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Posted:
2015-08-04

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

7.3

Tembo the Badass Elephant came to the Xbox One, PC, and PS4 by way of Gamefreak this past July. The game was developed by the company behind the legendary gaming franchise Pokemon but it looks to distance itself from that rather wholesome RPG title with a vengeance. Tembo is a gigantic elephant who stars in this side scrolling 2D adventurer. With a focus on humor and fun platforming action, Tembo proudly wears its roots on its trunk. The game never stops to take itself seriously and the platforming sequences are some of the most fun we’ve had in the last year or so with the genre. In a day and age where so many companies are taking the genre series, it’s nice to see GameFreak go the other way. We picked up a copy for our PS4 and dove into the zany action.

Tembo is an elephant that was once used in war. Now he’s been called back into action, out of his comfortable retirement, in order to help the people of Shell City push back against a nefarious invading force known as the Phantom Army. Tempo has to fight his way through soldiers, big bad bosses, and even mech warrior type creations in order to free his people. The action is over the top, cartoonish, and zany in all the right places and it will take you all over an array of colorful maps. Your goal is simple here, outside of killing every bad guy in your way, you are tasked with destroying three important drones that Phantom has put up over the city. Tembo goes into elephant Rambo mode in order to accomplish this fact, using an impressive array of weapons along the way.

Tembo the Badass Elephant is easily one of the most bizarre games we have ever played and it reached this quirkiness without ever straying too far away from the conventional platformer routine that we’ve known and loved for years. In fact the very first level could have been lifted straight out of a SEGA game back in the golden age of video game platforming icons. The first level gets you used to jumping around, navigating through maps, and using your mad dash attack in order to destroy crates and other things. You’ll quickly learn that peanuts and apples are things to acquire, with the former giving you health and the latter giving you extra lives. The game is surprisingly difficult in spots and checkpoints are scarce enough that item collecting becomes an important and prominent part of your gaming experience.

The longer you play through Tembo the Badass Elephant the more you’ll come to realize that this is some sort of spiritual successor to games like Sonic, but with a Gamefreak twist and an art style that is so uniquely its own you tend to forget that you are playing something familiar. You’ll follow along with the primary game mechanics that include pushing through buildings, throwing enemies around with your trunk, and jump pounding tanks into oblivion. Along the way you’ll take on the Mario like role of evasion agent as you try to duck fireballs, evade gunfire, and navigate around obstacles that would see your vengeance slowed down.

Traditional platforming aspects win through with elephant launching platforms, moving floor tiles, and even shifting levels that challenge you to maneuver your bulky Tembo around without succumbing to the level or your enemy. If you do happen to balk and get hit you’ll go flying into the air, littering peanuts behind you like a certain blue hedgehog and his lovely golden rings. The sounds are right, the look is right, and the difficulty is right on cue.

If you think that Tembo is about raining destruction and creating clutter, you’d be half right. However, there is more to the game than that. Every level has the primary goal of getting you to Point B after starting from Point A. Along the way you’ll get hit with a side quest that charges you with saving lost civilians. There are 10 lost civilians in each level that need your saving and you’ll have to engage in some elementary map exploration in order to find them all. As you find these civilians they come running to you and hop onto your back. From there on until you reach the end of the level the civilians will hang on for dear life, ducking and screaming every time something crazy happens. Having 10 people on your back as you fight your way through a warzone is definitely an interesting visual when you are a gigantic war painted elephant. The twist adds a new wrinkle to gameplay that gives completionists something to do while padding out the games length with some solid fundamental collection based fun.

Along the way you’ll eventually be hit with traditional puzzle platforming segments. These parts are not hard, inventive, or overly easy. They range from using a sharp eye to find weak points in the defense all the way to ground pounding through the right doors and floors as you evade gunfire. Rarely are you pressed too hard and so Tembo never loses his momentum and you never grow bored of the action on screen. We would have liked to see some more done with the puzzle aspect but there are good enough reasons to have avoided making them too time consuming. Still, it feels like a missed opportunity.

As you journey through the game you’ll earn points by taking out enemies. These points go into your final score at the end of the level. Points can be semi difficult to come by and soon they become downright problematic. Levels are locked behind point gates which means you will end up replaying levels several time through merely to push ahead in the narrative. This pushes you to avoid speed runs and play for damage, killing or collecting everything in your path.

Tembo the Badass Elephant is a fun game that never shies away from the fact that it is fairly generic. The art style is interesting and Tembo is a fun character. There’s a lot of fun to be had here if you are willing to just let loose.

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Posted:
2015-02-21

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

7.4

MotoGP 14 is another entry in the ultra popular Moto series by Mileston S.r.I. This game was released in June of 2014 for the Playstation 4. This is the first next gen title to be created and released by the developers. As with many of the other Moto games, this one features a large array of different bikes and tracks to burn through. While there are many new upgrades in the 2014 release of the Moto series, it is still far from being perfect. Let's dig in and see what all of the fuss is about.

A history of success.

MotoGP got its start way back in 2008 and since then the company has only been trending up. It offers gamers the chance to hop astride a motorbike and to really feel the speed of the track. The game exists in a sort of niche world where car enthusiasts don't quite gravitate but there is still a hardened crowd of followers. The series has routinely been considered the only way to enjoy motorbike racing outside of actually hopping astride of a pair of wheels yourself. The big question that MotoGP 2014 will face is this: Does it give that same sense of speed while promising players more?

