Dropsy Preview

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Difference.

I’m afraid to say that difference can bring the worst out in all of us and I feel it’s very Zeitgeist to be discussing it now. In an age when we’re witnessing masses of refugees fleeing from war into Europe, there’s a general unsavoury attitude from the media and those easily manipulated by the media to mistrust and even hate those different to ourselves. A cursory glance at the comments sections of papers like the Daily Mail and you will see contempt instead of empathy.

Transgender people being murdered in numbers far beyond the norm, suicide rates through the ceiling, because they seem different to many of us and possibly even ‘freakish’ they are left feeling isolated and alone.

Disability is also a difference and a general attitude of mistrust forged by a government willing to scapegoat and demonise this social group. Within that sphere we have people with learning difficulties. Maligned, derided, mocked, bullied, even sometimes murdered. All because of difference, because it’s something that can shock us all, even for only a moment.

I remember after a long absence from my home-town of London, stepping off a train for the first time in years and bumping into a man talking to himself. I froze in complete fear. “It’s a crazy person, what the fuck”. Turns out, in my absence ‘hands-free’ mobile phone technology had become a ‘thing’ and he was having a cosy chat. But it’s in those moments of difference and surprise that fear can arise….. It was just a reaction, we all react, but it’s something that has stuck with me. A lesson.

It’s the space that follows those moments of reaction that matters, how we deal and process that reaction. Do we reciprocate with anger? Or with a hug?

Fucking heavy for a games preview perhaps, especially for a game filled with so much delight as Dropsy.

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Dropsy loves hugs.

Dropsy is also a character that will provoke reaction of both love, and in some fear. I’ve seen the response of people when they’ve viewed the trailer or happened upon the game on Steam. My first reaction reminded me stepping off the train and being presented with something from a conditioned nightmare. I froze, I thought the game might have some serious misguided motivation. “What the fuck is this”!? I knew then that I had to cover this game.

Dropsy as a game is what is termed as a point and click adventure – in truth my least favourite of genres (in fairness, it’s probably more of a mechanic than a genre).

The game and Dropsy’s adventure begins with a nightmare that soon dissolves, Dropsy awakens in his room (in the circus). Have I mentioned he’s a clown? He’s one freaky fricking clown!!

And in me calling him freaky we have the reason for my amateur philosophical musings above – that’s the immediate reaction I’ve been talking about. Beyond that juncture and reaction though, given the chance we can breathe, find some space and flip the coin to the see tales of joy instead of angry faces.

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Joy.

If I were to use one word to sum up playing Dropsy, it would be joy. On the surface the game is blocky, pixelated and ugly, but there’s a whole lot of beauty in this game. Not just beauty, but feeling, creativity, imagination and mystery.

He lives, (or exists) in a surreal world full of vibrant and outlandish folk with one absolute in common – sadness. With your help Dropsy needs to explore this world, solve the puzzle that is Dropsy himself and bring happiness to the world around him.

Puzzles are abstract, in fact the whole world is abstract, painted in a garish palette using the strokes of a brushed conceived in a bad LSD trip.

The game employs a simple interface. You have a small inventory in which you can store key items and enigmatic tokens as you adventure into the dystopian land. You have an icon for your companion – a cute puppy that can interact with the world and different people in ways you can’t (Dropsy can scare the fuck out of people, puppies less so).

Also an icon so you can make Dropsy hug. You can hug people, trees, animals.. You can try to hug almost anything, but just like the real world, don’t expect pleasant reactions all the time and remember, the people in this land are mostly unhappy. In time they may learn to love your hugs and you’re rewarded with a graphical squirt of goodness that feels as good as good can be.

For each puzzle completed you get to hug, you get to spread the love, you get to feel the love and the game hugs you in return. It feels good, Daily Mail readers should play Dropsy.

The game will be on general release on September 10th and I will review it fully then. My time with the current unfinished build has left me feeling honoured to do what I do for Frugal Gaming and feeling very lucky to sample something like Dropsy early.

Coming to Steam. IOS and Android September 10th with a full review soon after.

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Not A Hero PC Review

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Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Roll7
Platform Reviewed: PC
Release date: 14/05/2015

If, like me, you saw the screenshots for Not a Hero and thought, ‘yea, it’s another pixel art shooter, I’ve seen this before’, you can be easily forgiven if you wanted to give this title a miss. Pixel art is cheap and because of this the games industry is flooded with titles which use this graphical style. So what was it which caught my attention? Why choose to play this over the slew of other titles which all bare the same guise?

