Category Archives: Reviews

Dead Rising: Watchtower review

Film adaptations of videogames seldom work. Whilst the film industry has finally cracked the comic book superhero genre, videogames still elude them. What doesn’t help is the fundamental differences each medium has with storytelling. Film is typically succinct with a philosophy of show don’t tell, meanwhile, videogames are longer paced affairs with a play don’t show philosophy. Therefore, Re-telling a game’s story within a film is very difficult to translate.

This is one aspect of Dead Rising: Watchtower that works particularly well: taking the setting from the games but weaving its own tale within it. In fact Watchtower achieves several noteworthy feats when it comes to creating a film based on a videogame, and although it doesn’t quite come together in the end, it’s a strong attempt that’s well worth watching.

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Dead Rising: Watchtower is set between the second and third Dead Rising games, following the traditional Dead Rising storyline of a location suddenly overrun with zombies while a group of survivors fight to escape. Additionally, concerns over infected humans that need frequent shots of the zombie virus suppressing Zombrex drug plague the cast, along with a military presence that might have their own agenda, and a biker gang enjoying the chaos. All the ingredients are present for precisely the kind of Dead Rising tale you’d expect.

And indeed, Watchtower combines these story threads together impressively to successfully capture the tone and narrative flow of the games. The Zombies are bloodthirsty and look terrific, the survivors are intractable and mysterious, the humour is excellent and silly, cobbled together devices and weapons as well as the desperate usage of everyday items make up the arsenal, and the gore is over-the-top and grotesque. There are even multiple, well placed references to the games, such as weapon combinations, a zombie variant, and even Frank West punctuating the tale through a TV interview. It’s a great homage to the games that stays true to their formulas.

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Moreover, the cast is excellent. The leads, Chase (Jesse Metcalfe) and Crystal (Meghan Ory) are absolutely spot on in comparison to what the games have delivered so far with their lead characters, and their supporting cast is superb with a standout performance from Rob Riggle as Frank West. Watchtower also goes so far as to cast a couple of internet personalities in the form of Epic Meal Time’s Harley Morenstein as a crazed pyro bikers, and Film Riot’s Ryan Connolly as a zombie, which is a terrific way to connect with the target audience on a slightly deeper level. However, despite how well it captures the game, it doesn’t do enough.

The aforementioned problem of long form storytelling condensed to short form creates another victim here, with Watchtower failing to capture enough of what makes the Dead Rising games so popular. Zombie variants and desperate survival against overwhelming numbers is barely present, with only the odd zombie variant beyond your standard, shambling undead and seldom few zombie filled scenes. There is an excellent, one continuous shot, moment that successfully captures the spirit of the games, but once again we needed to see more. Additionally, the game’s main attraction – beyond a screen full of zombies to hack through – is the numerous, crazed pyschos, and whilst the biker gang are good human adversaries they just aren’t crazy enough for Dead Rising.

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The fight choreography also doesn’t quite have the impact or impressiveness as productions such as Arrow or Daredevil, and the occasional switch to shots that look as if they were captured with a GoPro, look completely out-of-place and pull you out of the experience. However, one of the biggest let down is the ending, which, whilst avoiding spoilers, simply doesn’t tie up all loose ends, setting up, it seems, for a sequel that we might not ever see.

Dead Rising: Watchtower has a great set of characters, played by an exceptional cast, has a terrific setting, great use of gore and superb zombie special effects, as well as the right tone and attention to detail to capture the game’s personality. But it needed to go further, with more zombies, more pyschos, more peril, and a more complete story. It’s certainly worth watching if you’re a Dead Rising fan, and you’ll get a kick out of the references and how it stick to cannon so smoothly. Let’s hope there’s a sequel to finish the story and deliver more of what makes the games so great, and one that avoids the GoPro shots.

TiX purchased their own copy of the film for review

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPuK9GtxLM4

No Time to Explain review

In 2011 one of the first majorly successful Kickstarter video game campaigns was released in two parts. 2 years on it was repackaged into a single game and released on STEAM. Unfortunately for tinyBuild GAMES it received a largely negative response due its poor handling, coding and Windows 8 based issue of handling Flash. It seemed like No Time to Explain might vanish without a trace… and with no time to explain, either. Four years since its release in 2011, tinyBuild GAMES has released a remastered version of No Time To Explain for Xbox One. The updated version retains the same zany and humorous premise of the original. A future-version of yourself is kidnapped by a giant crab, leaving behind a jetpack. It is up to you to save your future-self and defeat monsters across alternate timelines. In addition to the fast-paced jetpack platforming of the original, tinyBuild GAMES has worked on a number of new features for No Time to Explains console release. The game now has controller support, four-player local co-op and a new soundtrack.