A slew of options to enjoy.

Upon booting up the game players will be greeted with a huge array of playing options. You have your standard single races, considered just exhibitions, and you have historic races as well. Though the history of motorbike racing is relatively considered 'lost knowledge', it is still interesting to hop into a race that happened in real life and to experience it in HD on your living room television. You also have your timed events and online modes, as well. There are tons of options to keep you entertained and, at first glance, this is almost a bit intimidating.

How does it all look on the Playstation 4?

As with many racing games, MotoGP 14 is pushed to the limit. There really are only two things that this genre of game needs to do well: look good and play tight. So with the gaudy PlayStation 4 schematics at its back, MotoGP continues to shine. The environment looks crisp and the colors are as sharp as ever. There is a ton of detail on your racer and the textures involved are quite gorgeous. Slow down the race sometime with the replay mode to see just how smooth everything looks. We've made no mention of the actual bikes yet but they too also look gorgeous.

Of course now that MotoGP has the official license for the sport there is a host of licensed material available. You will get to use sponsored vehicles, branded clothing, and even league tracks to race on. So if there was a track that you fell in love with watching on television you can go ahead and take it for a spin with your rider and bike in the game.

So how does it all handle?

If you are one of those guys that considers all racers 'the same' then you are in for an infuriating wake up call. Racing on four wheels is a whole lot different than racing on two wheels and it won't take long time find out. The physics in the game are on point and the terrain is varied enough to put it all to the test. You aren't strapped into a heavy machine in this game. You are sitting astride a small bike that will bump and bobble and almost flip based on the terrain that you are riding. There is velocity, physics, and the terrible combination of the two that will leave most fans gritting their teeth after another wipe out. That isn't to say that the controls are bad, however.

MotoGP 14 refuses to hold your hand once you've actually begun to race and it is for that reason alone that we have to respect the series. In a game like MotoGP, where many players won't be accustomed to how the sport is done, you will have to be willing to learn while on the road. The controls are fine, and tight, and there is definitely some method to the madness that is perfecting two wheeled racing. You will want to hit as many practice modes as possible in order to get comfortable with how to stream behind people and even the act of turning.

For those that continue to struggle there are some ways you can address your problems. There is a physics option in the menu that can be adjusted to make the feel of the bike more tolerable. Switch between standard, semi pro, and pro in terms of the level of reality in the physics simulations. There are a ton of other options as well that you can fiddle with in order to make your biking even simpler but it will take some time and dedication to get it all perfected.

A detailed campaign mode.

Once you actually get into the groove of racing things start to get really fun. As you get better on the track, including pushing your ranking up the crowd, your agent will start to get you more and better work. You will push ahead and out of the Moto1 division and into some headier territory. Your agent will do their best to negotiate you better contracts with better teams that could help out your career going forward.

Messing with your bike while in the garage is an overwhelming and entertaining experience. You can tweak your bike, change its settings, and ready it up for the races in any way that you see fit. There is an excellent question and answer mode where you tell the engineer of your bikes what problems you are having on the track. They will offer guidance on how to fix the bike going forward.

MotoGP 14 on the Playstation 4 is for the kind of person that wants to play games and beat them. Fans of the sport will find their way to a copy, but the rest of us will have trouble getting into it. Racing moto is difficult and sometimes frustrating but the rewards are definitely fulfilling.

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Posted:
2015-02-21

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

7.4

'Dying Light' on the PlayStation 4 is one of the newer horror games to hit the next generation of consoles. Developed by Techland, a Polish company, the game was published by Warner Bros. The game came out to much fanfare thanks to its unique art style and penchant for really selling the jump scares that are so important to the horror genre. The game was released in January of 2015 and combines many different gameplay elements. With its unique setting, interesting gameplay quirks, and promising storyline, 'Dying Light' may be one of our most surprising success stories in recent years.

Everything fades.

In 'Dying Light' players will take on the role of Kyle Crane, a secret operative that is sent to the city of Harran in order to infiltrate its quarantine. Harran is a fictional recreation of real life ancient Turkey. His mission in the game is to find a man by the name of Kadir "Rais" Suleiman, a rogue political figure who has control of some sensitive data that could threaten the standing of his agency. Things soon go to the wind as Crane is forced to deal with a viral outbreak that is turning most of the city into ultra aggressive, angry zombies. It is this twist, that could be so tired out by now, that makes the game interesting. By laying the political machinations down first we are given a glimpse of a story that does not rely on horror tropes. Then once we get to see that zombies are at hand, all of the craziness that is unleashed afterwards becomes even more invigorating.

The incomparable Kyle Crane.

Kyle Crane is the sort of guy any regular person really wants to be. Taking influences directly from games like 'Assassins Creed' and 'Far Cry', Crane becomes a free running, city hopping, man on a mission. He is a secret agent with secrets of his own. He is a layered and dynamic character that brings to the forefront of our mind the questions that we must ask ourselves: how would we handle this situation? As the story unfolds and things become darker, Crane has to make increasingly difficult decisions. Crane bothers his initial mission and begins working with a group of rogue survivors. Ignoring orders from his agency CO, who would bomb the whole city if he was given the button to press, sets Crane on a wild mission that could get the best of him.

