MyDream Beta Preview

MyDream Title

Too Good To Be True?

MyDream is billed as a 3D Creation and Exploration Sandbox by its creators, and with its kickstarter campaign about to come to a successful conclusion, I’ve been hands on with the current beta to see if there is more to this title than the dirge of block building clones that have flooded the market since a certain juggernaut was unleashed upon the world.

 

Temple

 I See A Paradise

The biggest difference that immediately shows through is that apart from building and creating with blocks of various textures, the land itself is a completely more organic affair.  Rolling landscapes, swaying grass and groaning trees, it’s good looking stuff and definitely sets its self apart from the standard geometry of environments offered in other, similar games.

These more organic features can also be altered, by using your “shovel” you can dig a cave or raise a mountain, the choice is yours.  A click of the mouse button, a shovel full of dirt is removed, another click, a bit more.  Select the piles of sand or soil in your inventory, and likewise you can pile them up and raise the height of the terrain.  It’s very reminiscent of Populous or map editors like in Far Cry.  However you’re limited to using the standard first person perspective, it’s fiddly and takes an age to achieve any real change to the environment.

Whilst the block building mechanic will feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played with Lego, there is already a huge array of different textures, and lighting sources available.  Some of the creations look truly stunning, and people are already letting their imaginations run riot.

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Build This Thing Together

Multiplayer, collaborative worlds are already starting to look very interesting, and with all the servers being hosted by the developers, they are really easy to find and interact with.  I’ve spent a good few hours with games of this ilk on the PC but never ventured further than my own world as servers addresses and such just seemed rather a hassle, so MyDream’s take on this is definitely a positive step in the right direction.

RPG elements are pretty slim at the moment, but what is there is a good start.  Your character levels up along three different paths depending on your actions.  Builder, Explorer and Co-operator are the skills, that when levelled up will grant you rewards.  It’s an interesting feature which I’m looking forward to seeing develop.

Let Them Say We‘re Crazy

Minecraft, there, I’ve said it, a true gaming phenomenon that’s sold over 35 million copies and given the world another eccentric millionaire.  MyDream does enough things differently and has a few unique ideas that do warrant attention.  However it remains to be seen if there is enough appetite or room for a game that at first glance is so similar.

At the time of writing, MyDream has crept past its kickstarter goal of $100,000, and is currently sitting at $116,000. It’s worth noting that over $70,000 of that total has come from just 7 backers, with just over 320 individual pledges making up the rest of the total.  For a point of reference, another 3D open-world creation RPG called Planets3 ended three days ago, with over 10,000 backers and $310,000 in the kitty.  With Mojang raking in the millions, Project Spark being bankrolled by Microsoft and other independent titles being much better funded,  MyDream is really going to have to stand out to get any serious traction.

MyDream Lava

The team behind the game has some great ideas and I’m looking forward to watching this games development. Hopefully with the success of the kickstarter campaign and the creativity of the ladies and gents behind it, the team will have the time and finances to put those ideas into action. Whilst I wouldn’t simply say they are jumping on the the Minecraft bandwagon, as has been suggested elsewhere, they have definitely arrived late to the party, and have got a lot of ground to make up.

You can find the MyDream Kickstarter Here

 

OMG Zombies PC Review

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OMG Zombies PC Review

Publisher: Laughing Jackal
Developer: Laughing Jackal
Platform Reviewed: PC
Release date: Out Now on PC/Steam £3.99

Zombies making an appearance in video games is certainly nothing new, but Laughing Jackal have tried to do something different with their approach to the seemingly inevitable apocalypse.  Set in the fictional city of Redfield, which has been overrun by the said horde of undead, a lone survivor stands, armed with only a sniper rifle and a handful of bullets, ready to save the day.

You begin each level perched on high ground, relatively safe from the zombies- shuffling around beneath you. From here you can take your time and pick them off at will, the twist comes when you realise you only have three bullets, not nearly enough to slay them all. Thankfully your bullets are coated with a special pathogen with causes the zombies to explode on impact. As one explodes it will cause others nearby to do the same thus causing a very satisfying chain reaction. With careful consideration, a good aim and a bit of luck it is possible to clear the whole screen with one shot.

OMG Screen

Adding to the already strategic elements of the game there are also different types of zombie that will react differently upon there expiration. Police zombies will fire a single shot across the screen, bloaters explode, corrosive zombies leave a pool of acid behind, soldiers fire bullets which ricochet, screamers run across the screen with a high pitched wail killing those around them and finally there are zombies which fire a form of Taser -providing a trip wire, electrocuting others on contact.

Kill enough zombies on screen and you are rewarded with a medal- from bronze up to platinum. For each medal you achieve you are also given a lump sum of cash. This can used to upgrade your weapons, explosive barrels and the zombies themselves. Each advancement increases there lethality to each other, thus making it easier to clear the levels. There are 100 stages in total and the upgrades are essential if you want to clear them all.

The game is a port of a PSP mini title and realistically this shows.  A little bit more refinement would have been very welcome. The visuals are drawn completely in greyscale except for the oodles of red blood that will eventually awash the screen, think of the movie Sin City and you will have some idea of the look on offer. The death animations aren’t really smooth enough and the sound effects can get annoying. That being said, it’s not the presentation that will grip you.

OMG2

A well placed shot which obliterates all the zombies feels absolutely gratifying. There is an element of luck involved due to the random placement of enemies but, this does not stop this title from being any less addictive. To platinum every level will take some time and once it grabs you won’t want to stop until you have them all.

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Reviewer – MrBadDog

Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance.

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Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance | PC | Eutechnyx

Cor blimey. This game is going to cause some controversy and no mistake.

If you were going to write a crash course in ‘dodgy ground to make games on because of fanboys’ then the Warhammer universe would have to be somewhere near the top. Hosts of loyal neckbeards who would happily die for the Emperor today if it bought glory to the Imperium and in the meantime they’re all ready to jump onto internet forums at the slightest provocation or conceived slight against their beloved franchise.

And if you’re getting your hackles up right now about how rude I am being to 40k fans, then that means you are one of those neckbeards – even (and especially) if you’re a girl.

