Those who never embraced Sony’s portable console will have likely missed out on the superb puzzler ‘Archer Maclean’s Mercury’ and its follow-up ‘Mercury Meltdown’. Although the latter saw a release on the PlayStation 2, and a further sequel appeared on the Wii, the series has finally made the leap to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as a downloadable title.
It has been seven years since the last Dungeons and Dragons game was released for consoles. This new downloadable offering from Bedlam Games and Wizards of the Coast returns us to the forgotten realms in search of gold, adventure and probably a few goblins to kill as well.
Back in 2009 Ghostbusters was thrust back into the minds and consoles of gamers across the globe with the not-very-imaginatively titled ‘Ghostbusters: The Video Game’. It reminded people of the charm and wit found in the franchise while garnering a lot of positive reviews. So in 2011 Atari have decided to bring a brand new downloadable Ghostbusters game to the masses and hopefully reap the rewards of the renewed interest in spirit capturing.
In essence Swarm is a basic platformer where the aim is to navigate from one end of the level to the other, picking up collectable items to score points along the way. Of course standing in between the character and the end goal are the usual obstacles, pitfalls, puzzles and annoying enemies. Simple, right? Not quite.
Set in a fiery, rubble-strewn vision of hell, Swarm’s premise surrounds a multitude of little blue blob like creatures known as ‘swarmites’ who must help their mother grow. This is done by collecting purple gems which equal points and unlock levels. According to the game this is because she needs a new hat, a giant amorphous blue blob with a hat? Who’d have thought?
Unlike the majority of platform games it’s not just the level that makes the game challenging but also the swarmites, which despite their numbers move, jump and perform a variety of manoeuvres as one. Needless to say some will meet their doom and go to the great swarm in the sky. These can however these can be replaced at re-spawn points dotted around the level. Lose all of them and it’s back to the last checkpoint, although the more spectacular deaths earn the player a slightly pointless but nonetheless rewarding death medal.
It’s one particular movement, in which the swarmites separate out and come together using LT and RT respectively that provides the most unique challenge. Separate out and the blobs can collect more gems, however they’re more susceptible to the dangers of the level. Stay close together and you’re more protected but much slower and unable to collect gems as quickly. So it soon becomes obvious to alter in between the two in order to navigate the level in the quickest yet safest manner possible.
Swarm’s control scheme is an intriguing and fun addition to the typical platformer, however a major issue soon appears – the scoring system. The concept has been used previously; multiple gems in quick succession earn a multiplier alongside points. The more gems picked up, the higher the multiplier and the bigger the score. However the obscenely high score required to unlock each subsequent level and relatively steep difficulty curve sap any potential fun the unique gameplay might have had. Challenging levels are part of video gaming and are welcome, but to set the bar so high to the point where each level requires 20-30 plays is almost guaranteed to make even the most determined gamer switch off their console.
This is keenly demonstrated in the differences between the third and fourth levels. The third is a twist of flaming mazes, red-hot jumps, bottomless falls and almost inescapable enemies. An extremely difficult but not quite impossible level in which to rack up that multiplier and earn the points required. The fourth level is much the same, but in the dark, guaranteed to make any difficult situation even more difficult. It seems that the developers recognized the amount of plays the game required and introduced the aforementioned death medals to appease the player slightly. It doesn’t work.
Swarm has potential; it’s distinctive and somewhat charming characters in the blue blobs and the unique controller scheme used to manoeuvre make for a fun gaming experience. However, while nothing is more rewarding than at last reaching that point total and completing a level, the controller-smashing frustration of the numerous attempts it takes to do it really isn’t worth the effort. Set the bar lower or make the course easier, one or the other. Otherwise Swarm will scare people off in their droves.
Dragon Age II isn’t a direct continuation of 2009’s Origins title but does happen to be set in the same world. The focus this time is on the adventures of Hawke, a former resident of the land of Fereldan, who players join as he flees the deadly Blight with his family. He then takes up residence in the nearby town of Kirkwall where events unfold further.
Back in 2009 Killzone 2 arrived on the PlayStation 3 to rave reviews and offered up a different type of First Person Shooter (FPS) experience to that offered in the reigning king of FPS – the Call of Duty series. Focusing more on an uphill struggle on a futuristic alien planet, superb gritty visuals and an intense class based multiplayer. This gained a huge following and a sequel was almost inevitable. So have they managed to build on their superb foundations or will they succumb to the usual FPS trend of barely improving the formula?
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, MMORPGs for short, have been hugely popular with PC gamers with up to 12 million subscribers signed up as of October 2010 to the market dominating title – World of Warcraft. It’s no surprise that console developers want to get a slice of this action and reap the rewards of a monthly pay-to-play system. Sony Online Entertainment have set out to do this on the PlayStation 3 by joining forces with the comic giant DC. However when limited to the layout of a DualShock controller will they manage to succeed or is the console world not yet ready for an MMORPG?
The first Dead Space arrived somewhat silently in 2008 but soon won the admiration of both gamers and critics alike with its haunting atmosphere, unique limb dismemberment mechanic, gripping story and satisfying third person gameplay. A sequel was almost inevitable but this time around the anticipation was far greater and developers Visceral Games certainly had a heavy burden placed on their shoulders to satisfy current fans and perhaps win over some new ones.
The Need For Speed franchise has been waning in recent years. It was once the king of street racing, however a number of less than successful games saw it’s name sullied. Despite the progress made in last year’s Need for Speed: Shift, a game which saw the series take a driving simulator stance, gamers have still been waiting for a return to it’s cops and robbers, arcade roots. Fortunately, fresh from their success with Burnout Paradise, Criterion Games were more than willing to take up the cause.
With Microsoft’s entry into the motion controlled world of gaming, Kinect – already proving to be a successful venture, Virtual Air Guitar Company decided it was time to make a game that shows off the potential of the PlayStation Eye camera. Kung-Fu Live attempts to bring full body tracking and controller-less action to the PlayStation Store but does it succeed?
It’s very rare that a game releases at a specific time of year to match its content. This however is the case with Costume Quest, the latest offering from Double Fine Productions, who have timed their downloadable title to match the spooky holiday of Halloween.
Wrestling games have always been somewhat ironic. Everyone knows that the real thing is always scripted and predetermined. Wrestling games have done completely the opposite. They encourage the violence and arguably offer a deeper sense of realism then the actual WWE live show provides. Maybe this is best reflected in the games rating (certificate 15) where as the real world programme has shifted to a PG certificate. Still THQ have a job on their hands to prove that Smackdown vs Raw is still the champion, even against their own competition in UFC.