MOST WANTED 2014 – PS3 / PS VITA EDITION

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Well it’s already February and it’s been a tad quiet on the game release front so far. But fear not! There are plenty of great games coming soon(ish) so here’s a look at what you should be keeping an eye out for.

Originally this started out as an article covering all formats but there was just too much stuff! So first up will be PS3 and Vita, with PS4 games coming in the next installment.

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PS3

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Well there isn’t a massive amount for Playstation 3 that’s on my radar to be honest, so this will be a shorter section than the Vita one! I’ve already shelled out for the entire Second Season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead (above pic), we have had one episode so far (Clem – yay!) and I can’t wait for the rest. Aside from that I’m interested in Persona 5 but my main question on that is whether to wait for a Vita ‘Golden’ version. Not much is known about it but I loved Persona 4 Golden so much I will definitely play this at some stage!

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VITA

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There is still a misconception that the Vita doesn’t have any games – I busted that myth a while ago and it looks like 2014 is set to give us some real handheld treats. Some of these may have appeared on other systems before but I’ve never played them so I’m keen to try out the handheld version!

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Fez

Fez is a puzzle/platform game in which you rotate the world to progress. It has a fantastic art-style and is recognised as a top quality game by everyone that I know who played it. The player character, Gomez, has his world turned upside down when he receives a fez that allows him to manipulate the world around. Fez seems like a great game to play on the go.

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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number looks set to continue the overkill of the first game, which was a fast paced bloodfest that required sharp reflexes to get through. Hotline Miami was one of those games you just couldn’t put down and you can expect more of the same from the sequel. Wrong Number takes place before and after the events of the original Hotline Miami so will tie in nicely with the storyline and will further flesh out the back story of ‘Jacket’.

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Velocity 2x

Velocity 2X is a sequel to Velocity Ultra and gives us a chance to get out of the spaceship we’ve been flying in previous titles to kick some ass on foot as well! You play as Kai Tana, who blacked out while traveling through a wormhole in space. Unfortunately she’s stranded somewhere inhabited by a race called the Vokh. The gameplay is as you’d expect for the flying sections and the on foot stuff is just as slick. We’ve been promised moon bases, space stations and alien planets. Bring it on!

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Volume

Volume is a tactical stealth game in which you play as Locksley, a vigilante who uses distraction and sneaking to commit his crimes. The game is a retelling of the Robin Hood story set in the near future and it looks fantastic. Mike Bithell’s previous game ‘Thomas Was Alone’ is awesome so this is definitely one to watch out for.

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Gravity Rush 2

I really enjoyed Gravity Rush, it remains one of the best exclusives the Vita has to offer. So I was most excited to see a follow up game teased. Kat awoke with no memory but had the ability to influence gravity. It looks like she may have some new powers judging by the trailer above and I’m keen to find out where the game is heading story-wise.

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Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter doesn’t seem like the sort of game I would usually get super excited for. But I thought this looked really cool as soon as I saw it. A 2D action role-playing game that sees you playing a character that has a mystery illness. As you search for a cure you’ll be using technology that only you have access to in a bid to defeat enemies and save yourself. Just look at that art-style… superb!

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CounterSpy

CounterSpy is a stealth game that is played from a side scrolling, 2D perspective. Taking place during an alternate history cold war (!), this game sounds super cool. The developers have some background as well – while this is their first indie game, some of them previously worked at LucaArts and Pixar.

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Murasaki Baby

This one looks dark as hell, no surprise I suppose given the game director’s history of working on titles like Killer7, No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned. You play as Baby, a little girl who has a mouth (complete with sharp teeth) on her forehead. You’ll be guiding her through a world full of children’s nightmares. Again this is another Vita title with an excellent art direction and one I’m looking forward to playing.

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Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy was a bit hit last year and is set to hit the Vita sometime in 2014. The game is a platformer in which you must explore a randomly generated dungeon. It’s a bit like the excellent Spleunky but here when you die your abilities are passed on to one of three random ‘heirs’ who you control on the next run through. An interesting idea for sure and apparently very addictive.

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Frozen Synapse: Tactics

Frozen Synapse: Tactics is a turn based strategy game that sees you as part of a resistance, taking on a corrupt government in a dystopian, cyberpunk future. Which sounds pretty excellent to me. This isn’t a fast paced action title though – you’ll be carefully planning moves for your soldiers in advance and watching how things pan out in skirmishes between resistance and the government.

