Xbox Game Pass: Looking Backwards, Moving Forwards

Like it or not, we’re almost at that time of year and no, I don’t mean the big ‘C’ word either (although it’s getting towards that time as well). I am, of course, talking about the silly season. Come September the gaming calendar starts to get a little crazy and it all too quickly becomes week-after-week of big titles vying for time in your console/PC. It’s not a bad situation per se, but finding the time, and money, for all these can be very tricky. Moving away from indies just for a second, we’ve had Spider-Man swing into action and we’re on the verge of seeing Forza Horizon 4, Red Dead Redemption 2, Fallout 76, Battlefield and Call of Duty launch imminently.

But whilst we’re about to see a massive surge of new titles head our way, we’re seeing a growing back-catalogue of games being made readily available to us at the same time. The Xbox Game Pass service offered by Microsoft brings not only old, but new games as well which is something we haven’t seen before in the games industry. This subscription-based service, priced at £7.99 per month, could well be the killer blow that Microsoft needed as they now look on towards their future and inevitable One successor. That, however, depends on what you’re looking for in a console…

What do I mean by this? Well, let’s think of this from a business perspective and where Microsoft is heading over the coming years. They are clearly aiming for the Xbox to be a singular ecosystem, something where you can access any game, anywhere at any time. From their brief mention at E3 this year, it could be rather exciting if they can manage this successfully. In trying to achieve this, they can offer a complete package where you can access all your Xbox content in one place, using one system and under one (or more) subscriptions.

Xbox Game Pass
Xbox Game Pass

Now from a business perspective, this makes complete sense, but looking at it from a consumer perspective this also makes perfect sense too. Think of it this way; you’re new to gaming, or you’re introducing someone new to gaming and they want a console. You can buy one that needs you to buy games from the get-go to tide you over. Or, with an Xbox, you can buy the console and get a Game Pass subscription, and have access to a shed-load of games off the bat. With all first-party titles coming to the service too, it’s a no-brainer for anyone with an Xbox already so it can easily entice newcomers too.

Am I doing this as a means of promoting the Xbox over other consoles? No, I am far beyond such immaturity. In fact, I’m doing it as an exercise of hope and wishful thinking that this may become the future of gaming. Remote access and digital downloads are clearly the way to go moving forward, so imagine being able to turn on your Switch or PS4 where you have access to a massive catalogue of old and new games almost instantly. If this were bundled into the cost of PSN or Switch Online for example, then I’d be more than happy with that.

Whilst many may moan that most games on offer are older and don’t offer anything new, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all. Looking backwards allows us to move forward, as long as the value is there.

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Victor Vran: Overkill Edition Review [Nintendo Switch] – Medieval Duke Nukem

I was confused when I first loaded up Victor Vran. Not because I didn’t know what I was doing, more that I didn’t know what I was playing. The reason? Titular monster-hunter come demon-slayer Victor Vran is voiced by Doug Cockle who many will instantly recognise as the voice behind iconic Witcher, Geralt.

Now if you told me I was playing a spin-off of the Witcher series, I would have believed you. Let’s look at that facts; the game is set in an alternate past where monsters, demons and other nasties have started running riot and it’s your job to pursue and end them. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s what I thought, hence the confusion.

Haemimont Games, having worked on past titles such as the Tropico series, bring Victor Vran in its complete form to the Switch – full to the brim with extra content. More on that later, first of all, let’s take a look at what Victor Vran is in more detail.

Victor Vran: Overkill Edition Review Switch
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition Review Switch

Like I mentioned, you play as Vran and it is your job to liberate the cursed city of Zagoravia from all manner of evil. Set as a top-down RPG, you begin to understand that this isn’t your average top-down adventure game. You choose how you want to play with outfits giving you different abilities, weapons granting different advantages and disadvantages and a levelling system that doesn’t force you down one particular route.

For instance, you can wield a shotgun running around like a crazy medieval Duke Nukem (which I did) or you can wield a sword or hammer and get up close and personal to your foes. Added to which a sharp fedora-topped outfit allows your demon powers to recharge slowly over time or a hunters outfit will charge your powers whenever you get hit. Using your demon powers on a large group of monsters is also very satisfying, especially splatting a swarm of spiders with a meteor shower! To top it off, each new level allows you to boost a given attribute such as ranged damage, health points or to get a loot chest – of which the content is random.

It’s little things like this that allow you to tailor the game around how you like to play and tackle each mission differently. Each level/area will also have challenges for you to complete which will grant bonus experience points, gold or other boosts to help you on your way.

