Bean playing - Runner 3


Unkle Dill in all his magnificent horrifying glory, wearing his special unlockable attire. Special request of the developer as the caricature to accompany this review.

When it came to sit down and write a review for Choice Provisions new title in the Bit.Trip Runner series, I was wondering just how I would start. It's best started with just an experience, I had a genuine moment where my hands were shaking after I overcame a magnificently challenging section in Runner 3, it was at this moment that I saw Runner 3 for what it truly is, a delightfully weird, wonderful and chaotic (just one more go) game. I found myself about 30 attempts deep into a level, (after a long days work) and I could not give it up until I got the win. Runner 3 is not for the faint of heart, at times it produces crushing difficulty spikes. But I always picked myself up and tried again, when I got into my groove I found myself accomplishing feats and saying 'I cannot believe I actually just did that'. The game is wonderful, allow me to explain.

The story is, well you are commander video and you are fighting for love and happiness and really every time you hear the narrator (Charles Martinet - oh yes, he's back, and playable as a character no less) you just want more. You really came for the platforming and you will not be disappointed, it certainly builds upon previous entries in the Runner series. There are normal runs and Gem runs, the latter of which rewards you with fuel to unlock more content and provides a harder but equally rewarding challenge. There are vehicle sections which are so satisfying, changing the pace in the level and often provide different camera angles, shaking things up somewhat. The boss battles are interesting and once understanding the mechanic in play, provide a unique and welcome return to the series.

A slight letdown for me was load times in menus. This has no baring on anything in the levels themselves or navigating in worlds. While they are not massive times they add up and I often wanted to swap around worlds, attempting old challenges with my new platforming prowess. Going hunting for secrets or just attempting something easier after feeling disheartened on a nail-biting challenge.

You are thrown new mechanics at a fairly frequent pace, with new challenges met often, but very rarely did this ever feel unfair. I felt challenged but I relished it, often memorising whole sections of jumps with pinpoint accuracy and upon completion thinking someone might kick down the door and hand me a medal for my achievement. There is just so much to do in this game, collectables galore and if you are enticed into playing levels again for completionists, you may be here for a while. There is a wonderful non-running platformer mini-game hidden until finding all VHS tapes and it beefs the game up significantly, worth the hunting.

My wife can easily attest to the fact that there were levels where I would die over and over just experimenting and getting timing down or just lost in the world Choice Provisions has built. The music, the art flows together so well and makes playing a level again and again never a chore but a joy. Each world is layered with it's own charm and characters, making them stand as hard work, carefully and meticulously planned out with your enjoyment in mind, you know people had fun making this - it's clear from every facet on display.

I played on the Switch and in both portable and docked, it runs buttery smooth either way but I preferred playing docked, so as to enjoy the beautiful visuals and to better identify simply everything happening on screen. They really upped their game with Runner 3 and it's got me hooked, I cannot wait to keep playing and keep my rhythm skills sharp.

Runner 3 releases digitally on Nintendo eshop May 22nd for £23.79 or preorder for 15% off.




Bean playing - SteamWorld Dig 2

SteamWorld Dig 2.jpg

I have no shame in admitting that yes I am over 30 and still play computer games, now some people may think this is a younger persons game (no pun intended but I’ll take it) and they may well be right. I mean, after all, I have a child under 2, with another baby due within the next month, however, the Nintendo Switch has completely opened up my playstyle, being able to pick up a console and take on the go and having short chopped up play sessions is exactly what I needed. What does this have to do with SteamWorld Dig 2 I hear you frantically mashing on your keyboard somehow? For me? Just about everything.

The first thing that strikes me about this game is how quickly you are jumping right into the crux of what the game is. There is little to no hand-holding too if you wish it and this is very welcome. You don’t need to have knowledge of the first game to get stuck into this one and the things I enjoyed about the first SteamWorld Dig, getting lost in the underground world, battling enemies and collecting gems and trying desperately to find my exit, I am glad to see have not disappeared in this experience.

The art style is crisp and beautiful, it’s lovely to look at both in handheld and docked mode and the lighting effects really make the game shine. I must admit I preferred playing with the system docked to better read any text on the screen and to get the full majesty of the graphics seeping into my tired eyes. For a title where you are spending your time digging underground it wastes little time pulling its punches in this department, the environments are always lovely to look at and begging to be explored.