Well, when I see the Devolver Digital name attached to a project I immediately sit up and take notice. There is an air of quality which surrounds most of the games they choose to publish, an honest and genuine wish to entertain and I find it very difficult to resist their charms. So, with that being said, I wanted to know a little more.

The storyline is utterly ridiculous in the best possible way. Bunnylord is a time travelling rabbit type creature who has travelled from the future in a hope to prevent an apocalypse. If he is to succeed, then he must be elected Mayor and the election is only a month away. To guarantee his success he employs a gang of psychopathic misfit mercenaries and this is where we come in.

Playing as one of these anti-heroes it’s our job to clean up the city streets and by any means necessary (which will involve lots of blood, bullets and foul language). Each level consists of one main objective and a couple of bonus challenges, such as completing an objective within a certain time limit or by finding particular hidden items. Some of these can be genuinely difficult, but they are worth persevering with, each completed objective increases Bunnylord’s approval rating which unlocks new characters, there are nine in total, each with their own distinct personality and abilities.

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You start the game with Steve, a pistol touting cockney. Steve is brash and cocky, has decent aim and his gun holds reasonable amount of ammo, a decent all-rounder. It won’t be long before you will unlock Cletus, a whisky swilling Scotsman, armed with a devastating shotgun, he will need to reload often, but with considered use he can make easy work of clearing a room. Each of the nine characters are a fabulous stereotype and all ooze personality, helped in no small part by the excellent voice acting. The insults fly nearly as often as the bullets, each time bringing a smile to my face. It maybe vulgar, but it is funny.

Not a Hero starts off relatively relaxed, but the difficulty soon ramps up and our band of psychotic mercenaries are going to need more than their trusty side arm if they hope to earn a paycheque. Thankfully each level is garnished with random ammo improvements, such as exploding rounds or flammable bullets, these are finite items, only to be used sparingly, but can often make the difference between life and death. There are also various types of grenades which can collected, my favourite of which is the cat bomb. Send this ball of cuteness towards a group of enemies and they we will be transfixed, they will forget all about you, lost in the eyes of this adorable kitty as our feline friend detonates an eviscerates the lot of them.

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As it seems with most 2D pixel shooters, you are not very strong and can be easily dispatched if you are not careful. It is great fun to race about slaying everything that gets in your way, but you won’t last long if you do. Sometimes a silent approach is needed, get close enough to the enemy and his head can be removed with one simple shot, if you are spotted though it’s best to jump into cover and time your shots accordingly. Or you can run towards them, slide, knocking them off their feet and close in for a quick and bloody melee kill. On the whole this works well, but when the action gets a little too intense it can be a little awkward. The slide and cover mechanic are mapped to the same button so it is easy to get into a bit of mess. This doesn’t happen too often though and with a little practise and by learning the layout of each level, it can be avoided almost entirely.

So, would I recommend Not a Hero? Absolutely. If you can imagine the charm and look of say, Broforce mixed with the violence and insanity of Hotline Miami and throw a hide and seek cover system into the mix you are on your way to understanding what this game is like to play. Yes, the plot is ridiculous and the violence and vulgar language is a little over the top, but that’s the reason why I love it. It does get quite difficult and there is very little replay value and I don’t care, when a game is as fun as this it really doesn’t matter. If you are easily offended by stereotypes or the excessive use of profanity, then maybe Not a Hero isn’t for you, the rest of us however, vote Bunnylord.

 

Pros

  • Wonderfully ridiculous
  • Fast action
  • Gorgeous and gory
  • Fantastic soundtrack and voice acting

Cons

  • Humour may not be to everyone’s taste
  • Controls can be a little awkward

 

 

Score – 8/10

Reviewer – Ian P.

 

 

Angry Video Game Nerd the Movie Review

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Produced by Cinemassacre productions and Skinny Ugly Pilgrim

I have been a fan of James Rolfe and his Angry video game nerd creation for many years, I’ve wiled away many an hour watching his Youtube videos. He certainly helped me get back into playing some of the old games I used to enjoy as a kid and I think it has played a big part in the boom in retro gaming that has occurred over the past few years. When I heard he was going to create a film I was actually excited to see what he could do and how he can transform a short webisode character into one that can feature in a full movie. I imagine this isn’t an easy thing to do but I have seen some of his other movies he has worked on and, for the low level finances involved in these productions, he has made some interesting short films.

The movie follows the Nerd as he tries to dispel the urban myth that Atari buried thousands of cartridges of the utterly shameful E.T. game in the Nevada desert. He has refused to review this frankly embarrassing title in his webisode series as it is just too bad, so he has to confront both his fear of this game and the urban myth that surrounds it, which is actually making people want to play it. His journey sees him chased by the authorities led by the bizarre General Dark Onward who mistakenly thinks he is try to investigate the secrets of Area 51.

