Posted by Ben at 16:49
I've been doing this a while now, you'd think I'd be better at news titles for the news stories.

Anyway, you don't really see a lot of motorbike games around nowadays, maybe you never did. but if you are pining for one, then RIDE looks to have you covered

Developed and published by Italian racing game specialists Milestone, who are also working on Sťbastien Loeb, Rally Evo, RIDE doesn't launch until March 20th, so if the trailer below looks a little sparse that might explain why. It does however look nice and smooth, which is more than that can be said for the last motorbike game I played (that for the life of me I can't remember)

RIDE is getting a release for just about everything; Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows PC, Steam, PlayStationģ3 and PlayStationģ4. It's also going to have around 100 bikes to choose from, which is a pretty decent offering.

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Posted by Ben at 15:48
Matt Kap, lead artist on The Binding of Isaac Rebirth, has a new game out imminently, Castle in the Darkness, a hyper looking action-platformer

Due to hit Steam on 5th February, and priced at $5.99 (I'm trying to find out what that will be for the UK, and I'll ask about the rest of Europe too), Castle in the Darkness promises 50 bosses, which all things considered, is a lot of bosses! It sounds like the game will be fairly open, which is a nice twist on the resurgent retro-action platformer genre

There's a trailer below, Castle in the Darkness looks lightning fast, and it's got a bit of humour to it. I'm looking forward to giving it a go

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Posted by Mark at 15:09
The sequel...

...to Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, subtitled Curtain Call, is getting two songs from The World Ends With You.

"Calling" and "Twister" are joining the game's downloadable roster in Japan this week, alongside "World Revolution" and "Wind Scene" from Chrono Trigger, "Liberi Fatali" from Final Fantasy VIII, and Romancing SaGa 3's "The Last Battle"

There's no word on a western release for the DLC, nor is there any word on a proper new TWEWY game, despite Squeenix's endless teasing.

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Posted by Ben at 02:29
I forget what score I gave the original Gunman Clive, I definitely liked it, not as much as many other people, but it's great little game that you really should pick up.

So it's very much good news that the sequel is imminent, coming to the European eshop on January 29th

The trailer is below, and it looks twice the game graphically

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of Earth
Jan 21
Posted by Ben at 02:09

The core concept of Citizens of Earth is sound. Youíre the Vice President of Earth, too cowardly and incapable to do his own fighting, so must woo followers to do the dirty work. Itís clever, and could be applied to a few different gameplay styles. Tapping in to classic turn-based rpgs evokes much-beloved snes games like Earthbound, making the game accessible and easy to understand. Itís all very clever, the problem comes in the execution

There are things that I like about Citizens of Earth, so letís start there. The combat is fine, itís fairly standard team turn-based combat, with weaknesses and stat boosts, but thatís no bad thing. Moves either earn or spend energy, with each character capped as to how much they can store. Your available moves are grouped in to categories, all your stat altering moves will be on the same tab, for example. More moves open up as you level up, and, possibly my favourite thing about the whole game, you gain experience every time you beat an enemy, even during fights. This means you can play the odds, commit to attack if youíre about to level up, and be rewarded with all your health being refilled.

Every character is unique, bringing different strengths and movesets to fights. It means it matters who you put in your party, youíre going to need a healer, and ideally someone with a variety of elemental attacks, although there is the argument that it really doesnít matter at all. Outside of battles characters also have talents that can be utilised, the pilot for example can give you a lift, your brother can order items, and the mascot can raise or lower the difficulty.

The disappointing aspect about this side of the game is that once youíve got yourself a decent mix of a team, thereís little reason to change it up. Thereís loads of characters to choose from, and all of them are themed in some way (the programmerís damage points are always in binary, which is great), and while there is a school to gain levels for your characters outside of battles, everyone outside of your main party is so left behind they arenít worth using. You could stick them in when you return to a lower level area, but by that point youíre probably actively avoiding combat.

I think the real problem is that the game is too drawn out. Itís not a huge game for an rpg, but tooing and froing from one area to another, plodding through drawn out quests, and facing fight after fight sucks the energy out of the game. Itís a shame too, Citizens of Earth starts pretty well, up until the end of the first chapter I was having a good time, but it doesnít kick on, instead it slows down. It needs punch, rarer and more meaningful combat, and missions that donít require you trudging around the not especially clear, nor inspired, map

The humour doesnít really land with me either, maybe thatís a nationality thing. I understand the americana, and recognise the caricatures, but they donít resonate with me. Thereís odd moments in the script that raise a smile, but most of the time itís as funny as comedy games usually are. The music is draining, and the repeated shouts and yelps during combat grating. I canít say I care for the look of the game either, thereís a couple of good designs in there, and someone made the point to me that the lower resolution 3DS version might bring some character to it, but as things stand it has that clean, low animation Ďflashí look.

