Playstation 4 Remote Play: Is it Worth the Hype?

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When the PlayStation 4 launched in November last year, one of its major selling points, and one of the most-demonstrated features, was Remote Play. This is the ability to hook up your PS4 and your PlayStation Vita, allowing you to stream PS4 games on to the small screen, hand-held device. Which let’s face it, is pretty damn handy if someone is hogging the TV. Now you don’t have to kick the family out of the living room to get playing your favourite game. Just grab your Vita, link up to your PS4 and start gaming. But as impressive as it sounds, is it really worth all the hype?

This early on we’re probably not expecting perfection, but is it something that works? Is it a service that people will genuinely use? We tested it out to see whether it should be a big factor in you purchasing a PS4, currently in stock with launch packs at GAME and EBay.

Game play
Remote Play is extremely easy to set up and, on initial showings, works very well. The PS4’s Remote Play works natively, unlike the PS3’s case-by-case support, which means that game developers can add in tailored controls for certain games. So in Assassin’s Creed 4 for example, there are touch screen controls for the map, but you can also use the Vita’s shoulder buttons as triggers, a simple tweak that works brilliantly.

Although there can be issues with WiFi connections, generally speaking there are very few drop-outs in the middle of your game. If you’re patient and hit the ‘X’ button on the Vita, the game starts up again pretty soon, and if you have a decent broadband connection, you probably won’t have any problems.

Flexibility
Thankfully, this is a pretty minor complaint when set against the wonder of playing a proper game of something like Assassin’s Creed on a portable console. You can play your games in bed, on the train, and the games look as beautiful as anything we’ve seen on a hand-held. The HD stream on the OLED screen is a real game changer, and compares favourably with the Xbox 360, thanks to the next-gen rendering.

Other uses
Whilst using Remote Play for games is definitely a big winner, that’s not all you can do. You can also connect to your console via your smartphone, making it easy to message friends and manage PSN friend requests without having to fire up the console or log on to the SEN website. Overall, lots of the second screen uses are more practical and pleasant than you would imagine they might be.

In conclusion, we think Remote Play for the PS4 is definitely worth the hype. If you’ve got a PS4 and a Vita and haven’t linked them up yet, you’re definitely missing a trick. It’s very easy to hook them up and this will definitely make the both the Vita and the PS4 hugely desirable to gamers everywhere.

Gioteck EX-06 Wireless Headset Review | PS4

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Gioteck EX-06 Wireless Headset | Reviewed Using PS4
One of the most common questions I get asked is which PS4 compatible headsets provide the best value for money. So I decided to do some research to try and answer this question as accurately as possible. I scoured the internet for reviews of the Gioteck EX-06 as I had got lots of positive feedback about them. Nearly every review I found were by people that had been sent the headsets by Gioteck to review and pretty much every one of those reviews were positive. Being the cynical chap I am, I never take much notice of reviews where people have been given stuff by the manufacturer, just in case this has clouded their judgement.

So I thought I’d take a punt and buy them in order to write a review. When I bought these for a very frugal £36 from Asda, I wasn’t expecting much. I have always found Gioteck products to be very good quality, but surely there’s no way of making a quality wireless headset for the PS4 for only £36?

Maybe, just maybe I was wrong.

First impressions
After unboxing, you are presented with a hard carry case which the headset is stored in. This is a nice touch as every other gaming headset I own ends up getting chucked in to a drawer where they inevitably end up damaged or at the very least get blu-tack stuck on them. Upon opening the case you find the pretty impressive looking headset, folded up in a way that resembles the headset equivalent of the fetal position. Not the tat I was expecting at all. The headset comes with various cables, including USB to Mini USB cable for charging and a cable that plugs in to the PS4 controller which enables chat.

After removing the headset from it’s case I was surprised with how well made they felt. Like many other Gioteck products they have a rubberised finish that makes them almost arousing to touch (this maybe just me). They also unfold with a satisfying snap and felt very sturdy. The mic can be connected to either side of the headphones, or detached and stored away when not required.

Connecting to console
The USB connector is unfortunately a really annoying design as it requires slightly more space in front of the console than most others I have used. However, connecting the receiver to the PS4 is easy as can be, you simply plug the USB wireless receiver in to the console, change one audio setting on the PS4 and you’re ready to roll. Once you have plugged it in, you then need to turn on the power button on the headset and they pair seamlessly.

Comfort
As soon as I put these on to my ample head, I realised much to my surprise that these were actually the most comfortable headphones I had ever owned. They fit really snugly and don’t feel like you’ve got a mobile disco balancing on your head, unlike some Turtle Beach headsets. To put them to the test, I undertook a small selection of physical activities to see just how well they stayed on. 5 press ups, 3 sit ups and one near heart attack later, they were still sitting firm and I almost forgot that I was wearing them.

Getting your game on
I then fired up my console and started to play Resogun as I thought this would be the perfect game to test out a wide range of audio levels. Straight away I realised there was a problem as the sound was cutting out every 2 seconds, making it impossible to hear what was going on in the game. At this point I was sitting about 3 feet to the right of my PS4 as I had the console connected to my PC monitor instead of my main TV, which is where the console and wireless receiver are situated. It soon became clear that the position that I was sitting was causing a connection problem. Although the headset specification states it has a wireless range 20ft, this only seems the case if there is a direct line of sight between the headset and the receiver. Any deviation from this causes the headset to cut out. Even sitting with your feet up obstructing the connection between the headset and the receiver will cause problems.

