REVIEW: Meteorfall: Journeys

  • Released: 2018
  • Played on: Android
  • Also available on: iOS
  • Time to get into: 30 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 10 Hours
  • Multiplayer: No

I’ve talked before about how mobile games should shed any attempt to match their console and computer cousins and focus on what’s good about mobile gaming. We’ve had some great examples, like Super Mario Run or Old Man’s Journey but now perhaps the perfect example of how to build a game for mobile – Meteorfall: Journeys. It takes it’s style and it’s genre and makes them not just work for mobile, but work beautifully. We’re left with a deep and easy to play game that will keep you hooked to your phone for ‘just one more try’ for hours on end.screenshot_20180206-121804.png

Meteorfall: Journeys is a roguelike fantasy RPG built into a card game. You collect cards from various sources and use the powers those cards give you to defeat monsters, bosses and finally the main boss to beat the game. All of this is procedurally generated, so no play through is the same as any other and the meat of the game is based around a combination of planning how you want to build up your card deck and rolling with the punches that the game throws at you. There are 2 basic restraints placed on your efforts to smash all who come before you. Firstly, health – staying alive is key as there are no second chances – die and you are start all over again with a fresh pack. Secondly, stamina – each card you want to play takes a certain amount of effort for your character to deploy and you manage this by skipping cards to regain some stamina points. Some cards use this in a different way by having ‘charges’ instead of stamina points but the principle of always making sure you are in a position to play the most important cards remains the same.screenshot_20180211-132336.png

Around this base gameplay are the RPG and very light story elements. You can upgrade and/or buy better cards over the course of a play through or even give away cards. This isn’t as crazy as it may first seem – the key to getting to the final boss and winning is building a pack of cards that compliment each other and work for your play style. More of a defensive player? By the end your healing cards need to be giving you big chunks of health back to keep you going. Conversely for the more attacking player you had better be dealing huge amounts of damage for each card you play by the end or it’s not going to be enough. Story wise, Meteorfall: Journeys keeps it to a minimum – you are fighting through the hoards to reach and defeat the Uberlich and save the world. You can choose one of four characters but that really only affects the way you want to play, the narrative, such as it is, doesn’t change.screenshot_20180211-132715.png

Stay Mobile
None of this is new, I realise. This it entirely standard fare for almost any RPG, certainly any roguelike and isn’t new as a card game. Why this game is so good if how easy it is to play on your phone. It’s almost like Meteorfall: Journeys is what smartphone’s were designed for in the first place! All joking aside, it’s works like a dream – almost every action is either a left swipe to skip or a right swipe to choose. There are a few things that need you to actually press on the screen but most of your playthroughs with just be right-right-right-left-right-etc. It’s a thing of true design beauty. Not that this makes the game any easier to win. Make no mistake, the individual games you play might be fairly short, as any good card game should be, but if you are going to win out you’ll be playing for quite a while. In fact if anything, how easy to it is to physically play almost draws you into hasty mistakes when you should have thought more carefully about your next moves.screenshot_20180214-135257.png

All of this combines into a deep and challenging card-based RPG that is super smooth to play. You can pop out your phone for a single turn whilst waiting in a queue or sit down at home for a play session and anything in between. It’s not even mired with adverts and in-app purchases – a very small one-off price gets you into this world and you’re not going to find it easy to get yourself out!


First Impressions: Gravel

Sometimes creators – whether we are talking about games, movies, anything to be fair – will absolutely aim for the stars. They will go all-out to nail the top shelf – and sometimes they make it, sometimes they don’t. On other occasions however, something is created just to be enjoyable – no delusions of grandeur, just looking to put smiles on people’s faces. I feel like Milestone – last seen with the woeful MotoGP 17 – has done the latter with Gravel. In review-parlance they’ve not attempted to make a 5-star game – they’ve gone out to make a 3-star game and they’ve nailed it. It might not win any awards or be in the conversation for game of the year but in the meantime anyone who plays it will have had a lot of fun!03-03-2018_19-07-09

It very much reminds me of Rallisport Challenge, which was a launch game for the original Xbox back in 2002. That game also walked the line between realism and fun by having loads of proper licensed off-road racing cars but not making you worry too much about things like braking as you slid around turns. It was a good combination then and it still works now. There’s also an interesting comparison with the last rally game I played – Dirt 4. I said in the review of that game that whilst the main rallying part worked really well, the other race types and modes were lacking. Well, Gravel is what the rest of Dirt 4 should have been – high octane, exciting racing. Gravel is the punk rock to Dirt 4′s indie rock. It’s loud, simple and effective.03-03-2018_19-06-54.png

