Assassins Creed 4 Black Flag review

Yo Ho a pirates life for me

Assassins Creed 4 left a lot to be expected after playing through Assassins Creed 3. The previous game really was the black sheep of the entire franchise, suffering from so many issues and just overall not being much fun. It is not just me that thinks that, many a fan of the Assassins Creed franchise agree that 3 was not as good as it could have been, and that Black Flag had to be the game that redeems the franchise. While I will say that Black Flag has many issues of its own it does redeem the franchise and turns out to be a good new entry.

The first matter of business in this respect, was ensuring the main character wasn’t as boring as Haytham or Conner. The person you play as, is often very important in whether you will enjoy a game or not, that was half of Assassins Creed 3’s problem, it had pretty boring characters, for Assassins Creed 4 we see an entirely different character to what we have seen before. Edward Kenway is not out to do things for honour or even revenge, all Edward wants is money, and throughout the entire length of the story he often goes on about money and the right price, but still this doesn’t make him a bad character his dedication to the pirates and his ambitions are what help to drive the game.

For the full review of Assassins Creed 4 Black Flag click here.

 

 

 

The Last of Us Remastered review

Platform: Playstation 4

Developer: Naughty Dog

Score: 10

A great game becomes even greater for the next gen

 With the Last of Us recently released on the Playstation 4 what better time then to talk about the game and share my thoughts. I will let you know before this that I am talking about the game as a whole and not just this version of the game. I know what you are most likely thinking – why should I care about the Playstation 4 version of the game when I have already played the Playstation 3 version and still own it? Is the game worth playing again on the new console? The answer to that is yes.

The story of The Last of us is a story of love and loss in a world thrown to the brink of chaos because of creatures known as the infected. This threat has made the world dangerous and has crumbled society right down to its core. Fear and evil are truly the only things that characterize this tale and the story of desperation is literally noticeable through the Last of Us. You play as Joel, who gets tasked with helping smuggle a young girl out of the city of Boston and transport her to a group known as the Fireflies. At the start of the game this seems like an easy task but things happen and the journey becomes a challenge that ties together the destinies of Joel and this young girl Ellie. These two characters that draw you into the game, as we see them struggle through their awkward relationship and go on a cross country journey. They work together to prove there is hope for a dystopian society.

The world of the Last of Us is certainly not a peaceful one. This is evident from the moment you first start properly playing, but it gets even more real as you continue to make your way through this world. You see struggles and things that truly make you think about yourself and how you would react in these characters’ situations. The world is no place for a kind heart and it is kill or be killed. For some this may be a turn off but it is in these themes that the Last of Us shines as it forces you to face your morality and carefully consider how far you are truly willing to go. This mainly comes down to a sense of responsibility you are tasked with caring for Ellie. Naughty Dog has finely crafted this idea of these two characters and their growing bond as the games main premise to urge us on even when things get tough.

For the rest of this review please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker HD review

Set Sail for a glorious HD remake.

Platform: Wii U

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

Score: 9.5

Remakes are often a great thing for the gaming industry, they allow developers to provide an experience that has been previously enjoyed by many before but also fill space between major releases. A better part about these remakes is that new players get to experience the game for the first time and receive the best version of the game. Developers also get to use this chance to fix any issues that both the developers themselves and the general public had with the game and add anything that they feel could improve the game, as is the case with Wind Waker.

The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker was already an amazing game on the GameCube with plenty of features going for it that just made it fun. Arguably one of the most iconic features of Wind Waker was its presentation, the beautiful mixture presented by the cel-shaded cartoon-like characters mixed with the beauty of the cel-shaded landscape that existed upon the great sea. It was hard to believe it could get any more beautiful but yet this HD remake has added so much to the look and feel of the game. The skies and the oceans have never looked better, providing beautiful blue textures to the world. Most of the time it was almost impossible to not just stop and sweep around to look at the beauty of the world’s many islands, flowing oceans and fluffy clouds.

For the full review head over to Gameluster.com, you can find more reviews, news and opinion pieces by myself and a series of far better writers for you to read there. Or to more precise you can find the full review of this game here.

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze review

 This review was originally published on Gameluster.com on the 11th of March.

Platform: Wii U

Players: One to two

Developer: Retro Studios

Publisher: Nintendo

Score: 9.5

I must be the odd one of the Donkey Kong fan base, while many praised Donkey Kong Country Returns in 2010 on the Wii I found I couldn’t have cared less about it as I didn’t really enjoy it. In fact it has been 15 years since I last really enjoyed a Donkey Kong game and that was Donkey Kong 64. But even with that I still felt compelled to give the ape another shot and I am glad I did as Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze recaptures the magic of the older games while adding to it to create one of the best 2D platformers in a long time.

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze begins with Donkey Kong and friends Diddy, Dixie and Cranky celebrating Donkey Kong’s birthday. During this little bit everything seems at peace on DK island but as you would expect this peace is short lived as suddenly from across the water comes a new series of arctic animals which are the enemies known as the Snowmads. In the blow of a horn they freeze Donkey Kong’s island and send Donkey Kong and his friends flying across the ocean and they must start their journey back to save their home.

