Video Games / Platform / WiiU

2014′s Best Games: Witches, Karts & Nazis

2014′s Best Games: Witches, Karts & Nazis

2014 has been a fair year for video games. It saw Nintendo hit a good vein of form, Sony contuine to progress and the Xbox One boast a great exclusive, only for it to go multiplatform. The year has seen some major games hit the market, with most of them offering something different. This year also saw the release of barely finished games, mostly from Ubisoft. The following is my picks for the best of 2014.     Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4/Xbox One/ PC) Some shooters want to change the world, rewrite the book, a whole new experience. Wolfenstein just wanted to have fun, and it more than pulled it off. After a run of poor reboots from various game franchises, Wolfenstein came as a surprise. The story was a joyful jaunt though a alternative time line where the Nazis won World War 2 and went onto global domination. Set in the 60′s players blasted through various enrichments and enemies, all with a wonderful B-movie feel to them. From the streets of France to a Nazi Moon-base, Wolfenstein felt like a true journey. The gameplay was extremely tight, with some of the most satisfying gun play around. Nothing fancy, just straight up fun, Wolfenstein was one of the finer video games of 2014.   Telltale Games – The Walking Dead/The Wolf Among Us/ Game of Thrones/ Tales From Borderlands This pick is cheating, but Telltale just can’t seem to put a foot wrong. The Walking Dead continued to be strong, if not a little too depressing for the sake of it. The Wolf Among Us was a enjoyable walk through a fresh world based on a cult comic classic. Tales of Borderlands and Game of Thrones are still relatively new, but both are top notch pieces of work. Everything Telltale touches these days seems to turn to gold, and 2014 was their best year ever. It’s hard to recommend just one series, so I picked them all.     Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (Xbox One/ PC/ PS4)   Who would of guessed the spin off to Plants Vs. Zombies would be one of the best multiplayer experiences of the year? This class based game had brilliant balance between each class, allowing each to player to feel like they were playing a part in the game. The ability to customize each class with various weapons and skills gave the game a sense of depth. There’s very little that’s new within the game, but everything is so finely tuned it feels as fresh as ever. Garden Warfare is arguably the best multiplayer experience on PS4/Xbox One, there’s little that rivals it in terms of all out fun. The map design and game modes do a brilliant job of complimenting each class and play style. It’s rare a game can remain fun while being on the losing side, but Garden Warfare is exactly that. The dark horse of 2014, and easily one of the best games released this year.   Alien: Isolation (PS4/Xbox One/PC)   The best game to feature a Xenomorph since Alien Vs. Predator 2. The sheer intensity felt in each second of Isolation is enough to put anyone on the edge of their seat. A genuine survival horror that doesn’t resort to giving the player all the power, this game as a utter success. The story may slightly weak, but the gameplay and presentation make it unmissable. As a huge fan of the Alien franchise, Isolation felt like the closest representation to the source material, by the fans for the fans. Each nook and cranny felt like it had been covered with a eye for detail, a labor of love. The ships design, the sound effects, the distinct ’80′s sci-fi’ look and feel, it was all recreated perfectly. The little touches made the game that much better. The ability to use the Kinect/PS4 camera to peek around corners, the PS4 pad pinging out that iconic motion tracker sound, it was all superb. The hide and seek gameplay won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but the sheer attention to detail showcased in Isolation makes it hard not to like. The Best Alien game made, fans MUST experience Isolation.   Shovel Knight (Wii U/3DS/PC)   The trend of trying to recreate old platformers continued in 2014, Shovel Knight stood head and shoulders above the rest. The gameplay is perfect, responsive, tight, just perfect. The whole game shines with confidence, each stage is as thrilling as the last. There’s various tricks shovel Knight has under its sleeve, all of which enhance not just the game, but the genre. Not many games truly raise the bar, Shovel Knight did exactly that. Gameplay aside, the music is a key reason to why Shovel Knight succeeds. A beautiful homage to games of yesteryear, each stage plays hosts to kick ass track. It completes the whole experience, almost tricking the player into thinking they’re playing a classic on the Virtual Console. It may of took nearly a year to hit the Wii U/3DS in Europe, but it was worth the wait. A modern classic in every sense of the word.   