REVIEW: Hue

  • Released: 2016
  • Played on: Xbox One
  • Also available on: PC< PS4, PSVita
  • Time to get into: 10 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 6 Hours
  • Multiplayer: No

Early on in Hue you get the impression that melding its interesting take on puzzlers and platformers with a simple but intriguing story can take it up to the heights of the recent history of indie games. Ultimately, however, it’s imaginative gameplay – like so many good ideas – can’t quite carry it’s ambition. In the last couple hours the story ends in a lacklustre way and the puzzle solving becomes a little stale. That said, it is an enjoyable distraction and definitely worth a look if its main gameplay mechanic interests you.25-11-2017_08-15-19

All the colours
That mechanic is the ability to change the colour of the background of the game. When the background colour and the colour of certain in game objects are the same, they disappear. For example, can’t get past that yellow wall? Make the background yellow and the wall fades into the background, allowing you to continue on your way. It’s a great idea and it’s implemented well. The left stick moves the eponymous character and the right stick changes the colour. The vast amount of the time this mechanic is just used for puzzle solving – traversing an area by getting rid of obstacles or moving a box of a certain colour onto a switch etc. Where it really comes into it’s own though, is when there is a time demand on the colour change. For example, you have to start a jump in one colour and land it in another – this extra tension is when the colour changing dynamic works best.25-11-2017_08-12-15

Story good…
There is also a small and simple story to back up the gameplay. As always on this blog, I will studiously avoid spoilers here but it’s told in an interesting way, slowly unfolding as you collect letters written to you. Early on the developing intrigue keeps you interested – always looking to complete the section so you can hear the next letter. Unfortunately this is one part of what eventually lets Hue down.25-11-2017_08-11-37

… story bad.
In the end you come to realise that the story was only ever a facade to place on top of the game – it carries no weight of it’s own and I found that rather disappointing. It’s not that I expect these short puzzlers to have great stories but if anything it does itself a disservice by pulling you in early on. There’s nothing to back up that early promise. Even when the tone changes slightly towards the end and I thought it was about to kick up a gear… it fades away.25-11-2017_08-11-20

Are you still here?
The other let down in Hue is that we have about 4 hours of gameplay in a 6 hour game. By the end I really was just going through the motions to get the game done. As above, this is a real shame after the early promise. I would have been happier with Hue had it simply been shorter. By the end everything that slowed me down – whether just another repetitive puzzle, or my own mistakes trying to solve them – got very frustrating. But if we ignore those last hours when the game has run out of new ideas the gameplay is absolutely loads of fun.25-11-2017_08-11-55

Verdict
In the end, Hue is a good game, but no more. Despite how it overstays it’s welcome it would be harsh to say it was average as it’s main idea – the colour mechanic – is full of imagination and fun. Equally, it doesn’t have anything else going for it in the end. The decision of whether you should play it really comes down to how intrigued you are by that gameplay device – whether that imaginative idea has captured your imagination. If so, then you’ll be able to look past the rest – if not, don’t get sucked in.Review3

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First Impressions: Super Beat Sports

Not since SSX Tricky back in 2001 have I played a game that is such pure fun! That’s not to say that this game is as good as that one – Tricky is one of my all time favourites. But every time I finish a song in Super Beats Sports I have a huge smile on my face! The combination of sports and music is a fantastic idea and one that I will be dipping into for ages myself and then over and over again playing with friends and family.2017111214561800-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

The premise is pretty simple in Super Beats Sports – you are whacking balls about the place as you would in most any sports title. Here though the timing to get a perfect strike is determined by you locking into the music, just as you would in any rhythm titles like Rock Band 4. It’s a completely genius idea as you get to play sports through each song but get that feeling of satisfaction from nailing a good performance at the end.2017111313472900-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

There are 5 game modes called wonderful things like ‘Whacky Bat‘ and ‘Net Ball‘ – I’ll look at each in more detail when I come to do a full review but my initial impressions are that they are hit and miss (pun entirely intended). Perhaps as I get more into the latter ones I will enjoy them more but there’s a risk with them that they get too complex and that takes away from the sheer joy of the more straight forward modes. Or maybe I just need to get better!2017111215014800-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

