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3:13 PM on 12.14.2014  

Tomb Raider and the Temple of Osiris Review

Tomb Raiding With Friends

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris once again offers all the action, puzzles and platforming reminiscent of the Tomb Raider franchise, all within the confines of an isometric view.

In Temple of Osiris, Lara Croft and rival archaeologist Carter find themselves branded with a curse as well as reawakening the evil Egyptian god Set after raiding an ancient temple dedicated to the Egyptian god Osiris. The two archaeologists now find themselves in a blood feud amongst ancient gods, as well as finding themselves racing against the clock to rid themselves of their curse brands before it kills them.

Temple of Osiris plays a lot like its predecessor Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. You’ll find yourself exploring numerous well designed tombs, solving intricate puzzles and fighting hordes of enemies. The game manages to keep things fun and fresh with each stage by interchanging the layout and design of the tombs, making each tomb feel different despite them sharing a common setting. In addition to the main tombs, there are smaller optional tombs that players can raid. These tombs offer more simple puzzles to solve but the completion of these tomb raids are fairly worthwhile for the rewards.

The isometric camera gets the job done for the most part. Action segments are fun and this is mainly achieved by the frantic feel of combat as hordes of enemies rush towards players hoping to overwhelm them via their superior numbers. It is a shame that at times the isometric camera makes certain puzzles and platforming segments difficult and these segments really stand out, showcasing the major flaws of the game’s camera. Sometimes the flaws with the game’s camera will lead to player deaths however they never really feel consequential due to frequent checkpoints with the only penalty of death affecting the final score achieved upon a level’s completion.

There is a excellent variety of collectibles scattered throughout the world with the main collectible being gems. These gems serve as the game’s currency which unlock various treasure chests which contain useful items to aid Lara and her allies in their adventure. Items come in form of artifacts such as rings and amulets, all providing useful stat boosts such as increasing defense or improving resilience against certain elements. Finally, there is a nice assortment of firearms to obtain, some of which are found in the game’s optional tombs. With a wide variety of worthwhile collectibles to find, the game provides a good amount of incentive to explore every nook and cranny.

Boss battles are a major highlight in Temple of Osiris. Bosses are well designed and fighting against them combines all three elements of Temple of Osiris’ gameplay effectively, making overcoming these challenges incredibly satisfying. It is absolutely fun when a game challenges players to not only use all their skills to overcome bosses but these segments utilises all aspects of its gameplay.

Despite the highly apparent emphasis on multiplayer, Temple of Osiris functions well as a single-player experience. Unlike most games, multiplayer serves more than just having more playable characters on screen at once. It also alters the design and difficulty of the game’s puzzles and challenges requiring new solutions to puzzle solving and even navigating through tombs will require more thought. As such, Temple of Osiris’ multiplayer adapts to the changing conditions set upon it.

At its core, co-op works really well and encourages players to work together in creative ways tackle the game’s challenges making every success feel like a team effort where everyone has contributed. Multiplayer works really well in good old fashioned couch sessions but things fall apart when playing multiplayer online. The mode proves to be an inconvenience to everyone but the player that is hosting a session, overwriting their campaign progress with that of the host’s. Overwriting wipes away all your story progress, including the areas and features you unlock. Thankfully it still allows you to keep all your relics, weapons and other collectibles. Regardless this makes it feel that online multiplayer was designed as an afterthought as it has been poorly implemented in Temple of Osiris.

The Verdict: 7/10


Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris isn’t the best Tomb Raider game by far but it is certainly far from the worse. If anything, Temple of Osiris is an average Tomb Raider title. The game sets out to provide a fun adventure filled with all the elements that define the franchise however the game is held back by the flaws of its isometric camera and its online features.

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1:19 AM on 11.08.2014  

Freedom Wars (PS Vita) Review

Freedom Wars, the latest offering from Sony Computer Entertainment Japan with the collaborative efforts of Japanese developers Shift and Dimps has stood out as one of the most highly anticipated Vita titles of the year but did it live up to expectations?