Dragon Age: Inquisition (PS4/Xbox One/PC)   After the train wreck that was Dragon Age 2, Inquisition came as a pleasant surprise. While the game starts off at a snails pace, the bulk of the game is hugely enjoyable, even if it’s missing the finer parts of Origins. The gameplay is fair mix of Origins and Dragon Age 2, with a more accommodating use of console controllers.The MMORPG like design of the core game can become a rather annoying, but the main story quests make up for it. The overall experiences feels well rounded and much closer to the ethos of Dragon Age, putting Bioware back on track.   Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)   Nintendo finished off 2014 strongly, and It all seemed to truly get going after the release of Mario Kart 8. While the Battlemode is pretty poor, the rest of the game is sheer bliss. Mario Kart 8 showed that the Wii U could render beautiful visuals, while entertaining the player to no end. There’s nothing that matches the sheer enjoyment of battling for first position across classic Mario Kart tracks. The online mode is spot on, with very little lag to speak of. Kicking back and blasting off turtle shells, drifting passed your rivals, being wiped out by a jumping fish, it’s always a beautiful experience. Pure, innocent, video game enjoyment. Mario Kart 8 stands out in a year that offered very few racers.     Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4/Xbox One/PC) The surprise hit of 2014, Shadow of Mordor was brilliant. It’s honestly refreshing to see a more mature take on Middle Earth, free from the restraints of the films. Shadow of Mordor took what other games had provided in the genre and perfected them, while adding the nifty Nemesis system. The concept of enemies increasing in power and political status via player/in-game actions, gave Shadow of Mordor a huge sense of depth. The Nemesis system works so well the player can use it to forge their own unique experience. The plot wasn’t much to talk about, the Nemesis system was the key to the games success. Players could share stories of how the system impact their experience, with each player normally having a different experience. The core gameplay as silky smooth, the combat near perfect. Shadow of Mordor was nothing short of fantastic.     Super Smash Bros (Wii U) Smash Bros is simply fun, in every sense of the word. The ultimate fan service, it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with the sheer chaos on screen. Nintendo know how to create fun video games, and Smash Bros is a perfect example of this. Easy to pick up, hard to master, there’s a hidden depth behind the game that keeps players coming back for more. There’s really not a whole lot to say about Smash Bros without repeating the word ‘fun’ about twenty times. There’s cases when you sit down to play a game and you can feel a smirk just engrave on your face, sheer joy, Smash Bros does that every time it boots up. The recent Amiibos give the game a more personal touch, as well as giving the game a unique ever growing scale of challenge.     Bayonetta 2 (Wii U) Oddly, Bayonetta 2 became the target of misplaced claims of sexism, denting some of the games hype. Agenda pushing and ignorance aside, Bayonetta 2 was the game the market needed, as a exclusive on a system no one expected at one point in time. Bayonetta 2 is possibly the best example of video games being sheer madness and fun. It’s hard not to crack a smile when summoning giant creatures to finish off even bigger bosses. There’s little to complain about throughout the experience, bar the slight reduction in challenge on normal mode. The wonderful gameplay that made Bayonetta a star in the first place returns in Bayonetta 2. It’s hard to find another game that matches such a fast pace with such tight controls that give the player a real sense of satisfaction. The set pieces are truly outstanding, often leaving the player in a sense of awe and wonder. In a world of super serious games, Bayonetta 2 was the perfect solution. One of the best games of 2014, even with unjustified accusations thrown at it.    ...

