Let’s take a look at … – Bulb Boy

Classic Lucas Art’s point-and-click games, such as Maniac Mansion and Grim Fandango, are a unique style of game where you solve mysteries by finding items, talking to the right people, and visiting the right locations to progress the story. They usually require a lot of thought on what items to use and when, and can be somewhat tedious as a result, even though the story might be the real payoff. Bulb boy is a short, simple point-and-click adventure game that doesn’t rely on story to make it fun, the gameplay and overall silliness of the game do that just fine.

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You start off in a room with your flying dog and grandfather. You’re “bulb boy”, and you see your grandfather get taken away by a monster, of sorts, and have to find a way to get him back. This starts off a room-by-room, point-and-click puzzle adventure that lasts about 2 hours. Each item you find will be used in the room you are currently in and doesn’t require a lot of inventory management which I found to be refreshing. You use the items in logical ways to solve the room puzzle and then move on to the next.

Most rooms are comprised of roughly 5-6 interactions that usually include a boss fight. Finding a way to not get killed while you hunt the room for items to use it is key. In one instance, you fight a walking turkey that will eat you immediately upon seeing you. If it starts to come close, find one of the various hiding spots in the room to hide your glowing head, and it will walk right past you allowing you to explore more and solve the puzzle.

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The art style is very twisted though adorable. Bulb boy is a little guy that glows to illuminate the room around him, revealing monsters and death scenes that are mildly gruesome, but not distasteful. I laughed a few times, and cringed at others, but I was charmed by this game even though it was so short. I really enjoyed the flashback scenes in where life is grand and no monsters loom. They still function as a point-and-click mechanic but don’t involve the fear of death and having to restart.

I wanted to mention lastly that the game does save for you in pivotal points so if you do die, you won’t have to restart the whole level. It’s a great feature.

Tl:dr – Bulb Boy is about a 2-hour point-and-click adventure game which was a successful Kickstarter project that launched late last year. It’s charming, creepy, and gross, but overall adorable in the way it presents itself. Even though it is short it provided a lot of fun and a decent challenge to make it worth playing. Though it’s hard to say if it’s worth the admission price of roughly $10.00, I would definitely recommend playing it, especially if you are looking for a less stressful point-and-click adventure game.

Rating – 9/10

Purchase – Steam £6.99/$9.99

Trailer  –

Let’s take a look at … – Rogue State

Rogue State is a geo-political simulator that puts you in charge of a country as its supreme leader. The choices you make will affect your approval of the citizens of your country, the Parliament cabinet you work with, and even the opinion of other countries around the world.  Based on your actions you might deal with internal revolt, attacks from other states or possibly become the most powerful nation in the world.

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I’ve never really given one of these games a play-through before, so it was a bit difficult to get right in there as I would imagine most of these games are. My problem for a newcomer such as myself was the very limited tutorial. It covers the basics and then sort of tells you to experiment and figure it out on your own. I had to devote a decent amount of time learning this game. This can be problematic as there isn’t any form of control beyond menus and clickable options.  Unlike a traditional war game where you command units, you more or less place them where you want, and they will either win or lose depending on how strong your military is. It’s a numbers game really.

The game takes place in your presidential office where you visit various aspects of your governmental state. You can change tax policy, make phone calls to ambassadors around the world, start trade policies and make economic changes via sliders. There is also the aspect of building your ruined state to its former glory through different branches. Depending on what you prioritize you will either become a major economic force or a militaristic one. Remember to try to keep the majority of your citizens happy though or they will start to turn on you!

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What I did find interesting is how we as citizens of our own country always think that making decisions is either obvious or easy. Truthfully, the issues are much more complicated than that.  Appease one group and another starts to turn against you. This game did teach me that being a supreme leader is a lot harder than it looks, there’s no way to please everyone. Just try to do the best you can for your country and give attention to where it is needed.

