The debut game from Boss Key Productions, a studio headed by Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski, aims to bridge the gap between old school and modern competitive first-person shooters. Placing one foot firmly in arena shooter territory and the other in the hero shooter’s neck of the woods, LawBreakers confidently puts forward a compelling alternative to both that any FPS fan should appreciate.
Variations on these balletic exchanges are constantly occurring in all directions, infusing the high-octane chaos with a choreographed beauty.
It might take a little while to reach that level of play, as you’ll need to execute several button presses and numerous stick adjustments in a tight timeframe, but it’s worth toughing the learning process out, as you’ll feel like a true professional when you master the satisfying traversal and gunplay first individually; then as one cohesive package.
This high skill cap excuses LawBreakers’ apparent lack of hero variety when compared to it peers, with the nine classes each offering more nuance than any single character in Blizzard’s Overwatch. Their tighter ranks still offer plenty of diversity, accommodating most play styles with damage-dealing tanks, nimble but fragile assassins, supports, and hybrid roles in between.
Each class has a fixed loadout consisting of an ultimate and two secondary abilities, generally also wielding a primary weapon with secondary fire function and a sidearm. Ability usage is limited either by a cooldown period or fuel consumption, which calls for different management tactics between combatants favouring either method or a mixture of both, helping to keep players on their toes both as they meet different foes and freely switch between heroes mid-match.
You’re never limited as to which class you can choose to play as, which can be a blessing and a curse. While you won’t be locked out of playing your main, there’s a definite tendency for most players to pick between the faster classes in Assassin, Gunslinger and Wraith, leaving other roles unfilled. A balanced team isn’t as integral to victory here as it is in other hero shooters - individual skill is much more important on that front - but somebody else going healer every now and then would still be nice.
The self-serving player mindset can impact your win/loss ratio when it extends to playing the objective, however. A portion of players approach the five rotating game modes - these including variations on King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, and even American football - as if they were Team Deathmatch. We'd typically pin this entirely on people being people, but we feel Boss Key shoulder some of the blame in this instance. Foregoing Deathmatch modes in a game so openly inspired by the likes of Unreal Tournament and Quake doesn’t cater to a sizeable portion of the audience they've attracted.
You’ll earn experience points towards levelling whether your teammates cooperate or not, and with levels come Stash Drops, LawBreakers’ take on the loot box. They function exactly as you’d expect, upon being opened spitting out four random aesthetic customisation items ranging from throwaway to must-have. Duplicates are converted into currency which can be used to bypass the random element and directly purchase skins you’ve had your eye on, while you can also use real-world money to purchase more Drops.
All in all, LawBreakers has its foibles, but they’re fixable foibles with a patch or two; for every slight misstep, it nails a handful of the fundamentals. The core combat and traversal loop is outstanding, it looks crisp and controls smoothly at 4K/60FPS on PS4 Pro (after a patch fixing the launch day issues you may have heard about), matchmaking is snappy and well-populated, the pulsing soundtrack keeps you hyped-up and ready to compete. This amalgamates in a game that’s seriously engaging and frequently has us declaring “just one more more match” for several matches consecutively.
The humble fox, where would we be without it? For starters, the Lylat system would have fallen to Andross and his evil armies decades ago, the animals of Farthing Wood would never have made it to White Deer Park, and, er, that Disney version of medieval Nottingham where all the inhabitants are woodland animals would still be toiling under Prince John’s ludicrous tax laws. Looking to further add to these (sort of) legendary tales of fox glory are Swing Swing Submarine, with their Metroidvania-like, 2D puzzle/platformer, Seasons After Fall.
Asides from notably changing the land’s aesthetics, by drastically altering the weather and lighting, each season also has its own unique effect on the platforming side of things. Autumn causes mushrooms to expand their caps, creating makeshift platforms, winter freezes lakes, making them easier to cross, summer sees trampoline-like plant pods bloom into life, while spring rains raise water levels. Often, you’ll need to combine these abilities in order to progress deeper into an area, such as raising a water level with spring rains, and then freezing it with winter’s cold, but doing so, for the most part, feels rudimentary, and you’re never really presented with any kind of obstacle that requires too much thought.
As well as the four seasons, there’s a small selection of local wildlife scattered throughout the game that players will be able to utilise from time to time, including some insect-like critters that have a smack of the metroid about them. Depending on the type, these can be used to grow mushroom platforms, sprout new trees, or break down progress-halting barriers. There’s also a Super Mario-style Piranha Plant that, depending on the season you currently have selected, will create makeshift platforms by spitting out snow, or douse well-placed tree seedlings with water to make them grow.