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Level design is key to creating a fun and stable 2D platformer and at all turns Tropical Freeze does this right. Set across 6 islands, each island provides a diverse theme from the other islands and this continues into the very design itself for each level. At no point does any level feel repetitive or like you have been there previously as each level usually adds something new to keep things interesting right up until the end of the game. As you journey across islands levels hold the theme of the African savannah, the traditional jungle, the frozen Donkey Kong island, an island filled with fruit based levels from a fruit factory and even the return of underwater levels. It is a little thing but I was glad to see Donkey Kong able to swim again and so fluently that it makes levels more interesting.

While many of the levels in the game do feel diverse there are definitely a few standouts among the bunch. In one particular level you must ride a mine cart through a sawmill which builds the obstacles out in front of you and halfway through turns into a raft ride, another has you running through a burning savannah requiring that you at times put out fires to proceed, another has you running across a savannah with it dancing to the music and another that literally builds as you go through the level. These may be the standouts for me but each level holds a special place that makes them all fun.

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One of the best additions to the game is the dynamic camera which adds new depth to each level it appears in. It doesn’t appear very often but in a selection of levels it adds a new challenge as well as providing some great views. For the purposes of barrel blasting, rocket barrel riding, and riding mine carts the camera added to each level by providing great opportunity to see the amazing design and also provide new challenges such as changing rails and barrel blasting across locations.

The music in the game is also very good. Retro Studios has gotten hold of Donkey Kong Country music master David Wise to create some beautiful and well done scores behind each level. Most levels have some fantastic music to them which is a joy to listen to and make me want to stop just to listen to each one. Particularly when I came across themes I recognized from the older games which have been brilliantly redone, such as the beautiful Aquatic Ambiance.

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The ability to change supporting characters is one of the best changes Retro has made to the games as we got to see new ways to play and new opportunities for challenge. As usual we got to see Diddy as a supporting character, but we also got to see the return of Dixie and the introduction of Cranky as a playable character. At different points each character has their use but mostly they are used for their additional jumping abilities. Diddy helps to keep you hovering for longer, Dixie adds a form of double jump and Cranky uses his cane like a pogo stick to jump on enemies and little spikes in the ground. Through most of my playthrough I spent my time playing with Dixie as her abilities far surpass Diddy and Cranky’s. In fact I only ever used Diddy if that was my only choice or by accident as I otherwise never actually had a reason to choose him over Dixie.

Retro has hit the perfect difficulty spike for Tropical Freeze continuing from  what Returns did right. The early levels in the game are never overly challenging and are more to teach you how to play, and any deaths are usually just stupid mistakes. Further down the track the levels do start to get challenging, filled with timed jump gaps, tight spots and careful jumps. Even the enemies themselves add to the challenge with new types recurringly added that change up the way you play and even at times being almost unavoidable. Further the levels themselves with the many platforms and the rocket barrel levels provide a decent challenge in timing movements.donkey-kong-tropical-freeze-seal-boss

Likewise, the boss battles in the game are equally challenging. They never get to a point where they are unbeatable or almost impossible but they do put up quite a fight. From beginning to end each boss battle keeps you on your toes as they are often unpredictable and often they are quite hard to hit, requiring adequate timing to launch a throw or jump on a specific part of them. Also it was nice to know that the bosses never repeat themselves and each one is as unique as the last.

Retro Studios did miss out on a few opportunities with Tropical Freeze, namely my biggest issue being the use of the Gamepad. If you are playing on the TV then the Gamepad’s screen is completely blank which makes it feel mostly useless. This was actually my preferred controller though, and because this annoyed me I ended up using the option to play solely on the Gamepad, as it gave the controller more meaning though I do wish Retro had found some significant points for the controller.

Multiplayer also fails to really get anywhere often the second player has a character which has its individual abilities at a better standard then the player that is playing as Donkey Kong. Often I found lead to deaths for myself as Donkey Kong because the other player was faster then myself and in other levels the paths would crumble away under my feet because they would get there first or even or the opposite way around. The multiplayer can work but only if the two players can work in sync and when they’re not it is a travesty, but working together and looking out for one another is the key so hopefully you can find a good partner otherwise I would recommend the single player only.

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Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is a definite stand out in the Wii U’s library and in my eyes a true return to what made the original Donkey Kong Country games so fun. In future I would like to see a Donkey Kong game in the same vein as Donkey Kong 64 but for now this is enough of a tide over that is still fun and reminiscent of the past. If you own a Wii U this game can’t be missed and we must give our thanks to Retro Studios for making this excellent game.

Score breakdown

Gameplay: 10

Presentation: 10

Replayability: 9

Story: 6

Octodad Dadliest Catch review

Ordinarily how a game controls can be a big decider on whether or not we might find enjoyment in a game, if a game controls badly we fail to find a proper level of enjoyment because we struggle with how we play our game. Having a good control system is key to our enjoyment as we find ourselves being able to properly associate ourselves with a character or play the game that works for us. But what about when a game is a combination of both an excellent control system and an awful one, this is exactly the case that we find with Octodad Dadliest Catch a clever yet frustrating game.

