Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale PS Vita

The characters from Playstation’s finest get together for a Battle Royale!!
Creating a crossover fighting game featuring Playstation characters is definitely long overdue. The mouth-watering prospect would finally settle the debates as to which character is better. As Harry Hill would say, there is only one way to find out, FIGHT!
Over 20 fan favourites are bundled in the game including Jak & Daxter, Rachet & Clank, Sly Cooper and of course Sackboy being some of the big names on show here. We also have some characters from some past classics like Parapper The Rapper and Spike from Ape Escape. There is a little problem that will have plagued this title from the moment it was announced no matter what and that is it’s comparison with Nintendo’s crossover title Super Smash Bros.
Playstation All-stars Battle Royale (PABR) is a strange affair as in one way, it is similar to Super Smash Bros (SSB) but in another, it’s completely different. Let me explain, when you look at everything featured on PABR, it’s basically the same as SSB and is obviously inspired in many ways by the Nintendo counterpart. Apart from the obvious character selection in both games and the combat definitely features a number of noteworthy comparisons. For instance; up to four characters can play at one time, they include platforming elements in the stages, the array of combos include the same button mashing combinations and you can use items. The only real difference which is a game changer and puts PABR in a league of its own is the way you win. You can’t knock your opponent out of the arena like in SSB but instead you need to charge up your AP (All-star Points) gauges to perform a super attack to inflict a kill. To build up your gauges, you need to cleverly attack the enemies around you. The super attacks are split into three types of blows with the first being the quickest and easiest to dodge and the third meaning you possess killer blows for longer and can rack up more points. It’s a clever and unique way to decide a match but it does take getting used to after playing SSB for 15 years.
The campaign mode is entertaining but is the same for every character and gets a bit too much like Groundhog Day after a couple of times and is only good for getting used to the controls and dynamic of the game. What is really entertaining is the multiplayer feature as you can play anyone who owns the game online, no matter what console you’re playing the game on. I have the game on the PS Vita and I am to believe that it is no different to the PS3 version, including graphics wise. With more ways to challenge a fellow gamer always means you’re less inclined to put the game down.
Another reason to own this game is because the PSN are still continuing to release new data for the game including new characters from Gravity’s Rush, Starhawk, Dead Space and God of War and new stages that freshens up the game. Hopefully they will continue to design and release new content as that might be a new way in increasing the life span of the fighting crossover. When you think of the Playstation and the amount of great characters whom have appeared on one of the 5 consoles, the opportunities are endless. A few favourites I would just love to play with on PABR include; Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy 7, Hana Tsu Vachel from Fear Effect or Ico from… well Ico of course. Hopefully the people at Sony won’t stop improving this game for a while as the opportunities to make this a classic are somewhat endless.
Though PABR is something of an anomaly and is not on the same level as its comparison sake SSB, it is still a solid Beat ‘Em Up title that will always be a hit with the fans because it includes the established characters the people at Sony know the fans love due to sales and research. A new style of gaming takes time before getting used to and it’s suggested you do that before you challenge the world online otherwise you will probably give up after getting handed a beat down a number of times. Playstation gets a huge thumbs up for finally paying homage to their mascots, it’s been too long! Now we just need to wait until Xbox does the same. How cool will it be to see the Master Chief and Marcus Fenix go head to head? Only time will tell...

The Verdict: A strong roaster opens a new style of gaming for the Playstation community. Not a very good title to play alone but a must have to play with fans or online. 82/100

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

House Of The Dead: Overkill Wii

Never has killing zombies been so tongue-in-cheek since a 70s low budget horror flick and feel so satisfying.