Now whilst Victor Vran won’t set the genre alight, more likely sit amongst other great top-down titles, it does prove a massive point. That being that these sort of games can work and thrive on the Switch, which it does. Throughout testing, I played in handheld mode and the whole thing ran smoothly and rather quickly. Navigation wasn’t hard, nor was controlling Vran or the camera which made it so easy to play that I just kept going. One area would lead to another and I easily found myself losing a couple of hours at a time taking out skeletons, spiders and other ghostly beings.

The combat is quite intense too and doesn’t allow you to pause for breath for very long. If you stay stationary for too long you can quickly find yourself surrounded so staying mobile is always advisable, finding a brief respite where you can. This is one of the things which will keep you going as each fight is unique, requiring a different tactic each time.

Victor Vran: Overkill Edition Review Switch
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition Review Switch

In this, the Overkill Edition, Victor Vran comes with a host of extra content for you to tackle. Upon starting out you are given the choice of playing the base campaign, a campaign which is inspired by and revolves around the band Motorhead (paying tribute to the late metal legend, Lemmy) and finally the Fractured Worlds mode where everything takes an even more chaotic turn. Considering that the game can also be played online, there are many different things to play and ways in which to do so making this a great outing and addition to the Switch’s ever-expanding list of titles.

My only worry is over the pricing as this sits at £34.99 meaning it’s competing with the bigger and stronger titles out there, including Nintendo’s own strong first-party outings. Would people buy it at this price? It’s unlikely. Would I recommend buying it at this price? I don’t think so, maybe if it was more like half of that, which is a shame, as it may get overlooked until a price drop further down the line. If that does happen, however, I would recommend playing Victor Vran as I’m sure you’ll enjoy this charming adventure through Zagoravia.

Sea of Thieves

When Games Just Do ‘It’ – Sea of Thieves

We like to bring you the latest from the indie scene, focussing on the small guys and not just giving the limelight to the big hitters out there. But every now and again, one of the bigger names gets something uniquely right, so much so, that you can’t explain it. For me, personally, it’s Sea of Thieves – if you would allow me to explain why.

I haven’t played much recently, my controllers have sat to one side for longer than they normally would and for longer than I’d normally like them to. What with starting a new job and planning a wedding, my evenings haven’t been as relaxed as they have been in the recent past. But Sea of Thieves has been the one game that has kept me coming back for more and, on some occasions, for a few hours at a time. A few hours these days is a significant thing.

Off You Go!

For many, this would probably not seem like a big deal or something out of the unordinary, but I’m not normally one for online gaming, opting for the classic solo experience, or one to play games that don’t really have a ‘point’ or endgame either. When I’m gaming, I like them to have a reason for doing something, making me want to play or justifying what I’m doing pushing me towards the end goal. But Sea of Thieves doesn’t have that. It’s very much a case of ‘here’s the world – off you go’ and allows you to make your own memories and experiences.

sea_of_thieves

What I also like as well is that everything you can collect and buy (using in-game currency) is all cosmetic. There’s no imbalance of power or a shift in dynamic when you level up and, to date, you won’t be on the back foot should you jump in at a later date. This, to me, is gaming done right and fair. No over-powering and no dividing the community and, what’s more, the content that is coming for it is going to be both regular and free. That’s something that can’t be said for most games out there that are hungry for the contents of the wallets of loyal fans.

Don’t get me wrong, Sea of Thieves isn’t without its criticisms as it isn’t the perfect game. The voyages on offer at present can get a little repetitive and until the bigger chunks of content arrive, it is limited in variety. The hungering deep has just arrived though, whereby you can summon a Megalodon which requires the completion of a series of preceding quests before you can do so. Plus there’s still more to come in weekly updates and larger content drops in the Cursed Sails in July and Forsaken Shores in September.

That aside, my enjoyment for the game has not come from the content, more the enjoyment of just playing the game and being able to enjoy it. It’s not a game where it makes you rage or be tempted to throw the controller through the window and has quickly become that title where I send a message to friends asking if they’re going online. When they do, we have a great time exploring and just sailing, chatting whilst we do and playing a shanty or two en route.

The occasional tense moment where you find someone else in your world and don’t know if they will be friendly or hostile also makes you doubt whether or not you should have cashed your booty in sooner. It scratches an itch and allows me to unwind and catch up with some friends, whilst meeting up with some new people should we decide to voyage with them.

It’s hard to pinpoint what the ‘it’ is when a game does it for you and it’s completely subjective, but is there a game that you enjoy playing and keep coming back for more?

