Sunday, 31 May 2009

Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman - PSP

A few months ago, I blogged about the forthcoming PSP game Yuusha 30. It's not out yet, but if you are looking for something equally quirky and engaging to play, you should check out Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman!

It's known as Yuusha no Kuse ni Namaikida Or 2 in Japan, and the good news is that it's coming to the West. A demo was released on Thursday on the US PlayStation network, and I'm hopeful that Sony's European division will bring it out here, too.

Underneath its lovely stylised 8-bit graphics and fabulous soundtrack, lies a captivating dungeon maker. The goal is to create an underground labyrinth to protect your Overlord. As you chip away at rocks, creatures emerge and evolve.

Once you are satisfied with your layout, you tuck the Overlord away in the furthest corner and wait for a brave - but foolish - knight to enter the maze.

This shining hero will then attempt to track down and kill the Overlord, but hopefully your dungeon making skills have been put to good use, and he won't make it that far - with your evil friends devouring the knight as soon as they see him

It's a simple, but brilliant little game, and although I've been planning on importing from Japan, I think I'll hang on for the US release.

Here's a vid explaining the general gameplay.

Friday, 29 May 2009

InFamous - PS3

Taking elements from Grand Theft Auto, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Assassin's Creed and 360 title Crackdown, InFamous puts you in the electricity-filled shoes of reluctant protagonist Cole MacGrath - a man who has inadvertently caused a massive explosion in the heart of Empire City.

Thanks to the electric tsunami from the explosion, Cole becomes imbued with the powers of electricity and he sets out to either make amends for his part in the city- wide destruction, or use his powers for nefarious uses.

Not long into the game, Cole meets FBI agent Moya, who embroils him in a quest to find her missing husband, a man who could hold the key to Cole's special powers.

What follows is a high octane romp across Empire City's rooftops, streets and back alleys, with Cole utilising his acrobatic skills to nimbly climb buildings, leap gracefully from rooftops and traverse power lines high above the city streets.

Every object in the game has a slight gravitational pull, which allows you to launch Cole from a high rooftop on to a power line 50 ft below with ease. This lets the player enjoy the thrill of rooftop free-running and eliminates frustrations which could easily have crept in if this feature had been excluded.

However, not everything in the garden is rosy for Cole and his new powers. Since the explosion, Empire City has become hostile, with gangs of gun-toting Reapers only too eager to snipe Cole from a precarious ledge or ambush him en masse while out on the streets.

Confronting these hoodie-wearing enemies is initially a frustrating experience, as Cole starts the game with only minimal powers. It's easy to gnash your teeth in anger as you are shot at for the umpteenth time by an enemy perched on a rooftop two blocks away.

However, by making good or bad choices - such as killing citizens or healing them - Cole opens up new branches of special powers, which make dealing with these tiresome adversaries a breeze.

There's no doubt the evil branch gives the player more exciting special powers, but both sides of the karmic spectrum yield impressive abilities. From beefing up your Lightning Bolt power and increasing your electromagnetic Shockwave ability, to causing mass destruction with Sadistic Strikes - taking on and defeating enemies using the power of fizzing, neon bolts of lightning never gets old.

The flip side to this raft of special powers is that Cole quickly becomes drained of electricity. However, he can recharge his powers by locking himself into the city's electrical grid via generators and light sources.

While the main quest is engaging - each new chapter held together perfectly with beautiful stylised comic book cut scenes - InFamous encourages the player to explore the three huge islands that make up Empire City.

Side quests are peppered throughout the streets and completing them 'cleans up' an area of the city, stopping Reapers from entering for the remainder of the game. This gives the player the opportunity to freely explore the environment, and, as with Crackdown, there is plenty of incentive to do so.

Along with locating all the satellite uplink dishes which reside on Empire City's rooftops, 350 shards are scattered about the metropolis, and collecting them becomes an obsession - with these shining blue trophies frequently distracting you as you go about your business. They also serve to increase your energy meter, which is vital for sustained electrical attacks.

There are a few niggles which stop InFamous reaching its full potential, however. The graphics, while solid-looking - throw up some issues, such as small frame rate glitches and pedestrians and enemies get stuck in the scenery. The side missions, while a fun diversion, can become repetitive, with similar tasks repeating throughout the course of the game. Cole also ventures underground to restore power to areas of the city during the main quest, and these confined sections become tedious trawls - although you are frequently rewarded with new powers for your trouble.

However, despite a few flaws, the real joy of InFamous is the core free-running gameplay. It's effortlessly handled and it is a real thrill to throw Cole off a high point into a group of enemies below, bowling them over like skittles.

It takes a while to get going, and being sniped at constantly at the start of the game can infuriate. But stick with InFamous, unlock some new abilities, and you'll uncover one of the most satisfying gaming experiences on the PlayStation 3.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Project Trico - PS3: Screens

After last night's excitment about Project Trico, it has emerged the trailer could be more than a year old, and the music is a placeholder soundtrack taken from the Coen brother's 1991 film Miller's Crossing.

