Thursday, 14 October 2010

Gaming Reviews

Batman: The Brave & The Bold
WB Games
Available Now - £29.99 (DS, Wii (Version Tested))
Review by Rob Wade

Team up in the ultimate co-op adventure and battle as Batman along with his powerful posse including Green Lantern, Robin, Hawkman and Blue Beetle, or call in the help of drop-in heroes such as The Flash and Aquaman to squash enemies. Using Batman's legendary gadgets, take on the most notorious villains in the DC Universe in the fight for justice. Players will face-off against evil in a variety of locations from crime filled alleys, strange alien planets, mysterious laboratories and beyond. Fight crime, solve puzzles, experience interplanetary travel and more as you go behind the cowl of the Caped Crusader and discover what it's like to be a superhero in Batman: The Brave and the Bold!

Batman: B&B is a 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up game in the vein of Streets of Rage and the like, with players assuming the role of either Batman or Robin as you navigate the ‘Dynamic Duo’ through levels trying to solve cases in the style of the Dark Knight. Players can also connect up a DS with a copy of the game in order to access different features.

Firstly, the game is really strong visually. Although the Wii is not physically capable of delivering a graphical experience of the quality expected by gamers on other consoles, the developers are really good at using art style to get around this problem, and the team behind this game are no exception. The game looks great in motion, and feels like playing through an episode of the cartoon, very immersive and smooth. The sound and music are also really good, doing a good job of making you feel involved in the storyline.

Gameplay controls are mapped to the Wii remote and nunchuk controllers, with the A button acting as the main attack button and the B button controlling jumping. Movement is mapped to the analog stick on the nunchuk, and the player has various special attacks at their disposal by shaking the Wii remote. Blocking and weapon controls are in there as well, mapped quite sensibly to the nunchuk buttons. However, at times the controls do feel a little fiddly, and players can expect the occasional hiccup where Batman rolls where you wanted him to jump. Not ideal when you’re trying to cross ledges, I assure you.

In the background as well is one of several special characters, from Hawkman all the way to Aquaman (yeah, Aquaman, the dude that talks to the fish!), available when their special meter is charged to rain down destruction in some way upon your enemies. The game certainly gives you plenty of different ways of dispatching your enemies, and it does feel like there are many different ways to win a fight. However, half the time you don’t even need those attacks, as the game does frequently devolve into a series of jumping and punching combos. It’s possible to use all these attacks, but generally you’ll find you don’t really need to unless you need to knock down a specific type of enemy or object.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Solid visuals, boosted by a really good art style and really strong animations.
Sound/Music: Good old-style Batman sound effects and music, very true to the source material.
Gameplay: 2D side-scrolling brawling let down a little by fiddly controls.
Lasting Appeal: Two main characters plus a series of background characters, plus DS connectivity.
Summary: : Overall, Batman: B&B is a good game, but is let down by some fiddly controls and being a samey game at times. 7/10
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened – Re-mastered Edition
Frogwares/Focus Multimedia
Available Now - £9.99 (PC)
Review by Rob Wade

Inspired by the works of acclaimed horror author H.P. Lovecraft, this globe-spanning saga of suspense and terror pits the master sleuth against his most dangerous foe yet - a fanatical cult seemingly devoted to ancient, evil, god Cthulhu. From Baker Street to Bale, Louisiana to Scotland, hunt for hidden clues with the help of faithful companion Dr. Watson, while solving fiendish puzzles and thwarting the forces of darkness.

This game is a point-and-click adventure game of the traditional kind, rather than the more recent “hidden object” adventure games. The re-mastering that the edition refers to involves the addition of a more traditional third-person camera perspective, as the original release was a first-person perspective only. This is the first positive point in the game’s favour, as the switching is easy to do at any time and at times actually makes puzzle solving easier at times as well.

The story is an intriguing one all the way through, with Holmes called in to investigate what appears initially to be a simple case of kidnapping. Along the way, however, the world of Lovecraftian mythos bleeds into the adventure, and Holmes seems to be out of his depth. Despite this, however, this actually feels like Sherlock Holmes in the right ways. He has those astute powers of deduction, which manifest themselves in the game’s cutscenes more than during the actual game; which is more dedicated to the collection of evidence from the various locales.

Pleasingly, the game does have a hint system, but doesn’t let you rely on it completely. Instead, clicking on a particular puzzle you can’t solve will give you up to ten hints before telling you exactly how to do it, and the hints themselves are both cryptic and yet somewhat illuminating.

On the down side, the game seems to suffer from the odd lack of technical effort. The graphics are really good for the time period and game type, but at the same time occasionally you’ll be walking along Baker Street and see the same pedestrian you saw two minutes ago. Then you’ll turn a corner and see him again. But the other guy hasn’t disappeared, so you’re just looking at two identical pedestrians. What’s worse is that none of them have the Innsmouth look about them, and it just screams of laziness or a lack of forethought.

Ultimately, the game is bloody fantastic. It feels like Holmes, it feels like a Lovecraftian story. Fusing those two together so well is a difficult task to be sure, and Frogwares have done a great job of it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Not stunning by any means, but enough to get the job done.
Sound/Music: Atmospheric music which puts the hairs up on the back of your neck at the right moments.
Gameplay: Classic point-and-click adventuring of the highest quality, only occasionally let down by some clunky quick-time events.
Lasting Appeal: Probably not much, realistically.
Summary: A really good example of a point-and-click adventure game, made all the better by the seamless blending of the world’s greatest detective and adventures beyond the scope of scientific explanation. Definitely worth a purchase. 8/10
Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy
MumboJumbo
Available Now - £9.99 (PC)
Review by Rob Wade

The master of macabre, Edgar Allan Poe, leads you on a shadowy journey to finally solve the mystery of his death. As a famed mystery writer, you're looking for your next cold case to crack when an unexpected visitor hands you the perfect case to get your career moving again. You'll collect clues, interview witnesses and piece together the conspiracy behind the death of America's greatest writers. Who killed Edgar? You have twenty-four hours and tales from beyond the grave to guide you through as you unravel the story behind the death of Edgar Allan Poe!