Throw into the pot the fact that the developer of this particular Warhammer game is the very same who created one of the worst games of last year in Ride to Hell Retribution AND that this Warhammer game is basically just a reskin of one of the developer’s earlier titles, Ninja Cats vs. Samurai Dogs. What have you got? A big, delicious stew made of web forum bile. Our job is to grab a big spoon and see if we can’t find any moist, meaty chunks beneath the scummy top crust…

Storm of Vengeance is a lane defence game which at first glance looks a little like Plants Vs. Zombies but is in fact a little more dynamic than PopCap’s classic. You begin as the Space Marines, in particular the Dark Angels, and your job is to wipe out the Ork threat on each screen. This is done by building bases on the start of your lanes that will either generate ‘currency’ to deploy units or cards that represent the actual units themselves.

You can create Drop Pods that spawn standard Tactical Marines, Ravens create melee focussed Assault Marines whilst Rhinos are used to make long-ranged Devastator Marines. That’s pretty much it for standard troops – but they can be augmented with special abilities including plasma weapons (slightly better guns) and grenades (wheeeee! Kaboom!).

Warhammer Doomed

Early levels are a case of hurling as many troops as you can down a given lane like so many heavily armoured bowling balls, a tactic that eventually results in the crushing of the Ork defenses at the other end of the lane. The Xenos scum eventually start to build units which require you to show a little more tactical nuance and you will need to think more carefully about lane positioning, troop priority and spending Resolve – the secondary currency – on special defensive towers, grenades and bike mounted troops.

Capture three ork lanes and you’ll win the stage which means earning experience points for you to spend on troop unlocks and more special powers. Fortunately the difficulty of the game is balanced to an extent that the early levels are simple enough to allow you to gain a few upgrades before things get difficult – meaning you don’t struggle if you invest points in a skill you don’t seem to use much. By late game you’ll find that there’s a place for all the skills, but it can take a while before you really see the advantages to some of the powers.

It is in those early levels where you’re figuring out the best combination of towers and troops that the game is at its most effective. Progress is straightforward but it feels like you’re building towards something. None of the problems that come to dampen your enjoyment of the game are yet present and you’re having a good time. Anyone who spends a couple of hours total playing this before moving on to something else is likely to have a reasonably high opinion of the game.

Warhammer Dreadnought

So, problem time. I daresay if you look around the net after reading this review, you’re going to find that there are a fair number of below average scores for the game. Some of these are going to be based on more or less valid criticisms dependant on what’s important to you, so let’s take a look at some points.

1 – “It’s not a true Warhammer 40k game!”A tricky and debatable point this. It walks like a 40k game and quacks like a 40k game, but the web is up in arms anyway. There is a story to the game but it’s fairly nondescript. The text that pops up before a mission is ‘generic Warhammer speak’. It’s what I would expect from the franchise without being interesting. In the game itself, the fact that the Marines are Dark Angels makes not one scrap of difference to the gameplay. So the skin of 40k is there, but that’s all it is – a thin veneer over the top.

2 – “It lacks interactivity.” Can’t ague with this really. There are many times in the game where you’re simply sat waiting and there’s not really a lot to do. This wouldn’t be so bad, except the AI for both you and Orks is incredibly frustrating. Units will frequently walk right past one another or prioritise attack something that makes no sense whatsoever. The inability to be able to direct your units’ attacks is a crushing blow to the game, as it allows your troops to fire across lanes but they sometimes do so at the expense of the lane they’re in – defeating the point of them being spawned in that lane in the first place and hugely frustrating later in the game where it can be the difference between success and failure.

3 – “It’s ‘just’ a mobile game.”This is basically impossible to argue with. Storm of Vengeance is also out on iOS and without a shadow of a doubt I’d say that was the best way to play. If you’re at all interested in this title, the touch screen input method and the fact that tablet play lends itself to more bite sized gaming experiences suggest that mobile is the way to go. We tend to have different expectations from games presented to us in this format and the odd dodgy control or strange AI decision is more easily forgiven in a £3 title that you play on the train to work than a £6 game you’re playing on your PC.

4- To say that Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance is a difficult game to rate would be an understatement. It seems like it was designed to appeal to fans of the Warhammer franchise but almost certainly won’t, since it lacks the depth of titles such as Dawn of War or the excitement of Space Marine.

Warhammer Snow

There is certainly a kernel of something here, but it’s obscured by occasionally dodgy mechanics and too much repetition. As a PC game I would say it’s one to avoid but if you find yourself looking for something to pass a couple of hours on a National Express coach ride to Skegness, you could probably do worse than to check it out on your mobile device.

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Karlos Morale

Warhammer 40,000 is out now on PC and iOS.

 

Agarest: Generations of War Review PC

Agerest Cover PS3

Lost in Translation?

If Kim Jong-il and Garry Glitter got together one night, drank several bottles of questionable vintage and made a video game, I’m pretty sure parts of it would be similar to Agarest: Generations of War.

Nations marching to war, as despot leaders pass their hatred and rhetoric on to future generations? Check!

Shagging anything that looks of remotely questionable age-wise to extend that family line? Check!

Music so bad that even if it was made in the heady days of glam rock it wouldn’t even feature on Chorley FM’s playlist?  Check!

A story so absolutely mind numbingly boring and told in such a way that you would rather read the bible upside down, in Klingon? Check!

Created in an atmosphere where no expression of individuality, creativity or excitement are allowed? I’m guessing so.

By any stretch of the imagination, a word incidentally, that I don’t think the developers have heard of, Agarest: Generations of War is not a great game.

Agerest Girls

Throne of Blood

So to the basics; Agarest is a JRPG.  The game has a  pretty standard storyline that sees several gods having a bit of a falling out – this has led the world into a time of darkness.  Powerful human nations are battling against each other and also taking a strong disliking to anyone not from the same gene pool, its with these elves and such other enchanted folk that our first hero; Leonhardt casts his lot after becoming disillusioned with his own nation.  Trust me, If you have played any sort of RPG over the last 20 years, you’ve been here and done that already.

Whilst the story could have been written by a room full of monkeys with typewriters, its main problem is the way the story is told.  Conversations in the world take place with some very questionable hand drawn talking head characters that just stand there, against extremely unappealing backdrops that wouldn’t look out of place in the Take Hart/Kindergarten gallery.  Whilst you stare at the wondrous vistas and characters, line, after line, after line of conversation will pop up, and with no real way to speed these up, it really is a chore to get through them.  On the flipside, these character dialogue bits stick around for so long that if hentai is your thing, I’d cling film the screen before you press play.