Amiibo Wave Two: Chaos At Retail, Profit On E-bay

Amiibo Wave Two: Chaos At Retail, Profit On E-bay

There’s utter chaos, no one knows exactly what is going, or why it’s happening. It’s hit like a ton of bricks, leaving people confused, disappointed, just searching for a answer. The second wave of Amiibos has hit, and the retail space has went crazy. While the official EU release isn’t till the 19/12/2014, GAME have been flogging them since mid last week, at a inflated price. Pre-orders for wave two started being processed this week, but most orders have been cancelled without explanation. GAME customers were treated to as e-mail informing them of a refund, but that’s it. Zavvi customer had the same, with a few customers being told it was down to a ‘price change’.   It’s left a lot of people in a desperate rush to try and find a site/store to get their Amiibos from. While some of wave two are easy enough to acquire, there’s a few Amiibos that have already became rare. Little Mac and Pit have already became the ‘must owns’ of wave two, and the retail space reflects that. Both Amiibos are either listed as sold out, or aren’t listed at all. Little Mac is currently on e-bay, with bids hitting upwards of £35. The average customer/collector is increasingly falling under the hammer of the ‘e-bayer’. The guy/girl who buys a item purely with the means to sell them at a spiked price. The Amiibo has became the ultimate e-bayer item, and given retail seem all to willing to spike their prices as well. The consumer is at the mercy of spiked prices and sharp e-bayers, this in itself threatens the whole concept of Amiibos. As each wave becomes a target of e-bayers, the chances of getting a full collection (without paying far above the items value) become slimmer and slimmer. It’s a genuine shame, but it was always to be expected. With retailers seemingly unable to be reliable, or even consistent with pricing, the Amiibo may be a victim of it’s own success....

UK Retailer GAME Increases Amiibo Prices

UK Retailer GAME Increases Amiibo Prices

Nintendo’s Amiibo line has hit the ground running. The figures are flying out of shops, with some of the ‘rarer’ ones entering ending up on e-bay and Amazon at a inflated price. The rumors and murmurs around some of the less popular characters being discontinued has spiked the market. The likes of The Villager and The Wii Fit Trainer have increased in value by a few pounds, while Marth has nearly doubled in value. With the collectors community going a bit mad over the Amiibos, UK retailer GAME have decided to spike the market themselves, by increasing their original £11.99 asking price to £14.99. This price increase only affects in-store prices, with the online asking price staying at £10.99. The question is, beyond trying to make easy extra money, why have GAME done this?   The question is easily answered from a business perspective, it’s a easy way to increase a stores profit with no effort required. It’s a solid reason, but when you take into account the time of year and the customers entering the store, things get a little off ethically. Stores everywhere will be visited by people who don’t spend much time looking into the video game industry. Be it parents, family or loved ones, a large portion of them will enter a store with little to no knowledge of what the going rate is. The desire to make sure Christmas shopping is done as quickly, and effectively, as possible is always the main goal of this shopping period. This is where customer service enters the fray, the key link between knowledge and a customer. GAME are supposed to be there to advise it’s customers, with the aim to sell products to them. As a large business, you’d expect to them to be consistent with their prices. The manner in which GAME suddenly increased the Amiibo asking price feels a little shady, even more so given their stock numbers rarely appear to be depleted. As customer buy the new Amiibos for the ‘new’ price of £14.99, they are never advised on the online price of £10.99. There’s a argument that it’s the customers job to look for the best price around, but on the flip side it’s the retailers job to least be honest with their customer,s not actively spike up a market for the sake of a few pound. GAME have history of doing this back with Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate. The release day price was £39.99, GAME were asking for £59.99, and even changed the online price to reflect this after it became clear the game had a small initial shipment in the UK. After looking into this, a local branch of GAME had went from having one copy on the shelf to having a number of them, all equipped with that new £59.99 sticker.   This is the kind of behavior you’d expect from a independent store, but from a huge retail chain? Not so much. It’s disconcerting when you sit back and think the amount of (for examples sake) parents who will be paying extra for literally no reason. The complete second wave of Amiibos will cost £65.94 if bought online on GAME’s site, in-store customers will be paying £89.94. While online prices normally differ from a few pound to that of the in-store price, GAME are just taking it to the extreme. From charging £11.99 one week to £14.99 the next, GAME are simply exploiting the fan fare around the Amiibos, as well as the less knowledgeable customers. Where will the price spiking stop? If Nintendo do discontinue a Amiibo, does this mean retailers such as GAME will hike up the price ‘just in case’?  It’s worrying that GAME are seemingly willing to spike up the prices in such a manner. There’s little to no excuse for the price change, the same way there was no excuse for their attempt to rip off and lie to customers with the Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate situation. Bottom line, don’t hand over your money to GAME without doing a little research, especially with Amiibos....

