Monday 30 September 2013

Rogue Legacy Review (PC)

There has been a load of new dungeon based games recently, each with their own take on searching castles and dank caves for loot. Rogue Legacy takes much of its inspiration from the castle based Castlevania games and uses this as a template to build another randomly generating and highly difficult game of exploration, loot and beasties.

Right from the start it’s clear that Rogue Legacy has much more going on than many of the other Rogue-like games of recent times. You start off with your hero entering a castle from a 2D, side on perspective and then proceed to hunt around for treasure and the boss monsters that guard each area. When you die your offspring must then take up the reigns and continue the search.

The continual line of offspring randomly generate into a number of predetermined classes. There are mages, paladins, thieves and others which can then be expanded out into more specialist explorers such as the shinobi and miner. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses and different weapons and traits that it uses. For instance – the shinobi deals high damage but can’t create a critical hit, while the paladin is a good all-rounder and has the use of a shield.  

You get to pick from three randomly created characters at the start of each adventure and these can be in any of the classes you have unlocked so far. Each individual then also has traits which give them their own strengths and weaknesses. There are a massive amount of different traits and these range from things like Gigantism (makes your character bigger), to dyslexia (can’t read signs) and things such as having an affinity with magic or boosting your speed. There’s no real way to know what you’re going to get so you need to adjust your play style accordingly.

Everything in terms of unlocking or levelling is done with the gold you find around the castle. This can be used to up your stats, buy new equipment or unlock the specialist classes. Upon your death any money or equipment you have is passed onto your next character to use and spend. The kicker is that any money left over after upgrading then needs to be given to the gate guard in order to be let back in. This can create a cycle of not getting very far as you don’t quite find enough to upgrade while being out matched by the difficulty.

Rogue Legacy is certainly not here to treat players with kid gloves. It takes a good few hours to get to grips with and to actually feel like you making progress. As gold is the only way to level up you will often find you need to very cautiously go on expeditions just to gather enough of the stuff to get you to the next piece of equipment or upgrade and this can be time consuming.

Though the castle is randomly generated you can use the architect to lock it down. For the price of a percentage of your gold this keeps the room layout the same and allows you to use the teleport squares you may have found to get you right back into the action. The main benefit of this is when you discover a boss. Bosses are fierce and difficult and will require a number of goes to get the better of. If you decide you character is strong enough then getting the castle locked down allows for repeated characters to simply teleport right to them for another go. Once a boss is downed they stay dead for good and once the initial four bosses are defeated this allows access to the final area of the castle.

It’s fair to say this isn’t going to be a game for everyone. It very tough, especially at the beginning and you will need to sink a load of time into it to get you to a point where you feel safe to explore properly. The fact the rooms move around all the time makes it seem a slightly odd decision to base it on the Castelvania template and it can be very frustrating to realise you’ve just wandered into the castle without locking it down, especially if you were heading off to fight one of the bosses. That said, it does carry the same sort of risk reward scenario as games like Dark Souls and every victory feels that much sweeter when you’ve been trying to take the monster down for hours. Once you level up a bit and get used to the game it really does start to get going and you’ll be continually drawn back for more. However, many gamers might not make it that far and that’s a shame as this is probably one of the more inventive indie style games to come out recently.

Approach it patiently and with the knowledge that you are going to die and it offers an experience not really offered elsewhere. It’s a must for fans of the genre but the more casual gamer should probably get their kicks with something a little easier to handle, much like Dark Souls or other Rogue-likes like Spelunky.


Wednesday 25 September 2013

Etrian Odyssey 4: Legends of the Titan Review (3DS)

The idea of searching dungeons for treasure seems to be having a bit of a resurgence lately, with all sorts of brawlers, slashers and crawlers making their way to various systems. This is the first of the Etrian games to make it to 3DS but the series has been mining the vein of dungeon exploration for some time now. With an experienced and knowledgeable team working in a fairly niche area it was always likely this was going to turn out well, what is perhaps unexpected is how accessible this is for newcomers to the series.

In most JRPG’s the plot is one of two things and as we aren’t questing to save a princess it means it’s time to try and reach that good old life giving Yggdrasil tree. It’s all familiar hokum but there’s certainly a comfort to it in a game such as this. Aside from the story the style of game will be anything but familiar to many a modern gamer.