You may some issue at first trying to figure this game out, but in the end you may find yourself a little more enlightened in how much power you truly have, or how powerless you are to the forces that surround you.

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Tl:dr – Rogue state is a geo-political simulator that is basic in its design but really has a lot of depth. Though the tutorial doesn’t offer much direction outside of some basic tools to get you started, the game can still be played and it’s best to learn from your mistakes and make note for your next play through. There was some eye-opening lessons to be learned from running a country, albeit in an unrealistic fashion via a video game. Even with all the power in the world, you can still be totally powerless against the forces at will. Rogue State is a niche game that can either totally engross you or frustrate you depending on what sort of games you have fun with.  It’s not bad, just totally different.

Rating – 6/10

Purchase – Steam £9.99/$12.99

Let’s take a look at – The Beginner’s Guide (Spoiler Free)

Thanks to better, more affordable tools, Indie development has never been so assessable. It’s easier than ever for people to take their idea and make it a reality. Access to various game engines, and the wealth of knowledge and assistance from the online community, have given us a plethora of games over the last few years that otherwise might not have been. Games that make us laugh, cry, and kill, but above all, they make us feel. While The Beginner’s Guide is fairly short, and lacks the sense of adventure we find in many games, it offers a look into the mind of a developer, and tells a deeply personal and powerful story that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

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The Beginner’s Guide was created by Davey Wreden, the mind behind The Stanley Parable.  I went in knowing a little about this game but it’s IMPORTANT that you do not read or research what this game is about before you play it. To have any part of the story spoiled will detract from the experience on offer. The game is a walking simulator, you don’t do a whole lot in terms of puzzle solving or fighting enemies, so spoilers are costly. Don’t let that deter you though, this game is really enjoyable.

Davey is the narrator during the roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes you’ll spend playing The Beginner’s Guide. He tells a story of a fellow “real life” developer and his attempts and journey through game design over a period of 4 years. It starts off simple enough to understand, but starts to take an emotionally charged turn where you, as the player, are starting to make your own deductions based on the levels you encounter, the environment and the narration. This is important as this game is all about interpretation. Yes, you will be given facts that are clear and make sense, but a lot of it is speculation on the player’s part. It’s fascinating because it’s a story of trying to understand a person through their art and creativity.

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You’re going to find a lot of reviews already praising this game for its powerful storytelling and pacing. It’s a game that makes you wonder, interpret and reflect on its protagonist. You may even reflect its meaning against your own life and experiences. It’s fascinating to see a game talk about a topic in such a personal way that you can’t help but draw parallels to your own personal feeling and experiences.

Some links that were provided to me really helped me understand this game and its meaning a little better. Not because I didn’t when I finished, but I wanted to know more. I’m not quite sure what to tell you here though. Do you watch the video and read the blog post first before you play? Well you certainly can, but I think it might give away the meaning of The Beginner’s Guide. If you watch it after, you may understand it all much better and want to go back to really pick up on every detail. I suppose it’s up to you, the player, but I honestly found this information extremely enlightening consuming it after I finished the game.

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Also, playing The Stanley Parable isn’t a bad idea as well because it may provide some insight that could be helpful…. and it’s really just a damn good game.  Really Good.

I’d recommend viewing these links after you finish, but it’s your call.

http://www.galactic-cafe.com/2014/02/game-of-the-year/

Click on* Playing Stories with Davey Wreden

http://livestream.com/accounts/6845410/gamesnow/videos/83818176

Tl:dr – The Beginner’s Guide has a strangely accurate but misleading title for those who have not played it.  It’s more of a story based game with no action and little puzzle solving. It’s a short game, clocking in at about 1 hour and 30 minutes, but is powerful and intriguing. You’ll spend your time learning something deep and personal about the main character in this game, and maybe something about yourself. Overall, don’t read spoilers and go in blind. It’s worth it.

