Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Mario Vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! review

Donkey Kong is up to his old tricks again, and there's only one solution; Mario. The world's favorite plumber is back, and must once again rescue Pauline. This is the fourth game in the series, and the third on the DS.

The game is set in a theme park style world, with different themes running throughout each level. Not that you will have time to appreciate it, with all of your concentration being on the mechanical Mini Marios. See, the twist with this game is that you have no direct control over the characters on screen. They just march on forward. If they hit a wall they'll turn around and carry on marching. If they come to a ladder, they will ascend of descend it, depending on where it is. So this is where you come in.
Try to collect everything for more unlocks

Using the stylus, you create, move and eliminate aspects of the level, which can be used elsewhere if need be. To start with, you just have control over steel girders. They can be used as walkways or as walls, and mastering them is pretty easy. Soon enough though, you can be in charge of many elements on a single level, such as ladders, conveyor belts, springs and the classic Mario mode of transport, the warp pipe. You will need careful planning, quick fingers and nerves of steel to master some of the later levels, especially if you want to collect the coins and cards, and get the high score trophy. You could completely ignore the collectables and trophies, but they make the game much more complex and definitely extend the lifespan by a lot. So once you have collected everything and killed any creatures, you must forge a path to the exit door. Be careful though, because as soon as the first Mini Mario exits through the door, a timer starts. If the timer hits zero, the door seals, banishing any remaining Minis. You must have all of them heading in the right direction with as little space between them as you can get.

There are some levels which play with the formula a bit, and include other characters. Well, mini, mechanical versions of other characters, such as Peach and Toad. You must get them to their specific doors, and whilst it doesn't sound much different, it adds a new challenge to the game as you have to make multiple paths to the different doors. The mini game levels are much simpler in theory, but can get quite difficult. A number of pipes hang from the top screen, and there are boxes at the bottom. You must get the characters that drop either to their character box, or to a score multiplier box, depending on the level you choose. The characters drop quite quickly and it's easy to mislead some of them in the frenzy. They're both great for mixing up the pace a little and keeping the game interesting.
Donkey Kong fights are reminiscent of the original NES game

The game simply wouldn't work on any other system, as only the DS gives you instant control and the ease to select different areas on the map without using awkward analogue sticks. It's a great puzzle title with an insane amount of unlockable content (another incentive to perfect levels), a lengthy story mode and even a level editor. Once again Nintendo create a game perfect for their console and made with their fans in mind.


by Louis Gardner

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Steel Diver review

Steel Diver is a game about submarines. There aren't many games which utilise the vehicle, and it's a nice change from the usual war vehicles, like planes and tanks. Perhaps the reason for the exclusion of submarines in the gaming world is that they aren't much fun? Read on to find out if that's the case.

In an unspecified year in the 20th century, a rogue, powerful nation has started to attack it's neighbouring countries, and there is threat of a world war. In order to prevent this, the rest of the world has selected three of the worlds best submarine commanders, and they are known as the Steel Divers. And this is where you come in! There are three subs to choose from, all with different statistics. The small, easily manoeuvrable sub with low HP, the medium sized, all rounder, and the long and slow sub with heavy defences. The ships all have slightly different control methods and weapons, and getting used to each different one can be fun, and the more challenging ones to control are also the most rewarding and enjoyable.

It's a very slow game, and this is about as exciting as it gets

There are 3 modes, and they're all very different from each other, which is always a good thing. The campaign mode is where you have direct control over the submarine and all weapons. From a side view, you traverse many different aquatic environments, from deep caves with prehistoric creatures, to an explosive, underwater volcano, which erupts and throws rocks at you. It has moments of excitement, but the missions feel all over the place and some just don't fit with the rest of the game at all. Periscope mode is the second, and sees you controlling just that, the periscope. Using the gyroscope built into the 3DS, you must spin around, all 360 degrees, and fire torpedoes at enemy ships and subs. It is somewhat entertaining, but not so much in public. Fortunately, you can play this mode with the touch screen, so you don't have to miss out due to embarrassment. The final mode is completely different, and is a mix of Battleships and Risk. Steel Commander is a turn based strategy game, in which you must destroy the opponents supply ships or submarine. You must also defend your supply ships with your own submarine or escort ships. It is quite a complex game, and not one for casual players. Fans of the genre will definitely enjoy it however, and it's a great addition which could have easily been left out.