I have used many wireless headsets and out of all of them this was the only one I have had connection problems with. With my previous Turtle Beach wireless headset, I could go relieve myself in the toilet upstairs  whilst still wearing the headset without any connection problems or interference (much to the dismay of the people in my party chat). But with this set, I’d have no such luxury.

Sound Quality
The sound quality is pretty impressive for a headset that costs under £40. However, after playing several different games it became clear that sound quality is the main difference between these and the higher priced alternatives. Although the sounds of the voices, music and bass are all impressive individually, when you blend them all together the levels just don’t seem right. The bass and music tend to overpower the characters when they are talking, making it hard to understand what they are saying. If you increase the volume to try and hear what the characters are saying, the bass, background music, sound effects and gunfire will make you want to toss the headset across the room. If there was some way to equalize the sound levels there wouldn’t be a problem, but unfortunately there is no such feature on the PS4.

Overall, the sound is pretty good and I’m sure 90% of gamers would think they sound great. But if like me you are an anally retentive audio whore, you may want to invest in a more expensive alternative!

Chat
This is the one area where the headset really fails to impress. Although I could hear others in party chat well enough, they had problems hearing me. I sounded quiet and slightly distorted and the sound quality of the mic was worse than that of the standard headset included with the PS4. One positive is that you can change the game and chat volume independently to each other, enabling you to get the balance of game sound and chat volume set to your personal preference.

Conclusion
Overall this is a very good headset for the money, in fact I am pretty sure it’s the best wireless headset you will find for under £40. It’s well made, looks great and rivals even the most expensive headsets in terms of comfort. Unfortunately the disappointing wireless coverage, off kilter sound levels and piss poor mic stops it being a serious contender to other headsets such as the Turtle Beach PX4’s and Sony Gold wireless headset. I would also be hesitant to pay the full price for this headset, which is around the £70 mark.

If you are a gamer with a limited budget looking for a decent sounding headset, then the Gioteck EX-06 headset is for you. If you are looking for a wireless headset that has amazing sound quality and wireless coverage, save up a bit more cash and opt for a higher spec alternative.

For me, the wireless problems I encountered seriously effected my final score. If I hadn’t had these problems I’d have rated them 7.5/10

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This headset also compatible with the Xbox 360, PS3, Mac & PC and is currently £36 in-store at Asda.

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Official Gioteck Video

Specifications and features

  • Folding Hinge System: Fold-up design that allows for easier storage and transportation
  • 2.4GHZ Wireless Technology: Advanced wireless digital technology that broadcasts game audio up to 20ft
  • Superior Fit & Finish: Designed with superior materials for the ultimate comfortable fit
  • Flexible Mic Arm: Extensive adjustment for perfect positing and maximum voice clarity
  • Integrated Audio Controls: Intuitive audio controls on the ear cups for quick, easy access
  • Virtual Surround Sound: Featuring a virtual surround sound effect  for total game immersion
  • Advanced Noise Reduction: Eliminating game sound interference from external sources
  • Rich Detailed HD Audio: Delivering crisp highs, deep lows and everything between
  • Compatible with: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PC and Mac

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Tomb Raider Definitive Edition PS4 | Frugal Gaming

Tomb Raider 1

Publisher – Square Enix

Developer – Crystal Dynamics

Release Date – 28/01/2014

Platform Reviewed – PS4

The release of Tomb Raider on next gen consoles has certainly divided opinion. It is not uncommon for game developers and publishers to spoil us with their ‘Ultimate’ or ‘Game of the Year’ editions. Full of extra content previously only available via download, all wrapped up in one neat little package. Generally they have sold rather well and yet this title has been met with such distain from certain quarters. Perhaps it’s the timing of the release or the chosen platforms which has warranted the extra attention. Sceptically you might say the publishers are taking advantage of the typical barren release schedule after the festive period, especially considering the PS4 is in its infancy. Whilst we all clamber for the great and the good that our new consoles promise we have on offer here a game that is still fresh in the memory, all be it with a few extras, should we really be interested?

For those who don’t know, Tomb Raider is a reboot of a franchise that certainly lost its way in recent years. Here, we explore Lara’s origins from a seemingly excitable academic to the ferocious adventurer she has become today. Shipwrecked on a mysterious island, separated from her comrades, Lara must learn what it takes to survive. It is certainly a much darker and more harrowing tale the fans of franchise may be accustomed to. The physical and psychological torment Lara endures will leave a lasting impression. It is at times brutal and unforgiving.

The story is set on a breath taking island once populated, centuries ago, by inhabitants called the Yamatai Shrines, temples and statues scattered throughout the land remind us of time long since passed. Accompany this with remains of WW2 bunkers, crashed planes and shipwrecked vessels. Broken and rust ridden, shanty towns and makeshift machinery. It all blends together to make this a believable and unnerving place to be. It feels isolated and forgotten. From the claustrophobic caverns to awe inspiring vistas, harsh and sudden changes in climate, and especially as darkness comes it is all very intimidating.

Thankfully not long into our adventure Lara finds a bow. Used at first to hunt animals for food it is soon that we turn this onto our enemies. A strange cult has taken hold over the island and now call this place their home. They are instantly unforgiving of Lara’s presence and will remove her by any means necessary. Pistols, rifles and shotguns make a welcome addition to the armoury along with the climbing axe, all can be combined to make killing swift and savage, especially at close range. As the story continues, improvements can be added to the weapons which adds variety and flexibility to the combat.

