Gaming: Nintendo Switch Initial Impressions

November 2, 2017

A quick update for those who asked me to review my recently purchased Nintendo Switch.

So far it’s terrific. Only three games – Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart and Mario + Rabbids (and I haven’t even tried playing that one yet) – but the machine works like a charm, is very user-friendly and has a comfortable controller.

Obviously Nintendo make some of the best games on the market and for that reason alone it’s worth buying.

There look to be some downsides, like a poor online mode and cumbersome third party support, but really – much like the Wii and the Wii U before it – it looks like it’ll be a console that a lot of gamers will have as well as a PS4/Xbox One/PC rather than instead of.

But for portability, functionality and (first party) game quality, you’ll find value in a Switch.

Oh, and by the way, Mario Odyssey so far seems to deserve the hype. It’s sensationally good.

Advertisements

Stuart’s Steam Summer Sale Recommendations

July 2, 2016

There’s this belief that people just waste their money in the Steam Summer Sale.

Let’s be honest; that’s probably true. I know that in the past I’ve bought games without much thought because they are going cheap and then have either never played them or played them once and realised they weren’t for me. Certainly for me the Flash Sales resulted in me panic buying.

The good news this year is that everything that’s on sale will stay at their reduced price for the duration of the event, meaning you can take your time deciding what to buy.

And while it might be that you purchase a game for £3 on a whim and don’t like it, who really cares? Think of it like this; a couple of months ago I bought Dirt Rally for the PS4 for £42. I didn’t like it and despite trying a few times to get some utility out of it, I soon threw in the towel and uninstalled it. Earlier this week, I bought 7 games and a DLC pack from Steam for £21. I’ve already played some of these games for longer than Dirt.

So on that note, here are some games that I think are safe bets for anyone who likes gaming.

BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien: £2.19 (80% off)

This is a side scrolling platform style running game where you have to jump, slide and burst through obstacles in time with the rhythm of the game’s sound track.

It looks good, it’s colourful and it’ll take up around 9 hours of your time based on how long it took me to complete. Like everything else on my list, it’s a bargain.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/218060/?snr=1_5_9__205

Civilization V – The Complete Edition – £8.06 (92% off)

Unquestionably the greatest bang for your buck in the Steam sale comes from the complete edition of Civilization 5.civ5

Along with the bare bones game, you get the Brave New World and Gods & Kings expansion packs and all the other scenarios. It turns out to be a saving of almost £90.

I’ve always considered the Civ series as one where I’ll play it non stop for a weekend and then not return to it for about a year, and at that price, it’s definitely worth it.

My only note of caution would be that you need a decent PC to be able to run it. If you don’t have that, why not buy the complete Civ 4 for £3.74?

http://store.steampowered.com/bundle/575/

Cook, Serve, Delicious! – £1.74 (75% off)

You run a restaurant, choose the menu, buy different types of food and then you have to cook and serve it to customers either using your keyboard or with the click of the mouse.

The aim is to turn your restaurant into a 5 star establishment.

It’s addictive and challenging, but good fun.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/247020/

FTL: Faster Than Light – £2.09 (70% off)

You take charge of a spaceship and try to get it as far across the galaxy before it inevitably gets destroyed by asteroids, fires or space pirates.ftl

It’s a ‘roguelike’ game which means you play until you die and then you start again with a new randomly generated map.

Great for a quick game now and again.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/212680/?snr=1_5_9__205

LEGO… (33% – 75% off)

Whether it’s Batman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Marvel, Star Wars or The Hobbit, there’s probably a LEGO game out there for you.

And most of them are currently on sale for £3.74.

http://store.steampowered.com/tag/en/LEGO/#p=0&tab=NewReleases

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ – £1.99 (75% off)

I’m going to assume you know what Pac-Man is.

This is pretty much the definitive version and it’s available for a mere £1.99 at the moment.

Buy it now, thank me later.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/236450/

Papers, Please – £3.49 (50% off)

You might think that a game where you play as a guard at a Soviet border checkpoint wouldn’t be that much fun, but then you’d be wrong.

Garnering praise from all corners, this is a surprisingly deep, wonderfully written and executed PC gem.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/239030/

Party Hard – £2.59 (75% off)

Most of the games on this list are ones that generally review well, and if I’m honest are games that I’ve bought on the strength of hearing that they are good.partyhard

But I bought Party Hard in spite of mediocre reviews because the premise seemed interesting.

