Posts Tagged ‘Games’

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For the second year running Nintendo have shown why they are still, after all this time and after the ups and downs, they are one of the most reliable and unique companies in the business. I always approach any sort of Nintendo conference with a certain amount of trepidation. Let us not forget those torturous E3’s of a few years ago with Wii Music and that failed Zelda presentation.

However over the last year Nintendo has shown that they aren’t afraid to poke a bit of fun at themselves and they aren’t afraid to have a little bit of a laugh along the way. And that couldn’t be more evident in this year’s event. Robot Chicken kicks things off in great style. With a cartoon Regie introducing things before being waylaid by Bowser and Wario.

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Things are now picking up a gear as the scene changes and we are then taken to a black room with Reggie and Iwata duking it out in an over the top martial arts fight to the death before picking up their respective controllers to fight it out on Smash Bros. that’s rights. Mii’s are coming to Smash. However not just any old Mii’s. It’s soon explained that you will be able to choose from three different classes which in turn gives your Mii access to around thirty different moves. We also catch our first glimpse of Nintendo’s new physical toys. These are called Amiibo and we are shown how they integrate themselves with Smash Bros. Scanning your Amiibo will bring them in to the game to either fight alongside or against you. The more you use them the more their attributes will increase. They were pretty tight lipped about anything else. However we were told that there will be support coming to Mario Kart 8 soon. This of course was accompanied with a Luigi death stare.

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It was after this announcement that the games and surprises started coming thick and fast. First up was Yoshi’s Wooly World. An attractive enough proposition. Think the aesthetics of Kirby’s Epic Yarn mixed with the sensibilities of a Yoshi platformer. Like I said it’s a nice enough looking game but definitely one for the younger audience.

Next up was a surprise game that I was very excited to see. Especially as a massive Super Mario 3d World fan. Remember those awesome little Toad minigames that were scattered throughout the world map? They were great right? But if I remember correctly they were very far and few between and criminally underused. Well fear not because it looks like we are getting a bigger and better version of those games in a standalone adventure entitled Captain Toads Treasure Tracker coming to Wii U. This will be hitting the console Christmas time 2014.

Then there was another big surprise. I mean we all knew a new Zelda was on the way, but I think we were all expecting it to be Nintendo’s final mic drop moment. Well anyway, as you’ve probably guessed the new Zelda was announced. First of all we were treated to a gorgeously green, lush and vibrant vista.  Aonuma tells us that everything we can see, which is a lot given the draw distance, we can travel to. He tells us that the world will act as one big puzzle. Aonuma then fades out and the camera zooms in on a very Skyward Sword looking Link astride Epona as they are chased by a very Twilight Princess looking villain. As the chase comes to a head Link leaps from Epona and unleashes an attack from a bow which seems to change the elements it possess on the fly. The screen fades and we are told to expect it 2015.

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Then we are introduced to a few more familiar faces of games that we saw at last year’s E3. My game of the show from last year, Monolith’s X, has been renamed and is now flying under the moniker of Xenoblade Chronicles X. we are shown a very beautiful trailer that consists mainly of cut scenes rather than actual gameplay, and given a release window of 2015.

Another familiar face, and a very beautiful one at that, comes in the form of the gloriously hard-core Bayonetta. My favourite character action game of the last gheneration got announced as a Wii U exclusive last year and now has a sumptuous new gameplay trailer along with a date. Look for it in the autumn later this year. Oh I almost forgot. It also includes the original Bayonetta in its entirety! Not too bad eh? Throw in the fact that Platinum games seem to be having fun with some of Nintendo’s other characters by throwing in Peach and Samus costumes and it looks like you’ve got one incredible package.

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Another game that I did not see coming was Kirby and the Rainbow Curse which will be coming to Wii U. Now I haven’t been excited about a Kirby game in years. However the last one that did genuinely impress me was Canvas Curse on the DS released waaaay back in 2005. After watching the trailer it would be a safe bet that this is a direct sequel to that game. Fingers crossed it is as innovative and fun as the original.

A few other dates got announced during the show. Look out for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire hitting stores November 21st. these dates were also accompanied by some exciting new trailers as these classic games get new life breathed in to them.

We also had a bigger more in depth look at Hyrule Warriors. The Zelda and Dynasty Warriors mash up. And I must say seeing it again seven or so months on it is looking more and more like something I’d pick up. It was revealed that Princess Zelda and Midna (of Twilight fame) would both be playable characters. We were also told that the game could be expected in stores on September 26th.

Nintendo’s last big game that they showed was Mario Maker for the Wii U. This does look impressive. Maybe not on a graphical level, but from someone whose seen what a community can create on the likes of Little Big Planet, a platfromer series that has nowhere near the technical fidelity of a Mario game, I am very excited to see what tough mind boggling challenges people will make. This is a game strictly ties to 2D Mario however so there will be no recreating stages form 64, Sunshine or Galaxy. However it did appear that you can switch on the fly between the classic pixel art of Nes era Mario and the more contemporary hd version seen in New Super Mario Bros U.

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Last but not least was yet another character reveal for Smash Bros. Not just satisfied with giving us the Mii’s we can also expect Palutena of Kid Icarus fame to be joining the fray. Palutena marks the 32nd character to be confirmed for the ever increasing roster.

And that about raps it up. I’ve been typing fervently trying to keep up with all the announcements they were rolled out so quickly. And from a company that really did look like at one point was going to have a weak 2014, there sure seems to be a hell of a lot of games on the horizon for the end of this year and early 2015. Seems like it wasn’t such a bad idea picking up a Wii U after all. Now I just need to buy a 3ds again…..

 

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Let’s get two things out of the way straight off the bat. One; TSOT has some loading issues. I mean some serious loading issues. I don’t know why Obsidian find it so hard to ship a game before ironing all of the creases out of the finished product, but hey, that’s life. Now I don’t mean loading issues as in that the game is stuck on a loading screen for five minutes when you enter a shop. In that regard the game performs admirably. I mean that every time you move from one screen to another, or things get a bit hectic in battle, boy oh boy does this game lag and slow down to a near halt. An issue further exacerbated in a battle system that requires precise timing to pull off moves. Two; whoever was in charge of writing the magic tutorials in this game needs to be hung, drawn and quartered. Throughout your time in South Park you will be taught various magical fart techniques from different characters. Taught poorly I might add. As you mess up an instruction for the twentieth time only to have the npc chastise you and then explain to you again in a long vague manor makes for some incredibly frustrating moments.

PHEW! Glad I got that off my chest! Because here’s the thing, it might sound like I’m attacking TSOT, I’m not. I just needed to get those two niggles out of the way so we could focus on what makes The Stick Of Truth one of the funniest, well written and enjoyable licenced games of all time. Let’s begin shall we?

As I just said TSOT is one of, if not the, funniest game of all time. From the minute you start playing the game to the second you finish watching the credits scroll I guarantee you’ll be in hysterics. The game focuses around you, the new kid in town. After creating you’re character from a very generous character creation screen you are whisked away into Trey Parker and Matt Stones gloriously vulgar and satirical world. As the new kid in town it is your job to do what most new kids in town do. Go out and make friends. And it’s not too long after leaving the confines of your parents’ house you bump into Butters who in turn introduces you to everyone’s favourite fat ass Eric Cartman. It seems that all of the children of South Park are currently playing a Dungeons and Dragons style role playing game which has led to an all-out war over who controls the stick of truth and ultimately the universe.

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As expected, and in true South Park fashion, events quickly spiral out of control as the government, aliens, Nazi zombies and underpants gnomes get involved and swept away on the tide of beautiful ridiculousness. In a master stroke though, it never really leaves behind the fact that the events mostly play out in the background. Never losing sight that the children are just playing a game with each other. Having Matt and Trey write the story was perfect as you could probably easily cut all of the cinematics together and have one of the best seasons of South Park ever made.

The true star of the game is South Park itself. Apart from the occasional slowdown when transitioning from screen to screen it looks and feels exactly like an episode from the television series. From the jilted shuffling way everyone walks, right down to the camera angles and southern twangs on the guitar. Almost every building is open for exploration and literally stuffed to overflowing with references to past episodes. I’m not even kidding. I’m an avid South Park fan and have been since it started and I can’t think of a single character or item that isn’t represented or at least referenced in this game. One of the collectables in the game is the Wild Wacky Action Bike for crying out loud!

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The game doesn’t just draw on past glories to get laughs out of its audience however. It also does one of the best jobs of satirising modern videogame culture I’ve ever seen. From the constant Skyrim references that surround your characters ability to use fart magic, to a very memorable moment on a ufo collecting audio diaries that have been left by a disgruntled prisoner who just whines about the uselessness of audio diaries. It’s very fresh and very very funny. And then there’s Canada. Oh my days Canada! But I’ll let you discover that treat for yourself!

For anyone who played and loved Costume Quest then the battle system will feel like very familiar territory. Also not entirely different from the systems used in the various Mario rpg’s the fighting here is all down to your timing and reaction speed. Casting spells and attacking will require various waggles of the analogue sticks and button presses and defending yourself involves hitting the correct button when an enemy attacks you. It’s not perfect by any means as the response time can seem a bit out of sync and, as I mentioned, if the screen stutters when you’re at a key point in a qte that can sometimes mean a game over screen will shortly follow. Had it been in any other game I would probably be a bit harsher on it. However in a game where fights consist of things like Jimmy playing the ‘brown note’ causing enemies to soil themselves in diarrhoea and Kenny impaling himself by accident on his rainbow unicorn, it’s easy to forgive the game some of these things.

I feel that going into much more detail about what you do and who you meet would spoil some of the surprises that are in store for you, so I think I shall start winding my review down here. One last thing I will mention is the controversy over the censorship in certain scenes of the game. I caved in and paid the extra money to get the American version as I wanted to experience the game in its purest form. I have no personal experience over how the game is affected by taking these moments out. However after talking to a colleague of mine who is playing the UK copy, he said that the ufo scene (the first heavily censored one in the game) ended up feeling disjointed and broken. He is still enjoying the game though so I guess the only real question you need to ask yourself is how much does it mean to you to play the game without the little snippets breaking the immersion for you.

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And so we come to an end of the review. I loved this game. It is definitely not a perfect game and like I said, it has its fair share of frustrations. With that being said I have never laughed out loud so much and so often at a game, or dare I say it, an episode of South Park, as I did whilst playing TSOT. It is a game that will constantly have your jaw on the floor as you move from one outrageous task to the next. And to be honest, any game where I can go into work the next day and casually say that I fought a load of aborted, Nazi, zombie, baby foetuses last night, is a game that I’m proud to have in my collection.

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Don’t let the understated and almost mute appearance of Strider fool you in the opening of this game. What is about to follow is one of the most explosive and action packed metroidvania games released in recent memory.

Developed by Double Helix Games, the people who also bought you the Killer Instinct reboot on Xbox One, players once again assume the role of Strider Hiryu in this revisiting of the classic 1989 arcade game. However Double Helix have done more than just take the original and slap a new coat of paint on it. Rather than do that they have completely rebuilt and refocused the game from the ground up.

As I mentioned, Strider is now a metroidvania type game. And why is this a good thing? Well apart from being possibly the greatest videogame genre out there, it now gives us a chance to experience being Strider in his purest form. With the amount of backtracking, exploration and combat now implemented in to the game you really get a feel for being the all-powerful ninja like never before.

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For the first few minutes of the game it’s business as usual. You run from left to right, spamming the attack button. Don’t worry folks, Strider’s trusty Cypher is still in play, and his trademark laser katana makes very short and satisfying work of many of the cyber enemies you face early on. However after a few of the early bosses have been vanquished and you’ve upgraded you’re Cypher and abilities a little, you suddenly realise that this isn’t the Strider of old. As you cast cursory glances over your map you can see that various areas that were previously inaccessible you can now gain access to. Perhaps you had the wrong element Cypher for a certain door that you can now smash through. Or maybe that double jump ability you just acquired will now let you reach an impossible looking ledge from earlier. And this exploration is really where the meat of the game is. Straying from the path is a fun, and to be quite honest, necessary past time. Doing this will gift your Strider with a whole host of new upgrades. Be it energy tanks, health increases or just different costumes. Oh and did I mention that some of the unlockables offer up new bonus challenges outside of the main game? Well they do. These range from timing based platform sections where your nimbleness will really be put to the test. And combat challenges that pit you against ever difficult and challenging enemies.

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Now I say that backtracking is necessary as the difficulty in this game can spike in a couple of places. After you’ve played the game for a couple of hours you will really be getting into the swing of things, annihilating enemies with absolute ease, only to suddenly come up against an insurmountable boss who can obliterate you in a couple of screen filling hits. Now like I said this only happens in a couple of places and can be frustrating even with a fully upgraded Strider. However I believe that it is important to remember that this is and old school game with old school sensibilities. Perseverance and pattern memorisation is the key. Stick with it and the sense of achievement is palpable.

I think that the real place where Strider stumbles is in the music department. The whole affair is a rather muted one, with only a couple of little jingles and sound effects standing out. Honestly if you asked me to hum a tune from the game I couldn’t. Even with the music turned right up to the max in the settings it just seems to fade into the background.

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But with that being said that is the only quibble that I have with what I consider to be a phenomenal reboot. If you had played the Vita or 3DS versions of Batman Arkham Origins earlier on last year but found it to be a bit plodding, dull and trite, then believe me Strider is the shot of adrenaline you need. The well-paced gameplay is perfectly balanced with the, mostly, challenging difficulty curve. Bombastic, crazy, hard and always beautiful to look at it is a game that can without a doubt stand side by side with the likes of Guacamelee!, Metroid and Symphony of the Night.

Left Behind Review

Posted: February 22, 2014 in Reviews
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So after two extensive playthroughs and finally managing to pick my jaw up off of the floor, I figured it was time for me to weigh in on my opinions of Left Behind, the only single player DLC to come to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Just a quick word of warning, I am going to try and avoid getting into spoiler territory, however as the game is quite short it’s going to be quite difficult to talk about it without mentioning some key points. So if you want to take the game head on without any idea of what’s going to happen then take my word that this is an incredible piece of content and I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Ok so let’s set the scene. Oh and spoilers here if you haven’t even played the main game. So where does Left Behind fall chronologically in Naughty Dogs post-apocalyptic earth? Well, remember at the end of The Last of Us Ellie tells Joel that when she was bitten in Boston she was with her best friend Riley? And Riley was also bitten? Well guess what? You’re about to play through those harrowing events. Fun right? There is also a tie in comic by the name of American Dreams that is set just before the events of Left Behind. Don’t worry if you haven’t read it. It’s not essential, however there are a couple of references that you will miss out on and it is nice to see the world fleshed out across different forms of media.

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Now you might think that going into this DLC and knowing what the outcome of the story is might work against Naughty Dog in bringing us a new perspective on the world of TLOU. I am very very pleased to announce that it doesn’t. In fact if anything this three hour emotional rollercoaster is just another example of how much of a daring developer Naughty Dog is. In the space of time it takes you to complete Left Behind they have thrown so many new ideas and innovations your way that it really did put me in mind of playing Portal for the first time. Not that this is a funny puzzle game. But the fact that like Portal, Left Behind manages to squeeze so many fresh and exciting new ideas into its short play time that you do have to sit back and think to yourself ‘why can’t other developers show this amount of creativity in a massive 40 hour long game?’

