Danganronpa 1 2 Reload
Video Review
Mar 18
Posted by Ben at 19:02

Ok, before we start, the below video contains scenes from the first case of Danganronpa 2. It does include spoilers, including the first victim, plus a couple of solutions to some of the arguments during the trial. So, just a heads up if you're going in to Danganronpa 1 2 Reload blind and don't want anything spoiler

Which is fair enough, it's the investigations and trials that make the Danganronpa games, so you really should try to avoid spoilers where possible. I will say that the video doesn't reveal too much else, it certainly doesn't reveal the killer. But it serves to highlight the problem with doing video coverage of a game like Danganronpa 1 2 Reload, there's a lot to cover, and an awful lot of it is key to the story

The video takes a look at how the investigations work, then a couple of the mini-games from the trials, aside from milling about and killing time with the other students, that's kind of what Danganronpa is. It's very good though, it's hard not to get hooked in to the story once it gets going

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Danganronpa
1 2 Reload
Mar 16
Posted by Ben at 18:09

For the uninitiated, Danganronpa 1 2 Reload is the PS4 port of the two mainline Vita Danganronpa games. In terms of how they play, youíre kind of looking at a visual novel, with some friendship building a la Persona, then some Phoenix Wright style investigation and trying to prove who the culprit is. If it seems like Iím rushing through the explanation itís because weíve got a bit to get through, and Iíd wager if youíre searching the internet for reviews of Danganronpa 1 2 Reload, youíve probably encountered the series before.

Danganronpa is dripping with character. Even just in terms of looks, itís colourful, vibrant, the characters all have something about them, some caricature element to them. I was going to use the word Ďstylisedí but I thought that might sound like a negative, itís not, all the characters stand out, theyíre all unique, across both games, and they all look great. The setup too, youíre one of a number of extremely talented school kids, so talented that they attend a school that only the Ďultimatesí, the very, very best, can attend. Unfortunately the school has been taken over by a malevolent robot bear, and heís declared that the only way anyone is getting out of there is for them to kill one of their classmates and get away with it

Itís the narrative, or narratives, that make the Danganronpa games, the whole premise is buried in mystery, with hints and teases dangled long before the reveal. Each case is unique, and genuinely quite gripping once they get going. The prelude can be a little arduous, it takes hours before the game feels like itís begun, Danganronpa 2 in particular. I found myself wincing when a case would end, not at regret for what had gone on before, more that I knew the preamble before the next case begins in earnest was going to drag.

Yísee, while Danganronpaís characters and narrative are probably its strongest points, they might also be its weakest. I think it might be a case of things being lost in translation, but often the jokes not only fall flat, they just donít really make sense. I get why the games have so much down time, you have to spend time with the other characters to form attachments to them, not in gameplay terms, just that if youíre supposed to feel sad or betrayed by what happens throughout the story, thatís not going to happen if you havenít lived in the world. And truth is I liked most of the characters in both games, Ďmostí being the key word as thereís a few I started to loathe. Not because theyíre bad people, more that the bombastic, over-the-top nature of the characters often translates in to their personality quirks being laboured to the point of tedium. That character whoís really clumsy, theyíre going to fall over every scene, that guy whoís obsessed with hope and despair, you better believe heís going to mention it every time heís on screen. Itís a shame, but for Danganronpa, sometimes, less would be more.

The mini-games that make up the trials are a bit of a mixed bag too. Iím not sure Iíd say I liked any of them as such, certainly not loved, but some of them do serve a purpose. Countering arguments by shooting words or phrases with a bullet made from a contradicting statement, itís not without its problems but it works to bring some pace and panic to Danganronpa. Itís presented in a way that makes you feel bamboozled and shellshocked, not unlike your character. The problem with it, and I think this is more of an issue with the PS4 version than it was on the Vita (from memory), is that, thanks to the size of the screen youíre playing on, it can be a little hard to take in whatís on the screen. Aside from that though the games work perfectly fine on the larger screen, even with the loss of the touch controls

