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 15th March 2020.
Sayonara Wild Hearts (Xbox One, PS4 , Switch and PC, £10.27)
SOME games have great tales while others are a multiplayer joy — but Sayonara says goodbye to boredom and combines both in a stylish work of art. Swedish studio Simogo have blended striking visuals and a killer soundtrack to create more of a music video than game at times. But what is not open to debate is that this is a thriller from start to finish. The tale is a bit out there. You play as a young woman who is suffering from a heartbreak so strong that it has disturbed the balance of the universe. And she falls asleep one night she is transported into a dream world where she becomes the Foul — a sort of uber-chic biker chick. Your task is to bring some balance back by battling a number of tarot card-based enemies who are also seen as rival biker gangs. It’s truly off-the-wall but it’s got a real charm and heart and it does a good job at linking the attacks together and there’s a lot of action to throw yourself into.
If we are being honest the game is an infinity runner behind all the glitz and shine. However, it is not a standard one because you will jump from a longboard to a retro motorbike to riding a deer through a forest. The game is always throwing new things at you, and we reckon you gaming diehards will spot a few nods to classic games sych as Outrun in there as well. There are also different sections to keep things fresh — from QTE battles to shoot ’em up stages so things never get dull and you rarely get a chance to catch your breath. The game is all backed up by a truly outstanding electro pop soundtrack. As the cool kids say, every track is a banger and they really breathe life into the world. Having rapper Queen Latifah as the narrator also adds a real weight to the telling of the tale. This is, quite simply, a pure rush of gaming joy from start to finish. The only gripe is that is a bit too short — clocking in at under two hours. But it is still the best infinity runner we have ever played.
Overpass (Xbox One, PS4 , Switch and PC, £46.27)
YOU have got to love a game that brings something new to the party. Swedish studio Zordix have done that by taking off-roading into a more sim-focused world. You face a mix of 43 challenging courses across a number of modes with all-terrain and utility task vehicles, but the twist is that you have to learn how to master the kit on different surfaces. That sounds great but the game doesn’t really teach you much about the core skills of off-roading at the start — such as how to switch from two-wheel to four-wheel drive. That means a lot of gritted teeth and just pushing on to learn the basics.
The game is built around physics so you have to think about speed, balance and angle all the time as you climb rocky hills or clamber over logs and huge tyres. You never know what’s around the corner. This is a game where the best strategy is not all about going gung-ho. You need to take your time to read what is ahead and figure out the best way to attack it. It is also worth noting that for a game that is all about control, it is nowhere near as tight as is needs to be and that can cost you heavily in the heat of a run. On paper Overpass is new take on a different style of motorsport and it does have its moments — it just lacks the polish and finish need to stick that perfect landing.
Bayonetta 10th Anniversary (Xbox One and PS4, £19.00)
PLATINUM Games has the ultimate back catalogue when it comes to critically acclaim — but never matched that with mainstream success. The Japanese studio has the likes of MadWorld, Astral Chain, Nier: Automata and Transformers Devastation in its locker and they are all heavy-duty hack-and-slashers. But Bayonetta is the star. The celebrity that deserves the red-carpet treatment. And it celebrates its tenth birthday with a special treat for gamers. Bayonetta first landed back in 2010 and has been on a number of platforms since then. Now it has been given an extra polish and sent out to battle on the Xbox One and PS4 as a birthday treat. There will be some gamers who have never tried Bayonetta. If that’s you, then you need to change that as soon as possible. It is a gaming diamond — a cut and shiny.
Bayonetta is a witch who has lost her memory. She regains fragments as she moves through the game’s chapters, but we don’t know what caused it in the first place. Anyone who has tasted the Platinum recipe will know that the tales can be a bit left field and this proves the point. It’s bizarre at best, very complex and more than a touch convoluted. But the tale is not key — and isn’t the reason why this is regarded as such a classic. The winner is the over-the-top, fast-paced combat that smashes it out the park as you take on an army of angels in a twist on the standard “fight demons” idea. You get to pull off epic combos with a mix of punching, kicking and wielding a few weapons. It all takes a bit of practice but, when you get it right, it lets you do wicked weaves that unleash even more powerful attacks.
