Thursday 21 April 2011

Gaming Reviews

Starpoint Gemini
Iceberg Interactive/LGM
Available now - £24.99 (PC only)
Review by Rob Wade

Players will freely traverse the rich and filled vastness of the Gemini star system, fight skirmishes, trade commodities, research anomalies, buy new vessels, upgrade their ships with state-of-the-art technology, increase their experience and rank to learn more powerful manoeuvres, and ultimately use all that in large scale engagements against hostile ships and even fleets.

Does this sound in any way familiar, perhaps to those who might have played Freelancer? There’s a good reason for this: the game is a poor man’s Freelancer. No small task, either, considering how cheaply you can get that game nowadays. This game lacks the charisma, technical achievement or indeed playability of a game that was released many years ago and can be obtained at considerably less cost than this game.

Let’s go with the positive first: Space is awesome, and this game does a really good job of creating scale and size. The planets look immense in comparison to everything, the ships have a good sense of scale relative to each other (such as space stations compared to capital ships compared to star fighters) and the backdrops against which you are usually flying are nothing short of breath-taking.

It’s a shame, however, that the same cannot be said for the character models, ships and any objects on the map, which all look rough around the edges and drab. It’s a weird one, considering just *how* nice the environments are, especially as apart from plot-specific ships there are no other ships on the map at any time.

Sound and music is also a point of contention. Though the music is absolutely great, the sounds and voiceovers are really poor. At one point, I was navigating a space station to hear a smoke alarm go off. A smoke alarm. At first, I thought my flat was on fire, then I realised it was the game. I had to explain *that* to the Fire Brigade, so thanks Iceberg. Thanks for that.

I’d like to say that this game redeems itself in some way, but it really doesn’t apart from the backdrops and music. After spending a lengthy amount of time working on a character and taking him through the tutorial, the game reset my character selection and put me back to the default character. I can’t help but feel: what’s the point of having a character creation system? The controls are fiddly and unintuitive, and especially during combat where your ship physically needs to be facing forward to even shoot at the enemy, but the ship doesn’t move fast enough to turn around before the enemy can get behind you again.

Most damningly of all, the ship can only move on one plain of space, not up or down. If you think of a picture, and imagine that the middle third has space and ships and asteroids in it, the third above and below are apparently empty. You’d think when someone is programming a game about space, they would obey the laws of motion. Just a thought.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Nice backdrops let down by everything else looking rubbish.
Sound/Music: Nice music, sounds and voices are not so good.
Gameplay: Fiddly and unintuitive.
Lasting Appeal: Not much there really, two storylines to play through but the controls may not let you get that far.
Summary: A poorly made game, which probably doesn’t need to exist on any plain of existence, but certainly the middle third. 2/10
Gray Matter
Lace Mama Global
Available Now - £29.99 (PC (Version Tested)) & £39.99 (Xbox 360)
Review by Blake Harmer

From Jane Jenson, creator of the popular Gabriel Knight series of games, comes Gray Matter, a game that centres around Dr Styles, a scientist who is trying to make contact his dead wife, and Samantha, a street magician who cons her way into being his assistant. As strange phenomena start to occur around the city, it is up to them both to find an explanation for them.

Gray Matter has the workings of a great game that is ultimately let down in its execution and could have been so much more. That isn’t to say that this isn’t a good game, though. Where Gray Matter works, it works very well. The plot is compelling and holds your interest throughout despite being a bit slow at times. The inventory based puzzles revolve around items used in magic tricks, which is a nice touch to the overall theme and the characters are unique and very well thought out in terms of storytelling. The graphics and presentation of the game are also very good.

However, where Gray Matter ultimately goes wrong is in the puzzles, which are for the most part too easy and in some cases feel like padding to stop the player advancing too quickly through the game. Also, even if you can guess a solution to a puzzle, you still have to go through most dialogue options until your character comes to the same conclusion, which makes you feel that any spark of genius on your part is fruitless as you may get there anyway from clicking around the screen until you find it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
A very pretty looking point-and-click adventure with decent animation and lighting effects.
Sound/Music: Some nice music and decent voice acting carries the feel and mood of the story brilliantly.
Gameplay: The puzzles here are mostly either too easy or seem to try to pad out the game rather than test your own “grey matter”.
Lasting Appeal: The story will keep you gripped until its conclusion, but there isn’t much replay value upon completion though.
Summary: A brilliant, well thought out story let down by the fact it has to be a game. But if you love your stories and your point-and-click games, you should still give this a look as it is worth the perseverance. I would like to see a sequel here as the characters are well designed and work well in contrast to each other. 6/10
Armada 2526: Supernova
Iceberg Interactive
Available Now - £14.99 (PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

As an expansion pack to Armada 2526, which we originally reviewed back in July, Supernova decides to give you more choice to your strategy. With more planets, systems and areas to explore, as well as two new races to play as on top of the games (rather generous) twelve.