The House Of The Dead (HotD) series was one of the most iconic arcade series in the 90s along with Time Crisis, which cemented the new age of shoot ‘em up games. However, the Sega series took a bit of a turn for the worst after the second instalment and was forgotten about quite quickly which coincided with the depletion of arcades and was slow to capitalise on the home console market. Trying to resurrect the series, Sega released House Of The Dead 2 & 3 bundled together for the Wii in 2008. With the memories coming back and interest in the series increasing once more, Sega took some time and created the not so serious prequel of the series in 2009 entitled House Of The Dead: Overkill for a new refreshing twist to what was a strong story.
The story and the characters is really what sells this game. On the surface, it’s just another light gun shooter which uses the Wii remotes capabilities very well, but when you add the odd duo of the series protagonist Agent G and an African American police officer by the name of Issac Washington along with a number of cheesy horror references, a quirky storyline and many outrageous lines, you will no doubt be laughing your arse off non-stop.
Set 7 years before the first game, you find our man Agent G on his first assignment for AMS. He teams up with Officer Washington while investigating a crime lord called Papa Caesar in Louisiana after a number of people have been reported missing, one of which is Washington’s father. These people have been experimented on with the superhuman formula called Formula X and in the process; they are attacked by a number of fresh eating zombies. You meet a lot of strange people along the way including the first boss Jasper Gunn who is a disabled scientist. What proceeds is probably the easiest boss sequence of all time and in the process, you meet Agent G’s love interest, the feisty Varla who assumes the damsel in distress at the end finale where you meet probably the strangest character ever conceived in video gaming history, the main villain of the game Clement. You first meet him taking a leak outside the prison where the final level takes place. He gets most of his urine on his trousers and doesn’t seem too bothered and tries to make out he is backing up both Agent G and Issac. When you later realise Clement is the baddie, he has Varla hostage and plans to transport his mother’s brain in the young beauty. You think that’s weird but when you find out he wants to do this because he wants have sex with her, you can’t help but laugh out of sheer awkwardness. The ‘openly loving’ mother/son relationship is the cringiest sequence of events I have ever witnessed on a video game and fits into this over the top game perfectly.
The games structure needs to be applauded. This is the first HotD game to be exclusive to home consoles and so ditches the normal arcade style of playing the game through with continues. You play this game in a total of 6 chapters which breaks the gameplay down and also helps you upgrade your weapons. The only problem with the game is that it’s quite short and doesn’t invite you back with much replay value. There are a couple extra levels in the Playstaion 3 version which was released a year later, but with the difficulty level not being very high, you will only be playing the game for around half an hour longer.
Apart from this small disappointment, HotD Overkill delivers in many ways that will give you more pleasure then watching a ‘bad movie’. The corny jokes and the grotesque graphics that poke fun out of the horror genre and even at themselves is a breath of fresh air.

The Verdict: Recommended at the current price you can find on ebay, between £5-£10. You will be chuckling for a couple of hours but not for much longer after that. 8/10

Thursday, 4 April 2013

NES Zapper Vs Wii Zapper

Nintendo Is Packing Heat, Which Piece Should You Bring To The Party???

Everyone loves a good first person shooter and nothing makes the game more real than having an actual gun in your hand. When I say actual, I just mean a piece of plastic in a gun model that represents a shooting device. And the first real inkling of a true perception of shooting something on screen on a Nintendo console was through the NES and the iconic Zapper. It first started as a gimmick, with the arcades the only real place to benefit from this style of gameplay. But as technology has improved, the first person shooters on home consoles have also, thankfully, become the norm in gaming. The Wii Remote’s sensor makes shooters perfect on the Wii and has seen a massive influx of enjoyable, fast paced shooters that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I think we’re all in agreement that on Nintendo consoles, there are only two light guns that are noteworthy in this field, those being the first one, the NES Zapper and the most recent the Wii Zapper ignoring the less than impressive Super Scope on the SNES. And now, I’m going to tell you which one do I think is better. Here’s how the two light guns line up.

NES Zapper

A fun fact about the NES Zapper is that the conservative/child friendly Nintendo made the light gun so realistic that before it reached North America, the company was told to re-design it to make the frame look more toy-like. OK, maybe it wasn’t that fun but it was definitely noteworthy. The NES Zapper started the interactive gaming wave in homes and was definitely ahead of its time. There’s no denying that it’s a landmark into what games were going to become but to have something that good on an 8 bit console is confusing to say the least. With near perfect accuracy and style to boot, right from the start of their home console domination, Nintendo had a star accessory to show off, and we’re not talking about the useless ROB that’s for sure.

But how did that little grey box produce such an invention that does the exact same job as the Wii? Well, it’s all done in a blink of an eye. When you press on the trigger, the screen quickly turns black and a censored light from your CRT TV flashes to locate your aimed shot. There are some downsides to this method though. For instance, the gun can only be used with a CRT TV, that’s an old TV with a big box behind it. That means the NES Zapper will not work on your Plasmas or your LCD TVs and with that, most people have thrown away their old TVs away. Therefore, nowadays it has become really hard to stay nostalgic when you can’t even play these games from your childhood. The other main concern with the gun is that it’s easy to cheat. If you either shoot right next to the TV screen or a light bulb then whatever the target is on screen, it will count as a hit. Nonetheless, most people used the NES Zapper the right way to give them the challenge of the games set and, in the process, fell in love with the device.

