Tag Archives: gaming

Steam – The biggest issue facing the new beta and a potential solution

For those unaware, the Steam next major update has recently entered a beta state, giving eager users a much anticipated glimpse of the long overdue upcoming user library overhaul.

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The new library hub

Although this new addition can be cynically attributed to Valve’s new attempts to rapidly modernise Steam‘s features in the wake of the rising popularity of the Epic Games Launcher – perhaps the only game launcher with the financial backing to topple Valve’s market monopoly – it is nevertheless certainly nice to see Steam with a long overdue fresh coat of paint.

 

Boasting a sleek design, smooth animations and one-of-a-kind automated library management features users have so far been delighted with the new update. If you fancy a guide on how to acquire the new update, simply click here!

Although the update has been applauded by many, there is still one major problem – one that proves to be quite the sticking point for users less than keen to update.

The issue stems from Valve’s change to a new way of presenting game: the new vertical box art. Despite conjuring up some warm nostalgic memories in those old enough to remember browsing rental games in Blockbuster, and being overall more visually appealing, it requires quite a bit of developer input to pull off.

Developers have been encouraged to upload vertical box art and banner images with their games’ media assets for some time now a problem arises when developers won’t. Despite the best efforts of Steam‘s algorithm to generate box-art for every game, using pre-existing banner images, the results are hardly amazing and really detract from the otherwise flawless presentation.

It’s fair enough to understand that with old games, tiny indie titles, or even games where developers no longer have the rights to the product, it is unreasonable to expect a box-art overhaul there are plenty of examples of companies that do have the resources to update assets but simply won’t.

Rockstar Games for example, haven’t bothered to update their Steam releases for years, leaving L.A. Noire and Grand Theft Auto IV in almost unplayable states, and have continued this trend here – with all their past titles lacking the new box-art.

Sonic.PNG

Worse still is when companies update some of their games, but fail to update others (as pictured above with the Sonic franchise). It creates a disjointed feeling and the effect that, through no fault of Valve‘s, the update was in some way rushed or is unfinished.

Whilst some people’s suggestions that Valve should hire an army of interns to sit down and manually create box-art for every single game ever released on the platform are clearly un-achievable, there is a genuinely pragmatic solution quite close at hand.

For some years now, Steam has allowed the creation and sharing of customised user content via the Steam Workshop and it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to have this extended for box-art. There is already a feature implemented to have users be able to create and upload their own box-art to their games locally, so why not expand this facility to downloading and sharing the work of others.

By allowing users to select and download their favourite Steam game box art, or perhaps even just large user-made collections of it, Valve would be able to effectively fix the biggest issue plaguing their latest creation without having to lift a finger.

Admittedly, it’s not the best solution, and is certainly open to abuse (although not more so than the already existing Steam Workshop), it is clear that something at least needs to be done about this problem before the library beta is released to the public; and I for one am very curious to see what this “something” will be.

How to update to the new Steam library beta

The much anticipated Steam library update is here, giving Steam a long overdue new coat of paint. Although accessing it right now in its beta state is a little bit of a hassle, we’ve constructed this helpful guide to help you have you new Steam beta downloaded and running in no time. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!


1: Install Steam

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If somehow you don’t already have Steam installed on your computer, perhaps you’re just a new user attracted by the buzz surrounding the new update, it is integral that you download Steam before following any further steps in this guide.

To do this, simply visit Steam and press the “Install Steam” button handily circled above. Once the file has been downloaded, run it and follow onscreen instructions. After you have done this, open Steam and log in. If you do not have a Steam account you will need to create one by following onscreen prompts.


2: Locate the “Settings” tab

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The top of your Steam window will look something like this. Press on the “Steam” drop-down label in the top left.

3.PNGSelect the “Settings” tab within the drop-down box.


3: Change “Beta participation” to “Steam Beta Update”

4.PNGIn the dialogue box opened by the previous step, select the “Change” button under “Beta participation”. Open the drop-down box in the popup and select “Steam Beta Update”.

This will prompt your Steam window to close and download an update, when the update completes and the tab reopens you will be treated to a fresh new look.

Superliminal – The most exciting upcoming game that no-one seems to be talking about

Pillow Castle‘s upcoming puzzler Superliminal debuted at E3 this year and, ironically contrary to the meaning of its title appears to be completely outside of the gaming’s collective consciousness.

Superliminal is a bizarre take on the puzzle genre that first captured my interest when it debuted at the 2013 Tokyo Game Show under the far lengthier title Museum of Simulation Technology. Although just a proof of concept, the 2013 demo showcased some of the mind-melting potential the game’s perspective puzzles could present.

Almost 6 years later and things have definitely started to take shape in a new trailer which showcases the same excellent game-play structured around what seems to be a more narrative based experience newly clad in a fresh minimalist art-style.

The trailer reveals some more information on the game’s setting, some kind of dream therapy based treatment program, and presents the character of Dr. Glenn Pierce whose soothing Scottish tones will presumably accompany you throughout your surreal wanderings.

The flashes of blood drenched corridors shrouded in static towards the close of the trailer do cast Pierce’s presence in a more sinister light and highlights what could be an intriguing mystery surrounding his true motivations.

The trailer is currently sitting at around only 12,000 views on YouTube, which certainly seems unfairly low, given the booming popularity of other quirky puzzlers in the past. With 2019’s trend towards the ultra-profitable all-consuming “live-service” model for our games, it seems we need to try hard to nurture these seemingly dwindling independent creative titles.

If you want to help support a more artistic approach to gaming, you will be able to pick up a copy of Superliminal when it launches to the Epic Game Store later this year.

Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure – Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Gibbous – A Ctuhulhu Adventure was provided free of charge by Stuck in Attic


Summer is practically over and as everyone knows, it’s now time for humanity to celebrate it’s customary spooky season by scaring the hell out of each other with spine-chilling stories, frightening films and ghostly games. If however the current state of the environment/politics/imminent global conflict etc. has you terrified enough already it might be wise to stick to things more funny than fearsome. That’s exactly where Stuck in Attic‘s point-and-click Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure comes in.

The plot of Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure centres around a weary student trying to revert his newly enchanted cynical talking cat to a state of silence by undermining the work of a charmingly inept cult, rescuing a kidnapped detective all while saving the world  from certain doom while he’s at it. If this sounds a little bit mental – it really is.

This story is told through the perspective of three interesting protagonists; the kidnapped detective Don – armed with his delightfully cliche gravelly tones and spouting constantly lamenting dialogue, the half-Romanian student Buzz and the imaginatively named cat Kitteh. You are given a good amount of time to get to know each character, and when the game eventually end you’ll find yourself quite sad to see them go.

As the name would suggest, Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure is heavily inspired by the works of horror legend H.P Lovecraft and the dialogue delights in making references to the source material – even lovingly cracking a few jokes at its expense. Despite its clear influences Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure feels very stand-alone, and thankfully avoids the over-reliance on its source material  – an easy to fall into pitfall that has ruined many parodies. This is thanks to the  great deal of work that has clearly gone into crafting a solid plot and presenting a unique and engaging world.

Rather than taking the easy route and lazily rehashing a Lovecraft setting, Gibbous draws from the overriding themes present in the locales of his work and transfers them to the new setting of the developers’ homeland; Transylvania. From the ancient tightly-nit houses of Kingsport to the isolation and decaying wooden walkways and huts of Innsmouth your favourite Lovecraft motifs are still here, but presented with the reinvigorating dash of a new cultural influence.

Artistically, the whole game is a marvel. With beautifully hand-drawn background stills showcasing moody Gothic interiors bathed in softly glowing candlelight leading out onto mazes of arched houses under a rich dusk sky. Cut-scenes are too hand-drawn and extremely reminiscent of Disney animations in all the best of ways.

The voice acting is also, for the most part, superb; with the few times where it wavers actually helping to add to the point-and-click charm.

One unfortunate area where the game’s overall visual excellence falters would certainly be character’s mouth animations which seem to bare very little correlation to what is actually being said. Although a minor gripe, seeing characters’ mouths flap open and closed wildly like an excitable goldfish for a couple of seconds before a line has started and after it has ended is a little distracting.

Gibbous triumphs as a successful comic work. Although the art of laughter is certainly subjective, there are many moments throughout that I feel could bring even the most hardhearted individual into a guffaw. The fast-paced delivery and the fact that almost every line of dialogue is jam-packed with jokes and pop-culture references one after another keeps things from becoming too awkward when the lines occasionally fall a little flat.

In typical point-and-click fashion, the game is structured with occasional puzzle solving throughout. With a small item pool in your inventory and (very unusually for a point-and-click game) developers that actually understand how trains of human logic run,  these puzzles can be solved with no real hassle. I’d say they were even a little too easy – even for a person as embarrassingly bad at puzzles as I am. I was actually a little shocked that by the credits of the game I hadn’t needed to look at a tutorial even once. This certainly isn’t a game for those yearning to self-inflict pain trying to solve incomprehensible dilemmas Monkey Island style.

Despite it’s lacklustre puzzles and slightly bumpy edges, Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure successfully tackles an ambitious blend of H.P Lovecraft’s hair-raising cosmic horror and the campy comedy characteristic of the ongoing rival of the point-and-click genre with an admirable level of finesse. For Lovecraft fanatics playing this is a necessity and, thanks to its accessibility in the fields of both comedy and puzzle design, it’s a title I would recommend to casual players looking for a game to play this Halloween – one that’s a little more sweet than scary.

Definitely give Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure a look on the Steam Store by clicking here!

NBA 2K20 – The latest trailer reveals an online casino rather than a sports game

The latest trailer for 2K Games’ latest entry in their NBA 2K basketball series dropped as of a few days ago and has united series’ fans and non-sports gamers alike in a wave of collective disgust and condemnation.

