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 6th May 2018.
Detective Pikachu (3DS, £29.99)
EVERYTHING Nintendo understandably seems to be about the Switch at the moment, but that should not take away from the 3DS. The handheld is still a real force — with some real gems like Creatures’ Detective Pikachu. It takes what you know about Pokémon — all that catching and fighting — and replaces it with a tale of a Pikachu who is a hard-boiled detective who should be prowling the streets in the likes of LA Noire. One day he meets Tim Goodman, a young lad hunting for a father who disappeared a few months earlier. In a twist, Tim can actually understand what Pikachu is saying so the two unlikely heroes team up to investigate the disappearance as well as helping to solve other mysteries along the 12-hour journey through Ryme City.
A number of those cases will encourage you to search for clues in a classic adventure game way — each one unlocks the next step. A lot of time is spent questioning characters — both human and Pokémon —and you have to get that right if you want to progress. The rest of the time is about puzzle solving, action QTE events and collecting items but, bizarrely, the game only lets you pick up items when you get to that point in the case. You will have to fight the frustration when you spot something but can’t get it, or you work out the case but still have to tick all the boxes before you can continue. On the other hand, if you get stuck then you can ask for a “Pika Prompt” to steer you in the right direction or to get a helpful hint on a wanted item.
The look is typical Pickahu and Nintendo — full of colour. It is what the 3DS does best. The soundtrack backs it all up and the voice acting is solid. We have to admit this is an oddball game. It is not tough and there are plenty of fun moments. Pikachu is the star as Creatures have turned him into gruff-voiced, coffee- loving, flirting detective. Weird but wonderful. A perfect reason to dig out the 3DS.
Octahedron (Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch, £9.99)
IF you just love gaming and struggle to follow the story then fire up Octahedron. The Demimonde creation is too weird to have a tale, but it no less engrossing for all that. You are a writer working in a cabin and the fire goes out. You head into the forest to get wood and you see a shining light. The light is a floating prism which turns you into pixels and now the prism is your head. You fall down a hole that takes you to a neon world. See? Weird.
But, actually, the gameplay then kicks in and steals the show. This is a fast, fluid platformer puzzler with tight controls where you generate platforms to help you get to the exit on each level. The game is split over different worlds with more than 40 levels, all with their own challenges. You might need to score points, or avoid losing a life. And each world has its own theme. It’s actually really clever — each level needs a new element of gameplay. The first might be about making platforms, then you’ll have to run on them to get across screen. As you complete a level, your need to understand the world and how it can benefit you grows. It’s like an in-story tutorial, rather than spend ages before letting you loose.
Another key part is the soundtrack. Well-known composer Chipzel sets the rhythm to each stage, but it’s also a great listen. The look is a bit psychedelic — everything looks like a neon- powered fever dream. It’s striking and very stylish. Octahedron is an interesting take on the platform puzzler. Everything works really well together and you will have to think about what you are doing. The trial and error adds to the fun. It’s different . . . and good.
Battlezone Gold Edition (Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch, £29.99)
TANKS for the memories, Atari Battlezone, but times they are a-changing. Rebellion have taken a big risk — the Atari game from 1983 was given a Virtual Reality shot in the arm for PC and PlayStation and that was a massive hit. But the Xbox One Battlezone Gold Edition is a straight shooter. So you’re expecting us to be outraged, to throw our hands up in disgust and shout “foul”. Well, no, actually we think the new game is a blast and it has plenty of perks to keep you interested.
You take command of a tank that blasts anything that moves. The core story focuses on ending a war with a rogue AI which has built a base in a volcano. It’s a bit story-lite, but there are little nuggets of information along the way that flesh it out. At the start you can pick the difficulty and length and the game randomly generates a hexagon map. You then work from left to right in a bid to get to the volcano. Each hexagon tile is a short mission where you have to destroy enemy convoys, take out gun emplacements and shoot the bad guys as well protect friendly units. There are also story tiles which give you a text-based tale with a few good/bad options that either earn you bonuses or dish out damage.
The four generator tiles protect the AI and they are randomly placed around the map. You could ignore them but the AI will be much stronger and sneakier if you do. Knock out the mini-boss-style tiles and improve your odds. If the AI gets stronger it will send out more powerful tanks to hunt you down — and they don’t take prisoners. You’ll need the arsenal of weapons at your disposal and you can unlock more gear as you progress.
The game has a classic Tron look — clean, crisp and neon. It has a great retro vibe. The soundtrack is OK, with a range of techno tracks, and the voice acting adds much-needed interaction. The game has drop-in, drop-out multiplayer for up to three other players and adding more people ramps up the fun because each one can have different weapons. The Gold Edition also gives you all the add-ons so far, such as paint jobs for your tank and a classic mode which reskins it like the original Atari game. This is no easy game — especially in solo mode — and it can get even tougher really quickly. Battlezone Gold Edition may not have its VR sparkle but it is still a solid fun blaster that is a real challenge.
Royale with Extra Cheese
FORTNITE is free, fun and in the doghouse. Fans love it, but critics claim it is addictive and pushes add-on cost. Now NSPCC Scotland has waded in, warning about the risks posed by the violent nature of the game and communication issues. They praised the game for allowing kids “to play and engage online”.
But the charity’s Laura Randall added:
“It is vital parents have regular conversations with their children about the games they are playing, and how to stay safe online.”
Just as important would be education for parents on how to monitor what kids play.
NORTH (Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch, £3.99)
DON’T mistake North for an overly stylistic walking SIM – it has many hidden depths. You are an alien who is forced to leave his family and move to the North to avoid persecution. He sends money back home but is hunting the documents he needs to become a legal immigrant in the North. It’s a powerful back-drop and has more than a few ripples of the immigration debate today.
It’s deeply emotional… or it could be. The reality is that it’s a short journey – from 30 minutes to just over an hour to complete – and that gives you no time to care about the characters. That is also reflected in the graphics. They are minimalist at best. The overall low polygon look does help with the vibe the game is aiming for, and there are a few decent locations. The soundtrack is the stand-out feature – brilliant but used far too sparingly.
My alien had glitches and I could only sort them by re- loading the game. The need to backtrack to send letters to the family is underwhelming and feels like needless padding even in such a short game.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…