Freedom Wars has a fantastic premise, taking place in an post apocalyptic world where the earth’s resources have been largely depleted and the last bastions of humanity have formed totalitarian states (known as Panopticons) to wage war with each other over the remaining resources. Freedom Wars’ world is a brutal place and throughout the game, players are continually immersed in its world and its bleak reality.This is achieved through the entitlement system. Want to leave your prison cell? You must ‘Request an Exit Permit’. Want to lie down when you sleep? You must be ‘entitled’ to do just that.This immersion fleshes out Freedom Wars’ dystopian setting, where Sinners (Freedom Wars’ equivalent for prisoners) are deemed as disposable resources who are barely even treated as human beings.

The game’s story revolves around our protagonist’s life as a Sinner who must  work off a lofty 1,000,000 year sentence as punishment for being deemed counter-productive to society after suffering amnesia as a result of an injury in the game’s opening sequence. This sentence can only be worked off by serving the Panopticons and its free citizens by completing missions or donating resources and goods for what the government deems as ‘The Greater Good’.

While the premise sounds highly intriguing, the actual story itself is fairly underwhelming as it fails to fully capitalise on the game’s setting and as players progress further in the storyline, the intrigue slowly vanishes as the story descends into a generic tale. This is compounded by the characters who are unfortunately not distinctly memorable and fall under generic anime stereotypes, if you played any JRPG then don’t expect the cast of Freedom Wars to amaze you.

As such, Freedom Wars’ exciting and interesting premise feels wasted due to its plain storyline.  



Thankfully, it is in the gameplay where Freedom Wars shines for the most part.

Freedom Wars is focused around obtaining resources and materials used to acquire better gear and weapons upon the completion of missions. There is a fair variety of missions ranging from citizen rescues to escort missions, however the mission themselves aren’t entirely original and unique. This also applies to the game’s handful of mission environments which is unfortunately lacking in diversity as such players will find themselves completing missions on the same maps multiple times. These mission can be played with either an AI controlled party or a party made up of other players.

However, players will derive most of their fun from the game’s excellent combat system and mechanics.

 

Battles are daunting and combat is viscerally fast-paced and frantic. For the most part, players will be battling giant mechanical-like monsters known as ‘Abductors’. These Abductors are difficult to take down as they can withstand a lot of punishment as well as dealing out devastating attacks of their own. This difficulty perfectly reflects Freedom Wars’ world in which every mission may be your last and it is incredibly satisfying to survive these life and death battles. While combating Abductors is incredibly fun it is unfortunate that fighting human opponents is just not as satisfying in comparison. It feels that the game’s combat mechanics were primarily designed for fighting Abductors as they don’t translate well into Sinner VS Sinner combat.

In combat, players can switch between two weapons (ranged or melee) at any given time. From assault rifles to grenade launchers, players will find themselves a large variety of options to choose from when attacking from a distance and this extends to the game’s melee weapons. Each weapons feels distinct, each coming with their own set of special moves and strengths and weaknesses. In addition to these weapons, players are also able to equip and use support items ranging from first aid kits to stimulants as well as a good variety of different traps and explosives.

Freedom Wars’ combat revolves around three concepts: maneuverability, team coordination and constant adaptation to changes in battle.

All Sinners come equipped with a special tool known as the ‘Thorn’. These thorns allows players to travel quickly across short distances  as well as latching onto surfaces and enemies. The thorns also come in three different classes, each one serving a different contributing role to the team. These thorns gives the game’s combat a sense of verticality and speed where players feel that they must quickly maneuver and make full use of the environment to both dodge incoming enemy attacks as well as exploit opportunities to deliver devastating amounts of damage.



During combat, players are also able to issue commands to both their personal mechanical team mate overseer (known as Accessories) and their fellow Sinners. There is a good variety of orders to choose from and further in-game, players will be able to customise these orders. Surprisingly not only is the AI highly competent, easily holding their own against enemies in combat but they are also very responsive to player commands. This really makes it feel that players are not fighting lone battles encouraging the use of the game’s command system which is easily accessible at the simple press of the Vita touch screen.

