Pronounced GIF:
 
 
Nier: Automata

Mar 26
Posted by Ben at 11:12

We haven't, and probably won't, given a lot of coverage to Nier: Automata. I personally have too much on my plate to review it, and we're more than a little behind the curve at this point

That said, there's no reason why we can't use it to launch a new feature we're trying out called Pronounced GIF. This may all turn out to be too much trouble than it's worth, and our apologies if you're on a data cap and we post nothing but these from now on, but here's a gif from NieR: Automata

If you are on the homepage and can't see the gif, click the permalink button to the bottom right
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Slime-San
Gameplay Video
Feb 19
Posted by Ben at 17:32

We were sent over a preview code for upcoming platformer Slime-San, so we (I) took a look at the first world

I know it's trite and easy, but if you've played such as games as Super Meatboy and N+ then you probably know what to expect. Slime-San is a tough, tricky, but very responsive platform game. The sort of game where you first attempt at a level can be a nightmare, then when you return you wonder why you ever struggled.

I'm not going to go in to huge detail here, there's a video below for that, but Slime-San is very well put together. There's a bunch of additional stuff, not unlike Meatboy, to encourage you to return to the game, restarts are rapid, shame there isn't a pause button on the pad, or a restart button on there (that I know of at least).

Slime-San seems very promising, and it's out in April on PC (Steam, Humble Bundle's Store) which console versions to follow

There's a gameplay video below

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Switch

Feb 18
Posted by Mark at 20:27

This is more of a 'First-ish' Play, as I'd had time to give this a quick go before streaming it.

Anyway, it's another one of them tough-as-nails precision platformers indie developers are so fond of creating- the gimmick this time around being that you get a double-jump.

As you can see from the occasional excursion into the level selection screens, this is very clearly a preview build, but we do get a decent look at much of the game's second and third worlds.

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Jan
28
Posted by Ben at 17:23
I say this every year, but we do the Game of the Year thing a bit differently at Bitparade. You might, rightly, thing 'different' is a euphemism for 'late', but shut up yeah? We also have a rule where no single game can be picked twice, or in Mark's case at all



Until a couple of years ago Iíd never played an Etrian Odyssey game, then I played Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Fafnir Knight and promptly picked it as my Game of the Year. Theyíre remakes of the DS Etrian Odyssey games, and while optional, theyíve added a story and locked in characters, rather than you building your own party. It doesnít sound like much of a change, and the story isnít the worldís greatest, but it all adds up to refine the experience, focus it down to drive you forward. The only knock Iíd put on Etrian Odyssey Untold 2 is that it does feel a little familiar, but itís a better game than the first Etrian Odyssey Untold, and if youíre after an rpg to play on the go, or laying in bed, you should really check it out



I mean, hands down, Doom is the surprise of the year. It looked terrible, and Doom 3 wasnít great. I personally liked Rage quite a bit, and the 2 Wolfenstein games were great, so there was a glimmer of hope, but that multiplayer beta as a final tease didnít exactly get the heart racing. Itís brilliant though, I really donít have enough superlatives for it. Itís relentless, pacey, gleeful. Itís nonsense but in the right way, but itís also superbly precise, on PC at least, I canít vouch for the console ports. If you were holding out because itís Doom, buy it, play it, love it, but then Iím just one of a million people raving about it so itís old news that Doom is brilliant at this point.



There was a couple of games in contention for my 3rd placed spot, notably Stella Glow, which misses out just because itís a bit of a grind to finish. Really good SRPG, thereís a huge amount to like about it, but it makes the mistake of undermining its own pace by throwing a couple of uber-powerful bosses at you right at the end. Anyway, Dishonored 2 took the place, and while itís not underserved, itís a game I liked more after time passed. I think because I enjoyed the first game so much, it was a real breath of fresh air, both for its morose tone and Half-Life esque world, but also the way it made a stealth game work while giving you super powers.

Dishonored 2ís big problem is in its presentation. It still looks great, although it runs worse than it really should on PC, but the way it just tosses out its story, itís a shame, if the game doesnít care about the story then itís hard for you to, and this isnít helped by some piss-poor casting/directing/performance for the voice work.

