Wednesday 29 April 2015

Mortal Kombat X Review (PS4)

Mortal Kombat 9 was nothing short of a revelation for the Mortal Kombat franchise. After years of dodgy games it managed to take everything that was good about the series and distil it into an excellent fighting game full of surprises, fan service and things for players to get their teeth into. It was the pinnacle of the framework laid down by Mortal Kombat II, 3 and Trilogy and packed with just about every character, iconic location and Easter egg going – but now it’s time to move on.

It was always going to be difficult to create a more definitive game than Mortal Kombat 9 and we can’t really see how it could have been done. Perhaps wisely, what Nethersoft have done is try and evolve their game once more and try and move it gently in a new direction. As such there have been a number of changes made to how the game works. 

The most obvious change is that you can now interact with parts of the environment during matches. There are rocks to spring off, vines to swing on and a number of barrels, tree branches and weapons that can be used to batter your opponent. You can even grab an unsuspecting bystander and hurl them at your opponent.  It’s something that was tried in Injustice: Gods Among Us and it works well here. Most objects are one time use and matches never descend into a bout of gimmick objects being chucked about. If it does get too much you have the option to turn them off.

Another change is the move towards ‘Brutalities’ as a way of finishing a fight (though Fatalities are still present). These have been present in the series before but now fighters have up to five of them to batter a poor opponent. They work in a slightly different way here with them being implemented via a single move being used to end the match rather than a start-up combo. For instance – one of Scorpions is carried out by using his super version of the spear move and then pressing R2. There are stage Brutalities as well which replace the stage Fatalities seen in other versions.

Perhaps the biggest change to the core gameplay is the move back to different stances that was first tried out in the Deception/Alliance games. There are now three versions of each character which give them a host of different moves to use during the fight. These can be quite different from each other and allow players to build their game around things like speed, attack, defence or weapon based combat. It works better here than it ever has in other Mortal Kombat games and certainly adds depth to matches.

Despite the changes, the flow of combos and matches remains much the same so players don’t have to relearn how to play from scratch. It means that when you are in flow it’s great but when you can’t quite get things going it can seem disjointed and slow much like in the last game.

With the new mechanics also come a host of new characters. Nethersoft have taken the opportunity to change up the roster after the last, exhaustive, selection from Mortal Kombat 9 could never really be repeated. As a result the game feels different and fresh and not simply a rehash of the last game. Joining the fight are a number of fighters children like the quick Cassie Cage and brawling Jacquelin Briggs. There are also a host of new Outworlders like warrior Kotal Kahn, insect D’vorah and the pair of Ferra and Torr. It’s a brave move and the new characters work well and fit the world perfectly.

With these new characters and mechanics comes some absolutely stunning graphics. The environments have never looked better and you can feel every crunch as each blow connects. The backgrounds are also mostly new and they provide some wonderfully twisted environments such as lava filled landscapes, pirate coves and temples to battle around in. This is certainly one of the first games to really begin to show off the power of the PS4 and it really looks like something that simply wouldn’t run on the last generation of hardware. It’s nice to see some of the characters redesigned as well. The female characters especially now look much better and the dodgy costumes of MK 9 seem to be long gone.

In terms of content you get a fair amount to play around with. A decent story mode (minus trolling boss fights this time), sets up the new characters and story well and there is the traditional arcade mode which has turned back into a tower. There are also hourly, daily and weekly ‘living towers’ which offer changing challenges by putting different stipulations on matches. You can still test your might (and luck), if you so wish as well. The challenge tower mode of MK9 has seemingly disappeared though which is a shame as it acted as a detailed tutorial for all the characters and modes.
Online is there of course but at the minute the net code can be a bit unstable. Hopefully this will be resolved soon. Fights can still be found and fairly easily but there are matches where taking a ‘Quitality’ may well seem like the only option in order to escape the torture.

Much like before, unlockables are handled via the Krypt. Here you can go around the level spending ‘Koins’ earned from the regular modes on new costumes, fatalities and brutalities. The mode has changed into a sort of ‘adventure lite’ game where occasionally you will have to find an object or solve a puzzle to progress. It actually works pretty well and certainly adds atmosphere. Occasionally something jumps out and scares you which is nice and in keeping with the mood. It’s worth saying as well that at no point did we feel we needed to jump onto the store to buy anything as ‘Koins’ were never that difficult to amass (and we played it after the patch). Indeed, aside from having new characters advertised on menu screen the micro transations remained thankfully invisible.

Overall, Mortal Kombat X is a solid and great fun fighting game. It’s a step in a different direction to Mortal Kombat 9 and that is both a brave and necessary move to keep the franchise fresh and relevant. We would have liked a few more surprises but there is a lot of content here and a healthy roster of characters and styles to get to grips with. Mortal Kombat 9 was the definitive ‘Klassic’ Mortal Kombat game and Mortal Kombat X is a big step in moving towards a definitive new one.

Overall 8/10

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance Review (PS2)

When Deadly Alliance was first announced we feared the worst. Another version of the series that peaked in its second installment seemed to be the last thing we needed. To say we weren’t looking forward to this game is somewhat of an understatement. However, it turned out to be a nice surprise.

The first noticeable thing about Deadly Alliance is that the graphical style has been completely re-done. Instead of digitised characters we get more puppet like creations and this allows the game to reach whole new levels. Now fully in three dimensions the new style allows for much more freedom of movement than digitised characters would not have allowed.

Also, healthy selections of new Combatants (or should that be ‘Kombatants’ ) are added and some of the weaker ones removed. Most noticeable in this respect is that annoying Bruce Lee wannabe Liu Kang is not only removed from the game but we get to see him have his neck broken in the opening scene of the introduction.

The arenas and characters look decent and solid, not up to something like Tekken 4 or Soul Calibur but good enough. Every one of the characters seems to suite this new style perfectly, with scorpion and subzero looking meaner than ever before. The arenas also really do benefit from a fully 3D feel. The only thing which could have been improved are the objects within the arenas- as most are fairly empty despite the odd acid spitting statue or icicle hanging around to throw opponents through. The game would have really benefited from the multi level effect in the surroundings that Tekken 4 began to lean towards.

Sound wise it’s absolutely spot on and you can almost feel the tearing of flesh as someone sticks a sword through their opponent. Along with the moody music playing over the action it all adds up to the overall effect of creating some very tense and atmospheric battles. The booming voice of the fight announcer still sounds as sadistic as ever, and it all helps add to the feel. Most impressive.

