LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

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I couldn’t help it. I’ve been suckered in to getting another LEGO game.

One thing that can be said for LEGO The Force Awakens is the visuals. I never thought a Lego game could look so good. I’ve been playing the PC version and the graphics are jaw dropping, well, as much as they can be for a Lego game. The audio is great too! The cast includes Tom Kane reprising his role as Admiral Ackbar from other Star Wars games, Carrie Fisher and even Harrison Ford.

It would have been nice to see the series return to its roots with mute characters, but at least the game does the voices right.

It’s much more cinematic than previous Lego games as well. The camera angle will now often change to shift the focus of the action.

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The bulk of the gameplay is the same as its always been, simple puzzle and combat mechanics. Like most new titles in the series, in The Force Awakens you are able to attack enemies using one button and perform finisher moves on them with another. This adds a small amount of variety (in that you press a different button). Jokes aside, it does give the characters some extra moves.

There are also some pretty cool shooter segments. These are fun, but why on earth is the left stick used for aiming instead of the right?! In addition, there are some fun but kind of floaty spaceship battles.

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The story surprisingly good! It isn’t just a retread of the film, it has flashbacks to the original trilogy and we find out how Poe rescues Akbar.

As always, the collectables are strong with this one and that’s where the challenge of the game comes from.

The real problem with Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens is the glitches. The game is so broken I was not even able to finish it. The main offender is on the last level and it makes it impossible to progress. I saw at least one other person online having this problem:

Unfortunately, due to this, Lego The Force Awakens is impossible to recommend. These issues will likely be fixed in a future patch but the game should never have been released in this state. Shame really, this would otherwise have been a solid entry in to the Lego series.

Reviewed by Tom Martin

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LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

Kirby: Planet Robobot Review

Crush, kill, destroy. Hang on, isn’t this a Kirby game?!

In Planet Robobot, Kirby has access to large mechs which he can use to slice, smash and burn hordes of enemies. It sounds very violent when you say it like that, but to be fair the cartoon violence is the same as it always has been.

 

For the uninitiated, Kirby is an action/platformer series. The first Kirby game was released in 1992 for the Game Boy. The second game, for the Nintendo Entertainment System, introduced the mechanic of sucking up enemies and copying their abilities. This has been a staple of the series ever since.

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Planet Robobot is no different. There are 27 copy abilities in the game. Of course, old favourites such as wheel and fire return. There are a few new abilities too, including a really cool Dr Mario inspired ability, where Kirby throws pills which bounce like fireballs from the Mario games, much slower though. The new poison ability is fun too. Most of the copy abilities have a different function if you use them while running or jumping which mixes up the combat.

In addition to this, the mech is able to copy 13 abilities as well, these are known as modes and are essentially a more powerful version of the regular ability. Trying out all these abilities is a lot of fun, they are all well balanced, however some are obviously more fun to use and more powerful than others. Destroying foes and smashing the environment around with the mech variations is satisfying indeed.

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The level design is inspired, highlights include a casino level where you run around on billiards tables and a level set in a city where cars race towards the foreground of the level. There are also a few shooter levels where the mech transforms into a spaceship and you have to keep up with the screen scrolling from left to right. In a few levels there are also some sections where you guide another character who follows your moves through the background and other sections where Kirby wields a large electrified pole that stretches across both planes, killing enemies and moving blocks. There aren’t too many of these so they don’t detract from the core Kirby experience, they add some welcome variety.

The game looks great as well, Kirby’s animations are extremely fluid and graceful. The game sometimes switches to a pseudo 3D perspective, Kirby 64 style. There is also a fairly big emphasis on riding on stars, switching between the foreground and background of the level. This is a nice subtle use of the 3D screen.

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The story goes that a space ship invades and mechanises Kirby’s home planet, but let’s be fair, no one is here for the story.

After completing the game, the player will unlock the Meta Knightmare Returns and Arena game modes. In the former, you play as Meta Knight, one of the games antagonists, as you run through previous sections of the game in a time trial fashion. Playing as Meta Knight does mix things up a bit as he has different abilities to Kirby but to be honest it feels a bit boring to just retread the same levels.

Arena is a boss rush mode, that’s about it. Most players will get bored after they finish the Planet Robobot story.

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Planet Robobot is short but sweet. Kirby veterans will hardly die at all. In addition to the main game, there are two other modes. Kirby 3D Rumble; a 3D platformer with light puzzle elements. This is essentially a glorified demo, there are only three stages and you can beat it in about fifteen minutes.