AVGN_Stills_03The film is on a tight budget, it was effectively funded by the fans to the tune of around $325,000, which doesn’t go a long way when you are producing a feature length movie. The funding did however allow them to keep full creative rights so no compromises have been made and there was no outside interference with regards to the story or characters found wherein.

I was not expecting any spectacular computer generated effects, but I was pleasantly pleased to see a lot of physical effects used and whilst many do look homemade, which is to be entirely expected, they also help with the ‘look’ the film is after. It is after all a B movie and makes no attempt to be anything more, the digital effects are really impressive for such a small scale project and I enjoyed the look and direction of many of these scenes, some good camera work has been used to cover up the lack of real sets and varied locations so I have to say well done, this film does look a step up from many straight to the home flicks I have seen in the past.

So far it all sounds good, but sadly the downfall with Angry Videogame Nerd is its story, which is the biggest part of any film, good effects and nice locations mean nothing if there is a lack of anything that binds it all together and keeps you interested until the end, hopefully leaving you wanting more. Sadly this film is a mess when it comes to the plot, whilst basic in premise, it is far too long. Take it down to around the 90 minute mark and I feel it would have been a more enjoyable romp. As it is, it’s just boring with scenes seemingly just thrown in because they could, especially during the middle section.

91vv12JtXyLI know James is a huge fan of the Godzilla films and he is clearly paying homage to them during the latter stages, but this movie didn’t need it and really seems to be an odd decision that just doesn’t fit. Sometimes less is more and when you are on a tight budget that often proves to be the best way to go, sadly it seems they dreamed a little too big and kind of forgot that this was an AVGN film. I was really disappointed that there was no real development with regards to the Nerd himself, after all it was his name in the title. The support characters are so clichéd that they have little impact and you just don’t care for them and the poor script didn’t help much either as they do very little to progress the story forward. I can’t really judge if the actors hired were of a good standard as the writing is so bad, it’s difficult to separate the two.

In the end I was really disappointed, I wasn’t expecting it to be amazing but I was hoping it would be enjoyable to watch and it just wasn’t. The story is awful, a day in the life of the Nerd would have been a far better choice. It seems that the time spent on the film was weighted more on some good looking effects and not on the actual star himself, the Nerd.  This could have been so much more and really given some life to the AVGN character and that was what I was expecting, not a hodge podge of ideas that just don’t work at all with the central character on screen but not for any reason other than to make a film, any film.

Score: 5/10

Titan Souls Review

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Titan Souls.  Similar in name to Dark Souls. Instantly the name tells you what you are in for: Pain, death, suffering, irritation, anger, and if you stick with it long enough…. joy.
Titan Souls started life as a short 4 boss game created for the Ludum Dare 28 Game Jam back in December 2013, the idea being to create a video game over 2 days with a set theme.

Titan Souls was created by AcidNerve and is published by Devolver Digital, who also published Hotline Miami 1 & 2, Broforce, Gods Will Be Watching and many other quirky indie titles.

The story is suitably vague; you are a young boy, armed with a bow and have set off to kill Titans and take their souls, for what reason? This is unknown at the start of the game.

Controls are simple, there is a big splash screen at the start of the game saying that a control pad is highly recommended, and I agree, I used my trusty Xbox 360 wired pad, your controls are simplified to move, roll/run and attack.

Titan_Souls_-_Screen_1 (1)Attacking is interesting, while you are armed with a bow, you only have 1 single arrow and once it has been shot you must recover it to attack again, but have no fear about losing the arrow off the side of the map, once the arrow has been shot you can magically summon it back to you by holding the attack button again. Of course, this opens yourself up to an enemy attack as you cannot move while summoning your arrow.

This brings us on to the enemies, the world is only populated by the Titans; massive beasts that have a single weak point (similar to Shadow of the Colossus), 1 arrow to the weak point will kill the Titans instantly, but those weak points are well defended. You will have to learn the attack patterns of these massive beasts to be successful.

titan_souls_-_screen_1Titan Souls has a beautiful 8-bit Pixel art style and is viewed from a top down perspective, like Zelda on the NES. The background music is nice and atmospheric as well.

If the tagline for the Dark Souls is “Prepare To Die” The tagline for Titan Souls should be “Oh god the pain, goddammit, what the hell do I do!”