The Boy is loving this too. It’s simple enough for him to pick up and play but still a challenge to get into the groove and nail each shot. The way winning is rewarded also appeals to him – you can collect things like different bats and different outfits and you get them faster the better you do. In multiplayer it’s also been a blast for him to add the interaction to the mix as well – not since we were playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe every day earlier in the year has he had a game to consistently play with lots of other people.2017112117470200-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

There’s still a ton for us to do in Super Beat Sports so look out for the full review. I also haven’t got around to checking it out with motion controls Wii-Sports-style yet either – that will probably be hilarious in multiplayer as well. In the meantime it’s fair to say I am totally smitten with this game, if that wasn’t obvious enough already!2017111111315900-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

Reflections on Ashes Cricket

The England Cricket Team are currently ‘down under’ – in Australia – for a test series that is nicknamed ‘The Ashes’. They are rubbish and are getting absolutely hammered by an Australian team that isn’t all that good. They don’t need to be – they just need to be better than their opposition. To coincide with this, we have the video game ‘Ashes Cricket‘. Can playing this game make up for the real life failings of the England team? No. There aren’t any other new cricket games at the moment, so this one has no opposition to beat – and yet I still can’t recommend it.Ashes Cricket_20171122230647

List of things that are good about the England cricket team:

List of things that are good about Ashes Cricket:

Ashes Cricket_20171123224604

Seriously, this game is terrible. It looks awful – it’s so completely bland and uninspiring and the players and umpires look totally unnatural. The gameplay is not intuitive at all, even for someone who has played cricket games in the past. In fact, the only thing I can say struck me as working well was the fielding – but of course you have to have already done some bowling before you get to do that!Ashes Cricket_20171122231507

Batting, which is inevitably the most important part of a cricket game, is the part that should work well. You use the stick to aim and press different buttons for different kinds of shots with the right timing. Yet somehow even this doesn’t come together. At one point I decided I would try and hit a six – I did, but more by luck than judgement. The game doesn’t give you any good feedback about your shot making, either on screen or via gamepad rumble.Ashes Cricket_20171123225133

In short, I really can’t be bothered to try and find more to write about this game. Just don’t waste your time with it. Instead – you can watch the real Ashes! Or maybe not that either.

REVIEW: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

This game originally began life intended to be DLC for Uncharted 4 but eventually grew into a game worthy of it’s own full release. As such, there was the risk that The Lost Legacy would feel like a lesser Uncharted game, whether by taking shortcuts in gameplay, being less ambitious in scope or not having such engaging characters and narrative. Well, fear not – Naughty Dog has once again knocked it out of the park in every way and crafted an adventure completely worthy of the Uncharted name.Uncharted™_ The Lost Legacy_20171023203721

Gameplay
The Lost Legacy doesn’t bring very much new to the party compared to it’s predecessors in terms of core gameplay. That said, the gameplay in Uncharted 4 was so close to perfect, why change it? Movement is smooth and natural whether you are just jogging through the landscape or climbing along dangerous cliff edges. Combat, both hand-to-hand fighting and gunplay, feels like second nature almost instantly. There really isn’t anything to criticise. You make more use of a jeep, during an early section of the game, than any time previously in the series and this works nicely too. One other small addition is the ability to shove a climbing knife into rough rock to give a handhold to reach higher areas – although this is ripped straight out of the recent Tomb Raider games, so it’s hard to call it an innovation. I’ve played through each Uncharted game and felt the core gameplay get better and better – if you jump straight into the series at this stage, it must be remarkable how well built it all is. A good example is how smoothly it moves in and out of cutscenes – to the point that ‘cutscene’ doesn’t really describe it – there are no cuts. Lots of games try and achieve that these days, but The Lost Legacy is the best demonstration of it yet.Uncharted™_ The Lost Legacy_20171026234644

