The Swindle PS4

consolebot review

Crime, as we don’t know is about to become extinct, unless you and a gang of curiously random named Victorian thieves can do what they do best. Embarking on a crime caper of an epic scale to accumulate enough skills and coin for what could be your final heist.

The Swindle is a procedurally generated stealth 2D platformer from the creator of Time Gentlemen, Please! Set in a steampunk detailed London. You have 100 Days to accumulate enough wealth to execute a raid on Scotland Yard, before they engage a state of the art surveillance system called The Devil’s Basilisk which will instantly eradicate all crime at every level.

You start on day 100 in the slums, with little more than a small bat and just enough skill to open a door, from here your sole objective is to earn the ton required to unlock the hacking skill.

Each day starts with you breaking into a building anyway you can, fill your bag with swag and leave silently like the stealthy swindler that you are. This rarely goes to plan though. To start the enemies are security guards and cameras, each with a limited field of view and are fairly predictable, if they spot you the game is up along with the blood pressure, the steampunk styled soundtrack ramps up and the building & occupants are set on high alert. The enemies you face are either deadly stupid or stupidly deadly, whacking a Mutton shunter whilst another is patrolling the same room doesn’t raise suspicion, but one false move and the cops are called and it’s now a race against time to escape the building back outside to your escape pod and to count your coins from the safety of your airship.

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The randomly generated levels both help and hinder in equal measure, it ensures that neither day will ever play out exactly the same, marking the most of the randomness will be more down to your upgrades and player skills rather than problem solving and learning routes. Problems arise however when the main loot is impossible to obtain as it is unreachable, certainly in the early days. The sky high upgrade costs gives you little to no opportunity to pick up more than scraps of cash that are left lying around.

Equally of annoyance, one slight wrong move will end your day in complete failure, steamrolled by a rolling Robocop or falling from a height that was just slightly too high. More often than not this starts a run of failures as you helplessly watch your deadline date loom. This chase feels akin to gambling, as you then become your worst enemy, pursuing your previous failures in a bid to break even.

Once you’ve obtained the hacking skill you can start to work on the more lucrative task of hacking the analogue computers. This is where your cash figure satisfyingly increases to £££’s, but it’s all relative as your next upgrades now demands a bag load of cash to unlock. After a few successful robberies it’s time to move on-wards to the Warehouse District, where the awards are increased along with the security which defends them.

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There is enough skill trees available to make you think about your next step, whether it be the ability to double jump, hack front doors or drop timed explosives to remove some of those unobtainable rooms. The cost of these increases massively at each stage, so you always feel the benefit a skill provides, it is a big effort on your part to level up your character, but well worth the investment.

The graphics of the Swindle does suit the style it’s meant to portray, it’s never going to be ground-breaking or pushing the PS4’s capabilities so I wonder if it would be more suited to a PS Vita. The controls seem tight enough but my worry there is the small screen size may make the errors of judgment increase triple fold either by falling off the side of the building, setting off one of the camera’s or falling foul to the mines.

The final mission unlock requires £400k of your well hard earned cash, and will also require every skill you’ve acquired to get here, time to see if you’ve got them minerals.

Currently priced at £11.99 I would recommend this title for the randomly generated levels and challenge it provides. The random glitches, the sometimes impossible to win buildings and the mid-range graphics won’t make your game of the year list, but there is enough entertainment here to warrant the price tag.

Pro’s
Winning and sometimes losing a day makes you want to play again
Complex skill tree with varied unlockables
Awesome steampunk themed soundtrack.

Con’s
Some random Glitches
Graphics suit the style but are nothing special
Procedurally generated maps can be impossible to cash in

Score: 7/10

 

Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones Review

2_Art review

It’s hard to play Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones and not compare it to previous titles it is obviously inspired by. The home hub, the testing facility, plays like a Metroidvania game, it’s from here that you will find the Portal-esque puzzle chambers. Although stealth is a huge feature of the game it isn’t a primary mechanic for much of it. Instead you’ll be using quick reflexes, occasional brute force and brainpower to push your way through increasingly challenging puzzle levels, in a Mark of the Ninja kind of way.

Stealth Inc. 2 follows one of a number of clones through the large testing facility as you try and free your fellow duplications from the traps set by the evil humans. The story is told by a single narrator who has an omnipresence, much like Glados, that not only guides you, but provides a little levity to proceedings and still manages to avoid feeling like a carbon copy of what Portal tried to achieve. Your human creator serves as the main antagonist and the text that pops into the world enables the game to convey a succinct and structured story without ever affecting the games flow. It’s a smart mixture of a number of ideas that really works well with the game’s pacing.

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The biggest change from its predecessor is the addition of a hub world which takes the form of a facility, it’s from here that you will roam from to find further challenge levels. This central area allows the game to gently introduce new mechanics or ideas for how you approach obstacles before you’re truly challenged by the game’s spiking difficulty. You’ll collect numerous power ups and gadgets throughout the game which will make you want to backtrack and finally reach that collectable you previously struggled for 10 minutes trying to collect. These power ups make you feel useful and after struggling with new enemies give you a reason to go back and start paying real attention to your surroundings.

Sadly, the hub world feels bland and dark and while I’d expect plenty of shadows to jump to and from the abundance of pitch black screens with a single corridor running down the middle of the screen makes for a rather dull experience and does nothing to hold your attention. The lack of use of screen real estate feels like a missed opportunity and in a game which is spread out over a large hub, unnecessary.