Seven Samurai

So the story isnt going to win any prizes, but how about the gameplay? Well things do improve here, but not by much. Like other JRPG’s of its ilk, Agarest uses a turned based combat mechanic.  Battles take place on an isometric grid and start with the movement phase.  Your team of upto 6 combatants spawns onto the grid in a formation which you set up via one of the many convoluted menu screens, each team member then has limited range of movement.

By careful placement, your characters can influence each other in various ways, chaining attacks and buffing stats. It’s a nice mechanic which generally works pretty well. However once your team has got into position, your opponents then make their move, this really limits how tactical you can be as it ends up a guessing game of what moves your enemies will make.   A better idea might have been to assign a move order based on agility or some other stat that could have been factored into planning your moves.

Combat swiftly follows the movement phase and for the first 10 or so battles I quite enjoyed it, like other parts of the game, this also soon started to grate on me.  It’s the little things that really that started to disappoint me. There is no way of knowing which attacks are best to choose, you would think that the attacks costing the most action points would be the best, however this is not the case.  You soon figure out who’s attacks are the best and just continue using them, spamming the enemy until you win.

Agerest Battle

Into the Sun

A grand campaign map leads you to the battle spaces and also the dialogue events, from time to time your decisions will lead to different routes, but it’s not exactly interesting stuff. A few select areas do allow you to explore in a traditional sense, with you taking direct control of your main hero.

In 12 hours of gameplay I came across 2 of these sections that lasted no more than 20 minutes combined.  Their short length is somewhat a blessing as they are truly awful.  Move your mouse,  your character follows, that’s it. I spent ages in one location thinking that the game had crashed as there was no where to go and nothing was happening,  who would have thought that pressing the right mouse button would make Leonhardt jump and open up the path that seemed impassable.  It would have been better if they had not included these sections at all.

Add to this the ability to catch monsters ala pokemon and also the whole dating sim which lets you use your “soul breed” ability on the apparently “nubile” yet rather young looking female characters to create your offspring, and you start to understand that this game is trying to be all things to all people, even those who don’t visit Thailand for just the tropical location and fantastic cuisine.  It just doesn’t work.

Agarest Magic

Sayonara

If you’re a hardcore fan of JRPG’s you will probably find something worth your while here. However, if like me you only dabble in the scene and have fond memories of the old Final Fantasy or Secret of Mana games, you’d be better of revisiting the other classics that can be picked up far cheaper than this, considering that Agarest was originally released on the PS3 back in 2007, the other games have aged far better in comparison too.

Undoubtedly the game must have a following, its available on just about every platform you can still buy at retail,  spawned a prequel, which is also heading to steam, and by all accounts has sold bucket loads.  I can’t help but think that if the developers had concentrated on individual elements rather than that trying to cram as much mediocre content in as possible, it might have turned out a rather different and perhaps,  a better game.  Agarest isn’t broken, it works just fine, but unfortunately that is the only real praise I can give it.

Anyway I’m off to read the WPK handbook and listen to Doing Alright With The Boys

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Developer: Idea Factory 

Publisher:  Ghostlight LTD

PC Version Reviewed. Also available on PS3/Xbox 360/Android OS

Rumour: Activision Due To Change The Lead Platform For Call Of Duty To Playstation 4

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Industry insider – FamousMortimer (the guy who first leaked intel on call of duty resolution differences between consoles) has dropped another bombshell regarding the franchise. On 18/03/2014, he stated that  “The PS4 is above and beyond all projections and publishers are re-calibrating to this. I heard that Activision is going to make a public announcement about COD changing to the PS4 as lead platform.”

The source would have been discredited had it not been for his previous, correct leak on the franchise.

(Full post can be read here)

Now you may be wondering what this actually means; well it means that Playstation will receive content before Xbox and at the end of the Call Of Duty adverts on TV you will see Playstation (not Xbox) in the UK at least. So if you bought an Xbox One for Call Of Duty DLC primarily, you may be shit out of luck.

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There are a few reasons this actually makes sense. One of which being Microsoft really promoting the release of Titanfall, which was named as Call Of Duty’s biggest competitor and seemingly getting very cozy with EA. Although in all fairness I don’t think they’re comparable as they both feel and play completely different. Also, Microsoft and Activision’s Contract is up, the contract which named Microsoft as lead console and scored priority DLC, actually expired end of 2012 (Link Here).

Not to mention that Activision have been getting friendly with Sony on the production of Destiny- the latest title from Bungie (which is also being marketed with the Playstation stamp). 

Word on the street is that the Call Of Duty 2014 title being worked on by Sledgehammer was also previewed at the Destination Playstation Event earlier this year- usually the game previews are revealed at Microsoft events.

Now, the issue with Last Gen platforms was that they weren’t built around PC architecture like the Xbox One or Playstation 4, this is why each Call Of Duty played better on Xbox 360 than on the PS3; because they were natively built for Xbox360. With this Generation I don’t think we will have this issue as each console is built around PC architecture, meaning that the games can be developed (and ported) on a more level playing field.

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All in all,  I believe we know that Activision are just money grabbers, like almost any publisher. With the PS4 making more sales than the Xbox One we all know this move is a viable one. But what does that mean for the consumer? Well, honestly I don’t think it means an awful lot. The only change will be DLC content swapping priority. Although as it stands this is a rumour, I think soon enough it may come to fruition. I suppose we will have to see what happens at E3 2014, this will surely shake things up.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section or hit me up on Twitter @Markjay11. Feedback is always appreciated.

** I contacted activision to see if they could comment on the above, at the time of writing I have yet to hear anything.**

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare Review

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Walking on Sunshine?

I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that makes me grin quite so much as Garden Warfare.  Based around the popular tower defense game, PopCap HD have chucked the traditional PvZ elements in a blender, and with a big glug of ‘Pixar-esque’ graphics, and a pinch of Team Fortress gameplay, they have quite honestly produced something that’s far more refreshing than anything, TitanFall included, that I’ve played in sometime.

