Frugal Gaming Review – Flockers

flockers_logo

Back in May 2014, I took a look at an early build of Flockers. Team 17 had decided to release it via the increasingly popular Early Access program on Steam.  Generally, I liked what I saw and was hopeful that with more time, the developers could create the kind of magic that left so many of us with fond memories of Flockers muse; Lemmings.  Fast forward four months and the game has now been fully released on not only Steam but also Xbox One and PS4.

I’m not going to pad this review out as to be quite honest, very little has changed since my preview. If you’re interested in my previous and still relevant thoughts you can take a gander at the more in depth preview HERE.   More levels have been added and a general spit and polish has been liberally applied to all visible surfaces, but the basic premise of the game remains the same and it still feels rather underdeveloped.

flockers_level_scape_2Lemmings was originally released way back in 1991.  It tasked you with leading your band of furry critters from A to B by means of controlling their actions with 8 different abilities.  The Climber could climb.  The Floater could float down big drops by using an umbrella.  The Bomber was, well a suicide bomber. The Blocker was like a lollipop map who stopped your other lemmings in their tracks.  The Builder would raise a stairway letting you reach higher areas. A Basher, Miner and Digger filled out the abilities letting you dig horizontally, diagonally downwards or directly downwards.

So clearly lots of ways to control your Lemmings, the sequels added even more variety to what you could do, it meant that levels could often be solved in completely different ways.  The animations and designs of these moves and abilities really bought the lemmings to life and injected a whole lot of humour.  Fast forward 23 years to Flockers and Team17 have seen fit to offer you just 5 abilities. That’s real progress right there.

Over 60 levels are now available, with differing backgrounds, for point of reference; Lemmings had over 120.  Some of them are great, others feel unjustly harsh.  The lack of abilities and the structure of the levels themselves generally leaves you with only one route to the exit.  It all feels rather scripted, flat and forced. Online leaderboards and the ability to stream direct to twitch from within the game are both nice features and to be honest apart from the obvious graphical improvements that 20+ years bring, these 2 areas are the only real improvements over the ancient game that I’m comparing it to.

flockers_death_-_explosionIf you are in the unfortunate position to have never played Lemmings you’ll probably get more out of Flockers than anyone else. Even then it feels rather lacklustre, uninspired and plain boring.  The sheep are undeniably cute and will most certainly appeal to younger gamers, who knows it might even lead to a few more vegetarians in the world, without a doubt that will be the only legacy that Flockers leaves behind.

[wp-review]

Flockers is available on PC via Steam and Xbox one and PS4 both at retail and via their respective marketplaces.

Frugal Gaming Review – Hero of Many

HoM_Poster

Win or Lose, Sink or Swim

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five-score years ago, a great Frog, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Underwater Equality Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of white tadpoles who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of bigotry.

But one hundred years later, the White Tadpole is still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the White Tadpole is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the White Tadpole lives under a lonely lilypad of poverty in the midst of a vast pond of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the White Tadpole is still languished in the corners of aquatic society and finds himself in exile in his own waters. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition”

Attributed to Kermit T Frog on 24th June 2013

HoM_Screen_03

Play The Game, Fight The Fight

YOU THERE! stop playing with your tail! It will drop off if you carry on fiddling with it!

Right then lads, at ease.  For those of you new here, my name is Major Zitz, formerly of Battletoad Command.  It’s my job to get you sorry lot ready for the most important and desperate mission of this god forsaken war.  I won’t jelly coat it, it’s going to be rough.  For you veterans who have returned from the Ouya, IOS or Android theatres , I’ll be looking to you to take the lead and help these new recruits as we open a new front on Steam.

For the tadpoles, your insertion behind enemy lines will be via flying frog.  The currents are looking choppy, so if you end up scattered, hold up, hide and wait for your Frogspawn commander to find you.  Once you’re reunited with your unit and commander, follow instructions to the letter and protect them at all costs.  The black menace will be everywhere and you will be the only thing protecting  your commander.  I know you have a tendency to eat each other, but save it for your enemy.  Any incidents of white on white, and you’ll be court marshalled.

