Category Archives: Xbox One Reviews

Sparkle 2 review

Remember those happy days in the playground playing marbles, making sure every shot counted, with the goal of staying alive and being champion, well welcome to Sparkle 2.

You’re welcomed to the game with what can only be described as a bright colourful splash screen and music that could have come straight out of a Disney movie. A swift hit of the A button whisks you into the story because as we know, all good games need a story and sparkle 2 is no exception. A warm voice explains about five keys that have been scattered to the wind and as of yet no one has discovered them. It’s up to you to accept the challenge to try and find them on the promise of once they have been found they will unlock something valuable (their words not mine). So armed with my eagerness for riches and fortune I jump into the game having first checked down the sofa as that’s where my keys normally are, and with the help of the happy-go-lucky musical score written by Jonathan Geer, I enter the world of Sparkle 2.

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Sparkle 2 is the sequel to last year’s hit Sparkle Unleashed by 10tons Studio. The game follows on from the original concept where you have to protect one or more holes from an ever increasing snake of bright and colourful marbles. As the marbles move down the path, armed with you own personal marble slinger (controlled by the left thumstick), fire your own marbles (button A) into them. Creating a chain of three or more marbles of the same colour makes them explode and disappear with the aim to remove all marbles before they drop down the hole(s).

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The first few levels are easy, letting you get used to the game and even taking you through a basic tutorial. Then the pressure starts to pile up with multiple marble paths to defend and faster marbles being deployed. This makes you have to think quick on your feet and just like being back in the playground, make every shot count as this game in the later stages doesn’t forgive easily.

Luckily you have help on your side in the form of Power Ups like push back, which does what it says on the tin and firestorm, a little power up that destroys a large number of marbles before you’ve had a chance to blink. These are useful but at the same time you need to plan on when to use them and sometimes there’s just not an option with the ever-increasing march of marbles. Along with the power ups you collect as you progress through the levels you also unlock enchantments. These are abilities that you can attach to your marble slinger to alter how it works. A useful one that’s unlocked early is the Speed Boost, allowing you to fire faster or Tranquility, which makes the game easier but the side effect is that the level takes longer to complete.

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As you play through all 90 levels (yes 90) you work your way through a colourful story map aiming for specific landmarks that hold one of the magical five keys (or not) all narrated by the mystical voice. The cut scenes are limited but beautifully drawn with the minimal amount of animation to keep your interest in your journey and with the music score setting the scene. I do have to admit after a while the grind does get a little, been there, done that but for some reason the music spurs you on and there is that little voice in your head saying just one more go. I honestly don’t know what they have put in Sparkle 2 but it works and it works well. At one point I thought I had only played for about half an hour to find I had actually been playing for nearly two hours!

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Now I won’t tell you what happens when you collect all the keys – that’s for you to find out – but trust me it’s definitely up there in the moments I won’t forget.

Backing up the story mode there are three other options: Survival, Challenge and Cataclysm. Survival as it sounds is where you just have to survive the ongoing onslaught of marbles on one of 32 levels. Challenge is 24 levels of three varying difficulties and the challenge is to complete them all. Finally Cataclysm is total carnage over 20 stages of extended levels. This is the true test for a Sparkle champion.

Sparkle 2 has no multiplayer option but I don’t think it needs one. The game is simple, stunning but unforgiving and will keep you amused for hours even if you aren’t really sure why. This is the sort of game that anyone in your family can walk by and just pick up and play and for only £6.39 you would be mad to pass this by even if you own Sparkle Unleashed or another puzzle shooter equivalent.

Thanks to Xbox and 10tons for their support

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Oxenfree review

Oxenfree had me intrigued at the beginning, hooked after an hour and left me with a big smile on face as the credits began to roll.

The game is a relatively short one, my first playthrough was around 6 hours, but I’ll be going back to play again as I have some unfinished business. Oxenfree is essentially a ‘Walking Simulator’ with puzzles for you to solve as you go through the game, these are never particularly challenging but it’s the conversations that are that consume this game.

