Tag Archives: PC

Donut County – Review

Donut County is a unique indie puzzler, featuring an adorable racoon intent on stealing trash and a town full of animal residents just waiting to be stolen from. Released over a year ago, does this award-winning indie adventure still hold up, or does age expose some previously unseen holes?

A hole lot of fun:


The player is dropped intoin the life of BK, a young racoon who has recently landed a new job at a start-up company that collects trash by the careful manoeuvring of portable remote control holes. Each level begins with the player clicking somewhere to summon a hole which, although initially tiny, gradually grows and grows in size with the more objects (and even unlucky Hole County residents!) that end up sucked into it.

Larger holes reward your progress by allowing you to swallow even larger objects which in turn help to increase the size of your hole, creating a supremely satisfying gameplay loop. This satisfaction is further amplified by the fact that your hole-size is reset in-between each of the self-contained sandbox levels. Working your way up from a tiny rabbit-hole that struggles to suck up even a few blades of grass to a colossal sink-hole that effortlessly absorbs entire skyscrapers just doesn’t get old no matter how many times it is repeated.

As the game progresses, you gradually unlock new abilities for your hole – such as a catapult which allows the player to hurl certain objects back into the air. These are used to facilitate the majority of the puzzles found throughout the game. Whilst these puzzles are not particularly difficult, even I who considers myself extremely puzzle-inept never had to resort to an online guide, they are spread-out enough and provide just the right level of mental stimulation to keep what would otherwise be a fairly simplistic game engaging throughout.

Heart and design:


A soothing yet upbeat soundtrack compliments Donut County‘s pleasing pastel aesthetic which is just soft enough to evoke feelings of calm and warmth yet still vibrant and quirky. It’s a perfect fit, and one that makes playing a highly relaxing experience. Although minimalist in design, levels each have their own unique and memorable look – usually matching the personality or appearance of their associated characters. Moving from a rural countryside farm to the likes of a desert to a city street helps provide a much needed pallet swap every now and then.

This colourful coat of paint makes Donut County perfect for younger gamers. It’s not too difficult, and they would certainly enjoy the charming design and appreciate the pleasing tactility of the physics engine.

This colourful coat of paint makes Donut County perfect for younger gamers. It’s not too difficult, and they would certainly enjoy the charming design and appreciate the pleasing tactility of the physics engine.

Not without its holes:


I found these cut scenes often overstayed their welcome – an issue amplified by the lack of voice acting. Reading dialogue boxes accompanied by randomised babble, à la Animal Crossing, simply isn’t engaging enough to carry a game that tries to focus so heavily on story. Sometimes the humour was a little jarring too. In comedy it’s natural that for every laugh, there are a couple of jokes that fall flat. In most circumstances is not an issue but when the vast majority of dialogue is comprised of jokes, it starts to feel like every other line is yet another wearisome punchline.

There are also long “texting” scenes in which you sit and watch your character receive SMS messages, stirring occasionally to either send a duck emoji (which does nothing) or clicking a single on-screen prompt to reply. Without the colourful aesthetic of the over world or the animated bouncing of characters to keep your mind occupied, these scenes are quite frankly monotonous. They also seem like a bit of a missed opportunity. Implementing an option to choose which reply you send would be a great way to add a small element of replayability to the game.

This lack of replayability is probably the biggest issue with Donut County. Clocking in at slightly over two hours, this short length is simply not enough content for the over £10 PC price-tag and the total lack of replayability and reliance on a linear story makes this a title harder to recommend than it otherwise would be.

The hole picture:


Despite its flaws, Donut County is nevertheless a charming and memorable adventure. In spite of the fact it may struggle a little to wholly justify its hefty price-tag at its rustiest points, frequent half-price sales since launch make this title just a little too tempting to pass up, even for those who don’t feel wholly convinced. As a little bonus, the low seasonal sale prices make Donut County a great option as a Christmas gift for your Steam friends.

