Scotch Corner – Virtual Insanity Returns

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 June.

 

Trover Saves the Universe (PS4, PSVR and PC, £29.99)

COMEDY and gaming don’t often mix well.  Chances are it will fall short in at least one area — either it’s weak gameplay or flat jokes.  So, when a game lands that has the perfect balance, it’s a real treat.  Enter Trover Saves the Universe.  It’s developed by Squanch Games and Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland so that should give you a good idea of what awaits you in terms of tone and, well, darkness.  Also, it’s worth noting that you can play the game in VR and non-VR.  For this review, we spend most of our time in the VR version.  And how’s this for a storyline?  You play as an alien called a Chairopian that never leaves its chair.  Plus your two pet dogs have been stolen by a bird-like god who is using them as eyes.  So you’re tasked with stopping the forces of evil and getting your dogs back.  But you’re not going it alone as Trover is teaming up with you to help you along the way as you blast from planet to planet meeting ever more strange aliens.  Bizarre doesn’t even come close.  It’s just bags of fun.

Gameplay see you playing an adventure platformer in ways as Trover does all the heavy work in terms of fighting and moving from area to area while you solve puzzles in-between as you sit in your chair guiding him around the level.  You’ll also grab upgrades for both you and Trover along the way — all of which help open up the levels as well as adding a nice layer of challenge to the game.  It will take you about five hours to complete and it leaves you hungry for more.  It’s just so good and full of laugh-out-loud moments.  The jokes are some of the best in gaming — but may be too crude for some.  Graphically the game is like a cartoon come to life in VR with lots of light touches that Rick and Morty fans will spot along the way.  As for sound, Roiland steals the show doing a number of the characters.

Trover Saves the Universe is a blast from start to finish.  On the gaming side it is a solid VR title which uses a number of different styles of controls to make an enjoyable adventure romp.  But it’s the fact that the game is wrapped in the Justin Roiland brand of comedy that raises it through the roof and will fill the wait nicely for fans till Series 4 of Rick and Morty lands later this year.

Score: 5/5

Everybody’s Golf VR (PSVR, £24.99)

GOLF is not par-fect for everyone and games based on the sport can be as slow and methodical as the real thing.  It is not exactly thrilling to work out the distance and wind speed then decide how much power you need just to hit one shot . . . then walk to the next one and do it all again.  But golf games may just get a lease of life from the virtual reality phenomenon.  Clap Hanz have given the much-loved arcade-style Sony series Everybody’s Golf the VR treatment.  You don’t need to be a golfing master to have fun.  It’s very easy going but the VR element means you can use a controller or swing the Move controller like a real club.

It will take a while to get into the swing of things but, once it clicks, the game is very responsive thanks to 1-to-1 tracking.  You can also spend hours on the driving ranges perfecting your swing, while the putting green is addictive.  There are three 18-hole courses to tackle and they really embody the vibe of the original game from 22 years ago.  There is a strong Japanese flavour, from the general presentation to your caddie who is happy to praise any killer shots.  The Japanese vibe carries into the graphics, which give you an impressive depth so you can see right down the fairways and beyond.  That said, the course feels a bit lifeless.  It’s just you and your caddie going around the greens and the world is stuck in eternal daylight so conditions are perfect.

It is also a little light on content, especially when you compare it to the full-fat non-VR version.  We are not sure why a lot of the features have been stripped out.  This game needs the little arcade games and especially the multiplayer.  You spend most of your time trying to unlock content by playing a number of rounds.  That’s OK for a while but it becomes a grind.  Only so much can be saved by the VR experience.  But when you are strapped in with the Move controller and trying to read the wind and work out just how hard to swing, even a wallop into the bushes will make you smile.  Yes, the content is light and it needs a multiplayer mode but this is a golfing blast.  You may start out like Happy Gilmore but, stick with it, and you’ll soon be sinking putts like Tiger.

Score: 3.5/5

Blood & Truth (PSVR, £34.99)

MOST people’s first experience of gaming virtual reality was PlayStation’s VR Worlds.  It offered a selection box of goodies, but the real highlight was London Heist.  The gangster thriller left fans begging for more, but it has been a long three-year wait until SIE London Studios stepped forward with Blood And Truth.  You are ex-special forces solider Ryan Marks, who is also part of the biggest crime family in London.  You return home for your father’s funeral to find a rival gang is taking over the “family business”.  You and your family need to sort things out and find out why it happened — it’s a sort of Snatch and Lock Stock combo.

It can be a bit story heavy — especially at the start — but eventually you get to grab the gun and go blazing.  That’s where the fun is.  The 19 chapters are split 50/50 between setting the scene and blowing things up.  We should point out that you have to have a pair of Move controllers to get the most out of the game.  They add a layer to the gameplay, from aiming to reloading and interacting with things in the world.  You have two sidearms and some heavy kit like an assault rifle or an SMG, all of which can be boosted with scopes or extended clips which you unlock by earning stars.  The biggest selling point is the way you play.  To reload, you must grab a clip from your chest and load it into your gun.  To grab your rifle, you have to reach back and grab it.  You even have to climb poles or slide down vent shafts.  It is great fun.  Word of warning — if you’re playing with anyone else in the room, you will look like a total plum as you wave your arms around trying to grab at thin air.  But that’s the joy of VR.  That said, the excitement can get to you and you become all fingers and thumbs as you try to reload.  Not a good look.

Beyond the shooting and climbing, you need to pick locks and break into different systems using a gadget kit that includes pliers and screwdrivers.  You can feel the tension as you set charges in a casino, bring down a chopper, race down a motorway or just blast bad guys.  You feel like you’re living the role.  That’s all boosted by the graphics which mostly have a real-world vibe.  The soundtrack adds to the feel and the voice acting is by stars such as Krypton’s Colin Salmon and Outlander’s Ryan Larkin.  This is an action-packed blast of VR fun, even if it is a little on the short side.  It is also the first VR title ever to top the UK charts.  Give it a shot.

Score: 4.5/5

American Fugitive (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £17.99)

The original GRAND Theft Auto stands out as a milestone in gaming and few others have tried to capture its tone, vibe and style.  But British studio Fallen Tree Games have taken the first GTA DNA and added some of their own style to create a fun take on a classic.  American Fugitive does what it says on the tin really.  You play as Will, who is very much a wrong place at the wrong time kinda guy who is framed for a crime he didn’t commit.  So you’re jail and it’s up to you to escape and get to the bottom of why you were framed.  As tales go it’s a bit of a slow-burner.  You do missions for a number of different people, all the while following a trail of breadcrumbs to the truth.

On the gameplay side you are given a good-sized world that opens up as you push the story forward.  There are also a few side activities to play around with.  However, you’ll often feel like a bit of a dogsbody.  You have to do too many missions before you get the serious stuff that move things forward.  That kills the pace a little and feels a bit like padding too.  If you have played a classic GTA you’ll have a good idea of how gameplay goes — run, steal, drive and shoot your way around while you dodge the law.  Visually the game looks great with a good level of detail for a top-down view.  It has a great soundtrack that captures that sleepy backwater town vibe but there is no voice acting.  That feels like a missed step as it would have given real character to those you meet as well as Will himself.

The cops are also an issue.  The second you do anything naughty the boys in blue are there in a heartbeat — it’s as if they are just waiting off screen to grab you.  But they are not the brightest (you can even evade them by hiding behind a cow… oddly).  American Fugitive is an interesting take on a legendary style and is fun but it just isn’t as tight as you would have hoped.

Score: 3/5

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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