D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die – Frugal Gaming Review

 

e314-02Roll Up, Roll Up For The Mystery Tour

Fabulous isn’t a word I’ve used before when trying to sum up a game, but it’s the only one that feels suitable when I think about D4.  An Xbox One exclusive with Kinect very much being the way it’s designed to be played may well have put some people off; but whether you choose to play via the Kinect or a regular controller you are in for a real if rather trippy treat!

To describe it as plainly as possible considering it’s creator, D4 or Dark Dreams Don’t Die to give the game it’s full title is a episodic mystery detective game.  You play as David Young, a former police officer turned private eye, who after the brutal murder of his wife has gained a rather interesting ability and a natty scar just like Harry Potter.  Now able to travel to a different point in space and time, its lets you delve into strange cases that would bamboozle regular investigators. The current first season of D4 includes three of these cases plus a rather lengthy prologue that sets up the ensuing madness.

Having only really used voice commands with the Kinect for the last year I was eager to try the game using only the motion controls and I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s clear from the get go that D4 is completely designed around Kinect and it works wonderfully well.  I played sitting down and for the majority of the time just one arm was needed.  Reach out and grab the footstep icon on the floor and you move; swipe left or right to turn on the spot.  Pushing, pulling and grabbing play a part too, it’s really simple and having tried both Kinect and a controller it’s a lot more fun playing with Kinect, especially in the action sequences which will find you fighting a woman who thinks she’s a cat and also a drug dealer in a plane that’s been struck by lightning twenty thousand feet in the air..

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Whilst the game mechanics are pretty straight forward, finding clues and questioning people for the majority of the time, it’s the characters themselves and Swery’s personality which really make D4 something special.  I’ve already mentioned the woman who acts like a cat, I’m still not sure if she’s actually a woman and not really a cat who David see’s as a woman – it’s that crazy.  Add to that a fashion designer who wouldn’t have seemed out of place in the nineties TV show Eurotrash, who also has a deep and meaningful relationship with a mannequin;  a muscle mary trolley dolley with a bit of a temper only dulled by drugs; and an extremely strange Surgeon who appears halfway through episode one with knife and fork in hand as he confuses you with riddles. I’m also pretty sure that the main character is bisexual.  It’s a complete whirlwind of stereotypes, some turned completely on their heads, all knowingly mocked and I absolutely love it.

D4 looks great too, think of a much more colourful and polished version of the Walking Dead and you wouldn’t be far off, it’s the perfect art style to truly capture the bizarre ideas that are everywhere in the game.  Music is suitably groovy and ethereal at times; solid voice acting also brings the characters to life in an even more vibrant way and the casting is spot on.  I’d love to have seen the actors faces as they were reading the scripts, I really don’t know how they managed to get the lines out without breaking into fits of laughter.

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You might well have gathered by now that I’ve absolutely loved playing D4, it’s refreshing and possibly the most bonkers game I’ve ever played.  It might not be for everyone but look at it this way – if you’re a fan of Swery you will love it.  If you’re a fan of Japanese games in general you’ll probably love it. Been staring at your Kinect wondering if you’ll ever use it? You’ll love it.

I’d never heard of Swery before playing this, I kind of thought my Kinect was never going to be used, and I still absolutely love it. I love D4 so much that I’m now a proud fan of Swery, I follow him on twitter and instagram, and I’ve just bought his previous game, Deadly Premonition on Steam. My one and only criticism of D4 is that I want more: more episodes, more crazy characters and just more Swery on Xbox one full stop.

9+1*/10

*  gets a +1 for featuring a lot a Cats because Cats rule.

D4 is available digitally for £11.99 on Xbox One and can be found HERE

Developed by Access Games

Published by Microsoft Studios

Written and Directed by Swery

 

Frugal Gaming Preview – Forza Horizon 2

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With the Demo being made available to download just last week and the 3rd of October release date looming, Frugal Gaming’s MrBaddog and PridedLlama both share their thoughts about one of the biggest Xbox exclusive titles set to launch this year.