Are you a fan of platformers? How do you feel about a Metroid like setup? Do you like collecting shiny things? How do you feel about upgrades? If you answered in the positive to just one of those things, or maybe all then you shall be all too happy and at home here. My immediate takeaway, the controls are a joy to use, my jumping felt tight intentional and made navigating my underground mazes that I had constructed through digging and engaging in combat genuinely very intuitive. You are rewarded for exploring and that truly is the name of the game here, you’ll be kept busy for quite some time and that is never a problem in a game such as this.
It's not a perfect game and if you are not the kind of person that relishes seeing all secrets that a game has to offer you may lament that this perhaps has less replay value, but in my opinion, there is more than enough here to warrant the entry fee.

Ultimately with the price you are paying for the game and with the pick up and play in short bursts style of the Switch (my recommended platform – though perhaps I am biased) I can see myself (and anyone else for that matter) on the collecting path of SteamWorld Dig 2 for some time to come. I wouldn’t hesitate in picking it up, a thoroughly enjoyable title that left me wanting more.

4 stars.PNG

SteamWorld Dig 2 is a direct sequel to the award-winning SteamWorld Dig and developed by Image & Form Games. A code for the Nintendo Switch version was kindly provided by Image & Form Games for review. This game was reviewed by Brendan Hill, who also is the main illustrator for EvilHairDay. When he isn't playing games or drowning in artwork, he's busy being a parent and when everyone has gone to bed, catching up on TV.



Bean playing - Cave Story+

I'll start by saying that this was my first experience with Cave Story or Cave Story+. I hadn't heard of it before it was announced for the Switch and was subsequently told that it is a game with a bit of history, having been released initially on PC in 2004. So my experience of Cave Story+ has been an entirely fresh one. How this caveat affects my review, well, I'll let you be the judge on that one.

In terms of the titular "Story" of the game, rather than setting the scene and establishing things from the start, you are drip-fed information particularly about the main character's identity throughout the game in reactions from NPCs and odd little comments from hooded figures hidden on high platforms. This certainly adds a good level of intrigue to the game and at least part of my desire to keep playing this game was formed by that intrigue.

The world in which this game is set is a quirky and charming one, as is to be expected from an indie platformer like this one. An underground cave world inhabited by rabbit people and robots, terrorised by a giant television demon (called Balrog?!) and a cyber witch working for a mysterious doctor conducting some sort of hyper-vivisection experiments? Yep, that'll do it, that gets the quirky stamp of approval right out of the gate.

When it comes to the structure of the game and how much you can explore this kooky cave network, the game is linear at its core. You broadly follow each 'level' to a 'boss' after which you grab some sort of power-up/add-on and continue on to the next section. However the game does reward you for doing a little bit of exploration in the form of Metroid-style health or ammo buffs and some sections of the game even require you to do so to progress.

As far as the gameplay goes, Cave Story is most certainly a platformer. In fact, I'd go further and call it a "precision platformer". The amount of times I was stuck trying to make a precise jump to a single block and failing only to fall back to the start of a section, I lost count! Now whether or not I found this frustrating because of how the game is designed or because of my ham-fisted approach to difficult platformers like this, I don't know (though I suspect the latter). And I'll be honest this game is difficult. Not impossible, but difficult to the point that I'm presently stuck in the game to the point where I can see what I need to do to progress but I haven't 'tried and died' enough to get through it (and by the way, I'm not even talking about the hard mode, I can't even imagine what horrors lie there). On the other hand, games that are this difficult present an appropriate level of challenge, a challenge that calls you to raise your game and be a better gamer. Now I like to think I'm a patient person but I know some people are certainly not and I do wonder how this game would be received by those people.

But in conclusion, if you're actually good at video games, then I can't see any barriers to you enjoying this game. Once I stopped sucking and made some progress, it was exciting to see how the rest of this Cave Story unfolded

Nicalis kindly provided us with a digital code for Cave Story+ on the Nintendo Switch. This game was reviewed by Laurence Turpin, a man with incredible musical talent, a love of games and incredibly proficient at growing facial hair. Follow him on twitter @YourFriendLauro


Alien: Covenant - RUN...


Alien: Covenant - RUN...

...To the cinema! 

I deliberately went in with nearly a total media black-out for this new instalment in the Alien franchise, I watched that tiny prologue beforehand and thought, yep that's enough for me. Perhaps I should preface this review by saying that yes, I enjoyed Prometheus, it wasn't perfect but I felt truly honoured to see Ridley firmly back at the helm of a new Alien film.