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You play Alex, a blue-haired teenager travelling with her best friend Ren and her new step-brother, Jonas to Edwards Island to meet some school friends for a beach party. Seems like ordinary things teenagers do, but as they arrive it turns out the ‘party’ is more of a gathering, at this point we meet Nona, Ren’s latest crush, and Clarissa, the local queen bee. After attempting to play a game of ‘Truth or Slap’ everyone decides it’s a bit rubbish, so Jonas, Ren and Alex decide to go and explore the caves instead, what could go wrong?

It’s at this point where things begin to get weird, Alex inadvertently opens a rift in the caves using a radio signal and all of sudden things aren’t what they seem. The next 4-5 hours will see you walking and talking your way around the island, trying your best to find out what is actually happening as well as awkwardly trying to get to know your Step-Brother. Oxenfree’s strength is in its conversations, the voice acting is superb despite the fact it’s adults trying their best to sound like teenagers. Each conversation has multiple branches for you to select, with only have a small amount of time to respond, before your options fade away. Sometimes you make a choice and Alex cuts whoever is talking off. Thankfully this isn’t something that happens too often and you are able to have some great conversation. Depending on how you react to certain conversations can determine which characters you’ll spend time with, I spent most of time with Jonas, as I was intrigued by the relationship between Alex and Jonas, but I also spent time with Nona, based on my reaction to one section of the game, where Jonas just annoyed me.

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As you move around the island, the different characters all suffer thanks to the rift and it’s up to Alex to make things better with her trusty radio, by moving through the frequencies on the radio she is able to regain control of the situation, temporarily at least. The are lots of moments where time resets and you see to get stuck, but there are subtle little changes to the environment each time it resets, again its the radio that comes to your rescue. It’s interesting watching your characters react to each situation, it might not feel like it but it does make a difference to how your friends react to you. No game is complete with out collectables, but Oxenfree manages to the hit the middle ground with how many there are. If I had spent more time exploring I would have found everything first time round, but I’m not one for collectables these days.

The game has a wonderful art style to it, with great use of colour and beautifully drawn environments and characters, topped off with an epic soundtrack that seems to be perfect in every situation during the game. Oxenfree does suffer from some weird crashes, mainly as you enter a new section of the game just after a save, so at least you never lose any progress.

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Oxenfree is already my favourite title of 2016, it had me hooked within the first 30 minutes, but it won’t be for everyone. Below is the first 30 minutes of the game, to see what you think if you aren’t sure.

Thanks to Xbox for their support

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Albedo Eyes from Outer Space review

Z4GO is the man behind the reins of the latest Sci-fi thriller to hit Xbox One. Taking inspiration from 60s Sci-fi, Albedo Eyes from Outer Space is a peculiar game with some odd design direction but is enough of a challenge to hold your attention for around six hours.

You play as beer loving night watchman, John T. Longy, who after settling down with his favourite beverage finds himself in the basement after a loud explosion rings through the Jupiter scientific research laboratory. John must find out why and how he ended up in the basement by navigating a series of ‘escape’ rooms of varying degrees of cryptic puzzles, unfortunately the dark (and ugly) graphics makes his quest that much harder.

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First impressions are everything and the basement is not the best place to start. The UX is clunky and interacting with the environment and the many objects you’ve collected isn’t very intuitive. This is topped off with a lack of accessible game options to tweak colour and brightness settings – you must exit to the main menu to tweak those – and there are no options for inverted controls either so it’s a good job you can do this via the Xbox Accessories app.

John’s inner monologue ‘helps’ as you search shelves and hidden areas for clues or useful objects, but with repetitive mumblings this became annoying rather than helpful. Often objects that seem useless need to be combined with something else that you’ve collected, and prove to be an essential part to a puzzle. Some items are needed much later in the game, fine if you like to collect and hoard as much as me, but frustrating if you missed something from an earlier room. Some things you collect can even be broken down into composite parts – it really reminded me of my recent escape room experience – and for that I really enjoyed the puzzles of Albedo, which also include several mini games like connecting a circuit, picking a lock or cracking a combination lock.

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If you want to nab a healthy achievement score you have to fully explore each room, thinking outside the box and experimenting with the room objects if you want to hit 1,000GS. Some of the achievements are genius and guaranteed to give a few chuckles.

