Sep
25
Posted by Mark at 17:57
Away from the first parties, the Rezzed (or 'Indie', if you'd rather) zone felt an awful lot bigger than it had been in previous years, particularly as larger companies have started muscling in, and groups of developers have started to band together to create showier booths.


There was a notable number of Switches dotted about on indie dev booths- certainly more this year alone than I remember seeing Wii Us in all the years it was going, and that's not including the demo units on Nintendo's own indie booth, featuring Flat Heroes, which is a multiplayer precision platformer which expects you to move around and avoid bullets, rather than reach a goal, Dandara, a retro-styled cross between a Metroidvania and Gravity Rush where the player traverses the world by bouncing from wall to floor to ceiling rather than walking like a normal person, Dimension Drive, a port of a PC shmup where you shift between two sides of the screen, Super Meat Boy Forever and Rogue Trooper Redux, the world's most generic third-person shooter.

Being a 2000AD property, Rogue Trooper comes from the dubiously indie Rebellion, whose latest, Strange Brigade made a showing in a faux-Aztec booth with its own zeppelin.

While there's clearly a lot of very straight lines to be drawn between Rebellion's Sniper Elite franchise and this, it's also clearly the direct opposite. Short, linear corridor areas lead to slightly more open and chaotic combat arenas, filled with loads of easily-dispatched enemies and one big enemy that needs to be defeated to progress.

In order to help this process along there's various boobytraps you can trigger by shooting nearby orbs, and every kill you get charges up a meter which you can exchange for what is best described as a Shoryuken. Multiplayer communication is evidently key as a light puzzle element managed to elude the pair of us playing and could probably have been avoided. I'm blaming the noise inherent in expo halls.

Square-Enix Collective, the Japanese firm's indie label, had a large showing- much of this was repeats from last year, including what seemed to be the same demo of Forgotton Anne and the already released Black: The Fall. All are on PC, but some are getting released on one console or the other.

Games that are already out are slightly less disappointing in the indie section, so it's worth giving them the time of day. Goetia- out since April- is a point and click where you control the ghost of a dead girl from the Victorian era, it's mostly straightforward, but the ability to posess items suggests it could go a bit Ghost Trick later on.

The same developer, Sushee, also had Fear Effect: Sedna on the show floor, which is simply an isometric shooter, but in controlling two characters you can pause the game and draw a track for them to both follow for pincer movements, a bit like in the first Rainbox Six, before returning to a more traditional control system.

Batallion 1944-released in May- seems to be the publisher's attempt at getting in on the CoD/Battlefield market and everything that entails. Superficially, though, it resembles PS1-era Medal Of Honor. Deadbeat Heroes is a scrolling fighter from Lionhead and Rockstar alumni and influenced by comics from the sixties and seventies. Clearly early in development, as evidenced by some limited and as a result annoying barks, its relies on normal people acquiring superpowers (or special moves, if you like) infrequently.

The last notable game from Collective was Octahedron, a neon-soaked disco platformer where you traverse levels by creating platforms underneath your feet, like that New Super Mario Bros. U mode but with one player. It features some nifty tricks like platforms that appear and disappear based on how far across the screen you are.

No Truce With The Furies- which is begging to be mis-spelled- is a 'dark noir' Planescape Torment-'em-up with a wordy narrative focus and a strong oil-painting aesthetic.

Yoku's Island Express is a surprisingly compelling pinball platformer on PC and Switch about a dung beetle who's got a job delivering the post, and has to do this by rattling around pinball-like worlds collecting fruit because videogames.

Skye, which is getting a name change you were able to vote on on Twitter to avoid confusion with thatgamecompany's Sky, is a relaxing game where you control a flying snake and solve the problems of people living on floating islands- that's coming to XBone and PS4.

Still beating the pair of them for 'quirkiest premise', though, is the iOS-focused Astrologaster, replicating the real life 16th-century tribulations of medical astrologer (again, 16th-century) Simon Forman. This involves using astrology to give advice to his patients- good advice will see them come back for more and continue their story, while bad advice will not. This is all wrapped up in a pop-up-book interface which suits the tablet platform brilliantly.