Scope
As with any Uncharted game The Lost Legacy is full of amazing landscapes and crazy set pieces. It is slightly smaller in scope than previous entries as you don’t bounce around the globe in the same way – after the opening section the rest of the game takes place in one (massive, it must be said) location. If anything though, I felt that it was a more focused, fast paced adventure as a result so I don’t see that as a good or bad thing. The location itself – set in India in this case – has all the wow-factor you could want. From staring up at huge and ancient structures to marvelling at nature, the world both looks and feels remarkable – just as it has in every Uncharted. Something I particularly like is that Chloe has her phone with her and you have regular opportunities to take quick snaps of the amazing scenes. It’s great how your own amazement is matched by that of the characters you are playing as and with!Uncharted™_ The Lost Legacy_20171027093246

Narrative
Which brings us nicely onto the characterisation and story. Naughty Dog make a good game but what they really do better than everyone else in gaming, in my opinion at least, is tell a story. And then marry that story up with the great gameplay – they compliment each other perfectly. The Lost Legacy is no different. I wouldn’t quite be able to say that I didn’t miss Nate and Elena as I did miss the romance between those two. But otherwise the cast of characters here is just as engaging and entertaining as ever. Whether it’s in the throw away comments they make as the game goes along, the wonderfully detailed but natural interactions in cutscenes or even just the little graphical additions that round out their personality, these characters are as alive as any I’ve ever found in a video game. Check out this short clip to notice Chloe reaching out for a wall and adjusting her hair whilst she waits:videotogif_2017.10.27_16.09.39.gif

It’s utterly brilliant and plays in great combination with the story itself. No spoilers here but it is epic, as Chloe and Nadine‘s treasure hunt gets more and more entwined with needing to defeat the bad guy Asav. Relationships between different characters build, are broken or repaired and different motives get clarified as they all fight for what they want and sometimes, what they believe is right. This is just as much fun and just as engaging as any adventure film you could see – and you get to play the main role.Uncharted™_ The Lost Legacy_20171026171322

Verdict
Rest assured that even if The Lost Legacy is kind of pitched as Uncharted 4.5, it is a thoroughly worthy successor. It’s another stunning and wonderful slice of adventure for fans and an accessible entry point for any Playstation 4 owners who have somehow missed the series so far. It’s not even priced as high as a full game so just get on with purchasing it now! Impossible not to have a blast with.

Review5

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

Gaming Subscriptions 1 – Xbox Live, PS Plus

I’ve been thinking about the various gaming subscriptions that can be taken up on consoles recently. One way or another all of these things are ways to get ‘free’ games, although some come with other benefits too. I’m going to look at a couple of services that I currently subscribe to on the Xbox One – namely EA Access and Xbox Game Pass – in another post in a week or so but the obvious place to start is with the different console’s generic subscription services – Xbox Live and Playstation Plus.20171104090820.png

Online gaming
I have had an Xbox Live subscription since the fairly early days in 2003. Back then I mostly played MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology 2 online and I’ve maintained it for at least most of the time ever since. It’s always been a requirement for online gaming on Xboxes and over the years the service has got better and better with more and more features. Playstation Plus wasn’t birthed so soon or so smoothly. Sony first began with ‘Playstation Network‘ features instead – which basically meant that each game had it’s own online services and there were no centralised features (or cost, to be fair). Eventually though, they saw how successful Xbox Live had been as a cohesive idea and PS Plus was born in 2010. I’ve only had PS Plus on and off – mostly because there haven’t been many games that I’ve wanted to play online since the subscription was necessary for that. In 2017, it has to be said, the two services are basically as good as each other: you get online play, additional discounts on new games, a few others bits like online game saving and monthly free games.Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 13.17.06

‘Free’ games
Of course you are already paying for the service so that games you are given aren’t free, but just ‘built into the price of the room’, if you will. But this feature is obviously the main draw for these subscriptions for anyone who either doesn’t do much or any online play or who only wants online play on one console. My experience over the years has been that the games that come with Xbox Live Games with Gold are far better than the Playstation Plus Monthly Games. Perhaps it all comes down to taste but for me, I always look at the PS Plus games with a big shrug, but I regularly play through the games that I’ve got from Xbox Live. A recent example would be Gone Home and I have also played plenty of them with The BoyTrials Fusion and Hydro Thunder being recent examples of that. Of course, none of these games are particularly brand new – Microsoft and Sony don’t want to risk sales on those games. But if you are looking to supplement your current games with some interesting bits that you may have missed then these might be perfect for your needs.20171104091128

