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Gamer for 20+ years, big fiction reader, prolific reviewer. Lover of the shmup and rhythm genre.

Author of one post-apocalyptic novel (The Wanderer) and one collection of horror short stories (Wither).


In recent times we've seen a marked rise in the remaking and rebooting of some fondly remembered classics. Mega Drive title Castle of Illusion found itself on the end of a 21st century makeover as did NES/Game Boy game Duck Tales. Most recently we have seen a remastering of the highly thought of and oft ignored Strider series. Whilst the remakes met with varying degrees of success, I got a sense of satisfaction from revisiting my childhood favourites under a shiny new HD veneer.

We all have our favourite games of yore. So, if you could choose any title from the past to be remade or rebooted, what would it be? 

For me it would have to be ESWAT. Originally released in 1990 on the Mega Drive (or Genesis if you're from across the pond) it allowed you to take control of rookie cop Duke Oda as he worked his way through the Cyber Police ranks. Once you earn his spurs he is rewarded with a kick-ass Ice Combat Suit complete with an arsenal of varied and deadly weapons. The premise of the original game would lend itself perfectly, in my opinion, to a Metroidvania style offering where Oda would navigate his way around the Liberty City map upgrading his suit ready to face a final showdown with the mysterious E.Y.E.. And, let's face it, who wouldn't love to relive that unforgettable moment when Oda takes down a fully-armoured helicopter with a handgun in glorious high definition?

List your suggestions below. I'm intrigued to see what you think!
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I've been keeping my eye on the price of the Nintendo 2DS over recent months as I have been craving the opportunity to play Final Fantasy Theathrythm on something other than iOS. Yesterday I managed to pick up a brand new one for £69 which I thought to be a bit of a bargain.

As I've only really had my eye on the single game up until now I was a bit lost as to what other titles I should look at getting, what with the 3DS/DS catalogue being so exhaustive. I would like to check out Bravely Default as I do like a traditional RPG and, of course, I will be looking to pick up the new Zelda game as soon as possible. I'm a massive fan of rhythm games so any suggestions in that field would be greatly welcomed. I also like old-school platformers, shmups and puzzlers (I am ashamed to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the Bejewled title on the DS... make of that what you will!). I'm also open to suggestions of regular DS titles, too. I am not at all interested in Pokemon, so despite it being a huge title on the DS platform, I would request you refrain from suggesting any titles from that IP.

So, kindly and helpful souls of the Destructoid blogging scene, what are the must-have games I should be looking to pick up for my nifty new handheld? Your help is much appreciated.

Well, it was with a sigh of relief that I finally managed to make it to the end of Outlast on the PS4. Was it a sigh of relief after an intense and frightening experience? No, it was, unfortunately, one of relief at having finally completed a gaming experience that I thought was disappointingly weak and grossly lacking in every respect.

When it was announced that Outlast was coming to PS+ as part of the IGC I was, like I'm sure many were, very excited at the prospect. A quick check of the reviews of the PC release hinted at a terrifying, sanity-shredding game that would have you sweating with anxiety and worry. I downloaded with baited breath and a change of underwear at the ready.

I booted the game up and found myself quickly disappointed. I became aware within the first hour of gameplay that the game was lacking on any number of levels. The character models were totally uninspiring, all of the asylum patients are presented as asexual (bar a noticeable pair...) beings with eyes stitched shut and threads running all over their body. The limitations of the Unreal engine quickly became apparent with graphical glitches galore including ghostly blocks that appear as you turn and look suspiciously like collectable items before vanishing as if they were never there and enemies hovering about a foot off the ground as you hide from them under beds. The game is insultingly linear, with locked doors barring progression left right and centre and the dreaded waist high stacks of beds and filing cabinets that demand 'You shall not pass!'. 