The games upscale well enough to the higher resolution. Itís rare you see anything that looks especially rough or blurry, but there are instances, particularly when the camera zooms in on objects. There were also instances where I managed to walk through environment, nothing broke, but itís the sort of thing you mention in a review. Likewise I saw a few instances of untranslated text, both times it was during explanations of the trial mini games, although I suspect it was duplicate text, certainly it wasnít anything I needed to know. I did find some of the mini-games confusing at first, and, in the arguments at least, it sometimes feels like you donít know where to begin, but they all

work despite the loss of the touch screen. If youíve never played a Danganronpa game before then let me assure you, theyíre kind of great. Theyíre exhilarating, gripping, especially the trials, thereís always something you didnít see coming and itís rare it feels like a cheap shot. They never really settle in to a rut, when when you know the pattern of throwaway story, free time, murder investigation, trial, theyíll still mix things up by throwing in something about the overarching plot. Thereís an awful lot of game here too, while I suspect playing both games back to back (neither are short games), youíre certainly getting your moneyís worth. I suspect most will be picking them up because they never got around to finishing both games on the Vita, certainly that was the case for myself and the rest of Bitparadeís writers, so let me assure you that both games still hold up despite their relative age. Danganronpa 1 2 Reload may get lost in this unusually busy Q1, but if you do pick it up you wonít be disappointed with it.
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Torment: Tides of Numenera
Video Review
Feb 28
Posted by Ben at 03:01

Our review has just gone live for Torment: Tides of Numenera, and it's a good game. It's very much a story driven game though, so a video of it might not be that exciting

So it's with that dirtying of the water that I present our hour long gameplay review of the PS4 version of Torment: Tides of Numenera. This is recorded on the PS4 Pro, not that that really has any bearings on performance. As good as the game is there's a fair few technical problems, lot's of hitching, and the animation seems to run at a lower framerate from the camera.

Anyway, the footage is captured from a fair bit in the game, and I complete at least one side quest, so there are some slight spoilers, nothing too story heavy though. Still, bear that in mind before watching

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Torment:
Tides of Numenera
Feb 28
Posted by Ben at 02:47

The old-school Western RPG has had something of a resurgence over the last few years. Not that weíre falling over them now, but with the Shadowrun games, Wasteland 2, and Pillars of Eternity, weíre seeing about one a year. As much as Wasteland 2 had a weight on its shoulders so too does Torment: Tides of Numenera, acting as spiritual successor to Planetscape: Torment

I donít really have the space in this review to detail the plot of Torment: Tides of Numenera, but the brief outline is that someone figured out how to live forever, creating bodies to inhabit before jumping to the next one and abandoning the Ďcastoffí body to live on. These castoffs are often revered or loathed for their creators actions, you are one of these castoffs. Your ability to manipulate the ĎTidesí has drawn the attention of a creature called The Sorrow, it hunts you and you Ďfatherí through the physical and psychic worlds.

Torment: Tides of Numenera is dense with mechanics, but it starts to make sense as you progress. Initially the levelling up system, the cyphers (powerful items), and the stat pools are all a bit bewildering, but it does start to make sense. Torment: Tides of Numenera uses stat points for its various mechanics, in combat youíll use your pool of physical to increase the strength and chance of success for your attacks. If youíre trying to persuade someone in conversation youíll lose the indigo intelligence pool, the more points you spend the greater the chance of success. You need to be careful though, once these pools are spent theyíre gone until you refill them with items or rest

When I was planning the video review for Torment: Tides of Numenera I was struggling to pick a bit of gameplay that included combat. I was hours and hours in when I started to think about it and Iíd only had 1 fight, an easy one right at the start of the game. Iíd had opportunities for more, but Iíd managed to talk my way out of it, but itís not like I was tripping over offers. Truth is combat is often more trouble than itís worth, youíre not falling over health items, youíre often charged a small fortune to rest, and as well as eating all your health, chances are youíre going to burn all your stat points too.

Itís not that the combat is horrendously bad, but itís definitely the weakest part of the game, and itís difficult to spec for. This isnít Fallout, handing out a beating isnít often a solution, but even if it was the moveset isnít there to make it especially fun or interesting, you find yourself using the same moves, spending the same skill points because you donít really have a lot of options. Anyway, it took me a while to get it drilled in to my head, but itís really not what Torment: Tides of Numenera is about. While to claim that you never need to fight is maybe bending the truth, itís certainly not where the focus is. You can usually talk your way out of it, intimidate someone in to backing down, convincing them itís not in their best interest, or simply, just not taking on that side quest.