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No Time To Explain is a simplistic 2D platformer with a movement mechanic that changes every few levels. The most common method is a Jetpack left behind during the opening of the game. Fired in one direction, it pushes the character in another direction. Careful as you go, it will take a little while to master the mechanics. Other movement mechanics introduced as you progress through No Time To Explain include a shotgun blast, a swinging parabolic arc and sticky wall-climbing. Each stage of No Time to Explain has a number of levels which must be mastered using these mechanics before moving onto the end level boss. I’ve missed proper end level bosses.

The challenge to No Time To Explain comes with the issue that each level (which are tiny in size) need to be completed using exact, precise movements. Unfortunately due to the nature of the movement mechanic, exact and precise movements can be difficult to achieve and you may find yourself attempting levels 10+ times later in the game. That said, the games difficulty progression is a little warped with some levels seeming stupidly easy with others near impossible. The end boss fights for me where the highlight – reminiscent of old arcade classics with dodgy AI and poor controls. Although frustrating when attempting to finish the squirrel boss for the umpteenth time, a massive sense of achievement and happiness quickly follows.

The soundtrack is simple and employs a fun 8-bit arcade vibe which immediately takes you back to a simpler time and invites nostalgia. This remastered version of No Time to Explain has moved away from the hand-drawn animation of the original and looks washed out in places, which is partly on purpose. I didn’t experience any lag, tearing or screen freezing during my time with the game.

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Taking a game that was technically flawed and releasing on Xbox One was always going to be a massive challenge for tinyBuild GAMES. They did the best could and to be fair to them, the game is enjoyable and challenging. The movement mechanics are interesting and keep you working hard throughout the levels and the fun 8-bit soundtrack will definitely keep you smiling throughout.

Thanks to Xbox and tinyBuild GAMES for supporting TiX

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Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded review

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So hands up who hasn’t played Minecraft, I’m guessing it’s not many and there is a good reason for that as the endless opportunities and variations that can be setup in the game really caters for anyone and everyone’s tastes. So with such a successful platform there is no wonder many have tried to adapt Mojang’s (developer of Minecraft) ideas and reap some of the rewards for themselves. Now I have to say, a lot have failed and haven’t brought anything new to the table, so when I was asked to review Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded by Exato Game Studios I was a little hesitant about what new angle they could bring that hasn’t been done before.

I could imagine Exato Studios sitting round in a room one day and talking about what they should play, the room is divided, some want Minecraft, others COD or Battlefield and then suddenly Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded was created. In very simple terms it’s Minecraft but with guns, but not only guns, tanks, helicopters you name it, it’s a full on customisable and destructive combat zone.

From the word go I was smiling, the game itself doesn’t take hours to download and you’re up and running very quickly and it’s got so many features you won’t know where to start. The menus are easy to understand, if the writing is a tad small, but then again I was using an old TV as my Xbox 360 has been relocated to my spare room to make way for my Xbox One, but you can still read it. So where to start, the Tutorial.

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The Tutorial offers you a great and detailed introduction into the game, taking you though basic movement and shooting, to driving vehicles, building and the various game modes. Within 15 mins I was confident that I could build, destroy and take on the world. Now I hear what you’re saying, yeah, just skip that and come to the good bit, the shooting.

I was really astounded about how good the gun part of the game was, the controls are responsive, the gunplay is fast, aiming is accurate and all FPS fans would feel really at home with this game. There is the need, like the major titles, to reload when you get 5 seconds ensuring that you always have a full magazine when you face the next onslaught and not get caught out, like I did a few times. The selection of weapons is also a real surprise and covers light to heavy weapons, smg’s to pistols. When you shoot an opponent they even die with style and rather than falling flat they slump to one side in their last death throes and like COD they have also included a progressive leveling system allowing veterans to hit level 550 which is equivalent to prestige level 10 (50 levels per ReCraft Rank and 10 ReCraft Ranks). Take all of this and add in the ability to fully customise your character with over 4 billion combinations, kill streaks and a clan system then this truly does rival the modern-day shooters.