The trailer, which you can watch above, showcases quite a lot of the new mechanics 2K is introducing to the franchise’s MyTEAM mode, none of which seem to have the faintest connection to the actual sport of basketball around which the series is allegedly centred.

Viewers are presented with a plethora of flashy slot machines, a ball-dropping mini-game based on the infamously addictive Japanese pachinko game and vibrant text emboldening words like “WIN!” and “TOKEN MANIA!”.

If the trailer wasn’t already reminiscent enough of dodgy YouTube gambling advertisements, eagle eyed viewers quickly spotted that in much of the blatantly staged webcam footage 2K uses throughout the trailer, which shows NBA community personalities supposedly rejoicing at their latest wins, the production team couldn’t even be bothered to turn the players’ controllers on!

Most egregious of all is the fact that despite NBA 2K20‘s apparent focus on gambling, the game received the “3+” age rating from PEGI in Europe and the “E – Everyone” age rating in the US. The low age rating combined with the game’s vibrant box art and the fact that sports games are generally enjoyed by a younger game demographic helps highlight what seems to be a thinly veiled predatory attempt by 2K Games to opportunistically exploit vulnerable children into haemorrhaging reams of money into their game.

This isn’t the first time 2K Games has been eager to fill their wallets at the expense of the consumer, with their recent decision to include unskippable advertisements for real life products before matches in their previous title 2K19 receiving a great deal of community backlash.

Unsurprisingly, it seems players don’t enjoy being force-fed ads in a game which they could’ve potentially spent upwards of £80 for a copy of.

The NBA series seems to be rapidly turning into a case study on how far a company can apologetically milk their player’s wallets dry of as much cash as humanly possible and, seeing how the game is still selling well in-spite of this, looks to be the tip of the hellish iceberg.

3 teeny-tiny developer mistakes that had catastrophic repercussions

Believe it or not, we all make mistakes. Mistake making is one of the defining characteristics of humanity. Believe it or not, Game developers are also human, and that means they can make mistakes. Unlike the rest of us however, the smallest mistakes on their end can have absolutely huge knock-on effects.

Although it is certainly through making mistakes we learn,  sometimes it can be quite fun just to look back at some painful memories and reminisce about our (or others’!) mistakes. This is exactly what we’ll be doing here by coming together to point and laugh at 3 examples of tiny developer mistakes that had catastrophic repercussionson their games.


 

3: Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing – Forgetting to make the truck move

Image result for Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing

Platform(s): PC

Price*: NA

Developer: Stellar Stone

When it comes to Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, it’s quite hard to find part of the game that isn’t a mistake. It’s a veritable buffet of errors. Everything from the missing textures on maps to the strange behaviour of the “physics engine” and the non-existent collision detection for your vehicle aims to hamper this would-be racer.

After many hours (40 seconds) of careful deliberation however, we have decided that the most egregious error is the fact that the developers seem to have forgotten to make your opponent’s lorry move. That’s right; Big Rigs is a racing game – without the racing.

What’s worse is the fact that the developers could has programmed in your oppositions movement. In an official patch version that surfaced online some time after launch, your rival actually moves! They don’t finish the race of course, just stopping short of the finish line (sorry if I got your hopes up). At least it’s something I suppose.


2: Team Fortress 2 – The crate that crashed a market

Platform(s): PC

Price*: Free!

Developer: Valve

By 11 years old I had already made plenty of mistakes. In Team Fortress 2‘s almost 12 year career however, it had very few under its belt. After over a decade of clean updates that would put other titles to shame, Valve was long overdue a major muck-up and, sure enough, in the last few weeks it finally arrived.

Ironically, it wasn’t a large-scale update that finally broke the game; but the simple addition of a new crate. It should have been an easy task. The TF2 team was just getting ready for a nice summer break and just needed to add a few new cosmetics in a groovy summer box before they could kick back and relax. They’ve added literally hundreds of different crates over the game’s long lifetime; everyone thought nothing could go wrong.

Everything went wrong.

Some strange coding mishap resulted in the game’s most valuable items; the highly coveted “unusual” hats to drop guaranteed from certain crates. This naturally tanked the game’s thriving Steam Community Market based economy and cost some hat traders losses hundreds of pounds in real world cash. The long term effects of the mistake are still unknown, but the market seems to have stablised in the last week. At least the community seems to have taken the glitch well, with countless hilarious memes appearing on the game’s subreddit.


1: Aliens: Colonial Marines – Giving the aliens lead poisoning

Image result for Alien Colonial Marines

Platform(s): PC, XBOX 360, PS3

Price*: £24.99

Developer: Gearbox Software

Gearbox Software is no newbie when it comes to controversy. Although this year’s trend seems to be to victimise the company for their allegiance to the Epic Games Store they have fallen victim to the internet’s disdain on many previous occassions. One such occasions was the release of the highly anticipated Aliens: Colonial Marines way back in 2013.

Freshly burned by the company’s previous disaster; the absolutely dreadful Duke Nukem: Forever, many fans and critics were quick to notice that Aliens: Colonial Marines was bad. Quite bad in fact. The title was critically panned with one of the main criticisms directed at the enemy aliens’ utterly incompetent AI.

What would have been an already mediocre horror-FPS became completely farcical with enemies that got stuck in walls, jammed in corners or otherwise just failed to acknowledge your existence. It took 5 years for a strangely dedicated modding community to pin down a problem with the AI. It wasn’t that the alien’s were inherently badly programmed, but rather that their programming was jeopardised by a typo.

Believe it or not, a mere typo managed to absolutely decimate a modern AAA game. Correcting “PecanGame.PecanSeqAct_AttachXenoToTether” to “PecanGame.PecanSeqAct_AttachPawnToTeather” in one of the game’s files exponentially improves the enemy’s AI.

I’m not going to pretend that fixing this error makes the game that much more enjoyable, but it certainly makes it at least playable.


*Prices are Steam store prices (excluding discounts or sales) as of August 2019.

Max Payne – How writer Sam Lake’s face came to define one of the most iconic characters of a generation

Anyone who has even glimpsed gameplay of Remedy‘s Max Payne knows that face. The iconic look of a man having just eaten a lemon that appeared plastered over protagonist Max’s polygonic profile throughout your playtime. A facade so iconic it’s endured two console generations, a mobile port and even been poorly replicated in a Mark Wahlberg film. It’s a pretty perfect profile for a violent vigilante but did you know that this physiognomic phenomenon actually has an amusing anecdote attached.

The look of biting into a lemon more bitter than Max’s past

To understand the origins of Max’s mug it’s important to know something about the climate of game development way back in the mid to late 90s when Remedy‘s ideas for a new third-person shooter title first arose. In a world where the multi-million dollar budgets of your entertainment seem to increase year on year it’s hard to remember a time where game developers were not corporations with thousands upon thousands of employees but rather a small group of guys and gals on a hamstring budget trying to cobble together the best game they could.

A graph showcasing development budgets source: venturebeat.com

That’s not to say they didn’t do a good job. In fact, developers in the 90s with their miniscule budgets managed to make games that are a damn sight better than the titles today into which millions upon millions is poured. For a particularly relevant example, just look at Max Payne 3. Max Payne 3 cost over 115 Million US$ and although it is undeniably a great game, it just can’t compare to the first in the series accomplished with a mere 3 Million2.

The development of the first Max Payne was a very careful game of compromise. One of the biggest compromises was made with the cut scenes which, although intended to be rendered in-engine, became real life photographs filtered and set out in the now iconic comic-book style.

Whilst using photos is visually more impressive and far cheaper than rendered cut scenes it did open up the need for models to portray the characters. As the comic panels were static images, and had narration placed over the top of them, it allowed the studio to skip out on hiring professional actors. Why spend all that extra cash hiring someone to model stills when you can come up with a far more creative solution.

Enter the Remedy staff who, along with their friends, families, distant long lost relatives and pretty much anyone they could convince to come along with them, ended up becoming the game’s impromptu models. The game’s lead writer, Sam Lake, took the starring role as the titular hero and, looking at the end result, it was a match made in heaven.

A even lesser known is the fact the game’s villain, Nicole Horne, was Lake’s mother which puts a new and slightly uncomfortable spin on the hero-villain dynamic.

Although only a character model, with Max’s voice portrayed by the excellent James McCaffrey, Lake’s impact on the character is palpable. It’s safe to say that Max Payne just wouldn’t carry the same B film charm without him.

How useful is this information? Not very. I suppose it could save you quite a fright if you bumped into Lake while you’re holidaying in Finland and thought that your childhood videogames were somehow coming to life; perhaps as a twisted form of revenge for all those years you never cleaned the discs. No, more than anything this little story into Max Payne’s development highlights a sense of humanity that may have been lost in the modern age of game development – an age where games no longer come with anecdotes.


References:

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_video_games_to_develop
2https://www.gamespot.com/articles/remedy-talks-max-payne-1-and-max-payne-2/1100-6337795/

Morphies Law: Remorphed – Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Morphies Law: Remorphed was provided free of charge by Cosmoscope GmbH


To say Cosmoscope‘s Morphies Law fell victim to Murphy’s law would have been a fairly ironic turn of events – and it was very much almost the case. In spite of a lacklustre Nintendo Switch launch, Cosmoscope admirably kept hard at work acting readily upon player feedback and nurtruing the game’s strong core fanbase. Almost one year later and Morphies Law has finally relaunched (or Remorphed) and accompanying it’s new PC release is a whole host of fantastic new features.

It’s not hard to say the concept behind Morphies Law is a very unique one. You shoot your enemies, or even your allies, to absorb their mass and grow and you lose your hard earned mass when hit. It sounds extremely simple, but the gameplay houses a surprisingly great deal of depth.

For one thing, matches are inherently self-balancing. The best players of either team will naturally become the biggest having absorbed the most enemies. A bigger body makes them bigger targets and a bigger target is one that can be hit more easily by a less skilled and less accurate player. Every match of Morphies Law plays quite a lot like the Call of Duty series’ Juggernaut gamemode, and it’s an awful lot of fun.