As the name suggests or at least you could at least possibly suggest you are an Octopus who has been living on land posing as a human (which in itself proves just how stupid some of these people are). What is your biggest fear, well it is none other then being discovered and your life being torn apart and as such when your wife tells you that your family is taking a trip to the aquarium obviously you’re less then thrilled and concerned about being discovered. With this being the main premise other early parts of the story see you having to get married and deal with daily life as a family man or shall I say Octopus.

Obviously since you’re an octopus getting around is not easy particularly when you are trying to seem human, so clearly you are not going to have an easy time getting around in fact it is highly challenging. Because of this what would ordinarily be a simple task in real life becomes a struggle and due to this we find a good amount of patience is required. So people lacking patience will probably want to steer clear.

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In one of the first levels you are tasked with doing a series of house chores and activities and these quickly prove to be harder than we would have originally thought.  There are countless obstacles to maneuver around and the clumsy control system just makes things even more difficult, though that is not to say it is bad, on the contrary in these points the control system is brilliant in showing us exactly how this character would move around if it was real. We struggle to grab milk out of the fridge and then pour it into a bowl, we have a hard time mowing the lawn as the system controls and moving Octodad around is a struggle and getting him to go the way you want is not always an easy task constantly requiring heavy thought and concentration in order to succeed.

Most of the levels in Octodad are simple chores of life and activities that can take place in our own life, where the game starts you out getting married and struggling around the chapel to find your clothes, you are then facing down family chores as I previously mentioned. Then as well as this visiting an aquarium and not being noticed as a aquatic creatures and of course doing your families shopping is quite a chore requiring the use of your abilities as it can be called to get some of the items. Through each level it was hard not to have fun even if I was frustrated by my attempts to get to higher places and take my time to get to the right point.

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Of course as fun as the game is and enjoyable as the control system was it does struggle to be enjoyable in small parts, namely throughout boss sections. These come down as small sections revolving a chef who is trying to cook Octodad and as such he is always trying to stop him in a wide variety of ways. These boss sections while interesting in theory often require you to run away from the chef and because of how awkward it already is to control Octodad it is a struggle when trying to beat these sections and at no point was I ever having fun during these points I was frustrated by how hard the system was in trying to avoid obstacles while moving quickly.

To put it simply Octodad is a challenging game but this character’s own style is what leads to some really fun gameplay on top of relying on solving your own body control issues there are also a series of puzzles to solve and complete. There aren’t many but there are points where you have to use Octodad’s contortion type abilities to get into small gaps to get to your objective. Of course in these moments where you must try to grab something or get through small spaces are where some of the games biggest struggles are. There are many points where I have found myself all tangled up and struggling to even move anywhere at all but finding my way out of these accidentally self caused situations was always satisfying because of the control struggles.

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The best version of this game is definitely the Playstation 4 version. The controller matches the required skills perfectly and balancing each of Octodad’s limbs works incredibly well with each button having a specific use. The R2 and L2 buttons each control a leg and tied to how you choose to move the joystick is exactly how you get around. Now you can choose to take the gentle approach and just do small steps at a time but this gets annoying fast and full enjoyment is truly given when you are struggling to get to where you are heading to. Likewise it is also a struggle to grab things as maneuvering the joysticks in sequence with your arm to get to what you want, simple enough to say the control scheme presented on the Playstation 4 and the joysticks do at least deal with some of the games potential issues and frustrations and dealing with trying to achieve whatever objectives come your way is challenging with ensuring correct positioning but that is part of the fun.

Octodad is that game that hits the perfect spot between hating and loving the controls as essentially we are not meant to love or hate them, it is part of the game and what makes the game to be played. Octodad Dadliest Catch is a cheap download and a great game that I highly recommend giving a go to if you ever get a chance. Sure the controls are going to annoy you but a great game is a great game and it is hard to deny just how much fun Octodad is. It is possible to beat Octodad in a couple of hours but there are plenty of options for replaying levels and they are well worth it and really fun. If possible I would be very interested in seeing a follow up and seeing more challenges and obstacles to face

The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask review

Platform: Nintendo 64, Wii Virtual Console

Year: 2000

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Score: 9

The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask is one of the most highly regarded entries in the Zelda franchise, highly regarded by the many fans of the game for the ideas that it provided and the interesting story elements. In a sense another source of Majora’s Masks popularity in the present day is perhaps somewhat similar to that of how the fanbase views many of the games in the franchise, while initially the game provides hate upon release because of its ideas or even length, it grows with the ages just like what has happened with Wind Waker and will inevitably happen with Skyward Sword. In my own view Majora’s Mask has not changed and remains the same brilliant game it started as upon original release.

