Category: Reviews

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury Review

  • Genre: Action, Platformer
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Developer | Publisher: Nintendo
  • Age Rating: PEGI 7 | ESRB E (Everyone)
  • Price: £49.99
  • Release Date: February 12th, 2021

As part of the Super Mario 35th celebrations. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury ends the anniversary in style showing just how influential Mario has been all these years and this very present day.

Story

The story to 3D World takes a different path than the stories we have come accustomed to with Mario. Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad all start off watching a firework display in Mushroom Kingdom. All of a sudden a glass pipe appears, Mario and Luigi fix the pipe and a distressed fairy comes flying out of the pipe, these fairies are actually know as Sprixie princesses.

This green Sprixie princess explains that the troublemaker, Bowser, has kidnapped the rest of the Sprixie princesses and locked them up in a glass jar. Shortly afterwards, Bowser appears and nabs the green Sprixie and vanishes down the glass pipe. Without any hesitation Peach jumps down into the pipe and the rest of the gang follow suit in pursuit of Bowser.

It’s a typical plot even if it does mean Peach gets a break from being kidnapped, maybe Bowser has got the memo all these years? Young children will love it and even adults will enjoy it too. If you can go back to you’re first memories of any Mario game you first played. You always felt that anger, upbeat, chest out to stop Bowser no matter the cost. Nintendo has once again captured the essence of what Mario is all about and throws you back into that seat of playing Super Mario for the very first time.

Bowsers Fury again takes us down another path and pretty much opening the book to potential other stories we could have with Mario. Bowser Jr seeks Mario’s help as Bowser is hell bent to destroy anything and everything. Obviously Mario thinks Bowser Jr is playing some game, but witnessing first hand what Bowser has become, he doesn’t hesitate to help Bowser Jr out. For the first time we get to see Mario and Bowser Jr team up to help free Bowser from whatever is consuming him or is it all what it seems?

Gameplay

Jumping on Goomba’s, hitting puzzle boxes to see which power up we get to help reach the goal is of course the staple of the Super Mario games. With the new power up of becoming a cat. This allows Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad to reach new heights than ever before. Of course other power ups return and prove to be very useful if stuck on a certain part of the level, regarding if you keep the handy power up in your inventory.

3D World takes both formulas of the platforming from Super Mario Bros and the likes of 64, Sunshine, Galaxy and of course Odyssey with the 3D levels. The blend of both really works and being able to move the camera (looking at you Mario 64…) helps massively when trying to find the green stars. Yup, Green stars replace the golden coins in comparison to the Super Mario Bros games. Collect as many as you can as these will help unlock other levels throughout the course of the game.

3D World is also the first 4 player co-op Mario adventure too. Be that couch co-op or online, it’s certainly a brilliant, fun experience to be had. Each character has their own abilities pros and cons. The good thing about this even if not playing in co-op, you can decide who you play as before you jump in. Luigi has higher jump than Mario, Peach can glide/float in the air and Toad? Toad is just Toad, small, quick and Hey!

Bowsers + Fury brings to the table what was so great from Odyssey and continues that with typical Mario style Platforming at its best. I think people will really enjoy Bowser’s Fury and probably would question Nintendo why they didn’t just do it as a standalone game, adventure than being add on. Can’t complain either, as being able to gigantamax to bigger Cat Mario against the huge, really ticked off Bowser is great! With Bowser Jr helping you out be that played by another player or just yourself. Bowser Jr proves very useful than you think.

You don’t have to keep using the cat bells and fight Bowser toe to toe. If you collect the Shines when he emerges, the shine will repel him back to the gooey, oil like Calamity he comes from.

Sound, Performance, and Graphics

Without a shadow of doubt all three in the heading of this part, 3D World executes perfectly. The sound is top notch as always. The iconic themes, sounds when going down pipes, picking up power ups, collecting coins and defeating enemies is where all the fans are familiar with.

No issue performance wise from 3D World, though Bowser’s Fury did suffer with some framerate and the game slowing down a bit when big Bowser appears.

The visuals is what you would expect with a Mario game. Colourful, vibrant and upbeat to continue playing.