Battle Royale: The New Zombies?

Weekend Thoughts: Is Battle Royale The New Zombies?

We’re almost halfway through the year which can only mean one thing: inevitable disappointment when the sun doesn’t make a significant appearance again during the summer months.

That and the fact that we are a very short time away from this year’s E3 convention which is already shaping up to be quite the show. We’ve already had some pre-show leaks thanks to the Canadian arm of Walmart listing some potential upcoming games early, but hopefully, there are some big surprises still in store!

There are also many questions that need answering this year; what games will carry the Xbox One X forward? How will Nintendo approach 2018 and will Sony have any surprise hardware up their sleeves?

Battle Royale: The New Zombies?

Alas, this article isn’t just about the big E3 build up. No, it’s about something more concerning; there’s an epidemic on our hands. We thought the zombie craze was bad (somehow there’s life in the old limbering corpse yet) but I feel that the ‘Battle Royale craze‘ is going to be far more significant.

When I say significant, I don’t necessarily mean positive either…

Before we get off on the wrong foot though, I’m not here to deny the popularity or success of the likes of PUBG or Fortnite. They have seen masses of players and followers flood over various platforms and social media alike, which is perfectly acceptable.

Weekend Thoughts: Is Battle Royale The New Zombies?

Likewise, it’s nice to see something a little different and it gives more people a choice when it comes to their online shooters beyond the likes of the usual Call of Duty or Battlefield.

What I don’t like though, is that we are starting to see people jump on the Battle Royale bandwagon and rush to have their own version of this mode included. From a business perspective, I can see why they would do this. If it brings in the numbers and also the money, then, of course, they will try to get in on the action.

However, when it is a detriment to an existing formula and series, then I don’t think mimicry is the best form of flattery in this instance. You see, it’s all well and good that the upcoming Black Ops game has a battle royale mode, but at what cost?

The single player campaign may be expendable to them, and others, but what about those who want a single player mode? There are some, myself included, who like playing the single player mode from the Call of Duty franchise and, without it, they may not even play it.

Weekend Thoughts: Is Battle Royale The New Zombies?

Without question, variety is the spice of life and that is certainly true in the games industry as it is nice to have something different and, without innovation, it would be a very boring marketplace indeed. But as Fortnite, or PUBG for that matter, aren’t direct competitors for the big hitters out there and are doing their own thing, just let them be. Appreciate them for what they are, and leave them be.

Others can mind their own business, continue with business as usual and try to innovate rather than renovate which is something that is lacking in the industry if you ask me; innovation. Heck, why can’t we try and innovate when it comes to campaign and single player modes to keep things fresh? Treyarch has said there’s plenty of value in their upcoming outing, but that’s in modes that are looking a little tired now.

Maybe make the campaign more expansive, more dynamic and more engaging. Give it some worth beyond a warm-up or prelude to the online modes perhaps?

But we shall have to wait and see if anyone else jumps on the hype train that is running 24 hours a day to destination Battle Royale. Do you like Call of Duty making this bold move or are you one of those who will refrain from playing Black Ops 4 because of this?

Let us know in the comments below.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review [Nintendo Switch] – Magic?

There aren’t many times where I don’t sing the praises of the Nintendo Switch, and the same is going to happen here. Albeit not in the form of praise for its power, prowess or its stellar first-party line-up, but more for the fact it is helping me catch up with some games that I have missed on other consoles.

The Switch is the perfect platform for smaller, indie games new or old and it’s great to see so much support for the little guys out there by Nintendo.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Switch Review

Such a title that I missed back in 2013 was Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. Not through ignorance or purpose, it was just something that I never picked up at the time, much like many indie games I must ashamedly concede that launched around this time.

So, Max has had his time already on other platforms, including this generation and the last generation of consoles, not to mention PC. Now, though, is his time to shine for Nintendo…

The Curse of Brotherhood starts with Max squabbling with his younger brother Felix – much like anyone else did when they had another sibling. Rooting through his toys and making an almighty mess, Max puts a curse on Felix that he found on the internet in an attempt to make him disappear.

Somehow it works and both Felix and Max get pulled through a wormhole into another creepy and bizarre universe where Felix has been kidnapped and Max must rescue his brother.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review

Permanent Marker

The game plays out across your typical 2D platformer landscape with you having to navigate Max over obstacles and dodge enemies to move onto the next area.

Sadly Max didn’t come well-equipped for this task beyond having a permanent marker in his possession when he came through the wormhole. After meeting an old lady who has magic power, she grants his marker the ability to manipulate certain parts of the terrain to Max’s advantage.