When fighting against Abductors players are able to sever and destroy certain limbs and mechanical parts. This results in weakening the offensive capabilities of enemy Abductors however in turn, the enemy AI’s behaviour reflectively changes and adapts to its new conditions. As such, Abductors feel smart, adapting and changing their attack patterns to reflect their current condition. This makes battles feel dynamic and makes enemies feel more challenging thus it becomes more satisfying to bring them down as you slowly tear them to pieces.

The customisation in Freedom Wars is highly extensive. Besides the good variety of weapons available, players are also able to customise and modify these weapons, increasing both their stats as well as applying elemental effects to them. Customisation isn’t just limited to weapons and equipment. Freedom Wars character customisation is staggeringly deep with extensive customisation ranging from physical appearance to attire and equipment. As such it is thankfully relieving for  players who can at anytime upon a submitting a ‘Request’ (once unlocked) can return to the character creator to update or even fully change the models of both their character and their accessory. This gives players the ability to adaptively change their physical appearance to suit their new available customisation options and preferences. Though it is strangely unusual from a story context as the game’s characters don’t respond at all to your new look in any form or way.

While the game’s learning curve is significant, not only is the tutorial readily available upon returning to your prison cell but the game’s excellent pacing is highly accommodating easing players to new aspects of the game. However, as missions in-game become longer with further story progression, the game’s portability is somewhat lost as it requires players to open up fairly long amounts of time to complete missions. Freedom Wars pacing also suffers from a fair amount of backtracking but this is rectified by the game’s quick travel and notification systems.

The game also has a trading system however this aspect of the game is implemented poorly. Throughout the game players can engage in conversations with other NPCs however they constantly repeat the same dialogue. Players can trade with some of these NPCs but the problem is that the game provides no information into what players will receive for their goods. It is incredibly frustrating to travel around the entire Panopticon to find that one NPC who has the item you want but the game provides no way to direct you to them.  This makes the trading system feel completely reliant on players remembering where they got their trade goods from amongst the game’s many NPCs.


In addition to the lengthy single player campaign, Freedom Wars' multiplayer extends beyond cooperative missions, featuring a PvP mode.


The game’s has some highly appealing visuals featuring an anime inspired aesthetic which is crisp and detailed with very minor degradation during combat but this is mainly a result of the game’s frantic battles and solid frame rate which rarely dips. The game’s soundtrack is solid and diverse ranging from upbeat tracks to stark, deep bass. Unfortunately the game has no english dubbing however the Japanese voice-overs is done well and the game’s english subtitles is well translated.




THE VERDICT: 8/10

There is no doubt that Freedom Wars is an excellent game and a great action RPG. The combat is great and every fight feels challenging leading to plenty of satisfaction upon completing a successful mission. The game’s customisation is extensive and provide players a large magnitude of options to tailor their character and the combat to suit their ideal playstyle. It is just unfortunate that the game’s excellent premise is held back by the game’s average story and that the combat doesn’t translate well when battling the game’s non-primary enemies.

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6:45 AM on 06.23.2014  

Concerns with Playstation Now based on Beta footage

Announced back in January this year, Sony came up on the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 and announced what Sony's acquisition of Gaikai has accomplished and what it could mean for the future of the Playstation brand.
The result was Playstation Now, a video game streaming service that was to be made available to Playstation consoles, Sony televisions and mobiles and perhaps even more.

At first, I thought this could absolutely change the gaming landscape where Playstation content becomes highly accessible on a multitude of devices without the need of a Playstation console. I saw it as a whole new dimension of introducing the fun and joy of high budget video game experiences like The Last of Us, Uncharted, God of War, etc to a much wider audience just like how smartphones changed the gaming landscape by introducing millions to gaming through the casual games.
I also saw Playstation Now as a service that was highly beneficial to existing owners of Playstation consoles as it gave us in a sense backwards compatibility with the highly extensive and vast PlayStation game library. 