The Double Edged Sword Of The Fighter Genre

The Double Edged Sword Of The Fighter Genre

With the recent reveal of Street Fighter V, I decided to look back on my experiences with the fighter genre. It’s a harsh genre, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The fighting game genre has always been a harsh mistress to me. For every happy memory I have of the genre there’s about 3 bad memories that shortly follow. From a young age I became interested in the fighter genre. My first experience with the genre was (unsurprisingly) Capcoms Street Fighter 2 on the Super Nintendo. From the first minute of the game I was hooked. The characters looked visually interesting, the environments dazzling and the action thrilling. Playing solo was fun but lets face it, fighters are meant to be played against people and not AI. Playing Street Fighter 2 against friends (and some times family) is still one of my most treasured video game memories. Booting up the game and selecting our favourite characters before arguing over which level to fight in was tradition. Button mashing in a desperate panic was also tradition. In the process of pressing all the buttons in any given order a special move would normally be unleashed, leaving me and buddy in a stunned silence. ”HOW DID YOU DO THAT?!” was often the question on our lips, and the answer to that question was ALWAYS ”no idea’. Even with a limited knowledge of the game and its controls each match was always a great slice of fun. These sweet natured days were numbered however as I began to grow up.     As time went on and I played more and more fighters, my longing for victory became stronger. Button mashing was no longer a style I felt happy to use, it had become ‘messy’. Instead I would try a few characters out and learn the move sets. By time I came into possession of Dreamcast I had a decent amount of knowledge of Soulcalibur. I wasn’t a master by any means but I had learned at least a few moves for each character. Suddenly playing against friends had become more of a practice session than just a few games in the name of fun. Losing felt a lot worse, victory felt less meaningful, it was a strange feeling. For the most part I would be able to take down most of my friends, this resulted in the game becoming a little boring to play for them. Understanding the game had ultimately led to the ‘fun’ of the game being drained away.   The likes of Capcom Vs SNK, Street Fighter 3 alpha and Marvel Vs Capcom had returned all the fun of fighters. I applied a much more laid back approach to these fighters in order to keep the game fun for my friends to play against me. By this time in our lives we preferred to learn the game rather than button mash, this led to competitive, but fun, matches. It seemed the perfect middle ground and a great time to enjoy some top class fighting games. The enjoyment of the genre (and fighting friends) hit its peek with Marvel Vs Capcom 2. Given the popularity of the PS2 all of my friends owned the system and Marvel Vs Capcom 2. This allowed everyone to stand a fair chance of learning the game and forming an effective team. Many a battle was fought, plenty a laugh was had, this was the highlight of my time with the fighter genre. There was always a giddy feeling when it came to each team being down to their last member. A single hit would decide the match, the aftermath involved boasting and looking back at the action.    I had went from casual matches with friends that were all about the fun to competitive games of knowledge and technique. One day (well when I got my own computer) I just stopped playing fighters. From 2004 to 2008 I honestly cant remember playing a fighter for more than a few days. I kept a eye on the genre, watched it develop, but I never got back into the swing of things. 2009 saw the return of the franchise that started it all for me, I am of course referring to street Fighter. The fourth entry into the franchise was a first day purchase for me. After a first few runs on arcade I decided to hit up the online options. This is where things got rough. A large segment of players from overseas had been playing Street Fighter 4 for roughly a week. This week earlier release date had created a huge divide it terms of player skill. Time after time I was matched up with players who had already learned the mechanics and moves of a number of characters. My arse was getting well and truly kicked. I was now feeling the way my friends did when they used to play Soulcalibur against me, it wasn’t fun. I tried to learn the game, learn some strategies but alas my efforts were met with more defeats. Only a few of my friends had bought Street Fighter 4, this limited my chances of just casual fun matches. When they did happen, more often than not, I’d end up winning purely because I had learned some easy moves of a certain character. My friends soon began to grow tired of playing me and I was once again forced into playing online. While I did improve my overall play the huge gulf in skill and experience was too much to overcome. I enjoyed Street Fighter 4 a lot, I kept it in my collection in order to play when friends came over or my father fancied a game. Online I was nothing short of a easy win for any given player. For a large length of time I kept my activity within the fighter genre strictly offline. Marvel Vs Capcom 3 and Mortal Kombat (reboot…or 9 as some wish to label it) became my fighters of choice. While Marvel Vs Cacpom 3 was a little light in terms of content Mortal Kombat was jam packed. With plenty to do in terms of single player I was more than happy to play Mortal Kombat offline. The lure of playing online is hard to resist however, and yet again I found myself being beat down by veterans. All the enjoyment I had experienced with Mortal Kombat offline was now being replaced with defeat and defeat. The sheer amount of spam I became the victim of was heart breaking. Seeing Stryker spam his ranged attacks over and over killed my motivation to play Mortal Kombat online, it was nothing short of brutal. I was awful at the game, but my lack of enjoyment online killed any motivation to improve.     Fast forward to EVO 2012. I’m sitting at my desk browsing Twitch TV, and I’m once again interested in fighters. After watching the majority of the Marvel Vs Capcom 3 tournament my interest in the game re-surged. I knew for a fact I was going to lose, and lose hard, but either way I was going to try my hand at the online portion of the game. My assumptions were proved to be correct, I did in fact get my arse kicked, but I didn’t mind. I oddly didn’t mind losing, my competitive nature had taken a back seat. With my rediscovered relax nature towards the game I began to sit and learn….how to lose. While defeat is never fun it did allow me to experiment and tinker with my team selection. Before I knew it I was presenting a viable challenge to some players, some times even winning. The thrill of the fighter genre rushed back, everything I remembered had returned. In a moment of nostalgia I dragged my father into a game and began to play. It was like being young again playing Street Fighter 2 for the first time.   My love affair with the genre had been long and eventful. It had highs and lows, at times I had fallen out with the genre only to make up with it some time later. Learning to handle defeat is key to enjoying the fighter game genre, expecting victory is a recipe for frustration. Remembering why I loved the genre in the first place was key to recapturing the thrill, enjoyment and fun that I had all but lost.  ...

