Saturday 19 December 2009

Gaming Reviews

The Saboteur
Electronic Arts
Available Now - Xbox 360, PS3 (Version Tested), PC
Review by Blake Harmer

It saddens me when I first find out about a game and I think 'Wow, this could be really good', only to actually play it and find it to be a big disappointment, and it is with great sadness that I must say that this applies to EA’s The Saboteur.

What originally perked my interest about the game was its setting and art design. For those of you who don’t know about the game, you play an Irishman who was in France training to be a racing driver when the Nazi’s invaded, and after your friend is horribly killed you join the French resistance as it is beginning in order to enact his revenge. I liked this because whilst there are hundreds of WW2 games out there, none of them are set with the French Resistance or are open world action games. I also loved the art design which has Nazi occupied areas made almost black and white, with only the red of the swastikas or pale yellow of lamps as any feel of colour and gives the game a look reminiscent of film adaptation of Sin City. However, when you liberate areas of France, the land returns to full bright colour, which makes completing missions that little bit satisfying.

However, the downsides to the game is that these two factors are the only original bits of content The Saboteur brings to a table filled with open world action games. Everything else the game uses has been borrowed from other games such as the ability to climb buildings, blow up buildings, do races, perform stealth kills etc etc. Also, it doesn’t even do any of these ideas as well as its competitors it originally borrowed it from. The wall climbing is unnecessarily fiddly in comparison to Assassin’s Creed or inFamous, explosions are done better in Mercenaries (which is surprising as both Mercenaries and The Saboteur are both made by Pandemic), and GTA tramples over everything else The Saboteur tries to do.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Nice graphics made better by excellent art design, which gives the game a great Sin Cityesque vibe in areas still not liberated from Nazi occupation.
Sound/Music: Wartime music, crowd banter from French people and Nazi’s and the usual explosions and gunfire.
Gameplay: An enjoyable open world game let down by a lack of original ideas and the fact that any part of the game has been done better its competitors.
Lasting Appeal: Short when compared to other open world games and unlikely to hold your interest as well as other games such as GTA and Assassins Creed would.
Summary: The Saboteur is a fun game with very little flaws and a few nice (if not life changing) ideas to the open world action genre. However, when there are already lots of other games like The Saboteur, and they all do everything better than it, then there is very little to recommend it unless you have nothing else to play and need something to tide yourself over to the next big game. 7/10

Return To Mysterious Island 2
Microids Entertainment
Available now - RRP £24.99
Review by Rob Wade

As many E14ies know well, I have a love for the point-and-click adventure games of yore. It was exciting, therefore, to have this game to review, as it is one of the traditional style of adventure game, as well as being from developer Microids, responsible for one of my favourite recent adventure games, Still Life.

Return To Mysterious Island 2 puts you once again in the role of Mina, the heroine from the first game. Following an escape from a helicopter (the end of the first game), Mina begins to find that a strange disease is destroying all the plants, and then starts to affect the animals on the island. It's up to her to find out what is causing the death and decay before it's too late.

I started off a little apprehensive of this game, as the first puzzle seemed unnecessarily complex for an introductory puzzle. Obviously the developers sort of take it for granted that you've played the first game, an understandable act but a frustrating one for the novice player to this franchise. However, I eventually solved it, and was optimistic that this would be a blip on an otherwise enjoyable experience.

The first chapter of the game is you playing as Mina's pet monkey.

Yeah, you read that correctly. In the first chapter of the game, you don't actually communicate using words in the interface, all communication of what is happening in the game is done with speech bubbles with pictures inside. Now, this would be a perfectly acceptable way of communicating things if the pictures actually explained clearly what was going on. The addition of monkey-monkey dialogue is a new feature touted on the back of the box as a gameplay innovation, and while it is something I'm not particularly familiar with in adventure games, I suspect there was a reason that it wasn't included before, namely the fact that it's really clunky and difficult.

Speaking of largely pointless additions, this game syncs with the iPhone, allowing players to download puzzles and solve them, then re-download them back into the game. A nice idea, but at the same time so ludicrously un-necessary.

That's not to say that the game is bad, by any means. Graphically it's quite impressive, with lush tropical island landscapes as far as the eye can see, and the music and sound is nice enough. True, the game would benefit greatly from a map, particularly during the early sections, but the terrain is sufficiently varied to be able to differentiate effectively between different areas.

Ultimately though, this game is a decent adventure game, but is kept from being a great game simply by the idea of doing too many things, none of which seem to really serve any purpose beyond being different for the sake of being different.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics : Some stunning landscapes and very bright and colourful visual styles.
Sound/Music : Pretty much what you'd expect.
Gameplay : Solid adventure game play, albeit with some un-necessary additions.
Lasting Appeal : As with all adventure games, there's little in the way of replay value once you've finished.
Summary : A game of decent quality, let down by a desire, it seems, to do more than the competition without bearing in mind that the competition is doing sweet fuck-all at the moment. 6/10

St Erisian's school for girls has stood for over a hundred years and survived war, plague, famine, demonic attack, strange explosions in the science block and countless attempts to get it closed by the government. However, to be fair, not all of these disasters were the fault of the girls who study there.
Hellcats and Hockeysticks is an RPG in which the PCs are among the most feared and disreputable creatures of all - schoolgirls!

Hellcats and Hockeysticks
RPG Core Rulebook
Corone Design

Available Now - $12.00 (Approx £7.50) (PDF)
Review by Brad Harmer

At St Erisian's the girls are taught to be curious, forthright, inventive and above all, what they want to be, and to give hell to anyone who tries to stop them. The game is designed to be fast paced and fun, with plenty of opportunities for chaos and destruction. Characters come from one of 9 'cliques' each with their own special ability and selection of skills.

I love originality. There are a hundred sci-fi, fantasy and horror RPGs, but it’s the ones like The Squared Circle, Cartoon Action Hour and, now, Hellcats and Hockeysticks that catch my eye. It’s attempting to emulate a genre that, at least as far as I’m aware, has never been attempted before.

The character choices, with options such as nerd, Goth, prefect, etc. all make a nice change from the standard party options, and really capture the tone of the films they’re based on - from The Belles of St Trinians to Mean Girls. The core system, based on d6 rolls, is nothing new – but its simplicity is its strength, and you can pick up on most of its applications on your first read through. With a quick, easy and surprisingly not violent combat to boot, this could make a welcome change of pace from your heavy fantasy campaign.

The magic/“weird science” rules may not see much action if your campaign is set outside of a castle in the Scottish Highlands – but it’s nice to see them here anyway.

The cleverest thing in the system is way it accurately reflects the back-stabbing and bitchiness of a clique of girls in a high school. At character creation, each player has to secretly choose another player to be their best-friend, and another that they hate – but these feelings don’t have to be reciprocated. I’m sure you can imagine that with some good role-playing, you could have some night of fun with this.

The experience system is nice, as is the adventure included, and a dice-based adventure generator.

The games main weakness lies in the very nature of its originality. With unplugged gamers, rather sadly, being a “girls...eww...” bunch, it’s rather doubtful that it will be able to find its niche. I hope it does, though, as I’m sure that anyone who gives it a go will find it a lot of fun.

Summary: A very different RPG. The style may not be for everyone, but it could be a lot of fun with the right group. 8/10


  1. I'm pretty sure OUR gaming group would get much hilarity out of 'Hellcats And Hockey Sticks'. I'd love to have a crack at it.

  2. crack something.. especially with that nice lady on the box.