Using the periscope is fun, but it's very repetitive

Steel Diver is fun for a while, but soon enough the missions become confusing and out of place, and after controlling each submarine a few times, the fun factor dramatically reduces. It's a slow game, and each mission can take around ten minutes, despite not much happening. It also doesn't feel like it needs to be a 3DS title. The controls would be more accurate and less complex on other consoles. Worth a try, but perhaps not a full price purchase.


by Louis Gardner

Monday, 16 May 2011

Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition review

Street Fighter, widely known as the greatest fighting game, has been transported to the world of three dimensions, on Nintendo's 3DS. Bringing the graphical style of the recent SSF IV, and the classic Street Fighter gameplay and characters, along with some 3DS only features, this game has a lot going for it. Does the game translate well to the 3DS?

Starting up the game, you will be presented with an awesome opening video, with some amazing effects and graphics. The main flaw, is that it isn't in 3D. The innovation of the console is wasted thus far, but it is only a video. The actual game can be played in full 3D, and looks great. The classic characters are brought to life in a way that has never been done before, and they look awesome. Because the graphics aren't necessarily realistic, they are perfect for the handheld console.

The special and ultra combos look excellent in 3D

There are a few modes to play, the main one being Arcade. This is the story mode, and each character has their own story, which will play out on different stages and against different fighters than the other characters. The story is presented in an beautiful anime style, and it's clear that a lot of work has gone into them. The stories are a bit vague and not entirely necessary, but they do provide some motivation for playing through with each character.

The actual fighting has been simplified a lot, compared to Street Fighter games of the past. On the touch screen are four buttons, two of which need to be earned in each fight. These are super and ultra combos. Previously you may have had to press buttons in a ridiculously complex manner and order, but now you just tap the screen. New players will appreciate it, but veterans of the series may find it takes away a lot of difficulty, especially in player versus player matches. The other two, available all the time, are special attacks. Stronger than normal attacks and definitely more dramatic, it is too tempting to use these more than intended.

There is an awesome level of detail on every character and stage

There are also standard versus matches, and then online and local multiplayer fights. An interesting and pretty cool feature is the 3D versus mode. It is made especially to utilise the 3D effect in an awesome way. Instead of a straight side view, it is instead from a 45 degree angle to the fight. So the left character is extremely close to you, and the right character is far away. It looks great and is fun for a while, but seems like more of a demonstration of the 3D feature than a fully fledged mode. It is also quite hard to play in this view as the distance between the characters is harder to judge. In the standard game, the 3D is still pretty good. The characters stand out, as does the HUD, and the stages look great. Cars, people and animals stand out from the background, and give a real illusion of depth.

SSFIV 3D Edition is no doubt a great game. Addictive, stylish, nostalgic, fun. It's hard to say what it lacks, but it doesn't feel as complete as Dead or Alive: Dimensions. The fights aren't as smooth unless you have some serious skills. And perhaps that's the problem. It has a dedicated fan base, and it seems like this elite group will get more out of the game than a casual player. The touch screen buttons are a great first step in the right direction however, and the appeal is already broadening.


by Louis Gardner

Dead or Alive Dimensions review

The Dead or Alive series is back, this time on the 3DS. As a veteran of the fighting genre, can it bring the success of the console and arcade titles to a handheld device? And how does it compete with Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition? Read on for out verdict...

If you're unaware of the series, it is a fighting game, in the same style as Tekken and Street Fighter. It features many characters, including some classic characters such as Ryu Hayabusa, from the well known Ninja Gaiden series. The gameplay is the same, simply because it works.

The character models look amazing

The graphics are incredible, considering the power of the 3DS, and the 3D effect works fantastically well. Fists, explosions and characters fly out of the screen, showing off just how good the console is. When the 3D effect is turned off, the game runs considerably faster, but the speed of the game in 3D is never a problem.

There are many modes available, and where some fighting games may get repetitive, DOA:D doesn't. The modes are varied enough to keep you interested a long time after you have finished Chronicle mode.

Chronicle is the story mode, following many different characters across a diverse range of locations and realms. It is an epic adventure, but can get confusing. For a start, there are three different types of cut scene. The most common is basically a 3D comic strip. You see the characters in a static pose, and as the camera zooms or pans around them, they speak. Quite often though, there will be multiple characters on screen and it won't be clear who is talking. The voice acting is great quality, but many of the characters sound the same, which adds to the confusion. There are also fully animated cut scenes which are really great, and it's a shame that the full game is not like this. The story also, seemingly randomly, jumps between characters and locations, and it's hard to follow. Confusion aside, Chronicle mode is great. It is a story mode and tutorial in one, lengthy package. You play as a range of characters so can experience many styles of fighting and get used to them all with the handy tutorials which pop up now and then before matches, showing you advanced techniques and tricks.