Students of The National Film And Television School also showcased their works, the most notable being Jonathan Nielssen's Falling Sky, a spectacularly ambitious one-man attempt at being David Cage, but less pretentious. A short demo sees you visit home after repeatedly phoning up and getting no answer, because Mum's gone missing. You pick up your little brother and drive him to a diner, and the demo ends.

The Grand Mission, by William Blake, is a comedic game about managing a steampunk spaceship, involving very carefully deploying workers to different parts of the ship (engine rooms, weaponry and so forth) in order to re-open space tea trade routes- like a slower, Victoriana Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime.

Gracie Drake has created the most obviously 'gamey' game in the selection in Supremely Excellent Goblins, which is a dungeon crawler in the vein of the Zeldalikes that made up the Game Boy Advance library.

My Last Son, by Sam Rowett, is Ben-bait of the highest order, being an adventure game based on the five stages of grief. That'll probably get some attention from him on its own at some point.

There's more on all the NFTS games, including four we've not covered, here.

Back in commercial indie games, Attack Of The Earthlings pitches itself as "reverse XCOM"- not that you start with a load of permadead soldiers which come back to life, but that you begin as one alien infiltrating a spaceship and, by eating the human crew, birth more aliens and evolve them into different forms (or 'classes', if you're being traditional).

Much like Fear Effect above, this features a 'group attack' where you line up a move for each character in turn for them all to be executed simultaneously.

Oil was one of the few games showcased for Apple TV, and played using the remote. It's a two-player party game which is fundamentally competitive Minesweeper. One player places oil in a grid (while the other charitably looks the other way and isn't peeking, promise) and then they both take it in turns to dig the oil up, with the winner being the one getting the most.

The Occupation has a go at Proper Topical Politics, centering around the hours leading up to a Government vote on the secretive 'Union Act'- allegedly set in 1980's Britain but feeling very American, you play as a reporter trying to uncover the law's details and get them out to the public. The Union act is hinted to be highly draconian and invites paralells to current real-world laws surrounding protest and surveillance, such as our own Investigatory Powers bill and the US' PATRIOT Act.

Over in the Leftfield Collection, we see the flipside of this is in Off Grid- which concerns itself with a much more fictionalised near-future approach to the matter of big data and mass internet surveillance, and using the inherently insecure network it needs to achieve your goals. (Amusingly, the game's website makes a lot of press quotes about data being your weapon and Edward Snowden, but still has the obligatory EU-mandated "This website uses cookies for some of it's functionality, and to help us make it better. We use a Google Analytics script which sets cookies." message at the bottom)

Just up from that is Semblance, a platformer about deforming platforms by smashing into them, making them the correct shape to collect the tokens you need to progress. Pleasingly odd, and a proper head-scratcher when it starts to add rigid platforms and objects that reset the deformed platforms into the mix.

The two most compelling games of the Collection, though, weren't videogames at all. Mystery Box was a box covered in various buttons and switches, and you had to press the one highlighted on a screen attached to it, but always displayed from an obtuse camera angle. A bit like the bomb in Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes, but nobody explodes. RotoRing, meanwhile was two rings of LEDs- you turn a dial to move the white one to avoid the red ones and reach the one that's not switched on.
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EGX 2017 Impressions:
Microsoft
Sep 24
Posted by Mark at 18:25

Alright, I was wrong- Sunday was heaving.


Microsoft was the other absentee at last year's show, but they were back this year- although notably while Sony had the PS Access lot on stage all show, and Nintendo had not only their usual stage show but also announcers over on their tournament booth, Microsoft had nothing.

Well, they had games, obviously. But no stage, which is increasingly unusual for a show where Twitch rock up with a full arena and even Dissidia (ref. Thursday's article) got a stage to itself.

The three main pillars of their booth were Forza 7- skipped today because they just released a demo, Sea of Thieves- skipped since it's been on closed beta for donkey's, and Middle Earth: Shadow of War- skipped because I don't particularly care, even if it was guarded by a massive fibreglass dragon.


Tucked into a corner of the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (skipped because it's basically already out) area was Age of Empires: Definitive Edition.