For whatever reason my last hour or so with the game was littered with bugs. I had a moment several hours in where I got stuck on scenery, the only way out was to save and exit. My last action with Citizens of Earth was somehow managing to walk on the sea, unable to escape from its briney surface. There was a period where the game kicked me to a blue screen error 3 times in about 30 minutes, Iíve no idea what was causing it, but the time where I didnít go and recall my characters back from school (something Iíd done on the previous attempts to leave the area) I managed to get past it. I feel a little harsh calling it out, as Iím not convinced that itís indicative of the game, but still, 5 glitches in 10 hours is noteworthy

Were it not for those bugs I might have been a little more lenient with the score, but after the first hour or so I canít say I really enjoyed my time with Citizens of Earth, and ultimately thatís what itís about, do I think itís a good game, and frankly I canít say that I do. Itís not terrible, just dull, and itís been hard to place exactly where it goes wrong and how it could be put right. A shame really, because I maintain that the core concept is a pretty good idea.
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Posted by Ben at 15:00
Hello everyone, a belated welcome to 2015 from all at Bitparade.

As weíve done for a couple of years now, we held our Game of the Year article back a bit to give ourselves a bit of extra time to play some games we wanted to try. For me (Ben) it meant going back to Danganronpa, which is excellent, Shadow of Mordor, which is also very good, Bayonetta 2, Wolfenstein, and a few others that maybe donít deserve the honourable mention. It was a strange year, I played some really interesting games (Fingerbones), some I canít say I liked but might still recommend giving a go (Betrayer), and some games I liked way more than I thought I would (Titanfall). But with the likes of Witcher 3 pushed back until 2015 it all felt a little underwhelming, in terms of big releases at least, yet itís nice then that I can look back on the likes of Demon Gaze, Geometry Wars 3, Thief, Child of Light, Valiant Hearts, and Jazzpunk as games not troubling my list that I wholeheartedly enjoyed

To the point yeah, the way our Game of the Year awards work is pretty simple; we donít look at it as a definitive list, instead itís a way to give a number of games a mention. As such, like last year, no game can appear twice. So the aforementioned Bayonetta 2 and Danganronpa had to be cut from my list, making space for 2 other games.

Weíll be doing an indie list at a later date. I always feel a twang of guilt when more obscure games donít make it on my list, so let me just give a mention to Schein and Freedom Planet, both of which are fantastic games

In this year of remakes and re-releases it's kind of inevitable that a one of them would feature amongst the games of the year, maybe more of a surprise is that one of them is comfortably my favourite game of the year. Again, I think it's one the rest of the world has had for a while, but god damn Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl was a breath of fresh air. Odd for a remake perhaps, even more so for a dungeon crawler, but Etrian Odyssey Untold is the game that kept me coming back, inching my way forward, and slightly resentful of how much I had on my gaming plate. Etrian Odyssey Untold is so good it's converted me to a genre I previously hated, a fantastic game and can't wait for the sequel

We Europeans had to wait a long time and suffer a lot of dicking about before we got Shin Megami Tensei 4, that it still feels fresh and vital speaks volumes. Without wanting to spoil things, once the map opens up the pace does drop a little, and things get slightly bogged down, but it's still a fantastic game, and one of the best rpgs of the generation.

I'm a relatively recent convert to the Ys series, I think I picked Ys: The Oath In Felghana, my first Ys game, as one of my games of the year when it got its Steam release. Memories of Celceta is a slower game, less frenetic, but that's like saying being set on fire is less painful than being dropped in acid. Forward rolls are there to be used as often as possible, every enemy is there to be fought head on, and if you're running out of health just switch to a different character. It's not quite true to say that there's no downtime, and you might have to stop and recover health every now and then, but it's an action rpg in every sense of the word, and one of the very best games the Vita has

The third remake on my list (I'll leave you to work out the 2nd one), Metro Redux Last Light, is probably the most "grubby". Released for the first time only a year earlier, it probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the new consoles launching. It's a worthy release though, giving the option of a less 'survivalist' experience, making Last Light more accessible, and most importantly, more fun. The improvements from the original release aren't as vast as Metro 2033ís, but the increased focus on human combat and mood makes for a better experience, in my opinion at least. Either way both re-releases are worth your time