Luckily, Deadly Alliance also has some solid gameplay to match the looks and sound. The basic concept of Mortal Kombat has been re-built from scratch in order to try and make a dent in the PS2’s fighter catalogue. Each character has three unique styles of fighting, two forms of martial arts and one weapon based. These styles can all be linked together in devastating combos reminiscent of the Killer Instinct series.

Everything moves smoothly enough, each style is different to the next, some flow together, while others are more slow paced styles. The skill comes in knowing which style that your character possess is the most appropriate to beat your opponent.

Luckily the characters themselves are as diverse as the new styles of kombat, each being given far more of an individual feel than in previous instalments of the game. Whereas before the set of characters all had the same basic controls, (press up and high punch to perform an uppercut for example) only the special moves separated the individuals, now these generic move sets have all been removed.

Furthermore, what adds to the charm of the game is the variation in the ways you can travel through the story. As well as the arcade mode you also get the Konquest mode, not essential but a nice touch as it helps teach you how each character moves and attacks work while expanding on the background of the current tournament. This coupled with some nice extras such as documentaries and the history of Mortal Kombat all adds up to a nice package. Adding longevity is the krypt, with over six hundred goody laden caskets which will take forever to open.

To sum up, Deadly Alliance represents an improvement on a stale series. There’s still room for improvement (a few more fatalities would have been nice), and more detailed arenas to fight in would take the game up a level. If only someone would look at Legend of Fighters on The 3DO- it had all the right ideas. But it shows how a stale franchise can be reborn.

Overall 7/10

Monday 27 April 2015

3D Fantasy Zone II Review (3DS)

Fantasy Zone has always been one of the best series’ on Sega’s consoles and the Master System games are arguably the best of the bunch so it was great when they were announced for the 3D classics range. It’s a little odd to be getting the second game first but the fact it’s here at all is something to be celebrated.

A mixture of cute and surreal the Fantasy Zone series has always been known for its very bright and colourful graphical style and the fact it’s also pretty damn tough. The move to the 3DS has allowed for the graphics to really come alive and the limitations presented by the Master System are obviously not now in place. This means we get the true vision of the game developers wanted and it’s never looked better.

The 3D effect is not particularly amazing and certainly not up to the standard of the Outrun or Space Harrier (for obvious reasons). It does however provide a subtle extra spark to the game without making it mind blowing. But there is only so much you can do with a game set on a 2D plane anyway.

Players are tasked with flying their little ship left and right with the aim of blasting all the bases that produce monsters. Once the last base has been destroyed you are thrown into a battle with the end of level boss. It’s a bit like defender without the rescuing mechanic. You can also move over to the ‘dark’ version of each level if you want an extra challenge.

Bosses are inventive and huge. They often have small weak spots which you need to blast and fast reactions will be needed to have any chance at all. For instance – the first boss is a giant tree who requires his Pinocchio-esque nose to be shot back into his head. While doing this you need to navigate a constantly moving maze of logs. It’s tough and it only gets more difficult the further you get.

Luckily, there are a few things to help players along the way. First of all a new level select has been added to allow players to start from any level they have previously reached. As you only have three lives to complete the game this is most welcome. You can also buy upgrades for your ship but most of them have a very limited timed use so don’t expect to be taking on the boss with some kind of super laser.

The main thing is that the game is still fun to play in short bursts. The bosses can present big sticking points but then this is a title that first came out in 1987. The core game is still very good and the subtle improvements and additions should make it just about palatable for gamers used to more modern fare. 

Overall, it is great to see a game like Fantasy Zone II make it into the 3D Classics range. If you are a fan of the original then there is nothing here to put you off and you should check it out right away. New comers may find it tough but it’s an inventive game that still stands out and if you are up for a challenge then there is a lot of fun to be had.

Overall 7/10

Sunday 26 April 2015

World Championship Snooker 2003 Review (PS2)

‘Its only game so put up a real good fight, I’m gonna be snookering you tonight, Snookering you, Snookering you tonight, Big Brake’ If you recognise those immortal words then this game could definitely be one for you. A rare offering in the fast paced, full on extreme world of all action Snooker comes in the form of the inspirationally titled World Championship Snooker 2003. However whether the sight of John Virgo in a waste coat gets you all hot under the collar or not it is clear that this game is one for the fans of the sport, and really that is all anyone could have hoped for.

Indeed, the amount of different features, play modes and a total of seventy real players all help to make sure that any avid fan of the sport will spend more time on the PS2 than on the table. As well as standard Snooker, which can be played as a one off match, a tournament of varying length or in a career mode where players must work their way up the rankings, there are also some other well thought out extras included. For instance, the title lets you play games of pool in both the 8 ball and 9 ball style, this helps to keep things varied and adds more of a ‘pick up and play’ style, should you wish for a quick game.

Perhaps most welcome of all however is the inclusion of a number of different trick shots to be completed. Once each has been tackled in turn you are thrown into the new challenge of ‘John Virgo’s trick shot’ where all shots must be completed in a time limit, who said Snooker would never make a decent arcade game? Furthermore, a number of two player games are available and though not the most imaginative inclusion (having to protect certain pockets, and pot balls in certain other pockets) it all helps to build a nice title that has a certain amount of longevity and style about it.

In graphical terms the game is both functional and poor in different areas. Admittedly there is little you can do to make a snooker table look like a cultured landscape picked from one of the Final Fantasy games, so while the representation of the table, balls and cue are not exactly jaw dropping they represent what they are supposed to and being colour blind aside, you should be able to tell where all the different coloured balls are at any given time. The balls themselves glide around the table as they are supposed to and should you play a particularly nice shot you are treated to a more cinematic angle as your allotted colour rolls its way into the nearest pocket.

Where the graphics fall down is with the somewhat ridiculous representations of the fifty odd real life snooker players in the title. First of all, at least half of the players look nothing like their real life counter parts, indeed some are so bad you wonder if the programmers had been given pictures of completely different people to work from. Another area that causes concern is the somewhat pointless animations during a frame- when a player finishes their turn they walk round the table and sit down; the next player then stands up and takes his position. This animation seems to take about half an hour and even with the ‘speed up’ button you are still shown some of the most bizarre walking animations in the history of gaming.

Luckily for us though, a few ropey graphics aside everything else has been implemented to a highly competent degree. The game plays very well apart from the shot cursor being very sensitive at times meaning that when you are trying get your shot to go in one very particular exact spot it can be very frustrating. However, for the most part everything the game does in terms of controls is aimed at making your life easier. It is fare to say that we are not exactly veterans when it comes to snooker games, but right from the first match it was easy to pull off complex shots. Perhaps too easy for some, but it leaves players to polish up on learning how hard to hit the ball and other small elements that make the difference between good players and excellent ones.