I forced myself onwards though my mounting disappointment and grew only further disillusioned with the experience. I found myself screaming, yes. But not through fear. Mostly through frustration. The game is littered with cheap clichéd scares that we've seen a million times before and implemented far more effectively. You'll have things drop from air vents just like we saw numerous times in Dead Space, you'll have windows shatter a.l.a. Resident Evil, you'll have scares pop out of the dark that can only be seen through your camera just like happened in Fatal Frame. You'll be wheeled through the asylum hospital by a madman (Jacob's Ladder) and have sections of your body forcefully removed (Saw). None of the scares in Outlast are original. None of the scares are particularly scary. I can count on one hand the number of times I jumped with fright.

My frustration came mostly from the game's terrible controls, repetitive nature and archaic mechanics. You'll continually be given rudimentary and tiresome tasks throughout the game. Flip two switches to activate the sprinklers. Pull two levers to activate the lifts. Along the way you'll be chased down dark corridors by the same enemies over and over. Excitingly you can sometimes avoid them by climbing into air vents and using them as a means of escape or by hiding in lockers. I love nothing more than crawling through air vents in a game. We've never seen that before, have we? And hiding in lockers? It was my favourite part of Deadly Premonition. I eagerly anticipated those sections... 

Sometimes the enemies will be armed, other times not. If you're playing on higher difficulties the chances of a one hit death are high. One of my biggest gripes with the title was the fact that, no matter how stealthily you evade your pursuers, whenever you flick a switch or pull a lever, the game would drop the enemies directly behind you. The sense of reward for having tiptoed expertly to your task is instantly ripped away from you, forcing you to hide until they wander away. Often, however, they'll wander to the end of the corridor and then head back. You'll be forced to wait (which grows boring very quickly) or dash past them (which destroys the game's tension). I quickly found myself utilising the latter technique just to avoid the tedium of waiting for the randomly wandering enemies to give me some space. Running, however, poses its own problems. The controls of the game are severely lacking. I found myself unintentionally dashing past the same door three, four times in succession as I attempted my escape from our sexless baddies. You'll often find yourself trapped in corners by enemies owing to the game's abysmal collision detection (it's as if every enemy is walking in an invisible rectangle) then be forcefully eviscerated as a reward. Sometimes the passageways are blocked by upturned beds or obstacles which can be vaulted. Vaulting is often a chore in itself. I found that, unless you are running at them in a perfectly straight line, you will often begin doing an Irish Jig in front of the obstacle instead of leaping over it. Then you'd be murdered.

The story is desultory. You are a journalist on a mission to uncover the strange goings on at Mount Massive asylum in Colorado. You don't get much back story but as your progress through the game you'll collect notes and observe scenes that fill in more of the story for you. Our protagonist, despite being shit-scared and whimpering like a scalded child at all times, also takes plenty of opportunities to write sarcasm-drenched notes like a wise-cracking internet troll. It's nothing we haven't seen before and when the big reveal appears (***SPOILERS*** It's evil Nazis! ***SPOILERS) you'll shake your head in disbelief as this particular story element has been done to death and often many times better. All the while you'll find yourself wondering how the only person alerted to the strange goings on at Mount Massive is a hapless journalist. When you discover the madness and danger inside the asylum you'll ask yourself why the military aren't swarming all over it or why it simply hasn't been nuked off the face of the earth. The ending scenes only serve to sully an already dreadful and unoriginal story even further. 

A few other annoyances I encountered were the appearance of intrusive loading screens between sections of the game - a green image with a spinning load symbol. Even Resident Evil, back in 1996, offered us an animation of a door to make the transition less obvious and more bearable. The load times themselves are lengthy. On a number of occasions these load screens hung and I was required to restart the game in order to continue. In one section I got a load screen in the gardens near the end of the game which hung. I replayed the section and didn't even encounter a load screen on the second attempt which I found strange.

To summarise, I was astounded by how bad I found Outlast and find myself baffled by its many positive reviews. Any self-respecting fan of the horror genre will find themselves laughing at the pitiful scares and derogatory storyline. And experienced gamers will find themselves appalled by the poor controls and shamefully implemented and dated game mechanics. Usually I find myself going back through a game to tidy up a few additional trophies but I can't face going through Outlast a second time, so I think I'll leave my percentage at 40. The game might fill in a few hours as we await new releases for our next-gen console but I would find it very difficult to recommend Outlast even though it is currently available for free.