However, after watching footage of Playstation Now and seeing images of the service in action, I'm growing increasingly concerned with its capability to provide us a highly responsive gaming experience as well as providing good service for its value.

As some of you may know, Playstation Now is utilising a gaming rental system where we are able to digitally stream an entire game for a limited time based on the fee we pay. Here's my first problem, at the current moment the pricing at Playstation Now is at the current stages of the Beta, downright ridiculous. $4.99 for 4 hours of streaming Final Fantasy XIII-2! $30 for 90 days...I can get the full game for $20 at my local games store. Now I understand that Playstation Now is currently in Beta and these prices are by no means, the final prices when the full version of Playstation Now is released but Sony, should be well aware that these prices are highly unreasonable. You can buy the entire game on the Playstation Store at a cheaper price than renting the game for 90 days. When doing a Beta, you want to not only show off the service and its capabilities, but you should also leave a good impression that Playstation Now is providing good value for money but right now, we are being left with a sour taste in our mouths.

Second, prices are decided upon by the participating publishers and developers. This means, that Sony wouldn't have full control on the pricing in the first place which may be a good thing considering how expensive games on the Playstation Store can be when compared to retail sometimes but I need a guarantee that should a game depreciate in value because it's so old so let's say at launch a game was $60 but now drops to $20, I want to have a sense of certainty that the pricing of said game is adjusted on Playstation Now. 

Finally, after watching some footage of Playstation Now at work on both Kotaku and IGN. Playstation Now is going to give a lot of people some major problems. As you would come to expect, Playstation Now requires a fast and stable internet connection and as such Sony recommends that you hook up whatever device you're using Playstation Now on to an Ethernet cable. Here's the problem, not all of us have wireless devices. Yes it's true that more devices, PCs included are being manufactured with in built wireless connectivity but some of us don't have them. Also, my impression is that streaming a whole video game is going to put a lot of stress on the overall speed of our internet connections but like I said this is expected but there's a lot of people especially here in Australia where our internet speeds aren't really all that great.
That's where biggest major problem lies, Playstation Now ability to provide a smooth gaming experience is entirely dependent on our Internet speeds and while this is expected, I see no possible way that Sony can help us smooth out our gaming experiences with patches to Playstation Now. Sure that can fix bugs but that's it.

I know some people will have no problem with Playstation Now because they got a strong internet connection and good speeds and to them I say "Have fun playing" but not everyone is like that and this raises another concern of mine. Sony said they had plans to provide Playstation Now to the Vita, tablets and mobiles. These portable devices don't always have access to good internet connections and speeds and public Wi-Fi isn't fast so, what is the Playstation Now experience going to look much less feel like when it becomes available to portable devices. So far, I can only see Playstation Now working well on stationary Playstation consoles that usually have access to the Internet.

Hopefully, Sony can prove my wrong in every way because I like the idea of Playstation Now but I just can't see myself being able to have a smooth and excellent experience playing on the streaming service just yet.   read


6:05 PM on 06.18.2014  

Sony support of the Vita is slipping

Sony is planning on indie and third-party games — as well as Remote Play — to support the PlayStation Vita, with less of a focus on first-party games.

While this shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the lack of announcements of first party titles for the Playstation Vita, it is nonetheless depressing to see. The Playstation Vita is a powerful handheld console that is full of potential but to reduce the Vita to a hub for indie games isn’t the right way to go about selling the handheld. Indie games will only go so far, they aren’t system sellers. Yes sometimes an Indie like Bastion, Transistor or Journey comes along but not only do they come every so often but how much influence did these Indie games have in convincing gamers to buy a console.  Even, then Indie games face stiff competition from the casual games market available on mobile and tablets, as a lot of people seem to struggle to see much of a difference, as most Indie games aren’t tailored for a hardcore gaming experience.

Third party games support for the Vita remains strong in Japan. Handheld consoles always did have a stronger presence there than home consoles but if Sony is withdrawing their support from their own console, what kind of message does this send out to Third party developers.

