Scotch Corner – Time for an Unbox-ing

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 23rd July 2017.

 

Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £14.99)

THERE is nothing worse than sitting in waiting for a package.  The guys at Prospect Games obviously feel the same way because the inspiration behind Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure is basically a self-delivering parcel.  The developers have conjured up a civil war between the Global Postal Service and rebel box cell, Wilds Cards.  GPS is under threat because it is losing parcels and making late deliveries so comes up with the self-delivering packages.  Newbie is a . . . errr . . . newbie box who can prove the system works.  Newbie goes up against the Wild Card — who are out to prevent him doing his job and stop other self-delivering boxes from going into service.  That may all sound a bit dark, but Prospect have produced a colourful, charming cartoon-type world that is full of colour.

In many ways, the gameplay is a throwback to old 3D platformers as the missions range from races to shooting a set number of enemies at the same time as exploring three good-sized islands looking for a heap of collectables.  Each island has its own feel and vibe — there is a sunny beach resort and a snow-covered winter wonderland.  Then, to complete the set, there is a jungle.  Your job is to get stamps that allow you to unlock the boss fight and tackle the Wild Cards leader.  The controls are interesting because you are Newbie — so you are a box.  You have to build up the momentum to jump and you need to perfect that.  One of the best skills is an unboxing move — it’s like a double jump times ten.  You can boost yourself with up to six unboxes and that makes travelling really fast and helps when you hunt for collectables.

There is no voice acting.  The boxes make random sounds so the tale is told in subtitles.  But it is well written with a few good jokes and cheeky digs at other games like Call Of Duty.  The soundtrack is OK but won’t blow your mind.  Each island has a track that sets the vibe and that’s about it.  But there are a handful of multiplayer modes which add to the fun when you have completed the main campaign.  On the downside, the physics are a bit ropey and how you make your box move can affect how you land after a jump.  Trying to jump on a moving plane tested my patience to the limit.  But that doesn’t stop this being a fun and enjoyable little tale.  It is a neat break from the wall-to-wall shooting and racing games out just now and it will be a hit with gamers young and old.

Score: 4.5/5

The Scottish Muse

YOU can get inspiration for a game from anywhere at any time but Andrew Bennison reckons there is nowhere better than a trip to LARGS.  The Prospect Games managing director thinks nothing of packing the car and having a family reunion in the seaside town — then going away with an idea for a new title.  That was certainly the way it worked for Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure.  In an exclusive chat Bennison, from Eccles near Manchester, told us:

“My best ideas have always come from being out of the office and away from the pressures of work.  But it’s not good enough to sit at home or head into the city, these are all familiar locations with constant reminders of the work that’s waiting for you to return.  The west coast is far removed from all of that and so I think the biggest thing visiting Scotland added was helping to reduce my stress and anxiety.”

He added:

“Most of my family comes from Scotland and so I’ve travelled from Manchester to Largs several times a year my whole life.  We’re scattered across the country so my grandparents’ home is the one place we’re able to meet and spend time together.  It’s something we’re always able to look forwards to.”

As well as premium thought time, the competitive spirit also kicks in.  Bennison laughed:

“Every Christmas my sister and I will play Super Mario Kart 64 and Pokemon Stadium, I don’t think I’ve ever beaten her at the Sandshrew minigame and it’s been on my bucket list for years!”

But Bennison is also glad of the time to make decisions on what direction Unbox took during development.  He said:

“We made a massive change to the single player experience, transforming it from small linear levels to several massive open worlds.  We had received negative feedback from several events that UNA was exhibited at.  I headed to Scotland for a break and after two days of walking up and down the coast I had the light-bulb moment — if classic platformers had large open worlds then why can’t we?  Perhaps staring at the expansive Isle of Arran inspired me.”

