Mad World – Batman: Arkham Asylum PC Game Review

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This game really puts the ‘detective’ in Detective Comics’ most famous exponent – Batman. You feel as if you are really going undercover in a film noir epic as you follow in the footsteps of Gotham City’s most famous son. The game is deep, with acres of map to explore to find hundreds of hidden clues and easter eggs. It’s very nice to look at too, the art design is immaculate, and evokes that haunted, gothic science fiction atmosphere that fans of Batman want from a game. Particular scenes of note are the Scarecrow sections when Batman is under the influence of hallucinogenic narcotics and has to guide himself away from the clutches of a hideously huge Scarecrow, complete with glowing lamp eyes. Pretty hair-raising stuff.

The fight dynamics in the game are reasonably good, but don’t advance much beyond punching, kicking, and a handful of different Batarangs and weapon choices. Where it does get interesting are the stealth power-ups that allow Batman to silently swoop down and snatch up the thugs and villains that he has to contend with. This gives the game an authenticly exciting feel, as you’re never entirely sure if the criminals will notice you or not, always keeping you on your toes. Sometimes the line of vision is not entirely clear and you feel unfairly busted, and then you have to play through the same section again when you’re mowed down by machine gun fire, but there’s enough skull-cracking, bone-crunching fun to be had that it doesn’t really matter that much.

The bosses are excellent, covering a swath of characters from Gotham. We meet Poison Ivy in all her botanical glory, along with the deliciously delinquent Harley Quinn, the harrowing Scarecrow as already mentioned, Krok, Viktor Zsasz, The Riddler (never in person, as far as I’ve found yet, but in the background, taunting us mercilessly), and of course, the king of quips, the jester of death, The Joker himself – as voiced by Mark Hamill of Star Wars Luke Skywalker and Batman – The Animated Series fame, no less! These give the game a real nostalgic Batman feel, echoing all of the greatest elements of the movies, TV show and comic books, but in a hefty punch-packing package.

Batman: Arkham Asylum does not disappoint on any level and will keep you coming back for more bat-tastic amusement.

96/100

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Hungry Shark Evolution Android Game Review

If you’re a fan of scary shark movies, but would prefer to indulge in the action from the shark’s perspective, this is the game for you! It’s a biting concept, for sure, but it works from start to fin-ish! The movement is controlled by swiping the screen to control your shark. You can enjoy swimming around the murky depths of Davey Jones’ locker, looking for food and power-ups. It could be all rather relaxing in this subaquatic world, only you must remember to eat enough fish or other appetising foodstuffs (including the odd surfer, diver, paraglider, swimmer or sunbather!) on the menu to survive.

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If you explore the underwater tunnels you will discover prizes as well as deadly enemies and supercool bosses, each one more malevolent than the last. Once you collect enough power-ups, you can upgrade your shark to a new level, and deck them out with a variety of funky add-ons. It’s a shark-eat-shark world out there, but that just goes to show what an exciting adventure Hungry Shark Evolution is.

88/100

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC Game Review

Let me tell you a few things about Skyrim that you might not know if you haven’t played it. It’s big. You may have heard this from others, but it bears repeating. You don’t really realise just how huge it is until you’ve played it for a while and then realise that you’ve only found 5% of the locations and completed a similar amount of achievements. It’s BIG!

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It’s also beautiful;  an artwork of gaming. It’s just as enjoyable following a quest as it is walking through a shimmering forest glade sometimes (just watch out for wolves, bears and frost spiders, ok?!). The atmosphere created by the changing weather, lighting and other environment effects are staggering. When it snows you almost feel as if you should put a winter coat on, even though you’re indoors on a sweltering hot summer’s day.

If I was to be critical of this amazing feat of gaming, my one gripe would be that perhaps they could’ve done with a few more creepy monsters for variation, instead of so many butterflies, fish or roaming creatures, but that’s Skyrim for you: unashamedly pretty to look at.

That’s not to say that the fighting system isn’t gripping, as it definitely is, with neat level-up stages that deftly improve your self-styled character distinctively over the game. This gives you decent character development, as every great RPG should.

Now we come to the substance of the game: the quests. Oh my sweet Talos! There are more quests in Skyrim than you can possibly imagine. I mean, literally hundreds, maybe hitting the thousand mark (I’ll have to check!). I’ve notched up nearly 400 hours of play, and I still haven’t completed all of the side quests. This is another small (dragon) bone of contention about the game. When I bought it, I was a relative newbie, and naively hammered my way straight through the main quest first, completing it by the time my character had only reached level 20, which was enjoyable, but not as epic as it could’ve been if I’d realised that I could take more time building my character up and exploring more of the world to improve my skills. The other open world stories that you stumble across as you traverse the mighty map are deeply engaging and satisfying, making you feel part of an evolving history of the fantastic fantasy setting. Then you discover there’s a whole underground world of Blackreach too, in some of the most breathtaking visuals I’ve ever witnessed.

