REVIEW: Rocket League (Nintendo Switch)

  • Released: 2017 (2015 when originally on PC and PS4)
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4
  • Time to get into: 5 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 10 Hours, but that’s not really the point!
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local and online

Every now and again someone comes along and does something so simple so well, that the rest are left to sit about wondering how they didn’t manage to nail it. Psyonix‘s Rocket League is the best example of this in gaming in recent times. The set up seems so obvious – it’s football with cars (or soccer, depending on where you are in the world!) – but this simplicity of concept hides a rock solid and surprisingly complex video game that is fun regardless of your set up, skill level or commitment. It truly is a game for everyone.2018013013152800-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0

Can I kick it?
From my own experience and from observing others the chances are for your first couple games of Rocket League you will have very little clue what is going on! Maybe once or twice the ball hits your car but essentially you are just driving around, very much on the fringes of the match taking place around you. This is fine, because you are just at the start of a long journey of learning, piece by piece, the intricacies that are built around the basic concept of bunting the ball into the goal. One by one the ideas of driving, boosting, jumping, collecting boost pickups, double jumping etc etc will slot into place in your head and eventually become second nature. All of these aspects work brilliantly together and thankfully Rocket League gives you plenty of space to play and enjoy at whatever stage you are at. The offline ‘Season‘ mode gives you a safe playground to develop your skills early on. To start with it’ll be a surprise when you win on Rookie difficulty but eventually it’ll be a surprise when you lose on All-Star. By then you’ll be more than ready to start getting into the real meat of this experience: online matches.2018013013261300-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0

Yes, you can
Rocket League‘s wonderfully smooth and rewarding difficulty curve will only continue when you venture online to play against real people. Further nuances come out of the woodwork; the best defensive lines to take, timing, rocket flying and more. The online experience itself is also second to none. The matches are as solid as your internet connection, easy to get into and you have plenty of options of how you want to play. Really, it puts to shame the online offerings of many blockbuster games. Aside from the standard game (‘Soccar‘!) you can also indulge in some Hoops (basketball with cars) or Snow Day (ice hockey with cars), a game called Dropshot, that is almost impossible to explain to the uninitiated – but it’s fantastic, and more. And most of these different modes you can play 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4. 4v4 is literally called ‘Chaos‘ in the game, and the name is apt! All of this can be played offline, online casual or online competitive. No matter what you want out of Rocket League – it has it.2018020113301500-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0

Go on then
As if a fantastic, deep video game with options to make sure everyone can enjoy it the way the like wasn’t enough, Rocket League completes the circle with a little sprinkling of magic – customisation. Firstly there is the simple choice of which ‘battle car’ you will choose. I have previously gone through a few of mine and The Boy‘s favourites (here) but once again, there will be something for everyone. There are a number of standard cars, one or two that are unique to the format you are playing on (for example Xbox One has a UNSC Warthog, Switch has Mario and Luigi cars etc) and quite a number that are available as additional purchases. None of the cars are technically better than the others, but you’ll want to choose one that matches your play style. After that you can customise the paint job, things to put on it, the look and sound of the boost and much more. Each type has a few available at the start and over time you unlock more and more as you play. Scoring goals and winning matches is already super rewarding and these unlockables are the icing on the cake.2018013018154700-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0

Conclusion
There is basically nothing wrong with Rocket League at all! The only thing holding it back from getting towards the summit of my All Time Top Games List is that it is relatively narrow in scope – it’s all about driving a car into a huge ball. But that scope isn’t so small that it is restrictive and the focus on it has given us a flawless game that is deserving of being played by every gamer. Not only that, but it is a bargain as well! Just get it, end of.

Review5

Click here to purchase the game on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:
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REVIEW: Super Beat Sports

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: –
  • Time to get into: 5 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 10 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local only

At the end of the day, video games are meant to be fun, right? Sure, that fun takes many forms – competition, enjoying a great story, being scared witless even. But sometimes it’s great to have a game that is just fun for fun’s sake – in steps Super Beat Sports. I find it impossible to play this game without a massive grin on my face from beginning to end! Whether playing alone with headphones or in a long and loud 4-player session, Super Beat Sports just brings joy. It’s fantastic.2018011618115400-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

