Titan Attacks Review

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Titan Attacks

Reviewed on: PS Vita

Also on: PS3, PS4 PC.

Developed and published by PuppyGames

Space invaders was originally released in arcades in the summer of 1978 in Japan. At the time it was ground breaking and I am sure virtually everyone has heard of this classic. Released around the same time of modern classics like Star Wars, Alien and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Space Invaders really helped the Sci-Fi genre grow into what it is today and made developers Taito around $500m, a huge amount even comparable to the money made by Star Wars in its initial cinematic release. In the near forty years since 1978, there have been countless iterations of varying quality, trying to get a slice of the pie. Titan Attacks is one of the latest.

PuppyGames is a U.K. Based independent studio that specialise in Retro Chic (apparently that is a thing) games, based on many of the arcade classics. Titan Attacks was originally released on Steam in February 2012 and as such it has taken a little over two years to be released onto consoles and specifically the Playstation platform. If you purchase this game on the Playstation store you can play it on the PS3, the PS4 and my favourite for this title- the PS Vita. Whilst you can play this title on all three platforms there is no cross save feature, which is disappointing as other titles have managed to include this so that you can play it on your home console before carrying on your save game with the Vita on the go.

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Starting up the game for the first time I was greeted by some nice looking blocky pixels in bright colours, it nails the nostalgic look from the 8-Bit era but with a modern HD gloss that looks brilliant on your HD screen. If you somehow don’t know how a Space Invaders style game plays by now, get out from under that rock and know that Titan Attacks has the same premise. You are in control of a single Tank, the last hope for the protection of Earth and with that tank you must scroll from left to right shooting upwards to the Aliens coming downwards on a 2D screen.

As with the visuals the game-play is classic Space Invaders with a more modernised twist. You have your obligatory main cannon that shoots upwards towards the sky. You can rack up money in various ways, so that you can upgrade your tank, from upgrading the basic fire power and shields to enhancing your tank with extra add-on weapons and smart bombs that obliterate all enemies on the screen when deployed. Upgrading your tank is crucial if you are to progress through the levels and complete this game.

With the basic game-play being something that has been tried and tested for many years now it is amazing that this game is still capable of making it feel fresh, but it does. This is mainly due to the upgrading elements. There aren’t hundreds of options, but there are just enough to ensure that you keep going to unlock the latest boost for your tank. Managing your money between rebuilding your shield and upgrading your weapons can be a tough choice and sometimes comes down to trial and error, as you never know how tough the next wave is going to be until you are in it.

There are five different levels or, in this case planets that you have to battle through to get to the end. These levels aren’t hugely different from one another. Aesthetically the main difference is in the colour palette, this is after all a flat 2D world. The enemies do change slightly from planet to planet, with each progression resulting in harder enemies that can sustain more damage. At the end of each planet you have to face off against an alien mother-ship or, in this case I suppose they are Titans. These do bring a level of difficulty that on a couple of occasions frustrated me but, as with most bosses once you learn their patten it is relatively straight forward.

There is no difficulty setting in this game. The learning curve supposedly adjusts to how well you play in the early stages, if you are terrible it makes it easier later on but that does mean that it is harder to earn money. If you are getting through the first few stages with ease then it goes without saying that later on it will be tougher, but the extra money for upgrades compensates for that.

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As with the classic Space Invaders, the aim of this game is to rack up as many points as possible. With there being five different planets before you meet the end boss, you may think that there is a limit to how many points you can get, but in Titan Attacks there is no end. If you beat the final boss you simply start again with your upgrades and points intact, the more stages you clear without getting hit the higher your multiplier will be and as such the more points you will earn. It is a basic element adopted by so many games, but it is so addictive trying to get as many points as you can, so that you can climb the online score tables (my best was around 12th overall).

I have to admit that I am a big fan of these retro classic titles. I have played various iterations throughpot the years and I have really enjoyed playing this one. Visually it looks great, perfectly blending the classic Space invaders pixels with HD blocks and colours. It is brilliantly addictive, I am sure that if you get into it you wont be able to put it down again until you have managed to get high up the score boards. This game is proof that some of the oldest core game-play mechanics can stand the test of time.

