Past Blast: L.A. Noire – Fresh Yet Strangely Familiar

Ok, let’s get this out of the way, to begin with. This isn’t Grand Theft Auto for the 40s. L.A. Noire is not about running over pedestrians. It is a little more highbrow in fact. From the setting through to the story-telling via the gameplay, it all feels fresh, and yet strangely familiar.

Welcome to 1947 Los Angeles. You assume the role of a detective. Solving cases and swigging coffee are your forte, and you’re there to get the job done. You spend most of your time talking to witnesses and searching for clues, trying to solve cases of Arson, Vice and Homicide.

While you can hijack cars and explore the city, the main focus of the game is its strong narrative. This is beautifully complemented by the animation and voice acting. Talking about the animation specifically, Rockstar made use of the impressive MotionScan technology that really captures minute facial expressions, taking virtual acting to another level.

The cutscenes were tightened and more polished than the Grand Theft Auto series too. All of these improvements mean the narrative, was and is, conveyed in a sublime fashion.

John Noble.jpg
Even the mighty John Noble was in it.

But how does the gameplay fair? Well, oddly enough the advanced animation actually becomes crucial here, especially when talking to witnesses. You have to examine witnesses movements and facial expressions when talking to them, trying to figure out if they’re lying. This sort of concentration the game demands only serves to further draw you into the compelling plot.

Comparisons may be drawn with past PlayStation 3 hitter Heavy Rain, in the sense that if you do read the situation wrongly, it can impact your progress within the game. But unlike the BAFTA-winning hit, LA Noire seems to take the complete experience to another level. The action sequences that complement the investigative gameplay work very well too, (as you’d expect from Rockstar).

Even though it felt more like LA Confidential as opposed to film noir, it was an awfully good game (haters begone!).

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Shadow Spirits Vol. 1

Shadow Spirits Vol. 1, from Cody Carpenter and Mark Day, out now

JRPG fans, listen up! Scarlet Moon Records has released Shadow Spirits Vol. 1, an “explosive” chiptune album by electronic artists Cody Carpenter and Mark Day.

Way of the Sword

[amazon_textlink asin=’B07C2KKYVF’ text=’Shadow Spirits’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’geali01-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’28b3ad16-4cb7-11e8-9282-5d17b910beb8′] follows the adventures of a young samurai through fan-favourite JRPG trappings. So that’s riveting battle themes and triumphant fanfares to jovial town music and melancholy interludes. What else?

Originally envisioned as a four-track NES EP, it’s now a full-length album, like this one, utilizing the Commodore SID chip and electronic sounds for “additional warmth”.

Shadow Spirits Vol. 1

You can grab it from these two modern places:

“JRPG fans always love battle music, and Shadow Spirits Vol. 1 includes several battle themes. Even though this is all original music, the catchy melodies get stuck in your head and are instant classics.

“If there’s enough interest, we’ll also look into releasing the original NES tracks that acted as the basis for what Shadow Spirits Vol. 1 eventually became.” Scarlet Moon Records founder, Jayson Napolitano.

The collection draws inspiration from renowned composers Nobuo Uematsu (from Final Fantasy), Hiroki Kikuta (from Secret of Mana), and Vince DiCola (from, yes, Rocky IV/The Transformers: The Movie [1986]). Prepare your ears.

King of Peasants

Adventure game King of Peasants announced

King of Peasants? Just announced, it’s a modern, story-driven adventure game, set in the dark ages during the inquisition. The developer wants it to be fast-paced, snappy and with streamlined interaction. A sort of mobile first approach.

King of Peasants – A Watercolour World

The graphics in the game are handmade with a mix of watercolours and pencils – the visual style is defined as a “living painting”, as you can see below in the first screenshots:

King of Peasants
King of Peasants
King of Peasants
King of Peasants

As for platforms, King of Peasants will be available in 2019 on Steam (PC and Mac), and mobile (Android and iOS). It’s designed for mature audiences who have ‘limited’ spare time to play games. Which is pretty much everyone I know in the current world.

More details are expected this year.

The Walking Dead: The Game

Looking Back At The Walking Dead: The Game – Episode 1

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead hit the ground running with its first and still strong comic series. Since its initial release, this comic series has spawned a massively popular TV series (even now) that loosely follows the story set in the source material, as well as a series of best-selling novels.

But the video game adaption of the beloved series was something different.

The Walking Dead: The Game

Most will think that the first game is a spin-off of the TV show due to its popularity, however, that’s not the case here. The Walking Dead game is based on the comics.

What does this mean for the casual fan of the TV series? Well, not much since the show follows the comic fairly well, however, the game’s characters are based on the comic representations rather than the show, and we don’t follow the beloved protagonist Rick Grimes – like the comic and TV series do.

Instead, we follow this series of games with a brand new character to the canon named Lee. It takes place during the first few days of the zombie outbreak, which is when Rick Grimes is still in a coma from his horrific shooting. This was a fresher take on the series since most of what people have seen in the show or comics is set in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse.