So as I sat down in the cinema, knowing what I'd like to see and just letting the movie take me on a journey, what I then experienced was horrifying and beautiful. The film sets its pace so well, pausing to breathe where it needs to but never for too long. You feel the suffocating threat of space, the horrors of the travel involved and you are quickly introduced to the plucky crew of the Covenant. The story wastes no time in getting the crew separated and therein the alien threat evolves, there is a good payoff of the Prometheus arch and ties these two films together in satisfying fashion.
For me I really felt like Fassbender steals the show, especially in the latter half of the film (without revealing anything) I believe his performance (special mention to Katherine Waterston for being not quite Ripley badass, but being genuinely pretty great throughout) sells you so much on the world building that Alien: Covenant brings to the table. I wasn't particularly sold on all the casting choices, but in the end they neither subtracted or added to the film for me, so I can live with that.
On a whole, the incredible job that the whole team does in set design, sound, effects, writing and directing brings Alien: Covenant to be more than just your run of the mill sci-fi horror and that is what I've always loved about the first two and now these new films, the attention to detail, they are fascinating to watch, great to bring out at almost any time.
If you are a fan of the franchise, I don't think this will let you down, there are some jump scares in there for those wanting that and there are some genuine stomach in your mouth moments even for the most unshaken amongst us.
Spit acid in my face and give me new eyes, so I can see it again please.

Go watch it.



Bean viewing - e3 press conferences

What’s the low down from e3 so far?

Microsoft press conference

(Those awkward guys that keep their ties on at parties and one slightly overweight man wears an old t shirt under his smart blazer.)

-          The XBOX One S is announced, it’s basically 40% smaller(pretty great) looks more like a sexy PC and runs 4k gaming, also has way bigger hard drive.

-          Play anywhere, in short this catchy line means play cross platform between PC and Xbox, only buy your game once, not on steam though. L

-          ReCore, more details released, it’s you and your robot dog, puzzles and(unfortunately) shooting mechanics, looks uninspired.

-          Inside,(the new game from Limbo developers) it’s coming June 29th.

-          There is a new custom controller design thing, so many colour combinations! Much wow!(Xbox Design Lab)

-          Dead Rising 4, it looks to be the usual insanity, Frank West is back and the zombie murdering looks better than ever.

-          State of Decay 2, well the first one was a very well realized and executed idea. It’s from an indie studio and this is a good thing.

-          Xbox One : Project Scorpio, sounds silly, but then again don’t they always? Basically a pitch video of a load of people(industry veterans and xbox suits) gushing over the delicious graphical powerhouse that is the next step in Microsoft console generation. Don’t forget “nobody gets left behind” as the console will be backwards compatible with Xbox One and One S.

-          Gears of War 4, yep it’s still brown(I mean SO brown), it has better particle physics and weather looks pretty good. It comes out October 11th 2016.

-          Not forgetting Sea of Thieves, it’s from Rare, it’s 1st person, the graphics look pretty, it seems you have to work together with your friends to keep your boat doing its thing on the high seas. Very interesting and I bet it’s been a blast to work on.


Sony press conference

(Sure they like to party, occasionally completely out of left field they do a really ambitious creative project, they are more competitive than they like to show and in the end have their go to thing they always do)

-          God of War PS4, what can be said here? I mean it was expected but they have given it a very different more serious tone(as serious as you can make it anyway) different art style, different voices etc. Definite inspiration from both Last of Us and new Tomb Raider titles.

-          Death Stranding … Naked upset looking Norman Reedus, a baby, handprints, dead crabs … yep it’s Hideo Kojima and his new game everyone.

-          The Last Guardian, small trailer and as per usual it looks so flipping great. An actual release date this time, 25th of October 2016.

-          Horizon: Zero Dawn, the gameplay demo showed a bigger breadth of robot animals, your interactions in the world and just generally reminded everyone why they want this game now.

-          Resident Evil 7, apparently the game is now entirely first person, a survival horror(BIG emphasis on survival there) playable in VR and just downright creepy.

-          Spider-Man, this time coming from Insomniac and I don’t know how to feel about that, but then I love Ratchet and Clank, Sunset Overdrive was like Jet Set Radio on speed, so maybe Insomniac can be the people that do everyone’s web slinger justice.

-          Crash Bandicoot, yay they’re bringing Crash back in abrand new title, oh no…it’s just a remaster of the old games – yay?

-          Lego Star Wars 7, well I think of almost all the lego franchise games the Star Wars ones really shone and I liked The Force Awakens so yeah I’m ready, there’s a demo available now and then the full game releases June 28th 2016.