The goal of a match isn’t always just to gain the most mass either. Your aims vary drastically between game modes; from the most basic  “Morph Match”, a weight based take on a common deathmatch, to the manic “Head Hunt”, a pandemonic bid to capture your team’s misplaced giant head.

Mass also affects the capabilities of your “Butt rocket”, a rectal take on a jetpack, which, on the contrary to my basic understanding of physics, seems to become far more effective the heavier you are. Your size can also change the routes available to you while you navigate your environment. Huge morphies can jump to high vantage points and even trample over powerful fans which would send less fortunate lighter players flying to their deaths. Being small also has some perks, allowing you to dash in between the legs of enemies and find hidden tunnels through which you can scurry like a pesky neon-painted mouse.

A morphie high up in the food chain

The extremely fun gameplay is accompanied by a set of fantastically designed and delightfully varied maps. Although in the original release a few of the maps were veering a little towards the annoying side – seriously, as cool as fighting on an oil-flooded tanker sounds, the sliding around did get pretty infuriating – the Remorphed update has addressed this, and even added a few new sites to explore.

The refined version of the original maps and the all new ones added in Remorphed each bring their own unique set of hazards and a distinct theme. One match you could be exploring an ancient Aztec temple whilst the next takes you to a western town that is constantly sinking into quicksand.

Although very different, each map still adheres to the game’s great overall art style; a colourful day of the dead pastiche with plenty of cacti and neon lighting. The game’s soundtrack is a fittingly over-the-top mix of Mexican melodies, which can be pretty catchy at times. If your character’s stock aesthetic of full skeletal body paint is a little too subtle for you, can dive into the game’s host of extensive customisation actions.

One can change the body and face paint with presets, or even use the more in-depth editor to mix and match to create your own whacky design. Even animations can be customised by choosing new emotes or match introductions. Most impressive of all is the weapon customisation system, which has you combining two parts (a primary fire and a secondary fire) to create a gun that is utterly unique to you. Additionally, the new weapons added in Remorphed all make solid additions to your arsenal and are certainly appreciated.

Levelling up grants new weapons and piñatas, which are the game’s crate system. By hitting open piñatas you can obtain cosmetics. You’ll be pleased, no doubt, to hear that there are absolutely no microtransactions in sight as the crates and currency, metal nuts, can be gained solely by levelling up completing quests.

On a technical level, optimisation is good with the game running well on the Nintendo Switch whilst looking decent and running extremely smoothly on PC whilst looking a little nicer. The menus look good and are easy to navigate and UI is clean and can be understood readily at a glance. One thing I would change is the game’s current hit sound. The current one is a tad underwhelming – being a little twinkling noise – and something with a little more “oomph” wouldn’t go a miss.

The game supports cross-play between the PC and Switch which is good at bolstering player numbers. For when you want a little alone time; you can always have a blast with the game in configurable offline modes with bots.

Overall, although the original Morphies Law was a good idea hampered by a lack of refinement; Morphies Law: Remorphed is a good idea perfected. With very strong and unique gameplay, that has only improved through the frequent developer updates, Morphies Law: Remorphed is a constantly evolving shooter that you won’t want to put down and gains a strong recommendation from me.

As a nice little bonus, try out Morphies Law: Remorphed for free by downloading the hilarious Steam Demo here. If you fancy a less flatulent version, you can buy the full game on both PC and Nintendo Switch.

BIGFOOT – Early Access Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of BIGFOOT was provided free of charge by CyberLight Game Studio


“Bigfoot” is a name that will certainly strike fear into the hearts of hikers, park rangers and anyone who has ever accidentally flicked on to the Discovery channel after midnight. The ancient ape has been the star of numerous media exposés over the years, most famously with the TV masterpiece Finding Bigfoot which, even after 12 seasons, is yet to live up to its name. It’s only natural I suppose. Bigfoot is, of course, far too elusive to be caught, as evidenced by his successful evasion of the hordes of armed rednecks, I mean, highly qualified Bigfoot researchers that have been relentlessly pursuing him for decades.

I am only jesting of course; Bigfoot is undeniably fictitious – a fact of which I am certain that, deep down, even the most ambiguously qualified Discovery channel “Bigfoot specialist” is aware. In spite of this fact, it’s still undeniable that to wonder about the existence of the impossible is fun and to search for it is even more so. Perhaps it’s simply down to mankind’s primal desire to hunt something truly dangerous, or maybe just an act of escapism to try and free ourselves from the cushy constraints of suburbia with which we are bound throughout our lives.

BIGFOOT‘s banner art certainly showcases big feet

Whether performing daring bank heists or fighting aliens in invincible power armour videogames have always been an excellent medium with which one can experience the impossible. It seems a miracle that until Cyberlight Studio‘s 2019 title BIGFOOT, no videogames have capitalised on Sasquatch hysteria and presented audiences with a way to truly accomplish the impossible; a way to capture Bigfoot.


In 
BIGFOOT, intrepid investigators are tasked with locating four missing persons and foiling Bigfoot’s hijinks in one of two fictional National Parks: the densely forested Ross Lake in Arizona or Alaska’s snow-drenched Glacier Bay. Players can venture out on their quest alone or join up to four friends in an online match.

Taking out Bigfoot is not an easy task but, luckily, if players choose the Ross Lake map they are accompanied by a groovy and appropriately Scooby-Doo-esque camper van which is decked out with the very latest anti-Sasquatch gear. Hunting rifles, tacking bullets, flare guns, traps, tents and night-vision goggles are all there as you would expect although far more interestingly you are also provided with a set of eight motion-detecting remote cameras, a pilotable drone and a tablet with which to control them.

These high-tech gadgets form the crux of BIGFOOT‘s gameplay, which has you exploring a huge map in order to locate the missing, who have been unsurprisingly brutally murdered, whilst also hunting local fauna to make bait and setting up cameras and traps. It’s important to not get too carried away on your scout’s adventure however, losing track of the time and getting lost after nightfall is definitely not something you want to be doing.

Once back at your campervan you get to huddle up in your corner of choice and sit watching the cameras through your tablets on tenterhooks to see if your day’s preparation will pay off. Things actually get quite scary, as the sheer quietness of the surroundings, with only the crunch of leaves and the creaking of trees, begins to slowly but surely put you on edge. The camera’s beeps, which sound upon any detected motion, will send you scrambling in a panic to your tablet to desperately try and flick through the feeds in order to find the source – usually just a stray squirrel.

Things are even scarier still at Glacier Bay, which has players begin with almost no starting gear and, worse still, no comforting camper van. Instead, players have to venture into the forest completely unable to defend themselves in a mad rush to find as much equipment as they possibly can in the various desert log cabins strewn about the map.

Once you’ve finally trapped Bigfoot a couple of times, and unloaded about two hundred rounds of rifle ammunition into his posterior, his huge health pool reaches zero and it’s time to tie him up and triumphantly drag him back to your spawn area where you’ll be able to cage him and ship him off to tour zoos around the planet and be gawked at in disbelief by generations of tourists to come.

One of BIGFOOT‘s best gameplay qualities is that it does a great job of letting you know that you’re never really safe. As a player you’re always open to attack and your precious camper van or cosy little tent can’t do very much in the way of protecting you against an eight-foot tall beast. Your fear of the creature is further heightened by the solid map design, with dense forests that are very good at shielding him from view – often leaving you with only a brief glimpse of your furry attacker.

The blood-soaked human remains that can be found in buildings around the map are also an excellent way to provide a minor scare and help build a high level of suspense which, by your first encounter with Bigfoot, has reached almost tangible levels.

On the graphical front, BIGFOOT looks good. You are surrounded by lush and rich green flora, accompanied by some excellent sun effects and a set of sharp textures all powered by Unreal Engine 4. The game’s optimisation has also constantly improved throughout the title’s course of early access and the game runs very well without experiencing any sudden crashes even in multiplayer matches.

Slightly less good are the game’s animations which, although satisfactorily conveying the actions that they aim to convey, seem a little stiff at times and could use a little more work. In a similar way, the text in the game is also a little bit off, whilst there are no egregious errors and it conveys everything it needs too, the UI and loading screen text is sometimes phrased a little weirdly. Do bear in mind that the game is still in Early Access and due to the developer’s track record of frequent and very substantial updates, I am certain that these minor issues will be resolved by the time of a full release.

With an excellent premise, demonstrably great gameplay and positive developer input that helps moves the game forward every few months, BIGFOOT is an excellent title to pick up even in early-access. With friends or solo the gameplay experience is the pinnacle of gripping, delightfully tense and overall an awful lot of fun.

Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends – Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends was provided free of charge by Hendrik Felix Pohl 


Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends places players at the foot of an insurmountable mountain and has you both struggling to climb innumerable obstacles and battling a challenging set of deliberately obtuse controls all in an attempt to drive you to new physical heights and new emotional lows.

Pogostuck isn’t the first title of the rejuvenated mountain-climbing genre, taking clear inspiration from 2017’s surprise mountaineering hit Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy. For those who choose to abstain from being battered repeatedly by the latest online fads, or are otherwise just somehow unaware of its rise to fame, Getting Over It centred around a man stuck in a pot attempting to climb a mountain with the world’s slipperiest hammer, accompanied by an equally slippery control scheme. The game could potentially last forever, provided you could never master it enough to finish, and with no way to save your progress, it cruelly required completion in a single sitting.

Inevitably, the game was a huge hit with internet content creators with avid fans flocking to see their favourite YouTube-rs or Twitch streamers torture themselves with the impossible task. The game was after-all at its most fun when played with someone else; seeing the highs and lows of the journey but without requiring the commitment to sit down and finish it in one go. Not to mention that, despite the occasional bit of in-game narration, playing Getting Over It solo was a pretty lonely experience: just you and your pot for company.