I must stress there is still no concrete evidence this is the real deal, but I, like many others, hope what we are seeing is genuine footage.

Anyway, thanks to the team at PlayStation Lifestyle, here are some stills. Some are taken from the trailer, while others are new. Enjoy.

Thanks again to PlayStation Lifestyle for the images

Project Trico - PS3

We've waited years for Fumito Ueda to unveil his latest game, could this be the first footage? There's no word on its authenticity, but it certainly has all the hallmarks of Ueda's unmistakable style.

The Ico and Shadow of the Colossus creator's third title has been under wraps for such a long time that the internet is currently going crazy over this footage.

As a huge fan of Ueda-san's previous offerings, this looks mouth-watering, and I only hope it turns out to be genuine. Hopefully some concrete info will emerge at the forthcoming E3 conference.

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Afrika/Hakuna Matata - PS3: More snaps

My look at Afrika/Hakuna Matata on PlayStation 3 has been very popular, and I've received many emails about the game and requests for in-game pics.

So here are a few shots I've taken while out and about. Hope you like them and I'll try and get another selection up soon.

On a side note, there is still no concrete news of a Western release, but I remain hopeful.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Dragonica - PC

When I first started playing MMOs, there wasn't a great deal of choice. Eight years ago, the only two real options were Ultima Online and EverQuest on PC.

However, with the huge success of World of Warcraft and Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all embracing online play, gamers have never had so much choice.

Dragonica is a free-to-play side-scrolling PC MMO, which will be released later this year. I've been lucky enough to have spent the last few weeks in the Beta test and it's shaping up to be a great game.

Most free to play MMOs aren't the best, failing to match the quality of pay-to-play games such as Warcraft, EverQuest 2, Eve Online and Lord of the Rings Online. However, Dragonica - along with the recently released Free Realms - have proved, free to play doesn't necessarily mean cheap production values.

Developed by South Korean firm Barunson Inteactive and distributed in the UK by gPotato, Dragonica clearly isn't aimed at the hardcore World of Warcraft player. However, those who think its kid-friendly visuals indicate an MMO-lite will be in for a bit of a surprise.

Underneath its deliciously colourful wrapping lies all the elements that go into making a memorable MMO: Skill trees, quests, battles, special attacks, item crafting, enchanted weapons and, more importantly, loot drops. Finding items from downed creatures lies at the core of a decent MMO, and it's a mechanic which keeps players playing. It's implemented well here, with quest hand-ins yielding better equipment and weapons.

For those used to the open world aspect of an MMO, Dragonica is something of a shock. While it's possible to move up and down to a limited degree while exploring the world, the game is played out on a pseudo 3D map.

Another jolt to the average MMO player will be the control method. Dragonica largely does away with the mouse, relying instead on the cursor keys to move, C to jump, X to attack, Z and Space to interact with people and objects, while special abilities can be mapped to the QWERTY keys. Also, judging by iPotato's press release, it looks as if control pad support will be added at a later date.

It's hard to be too critical, especially as the game is still in the beta phase of development, but there are a few niggles which will hopefully be sorted before the game launches.

There are some terrible grammatical errors throughout and the menu system can be unnecessarily cumbersome and messy at times. Some menu overlays also stick, meaning you have to logout and re-enter the world, while the lack of 1440 x 900 support means the game looks a bit fuzzy on my widescreen monitor.

However, there's enough on display at the moment to suggest that Dragonica will be an impressive package when the game goes on general release. Definitely one to keep your eye on.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Boku no Natsuyasumi 4 - PSP

I blogged last year about Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 on PS3, a game which placed you in the shoes of a small boy and tasked you with having a fun and memorable summer holiday.
    Now, a trailer of the forthcoming Boku no Natsuyasumi 4 on PSP has been released. This time the summer adventure is set in a costal village in Japan - possibly the Seto Inland Sea - in 1985.
    Along with the now familiar bug collecting, beetle fighting, swimming, fishing, morning exercises and family meals, the team at Millennium Kitchen have added a few new interesting activities.
    There is now a taiko drum mini game, which takes place in the village square, a mini beetle circus for your captured bugs, a general store which looks like it includes a playable table-top version of classic 1981 arcade game Qix, and tai chi classes.
    What is really exciting for fans of the series is that it looks like Boku no Natsuyasumi 4 - released on July 2 - will be available on UMD and also available to download from the Japanese PlayStation store. The UMD will cost 4980 yen, while the download comes in at 3800 yen.
    Unfortunately, I've been struggling to find decent sized screenshots, but here's a link to the official Boku no Natsuyasumi 4 website, which has pictures: click
    I will report back when new details come to light. In the meantime, here are my thoughts on Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 on PS3.