Undertale Review

Reading this well thought out review of Undertale fills you with determination.

Undertale is a weird yet wonderful RPG all created from the singular vision of Toby Fox. His creation became immensely popular after securing 10 times the budget he was aiming for on indie gogo. It starts out like a standard adventure game in which you inadvertently arrive in a world full of monsters.  After the initial cutscene it subverts the RPG genre. It then keeps on subverting the genre in such an absurd way it’s the reason you keep on playing.

Its kooky characters and basic presentation provides some of the games charm while the battle system allowing you to either kill your enemies, or spare them by tapping into what makes them tick by selecting a dialogue option.  If you act in a way that an enemy doesn’t like the enemies attacks will be harder to avoid, you’ll have to navigate this little heart shaped icon which appears when facing an enemy, with more skill and accuracy. Simply put the fights are puzzles which is why there’ll be no examples of enemy encounters in this review to avoid spoiling the puzzles.

One RPG cliche that should probably have been ditched or reimagined is random encounters especially early on in the game where little thought goes into enemies if you try to spare them. This game doesn’t require any grinding either especially if you choose to become a pacifist due to your level not increasing when you spare enemies. Sparing enemies reminds me a lot of the ‘choose your own path’ storybooks that I used to be able to read in my library when I was at school. Other RPG’s with million dollar budgets have done this branching story path before but the games simple graphics really allowed me to use my imagination making it feel like reading a book.

The lack of emphasis on presentation allows Undertale to tell it’s truly unique story which has so many potential outcomes its possible some haven’t been discovered yet and the game has been out for a few years now. This amount of story depth was also not expected from a game with a seemingly basic art style.Toby Fox has crammed so many kooky and creepy secrets in this game which I shan’t spoil because the game blackmails you into not sharing what they are. These little story beats are what makes Undertale a game that has become so memorable in both it’s humour, and to some trauma, which soared it into the mainstream.

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Fox is a very skilled writer creating these crazy and likeable characters from the get go. Characters such as Sans and Papyrus are so well loved now you can get plush toys of them on Undertale’s website. Pretty soon they’ll be an Undertale theme park. The thing I find most amusing with Undertale is that there is so much weirdness going on around you but the design of the protagonist just has this expressionless face throughout the entire the game. Something that really struck accord with me was the music. I’m a sucker for great video game soundtracks and this renaissance man Toby Fox also composed the entire soundtrack too. It really ignited a strange sense of nostalgia for me despite this being the first time playing. Overall your mileage will vary with Undertale depending on how much time you want to sink into the endless amount of multiple outcomes.

If there is one thing Undertale proves is that there is no need for a big budget to create an expansive world with lots of law. You don’t need to sell your soul to a massive game corporation to get your game ideas out there. Toby Fox’s personality is all over this game. There probably isn’t any other game out there that champions the indie game ideology like Undertale.

Undertale is available to download on Steam (PC or Mac) for £6.99 and for PS4 and PSVita for £11.99. Undertale is also coming out soon for the Nintendo Switch. 

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Undertale has been awarded the following badges:

Badge icon "Refresh (7452)" provided by Jardson Araújo, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0) Badge icon "Clown (2624)" provided by Simon Child, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)

Celeste Review

Ain’t no mountain high enough to keep me from getting to strawberries.

Image Source: Matt Makes Games Inc.

Upon completing Super Mario Odyssey I found myself craving a platformer with more challenge and oh boy did I get it when I decided to download Celeste. On the surface, Celeste has a very cutesy aesthetic the characters speak in gibberish, you collect strawberries just because they’re there. However this simple platformer has complexity in both its story and gameplay.

The first level is relatively easy, you quickly realise that trial and error is what it’s all about to overcome the finicky jumps but the checkpoints are very generous. They’re very much in a way a micro level because the amount of time attempting to beat some of the platforming segments will be what consumes your playtime. This makes Celeste the perfect game for the Nintendo Switch due to its portability you can complete a couple of these micro levels while you’re waiting for the bus. The game even says to you to have pride in your death count because it shows you’re learning. It’s very encouraging and much better then just saying to the player. “Too bad. Try again”.