This allows the Switch to show off its multiple inputs by having you control Max with the thumbsticks on the Joy-Cons but allowing you to use the marker by using the touchscreen display.

It’s simple, and makes perfect sense, as I imagine most people will play the game in handheld mode – as I did for the duration of my time before writing this review.

The game also looks very shiny on the console and runs smoothly, but it does also show its age sometimes, with the textures and reliance on the same mechanics throughout.

There are also a couple of issues with the detection when jumping and input for the marker pen which can result in you repeating certain sections.

But, for a five-year-old game, this does not detract from the title and it is to be expected that it won’t be as ‘shiny’ as if it were launched today.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is the perfect game for the Switch. It’s a game you can pick up and play at any point and makes use of the Switch’s portability and touchscreen. In fact, if you ask me, playing games like this is one of the biggest selling points for the Switch.

Nitchigamer

Nitchi gets nominated for the Neat Blogger Award

It’s always nice to get recognised and know you’re doing a good job, and I think it’s worth patting yourself on the back once in a while. Recently, Nitchi was nominated for the Neat Blogger Award by Arthifis’ Place for which we are eternally grateful. Likewise, we thank you all for your continued support and time – it doesn’t go unnoticed!

Real Neat Blog Award
Real Neat Blog Award

But before we continue, who is Arthifis? Well, she is a devoted blogger with a passion for anime, video games and anything in-between. With a steady stream of content, there’s always something to read courtesy of Arthifis, which is always worth checking out.  She’s very engaging with her audience and always happy to have a chat about her latest piece or whatever it may be. Please go check her blog out and get involved, we’re all one big family here and we appreciate the nomination and raise a toast to you.

Nitchi has come a long way in a short time and thankfully I’ve been here since day one and have the great responsibility of representing us on this momentous occasion. I hope I live up to all your expectations and you enjoy the read. Check the rest of the blog out as well if you’re new here. Anyhow, here are the rules:

  • Display the award logo
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog
  • Answer the questions of the one who nominated you
  • Nominate 5-10 bloggers
  • Ask them 7 questions

So without further ado, let’s move onto the questions!

Go to the very first post you have written! Tell us what is it about, share the link and tell us if you think you have developed your writing – by a lot or is it yet the same?

Well, I’ve written across many sites (including the lovely D-pad Joy before moving to Nitchi) so tracing my very first article is tricky, but my first for the team here was a review of Lego City Undercover on the Nintendo Switch. Overall I was impressed with the game in its latest form, but it did suffer from performance issues which dampened the experience somewhat. From a writing perspective, I think my writing has developed so I am now more succinct, covering all my points in fewer words where appropriate. Likewise, I think my coverage of other subject matter (e.g. feature articles) has also come along with some great feedback received along the way. Even if one person reads what I have to say, then I am happy!

What was your last post about?

So my last post was about playing games late and if we should wait for all the hype to settle down before jumping onboard. Of course, it’s nice to be part of the zeitgeist every now and again, but with most games needing significant updates from day one, are we best waiting for them to be polished before jumping in? Likewise, we have so many social media channels these days that pre-launch hype can get out of control. So when you do get that disc in your console, and it doesn’t live up to the mark, that inevitable disappointment can be tough when you have spent over £40 on it.

What is your favourite post you have written so far?

This is a tough one as I like all my posts and take great pride in my work. Honestly, I’m very self-critical of them all too and I’m never sure I’m onto a winner or not before getting prior approval. I’m getting more sure-footed but my favourite piece, funnily enough, is one where I discuss taking a break from gaming in order to give ourselves a breather. With so many games to play and such little time to play them, I think we need to be smarter with our time management and turn to other mediums, such as books, movies, TV or even physical activities, such as walking or going to the gym, instead of gaming. A change, or indeed a break, can do us some good!

What are your 3 favourite characters of all time? It can be from everywhere!

Well, this is a very easy one! Anyone who knows me will already be able to guess my top two characters but for those who don’t know me, my one and two spots are taken by Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Steve Rogers (Captain America). I love them both in equal measures and love their backstory, what they both stand for and all associated movies and miscellaneous items… If I could be half of one and half the other, then I’d be happy! My third would be Sora from Kingdom Hearts. By rights the game shouldn’t work, nor should Sora work as a hero, but both do with fantastic effect. Who’d think that a hybrid of Disney and Final Fantasy would work? Likewise, who’d think the unassuming Sora would be the key (see what I did there?) to defeating the Heartless and darkness?