Speaking of sales, as if by magic, Donut County is on a half-price discount for a few days! You can check it out by clicking on the link below.

Soundcore Life P2 – Review


To aid this review, Soundcore Life P2 Headphones were provided free of charge by ANKER


The Soundcore Life P2 is a new release from ANKER‘s subsidiary Soundcore. Despite achieving success as a manufacturer of quality chargers and portable power-banks, ANKER has little experience in the headphone field. Do the Soundcore Life P2s manage to avoid some of the teething problems emblematic of a manufacturer’s first foray into the headphone world and deliver an excellent experience at a budget price?

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What’s in the box?

The Soundcore Life P2‘s relatively compact packaging, approximately 18cm x 10cm x 3.5cm, comes packed with a surprising number of goodies. As expected, the each earbud and their charging case is present, neatly secured in a plastic tray with the charging cable (USB-C). There is also a feedback card, a simple quick start guide and a little booklet of legal documentation in only occasionally dubious English.

The inclusion of ten differently sized rubber eartips is a nice touch. With sizes XS/S/M/L/XL included, pleasingly arranged on little plastic pegs in the packaging, every user is sure to find that perfect fit. It would be great if some manufacturers would learn from ANKER and begin including a larger variety of eartips in their budget, and even sometimes premium, headphones.

Set up:

As the quick start guide would suggest, the set-up process is quick and painless. First, You simply charge up the case with the headphones inside, the LED indicators in both the case and the headphones helpfully tell you their battery life and when they will be ready to pair.

Paring is as simple as removing from the case once they are suitably charged, which prompts the headphones to automatically enter pairing mode, and selecting “Soundcore Life P2” on your phone’s Bluetooth dashboard.

It is worth noting that the instruction manual suggests some phones will have more trouble pairing than others. Due to the “Qualcomm True Wireless Primary-Secondary pairing names”. This means your phone may mistakenly suggest that only one earbud is connected. Luckily, the instruction manual assures us, “it will not influence the using”.

Design and build quality:

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The design of the Soundcore Life P2 is functional, if not a little unoriginal. In the shape of traditional wired earbuds, just without the wires, these headphones will have no trouble staying in your ears. This particular shape is certainly tried and tested and, thanks especially to the plethora of included eartips, will have no trouble staying in your ears.

Despite not be sold as such, the Soundcore Life P2 is an excellent sports headphone. The secure fit makes it hard for them to fly out of your ears, even while performing the most rigorous exercise, and the waterproofing (rated IPX 7) means you won’t have to worry about sweat or other moisture damaging your headphones.

The inclusion of physical buttons, to pause and skip your music, instead of touch sensors also improves this proficiency for sports. Although they can sometimes cause your earbuds to painfully dig into your ears over a long period of use, you won’t have to worry about sweaty hands rendering your headphones unusable

The construction is very light, even including the charging case, which makes carrying them around in a pocket on the go pleasingly unobtrusive. The light earbuds also contribute to the great level of immersion one can have listening to these headphones. It’s quite easy to forget you’re even wearing them, a testament not only to their light weight but also their great in-ear comfort. Just make sure you don’t make a fool of yourself frantically searching your pockets for your headphones when they’re in your ears!

A side effect of this light weight is the plastic construction of the case, which is prone to scratches and scuffs and the fact that the magnetic lid feels somewhat flimsy. Although it’s definitely not overtly fragile, I’m sceptical whether the lid would survive being left open in a bag or a pocket for too long. 

Sound Quality and microphones:

Although sound quality is, to an extent, a matter of personal taste, I found the sound quality to be good overall. It won’t blow you away, but for a budget pair of wireless earbuds it is perfectly pleasant, although the bass does sometimes lack some punch it is made up for in crispness and overall clarity.

The volume goes suitably high and adjusts at good increments, although at the extreme lower end of the volume scale the audio quality does noticeably drop. Luckily, you likely won’t have the headphones on too quiet a setting as the passive noise cancellation leaves a lot to be desired. Despite doing an okay job of drowning out audio, they don’t fair to well  in a particularly loud train car or busy room.