Difficulty

I will have to admit. I didn’t find 3D World or Bowser’s Fury that difficult whatsoever. It made for a nice, sit back adventure and everything just rolled off the bat nicely. I 100% Bowser’s Fury in my first go whilst 3D World will take longer to do so. Some of the levels towards the endgame and once you beat 3D World will test you greatly.

Conclusion

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is probably one of the best Mario adventures Nintendo have produced. I didn’t play 3D World on the Wii U, as I didn’t keep my Wii U long enough to play it. I’m really glad 3D World has been brought to the Nintendo Switch as it was one Mario adventure I would of liked to play. With the inclusion of Bowser’s Fury and that in its own right is pretty much near to perfection, 3D World is a excellent showcase of how far Mario has come and keeps pushing the boundaries which is making Mario still relevant today.

Verdict
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a must have game in anyone’s Switch collection. It can be played by all, it will appeal to pretty much everyone and best of all. I can play with my daughter and get to experience a whole new Mario experience witnessing her enjoyment from a game series I have grown up on.

Hitman 3 Review (Xbox Series X)

  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Stealth
  • Platforms: Xbox Series X/S/One, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Developer | Publisher: IO Interactive
  • Age Rating: PEGI 18 | ESRB M (Mature)
  • Price: £52.49 | $59.99
  • Release Date: 20th January 2021

Story

Hitman 3 is the finale in Agent 47’s elusive career. Before sitting down and playing through Hitman 3, I decided to play through Hitman 1 & 2 to refresh where we are today with Agent 47’s story. A story I found gripping and up there with most thriller and espionage films, TV shows and books. Lets go back to where it started shall we? Agent 47 joins the ICA, but must first prove he can handle the job. Of course, Agent 47 wouldn’t be “Agent 47 never misses his mark” without his handler, Diana Burnwood.

Over a period of time both 47 and Diana become a ruthless team and become the top of ICA’s agents. You could compare this with the Bourne films with Treadstone and Jason Bourne. I will come onto that later. In the first Hitman game, we see 47 going to numerous exotic locations, taking out targets that can undermine world authorities in the blink of an eye. Of course, 47 and Diana don’t know exactly why you are targeting these contracts at first, until things start to play off against one another and you soon find out who the real enemy is.

Hitman 2 continues with you chasing the shadow client, who in fact turns out to be someone from 47’s past. Now this is when the Bourne comparisons may start to be made. Jason Bourne suffers with amnesia from an assassination job that went wrong. However, 47 doesn’t suffer with amnesia. 47 has had his memory wiped, which cam explain why 47 has a robotic nature, with a cold and calculated look about him.

Agent 47 get his head turned, or saw the light as it were, by the shadow client, who turns out to be Lucas Grey. Grey and 47 grew up together in a programme to become natural born killers for an authority that are controlling the world in the shadows, Providence.

With Grey getting 47’s memory fixed (after a mission), everything starts flooding back to 47. Agent 47 wants to go after Providence and Diana agrees to help with some reluctance at first. Finding all the information leads them to Arthur Edwards, who turns out to be the The Constant of Providence or perhaps, one of many identities? It’s a typical cat and mouse scenario which we see so much in these types of narratives. IO Interactive can be proud to say that they have created a world where the player is so heavily engrossed that they care for 47 more than just throwing a briefcase at somebody’s head…

With the Constant getting away from Diana and Co at the end of Hitman 2, Hitman 3 starts off with a bang in the heights of Dubai. 47 and the team start tracking down some of the high priority targets of Providence. The Constant is always one step ahead however and proves throughout how dangerous he really can be.

Gameplay

Hitman 3 continues the sandbox, espionage whack a mole, where the player can decide which path they wish to choose. It’s great to go around the map, find new ways and even imaginative ways of dispatching the targets. Fancy messing about with a plug? Fill your boots. Why not push that speaker onto the poor person below? Do it. Its all there, be that accidental kills, garrote then dump the body, shoot your way through and ask questions later? The choice is entirely yours.

Away from the campaign, you do have sniper challenges, elusive targets and more. I find the sniper challenges rather addicting. There’s nothing like popping off the bodyguards one by one in quick succession or watching the chaos unravel and seeing everybody run for the hills.