Something that is only going to become more common is android/ios games making their way to Steam. One such game is the grim fever dream that is Year Walk. I never would have imagined that a point & click could be quite so insidious as Year Walk manages to be. Itís a horrible game in the most fascinating way, relentlessly clever to boot. Year Walk is one of those games you play, then have a look around your friends to see which of them you can talk to about it, There probably wonít be many who wonít give you a bit of a funny look as you explain why itís so good, so skillfully does it handle the macabre without feeling contrived

I've only ever played the first Phoenix Wright and kind of liked it but hadn't touched anything remotely similar since, so Danganronpa was a complete revelation to me. I adored its cast of characters, the dark story, the kinetic nature of its trials and most of all (and yes I'm aware this comes under "Characters") Monokuma, who for me is one of the characters of the year!

I bloody love Disgaea, I have done since I played its first iteration on the PlayStation 2 but I think the series was beginning to decline somewhat. This is a fantastic return to form though and some of its extra components (some of which we've seen before but feel more fleshed out here) just make the whole experience all the more richer and ridiculously over the top!

I think some unfairly criticised Dark Souls II, claiming it was easier than its predecessors. I disagree, its not an easier game, but it has been softened somewhat by making key elements less vague. It looks utterly gorgeous and for some reason repeating sections is unexplainably compelling.

There seems to be a bit of a theme to my picks this year, games that require repetition and grinding are a key focus and in its own ways OlliOlli fits in perfectly. Okay it wasn't without its problems when it launched on the Vita, a lack of leaderboards and a crash glitch dogged it for months, but for me those elements still didn't take anything away from the core gameplay mechanic and just how ridiculously addictive it was. I still have a quick blast during lunch breaks almost a year later!

Rounding things off nicely is a rather oppressive, heavily story driven, tactical RPG type... thing, that looks utterly gorgeous. Okay that final battle isn't as well balanced as it could be but that feeling of just trying to survive within the games setting nd keep your band of people together was utterly amazing to experience and I'm really looking forward to its sequel!

Mario Kart 8 makes me glad that Nintendo starts each series entry from scratch, because it surprised me in so many ways. While I have always held Mario Kart as top drawer material, Mario Kart 8 is a big rethink of how Mario Kart 8 should work, how it should feel, and how it should entertain. And it delivers on all fronts.

Its new handling model is nothing but delightful, not only allowing you to perform the craziest of shortcuts off the scenery but making for something that feels superb to play -- drifting tightly around a corner only to see your Kart teeter off onto two wheels never gets old. Evidence of smart rebalancing also run skin deep: thereís the coin item, which makes being in first place utterly terrifying at times, items are now dished out based on distance rather than position, banana peels now spin you out for longer. Mario Kart has always been defined by its ability to ensure everyone has a fair chance of winning, only now this time itís been fine tuned to perfection.

Mario Kart 8 also brings with it some of the strongest course designs the series has seen, further bolstered by the decision to completely revamp returning retro courses to fit the new tricks the series has seen. And this is all accompanied by one of the strongest Nintendo soundtracks in recent years. No other game this year has had me guffawing at the screen so much, or so long after launch.

This is an easy pick, being the sequel to perhaps the best game in its respective genre. Bayonetta 2 succeeds by building upon its predecessor, whilst trimming off the fat and dishing out even more variety to, well, everything. There's a shift in tone towards adventuring and exploration this time around, and the stellar combat is better than ever. Bayonetta 2 goes for bigger, louder battles, but it brings with it more nuances and new ways to fight, which feel completely natural to adapt to as the game switches styles.

It's never less than a joy to dodge a foe's moves based on instinct alone, and Bayonetta 2 nudges you to utilise smart strategy even more than its predecessor did. It's one heck of a ride, and something you won't forget in ten years' time.

Thereís something really engaging about a platformer which has many layers of mastery behind its core mechanics. Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 both offer platforming thatís an expression of mastery, and Sayonara Umihara Kawase reminded me of those games.

You see, Kawase has a fishing line that can hook onto walls, which you can then contract and extend freely. This opens up tonnes of opportunities for various tricks and moves that you can perform, as you continously master operating the simple controls and elastic physics.

It also makes space for some devious level design which does its best to nudge your skills in the right directions -- even the slightest change to a particular piece of scenery can turn the game upside down. While the skill floor is fairly low, the skill ceiling is high. The grapple mechanic never feels less than great to toy around with. One standout moment was returning to the game weeks later only to figure out a new trick to clear a particular stage and get around the levels faster. Genius.