All of the series favourite characters are back

There are other modes too, such as Tag mode, which gives you a computer controlled team mate, and you must defeat certain enemies. It is tough, as the tag team tactics can take a while to get used to, and the enemies kick ass. But it is definitely fun, especially when you trigger the double throw move, which are always awesome. The most fun mode however, is Survival. You must defeat a set amount of enemies with no break in between each, and it is so much fun. This mode is addictive, and starting with ten, you can progress to twenty, thirty et cetera. It is fast, frantic and superbly fun.

The game looks great, plays even better, and the production values are clearly high. It is a great game that deserves all the praise it gets, and is a must have for all 3DS owners. Dead or Alive: Dimensions is the best fighter on the system, period.


by Louis Gardner

Nintendogs and Cats review

Nintendogs are back! The adorable little virtual pets have been brought back, this time in 3D. They also have some feline friends this time. Was it worth remaking or is it too similar to warrant a purchase?

The core gameplay is basically the same. Feed, water, play with and care for your dogs and cats. There are quite a few differences though, which make the game a lot more interesting than the original. The obvious addition is the option to buy cats. Definitely broadens the audience of the game, without losing the dog fans. The graphics are actually quite impressive, the animals have good looking fur, your house and the town look great and the 3D effect works well. Your little doggy in 3D is oh so cute. You can also utilise the Augmented Reality cards to bring your virtual pet into the real life, and you can even make your dog perform any tricks that it has learned whilst on the AR card. It's a great feature as you can snap a picture of yourself with your pet, which will definitely make the kids happy.

It's hard not to fall in love with your virtual pet

Taking your pet for a walk is very different this time round, but in a good way. No longer do you plot the route, you just set out to the street and it's the luck of the draw as to what you'll get. Walking is a great way for your pet to make friends, to find hidden items and to take your dog to one of the training courses. Instead of the side view of the original, the street instead stretches right in front of you, and is pretty wide. It really uses the 3D well and the graphics look great. As well as the town, there is also the mountain path which also looks nice and is much quieter and a more natural environment, a beach which is great for practicing the disc throw, and there is also a gym, park, cafe and many shops. It's a much more realistic world than the original game, and it definitely helps in keeping your interest.

The graphics of the game are great. The fur looks amazing on the pets, and the environments all look decent, and more importantly everywhere doesn't look the same. There is also a wide selection of dogs on each version of the game, though the cat selection is considerably smaller. It's a shame, but it is primarily a dog sim after all.

The cats are a great new addition

If you enjoyed the original games, there is no reason for you to miss this. Everything about it has been improved, and the 3D and augmented reality features just make it even better. You'll get sucked into the world of the Nintendog and you won't want to leave.


by Louis Gardner

Monday, 9 May 2011

Pilotwings Resort review

Pilotwings is back! A long overdue sequel to the amazing N64 game is finally here, and in awesome 3D. This game is set on Wuhu Island, made famous in Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort, and is amazingly fun. Wuhu Island looks great, despite the graphics capabilities of the 3DS, and the 3D works fantastically well. Fly over the volcano and look down into it to see for yourself the depth and intensity of the 3D effect.
This, but in 3D

The game consists of many challenges, in which you pilot one of three vehicles: the plane, the hang glider and the rocket belt (basically a jetpack). There are over 40 missions, and you must complete certain tasks to complete the level and get a star rating. Your stars will increase if you accomplish certain conditions, and it can become quite addictive, and often infuriating, trying to get the perfect score.

The main problem with the game is that it can get repetitive. The plane missions especially, as many of them see you simply following a route and passing through rings. There are the odd missions which are completely different, and these moments are awesome. It's just a shame it doesn't happen so often.
The rocket belt is a great modern addition to the series

The most fun you can have with the game is free flight mode. Almost an exact copy of the flight game in Wii Sports Resort, you must collect items, pop balloons, find all the locations and generally have fun. The island is yours for a couple of minutes to start with, but you can increase it to five minutes if you have the patience and motivation. Free flight mode can easily take up hours of your time, and it doesn't get boring. Whether you are hunting for locations and balloons, pulling off some crazy stunts or just enjoying the scenery, you will have fun.

Pilotwings Resort is one of the best games on the system so far. It has the Nintendo charm that nobody else can recreate, it has great visuals, simple but incredible gameplay and amazing attention to detail. If you have a 3DS, you need this game.


by Louis Gardner

Nintendo 3DS review

The only 3D experience without glasses. True 3D, in the palm of your hand. Definitely one of the biggest innovations in gaming, since the Wii. But how is the console overall?

The first time you turn the 3DS on, you will probably feel a bit disorientated, as you try to focus on the three dimensions. Once you see it, it's hard to lose it. It looks phenomenal. 3D, without glasses! It really does need to be seen to be believed. I was a sceptic until I saw it in action, and believe me, it works. Characters leap out at you, the land stretches back far, everything just works.