Sound, graphics and performance

Hitman 3 is very lush! Playing on the Series X, Dubai for example shows off the graphics (see picture below). Some parts can still be rough, however graphics isn’t the be all and end all. It’s certainly good looking to me, I want to make that clear.

The sound is good, no complaints from me. And the sound is important for Hitman. Throwing coins to cause distractions, firing a gun, or any other noise which the guards deem a threat will be investigated. Using items, alongside the use of sound, opens up new pathways to explore parts of the map which are closed off to you until you have the right disguise.

I encountered no issues performance-wise. Hitman 3 ran without any hiccups and smoothly on the Series X.

Difficulty

If you played the two previous Hitman games, you know Hitman provides a good, meaty challenge. With each difficulty increasing enemy awareness towards your many disguises, increased amount of surveillance cameras dotted about everywhere moving from Professional difficulty to Master. Unlike Hitman 1 & 2, Hitman 3 has all three difficulties available straight away, whereas before you had to reach a certain mastery level per playable level to unlock Master difficulty.

Master difficulty disables the visual indicators, only allows one save per mission and increases enemy damage compared to Casual and Professional difficulties. Once you, the player, master each level or familiarise routes and selective pathways to conquer Master difficulty, can make you feel unstoppable and this is where the game truly comes alive. With its benefits there are cons to be bestowed with. With the high sensitivity of sound comes additional enforcers. Some parts/areas are really hairy and may force you to pull out the gun and quickly dispatch a few bodyguards. Again, this can also be exhilarating for some players using this approach. I guess we really are a hard bunch to please at the best of times!

Conclusion

Hitman 3 is truly a fun game to play. If you fancy something different from the norm, pick it up and play, you won’t regret it. It has good storytelling backed with good gameplay, yet at times it can feel cranky. Hitman 3 will provide you with many hours of entertainment, be it with the campaign, sniper challenges or elusive targets. With a regular releases of content from IO Interactive and the previous Hitman games, Hitman 3 is the complete package with so much content to digest!

Verdict
A briefcase throw away from perfection. 47 packs a punch, yet aged mechanics hold it back from unleashing its true potential.

Embracelet Review (PC)

  • Genre: Adventure, Indie
  • Platforms: Steam, Nintendo Switch
  • Developer | Publisher: Mattis Folkestad | machineboy
  • Age Rating: PEGI 12 | ESRB T (Teen)
  • Price: UK £10.29 | US $12.99
  • Release Date: 24th September 2020

Mattis Folkestad (who we interviewed back in August 2020) was kind enough to supply us with a review code, but all opinions contained within this review are my own.

Story/Characters

Embracelet follows the coming-of-age story of Jesper, a lonely and moody teenage boy who lives in the city with his mother. He’s friendless and lacking direction, at least until his grandfather gives him a task: travel to Slepp, grandfather’s Norwegian home, and return this mystical bracelet to it’s rightful owner. Yep, good old Grandpa has a magical bracelet that can move objects. After some back-and-forth with his mother, Jesper finally hops on a boat and heads due North.

New friends and misadventures await Jesper on Slepp. Each villager has a distinct personality, all affected in some way by the decline of the small fishing village. You don’t tend to interact with the other villagers much, with the exception of Karoline and Hermod, the only other teenagers on the island. 

I found Embracelet’s story interesting, however, it was one of those games that I wasn’t eager to keep picking up, but was really fun once I got going again. There’s a lot to learn on Slepp, though sometimes I was forced to take actions that I didn’t agree with! Jesper, Karoline, and Hermod are all at that awkward age where they disagree with the world, but have no power to change anything. While they were relatable, I think I am possibly a little too mature to really connect with the characters in the way that was intended.

Don’t get me wrong, I spent a lot of time smiling and occasionally laughing at their antics, and seeing the relationships develop was fun. However, I did find myself getting annoyed with the typical teenage immaturity at times.

Gameplay

Embracelet played nicely both with keyboard/mouse and with a gamepad, though I confess I preferred using the gamepad. The majority of Embracelet is running around talking to people, and occasionally interacting with items to use the bracelet, so being able to sit back in the chair while I played was nice. There are a few scenarios in which you feel like you have to rush, but the majority of the game is nice and laid-back with no sense of urgency.

