Changes Incoming!

Howdy boys and girls, gentlemen and ladies, everyone of all ages. It is finally time for Agent Prince (that’s me) to step things up.

In the past this blog has predominantly covered video games. For while I dabbled in reviewing comic books also, but that is an industry I have little time for now.

The point of this post? I love movies. 80’s cop movies. 90’s cop movies. Action movies. Anime movies. Plus many more. I also love Anime. From the classic Akira to the modern masterpiece Devilman Crybaby. My sister blog Anime Aiko-Ka was created to cover Anime old and new. For a time I was also developing a separate movie blog entitled And Jack Left Town (can you guess the reference?).

Given the amount of followers here already at Agent Prince (you lovely people, thank you), it makes much more sense to envelop all three entertainment genres into one blog. I don’t expect any success as a result of this, that’s all on the appreciation of my readers. Respect of course has to be earned.

Those who follow me may have seen my work over at www.theaveragegamer.com, where I was very fortunate to be among a great team of writers for four great years. Although no longer an active blog, its editor is the lovely Debbie. I highly recommend her Twitch streams. I’m now located at Hey Poor Player, working with a now-tight group of writers covering the latest gaming news, reviews and features.

But that isn’t enough for me. I simply have too much to say about a lot of things. Expect Anime, movie and video game retrospectives/reviews in both written word and podcast format. I can’t promise when it will begin, but I hope to start soon. Expect some of my existing work to transition into it’s new home here at Agent Prince in the meantime. I am but one person after all.

Please also follow me on twitter to join my ramblings about games, movies and football.

I hope you will find the time to join me. Here’s hoping its super-effective!

See you soon!

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5 Excuses People Use to Avoid Video Games

Sometimes, people snub video games as an entertainment medium, often judging them without even trying them first. A lot of effort goes into making video games, the goal being not only financial success, but making a quality product that as many people as possible can enjoy. Nonetheless, there are still those with somewhat foolish and unfair views about video games that may block many from seeing the hours of fun they potentially could have, or just don’t realise what they’re missing. Here are 5 reasons why people won’t give video games a try.

1. “The games are so expensive”

They can be, but like anything else, shop around and you can easily save a few pounds. Better still, do what I do – wait a couple of weeks and the prices start to drop, or picking up older titles can save you 75% of the cost in some cases. The issue here is the new titles, but for those whomust have it, most will be willing to pay £40+ easily. The prices of the latest video game releases, unlike DVD/Blu-Ray, have not steadily reduced over the years so it’s something to be mindful of. Be patient and do not just buy from the first retailer you see. Also, online retailers are nearly always cheaper than the high street. In short, quit whining and make those pennies count!

2. “The games will cause fights”

Ok, I’ve been here myself when I was a youngster, and more applies to the younger generation anyway. But to be fair, you could give both your kids the same meal for dinner and they will find a reason to bicker over it. That’s life. Should a video game indeed cause further sibling rivalry or grief between friends, then this is where parent points come in. It will only cause fights if you let it do so. Like any activity, create clear boundaries and timescales if required to ensure nothing gets out of hand. If you’re adults and fighting over video games, there’s probably alcohol involved. You’re on your own.

3. “In the end, you’ve accomplished nothing”

Yes, I have genuinely heard this one. You could argue this for any form of entertainment, but how does playing a video game accomplish any less than vegetating in front of a cracking TV show or movie? You’re telling me watching 10 hours of soaps a week is more productive? Video games are interactive entertainment and, although not to everyone’s taste, most people have played a video game and enjoyed it at some point in their lives, whether they are proud of it or not. Video games can fit into life just like anything else, and any game could leave with you with a sense of joy/sadness, like any great movie/TV show.

4. “Playing too many video games may be bad for you”

I can’t deny this one. But everything in life should be explored in moderation. Drinking too much beer is bad for you. Eating too much fast food is bad for you. Doing nothing but watching TV is bad for you. Anything can become unhealthy for anyone, when abused. When it comes to children, it’s important to limit their video game time reasonably to ensure home, work and social values are not forgotten.

From experience, it’s incredibly easy even for pre-teens to become bedroom-ridden slobs, and even more testing with a world engulfed with tablets and mobile phones. But on a positive note, it prevents you from being a lazy parent, certainly from my experience, as there is now more to worry about than looking at the clock, waiting for your kids to return home at the time you gave them.

5. “Video games are just for kids”

The worst one of all, for various reasons. Some games, particularly Nintendo’s Mario games, are aimed at ALL ages, and are superb in executing that exact goal. The problem is, the kids don’t want these games. They are playing (and want the video games they SHOULD NOT BE PLAYING. In theory, anyway. Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row are among many games designed and tailored for the adult audience, and suitably rated as such, yet many parents appear to ignore this. 1, because their kid wants it, and 2, it’s ‘just a video game’.