To aid in you traversal Madeline can dash midair cling onto walls, and wall jump. You then realise that the environment plays more of a part in your journey to the top of this mountain then Madeline’s abilities. Finding out the eb and flow of each levels environmental mechanics gives every level a fresh new learning curve. Such as bouncy clouds, strong gusts of winds and controllable platforms.

The hidden collectables in this game are optional. I couldn’t resist however grabbing a floating strawberry if I saw one. Strawberries don’t offer anything significant except for a cute little moment at the end of the game involving pie. B-sides introduce to you a whole new level in platforming torture. Once discovered in the main level the alternative B-side levels provides some truly pain staking traversal that demands pinpoint perfection. The satisfaction upon completing these levels is like an addictive drug. The post game content for Celeste is overall very generous.

While you’re playing Celeste you can’t help but notice the haunting and atmospheric soundtrack. It really helped me ease my frustration while playing the more challenging levels. It’s obvious that Matt Makes Games Inc. values Lena Raine’s soundtrack by having a Soundcloud excerpt of her soundtrack on Celeste’s homepage.

What sets Celeste apart is it’s uplifting and emotional story that is totally unheard of in this genre of games. Simply put Celeste deals with anxiety and depression but how the story deals with this complex illness will most likely strike a cord with every player. It’s also what motivates you to keep on playing, any other game the goal would be tangible but here it’s deeply personal. All Mario has to do is grab the top of that flagpole, for Madeline she has to deal with her personal struggles along the way. This is portrayed effectively when riding a cable car to the next level and the cable car shakes side to side this is all due to Madeline’s dark side, her amalgamation of negative feelings make her believe this is happening. Poor Madeline is helpless and has a panic attack, her friend Theo however comforts her by having her picturing a feather gently fluttering in the breeze. You, the player have to keep the feather afloat. It’s a sweet moment and the feather is even used as an empowering tool within the gameplay letting you fly temporarily. The way Matt Makes Games Inc. incorporated this theme within Celeste is beautiful.

Celeste is definitely worth checking out for those longing for a meaningful challenge. It’s very much Super Meat Boy but with more soul. The difficulty drives you around the bend at parts and I would’ve loved a multiplayer option with a friend playing as Theo to provide that helping hand but these problems are mostly due to my shortcomings and not the design of such a well-crafted, tight little platformer with a lot of heart.

Celeste is available to download on Steam (PC or Mac), Playstation 4,  Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One for £17.99

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Celeste has been awarded the following badges:

Badge icon "Creation (2536)" provided by Jakob Vogel, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)Badge icon "Bullhorn (1580)" provided by Travis Yunis, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)Badge icon "Strength (4754)" provided by Sergey Krivoy, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review

A tale worth telling?

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Image Source: Flickr

Edited by Michael McDonagh

Up to this point the output of Starbreeze Studios has been a number of first person shooter’s such as Syndicate and The Darkness. Therefore, it came as a somewhat of a surprise when they announced Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. A puzzle adventure game that, unsurprisingly, tells the story of two brothers as they seek a cure for their ailing father, in an increasingly dark tale that is sure to tug at the heart strings.

The best way to describe Brothers would be single-player co-op, as you will take control of both the brothers simultaneously. The right analogue stick and trigger will control the younger brother, while the left side is used for the elder brother. It can take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’re not particularly adept at multitasking, but those moments where it clicks makes solving one of the games puzzles quite gratifying.

However, these moments are few and far between, mostly because Brothers’ puzzles start simple and never really evolve from this. They usually work on the simple goal of getting both characters from A to B. For instance, the younger brother is able to fit through bars that the other cannot, so he will usually be tasked with pulling a lever that opens up a path for the elder brother to traverse.

It is in the latter stages of the game that the unusual control scheme is put to some intriguing use. There is a section where our protagonists must work together to steer a hang-glider by moving left and right across the handle to adjust its flight path. Shortly after, they are tied together with a rope in order to ascend a castle wall and have to alternate between acting as an anchor while the other swings to the next point. These are by far the most interesting puzzles in the game and it’s a shame that there weren’t more moments as enjoyable as these.