So now the shooting bit is over let’s take a look at the real crux of the game, the building bit. Each of the games you play has its own style and level but what makes this game also great is the ability to adapt the environment to your own style by building on what already exists or destroying as the case maybe. So, if you’re playing Onslaught you can build extra defenses in your base by placing extra walls or even digging a trench. At one point in the game, both myself and my son dug a cave in a wall so we could snipe from afar the first attack wave but have enough cover if things got bad. The ideas and possibilities in this game are only limited by the player’s imagination and switching from gun to building mode is as easy as pressing the B button on your controller, no honestly that’s all you have to do.

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To accelerate the building process Exato have also included a fast build which I think is a great and unique idea. This allows you to view a set of preset structures and build them in one click, meaning walls, towers even entire buildings can be placed in a matter of seconds allowing you to customize the battle as and when required without being shot 50 times in the process. Building the best fort, eventually, won’t help you because as stated earlier, everything is destroyable, so as the saying says, what goes up, must come down and trust me this is easily accomplished if you acquire one of the many vehicles that you can drive (well, attempt to) in the game.

So a very solid start, but what really makes a game of this type are the game modes and multiplayer aspect. The single player mode has many game modes from Onslaught, where you face wave after wave of attacking worms, spiders, cyborgs etc. to Lava Survival where players have to constantly keep out the way of the rising lava, whilst trying to freeze your enemies / push them into the burning abyss below. Add to this the amusingly called Spleef mode, like Lava Survival, where you are trying to push your opponent in by drilling out the floor beneath them these are just a few of the options available to you and were my favorites.

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The one thing that did really make me happy is the inclusion of a two player split screen. This meant that I could play Onslaught with my son or one of the other game modes, one V one. This is where the game really comes into itself. Unfortunately there is not the ability to battle bots which if could be included would really push this game to a whole new level.

Online is again where this game shines and even though a little temperamental, with disconnections and freezing. I did manage to grab some time with the development team, battling it out on some of the maps. The game becomes intense and crazy as you all work together to fight but also defend and if you play with some skilled builders you will be amazed at what can be built to assist you in your battle.

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Talking about the development team, I just have to say, a big thank you to Exato Game Studios as, during testing, I did suffer some issues but they were really quick to react and resolve my problem. This again tells me that the team behind this game really do care about what they are doing and want a unique and awesome experience for all.

Whatever you think of this type of game, if you still have your Xbox 360 to hand, I would seriously go to the store and grab this. I am still smiling from when I first played it and everyday find myself having to go back and get another fix. It’s truly a unique and really creative idea that fuses two styles of game together brilliantly and will always have a space on my Xbox.

With the title also being part of the July’s Deals with Gold promotion, there is even more excuse now to go and spend your well-earned pennies on picking up this title.

Thanks to Exacto Game Studios for supporting TiX

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Q.U.B.E. Director’s Cut review

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At first glance, it’s impossible not to judge Q.U.B.E. as a Portal clone, and while the game may have taken some inspiration from Valve’s puzzler, it doesn’t make it any less of a game.

Waking up with no memory as to who or where you are, a woman interrupts the silence with a radio transmission that paints a disturbing picture – you are alone, trapped onboard a spacecraft that is on a crash course with earth. After warning you of the maddening confines of deep space, the radio cuts out as the voice transmitting the signal goes out of orbit. Upon reflecting on this stark warning, and taking a fresh look at my confines, it’s evident that the sterile environment I was in looks like a padded cell – was I really on board an alien spacecraft?

Your sense of what is going on in Q.U.B.E. will be tested each time a new transmission is received, and to add to any confusion you might have, there is also a rival signal that paints a different picture – but which one will you follow? Is the new voice just a confused astronaut who has gone insane within his own padded cell? It’s a great concept and something I feel that should have been developed further during the short campaign, which climaxes in an ending that lets you decide an outcome depending on how you perceived the narrative.

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Q.U.B.E.’s physics-based puzzles must be bested to prevent the alien ship from crashing into earth – let’s just backtrack a minute – to stop a ship from crashing you must complete a set of block puzzles? That is a weird scenario to comprehend and not something I fully accepted, but there are puzzles that need solving, which is the main reason that most people will download Q.U.B.E.

