Join us for another quickie, as we take a look at Marooners on Xbox One.
Trying to remember the objective, or if you’re even alive, as play jumps back and forth leads to memorable moments as players meet their untimely ends amidst the confusion.
Does it support couch co-op?
In theory, Marooners lets you blend both local and online multiplayer, but the fiddly nature of setting up the former combined with the small player base of the latter means your only real option for a decent match is finding several other friends who own the game and organising some online mayhem.
For an idea of the type of fun to be had with that setup, check out our let’s play and see how we handled Marooners’ madness.
Failing that, there are bots to help make up numbers, but they negate both the challenge and humorous moments human opposition offer.
Would you recommend it?
Given the game’s only $9.99/€9.99/£7.99, yes, we would (with a caveat). There’s a good time to be had in Marooners, provided you can scrape together a few online friends to squeeze it out.
Get back to basics with endearing physics puzzler Tales of the Tiny Planet in the latest delightful iteration in our mini-review series: Taken for a Quickie.
Is it worth the price of admission?
Being a game which is already available on Steam for around £7 and on mobile for just over £3, £17.99 on Switch is a hefty price tag for a relatively small package. The Switch version does boast a bonus sixth world, featuring some pesky portals, and a co-op mode, but whether that's enough to justify the jump in price is up for debate. There’s a couple of hours of solid brain-teasing here, as well as some post-completion challenges, but, in the end, despite its charm and effective presentation, it’s hard to recommend at its current price point.
I’m going to level with you - I’m a pretty habitual human. With the false perception that I have ‘all the time in the world’, I can be easy prey for monotony. I’m not saying I’m constantly glued to re-runs and forever eating the same two food groups (pasta and chips, of course), but I do have a penchant for stagnation. So, when the clock struck midnight on 1 January 2018, I forged a New Year’s resolution; break the cycle and get my shizz together because time is ticking. So, fittingly, the first game I picked up in 2018 was The Sexy Brutale.
But then something unusual happens: the clock is reset, and Lafcadio goes full-on Bill Murray and wakes up to begin the entire day again from scratch. Yep, his magic pocket watch is straight outta Groundhog Day. So now Mr. Boone knows that whatshisface in the next room is about to be brutally executed, he has to somehow find a way to prevent his murder.
Cue the intro to a fabulous game dynamic in which you essentially play the same 12 hours over and over again. It should be mind-numbingly boring, though it’s anything but.
A number of guests are being knocked off around the clock, and you’ll prevent them meeting their grizzly ends by sneaking around and solving a myriad of amusing puzzles. It’s a genius concept. A concept that keeps you smirking with joy at its cleverness each time you hear the gunshots, crashes and other horrific sounds that go hand-in-hand with the murders taking place at exactly the same hour each day.
As formerly expressed, being a creature of habit, this type of gameplay - as enjoyable as it was - seemed to eerily echo my own procrastination cycles. Seeing the cutscenes play out identically and the same old mistakes made reinforced my belief that my brain was occasionally ‘stuck on repeat’. I became somewhat keen on the idea that unravelling Lafcadio Boone’s predicament in this murderous masked ball was tied subliminally to breaking my own stale routine this coming year.
TSB’s shining narrative also helped to keep me hooked throughout this journey of self discovery; the game’s writing is equally essential as its structure to achieving brilliance. Narrative designer Jim Griffiths ensures the dialogue crackles with macabre wit - so much so that the simple description of a cellar filled with booze begged to be uploaded to Instagram - and the conspiracy at the heart of the hotel draws you in, just as Lafcadio leans towards the peephole of a door for a cheeky eavesdrop. TSB leaves you eager to uncover more of its victims and perpetrators’ secrets long after completion. In fact, I’ve often gone back for a wander around the mansion since finishing… I guess old habits do die hard.
A fabulous game dynamic in which you essentially play the same 12 hours over and over again. It should be mind-numbingly boring, though it’s anything but.