3_Art review

The most frustrating aspect of Stealth Inc 2 is when precision is a requirement; whether it’s a jump that needs precise timing or an object that needs to hit an exact trajectory. The trial and error nature of perfecting these points are not only tedious and frustrating but completely kill any momentum you gather up beforehand. It feels unnecessary to spike the difficulty in random spots and these areas come without warning which leaves you completely unprepared and as a result you’ll spend the most time in the game trying to resolve these sections.

Stealth Inc 2 feels like a step in the right direction for the series but underperforms in the key areas that it expands to. The chambers that persist from the first game are, in large part, polished and as challenging as its predecessor. Although some will enjoy the challenge, others are simply going to feel cheated by rigid timings and some questionable design. It isn’t all bad I couldn’t help but feel my time would be better spent in other, similar games that do things far better than they do here.

 

Pros

  • Challenge levels offer something for the Super Meat Boy lovers of the world
  • Same great gameplay from the original game

Cons

  • Hub World is an unnecessary addition and isn’t fully realized
  • Timing can be tough and feel like you’re being cheated

 

Score: 6/10

Iron Fisticle Review

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Iron Fisticle

PC

Dev. Confused Pelican / Pub. Curve Digital

 Yeah, you read it right.

Fisticle.

No, I don’t know either, you’re just going to have to try and go with it.

Search engine friendly titles aside, what’s to say about Iron Fisticle – a game which at first glance appears as comfortable and familiar as a well-worn pair of slippers? I mean, they sound nice but you wouldn’t buy them from the shop like that. Actually, that’s an idea. One of you stop reading now and go and open a business selling pre-broken in slippers and let me know how you get on.

Whilst we wait for feedback on my latest sure-fire business winner, let me tell you why Iron Fisticle belongs, not on the scrapheap but in your hearts – or at least Steam accounts.

Designed as a loving throwback to the days of 10p guzzling arcade classics such as Gauntlet and Robotron, the two-man team behind Iron Fisticle have brought us a twin-stick arena shooter. You must guide your knight either solo or with a buddy sitting next to you, through a beastie infested set of rooms, ever descending towards a final encounter with the monster-scum who sucked up all your fruit and vegetables. Confused?

You will are.

Actually, it’s all remarkably straightforward, which helps the game develop an instant rapport with the player. If you’ve ever played a twin-stick game before, you’re immediately familiar with 90% of what’s going on. Guide your knight with the left stick, fling axes at the encroaching orc menaces with the right. Open chests, collect upgrades and limited-time special weapons. Kill everything, unlock the exit. Escape.

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So what’s the draw?

Well, firstly, the game manages that all-too-rare trick of using 16 bit style graphics and yet taking advantage of some of our modern lighting effects to add some extra panache. It takes a set of instantly familiar sprite tropes and warms them with fire effects and super smooth animations. It shaves away all the rough edges that you’d actually see if you went back and played Smash TV or another of Iron Fisticle’s forebears. It’s sweet, it really is like having a sexy, late 80’s arcade cabinet in your front room, albeit without the fag burns and stench of teen-sweat.

What makes Iron Fisticle a glorious triumph though, is how delicious it is to play. Buttery smooth to control, it also has the kind of crunchy, satisfying feedback usually only found in piercing a crème brulee. Constantly allowing you to pull off deft feats of skill, skipping past enemy projectiles, cutting a swathe through enemies then executing a perfectly timed dash to escape a wild floor hazard, the game is extremely satisfying from minute one. It gets better still once you realise that you can raise your own difficulty level on the fly in the game by wading into the midst of a sea of enemies trying to chain together pick-ups. Recover food items in quick succession and you’ll receive a significant points boost. The on-line leaderboard is surprisingly addictive, even for someone with crab-hands like me. With the 360 pad in hand, I was soon dodging and weaving my way through the first few levels like an old pro – which is exactly what I am now I guess. I’ve been playing games like this for nearly 30 years.

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Christ alive. That’s a long time.

It plays wonderfully, looks gorgeous and even manages to have decent sound assets that tie the action together well.  Of course, it’s not all perfect so let’s take a look at where the game falls a little short.

Actually I’ll list these, then if the devs want to fix them, here’s a simple job sheet.

  1. MAKE LESS GREEN. Lots of the enemies, collectibles and floor gubbins have green in them. I don’t know why green crops up so much but it does and there should be less. Seriously though, in a fast paced action game, the last thing you want is to confuse a goo blob for an apple whilst you’re in the midst of a swarm.
  2. TWEAK YOUR GENERATOR. In between some stages, you get to play a little Mario-esque side scrolling platforming bit, collecting coins and dodging hazards. These appear to be randomly generated – sometimes it appears they can be unbeatable, which is obviously irritating for the player. So, just give it a poke please.

This is a tricky review to write in the sense that what makes Iron Fisticle a great game is the feel of the thing. It has a ‘just-one-more-go’ vibe (aided by a degree of persistence in some of your character upgrades) that’s rare in video games full-stop. Each time you play, you feel like you can push that little bit further, either in progress or point score. I’ve found myself playing this over bigger titles simply because it offers instant gratification and a great experience. Time will tell how long this remains my go-to game for a quick 20-30 minute run out but with the possibility of forthcoming procedurally generated infinite dungeons to play in at a later date, this is going to be hanging around on my desktop for a while at least.

Every game of Iron Fisticle I’ve played, I’ve done so with a big smile on my face. Not too shabby a result for £6 worth of investment. It seems you can put a price on happiness. Who knew?

Karlos Morale

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Iron Fisticle is available now for PC