super Nintendo era Final Fantasy games did. But the overall feel of the score is very upbeat and will definitely have you humming along and tapping the joypad.

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In conclusion I can’t recommend this game enough. It is without a doubt one of the best roleplaying games of a generation and one of the best JRPG’s of all time. The only reasons I would suggest you stay away from it would be if a. you don’t like JRPG’s and b. you don’t like hard games. But if you want to see a perfect example of what it used to be like back in the day when developers had a lot more free reign and creativity when it came to physical games this will blow you away. Smart, dark, hard, funny and wacky, Earthbound is one of the best examples of making weird work in the gaming world.

Having moved house this week it would be a fair statement to say that I have been stressed out! Hella stressed out! What with shelves breaking on me, earrings getting lodged in my foot and splinters tearing my hand apart it’s been a harrowing experience. Thank the powers that be then for the stress relieving Mayan powers of Vanished: The Island.

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A short, but nonetheless lovingly designed and surprisingly beautifully scored, IOS game that was released this week VTI has been the tonic that I desperately needed to put my mind off those moving blues.

Bought to us by those fine people at Skyhorse Interactive, VTI is a first person point and click adventure game. Think of classics in the genre such as Myst and Riven and you’ll get the idea.

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You start the game by receiving an invitation to a mysterious island where your aunt (whom has vanished) was working on excavating some Mayan ruins. It becomes apparent quite quickly that this is no ordinary disappearance as events take a turn toward the paranormal as you start coming across strange and unexplained phenomena.

The game itself is powered by Unity and as such all the pre rendered backgrounds look very swish indeed. Special mention has to be made to the lighting effects, the lens glare used often would give JJ Abrams cause to stop and admire. And the water effects, although used sparingly, look absolutely beautiful and definitely fill you with a relaxing calm whenever you come across a babbling brook or glistening stream.

The music in this game caught me off guard as well with just how well produced it sounded. It strides confidently between spooky and mysteriously atmospheric where appropriate and really adds some depth and emotion sorely lacking in other IOS games in the same genre.

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I only have two very minor complaints with the overall product. The first is that there were only a couple of points in the game where the puzzles felt genuinely challenging. DAMN YOU TILE SLIDING PUZZLES! THOU SHALL EVER BE THE BANE OF MY LIFE! Most solutions were very obvious and only required the dragging of an item onto the interactive object. This brings me onto my second niggle, and that is due to the puzzles being quite easy I flew through the game in about an hour.

HOWEVER even with these complaints I truly madly and deeply enjoyed my time on the island. I loved exploring it, and taking in all the stunning backgrounds was a genuine visual treat (I even screen captured some to use as wallpaper on my phone they were that tasty) and as I said it was a perfect game to unwind with and forget about all the stress and hassle that comes with moving house.

Now the game does leave itself open for a sequel and I am getting married in august. This too, I imagine, will give me my fair share of grey hairs so, Skyhorse, do you think you could release VTI2 by then? Cheers! And thank you once more!

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