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 22nd July 2018.
Lumines Remastered (PS4, Xbox One, Switch & PC, £11.99)
YOU are taking a chance when you decide to remaster a game that is widely thought to be one of the best puzzle games ever made.
Expectation is massive and it is easy to get the knives out if ANYTHING is not quite right. So props to the developers for their efforts with Lumines. The original graphics in 2004 were clean and very crisp with a great techno look. The HD treatment makes them pop with colour. The soundtrack was awesome, and they have kept the original 40 tracks. Good thinking. It was addictive, now it is even more so. This is a classic that has been polished until it shines – so treat yourself. It is all about gameplay. There is no story and you don’t care. You just want to get started and then keep on playing.
It initially looks like a Tetris clone but there is more to it. Squares fall in groups of four made up of two colours. You have to stack them up by matching the colours like your standard puzzler. However, the twist is that the soundtrack powers a beat line that passes over the screen. When the line hits the matches they disappear and you have to start again. It may seem easy but there is hidden depth and tactics because you can set the board up for a big bonus as the line clears out long chains of blocks.
The difficultly is dictated by the tempo of the track playing – the faster the line, the less time you have to work out the best moves. There are a number of modes to attack. Challenge mode is where you have to work your way through 40 stages, but there is also a shuffle mode and an endless mode. Select some added fun with the custom mode where you can pick your track, or opt for the time attack or a puzzle mode that challenges you to complete different tasks. If that wasn’t enough, you can dial into the multiplayer side – on and offline – and see how you match up against your pals. Either way, start it and you won’t want to finish.
The Crew 2 (PC, Xbox One & PS4, £44.99)
WE love it when lessons are learned. When The Crew was first released in 2014 it was an ambitious project with plenty of glitches in the tech and gameplay. Fast forward four years and The Crew 2 has returned – bigger, better and miles more fun. They have ditched the moody revenge style and gone for a street racer that allows you to aim to be the best. Simple. As. That. Developers Ivory Tower have let you loose on the States once again as you drive, fly and sail your way to fame and glory.
You begin with a few street races to get your fame level up and that opens a toy box of gaming delights. There is a ton of stuff thrown at you – from drift events to air races and off-road rallying. It’s a true smorgasbord of horse-power thrills. For the most part you can attack the game how you like. If you want to track race or battle it out on the high seas, then do it. The game is very smooth and fluent when it comes to switching classes and disciplines and each vehicle has its own feel and handling. The standard racing fare is mixed with showcasing events which see you starting in a car then morphing into a boat before finishing of in a plane. These are fun and challenging but there just aren’t enough of them which is a shame. There is also an argument that too much is…too much. You can easily become overwhelmed by the sheer number of things popping up on the map. However, you can boil some of them down to setting speed track times or doing slalom tracks. That is fun but you do lose some of the edge to the game.
It has a solid selection of fully licensed toys from Ford to Citroen and more exotic motors like Ferrari and Koenigsegg. You even get the Red Bull F1 car and other Red Bull-sponsored vehicles. You can customise your vehicles with liveries and bolt on upgrades that you unlock through victories but it is all a bit flat as you don’t get the choice of the part you get. The graphics are a bit hit and miss. The vehicles look stunning and are well put together but the North American playground is rough. One minute it takes your breath away as you race through a rain-soaked forest, then you are in a lifeless flat city. It is a roller-coaster ride.
The weather system works well… but when was the last time Miami got 12 inches of snow? Whose idea was that? Sound-wise, everything hits the mark – from engines to the thud of hitting the barriers – but the voice acting verges on bizarre. It sounds more like excited teenagers than professional racers. There won’t be any PvP racing until December and the smash control is a bit off – you can charge through a lamppost then at the next corner you try it again and you come to a sudden halt. The core idea behind the first game has been given a soft reboot. You still have the whole of the US to race in but now there is a huge selection of rides. It could have been a challenger to the Forza Horizon series, but it is spread too thinly. However, if you want a fun racer with tons of options then race on.
New Gundam Breaker (PS4 & PC, £44.99)
GUNDAM is a huge series in Japan which spans everything from manga to anime and has been around since the late 70s. So, it’s a no-brainer that you would also get games. New Gundam Breaker is the latest title based on the series. You build and fight in your own Gundam suit in a bid to boost the gunpla culture. That is model making where fans buy resin kits of different Gundam suits and build them, often customising their efforts. You can get some inspiration with a quick Google search. This is the fourth game in the Breaker series, although technically it’s just the second to be available in English. It’s also a soft reboot of the series.
It’s a three-tier game made up from a visual novel, which is where most of the story comes from, a fighting element and the best bit – the building side. That’s where you design your Gundam by bolting bits on to your frame and mess around with colours. The tale, which isn’t linked to any of the past series, sees you play as a young boy at Gunbre High School. It’s a bit left field as it is partly about trying to make it through school and partly about being the best Gundam fighter. Then it cranks up the weird by turning into a kind of DATE SIM. We were actually happy just fighting as big robots, but each to their own. It does mean you can run around offices and rooms as a tiny robot. It is quite cool as you boost across a keyboard and off a table. And there are interesting twists like if you lose an arm you can replace it with one from a fallen enemy. You can also pick up five enemy parts during fights and bank them for later in the game. That’s is a novel concept but ends up with you rushing around grabbing gear instead of focusing on the real goals.
The arena-style conflicts see groups of Gundam battling it out, but the main aim is to complete tasks before your enemies. That means the fighting takes a back seat and is actually pointless because you just respawn when you die. That’s where the good news ends. This game has a bunch of technical glitches from frame rate drop to a total freeze mid-fight. On top of that, the combat side is poor, the camera is a mess and the targeting system is hit-and-miss. The graphics are OK but nothing special. The real-world setting is the most impressive but that’s due to the novel factor. The soundtrack is alright and the voice acting is handled well by some well-known anime talent. We were expecting an arena brawler, but it does not reach the heights. It is a let-down, especially if you played Gundam Breakers 3. It will get patches and updates, but that may not be enough to save this one.
Yoku’s Island Express (PS4, Xbox One, Switch & PC, £15.99)
THINK pinball and Metroidvania and you have the new thrill that is Yoku’s Island Express. The guys at Villa Groilla have certainly been thinking outside the box with an adventure that will keep you fully entertained from the first moment to the last. You play as Yoku the beetle – who is enjoying life delivering parcels on a large and open world island called Mokumana. But an island god is trapped in a sleep so you have to collect three chiefs to perform a ritual and save the day.
It looks like your standard indie platformer as you start out, but it is soon clear that you can’t jump. You have to use flippers and bumpers to travel around the world. You also land on small pinball tables when you’re not exploring. Each has its own challenges to complete before you can move forward as well as boss battles that take on the same pinball table format. There is a number of side quests as you meet different characters. Again, each one adds a little something new to the game once you have completed it. There are also hidden collectables to find – which breathes a bit more life into the game after the eight-hour main tale is done.
The developers have given the game a stunning look. It is almost a water colour paint vibe which adds to the charm. The sound and music are both solid and add to the vibe. The Metroidvania tone means you find that, if you have to back track, you’ll go through tables you have already cleared, which is a bit of a pain. However, there is a fast travel system that unlocks later in the game and removes that particular issue. This is a breath of fresh air that brings something new to the table. Add in the overall polish and finish to the game and it’s a must play.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…