I haven’t yet played online, but I can imagine it will be fantastic based on what I’ve played in single player. The career mode is called ‘Off-Road Masters‘ and it based around the idea of beating the current champions in various racing disciplines. One thing I do like is the lack of cones in the time trials! In every other racing game I really hate the races where you are forced to weave in and out of a set of randomly positioned cones. Here instead, those checkpoints are signs that you have to smash through. Try and go through the green arrows as either hitting the red cross or missing them entirely will damage your time! It’s a refreshing and enjoyable change.03-03-2018_19-07-43

Graphically, Gravel is nothing to particularly write home about but again it is just right. The tracks may not be as crisp and detailed as some other modern racing games but they do what they need to do. One of the main things that has stuck with me playing this so far is the mud – slipping and sliding about in it and collecting it all over my car by the end of the races. Even if it looks only ok, it feels great. Same for the car models – they feel slightly like cartoons as they have less detail then we have gotten used to recently but actually that just adds to the fun factor – who doesn’t want to jump into this retro Impreza and skid it through the mud?03-03-2018_19-07-34.png

This game is an absolute blast. I grabbed it on release day without looking at any reviews – surely a recipe for disaster – but so far I have zero regrets. If you are looking for a truly polished and technically outstanding game maybe look elsewhere but if you are looking for fun on four wheels then Gravel won’t disappoint you.

Click here to purchase the game on disc for Xbox One from

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REVIEW: Frederic: The Resurrection of Music & Frederic 2: Evil Strikes Back

  • Released: 2012
  • Played on: iOS
  • Also available on: Android, PC, Mac, Switch
  • Time to get into: 5 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 3 Hours
  • Multiplayer: No

An entirely bonkers story, occasionally odd voice acting and a lack of variety in gameplay simply cannot stop Frederic: Resurrection of Music from being fun. Playing some great musical numbers on a touchscreen keyboard is an enjoyable experience that simply doesn’t get old and that holds up some of the slightly more lacklustre parts. I don’t intend to sit through the animated story ever again, but the game has definite replay value – I shall not rest until I have 100% accuracy on every song.img_0022.png

The game is split almost exactly into two parts; watching the animated story and playing the actual music. Let’s look at the story first. Simply put; it’s not bad. It really doesn’t make any sense – I always try and avoid spoilers here but I could explain the whole story and it wouldn’t make any more sense to you! Suffice to say that the legendary Polish composer Frederic Chopin has been brought back to life and travels the world having musical duels with various enemies.

I know, just go with it.

The whole thing is animated in a distinct, comic book-influenced style complete with full voice acting. I can imagine that building this part of the game took as much, if not more effort that the gameplay itself. In that sense, it’s pretty impressive. Overall, I found that the story did just enough to keep me engaged and entertained. I wasn’t loving it, but I did want to find out what happened, so I didn’t take the option to skip at any point. Frederic himself does enough to make you sympathetic for him, if not empathetic with him.IMG_0041.PNG

Resurrection of Music
If you wish, all of that can exist completely separately from the game itself. Here is where Frederic: Resurrection of Music hits it’s stride. The set up is a touchscreen keyboard and the songs you play are remixes of actual Chopin works, complete with the original title of the work in question. The only relation this bears to the story is that each work is remixed into a different genre, as befits where Chopin finds himself in the story. It must be said though, that it feels like the story comes after the music – I didn’t feel that any of the tracks had been artificially changed to fit into a certain style of music for the purposes of the narrative. For the vast majority of the time, I really enjoyed the music and really enjoyed playing it. It also inspired me to go and listen to recordings of some of the original compositions!IMG_0023.PNG

The game is very responsive to the touchscreen inputs – more than most rhythm games I really felt like I was playing the music. It should really be considered a ‘melody’ game, rather than a rhythm game as a result. It works really well and keeps me coming back to tackle better and better scores. So far, I have 100% accuracy on a few of the tracks but it’s going to be a lot more effort to really nail the harder settings. I apprecate that the difficulty settings are ‘Too Easy’, ‘Normal’, ‘Hard’ and.. ‘Chopin‘! Easier than trying to explain the gameplay: here’s a video to demonstrate it:

A quick sample of Frederic: Resurrection of Music from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.