On the other hand, the audio for phone calls is second to none. Featured most predominantly on the front of the box, ANKER is clearly proud of th P2′s “crystal-clear calls” – and for good reason. Our tests, which you can hear below, simulated speech in first a silent and then high-noise environment over a phone call and recorded the results via a second phone. 

In a silent room the quality is incredible and sounds far better than some full-size microphones we’ve tried. The second test, which featured deafening background noise on the speaker’s end demonstrated the excellent noise cancellation. Although there is distortion, it should be considered that the speech was being played amidst painfully load background audio.

If your main concern is how you will sound over the phone, stop reading and buy these headphones immediately – you simply can’t get better than this at this price.

Battery Life:

The battery life amounts to an approximately seven-hour play time, with an additional thirty hours carried in the battery of the charging case. This is more than enough, and means that, with moderate use, you will only have to charge these headphones about once every two weeks.

Charging is done through the included USB-C cable, although any old USB-C cable will of course work. Don’t worry though, if you forget to charge you headphones and need them in a pinch the Soundcore Life P2‘s boast an hour of playback in only ten minutes of charge.

Gaming performance:

Unfortunately, the separate headphone drivers, which have the left and right earbuds appear as separate Bluetooth devices, makes pairing the Soundcore Life P2 with a desktop PC a hassle. Don’t expect to be able to benefit from the pair’s excellent microphones on your desktop without a bit of fiddling.

However, the mobile gaming performance is superb. There is little latency between the headphones and on-screen action. Playing the excellent mobile rhythm game Cytus II, which is highly dependent on timing, was a blast and the bud’s great microphones let you step up your sound quality in games with in-game voice chat, such as PUBG Mobile.

Verdict:

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Although it certainly won’t win any design awards, the Soundcore Life P2 certainly manages to make up for this in the technical department. The microphone quality is incredible and, for budget earbuds, the sound quality is a good all-rounder. The inclusion of some modern high-end features, including USB-C charging and separate earbud drivers, means that you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck.

How to download and set custom Steam game covers

If you’re like me you absolutely loved the new Steam UI overhaul.With games presented like boxes sleekly displayed on a Blockbuster rental shelf in the bygone days of yore, and a simple click pulling up slick new banner artwork and enhanced social statistics, the new game library is a perfect much needed modernisation of a previously antiquated system.

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In spite of the lovely new design however, some issues still persist. As outlined in this article, some games simply don’t have the required assets yet. Although Steam tries to make do with some auto generated placeholders, this lends itself to a library that looks stilted and uneven. Not to mention the fact that non-Steam games added to your library lack even these placeholders all together.

Luckily, the inclusion of a few key, and very much appreciated, features allows you to fix these annoying inconsistencies. Although it can be a bit of a faff, this simple guide aims to simplify and streamline the process as much as possible.


1: Head over to SteamGridDB and download your covers

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Much like the name would suggest, SteamGridDB is a site that aims to assist in customising your Steam games library (or grid). It contains a wide collection of user-made Steam game assets at your disposal. Some closely mirror their official counterparts, whilst others provide colourful alternatives if you want to give your library a bit of pizzazz.

Even fancier are the animated covers, which are saved in the aPNG (animated PNG) file format – effectively the PNG equivalent of a GIF – and can really help bring your favourite games to life. If you are downloading an aPNG cover the process is no different – so read on.


2: Download your required covers

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Type the title of the game you want to customise into the search bar and hit enter. This will pull up a selection of covers for you to browse. Pick whichever cover you like the best – although for best results we would recommend only using covers listed in the 600×900 resolution – and press the download button.

The cover should save as a simple four digit number. In the case of our Mirror’s Edge cover; “1553”.