Anyway, the good. Dishonored 2 has a few incidental bits of world building, moments where you stumble on npcs being wronged, you can watch it happen or you can get involved, shaping the game world. It pulls you in, makes you care about things and feel like youíre taking part. The Dishonored gameplay is still there, thereís still immense satisfaction to the painstaking stealth, and creatively murdering everyone. I wish theyíd presented it all better so I could have enjoyed it more at the time, I got a bit blinded by how disappointing the set up was




I'll admit I paid Overwatch literally no attention during its development. It wasn't until the open beta on console that I knew of its existence, which is probably as much down to the lack of attention I've paid to videogames in the past 12-18 months as it is anything else. But after my partner, eldest daughter and I spent an entire weekend with that beta we knew we had to own it. Fast forward some seven months since its release and we're still playing it, individually and as a pass-the-pad family activity. Blizzard have created a game that, in my opinion, is instantly accessible to almost everyone whilst having enough to it to constantly reward skill and hard work, the sheer number of characters to choose from, each with their own unique abilities, means there's always a different way to play and something new to try and even after all this time and even with us recently mostly playing the Mystery Heroes playlist (wherein you're randomly assigned a character with each spawn) there are some characters I've barely played. When it came to thinking on my list for Game of the Year, Overwatch was a no brainer and I'm genuinely excited to see what 2017 brings to the shooter.

As I write this, and with Bitparade being traditionally late to the party with these lists (we do it on purpose! Its called being fashionably late) Blizzard have just launched their Luna New Year event with the theme being centred around the Chinese Zodiac and the Year of the Rooster. With this they've introduced yet another new (but temporary for now) Capture the Flag mode that will be familiar to FPS players and, again, it just seems to work really well with you being able to take advantage of characters abilities. Its this balancing of using familiar modes and traits that gamers who have spent years playing competitive shooters will recognise, all tied to a very team based game that also has that MOBA element with the need to learn how to get the best out of each and every character and switch things up with a different tactics where needed that keeps me coming back to Overwatch more than any game I can remember since my weekly online escapades on Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow.



This game is a prime example of why we're always late to the party with these lists. If we had have been preparing for this all to be posted at the turn of 2017 then The Last Guardian wouldn't appear here. But the fact its placed second in my list at the expense of titles like Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, Grand Kingdom and No Mans Sky (quiet in the back! I really liked it!) says a lot about it. Ok, even I noticed the frame rate from time to time and there were elements of its last hour or so that I felt were a bit tacked on and came in as suddenly as that final boss in Final Fantasy IX. However, from the moment I freed Trico from his chains and then saw him stick his big stupid head through a hole that was far too small for him to fit through I knew that I was playing something very special.

The Last Guardian isn't for everyone, but I think those of us who have developed a strong bond with a pet will recognise the relationship that begins to grow between the boy you control and the beast you try to command. There are times when you want Trico to do something and its definitely apparent that there is a lack of discipline there, now of course there are also times when you know that the AI has gotten itself stuck and you've got to let it work through whatever mechanics have been put in place by the very talented develoment team, but for the first time that I recall that my companion was behaving in a manner where it wasn't a tool to lead to progression through the game but was an actual element of the game that was designed to be experienced, which is just a phenomenal thing for a game to do and is something that, in my opinion, has been worth waiting through this long and difficult development period for.



We had a bit of a discussion about this on Skype, it wasn't a particularly long discussion but it did begin with me asking if I could include Super Mario Bros. 3 on this list. The jist is that, no, I couldn't, and I understand why, its literally a re-release of a very old game, one that brings back fond memories from my childhood, but Nintendo hadn't done enough work on it to warrant its inclusion on its own. So we agreed I could cheat and include the NES Mini on the list instead. However, I did literally just buy it because I wanted to replay the original version of Super Mario Bros. 3, not the version I own via Super Mario All Stars and not the version I have buried away on my PC's hard drive in ROM form either. £50 plus another £8 for a second controller just to play the one game is rather excessive, but I did want to play some of the other games included too even if the majority of them weren't a part of my nostalgia trip as I only recall playing the 3 Mario's, Teenage Mutant Ninja/Hero Turtles and Digger T Rock on the NES that I had as a kid, but aside from a bit of Bubble Bobble, the NES Mini has been mostly a machine to introduce my family to Super Mario Bros 3.




