Thursday 3 February 2011

Gaming Reviews

EA Sports
Available Now - £29.99 (Xbox 360, Playstation 3), Coming Soon (Wii)
Review by Rob Wade

EA Sports’ NBA Jam revives the classic franchise with vintage gameplay, and new features that deliver a fresh new take on the game. Featuring the sights and sounds that fans of the franchise will instantly recognize, EA Sports’ NBA Jam mixes the old with the new, to deliver a one-of-a-kind sports presentation. Shoves, spins and of course, backboard smashing dunks take centre stage with classic two vs. two gameplay that lies at the core of NBA Jam. Choose from a roster of current NBA players, NBA legends and a few special appearances on the hardwood.

Often when games are remade, the soul of the original game can be completely lost. Thankfully, in the case of NBA Jam this isn’t the case. Known for its arcade gameplay, the series retains the enjoyable nature of the previous iterations. The presentation is quite over the top, with big pyrotechnics and a really glitzy display and presentation all round. It’s a good indication of what’s ahead, which is to say plenty of over the top and overly shiny-shiny basketball action. With plenty of game modes to choose from, the game certainly has a lot of depth to it, and at a much reduced price compared to usual retail games, has a fair bit of value to it.

The graphics are good, and while not exactly spectacular, are enough to do the job and suitably glamorous to fit in with the overall aesthetic. Rather than lifelike character models, the game relies on realistic character bodies with poorly-juxtaposed photos of the players on top. It’s an interesting look, and it works well for the game style. The music, too, is suitably basic to do the job. More exciting, though it could just as easily be annoying, is the commentator in the game. For the sake of nostalgia, the original commentator has been retained for this game and keeps all his bombastic lines from the classic arcade game. It’s not unheard of in this game to hear phrases like “Boomshakalaka!” bandied about like nobody’s business.

It’s not all gravy, though. The game is fun, but it’s not the kind of thing that can really be invested in for hours at a time. For a game with a more robust season mode, albeit with fewer pick-up-and-play variants, another basketball game more akin to NBA Live would be a better game to purchase. However, if you fancy something lighter, with more games that can just be jumped into for a few minutes at a time, or are just having some non-haters of Basketball round for a few games, it’s definitely one to look at.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: : Good quality, smooth round the edges graphics.
Sound/Music: : Cool music, and a suitably annoying commentator who speaks just enough to get on your tits but not so much that it ruins the game.
Gameplay: : Arcade basketball of a high quality, easy to pick up and to play.
Lasting Appeal: : Plenty of game modes to choose from, which will keep you going for a fair while.
Summary: An enjoyable game, but those wishing for a more in-depth experience would be wise to go for NBA Live as their game of choice. A really strong party game, however, and definitely a varied multiplayer experience from the norm. 8/10

Gladiator Begins
Available Soon - £24.99 (PSP)
Review by Blake Harmer

Ever wondered what it was like to be a gladiator fighting in an arena against other gladiators as well as beasts such as tigers and elephants? Now you can with Gladiator Begins, a gladiatorial fighting game. However, this game feels more like the slavery part rather than fighting gruesome battles and winning your freedom fun that it should be.

You start your game creating a gladiator and kitting him out with different weapons, each with their own feel, strengths and weaknesses, and then battling other gladiators . You need to adapt to their fighting style by making strategic decisions and going for their weaknesses. At first this works well, and there is a deep equipment system so you can load out your gladiator with all sorts of weapons and armour. However, after prolonged play, the real flaws in the game start to show.

For starters, once you begin levelling up and unlocking new attacks with your chosen weapon, the strategy starts to go out of the window and you can kill most bad guys by rushing in, smacking them in the head, taking a bit of a breather, and then charging in to deliver the killing blow. The game also suffers with a poor blocking mechanic that cannot seem to decide whether it wants to work or not, and this can become very frustrating when fighting the tougher gladiators and beasts later on in the game. Chuck in the repetition of the game's one mechanic, and the complete lack of a story to grip the player and you’ll soon be moving on to other games.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Average for the system and does nothing to really show itself off.
Sound/Music: Some nice sound effects, but a complete lack of voice acting and unmemorable music lets the side down.
Gameplay: A strategic fighter that falls down when the AI, poor blocking and a levelling system that lets you win too easily settle in later on.
Lasting Appeal: There’s quite a lengthy campaign here, and the addition of beast fighting adds a little variety, but the repetitive combat and flaws will soon make you frustrated and put it down.
Summary: An enjoyable and deep fighter that shows its flaws with prolonged play. Sure it is to have a quick blast on occasionally, but you’ll quickly become annoyed with it and move on to something else before you’ve completed it. 5/10


A brilliant supernatural thriller with a modern twist, and a triumphant return from one of Britain's best-loved writers.

At the end of a track, on the outskirts of an ordinary coastal town, lies a dilapidated house. Once, a group of amateur ghost hunters spent the night there. Two of them don't like to speak about the experience. The third can't speak about it. He went into the basement, you see, and afterwards he screamed so hard and so long he tore his vocal cords.

Now, a group of teenagers have decided to hang out in the old haunted house. Dismissing the fears of the others, their leader Jezza goes down into the basement... and comes back up with a children's book, full of strange and colourful tales of a playing-card world, a fairytale world, full of Jacks, Queens and Kings, unicorns and wolves.

But the book is no fairytale. Written by Austerly Fellows, a mysterious turn-of-the-century occultist, it just might be the gateway to something terrifying...and awfully final. As the children and teenagers of the town are swept up by its terrible power, swept into its seductive world, something has begun that could usher in hell on earth. Soon, the only people standing in its way are a young boy with a sci-fi obsession, and his dad - an unassuming maths teacher called Martin...

Thanks to our friends at Harpercollins, we've got three copies of Dancing Jax to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Thursday 10th February, making sure to put "Dancing Jax" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy each!

Don't forget to put "Dancing Jax" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Dancing Jax is available now, priced £12.99.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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