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Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty Review (PS Vita)

It has been 19 years since Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was released to critical acclaim back in the early days of the PS1, and almost two years since Oddysee’s remake, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, was released on PS4. Why write a review now? Because Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty was released on my beloved PS Vita in January, and I’m always quick to the mark.

Keeping up the tradition of releasing every single Oddworld game on the handheld none of your friends own, Oddworld Inhabitants and developer Just Add Water have done something not often seen in remakes: They have made a game that looks like how our rose-tinted nostalgia goggles make us remember the original looking. It’s quite an accomplishment. When I first started New ‘n’ Tasty, having not played the original in about five years, I had to YouTube comparison videos just to see what the difference was.

Hint: There’s a huge difference.

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Rebuilt from the ground up, New ‘n’ Tasty features all new 3D character models and environments. Porting duties were handed over to Nephilm Studios, and they’ve done a fantastic job, with very little significant compromise. Obviously, the graphics did have to take a hit so the game could run on the Vita, so the backgrounds aren’t as detailed, lighting isn’t as dynamic and a lot of the effects like lightning and explosions don’t look as good as they do in the console versions, but it still looks great on the Vita’s screen.

The game also runs extremely well for the most part. However, there were some hiccups here and there. A couple of times, I had to close the game because I fell through the world and couldn’t reload a checkpoint, and there was also some fairly significant slowdown in a few areas where there was a lot going on, but they are few and far between. The majority of the time, New ‘n’ Tasty runs like a dream.

The solid gameplay and sinister-yet-silly story you know and love from the original game remains unchanged. On the surface, New ‘n’ Tasty is a platformer, but at it’s heart it is a puzzle game. As Abe, you have to direct 299 of his fellow dense-as-fuck Mudokon friends to safety, before they can be turned into food by the evil, corporate Glukkons  Your goal is to lead these fucking morons to portals that will send them to safety, avoiding various hazards along the way like meat grinders, mines and electric barriers using GameSpeak, a mechanic that allows Abe to says things like “Follow me” and “Wait” in an effort save these idiots. Be careful, though! The Mudokons are frustratingly ignorant of their surroundings, and will walk straight into certain death if you don’t stop them. GameSpeak also allows you to learn and repeat passwords, like Simon Says, to unlock doors and access elevators. GameSpeak is a gameplay mechanic as enjoyable in 2016 as it was in 1997, and is wholly unique to the Oddworld series.

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New ‘n’ Tasty also boasts multiple endings, online leaderboards and over 20 hidden areas for you to discover. If you want to see and do everything that is on offer in New ‘n’ Tasty, you’ll have to play through the game two or three times, which is a welcome amount for a game this enjoyable.

Almost 20 years since the release of the original, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty breathes new life into an already solid game. It may have some hiccups here and there, but overall it as a greatly enjoyable experience that is right at home on the PS Vita.

Verdict:

 

4 stars

Great

 

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Amplitude Review

Let me tell you a story about how addictive Amplitude is: The first time I played my plan was to make it through the tutorial and the first level before turning it off as my girlfriend and I were going to watch The Green Mile that night. I ended up playing “one more level” until 2am, well after she had decided to go to bed. I still haven’t seen The Green Mile, and I am a terrible boyfriend, but I got some pretty sweet scores on Amplitude. Swings and roundabouts.

Amplitude is just pure, addictive fun.

Amplitude comes from Harmonix, those guys that had everybody and their Mum jumping around the living room clicking and clacking on the insanely popular ‘Baby’s First Guitar’ in the 2000s. Now imagine that, but instead of playing the notes on a guitar, you’re shooting them from a spaceship. Hopefully this doesn’t make everyone think they’re a good pilot or something.

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A reboot (if you can call it that) of the original FreQuency/Amplitude games on the PS2, this new version of Amplitude has been given a fresh lick of paint for the current generation PlayStation, and that’s pretty much it. It’s very much the same game from 13 years ago, and that’s not a bad thing. The controls are responsive and the gameplay is satisfyingly rewarding, especially on the fast paced higher difficulties. Each song has multiple lanes representing each instrument, and you have to jump between them and keep as many instruments playing for as long as you can. Since getting the game I haven’t really been able to put it down, and I’ve noticed myself making significant progress through songs I couldn’t dream about finishing a few days ago. Kind of like getting better at an instrument. There have been a few times I’ve said aloud to myself “Did you fucking see that?!” after pulling off an insane roll of notes without expecting to. And yes, I did fucking see that.