Etrian breaks itself into three main parts. To start with you have the town which is represented through a glorified menu screen. Different places allow you to save, get equipment, heal and get new quests. This is done via 2D art and speech bubbles and is both functional and very clearly explained. 

Your first task in town will be to set up your guild of adventurers. You have seven different classes to choose from and will then need to pick five heroes to arrange across the front and back row consisting of six spaces. Essentially you put fighters and shields at the front and medics and mages at the back but there are some cross-over characters to add variety. 

As the game progresses a ton of different skills are unlockable for each character and it leads to pleasingly deep amount of thought and strategy that can be applied to your team. Levelling up does not happen quickly and when you do you get a single skill point to add to your character. This means you need to choose the skills and magic they are going to use carefully. It also means that a certain amount of grinding is par for the course so take that as a warning before going in.

Once your team is set it’s time to venture into a dungeon. Here we have a mix of styles at work. The game is presented from a first person view as you walk around a grid based labyrinth. While doing this you’ll need to use the lower part of the 3DS screen to draw a map of where you are. The map drawing is easy and will soon become an obsession for the more OCD adventurers among us. There are also a host of handy symbols such as doors and water available just to drag and drop onto the grid styled area.

While dungeons are seen from the first person perspective this is not a real time combat game like Eye of the Beholder. Combat is initiated via random events in the same way as many an RPG and then plays out in the standard turn based fashion. There are large enemies that are visible in the game world who will chase you around but for the most part you have to rely on checking the handy danger meter to know when you’re about to be attacked.

Combat is tough and you’ll always have to have your wits about you to make it through a dungeon. If your party is wiped out its game over and you can normally only save in towns or at a portal. There are items that evacuate you from dungeons but they can only be used outside combat. For newcomers there is a casual difficulty setting which tones things down a bit, moves you back to town when you die and lets you set certain items to unlimited use. Even with these changes enemies present a danger, but careful progress can be made by all level of player.

The final part of the game takes place on a larger world map and has our heroes exploring the land in a blimp. Here you can search for treasure and recover food for the town. It also serves as your transport to new dungeons (although once a dungeon has been found it can be teleported to from the town). Even here you have to be careful as big monsters stalk the land looking for you. At least these are visible and there are no random battles while flying in the blimp.

Etrian Odyssey evokes memories of top down Amiga Dungeons and Dragons games, only played out in a new 3D landscape. There’s just something magical about it that allows you play it for long periods at a time. Drawing the map really works and all the system are near flawless. If ever there is a highly accessible hard core RPG then this is it. There really isn’t much we can fault with it and it achieves what it has set out to do excellently. If you’re not a fan of the genre then this may do little to change your mind but for those looking for some old school swords and sorcery style action we can’t think of anything to better it.


Monday 23 September 2013

Diablo III Review (PS3)

There’s been a recent trend of dungeon crawlers making their way onto consoles and no name looms larger in the genre than that of Diablo. Launching on PC last year, this behemoth of a title has now been reworked for consoles in the hopes of coaxing in a crown not so familiar with the combination of mouse and keyboard.

We need to say right at the start that we aren’t familiar with how the game played on the PC. The review will focus on the games strengths and weaknesses in its current form and how it comes across on console as we can’t keep comparing back to what has or hasn’t changed from its first iteration. That said, we have played the Diablo series before so we aren’t coming at it from the point of view of a complete newcomer.

For those not familiar with the series the game is a hack and slash style dungeon crawler with a slanted top down perspective. The plot revolves around a great evil rising from the depths and needing to be destroyed. It’s standard fantasy folk lore set in a dank and forbidding setting and the whole thing oozes with atmosphere and the feeling of dread and decay.

Starting out you have to pick from one of five classes such as a Demon Hunter or Witch Doctor. These classes are fresher takes on the classic classes of Archer, Warrior, Priest, Mage etc. There is no dice rolling to be done and after you’ve picked from several avatars it’s straight into the game. As you destroy monsters and complete quests you level up and this opens up skills slots which can be customised with a wide range of new powers.

