Most Recent Reviews

Victory Run

Phil Fogg reviews Hudson Soft's racing simulator for the TurboGrafx 16.

Nier: Automata

Aaron Mullan Reviews Platinum Games open-world action RPG

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Hollow Knight

Aaron Mullan Reviews TeamCherry's 2D Adventure

Batman: The Telltale Series

Phil Fogg Reviews Telltale's Adventure

 

TOM TOWERS

 

1954 Alcatraz, PC. First Published March 24, 2014 at laserlemming.com

Goodbye Deponia and The Walking Dead still fresh in our mushy, mesocarp of a now-mangled memory: Hawthorns then Grapes then Beets in that exact chronological, qualitative order; irrespectively of respect.

 

AR-K Chapter 2, PC. First published August 8, 2014 at laserlemming.com

...the pervasive ugliness and awkwardness pleasantly recalls the adventure games of old from an era when two-dimensional pixel paintings were replaced with the first innocent forays into three-dimensional worlds where chunky and three-dimensional characters were then placed in fuzzy, pre-rendered backgrounds.

Abyss Odyssey, PC.  First Published July 29, 2014, at laserlemming.com

Procedural generation does not merely inhibit the aesthetic quality of Abyss Odyssey, but also affects the design quality of the levels. Beyond the randomised difficulty, some of the individual levels come out as completely bland and uninteresting templates which means that, if unlucky, one’s excursion into the depths of the abyss may be completely devoid of novelty or excitement as one trudges through a level labelled as hard but blessed with scarcely a trap or enemy in sight.

  A Virus Named Tom, PC. First published October 2, 2012,  at robotgeek.co.uk

At first I was worried that perhaps A Virus Named Tom might be doing a disservice to my name, but as it turns out, I am in fact proud to share my name with such a charming and challenging robot. Here’s to A Virus Named Tom, and all the other Toms the world over that are doing the name proud!

  Japanese Game: Binary Domain Review, PS3. First published March, 2012, at robotgeek.co.uk

Binary Domain is Japanese Game’s latest album and the good news is that front man, Toshihiro Nagoshi, has managed to keep the obscure soul of Japanese Game alive and kicking, while also (intentionally or otherwise) satirising Japanese Game’s international influences.

Bastion, 360, PC. First Published at robotgeek.co.uk

A game that is elevated well above the average action RPG by its great graphics and music, a solid story and by a few neat quirks such as the narration. It’s not without its problems—the controls should be tighter, and the correlation between your actions and the narration could be a little sharper; in fact it is used very inconsistently, and without much success.
 

Bioshock 2, PC. Recorded July 2013 as part of Episode 15 of The Game Under Podcast

Bioshock Infinite, PC. Recorded July, 2013 as part of Episode 16 of The Game Under Podcast

Citizens of Earth, PC. 30th of January, 2014.

How about that Royal Rumble, honey beard?

Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut, PS3. First published at laserlemming.com

The music and sound effects are—unlike in many modern horror titles—completely unafraid of being abrasive and uncomfortable to the ear. Single tone synthesiser noises infest the concrete; babies cry down dead end corridors, and there’s a certain dirtiness to the sticky footsteps of the moistly blackened enemies which are mixed in stark contrast to the crisp, loud footsteps of York as he navigates these labyrinthine levels.

Dragon's Crown, PS3. First published at laserlemming.com

It is in this context that the true strength of the telegraphed nature of the bosses, and the loose, accessible mechanics of combat (most of the powerful attacks are performed simply by button mashing square or circle, with no particularly good timing required; and spamming dodge all but guarantees safety) become clear (beyond simple accessibility)—even the worst online connections never become frustrating or unplayable in combat due to the simplicity of the mechanics (lag spikes aside).

 

Double Dragon Neon, PC. First Published February 28, 2014 at laserlemming.com

Accompanying the rhythmic, lethargic action is a suitably cheesy collection of ‘80s cock rock, and cocky ‘80s dialogue extreme in its maximum levels of rad, dude. It fits well with the titular Neon-sheen that gives Neon an aesthetic closer to the ‘80s resurgence of Vaseline lenses, rather than Double Dragon’s plastic, prime-coloured urban decay.