-          South Park: The Fractured But Whole, it looks like more of the first game and that’s not necessarily a bad thing(dependent on your tolerance of South Parks trademark humour).


Nintendo press conference

(The super excited kids that do not care at all what the big kids think of them, they may be a little weird, but they are the thinkers, they are the pioneers and when it really comes down to everything they just like making everyone else smile)

-          Literally basically only one thing that everyone cares about and is worth me mentioning here… Pokémon! Ha I jest, obviously Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is coming and my word the HYPE is REAL. It looks closer in visual style to Windwaker and that is fantastic news, it’s very open world and(time will tell) I think it will be a fitting swan song for the WiiU before it sees it’s replacement in the not too distant future.


Honourable mentions

-          Prey, remember when Prey 2 was a thing and then it was no longer a thing? Well the current incarnation looks very pretty and though there was very little shown is a potential one to watch.

Hayfever sucks right?

Hayfever sucks right?

-          Dishonored 2, there was a whole heap more gameplay shown off at e3 this year, including a very attractive and cool looking time travel mechanic. The steampunk is strong with this one.

Nothing like kicking someone in the nuts and time jumping outta there. Biff would love this thing,

Nothing like kicking someone in the nuts and time jumping outta there. Biff would love this thing,

-          Skyrim remaster, so you remember that little indie developer that put out that massive title that the critics swooned over and nobody ever bought? Well that very same indie darling is coming to our current gen super sparkly consoles. It is a treat for the eye holes and is reportedly coming October 2016.

But just look at that snow...

But just look at that snow...

-          We Happy Few, for me this really caught my attention. Think of it as a kind of Equilibrium(a terrifically underappreciated film) with the roles reversed, the people in this world take “joy” pills and see the world very differently. The crux of the demo showed that you come off your meds and you have to act “normal” in increasingly odd situations, if they notice that you are acting strange, authorities will hunt you down in what is apparently a procedurally generated world. Creepy, but fascinating and reminded me a lot of Bioshock(more specifically the storytelling in Infinite).

Have you taken your joy?

Have you taken your joy?


Well then, let’s sum this up shall we? I think e3 was good this year, new games are all so close with many dropping just before the end of the year and there at least seems that there is something for almost everyone. A few titles have been pushed to the new year, but with some of the most hotly anticipated AAA titles due in Q4 of this year and some fantastic indie titles and more in the interim. There is definitely enough to keep you(yes you) busy, anyway if you are anything like me your most anticipated game is Yooka-Laylee and that isn’t due to drop until Q1 of 2017, jokes on all of them, I'm really good at playing the waiting game.

Imagine how many nappies I will have changed by then, on second thoughts I don’t think I want to imagine…



Bean playing - Ratchet and Clank PS4

I know, you haven't heard from me for a bit and with a legitimate reason - my wife gave birth to our beautiful baby girl back in late February and since then things just get pushed to the sides a little bit.

I did manage to treat myself to purchasing the hotly anticipated Ratchet and Clank on PS4, now I should preface this review by saying that I played the death out of former entries in the R&C back catalogue (right from the beginning).

The first thing that immediately struck me (like an iron hitting my face, only far less painful and more in the camp of breathtakingly stunning) is all the colour. I mean you could forgive someone for just panning the camera constantly and looking around in the beautifully crafted gaming environment. Insomniac have basically recreated the original game, put in a bunch of new stuff, a good ammount of throwbacks and dressed it in the shiniest wrapper ever.

The story centres around the re-imagining of how the main characters meet, their quest to help save the universe, it closely follows the footsteps of the PS2 classic, whilst mixing in quite nicely with their new animated feature film.

So the gameplay then? Well in the case of R&C series it's always been something to write home about (so to speak). Never really classifying themselves as platformers, despite the industry often catogorizing them as such and even though that's what always attracted me to the titles. So what it really comes down to is guns...lots of guns, those aforementioned weapons really are shining bright here. Testament to such fine tuning in development, everyting from the movement of the characters to the firing of your incredible aresnal is so smooth and responsive exactly as you would expect. There are things hidden away in the levels and if you are a completionist there is plenty reason to come back and play through the game multiple times to max out all your upgrades to see if the frame rate ever drops with everything exploding with colour and SO MANY BOLTS on the screen. (pro tip: it never happened to me)

I think I can sum this all up in a really simple way for you, if you own a PS4 then you have absolutely no excuse not to have this game in your collection.