As for you Frogspawn, I need you calm and calculated. You will be the brains of this operation and its success rests roundly on your gelatinous mass.  Meeting up with your team of fellow poles is of vital importance.  You’ll be extremely vulnerable without them.  They’re an eager bunch, but they will need your guidance and self control.  You’ll have a long stream ahead of you to get to your final destination.  The currents with be perilous, and the black tadpole army won’t be your only obstacle. Your strength in numbers will help you, but at times discretion may well be the better part of valour, let’s not forget that the tadpole who runs away, turns into a frog another day.

The survival of our very species lies with you, the brave Tadpoles and Frogspawn of this unit.  Trust in each other and you will get through this.  Time is fun when you’re having flies and, if you complete your mission and make it back in one piece you’ll have all the flies you could possibly imagine.

“Even though large tracts of our pond and many old and famous streams have fallen, or may fall into the grip of the Black Tadpole and all the odious apparatus of Frog rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight on Ouya, we shall fight on the iPhone and iPad, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength on Android, we shall defend our lily pad, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on Windows, we shall fight on OS X , we shall fight in the Steam Store and in the iTunes chart , we shall fight in the Google play store; we shall never surrender.”

Attributed to Slippy Toad – First Pond Lord of the Admiralty  15th September 2015

HoM_Screen_04

La La La La

Hero of Many, is a port of a mobile game that’s just been released on Steam.  It takes you on a epic aquatic journey through a dangerous world.  It plays brilliantly, looks absolutely beautiful and if you are anything like myself, you will lose hours to this game. The general and well founded dislike for mobile ports on PC could be well and truly banished if more games like this started making an appearance.

Exciting, challenging, thought provoking ( well to me at least, this review was going to be about sperm or immigration before I settled on tadpoles). The game is engaging and utterly enjoyable. Trickster Arts have taken an idea that’s so simple and executed it with aplomb.  I love it so much I’m now considering digging a pond in my back garden.

SCORE: 9/10

PC Version Reviewed

Hero of Many is now available on Steam and can be found HERE

It’s also available on iTunes, the Google Play store and OUYA

Developed and published by Trickster Arts

Gang Beasts – Early Access Preview

logo

Have you ever found yourself craving something to play with your friends who are looking for something a little crazy? Gang Beasts has you covered in spades, with what is equal parts a wrestling game and a drunken fighting simulator and offers something different to anything out on the market today.

If you have ever felt your friends need to be taught a lesson, thrown into a grinder or knocked out and delivered into an incinerator on a conveyor belt? Then Gang Beasts will be the first game you pick up, once you gather up to 7 friends and pit these Morph lookalikes against each other in a deathmatch arena of your choosing. With very simple controls, Gang Beasts is one of the easiest games to pick up and get moving with – simply use shoulder buttons as arm control (Mashing punches while holding grapples) and then lifting your opponent in the air and deliver them to whatever mayhem the arena has awaiting them. Easy, right? Not so much. Your friend will wriggle, fight and punch while screaming at you to let them go and more than likely try to grab you to take you with them rather than simply let you destroy them.

wheel

And, of course, the arena where you choose to face off with your friends will have just as much of a say in who wins as your ability to control your character. Perhaps you’d like to take the fight directly to a wrestling ring with a Royal Rumble style Ring-Out system? Or atop two trucks speeding down a motorway – avoiding the oncoming road signs while trying to ensure your friends are taken out adds a whole extra level of complexity to the challenge and this is key to each arena – every single one has its own unique quirk – like a running train or a tiny window cleaning platform for you to simply fall from if you’re not careful.

Gang Beasts does something every wrestling game has struggled with – it doesn’t focus on complicated systems or deep move-sets. Gang Beasts opens up the gameplay for everyone, to simply jump in and be extremely successful from the very offset without sitting down, learning a character’s moves and the tricks with the complicated control system. This leads to it becoming something the wrestling genre has struggled with for years: simplicity and addictive fun.

subway

The one thing you may think is missing from Gang Beasts is the addition of an online component to the multiplayer. I think it would be easier to gather people online than in person, I can’t help but think that Gang Beasts may lose some of its inherent charm if you aren’t all sat in the same room. Some of the best times I had with the game were trying to keep my controller away from a friend as he tried to bat it from my hand as I lifted him up and threw him into the huge, spinning fan to his doom. While I’d say Online Multiplayer is probably a must at some point, I would insist the best way for people to experience the game is to try and gather friends together to play in a room together.