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Football Manager 2014

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As much as I’m looking forward to Football Manager on Vita I’m also a little apprehensive that it was swallow up hours of my gaming time. This a much more in-depth version than the previous PSP titles and as usual I expect to have great fun guiding a lower league club to the very top! This also has cross-save with the PC version of the game so you can play wherever/whenever you want.

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Freedom Wars

Freedom Wars is a battle action, co-op focussed game which takes place on Earth in the year 102013 (!). Humans now live underground and anyone arrested for a crime is presumed guilty. Prisoners can reduce their sentence by fighting giant monsters up top. If it plays as fun as it sounds this could be a real blast to play with friends.

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Helldivers

In Helldivers you’ll be battling the alien enemies of mankind as part of an elite government unit. The game is a top down shooter with procedurally-generated battlefields, so you won’t come across the exact same level twice. Helldivers features a single player campaign and (up to) 4 player co-op content, so this could be a title to grab with friends and get yourself online.

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Persona 4: Dancing All Night

As it says in the title this is a dancing rhythm game for the Vita. Not usually my cup of tea but I’ll play anything that furthers the story/world of Persona 4. Seems like you’ll still be fighting demons but this time by dancing as opposed to hitting them with blunt/sharp objects. Oh and Atlus, please sort getting Persona 4 Arena onto Vita soon. Or, like, now.

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So what do you think folks? Which games have your interest for the year ahead?

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GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2013

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Well what a year it’s been for gaming! With the arrival of new consoles in the Autumn we were left wondering whether the support would still be there for the PS3 and if you needed convincing you only had to look at The Last Of Us, Beyond: Two Souls and Gran Turismo 6 to see there is life in the old dog yet.

As the PS4 didn’t arrive until November 29th (and I didn’t receive mine until early December) nothing for that platform will be eligible for this year’s awards (as they run November to November). Also there were a few games I held off of so I could get the superior PS4 version, namely Assassin’s Creed IV and Battlefield 4, so they also won’t feature.

We start with a new award, that recognizes the fact that I simply can’t play every game within the year. The ‘Missed Gem’ award goes to a game from the previous year that I didn’t play until this year but feel would’ve warranted a mention last time out if I had played it in time.

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MISSED GEM OF 2012

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WINNER: Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead (Season 1)

Everyone has rightfully raved about The Walking Dead. I’m one of them (check out my review) and I can safely say it was a fantastic experience. It’s a point and click adventure game, which wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea but the story here is soooo good. Highly recommended.

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BEST GAME INNOVATION

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Winner: Grand Theft Auto V (Multi Character Selection)

GTA V was a trend setter in many ways but one of the most impressive aspects of the game was the way you could switch between the main characters at will. With a button press you would be pulled to an overhead view of the map, moved across to wherever the other character was and then plonked down to them. This in itself isn’t a completely original idea, Driver: San Francisco had a similar mechanic that allowed you to swap between vehicles. The difference here are the little character vignettes when you land with a new character; Franklin pulling his friend away from a fight, Michael finishing a coffee and tossing the cup away or Trevor… well God knows what Trevor will be doing! This small touch gives you a real feeling that the world of GTA V is continuing around you at all times. It’s a very nice mechanic.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Crysis 3 (Multiplayer Highlights)
  • Bioshock Infinite (Skyhooks)
  • Metal Gear Rising (Precision Cutting)

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

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WINNER: Mass Effect 3: Citadel

The ending of Mass Effect 3 left a bad taste in many people’s mouths, even with the update Bioware released. If that was the case for you, or if you just loved the game/series then give the Citadel DLC a spin. This is the ‘Christmas Special’ of Mass Effect, a set of side missions that see you fighting off enemies, carrying out a heist and planning a party for your crew… Yes, that’s right organizing and hosting a party 🙂 It. Is. Awesome. And great fan service. The Walking Dead: 400 Days also deserves a mention as it carried on with the hard choices of season 1 straight off the bat, even if the characters were new. Soul Sacrifice on Vita was supported with a ridiculous amount of free DLC post launch which was all really cool so make sure you check that out as well.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 3 – End Game
  • The Walking Dead – 400 Days
  • Soul Sacrifice – Various Free DLC Packs

