Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Lucha Fury review

Lucha Fury is a new downloadable title, mixing the world of Mexican wrestlers with Streets of Rage gameplay and the graphics of Borderlands. On paper, it's a sure fire hit, and the graphics stand up against some retail games. What a shame then, that the gameplay is the cause of it's downfall. 
 The game looks absolutely stunning

The game is a side scrolling beat 'em up, and works just like all the games in the genre. Move along the level, defeat a bunch of enemies in order to progress further, and so on. You would expect the characters (of which there are four) to be quick on their feet and with their reactions but they just aren't. They feel sluggish and slow, and getting from area to area is more of a chore than anything. So the movement isn't good, surely the combat is amazing? Erm, no.

The combat is an even bigger disappointment than the general task of progressing on foot. Defeating enemies requires a simple combo. There is no motivation or reason for you to do anything else. There are more combos, but they don't unlock as often as they should, meaning that the standard combo plus a drop kick every now and then means that you're pretty much set for the entire game. Another flaw is that you are very easily stunned. Enemies land a few consecutive hits and you become dazed. To break out of this, you must vigorously shake the right stick back and forth, but when you are back to normal you usually don't have time to kill any of them or escape, and it happens again. 
 Overall, the negatives outweigh the positives

All of these flaws and gameplay shortcomings work together to really ruin the game, making it an almost unplayable mess. There is no motivation to carry on playing because you know it will be more of the same. The only redeeming factor of the game is the art. The art team have clearly put in so much heart and soul, but the rest of the game does not share the same high standards. The character models are great and the world is detailed and colourful.

Amazing ideas and art direction let down by some unforgivably bad gameplay. Different characters and unlockables may add some replayability to it, but there isn't enough playability in the first place to make them a necessary addition. If you want an amazing beat 'em up, buy Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.

3/10

by Louis Gardner

Friday, 24 June 2011

Lucha Fury XBLA giveaway!


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From Twitter:
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Theo Holzammer and Jason Allan 

Kinect Adventures review

Kinect Adventures is the official Kinect launch title, and is packed in the box with brand new Kinect Sensors. Serving as more of a tech demo and introduction to controller free gaming, it gives players a chance to get used to using their body to control games, and to give an idea as to what future Kinect titles may include.

KA has five different minigames, which include deflecting balls to break blocks, floating around in a zero gravity chamber trying to pop balloon type objects, controlling a white water raft, blocking leaks with your hands and feet, and dodging poles as you travel down a railway track. An odd variety of activities, certainly, but that's no bad thing. Having the games too similar would reduce the amount of time it keeps you hooked even more.
Pop the space bubbles...

The main problem is, with the title Adventures, you would expect just that. But the five games mentioned above just aren't very adventurous. And there's nothing adventurous about completing five minigames repeatedly, with only slight variations each time. Popping balloons in space is only fun once, and even the first time it's not great. The most fun to play are Rally Ball and Reflex Ridge. Rally Ball sees you hitting balls with your body down a narrow corridor, with the intention of breaking bricks. As the balls come back to you, you must manipulate your on screen avatar by moving into the position that you would like it, to stop the balls from passing you. It's a fast game, which requires split second reactions and some good stamina, but it is probably the most fun of the bunch. Reflex ridge requires you to jump, duck and lean, as you try to avoid small barriers designed to hit you. As well as this, you must collect Adventure pins. The best way to describe these would be currency. You collect them in order to advance through the main Adventure mode. Each level of adventure is based on one of the minigames, and you must play different versions of the same game in order to rack up the Adventure Pins and complete the adventure.

Upon completion of each adventure, you are rewarded with a Living Statue, avatar award and achievements. The Living Statues provide quite a lot of the overall fun that the game will give you. To not give away spoilers, only one early Living Statue will be referenced, and that will be the shark. Jump to make the shark jump, swish your backside to make the shark swish his tail. Simple but kinda fun, and the ability to upload your creations (as well as random shots of yourself jumping around) to a special Kinect Adventures website is a great feature, and allows you to share your creations with not only other players, but with friends on social networking sites.
Rally Ball is definitely worth a try

Adventures is a great family game, and will keep the kids interested for weeks. Teenagers and above will lose interest after just a couple of hours however, as only so much fun can be had from five games that last a minute or so each. Still, it's an introduction to the Kinect Sensor, and it could have been much worse. Such a shame then that it could have been so much better.