Basically you play as a guy who goes to various parties and must kill everyone there without being caught. You need stealth and patience, and it can be frustrating to have to try 100 times to beat a certain level, but I really enjoyed it.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/356570/

Pinball FX 2

The best pinball game out there, this is all about buying the right table for you. And right now, most tables are available for at least 75% off.

Trying to beat your own score is one thing, but for me the fun in Pinball FX 2 is competing against my friends for the best score.

So whether it’s Family Guy, Star Wars, Marvel or any other themed table you’d be interested in, buy some now convince a friend to as well.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/226980/

Plants vs Zombies GOTY Edition – £1.06 (75% off)

It’s over 7 years old now and the chances are you’ve played it, but just incase you haven’t, this charming Tower Defence strategy game is available for just over a quid.

And you can’t say fairer than that.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/3590/

RISK Factions – £1.99 (75% off)

It’s the classic board game brought to your PC, but with a story mode and bit of a modern spruce up.

You can play through the single player mode on your own if you want and you’ll still get more than your money’s worth, but I reckon playing it with friends either at home or online would be even better.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/47800

SpeedRunners – £2.74 (75% off)speedrunners

I only just bought this game today but I feel strongly enough about it to recommend it to you.

It’s a running racing game where you must overcome obstacles to get far enough ahead of the other players to knock them off the screen; a bit like the old Micro Machines games I suppose.

It’s fast, it’s stylish and it’s fun.

Like most games on the list you can play it on your own or with friends.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/207140/

Worms Reloaded: Game of the Year Edition – £2.84 (85% off)

Leaving probably the best for last, this is the definitive version of the long running Worms Franchise.

It’s six years old now, but every version of the game that has come out since has paled in comparison to this, as Team 17 try to make it more modern or 3D.

Worms doesn’t need that; it needs colourful, cartoonish 2D graphics and simple varied game modes.

That’s what Reloaded gives you.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/22600/

The sum total of these 13 games I’ve recommended comes to £36.26. Dirt Rally on the PS4 costs £38.99.

I know what I’d rather spend my money on…

Have you got any recommendation? Let me know.


Games – Gone Home Review (or ‘Why You Should Never Buy A Game On Review Scores Alone’)

June 7, 2016

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll notice I don’t ‘score’ anything I review. The reason for that is because scoring is meaningless and often misleading. It’s the reviewer picking some arbitrary number out of their head from a scale of 1-5, 10 or 100, based on their own personal opinions and skewed to ensure everything either finishes in the top or bottom 25% of that scale.

But as much as scoring is meaningless, it’s also dangerous to you as the reader of the review. Why? Because if you are honest, if there’s a score in a review that’s pretty much the only thing you’re going to read and you’ll base your decision to buy/consume the product based on that.

I bring this up because if you google the ‘acclaimed’ PC and Console game, Gone Home – one of two free games available with your PS Plus subscription this month – then the first thing you’ll notice is that it gets gonehome9.5/10 from the well-respected gaming site IGN.

9.5/10?! “Wow”, you might think ,“that must be a great game; one of the all time classics.”

People will buy that game blindly based upon that score alone. I know I’ve done similar in the past, and even though I got it as part of my subscription to PS Plus today, I’ll also hold my hand up to being interested in playing Gone Home without knowing what it was, because of it.

But then I played it.

And after playing it for half an hour I dug a little bit deeper and actually read the review on IGN and – more tellingly – the comments from the public underneath it.

There were a lot of angry people.

Why?

Because the score doesn’t tell the story of what Gone Home actually is.

What it involves is walking around a house, picking up items, looking at them and putting them down. Occasionally picking one of those items up will trigger some narration from the woman you are controlling as she reminisces about her childhood friend-turned girlfriend.

But that’s all there is to it.

You wander around the house, you pick up every item and once you’ve been into every room – finishing in the attic – it ends. There’s no objectives, no quest, no danger, no actual gaming involved.

Bell to bell, Gone Home lasts for about an hour.

Full price, it costs £14.99.

£14.99 for an hour’s worth of gameplay – such as it was – and no replay value.