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Steamworld Dig Review

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With portable gaming, context is everything. You’re often commuting, or doing something else whilst playing, maybe even both. In this environment, you need something to engage your brain, but nothing that will completely take it over. It’s why the big, epic games don’t translate well to the smaller screen. People don’t want it, and often developers don’t see that. But in the case of developer Image & Form, they know it all too well, and have created Steamworld Dig as a great slice of mobile gaming.

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The game revolves around a dwindling robot town, built above a mine your uncle left you. It’s up to you to explore the caverns below, mine the jewels found within, and discover the secrets in the shadows. Think Dig-Dug, with RPG Levelling, that looks like a cross between Abe’s Odyssey and Braid. The art style is great, and the character design is fantastic. The enemies are a bit boring, but they play a small role in the game. The robot townsfolk spring up as the game progresses, each one offbeat and funny, filled with clever design and dialogue.
Developers looking for good examples of carrot-and-stick gameplay should take notes here. The game is fantastically paced in terms of items and abilities. There’s always something to do and spend your coins on. Just when you think you’ve mastered the cave, you stumble on a whole new area, giving fresh possibilities and shortcuts to keep you playing that little bit longer. It’s nothing especially unique in the genre, but I think it’s worth noting as it’s done so well here.

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The upgrades and abilities themselves are also nicely balanced, too. Steam-powered drills and modifications require water, which can be found throughout pools and underground lakes throughout the game. Unlike other games, the water is limited. The pool will actually drain when you use it, making you dig further or make your way back to the surface. Steamworld Dig never stands still. Although empowering, the game always meets your new abilities with new challenges, preventing fatigue setting in.
When playing this game, I quickly realised that this game falls under the category of ‘inexplicable compulsion’. Games that take over you, games that swallow up hours of time, but you can’t quite explain why. I don’t know why I felt it was so important to make my Cow happy in Harvest Moon, or why I stayed up until 2am at aged 14 making sure the field of Turnips I planted on my Game Boy Colour grew perfectly. All I know is that at the time, that was all that mattered.

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Steamworld Dig has this compulsion built into it. The game looks nice, and the story is good enough, but I didn’t care about revitalising an old Robot town. I just needed to get a larger bag, a stronger pickaxe, to go deeper into that mine. At the heart of the game is this compulsion, and one which serves it well as an addictive platformer for a portable platform.
Its premise is simple. It’s gameplay has been done before, but Steamworld Dig does it all solidly and with aplomb. This is what a Vita game should be. You can pick up the game easily, but putting it down is the real challenge.

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Published by Image & Form

Strike Suit Zero: Directors Cut PS4

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Strike Suit Zero: Directors cut

Developed and Published by Born Ready Games

Strike Suit Zero is a space combat game that was initially released on the PC over a year ago, since then it has continued to be worked on by Born Ready Games with extra features and missions included to mark its release as the Directors Cut on the PS4 as a digital Download. This game is fairly unique in modern terms as I can’t recall the last time I was aware of a space flight combat game being released on a console that looked as though it could be a good experience.

I used to play many of these games when I was younger and it certainly reminds me of classic Star Wars games- like the fantastic Tie Fighter and Rogue Squadron series as well as other titles including Colony Wars that was released on the PS One and even the grandfather of this genre Elite, that was released before I was even born 30 years ago for the BBC Micro. With this lack of recent titles in this genre in my mind I feel as though this game could well have a found a big gap in the market to fill, the games I have just mentioned were all hugely successful selling a lot of titles.

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When loading up the game I was greeted to an introduction that explained the back story, which basically reads like many sci-fi stories set in deep space. There are two sides involved in a war, the colonists, who want to separate from Earth’s Control, and then the United Nations of Earth (UNE). You play the part of a pilot for the UNE who is caught in the middle of this far reaching and expensive war that could well end in the destruction of our home planet if you fail.

The music in the games menu screens as you prepare for missions really fits the futuristic sci-fi style perfectly, it sounds very similar to what I heard in Biowares Mass Effect games and personally I loved the soundtrack in those games. A problem I do have in the menus is that there is a lack of customisation options for the various ships you will use. Another annoying aspect for me was that certain weapons can’t be used in certain conditions and there was a couple of times when I was unaware of this until I had started the mission, leaving me with the choice of either carrying on and playing through hampered or restarting the mission entirely with a different load-out.