An uneven fight.

When you first start the game Kyle Crane is nothing if not beatable. He lacks longterm stamina and running seems a chore for the character. This could have been a clear decision by the production crew in order to level out gameplay difficulty, but it just feels a bit fake to us. Why should this secret agent get tired after a 50 yard sprint? Crane also suffers from serious fatigue when using his melee weapons, which consist of pipes, knives, and other small items. These don't do much damage to zombies and are far more effective against your living, breathing enemies. The melee combat, which should be so easy to get correctly, is a big point of contention for many critics in the game. Your hits don't always feel on point and aiming seems of little use. We hate to use the word 'floaty' but it seems to be the common issue with hand to hand combat. Nothing feels 'devastating'. Everything feels like a random blow, almost like its being calculated by a roll of the dice rather than your precise decision to aim for their head.

After your first few hours of gameplay you will find yourself arming up with better and better weaponry. You can find blueprints around the city as well as the materials you need in order to craft them. This portion of the game feels like a more laid back and realistic version of the popular mall-zombie game, 'Dead rising'. Get used to these blueprints as they will be the one way you can most assuredly put yourself ahead of your enemies. Guns are rare in this game and they are not to be wasted when you get your hands on them. You might go for hours at a time without holding one or getting a chance to fire. But when you do, try and get the shotgun. The no nonsense close-up shooting makes for an efficient way to get people killed.

The skill tree.

One of the more interesting aspects of 'Dying Light' is the expanding skill tree that you can upgrade with points. If you juice up your vaulting skill then you'll find yourself able to run, jump, and push your way through zombies. There are a host of skills that will help you out that don't involve simply killing your enemies, and they are absolutely worth an early look. Of course the combat skills are wonderful. Being able to smash in an opposing zombies head with a pipe wrench is pretty satisfying. A dropkick from the top of a car is equally entertaining as well.

On the whole though you should be more interested in working with your stealth in order to accomplish your goals. While 'Dying Light' absolutely caters to the hack 'n slash inclined, it is still a far more interesting experience if you choose to go slow and make tactical decisions. Even when you don't opt to go for the stealthy approach, you still have to be smart about how you choose to engage your enemy. Though you can juice up your skills you will never get to a point where you can take your hordes of enemies lightly, like in 'Shadow of Mordor'. The game doesn't let you become a juiced up God of war. You just get a little better and then a little better more.

'Dying Light' on the PlayStation 4 is an interesting entry into what could be construed as a rapidly tiring genre. The game gives its players reasons to go slowly and stealthily but it also rewards them for changing up their style. The story of the game is interesting and unique and we found the experience to be enjoyable, despite some combat related flaws.

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Posted:
2015-02-21

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

8.4

'Far Cry 4' on the PlayStation 4 is the next installment from Ubisoft Montreal in the storied 'Far Cry' series. This entry promises an open world full of action, improved graphics, and an almost cinematic element to its gameplay. The game came out with a ton of buzz but the question isn't about hype, it is about payoff. Does the team at Ubisoft continue to push the envelope or have they finally found themselves jumping the shark? Let's jump into the island world of 'Far Cry' and see just how well this title will pay off for its dedicated and passionate fanbase.

So what's it all about?

A good game will put you into the world of a disenfranchised hero. It is easy to root for the 'good guys', like Captain America, but it is harder for us to root for someone that doesn't fit the prototypical understanding of 'heroic'. In 'Far Cry 4' we get to follow a young man by the name of Ajaye Ghale. He is a Kyrati-American from Nepal who comes home to Kyrat in order to spread the ashes of his dead mother. Kyrat is a hyper fictionalized version of the Himalayas and it is there that most of the action takes place. On a simple trip to set his mother to rest, Ajay instead finds his home country in the midst of a deadly and disastrous civil war. The Royal Army of Kyrat takes on the helm of antagonist as they are led by an almost pirate like, insane, leader named Pagan Min. Min is set diametrically opposed to the 'rebel group' called the Golden Path. Ajay is thrown right in the middle of this war and forced to start making tough decisions almost immediately. What you do will help set the tone for how the game will unfold with every action having a huge consequence.

How does it improve upon Far Cry 3?

Director Mark Thompson loudly espoused his disappointment in how the narrative of the 'Far Cry' series clashed, initially, with the open world nature of the game. He felt that the open world aspect took away from the 'time critical' moments in the narrative and so there was always a clashing feeling. This has been corrected with the story of 'Far Cry 4'. While time is of the essence, you are never in a rush to accomplish your goals. The Civil War will continue whether you are actively fighting Min or not. And so it doesn't hurt you to take time out to explore and enjoy the scenery.

Outside of the narrative upgrade, which features a story based a ten year long insurgency in Nepal, the game itself plays a bit different geographically. While the map itself is roughly the size of 'Rook Island', it is much more mountainous and dense. There is no easy terrain to push through so you will always be trying to climb up or down, causing everything to add up on the clock. This isn't to say that the different lands are annoying. No, we found that the mountainous regions of Kyrat were an enjoyable upgrade over the tropical world of Rook Island. Fundamentally, though, they have a similar feel to one another. Lush green woods, big mountains, and bad guys with guns around every corner.