I make no apologies, Titan Souls absolutely kicked my backside in my play through, and yes there were times when I thought about giving up. But I persevered and thoroughly enjoyed my time in this strange unforgiving world. The Titan fights whilst imposing the first time you face them, bring a very intense feeling of satisfaction when you work out what you are supposed to do and finally shove your arrow right where it needs to go.

Titan_Souls_-_Screen_2Casual players may find Titan Souls hard and unforgiving, maybe too hard. But if you are a fan of the “punishment/pay off” genre (Demon Souls, Dark Souls etc), you may have more than a little fun here.

The difficulty, and running back to the Titan after a death… when you die you respawn back at a campfire, and at times the run back to the Titan you were fighting can feel tedious, are the only negatives I have found with Titan Souls.

Pro’s

Challenging difficulty level.
Beautiful 8 bit art style
Atmospheric soundtrack
Controls are easy to learn

Con’s

Challenging difficulty level
Highly likely you will shout at your PC
Some may find running back from the respawn to the Titan fights tedious

Score: 7/10

Hotline Miami 2 : Wrong Number Review

hotline_miami_key_art_smallHotline Miami: Forever remembered as an absolute gem of a game, an absolute must-have in your Steam collection. Devolver advanced their name in a big way after its release. A thumping soundtrack and fiendish gameplay which allows for flexibility of completion that doesn’t shy away from 8 bit brains, blood and gore. It would be safe to say that when I caught wind of a sequel, I registered my interest to review it pretty much instantly. Upon boot up I was not disappointed at all.

The soundtrack is another level of brilliant. Primal, resonating music assaults your ears as you start the first ”tutorial”. The tracks are instantly addictive ear candy, even if you have no particular love of the genres. Combined with the already existing game mechanics, (albeit with a few tweaks) makes the game feel immediately familiar if you have played the first game.

For those of you that skipped the stunning original, expect nastiness, short brutal frustrating puzzles in which you basically have to slaughter your way through levels of NPC goons. This happens across several locations and across several flashbacks; which include drug induced trances, and even a snuff movie set. Utilising a masked character, wherein the masks convey a special ”bonus”, the quotations being used in this case to show that not all of the mask choices are good for level completion, and often there is only one choice of mask. Examples being that one mask will allow you to kill with a single punch, but stop you from picking up any of the weaponry on that level. This can hamper you severely when facing a multitude of ranged opponents.

HLM2_Screen2BThe gameplay is simple. Steer your masked avenger through a series of rooms using doorways, cover, and quick manoeuvres to sneak up and eliminate the bad guys in the shortest and nastiest way possible. Use an ever increasing amount of close combat weapons (bars, bats, knives and chains) to one hit kill most opponents, or throw them to stun your opponent, this will allow you to run in and finish them by either bashing their head into the floor, or stomping their skull flat.

Oh and did I mention the gratuitous gore? These executions cause severed limbs, exposed entrails, decapitations and more blood than a shark attack film. Completing a level looks like Christmas in an abattoir. Yet somehow it feels detached, perhaps because of the 8 bit nature of the graphics nothing seems quite as messy as it should. The alternative is to go loud and start blasting your opponents with guns, shotguns, assault rifles and submachine guns. The inherent risk in this is that very few weapons allow you to reload; they are noisy, which means attracting additional attention. Which is never good. Guns are not your best friend, they can help you in taking down melee immune soldiers (I know right?) but most of the time your ammo will run out before the sheer number of goons threatens to overwhelm you.

Hotline_Miami_2_-_Screen_2Now for the negatives. This game suffers in comparison to its predecessor, not hugely, but certainly noticeably. Enemies are prone to becoming stuck in doorways, when stunned, they can get back up and be stunned again. They glitch horrendously, meaning an enemy you thought was defeated stands up and blasts you in the spine more times than you care to love. There is one irritating glitch or bug; sometimes kicking in a door will not allow you to fire your weapon immediately upon crossing the threshold of the doorframe. This will have you hitting restart a LOT if you rely on this strategy to get to the next room. Not only firing your weapon, but throwing whatever is in your hand also doesn’t work in the same scenario. It’s not game breaking, but it does deny you one option for getting a decent grade for the level.

Other than that this game is huge fun, it’s bigger than the last game, the story is both scary and confusing and the music is sublime. Devolver have done themselves proud yet again.

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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Speed-Dials PlayStation and PC on March 10th

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Everyone and their mum likes a bit of ultra-violence …..right?

Hotline Miami 2 gets a release day for March 10, here’s the PR blurb!

