Category Archives: XBLA

Mars: War Logs (Review)

That’s One Red Dead Planet

Low cost downloadable RPGs are something of a rarity on consoles, with only Rainbow Moon coming to mind in recent years as anything vaguely worth your attention. Mars: War Logs would like to get involved with the genre too, despite being more of an action-RPG.

Set far into the future, Mars has undergone colonisation, but that new civilisation has long since collapsed. It has been replaced by warring water companies as everyone inexplicably fights over the dusty hellhole.

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Sunday Seven: How the Xbox One Could Win Next-Gen

A few weeks ago, Microsoft were fighting a losing battle against the PS4. Every time they said anything via statement or twitter, gamers would become enraged and bewildered at why the company seemed determined to alienate consumers around the world. But then they sobered up ditched the two features of the Xbox One that may have handed an early victory to the PS4 – pre-owned blocking and daily online requirement.

However, is the damage already done? We’re far from writing off the big company yet, just look at how many times they’ve screwed up Windows and survived. So here’s our Sunday Seven on How the Xbox One Could Win Next-Gen.

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BattleBlock Theater (Review)

Platforming performance receives standing ovation.

Fans of Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers rejoice. The Behemoth have returned and they’ve struck gaming gold again. After nailing 2D scrolling shooters and beat em’ ups they’ve turned their hands to old-school platforming. And it’s fantastic.

The bright and crisp cell-shaded 2D art style is striking, compelling throughout, and consistent with the studio’s previous games. Many of the characters have something of a cutout feel to them, hell, some of them are literally being bounced around on sticks like puppet placards, but it all works so well.

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The Sunday Seven: Most Wanted Gaming Crossovers

After looking at the insane mashup that Sega, Namco and Capcom have put together for the upcoming Project X Zone on the 3DS, it got me thinking about other gaming brands I’d like to see pushed together. These could be games pitting legends against each other in a fight to the death or something involving them working together. Publishers and IP owners can be very protective over their brands, but here’s a selection I think would work well together given half a chance.

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Game of the Year 2012

What with the gaming industry still being keen to strangle itself every year by releasing all the good games at once, I’m going to be playing catch up on some of the great titles long into next year. This might even give me something to do next summer if the lineup for the ‘sunny’ bit of the year is as grossly thin as it was this year.

I’ve played some great stuff this year though, many of them get a mention below, but a few other honourable shouts go out to DishonoredSonic and All-Stars Racing TransformedBlack Ops II,Sports Champions 2 and WipEout 2048 and Virtua Tennis 4 on the Vita.

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Harley Quinn’s Revenge (Batman: Arkham City DLC Review)

Take me down to Arkham City, where the grass is dead and the girls show no pity.

It’s encouraging to see some premium downloadable content that attempts to expand on the single-player experience of a game. Like many games, Batman: Arkham City has seen more than its fair share of extra costumes and challenges for characters like Robin, Catwoman and Nightwing. But after the huge events at the end of Arkham City, fans will be excited to jump over the prison wall again to ruff up the inmates. As a warning, this DLC review contains spoilers for the end of the main game, so consider yourselves warned.

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Amy (Review)

Survival horror continues its search for a new host as this promising download-only effort fails on all fronts. A technical nightmare that feels rushed, untested, unloved, thoughtless and irritating. Amy, we are upset and disappointed. More so because before we got to hold your hand we thought this would be the post-Ico hit we’ve needed.

The premise was so deliciously tangible it was hard not to get excited about this ambitious studio bringing survival horror to the downloadable market, especially seeing as the genre has ebbed in recent years on modern consoles.

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Trine 2 (Review)

In a gaming climate that has almost killed off the humble platformer, Trine 2 shines as a reminder of how much potential is still there for developers willing to work at it as Frozenbyte has done once again.

Players of the original 2009 Trine (PS3 and PC) will be able to jump in straight away, while 360 players might experience a longer adjustment, as the game doesn’t take much time to explain the game’s mechanics to the new player.

Essentially, you control three characters at once by swapping between them on the fly to solve the platforming puzzle at hand with only one character appearing on-screen at a time. The wizard levitates objects and conjures crates and planks to help you climb upwards, the thief fires arrows and has a grappling hook to attach to wooden surfaces and swing around, and the knight provides the muscle with a sword and shield combo or a sledgehammer that can also be used to smash through walls.

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Joe Danger: Special Edition (Review)

PS3 gamers already know of Joe Danger’s brilliance and now XBLA customers finally get to see what all the fuss was about thanks to this Special Edition. For those of you not in the know, Joe Danger rocked onto PSN last year to unanimous applause, combining motorcycle stunt riding, platforming, speed runs and item collecting into one incredibly slick experience.

The game plays across 2D planes, left to right. On your way to the finish line, there are multiple objectives for each of the 100+ levels. Collect all the silver stars, beat a par time, grab coins, hidden icons, land on all targets and maintain a combo for the whole level are some of the tasks at hand. You’ll only need a couple ticked off to progress, but mastering a stage is where the fun really starts.

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Mercury Hg Heavy Elements DLC (Review)

At the end of my 8/10 review of Mercury Hg last month, I thought I’d be very happy to have some more of the same when the DLC came along. Wish granted! The £1.99 Heavy Elements DLC provides 30 challenging extra levels for this great PSN game.

For extensive details on gameplay, I’d recommend clicking the above link for my review of the main game. Essentially, you tilt obstacle course worlds to roll a blob of Mercury to the exit. Prize atoms are rewarded for finishing, maintaining 100% health, collecting all the items and for par times.

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Mercury Hg (Review)

Early PSP adopters may remember Mercury, but for everyone else, it’s time to play the definitive version, Mercury Hg. Put your red pens down the Hg is the Periodic Table of Elements name for Mercury. But yes, it’s essentially Mercury HD.