Remote Play is great, I’ve tried it and it really helps to free up my television when I want to watch something or finish off some of my PS3 games but not everyone has great internet speeds and the connection range of remote play isn’t all that great. It would be idealistic if good and fast WI-FI is available everywhere but sadly this isn’t the case.

Now you can go and mention Playstation Now but this feature is being expanded to beyond just the Playstation Vita, meaning while does add value to the handheld, it doesn’t make it stand out. Exclusive features and games makes a console different and Playstation Now doesn’t make the Vita much more of a must have console.

Overall, the Playstation Vita is just being demoted to an accessory of the Playstation 4, making it a device comparable to the Playstation camera. Yes the Playstation camera’s popularity caught Sony off guard but the same cannot be said about the Vita. Console accessories don’t sell in the tens of millions and as such the Vita at this point will never come close to the sales of its predecessor the PSP.  Sadly, the future of Playstation Vita has become extremely bleak and it is safe to say, Sony is really wasting the Vita’s potential.   read


6:58 PM on 06.16.2014  

GTA 5 on next gen looks great

Last year, Rockstar games released the highest grossing video game of all time Grand Theft Auto 5, now the game is being released and remastered on next generation consoles and PC.

With the remastered visuals and technical improvements, the world of Los Santos got some much needed improvements.  If we thought GTA5 on PS3 and Xbox 360 looked impressive, then the remastered version is another step forward to what kind of worlds Rockstar games may have in future installments of their franchises.

The vegetation in the environments which were severely lacking on the PS3 and Xbox, is now there in abundance on next generation consoles. Fauna are more prevalent in environments on the remastered editions and with more NPCs, more activity bustling around in Los Santos, the world of GTA5 just became more alive and vibrant. 




Grand Theft Auto 5 was already an impressive open world with so much activities to do but with the remastered editions, the world just got a lot more visual flare and maybe it's worth jumping back into the world of Los Santos.   read


2:45 AM on 06.16.2014  

Co-Op the next trend in gaming and my problem with it

OK, E3 you gave us a lot of games to look forward to but I think we've all noticed a new trend in the gaming industry. It's cooperative multiplayer.

Which makes sense considering how both Sony and Microsoft have been pushing this whole "Interconnected community". I like the idea, honesty I truly do but this is my fear after watching all the E3 footage I can and then sleeping on it.

What happened to local co-op? Were we told that Assassin's Creed Unity supports split screen? What about Far Cry 4? Evolve? Fable Legends? Anyone?

See the problem. At E3, we were told that all these great games have cooperative multiplayer and cheers to that. Who wouldn't want to explore and kill hundreds of guards in Assassin's Creed Unity with other players online but I have a second Playstation 4 controller at home gathering dust.

This is my fear for gaming's latest trend. With both the Playstation Plus and Xbox Live Gold services needed to play online on next gen consoles, more people are subscribing to these premium services, meaning more people are connected to a continuously growing online network whether that is the PSN or Xbox Live.
However, I feel that game developers when seeing this data suddenly feel that the next stage in improving their games in particular the multiplayer aspect of their games, is to tap into this growing number of people being connected online. Therefore, when they make the multiplayer, developers are tailoring them to be played online and support for  local co-op is being ignored.   read


11:00 PM on 06.15.2014  

The Steamboy, a Steam Machine on the go

Announced and teased at the end of E3 2014, the Steamboy is an ambitious startup project that aims to bring the Steam Machine experience into an already saturated handheld market filled with the 3DS, Playsation Vita and Nvidia Shield.

The Steamboy is an independent project that isn't associated with Valve and is backed and developed by independent third party company Steamboy Machine Team.

While exact details on the specs of the portable handheld's hardware have yet to be confirmed, a representative from the Steamboy Machine Team told The Escapist, that the Steamboy features a Quad-Core CPU, 4GB RAM, a 32GB built-in memory card, and a 5" 16:9 touchscreen. The Steamboy will also be able to connect to the internet via Wifi and 3G and will play "the majority of Steam Games".

With the Steamboy most likely running on the SteamOS operating system which is tailored to a Linux architecture. Games developed for the PC and Mac that are available on Steam are likely to be incompatible with the Steamboy.