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Majora’s Mask follows on from where Ocarina of Time let us off. The games opening sees Link on a journey through the Lost Woods trying to find a friend, presumably Navi who parted ways with our hero at the end of his previous journey. During this time Link encounters the Skull Kid who steals his horse and Link gives chase somehow winding up in another world. In this world known as Termina the world faces an imminent danger of a falling moon and Link has to save it, the only problem is that Link has been transformed into a Deku Scrub and must find a way to return to being human before it is to late.

Majora’s Mask is a very different game to many of the franchises other entries and at no point does this  appear to be a bad thing, while many other Zelda games have put a focus on exploring every little inch of the games world Majora’s Mask does not have that focus. Right from the get go you are immediately focused on your goal of the time attempting to complete a certain objective within a small space of time. This mainly comes from Majora’s Masks interesting time mechanic, while other Zelda games have literally allowed hours of freedom to explore Majora’s Mask provides you with three days to achieve your goal and save the world.

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What makes this interesting is that you have only these three days to try to complete dungeons and bring order back to all of Termina. The problem with this however is that it is impossible to complete the game on the three day parameter, but this is where the time mechanic from Ocarina of Time comes in allowing you to return back to the dawn of the first day in order to have the three days to achieve your goal. This idea is where the game truly gets to become both interesting and frustrating, frustrating because of all your progress being erased essentially but interesting because of what it allows for.

For those concerned dungeon completion still remains and so you can continue onto the next area the only frustrating part is just how pushed you are to get through the dungeon as well as how to get into the dungeon. Interestingly while I may have said Majoras Mask is more focused by its time mechanic it does sort of allow a sense of freedom in how you approach your days. It becomes your choice if you want to attempt to get into the next dungeon on that day, want to start completing the objectives that can’t be removed by rewinding time or just hang around Clock Town. What you do with these three days is truly up to you and in some cases even spending a day doing reconnaissance on an area to get the best results on a future day is a great use of time, I recall spending many days exploring areas to get more information on that area as well as spending my time waiting for specific times to complete side objectives.

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This was one of the great things about Majora’s Masks world it deals with a lot of my issues with the Zelda franchise or games in general. I have often complained about how the characters in some of these games feel lifeless or that I may as well be constantly walking through a barren city, Majora’s Mask fixes this issue thanks to its time idea that gives each character a personality and a set criteria of what they are doing through each day. They each have a point and are actually interesting to follow the story of throughout the cycle and the game accepts that and even in a sense promotes it with its other big idea of masks.

Scattered throughout Majora’s Mask are a series of different masks each containing there own set of shall we see less then helpful abilities, not to  be critical but most of the masks have no actual point or even a purpose in the game itself apart from at the very end. Sure I will admit I did have some fun playing with a small selection of them from time to time mostly while I was spending five minutes remembering what I was doing or going to do on that cycle.

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Not all the masks are essentially useless as throughout the game you acquire three masks that play a critical part in the story and help you to make your way through the game.  These masks bestow upon you special powers that allow you to go through areas otherwise inaccessible by regular Link, the Deku Scrub has the ability to jump high and hover by using flowers, the Goron is powerful and can plow through incoming hazards, and finally the Zora allows you to swim to great depths and stay underwater. Each transformation is a key part of a certain dungeon in the game and becomes a key part of making it through the game, as well as offering different types of characters to allow further developed puzzle solving regarding each characters separate abilities as well as each being fun and highly enjoyable in their own way.

To date Majora’s Mask is one of the best Zelda games to date and features some of the best ideas that the franchise has ever known. still for how great Majora’s Mask is the notable issues remain such as how pointless most of the games masks are. But even with this Majora’s Mask is fun and if any Zelda game is worth playing it is definitely this one. The only thing left to say is that Nintendo needs to stop teasing us with references to this game and just do the remake now to satisfy myself, the fans and newcomers with an updated game. The main thing I find interesting though is that the game had only a year in development and the game is incredible considering that it was made in a year.

Watch Dogs Review

Platform: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Developer: Ubisoft

Publisher: Ubisoft

Score: 8

When games are highly publicized or even a follow up entry to a major franchise they bring with them a lot of expectations, due to these expectations we come to often expect a certain level of quality and enjoyment particularly if we look at the history of the developers. With this example we must look at Watch Dogs for the past two years at least Watch Dogs has been on a little thing called the hype train where the developers and gaming community talk the game up and in the end often result in unrealistic expectations, the way Watch Dogs was spoken of by Ubisoft it was set to be a perfect game that should have scored perfect 10’s all around of course this is not the case and Watch Dogs has resulted in actually being not as good as possibly intended. The reason this is a problem in a sense is just how well Ubisoft has done with other games of a similar style to Watch Dogs such as the Assassins Creed franchise and unfortunately it seems Ubisoft’s flare is not as great as it could have been in this game.