When Two Tribes Go To War

The game is played from your standard over the shoulder, or stem I guess in this case, perspective. Movement feels good although some of the warriors jumping seems a bit stingy especially considering the many options for getting high up in the various levels.  Having generally steered clear of 3rd person multiplayer shooters, it took me a good few hours to get proficient with aiming but it was well worth persevering, taking down a Zombie All-Star with a Gatling Peashooter or decimating a Chomper with the Baseball Cannon really is satisfying, as is the ding of a bell with each enemy vanquished.

Whilst most of the major franchises in the online shooter genre still include single player campaigns, even though quite a few people never touch them- PvZ is a straight up multiplayer game.  A four-player co-op mode – Garden Ops, is a standard horde survival affair, waves of increasingly tough Zombies will try to overrun your garden. Teamwork is essential and with nods to the original tower defence game, you can place your favorite plants from the original game in pots to help defend your patch. In other game types the Zombie team can also summon undead minions from shallow graves scattered around the levels.

Twenty four player battles are offered for two of the other modes, and if you’ve played a recent Battlefield game they will immediately feel familiar. The Vanquish mode is first to fifty kills with teams of up to twelve on each side. Gardens and Graveyards finds the Zombie team attacking a series of gardens against the clock, get more Zombies than Plants in the control zone for forty seconds and you take the garden and you are off to the next, very reminiscent of Rush.

A Welcome Mat and a Classics mode only offer the 2 modes previously mentioned, with everyone playing with base level Plants and Zombies.  Until this week, that was as far as different game modes went.  The Garden Variety Pack- a free DLC pack has added Gnome Bomb. Its an eight vs eight race to collect the randomly spawning aforementioned Gnome and take it to the opposing teams respective Garden or Graveyard and then detonate it, do this three times and your team wins.  Content and game modes do appear a bit on the light side, but with the Garden Variety pack just the first free download with more to come, I think the future is looking rosy.

PvZ Game

Prime Time

This is the sort of game that consoles and big TV’s are meant for, the game looks absolutely beautiful.  I haven’t got a clue what resolution it’s rendered it, and I couldn’t care less, as the bold colour palette and strong visual design are quite simply spot on.  The eight playable characters, 4 zombies and 4 plants, have been brought to life in such a vibrant and animated way that even a cold hearted Call of Duty veteran couldn’t deny how adorable and well crafted they are.  The Sunflowers petals sway as you rush to revive a fallen teammate, the Zombie Engineers builders bum wiggles as he rides his jackhammer to attack the next garden. Get yourself into a serious firefight and its like November the 5th on acid, streams of peas, sunbeams, and zombie munitions fly all over the place with barely a framerate drop in sight if that sort of thing bothers you.

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Wired for Sound

Sound design is also excellent, when you spawn in, whichever character you chose will give a different version of a cry for battle, plants generally sounding sweet and full of joy, zombies quite often an intelligible mumbling with the odd “brains” thrown in, but all  the funnier for it. Weapons zap and corn bombs boom with satisfying depth especially if you use headphones or a surround sound system.  Music though is not quite as polished, it’s pretty much limited to the menu’s and serves its purpose, I’ve yet to discover is there is a recreation on There’s a Zombie On Your Lawn but I’m hoping so!

Smells like Nirvana?

So far it all sounds like its smelling of roses, well, maybe the roses are plastic and I’m really smelling a plug-in air freshener.  Garden Warfare is not without its faults.  The Levels, whilst gorgeous to look at and generally fun can feel a bit empty, especially if you end up in a less than full server.  I played a game last night- Team Vanquish, but instead of the full 12 vs 12 we had a total of six players, three on each team. Apart from taking minutes to find someone to shoot at let alone kill, the game really dragged on. 50 kills when its 3 vs 3 on a huge map really takes a while, I wasn’t smiling at the end of that match.  It’s worth noting that this game is running on EA’s servers rather than Microsofts, understandable considering that this is only a timed exclusive for both xbox consoles and I’m sure its a problem that Popcap HD will be eager to solve.

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On The Grind

As much as Call of Duty isn’t for me anymore, one thing I’ve always liked, not including the latest instalment is the straight forward grind of progress and unlocks.  PvZ on the other hand takes some working out.  Kills and in game actions including reviving and healing teammates earn you coins, and your coins can be exchanged for sticker packs of varying cost.  Stickers can include, customisation bits, which there are literally thousands, you want your Zombie to wear a tin of corned beef as a helmet? You got it. Peashooter with Splinter Cell Optics? Its all yours. Consumables are also included in these packs, Plants for plant pots and also Zombies to raise from the dead.  The more expensive the pack the higher the chance, or rare or super rare stickers- which can include complete new skins and weapons for both Plants and Zombies.  At the minute this in game currency seems pretty balanced and it promotes good team play. However EA being EA and given their track record, the cloud of microtransactions are on the horizon and it remains to be seen how this will affect the balance of nature and decay in PvZ.

The other form of leveling comes with character specific challenges.  Complete a challenge and you earn a star for that character, collect so many stars and your character levels up, unlocking new abilities.  I’m a bit on the fence about this, it does encourage you to play in ways that you might not ordinarily do, but combined with the coin currency it really does seems a bit too complicated, I’m still unsure how both of these things affect your overall rank, it works but its all just a bit muddled.

Sound of Silence

My one last gripe, I wish I had the ability to completely mute whole game lobbies.  Whilst I’m a fan of kinect and I’m looking forward to seeing what uses developers can come up with, the fact that this game is aimed generally at kids also means that every kinect thats plugged in unless their parents are savvy enough to turn the function off, can be used as a microphone for game chat.  Jesus christ, I played a whole game the other day whilst some child somewhere was detailing everything he did at school that day to his parents, I played a full 20 mins with Britney Spears blaring out through my TV.  Whilst you can mute individuals in the lobby, these seem to reset after each match and I would love an option just to mute the whole lot.

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Garden Rules

If you’re looking for a twitch shooter, don’t plant your seeds here, but if you’re after some refreshing fun, with surprising depth of character classes, laugh out loud moments, and simply beautiful visuals, feel free to sow your oats.

Whilst not a new IP, Popcap HD has taken the biggest step in innovating an established franchise I can remember for a long time.  Whilst I’m not sure what they could do with Bookworm or Bejeweled, I’m definitely eager to see what their next full title release will be, Peggle Master Kart anyone?