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Graphically this game looked OK, it was nothing special and in some aspects I was let down, mainly the detail on the ship you are flying is just not there, the textures seemed to be missing and it was distracting whilst I was playing through the game. The lack of detail doesn’t end there, on the majority of enemy ships and installations there is a distinct lack of detail with many of them looking like grey blocks with splashes of red on them when you get up close. This was certainly not something I was expecting from a PS4 title. Whilst I understand this is an indie title with a far lower budget than many AAA titles I remember the detail and visual beauty of Resogun and again am felt as though more work should have gone into this area, after all the ships are the main aspect that you will interact with. The backgrounds do look very nice though with large planets, novas and asteroid fields brought to life convincingly. One problem runs through it all though, it looks fairly bland, the colour scale is very conservative with only blues and reds seemingly used. I would have loved to have seen a hugely colourful battle with a variety of colourful lasers, ships and stations.

Moving on from the adequate but overall slightly disappointing graphics of the game, I have to look at how this game feels, do I feel as though I am in an interstellar war for survival in an advanced Space fighter that can transform from a ship to a kind of Bipedal Mech suit and again? I have to say I was left a little disappointed. The flying mechanics do work well and you feel in good control as you avoid enemies and make runs along side a larger cruiser or Corvette ship. Sadly though there isn’t enough variety. There are just four differing classes of enemies; fighters, corvettes, frigates and Cruisers. Sure there are different types of fighters but I honestly couldn’t tell what the difference was between them in the heat of battle.

As well as these dog fighting sections there are the obligatory missions where you have to attack and destroy stationary, but well armed Space stations and weapons platforms, but these play exactly the same as the rest of the missions. This isn’t to say that it isn’t fun to play, many of the missions are hugely enjoyable. You can launch a huge missile assault on a Cruiser before speeding off to take out a bunch of Fighters before returning to another run at the larger ship and this does feel great, as though you could be in a movie. The main draw back is that once you get to the half way point you realise that all the variety in the game has been and gone. From here on in it does feel like a grind as you rinse and repeat the different aspects, just in larger and more time constricted missions to get to the end.

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Some of these problems look to have been slightly addressed in the extra missions included in the directors cut.  Firstly it introduces weak points in the larger ships making them much harder to destroy, even harder as the game doesn’t tell you where the weak points are, leaving you to a bit of trial and error before you find them and again this is something I personally, wouldn’t have expect of a refined version of a game, especially as it has been out for a year already on other platforms.

Overall I have to say that Strike Suit Zero has some good points and the basis of a very good game. It just feels as though it hasn’t been finished to me, the lack of textured detail on the ships is unforgivable for a PS4 title in my opinion. But the game at times is very fun to play through, the problem is that it needs more variety as the fun game play quickly becomes a chore as you repeat it over and over

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Playstation 4 Version Reviewed (also available on Xbox One and PC)

Metal Gear Solid 5 Ground Zeroes Review

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Developer: Kojima productions

Publisher: Konami

Platform: Playstation 4

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes sees Big Boss make his first outing on the new generation of games consoles, in what is effectively a teaser for the full game arriving (hopefully) next year- in The Phantom Pain. For all intents and purposes, this is the Tanker mission for MGS2 or the virtuous mission in Snake Eater. The only difference is that Konami are charging you around £30 for this experience and releasing it a year in advance of the full game, in an attempt to showcase the new Fox engine that is running on the PS4, and in turn raise the anticipation levels for the release of the Phantom Pain in the future. So the big question is, is this game worth buying?

The first aspect of the game I noticed when I started playing it is just how stunning it is graphically, the opening cut scene (Kojima may have cut back on them but he will never stop having them) looks beautiful. It introduces you to the Ground Zeroes mission. This mission follows on from Peace Walker that was released on the PSP (then re-released on the PS3 a few years ago). This mission is set at night and in the rain, this gives the opportunity to  showcase the incredible lighting effects, whilst you hide in the shadows with searchlights scanning the ground around you. But it is during the day where you truly see a huge leap in graphics that the PS4 is able to produce, a lifelike world is created, each enemy has an individual and distinct look to them. There are no copy and paste armies chasing you, even the grass sways perfectly in the wind as clouds move slowly overhead affecting the sunlight shining down, I have not seen anything as photo realistic so far on the PS4.

