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 19th November 2017.
Super Mario Odyssey (Switch, £41.99)
MARIO is a gaming legend so the pressure is on with any new title — but his latest Odyssey is a Switch sensation. The Odyssey tale is pretty ancient — rescue Princess Peach from the evil Bowser . . . blah, blah. But there is a twist — Bowser wants to marry Peach so it’s a real race against time to stop him taking her up the aisle.
As usual, Mario has help along the way. Cappy is a magic hat that is on its own rescue mission and it really shakes up the gameplay. The gameplay is an absolute winner — it mixes new elements with classic Mario experiences and fully embraces its rich past. The new stuff includes your ability to become an enemy and use their powers — say thank you, Cappy, because it’s all down to him. You can then throw the enemy’s powers at them then become them . . . only with a moustache. That blows the game wide open but we will avoid the spoiler and just say you it all adds a ton of fun to what and where you can go. You can also use Cappy as a weapon or as a jump pad to increase your distance. That all helps you find the power moon collectables which are key to unlocking the next world. They fire up your ship, the Odyssey, and there are hundreds in each world, so revisiting the worlds pays off.
There are forest and water themes and each has its own style and feel, but New Donk City is outstanding. Mario has to run around a semi- realistic urban playground city talking to and helping people. It is Mario, so it is bursting with colour and charm. The Odyssey is a remarkable piece of art, and the soundtrack is a welcome assault of joyful upbeat tunes. If you want to gripe, this is not the toughest of games. The life system in past games has been replaced by you losing coins. And you have plenty of them so that is not too much of a hardship. However, that dynamic will make this a hit for gamers young and old.
It’s packed with contact with a 15-hour main adventure and a world of challenges and other things to do. Super Mario Odyssey is a true showcase of everything that Nintendo does well. You’d have to have a granite heart not to smile at the colours and characters. It has bags of charm. This is a must if you have a Switch and will be high on many Christmas lists.
AER: Memories of Old (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £11.99)
SOMETIMES you just want to chill out. You need a break from the seemingly endless rounds of fighting, shooting and racing. So join the AER world. The Forgotten Key gem tells the tale of a young girl who is the last of the shapeshifters. Her world has been broken up into small islands after a darkness fell over it. You have to find out what happened to the old world and shed light on the new world.
There are two strains to the gameplay — the main part focuses on you exploring dungeons while solving a few light puzzles. You have to find three temples spread across the world with relics which hold the key to the truth. The second part is where you use your shape-shifting powers to become a bird so you can explore the world and fly from island to island. This is where the game lights up as you fly through the clouds and feel a real sense of freedom.
The art is actually quite striking and that helps to set the tone while the soundtrack carries the mood well. But this is a short break from the mayhem — you will be done in about four hours. And we did have a couple of crash landings as a bird. But this is a digital breath of fresh air.
Spintires: MudRunner (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £34.99)
IT’S safe to say that we’re fans of a good SIM game here. From racing to being a fireman to driving a bus — we love it. The level of detail and things you have to do help you lose yourself in the moment. So, when we heard that Saber Interactive were bringing Spintires: Mud Runner to consoles, we knew it was one for us. Spintires took the PC world by storm, and Mud Runners is the sequel. It lets you get down and dirty with SIM off-road driving. It also adds a host of new upgrades and tweaks.
Now, this isn’t an epic action-packed campaign. The best story you’ll get is “take this load from point A all the way to point B”. Loads range from logs to fuel and everything in between and you have a host of heavy-duty trucks and off-roaders. That sounds easy, right? Err, no. You have to drive your truck through mud-filled forests and across rivers. It is a real challenge to be able to read the terrain and find a route that won’t get you stuck. The jobs get harder and longer, and you’ll need a support truck to help you out. And, because it is a SIM, you’ll have to add in fuel and where you have to fill up is key to the strategy. The day-night cycle really adds to the challenge because it all works well during the daylight hours but you only have headlights to guide you at night.
There are a few huge areas to explore, a challenge mode and a multiplayer side where you and friends can work together. The terrain mechanic is amazing — everything that happens plays a part in how you get on. The weight of the mud, how heavy your truck is and how fast you go can all play a role in your future. The graphics are OK without being stunning. There are some nice effects like when you come out of a river, but the mud steals the show. The soundtrack is nothing special although the trucks have real grunt. Mud Runner will not appeal to everyone. It is a tough challenge and it takes time to master it. But nothing beats that rewarding feeling of delivering that load after the fight to get it there. If you’re a SIM fan wanting something out of the ordinary, then get your hands dirty with Mud Runner.
On The Stream
RAGE Darling is a fun-loving streamer who just enjoys having an audience when she plays games. Her engaging streams are focused on everything from gaming to cosplayer — but the key is the community she has built up.
“We laugh and we cry and sometimes we scream at me for my questionably bad game skills, but they love it and so do I.”
As for the future, she aims to grow the stream more and hopes to showcase more games. In short, she wants to become one of the biggest influences on gaming in the UK. Go to twitch.tv/rage_darling or follow @RageDarling.
Prize Giving to the Prize Winners
MUCH back-slapping at the 2017 eSports Industry Awards in London. Victor ‘Punk’ Woodley won eSports Console Rookie of the Year while OpTic Gaming took the eSports team title. But it’s safe to say the show was stolen by Guy Beahm. He won Streamer of the Year for his alter ego, Dr DisRespect.
There was a very touching speech as the American went on stage to receive his reward. But it was slightly surreal as he was dressed in character — complete with mullet, sunglasses and gaming headset.
Absolute Drift: Zen Edition (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £9.59)
ANYONE who has seen me drive will know that being elegant is not my style. So, I have to tick that box by drifting in games. It is an art form — pure driving skill. Now Flippfly have stripped back the hot metal to produce a drifting game with a cartoon drift game full of Far Eastern joy. But this is no kiddies’ game. It is a tough challenge. You have to learn how to control your car as you find out how much speed works with the anti-lock on the steering wheel. And you do it all from a top down view.
There is an epic playground where you complete challenges, contest drift races and generally look cool. The story is pretty open-ended — you get a brief history of drifting from a statue then it’s up to you what happens next. There are six worlds to slide and glide around. Each one has its own challenges — from doing donuts to drifting between two boxes. They are short and sharp, but they all help to fine-tune your skills. You also get to unlock a cars in each world. The events mean three laps of a track aiming to put the highest scores on global leader boards and prove you are the top dog. The events also have challenges which can unlock midnight runs on the track. But it all comes back to the stripped back look. This is brave and brilliant.
The track is white while the objects you drift around are red all and everything is set against a cyan backdrop. Yes, it sounds a bit Mirror Edge, but it’s a visual treat especially as your car leaves black lines everywhere you go. You feel like you are controlling a paint brush instead of a tuned ride. The tunes have the right chilled-out electronic vibe and there are more than three hours of tracks composed by Nyte and C41. You have to be patient. It takes time to master the controls and that could put some people off. But even they will admit this game is a stunner. It is a completely different take on drift or even racing games. You have to give it a blast. I love it — it makes my driving look good.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…