And yet it was given a score of 9.5/10 on the same scale that IGN use for reviewing every game in the world.

I genuinely cannot understand it. Even if the guy reviewing it really liked it for what it was and even if it’s the best walking-around-and-picking-things-up simulator there’s ever been, he must also have to accept that the lack of any sort of challenge and the cost of game versus the length of it means that there’s no argument to support that score, arbitrary or otherwise.

But he didn’t and so his 9.5/10 is what Gone Home’s reputation will be enhanced by forever.

And I don’t think that’s right.

I’m just thankful I didn’t pay for it…

 


Games: Kopanito All-Stars Soccer (or ‘Surprisingly Challenging Pick Up & Play Fun’)

May 28, 2016

I don’t often feel compelled to write game reviews, which you’ve probably noticed seeing as I’ve not done one all year.

But when I do it’s because a game is either very special or isn’t well known and deserves some credit.

In recent weeks I’ve bought and played some big name games which have reviewed very well, such as the recently released Overwatch (which I think is decent but not deserving of the level of praise it’s been getting), Dirt Rally (which is a bit too repetitive and ‘realistic’ to offer the pick-up-and-play fun I wanted) and Far Cry Primal (which I sunk around 20 hours into but was lacking in comparison to its predecessors),

Its Guatemala vs Venezuela. Yay.

Its Guatemala vs Venezuela. Yay.

but none of them have stood out.

Instead it’s a game that cost me a mere £2 on steam that I want to write about…

A game called Kopanito All-Stars Soccer.

Now I’m a big football fan as you probably know if you pay attention to this blog or follow me on twitter (@sgmilne) and as a gamer that means I dedicate a lot of time to both FIFA and Football Manager. But I accept that my enjoyment of these games comes from knowing a lot about the sport. If I didn’t like football then FM would just be a load of words and numbers, while FIFA would probably end up being too complex to grasp. I feel like that about games such as EA’s Madden, NBA and NHL efforts.

For me, the best sports video games are often the simple, arcadey ones. The likes of Mario Tennis, Golf, Baseball or Strikers, or the NFL Blitz series.

And this is where Kopanito All-Stars Soccer is great.

It’s cartoonish graphical style and simple 2 button approach to the sport makes for a quick pick up and play experience for the PC. And unlike the more serious sports games, there are also power ups such as missile shot and magnet ball that add that extra sense of barmy fun.

But it’s also surprisingly difficult, and I mean that in a good way.

Once I’d won a tournament on beginner mode I tried the next level up and I kept getting pumped. So I adjusted my style of play to stop chasing the opponent every time it had the ball and ended up getting some success. And do you know what? It felt very rewarding.

The strength in Kopatino is that you don’t really need to appreciate football to appreciate or understand the game, while at the same time, it’s challenging enough to make you want to play it over and over again.

Steam says I’ve played it now for over four hours since I first had a shot yesterday, and that’s far more enduring than my desire to go back to Overwatch or Dirt.

And the beauty of it is that it cost me far less money.

I’d urge you to give it a try yourself; it’s great.


Shovel Knight Review (or ‘Hits The Sweet Spot’)

December 3, 2015

If you’re reading this on the day of publishing, you’ve probably just had a look at my review of Tearaway: Unfolded.

For me, it was symptomatic of modern video games; it looked nice, but ultimately offered no challenge and its supposed value was bolstered by pointless and repetitive side quests that made up more than 50% of the overall experience. And really, who has the time or the inclination to bother with that?

On the other side of the coin now we have Shovel Knight (available on almost every platform but I played it on the PS4).

Shovel Knight is a game that I’ve had my eye on for some time but was slightly put off  of because in spite of glowing reviews from the video game press, many gamers seemed to find it too difficult.Shovel_knight_cover

I decided to take the plunge though, and I’m glad I did.

Though it’s not the longest game in the world and is designed in that 8-Bit NES style (which I have to say I love but I’m aware that some developers seem to use it as a crutch to hide bad game design) this is everything that modern games like Tearaway: Unfolded are not; it’s challenging and it’s fun.

To complete Shovel Knight requires skill. You have to be able to make use out of the weapons you buy and there has to be a certain amount of ability to learn when to use moves and how to traverse the many potential platform dangers in the game. And that’s great.