An absolute shambles that I was relieved to finish. The anticipation I felt prior to the game's release quickly dissipated and I am glad as can be that I'm finally done with the game. One to avoid, in my opinion, unless you're absolutely desperate to play something, anything at all. 

Rating: 1/5

I love Vanillaware. I have played and hugely enjoyed Odin's Sphere and Muramasa and was massively excited when I discovered news about Dragon's Crown. The game had been in development for an age and I was sure that given all that time to tweak the mechanics and the reputation of Vanillaware for producing impressive games with solid gameplay that this title would be a winner. I am saddened to say that I found the game greatly lacking - the first time I have felt let down by George Kamitani and his team.

Let's start with the positives. The game looks amazing, as all Vanillaware games do. Every frame has been painstakingly hand-painted and every sprite is animated perfectly and looks gorgeous. You will encounter a great swathe of fantasy-themed baddies from huge dragons, krakens, skeletons, dinosaurs and many more; all of them look great. The locales are varied and many, from pirate coves to magician's towers to crumbling ruins.

There have been a number of issues raised with the way the females are portrayed in this game (hugely out of proportion breasts and often in suggestive poses) leading to the designers being labelled as sexist and misogynistic. I have never been a fan of games or other media depicting women with obscenely large boobs (see Dead or Alive as another example of this - they even have an option in there to adjust the feminine jiggles, if you can believe that). I find it both unnecessary and juvenile, but the criticism of the art in this game is unwarranted - many of the character artists involved in creating this title are female and, for better or worse, this over-the-top style is often employed in Japanese culture (and this game is distinctively Japanese). This won't be the first or the last game to portray women characters in such a fashion and I don't feel that the sexism debate should be used to judge a game's merits or lack thereof.

People are also citing the price tag as a deterrent for purchasing the game. This is ludicrous also. The game is massive. There are a selection of six character types all with their own strengths and weaknesses allowing for a total of six playthroughs overall. Each playthrough consists of nine stages each with branching paths amounting to, in essence, eighteen levels in total. There are also fifty mini-quests available from the Adventurer's Guild. This accounts for a huge amount of game time for your money - to play through every difficulty with each character will give you in excess of 60 to 70 hours of gameplay. Not to be sniffed at, no? That can be extended even further should you wish to earn all of the trophies on offer and best the randomly generated Chaos Labyrinth upon completing the game.

Unfortunately, for me, the gameplay does not stand up as well as the game's visuals. You will move from left to right in the vein of many of the old-school side-scrollers of yore, fighting enemies and collecting loot. There are three characters who specialise in melee and three who specialise in long-range attacks but regardless of the class you choose you will spend most of your time in-game mashing the square button which is the regular attack button. The square button can be combined with the directional buttons to activate special attacks such as grabs, parries and slides but they are often difficult to use effectively due to how busy the screen gets - more on this later. You also have a powerful special attack that can be utilised with the circle button which unarms your character momentarily and weakens your attacks as you are forced to fight weaponless. I love games such as Streets of Rage and Golden Axe which employ more basic but similar mechanics to Dragon's Crown and still play them regularly. I didn't enjoy this modern offering half as much as these classics - for some reason Dragon's Crown wore thin on me very quickly and I found the combat repetitive and a bit of a chore, if I'm being honest.

Touchscreen controls are utilised in game to loot chests, cast spells and knock collectables from the scenery. This can be frustrating as you have to remove your hand from the face buttons during the heat of battle during some areas in order to use runes that cast beneficial spells that assist your party. Often if you are getting battered (which will happen regularly) you can tap carvings in the wall and combine them with runestones in your possession to damage enemies and cast protective barriers around your characters. However, the runes that appear are tiny and often you will need to tap them more than once to activate them. While you are focusing on this your character will be savagely beaten by your opponents. Often you'll die as a result. Chests can be unlocked with a tap of the screen and you gain rewards and items as a result which can be appraised and either sold for cash or equipped to strengthen your characters at the end of each stage. Fans of Borderlands will love this loot-and-appraise approach but it might not be for everyone.