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Whilst the combat is handled with a certain flair, it is the recognisable climbing sections that shine. Lara’s agility and bravery are certainly put to the test. Movement feels fluid and spontaneous, it is more forgiving than previous titles, there no need to be as precise as you may have needed to be in the past. Scaling vertical rock faces, shimmying along ledges and death defying leaps all feel natural and intuitive. Deserving of a mention are the rope arrows, these can be used to make rope bridges which encourage exploration and help traverse the environment. Lara fells like a true adventurer.

Due to the extra hardware available a few noticeable improvements have been made to the interface. If you have the PS4 camera attached you can use gestures or your voice to control certain actions, map navigation for example. Dialogue and sound effects are played through the Dualshock speaker. The touchpad can be used to light or extinguish torch or indeed cycle through various types of ammunition you may have available. Some of this works really well whilst others seem superfluous.

To add some longevity to the title there is the compulsory multiplayer mode. With only four game types on offer it will certainly not set the world alight. Free for all and team deathmatch make an appearance along with two team based modes that are very similar to most games on the market. There is something lacking here, you get the impression it was an afterthought and would benefit greatly from having more time and care spent on it.

Yes, the visuals are an improvement from the previous consoles. Environments are very pretty, weather and lighting effects are handled very well, it’s just not a massive leap that you may be expecting. Particular time and effort has been spent refining Lara but, she does not look quite right. The facial expressions, especially during scenes where Lara speaks, looks as though she is wearing a mask.  I heard it said that it seems that she has suffered from using an excessive amount of Botox, this sums it up perfectly. The rest of the cast have been neglected somewhat and it painfully obvious. The story is interesting to some degree, it is full of clichés however. With games such as ‘The Last of Us’, they have shown us how characters can be written, here they follow a supposedly tried and tested formula and it’s cringe worthy. They sadly missed the mark.

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Even sadder and the biggest mistake of all is the price. There is simply not enough here to warrant purchasing if you have played through it before. The extras on offer are nowhere substantial enough. An extra tomb, which will take at most 10 minutes to complete, a couple of weapon attachments and some extra maps for the sadly lacklustre multiplayer is quite frankly not enough. The game is just as good as it was a year ago but, no better. Perhaps this why cynics have called this release a shameless cash in and, to be honest, it is hard to argue.

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Reviewer – MrBadDog

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition is out now for PS4 and Xbox ONE

PS4 Version Used For Review

Super Mario Bros Deluxe Review

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Super Mario Bros. Deluxe
Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo
Game Boy Colour/Virtual Console

It’s rough when you hit hard times and have to do degrading things. Say, just for example, you’re a recently graduated journalism student with no job or money (to the point where you can’t even afford The Amazing Deals Posted Everyday Here At Frugal Gaming!) and have to subject yourself to signing up for the Nintendo Network just because they promise you a free game out of it. In this case the free game is Super Mario Bros Deluxe off the Nintendo eShop for the 3DS, and granted it’s originally a Game Boy Colour game from 1999 but a lot of people are probably playing it right now and got it for free so it’s not exactly off the Frugal Gaming message so let’s give it a review.

Actually let’s not review it for this paragraph and briefly touch on Nintendo’s Virtual Console. Let’s get this straight Nintendo, you allow people to create their own save states on the 3DS, but you absolutely do not allow anyone to alter the controls. Super Mario Bros Deluxe defaults to B for run and A to jump on the 3DS, possibly (and irritatingly) simply because those buttons have the same name as the Game Boy buttons. However, the game is designed for the Game Boy/NES button layout which means it would make more sense for Y to be run and B to jump. Maybe the default scheme works for you, maybe you also pour Mountain Dew on a bowl of grass shards for breakfast, but the fact that there’s no option to change this is unacceptable.

So keep that in mind, for that reason alone this game is probably a lot less fun to play on the 3DS than it was to play on the Game Boy Colour. Having said that, Super Mario Bros Deluxe is still dumb.

SBowseruper Mario Bros. Deluxe is a remake/touch up job of the original Super Mario Bros; this review also isn’t going to comment too much on the original Super Mario Bros because there’s already more content online about why that game is a masterpiece than there are My Little Pony avatars. So let’s assume the original is the classic that it’s recognised as and discuss Deluxe on its own merits.

The first noticeable change gameplay wise is the camera, the Game Boy Colour unfortunately didn’t have the screen size to contain all of Super Mario Bros radness at once so Deluxe is sort of like playing the original game through a hole in a fence. Tapping up and down on the D-Pad moves the camera up and down to make up for this, but two huge issues come with this. First off, there are times where you’re “big Mario” and need to crouch to avoid obstacles and you don’t exactly want the camera crashing into the floor and lose your bearings, and secondly if you’re playing this on 3DS you’re probably using the analog stick rather than the disgustingly awful D-Pad so it’s easy to accidentally jiggle the camera around.

It’s probably fair to say that the limitations of the Game Boy Colour pretty much make Super Mario Bros Deluxe objectively worse than the original, the issues with the camera placement that the original didn’t have at all make it easy for the player to lose their bearings or on some stages not see the floor or platforms they’re jumping to and “leap of faith” gameplay rears its ugly head unwelcomely to a Mario title. Some of the additions are nice though, there are a few more colours and sound effects, and everything generally looks a bit bolder and brighter, also at the end of a castle stage Toad now does a little dance rather than passive aggressively standing still and flipping you off. There’s even a little jingle on the title screen now! If this game was a 1992 NES re-release of Super Mario Bros it would probably be pretty sweet.