Based on the Steamboy's announcement video the Steamboy will feature the Steam Machine Controller's signature round track pads, an Xbox controller button configuration and a screen positioned between them. The Steamboy also seemingly has 4 trigger buttons on the back. 

The Steamboy slated for a release in 2015.   read


12:58 AM on 06.13.2014  

Destiny Alpha impressions

To start off, Destiny visually looks great with impressive lighting and high levels of detail whether its the textures of the avatar's Armour or the attention to detail in the game's vast open landscapes. The game's draw distance is extensive enough and will leave players with many impressive sights and beautiful scenery.

Destiny has players choose from 3 distinct classes: the Titan (Footsoldier), Hunter (Precise, agile marksmen) and the Warlock (Soldiers with tons of special abilities). Each class feels really different from each other as their varying special abilities and weapons, really makes each of the classes unique and play differently in combat.

Destiny's character creation isn't really deep but this would most likely be expanded upon in the main game but for now, character creation is very limited and basic and doesn't come close to such games as the Elder Scrolls (Remember this is only the Alpha).
Destiny runs at a very smooth framerate on the Playstation 4 and throughout my play sessions, the framerate didn't drop once even during large firefights.

Combat and exploration takes centre stage with Destiny. Destiny's shooter mechanics feel tight and responsive and there are a good variety of guns to select from. Players are limited to carrying two guns around at any given time. Unlike other first person shooters were combat felt frantic, Destiny's combat feels like its running at more of a brisk pace to the point where players can even took their time killing their enemies. While challenging other players, the pace is much faster but it never felt the same as the frantic close quarters combat of Call of Duty or the intense warzones of the Battlefield series.
Also, melee attacks are extremely overpowered, with standard enemies being defeated with two to three punches, this is even worse when playing multiplayer. This unbalance in combat almost made weapons feel redundant when your fist seems to be the more powerful weapon.
Boosters gave the combat more depth as players can rain down gunfire from above and likewise. This gives the game more approaches to combat and navigation as players reach higher vantage points more quickly leading to satisfying sudden surprise attacks.

Enemy AI behaviour is highly aggressive but lack depth as AI behaviour feels basic and dull. Why aren't these melee hostiles trying to at least dodge or try to move and surround players? Why aren't the gun wielding troops covering their allies? Why are enemies not doing any flanking maneuvers? Too many times, enemies seemingly followed a routinely set pattern and often players can simply charge at enemies and defeat them with melee attacks as enemies seemingly aren't reacting to changes in battle. This made combat feel barely ever strategic and very unrewarding as the AI lacked any sense of complexity and as such hostile encounters were largely uninteresting and required little to no thought.

However, because of the pacing in Destiny's combat, I found myself more invested in exploring Destiny's rich and vibrant world. Firefights are not constant threats giving, players the chance to explore every inch of the game's richly detailed environments. Destiny's driving mechanics feels superb and highly responsive with tight handling and easy access to a vehicle at the push of a button.

Destiny's inventory customisation system is easy to navigate and understand. This ease of navigation makes customising your avatar's armour and weapons loadout simple and easy to manage.
Each time the player levels up, they gain skill points that can be spent on upgrading their avatar's special abilities which are organised into a simple skill tree and also, as players increase in level, they gain access to purchase more higher tiered weapons.

The Alpha's multiplayer sent players on a small map where they competed 6 V 6 to capture and control locations around the map. However, there is a question to how Destiny's multiplayer will be kept balanced. Players of various levels seem to be able to compete against each other, which throws the multiplayer off balance as high leveled players with their superior weaponry and special abilities seemingly have a much more clear advantage as your weapons and armour load-out and abilities transfer from PVE to PVP.