Rest assured though, while the controls are excellent, so is the computer AI of your opponents and it is not uncommon for them to almost clear the table after you have mucked up a shot. Word Championship Snooker 2003 is a simulation of the sport and so players must expect to have to raise their game in order to beat the worlds best snooker players.

Indeed, the fact that World Snooker Championship 2003 is so heavily based in the ‘real’ makes us wonder if this review is even worth writing. Because surely if you are a mad snooker fan you will have already bought this, or will buy it regardless of any faults the game has (luckily that is very few). If you don’t like snooker there is little here that is going to make you play the game, this certainly is not ‘Mario Snooker’ by any stretch of the imagination. What is here is a very playable and concise, though a little ugly, snooker simulation. If you like Snooker then buy it.

Overall 7/10

Friday 24 April 2015

Pro Evolution Soccer 3 Review (PS2)

 *this is an archive review from 2003 which first appeared on

The series that started way back on the Super Nintendo – under the guise of International Superstar Soccer  – has come a long way since the days of sixteen-bit gaming and has evolved into what is now commonly accepted as the most ‘complete’ game of football available on any console. Now into its third revision on Sony’s market-leading console, it appears kicking the air with promises of untold refinements and improvements that will bridge the ever-decreasing gap between reality and the world of gaming. So, it was clear that such a monumental release would split opinion; and with this in mind, Gamestyle needed to come up with something different in order to truly explore every inch of the title.

For the first (and possibly last) time, two vocal elements of Gamestyle (viz, Chris and Gareth) will tackle the game – while no doubt leaving everyone as confused as they’ve ever been. Let’s start with Chris: So, is it better than the first Pro Evolution?

Yes. It’s more of a complete package – there are more teams, more competitions and more to play for. A concept has been ‘borrowed’ from its brother franchise, ISS3, which means the more you play, the more points (known as PES) you accumulate. The gameplay seems more fluid, and players control the ball better. The replays are excellent; anything can be replayed and recorded. Even the commentary is better, though it still grates (they are now capable of making intelligent points especially at half-time). Master League has been restructured with an improved, customisable transfer system.

What about the second one, Gareth? Undoubtedly. Whilst the first title contained a lot of great ingredients that took the football genre by storm, when it first launched, the second title (while seemingly more refined) contained a number of bugs – such as being able to run right through the middle of the opposition from kick-off, and it being nigh-on impossible to score headers, free kicks or from outside the box. Pro Evolution 3 fixes all of these bugs, so is already far more enjoyable and less predictable than the second title. Football titles tend to sink or swim through how strong they are in two categories: presentation, and gameplay.

How does the title present itself this time around? Are there still unlicensed players, stadiums and club crests? Chris Yes, which is a shame. But as FIFA shows, having the licence doesn’t guarantee accuracy in the content. Players from the major nations are accurately represented, as are club players, though there are a couple of discrepancies. A deal has been struck with a half-dozen European clubs, including Lazio and Parma. The rest of the clubs have fake names; for instance, Man United are called ‘Trade Bricks’. You can edit the names yourself (there are lists available online) or shell out a tenner for a disc that’ll do it all for you, and unlock all teams and cups.

A slight improvement in that department then, but if the game offers a completely immersive experience these things will hardly matter, so is this the case? Gareth? Certainly. Everything about this third instalment of the series is an improvement; players pass the ball beautifully, allowing players to build up attacking moves with genuine flair and style.

However, this type of thing does not come easy, and even Pro Evolution hardcore players will need to sit down and spend some time working out how the game works. Once you have got it cracked though it is simply a matter of how good you are – do you want to chip the goalie, or score from forty yards? You can, but you need to be very good to do it. You can play the game any way you want; long ball, passing game or relying on wingers, but you have to have the right team to do it. Don’t try and play down the wing with someone like Argentina, as they do not have the strength to do it – a nice touch, and something that means you really have to think about how you are going to play.

Chris: However, for those of you who don’t want to invest that much time in the game (preferring pick up and play), this can be frustrating. What is brilliant about PES3 is the sheer amount of different things a player can do. The range of goals that you can score is incredibly diverse, and the same applies for passing. Standing in the middle of the field, there is so much you can do. All the ingredients are there. It’s down to your skill in the cooking that will create something edible.

Yes, yes enough praise, what about the problems? There must be some? Gareth: Well, not really. The only slight problem is when performing sliding tackles; far too often players are pulled up for what seem like perfectly-executed tackles. On closer inspection, you can see that often during the tackle the ball will bob up and hit the player’s hand, causing the ref to blow up for a free kick. Accurate yes, but how many times do you see that in a real game? And you definitely do not see it four or five times a match – that slight issue aside, this is about as perfect a game of football as you can get.

Chris: One of the new features is an ‘advantage’ system. It’s a good sign of improvement over previous versions, but occasionally you’d prefer a free kick instead. Which is realistic at least, no matter how bittersweet. The game engine is very intelligent, but the screen size is too restrictive. If players were able to see more of the pitch, we could use what the game allows us to do easier. Playing against a human opponent is much more preferable and enjoyable, as when they attack the defence will be more vulnerable; whereas the computer keeps the defensive unit much tighter.

Indeed, the disparity between the computer’s shape and a human’s is the biggest difference – which is why multiplayer is so thrilling. So, we’re nearing the end of the review. And as the chapped lips of authority touch the whistle of eternity, we need to award a score. There’s nothing inherently wrong with PES3; in fact there are very few problems at all. But the intense feeling of elation that we got from playing this at ECTS has yet to be rediscovered. There is still time – as Pro Evolution 3 is a brilliant football game, and it gets better the more it’s played.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

Thursday 23 April 2015

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Review (PS3)

Written by Natalie Houghton

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is a new IP released in Europe by NIS America which follows the story of a third year student who has just transferred in to Kurenai Academy. Things move very quickly as you are introduced to a number of classmates straight away, one of these is Masamune Shiga - a wheelchair bound ace student who as it turns out, provides you with support and intelligence during battle. You also meet Sayuri Mifune, the rather reserved and slightly stand-offish class president who immediately gives you a tour of the building where low and behold, you encounter your first ghost. At almost exactly the same time, Shiga and a mysterious woman turn up and you end up tagging along to exorcise the ghost. 

This woman turns out to be Chizuru Fukurai - the CEO of an occult publishing company known as Gate Keepers. To the legitimate world, they publish an occult magazine every now and then, however their real job is to take on exorcisms and exorcise ghosts for a fee. You and Sayuri join Gate Keepers as you both have the ability to see ghosts - this concludes the first chapter of the game. 