To progress through the game, you must manipulate coloured blocks with your high-tech gloves to create a path through each room. Every colour has a different attribute; red blocks can be pulled out of the walls and floors to make a column up to three blocks high while yellow ones form a staircase of three blocks. Blue blocks can be set so that they launch you (or an object) up into the air and green blocks must be moved around to help you get to out of reach ledges. In later levels, purple arrows are thrown in that when pressed rotate a section of the room you’re in, which can really mess with your perception.

My favourite puzzles included navigating a green ball through a maze and directing light beams through several different coloured blocks to create the colour of the keystone. Minus the light puzzles, everything in Q.U.B.E. is based around simple physics, and while not mind bogglingly difficult, the puzzles were a joy to play and give a wonderful sense of achievement as you best each one.

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Starting off simple, the puzzles get steadily harder before they suddenly remove the training wheels, allowing you to decide which of the coloured blocks you place on the different surfaces, but I was challenged most during the ten levels of Against the Clock mode – devious time trials that demand precision and quick reflexes if you are to best them to grab the gold medal and top the online leaderboards.

It’s the Against the Clock mode that gave me the most cause for complaint with Q.U.B.E. I found the puzzles within this mode to be far more creative and clever than the whole of the main campaign, it also begs the question that there should also be a level designer for gamers to create their own evil creations to challenge their friends.

Q.U.B.E.’s simplistic design and puzzle mechanics make it an adorable title that steadily gets harder and harder. It’s impossible not to draw comparisons with Portal, especially when the second half of the game includes crumbling chambers, but I had a great time wandering through the blocky world of Q.U.B.E. even if its climax came far too soon. If you enjoy 3D puzzlers, then I highly recommend you pick this up – it’s a great evening’s entertainment!

Thanks to Xbox and Grip Games for supporting TiX

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Tembo the Badass Elephant review

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Tembo the Badass Elephant is a fun and vibrant 2D sidescroller with a much larger than usual protagonist. There are some noticeable influences and styles from some older platforming legends like Sonic the Hedgehog and Donkey Kong. The infamous Pokemon developer Game Freak has made a seven and a half ton bad ass commando elephant with the ability to destroy everything in his path while saving civilians and eating peanuts.

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Story mode sets off with Shell City being invaded by an evil army known as Phantom, taking civilians as prisoners and over running the military until the unlikely hero gets a phone call to come and help wipe out the Phantom operatives. Your missions are to save civilians, eat peanuts and charge through the different areas to take Phantom down while finding and destroying the three huge vehicles that they have invaded Shell City with. This can prove to be an interesting challenge as you have a set amount of enemies to destroy and civilians to save in each level and as there are level locks in each dome, you will have a determined number of enemies to destroy before you can progress past these checkpoints later on so you may need to replay some of the levels to get to that magic number.

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Tembo has a few tricks at his disposal, he can jump quite high as standard and also if you hold the jump button he can float a bit.. somehow. While in the air pressing down will give you access to a butt stomp, you will go straight down and destroy pretty much everything you land on bar train tracks and lava which will kill you instantly. He can do an uppercut to attack enemies from below or take them out of the sky with a mighty swipe. Like Sonic the Hedgehog, this elephant likes to move fast and keep the momentum going, this is done by holding ‘X’ and Tembo will not stop dashing until you let go of that button, even if you change direction. This will pretty much be your main type of transport as his walk speed is pretty slow. He can however combine his dash with jump to smash through higher walls and combine the dash in to a range of other moves like an uppercut. After a few levels you will need to learn to utilize Tembo’s trunk as a water spout to put out fires to keep yourself safe. This can also be used to attack enemies from range as well as spawn platforms in later levels. You can also combine the water spout with his dash to engulf Tembo in water, to be able to charge through flames like the fearless commando he is. Tembo’s water supply is not infinite there are water pumps and water bottle collectables dotted around some levels so you can recharge your supply.

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Reviving the old life system is a welcome walk through the past, where you have a certain amount of lives throughout your play through so collecting peanuts is your staple in this game. They will earn you an extra life from every 300 you collect and the counter does not reset after a death, giving you more of a chance to keep going. You initially start off with five lives and you should earn more on the first few levels quite quickly. As the levels are quite long there are a few checkpoints dotted around to aid you in your travels and there are a few bits and bobs hidden away for those looking to 100% the game.

