Saturday, 31 January 2015

Raucous Reviews: Life is Strange: Episode 1

Female protagonists. I could go on and on, applauding Dontnod for using female protagonists in their episodic adventure Life is Strange, but I won't. However, I will applaud the French developers for making down-to-earth, believable protagonists: Max and Chloe are some very well-written characters that drive the story forward, as well as having a good backstory, along with a cast of other interesting (Yet slightly stereotypical) characters.

The majority of Episode 1 is spent in Rockwell College (In the fictional Arcadia Bay) where Max has a vision in her class. After, she sees a girl shot and killed before her eyes, but realizes that she has the ability to rewind time. I won't reveal any more of the story, but it's safe to say that, while believable and exciting in parts, it seems to not know its focus: it's a coming of age story, a reunification, a detective game and a supernatural thriller all rolled into one, so hopefully in the next episodes Dontnod will know which direction to go in.

The biggest, headline mechanic in Life is Strange is also the story's focal point: reversing time. Holding down the right mouse button (Or whatever controller button you're using) takes Max back in time, but only up until the time you entered the room or area. Major decisions are marked on the HUD, so you don't reverse too far back, and the device isn't just a one-trick pony: there are many different uses for the ability, including making the right dialogue choices, learning new information for use in the past, dodging obstacles and undoing mistakes. Occassionally it seems a little overplayed, but it's a stable and well-used mechanic.

The rest of the gameplay is mainly dialogue trees and inspecting objects around the areas you explore. Obvious conclusions can be drawn to Telltale games, but once again it's a mechanic that is well used and not out-of-place: Max's character and personality develops and opens up the more you interact with others around her college and with Chloe.

The art style is nice, too: slightly cartoony, but the particles and areas still look beautiful, particularly at sunset in some of the game's later moments. Most objects, computer screens, posters and leaflets are all hand-drawn by Dontnod's artists, which gives a nice Tearaway-esque vibe to the game. Still, I did experience some choppy framerates at times, I had one experience of water flickering and a couple of times the dialogue was out of sync, but those can easiliy be fixed with patches.

I won't be giving Life is Strange a score until it finishes around the end of this year, but I can still heartily recommend it. The price is a steal, with the game being £4 an episode or £16 for all 5, and, despite the technical hitches, the dialogue, characters and attention to detail means that Life is Strange is one to watch for this year. If you're looking for a game that you want to lose yourself in and learn a new story, then give Life is Strange a whack. 

Thanks to Premier Comms for sending us as Steam review code.

Friday, 30 January 2015

SEGA's Segue To Smartphones

Image from
So there's some sad and some even sadder news today (Both from a note from SEGA Sammy, owner of SEGA games) the first being that 300 SEGA of America employees will have left the company by the end of the summer (But they are being given an early retirement, meaning that if they volunteer to retire, they'll be given incentives) due to a downsizing and a change of business plan for the company. There'll also be a "limited" number of layoffs at SEGA Europe's offices (A spokesperson told Eurogamer) because of the plan.

The plan is that SEGA will be focusing on mobile games and online PC games as a source of revenue. They'll still publish console games, but (Presumably) after the gigantic flop of the two Sonic Boom games, it seems that Sonic will be taking a break for a long time, maybe occasionally making an appearance on an endless runner on mobile, presumably making appearances with other SEGA characters.

Still, Sonic will live on on the "eh" Sonic Boom TV show that not many people will watch for fear of a hedgehog-induced PTSD.

So what do you guys think? Are these changes for the better? Tell me in the comments!

Exclusinterview: Jacob Granberry (WesterosCraft)

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Yup, that structure up there was made in Minecraft, and there's a lot more of it. Westeros Craft was started in 2012 by a group of people wanting to make the Game of Thrones continent, and they're still going, with 125+ people working hard by building, creating textures and interiors to give the full Game of Thrones experience. I talk to the project leader, Jacob Granberry, about how the project's going...

So you've been working on WesterosCraft for 4 years: why are you so determined to create Westeros in Minecraft, and what's kept you going?

I'm just such a huge fan of both Game of Thrones and Minecraft that I just want to see it through.  Since the start of the project our community has grown from a dozen people to hundreds of builders and thousands of community members.  The momentum is too great to stop now!

How far are you into building Westeros, and what are the main landmarks you need to build?

We are about 60-70% done.  We are currently in the middle of rebuilding Kings Landing, which consists of at least 3 thousand unique houses.  We still have a few major landmarks to build, including Winterfell, Oldtown and Highgarden.

What's your favourite build in Westeros you've made so far?

My personal favorite build is Dragonstone.  Making an entire castle where the towers consist of stone dragons, and actually making the towers 'livable' was quite a challenge but overall I think it's the best looking castle on our server.  

What are you planning to build after you finish Westeros?

Essos, of course!

Last of all, if you could immediately build any TV/Movie world without having to manually build it, what would it be?

Well, I think the most obvious answer would be Game of Thrones, but my second choice would be the Star Wars universe. Different planets would be super cool to explore!

