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 10th September 2017.
Retro City Rampage DX (Multiformat, £12.99)
THIS is a real labour of love. It has taken 12 years to finish, but you can see the effort that has gone into the game. There is every chance you will have seen it on other platforms. You may even have played it. But it really comes to life on the Switch. The story is totally off the wall. There are echoes to the likes of Saint Row or the earlier Grand Theft Autos only with added time travel as you drive and shoot your way around. It almost gets to the point where you are working for Doc Brown from Back To The Future in all but name. But it works.
You’ll run into hundreds of little head nods to classic game and movies as you blast around a decent-sized open world. There are more than 60 main missions which will take you a few hours. But, when you’re not pushing the story forward, there are mini games, shops to buy new kit and arcade-style challenges that make great short, sharp blasts of play on the move. The game has a full-blown retro GTA vibe in glorious 8-bit detail. It is bursting with colour and runs very well on the Switch. It doesn’t miss a beat in handheld and TV mode and the soundtrack hits all the classic tones you’d expect.
If there is a gripe, it’s that the mission types mostly end up as just being fetch quests which is a bit disappointing given the world you have to play in. The story also gets a bit hard to follow at times. But it is still a classic-style game that you can tackle on the move. However, if you have it on other formats then you may question how much extra you get from the Switch version.
What Remains of Edith Finch (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £15.99)
EVERYONE wants to know the family secrets — now Giant Sparrow have converted that experience into a devilishly good walking sim with What Remains Of Edith Finch. The game is heavily story driven as you become Edith as she sources her family history. It has been kept from her but she gets a key to the family home after her mother dies. The house turns out to be more of a museum than a semi-detached.
The Finch family has been dogged by a curse which is killing them off in a string of tragic and bizarre accidents. Edith gradually discovers what has happened to them as she explores the house. This plays into the core gameplay which sees you wander round the house solving light puzzle to get you into different rooms where you will find a note. Read that and you can then play through that memory. The experiences are a mix of different and very striking styles of storytelling and . . . spoiler alert . . . we don’t want to ruin the suspense. But there are some truly standout moments that need to be played.
Some memories are flights of fantasy while others are more grounded but, beware, there are some very dark themes that may shock people of a lighter disposition. The graphics are very good. The true measure of walking sims is the detail — and the development team have really hit the nail on the head. As you move from room to room you are assaulted by a barrage of items to inspect and explore which also helps to add more layers to the story. Both the voice acting and soundtrack do a great job at framing the story and add character and personality.
You’ll be done and dusted in about three to four hours. That may feel a like short to some people but, given the weight and scale of the tales being told, it is about right. What Remains Of Edith Finch is as touching as it is heartbreaking. It tells a tale of coping with grief and loss and encourages you to examine how your own mortality can affect you and those around you.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (PS4 and PC, £24.99)
JUST like in comedy, nothing is taboo is gaming — not even mental illness. It may be controversial but many games tackle deep and dark subjects and manage to be thought-provoking and clever. The latest is Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. On the surface, Ninja Theory have produced a clever and showy cinematic-style blockbuster. But, beneath the surface, it all gets a little deeper.
The game is a mix of Celtic and Norse mythology as you take Senua on a journey to save the soul of her lost partner. She has to travel through a hellish landscape, as well as overcome her own demons. Senua suffers from psychosis which makes her unable to differentiate between what is and isn’t real. It would be easy for the developers to have been really ham-fisted with a delicate subject but Ninja Theory went the extra mile and treated the issue with respect while making the illness central to the way you play the game. There is also the threat of permadeath — if you die too many times then you lose your save and have to start all over again. However, it’s worth saying that in a game that questions what is real and not, this is a deeper feature than you might expect and it ups the ante straight away.
It will clock in at around seven hours to finish but tells one of the most gripping tales I’ve played in recent times. You start off having to solve puzzles by finding ruins which open doors and new areas. Then there is a brutal combat element as you face off against a mix of hellish enemies. The game has no head-up display so you have to link to the voices. They are key as they can help and hinder your progress but are vital in combat, especially if you’re going to be attack from behind. The look is amazing. The world of forests and rivers is so detailed and the lack of HUD boosts the experience. This game also has the best sound design I have seen this year. The haunting soundtrack and the way the voices interact with you help you get the best out of the game, but headphones add even more. You are assaulted from every direction.
Some may not be huge fans of the combat as it is on the simple side, but that is not what Hellblade is about. This is an outstanding tale which handles difficult topics better than most games.
Astro A10 headset
ASTRO are out to prove that top-quality headsets don’t have to cost the earth. The firm — which normally majors on high-end gear — has developed a more budget-price bit of kit with the A10. They are matt grey but then have blue highlights for PS4, green for Xbox One or red for PC. They also have a 3.5mm jack which means you can use them with your phone or laptop if you are not gaming . . . and all for £54.99.
The build is top quality. You can bend them, bounce them off the wall or down the stairs and they keep working. Not that we would ever endorse that sort of behaviour, young gamers. The mic is just as hardy which is good because they are normally the weak spot. They are also very comfy even if the ear cups are a little small. You really feel it after a long session. The bass levels are stunning. They really add depth to your games. We tested the Call Of Duty WW2 beta, F1 2017 and Hellblade and they never missed a beat. We had clear, crisp audio while the mic output quality was good with a little sound bleed from time to time. Listening to chat was a bit hit and miss, especially when it is all kicking off in a game. So, if you want an entry-level headset that won’t break the bank or a set for youngsters, then head to Astro and the A10.
EXCEL have won the first Street Fighter V Elite Series tournament. The three-man team includes Scots pro Streetfighter player Brain Thomson and they beat French team EnVyUs in the final. EnVyUs had won five back- to-back games and continued that form in the final by taking an early 2-0 lead.
But Excel fought back to tie things at three apiece and force a decider. Excel held their nerve to pick up the prize pot worth £10,000 while EnVyUs bagged themselves £7,000 for coming second as well.
On The Stream
YOU would expect an action-packed fun fest from a name like CandyExplosives — and the Rainbow Six Siege fan delivers. She was best known for playing horror games after she discovered the Twitch app on her PS4. After that leap of faith things clicked as she drew in hundreds of viewers for her adventures. She even used heart-rate monitor to show how scared she was.
“The community, the interactivity and the people were all reasons why I fell in love with streaming.”
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…