In true 60s Sci-fi form, the aliens are weird, and not nearly threatening enough. The FPS mechanics are nowhere near up to par so I’m glad that combat wasn’t at the centre of Albedo’s gameplay. I would have preferred these situations to focus on puzzles instead of wading in arms flailing or fumbling with a screwdriver, broken bottle (or later) a shotgun to kill the aliens attacking you. Thankfully these moments are few and far between.

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Albedo concludes rather neatly, that is if you can keep up with the story, which is a little messy in its storytelling. Quite frankly, it’s as shoddy as some of the 60s Sci-fi I have read and although it may have been influenced by this time period, Albedo needs a heavy dose of modernising.

Albedo is an odd game with an ending to boot. The excellent puzzle escape room vibe is marred by some shoddy UX, dubious graphical presentation and some FPS combat that may as well have been plucked from a mobile FPS game. The achievements are genius, but there’s little else to rave about the Eyeballs from Outer Space!

Thanks to Xbox for their support

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Rebel Galaxy review

Rebel Galaxy has a lot of personality. There’s character behind its art style; an aesthetic that’s visually pleasing, impressive, vibrant, and not at all based on reality. And indeed it’s this character that’s present throughout this open-world space exploration title that makes it so engaging and unique, allowing it to stand toe to toe with the likes of Elite Dangerous because it offers something different within the same space.

Rebel Galaxy is an arcade version of the open-world space genre. You start with a basic ship and set out doing practically whatever you want: mining, pirating, mercenary work, trading, whatever takes your fancy. But in addition to this open-world universe you can explore and exploit, is a story that sees you hunt down a lost relative before being hunted down yourself for the artefact you harbour. Switching between the story and the many choices of side-professions on offer gives you an experience that’s never dull or static, with plenty to do and intriguing things to discover.

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It’s a terrific mix of linear storytelling and open-world choices that allows you to play at your own pace. Certain mechanics are kept back until you progress further in the story, so eventually you have to progress within it, but you can typically do a story mission or two and then return to your altruistic or nefarious space business.

Whatever you decide to do you’ll be doing it within a brightly coloured and vibrant version of space. Nebulas are bountiful, and stars and planets glow a myriad of different colours; there’s hardly any black to be seen and it’s a wondrous visual treat. Meanwhile, as you hail fellow pilots or converse with aliens and humans alike in bars on space stations, you’ll witness exaggerated and unique individuals with a similar aesthetic to Star Craft that’s sure to impress and occasionally put a smile on your face as you accept jobs from them, make trades, or threaten to steal their entire cargo.

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Whether you’re planning on peaceful trading or aggressive pirating you’ll inevitable have to fight off the odd reprobate, and combat is a delightful dance in the stars. Rebel Galaxy’s combat is naval based, with heavy broadside weapons and lighter point-defence turrets elsewhere. You’ll constantly need to manoeuvre to line up shots and dodge incoming fire and it’s a thrilling and entertaining experience. Larger ships move more slowly and pack a heavy punch forcing you to line up your broadside shots as accurately as possible to do as much damage as you can or even to target specific systems. Meanwhile shields will need tearing down, a perfect job for your smaller turrets, when you’re not using them with a lock-on reticule to shoot down the smaller crafts wiping through the wild black. And finally, a salvo of missiles can turn the tide of most battles, unless smart use of the limited deflector shield nullifies their damage. It’s spectacularly involved and action packed yet supremely easy to perform.

Dodging incoming fire and manoeuvring to line up shots is only half the challenge, however, often you’re surrounded by enemies and are better off fleeing or trying to separate the smaller ships from the large ones so you can pick them off more easily. Furthermore asteroid belts are numerous and popular battlegrounds, challenging you to dodge crashing into them as you fight. Using them as cover is particularly effective, and forcing enemies to engage you within these cluttered fields can often result in them bumping into a few. Wonderfully these asteroids can be destroyed as well, making the battlefield dynamic and interesting.

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Space, however, is a big place, and your warp drive and sub-light engines, even when upgraded to ridiculous speeds, still must contend with large expanses of space to fly through. It’s how it’s supposed to be up there amongst the stars, but the travel time can put the brakes on the pacing a little too hard. Rebel Galaxy is otherwise exceptionally fun and varied. Missions may appear similar to each other on the surface but once you go about completing them they often take a few twists and turns. Moreover, even a simple combat engagement can play out in a myriad of different ways. Add to this a brilliant Southern rock soundtrack and your space cowboy, Firefly fantasies can be realised with Rebel Galaxy.