Even for those new to this type of game you will pick up what to do pretty early on. The interface is slick and everything is made very clear about what it does when equipped. The same can be said for equipping armour and weapons as a handle compare button allows you to quickly see what benefits each piece of gear has. Picking up a new piece of year for a slot with nothing in will also see the item automatically equipped. In the field of battle you have to press a button to pick up gear but gold or potions are picked up automatically by walking over them.  It’s hard to think how the game could be streamlined anymore and results in a slick and enjoyable experience.

The range of enemies you come across are both varied and plentiful and even at the start you will need to think carefully about how you are going to approach the hordes. On the easier difficulty settings there is no real downside to death but as the difficulty and settings ratchet up you cane even go into the fray knowing one death will end your adventure for you. The settings allow for the sweet spot of any adventurer to be found and it adds hours of replay value as well.

One of the downsides with this type of game is that after a while the combat can feel a bit samey. Though there are a wide range of weapons, powers and enemies to keep things ticking over you do end up performing the same cycle of hit, run and heal more often than you may perhaps like. That said this is by the far the best example of the genre we have come across on a console and it allowed for long periods of play before the feeling of repetition set in. it’s certainly a cut above the Baldur’s Gate hack and slash console games of a few years ago and those were very well received.

Much of the strength of the game comes from venturing into dungeons with friends. There are a host of options available to help with this and you can have strangers join your game as well. The more players in the game means the tougher the monsters get but it really allows Diablo to come into its own when you have multiple classes all trying to take down a giant beastie. In single player you can recruit companions of different types as well. You’ll need to do this early on or simply find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of monsters coming after you.

Overall, this is about as good as we can see a hack and slash style dungeon crawler getting on a console. It’s incredibly user friendly and lends itself to long stretches of play. All the skills you pick up offer genuine benefits and options and there are a huge range of monsters to slay and loot to plunder. It has as brooding atmosphere and a feeling of grandeur that many a console game would kill for. Basically, if you like dungeons crawlers this is essential and if the genre hasn’t hit the right buttons for you yet then this might be the one to change that.


Wednesday 18 September 2013

The Chaos Engine Remastered Review (PC)

The year is 1887 and a number of very strange things have begun to occur all over the world. First of all a dinosaur is found trapped in rock just south of Berkshire. However, when examined it appears that it's a lifeform not known to man. At the same time a theatre in Paris suddenly disappears into the earth, the Statue of Liberty crashes into the heart of New York destroying everything in its path, and half the population of Bavaria are turned into wolves, stalking the countryside for innocent victims. 

Central to these strange happenings, Great Britain descends into anarchy as the landscape begins to alter and change disturbingly. Unknown to everyone the source of the disturbances is coming from the south of Cornwall where Baron Fortesque, bored of making pasties and fighting off Spanish trawlers, has decided to build a massive steam-driven engine with the power to transform matter. It grows out of control andt he Baron becomes imprisoned within the engine, transforming him into a deformed creature of evil. Now fueling itself, the Chaos Engine continues to inflict its evil curse on the world. 

Two brave soldiers (the game can be played co-operatively) must enter the grounds of the mansion and make their way to the resting-place of the dreaded engine - The Hall of Machines. Stepping forward for the task are six unique individuals: the Mercenary, the Brigand, the Gentleman, the Navvie, the Thug and the Priest. Picking the right two men for the job is essential if you're going to have any chance of getting near the evil device. 

Each character has different statistics covering speed, skill, intelligence, strength, health and weaponry and it really does matter who you choose as if you pick a strong yet stupid computer-controlled partner in single player they may well stand around while you are getting shot to pieces (though picking a weak yet smart character may leave you with too little firepower and thus end up with you getting shot to pieces also).

Whoever you choose, you must then fight your way through four worlds, split into four individual levels in order to achieve your goal. Viewed from a top-down perspective, the title takes a somewhat unique approach to the standard shooter. While action consists of going around blasting anything and everything that moves, there is a subtle strategy at work in the game mechanic. As well as blasting there are endless puzzles to solve, some of which are incredibly tricky to work out. Solving puzzles leads you to secret areas or even to a different exit from the level. 

In order to leave the current level a set number of nodes must be activated in order to activate the exit door. Doing this is easier said than done as you are usually surrounded by all manner of nasty creatures. This fills the game with an incredibly intense atmosphere that is built up in equal measure by the bleak graphical style and the outstanding industrial-tinged techno soundtrack. Graphics are fairly simple but contain subtle elements of detail that make you believe you're making your way through a truly disturbing place; this coupled with a dark and menacing colour palette is incredibly effective in creating the chaos-themed world that the title is set in. 