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The transition from cut scene to gameplay is seamless. I couldn’t visibly discern any drop in the visuals and this is very welcome. I have often previously felt cut scenes running at higher detail draw you away from the game. Big Boss himself really does looks life like, he is not only voiced by Kiefer Sutherland but his facial animations have also been captured from the actor and this is evident as the voice perfectly matches the facial expressions. Sadly, Snake does not say too much in this game, so it is hard to judge how well the switch from David Hayter voicing snake has been handled in too much depth, but early impressions are that the voice of Kiefer does match this older Big Boss fairly well.

Metal Gear Solid games have always been about stealth and this one is no exception. Set in the mid 1970’s there is no Soliton radar to help you out. This game feels similar in style to Snake Eater, my personal favourite of the series, and whilst there is no radar you do have a pair of binoculars that you can use to tag enemies to help you keep track of them as they move around the map. These binoculars also have a directional microphone, great for listening in to conversations between the guards to give you small hints and clues.

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The game encourages you to sneak around and stay undetected, the core of the MGS series, but this is no mean feat when you find yourself on an army base full of guards. Even with the ability to keep track of enemies they have keen eyesight, especially in the daylight. They can even spot your shadow as you hide behind a wall and will come to investigate if their suspicions are aroused. Like previous games, you are armed with a silenced tranquilizer pistol. Ammo is scarce and if you do knock your enemies unconscious, you have to hide their bodies as their comrades will investigate anything out of the ordinary. Yep, it’s classic MGS.

When you do get caught, and you invariably will do, a new mechanic in the game is activated. You get a couple of seconds in what is called ‘reflex mode’ to get in a quick head shot on the enemy before he can call for reinforcements or simply find the best route for escape. This option can be turned off in the options if you want an even bigger challenge than hard mode already is. At no point in my time with this game have I felt it is unnecessarily hard or easy, the gameplay feels well balanced and this is due to the open ended nature with which you can play the game.

Ground Zeros is set in a sand box world. You can go anywhere on the map and the missions can generally be completed in any way that you wish or can think of. Sneaking is obviously favourable and feels the most satisfying but if you want to go in all guns blazing then there is nothing stopping you grabbing a rocket launcher and literally blowing your way through the front gate. It is this choice that made the game so great for me. Early on in the game you have to get through a closed gate, in the past you would have had a more specific way of achieving this task, but not now. I have got past this point using three different ways, I have snuck around and found a side entrance, I have hidden myself on the back of a truck as it goes through, and I have also planted C4 on a vehicle and blown both the vehicle and the gate up letting me walk through or even drive. All of the vehicles in the base are drivable, nothing feels off limits. You really can play this game in a way I have not experienced before.

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In the run up to the release of this game, director Hideo Kojima, announced that the campaign mission could be completed in a couple of hours, this had many people angry that such a short game could be released and charged for. I did complete the initial mission in around two hours on my first playthrough. But it doesn’t end there, this simply unlocks four other ‘side’ missions and if you collect all of the XOF patches also the Deja Vu Mission exclusive to Playstation.

I have played this game for over ten hours and still do not feel that I have completed it, there is so much more to do if you choose to and completing the missions is just the start. The open world allows and actively encourages you to try out new routes and methods. After playing this I am very excited to play the Phantom Pain- especially if it is around 200 times larger as Kojima has suggested. Essentially by making me feel this way, the game has succeeded in its aim.

If you are a fan of Metal Gear games then this is well worth the £20 it cost to purchase, if you aren’t or have never played a Metal Gear game before then I still recommend that you try it out. Few games give you the freedom that Ground Zeroes does, the missions may be on the short side but they really are incredible to experience.

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Also Available on PS3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Reviewer: James Holland. 