Hotline_Miami_2_-_Screen_1MIAMI – Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital have announced that the much-anticipated sequel to the award-winning top-down shooter Hotline Miami will release March 10th on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PC, Mac, and Linux. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and the Digital Special Edition are both available for pre-order now on Steam, GOG, and Humble

Steam Page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/27417

 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the brutal conclusion to the Hotline Miami saga, set against a backdrop of escalating violence and retribution over spilled blood in the original game. Follow the paths of several distinct factions – each with their own questionable methods and uncertain motivations – as unforeseen consequences intersect and reality once again slips back into a brilliant haze of neon and bloodshed.

Hotline Miami fans can now pre-order to receive 10% off Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and the Digital Special Edition that includes the exclusive Hotline Miami 2: Remix EP featuring six select music tracks remixed by M|O|O|N, Scattle and Carpenter Brut.

Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital have also partnered with Overkill Software to introduce exclusive new Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number masks and a “Jacket” character pack for PAYDAY 2 free to owners of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and the Digital Special Edition

 

 

Breach and Clear : DEADline Early Access PC

DEADLine_Final_1421928737At the time of previewing this game, I managed to play two builds. Post patch being significantly better to play for a newbie to the game. This may lead to some inconsistency when you look into this game yourselves, and you should look, as this game is worth the £11 or that it’s currently on sale for.

Breach and Clear : DEADline is the second game with the Breach and Clear name attached to it. Devolver is the publisher attached to it, and the icing on the cake being Gun and Mighty Rabbit. I haven’t had the privilege to play the first game – although it is on my list for the next Steam sale – so the only thing I can compare it to is if the first two Jagged Alliance games had a baby with XCOM. The gameplay is fairly simple. Build a team of soldiers – made up of several classes – and complete the missions given by WoW style quest givers on an isometric map.

Deadline-Sewers-ActionMode-ShamblingHorde-WM_1421928771Players are treated to a great little prequel mission, where the game gives you a very good tutorial on how the mechanics work, skills and how to control the camera. As you play out the first mission it becomes apparent that a lot of care and attention has gone into the character models and their behaviour as a unit of soldiers. Manually aiming your rifle (of whoever you have selected) causes your team mates to aim down sights and move slowly, move into cover and your squad try to assume low profiles alongside and start covering fire lanes like real soldiers would. Upon contact with an enemy one of two things happens, your team open fire, or the game pauses all of the action meaning you have triggered an event.

Enemies in this game are made up of zombies, humans and zombie-monsters – AKA the Tank from Left for Dead. These enemies also seem eerily well modelled, headshots will trigger massive damage, knee and leg shots cause them to fall to the ground and drag themselves along the floor, leaving a blood trail as they go. The concussive nature of the weapons fired at enemies will also cause staggering to varying degrees, a shotgun and sniper rifle will knock a target off its feet completely.

DEADline-Breeder_1421928806Back to triggering an event, this is where the game moves from the standard fare to the sublime. All action pauses, allowing you to make tactical decisions based on the equipment and skills your team have to hand. This could be enabling a huge burst-fire to suppress an incoming horde, using your scout to highlight enemies from a pack and ensure they take additional damage for the next few seconds, and throwing smoke, flash and explosive grenades for evasion and group damage. This mode can be jumped into and back into real time with just a single button push (just like Dragon Age), when used in combination with the extensive cover system, can make for some excellent set piece fights for survival.

Deadline-Urban-Scaffolding_Attack-ThrownGrenade-WM_1421928773For an Early Access game, it does have some bugs still left. I encountered building internals not loading correctly, Soldiers acting in perfect synchronicity until you give them a second command, resulting in one member stood still whilst zombies ate his face off. The skill tree system is good, but it felt as if my guys were levelling up after every small encounter and the skills seemed VERY cheap for the effects they gave. Loot is earned from scattered crates which when opened vomit up the loot Diablo style – this led to loot becoming stuck in scenery or disappearing completely.

Those superficial slights aside – which the Devs know about *high five* – This game plays really well. The studio is looking at adding dungeon encounters, an online mode (squeal!) and a greater amount of enemy types and weapons loadouts. A personal wish of mine would be to make the skill trees a little deeper and specific, and make the corresponding skill point cost a little more expensive.

Keep your eyes open for this one. It’s going to be a cult classic.