Whilst it would be easy at surface glance to dismiss Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends as a meer rip-off, swapping out the pot and hammer combo of Getting Over It for a small man and pogo-stick, that would be giving Pogostuck a grave disservice. Pogostuck is actually more the natural evolution of Getting Over It‘s gameplay.

Pogostuck takes the original concept behind Getting Over It, first seen in an old gamemaker game entitled “Sexy Hiking”, and presents it with a new unique spin. Whilst you are still indeed scaling a mountain, you are doing so on a pleasingly springy pogo-stick which, when you get the hang of it, turn out to be far more fun to manoeuvre than the hammer ever was.

The game is easier than Getting Over It and Sexy Hiking although that’s not to say its “easy” per-se, and you’ll still be faced with a steep challenge (pun intended), but it certainly feels fairer and much more balanced. Although the difficulty curve is still practically as steep as the mountain, being permitted the ability to quit the game after a particularly annoying missed-jump and then relaunch it to continue seamlessly after your anger has deflated days later certainly makes the experience more relaxing. This sense of relaxation is further boosted by the cute, colourful art-style and soft cartoon-like sound effects. Although the ingame UI is at first pretty obtrusive, taking up most of the screen, it can thankfully be configured and disabled in the options menu.

The main draw to the game is of course the multiplayer. Pogostuck is inherently far less lonely than its counterparts. Even if you don’t have a friend with the game to connect to directly and try and race to the top, the game is always online – and you’ll constantly be running into other players who are too trying to make their way up the impossible hill. Whilst there is no way to directly interact with other players, it is always fun to run into someone, exchange a few courteous greeting jumps before starting a mad dash for the next disembodied ledge.

This multiplayer element also feeds into the excellent progression system, which grants XP for every inch of mountain you climb. This XP accumulates and unlocks various cosmetics. With plenty of sticks, trail effects, clothing and headgear to choose from, there are plenty of combinations which will both flaunt your progress and help you stick out from the crowd.

Although it’s certainly not as hardcore in its presentation or gameplay as other games in its genre, Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends, is still a good challenge. A challenge that is elevated by a solid progression system and the glittering potential for endless enjoyment in online gameplay creating an experience which is deeply rewarding. If you were a fan of Getting Over It or Sexy Hiking, or want a lighter introduction to the world of relentlessly hard games, Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends is an essential purchase.

If you feel like picking up a copy to torture yourself or some buddies (why not even both!) you can click here to visit the Steam page.

Executive Assault 2 – Early Access Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Executive Assault 2 was provided free of charge by Hesketh Studios Ltd


The first Executive Assault is certainly one of my all time favourite indie titles. An ambitious blend of both the first-person shooter and real-time strategy genres, having you building and maintaining a sprawling base on a planet you’re trying to conquer. This is aided by your ability to design and deploy robotic troops. Victory is quite skill-based, like any good RTS and requires a careful management of resources, supply and demand and production lines.

Battles occur on a very grand scale, often with hundreds of combatants as well as some really massive mechs. Unlike most real-time strategy games however, you’re not constrained to just watching your battles from above, like a wistful child pressed up against a window of a toyshop, but are rather given the option to jump into direct control. This shifts the perspective to that of an FPS, allowing you to participate in battle.

Whilst your contributions to the huge unfolding battle were certainly insignificant, and the shooting mechanics a little bit janky, the sheer novelty of being able to observe your battle unfold in person really adds a great level of reward to the hours of, although still perfectly enjoyable, simply less exciting management that had led up to that climax.

A battle unfolding in Executive Assault

Despite suffering a little in the visual department, although personally thought the clanky models just added to the charm, Executive Assault was a top-notch title and a fantastic experiment that I would certainly recommend any fans of the RTS or FPS genres check out.

Thanks to my love of the first game, I was delighted to see a sequel was in the works. Considering the already perfected concept showcased in the first title, Executive Assault 2 is certainly standing on all the required foundations for a great follow up.

Much like its predecessor, Executive Assault 2 has you stepping into the shoes of the CEO of your own customisable company. The customisation options have also pleasingly been streamlined and expanded upon from the first game, allowing you to pick the gender of your CEO, name your company, choose the nature of the goods you produce and even select a custom logo from your PC’s files to be displayed on flags and screens throughout the base.

Whilst the customisation options still aren’t particularly extensive, and a character creator would certainly be a nice addition, they are perfectly sufficient and succeed in adding a pleasing extra layer of gameplay – even if it is admittedly quite a thin one.

The shiny new visuals of Executive Assault 2

In terms of gameplay, Executive Assault 2 is still the excellent blend of FPS and RTS that was presented in the first title but with some key additions and improvements. Visually, the game looks much better; with shiny surfaces and a sleek new UI design – it’s certainly not cutting edge graphics by any means, and the admirably low running requirements can be attributed to that, but at least now the series doesn’t look very noticeably outdated.

These new visuals are accompanied by improved gunplay and a much improved set of weapon models and animations. The overall scale of everything has also been greatly increased. Whilst in the first game you were fighting for the control of a somewhat small portion of a singular planet, now you’re aiming to dominate an entire galaxy.

From your modular floating space base, which you can fully upgrade and customise by adding a plethora of rooms including factories, security centres and ship docking stations, you construct and manage a hugely customisable fleet of ships. This ships are used to scout out and collect new resources as well as keeping a close eye on your enemies.

Despite the new addition of spacecraft, which now take up the brunt of the player to player combat, the iconic robots from the first game do return, although after a good visual overhaul and in quite a different role. The robots function as your ground teams, being able to board the enemy base and helping to defend the stretching corridors of your own.

Another thing to note is that Executive Assault 2 is currently in early access and frequently receiving content updates and patches. Everything runs smoothly and in my time with the game I encountered a notable lack of any major bugs. The only time you really notice that the title is early access is in mission select screen which lacks a campaign and contains only one scenario. This scenario can either be played single-player against rival AI CEOs or multiplayer facing off against either a friend or randoms in an online lobby.

Although more levels have been promised, and will certainly be a nice addition, they aren’t entirely necessary. This singular scenario is perfectly sufficient and has a whole host of configuration options, even an included and easy to use map editor. For an early access title, especially one in its infancy, there is more than enough content provided to satisfy. In an age where the term “early-access” has become synonymous with low effort cash-grabs and unfinished garbage, it’s very refreshing to see a game that could very easily, with a little extra polish, be a full release title.

Overall, Executive Assault 2 receives a wholehearted recommendation. The extremely unique core gameplay of its predecessor is accompanied by an ever increasing array of customisation options that create a fantastically engaging experience; one that provides the perfect fix for both FPS and RTS gamers alike.

The Painscreek Killings – Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of The Painscreek Killings was provided free of charge by EQ Studios


A cold case investigation takes you, the journalist Janet Kelly, to Painscreek where four years prior, in the summer of 1995, the mayor’s wife Vivian Roberts was brutally murdered. With all leads dead, the police investigation over and the town laying abandoned it is your job to solve the mystery once and for all before the truth is lost forever.

Painscreek: an ugly name for a very pretty town

The Painscreek Killings makes a bold claim when launched: a promise of “neither helpful quest markers, nor any form of handholding throughout the game”, which is certainly a delight to any frequenters of the visual storytelling genre.

Surely I can’t be the only person who faces nightly flashbacks to that glow-y ball thing in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, the thing that would lead you down long country lanes with the promise of plot revelations only to suddenly and arbitrarily decide that “whoops! No plot could be found here and now you have to walk all the way back”.

Regardless of how many sleepless PTSD-ridden nights you have been granted by that petulant guiding glow it’s refreshing to see a narrative experience that taps into the genre’s inherent tranquillity and lets you explore the world at your own pace.

Past a very brief and excellently well integrated tutorial sequence which runs you through the basics (it’s not too complex, basically you just walk around and look at things) there is a distinct lack of handholding. Some clues you find do naturally hint a locations you should probably visit next, but you’re never under any obligation to follow up on them. In fact you get the option to leave at any point.

As funny as the idea of a reporter driving hundreds of miles out to a town only to turn right back around and go home is, it would be fundamentally missing the game’s real juiciest meat.

That meat comes in the form of the variety of locations you are able to explore throughout your investigation. From wandering the eerily empty town streets, rummaging around the mayor’s colossal mansion or avoiding the terrifying hospital at all costs. The hospital I should probably mention, for the sake of saving you a potential heart attack, houses the game’s only (sort of) jump-scare.

In these locations you collect notes, characters’ personal journals and snap quick photos. Whilst doing all that, it’s well worth making a personal journal of your own. The game recommends that you take frequent notes, and record the details of what you uncover and for good reason as this notetaking is pretty much essential to the experience.

I never want to step into this godforsaken place ever again

Whilst the game does do its best to record anything you do pick up, some passwords or post-its you find simply aren’t saved. Although it would be nice to have the option to record things in an in game notepad, you can never beat pen and paper. The extra level of effort exerted by the physical recording of you evidence does however work in the game’s favour, helping significantly with your deductions rather than simply becoming an extra annoyance.

There is certainly a lot of satisfaction to be felt in the deductive reasoning of The Painscreek Killings. It feel just right; I never felt stuck or completely stumped, and while some of the deductions you do have to make do seem like a bit of a stretch, I never found myself frantically Googling solutions as I would with other frankly less well made titles.

The level of immersion felt while playing is sublime, and easily on par with the likes of Gone Home and Return of the Obra Dinn, the very best of the visual novel and investigative genre respectively.

This immersion is assisted by the game’s voice acting which is, for the most part, excellent and the overall level of visual flair with which the game is presented. Not being a fan of bloom and motion blur, I was happy to see the option to turn them both off. Once they have been disabled, and the world no longer appears viewed through melting wax, things look absolutely lovely.

