Thursday, 7 April 2011

Gaming Reviews

Trapped Dead
Iceberg Interactive
Available Now - £29.99
Review by Blake Harmer

Taking on the feel of other RTS games like the Commandos series, Trapped Dead has you playing a limited amount of characters in their attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse.

For the most part this works really well, as you have to use the best equipment at your disposal to get through each section. Do you take it slow, save your ammo and pick off zombies with your baseball bat whilst taking more risk of taking damage in close combat, or do you “go loud”, use up your ammo, but risk attracting more of the undead in the room to come and attack you? This idea of risk versus reward is a nice feature throughout. There also traps throughout the level that can take out lots of zombies at once if used to the best effect. I also liked the fact that if your character is bleeding, he or she will attract attention easier than others unless he gets healed by bandages. Chuck in some random events and the whole game feels like a zombie movie from start to finish.

The only downside marring this otherwise excellent strategy game is the harsh difficulty throughout, especially as a level ends if one of your characters dies, and a wrong move could lead you to using up valuable ammo and health packs, the latter of which is incredibly hard to come by in later levels. Another problem, though, is that I thought the controls could become fiddly when the action picks up and becomes busier, making the pause button even more necessary to planning your next move. These niggles aside, this is a very rewarding game providing you have the patience and the nerve to take each level slowly and expect a little bit of trial and error when you die.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Some nice comic book style effects, which gives the game a nice The Walking Dead feel to it.
Sound/Music: Some limited sound effects and average voice acting, the music does add to the tension though, even if it is a little repetitive.
Gameplay: A decent real time strategy game with a survival horror theme of conserving your supplies and ammunition.
Lasting Appeal: A fairly lengthy adventure to be played out here, especially as the levels can be quite long as well. The ability to play multiplayer does increase playtime though if online gaming is your bag.
Summary: A fun, if difficult, RTS that rewards patience over speed and quick thinking. Action gamers may find this more cerebral game boring, but if you love your strategy games like Commandos, and you like your zombie movies, then you can’t go wrong with this. 8/10
Magicka
Paradox Interactive/Arrowhead Games Studio
Available Now - £9.99 (PC), £7.99 (Via Steam)
Review by Rob Wade

Magicka is a satirical action-adventure game set in a rich fantasy world based on Norse mythology. The player assumes the role of a wizard from a sacred order tasked with stopping an evil sorcerer who has thrown the world into turmoil, his foul creations besieging the forces of good. Players are able to combine the elements to cast spells, wreaking havoc and devastation on the minions of darkness. They will also be able to team up with friends and fight their way through the campaign, or test their skills in the magical arts through other challenging modes.

The game plays in an isometric perspective, much like something along the lines of Diablo or the original Fallout games. The style is a fair bit different, granted, with a much more cartoony style as opposed to gritty realism, but the influence is definitely there. What’s also nice is that there’s a definite effort to infuse a sense of humour into the proceedings, with nods to the usual suspects such as Star Wars and the like. The game’s certainly quirky, and as a result it feels pretty fresh. Also, the controls are pretty unorthodox, with an unusual mix of keyboard and mouse controls. Mouse clicking controls movement, while keyboards are mapped to spell elements which can then be combined to unleash attacks such as fireballs and arcane lightning.

Ultimately, the game is pretty fun. The spell system allows you to have a certain degree of experimentation and freedom, and often you can toy with strengths and mixes to get some interesting results. The game’s funny, and it’s endearing as a result despite the fact that the characters seem to be talking in a language I don’t understand. Either that or I was having some sort of ‘episode’. Hard to say either way, both are equally likely.

It’s not all great news, however. The game does seem to have a few technical issues on certain graphics cards (though I have tested this to verify, and it’s not just a blanket issue), which cause some weird screen effects and degradation of quality. Also, the controls, while original and overall pretty good, can be pretty fiddly, particularly as at high resolution it’s hard to read the symbols to know what powers to combine to make a spell. Often, you’ll probably find yourself squinting to work out whether you’re looking at a fire symbol or a shield, by which time the enemy will have killed you cheaply.

Also, and this may well have been deliberate but nonetheless frightening, is that you can kill anyone in this game. I do, literally, mean that you can kill anyone. The game doesn’t discern between civilians and enemies, an issue I first noticed in the game’s first ‘quest’ of sorts, after which I found myself in a room full of wizards. I ‘accidentally’ chained an area lightning spell, and proceeded to turn every wizard in the room into a crispy pile of ash. Civilian wizards. Wizards who, up until about two seconds before, had been my comrades and classmates. So began an experiment. The results: You can literally kill anyone you want in this game without any fear of repercussion, negative Karma or even anyone looking remotely worried for their own safety. It’s a little bit of a shame that no distinction has been made between friendly and non-friendly characters, but at the same time, that could make for some fun multiplayer.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Looks good for a downloadable game.
Sound/Music: Nice fantasy music, and the sound effects are good. Death sounds are particularly pleasing.
Gameplay: Pretty decent, though the spellcasting can be a touch on the fiddly side.
Lasting Appeal: You’ll be unlikely to play it through more than a couple of times with friends.
Summary: Worth playing at the price, but don’t expect to be completely blown away. 7/10

BLACK MIRROR III PREVIEW

Whilst not as well known in the popular gaming culture, but loved by adventure game diehards, the Black Mirror series is now coming to a close with the release of the final chapter set to come out towards the end of the month. Following on directly from Black Mirror II’s cliffhanger ending, Black Mirror III has you playing as returning character Darren as he sets out to clear his name and uncover the mystery of the Gordon Curse.

Upon having a hands on with part of the near finished game code, I could see why fans of point and click games really enjoy the Black Mirror games. The mixture of tense music and dark and bleak surroundings really does add to the whole atmosphere of Willow Creak, the town from the previous game and still the main setting for Black Mirror III. I also like the clear interface the game has, with points of interest no longer revealing themselves when they have lost their usefulness, thus disregarding any red herrings and just leaving you with the ones necessary for the puzzle solving, which nicely streamlines the process of elimination without making the puzzles too easy.

At present, my only current gripes with the game going on the unfinished code was that the graphics were not up to the standard of today’s titles, which made Black Mirror III look dated in places. Also, despite the genre evolving with games like Sam & Max and Tales from Monkey Island, Black Mirror III has stayed firmly to its "Old Skool" adventuring roots with tough inventory based puzzles. Whilst I appreciate this is probably the crux of why the series is so popular with the point and click gaming elite, it looks like there is currently nothing here to entice new gamers from other gaming backgrounds. That said though, seeing as the plot is based on your knowledge of playing the previous instalments, it seems there is little here to warrant gamers leaping into the final chapter of the franchise without playing them beforehand. However, these problems may have been tweaked for the final version, along with the inclusion of voice acting, which was notably absent from my hands on with the game.

Words: Blake Harmer

Featuring the voice and likeness of Ryan Reynolds (in the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions), Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters allows players to assume the role of Hal Jordan to battle the Manhunters - a once noble android police force who are now bent on destroying the Green Lantern Corps.

Players take control of the most powerful weapon in the universe -- the Green Lantern's Power Ring -- and conjure a spectacular range of "hard light" constructs including a Gatling gun, giant fists, and much more as they take flight to outer space in an effort to restore intergalactic order.

For more information please visit www.facebook.com/greenlanternvideogame

Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters takes flight on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS on June 7th.


READY AND ABLE

Ready and Able showcases some of the Abilities players can unlock while upgrading their characters.

Brink is slated for release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on May 20, 2011. For more information on Brink visit www.BrinkTheGame.com.

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