3: Apply your selected cover

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Simply located and right click the existing cover you want to replace. Select “Manage” and then press “Set custom artwork”. This opens a windows dialogue box allowing you to choose a file. Navigate to your downloads folder and select the file you have just downloaded and just like that, you have a shiny new cover!

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This process can be used to customise as many games as you would like in your library, and even non-Steam games you have added as links.

Just one last thing to note is that any changes you make to your library artwork are sadly only stored locally. If you log in to Steam on another machine, or reset your operating system, you will lose all of your changes – so be careful!

Receiver 2 promises to bring the most realistic firearms we’ve ever seen to the new decade

We can’t blame you if you missed Wolfire Games 2012 title Receiver. It was given away free of charge with a purchase of their long anticipated rabbit beat-em-up Overgrowth and after waiting almost 10 years for that game to be released, it’s understandable that a lot of players simply overlooked Receiver and left it to collect dust in their steam libraries.

Although at first only created as part of a 7-day game challenge, Receiver manages to be a fun little game that, although understandably lacking in features, is surprisingly revolutionary in what it has.

A series of randomly generated cybperpunk levels in which the player is tasked with collecting a set of tapes provides an excellent framework for the game’s superb gun simulation. In Receiver, your gun is your most important tool – but it’s also the hardest to master. Intricately modelled, each gun operates almost exactly like a real firearm. You can pull back the slides, cock the hammers and even flick the safety switch. With no on-screen UI, the only way to check something as simple as your magazine capacity being to manually remove it, and one-hit kills firefights with your robotic adversaries are short and extremely tense.

Once you’ve mastered all three available weapons and completed a couple of the levels, Reciever does begin to drag and won’t maintain your interest for more than 5 or 6 hours at most. Wolfire have done an admirable job keeping Receiver up to date, with performance fixes and the occasional minor addition to the game. As a tech demo, Receiver is excellent, but lacks far too many features to truly be considered a “fun” game.

As a result, I was ecstatic to see the Receiver 2‘s announcement appear on my feeds seemingly out of the blue. A snazzy trailer showcases vibrantly enhanced graphics rich in floods of primary coloured light and some truly beautiful cyberpunk scenes that put the original’s blocky aesthetic to shame.

Boasting eight new firearms, “including the Beretta 92FS, Colt Single-Action Army, and the iconic Desert Eagle”, and with an increased level of detail, promising to simulate every “single internal mechanism”, Receiver 2 certainly looks like it will turn out a worthy sequel.

turret_shadow.pngI am certainly very excited to see what Wolfire has in store for this sequel, and how they will apply their wonderful gun simulation technology to a game for the new decade!

Releasing in early 2020, you can keep up with Receiver 2‘s progress by adding it to your wishlist here on Steam or by subscribing to the official newsletter.

SuperEpic: The Entertainment War – Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of  SuperEpic: The Entertainment War was provided free of charge by Numskull Games


SuperEpic: The Entertainment War, an indie-developed sidescroller, successfully delivers a best-in-class Metroidvania adventure that confidently mocks the slew of AAA games it has managed to supersede.

In the world of SuperEpic, greedy corporate pigs (literal pigs might I add) have bought out every game developer and are now pumping out mass-produced highly-addictive mobile titles that have entranced the populace and are draining their wallets at about the same rate as a Steam Christmas Sale. The adorable raccoon protagonist Tan Tan and his facially deformed llama steed, Ola, must whack, slap and thwack their way through swathes of RegnantCorps’ evil employees to put an end to their vile videogames for good.

Conveyed through cutscenes of pleasing animated slides and walls of text, the plot is certainly not one of subtlety. Although it does little to reinvent the wheel in terms of its retro presentation and simplistic writing, the plot of SuperEpic provides a decent number of chuckles and more importantly creates a perfect unobtrusive skeleton upon which the game’s excellent gameplay can be hung.

A classic Metroidvania, SuperEpic boasts large hand-crafted levels that can be explored in a non-linear fashion. The handy minimap is an excellent addition, and one that would have greatly benefitted other games in the genre. Being able to avoid confusion makes exploring levels and finding the plethora of hilarious hidden secrets dotted throughout levels even more rewarding.

