Nintendo Switch
First Thoughts
Oct 23
Posted by Ben at 15:10

The NX has now been revealed, itís a thing, a thing without much detail, but Nintendo did show enough that itís some sort of proof of concept. Now called the Nintendo Switch, the WiiU, and possibly 3DS successor doubles as both a handheld and a home console.

Nintendo have confirmed that the Switch will come with a controller, which seems like an obvious assumption, but the 3DS stopped coming with a plug so you never really know with Nintendo. The reason itís noteworthy here is because of the way the controller works. The Joy-Con, which is an awful Ďthe controller you give your mateí name, is made up of 3 parts. The left and right sections can be slid off, the centre of the controller we donít really know, presumably there might be some sort of Amiibo reader in there but the Joy-Con left and right can be used like a Wii Remote, maybe without the pointer (but maybe?), but they must hold some charge, and can be used to control a game like the Wii Remote on its side, meaning one Joy-Con can let you play 2 player.

The whole premise of the Nintendo Switch is that it isnít just tied to the TV. While the docking station seems to exist solely to charge the device and to connect it to the tv, there are possibilities it may offer increased storage solutions. The Switch itself is the tablet style device that goes in to the docking station, and if you want to remove it, you take apart the controller, then slide the Joy-Con L and Joy-Con R on to the sides of the tablet, turning it in to something not a million miles away from a WiiU Gamepad. The Switch unit, or tablet, has a stand on the back, plus a headphone jack, so you can use the tablet as just a screen, using the controllers in a more traditional way.

Anecdotally, this seems like something that, while not initially leading to sales for Nintendo, will be something people adore about the machine. When Iím cooking I regularly prop up my tablet to watch stuff, even my phone case has a little stand on the back so I can use that, itís a great idea. Nintendoís trailer shows this being used on a plane, but also with people gathered around, and while Iím a bit more tentative about believing this one, back to back screens, so you can play multiplayer across 2 linked devices. It may simply be online match-making, weíll see.

The handheld nature of the device, despite Nintendo proclaiming that the Nintendo Switch is "first and foremost a home console" has brought to mind a few questions. The concept is fantastic, for someone like me at least. I still play my 3DS, and generally I play it indoors, in fact other than one trip I havenít played it on transport since the first year I got it. Still though, playing whist watching something else, playing in the garden during the summer, playing in the bathroom, my 3DS gets use for its convenience as well as use because itís got the games I want to play. In the past weíve had cross-connectivity, cross saves, and even cross buy, but all of them come with hunderences and caveats. The ability to just pick up your game of Skyrim and play it lay in bed, or on the couch, or Ďotherwise engagedí, as much as playing it on a plane or on holiday, itís a fantastic thing. But itís a fantastic thing that comes at a cost, battery life and power.

If the Switch is capable of, letís be generous and say PS4 levels of power, then where is that power going to be stored (thereís not a lot of room in that tablet), and how long will the battery last? If the battery is decent then how much power can the machine really have. The speculation here is that when the Switch is docked it will have be capable of running faster, when itís in handheld mode the power will be lower to save on battery consumption.

It goes without saying that itís far too early to firm to solid an opinion of the Nintendo Switch. The list of developers is promising, but if weíre going to get month late ports of games at launch, then nothing after when they inevitably donít sell to expectations, like the WiiU. For Atlus are we talking Persona 5 or are we talking 3DS standard games. Iíll take either, but what kind of support the console is going to get is still a big question, especially when the big 3rd party game featured was Skyrim, effectively a HD port of a years old game. Thereís enough about the console to have me interested though, the portability alone would do that, now we just need some details
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Posted by Mark at 19:08
I continue to kick it old-school with Pokťmon HeartGold.

With the eighth Gym beaten, it's time to go meet Ash Red at the top of Mt. Silver.

Being the very endgame of the title, effectively after the postgame, they've had to do something to make it special- and they have.

It's not that the environment of Mt. Silver's is particularly interesting, it's a cave with a maze in it- and not a very complex one even by Pokťmon standards- but the atmosphere.

At the bottom of the mountain, as you'd expect, is a Pokťmon centre- and naturally, you go into it to heal up before you start.

It's empty.

The staff are still there- the nurse who treats your pokťmon is there ready to help, and so are the attendants for the link features as they were in the old generations- but the usual random three or four people you'd see in every other branch are nowhere to be seen, and that's jarring.

It really helps to hit home that this is it- you're out on your own.

It's a good example of re-use of an environment to drive the narrative and provoke a reaction- keeping with Nintendo, it's like in Ocarina Of Time when you first leave the Temple Of Time as Adult Link and see the previously bustling, brightly-coloured and jauntily-soundtracked Hyrule Castle Town Market in a now-silent, dilapidated state and full of those zombies that dry-hump you.

It's not even as heavy-handed as that, there's no new art assets and the music's still there, but the feel is not the same at all.