Youíll spend huge chunks of time in Torment: Tides of Numenera talking to people, reading their stories, learning about the world, its culture and its inhabitants. Thatís what the game is about, not endless combat. While some of the lore is, to me at least (sorry fans of Numenera), a bit nonsensical, some of the stories contained within are fantastic. The writing is uniformly superb, and itís hard to think of many games that can boast missions, and side missions, as interesting. A big part of it is that stories go beyond where youíd expect. In another game youíd be given a task, youíd go and find the thing, return, complete the quest. In Torment youíre given a task, have to speak to someone, do a task for them, they tell you to speak to someone else, at which point the narrative takes a turn, then you have to make a decision about how to act. Side quests and main missions are lengthy, you can spend hours making very little concrete progress, this is more of a plus than it sounds, so dense are they



The characters too are fantastically written, your character, the Last Castoff, is probably one of the weaker and least interesting youíll encounter. Your potential teammates all have distinct personalities, and while some of them are very typical, thereís some who reveal themselves to be more than they appear. They each have their own stories that play out as you progress through the game, again, some of them are great. I really like them as characters too, Erritis is definitely worth adding to your party, the heroic bastard. The NPCs and quest givers are generally fairly good too, thereís one or two where their characterisation means their message gets lost a bit, but given what weíre used to having a few misses is easily forgivable. Itís not all good news though, while the combat is a black mark against the game, itís worth mentioning the technical problems.

Without seeing the PC version for myself I canít say for sure that this isnít an engine issue. The game judders on PS4, thereís a framiness to the animations, itís not a fps issue as such, the game world seems to run at a higher framerate, it just isnít smooth. Thereís also a hitching that occurs sporadically. More than sporadically, itís not constant, and given the nature of the game itís not game-breaking, but it is regular. Itís probably most noticeable in the Sagus Cliffs area, itís not caused by having the view too zoomed out, itís not caused by too much going on on-screen, as it occurs in much smaller, quieter areas, and it occurs on both the Standard PS4 and the Playstation Pro. It may not be a huge problem, but itís enough to say that if you want Torment: Tides of Numenera and have access to a decent PC, thatís probably where you should play it.

Iíve had a few other bugs too, generally itís been small things like the health bars flickering, the sound disappearing for a bit, small things that donít really have any bearing on the game. I have though had items fail to appear in my inventory, itís only happened once, but given that you never really have an abundance of items it doesnít inspire confidence. Iíd have written it off as me imagining it, but I also had an issue where an item that should have allowed 5 uses vanished after one. It was a useful item too. Again, none of this really affected my enjoyment as such, but had I not noticed the missing items and saved, I may not have been able to finish a quest.

Iím not sure fixing those issues would all of a sudden turn Torment: Tides of Numenera into a classic, as good as the narratives can be there is something heavy going about the whole thing, or maybe thatís just personal taste. Still though, for the right person Torment: Tides of Numenera is going to be ideal, were the combat a little better Iíd say itíd be pretty much essential for fans of the genre, but either way I donít think it will disappoint too many people

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Hatsune Miku:
Project DIVA Future Tone
Jan 21
Posted by James at 11:15

Rhythm action games, as a genre, have been through some tough times. Just over a decade ago a market still existed for original, mid-budget affairs, with wholly unique soundtracks to boot. Yet today these games are almost nowhere to be seen, and the mainstays of the past Ė Guitaroo Man, Popín Music, Dance Dance Revolution, Ouendan, Rhythm Tengoku Ė either died a slow death or retreated back to the arcade.

But mercifully games based on licensed music and characters have found their way to the home, and itís allowed Sega to sustainably produce and iterate on a new modern rhythm action series for almost a decade. The end result - Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone - is the culmination of all the Vocaloid rhythm games Segaís esteemed AM2 team has worked on over the years.

The Project Diva series feels like a love letter to all things Hatsune Miku, the synthesised idol from Crypton Future Media. A song list comprised of music from fan favourite vocaloid composers? Check. Plenty of unassumingly delightful nods to vocaloid culture? Itís all there. Gorgeously modelled music videos that bring the music to life? Yup.

Since the lyrics are all composed in Japanese, that last point is rather important Ė the scenarios of the story-focused music videos do a lot to bring out the meaning of the lyrics while playing to the compositionsí strengths. Itís not hard to feel the mood while playing a song like From Y to Y, for instance.

