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 22nd September.
Catherine: Full Body (PS4, £49.99)
THERE is nothing new about HD remakes — they have become a staple of the gaming landscape. What is more unusual is an HD remake that takes the original game and adds to it, thrilling long-time fans and also making it appealing to newcomers. So take a bow Japanese developer Atlus. They have done just that with Catherine: Full Body. They have injected a new character into the cult classic’s main tale and it really shakes the eight-year-old title up. It keeps that typically Japanese bit-out-there vibe as it blends action puzzle- platforming gameplay with a sort of visual novel/dating sim as you fill the shoes of Vincent Brooks. You shape Vincent’s tale around your choices as he tries to sort out his life, but the introduction of Rin is absolutely seamless. If you hadn’t played the game before you would never know she hadn’t been there originally, and her addition really helps to show a new side to Vincent.
The core tale still holds together really well. It focuses on adult issues based around Vincent being at a crossroads as a 30-something. After an epic night boozing, he wakes up next to a Catherine with a C. That’s important because his girlfriend is a Katherine with a K. It is a rich start for the week-long tale. Vincent needs to work out where his life is going as well as those round him. He gets through each day, but when he falls asleep the nightmares begin. That’s the other side of the game — a fast-paced puzzle platformer which sees you pushing and pulling blocks in a bid to make stairs so you can reach the top of towers. At the same time something will probably be chasing you. It’s all a terrifying embodiment of one of Vincent’s anxieties.
But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have to plan each move while dodging traps and dangers and, because it’s all played out in 3D space, it’s a real test of the grey matter. If you managed to ace the original game there is a remix mode which shakes things up by adding new elements and making the challenge even tougher. Atlus have made a fair number of tweaks and improvements which make everything more accessible as well as increasing your game options. Catherine: Full Body is a HD remaster that has been done in the right way — it takes what fans love and beefed it up with new content. That adds to and refreshes the overall experience. The tweaks all work. If you’ve never played it, then find out what the buzz is all about. If you liked it last time . . . it’s now better.
Blair Witch (Xbox One and PC, £24.99)
THE found-footage movie was a massive cult hit in 1999 and spawned an endless number of straight-to-video sequels and re-boots. Now Bloober Team — the Polish outfit behind the likes of Layers Of Fear and Observer have just released a game based around the Blair Witch series. It’s fair to say Bloober have already proven their credentials in the scare stakes, but they aimed to raise the scream bar for this spookfest. This game is set two years after the first film as you journey into the legendary Black Hills Forest once again, but you’re not a group of college kids. You play as Ellis Lynch, a former cop with a questionable past who is searching for a missing young boy. Ellis has company from his faithful hound, Bullet the German Shepherd, and he is a mutt-have pal. He does far more than play fetch. In fact, he has an integral role in how the game pans out.
Of course the main element is about finding the boy, but there is an element of Ellis rediscovering and saving himself at the same time. His past is haunting him and he must confront his demons. If you have played a Bloober game in the past then you will recognise a lot of the game mechanics. It is basically an upgraded walking sim so you wander about the forest looking for clues and doing puzzles. Then there is a little bit of combat at times. But, in classic horror style, you always get the feeling that you are being watched. Then, when the sun goes down and the darkness envelops you, the tension goes through the roof as the forest comes to life. Bullet shows his worth by getting items you can’t reach as well as being an early warning system to the dangers lurking around the next corner. But, if it all gets too much, you can always give him a good belly rub. Don’t mock it — how you treat Bullet will impact on your game and can even change the ending.
There are some interesting puzzles and you can use the rewind feature on video camera tapes to get hints about the story — but they do not actually tell you very much. That is a shame and a missed opportunity. You can spend way too long messing around on the first puzzles when you could be making progress — and the overall game is a bit rough around the edges. Blair Witch takes a so-so movie series and turns it into a gripping thriller. There are two sides to the drama and fans of the movie and horror lovers will buy into it completely. Everyone else will just have a ball playing with Bullet.
River City Girls (Xbox One, PS4, Switch & PC, £24.99)
ERASE from your mind the notion that this is some bizarre reincarnation of the corny BBC Scotland soap. Just don’t go there. However, this is a game that does have some real drama of its own. 2019 was going to be the year Street Of Rage returned with a bang and fans have been chomping at the bit for any tasters of the fourth instalment. But WayForward have had other ideas and thrown the cat right among the pigeons with their latest game. This is a real rival to Streets. River City Girls is a retro-inspired side- scrolling brawler that is a spin-off from the legendary Kunio-kun series. There have been a number of renamed releases over here so it’s fair to say you’ll have play at least one of them in the past. This time, you play as Kyoko or Misako. They are on the hunt for their kidnapped boyfriends, Kunio and Riki. You may remember that they are the leads in the Kunio-Kun series so it’s a nice twist on the standard damsel-in-distress tale.