It’s everything else about Deluxe that rubs the wrong way however. First off, why is there a map screen now? It serves no function other than giving the player the opportunity to switch between Mario and Luigi (who play exactly the same in this game remember). What is this, retroactive continuity? “Oh, the games after this had World Maps so this game has to have one too now.” The original Super Mario Bros is essentially a collection of rock solid platforming stages held together with string, and now they’re replacing the string with turkey twizzlers and made it all flabby. There’s no need for this to be there, and Nintendo basically admit this by letting you wham the start button to skip it entirely, a map screen with no functionality is just a couple of extra seconds between each level where you’re not playing the gosh darn videogame.

Mushroom1The grossest addition though is the “Checklist”, which comes in hand in hand with the map screen. From stage 1, you see a sheet of all the stages you’ve done and how many are left to go. Just…why, it’s Mario…just let the game be about the running and jumping that people crave. No-one wants to be dunked back into a map screen, watch a little sprite of Mario walk from one featureless blue dot to a featureless red dot, tick off the level and think “just 17 more stages to go!”

Really, this has all been pointless rambling since Deluxe basically reviews itself with its “bonus” features. These “bonus” features include; a calendar, a slideshow of unlockable pictures and (this isn’t a joke I swear) tarot cards. These had to be last minute additions, or maybe they were the ideas of some Make-a-Wish foundation kid visiting the Nintendo offices and they were guilted into using them. When you view the scrapbook of pictures there’s a nice little jingle, but when you actually select a picture to view the jingle stops and you stare at a stock picture of a Goomba that looks like it was drawn in Mario Paint…in complete silence, as if Deluxe is forcing you to have a quiet moment with yourself to think about what you’re doing with your life.

That is Deluxe’s review of itself, because at some point the designers realised how pointless the entire project was. Ultimately, it’s an inferior version of (at the time) a 15 year old game, so of course they dunk pointless “bonus” stuff into it to try and justify its experience. It’s impossible to recommend for purchase today in the context of the far superior Game Boy Advance remakes of classic Mario titles, and seeing as you could just buy the original and better Super Mario Bros on the same store.

But hey, if you got the game for free like I did, then you got to spend 15 minutes of your life playing a version of Super Mario Bros that has some title screen music.

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Reviewer: Matthew Leslie

Loadout Review

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Loadout Review | PC | Edge of Reality Ltd.

It had been a long time of not watching blockbuster action movies before I watched Sylvester Stallone in his 2008 Rambo film. Yawning, I ended up idly picking the film from Netflix in the certainty that I’d be turning it off again in 10 minutes time. The reason I didn’t, and actually went on to enjoy the film, was that it was gloriously and unrepentantly violent. Bullets took people off their feet, shredding them as they flew. Explosives caused people to become startling fountains of bloody viscera. It was unexpected and glorious.

It had been a long time of not playing arena shooters before I played Edge of Reality Ltd’s new title, Loadout. Yawning, I ended up idly picking the game from Steam in the certainty that I’d be turning it off again in 10 minutes time. The reason I didn’t, and actually went on to enjoy the game, was that it was so gloriously and unrepentantly violent. Bullets took people off their feet, shredding them as they flew. Explosives caused people to become startling fountains of bloody viscera. It was unexpected and glorious.

There are too few opportunities in gaming life to really embrace the ridiculous, despite the affordances of a media that can literally set anything, anywhere at any time. Too often, in my view, games try to be extensions of real life – when really, abandoning anything that ties the game to mundane existence would be preferable.

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Edge of Reality Ltd’s game has a lot of work to do in order to stand out in its field; a free-to-play 3rd person arena shooter, very much in the style of Team Fortress 2, Loadout could easily get lost in a sea of similar games.

Get shot too much in Loadout and you could end up headless – just a brain with two eyes glued to the front – but still alive. Or, you can find yourself running around with a chest cavity big enough to drive a bus through but still alive enough to grenade the unwary.

Loadout is at its most successful when it sticks one dying, bloody finger up at the conventions of gaming. The game hooked it from the very first spawn point. I noticed that I had been dropped in to a space occupied by green (friendly) and red (enemy) named characters. The seconds ticked down to game start and I went through the following thought processes:

1. Ugh. We’re all spawning together? That’s stupid.

2. Huh. We’re all spawning together.

3. Yeah! We’re all spawning together!

4. Double kill! I survived! I’ve only got one arm!

Dropping me into the game like that was brilliant and it set up the tone for what was to come, frantic, barely co-ordinated violence and its gooey repercussions.

Before you get to shooting action however, you have to choose your loadout – see, they didn’t just pick the name at random – as the game has a strong focus on you building a weapon (which in a stroke of genius, you get to name) to match your preferred play style, or role in your team. Any weapon can be modified to deliver arcing lightning death, burning fire or even healing if you’d enjoy being a medic. Additional upgrades are unlocked with ‘blutes’ which is a currency earned solely in-game and cannot be bought with microtransactions.

Uh oh.

Yeah, there’s that word again. Microtransactions. After the travesty that was Dungeon Keeper, this should be enough to send shivers down any gamers’ spine. Thankfully, Loadout manages to do it right and prove that it’s not that hard to monetise a game without pissing everyone off. Are you listening, Electronic Arts?

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First up, Spacebux – the currency you buy – cannot be used to buy anything that will give you a material advantage in-game. The upgrades are cosmetic only.  Edge of Reality made a smart choice by opening up the weapon systems, but really restricting the cosmetic options available to you in customising your character. At low levels, each team is filled with 4 or 5 versions of the same fat-Rambo with the occasional chunky lady thrown in. As you play the game, you’ll realise it’s quite possible to make pretty badass looking avatars, but unless you cough up some money to support the game, you’re going to be left with the couple of goofy looking options you had at the start. It actually reminded me of Brink’s character customisation which was a strong element of that title.

