Affordable Space Adventures (Wii U) Review

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I’d like to start with a brutal confession, a search party was required to locate the various components of my terminal Mario machine. A serious amount of time has elapsed since the release of Mario Kart 8 and this dust covered tablet and console had to be brought back to life.
So I guess the big question is what brought this mission on? The answer, is Affordable Space Adventures.

This ‘Ronseal’ titled release from KnapNok Games & Nifflas is a 2D space puzzle game released solely for the Wii U, and right from the off it’s obvious to see why.

All of the controls are handled by the tablet in one player mode and it is also possible to have 2 extra pilots join you using Wii motes, who then control certain actions of the ship which make you feel part of a working crew, as long as you can communicate and keep calm. The left and right sticks handle flying and your torchlight and the left and right shoulder buttons cover the ships scanner and flares. By the time you are done the whole gamepad will be assigned to mechanics integral to your advancement.

WelcomeToTheJungle02You start with an infomercial from a company called UExplore, who are offering you a once in a life time opportunity to explore and stake your claim in alien worlds, promising you the highest level of safety with 0% risk, how could this be turned down?

You land on planet Spectaculon and it’s safe to say UExplore’s safety record has taken a knock, communication has been lost and you find yourself alone on an alien land in hostile weather conditions in your rented craft which looks like a budget version of ‘Starbug’ from Red Dwarf.

This is where ASA makes probably the best use of the Wii U gamepad that I have experienced, your TV shows your spacecraft and the planet and the gamepad initially goes through the process of powering up the Small Crafts systems, propulsion engine, lights and thrust.

With the chugging petrol engine now on it’s possible to increase the crafts speed output, mass and stability, tapping the gamepad dials at different levels, but be careful not to raise them for too long or you could overload your delicate craft and disintegrate spectacularly in a small amount of time, and this management of systems is where the puzzle element begins.

Overgrowth02Now it wouldn’t be an alien land without aliens’ right? And I’m sure they’ll be cool with a foreign life-form idly cruising around their planet? No, they’re not…

After you grasp the basic action of movement and delicately controlling your vessel your ships scanners pick up the first sign of life, targeting displays a radius around the robotic looking alien which you assume is range as your Wii pad flashes and beeps showing limits on sound, heat and electricity.

After offering peace through a friendly handshake initially fails, it’s clear that a stealthy approach past this alien is the only way and will require careful management of the ships systems, being careful not to reach any of these levels as alerting the alien will end in aggressive action being taken, and as you’re equipped with flares as opposed to photon torpedo’s you won’t put up much of a fight, which is refreshing to have a space game where defence is the only form of offense.

As you progress more ship systems will open up and will be utilised along with the previous mechanics and all at a decent pace and relevant to your exploration through the linear levels, with the escalation of challenge increases at a good rate and there is no spike in difficulty as each puzzle encompasses what you’ve already learnt and it’s a case of multitasking with the dials and sliders and getting the balance right, and as with everything on ASA the balance is perfect.

The story as such is told through the loading screens between levels and is both charming and humorous, and in between the story the ships user manual is displayed, albeit not a great story it’s enough to keep you immersed in the experience before you fire up the engines to scope out your new surroundings. Graphically the game is both dark and very vivid and bright and works well with your torchlight beaming for you to feel your way around certain sections but ultimately this doesn’t have the wow factor of some Wii U titles. The sounds are clear and add atmosphere from the outside weather effects to the underwater acoustics and the system beeps and bops from the pad.

TheFly02In all there are 38 levels for you to navigate in search of freedom, and it should roughly take between 5 – 7 hours to complete, there is also a training level if you find it too difficult and this also helps to get the kids involved. Priced at £16.99 I feel this is excellent as you will get plenty of bang for your buck. It’s an experience that every Wii U owner should have, a title that makes full use of the game pad, and is good fun in local co-op. My only concern would be the reasons to replay, the only one that comes to mind would be to show non Wii U owners what they’re missing.