Any true completionist will appreciate the chance to keep delving deeper long after the credits roll, though the cryptic path of murder prevention can be a rocky one. Some puzzles aren’t complex enough, being solved all too easily or possibly even by accident, whilst other times you’re left scratching your head, holding a key to a door you won’t find for hours.
In the event you do get stuck, the original soundtrack is truly something to behold and should keep you ticking as you mull things over. The colourful music draws influence from 1920’s jazz, with a sprinkling of funk and the echo of an enthusiastic mariachi band. In parts it feels comically in line with the pithy quips uttered by the NPCs, and at other times its a super sneaky compliment to the stealth side of the game.
When I finally finished TSB, I met with one of the most beautifully profound and well written endings to a videogame since Shadow of the Colossus. You don’t expect it, you definitely won’t welcome it, and you’re left with one sombre realisation: you can’t set your own watch back eight hours and relive the entire spectacle again.
So, after enjoying a game built around reliving the same old existence for hours on end, for me it marked the beginning of a new start in my ambitions. I drew close to unravelling the mysteries at the heart of TSB and I couldn’t help but see the madness in my own sluggish addiction to familiarity. It did – has - changed my life. I don’t have all the time in the world. Tomorrow is a gift; that’s why they call it the present. Duh.
Last week saw Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China stealthily make its way to Xbox One as a console exclusive. Grab your best pair of flying goggles and keep an eye out for ack-ack guns as we take to the skies in our first quickie of the year. Chocks away!
If you grew up playing titles such as Rogue Squadron and Blazing Angels, FTSOC will definitely tickle that aerial combat itch that’s been missing from consoles for too long.
Hmm, five hours isn’t that long…
There’s a few extra modes that help extend the game’s longevity, including online competitive multiplayer, provided you can find a populated server.
The highlight of these extra modes has to be Dogfight, which pits you against enemy AI in a location and aircraft of your choice, including a few that aren’t available in the campaign, such as the iconic Supermarine Spitfire and P51 Mustang.
Would you recommend it?
Yes. The campaign may be too short, and the visuals can sometimes look a little plain (pun very much intended), but there’s just something incredibly thrilling about hearing the rat-at-at-at of machine gun fire and the thrum of your engine as you pounce upon enemy aircraft formations from above.
If you grew up playing titles such as Rogue Squadron and Blazing Angels, FTSOC will definitely tickle that aerial combat itch that’s been missing from consoles for too long.
Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China is available now on Xbox One for £15.19/€18.99/$18.99 and on Steam, where it released last year, for £12.39/€15.99/$15.99.
This past Wednesday Nintendo unveiled their Labo range, a series of cardboard-based peripherals - or Toy-Cons (the name is adorable, admit it) - that are used to interact with specific software and provide “a new way to play” your Switch. The products have caused quite a divisive stir, further fuelled by the announcement of a weighty pricing model; as such, we’ve polled team PTC to gauge the reaction in our cosy corner of the Internet.
Editor, James Parry
Announcements which make you say 'Oh' could suggest a spectrum of emotion:
'Oh god, what have they done?’
'Oh wow, that actually looks really cool!’
‘Oh… how underwhelming...'
In the case of Nintendo Labo (surely up there with the Wii as one of the most Nintendo names of all time), for me it's probably a mixture of the first two.
Putting aside concerns about the use of plastic - a hot topic right now - the idea at first glance is one I can't see coming from any other games company, or at least no other company would be able to get away with it. The Joy-Cons as a piece of hardware are excellent, however their broad technological potential, and, by extension, Labo, are mostly lost on me due to sticking with Switch games that have more traditional control methods.
For kids though, it's a different story. Imagination is something Nintendo has always had a knack for capturing, and the pair of cardboard creations revealed so far already offer up near limitless possibilities in the right hands. Some parents may raise their eyebrows at putting down around £70 for some cardboard, understandably, but with so much samey-ness around and the ability to encourage creativity with pocket money-friendly customisation packs, why not?