If you told me at the beginning of last year that Iíd put down two driving games as my favourites by its end, I would have laughed back at you. With the numerous closures of various racing specialists last gen - Disneyís BlackRock, Segaís Racing Studio, Bizaare Creations - and the declining sustainability of the big budget driving game, you couldnít blame my scepticism for the genre this generation. But Forza Horizon 3 certainly delivers, and feels like the driving game Playground Games always wanted to deliver from the beginning. The original Forza Horizon never felt like a truly open world racing game since its setting forced a lot of your driving onto tarmac. Two games later Horizon 3ís take on driving across Australia is liberating by comparison - both Yarra Valley and The Outback offer tremendous variety in how you can approach each corner to the checkpointed events and races, and trying out new car types rarely feels old as a result.

The real star of the show are the bucket list challenges dotted around the map. These give you a very specific task to complete Ė Push through the mist and find the haunted house in an Oldsmobile 442! Ignore your Sat Nav and bounce your way to the Gorge in the Penhall Cholla! Ė but the unbridled nature of the landscapes youíre driving in turn these challenges upside down. Youíre not just racing to a goal, youíre taking an unplanned trek across the outback and hope for the best as your car tilts and turns, or cut across a section of rainforest to make it to the goal in time.

It can feel a little bit too uncontrolled at times. Progression is often dependent on just completing things rather than completing them well, and even the Drivatars can struggle with the gameís often unfamiliar landscapes. But these are only minor blemishes on a superbly varied, fun driving game that really does succeed at its attempts to be all things to every driver.



If Forza Horizon 3 was about having a good time and soaking in the easygoing atmosphere of your own racing festival, DiRT Rally may well be the polar opposite. But like Forza, what it sets out to do, it pulls off almost effortlessly. DiRT Rally is the return of the serious Rally game, where even the shallowest corner can throw you off course, where driving in a straight line can often prove to be a challenge, where championships are the culmination of dozens of races, not a few. Itís a rather refreshing change in identity after the DiRT games last gen focused heavily on gymkana face-offs with a flashy atmosphere that arguably lowered the tone of the sport at hand.

What really made DiRT Rally one of my picks is just how unique and peerless it feels to play: Youíve got one of the best driverís seat cameras in the business, every inch of road is modelled convincingly, the physics are satisfyingly characteristic. No course plays out in the same way, and you can never be so sure of having nailed down a perfect route through those winding roads. Codemasters has focused on one area of driving and nailed it Ė had this vision been a part of a more sprawling racer, like Gran Turismo, itíd have inevitably been compromised.



Pokemon Sun is the Pokemon sequel I never knew I wanted. Thing is, the excitement I once had for new instalments in the main series started wearing off after Pokemon Black and White 2. The games are still good, and the metagame and battle system are still in a class of their own. But I found the series starting losing the purity it once had (and regained with Black and White), and the single player campaigns were becoming increasingly contrived. Battles became even easier by way of mega evolutions and poor balancing around a new EXP Share. NPCs would keep handing you powerful Pokemon. The once-labyrinth layout of routes between towns was straightened out into linearity. The games no longer felt ďdesignedĒ in the same way they once were.

So I was pleased to find that Pokemon Sun was a breath of fresh air. The change in setting, of course, helped a great deal. But Sun rethinks a lot of aspects that had become to feel contrived. The world map is now a series of organically designed, tightly-packed islands, a big improvement from the linear routes of the last few games.

Rival trainers are now stronger and smarter, urging you to make full use of your tactics in battle and making the new EXP-sharing system share actually matter. Mega evolutions were kept out of the game until after the campaign, and in their place a much tighter system of Z-moves were introduced. Its improved approach to storytelling played a significant role in making the gameís world feel more like a living, breathing, interconnected place, rather than a series of disconnected locations. A shake-up of the gym system prevented the game from being predictable like previous titles did, too. I wasnít expecting any of this, despite the game looking promising in its trailers, and it made Pokemon Sun one of my favourite Pokemon campaigns since 2011ís Black and White shook things up in similar, but less significant, ways.
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Pixel Heroes:
Byte & Magic
Jan 26
Posted by Mark at 16:36

Coming in alongside the announcement that Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic is coming to XBox One, we did a quick livestream of failing to complete the first quest.