Developer Boneloaf has done something incredible in creating Gang Beasts and with the recent backing of Double Fine I’m certain that great things are in store for this game even though, right now, it’s more than worth the £11.99 you’ll pay for Steam Early Access. With a promised single player campaign that is still in development and the constant updates that keep dropping I’d say we have a lot more to see from Gang Beasts and it’s an incredible journey I can’t wait to see unfold.

 

Prison Architect – Early Access Preview

ss1You have installed a new metal detector at the exit of the cafeteria to curb the theft of cutlery, inmates are irate at the unnecessary search this yields and just as their anger hits boiling point all of your guards have decided it’s time to take a break or patrol some far flung region of your prison. If managing the incessant needs of digital prisoners sounds like your idea of a fun evening then Prison Architect may have you covered.

Prison Architect, from developer Introversion Software, is in early access on Steam and is looking to bring a new edge to the management-sim genre. Now, before we start you are going to have to realise something pretty quickly: The first prison you build is going to be a horrible mess. A horrible, bloody, mess. While I thought I got the hang of the basic controls once I had played through the game’s introduction tutorial, I soon came to realise that actually I had only scratched the surface and my first prison mirrored something similar to the film Bronson – a violent, unmanageable mess – rather than the Shawshank Redemption vision I had in my head.

But what sort of Prison Architect will you be? The game leaves that decision entirely on your shoulders once you’re settled with the basics; Prison Architect allows you to feel good about yourself, you will be able to build reform programs through education and enable prisoners to learn vocational skills through a workshop system that improves their morale and ability to reintegrate with society upon release. And, of course, if they step out of line you can chuck them straight into solitary to separate them from the main body of your population and leave them to rot which, in turn, provides a deterrent to the other prisoners who may be thinking of stepping out of line. Each prisoner you take in to your prison provides a revenue stream for you to continue improvements and is, of course, offset by the amount of danger an extra man or overcrowding your prison may cause. This delicate balancing act is how you’ll spend a lot of your game, earning some extra cash to improve but not wanting to throw too many inmates in at once.

ss4There is a simple tech tree which allows you to slowly introduce new ideas, staff members and rooms to your prison. You may desperately need an infirmary in your prison due to a riot that injured inmates and your staff or you have had a sudden intake of high-risk prisoners which means Patrol Dogs and Armed Guards are in order. Whatever type of prison you decide to build and how fast you need to expand is all down to how you set up the game to begin with. For a more challenging trial you can set it so you have a prisoner intake every single day at 8am and this means you’ll be focusing on some rapid expansion and introducing new cell blocks constantly while having the ability to switch off Prisoner Intake means you will be able to sit back and think about your prison design and put something together that makes sense and works far more efficiently and safely for your staff. You may have prisoners in with your main population that are awaiting execution – these are the most dangerous and likely to revolt because they have nothing to lose and need direct intervention by your guards on a regular basis. You can decide on the level of management you want on individuals and ensure they’re kept separate to the low risk, short stay offenders who may not need as much of your staff’s time.

Prisoners will try and escape or smuggle contraband into your prison, they’ll walk around and take every opportunity to skip out on you by utilising any minor flaw in your prison’s design. But, once the day is over and their time is served, your prisoners will be released, reformed and hopefully willing to contribute to society once again. You can drill down and even micromanage every single need of your individual prisoners. You’ll see how long they have left to serve and and whether they’re likely to reoffend once they are released. You can hire a psychiatrist who will help you manage these needs and build the prison’s daily schedule to ensure everyone gets what they need from their day. It is usually the silly things that tend to foil me in Prison Architect – the prison had expanded so rapidly and I had not thoroughly expanded my kitchen to an appropriate level and, therefore, half my prisoners weren’t eating during the one hour of meal time I had allotted which caused the starving to push back against my guards who struggled to control such a large rabid mob.

ss2Prison Architect’s simple two-dimensional art style feels crisp and responsive and allows the game to run on just about every PC or laptop you may have opening up the (Usual resource intensive) management-sim genre to a whole new crowd. The game looks great and brings a slight comedic twist to the violence and dark nature of running a prison full of incarcerated inmates. The interface is simple and so goes a long way into allowing creativity. With a new room or angle in your prison two clicks away creativity is easily embraced.

