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!