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Yakuza 0
Gameplay Video
Jan 15
Posted by Ben at 16:55

We posted our written preview for Yakuza 0 the other day, and now I've managed to make enough progress to record the video accompaniment

As you can See Yakuza 0, while not exactly pushing the PS4, isn't a shoddy looking game. There's more to Yakuza 0 than we can show in the video, but you'll see a few fights, some of the side quests, hear me ramble on about stuff, do some shouting at other people's karaoke. You know, the usual stuff

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Yakuza 0
Preview
Jan 11
Posted by Ben at 12:55

The late Western release of Yakuza 0 may actually turn out to be a fortuitous for the series. Sega have tried a few times to find some traction for the Yakuza games in the west without much luck. The series undoubtedly has its fans, and they've generally been good games, but as the series has gone on its been harder and harder for new players to find a foothold. Yakuza 3 and 4 felt like too much canon had passed to be an entry, and while Yakuza 5ís addition to Playstation Plus will have undoubtedly put the series on people's radar, it was on the PS3 as people moved on.

Yakuza 0 then is the first time we've seen the series on the Playstation 4, and that it's a prequel, one that doesn't need a storied knowledge to get the most out of, it's a great time to jump in. That's not to say that a knowledge of the characters and world won't have benefits, knowing who Kazuma Kiryu is acts as a pretty good short hand for what to expect from the Yakuza games.The brutal, joyous closed area brawling the series is famous for. The game opens with a young Kiryu, still low on the pecking order in the Tojo clan, beating a guy senseless to collect a debt he owes. He's then walked around town by a friend, who takes the time to explain where Kiryu is going wrong as a Yakuza, he's a bit too brusque if you can believe!



It soon turns out Kiryuís victim has turned up dead, and the murder is being pinned on him. Yakuza 0 begins to reveal a complex story or betrayal, loyalty, and real estate land grabs. When the Yakuza series lands their straight faced stories they're fantastic, complex and interesting. Where Yakuza 0 diverges slightly from my previous experiences with the series is that the more ludicrous aspects of the game are introduced along side this, straight faced. It's sensible, it's what a good portion of the franchise are here for. So, while you're on your tour of Tokyo, learning how to be a better Yakuza, you're taken out for some karaoke (which is hilarious), and introduced to the fighting mini games and the leveling system.

Something that has changed is the levelling. Rather than gain experience through combat and side missions you instead earn stacks of cash from smacking people about. This money then buys items on the skill tree, be that new moves, extra damage or increased health, with specialists dotted around the map to teach you some moves. The introduction of these specialists is invariably hilarious, or at least so over the top itís cool.



Which, for the uninitiated is pretty much what youíve got to look forward to from Yakuza 0. It seemingly presents itís barmy side a bit more front and centre than in previous games, but that belies an interesting and well presented crime story. There are moments that will have you rolling with laughter, but equally some of the brutal combat will make you wince before snorting in delight. Thereís mini games and side quests a plenty, and a ton of sub stories to fill out the world.

Weíll see where it goes as we progress through the game, but so far Yakuza 0 is shaping up to be a great entry to the series.

GALLERY:
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Nintendo Switch
First Thoughts
23-10-16
Posted by Ben at 15:10

The NX has now been revealed, itís a thing, a thing without much detail, but Nintendo did show enough that itís some sort of proof of concept. Now called the Nintendo Switch, the WiiU, and possibly 3DS successor doubles as both a handheld and a home console.

Nintendo have confirmed that the Switch will come with a controller, which seems like an obvious assumption, but the 3DS stopped coming with a plug so you never really know with Nintendo. The reason itís noteworthy here is because of the way the controller works. The Joy-Con, which is an awful Ďthe controller you give your mateí name, is made up of 3 parts. The left and right sections can be slid off, the centre of the controller we donít really know, presumably there might be some sort of Amiibo reader in there but the Joy-Con left and right can be used like a Wii Remote, maybe without the pointer (but maybe?), but they must hold some charge, and can be used to control a game like the Wii Remote on its side, meaning one Joy-Con can let you play 2 player.