Secondly, Loadout is a great deal of fun to play. You make progression in terms of unlocking weapon upgrades etc. because it’s a title that lends itself to sitting down to play for an hour or two every day. You get daily play bonuses of blutes so you can always be working towards creating a new weapon to try. Games don’t tend to drag on and (so far) the online community is decent without people getting butthurt over defeats. So you tend to play and play some more – leading you to want to give something back to the developer who made this decent shooter.

It feels different enough to Team Fortress 2 to stand a chance of making a splash for itself in the arena shooter world. I hope that it makes it and I’ll be really interested to see how the game progresses from this point. Why not get in on the ground floor and give it a whirl? After all, at this price point, what have you got to lose?

Don’t push me.

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Karlos Morale

Loadout is available now for PC on Steam

http://www.loadout.com/game-info/

Don’t Starve: Console Edition Review

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Developer/Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Version reviewed: PlayStation 4
Release date: January 7, 2014

Don’t starve. This is a simple rule, no? I mean, maintaining your vitality by cramming your pie hole with nutrient-rich foods is a staple part of everyday life, and if you’re reading this review chances are you’ve gotten pretty good at it. Apply this rule to a Roguelike videogame, however, and suddenly things aren’t so simple. Such is the case with Don’t Starve, the latest IP from Vancouver-based development studio Klei Entertainment. Released on Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux last year via Valve’s Steam platform, it landed on the PlayStation 4 in January to captivate the console market, but does this indie adventure have what it takes to lure gamers away from triple A behemoths like Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition?

The game begins by dumping your character, an intrepid gentleman scientist named Wilson, in a strange world. A dapper beanpole of a man materialises to inform you of your gaunt condition, advises you to chow down before nightfall arrives, and then leaves you to fend for yourself. The exposition is vague, though more about the title’s backstory can be learned from its promotional trailer. On a dark and stormy night, Wilson (who looks an awful lot like an Edgar Allan Poe caricature) is tricked into building a mysterious contraption by a windup radio, promising him “secret knowledge” in return, but when he activates said contraption spirits whisk him to an alternate realm. It transpires that this is the sinister work of dapper beanpole man, a.k.a. half-demon Maxwell, who no doubt plans to use Wilson’s machine for evil and stuff.

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The first thing to know about Don’t Starve is that your survival relies entirely on exploration and self-discovery. There is no tutorial; there are no instructions, or “go here, do this” waypoint markers. You are alone in this seemingly hostile environment, and how best to look after Wilson’s health, hunger and sanity levels is up to you. Taking cue from the game’s title, I decided to make nourishment my priority on playthrough one, collecting all manner of seeds, berries and vegetables as I skipped through the forest. A veritable feast in my possession, I was extremely pleased with myself, yet as the foreboding darkness loomed it dawned on me that my single-mindedness caused me to overlook the importance of light. Blackness engulfed the screen and ‘something’ removed Wilson’s appendages with its teeth as I held my head in my hands. Lesson 1: darkness equals imminent death.

Playthrough two saw me change my strategy. This time, I gathered everything I stumbled upon – vegetables, twigs, grass, flint, rocks, an unhappy butterfly… When I came to review my bulging inventory minutes later, I realised I had the raw materials to construct a makeshift axe. Then the epiphanies came in thick and fast; with an axe, I could chop trees into logs. With logs, I could build a campfire, which I could fuel with grass and twigs. It wasn’t long until I was well into my first week, living off the fatta the lan’, but when Wilson’s sanity took a dive on day five he began to hallucinate, and the shadowy products of his delirium beat him to a pulp. Lesson 2: insanity equals unusual death.

The rather long-winded point being made here is that the inevitability of your demise lessens the more time you spend in this obscure, and often ruthless, landscape. Once players acquaint themselves with Don’t Starve’s crafting system, master their micromanagement skills and establish a list of wilderness do’s and don’ts (tip: don’t aggravate a swarm of killer bees. Ever), keeping Wilson alive becomes second nature. This enables you to focus your attention on discovering the title’s hidden wonders, from secret spelunking caves and rare items to a hidden Adventure Mode that slowly unearths the motivation behind Maxwell’s villainy. In fact, there’s an incalculable amount of satisfaction and achievement to be had here if you’re willing to put in the hard work.

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A piece of advice though: do not get complacent. In keeping with the Roguelike sub-genre associated with RPGs and MMORPGs, dying in Don’t Starve is permanent. If you fall victim to the harsh conditions of winter, run out of supplies or get mauled by a pack of ravenous hounds, it’s back to the drawing board. To add insult to injury, the layout of each world is procedurally generated, meaning that when you do start a new game you won’t be able to follow your previous strategy step by step because the placement of landmarks, items and resources will have changed. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, as it compels players to take Wilson’s safety seriously, but that doesn’t negate the frustration they’ll feel when a Tallbird perforates their skull for wandering into its territory by mistake, robbing them of their progress.

Believe it or not, when you eventually meet your maker, some good does come of it. Aside from gaining valuable knowledge that will undoubtedly prove useful in a later playthrough, you’ll also be awarded experience points that unlock new characters. There are eight to earn in total, including Willow, an unpredictable pyromaniac with an unbreakable lighter, Wolfgang, a hard-hitting strongman and nyctophobic, and Woodie, a Canadian lumberjack with an imperishable axe and “a terrible secret” (according to the game’s Wiki). Each of the gang’s specific abilities is balanced by a weakness that can affect your tactics drastically, and this works well to introduce further variety, presenting some very interesting in-game scenarios.