The multiplayer element of the game, which is advertised as one of the main features on the game box, is locked until halfway through the game. I have no idea why this is the case. As you wait for the feature to unlock, you can collect the bones of dead characters and have the computer control them once you resurrect them at the temple in town. Sounds great, but unfortunately these computer controlled comrades are worse than useless. They will cast spells at random, stand still for no discernible reason and take a beating and die very, very often. You can resurrect them, but each time you do so costs you more and more gold. Their ineptitude will empty your wallet in an instant. When the multiplayer option becomes available, don't expect a plethora of human characters to pop into your game. I have played the game for over twenty hours now and have had very few human partners join my game despite having the connection setting set to worldwide. A recent update has enabled PS3 and PS Vita players to play alongside each other via either platform; hopefully this will improve the number of drop-in players.

At the far end of the town you find yourself in after clearing each stage you use a portal to select the next stage you want to attempt to conquer. Halfway through the game you lose the ability to choose which level you want to play next unless you pay money at the stables to rent a horse. This might not sound like a big deal but if you failed miserably at a stage and are returned to town after spending all your gold bringing the computer controlled characters back to life you may be forced to sell important items or weapons in order to select the area you wish to go to next. If you can't afford a horse, the game picks the level you challenge next totally at random. This might not happen often but when it does it can become annoying - especially when you have only one talisman to collect from a specific stage. This is a design choice, like the locking of the multiplayer, that had me scratching my head. The random level choice would have been a welcome option if it was assigned to a button during the level select screen, but having it thrust on you with no choice in the matter seems strange, to me at least.

In order to progress through the game without pulling your hair out you will be required to grind your levels and improve your equipment by replaying stages over and over. Without doing so you will find your character underpowered and they will be punished mercilessly when you eventually unlock the secondary path of each stage. More often than not you'll get through the stage easily enough, then come to a hugely overpowered boss who will crush you and wipe the floor with your remains. I love a challenge and enjoy difficult games; what I dislike is when a game forces you to boost levels in order to find yourself on even a level pegging with some of the enemies on offer. This might be one of the main reasons I grew disillusioned with the game.

The worst failing of the game, on the Vita at least, is the horrible overcrowding on the screen. There are four allies including your own character on the screen at once, one looter who comes on-screen to collect treasures, a fairy who points things out to you, a multitude of enemies, chests and breakables, and items exploding from the background and dead baddies. This can render your screen an unintelligible blur of action. There will be a dozen times on each and every stage where you won't be able to see your own character through the tangle. This will lead to unavoidable death on a regular basis, especially when facing bosses, as the markers that show where their projectile attacks will land are hidden by secondary characters and enemies assisting the boss. In addition, on the occasions when other humans do join your game, they may be controlling the exact same character as you which only adds to the confusion.

As a massive fan of old-school side-scrollers and Vanillaware I was certain I would love this game. I hate to admit that I am less than impressed with Dragon's Crown overall. It looks great, has a huge amount of replayability but its many frustrations and repetitive nature somewhat killed the game for me. If you love your side-scrolling brawlers by all means give it a go. I'm sure many people will love the game, just for me it feels like there is something missing, that it lacks the character of similar games from the SNES and Mega Drive era.

Rating: 2/5

What are you getting when you purchase Deadly Premonition? You are getting sub-PS2 graphics, archaic controls, a sparsely populated open-world map and some of the most inappropriate background music of all time. You are also getting a game with a unique soul and character. It is easily one of my favourite games of all time despite everything listed above.

You control Francis York Morgan, a split-personality sufferer, coffee-reading psychic (you'll see) FBI agent with an invisible friend named Zach. He is sent to Greenvale in order to solve the brutal murder of a beautiful (although you wouldn't be able to tell by her character model) young woman called Anna. What follows is a bizarre story littered with intrigue and full to the brim with eccentric characters and set pieces.