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This game does come with a leader board system and it is ranked on score per level and judged on your completed time, enemies destroyed and civilians saved. There are already many high scores that I think will be hard to beat. See how you fare against the world or your friends.

GameFreak have used a visually pleasing art style that runs as smooth as it looks, everything is bold and simplistic with vibrant colours. The start of each level begins with Tembo’s war cry setting the mood for what to expect and the sound track matches it as you charge through and cause plenty of destruction while rampaging through the city.

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A challenging platformer that does not lose momentum from the speed and constant destruction, there is plenty to do in terms of getting 100% by killing all enemies and saving all civilians in every level as well as trying to top the leader boards. Playing through this, I feel it took a necessary step into the past with the life system and without it I believe this game would have been way too easy and not posed as much of a fun challenge as it has done. It has kept me entertained for a good while and has felt somewhat familiar. Tembo’s attitude shines through throughout the game, his relentless attacking abilities know no mercy and he has a life span that allows many hits and punishes all that cause him harm.
Tembo is one Badass Elephant.

 
Thanks to SEGA for supplying TiX with a download code
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Rory McIlroy PGA Tour review

After a short hiatus, EA Sport’s PGA Tour is back, with Rory McIlroy as its new face, but with an extra year to prepare for the series’ debut on the Xbox One, have the high expectation of fans been met?

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is certainly a big release for golf enthusiasts, especially with so few golfing alternatives, and pleasingly this is another excellent facsimile of the sport. The option to use three control methods allows newcomers and veterans to jump in with ease, with the 3-click system harking back to days of yore, and the analogue swing system proving as reliably accurate and enjoyable to use as ever. Additionally you can customise the controls, taking away or adding modifiers that aid you on the course – from a trajectory arch that takes into account wind, to after-touch spin on the ball – it all comes together to help you create the ideal control system for your style of play.

The modes on offer appear thin on the ground, and are certainly missing some content, but successfully incorporate many of the features from previous iterations. Stroke play allows you to play any course as a one-off game, with local multiplayer for up to four players. Meanwhile, the single player specific options are Career or Night Club. The latter incorporates many of the mini-games from previous titles into a common theme of playing at night. The courses take on a very different look and feel in the floodlit, neon lights, and the comical golfers you can play as and unlock give a nice sense of casual fun and humour to the otherwise simulation golf. You’re tasked with completing objectives and trying to earn a three star rating, with objectives running the gamut from scoring points by making accurate shots down the fairway into different coloured circles, to flinging the ball through hoops in the air. It’s a great way to have some golf related fun in small, manageable sessions.

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If you choose to take things online then you’re greeted with the usual PGA Tour options of Head-to-Head as well as Weekly and Daily Tournaments. These modes once again offer a simple and easy way to compete with others online, either through a simultaneous round of golf, or by competing for leaderboard places in the tournaments. They’re fun and practical online options but disappointingly predictable.

You’ll find the meat of the experience in the Career mode, although there are some glaring omissions. You create your own golfer to climb the ranks and join the pros in the PGA Tour, but the customisation options are horrendously austere. A handful of faces and additional options are available to build your character, so few in fact that it’s unlikely you be able to create a character that looks at all how you want it to; creating an avatar of yourself is impossible. Furthermore, your stats are automatically upgraded as you progress, with options unlocking for how these are distributed, allowing you to focus on specific traits such as accuracy or power. It’s a great option for those not interested in diving into the stats, but for the many that do enjoy the full micromanagement of growing your character, this is a compromise that’s difficult to stomach. It’s a big disappointment that eats away at your level of immersion during the mode; not feeling like it’s entirely your character makes their wins and losses less personal and significant.

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Fortunately you can create female characters as well, although representatives from the LPGA are entirely absent, and of the PGA personalities only a few join Rory McIlroy. However, the worst omission is certainly the lack of real-world courses.

Of the 13 available courses at launch only eight are real-world locations, missing are the likes of Torry Pines, Pebble Beach, Spyglass hill, and most egregiously Augusta, meaning there’s also no Masters Tournament to enjoy. The courses that are present look spectacular and have been digitally recreated marvellously, but the omissions are a big knock.