Being an arcade conversion, Sega has included over 200 songs, spanning every genre you can imagine, and not only every previous game in the Project Diva series, but the cuter, more bouncy Project Mirai series on 3DS. Those willing to give Vocaloid music a fair shake are unlikely to be disappointed with the selection on offer, and based on my own personal experiences, itís likely youíll still find something to love in the songs that you donít find catchy, thanks to the storyboards in the music video, or some rather brilliant choreography on display.

Tracklist natter aside, Future Toneís roots at the arcade means Sega have brought over some of those arcade sensibilities with it. Basically: It not only looks and sounds the part, but it plays the part. Hereís the gist of it: button prompts fly in from the sides of the screen. You clear them by pressing the appropriate button when the prompts land in their designated zones, which are placed ahead of time to the vocaloid music.

Whatís always made the series stand out is the depth to these mechanics. Not only do the flying button prompts and fixed zone markers keep things unpredictable yet fair, those that learn to ďdual wieldĒ the controller Ė interchanging the face buttons for the D-Pad and vice versa Ė will discover hidden depths to playing each song.

Dual wielding means that you can clear a button prompt for pressing Cross by tapping down on the D-Pad instead. Left on the D-Pad thus becomes the same as Square, Triangle can be substituted for Up, and so on. Which mercifully allows you to tackle more complex note charts that the developers cook up on the harder difficulties.

For instance, pressing Square, Triangle, Square in time and in quick succession to a three-syllable word would be difficult using just the face buttons, but with practice it soon clicks in your brain that you could dual wield, and either bash out Square, Up, then Square with your two thumbs, or Left, Triangle, left to the music.



This has been a staple to the series since the second entry on PSP, but Future Tone raises the bar in a way that provides a lot more depth to mastering and interacting with each song in the game. There are three main additions: Button prompts that beg to be held down instead of tapped, multi-button presses, and Left/Right markers that require either a trigger tap or a slide. At the arcades, an inviting multi-coloured touch-bar handled the slides, but on PS4 you can either hold down the left trigger, or more characteristically, tilt the controller or slide your thumb over the touchpad.

Having to now hold down some buttons, or press several at once, adds more nuance to the gameís scoring systems. For instance, holding down a button continually adds to your score, but itís no easy feat to do this *and* continue playing the song as normal using the other, unoccupied buttons. Likewise score tracking is a lot more detailed, letting you know the exact boundaries for getting a Great, or an Excellent. Itís a no-nonsense approach to rhythm action that also feels great to play Ė feedback is crisp and the sound effects are inviting, as they should be.

Itís also a return to form after the two PS Vita games introduced some odd new mechanics which had the effect of creating the illusion of more complexity; the first introduced ďscratch notesĒ that forced players onto an imprecise analogue input in response to a precise note Ė tilting the sticks or swiping at the screen. The second game replaced some prompts with on-rails markers, preventing the player from being able to read the music ahead of time.

Future Tone provides a firm but fair challenge that feels familiar and fresh to longtime fans, while keeping the hardest elements out of harder difficulties so not to alienate newer players. Some of the note charts on Extreme difficulty tended to reward memorisation rather than skill, however, but overall thereís little to fault here. Itís one of the best mid-budget home rhythm games in years Ė even if youíre not accustomed to synthesised Vocaloid music this is the perfect introduction.
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Yakuza 0

Jan 19
Posted by Ben at 11:59

One of the problems Sega seems to have had recreating the success the Yakuza series boasts in its native Japan, is that itís a continuing series. With a lot of fan noise Yakuza 3 and 4 both managed to get Western releases when many had given up hope, shining the spotlight on the series, Yakuza 5 even got a PS+ tie in, but for many the thought of joining the series midway through was enough to stop them from following through their interest in the series. Well, itís something Yakuza 0 puts right, and makes for a superb introduction to the Yakuza games

Yakuza 0, as the name might imply, is a prequel. Set while series stalwart Kazuma Kiryu is still learning the yakuza ropes, it opens with him beating a man senseless for a debt he owes a loan shark. Later that night the man is found dead, Kazuma is blamed for the killing and what follows is story of power struggles and land-grabs that involves Kazuma having to fight for his life and leave the yakuza behind. Itís a genuinely quality story, hammy at points for sure, but brilliantly well told, and a joy to watch unfold.


br> Kazumaís story is mirrored to some extent by Goro Majima, the gameís 2nd protagonist. Also cast out of the yakuza, Majima is doing everything he can to force his way back in. Thereís some great moments in Majimaís story, and the times where the two characterís stories intertwine are great, but all in all I found it less engaging. It think part of it is his character, more restrained than his usual larger than life self. Itís something that will bother newcomers less, and I suspect heís been toned down so that a narrative can be hung off him. I canít imagine the usual lunatic Majima bowing and taking the abuse he does. I suspect his environment doesnít help either, some of his side quests are fantastic, but the 2nd city is just less interesting, with less character, than Kazumaís Tokyo district.