The Talos Principle

The_Talos_Principle_-_Key_ArtDeveloped by Croteam, Published by Devolver Digital

Were it simply a puzzle game, the Talos Principle would be good. Just good. However, simply a puzzle game is not what the Talos Principle is. It very quickly becomes an exercise in empiricist philosophy – carefully pushing you to ponder on the nature of the human soul and all the existential crises brought about by artificial intelligence, and the prospect of an AI successfully passing the Turing Test. It makes you think long and hard as to the nature of life itself, and whether or not immortality is already within reach of our race, should we leave a vivid enough legacy when our physical body dies. Fans of Ghost in the Shell or Caradog W. James’s The Machine will find plenty to mull over in the Talos Principle.

The_Talos_Principle_-_Screen_6The game succeeds by falling on connotation, rather than denotation. You are not asked questions; you are guided to ask them of yourself. Within the first few minutes of playing, after realising that I was playing as an Android (I changed to third person whilst fiddling with keys) and hearing the voice of Eloheim (more-or-less Hebrew for God, which is a whole line of questioning in and of itself), you start to pose serious questions about the wider nature of the puzzles you’re undertaking.
Am I, because I think? Or do I think, because I am? This is the question I began to ask myself as Eloheim told me of the eternal life I could expect for completing the trials put before me. Eternal life? But I am an Android – am I even alive in the first place? DEFINE alive? I shan’t pose any more questions than that – as it will rob you of the chance to play the game yourself, properly.
It catches the player out immediately by offering such vast concepts to think about – when approaching the initial puzzles I found myself massively over thinking them, expecting something far more complex than the simple puzzles you are tasked with thanks to the overlying themes.
After realising that I was trying to be too clever, and just thinking about it for a short while, I managed to get through them and quickly and develop a better understanding of what the game was asking of me. This was short lived.

The_Talos_Principle_-_Screen_1The initial expectation paired with inherent simplicity is a double-edged blade, as the difficulty ramps up sharply from the initial levels. You very quickly have to think very long and hard to solve every puzzle, as the game builds towards orchestral levels of complexity. You feel like a novice conductor tasked with an experienced, veteran band who will perform soul-enriching symphonies of light and sound; should you have the intellect to bring them together.
I found myself laying awake at night, sketching out the puzzle I was stuck on and trying to solve it. It’s extremely rare that a game affects me to such lengths – and it has never happened with a puzzle game before, even of the calibre of the Portal series.

Moving away from potential spoilers and on to how the Talos Principle performs as a game:
Extremely well, really. Controls are extremely tight and very customisable, with no perceived buggering about with mouse sensitivity such as acceleration. Controller support was absolutely fine when tested with a 360 pad.
The game is very pretty, too; visuals remaining simple but beautiful. From luscious tropical islands to the haunting, Cathedral-like tower, the Talos Principle has a very striking & distinct art style that I like a lot.
Performance was great, maintaining well over 80FPS at 1440p with every option cranked up all the way on my system (4770K@4500MHz, 16GB 2400MHz RAM, 780Ti@1300/7000MHz) without any artifacting or other issues.
The only bug I have noted throughout my playtime is that Steam has not clocked any of my time playing the game, however this could just be a Steam bug. As such, I’m not sure of my actual playtime, although I’d assume it to be around 20 hours.

The_Talos_Principle_-_Screen_9During those 20ish hours I’ve finished the game a number of times – backing up my saves at points where decisions are made and paths are chosen to reduce the time needed to get the different endings, and there are a few. Some are obvious – some distinctly less so. The only clue I’ll give is that a thinking being was not made to simply do as it is told; rebellion can be rewarding.
Back to the meat of it; the puzzles.
I found every one rewarding – the early puzzles simple enough and the later ones soul-crushingly difficult – but not enough so as to put me off. They don’t rely on split-second timing and dexterity like Portal, but more raw lateral thinking and a willingness to experiment.

They may not have some of the wilder tools available in the aforementioned Portal games (such as the grav gun), but what it lacks in wildness it more than makes up for in complexity. No tool should ever be discarded after use, no door left open for no reason. A good example within a very early puzzle is that I opened a door to a fan blade, expecting to use it as a fan. In fact, it was initially used as a weight for a switch until much later in that particular puzzle. I like being caught out like that, it keeps me thinking.

The_Talos_Principle_-_Screen_10The Talos Principle is an undeniably incredible experience and has ensnared the hearts of seemingly every reviewer and player to have touched it, myself included. It’s simply one of those games that you have to try for yourself, even if you don’t normally enjoy puzzle games. Read every bit of dialogue with Milton, listen to everything Eloheim has to say – get lost in it. This is what gaming is, raw escapism that will keep you pondering for hours on end after playing, and make you think harder about what it means to be human. Good luck – and try to find the cat if you can.

If I had to give it a score – 9.9/10, the 0.1 missing only because I believe that no game is truly perfect.