Nintendo
As of now, playing online on the Switch doesn’t require a subscription but that is going to change sometime in 2018 when they get their act together. This subscription will be similar in some ways – online play, game discounts – but doesn’t have the same features like free games or online saves. There will be some retro games playable, which is a nice touch and the service will be around half the price of the other two, so fair play really. Time will tell how well Nintendo execute their plans but certainly I’ve had no issues playing online on my Switch up to now, either docked or undocked.Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 13.16.19

Conclusions
Whether you want to get one or both of these subscriptions may well be a no brainer – if you want to play online they are required. If it’s more an open choice to you then really this pivots on the free games they give away. I’d advise looking at the games that have been available the past few months and decide if it’s worth it to you. If it’s a choice between the two services – I would recommend Xbox Live.

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This was the original Xbox Live logo – good memories!

Click here to purchase an annual subscription to Xbox Live from Amazon.co.uk:
Click here to purchase an annual subscription to PS Plus from Amazon.co.uk:

REVIEW: Gears of War 4

In Gears of War 4 you play as JD, the son of Marcus Fenix. After the opening act you seek out your father for advice and end up fighting alongside him for the rest of the game. He’s still the same Marcus, if looking a little older – grumpy and angry but determined and resourceful. JD, on the other hand, is more happy-go-lucky, less beaten down – he’s in this to help friends, not to follow orders. This difference is a great analogy for how this 4th instalment differs from the first 3 Gears – a bit brighter, a bit more fun – but every bit as good.14-10-2017_07-44-41

Always look on the bright side of life
When I say it’s a bit brighter, I mean that in tone but also literally. Gone are the drab grey corridors (at least for the most part) and in their place are bright scenes outdoors for huge chunks of the game. And it looks great! Whether it is picking your way through a settlement or outrunning a storm, the graphics have not just taken a jump from Xbox 360 to Xbox One but so has the ambition to open up the colour palette and create a vibrant world. The tone matches this. Without the oppressive weight of a war in the background of events, the first half of Gears of War 4 feels more like an adventure game than the series has so far. You have no idea what’s going on and are just following up leads trying to figure it out. Nonetheless, the latter half brings a lot more of some of the things we expect from Gears – gore and violence, namely! But even in the face of increasingly difficult circumstances and more and more difficult enemies your team of young characters (Marcus aside) remains essentially upbeat – cracking jokes and enjoying blowing stuff up. Ah, the folly of youth!14-10-2017_07-43-10.png

Girls just wanna have fun
This all plays into the other thing I think is significant as Gears 4 moves the series forward – it just feels like it’s more fun! The more free-spirited cast of friends that make up your team face their battles with a sense of adventure that the older band of brothers from the first set of games could not, due to the war they’d all been fighting for too long. The makeup of the team is also key for one other reason: Kait. The inter-team relationships in Gears 1, 2 and 3 are all very macho and chest-thumping. With a woman in the team that would never work and as a result those relationships are more complex and emotional. There’s a developing connection between Kait and JD, Del is allowed to doubt himself and the team’s capabilities and Marcus even is brought out of his shell by her presence – we see more of his inner feelings here than in three entire games in the original trilogy. Where this makes the game more fun is that for the most part it is actually Kait who pushes the story along – it’s her goal that is the team’s main ultimate goal throughout most of the game. She’s determined, violent and reckless. It’s a huge amount of fun being along for her ride – and trying to keep up, frankly.14-10-2017_07-41-07

Coming around again
I’ve highlighted the differences between previous Gears‘ games and this 4th one so far but it is worth noting that it remains very similar in many ways. This is ultimately a flaw that, despite everything I’ve already mentioned, prevents this entry from quite surpassing its forbears. What always made the Gears of War series great was the gameplay – the cover system, the active reload and the sheer violence of the combat were off-imitated but never bettered by other video games. So much of Gears of War 4 has been injected with this spark of newness but the gameplay has remained more or less identical. Or course, that means that it is great! But I couldn’t help but feel that there should have been at least some small but significant changes to the core gameplay. There are a couple of sections and set plays that employ different techniques, in fairness – I enjoyed the way a small-scale form of the Horde mode, where you must survive against waves of enemies, has been massaged nicely into the single player campaign. Ultimately, the gameplay is still brilliant – but in a game where the stale has been replaced with the fresh, it feels slightly like a throwback.14-10-2017_07-45-46.png