So how does it play on the PlayStation 4?

When you find yourself in the fictional world of Kyrat, you will almost immediately see that you are on your own in a world that wants to kill you. From the wildlife (Eagles?!) to the natives, everyone is out for your blood. That's the nature of life in a terrifying and violent sandbox game and it is something you'll have to live, or die, with. Fundamentally the controls of the game are similar and as easily used. You will still find your way shooting, stabbing, climbing, and grappling across the province of Kyrat. You'll do battle with enemies big and small while running into animals that are a little bit out of your league. The first time that you get killed by a giant tiger you'll laugh. The next seven times you get killed by an eagle you might instead want to throw your controller. Such is life, though.

How does it all look?

Almost every installment in the 'Far Cry' series has improved upon the one prior to it. There is no criticizing how 'Far Cry 4' looks. Upon booting up the game, and falling into the level, you will immediately find that you have something to see in every direction, for as far as your eyes can track. The deliciously sharp 1080p brings the world to life in front of you and the 30FPS mark holds up, even with the most exorbitant lighting and full screens worth of models and textures.

As you traverse the wild terrain of Kyrat you will see lush forests, climbing mountains, and prolonged expanses of desert. You'll run into beautiful giant elephants and a whole ecosystem's worth of animals. The view from your flying suit is simply admirable. It is one of the most enjoyable and most beautifully realized sandbox games in the entire genre. Many games of this style tend to repeat textures or recycle area styles. This isn't the case. With how detailed the production team got, you'd be convinced that this was a real life recreation.

It's your world, play in it.

One of the most admirable aspects to this entry into the 'Far Cry' series is that it offers you a true sandbox experience .There is no one way to accomplish much of anything. You have options and alternatives for every scenario. If you need help taking out an outpost then you can bait the place with raw meat to lure in the wild life. If you don't want to attack the base in broad daylight then go ahead and wait until the cover of night. Don't feel like being strategic? Hop on an elephant and roar your way through the outpost.

'Far Cry 4' is a complete gaming experience and it is one that PlayStation 4 gamers will want to partake in. From the beautiful graphics all the way to the compelling plot, there is something to keep you absorbed.

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Posted:
2015-02-21

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

8.0

'Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires' was released for the PlayStation 4 in February of 2014. The game is another entry in a long line of hack and slash games from the developers Omega Force. 'Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires' was published by Tecmo Koei and it is considered one of the better entries in recent memory to the iconic 'Dynasty Warriors' series. The game features a plethora of new characters involved in an expansive campaign as well as repping a complete graphic overhaul thanks to the power of the PlayStation 4. There are a ton of reasons to give this game a rental and we'll see if it would be a good fit for you. Keep reading and find out if you'll be joining in on the latest battlefield!

So what's it all about?

We are back in the era of the Three Kings. China has once more been turned into a battle field full of warriors that are eagerly seeking to establish themselves as they fight for their faction. The game features a story based on the 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' which was written by Luo Gunazhong in the form of a historic novel. The story takes a backseat early and often to the sheer madness that the large scale battles we know and love. We get to watch the four major factions in go through their own storylines. There are moments that will test the future of these different alliances and, once decided, they change the route that the game takes going forward. It is a little bit more interactive than normal and, on the whole, pretty exciting in that regard In all honesty if you are paying too much attention to the storyline then you are likely playing the wrong game. 'Dynasty Warriors' has always been about getting onto the battlefield in order to spill the blood of your enemies. Fortunately the game does that very thing supremely well.

Jam packed with content.

The newest entry into the 'Dynasty Warriors' series shows us a playable roster of characters that runs over 70 people deep. This can be intimidating for people loading up the series for the first time. The different models may tend to blend together and there is little reason to delve too deeply, unless you find a player that strikes your fancy. Thankfully the guys behind the series decided to address fan skepticism of vanilla characters and, in doing so, add some personality to them all. The different characters on the roster all have their own unique blends of special moves and specific fighting styles. Some soldiers master the rake while others wield dual blades. There is enough difference between the different characters to make it worth trying out a few different ones in order to find your niche. Finding the character you are most potent with is important. Characters possess special weapons that are primed with bonus experience systems that will help you develop your characters the longer that you play.

As long as we are talking about potent characters we have to point out how the team at Tecmo tried to reinvent one of their most brutal baddies: Lu Bu. Lu Bu is a hulking beast of a man known for his extreme violence and prejudice in battle. He is borderline irredeemable if only for how much hate he has summoned via players who had trouble progressing past his boss stage. Now he is a playable character with a fully realized arc that tries to explain why he is the way that he is. He doesn't become an antihero, or anything of the sort, but we come to respect his history if nothing else.

How is the PS4 upgrade?

When games make a port over to the next generation of consoles there is an expectation that the graphics and such will make an equally impressive jump. While 'Dynasty Warriors 8' looks like a solid game on the PS4, it is still reminiscent of its older console versions. The game is pretty much just an upscaled PS3 release. Despite that criticism we do see an increase in frame rate and there is also an improvement in the pop that has always been a problem for gamers and fans of the series. As Tecmo goes forward developing games for the new generation of consoles we shouldn't be surprised to see the graphical stance of their games improve.

A host of different game modes.