Staff Writer, Chris Brand
I think the concept of flat pack controllers is ridiculous. I was never one for building or creating things so, for me, this sits comfortably between constructing a LEGO set and assembling an Ikea wardrobe on the entertainment scale. Like LEGO, much of the fun with Labo is to be had on the journey and, although I can see the appeal, it's not an activity I would ever willingly participate in.
There's also the cardboard issue. It's not known for being the most durable material and seems decidedly unsuited to being roughly handled. With the (not insignificant) price point, this could be an issue when it comes to replacing damaged kit.
I can see it gaining some traction but ultimately it's a gimmick and I suspect the novelty will wear off sooner, rather than later. However, I thought the same about Dubstep and that's, somehow, still a thing.
I reckon this is a rare misstep from Nintendo.
Staff Writer, Liam Andrews
Although it took me a full minute to realise the cardboard props being shown in the trailer were the actual product, and not just a lengthy build up to a reveal of some more flashy item, the fact that Nintendo is selling cardboard boxes isn’t all that surprising considering they were shifting empty Splatoon 2 packaging last year.
Still, I don’t quite know what to make of Labo. The idea of sitting down with a clear set of instructions and following them to create an awesome end product certainly appeals to me having grown up with Airfix kits and LEGO, but the price point that’s been floating around since the reveal seems far too excessive for what Labo is.
As Sam mentioned already, the total cost does include the software required to turn the cardboard into actual gaming peripherals, but I can’t see the games themselves being anything other than glorified tech demos, especially if they’re aimed at a younger audience. People have already pointed out on our forums that the combination of kids, expensive electronics and cardboard does seem like an accident waiting to happen.
Having said all that, I fully expect Labo to shift millions of units. I mean, who wouldn’t want their own Joy-Con RC car?
Staff Writer, Rob Holt
Like many others, I waited patiently for Nintendo’s 10pm mystery reveal, praying for the rumoured Link’s Awakening remaster, or perhaps a new iteration on the Switch. What we got were a series of cardboard nets that only the hardiest of Nintendo enthusiasts could describe as “exciting”.
For me, Labo will only ever appeal to young children; I don’t know any adults who would pay for a 13-key cardboard piano, robot backpack (is that where Project Giant Robot ended up?), or a cardboard fishing rod for that matter. Leave music to proper instruments, and videogame fishing to Sega, please, Nintendo.
It reeks of a grand, cynical money making ploy from one of my favourite developers, with price points to match. Mini-games locked inside cardboard nets for a lovely fat price, and nothing more. The only real surprise is that it wasn’t ready for Christmas - think of the guilt-tripping parents would’ve experienced!
To add further insult to injury, they’ve coined the products “Toy-Cons”, a name so bad that I required incense, lemon, ginger tea and an intense Enya listening session to calm down. I’m still on the fence with the Switch and its tiny buttons, but my Labo views are certain: burn that fucker down.
What are your thoughts on Labo? Dead against it like Rob? Open to something new like James? Let us know in the comments below or over on our forum.
2017 was a pretty great year for games, wasn’t it? Games like Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, Horizon Zero Dawn, Resident Evil 7 and Wolfenstein 2 were just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.
Nintendo fans are eagerly anticipating new Fire Emblem, Kirby and Yoshi titles for the Switch, not to mention a potential new Pokémon game, as well as the remastered versions of Bayonetta 1 and 2 that are just around the corner. With a fresh suite of reveals from the recent Mini Direct topping things off, Ninty look set for another strong year.
With yet more exclusives and, of course, an endless supply of multi-platform releases on the horizon, allow me to present my picks of the bunch to help focus those wandering eyes.
The Last of Us Part 2
A bit of a cheat pick straight out of the gate, I know, as it isn’t confirmed to be releasing this year, but a girl can dream, no?
I was unfashionably late to the PlayStation 3 party, finally getting one after watching a trailer for what I deemed at the time to be a Western Resident Evil, without the awful voice acting and story that has often gone hand-in-hand with the (in)famous Japanese series.