Rating – 9/10

Purchase – Steam £9.99/$9.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Undertale

Undertale is a game by developer Toby Fox, a name that probably doesn’t mean much to you … for now. It’s a pixel-based RPG that was quietly released on Steam in early October, but once mainstream game sites picked up on it and started writing about their experiences, the game blew up. With quotes floating around like: “Made me cry”, “contender for game of the year”, and “I haven’t played anything like this before”, it was hard not to be intrigued by what players were experiencing. After playing the game 3 times, and with over 25 hours invested, I can safely tell you that this game is easily in my top 5 indie games I’ve ever played. It’s something absolutely special.

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For those who have played the SNES classic Earthbound (also known as Mother), you’ll feel right at home here. Dialogue that breaks the 4th wall, characters with the strangest quirks, and enemies that make no sense but interact with you during battles in ways that are impossible to describe. You have the choice of Fight, Items, Act, and Mercy. Depending on what you choose you might be talking, hugging or petting an enemy during battle. There are also many, many more options depending on the enemy you are fighting. Choose to a spare an enemy and you can select Mercy to avoid killing it all together. Want to murder its face, choose Fight and play out the battle in a timed event where you have to press the attack button at the right time for maximum damage.

Every battle will play out a little different depending on if you choose to kill or spare. Every enemy has a unique attack which might require you to do some platforming to avoid projectiles, pressing the directional pad in different directions to avoid being hit. It varies from moving around like you are playing a “shoot-em-up”, to just sitting there and not moving against the dreaded “blue attack” (it’s hardly scary, just don’t move). I never once got bored with any battle as I was constantly kept on my toes by each unique attack. It’s incredibly brilliant and fresh.

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The soundtrack is a chiptunes, 8-bit style score that was so catchy and engrossing I would sometimes just turn it on and listen to it while I was doing other things that day. Not much more to say except that it’s masterfully crafted, changes on how you play the game and will pump you up when it’s time to play a deciding battle. The music takes a perfect package and wraps it up in an equally perfect bow.

The story is the most important part of this game and I will not be spoiling any of it. It takes so many turns, making you think one way and then changes it all on you over and over. The game has 3 endings that provide a different experience each one you go through. What does that even mean? I’ll explain…

Your first playthrough will be the normal ending. No matter how you play you will be forced to get this ending. Once you’ve finished you have some choices. Do you spare every enemy you come across or kill them? This aspect of choice is an important mechanic. No matter how you play through the game’s roughly 6-8 hour story you’ll be learning what it means to spare a life or take it. Maybe you’ll run into a battle and that enemy starts using powerful attacks against you and just wants to hurt your character. Maybe you’ll come across a frog that just wants to be complimented and doesn’t intend on harming you. How you deal with these choices affects how the game will play out in the end.

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The game’s alternate endings are The Pacifist Ending and Genocide Ending, requiring you to have beaten the game on Normal, and then on your next playthrough either choose to spare every life or take every life respectively. There is no middle ground here, so I recommend looking up some guides prior to taking these on. Be aware they will challenge you emotionally, strategically, and physically. I managed to unlock all 3 and by far the hardest was the Genocide Ending.

Without ruining anything, there are two bosses in the game that require you to take part in some of the most grueling, fast-paced, and extremely enjoyable battles I’ve ever come across in a game. One battle takes upwards of 15 minutes to finish and required my full attention and focus to beat it. After many hours of trial and error, I was able to finish it and the feeling of excitement I got was beyond comparison. I also felt kind of terrible too. Terrible because I don’t know if I really wanted to kill this character, but I had no choice. This is what makes Undertale so special.