Much like with Total Warhammer II, being a big PC strategy game it's hard to get a feel for it on the show floor, especially as its surprising popularity meant people had to be swept through the booth on a timer. However, it's clear that this is closer to a 'proper' remake than AoE 2 HD was, which just seemed to be the original game running at 1080p.

Also managing to clock up the square footage was Super Lucky's Tale, the cartoon platformer unveiled at E3 which, going off the EGX demo, might not be shit. Admittedly it's not going to make Mario shake in whatever footwear the poor sod his hat's possessed was wearing, but it's an entertaining enough straightfoward platformer.

The demo had you reunite three robot heads with their respective bodies in order to wake up a golem. The first of these was right next to the bodies- a simple tutorial- the next at the top of a small tower, and the third behind a more involved course including enemies and jumping puzzles.

Inside the Golem was another decapitated automaton whose head needed to be carried along a fireball-filled gauntlet, while Lucky himself was being chased by a larger, sentient fireball. Nothing new, but tighter and more focused than last year's Yooka-Laylee.

(Also, quite charmingly the Lucky demo pods all had bright orange controllers with light blue trim, and 'Lucky' laser-etched on them. Clearly an ad for their Design Labs customisation service, but clever nonetheless)

A few smaller games knocking about on their booth included Huntdown, which is doing the retro arcade run-and-gun thing very well, Robocraft Infinity which is combatitive Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts And Bolts, and Away: Journey to the Unexpected which starts with a late-80's-early-90's, Samurai Pizza Cats-era anime opening and hammy Japanese theme tune.

It's a kind of RPG-like game, not dissimilar to Elder Scrolls, but aiming to be a little lighter and have a- quote- 'wacky' sense of humour. So it could be good, or it could be another Citizens of Earth.

GALLERY:
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Hyper Sentinel

Sep 23
Posted by Mark at 15:41

A lot of gaming's retro revival has centred around the beginning of the home console era- either the likes of resurrecting IP from the time like Double Dragon or plundering the graphical limitations of early platforms for the sake of visuals like Castle In The Darkness.


While a lot of that has started to push later in time and look to 16-bit consoles for inspiration, Huey Games are going the other way with Hyper Sentinel, a game heavily influenced by the home computer era- and in particular, Uridium.

This isn't an entirely arbitrary choice of game- the father of Huey Games Ltd's founder, Rob Hewson, is none other than Andrew Hewson of Hewson Consultants, publisher of the C64 original.

Both games share the same core- the player controls a ship which flies alongside a larger ship called a Dreadnought. The objective is to shoot away all its defenses, flying back and to until they're all destroyed while avoiding retaliation attacks from both the Dreadnought itself and other enemy craft.

As you'd expect from a game of the era, Uridium is extremely challenging and it's this level of challenge developer Four5Six Pixel is aiming to replicate, upping the enemy count and speed to levels the computers of the era couldn't even dream of- this is also shown at the end of levels, where in 1986 it was enough to slow down and land, 2017 expects you to contend with a huge boss.

And these bosses can start to seriously fill the screen in later levels- a switch from the instadeath of the original to a regenerating health system, which could have been a lazy way of pandering to a modern audience turns these battles into compelling acts of brinksmanship, where you try and do as much damage to the boss as possible without dying, then retreating for a bit to recover.

When I caught up with the development team at EGX, they mentioned that the challenge aspect of the game was a huge draw for its Kickstarter backers, a group of people who have been instrumental in much of the bigger decisions made in development- notably a release on Nintendo Switch which didn't form part of the original Kickstarter campaign was added following community feedback.

The Switch version, getting its first public airing at EGX, is just as featured as its PC version, and the brighty-coloured pixel graphics and fancy effects pop on the screen when played in Handheld mode. The structure of short levels also makes it a great fit for the hybrid platform.

On the subject of Kickstarter, when asked about the future viability of crowdfunding following some fairly major failures and controversies recently, they did point out that it's still good for smaller teams with major followings- Hewson Consultants still have a following on the retro scene today, and a modest target of fifteen grand was very achievable (and exceedable, just breaking the £21k mark) and it's still a good way for indies to make themselves known to bigger publishers.

