Month: March 2012

Opinion: Mass Effect 3 – The WTF Ending.

Before I go any further I want to make it clear that during this article I will be openly discussing the Ending(s) to Mass Effect 3.

This is a warning!!! If you are still playing or want to play through with no prior knowledge then click off this page NOW……..

……..Right! Now that’s out of the way, Hello!

It can’t have escaped your attention that the ending to one of the greatest gaming experiences ever has been less than favourably received. The ending to the Mass Effect Trilogy was always going to divide gamers because as the old adage say, “You can’t please everybody”, however I have yet to find or talk to anyone who is pleased with the way Bioware has waved Goodbye to Commander Shepard.

There seems to be two distinct “Unhappy Camps” forming – those who are angry with Bioware for ruining the series and those who are disappointed with such a weak ending to the strongest game of the series. I personally am disappointed.

People who have read my previous articles will know that I am not the biggest fan of the Xbox, I accept it has it’s fans but I am not one of them, so I didn’t get to experience the Mass Effect universe until Mass Effect 2 was released on Playstation 3. The absence of the first game has not stopped me falling madly in love with the series, I won’t even change Shepard’s face because I don’t want to mess with Bioware’s perfection. The universe was bright, colourful, exciting and full of life. In a world before Skyrim it was the first RPG that appealed to me and I played it through multiple times.

I got Mass Effect 3 on 9 March 2012 and over the course of a week I enjoyed every aspect of the game, I relished the skirmishes with Cerberus, I was enthralled by the Battle for Palaven, I was moved by the curing of the genophage, and I gasped when one of the choices I made ended with the destruction of the Quarians.

Unfortunately because the game was released in the UK three days after the release in the US the reports of of fans unhappy with the ending had already begun to appear on UK gaming and news sites. I made sure not to read the articles but it was hard to avoid the headlines, needless to say I was aware that there was a “Controversy” about the ending that I was quickly approaching. During the game I had begun to formulate what I thought the ending would be, if you are interested I’ll write out my idea for the ending at the bottom of this article, and I thought that it was going to be a small minority of gamers that just wanted to moan because the series didn’t end with Sunshine & Rainbows but after playing through the game I can now see why people are up in arms.

I fought through the streets of London till I arrived at the base with Anderson, I then spent time working my way around the base talking to Soldiers and having conversations with my allies and team mates. I’m not ashamed to say this but I did get quite emotional during this time. In my eyes this was Goodbye, Shepard wasn’t coming back and I’d never see any of them again, picking my final team was a hard choice but in the end I went with the two most important people – Garrus & Liara.

Off we went to destroy the Reaper and make our way to the beam and onto the Citadel. The fight was long, hard and frantic but in the end we made it and then just as we were all running to the beam the unthinkable happened. BAM! Zapped by a Reaper Beam, screen fades outs, silence. Part of me thought that was going to be the end, part of me wishes it had been. Once the game returns and Shepard makes his/her way onto the Citadel the game takes a massive nosedive.

I don’t think I will be alone in saying that for me, the Citadel/Catalyst scenes feel rushed, badly thought out, tacked on at the end and are generally a massive disappointment from scenes we experience not 20 minutes beforehand. How did Anderson get on board? If he was right behind Sheppard then why didn’t he stop him? Where are my team mates? How did the Illusive man get there and when was he indoctrinated? Who was indoctrinating Shepard while he was in the control chamber? How did he, Anderson or the Illusive Man know how to use technology that no one had seen for at least 50,000 years?!! Oh and what happened to Harbinger?? Remember him the biggest and baddest of all the Reapers…..

Once those scenes were over and more choices are made, you are then moved onto to the last choice. You meet the Catalyst, who I assume takes the form of the boy Sheppard saw get killed back on Earth at the start of the game, although how it knows who this boy is or why it takes that particular form is never made clear. The Catalyst will then give you up to three choices, the choices depend on your Morality level but they are:

1 – Control: Despite the fact that you have spent the entire game telling the Illusive Man that Reapers cannot be controlled, it turns out they can – but it will cost you your life.

2 – Destruction: You can chose to destroy the Reapers but in doing so you will destroy ALL TECHNOLOGY! That includes the Geth so if you haven’t already killed them you get the option to again.