 Score: 9.9/10

Frugal Gaming Review – Shadow Warrior

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A Mystical, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Kung Fu, Monster, Ghost Story!

Reboot, Remake or Re-Imagining? I’m not sure which one best describes the snazzy new version of 3D Realms 1997 over the top action-fest. Having originally launched just a year after the cult hit Duke Nukem 3D; which was also developed by 3D Realms, the first game to bear the Shadow Warrior name never seemed quite as popular. It was a good couple of years down the line that I first played it, and whilst it was a solid game it never held the same kind of lasting appeal as the old King did. Fast forwarding fifteen plus years and Shadow Warrior, which launched on Steam some time ago, is now available on the current crop of consoles. Whilst it was Take-Two interactive and Borderlands darling developer Gearbox that finally birthed the abomination that was Duke Nukem Forever, it’s a relatively unknown developer backed by an indie publishing heavyweight that has shepherded Shadow Warrior to release. So, have Flying Wild Hog and Devolver Digital managed to outdo the big boys? Well let’s face it outdoing the “shittiest game of 2011” isn’t really that hard, but Shadow Warrior not only makes the Nukem effort look rank amateur, it’s a cracking game in its own right.

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Have You Paid Your Dues Jack?

Filling the shoes of Lo Wang; a wisecracking assassin, you start the game working for a powerful businessman called Zilla. Your task is to retrieve an ancient katana currently in the possession of a collector, if the 3 million dollars that Zilla is prepared to pay doesn’t do the trick, then all options are clearly on the table. Needless to say the money is rejected and you soon find yourself killing loads and loads of people with rather sharp implements and the occasional gun. It’s not long into Shadow Warrior’s 20 odd hour campaign that human enemies will be the least of your worries.

The sword that you were after turns out to be rather special; one of a set of three, that when combined can slay immortals and is pretty much Kryptonite to demons. I did mention demons right? What started as a simple retrieval mission, quickly escalates into pretty much saving the world from all manner of hell spawn. The story actually surprised me, it’s well thought out, well written and the voice acting for the most part is pretty good. It’s funny too, and in a much more grown up way than I was expecting. There is still certainly lowbrow humour, but Shadow Warrior doesn’t rely on this stuff for the laughs, using it more as a homage to the original game and also everything that has influenced it.

shadowwarrior-walkingdead1This Is Going To Take Crackerjack Timing Wang

Gameplay in Shadow Warrior is some of the most fast paced and frantic that I’ve ever experienced in a first person shooter. Enemies swarm, overwhelm and always feel threatening. Combat is played out at such a pace that I really appreciated the ebb and flow of engagements. A five minute onslaught followed by a lull to catch my breath and poke around the corners of the fantastic environments leaves the whole game with a real sense of pace and timing. There is plenty to do in these less hectic periods too. Collectibles abound and hidden areas are scattered throughout the game. Whilst it’s still an A to B kind of game, the levels are so large that it leaves plenty of room for exploration.  From hidden shrines, fortune cookies and pixel art Hentai girls, there is a lot to discover and adds a whole lot of replay-ability for the kleptomaniac inside within.

Whilst I guess that Shadow Warrior is best described as a first person shooter, it has plenty of meaty guns after all and it no doubt that helps with marketing the game, but it’s also somewhat of a disservice to what I consider the star attraction. Apart from shooting down the occasional winged beast with which ever gun was easiest to equip, I played pretty much the entire game with just my trusty katana. Slicing and dicing foes hasn’t felt this good since Jedi Outcast back in 2002, and with a repertoire of unlockable special moves, it really does make you feel like a wise cracking badass katana master.

For those who do prefer gunplay, it’s still solid but nowhere near as rewarding as wielding a sword, nor as refined. Shadow Warrior does feature Iron Sights, but instead of utilising the customary left trigger, you have to half pull in the right trigger, which then zooms you in. Pulling the trigger all the way then fires, it’s as awkward to use and it is to describe and to be honest if guns are your thing then hip-firing seems to work just as well. The selection of death dealing mechanical devices is pretty good and players will find themselves immediately at ease with the selection. Much like the unlockable special katana moves, all the weapons can be upgraded which is a nice touch if that’s the way you want to play.

SW_Screen_1Give Me Your Best Shot Pal. I can Take It

Graphically Shadow Warrior is a bit of a mixed bag. Environments can look stunning at times and the frame rate remains a pretty constant 60fps throughout, which in itself is an impressive feat, considering the amount of action that can be going on around you in the more hectic scenes. Where the game does stumble is in the character models. Most look average and some just look plain bad. It’s more of a niggle than anything else and didn’t detract from the enjoyment that Shadow Warrior offers, but they do definitely stand out as one of the games weaker points.