Its stretch goals went to further enhancements truly differentiating the modern game from its predecessor, including a Survival Mode, where you're simply faced with endless swarms of enemies and expected to keep going for as long as you can, and plenty of side objectives for fulfilling different criteria in each level.

There are also retro graphical modes, including ones which mimick the C64 and, as the developers seemed particularly proud of, ZX Spectrum.

Hyper Sentinel looks to be a very assured game, knowing where to modernise and where to look backwards to its fan-pleasing roots.

Hyper Sentinel is due out early next year on PC, Switch, XBox One and PlayStation 4, with iOS and Android ports to follow.
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EGX 2017 Impressions:
Sony, Sega and (Ubi)Soft
Sep 22
Posted by Mark at 19:54

The Sony booth this year is the home of the Annual Update Games- specifically, FIFA and Call of Duty, with the more interesting games hidden behind them.


Notable also is the amount of space dedicated to Sony's desperate attempts to make Playstation VR a thing, including a massive VR helmet which makes the booth look like a Daft Punk tribute to Planet Of The Apes.


Like Nintendo's booth, it's full of titles that are already out, like expandalone Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Star Wars licence Battlefront II, inexplicable sequel Knack 2 and microtransaction shitfest Everybody's Golf. Some smaller new titles which were also there included Hob, which is a top-down-ish adventure game where you play as a guy with a massive hand, which he uses to solve puzzles in order to gradually unlock a tower by rotating bits of it.

I've not explained that very well. It does, however, look like what Knack was probably meant to, so there's that.

We saw Monster Hunter Stories on 3DS yesterday and today we say Monster Hunter World on PS4. A more 'curated' demo than its handheld counterpart, this does a much better job of explaining its mechanics and objectives- although this could also be related to the presence of Scoutflies, which effectively point out everything of vague interest to progressing through the mission.

The initial mission offered sees you trying to hunt a monster by first having some footprints drawn to your attention, then a scrape on the ground that the game nicely describes as "skidmarks", then another footprint and another until eventually the Scoutflies form a trail to follow to the monster. This is one of the new features added to make the game more accessible to people less familiar with the series, but it feels that it could turn the game into a box-checking exercise.

There was also Ni No Kuni II, which looks as pretty as you'd expect. The battle system can be a bit chaotic during boss fights, but it seems to work quite nicely in battles against smaller enemies in the world.

Also present was David Cage's new title Detroit: Become Human, which I didn't get the chance to watch today- although I did overhear one of the reps on the booth send one of the professional cosplayers they had manning the booth on their break by calling them over with 'Android, come here" and telling them to go into maintenance mode for thirty minutes.

Sony's recent push into phone-controlled games in the form of Playlink was represented by Frantics, by Affordable Space Adventures dev Knapnok. This is a series of motion-controlled party games, hosted by a slightly posh-talking fox, and controlled using the accelerometers in the phones- four top-of-the-line Sony devices, in the booth's case.

There were three games in my session, one where you have to avoid slipping off an ice platform by tilting the way you want to go, another where you fire yourself out of cannons so some (but not all) of you are on a platform, and another race game where before each race you secretly choose a player to have some modification to their vehicle which may or may not be helpful to them.

There was an interesting twist where, before the third game, the host 'called' one player's phone to give them a secret misison.

It's hard to fault the party games themselves, but the phone apps crashing exposed that each Playlink title needs its own individual app- Frantics ostensibly cannot be played using the app associated with That's You!, which has been out in the wild for some time- and that connecting your phone to your PS4 needs you to enter an IP address, which loses the immediacy of the browser-and-four-digit-code setup of the Jackbox games, and is a far cry from the apps-within-an-app world promised by xBox Smartglass.

Speaking of Far Cry, the Ubisoft booth next door housed the fifth game in the series. The short part of the game available focused around the obligatory Ubisoft Game tower, and charged the player with killing all the cultists around the base of it. A number of ways of achieving this was offered, from flinging in grenades to fighting them in the streets to sniping them from the top of the tower.