Pros:

Excellent use of the Wii U gamepad
Immersive gameplay
Fun Co-op multiplayer

Cons:

Limited scope for replay-ability.
Graphics are pretty but not ground-breaking

Score: 9 out of 10.

Satellite Reign – Early Access Preview

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Set in a futuristic neon lit cyberpunk city, Satellite Reign is a Syndicate inspired top down RTS game from 5 Lives studios. A Kickstarter project that smashed its target of £350k, at the time of writing it is currently in a Pre Alpha build. The game starts with the basic of tutorials, move, run and gun before allowing you free movement within this blazing yet rain soaked atmospheric metropolis. It is stated that the current build does not have a playable tutorial, I feel maybe a step by step introduction into a mission or 3 to gently guide you into things would help draw you into the basic game mechanics and I’m sure this will be included as development progresses.

You take control of 4 cyborg agents each with different abilities, a hacker who can access door panels and also temporarily knock out the big brother style CCTV.
The support agent can send out a world scan, which in a matrix style changes the view green and highlights objects or persons of interest and the agent can also heal your squad mates. The soldier deals out the pain and causes the most head on damage when plan A fails.
Finally the Infiltrator is the stealthily operative. These 4 agents can be levelled up with skills, which should make you life easier as well as opening up new ways to go about your business. Satellite Reign is a single player game, in the future I would love to see a 4 player co-op version with a friend controlling each of the agents.
Graphically the game is there, from the rain detail to the billowing steam effects and the beautifully bright signs and street lighting. The music is also full of deep bass and the thunder and rain effects add to the thick atmosphere and compliments and matches the view.

concept_011Mission control on the main menu lists the jobs available to you, giving detailed background to what is required, and an opportunity to purchase intel from either a bent enforcement officer or other shady characters who are in the know. Everything is for sale in the Downtown District. You start with a $1,000 which can also be used to scan locals for further information (which is currently a work in progress) as well as purchase weapons.

On starting one of the currently limited missions you can activate a ping, which sets off a tracker to direct you to your objective. Once in this location of interest, personally I found it tricky to evade or stealth my way past either the security cameras or guards, which then set off the alarms and the inevitable firefight (which then included enemy reinforcements). You can position yourself behind cover to increase your chances of survival and provides a defensive bonus against the enemy fire, however sometimes the positioning of my units felt clumsy and they didn’t always hold their position to where I had intended. There are relay beacons hidden around the city, interacting with these provide spawn points so your character will return at the closest relay beacon after they’ve died. Although I have found these missions challenging and frustrating there is an amount of satisfaction when something goes right, or using tactics and a bit of thought has turned a bad situation around.

concept_031If you’re a general fan of Sci-Fi, the original Syndicate back from ‘93, Deus EX or the film Bladerunner then you should be keeping a close eye on Satellite Reign, it’s full of potential and it’s got a solid foundation to build upon. Fans of this genre will also be pleased to know hover cars are in attendance, zooming and humming around the streets along with security drones; which I assume in this future do not provide you with 1 hour prime Amazon deliveries.

There has been a recent update 0.4 released which has doubled the size of the game area, the Industrial district has been added to complement the Downtown zone, which has it’s own set of corporations bossing the streets.

In its current state consider it a starter of seared scallops with leeks & lemon chilli butter, before your Sunday Roast, a topside of Somerset beef, which is currently on a slow cook. It isn’t ready just yet, but when it’s fully cooked prepare to crack open a bottle of red and enjoy this beautifully lit open world feast.

Satellite Reign is available on PC and is currently priced at £22.99.

Fractured Space Preview

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Aside from Zombies, Space games are making their way up the popularity charts as a gaming flavour of the year.

Fractured Space, released on November 2014 and currently in Early Access is here, looking to capture and hold a position in the gaming galaxy.