Being a parent myself, I treat video games like other mediums; should he/she be watching this? Should they even be in the same room if it’s on the screen? It’s harder with video games, but I take the time to study a game, because the ratings aren’t always right. I’ve been there when my kid – who shared the exact same birthday as his friend – was deliberately invited upstairs to be shown how to sleep with a prostitute in a car on GTA. They were NINE years old at the time. I flipped, as that should not be happening, and it certainly won’t again on my watch. Video games are not JUST for kids; it’s a multi-demographic medium, so parent the shit out of your kids with video games as you would anything else.

Bottom line: It is now 2015, and its arguable there are now more games for adults than universal ones. For the adults, there is a truck-load of superb entertainment out there to enjoy, from interactive stories to the more complex, hard-core options. If you don’t like them then fair enough. They’re not always cheap, but don’t judge them till you’ve tried them.

The Benefits of Kids Playing Video Games

Kids and video games is an often talked about subject in today’s world. My teenage son’s gaming habits are growing just as the industry is becoming more appealing than ever before. On the flipside, I also have a young daughter, being brought up in a world where technology is growing faster than the human race developing it. With so many games and devices to play them on today, I’ve been asked if and how I limit my kids’ playtime, or more specifically their overall ‘screen time’.

I was both surprised and amazed by such questions. Some parents seem to think that if their child spends long periods of time doing just the one activity, then something maybe wrong, as they would not behave that way themselves as an adult. I’m a firm believer that children need to be able to make good choices on how they spend their free time, and that choices are they for them to do just that.

Kids shouldn’t be brought up on ‘do this, don’t do that’ rules, except for those instances where they are instructed to complete a share of chores, or that they must not do things that will hurt themselves or others. Kids should be free to play and explore in the many possible ways they can, and if that results in them only doing so in only the one way, then that just means they are getting something out of it, and are comfortable with it. The last thing we should do is put up a barrier that says: “I don’t think you can control your own life” before they have even had the chance to.

Kids also need to learn to know what is best for them; after all, we are all different with different tastes. Why would anyone want to limit our children’s computer or video game time? Today’s computer technology provides the most important tools in modern society, and children today are born into this culture. This is only good for our children, who are born designed to take in what is around them, in order to decide what is best for them, or what they need to succeed. It’s instinctive.

Five-Nights-at-FreddysCertain media outlets are among that side against video games through fear; they cause depression, attention disorders, even obesity, and more. This has been happening since video games first entered our world and isn’t letting up. But the very same negativity was branded upon mediums that came before: television, music, reading and even writing.

Now I’ve never known a parent admonish their child for spending hours reading a book, and why would they? Furthermore, if you look at research literature and surveys, they not only debunk those very claims, but in fact show that regular games players are less likely to be obese, enjoy outdoor play more, and are more socially engaged and well-adjusted.

Then there is the matter of violent content. I find it hard to believe that pretend murder of characters in video game stories should be likely to provoke real murder; certainly no more than reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet for example, a piece of literature often placed as compulsory for students in our schools. It is my view that video games actually reduce hostility – for me there is nothing better than to forget a stressful day at work by unwinding with a game of FIFA, or maybe something combat oriented which serves as my punch bag of frustration.

My daughter, an avid Thomas & Friends fan, spends some of her time on iPad activity apps, such as Thomas, which haveThomas-and-Friends-App certainly helped her develop speech, recognise colours, and she can easily count to 50, all at the age of 3. I see her playing out her own Thomas adventures with her engines, which comes naturally, but has also been benefitted from YouTubers’ own uploaded adventures, expanding her imagination to the point of playing out her own adventures.

I’m not saying screen time is solely responsible for this by any means, but she often wants to pursue more of these activities, of which today’s technology can provide. It goes without saying of course that any such use and behaviours are supervised; that’s when parenting comes in, as and when required.

For my teenage son, he has a steady social balance; multi-player Minecraft team sessions that benefit from group chat, with the very same friends he will then socialise with at his football team training sessions and other gatherings in between. He isn’t a huge gamer (unlike me) but I believe his participation only to be positive as he moves forward into adulthood.

So should anyone ever ask if I (or should I) restrict my children’s screen time, my answer would be NO. They make their own minds up whether to use the technology that is there, I don’t encourage or discourage either way. I believe they are both better prepared for the world’s social pressures, and only benefits their development, just like any other medium can.

How about you? What are you views on this, do you feel the same? Do you do things differently for your children? Or the parents to-be amongst you, will your approach be the same?