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Ok, another very slightly annoying part of the game is that you can only carry a certain weight of items at a time, which can increase, but never seems enough for what you really want to keep with you (why make dragon bones so heavy?!). You can store items in your home or safe depositories, but it’s still a bit awkward working out which sword to bring with you for your next mission, then realising it was the wrong one halfway into the dungeon. But enough of my griping!

The sense of real personal engagement in parts of the game such as the Thieves Guild storyline, which involves an enormous swath of quests from quick burglary tasks right up to the thrilling Nightingale story thread, really enriches the game immensely. There’s also The Wizard’s Guild, Bard’s Guild, Companions plotlines, and a number of others. The Dark Brotherhood of assassins offers a particularly grim and gruesome storyline, featuring some brilliant characters and a devilishly dark plot.

Skyrim is a highly absorbing, enjoyably scripted, intricately decorated and sumptuously set smash hit. It’s a gorge-stretching gorgeous game featuring acres of game world to explore. You’ll feel as if you’re a real fantasy adventurer! Watch out for arrows in the knee!

98/100

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For more information about the game, check out its wikia pages: http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/The_Elder_Scrolls_Wiki

Grand Theft Auto Vice City PC Game Review

I played this game when it first came out on a friend’s Playstation, and to be honest, I sucked at it. I just couldn’t get the hang of the movements and various actions to be able to control the character without getting run over or crashing my car and turning into a human fireball within a matter of seconds. My gaming ability was not strong back then. So, I let it rest for a while. A long while. Until the game came out as a bundle package on Steam along with GTA I-IV, GTA San Andreas and GTA Episodes from Liberty City, in fact. I decided to play through the games starting with Vice City, since this was where I left off, and I’m glad that I did. I’ll tell you why.

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Vice City is a game crammed with wry humour, kitsch pop references, amazing music and slick visuals in abundance. Oh, and violence. Lots and lots of violence piled on top of more violence. It’s sick, it’s harsh, it’s gratuitous, but somehow, it’s intensely satisfying. You play a cold-blooded killer hunting down the gangsters who set you up and stole your boss’s drug money, and the dynamics of the game ensure that you revel in the experience.  Vice City is a hilarious mash up of all things 80s, capturing the feel and mood of the time immaculately. Sleek speedboats? Check! Scantily clad beach babes? Check! Cool as helicopters! Checkarino! Flash, snazzy cars! (I’m using 80s lingo here deliberately by the way!) Check’sinthepost! Dodgy drug deals and scorchingly neat weapons? Oh hell yeah! They’re all here. You get such a kick driving along the seafront while The Buggles ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ blares from your radio and cops are chasing your tail. It’s a total blast!

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The storyline manages to hang together nicely, incorporating parodies of tv shows and movies from the same era that it’s set, making this a multi-layered experience. It’s nostalgic, but in an unflinching, ironic way, and puts you right on the set of a John Hughes movie or in the middle of Hill Street Blues, or of course, Miami Vice (as a villain, of course, as that’s much more fun!). Get hold of a copy to intoxicate yourself with this heady mix. It’s still refreshingly stylish, dark and gruesome today as it was when it first came out.

95/100

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Dumb Ways to Die Mobile Game Review

Dumb Ways to Die is a game that contains exactly what it says in the title, and it’s all the better for it. The tasks that you are thrown into are deceptively simple and straight-forward, and the graphics are as plain as they come, although that’s not to say they’re not unique and charming, as is the dinky retro 80s video game music… but wait… it all happens to be IMMENSE AMOUNTS OF FUN! Yes, the major factor involved in this game is gameplay enjoyment, and it has oodles of it! And what’s that? It’s fiendishly addictive too? It takes a little while to get your head around some of the activities (I still can’t manage to get the plane to fly by blowing on the screen however hard I try!), but once you get into it, you’ll be hooked for days.

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It also contains mini easter eggs such as revealing characters from the game at the intro screen train platform, and giving you a full rendition of the theme song as a nifty reward, which is pretty amazing. Although the graphics are basic, that doesn’t mean that they’re not stylish. Their simplicity lends them a quirky, distinctive and downright cute (if not rather unsettlingly morbid!) cartoonish character of their very own. Sheer brilliance all round! Now just watch out for that… oh dear.

92/100

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BADLAND Android Tablet Game Review

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I’d like to write a short review for this game as I wasn’t expecting to like it half as much as I have. Badland is a momentous handheld gaming experience, created by the fantastic Frogmind company. It takes you through a world that is almost primordial, but with unflinchingly harsh technological developments in place, which you, as a small bat-like creature named a Clony, must rush through, picking up many power-ups that change the physical dynamics of Clony and the game, making it an enrapturing delight to play. That’s not to mention the beautiful backdrops and graphics of the game, a sheer pleasure to experience, as well as a robust gameplay engine that could be frustrating the amount of times that you die if it wasn’t so hilarious!