There isn’t a great deal of story or history in the Fractured Space universe at this time, and I’m not sure that it necessarily a bad thing, the game is all about the here and now, and who needs a reason to jump into a galactic battlecruiser an fight Red versus Blue with a shoot now don’t ask questions policy?

Controlling a battleship teamed with up to 4 pilots, with the main objective being to capture and control space ports across 5 sectors whilst stopping the opposing team doing the same, and eventually creating a path to the enemy’s base which is required to be destroyed to reach the end game. The gameplay is quite slow an tactical, it can be a case of taking on the enemy head on, or avoid each other in a race to the enemy base, in order to get there you first need capture and control 2 points in either the Alpha or Beta sectors, there is also a central Gamma zone, which opens up after time an if controlled offers a resource boost, but other than that this area of space holds no other interest and the game can be won without laying claim to it.

fs_ea_screen_00Winning can be achieved by the awesome amount of weaponry and firepower available dependent on your chosen ship type from the generous range available in the hanger before you go into battle, currently there is a sniper, stealth, close range, heavy and general support classes, each with their varying stats in offense, defense and mobility.

The classes are quite self explanatory, heavy has low speed and mobility and is a big target but can take a lot of damage, the sniper picks off targets at great distances and the stealth has a cool cloak capability to sneak up on your opponents or to escape from heavy fire when the space shit hits the fan.

The control system is simple to pick up with the WASD looking after the directions, Shift and Control for the vertical, the mouse for aiming an firing. The display handily highlights numbers 1-6 at the bottom, for any of your specific ship abilities, 4 activates the jump drive to travel between the sectors an 5 covers a jump back to base if it’s under attack or you need a quick retreat.

Your damage meter is near the centre of you screen and reduces as you take hits, your ship also shows signs of visual damage with sections on fire, once your meter hits 0 your ship explodes an you have to wait for a respawn timer before you are returned to base in a shiny new ship with a new found hard hitting emotion for revenge.

fs_ea_screen_01As you progress the ships loadouts can be customised as well as the crew from which there is currently 2 to choose from who take up the important roles of captain, pilot, engineer, comms and tactical, who frequently pop up in game to give you status reports which is neat feature and creates a feeling that it’s not just you being a spaceship. It would be good to see an expansion on this either with a greater number of crews to chose from or maybe even an option to buy/hire crew members with various levels of skills or attributes which may have an impact on your ships base stats.

As this is an online only game currently it is advised to check when the most active time is for your playing sessions, which currently recommends between 7 and 10pm UK time, I have struggled some nights to find a game, not being able to find a server to field 2 squads or maybe just enough to field a 2 versus 2 game, hopefully as the community builds this should become less of an issue.

fs_ea_screen_03There is also an opportunity to play with the makers on a community playtest which is usually on a Thursday, you can also jump on teamspeak where the details can be found on the Fractured Space forum and chat either tactically whilst you play or generally in the relevant channels. I’ve listened in to a couple of sessions now and they have a lot of drive for this game and are more than happy to answer questions thrown at them and sound a friendly and approachable group.

The game itself is fun to play and teamwork is definitely recommended, some of the ships I felt were slightly unbalanced but these I imagine are being tweaked behind the scenes on a regular basis based on player feedback and how the games pan out. Currently there is only the one game mode, in the future I’d like to see this expanded as well as maybe a higher player count for full scale battles or even a smaller maybe 2 on 2 cat and mouse type mode on a reduced playing field.

Fractured Space developed by Edge Case Games is currently £6.99 on Steam, and if you’re into online only multiplayer space battles even in it’s Early Access phase and feel you want to contribute it’s worth taking a look now and make space in your calender for Thursday evenings. For anyone else it’s worth keeping an eye on maybe adding it to the wish list and climbing aboard when the player base can guarantee you a game at your convenience.