In total there are 13 different chapters lasting approximately 30mins to 1hr each, each chapter is a standalone story in its own right, although they do all tie together at the end of the game. Each chapter has a slightly different theme - from murdering vengeful spirits to ghosts who simply want to hear a song performed before they rest in peace.

There is an incredibly wide cast of characters which ensures that the dialogue never gets stale with approximately one new character being introduced per chapter, there are Otaku, Yakuza, Magicians, Shrine Maidens, Bishounen, Gay twins and even taciturn Chess obsessives. Unfortunately, given the length of each chapter and the amount of development that each character gets, this can become slightly overwhelming and it makes it a bit difficult to remember who exactly is who.

From the get-go, it is quite clear that this is a very Japanese game (good luck fitting in your name... obviously this was made for Kanji/Kana!), your character stats include all of the usual things and a few extras, you have to choose your specific prefecture and there was even a visual stat which I had never seen before which as it turns out, is a very specific eye test that only seems to be performed in Japan. 

As each chapter plays out in the standard Visual Novel fare you sometimes receive the option to interact with the scene via the use of your 5 senses. This isn't explained at all, although depending on what combinations you use, you can get some quite strange results and reactions from other characters... at one point, I was licking a wall in an attempt to investigate a ghost found at a rehearsal studio but most of the time, the path forward is fairly obvious. At times, you will have a chance to activate your 6th sense by choosing the correct options on the sense wheel. 

The artwork presented throughout each chapter is very nice indeed, it is both presented in the standard anime style and yet also quite realistic at the same time. Character's move fairly fluidly, hair flows naturally in the breeze, eyes appear fairly natural and the overall actions and stances of characters is quite realistic.

After the bulk of the story has played out, you'll get the opportunity to return to Gate Keepers HQ which is beautifully rendered especially when all of the characters are present, every detail is intricately drawn and sublimely coloured. From the HQ you can save your game, load up on items from the local convenience store, create items and weapons, equip your characters, level up the skills of your comrades, talk to them in order to try and improve your relationships. You can also challenge a number of never ending randomly generated exorcisms which you'll definitely need to do from the mid-point of the game onwards.

Each story related exorcism must be completed in order to advance to the next chapter which are completed by subjugating the main plot-related ghost. The battle system is only explained in a basic fashion, in fact there is only a limited explanation of everything in the whole game which can be quite frustrating at times as you're simply left figuring it out for yourself. The exorcisms take place in areas that are divided up into grids, before the battles themselves you can prep the area and strategically place a wide variety of traps that will have some sort of an effect on the ghosts if they come into range of the trap. 

Once all of the traps (or not) have been set, you'll enter battle. You and the ghosts take turns to move around the grid. Initially you cannot see any of the ghosts, however your support character will provide hints as to where the ghosts are located. Attacking indiscriminately is ill advised as you'll incur a fee which will be deducted from your exorcism fee if you destroy any items which are in the way. Once you've detected or bumped into a ghost, it's up to you to take it down. You aren't able to tell where the ghost will move to, it will only show a predictive radius of where it may move so you've got to plan attacks strategically and attempt to make your attacks encompass the greatest radius possible so that you have the best chance of hitting the target ghost. It is akin to chess in the sense that you never know what your opponent may do - if you manage to successfully hit a ghost or vice versa, the camera will switch to a 3D view where you'll see the actual attack taking place. The designs of the ghosts are quite inventive themselves, have you ever seen a ghost crocodile or mobile phone?

The only option for dialogue is the Japanese soundtrack which is limited to a few fairly standard phrases and odd words placed here and there in the story section and a few reactions during the battle which can get repetitive quite quickly. Soundtrack wise, most of the tunes are performed by a rock band called The Key Project and there are enough songs to keep it interesting - I also quite liked a couple of the battle themes, I really felt like I wanted to kick some butt!
Overall, gorgeous artwork backed up by a solid plot and decent soundtrack along with an engaging tactical battle system that is only really let down by there being absolutely no semblance of a tutorial anywhere in the game. Once you've got the hang of it, everything will be fine but for a while, I'm sure you'll be spinning around in a daze of confusion especially as the battle system itself is unlike anything else out there.  

Overall 7/10

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams Review (PS2)

Capcom had been creating classic upon classic, both with new titles like killer7 and with sequels such as Resident evil 4 and Devil May Cry 3. With the company in such a rich vein of form we had nothing but high hopes when the next game in the long running Onimusha series appeared. However, it seems cuts had to be made somewhere along the line and while Capcom's other much loved franchises had been lavished with time and love this fourth instalment of samurai and zombies seems to have suffered as a result.

It all starts promisingly with several minutes of highly energetic cut scenes showing our new hero cutting through demons of all shapes and sizes. Once the real game starts though it is clear very little has changed from the first Onimusha title released at the dawn of the PS2 (and originally set for the PSone). Pretty much nothing has altered with movement and combat remaining near identical and as clunky as ever.

For the first time the title has a camera capable of being moved. This sounds like a great idea until you realise that levels are still the same static maps as before, only now you can move the camera around. It seems a half hearted and somewhat pointless addition, something underlined through the fact that the game always looks at its best in sections where the camera is fixed.

The movable camera also means that combat can turn into a complete farce as it refuses to move from behind your character often leaving you looking at a wall while various assortments of demon hordes happily hack away. The act of fighting still consists of pressing attack three times, block and repeat, though as your character gains experience new moves can be bought leading to some mildly impressive combo ceilings.

Due to the new camera the game now needs a lock on function, which again sounds like a great idea. However, locking on to a target is a little clumsy, for instance if the target you are locked onto is behind you, you will still need to move around a 180 degree movement arc before you can hit them. Why (as with Devil May Cry), you simply cannot point the controller towards the enemy and strike remains a mystery and of course adds to the game being clunky that little bit more.

Combat and movement are made even more galling by the highly impressive cut scenes that feature throughout- seeing your character leaping, spinning and striking with ease during the cut scenes only for the game to then throw you back to the laborious control system begins to seem like a bad joke very quickly.

During the course of the adventure you will get the chance to play as a number of different characters, each having their own weapons and abilities. While some are interesting the inclusion often seems like an excuse to have players do a stupid amount of backtracking around the levels. When accompanied by a support character the AI is for the most part decent. They do have a habit of charging in against any foe without fear for their own safety though. Stupid as this is, injured or knocked out characters do recover in time so it is rarely of major concern when they are taken out by a demon three times their size.