Something else that Elevates the game to the next level is the outstanding soundtrack. One of the most potently powerful musical creations in the history of gaming, the soundtrack beautifully accompanies the action with its continually brooding and sinister nature, hinting that you are only scratching the surface of evil and at any minute the true horror is about to greet you. Simply stunning. 

In terms of how the game actually plays, we are presented with a strange juxtaposition of styles. Although you are constantly under threat from numerous nasty creatures that all need blasting to bits, the game has a somewhat structured pace to it. Far from the breakneck speed of other top-down shooters such as Smash T.V., The Chaos Engine makes you think more carefully about what you should be doing, Go aimlessly wading in with all guns blazing and you will die, simple as that. Instead, players need to stand back from time to time and think how best to deal with the creatures. This is mainly because certain creatures take forever to kill so you need to make sure they are going to be dead before they reach you. Also, you cannot move and shoot at the same time, so you have to move up the screen then stop in order to pick off enemies (bringing even more strategy to proceedings). 

There have been some improvments made, such as the smoothing of graphics and getting the game to understand a proper 360 degree axis to allow for better movement and shooting with control pads and analogue sticks. However, this is effectively the same game as before - it's now just a bit more friendly for modern PC's. It feels old school and a touch dated but the strenght of the game is such that is remains something worth playing.Perhaps more could ahve been done but at least it can't be accused of ruining the atmosphere or feel of the game.

The Chaos Engine is one of the most original and inventive shooting games that has ever graced the planet. With a difficulty setting that starts at hard and goes to ridiculous, it's a very rare thing to meet someone who has made it all the way to the end. Regardless, it's a genuinely exciting experience and any true fan of either retro gaming or shooters should have this title in their collection. It is a strategy-tinged, puzzle-filled, full-on, adrenaline-pumping ambient shooter, and you need it, but it might seem a touch slower than you remember.


Monday 16 September 2013

Spelunky Review (PS3/PS Vita)

Spelunky has been around for quite a while in one form or another and it proved to be a decent move when it arrived on Xbox Live Arcade some time ago. It’s taken a while, but now the rock hard exploration game has made its way to the both the Playstation 3 and the Vita and shows it’s just as addictive now as it’s always been.

The game has a very simple premise. You need to guide your explorer deeper and deeper into a cave while collecting treasure. The twist comes when you realise that each time you enter the cave the levels generate randomly. This means you never know what obstacles you are going to come up against. Unlike most games with randomly generated levels, here it actually works.

Starting in the cave world, every four levels completed will see you move onto new areas with new hazards and enemies. These include jungles, ice caves, temples and a host of secret areas such as hell itself. Each area also has random events that can occur such as the dead rising from the grave or large areas of open water. This helps keep things varied and fresh as you continually die and have to re-negotiate the levels.

While moving from one area to the next you will also come across the tunnel man. Meeting him three times and giving up the equipment or money he asks for will see a short cut opened to that area of the cave. This helps to ease the frustration of having to make your way through levels you have already beaten but comes at the cost of having your run not admissible to the score board. 

To start with Spelunky can be a frustrating and unforgiving game but the more you play the more it will get its hooks into you. It takes time but eventually you will learn to take obstacles one at a time and become ever more cautious as you delve deeper and deeper. To help you in your quest you have a number of different items at your disposal. 

You start out with ropes which can be fired to create safe routes to climb up and down and bombs which to clear path ways. There are a whole host of other objects available as well. Things such as jetpacks, climbing gloves and freeze guns can be purchases from shop keepers in exchange for the gold and gems you’ve found. Placement is random so you’re never quite sure what you are going to get.

As you get more and more used to the way you have to approach the game you’ll soon find yourself racing through the levels but it never becomes easy. You are always only one slip away from death and even the most experienced of adventurers can be easily caught out with a miss timed jump or careless fall. Some of our attempts lasted only a few seconds before death while others became slow and careful pursuits as we tried to get the last item needed to the tunnel man to open a shortcut. It all adds to the fun and Spelunky is tactile enough to be played with whichever approach you wish.

