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 19th August 2018.
Train Sim World (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £39.99)
SIM games are all the rage at the moment. Wannabe fisherman, firefighters, pilots, racers and farmers can all try their hand on the console before racking up some serious bills doing the real thing. It was only a matter of time before train driving came to the party. Dovetail Games’ Train Sim World is the ultimate for the anorak in all of us. It shows you the ropes about how each locomotive works and how to get it moving — but that is just for starters. The cab has about 30 other controls so there is plenty to learn.
There is no real campaign, it’s more of a scenario mode with pre-set-events that let you work the signals and keep to the timetable. The service mode is a free-play area where you can drive the locos or just be a passenger on an AI-driven train. The trains are very detailed but the outside world is a bit rough and all the characters have the same hairdresser. Where it sings is when the weather comes into play — especially snow and rain. We did have a few frame rate issues, but this is still an interesting title that goes beyond the novelty value.
Past Cure (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £29.99)
EVERY developer aims to make their next game better than the last — so full credit to German indie firm Phantom 8 Studio for aiming high with Past Cure. The danger is that the higher you go the greater the fall if you get it wrong. And Past Cure is a pretty big fall. It is a psychological thriller that has a dash of stealth, third-person shooting and puzzling without ever mastering any of them.
It is all about ex-soldier Ian who can’t remember three months of his life and is having nightmares. He is given medication to stop him having visions. He wants answers and his memory back. It is a decent tale, but you never get attached to Ian so you don’t really care about him. The graphics are patchy. The soundtrack is OK but the voice acting is bad. They have released a huge patch hoping to fix the post-launch issues, but it is still rough. We walked through a door into a corridor where we were trapped and had no choice but to start again.
We love indie firms, but there is no saving this.
Sonic Mania Plus (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £24.99)
MANY gamers reckon Sonic had been on the back foot ever since his heyday on the Mega Drive. Then it was just a case of running from left to right and collecting rings. But Sonic was back in the game last year when Mania showed a bright new future. The 3D graphics, cheesy storylines and dodgy voice acting had all been stripped out and replaced by pure 16-bit inspired Sonic fun from yesteryear. Now we have Sonic Mania Plus which takes a great game and makes it even better.
The new content adds two characters — Ray, the flying squirrel, and Mighty, the armadillo — which will probably only mean anything to hardcore fans. But they are new options for us all to enjoy. Both have their own abilities — Mighty has a power ground-pound move that helps you open up new areas and take out enemies. Ray can . . . err . . . fly really well. There is also a new encore mode which is pretty neat. It will give the most-seasoned of fans new challenges, especially as the game randomly picks who you come back as when you die. The developers have also given the game some tweaks which really add a polish to the overall finish. It’s also worth noting that if you already own Sonic Mania then you can pick up the Plus content as a DLC pack. If you are a Sonic Mania virgin, then you’re in for a real treat as you play your way across 12 zones that blend classic Sonic levels with new challenges.
The new bits may be shiny, but the originals have also been updated with fresh features and areas — and that all helps the game strike a perfect balance between excitement and nostalgia. It is a move that will entertain newcomers and keep old-stagers happy as well. The graphics are a real treat — full of detail and colour — and the outstanding soundtrack is a real throwback to the 90s. The gripes are small, but the bonus stages are a bit too difficult and you are not helped by the fact that it is hard to read where to go and what you can do. If you love Sonic then you have been waiting for this game. It is a must-buy. The blue hedgehog is back on top — where he belongs.
SEGA Megadrive Classics (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £24.99)
IT was one of the epic battles for kids in the 90s — the Mega Drive or the SNES. They divided playgrounds up and down the country — but now Sega has stoked the fires by bundling up 50 reasons why Mega Drive was best. OK, OK, we admit it — we were Sega Kids, but it is true. The Mega Drive rocked and now it is a trip down memory lane with Sega Megadrive Classics. You would think you would be guaranteed all the must-plays with 50 games on offer, but there are a few missing — and that will create its own debate within the gaming community. It is safe to say that you still get a bunch of gaming classics mixed in with some more obscure titles that you may have missed back in the day.
There could not be a Sega collection without the blue hedgehog. Fear not, he stars in Sonic 1 and 2. Sadly, you don’t get Sonic 3 or Sonic And Knuckles — even though that is when he was probably at his best. When you’re not running at the speed of light there is a healthy mix of other titles to sink your teeth into — from platforming to puzzling and epic role-playing. There is a slick menu system which is a bedroom from the 90s complete with Sega posters and a Sonic carpet. As you move around the room you can pick the game you want to play from the shelf and put it into the machine. The game also has a host of options so you can choose your ideal way to view them. You can add scanlines like on an old TV, make the screen curved or select how smooth the pixels are. There is also a mirror mode which lets you play the game right to left — but that can mess with your head even if it is very neat.
Add in quality-of-life additions, like being able to save the games where you want and a rewind and fast-forward ability, and things are looking good. This is a blast from the past that hits the spot. Yes, you may miss a few titles but many treasures are in the chest. It is well worth a look, but here are five treats to check out . . .
GOLDEN AXE: A side- scrolling beat-em-up that landed in the UK at the same time as the console in 1990. You get to control one of three Conan-esque warriors as you slash, bash and beat your way through a mystical land. Add in some epic spells and dragons to ride and the result is a ton of retro fun. Plenty of replay factor.
SPACE HARRIER 2: Arcade ports were a big deal for the Mega Drive and they don’t come much bigger than this. This was a game that saved a generation a fortune in 20p pieces. It was a visual feast of running and gunning. The graphic style was a trailblazer at the time and created a gaming dilemma — is it a flying man with a gun or a flying gun with a man?
STREETS OF RAGE: Think Mega Drive and this is the game you picture. The second version of the beat-em-up may have been a better game but the original is still a blast. You fight your way through the mean streets hunting for justice with help from the cops and their rocket launcher. Fun levels and a classic soundtrack. It’s a smash.
VECTORMAN: Blasted into life in 1995 — our hero aims to clean up the planet of evil robots. A perfect blend of fun and a solid challenge — the perfect platforming shooter. But the most striking things are the graphics — they broke new ground with pre-rendered 3D art which made it stand head and shoulders above everything else at the time.
THE REVENGE OF SHINOBI: Took everything that was cool in 1990 and blended them. You are Joe Musashi and out for revenge on the evil Zeed organisation. It’s a fight across a number of stages and some of the best boss battles ever seen in one game. Add in powers like a shield and firewall strike and this game is still razor sharp 28 years later.
IT has been a busy week in Forza world. First, there was a new drift- focused August update for Forza 7 and details on a new Formula D Car Pack. The Formula Drift Car Pack comes with seven tail-happy rides like the 1989 Formula Drift BMW 325i and the 1995 Formula Drift #118 Nissan 240SX. But, to sweeten the deal, if you digitally pre-order Forza Horizon 4 you’ll also get the pack in the game as well as in Forza Motorsport 7.
If that wasn’t enough eagle- eyed fans have spotted that Horizon 4 will have a mission inspired by Halo. A leaked image shows the Warthog going sideways in a Halo-themed location with Covenant ship and a Halo ring in the background. That all points at Halo’s iconic Warthog making a return to the racer after its first outing in Horizon 3. Even more interesting is the fact that the picture also shows a Spartan at the wheel. Is that a hint at armour being added to the game as well? It is going to be a tough wait, but we are game.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…