If you were one of the few people to fall for Armada 2526 despite its flaws, then you won’t be disappointed by what this expansion pack has to offer. The two extra races along with their new ships breathes plenty of life into the game, not counting the new areas and planets to explore which adds even enjoyment to be had out of the diplomacy and micromanagement side of the game. Also the ability to now play via LAN or via e-mail (if anyone still does that) also adds longevity with the ability to play against your friends at your own leisure.

However, what this expansion doesn’t do is try to rectify any of the flaws inherent in the original game. Combat is still woefully bad and this is still a crippling flaw to an otherwise good strategy game, providing you love your micro management.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
The same nice 2D visuals and the same crappy 3D animation. Not that I was expecting an improvement in this area.
Sound/Music: The music is still annoying and the sound effects still need improving, even with the new ships.
Gameplay: A strong and in-depth turn-based strategy game ruined by its RTS battles, which seems lazy and rushed in comparison. The addition of LAN and the ability to play against friends via e-mail does improve the enjoyment though.
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-rushing your opponent over and over again.
Summary: As with most expansion packs, Supernova sets out to give you more of the same, and it accomplishes that in bucket loads, which is impressive considering it already was a pretty big game. For fans this is worth investing in. If only the combat could have been fixed... 7/10


Section 8: Prejudice
Available now on Xbox Live (1200 MS Points)

Section 8: Prejudice is a first person shooter of the Halo variety, from its science-fictiony futuristic setting even down as far as the inclusion of jetpacks (which did make it into the first game, but were generally done as well in Halo Reach).

The game looks fantastic, with really detailed colourful landscapes and rich, lush scenery. The gameplay is a solid first-person shooter, with a 5-hour campaign (quite large for an Arcade game, and only just less than Homefront) and up to 32-player multiplayer. There’s certainly value for money in this game, particularly when you consider that Call of Duty: Black Ops will only give you a few maps for the same price with their add-ons. The guns and gadgets work well in the game as well, with only minor niggles on the use of tools and grenades among the small problems I had.

The only problem I found with it from playing the trial is that the gameplay can be a little repetitive, and the controls on the zoom can also be occasionally fiddly. Well worth picking up if shooters are your bag, though.
Fancy Pants Adventures
EA/Over The Top Games
Available now on Xbox Live (800 MS Points), PSN (£7.99)

Fancy Pants Adventures is a side-scrolling platform game in the vein of Sonic The Hedgehog mixed with Prince of Persia. The game sees you, as Fancy Pants, running around colourful hand-drawn landscapes completing quests to save your sister from pirates who have kidnapped her in order to train her up as their new captain.

The game’s style is like Marmite: you will either love it or hate it. I liked it personally, as the game looks really nice in motion and has a unique styling to it. The music, however, was a sticking point for me, and it grated after a while. The gameplay is enjoyable enough, but the controls are fiddly at times, with the game not registering the occasional jump which can cause problems during fast-moving precision sections or boss fights.

This one’s not something I would personally pick up, but if you’re after a game that’s fast-paced, with a unique style and some decent challenge (as well as up to 4 player multiplayer), you could do a lot worse than Fancy Pants Adventures.


Steven Seagal (Under Siege, Machete) stars as Elijah Kane, the head of a crack undercover police unit ridding the Seattle streets of its deadly criminals.

Kane and his team are in a race against the clock to bring to justice the coldblooded gang who is behind the lethal drug that is raising the body count of young people in city. To make matters worse, Kane's unit is ordered to protect a filmmaker who's set on exposing the city's most dangerous city slums at any cost... Even if it means risking the lives of Kane's hard-knock team.

Thanks to our friends at Optimum Home Entertainment, we've got three copies of Street Wars to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Thursday 28th April, making sure to put "Street Wars" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

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

Street Wars is available from Monday 25th April, priced £15.99 (DVD) and £19.99 (Blu-ray).

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

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