Overall, while it’s fair to say that Spelunky isn’t for the feint hearted it is undeniably an excellent game. Gamers who are like the ‘Rogue-like’ format will be in exploration heaven here. The ability to play on the Vita is also a match made in heaven (though graphics can be a little small at times). If you’re up for a tough and rewarding platformer then Spelunky is the game for you. Even against tough competition it’s clear it’s a cut above other games of its type.


Wednesday 11 September 2013

Rayman Legends Review (PS3)

Rayman Origins was a rousing return to the limbless hero’s 2D roots. A breath of fresh air upon release, it was cruelly ignored by large numbers of gamers who overlooked its colourful style and anarchic reverence for the something more familiar, possibly containing guns.

Now it’s the turn of Rayman legends to attempt to spread joy to a wider range of gamers. Starting life as a Wii U exclusive the game is now hitting pretty much everywhere and it’s lucky for anyone without a Wii U that it is because this is one of the best platformers to grace any system for years.

The game has Rayman and an assortment of friends leaping into action after the bubble dreamer had some very bad dreams and conjured up a whole host of nasty creatures. What this means is our heroes must leap around an assortment of fairy tale and fantasy themed worlds, rescue some teensies and princesses’ and defeat the evil dark teensies to save the day.

If Origins was a touch on the crazy side then Legends is full lunacy with the different themed worlds offering up all sorts of opportunities for creative levels and large amounts of silly fun. Every world stays consistent to its theme throughout and takes in everything from classic medieval legends to Cinco de Mayo. There are also a number of nods to other video games and films such as Bioshock and Star Wars. Everything is implemented brilliantly and the quality never drops. The game has also had pretty much all of the rough edges removed that were found in Origins. The most obvious of these is the difficulty and fairness of levels. Certain stages in origins fell into the trap of being memory tests, this is rarely the case in legends and as a result the feeling of fun and enjoyment is kept to a maximum. That isn’t to say legends isn’t a challenging game, it’s just not as unfair as Origins.

The main bulk of the games levels split themselves into a few different styles. There’s the standard platform and swimming levels, levels where you run from or after something and the odd stage which turns into a sort of side scrolling shooter with Rayman floating around in jet streams. Each world also has a boss fight at the end. Each of these is unique and loses much of the instant deaths and frustration of the encounters in Origins. One of the best of these is a fight against a giant Mexican wrestler beating a huge drum which sends you flying up into the air.

Once the boss of each world is vanquished you can enter the music level. These stages are a straight run to the finish but take the form of a semi-rhythm action game with jumps and attacks needing to be implemented with precision in order to avoid death. Each of these is a highlight and a great way for players to end each of the worlds. 

The game is also absolutely filled to brim with content. Aside from sizable six main worlds to complete there are also a host of redesigned levels from the Origins to play through as well. Invasion levels also unlock as you progress which see’s you having tor ace through a remixed stage to rescue three teensies strapped to fireworks. If you’re too slow they gradually get fired off into the sky and explode. 

If that isn’t enough there are also a number of daily and weekly challenges that you can take part in to earn lums. Here you have a set goal such as racing through a level or collecting lums and you are then ranked globally. Weirdly, it works much in the same way as SSX. If that isn’t enough for you then you can also spend your time collecting creatures and unlocking all the hidden characters as well. Rest assured this is going to keep you busy for a very long time.

There are of course a few differences to the Wii U version of the game. The loss of the touch screen means that the levels originally having the player control Murphy the fly via the gamepad as Globox wandered around automatically have been altered. Now you continue to control Rayman and press the O button have Murphy life platforms, spread guacamole or tickle monsters. These levels feel a bit odd as they clearly don’t work in the way originally intended. That said they are still excellent and you soon get used to how it all works.

Overall, Rayman Legends is an exceptional game. The levels of invention, fun and polish are simply off the chart. There’s clearly a lot of love from the development team in this and it’s just a riotously good time from start to finish. Ok, so this version isn’t quite as strong as the Wii U game but it’s like saying a gold bar with a fly on it isn’t as good as one without. This is one of strongest titles in the PS3 library and should be heralded as the classic that it is.


