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 1st December.
Valfaris (Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch, £20.99)
THIS is a brutal and unforgiving blaster that mixes old-school run-and-gun fun with a heavy metal mash-up. You’ll love the retro feel and marvel at the modern suit of armour Steel Mantis have given it. Therion returns home to try to find out why the Valfaris fortress has suddenly reappeared after many years. Our Tel also finds that the paradise has become twisted as an arcane evil has set up shop. The story stays fairly solid throughout the excitement but the focus is on the action where everything you see wants to eat, kill or hurt you. So you’ll need to perfect your bashing skills — and practice makes progress because Steel Mantis have ramped things up to 11 and this is a truly challenging game where you will respawn more often that you’d like.
The game does have a solid checkpoint system but it comes at a cost because you unlock them with tokens you can collect or change into points to spend on upgrading your kit. It’s your call on what takes precedence. You get all the shooting power you need to get the job done but a lot of combat will see you juggling between weapons to find the best one for the job. You also have a shield but your powerful weapons use the same energy so that introduces a a neat risk-reward system which adds depth to the game. Then there is the look — a stunning piece of work with a strong Heavy Metal/ 2000AD/Warhammer vibe and a rocking soundtrack that will make your blood pound.
Play it loud and stay proud. This game rocks.
Indivisible (Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch, £33.49)
GREAT action in a magical world and a gripping story. What’s not to like? Lab Zero Games have served up a treat of an action role-player with Indivisible. It’s thought-provoking tale with awesome anime art. You are Ajna, a young teen who has known nothing but peace until it is shattered when a banished evil spirit returns to bring darkness over the land. It’s up to Ajna and her pals to get rid of it for good. It may sound like a well-worn tale but it’s worth sticking with it because it breaks away from the template and the writing starts to shine through with a blend of smart and funny tones that keep up an excellent pace. The gameplay is split into two main styles — 2D platforming for when you’re not in the thick of it, and then a party-based combat system when the fists fly.
The platforming has a real Metroidvania feel as you unlock new skills as you go — like an axe that helps you reach new areas — so it’s worth backtracking to old areas when you have a handful of new skills. The combat is a blend of real-time and turn-based fighting. And, with there being 20 characters, you can recruit new faces. You will also find that some have a combo style effect when played with others. That all adds a real depth to the combat as you try to find the most powerful as well as the ones best suited to your play style. We can’t finish without a word about the hand-drawn animation. It’s a visual feast and an epic piece of work that never drops below sensational. Indivisible is a beefy 60-hour tale that is easy to lose yourself in. It has real heart and the constant flow of new characters keeps things fresh and challenging. Then there are a few difficulty spikes before the combat becomes a lot easier in the last third. Mind blown.
Disney Classic: Games Aladdin and The Lion King (Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch, £29.99)
WE live in an HD remake world where classic titles get a polish and developers have a second bite of the sales cherry. But what if they released a collection of classics without doing anything bar a few modernisation tweaks? No, it could never happen. Well, yes it could. Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King may be one of the longest names in gaming but it’s also a straight port of the House of Mouse 90s platformers. Of course it is linked to both movies getting the live action treatment. But this is a blast from the past with the original Mega Drive, Japanese, Gameboy and trade show versions of the game while Aladdin also has a final cut incarnation. That said, you don’t get the Capcom SNES version of Aladdin so it’s far from definitive.
Both games have aged well with a healthy dose of challenging platforming and tales that follow the key points of the movies. The modern bits are a rewind feature which can save you losing a life, a single save state, a difficulty setting and a level select. There is a host of screen modes to dial it into your personal taste and a decent look at the making and history of the games. That probably sums this up — it’s a history lesson about some of Disney’s best gaming moments. If you played them back in the day you’ll still get a buzz. And younger, newer fans can see just how hard it was back in the day.
NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro Controller (PS4 and PC, £169.99)
IF you’re a PS4 gamer , the fact that there is a real lack of an official all-singing, all-dancing “Elite” controller is no secret. But that’s about to change. The Revolution Pro is a serious bit of kit that, like the Xbox Elite, comes with all the bells and whistles you could ever want. Nacon have teamed up with Sony to make a beast that comes with a hard carry case, heavy duty 3m charge cable and even a microfibre cloth to cover those extra tense matches. You also get a wireless dongle.
The controller is well weighted and feels the part with a nice finish. As you would expect, there are a host of buttons and triggers on the underside though they do lack a little bit of feedback when you get to work on them. You will notice that the sticks are offset in a similar way as the Xbox controller — that scored highly with us because the Xbox controller is very much our weapon of choice. When it comes to customisation the little box of tricks comes with a number of plug and pop parts from sticks to risers and one of the coolest features is that you can add weights to the stock to counter-balance the controller. If you want to customise the buttons then you’ll need to head to the PC and download an app and make an account. But then you can tweak away.
You can also play with the light colours which is way more cool than it should be for a grown-up gamer. Gripes? Well, we only had one. There are no physical trigger stops. Instead, you have to change them on the app. Grr. This controller is a solid controller that has real bite and few cons. It is leagues ahead of the competition on the PS4 especially at this price.
Capcom Home Arcade (£199.99)
THE modern trend is for everything to get smaller and more powerful . . . but retro can still be amazing. There are plenty of 30-somethings who hanker after their gaming past with tales of games that would make the kids’ eyes widen in disbelief. But now we can all take that trip down memory lane as retro classics have been given a modern makeover. Now Capcom have gone one step further by giving you the ultimate retro arcade that has been reduced and spiced up. The Capcom Home Arcade isn’t so much a mini-console, more of a generator of warm fuzzy feelings. If you are considering one for your other half, or even as a personal treat then it has to be said that this is not cheap. It will set you back £200 as against around £70 for other mini-consoles.
So what do you get to make it worth that amount? For starters, there is a monster-size duel controller unit that is bizarrely shaped like the Capcom logo. That will be Marmite straight away — it is not the prettiest and its overall size can be a bit of a challenge, especially when all the Christmas chocolate boxes and socks are fighting for space on the coffee table. But, Grinch, enough of this negative chat. You get 16 classic Capcom arcade games. Other mini-consoles will give you more but they are fluffed out with titles you would happily leave in the box. This is all killer stuff.
We are talking the likes of Ghouls’n Ghosts and Captain Commando and Alien vs Predator for the first time on a home unit. The pre-installed games are from the original Capcom CPS1 and CPS2 arcade ROMs which have been ported by CPS emulation developer Barry Harris to deliver an authentic and accurate arcade experience. For the most part they run buttery smooth with only a few audio glitches on some titles. Then there are the controllers. Once you get past whether you do or don’t like the look, they are the real deal. They feature a pair of competition-class Sanwa JLF-TP-8YT sticks with eight-way GT-Y directional gates and OBSF buttons which — to those who don’t speak pure arcade — means you’re getting as close to the real thing as you can without shelling out thousands.
So to set-up. That’s a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a plug-and-play unit but you can connect WiFi to upload your best scores to the Worldwide High Score Leaderboard. But putting your password in using an arcade stick is a pain and it’s debatable whether the unit and your router want to talk, so it may take a while. The WiFi link also opens up the patch argument, and paves the way for new titles but we’ve heard nothing concrete about that. The menu options are pretty basic and there are no save choices or difficulty settings. If we could change one thing, though, it would be the issue with loading new games. The system doesn’t return to the menu, it goes all the way to the start-up screen. Why? Just why? That aside, the Capcom Home Arcade is a hell of a retro rush. You do need a table, but it will make Christmas Day — and many other days — rather special.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…