You won’t just complete Shovel Knight by putting it on and sitting there for ten hours going through the motions; you have to work for it.

On the other side of the coin though, this isn’t ridiculously difficult like some games, or at least not for my skill level. In the past similar styled platformers like Ms. Splosion Man 2 have seemed like a frustrating exercise in muscle memory; the sort of game you just want to break your control pad over. You might have to replay a part of the Shovel Knight five, ten or even twenty times before you get past it but when you do, you’ll feel you’ve earned it.

Similarly, bosses aren’t too hard, nor do boss fights last 20 minutes. For me there’s nothing more frustrating than spending ages on a boss fight only to have to die and start again from the beginning. This gets boss fights right. Hard enough but not too bad.

And there aren’t hundreds of pointless side quests either,

Really, this was a single player platform game that ticked all the boxes and hit the sweet spot in terms of difficulty and enjoyability.

Unlike Tearaway: Unfolded, this is a game that absolutely deserves the praise it gets.

The only thing I would mark it down on is that having tried it on the PS Vita (the game is a cross-buy so if you buy it for one Sony console you buy it for them all) and on that, the controls seemed fiddly and frustrating. That’s a problem with the Vita rather than the game though I think.

So if you’re going to buy it then play it on a your PS4 or Wii U rather than on a handheld.

Either way though, make sure you do buy it. It’s fantastic.

 

 


Tearaway: Unfolded Review (or “Charming But Devoid Of Challenge”)

December 3, 2015

Sometimes I think developers forget what makes a video game an actual game.

What’s involved in it? Is there a challenge? Is there a reason to make you want to play on?

And on what basis do reviewers consider a game worthy of praise or criticism?

Let’s take Tearaway: Unfolded as an example.

Every reviewer seems to love it, but the reasons given are that it looks great, it has innovative gameplay and it has a certain charm about it.tearaway

All of that is true, it really is, but is that what a game should be judged on?

While innovation like being able to create a gust of wind in the game by swiping your finger over the touchpad certainly makes optimum use out of the PS4 controller, that in itself does not make me want to play a game.

And if looks were what counted then Dragon’s Lair would still be one of the best games of all time 30 years later.

The problem with Tearaway: Unfolded is that it just seems like a very safe saunter through a world of paper played over a massive safety net.

There’s no difficulty to speak of and any time you do die you revert to a checkpoint from two seconds beforehand.

So really – and this is certainly not something unique to this game – rather than being challenging, it’s just an experience that you go through for as long as it takes to get to the end. And you will get to the end as long as you put the hours in. I did.

But then when I did get to the end, it said that I only completed 45%.

The reason for that is that the perceived value of this game includes these daft and unnecessary little side quests that very few people will be truly interested in.

Pfft.

Just like the lack of difficulty, that’s not a problem exclusive to this game, but is rather symptomatic of what modern video games are often like.

Well, anyway, apart from that there are some functional issues that it should be marked down for. On three seperate occasions, I found that I had to restart a section of the game due to glitches preventing me from going any further. Though we live in an era where games developers can continually update any problems, it still felt annoying.

I don’t just want to moan though; it did have its charms and despite my issues, I did get to the end.

But as a full price (or at least it was full price when I bought it; I’ve just checked and it’s not £12.99 two months later. For fuck’s sake!!!) game this doesn’t really cut the mustard.

One to avoid.


Games: Five Things That Bug Me About FIFA 16.

October 20, 2015

FIFA 16 has been out for about a month now, and having had plenty of time to play the modes I like, I thought I’d share some thoughts.

First off, I’d like to say that I’m enjoying it and the tweaks to the gameplay system seem to suit my style of play. This isn’t going to be a rant based on me not being very good at the game, because in truth I’m doing pretty well. I won the annual tournament I have with my friends when we go on holiday in early October, I’m doing well in Ultimate Team, I’m undefeated against anyone I know who I play online with and I’m even scoring FIFA16regularly from free kicks for the first time ever.

There are moans about the passing system from some, but I’ve got no problems with it. Never being one to spam the lofted through ball, the slow build is how I want to play FIFA, so that’s fine.

The actual player ratings can be a bit dodgy though, especially for the leagues EA deem to be less important, but considering my job, maybe I’m being fussy.