[b]SUMMARY:
[/b]At the current stage on the basis of Destiny's Alpha, Destiny feels like a generic sci-fi first person shooter. It achieves the basics but leaves so much more to be desired.
Hopefully, by the release of the full game, Destiny will truly be able to show what it's truly capable of.   read


8:03 PM on 06.11.2014  

Indie Corner: Entwined Review (PSN)

Entwined is a complete bag of surprises. From its surprise appearance at Sony's E3 2014 conference to its sudden release on the very same day. However, the biggest surprise is that not only is Entwined an absolutely beautiful visual spectacle but it is a subtle action game that provides a highly rewarding and fun experience. 

Entwined  tells the story of two souls in love who in the game take on the forms of a origami constructed blue bird and orange fish racing through nine lifetimes to be together. Entwined puts a new spin on video game story telling, as there is no dialogue, no cutscenes and no texts to explain the narrative. Instead, the story is told through metaphoric meaning and powerful symbolism and with this in hand, the story is left to the imagination and interpretation of the player. This clever way of storytelling, makes the player feel more involved in Entwined's narrative as by using its symbolism and metaphoric gestures, the game invokes the player to become the storyteller, making us use our own feelings, thoughts and imagination to craft the game's tale.
By leaving us a story for us to interpret and tell, the game's narrative is given flexibility as every player might see the story differently. One player may see it as a story of heartbreak and another as something else entirely.

Each of the games nine levels (lifetimes), consist of two phases. One where the two souls are apart and another where they come together. The gameplay is relatively simple with players controlling both characters with only the use of both Dualshock 4's analogue sticks. These two souls race throughout the game's nine tracks collecting orbs and passing through gates of their respective colour that fills up their two separate meter gauges. Successfully moving through the game's obstacle fills up the gauge while failure drifts them apart.
This simplistic control scheme makes gameplay highly accessible with very little to learn and it makes the movement of the player's thumbs feel unified which feels highly reminiscent of the two souls on screen, making gameplay highly engaging and in a way personal.
After each of the two soul's meters are fully filled, players are able to access the soul merging process and the game instantly changes the pace making the track move faster and therefore more difficult. In this merging process, players and treated to a frantic and challenging experience where our focus suddenly becomes sharpened as the game's difficulty suddenly spikes into something completely different from what players had adjusted themselves to only moments earlier.

The game's nine lifetime tracks are challenging as the obstacles routinely shift and move, keeping players focused and constantly preparing to navigate for whatever comes next as they race down the circular track. Every lifetime adds its own unique variety of obstacles making each level feel distinct with its own identity of difficulty.
The game occasionally drops in frame rate even to the point of seemingly freezing completely but they are very short in their duration.

Easily, the game's most beautiful segment is the second phase where the two souls have merged and become a great, green dragon. In this phase, players are able to fly freely and navigate a stunningly beautiful open area which the player can fly around at their own pace and leisure, taking in the wonderful sights. By collecting orbs within this area, the player fills up a meter which is depleted by crafting gorgeous streaks of light as if the dragon suddenly became a paint brush. Upon depleting this meter, players are able to move on to the next lifetime but not before being treated to the mesmerizing view of the artwork we just added further beauty to with our light streaks, giving players a strong sense of reward upon the completion of a lifetime.

The game's art design can only be described in a few words, downright gorgeous. Each lifetime has its own visually stunning set pieces from the icy lakes of the Artic to the night scenery of a carnival. Every lifetime is accompanied and laid out with wonderful colours, lighting and particle effects. The game feels like a well polished work of art throughout its entire length with great attention to detail which showcases the game's wonder beauty.
The game's soundtrack is spectacular with multiple serene and mood-setting scores that is a absolute treat for the ears, sending players on a relaxing and tranquil sensory journey.

In addition to the game's breathtaking although short campaign, Entwined has an addictive challenge mode. Players are given three lives to progress as far as they can across five stages during an endless tunnel sequence with each new stage being unlocked upon the achievement of a certain score benchmark.

VERDICT
Entwined is a visually beautiful action game with simplistic yet highly engaging gameplay accompanied by gorgeous art design and a wonderful soundtrack.