Unfortunately, despite the controls being very relaxed, I do have a couple of gripes. Controlling Jesper felt like a chore – every movement felt sluggish and clunky, like I was trying to drive a tank. Also, I understand the reasoning behind the limited camera angles and movement, but having to run in an awkward circle to turn my view was annoying. During one scene, it took me ages to find the object I was supposed to interact with purely because spinning the camera was so fiddly.

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

Embracelet embraced (there’s a tongue-twister for you!) the polygonal and bright aesthetic with open arms. I loved the fact that everything looked like it could have been a piece of very advanced origami, which lent an almost whimsical tone to the design. The basic nature of the scenery was refreshing, too – I was never having to peer closely at the screen just to find something.

The sound design is absolutely on point. Light-hearted at times, dramatic at others, the basic nature of the world is steered towards different moods based on the music. There aren’t any complicated or overwhelming tracks, in fact they’re quite simple, but they provide a perfect accompaniment to Jesper’s journey.

Conclusion

Embracelet is possibly a little pricey, considering it only took me about 5 hours to finish and the drive to launch it isn’t particularly strong. However, once you get into it there’s a good amount of fun to be had, with some very emotional sequences that made me smile with a feeling of self-indulgency. Beautiful graphics and even more beautiful sounds make wandering the paths of Slepp a truly enjoyable experience, barring the few gameplay irritants.

Verdict
While not a perfect game, Embracelet is nonetheless an enjoyable coming-of-age diversion.

When the Past Was Around Review (PC)

  • Genre: Adventure, Casual, Indie
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, XB1, PC
  • Developer | Publisher: Mojiken Studio | Toge Productions
  • Age Rating: PEGI 3 | ESRB E (Everyone)
  • Price: UK £5.79 | US $7.99
  • Release Date: 22/09/2020

Many thanks to Toge Productions for the review code!

I get easily emotional, so I tend to avoid games that I know are going to make me cry. However, When the Past Was Around has such a deep and soul-touching premise that I just had to give it a go. Warning – emotional times inbound!

Story/Characters

When the Past Was Around follows Eda through a meandering series of memories, starting with losing her passion in her early twenties. She soon meets a wonderful man, Owl, whose kindness and love can help her find herself again. I don’t want to delve any further, as spoiler-free is definitely the best way to experience this beautiful tale. I do recommend keeping the tissues handy though – Eda’s journey is both heart-warming and heart-breaking, and those tears tend to sneak up on you.

Gameplay

Ah, point-and-click. Such a classic mechanic, and yet, so well implemented. As each memory consists of a series of mini puzzles, the controls work perfectly to keep overthought to a minimum and allow you to simply enjoy the experience without arguing with the mechanics. Once collected, items sit in an inventory bar at the bottom of the screen, and using them is as simple as dragging them on to the appropriate object.

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

When the Past Was Around has an absolutely beautiful hand-drawn style that lends itself well to the evocative nature of the story. Every scene is beautifully designed, with a subdued colour scheme that serves to highlight the emotional nature of the game. The transition between pleasant memory and sad memory creates a huge contrast in a scene, and makes me excited to see more of Brigitta Rena’s work.

The sound design is, in a word, mesmerising. With the exception of the menu button, the volume of which can thankfully be turned down, every sound is so soft and delicate that it simply carries you along. There’s true emotion laden in every note of the soundtrack, and trust me when I say you’ll want headphones on for it.

Difficulty

I’ve come across my fair share of illogical and infuriatingly obscure point-and-click adventures, but am glad to say that When the Past Was Around is relaxingly simple. As long as you’re paying attention and using some small measure of logic, nothing should stump you for too long – for example, finding a knife in a room full of taped boxes would generally suggest using said knife to open the boxes up. There are situations where an item will be found but not used until later, or even only found on revisiting the previous location, but these make sense as you encounter them.

Unlike in some point-and-click games, interactable items aren’t drawn differently. They appear exactly the same as everything else in the environment, but still managed to catch my attention easily. If you’re really struggling, there is a hint button that highlights interactables, but I didn’t find it necessary.