Watching the brush-tailed avatar trot, sprint and leap through the beautifully hand-painted landscape was one of the highlights of the game.
As a key feature, the game naturally relies heavily upon its season switching mechanic, but the small animation that comes with every change, in which the fox is lifted into the air and the surrounding landscape is transformed, isn't as rapid as it could be, which can get a little tedious when even crossing a small area can sometimes require three or four changes. Also, if you happen to be standing on a moving platform when switching seasons, which is at times necessary, then the brief moment you spend hanging in the air is usually just long enough for the platform to move out from under your feet, causing you to fall.
Little issues like this, coupled with floaty controls and some occasional input lag, cement the feeling that Seasons After Fall was never intended to appeal to hardcore platforming fans, with the game relying instead on its charm, unique presentation and novelty value to keep the player invested, much like Unravel did when it released just over a year ago.
Unlike Coldwood and EA’s title however, whose thread-based puzzles and nostalgia-inducing narrative made it easy to forgive the game its basic platforming mechanics, Seasons’ issues - despite its beautiful visuals, soundtrack and sympathetic protagonist - are harder to look past.
● Lovely, hand-painted art
● Charming soundtrack
● An endearingly cute protagonist
● Manipulating the seasons is cool…
● …but feels like it could have been implemented better, especially in puzzles
● Floaty controls
● No objective indicator makes it easy to get lost
Little Nightmares is a welcome change from the typical puzzle-platformer; it's a dark, twisted tale that's riddled with questions from start to finish, playing upon the whimsical nature of childhood all the while. Unfortunately, it's also a game that's marginally let down by its lacklustre length.
You're encouraged to interact with your environment in Little Nightmares, leading to some bizarre and inventive exploration.
Being unable to take these creatures on toe-to-toe means resorting to stealth, resulting in hurried attempts to scurry under furniture for cover, or to reach the safe embrace of a cramped vent to gain a moment to catch your breath. It's exhilarating stuff, made even more pulse-pounding by the faint flicker of heartbeats that are introduced and become progressively louder the closer you get in proximity to an enemy. This strategic use of sound enforces a sense of imbalance at pivotal moments, further complemented by the likes of The Janitor's clawing swipes. The more you play, the less effect it'll have, however, as strictly scripted enemy behaviour starts to make their pathing predictable.
You're encouraged to interact with your environment in Little Nightmares, leading to some bizarre and inventive exploration. Be it clambering on top of toilet paper to reach a switch, climbing up bookshelves, or creating a string of sausages to use as a swing, these child-like solutions are fantastic at creating a playfully absurd environment. With new and imaginative ways to progress to the next level, there's barely ever a dull moment, despite the oppressive nature of The Maw.
Little Nightmares has combined elements of the survival horror and puzzle-platformer genres into one enticing and inventive package. With a story that gets progressively more malevolent, and an impressively eerie soundtrack to match, the game's lacking three-hour runtime never fully manages to explore the bizarre world in its entirety, however. Despite that, Little Nightmares takes a bold step in a satisfyingly fresh direction, making it an easy recommendation for fans of horror and/or puzzle-platformers.
Snake Pass is a nostalgic return to the classic 3D platformer genre. It's gibberish-talking central duo and soundtrack penned by David Wise are especially reminiscent of Rare’s N64 catalogue, but in terms of mechanics, the game is almost entirely individual.
It takes some getting used to, but once you have the knack of it, controlling Snake Pass becomes intensely rewarding.
Unlike most of its peers, Snake Pass is devoid of enemies, and, thus, combat. There are moving traps and deadly pits, but even those are relatively sparse, so you’ll mostly meet your end by slipping from a ledge and suffering a fatal fall as you seek to hoard a level’s collectibles.
Each level contains three Keystones that are directly tied to progression, in addition to optional pickups in floating bubbles, which generally litter your more immediate path, and deviously hidden gold coins. There’s seemingly no tangible payoff for gathering the non-primary collectibles, but ticking all of a level’s boxes will be reward enough for completionists. Some, however, may be deterred from the pursuit by occasionally poor checkpoint placement, which can lead to losing decent chunks of progress (as well as anything gathered in that timeframe) to challenging sections far removed from any safe haven.