Thanks to Xbox and Double Damage Games Inc. for their support

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G Prime: Into the Rain review

Usually when you start a new game, you have a bit of an idea on what it could be about and what type of experience you’ll have when you start playing it. With G Prime: Into the Rain, I was confused from the outset. Described by the developers, Soma Games, as a ‘Steampunk Slingshot Puzzler set in space’, the only thing I knew at this point was that my limited puzzler skill-set would be called upon and tested. Time to get frustrated in space, I thought.

Through the first cinematic you find out that the people of the planet Ptah have noticed that a dark mass has steadily grown in the night’s sky. As it’s grew in size they also noticed that it was heading straight for them. Now, rather than running to the hills in fear, as any normal sane person would, the corporations and nations of Ptah thought they’d do the opposite and indeed send forth spaceships to investigate the growing anomaly. It’s at this point that the very brave citizens of Ptah start calling the black thing in the sky ‘The Rain’. I have no idea why… and from what I have played of the game, neither do they.

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It so happens that when these spaceships reach The Rain they find that huge amounts of profitable resources within. Hence starts a mass event; countless fleets of explorers are sent from these large corporations to pillage The Rain for everything it’s got. You are one of these explorers. And your ‘adventure’ is about to begin.

Your first task is to choose the corporation you work for and then understand your surroundings within your ship. Choosing your corporation isn’t fruitful and the only different I saw between them was their company logo. I went for what shape caught my eye best. From that you move onto a very simple game hub which with four monitors that you can highlight to access  settings panels to twiddle with. It’s then completely left up to you to explore and find out what each screens holds.

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You are then launched (pun intended) into the first of the seven sectors you will be hopefully mining all those delicious resources from. To do this mining you fire rockets from your spaceship and have them connect or ‘ping’ as close as possible to the various and multiple target resources on the screen. Sounds simple? It isn’t. You must use your understanding of gravitational pull to hit these targets without colliding into obstacles that are in the way. Each of these obstacles have their own gravitational field, and here lies the puzzle element: successful navigate around the obstacles whilst collecting all the resources, using as little rockets as possible as they cost in-game currency. Your aim is to slingshot your way to ultimate victory by shooting that one rocket that hits all resources in one go, and doing so is a truly rewarding feeling. Selecting your rocket’s path is done by moving a dial around, think the icon in Pop Cap’s Peggle. Choose the trajectory and you will see the rocket’s projected path. Once happy with the path you simply fire your rocket, and it’s away.

So far, so good I here you say. Well, yes and no. The challenge of judging the trajectory of your rockets is fun but then, unfortunately this game starts to let you down . As I suggested previously, G Prime doesn’t hold your hand. I spent almost an hour still in the first sector, which is the tutorial sector. Which, by the law of the universe, should be where players are tutored into knowing all the tricks that would be needed to succeed. It isn’t. I stumbled upon the fact that you have a certain amount of fuel in your rockets, allowing you to alter your course. It was also through accident that I happened upon further options for the trajectory for your rocket – pressing the bumper buttons allows you to add more speed to the rockets launch and so on.

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There’s more than in-game obstacles to contend with, the camera angle is another barrier to your fun and rocket accuracy. When the rocket is in flight it’s horrendous. The screen automatically zooms from a map view of the spaceship, obstacles and resources to a zoomed in side-on angle of the rocket. You will find yourself frantically rotating the right analogue stick hoping to get a better view of the resources you’re aiming for, and the various obstacles you are desperate to avoid. Timing this and using the fuel within your rocket to avoid wasting more rockets is, again, a rewarding but ultimately frustrating challenge that had me fuming at times. Yet the rewarding feeling of completing a section to move on to the next within a sector is what people play puzzle games for.

I’d certainly advise anyone thinking of picking up G Prime to read the in-game manuals. There is a ton of information about the corporation’s histories, the planets and solar systems and an actual guide on how to use the rockets. However, even with adequate knowledge on how to play effectively the awkward camera, limited mechanics and repetitive experience won’t hold your attention for too long.