The first thing that will hit you is the level of polish — you are treated to an anime-inspired intro which is simply stunning and sets the stage beautifully. You need to punch, kick and special move your way through six areas of the city in a bid to find the boys. You’ll beat down hordes of enemies to earn cash which you can then spend on upgrades and power-ups to give you the upper hand. There’s a truck load of moves to learn and the more you brawl, the more you can level up and increase your overall power. It’s a nice little system that adds in a light role-player vibe. You can grind through areas to earn cash or XP to get that bit stronger and you’ll definitely want to do that because the run-of-the-mill street thugs may not be too much of a threat, but the bosses are tough. There are a few of them and you need to beat them to open up new areas and that is easier said than done because they have different power stages and the most deadly is the final one.
This is an amazing brawler packed with detail and a mirror-like level of polish. Yes, it can get a bit repetitive, but that is the side-scrolling beat ’em up dilemma. This is still a must play that has thrown the gauntlet down to Streets Of Rage.
Control (Xbox One, PS4 & PC, £24.99)
THE troops at Remedy Entertainment have real gaming cojones. They don’t care for publisher deadlines — only in the quality of their finished product. If you look at the Finnish team’s back catalogue it shows a squad that doesn’t just make games but crafts worlds and tales that hook players. They are also known for bringing something new to the table with each title — from bullet time in Max Payne to blending live action shows with Quantum Break. Everything is geared towards moving the format forward. But that reputation breeds hype. A new Remedy title feeds the excitement genes and creates a buzz. Control had to match that expectation.
It is the firm’s first game since they left Microsoft and went independent. First observation: it has the signature gripping tale that pulls you through action-packed sections with more than a touch of a Twin Peaks vibe. You never really know everything that’s going on. You play as Jesse Faden who’s on the search for her missing brother. It has led her to the Federal Bureau of Control — a sort of Men In Black agency tasked with protection the public from Altered World Events. They are like portals to another dimension where a race called the Hiss live among a variety of other nasties. Things really kick off when Jesse finds the Bureau headquarters because the building is no normal office block. It’s even called the Oldest House. Before long you are thrown in at the deep end where nothing is clear and reality is questionable.
Jesse becomes the Bureau Director which means a nice office and a really cool gun that can transform. The search sees you joined by a sprite in your head that guides you as well as prevent the Hiss from controlling you. And that’s vital because the Oldest House is in lock down after a Hiss invasion. You have your hands full because you can’t give up the search for your brother. The tale was penned by Sam “the face of Max Payne” Lake and you can feel Remedy’s past in the tale. That also bleeds into the gameplay which is a mix of elements from past games to creating a fun and evolving combat system as you blast the Hiss with your special transforming gun. In a neat twist, the gun doesn’t need to be reloaded. It regenerates bullets which is a game changer because you never have you to think about running out. That’s the big change and it is a real winner. Your gun simply refills after a short time leaving you to focus on the various combat options — especially a set of powers that kind of makes you a badass Jedi in all but name.
You can use mind control as well as telekinesis to throw objects at enemies. These new powers open up the combat because they allow you to mix up things from fight to fight. There is a buzz in throwing a filing cabinet at an enemy and seeing it explode into 1,000 sheets of paper as you aim for that perfect headshot in the heat of battle. It is all helped by a visual treat that never lets up. This is a stunner from the first shot to the last. Even the grey concrete maze of the Oldest House is a striking sight. If you are a fan of Remedy games then this will be in your game tray. If you are new to the experience then give it a try. You’ll lose yourself in a world of mystery and filled with gripping battles. This is a potential Game of the Year.
Only Just Out Of Control
THE dust is just settling on the main game but Remedy has already shared a few details on the direction Control will go in the future. There are two pay-for expansions in the works as well as an end-game level challenge mode that is due to land in December. But it’s the second expansion, AWE, that has fans fired up. It looks as though it will be linked to Remedy’s cult classic Alan Wake if some of the hints in the artwork are anything to go by.
Creature In The Well (Xbox One, Switch and PC, £12.49)
WHAT happens when you blend a top-down dungeon crawler and a pinball machine? You get Flight School Studio’s Creature In The Well. And the gameplay is a breath of fresh air. You play as robot called BOT-C, the last of his kind. who has to resupply the power to a weather machine to save a village. It sounds simple enough, but the machine is inside a mountain and a mysterious creature lives in the shadows. And it is out to stop you.
You must power up a number of chambers by solving the pinball-like puzzle levels as well as discovering a few secrets which can bag the odd upgrade. Power is the key when things move from easy to hugely ramped up. Overall, the difficulty is OK but some stages are OTT tough. It looks great and feels fresh. Well worth four or five hours of your time.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…