The game is split into two modes: Quickplay and Campaign. In Quickplay, you can play the songs you’ve unlocked again and again in an effort to perfect them and rack up some high scores. You can also battle with up to four friends in local multiplayer, using various stage altering and ship damaging power ups to mess with your opponents in an effort to hit more notes than they do. My time with the multiplayer hasn’t been as extensive as I’d like due to it being local only and me not having many friends, but the one match I did play with my reluctant girlfriend seemed like it could be fun if I was playing with someone who cared even a little bit so that’s a plus.

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The Campaign mode is the means to unlocking more songs for Quickplay. There is also a story to the campaign, told over the course of 15 songs through lyrics, menus and voice-overs. A playable concept album. Now, I’m a sucker for concept albums, and the songs telling the stories range from good to amazing, but I don’t think a video game is the best way to consume the medium. Fortunately, the songs work really well as individual stages. There aren’t really any bad tracks in the game. Of course, that’s completely subjective, but I’ve found myself loving the fast paced, sludgey, electronic tracks and having the slower, catchier, more melodic tracks stuck in my head for most of the day. The campaign versions of the songs also contain more obstacles than their Quickplay counterparts. There are Multiplier Barriers which will let you through without damage if you match the 2x, 3x or 4x requirement, which is a fun and fair challenge. In the final level, however, there is a blur effect that goes over the whole screen that kind of makes it feel a little unfair, especially on the hardest song of the Campaign. For an effect that is only used once, in one quarter of one song, it felt a little cheap and unnecessary.

Aside from the main campaign tracks, which are all composed in-house by the talented people at Harmonix, there are also a number of bonus tracks to unlock for you to slave over in Quickplay, featuring guest appearances from notable indie game composers, including Danny Baranowski (Super Meat Boy), Jim Guthrie (Sword & Sorcery), and Darren Korb (Bastion) among others. There are also songs from various Kickstarter backers of the game which I thought was a nice touch. The songs they’ve provided are pretty good too, so that helps. Unfortunately, there aren’t any licensed tracks in the game. After my initial playthrough of the campaign, I couldn’t stop thinking of all the songs I’d love to see in future DLC for the game. It’s a Harmonix game, so obviously there will be some brilliant licensed additions in the near future. I can’t wait.

Oh.

All in all, Amplitude is a thoroughly enjoyable game and well worth the £15.99 price mark. I know it’s going to keep me entertained for hours on end as I try to beat my own score and others’ over and over again. The music is mostly fantastic, even if the lack of licensed tracks is a little disappointing. If you like electronic music, leaderboard battles and concept albums, you should seriously consider buying Amplitude today.

 Verdict:

4 stars

Great

Fallout 4 Review

Bethesda Game Studios’ latest in it’s post-apocalyptic open-world RPG series, Fallout 4, was released last week and I’ve spent around 60 hours with the game so far, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. The game’s setting, characters and sense of discovery have their hooks in me, and I am itching to jump back in.

2008’s Fallout 3 was released to critical acclaim, and it thrust the series into the mainstream. Does Fallout 4 fill those shoes?

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Set in post-nuclear war Boston, Massachusetts, now known as The Commonwealth in the similar-yet-strange Fallout future, Fallout 4 takes everything that made the previous game’s setting interesting and builds upon it. Capital Wasteland begged to be explored, despite remaining pretty brown and grey, and The Commonwealth begs the same but with an added splash of colour and environmental variety. There are forests, cities, farms and literal patches of inhospitable, green, radioactive wasteland for you to explore which all look definitively different from one another.

The game begins with a rare look at pre-war life in the Fallout universe, and you play as The Man or Woman Out of Time. This small section of your home life serves as the tutorial and character creation section of the game, but things quickly turn sour as the bombs begin to fall. You race to Vault 111 with your family in tow, and don’t emerge until 200 years later. The main story starts off strong, and it definitely has it’s moments. Filled with moral grey areas, it had me questioning if I was doing the right thing or siding with the right people multiple times, but like Fallout 3 and Skyrim before it, it ultimately falls flat in all of the games multiple endings. Fortunately, it doesn’t end there, as there are no shortage of side quests to conquer, locations to discover and characters to introduce yourself to. This is where Fallout 4 really shines. Most of the side-quests are more interesting and enticing than the main story, and this seems to be the norm with Bethesda’s games. There are also a tonne of sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious small stories being told by terminal logs, holotapes and where bodies are left laying that you can easily miss if you’re not paying attention which adds a real lived-in feel to The Commonwealth.