Dyad, PC. First published May 1, 2013 at laserlemming.com

Of course it’s reductive to try and analyse Dyad simply as a racer; or even a shooter for that matter. Indeed, both are valid interpretations of Dyad, but the clever gameplay mechanics have more depth to them than that: at times it can almost feel as if you’re playing a platforming game—not racing through the track, but jumping from hook to hook. And it’s this depth and huge potential that makes the trophy levels work so well; they take the unique mechanics and create gameplay concepts around them just as unique. All other interpretations feel like wasted potential.

Earth Defense Force 2025, PS3. First published March 13, 2014 at laserlemming.com

There is no spontaneity or spark in the level design. There is nothing complicated. And this is exactly why such great heights of satisfaction can be reached. Place the player in a punishing, but utterly fair and completely predictable scenario, and let the player work out just how it can be beaten; removing chance from the equation almost completely. It would be nice if the human cannon fodder did not wander chanting EDF! EDF! into one’s carefully timed rocket blast—killing them and one’s self as well—, however. One hopes that their newlywed, newly widowed wives suffer. Greatly.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, PC. First published November 8, 2013 at laserlemming.com

The environments are no less spectacular than the performances. A post-apocalyptic America means an America being overtaken once more by nature. Vines and creepers climb the walls of skyscrapers, and grass pokes through the cracks in concrete. Trees grow in the strangest of places, and rust colours the metal sticking out as jagged splinters from the decaying concrete—Central Park is slowly devouring the entire city. And through this most alive wasteland, dangerous mechs wander. Remnants from the war that all but wiped out humanity (what is it with robot wars and the destruction of humanity? There is an obvious correlation between the improvement in robot technology and a decrease in the deadliness of war), and are setting about wiping out what little remains of it.

Goodbye Deponia, PC. First published October 24, 2013 at laserlemming.com

Beyond breaking out into amateur noodling, the script is a mixture of errant puns, inappropriate wordplay, and fourth wall breaking inner monologues, or commentary on events in the game or the adventure game genre as a whole. Though often relying on adventure game comedy clichés, these clichés are performed admirably, and never become the sole focus of the humour: the puns, the wordplay, and the interaction between characters (many of whom have been previously met in the series and who Rufus now heaps more and more amusing misery upon) compose a comedy collage which thus allows one joke to fall flat, for in its place will come another bound to hit the mark.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, PS3.  First published December 27, 2013 at laserlemming.com

Even so, despite Victory being generally easier than mk2 and the original Hyperdimension Neptunia, much of the hardcore spirit has not been lost. In the scouted out and optional high level dungeons, it’s an exciting feeling to venture into the unknown—taking on mobs levels out of reach and building up a full EX Drive Gauge in preparation for a feisty, ambitious and unknown mini-boss battle.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle, PS3. First published May 15, 2014.

...an absurd, amusing, and highly intense game of cat and mouse; player and AI (or player) jumping and dodging in blind anticipation of an incoming attack; and otherwise flailing awkwardly mere millimetres away from one another due to the requisite intimacy in which one can land a blow.

Journey of a Roach, PC. First published November 12, 2013 at laserlemming.com

Journey of a Roach shares with The Walking Dead not only the same principles of movement, but also a similar graphical tone. Not only are the graphics cartoony, but draw upon the same colour palette of The Walking Dead as well; which is no surprise given the post-apocalyptic setting that manages to—like the music—be simultaneously cute and off-putting.

Killzone 3, PS3. First published at robotgeek.co.uk

It’s Killzone, but not as we know it. It’s Killzone for your console FPSer fan with a short attention span.

Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded, PC. First published July 22, 2013at laserlemming.com

Indeed, the vast majority of the puzzles are simple and easily solved—certainly not what one would expect from a remake of such an old adventure game. Wasn’t that what killed the adventure game genre? Esoteric, illogical puzzles that only mentally challenged adventure gamers such as myself could even begin to comprehend? But there’s my ignorance again; the original and original remake may not have followed such early adventure game conventions.
 

Mafia II, PS3.  Recorded September 2013 as part of Episode 25 of The Game Under Podcast.