Frederic 2: Evil Strikes Back


Please note that I had originally intended to fully review the sequel – Frederic 2: Evil Strikes Back – as well. Unfortunately, that game turned out to actually be the horrible mess that the original could have been, so it’s not worth it. See the end of this post for more details if you really wish!

A somewhat enjoyable story, that is easily skipped after the first time, is the backing to a really fun game of playing music across different genres. It’s best played on a large touchscreen but otherwise I’d recommend it to everyone. It’s half the price of a coffee and will keep you entertained for a long while.

Frederic 2: Evil Strikes Back
This game is simply not worth a full review. Everything that I have said is good about the original is conspicuous by its absence in this ill-advised follow up. I won’t bother with details but basically, this just plumbs the depths to try and keep the formula going and it fails. The story and the voice acting go from OK to horrible and the music falls apart – they are now ‘Chopin-influenced’ pieces and the difference is like night and day. I have kept Resurrection of Music on my iPadEvil Strikes Back I deleted the second I’d finished it. This game only cost me £1 and yet I still say: avoid avoid avoid.Review1


First Impressions: Celeste

Celeste arrived to ridiculous critical acclaim – as I write, of 31 reviews on Metacritic not a single one has given the game below 80 out of 100, and many of them have given full marks. It’s up there in rare company at the top of the Switch lists with Zelda and Mario. As such, I knew I had to play it but outside of the likelihood that I’d enjoy it there wasn’t much I was enthused about. It has retro-inspired graphics, it’s 2D and it was renowned for being crazy difficult – none of which inspired me.2018021508294700-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411

For the first few hours I thought I had been right. The story was interesting enough, without any great drama, and the platforming was certainly challenging but it really only has one mechanic – the Dash – that sets it apart from any other platformer. But then something imperceptibly changed. I don’t think it was the game – I think it just clicked in my mind. Suddenly, Madeline‘s journey up Celeste mountain has become the most wonderful gaming experience I’ve had all year.2018021508321400-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411

There’s a rhythm to each screen. First, jump about a bit and die a few times working out how you can complete it. Secondly, fail at it – over and over and over again. And then again. At this point I’m often wondering if I am cut out for this whole video gaming malarkey, or if I should throw in the towel, sell all my consoles and get a Netflix subscription! However, in the depths of my despair a miraculous thing happens: my understanding of the level and my skill at manoeuvring Madeline finally match up and boom – level complete!2018021613564700-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411

Here is the magic of Celeste – yes it can be super difficult at times, but that always ends up pale in comparison to how rewarding it is to play. I feel like I am really pulling off remarkable things and my main feeling after doing so is hunger for the next challenge, rather than just relief. I am enjoying the game more and more as I get further into it. I’d recommend getting it for whatever platform you have available but if you have the option, go for the Switch version – each screen is a level in itself, so it works perfectly for a five minute blast on the go just as much as a longer session at home.2018021608293800-75A32021BE3512D7AA96B2D72F764411


REVIEW: Gear Club: Unlimited

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Switch
  • Also available on: iOS and Android in free-to-play
  • Time to get into: 30 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 20 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local split-screen and online leaderboards for time trials

Whilst the Nintendo Switch is graced with one of the best racing games ever – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – it has so far lacked any ‘real’ racing. You know the drill; licensed cars, multiple championships… braking! Well, Gear Club Unlimited is here to try and fill that gap. It’s a port of Gear Club from iOS and Android, but with all of the in-app purchases already unlocked. So, can it properly scratch that car-racing itch? Sadly, no – despite there being many impressive things about it at the end of the day the racing is dull and the rest of the package was always going to struggle to recover from that.2018020213051100-F476AB43D70AF863FE443B5546246311

Nice bodywork
Gear Club is, on the face of it, an impressively full featured game. It does lack full online racing – the online element is just time trial leaderboards – but otherwise it has an impressive set of features. You have split screen multiplayer with up to 4 players, including the ability to have 2 AI cars in the race if you are just playing 2 player, as The Boy and I have. The career mode is quite deep too. There are a truly massive amount of races to complete and these are spread nicely across the different car classes, race types and surfaces. More on the cars in a moment but for race types and surfaces we have two each. Most races are street races, where you need to stick to the tarmac, and there are also a few ‘Rally’ races, on less grippy surfaces. Both are settings for standard races – where collisions take place with the other cars – and also time trials where the other cars you race against are ghosts.2018020310533000-F476AB43D70AF863FE443B5546246311

