Posted by Ben at 03:59
To The Moon is a great little thing. Equal parts creaking 1st attempt and greatest thing ever written. Heart felt enough to make even a cynical northerner like me stop in their tracks

Finding Paradise is a stand alone sequel to To The Moon, still following Dr Rosalene and Dr Watts and their memory altering escapades, and it's worth being excited for it because the first game (and A Bird's Story) were so good.

The release of Finding Paradise isn't exactly imminent, coming as it does summer 2017, but we'll be keeping an eye on it
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Gurumin 3D:
A Monstrous Adventure
Oct 27
Posted by Mark at 17:44

For all the handwaving and suggestion that it isn't the case, there's not a lot of getting around that, now Switch has been announced, the 3DS is approaching the end of its life. So obviously what's going to ease it gently into that good night is a port of a ten-year-old PSP game based on a PC game released two years prior.

Developed by Ys studio Nihon Falcom, Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure follows Parin, a young girl sent to live with her grandparents while Mum and Dad swan off abroad to do some archeology. The mining town that her grandparents live in is also home to a number of monsters, which are only visible to children.

The monsters themselves are split into two factions, one friendly one in Monster Village, accessible from a portal in the back of the town, and another, which attacks and destroys the village. Conveniently, Parin is able to take control of the Legendary Drill, and sets off to help the monsters rebuild their home.

The world beyond the Village has been shrouded in a thick fog, brought on by the monsters' sadness at losing their homes. The fog can be made to recede by cheering the monsters up, and you do this by getting their stuff back, which has been scattered at the end of a series of dungeons.

In this regard, Gurumin seems like the Zelda to stablemate Ys' Final Fantasy, which isn't entirely inaccurate. When I brought up Ys in a What We're Playing last year, I noted in passing that its combat system made it seem a little simplistic by comparison to other JRPGs, and that continues when compared to Zelda- the dungeons are very light on puzzles and as such this is perhaps better described as a combat platformer than it is an action RPG.

This isn't, however, a bad thing- the Drill is a much more versatile weapon than it initially seems as button-combo special attacks unlock as the game progresses, which goes some way to distracting from the lack of the new toys that Zelda would trickle into your hands and encourages more involved play. Even if you do want toys, there's a range of accessories Parin can wear which come with various buffs and bonuses for any situation.

The story, which doesn't give any middle of the road kids' show writers anything to worry about, at least can pull up a smile on occasion, particularly with Parin's sarcastic streak which is just pitched at the right level to stop the game taking itself too seriously without having her come off as a smartarse.

Your performance in dungeons is also ranked, although the ranking is based mainly on what percentage of the monsters you killed and the random pots you smashed, which threatens to bring the game a little too deep into collectathon territory, but thankfully not so much that getting the best rank becomes the main objective.

What does let the game down are a few technical glitches- for the most part the 3D works well, except for the speechbubble which appears over Parin's head whenever she's in front of something she can interact with, which annoyingly is right at the front of the scene alongside the HUD, which seems like a minor issue, but as it's always right in the middle of the screen directly in front of what you're trying to focus on it can lead to very confused eyes. Additionally all the enemies and NPCs inexplicably seem to be running at half the framerate Parin does, which is just odd.

The jaunty soundtrack and the involved enough combat and levels which put up just enough resistance to pull you out of autopilot without demanding all of your attention, coupled with being on handheld all gather together to help Gurumin fit perfectly into a niche- not quite as much as a console RPG (or for that matter, some of the more bloated 3DS RPGs) but notably more than what passes for RPGs on mobile, this is a very easy game to recommend.
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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

Show/hide video

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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

Show/hide video

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