One of the key things that Ubisoft has done in the past is develop fun and interesting stories for their games that the player can follow with quite a lot of enjoyment. The big red flag immediately is present from the very beginning of Watch Dogs story, essentially trying to play on an idea that a wrong can be amended by another wrong which essentially leads us to the plotline of Watch Dogs where you as supposed protagonist Aiden Pierce are performing a further wrong to deal with the second wrong. The plotline never gets very deep and while at the start it is somewhat easy to follow the events presented within the game leave the story of Watch Dogs with very little appeal. But to at least give an idea of what is going on, after messing up at a job trying to steal money from people Aiden is attacked by a gun for hire who kills his niece. One year later you are on a revenge streak to find the people who killed her using your selected skills of hacking and the story just becomes much more convoluted and tricky from there.

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The story really falls short and does not provide a reason to stick with the game but at least at this point the gameplay jumps in and really gives you a reason to keep playing. Watch Dogs follows the standard tradition of Ubisoft franchises dropping us in a big and enjoyable wide Open World for you to explore, the city of Chicago is evolved into a futuristic area that is ripe for exploration and plays primarily into the incredible gameplay. Although the world of Watch Dogs primarily is set a few years in the past it still seems so futuristic and the abilities play into a future that seems not to far away in this modern era. As phones and other technologies are built up and more of our identity is transferred across the internet this is primarily where Watch Dogs comes in, the city of Chicago is essentially a playground of technology and the identity’s of people that plays into how the world is changing, and in a way this is what Watch Dogs does it carries over a view into where the future is going and the capabilities that a selected group of people could have on the world.

Ordinarily I would not find it interesting to know who people are particularly in a game that these characters are meaningless but in the case of Watch Dogs this is one of the best parts about the game. Watch Dogs plays into the idea of a connected world and this constantly evidenced with every person I met along my way, seeing the profile of every person specifying who they are there age and even a key little factoid good or bad about them was quite interesting . This also them played into some of my decisions on how I obtained money from, through the game there are several opportunities to obtain money from a selection of people around the city by hacking their bank account and often to make the decision of whether or not I got money from them. If they had high ambitions and had good intentions I would leave them alone, however if they were known drug enthusiasts or any other bad  sort of thing I never saw the harm in ripping money away from these bad people. Likewise due to these people you can also receive new cars to drive and also new music to listen to based on what some of these people like making the city feel even more real with every person you come across.

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The city of Chicago is a playground under your control, you have the power to control the balance of activities within the city and actively mess with the world as a whole, essentially saying Chicago is your world and you have the power to control. The world is certainly changing and Watch Dogs paints a picture showing how the world is going to be and the control technology has over events, from the changing of a set of traffic lights to the power to open a garage door the power to control this world is what makes things interesting and carries you through the game. For me personally the idea of controlling the world is really the draws in point to Watch Dogs and freely making choices and causing mayhem in the world is highly satisfying. Racing through Chicago the world is literally littered with things that can be hacked to cause mayhem and somewhat enjoyment, it is often that I would find myself standing on a street corner setting off traffic lights just to see cars crash into each other for amusement, likewise I would also enjoy hacking bridges to mess with cars.

Throughout the story of Watch Dogs there are countless uses and opportunities for the hacking ability and often through the story hacking traffic lights and unlocking barricades are key parts of stopping enemies in chase sequences whether you are the chase or the chasee. Hacking also comes as a key part of combat and escaping enemies, there are often situations surrounding combat that allow you to take out enemies such as often sitting in the shadows you can find places to hack in order to cause explosions or even distract enemies in order to get past them. The same tricks are often carried over to missions that require you to go undetected and ensuring you make use of these different abilities and places in the environment becomes key to survival, this is mostly because you can’t take many shots before dying. Often because of this weakness it means the cover system while good does not always allow gun play to be a good option unless you know how to quickly line up a shot, in a sense this is where the hacking ability forces you to get creative and use the environment and the people to your advantage.

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As you go through the game you slowly unlock skill points and these can be used to further your own skills and make use of the pretty cool skill tree, it is only small but the skill tree has four different branches with a small selection of different abilities that can be unlocked. The points of the skill tree include the evolution of the hacking abilities, driving skills, weapon crafting and combat, I enjoyed further extending my hacking abilities with the skill tree allowing me to break into cars without alerting the police as well as allowing a small selection of other abilities to be used in order to make better use of my control in the city and better complete missions.

Extending on the game is the many side missions that fill Chicago, all throughout the city are little investigation missions, criminal convoys, gang hideouts and plenty more. These missions actually extend interest into the game and keep a reason to explore the city from beginning to long after the game is finished, these also keep things going even through the less than satisfying story.

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While I have argued that the story of Watch Dogs remains less then satisfying throughout, the basic gameplay does at least keep things interesting throughout. Ubisoft’s usual flair for storytelling one of the few reasons why I liked Assassins Creed 3 fails to ever be present in Watch Dogs and while is an issue the brilliant ideas in the game help keep things fun and entertaining, as well as this Ubisoft’s history of great game mechanics are seen and enjoyable in the game. On a side note I find the language, nudity and other themes unjustified in the game and pointless and I don’t understand why they had the insistence to include these in the game as they do feel irrelevant.