The star of the combat zone is the torture attacks which feed off your magic. They will annihilate about 90 per cent of things in the game and these attacks often see you able to summon monsters or a huge stiletto blade though portals — and it is all thanks to your magic suit which is made out of your HAIR. Another key component of the fight is dodging and knowing when to duck and dive — time it just right and you can unleash a snow-mo move which lets you get in a few cheeky hits on the attacker. But, again, this will take time to master. The anniversary edition lets you bump up the power so you can run the game at 4K and 60 FPS giving you buttery smooth gameplay and it’s never looked better.
The soundtrack hits the mark and keeps the tempo up in the heat of battle, while Hellena Taylor steals the show as Bayonetta. She dishes out some classic one-liners, but if you want to mix things up you can switch to the original Japanese voice which is a new feature. Like the postman Bayonetta always delivers an action-packed adrenaline hit — even allowing for its age. The combat is satisfying. Bayonetta may be overly sexualised for some but if you are new to the game it is as good now as it was on day one.
Vanquish 10th Anniversary (Xbox One and PS4, £19.99)
VANQUISH has always been the bridesmaid in the Platinum Games wedding. It was arguably one of the greatest games ever built but it lived in the shadow of Bayonetta. Yet, when it came out in 2010, it took Platinum Games’ winning hack-and-slash formula and turned it on its head. It replaced swords with guns — lots and lots of guns. And there is a strong case to say that it has helped shaped the current landscape of 3D-action games more than any other title as it featured lots of key elements that have since become commonplace in similar games. But Bayonetta made the sales and generated the headlines. However, it is some sort of payback because Platinum celebrated Bayonetta’s tenth anniversary with a shiny new re-release. But the gifts didn’t end there. No one was quite expecting a beefed-up version of Vanquish. And that put smiles on faces.
Like most Platinum creations, the tale truly jumps on the shark. The US and Russia have gone to war . . . in space. You are Sam Gideon, a wise-cracking, chain-smoking badass who has a very cool power armour outfit called the ARS suit. You should think Master Chief if he lost a fair bit of weight and strapped rockets to his knees . . . you get the idea. Sam works for DARPA, the firm that built his suit, but the Order of the Russian Star have declared war on the world after “melting” San Francisco and have kidnapped the brains behind the suit. You’ve guessed it, it’s up to you to save the day.
It’s over the top tale and, at times, soaked in testosterone especially when Sam and Burns — his Gatling-armed buddy — playing at interstellar my gun’s bigger than your gun every 10 minutes. It even gives Gear Of War a run for it most macho trophy. Again, in true Platinum style, when the talking stops the fun really starts and it never really stops. You move through areas blasting everything that moves with ever bigger and better guns. But there are a few tricks that make this stand out from the pack. Your suit has jets so you can rocket knee-slide around the battlefield, gunning down enemies and, with the press of a button, switch into an epic slow-mo flip to blast the rest away. Be still our beating hearts. And the more you play the better you get at mixing this dance of death as you scythe through the Order’s finest . . . well, until you get to the boss fights. Their multi-stage approach will prove a real test. You can also only carry three guns at once, so working out your tactics plays a key role — run out of ammo and you are best to look around the battlefield and grab something deadly.
Like the anniversary version of Bayonetta everything runs at 4K 60FPS which is a bonus because there is so much going on at any one time and any slowdown would really hurt the action. The biggest issue for the original Vanquish was the length. You could burn through it in around five hours — and this new version is the same. But, but in its defence, it’s built to be replayed in the hunt for better scores on higher difficulty levels. Bayonetta has had a sequel and there is a third game in the works, so it is a crying shame that Vanquish didn’t follow suit. It is crying out for another blast. The 10th anniversary edition is welcome but leaves you wanting more.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…