Bean playing - Star Wars Battlefront beta

I should preface this by saying that I am a big fan of Star Wars: Battlefront and Star Wars: Battlefront II. Those games did so much for enjoyable 3rd person shooters, making you feel the scale of large battles and taking your part in them. They were great Star Wars experiences and Galactic Conquest mode in the second game gave it replay value on a level that keeps it relevant 10 years later - incredible.

Now we come to DICEs new effort (simply retitled, to imply it's clean slate version of) Star Wars Battlefront. What to say? Well, it's gorgeous, it does indeed look as good as they promised and sounds fantastic too. It is lovingly created to look and feel like Star Wars, you cannot fault it at all here. Everything from it's skyboxes to meticulous recreation of it's worlds and the explosion effects of the original trilogy. The weapons, the movement, sound effects all feels correct and very reminiscent of it's roots, this is a title that knows where it comes from and has clearly been worked on by loving hands.

I spent a good amount of time unlocking all the treats that the beta had to offer, I enjoyed the ability to jump into any game my friend was playing, (though the lack of party of people to join is rather disappointing) relishing our victories and wallowing in the bitterness of defeat. The game is well balanced, naturally people online are nearly always better at games than I, but sticking to the objectives I found I did quite well, more than a few times holding my own. The more you unlock the better you start to find your experience.

The controls could be a little more intuitive, the cards you unlock to give you boosts are a good idea, but I often forget to utilise them and also their UI is ugly as sin. They could of integrated the jetpack as a double jump on a cool down rather than a completely separate button for instance, but I digress.

This all (apart from that last bit) sounds very positive, so tell me...what didn't you like?

I am not the biggest fan of online multiplayers (not everyone is) but I am a huge Star Wars fan, so while this game delivers on a beautiful Star Wars experience, I couldn't shake the feeling of how long will it truly last. Looking through the greyed out modes concerned me, just how much content will be in this game upon release? We now also know there will be a lovely large £40 season pass to see all this game has to offer, (many people saw that one coming) yet very little has been offered up in terms of information about it.

The truth is, the beta was enjoyable at times. But it left me knowing that once November 17th rolls around, I will be longing for the Galactic Conquest of old, to be moving from planet to planet with a friend battling my way to victory. Give me a great looking and feeling game (that we have here) with the ability to battle all the bots and feel like an absolute badass. The beta left me fearing the game will not be big enough, with too many online idiots to battle against, my team not understanding objectives and the whole thing leaving a sour taste in my mouth and still waiting for the right Star Wars game for me. Oh and they have got to fix the voices for the heroes, it is all sorts of wrong.

In short, I liked the beta it was indeed enjoyable, but they have things to iron out and for those of us that aren't mega keen on online multiplayer how hard can it be to announce a really great solo/co op experience? While the survival is good, I want something more in-depth.



Bean playing - Tearaway Unfolded

Honestly, I really do not know where to begin...But I suppose it's best to start at the beginning, let me just compose myself. Tearaway Unfolded is completely brilliant, I cannot praise it enough. From the stunningly realised paper craft world to the intuitive controls and charming dialogue, you can see just how much goes into this game and the developers clearly love it. Media Molecule (the developers in question) have (in my humble opinion) created an instant classic here, granted I have limited knowledge on the original vita version, but this reimagining for the PS4 makes so many great uses of the platform.

The story focuses on Atoi, a messenger who is tasked with delivering a very special message to the YOU (that's right, you) traversing through the world, overcoming it's obstacles and making one hell of a story. At first I was super concerned this game was gonna end really quickly, but the game threw in a few curveballs here and there and by the end I just didn't want it to stop. I will not ruin the game for you, but the ending is whimsical and quite heart warming.

The gameplay is really the astounding thing here, like Mm previous titles, they always have a way of making you feel that you are leaving an impression on the world you are interacting with. Not only are you constantly brought into the narrative, but the very controller you hold interacts with the world in such unique ways. A swipe on the touch pad controls the wind, the triggers shine light into the world, the gyroscopic sensors tilt the world and more! It always keeps things interesting, with the world changing the deeper you go.

Playing through Tearaway Unfolded, it left me with a feeling of wonder. I loved uncovering all the secrets I could find. Often I just spent time looking at what had been created. Not only can you take pictures of everything that surrounds you (in all sorts of different ways) but you can collect blueprints for making these things yourself at home.

When it came to the end I didn't want it to be done, even though it has some slightly challenging platform moments (if you are trying to get everything) it is always enjoyable. I look forward to going back and finding everything and this is a platformer I cannot wait to show my friends.