Thanks to Xbox and Soma Games for their support

Written by Neale Jarratt

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Gemini: Heroes Reborn review

Set in the Heroes universe, Gemini Heroes Reborn puts you in the shoes of a young girl named Cassandra. The story begins with but a mere thread of a storyline – breaking into a dilapidated underground facility, Cassandra is looking for answers to her past but when her best friend is taken captive. A power to control the very fabric of time and space awakens inside of her.

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With these Evo abilities Cassandra can slow time, freeze bullets in the air Matrix style, manipulate objects (and people) with telekinesis, and my favourite, time travel. Jumping between 2014 and 2008, you can sneak past enemies or bypass navigational hazards – a pile of rubble in 2014 could have been a door in 2008 – and by combining this ability with the time sneak power, you can see what you’re jumping into. Bumping into an enemy or falling into a chasm isn’t a problem if you look before you leap.

Combining abilities is where the fun is to be had. Unfortunately, Gemini shows its hand quickly after a somewhat slow start and once you get over the initial thrill of using Cassandra’s powers, there isn’t much more to the game’s mechanics – the initial joyous thrill of freezing bullets or throwing objects across a room to take down a guard, sinks to a monotone rinse and repeat to get past the various ‘puzzles’ and enemy patrols, with Cassandra barely pausing to consider that she just ended a guard’s life by throwing his body into a spinning fan.

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With predictable story twists there’s little to hold your attention either. The graphics are dated and textures failed to load on numerous occasions – it all feels very unfinished, which is a real shame. There’s a lot of fun to be had, even if the game does seem like a lite version of upcoming Xbox One exclusive Quantum Break.

Navigating around, under and over the many traversal puzzles and obstacles is reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge without the flair (and challenge) of Faith’s Parkour skill set, and instead of offering challenging enemy types, each foe is but a mere hindrance – it doesn’t help when enemies glitch into walls or just stand around waiting for you to knock them senseless with a filing cabinet. Enemies also randomly disappear, particularly when you grab them with telekinesis and transport them from one time zone to another – handy right? Not if they are holding a key to a locked door!

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With a little spit and polish, and if more thought had gone into the navigational puzzles – forcing you to use Cassandra’s powers to better effect – Gemini Heroes Reborn could have been a superb title; instead it’s a great distraction for an evening.

Thanks to Xbox and HighWater Group for their support

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Unepic review

Daniel is having a bad day. A very bad day. One minute he was with his friends drinking beer and playing Dungeons & Dragons, (albeit badly), and the next moment, while relieving himself in the toilet, he has been transported from his world to the castle of Harnakon. Groping his way forward using only the radiance of his lighter, he soon encounters a guardian of the castle, Zerathul, who becomes trapped within Daniel when he tries to possess what Zerathul presumes to be just another interloper in his masters kingdom. Lost in a strange fantasy style world, you must guide Daniel through the castle in a bid to return to his real life.

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UnEpic is an action-RPG at its core, built within a 2D platforming world. Defeating enemies generates experience and random drops of items, gold or weapons with which to improve and upgrade your character under a streamlined RPG skill tree. This is broken down into weapon, and later magic, proficiencies, armour, health and potions, each of which improves the potency of their specific focus. Points are awarded each time you level up and can be spent up to and including your current level.

The castle itself is extensive from the dark creepy Catacombs, fetid infested sewers, undead filled libraries and the infested gardens, all are unique areas you must unlock through completing quests and overcoming other guardians hosted within the depths of the stronghold. Within each of these areas you will also find pure spirits, otherworldly entities of immense power that can grant you the knowledge of magic and even heal your wounds, should you pay proper respect to them.

Combat is extremely straightforward and precise in its execution. Each weapon speciality has varying reach extending from the close quarters dagger, through the sword, axe and pole-arm, to the extensive range of the bow and magic wands. When fighting with ranged attacks, the right trigger snaps to a nearby enemy and each successive press alternates your target while the left trigger performs a standard attack. To aid you in battle you have spells that can be learned, weapons and armour that bolsters your attacks and defence, and pets that can assist you in battle. These pets, earned through side quests within the castle help by freezing, setting aflame or even neutralising foes altogether.