It was either this or Danganronpa, another fine visual novel released this year. Layton Vs AA pips it if only because of how much it exceeded my expectations. While I passed on playing it for months, expecting a cynical crossover that awkwardly juxtaposes Layton's world on top of Wright's (or vice versa), instead this turned out to be a thoughtful realisation of the two series.

It was really endearing to see Layton and Wright interact with each other, and combining Layton investigation with Wright court battles turned out to be a great match. Takumi's writing in particular shone through in the script, and particularly through Wright and Maya's interactions. The court scenes were some of the best I've played in Ace Attorney, in part due to their involvement with the main plot and the topsy-turvy rules of their world, but also because of the presentation. AA5 may have had great animation, but Layton Vs AA has the better camerawork and soundtrack. It brought real tension and grandeur to the courtroom revelations and battles, and the option to use hint coins ensured it never held back in presenting you with a few problems to solve.

A convoluted ending holds it back from true greatness, however, but this is a tale of triumph in more ways than one.

A deviously smart sliding tile puzzle game which had me glued to my phone to better my high score. The beauty of Threes! -- slick, charming presentation aside -- lies in how it'll make you think with every move, because its numbered tiles only move one space each turn.

What starts as a chilled puzzler soon becomes a stranglehold where every move counts, where you're forced to think ahead in order to clear the board and continue to merge similar numbered tiles.

While it's been cloned numerous times, Threes! is still the best game of, well, Threes. The likes of 1024 and 2048 don't have their tiles move exactly one grid square with each move, breaking the game's finely tuned difficulty -- that sense of increasing urgency rarely arrives.
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Jan 19
Posted by James at 15:15

Qbby is a box with legs. He can jump about, extending his two legs. He can retract them and, erm, literally become a box. Or several boxes Ė from himself he can spawn a chain of them in different directions. Oh, and his game is the latest from HAL Laboratory, creators of Kirby.

Soon after Nintendoís own Captain Toad marked the return of the bigger budget puzzle game, HakoBoi! (BoxBoy! in English) stands at the opposite end of the spectrum. Itís as minimalist as they come, sporting a charming yet basic monochrome look which is made up almost entirely of angular shapes. Its ability to entertain therefore lies almost solely in how well designed its levels and various features are.

Thereís an incredibly compelling puzzle platformer in HakoBoi! which extends around Qbbyís strong yet slim moveset. In finding the exit door to each stage, youíre frequently encouraged to find news ways to utilise those moves to solve a variety of puzzles.

To begin with youíll be creating boxes to throw into spike pits and safely jump across, or using those boxes to build bridges. So far, so straightforward. But give it a few worlds and youíll discover neat tricks within the worldís rules. One favourite is being able to reverse-retract your Tetris-shaped box extension if it hooks itself onto a ledge, thereby transporting Qbby to new places.

These Ďeurekaí moments of discovery make you see the game in completely different ways. Going back to the previous example, youíll need to do some jumping to Ďhookí your box extension onto ledges, and the box shapes you create need to take this into account.

Each new world introduces increasingly inventive gizmos, objects and traps, further eking more smart ideas out of what Qbby can do. Conveyer belts and Star Blocks encourage you to solve a solution in reverse. Cranes make you quickly realise that you can manipulate Qbby's location based on nearby walls and his ability to create new boxes as an extension of himself.

Hakoboi! does the near-impossible and makes the most of each worldís central mechanic in just seven levels. Its puzzles are focused and simpleÖat least retrospectively speaking. Youíll frequently have to think hard and experiment, but there really is nothing better than spending a while on a particular solution only to realise the pure simplicity and genius of it all. It therefore avoids long, drawn out solutions without feeling overly easy Ė things sail along, and before you know it that quick five minute session to tackle the next level just became an engrossing two hours.

To cement the challenge, crowns (which grant you credits to spend on goodies) have been placed in some devious places, stretching your thinking further. Theyíll also only appear if youíve been economical in creating boxes, encouraging you to find the optimal solution each time. And levels containing an even bigger, smarter, meatier challenge await after the credits roll.

Itís all a sound proof of concept for Nintendo Web Framework, a WebKit-based development environment. The constraints of making a game using web technologies like HTML5 and Javascript have allowed even a big developer like HAL Laboratory to focus on crafting a compelling videogame above anything else.