The town, when you disregard its emptiness, looks cosy and warm, surrounded by a lush forest and shimmering spectral river. I almost regret the fact the player is given the ability to sprint, for it can stop you soaking in the brilliant atmosphere as you really should. Then again, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (which can’t seem to catch a break today) showed us how, rather ironically, a “walking-simulator” that confines you to walking alone quickly becomes an absolutely traumatic experience.

A small thing to note here is that The Painscreek Killings is excellently optimised. It offers you three visual settings: “good”, “beautiful” and “fantastic”. Most shouldn’t have any issues running it on its lowest visual settings. Whilst normally I would be against such a pretentious naming scheme I do have to concede that the different configurations do indeed look very “good”, extremely “beautiful” and completely “fantastic” as described.

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This scene falls under the purview of “fantastic”

One thing that looks less “good”, “beautiful” and “fantastic” than the rest is the game’s main menu. The background video that accompanies the plethora options you see upon starting the game would set the mood perfectly, however it is simply just too choppy and is compressed to the point where it looks like porridge.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned much detail surrounding the plot, and that’s a very conscious choice. The plot is central to the experience of the game and I’m a little wary of spoiling anything. What I will say is that things aren’t as simple as they seem. The mystery goes much deeper than a single murder, and is supported by a cast of characters that, although you never see them face to face, are excellently written and feel fully-realised.

The main mystery is joined by a couple smaller optional side-mysteries. These are usually more obtuse and don’t serve much purpose in the wider narrative but are a nice little bonus for anyone who wants to grasp the complete picture of life in Painscreek. They also give you a bit more time to appreciate the game’s soundtrack.

The music comes in the form of a few light piano melodies that are wholly pleasant if not slightly forgettable. The audio mixing does seem a little bit off however and on the default settings has the sound effects for certain actions, like opening doors, set far too loud. Thankfully this can be adjusted without much hassle.

Despite a few extremely minor niggles, The Painscreek Killings is a fantastic experience and one I would certainly recommend jumping in to. It has a compelling story that is elevated by the authentic glimpses into the lives of entirely engaging characters through which it is told. Not to mention the fact it’s coupled with a set of stunning visuals and a good soundtrack. It is unapologetically a superb example of games as a viable medium with which you can convey a complex and immersive narrative.

If you liked the sound of anything I’ve said, or just feel like playing detective yourself, you can check the game out on Steam by clicking here, where it is on a generous 60% off sale until the 9th of July.

Hitman 2 – The newly announced Bank map has you bumping off a discount Cruella de Vil

One of the main dishes in the veritable buffet of Hitman 2‘s extensive of post-launch content has just been revealed in the form of a trailer for the latest addition to the franchise’s extensive library of locations: the New York branch of the fictional Milton-Fitzpatrick investment bank in an upcoming mission entitled the Golden Handshake“. You can watch the aforementioned trailer below:

As well as this endearingly overdramatic trailer, which predominantly showcases the presumed target of the map: the bank’s director – a cartoonishly evil capitalist who seems just a little bit too familiar to anyone housing vague childhood memories of Disney‘s animated classic 101 Dalmatians, a series of screenshots have been released.

These latest press release screenshots show a little bit more of the settings itself: a large and surprisingly empty looking colonial building. Perhaps its eerie deserted-ness is explained by the fact the bank is currently “under investigation” for some kind of wrongdoing – exactly what that means and how that fact will impact the level is likely to only become apparent on release.

A stylish noir trench-coat, the latest addition to 47’s wardrobe

The screenshots also display a little more of 47’s new location suit which, along with a throwable gold bar and remote flash-mine, will be available as a unlock in the level’s level mastery unlock tree.

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The level mastery unlock tree

The starting locations shown in the mastery tree seem to suggest a definite movement towards the bank’s vault – perhaps the site of a dodgy clandestine meeting or maybe the location of a valuable piece of intelligence Hitman 2’s fictional spy agency the ICA need to get their grubby hands on. Indeed, the high-tech green laser grid behind the vault door shown in the screenshot below certainly makes me lean towards the idea that things are going to get a little bit Mission Impossible in this level.

The vault opens

The final screenshot, below, shows the target’s office and, judging by 47’s actions in the trailer, one of the main areas in the level where things have quite the potential to get a little bit homicidal.

The arena for the final confrontation

The setting of America for a Hitman map certainly isn’t unique; with Hitman Absolution taking place almost entirely within the United States. The idea of a bank level however seems intriguing, and such a highly secure environment contained within an indoor-only level should prove an interesting challenge, even for series veterans like me.

In order to play this content, you’ll need to head on over to your platforms store and purchase the Hitman 2 Expansion Pass. Gold Edition and Collector’s Edition owners however need not worry, the level should be available to you immediately upon its release on the 25th of June.

For the latest updates on Hitman 2 and it’s latest location check out the official Hitman 2 blog site. Alternatively, stay right here on Arcadeberry, where we’ll strive to bring you latest and most interesting news from everybody’s favourite sandbox murder sim.

Rise of Liberty – Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Rise of Liberty was provided free of charge by Sandstorm Studio Inc.


It’s often quite hard to find indie titles that stand out in the current oversaturated gaming market. A market where game releases and are so frequent that even just the sheer volume alone of titles available on Steam is now overwhelming, if not quite frankly a little bit terrifying.

The indie Steam title Rise of Liberty stands out defiantly for two reasons. Firstly, its delightfully minimalist, yet still vibrantly coloured, sleek art-style that helps make the game visually pop, and secondly the fact that it manages to successfully tackle one of the most criminally under-represented historical settings in the media today.

The game’s Steam store cover

As the title would allude, Rise of Liberty is one of the few available games that takes players back to the 1770s in the U.S. of A. during the height of the Revolutionary War as a large-scale first-person tactics-oriented shooter.20190620192209_1.jpg

Being primarily a battle simulator, à la Mount and Blade: Napoleonic Wars, Rise of Liberty allows players to either re-create a handful of real-world historical battles or choose their favourite map and jump into a quick battle. With the choice of siding either with the revolutionaries or the British, picking from a plethora of maps that each bring their own unique feel and challenges and even the ability to configure the intricacies of individual spawn-waves, these quick battles are deeply-customisable and infinitely varied.20190620191813_1.jpg

The battles themselves can last for any duration of time that you would like, and be either grand-scale operations with lines upon lines of hundreds of troops on either side or just a swift twenty on twenty skirmish. You are even given the option to take a break from the action and relax as an omniscient spectator; flying around gaily and watching the carnage unfold. It’s quite amusing and very enjoyable to be able to pit 500 revolutionary soldiers against a rival side of 10 and just be able to sit back and watch the massacre unfold.

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If you don’t feel like stepping into the shoes of a sadistic god however, you will also find that participating in said battles is just as fun. You are given two customisable weapon slots and 12 unlockable items with which to fill them. Whilst most of these items do admittedly feel somewhat samey, there are afew standouts, like the devastating Hand Mortar or the whacky Axe Pistol, which serve to make these unlocks fairly desirable and present a good goal in what would otherwise be a somewhat aimless game.

The shooting mechanics are very heavily based upon the physics engine, with all gunpowder weapons firing some form of different-sized projectile shot. Whilst the guns themselves feel a little floaty, and the melee combat even more so, seeing your hit collide with a now ragdolling enemy and catching a glimpse of the flashing hitmarker gives the combat a surprisingly level of depth. 20190620191909_1.jpg

One thing to note is that whilst the UI elements, particularly those found at the top of the screen, are a little bit of an eyesore; they can be very easily disabled with a quick tap of the “o” key. Another important button is the “t” key, which activates the enthralling slow-motion which slows flying pellets and cannonballs down to a snail’s crawl and lets you truly appreciate some of the sheer chaotic beauty of the events unfolding before you.

Rise of Liberty is certainly a game at its best in spectacle. Although it may be janky in places, having only recently been released from early access, and still harbouring a fair number of bugs and odd gameplay quirks, its jaw-dropping scale and visual flair is second to none and elevates the experience to great heights.

Another small thing to note is that all this “jaw-dropping scale and visual flair” is very commendably optimised. In an age where it seems even browser level games require the latest I7 processor and a 4GB GPU, it’s definitely nice to see a game that doesn’t throw lower spec gamers under the bus. Not to mention the fact that the title’s very low price point, at only just over £5, even further defines its wide accessibility.

Whether you’re a fan of the time period in which it is set, someone struggling to find a modern game to run on their out-of-date hardware or just a fan of the more hands-on side of the strategy genre, and maybe even all three, then Rise of Liberty is an absolute must-have.

MiniGolf Maker – Early Access Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of MiniGolf Maker was provided free of charge by Road Turtle Games


MiniGolf Maker by Road Turtle Games is almost exactly what the title would suggest – a tool that allows you to create, and play, MiniGolf courses.

In these kinds of sandbox level creation games, the creative tools at your disposal should be put at the very forefront of the user experience – and for very good reason. These tools are what will constitute the majority of gameplay. Luckily, with MiniGolf Maker, a set of very solid and robust in-depth tools are at your disposal. With the ability to create multiple holes, import multiple items of scenery, customise your turf with by selected textures or colours from a vast wheel and much more.

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The course creation tools in action

There are several preset themes available; for example, a befittingly tacky pirate theme, a psychedelic dream style theme or my favourite, the buttery smooth and delightful minimalistic low-poly theme. Although there definitely aren’t hundreds of items of decorations to choose from, the sheer variety of the themes and the ability to mix and match items from different themes and styles as well as adjust the objects’ size means you certainly won’t be running out of combinations any time soon.

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A low-poly themed course

If a completely flat expanse of sheer unending void is not your favourite locale for your mini-golfing action, you are also offered a terrain customisation tool which can terraform vast valleys, deep canyons or colossal sky-piercing mountain ranges. You are even presented with the ability to customise skyboxes with a variety of times and styles, which adds another deep layer of personalisation and the real ability to help your courses stand out.