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Most of the story characters are interesting enough to keep you pursuing their needs and wants, and some of them you love to hate, but the real character gold comes from your companions. Each has their own personality, likes and dislikes and special skills, and no two are the same. From robots, to dogs, to boring-ass humans, each has an interesting backstory. Almost all of them have special Mass Effect-style loyalty quests tied to them that you can complete, but other than earning a few extra brownie points and undying loyalty, these don’t really lead to anything spectacular. You can also dismiss them to any of your settlements throughout the game as you recruit more, but be warned, dismissing a companion is the scariest thing I’ve encountered in the game thus far. I’ve had companions (who I’ve loaded a shit tonne of valuable loot onto, might I add) disappear, only to turn up at the settlement I sent them to many real-life days later, and act as if nothing happened. To keep the heart healthy, I’ve started dismissing them to the settlement when I’m actually there instead of miles away from it, so they don’t get lost or whatever the fuck else they were doing Tuesday through Friday last week.

Another welcome change is the overhaul to many of the game’s mechanics. As expected, Fallout 4 runs a lot smoother than the previous in the series. It’s no secret that V.A.T.S was introduced to address the lackluster combat mechanics of Fallout 3, and V.A.T.S is still present in Fallout 4 (probably because it’s an iconic mechanic that is instantly recognisable and really, really fucking cool) but it’s live combat mechanics have increased dramatically. Controls feel responsive and tuned, and you can now aim down the sites instead of exclusively firing from the hip. I often find myself using V.A.T.S to scope out enemy areas instead of actually fighting with it. That’s a testament to how much the gunplay has improved. It no longer feels like you’re firing blind into a crowd of enemies.

V.A.T.S has also been slightly altered. Instead of stopping time altogether and giving yourself a moment to breathe, it now only partially slows time, meaning the pressure is never off. The change leaves you feeling vulnerable, and really adds to the tension of a fight.

Looting enemies and containers has been streamlined as well. The game no longer pauses and opens a menu for you to transfer items between yourself and the corpses of your victims/a fridge (although that window is still available with the “Transfer” button.) A window will hover over the container/dead thing in realtime and you can decide what to leave or take without slowing down the game.

Speaking of looting, it is now an essential part of the newly added crafting and base-building mechanics. Each item of “Junk” you find can be scrapped for components such as Steel, Wood. Glass, Copper etc, and it really made me sweat trying to decide what to keep and what to drop when I’d reached max carry capacity. Each structure you build or weapon you mod needs a certain amount of each required component. There are various settlements throughout the game that you can become allied with, allowing you to build structures and defenses within them to keep the settlers safe and happy. Kind of like a post-apocalyptic Sims. Although fun in theory, I felt that it wasn’t executed very well, and the game never really makes you use the feature unless it’s tied to a story beat. Weapon and Armour Crafting, however, is incredibly fun and customisable. I’m constantly looking forward to going back to my home base after a mission and seeing what utter monstrosities I can create with what I just picked up. Each mod to your weapon significantly changes the appearance of it and makes it feel like your own. You can also rename your weapons, which is a lovely little addition. (Shoutout to Splatta’ the Shotgun.)

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Armour mods don’t alter the appearance as dramatically, but work in much the same way. You can also mod your Power Armour, which has gone under a total mechanical overhaul this time around. Instead of being a wearable peace of apparel, it acts more like a vehicle that you can enter that has a finite amount of fuel. You’re given access to a set right at the beginning of the game to drive this point home. This is your Power Armour. You can build upon it in whatever way you see fit. I loved the change. Much like the weapons, it made the armour feel like something I owned and something that was unique to me, and the fuel being a finite resource moved me to only taking the Power Armour out of it’s garage when it was absolutely necessary.

For everything the game does great though, there are a couple of problems. Unfortunately, that patented Bethesda Jank™ is back. Other than the risky companion dismissal mentioned earlier, there have been a couple of times where I’ve had to reload a save because I walked off the wrong platform and got stuck in the world, with no amount of jumping or shimmying loosening the virtual grip on me.

The Bethesda Jank™ is forgivable, though. Throughout Fallout 3, Skyrim and now Fallout 4 it has been present, and Bethesda get a a bit of a free pass because no other games are as wide in scope or as ambitious as their’s. No other game lets you interact with the world the way a Bethesda game does. It’s admirable, and it’s done better now than it ever has been. It may not look or run as nicely as it’s open-world contemporaries like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but Fallout boasts levels of interaction unparalleled in video games, and I think that’s a fair trade off.

Fallout 4 has it’s problems, sure, but it’s sense of exploration and adventure easily outshine these issues. It’s world, characters and countless modifications you can make to your character and weapon make it an extremely personalised affair and no two people will play the same game twice. Fallout 4 not only fills it’s predecessor’s shoes, it had to buy new ones because it’s feet were way too big for them.

Verdict: Play this game.