The Norwood
Suite
02-10-17
Posted by Ben at 15:23

I have to admit to an ignorance of who Cosmo D is, I never encountered Off-Peak, a free, and seemingly memorable game Cosmo D put out a year or so back. Hearing the synopsis for The Norwood Suite, your night in a strange remote hotel, full of odd-ball characters; I was expecting Twin Peaks, what I got was a fever dream Jazzpunk

I guess the comparisons with Jazzpunk are inevitable but truth is The Norwood Suite is its own thing. Jazzpunk was thick with gags and laughs, The Norwood Suite, while not lacking in humour, itís just odd. Itís not wacky, thereís a coherence to everything, it just looks a bit off kilter. The plot is fairly simple, you arrive at the hotel with the intention of getting in to the DJ set in the basement, to do this you have to help the various guests with their problems. A lot of the conversations are fairly normal too, believable even, certainly my reservations that the game might be a bit of a hack job were laid to rest by the interactions being so well handled. The more I played the more I looked past the garish visuals and odd models and started to be reminded more of Flower, Sun, and Rain (the Suda51 adventure game).



To give The Norwood Suite some context, rather than just bang on about how odd it can be, itís actually a fairly straight forward 3D adventure game. Before I even got inside the hotel I met a couple in the carpark, we talked a while, then they asked me to get them a 6-pack of energy drink. To get it for them I had to solve maybe 3 or 4 other tasks, certainly because of the order I was picking stuff up in it was towards the end of the game I got it for them. Thereís not too many out and out puzzles, itís mainly hunting for objects, which usually have some indication that theyíre important, but there are a couple of moments that require some brain power



The look and sound of The Norwood Suite are certainly itís own. All conversations take place next to a music source, the game focuses on music for its story, and the soundtrack is available on Bandcamp. The game world has a look; bright, garish, neon colours, characters made entirely of clashes. Objects exist in the world in places they shouldn't, statue heads inside drawers, that sort of thing. Itís a bit of a mixed blessing, one one hand the game has its own feel, yes everyone who reviews it is going to scrabble around for the same couple of games to liken it to, but that really says more about how we review things, it bears repeating, The Norwood Suite is definitely its own thing

The flip side is that it set me on edge. Not in a horror sense, thereís nothing especially creepy going on, more that itís hard to look at, a bit too much for the senses. Itís that feeling when youíre still hours away from the end of a night thatís taken a turn, like you've been in a club too long and the air is making you nauseous. Donít take that to mean I didn't enjoy The Norwood Suite, but itís probably more accurate to say I ďenjoyedĒ it.

As clichťd as it is, I've got to finish this review by saying The Norwood Suite isn't for everyone. The tone, look and feel to the game is enough to put some off, I liked it, but itís painfully easy to see how many wouldn't. Itís a shame its not funnier, at least that would give people a bit of a hook to latch on to. The gameplay is fine, nothing to write home about, but it works, it gets you to explore the hotel and experience the characters. If you go in knowing what to expect, if youíre the kind of person who likes an experience as much as a game, The Norwood Suite is worth a look

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Sep
20
2017
Posted by Ben at 15:55
As is the way with things, when we post that a game is being ported it's usually accompanied with a link and me saying I quite liked it. Well, Mantis Burn Racing is getting a Switch release, and I quite liked it when I reviewed the PS4 version

For the uninitiated, Mantis Burn Racing is a top down racing game, infamous for being amongst the first 4K native games on the Playstation 4 Pro, which I'm fairly sure the Switch version isn't boasting.

The Switch version will have 4 player splitscreen in both handheld and tv mode, plus online racing, and will be getting the dlc tracks and cars

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Leap of Faith

03-09-17
Posted by Ben at 13:50

When Uncharted 4 came out I wrote a piece about its disconnect between narrative and gameplay. Itís well-storied so I wonít retell the whole piece here, we all know it. Uncharted suffers from a form of Ludonarrative dissonance, itís practically the poster boy for it. Nathan Drake quipping his way through a blood bath. Joking as he murders countless people just because he wants to steal shit. Not for peace or to save the world, he just wants treasure, and for that heíll snap necks and kick people to their deaths. Really Uncharted should share more tone with Max Payne, but as I said, this is well covered, I should move on

Uncharted The Lost Legacy is kind of a spin-off from Uncharted 4. It started out as lengthy dlc that began to justify a retail release and a higher price, and it does. I finished it last week and itís good. Iím not going to write a full review for it because I donít have time, and itís not the sort of game we usually review, but itís is good. It feels less bloated than Uncharted 4 was, more gamey and light-hearted, but plays down the jokey tone. Actually itís the moments where it plays up to that tone that feel the most out of place, itís not something you associate with Chloe, she always felt more mercenary than Nathan. Teaming Chloe up with Uncharted 4ís Nadine, a hardened soldier, then having them bantz about, it feels like Naughty Dog still a bit afraid of making a Drake-free Uncharted game.