If you’ve got kids, Garden Warfare is a no brainer, they will love it, what’s more surprising is that you might well love it more.  It’s not for everyone, but thats not necessarily a bad thing.  If this game came out next year it could easily be overlooked, but with the current lack of games whilst the “next” gen still in it’s infancy, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare is a breath of fresh air and is more than deserving of its spot in my game collection.

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Developed by PopCap Games

Published by Electronic Arts

Xbox One Version Reviewed (Also available on Xbox 360)

Reviewed by Prided Llama

 

The Last of Us Review

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The Last of Us begins with an emotional opening sequence which sets the theme for the rest of the game, not to give away too much information to those who haven’t played the game. We are then located 20 years after the viral outbreak and placed in the shoes of survivor- Joel. Currently living a fairly quiet life based in a quarantine zone in Boston. Joel is soon to be pushed to his limits as he is hired to smuggle 14 year old Ellie out of the zone to find the Fireflies, an anti-government group trying to restore civilisation to the world.

Ellie’s personality is the entire opposite of Joel’s; when we first meet her, she’s joyful, adventurous and eager to greet the outside world. Their relationship is the main focus point, as we follow their brutal journey across the crumbling remains of America.

As Ellie and Joel progress through this harsh reality, we begin to see them develop, becoming closer together. Ellie is consistently curious about everything she views, questioning all the new substances around her. Regardless of the current situation; she still has a mature attitude towards all that’s happening around her. There isn’t time to be a child in this world. The very few moments when she has the chance to be are precious and important- so they tend to stick in your mind.

TLOU Infected

We’re soon lunged into multiple encounters with the infected, areas consisting of clickers (infected given their name due to the sound they make). These are one of the most terrifying enemies you encounter, as you shuffle slowly through poorly lit corridors, listening carefully for the possibility of one of them to slowly catch up behind you. They’re attracted to any sort of sound, if you happen to create even the slightest bit of noise, they will be hunting you down within seconds, creating a scene where only quick reactions will keep you alive. They can kill you almost instantaneously. If you think that was bad enough, they also alert every other infected in the nearby vicinity, exposing Joel’s current location. The enemies which will usually appear in these situations are known as runners and they will attack in large packs; they’ll continuously pound Joel if they reach him- trapping him making it difficult to escape and as a result Joel tends to end up losing a chunk of vital health depending on the games difficulty settings.

TLOU Hunter

Another type of enemy includes the ‘hunters’ who are ruthless humans trying to survive, using any means necessary. They have formed large packs and live by killing anyone who enters their boundaries unwittingly. They give an impression vision of what ordinary people could really transform into when there’s nothing left to lose.

The combat system allows you to play around with different tactics; some situations are best matched for stealth, attacking enemies quietly from behind since Joel will take significant damage when running head first into an enemy. From experience, diving in with guns blazing typically turns out to be a bad idea. One gunshot will stop Joel in his tracks, slowing you down and causing you to take even more damage, getting stuck in these positions can often force you to run and hide to get a better advantage in tough situations.

Ellie is beneficial in fights although a non-playable-character for a good chunk of the game, she will warn Joel as to the position of enemies, which will allow you to have extra time to consider your options. She can also help when Joel’s in a severely bad situation by lugging bricks and bottles at enemies to stop them in their tracks. Occasionally Ellie will finish an enemy off, using her only weapon for a long period of the game, a knife.

Joel is clearly middle aged, his running is slow paced when out of battle, his movements are cumbersome and he lacks the ability to jump long distances, making you find ladders and planks of wood to reach difficult places and even relying on the help of allies especially Ellie to progress.

There are long stretches of the game where there is very little combat, which allows the player to look and experience the breath-taking surroundings, so few games take the time to do. This also allows time to scavenge useful items to ‘craft’ with. Crafting is an essential necessity throughout the game, such as medical supplies, smoke bombs, shivs and other necessities  which can mean life or death during tricky encounters. Joel will also infrequently come across training manuals; these will upgrade your weapons capability which is certainly useful.

TLOU Road

Some technical issues can take some of the realism away from the game, for example, Ellie or another companion will clearly walk into an enemy’s line of sight and they simply ignore her existence. But if her visual presence ignited combat each time, I’d rather they ignore her than produce an unwanted battle when otherwise avoidable.

Naughty Dog has created a story driven experience that will most certainly be remembered, this is something which future games should aspire to be. The Last of Us is a realistic representation of a catastrophic fungal outbreak. The harsh realities of what people will do in order to survive.  However we have also been shown Ellie, proving that there is some decency left in the world, something that is truly worth fighting for.

SCORE: 9 out of 10

REVIEWED by: Rachel Ellis

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment   

Developer: Naughty Dog

Released: June 14, 2013         

Platform: PS3

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Review

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Diablo 3 – Reaper of Souls Review | PC | Blizzard Entertainment

Somewhere in the lowest echelons of humanity, nestled in between the child abductors and Michael Gove, there is a special place for the rubberneckers and those who can’t wait to glory in the misery of others. The kind of people who are quite happy to cause a 20 mile tailback in order that they might have a good old stare out of their window at a car accident on the other side of the road.

What is it that these people want to see? Are they looking for a severed arm on the central reservation? Perhaps some brain matter spread across the windscreen of the smashed up vehicle. Personally,  I have a grim determination to not look at the aftermath of an accident if there’s nothing I can do to help – I don’t want to see something that I’ll wake up with night sweats dreaming about years later. So, those people who are happy to ruin your day by slowing down to stare, how do they feel when there’s nothing to see?

Probably about the same as all those dullards who have been polishing up their ‘error 37’ jokes ahead of the launch on Monday of the long awaited expansion to Diablo 3, Reaper of Souls. Yes, we rightly gave Blizzard a load of shit about the terrible launch of their online-only title when it dropped in May 2012. Error 37 was the code applied to the failure to connect to a server – and there was a great deal of that at launch.

Diablo Dong

Indeed, at launch, Diablo 3 was a bit of a fuck up all over the place. It quickly became apparent to players that the loot system in this latest iteration of the well-loved franchise was broken and that the Auction House (which ultimately lead to the real money trading of ingame goods) was less than ideal. Basically, Diablo 3 – despite looking pretty and somehow retaining a bit of a community – was a lame duck with no decent end game.