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Fantastic Four : What were they thinking?

Are you a fan of Fantastic Four? Then perhaps you should skip that new film they released. I mean I really don't know where to start with this one but I'll give it a go...

Fantastic Four is yet another reboot (that I'm pretty confident nobody asked for) of Marvel's first family, brought to you by 20th Century Fox and Josh Trank. (of Chronicle fame) The story is the standard fare, 4 people all with varying skills are brought together, they do science, they go to an alternative universe, they get powers and they must band together and become heroes. But the problem here is the film feels completely disjointed, it's not entirely clear what film they wanted to make.

The first half of the film I was enjoying, seeing where the characters came from and how they will fit into the story, some are distinctly more interesting than others naturally. It's round about when they go to the other dimension things stop making sense and they run out of interesting things to say. There are so many clichés thrown in too, you want the main science type villain to be obvious, you obviously need him to chew gum in every scene! The dialogue and often feels forced and boring and at one point the film decides we don't even need to see a whole year passing, because they already had too many montages.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate it all, it could have been a very different film, with all the reshoots that apparently plagued the production, I am left wondering what film did Trank actually make? I mean some of it feels awfully dark and that stuff was interesting and (despite the terrible design) Dr Doom was genuinely creepy and evil when making peoples heads explode. But the film felt as if it was running full pelt towards the finish, with no care to how it looked at the finish.

Ultimately, to me it felt a disappointing mess of a film, not the worst thing I have ever seen, but it couldn't make it's mind up on the tone and so it ends up falling flat. I wonder if this is the last we will see of the Fantastic Four for the foreseeable future?

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Bean playing - Submerged

Playing Submerged (a new game by Uppercut Games) brings up that classic argument of what kind of experience must we have in order for us to say we just played a game. You cannot die in Submerged, there are no enemies. Simply put this is an adventure game at it's core, beautiful visuals and platforming and camera angles that harken back to those Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time days.

This postcard mode is pretty addictive guys...

This postcard mode is pretty addictive guys...

Story: As you play the narrative is woven through tiled pictures, you break down the story for yourself. It keeps things fairly simple; you are Miku (a young agile girl) and you are searching a sunken, devastated cityscape for supplies to help your wounded brother.

Gameplay: There is a distinct lack of a jump button, but this is by no means game breaking, in fact I would argue that it all feels very intuitive. The stick movements are really all you will be moving, making use of the camera to spot collectables with your telescope. There is a fair amount of traversing in the boat also requiring the triggers, and some use of the X button. Some may argue this game seeks to hold your hand, in some ways it does, but the hunting of secrets felt rewarding at points - and I loved it.  The minor letdown is just how long it takes to traverse the buildings, so if you aren't a collector then you may be left wanting.

Visuals: Uppercut Games did wonders here, the game is truly gorgeous. It has a little postcard mode built into the menu and I couldn't help but screenshot almost consistently throughout. The skyboxes are a wonder, dynamic shifting weather patterns and day to night cycles. At least a few times the frame rate had some drops here and there, I imagine due to loading in parts of the city as you shoot through it at speed. There are many times I left the game running and did almost nothing, just appreciating the atmosphere.

One of the beautiful sunsets getting in the way of me finding a secret.

One of the beautiful sunsets getting in the way of me finding a secret.

Often I found myself staring at the architecture and forgetting what I was doing.

Often I found myself staring at the architecture and forgetting what I was doing.

This game will not be for everyone, there are things to find, such as secrets, boat upgrades, landmarks and creatures which fill in the story of the world you occupy. These help you uncover the full breadth of the map and see all it has to offer, if you want to uncover all the secrets it certainly pads the length of the game too. It's not crazy challenging, but it makes a very strong argument for games being appreciated as art and an experience. The music is gorgeous with great ambient noise filling the beautiful post apocalyptic city.
Ultimately Submerged isn't too taxing, it's not the longest game either, but it's lovely to look at and it felt fantastic to explore the overgrown cityscape, uncovering it's treasures. I'd go back again in a heartbeat.

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Bean playing - Q.U.B.E: Director's Cut

Back in 2010 while I was on the cusp of graduating in university I first saw Q.U.B.E. (or quick understanding of block extrusion) in it's first playable build and it's fair to say it has always been an impressive puzzler. Now after backing from IndieFund and one hell of a journey we come to the Director's Cut.