6/10

by Louis Gardner

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Michael Jackson: The Experience review

Michael Jackson has been one of the worlds greatest entertainers, from his early introduction to showbiz with the Jackson 5, right up to his untimely death. Now, you can dance and sing to some of his greatest hits, from the comfort of your own living room.

Entire games dedicated to one artist or group are nothing new, we have had Guitar Hero Aerosmith, the stellar Beatles Rock Band and a large selection of others, but none have given you the chance to dance. The rise of motion sensor controllers and Kinect means that dancing games are getting better and better. No more dance pads which require nothing other than stomping, now we have full body tracking, requiring you to actually perform the moves. Dance Central set the standard for Kinect dance titles, but how does MJ: The Experience compare?
Many famous MJ sets have been virtually recreated

The first problem with the game is that there is no story or career mode. It is a party game, so it's understandable, but a single player mode would have been a welcome addition. Instead, all songs are already unlocked, giving you the freedom to choose from a selection of 30 songs. Not a huge number, but not terribly low. The next thing you'll notice is that there is no breakdown of the moves in each song, meaning you have to, to some extent, guess the moves the first time you perform them. Dance Central had an amazing tutorial system, allowing you to practice each move individually before putting them together in a sequence. Nothing like this here, but you can find some videos of professional dancers telling you how to perform different moves. It's clear that a lot of effort has been put into the videos, but a gamer doesn't want to watch, a gamer wants to play. And the speed with which you pick up the moves in Dance Central just proves that it works. The lack of this feature in MJ:TE makes it instantly less user friendly, and takes away some of the fun. It isn't all bad though. Each song is a virtual remake of the original MJ music videos, putting you in the frame, and in many of his most famous sets. One of the best is Billie Jean, as wherever you place your foot, a tile lights up. Probably as close to the real thing as many fans are going to get.

Another feature which could have been amazing but is in reality a little disappointing is that you can both sing and dance. But it isn't as it sounds. For example, choose a song and you will start to dance, then suddenly the dancers disappear and a vocal bar appears, and after a small section of seemingly random singing, you go back to dancing. It would have been infinitely better to have both singing and dancing simultaneously but it is not to be. Whether this is due to technical limitations or not remains to be seen. It's great that you can use the microphone built into the Kinect sensor however, as you don't have to rush for a microphone. Just sing!
Shame there is no simultaneous singing and dancing

What a dancing game should require from you is great timing and accuracy. It's the same with singing, the pitch and timing should again be perfect to score big points. This is not really the case with MJ:TE though, as it apparently chooses which moves and vocal performances to reward at random. You can pull off a move perfectly and you might not get any points because the game decides that it was wrong. It works both ways though, as you can completely ruin some moves, yet get top score for perfect performances. It needed a lot of work and it is a shame that it didn't have a couple more months for all of the creases to be ironed out.

To be fair, it had some tough competition. As far as dancing games go, Dance Central is close to perfect. As far as artist games go, The Beatles Rock Band is a masterpiece. It's main problem is that it is trying to be two different games. The focus should have been entirely on vocals or dancing, instead of an odd blend of both. Either both at the same time or just one for the whole game. With more work this could have been a great game with a mass appeal. Instead, it will only be enjoyed by the die hard MJ fans. Decent effort, but a tribute to such a great star should have been given a lot more attention and polish.

4/10

by Louis Gardner

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Call of Duty: Black Ops Escalation DLC review

The second map pack for the critically acclaimed Black Ops is available, and brings a bunch of multiplayer maps and a brand new Zombie level, Call of the Dead, with a few faces you might recognize...


Convoy is a medium sized level, based around a destroyed highway, upon which is the aforementioned convoy. It consists of mainly medium to long combat, with the two bridges at either end of the highway being the hotspots of most matches, with snipers and assault rifles using the cover and range particularly well. This is especially clear when playing domination, as point B is dead centre between the two bridges, on the raised highway. The outskirts of the map contain some small interiors, but the focus definitely sticks to the highway.


