Cyberdimension Neptunia:
4 Goddesses Online
May 29
Posted by James at 12:40

A few days ago the MCM Comic Con set up shop over at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London. As usual, Idea Factory International were amongst the exhibitors, bringing with them a the first playable English-language demo for upcoming PS4 and PC game, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online.

As youíve probably gathered from its lengthy title, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is both a new entry in Idea Factoryís flagship RPG series and its take on the MMORPG.

Simply put, weíre looking at a parody of the genre, where the four CPU candidates (think of them as anthropomorphised video game consoles) find themselves taking part in a beta test for a new online game. The gameís novel approach to a beta test revolves around how the four CPUs play it: Rather than witness them playing at their computers, which would make for incredibly dull entertainment, Neptune and company are literally in the game.

There was enough available to play in the demo to get a good feel of the gameís flow. Itís a predictable, but comforting one: You visit the Guild to accept quests, then pick a location to clear some quests, return to the guild, and then accept more quests. The main town square plays host to facilities where you can craft new weapons, buy and sale items, and generally cool down between expeditions to faraway locations.

These locations themselves arenít really anything to write home about Ė environments were rather repetitious in their design and as a result most players are likely to opt for relying on the gameís generously detailed minimap for navigation purposes. This isnít necessarily a bad thing, but considering the quality of the quests at hand Ė collect x items, defeat y enemies Ė expeditions risk feeling like an exercise in box ticking.

The gameís combat looks like itíll offer something more satisfying, however. Battles are active rather than passive, and heavily action oriented. Youíve got free movement of your character, a press of a button will lock on to an enemy, and another button brings up an assigned skill set Ė spells or attacks assigned to each of the four face buttons. Using skills depletes SP, but regular attacks regenerate it. Thereís a pleasing rhythm to skirmishes that see you alternate between low-power attacks and heavy-hitting skills, all relative to which enemies youíre fighting and what moves they might be using.

From a demo alone itís hard to tell how the balancing of the gameís mechanics will play out over its entire running time, but hopefully youíll have to think carefully about which characters to include in your party, which commands you give to your AI companions, and which skills to assign to each skill set.

Despite being a spinoff, Cyberdimension Neptunia is the first game in the series to be made using Unreal Engine 4, and the results speak volumes. Lighting has received a notable upgrade, and thereís copious amounts of motion blur and shadowing. Basically, environments look richer, a big contrast from the spartan locales in previous Neptunias. Unfortunately, other areas of the gameís presentation havenít received the same attention to detail. Character animation is stiff, collision detection is wonky, character models lack detail Ė this all contributes to a rather uneven, inconsistent when youíre jumping around and navigating the landscapes. But overall weíre looking at a welcome, and immediately noticeable improvement.

Tamsoftís previous efforts in the Neptunia series werenít anything special, often coming off as less creative, more derivative versions of existing games in the developerís portfolio. 4 Goddesses Online feels different. The setting and gameplay mechanics fit the seriesí narrative and RPG qualities in a more natural way.

With any hope Cyberdimension Neptunia wonít stick too close to comfortable tropes in the MMORPG playbook. The series is known for using self-deprecating humour to mock bad design, but itís significantly less funny when youíre the one playing through them. Fingers crossed that the finished gameís quests offer something more compelling than what was on display in the demo.
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Prey
PS4
Apr 30
Posted by Ben at 17:12

Prey is a strange thing. The original Ďvertical sliceí we saw of ĎPrey 2í half a lifetime ago looked great, an awful lot of people were suddenly hyped to play the sequel to a game not a huge amount of people had played. This was seemingly a massive surprise to the publisher, so surprising they scrapped it, abandoned Prey 2 completely for years, dropped the number, and have now brought it back as a different Prey game, developed by Dishonored creators Arkane Studios

Thereís currently a demo available on PS4 and Xbox One, itís essentially the whole game, more or less, with various areas being locked unless you buy the game. Slightly confusingly the demo doesnít end when you hit the pay wall, you can continue playing and exploring the environment. Itís an interesting way of doing a demo, I reached the Ďendí of the demo fairly quickly, a locked door I was told explicitly I wasnít allowed to go past, but was allowed to, after turning the game off feeling I was done, return to the game and explore more of Preyís world.