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Exploration is littered with enemy encounters and gripping boss fights. Revolving around three attacks – a quick attack, guard break, and uppercut – the combo-oriented combat is deceptively simple. Whilst button mashing may get you through most levels, far more rewarding is the intricate mastery of each induvidual move and learning of unique button combinations.

The combat is also extremely satisfying, largely due to the brilliantly meaty sound effects and neon hit indicators. Furthermore, the impressive variety of unlockable weaponry – raning from household cleaning tools to comedic hammers allows the combat to retain a fresh feeling throughout the game and leaves you thirsting for more by the time the credits roll.

Handily, SuperEpic also includes an unlockable “roguelite mode”, a procedually generated challenge which gives you an even greater opportunity to amass huge quantities of the coins dropped by every enemy.  These coins can be used to further upgrade your weaponry and armour and add an additional satifsying dimension of progression.

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SuperEpic is also jam-packed with minigames. Scanning QR codes scattered throughout levels opens webpages containing short flash games on your mobile phone. Tongue in cheek parodies of popular mobile titles like Flappy Bird, these minigames are presented in-universe and provide an awful lot of world building. The use of QR codes also ahad me surpsingly immersed in the games’ universe, although I can’t help but feel such technology would be of greater service to a more plot-oriented title. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend going out of your way to try and exploring thouroughly in order to experience all of these optional extras.

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In addition to your mobile phone, for PC players I would also recommend bringing a controller to your play session. Whilst the developers have done an adequate job of mapping the 4-button control scheme to your keyboard, a controller really helps recapture some of the button-mashing nostalgia of your childhood.

Alternatively, the Nintendo Switch version of the game works like a dream. Speedy loading times and smooth-as-butter performance make curling up in a warm bed with the switch in handheld mode and therapeutically punching pigs to a pulp an absolute treat. The handheld version also helps you to appreciate the sublime 32-bit sprite animation, which is beautifully detailed and clearly the recipient of a great deal of love and care.

It’s not just the animations that have recieved love and care either. Everything from the pause screen in which you can practise your combo attacks to the detailed and varied enemy designs seems meticulously crafted and as such can offer a game that has as much, and often times far more, polish than the majoirty of AAA titles. This sustained superiority helps emphasise the importance of the games’ overriding message.

SuperEpic is in its very execution a commentary on the modern gaming market. In an age of over-inflated budgets and multi-million pound videogames stuffed to the brim with predatory microtransactions and vicious payment models, it’s really heartening to see a good old-fashioned indie title that is able to so severly outclass its competition.

Overall, SuperEpic: The Entertainment War is able to comfortably fulfil its lofty ambition to deliver a satisfying parody of the modern games. Although its writing may be too on-the-nose for some, this is more than made up for in the game’s gameplay which is the absolute pinnacle of indie sidescrolling action.

If you’re interested in playing SuperEpic: The Entertainment War, the game will launch on the Steam Store later this month in addition to the Nintendo eShop, Microsoft Store and Playstation Store.

 

3 jolly holiday themed games to raise your Christmas cheer

Whether you find yourself craving the sublime action of Die Hard or the heart-warming fun of Elf, everyone has at least one Christmas film they love to watch time and time again. Unusually however, the popularity of the genre seems to exclusively extend to the mediums of film and music, and those wanting to experience a festive themed game are left with very few options to choose from.

Despite this, we’ve compiled this little list to bring a few often overlooked games you could try this Christmas season.


3: Dead Rising 4

Platform(s): PC, XBOX ONE, PS4

Price*: £19.99

Developer: Capcom

Although the inexplicable departure from many of Dead Rising‘s conventions, including the removal of the series’ time-limit mechanic, may have caused an uproar among series fans, Dead Rising 4 is nevertheless a worthy entry in Capcom’s zombie-fighting franchise.