Without giving away too much of the story, if you’ve yet to play it, I’ll just say the basics. Lee was your normal run-of-the-mill college professor who happened to be arrested for a crime he may or may not have committed, and on your way to the famous prison (set in the series), all hell breaks loose. The car crashes, and you find a girl named Clementine, whose parents are missing in this worldwide catastrophe. You and Clem set out to, well, survive.

The game hinges on the most important thing: surviving and choices. I was pleasantly surprised to find timed responses as well as how these choices affected all of your group’s perception of you, and what repercussions will come with all the decisions I’ve made.

The one thing that newcomers to the series will probably not like is the gameplay. The more casual gamer will probably buy this game solely thinking that it’s a shooter much like Valve’s Left 4 Dead. That’s not the case here though. The Walking Dead game, and its series, are different; they are point and click adventure games with more dialogue (and less killing of the undead). I actually found this to be a fantastic approach, and I still play the game today.

The gameplay was smooth and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire way. One of the most interesting aspects that I discovered in the game was the use of silence which created so much tension; I was actually nervous when I first entered Clementine’s house.

This isn’t, and wasn’t, a perfect game though.

There are some hiccups with the rendering between cutscenes and gameplay for example. Not a huge problem, but it was noticeable enough. My other complaint was the voice acting. At times it was great, but at other times I found myself laughing with the way Lee, as well as others, talked in certain situations. With moods drastically changing from being OK to suddenly furious in the conversations after critical decisions were made.

Fans of the series, like me, were delighted just to see a few of their favourite characters, such as Hershel Greene, Glenn, Lilly and others make appearances. But the game was more than that. It was better than anyone thought it would be. Much better.

Telltale Games crafted a five-part series that left many, many happy fans. And you know what? I still don’t think they’ve beaten it to this day.

Little Dragons Café

See the first trailer for Little Dragons Café

From renowned game designer Yasuhiro Wada (Bokujo Monogatari, or the better-known titles outside of Japan, Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons) comes his latest potential masterpiece: Little Dragons Café.

Little Dragons Café – Harvest Moon Returns?

The story opens with a twin brother and sister learning to cook and manage a small café under their mother’s tutelage.

You see, all was peaceful and routine until one morning when the twins discover that their mother has fallen into a deep sleep and won’t wake up. Suddenly, a strange old man appears to inform them that they must raise a dragon in order to save her:

Working together with three quirky café employees, the two siblings must ­work out how to a wrangle a dragon and manage the family business while ­finding a way to save their mother. The gameplay you would expect from Wada appears to be present too, with harvesting, cooking, exploring the world, and erm, flying dragons around. Ok, that last one is different.

The exciting new title hits the PS4 and Switch this summer. One to watch.

Bayonetta 3

Hideki Kamiya on Bayonetta 3: “Game development is a business”

Hideki Kamiya, known for his superb work on Bayonetta, Ōkami, Viewtiful Joe, Devil May Cry and Resident Evil 2, has spoken about the ongoing development of Bayonetta 3 for the Switch.

Bayonetta 3 For Switch: I’m Not Much For The Talkative Types

Somewhat ‘infamous’ for his tough stance on internet trolls and gaming immaturity, Kamiya responded with simple logic to why Bayonetta 3 is a Switch exclusive with the following tweets:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kamiya makes some great points about the difficulties of game development and implies, as most with any realistic view or sense of maturity about them would assume, that companies such as SEGA and Nintendo have an amicable business relationship. That is, after all, what the game industry is: a business. And all businesses need money to survive.

As for those ‘upset’ about Bayonetta 3 being an exclusive, it’s clear without both Nintendo and SEGA that Bayonetta 3 wouldn’t exist in the first place. Probably something to think about before the next rant on Twitter.

Beat Hazard 2

Cold Beam Games announces Beat Hazard 2

It’s somehow already been 8 years since the release of indie hit Beat Hazard. I had a lot of fun with that back in the day.

Beat Hazard 2 – It Only Gets Better

In case you didn’t know, the original Beat Hazard allowed you to experience your music collection inside the game which would, in turn, power-up your spaceship and firepower. Having Toto’s Hold The Line playing in the background while you blast things away? Delightfully odd.

Beat Hazard

So it’s probably a good time to polish up your music collection, as the developers, Cold Beam Games, have announced the sequel Beat Hazard 2. The difference this time around? Beat Hazard 2 will include procedurally generated boss ships. Each of your songs creates a unique ‘archenemy’ ship for you to vanquish:

A new original soundtrack composed by Johnny Frizz, who contributed tracks to the original Beat Hazard, will feature in the game for those that don’t want to be reminded of their own music. There’s also the option of battling against your friends.

One to watch if you love gaming and music and want to see them work together in sweet harmony. You can expect Beat Hazard 2 in Q3 2018 for PC.

Hatch beta

Hatch beta opens in UK – a games-on-demand service

Hatch, the mobile ‘games-on-demand’ service, which is spun out from Rovio, has made its debut in the UK and Ireland with open beta access for Android users.

Hatch Beta – The Mobile Games-On-Demand Service

So what’s the deal with Hatch then? Basically, users can discover and play a selection of mobile games from around 100 developers and publishers via streaming. The difference is that no games are actually downloaded in the process.