Max Payne 3, PC. Recorded September 2013 as part of Episode 21 of The Game Under Podcast.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, PS3. First published January 23, 2014 at laserlemming.com

If the incredible combat of the finale was not enough, the hilarious storytelling (which comes across as a very deliberate parody of its own source material) reaches its ultimate zenith as well: a cheek bursting duologue spat from the tongues of a bent politician athlete who runs the gamut of conspiracy theories on US foreign policy to Ayn Rand, and Raiden who responds to this very Metal Gear-like (minus any sense of subtly or good taste) conspiracy theorising with grizzly, hammy one liners. Despite the deliberate absurdity of its delivery, it’s a far deeper rumination on Ayn Rand than Ken Levine managed to bash together with his false gravitas.

Metro 2033, PC. Recorded June 2013 as part of Episode 10 of The Game Under Podcast.

Metro: Last Light, PC. First published May 24, 2013 at laserlemming.com

I couldn’t just sit back and wait for the monsters to attack me; lazily picking them off as they charged towards their doom. I had to proactively kill them, running from monster to monster; killing them as fast as I could. So close was I to the monsters now that not only did I have to squint through the rain on my visor, but blood too. After killing only a few monsters, I would have to wipe the blood from my visor just to be able to see; more precious time wasted.

Papo & Yo , PC

I’m sorry Monster; and I do still love you. Don’t forget that; but no matter how great my love, I still had to let you go.

Raven, The: Legacy of a Master Thief, PC. First published September 25, 2013 at laserlemming.com

The ensemble cast draw upon crime fiction clichés, which means there is a great variety in accents that come from all over the globe. Unfortunately this emphasis on accents for the sake of clichés can sometimes get in the way of the emotional performances, with slurred words often blurring the intended emotion through overwrought, melodramatic pronunciation. Nevertheless, even the characters with the worst accents still impress rhythmically and tonally.

Remember Me, PS3. First published June 10, 2013 at laserlemming.com

Although there is reasonable variety in how enemies must be approached, they too are introduced at a leisurely pace, and it’s only towards the end when they are mixed together in a variety of ways so as to alter your sortie response strategy. And it is here where the combat system begins to shine, despite the staleness of the limited number of combos that has already begun to fester pungently.

Resident Evil: Revelations, PC. First published May 20, 2013 at laserlemming.com

Sure, characters’ faces look surprisingly good and textures are nice and crisp, but at the same time there is an extremely noticeable difference in rendering quality between faces and the rest of the character model, and for every high resolution texture, there is one that wouldn’t look out of place at 480P, but certainly does at a more reasonable; more modern resolution.

 Saints Row 2, PC. Recorded September 2013 as part of Episode 25 and 26 of The Game Under Podcast

Serious Sam 3, PC. First published August 12, 2012, at robotgeek.co.uk

  What was once an intense, claustrophobic experience becomes a hilarious exercise in slapstick, and is all the better for it. Bullets and rockets fly everywhere, humorous character models jump, run and die together, and the once imposing army of enemies almost become mere cannon fodder. It’s important to play on Serious, as anything lower than the highest difficulty can be breezed through with a few team mates.

Steamworld Dig, PC. First published December 17, 2013 at laserlemming.com

The endearing tone of Steamworld Dig is not limited merely to the music and the steambots’ dialogue and vocalisations, but infuses the visual style as well. Though lushly enough drawn to benefit greatly from the transition from 3DS to HD, the angular, chunky and satisfying destruction of the environment, and the simple visual style of the characters, give Steamworld Dig a satisfyingly old school bent so that it might just as easily be compared to Dig Dug as Braid.

Tex Murphy Adventure, A., PC. First Published May 26, 2014, at laserlemming.com

But the majority of the gameplay takes the form of pixel hunting; if pixels were the size of voxels. Almost all of one’s time spent when actually trying to solve a puzzle consists of the search for the items which form the blatantly obvious solutions to the majority of the non-brainteasing puzzles.

This War of Mine, PC. First Published December 8, 2014 at laserlemming.com
The sacrifice of manpower or resources to help another will likely lead to a reward, but what if nobody survives (physically or mentally) to make use of that reward? Yet, even if desperate, turning away a beggar in and of itself will still depress the empathetic squatters. But, even if rich, helping a beggar in and of itself will still depress the despotic squatters. And a depressed squatter is only one step away from a dead squatter.

Tomb Raider, PC. First published March 22, 2013 at laserlemming.com

But, due to the heavy visual and aural punch of the bullets and the shouting Solarii—and the power of the bow—these encounters are still engaging, even though they ultimately never reach a particularly intense crescendo due to the repetition and predictable design.