Gioteck EX-06 Wireless Headset Review | PS4

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Gioteck EX-06 Wireless Headset | Reviewed Using PS4
One of the most common questions I get asked is which PS4 compatible headsets provide the best value for money. So I decided to do some research to try and answer this question as accurately as possible. I scoured the internet for reviews of the Gioteck EX-06 as I had got lots of positive feedback about them. Nearly every review I found were by people that had been sent the headsets by Gioteck to review and pretty much every one of those reviews were positive. Being the cynical chap I am, I never take much notice of reviews where people have been given stuff by the manufacturer, just in case this has clouded their judgement.

So I thought I’d take a punt and buy them in order to write a review. When I bought these for a very frugal £36 from Asda, I wasn’t expecting much. I have always found Gioteck products to be very good quality, but surely there’s no way of making a quality wireless headset for the PS4 for only £36?

Maybe, just maybe I was wrong.

First impressions
After unboxing, you are presented with a hard carry case which the headset is stored in. This is a nice touch as every other gaming headset I own ends up getting chucked in to a drawer where they inevitably end up damaged or at the very least get blu-tack stuck on them. Upon opening the case you find the pretty impressive looking headset, folded up in a way that resembles the headset equivalent of the fetal position. Not the tat I was expecting at all. The headset comes with various cables, including USB to Mini USB cable for charging and a cable that plugs in to the PS4 controller which enables chat.

After removing the headset from it’s case I was surprised with how well made they felt. Like many other Gioteck products they have a rubberised finish that makes them almost arousing to touch (this maybe just me). They also unfold with a satisfying snap and felt very sturdy. The mic can be connected to either side of the headphones, or detached and stored away when not required.

Connecting to console
The USB connector is unfortunately a really annoying design as it requires slightly more space in front of the console than most others I have used. However, connecting the receiver to the PS4 is easy as can be, you simply plug the USB wireless receiver in to the console, change one audio setting on the PS4 and you’re ready to roll. Once you have plugged it in, you then need to turn on the power button on the headset and they pair seamlessly.

Comfort
As soon as I put these on to my ample head, I realised much to my surprise that these were actually the most comfortable headphones I had ever owned. They fit really snugly and don’t feel like you’ve got a mobile disco balancing on your head, unlike some Turtle Beach headsets. To put them to the test, I undertook a small selection of physical activities to see just how well they stayed on. 5 press ups, 3 sit ups and one near heart attack later, they were still sitting firm and I almost forgot that I was wearing them.

Getting your game on
I then fired up my console and started to play Resogun as I thought this would be the perfect game to test out a wide range of audio levels. Straight away I realised there was a problem as the sound was cutting out every 2 seconds, making it impossible to hear what was going on in the game. At this point I was sitting about 3 feet to the right of my PS4 as I had the console connected to my PC monitor instead of my main TV, which is where the console and wireless receiver are situated. It soon became clear that the position that I was sitting was causing a connection problem. Although the headset specification states it has a wireless range 20ft, this only seems the case if there is a direct line of sight between the headset and the receiver. Any deviation from this causes the headset to cut out. Even sitting with your feet up obstructing the connection between the headset and the receiver will cause problems.

I have used many wireless headsets and out of all of them this was the only one I have had connection problems with. With my previous Turtle Beach wireless headset, I could go relieve myself in the toilet upstairs  whilst still wearing the headset without any connection problems or interference (much to the dismay of the people in my party chat). But with this set, I’d have no such luxury.

Sound Quality
The sound quality is pretty impressive for a headset that costs under £40. However, after playing several different games it became clear that sound quality is the main difference between these and the higher priced alternatives. Although the sounds of the voices, music and bass are all impressive individually, when you blend them all together the levels just don’t seem right. The bass and music tend to overpower the characters when they are talking, making it hard to understand what they are saying. If you increase the volume to try and hear what the characters are saying, the bass, background music, sound effects and gunfire will make you want to toss the headset across the room. If there was some way to equalize the sound levels there wouldn’t be a problem, but unfortunately there is no such feature on the PS4.

Overall, the sound is pretty good and I’m sure 90% of gamers would think they sound great. But if like me you are an anally retentive audio whore, you may want to invest in a more expensive alternative!