Zoo is arguably the best map of the lot, giving you the chance to fight it out in an abandoned Soviet zoo. The exhibits are empty, the fences broken and the monorail shut down. It takes quite a while to explore and find all of the best spots, with some hidden inside animal enclosures, and it has great areas for all players. Snipers can make use of the raised monorail track, submachine gunners can tear it up outside and shotgunners can cause some real damage inside one of the many buildings.

Zoo really shines when you play Domination. It's non stop action with the majority of the focus on B, but with small skirmishes happening all over the map. There are so many ways from which to approach point B, that there is gunfire from every direction, and trying to capture and defend it is hectic. Other gametypes on this map are fun, but nothing comes close to being as much fun as Domination. 

Stockpile is the third new map, and is slightly disappointing. It's not a bad map, it just lacks the spark that is present in the other offerings. There isn't a memorable part of the map, which instantly sets it apart from the others, in such an amazing map pack. It is set in a small village, at the centre of which is an ammunition and weapon stockpile. There are a number of heavy doors, and the ability to open and close them really mixes up the action and requires fast tactical changes. The action takes place mainly around this building, but not so much inside. This is mainly because it's a very small interior and people don't tend to stick around very long, apart from the odd camper. It's a solid map to play, it just lacks creativity. 


Hotel is the final map, and you will probably find yourself loving it one moment, and hating it the next. The map is located at the top of a skyscraper hotel, and includes a pool, hot tub, casino (with a broken into vault) and steam room. At either end of the rectangular map are two tall buildings, making the map almost perfectly symmetrical. Inside these buildings are elevators. That's right, fully working elevators. The novelty of actually using them wears off soon enough, but tactical use of them is always worth trying. Lay a claymore or C4 in the elevator and carry on playing. Maybe you'll get a kill, maybe not. At the highest available floor in each building are rooms with huge windows, offering a great view of the other hotel and the space in-between (the pool, bar and small rooftop above the sauna changing rooms).

This is also why a lot of the games can become infuriating. Snipers have a fantastic view of over 50% of the map, giving all other players no option but to stick to the interiors and small pathways to the sides of the map. The most interesting section of the map, the pool etc, is pretty much no man's land. This causes the biggest problem as point B in Domination is located in the swimming pool, in clear view of both windows. Whilst it's a shame when this does happen, the map is still extremely fun when it doesn't. It looks and feels great, and the symmetry allows you to learn the map very quickly. The only other problem is that huge parts of the map are often untouched. For example, in 90% of the games I played, I didn't see a single person in the casino. It's one of the biggest interiors on the map, complete with great cover and enough space for a decent sized skirmish. Obviously, this isn't down to the map design, but it is still a problem. 

Call of the Dead is the new zombie level, and is the most ambitious to date. Treyarch decided to get some help from a certain movie director, who you could say has had some experience with the genre. You could say he was the king of the genre. That's right, George A Romero. He writes and stars in this new level, but that's not all. The four playable characters are Danny Trejo, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Englund and Michael Rooker. All stars of cult action movies and shows, this cast is amazing and the virtual recreations are astoundingly good. 

The level is set in Siberia, meaning it is cold and dark. Perfect for a zombie attack. The level starts with Romero being bitten and transforming into a zombie, and he will stalk you for the entire level. It is possible to slow him down whilst you progress, but I won't give away any spoilers. You start at the bottom of the level, overlooking some unpleasant looking water. From here you can visit a lighthouse, ship, caves. It is a huge map, with amazing detail and so many Easter eggs that they are still being found. To truly see everything the map has to offer, you would have to play for a long time. Not only do the Easter eggs take a while to complete, but you also have to watch your back and kill any zombies that might get close. Ziplines and launch pads make it easier to get around the map, and it's a good job that they're there. It would take so long to get from one side to the other that it could get boring. As an overall experience, Call of the Dead is amazing. The characters and actors used just take it to the next level, and here's hoping that more developers use more famous actors in games. 

The Escalation pack is great. The four multiplayer maps will keep you busy for long enough, with Call of the Dead adding hours upon hours of lifespan. As far as map packs go, this is one of the best. 

9/10

by Louis Gardner