Monday, 29 December 2008

Season's greetings

As the year draws to a close, I'd like to thank all the people who have stopped by over the course of the last six months. The blog is just a hobby, but the support I've received has been phenomenal. It's great to know people enjoy the blog and share my passion for gaming.

I'm taking a wee break, but I'll be back in early January with more games related goodness.

So thanks again, folks. I hope you all have an enjoyable and peaceful new year, and I look forward to sharing my gaming experiences with you in 2009.


Friday, 26 December 2008

Toro comes to Everybody's Golf

Although there is no sign of Everybody’s Putter Golf with Toro making its way to Europe yet, Toro the cat has appeared on the Euro store this week as a playable character in the full version of Everybody’s Golf: World Tour on PS3.

The download is free and is a welcome addition to the sizeable roster of playable characters, which already includes Kratos from the God of War series.

The Japanese cat is a little short on power, but he’s an ideal character for younger gamers to play with and let’s face it, everyone loves Toro.

Full credit to Clap Hanz for continuing to support their fantastic game on PS3. Let’s hope the new year brings more in the way of downloadable content for their cute and highly playable golf title.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Everybody's Putter Golf with Toro - PS3

Although I enjoy sports games, I never have the time to play through an entire season. NHL 09, MLB 08: The Show and Madden 09 are prime examples. However, I love the Everybody's Golf series, especially the PS3 version World Tour and the latest PSP version. They are perfect to dip in and out of and are extremely addictive.

So I was delighted to find that Everybody's Putter Golf with Toro has been released on the Japanese and Hong Kong PlayStation stores.

Toro the cat is Sony's mascot in the far east, and along with Jasmine from the EG series, he stars in this simple nine-hole putting game.

There are two control methods. The first is the traditional click bar, which has always been used in the Everybody's Golf series. The second makes use of the Sixaxis' motion-sensor. Holding the pad like a club, you have to mimic a real golf swing. It's tricky at first, as it's very easy to be over eager and put too much power behind your shot, but practice makes perfect.

The game's options are a little on the sparse side, but as the game costs less than a fiver, what's on offer is more than adequate.

Single Play is just you against the nine holes, Multi-Play lets two people go head to head, Versus Jasmine pits you against the Everybody's Golf favourite, while Practice gives you unlimited attempts to perfect your approach to the nine holes.

While the holes are pretty straightforward, they are well designed, with the last couple being particularly fiendish. Both feature traps which can see you dropping multiple shots.

The game also has full trophy support, with ten cups to collect. I've only grabbed a handful so far, and they've been dished out for getting holes in one and achieving a high ranking.

I would be very surprised if this made its way to the west, as Toro isn't exactly well known over here. However, if you are thinking of picking this up, get it from the Hong Kong store, as everything is in full English.

I also hope that Sony and Clap Hanz keep adding to this solid base. There's plenty of scope to create all manner of weird and wonderful mini-golf courses, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

No More Heroes - Wii

The man behind No More Heroes, Suda 51, is known to gamers across the world as the guy who brought us the fantastic Killer 7 videogame in 2005.

Earlier this year, the Japanese legend turned his attention to the Wii and brought us one of the finest platform exclusives of the year.

Set in the town of Santa Destroy, you are Travis Touchdown, an Otaku with an unhealthy obsession with trading cards, action figures, anime, and pro-wrestling.

After winning a beam katana from an internet auction site and meeting the beautiful Sylvia Christel, an agent for the United Assassin's Association, you become embroiled in a quest to become the number one assassin in town.

Problem is, there are 10 others ranked above you. So you set out to slice and dice your way to the very top of the city's assassin's league, meeting all sorts of strange and disturbed characters along the way.

However, to get access to the other assassins, you have to pay money - a lot of money - so you'll have to do a bit of work on the side to raise the necessary funds.

Luckily for Travis, there are plenty of jobs needing done around town, everything from collecting coconuts and litter collecting to mowing people's lawns. While these activities could get boring, each mission only takes a matter of minutes, so they never feel like a chore.

The Wii's unique controller has been used to great effect and the battles are great fun. Tilting the Wiimote makes you perform either a high or low attack, while finishing moves are completed by flicking the controller in one of four directions. It works well and is extremely satisfying.

Another nice touch occurs when Travis' mobile phone rings - you have to hold the Wiimote to your ear to hear the conversation, which is another neat touch.

The heart of the game is obviously taking on the other assassins, and it's here where the game really shines.

These missions are great fun and some of them are just plain weird. I don't want to spoil the experience for you if you have yet to play No More Heroes, but let's just say you'll be amazed at some of the characters you'll meet.

When not taking on the other assassins, you are free to travel around Santa Destroy at your leisure. Don't expect a bustling metropolis like Grand Theft Auto's Liberty City, there's not a lot of traffic or pedestrians about, due in part to the Wii's graphical limitations.

Still, it doesn't detract from the experience and it's still fun to drive your fantastic looking bike around the streets.

On your travels you come across T-shirts - usually hidden in bins - and there's a clothes shop where you can buy new gear like shirts, sunglasses, jeans and jackets. You can also upgrade your weapon if you have the funds in place.

After your shopping spree you can head back to your motel, where you can change into your new clothes. You can also watch videos, feed your cat, examine all the cards you've collected and save your game - by sitting on the toilet.

Although you can't freely wander around you motel room, at lot of detail has been included, and the shelves are crammed full of gundam-style robots, a Nintendo 64, and anime figurines.

Suda 51 has not only created a game which plays well, but it also looks and sounds fantastic. Along with the game's great looking main characters, No More Heroes is also peppered with fantastic retro visuals and sound effects.

Surprisingly this fusion of different styles works extremely well and it's fair to say that you'll probably never have seen anything like it before.