A Short History of Ghostbusters Video Games

Note: This post was originally written back in November 2011, but with the recent passing of Harold Ramis, I want you all to remember the best of the games his characters have taken part in – Kev

ghostbusters_07_thumb1Ghostbusters is one of my most, if not themost, favourite franchises of my life. Beginning with the first movie in 1984, it went onto spawn The Real Ghostbusters, a massively popular cartoon series that continued the timeline, and the successful movie sequel Ghostbusters II. With forums currently rife with speculation and rumours surrounding an allegedly confirmed third movie, and with the release of a re-mastered original Ghostbusters movie for Halloween, has the video game industry done this fantastic license justice over the years?

Ghostbusters (Amstrad, Commodore 64, Spectrum, others)

Fondly remembered for me as one of the first video games I ever laid eyes on, this movie tie-in was actually originally developed at the same time as the original box-office hit, albeit as a different title to begin with, named ‘Car Wars’. The version I had was for the Sinclair Spectrum, which is unfortunately inferior to the Commodore version, in particular the graphics, colours and sound. But still a fine game, for 1984.

The plot was the same as the movie, but a large majority of the game took place driving from job to job with a close top-down view, sucking up any ghosts that came across the screen. From what I remember, control responses were capable but not great, and the sections were mostly very long and quite tedious. Nonetheless, these sections were also engaging and necessary to raise cash for more equipment. It did somewhat improve with the ‘busting’ portions of the game which followed.

Upon reaching your destination you’d control two Ghostbusters attempting to catch the little bugger with your proton streams and then trap it. So it was a case of tactically placing the heroes in order to make the shots count. This was by far the most fun section of the game; quite challenging and the controls were intuitive, too. If the ghost got away, or a trap attempt was missed, the ghost would then proceed to knock over one of your heroes, which in turn triggered the soundbyte ‘He slimed me’, direct from the movie.

On the Spectrum it sounded more like someone throwing up, but hey, this was 1984, remember? Touches like this are great for fans, as was the whole game. For the faithfulness alone, this should definitely be considered a classic.

Ghostbusters II (Gameboy)

Following on from the massive success of the original movie and the cartoon and merchandise that came with it, a sequel was inevitable. As is almost obligatory, particularly these days, a licensed video game was released to coincide with the movie.

Ghostbusters_II_008_US-NTSCI tackled the GameBoy version myself, which was a very fun, although simple and short game, and a welcome addition to a somewhat short list of decent movie-licensed video game releases. Our four heroes were represented as tiny, miniaturised versions of their movie counterparts.

After choosing your character, you then chose a second. However this was an NPC character who followed wherever you went, and this formed the simple but intuitive system for capturing ghosts. Your chosen character performed the proton blasts to hold the ghosts while the NPC held the ghost trap, and activated it on command by the player in order to trap ghosts and progress.

Ghostbusters fit the mould of the perfect Gameboy game with intuitive controls that suited the D-pad and buttons perfectly. With a Zelda-esque view incorporated and its dungeon-inspired levels, you couldn’t go wrong. Great fun.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Xbox, PS3)

love this game. Yes, this will be a very biased view of what is critically considered a decent, but far from perfect video game, but I don’t care. I love it. I even got a copy from the US due to the publishing nightmare it endured on the Xbox 360 in the UK, as they kindly left it region-free. For a Ghostbusters fan, this game is the ultimate experience. You play the new recruit to the original team, who are voiced by the entire original movie cast also (fandom EXPLOSION!), as they teach you the “tools and the talent” to be a Ghostbuster. It doesn’t disappoint.

ghostbusters-the-video-game-1Using the ever-popular third person view that makes Dead Space and the latter Resident Evil games so great, you make your way through streets, buildings and spooky cemeteries, flushing out ghosts with the PKE meter. You spend your time zapping then trapping them, using the wonderfully presented Ghostbuster equipment that we all know and love. There are some excellent variations on the norm too. The slime tether is used to pull heavy objects. The stasis stream freezes ghosts in their tracks for a limited time. The zapping and trapping system is everything you could want from a Ghostbusters game; proton beams weaken the enemy enough that they are then dragged to the trap and sucked inside. This looks almost exactly like the movies and cartoon series and you also get a real sense of pulling the ghost around, whether it’s to keep them in check, or guide them to a ghost trap.

This certainly was the game created with the fans in mind the most. As mentioned above, the original movie cast have reunited to provide the voices of their respective characters. The soundtrack is taken from the original movie, which is hardly original, but it’s still excellent to this day and fits in with the game very well. Even the achievements/trophies are named with quotes from the movies.

Overall

Unlike some movie franchises, Ghostbusters has been treated pretty well over the years. Only the most recent Sanctum of Slime seemed awful, so much so I couldn’t even bring myself to upgrade from the trial version. For anyone who thinks that all the Ghostbusters games were sub-standard, the 2009 video game is the exception to the general movie licensed video game mediocrity, and an excellent game in its own right. At £14.99 from Microsoft’s Games on Demand, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is also now a bargain.