Which Amiibo Would You Like To See? – Four Suggestions

Which Amiibo Would You Like To See? – Four Suggestions

Nintendo’s Amiibo’s have already assaulted my wallet, to be totally honest they’ve conquered it. Within two days of their release in Europe I had bought up all of the first wave…after a bit of hunting of course. The Amiibos aren’t just to look at of course, Nintendo have big plans for latest creations. After all the initial characters in Smash Bros have been immortalized into plastic, the mind starts to wonder whose next to be added to the Amiibo line. With a colorful collection of characters in their vault, Nintendo have a brilliant choice of characters to choose from. From a personal perspective, there’s a few I’d love to see. From cult classics, to modern additions, this is a short run down of future Amiibos I’d love to see.     Skull Kid   With Majora’s Mask heading to 3DS, Skull Kid seems like a logical candidate to become a Amiibo. The design of Skull Kid would make for a interesting Amiibo that stands out from the rest of the line. The cult status of the character would instantly make it one of the most desired Amiibos around. While there is a argument to be made over there being too many Legend of Zelda characters as it is (five is all of the Smash roster is covered), Skull Kid seems like the perfect fit to get the Amiibo treatment.     Captain Toad   One of the more original releases by Nintendo, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker features a obvious candidate. Giving Captain Toad his own Amiibo would give the spin off a game a deeper sense of confidence, a game rather than a experiment. His fancy backpack and head lamp would lend themselves well, giving the potential Amiibo a distinct look. It wouldn’t feel right having a large Mario line up without at least one Mushroom amongst the numbers.   Bayonetta   If there’s one character screaming to be added to Smash Bros, it’s Bayonetta. While this pick is mostly out of hope rather than logical expectation, Bayonetta would be a fantastic addition to the line, as well as Smash Bros (hint hint). The character has been warmly welcomed to the fold, feeling like the franchise was there since the beginning. The outlandish character design would, at the least, make for a cosmetically pleasing piece.     Slippy Toad Admittedly, this choice is a bit of a joke, but would still be a decent addition to the Amiibo line. Slippy Toad was the character most remembered for the wrong reasons, mainly due to his voice, but his place in Nintendo history is undeniable. His seemingly uselessness in a cock pit was also a major reason so many people took a dislike to him, but there are plus points. With a new Starfox hitting the Wii U in 2015 (well that’s the plan anyway), it seems like a logical decision to add more Starfox characters to the Amiibo line up. He’s annoying, kinda useless, but Slippy Toad is memorable figure in Nintendo’s history, and should become a Amiibo....

