Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 7th May 2017.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch, £49.99)
IF you ask people for their all-time favourite racing game then Mario Kart would be first over the line. Of course there would be votes for Forza, Gran Turismo and even DIRT but Mario is king. So there is always going to be a buzz of anticipation when the new instalment comes out and Nintendo have delivered with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. As the name suggests this is a beefed-up version of the Wii U Mario Kart 8.
Deluxe gets all the DLC that was released for 8 — so that’s 48 tracks and 42 racers from a range of Nintendo games like Zelda and Animal Crossing. There are also five new faces. If that wasn’t enough you can unlock more kart parts by collecting coins during races. That lets you add some new toys like the Mercedes content from 8. But the racing is pure joy. From fighting off red shells to timing the perfect start off the line, Nintendo have taken what fans love and polished it to an almost mirror shine while keeping the easy-to-pick-up-and-play-but-hard-to-master element.
The biggest addition to the Switch version is the revamped battle modes — with five new challenges to sort out local rivalry in your household. You can pop your rival’s balloons with different power-ups while defending your own. Shine Thief and Coin Runner are the weakest of the five modes but the star is Bob-omb Blast. It is fast and frantic and sees you throwing bombs to take out the other players. The final new boy is Renegade Roundup — Mario Karts’ take on cops and robbers. It is great fun with friends, especially with its risk-reward gameplay.
The modes are even better online. The ability to jump into a race with people from around the world is brilliant and is amplified by the Switch’s portable play anywhere nature. That said, the online side isn’t as slick as you would hope. Getting into the action takes some time and there is no chat ability. That is a shame because you can only use pre-made statement to communicate in lobbies. The game is stunning, with trademark Nintendo colourful characters, tracks. The soundtrack also has a feel- good vibe and carries on flavour of Zelda or previous Mario games.
Since the launch the Switch only had one must-buy game — Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. Hold that thought because now Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the second. It could even be a system seller to many gamers although, if you have played Mario Kart 8 to death on the Wii U, you may be left feel let down by the lack of new content but you can’t argue that it isn’t a blast.
TURN up the co-op heat on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with a set of Joy-con Wheels. They really add a layer of fun and come in matching colours to your Switch. They are built to use the motion controls of the Switch. The Joy-con Wheel pack has two wheels.
Out now — £13.99.
Mr Shifty Switch (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £13.49)
IT is always exciting when a new kid turns up at school — and you see what they bring to the party. This is Team Shifty’s first game and it mixes the thrills of Hotline Miami with the abilities of Nightcrawler from X-Men. The result is a beat-’em-up challenge that is more puzzler than brawler.
You are master thief Mr Shifty and you have to break into the “most secure building in the world” and steal some Mega Plutonium from the big bad guy, Chairman Stone. It’s all very comic book-style but it is prepared to have a laugh at its own expense. It does a decent job at linking the levels even if it won’t be up for any gaming Oscars. You move from floor to floor beating seven bells out of the bad guys in a bid to unlock the lift to the next stage. Most of the combat is hand to hand although you can snap up a few weapons along the way. And you will need them because you have many enemies and they are pretty welled tooled up — with everything from guns to rocket launchers. Planning is the name of the game if you want to survive.
The thrill is the teleport ability. It lets you go through walls and doors to get the jump on the enemies. Once you master that, it makes for a beautiful ballet of action as you blast through areas and smack the baddies left, right and centre. Which leads us to the game’s main problem. It all looks cool but it soon gets repetitious, especially over 18 stages. You do get new enemies and areas but that never really takes off which is a shame. Mr Shifty isn’t perfect but it brings a new and addictive gaming hook to the table.
Puyo Puyo Tetris (Switch and PS4, £39.99 and £23.99, respectively)
START with a massive game like Tetris and add one of the Far East’s biggest titles and you get a mega-addictive bundle of fun. Tetris needs no introduction — you drop sets of blocks to make lines that clear then you repeat it to get the highest score. Puyo Puyo drops pairs of colour blobs but you have to connect four which get cleared. The key is chaining as many of the same colour as possible and clearing them in combos.
So Puyo Puyo Tetris is a 100-level campaign mode with a nicely fleshed-out story and it has a colourful Saturday morning cartoon feel although the high-pitch voice acting does grate on you after a while. There is a host of modes and game types with six challenges and five arcade puzzles. The game really comes to life as multiplayer. It can be played online or in co-op with up to four friends — each person can play Tetris or Puyo Puyo or a fusion of both games.
There is a Japanese charm to the look and the soundtrack is OK with the classic Tetris theme being a real retro hit. We reviewed the Switch version which costs £39.99 but it is only £23.99 on the PS4. Why? They need to look at this issue because it is unfair on Switch owners.
TWO of the biggest gaming events in Scotland have teamed up to form Insomnia X Resonate. It will hit Glasgow from July 21-23. Expect lots of eSports action, hands-on time with the latest games and the chance to meet your favourite YouTubers.
Andy Smith, director of The Insomnia Gaming Festival, said:
“We’re delighted to be returning to Scotland, following a fantastic three days in 2016, and teaming up with the Resonate team to deliver an even better event.”
Get tickets now, from £17.53, at insomniaresonate.com.
MEGAN Stanners (sharkbaitplays) loves streaming and screaming. She plays a mix of games, but loves the gory survival horror — and they often provide her best reactions on YouTube.
“I’ve always been a performer and loved playing games since I started playing the PS1 as a five- year-old, so focusing on making game- related content seemed the ideal step.”
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…