The fantasy course are excellent, though, showing off the creativity of EA Tiburon. The Paracel Storm map from Battlefield 4, reimagined as a golf course, is particular eye-catching, and the commentary from Frank Nobilo and Rich Lerner is comical and impressively rich as you play it. In fact the commentary overall is mostly excellent, relating to the player, your tournament position, past performances and crowd atmosphere, it’s highly immersive stuff. They do of course trip up on occasion, ridiculing you for a shot that actually performs splendidly, and vice versa, additionally they repeat a lot of comments when playing the same courses.

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Visually Rory McIlroy PGA Tour largely looks stunning. The fine detail is very impressive, with the grass and vegetation looking rich and the mud and sand looking menacingly real. There are even neat little touches such as flies buzzing around the green and divots from a ball landing. Moreover, the course is now fully loaded when you play it, removing loading times between holes as well as the possibility of being out-of-bounds, it’s a terrific use of the Frostbite 3 engine. However, frequent pop in of vegetation is a glaring visual oddity that proves to ruin the immersion every time it occurs.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is an excellent golf game, but not quite the title fans have been hoping for from the legendary series. A lack of courses, golfing personalities and character customisation options really hurt what is otherwise a fantastic simulation of the sport. It is, however, an excellent starting point for newcomers to the series, and with DLC on its way, some of it free, here’s hoping it fills in some of those gaps for the veterans. But the overhaul to the character creator and character progression system is something that fans are likely going to have to wait for a new title for, which could be a ways off.

Thanks to Xbox and EA for their support 

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Ant-Man Pinball review

Another Marvel movie release of course means another pinball table to add to Zen Pinball on the Xbox platforms. This time it’s Ant-Man, and thanks to unique mechanics and a seldom seen layout, it’s another superb table to add to your collection.

The Ant-Man table focuses its feature in the top half, leaving the bottom peculiarly empty. It results in fast ball movement and the occasional unhittable drops between the flippers, but it does make it a simpler table to fathom, as well as helping you concentrate when multiple balls enter the field. It certainly feels a little odd at first, but it’s a design choice that’s clearly appropriate to the table, and once you’ve experienced more of what’s on offer, this becomes abundantly clear.

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The Zen Pinball table standard of integrated mini-games built into the table reveal themselves as you complete objectives by hitting the ball towards the ramp-heavy top and the particle suspended in the upper right. And as expected they’re theme appropriate, fun and intense to play, whether it’s using bumpers to keep the ball active on the table, or shooting the animated, 3D Ant-Man as he shrinks and dashes around. They’re excellent rewards for your skill, dishing out copious amounts of points for you to tackle the leaderboard as well as achieving feats of pinball wizardry a real table never could – such as the empty bottom half peeling back to reveal a mini-game and separate field to play underneath.

The aforementioned particle grants points and shrinks each time you hit it, until it finally reaches ball size and comes loose, brilliantly acting as a second ball. A few well placed shots later and a third ball can enter the mix, ant sized and a nightmare to see, but a great way to rack up even more points. It all comes together to provide ample opportunities to hit the ramps and create combinations to unlock bonuses.

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It’s a fast table but one that’s full of easy to reach areas that reward you with tremendous points. The austere lower half aids with ball control, and thanks to its subtle lights, and colour scheme of red, black and blue, it’s an attractive and intuitive table to play. The odd low-tech traditional pinball sound effect sounds a little incongruous with the theme, but believable voice doubles for the film’s cast sells the authenticity nicely. It’s another great marvel table that should definitely be in your collection.

Thanks to Xbox and Zen Studios for their support

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Spectra review

xboxone_screenshot_2Spectra from Gateway Interactive and Mastertronics could very well see you ripping out your hair in large clumps. This simplistic racer has you collecting score cubes as you travel along a track filled with obstructions, boost pads, multiple branching paths and sharp bends.

With no control over your propulsion, controls are simple. The left and right triggers activate your air brakes allowing you to slide back and forth across the course and the analog stick to steer left and right.

As you progress, each cube adds to your multiplier score, and once you are more familiar with the controls, getting air either from skipping corners and boost jumping or from skimming your ship along the side of the block obstructions on the track will add to your score, while direct collisions will cause your multiplier to be reset.