Nintendo: The Classic Alternative To Modern Games

Nintendo: The Classic Alternative To Modern Games

Looking at the shelves of a local video game store, I began to wonder what had changed. All these new releases, all of them boasting how cinematic they are, how much of a visual delight they promise to be. All I could see were titles with guns and peoples back on the box art, and the odd sports game. While the cinematic video game experience is a wonder to behold, with the likes of Uncharted leading the way, it does beg the question of what ever happened to ‘fun’ games? Hidden away, in the corner of the store, hides the Nintendo consoles, most notably the Wii U. This section of the store was the only place where I could see games promising fun, inviting me to play, not just to experience. Seeing this corner of joy made me stand back and think about the role Nintendo has in the current market. While Nintendo may not be seen as ‘one of the next generation’ at this point in time, it hasn’t stopped them producing the best video game experience of this year. Nintendo is the alternative to the modern market, the place to go to simply enjoy video games as entertainment, a company that reminds us of the core value of video games has always been, fun.   It’s not that I don’t appreciate the tone of modern video games, far from it, it’s more that I’ve became jaded with the ‘gritty cinematic experience’ most games seem to pimp out at the moment. This is where Nintendo fit in nicely, I can simply sit down and play. There’s no prolonged cut scenes dishing out generic plot twists, no clumsy attempts to make a statement on today’s society, just gameplay and laughs. It’s oddly refreshing to sit down with the likes of Bayonetta 2 or Super Smash Bros and dive into the action straight away. Start and play, a notion that is increasingly becoming more rare in modern times. Nintendo have always had the ability to craft video games that breakaway from trends and go back to the basics. While taking part in mass battles in the likes of Call of Duty or Battlefield is a thrilling experience, there’s nothing better than jumping into the latest Mario or Legend of Zelda. There’s a undeniable sense of joy that comes with each game, each level, each race, each Smash, each chest opened, it’s unmatched. It’s these moments that remind me why I enjoy video games, why I still bother with them after all these years.   As video games continue to evolve into more immersive experiences, more engaging and cinematic, Nintendo stand as a beacon of light, a powerful reminder that fun often trumps flashy visuals, or the latest gimmick. It’s impressive, though some would say unambitious, that Nintendo have remained true to their core values for all these years, it’s even more impressive that they continue to stay relevant. As 2014 comes to close, I can sit back and appreciate Nintendo for supplying all the joys that most modern video games have seemingly forgotten.  ...

Bayonetta 2: Packing The Soul 2014 Forgot

Bayonetta 2: Packing The Soul 2014 Forgot

2014 has been a hit or miss year for video games, at least from a personal point of view. There’s a number of big releases that have felt a little soulless. While the production values may be top notch on the likes of Watch Dogs, EA UFC and the Evil Within, the games never felt like they had much character. Does this make them bad games? Not really, but it does make them rather forgettable. A video game with charm and character can easily overcome it’s bigger issues, be it a technical issue or something less serious. In the crowd of mature, gritty and challenging titles comes the sheer joys of Bayonetta 2. Bright, bold, beautiful and nothing but sheer fun. It’s a stark reminder to why many people enjoy video games to begin with, Bayonetta 2 just wants to entertain, nothing more, nothing less. Bayonetta 2 contains all the charm of the first, the laughs, the ‘wtf’ moments, it’s all here with added finesse. The franchise has felt like a love letter to video games while progressing the genre.   From the first second, till the last, Bayonetta 2 keeps a cheeky smirk on the players face. While the game is technically sound, it’s the central character Bayonetta that keeps the game moving with a sense of glee. Her personality is infections, each line filled with a mixture of confidence and almost comedic tones. Without the character, the game would lose most of its charm leaving it feeling another just another video game. The Mary Poppins of Witchcraft, Bayonetta unexpectedly broke out to become a modern video game icon, and Bayonetta 2 pushes her even further. Combine the charm of the character with the tight controls and over the top nature of the game and it’s a perfect storm. It’s hard not to feel invested in the game, it’s almost impossible not to have fun in some shape or form. The amount of action going on, the creativity with each move and combo, it’s a true spectacle to behold. Even after the blitz of next generation hype, the simple nature of Bayonetta 2 blows everything out of the water. In a industry which has seemingly forgotten ‘fun’, Bayonetta 2 feels like a breath of fresh air. There’s no hidden meanings, there’s no depressing moral choices, no attempts at making the player feel sympathetic, it’s just simple video game thrills....

The Appeal Of The Amiibo – A Success Waiting To Happen?