Conclusion

When the Past Was Around is a showstopper in it’s genre. Balancing joy and sorrow, overlaid with the haze of nostalgia and the clarity of growth, it’s a journey told in subtlety and delicacy. Granted, it’s probably too subtle to appeal to younger players, but it feels more aimed at young adults through to older generations. I was left light-hearted but teary by the end of the short experience, and felt a whole new appreciation for the wonderful things in my own life. You never know when you’ll lose something, after all, and should make the most of it while you can.

Verdict
The perfect way to fill an afternoon, I’d recommend this soft and heart-stroking experience to anyone and everyone.

Persona 5 Review (Playstation 4)

● Genre: Japanese Role-Playing Game
● Platforms: PlayStation 4
● Developer | Publisher: P-Studio | Atlus, Deep Silver
● Age Rating: PEGI 16 | ESRB M (Mature)
● Price: UK £49.99 | US $19.99
● Release Date: 15th September 2016

No review code was provided, and all opinions contained below are my own.

With Persona 5 Strikers hitting the western world, I decided to revisit the original Persona 5. Having played Persona games before, I went into Persona 5 expecting a slow-burn, long haul adventure. While the game is a lenghty one as RPGs tend to be, I was surprised by how quickly Persona 5 throws you into the action with you hitting the first Palace just a couple of hours in. This game has had huge commercial success and is arguably the game that made Persona truly popular. It has even generated a meme or two (delicious pancakes, anyone?).

Story/Characters

For the uninitiated, in Persona you play as a high school student. By day you attend class, answer questions and take exams. By night you can spend time however you wish; ranking up attributes such as knowledge and charm, spending time with friends to level up social links and working part-time jobs. Oh, and you can also summon Personas to fight Shadows and save the world. Y’know, normal stuff.

The story starts with a Persona staple: you’re a transfer student who stumbles into trouble, collecting a ragtag group of friends with similar talents to help you save the world. The first to join the diverse group are Morgana and Ryuji- an anthropomorphic cat and a misunderstood thug. As the story progresses you gather more *ahem* colourful characters; a model, an eccentric artist, and a backstabbing traitor to name a few.

The main premise is pretty zany, but in a good and interesting way. It does a good job of immersing you while not taking itself too seriously. It’s all shaped around cognition; if enough people collectively believe something to be reality it becomes real. This can also be used to explain the reasoning behind Palaces, a physical manifestation of the ruler of the Palace’s distorted desires. Are you still with me? Good.

As the story unfolds, you learn that all your friends are being abused or taken advantage of in some way. One by one, they awaken to their Persona and stand up to their abusers. Once liberated, they join the Phantom Thieves of Hearts and help to liberate others by entering the Palace of their abuser, grinding through, beating the boss and stealing their treasure.

All of your teammates are well-developed and fleshed out with distinct strengths, weaknesses and personalities. All of them are likeable, and it’s a joy to build up social links and get to know them. Alongside your teammates, you also have confidants with whom you can also form social links. There are dozens of them and you likely won’t even meet them all on your first run. They’re all full of personality, and I found myself caring about their stories and personal quests as much as I did the main story. While this makes every run feel different and new, it is disappointing that Persona 5 did not take that extra step and implement same sex dating, especially since there are so many male confidants.

A Palace exists in the abuser’s cognition and represents their distorted desires. For example, an ex-Olympic egotistic volleyball coach may view the school as his castle of which he is the King. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into what the ‘King’ does to abuse his power but suffice to say it’s bad. By grinding through the Palace and stealing their treasure you remove their distorted desire, but they retain the memories of what they’ve done and confess under the pressure of their guilt.

As the story reaches its climax, you realise that this is truly an unjust game and the odds of winning are almost none. As in previous Persona games, your social links are very important and truly matter. However, ranking up attributes are important to begin or rank up some social links, so spend your time wisely! Persona 5 has New Game+, where you keep your social stats and Personas so I tend to focus on maxing out social stats on the first run and spend the next run solely on social links.

Gameplay

Like many popular JRPGs, the combat is turn-based. You fight Shadows by exploiting their elemental weakness. The main protagonist can swap between multiple Personas, and you can choose to command other party members or let them act freely which keeps combat from getting too repetitive. A few new features have been added to Persona 5 which sets it apart from it’s predecessors. The first is that you can use guns to shoot shadows. Some Shadows are weak to gunfire, and this skill can be enhanced and upgraded with a couple of social links. You can also visit an airsoft store to buy and upgrade your guns and melee weapons.