By contrast the story is incredibly touching throughout and only builds as the game progresses. Ill father aside, the game starts in a fairly jovial manner allowing the player to interact with the starting village’s inhabitants. One part has the younger brother gleefully throw water in the face of a lazy gatekeeper to get him to do his job. It’s a charming opening to a game that gets progressively darker as the plot drives on.

Their journey takes them through forests, caves and snow covered mountains while meeting a wide cast of creatures that seem more than happy to help them out, for the most part. It’s quite reminiscent of a fairytale in a lot of ways, from the types of creatures you meet, such as trolls and griffins, to the art style itself. The Brothers world is incredibly pretty and the game even provides benches at the peaks of most areas so you can literally sit and admire the view.

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Image Source: Flickr

All of the characters in Brothers speak gibberish, so actions definitely speak louder than words here. This is to the game’s credit as it lets you discover the personality of our two heroes through movement rather than sound. That’s not to say the sound isn’t equally as effective. The game’s soundtrack is sparse but delightful and sets the tone of each scene incredibly well.

An early example of this learning through actions takes place after leaving the village. You come across a troll, who stands weeping beside two empty beds, he’s lost his partner. The elder brother reacts by putting his arm protectively across his sibling, clearly unsure of what the troll will do. The younger brother by comparison, senses the troll’s loss and waves at the troll who responds in kind before helping them on their journey.

It is through interactions like these that we learn about our protagonists and in the latter parts of the game how Brothers manages to deliver some heart wrenching moments. Equally as effective however, are situations near the end where gameplay and storytelling are combined to create incredibly emotional scenes. These are the best moments in the game, but describing them in depth would ruin the story.

At around three hours, Brothers isn’t very long nor is it particularly challenging, but if you enjoy story driven experiences then it is definitely worth your time.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is available now on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows from £9.99.

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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons has been awarded the following badges:

Badge icon "Creation (2536)" provided by Jakob Vogel, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0) Badge icon "Citizen (756)" provided by Phoebe Sexton, Vincent Zhang, Russell Lord, SimpleScott & Edward Boatman, from The Noun Project under The symbol is published under a Public Domain Mark Badge icon "Actor (1547)" provided by Jonathan C. Dietrich, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)

 

RÉPUBLIQUE Review

Check out how Camouflaj games turn the stealth genre into a touchy subject.

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Edited by Michael McDonagh

A lot of stealth games now a days focus around a bulky male figure with every imaginative tool under the sun. Who would of thought an iOS title would of decided to be original and even challenge modern console graphics.

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Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only HOPE

The gameplay is simplistic enough. You use CCTV cameras to view the environment and direct Hope to where you want her to go. You can switch between from CCTV to what is called OMNI vision, where you can hack software and access information. This is a nice feature as you can learn more about the story if you so wish. You are even rewarded for finding information as you can trade in your knowledge for upgrades. These upgrades increase your hacking capabilities allowing you to hack more devices. Easter eggs are also scatterred throughout the game about other titles the developers Camouflaj have made which will link you to the App Store to download.

Switching to OMNI vision gives you the Batman Arkham vibe, as the world becomes a static blue with hidden items popping out at you. You also get help and tips from a secret ally known as Cooper. Cooper decides to disguise his voice with a computer voice changer. This can be very irritating as he pops up with something to say with every item you find. Here’s hoping his annoying voice will die down, or even stop altogether.

The puzzles are simple in the first chapter, as guards called the Prizrak patrol areas in a simple pattern. It is easy to slip past any Prizrak with minimum detection. If you are detected you can use items to stun them and make your escape. You can even hide in lockers and pretend you are in Outlast. The gameplay is fun in short bursts, but can quickly get boring and slightly irritating as you are constantly tapping the screen. The cameras react slow as well and the Prizrak’s footsteps echo extremely loud even from the next room. This makes it difficult to track them at times unless you’re in OMNI vision. However every time you are in OMNI vision you can’t move Hope. This inevitably creates a stop-start mechanic within the game. This game is a lot about patience and if you lack it then this game will quickly become irritating.

