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 11th March 2018.
Bayonetta (Switch, £49.99)
BAYONETTA quickly became a cult classic when it was released in 2010 – now Switch owners can find out what the fuss was about. Platinum Games have a hack-and-slash pedigree, with titles like Madworld and Vanquish in the stable, but Bayonetta has a class all of its own. You play as a witch called Bayonetta. She has lost her memory, but you get it back gradually as you work through the game. The actual story is a bit off the wall and complex, but it won’t stop your gaming experience. That’s because you want to fight. And the fighting is top-notch. It is over-the-top, fast and hits all the marks as you take on an army of angels, which is a neat twist on the standard fighting demons theme.
The Switch gives it all an epic feel as you pull off combos with a mix of punching, kicking and weapon-wielding. The star is the torture attacks which feed off your magic. They can annihilate about 90 per cent of enemies in the game and they often see you summoning monsters or a huge stiletto though portals. It’s all down to a magic suit which is made out of your hair. Wacky enough for you? Don’t over-think it, just enjoy. You will also have to master dodging attacks and knowing when to run and when to stand and fight. If you time it right you can throw a slow-mo move which lets you get in a few cheeky hits without getting hurt. But you will need to put in some time to master that one.
The fight scenes work so well because the graphics are an amazing mix of urban and Gothic styles. The enemies look outstanding, with everything from the endless grunts to the screen-filling beasts having bags of detail and a real polish. It is all backed up by a soundtrack that keeps up the tempo in the heat of battle. The voice acting is brilliant, with Bayonetta voiced by Hellena Taylor. She steals the show with some of the best one-liners we have ever heard in gaming. There are only minor gripes – some of the areas are a bit dull, especially when you see how special some of the others are, and some will find Bayonetta just a little too challenging. It has certainly made the… err… switch to Switch in style. It may be eight years old but it is as good as it ever was.
Bayonetta 2 (Switch, £49.99)
THE launch of the Switch has paved the way for some hidden gems to get the limelight they deserve. Thousands of gamers love Bayonetta, but few got to experience the delights if the sequel as it was an exclusive title on Nintendo’s Wii U in 2014. It is fair to say that the game did not save the ailing console, but that says more about the Wii U than the Platinum Games title. However, the demise of the console meant the game gathered dust on the shelf… until it got a transfer to the Switch. Like the original, the sequel sticks to what Platinum Games know best, but this is probably their best piece of work yet. It takes everything that was great about the first game and ramps it up to 11. It gets a few tweaks to iron out the issues the Wii U version suffered from and that means it runs like melted butter even in the heat of the most epic battles. There is almost no framerate dip this time.
It follows the same off-the-wall story format. Bayonetta is Christmas shopping with fellow witch Jeanne. They are attacked by a fighter jet controlled by the angels… and cue combat chaos as you fight to save Jeanne’s soul from the underworld. It’s over the top but it sets up a stunning battle as you fight on the jet as it blasts around a city. The tale is complex and it’s easy to get lost so most will just focus on the fighting and that is what this game does best. It is mega-smooth but very frantic as you dish out the combos. The game also adds some new tricks, including controlling a Mech or playing a level inspired by the classic Star Fox games. You will be impressed by the size of the enemies you have to smash your way through. They are seriously big, but they are packed full of details as the developers turn on the style.
This has to be one of the best-looking games to make it onto the Switch so far. There is a wide mix of areas and styles but none of the muddy, dull areas from the first game. This really suits the handheld console format because the docked mode occasionally shows up a few small texture issues. The soundtrack is great stuff. It carries the same vibes as the first game and Hellena Taylor is back as Bayonetta and does an even a better job this time round. There is also an online-like co-op mode to attack with a friend and you can use a range of Amiibos to unlock new outfits that give you special perks and powers. It’s classic Nintendo and fans will love them. If you have a Switch then you have to try Bayonetta 2. If you don’t have a Switch then this game is good enough to make you buy one.
Metal Gear Survive (PC, Xbox One, PS4, £34.99)
METAL Gear Survive is well named because it faces a real battle just to make the sales chart. The political fallout between Konami and series mastermind Hideo Kojima has cast a deep shadow over the game and many fans were outraged at the treatment Kojima received. If gamers can get beyond that then there is an interesting game to play. It is safe to say that this game has departed the series route. Solid Snake and his pals have gone and the story style is completely different. The game is set after Metal Gear Solid V as you and bits of the Mother Base are sucked though a wormhole to a hostile and desolate place called Dite. You have to save your troops and rebuild your force… blah, blah, blah. Standard if not spectacular plot. You know the score. It works OK and tries to add to the MGSV tale across the 25-30 hour running time.
Micro-management is the key to success. There is a lot of planning because everything drains you – from moving around to being in danger areas. You need to think and make the most of the risk-reward style of pushing on but maybe running out of food, water or air. However, the reward rarely outweighs the risk. Combat is a bit more interesting, but the enemies are not the most exciting ever designed and there is only a handful of battle scenarios. You will also have to build a base then upgrade it. That is quite cool – especially as you add new features – but it’s menu heavy and doesn’t explain anything very well. There is an online horde mode where you team up with friends and can bag much-needed materials.
The look is carried over from MGSV and it uses the same engine. It is quite neat if a little grey and muddy and the soundtrack and voice acting is solid if a tad dull. The simple fact is that if you love survival games then you can take something from this, but Metal Gear fans will pass. It just does not have the Kojima factor.
Mercenary Kings Reloaded (Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC and Vita, £15.99)
THERE are times when you love a challenge or a brain teaser. Then there are times when you just want a laugh and a break from the daily routine. When that mood hits then fire up Mercenary Kings Reloaded. It is a blast of side-scrolling shoot ’em up action by Tribute Games. If you’ve heard the name, it started as a Kickstarter in 2014 and was on a few platforms, but it has now arrived on the Xbox One and Switch. The latest version has new characters, weapons and other goodies as well as a few engine tweaks to improve the overall quality.
You have to defeat the bad guys at C.L.A.W. There is a big GI Joe vibe as you shoot your way across stages in the name of freedom and liberty. There is a range of missions from saving hostages to finding bits of kit and kidnapping enemy troops but a major slice of the game is about finding new materials to build guns and gear in a Monster Hunter-esque system. It’s a neat way to tie you in because everyone wants that new shiny gun, don’t they. The game has the same four-way aiming system as Metal Slug, which is a shame. It would have been good if the upgrade had seen an eight-way version introduced.
Graphically, there is a lovely chunky pixel art style. Designer Paul Robertson has fired in some stunning detail in the fight scenes in jungles, sewers and enemy bases – and it is all backed up well by the soundtrack. Mercenary Kings falls down because the missions become repetitive after a few hours – it’s just blast, blast… err… blast. But that is what it promised. It is a shooter where the hardest desertion is whether you run right or left.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…