Itís a confusing experience. Narratively thatís deliberate, youíre not meant to know whatís going on, but in every other way Prey left me unsure what to make of it. The levels are open, as youíd expect from an Arkane game, but whereas in Dishonored it felt like you were always being directed, here I was always 2nd guessing my movements. Itís not like youíre getting lost, itís not that big an area and thereís a marker on the screen, but I was skipping areas, feeling like I was missing out. I guess at least it gave me something to do once I got to that locked door.

One of the things that had stopped me exploring was Preyís difficulty. Itís not impossibly hard or anything, but thereís an awkwardness to the early sections of Prey. Youíre mainly facing off against small crab-like enemies called Mimics, they flash about, disguising themselves as items in the environment. Itís a really cool concept, weíve spent our gaming lives picking through every bin, every art-deco ashtray, and now theyíll probably kill us. The problem I was having was that they always seemed to appear on my blind side. Fair enough, thatís what Iíd do if I was them, but Iíve seen footage of other people playing and seeing the mimic dart in to an item, then taking advantage of their own trap and laying waste to them. I never managed to take advantage of them nor my environment like that, bar one time when a larger enemyís route was taking it past an exploding barrel.

Part of the problem, I think, for me at least, is that I primarily play this kind of game on a PC with a mouse and keyboard. Playing on the PS4 thereís a lag to the camera movement, something thatís apparently going to be fixed in time for release. The aiming also feels strangely digital, maybe this is me not being as good as I should be, or used to be, with a controller in a first person game, but enemies were easily darting around me. Iíd eventually nail them, particularly with the Goop gun, but I was having a hard time not taking damage. Without wanting to sound like a PC snob, I canít help but feel that the increased speed of movement with a mouse, and the larger FOV that tends to accompany playing on a PC might have a beneficial effect on my experience with Prey

In some ways the Prey demo is exactly what a First Impressions post should be, a question mark. Thereís enough good ideas in there to get me interested, thereís enough flavour of the weapons and skill trees to know thereís more to Prey than you see here, and itís clear that the world Arkane have built is detailed and filled with opportunities. Ultimately though, I canít tell you what I think of the game or if Prey is for me
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Slime-San
Gameplay Video
Feb 19
Posted by Ben at 17:32

We were sent over a preview code for upcoming platformer Slime-San, so we (I) took a look at the first world

I know it's trite and easy, but if you've played such as games as Super Meatboy and N+ then you probably know what to expect. Slime-San is a tough, tricky, but very responsive platform game. The sort of game where you first attempt at a level can be a nightmare, then when you return you wonder why you ever struggled.

I'm not going to go in to huge detail here, there's a video below for that, but Slime-San is very well put together. There's a bunch of additional stuff, not unlike Meatboy, to encourage you to return to the game, restarts are rapid, shame there isn't a pause button on the pad, or a restart button on there (that I know of at least).

Slime-San seems very promising, and it's out in April on PC (Steam, Humble Bundle's Store) which console versions to follow

There's a gameplay video below

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Switch

Feb 18
Posted by Mark at 20:27

This is more of a 'First-ish' Play, as I'd had time to give this a quick go before streaming it.

Anyway, it's another one of them tough-as-nails precision platformers indie developers are so fond of creating- the gimmick this time around being that you get a double-jump.

As you can see from the occasional excursion into the level selection screens, this is very clearly a preview build, but we do get a decent look at much of the game's second and third worlds.

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Pixel Heroes:
Byte & Magic
Jan 26
Posted by Mark at 16:36

Coming in alongside the announcement that Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic is coming to XBox One, we did a quick livestream of failing to complete the first quest.