The whole 'less-is-more' is something that games seem to have forgot over time, and it's perhaps through low-tech necessity that the early Pokťmon games do manage to nail this- I've pontificated for ages about the way the same game uses less than a second of silence in the past- and it's difficult not to compare this to the most recent generation, X and Y.

The usual Elite Four of these games- as well as the moments leading up to them- are surrounded with so much ridiculous ceremony as they revel in their new-found polygonal glory that they reach the point of self-parody, and certainly begin to irritate on multiple attempts. HeartGold's loneliness meanwhile sits in the background quietly and only really makes its presence felt when you look for it.
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Posted by Ben at 16:32
I think we missed that Super Treasure Arena had actually come out, we did a First Play of the Early Access version of the game, but now the game is out and has some free halloween themed content

Super Treasure Arena itself is £5.59 on Steam, and we'll be taking another look at it over the weekend, with a review up fairly soon
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Mantis Burn
Oct 16
Posted by Ben at 16:13

It might surprise a few people that Mantis Burn Racing isnít a Playstation Pro launch game, undoubtedly it should get a 2nd wind when Sonyís upgraded console comes out but itís actually available now on standard PS4, Xbox One and PC, and itís a good game even without the novelty of 4K

Mantis Burn Racing is a top town, isometric racing game, reminiscent of Motorstorm RC from a few years back. Itís a more fully featured game than you might expect, with a levelling system, weight classes of cars, vehicle improvements you equip. The game boasts a lengthy career mode, definitely longer than I was expecting, with a number of different race types, online, and split screen multiplayer. It also looks better than I was expecting. I wasnít surprised by how sharp the game looks, but the quality of the textures and the particle effects do go beyond what I expected to see. The most important thing about Mantis Burn Racing though is how smooth it is, the high framerate allows for responsive controls, allowing you control the drifts and slides on the spongey ground.

The solid frame rate does drop occasionally. Iíve only seen it maybe 3 times, but if you get a fleet of cars bunched up at a corner, with dust and debris flying around, the game will drop frames. Itís rare though, and itís not simply caused by all the cars being in one places as you donít see it at the start of a race. One disappointing note on the presentation side is the sound. Thereís not enough engine noise, squealing brakes, screeching of tyres, it makes the races sound flat, itís reminiscent of a phone game.

Itís always a bit of a relief when youíre reviewing a game and itís clear what its strengths and weaknesses are, it makes it easier to criticise, and Mantis Burn Racing is definitely one of those games. Mantis Burn Racing is undoubtedly a good game, itís fluid, controls very well, and thereís some really enjoyable tracks. Itís the kind of racing game where when you make a mistake youíll want to hit the restart button, where youíll want to replay a track because you know you can climb the global leaderboard. Itís something the Ďgearsí system encourages, thereís requirements laid out before each race, winning the event is invariably one, but it may include hitting a certain speed or jumping a certain distance, these reward you with gears that are needed to finish a season, but arenít as strict as you might fear.

Itís a shame then that Mantis Burn Racing doesnít do more to enable this challenge mentality. If you want to find out if you climbed the global leaderboard on a track you have to finish it then restart the event. The game would be helped immensely if things like leaderboards were presented more readily, similarly what track youíre about to drive, a recognisable track image or something would go a long way. One of the main problems with this is that loading a track can take an age. A quick restart should be the default for a racing game like this, Iíve no doubt thereís very good reasons why it's not there, but messing up a lap early, recognising youíve lost the event, or even just wanting to play again all mean a lengthy load time.

Iím also not entirely sure about some of the design decisions around levelling up the cars. There are stats for the cars, but itís very difficult to tell if one car is actually worse than another or if youíre just not used to it. Because everything can be modded and improved often your lap times are as much tied to you making a better car than improving as a player. Itís hard to negate this with the way the game is structured so maybe thereís no complaint there, certainly in career mode, but it is a problem when you race online and can find yourself at a massive disadvantage simply because youíve spent less time with the game than your opponent. This is true in the weekly challenges too, itís arguable that Mantis Burn Racing might benefit from standardisation in some areas.

Still though, I really like Mantis Burn Racing. Itís got a lengthy career mode, a variety of different race types, and mini challenges thrown in to make things interesting.The tracks are invariably interesting, thereís shortcuts, plenty of room to overtake, even the occasional obstruction on the track. Theyíre fun to replay, nailing drifts and learning when not to be cautious, and a big part of that is the handling coupled with the frame rate. We wonít know how it handles on the Playstation Pro for another month, but certainly if youíre looking for a game that will then make use of the extra power, Mantis Burn Racing is a fun pickup
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Posted by Ben at 13:42
The more interesting news is the open beta for Super Dungeon Bros from next Friday (the 21st October), available by downloading the beta from Steam.