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All weapons, potions, spells and pets can be assigned to the substantial quick slot inventory system utilising the bumper and face buttons and can be used instantaneously during battle.

While maintaining several platforming and RPG staples, UnEpic does introduce some interesting mechanics into the game, the most amusing of which occurring during excursion into the sewers. Within, warning signs tell of leaches in the water, but a particular set of quests challenge you to venture within the turgid waters beneath the castle. After doing so I noticed a draining effect but no poison listed on my status. Upon entering my inventory I found numerous leeches had attached themselves to me and were happily draining my life. I felt a great deal of satisfaction at hearing their distinct squelches as I popped each from existence.

UnEpic has a very particular sense of humour, and focuses heavily on references from all forms of entertainment, from television, films and even other video games. As such, the humour can wane sometimes, but the interactions and observations from your incorporeal ‘guest’, Zerathul, who frequently identifies and mocks tropes from other video games never fails to amuse.

With the environment so large, it is easy to get lost, and without a guide I found myself backtracking through the entire area to find the lock that opened new areas upon the defeating of bosses.

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Should the main thrust of the game not be enough, even though it contains a substantial time investment to complete, there are numerous challenges, side quests and collectibles to add to the games longevity. Although not impacting directly on the story, these do serve as sufficient distraction to add several hours on to the longevity UnEpic contains.

For an indy title, crafted by a one man development team, it all feels extremely polished. It’s simple, old school graphics, the accuracy and precision of its platforming and the depth of the roleplaying elements all combine to create a game that is truly enjoyable from first moment to last.

Thanks to Xbox and Francisco Tellez de Meneses for supporting TiX

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Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster review

The Resident Evil series’ evolution towards action hasn’t gone down well with long-time fans who enjoyed the much slower pace and scarier atmosphere of the original titles. Fortunately, however, the Nintendo Gamecube gave rise to the reincarnation of that original design philosophy, as well as the re-emergence of the original Resident Evil, complete with fancy new visuals. Further still, the success of that remake gave birth to a prequel of similar design, Resident Evil Zero, and much like the series titular original Gamecube remake, Zero has also received the HD treatment to resurface all these years later on the Xbox One. And once again, just like Resident Evil HD, Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster is fantastic.

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Resident Evil Zero, like its HD remake predecessor, has its sights firmly on fans of the early Resident Evil titles. This is a puzzle game foremost, one with a superbly creepy atmosphere and oodles of backtracking. As such its slow pace and often illogical puzzle sequences aren’t going to appeal to the wider audience. However, this is what series fans fell in love with back in the days of yore, and Zero’s return to that kind of Resident Evil experience is wonderfully in sync with the original. It is, however, not scary in the slightest, the monsters look gruesome and are dangerous enough to send you to a game over screen swiftly; meanwhile the fixed camera angles make moving around the gothic architecture all the more tense, but it lacks that scare factor of the more successful modern horror titles such as Outcast and Alien Isolation.

Instead Resident Evil Zero is creepy and intriguing, which is particularly well suited to puzzle solving. Enemies are more a puzzle to figure out than a terrifying presence, and juggling inventory management, ammo conservation, and actually figuring out the puzzles to make progress is interesting and rewarding. In fact Zero’s companion system and item management is significantly improved over the previous title, and arguably better than any in the series. Items can now be put down, wherever, allowing you to pick up what you need currently and temporarily discard anything else without having to hunt down a box to put them in. It makes inventory management far less frustrating, and yet your inventory is small enough still to keep managing it a challenge.

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Resident Evil Zero also introduces a permanent companion, with convict Billy joining protagonist S.T.A.R.S rookie Rebecca throughout the adventure. This allows for inventory sharing and new two-person puzzles which all works extremely well without compromising the eerie, solitary experience. This is achieved by often having the two separated by a locked lock or other obstacle, meaning each need to perform their own independent searches and actions to aid the other who is just out of reach. It’s a great way to make the predictable Resident Evil puzzles fresh again, and thanks to a practically instant switch between the characters at the press of a button, it controls and performs smoothly.