Another addition to Persona 5 is the ability to hold Shadows at gunpoint in true Phantom Thief style. You can demand money or items, or converse with them to try and convince them to become one of your Personas. This did cause some confusion for me when Shadows didn’t respond in a way I expected them to, or took something I said the wrong way. However, this gripe is fixed in Persona 5 Royal with Shadows being given personality types and Morgana giving advice. This is just a nit-pick, however. The hold up is comedically dramatic and the game is better for it.

The best new mechanic added to Persona 5 is the Baton Pass. By exploiting an enemy’s weakness you get a ‘1 more’. This is self-explanatory; you get to perform another action, be it attacking again or using an item. However, you can only change Persona once per turn, so unless your Persona has multiple elemental attacks you can’t down all your enemies if they all have different weaknesses.

This is where the Baton Pass comes in. If your social link is high enough with your team mates, you can ‘pass the baton’ during your 1 more with a crisp high five. This allows you to pass your turn to another party member. If they then manage to exploit an enemy’s weakness they too can Baton Pass, with attacks increasing every time. This does have some limitations, however. The Baton must be passed to someone new every time it is used so it can’t be passed back and forth. Also, if you have a new party member with you who you haven’t had time to rank up you can’t pass the Baton to them and it really ruins the momentum. As the game progresses and the enemies get tougher, Baton Passing becomes imperative so this can literally be a game-saver.

Once all enemies are down you enter the aforementioned Hold Up. You can demand something, interrogate them, or initiate an All-Out Attack, in which all of the party attack the Shadows accompanied by an aesthetically pleasing black and red theme. If this doesn’t defeat the Shadow, it knocks them down and takes a massive chunk off their health. Not only is this advantageous combat-wise, it’s also stylish and oddly satisfying, especially if the fight has been a pain in the butt. Persona 5 also introduces stealth. You can peek around corners, hide behind tables and the such. While this is a great addition, it can be very irritating when you don’t have the enemies in your field of view as you can’t rotate the camera while in stealth.

As with any RPG, grinding is necessary. You can grind in Palaces as long as they are active, but they all have time limits and become available 1-2 months apart in-game. That’s where Mementos comes in. Mementos is a gargantuan, procedurally generated dungeon set in the Shibuya underground. How do you explore a cognitive underground I hear you ask? In your cat car of course!

Since you can’t return to a Palace once you’ve taken it’s treasure, Mementos is a great place to get new Personas. Personas you have encountered in the past will appear in new areas of Mementos, so you don’t need to worry too much if your negotiation failed or weren’t a high enough level to wield the Persona. Combine that with the return of the Velvet Room, Igor, and Persona fusions, and you’ll be spoiled for choice. As Mementos is tied very heavily with the climax of the game, you’ll want to make sure you stay on top of it.

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

Persona 5 is a beautiful game. There is the odd texture pop but I only ran across one in my last run, and none in the run before that, both of which were on the original PlayStation 4. As with previous Persona games there are anime-style cutscenes which are fluid and appealing. Colours are vivid, lighting is great, and the graphics hold up well.

Aside from the anime cutscenes, you also have in-game cutscenes. These take up the main portion of the story-telling as the anime scenes are pretty scarce. They hold up well, despite being a little flat and not as detailed, but they do the job. The game has a very strong and striking black and red aesthetic which suits it well and is utilised everywhere, from the opening sequence to the after-fight summary. It’s sleek and fits the tone of the game fantastically.

The character design is fine. It works on the anime trope where all main characters have brightly coloured clothing/hair so you know they’re definitely important. Oddly, the exception to this is the protagonist, who has black hair and wears darker-coloured clothes. Since the whole premise of Persona is a perfectly normal student wandering into his destiny it works well. Where is I really praise the character design is the sprites. They pop up during dialogue, complete with facial expressions, moving mouths and blinking, all in that bright anime style.