The whole premise of the Nintendo Switch is that it isnít just tied to the TV. While the docking station seems to exist solely to charge the device and to connect it to the tv, there are possibilities it may offer increased storage solutions. The Switch itself is the tablet style device that goes in to the docking station, and if you want to remove it, you take apart the controller, then slide the Joy-Con L and Joy-Con R on to the sides of the tablet, turning it in to something not a million miles away from a WiiU Gamepad. The Switch unit, or tablet, has a stand on the back, plus a headphone jack, so you can use the tablet as just a screen, using the controllers in a more traditional way.

Anecdotally, this seems like something that, while not initially leading to sales for Nintendo, will be something people adore about the machine. When Iím cooking I regularly prop up my tablet to watch stuff, even my phone case has a little stand on the back so I can use that, itís a great idea. Nintendoís trailer shows this being used on a plane, but also with people gathered around, and while Iím a bit more tentative about believing this one, back to back screens, so you can play multiplayer across 2 linked devices. It may simply be online match-making, weíll see.

The handheld nature of the device, despite Nintendo proclaiming that the Nintendo Switch is "first and foremost a home console" has brought to mind a few questions. The concept is fantastic, for someone like me at least. I still play my 3DS, and generally I play it indoors, in fact other than one trip I havenít played it on transport since the first year I got it. Still though, playing whist watching something else, playing in the garden during the summer, playing in the bathroom, my 3DS gets use for its convenience as well as use because itís got the games I want to play. In the past weíve had cross-connectivity, cross saves, and even cross buy, but all of them come with hunderences and caveats. The ability to just pick up your game of Skyrim and play it lay in bed, or on the couch, or Ďotherwise engagedí, as much as playing it on a plane or on holiday, itís a fantastic thing. But itís a fantastic thing that comes at a cost, battery life and power.

If the Switch is capable of, letís be generous and say PS4 levels of power, then where is that power going to be stored (thereís not a lot of room in that tablet), and how long will the battery last? If the battery is decent then how much power can the machine really have. The speculation here is that when the Switch is docked it will have be capable of running faster, when itís in handheld mode the power will be lower to save on battery consumption.

It goes without saying that itís far too early to firm to solid an opinion of the Nintendo Switch. The list of developers is promising, but if weíre going to get month late ports of games at launch, then nothing after when they inevitably donít sell to expectations, like the WiiU. For Atlus are we talking Persona 5 or are we talking 3DS standard games. Iíll take either, but what kind of support the console is going to get is still a big question, especially when the big 3rd party game featured was Skyrim, effectively a HD port of a years old game. Thereís enough about the console to have me interested though, the portability alone would do that, now we just need some details
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Mantis Burn Racing
Gameplay Video
12-10-16
Posted by Ben at 03:59

Mantis Burn Racing is most notable for being one of the handful of games that will be native 4K on the PS4 Pro, and 60fps too. Granted it's probably easier to manage that on a top down racer than it is on something like Tomb raider, but even on a normal PS4 Mantis Burn Racing looks sharp and runs fantastically.

I say this in the video but the 60fps really help the handling feel like you're sinking in to sand and dirt, there's a responsive looseness as you correct your drifts without touching the breaks.

Game structure wise Mantis Burn Racing is fairly standard, you work your way through a set of races, with each event being one of a certain number of types. There's straight races, time trials, elimination, series races. As a general rule if you win you progress, but there are gates to progress where you have to earn enough gears. Gears are awarded for completing certain actions during the races, so winning the race might get you 3, a long jump 2, and destroying some scenery 1. There's also an upgrade mechanic to the cars that can also act as gating to some extent.

This is kind of where I've got some reservations, some of these things don't feel like they're quite front and centre enough. Beyond that my only gripe is that races feel a bit quiet, there needs to be more engine noises and the like.

anyway, there'll be a full review in the next few days, so click below for our First Play gameplay video

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Mad Father
Gameplay Video
27-09-16
Posted by Ben at 13:59

I've got to admit a level of ignorance with regards to Mad Father. Apparently it's a Japanese indie game originally released in 2011, with an English release a year later. It's now out on Steam, remastered over the original release

There'll be a full review up in the next couple of days, but the video shows the early parts of the game. I'd completed Mad Father at this point, so it's pretty much a video review. For what it's worth though, I really enjoyed Mad Father, it's a cool thing that I hope more people get to play

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