 

Pikmin 3 review

A long overdue return

Waiting a year or two can be a long wait for people highly anticipating a certain game. But while that may be a struggle for many, Nintendo have made us wait nine years for a follow up to its beloved franchise. For many, this leaves plenty of expectations about the game for those fans eagerly awaiting the title, and surely Nintendo delivers.

The planet of Koppai is in danger of starvation after squandering all of their food sources, because of this they send out many pods across the universe to find food. After many failures, the final pod reports back to Koppai mentioning the discovery of food, and three brave adventurers answer its call. However, as they are just about to arrive on the planet they are all sent flying out of the ship and must learn to work with the mysterious creatures known as Pikmin in order to complete their mission and save their home.

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The return of the Pikmin features the traditional ideas featured in Pikmin 3’s predecessors. As usual you get Pikmin of different colours each housing their own separate abilities needed to help in the field. Your basic Red, Yellow and Blue Pikmin return, with Red Pikmin being flame resistant and great in a fight, Blue Pikmin are used primarily for jobs that require going underwater or in water and Yellow Pikmin are used to deal with electric fences as well as help carry an electric charge.

New to this adventure are two brand new types of Pikmin, the Rock Pikmin and the Winged Pikmin. The rock Pikmin are primarily used to cause great deals of damage against foes as well as being able to shatter glass barriers. Winged Pikmin are Pikmin with the ability to fly and are good for moving objects that require transportation across the sky.

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Entering Pikmin 3 you will most likely realize that this features a lot of the same things that fans have done in two outings already. But as with many of Nintendo’s games this is okay, rather than focusing on a whole host of new ideas, Nintendo has narrowed down what was liked about the original games and has made small inclusions to provide something different to experience.

First and foremost this is a time management game built around strategically managing your day to get the best results and achievements possible. Similar to Pikmin 1 and 2 you get the entire daylight to explore sections of the planet, which amounts to about thirteen minutes real time. Learning to effectively manage your team of Pikmin and your three characters is key to making use of your day.

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On first arrival it is usually helpful to check your map to plan how you are going to spend your day, which is done quite effectively by sliding the map on the Gamepad. Usually a day is spent heading to a key location for a specific reason, but more often the day will be spent searching for fruit to help keep progressing as well as building up your Pikmin numbers. Learning to manage your day becomes first priority and ensuring you have all of the necessary resources required for survival and to continue on while on location is very important and a very quick lesson.

On top of this, balancing out your Pikmin numbers in the field is also important. Ensuring the proper Pikmin are around for the job is often challenging but adds the strategic merit of the game. More often than not I found it important to keep an even balance in my numbers to work for what I needed to do and keep the rest for any sudden needs.

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For those who find themselves at a point where they have no food and little Pikmin, there is always the option to go to an earlier day to help fix your mistakes which is always handy.

Unlike previous entries in the Pikmin franchise, each area also features a big boss to fight. These each cleverly make use of the new Pikmin type you discover in the area to help beat them. The boss battles are often challenging and are fun to fight.

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There is only one major problem with the game which will affect a selection of people, which is the controls. The way to throw your Pikmin to a certain location is all tied to the left joystick, which is also used for walking and may bother some. For these people there is an option to keep the gamepad as the map of the area but play with the Wii remote and Nunchuk to use the pointer a lot easier which may be more accurate. Personally I stuck with the Gamepad control for most of my play but others won’t find it as comfortable.

This is among one of the most beautiful games anyone can lay eyes on and more importantly on the Wii U, which was quite surprising to me. Nintendo has worked hard to present a fully realistic environment that shows off the beauty of nature. It is almost impossible to visit a new area and not just want to stare at the area for a short space of time. The incredible detail delivered to simple bodies of water or even to a simple leaf or plant looks amazing, in fact it does give a better appreciation for what truly exists in our own world.

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Pikmin 3 is a short game clocking at around 8 to 10 hours to finish a basic run of the story without much more than what is needed. The time can be expanded by focusing on collecting everything, but for those who really need something else to do to keep them amused, or have just exhausted the story, Mission Mode is a fun way to complete objectives while trying to manage your team and how effectively you can complete the objective within the allotted time, which does provide quite the challenge. In the basic game there is not much in the way of missions but hopefully more will be added soon, but what is there is certainly quality and I found easy to lose a few hours on.

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Nine years may be a long time to wait, and Pikmin 3 may not seem like it was worth a nine year wait at some points. But still, Nintendo has provided fans what they have been waiting so long for, a fun and interesting game that still remains enjoyable even late into the experience. Pikmin 3 sticks to its roots and provides probably the best Pikmin game we have seen so far, my only hope is that Pikmin 4 won’t take so long to arrive.

Trials Fusion Review

Platform: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Developer: Redlynx Studios

Publisher: Ubisoft

Score: 8

There is a certain level of skill and frustration that is created as a result of the  Trials games, and its easy enough to say that it is probably what brings people to purchase them time and time again. We can be happy in knowing that the latest game in the franchise is just like those of the past and remains just as enjoyable. The latest game in the franchise, Trials Fusion, is the first of its kind to get a proper release on blu-ray and it offers plenty to new and old alike.