While this issue wasn’t prevalent enough to cause any real frustration, that certainly wasn’t the case on the odd occasion Noodle became completely stuck and restarting the entire level was the only available workaround. Just as the option to reload a checkpoint is missing, so too is the ability to change the camera sensitivity, which feels too sluggish by default. There’s also no in-game option to disable the irritating Joy-Con rumble that emits a sound like a rusty harmonica, though, mercifully, you can do so in the Switch’s System Settings menu.
Snake Pass’ level-based structure is a perfect fit for gaming on the go, comfortably accommodating play in short bursts, which is how we’d recommend approaching the Switch version. When docked the increase in resolution is immediately noticeable, but the trade-off isn’t worth it when the frame rate suffers as a result, as was the case with Breath of the Wild.
While issues - some of which affect the Switch port specifically - can slightly hamper the experience, ultimately, Sumo Digital have successfully melded retro and modern design to achieve an inspired middle ground. When you consider Snake Pass’ stellar visual and aural presentation, along with its uniquely rewarding mechanics and lovable protagonist, Noodle, fans would have to be mad to miss this catalyst for the 3D platforming revival. Pressure’s on, Yooka-Laylee!
Rise & Shine is a gorgeously illustrated adventure that’s equally vibrant and violent throughout its short duration. Despite a strong aesthetic and solid mechanics, however, its shortcomings leave it placing no immediate demands on your time or money.
Its self-aware brand of humour mostly misses the mark, unfortunately.
Thankfully, gameplay fares better.
Varied and engaging pacing is one of the game’s strengths, cramming a shoot ‘em up vehicle section, mini-games, edge-of-your-seat boss battles and more into a range of locales across a tight 2-3 hour runtime. Though it’s an enjoyable ride, there’s little reason to take it again unless you’re hunting achievements.
A serious visual treat, Rise & Shine’s gourmet presentation could be misleading. Lazy attempts at humour that rely on references without substance and an unsatisfying portion size make it more akin to gaming fast food. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we all enjoy it from time to time, just don’t expect anything more than a quick and dirty burger.
The Last Guardian is a successful achievement in emotive and interactive storytelling, and my first few hours of playing were filled with wonderment. To observe how Trico, your half-bird/half-dog hybrid, animates and reacts to their environment is a beautiful moment to witness. The bond shared between these two companions is an accolade we haven't experienced since playing The Last of Us, in 2013.
Technically ambitious - its core mechanics are often neglected, and left as a second priority.
Where it excels visually and narratively, hinderance lies heavily on the game's controls. Clambering onto Trico's back during combat, being thrust in numerous directions in the process, needs the support of reliably stable camera controls, but they just aren't there. It often feels so technically ambitious that it comes at the cost of core mechanics, seeing them become a secondary citizen and the experience suffer for it.
Breathtaking moments were often sullied by lazy and inaccurate camera design, which inhibited our ability to focus on the action. One pivotal moment towards the end relied upon quick response times, but we were unfortunately met with bouts of terrible frame drop, resulting in some real frustration during an inopportune period. It was particularly disappointing considering the game had so far executed some fantastic cinematic set pieces without similar issues.
The Last Guardian strikes an interesting artistic merit as well, providing a unique mix of anime and Western 'triple-A' gaming. The world is shrouded in mystery and symbolism, and because of this, it feels compelling to discover its secrets, as well as uncover your own. The attention to detail on elements like the flicker of Trico's ears, which are receptive to his emotional responses, resemble that of a of real-life animal, and is a huge technical accomplishment. We cherished watching Trico bathe in pools, yawn and make himself comfortable, and use his claws to softly and playfully suggest the answer to the next part of a puzzle.
A marvel of interactive storytelling.
A treasurable experience.
It’s been a long 8 years of speculation, curiosity and excitement. After the 15 hours it took to complete its story, we're left feeling both profoundly moved and saddened at the thought that our time with Trico has reached its end. In The Last Guardian's greatest moments, it’s confident while sensitive approach to storytelling makes for an emotive and treasurable experience. At its weakest, sticky and lethargic camera controls disturb an otherwise beautiful story-driven experience.
Despite this, The Last Guardian is a game that should be experienced by all players. On a personal note; it's comfortably my personal Game of the Year.
Developer Dan Fornace is the mind behind Super Smash Land, a fan-made Super Smash Bros. demake, who also served as Lead Developer on the excellent Killer Instinct reboot that launched alongside the Xbox One. Dan’s background is precisely why his new independent venture, Rivals of Aether, should grab your attention. It’s an amalgamation of the knowledge he’s accrued, as well as another passionate love letter to one of his favourite games.