The team behind this entry in the series was determined to make sure that their game had massive replayability. It wasn't good enough to simply work through the campaign and then fiddle around in multiplayer. Tecmo wants players to be engaged in a ton of different ways. We'll skip the traditional story mode delve into the other unique modes available:

1) Ambition Mode

This mode of gameplay takes on a sort of novice city building aspect. You will play as the leader of a mall base full of peasants at the 'Tongquetai Tower'. Your goal is to get Emperor Xian to come visit you in order to raise the status of the tower. You have to partake in big and small battles in order to win fame and recruit new allies. You start out this mode with nothing but a weapons shop at your base. You can upgrade the Tower and add new facilities as you push through the mode.

2) Challenger Mode

In Challenger Mode you must compete in a variety of different mini games. As you do so you will compete for high scores in order to unlock special weapons. These weapons cannot be won in any other mode of gameplay. It's a diversion, but a fun one with legitimate benefits.

If you are a fan of 'Dynasty Warriors' then you will enjoy the eighth entry into the series. Tecmo wants to create an experience that gives fans everything they need, and they balance it as capably as any other studio. There are some issues, mostly with hit detection and overused sounds, but the game itself does not suffer for it.

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Posted:
2015-02-22

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

6.0

Welcome to the world of 'Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed". This game was developed by Acquire and published by XSEED Games across all of the great SONY consoles. The 'Trip' released for the PlayStation 4 in 2015 and it instantly became one of the most intriguing titles on the platform. The game promises a combination of a slew of different genres and it puts them all to the test in a package that is really quite beautiful, replete with classic anime art stylings. The game is a sequel to the game 'Akiba's Trip' though it is not considered a must play in order to enjoy the series.

So what's this game about?

Well, to accurately discuss 'Akiba' we have to accept the fact that there are some pretty strange video games out there in the world. This game, which plays like a beat 'em up mixed with a JRPG, has a pretty insane premise. You start the game located in Akihabara, a popular shopping hub in Tokyo. It is here that you find out that there is a whole other world that exists beneath your own. There is a race of vampire and zombie like creatures that prey on the living. They suck out their energy and let them live, left behind as a shell of a creature. The only way these creatures can be defeated is by being put into direct sunlight. Obviously this plays off of the vampire myth and that isn't that odd, to be honest. What is odd is how thorough the sunlight has to be applied. In the game you are put into encounters with different 'creatures' and the only way to 'reveal them to sunlight' is to strip them off. This leads to a bounty of fanservice as the many different, cute, anime women are stripped down in the game. It's bizarre, it's Japan, it works.

You are a man by the name of Nanashi. You are considered an otaku (outsider) at your high school and you are in love with the Akihabara. One day you are kidnapped by the Magaimono Organization, the gang of evil beings behind the vampires and zombies, and there they try to perform some pretty crazy experiments on you. Fortunately you escape, but not before being turned into a 'Synthister'. A Synthister is just another name for the zombie/vampire creatures we discussed above.

So that is the scope of the game. You are tasked with uncovering the goings on inside of the Magaimono Organization while simultaneously avoiding being stripped in battle. You'll do plenty of stripping yourself as you face off against the hordes of enemies that will come after you.

So how does the game look?

'Akiba's Trip' is a gorgeous game and there are some optimizations that make sense. We have a semi cel shaded style of artwork that is juxtaposed against the iconic style of modern anime characters. The girls are beautiful, the eyes are huge, and the men are slightly androgynous. The colors of the game pop off of the screen and we quickly find ourselves reveling in the fictionalized version of Tokyo that we are forced to play through and, eventually, save.

What are some PS4 improvements?

The fact that the game was so popular on an older generation of console should make many prospective buyers raise an eyebrow. If it worked so well on the PS3, why bothering what could be considered a cash grab of a port? There are a few upgrades that make the purchase worth it. Loading times have been dramatically reduced and they no longer slow down the rhythm of the game. Instead of waiting for 10, 15, seconds you are only waiting for a fraction of that amount. Without fearing the poor loading times of the old version of the game you are more free to explore the fascinating Akihabara at will.

As well as loading faster, the game looks ever better than it did before. The game has upgraded the draw distance so that you can see even more of the city than ever before. You truly feel like an ant wandering through a colony of other ants as you traverse the city. With this smoothness in graphics comes a smoothness in fighting. The game plays like a knife through hot butter, no complaints.

A few neat features.

The PS4 version of 'Akiba's Trip' gives users the ability to go in and edit the world that they will inhabit. Open up the 'Visual Editor' in order to manually change how the world looks around you. Change colors, sharpness, saturation, and so much more in order to make the game exist how you want it to. This could lead to a whole array of fascinating artistic choices for those inclined to give the editor a shot.

PSN has also managed to add in a streaming service to 'Akiba's Trip' that allows users to stream to their audiences all over the globe. A nice wrinkle in this feature is that the original gamer can call in back up from his or her viewers and they can contribute in real time during the game.

The last feature that we will discuss is the 'Toybox Mode'. In the Toybox mode you can set the game to have unlocked all of the special weapons and items available without having to actually work for them on your own. This is a fun and quirky way to add some longevity, though it shouldn't be the first experience that anyone has.

'Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed' on the PlayStation 4 is a neat little title that pushes for weirdness in a genre that will allow it. While a ton of people will raise an eyebrow to the style of the game and the prevalence of almost-nudity, others will be completely unfazed. The game plays well and has a slew of special features to keep even the most hard to focus gamer coming back. We strongly recommend 'Akiba's Trip' to gamers looking for an odd JRPG to add to their collection.

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Posted:
2015-07-16

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Xbox One

6.3

Never Alone was developed by the team at Upper One Games for release on the Xbox One, PC, Wii U, and PS4. Released in 2014, we finally found our way over to this gorgeous platformer when we stumbled across it in the Xbox One Marketplace. We have been in love with the puzzle/platformer genre this past year thanks to so many beautiful efforts by talented indie game companies. Orie and the Blind Forest and Limbo stand out to us right now in our memory. So we did a little bit of research about the game and found out that it would be the perfect morsel in between our more heavy handed gaming experiences (Witcher 3, looking at you). So without further ado let’s dig into this atmospheric platformer and see if it was worth the impulse purchase.

Never Alone is the first major release by the team at Upper One Games and it is a pretty important one at that. The game was developed alongside the Alaskan Native Community and it serves as an introduction to most of the Western World to the complex, beautiful, and metaphorical stories that have been passed down for generations by these people. We follow along with Nuna and her fox and explore the deep Arctic world of the Inupiat folks who live there and the stories that they breathed to life.

So right off the bat you should know that this is a 2D side-to-side platformer. You play an Alaskan Native, wrapped up in furs and such, and you begin by watching a few 'Cultural Insights'. These video clips are unlocked as you progress during the game whenever you stumble across owls. The videos that come unlocked will give you a brief but deep look into the lives of the Inupiat people and their culture. Once that is done you drop right back into the game as a young Inupiat girl named Nuna. You explore through caves, cliffs, and snowy landscapes with your trusty fox by your side. A strange blizzard has been assaulting your village for longer than normal and you must find the source of this strange nature by journeying through the arctic.

We mentioned Limbo earlier on in our review and that comparison comes back around once you dive into the game play. Much like Limbo your life is very easy to forfeit to either nature or the beasts that live within. Only instead of shadowy monsters from some Lovecraftian imagination you have the horrors of true nature: Polar Bears, blizzards, deadly falls, and so on. The Alaskan landscape is hard enough to traverse as it is when you are a little girl and looking out for monstrous bears makes things all the more difficult.

Immediately we found ourselves a little perturbed with some perceived issues that the title was offering. Death being a cheap currency means that we should clutch our lives all the more. However, we quickly found that the controls in the game were not nearly as finely tuned as they should have been. We watched helplessly as Nuna failed to execute jumps that should have connected fine. Going into the puzzle segments there were times when we couldn’t complete some basic parts of the game because the 3D assets would not cooperate. All of these frustrations start to mount and the beautifully illustrated Alaskan landscape starts to feel more like a prison than a fun game to escape from.

Speaking of the landscape, the majority of Never Alone looks absolutely gorgeous. There is a dreamy feel that we felt Limbo perfected and Never Alone emulated to a quality degree. There is a foggy aura over the majority of the game which serves to assuage some of the harshness of the Arctic and the repeated character deaths that you will experience. In fact it is the early harshness of the game that lends so much to the beauty we find later on. The deeper into the wilderness that you and Nuna trek, the prettier everything gets. You’ll come across the Northern Lights, whales made of ice, evil green spirits, and so much more. So while the gameplay is frustrating and poorly done, the visuals are on par with some of the best releases that year. We can tell that Upper One Games worked closely to get the vision that their cultural ambassadors believed in.

The most infuriating aspect of the game should also have been its strong point. Nuna has her trusty fox at her side and you can switch between the two characters in order to complete puzzles. There are certain moments where your fox, who can communicate with the spirit world, needs to activate a lever or step for you to move forward as Nuna. Only when you switch back to Nuna the AI takes control of the fox and occasionally moves, resulting in the lever becoming unpressed and Nuna falling to her frustrating death. Perhaps in multiplayer co-op this mechanic would not be an issue but we shouldn’t need to play multiplayer in order for it to work correctly.

When we finally had our fill of Never Alone we came away shaking our head in two parts: one of amazement and one of frustration. There is a great game here, but Upper One Games didn’t find it.

When the game completes you don’t see a list of staff or developers that actually worked on the title. Instead the game immediately starts to list off cultural ambassadors of the Alaskan Native community that helped turn the game into a reality. In doing so we realized that the priority for Upper One Games was always to honor the cultures of the people that these stores were appropriated from. With that in mind it becomes more apparent why some of the gameplay issues we came across existed. As odd as it sounds, making an elite game was never priority number one for the developers. The goal here was to create a game that respected, honored, and brought to life the lives of a people that most do not understand or even know about.

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Posted:
2015-10-28

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

8.0

Assassin's Creed Syndicate is a historical and somewhat fictional action-adventure open world stealth video game, the game was developed by Ubisoft Quebec and later published by Ubisoft. It was released on October 23, 2015, for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and is due for the release on the PC in both disk format or via download depending on preference.