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BEST DOWNLOAD ONLY GAME

Hotline Miami 1

WINNER: Hotline Miami (Vita)

Enough people were raving about it on PC last year but 2013 was the year I finally got my hands on Hotline Miami – the super fast, super violent and super challenging top down kill fest. I absolutely loved this game and don’t know anyone who played it that didn’t get hooked. The Vita version looks super crisp and the soundtrack is awesome. Most of the games in this category I played on Vita (though all of these were on PS3 as well) with some great titles like Guacamelee, Thomas Was Alone and Lone Survivor. Another pleasant surprise was Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – it had Robocop’s gun in it! ROBOCOP’S GUN!! 🙂

RUNNERS UP:

  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
  • Guacamelee (Vita)
  • Thomas Was Alone (Vita)

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2014

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WINNER: Infamous: Second Son

Well, the clear winner for this in my eyes was Cyberpunk 2077 but it turns out that isn’t arriving until 2015 so I had to have a rethink! A new Uncharted has me interested but so little is known about it at this stage, same goes for Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. The Witcher 3 and The Order: 1886 are definitely on my radar and No Man’s Sky looked awesome at VGX earlier this month. For me, at the moment, it has to be Infamous: Second Son. The game looks so damn good up close (I wasn’t allowed to play it but watched a hands off level playthrough) I could barely believe it. I’m hyped for this one, roll on March.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Witcher 3
  • The Order: 1886
  • No Man’s Sky

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BEST GAME TRAILER

*Warning Contains Strong Language*

WINNER: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

I’m not sure I need many words here, as someone who grew up in the 1980’s… just watch the Blood Dragon trailer to see why it won 🙂 GTA always has great trailers and the below is no exception, super use of music as well. Love this Last Of Us one, not always a fan of live action stuff but this is clever. And Killzone always looks amazing, Shadow Fall is no different.

RUNNERS UP:

GTA V

Last Of Us

Killzone Shadow Fall

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BEST PS VITA GAME

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WINNER: Persona 4 The Golden

If you’d told me a year ago that a Japanese RPG would win my Vita Game Of The Year in a year when a Killzone title came to Vita, I would’ve called you a liar. I haven’t really ever played a JRPG before but then again Persona 4: The Golden isn’t like other JRPG’s. Like The Walking Dead this is a game all about your relationships with characters (Oh Chie) and P4G grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. Don’t let the fact Killzone: Mercenary didn’t pick up GOTY deter you from grabbing it if you have a Vita – it’s the best handheld shooter ever made. Soul Sacrifice was another title I might not have played on a home console but it just seems like a great fit on Vita and it’s really fun in short bursts. Tearaway was a beautiful game that put you in a superbly realized papercraft world and utilised all of the best Vita features. A charming game.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Soul Sacrifice
  • Tearaway
  • Killzone: Mercenary

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BEST GRAPHICS

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WINNER: Beyond: Two Souls

It was a pretty close run race in this category with four superb looking games. The Last Of Us probably came closest to nabbing this with it’s fully realized, if grim, world and characters but while the animation of Beyond: Two Souls might’ve been off at times, graphically the game was stunning. Especially impressive considering they were using actors that people recognize and could more easily spot any faults. Also the fire/flame effects were majorly impressive. Los Santos in GTA V was such a wonder to look at sometimes I would just stop and admire the view – I can’t wait to see what Rockstar deliver on PS4. And while it was stylized, Bioshock Infinite created a beautiful world in Columbia and then filled it with dark, interesting people. Definitely a world to be explored and experienced.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Bioshock Infinite
  • GTA V
  • The Last Of Us

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BEST STORYLINE

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WINNER: Bioshock Infinite

There have been some great stories to play through this year and again The Last Of Us came very close to taking this award but this year’s winner is Bioshock Infinite. A title that had me guessing throughout and while I thought I had the twist sussed it turned out to be one of many that, by the time the credits rolled, left me reeling. As I uncovered more and more clues while playing through it was satisfying to put the pieces together. I thought Crystal Dynamics did a great job with the Tomb Raider reboot but the story was strongest in those opening few hours and fell away a bit beyond that. Those few hours though… what a ride. DmC was one of my more pleasant surprises this year (all round in fact) and I enjoyed the game’s story of greed and corruption and thought the world they’d created was very fleshed out.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Last Of Us
  • Tomb Raider
  • DmC