Graphically, at least the title is fitting of a Capcom game. Presentation is of a high standard with detailed levels and characters that help set the tone and time period well. It seems an odd juxtaposition of such lush visuals with such a jaded and ageing control schematic.

What seemingly comes across is that there was not either time or money to give Dawn of Dreams the complete overhaul that titles like Resident Evil 4 received and so in order to avoid a release delay some pretty visuals were stuck onto the tried and tested formula of previous titles. This in itself would not be a major problem if it were not for the camera being so seemingly unfit for the games environments.

Overall, we are left with a clunky and outdated release. Those wanting the survival horror feel will be drawn to Resident Evil 4 and those wishing for high adrenaline action would be better served with Devil May Cry 3. Seemingly in this form the Onimusha series has very little left to offer, in future instead of treating it like a low grade cast off it would be better if Capcom approached it with the care and vision of one of its more high profile franchises. Maybe then Onimusha will finally stop being a visually visceral series with 32-bit gameplay.

Overall 5/10

Monday 20 April 2015

Tower of Guns Review (PS4)

Tower of Guns came out on the PC some time ago and has generated a decent buzz. The project from Terrible Posture Games takes the now popular Rogue-like template and applies it to a first person shooter. It’s designed to give you a quick blast of fun when you have half an hour spare and it certainly gives you a few different things to play around with.

Though in the first person, it certainly does follow the randomness of many other Rogue-like titles. The enemies, level design and bosses are all randomly generated during each play though and you even get a little text story that assigns itself to you. Sometimes you are trying to save the president’s daughter; sometimes you are running from zombies (among other things). It’s a minor touch but something that adds a bit of humour.

As you carry out more runs in the tower you will unlock more weapons to use and more perks and bonuses that can be selected from the start screen. There’s a decent selection of both and they make enough difference to warrant some consideration before you go blasting.

During play you can pick up money to buy power ups and there is also a minor levelling system which increases the power of your gun by picking up blue dots and tokens. Aside from that you just point your gun at things and blast. While blasting things certainly is fun for a while it does quickly show up how little depth there is going on in the game and spending any real length of time with it is difficult.

The shooting itself feels a little light weight with enemies looking a bit flimsy and a lack of punch from a number of weapons. This is a shame as something offering up bite sized chunks of Serious Sam intensity could have been a real winner. The random elements also don’t seem to create that many different things. Within our first five or six runs we noticed a large amount of repeated rooms and when a game is as short as this it becomes a bit of an issue for replayability. 

It’s the lack of intensity that really holds the game back. You can be in a room with seemingly endless turrets and enemies charging at you but it still seems a bit dull. Maybe it’s the lack lustre sound but it just doesn’t thrill and that’s a bit of a problem for game based on quick, adrenaline-fueled lunch runs.

Though the game is designed to be blasted through in around twenty minutes there could still have been a bit more going on. You do get a few surprises ever five or so runs but after we finished the game once we didn’t feel that much like jumping in again. It’s certainly a nice and fun distraction but really little else.

Overall, Tower of Guns starts out showing some strong promise that it could be an excellent little blaster. However, the more time you spend with it the more the lack of depth and variety begins to become a problem. There is nothing bad or broken here but there is also little to keep players interested after their first handful of runs.

Overall 5/10

Friday 17 April 2015

Vietcong: Purple Haze Review (Xbox)

Vietcong: Purple Haze released during a glut of games featuring the war with most being average at best. This title came with the promise of dropping players in the conflict and showing what it was like to be a soldier in Vietnam. It broke that promise.

Purple Haze has the player leading a small squad of elite forces through the Vietnam jungle. Your team varies in size from mission to mission with different individuals being added depending on the expected resistance and goals. Each member of the team has their own specialty such as being a medic, radioman or guide for instance. Should any member of the team die then it is game over.

The title starts off promisingly with archive footage of the time showing the political climate surrounding the war and presentation on the whole is of a high standard. That is until you actually get into the game. Graphically, Purple Haze is average at best. The jungle environments that you move through are full of greenery and enough wild life to make things look remotely interesting but it all looks a mess. With the power of Xbox there is no reason environments should look so lack lustre. Add to this the fact that all enemy soldiers look exactly the same and move with some of the strangest animation ever seen and it is far from the experience we where promised.

Controlling your character is solid enough although there are a few situations where doing relatively simple things can become frustrating due to your squad members being in the way. Trying to disarm a trap for instance is almost impossible if a team member is near by, as instead of for example- cutting a trip wire, you will talk to your squad mate. If the Soldier happens to be the guide chances are you will tell him to continue walking and he will walk straight through the trap and blow himself up.

Furthermore, your medic can cause a lot of problems- any time you’re injured going to the medic will see your energy restored, you can do this as many times as you like during a mission meaning any challenge is more or less taken out of the game as you basically have unlimited health, but this is not the biggest problem. When you are injured your medic will come to find you- this seems like a good idea, however when the medic is treating you, you cannot move. Meaning that most of the time you will be standing in a direct line of fire being shot while the medic is healing you- thus you end up worse off than before.

Shooting also throws up its own set of problems. If firing an automatic weapon the recoil causes you to fire wildly, this is realistic and could have been a nice touch but the way it has been implemented means firing anymore than two shots at once leaves you firing in the air. Enemy soldiers also seem immune to bullets unless they re hit straight in the head or the chest, the image of spraying a full magazine at an approaching soldier, only for him to keep walking is laughable. Furthermore, hit a soldier in the chest and they pause and go through an ‘I’ve been hit’ animation before walking on again, while doing this animation they are invulnerable from fire.

Despite the niggles with the game it could have all been forgiven if the experience offered was a quality one. It all starts off ok, with you following your guide through the jungle; he stops at certain points telling you there are traps or Vietcong up ahead. It’s all done at a very slow pace implying an element of stealth is needed. However, levels are under populated with enemies and soon every single mission falls into the same formula; You get dropped at a point, follow the guide, stop two or three times to disarm a trap, engage a small squad of Vietcong then find an enemy soldier camp. There is very little variety and after a few missions and it all leads to a very dull and repetitive experience.

Overall, Vietcong Purple Haze is not a terrible game, but it is the very definition of average. There are some nice ideas in the title and if they had been implemented well then it could have been far more enjoyable. As for making the player feel like they are experiencing the Vietnam War – that is unsurprisingly a load of rubbish.

