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 March 2020.
DCL – The Game (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £34.99)
RACING games get the blood flowing whether it is track, off-road or everything in-between — and we love it even more if it is something new and different. Enter Drone Champions League — yes, this gets you flying a mix of beefed-up drones at break-neck speed all while trying to avoid going home with everything inside a bin bag. The game is based on a real- world drone league where the best of the best race their pride and joy on stadium circuits often at night with the neon lights in full effect. You can check out the videos on Youtube — it is pretty spectacular. In an odd way the game is a true simulator but there are a number of skill levels to ease you into the action. You never feel like you’ve been dumped in the deep end as you work your way through the controller options.
There are plenty of drones and tracks to get stuck into with some fun backdrops. If you’re already a fan of the league, or have a drone, then you will love this. But we fell into the “choice between a cool looking blue one or a cool looking yellow one” group. There is a very healthy level of customisation if you pile up the virtual cash. But the winner is the sense of speed that the game has mastered. It is very, very quick and that can take time to perfect. There is a limited appeal to this game — it does have a novelty value. But there is one big plus. Smash your drone into a wall and it won’t cost you thousands.
Yakuza 0 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £14.99)
THE Yakuza series has been going from strength to strength and has rightly become a bit of a cult game. But it was a treat reserved for PS4 fans until Microsoft changed the rules — and all gamers will be the winners. The firm has struck a deal with Sega to bring the whole series over to the Xbox One and PC. That is a massive deal because it is fair to say that the Xbox has historically lacked a strong catalogue of Eastern titles. And now many people are hoping this is just the start of things to come. But what better place to start than right at the beginning with Yakuza 0. This is the perfect jump-on point for anyone looking to see what the fuss around the series is all about.
The game follows Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima — who are both members of the Yakuza in 1988 Japan. Kiryu is trying to break free from the shackles of the organisation , but he quickly finds himself framed for a murder. Meanwhile, Majima has to carry out a hit to regain his seat in the Yakuza but that turns a bit pear-shaped when he falls in love with the target. That scratches the surface on a very deep tale that is full of twists and turns. It draws you in and hooks you into the seedy Japanese underworld. Quick point: there is no English dub. It’s all in Japanese so get ready to read a LOT of sub- titles. Yakuza 0 originally filled in a lot of the blanks for series fans — now it’s a perfect gateway to a world of Eastern wonder.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)
NO ONE has mastered over-the-top stories and characters like the Japanese. They have created some weird and wonderful tales and heroes in the manga comics and onscreen anime. And, it is fair to say, they have done it again. This is the latest smash to come from the Far East and it pretty much does what it says on the tin — it’s a tale about a man who can beat anyone he fights with one punch. Now, we can see what you are thinking. On paper, this does not sound like much of an adventure. But bear with us . . . and with it . . . because this manga character has become a real smash hit.
With that fame has come the game — Japanese studio Spike Chunsoft have just released One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows. It’s, unsurprisingly, a brawler set in the series universe. — but with a few interesting twists. If you reckon you can just take control of Saitama — aka One Punch Man — and beat your way to victory then you are in for a real shock because you don’t get to play much as the unstoppable hero. Oh no, you fill the boots of a rookie hero trying to make it on the streets and climb the ranks from a class C to an S hero and to fight some real bad guys. The tale also runs alongside the events of the first series as you meet with Saitama and crew along the way. SPOILER ALERT: it’s a long road that can become a bit of a grind quite quickly.
It isn’t just a straight-up fighter because there is an RPG vibe in an odd way because you run around a hub city where you can talk to the locals to get side missions, meet other heroes, shop for new costume bits and kick some serious bad-guy backside. If you’re an anime or manga fan there is a good chance you will have played Spike Chunsoft’s last title, Jump Force. It was billed as a sort of Smash Bros for that scene, but it didn’t quite nail the landing. One Punch Man feels like an evolution of the Jump Force formula. The fighting takes place in open arenas and combos are very easy to pull off — maybe a little too easy. But, as you win, you’ll unlock new moves and powerful finishers. But there is no way that this is in the same fight ring as the likes of Streetfighter V — and that is a compliment as much as a criticism. On the one hand, it doesn’t have the depth of Streetfighter so advanced brawlers can’t really get their teeth into it. But, on the other, it will let more causal fight fans have some fun. When you’re fighting a really powerful enemy you can hold out until a back-up hero arrives and becomes a sort of tag partner who can save your bacon.
Best of all, most of the back-up heroes are characters from the show such as Tank Top Tiger, Sliverfang, Spring Mustachio and, of course, the pushbike-riding Mumen Rider. It’s a bit of a buzz to get to play as them from time to time. And that’s also the way you’ll get to play as Saitama. But, you guessed it, he arrives and immediately ends with… one punch. When you’re not playing the story, you can throw down with a few mates — both off and online. You pick your fighter of choice and just get to it. Yes, Saitama is there but you can alter just how powerful he is. Anticipation of One Man Punch was high. The result is a slightly confusing RPG-fighter mix that never really wins either battle and can’t sit comfortably in the middle ground. Does that make it a cash in? Meh to be honest. Your mileage will very much depend on how big a fan you are. As a brawler, it’s no knock-out. One Punch is more of a One Hit Wonder how good it could have been.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Xbox One and PC, £24.99)
XBOX exclusives have been as common as hen’s teeth over the last few years — and those that have arrived have been a real mixed bag. And then there was Crackdown 3. But all hope isn’t lost because Ori And The Will Of The Wisps has finally landed. And, trust us, it has been worth the wait because this is a wondrous combination of charm and magic in a true fairytale fashion. But, under that sheen of wonderment, there is a rock solid Metroidvania heart that will bring joy to even the most hardened of players. Austrian-based Moon Studios is behind this second outing and they were keen to build on the success of the first game some five years ago. They also looked at how the genre has changed over that time and listened to fans who have help to craft a gaming masterpiece.
Ori is sort of a cross between a monkey and an elf and the action picks up right after the events of the first game. Ori and his rag-tag family welcome a new member, Kuro — an owl who longs to fly. Ori tries to help her but things go a bit wrong and the pair end up separated in a new forest. Ori has to find her as well as help the woodland creatures who are facing an evil presence who has taken control of the forest. The tale does an excellent job in helping to frame the action and there is a lot to delve into as you explore areas finding new skills and tokens to help unlock powers and upgrades. They in turn help you to reach new areas where you can find even more treats. Like all good Metroidvania games, there is a constant tease with new areas that you just can’t reach until you get a new ability. The biggest change from the first game is the importance of combat. It is now a huge part of experience because at least half the forest wants you dead.
At the start you’ll be fumbling around and possibly getting a bit frustrated, but when it all clicks you’ll be like a bolt of lightning darting and mixing your skills. The game bosses will give you grey hairs — they put up a real challenge. When you do finally beat them you’ll feel like you have really achieved something. However, it may take a few goes to get there. Just saying. The developers have created a world that is just as stunning as the first game. It is all backed up by a beautiful soundtrack that really hits the high notes when needed. There are a few really emotional moments — a task made even more impressive because there isn’t a single word of English spoken. It is an outstanding story and a great game that is an absolute must for Xbox One owners.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…