There is, however, a pretty significant barrier to the enjoyment Resident Evil Zero ultimately provides: the storytelling and dialogue are appalling. Of course, Resident Evil aficionados know what to expect, especially of an older title like this, but even fans are likely to find their nostalgia damaged slightly on hearing the first few line of dialogue and the first hour or so of story. It’s badly written and poorly setup, however, there’s still that spark of corny, B-movie charm that does enough to keep you playing until the end.

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Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster has been enhanced with a new control system that feels far more responsive than the original system, and makes movement and combat very intuitive and flowing. However, for diehard fans of the original system you can opt for that in the options. The same goes for the aspect ratio, which can be played widescreen or the original 4:3. Audio and visual enhancements are much in line with the HD remastering of the previous title, with the textures seeing an upgrade and the harder edges smoothed out, with the stand out improvement being the lighting, which looks spectacular. Monsters also steal the show, looking wonderfully gruesome.

Indeed, Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster improves on a classic in precisely the right way to make it feel at home on the Xbox One. They simply don’t make horror titles like this anymore, largely because they aren’t scary in this form, but they still hold the ability to entertain with their puzzles and fascinatingly mutated monsters. It take a bit of perseverance in the beginning to get over the terrible voice acting and the lines they spit out, and the story isn’t great on its own merit, however, as part of the larger Resident Evil narrative it’s an important chapter that’s highly enjoyable to play.

Thanks to Xbox and Capcom for their support.

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Hyper Void review

The humble shoot ‘em up has been a mainstay of the gaming catalogue since gaming was conceived. If you haven’t played a shoot ‘em up, then you’ve either only just picked up a controller, or you’ve been living under a rock for the last 30 years. There have been some graphically amazing shooters over those years, and some that have presented their wares alongside a well-balanced difficulty curve. Will In Framez’s new 3D shooter, Hyper Void match those heady heights?

During the lead-up to Hyper Void’s release, I couldn’t help but make initial comparisons with a game that came out in the very early ‘80s on the Atari called Tempest. The premise of both games is pretty much the same. Shoot the enemies. Survive as long as you can. Make as much progress towards the final showdown and get a high score massive enough to impress your mates.

Hyper Void has the basics of the classics down well. There are plenty of enemies to destroy across the 25-odd levels of frantic action. Where it differs slightly from the more traditional shooters is that the majority of the destruction takes place in wormholes. This is usually the bit in-between the action, so it’s kind of nice to get a view of the shenanigans that would happen en-route to what would be the next main level.

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The level layouts in Hyper Void are all fairly similar. Your well-drawn ship skirts along the edge of the warp tunnel you’re travelling through and the enemy waves come at you from the other end of that warp tunnel. You shoot these enemies with one of three weapons. This is where the developers have introduced a little twist on the standard shooter game. In normal shooters you can pretty much mash the fire button, spitting out death until your foes are gone. In Hyper Void each of your three weapons have to be recharged periodically, meaning that you can’t rely on firing one weapon type all the time.

The weapons are varied. The green lasers are powerful but have a slow fire rate, the red have a more rapid fire and the streaming laser fires a powerful stream of electric towards the enemy. Along the way you can pick up power-ups that augment your offensive or defensive capabilities. One of these is a handy overcharge-type power-up that sees all of your weapons fire for a pre-determined amount of time.

You can also find damage repair and shield recharge power-ups as well as hidden messages and special orbs. Get enough points at the end of the level and you could unlock the Hyper mode of that sector which offers a little more in the way of speed and enemies.

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The graphics in Hyper Void are very well-defined. Full use of high-definition features have been implemented and your ship looks good. The enemies float along well, although these appear to all look very similar. There’s not a great deal of variation in the style and movement in the alien apparitions. There are some nice touches with level variation here though. In one level, a comet smashes into a planet and you’re left with the task of trying to avoid the resulting asteroids without smashing into one and having to start that section again.

Therein lies some of the problem with Hyper Void. There’s a distinct lack of save points within the sub-levels of the game. Each effort gives you one life to try that wormhole and if you die, it’s back to the start of that section and you’re facing all of the issues and dangers you’ve tried before. This is particularly irritating when facing mid-level boss orbs. These tend to uncloak within a wormhole, whizz past at a remarkable speed, whizz back again in a random way then disappear. Rinse and repeat until destroyed. Whether that’s them or you depends on your skills with weapon and dash.