One of the other smart things Yakuza 0 does to introduce both new and returning players is in how it staggers the content. Itís a little jarring, perhaps, having the serious crime story interrupted for some karaoke, to talk to pretty girls, to meet a foreigner whoís going to teach you new fighting moves, but it introduces mechanics to quickly dabble with, and then leaves you to decide whether you want to spend your time with them. Yakuza 0 holds back mechanics too, in the past it has felt like the Yakuza games will throw everything they have at you, occasionally (re)introducing them in a side-story or as part of the main story, but here theyíre doled out in a way that ensures youíre not overawed or swamped, every couple of chapters youíll get something new to think about, and that runs right in to the back half of the game.

There are a few areas of Yakuza 0 that have been freshened up over previous installments, the chief one is the combat. Both Kazuma and Majima have 3 different types of fighting styles at their disposal, each designed to cater to certain types of enemy. Generally speaking both characters have a standard jack-of-all-trades style as their default, theyíll pack a decent punch, have access to plenty of heat moves, and still be relatively quick. Theyíll have a more powerful moveset, weapon focused, slower, but able to attack through hits and deal large amounts of damage back. Then thereís a quicker style, flashier, littered with combos, but causing less damage per attack. Given the sheer amount of fighting youíll do in Yakuza 0, being able to easily mix things up and explore the combat system is a smart move.



Levelling up has also changed. Rather than grinding for experience, you spend money on yourself, buying your way around the skill tree. Fortunately enemies now spurt money when you slap them about, and the more flourish in your fighting the more youíll earn. It means you can fairly quickly turn both Kazuma and Majima in to solid fighters. The problem is the cost to unlock skills rises dramatically, and spending 30 million to unlock a skill you donít really want but is blocking the one you do want is a bitter pill to swallow. Itís where some of the side missions come in, Kazuma can earn a fortune through real estate if youíre willing to put the time in. Itís not a complicated system, although itís initially daunting, buy some properties when youíre out and about, pick a manager whoís going to have a positive effect on the economy, a security guard whoís less likely to attract trouble, then collect your share. Itís maybe a bit of a grind trying to amass a fortune all at once, perhaps an argument for the mechanic being introduced earlier than it is, but itís certainly quicker than fighting your way to the amounts needed.

One of the great charms of the Yakuza games are the side quests, and Yakuza 0 is no different. They can be a little run of the mill, and a lot of them will involve you just solving your problems by fighting more people, but some of them are smart, and brilliantly funny. Spending time doing the side quests doesnít net you experience anymore, but the characters can reward you in other ways, like working for you or joining you in battle. The downside to the side missions is that it can feel sometimes like youíre tripping over them. Thereís a few too many times where youíll be in the middle of a story mission and get stopped for a side mission to be introduced, even if you donít then follow it up. The same can be true of street fights that occur as youíre making your way around the city, they can get a little much.

Truth is though, Yakuza 0 is the best Yakuza game Iíve played. Itís hard to think how they could have made it more accessible to newcomers, yet thereís enough depth and familiarity for fans of the series to get hooked in to too. On a technical level the engine is showing its age, with shadows popping in, the game slowing you down (in terms of movement speed) during busy moments, and some angular geometry, but itís still a decent looking, and running, game. Yakuza 0 will be missed by many, and thatís their loss, because itís a superb, charming, well told, and joyfully violent game

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Fate/EXTELLA
The Umbral Star
Jan 17
Posted by Mark at 04:03

Fate/Extella is a videogame about war. Specifically, a war that's taking place in a simulation on a computer on the moon, where the demise of each of the participants' avatars results in the death of their real-world Earth counterparts. Like a really high-stakes Time Commanders.

This war took place between Masters- those with an Earth counterpart- who would pit their Servants- digitised versions of legendary 'heroic spirits'- against one another until one Master remained, who would have their wish granted by the Holy Grail.