However there's also a closed beta of Super Dungeon Bros this weekend, available to PC players by heading to and signing up

Super Dungeon Bros gets its full release on the 1st November on Xbox One, PS4 and of course PC, priced at £14.99
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Posted by Ben at 02:07
We posted a First Play video of Mantis Burn Racing yesterday and we'll have a review up over the weekend, but the game is out now

Available on PS4, PC and Xbox One Mantis Burn Racing is priced at £12.99. As said, we'll have our review up in the next few days, but I will says it's not a bad game at all, although I'm not going to go more in detail here
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Posted by Ben at 14:22
I'm still not 100% sure exactly what World of Final Fantasy is, which is probably why a demo is a good idea

On the 17th of October we'll get a demo of World of Final Fantasy on the Playstation Store for PS Vita and PS4

There's a trailer below for the opening cinematics and the game itself launches on the 28th October

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Mantis Burn Racing
Gameplay Video
Oct 12
Posted by Ben at 03:59

Mantis Burn Racing is most notable for being one of the handful of games that will be native 4K on the PS4 Pro, and 60fps too. Granted it's probably easier to manage that on a top down racer than it is on something like Tomb raider, but even on a normal PS4 Mantis Burn Racing looks sharp and runs fantastically.

I say this in the video but the 60fps really help the handling feel like you're sinking in to sand and dirt, there's a responsive looseness as you correct your drifts without touching the breaks.

Game structure wise Mantis Burn Racing is fairly standard, you work your way through a set of races, with each event being one of a certain number of types. There's straight races, time trials, elimination, series races. As a general rule if you win you progress, but there are gates to progress where you have to earn enough gears. Gears are awarded for completing certain actions during the races, so winning the race might get you 3, a long jump 2, and destroying some scenery 1. There's also an upgrade mechanic to the cars that can also act as gating to some extent.

This is kind of where I've got some reservations, some of these things don't feel like they're quite front and centre enough. Beyond that my only gripe is that races feel a bit quiet, there needs to be more engine noises and the like.

anyway, there'll be a full review in the next few days, so click below for our First Play gameplay video

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Play Expo
Oct 11
Posted by Ben at 17:13

In a past life trip to the annual Play Expo in Manchester would have been a feature of its own, but time being the precious commodity it is nowadays means for a variety of reasons that's not going to happen. A big reason though is that the Play Expo maybe wasn't at its most interesting this year. It's still a fun event, the focus has shifted away from retro gaming over the years but that's still absolutely the best thing about it and the reason to go, but there's something to be said for new and shiny and that's what felt absent this year.

Not that there was nothing new, if you wanted to queue there was the Playstation VR Battlezone, the less busy Tekken 7, and Jeff Minter brought his new VR version of Polybius. There were a few indie games too, not as many as last year, and that's something I'd like the focus to return to next time. All that I didn't play so I can't comment on it. I did manage to play some Sociable Soccer, the modern take on Sensible Soccer.

I say modern take, it kind of feels exactly the same as Sensible Soccer, it's certainly better than the PS2 version of Sensible Soccer that Eurogamer bizarrely gave a 9 out of 10. I watched a dad trounce his son and celebrate the last couple of goals, always a heartwarming sight. Playing on my own (none of my friends wanted to play a football game) I dominated Chelsea with my off-brand United side, but couldn't put the ball in the back of the net, which is both accurate to my memories of learning to play Sensible Soccer and the current Manchester United side. Still, first impressions, Sociable Soccer seems pretty good

I'm not going to go in to everything I played at Play Expo, so instead here's what else I played over the previous week. South Park The Stick of Truth is something I've been wanting get around to for ages, and it's not really been worth the wait. Stick of Truth isn't a bad game, but it is a bit boring. There's obviously lots of good stuff in there, I like South Park, I've no complaints about the content, but there's also a lot of samey combat and trudging around. Maybe the 2nd half of the game picks up, but at the point I stopped I wasn't itching to play more.

That's kind of the case with Rise of the Tomb Raider too. Probably inspired by the imminent PS4 release I picked up the PC version. Technically it looks amazing, but it's also crashed more than any pc game I've played in a long time, Batman Arkham Knight was a mess but I don't remember it crashing on me. It's notable how sedate Rise of the Tomb Raider is to start off, it feels like the developers really took the criticism of Lara's murder rate to heart. It's not that she doesn't kill in Rise of the Tomb Raider, but it's less frequent than the previous game, instead focusing more on exploration. The result, possibly infuriatingly for Square Enix, is I think it's a more boring game than Tomb Raider. There's a lot of down time, simple platforming, doing busy work quests so you can get some equipment or a new gun. personally I preferred the Apocalypse Now horror of the previous game. Still though, I'm probably not quite half way through so it could quite conceivably click
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Posted by Ben at 13:36
I can't say I've seen much of Manual Samuel until now but it does look pretty funny.

You control Samuel, doing everything for him. So brushing his teeth, drinking his coffee, walking up the stairs, you have control over all of it. Think less Heavy rain and more QWOP

Manual Samuel is out now on the PS4 (for £6.49), and on the 14th October for the PC and Xbox One. Nicely, or infuriatingly, it's got a co-op mode so 2 people can take control of Samuel's body

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