Fast forward then to 2014, and I’m here to tell you that not only is Diablo 3 now finally an excellent video game but that you should buy it and its expansion, Reaper of Souls. The launch of which was absolutely seamless, I might add – kudos where it’s due, Blizzard. No matter what AAA releases follow this year, if you invest £50 of your hard-earned into this, then you’ll be getting tons of fun and value for money. That’s all we ask, right?

DIABLO 3 – WHAT’S CHANGED

First up then, Diablo 3. For the uninitiated, Diablo is a loot gathering, isometric, action RPG. You play through 4 Acts, leading up to a final encounter with the titular villain. As you do so, your character progresses from fragile, weedy derp to fire, lightning and holy light spewing killing machine by levelling up and acquiring better gear.

Thanks to the Loot 2.0 system that Blizzard put into D3 ahead of the RoS launch, this process of getting new gear is now a lot more fun. The holy grail for players – the legendary items – now drop with greater frequency and do much more interesting things for the player. You are also much more likely to receive loot drops that are usable by your class. The frustration of a run through the game resulting in a mere 2 legendary items, neither of which you can use, has been eliminated. As such, nearly every game session you play is going to result in you getting something that will upgrade your character – which means every game session feels fun and worthwhile.

The story in D3 is nothing to write home about, but the level settings and creature designs are certainly effective enough. Even though the tropes are familiar, the visual sheen applied by Blizzard’s design team makes exploring the world a good experience.

Diablo remains far too easy on ‘normal’ skill levels, but then it is all about pushing on through the difficulties once you have beaten the game and gathered your first decent set of equipment. It’s fair to say that the good times don’t really start to roll until you’ve beaten the game at least once, but it’s designed to be played and replayed – at least until you stump up for the new content.

Diablo III

REAPER OF SOULS – WHAT’S NEW

Epic Spoiler Alert  –  you kill Diablo at the end of the Diablo game. Shocking, right? So Reaper of Souls needed a new bad guy for us to boo and hiss at – and gets just that in a stunning cinematic that introduces the expansion pack. Malthael is Death – and he’s a bit of a git – something that is established by the fact that he wants to kill all humans. A bit like Futurama’s Bender, but not as cute.

I get the feeling that two distinct teams worked on the design for Reaper of Souls. One team designed things like Pandemonium, with its twisted fortress and shifting portals; perhaps they also designed the City of Westmarch with its winding alleyways and interesting architecture. The other team said, “Meh, let’s just do a sewer level with rats in. Everyone loves that.”  So the extra act that RoS adds to the campaign is a bit of a mixed bag visually, but plays just as well as the main game. Loads of great loot to find and an additional helper to get for your area hub.

Joining the weapon crafting Blacksmith and the magic jewel creating Jeweller, we now get a Mystic who enables players to ‘re-roll’ elements of their magic items. This means you can fine tune your favourite weapons to suit your play style as well as customise their appearance to match legendary items you’ve picked up previously – a nice touch that means you don’t have to sacrifice looking like a badass for merely being one.

Barb Avalanche

Aside from the extra act, there is Adventure Mode, which is really where the big impact of Reaper of Souls can be felt on the game play. Instead of grinding through those Acts again and again as you did in vanilla D3, once you’ve beaten the game once you can undertake ‘bounties’. Rather than a delicious coconutty chocolate treat however, these bounties are level-specific challenges which take place across different maps within the acts. Collect enough bounties and (apart from the XP and loot rewards) you will can undertake missions in the Nephalem Rifts, completely randomised loot runs which could drop any crazy combination of enemies and bosses on you for big rewards.

The last major addition is the new character class – the Crusader. A melee and mid range fighter, the Crusader is one of those great characters that starts off looking puny and ineffectual but quickly ends up (to borrow a quote) a mean motherfucking servant of God. With a glowing red, spectral horse – because, why the hell not?

The auction house is gone now – but that just means there are fewer shortcuts to getting a decent character set up. Expanding the level cap to 70 also means that even people with great gear for their level 60 characters who may have grown tired of D3, have a reason to come back and upgrade.

Path of War

I got into Diablo 3 in January, and for the last two months it has made writing about other games very difficult indeed. Now that the expansion content is here, I can envisage at least another couple of months solid gaming on this title from me. I’m the first to happily admit I have the attention span of a coked-up butterfly when it comes to games and for something to hold my attention for this long is very rare indeed.

Reaper of Souls is the delicious icing on top of an already sumptuously moist gameplay cake. It offers great options for bitesize or lengthy session gaming, with a pretty nice multiplayer community to boot. The chances are that you could easily get hooked by this game and find yourself running the dungeons of hell and pathways of heaven for, literally, years to come.

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Karlos Morale

out now for PC

The Five Best Videogame Dogs

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There’s a lot of hype circulating around that upcoming Ubisoft game Watch Dogs, which the publisher wants stylised as WATCH_DOGS ­because it looks cooler or something. The problem is at the International World Group Meeting of Videogame Journalists we all got together and decided that all intellectual property must be put into italics within our content, and italics do nothing to that silly underscore in WATCH_DOGS and it mocks the entire thing so no journalist will ever go for that. So I’m just going to call it Watch Dogs and you should too.

Well anyway, Watch Dogs is coming your way at the end of May, unless you only have a Wii U for some reason and in that case you’ve got no-one to blame by yourself. And what better way to get excited about this than celebrating some of the best videogame DOGS as we WATCH the release date draw nearer! (Disclaimer: I did not get paid to write this it’s not worth getting upset over)

With that being said, let’s take a long at the top 5 videogame dogs, and it should be noted right now that PaRappa from Parappa the Rapper and Sam from Sam and Max are not on this list despite both being pretty cool videogame dogs. The reason for this is because they both wear human clothes at all times, and here at Frugal Gaming we consider people who dress up their dogs equal to people who take “Before and After” pictures when they shave their genitals.

There will also be no mention of the dog from the PlayStation 2 game Dog’s Life; because I want you at least think that more effort went into this list than just putting “dog game” into Google.