This, alongside stablemate Assassin's Creed: Origins which seems to have ditched parkour in favour of putting things really far away from one another and making you travel to them, were the first games to really show any seriously large queues- although Ubi made use of the extra space available to them, running lots of demo units and moving people through quickly.

Most of the booth, though, was some Mario + Rabbids demos sparsely dotted about in an almost empty space dominated by a massive fibreglass Rabbid Kong. (There was also South Park: The Fractured But Whole tucked away in a corner)


Sega, meanwhile, chose to showcase Sonic Forces, which looks like it's as good an extension on the Modern Sonic/Generations format as we're going to see. Three levels were on offer, including one of the mental genre-flip-flopping arrangements Colours perfected, a boss level, and a new 'Avatar' level where you put together disparate elements to create your own Original Character Do Not Steal and play as that. It also doesn't quite work, which I'm assuming is satire.

Last but not least, there was a few PCs running Total War: Warhammer II. Which was Total War: Warhammer II.

GALLERY:
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EGX 2017 Impressions:
Mostly Nintendo
Sep 21
Posted by Mark at 17:48

But also Dissidia and Dragonball!


Where last year's EGX was notable for two platform holders basically not showing up, this year's, today at least, feels as if it's the punters that have skipped the show.

This may be a quirk of the show feeling a bit bigger this year- it's probably not so much fewer people as fewer people per square foot, with what seems to be a lot of (very welcome) empty space between demo pods. The event marketing alleges that there's more games than ever before, but that has to be balanced by the appearance of so many games that are already out- Nintendo alone brought ARMS, Splatoon 2, Mario & Rabbids, Samus Returns, Sonic Mania (which also made a significant appearance at Sega's booth), Lego Worlds, and NBA 2K18- and that was just on their main booth. (As if to make up for lost time, Nintendo had three seperate booths this year- their main one, one for indies which we'll cover in the next few days, and a tournament booth in the eSports area)

The upshot of this is that for many games, there's not been a lot in the way of queueing- except for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, beset by technical issues relating to the game's 3-on-3 network play meaning that for a while at the start of the day nobody was getting to play while people scrabbled under tables fiddling with wires. A functioning single-player mode was eventually deployed. Gameplay centres around using high-powered, spectacular attacks rarely rather than small attacks more frequently, making it feel less like a teamplay beat-'em-up and more like Warriors but without the chaos which makes it make sense.

On the subject of Warriors, one of Nintendo's new games was the format's excursion into Fire Emblem- much like Hyrule Warriors before it there's not much to fault in the Warriors-ing, and this iteration brings the ability to switch between characters to the table. While only a pre-set group were playable today, players can not only cycle between the four characters at will, they can also be individually directed to specific areas of the map, using a grid in a nod to its turn-based strategy roots.

There are flaws in this process, at one point all four of my characters levelled up within very quick succession of one another taking me through the a full recreation of the Level Up ceremony from 3DS four times very quickly, but this is obviously an edge case. It's also a lot of fun to see your favourite characters from the 3DS games in Glorious High Definition, so we can probably overlook it for now.

There was also the opportunity to showcase the new side-game in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions- it's not a lot to write home about, as a crowd of what are traditionally enemies from the Mario series butt heads with another automatically with minimal input from the player. A nice add-on, but unexciting on its own.

Super Mario Odyssey was also present, but that appeared to be the same build Nintendo had already exhibited at Hyper Japan earlier this year- and since there's been big previews of that recently, we'll be stepping over it here.

What is probably one of the last examples of a big third-party 3DS game, Monster Hunter Stories was also available to play. Traditionally where Nintendo have presented specially curated demos of their console games at events like EGX, 3DS games presented tend to be final retail games and that appeared to be true here- which meant the game seemed a little directionless as you were effectively picking up someone else's save file and all the mistakes they made with it and it's hard to get a feel for it. It does, however, feel exactly how you'd expect a traditional JRPG version of Monster Hunter to be.