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (SCORE)

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WINNER: Persona 4: The Golden (Vita)

This was a really difficult category to decide on – all four of these are great scores that you should definitely check out. GTA V was the surprise for me as I didn’t expect the score to be so awesome and well suited to the heist aspect of the game. The Last Of Us and Bioshock Infinite were more subtle but packed a big punch when necessary. However the award goes to Persona 4: The Golden for it’s crazy, fun and memorable score, which includes a few songs written for the game that are used during battles. There were plenty of other great scores worth checking out from this year, I’d also recommend Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Beyond: Two Souls.

RUNNERS UP:

  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • The Last Of Us

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (LICENSED)

Hotline Miami 3

WINNER: Hotline Miami (Vita)

I mentioned Hotline Miami last year because I’d heard the soundtrack but hadn’t played the game. Nothing can quite prepare you for what is one of the most powerful collections of tracks in gaming. The songs here perfectly capture the feel of the game and lend a kind of hypnotic vibe to proceedings. Absolutely brilliant. The Grand Theft Auto games always have stellar licensed material and GTA V is no different, featuring great songs across lots of different radio stations. Bioshock Infinite‘s use of tears to play songs was inspired, especially as it also featured ‘Columbia’ versions of them all in game as well. And Far Cry 3, well that M.I.A use was brilliant and the Skrillex track fitted so well with the mission it was used on – just good solid choices.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Far Cry 3
  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite

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BEST VOICE ACTING

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WINNER: The Last Of Us

This was another tough category this year as so many games delivered massive performances in terms of acting. The Last Of Us though is a deserving winner, with Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson bringing most to the table with solid support from, among others, Nolan North. Baker delivered another fantastic performance as Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite alongside the excellent Courtnee Draper. Steven Ogg as Trevor gets GTA V a mention just on his own and alongside his other cast members helped to make our stay in Los Santos a memorable one. I suppose when you hire big name actors like Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe you expect big things but as we’ve seen in the past bringing Hollywood to games doesn’t always work out. Luckily for us with Beyond: Two Souls it did this time and Page’s delivery and commitment to the role added real depth to her character Jodie Holmes.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Bioshock Infinite
  • GTA V
  • Beyond: Two Souls

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: The Last Of Us

The Last Of Us is one of those games that has to be played to be believed. Titles such as Uncharted 2 and Journey carry the same gravitas and The Last Of Us can be added to that list of games that anyone with a PS3 should play. The journey of Ellie and Joel during the game is astounding and the world is a brutal, beautiful place to (carefully) explore. The Clickers were hideous enemies and the fact they could kill you in one hit just made things worse. Everything works here – the scarcity of ammo/supplies, the confined spaces you’d find yourself in and also little touches like finding the after effects of horrific events and finding out the mini storylines contained within. While GTA V and Persona 4: The Golden are totally different styles of game I stuck almost 60 hours into each of their single player offerings this year, which is a testament to their quality. And while the combat did drag at times in Bioshock Infinite, overall it was just such a great game that you can’t do anything but recommend it.

RUNNERS UP:

  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Persona 4 The Golden (Vita)

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: GTA Online

It says a lot about the opening 6 months of 2013 that during that time my most played online games were Killzone 3 (2011), Mass Effect 3 (2012) and Battlefield 3 (2011). The one new thing I played in this time was Far Cry 3, which had a nice co-op online mode and handled really well, in terms of feel of weapons etc. Then June hit and The Last Of Us arrived, with it’s new and fresh idea of what multiplayer could be. Run and gun was out, scavenge and hide was in. I had some very tense rounds of this immensely underrated online offering. Killzone: Mercenary offered Vita owners a glimpse of what an FPS title could do online and it was very fun, despite a few issues with spawn point locations. But the award this year goes to GTA Online. Finally released in October it was… well, broken to be honest. But now that it’s (mainly) fixed it is an absolute blast. Whether doing scripted missions or just messing about with friends it has been some of my most memorable online gaming in the last few years.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Last Of Us
  • Far Cry 3
  • Killzone Mercenary (Vita)

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GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: The Last Of Us

The Last Of Us takes this year’s award – a combination of it’s superlative single player and fantastic online offering is more than enough to justify it’s win. All four nominees are outrageously great games and well worth playing. Bioshock Infinite‘s mix of bright, vibrant colours, stylised graphics and dark, sinister undercurrent make for a compelling game and while Persona 4: The Golden shares some characteristics with Irrational Game’s title it also has a wealth of depth that left me stunned. In GTA V Rockstar have created a living, breathing love/hate letter to L.A that will keep you gripped and amazed both online and offline.