Torn Blanket: Torn Curtain Review, Film. First Published April, 2012, at robotgeek.co.uk

Hot off the heels of Zorba the Greek and seemingly shoehorned into the film—just as Julie Andrews was—for the purpose of marketing. Oh, but what heavy handedness it is! She is pathetic, brutal, and hilarious all at once. She’s completely over the top, hamming it up like there’s no tomorrow, and at the same time crushingly tragic. It’s an exceptional performance, and the fact that it doesn’t seem to fit the narrative pacing makes it feel somehow right: remember that Paul Newman and Julie Andrews may as well have fallen down the rabbit hole as much as caught a plane to East Berlin!

Uncharted PS3. Recorded June 2013 as part of Episode 10 of The Game Under Podcast.

WWE2K14, PS3. First published November 13, 2013

WWE 2K14 might offer few improvements over WWE ’13 in terms of gameplay, and it still leaves it to the players to create a genuine WWE experience, but the WrestleMania Mode and The Streak mode are not only a perfect build up to WrestleMania XXX, but genuinely engaging to play through—and the base gameplay is certainly no worse for the iterative improvements.

Warlock 2: The Exiled, PC. First Published April 28, 2014 at laserlemming.com

In actuality, the AI is often utterly benign: wandering aimlessly around the world with little discernible purpose: sometimes an AI ally might send out a whole platoon of troops through a teleportational portal (a convenient way to break up areas for the purpose of improved performance, and also provide a clear distinction between climates) only to slay a few middling wildebeests, and then return through the same portal; whereupon they take up their static positions of absolutely no apparent strategic advantage.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, PS4. First published 1st of July, 2015 at GameUnder.net

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a wild goose chase.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Blood and Wine, PS4. First published 12th of July 2016, at GameUnder.net

In the duchy of Toussaint, Geralt in his Pierrot-like armour blends into the crowd.

Yakuza: Dead Souls, PS3. First Published May 5th, 2013, at gameunder.net

The chainsaw epitomises all that is wrong with Yakuza: Dead Souls. What should be a joyous way to cut your way through mass hordes of zombies is an awkward way to take down even one. When it doesn’t work you will be stumbling this way and that, cutting into everything but zombie flesh, and when it does work you will simply be repeatedly pressing a single button; perhaps holding down L1 at the same time.

Zeno Clash II, PC. First published August 6, 2013 at laserlemming.com.

And yet, despite the unplayable frame rate, much visual detail has been cut from Zeno Clash II, and the cuts result in many areas losing their sense of identity. The desert is devoid of the flora that grew vibrantly in it on the PC version. This flora gave the desert a distinctive personality: it wasn’t just a barren void full of gigantic dinosaurs and suspicious shellfish that may or may not have eyes in their testicles, but a place where plucky flowers dared to grow; flavouring the air with their pollen.


 

PHIL FOGG

Air Traffic Chaos, Nintendo DS. First Published February 13, 2010 at thevgpress.com

Air Traffic Chaos is a fun, challenging game that introduces tension into gameplay like few games do. Its Japanese design, handled by Sonic Powered and Lichterfeld, reminded me of the civillian flight-sim Jet de Go, a Japan-only release for the playstation that supported the PocketStation.

Battlefield: Hardline
, PS4. First Published July 25, 2016 at gameunder.net
Battelfield: Hardline was characterized as a tone deaf contribution intended solely to broaden the appeal of EA's comparitively beleugued battlefield franchise. The problem is, this game represents no such narrative.

Batman: The Telltale Series, PC. First Published January 2, 2017 at gameunder.net
The game showed that Telltale really does have a golden goose, and it legitimately created a desire in me to see Gatsby: The Telltale Series, same for Warhol and Hunter S. Thompson.

Bulls vs Blazers and the NBA Playoffs, SNES. First Published April 11, 2014 at gameunder.net
...the Pope, in a timely move, apologized for the inquisition of Galileo.

Cibele, PC, First Published September 18, 2016 at gameunder.net
Each 15 minute play session is framed with hilariously awkward FMV content which tells the story of two young first-time lovers crawling their way to and from their first physical encounter.