The game takes place in the future. A time where apparently motorcycle stunt courses exist in public places and in high traffic areas. Trials Fusion is just like all past Trails games as the goal is to achieve gold medals in every course given. The world of Trials is filled with varying locations and a variety of skill based challenges to complete and a game so packed full of content that it can keep you busy for a number of hours.

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The main mode of the game is the career mode, which is all about achieving the goal presented to you. The main part of career mode is about going through puzzling courses and trying to get the best possible time without crashing. Each course you are challenged with has a series of obstacles that become increasingly more challenging as the course continues. Ensuring the correct landings are made and proper speed is used up hills becomes a major challenge, but in the long run it is what makes the game enjoyable. Figuring out the best course of action and the fastest way to get over obstacles is a key challenge in the game and it becomes more enjoyable as the game progresses.

The difficulty of all these courses have increased from the previous games. Initial courses are simple to beat, but remain hard to master. Likewise the further you progress, the more the challenge of each course becomes. Some of the harder tracks are simple enough in concept, but the game does get deceptively challenging the further along in the game you go. At points however, I do feel that the difficulty of level did ramp up a bit to much and some courses felt unbalanced from the others in terms of difficulty. For example, I completed a good selection of the medium difficulty courses achieving gold in almost all of them, however at times I did encounter one or two that were almost impossible to complete without trouble. The hard courses I also found the same problem with, some were easy enough to get through even if achieving gold is a challenge, some other courses seem almost impossible to beat.

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As well as offering speed and skill based courses the career mode also offers a series of stunt challenges. These require you to perform flips and a series of other motorbike stunt challenges in order to strive for good scores. Mastering these tricks is not easy and requires being able to acknowledge correct landings, bike positionings and knowing how to perform all the different stunts possible. To learn these you are initially given a basic tutorial which tasks you with performing specific tricks in order to learn how to do them, then performing them across the course. Of course mastering how to perform the tricks and moving the joystick in that particular way is simple but it really get’s challenging in trying to make good landings and achieve the best score. When doing this I did come across an issue even when I had my joystick, bike and person in the right stunt position the game would only respond to the stunt and provide a score every so often which did get really frustrating and did break a good run and mess with my final score.

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Expanding on the game is the excellent create mode which is where a lot of Trails Fusion fun is to be had. The community behind the game is full of creative minds who sit there and build excellent courses to be played and enjoyed by other players. Likewise the developers RedLynx have created a good selection of tools for building great courses. A selection of ramps, hazards and environmental features are all available to be used, but notably there is quite a challenge possessed in building individual courses. While in theory it sounds easy enough and there is definitely many hours of playability possessed by the game. At times some of what is offered with the creation may be a bit to challenging for some to complete. The creation mode is set on a 3D plain so ensuring you line up all your ramps and everything correctly is part of the challenge. Since stages only exist on a 2D plain confusion can arise if they are not lined up and you end up riding on nothing. For the creative minded this is still perfect, all the tools given and the freedom you get when creating your courses mean you can easily enjoy the mode and I suppose part of the fun is learning how to create courses. Trying your best and creating a really challenging course of your own design and performing at the course is quite the accomplishment, and the game rewards you for that. I will still say I am pretty bad at making courses but I have enjoyed trying to accomplish something good.

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Trials Fusion is just like it’s predecessors, it is stressful, it’s challenging, but it is enjoyable none the less. The amount of hours the game offers are essentially endless and the game continues to be vastly enjoyable even late into the game. The little issues do break some of the value and bring unnecessary frustration to the game but it can be forgiven as most of the time things do work out. I don’t ordinarily play these type of games but I will say what the game offers will definitely offer people a good amount of fun regardless of whether or not they enjoy this particular type of game.

Pokemon X and Y review

Platform: 3DS

Developer: Game Freak

Publisher: Nintendo/ Pokemon Company

Score: 9.5

A long awaited step forward for Pokémon kind.

Change is inevitable, it is always bound to happen and while many don’t want it, it sometimes creeps up on you unexpectedly. Pokémon has always had a pitch perfect formula which has worked well for many years. The problem that exists though is that many have been asking for change for so long, waiting to see the games make use of proper three-dimensional gameplay. It seems that although it has taken a while, Game Freak has listened and brings Pokémon into a new era ushering in a permanent change for the better.

 

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Game Freak promised this change when they announced X and Y wanting us to see a difference. This may be immediately notable for the most part but there are still things that have not been touched, such as the battles which still act in a rock, paper, scissors manner using elemental advantages to beat other Pokémon, Water beats fire and fire beats grass and so on, also we still catch and train our Pokémon. The base game is still about setting out from your home town to collect the eight gym badges to go and challenge the Pokémon league. As well as trying to stop the plans of the evil team Flare while uncovering the secrets behinds the mysteries of the Kalos region. It doesn’t derive much from past Pokémon games but it does follow a winning formula which has carried the Pokémon games for years.