The Appeal Of The Amiibo – A Success Waiting To Happen?

Nintendo’s Amiibo figures represent a interesting period for the Wii U, not just in terms of video games. Their impact on gameplay, and indeed the games, remains to be seen, but it’s the figures that have me intrigued. Nintendo, out of the ‘big three’, have always had a bit more of ‘collecting’ feel to them. Be it Pokemon, Club Nintendo goods, or even their original card game, Nintendo have always had a collecting feel to a lot of their business. The amiibo could easily be the next big step for Nintendo. With the success of Skylanders and Disney Infinite, it was only a matter of time before more companies jumped on board. While both games were aimed at the younger audiences, they both garnered a more adult following. The quality of the games play a fairly large part in why more mature people flocked to the product, but the concept of collecting was a major draw. From a adult point of view, collecting is kinda awesome. Most of us have went through a stage in a childhood where we collected, traded. ‘Got , got, got , got, need, got, NEED NEED NEED’ was often the song of collecting. Skylanders, Disney Infinite, and now Amiibo, brings some of them memories back.   The start of the trend was thanks to Skylander, a range with a vague connection to semi-popular franchise. The look and feel of Skylanders made it instantly appealing to youngsters, a great gateway into video games. As the range expanded, the collecting focus grew, and kids lapped it up. The high quality models started to call to the adults, and Skylanders crossed over from it’s target audience. Disney Infinite took things once step further, mainly due to it’s licenses and global appeal. Suddenly the market blew up , people could now collect their favorite Disney stars AND play them in a game. The appeal of Disney, the sheer range of characters under their banner is staggering. Disney truly has no limits when it comes to it’s demographic, even more so with the acquisition Marvel and Star Wars. It’s rare you’ll find a fully stocked shelf of Disney Infinite figures, and it’s not due to lock stocking. People are eating up the product, from all ages. Nintendo, like Disney, are pop culture icons and this gives their Amiibo line a huge leg up. Everyone knows Mario, Lugi, Princess Peach, be it a young child or a mature adult, they know Nintendo’s poster boy family.   With Nintendo riding a wave of success at the moment, thanks to Mario Kart 8, Smash Bros and a strong end to 2014 on the way, it’ll be interesting to see how they market Amiibos. Skylanders and Disney Infinite came out across all three major platforms. They did not face any limitations in terms of how big of a potential user base they could target. Amiibo is only set for two systems, one of which is still struggling to truly break into ‘mainstream’.With that being said, the Wii U’s user base is expanding and Amiibo could easily ship more systems, especially in the holiday season. The Amiibo figures themselves look fantastic. Colorful, vibrant and interesting to look at, they genuinely look like collectables rather than video game peripherals. This makes them stand out, bringing in potential customers to at least browse at the product. The fact the Amiibo’s work with the likes of Smash Bros, Mario Party and Mario Kart is a huge plus. The ‘party’ like nature of these games feeds into the collecting buzz. ‘Bring your pads and your Amiibo!’ While all this remains as speculation, it’s hard to see Nintendo’s Amiibo’s failing. The potential audience is so large, the games supported are already hugely anticipated. The stage is set for Amiibo to be a big success. It’ll be interesting to see how the range is launched, promoted and how it impacts sales of both the Wii U and 3DS....

Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition Review (Wii U)

Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition Review (Wii U)