The game turned out to be a great deal more than that, combining stealth gameplay and brutal combat with fully-formed characters and a story that far surpassed the usual zombie apocalypse garbage. The multiplayer was pretty damn good, too.
The two trailers released thus far by developer Naughty Dog have shown a glimpse of returning characters Joel and Ellie, alongside some newbies and one helluva lot of violence. Fingers crossed we get to continue this story by the end of the year!
Sea of Thieves
I grew up on Rare’s marvellous Nintendo 64 years - GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie, et al - but have to be honest when I say, I haven’t enjoyed a great deal of their Microsoft output in the ensuing years. This all looks set to change with the colourful pirate plundering of Sea of Thieves.
Band together with a shoal of chums, hitting the high-seas in a quest for treasure, adventure, cannon and cutlass-based skirmishes, and a good few tankards of grog!
Personally, this is exactly the kind of fun-filled experience I was looking for when I climbed aboard the good ship Xbox back in 2016, so I can’t stress how much I’m looking forward to getting lost in Sea of Thieves’ world with the PTC mob.
The granddaddy of open-world RPGs finally returns, after way too many years in the wilderness.
Regular visitors to PTC may recall my plea for remastered versions of the original two games after part three was first announced, and although things have been quiet on that front, 2018 seems to be the year that we’ll finish Ryo Hazuki’s slow-burn quest to avenge his Father’s death.
A truly groundbreaking game on release in 1999, Shenmue set the precedent for open world adventure/RPG titles. The main quest was fleshed out beautifully with a brilliant Virtua Fighter-influenced combat system, side quests and mini-games to play, along with some of the most unintentionally amusing script writing and delivery of all time.
For me, these extras are as vital as the story and combat, so here’s praying Yu Suzuki and his team get it right and we finally get to duff-up that bastard Lan-Di, with or without sailors.
Charming art, beautiful music, a rich colour palette and an isometric viewpoint; I could easily be talking about any of the top-down Zelda games, but it’s a different adventure I’m most looking forward to in indie-land this year.
You’ll be exploring a massive world as a little fox, encountering baddies to battle, secrets to search for and puzzles to ponder. What’s really impressive here is that the bulk of the work has been done by one man: Andrew Shouldice. Check out the first of his developer updates and try not to be impressed by what you see. I can’t wait to delve deeper into Tunic later in the year.
Intelligent Systems, a Nintendo second-party studio, are famous for their output in the world of strategy RPGs, most namely with the fantastic Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series’. Both of these great franchises are a clear influence on Chucklefish Games’ Wargroove, a pixel art strategy title releasing across the major platforms.
The game promises an impressive twelve different campaigns, in which you’ll select a commander to follow from one of the four warring factions. Combine this with full co-op and competitive online and local multiplayer, as well as a map creation suite, and it really does seem like a generous package.
Having sampled the game at last year’s Rezzed, I can tell you first-hand how ruddy good it is. I got thoroughly lost in its world, art and gameplay, even going as far as to go back and replay it. Being an indie game, it’s very likely that Wargroove will launch at an attractive price point, providing yet another reason to take a look when it launches early this year.
Keep your eyes open for more from us on all of the games mentioned above, but, most importantly, have a happy new gaming year, folks!
From the painstaking recreation of 15th Century life in the Kingdom of Bohemia and its notable inhabitants, to the need to eat, drink and sleep in order to continue your day-to-day existence, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an RPG that shies away from the fantasy side of things in favour of a more authentic medieval experience. As the game’s tag line puts it, this is ‘dungeons and no dragons’.
The opening chunk of gameplay I was given access to was set not long after Henry, the game’s young protagonist, woke up in the town of Rattay after being nursed back to health following a raid on his village that destroyed his home and family, and left him gravely wounded. One of the first things that struck me as I began to explore was the way the landscape, and even most buildings, looked almost photorealistic at times; it’s clear a lot of research and effort has been put into making the world feel as authentic as possible, though an inconsistent frame rate did spoil the immersion a bit.