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Use your environment to avoid detection

Despite the 50/50 gameplay and the annoying voice acting of Cooper, République does have good qualities. République is extremely beautiful. Even though it’s an iOS game République manages to achieve console standard graphics. The facial detail and animation is the real gem in this game, which can even challenge current Xbox 360 and PS3 titles. All the art from character to environment design are truly breathtaking and worth playing for that reason alone. It’s what will encourage you to play it.

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Some of the best environments in any iOS game

The game is divided into episodic chapters like Telltale titles. Also like Telltale titles you have to pay for each episode. Luckily the first episode is free providing a stronger incentive to check it out. However whether it’s worth to purchase the other chapters it’s hard to say. Never the less, the first chapter was a ton of fun. There are however a few niggles that might prevent you from being engaged enough, such as not feeling any genuine threat in the game. For example getting caught by the Prizrak would get you looked in a cell. A lot of the time the cell was closer to the destination you’ll be heading towards. With the ability to escape from your cell it is actually easier to get caught rather than try and sneak past the guards.

This game has a lot of potential and this review is only based on the first chapter. In short bursts République is a fun stealth puzzle. The art style and models are probably the best seen in a mobile title. There are minor gameplay issues, which does ruin the challenge for some people particularly with the sounds. There are also some bugs that need fixing, which is expected in any game. Overall this is a beautiful indie title worth checking out.

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République has been awarded the following badges:

Badge icon "Actor (1547)" provided by Jonathan C. Dietrich, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)Badge icon "Creation (2536)" provided by Jakob Vogel, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)

Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition Review

The game that packs a saucy punch.

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Image Source: Wikicommons

Some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This is most certainly the case for video games with Nintendo effectively writing the rulebook for innovative titles. Drinkbox studios convey lots of fondness in there Mexican themed platformer for the early breakthrough days of Nintendo and package it into a humorous and cheeky game that also spans multiple genres.

Guacamelee is effectively a 2D beat em up, platform game with puzzle elements, in a maze like environment. This is Guacamelee’s greatest strength in making all these gameplay elements mix together to create a wholesome experience that is familiar yet fresh, much like the taste of guacamole itself.

The game is effectively a love letter to the old Nintendo classics. Avid fans will pick up some of the subtle background references while others are more apparent. If you have played any game from the Metroid franchise Guacamelee will seem very familiar to you. Seeing that Nintendo haven’t released a Metroid game for a while, Guacamelee is the next best thing.

Players take up the role of Juan a plain and ordinary Mugabe farmer who from an unusual turn of events becomes a Luchador. With no voice acting, Guacamelee relies on character models to define their personas. Juan’s body language is slouched with a miserable expression on his face but from his radical and quite ludicrous transformation, becomes a strong confidant protagonist. The villain of game, an evil skeleton man named Carlos Calaca also has a hilariously tragic backstory.

The art style takes Mexican culture’s vibrancy and turns it into a fun visual aesthetic which is very reminiscent of a 90’s Saturday morning cartoon. It is clear that Guacamelee is fuelled by nostalgia through both its gameplay and visuals. Guacamelee is also respectful to Mexican folklore and is never ridiculed to the point of insult.

Guacamelee is however very much one of those ‘where the hell do I go kind of games’ which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea because of the amount of patience needed in navigating through the multiple paths. This non-linear structure is both a blessing and a curse, providing the player a plethora of options of where to go while being hard to know for certain which path is needed to progress. This may try certain players patience.

What makes Guacamelee carve it’s own space from the Nintendo classics it pays homage to, is the Luchador themed combat. Pulling off attacks doesn’t require perplexing button inputs and is immensely rewarding performing grapples and throws. Additional special moves are progressively taught to you as you play through Gucamelee, allowing a variety of moves to be mastered.

Later on in the game, Guacamelee provides some interesting platforming sections that require flipping between parallel worlds to advance through the level. It all gets quite mind-boggling but the ingenuity in the game design can be admired at its most here.