Each ending is unconventional, each character plays an important role, and each battle is so unique that this isn’t the kind of game you run through and quickly dispose of. You want to see what happens, you are invested in the world and characters. They are your friends, maybe they’re your enemies; it just depends on how you play the game. I promise you that every ending will surprise you and give you something you’ve never seen before. Just remember, if your game shuts down because an enemy deletes your save file, all you have to do is reload. 🙂

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This is a game where words cannot do it justice. This review is all how I felt when I played this game and the surprises I encountered in every meeting with the characters and every battle. Nothing is what it seems. Currently at over 7000 reviews with an Overwhelming Positive review score this game is something that doesn’t come along often. This might be the best $10 dollars you’ll spend this year as you’ll be experiencing something unlike anything else. Undertale stole my heart, made me hate myself sometimes and filled me with determination unlike anything I’ve played before. Hands down, this game will affect you in one way or another and will leave an impression on you for years to come. It’s perfect.

Tl:dr – Undertale is one of the best indie games to come out in the last 5 years.  Fans of Earthbound will immediately see the similarities but will be immediately surprised at how different of an experience this game is.  The choices you make in Undertale matter, they affect you and those around you.  With non-traditional RPG elements, amazing soundtrack and a touching story and cast you’ll be hooked.  Multiple endings that are actually worth earning make this game something more than a beat it and walk away type of game and you’ll never forget your time in this world.  Simply put there is nothing out there like this game.  It’s an unforgettable experience.

Score – 10/10, Perfect

Steam Page – Steam £6.99/$9.99

Demo – http://undertale.com/demo.htm

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Grey Goo

Grey Goo is the first major RTS outside of a big company, such as Blizzard, Microsoft, and EA etc., to make a significant impact in the genre in a long time. Considering over the last few years the RTS market has been largely dominated by the likes of the Starcraft series, and remakes or re-releases such as Age of Mythology, Age of Empires and Rise of Nations, it’s awesome to see a fresh entry, and such a solid one at that. Hardly surprising, Grey Goo is developed by Petroglyph, a studio containing the veteran talent of ex Westoon Studios developers who are responsible for the Command & Conquer series! Let’s take a look at the RTS.

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Traditionally, RTS games have primarily lived on PC, and this is mainly due to the complex nature of gameplay not lending itself to the limited functionality of a controller. Grey Goo is no exception, and standard keyboard and mouse controls will feel instantly familiar. The game controls wonderfully, with just the right amount of complexity in places for a satisfying and rewarding learning curve. You’ll quickly be able to pick it up and progress through the first few missions with little difficulty, however there are enough shortcuts and hot keys to make it a challenge to master.

The game offers three race choices, each with enough different to make them genuinely feel unique from one another: The Beta can lay expansion hubs (small, medium, large) to expand on the map. The Humans build Conduit (roads) in order to expand, and the Goo offer the most diverse way to expand. The Goo start off with a large mass called “The Mother”. As resources are consumed this mass grows larger and can spawn smaller Goo structures. It’s a really cool distinction compared to the other races and the balancing is well done, allowing for players to choose a race based on their play style and not be at a disadvantage to some OP race.

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Bases consist of a main hub with four expansion ports. You start off by building a refinery close to a Catalyst Pool (the game’s primary resource) and your harvester will mine the pool for resources throughout the course of the game. Once you have money coming in it’s time to build a factory to produce units and start building an army. If you run out of expansions you can construct a new hub or remove structures to build new ones.

What makes the construction unique is that it takes a similar approach to Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. You have a pool of resources and as the buildings are being built resources are slowly taken from your resource pool as they are used instead of taking all the cost in one large chunk. If you don’t have the resources to purchase the structure, or train units, they are automatically paused until you gain a sufficient amount. This system allows you to pause production if you need to divert resources to a more important area.

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Another point of interest lies in the cover system. If your units are in cover they can fire on enemies out of position without the risk of taking damage. The enemy is only able to retaliate if they also enter cover. This makes for some great trap setups and gives high ground a tactical advantage, a mechanic that has become common in a lot of newer RTS games. Unless you have vision of high ground units there isn’t really much way to defend against them. What this offers is multiple ways to take out a few units, or a whole army that might be on its way to your base with a surprise attack!