Storyline

The game is set in 1868 and the location this time is London, the Industrial Revolution is taking place during this time period and the story follows two twins namely Jacob and Evie Frye. These two twins are court in a cross fire as they navigate the seedy world of organized crime during the Victorian period, this organized crime spree is being organized and controlled by the order known as the Templars. The Twins who were originally raised by Assassins to follow the Creed of the order (both Jacob and Evie Frye) take it upon themselves to fight back against this secret order known as the Templars.

The two differences between the two twins becomes quite apparent during gameplay, Jacob tends to learn towards being some kind of brute, more inclined to react upon a whim, a sort of hot-headed kind of character, the male dominant one. Whereas his twin sister tends to focus more on using logical thinking, tactics, charm, stealth when handling certain situations, encounters or problems.

Weapons

All the traditional Assassin’s Creed weapons are evident in this game, along with a few extras, brass knuckles, a cane sword, compact revolver and a few other goodies. You will notice that during close combat the speed and pace is significantly faster than before, with even more enemies deciding to attack you together. Like the previous Assassin’s Creed games in this situation timing is important, and how you strategically move and position yourself is key to the true assassin experience.

Gameplay

Ubisoft has really excelled in this area opening up what can be seen as many enhancement to the overall gameplay experience, the result being the player has a lot more to do within the games, largely in terms of missions, there seems to be a lot more going on with Assassin's Creed Syndicate. You may decide to go horse cart racing in the streets of London against other racers within the city. Or decide it is about time to pull off a train robbery with rewards. You will visit the seven main boroughs and take on the guarded strongholds which is controlled by a boss, these stronghold hideouts are up for grabs, just remove the tenants by whatever means.

Templar Assassination’s which you partake in will also have it just rewards, fighting off the corrupt bureaucrats who are hiding behind the scenes, using money to corrupt the agents who they employ. You can think of this particular kind of mission as assassination contracts, where you effectively take out the agents which in turn allows you to move more fluently and freely throughout the city boroughs. Other missions you will undertake include Bounty Hunting local criminals, in exchange for taking out the local trash you are rewarded somewhat and often left alone by the local police, so adopting these missions can prove useful to stay under the radar.
Travel System

In Assassin's Creed Syndicate a new mode of traveling has been introduced, this traveling system enables the assassin to use such things as the rope launcher, this particular item rappels the assassin up various structures within the city, as well as being able to be used to slide across different buildings using the zip-lines, this item has other uses within the game.

Conclusion

If we had to sum up our experience with Assassin's Creed Syndicate then I would say it certainly excels in all the right departments, Ubisoft have once again provided all the goodies and this is one example why they have become one of the leading game developers. This latest release packs all the right punches and the latest charm comes from the ability to be able to freely switch between the two twin protagonists. If you have played the original Assassins Creed series to date, this latest release will no doubt take you back to the routes of where it thrived the most, an absolute gem of a title.

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Posted:
2015-10-28

Jamie_Hall

Writer

PS4

8.5

The Talos Principle Deluxe Edition is a first-person puzzle video game which draws heavily from Greek mythology, originally created by the Croatian developer Croteam and later published by Devolver Digital. It was released on PlayStation 4 on 13 October, 2015.

Storyline

In The Talos Principle, you begin after awakening from a deep sleep and you find yourself in a strange world of ancient ruins mixed with advanced technologies, a bit of ruff with the smooth you might say. Your creator has bestowed you with the task of solving a complex series of puzzles, you must now decide whether to have faith in your creator, or to take the route and ask questions like, what is my purpose here, who or what am I, questions like this.

The game features quite an extensive array of puzzles which you will have to solve, this is largely set in an impressive non-linear world, and the storyline becomes quite thoughtful dealing with our very nature of existence. In total the game has over 120 puzzles which with a storyline which is heavily influenced by primary mixing philosophy and ancient symbols with a puzzle solving twist.

Your primary existence should be to explore the civilization, understand the story that explains humanity and how it is linked to the advanced technology, finally coming to a conclusion based on the theories and clues which have been offered to you. The choices you make within the game has certain effects and consequences and you choose your own path to follow, just remember this, someone is always watching your every move.

The Talos Principle is played from a first-person perspective, there is an option to switch to a third-person perspective, so choice has been given here which is a nice added touch I was not expecting to see.

Gameplay

You take on the role of a robot which has a human consciousness and during your puzzle solving shenanigans you will have to locate the tetromino-shaped sigils by navigating various mazes and dealing with the obstacles which are found upon them. The obstacles mentioned might be enhanced created technologies like computer controlled drones or wall mounted turrets, should a player get to close to the drones they will explode taking out the player, these like the turrets can be disabled using jammers. The wall mounted turrets in effect shoot the player should they also get to close. Should you be hit by either a turret or a drone then the game is reset and the player starts the same level from the beginning.

As you progress through the levels you will obtain these hieroglyphics known as sigils, when you complete more puzzles and collect more sigils then further puzzles will then become active to participate in. There are also various items which assist the player in reaching the location on any given puzzle, for example, boxes enable players to reach higher levels, or on the flip side block certain drones from being able to attack you. A large fan that can be used to glide the player onto other objects, platforms during the puzzles.