The cars are reasonably impressive too. They are certainly detailed enough to look great and thoroughly recognisable, even if they are far from the ridiculous quality found in Forza Motorsport and the like. Gear Club has licences for a large number of manufacturers, giving you the choice of what to drive from Lotus to Alfa Romeo to BMW. All of these can be tweaked to your heart’s content in your garage. Separate stations for Paint, Tyres, Aerodynamics etc allow you to upgrade your cars to the level required for the next races you want to compete in. It all works smoothly, although the trial of having to move your car from station to station can be annoying after a while. All in all, Gear Club Unlimited contains all the features you would expect from a proper racing game and they more or less work very nicely.2018020708392300-F476AB43D70AF863FE443B5546246311

But nothing under the hood
But then you race. And sadly, the fun does not last long. In fairness, there isn’t too much to be specifically critical about. There are two things that are genuinely janky – the braking and the oversteer. These are two things that really shouldn’t be troublesome in the same racing game. Gear Club has a decidedly arcadey handling style which gives the expectation of being able to slide the back end around a little bit. Instead what you find is uncatchable snap oversteer with no proper cure in game or car settings. You end up having to learn to drive around it – in other words, to drive more sim-style. Which would be OK, if braking actually worked properly. Gear Club Unlimited gives you hardly any feedback on how well you are braking; not visually, audibly or even through controller rumble. As such, you are essentially left to wait, braking as hard as you can, to find out if the car is going to stop in time for the next corner. Without the ability to throw the car around corners, or feel your way into them smoothly, every corner and every race ends up just being a trial.2018020613182500-F476AB43D70AF863FE443B5546246311

Unfortunately, the rest of the racing does nothing to make this any better either. Tracks are dull, colourless and lifeless. The AI is easy to beat – they just stay on their racing line, hardly even battling with each other off the line. On top of this the races are all very very short. Lots of them are over in around a minute, and I don’t remember any that last more than 2 and a half minutes. In theory this could work well for the pick-up-and-play-anywhere joy of the Nintendo Switch but here all it does is increase the sense that you are just plodding along on a treadmill. The grind just goes on and on and doesn’t get anymore interesting.2018020314454600-F476AB43D70AF863FE443B5546246311

There is a lot to like about the package here and to begin with the surprisingly impressive presentation makes up for the boring racing. In the end though, Gear Club Unlimited just never gets good, however long you wait. At the price of a full game, there’s just no way to recommend this – your wait for car racing on the Switch will have to continue.


Click here to purchase the game on cart from

Hot Wheels Race Off – drive to get HW Poppa Wheelie

This post comes to you courtesy of The Boy! He has recently started over on Hot Wheels Race Off on his iPad and he wanted to make a video to put up on the blog. He recently discovered that a cousin of his has Hot Wheels Race Off as well and that has rekindled his excitement for it. IMG_0810

On his first play through I remember saying to him that one particular car – HW Poppa Wheelie – was ridiculous! It stretches the boundaries of the phrase ‘toy car‘ to breaking point. But one way or another he was looking forward to getting it and he let me know that he had only had one more race before he could unlock it. So, without further do – here is the race, enjoy seeing Poppa Wheelie at the end!

Let’s Get HW Poppa Wheelie from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.



REVIEW: Forza Motorsport 7

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Xbox One
  • Also available on: PC
  • Time to get into: 2 Hours
  • Time to complete: 35 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local and online

I wasn’t looking forward to Forza Motorsport 7 as much as you might imagine. After all, I’ve played every game in the series and Forza Motorsport 6 currently ranks as my favourite racing game ever in my All Time Top Games List. Surely I should be highly anticipating it’s sequel? Well, the issue I had is that the Forza Motorsport series has a history of fantastic even-numbered entries and lacklustre odd-numbered entries. FM, FM3 and FM5 have all just been OK games that Turn 10 Studios then nailed at the next attempt with FM2, FM4 and FM6. Would this continue? Well, I’m happy to say it hasn’t! FM7 is an absolutely stonking game – it builds on what was great about it’s predecessor whilst adding great new cars, new tracks and variable weather effects. A couple aspects keep it back from quite eclipsing FM6 entirely, but if you are in the market for a proper racing game on consoles at the moment, there is nothing here that will disappoint you.27-01-2018_10-59-17