Confessions of a ‘3AM Father’

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Sony’s PS4 declaration “This is for the players” is rather clever in its message and delivery. From my perspective, it’s also delivers a sickening truth. My name is Kevin, and I am a 3AM Father.

We’ve all had that moment where we take a look at the clock and somehow 6 hours have passed, but you think “meh”, go to bed and get at least 4-5 solid hours. Oh how that changes when you become a father.

It’s Friday night, and after working all week with only minimal game time, it’s time to seize the moment. My daughter Lana is a little fighter at nearly 2 years old, and often doesn’t fall asleep until 10pm. She is also at that age where she is absorbing everything, so I ensure that anything on our TV screen is suitable for her eyes and ears. Should a game of FIFA commence onscreen, I often get a cheer and a clap if I score, or even a high five. I would never subject her to a session of, for example, Borderlands 2.

But once she is finally asleep, and everything is tidy, it is only then when the real gaming begins. At nearly 11pm, it can be the mother of all second winds. Cue getting stuck into hours of adult gaming; recent titles include WWE2K14, The Walking Dead, and Spartacus Legends. Quite often these have taken me beyond 3AM.

There is of course an obvious potential drawback, being that my daughter could wake up at any time. Nevertheless, staying up until all hours is much more difficult, knowing you have to be up early the next morning. So much so that I often inadvertently fall asleep with my daughter. My name is Kevin, and I am an often-frequent 3AM father.

I’m not the sole parent in our home, however it is often the case that my wife can be at work at this time, or is out with friends. She works too, after all. My wife is not a gamer, but encourages and respects the work I do and the hobbies I have. When I came into her life I drove her mad with my gaming addictions, but this was often inconsiderate on my part. That, coupled with the arrival of our daughter, has taught me to appreciate what time I do get that much more.

But there is another side to this story. I’m also a stepfather; to a young man I have known since he was 8 years old. He is now 13, but there is a considerable challenge regarding exposure to appropriate games for his age. I don’t allow him to play CoD/Battlefield, or purely adult-themed games such as GTA. I base the suitability of a title on its content, not necessarily the rating stuck on the box.

strictmommemeBack when he was 8/9, even WWE games and television was having a negative effect on his behavior, so these were banned for a time. Now he’s 13, I’m disappointed that all his school friends are playing GTA V, CoD, and mostly 18-rated titles. He does often ask for a CoD title of his own, but this is just so he doesn’t feel left out.

I’d be lying if I said had the same issue when I was 13, owning titles such as Street Fighter II for the SNES, but is worth noting that me and my brother were both banned from Street Fighter II for a short while, as fights often broke out between us over the legendary Capcom title. That was up to my parents at the time, same as I believe it is for me as a parent now.

So in retrospect, I’m currently living a double life as a 3AM father. I care about what I expose my kids to, plus I always want them to be honest about what they want to see and do. And as that means me having to stay up till 3AM at times, or even beyond, then so be it.

My name is Kevin, and I am a proud 3AM Father.

My 2013 Game of the Year – Royal Rumble style!

My 2013 Game of the Year – Royal Rumble style!

Picking one game of any full calendar year is never easy, unless there is a unanimous standout title (or you only play one game in that year!).

2013 has been a pretty badass year for gaming, with some real ‘game changers’ (pun intended). And that is just the current platforms: we of course now have Microsoft’s and Sony’s new console offerings thrust upon us, offering shiny new technology and graphics for our living rooms. I have not dabbled in the latter at all as yet; in fact my games of 2013 are only from 3DS, Xbox 360 and PS3.

My complete list consists of 10 titles. That isn’t many, but picking one isn’t going to be easy. So I’m going to resolve this problem WWE style: Royal Rumble! Instead of doing head to head knockout, all these great titles will duke it out together, and the last one standing is top dog for 2013. So let’s do this.

Entrant Number #1 – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

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Entrant Number #2 – God of War: Ascension

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MGR and GoW begin the battle royale, both strong first contenders, released in the first quarter of 2013. As expected, the presence of GoW’s Kratos makes for a brutal affair, but MGR sure can take a beating and his quickness makes it tough on GoW in the early going. Time for the next entrant….

Entrant Number #3 – Luigi’s Mansion 2

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MGR now has another opponent to avoid, and unfortunately it could be one too many, with MGR’s very short campaign showing it’s weakness against the 2 longer campaigns of its opponents. But one thing is for sure, MGR’s Raiden is relentless till the end. Luigi’s tactics are more laboured, progressing slower and taking time to scope out the surroundings, looking for weaknesses to strike. It’s a cagey start to this Rumble, with no eliminations yet….