Of course, all of the above would count for nothing if the game’s transition from PC and Mac to console was substandard. Thankfully, the PS4 port of Don’t Starve performs much like the original, running at a fluid 60 frames per second in true 1080p. The hand-drawn, Tim Burton-esque art style is delivered with vibrancy and crispness, and none of the quirkiness Klei Entertainment’s indie gem was praised for first time around has been lost in translation. Its mouse/keyboard control scheme is surprisingly well suited to the DaulShock 4 too. The D-pad performs multiple context-sensitive actions, L2 and R2 handles crafting and inventory management options (navigated using the thumbsticks), and the face buttons are reserved for simple tasks such as picking up items and swatting foes with whatever you’re wielding at the time. In this respect, the learning curve is gentle – a definite plus considering the unforgiving, trial and error-based nature of gameplay.

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So does Don’t Starve hold its own against the latest big budget productions from EA DICE, Ubisoft and Crystal Dynamics? Unquestionably. Yes, it is a slow burner, offering little in terms of help or guidance, but the deeper you delve into this fascinating gothic world and its clever mechanics the harder it is to put down. Time will tell whether it has the clout to outshine Markus Persson’s Minecraft or Re-Logic’s Terraria, but speaking from experience its creativity and peculiarity succeeds at keeping the player’s attention for hours at a time. Given that PS Plus members can download it free of charge from the PlayStation Store as part of Sony’s Instant Game Collection, you’ve absolutely no reason not to get lost in this eerie IP.

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Super Mario 3D World Review

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Super Mario 3D World | Publisher – Nintendo | Platform – Wii U

As Mario now approaches his mid-30’s does this aging franchise still have a place amongst the gaming elite? He seen off the competition before. Let’s be honest, Sonic has seen better days and whilst Bubsy the Bobcat and Crash Bandicoot, to name just a few, have forced to take early retirement. There stands Mario, with is ever faithful band of comrades, standing tall in a celebration of everything that gaming should be. This is a masterpiece, Super Mario 3D World is above all else, FUN.

The story begins with Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach (who for once has not fallen victim to the evils whims of Bowser!) exploring the Mushroom Kingdom when they come across a strange clear pipe. It is from this said pipe that a Sprixie emerges, imagine a rather odd looking fairy and you may have some idea what a Sprixie looks like. Suddenly, Bowser appears, captures there new found friend and disappears through the pipe. Our heroes give chase and our adventure begins.

Those familiar with Super Mario Bros. 3 will have some idea of the layout of each world, of which there are seven and of course a few bonuses at the end with I am certainly not going to spoil for you. The aim is to guide our heroes through various levels located within each world until the eventual showdown with one of Bowser’s minions. Once defeated, a Sprixie is freed and it’s on to next the world, rinse and repeat until the final showdown with Bowser himself. Defeat him and glory will bestowed upon you and legendary status achieved and what fun you are going to have in the process.

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The goal remains the same, make it to end of each stage, raise the flag triumphantly and it’s onto the next. Each world acts a hub, anyone familiar with Super Mario Bros 3 will appreciate the layout. It offers a little more freedom to explore but, essentially progress is made by completing various levels along a set path. Whilst the layout remains familiar it is the sheer variety on offer that truly astounds. From using a large dinosaur as a makeshift surfboard to playing though an entire level when all one can see is shadows. It never becomes tiresome. New ideas are constantly thrown at you. You truly get the sense that the designers were given free reign. Some stages will require the use of the touch pad, some will have rushing frantically. Nothing feels overused or drawn out.

The graphics and attentional to detail are genuinely stunning. Colours are bright and bold. Everything feels solid and purposeful. This not design over substance, a world has been created that you would want to spend a serious amount of time exploring. Accompanying the excellent visuals is the superb soundtrack. Each level has its own composition which sets the tone perfectly. It is a true assault of on your senses.

Those who have experienced past games from the Mario franchise will recognise elements from previous titles. Mushrooms and fire flowers, to name just a few, make a welcome return. The introduction of the new cat suit is a stroke of genius. The ability to scamper up walls opens up a whole new dimension. The cherry power up, which also makes its debut, is quite simply hilarious. Collect one of these and your chosen character duplicates. There is now two on screen for you to control. This can be stacked so, potentially, there can be up to five clones all running around at the same time. Each one mimicking the movements of the other. Add the multiplayer aspect to this and it becomes truly chaotic.

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There are four characters on offer, with a secret fifth hidden later on for you to unlock. Each with their own abilities. Mario, the typical all-rounder. Luigi and his super high jump. Princess Peach and her ability to float and of course Toad, who is quicker than the rest. Your chosen character can be changed at the start of each level. This makes changes to the play style seamless. Using extra Wii remotes the game supports up to four players. You can either work together as a team or make each level a flat out race to the finish. If someone has rushed ahead and your character falls off screen the game compensates for this by allowing you to catch up in the form of a bubble. You are magically transported back onto the screen and a simple button press and you’re back into the fray.

There is so much on offer here that you will certainly get value for money. Each level has three green stars and a magic stamp to collect. The latter is used when posting messages using Nintendo’s Miiverse. These can be genuinely tricky to find and will take real skill to find them all. Couple this with excellent controls, manic multiplayer and enough hidden surprises to put most games to shame. Nintendo have, once again, outdone themselves. Super Mario 3D World is a true masterpiece in every sense of the word.