Probably my favourite addition is the use of walls. A lot of RTS’s have abandoned the use of this mechanic but it’s brought back in Grey Goo. Set up a series of walls at choke points, or surrounding your base, and place your units on top of them. Instead of the typical tower defense concept, you instead place your units on the walls so that they can attack incoming enemies. I absolutely loved this idea as it simplifies defense.

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Visually the game is good. The structures, units and maps are fairly detailed though it’s nothing to spend a lot of time on. What was amazing were the cutscenes and 3d animation. The quality here is on par with Blizzards own 3D rendering and storytelling. It was really cool to see so much effort put into the cutscenes and pre-mission briefing scenarios. It immediately gives off a polished look and shows that this isn’t some cookie cutter RTS game that came out just for the sake of it.

I recently went back to Red Alert 2 to see how that game stood after all these years and it is 100% unplayable. From the incredibly slow game speed, to the dated visuals and broken functionality of changing your settings and having the game become visually distorted, there is no going back to that game until a HD remake comes out and fixes the problems of just re-releasing the game. This is where Grey Goo fills that void because it’s so similar, yet different enough to give the player something new to love. Grey Goo shines here.

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Overall my time with this game was well spent and enjoyable. Going in I didn’t know that ex Westwood Studio developers were involved though it felt so familiar I suspected they had their hands in it. I really enjoyed the story and gameplay and a way to experience the classic RTSs of the past in a new and fresh way. Grey Goo is top shelf quality RTS gaming at its core and deserves your attention if you are a fan of the genre.

Tl:dr – Grey Goo is the most recent offering from Ex Westwood Studios Developers Petroglyph and is an extremely well-polished game. Command one of three races as you build bases, protect your settlement with walls (yes they are back!), Mine resources to train units and explore detailed and well-crafted maps. With an engaging story and plenty to discover and master, Grey Goo puts itself up against some of gaming’s classic real time strategy games and gives the player that familiar but new experience from days gone by. If you were a fan of the Command and Conquer series this game deserves your attention.

Rating – 8.5/10

Purchase – Steam £29.99/$49.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – I Shall Remain

Zombies, or more accurately Survival games, have been all the rage lately. Ranging from 2D platformers to open world sandbox games, they seem to be everywhere, and usually seem to be stuck in a steam Early Access infinite loop. I shall remain is luckily not in any Early Access form, and brings enough to the genre to makes it its own. While not entirely polished it does offer a rare experience in that it is an isometric Action Role Playing Game (ARPG), not the typical survival sandbox. Let’s take a look.

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You start the game in an alternative post World War II setting. Nazis have unleashed a terrible virus in United States soil which has started to turn its inhabitants into flesh eating monstrosities. It’s a story about two brothers and their quest to find each other and hopefully survive long enough to do so.

Taking cues from games like Diablo, you pick a class which will determine your playstyle throughout the game. You can run-and-gun, be stealth, be melee focused or choose to take a more dialogue-centric approach and open new conversations and options. The gameplay is well varied and offers a lot of choice. Even time you level up you have a choice between 3 types of skill upgrades that can affect the way your character fights.

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There are a good amount of weapons as well. Moving and attacking are all done with the mouse buttons, allowing you to take whichever approach you prefer to fight the endless hordes of zombies. Throw in common, uncommon, and rare weapons, and the level of interest in picking up tons of items becomes worthwhile as you may find an upgrade at any turn. I was able to find 3 rare items in a short time which constantly gave me something to look forward to. Each weapon has a durability factor and can be repaired or broken down into scrap to use for repairing others.

Considering this is a survival game you are in a constant battle with weapon durability, exhaustion, stamina, and even the virus itself. You are also infected in this game, and with no foreseeable way to cure yourself, you can only keep the virus at bay with serum. There are multiple status icons and bars on the main screen which you need to monitor to fight at your best or escape when things aren’t looking so good.