The game is essentially an open-world murder mystery. You drive from set piece to set piece across the mostly deserted map finding clues and piecing together the murder. Every now and again you will enter survival horror locations akin to Silent Hill and Resident Evil (from the PS1 era) where you must battle Sadako-from-The-Ring style baddies in order to find clues and progress to the next chapter - you'll also want to avoid going out after midnight if you know what's good for you.

The game starts out in one such situation and this beginning set piece is probably enough to send most gamers running wide-eyed and screaming from the game, never to touch it again. Within the first ten minutes you will realise the graphics are appalling, the game mechanics and controls are seriously lacking and the sound effects are seemingly rehashed from Mega Drive (or earlier) games. Why a five star rating then, you may ask? Because if you stick with the game you will be massively rewarded. Seriously.

The game borrows shamelessly from Twin Peaks. That in itself might be enough to pique the interest of a lot of people. Locations are shamelessly lifted including the waterfall and the red room of Dale Cooper's dreams. Agent York himself bears more than a passing resemblance to the aforementioned TP investigator. The story is similar too, lurching from one surreal segment to another with the occasional dream sequence throw in to break things up. The story has a little of everything: humour, shocks, scares. It ends with one of the darkest bombshells in gaming history, transforming a game that is often light-hearted and whimsical on its head. This powerful and varied storytelling is the real winning element of Deadly Premonition, but not the only one.

As the story unfolds you will uncover Greenvale's many eccentric residents as well as the township's darkest secrets. Both range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Character-wise you will meet some of the strangest creations in gaming history. From Harry Stewart, a wheelchair-bound, mask-wearing billionaire who speaks in rhyme via a tidily dressed carer, to 'Roaming' Sigourney, a senile, one-shoed old woman who wanders the map aimlessly complaining that the cooking pot she steadfastly carries is growing cold. They will simultaneously have you laughing heartily and scratching your befuddled head. Most of the town knowledge you uncover is gathered by playing the game's 50 side-quests. Most characters have a special side-quest which upon completion unlocks a reward, a trophy and a (often hilarious) piece of information. You have to drive Sigourney home before her pot grows cold from random locations. You have to tidy the convenience store's back room. You have to collect and return some dog-stolen bones to the rather spectral-looking grave tender. You catch a legendary fish. Honestly.

The map is quite large. Imagine a Grand Theft Auto open-world done on a shoestring budget. You can fish, stop off at a bar and play darts, visit the mountaintop viewing point and take in the (terribly rendered) scenery. The only problem is everything is spaced so far apart that it can often be a chore to get from one place to another. But is it boring? No. Why? Another master-stroke from the developers. York, it turns out, is an avid fan of 80s B-Movies. As you drive you will be prompted to engage in a number of lengthy eulogies including praise and facts about such classics as Jaws and Tremors. Who said games weren't educational? Sadly, you can miss out on these brilliant tidbits by unlocking a special item from Sheriff George's side-quest. Which would certainly be a shame.

The musical side of Deadly Premonition should be a disaster. Often, as York gives a lengthy speech about how one of the characters had her tongue bitten out, or how he dealt with a serial rapist, inexplicably cheery music will play in the background. Laughably bad music. One track is actually whistled. Yes, whistled. But, instead of making you reach for the mute button, the more you hear it, the more it will grow on you. It's strange, you should loathe how bad the tunes are, but such is Deadly Premonition's strange charm and magic, you will find yourself humming them long after you finish playing.

One thing I should mention before closing is how the PS3 version (which this review is based on) differs from the 360 one (yes, I have played both - my friends often call me a sucker for punishment!). There have been a few tweaks here and there: York can now walk whilst attacking with melee weapons and he controls slightly differently from the original Xbox version, too. There are some additional story elements that have been added but I must admit, I don't think they should have been put in there; they only seem to detract slightly from the cracking story that was there before. The port has not been transferred smoothly, either. There are some moments of sounds and music jumping and volume levels in spoken sections changing without warning. The graphics have apparently been tweaked and improved but I honestly think they look marginally worse as a result. In a couple of houses the light shining in from outside was bright green instead of the intended and more realistic white. Not sure if that one was intentional or not, mind you... There is also noticeable slowdown on occasions, most notably when you pick up items and are awarded with a lovingly (if needlessly) rendered image of a rotating onion, donut or can of pickles. When there are a number of characters in one area often their animations will play out strangely; I observed Kaysen undertaking some sort of slow motion floating walk on numerous occasion. More things to add to the 'overlook these problems and you'll love it' list, but hey ho. These quibbles were minor to me and I soon learned to look past them. Still, the QA team should have picked up on these problems and the programmers should have at least attempted to fix them.