3 – Synthesis: The middle ground where you can choice to merge all organic life with all synthetic life. Not sure why you would want to really as isn’t that what the Reapers want anyway…

In all possible endings there is one constant – whatever ending you choose and whatever morality you are the Mass Effect relays will be destroyed. For those who played through the “Arrival” DLC on Mass Effect 2 you will remember that you were told that an exploding Mass Effect relay would destroy an entire Solar System but again this is not mentioned during the final minutes of your play through. Either way it would appear that the Universe is screwed no matter what you do.

I went for the Paragon/Blue Ending and sacrificed myself to control the Reapers. I got teary as my Shepard disintegrated in front of my eyes, I felt that pang of bittersweet victory as the Reapers ceased firing and retreated from Earth and I watched on in horror as I started a chain reaction of exploding relays. It was over………but it wasn’t.

Can anyone, ANYONE, explain what the Hell the Normandy is doing mid jump when the relays start exploding??? The Normandy is last seen in the Battle for Earth, why does she now appear to be running away from the battle. The shockwave from the explosions eventually catches up with her and we are suddenly treated to the sound of birds tweeting and some leaves. the Normandy has crashed, Joker, who you are reminded earlier on in the game has a terrible brittle bone disease, steps out unscathed from this crash into the Sunlight on this strange and unusual planet, and oh look right behind him, it’s, it’s GARRUS & LIARA?? But wait aren’t they dead? Didn’t they get zapped by the same Reaper beam that I got zapped with on earth? How did they get back on the Normandy? WHERE THE HELL WAS EVERYONE GOING!!!!

*Roll Credits*

I was literally stunned by what I had just witnessed, but it wasn’t over yet. Now there is that rather bewildering scene of a boy and a man holding hands in a snowy landscape looking up at what maybe the Earth talking about the Sheppard Stories……HUH??

The END…

AAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!! WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED!!!!! Was my first reaction, in fairness it’s still my reaction. I just don’t get it. I will put my hand on my heart and say I do not understand the ending.

I like to think I’m quite clever, I can pick up on the subtext and read between the lines but the last 30 minutes of Mass Effect 3 are some of the most bewildering I’ve ever come across. I’m not saying I want it spelt out for me but I would at least like to have all the correct letters.

The only thing I can adequately compare it to is the ending of Lost. (If you haven’t seen that either then stop reading!) The last series of Lost was really good, some amazing moments and the excitement to find out what the whole thing was about was tangible – nothing could have been more disappointing than not really getting any answers, Evil Locke being killed, a shiny cave and purgatory. Yep it was all about purgatory, the same thing the producers swore it wasn’t about when the Series first started! Not only did the rush job ending ruin the last episodes, it’s unsatisfying conclusion then cast a shadow over the entire series. I fear the same has happened to Mass Effect.

Yes there are petitions and statements about Bioware accepting comments and working to find a happy medium that respects artist integrity yet giving fans the ending they want. Yes there are those who are adamant that Bioware should stand their ground and not give in whilst at the same time thanking their lucky stars they didn’t mess things up. But in my eyes the damage has been done now – You cannot unsee what has been seen. You cannot undo what has been done.

In the way that The Elder Scross V: Skyrim will always associated with frame rate issues and lag on the PS3, Mass Effect 3 will always be remembered for the ending that failed to provide what it’s fans wanted most.

My Ending:

This is what I thought might be the ending. It is quite dark.

The Catalyst turned out to be nothing more than a storage device. Shepard made his way to the heart of the device to find the catalyst was a series of recordings. Each cycle that had passed before had a champion who had made it this far only to find out that there is no way to stop the Reapers. All of this has happened before and all of this shall happen again. All the Catalyst/Citadel does is record a message from the champion about his/her story and how they got there. Shepard records his adventure as the Reapers continue their destruction. The End.

GAME OVER! Continue?

It’s been a known fact – unless you’ve been in a Mass Effect induced coma for the past month – that GAME haven’t been having the best time with regards to their money handling in recent months. With EA being one of the first publishers to pull out the stocks of their titles, was this the start of the end to GAME?

In this article I’m going to be discussing my thoughts and views on what could happen to the world of gaming if GAME are to vanish from our high streets and never to be seen again.