Best Videogame Dog #1 – Rush from Mega Man

Mega Dog

Rush is pretty much like Inspector Gadget crossed with Brain, the Swiss army knife of canine companions. Debuting in Mega Man 3 he basically replaced the lazily named “Items 1-3” from Mega Man 2 and became a cute little addition to the series that could be put on the box art (although Capcom USA decided not to in their wisdom, and instead opted for a picture of Mega Man shooting a robot in the groin)

As cool as Rush is there seems to be a dark history behind his appearances in the games. In Mega Man 3 he acted as a highly functional springboard and fully controllable jet, in Mega Man 4 the jet was only partially controllable and other than that you went where Rush gosh-darn wanted you to go, and by Mega Man 5 even the springboard thing wasn’t useful anymore. When Mega Man 6 and 7 came around though everyone was sick of his nonsense and Rush got smashed into pieces and Mega Man just flew around while wearing him as a jet pack. By Mega Man 9 Rush’s spirit was crushed and he was back to his basic coil and jet functions and never stood up for himself again.

Man, that’s sad. But we’ll never forget the times where Rush stood up for all of dogkind and would hilariously drop Mega Man to his death while flying over huge chasms if he wasn’t fed enough.

Best Videogame Dog #2 – Mira from Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill Dog

This is the little cutie from the infamous “dog ending” from Silent Hill 2. If you’ve got a bunch of the other endings in the game and do some other arbitrary stuff you can unlock this joke ending; where protagonist James Sunderland stumbles into a control room to find Mira standing on a little swivel chair and realises the entre experience was being manipulated by her the whole time.

Here’s the thing though, the Silent Hill 2 designers have said the game has no true canonical ending, in series lore it’s later revealed that James went to Silent Hill and disappeared. So the Mira ending is canonically just as viable as the other endings! Silent Hill 2 is a pretty good game; so the fact a dog could have such natural instincts for subtly, horror and narrative pacing is incredible, so Mira deserves some props for that. Also, she wears headphones that don’t actually cover her ears in any way, which all modern science confirms to be inarguably adorable.

(I am aware that Mira also appears in endings for Shattered Memories and Silent Hill Origins, but that is lame fan service trash so there will be no discussion of either of these games, so there.)

Best Videogame Dog #3 – The Frisbee Dog from Wii Sports Resort

Wii Dog

It was between this and the Duck Hunt dog, and after some soul searching and intense thought it can be concluded that the Frisbee Dog (I’ve decided that’s its name) is way better.

Here’s the thing with Frisbee Dog, he never ever misses your Frisbee when he runs out to catch it, and he looks so happy about it. When calibrating the Wiimote for each throw you have point directly at the Frisbee in his mouth as he cheerfully wags his tail and shudders in anticipation. The only time Frisbee Dog fails to make a catch is when your throw is so god-damned pathetic that it goes flying off the screen. In which case on your next throw Frisbee Dog will stare at you in angsty frustration (seriously!) until of course you pick the Frisbee back up again, where he instantly re-hypes himself because all he wants is to catch more Frisbees.

This is so much better motivation than the Duck Hunt dog, who laughs at you if you screw up in a gargled 8-bit kind of way. The problem is the Duck Hunt dog is a jerk, a jerk that you can’t ever shoot in the face no matter how much you try, so who cares what he thinks. But screwing up and disappointing Frisbee Dog, the most adorable and capable companion you could ever have, that’s some deep psychological stuff. It’s like when you’re busy and only have time to take your own dog for a five minute walk, then he stares up at you as you unhook the lead as if to say “…are you freaking serious…?” It eats away at your soul.

Best Videogame Dog #4 – Missile from Ghost Trick

Ghost Trick Dog

Oh dear, this is some unfortunate overlap, I already wrote a critically-acclaimed review of the critically-acclaimed Ghost Trick on this very site. But screw it, Missile is one of the best parts of that game and we’re talking about cool dogs so let’s go for it.

Missile is cool because he talks exactly how people imagine their dogs think. Of course dogs don’t really think anything; they’re scavenging pack animals whose instincts don’t expand much further than eating, pooping and sleeping. Let’s ignore all that though and get cutesy, Missile is adorable because he’s constantly talking about loyalty and getting confused by real world human objects. On top of that he’s a Pomeranian which are pretty much “broken tier” on the canine calendar of cuteness. SPOILER ALERT: He also dies at one point and comes back with the powers of the dead, and uses them to the full extent of their powers just to save his mistress.

Oo er, that was probably actually a bit too spoilery, I should probably leave this here. Consider the remainder of this paragraph a reminder that if you own a Nintendo DS or tablet device you should probably be playing Ghost Trick right now.

Best Videogame Dog #5 – Wonder Dog from umm, Wonder Dog

Wonder Dog

For those that don’t know, which is probably the vast majority of people reading this, Wonder Dog was a side-scrolling 2D platformer that came out for the Sega (Mega) CD and Amiga in 1992. The game also blows so don’t worry about playing it.

It’s seriously hilarious how much Wonder Dog sucks, in the sense that it plays like a collection of decisions made my businessmen who have never touched a videogame before, or if they have they washed their hands for 15-20 minutes straight afterwards. Using the Sega CDs FULL MOTION VIDEO the game starts out with a stupidly long opening cutscene that looks like something you’d see on Newgrounds.com in 200. It’s filled with dog puns and a story about Wonder Dog coming from a planet of dogs sent to Earth (it’s the Superman story, don’t worry about the details). After crashing on Earth in an extremely phallic spaceship he meets some kid and bonds with him like any other dog, but the kid’s dad won’t let him take Wonder Dog home, so the CHASE IS ON as you run through colourful worlds to find that kid again I guess.

The game itself is ridiculous, levels are called Zones instead of Acts so you don’t notice they’re ripping off Sonic (I noticed), there’s seriously a collection of levels called “Planet Weird”. Wonder Dog’s attack is shooting cartoon stars, but he bounces them off the ground like the fireballs in Super Mario Bros, but like he smashes the stars into the ground and they go flying uselessly towards the top of the screen. Whereas the Mario fireballs are delicate and deliberate in their bounce (and unlike Wonder Dog, aren’t the main way to attack enemies), the stars in Wonder Dog capture the game feel of a bunch of change falling out of your pocket when you pull out your keys. You have to play it to appreciate how stupid it is (don’t though).