Monday 9 September 2013

Cloudberry Kingdom Review (Wii U)

In the recent years there have been many games that have taken on Super Meat Boy in an attempt to emulate the short bursts of high intensity (and high difficulty), found in its adrenaline pumping platform levels. Cloudberry Kingdom is the latest game to take on the mantle and it certainly has a challenge on its hand to compete in an ever growing genre.

Cloudberry Kingdom follows the story of Bob, an ageing hero who is called into action to save his princess. It sounds like a traditional tale but in this universe it’s a highly ironic and twisted take on the story. That said - the best thing to do is put the hokum of story to one side and concentrate on the levels.

In Story mode you make your way through seven chapters which are each split into around forty individual levels. Each level is a combination of pits, moving platforms, fireballs, and spikes and swinging wrecking balls. Throughout the chapters the basic ingredients don’t change too much put it is the placement and change to Bob that brings in the much needed variety.

Starting as ‘Classic’ Bob who can run and jump, every ten stages he changes into something else. The changes in Bob are numerous and each of them alters how he handles and the approach you need to take to a level. Some of the more inventive versions of our hero see him strapped to a rolling wheel, wearing a jetpack or simply putting on weight which greatly affects his jump height. These constant changes add variety and keep the stages feeling fresh as you progress. 

It’s fair to say that the story mode levels don’t really get going until you have cleared the first world. From then on it’s a full on gauntlet of pixel perfect jumps between lasers and spikes. Some levels will see you race through first time while others will have you stumped for try after try. This can be frustrating but you rarely feel like there is no way to beat a level and you’ll always be pulled back to try and squeeze through. If it does get too much you can exchange gems found for a few helpful features such as slowing down the level or showing a route through the danger on the screen  while you play.

As well as the story mode there are a number of other options to try. Time Crisis pits you against an ever decreasing clock in small three – five second focused levels. The aim being to see how far you can get before time runs out. Another option of note is the free play mode where the much touted random level generator kicks in the most. Here you can set a number of different options such as level length, difficulty and type of Bob and the game will continually generate new levels for you to test yourself against. There are also a number of avatar customisation options and even the ability to have other players join the chaos.

It’s worth saying, that this isn’t a game for everyone. While you can lower the difficulty in the randomly created levels you are going to need a serious amount of skill and some super quick reflexes to get the most out of the game. Cloudberry Kingdom has never claimed to be anything other than game that will test you. If you enjoy the challenge of games like Spelunky and Super Meat Boy then this should be right up your street.

Overall, despite being a little uneven in places, Cloudberry Kingdom is a great example of the challenging platformer. Once the initial levels are out of the way it becomes and addictive mix of twitch gameplay and searching for Bob sized gaps in the many dangers you face. It’s well worth your attention and we can’t wait to see what the studio comes up with next.


Wednesday 4 September 2013

Super Luigi U Review (Wii U)

Not so long ago Nintendo announced that 2013 would be the year of Luigi. We’ve had Luigi’s Mansion and a new Mario and Luigi game to push the green dude into the lime light. But this rather unique add on for Super Mario Bros U is one of the more creative ways that Nintendo has brought the other Mario brother to the forefront.

What the game effectively does it take all the stages from the original game and rethink them. Luigi handles differently to Mario and as well as slipping and sliding all over the place he also has a longer, floating jump. This means that many levels have bigger gaps to traverse and lots of platforms to teeter around on the edge of.

Without exception, all the stages are now much harder than before and later levels require precise timing and judgment of distance for you to have any hope of making it to the end. The levels are also shorter and as such do away with checkpoints and only give you one hundred seconds to complete them. There’s nothing quite so panic inducing as hearing the ‘hurry up’ siren go as soon as you start a level.

The time is not your only enemy as levels soon descend into endless gauntlets of spikes, swinging piranha plants, collapsing platforms and pits. It’s probably the closest a Mario game will ever get to Super Meat Boy, even if it can’t quite hit the same sweet spot. Adding to the difficulty and tension is the fact you still can’t save until you beat a castle and anyone trying to get all three gold coins in each level better head off for Jedi training right now.

The multiplayer modes are still here and for those wanting to play with the less skilled you have the option of the Nabbit. Nabbit is invincible and allows players to enjoy the platforming without the frustration of constant death. You can use Nabbit in single player as well but then where’s the fun in that?