Hatch beta

Support is growing for the service with Square Enix being the latest developer to sign on, bringing the following (great!) games to the service:

  • Hitman GO
  • Lara Croft GO
  • Deus Ex GO
  • Hitman Sniper

These titles join a collection of titles from Ubisoft (Rayman Fiesta Run), Taito (Space Invaders Infinity Gene) and Bandai Namco (PAC-MAN CE DX) along with celebrated indies like ustwo Games (Monument Valley), Frogmind (Badland) and Butterscotch Shenanigans (Crashlands).

“Hatch was founded to change the way we discover and play games, and to create new gaming experiences to share with the people in our lives,” says Hatch Founder & CEO Juhani Honkala.

Hatch is currently free but with ads. Although it’s worth noting that there’s an optional paid, fixed monthly subscription that adds exclusive content and features, removing said ads. Which is fair enough.

With mobile games being less intensive to run, the streaming service might be able to keep up better than say Sony’s PlayStation Now service.

It remains to be seen, however, if Hatch will have a significant impact on the mobile gaming sector.

10tons has now released their entire catalogue on Switch

With Baseball Riot out now for the Nintendo Switch, the sequel to Tennis in the Face, 10tons has now released their entire catalogue on the hybrid console – that would be in less than a year.

10tons Games: A Fairly Sizeable Task

What does this mean, well, the Switch now has exactly the same selection of 10tons games as the PS4, Xbox One, and even Steam. Jaakko Maaniemi had this to say on the exciting news:

“It feels pretty good to have this fairly sizeable task now done. Well, we’ll need to update a couple of titles to fix minor niggles, but otherwise we’re done for now!”

The developer’s next upcoming game is Tesla vs Lovecraft, a top-down arena shooter, which will be heading to the Switch “in a month or two”. We’re waiting to hear final details on a release date.

For more on 10tons, you can check out our interview with the indie developer here, and you can expect a review for Baseball Riot up on the site shortly.

Interactive Experience For Switch

Thoughts On Nintendo’s New Interactive Experience For Switch – Revealed Tonight

Nintendo is announcing a new “interactive experience” for the Switch at 10 pm UK time tonight. The news, of course, sent the internet into another unjustified meltdown: “Smash Bros. is coming”, “Yes, there are going to be loads of new games” chimed another. Although, seemingly, they forgot the most important part here:

“An interactive experience that’s specially crafted for kids and those who are kids at heart.”

Those simple words immediately tell us that Nintendo is not going to be announcing the next Smash Bros., but something much more casual-oriented aimed at “kids” and families – think Nintendo Wii era. It was pretty clear to me, so it’s quite perplexing to see others on the internet miss the point and inflate their expectations.

Nintendo’s president, Tatsumi Kimishima, has in recent times spoken about the need to grow the now established install base and reach out to “more users, including people who barely touch game consoles.”

So, that’s what they’re going to be doing tonight, plain and simple. You can expect an attachment for the Switch of some sort, that or the second wave of toys-to-life figurines like the amiibo range – which interact with Switch games. Or something else offbeat. Just not Metroid Prime 4.

What I’m saying is: we need to temper our expectations here and not just jump on that superfast hype train without a ticket. Everything is so much better that way. Enjoy the announcement tonight.

JYDGE iOS

JYDGE hits iOS devices January 18th

JYDGE, from indie dev 10tons, is coming to iOS devices on January 18th.

JYDGE iOS – Edenbyrg Awaits

In case you didn’t know, JYDGE is a top-down shooter where you customize your character and set out to clear missions to eradicate crime in the urban paradise of Edenbyrg.

There are quite a few customization options available in the game that cater to various playstyles and provide potential solutions to the goals you need to complete:

In our exclusive interview with 10tons, they told us what we all wanted to hear:

“JYDGE is obviously a homage to all the future-cop stuff there is, probably more Robocop than Judge Dredd”.

You may remember that JYDGE was released on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch late last year. You can check out Stephen’s Nintendo Switch review of said game here.

PS4 Sales

Latest PS4 sales: 5.9 million units sold worldwide during holiday season

Sony has announced strong sales for PS4 and its games during the holiday season 2017. Here’s everything that happened during the busy season:

PS4 Sales

  • PS4 has sold more than 5.9 million units (slightly down from 6.2m last year)
  • PS4 has now cumulatively sold more than 73.6 million units as of December 31st, 2017
  • More than 55.9 million PS4 games were sold in retail stores worldwide and through digital downloads. That’s a total of 645.0 million copies sold as of December 31, 2017

Sony’s cheery John Kodera, President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, had this to say:

“Thanks to the continued support from our fans across the globe, we are honored to announce remarkable sales during the holiday season. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to our community and our partners for helping us achieve such phenomenal milestones. We promise our unwavering commitment to bring more amazing experiences to our fans.”

– Daragh Says –

It’s good to see the gaming industry do so well at the moment, especially as dedicated consoles were, at one point, predicted to lose major ground to mobile devices. Here’s to a great 2018 ahead!