Overall 5/10

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Dynamite Headdy Review (Mega Drive)

Anyone who has played a game developed by Treasure knows that the company is capable of creating some of the most ridiculous game plots. Even by Treasure’s strange standards Dynamite Headdy is utterly bizarre. Headdy’s puppet theater is under threat from the ‘Dark Demon’ who plans to take over all the puppets in the land. Furthermore, Headdy has a rival that will stop at nothing to take his place at the head of the stage, his name is ‘Trouble Bruin’. So Headdy must set off with his interchangeable head and stop both of them. We would love to meet the person responsible for these story lines, if only to ask what they where taking at the time.

Dynamite Headdy at first seems to be a standard platform adventure however, the more you play the more you realise there is a subtle genius at work within the game mechanics. First of all you attack enemies with your detachable head, which is a touch unique to say the least. That said, the main form of invention arrives in the shape of fourteen interchangeable heads that Headdy can use. As well as standard power ups giving you a stronger head, there are also more tactical heads available. For instance certain Heads act to stop time allowing the player to batter some poor creature to death without it having a chance.

Level design displays a great deal of inventiveness combined with a wide variety of different stages offering something new to the player at each turn. One level may have you having to shrink yourself in order to get through small gaps, whilst another has you moving along on a constantly tilting stage with different levels of field meaning you have to walk in and out of the screen to avoid obstacles and enemies. With the constant invention on display each new level remains fresh and a joy for the player to experience.

Graphically, Dynamite Headdy is colourful, very colourful and extremely bright (bordering) on being plain garish at times. But somehow it just seems to work, after all the game is centered around a circus run by mad puppets. Characters are animated well, though at times there is so much going on in the backgrounds of the levels it can become confusing and players may find that they lose Headdy with alarming regularity.

 In terms of how the game plays there are some problems. First of all characters do not seem to feel very solid - meaning you are never that sure if you have hit someone or not. Furthermore, when you need to grip onto something with your head the rest of your body stays rooted to the ground and this can be incredible confusing. Hitting things with your head can also be quite difficult at times, especially when dealing with monsters that have to be hit in certain spots as they always seem to be situated at an angle that you cannot make Headdy hit. Problems aside though Headdy himself moves around well and with practice most problems begin to fade away.

Dynamite Headdy is a fun title from the warped minds of Treasure and fans will find a lot to enjoy. It contains a lot of charm and inventive, timeless fun. Unfortunately, the title has not aged that well and feels a little unpolished overall. It's a good platform game, though not necessarily an essential purchase for someone starting up their Mega Drive collection.

Overall 7/10

Monday 13 April 2015

La Mulana EX Review (PS Vita)

La Mulana has been around for a long time. The Wii was the first console to get a port but now we can pull our hair out wherever we are with this portable version on the Vita. It may seem a strange choice but La Mulana is a perfect candidate for on the go gaming – even if it is still incredibly difficult.

For those unfamiliar with the game it follows an intrepid archaeologist as he drops into the legendary ruins of La Mulana. It’s a puzzle platform game in the purest sense with block pushing and weight placing high on the agenda. There’s lots of whipping, pinpoint platforming and traps galore. There are also massive great boss monsters and lots of death.

There’s no getting away from just how difficult the game is. Especially when you first start it can seem overwhelming and any hints at what to do are obscure to say the least. Once you break through the initial barriers things do get much better for players though. It took us about an hour and two wasted save files to really get going. The third time we started it all began to click and we would recommend any player to use a guide for the first couple of areas if you feel you aren’t getting anywhere.

Once we had gathered the warping Holy Grail, bought a symbol decoder from the shop and got past the first boss it became a much better adventure. It’s all about getting your head around what you need to do and once that happens it reveals itself to be an excellent platform adventure. By the time we reached the second proper area everything was fine and it felt we were really getting into it.

Level design is strong throughout with areas different enough from each other in terms of enemy type and design. There are fiendish puzzles and riddles to solve but the core dynamic is based around placing weights on pads to make things happen in the environment. Weights can be picked up on your adventure but it’s normally best to buy a hefty amount at the village shop before diving back into the depths.

Once you have the Holy Grail you can warp to any discovered Grail points which makes life a bit easier. We did have an issue with certain points disappearing from our warp list though – if this is a bug or something we haven’t worked out mechanics wise remains to be seen. There’s a host of different equipment and weapons to buy and you need to make sure you are well prepared to have any chance at all. What makes life even more difficult is that you don’t really know what order you should be attempting the areas (and you really do need to get through them in the right order to stand a chance).

Indeed, There is very little signposting at all. The first time we played  we didn’t even work out that each area needed to be completed and subsequently dived down as deep into the ruins as far as we could go and had to restart our save file as we just couldn’t get back to where we wanted to be. It's also slightly annoying that the game comes with borders either side of it. Making a Vita game and then not adjusting the port to the systems native aspect ratio is somewhat bizarre to say the least.

Overall, there’s no denying that La Mulana is both an excellent platform game and a great addition to the Vita’s catalogue. However, it is very tough and obscure at times. It’ll certainly appeal to the Spelunky and Super Meat Boy crowd but requires a more patience and thought-out approach.  If you stick with it you’ll find a great adventure game. Many though may well be put off by all the barriers it throws up for players and that’s a real shame.

Overall 7/10

Friday 10 April 2015

Smackdown! VS Raw Review (PS2)

Another year on from Here Come the Pain and the annual offering from the world of sports entertainment lands on the door step once more. HCTP took the brave move of changing the control system to allow more flexibility and use of tactics during matches. Despite taking some Smackdown fans time to adjust, the change soon became the obviously superior setup. So after a significant leap forward for the genre last time around, can this title offer gamers anything more than simple roster updates and improved graphics?

In truth little has changed. Graphics have been improved with character models looking more solid and life like than before. The control system remains much the same, a good thing as the one put in place last year functions perfectly. There are small differences which streamline the controls (such as grapple moves with weapons being assigned to the same button as striking attacks) making matches flow that little bit better but nothing major was needed and the developers have taken a ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it approach’.

The game itself also remains very similar to the last version of the title. This time around the game came with online play and the rather entertaining new match mode of the ‘’parking lot brawl’ where players fight in a ring of cars using the vehicles to inflict damage in a number of different ways, apart from this comes the expected roster updates. However,  in this case the update serves as a major draw back as the WWE had lost a good half dozen top level super stars since the last game. More than once you may find yourself cycling through the available wrestlers only to find there is not actually anyone on the roster you really want to play as. Obviously this is not the fault of the development team but does point to the sharp turn around in fortunes and falling appeal that WWE had at the time.