There is also Team Kirby Clash, a multiplayer RPG like fare where each stage is a boss for up to four players to take on. There are four classes, all of which are fairly similar aside from the medic. You gain experience from fights which causes you to level up, increasing your stats such as stamina and attack. It’s fairly basic and seems a bit boring, you fight a number of enemies which would essentially be mini-bosses in the main game, not much more to say really.

Overall, Kirby Planet Robobot is a great game. The additional offerings are fairly weak and the challenge is non-existent, but the main game is still a joy to play. There is just enough nostalgia and new additions to keep everyone happy.

By Tom Martin

Kirby: Planet Robobot Review

‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd, four is a full lobby’ – Ben Whittington teams up to look at Co-op in Zombie Army Trilogy

In my opinion, the suggestion of utilising zombies to enhance your content is very much like using jet fuel to ignite a barbecue. It’s only going to look awesome and nothing will ever go wrong. We seem to be coming to the end of an obsession with zombies that has lasted near enough a decade and has given us plenty of games, films, TV shows and comics that we can sink our infected teeth into. The game that I’ll be championing today is a standalone expansion of the successful and brilliant Sniper Elite II but; surprise surprise, with zombies! Zombie Army Trilogy isn’t actually one game. You get three neatly packaged into one. I could talk about the mechanics, maps and weapons of Sniper Elite II being reused and tweaked slightly but I won’t. Trust me, it’s Sniper Elite with Zombies and is best played with three other mates on the co-op mode. Its story-line is based around the Nazis using ancient artifacts that resurrect his dead soldiers. I’m not going to spoil it for you but yes, Hitler is in it. It’s narrated well and not intrusive on the game so you can just play without questioning what your character’s motive is. There’s no cryogenic freezing, quest for revenge or redemption here, just saving the world one shell casing clinking on the floor at a time. Aside from a couple of new additions the weapons are the same and a few maps are re-used from the original game but with tweaks that only improve the atmosphere such as candles laid out in circles, blood smeared in symbols and fucking zombies walking about. The zombies themselves are great but pretty much what we’ve come to expect from zombie games, Slow but deadly in groups which start to run on higher difficulties but still are incredibly satisfying to drop on their rotting arses with well-placed shots. The zombie army ranks are also bolstered by regular mini-bosses to spice up proceedings. You have your standard 7 foot tall tank type that wields a machine gun and possesses seemingly bulletproof skin, a kamikaze type runner that will run at you with a primed grenade and a spring-heeled jack sniper knob-head that will keep you scanning rooftops. You also get random skeleton men pop up. Not sure why, although fun to kick into bits. The gameplay is somewhat linear and predictable but this just adds to the co-op fun. It doesn’t have to be rich with story, its whole ethos is that it’s acceptable to kill Nazis and especially the undead type so just do it. You and your mates will have just cleared a barn area, there’s no way out and so it’s perfectly obvious the Wehr-previously-alive-macht are planning a counter attack. It’s that old cliché in games, film and TV. It’s Quiet. Too Quiet. Shaun’s Character is motionless staring at a wall, he’s obviously taken the lull in the action to grab a drink, Andy is jumping around examining every surface to find some ammunition, He’s just spunked most his MP40 ammunition into a wall trying to get Shaun’s attention and Tom has played this level before and is laying out all his explosives into traps. You hear the mic crackle. Shaun is back and you trigger the script to bring on the horde. Yes, it’s predictable but it doesn’t matter. I almost feel like I don’t have to explain what will happen. As gamers we know. You’ll get three waves that you’ll deal with well, then they’ll start breaking in. No biggee, ‘Nade ‘em. Then a boss will come, again no biggee. Thin out the horde and pick the boss off. Except this is where the co-op makes this game really special. Remember those explosives Tom laid out? He placed them too close together which are all swiftly detonated by Andy’s remaining MP40 bullets. Andy wanted the points and to piss Tom off. His premature denotation only killed three zombies and blew the legs off one. Tom is now less than impressed and Andy takes great pleasure as Tom is felled by the zombies that should have been blown up. Andy now has no ammunition and bravely tries to kick the shit out of 8 zombies before they rearrange his face with their teeth. The rest of the team falls swiftly and you reload to the last checkpoint, all you hear is Andy’s MP40 shooting off its newly replenished ammo. It’s going to be long night but the bullet following kill-cam will make it all worth it. Being three games rolled into one, Zombie army trilogy will easily give 15 hours of gameplay but its simplicity lends to enormous replay value. There’s regular convenient safe areas and save points so pick-up, drop in and out play is welcomed here. To pick up a copy you’re looking at about twenty quid across all platforms. Well worth it if you ask me.