Floating about independently of publisher booths- or at least, those as obviously branded as the first-party booths was DragonBall FighterZ, which has pulled the clever trick of running its cutscenes at a lower frame-rate than the gameplay, imitating the framerate of the hand-drawn animation of the original TV show.
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Tower of Time

Aug 13
Posted by Ben at 15:25

I recorded a First Play gameplay video for Tower of Time last week, and spent most of it speculating, but failing to nail down, why it wasnít resonating with me. I wanted to spend more time with it, try to see if I could better put in to words my thoughts, try to write something actually Ďcriticalí rather than just spout vagaries.

Despite my hours with the game, despite my pages of note, and a video already behind me, Iím still not sure I can precisely quantify why I didnít click with the game. For those that donít know, and given that Tower of Time is an indie game still in Early Access on Steam Iíd wager that would be most people, Tower of Time is a western rpg with a few quirks with the combat. Its isometric viewpoint brings to mind the likes of Diablo and Pillars of Eternity, but its combat reminds me of the original Dragon Age. Rather than encounters taking place where you stand, instead youíre whisked away to one of the battle maps.

This takes a bit of time to trigger as your opponents trudge towards you, before you get a screen with a description of whether this will be a difficult battle, who youíre likely to face, and what theyíre weak/strong too. Thereís a couple of points Iíd make about this; firstly I think it needs to be speeded up, maybe an alert sound and straight to the preamble screen, thereís no need to stop your movement while your opponents trundle over. Add to that when youíre on the screen showing the enemies stats you canít alter your equipment to best suit them, instead you have to withdraw from battle, go to your character screen and set everyone up, then trigger the slow animation again.

Iíve no real complaints about the combat itself, although I do think itís one of the things keeping me at arms length. Tower of Timeís USP is that itís neither entirely dynamic like Diablo, nor to you stop time to set moves like Dragon Age, instead you slow time to a crawl, giving you enough time to drag your team around and set their next move. This means youíre always involved, you canít Ďpauseí the action and ease the pressure on yourself, but equally youíre not getting swarmed with your squad dotted around the battlefield while youíre left with no time to do anything about it.

Iím not sure if this is a problem as such, but I found myself playing almost entirely in slow motion, micromanaging moves and positioning; who attacks who. It sucks the pace out of the game, my own fault I guess, but it did mean combat encounters took an age. Thereís a few little niggles Iíd like ironed out. One is that on quite a few occasions instead of my clicking on an enemy to launch an attack, it would be misread as me wanting to move my character to them. Iíve also found that, while my ranged fighters will pick targets without me having to spell it out to them, when my melee fighters kill an opponent, unless theyíre attacked by someone else, theyíll just stand there, not attacking their nearest opponent, just contributing nothing.

The story is, I think, interesting, your character is actually a general who met a dormant spirit in a newly re-emerged tower as a child. Thereís something off with this spirit, clearly his motivations arenít your best interests, but now youíre tied to him, constantly being called to him. Youíve returned to the tower, and you as a player are put in the unusual position of being in control of a character who takes no active part himself, but is both controlling others, and being controlled. However, and this is where my issues are still a bit nebulous, I just wasnít engaged by it. The characters arenít defined enough, thereís a couple of interesting side stories, but nothing that I can really remember to write here.

Thereís also not enough to do. Tower of Time follows a very defined pattern and it needs more. Youíre basically walking from fight to fight, theyíll be the odd chest, some gold to pick up, and then the occasional story beat. Diablo manages with little story because it has constant battles and meaningful loot, Tower of Timeís pace is too slow and its battles too meaty for that, and thatís fine, but it could really do with some meaningful loot to make the non-battle sections more worthwhile

Still, Tower of Time is pretty well made for a game so early in development (currently on version 0.3.0.8362), and for as much as I played I didnít get close to the end. Not bad considering itís only £11
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Tower of Time
Gameplay Video
Aug 06
Posted by Ben at 16:32

We got sent a code for Tower of Time, the new (first?) game from Event Horizon. A name that's just begging for me to shoe-horn in a reference.

Tower of Time is still in early access, still seemingly very early based on the version number (0.3.0.8362), so bear that in mind with any bugs and some of my thoughts in the video below

In Tower of Time, and what you've missed in the sections preceding this video, you start off as a young boy who finds a hole in the ground. He wanders inside and finds a giant upside down tower. In there he finds a dormant spirit who calls out to him, and continues to do so throughout his life, eventually calling him back to the tower.

