Thursday, 30 June 2011

Gaming Reviews

Child of Eden
Q? Entertainment/Ubisoft
Available now on Xbox 360 (w/ Kinect support), Coming 16/09/11 for Playstation 3 (w/ Move support
Review by Rob Wade

Child of Eden thrusts the player into the center of a battle to save Project Lumi, a mission to reproduce a human personality inside Eden, the archive of all human memories. As the project nears completion, the archive is invaded by an unknown virus. The player's mission is to save Eden from the virus, restoring hope and peace.

Child of Eden plays unlike anything most people will have seen before, unless they’ve played a game like Rez. Those who haven’t, and hear the words ‘rhythm action game’, might be a little confused by it all. Players shoot targets on the screen to upbeat techno music. The bit that sets it apart from other shooters, though, is that the hits you make improve your score if they’re in time with the music, and indeed you’ll hear the snare fills and drum patterns as you play. Essentially, imagine if those metal guitar riffs hit in Call of Duty as you pulled off a headshot and you’re sort of along the right path. As a gameplay mechanic, it’s simultaneously thoroughly entertaining while at the same time incredibly difficult to put into words. Thankfully, Ubisoft made a trailer which helps.

The gameplay is done using one of two control methods. Either by using a traditional controller, or using the motion control capability of Kinect. players can move their cursor around the screen, in the case of the controller with buttons, or with Kinect by either using the left hand as a rapid-fire weapon which is less powerful, or by selecting multiple targets and then flicking the wrist pushing your right hand forwards. It’s a very intuitive control mechanism and it works really well, though there are occasionally issues when switching between hands with Kinect, which makes the cursor go a bit crazy.

Make no mistake, though. As a controller game, Child of Eden is playable and enjoyable enough, but all the time I was playing on a controller it felt like I was missing out. Kinect is so well integrated into this experience that it feels like the only way to play. It makes the game more enjoyable, it got me off the sofa to play, and I felt more immersed in the experience. If that’s not the point of Kinect, then why the fuck do I have one?

The music, too, is awesome. I played the levels a couple of times in a row, and at no point did the music get on my tits, and I’m not usually a fan of this style in the absolute slightest. Maybe it’s feeling like you’re in control of the music, maybe it’s that its effectiveness as ambient music is more subtle than it might appear on first impression. Either way, the music adds to the experience for sure.

See, the difficulty here comes in recommending it based on something you might already like. If you like shooters, but are getting bored of the standard cookie-cutter army model, then this may be worth checking out. If you like a lot of the quirkier stuff that comes out of Japan, then this definitely falls into that category. If you liked Rez, Lumines and stuff like that, then you will love it. Most importantly, if you bought Kinect early on and are looking for a fun game to make use of it, this is it. The Kinect implementation is seamless, and the game is more fun with it. This, in fact, may be the reason you bought that Kinect in the first place, a new gaming experience that a controller just can’t do in the same way.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: An absolutely stunning, fluid experience which looks amazing in motion.
Sound/Music: Techno music usually isn’t my bag, but I had fun with it when it was in-game and I felt in control. Go figure.
Gameplay: Kinect is the best way to play this, but it’s still a fun game without. At least with the controller, the game doesn’t get your hands confused occasionally. Ideally not, anyway.
Lasting Appeal: Plenty of levels, and potentially two ways to play each level (assuming you have Kinect).
Summary: A truly original game, and an absolutely engaging experience from start to finish. Bought a Kinect, but don’t have any games for it yet? Get this. You will thank me. 8/10

Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent
Telltale Games
Available now on PC, Playstation Network (Version Tested)
Review by Rob Wade

Nelson Tethers is a Puzzle Agent, often considered the lowliest of all the agencies at the FBI (it's even last on the building list). However, when an industrial accident shuts down the eraser factory in the town of Scoggins, Wisconsin, it's up to Tethers to figure out the cause of the accident the only way he knows how: solving puzzles.

The game is based on the art style of Graham Annable, a well known figure in the realm of geekery whom, I have to confess, I had previously not heard of. His is the art style used here, which suits a game of this type really well. One thing, however, that makes the game look really cheaply made (which I can tell you is not the case) is that when the action zooms in on a character or anything like that, the edges of the black lines blur and look oily. When the action pans out, the art style looks great, but at close range it looks like it's being looked at through a Vaseline-covered lens, which makes it look a bit shonky.

Gameplay-wise, the game is a good formula. A mix of Professor Layton (who, as loyal E14ies know, I'm quite the fan of) and a point and click adventure, it's a wonder that this game hasn't made it to Nintendo DS. It's also arguably an error, as the controller use on PS3 makes the game almost unplayable at times.

It's a shame, too, as for the most part the controls are quite intuitive. Selection is done with the X button, but you bring up the hotspot menu with R1. The problem comes when any puzzle pieces are on a diagonal plane to the ones next to them, as it becomes as difficult as it can possibly be to get the puzzle piece highlighted. This is particularly annoying on one particular puzzle, which involves the assembly of a gear from a fuckton of small pieces. I almost tore my hair out, a gesture which will only be worth less and less as I get older.

The puzzles, at times, leave a lot to be desired. At one point, I was required to find a "hidden number", but the puzzle was so obvious that they might as well have written the number "9" on the screen. Another one had me re-arranging pictures, but I was able to submit it without changing a picture. They'd already been put out in the right order on the page. There's other little things, like the "How?" section at the end of a puzzle not always, there's the issue that the in-game hint system ranges between shockingly vague and so much information that you can solve the puzzle too easily, and little things like that.

It would be easy to assume, therefore, that I hate this game. Nothing could be further from the truth. When the puzzles work, they work extremely well, and have you reaching for a notebook and pen in order to answer the questions as efficiently as possible. The story is compelling, the characters are rich and larger-than-life in a good way, making the game pretty funny generally. More refreshingly, especially after reviewing Hector a while back, the voice acting on this game is considerably superior to that of Hector.

Ultimately, the game is a great one if you really like your puzzles, and you like games to have a decent sense of humour. However, if you have the option to pick it up on PC or PSN, definitely pick it up on PC. A sequel is currently in the works, so hopefully they'll be revising the control method, or at least giving you proper analog control rather than the system that's currently in place. However, if you really like puzzles, the PSN version is good enough that you should try to get past the controls and enjoy the game, because there is plenty there to enjoy.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: A nice art style which is unfortunately let down a bit close-up.
Sound/Music: Brilliant, atmospheric music and sound effects.
Gameplay: A mix of great and alright puzzles, but the controller does not translate as well as one might hope.
Lasting Appeal: You might play it through twice but there's unlikely to be much more depth to it than two plays.
Summary: A good game, which falls short of greatness thanks to some awful controls. 7/10


A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children", an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience.

As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here - one of whom was his own grandfather - were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow - impossible though it seems - they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Thanks to our friends at Quirk Books, we've got two copies of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Thursday 7th July, making sure to put "Miss Peregrine" as the subject. The first two entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

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

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is out now, courtesy of Quirk Books.

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

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