Entrant Number #4 – Injustice: Gods Among Us

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Business is about to pick up! Injustice storms the ring, intent on all out attack. Injustice doesn’t care about its surroundings; in fact, they just get in the way. Luigi’s Mansion cleverly hides in one corner, fearing elimination. Even GoW is blown off its feet with Injustice’s Meta-Human powered attacks. MGR tries an aerial dive against Injustice…BUT IS CAUGHT IN MID AIR! Unbelievable! And in one more motion, MGR is tossed over the top rope to the floor below! We have our first elimination! MGR gets back to his feet, as in its nature, but I’m afraid it’s all too forgotten now, until someone is willing to tackle a 2nd run to obtain the insane trophies….

Eliminated – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Entrant #5 – Farcry 3: Blood Dragon

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Blood Dragon slowly makes his way to the ring, dressed in purple and black, reminiscent of WWE legend, Bret the Hitman Hart. Like Hart, Blood Dragon has style, and clearly means business. In the ring, Luigi’s Mansion is plodding along, but tiring, keeping God of War at bay, without having to get physical. Injustice’s original flurry is becoming less effective, with its opponents spotting its oh-so-similar and repetitive attacking styles that they’re easily avoided. In fact, for all its content and packed punch, Injustice realises he offers little that’s new other than a top license, and can’t shake the feeling this has been done before but better and more brutally, and removes itself from the rumble! A dramatic turn of events!

Eliminated – Injustice: God Among Us

Entrant #6 – Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

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Donkey Kong Country Returns! Donkey Kong Country Returns! It’s fast, full of collectibles, and f*%king hard! DK storms the ring, and heads straight for the ropes where Luigi is stood, facing away. As much as the crowd tries to warn it, DK clobbers LM over the top rope, but is going too fast and goes over with it! Unprecedented!

Eliminated – Luigi’s Mansion and Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

But wait! I’ve just been told that we’we’ve had a DOUBLE DOUBLE elimination! Yes, I can confirm that off camera, GoW, in a fit of rage, super-plexed Blood Dragon from the top turnbuckle, with both crashing to the floor in explosive style. These guys are both great and have style, but both clearly came too early to the party.

Eliminated – God of War: Ascension and Farcry 3: Blood Dragon

Entrant #7 – Animal Crossing New Leaf

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Animal Crossing coasts towards the now empty ring. The crowd here cannot help but be mesmerised by what AC has to offer; stylish, cute, strangely compelling to watch. This one could well be the favorite. But what’s this?! AC is planting FLOWERS in the ring?! I thought I’d seen everything folks.

Entrant #8 – Pokemon X

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Another potential big hitter here- oh wait, what’s this? Pokemon is being attacked backstage by – is that? Yes, it’s Ratchet & Clank: Nexus with a brutal attack on surely another Rumble favorite! Pokemon X’s Rumble run has been halted before it’s begun here, which is in no way a metaphor for the fact that I only garnered about 15 Pokemon and about 6 hours of gameplay before giving up. Not at all.

Eliminated – Pokemon X

Entrant #9 – Ratchet & Clank: Nexus

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Ratchet & Clank is being booed incessantly here, for its quiet emergence and attack on a fan favorite. This one is wide open folks, with only 1 more entrant to go, and Nexus is on all out attack. There isn’t much in the way of back-story to this latest entrant, but it is all frantic and guns blazing. Animal Crossing takes a big blow to the head, leaving a huge bee-sting size lump, and now cannot see! AC is running around so much that Nexus cannot shoot straight! And now here comes the final entrant…

Entrant #10 – Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

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A huge roar from the crowd for this returning favorite! Back after a long absence, and on this showing, it as if it has never been away! Now in the ring, LoZ avoids AC’s mindless running and Nexus’ endless shooting with ease. Things are really heating up here now! AC is still running around blind with that lump, and Nexus decides enough is enough. It’s time for an abrupt end as Nexus vaults off the top rope, but misses animal crossing, instead hitting a beehive nestled in the flowerbed placed earlier! The bees are not happy!! They launch themselves into Nexus, who throws himself out of the ring and out of the Rumble! Talk about your short and bittersweet endings! We are down to TWO! Talk about a slobber knocker!!

AC’s lump is not disappearing anytime soon, but its continued frantic panic running could keep it going through all 4 seasons at this rate! Whilst LoZ is batting away the remaining bees, they clear only for AC to aimlessly charge through, straight for LoZ who is by the ropes! They collide, and both go over the ropes! WAIT! LoZ has used its game-changing ability to become a wall drawing, meaning its feet touch the floor after Animal Crossing! WE HAVE A WINNER!!!!

Winner – Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

An epic battle at the end there, between 2 truly great titles. It was always going to be close between them.