WesterosCraft is still in development, but can be downlaoded on the WesterosCraft website.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

LEGO Of My Money!

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In a press release, Warner Bros Interactive filled tons with joy by announcing about a million (read: 3) new games for release this year, as well as iOS ports for last year's LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and The LEGO Movie Videogame, which I'm pretty happy about since I can now pick up these games for dirt cheap and reveal my guilty pleasure to any Nosy Nancys.

The first announcement is one that's been teased ever since the credits of LEGO Batman 3: that's right, LEGO Jurassic World is coming to current and last-gen consoles, PC and (Undoubtedly abridged) handheld console versions in June. You'll be able to play through the first 3 Jurassic Park movies, plus the new Jurassic World (Please be voiced by Chris Pratt) film, which means that the game will either be about an amazing reboot or something worse than Jurassic Park 3. I'm not too excited about this game, but if an open-world format is used, I might take a peek.

Secondly is a game I'm so glad that they're making: Lego Marvel's Avengers! Marvel Super Heroes was possibly the best LEGO game I've played, thanks to the huge array of characters and the open world full of puzzles, so this has got me really hyped. It'll be coming out on the same consoles as usual in Autumn (NOT FALL) this year, where you'll be able to play through the first two Avengers films. Still, as much as I'm excited for this, the fact that there isn't an original story kinda makes the hype die down for me a bit.

Last of all is a 3DS and PS VITA exclusive titled Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin, which DOES has its own original story. It'll be coming out on March 27th and will be developed by TT Fusion (Not TT Games) who have experience in developing for handhelds: they've developed the handheld versions of every LEGO game since LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, as well as creating LEGO Rock Band (Good) LEGO City Undercover (Ehhh) and the LEGO Movie Videogame (OHGOD) among others, so I've got a bit of faith in them.

Which LEGO game are you most excited about this year? Or are you a heartless demon who doesn't like LEGO games? Tell us in the comments!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Sony Services Shut

Image from, with an added touch by yours truly
The 8th generation of consoles has been a one of change: Xbox created Xbox Entertainment Studios, then promptly shut it down after unpopularity, Club Nintendo is being replaced after 13 long years, and now Sony are shutting down two of its services, the most prominent being Music Unlimited: that's right, the music service that you used for a month when you first bought a PS4 will be ending on the 29th March, and anyone with an active subscription by February 28th will get their last month free. If you feel emotional, I recommend creating a playlist made up of Mad World on loop. Let it out.

Replacing the service will be Playstation Music, which will roll out on PS3, PS4 and their Xperia range this Spring. It'll let you play (Music) while you play (Games), but it'll require a Spotify Premium subscription. All you have to do is link your Playstation and Spotify accounts, pay £10 a month, and you're good.

Of course, you could always just listen to Spotify on your phone for fre-

The other service that'll be sorely missed by VITA users is that the Maps app will be no more come a March update, and the near app will lose its location-finding and map-viewing features. So basically it can't do anything.

So why did these services shut? For Music Unlimited, my guess is that not many people buy music on game consoles, let alone listen to it. Spotifty, Deezer, Pandora, Qobuz and Napster have all moved music to mobiles, and the only way Sony can make money out of that is by joining with the biggest contender: Spotify.

And Maps/near? Practically the same reason: Google Maps, Waze and others have moved maps to mobiles. People use mobiles much more than VITAs (Why do you look surprised?) and it's a lot easier to whip out your phone and check where the nearest Vietnamese/Luxembourgish fusion restaurant is. Sony are simply allocating funds to services that people will actually use.

What do you guys think? Did you use either of these services? Will you be buying a Spotify subscription to listen to music on your console? Tell us in the comments!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Top At The Shops: 17th-24th January

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Things have really been shaking up in last week's charts, but somehow, someway, the Top 3 still haven't been displaced. Grand Theft Auto V is still at 1st, as always, and the ongoing battle for second place between FIFA 15 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare turns out in Sledgehammer's favor, with AW taking 2nd and FIFA becoming 3rd in what I must now dub as the Battle of Abbreviations.

In 4th place, however, is a new entry, which I predicted: Saints Row 4: Gat Out of Hell and its Re-Elected edition have teamed up to beat out a couple of games from the Top 10, but there's an unexpected game in 5th: Call of Duty: Ghosts. I've been searching to see why this has had a resurgence of sales, but I can only attribute it to the people who have got sick of AW and claimed that Ghosts was better, as is the cycle.

In 6th place is Far Cry 4, falling two places, and also falling twice is Minecraft: Xbox Edition into 7th, soon to be on HoloLens. There's also an unexpected 8th-placer: Rugby 15. Will this be a new sporting juggernaut? Probably not, but 'tis a weird week in games.

In 9th is Minecraft: Playstation Edition, and hanging on in 10th is The Crew. The casualities this week are Destiny (To the delight of a million people, and the bane of a million more) Assassin's Creed Unity and LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.

My predictions for the next charts? It's either going to be the exact same, or Lacrosse 15 will break into first.