Chat
This is the one area where the headset really fails to impress. Although I could hear others in party chat well enough, they had problems hearing me. I sounded quiet and slightly distorted and the sound quality of the mic was worse than that of the standard headset included with the PS4. One positive is that you can change the game and chat volume independently to each other, enabling you to get the balance of game sound and chat volume set to your personal preference.

Conclusion
Overall this is a very good headset for the money, in fact I am pretty sure it’s the best wireless headset you will find for under £40. It’s well made, looks great and rivals even the most expensive headsets in terms of comfort. Unfortunately the disappointing wireless coverage, off kilter sound levels and piss poor mic stops it being a serious contender to other headsets such as the Turtle Beach PX4’s and Sony Gold wireless headset. I would also be hesitant to pay the full price for this headset, which is around the £70 mark.

If you are a gamer with a limited budget looking for a decent sounding headset, then the Gioteck EX-06 headset is for you. If you are looking for a wireless headset that has amazing sound quality and wireless coverage, save up a bit more cash and opt for a higher spec alternative.

For me, the wireless problems I encountered seriously effected my final score. If I hadn’t had these problems I’d have rated them 7.5/10

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This headset also compatible with the Xbox 360, PS3, Mac & PC and is currently £36 in-store at Asda.

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Official Gioteck Video

Specifications and features

  • Folding Hinge System: Fold-up design that allows for easier storage and transportation
  • 2.4GHZ Wireless Technology: Advanced wireless digital technology that broadcasts game audio up to 20ft
  • Superior Fit & Finish: Designed with superior materials for the ultimate comfortable fit
  • Flexible Mic Arm: Extensive adjustment for perfect positing and maximum voice clarity
  • Integrated Audio Controls: Intuitive audio controls on the ear cups for quick, easy access
  • Virtual Surround Sound: Featuring a virtual surround sound effect  for total game immersion
  • Advanced Noise Reduction: Eliminating game sound interference from external sources
  • Rich Detailed HD Audio: Delivering crisp highs, deep lows and everything between
  • Compatible with: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PC and Mac

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Don’t Starve: Console Edition Review

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Developer/Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Version reviewed: PlayStation 4
Release date: January 7, 2014

Don’t starve. This is a simple rule, no? I mean, maintaining your vitality by cramming your pie hole with nutrient-rich foods is a staple part of everyday life, and if you’re reading this review chances are you’ve gotten pretty good at it. Apply this rule to a Roguelike videogame, however, and suddenly things aren’t so simple. Such is the case with Don’t Starve, the latest IP from Vancouver-based development studio Klei Entertainment. Released on Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux last year via Valve’s Steam platform, it landed on the PlayStation 4 in January to captivate the console market, but does this indie adventure have what it takes to lure gamers away from triple A behemoths like Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition?

The game begins by dumping your character, an intrepid gentleman scientist named Wilson, in a strange world. A dapper beanpole of a man materialises to inform you of your gaunt condition, advises you to chow down before nightfall arrives, and then leaves you to fend for yourself. The exposition is vague, though more about the title’s backstory can be learned from its promotional trailer. On a dark and stormy night, Wilson (who looks an awful lot like an Edgar Allan Poe caricature) is tricked into building a mysterious contraption by a windup radio, promising him “secret knowledge” in return, but when he activates said contraption spirits whisk him to an alternate realm. It transpires that this is the sinister work of dapper beanpole man, a.k.a. half-demon Maxwell, who no doubt plans to use Wilson’s machine for evil and stuff.

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The first thing to know about Don’t Starve is that your survival relies entirely on exploration and self-discovery. There is no tutorial; there are no instructions, or “go here, do this” waypoint markers. You are alone in this seemingly hostile environment, and how best to look after Wilson’s health, hunger and sanity levels is up to you. Taking cue from the game’s title, I decided to make nourishment my priority on playthrough one, collecting all manner of seeds, berries and vegetables as I skipped through the forest. A veritable feast in my possession, I was extremely pleased with myself, yet as the foreboding darkness loomed it dawned on me that my single-mindedness caused me to overlook the importance of light. Blackness engulfed the screen and ‘something’ removed Wilson’s appendages with its teeth as I held my head in my hands. Lesson 1: darkness equals imminent death.