Verdict
When a game’s only significant flaw is that it’s similar to it’s very illustrious predecessors you can expect it to be good! Gears of War 4 doesn’t change the overall script of the series but injects a youthfulness to an arguably ageing beast. The results are just as good as ever and frankly, just a little bit more fun. Recommended to anyone, whether you’ve played the original trilogy or not.14-10-2017_07-43-54

Review5

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

Forza Motorsport vs Gran Turismo so far

This autumn the new Forza Motorsport game and the new Gran Turismo game came out within a couple weeks of each other. For me, these two have been the best car racing series’ in gaming and my favourite iterations of each – Forza Motorsport 6 and Gran Turismo 4 – are right near the top of my All-Time Top Games List. I have every intention of playing both of the new releases – Forza Motorsport 7 and Gran Turismo Sport – a whole ton in the coming weeks and months so I thought it might be fun to have a quick look back at what has come before in each series.20-10-2017_07-37-29.png

Beginnings
It was Gran Turismo that was first to the party. I never played that much of the first two on PS1 (too much time playing Crash Team Racing!) but then on PS2, Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec and the subsequent Gran Turismo 4 really set the bar high for racing games on consoles. They were driving simulations – all roll bars and gear ratios rather than just throwing the cars round the track – but not to the extent that the realism ever took over from the fun factor. They both, and GT4 in particular, had a ridiculous myriad of races to take part in and countless cars for you to enjoy. Far far too many hours of my life were sunk into repeatedly doing 1m19s around Tokyo 246 in the Formula car in GT3 and I loved every minute of it.Gran Turismo™SPORT_20171020214024

New kid on the block
Xbox then saw the success of these games and decided that they needed to compete and thus Forza Motorsport was born. To begin with it was very much in the shadow of the Playstation‘s more established racer but it was still an excellent game and introduced something key; thanks to the Xbox controller having proper triggers the accelerate and brake buttons were now properly analog. This meant it was easy to use some throttle or some brake where the Dual Shock 2 made this very difficult with it’s face buttons. This was an advantage that Forza Motorsport would run with into the next generations of consoles.20-10-2017_07-37-57.png

New generations
Since that time, Forza has been king. The Gran Turismo series faded into missed release dates and muddled gaming on the PS3 where Forza Motorsport has gone from strength to strength through Xbox 360 and now Xbox One. Each new iteration building on the solid gameplay they started with whilst adding new features and refinements. Other than a brief blip for Forza 5 (maybe this was rushed out as it was the first on the Xbox One?) every Forza has been better than the one before to the point that Forza Motorsport 6 is currently my favourite racing game, of any kind, ever. Combining the fantastic gameplay with a clear love for cars and racing not seen in any of these games since Gran Turismo 4, it seemed to have more or less perfected the genre.20-10-2017_07-37-01.png

So where do we go from here?
So what more can there be? Well, for Gran Turismo there is a much needed return to form to aim for as it steps up onto PS4 for the first time. I’ve only briefly played Gran Turismo Sport so far but some of the very early signs are good; the handling feels more solid than it did in GT5 and GT6 and there seems to be an injection of racing lore into the game which may stop it getting stale and boring as quickly as those last two titles did. I just wonder if the lack of content, both offline and online, will count against it. For Forza, I have so far only played the demo of 7 but again the early signs are good – it feels like more of the same from 6 but with the addition of new racing series like the trucks and dynamic weather effects. If either of these can reach the heights of their predecessors remains to be seen – stick with me here on this blog for more soon!gran-turismoe284a2sport_20171020214155.png

Click here to purchase Gran Turismo Sport on disc from Amazon.co.uk:
Click here to purchase Forza Motorsport 7 on disc from Amazon.co.uk:
Click here to purchase a download key for Forza Motorsport 7 from CDKeys.com: