Game Reviews

The Very Best Games of 2016: My Top 3

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Last year was really quite amazing for games, and while I have neither the cash nor the time to play them all (for that you’d probably need a good job and Bernard’s watch), I played my fair share of killer titles. Most of the cool kids do a top ten or a top five, but I’ve decided to spend some quality time here with my top three, as well as mentioning a few runners-up. See? I’m cool in my own way.

RUNNERS UP

// Dark Souls III: It’s my least favourite of all the Souls entries, but its bosses, level design and sense of progression once again put other games to shame. Read a little thing I wrote about it here// Inside: the developers of the celebrated 2010 platformer Limbo return with something every bit as twisted. Many have debated its themes of mind control and manipulation, but it’s the gameplay that truly shines. In spending six years working on an experience that lasts three hours, Playdead created a nigh perfect video game with innovative mechanics that are a pleasure to control. It’s deliciously, darkly atmospheric, and the finale is magnificent. // The Last Guardian: This puzzle-adventure followup to the 2005 masterpiece Shadow of the Colossus was certainly worth the wait. Though bogged down by an unwieldy camera, the relationship between the young protagonist and huge bird-dog-cat-thing Trico is beautiful and believable. It’s quite possibly the best use of an AI companion in games. // Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End: Nathan Drake’s concluding adventure is big-budget cinematic gaming at its absolute finest. The story and voice acting are spectacular, it looks phenomenal, and its set pieces are so jaw-dropping I almost couldn’t believe I was playing them. The series’ previous forays into the supernatural are abandoned in favour of a compelling historical mystery surrounding the Caribbean pirates, and it’s all the better for it. Did I mention it’s about pirates? // 

And now, on with the show… (more…)

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The Beast From 2003: A Retrospective Review of War of the Monsters (PS4)

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One of my biggest regrets in life will always be trading in my PS2 along with its accompanying collection of games. Don’t get me wrong, the copies of Devil May Cry 4 and Pokemon Pearl I got out of the trade tided me over for a while, but the loss of the previous three DMC games, the original Monster HunterShadow of the Colossus and a whole host of other games soon hit me like a frying pan to the face.

The game I was saddest to see go was War of the Monsters, developed by Incognito Entertainment and released on the console in 2003. Inspired both by Japanese ‘kaiju’ monster movies (think Godzilla) and 1950s American sci-fi (think Earth vs the Flying Saucers), WotM is a 3D arena-based brawler in which up to four giant creatures battle to the death, leveling buildings and causing chaos as they go. I have very fond memories of it, being one of the first games I experienced in split-screen multiplayer and becoming a game night staple right up until we were parted.

And so it was with a little internal squeal that I heard a small number of PlayStation 2 classics had been released on the PS4, and that one of them was War of the Monsters. I dutifully handed Mr Sony my eight British pounds and, at long last, we were reunited.

I booted it up and jumped straight into ‘2-player’ (Old English for ‘multiplayer’) to face off against a friend I played the game with ten years ago. The nostalgia levels were 8,999 (not quite 9,000), but does the Beast from 2003 stand the test of time, or does it shatter our lovely rose-tinted glasses with its giant monster foot? (more…)

Quick Review: Titan Souls

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Ever wondered how Legolas felt as he slayed the Mûmakil, sliding down its trunk like Middle Earth’s Tony Hawk as it skidded to a halt? Well, the closest you can get to that is playing Acid Nerve’s minimalist arcade boss-rush game Titan Souls (PC, PS4). Shrouded in ambiguity and invoking 2005’s unforgettable Shadow of the Colossus, the game has you exploring a bleak fantasy landscape searching for great beings known as Titans, whom you must eliminate with a single arrow.

Titan Souls’ controls are easy to learn but hard to master. One button lets you roll and sprint, another looses your arrow and pulls it back towards you. Shooting and recalling your arrow requires you to stand still, so choosing the most opportune moments to do so becomes the crux of defeating the game’s 19 Titans. It’s up to you to find their weakness and deliver that one, deadly shot.

The player also goes down with a single hit, meaning you will die an awful lot. In fact, I died 328 times. It’s a mean challenge, but quick restarts encourage you to persist, studying each boss’ patterns and formulating plans. Learning and improvement are key; some foes can be killed within seconds with the right knowledge and skill. All this culminates in immense satisfaction when you finally defeat the Titan that’s been mugging you off for the past half hour.

Beautiful pixel art and music enhance the game’s spacious world, however, between offing Titans, there isn’t much to do in it besides some basic puzzles. It can be infuriating trying to locate remaining Titans and, as you trek across empty spaces, you’ll wish there was more to do. As a pure boss-fight experience though, Titan Souls has enough variation to keep you invested for its five hours, and a masochistic hard mode that will make even the toughest warriors weep.

Check out the game on Steam here.

The Perfect Shape, Part One: Why Super Hexagon is the Most Flawless Game Ever

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In our age of PS5s, Dreamcasts and LeapFrog tablets, can a game really be flawless? Certainly games have come close, Grand Theft Auto V for example, but with many big games these days being rushed out with a plague of tecnhical problems and design missteps, that goal of absolute perfection is seeming harder and harder to achieve. As developers push for unique gameplay and more realised open worlds, their ambition, sadly, simply cannot be met with optimum, real world results.

Sometimes, that ambition just goes too far. Batman: Arkham Knight is without a doubt a 10/10 game and one of my all-time favourites, though developer Rocksteady were so intent on their innovative new Batmobile gameplay that they overdid it; a blemish on an otherwise perfect piece of art. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Batmobile, but when every single story mission has you using it to blow up hordes of drones, it does get a bit much. Even Dark Souls, which I pretty much worship, has glaring design flaws which fans just have to live with (COUGH COUGH Bed of Chaos COUGH COUGH).

So, I ask you, can there ever be a truly perfect, utterly flawless game?

Why, yes. Yes there can. (more…)