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Pretty good atmospheric music plays while you roam the city streets, scavenging cars and buildings for supplies. Multiple NPC’s come into play and offer quests or pieces of the story as you encounter them. You can even have a handful of them join you in your quests! Outfit them with weapons and watch as that large creature that has been giving you trouble falls in half the time when fighting with an AI controlled friend.

Most of the zombies in the game are standard fair and then you start to see that some of the monsters are different. Spitting toxic goo at you, running much faster than the others, raging when they take damage, or even large hulking beasts that will stop at nothing to destroy you.  Some of the enemies even have a different color in the sense that they are an elite or champion unit that has a better chance of dropping a rare item. Of course they are much tougher, but never pass on the chance to fight one of these as the rewards are great!

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The world is fairly large, and actually only gets bigger as you progress. Subway tunnels come into play as a fast-travel aspect, allowing you to cover more ground or backtrack in a faster manner. This can prove useful as you will be travelling all over New York City completing quests. It’s a big game around the 20 hour mark or more so you can expect to be busy for quite some time.

This game has a lot going for it and is unique enough to try if you appreciate dialogue-driven gameplay with a hearty dose of fighting and survival. Though the character moves a little slow, and the realistic effects of stamina can be frustrating, it’s never much of a problem unless you have to walk a large distance. The pace is pretty good and kept me busy. I even enjoyed the occasional quick event that would pop up with a limited amount of time to complete a task for bonus experience and a break from the main story.

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My only problems with the game were really its overall design of the interface. Items are tiny icons with no text over them to know what you are picking up. The screen feels very busy due to the HUD, and normally your mouse doesn’t appear to hover over anything: you need to pause the game in a sense to see what everything means. Especially when you level up or a skill increases. Icons will just appear, and unless you’ve memorized what they all look like you may find yourself pausing a lot in the first few hours trying to take it all in. Dialogue is kind of ugly too as a lot of the conversations were hard to read just on the format of how it appears.

Tl:dr – I Shall Remain is a survival game like no other on the market.  A combination of Diablo meets Baldur’s Gate with a post-apocalyptic setting makes the experience deep and fairly satisfying. Rare weapons, equipment breakdown, a constant battle against hordes of zombies and other undead abominations gives the player plenty to kill and run from. Only a few visual issues take away from the experience such as the HUD overlay and lots of icons with no effective in game way to determine what they are without pausing. Once you get through the beginning hours where the game can be fairly unforgiving, the pace evens out and becomes a pretty enjoyable experience.

Rating – 8/10

Purchase – Steam £10.99/$14.99

Trailer –

 

Lets’ talk about … – The Witness sets a release date with second trailer

Almost 2 years later the second trailer for “The Witness” has finally dropped. Jonathan Blow’s next game will be out on 26th January 2016 and that date can not get here soon enough.

Blow, featured in the incredible ‘Indie Game: The Move’, created “Braid”, which in many respects started the indie Game Renaissance that we are in today. If this game is anything like this last, we are in for something extremely special.

Watch the Release Date Trailer below.

Let’s take a look at … – M4 Tank Brigade

Early Access can be a great thing. It allows communities to experience a game before its complete, providing valuable feedback to the developer regarding improvements and ideas. As a reward for showing your support early on, you get the full game a discounted price and get to experience the process of a game being built. Everyone is a winner.

Unfortunately, there’s another side of Early Access. Sometimes games that look to have little hope of ever making an impact in a world enter Early Access, and the only thing you get is the experience of being let down, frustrated or wishing you hadn’t made that purchase. M4 Tank Brigade unfortunately falls into the latter. This game is riddled with poor control, graphical anomalies, collision detection issues, and sound choices that will make you want to punch your monitor they are so bad.

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In the tutorial you are provided with an abundance of information, which is a good thing. Everything from how to move, change positions from turret, to driver, to machine gunner, change squadrons, call in airstrikes, and hunt the enemy down. Though, while doing so, you’re forced to listen to some of the worst dialogue (content and quality) I have ever heard.