Again it’s really hard to talk about a lot of these things as they are so much fun to discover on your own that it would be a shame to ruin them. I will talk about my favourite one here though, so if you don’t want to know then I’ll let you skip onto the next paragraph. As Riley and Ellie are exploring the mall they come across an old arcade. Now of course the game cabinets are broken and derelict but Ellie really wants to play one. Riley takes her over to The Turning cabinet starring Angel Knives. Remember her? Ellie talks to Joel about it when they come across a similar cabinet in the future. Of course the cabinet doesn’t work. However Riley takes Ellie’s hands and tells her to close her eyes. As Riley then commentates on what is happening in the game a fighting hud appears around Ellie’s face as she takes instruction from Riley and you, the player, are given button prompts on what to do. Throughout the whole experience all you are looking at is Ellie’s face. But as she gets drawn into her imaginative game and it concludes on her smile of pure adulation you can’t help but smile along with her as you see the joy she is experiencing. It’s an incredibly touching moment. And definitely one of many.

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However this is The Last of Us, and as we all know a piece of DLC can’t all be about two girls hanging out at the mall. Time to talk about the combat. Now I’ve read in at least one other publication that they thought the combat felt forced and got in the way. I have to disagree. I think that every time you are facing enemies, be they Clickers or humans, it felt completely in context with what was going on in the story. It’s also really nice to be controlling Ellie in combat again. As she is a much weaker and smaller character than Joel you have to rely on stealth a lot more. There is also the new mechanic of luring Clickers and infected to human targets and watch them take each other out. Very satisfying indeed. I also feel that had there been less combat then the climactic finale would have felt a little flat. Word of warning, just when you think you’re safe is when you’re at your most vulnerable 😉

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To be completely honest I think that the only gripe anyone could possibly throw at this miniature masterpiece is the price of entry. Sure if you’ve already bought the season pass and are getting the most out of multiplayer then this hasn’t really set you back more than a couple of quid. However if you, like me, are mainly interested in single player content then you would have had to pony up £11.99. Now I know that this really isn’t cheap at all as far as dlc goes. You could also argue that the length of the game, 2-3 hours, doesn’t justify the asking price. Trust me. Play the game. Enjoy the story. And marvel at the revelations. Then tell me it wasn’t worth it. Furthermore, like I’ve said, I’ve already played through it twice and am now gearing up for my Survival play through.

It might not seem that I’ve talked about a lot but believe me this gripping adventure is filled with collectables, conversations and hidden titbits. It is very very unlikely that you will see everything in your first play through. Naughty Dog have once again outdone themselves and shown that they are still the greatest developers around and not afraid to take risks. If you own a PlayStation 3 then you owe it to yourself to see where Ellie came from and what she had been through before meeting Joel. Like I said, this is a masterpiece and will undoubtedly be one of the best things you play this year.

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In The Beginning was The Word. And the word was Playstation.

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Where to begin? My dad bought our first Playstation from our cousins circa 1998. We were a little late to the party and our system came with such classics as Tomb Raider and Gran Turismo. As our first 3d console these were very exciting times for me and my younger brother. And although Tomb Raider was impressive and fun we felt like we were missing a little something after sampling the delights of Mario 64 and Goldeneye on our friends consoles. However, for myself anyway, I would never look with green eyes at another system after I bought a second hand copy of Final Fantasy VII from our local Electronics Boutique.