There is so much promise in Prison Architect, everything it already offers and the constant, major updates that are consistently pushed to Steam it’s hard to imagine how far the final game will go in polishing the base mechanics and adding new systems for the player to develop and maintain a large scale, working prison. With Prison Architect already tied into the Steam Workshop system you can download different mods and spend a lot of time looking at other people’s work to inspire the direction of your prison. The ability to share your ideas and designs means inspiration is only a click away when you get stuck or how to get yourself out of the corner you have built yourself in too.

Prison Architect is currently in Early Access on Steam and available for the PC, Mac and Linux with prices starting at £14.99 for the base game all the way up too £34.99  for the ‘Name in the Game’ edition which allows you to name a character and write their biography to be featured as a prisoner in the game.

Ionball 2: Ionstorm Review

Poster_-_Ionball_2_-_Ionstorm_(PC)

IonBall 2: Ionstorm

Developed by: Ironsun Studios

Published by KISS Ltd

Reviewed on PC

Ionball 2 is a sequel to Ionball that was released on the Xbox 360 three years ago in 2011. Whilst the original was released only on a console, this sequel is only available on the PC platform from Steam, I have to admit now that I have not played the original title so I cannot compare the two titles and will be looking at this as a stand-alone game.

This game bears a very strong resemblance to Breakout that was released way back in 1976 in the arcades; I can remember playing one of the many ports of this for the Amiga around twenty years ago. The basic structure of Ionball has been around since the days of Pong, you have a paddle that moves along one side of the screen and you use this to keep your ball in play, in Breakout it was used to destroy a wall, in Ionball you destroy robots. Let the ball drop out of the screen, like in a game of pinball and you lose a life. As I said it is a basic structure that has been around since the dawn of games, so how have IronStorm Studios brought this into 2014?

Ionball_2_-_Ionstorm_(PC)_01Firstly the basic Breakout formula has been given a Sci-fi twist; you are playing to destroy robots that have taken over a space station. That is about as much as the story goes, but I really don’t think this game needs one, after all you are just using a paddle to bash a ball at robots. There are various differing levels, over 60, for you to play through. The levels have been given the sci-fi look with some nice looking backgrounds and Space Invaders looking robots floating around. These robots vary in each level, with different numbers and formations thrown at you, to try and make each level unique. It has to be said, after playing through a few of them they do begin to blend together, but this is to be expected for a game like this.

As I mentioned, you control a paddle at the base of the screen and use it to bounce a glowing ball towards the robots in the level, you control this by using the mouse and I have to state my first major problem with this game, there are no options to control the sensitivity of the controls. I found this quite surprising that the only motion input had no options. To start with I hated how sensitive my movements were, the only way I could change it was by going into settings on Windows and adjusting it there and then re adjusting it after I played the game. A very long winded and annoying way to change something that should have been integral to the game.

Ionball_2_-_Ionstorm_(PC)_07

Added to the overly sensitive controls the speed of the ball is insanely quick, most games of this type start off slow with the ball speeding up with each hit off of the paddle, not here, it started off quick and again the lack of options in gameplay was frustrating, there were no options to turn down the speed or the difficulty. I understand that this game has been designed to be difficult but it would be nice to have a learning curve, you are thrown in at the deep end and if your reflexes aren’t up to speed from the first hit of the ball then you will spend a lot of time restarting, I like difficulty in games, but I hate frustration when the difficulty is derived from the controls.

The music in the game is like the rest of the game, high speed and frantic, there are varying tracks from dance, techno and heavy rock, I found it weird and slightly distracting, and most of the songs in the background didn’t seem to fit with the sci-fi settings of the game. Visually it looks OK nothing terrible but also nothing amazing, not that you will get much chance to admire what’s on the screen, take your eyes off to admire anything and chances are the ball will go flying off the bottom, you have to concentrate if you are to master this, it is not really a game you can jump in and out of, at least not for me. As expected there are a variety of upgrades you can buy with the XP you earn by destroying robots, these are the usual widening of the paddle to make it a little easier, to purchasing weapons such as EMP’s to slow down the enemies or lasers and machines guns to destroy them.