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Yakuza 0
Gameplay Video
Jan 15
Posted by Ben at 16:55

We posted our written preview for Yakuza 0 the other day, and now I've managed to make enough progress to record the video accompaniment

As you can See Yakuza 0, while not exactly pushing the PS4, isn't a shoddy looking game. There's more to Yakuza 0 than we can show in the video, but you'll see a few fights, some of the side quests, hear me ramble on about stuff, do some shouting at other people's karaoke. You know, the usual stuff

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Yakuza 0
Preview
Jan 11
Posted by Ben at 12:55

The late Western release of Yakuza 0 may actually turn out to be a fortuitous for the series. Sega have tried a few times to find some traction for the Yakuza games in the west without much luck. The series undoubtedly has its fans, and they've generally been good games, but as the series has gone on its been harder and harder for new players to find a foothold. Yakuza 3 and 4 felt like too much canon had passed to be an entry, and while Yakuza 5ís addition to Playstation Plus will have undoubtedly put the series on people's radar, it was on the PS3 as people moved on.

Yakuza 0 then is the first time we've seen the series on the Playstation 4, and that it's a prequel, one that doesn't need a storied knowledge to get the most out of, it's a great time to jump in. That's not to say that a knowledge of the characters and world won't have benefits, knowing who Kazuma Kiryu is acts as a pretty good short hand for what to expect from the Yakuza games.The brutal, joyous closed area brawling the series is famous for. The game opens with a young Kiryu, still low on the pecking order in the Tojo clan, beating a guy senseless to collect a debt he owes. He's then walked around town by a friend, who takes the time to explain where Kiryu is going wrong as a Yakuza, he's a bit too brusque if you can believe!



It soon turns out Kiryuís victim has turned up dead, and the murder is being pinned on him. Yakuza 0 begins to reveal a complex story or betrayal, loyalty, and real estate land grabs. When the Yakuza series lands their straight faced stories they're fantastic, complex and interesting. Where Yakuza 0 diverges slightly from my previous experiences with the series is that the more ludicrous aspects of the game are introduced along side this, straight faced. It's sensible, it's what a good portion of the franchise are here for. So, while you're on your tour of Tokyo, learning how to be a better Yakuza, you're taken out for some karaoke (which is hilarious), and introduced to the fighting mini games and the leveling system.

Something that has changed is the levelling. Rather than gain experience through combat and side missions you instead earn stacks of cash from smacking people about. This money then buys items on the skill tree, be that new moves, extra damage or increased health, with specialists dotted around the map to teach you some moves. The introduction of these specialists is invariably hilarious, or at least so over the top itís cool.



Which, for the uninitiated is pretty much what youíve got to look forward to from Yakuza 0. It seemingly presents itís barmy side a bit more front and centre than in previous games, but that belies an interesting and well presented crime story. There are moments that will have you rolling with laughter, but equally some of the brutal combat will make you wince before snorting in delight. Thereís mini games and side quests a plenty, and a ton of sub stories to fill out the world.

Weíll see where it goes as we progress through the game, but so far Yakuza 0 is shaping up to be a great entry to the series.

GALLERY:
Full gallery (2)
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Mantis Burn Racing
Gameplay Video
12-10-16
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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Mad Father
Gameplay Video
27-09-16
Posted by Ben at 13:59

I've got to admit a level of ignorance with regards to Mad Father. Apparently it's a Japanese indie game originally released in 2011, with an English release a year later. It's now out on Steam, remastered over the original release

There'll be a full review up in the next couple of days, but the video shows the early parts of the game. I'd completed Mad Father at this point, so it's pretty much a video review. For what it's worth though, I really enjoyed Mad Father, it's a cool thing that I hope more people get to play

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Super Treasure Arena
First Play
21-09-16
Posted by Ben at 16:02

Headup sent over a few copies of their new multi-player 2D arena shooter (if that's how you'd characterise it) Super Treasure Arena, which is still in Early Access on Steam, but we thought we'd take a look at it.

We're a little clumsy at it, certainly not showing off particularly high level play, although after a couple of matches against randoms the other night I can attest there's several levels beyond where we're at.

Super Treasure Arena seems pretty good so far, the use of enemies hides that it might otherwise feel a bit empty with only 3 or 4 humans (or bots) in the arena. Personally I could see an 8 player local co-op game being fantastic, but the online seems to work pretty well, even at this early stage (note: the game is only 4 players)

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