I am Bread – Early Access Preview

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I Am Bread

Bossa Studios

PC

As a student in the late 90’s my relationship with Bread was a loving one, the most versatile of foods was regularly toasted with such treats as baked beans, Pot Noodle and Jam. Not Marmite, never Marmite.
Other than the obvious benefit of cost, the other pro’s were the ease and time required to create these snacks, maybe if I had experienced ‘I am Bread’ during these hazy days, my whole outlook on life may have been completely different.

I am Bread is a physics based early access game from Bossa Studios, famed for Surgeon Simulator, where your sole objective is to become toast, by any means necessary. Currently spread across 4 days, your mission is full of danger. In control of your piece of Mighty White using keys assigned to each corner of the crust, you need to avoid obstacles such as smashed plates, ants and your most dangerous foe – the floor.
Hitting the floor or collecting shards of glass does not result in insta-death, rather an edibility rating which starts at 100% and reduces with each unwanted guest, hitting the floor begins a countdown more generous than the 5 second rule, but creates tension and requires skill to rescue your bread to higher ground and safety as the clock ticks down towards zero.

i-am-bread-is-the-weirdest-video-game-of-2014-983-body-image-1417558886As the edibility rating goes down the bread gets visibly dirtier. On the flip side there are also tasty things to fling your bread into, butter and jam for example, which also handily allows you certain sticky suction abilities to get to your destination. Hitting the keys assigned to the corners allow you to climb the terrain, however there is a grip meter which reduces and in conjunction with the tricky control system, unlike my favourite brunch, this makes your task difficult and time consuming. I understand this game has controller support, however I was unable to try this; I would go as far as recommending a pad if you have one, it surely can’t make it any harder.

There is delight if you can master the direction and movement of your slice, launching off tables onto chairs and scaling refrigerators towards your target of heat. On the first day the toaster in the distance is obvious, but further days require problem solving, not just for how you are going to get there, as much as where you are going and what heat source you are looking for; hair-dryers, TV’s and gas fires make for unorthodox toasting appliances.

i-am-bread-l1During your journey you can sometimes be hindered by the view angles, in one case I was stuck against the fridge and a container in the kitchen, the screen had locked onto the bread and trying to dislodge myself meant things turned ugly and jittery.

The level design is good and not too large or small, and there is plenty of dangers to avoid and decisions to make as you plot your route, the sounds of cracking cutlery and bottles are spot on, although the music is repetitive, there is room to change or add to this down the line.

When you get to your final destination and have achieved your transformation into toast, you are then scored based on what percentage of edibility you have left,the toast quality (you can burn your toast) and the deliciousness rating, which can be increased with condiments, the time taken to have gotten there, and finally a grading before progressing to the next day’s challenge.

The amount of gameplay currently I’d say between 1 and 2 hours, due to the difficult control mechanism, if you can persevere with this and I’ve assumed there will be 3 further days worth of pivoting, leaping and dodging the total package should be around 3-4 hours in length. Currently ‘I am Bread’ is priced at £6.99 and that roughly makes it £1.75 per hour.
This game is original and can be fun, but for me, that burns to frustration as I slide down the refrigerator plastered in shards of glass towards my grimy doom.

I am Bread is currently available on Steam for PC HERE

Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 – PS4 Review

PES2015_Full_Logo_CMYK_jpg_jpgcopy The beautiful game. Any fan of our national sport can appreciate that tika taka Arsenal goal vs Norwich last year, the pace, precision and technical ability was phenomenal. I should also give special mention to the individual skills of Van Persie, and his ‘flying header’ vs Spain in this years World Cup. I mention these two stand out moments of recent history after finishing my first session of this gen’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2015.

Starting a friendly fixture as Juventus, my midfield quartet with the help of the manual pass (hold L1 to point a directional arrow) elegantly tore apart 5 opponent players before Carlos Tevez tapped in from 6 yards. Stunning, unscripted, and most importantly felt all of my own doing. In my second game Daniel Sturridge of Merseyside Red split my defence in half as a ball he had no chance of reaching lofted into the box before his salmon like ability sent him flying to connect, and ultimately send the Puma licensed ball into the top corner of my net.