The game involves tilting the platform worlds around to roll a ball of liquid mercury around until you get it to the exit. If you get too close to the edge you’ll start to drip over the sides, depleting your life bar and size. An audio cue will let you know that you’ve been sloppy, so you don’t need to let your eyes wonder to the health metre when navigating a tricky part. Pushing Select will give you an instant restart if you’re on a mission for perfection.

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Joe Danger: The Movie (Hands-on Preview)

2011 can just end already. First, it was Bioshock Infinite making the wait pure agony, now I can add Joe Danger: The Movie to my most wanted list. Hello Games are well on their way to creating another classic. Seeing as I gave the first game 9/10, I was damn keen to play the sequel at Gamescom 2011. And I did. Every time I passed the stand. By the time I officially met up with Sean Murray and Grant Duncan of Hello Games I thought I had it all worked out. Then they showed me some of the tougher but doubly awesome levels. Now I really hate 2011.

Before I carry on with the platitudes, I’ll quickly re-cap the first game for newcomers: a mainly 2D motorcycle stunt platformer that encouraged linking tricks while getting to the finish line as fast as possible. Gold stars could be won for each event by collecting all the icons, landing on all landing pads and comboing 100% of the level. The controls were simple as you could jump high and perform multiple flips in the air and land doing endos and wheelies to chain stunts; you could even adjust your trajectory in mid-air forwards and backwards.

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Renegade Ops (Hands-on Preview)

From Avalanche Studios, the minds behind the Just Cause series, we have the new twin-stick vehicle shooter, Renegade Ops. A downloadable title, that’s less than a month away and looks like one of the hottest downloadable titles at Gamescom 2011.

The twin-stick shooter controls for these armoured vehicles are comfortingly familiar -left for driving, right for aiming and shooting- and allow you to enjoy the simplistic gameplay immediately. An extra boost of speed and braking is handled with the face buttons. A secondary weapon is assigned to R1, while L1 initiates a special ability like EMP strikes to stun enemies, extra armour, helicopter backup or a flare to mark a target for an airstrike, with their use limited while they recharge over time.

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Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale (Review)

The legendary Dungeons & Dragons universe has never really had the game to stand tall in its legacy. While the more popular brand, Games Workshop, has the Dawn of War games and soon the very tasty looking Warhammer 40K: Space Marine to keep gamers coming back. So it’s about time D&D had another roll of the dice with us.

Daggerdale takes the Warcraft route for its XBLA/PSN debut and be warned fellow-console gamers, it’s a bit PC-beardy. The best way to go would have been to try to replicate a slick combat title like last-gen’s Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance as this slow style of combat is always going to feel a little stale on consoles.

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Sega Rally Online Arcade (Review)

Not the best time to release a rally title as Dirt 3 is power-sliding into stores on Tuesday. But if you can’t afford that right now Sega hope you might drop a few points for their bite-sized rally release.

This really is a small game though. Five tracks are all you’ll find here, along with 13 cars and modes. The initial tracks are a tropical jungle with mud and sand, a canyon with dirt and tarmac, and an alpine mountain pass with tarmac and snow sections. The time limit between sections returns, but never actually presents anything resembling a challenge, unlike the older games.

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Castle Crashers (Review)

Talk about delayed, Castle Crashers originally appeared on XBLA in 2008, it then hit the US PSN Store in August, which is where the demo ensnared me. I’ve had to wait until now for a European release PSN release. But was it worth the wait? Hell yes. Hell, yes.

This retrotacular title is a side-scrolling beat-‘em-up with a few simple RPG elements thrown in for good measure. It’s great fun on your own, but to get the most out of this game you should really fire up the multiplayer. You can have up to four players with drop-in co-op action. You can even play it online, but this can throw up problems when you both want to be the same character (because it’s the only one you’ve spent ten hours levelling up) so one of you will be on Level 30+ while the other is Level 1. At least you can revive team-mates. Continue reading Castle Crashers (Review)

Blacklight: Tango Down (Review)

A brave mission indeed releasing this PSN first-person-shooter less than a week before Call of Duty: Black Ops. It would have fared much better on PSN a few months back, when it was originally released on XBLA. So does Blacklight have the game to back up this ballsy approach? Well…

The main focus of the game are the online matches. There are a few single player levels but the one-life approach means you’ll only bother until you have a grasp of the controls. You can play them co-operatively but the only way I got this to happen was when trying to get into a deathmatch, it seemed to default to it when there were only two of us in the match lobby. Continue reading Blacklight: Tango Down (Review)

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 (Review)

You’ll be glad to hear Sonic 4 features no story, no talking, no towns, no RPG elements and most definitely no Werehogs. This is very much traditional 2D Sonic from the glory days of the Mega-Drive that saw the best titles for Sega’s blue spiky mascot in Sonic 1-3 and Sonic & Knuckles.

There are four main stages with four acts each, the seven special stages and then the final boss. You can access the four main stages and first three acts in any order. All the stages are basically remixes of old ones with the main differences being HD shine, some new textures and the layout being put through the randomizer. Episode 1 features, a Green Hill Zone-style outdoor location to begin with followed by a labyrinth with underwater sections, a night-time casino and an industrial factory. They look nice, but there’s no avoiding the disappointment of getting nothing genuinely new. Continue reading Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 (Review)

Alien Breed: Impact (Review)

The top down shooter genre is getting quite crowded on the PlayStation Store, so each new release is going to have to really work for our money. At over £10, Alien Breed: Impact is reallygoing to have to work for it.

The game takes place on a huge space vessel overrun by aliens. Most of the crew are dead, you’re the only hope yadda yadda. The atmosphere owes a lot to Dead Space, but hey you might as well borrow from the best. Continue reading Alien Breed: Impact (Review)