Most hilariously of all, there’s a picture of Wonder Dog’s face on the GUI at the bottom of the screen, where he looks increasingly worn down as he takes hits like in freaking Wolfenstein 3D (the game pre-dates Doom). It’s unbelievable how much Wonder Dog is just a collection of crap thrown in a pot and vaguely packaged as something sellable, I flat out refuse to believe that anyone working on this knew anything about videogame design.

Here’s the thing; Wonder Dog is still actually kind of cute, as stupid as the opening cutscene the bit where he cries in it is still a bit of gut punch. There’s nothing worse than seeing a dog crying (partially because it’s physically impossible) even if does run around dressing like Mario and ripping off Sonic and dying a lot because he doesn’t control well. The only conclusion for this is; Wonder Dog is vaguely likeable based purely on the fact that he’s a dog, and isn’t that the best advertisement for dogs ever? Even freaking Wonder Dog on the Sega CD couldn’t find a way to make dogs rubbish, and that is why Wonder Dog gets a spot on this list, even though I’ll never think about him or his crap game ever again.

And with the best dogs in videogames ever set in stone and agreed upon by all, I’ll end this here. To make up for the fact that I stubbornly ignored him for no real reason, here’s K.K. Slider to play us out:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cICKPQzh0c]

If you’d like to, you can also totally follow me on Twitter @Lesmocon

Post Master Review

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Post Master | PC | Excalibur Productions

Postman Pat,
Postman Pat,
Postman Pat ran over his cat.

Blood and guts went flying,
Postman Pat was crying,
You never saw a cat as flat as that.

Let’s face it. Postman Pat was shit, wasn’t it? The boring, cock-nosed arse would tootle around Greendale in his stupid little van with his cat sat next to him – probably contravening all sorts of health and safety edicts from the Royal Mail – and get involved in everybody else’s business. Poor Farmer Lancaster couldn’t go five  minutes without Pat asking to borrow a ladder, sheep or somesuch. It’s no wonder the program ended in controversy when Mrs. Goggins went on a kill crazy rampage and slaughtered every soul in the village.

Mind you, it was Pat’s annoying insistence on helping every stranded animal or tangled kite that made the program watchable. If it was just a bloke going around dropping off letters to people, it would have probably been kind of boring. You need drama to really get excited about the postal service – the kind of drama that is severely lacking in Excalibur Production’s latest opus, Post Master.

Nailing down exactly why I would suggest you not spend your hard-earned money  on this ‘game’ is tricky, but that’s what we’re here for. If nothing else, we can all learn a little something about what we want from our video games.

Postmaster Interface

Problem One  – Such interface, very wow.

Turn on the game for the first time and it fails to inspire confidence from the get go. The menus look like something which no-one wanted to design, so they asked a passing colourblind tramp if he wouldn’t mind taking a look at some slides. Seriously fellas – that was the best you could do? Your front-end sets the tone for what we’re going to expect from the game, and it screams cheap and throwaway.

You get to choose a company name, logo and colour scheme for your fleet of delivery vehicles and then it’s off into the exciting world of delivering stuff. The game takes place on an isometric city map that looks like a cast-off from an early build of Sim City 4. It manages to be both spartan and cluttered at the same time through- some clever trickery, like showing every building in the city. But those buildings are completely meaningless beyond the post they generate – which is viewed on a second map. That second map is full of icons and no tool tips but it is, at least, functional once you’ve worked out what’s going on.

Vans in Operation

As an indie developed title, we can perhaps overlook the dated looking graphics and hideous interface, but a little more graphical pizzazz could have helped to elevate this title and make it more appealing to play.

Also, grey text on a white background? That made me want to claw my eyes out.

Problem Two – Bro, do you even sim?

Pick a site for your first Post Office, hire some staff, purchase vehicles, set routes etc. Sounds like you’re building up to some to some hardcore simulation action here, but after the initial build-up, it just stops dead. So you build your fleet, you expand your operations throughout the city but then what?

The cities you serve grow, but you don’t need to achieve total coverage of the cities so there’s no compunction to change up your operations. The game doesn’t give you anywhere near enough information to be able to successfully micromanage your business, as data on variable costs vs. income for the different staff ratios or fleet configurations is absent. All you can do is watch your money counter tick upwards and operate on the basis that bigger is better. If you’re in the market for a simulation game, subtlety and depth is where it’s at. Sadly the economics of this title simply aren’t fleshed out enough to be interesting.

You don’t have to be clever, or even have anything above a rudimentary understanding of the game mechanics in order to be successful. There’s no challenge here – and no challenge means no fun.

PostMaster Van

Problem Three – Why should I care?

The million dollar – or in this case £10 – question. Why should you buy this game, when there are so many other worthwhile ‘Tycoon’ style titles out there? I seriously can’t think of a single reason. Nothing about this game makes it fun to play. Even a throwaway facebook game knows how to give feedback to its player – to reward them for a job well done (or a farm well clicked at least). Where Post Master really fails to earn its corn, is its determination to not reward the player for playing. You don’t get a satisfying response from the game for doing anything, good or bad. I’m not talking about game winning actions here, but if I unlock a new vehicle, I want a satisfying ‘vroom’ noise. When I reach a currency milestone, I want a ‘ker-ching’ noise – these things might not sound important, but their absence leaves the game dulled and worse – ponderous.

I think, when all is said and done, that the worst crime this game commits is being boring. The developer’s decision to not allow you to really speed up time absolutely cripples the game. Yes, there are different speeds you can run at, but even the fastest is painfully slow. Frankly I think this is because there’s no end game to this – there’s nothing out there for you beyond the first few hours of play. Let you get too far ahead, and they run the risk of highlighting what a shallow experience Post Master offers.

With business games, the cut and thrust of finance and expanding your empire is the heart of the thing. You could make a decent game out of ‘Glue Factory Tycoon’ or ‘Empire of Carpets’ if you can make the acquisition of money and growing your reach exciting enough. Whether that be through struggling against an aggressive AI, or negotiating your way through the minutiae of financial options to find that slight tweak to get you ahead of the curve, it needs to be engaging and rewarding.

Post Master rewards you with nothing. I can only suggest you respond in kind.

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Review by Karlos Morale

Post Master is out now on PC

£9.99