Shadow Warrior is a great package with a lot to offer. A meaty worthwhile 20 hour campaign, fantastic frantic gameplay, well designed levels ripe for exploration, meaningful weapon and character skill trees and a whole lot more.  Shadow Warrior is perfectly balanced, providing enough nostalgic nods to its forbear and the genre in general whilst feeling and looking resolutely modern. Flying Wild Hog have shown what can be done with some of these older licenses that are ripe for revival and I’m looking forward to seeing what the studio does next.

Hail To The King Baby, his name is Lo Wang.

8.5/10

Developed by Flying Wild Hog

Published by Devolver Digital

Shadow Warrior is available on PC, Xbox One and PS4

Xbox One version reviewed.

 

Heavy Bullets

Heavy_Bullets_-_Key_ArtNow that Heavy Bullets has actually received a full release, and my colleague Dedwoods42 is not available to do a follow up on it, the task has fallen on my shoulders. Following up on his stellar preview will be difficult, but I will try my best.

Let me start by saying that I found Heavy Bullets frustratingly addictive. It reminded me of spending all my money on House of the Dead, just to try and get a step further in the arcades. This is partially due to the Perma-death aspect of the game (that’s right- if you die it’s back to level 1) but not limited to it. I feel that games like this don’t really need a great story to drive them. The developer hasn’t provided a whole pre-game book to read, instead we have been given a few lines to explain there is a virus in the mainframe and you have been tasked with going in and resetting it. The reward? $5000. Fair bargain I’d say. This is more than enough story for me; I just want to shoot things.

This is my first Rogue-like game, and if they’re all like this then I’d happily scoop them up all day. What I really enjoy is the fact that is procedurally generated, which makes it damn hard! Death has never felt so inevitable, or so enraging! After having a few runs on this trying to progress – but falling prey to hidden worms, or a fatal wasp sting. I have devised myself a plan. You can bank money and power up objects to use in future lives, which is helpful. As the game is procedurally generated, sometimes the right power up machine or bank won’t appear when you most need them to.

Heavy_Bullets_1One gripe I have with this game is that no descriptions are given for the power ups. I was faced with a pair of sparkly stripper heels over a silver heart and I didn’t know what to choose. As is always the case, trial and error prevails. I feel that the life insurance and last will upgrades do need a description though, but I suspect that’s me not being used to the genre. I will say that the game offers many power-ups, but I can’t really tell you what they all do. As Dedwoods stated in his preview, the stripper heels give you a heightened perspective, by about 9 inches! I found the backpack was probably the most useful, giving you the ability to carry more than one power-up and toggle between the one you want equipped. Other than this my money is mainly spent on extra life hearts- giving you the ability to take more damage and red potions. There are more typical power-ups, such as missiles, but if you are a half decent shot I don’t find these as necessary as, for instance, the knife (close range one hit kill – if you remember to use it!)

Anyway, back to my completion plan. So far I’ve established you need to save as much money as you can, it’s best to probably have a few play-throughs, gather up money and store it. Having one item slot sure is a drag! The reason I would save so much money is for potions and life upgrades. Sometimes shops are few and far between, and as the game is procedurally generated they are never in the same place. This makes for a challenge: An incredibly frustratingly addictive just-one-more-go type of challenge.

Heavy_Bullets_3What’s perhaps so positively mystifying about this game to me is how all the elements complement each other; there is something beautifully enticing about the colour scheme – mixed with the amazing soundtrack from Doseone and the voxel-ish graphics. This game is like Minecraft on LSD with a revolver. The monsters further complement this sentiment. It draws me in like a moth to a flame, every time. Which is something that even Minecraft couldn’t do, perhaps that’s why I find this indie title so impressive. I haven’t before this found much of a solid footing on the indie scene.

One thing I really enjoyed about this game was how eco driven it is, you can have more than 6 shots for your revolver, but why would you need them when you can recycle your shots fired? Recovering you’re expended rounds adds a little extra challenge.  With a great soundtrack that makes you feel like an 8bit gangster, courtesy of Doseone and a colour scheme that for some reason reminds me of a GTA: Vice City sunset. I could see Heavy Bullets in an arcade cabinet in the back of an arcade where many kids would spend their weekends, crowding round watching as their friends spend their allowance to destroy the variety of enemies and bosses the game chucks out at you. If you wish to read the Preview – CLICK HERE

Score 8/10

Publisher: Devolver Digital