The obvious thing would be that there would be no GAME to pop down to and get the latest games.How many of you reading this prefer going into town and spending a good while looking through all the titles that GAME have to offer compared to online shopping.  I for one like to do such a thing that way I can have a browse around what’s being offered in the shop such as good deals or gaming merch such as guides or figurines.  With the decrease of high street stores supplying us with games,  most of us turn to online shopping instead. Yes the  likes of HMV, Tescos and Asda are sure to stock some games however, I find HMV cost an arm and a leg for their games and the supermarkets are never really up to date with the new releases albeit when they are in stock, can sometimes give GAME a run for their money when it comes to some deals. One issue that can revial itself from less game devoted retailers is that I don’t think many people will do as much browsing for games online compared to what they would when in a shop and all the games are physically there on the shelves.

Some online stores don’t offer much in the way of a description of what the game is about compared to what’s on the back of the box, although the counter argument to that would be “Just go and Google the game to find out more!”  – fair play but to be honest, I reathink that all of the information should be presented to you in the first place. My argument to those who are reading this is how many of you will know the game you’re wanting, go online, purchase it and then just log off again without looking through the games that are also available to you. Unless there is a clear indication of a sale or promotional offer, I feel that most people will bypass any browsing for new games that they think they might enjoy and wish to add to their collection. If you do wish to browse for a new game through, one has to go through countless page and page after page of games via an interface that sometimes isn’t the best – the computer monitor.

Online stores may offer better prices at the moment compared to the current high street game retailers, although there is the annoyance of waiting for your game to come through your letterbox. Today, people want everything , in their hands as soon as possible and the same goes to getting our beloved favourite games via mail. For people in the UK, dare I even mention the annoyance that is the Royal Mail? By all means pay the extra couple of pounds for quicker delivery service so you can get the game through your door at an earlier date however, there is a quicker method than mail delivery. With this, I question the fact  that is , are we going to see gamers more willing to download games compared to buy the hard copies of them?

Steam is a perfect example of this. Buy agame and you can play it within half an hour or so and that’s you a happy bunny for the rest of the day however, console users don’t get such a good deal with downloadable games. Microsoft and Sony have both set up their own online stores to which gamers can download titles onto their hard drives and play through their Playstation or Xbox however, I know when it comes to the Xbox Live Games on Demand service, they do charge quite a bit, especially for the older titles to which you would think they would reduce the prices more due to their age.  If Sony and Microsoft start reducing prices on the games then more people could be inclined to start downloading digital copies of their games which is, in my opinion, going to become the norm sooner or later. Take a look on the amount of people who are now downloading their music rather than buying physical copies compared to five years ago.  This is all fine and well downloading games onto your hard drive but what happens when it comes to going round to a friend’s house for a gaming session  and you’re required to bring that game round? This is where I feel digital downloading is going to be a downside to gaming simply because without a physical copy of the game, that games usability is limited to one console which is going to end in one of two ways. The first being people are more reluctant to buying new games due to the reduced availability of passing on that game onto someone that could enjoy it and/or trade in at a later date or secondly, more people purchasing the game since it’s received good reviews. I’m not a big fan of choosing what game to play based purely on other peoples reviews on it, after all it’s their perspective of the game, not your own but considering what I’ve highlighted, reviews will be playing a much bigger role in our decisions of ‘What game shall I buy now’. The latter option is drastically going to affect developers for better or for worse.

Moving forward with how the reduced number of gaming outlets will affect developer, the lack of which is sure to bring around a significant decrease in trading in games which we all know, the money was going straight into the shops back pockets and not the developers. This led the developers to start coming up with ideas to try and get their money back through such things as online passes which when a pre-owned game was bought, it couldn’t be played online without a pass.  With the reduced number of shops offering this trading in service; more people are going to be buying their games direct from the developer, so to speak. This will obviously bring around a better profit for the developers however; online sites such as eBay, Amazon and Play all offer a trading feature where you can sell your games online. People will be getting more money for their games compared to if they traded them in at a shop but, on the other hand, with the hassle of putting up your listing, making it a reasonable price in comparison to the other prices that are being set by other sellers and then sending off the game itself – is this too much hassle for people? In my opinion, with the lack of pre-owned games being made available to us, a lot of the smaller, unknown titles are going to struggle even harder to reach some light of day in the gaming community and which of these online game retailers will even bother stocking it in the first place? Pre-owned games were an excellent way of picking up games for dirt cheap and giving them a try to see if they were any good or just complete and utter crap which, if you paid a tenner for – you weren’t exactly bothered about if it only gave you less than ten hours gameplay. This and with the added problem that I raised earlier of games getting bad reviews, some lesser known games (that of which I like to call ‘Hidden Gems’)  will be crushed under the weight of the bigger and well known games more than ever.