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However, outside of battling and the story is where the change is definitely noticeable. The key thing I really must mention is the game’s presentation. The game looks beautiful and within battles they look better than they ever did before and being reminiscent of the Nintendo 64’s Pokémon Stadium. All battles are in full 3D and even include a far better set of battle animations than we have ever seen with them all being in 3D and having some pretty awesome looks. There is definitely nothing available on the 3DS that looks better than this right now.

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Outside of battle when travelling across the overworld the game is almost entirely in 2D, with the 3D features on the 3DS only being usable in a couple of selected places. This isn’t really a problem and is actually more of a relief as even without the 3D the over world still looks amazing. With people looking like people and a well-designed overworld filled with well-designed towns and routes, the world is a nice treat for the eyes and is brilliant even without the 3D features.

On a more practical level, Pokémon X and Y introduces two new battle types, a new evolution and a new Pokémon type. The new battle types are called sky battles and horde encounters and if I am being honest neither is that exciting and makes rotation battles from Black and white seem better. Sky Battles are random battles you will come across with trainers who use only flying type Pokémon. These are 100% optional challenges which have you face down their flying type Pokémon with whatever certain flying types you have on hand, you can also use certain Pokémon that have the levitate ability. Horde encounters are completely random encounters with wild Pokémon that has you facing down five low level Pokémon with one of your own at one time. Luckily neither of these are very common and do not get in the way of the experience, though they don’t really add anything either.

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On the other side of the scale, mega evolutions and the new fairy types are brilliant new additions which brought a lot of excitement. mega evolutions are new forms that Pokémon take on to add power to themselves and allow them at times to balance themselves out or on occasion add an extra type than what they usually have. However these evolutions are only temporary, which means they are only for a small amount of time and don’t mess with the balance that Game Freak has spent years trying to perfect.

The new fairy type also adds a lot to the classic formula. This new type has shifted the balance to give dragons something to fear while also giving poison types something they are strong against and is quite a nice inclusion. Again, this just adds to the strategy and helps further balance it all out without messing with the finely tuned strategic value that has been crafted. Also I really liked the new fairy types as it actually forced me to learn a new advantage and disadvantage and make mistakes in the process which has forced me to think about my advantages and relearn parts of this long-standing rulebook.

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Outside of battles, further changes are also present, more tuned to how you travel around the world. Pokémon X and Y has done away with the four way grid that has plagued the series for years and has instead offered us an eight way grid which has made the world feel even more open and easier to get around. Also items like your bike and roller skates are both available early in the game helping you get around quicker. The bike is still decent but I wish I could say the same for the roller skates, which I will admit took me many hours to get used to due to their unbalanced speed. Thankfully by the time I approached the half way point I had given up trying to figure out how to take them off and went with them even if I still don’t particularly like them.

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If you are looking for further activities to do outside of battle then there are also a few additions that make for a nice distraction from what is going on in the main story and game. The first of these new features is the new customization option that lets you change your character’s clothing and hairstyle, to match your own preferences which is a nice little inclusion to make you different to everyone else. The second of these fun new additions is the new Pokémon-Amie feature which acts as a sort of Nintendogs style minigame where you can pet and feed your Pokémon, as well as play around with them to give effects such as a higher critical hit ratio which will help out in battles. The last of these new additions is the super training, which acts as a training regime to help your Pokémon build up on their statistical abilities, such as defence and speed, by raising up their EV points in a way that challenges you and removes the need to battle Pokémon over and over again. Whether Super Training takes over the old fashioned EV training still remains to be seen but I personally found this to be far more fun and enjoyable and each is well-made and carries benefits over to the main game.

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Another noticable change is how Pokémon are used and distributed throughout the region. I will admit that the number of new Pokémon that exist in this game are very underwhelming and I did find this strange. But within the region there were a good variety of Pokémon that existed from all five regions we have previously visited. In fact it was nice that in the first hour, as well as coming across one or two new Pokémon, I also came across old favourites such as Pidgey, Caterpie and many others. Across the region I came across many different Pokémon which I found nice even though it did become annoying that there were so many Pokémon I wanted to work with but I could only train up eight at best. However, it was nice to have the options and choices.

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But to at least allow the options one of the best changes I found was how experience points have been distributed. Pokémon now easily get experience points regardless of whether they just appeared in the battle or fought vigorously. In past Pokémon games the use of two Pokémon would result in experience points being divided up equally, however that has been modified so that all participating Pokémon receive the full extent of experience points. I know this makes it seem like things are getting easier and training is not so difficult but this has opened the door for the game to be far more challenging than Black and White ever were, and have led to me facing a few serious losses towards the end of the game because I underestimated things later on in my adventure.

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Pokémon X and Y are not without their flaws and some of the new additions and changes are a bit pointless. However, for what the game offers and the fact this is the first attempt at a proper step forward for the series I do give some lenience with that thought. But what is satisfying is that for the entire 37 hours I had with this game I was having fun, and was quite engrossed with just about everything I came across, and that promised change was definitely delivered and just made the game all the more better.