As you’ll know if you caught my first impressions post on this game, Super Beat Sports – as the name suggests, in fact – combines sports with a music rhythm game. It’s from Harmonix, the company that makes the Rock Band series. In Super Beat Sports though, instead of hitting drum beats or guitar notes you are hitting a baseball with all manner of different bats. Here lies it’s instant appeal – both sports and rhythm come, at least somewhat, naturally to everyone. Smashing a baseball out of the park, on the beat – it’s not a difficult concept to grasp, but it is an absolute ton of fun to nail perfectly over and over again! Within Super Beat Sports there are five mini-games. Each asks you to do a variation on the same sports-in-rhythm concept but the differences are worth digging into separately.2018011013373400-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

Whacky Bat: 1-2 players, has single player levels
This is the mini-game that mostly closely resembles actual baseball. One or more characters ‘pitch’ balls at you and you have to make sure you’re in the right lane to then hit them back, in time with the music. This is probably the strongest mini-game for the long term – it’s the one that has kept me interested for the longest playing by myself. The harder levels increase the number of lanes and make you keep a hold of two different rhythms at times as the balls come down at different speeds. It’s brilliant.2018011617594900-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

Net Ball: 1-2 players, has single player levels
This game has nothing to do with netball at all. It’s musical volleyball instead. Compared to Whacky Bat it removes the need to move at all but makes up for it with less warning when it will be your turn to play the ball. The joy here is in the melody you create by nailing it, rather then being locked into the rhythm.2018011618031600-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

Gobble Golf: 1-2 players, has single player levels
This is more of a memory game – you get played the rhythm and then have to hit the ball in the right places to replicate it. As such it introduces aiming but it is the weakest of the games with single player levels to work through, as it goes by slower than the others. Really only good for multiplayer.2018011618101500-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

Buddy Ball: 1-4 players, multiplayer only
This is the best multiplayer experience in the game as you can play with a full 4 players and it’s very easy to pick up. You are taking turns to hit the ball back and you can aim to hit it to different characters to change the speed and try and catch out the next player. The musical part of it starts to take back seat as you add players but it is still part of the overall feel.2018011618132100-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

Rhythm Racket: 1-4 players, multiplayer only
This is the most complex mini-game and the one we’ve played the least. It can work well at times but here the musical element has almost completely gone and been replaced by more gameplay elements, so it loses something of the simple joy that the sports/music mashup creates. Still good, but only as an option – not your go-to mini-game.2018011618183000-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

Still a 5-trick pony
All of this said, there is one caveat with Super Beat Sports. It’s such fun but, perhaps consequently, does lack depth. Sure, they ramp up the difficulty, but essentially, once you know how to play each game that’s it. This is where it’s strength as a multiplayer title comes in. Playing Whacky Bat with The Boy and laughing as we end up stood on each others heads, or getting into arguments over a game of 4-player Buddy Ball – everything that you’ve ever loved about local multiplayer is here in abundance and never gets old.2018011618205300-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

Conclusion
The simple fact is that, at this price, this game would be fine if it only included the Whacky Bat game. Everything else can be seen as a bonus. There’s no way to find so much unbridled fun, particularly with friends, anywhere near this price. There’s a demo on the Switch eShop – I defy you to play that and not want to get the game! Fully recommended to anyone with a Nintendo Switch.Review5

Top 5 Rocket League Showroom Battle Cars: Monthly Roundup January 2018

I’m looking to do a ‘Top 5’ style Round-Up each month in 2018, so here goes – Top 5 Rocket League Showroom Battle Cars! Just squeezing into the month on the 31st.

 

When The Boy and I got Rocket League on the Switch we set about collecting all the cars from the ‘Showroom‘. These are downloadable cars that you can buy for a small fee. Some are just additional standard battle cars – these are included in the Collectors Edition of the game if you have/pick up that. Then there are some licensed ones from different brands, as you’ll see below. The Boy and I have hammered it out and decided on our Top 5, as follows:

#1 – ’70 Dodge Charger R/T2018012313225400-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0
This is a licensed car from the Fast and the Furious movie franchise. I confess I have pulled rank over The Boy to make this #1 as this has become my go-to car. What I am looking for in a battle car is a good balance of speed and heft. I want to be able to go as fast as I can but I find a few of the very fastest cars a bit lightweight. With the ’70 Dodge Charger I get there pretty fast and I hit the ball pretty hard.

#2 – Dominus2018012313235400-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0
This is a standard battle car, rather than a licensed one. It’s one of the fastest in the game and the one The Boy uses most. He loves the speed and it certainly seems to work for him. If you can cope with the pace, it’s a great choice.