In conclusion, I think that the lack of GAME within our high streets is really going to affect gamers and developers in a bad way to a certain degree. Smaller, unknown developers are definitely going to feel more of a pressure towards making their game good enough to get gamers to actually consider purchasing their game in the first place whereas for the more well known developers – this can only be like justice for them after loosing money through the pre-owned services GAME offered to it’s customers.

This isn’t all about what I think though – I want to hear your thoughts on the matter in hands. Leave a comment below expressing your opinions.

Hidden Gems : Toy Soldiers

Signal Studios' Toy Soldiers War Stories. We’ve all heard a few. How some great heroic ancestor fought their way though waves of countless foes for the good of the nation. Well it’s clear to see those stories as inspiration for a true Xbox Live Arcade gem, Toy Soldiers.

Toy Soldiers takes place in the bedroom of a young boy, who seems to have quite a liking for his World War 1 play sets! You play though famous battles of the “ Great War” from the point of view of your average 7-year-old. Meaning the odd giant robot, or spaceship, may make its way onto the battlefield. All your unites are actually toys that have come to life. Quite like Toy Story, but with much more violence.  The objective of each level is quite simple. Protect your Armies HQ (or Toy box) from the waves of oncoming enemy forces. You do this by sending waves of your own troops toward the enemy, building cannons, AA guns, and machine-gun posts. These can be upgraded, and the game even lets you control them third-person style, adding to the awesome-level of Toy Soldiers as a whole.

In addition, you can fly bomber aircraft and drive monster tanks to crush all those that oppose you on the battlefield.

It’s easy to think of Toy Soldiers as a Total War spin-off, with added tanks and planes you can control. And you’d be thinking right, but that’s in no way a bad thing.  For 1200 Microsoft points, you’ll easily get your moneys worth from the package.

And now comes the story, which honestly, doesn’t exist. Before every level, you’re given an objective, and a short paragraph informing you of what’s going on.  Toy Soldiers takes pride in its young boy mind set, and, lets be honest, most young lads only care for explosions and “sh*t blowing up” so a solid plot isn’t very important.  It had next to no effect on my enjoyment of the game, however, so it’s not something to worry much about.

Sound effects fit in well to every warzone, that satisfying “Ka-Bloom!” you hear every time you fire off one of your “Big Bertha” cannons hits the spot every time.

Toy Soldiers heading into battle!The soundtrack consists of (somewhat catchy) 1920’s recordings, adding to the atmosphere greatly.

Toy Soldiers isn’t very ambitious, but for-fills everything it wants to be. The result is a fun distraction that will kill many hours, and offer you a different experience from everything else on the Xbox 360.

Once you’ve finished off the campaign (Its around 6 hours, but as some of the later boss battles are real hard, it could last much longer) more game modes are unlocked, including a whole new “campaign +” mode, which allows for many more hours of World War 1 shenanigans.

As for multiplayer options, Toy Soldiers online will give you 1 vs. 1 battles which, though nothing special, is an enjoyable little experience. Throw in a few challenge levels to spice things up, and you’ll be running into days worth of gameplay. For just over £10, its safe to say you’ll get your moneys worth.

Now its time for the few downfalls of Toy Soldiers, that, though not many, may just put you off it all together.  First things first, if you’re a massive RTS fan, then you might be disappointed. Toy Solders has very little of the depth you’ve come to expect from Total War-esque titles. Smarts isn’t something that has much effect on the outcome of a battle, so your well paced battle stratages will be pretty much worthless on the fields of World War 1. I felt a small hit of Gears of War throughout the campaign, which should sum up how much more action focused Toy Soldiers is.

Secondly, the scale of the battles is way smaller than the 80,000 men on one screen of Total war. This is understandable- you have to remember it’s running on the humble Xbox 360, not a maxed out gaming PC, meaning it has its limits.