What is a place you would love to travel? Either real or fantasy!

America has always been somewhere I’d love to visit and go travelling, sadly I’ve not made it there yet!  I like the appeal of the country, the culture and mostly the food and beer you can get over there. As a long time New England Patriots fan, I’d love to go watch football over there and even go to the Super Bowl if I could. Ideally, I’d love to spend a few months out there travelling and seeing as many states as I can.

If you had to drop out one of your hobbies entirely what would you choose and why?

Well, this question couldn’t have come at a better time really, given that I am typing this with one hand after suffering a broken finger during cricket training. The season hasn’t started and I’m confident that I’m out for the season already which is a real shame. With that in mind, I think I may already be giving this up as being injured is becoming a regular occurrence sadly, I cant keep breaking fingers and not being able to play games, can I?!

Favourite Game/Anime? Depending on what your blog is about…

So being a gaming blog, my choice will be my favourite game! It’s not an easy choice as I love a lot of games in equal measure for many different reasons. Take Fallout 4 as an example or my first gaming experience of Final Fantasy 7 that got me properly into gaming. But if I had to choose one game as my all-time favourite it would have to be Kingdom Hearts. As I’ve mentioned already, on the surface it shouldn’t work, but it does with almost magical effect. Granted the story is a little convoluted with the many spin-offs there has been but the first is where it all began and is my favourite game to date. I’ve waited so long for the third instalment of the main trilogy and now it’s nearly here, the wait is almost unbearable.

So that’s it and that’s me! Or at least some information about me anyway. I hope you enjoyed it and here are my nominations:

Lastly, but by no means least, here are my questions for you all to answer:

  • What is your earliest gaming memory? What console were you playing on and what game were you playing?
  • When did you start blogging and why?
  • What feature do you wish any of your consoles had that they currently don’t?
  • Name a movie that you wish had a video game made after it; which developer would you want to make it and why?
  • Do you have a games room or corner? If so, let us see it (if you want to, that is!) and show us your favourite thing in there.
  • You have a child or a pet, which character do you name it after (could be from a movie, TV, or game etc) and why?
  • What keeps you going when gaming? Coffee, tea or something else?

Thanks to everyone for continuing to read Nitchigamer, the support is greatly appreciated.

Playing games later

So, Are Games Best Played Late?

Regular readers/followers, please don’t get the wrong impression of me ok? My last few articles could quite easily be interpreted as negative, but they really aren’t. Granted, they do seem that way but my intentions are good, with our collective best interests at heart. You see, whilst I love games and gaming, I want to ensure that my experiences are enjoyable, worthwhile and memorable. This being the reason why I have come to believe that games are best played late, not at launch.

Playing Games Later

I used to love midnight launches; being one of the first to get a new title and rush home to install and play it. It’s a great feeling. Getting together with a few friends, staying up late together before succumbing to fatigue and calling it a night one-by-one is a great feeling. But what happens when that shiny new game that you’ve bought doesn’t live up to expectations? What if it wasn’t what you were expecting, leaving a sour taste in your mouth? Well, you won’t be waking up early to carry on where you left off, that’s for sure…

And this is my point; it’s easy to get lost in the media hype and be part of the zeitgeist when a new game comes out. We’ve all done it, lest we forget what happened with No Man’s Sky (the less said about that the better). Now let’s not interpret this the wrong way, I’m not writing this cynically against the developers or the gamers here, I have both their interests at heart. More so for the developers really, one bad launch can damage their reputation beyond repair and said game can flop with little opportunity to recover (see the above mention of No Man’s Sky).

“Ultimately though, the decision lies with us as gamers to decide how and when we spend our money.”

I’m not talking about games being buggy at launch either or cynical developers bringing out extra downloadable content out shortly after launch. I’m more making reference to letting a game settle, seeing people’s opinions once they’ve had it a while and then make an informed decision. Reading reviews pre-launch can be tricky as some don’t allow their games to be covered until release day to protect sales (which I don’t agree with) so making these informed decisions can be tricky.

Valkyria Revolution
Valkyria Revolution

Ultimately though, the decision lies with us as gamers to decide how and when we spend our money. I’m not completely averse to spending money on games on day one, I’ve done it many times before and will continue to do so, but I’m more careful about deciding when I do now.

With the likes of Games Pass on the Xbox housing their new first-party games from launch, making this same decision on their platform at least will be much easier. For the sake of a low-cost monthly subscription, you can dip your toes, test the waters and come back at a later date once things have settled down or when you get the chance. Who knows, this model might be the future but one thing is for certain; I’m happy to wait if it means I can play my games in their complete form.