Overall I have to say that there are some great signs of potential in this game, the difficulty level is high but if you are aware of this when you go in and are prepared to be patient and get used to the speed then you will enjoy it. With many levels and an online leader board to climb there is a fair amount to keep you busy, it’s not perfect though with a few tweaks needed to make it more accessible but it can be frantically fun to play, especially if you relish a challenge.

[wp-review]

Broforce Preview

broforce_-_logo

Broforce is a side-scrolling 2D run n’ gun shooter that jerks might compare to Contra but honestly its’ got more in common with a demolition derby than any of its fellow shooter bro-thren. Along with its pixelated aesthetic and action movie loving personality, what makes Broforce unique is its entirely destructible terrain and dozens of playable bros that you’ll end up switching between constantly.  Also there’s a LOT of explosions.

A lot of you have probably been trained to roll your eyes at the phrase “entirely destructible terrain” as you’ve been lied to far too many times by games like Red Faction over the years, but Broforce can shout this claim to the heavens without being struck by lightning because it’s completely true. We’re talking Worms level of devastation here, you’re encouraged to blow through stages in less than a minute but if you feel so inclined you’re  free to reduce the place to ashes; and even when you are heading straight for the choppa you’ll probably do that by accident half the time anyway. The stages of Broforce, all of which are set in Vietnam (in the current build anyway), feel very reactive in this way. Things blow up, catch fire and bounce around a lot, it all feels very alive; take what happens in Super Mario BROs. when you hit a block and it kills an enemy sitting on top of it, imagine that happening around 1000 times a second and you’re getting pretty close to how the average Broforce stage usually plays out.

The constant switching of bros is interesting in the midst of all this madness as well. Just like in Metal Slug there are prisoners you can save, but unlike Metal Slug these prisoners are actually captured members of the Broforce and are playable characters all of which are based on popular action movies. In multiplayer saving a prisoner will revive a dead co-op partner as the prisoner, in single player (or if all players are alive in multiplayer) you will automatically change to this character, which also acts as an extra life; losing a life also means you change to another bro at random. Basically, don’t get too attached to any one of the bros because chances are you won’t be playing one for more than 20 seconds at a time.

This is a different design mentality to something like the aforementioned Super Mario Bros, or Contra which people might lazily compare a game like this to. Those games give the player a completely pre-determined challenge with multiple solutions and ways to play…but still are thoroughly linear experiences. Broforce however changes the rules on you constantly, hell even Broforce isn’t sure what’s going to happen next, maybe an enemy will shoot a propane tank and blow up a whole section of the stage forcing you to wall hop your way to another route, or maybe you’ll save a prisoner and turn into Indiana Brones and his useless whip and get immediately ripped to pieces. It leads to a constantly engaging action experience that you can’t ever coast through because there is always something of importance happening.

Broforce_May_Update_-_Screen_2Now at time of writing Broforce is still in its Early Access stage and is still receiving regular updates. The most recent of which is the announcement that a new bro is being put into the game that allows directional shooting, whereas so far the game only had Mega Man/Metal Slug style forward shooting, along with extra secondary abilities that vary completely from character to character. I bring it up because at this incomplete stage of its development it’s a great example of everything that is great as well as everything that kind of doesn’t work about Broforce. In most games of this style something like the decision to go for directional or straightforward shooting would be a crucial one made very early on in development for the sake of the level design, but Broforce’s  organic balls-out action nature allows the team to just sort of flop it in there.

This is really cool in the sense that it gives the game near unrivalled variety in its field in the sense that all the characters play differently and the levels themselves are constantly changing shapes. It’s fascinating for an action game with such tiny stages achieve this level of organic gameplay and replay ability without resorting to something such as randomly generated levels. There is level design here, but you will have to attack it differently not just on every playthrough but on every attempt.