If you’re willing to overlook these flaws, or even if you’re completely new to the RTS genre, Toy Soldiers is a unique and detailed battle-zone worthy or your hard earned bucks.

A matter of loaf and death!The DLC is worth a look too. One pack adds Aliens and Giant evil robots to the table. Its sequel, Toy Soldiers: Cold war also has plenty to offer, but has a steeper learning curve. It’s much better to kick-off with the original, and what some may call, the best in the series.

Toy Soldiers is available exclusively on Xbox live arcade and retails for 1200 Microsoft points. What are you waiting for?



Next week we’ll be continuing our Hidden Gems XBLA special with a neat review of Shadow Complex, a thrilling title courtesy of Epic Games.

The Sims 3


By now, most people have heard of The Sims if they play games. The Sims is the best selling PC franchise in history, selling over 100 million copies in 2008. The Sims revolutionised the way we viewed games with it’s open gameplay with unlimited possibilities. The Sims 3 is now here, marking the third main game in the franchise and sure to bring many more hours of gameplay, attract new fans to The Sims and spawn many expansions packs, stuff packs, and many new opportunities for players.

The Sims 3 introduces a highly anticipated feature to The Sims franchise, which many people have probably wanted for a long time now. The Sims 3 introduces an open world which means you can now travel from one end of town to another without having to wait for the game to load. Ever wanted to go to visit another family and stay over their for the night for a sleepover? Well now you can with The Sims 3. No longer are you waiting for the game to load and you can keep playing. You will now see all Sims in the neighbourhood going about their business, age, new people in the town, and their lives change over a period of time. This addition was much needed in the franchise and you will find it hard to go back once you get used to this feature. This will allow you to go deeper than ever before, and what you do in one part of town might affect it on the other side of town for everyone else.


The Sims 3 introduces a refreshed Create A Sim with many new features and some which were previously found in The Sims 2 body shop. Now you can create anyone you know in much greater detail such as their weight, muscle definition, breast size (for women), body hair and more. You can truly create people you know: friends, family, and even celebrities. Some of the creations which people in The Sims community have created are scarily realistic. You can also take advantage of the “Create A Style” tool. This allows you to pick any colour and design for anything. Everything can be customised. Choose the colour of your shoes, the pattern on your jeans. Sims now have personality traits replacing star signs (star signs were later added in a patch), which can make a sim faint in an upsetting moment, evil, friendly, a natural cook – you name it! These personality traits allow Sims to have different interactions and influence the way they respond to different situations in the game, which adds a whole new area to the game for players to mess around with and see what type of Sims they can now create!

Expanding on the create a style tool, this can be used in the same way on furniture in the brand new build and buy modes in The Sims 3. Featuring new music which is relaxing than The Sims 2, you can create almost anything you can imagine. You can change the colour of the doors, the wallpaper design, your furniture – everything can be customised – which is an excellent addition. Since you could not do this in previous games, it makes it so anything can work together – colour colour colour! I found myself building for hours and creating some stunning new homes which look wonderful since the graphics compliment the game greatly.


The Sims 3 is guaranteed to bring you months of fun with many things to explore and find in the game. With it’s unique style of humour, you’ll be laughing at some of the silly things which are found in the game which is what makes it The Sims. The Sims 3 is just as addictive and time consuming as it’s predecessors because of the exciting range of new features to make the game feel fresh such as the create a style tool, open world and traits for your Sims. More could have been offered in the base game though. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could see your Sims inside shops and work? Nevertheless, The Sims 3 delivers a decent game which has spawned many expansion packs, stuff packs, and downloadable store content since it’s release (reviews available here on It will definitely put a smile on your face and you wont want to take your eyes away from the screen. Prepare to be sucked into the franchise… for the third time!

GOOD POINTS: Open world (no more loading screens!), amazing graphics and music, sandbox gameplay, new short term goals, loads of new content and features.

BAD POINTS: Downloadable content is very expensive, bugs, quite a laggy game even on high-spec computers, lacks a lot of charm and humour which The Sims 2 and The Sims 1 contained.