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This is the dusk period, which is imbued with lovely rusty reddish hues. And lots of horrible circular saws that cut your poor Clony to pieces in a flash if you’re not careful! You can pick up power-ups that multiply Clony too, giving you a bundle of bouncy bat-type creaures, who pretty much all die at the hands of some menacing metallic contraption within seconds, but the few survivors keep you going until you reach the end of the line – if you’re skillful and lucky enough!

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The attention to detail is immaculate and the game shimmers with an awareness of gaming and other games, and its own unique spin on things. It is an incredibly enjoyable thrill ride!

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Night descends, with a gorgeous misty, murky atmosphere. The sound effects enhance this too, being suitably bleepy and boopy, giving it a very ambient, relaxing, but blood-pumping feel.

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You can even play as small Android robots, such is the attention to detail. If this is the level of indie game that is appearing on the market, we have some great treats to look out for up ahead.

99/100

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Mega Bites – PC Game Review of Sleeping Dogs

I wake from unsettled dreams. Voices echo in my head. I have seen such things, such horrors and such wonders, that I need to take time to catch my breath and shake off my slumber.

Sleeping Dogs is a game that you will lose sleep over, for good reason. Mainly because it’s so damn cool. It’s a Square Enix endorsed product, so we expect quality and depth, following the tradition of their excellent, epic Final Fantasy games, but I still wasn’t ready for the amount of immersion that this game provided. It’s so real that you could almost be in modern day Hong Kong. The way that the rain reflects the neon shop signs off the tarmac is solid and more realistic than anything I’ve seen in any other game. The backdrops are stunning, if you get time to look at them as you’re hurtling by in your vehicle, which are sleek as heck, and the characters are all ultracool. Wei Shen is a satisfying main character to play as, not too dumb, conceited or annoying, he broods moodily just as a proper film noir detective should.

The game oozes a sense of foreboding. From the very beginning Wei is chewing over his past and the injustices done to his family, like a pork dumpling over-heating and ready to burst out of the pan on fire. The game starts with a chase. You assume that it’s going to be linear, which would be fine, but oh no, that’s just to break you in gradually. The help some people at the market to earn some respect, and then it all opens out… and out… and out! You meet an old pal, Jackie, then get into a fight. Ah, the fighting. It’s an integral part of the game, and boy, is it enjoyable! The skill level improvements are pitched just right, you learn new moves at just the right time that they’re required, and to sustain interest. The fight system is sturdy once you get stuck in, you can kick, punch and do a decent variety of combos or evasive manoeuvres. Perhaps one small complaint is that the variety of moves required could be altered for specific enemies to make the player think about which combo to apply, as you can just hammer the punch button to bring down most enemies, if you wanted, although that would avoid much of the fun, and miss out on some of the most graceful and brutal moves ever seen in a game.

Then there are the ‘environment interaction’ end moves. They are so much gory fun. You mean you can do THAT with THAT?! Woah.

Cut scenes are pithy, relevant, often exciting and don’t get annoying on repetition like some games. In fact, the cut scenes in Sleeping Dogs are better than a lot of gangster films that I’ve seen.

The game doesn’t clock in at a great amount of hours to finish, I did it in 36 hours, a fair amount, but this isn’t a criticism in any way. In fact, it’s a big compliment, as the visceral thrill of it all, the pumping adrenaline rush, was amazing from beginning to end. You can keep playing the open world sub-plots as long as you want to afterwards too, so there is technically many more hours of fun to be had. You are thrown right into the action (sometimes literally!), and if there is a longer driving section, it is covered by some decent, plot-developing dialogue. The drives aren’t usually too far away, anyway, and the spectacular surroundings and sweet-looking vehicles will have you gob-smacked throughout. The driving mechanics are smooth and easy to control without careening into buildings too often, making for a slinky, satisfying experience.

Oh, and did I mention that you can leap from your moving vehicle and grab on to another one? YOU CAN LEAP FROM YOUR MOVING VEHICLE AND GRAB ON TO ANOTHER ONE!!! This gives you a killer buzz when you do it, it’s James Bond type stuff, amongst many other elements of the game that make you want to punch the air and shout, “YEAH! WOO-HOO!”, only you can’t do the punching part as you’re trying to steer your car while chasing after some criminals.

However, the thing that makes Sleeping Dogs truly great is its storyline. It’s all meat, and no fat. United Front Games, the company that produced the game, should be given top credit for this. They take the traditional undercover cop theme, with the right amount of tough talking, as well as some genuine affection towards certain characters, and also some mean, blood-chilling villains. I’m not just talking schlock stock and too many smoking clichés. I’m talking people that you would not want to meet in a dark alley, or even in a day-lit one. The finale is immensely well planned, pitched and executed (no pun intended).

As the wise vendor says, “You look like you could do with a pork bun!”

97/100

TL-R

See the Sleeping Dogs webpage here: http://www.sleepingdogs.net/