The downside to all of this comes from the chaotic nature of Broforce, don’t be mistaken, when the game is flowing and the action is coming hard and heavy it is fantastic, but there is a frustration element that comes with it. Of the probable hundreds of deaths I experienced during my time with Broforce I think I could probably perform a successful post-mortem on what actually killed me maybe…a dozen of them? More often than not something explodes and you jump straight to your next bro or jump back to the start of the level if you’re fresh out of lives. The action always restarts within a couple of seconds, and within a few more seconds you’re probably back to where you were anyway so none of this is a deal breaker. It is also easy to accidentally rescue a prisoner bro and change character without necessarily realising it or meaning to; so you experience some gamer whiplash when you get suddenly get switched from Rambo machine gunning through the stage at ease to say, the jerk who tosses dynamite two feet in front of him that explode on a delay.

Neither of these issues by themselves are major problems as they both play to the ever-changing flow of action in Broforce, but together they create a strange little psychology problem that dangles over the fun parts of the game. Say what you want about how fun the chaotic nature of the game is when its working, but there’s something weird with a game when you start to think “I’m enjoying this character, so I don’t want to rescue a prisoner because I might get changed to someone who’s useless at the moment, but I’m probably going to get killed randomly soon so I need to do it for the sake of the extra life so…DAMNIT!” It’s times like these where the two side effects of the insanity of Broforce start to rub together in a way that makes the game less fun.

Broforce_Braddock_-_Screen_3

Overall, Broforce is shaping up to be a tasty action game which provides organic high intensity gameplay in bite sized levels which are perfect for speed-running. The only issue is it might be a little too insane for its own good, but regardless that’s all part of its charm. Going it alone on this one might require some caution as the flaws become more obvious when you’re by yourself and thinking about it too much. Hopping online (or local) with friends blowing through Vietnam or the stages you create yourself in the level editor will surely be a blast when the network features have a little more polish to them. Broforce is rebrommended…brocommended….recombroded…just give it a try sometime okay?

broforce_may_update_-_key_artA group of writers from Frugal Gaming were lucky enough to spend some time with the multi together here’s their thoughts on BroForce.

Karlos Morale

TOTAL CARNAGE! I LOVE IT!

An eye-blistering hurricane of ultra-violence, BroForce is the videogame equivalent of a Starburst sweetie. Enjoy a rush of fruity armageddon on your screen for the time it takes you to chew up a tasty treat, then a brief pause to unwrap the next level before you get to savour it all over again. Currently single-player has the edge for me, as the multiplayer suffers from the decision to force all the players to stick to the same screen rather than allow you to follow your character directly. It’s a little too easy to lose your action hero amid the death and destruction. If they can solve this problem then this game receives my unequivocal recommendation and highly-coveted personal thumbs-up.

Bwortang
Set your nostalgia levels to 11, for the best action 80’s game that never was.
Still in early access this adrenaline fuelled action packed
Indie title allows up to 4 Bro’s to deal out aggressive liberation.  Each Bro has their own special weaponry which is instantly recognisable and set to overkill, as you battle terrorists, the destructible terrain an the urge not to release your trigger finger in the fight for freedom.
With scope for more Bro’s, new levels an greater explosions, this ticks all the action retro I’ve ever wanted. I purchased this for £5.99 an it’s without doubt my  purchase of this year.

PridedLlama

If you have ever made a mix tape, have a love for action films and still play video games chances are you are a child of the 80’s. BroForce is jam packed with a whole load of 80’s references, clichés and everything it does oozes machismo. The online multiplayer is a bombastic, if at the minute slightly sloppy whole heap of fist bumping fun, and the couple of hours we played together past by in the blink of an eye.

Sure it has it problems, it becomes so hard to track you on screen hero at times, if your screen centred on your character or even just had a permanent marker above its head would go a long way to fixing this problem. The netcode is as janky as BF4 at launch, but admittedly BroForce is in beta, and will remain that way until the end of the year so there is loads of time to sort that out before launch.

Deathmatch at the minute appears to be local only but I cant wait to check this out once an online version is sorted, and with custom levels and campaigns, race mode and a whole plethora of other bits and bobs to fiddle about with, the game sure won’t be light on content.

UglyGeezer
It’s early access, any problems that have been covered above will easily be ironed out.
When it’s finished I expect THIS GAME WILL BE FUCKING FANTASTIC!