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This was where gaming became a legitimate obsession for me. As we were both at school my brother Dom and I were only ever allowed an hour or so play on the PS1 in the evening after all homework was done. For anyone who has ever played a JRPG will know that this is nowhere near enough time to properly sink your teeth into some of these massive games. And so started a tradition that would literally last years. For pretty much the entirety of my life at secondary school, every evening I would go to bed at about 10pm and set my alarm (which I had hidden down the side of my bed along with all my adult VHS tapes and a burst Stretch Armtrong) for 1am in the morning. I would then quietly wake up and get dressed. Sneak along the landing and down the stairs. Still to this day I remember the floorboards to avoid as the creaking would risk waking the parents up. Quietly unlock the door leading to my dad’s study. Again being careful not to let the keys rattle. Open the top drawer of his filing cabinet which was where the PS1 was kept under lock and key. Then as quiet as a mouse I would set it up in the living room and game until about 5am, put everything away, sneak back upstairs, sleep for an hour then get up and go to school. Like I said I kept this up for years and many times my brother, Dom, would join me as he just loved to watch the stories unfold. We saw many great epics through together, Final Fantasies VII through IX, Alundra, Grandia and many others. And this is probably the series of memories I hold closest to my heart whenever I think about Playstation.

Playstation 2. The not so difficult second album.

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Years later I scrimped and saved and finally managed to get enough dollar together to buy a Playstation 2. And this time it was personal. This would be the first console that I had bought off my own back. A very ceremonial occasion in any young person’s life. I remember that it must have been around about the time of my fifteenth birthday my dad was taking me and my friend Ben up to London for the day and I had all the intention in the world of bringing back a PS2. After going from shop to shop and checking out bundles we finally came across one in a Virgin Megastore which was perfect. A brand spanking new PS2 with a copy of Zone of the Enders. Now not only did ZOE look amazing in all the trailers I’d seen but it also came with something I was even more excited about than the game itself. A goddamn playable demo of Metal Gear Solid 2!!!! And not only did I get this but my friend Ben, for my birthday, had bought me a copy of Final Fantasy VI which came with a goddamn playable demo of Final Fantasy X!!! needless to say I was in nerd heaven. And then later that night Ben and I stayed up till the very early hours of the morning, pilfering his parents alcohol as we often did, playing those demos again and again and again.

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Now the Playstation 2 era was very important to me for another reason. This was around about the time that I started to get interested in the industry. I started to buy magazines to read up on news, previews and reviews. I was interested about who these people were that made these games I loved so much. One of the magazines which I read cover to cover again and again religiously was British based magazine PSM2. It was these guys that made me want to write about games. And not only was this a fantastic mag with reviews that I more often than not agreed with (I could have killed someone however after they only gave Grandia 2 something retarded like 18%!!!) but this magazine came with a dvd jam packed full of trailers and video reviews. Now if you’re a younger reader you’re probably thinking ‘big deal, so what’ but you’ve got to remember this is before smart phones and before broadband and all this wireless malarkey. We had dial up and if you wanted to watch a trailer for the new Ratchet and Clank game you’d have to settle in for a couple of hours with a warm cup of coco as the son of a bitch buffered! And so I would watch and re watch the trailers and reviews on these dvd’s constantly every morning as I ate my cereal and waited for the school bus. And some of these trailers just used to blow my mind! The stand out ones for me came with my very first issue which were the absolutely ground breaking and cinematic epic Metal Gear Solid 2 trailer from TGS  2001, and the effortlessly cool trailer for SSX Tricky set to Run DMC’s signature tune.

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Talking about the Metal Gear franchise, another standout moment for me during that generation’s cycle was waiting for the Metal Gear Solid 3 demo. That’s right. The demo. Not the game. That was still months and months away. I remember that it was meant to come on the demo disc with the Official Playstation Magazine. I think that two months in a row I pretty much ran to our nearest newsagents to find it, and both those times it turned out that the demo had been delayed. I was devastated. That is until when the third month rolled around I popped into the shop and low and behold there it was! The MGS3 demo bundled with a copy of the mag! I snatched a copy straight away and paid for it there and then. There was however one small problem. I was on my way to work. I couldn’t possibly be at work at Starbucks AND play the MGS3 demo could I? Of course not. So I came up with a cunning plan. I walked to work, bear in mind the weather was terrible, snow and ice everywhere, and then just as I approached the coffee shop door put on an incredibly convincing limp.

‘Oh my god what’s happened?’ my manager cried as I stumbled through the door.