Once you’re good and ready for competition, you’ll need to carefully select a stage to put your new skills to use on. There’s a mixture of symmetrical and asymmetrical layouts, as well as compositions that allow for more or less verticality, centred around both grounded and fantastical geography. Each possesses a fitting retro soundtrack that’ll really put the wind in your sails, as well as unique hazards and pick-ups that change the way you play. It’s worth noting that these modifiers can be turned off should you want an unimpeded fight experience, perhaps to settle a dispute with a level-playing-field grudge match.
A further glut of customisation options are available for the matches themselves, namely edits to the time limit and number of lives, number of participants, whether the battle is free-for-all or team-based, and each individual fighter’s competence. Everyone can find their sweet spot as a result.
Whatever settings you opt for, matches are enjoyably frenetic, especially if you opt for a full roster of four. The streamlined controls earn their stay here, not getting lost amongst the crazy cavalcade of busy visual effects as conventionally complex inputs likely would.
As you dish out beatings the recipient’s damage percentage increases, and the higher it gets the easier it is to knock them from the stage and deplete their stock of lives by one. Once they run out, they’re eliminated, and you win by being the last animorph standing. It’s incredibly Smash, but it’s regardless a raucous good time that brings the experience to an audience Smash largely doesn’t reach.
It’s incredibly Smash, but it’s regardless a raucous good time that brings the experience to an audience Smash largely doesn’t reach.
For an early access game, technical performance is mostly rock solid thanks to responsive controls and no hitching during even the most frenzied of encounters. When we ventured online, some issues did unfortunately apparate in the finicky invite system and occasional bout of lag.
The online multiplayer issues don’t quite end there, however, as the breadth of choice available to solo users gives way to quite a rigid structure. Whilst it’s understandable that ranked matches would disable stage modifiers and bots, there’s no reason to enforce the same strict ruling on friendly matches. To the same point, team-based battles should also be available. Rivals of Aether is predictably at its absolute best when shared with friends, but unless they’re available for local play, the options are disappointingly limiting.
Despite that, if you’ve been craving a nostalgic shot of Smash Bros. but have long since left Nintendo behind, were burned by PlayStation All-Stars, or are just looking to inject some variety into your repertoire of bog-standard fighters, Rivals of Aether is for you. Whether you choose to invest now or wait for the final release depends where your interests lie; whilst you’re (at least eventually) in for a treat either way, we’d advise erring on the side of caution and waiting to see if the online options are expanded upon first.
Pick it up in preview
Wait for final release
Avoid it either way
Note: To reiterate, Rivals of Aether is currently in preview phase and this review reflects the state of the game at the time of publishing. Things can and will change, likely only for the better.
A brief second opinion:
With that in mind, the preview build definitely offers a strong beginning that we can expect to reach its full potential as the game is updated to reach release state.
Going into a game like ReCore raises questions. “So what's this one about?” “Isn't this the one with the robot dog?” “When is this coming out on PS4 again?” Arriving on the tail end of a summer of ups and downs in gaming and being Microsoft's first exclusive since the release of the Xbox One - this new IP has a lot to prove.
Making your way across the epic landscape - which looks great, but not exceptional - is helped by the use of classic fast travel stations, but sadly they aren't spread very evenly, meaning you can run into three and then not see one for a while.
Since popping back to Joule's crawler (where she's been sleeping for the past 200 years in suspended animation) is a key part of the game, as it allows you to upgrade your corebots, it can be frustrating to find yourself easily able to warp back there, but unable to return once your tinkering is complete.
...a fun action platformer which executes the simple, and sometimes familiar, ideas it has very well, but there's not too much more to it than that.
This leads us to possibly the worst element of ReCore - the loading times. Moving between two areas, even a fairly straightforward door, triggers a 30-60 second loading screen and often stays black for much of that time.
Of course, the experience could be different on PC, something you can do easily thanks to Xbox’s Play Anywhere programme, which allows you to play the game in full on either platform.
The structure of the game feels most similar to something like The Legend of Zelda, though that endearing quality and personality you get from particularly the locations in those games doesn't show itself here, as ReCore offers you either a sandy plain or a grim dungeon.