I’ll keep the sound analysis pretty short, as I could gush about this for hours. The voice acting is fantastic. There’s the occasional odd sound coming out of a characters mouth but that happens when something is dubbed. Each element has a sound effect and all of these are satisfying, especially the lightning and fire. Now onto the best part: the music! Do yourself a favour and go listen to the Persona 5 soundtrack. Trust me, you’ll thank me. It’s soulful and funky, and you just can’t be in a bad mood when you listen to it. The vocals are fantastic and gave me goosebumps the first time I heard the opening theme.

Difficulty

The game has four difficulty options as standard (safe, easy, normal and hard) with a fifth you can download for free (nightmare). All can be changed anytime except safe, which is locked in once you choose it. Most of the time I’ve played on the normal mode to get the standard experience. As the game progresses, the margin for error narrows. As discussed above, later in the game is when the Baton Pass comes in handy. If you find yourself down on your luck, and don’t have the right team mates with you to exploit the enemy’s weakness, you can use your turn to swap out a team mate which is handy deeper into the game/on harder difficulties.

The game is never difficult in a frustrating way, although I have made some stupid mistakes which have left me frustrated. It just takes more careful planning during battles and boss fights than on the lower difficulties, which don’t really punish you for a mistake. On the easier modes you can be revived and continue the battle. On the harder difficulties however…well, I hope you save frequently.

Conclusion

Persona 5 is a stylish, trendy, and delightful game. The story is compelling, the characters are deep and full of personality, and the game looks and sounds great. The topics of ‘pscience’ and ‘cognition’ can leave you scratching your head, especially at the beginning of the game, and there are some hiccups that cause momentary frustration.

Verdict
A fantastic, story-driven, and stylish experience which has a few issues but will ultimately steal your heart.

Hyrule Warriors: Age Of Calamity Review (Nintendo Switch)

  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Developer | Publisher: Koei Tecmo | Nintendo
  • Age Rating: PEGI 12 | ESRB T (Teen)
  • Price: UK £49.99 | US $59.99
  • Release Date: 18th September 2020

I purchased the game myself, and can safely say that I’m unbiased in my opinions. This is a spoiler-free review, so read on with confidence!

Story

100 years before Breath of the Wild, we witness the events that unfold in Age of Calamity. Hyrule is on tenterhooks awaiting the arrival of Calamity Ganon. In the meantime, Hyrule is preparing itself, unearthing Sheikah technology to help them thwart the incoming Malice. Meanwhile, Princess Zelda, her personal Knight, Link and the four champions go on a quest to help Zelda unlock her dormant power. I’m assuming most of you have played Breath of the Wild. If so, you will know some of the events already, but playing through them is even better.

Without going into spoiler territory at all, I have to applaud Koei Tecmo with the story. With BOTW2 incoming, this sure is a nice filler before we get to play the most anticipated sequel to a Zelda game ever (in my opinion). Are there any subtle hints to BOTW 2? Well, play and find out and let your own speculative mind take you on a hell of a ride.

Gameplay

If you’ve played Hyrule Warriors (or any other Warriors games), be it on the Wii U, 3DS, or of course the Definitive Edition on the Switch, Age of Calamity is somewhat the same but miles better than Hyrule Warriors DE. It’s a typical hack-and-slash-and grind game, where you can defeat thousands upon thousands of Bokoblins and more monsters from the BOTW universe. Everything will be similar to many players however each character has their own play style, and when you upgrade them they can unleash some heavy combos!

Amongst the main quests and side missions, you will gain lots of materials, weapons, and food, recreating the ever so popular feature from BOTW, to gain buffs. You can upgrade weapons too, making them even more powerful for when the game starts throwing massive curve balls at you. For a game built on a repetitive platform, Age of Calamity is oddly refreshing. Of course, gameplay may feel restricted as the only controls are hitting X or Y, a shoulder button to use any equipped Sheikah ability, or the special move when you have filled the bar up.

Surprisingly, it still keeps you hooked.

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

Age of Calamity brings the Breath of The Wild visuals along on this hack-and-slash adventure. Everything Breath of the Wild did graphically, Age of Calamity has it. The defeated enemies even turn into a puff of Malice, and the sound effects and music score run exactly the same.

Performance can sometimes suffer when loads of stuff is happening on the screen all at once. I experienced it more than once, but it didn’t hinder me from progressing the game.