Hakoboi! is a triumph. Not because it remains vastly interesting across its 160 or so levels, but in how it goes about achieving this. Itíll make you feel like a genius with surprising regularity, and it does more with the few levels containing each worldís standout features than you thought possible. Itís a masterclass in minimalist game design, and never less than a delight to play.
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Citizens of Earth
Video Preview
Jan 15
Posted by Ben at 17:49

This is taken from the PS4 version, although we do also have the Vita version, and will have a review of both eventually. This gameplay is from the very early stages of Citizens of Earth, the game has already opened up a bit more in my very next gameplay session after recording

Citizens of Earth is coming out on PS4, PS Vita, Steam, WiiU and 3DS next week, priced some where around the £11 mark.

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Posted by Ben at 15:42
This looks quite a cool idea. In the Adventures of Pip you start off as the titular Pip, a block, and as you defeat enemies you absorb their pixels and become a higher resolution. It's a bit like Microsoft giving developers more of the Xbox One's cores

The interesting looking action platformer will require you to devolve and evolve to match the situation, with enemies becoming more dense and capable in their evolved states too.

The Adventures of Pip is heading to Steam (PC/MAC), Wii U, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PS4. Frankly I wouldn't be amazed to see a handheld version added later either, might as well, it's on everything else!
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Switch Galaxy
Jan 12
Posted by James at 16:55

The PS Vita has played host to a variety of high quality arcade-y indie titles, with PIX the CAT and TxK being particular standouts from the past year. So you can imagine our delight when developer Atomicom (many of whom are ex-Psygnosis developers) released Switch Galaxy Ultra over the holiday season.

Switch Galaxy Ultra is best described as an arcade twitch racer, its inspirations even going back to Dodge 'em on the Atari 2600. Youíre Vince Vance, piloting your futuristic zero gravity ship, and youíre racing on rails, your speed continually increasing. Ahead of you is a twisting, turning course comprising of several rails to your left and right. Your ship is going ever faster as you approach your destination, and your only options are to switch rails and control your speed...

This no nonsense approach works in the gameís favour, since thereís a level of tactile feedback which would be lost if the rails were taken away from the mix. Both in terms of how switching lanes feels - Atomicom nailed how great it feels to slide from one lane to the next - and how you can "count" lanes to avoid damaging your ship and losing precious Tantalum, a resource that youíll amass from warp tunnels mid-level.

The game regularly introduces new concepts and mechanics to move you on to the next big challenge. Youíre soon introduced to barriers, which slow you down, then colour-coded barriers, then different types of drones, and so on, preventing things from feeling stagnant. We particularly liked the colour-coded barrier passes, finite tokens which let you smash through corresponding barriers without penalty. Switching lanes all the time can quickly become a mindless, mesmerising act, but the barrier passes make sure you're extra alert, always on the lookout for the lanes with a particular barrier colour.

There are frequent flashes of design brilliance, nudging you to try new things. Boost pads placed between two barriers soon pique your curiosity, and before you know it, youíre weaving in and out of the barriers, tapping the brake just enough to avoid collision. And the survival mode and corresponding challenges work a bit like the Zone mode in later Wipeout games, and see the game take on its most pure form. Youíll soon find yourself wanting to replay a level as soon as youíve attempted it, simply to grab the gold award, or speed through without hitting any snags.

Progression between levels is centred on retaining as many pieces of Tantalum energy as you go from a level's warp gate to its destination. Unless you pull off a perfect run and retain a lot of Tantalum each time, youíll likely find yourself stumbling into progress walls, forcing you to replay older routes. This feels at conflict with the secondary goal of finishing levels with a gold-award achieving time -- you're more likely to slow down in order to retain as much Tantalum as possible. It does, however, keep the challenge balanced: replaying levels with later ships would likely make them far easier, so being forced to perfect your game earlier on is appreciated.

Things start to fall apart in some of the later levels: youíll be running into so many different mechanics (including these truly devious flying drones which blast you into parallel lanes) that it becomes overwhelming to keep track of everything, especially given how quickly your ship moves. Being wholly successful at these stages becomes a case of memorisation more than anything else.

Also irksome are some of the more questionable level design decisions which can unfairly ruin a perfect run and also encourage memorisation: hitting an unforeseen barrier as it emerges from the top of a hill just isnít fun. Picking up a bunch of blue barrier passes, only to pass through a warp gate to a section of track with plenty of unavoidable Tantalum-destroying green and red barriers, is rage-inducing.

So Switch Galaxy Ultra is at its very best when it keeps things pure and simple, when messing up can only be your fault. Itís here where youíre graced with a twitch-based arcade experience which will have you glued to the screen, retrying levels just one more time for the gold awards, soaking in the rather marvellous soundtrack, and constantly bettering your game.
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