You don't even need to buy any games to have fun with the system, as it comes preloaded with a lot of cool stuff. The 3D camera is great, as it allows you to capture images using the two cameras, in 3D. The quality, unfortunately, isn't great, but the 3D definitely works, and it's pretty awesome to see pictures of your friends, pets or home in 3D. Another great feature is the Graffiti. This allows you to manipulate the photos that you have taken. And you can do more than just scribble on some amusing facial hair. You can manipulate the depth of the images. By using a special pen, you can raise or lower parts of the image, giving an amazing 3D effect. You can make someone's eyes burst out of the screen, or make their mouth a deep cavern. It's really fun and the 3D is intense. Much fun can be had with the 3D camera and it's effects, such as the face merge, the sparkle effect, the sepia tones, and many more. It's just a shame that the quality is quite low. Better quality cameras can be found in cheap mobile phones.

The Augmented Reality game is awesome too. In the box with the console, you will find a selection of cards, with some famous Nintendo characters, and one with the instantly recognisable '?' box. Start up Augmented Reality and it tells you to use the 3D camera to look at the '?' box. Do so, and the box will open up, revealing a target. Shoot the target and more targets will appear. Eventually, the box sinks a huge hole into your table or chair, or whatever, and you must move your DS above the hole to see another target. You can walk around the cards from all angles and the box will stay in it's correct place in the 3D environment. It's quite spectacular, and whilst it's nothing new, it's one of the finest examples of Augmented Reality. Later, you get the chance to use the character cards, and have some real fun. You can use one, or you can use them all, there aren't many limitations. The characters are in your hand, or your room, in 3D, and you can get some great pictures.

Another game which also uses Augmented Reality, though in a different way, is Face Raiders. Take a picture of your face, and it is placed onto a flying sphere, in 3D. Then, you must find them, by looking around you in real life, and shoot them. It's really quite fun, spinning around to get the sneaky blighters, and watching them destroy your surroundings. If you aren't quick enough, they smash holes in the walls, revealing that you are actually in space. It's a fun game, and getting lots of face pictures increases the variety in the enemies.

A great social game is also included, called the StreetPass Mii Plaza. Leave your console on standby as you travel, and it will interact with other 3DS consoles. You will gain the Mii of the other console, and they will gain yours. Not only this, but they allow you to play one of the two games included in the Mii Plaza, Puzzle Swap and StreetPass Quest. Each person will grant one turn on each of the games. The puzzle swap is simply gathering puzzle pieces to reveal a 3D image, but the Quest is slightly deeper and more interesting. The visiting Mii's get one turn to defeat Ghosts and make their way through rooms of a castle, rewarding you with prizes for your Mii. For example, one of the prizes is a Mario hat, which looks awesome on your little avatar.

The 3DS is great in many aspects, but there is one area in which it falls short, and it seems to be becoming a Nintendo trademark. The graphics, are once again not brilliant. Considering the amount of time and technological advances since the release of the original DS, you would expect some great graphics. Don't get me wrong, they have improved, but not as much as they could have. Not by a long shot. It is a shame, and even though it doesn't affect the quality of the console and the gameplay of the titles, it will definitely put some people off, especially considering the graphical quality of Sony's NGP. The quality of first party Nintendo games however, is still here, and it's this which makes the console shine. Nintendo want to make a good quality, fun console, and focus instead on giving gamers a great time, not on the best graphics and effects. This will always divide gamers, but it is how it is. Another problem is you have to be dead straight, in line with the screen to get the 3D effect. Not usually a problem, but when on trains and buses (usually ideal handheld console time), the slightest bump can knock you off centre and instead you see two blurry images, very far from the gorgeous 3D.

If you love Nintendo, try it out, and you'll probably fall for the 3DS. Great games, innovative 3D visuals and a very stylish looking console. It will be great, as long as developers use the 3D to the max. People say that the 3D is a gimmick. I see it differently. 3D has taken the world by storm in the past 18 months, and it is showing no signs of slowing down. It's not a gimmick, it's the beginning of something special. Now if only the stylus wasn't in such an awkward position...


by Louis Gardner

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Portal 2 Giveaway!


We have an Xbox 360 version of Portal 2 to giveaway. There are two ways to enter:

1) visit our Facebook page, Like, and leave a comment:

2) Follow @SubspaceReviews and tweet:

"Take me back to Aperture Science, @SubspaceReviews, and give me Portal 2! http://tinyurl.com/PortSub #SRP2"

Contest open to UK residents only, and ends 8/5/11 when one winner will be randomly selected. Good luck everyone!