The large open world of the fictional Willamette Colorado, complete with a colossal shopping mall, is decked out in decor festive in the extreme. With numerous weapons, items of clothing, vehicles and even boss fights entirely Christmas themed, accompanied by a soundtrack wholly composed of popular yuletide songs, Dead Rising 4 makes the absolute most of its November setting.

Although its simple mechanics and lenient difficulty make an experience far too casual for series veterans, for most Dead Rising 4 is actually a shockingly relaxing experience. The almost therapeutic ease with which you can mow down thousands of zombies in a sleigh to an orchestral cover of Jingle Bells makes a game that excellently accompanies a Boxing Day sofa-sprawl and a large tub of Quality Street.


2: Batman Arkham Origins

Platform(s): PC, XBOX 360, PS3, WII U

Price*: £14.99

Developer: WB Games

Recently given away on the Epic Games Store as a freebie, it’s quite likely you already own this oneSet on Christmas Eve, Batman faces off against eight of the most iconic DC comic book villains, including Bane and The Joker.

A third-person beat-em-up, Batman Arkham Origins shares the excellent combat of the WB Games Batman franchise in a much larger, and extremely festive, open world. With a plethora of interesting side-quests to choose from and an exciting main story, Arkham Origins offers a surprisingly rich experience.

Although often, and sometimes unfairly, cited as the weakest entry in its franchise; if you’re willing to sacrifice a small degree of polish found in the other Batman titles for a Christmas setting Batman Arkham Origins is definitely worth a look.


1: Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa’s Rampage

Platform(s): PC

Price*: £1.79

Developer: RuneStorm

It’s official. Christmas is cancelled.

After a lengthy dispute with the toy-elf workers’ union, Santa finally snapped.  This standalone expansion for Viscera Cleanup Detail tasks you with cleaning up the aftermath of Santa’s bloody rampage. Armed with only a mop, a bucket and a pair of rubber gloves it’s time to get to work.

Featuring an enjoyable co-op mode and hours of floor-scrubbing action cleaning has never been so fun. As the cheapest game on this list, Santa’s Rampage is the best option for someone who wants something festive to play, but doesn’t want to shell out a fortune on a game that is only really worth playing for just one or two months of the year.


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

Killer Chambers – Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of  Killer Chambers was provided free of charge by Village Bench


Killer Chambers is in many ways a wholly unique kind of bullet hell plat-former. Ditching the traditional sprawling arenas that have come to define the genre for minuscule micro-chambers, the levels force you to manoeuvre a highly claustrophobic environment, dodging a plethora of deadly traps as a timer excruciatingly ticks down to your release.

From a game-play perspective, Killer Chambers is relatively simple. You have the arrow keys that control your movements in the cardinal directions, including crouching, and a jump button. These help you evade everything from shooting projectiles to laser beams which are fired at regular intervals in patterns and combinations in each room. With practically unlimited lives (and extremely quick deaths!) the fun of Killer Chambers comes from learning the almost musical rhythm behind each set of traps.

Each stage offers three levels of difficulty which range from somewhat infuriating to downright impossible, and are sure to offer even the most hardened bullet-hell fanatic a tough time. There are five worlds to conquer, each with an incredibly difficult boss fight and a unique visual style.

The inclusion of shops in which you can spend your hard earned in-game gold is a nice addition, allowing you to purchase hats that drastically alter game-play to keep your experience fresh and often providing a slightly easier path to completing rooms.

Despite such items, you will still die. A lot. This is by design and the game deliberately punishes you for failure with a meter that increases each time you die. When full, you’re transported to a dark alternate realm with its own set of unique rooms to beat. Although this may sound particularly annoying, I often found this forced change of level very refreshing and kept repeating the same room over and over again from seeming quite so monotonous.

Further breaking up the experience is the story which is presented through delightful little dialogue boxes in-between levels. Entertaining writing with a cast of surprisingly developed characters and a lot of genuine laugh out loud moments make the short segments of story one of Killer Chambers’ best attributes. Seriously, the writing punches well above its weight and often the wish to see the next cut-scene gave me the motivation to keep going through the most difficult parts of the game.