Gaming 'Safety Blankets'

Gaming ‘Safety Blankets’ – Here’s Mine

Having moved back out recently, I have been re-acquainted with my games room. No longer do I have to keep my life cooped up in one bedroom, I have a full house to spread it all out over. Before you think you’ve accidentally stumbled across a lifestyle or home improvement blog, you’re definitely here at Nitchigamer so please bear with me, this is definitely gaming related.

Having my games room is great, everything I need is in there; GameCube, Xbox, PS2, PS4, Xbox One and the Switch. With the slow start to the year coming to an end, you’d think things were starting to ramp up and the newer games taking their place on the respective consoles. Well, not quite. You see, moving out reminded me of all the games I had that have been stored away and having all my retro consoles set up ready to go has made it even easier to look back for inspiration.

If I want to jump on Halo on the Xbox or Grand Theft Auto on the PS2, they’re set up ready to go. But there’s one game, in particular, that has had me engrossed since moving out and that is Fallout 4.

Gaming Safety Blankets

Ever since Fallout 3 came out, I have been hooked on this series and have loved each game that has arrived since (yes that includes New Vegas, it was a good game!). The stories, the world and the characters have always captured my imagination. What if life was actually like this, should the worst happen? Minus the mutated creatures and lasers, of course, but a lot of the game could be real should we ever be faced with this situation of survival of the fittest. This is what keeps me coming back for more and, since moving out, I haven’t played anything since.

Fallout 4
My safety blanket – Fallout 4

Have I wanted to? Not really. Have I had the opportunity or availability to play anything else? Sure. But nothing has grabbed me or made me want to play it. Granted, I rent most of my games these days so I don’t just go out and buy my games anymore, but even when I have had other things to play, I’ve not wanted to. I’ve stuck with my scavenged guns and my Fallout 4 safety blanket has well and truly been keeping me covered during my exploits.

Much like my recent article where I discussed the merits of taking a break from gaming, I feel returning to an old favourite can do us the world of good too. But just what is it that makes doing this worthwhile? Well, I’ve explained my love for the Fallout series, but it goes beyond this. Having completed the game on more than one occasion, I now know what to expect from it. I can jump in, aimlessly wander around the Commonwealth for a few hours and discover a few new locations, then put the controller down. Inevitably, there’ll be something I’ve missed somewhere along the line so even then it can still provide me with something new so that keeps me hunting for more.

It’s an example of a game done right. It knows what it wants to do and what it wants to achieve and executes it to near perfection. Where most open-world games lose their appeal when they’re either too barren or filled with repetitive quests, Fallout keeps you on your toes and throws a variety of missions and quests at you. From raiders racing domesticated robots, to outing a doctor, who has started experimenting on his patients, you will discover plenty of secrets and tales waiting to be told. It’s this that makes me come back for more; even in the remotest of caves, you’ll find a secret, a holotape with a diary recorded on it or a note left to be read when the writer has long-since passed.

But even when a game has something new to give you after such a long time, it’s nice to be lost in a feeling of familiarity. You don’t have to learn a new control scheme, any new mechanics or features, you can just pick up your controller and off you go. Of course, I’ll play the new stuff sometime soon, but until then I’m happily continuing my trip down memory lane and who knows where it’ll take me? With a selection of older consoles, I could end up anywhere. That, to me, is the reason why my safety blanket is equally as exciting as any new game that comes our way in 2018.

Are there any games which you find yourself going back to time again? If so, let us know in the comments below…

Radiation Island Review

Radiation Island Review [Nintendo Switch] – Doesn’t Make The Grade

There’s a famous saying that good artists copy and great artists steal. To a large extent, that saying is very true in the games industry with the trends that come and go and the mechanics that are shared across the board. But what happens when, rather than steal one great idea, you copy several good ideas?

Radiation Island Review [Nintendo Switch]

Well, Radiation Island is a result of the former where it picks the pocket of many other existing games and puts them all together. But it almost feels like it’s trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that just don’t quite fit.

Originally launching on the mobile platform, Radiation Island graduates onto Switch and brings itself into the limelight, joining many new games on the eShop. This naturally means it has been adapted for button and stick controls rather than that of touch controls. The screen still serves a purpose, in some respects, but not to the same level of its mobile predecessor.