Making your courses stand out is quite important, especially considering another highly commendable aspect of the game: the superb workshop integration. The workshop integration is quite frankly second to none. Everything is managed in the game tab, with the ability to create an in-engine banner for your course (mine is pictured below), add a title and description. You are even able to modify and update your already uploaded courses, complete with filling in the Steam workshop changelogs.

The in-engine banner

This excellent and easy workshop upload process has certainly paid dividends, with a very clean looking, consistently styled and vibrant Steam Workshop page. Already, there are some particularly high quality levels which truly demonstrate the power of the tools at your disposal. I can’t wait to see what other excellent creations the community can make over the coming months in the wake of new content and updates.

If you don’t feel like creating your own courses, never fear for there are 5 in-built courses. Although they are short, they are each very fun to play and excellently showcase the games’ different available themes.

The actual mini-golfing in MiniGolf Maker is good. Easy to learn, but hard to master. Ball physics are how you would expect and interactions with it are very satisfying. If you’ve played practically any other good mini-golf game, you know what to expect. MiniGolf Maker also features a multiplayer course mode with each player playing rounds in turns to try and accumulated the highest score. Whilst it is certainly an awful lot of fun to tee off with friends, and the multiplayer experience is very competent, it is definitely not the chiefest aspect of the game.

The game does suffer from some fairly typical early-access issues, with the occasional bug; most annoyingly the inability to properly deploy barriers around your turf. I do have faith however that these teething problems with be swiftly fixed in a future update. The course creator itself is quite tricky to use and, although I was provided a handy tutorial by email, it would be nice to be able to see a quick guide or even just the tutorial embedded in the game itself in a help tab.

Overall, MiniGolf Maker is an extremely promising game. I would heartily recommend it to fans of mini-golf, whether real or virtual, and more broadly to those who are, like me, fascinated by games that provide you with fantastic tools for venting your creative energy. As a final note, and as a nice cherry on top, MiniGolf Maker is priced at just over £5 Steam which, considering the potential quantity and the absolute quality of what you are getting, is an absolute steal.

Road to Guangdong – Early Access Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of Road to Guangdong was provided free of charge by Excalibur Games


Jalopy, the recently free-to-grab DRM free via Humblebundle, is a game very close to my heart. A delightful little road-trip-them-up which took you through the gloomy vistas of East Berlin to Turkey behind the wheel of your mysterious uncle’s beaten up Laika brand car, aka. the crapmobile.

Despite holding an extremely engaging and unique premise, and letting you explore a setting rarely seen outside first-person shooters, Jalopy always felt like something was missing. It certainly wasn’t heart, which the game held in heaps with its endearing minimalist art-style, its charming little soundtrack and just the sheer nostalgia factor that arises from tapping into a well deep long-forgotten memories of family road trips. What Jalopy lacked was one of the elements from which most of its appeal arises: a sense of family.

Sure, you did have the option of bringing your uncle along for the ride but he never really adds much beyond some canned dialogue, a little guidance and, quite frankly, a lot of dead weight. The spiritual successor Road to Guangdong aims to rectify that void and, by the end of early access, perhaps offer come to one of the most heartfelt familial journeys in gaming today.

As previously mentioned, Jalopy took you from the dull dregs of a grey post-war Berlin to the sunny splendour of Turkey. Road to Guangdong on the other hand, as the title suggests, takes you across the bright and scenic Guangdong, China.

This new setting is presented with a delightful and extremely colourful art-style; which is very reminiscent of modern evolutions of Chinese woodblock painting techniques, in a manner that is altogether simply breathtaking. Almost any screenshot taken in game wouldn’t look out of place on the wall of trendy coffee shop.

Ironically, the visual presentation of the characters themselves can ironically only be described “blocky” – and not in a good way. They seem stiff, jumping around the screen much like the terrifying department store mannequins from Condemned: Criminal Origins and whilst in that game it added to the atmosphere, in Road to Guangdong it does nothing but detract from it.

I attributed this to a result of a general lack of animations; with the game only being released into early access this week it makes sense for the characters to have only a handful of stock shared loops. I expect that this and the apparent jarring lack of scene transitions will be rectified in a future update and preferably as soon as possible.

The reason these stiff animation issues are such a problem is that they really interfere with the narrative that they are trying to convey. As mentioned previously, Road to Guangdong is really about family. The plot itself revolves around your attempt to save a failing family business and you’re presented with a tonne of dialogue-driven interactions which have you repairing damaged relationships on top of your damaged car.

In the gameplay department, Road to Guangdong is  predominantly a visual novel and quite a good one at that, focused on your relationship with your eccentric aunt. Slices of the visual novel are delivered in between arcade-like driving sections. The driving mechanics are fairly surface level, although the car itself certainly feels very satisfying to drive with its loud engine and definite weight, you’re only really allowed to drive in a straight line in a manner only comparable to Desert Bus. The simplicity of the driving mechanics do allow you to focus more heavily on the dialogue however, which is probably how it was intended to be, but just a little bit more interaction with your vehicle would be nice and provide some much needed entertainment when the dialogue begins to slow.

Judging from an update released just today however, it seems that this wish is being very promptly granted, adding more detail to the dashboard and making some of the previously redundant dials and meters actually mean something. The game also offers some repair mechanics, but they’re very surface-level. You buy parts and repair you vehicle so it can keep going until you need to buy more parts and repeat the whole process again.

For now, that’s basically all there is to comment on – the game is certainly still in its infancy. Despite its flaws however, I would certainly recommend keeping a close eye on Road to Guangdong. It’s a brilliant story that has the potential to be a beautiful experience, despite being at the moment hampered by some characteristic early-access teething problems.

If you are completely sold on the premise alone, and don’t mind a fair bit of early-access jank, by all means buy the game at once. For those sitting on the fence, it may just be worth waiting until the story can be told at its best in 2-3 months’ time when it is fully released and luckily for you; you can expect a follow-up to this review reflecting on the finished product when it’s finally out.

Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure – The logic behind the DS’ bizzare keyboard

For many, including myself, Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure is a complete oddity. A typing tutorial game, an unusual concept but certainly one that isn’t unheard of, but for the Nintendo DS? The idea of pairing the tiny handheld device with a large stand and keyboard seems absolutely absurd, but that’s exactly what the weirdos over at developer Genius Sonority did. The strangest part however is that this unlikely match of technology came about thanks to a shockingly sound reason.

Image result for Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure

For many, this will likely be the first time you’ve ever even heard of this product due to its rather strange release status; only seeing the light of day in Japan (obviously), The United Kingdom and Australia. Even so, in the countries where it released in the West it suffered very poor sales; evidenced by availability brand new on Amazon to this day despite being a sought-after collectors item for those in the know.

Now, before we move on to the reasons behind the odd piece of kit I just want to address the elephant in the room. Those with a knowledge of the DS’ hardware are likely scratching their heads as to how exactly this wireless keyboard works. The obvious answer would be “via bluetooth duh” but that’s not quite the whole story. No models of the DS offer bluetooth support; not even the very latest 3DS lines. This lead to the creation of one of the most interesting and unique cartridges in the DS library.

Despite its unassuming appearance and regular retail price the Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure packs its own Bluetooth chip, powered by the system power supply when the cartridge is inserted. Although I wasn’t able to find any images of this chip, and I’m certainly not cracking open my copy to check, I’ve heard from various sources over the years that it’s definitely there. That or it’s just a convenient cover story to mask the fact the keyboard operates off of some kind of ancient and extremely forbidden dark magic.

To fully understand the purpose of this device, and the reasons for its conception, it’s important to first look at the wider context of the state of computer literacy in Japan. Despite Japan’s prevalence on the technology scene, the population in fact has one of the lowest computer literacy levels in the developed world. Demonstrated by the handy graph below from the OECD Skills Outlet study1:

Source: http://www.oecd.org/skills

Many people arrive at job interviews after very little exposure to computers, some even lacking the ability to type. Likely due to cramped living spaces in cities and lesser access to resources in rural areas, a situation has arisen whereby the majority of technology used by the population is mobile. The average person in Japan is far more likely to own a mobile phone or a tablet over a desktop computer. Even more likely to own say… a Nintendo DS.

Aiming to capitalise on the lack of essential computer knowhow Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure aimed to offer those without ready computer access the opportunity to learn how to type rapidly and accurately.

This still leaves one question unanswered however. Whilst Japan suffers from a general lack of computer skills, justifying its release there, why was the very same product released in Australia and England where computer literacy levels are just fine?

The answer is surprisingly simple. Japanese keyboards are almost identical to the British (and by extension Australian) keyboard layout2. All that Genius Sonority would need to do to bring the product to these markets is simply translate the game itself, which due to the game’s inherent simplicity couldn’t have been too hard a task, and then not print the Kanji characters which sit below the letters.

Image result for british and japanese keyboards
A typical Japanese keyboard

Banking off the success of the Pokémon would guarantee at least a few sales combined with the simplicity of the translation job, it would have been illogical for Genius Sonority to not bring the game to the commonwealth.

That banking off the brand didn’t work out too well however. The mediocre nature of the game itself lead to low sales and a mixed reception that quashed one of the most beautifully weird mixes of technology in gaming history. Even Amazon reducing the price to £9.99 in a flash sale failed to gain any excitement. The keyboard itself is probably the best thing to come from Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure, superbly built and quite frankly an absolute joy to type on. It’s excellent value especially considering it also boasts compatibility with not just it’s packaged game but any PC or mobile device.

And yes, before you ask, I even used the keyboard to write this review.


References:
1 www.oecd.org/skills
2 wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_input_methods and wikipedia.org/wiki/British_and_American_keyboards

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die Season 1 – Review

Coming from legendary Japanese game designer SWERY, who most notably wrote and directed the supremely bizarre Twin-Peaks inspired cult classic Deadly Premonition, D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die has quite the boots to fill.