The influence of both Metroid and Castlevania is still felt to this day, especially during the last five or so years. One of the best examples of this influence can be found in last year’s Guacamelee, from developer Drinkbox games. With its 2D platforming, brawler combat system, and a lot of humor, Guacamelee became a hit across a number of platforms. Now it’s back in the shape of Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition, marking the game’s début on the Nintendo system. Guacamelee follows Juan, an average man slain by the kidnappers of El Presidente’s daughter. Juan reawakens to find himself in possession of a Lucha mask, granting him the power of the Luchador. From here, Juan must save El Presidente’s daughter while avenging his own death. Juan’s journey is a humorous romp across various environments beautifully presented in a cartoonish manner. While the story is never compelling or engaging, it does progress the game efficiently enough that it never becomes an issue that detracts from the overall experience.   The aforementioned Metroid influence is made clear pretty early on. Each environment hosts various sections that are only accessible after the player has unlocked certain skills. The risk of adopting this approach is putting far too many inaccessible areas in one zone early on, making the player feel trapped in a box. Thankfully Guacamelee does a fairly decent job of keeping the balance between keeping the player curious while allowing them to progress at a manageable level. The nifty parts of the environments hide secrets; this is what captures a genuine feeling of rewarding curiosity and exploration. The core gameplay of Guacamelee is accomplished. The jumping mechanics feel tight, responsive, and only the player can make errors. The combat is built around the idea of building combos and adjusting to the enemy in question. The early stages of the game feel rather repetitive due to the lack of abilities and a small range of enemy types. As the game chugs along, things become far more enjoyable with the player being granted more freedom in how they wish to build combos. With this focus on combos comes an unfortunate fascination with repeatedly putting the player into kill rooms. While it’s fun to string combos together in brainless kill rooms once or twice, it devolves into a repetitive chore after the sixth or seventh room within an hour or so of play.   One of the surprising highlights of Guacamelee is the platforming component. There’s a neatly entwined relationship between platforming and a number of the attacks featured within the game. There’s a number of cases in which the player is required to combine movements, jumps, and attacks in order to reach a certain point. The combination between challenge and skill is wonderfully delicate, making each tricky jump satisfying to pull off. It’s a neat touch that gives the core gameplay an extra dimension. The presentation of Guacamelee is a wonderful meld of bright colours and quirky character designs. The sheer boldness of the colours allows the game to almost jump out of the screen, which technically you can do given the Wii U’s capabilities. The game looks great on both a TV and a Wii U pad. The pad’s other features aren’t really used all that well, however, it’s only purpose is to host a mini-map. Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is a wonderfully crafted experience. There’s little to truly complain about beyond some repetitive enemy patterns and some areas that feel a little less interesting than others. There’s enough content there to keep everybody happy given the price point–even more so given the local co-op that the game offers. With tight, responsive controls, wonderfully crafted platforming sections, and more than an odd giggle along the way, Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is a great example of Metroid-inspired concepts put into practice.          ...

The Nintendo Balancing Act: Can They Do It?

The Nintendo Balancing Act: Can They Do It?

Nintendo is seemingly on the road to recovery–at least in terms of the Wii U. The back-end of 2014 seems ready to usher in a big 2015 for Nintendo’s curious creation. After the success of Mario Kart 8, and the sheer positivity of their E3 direct showing, Nintendo is riding a wave of positivity with the Wii U as the surfboard. All this new hype surrounding the Wii U, or more accurately the future of the console, does create a slight creeping worry–what about the 3DS? Nintendo spent a long time, and a lot of effort, on turning the skeptics of their 3D gaming handheld into fans. After a truly spectacular 2013, the 3DS became one of the must-own systems, breaking free of the stigma of being a pricey gimmick.   While it remains to be seen whether or not the Wii U will go through the same transformation, Nintendo must maintain a level of focus on the 3DS. It won’t be easily accomplished, as trying to maintain the momentum of the Wii U while supporting the 3DS will be the very definition of a balancing act, but it must nevertheless be done. Nintendo has done well historically when it comes to maintaining two systems, especially consoles and handhelds. Nintendo has seemingly planted the 3DS firmly within their future plans, with a focus on Amiibo and classic Japanese franchises such as Monster Hunter and Persona. The biggest game in Nintendo’s future release calender, for both systems, is undoubtedly Super Smash Bros. With both versions prompting positive reactions from E3, it seems both systems are already being fairly balanced. There was an initial worry that the 3DS had been overlooked during E3, but thankfully Nintendo’s reveal of Code Name: S.T.E.A.M put the worries to bed. It’s key that Nintendo maintains this balance between their systems, not allowing one to overshadow the other. It would be understandable for Nintendo to put their time, money and effort into the Wii U. Given the system’s struggles, and Nintendo’s plummeting profits, there’s almost an expectation for Nintendo to spend the next few years dragging the Wii U into calm waters. The balancing act has already begun, and so far it’s going smoothly. Both systems boast strong line-ups going into late 2014/early 2015, with titles such as Monster Hunter 4, Bayonetta 2, Smash Bros and the surprising cult hit in the making, Splatoon. Whether or not Nintendo pulls off this finely tuned balancing act, there’s at least a light at the end of the tunnel after some rough times.  ...

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