The player's progress through these puzzles is sometimes limited by security systems that require the collection of specific sigil pieces which you will need to obtain in order to enter. Once the sigils for a given door or security system is used, they must then use the sigils to assemble a puzzle that will unlock that security system or door. Special star sigils can also be obtained by finding a unique solution whilst solving certain types of puzzles, once these Special Star Sigils are in your possession this in turn gives the player access to additional puzzles which are unlocked as a result. The player can also explore the open non-linear environments to find the computer terminals that include further puzzles to solve and unlock, they also contain various audio recordings and hieroglyphics depicted on the walls.

The Talos Principle Deluxe Edition features the Road to Gehenna expansion pack and this consist of four new episodes that take the experienced players through some of the most difficult challenging and advanced puzzles that have even been seen. The journey to Gehenna is filled with new characters and a new society with its own history and philosophy, this is much different to the original release, giving players a whole new world to explore and more challenging puzzles to solve.

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Posted:
2015-07-23

Jamie_Hall

Writer

Wii U

7.6

Yoshi’s Woolly World was developed by the team at Good-Feel for release on the Wii U. Published by Nintendo, Woolly World gives fan favorite dino Yoshi another chance to shine in his own title. Utilizing an inventive art style, a unique set of controls, and the typically colorful world that Nintendo is so known for Yoshi’s Woolly World released to astounding reviews. We’ve always been a fan of Nintendo’s more unique exploits, with Paper Mario being one of our favorite totals, so you didn’t have to bend our arm in order to convince us to give this game a legitimate shot. We picked it up, dusted off our Wii U, and got right to work.

There is a lot to discuss when look at Yoshi’s Woolly World and most of it, surprisingly, has little to do with the actual art style. At its core Nintendo is trying to make another 2D platformer with a beloved character from the Mario pantheon. At face value this is exactly what you get with the title. You get 48 levels of platforming glory with super tight controls, boss levels, and a fulfilling and concluding end to the title. With pitch perfect sound and beautiful artwork there is very little to shake your head at here. Sounds fine, right? Well, the problem is that it doesn’t work perfectly and there are hiccups and we weren’t completely fulfilled. Let’s discuss why exactly this title falls a little bit short of what we were hoping for.

So right off the bat we can say that the controls are as tight as any other Nintendo platformer. You take control of your Wii U remote and instantly feel at home and as if you have known these controls your entire life. The basic platforming skills are put into full effect here with Yoshi’s natural twist: high jumps, ground pounds, and tongue whips. Playing off of the art style has Yoshi carrying around balls of yarn which he can then sling at his opponents. Hurling stuff in the game is a little more technical then the aim-and-chuck that Mario perfected in his titles. Holding down the A button while in possession of yarn will launch a reticle that allows you to target your foe and pick the trajectory that you want to hurl the item. Wool can be obtained by many different ways including eating your enemies.

Unfortunately the tight controls only further exemplify the biggest issue in the title: it is too easy and straightforward when played clean. If you attack Yoshi’s Woolly World with the intention of beating each level as fast as possible, as is the norm for Mario titles, you will breeze through the 48 levels with nary a backward glance. The title is easy, the goals simple, and the execution commonplace. You’ve played this game for the past decade in its many different iterations. Fortunately you can swerve away from this feeling of the tired old theme by digging into the classic Nintendo magic.

In order to change up the routine and really enjoy the game you will have to engage in some real collecting mentality. After you beat each level in Wooly World a treasure chest will pop up showing all of the items that you missed along the way. Go back and replay the levels, finding all of the collectables, in order to unlock new rewards and bonus content. If you do this long enough for enough levels you will start to unlock new Yoshi skins, new S levels, and much more. It’s a fun way to create some replayability while giving gamers more to focus on while they play through the relatively simple levels. It’s a more challenging and complex game when you force yourself to hunt out all of the hidden items that are hidden around the game.

Beating any of the 48 levels in the 5 minute time limit is hard enough in itself so adding on the collecting side quest makes it an actually difficult task. These were some of the most enjoyable moments for us in the game as we would start to really take in all of the artistry in order to find the slight differences that would imply a secret tunnel or a special switch to get us into a new area. And you really do have to keep an eye out. The wool based artwork can conceal all sorts of hidden areas with clues as innocuous as an extended piece of yarn that, when eaten by Yoshi, will unravel an entire secret area. Seriously! Eye strain becomes a possibility when hunting for treasures.

The art style is obviously going to be the most alluring and immediately distinguishable aspect of the video game. The transformation from flat cartoonish worlds into wool and yarn works well, for the most part. Yoshi’s Woolly World is pretty and it has a lot of great texture work done in the various items in the worlds. Yet there is a feeling of something missing permeating everything. Tiny textural details are lost and some animations just aren’t smooth. On the whole it looks different than other Mario World titles but it doesn’t necessarily feel better. Still, as a gimmick it isn’t terrible and we’re sure some people will think it’s cute or something.

In terms of gameplay quirks everything plays relatively straightforward with the exception of your sidekick, Poochy. Poochy helps you sniff out secrets and treasures as long as you can afford his summoning fee (5,000 gems - and you can). He helps you fill out your collection and on the whole is a welcome addition to the game, if only to give it a bit more depth in a different direction. With Poochy at your side you can unlock all of the collectables in order to acquire the six secret courses which are, on the whole, much harder than the main game.

Yoshi’s Woolly World on the Wii U is an average entry into a stellar franchise. The artwork is fantastic but the game itself was made a little bit too safe.


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