Guacamelee is a joyous mash em up full of upbeat adventure. It’s controls have a lot of depth but are easily accessible. Deciphering where to go and what to do is an additional challenge that may hinder the experience for some but overall it’s a great game kids and their parents can play together with Guacamelee providing a co-operative mode. Checking out this kooky 2D sidescroller is a must for those longing for little bit of retro in there modern day gaming library.

Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is available now for download on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One for £11:99

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Guacamelee has been awarded the following badges:

Badge icon "Strength (4754)" provided by Sergey Krivoy, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)Badge icon "Clown (2624)" provided by Simon Child, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)


Journey Review

Is this a Journey worth taking?

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Image from Thatgamecompany

Upon witnessing the gorgeously rendered title screen you know you’re about to play something special. Journey is a unique game. It isn’t bound by genre much like thatgamecompany’s previous game, Flower but is a transcendental work of art.

Sony is a very lucky company to have this indie gem amongst its gallery of games. Experiencing Journey is quite different to other titles on the PlayStation.

Journey’s serene yet haunting musical score and glistening desert landscapes generate awe into those who relish a setting full of visual splendor. Thatgamecompany delivers a very tranquil experience with dialogue being replaced with chirps and whistles. This doesn’t take away but adds to the atmosphere of a truly memorable game.

The game starts with you being greeted with desolation, nothing but sand in every direction. You then immediately realize your goal, a mountain that is standing tall beyond the ruins of a civilization. It is gradually revealed to you through subtle cut scenes throughout the game of how this society fell. The lack of dialogue means that the player’s interpretation is required to figure out what happened to the landscape you traverse. It’s very enigmatic making this storytelling unparalleled to any game that has come before it.

When it comes to exploration, Journey allows you to beat off the straight and narrow path. Players find themselves questioning, “What will happen if I go over there?” It is evident that the developers of Journey encourage this; for this is the way you discover the shiny hieroglyphs hidden behind the remnants of old buildings that allow you to lengthen your scarf making you jump and glide higher.

This is when the controls come in and they are very simple to learn. The nameless hooded figure moves gracefully around with actions only consisting of X to jump and circle to interact with the environment. There are also no combat options just basic platforming and obstacle avoiding during the sand surfing segments, which provide the most elegant visuals in video game history.

It can be harked on for ages how Journey is sublime in its aesthetics however sound is also crucial. Most notably the stirring score that would even give casually invested players chills.

If you come to Journey looking for a challenging and lengthy game you will not find it. Challenge does not work within this games context of providing an artistic mood to relax the player and keep the pace flowing. It is easy to explore the landscape but it depends how you do it. It is slightly tantalizing however what a ten-hour experience of a game visually similar to Journey will provide. Quality has been favoured over quantity here, which is somewhat understandable with Journey only being an indie game after all.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Journey is the ability for players to enter seamlessly into your current play through. There is a deliberate communication barrier to these encounters with no voice or text chat with your fellow traveller to maintain the tranquil style of gameplay. There isn’t even a notification that another person has joined your game. As you explore the game you strangely find yourself being compelled to your new buddy and wonder where he or she has gone if you get separated adding even more emotional investment to the game. The disconnect very much benefits the aspect of multiplayer making it fascinating knowing that this person your sharing this journey with is human. This suits the mysterious world Journey has to offer.

Through the way Journey immerses the player into a dreamlike state, Thatgamecompany have created the most ethereal experience in video game history. Journey is pure elegance.

Journey is available now for download from the Playstation Store for £9.99

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Journey has been awarded the following badges:

Badge icon "Citizen (756)" provided by Phoebe Sexton, Vincent Zhang, Russell Lord, SimpleScott & Edward Boatman, from The Noun Project under The symbol is published under a Public Domain MarkBadge icon "Creation (2536)" provided by Jakob Vogel, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)Badge icon "Actor (1547)" provided by Jonathan C. Dietrich, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)Badge icon "Bullhorn (1580)" provided by Travis Yunis, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)