MrBaddog writes

The original Forza Horizon was one of the finest examples of open world racing to date. A fictional Motorsports festival played host to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful racing ever realised. From its open rural landscapes to the constricted canyons, rarely had a Motorsport game been so visceral. Tearing through a busy highway, circumventing traffic to the tune of ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’ by The Hives, is there any better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

Fast forward to today and the long awaited sequel power slides onto the Xbox One. Moving away from the original Colorado setting, the Horizon festival has thundered into Southern Europe. Tight city streets, sprawling vineyards and perilous Cliffside roads await those in search of infamy. Arriving on a ferry at the wheel of a throbbing Lamborghini Huracan, stamping on the throttle, tyres screech as they are very nearly ripped from the rims, you disappear in a cloud of smoke and goosebumps, the sense of raw power is almost tangible.

The beauty of the surroundings is astonishing and the attention to detail is staggering, the world created here feels alive. Flora and fauna sway in the wind, towns are heavily populated with decor, not that you may notice when you are hurtling at 200 mph bumper to bumper with other competitors. Couple this with the lavish care which has been spent recreating each of the cars and you have one of the best looking racing games ever created.

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Road surfaces genuinely feel different to drive upon. Whether you’re sliding through fields and dirt roads or burning along the tarmac, the cars handle convincingly. It is an awesome feeling when you hit the bend just right and you slip around the corner at breakneck speeds. Take care when the rain comes, the car will squirm and slide as you fight the elements for control. It is all perfectly balanced and incredibly satisfying.

As this is only a demo, there are a limited amount of races for you to enjoy. There is a stunning cross country point to point race which will have you tearing through the countryside and then there is a tight and twisting circuit race. Also available to try is the new ‘bucket list’. Find the Koenigsegg and you will be challenged to ‘drive like you stole it’, which essentially means drive as fast as you can past a predetermined speed camera. Events make a welcome return, the one on offer here will have you racing an aerial display team. These are great fun and add to the overall festival feel. There is very little to do with regards to the online side of things. A free roam mode is available so you can have a little taste, but much more has been promised come full release.

If you enjoyed the first title or you’re a fan of open world racing, Forza Horzion 2 looks as though it will keep you entertained for quite some time. With its improved graphics, wonderful handling, dynamic weather, varied races, extra challenges and an enhanced multiplayer there is a lot on offer. A truly epic racing game may just be on the horizon.

gamescom-press-kit-05-wm-forza-horizon2PridedLlama writes

I hate this time of year, grey skies that are forever gloomy and not a glimpse of the sun for weeks.  We have got a long wait ahead of us for Summer to return, but Playground Games might just be offering us a winter sun deal far too good to pass up.

Forza Horizon was both a commercial and critical success.  Whilst Turn10 Studios doggedly stick to their tried and tested, if somewhat increasingly stale formula of exclusive track based racing, the original Horizon flipped the whole thing on it’s head and added a much needed injection of personality and fun.  Horizon 2 looks set to expand on every aspect that featured in the first open world title, and befitting of a game developed primarily in sunny old England adds dynamic weather with very British rain.

The whole game is much more European affair this time round, and it’s all the better for it.  Gone are the rocky and dusty roads of Colorado, replaced by sparkling Mediterranean tides and lush Tuscan panoramas.  Quite simply it’s a perfect fit not only in the pretty department but also in the driving.

No longer confined to just the roads, the environment and setting is more important than ever.  While established franchises continue to lean heavily on Americana, what Horizon 2 and it’s locals brings to the table is altogether more refreshing.  Twisting coastal roads, open highways and quaint villages abound, but its off the beaten track where things get even more interesting and fresh.

Opening up the fields and dirt tracks has upped the drivable area in the new instalment by 3 times the size when compared to the original.  While a point to point race might start on pristine tarmac it won’t be long until you’re bumping and swerving farms and fields at breakneck speeds.  It takes the whole franchise a step further away from it’s Motorsport roots and offers a real challenge if like me you are used to dropping all the assists.  It’s exhilarating in a way that Forza Motorsport 5 just never got close to matching.

700 events, nearly 150 music tracks, 7 radio stations and over 200 licensed cars.  Add to that truly breathtaking environments and vistas gorgeously rendered in full 1080p not to mention Sean Maguire! Yes Sean Maguire in 1080p too!  October the 3rd can’t come soon enough.  I still have a couple of little reservations, all the dev speak about 3 times the drivable area is rather ambiguous, and for all the near 150 songs they still don’t have a GEM106 equivalent but, the hours and hours of gameplay being offered in much sunnier climes will be the perfect Autumn antidote.  I’ve dug out the factor 50, ordered a new pair of sunglasses and I might even top up my tan whilst I wait for Forza Horizon 2 to release.  Actually sod that, I’m off for another spin on with the demo!

