Thursday 22 July 2010

Gaming Reviews

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
TT Games/Warner Bros.
Available Now - £29.99 (DS, PSP), £24.99 (PC), £39.99 (Wii) & £44.99 (PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Tested))
Review by Blake Harmer

You know where you lie with a LEGO game: collecting studs and trying to unlock every playable character whilst doing fun, if not incredibly taxing, platforming and puzzling bits. It is this formula that has made the series so successful and appealing to the younger and more casual gamers, and LEGO Harry Potter is no exception.

So what is actually new with this instalment? Well, firstly there is the ability to split the screen if you’re playing co-operatively and decide to wander away from each other in the larger areas of the game. This eliminates the balls-ache of playing through previous games and having to constantly follow each other and remain in the same screen, so this new feature is massively welcome and a huge fix to the franchise.

Second is the ability to scroll through different abilities so rather than, say, finding an alternative costume like in LEGO Batman. You can now select which spell to use to advance you through each level. This means that characters have several abilities whilst keeping the character swapping element of previous LEGO games essential as some characters are unique (only Ron can use Scabbers to crawl through vents and solve certain puzzles for example). Throw in all the great unlockables, hilarious cut scenes and general charm of previous LEGO games, and you have one of the best ones since LEGO Star Wars.

So why no perfect score? The problem with LEGO Harry Potter is that, aside from the new skin and a couple of handy fixes this is just like every other LEGO game, and therefore suffers with the problem of diminishing returns in terms of gameplay. Nothing has really changed, you always have to have certain abilities to solve a puzzle and despite the splittable camera, it can still be a bit annoying at times when you are trying to see where you are going.

However, the main thing with LEGO Harry Potter is that you know what to expect, and the likely thing is that there are very few kids' games you will find that can top them. So, whether you are a Harry Potter fan or a LEGO fan, there is plenty to see and do to keep yourself entertained over the summer period until the autumn releases.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Fun and bright although not truly mind blowing, just like all the other LEGO games really. The cutscenes are rendered brilliantly and create the LEGO charm and humour perfectly in the Harry Potter universe.
Sound/Music: Authentic music and decent sound effects, with the comical voices that LEGO characters have when imitating the characters from the books/films.
Gameplay: Traditional LEGO style gameplay as you explore Hogwarts solving puzzles and beating bosses with some platforming. Extra abilities keep things fresh whilst the new camera that can split into two makes co-operative play a lot better.
Lasting Appeal: Plenty of levels to clear and places to explore, not to mention the tons of unlockables means that purists will be playing for hours to get 100% completion. Other gamers may not play it after completing the main story though.
Summary: A brilliant addition to the LEGO franchise and one of the best games in the series since LEGO Star Wars. However, aside from a new universe to explore and some much needed fixes, those expecting something new from the series will not be finding it here. 8/10

Armada 2526
Iceberg Interactive
Available Now - £24.99 (PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

Armada 2526 places you as the leader of one of twelve different races as you begin your first interstellar journey from a single planet until you have a large galactic empire. Then it is up to you to crush the other eleven races in combat and diplomacy, until you inevitably conquer the galaxy.

Sadly, we wouldn’t recommend you actually go into combat with enemy rivals, as it is some of the most dire combat in an RTS that you will ever see. With graphics that would have been barely acceptable a decade ago and with no real strategy to winning battles aside from "having a larger force", it makes you wonder why the developer made this part of the game at all.

However, the game is not without its strong points, there are lots of good in-depth management required for all of your colonies and you can achieve benefits through diplomacy rather than all out war. However, it takes a long time for anything to actually be done in the game so unless you are determined and do not have a short attention span, it is likely you may become bored quickly.

At the end of the day, in terms of the turn based strategy side of things, Armada 2526 has a lot of good things going for it, and allows you to do lots of things with its in-depth menus. However, there are just too many things that are unpolished or just plain bad to actually recommend this to many gamers out there.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating:
Some nice 2D visuals ruined by shonky 3D animation, which really wasn’t needed.
Sound/Music: Sub-par by anyone’s standard, with weak sounding weapon noises and annoying music.
Gameplay: A strong and in-depth turn based strategy game ruined by its RTS battles, which seems lazy and rushed in comparison.
Lasting Appeal: Tacticians with a love of diplomacy and lots of micro-management will find plenty to keep them entertained, as long as they don’t mind that all the combat comes down to tank-striking your opponent over and over again.
Summary: There are some very strong elements in Armada 2526 that will keep most strategy fans happy for many an evening. However, with a heavily flawed combat engine, and with so many other strong strategy games out there, it is really hard to recommend this to anyone but the most hardcore of strategy fans, and that would only be to kill some time before the next big strategy game comes out. 5/10

Experience an inspirational and breathtaking journey back to Korea's fabled Joseon Dynasty with director Yung-gyun Kim's stunning, action-packed adaptation of the life of legendary Empress Myseongseong: the inspirational leader who stirred the courage of her nation in the face of seemingly overwhelming foreign aggression.

A young woman of noble birth embarks on a dangerous cross-country journey, where she encounters an infamous bounty-hunter. Honour-bound, he becomes her protector and against all the odds they fall in love. A few years later, to fulfill a sacred promise, she must enter the royal court and ascend to the throne as Empress, leaving her love behind. However, when aggressive Japanese forces gather against her nation, the bounty hunter will once again stand by her side as a devoted bodyguard. As the conflict escalates to all-out war, her irrepressible leadership will sustain her people and give them the hope of victory. Tragically, as her reputation spreads, she will become a target for assassination, but one man's courage will make all the difference...

The Sword With No Name will be released in UK on DVD and Blu-ray from Cine Asia on 20th September.

"This was a time where Spain was revered, feared and hated in the easterly seas; where the devil had no color, no name and no flag, and where the only thing needed to summon hell on earth (or sea for that matter) was a Spaniard and his sword!"

Alatriste is back - this time on the high seas! Accompanied by his faithful companion Inigo, the captain joins a Spanish galleon and sets sail from Naples towards the east on a journey that will take them to Melilla, Oran, and finally Malta where they must struggle against the Turk. On board they will have many adventures, including an encounter with The Moor Gurriato'. Now seventeen, Inigo is still in love with Angelica but will wisdom come with age and experience?

Thanks to our friends at W&N, we've got three copies of The Adventures of Captain Alatrist: Pirates of the Levant to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Thursday 29th July (UK time). The first three names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

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