The voices sound like they were recorded in a basement, and try to push off the stereotypical ‘Drill Sergeant’ persona. The combination of “Hit any key to continue”, and “Way to go!” blasting through my speakers, because no one bothered to adjust the audio levels of the recorded dialogue, were almost enough to make me not want to finish the tutorial. Not to mention there are two different voices that are used. It’s confusing and just beyond bad.

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Things unfortunately don’t get any better in-game. The controls are very confusing, and once you’re in your tank, simple tasks such as driving, switching positions, and shooting are non-trivial; your tank continues to move and you can’t steer it. In what I expect is a WWII tank simulator, why would there not be multiple people per tank?

Trying navigate the mini map requires the mouse, but the mouse can’t be used in the tank. As a result you will find yourself moving your hand from mouse to the arrow keys, all while trying to aim the turret and keep your tank in position. It’s very unintuitive and overly complicated.

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The landscape is ridiculously barren. Between a few houses and anti-tank barriers, there is literally nothing. Not even trees in most cases. In addition, the collision detection doesn’t always work. You can run into a house and stop dead in your tracks, while other obstacles allow you to pass right through. The terrain is also pretty flat, with a few bumps along your path, are giant trenches that will put you in a huge bind if you find yourself in. They are best to be avoided unless you are taking cover from fire.

I did enjoy the explosions, and found the AI to be aggressive and intimidating; however, the enormous lack of polish, lack of an online community, and a host of better games already on the market make this game forgettable. It’s best to avoid playing this game at least till it comes out of Early Access. Maybe by then it will be an entirely different game, but who knows when that will happen if ever.

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Tl;dr M4 Tank Brigade is an ugly, irritating, unpolished action tank simulator that is currently overcharging for the content it provides. Graphically it’s about as barren as a desert, and the audio is awful to the point where you’d almost rather turn it off and just read the text provided. Controls are overly complicated and counterintuitive which may be the biggest issue with this game. I’m not sure what sort of crowd wants a game like this. If you are a huge WWII tank buff, or historian, you may find a way to enjoy it … if not, I’d recommend waiting till it’s out of Early Access before even considering it.

Rating – 3/10

Purchase – Steam £10.99/$14.99

Trailer – 

Let’s take a look at … Ori and the Blind Forest

Every so often a game comes along that pushes the boundaries of video game visuals and art direction. Ori and the Blind Forest by Moon Studios is one such game. It transports you to a world full of beauty, danger, exploration, and emotion like no other. It’s a game in its own category.

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Within the first 10 minutes I was almost in full tear factory mode. You become invested immediately, and what Ori does to the player within the opening scene is what “UP” by Pixar did in its opening scene. It grabs you so hard you are forced to continue to find out what might come next.

You play as Ori, a small nimble creature (a forest spirit) that traverses a beautiful, naturalistic, and unfamiliar world in which he finds himself thrust to learn more about his origins. The only thing to do is move forward, but it’s not without its perils. To slap the genre of MetroidVania on this title would be fairly accurate, but it’s also heavy on platforming and RPG elements such that you learn new abilities via an experience points system. They can be chosen from 3 different branches depending on what your play style is, and can be maxed out by the end of the game.

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Being a fan of Metroid style games, I was immediately at home with Ori. I would see something in the distance that I knew I couldn’t get, learn a new ability and come back to claim my prize.  Thankfully the game allows you to learn abilities that make these items show up on the map, so no guesswork is involved in finding them. It was refreshing to see a developer put the time in to letting the player have more fun and worry less about writing everything down, or trying to remember what locations they would have to return to.

In addition to the painting like scenery, the soundtrack was equally as amazing. Tranquil music would play while exploring the world, and then ramp-up during a scene of particular importance, or when the situation takes a dire turn. It raises the tension well, and then gently calms the player down, allowing them to focus on exploring. It’s beautiful, and adds to your investment in the game and its environment incredibly well.