Game demo’s can be a difficult thing. Sometimes they can cloud your judgement on a game you were previously excited about, even though you know it’s not the finished article, and other times you don’t really get an idea of the game at all and end up dismissing it completely. For me, Journey fell into the latter.

I first came across Journey at a stand at Gamefest in 2011. It was a single stand with one tv, one controller and no one there to explain the game. It was, to me, just a red “thing” running about in the sand and I had no idea what I was meant to be doing, I think I played it for a few minutes with my best friend trying to give me some idea about the game before putting the controller down and moving on to something else.

Thankfully I have now seen the error of my ways. Journey is one of the most beautiful and haunting games that I have ever played.

Journey is from thatgamecompany who previously gave us the game Flower, which as you will remember was about the life of a……you guessed it, a flower. On paper that doesn’t exactly sound riveting stuff but in practice Flower was a massive sleeper hit for those who like games to be more than guns and ammo. Journey is of the similar ilk where the gaming norm gets thrown out of the window and it’s for the better. There are no life bars, no hit points, no head shots, no QTE’s, no levelling up, no swords, shields, arrows in the knee, no dragons, no terrorists, no rpg’s, no aliens, no bloodshed, no violence and no side quests.

I know some of you are now reading this going “and No Point” as what is the point of a game that has none of the above….well the point is that it’s all about the Journey! (see what I did there!!)

Gameplay wise Journey is very simple, you play as a nameless wanderer, you start the game on the outskirts of a desert and in the far off distance you can see something shining atop a mountain, that light is your aim and your only constant companion through 90 percent of the game. You can head off piste a few times but you can never get too far before you’re back on the path to the light. You will pass through deserts, ruined cities, ancient temples and more but the mountain is your goal.

In Journey you walk, you jump and you “sing”. That’s it, that’s all you can do but it’s enough. When you start the game all you can do is walk and auto jump up some small steps, then you acquire a piece of a scarf, a magic scarf, that allows you to jump. Singing allows you to communicate with the cloth creatures that inhabit the world you travel in, sometimes they will be trapped and you will be required to sing to release them, other times they will be floating freely and you can sing to call them to help with jumping over a larger gap. The interface is simple and it works perfectly, once you get the hang of it and the timing right you can spend a fair amount of time airborne.

As you move around you can find more pieces of the scarf which will allow you to jump further and higher, it makes parts of the game easier the longer the scarf you have, though the more hardcore players may try and complete it with only one singular piece.

At the end of each “level” you will find an altar which you can activate, then your traveller will sit and meditate and you’ll be granted a bit more information regarding the history of the ruins and how they came to be this way. Then it’s onto the next “level”, I say level but one of Journey‘s (many) brilliant aspects is that even though there are defined start and end points the game itself is very fluid and each level is more a natural progression closer and closer to the end rather than a sudden stop/start feeling.

The other aspect I just want to mention is the “multi-player” component. Now again this isn’t your typical online experience. There are no leader boards, no DLC and no one shouting “SUCK IT NOOOBS” into your ear every 5 minutes. In fact there isn’t even an option to play multiplayer, it simply happens. On your adventure you may suddenly come across another you, an exact copy of you. This isn’t you but someone else. thatgamecompany have seamlessly integrated multi-player into the game in such a way that when I came across someone else I was genuinely excited and happy to see them. I had no idea who it was, who they were or where they were but we spent the remainder of the level together, jumping, running and singing. On my first play through I spent most of the game in the company of someone else, initially I thought it was the same person but it wasn’t until the end of the game that I found out it was lots of different people. You share a brief experience with them and then they are gone, somehow that makes me happy and sad.

I shan’t say anymore on the gameplay itself as to explain more would be to spoil it for you and I really don’t want to do that.

Journey‘s visuals are stunning, each vista, each grain of sand, each glint of sun is perfectly balanced to the game, I will be honest and say that there were moments that I stumbled during gameplay as I was too busy watching the scenery. I think that was part of thatgamecompany‘s plan as one particular section is designed so you concentrate on the background rather than the game and it’s so worth it. For such a relatively small size download the game certainly packs a visual punch and hats off to thatgamecompany for their hard work. Aurally as well the game is pitch perfect. Music is perfectly timed, soft and gentle till the gameplay speeds up and suddenly the music has your heart racing and blood pumping as you get swept up in the rush to the end, then suddenly it drops off and the music you hear can break your heart. Amazing.