Playthrough two saw me change my strategy. This time, I gathered everything I stumbled upon – vegetables, twigs, grass, flint, rocks, an unhappy butterfly… When I came to review my bulging inventory minutes later, I realised I had the raw materials to construct a makeshift axe. Then the epiphanies came in thick and fast; with an axe, I could chop trees into logs. With logs, I could build a campfire, which I could fuel with grass and twigs. It wasn’t long until I was well into my first week, living off the fatta the lan’, but when Wilson’s sanity took a dive on day five he began to hallucinate, and the shadowy products of his delirium beat him to a pulp. Lesson 2: insanity equals unusual death.

The rather long-winded point being made here is that the inevitability of your demise lessens the more time you spend in this obscure, and often ruthless, landscape. Once players acquaint themselves with Don’t Starve’s crafting system, master their micromanagement skills and establish a list of wilderness do’s and don’ts (tip: don’t aggravate a swarm of killer bees. Ever), keeping Wilson alive becomes second nature. This enables you to focus your attention on discovering the title’s hidden wonders, from secret spelunking caves and rare items to a hidden Adventure Mode that slowly unearths the motivation behind Maxwell’s villainy. In fact, there’s an incalculable amount of satisfaction and achievement to be had here if you’re willing to put in the hard work.

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A piece of advice though: do not get complacent. In keeping with the Roguelike sub-genre associated with RPGs and MMORPGs, dying in Don’t Starve is permanent. If you fall victim to the harsh conditions of winter, run out of supplies or get mauled by a pack of ravenous hounds, it’s back to the drawing board. To add insult to injury, the layout of each world is procedurally generated, meaning that when you do start a new game you won’t be able to follow your previous strategy step by step because the placement of landmarks, items and resources will have changed. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, as it compels players to take Wilson’s safety seriously, but that doesn’t negate the frustration they’ll feel when a Tallbird perforates their skull for wandering into its territory by mistake, robbing them of their progress.

Believe it or not, when you eventually meet your maker, some good does come of it. Aside from gaining valuable knowledge that will undoubtedly prove useful in a later playthrough, you’ll also be awarded experience points that unlock new characters. There are eight to earn in total, including Willow, an unpredictable pyromaniac with an unbreakable lighter, Wolfgang, a hard-hitting strongman and nyctophobic, and Woodie, a Canadian lumberjack with an imperishable axe and “a terrible secret” (according to the game’s Wiki). Each of the gang’s specific abilities is balanced by a weakness that can affect your tactics drastically, and this works well to introduce further variety, presenting some very interesting in-game scenarios.

Of course, all of the above would count for nothing if the game’s transition from PC and Mac to console was substandard. Thankfully, the PS4 port of Don’t Starve performs much like the original, running at a fluid 60 frames per second in true 1080p. The hand-drawn, Tim Burton-esque art style is delivered with vibrancy and crispness, and none of the quirkiness Klei Entertainment’s indie gem was praised for first time around has been lost in translation. Its mouse/keyboard control scheme is surprisingly well suited to the DaulShock 4 too. The D-pad performs multiple context-sensitive actions, L2 and R2 handles crafting and inventory management options (navigated using the thumbsticks), and the face buttons are reserved for simple tasks such as picking up items and swatting foes with whatever you’re wielding at the time. In this respect, the learning curve is gentle – a definite plus considering the unforgiving, trial and error-based nature of gameplay.

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So does Don’t Starve hold its own against the latest big budget productions from EA DICE, Ubisoft and Crystal Dynamics? Unquestionably. Yes, it is a slow burner, offering little in terms of help or guidance, but the deeper you delve into this fascinating gothic world and its clever mechanics the harder it is to put down. Time will tell whether it has the clout to outshine Markus Persson’s Minecraft or Re-Logic’s Terraria, but speaking from experience its creativity and peculiarity succeeds at keeping the player’s attention for hours at a time. Given that PS Plus members can download it free of charge from the PlayStation Store as part of Sony’s Instant Game Collection, you’ve absolutely no reason not to get lost in this eerie IP.

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