I soon bumped into Peshek, the miller whose daughter had kept Henry alive. He wasn’t blessed with quite the same generous streak as his offspring, however, and wanted payment for his hospitality; namely the illegal moving of a buried body, an act that was considered sacrilegious at the time (and is, probably, still frowned upon today).
This was an early example of the many choices players will face throughout the game, with most decisions you make having a knock-on effect in some way. For example, by turning down Peshek, I was informed that he would send men who would harass Henry throughout the rest of the game unless he was payed off or they were killed.
One of the first things that struck me as I began to explore was the way the landscape, and even most buildings, looked almost photorealistic at times.
It’s a rule that can be applied to a large chunk of your interactions within the game world; while doing the rounds as a newly employed member of the Rattay night watch (the culmination of my time in the opening chapter) I came across a heated dispute between the local blacksmith and a beggar, which ended in my ordering the ‘smith to be a good chap and give the poor girl some alms, in this case a couple of coins.
This was a decision that could have a negative influence on a player’s reputation within the town, specifically with the traders, who, as a result, may give Henry bad deals or even refuse to trade altogether. Thankfully, Tobias (the Warhorse rep) did assure me that it's possible to reverse a poor reputation, whether through completing missions for the townsfolk or by tipping traders some extra cash while haggling.
Given my limited playtime, it’s hard to tell how far reaching some of the consequences of my actions could be. I can’t be sure that the animosity between Henry and the irritatingly smug Lord Hanush – one of many Game of Thrones-esque characters lurking amongst the walls of Rattay – would have been so great had I not bested him in an archery contest and won his expensive hunting bow in a wager.
Perhaps I could have rebooted the chapter and deliberately lost, but after spending two hours exploring the town, talking to the locals, giving drunk guards a good rollicking and even finding time for a nap in a tavern, I’d had my fill of peaceful medieval life. My sword arm was growing restless, and to channel a certain Robert Baratheon - I needed to hit someone.
Luckily, hitting people is what the second act was all about, as I was to take part in a siege on a bandit camp hidden in some woods. The three-staged attack consisted of taking a lightly guarded bridge and then razing the main camp, before a showdown with the imposing bandit leader.
For a game that encourages you to favour diplomacy over violence, battles in KCD are pretty darn fun, although, as I quickly found out, Henry is no super soldier. On more than one occasion my eagerness to rush ahead of my allies led to a quick (and bloody) death, as I either ended up surrounded by enemies and cut down, or picked off by archers as I tried to limp away.
Once I got used to the fact that I wasn’t a medieval Master Chief and learned to advance with others, battles became a much more tactical affair as I carefully picked my moments, taking on weaker, unaware or injured enemies in quick, hit and run attacks, whilst keeping an eye open for archers, who I would take out with my own bow.
While this section of the game was deliberately chosen to showcase the combat system in action, there were still hints of the freedoms KCD gives players to tackle situations in different ways, from the recce information Henry presents Lord Radzig regarding the best way to storm the fort, to more subtle and stealthier ways.
“Before this fighting quest, you could have snuck into this camp and poisoned the food, then most of the people would be a one hit kill,” said Tobias. “You can also burn the arrows of the archers, but this is super tricky because you need to sneak in and try to not get caught, though you can try to kill one of the bad guys and dress as him and they will not attack you.”
Although my afternoon with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was cut short, it encompassed far more than I could fully recollect here, and left me wanting more.
Combat in KCD uses a similar method to the one seen in For Honor, in that players can adopt a number of stances – high, low, left, right, etc. - while wielding a melee weapon to counter or attack an enemy. Dealing out damage felt accurate and weighty; I was able to target weak points in enemy armour and exposed areas, such as a bandit leader's completely unprotected head, which lead to him dropping very quickly. As for defence, I found it easier to just dodge an enemy attack rather than try to stop it with a correctly-timed block.