Radiation Island Review
Radiation Island Review

What is Radiation Island though? Well, it’s hard to say because I don’t think it knows itself. You find yourself washed up on a mysterious island, that has been exposed to some form of radiation, and it’s up to you to discover how and why. After a brief tutorial, you’re set on your way to roam the island and do your thing. But, before you proceed, you choose what mode you wish to play in; which is where some of the confusion begins, I feel. You can just go explore, play the game the way it’s intended, or, play a hardcore mode which is more difficult.

It combines elements of survival, crafting, exploration, hunting, shooting and melee combat. So it’s a bit like Fallout met Far Cry, saw Minecraft on the way and then DayZ tagged along for good measure. In theory that would make for a great result but it doesn’t quite make the grade. Of course, you can forgive some of its shortcomings due to its origins (graphics and general performance bugs) but you’d like to think that they’d be fixed for the launch on Switch.

Radiation Island Review
Radiation Island Review

The all too distant military and conspiracy storyline shows early promise too but doesn’t keep you hooked to necessarily want to find out what went wrong. Radiation Island’s world is a good size and has its secrets to share, including dangerous and deadly zombies, but I’d be surprised if most had the fortitude to play for any great length of time. Which is a shame really as, given its sources of inspiration, Radiation Island could be really something quite good.

Her Majesty's SPIFFING Review

Her Majesty’s SPIFFING Review [Nintendo Switch] – Quintessentially British

If anyone needed an example of how to make light of a difficult situation, then they may well look the way of Her Majesty’s SPIFFING (HMS). The Brexit vote split the country almost precisely in half, so what better subject matter to cover in a satirical video game format?

Her Majesty’s SPIFFING Review – Nintendo Switch

With the outcome of the vote the same in this fictional universe, the Queen has decided to exercise her power to dissolve parliament and rule the country by herself. And what would any self-respected queen do upon her first day in office? That’s right; launch a space exploration program. More specifically the SPIFFING initiative, standing for Special Planetary Investigative Force For Inhabiting New Galaxies.

In charge of this brave exploratory mission into space is Captain Frank Lee English and at his side is his Welsh counterpart Aled. As the name suggests, Frank is the epitome of British-ness and loves a good cup of tea and living up to as many stereotypes as possible in a short space of time. HMS is a puzzler set in the ship on which Frank and Aled travel in their attempt to find pastures new for Britain to expand its Empire once more.

Her Majesty's SPIFFING Review

This plays out much like other puzzlers that have come before it, not too dissimilar to the games by Telltale and harking back to puzzle games of old such as Monkey Island. Completing puzzles keeps you on course to reach your destination and sees you fishing a metal detector out of a litter tray, sending frogs to sleep and tipping hot tea over Aled. It’s a fun game that takes a tried and tested mechanic and gives it a light-hearted twist, not taking itself too seriously.

The stereotypes it relies on to incite humour can sometimes border on cringy, but I think it just about gets away with it. The puzzles can often be obscure, leaving you scratching your head and traipsing around the ship trying to find a solution. If there was one thing I had to say about HMS is that it is over far too quickly. I know it is only one episode of what will hopefully be a succession of outings for the team at Billy Goat Entertainment, but I finished it in super quick time. If the game had multiple outcomes, which it doesn’t, then it would have a bit more longevity. Without that replay value is very limited, but the humour it gives you just about carries it through.

Take A Break From Gaming

Should We All Take A Break From Gaming?

When I first had the idea to write this article I did what I normally do before I started writing it; I made notes to gather my thoughts, then started to type them up. It wasn’t until I’d written up around half of what I wanted to say before I realised I sounded negative and overly critical, as if I had fallen out of love with gaming. This isn’t what I was intending to do at all, so I scrapped the thing and started again, looking to turn what could be a negative suggestion into a positive one.

Games: Too Much To Handle

As the title suggests, I’m wondering whether or not we all should take a temporary break or breather from gaming and give ourselves some time to rest and recover. You may wonder why, and without consideration first, I understand why you may ask this question especially when there’s so much out there to play. And that very point, the sheer number of games out there is one reason as to why gaming took a back seat for me over the Christmas period. At one point, I quickly found myself with five games on the go which I just simply couldn’t keep up with, burning me out and making me lose my motivation to play them. The only solution for this? To put the controllers down.

This wasn’t a permanent measure and didn’t see me going completely cold turkey, but I heavily reduced my gaming time and put time into my other hobbies. I spent more time at the gym, watching movies and catching up with reading on my Kindle and felt much better as a result. I didn’t feel the pressure of having many games stacked up to complete or the feeling of being left behind by friends and peers who were playing games that I wasn’t, (as if that even matters). As a result, I felt the little time I gave to gaming was much more rewarding than rushing through to see the end credits as quickly as possible.