RUNNERS UP:

  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Persona 4 The Golden (Vita)

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So there you have it!

There were plenty of other decent games that didn’t get nominated but I’d still recommend. Titles like Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Rain and Puppeteer to name a few.

It’s also been a good year for Vita owners with titles like Retro City Rampage, Guacamelee, Hotline Miami, Thomas Was Alone, Stealth Inc., Lone Survivor and Spluenky making the jump over, along with exclusives like Persona 4 : The Golden, Soul Sacrifice, Killzone: Mercenary and Tearaway. It was nice to see a Vita game crack the nominees list for Game Of The Year for the first time as well.

So what have you guys been playing? What have I missed? What was your favourite game this year?

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Sparkle – Review (Vita)

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*This piece originally appeared on TheSixthAxis and can be viewed HERE*

10tons games have their 10th anniversary this year and have decided to bring some of their back catalogue titles over to the Vita to celebrate. The first of these is Sparkle, a puzzle game released back in 2007 that tells the story of Crowberry Woods.

The Woods have fallen under the darkness of evil forces. It’s up to you to work your way through the Woods and find what you need to save the forest and its people. To do so you must match coloured orbs in batches of three to progress. You can use the right stick to throw your orbs, but I found it more intuitive to use the touchscreen, tapping wherever you want the orb to land. Rather than the traditional top to bottom orb descent, in Sparkle the orbs flow through a snake-like maze around the screen.

I’ve never really been a fan of this type of game, but having the orbs move in this way freshened things up for me and it definitely adds to the pressure while playing. There are some levels where you will have two sets of orbs both snaking in different directions, which certainly adds to the challenge!

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However, Sparkle isn’t too challenging overall, and it mainly stays on the fun side of things – I think I lost one round in the opening thirty levels before finally running out of lives around level forty-five, and even when you do ‘die’ you are only put back to your last checkpoint. Sitting alongside the main story mode there are also ‘Challenge’ (time trial) and ‘Survival’ modes to keep you playing.

To help you on your way, there are various power-ups you can acquire by chaining together combos. For example, you may be able to change a bunch of orbs to all one colour or send out a blast that makes orbs disappear. In addition to that you’ll also have a permanent upgrade that you can earn via Amulets – these also come with different abilities but they are broader in scope, last the entire round and can only be worn one at a time. These covers things like throwing orbs twice as fast or getting an extra orb slot on your ‘slinger.’

Whilst I enjoyed the gameplay I was a bit disappointed with the story mode overall. To have a vibrant and colourful game during play only to be greeted, for the most part, by text on a dark background between levels didn’t inspire me to continue playing. I felt that even a few hand drawn or animated backgrounds to accompany the text would’ve made a huge difference.

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The other issue here is price, and it’s once again a port that raises the question – how much more will you pay for a game that costs £1.99 on itunes? I feel £1.99 is a fair price for this title so to see it priced at £3.99 was a bit of a surprise. Having said that I suppose it is all down to what you get out of it – if you loved the original and fancied working your way through the trophies on this version then perhaps you’d be happy to pick it up. There is also a free demo up on the store for you to try.

Sparkle is a good puzzle game that I enjoyed playing. I’m not sure it warrants a purchase at £3.99, but fans of the genre should enjoy this and perhaps will be willing to overlook the increased cost to play on the platform of their choice.

Score: 7/10

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Retro City Rampage – Review (Vita)

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Retro City Rampage is a homage to the games of my youth, those 80’s classics from the 8bit and 16bit era and I found myself smiling while noticing one game reference after another.

The game is viewed from a top-down perspective, barring a few specific sections, and does a great job of capturing the feel of those old titles we used to play on NES and Master System. It even has a fantatsic soundtrack in the ‘chiptune’ style.

You control the aptly named ‘The Player’ as he makes his way around the city of Theftropolis, causing trouble and joining up as a henchman for the city’s evil gang. After stumbling upon a time-travel device you are thrown into the future and need the help of Doc Choc (a parody of Christopher Lloyd’s wonderful Doc Brown from the Back To The Future films) to sort things out.