Anyway, while it’s going great so far – I say so far because last year I found that Ultimate Team mode seemed to handicap my team once it became too good and it meant I lost my enthusiasm entirely – there are still some issues I have with the game. Some are fair, some are maybe a bit nit-picking, but here they are…

Online Matchmaking Is Broken

This is a big one.

My working hours mean that mid-afternoon is the best time for me to play FIFA. But can I get an online game at that time? Can I buggery. Hell, it’s even difficult at times to get a game sorted out at night. Often the game just hangs there while it tries in vain to sort you out with some opposition. This never used to be a problem in previous FIFA games and EA’s response to this – asking people to tweak the ports in their router – is unacceptable. Sort it out EA!

The Ultimate Team Transfer System

Before the game came out I read some stuff about how they were going to sort out the transfer system so that player prices wouldn’t artificially inflate, but that was just bluster. As you might expect, certain players are out of the reach of anyone who just wants to play the game as a bit of fun. I’ve played around 50 games in Ultimate Team mode and have made my way up to Division Six, and in that time I have earned 58,450 coins. Despite the long slog and the hours, a quick check on the transfer market means shows that if I hadn’t spent a single one of the coins I’d earned, I still wouldn’t have enough to buy players like Arturo Vidal, Sebastian Schweinsteiger or Giorgio Chiellini, who are being sold for 60k. It would cost double the amount I’ve earned to sign Sergio Ramos, and if I ever wanted to go for the likes of Messi I’d be paying over 1,000,000.

Now this doesn’t bother me too much, because the difference between signing a guy like Sergio Ramos (118,000) and Stefan Savic (800) is negligible to the game, but I still don’t see the point of prices like that, nor do I understand who actually manages to sign these guys on the transfer market.

The funny thing is that occasionally I’ll play against a team full of stars and the person controlling them is absolute shit. A couple of days ago I found myself up against a team with a veritable World XI, replete with the likes of Ibrahimovic, Di Maria and Thiago Silva and I pumped them 5-0.

How did this person manage to build that team? He must have spent a fortune in buying pack after pack of Premium Golds, and for all the good it’s done him in terms of results, he’d have been better off playing with bronze players.

Like I said last year in this article, it’s like people have a gambling addiction with this stuff, but when these same people could just go into online seasons mode and play as PSG or Barcelona for free, you almost think they deserve to have their money taken away from them.

Of course, the irony is that when I play these guys, I know I’ll win comfortably with my modest team of Liga BBVA players, and yet if I’m ever put up against a team of silver card players, the chances are that I’ve got a far greater challenge on my hands.

People Who Lack Imagination

Staying with FUT mode, if there’s one thing that irrationally winds me up it’s playing against people who call their team ‘Liverpool’ or ‘FC Barcelona’.

You can name your team anything you like as long as it’s not rude, and the best some people can muster is the name of the side they probably like to watch on TV? Oh, and they also buy that team’s badge and strips.

Get some fucking imagination!!

Nobody Is Scoring From A Corner Again

Away from FUT, I’ve noticed that it’s now almost impossible to score from a corner. Of the hundreds I’ve taken and defended against, my record is scored one, conceded nil. And the one I scored was a ridiculous, unrealistic one where my player headed in to the near post from the edge of the box.

Now fair enough, corners shouldn’t always result in a goal, but that’s ridiculous.

Scripting

Ok, now I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I do think there’s an element of scripting in FIFA that perhaps shouldn’t be there.

I’m sure you’ve all had a situation where you’re comfortably defending an aimless long ball with your fullback and then suddenly your AI controlled goalkeeper has decided to run out of the box to almost the halfway line to clear the danger without you calling for him to do so, bumped into you and let the opposition in for an easy goal.

Similarly I’m sure you’ve had situations like where the opposition keeper comes up for a corner late on, and you know that no matter the outcome of the corner, whether you clear the ball or not, you’re not going to get possession of the ball whilst he’s in your half of the pitch.

And what about the games where no matter how many chances you create, you can’t score?

That sort of thing bugs me.

It shouldn’t be there and it feels as though just occasionally actual skill comes secondary to luck and how the game engine wants things to play out.

Or is that just me?

Like I say, in the main I think FIFA 16 is great, but there are still issues that need ironed out.

If you agree or disagree with any of these points, be sure to let me know.