Scotch Corner – Praise the Sun(day)

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 10th June 2018.

 

Forgotton Anne (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £15.99)

FORGOTTON Anne may not have featured on your radar but get that sorted  . . . NOW.  It will stop you dead in your tracks and become one of your favourite games . . . possibly ever.  Big claim?  No, this is a must-play piece of gaming heaven from Danish studio ThroughLines Games.

Anne is a young girl who is an enforcer — an all-in-one cop, judge and executioner.  She lives in the Forgotten Land — a sort of magical parallel universe where lost objects from this world, like socks and pictures, end up.  Once the objects get there they come to life in the hope that they will be remembered and taken back to the real world.  But Anne discovers a rebellion under way in the Forgotten Land and she needs to stop it before it prevents her returning to this world.   It is very heavily story-related so we won’t spoil the show — it’s enough to know there is plenty of magic and awe with a strong cast of characters.

The game play is very puzzle platformer- focused — like Inside or Limbo.  You can only really walk, run, jump and interact with objects to activate switches and platforms.  The puzzles are quite testing, without ever getting too difficult and driving you to bouts of anger.  That is a welcome change from some games and it keeps the story flowing well.  The majority of the action is a straight A-to-B path, but you can venture off the beaten track if you feel brave.  You could be rewarded by meeting a new character or a collectable which fill out the back story.  There is also a big choice element.  The decisions you make will shape the way the game goes.  That is not a new philosophy but where Forgotton Anne differs is that these decisive moments are not sign-posted until after you have made your pick.  That adds a real sense of tension to everything you do because you have to work with the consequences.

We have rarely seen a game that looks as good as this — it is bursting with life.  There is a very cinematic feel and the art style could have come straight from a Studio Ghibli movie.  The outstanding soundtrack and voice acting add even more depth to the tale.  Switch on your radar.  This is a must-play game.

Score: 5/5

Legend Of Kay: Anniversary Edition (Switch, £26.99)

THE Switch: Mighty new console and time machine for games of the past that we may have missed.  Legend Of Kay: 3D puzzle platformer similar to Crash Bandicoot — latest title to enter the time machine.  The original was developed by Neon Studios and Kaiko for the PS2 in 2005.  Now THQ Nordic has released the Anniversary edition with an HD nip and tuck.

There is a fun Kung Fu Panda vibe to the story as you are Kay, a young ninja cat, who discovers an evil group of gorillas are trying to take over his cat village and the land of Yengching.  It’s all very Saturday morning cartoon and is a simple tale that frames the game well.  It is pure 3D platforming fun — with a few twists.  You search levels for an endless number of items that will unlock bonuses and bags of upgrades.  The developers keep things fresh as the levels mix things by throwing in boss battles or making you ride a boar.  It’s a neat change from just having to find secrets and collect stuff.

There is a combat element, but this is where the game falls a little flat.  It could have been a light combo-focused system but is more of a button-mashing frenzy.  On top of that the AI is testing — nine times out of ten they block any move you make and you need about 10 moves too many to win.  That is a bit of a pain especially when you are against three or four enemies at once.

The revamped Anniversary edition has a better look, a new camera system and a few general tweaks to improve the play quality.  It now runs very smoothly and the cartoon vibe is easy on the eye.  The soundtrack backs up the Asian feel but it is a little repetitive.  The voice acting is probably best forgotten and the quest system is a bit hit and miss.  It’s hard to tell what is main story or a side mission and the mini map is just for show.  If you played it in 2005 it’s worth a revisit, but newcomers will find it more of a history lesson.

Score: 3.5/5

Dark Souls Remastered (Xbox One and PS4, £27.99)

GAMING Rule No1: The difficulty of ALL titles is measured by Dark Souls.  The 2011 version was brutally tough but fair.  So tougher than that is ridiculous.  Polish studio QLOC have now given the FromSoftware’s 2011 game the HD treatment.  The difficulty benchmark game now has a shiny set of new clothes.

Dark Souls Remastered takes the core game and gives it an energy boost.  It all runs more smoothly than before and the framerate issues have been tackled.  There is plenty of fighting as you venture through a dark and twisted world, slaying an endless array of nasty beasts which wish to do you harm.  And you will also do a lot of dying.  That’s the core loop because you have to fail and learn if you are to master the game.  On the surface, it may seem like an unwinnable fight but it boils down to timing and patience and the experience of knowing when to strike.  You will also be on the lookout for the bonfire beacons of hope.  They are key to filling your health flasks, letting you level up and they are checkpoints in the game.  But they also respawn all the enemies in the area, which is not so good.

The combat is as fun and frantic as it has ever been — attacks have pros and cons and half the fun is finding out which one best your style — and the situation — best.  The Remastered edition gets the online side from Dark Souls 3, so you can call in help when you need it.  The game always looked good but the dark, brooding graphics sum up the tale.  We did spot a few texture issues but they can’t take anything away from the overall vibe — and that is backed up by soundtrack that is truly epic.

You also get all the DLC, but very little new content which will disappoint the more hardcore fans.  Yes, the look and performance have been enhanced but the game is the same so enemies and loot placement are the same.  Dark Souls Remastered is an example of a great game that has been improved by the HD overhaul.  It is up to spec and runs well, which is essential for newcomers and old hands.  Now you can really see how hard this game is — and why it is the benchmark for other games.

Score: 5/5

I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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