#3 – Twin Mill III2018012313230400-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0
This one is on our list to represent the Hot Wheels licensed cars. The Boy‘s favourite toys are Hot Wheels so the chance to combine that love with video games is great for him. Twin Mill looks like a strong car but actually it’s strength is more in it’s speed.

#4 – Batmobile2018012313233700-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0
This car is licensed from the recent Batman vs Superman movie and when we were waiting for Rocket League to be released on the Switch, The Boy was totally obsessed with it. It’s a great choice in game but actually his love of it didn’t last long as it can’t be customised – other than the accent colour none of the cool toppers or decals you collect in the game can be applied to it. We still come back to it fairly often though.

#5 – DeLorean Time Machine2018012313234100-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0
This car needs no introduction to those of my generation! Still my favourite movie car, from the Back To The Future trilogy from the late 80s. Although, like the Batmobile, it can’t be customised, I still come back to it a lot thanks to the attention to detail in the design. My favourite part? When you have no boost but press the boost button, the sound effect is direct from the movies. Perfection.

Bonus: Road Hog – Painted Cobalt2018012313245900-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0
In addition, buying new ones from the showroom isn’t the only way to get your hands on new battle cars. The Boy managed to trade a bunch of the stuff we’ve gathered over time from playing for this special version of the Road Hog car. It’s painted cobalt which means that some parts of it don’t change colour when customised, leading to a car of 3 colours instead of just two. Great fun!

Click here to purchase the collector’s edition (with a lot of the showroom cars included) on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:

 

Of course, spending all of this real world money does mean that the game is more expensive but when a game this good is this cheap (look out for my review soon!), a small amount of money here and there has been a fun treat, rather than an extra charge that doesn’t seem fair. If only more DLC could be arranged in such a way!

Have you picked up any of the showroom cars for Rocket League? Or have you bought other DLC in small increments like this in other games? Let us know in the comments below.

REVIEW: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: –
  • Time to get into: 30 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 35 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local only

There’s more or less no way in which a mash up of Mario and Rabbids should work. Mario – a beloved, veteran character of the video game industry – and Rabbids – those reviled, childish troublemakers. The fact that it works, and works so well, is a testament both to Nintendo for being willing to put their biggest asset at risk and to Ubisoft for making sure that the injection of the Rabbids was done with respect for the Magic Kingdom and it’s characters. Fans of Mario, fans of the Rabbids and, frankly, fans of video games, should all find this turn-based strategy game both challenging and hilarious.

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The power of three
The majority of your time is spent in turn-based battles with rogue rabbids. You have one move with each of your three chosen characters in every turn and each of those moves is in three parts – movement, attack and special abilities. Movement can be used in defence – for example, hiding Mario behind cover – or attack – like having Peach slide tackle, or ‘dash‘, an enemy. Attack is much as it sounds; get out a weapon and try and cause damage to the enemies. Lastly abilities can be anything from boosting teammate’s health, gaining extra power for a turn or putting up a defensive shield and many more in between. The main bulk of the game is in learning how each of these different attacks and abilities work for each of your characters and then working out how to unleash them in the best way to eliminate the enemies you face. It’s all surprisingly deep and complex for a game full of bright colours and craziness and that combination of challenging gameplay and fun characters is Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle‘s core appeal. In the end I preferred a team of Mario (you can’t change him, but in fairness he’s great anyway), Rabbid Peach (thanks to her team-healing ability) and Peach (once well upgraded, her weapons cause widespread damage) but you’ll be able to play your way, and have fun finding out what that way is.

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What’s happening?
In addition to the battles, the main game offers up puzzle elements and wraps it all in a story line that serves to give all this a point but never takes on any significance of it’s own. In truth, that works well as the stop-start nature of a stream of turn-based battles would make complex story telling difficult. Instead the story is essentially a setting in which to place Mario and the Rabbids – it helps control the fun, if you will. Most of this is down to Beep-O. I won’t try to explain who or what Beep-O is here – you’ll have to find that out for yourself – but Beep-O brings a degree of order to the chaos and drives proceedings along. It’s through this that the game keeps a lid on the potential madness of having tonnes of both good and bad Rabbids marauding through the Magic Kingdom. Lastly, the puzzle elements are mostly fun and only one did I find difficult enough that it became frustrating. It’s mostly moving blocks around in particular orders or lining up paths to travel down. What they do well is serve to break up what might otherwise be the monotony of battle-battle-battle. They are a refreshing change and don’t outstay their welcome.