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The story leaves the city open for you to explore and there is plenty to do beyond the main missions – there are lots of arcade challenges and even different arcade game cabinets to play in the game world.

The game controls fairly well, although at times I did find the handling of the driving tough – especially frustrating when a mission depended on it. I enjoyed all the different weapons and vehicles at your disposal and you can tell a lot of love went into crafting the game.

Retro City Rampage is the work of Brian Provinciano who has almost single-handedly dragged the game through development. It seems apart from the music and some of the pixel art, it’s all down to him – which makes it even more impressive.

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This game is perfect for short bursts on the Vita and you’ll find yourself grabbing 20 minutes whenever you can when you get hooked into the gameplay. However this isn’t a game for everyone – some of the missions retain that old skool, punishing, difficulty so if that’s not your bag then maybe give it a miss.

Overall, Retro City Rampage is an enjoyable romp through the games and films of your childhood (if you’re over 25 or so) and the developer has done a super job of getting the feel just right. The question is do you want to play a game just like the ones from your youth for hours on end?

Rating: 8/10

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Eurogamer Expo 2013 – Round Up

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The Eurogamer Expo grows in size every year and 2013 is no different, with over 70,000 people attending over four days. That is a LOT of people, which also explains why I spent most of the day in queues rather than playing games.

That’s not to say it wasn’t still a blast but by choosing to queue for Titanfall and Battlefield 4 (about 2hrs of queuing between them) we gave up time we could’ve spent queuing for less busy games.

Anyway, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give Titanfall a shot – that and Quantum Break are the only two games of interest to me in the XBox One launch line up (although Titanfall doesn’t arrive until 2014).

So here is my round up of what I got hands on with at the Expo:

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Titanfall

First up was Titanfall, voted by most critics as the best thing at E3 2013. Even while we were queuing I was finding it hard to get overly excited – it’s just Call Of Duty with double jump and mechs. Right? Wrong. The game itself is great fun and it was easy to get straight into the action. Movement felt fluid and wall running was easy. I liked the heft of the weapons and the fact they seem to have taken a leaf out of Resistance‘s book with some of the weapon design. I see no reason this won’t come to PS4 further down the line, with the developer already mentioning that a PS4 version is ‘definitely not out of the question’ so I will be picking this up for sure then. But it’s not worth the price of an XBox One for me just to play this. * ‘TITANFALL’ : GREGHORRORSHOW’S MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE – Eurogamer Expo 2013*

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Battlefield 4

Next up was Battlefield 4 and as a big fan of the series I was looking forward to seeing what improvements had been made. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Battlefield has never been ‘pick up and play’ and I spent the first three or four minutes of the demo sorting out the sensitivity on the sticks etc. I don’t think having to stand so close to the screen and use an XBox pad did me any favours either but I didn’t enjoy the demo. Recoil on the guns felt insanely over the top, I shot a few guys three or four times without killing them and the map looked similar to some of the stuff on BF3. Of course it’s an alpha build and it was only one round so, recoil aside, it could’ve been bad luck. Nevertheless after queuing for so long this one left a bitter taste in my mouth.

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Killzone Shadow Fall

I’d played Shadow Fall previously but that was the single player component so I was excited to try the mutliplayer offering. Shadow Fall delivers a refined Killzone experience and I can see this being my go to shooter on the PS4. The weapons felt great and the game looked fantastic. At one stage I managed to get behind the enemies and brutal melee’d three of them in a row… the stuff of dreams 😆 It felt competitive and it seems there will be even more depth with the new class abilities. * ‘KILLZONE SHADOW FALL′ : GREGHORRORSHOW’S BEST IN SHOW – Eurogamer Expo 2013*

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Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Octodad is a wonderfully absurd game in which you control an octopus trying to maintain his life pretending to be a man. In this demo I was tasked with getting him ready for his wedding and making sure he gets down the aisle in one piece! Octodad’s legs aRE controlled with L2/R2 and the left stick. When you need to switch to his arms you press L1 and then you move the sticks to control his arms, with R1 picking things up. The tricky controls and crazy animation of Octodad make this a very fun game. Definitely recommended.