I love a good puzzler and Q.U.B.E. by developer Toxic Games is certainly that, a frantic brain teaser. At first it slowly eases you into the clean white blocky architecture, with simple traversal puzzles to get you used to what each corresponding coloured block does. It doesn't make it easy and it's not long before it throws you into more of a deep end, colour coded puzzle solutions, timed physics based solutions and even working in the dark. Just because I love puzzles it doesn't mean I'm great at them, many times I felt frustratingly stupid but then I would discover the answer, the feeling of satisfaction made me feel fantastic...until uncovering the next obstacle.

The new stuff here is the story, written by Rob Yescombe and he does a great job. I truly felt trapped in this environment using all my wits to escape while being given snippets of information from several disembodied voices. In short you are trying to figure out what the qube is, you are given ideas but the mysteries soon start seeping in.

Some of the visual choices in terms of blocks that drastically alter the gameplay, I feel could have been designed a little differently, that being said it is clear what everything does so perhaps it does it's job just fine. (An artist loves to complain, everyone is a critic, blah blah blah) Overall I really liked the look of the game, the way the environment shifts around you keeps things interesting. 

In conclusion Q.U.B.E. Director's Cut does a great job of making you feel smart, allowing you to work things out for yourself without holding your hand. It's got things hidden away for the observant gamer and with the new narrative touches, it only helps strengthen your resolve to move onto each increasingly challenging puzzle.

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Ant-Man : Tales to Astonish!

I will be fully honest here, I am a professed geeky guy, I enjoy comic books, I love films and thus I am usually one of the first to watch the latest comic book film, my feelings were no different when it came to Ant-Man. I bought my tickets and as I sat eagerly awaiting for the damn adverts to finally finish I approached the whole thing with cautious optimism, after all Ant-Man is a weird one to sell. (But they did it with Guardians, so small order really - ha!)

What I loved about the film is that it kept everything in the right place, you know the motivation for each character and (perhaps a fault also) they are all incredibly easy to pick up. Story is straightforward but it allows for the best parts (the dialogue) to flow between characters so well, I caught myself chuckling away many times throughout, something I don't find myself doing often in comedies these days. This is all obviously helped by the fact that both the story and the screenplay are penned by both Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, it so heavily encapsulates their styles that at times I forgot I was even watching a Marvel film.

Unfortunately the film still has its faults, Corey Stoll does a great turn as Darren Cross but as his character is fleshed out and he transforms into the evil Yellowjacket, it turned into that familiar problem of him lacking any kind of depth. The casting on a whole I loved, any doubts I had about Paul Rudd being convincing were immediately put out of my mind, I also loved Michael Peña and his brilliant little stories. Michael Douglas is the exact person you can imagine being Hank Pym, the genius scientist, the tortured father and the mentor. Evangeline Lilly is a strange one for me, I say this because she served little for me as the story went, it's almost as if they knew this too considering an interaction at the end of the film and the mid credit scene.

The visuals were outstanding, making something ridiculous on paper astounding in execution. Again it allowed for many comic filled moments to come to the surface during fight scenes and training sequences. Naturally some of the best moments are found in the finale and it is credit to both screenwriting and final direction, seeing it all come together and being emotional one minute and wonderfully funny the next.

In conclusion I think this was a wonderful film, I am left wondering what kind of a film would it have been if Edgar Wright had continued on his directing duties? That being said I really enjoyed it, Marvel have gone from strength to strength and I can't wait for Ant-Man to join in a bigger universe. The comedy of Edgar and Joe saved this film, I hope Marvel remember that for the future.



Bean playing - Journey

Back in 2012 I played the beautiful, mysterious brilliance that is Thatgamecompany's Journey. Those few short years ago it settled for me a clear argument in this world, can games be art? The short answer? A thunderous yes, screamed from the mouths of every single person who has experienced Journey.

Cut to now, I sat down to play the game again this time on the PS4, I didn't imagine it to be possible but the game runs even smoother and looks completely breathtaking. There is still so much joy I found in exploring, walking and gliding over the landscape set before me. The details never go unnoticed, from the wonderfully detailed broken architecture to the masses of rich golden sand you find yourself often traversing.

It goes without saying really that Journey redefines what a game can be, it's an experience, it's exciting, emotional, a struggle, puzzling, beautiful, it tells a story without saying any words and the music sets the tone throughout. (best music I have ever heard in a game)

From a gameplay perspective the game hasn't changed from the 2012 original, the controls are just as intuitive as they were before and if anything the game seems to run smoother, not that the original was a slouch in any way. This time around I played through the majority of the game with one other person and I forgot just how much of an incredible experience that is, we helped each other, pointed out secrets when we found them, called out (via a singing button prompt) to one another and stayed with one another until our Journeys end. Scarce is it that I have had a more enjoyable cooperative experience online, the fact that you can't even converse with each other only helps immerse you further into the experience.