‘I slipped and fell down the steps at the train station’ I replied. ‘Can I sit down? Everything hurts. Can I see how I feel in half an hour and if I’m still in pain can I go home?’

‘Of course you can’ my manager dotingly said ‘just have some water and take it easy’.

And so half an hour slowly ticked by. Eventually I got to go home and by the end of the day I could do the entirety of the MGS3 demo blindfolded on European Extreme difficulty.

And this wouldn’t be the last time I pulled a sickie for a game that generation. I vividly remember feigning a migraine at work at Pizza Express so I could go home and play Jak X Combat Racer. I think that was possibly the last time that I actually took time off to play a game. Do I regret any of it? Hell no! Would I do it again? Well I guess if naughty Dog ever pulls their finger out to make a Jak & Daxter 4 who knows?

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So suffice to say the PS2 had me hook line and sinker. There are just so many emotions and memories tied to this console that I could probably go on to write an essay. And you can hardly blame me. This console still has one of the strongest line ups of software to this day. There are too many games to list. Standout ones would of course be Grand Theft Auto, Grandia 2, Final Fantasy X, The Ratchet and Clank Series, Ico and Shadows of the Colossus, Okami, Timesplitters, Kingdom Hearts, Devil may Cry, Rouge Galaxy, Dark Cloud/Chronicle, Dragon Quest VIII. The list just goes on and on and on. As I mentioned Jak X Combat Racer before you’ve probably guessed that I’m a huge fan of the series. You would be correct. And it was searching for online reviews of Jak 3 shortly after it came out that led me to the website IGN. Little did I know at the time how important, not only in my hobby but in my personal life, this website would become to me. (But more about that in part 2)

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One last memory, which is fittingly probably my last that the PS2 had, is Guitar Hero. Now I know that this game wasn’t exclusive to the system but I owned it on the PS2. I still remember like it was yesterday picking up Guitar Hero 2 and going home and getting one of my oldest friends Simon over to play. We both have very similar tastes in music Simon and I. We always said we were born in the wrong decade as the eighties would have suited us down to the ground. Guns’n’Roses, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Skid Row. That was our jam! And so it became an almost weekly tradition that we would stock up on Marlborough Reds, Jack Daniels and get pissed and rock until the sun came up. The standout memory from this music and booze induced haze was the high score chasing that occurred on Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon. Often when I was at work I would get a text from Simon saying he’d beaten my high score. Which would mean I would then have to go home after a 13 hour shift to try and get back on top again. I still remember trying to go to sleep those nights and just seeing the different colour buttons running down my closed eyelids. Good times.

It’s like Playstation but on the go!

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Ah the Playstation Portable. Now I don’t have a lot to say about this little beast. It’s not that I didn’t like it. Quite the opposite. I loved this machine. It did however pale in comparison, in my opinion, to the Nintendo DS. That being said there were some absolutely phenomenal games on this system that could have only been done on this handheld. Graphical powerhouses like Final Fantasy Crisis Core and Grand Theft Auto Liberty City and Vice City Stories were milestones in handheld gaming. No to mention other fantastic early hits like Daxter and Ratchet and Clank Size Matters. However the truly great games were very few and very far between. Which was a shame as I think if it had had more support and a more consistent stream of quality titles the PSP would have easily given Nintendo a run for its money. I only really have three stand out memories of the PSP and they’re all a little drab. One is playing Breath of Fire on my sofa whilst in a pretty rough relationship. Another is playing GTA Liberty City Stories at work at Pizza Express and marvelling at the similarities between the mafia’s pizzeria in the game and the one I was currently sitting in. and the last is getting chocked up at the end of Crisis Core when you realise the inevitable fate of Zack.

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So there you have it. These are my Playstation Memories for the early days of Sony’s foraging into the home console and handheld markets. It feels like it ended on a little bit of a muted thunderclap at the end there, and I apologise for that, but little did I know about the storm that was approaching that would rock my world and change my life forever…..

To be continued in part 2   

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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.