Out Now on Early Access Steam.
Developed by: Free Lives
Published by: Devolver Digital

 

Outlast: Whistleblower Review

DLC_LOGO_Green-0

Outlast: Whistleblower

Reviewed on the Playstation 4

Also Available on PC

Developed and Published by: Red Barrels

Whistleblower is the first, and maybe only piece of DLC that has been released by Red Barrels for their first person horror survival game- Outlast. Outlast was originally released on the PC and released on the PS4 back in February as part of  the Playstation Plus Instant game collection. In case you haven’t played through this yet you can read my thoughts and review of it here.

This story based DLC is a prequel to Outlast. It allows you to briefly see the Asylum in its pre breakout state as you play the part of, as the title states- a whistleblower named Waylon Park. He was the anonymous worker who tipped off Miles Upshur leading him to investigate the Mount Massive Asylum and of course the shady Murkoff corporation running it. Seeing the Asylum before all hell broke loose is a nice and very interesting change of pace to the rest of the game, sadly though you don’t get too long to see it like this, before you are admitted as a patient against your will.

Attic-01

First of all I have to state that Whistleblower plays exactly the same as the main game, early on you will find a camera to record what is unfolding around you and just like before it has an eerie night vision mode. The night vision ramps up the suspense as you creep around avoiding the inmates who want to make you their latest victim or work of art. Despite Waylon not being a reporter he will make notes about what he records just like Miles. It would have been nice to see a difference between how the different characters play, as in reality it could well be the same person. You quickly forget that you are supposed to be playing the part of a tech assistant who was actually working at the Asylum before the outbreak.

The asylum is once again brought to life very well, you will visit a few areas that you will be familiar with, but there are enough new areas to make the game feel fresh. I did notice that the enemies you will face are slightly different. Many more of your pursuers will be equipped with various weapons, this goes a little way to showing why you are incapable of fighting back as in the original. I found it weird that you would not even try to hit back against enemies that were no bigger than yourself. It was still strange though, running past a corpse of a guard and not being able to try their radio , pick up their gun or even just search them to see if they have anything useful as surely this would be the first thing you would do in this scenario.

OUTLAST_DLC_SCREENSHOT

The various stages of Whistleblower do seem to have a better layout with more areas to hide away from your would-be killers and, apart from a couple of occasions, it seemed less mazy and confusing. You will still get the hugely frustrating parts where it feels like you are just playing a game of trial and error, especially towards the end of the game. It just isn’t clear what sections you can go through and also when you are well hidden or not.

If you are hoping that this trip to the asylum will be less harrowing and graphic, then you will be disappointed. This game ramps up the gore and in fact includes some of the most graphic and intense scenes I have ever seen in a video game. It can be genuinely terrifying, a fun horror game this is not. These scenes carry more weight due to how convincing the various inmates you encounter have been realised. Just like in the original title you do feel convinced that these are the sort of characters you would find in such an asylum as this, hopefully though I will never find out.

BrainTorture-01

If you enjoyed the main game and wanted to learn more about the story, then you will enjoy Whistleblower. It ties in perfectly with the original game as it is set both before and after the events of Miles. The end of Whistleblower tying perfectly into the ending of Outlast. Make no mistake though, this game has all of the flaws of the original and I did lose the fear factor towards the end of the game, as I felt I had seen all of the scares before and was growing tired of some of the unforgiving trial and error sections. Due to this I feel that Red Barrels have done enough now with this version of Outlast, it took me around 2 hours to complete any longer and it would have completely lost the suspense and terror that makes the game what it is.

A good bit of DLC that adds more to the story and also to the gore but adds absolutely nothing to the game play and I fear removes some of the terror generated first time round.

[wp-review]

South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

South Park Banner Small

South Park – The Stick of Truth | PC

Dev: Obsidian Entertainment | Pub: Ubisoft

All together now…

“Shut your f*cking face, Uncle F*cka!”

This new South Park game is an RPG featuring all the ‘Park gang in some typically outlandish situations involving aliens, Canadians, MenBearPigs and Taco Bell. Despite its troubled development and changes in publisher, SOT has actually ended up a high quality, polished product which manages that very difficult job of appealing to hardcore fans of the series as well as newbies.

