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Bean playing - Runner 3

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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.

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Bean playing - SteamWorld Dig 2

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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.
 

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.
 

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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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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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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.

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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.

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