As you have probably figured out from my emotive review, Journey is an experience for the heart. It’s beautiful, heart warming, touching, poignant, heart breaking and epic. Despite it’s small size and play time, you can expect to finish it in around 2 hours, Journey will stick with you long after the game has ended. It may not be to everyone’s cup of tea but for me it is the perfect antidote from the current slew of RPG’s. Journey is an experience that only requires you to sit back, open your eyes and maybe your heart.

Journey is a Playstation exclusive. It is currently available to download from the Playstation Network if you are a Playstation Plus Member. It will be released to the general public on Wednesday 14th March priced at £9.99.

Hidden Gems: Bastion

Over the past few years, the quality of downloadable games have soared dramatically, thanks in no small part, to Xbox Live Arcade. And yet, many  gamers seem to pay little attention to the online games marketplace, when it comes to fully downloadable titles.

That dear readers, is why I’ll be going on a little bit of a crusade over the next few weeks, reviewing and promoting the Hidden Gems of the Xbox Live Marketplace.  With most games £10 or less, it’s a form of gaming well-suited to our current financial crisis, and not only that, these little bundles of awesomeness give you access to magical experiences you just can’t find on your average £50 game!

So now that the introductions are out of the way, let’s get to our first jewel in the crown of the XBLA, shall we?


On paper, Bastion is a simple RPG/Adventure that should supply you with a few hours of enjoyable enough gaming, but thanks to developers SuperGiant Games wonderful attention to detail, and unique style, Bastion has plenty to offer.

Bastion in set in what can only be described as the most beautiful apocalypse imaginable. After an event known as “The Calamity” the world falls apart, leaving our hero, known only as “The Kid” to fight his way to The Bastion, a sanctuary for life that his people agreed to flee to if something terrible ever happened. Over the 6-hour single-player rollercoaster, The Kid meets other survivors, and we start to get an idea of what his world was like before the Calamity.

The main feature Bastion has to offer Joe Gamer has to be the low, sexy voice of Logan Cunningham. Every attack you to make, every decision you take, every enemy you demise, his Morgan Freeman- like vocals talk you though your adventure, as if he was reading it from a book. It’s one of those things that makes Bastion an utter joy to play.

The worlds you play though are beautifully crafted, using a simply breath-taking watercolor art-style. The platforms you run on form under your feet as you walk along, brick by brick, like a massive LEGO model being built in front of you.

Almost every level has its own personality too, and during your time playing as The Kid, you’ll experience jungles, torn-up towns, swamps, and Artic snowstorms. So visually, Bastion hits every right note imaginable!

Moving on to Bastions gameplay, its basic, but satisfying and enjoyable.

The Kid can hold two weapons at a time, as well as a special super power.

New weapons are discovered on every level, going from swords, to pistols, to over-powered bazookas! The special powers are awesome, plus you can change your equipment after every level, as well as upgrading them, meaning you can customize your weapons to what ever style of combat that suits you best!

Enemies are fun to fight, and over the top crazy in their design. You’ll be coming across new foes right up to the credits roll, keeping combat fresh and entertaining the whole way through!

What will stick with you most, long after you’ve finished Bastion, is the soundtrack. It’s a master class in music making. Some songs have techno and classical elements, others indie folk music, and some feature middle-eastern inspired beats. There are several moments in the game that are made by the soundtrack. 3 songs feature lyrics, which are worked into the story. They are incredibly catchy, and give up as great insight into the world that was before the Calamity.

With its almost cartoony visuals, few would expect Bastion’s plot to be as deep and adult as it is. Throughout your adventure, themes of war, religion and racism.  Even if it takes a while getting into, its worth investing yourself into the story- trust me, come the final few levels, you’ll be rewarded. At the climax of the game, you’ll face some decisions, which will ultimately decide how Bastion ends. Bastion closes with a flawless animation, telling of what happened to The Kid, and the rest of the survivors completely based on those final few decisions you made.

Bastion features loads of great side-quests, that you don’t need to do to finish the story; but they are challenging, plus they give you info about the world you are seeing in ruins.  The main quests also have replay value galore, meaning, for your 1200 Microsoft points, your getting hours of value.