Hope you liked this; I certainly had a lot of fun writing it. But do you agree with my 2013 gaming top 10?

Review – Ratchet & Clank: Nexus (PS3)

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Sony’s favorite partnership property is back. No more spin offs or side games either this time in Insomniac Games’ latest offering; this time they mean business, with Ratchet & Clank: Nexus. With this, the 12th game overall of the series, and the final Ratchet & Clank of this console generation, is Nexus the sign-off the fans deserve?

Ratchet & Clank: Nexus was billed as a shorter title by Insomniac, to concentrate on getting fans of the series back straight into the action they fell in love with in the first place. It starts spectacularly well, with the tutorial sections seamlessly integrated into the first couple of rooms, and then very subtly placed as you progress through the game. The visuals are on par with previous titles in the series, with the additional Clank 2D platform side missions and the cut scenes particularly pleasing on the eyes.

The plot, part tragedy, part sci-fi adventure, part Ghostbusters (trust me on this), keeps the adventure ticking along nicely. And although predictable at times, Ratchet & Clank never fails with its charm and comic timing. In keeping with its promises, Nexus is played out in the typical third person view, against differently detailed backdrops and terrains, such as industrial, plant life, and even a museum, which also serves in bringing the quadrilogy back full circle.

The lovable last remaining Lombax and his backpack-robot sidekick have a wealth of weapons and gadgets that are obtainable throughout the adventure, as such is the tradition of the series. Blasters, rocket launchers, laser rifles, and, hilariously, a freeze ray that plays Christmas jingles whilst turning your enemies into snowmen. The variety of weapons and the fact that they are constantly upgradable and improve literally just by using them is its own reward, plus leaves you wanting to sample each and every one of them. The combat is fast and fluid, the latter Nexus copes with surprisingly well, as in the latter stages there are a lot of enemies on screen at once, and Ratchet’s upgraded weapons grow more and more explosive and outlandish with each enhancement.

So, does Nexus deliver on its promises? Fast fluid action? Check. Over the top weapons that get more bad-ass with every upgrade? Check. As charming as ever? Check. There are however a couple of gripes that make Nexus seem more of a chore than it should have been.

Ratchet-Clank-Nexus-Winterizer-300x168Of the five planet locations in the game, two of them appear to have been injected just to draw out the completion time of what is only a 10 hour campaign anyway.

One of said planets is a tournament which arguably would be better served as an additional mode aside from the campaign. The other I’ve decided to call Planet Fetch-Quest, which sadly only serves a bare minimum to the plot, but the repetitive efforts involved almost make it redundant.

But these gripes also serve as successes, albeit to the right audience. One man’s chore is a collector’s dream. Yes, if it’s one thing Nexus is not short of, it’s trophy-based collecting. Almost everything dishes out currency bolts, but there are also secret gold bolts to find, every weapon to purchase and upgrade, in order to 100% every stage, effectively catering for everyone. Not only that, once the campaign is complete, a new Challenge Mode appears, which is the campaign all over again (stay with me) but with all previously collected weapons, levels and upgrades, and a bolt multiplier, particularly important if working towards a certain trophy (or 10). Great for fans of the series, but might not be the case if his is your first time out. Better to start with the excellent Tools of Destruction if that’s the case.

So I ask again: So, does Nexus deliver on its promises? Yes, it certainly does. This is a game made for the fans; it rounds off the ‘Future’ quadrilogy adequately, and comes at half the price of a normal title. Insomniac knows their target audience, and if that’s you, you’re in for a treat.

Please note: This review was originally published at http://www.theaveragegamer.com/2013/11/11/ratchet-clank-nexus-review-ps3/

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 4 Games You Must Play

The TNMT franchise has been going through a massive resurgence in the last 12-18 months, coinciding with the purchase of the rights by Nickelodeon. This has led to the production of a great new animated show (I’ve watched season 1 and it’s rather good), toys, merchandise, and a return to grace in its originating comic book medium.

Now, it’s video games’ turn. With the recent XBLA release TMNT: Out of the Shadows and a full retail Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles release due in October from Activision, what better time than to recommend 4 of the best TMNT games of all time, each one representing one of the team. Cowabunga dudes!

Michaelangelo = TMNT the Arcade Game

(Arcade, 1989)

TMNTarcadeVideo gaming at its classic best. Back in 1989, this style of arcade was everywhere: Scrolling beat em ups. What was cool was the original cabinets allowed for 4 players on screen at once, for the full team experience. It was challenging.

In typical coin-op style you had little health that soon depleted, having to part with your cash for more credits. That might sound terrible, but such was the appeal of kicking the crap out of Foot Soldiers and the supporting bosses such as Bebop, Rocksteady, even Krang, it is tough to walk away because kicking butt is what the Turtles are all about. Like Michaelangelo, TMNT Arcade is fun in short bursts, but ultimately just simple.