The player joins as Hakuno Kishinami, the master of Nero, a Saber class Servant who won the War during PSP dungeon-crawler Fate/Extra, as she and her crew of other Servants attempt to fend off other surviving Servants who seek to end Nero's rule, all with Masters who appear to be clones of the player.

The gameplay is very much in the Warriors mould, albeit without Omega Force's input. Bat aside hundreds of enemies in order to take control of bases on a map, every now and again unleashing a special attack which wipes out everything nearby, and then take on a boss when you've got enough territory.

Once that's all over, it's back to HQ- interestingly named My Room- where you can assign upgrades dropped by enemies during the battle to improve your Servants' skills, and talk to your Servant before entering into the next battle.

There's not a lot to criticise about the combat in the main- it's pleasingly button-bashy and the special moves have enough weight to them to not feel like it'd just be easier to use normal attacks, and all of it looks fittingly spectacular, if there is a lack of variety in some of the larger attacks.

However, around the edges it's different story. The bases the level is split into, rather than being fortresses in an open-ish field, are variously-shaped boxes connected by warps your character zips through automatically, which robs the levels of any sense of place, making navigating without the map unnecessarily difficult.

The enemy's approach to taking your bases is also a little different to the Warriors games of old- any random enemy base can generate a 'Plant', which will spawn enemies to attack a random one of your bases, regardless of how close or connected the two are. This makes conquering a full map feel more like firefighting randomness rather than strategically pushing back an intelligent enemy force.

Talking to your Servant in My Room also offers very little- the plot is mainly progressed through cutscenes immediately before and after each battle, and the dialogue in My Room centres mostly on how much the Servant and the Master love one another, certainly as far as Nero's story is concerned, which is probably a holdover from Fate's visual novel roots. Even talking to other Servants in their sidestories doesn't add very much to the matter.

It's possible to raise the 'bond' between both parties by making the right dialogue choices, but this doesn't appear to have any meaningful effect on the game, beyond dropping a handful of upgrades at certain milestones.

The main plot itself does a decent job of setting up the battles- Hakuno has been split into three parts representing mind, body and soul, and each of those parts have found themselves associated with a different Servant. The three Servants begin to fight one another to bring all three parts of Hakuno together, all while cosmic IT guy Archimedes tries to stop an outside force from destroying the Moon Cell (that computer from the review's intro) during its regular system update, which comes around every few thousand years. However, it doesn't do a great job of explaining the events that lead up to this title, meaning it's easy to let the story wash over you and get on with the fighting.

The computer simulation motif is also kept up in much of the art style and in the smaller 'Code Cast' abilities, which are written to appear similar to programming functions, a reference that will be lost on many but not in such a way that would obfuscate their meaning.

In pure game terms it's hard to recommend over the established Warriors games which do the same thing better, and there's no shortage of licenced games if the historical setting of those puts you off, especially now there's Fire Emblem Warriors on the way. It's also probably not really for the Fate newcomer, as everything in the setting seems to hinge on you knowing what happened at least in Extra.

However, for fans of Fate, the opportunity to see all the characters again in a new setting and play a new game which keeps in with the tradition of changing up the genre between releases, this is something that will go down swimmingly.
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Mantis Burn
Racing
16-10-16
Posted by Ben at 16:13

It might surprise a few people that Mantis Burn Racing isnít a Playstation Pro launch game, undoubtedly it should get a 2nd wind when Sonyís upgraded console comes out but itís actually available now on standard PS4, Xbox One and PC, and itís a good game even without the novelty of 4K

Mantis Burn Racing is a top town, isometric racing game, reminiscent of Motorstorm RC from a few years back. Itís a more fully featured game than you might expect, with a levelling system, weight classes of cars, vehicle improvements you equip. The game boasts a lengthy career mode, definitely longer than I was expecting, with a number of different race types, online, and split screen multiplayer. It also looks better than I was expecting. I wasnít surprised by how sharp the game looks, but the quality of the textures and the particle effects do go beyond what I expected to see. The most important thing about Mantis Burn Racing though is how smooth it is, the high framerate allows for responsive controls, allowing you control the drifts and slides on the spongey ground.

The solid frame rate does drop occasionally. Iíve only seen it maybe 3 times, but if you get a fleet of cars bunched up at a corner, with dust and debris flying around, the game will drop frames. Itís rare though, and itís not simply caused by all the cars being in one places as you donít see it at the start of a race. One disappointing note on the presentation side is the sound. Thereís not enough engine noise, squealing brakes, screeching of tyres, it makes the races sound flat, itís reminiscent of a phone game.