No More Heroes has been out in the UK since March and is one of the best Wii games on the market. You should be able to pick it up for a decent price these days, and it really is well worth taking a punt on.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The World Ends With You - DS

I was taking a look back at all the games I've played this year, and realised I hadn't written anything about this cracking DS game. It was released back in May, so I'm sure if you search around you'll get it for a decent price.

Taking control of a spiky-haired dude with a personality problem is nothing new in Japanese video games. Throw is an amnesia-driven storyline and you'd be forgiven in thinking The World Ends With You is just another run of the mill adventure.

However, this Square Enix game is anything but average and is actually one of the most refreshing games I've played in a long time.

Neku, the spiky-haired loner of the piece, wakes up in the middle of the fashionable Tokyo area of Shibuya. He has no idea how he got there and becomes even more confused when he receives a strange text message telling him that unless he plays 'The Game' during the course of the next seven days, he will face dire consequences.

It turns out that a group called the Reapers have roped Neku into their twisted game, and unless he complies with their requests, he will be erased... permanently.

Although the game is set in Shibuya, Neku and the other people embroiled in The Game - the Players - quickly learn they are actually in a ghostly alternate version of the trendy Tokyo district, and are invisible to the outside world.

Neku initially teams up with Shiki, a fashion-conscious teenager, and together they set out to complete their tasks and try and survive until the end of the week.

The first thing to strike you about The World Ends With You is its vibrant visuals and fantastic J-Pop soundtrack. Both elements bring the title to life, separating it from the usual bog standard RPG fare we're used to. The graphical style is also reminiscent of the classic Dreamcast title title, Jet Set Radio.

While the sights and sounds pull you into the game, it's the gameplay which proves to be the adventure's success story.

During battles you control both characters at the same time. Neku fights foes on the bottom screen, and you use swipes of the stylus to input his moves, while your partner fights on the top screen and the d-pad comes into play to input directional combos. This dual screen system is initially bewildering, however perseverance reaps rewards and it's extremely satisfying when everything clicks into place.

By defeating foes, you'll collect Pins - badges which have special powers. There are a jaw-dropping 300 varieties to be discovered, and deciding which set to use takes a bit of thought. It's a great system and only the truly committed will collect them all.

All the badges can be levelled up, and even when your DS is switched off, badges will still rise in experience. It becomes something of an obsession levelling up your favourites and soon you'll have a wide selection to choose between.

As the game is set in Shibuya - the fashion centre of Tokyo, where real life Japanese kids gather to show off their latest look - there are a multitude of clothing stores scattered about the game.

Each store sells a different brand of clothing, and deciding what to buy isn't as easy as it sounds. Each area is colour coded, indicating what fashions are hot. So wearing something that is deemed fashionable in some areas might not go down too well in others.

This can affect your stats when fighting, so it's always best to kit yourself out in what's in fashion in a particular area.

Add to this heady mix of styles the ability to dine in various restaurants - which again affects your stats - and you are left with an incredibly deep game, with a bewildering array of gameplay options.

This title is one of the best games I've ever played on the DS and games as good as this are few and far between. Any gamer who wants a thoroughly entertaining title packed with content should grab this as soon as they can.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Lostwinds - Wii

Nintendo's Wiiware channel has thrown a couple of gems our way since it launched back in May, but so far nothing has come close to competing with the wonderful Lostwinds.

Lostwinds was one of the first batch of titles released on Nintendo's download service and incredibly, it was created in just three months by British company Frontier Developments.

Taking control of a young boy named Toku, you are handed the task of saving the island of Mistralis from the evil creature Balasar, who is threatening to cover the peaceful land in darkness.

Along with your wind spirit companion Enril, you'll explore this beautiful landscape and try and recover Enril's powers to finally rid Mistralis of this evil threat.

The control method has been wonderfully implemented and is both simple and innovative. Controlling Toku is standard stuff - left or right with the nunchuk moves Toku in that direction. However the real innovation lies with the Wiimote.

This controls Enril, and by drawing shapes on screen, gusts of wind are created, which are used to aid Toku on his quest. If a ledge is too high to negotiate, simply create a gust of wind underneath the little fella and he'll be blown upwards.

The wind also comes in useful for a variety of of other tasks, such as blowing away enemies and creating slipstreams to carry Toku to previously unreachable heights.

Along with being a way to help Toku on his travels, the wind is also useful for problem solving. For example, if you path is blocked by a tangle of wooden thorns, you can draw a line of wind between a lighted torch and the thorns, which burns them away, leaving your path clear.

You can also draw water from streams and waterfalls to sprinkle seeds, which grow into full-sized plants and help you reach new areas.

As you can see from the screenshots, LostWinds looks absolutely gorgeous. The art design is incredible - lush, green rolling hills give way to spectacular underground caves in the blink of an eye.

The local village is inhabited by a cast of wonderful and charming characters, while the background's 3D effect gives the whole world a real sense of depth. You can't help wishing you could go deeper into the scenery and explore more of the beautiful landscape.

The game is also packed with brilliant little touches which bring the whole world to life.

As you sweep the Wiimote across the screen, grass rustles, flowers sway and bend, cherry blossom falls gently to the ground, water splashes, windmills turn and villagers cry out in alarm. And leave Toku alone for too long, and he'll curl up into a little ball and fall asleep. It's utterly charming.

Along with the wonderful gameplay and stunning visuals, the music and sound effects throughout are superb, and give the game a unique and spellbinding atmosphere.

The whole adventure can be polished off in around four hours. While that might seem a little on the short side, for 1000 Wii Points, I'm not complaining. It doesn't outstay its welcome and leaves the player eager for more.

Let's hope Frontier are in the process of creating part two.