This is another one of those ‘hidden-object’ adventure games I’m so fond of. If you’ve never seen me rate or talk about one before, I’ll summarise: ‘Point-and-click’ adventure games without the point. I was refreshed to see one that looked like it had an air of intrigue about it. A murder mystery would surely provide an interesting setting in which to set an otherwise pointless endeavour. Truthfully, it creates a more interesting setting in which to set an otherwise pointless endeavour. However, the resulting game is still devoid of any soul whatsoever, and would have Poe rolling in his grave like a rotisserie chicken on a broken motor.

The ‘gameplay’ consists of clicking on innocuous (and sometimes ludicrously out-of-place) objects on a backdrop of a cemetery, a New York street or a ship. Just three of the detailed locations you’ll visit during this game. Just kidding. About the only innovative feature that I noticed that was different from previous games was that the game employed the use of certain hidden objects as “tools”, using them to uncover other objects hidden under leaves or under another object. It’s a nice idea, but practically half the time the application of the object was painfully obvious.

More arse-backwards still, the game uses a hint system. While it’s thematic, as the hints are helped by a raven, the hints will point out exactly where the object you’re looking for is, removing any need for any degree of deduction. However, don’t panic: you can usually find at least one raven in each section to boost your available hints, and the objects are often easy enough to find that you won’t even need to worry about using them at all. To give you an idea, at one point I’d amassed nineteen hints. Enough said, really.

That being said, I can’t just be entirely negative about this one. The atmosphere all the way through is nicely done purely using music, as on a stationary gameplay screen you won’t find yourself being frightened by objects jumping out at you. Also, having a goal to drive towards that doesn’t just involve money does give the game a little more direction than others. Not much, but some. At £9.99, however, this game should be more and isn’t.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: 2D backgrounds with 2D objects. The animations on Poe’s ghost aren’t bad though.
Sound/Music: Creepy music, which is about the only thing I liked.
Gameplay: The same ultimately pointless clicking you’ve seen in many games.
Lasting Appeal: Fuck off. Just fuck off.
Summary: As hidden object games go, this is one of the better ones I’ve seen. Which still isn’t saying much. 4/10
The Sims 3: Fast Lane Stuff
EA Games
Available Now - £9.99 (PC)
Review by Rob Wade

The Sims 3: Fast Lane Stuff is one of the Sims “stuff” packs that come in between the main expansion packs. The main purpose of these packs is to add items to your collection of available outfits, cars and so on. In this way, they are a bizarre one to review, in that they change the game in no way whatsoever besides adding these items.

The items in this pack are themed on the ‘fast lane’, so cars are a heavy focus with Formula One-style cars and motorbikes available to purchase as a result of installing this expansion. The game also adds some themed outfits and hairstyles, with team racing outfits available as well as different hairstyles and formal wear.

Ultimately, the bundling together of this stuff in the game is a good value bundle, as the individual game items purchasable through the game’s download store tend to run up quite pricey when you get a few together. If you absolutely have to have everything that the Sims 3 universe has to offer, then this represents pretty good value versus buying a selection of items through the store, but otherwise avoid.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating: This definitely adds some value to the game, as the outfits are pretty cool and the cars are a nice little addition. At £9.99 though, the disc doesn’t add any new gameplay elements, and a player looking for something completely fresh and new would be better off putting the money towards World Adventures or Ambitions or even the forthcoming Late Night expansion. 6/10

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE GIVEAWAY!

This is a 'mosaic novel' set in the near-future, when a desperate and ever-more controlling UK government decides to restore a sense of national pride with a New Festival of Britain. However, controversial plans to build on the site of an old church in South London releases a centuries-old plague that turns its victims into flesh-hungry ghouls whose bite or scratch passes the contagion on to others.
Even worse, the virus may also have a supernatural origin with the power to revive the dead. Despite the attempts of the police, the military and those in power to understand and contain the infection commonly referred to as 'The Death', it soon sweeps across London, transforming everyone who comes into contact with it.

With the city - and the country - falling into chaos, even a drastic attempt at a 'Final Solution' to eradicate the outbreak at its source fails to prevent it from spreading to Europe and then quickly throughout the rest of the world. Soon there is no more news coming out of Britain ...and it is up to those survivors in other countries to confront the flesh-eating invaders within their midst. Will humanity triumph over a world-wide zombie plague, or will the walking dead ultimately inherit the Earth?

Told through various disparate and overlapping eye-witness accounts, through texts, e-mails, blogs, letters, diaries, transcripts, official reports and other forms of communication, a picture builds up of a world plunged into chaos - where the dead attack the living, and only one of them can be the ultimate victor. Written by some of the biggest and best-known names in horror and science fiction, these interconnected narratives create a unique vision of the End of the World brought about by a plague that may have its origins in both science and the occult.

Thanks to our friends at Constable and Robinson, we've got five copies of Zombie Apocalypse to give away! For your chance of winning, send in your name and full postal address to zombieapocalypsegiveaway@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Thursday 21st October. The first five names out of the electronic hat will win a copy each!

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