Itís always a bit of a relief when youíre reviewing a game and itís clear what its strengths and weaknesses are, it makes it easier to criticise, and Mantis Burn Racing is definitely one of those games. Mantis Burn Racing is undoubtedly a good game, itís fluid, controls very well, and thereís some really enjoyable tracks. Itís the kind of racing game where when you make a mistake youíll want to hit the restart button, where youíll want to replay a track because you know you can climb the global leaderboard. Itís something the Ďgearsí system encourages, thereís requirements laid out before each race, winning the event is invariably one, but it may include hitting a certain speed or jumping a certain distance, these reward you with gears that are needed to finish a season, but arenít as strict as you might fear.

Itís a shame then that Mantis Burn Racing doesnít do more to enable this challenge mentality. If you want to find out if you climbed the global leaderboard on a track you have to finish it then restart the event. The game would be helped immensely if things like leaderboards were presented more readily, similarly what track youíre about to drive, a recognisable track image or something would go a long way. One of the main problems with this is that loading a track can take an age. A quick restart should be the default for a racing game like this, Iíve no doubt thereís very good reasons why it's not there, but messing up a lap early, recognising youíve lost the event, or even just wanting to play again all mean a lengthy load time.

Iím also not entirely sure about some of the design decisions around levelling up the cars. There are stats for the cars, but itís very difficult to tell if one car is actually worse than another or if youíre just not used to it. Because everything can be modded and improved often your lap times are as much tied to you making a better car than improving as a player. Itís hard to negate this with the way the game is structured so maybe thereís no complaint there, certainly in career mode, but it is a problem when you race online and can find yourself at a massive disadvantage simply because youíve spent less time with the game than your opponent. This is true in the weekly challenges too, itís arguable that Mantis Burn Racing might benefit from standardisation in some areas.

Still though, I really like Mantis Burn Racing. Itís got a lengthy career mode, a variety of different race types, and mini challenges thrown in to make things interesting.The tracks are invariably interesting, thereís shortcuts, plenty of room to overtake, even the occasional obstruction on the track. Theyíre fun to replay, nailing drifts and learning when not to be cautious, and a big part of that is the handling coupled with the frame rate. We wonít know how it handles on the Playstation Pro for another month, but certainly if youíre looking for a game that will then make use of the extra power, Mantis Burn Racing is a fun pickup
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Prison
Architect
06-07-16
Posted by Duane at 02:14

I've played a lot of Prison Architect on PC, watched it as it slowly became a fully fleshed out game throughout its Alpha and eventually be fully released. I've spent hours upon hours starting and restarting my own correctional facilities. So it made sense that I take on the mantle of covering the PlayStation 4 version that /Introversion recently released.


This genre is always at its best on PC, and after trying Tropico 5 on PS4 thanks to PlayStation Plus it does still seem to be pretty much the same as its always been, a controller is just too cumbersome for quick menu navigation and analogue sticks don't lend themselves too well to adding to the landscape upon which you're building. However, Prison Architect have gotten this right and Double Eleven (who handled this port) have done it in such a simple way too. First off, it was always going to be easier to move around the terrain and build thanks to the games 2D graphical style, it just makes life so much easier when you use such a viewpoint, allowing you to see absolutely everything. It also fits in with the tone of the game, giving you a blueprint kind of development of your prison. Everything you'd ever need to run your prison is then mapped to menu's access via the d-pad. Building tools are accessed by pressing left, reports report etc and you can still slow down or speed up time.

This release, and bare in mind its been a while since I did boot up the PC version admittedly, feels more gamelike than its big brother. You're still developing your prison using Grants, which give you a list of things you need to put into your prison, but the manner in which its all done feels a little more relaxed and streamlined and its far, far too easy to get lost in adding more and more to your facility and lose focus of actually running it. Thats always been Prison Architect's biggest problem, and its one thats transferred over with this port too. You're inmates needs and behaviours aren't always obvious. Sure the game has the means to tell you whats wrong and what has been happening, but the means by which to address them aren't always obvious or simple to achieve and it doesn't really feel satisfying when you manage to overcome these obstacles.