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Reviewer – Mr Baddog

Super Mario 3D World is out now for Nintendo Wii U

 

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review

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Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Publisher: Capcom/Developer: Capcom
Nintendo DS/iOS

Why would anyone want a book when there’s Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective? Books don’t have 2D rendered sprites of hand drawn 3D models, you could have animation by flipping through the pages quickly but it would have to be an absurdly huge book to be anywhere near as cool. You would definitely drop a book that big on the bus and lose your place; drop a Nintendo DS on the bus and it’ll snap shut and save your place internally just because it loves you so very much. The point of this ludicrous opening paragraph is not that books are rubbish, but just that Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is really really good.

It starts off with a murder; a detective called Lynne stumbles across a corpse in a junkyard, before a hitman bursts onto the scene and shoots her down for unknown reasons. After an enchanted lampshade informs the ghost of the discovered corpse (that’s you) of your “Ghost Tricks” it’s up to you to use these tricks to save Lynne. The catch is that you have no memory of who you are or why you were killed tonight; and Lynne is your only potential lead on unlocking this mystery before your time runs out at dawn.

That probably all sounded fairly straight and narrow before the stuff about ghosts and the enchanted lampshade cropped up didn’t it? Ghost Trick comes to us from Shu Takumi, best known as the creator of the also slightly insane Ace Attorney series, and those familiar with his work will see his fingerprints all over this outing too.

It’s hard to discuss the story in too much detail as even the smallest piece of information could have 100s of spoilers attached to it, but Takumi games often have really “out there” nonsensical plots. This is sometimes too much for some gamers; a lot of people especially get grumpy about the Ace Attorney series regular inclusion of spirit mediums into the plots, but Takumi gets away with it because he grounds everything with the characters.

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Takumi views his characters as the foundation of the craziness not crash test dummies that the craziness just happens to slam into, and as nuts and convoluted as Ghost Trick gets you’ll come out of it remembering the people more than the events. The ending of this game really doesn’t work for some people, but gosh darn it, it’s such a pleasant ending and so wrapped up in this worlds own logic it’s impossible to hate despite how silly it is. A lesser game wouldn’t get away with it; fortunately Ghost Trick is anything but.

As the comparison to books at the start and this review’s absolute refusal to discuss (or ruin) core plot points might imply, the main event of Ghost Trick is the story but this isn’t just an interactive novel, there is gameplay afoot. You spend the game moving around with your “Ghost Tricks”, these allow you to hop a short distance between inanimate objects and manipulate certain objects, such as chiming a clock or swinging a pendulum. Much more spectacular however, is the ability to communicate with recently deceased spirits and rewind time back to four minutes before their death.

The core element of the puzzles in this game are these “four minutes before death” sequences, where you have to toy around with objects in a room to avert someone’s fate. It’s a clever mechanic in how the designers choreograph a death sequence, sort of as a “what if” scenario and give you limited tools to change it, as it also gives your ghostly spirit an excuse to actually communicate with all the other characters in the story. The one downside to it is it does mean basically everyone in the plot has to die at some point as part of one evening’s events, Lynne especially is a bit reckless as you’ll be saving her about six times in the game, you really get the feeling that as soon as your spirit fades away at dawn all these clutz will trip over their shoelaces and all die in one big pile and it’d all been for nothing.

Anyway, the actual puzzles are fairly trial and error in nature, but that’s not the smarmy criticism that it sounds. What the game does is give you situation and a whole bunch of toys to play with, you’ll probably spend your first attempt playing with them and getting everything wrong, but you’ll figure out what to do. Time is frozen when moving around in the Ghost World, and you rewind to the start as many times as possible and the game is never a douche about it, stuff just goes wrong in Ghost World sometimes. Solving a puzzle in Ghost Trick is more like completing a Sudoku grid than solving a crossword clue, you keep clawing away at it until eventually you get all the pieces in the right place and it all becomes obvious.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a beautifully presented story full of heart and spirit (hey this was a joke thanks for reading). Anyone who likes adventure or story-based games but gets frustrated at the structure of classic PC point n’ click ones should really love this, and anyone who is a fan of Ace Attorney or Professor Layton will be all over this as well. Whether you like, love or hate it, it’s guaranteed that you’ll never forget it.

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Reviewer: Matthew Leslie

 

Resogun Review

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Genre: Side scrolling shooter

There was a lot of pressure on Resogun when it was released. There are two big reasons for this, firstly it was a launch title for the much hyped Playstation four and secondly it was a free downloadable game thanks to the superb Playstation Plus service. This made it available to all new adopters of Sony’s brand new console and as such under the microscope. This game was developed by Housemarque in Finland who are perhaps most famous for their Super Stardust games which clearly have a similar visual style to Resogun.

A side scrolling shooter doesn’t sound like the most likely game to showcase a new systems graphical leap but Resogun really is impressive to look at. There are five different levels for you, all of which are cylindrical, meaning that the background is actually the middle of the world. The particle effects when blowing up enemies and the background crumbling as the level progresses really are amazing to look at. When the screen fills up with several enemies and you are firing frantically to stay alive this game really does look incredible and I feel it does show off what the PS4 can do visually, at times in the later levels the colours, sounds and animations on screen do look like art and just couldn’t be produced on older hardware.

The main appeal to me though about this game is that it is so simple to pick up and play, as I have already mentioned there are five levels in total, you can either go at these one at a time or play arcade mode and progress through each level in order getting harder as the game goes along. There are four levels of difficulty starting at rookie and ending in Master if you are good enough to unlock it. Sadly I struggle to survive long on this setting to really comment about it.

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The simplicity of the game play is for me its strongest asset, you can only fire left and right with you standard weapons that upgrade the further you get into the game. There are only three different ships to choose from all with varying attributes from quick agile but lacking fire power to slow but as powerful as a tank. Finding the ship that suits your style best is part of the fun in this game, personally I like the Nemesis as it is the most agile which is a huge help as I seem to spend most of my time just trying to stay alive.