After my glorious victory came the third and final chapter, which tasked players with sneaking their way into a monastery to find a murderer who was posing as a monk, but by now reality was calling (also known as the last EasyJet flight back home to Amsterdam) and it was time to say farewell to medieval Bohemia.
Although my afternoon with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was cut short, it encompassed far more than I could fully recollect here, and left me wanting more. Medieval Bohemia feels ripe for exploring, and there looks to be a progression and choice system in place that allows players the freedom to approach the game however they wish.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is just around the corner, releasing 13 February on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.
I must admit, chums, I find end of year lists rather hard to compile. The reason in chief here is that I don’t often get around to playing all of the major releases that I would’ve liked to - it’s a hard knock world, I know - be it down to life or simply not owning the hardware (sorry Super Mario Odyssey).
Yeah, yeah, I know: most folks find sports sims as interesting as spending the afternoon with their spouses’ family, but for me, Ashes Cricket is the best sports game released this year. Dirt 4 came close with it’s rambunctious rallying, but the pure joy of putting my own stamp on a fully licensed Ashes series is just too glorious to deny.
Aussie developer Big Ant builds on the disappointing Don Bradman Cricket 17 with improved visuals, motion capture and audio, to create a game that offers up a grand experience to both the cricketing pro and novice. To do so on a budget the size of titans EA Sports’ biscuit account is even more impressive.
4. World to the West
I first sampled World to the West at this year’s rezzed, and I have to admit, I found it an average adventure during my first foray into its universe. How wrong I was, as the game world turned out to be one of my favourite of not only this year, but this console generation so far.
The game sees you switching between four main characters (a mind control expert, an aristocratic strongman, a shovel-wielding child and a teslamancer) to explore the lush, cel-shaded world, solve puzzles and fight bosses. It’s charming, fun, full of things to do, and sticks just the right side of inspiration over parody with its use of Zelda and Metroid staples - what more could you want?
3. Stardew Valley
I’d been fretting over the choice of Sundered or Hellblade for the final spot on this list, but when I picked up ConcernedApe’s fair farming simulator that ceased to be an issue. I’d always fancied trying Harvest Moon, and here was a modern equivalent that was affordable (£14.99 or less UK-ers) and that I could easily pass off to the girlfriend if it failed to grip me...
Well, it gripped both of us, chums, and its stranglehold is yet to weaken. From the chunky SNES-style visuals, to the many, many side quests, to the pleasure of watching your farming empire rise from a few parsnip seeds - grazie Mayor Lewis - to trying to find a wife/husband by bribing them with gifts, every aspect of the game is truly joyous. If you have children or needy animals be warned, mind: Stardew Valley is one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played!
2. Serial Cleaner
In any other year - naughty Zelda - Serial Cleaner would be walking away with the title here, without question. The premise is simple: you are hired to clean crime scenes of bodies, evidence and blood, without being caught by the rozzers.
Serial Cleaner is, for me, one of the few independently made games to take a fabulous idea and actually compress it into a fully formed diamond. Its simple premise is fleshed out with superb comic book-style visuals, a hilarious 70s setting (complete with costumes, disco and nods to infamous serial killers of the time), easy-to-understand-yet-constantly-evolving gameplay, and the best cop show soundtrack of all time. The indie game of the year for me, without question!
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been said, honestly. Zelda has always had a special place in my heart, mainly down to the wonderful blend of quality gameplay, wistful story and guaranteed ethereal, beautiful music. Breath of the Wild boasts all of these, and though I found the dungeons and final boss fight a little disappointing compared to the genre/childhood defining Ocarina of Time, there’s no denying just how glorious an experience the game was - and still is - overall.
There are moments of wonder at every single corner, from the way the beautiful, cel-shaded (I think I might have a thing for this graphical style…) grass moves in the wind, to the goosebumps that I feel every time a soft piano riff suddenly creeps in, to the depth of the game’s crafting and cooking systems. The sheer amount of freedom on offer it staggering, and really does make up for the ever-so-slightly underwhelming aspects of the game.