I guess thats why its named Prison Architect as the focus does appear to be on creating a prison, selling it at a profit, then making another prison and whilst the inmates all have names and back stories (some are really rather amusing whilst others are ridiculously dark) it doesn't really feel like you're providing the means to rehabilitate them.

Its now, however, I'd like to bring up Remote Play, something I do regularly when I cover PS4 games that I think will translate well to being played on Vita. Prison Architect is exceptional on the Vita, I've no idea if Introversion or Double Eleven plan on porting it over to the handheld properly, but as it stands now the Vita is a perfect partner to playing it on a big TV in your lounge. I was more than happy to switch over and lounge around on the sofa building more elements to my prisons and the text never felt difficult to read, and its this more than anything else in this port that enforces just how much time and care Double Eleven have put into this port of Prison Architect. Its praiseworthy to them that they have not only made the game feel at home on a console, but it feels at home being played on a much smaller screen too.
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Odin Sphere:
Leifthrasir
29-06-16
Posted by Duane at 03:30

Odin Sphere was one of those games that many completely missed out on right at the end of the crossover between the PlayStation 2's generation and the Xbox 360 coming out. Even though it was a bit of an oddity even then, its fair to argue that the gaming landscape has changed somewhat and it sticks out even more now, despite Sony's platforms (in particular the Vita which Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir has also been released on and Ben may comment on at a later date) generating a bit of a niche for ďthis sort of thingĒ. Before we go ahead tbough, I'd like to state that I won't be comparing Leifthrasir to its predecessor. I understand this is essentially a remaster of the original game, with some gameplay tweaks here and there, and whilst I owned Odin Sphere, I did so at a time that the PS2 had been moved to a different room and thus, aside from the opening couple of hours or so, it never really got the attention that I actually wanted to give it.


Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is a little different from many games you will have access to on these shores, its essentially a hack and slash side scrolling RPG that looks as though every single bit of it has been hand painted. In stills its absolutely gorgeous to look at and, arguably, it stands up well to being animated too with small intricate little details like the flutter of Gwendolyn's skirt really standing out. But its all well and good looking stunning, if you don't have something under the hood then you'll get found out.

Luckily Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir packs this in spades. I mentioned before that it was ďhack and slashĒ but that really does it a diservice and strips it back to its basic combat element. You see, whilst you'll get through chunks of the early game just bashing away at the attack button, you'll soon figure out that you need to combine stick movements and button timings, plus throwing in abilities using the circle button and you're inventory of alchemic potions all in order to get the better of the more difficult foes the game likes to throw at you. Thats before you consider how to counter and dodge and rack up large combo's. The controls are incredibly responsive and you the player never ever feels like a mistake is down to the systems put in place.

Which is a very good thing, what with there being 4 characters stories to play through (the aforementioned Gwendolyn; a Valkyrie and daughter of Odin is your introduction to the game wherein you'll also get to meet the rest of the playable cast before taking on their chapters). Each character has around 6 or 7 chapters each and they can take about an hour to an hour and a half each to play through, so despite looking limited, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir isn't a short game by any standards.

I touched on the alchemy before, which is a key area of the game. Here you will pick up items that you need to mix with materials in order to create healing potions, antidotes and all the normal things you'd expect in order to keep yourself alive. You can also create offensive potions to use in battle (and personally speaking I generally saved these for the bosses and mid-bosses). Theres also a cookery element, which works in the same way but cant be done at any time. Instead you have to call upon a chef when you're in Rest zone to cook the items for you and (usually, as there are a couple of exceptions) consume them right away. Almost everything you eat carries Experience too, including the fruit you grow using a combination of seeds that you find/are dropped by enemies and the life force (called Phozons) that seeps out of defeated foes as you progress. You simply plant the seed, expel the required Phozons and wait a few seconds for the fruit to grow. Some fruit give seeds back once eaten and the cycle continues. But the way in which you have to juggle creating fruit using Phozons and using said Phozons to upgrade your abilities adds just enough element of strategy to the game to make you consider what it is you are doing. Normally there is more than enough to go around and upgrades happen quickly enough for you to never feel too overwhelmed by your opponents, but there are times when one may have to suffer to work on the other.

Truthfully speaking, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir has been a breath of fresh air. It may be an old game give (quite a bit from what I understand) of spit and polish, it might be very similar to Vanillaware's other games, but played on a big screen in the lounge its a an absolute feast and incredibly enjoyable to play.
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