The comic-tone of the dialogue and characters is complimented by the cheerful chip-tune soundtrack, which although somewhat repetitive at times is certainly satisfactory. It is nevertheless impressive that any music at all managed to be crammed into the game’s absolutely microscopic 85MB download size which, combined with its meagre running requirements, is sure to keep it a mainstay on all of your PCs.

With a great deal of replay value, a huge variety of levels and some of the best writing we’ve seen in an indie title, Killer Chambers is a game that despite its gruelling difficulty manages to be accessible, highly rewarding and extremely memorable.

Did we mention that Killer Chambers has a price of admission lower than your average sandwich? At only £3.99 on Steam, Killer Chambers is an essential purchase for anyone who wants a great value title which is sure to keep them coming back for years to come.

Pathologic 2: The Marble Nest – Review


Disclosure: To aid this review a copy of  Pathologic 2 was provided free of charge by tinyBuild


“Birdies… Birdies…

Gather ye here around the marble nest”

These haunting words catapult you into the unforgiving world of Pathologic 2.  Lashing rain and hooded figures beat at the old windowpanes as you stumble around a decrepit house swamped in death and decay. Your adventure begins here.

A re-imagining of the cult classic thriller Pathologic, Pathologic 2 preserving the excellent atmosphere of it’s predecessor through its unapologetic brutality. In equal parts difficult and rewarding, Pathologic 2 made no compromises for the modern gaming audience. Its open world operated on a strict time limit. Playing through 12 days of finite events created an unbelievably intense sense of panic and dread.

You must constantly choose which events to prioritise and which ones to miss, often times having to balance your need to evade the ever-present threats of starvation and sleep deprivation against the pressing knowledge that if you are absent for a story crucial event, life goes on without you and it is gone forever.

Inspired by Russian folklore, the world of the Steppe is as beautiful as it is bleak. A seamless blend of both Western and Eastern culture presented in a deliberately ambiguous time period, each line of cryptic dialogue and archaic custom has you feeling like a complete outsider. A cultural stranger who is at often times tolerated rather than welcome.

A malevolent plague ravages the town. Every character can and, without your intervention will, die.

With a stand-alone story designed to compliment the plot of the main campaign, The Marble Nest is a welcome return to gaming’s most Gothic world.

You play as the noble scientist Dr. Daniil Dankovsky. Presented with a grisly premonition of imminent doom and destruction. Whether you will fulfil this vision by sitting idly by as world around you to succumbs to the all-consuming plague or struggle against time itself to try and change your fate is entirely up to you. Whatever your choice may be, the game constantly reminds you that there will be “no happy endings”.

Graphically, The Marble Nest is as stunning as the base game. Utilising the same map and sharing many assets means Pathologic 2‘s trademark visual style and its world’s distinctive architecture is completely preserved. The unique visual style is accompanied by a fantastically atmospheric score, filled with tracks of folk chanting and the gonging of funeral bells.

Unusually, The Marble Nest seems geared toward series newcomers and with a greatly decreased difficulty in addition to a much shorter running time, this DLC does seem like the ideal place to start. Its stand-alone plot only loosely ties into the events of the main game and can certainly be wholly appreciated on its own merit. That is not to say it doesn’t hold value to returning players, in fact a more relaxed reintroduction to the Pathologic universe is an excellent way to prompt an additional play-through of the main game.

The Marble Nest is the epitome of short and sweet. An excellent experience despite its condensed length, The Marble Nest presents ample obstacles to overcome, fights to struggle through and dark secrets to uncover to successfully deliver an impactful narrative with enough punch in its poignant ending to stick with you for years to come.

If you’re interesting in picking up Pathologic 2: The Marble Nest in time for Halloween, it is available on Steam later today. You can view it by clicking here.

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.

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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!

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.