Forza Horizon 2 is developed by Playground Games and set for release on the 3rd of October on xbox one, an xbox 360 version by Sumo Digital is also set for release on the same day.  Both impressions were taken from hands on time with the xbox one demo.

Microsoft Xbox- Phil Spencer in Charge. Is He Listening To the Consumer?

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With Microsoft Trying to evolve and move on from the PR disaster that was E3 last year, with Don Mattrick at the helm, Phil Spencer has taken the reigns. Whilst this is not breaking news, it is interesting to see what decisions he is making for the future of the console on the lead up to E3 2014. It seems that every week since he has been in charge we have been littered with info and news regarding the console- things we would usually expect at E3. But with his “Games, Games, Games” policy, it looks like E3 will be just that, with only a few moments of eyes on console features.

Whilst this is good for everyone and generally a step in the right direction in terms of the console and what consumers have been asking for since the console reveal at E3 2014, I personally hope that he does not simply forget the shortfalls of the console. Since its rocky release, there have been plenty of issues on all fronts of the system. For instance, loading times when swapping between a game and a message, Xbox Live Party issues, the resolution differences between the two consoles (however with the recent release of Wolfenstein:The New Order in 1080p/60fps on both consoles, it just goes to show what wonders a decent engine can do).

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In some cases, steps are already being taken to even out the performance difference with the release of a Kinect-less Xbox One for the same price as a Playstation 4. Whilst this is a good move for reeling in those paranoid about the NSA, its a bit outrageous in terms of what you actually get. A console which is less powerful for the same price and missing a large part of its UI which is integral for the full experience. Lets face it, the console has features that are simply inconvenient to use with out voice commands.  Especially with load times of some apps being very slow at times.

In any case, I think that a lot of the bad press and drama seen around last years announcement of the console was created by the walking joke that is Don Mattrick. Coining terms like ” we have a console for those without internet, its called the Xbox 360″ (with regards to the always online status before the DRM U-turn) just goes to show he did not have the consumers interest at heart. I mean, most companies don’t, but at least they pretend they do. At least now he has his wish, working to create online only Facebook games. I wonder if after the abortion that was last E3 he was thrown out, he knew this and then created as much bad press as he could.

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At least Phil Spencer seems to be listening to some of the outrage and cries of the consumer who feel slightly robbed, at the end of the day we didn’t buy a games console to have Sports Channels as Apps and interface-able TV, we bought it for the games. Whilst going Kinect-less is a good move, it is worth mentioning that there will still be releases for it and continued support, we can also expect to see External HDD support, to what extent however is still unknown. I should think it will be like on the Xbox 360 . I just hope that with the games being Phil Spencer’s main concern,  he keeps refining the system and ironing out the little niggling kinks. He seems to be listening to what people want, which can only be a good thing.

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SUPER TIME FORCE Review

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A lesson learned In TIME

If I could turn back TIME, if I could find a way, I’d probably not be writing this with a hangover. I’d go back in TIME and tell myself to stay in rather than go down to the local pub, but alas I’ve tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen, poured myself a cup of ambition…. Er, I mean tea…. All this wibbly wobbly TIMEy wimey stuff is really starting to take its toll on me.

If however I’d been a part of the Super TIME Force, the solution to my hangover would be far more interesting. Colonel Repeatski would probably send the team back to the emergence of homo-sapiens and get the locals sloshed on a home-brew of wild berries and mammoth spit. All in an attempt to alter human evolution so we don’t get hangovers. In the process, our for-bearer’s would be so sloshed, that Apes would wind up being the dominant species. The Human race would end up performing tea parties in zoo’s and Donkey Kong would be a very different game.

At its most basic and therefore explainable, Super TIME Force is a retro side scrolling shooter. Each member of the Super-Temporal-Infinite-Manipulation-Expert-Force has a unique basic attack along with a special one. Ricochet shots, three way fire, shield abilities, it’s standard old school shooty tropes that work just great. After completing the training missions, I thought I’d got it all covered. It’s not until running through the first proper level that I realised the game was anything but simple! I was left shaking and confused as to what I had accomplished, it was a complete assault on my senses, made me think about what I was doing more than any side scrolling shooter should, and immediately after taking a few deep breaths, I wanted to dive back in for more.