By Ben Whittington

‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd, four is a full lobby’ – Ben Whittington teams up to look at Co-op in Zombie Army Trilogy

Mini Mario and Friends: Amiibo Challenge Review

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When characters were jumping around in the trailers for the new Mini Mario game it looked like we might have a bit more player agency this time around, perhaps harking back to the original Mario Vs Donkey Kong. Alas though, this is another straight puzzler, but it’s still a blast to play.

Mini Mario and Friends has a lot in common with the previous entry, tipping stars. It is available for Wii U and 3DS, uses the same engine and you’ll still be managing resources to guide your character to the end of the level, Lemmings style. However there are some differences, most notably, the use of Amiibo.

Mini Mario and Friends is a free game, it’s essentially a ploy by Nintendo to get you to buy their toys (or take them all out of the boxes if you’re a collector). You can use any Amiibo to play as Mini Spek, a very boring character. In order to unlock all the levels you’ll need the ones for the characters pictured above. They each unlock four levels.

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The game has a lot of variety, provided you have all the Amiibos at least. It pays homage to the characters and their previous games well. In the Yoshi levels you’ll be throwing eggs around, in the Diddy Kong levels you’re riding around in mine carts. The characters are as charming and funny as ever.

The music is great, you’ll be transported back with remixes of tunes from classics like Mario Bros 2 and Yoshi’s Island, it all fits the mood of the game well.

In terms of cost though Mini Mario is a bit of a rip off. If you like collecting Amiibos then great, this is a nice little bonus. However, if you like Mini Mario but don’t like Amiibos then you’ve been shafted here – you’ll end up spending around £100 if you want to unlock all the levels.

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There are sixty levels in total. Some claim to have beaten the game within an hour but really it depends how much time you want to spend with it. If you go after all the coins and collectibles, it would end up taking much longer than that.

Overall Mini Mario and Friends is a good game, definitely recommended for Amiibo fanatics. For everyone else though, it isn’t really viable in terms of cost, you may be better off visiting one of the past entries in the series.

Review by Tom Martin

Mini Mario and Friends: Amiibo Challenge Review

Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam Bros Review

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It makes sense for Nintendo to combine the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series’. They’re practically the same series anyway! It’s a bit odd that Nintendo felt the need to add the word “Bros” on to the end of the title in Europe and Australia; in America it’s just called Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, or at least it will be when it comes out there. Japan got the best name by far though: Mario & Luigi RPG Paper Mario Mix.

This time you not only control Mario and Luigi but also Paper Mario as well. You’d think that would make the game harder but not really, in fact it feels more lenient than previous entries. Bosses seem less complicated to figure out how to defeat than in past Paper Mario escapades. You can also save when you like now as opposed to using save stations in past games.

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The story is the usual silliness; Luigi accidentally opens a book that causes the inhabitants of the Paper Mario universe to spread across the mushroom kingdom. Mario and Luigi must team up with Paper Mario to rescue the princesses and defeat Bowser and his paper counterpart. There’s lots of gags and fourth wall breaking throughout. It’s good fun.

The bulk of the gameplay comes from the same turn based combat players of previous entries in the series will be familiar with, but if you haven’t, I’ll explain the basics. You navigate the over-world and jump on enemies to initiate turn-based battles. There are several ways to attack the enemy. You can jump on them, hit them with hammers or do special attacks which require good timing to do higher damage, and use attack points which can be regenerated by drinking syrup, although you’ll have to forfeit a turn.  Similarly, you can use mushrooms to regenerate health. It’s possible to dodge enemy attacks by using a well timed jump or hammer swing.

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Initiating a special attack will launch a mini-game where the damage of your attack will be determined depending on how well you do. You’ll earn experience points for fighting battles which in turn causes you to level up, increasing the characters health and power etc. There is some scope for customisation in choosing what skills to upgrade in each character and buying and equipping pieces of gear that have different benefits. You can also buy items, such as mushrooms and syrup, at shops using coins you have collected. The gameplay wasn’t broken and Nintendo haven’t fixed it. Paper Jam Bros’ gameplay doesn’t break the mould, but it’s still a lot of fun. There are however, some new additions.

There is a new “battle-card” mechanic which adds some nice new depth to the combat. Cards can be purchased in shops or occasionally picked up from defeated enemies. These cards effectively act as perks, for example: one may regenerate your teams health while another may deal a certain amount of damage to the enemy. You earn “star points” by attacking enemies which are spent on activating cards. You won’t lose a turn by playing a card and it adds a welcome new layer of strategy.