Before I move on, Iím not sure that Naughty Dog have retconned Chloeís nationality, possibly more that they just never dwelt on it before. It does, for those of us who arenít buried deep in Uncharted lore, feel like theyíve tweaked her a bit, but I like it. Iím not ordinarily too keen on characters being altered, just make a new character rather than have them not mention something that is now hugely important for years (like a brother youíre guilt-ridden over for example), but I do feel like theyíve done a decent job with Chloe. Itís also nice to play as someone who isnít another white guy. Iím not against playing as a white guy, I am a white guy, but Iíve been playing games for a very long time and playing something that stands out is a rarity. I want new experiences, new stories, not everyone cares I guess, but Iím bored and am not going to turn my nose up whatever novelty I can get.

Anyway, to the point, finally. Something Uncharted has always been guilty of, and itís far from the only game, Tomb Raider does it too, any number of games do. In Uncharted the characters throw themselves in to the unknown all the time. Iím not quite sure how to condense it in to a single word or phrase, but to explain: Thereís an obstacle, you could tentatively try to puzzle it out, inch your way through it, but instead the solution will be to climb to the top of it, past the point of no return and hope for the best. In Uncharted 4, particularly the Scotland sections, you climbed sheer rock, certain death below you, with no way of getting back if it turns out thereís no convenient footholds beyond a certain point. In Lost Legacy Chloe will swing across gaps with no way of getting back, she never gets stuck, thereís always a way up, over, or under.

I get it, itís a game, itís just jarring. Itís the Deus Ex Machina of platforming. As Iíve said, a lot of Unchartedís problems, the disconnect it suffers from, are due to it trying to make the characters grounded, likable, and human. Them also being bullet sponges, mass-murders, it shines a giant spotlight on it. Same with the climbing, Iím not sure if itís infinite luck or dumb action movie, but it doesnít sit right. The only way I can see to fix it would be to shrink down the environments, rather than climb a mountain you need to get over a fence. Not really that exciting is it?

My other gripe, and itís on a similar track, the people who built these giant elaborate puzzles, why didnít them make them simpler? I can understand the puzzles where youíre really just supposed to rotate something, but the arm has broken or a mirror has shattered, so you need to climb up and move the final piece yourself, thatís not too bad. Thereís a particular puzzle in Lost Legacy though where the solution is to climb up the giant structure, make leaps of faith, and turn some water on. Itís the only way of solving the puzzle. Why did the long dead civilisation make it so difficult? ďTo keep people out!Ē, yeah, sure, how do they get in though? They might know the solution, but they still have to go through all the leaping and climbing

I know both of these complaints are minor, itís just a game, excuse the gamey aspects of it. I know, and fair enough. Why do I need to single Uncharted out for it, Iím not sure, I think it might be the worst for it, or just itís the one that shines a spotlight on it. Maybe itís the series that feels the most like it could move past the gamey side of gaming, it has the budget, Naughty Dog have the talent. Who knows, I donít, but I do feel like, if we get another Uncharted it might be the game to move things on.
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Tower of Time

13-08-17
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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Aug
09
2017
Posted by Ben at 16:44
Described as a procedurally generated multi-player co-op dungeon crawler, Looterkings does look fairly unique

You and 3 friends team up as a band of goblins, attempting to reach the elven queen. The levels are procedurally generated so each attempt should be different. Your up against cartoonish fantasy monsters, and you're on the hunt for treasure and gear

Looterkings is currently in Steam Early Access, but it gets its full release in a few days, on the 11th August

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Aug
09
2017
Posted by Ben at 13:08
In a lightning quick surprise (and leaked) announcement and release, Rez Infinite is available now on PC

Priced at £19.99 as standard, Rez Infinite is currently £15.99 as part of the launch sale.

The PC version of Rez Infinite supports VR, 4K, and has improved textures over the PS4 version
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Tower of Time
Gameplay Video
06-08-17
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
26-07-17
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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Jul
20
2017
Posted by Ben at 16:31
When you think of Arc System Works you think of fighting games, beautiful and complicated fighting games, but every now and then they throw out something a bit left-field, and Boost Beast is one of those games

Pitched as a puzzle fighter, it doesn't look unlike Puzzle Fighter (or Zoo Keeper if you ant the better game). It's actually more of a defence game, a genre we've not seen a lot of over the last few years.

Not unlike something like Puzzle Quest, you match blocks to trigger attacks, or in this case warriors (dogs by the look of it) to face off against the on-rushing hordes.

It probably makes more sense if you watch the trailer below. It's out now on the Nintendo Switch store, whatever it's called, priced at £8.99, and it's something I might pick up myself when I get my Switch tomorrow

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Jul
20
2017
Posted by Ben at 16:13
Rabi-Ribi looks like a stressful as hell, it does look kind of adorable and pretty good though, so who knows, maybe I'll pick it up. And if I do maybe I'll pick up the physical version, as PQube are putting an actual boxed copy of Rabi-Ribi out

Available on PS4 and PS Vita, although it looks like the Vita version is missing out on the physical release, understandably.

Rabi-Ribi will hit stores and PSN in Europe on September 1st

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