In conclusion there aren't enough adjectives to describe just how wonderful this game is, you have to play it for yourself. It isn't long, but I have completed it multiple times now and I cannot help but keep coming back.



Bean playing - Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee (New 'n' Tasty)

Back in 1997, at the young age of 12 my eyes were opened to the beautiful (yet dark and foreboding) Oddworld. Forever was I changed, the sounds, the sights and the incredibly realised digital world that I viewed on my friends tv (through the mighty power of the ps1) took my breath away, I wanted to explore the landscape in front of me. When puzzles stumped us, we didn't care, after sleeping dreaming of a way past the obstacle, during our morning form meeting we would draw a sketch, meticulously pouring over solutions.

Now at 30, myself and that same friend took a good few hours out of our time reuniting, fired up the PS4 and dove into the remake of that same game, but what has changed?
It took some time to get back into the swing of things, but JAW (just add water - the developers) have done a stellar job, welcoming back fans of the classic and introducing an entire new generation. I cannot state enough how much of a technical achievement this game is, reworked v/o, entirely new animation, character models, everything is new (and indeed tasty). Even the inclusion of a button to run and a button to side hop, helped us first generation players get up to speed.

Some of the most notable changes here are the shifting camera angles, allowing for more secrets to be uncovered and increasing the tension in other areas, it also helps set the scale of some of the larger set pieces of the game. Considering the technological limitations of the time, the first was a truly groundbreaking masterpiece, you can tell JAW love the roots of the original and as much this is a remake it is similarly a truly loving recreation. The inclusion of the quick save and quick load feature makes this game a darn sight easier than the original, I highly recommend playing it on the hard setting (just like the original was intended) and relishing the fear of all your failures.

There are some things I am not such a fan of, the idle chatter from the Mudokon slaves that litter the dark and gritty corridors of Rupture Farms is a clear example, where in the original they merely let out minor groans and discontented sighs (I mean the fact they still have punishment posters for talking all around you only enforces just how jarring this update is). I suppose in retrospect there are a lot of changes which may have not necessarily been required, but I can see why they were made. From a gameplay point of view, it took a while for me to adapt (having that whole button to hop and to run option really helped) but I think todays gamer should have more games such as this in their lives.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed my dive back into Oddworld, it didn't feel like it was betraying the original, only seeking to bring a fresh perspective. For me it birthed a true feeling of satisfaction in saving those helpless Mudokon slaves, (something scarcely captured in games today) going back I find I love it just as much.



Terminator Genisys : Old and obsolete?

This year, (on the day I turned 30 no less) I did the most logical thing I could possibly think of, I went to see the new Terminator film. I know what you are thinking too, please tell us about everything that this new time travelling scrambled egg of a franchise has to offer us, so here I go.

It's a shame really that all films in this tired franchise are compared to the first two, because to be fair put next to those wonderful pieces of cinema, any other offerings barely stand a chance. My first gripe would be with the trailer coverage of this new instalment, SO MANY important reveals were already made clear to me before I had even sat in my cinema seat, thus completely taking you out of the moment and ruining the bulk of the film.

Casting is also something I would like to settle on, Emilia Clarke is brilliant as ever to watch on screen (minus a few awkward over sexualised scenes) and I can always do with more Arnie, he really sells the tired old (but ever determined) robot performance. I actually am quite a big fan of Jason Clarke, but they could of given a few more witty quips in this film, the scars on his face really harken back to the Michael Edwards Connor back in the T2 days. But oh my goodness, almost anyone other than Jai Courtney for Kyle Reese. He completely killed the role for me, the freedom fighter was a whiney bitch and made for some poor watching, he made me long for Michael Biehn's dulcet tones.

Ultimately, the film was an interesting one, the first half I was enjoying, time hopping, a great vision of the future (much mimicking that of T2 and not that OTHER film). But then it gets all scrambled with where it's going, it substitutes so many interesting ways to advance the story, for relatively dull action scenes considering. It's not as bad as Salvation, but (despite a lot more of Arnie, with some really cool scenes) it still fell flat for me. I guess I will be firing up T2 again when I fancy a paradoxical time travel action film.

Look out for one particular cool cameo and (what I believe is anyway) an obscene misuse of the awesome J.K. Simmons.