I’m still searching for every shrine, side quest, new horse and treasure chest, putting in nearly 100 hours thus far - that might not sound like a lot to some, but anything over 30 hours for a non-sports game is huge for me - and that doesn’t show any sign of stopping, especially with The Champion’s Ballad DLC now live. If you’re one of the strange hermits of mink hollow yet to play the game, I implore thee to venture out of the burrow and enjoy one of the best game worlds ever created.
What do you think of Rob’s picks? Let us know and share your favourite games from the past 12 months below.
For me, 2017 continued the trend of offering up far too many great games to accommodate in a mere 365 days. While that means I haven’t found the time to play big-hitters like Horizon Zero Dawn and Super Mario Odyssey, the many I have gotten to still made whittling my picks down to just five quite an involved process.
Shoehorning an open world into a linear series is very rarely a good idea, but Tango Gameworks obviously didn’t get the memo, because they artfully implemented sandbox environments into The Evil Within 2. The only comparable example that comes to mind is the excellent Batman: Arkham City, whereby rich and spontaneous encounters make scouring environments opposite to the generic busywork we've come to expect.
This acts in conjunction with a bevy of improvements over the original, which itself was a return to form for the (at the time) misguided survival horror genre, to complete one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.
4. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
After being blown away by Uncharted 4, I approached The Lost Legacy equal parts excited and uncertain. More Uncharted couldn’t be a bad thing, surely, but a standalone expansion with a new leading lady? That wasn’t going to match Nathan Drake’s full-fledged magnum opus...
Well, I was wrong. Controller in hand, I seamlessly cut a path through the game like a hot knife through butter, every quiet moment and set piece punctuated by characterful banter. Not only did The Lost Legacy deliver the goods, but it did so in generous fashion, costing half as much as your average game whilst being twice as good and lasting just as long.
The outstanding visuals are also worthy of specific mention. I haven’t put my Xbox One X through its paces yet, but The Lost Legacy on PS4 Pro surpasses anything I’ve yet seen from the beefiest console on the market.
3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR
Never having played Skyrim - where have I been for the last six years, right? - made my virtual reality trip to the Nordic region all the more memorable. Being fully immersed in such a well-realised new frontier, in which you grow with each and every action, had me prioritising my virtual life as a dark elf above all else throughout November.
Accurate motion controls helped to further anchor me in the simulation, whilst small nuances that would go unappreciated, or totally unnoticed, in any other version of the game flourished into standout moments. These tangible differences make Skyrim VR a must, both for virgins and veterans.
A mixed launch reception has left Prey out in the cold as we wade through awards season. That’s a travesty. Prey is a mechanics and systems-rich game set in an exquisitely realised location, all of which worked in tandem with a gripping narrative to pull me in and keep me firmly rooted in my seat throughout its course.
BioShock ranks amongst my favourite games of all time and Prey expertly channels it without feeling cynical or derivative. For me to say it even comes close to Irrational Games’ seminal 2007 experience, of which I’m quite fond, if I hadn't mentioned, doesn’t come lightly and should help illustrate Prey’s quality.
1. Resident Evil 7: biohazard
I was thoroughly spoilt this year as a big fan of survival horror. The Evil Within II and Prey perhaps offered a glimpse into the genre’s future - the former defying expectations with the fantastic implementation of an open world, the latter an enemy that creates constant tension by mimicking everyday objects - but by revelling in its storied past, Resident Evil 7 surpassed them both.
The microscopically detailed Baker household evokes the original’s iconic Spencer Mansion, a locale so incredibly conceived that these years later I can vividly recall my way around it. It’s a good sign then that I could draw you a map of the Baker home eleven months down the road, even pinpointing every encounter with its brilliantly deranged inhabitants.
Playing in virtual reality further elevates all aspects of the game, most notably imbuing it with a guttural horror that at times got so intense I needed to pause and let my heartbeat recover. In being so affecting and consistently bringing me back with a strong suite of downloadable content, Resident Evil 7 tops my 2017.
