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 5th August 2018.
LEGO The Incredibles (Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch, £41.99)
MIX Disney Pixar and LEGO and you should have a winner on your hands. But the truth is that LEGO The Incredibles does not quite live up to the magic of past titles. Yes, there is a great mix of the original movie and this summer’s blockbusting sequel. Yes, there is the fun LEGO touch. But there is nothing new. It is just a rehash of LEGO past instead of a bright LEGO future.
It would have been a nice touch to let you pick which tale you wanted to play first, but you get going in the second movie — although it is an epic fight. However, the family is blamed for all the damage to the city so they team up with a businessman to help clean up their public image. The only real change from the movie is that the whole family goes on missions, not just Mrs. Incredible. After that you attack the tale of the first movie, where the family comes out of retirement to stop Syndrome. Again, it follows the storyline without adding any new content.
You get to solve puzzles and have a bit of light combat across 12 levels, all while collecting studs with 119 characters. It is fair to say this is a kids’ game but everyone will love the LEGO style. The soundtrack has a few tracks from the movies but the voice acting is a bit messy — with some audio just lifted from the films. It’s fun but is that enough?
NieR Automata: BECOME AS GODS Edition (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £39.99)
THERE are games that are epic best-sellers even before they reach the shops. But there are some hidden gems that can prove to be just as good without ever getting the mainstream applause. This could just be the title that does the job for Nier. Up until now the original Nier game — and the Drakengard series it emanated from — has had a hardcore following. Nier: Automata arrived on PS4 last year and now Xbox fans are digging in to the action role-playing feast served up by Platinum Games — although it is interesting to note that it is still only available as a digital download. Platinum are the team behind Bayonetta and Vanquish, so that already tells you this game has quality — and that it will be a hack-and-slash fest. It also has a depth that requires gaming commitment if you are going to get the most out of the game.
You have to play through it at least three times if you are going to really understand the tale. The story surrounds an alien force that is looking to wipe out the human race. The humans flee to the moon where they build an android force which will go back to Earth and rid the planet of robots sent by the aliens. You play as androids 2B9S and A2 — yeah, catchy names. If you have come across Nier before then you will recognise that was a really brief version of the story — there is way more to it than that because there is a really convoluted mix of twists and turns that keep you on your toes. The gameplay is also a mix of styles all stitched together by Platinum’s signature hack-and-slash action which is a pure joy. But you can’t get too caught up in that because it suddenly jumps into a twin-stick shooter then involves some other genres. It is a very clever way to keep things fresh because you never know what is coming next. The really smart thing is that ALL of the genres feel right in the game — nothing feels like it is there just for the sake of it.
If that wasn’t enough to get you hooked, there is still the more standard fare of side missions and quests in the normal JRPG style where you can bag experience points and items to help you craft better gear. Platinum have given the game a stunning art design and scale, but it all has a dull, muddy feel. It is a shame that they could not have worked a little more colour into it. But, if that is a disappointment, prepare to be wowed by the soundtrack. It is a massive success from the start to the finish. We actually believe it is the best soundtrack ever in a game.
Things can get a bit repetitive especially if you’re doing the different play throughs and the variety of enemies bottoms out after a while. But they are minor grumbles in a title that is a stunning tour de force of pure game design. The blend of game genres is seamless and stunning. Yes, the story is a bit hard to stay with at times but you will still want more even after the third play through.
Danger Zone 2 (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £14.99)
THREE Fields Entertainment is a team made up from ex-Criterion studios members so it was no chock to see Danger Zone as the crash mode from the Burnout games. Now Danger Zone 2 has arrived and is a bigger and bolder adventure. It’s left the underground lab and fired up motorway stretches around the world and urges you to race a vehicle to a point, crash it and score as many points as possible.
It’s like a puzzle game in that you have find the best path through the traffic and bag a few bonuses along the way to help your score. There are three regions, each with their own challenges and vehicles from sports cars to trucks and even an F1 car. It is bags of fun, but there is little more to offer than scoreboard chasing once you have nailed the platinum award. It’s all over way too quickly.
The graphics look good, but it all has the feel of a tech demo and the menus are like placeholders. That whole vibe isn’t helped by the Dangerous Driving game puff before the credits roll. It would also have been fun to try different challenges in a variety of vehicles rather than being forced into the pre-set option. But it is fun crash fare if you want a quick blast.
Earthfall (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £24.99)
THE guys at Holospark are obviously big fans of Valve and Left 4 Dead because this is almost a tribute act. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but Earthfall falls short in virtually every area. It is fun for the first run but the lack of a versus mode means it is a bit of a one-trick pony.
It is a four-player co-op shooter where you and three friends blast hordes of aliens during two different campaigns each split into five chapters. The story is quite deep and you get to unlock bits by doing tasks, but it is all a bit clumsy. You never really know what you are doing . . . or why. The play is pure Left 4 Dead — you have a pistol and one other weapon from a shotgun to a sniper rifle and health packs. The 3D printers that allow you to make guns is quite neat but the options are pre-set.
The enemies are mostly drones, but “special” aliens spice things up because you have to work as a team to beat them. The two boss aliens are the most fun, if a little frustrating when one swipe can kill you. The look and sound is decent but not exceptional and reflects the functional overall quality. And the predictability ruins the replay value.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…