Leonardo = Fall of the Foot Clan

(Game Boy, 1990)

This was the TMNT’s first outing for Nintendo’s flagship handheld, gfs_38754_2_2which was also the first Game Boy game I ever owned, and is a lovely little gem of a title. Fall of the Foot Clan is more of a platform adventure; you take control of any of the teenage heroes through 5 stages (which can be completed in any order) littered with Krang and Shredder’s army of foot soldiers, mousers, ultimately facing the evil odd-couple themselves. Should your turtle lose all health, they are ‘captured’, and it’s time to pick another. Why Leonardo? Fall of the Foot Clan is a fun and intuitive GB title, but like the Turtles’ fearless leader, it gets right to the point and adopts a more serious tone.

Donatello = Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time

(SNES: 1992, Re-Shelled: 2009-2011)

hqdefaultTurtles in Time for the SNES is a conversion of the arcade game of the same name. Developed by Konami, this is surely the Turtles’ finest video game outing. Sticking very closely to the source material (again the 1987 cartoon), TIT (couldn’t resist) is another scrolling beat em up, but with additional elements that made the Streets of Rage series a success; grabbing opponents to slam or even throw them into the screen, low and high dashing attacks, and the ability to run.

The levels look great, each featuring a boss from the cartoon continuity, and make good use of Mode 7, particularly the space board level. Yes, space boards. It is a short game, my last run on hard difficulty clocking in at only 40 minutes, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. It’s a shame Konami no longer have the license to release this version again. Turtles in Time is perfectly matched to Donatello; It has the technology, the correct detail, but at its heart its super fun. Turtles in Time is the definitive TMNT experience.

Raphael = Tournament Fighters

(SNES, 1994)

In Turtles in Time, the gang boldly went ‘where no Turtles have gone before’, 10422but with Tournament Fighters they really did with this incredible effort to rival Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat’s dominance. It had 10 fighters, including the four turtles, Shredder, and a backup roster that surprisingly resembles the Archie comic series more than the TV show. Throwing an array of cartoon characters into a beat ‘em up isn’t easy, in fact it usually be doomed to be a failure. But it isn’t.

Tournament Fighters is very fast, very fluid, and at times very difficult. Adopting the SNK 4-button style, Konami have done a great job at keeping the balance, keeping each character as unique as possible, and keeping it simple to pick up. Like any SNK game, or SF/MK practice makes perfect, with a wealth of moves to learn, super moves to pull off, and devastating combos to master. Raphael might be the only Turtle I’ve yet to mention, but a title which as much attitude as this means he is definitely the perfect suitor. It’s no coincidence that this title is very sought after in its original cartridge format; it’s a great beat em up.

So there you have it; yes these are all titles from some 20 years ago, with subsequent games declining in quality for the most part. Hopefully Activision can restore the attitude and fun that the above titles still offer to this day, whilst remaining faithful to the great new show. I leave you with the below song to close out. Them lyrics. Pizza Power!

Wrestling games; fun, but shouldn’t be {Part 6, and finale}

WWE All-Stars – Don’t try this at home

So we come to the end of my next-gen WWE game blogs. But hold on, those who have actually read these up to now might be thinking ‘what about WWE Legends of Wrestlemania?’ Well, as far from perfect as these games are, that particularly is totally forgettable, but it my belief that the ‘idea’ that game was trying to execute is what led into WWE All-Stars, the latest WWE game on the market. Until the yearly WWE update game is out anyway.

With a roster complete with some of today’s greats (some not so), and yesterday’s legends, there is a good mixture of old and new WWE favourites. They have even managed to secure Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior for the game, although both are not on the best terms with their former employers in the real world.

The game itself, then, is a much more arcade-like effort than the Smackdown Vs Raw series, much like Legends of Wrestlemania tried to be, but actually turns out to be more in the vein of Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game by Midway, for those than can remember that far back. It is certainly an altogether different experience to the SVR series, with more reliance on combos, coupled with spectacular-looking, over the top grapple moves which suit the character design perfectly. This time, you see, instead of opting for realism, the superstars/legends in the game look like cartoony action figures, with ridiculously-sized muscles and expressions. It adds to this new wrestling experience very well.

There are two attack buttons, X/Square and Y/Triangle which are light and heavy attack respectively, and two grapple buttons, A/Cross and B/Circle, which are light and strong grapple respectively. This system is quite refreshing in comparison to the SVR series’ every increasingly complicated control system, but it’s not quite perfect. My only grievance is no matter what the control system is, THQ have never quite got it to execute to the gamers’ reactions. The counter button (LB/RB for strikes/grapples) is used when attacked to, as it says, counter the attack. A quick pop-up prompt under your character’s HUD will appear to assist with the timing required to execute the appropriate counter. However, sometimes this prompt is correct, but often it is in fact before the prompt is on screen at all, albeit only milliseconds, that the counter button needs to be pressed, resulting in an attack on your character. All the various moves in the game have different counter points, so can get very frustrating.