Bennison reckons his time-out way of working would suit even the biggest firms.  He added:

“While there are many differences between an indie team of five and an established company of 500, they’re both driven by the bottom line.  Creating a reliable revenue stream and increasing profits is the goal of any business, so lacking a solid plan will mean you’re always rushing to the next deadline and never stopping to reflect.  Crunch is a term used a lot in games development to describe a time period when the team works extra hours — even days — to reach a milestone.  It’s a direct result of poor planning and has diminishing returns.  If you have no time to think, relax and sleep then your work will suffer.”

So, as Bennison loves his Scottish adventures so much, can we ever see any DLC for the new game set here?  He admitted:

“I would love that!  One of my favourite games is Dear Esther, which is set in the Hebrides.  Perhaps we could make a sombre, narrative driven island for Newbie to explore?  Thematically, it wouldn’t fit with UNA at all, but at least it would be different.”

Star Trek: Bridge Crew (PSVR, £37.99)

IT’S fantasy time for Star Trek fans.  Ubisoft have a game that lets you be on the bridge of a Federation starship.  You can have one of four roles — captain, helm, comms or engineer.  You have a station with loads of buttons to press and stats to keep an eye on.  It is very cool.  The handful of missions will take about 45 minutes — the main one sees you take the USS Aegis to find a new home for the Vulcans.   But you come up against the Klingons and things get really interesting.

There is a lot of combat, but it is very shallow and lacks a real tactic vibe.  It is built for multiplayer and is at its best when you work as a team.  The space scenes are stunning and the bridge is a thrill but the models of your crewmates are very poor and the soundtrack is best forgotten although there are some solid voice performances.  If you’re a Trekkie then this is a must, but it is short-lived fun.  It has a whiff of tech demo about it.  That said, it is out of this world in multiplayer.

Score: 3/5

Arizona Sunshine (PSVR and PC, £32.99)

WE all love a zombie killer but the latest virtual reality beast will definitely give you sleepless nights.  Arizona Sunshine is a port of the HTC Vive version to the PSVR. That is a key fact because it may be a better game there.  There is a four-hour campaign.  You wake up in a cave, find a radio, hear what you think is a human voice and hunt for the source.  That’s the story, but this is all about killing zombies.

The controls are not great.  I used the Aim Controller and the button mapping led to mistakes in the heat of battle.  And the hit-and-miss collision detection is the biggest killer not the zombies.  The Aim Controller also means you can’t duel wield , which is disappointing.  But my biggest gripe was how rough it all looks bearing in mind this is a VR title.  I got a number of graphic glitches and repeat uses of the same zombie models.  There is multiplayer horde mode that is fun but it’s rough as a badger.  Needs a patch or two.  [Matt – see the updates to our original review since they released patch 1.02]

Score: 2/5

On The Stream

KATT Strike is best known for her music videos on YouTube but she is becoming the hit after turning her hand to streaming.  She tackles everything from horror to dating sims, and she can often be found playing the likes of Fallout 4 and Stardew Valley.  She says she just wants a chilled-out stream where viewers can have a laugh and join a core community.

Strike eventually hopes to become affiliated with Twitch by the end of this year and look at a potential partnership.  She said:

“My stream is for those people who like to interact I focus heavily on the chat while I play.”

Find KattStrike on Twitch.

Tango Fiesta (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £7.99)

STRAP yourself in for some retro goodness with Tango Fiesta, a real blast from the past from Brit-based indie workhouse Spilt Milk.  Ex-special operations officer John Strong as he remembers his most dangerous missions — and you get to relive them.  Basically, it’s wall-to-wall shooting with a few funny one-liners in the pre-mission info dumps to spice it up.  It is a procedurally generated map where you destroy targets or capture and hold specific areas.  They do get a bit samey, but all lead to a boss fight every three levels.

Where Tango Fiesta shines is in the amount of enemies, who keep spawning, you have to cut down — with everything M60s to flamethrowers — to get to the objectives.  The twist is the characters are all plays on classic 80s action heroes.  You get Mad Max, Robocop and everything in-between.  But special praise for the Arnie sound-alike who sells you guns.  The game is also online for up to four players.  It lacks depth and needs a few patches , but that doesn’t stop this being a half-hour of power in an 80s love letter.

Score: 2.5/5

I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!


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