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All in all, Ori and the Blind Forest was everything I could have wanted in a game of this genre.  With beautiful music, well thought out move sets, gorgeous visuals, RPG elements, and a world that comes together seamlessly… there isn’t much more you could ask for.  It’s truly a remarkable game and experience.

Tl:dr – Some people buy games based on story, art direction, or gameplay. Ori and the Blind Forest offers all 3, and brings them together in majestic harmony to create of the better games by an indie studio that I’ve played in years. It’s full of emotion, visual brilliance, and gameplay that shows the dedication and talent that Moon Studios put into this game. It’s a no brainer that if you like MetroidVania style games, or are just looking for a good platformer/RPG, Ori and the Blind Forest will satisfy your every need and leave you wanting more.

Rating – 9.5/10

Buy – Steam £14.99/$19.99 

Trailer –

Let’s talk about … – OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood

Gone are the days of Tony Hawk Pro Skater and its “somewhat” exaggerated level of modern day skating. Meet OlliOlli2, Roll7s take on skating in the most extreme environments, all while staying true to the tricks and style of what we’ve come to expect from skating video games.

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OlliOlli2 is the sequel to the appropriately named OlliOlli in which you skate through various environments ranging from California, the Wild West, an Aztec Temple, and finally a robotic futuristic utopia. There are 25 standard levels, and if you complete all of the requirements on that stage it unlocks a harder version of it. Add to those 25 levels and Daily Challenges, and you have a game that will take quite a while to master.

As the game progresses it eventually gets harder, but not without teaching you the ropes slowly and effectively in order to help you progress through each world’s set of stages.

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OlliOlli2 is short, sweet, and deceptively simple. You start off learning a handful of tricks, all which are performed with a PC compatible controller. For this review I used an Xbox One controller, though anything with an analogue stick will suffice. Simple tricks can be performed by hitting any standard direction on the stick, and more complicated moves can be done by rolling the stick down and then forward or backward. Think street fighter style move sets. The harder the trick, the more its worth.

At the beginning of the level, you perform a trick, and then have to time the pressing of the “A” button when you are close to landing. This is how you get maximum points for your tricks. Once manuals are introduced you can string together trick after trick and never ruin your combo.  I was able to complete multiple stages with a lot of focus and a little effort all in one large combo.  Be warned though … the tricks are unconventional in the way they are performed.  As easy as it sounds, I spent a lot of time failing a stage just because my brain forgot how to grind, or manual, or do a simple trick which would lead to me crashing hard into a wall, or spikes, or a vat of toxic goo.

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There isn’t much to this game which is sort of the beauty of it. It’s simple to understand but devilishly hard to master. The tutorials teach you everything you need to know, and make you perform well enough to move on and use it in the real game. Even though the control scheme is much different, it can be learned quickly and is really accessible for any skill level.

Top it off with well-drawn but simplistic graphics and a killer soundtrack, and you have a near perfect experience that will challenge you to constantly better your performance, all the while bobbing your head to the fantastic ethereal score. Unlike previous skating games, there is no punk here, which honestly helped me relax and really chill out while repeatedly failing over and over again.

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One side note. The level variety reminded me of the stages from Streets of Rage 2. While these games have nothing in common, I almost wonder if the music and art direction were influenced by that game. The carnival level immediately brought me back to those glorious 16-bit days!

Tl:dr – OlliOlli2 is a wonderful game for even someone who may not be a skateboarding fanatic or enthusiast. If you are, that’s great! If not, you will still find hours of enjoyment in this title doing olli’s, nollie’s, grinding, manuals and other speciality tricks. Music and visuals are great, and it’s easy enough for anyone to pick up, but is difficult to master. 50+ levels, daily challenges make up this near-perfect sequel to a game you may have never heard of or overlooked.  A 2-D platformer that absolutely nails the skateboarding genre. I strongly suggest checking this out regardless of your perception on skateboarding.

Rating – 9.5/10

Buy – Steam £10.99/$14.99

Trailer –