Dash? What’s that? If you need to move out-of-the-way in a hurry, without taking damage from enemy ship or projectile, you can tap the left or right trigger and your ship will zip left or right. This will either take you valiantly out of danger, or stupidly into more danger depending on your reflexes. This, like the weapon system, has a short recharge before it can be used again. Like the classic Tempest, your ship can skirt the circumference of the wormhole tunnel. This is made even more of an effort with the knowledge that as you near the top of the wormhole the controls swap, so where you think you might travel all the way around by whacking your stick left, you end up stuck near the top in the 11 or 1 o’clock position while you figure out what’s going on.

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To confuse matters even more some levels introduce viruses into your ship’s systems. These will do various debilitating things to your trusty vessel, like disabling the weapons system or reversing the controls. Movement quirks aside, the game plays fluidly and the developers have managed to get the ship to glide across your screen, avoiding the enemies you’ve contrived to show mercy on or to avoid the predictable shot patterns of those that sacrifice themselves to try to stop you from achieving your goal.

And there is a goal with Hyper Void, although if I’m completely honest, I will struggle to tell you what the story involves. There are hints of it with the messages that you can collect at sparse points within the game, but in reality, reading these don’t really make much sense.

Hyper Void isn’t a bad game to pick up and play though, despite this apparent lack of story. The game isn’t overly long and can be immensely frustrating at times with the lack of checkpoints. The graphics are stunning and the ship simply glides around the screen with ease. The control issues do spoil the game a little but it’s by no means a deal-breaker. Audio-wise, the music beeps and twangs away while the explosions and laser fire is standard shoot ‘em up fodder.

Pick up Hyper Void if you’re looking for a quick blast by all means, but don’t expect an involved and detailed shooter campaign.

Thanks to Xbox and In Framez for their support.

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Beatsplosion for Kinect Review

I imagine that like me, most of you had a great Christmas. You probably got some great presents (and maybe some socks) and you probably ate and drank way too much. New Year came along and all of a sudden your scales groaned as you stood on them for the first time. At that point a New Years Resolution came along, and you began to look at ways to shift some timber. What do you mean that might be the case for you Moran?

Ok, maybe a little bit, but thanks to Kinect I’ve got a game that will definitely get the blood pumping and some calories shifted.

Beatsplosion for Kinect

If you have ever dreamt of becoming a ninja, in the comfort of your own home then Beatsplosion for Kinect will get you some of the way there. The premise is simple, stand in front of Kinect and bash and swipe at objects as they approach you, while dodging obstacles and trying to score as high as possible. Sounds simple enough, but it isn’t. To get a decent score not only do you actually need to hit and dodge, but time you actions well. It takes some getting used to but after some practice you’ll get quite good, all the while you’ll be working up a sweat! Kinect does a great job of doing what it is supposed to do, work. It tracks your movements accurately and for once didn’t cause me any problems during my time with the game. The UI is simple looking but its easy enough to get around, via Kinect or the controller.

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There are three worlds per belt, which increase in temp as you play through the ranks. It starts at 130 bpm and tops out at 200 bpm when you become a black belt. Each belt has three worlds to complete and once those have been defeated you can either play through a quick play level that will thrown random challenges at you or the ’20 Minute Challenge’ which throws 6 levels at you in a row. It’s a great way to get a dally workout, there is also a handy graph in the top right corner showing you how much you have played, perfect for those who want to register activities on a fitness tracker.

When I was given the review, Rich pointed out to me that the kids would probably love this, and when you see the brightly coloured levels, and the large hands your digital self is given you can see why, but once my boys started to play they quickly lost interest, saying they found it too hard, and that was just the tutorial. To be fair, I struggled to get a good score in the tutorial.

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I played through the game on the easy setting, but there is an expert mode available. I think you have to be an actual Ninja to have any chance of getting through it though. The levels have a hypnotic feel to them, with great use of right colours and a good soundtrack that will help you get the blood pumping, its a perfect game for Kinect users trying to get fit, but I’m not sure how much life there is in it, especially with games like Just Dance that are more forgiving.

Thanks to Virtual Air Guitar Company and Xbox for their support

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