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Warframe

Warframe has had my interest since it was announced for PS4 as a free-to-play title. At the expo we were sampling co-op mode, which was a horde mode affair with three of us combining to protect an item in the middle of the map. The game is fast paced and moves smoothly – you can aim and shoot with L2/R2 with R1 bringing out your samurai sword for close encounters. L1 allows you to slide on your knees in the same style as Vanquish. I’m not sure how much more effective that was but it sure looked cool 🙂 You also have special abilities which are triggered by swiping the touchpad on the DualShock 4. We had no problem dispatching wave after wave of enemies and soon the demo was over. I had a couple of issues where it felt like the camera couldn’t actually keep up with the game but hopefully that will be ironed out by launch.

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Velocity 2x (Vita)

I enjoyed Velocity as a mini on my Vita and I have Velocity Ultra (courtesy of Playstation Plus) but haven’t fired it up yet. So when I saw Futurlab were back with another Velocity title I was hoping they’d mix things up a bit. And they certainly have. As well as the spaceship flying that made up the original title we will now be treated to some platforming goodness as well. The game looks and feels fantastic. It’s easy to control and has a really cool style. This looks set to be a masterpiece on Vita (and PS4) when it arrives next year.

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The Crew

Lastly I played The Crew, Ubisoft’s next gen racing offering, and while half the time I didn’t have a clue what was going on (not helped by the game randomly cutting to a title card in amongst everything) it was great fun. This is a more arcadey racer, with nitrous boosts and drifting the norm. We were given a few minutes to drive around before being entered into a race (individually – we were all in a different race in a different part of the gameworld) and then assigned a target car for the four of us playing to take out. Much crashing and hilarity ensued – if they can polish up the presentation angle of the game this could be a great addition to the racing genre.

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While I didn’t get to play them (as they were on PC and I’m not a PC gamer) I also watched people playing Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and Volume – both of which will be coming to Vita next year. And both of which looked excellent. Hotline Miami 2 seems to be more of the same which is fine with me and Volume looks like a super interesting take on the stealth genre. Here’s a trailer for that:

So overall it was a good Expo, although the queues seemed to have doubled in size from last year. I suspect next year you might need two days to actually get round and see a decent amount of games. For the most part queuing wasn’t too bad – Titanfall had the nice idea of seating the next batch of people to play in front of a video about the game and Sony‘s booth had content on a big screen that didn’t loop for the entire hour we were queuing.

Did anyone else go this year? Would be good to hear what you played and what you thought of the Expo.

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Hotline Miami – Review (Vita)

Hotline Miami 1

I’d heard only good things about Hotline Miami and was already aware of it’s superb soundtrack before firing the game up. This was a title that had featured heavily on ‘best of 2012’ lists all over the place when it was out on PC last year.

Thankfully the developers also decided to bring the game over to Vita (and PS3 – it’s cross buy so for one price you get both versions) and what a treat for handheld owners this is.

Hotline Miami is a very fast-paced game, where the aim of each chapter is kill everyone in whatever building you are in. Enemies follow patterns but not exclusively so the game isn’t as simple as learning their routes. You’ll need speedy judgement and extremely fast reactions for this game because enemies can take you down in the blink of an eye.

Hotline Miami 2

Let me just stop at this point and say that Hotline Miami is a horrifically violent game. While the art style is very much 8-bit, looking like something I might’ve played on my Megadrive, this is a game in which you inflict brutal violence on people. Inspired by the hyper-violent film Drive, this definitely isn’t one for the easily offended.

The fantastic, bright, vivid colour palette delivers a surreal experience quite unlike anything else I’ve played. Mixed into that is the brilliant music that makes the whole thing feel like a feverish nightmare.

The key to Hotline Miami is accepting death. You will die. Lots. But with each death comes more knowledge of the level layout and the knowledge that ‘yes that guy can shoot me from there.’ Doors will become your friend – open them onto an enemy to knock them out, making them drop their weapon. For a game that looks simplistic Hotline Miami delivers a wonderfully tactical gaming experience.

Hotline Miami 3

The Vita version streamlines a few handy features, allowing you to tap enemies on screen that you want to lock on to and using your finger to look beyond what you can already see on screen.

There were times that I was completely frustrated. Where I could see no way beyond the part I was stuck on. Repeating the same death over and over, or even worse making a sloppy mistake and getting myself killed.