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TIME and TIME again

Here comes the science bit, concentrate. You have only a set amount of TIME to complete each level, generally around the 60 second mark. Sounds simple, right? Well playing each level can take anything from 10 minutes to half an hour. Still with me? In a game play twist that completely messes with the Temporal Prime Directive, you can go backward in TIME and spawn a new character that fights alongside the character you were previously controlling. You can do this up to 30 TIMEs, and believe me you’ll probably need to!

As an example, you come across a door you need to blow up? With one character this can take quite a few precious seconds, so as the door blows, you use the TIME rewind jiggery pokery, spawn in another player and both your new character and your previous incarnation can then take the door down in half the TIME. Simples. If you end up dying, hit the rewind button, spawn in another character and then take out the bad guy before he took out your previous self, you can then walk over the spot where you died and your current character then takes on extra firepower and a shield worth one hit.

Its astounding; TIME is fleeting

I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that at first appears so simple, it’s easy to control and generally great to play. Yet it really makes you think, offers true head scratching conundrums and gives you one of the greatest senses of accomplishment found in video games ever. I can only imagine the psychedelic, consciousness altering drugs the developers must have been on when they dreamt up this game, or maybe they are just truly crazy! The fact that they have executed the game in such a fantastic way speaks volumes regardless.

The game also looks and sounds great. The graphics are retro yet still modern and clean. I truly thought I’d had enough of the pixel-art retro style, but this TIME it just goes to show that done well, It still has the wow factor. Music is also fantastic and there are a few hooks that stick in my mind days after playing. The best moments are undoubtedly the replays that you get after completing a level. The 20 or so minutes that you’ve spent skipping backwards and forwards in TIME are all condensed into the 60 seconds that you had to complete the level. Up to 30 instances of your characters, unleashing an apocalyptic amount of firepower on the screen is absolute pandemonium.

TIME is standing still

Six distinct worlds in different TIME periods, each with several different levels will take you a good few hours to complete. The objectives range from going into the future to download all the computer updates, so you can spend your downTIME having megalols at internet cat videos, to retrieving the Holy Grail so your favourite restaurant chain doesn’t go out of business. Truly bonkers stuff. The game doesn’t really end there. Unlockable characters, hidden collectibles, medals, secret levels, rock hard achievements not to mention the leaderboards and the potential for speed runs. The game offers quite a bit of content, and in all it’s pretty good value for money at £11.99, although I would have liked to see it hit the £9.99 mark.

With nods to all the old 80’s throwbacks, from Pong, Dirty Harry, Rambo and much much more. Gamers or an older vintage will find lots to make them smile. For everyone else the gameplay is just as great even if the 80’s kitsch will pass them by. It’s charming, fun and as challenging as you want it to be. With the game available on both the Xbox One and the Xbox 360, the only difference between the versions is the ability to record your end of level replays on the newer hardware.

Hit me baby one more TIME

Little must the developers- Capy Games have known, that this idea, that started life at a local game jam and was developed as a side project would become a focal point and a great example of Microsoft’s ID@Xbox indie program. With Capy off to a flying start, I’m looking forward to seeing what they have lined up next. Who knows we may even get a 90’s set sequel, personally I’d love to see some DLC where you have to stop Don Mattrick from ever working for Microsoft again. Knowing Super TIME Force, it would probably involve sterilising Don Mattrick’s ancestors, which would undoubtedly go wrong and leave the good old USA in some dire straits.

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Some minor control issues with aiming at the diagonal, and the £11.99 price for the content that is included are the only thing that stops this game from earning a 10/10 from me. Whilst digital prices on consoles are generally high all round. £9.99 would have been the perfect price, especially considering the way that Xbox Live gift cards work. If you don’t have access to a credit card or Paypal then you’re going to have to buy a £15 card for this one game alone. Shooting on the diagonal can be rather a pain, and it has been brought up on forums around the web, you never know in TIME it may get patched. At the moment it’s merely an annoyance rather than game breaking.

[wp-review]core: 8/10
Available at TIME of writing on Xbox 360 and Xbox One via the Xbox Live Marketplace