Now for the games. The NES has a huge library of games but sadly only a few of them are made for the NES Zapper and for us Brits, there are even fewer. The run-down of games are; Duck Hunt, Gun.Smoke, Gumshoe, Hogan’s Alley, Wild Gunman and The Adventures Of Billy Bayou. The one game out of that list that everybody should be Duck Hunt as it was bundled with most consoles and a copy of Super Mario Bros. So by that logic, near enough 60 million people have played Duck Hunt and have experienced the NES Zapper. Though not an in-depth game by today’s standards, it was fun, revolutionary and I don’t know anyone who didn’t want to kill that muttley-esque dog. The rest of the games are good in their own right but not as memorable as Duck Hunt. And that seems to be the major problem when talking about the NES Zapper, there wasn’t enough games to support the controller. With the games not taking too long to complete as well, it does seem like a gimmick when looking back. Nonetheless, at the time, it must have been extremely difficult to create many games for it that would be as entertaining as the last. So in that view, the NES Zapper wasn’t just a great piece of equipment, it was also memorable and of course, fun to play with.

Wii Zapper

The Wii Zapper is a funny old creation because when you look at it, it’s just a piece of plastic. All you are doing is using the technology that is already installed with the Wii Remote and just turning it into a gun format. When you slot your controller into place, it does look somewhat cool and futuristic but it’s a little disappointing. I just wanted to see more from Nintendo rather than just the outline of a gun and maybe another controller to add to the Wii library. You can see why Nintendo chose not to though and I can relate to it. Since the Wii remotes are quite expensive any, obviously Nintendo thought that adding another piece of kit that wasn’t essential to the Wii would have been cost effective and probably wouldn’t have sold very well. So instead we have easier to make Wii Zapper that you can get for a measly £10 which looks better than spending no doubt around £40 for something you don’t really need.

The Nintendo brand Wii Zapper isn’t the only light gun on the market and unfortunately I haven’t tested the other guns so cannot comment on their function and compare them with Nintendo’s creation. Though from the outside, the Wii Blaster and the small Light Guns look decent, just as an observer, they don’t look like they are better or groundbreaking compared to the Wii Zapper and this is because of the lack of a nunchuk add-on. Their smaller guns so you would only play games with fixed movement attached like House Of The Dead. But since the nunchuk can be slotted to the Wii Zapper, you are open to play a host of games on the Wii including great games like Resident Evil 4 or Call Of Duty. Does the Wii Zapper improve these games? Kind of when there are loads of enemies on the screen but when you’re searching for new places to go or looking for ammo, to can be a strain holding to the Wii Zapper in an unfamiliar way.

There is also one other problem I had when using the Wii Zapper and that is the lack of buttons. Because the Wii doesn’t have many buttons on their remotes, there will be games where you are constantly moving you’re hand away from the trigger to press on the D-pad to use a different function. For example, I recently played The Conduit with the Wii Zapper and one of the most important uses in that game is getting your ASE (All Seeing Eye) out to get through locked doors, find hidden items or to even find your way. The only problem was that because of the lack of buttons, the function is placed on the D-Pad. Because of this, I died a number of times and was the burden of my frustration. The other common sacrifice shooting games have installed is to make you throw grenades by shaking the Remote. This isn’t smooth or comfortable when doing this with both your hands holding the Wii Zapper and then trying to shoot the enemies on screen straight away after because the motion of your shaking has interfered with the sensors and now you’re shooting off screen and then you die and you have to start over again and… Well I think I’ve made my point. Some games it works and some games it doesn’t. With a huge library of games, you can easily find a few that are right for you. A couple person favourites of mine are House OF The Dead: Overkill and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles (Just for gameplay not story, more information soon).
Now that we have looked at each light gun, which one is better? It’s hard to say because they both have their own advantages and disadvantages but on the overall view and on which gun would have a longer legacy, my money is on the NES Zapper. Yes it’s dated by today’s standards and there isn’t a mountain of games to play with the NES Zapper but the ones you can are more memorable games and that can’t be said with the Wii’s library of light gun games. Playing with the NES Zapper as a child has stayed with me and the memories will always be treasured. The Wii as a console will to but not because of the Wii Zapper. Though I enjoy the Wii Zapper, I just have the same connection with it as I do with the NES Zapper. For me, if the light gun was completely different to the Wii Remote and had its own buttons and functions then maybe I would consider it, but the way it is at the moment, the NES Zapper has the title of being the best light gun Nintendo have ever produced… For now anyway.