+          Beautiful art design
+          Excellent soundtrack
+          Simplistic yet highly rewarding gameplay that is highly accessible
+          Flexible and creative story telling
+          Good campaign and addictive challenge mode

VERDICT SCORE:     9.5/10   read


5:54 AM on 06.03.2014  

Review: Mind Zero (PS Vita)

Mind Zero the latest game by Developers Acquire and ZeroDiv is a surprising, misleading game. At first glance it may seem like another Persona but don't let that fool you. What lies underneath is an excellent role playing game with solid gameplay and a intriguing story to tell.

Mind Zero's story isn't anything original as it follows the cliche story premise of JRPGs with teens finding themselves in a parallel dimension where they receive supernatural powers and are now amongst the very few who can defeat supernatural threats from this parallel dimension. Premise aside, Mind Zero remains able to tell an well written narrative with its likeable, diverse range of characters and intriguing world. The story is well paced and is able to strike balance between being humorous and serious throughout its narrative.  However, Mind Zero is a highly story intensive game with long scenes of dialogue that makes the game almost feel like a visual novel at times which will test the patience of many players.

As a dungeon crawler, much of the gameplay is focused around exploring dungeons traversing them within a first person view, slaying hordes of monsters. Thankfully, Mind Zero's difficulty and random monster encounter frequency is well balanced making the game highly accessible to veterans and newcomers to dungeon crawlers due to the game rarely feeling like its forcing players to grind through levels.

However, once combat begins, Mind Zero really begins to shine. Mind Zero's combat is both strategic yet simplistic, all the while providing a fun and rewarding experience. At its core, the combat uses a turn based mechanic  but rather than following most dungeon crawlers, where combat is fully kept in first person Mind Zero brings to its combat some visual flair as we are treated to seeing characters perform attacks in a third person view, providing a fresh reprieve from the genre's standard tropes. Unique to the game are the MIND companions, spiritual beings that manifest themselves as weapons wielded by the game's characters.

MINDs play a central role in battles and making effective strategic use of them is key to victory as summoning these guarding deities gives characters access to the use of powerful skills and they also act as shields, absorbing damage from enemy attacks leaving their wielders unharmed. However, using MINDs doesn't come without risks. MINDs can only hold out for so long before they run out of MIND Points (MP) which is depleted from absorbing damage from enemy attacks and consumed each turn so long as they are summoned. Once a character's MP hits zero, they are left in a 'break' status where they are highly vulnerable being unable to make a move for one turn and unable to shield themselves or use skills for a further two turns. Hence knowing when to use MINDs and when to withdraw them is crucial in battle as combat makes every single party member feel like two, making combat challenging and rewarding strategic thinking with a hint of micromanagement.

Outside of combat, world exploration and customization options such as equipment is largely simplistic and while some may be deterred by this, what it does is give Mind Zero a higher sense of accessibility to players while also reducing the difficulty of learning and mastering the game's mechanics. Skill customisation is highly dynamic as skills aren't locked to specific characters allowing players a large diverse array of options to tailor their party to suit a variety of situations and styles of combat.

Mind Zero's art design is unfortunately largely a mixed bag. Outside of gameplay, the art itself is beautiful and visually appealing with distinctive and colourful character designs and backgrounds. The game's cutscene portraits are expressive and 2D backgrounds are well drawn and vibrant in colour which beautifully captures the setting and the tone of the cutscenes.
However, Mind Zero's character/ enemy models aren't graphically impressive but they are largely modest representations of their respective characters without going deep into details however, combat animations feel rather stiff and visually the animations doesn't stand out as anything special making it feel fairly dull and at best average. This is compounded by the bland environments many of which lack in creativity and diversity, making each environment feel largely similar to one another which quickly saps away any eagerness to explore the game's world.

VERDICT
Mind Zero may look like another Persona but underneath that exterior paint, is a fun dungeon crawler  that delivers another excellent new entry into the Playstation Vita's JRPG library.
+          Likeable cast of characters
+          Challenging and fun strategic combat
+          Interesting story
+          Highly accessible gameplay with little learning curve
-           Dull Environments
-           Long cutscenes that can drag on for far too long

VERDICT SCORE: 7.5/10   read







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