With 10 tracks, each procedurally generated from the Chipzel soundtrack and with greater difficulty to accompany the increasingly complex melodies, but only one game mode, there is still a lot of gameplay to be had across the Normal and Hardcore modes available. Each track is unlocked once you complete 20% of the previous course and Hardcore mode is activated once all ten available levels have been completed.

Unlocking the 20% mark to release subsequent tracks is relatively easy, but actually managing to finish the full 100% takes time, practice, concentration, or an extremely high level of twitch reactions.

Spectra also has cross-platform play with Windows mobile devices so you can continue to rack up your score on the go.

Sadly, though the game is highly enjoyable, it did feel like it was missing something. Controlling the ship is relatively straightforward, but with such a narrow track it is extremely easy for a single mistake to ruin what could have been a perfect run.

Additionally, with only race the beat mode, there is a limit to how much it will keep you coming back. This could have been rectified with leaderboards, or even a cumulative scoring system as completing each track to 100% leads on to the next course but the score does not carry over.

Spectra is a strange beast. The culmination of its parts; old school tune set from Chipzel aka Niamh Houston, the mind behind the soundtrack on Super Hexagon and Interstellaria, voxel 8 bit esque graphics, simple auto runner mechanics and insta-fail states, all combine to make an addictive yet frustrating title that can give you several hours of entertainment.

Thanks to Xbox and Gateway Interactive for supporting TiX

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llpXDnmHEBA

The Fall review

I’m sure many of you (or none at all, might just be me) have sat and wondered how Cortana felt, watching helplessly as Master Chief lost health during his battles with the Covenant… Or wondered just what was going through HAL’s head in 2001: A Space Odyssey… Is The Fall the game to help you understand from an AI’s point of view? I think so!

The Fall, developed by Over The Moon Games, and funded purely by a very successful Kickstarter campaign, puts you in the shoes of the enduring ARID, and artificial intelligence onboard a futuristic space suit.

The Fall OurRefurbishedDroid

As The Fall starts, you find yourself plummeting to the ground of an unknown planet, in an unknown sector of the galaxy… As you awake, ARID boots up and starts her scan. It is through this initial introduction that you are first exposed to the game’s excellent art style. Mixing dark and atmospheric backgrounds with a bright and intriguing character, the style is rather reminiscent of Limbo, and Flashback… Simple, yet beautiful. The menu system is styled much like an old mainframe computer. Chunky text, and minimal furniture. It is with this set of menus that you unlock abilities as you progress through the game, helping ARID with her primary objective.

It is through the inclusion of basic rules and protocols, based on Isaac Asimov’s Rules of Robotics,  that ARID must obey, which presents the biggest challenge to her. Does she disobey the rules to save her pilot, or does she abide by them, and risk him dying? Does she risk the life of the pilot she is sworn to protect to escape, or risk her own life for his?

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After ARID’s initial scan, she realises that the pilot of her suit is not responding. Assured that he is still alive, yet critical, ARID sets off to find medical assistance. Of course, being on an unknown planet, she doesn’t know where to start.

Using the classic side-scrolling platformer mechanic, you traverse through the levels section by section, using your torch as guidance, using your torch to discover clues in the environment, and picking up items to use along the way. I felt that the controls were a little finicky at times… Because you use the left analogue stick to move, and the right to aim, if you’re not quite precise, you would either find yourself missing a key item to interact with, or dying as a result of not being quite accurate enough.

The puzzle element of The Fall is clever, yet frustrating at times. Much like titles such as Broken Sword and Monkey Island, you must complete little challenges to progress the story. Without giving too much away, these can be solved using beakers to collect liquids, or an old robotic arm to access a control panel. Each puzzle is well thought out and many of the solutions are frustratingly simple to solve.

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It is through these challenges that ARID discovers that she is in fact trapped in an AI depurposing facility, through which she must escape by completing the challenges thrust upon her, or risk her pilot not surviving.

Along with the tantalising puzzles ARID must complete, she is also under fire from other AI within the facility, tasked with her destruction due to her inability to accept the rules. Her objective is to save her pilot, without regard to the consequences…

The mix of platform/puzzle/adventure really appeals to me, I have been a fan of this type of game for some time, and overall I feel that The Fall is a tight, well-oiled title, and I would certainly welcome the rumoured sequels (that’s right, sequels!) It plays well on Asimov’s Basic Rules of Robotics, making you think of how to react to the challenges you face.