Cubivore, Nintendo Gamecube. First Published December 7, 2010 at thevgpress.com
Even the smallest details of the game are thoughtful.  The scenes in-between evolutions are humorous and touching.  It is hard to understand how a translator would have tackled this material.  The script it pun-laden and innocent at the same time.

Dark Sector, Playstation 3.   First Published May 19, 2011 at thevgpress.com
Dark Sector itself, in a vacuum, has nothing much wrong with it.

Enslaved, Playstation 3. First Published February 14, 2012 at thevgpress.com
The post-apocalyptic world, rather than being a desolate drab place, is separated by enough time from it's destruction that nature has come back to reclaim a city that once conquered it.  This lends the world unique and beautiful look.  Later levels, which take place in the mid-west and south-west of North America, are equally interesting in their nature versus junk-yard appearance.

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Playstation Portable. First Published March 6, 2010 at thevgpress.com

Playing as the half-man, half-bird lawyer you must investigate crimes and prove in court various outlandish schemes.

Land before Time, The: Great Valley Racing Adventure, PlayStation. First Published August 2, 2016 at gameunder.net

...succeeds in being an honest enterprise in licensing by not betraying the source material nor the target audiences enjoyment of gaming.

Matchbox Caterpillar Construction Zone, Gameboy Color. First Published December 18, 2010 at the vgpress.com

There are 26 levels, which take anywhere from a minute to 12 minutes to complete.  In each level you control one of about 8 different pieces of Caterpillar heavy machinery. Your perspective is top-down and, as is typical for the Gameboy Color, the graphics are quite simple, but not distracting from the action. 

Mass Effect, Xbox 360. First Published March 6, 2012 at thevgpress.com

  As with all BioWare games, there is at least one element of Mass Effect that is excellent, but unfortunately, as with all BioWare games there are more that are uneven in quality, some of them game breakers. 

Moon, Nintendo DS.  First Published May 6, 2011 at thevgpress.com

 Moon is one of the very few first-person-shooters for the DS, so as both an FPS and DS enthusiast it's purchase was a no brainer for me.  Particularly since it was being sold by the boutique publisher, Mastiff, who usually brings hidden gems to light.

R.C. Pro-Am, NES, XB1, First Published April 2, 2016 at gameunder.net
Rare's 1987 game on the NES, ripped down to its chassis, is a caRPG.

R.C. Pro-Am II, NES, XB1, First Published April 5, 2016 at gameunder.net
As with so may other Rare games, the time for a reboot is long overdue.

Reservoir Dogs, Playstation 2. First Published July 26, 2010 at thevgpress.com

  It would be natural to assume, given the material and time of the release, that Reservoir Dogs would be either a Max Payne or GTA rip-off skinned with the Tarantino I.P.  It is neither.  The game takes every scene alluded to in the movie, (that was not shown), and lets you play as each of the colored men (Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown etc...).

Sammy Sosa Softball Slam, Playstation. First Published August 18, 2012 at thevgpress.com

  Since the sport of softball has nothing to do with baseball, the lack of an MLB license doesn’t hurt the game.  In fact, having Sosa play on the same roster as the staff of Shorty’s Diner is made more interesting by the fact that a professional ball player would take time out of his 162 game season to hammer softballs out of municipal parks.

Super R.C. Pro-Am, Game Boy, First Published April 4, 2016 at gameunder.net
The opponents in Super R.C. Pro-Am, are more sedate in this entry, but this is offset by the ability to play against human opponents using the Game Link Cable (which came in the box with every Game Boy). This brings the game's enjoyment into an entirely higher level, particularly the combat element, much as was later replicated in games like NAMCO's Battle Cars and Nintendo's Mario Kart.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Playstation 3. First Published October 13, 2007 at thevgpress.com

  With it's heavy borrowing from other games Uncharted will not change the way you think about games, but it may change your feelings about Naughty Dog...

Victory Run, TurboGrafx 16. First Published May 8, 2017 at gameunder.net

  Taking the advice of it's own manual Victory Run doesn't, "always keep the pedal to the metal!"


AARON MULLAN

Nier: Automata, PC. First Published April 8, 2017 at gameunder.net

Nier: Automata is an unpredictable game. 

Hollow Knight, PC. First Published March 24, 2017 at gameunder.net

Hollow Knight, Team Cherry’s stunning debut game, has taken the Metroidvania genre to a whole new level, with its intricate exploration and challenging combat.