Related image

Although certainly not identical to Deadly Premonition, D4 does bare many of the same hallmarks as its predecessor. The protagonist is yet another quirky investigator who also comes across a host of weird and wonderful characters in the hunt for a mysterious killer. Both games involve a red narcotic and even share some characters.

The times where D4 distinguishes itself to its predecessor however are where the game is at its strongest. Whilst D4 is still notably weird, it’s not quite as weird as Deadly Premonition and this does the overall experience a huge service. Whilst it was extremely difficult to relate to the uncanny citizens of Deadly Premonition‘s Greenvale each with their jarring stock-sounding motifs spouting head-scratching borderline-nonsensical dialogue, the characters presented in D4 felt considerably more real. As a result, I found myself genuinely invested in the struggles of D4‘s protagonist David Young far more than I was ever engaged in the actions of Francis York Morgan and his imaginary friend Zak in Deadly Premonition.

Don’t get me wrong, the characters of D4 are still for the most part a bunch of complete weirdos but their quirks and personalities seemed far more believable. They felt like real people, odd real people but real nonetheless. Perhaps this was due in part to the far sleeker presentation of D4. Whilst Deadly Premonition housed awkward looking characters who shambled around a plain environment repeating simple dialogue while perpetually looping stock animations, D4 is smooth and stylish. With a pleasing cel-shaded filter and a delightfully over-the-top anime inspired set of fluid animations, which I only caught blatantly looping on one or two occasions, D4 is an absolute joy to look at.

Gameplay wise, D4 is a point and click adventure broken up by simple mini-games or David Cage style quick time event action sequences. On PC the game is controlled by solely the mouse, but the XBOX ONE variant offers both controller and Kinect support – Kinect support that is unprecedentedly good. To my amazement, the Kinect ended up the best way by far to experience D4, the polar opposite of my expectation. The controls on the Kinect mode are engaging, responsive and shockingly accurate. You also have the option to swap between Kinect and controller modes fairly quickly, so for Kinect owners I’d recommend certainly using the Kinect for the action sequences and then maybe switching back to controller for the slower investigation portions. Gameplay wise the experience without the Kinect is very similar to the experience with the Kinect, although certainly with less flailing around, as what would have been the position of you left or right hand is simply mapped to a cursor instead.

I don’t want to spoil any details so I’ll be fairly vague here, but story-wise D4‘s prologue and first episode are deeply interesting and very engaging, offering an intriguing mystery with fun and rewarding twists and as a stand-alone experience one of the best mystery games I’ve ever played. The issues with D4’s story begin in the second (and final) episode. Whilst the first episode certainly created a lot of unanswered questions, it was fairly standalone. Had the game ended after episode one, I would have been not only supremely satisfied but clamouring for more just to tidy up a few threads, the big overarching questions that were set up in the prologue may not have been answered but the ones relating to that specific case had and the ones that didn’t have conclusive answers were certainly hinted at.

Episode Two did nothing to enhance the story and felt like a couple of hours of total filler. It was a linear slog through a dull environment before taking a colossal narrative nose-dive with a sudden twist ending which makes very little sense and sets the stage for a follow-up episode to clear everything up. The problem is, there is no follow up episode. D4 ends two episodes in and over four years later has no plans for continuation. While for many this may seem a total deal-breaker, for me I don’t feel continuation would have really benefited the game. It definitely peaked at its first episode (and it’s a very high peak) and with the direction the plot was taking in Episode two, I don’t feel future episodes would have ever been able to live up to the standard the first one set.

Despite not being technically a “finished game” per se,  I would wholeheartedly recommend D4 but with a big caveat. For PC make sure you buy it on sale, the £15 regular price is a little too steep for three hours of entertainment, and for XBOX ONE make sure you own a Kinect – it’s not worth buying a Kinect over but if you’re an existing owner it would give you a good reason to get some use out of the damn thing.

5 times DLC was so good it would make you regret not buying the season pass

It’s safe to say that DLC is one of the most divisive topics in the gaming world today. Some people love it, some people hate it. It’s also safe to say that no matter on which side of the fence you sit we can all agree that some DLCs are definitely better than others. In light of this, why don’t we take some time to set aside our differences and discuss some of the times that DLC was so good it would definitely make you regret not buying the season pass.


5: The Crew: Calling All Units

Image result for the crew calling all units

Base game: The Crew

Platform(s): PC, XBOX ONE, PS4

Price*: £20.99

The biggest problem for me with the base game of The Crew was that it was quite frankly incredibly boring. A generic racing game with an admittedly enjoyable online open world that suffered from a severe lack of anything real to do. Luckily, The Crew: Calling All Units is a surprisingly expansive DLC that remedies that issue.

Calling All Units feels much more like what The Crew originally should have been, taking a leaf or two from games like Need For Speed: Most Wanted. Picking a side; either as a police officer or a criminal, transforms the vast open world of The Crew from a boring inconvenience you have to navigate between missions into a dynamic arena jam-packed with activities. As a policeman, you can patrol around urban the map participating in engaging police pursuits with any wrongdoers you happen to encounter and as a criminal you can cause as much vehicular chaos to your heart’s content while avoiding the watchful eye of the law.

Coming bundled with the previous expansion, The Crew: Wild Run, that £20.99 price tag feels like very good value for money – especially considering the base game is frequently free on Ubisoft’s store Uplay. As well as the online play to player content, the pack unlocks a set of very nice police and off-road vehicles, a host awesome customisation options and a even two whole new story campaigns to follow for people who aren’t too keen on the online aspects of the game.


4: Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep

Image result for Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep

Base game: Borderlands 2

Platform(s): PC, XBOX ONE (HD Ed.), XBOX 360, PS4 (HD Ed.), PS3

Price*: £7.99

Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep may be only one of the numerous DLC available for Borderlands 2 but it is certainly the strongest of the bunch. Offering an interesting twist on the Borderlands formula, Assault on Dragon Keep takes you to the world of an endearingly over-the-top parody of tabletop role-playing games.

With a distinctive artistic flair accompanied some of the funniest dialogue in the franchise, Assault on Dragon Keep stands out from the crowd. Although admittedly quite short, it’s length is certainly appropriate for the under £10 price tag and the co-op modes combined with the game’s inherent strong level of replayability means you’re certainly getting a lot of bang for your buck.

Whether for a fan of the franchise as a whole, a fan of the titular narrator Tiny Tina, around whom the whole DLC is centred, or just someone who wants to squeeze a couple more hours out of Borderlands 2, Assault on Dragon Keep is an absolute necessity.


3: XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Image result for xcom 2 war of the chosen

Base game: XCOM 2

Platform(s): PC, XBOX ONE, PS4

Price*: £34.99

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is the most expensive DLC on this list and for very good reason. Originally conceived as a fully fledged sequel to the superb XCOM 2, War of the Chosen packs a jaw-dropping amount of content.

War of the Chosen adds a renewed level of threat to the Advent regime; with a huge number of new enemies paired with never before seen mission locations and deadly new hazards but most importantly the inclusion of several new mini-bosses; the titular “chosen” who can appear randomly throughout the campaign and transform an already brutally difficult game into a nightmarishly tense desperation fuelled bid to save not just your squad, but the whole of humanity.

On top of all this, a new faction system adds a host of potential allies in the form of other human resistance factions. These potential allies however can also be potential enemies, and an in-depth level of micromanagement allows you to carefully control and monitor your relationships with each group.

Although its immense difficulty restricts this DLC exclusively to XCOM  2 veterans (seriously if your first playthrough is with this DLC you have zero chance of success) it is the rejuvenating boost the game needs to keep its experience fresh, even many years after its release.


2: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Rise from the Ashes

Base game: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Platform(s): PC (HD Ed.), XBOX ONE (HD Ed.), PS4 (HD Ed.), NINTENDO SWITCH (HD Ed.), NINTENDO 3DS (HD Ed.), NINTENDO DS

Price*: £29.99 (Trilogy pack)

Whilst technically not a DLC in the modern sense, Rise from the Ashes – a special bonus episode added to the DS port of the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – was certainly too significant to overlook.

Rise from the Ashes fills all the check-boxes for a perfect DLC, with a length rivalling that of almost a third of the base game, a stand-alone story which introduces some of the series’ best characters, new and excellent additions to the base OST and most importantly a set of new forensic themed game-play additions which despite being all new to the series managed to fit in seamlessly with pre-existing game-play elements.

Despite being a bonus case, Rise from the Ashes is by far the strongest, most tightly written and deeply engaging of not just the first game – but arguably the whole original Ace Attorney trilogy.

If you missed this case first time or simply overlooked it, it is most certainly worth picking up a more modern variant of the game – I’d recommend the HD remasters with which it is included as standard – and see what all the fuss is about.


1: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Image result for far cry 3 blood

Base game: Far Cry 3

Platform(s): PC, XBOX 360, PS3

Price*: £12.49

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is unique on this list as the only truly stand-alone DLC. With a seperate launcher, menus and even steam store page; Blood Dragon is very good at presenting itself as a very different take on the Far Cry formula.

Whilst Far Cry 3 was an exploration of vulnerability, putting you in the shoes of a fragile protagonist and watching their struggle to overcome insurmountable odds and cope with the emotional impact of the sacrifices you had to make along the way, Blood Dragon is a power fantasy, playing as an almost indestructible cyborg power-commando in a mission to slay legions of robot troopers and occasionally the titular Blood Dragons.

Where Blood Dragon truly stands out however is not its gameplay, which is effectively just late-game base Far Cry 3, but rather in its presentation as an over the top parody of 80s action. With plenty of references, a brilliant synthwave soundtrack and many little details from the CRT overlay, the VHS tracking loading screens and ridiculously cheesy over-the-top dialogue which demonstrate that Blood Dragon is far more than just a basic Far Cry 3 reskin but rather an extremely well crafted love letter to all things 80s action.


