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 9th August 2020.
Destroy All Humans! (Xbox One, PS4, Stadia & PC, £34.99)
IT’S great being a hero — but sometimes you just want to be the bad guy. There have been some outstanding candidates down the years and, in the last few weeks, we have had Carrion and Maneater adding to the fun. THQ Nordic have just spiced up proceedings by giving Destroy All Humans! the HD treatment. But we start with a minor gripe. THQ Nordic gave us the Re-Mars-tered version of Red Faction Guerrilla and Warmastered Darksiders. Where’s the Destroy pun? Come on, guys. Rant over. This 2005 pulp, 50s sci-fi tale is often overlooked when it comes to assessing classic game series, but it spawned a few sequels, including the Wii exclusive Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed. It also gave the world Cryptosporidium 137, aka Crypto, a pint- sized, wise-cracking extra-terrestrial with a full-on Jack Nicholson vibe. You arrive on Earth in 1950s America to harvest human DNA because your race, the Furons, is dying and humans have a tiny bit of Furon DNA. Your goal: take control of the planet and don’t get captured.
As you are Cryptosporidium 137 it is fair to say others have gone before you — indeed, you have to find out why 136 failed in his mission. The tale is an enjoyable throwaway sci-fi fun run as you encounter every B movie cliché you can think of. There are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments along the way, even if the script does show its age a little with the tone of some of the jokes. This is a third-person affair but it never quite succeeds in being a fully open-world title. The Nordic team have tried hard and that may have been on the wishlist — but it doesn’t quite get there. Instead, it serves up six bite-size chunks themed around different areas of 50s USA. You get sleepy farm towns, beachside resorts and major cities so there is a fair slice of the American dream to smash, blast and burn.
You attack the game in two ways — on foot or in your flying saucer. An on-foot assault sees Crypto equipped with a vast arsenal of cool weapons such as the Zap-O-Matic and Anal Probe. Woah, for those with mucky minds, it is a funny way to study humans and get the DNA sample. We’re not saying any more about it. You also have psychokinetic skills and the ability to disguise yourself as any human you see. That all adds a layer of stealth to the game. Then you have your jetpack so you can get around quickly. If you go down the flying saucer route, you get death rays and can beam up everything from people to cows. The saucer is fun but limited.
The remastering makes everything look good — the cartoon style is bursting with colour although there are not as many people in the world as you would expect. The mission structure is also from a bygone age but that isn’t a deal-breaker. There is ONE new mission which is a welcome addition and fits in well, but surely they could have added some more content. This is polishing, rather than creating a new experience. That said, it is popcorn-fuelled, fun and enjoyable adventure that puts Crypto centre stage once again.
Superhot: Mind Control Delete (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £19.99)
WHEN the Polish Superhot Team released Superhot on the world it was like a slap in the face for gamers — the first person shooter rules had been blown apart. How could you turn an FPS into puzzler? That could never work. Well, it did and was just oozed style. Suddenly, you had to use your grey matter as much as your trigger finger to fight through a white world splashed with black and red. That, inevitably, led to high expectations for its return with Superhot VR — and it delivered. It was one of the best VR titles across the board. Enter Mind Control Delete — the next instalment in the series. It started life as DLC for the core game but quickly evolved into its own standalone title. That decision creates its own problem. The game doesn’t really move the series on. It tries, but doesn’t quite manage to blend the laws of roguelite gaming to the solid Superhot foundations.
The story is a mess but that is not your first interest when playing this. However, it is still overly convoluted, tough to follow and tries to be smarter than it is — and fails. Thankfully, the gameplay saves the day. You start in a room, or location, and have to get rid of a number of enemies rushing to attack you, so you have to think on your feet. But the hook with Superhot is that time goes on even when you’re not moving so you need to stay three steps ahead because, once you start to move, time speeds back up to normal until you stop moving again. You can throw bottles or records at enemies to make them drop their guns which you can then grab as they fall through the air. You can also dodge incoming bullets which has a pretty epic feel every time it happens, especially when you are facing a shotgun blast.
Mind Control Delete also adds an ever- growing list of skills to help you. You can pick and choose as you move through the game — you could start with extra health or a weapon, or have objects explode into a hail of bullets when you throw them. We liked that one a lot. But that is about as far as the excitement goes. It all starts to fall apart on the levels because there are so few to choose from. You will end up doing them to death because it plays like a roguelite where you have to clear blocks of levels to move things forward. However, the kicker to that is you have to clear a block with one set of lives and if you die you are heading back to the start of the block. And repeat.
That’s where repetition really starts to set in — you find you are replaying the same areas although the game will randomly pick them in new blocks or be influenced by your failure to clear them. Superhot: Mind Control Delete is more of a hit game and that made it eagerly-awaited. It should have been a laser-focused offering that had fans drooling. It doesn’t. It has a story no one wants and a level structure that makes it Superlukewarm . . . not Superhot.
Ageless (Switch and PC, £10.99)
FIRST impressions can be misleading. Fire up Ageless and you might think it is all about running and jumping about. But there is more to this creation from Malaysian studio One More Dream — this is a classic story-driven puzzle platformer. The simple tasks take on a new look as they become the mechanic that sees you age the world. And you have to get it right or else you won’t progress very far. You are young Kiara. She doesn’t really know her place in the world until she heads into the forest and the elders gift her a new power. She hopes it will give her a clearer view of things, but it only adds to her confusion. The tale touches on bigger issues, such as self-worth, finding yourself and taking responsibility — all very worthy, but this game’s as subtle as a sledgehammer at times.
It is full of platforming fun — you use your magic bow to age animals and plants to help you solve the puzzles along the way. A baby rhino could be aged into an adult that then charges at you and you can use that force to break down walls. Or you can age it again to an older, heavier rhino that can break platforms it is standing on. You can also age yourself. That adds even more layers to the puzzle solving as well as letting you see hidden relics you can collect. And there are a number of boss battles, although they are more frustrating than fun. The controls aren’t as tight as they should be, but if you can get through the annoying bits then this is a solid, challenging game.
Othercide (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £32.99)
THIS is one of the best turn-based games we have played this year — but, wow, it is dark. French studio Lightbulb Crew takes you back to a black and white world where you lead a group of warrior sisters against an ancient evil. OK, the story is not exactly original, but your group — The Daughters — are the offspring of a legendary warrior known only as Mother. The grim tale focuses on The Child, who has undergone ceaseless experimentation to become the vengeful embodiment of suffering itself. See, a barrel of laughs. It’s a bumpy ride. Death has a big role in the game — there is a wicked roguelite vein running through it. You die. A. Lot. And each defeat means you go back to the start, so learn from your mistakes. Each successful run, or remembrance as the game calls them, rewards you with shades that you can use to unlock bonuses to help your next run or even to skip bosses you have beaten.
There are a lot of shades, but that doesn’t make this an easy ride. You can’t truly boost your daughter’s health between fights so some high-power attacks will cost you your life points. The only way to boost health is to sacrifice another daughter at the same level as the hurt one. You can summon more daughters but that doesn’t take away the guilt you feel for killing one to save another — even if the saved one carries a small perk based on the sacrifice daughter’s skill. There are four classes of daughter, and each is vital at some point in the five core chapters as you battle demons and nasties. There is a lot of trial and error as battles can be misleadingly fast and frantic — and that’s before the boss battles. It’s dark, dramatic and tactical. It has flaws, but it will get its hooks into you.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…