Thankfully the designers eliminated load times within chapters so if (when) you die a quick tap of the X button will immediately restart you. And that is key – especially for a handheld game. This fast restart means you can easily play Hotline Miami for 15 or 20 mins at a time – perfect for bus journeys.

Hotline Miami 4

There is a good story here and some interesting narrative, especially in the back third of the game. With online leaderboards and unlockable weapons and masks (each with different abilities) there is plenty of scope to replay the game. Hotline Miami is a fantastic game, if you’re willing to experience the violence this is a must play.

Rating: 10/10

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Killzone: Mercenary – Review (Vita)

KZMercMain

What is it about Killzone games and showcasing a system’s graphical power? Killzone 2 and 3 showed how good the PS3 could look and Killzone Shadowfall seems to be making a case for the PS4. In amongst all this comes Killzone Mercenary for the PS Vita, Sony’s handheld machine.

Not only are Vita owners crying out for a big budget game (I love the indie stuff but we do need a batch of bigger budget titles as well) but the history of the FPS genre on Vita is chequered, to say the least. I ploughed quite a bit of time into Resistance: Burning Skies and Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified’s online offerings but they weren’t fantastic.

So have Guerrilla Cambridge managed to deliver on the promise of a big budget, graphical powerhouse that plays like its big brothers?

A definitive ‘yes’ is the answer.

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Killzone Mercenary gives you a big, set piece filled campaign mode, broken up into individual missions with handheld gaming in mind. The missions themselves vary in length – some were 20/25 minutes, whereas some edged towards the hour mark. I was playing on the hardest setting though, so your mileage may vary if you’re playing on lower settings.

One thing a lot of people noted in their previews was that you have a lot of choice in how to approach missions – quite often there may be two or three different ways through an area. For the main game you can play however you like and attempt to rescue a situation that has spun out of control.

However there are also three other versions of each mission: Precision (Quick), Covert (Sneaky) and Demolition (Loud!). While these add specific fail states (i.e Stealth through the lab etc.), it’s not just as simple as replaying every level the same way with a couple of different conditions – some of these objectives will take you to totally different areas of the level that you might have missed on your first playthrough.

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The game controls like the PS3 versions of Killzone, which is a good thing in my book. The weapons have a nice heft to them and they feel different enough to warrant switching them out if you need a change. To do that you’ll have to visit Blackjack. He’s the in-game black market dealer for weapons and the like. You’ll need to use in-game cash to purchase a weapon or van-guard ability before being able to use it. You can then chop and change (for a price) during missions at arms dealer crates scattered across the level.

The campaign itself was thoroughly enjoyable, this time positioning you as a merc rather than ISA grunt. So while you will still be fighting the Helghast you’ll also have missions where you’re facing off against the ISA. It certainly felt strange killing the ISA in a story driven context but it did give the game a fresh direction, which was good.

I played through the entire campaign, then went through again doing each mission on the covert settings and am now on my third playthrough as demolition. I don’t remember the last time I played a campaign more than twice? In fact, I’m not sure if I ever have since the Mega Drive days? Which tells you a lot about Mercenary but also about how much I love the Killzone universe 🙂

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Multiplayer will be the big draw for most people though and I’m pleased to say Guerrilla Cambridge have managed to squeeze an impressive online offering into the package. The action here is 4v4, with 6 maps of differing size and there is a fair bit of variety within the levels. Each of them have their own nooks and crannies, as well as lots of verticality.

This means you can get the drop on your enemies if you know the maps well enough and gives the game a lot of replayability. You level up across single and multiplayer so if you’re not within reach of a wi-fi signal playing the single player stuff offline will net you in-game cash to spend and anything unlocked via Blackjack is available both off and online.

Some people have reported trouble connecting to games in the online beta but I haven’t had any problems so far and I expect the final game to be more refined so hopefully that won’t be an issue.

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Overall, Killzone Mercenary is a fantastic offering for long suffering Vita FPS fans. There is a substantial campaign here with lots of replayability but, crucially, broken up into manageable level sizes. Online the game holds up – of course it’s not quite as big as the PS3 offerings – but there is a lot of fun to be had here. I am a huge Killzone fan but I believe even with no knowledge of the other games Mercenary is a top quality title that everyone can (and should) enjoy.

Rating: 10/10

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