*Prices are Steam store prices (excluding discounts or sales) as of April 2019.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst – How corporate greed stole a potential gem

It’s safe to say that for many, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst was a tremendous disappointment. Despite not being truly “bad” per se (although I am admittedly guilty of unfairly labeling it with the humorous portmanteau: Mirror’s Edge Catastrophic in conversation surrounding the game) but was a product that so truly wallowed in complete general mediocrity it brutally and prematurely ended arguably the most original franchise ideas to ever emerge from the creative black hole that is studio DICE – and one that I personally would have loved to have seen continued for years to come.

In order to fully explore the tragedy that was the development of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst it is first vital to understand why the original Mirror’s Edge exists in the first place. It’s no secret that around the start of Mirror’s Edge‘s development DICE was struggling to establish independence from EA – after the recent acquisition DICE by EA – with then CEO of DICE Patrick Söderlund saying that “there was a push inside the studio to do something different” and that “we were still an independent company. We wanted to push for a new IP”1. For all intents and purposes, the original Mirror’s Edge was nothing more than a tech demo – a proof of concept that became such a striking example of unique game design not by choice, but by necessity.

Mirror’s Edge‘s hybrid FPS parkour gameplay wasn’t chosen because a particular developer really wanted to make a parkour game, or that there was even a strong market demand for one, but rather because such a feat had never been attempted before. The game’s iconic art-style too was chosen almost mathematically to make a game that stood out as much as possible from the crowd, with Senior producer Owen O’Brien saying that they deliberately  “wanted a game where I could look at a screenshot and say, “Hey, that’s ‘Mirror’s Edge'”2. What better way to establish a clear division between your studio and its parent than by attempting something so risky and different – something that would never be attempted by the methodical EA – that it would surely receive a large amount of press coverage, helping to remind everyone that “yes indeed, DICE was still separate from EA”… kind of

In addition to that, the financial success of Mirror’s Edge was not ultimately necessary. DICE had the backing of EA in addition to the Battlefield franchise, which was (and still is) a reliable money maker. With the majority of the studio focused on the production of a new Battlefield game, Söderlund describes setting “several small groups of three to five developers beg[inning] workshopping pitches for something new”1. It was one of these small teams that created the concept that would soon become Mirror’s Edge.

After the 3-5 man team demo attracted a large amount of attention within the studio, wow-ing all that saw it Mirror’s Edge was greenlit and began production now with a far bigger, but still relatively small, team. The story was tasked to brilliant Writer’s Guild of America outstanding achievement in videogame writing award winning3 writer Rhianna Pratchett4 and whilst the story of Mirror’s Edge was by no means fantastic, it is veritable masterpiece when compared with what’s to come.

The musical artists selected for the game’s soundtrack were Swedish composers Solar Fieldsand Lisa Miskovsky6 and was their respective debuts into the gaming soundtrack scene. Miskovsky‘s creation, the game’s main theme Still Alive, being the stand-out track even becoming so popular as to spawn its own album of individual remixes7. Choosing composers that had done no prior work within the gaming industry was a particularly clever move considering that the unique nature of the most important aspects of Mirror’s Edge: gameplay, visual style, soundtrack was paramount to the developer’s criteria for the game’s “success”.  Miskovsky and Solar Fields both did absolutely stellar jobs in the creation of a soundtrack but for DICE that was pleasant surprise. The overall quality of the tracks didn’t matter, only their ability to stand out from the creations of other EA studios and this was likely their top priority when selecting composers.

All these factors almost inadvertently contributed to the finished product – a superbly promising game that still delights today. It is important to differentiate between comments and observations of the circumstances surrounding the game’s development and critiques of the finished game itself. I personally absolutely adore Mirror’s Edge, as you can see here in my shamelessly plugged reviewand as such can reconcile the idea that the game may have been created in circumstances some would consider cynical. The brilliant nature of the end product, I would in fact argue, was solely due to cold careful calculation and the splash of edge provided by a certain level of studio desperation that a bold idea was able, not just to be greenlit, but to come to fruition.

After discussing the circumstances that culminated in the success of the first Mirror’s Edge, it is now time to move on to the circumstances the culminated the failure of its successor Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.

DICE by this time was under new management, with Söderlund vanishing into the upper echelons of EA’s management, now under the eyes of the then EA director Karl Magnus Troedsson – with roots very firmly in the Battlefield franchise. It was also announced via twitter the writer Rhianna Pratchett would not be returning8 and instead was replaced with Christofer Emgård in his return to the game writing scene after a hiatus of over nine years9. Much like the new director, the writer also had his roots firmly in the war genre, previously helming the World in Conflict franchise and going on to write the two most recent Battlefield games, the confusingly titled Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V.

In addition to confirming her departure from the franchise, Pratchett also revealed that almost the entirety of the original team behind Mirror’s Edge was now gone. It was likely that the new team was far bigger and composed of yet more veterans of the Battlefield franchise – likely resulting in the change in game engine from the original’s Unreal Engine to the in house Frostbite 3 Engine 10– with which the Battlefield devs had the most experience and resources.

The aim of the original Mirror’s Edge was never to create an engaging plot, and it at most needed to be serviceable and facilitate the gameplay. Despite floundering under one of the greatest writers in the gaming industry DICE announced that Catalyst would be far more story focused – a recipe for disaster particularly in hands of a much less capable writer.

The reason for developing Catalyst in the first place was also unclear. This coupled by the strange details surrounding the true nature of the game at launch; with many unsure if the game was a prequel, sequel or a reboot – a confusion not helped by the developer’s insistence that it was none of those11. To this day the Wikipedia page for the game erroneously states that “the game is a prequel to Mirror’s Edge, showcasing the origins of Faith”12.

This confusion of direction reflected a developmental confusion surrounding the game’s purpose. DICE no longer had anything to prove for it was firmly within EA’s grasp and anyone who did have something to prove had been taken away from the project. The new team had no experience with the IP and the change in director lead to the vast majority of the central visions from Mirror’s Edge being compromised. The most glaring example of which can be seen in the very setting of Catalyst. Söderlund stated that in Mirror’s Edge he was very careful to not name the city in which the game takes place. It was intended to be an amalgamation of already existing modern cities, one that would be relatable and could serve as a warning of the increased prevalence of surveillance and corruption throughout the world. Catalyst throws all of this subtlety and clever design away with the laughably named extremely futuristic “City of Glass”.

There are many other examples too, just read some original interviews with Söderlund and compare his vision to Catalyst but for the sake of time, I’ll just leave the direct comparisons there.

Without a clear vision, Catalyst became a strange mess of unfinished mechanics; the meaningless skill trees, the unbalanced combat, the boring collectibles, the redundant trial modes. Catalyst reeks of a game that didn’t want to be made which eventually just became a conduit to test developer’s ideas at the expense of the end product. It is no secret the Mirror’s Edge sold well above expectations and the whisking away of the property from a side team to one of the EA DICE titans of development was likely entirely financially motivated.

Under the full control of EA, such a promising franchise couldn’t be allowed to remain in the hands of what they likely viewed as an unreliable team. All the data shows that under the main Battlefield team, Catalyst would surely sell well, everything that team produced would have certainly seemed to sell well. The open-world design of Catalyst, the skill trees, the new focus on combat all of it was carefully chosen not to defy convention but to follow it.

Unfortunately Mirror’s Edge was never about convention. It was about creating an experience that was truly unique. In trying to water down the original ideas in order to create something more “consumer friendly” and more heavily focused on market demands EA created something truly awful. A product that did nothing different. A new game that would be lost in the seas of time and one without any notable legacy.

The more cynical side of me would want to argue that this was a deliberate choice – an act of sabotaging the product if you will. For EA, the Mirror’s Edge franchise was a liability. The first game had sold just well enough to warrant a sequel, but was nowhere near the level of Battlefield or Fifa, and we know from recent news surrounding EA’s latest slice of mediocrity, Anthem13, that EA values that importance of a franchise solely on how much money it can reliably make. For EA, deliberately killing Mirror’s Edge with a very poor follow up would quell demand and shift focus towards the major EA franchises. Although there is no evidence for this, it is quite a compelling theory and one that many gamers would have no trouble accepting considering EA’s reputation for anti-consumer business decisions.

Overall, even if Mirror’s Edge Catalyst was not designed to fail, it was definitely doomed to. The lack of creative vision demonstrable from even the earliest stages of the game’s development and the lesser amount of talent that was allocated to the game meant that it’s a miracle the game was even mediocre in the first place. Catalyst is most valuable as a  prime example of how utilising purely motivated financial decisions can destroy the games we love.


References:
1https://www.polygon.com/2016/5/25/11758974/designing-mirrors-edge-the-making-of-a-franchise
2http://www.mtv.com/news/2456471/ea-discusses-mirrors-edge-sickness-concerns-lack-of-color-green/
3https://web.archive.org/web/20160321080636/http://www.wga.org/content/default.aspx?id=6147
4https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1578126/
5http://solarfields.com/disco/other/
6https://www.discogs.com/Lisa-Miskovsky-Still-Alive-The-Theme-From-Mirrors-Edge-The-Remixes/master/152213
7https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/still-alive-the-theme-from-mirrors-edge-the-remixes/293058880
8https://uk.ign.com/articles/2014/01/08/mirrors-edge-writer-isnt-working-on-reboot
9https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2602734/
10 https://www.engadget.com/2013/06/10/mirrors-edge-2/
11https://www.polygon.com/2015/6/17/8795003/mirrors-edge-catalyst-open-world-game-ps4-playstion-4-xbox-one
13https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror%27s_Edge_Catalyst#cite_note-19
https://kotaku.com/how-biowares-anthem-went-wrong-1833731964