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Battles with friends
Outside of the main, single player, game, we also have two kinds of multiplayer here – co-op and versus. These both take place in arenas very similar, although not copied out of, the main game. Otherwise there is very little difference on a fundamental level to the gameplay here but the additional level of planning needed and the further things that can be pulled off in the co-op levels are an extra treat. The Boy and I have enjoyed these levels greatly; seeing how far we can jump, how many enemies we can take out in a single turn etc by working together. It’s a shame there isn’t a full co-op campaign but that is more a reflection that I want more of a great game than a criticism of what’s being offered here.

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Conclusion
2017 was completely full of great games and it is a fairly big surprise to see something with the Rabbids in being included in that! But the combination of the charm of Mario and the madness of the Rabbids, all baked into a great turn-based strategy game is amongst the best in one of the best years. It continues to be supported too – The Boy and I are also very excited for the upcoming introduction of Donkey Kong that was revealed in the recent Nintendo Direct Mini! Now is just as good a time as any to jump onto this crazy bandwagon.

Review5

Click here to purchase the game on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:

Happy New Year – let the gaming continue!

I’ve had an unexpected fortnight off from this blog to open 2018. With all the busyness of the Christmas break and then going back to normal life I didn’t have time to think about writing. The Boy and I did have time to play games however! As such, there is plenty for me to get my teeth into and write about through the rest of January. So, what can you look forward to from The Gamer Boys in the coming weeks? Read on.

Rocket League (Switch)2018011008294900-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0
We will have a review of this soon but, spoiler alert – it’s awesome! Of course it would be nice if you would read our review when it’s ready but really – don’t wait for that, just buy it. It’s going to be fairly high up on my all-time top games list. Something else we did was finally buy all the additional battle cars from the showroom, so I think I’ll put together a post about some of them – some are fantastic, and when such a great game is is so cheap, spending small chunks of money on DLC is no problem. See my First Impressions here.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle2018010308503700-9600BAE614E6833B1A261F5FB229CDBA
I have completed this game now, and it is wonderful. Somewhat odd, but once you get past that it’s just a really good game. The combination of the crazy Rabbids in the whimsical Mushroom Kingdom hides how deep the gameplay is. I’m sure it’s not as in-depth as some strategy games but it requires enough thought and planning to keep it intriguing and interesting all the way through. I wonder if a sequel, or at least further Ubisoft/Nintendo collaboration, could be in the works. Review forthcoming!

Cuphead10-01-2018_07-25-45.png
I was given this game for Christmas and have been loving it so far. Of course, all the talk about this game is about how difficult it is. I will be no different! It is willfully hard for the sake of being hard – perhaps that is a subject worth looking at on this blog too. I’m currently just at the end of World 1 out of 4 so First Impressions will be up on the site very soon.

NBA Playgrounds (Switch)2018010918174200-4A1B5A3AF288537CEBE6559E7DFB000B
An ‘Enhanced Edition’ of this popped up on the eShop the other day. There’s a new set of tournament games to play through so I thought why not give it a go?! It’s still just as much fun as it was before although there’s nothing new enough to mean a change to what I said in my original review. Still – even more worth picking up now if you haven’t already!

In other news
I’ve got some other ideas to make The Gamer Boys blog less random, like a monthly round up of a ‘Top 5 “somethings” in gaming’ and other regular series like that. Let me know your thoughts on them when they start appearing! Otherwise, let us know what you’ve been playing at the start of 2018 in the comments below. Happy New Year!

Reflections on 2017 – What an amazing year for gaming!

What an amazing year for gaming 2017 has been! There have been so many fantastic games released, across multiple platforms and genres. Early this year, when I began writing about the games The Boy and I were playing, I had no idea what a good time it was to start this blog! We’ve also been lucky with the retro games we’ve played, whether they were just catch up from 2016 or older games we’d never previously got around to. I have added more games to my All-Time Top Games List this year than any year before – 10 games have been good enough to get 5 stars here.lozbotw1

So here’s a roundup of the year, in reviews and awards. Please note that if your favourite game isn’t mentioned, just remember that I have probably just not caught up with it yet (Super Mario Odyssey, I’m looking at you). I’ll do a backlog catchup post later in the week to round up those.