South Park owes quite a debt to Double Fine’s awesome kid-starring role player, Costume Quest. Both games use the mechanic of a child’s imagination powering their struggles with real-world assailants, you and your little friend’s dressing-up games turning you into superheroes. Where Costume Quest was Halloween themed, Stick of Truth draws on the comedic value inherent in the generic fantasy RPG. Once it has had its’ fun with those clichés however, it expands its scope to something with greater breadth.

South Park Line up

Like the TV program upon which it is based, South Park pushes the boundaries of taste. Quite to what extent this will impact upon your enjoyment of the game is up to you to decide. If you think that jokes about rape, abortion and cancer have no place in your video games, you should steer well clear of this title.

For those of you who remain, South Park’s irreverent and crude world is there for you to explore. You will wander around, collecting loot and weapons whilst periodically getting into turn-based encounters with a variety of enemies. Attacks are often gross – more extreme examples include a female character throwing her used tampon at the boys. Farting on your foes is frequent, but for the most part it’s fairly standard ‘hit-enemy-A-with-weapon-rinse-and-repeat’ fare. Although one of the summons does involve Mr. Slave sucking enemies up his ass – so, you know, it rarely gets boring.

It does however offer quite different experiences depending on your familiarity with the franchise.

South Park Classes

There’s no way I’m writing five separate reviews for five different types of people who might approach this game, dude. That’s weak.

Seriously.

You guys?

GODDAMNIT!

1. Review for: People who read the opening quote and immediately starting singing the song and farting. You remember watching the movie when it came out in cinemas.

You’ve probably already bought this game from ASDA, and good for you! It’s like playing a 20 hour long episode of South Park, featuring all of your favourite characters from the series. No anal probing is left unreferenced. The experience is going to be one long fist-pumping exercise in nostalgia and gross-out jokes with some annoying ‘game’ elements littering your good time. You know what to do though, right? Hell, you already completed COD: Ghosts this year and totally smashed your mate Darren off the park in FIFA so you’re still a gamer.

This game has an autosave feature, so when Jo-ann tells you it’s time to ‘switch that thing off now’, you won’t lose any progress. Isn’t that super?

2. Review for: People who watch South Park all the time. You have a plush Cartman in your house and know what Kenny says in the opening credits.

You should definitely buy this. Trust me. You’re going to think this is a laugh riot. Matt and Trey wrote the script for the game and all the voices are present and correct. The Goth kids are suitably surly and – if you choose – Butters can take a major part in the action.

You’ll be quite happy to spend endless hours finding any extra little collectible and secret thing – and it will all be worth it.

3. Review for: People who remember South Park from the early days and watch it occasionally. You clicked on the link and laughed at the song.

This game could be for you – it depends on how much you’re going to enjoy the RPG experience. To get the most from the game, you’re going to need to explore every nook and cranny in this town. How do you feel about adding a couple of hours to the title as a result of searching for those last couple of Chimpokomon? You get an achievement out of it…

Try to complete the whole thing in a weekend if you can, or your enjoyment will wane. There are some pretty obvious optimal equipment sets and team mates to have, so you should be able to power through the game without much challenge.

4. Review for: People who don’t give a shit about South Park, didn’t click the link, but have an interest in RPG titles.

Tough sell, as this game is South Park through and through. The role-playing in this isn’t quite enough to sustain the game by itself – as the game points out, a lot of the questing is generic and pointless – and a lot of the rewards are just further references to the show. The game doesn’t want to throw up too much in the way of a barrier to you progressing through the main story, since it’s very pleased with and excited by the jokes it wants to tell. Not to say that SOT is a bad game by any stretch – it’s just that you’ll enjoy it less than your mate who is a big South Park fan.

5. Review for: The easily offended, who thought South Park had gone away years ago.

Just no.

Turn around.

Flee.

SOUTHP_1

At the end of the day, South Park – The Stick of Truth is the definitive South Park game without being a truly great RPG. It has many things going for it, but the shallow combat and under-developed item system means that an important chunk of the game is weak. Couple this with the facile puzzles and you have an entertaining one-shot title that uses gaming as a vehicle to provide some laughs. You get to decide for yourselves if it’s the kind of humour you enjoy.

[wp-review]

Reviewer: Karlos Morale

South Park: The Stick of Truth is out now for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3