Next time you are in control of Master Chief, take a moment to think how Cortana could be reacting to your actions.

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The Fall is out on July 14 for Xbox One.

 

LEGO Jurassic World Review

Do you remember the first film you saw at the cinema? Mine was Jurassic Park, it was brilliant, my old man grabbed my leg during one of the ’scarier’ scenes and I also fainted with fear! 12 years later and LEGO Jurassic World gets its release to tie in with the latest blockbuster, Jurassic World. We all know the LEGO games are fun, but let’s face it, they are pretty repetitive. Would there be a way for this game to buck that trend? Ultimately no, but it still has some charming features that make it worthwhile playing through.

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LEGO Jurassic World takes you through all of the franchises films, after a quick introductory level, you start at a helipad with a choice to turn left for Jurassic Park and right for Jurassic World, as you would expect, there is plenty to explore. There was something special about getting in the Jurassic Park Jeep for the first time and it’s not long before you encounter your first LEGO Puzzle, where you need to open the main gates, but a part is missing.

For those for you who haven’t played any LEGO games before, solving puzzles is fairly simple, after all these games are aimed at children. Most of the time you’ll need to smash your way around a level to look for something to build, or a certain character will need to complete a certain action. Throughout the LEGO series this has never changed, in LEGO JW, specific characters can dig for hidden objects whereas others can dive into dinosaur poo to retrieve objects as well (I can’t believe I’ve just written dinosaur poo in a review). There are plenty of QTE’s throughout the games and a lot of button mashing is required to fight of dinosaurs or unlock different areas of the game.

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Pretty much every character from the film is available for you to play as, complete with their own abilities to get you through the game, whether it’s that annoying child at the beginning of Jurassic Park, through to Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Pratt and Jeff Goldblum. Rather weirdly, each of the characters voices have directly lifted from the films and loaded into the game. It’s a great idea in theory as its adds a level of authenticity, but there has been no editing of the sound so the voices always sound a bit out of place, it’s a nice idea though. As well as playing as the human characters, the game allows you to play as the dinosaurs too, it’s just a shame that they need to be unlocked by finding a hidden amber object in each of the levels. Once you have unlocked them you are able to run around smashing through object the normal characters can’t.

All of the classic scenes from the films are there for you to play through and it brings back huge waves of nostalgia, my favourite is still the first time the tour encounters the T-Rex and the game does an awesome job of recreating it in Lego form. All of the death scenes are really well handles too, characters are never killed, and instead they end up in comedy scenario. In the opening scene of the game, the first death results in one of the works losing all of his clothes, cue manic laughter from my six-year old. Dying has never been a thing in the LEGO games, you just loses studs and carry on as normal, it makes me wonder why they even bother having hearts to lose in the game.

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Exploring the islands certainly isn’t as much fun, evidence of that was watching my son play, he just wanted to get to the action and was getting frustrated that he couldn’t do so quickly. He was though, a huge fan of Mr. DNA. Every time the game hit a loading screen there are lots of dinosaur facts to take in, which was a really neat idea.
Visually the game is exactly what you would expect from the LEGO games, all of the different characters likenesses are superb, and all of the different levels look great. The audio is a bit of a mixed bag, I can get on with the voices of the characters and when the Jurassic Park thee boomed through my headset I genuinely got goosebumps as it brought all my memories back of the films, but for some reason it’s been decided that they should completely over use this to celebrate all your achievements in game, fill out the stud counter, cue music, end a level, cue music. It wasn’t long before I wasn’t so fussed about hearing the score any more.

As much as we had fun playing LEGO Jurassic World, I can’t help myself getting tired of the LEGO games, nothing really changes apart from the theme of the game. You’ll get through the levels in about 9 hours and there is plenty of exploring to do beyond that if that’s your thing, the achievements are as you would expect from the LEGO games, and the names of the achievements are well thought out as normal. It’s not perfect and there are plenty of bugs that will see you having to restart levels, such as getting characters stuck. But if Jurassic Park has been part of your life then it’s hard not to want to play this.

Thanks to Xbox & Warner Bros for supporting TiX

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