Unfortunately, the new features do not really gel with the style of the game and feel far to tacked on. At the start of matches there is now a rhythm action style psyche out where the characters hit each other. There is also the wrestling equivalent of a mission mode with set tasks of varying difficulty being laid out in lists for players to complete at their leisure. However, this only serves as a minor distraction and is unlikely to keep players away from the main game modes.

One tweak that does help the gameplay is the improvement with submission moves- now as well as hammering the pad in order to keep a move locked in, the opponent in the submission move (move depending), can escape by stopping a moving cursor in a small square box on the Smackdown bar at the top of the screen. As characters become weaker the sense of panic missing the escape section of the bar for the second time really does begin to build as you become desperate to stop your wrestler from giving up.

The Royal Rumble has also been made a lot tougher to win with characters needing to be worn down before they can be thrown over the ropes- stopping the cheap tactics available to gain victory in all the previous version of the Smackdown franchise. Once a character is thrown over the ropes they hang on and players must knock down an energy bar to get them to finally hit the floor. This makes the Royal Rumble a far more tactical affair as while you are trying to knock someone’s bar down another superstar may come and attack you leaving you in a very vulnerable situation.

In the last Iteration of the title older wrestlers or ‘legends’ where introduced as unlockable characters. We say ‘Legends’ but in fairness only a few truly qualified as great superstars and thus did not merit much interest from players annoyed that Hulk Hogan was not available. This time while Hogan is still absent there can be no question regarding any of the characters on show (although putting ‘Classic’ Undertaker and ‘masked’ Kane in there is a bit cheap). Among the line up is the late, great Andre the Giant, The Legion of Doom, Brutus the Barber Beefcake and the all time great Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart. In fact the list of  legends are so strong in strength and personality it only serves to show up how weak WWE has become recently.

Smackdown VS Raw presents us with a very strange thing in the gaming world. The game itself is better than last year, everything has been improved and polished and made near perfect in the execution (gimmicky rhythm sections aside). But the simple fact is the current crop of WWE Superstars is dull and uninspiring. Last years version of the game had big names such as Goldberg , Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar etc, who are not present here. Meaning that while the game is improved technically from last year, there is not really anyone on the roster worth playing as- until the legends are unlocked that is.

Overall 7/10

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones Review (PS4/PS Vita)

The first Stealth Inc game was a very taxing, very inventive platform/puzzle game that had players trying to lead their little clone through a series of test chambers with the aim being to get to the exit door of each stage. Stealth Inc. 2 is much the same but the production values, writing and story have all been upped.
The story isn’t exactly in-depth but it allows a dark edge of humour to subtly be placed throughout the game. It revolves around a lab employee who sits in second place in his companies productivity scores. Sitting just one point above him is his rival. It would all be fine if it weren’t for the fact that the clones keep escaping and not doing quite what they should.
You play the role of the helpless clone trying to escape the institute but finding yourself continually unable to resist the draw of taking on the test chambers. The new hub world acts to channel you around the institute with each completed test chamber opening new areas and giving the brief glimmer of hope that you might be getting close to finally escaping once and for all. It’s not dissimilar to the atmosphere created by Portal and that is certainly not a bad thing.
The levels themselves can only be described as devious. We certainly wouldn’t have thought you could have created so much with the basic tool set of trip switches, lasers and moving blocks. The original Stealth Inc. displayed some stunning level design and Stealth Inc. 2 seems to take it to a level beyond even that. The fact your unseen overseer keeps leaving you sarcastic comments as you go only adds to the atmosphere.
The hub world itself is one huge puzzle that gradually unlocks and needs to be traversed as you proceed. It really helps to pull the game together and adds much more charm to the game than the simple listed level approach of the first game. Little touches of design such as robot vacuums cleaning deserted corridors and employees going about their business help to create the illusion of the facility and also really differentiate the hub world from the self-contained levels.
The big addition is that some of the puzzles now involve other rescued clones helping you out. This can also be done through local co-op which adds yet another little treat into the mix. A few pieces of equipment are also on hand to shake things up a bit and the different ways these are used demonstrates yet more design genius from the developers. For instance – an inflatable buddy is seemingly there to act as a weight on switches. Soon though you will realise you can use it to propel yourself like a trampoline from it or use it to strand enemy robots. 
Though the original game was excellent we just found ourselves having even more fun with this one. The extra touches of humour, the even more inventive level design and the perfectly judged learning curve make this a real joy to play. There aren’t many games that make you feel so elated working your way through a level solving little pieces of puzzles that add up to a bigger solution.
As before there is a level editor included and players can then share their sadistic creations with the rest of the gaming community. This could well mean that there will be new levels for fans to play for many years to come. 
Overall, this takes all the elements from the excellent original and levels everything out while adding a big dollop of humour and some nice additional modes. It’s one of the most pure platform/puzzle experiences we’ve played for many a year and there is absolutely no reason for you not to buy it.
Overall 10/10

Monday 6 April 2015

The Awakened Fate Ultimatum Review (PS3)

Written by Natalie Houghton

The Awakened Fate Ultimatum... what a mouthful! was the first thing that came into my mind when I saw the title of this latest J-RPG from NIS. More to the point though, what does it actually mean?

That is quite hard to explain so let's start from the beginning shall we? The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is a sequel to the 2013 game The Guided Fate Paradox, more specifically it takes place a few years after the events of that game where the Angels are still engaged in their eternal fracas against the Devils who are trying to enforce their jingoistic policies and wipe out the Angel's home otherwise known as Celestia. 

You play as Shin Kamikaze, a fairly anti-social teenager who constantly questions the reason for his existence. One day whilst he was casually out for a stroll, he is accosted by a group of Devils who fly down and promptly attack him which swiftly results in his death. Instead of dying, however, he awakens in Celestia seemingly reincarnated as a God - this is all thanks to the Fate Awakening Crystal that has been implanted in his chest. The crystal which has allowed him to live has now given him new powers... the powers to influence the fate of the beings around him.

As a god, you can harness the powers of both good and evil and use them to transform Saint Seiya style into a powered up version of yourself with either dark or light attributes. This is a key battle mechanic of the game's roguelike isometric dungeon sections as each enemy you fight is either dark or light, if you use the same element as the enemy that you are fighting, you will not only do less damage but also take more damage whilst fighting them so it is imperative that you choose the opposite side - this can of course become very difficult to manage when fighting multiple enemies of different types.