The fact that the game does describe them as dungeons is to its credit though, there's no overly-forced slew of technical terms to translate here. The dungeons themselves share the game’s love of simplicity, challenging you with only a few rooms and the odd frantic, timing-based platforming element.
ReCore doesn't outstay its welcome though. At around 8-10 hours the main story wraps itself up fairly neatly and there's not too much more to discover by returning to some of the earlier locales.
At its core then (well, you know there'd be one…) ReCore is a fun action platformer which executes the simple, and sometimes familiar, ideas it has very well, but there's not too much more to it than that. Those looking for sweeping cinematics or an incredibly deep plot will be disappointed, but if you've got a free weekend and you want to hit a game hard, ReCore is certainly a good bet.
Have you played the game yet? Are you still too busy with No Man's Sky? Let us know in the comments, and don't forget to watch the video review as well (and subscribe, naturally).
I’ve personally always been on board with Kinect, immediately adopting the original peripheral and accruing a sizeable portion of its catalogue. The - mostly - good times that followed meant I took no issue with the second generation initially being a compulsory part of the Xbox One package. I did, however, grow to take issue with the fact that it received excruciatingly little software support thereafter.
If that sounds a tad complex (in the least patronising way possible), FRU is very accommodating and might be able to help. Pass the controller off and designate a person to each operation, use objects to extend your reach, even tactically dress to more easily fit into small spaces or cover larger areas. Perhaps most useful is the ability to pause gameplay whilst repositioning yourself, which opens the experience up to those less able and to those with small play spaces.
Whichever tactic you choose to employ, whoever’s in front of Kinect will naturally look the fool. Embrace this and there’s a great party game that’ll see your friends and family takings pins, lunging, sitting on the floor, standing on one leg and more. The silhouette’s pretty unflattering and seemingly adds a few pounds if you’re self conscious, but if that’s the case you probably aren’t going to be up for crab walking around the room with your arms in the air...
A few personal examples.
Unfortunately, there isn't much substance to justify busting it out more than once. There are four short chapters, each one introducing a new mechanic to keep things fresh, in which you’ll easily acquire all of the collectibles. You’re rewarded for doing so with access to FRU’s prototype phase, which is drastically different aesthetically, whilst maintaining the same core mechanics in a less polished form. It’s interesting to see how the game developed over the course of a few levels, but nothing more.
The undoubtedly front-and-centre gameplay mechanics are complemented by a serene soundtrack that effectively develops to be quite urgent in the final, challenging stages. Meanwhile, the simple art carries a warm and charming glow that’s impossible not to be taken with, mirroring the touching connection made in quite literally guiding a character by hand. Naive storybook framing furthers the effect, as if you were helping them off to sleep with a whimsical bedtime story the whole time. In an odd way, it’s the closest I’ve come to parenthood, because I was essentially playing that role in what was evocative of nostalgic childhood memories.
Perhaps the final hurrah for Microsoft’s Kinect, FRU sends it off with a bang. A sweet, innovative and tight platformer that’ll work your mind and body, the game unfortunately comes to an end all too quickly.
Games like INSIDE don’t come around often; it’s a truly special experience that should be savoured over its precious three to four hour course. It’s Playdead’s second game, the spiritual successor to LIMBO, and another absolute classic.
To fully explore INSIDE’s strange and exciting subject matter would be to rob you of discovering them for yourself.
Platforming is a secondary gameplay pillar, more a means to an end than a challenge of its own. You’ll naturally employ the tightly controlled manoeuvres to aid in your traversal, but don’t expect any particularly taxing jumps.
There’s a refreshing, if still slight, level of freedom for what’s usually a somewhat linear genre. Some sections can be tackled in an order of your choosing, dependant on which direction you choose to take off in, whilst there are also plenty of hidden secrets to uncover. These are tied to the game’s achievements, in addition to an alternate ending, but please resist the temptation to introduce the distraction of a walkthrough on your initial playthrough. Play at your own pace, allow yourself to absorb it, discover what you discover, then go back.
To fully explore INSIDE’s strange and exciting subject matter would be to rob you of discovering them for yourself. That said, the ending has been the one constant criticism raised. It certainly doesn’t answer all of the questions it prompted, but when paired with the alternate ending, we’re content with our interpretation. It doesn’t need to be spelled out.
A rare, somber experience that’s dense with atmosphere, you’ll likely play in a stunned silence, mouth slightly agape in wonderment. If you ever find yourself in a games as art discussion - a topic that shouldn’t still be up for debate - point towards INSIDE and rest your case.