You then play almost a watcher roll, as someone invisibly controls your actions so do you control your heroes, soldiers you've sent in to the tower to fight for you. Viewing their progress from the surface above, almost as though (I'm really sorry) you don't need eyes to see.

The gameplay video below shows some of the early sections of the game. I'm going to write a full preview during the week. I want to see more of the game (I already have done), and better put a pin in my thoughts about the game. At the minute it's vague, I'm not connecting with Tower of Time and I can't place why other than meaningless synonyms like "it lacks punch". I don't dislike Towers of Time, I quite like the combat in fact, but I also want to better put in to words what the barrier is

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Behold the Kickmen
First Play
Jul 26
Posted by Ben at 15:08

Dan Marshall, developer of 'Ben There, Dan That', 'Gun Monkeys' , and 'The Swindle', is not a football fan. he did, at some point last year, decide to have a crack at making a football game though, and Behold The Kickmen is the result

Behold The Kickmen isn't really a stickler for the rules of football. It plays a bit like Sensible Soccer, only without enough players, round pitches, a bizarre reading of the offside rule.

There's a VERY SERIOUS story mode, which we don't really go in to in any detail in the video below, but it's fairly funny. Anyone listening to Bob Mortimer's Athletico Mince podcast will be in familiar territory.

Behold The Kickmen, based on what I've played, is fun, quite a lot of fun. Maybe it says more about where I am with football games nowadays, but after a few hours with the game, it had scratched the itch I had, and I've not really wanted to go back. Still, it's cheap, it's available on steam now, and if you like football, or don't but would like to play something resembling football, it might be worth checking out

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Cyberdimension Neptunia:
4 Goddesses Online
May 29
Posted by James at 12:40

A few days ago the MCM Comic Con set up shop over at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London. As usual, Idea Factory International were amongst the exhibitors, bringing with them a the first playable English-language demo for upcoming PS4 and PC game, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online.

As youíve probably gathered from its lengthy title, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is both a new entry in Idea Factoryís flagship RPG series and its take on the MMORPG.

Simply put, weíre looking at a parody of the genre, where the four CPU candidates (think of them as anthropomorphised video game consoles) find themselves taking part in a beta test for a new online game. The gameís novel approach to a beta test revolves around how the four CPUs play it: Rather than witness them playing at their computers, which would make for incredibly dull entertainment, Neptune and company are literally in the game.

There was enough available to play in the demo to get a good feel of the gameís flow. Itís a predictable, but comforting one: You visit the Guild to accept quests, then pick a location to clear some quests, return to the guild, and then accept more quests. The main town square plays host to facilities where you can craft new weapons, buy and sale items, and generally cool down between expeditions to faraway locations.

These locations themselves arenít really anything to write home about Ė environments were rather repetitious in their design and as a result most players are likely to opt for relying on the gameís generously detailed minimap for navigation purposes. This isnít necessarily a bad thing, but considering the quality of the quests at hand Ė collect x items, defeat y enemies Ė expeditions risk feeling like an exercise in box ticking.

The gameís combat looks like itíll offer something more satisfying, however. Battles are active rather than passive, and heavily action oriented. Youíve got free movement of your character, a press of a button will lock on to an enemy, and another button brings up an assigned skill set Ė spells or attacks assigned to each of the four face buttons. Using skills depletes SP, but regular attacks regenerate it. Thereís a pleasing rhythm to skirmishes that see you alternate between low-power attacks and heavy-hitting skills, all relative to which enemies youíre fighting and what moves they might be using.

From a demo alone itís hard to tell how the balancing of the gameís mechanics will play out over its entire running time, but hopefully youíll have to think carefully about which characters to include in your party, which commands you give to your AI companions, and which skills to assign to each skill set.