Your primary weapon varies in power and speed with each ship but the bombs you have are identical regardless of ship. These bombs destroy everything on the world in one fell swoop, great for clearing a congested screen of enemies but these are in limited supply and can only be collected by saving humans that are dotted around the world. These humans are an integral part of the game as they help you build up not only lives, bombs and shields but also points. Yes this game really does hark back to the old days, points are an integral part of this game you will want to be as high up the leader boards as possible and the difficulty you play at massively affects this.

How you collect points is simple, keep hitting your enemies and save the humans. If only it was as simple as it sounds, the more enemies you destroy the higher your multiplier gets but if you go a few seconds your multiplier resets meaning you have to plan how to kill the enemies so that you don’t leave a gap between the waves. Saving humans can help you keep your multiplier giving you a few moments before you hit something else. The more humans you save means more bonus points at the end of the level too as well as the rewards that they give you through out the level in the form of bombs, lives, points and temporary shields.

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The end level bosses are superb, the varying difficulty levels really do make each fight different. On the easy levels it seems that the early bosses aren’t that hard to beat but on the harder levels you have to rethink the strategy you used before and most likely come up with a new one to succeed. This also applies to when you use different ships, each one means you have to tackle the bosses in a different manner to get to their weak points.

Of all the launch titles for the PS4 this was definitely the most successful exclusive in my opinion. Whilst on the surface it looks likes a simple side scrolling shooter that you think you have played several times before it is not until you have played it that you realise that it is much more. The simplicity of its game play proves that sometimes less is more this game doesn’t try to over complicate things making it so easy to pick up and play but, for me at least, impossible to master. It is great fun and the points system ensures that you do want to give it just one more go to try and beat your top score.

I am going to give this game an 8/10. I have played this game as much, if not more, than my other PS4 games, the only aspects that could be improved are the number of worlds and ships but otherwise this is a great fun game that everyone with a PS4 should play.

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CastleStorm Review

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Developer: Zen Studios

Type/genre: Strategy (Angry Birds meets medieval ages with castles, knights and dragons.)

The controls for the game when you first pick up the controller feel a little fiddly, but within ten to twenty minutes tops you’ll fully understand and be using the controls like a professional. Using the left stick you control and adjust a ballistic weapon, which is your most important tool in defending your castle. Using the right stick enables you to control the camera pan the environment and keep a eye on all the action. Both the bumper buttons let you select options to aid you in battles while the letter buttons confirm or cancel actions and issue additional commands. Generally although the left stick seems a little over sensitive and the controls a little confusing at times they do feel responsive, lag free and overall a pleasure to use.

The game has a cartoon like RPG feel to it, with the good guys fighting in blue and the baddies ranging from Vikings to Orcs and dragons fighting in red. Characters seem easy to pick out during the carnage with the camera picking out every individual no matter how far zoomed out. Cut-scenes carry along the story whilst clearly showing what is happening, not only does this make the game more enjoyable as you know what your doing but also can lead to some humorous and comical happenings to make you, the player smile.

Backgrounds are a pleasure to look at with something always going on while you play, these can range from weather elements happening i.e clouds moving or thunderbolts striking the ground to birds flying past with funny results from stray arrows.

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Right from the start you know you’re in for a treat music wise, with a horn of war sounding then a medieval sound playing in the background. The menu music changes from time to time but is nothing more than a tune sadly, it does do the job though and helps the game feel complete with Zen Studios going the extra mile to add minor details. Voices during cut-scenes are sharp and clear with a narrator speaking over the top explaining everything that’s happening to help you through the carnage. During the campaign sometimes you hear characters shout “CHARRGE!” as they rush into battle, they also let you know clearly they have spawned with a simple “I’m here”.

The game feels smooth and fluent with the basic principle of physics being used to stop people attacking your castle. You start off with a basic ballistic arrow firing weapon that can be upgraded with the more kills you gain with it, eventually making it into a lean mean rapid firing machine. Levels start off easy with only a few enemies trying to attack your castle (of course) and you are learning how the game is played it only means things can and will only get harder. Fear not though as the more you play the game, more items and abilities are unlocked and buyable from coins you gain through the levels, in turn making your castle and forces grow stronger faster and generally more badass!

Levels range from defending your castle to killing so many people with headshots or destroying the enemies castle, these link well with the story explaining that basically everyone hates you and you must do anything possible to look after your castle, while stopping the on coming from taking your land.

Enemies vary from vikings, evil dogs and orcs together with dragons, giants and enemy “champions” to not only vary what your defending your castle from and killing but adding something different to game-play, ultimately forcing you to change your defensive stance and learn some new tactics.

Conclusion: In all honesty I never really enjoyed defend the tower style games, but with so many unique features being bought in to change the stereotype, CastleStorm really wants to push the boundaries of not only the players enjoyment but the game in general. With tongue in cheek storylines, endless customisation of your castle and unique little twists on missions. A very enjoyable experience that will no doubt make you keep coming back for more.

THE GOOD:

  • Endless customisation
  • Feels tailored to the player
  • Easy to pick up and play

THE BAD:

  • Weapons can be a little over sensitive
  • Sometimes unclear on what to do
  • Sadly hardly anyone plays online so long waiting times for a game.

Link to Zen Studios: http://blog.zenstudios.com/
Link to CastleStorm (Xbox 360) : http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/CastleStorm/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d8025841129a
Price: ($9.99 or £6.75)
My Twitter: @Stemo666