This is the biggest positive (and benefit) to pull from this article; that by taking a break I am getting the fun and enjoyment back out of my gaming time which was slowly becoming lost. If we don’t enjoy our gaming experiences, then what’s the point of them in the first place? Plus, does anyone actually enjoy having an infamous Pile of Shame:

Give up?
At this point, it isn’t even funny.

Now I know that taking a break might not be for everyone, but I have spoken with others and seen people online who have suffered much the same that I have. They have been worn down by the constant barrage of games that they want to play and find themselves playing them because they feel they have to, not because they want to. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that being able to afford a game is a privilege, so we need to make sure we get the best value out of every single game – where we can. If this means taking a break, or playing games slightly after they release, then that is something I am happy to do to keep on enjoying them.

Conversely, taking a break could put you behind and leave you playing catch-up, as the stream of new games seems to be endless these days; the summer drought is no longer a thing. So with that in mind, you can see why people are keen to play games as soon as they’re released, especially considering the social aspect and also wanting to be part of the zeitgeist as it were. People like being caught up in the hype surrounding new games and going to midnight launches or playing on day one, so for those that want that buzz it must be tough when games launch in such close proximity to one another?

It is certainly something to consider and has made me reconsider the volume of games I play and consume at any given time. So with a quiet-ish January come and gone, I look forward to 2018 and all the gaming it will have to offer. I’m hoping, however, that it will be a little less hectic in comparison to 2017.

Baseball Riot Review

Baseball Riot Review [Nintendo Switch] – Ubisoft Syndrome?

When you think about sequels you almost expect things to get better. You think things will be bigger, better or more refined over the last outing to keep things a little fresh to maintain your interest. So when 10tons declared Baseball Riot as a direct successor to Tennis in the Face, you can’t help but expect things to be a little different, a betterment over the previous game. But what I think has happened here, is that 10tons have fallen foul of ‘Ubisoft Syndrome’. Baseball Riot is said to be a successor, but it’s more of the same just set in a different location. Much like the Assassin’s Creed titles used to be…

Baseball Riot Review

What Baseball Riot does is take a simple yet effective mechanic from Tennis in the Face, and plonk that into a different environment and change the sport ever so slightly. Whereas before you were pinging tennis balls at folk, now you’re smashing baseballs willy-nilly to continue the efforts to thwart the ‘Explodz’ drink supplier from taking over. The main man behind this most recent attempt is former baseball star Gabe Carpaccio who is trying to save his teammates after they have been brainwashed courtesy of Explodz.

Baseball Riot has a sense of wit and humour about it, much like Tennis in the Face, with all your adversaries having unique methods of trying to stop you in your tracks. They’ll block your balls with shield, use catching mitts to stop them and wear protective suits as well. You’ll need some patience and persistence to see some of the levels off, especially when a misplaced baseball can be the difference between success and failure.

Baseball Riot Review

There are 100 levels to smash through, each having a three-star earning potential. Collecting stars is the key to progression and you won’t get to the next area without them. I found that you’ll lose your patience with one level or another, put the game down in frustration, only to find a simple solution on your next attempt.

The presentation of Baseball Riot is very nice and has a charming feel to it, with the ragdoll physics of your enemies making some satisfying takedowns later on. You’ll be able to use the environment to your advantage hitting explosive crates, tubes that fire extra balls and let loose conveniently placed junk piles on a ledge.

But is this any different from Tennis in the Face? In all honesty, no it isn’t. The only thing that has changed is the sport you play and the protagonist. Your enemies are the same, the objectives are the same and even the main map is identical to the last. These would probably have been better as extra maps for Tennis in the Face, keeping its original identity, and progressing the story onwards slightly – in some way. Albeit a lower purchase price than other games on Switch, there’s no real reason to play Baseball Riot if you played Tennis in the Face. The only thing that will probably help you make your mind up is if one of these sports is your thing and, if not, then flip a coin to decide which one to play.

This isn’t a criticism of the game at all because it is a fun game to play and it keeps the Switch loaded with pick-up-and-play titles which suit it perfectly. It would have been nice if 10tons could have tweaked the formula ever so slightly though, bringing something new to the table, rather than just a rinse and repeat of the previous game. They have recently said, however, that their entire catalogue is now on the Switch, meaning they may now be working on new games for the future. I welcome this and hope that their next title is a culmination of their recent efforts and ‘hits’ the target.