Overall, Deadly Premonition is a masterpiece that amounts to far more than the sum of its parts. If you can get past the ancient controls and graphics, past the hit-and-miss voice acting and the shabby port translation, you will find a bizarre diamond in the rough that just begs to be loved. What the designers lacked in funds, they more than made up for in terms of memorable characters, scenes and unforgettable scenarios. I dread to think what Swery65 could achieve with sizeable funding behind him.

Rating: 5/5
A classic in the vein of those memorable B-Movies York adores so much. I urge you to give it a try.

I have had the pleasure over my 20+ years of gaming to have heard some very memorable video game music. In this blog I have pieced together 10 of my favourite video game tracks of all time.

Nier - Song of the Ancients (Devola)
Nier was overlooked by most and derided by some for its bland graphics and repetitive nature. I stumbled upon the music purely by chance one day and was so enchanted that I resolved to play the game. It took me a while to hunt it down, but I'm glad I managed to find a copy. As well as having an excellent soundtrack, the story is also one of the most unique of recent times.

Psyvariar 2 - Weakboson/Gorgecity
This Dreamcast bullet hell shooter boasted some clever game mechanics and some of the most intense bullet patterns I've ever witnessed. You’ll be restarting each level a hundred times over till you master it, but with classic tunes such as this pumping away in the background you almost won’t mind!

Ikaruga - Ideal
Another Dreamcast title with an amazing soundtrack. Treasure’s bullet absorption shooter is a classic for its incredible gameplay as well as its quality musical offerings.

ESWAT - Boss Theme 1
Remember the first time you took down a helicopter with a handgun? I do. Mostly thanks to this tune. Infectious.

Axelay - Stage 2
This track supplements one of my all-time favourite video game stages. Battle your way through an O'Neill cylinder and observe the destruction that has befallen the residents as you inch your way to the final showdown with an ED209 look-a-like boss.

Final Fantasy - JENOVA and Blinded by Light
It was hard to choose my favourites from a franchise that is so well known for having consistently impressive background music. Jenova wins its place for having the hair on the back of neck stand up the first time I heard it (there is a cracking remix by Rameses B available on Youtube) and the orchestral FFXIII battle theme, despite coming from a title that thoroughly disappointed me, made me hunt down a copy of the game’s OST just so I could play the track on loop continuously. Special mention to the Jecht battle theme from FFX and One Winged Angel.

Castlevania - Bloody Tears and Revenge
Like Final Fantasy, Castlevania has a strong history of memorable soundtracks. Again it was hard to choose from the many great tunes on offer but I plumped for the Castlevania IV version of Bloody Tears – which, like the Axelay choice in this list, supplements one of my all-time favourite stages, the Clock Tower – which I'm sure everyone will recognise and Revenge from Castlevania: The Adventure on Game Boy. I remember the stage this music is associated with less than fondly as the difficulty was brutal (I was about 7 at the time and I shed a few tears of frustration thanks to those damned precision jumps!), but the track that plays with it lives long in the memory for other reasons.

F-Zero - Big Blue
A day at the beach in your futuristic motor vehicle, soaking up the sun and flashing a wink at the near naked honeys as you blast past them at 1,000 miles per hour on your way to an F-Zero championship trophy. How could things get any better? By having this song playing as you do so. An absolute corker of a tune. I chose the SNES version as my favourite.

Obviously video game music is subjective and people will have wildly varying opinions on the offerings I have laid forth in this blog. Do you agree with my choices or not? Do you hate any of the songs on this list and if so, why?

Now is your chance – what are your favourite original video game musical tracks? I'm very excited to read and hear other people’s choices!