In terms of course design there are a few that are more forgettable than the main games levels but on the whole they provide short bursts of intense platforming fun. Many courses are quite different from their Mario U versions and needless to say everything still looks gorgeous and moves along at a crazy pace.

Overall, it’s fairly simple to work out if you’re going to like Super Luigi U . If you enjoyed the original Super Mario U and want a new challenge then you should pick this up as it matches up well. There’s a lot of content here and it’s different enough to avoid simply being a tired re-tread of something you have already done.  It’s an imaginative way to approach downloadable content and bringing it to retail in a lovely green box allows everyone a chance to get hold of it. It may essentially be more of the same, but that’s no bad thing at all.


Monday 2 September 2013

Pixeljunk Monsters Ultimate Review (PC)

Here at Retro 101 we are long-time fans of just about everything that the Pixel Junk team has produced. They just seems to have a way of taking a genre that has been done to death and then adding something new to make it fresh and vibrant again. Now Monsters is making its way onto the PC and we are absolutely delighted to have it around for those lunch time sessions.

What we have here is effectively the original game and the extra content added through Monsters Encore and the PSP version. The game also has online multiplayer modes and a lovely higher resolution graphical style. The island that lets you create random levels by typing in words is also unlocked right from the start. So if you’re a fan you can stop reading this review right here, log into Steam and purchase it.  For those that want a bit more detail then read on.

For those new to the series this is a tower defence style game where your little Tikiman must run around the screen upgrading trees into different types of defensive structures. And yes, you do still move the Tikiman around rather than just point and click on trees with the mouse. Wave upon wave of monsters then pour into the level from various points and head towards the village hut (normally located in the middle of the stage).  Around the hut are a number of baby Tiki’s and once the monsters have made off with all of them you lose.

It’s a concept we’ve seen many times before but it’s hard to remember when it has been accomplished with so much style and flair. You start off with three basic towers which covers attacking land monsters, air monsters and one that does both. The towers all have different damage outputs, speed of fire and targeting radius. Once a monster enters the targeting radius the towers will fire on them automatically. Killing monsters provides gold to upgrade more trees and gems which are stored in the village hut and can be used to upgrade the strength of towers or unlock new types to use.

The extra towers do all sorts of weird and wonderful things. You can get ice towers to slow monsters down, mortars to cause massive damage, lasers to knock flying enemies down and electricity pylons to hit creatures with area effect attacks and the list goes on. It’s with these towers that the game begins to come into its own as you will need to know the strengths and weaknesses of them all in order to succeed. You can’t just lay out your defences and hope for the best here, you have to continually move around the field and change the type of towers to win the day.

PixelJunk Monsters can be a bone crushingly tough game, especially for newcomers to the genre. It takes time to learn that you really should be selling certain towers at certain times and changing from anti-air to ground and back again for certain waves of attack. It’s the sort of game where you may be stuck on a stage for ages but then have a breakthrough and clear three or four in one go. You have to constantly think about what you’re doing and constantly keep an eye on what the next wave of marauding nasty’s will be.

One memorable level ended with a frantic scramble around the stage to clear all the anti-air guns as the final boss stomped on and proceeded to be able to almost walk straight to the babies without taking a hit. Stress like that is what you’re going to have to deal with to come out on top and it’ll happen all the time.

Away from the main game there are a host of other options and things to do. You can play Co-op in online modes and this allows two Tiki men to run around to defend the village. There are also tons of challenge levels which require you to complete stages under certain conditions. The criteria is always different and can range from anything from only using a certain type of tower to making sure you don’t let monsters cross certain parts of the level. As if the game wasn’t difficult enough this will test even the best strategy fans out there.

We’ve established the game is hard, but it always fair and the funny thing is it doesn’t really seem to matter. The sense of achievement from completing a level will always have you coming back for just one more go. You’ll find yourself thinking about levels in your everyday life and coming up with strategies while you should be doing other things. Then you’ll return and try it out and maybe it’ll work and bring you onto the next challenge. It’s perfect for formulating a strategy during the morning and then testing it out in a lunch break.

Overall, this is the definitive version of an already excellent game. The core mechanics are strong and work wonderfully when added to the flair and charm of it all. There is very little reason not to recommend it to fans of genre and gamers looking for something a little different. The difficulty may be too much for some but it’s a great version of a great game and it should really be in your collection.

Overall 8/10