2017 Reviews (by score and then chronologically)
5*
Forza Horizon 3
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Old Man’s Journey
Minecraft
Horizon Zero Dawn
Super Mario Galaxy
Madden NFL 18
Gears of War 4
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

4*
New Super Mario Bros 2
Puyo Puyo Tetris
Dirt 4
Fast RMX
Sonic Mania
FIFA 18 (Switch)

3*
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Super Bomberman R
NBA Playgrounds
Gone Home
Gran Turismo Sport
Hue

2*
Magikarp Jump

2017 Awards:
Best Game: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wildlozbotw2
It was my desire to write about how good Breath of the Wild was that originally sparked the idea to start some kind of blog. This game is just endlessly entertaining, I genuinely never wanted it to stop.
Runner Up: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
There have been many great Mario Kart games over the years but with 8 Deluxe, Nintendo have perfected the formula. And for local multiplayer, there’s no better thing.

Best Platform: Nintendo Switch
switchIt’s not hard to see why the Switch wins out here given the best game awards above! But in its first year it’s fair to give the console some bonus points for the genius of its design and the ability to play anywhere anyhow, as well.
Runner Up: Xbox One.
This was a close run thing as both Xbox One and PS4 had 2 great exclusives in 2017. The PS4 loses out because it also had the biggest disappointment of the year (see below).

Best Multiplayer Game: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe2017050713184900-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
As mentioned above, there is nothing even close to this for local multiplayer – in years, in fact, not just this year. It is absolute fun and the great combination of punch-the-air wins and heartbreaking losses only gets better with friends.
Runner Up: NBA Playgrounds
With Mario Kart dominating local multiplayer this year I turn to online multiplayer for the runner up. When I found a likeminded opponent who also wanted to play spectacularly – rather than just win – these games were exciting and ridiculous.

Most Unexpectedly Great Game: Madden NFL 1807-10-2017_22-39-27
I fully expected this to be just another annual edition of Madden until I played the new Longshot story mode. It was absolutely brilliant and elevated a good game to great.
Runner Up: Minecraft
I’d been avoiding Minecraft for ages – wasn’t sure if would be ‘my kind of game’. I was wrong. It’s fantastic and I spent untold amounts of hours being creative in it.

Wooden Spoon – Worst Disappointment: Gran Turismo SportGran Turismo™SPORT_20171020214155
Never before has a game given me something so good – in this case, the car handling model – and then given me no reason at all to enjoy it. Very disappointing.
Runner Up: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
After I really loved the first Mirror’s Edge I was looking forward to this. Sadly, whilst it maintained the enjoyable free running, it lost its heart and its storytelling.

First Impressions: Rocket League (Nintendo Switch)

This. Game. Is. Awesome! The Boy and I have absolutely played the life out of it since it came out on the Switch, having dipped our toes in it before but always in the knowledge that it was out on Nintendo’s console before the end of the year. Now it’s here and, despite a flaw that is obvious from your first game, everything about it is brilliant – and just as good as it is on the other formats.2017112008194200-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0

Let’s get the elephant in the room out on the table from the get go. There are parts of the Switch version that look, frankly, awful. Perhaps Psyonix will be able to fix this over time as they get to know the console better but the need to maintain a solid frame rate in frantic battles means that in some of the arenas the resolution drops to near-Wii levels. It’s a real shame but to be fair, it’s only a cosmetic issue. The gameplay is unaffected – and what gameplay it is.2017112017512100-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0

It’s such a simple concept – cars bashing into a huge ball to try and score goals. The real genius though is in what is built around that – jumping, boosting, double jumping, flying etc. However good you are at the game you’re always seeing others do stuff that you can only dream of…. until you learn those techniques and discover new ones that amaze you!

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I can also forgive the sometimes nasty visuals because if that is the price to pay for having Rocket League in my hands in handheld mode then I will happily pay it. Some games are just made to be in your hands and this is one of them – the chaos, the clashes and the bumping of the ball all work so well in handheld mode. It feels very immediate and visceral. 

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That said, it works just as well on TV. I think multiplayer might become the go-to local multiplayer in our house for 2018. Online is also fantastic – exactly the same service as the other consoles and you have cross play with Xbox One and PC players too. All round, this is amazing stuff – it’s so cheap so just get on with purchasing it! 

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