Technically technically…
Firstly, let’s get something that should come as no surprise out of the way; this game is a technical marvel. It looks wonderful, sounds fantastic and runs like clockwork. Although there are no significant graphical changes from FM6 to FM7, there’s just a little extra shine on things. The true darkness of a tunnel or the reflections sparkling on bodywork continue to build on the series’ already amazing visuals. It sounds great too – somehow gear shifts and cars crashing into each other sound more visceral and immediate than they have before. All of this runs smoothly the entire time – in all my playing of Forza Motorsport 7 I haven’t noticed a single instance of frame rate drops, let alone any really game-breaking issues. I guess Turn 10 Studios‘ game engine is a well-oiled machine now and they are just adding polish every time. 27-01-2018_11-02-19

All of this is despite two changes that demand more from it – each race now has 24 cars taking part and they have added dynamic weather. In truth, the additional cars don’t really make much difference. Online it’s limited to 12 cars anyway and in single player games, you start around the middle of the pack and are only really looking forward – if you had a bad race, the difference between finishing 12th and 24th is irrelevant. The weather changes are anything but irrelevant, however. FM6 already did a good job of making the cars handle differently in the rain – puddles around the tracks forced you to find new racing lines and you had generally less grip, as you would expect. Now in FM7, this can appear over the course of a race. The general concept of this is great anyway – that you might have to adapt from one lap to the next just increases the realism of the game – but the execution is the best I’ve seen in racing games so far. First, it just looks and sounds awesome! The skies darkening, the rain starting to fall… you even sometimes end up racing in a full blown thunderstorm, with lightening flashing for good measure. The dawn and dusk races with changing light are cool too, if less dramatic. Secondly, it works so well with the gameplay – knowing when to adapt your racing lines for the puddles you know are going to be forming and adjusting your breaking points lap by lap is a great new dynamic. Right now it lacks a drying track – once it has starting raining, it’s here to stay – perhaps they will manage to nail that in FM8.27-01-2018_11-01-43

Not doing anything wrong
Gameplay aside, there have also been significant changes in the single player mode. Rather than just a set of races available to play through, FM7 gives a little context to them in the form of ‘The Forza Driver’s Cup‘. You complete various series to gain experience points and ultimately climb your way up to the pinnacle. This combines nicely with another addition – your avatar. You can choose male or female and then over time you can gain different racing suits so you really can now customise everything in which you’ll be racing. This all does an excellent job of making the thing more personal and giving it a thread that runs through the whole campaign. It’s far from being a ‘story’ mode, but it manages just a little narrative. Once thing that has been lost in this shake up though is the showcases. In FM6 there were absolutely loads of them, including one thing that I particularly missed – endurance races. In FM7 these showcases still exist but it’s a very very few of them, mixed in with the other main races. Where before they felt like a slightly different challenge, they now appear to be little more than a distraction. Finally, collecting cars has been made much more of a thing than it was in the past. As you play through the game and gain cars, you increase your collector level. This opens up more and more cars to be available to you to buy. I guess some might be frustrated with this as it does mean that only a selection of the cars is available at the start of the game. I however, did not notice this as a problem – the races that you can use these cars in are also locked at the beginning of the game – and actually it gave reason to collecting cars. Usually there really isn’t any gain in a racing game to having more than one car at a time but here adding to – both in quantity and quality – your car collection makes the game more fun.27-01-2018_16-24-58

It’s is nice to note as well, that Forza Motorsport 7 actually has a single player mode. It’s main competition on consoles, Gran Turismo Sport on PS4, released with outone – or anything else for you to enjoy it with. See my review here. I believe something for single player has been added as a download since, but that is too little too late now. And you can just play online, without worrying about event timing or your ‘sportsmanship rating’. How nice.

The feels
Other than the small criticisms above of the weather and showcases – which are really just the effects of changes in the Forza formula that otherwise work really well – the only thing letting Forza Motorsport 7 down is the lack of something intangible. It was the same intangible thing being present that elevated FM6 to such heights and it is the overall feeling you get from playing the game that everyone involved in making it just loves cars and racing. Here in FM7 it feels like a more refined version of itself but it reminds me of so many musician’s second albums – the songs can be just as good but they lose a little freshness in the process of that tweaking towards perfection. I feel kind of bad to criticise this game for something I can’t entirely put my finger on, but isn’t it always the case with games that it is how they make us feel in the end that matters? Otherwise, surely the perfect game would already have been made. Perhaps this is just the odd-number thing I mentioned above – FM7 can’t quite break out from that, however well put together it is.721081d3-7cb5-4afe-8154-8a2b562b7975

This game is fantastic. Whatever I might say about how it ‘feels’ it is impossible not to admire and enjoy for any racing fan. If you care for some real racing right now, ignore the others – Forza Motorsport 7 holds the crown.Review5

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