Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Wonderful 101 - Wii U

It's safe to say that the lure of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and The Wonderful 101 were enough to twist my arm and persuade me to buy a Wii U. Monster Hunter was - as expected - incredible and still remains
in my top games of the year, so could The Wonderful 101 possibly live up to my lofty expectations, too? The answer is mixed and while the game is truly wonderful (sorry, I couldn't resist) in places, some niggles with the game's controls sour the experience slightly, but more of that later.
    The story follows the Wonderful 100 - you are the 101st member - a gallant band of masked superheroes who are in the midst of a titanic struggle against the alien GEATHJERK army - a mob who are intent on destroying the world. It's all a bit cliched, but as a framework to hang the blistering action on, it works perfectly and there's a huge dollop of humour thrown in to keep the story light-hearted and fresh.
    The twist with The Wonderful 101 is that you don't control a single member of this mighty force - you actually control all of them simultaneously. You also have the ability to fuse your heroes together to create mighty weapons of mass destruction, including a brilliant blue sword, a giant gun and an apartment-sized fist, with which to smash the robotic extraterrestrial menace.
    Platinum Games were widely applauded for the implementation of deep and satisfying combat systems in games such as Bayonetta and Vanquish and that rich tradition continues here. However, you will need to spend a bit of time experimenting here to get under the game's skin and draw the most from the experience.

    The action is relentless - rarely does the game pause for breath - with the player buffeted between one eye-popping boss battle to the next even bigger showdown. Learning which formations to unleash on these daunting foes is half the battle and finding their weak point and exploiting it with style and panache is a great feeling. Mind bending combinations can be pulled off and the game allows players to mix and match multiple fighting styles simultaneously to cause complete carnage. These commands are issued either with the Wii U's right stick or by drawing a variety of shapes on the touch pad. It takes a while to get used to this, but perseverance pays off, even if the command input sometimes doesn't quite register properly in the heat
of battle.
    Other issues arise when the action switches from the TV to the pad's screen when your bustling mob are indoors. Everything gets far too cramped and controlling the camera can be more difficult than it really needs to be. That said, it's an ambitious project and one that at least attempts to use the Wii U's gamepad for something other than an extra inventory screen.
    To reward experimentation and effectiveness while battering the alien forces into submission, medals as dished out on the completion of levels, giving the game plenty of replayability for those who simply need to Hoover up all those shiny platinum medals. Collecting achievements in the shape of bottle caps also gives the player plenty to think about while saving the planet.
    Visually, The Wonderful 101 is an absolute triumph, with its magical isometric vantage point giving a fresh perspective on the action, while the stunning tilt-shift effect, bright colours and clean lines simply add to the game's splendid visual appeal. The characters, too, are a delight, with the bunch beautifully detailed and bursting with charm and character. They gleefully slap down GEATHJERK forces with aplomb and enthusiastically scamper across the screen with vim and vigour, accompanied at all times by a stirring soundtrack.
    So while The Wonderful 101 occasionally misses a beat, it's a unique and refreshing all-action experience which rewards the player handsomely. There's really nothing quite like it on the market and is yet another corker of a game on Nintendo's home console.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Wipeout HD - PS3

While desperately clearing my PlayStation 3's hard drive to make space for yet another download, I flicked through all the screenshots from the past few years and came across a bunch from various titles. However, it was the pictures I took of Wipeout HD which caught my eye. I'm actually not a huge fan of the series, but the picture editor included with the game really grabbed me and I spent more time messing around with it than actually playing the game. So, here are a few of my favourites.