There is a create –a – wrestler mode in here too, but is much more basic than the detail SVR now provides.

The one mode I really enjoyed was Fantasy Warfare. Each match is a one on one match, pitting legends against superstars who are either a clash of personalities, or just fantasy rival matches. Each one is accompanied with an excellent, narrative intro movie made up of actual WWE footage, edited as if they were rivals today. For example, Stone Cold Steve Austin, known for his beer drinking, against CM Punk, whose whole life philosophy is the ‘Straight Edge’ lifestyle. This mode is where most of the extra characters are unlocked, if you win the matches with them.

The other main addition is Path of Champions mode. There are three paths with three goals; Defeat the Undertaker, become the WWF champion, or become the tag team champions. Each path consists of ten matches, interspersed with cut-scenes that build to the final of each path. This is where the biggest achievements/trophies are earned.

On the whole, the game is very fun to play, even against the AI, which can be quite challenging, even on the lowest difficulty settings, which completely opposite to the SVR series also. The biggest challenge, ultimately though, is perseverance; it is a very simple game that relies on the franchise it was built for. Even though I count as that audience, being a WWE fan for a number of years, even I have grown tired of the game, only after a couple of weeks. Only the achievements and un-lockable characters will (eventually) bring me back to it.

er, i give up?

And finally….

There, I’m done. Six WWE games, six blogs. For those that have read them, thank you, I hope you have enjoyed them. On the whole I may appear to be picky, but unfortunately it is the simple things that are still need rectifying in these games, such as the counters in All-Stars, to how easy the Smackdown vs. Raw series AI is. But, even with these problems, there is a lot of fun to be had here. If you’ve never touched a WWE game before, I recommend both SVR 2011 and All-Stars. There are like the FIFA series; no one cares about the previous year’s game once the update is out, as they do (marginally) improve each time. So until WWE 2012 (official title), TTFN!

Wrestling games; fun, but shouldn’t be {Part 5}

Now you can 'try this at home'. On your tv only, of course!

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 – Too late to the party?

So to the latest instalment of a series that has lasted 7 years, had 7 games so far, and, judging on next years’ game title (WWE 2012), will be the last with the Smackdown vs Raw moniker.

ECW has gone, with its roster divided amongst Raw and Smackdown, the original brands. The major change (finally) to be incorporated into the series is the new physics system. This means moves can be performed on weapons such as chairs, ladders, and, most importantly, through tables. Yes, that means you can recreate that moment from Unforgiven 2006, where John Cena drops Edge from the top of a ladder, through 2 tables, to the mat below. Not only that, but any regular moves such as suplex’s can also be used, on a propped up table, to smash your opponent through. This makes for some very entertaining multiplayer matches, and also some damn fun single player ones, too.

Unfortunately, there are the same issues as before; the AI wrestlers are far too easy to beat, even on Legend setting. Most of the time, its one finisher, and you win. Even against the toughest characters. Having watched WWE (preferably the ‘F’ days) for a number of years, the best matches have an air of unpredictability, even though it’s staged entertainment, such as multiple finishers, dramatic kick outs, momentum swinging one way or the other. This is possibly too much to ask for a wrestling game, certainly one with this current grapple system. It has certainly been done in previous wrestling games, the best example being WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64 only, where many counters can lead to a switch in fortunes for your character. This was also adopted in WWE Day of Reckoning (also Nintendo only, this time on the Gamecube), which is still a better game than any of this series, but was dropped by THQ.

There are however, a few other plus points to SVR 2011, the roster is pretty good, fairly up to date (as WWE has released most of the deadwood), and there is a whole host of classic wrestlers to unlock/purchase via Xbox Live/PSN. The WWE Universe option (activated by flicking the controller’s right stick up), is also a very welcome addition, and replaces the Career Mode from previous games. The Raw and SD rosters can be amended at any time, and allows your created wrestler to be put straight into its respective brand’s matches straightaway. WWE Universe match ups are the only way that belts can be won/lost; the option of doing this from exhibition matches has been removed. This is no bad thing; WWE Universe covers all the PPV’s over the calendar year, and creates matches based on who is the no.1 contender or other close to that.

All in all, this is by far the best next gen wrestling game, albeit due to lack of competition, but is a decent game in its own right. If you are a WWE(F) fan, it’s worth a look. Hopefully, WWE 2012 can only improve on this.

In the meantime, there is an alternative option for WWE fans……