Essentially the game is a visual novel with a randomly generated dungeon in every chapter. These dungeons range from between 1-15 floors of slightly hair raising combat where the penalty for death is quite severe - if you die, you lose everything, all items, weapons, shields, accessories, etc. Whilst traversing the dungeon you look down upon a chibi version of the main character who walks around the square grid that is set out, graphically it's quite simple and not very flashy yet still functional and effective at the same time. Combat is turn based, and your enemies move exactly as you do, one action per square moved. This can lead to some tricky situations so it can be said that combat is as much about tactics and ensuring that you plan your moves with precision than anything else.

In order to power yourself up, for each level you gain and for each fate related choice that you make, you'll garner points that can be used to purchase, upgrade stats and abilities for each of your forms. Weapons and other items can also be upgraded although these are created by fusing weapons together in order to create more powerful ones, it is also possible to augment them with gems that can be found scattered around the dungeons themselves.

The opening score is interesting with music from Yousei Teikoku albeit it's a bit all over the place in the beginning. The rest of the music is pleasant although not overly memorable, it's not that it's bad in any sense, there just isn't enough variety to keep it from not getting repetitive quickly - I think there are maybe 5 tracks in the whole game. The English voice acting reminds me of those old anime shows from the early 2000's where you can tell they are trying... but it just somehow doesn't sound right and seems a bit tacky and overly corny. The original Japanese voice acting is much better, with the voices seeming to marry up with the overall tone and style of the characters in a more suitable fashion.

Some of the enemies in the later dungeons have really frustrating abilities such as the ability to make you level down... thus wiping out any exp that you had gained towards the next level. They will also sneak up upon you out of nowhere, spring out of hidden traps that you accidentally stepped on and surround you. If you attempt to grind any particular level and stay there for too long then an insane overly powered beastie will spawn and lay the smack down upon you in approximately 3 seconds.
The plot gets off to a fast and tantalising start, although the characters themselves don't develop much after chapters 3-4 and as a whole, the storyline itself is quite brutal. This is a grim tale of death, dying and annihilation - clearly almost the entire cast of the game had their names written in the Death Note! Personally I feel that it had more potential for interesting character development, maybe there could have even been a smidgeon of romance thrown in?

Throughout your journey, you are accompanied by your own specially assigned Angel who has been assigned to you to oversee your development and training. Her name is Jupiel and she is generally quite strict. You are also accompanied by a scientist who goes by the name of Ariael whose task is to monitor the status of the Fate Awakening Crystal and deal with any anomalies that may arise. Most of the dialogue early on is centred around these two and how whilst even though they don't particularly get along they are forced to work together which can cause some fairly hilarious scenes sometimes. 

At various occasions throughout the game, you have to choose which side you should take for an event. Sometimes this can simply relate to which character you'd like to talk to about a particular subject, other times the decision can be much more difficult such as who lives and who dies. Sadly, it does not really seem to matter which option you pick as the result is often the same regardless of if you chose the 'Angel' or 'Devil' option which really brings the replay ability value of the game down a few notches.

During the visual novel-esque sections everything is nicely drawn as expected from Nozuki Ito (of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya / Shakugan no Shana fame), quite colourful and pleasing on the eye, the only problem is that there isn't really much in the way of animation at all, a lot of scenes are simply the camera panning across a pre-drawn background. Characters eyes and expressions change but that is about it, it would have been really nice to see a bit more animation, particularly during key plot points. Also, it was noticed that any newly introduced character without visible eyes would quickly die in the upcoming scene or chapter, this is akin to the Star Trek red shirt meme.

Overall, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is not a bad game and if you like visual novels, dungeon crawlers or a bit of both then it is definitely worth picking up when it becomes a bit cheaper. The battle system is fairly simple yet challenging and whilst the plot starts off well, meanders around for a while and then finally comes to a conclusion, it is by no means the worst plot I have ever experienced - the only question is: when faced with the death of the two people closest to you, who will you save?

Overall 7/10

Saturday 4 April 2015

Steel Dragon EX Review (PS2)

During the lifespan of the PS2 the ‘classic’ shoot’em up genre had been going through a bit of a revival, where there was once very few to choose from there were suddenly a veritable plethora of different ways to have your eyes exploded by never decreasing waves of seemingly insurmountable alien forces. Steel dragon Ex is a repackaging of the Shienryu games and released at a budget price with the promise of yet more mind melting action.

What we are presented with is the now obligatory ‘classic’ version of the game and a new version complete with semi 3D make over. Though upon playing the two it is hard to tell that the games bear any resemblance to each other, they could just be two randomly thrown together shooting games, as even the core play dynamics are greatly altered in the newer version.

The original version of the game consists of the standard vertically scrolling shoot’em up ideal. Move left and right avoid missiles; pick up power ups, you all know how it goes. However, the game does offer a couple of interesting features. The best of these is the highly unusual lighting weapon, sort of a unique take on the idea of homing missiles. Lighting is shot out at the desired target and then arcs onto nearby targets as well, draining them of energy until the charge has worn off.

Once lightning has been fired you have to wait for the charge to wear out before you fire another one, which in essence removes the shooting aspect of the game, leaving you to fly around avoiding the missiles and bullets heading your way. However, apart from the odd nice feature there is really nothing here to make the game stand out from the many others of this nature. Furthermore, the screen seems to scroll at an awkward pace meaning you are never quite where you want to be.

While the original version of the game offers little not seen elsewhere it is still fun, the remake is truly terrible. First of all it is devoid of any form of challenge- we managed to get all the way through to about level six on its first go without losing a single life. There are more ships to choose from, and different characters available to pilot them, each with there own smart bomb style move, but one of the ships is so over powered to be farcical. Sit in the middle of the screen, hold down the fire button and dodging the odd large ball of blue is all that is required to get through the levels. When bosses appear they take up the whole screen, but unlike other titles can be hit in any area to cause damage meaning you can just weave around looking at your own ship to avoid any incoming fire with the fire button pressed until they explode.

Let us see, what other token gestures we can throw into the remake mix. How about score multipliers and tokens that appear when enemies are killed? Yes this game has managed to copy aspects from more or less every market leader out there and has managed to implement every one of the things it has taken in a far less effective way. Couple this with the same strange scroll pacing as the original version and you just end up wondering why they bothered.

Overall, Steel Dragon Ex is as average as average can be. The original version of the game is ok for the occasional play, but the remake is absolutely terrible. The title launched at a budget price of around fifteen pounds but you can get R-type final and Gradius V why would you bother? You could even pick up shooters of higher quality cheaper than this, the compilation of 1945 1 and 2 came in at ten pounds and unlike this, is excellent fun to play. The bottom line is, with so much choice out there this really does not have what it takes to warrant being in your collection.

Overall 5/10