Agree with Sam’s choices? Let us know and share your own below.
Good tidings, chums, and welcome to a festive feature with our very own Krampus; yours truly. There’s plenty to look forward to this Christmas though, with a plethora of both corpulent and meager budgeted games, accessories and tidbits. With that in mind, please join me in delving deep into the stocking for a look at some of this season’s succulent silicone satsumas.
Echo - PS4, PC
Echo is one of those games that should be played with all the lights off. The initial hours hooked me with their trippy, sci-fi stylings, inspired use of lighting and mysterious characters. What builds from there is a truly heart-racing third-person stealth/action game that casts the setting itself - a creepy future palace decked out in gold, with faces on every door, and clones or “echoes” of the protagonist - as your enemy-in-chief.
A thinking man/woman’s Resident Evil/Deus Ex in space is the closest comparison I can make, with the way shadows and lighting are used to freak the player out, but it’s the evolving nature of the echoes that really steal the show. The game is under £20 quid, and well worth it for action or stealth fans who are looking for something unique.
Verdict: A trippy, original game well worth playing.
Cat Quest - PS4, Switch, PC, Mobile
I had the good fortune of sampling this entertaining cat-venture at this year’s MCM Comic Con, where I thoroughly enjoyed my fifteen minutes of fun. The full-fat experience is no less brilliant, as you step into the claws, purr-box and dragon-filled kitty world ripe for adventure.
You set out on a Zelda-esque top-down adventure, to save your sister from the evil clutches of a white cat blessed with the power of dragons... lots of dragons. Follow the main storyline or undertake the many side quests posted on town notice boards to level up, get better gear, and ultimately become one hell of a badass kitty. This one is available physically too, so can be wrapped up for the cat-loving adventurer at home.
Verdict: Meowvelous fun!
The Pillars of the Earth - PS4, Xbox One, PC
Based on Ken Follett’s classic novel, The Pillars of the Earth takes the source material and transforms it into a three-part visual novel/point-and-click adventure. There’s a great deal to admire in the charming art style, characters and music, but it’s the lovely pace of the game that stands out the most.
Book one is available now both physically and digitally, with books 2 and 3 to follow (2 is now available on Steam), so you certainly get your money’s worth for the £20 or so you’ll spend. Essential if you enjoyed the novel or TV series, and definitely worth a punt for anyone else with an interest in historical fiction, sublime art, or branching storylines.
Verdict: A gorgeous, well acted and emotional adaptation.
Snakebyte Game:Pad 4 S - PS4
Last up, we have this wired PS4 controller from the fellows at Snakebyte. Having owned their earlier PS3 effort I can happily say that this is definitely an improvement, but not without its flaws.
First and foremost, the wire is plenty long enough to play from the sofa or bed, so no worries there. The ergonomic design of the controller is decent enough, presenting a smaller, yet stockier design more in line with the Xbox pad - but certainly a few leagues lower in terms of comfort and performance.
The buttons and sticks are a bit hit-and-miss, though. The face buttons are accurate enough, but sit loosely in the controller, resulting in a horrid, cheap plastic rattle every time the workmanlike rumble kicks in. The bumpers are on the soft side, making it hard to tell if you’re actually putting pressure on them, and the triggers are functional but lack the comfort of the Dualshock 4 or the official Xbox pad. The clickable touch-pad is brilliant, though!
The sticks are the real let down though, unfortunately, as we encountered problems on all four diagonals while testing games Stardew Valley (diagonal walking speed is painfully slow for some reason), Ashes Cricket (precision batting and bowling is made difficult) and The Last of Us (aiming issues).
As a backup to your DualShock - think local multiplayer FIFA sessions, etc. - then this is fine, but by no means should this be your number one, especially when, at £30, you only have to shell out an extra fifteen or so for the real deal.
Verdict: More potato than present!
And with that we bid you farewell for now, folks. Have a cracking Christmas!