Conclusion

Age of Calamity is a somewhat delightful filler while we wait for Breath of The Wild 2. Not only that, but the game that provides a great story too. Being able to witness the battle of Hyrule, and getting to witness first hand the flashbacks via Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity is a testament to the story telling team at Nintendo. If you watch fan theory videos regarding Zelda, such as Zeltik for example, and take into account all the info from past games and what Age of Calamity does, you can’t help but wonder what we’re going to see from the Zelda universe going forward.

Verdict
Age of Calamity is a must have game for any Zelda fans. Experiencing and witnessing the Calamity in full effect leaves you wanting more, and it’s very rare for games to do that to the player. The story is a roller-coaster ride, making you feel on edge, relived, and excited, sometimes all at once!

Space Crew Review (PC)

  • Genre: Simulation, Strategy, Adventure
  • Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4, xBox One
  • Developer | Publisher: Curve Digital | Curve Digital
  • Age Rating: Everyone 10+
  • Price: UK £17.99 | US $19.99 | EU €19.99
  • Release Date: October 15th 2020

Review code used, with many thanks to Renaissance PR.

In Space Crew you are introduced smoothly, being introduced to the environment and your crew through use of the tutorial, or, if you skip the tutorial, straight into the action.

Story/Characters

You get to build your own crew in Space Crew, from customising their weapons and gear, to completely changing their look and appearance. You can start with 5 or 6 crew members, depending on the difficulty settings you choose. I went with 6 this time, just to make it so I didn’t die, again.

As you can see above, there’s quite a choice between settings. I went with an easier set up, as I know I can get frustrated easily. So I went for semi-automatic Tagging Mode, which meant I didn’t have to manually tag each enemy as they appear, as long as my Comms Officer was at their post. I grabbed the sixth crew so I could man more of my turrets at once.

The story appears to boil down to humans have made their mark in space, they have multiple bases and labs dotted around. And their main enemy, the Phasmid, are on the lookout and are quite happy to shoot at you on sight. On every mission, you are highly likely to end up in combat against them, whether it’s small groups of fighters, or larger ships, or even named enemies, like Hewpen Garratt.

Gameplay

Most of Space Crew is simply choosing a mission, doing said mission, and returning to base. For some people, it will be too repetitive, however, most games boil down to the same premise, so I didn’t see an issue here. The missions are ranked in difficulty, so you know how much hassle you can expect once you’re out there.

Missions can range from protecting another vessel or place, to simply fighting off swarms of Phasmids. You will stumble across Phasmid beacons or other important things on your journeys, which you can scan and learn about the Phasmids through. You will be able to hack some parts too! Have to admit, I haven’t figured out how to hack successfully yet.

Using jump gates, travelling through space is much easier than it sounds. Just lock onto the gate you want, get to it, charge your hyperjump and then go. Use gates to travel and traverse the area you find yourself in. Be careful around and in asteroid fields though, they literally attack you and take out your shields in one hit.

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

The graphics for Space Crew are pleasant, I enjoy actually looking around during my missions when I get to explore somewhere new. I like the layout of the ship, it’s efficient and looks good.

The music is benign, I have no issue with it, but I can’t really remember it now that I haven’t played for a day. It’s a shame, but it happens. There is audio for most actions, shooting, getting boarded, etc.. It’s ok for background noises, for me anyway, but as a main source, I think I’d get bored of it very quickly.

The performance is brilliant, I’ve not had it lag, glitch or falter while I’ve been playing. And I don’t have the best PC as it is. Seems like a low maintenance game, runs smoothly and runs pretty.

Difficulty

As I stated before, I pulled the difficulty down from the original settings, just so I could get a feel for the game itself. On the original difficulty, I found my whole team wiped out within 10 missions, have to admit, that annoyed me. I got distracted for a moment and it was critical.

Thankfully, this game has sliding difficulty that you can change whenever you want, bar in a mission. It is a good way to open a game to a larger audience, simply because each person can choose the difficulty that suits them.

Conclusion

Space Crew is a fun, repetitive game. Explore the sights they’ve given us access to, while saving the humans from the Phasmids, collect data to hack and undermine the Phasmids. For £18~, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys space travel and management simulation games.

Verdict
A good space management sim, good for whiling away some hours without realising it.