PES2015_FFF_02This gen’s début incarnation is again powered by the Fox engine, the likenesses of your favourite players are superb, whether it be Ronaldo or Bale, or the harrowing Tevez, their movement on the pitch are also life like, in addition to their cat like turn of pace.

Along with the accurate players, licensed boots and balls add an array of dazzling colour to complement the players, and although not perfect, the animated fans give a real feeling of attendance, the only downside that can sometime snap the immersion is the commentary, both dull and repetitive, Jon Champion and Jim Beglin should have been given more than a post-it note to read from. I lost count of the times I was reprimanded for not yet having a shot 15 minutes into the game, a few extra pundits for the different game modes would have gone along way, but please, not Andy Townsend or Michael Owen.

I gave up the physical game a few years ago, however playing Pro Evo 15 made me want to pull up my Town socks, insert half a Sunday Telegraph down each leg and whip out the tin of Tiger Balm, the manual passing is crisp, as is the satisfying through ball on the outside of the boot and the either well timed hard challenge or the mistimed crunch as you clatter an opponent to the ground for the inevitable booking. This is football.

PES2015_myClub_GotzeThe AI movement is excellent as your team mates move around the pitch intelligently trying to create space or to create an option to pass to whilst keeping to the set formation, the gameplay is balanced, precise and accurately portrays the real game. This isn’t ping pong, there won’t be many 5-4 wins to be found here, I’ve had a number of hard fought 0-0 draws, this may not be Hollywood soccer but it again adds to the realism, and you know what?, even in defeat there’s no sign of a flying DS4 pad, or even the slightest hint of the air turning blue, you lose fairly, and you live and learn.

The licences have improved although there is still the lack of official English teams and that’s also the case for our newly included 2nd tier where you can now find Norfolk City and East Dorsetshire amongst your team choices. This can cause some annoyance and again take away some of the realism away however this can be fixed with a time and patience using the editor. The Italian, Spanish, Dutch and French teams are fully licensed however there is a noticeable absence of the German Bundesliga.

PES2015_myClub_ScudMenuThe modes on offer this year include the time-sink that is the Master League, and a wide range of cups and tournaments like the UEFA Champions League, the Asia Champions League and also the South American Copa Libertadores, Football Life and Become a Legend modes allow you to create and develop your own player, as you look to digitally take all of Lionel Messi’s goalscoring records, or even set your sights lower as the midfield playmaking dynamo that was George Boateng.

The new addition this year is MyClub, which aims to rival a certain Ultimate Team, with ‘GP’ that can be generated in matches by completing achievement’s to help build and create your own Galácticos, or, you can fork out real money to boost your ‘GP’ for that authentic Real dream.These teams can then be taken online against friend or foe. I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg of this mode but can already see it has a lot to offer, and I’m looking forward to sinking plenty of time into it.

PES2015_LIGUE1_PSG_vs_ASSEThe online game works, matchmaking was straightforward and the gameplay mirrored the offline mode, just be sure to stipulate a set criteria unless you wish to face a world of Madrid’s. In addition to the single quick match game there is also a online league mode where you can rank up and position yourself in the world, as well as a 11 vs 11 mode using dedicated lobbies to set matches up.

The only disappointment that I can think of is when a game plays this well and has some wow moments, why is the highlights options so limited?, some of my exquisite build up play has been cut from goalscoring replays, or maybe some intense midfield battles I’d like to keep, maybe go so far as use them as training material to see where I went wrong. Having a full match editor could really showcase this games potential.

This years Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 has won on the pitch, with the off field minor issues such as the licences, lacking replay options and the commentary the only negatives marks on a thoroughly enjoyable portrayal of the beautiful game.

 

Rating 8 of 10.

 

This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version. The game is also available on the PS 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.