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There are some new “papercraft” segments, sort of a stab at vehicular combat. You take control of a giant origami Mario character, which changes each battle, and face off against similarly giant bad guys. It’s pretty basic; you ram in to enemies to stun them and then finish them off with essentially a jump attack. Although the mechanics are slightly mixed up in each battle, it’s hardly noticeable. It does what it’s supposed to and breaks up the gameplay but it feels like Nintendo somewhat missed a trick with this mode. There’s no customisation and it feels a bit bare-bones. The last papercraft battle is by far the most fun.

Now, let’s talk about the bane of Paper Jam Bros: the paper toad rescue missions. In said missions a small section of the open world map is sectioned off and you are tasked with finding a group of paper toads hidden around. The formula is mixed up for some challenges; sometimes you will have a time limit or a puzzle-type level and there are also stealth missions where you have to avoid being seen by enemies. These paper toad challenges would have been fine in moderation but you are forced to constantly keep doing them and they get old pretty quickly; for a lot of them essentially all you do is walk around the map. The stealth missions are highly frustrating. Get seen once and you’ll be put all the way back to the start. Seems a bit harsh, especially for a seemingly casual-friendly game such as this.

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Overall though, fans of previous Mario RPG games should for the most part enjoy Paper Jam Bros as the combat is arguably the best it has ever been and, despite it’s short-comings, there is still a lot of fun to be had here.

By Tom Martin

Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam Bros Review

Up For Review: Steamworld Heist

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Steamworld Heist may owe its name to 2013’s Steamworld Dig but don’t be fooled, they’re completely different beasts. Steamworld dig was at its heart a platformer, a bloody good one too. The art style and universe the games are set in is shared but this time around Swedish developer  Image & Form have gone down the turn based shooting route.

You play as the crew of a spacecraft, drifting from ship to ship, shooting and looting as you go. It’s a good thing the shooting is fun, and the controls are tight as you’ll be doing a lot of it, often ricocheting bullets off walls to hit your target.

Choosing the right crew and guns is of the upmost importance.  Occasionally you’ll be fighting solo, but for the most part you’ll be controlling two to four characters, depending on the mission. Crew can be sought out and recruited throughout the game. Sometimes they will join you for free but usually you will have to sweeten the deal with some water, the games currency, which can be found on missions.

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Every character has their own skill level which will go up each mission as long as they survive to the end. When choosing your crew at the start of missions you can either rotate them so they all level up at a steady rate or find a combination you like and stick with it. Your crew don’t stay dead. If they are defeated they reappear in your ship at the end of the battle. The real penalty for losing is the currency you are fined when you are defeated.

Guns can be bought at shops found throughout the game. They all seem balanced very nicely, you’ll usually have to sacrifice something when looking for a new gun, whether it’s a sight, or chances of landing a critical hit.

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The difficulty feels right too, a decent challenge, but not too hard, however there was a spike at the penultimate boss. If you get stuck, you can go back and play easier levels, building up XP to unlock new abilities and currency to buy better guns. Alternatively, you can turn the difficulty down, you can move it up or down as you see fit at the start of each battle. I’ve been playing on regular, there are four difficulty settings which alter the amount of XP you gain from battles and how much you are penalised from being defeated or quitting.

The sound design is on point. The songs by the aptly named Steam Powered Giraffe which play in the bars and at the end of boss fights is excellent. It’s surprising to hear songs with vocals in a game like this but somehow it fits.

Like it’s predecessor,  Steamworld Heist’s art style looks great. There are still shades of the Old West there but this time there’s more of an emphasis on sci-fi. I did notice a bit of a stutter with the frame rate on levels with a lot of enemies on screen but overall it runs smoothly.

The characters are charming as ever and the game has a nice sense of humour. It’s not side-splitting the whole way through, but you should get a few laughs from it, i.e: the in-game codex mistaking an iron for an ancient robot that moved by firing steam.

As of writing the game is only on 3DS but coming to other platforms soon. The game fits well on the 3DS, I can’t imagine going without the second screen which is used for stats and a map.

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My main criticism would be that sometimes it’s not altogether clear what you can shoot through and what you can’t. A few times I have found myself lining up a shot only to have the bullet hit an impenetrable wall and then be killed promptly afterwards, highly frustrating.

Overall though Steamworld Heist is a joy to play. The shooting is fun and the characters and  art style are charming. It’s definitely a worthy entry in to the series.

By Tom Martin

 

Up For Review: Steamworld Heist