Despite being a spinoff, Cyberdimension Neptunia is the first game in the series to be made using Unreal Engine 4, and the results speak volumes. Lighting has received a notable upgrade, and thereís copious amounts of motion blur and shadowing. Basically, environments look richer, a big contrast from the spartan locales in previous Neptunias. Unfortunately, other areas of the gameís presentation havenít received the same attention to detail. Character animation is stiff, collision detection is wonky, character models lack detail Ė this all contributes to a rather uneven, inconsistent when youíre jumping around and navigating the landscapes. But overall weíre looking at a welcome, and immediately noticeable improvement.

Tamsoftís previous efforts in the Neptunia series werenít anything special, often coming off as less creative, more derivative versions of existing games in the developerís portfolio. 4 Goddesses Online feels different. The setting and gameplay mechanics fit the seriesí narrative and RPG qualities in a more natural way.

With any hope Cyberdimension Neptunia wonít stick too close to comfortable tropes in the MMORPG playbook. The series is known for using self-deprecating humour to mock bad design, but itís significantly less funny when youíre the one playing through them. Fingers crossed that the finished gameís quests offer something more compelling than what was on display in the demo.
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Prey
PS4
Apr 30
Posted by Ben at 17:12

Prey is a strange thing. The original Ďvertical sliceí we saw of ĎPrey 2í half a lifetime ago looked great, an awful lot of people were suddenly hyped to play the sequel to a game not a huge amount of people had played. This was seemingly a massive surprise to the publisher, so surprising they scrapped it, abandoned Prey 2 completely for years, dropped the number, and have now brought it back as a different Prey game, developed by Dishonored creators Arkane Studios

Thereís currently a demo available on PS4 and Xbox One, itís essentially the whole game, more or less, with various areas being locked unless you buy the game. Slightly confusingly the demo doesnít end when you hit the pay wall, you can continue playing and exploring the environment. Itís an interesting way of doing a demo, I reached the Ďendí of the demo fairly quickly, a locked door I was told explicitly I wasnít allowed to go past, but was allowed to, after turning the game off feeling I was done, return to the game and explore more of Preyís world.

Itís a confusing experience. Narratively thatís deliberate, youíre not meant to know whatís going on, but in every other way Prey left me unsure what to make of it. The levels are open, as youíd expect from an Arkane game, but whereas in Dishonored it felt like you were always being directed, here I was always 2nd guessing my movements. Itís not like youíre getting lost, itís not that big an area and thereís a marker on the screen, but I was skipping areas, feeling like I was missing out. I guess at least it gave me something to do once I got to that locked door.

One of the things that had stopped me exploring was Preyís difficulty. Itís not impossibly hard or anything, but thereís an awkwardness to the early sections of Prey. Youíre mainly facing off against small crab-like enemies called Mimics, they flash about, disguising themselves as items in the environment. Itís a really cool concept, weíve spent our gaming lives picking through every bin, every art-deco ashtray, and now theyíll probably kill us. The problem I was having was that they always seemed to appear on my blind side. Fair enough, thatís what Iíd do if I was them, but Iíve seen footage of other people playing and seeing the mimic dart in to an item, then taking advantage of their own trap and laying waste to them. I never managed to take advantage of them nor my environment like that, bar one time when a larger enemyís route was taking it past an exploding barrel.

Part of the problem, I think, for me at least, is that I primarily play this kind of game on a PC with a mouse and keyboard. Playing on the PS4 thereís a lag to the camera movement, something thatís apparently going to be fixed in time for release. The aiming also feels strangely digital, maybe this is me not being as good as I should be, or used to be, with a controller in a first person game, but enemies were easily darting around me. Iíd eventually nail them, particularly with the Goop gun, but I was having a hard time not taking damage. Without wanting to sound like a PC snob, I canít help but feel that the increased speed of movement with a mouse, and the larger FOV that tends to accompany playing on a PC might have a beneficial effect on my experience with Prey

In some ways the Prey demo is exactly what a First Impressions post should be, a question mark. Thereís enough good ideas in there to get me interested, thereís enough flavour of the weapons and skill trees to know thereís more to Prey than you see here, and itís clear that the world Arkane have built is detailed and filled with opportunities. Ultimately though, I canít tell you what I think of the game or if Prey is for me
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