I haven’t said much about Bastion’s thick plot, simply because its something you have to experience yourself. And even if story isn’t your thing, the thrilling combat should see you through!

All things considered, Bastion is a highly enjoyable adventure that will tingle your imagination, and leave catchy jingles and songs stuck in your head for months to come! The narrator’s silky smooth vocals make for great listening, and the well-designed combat system provides simple, yet awesome, gameplay- and never seems to get frustrating or boring.

There’s no co-op, but it’s not something to worry about. Bastion still gives you plenty to do and see. Like the rest of the titles on XBLA, a free trail is available – It doesn’t give you a full taste of what the game offers, but you get a glimpse of what can only be called one of the most creative worlds in gaming!


So, I’ve done my best to tell you why you should be spending a few pounds on Bastion, it truly deserves a score of, Drum-roll please…




Alan Wake: American Nightmare

Alan Wake. A name not many gamers will have come across in the past couple of years however, he’s made a return and graced the Xbox Live Arcade with his writing/fighting skills for us to join him in yet another thrill ride as he battles against the darkness filled Taken once again in Alan Wake: American Nightmare!

So a quick catch-up on Mr. Wake for those who have not had the pleasure on making acquaintances with him as of yet; he’s a writer who mysteriously lost his wife after their trip to Bright Falls. After the Dark Presence that has been trapped in Cauldron Lake escapes, Wake’s world is turned upside down as fiction is slowly turned into reality.

As an avid fan of the first Alan Wake game, that of which I thought was under-appreciated back in 2010, I was really looking forward to seeing how this arcade title panned out as I’ve not really been a big fan of them.

Even after not playing Alan Wake for two years, I found this game incredibly easy to pick up, play and get into the storyline within the first ten minutes. The game starts off with Wake finding himself within this dark and murky area to which the narrator kicks in by describing Wake as the “Champion of Light” and is chasing down the Herald of Darkness, Mr. Scratch, who is described to be Alan Wake’s evil doppelganger. After some taunting from Mr. Scratch that he will take away everything he loves, Wake replies with that he’ll catch him.

After that opening, I was prepared for an almighty trip through some form of messed up reality, similar to that of which I experienced with the first Alan Wake game. The environments that you’re surrounded by look and feel daunting which made me really felt like I was trapped within these environments just as much as what the protagonist Wake is. With only a flashlight in your hand, it’s difficult to see what the hell is in front of you – a perfect opportunity to introduce some enemies that have been taken over by the Dark Presence.

The variation of enemies is better than what I first expected. With a range of the more small, slim and fast ones that will take no time at all to cut you up with their hooks, to the big, heavy and downright scary men that have a slower approach before delivering their devastating blow to you.  Thankfully, we’ve got a range of weapons to pick from to kill these guys. With a choice of pistol, shotgun, flare gun and my personal favourite, nail gun – you can start putting these guys back in their place and back into the darkness that forever surrounds you.  The action that was present during battles with The Taken was always something that left me on the edge of my seat (or out of it whenever a scary moment occurred or I was close to dying). Whether it’s in a big open space such as a car park or more of a confined area which allows minimal places to run to, there was no shortage of “OMG, That was a close one” moments which is mainly brought about with the use of the dodge ability. With a tap of LB, the player can maneuver Wake away from the massive pick-axe that is about to pop his head off of his shoulders for all eternity and it’s done really well so that it’s not annoying on trying to direct him away – it’s all just about the timing of it.

The soundtrack for the game was again, unbelievable. With moments of dead silence and nothing to accompany you on your travels but the odd whisper of a wind brushing past, to other moments where you’re running for your life to the sound of Kasabian’s ‘Club Foot’ – there is no shortage of amazing music on this game. What I noticed that kept happening with myself while I was playing would be that the music would die down completely after an epic moment, to which I always thought “Okay, I’m in the clear now” – I never cottoned onto the fact that it was only the calm before the storm where a mass of Taken would come from absolutely nowhere and attempt to attack me senseless.  Take this as a warning if you do decide to play American Nightmare!

Another factor that was clear as soon as I started playing this game was the lighting. As you can imagine, the game’s plot is very dark and scary which is reflected in the lack of light available to Wake throughout the game. Equipped with only his flashlight, this is about the most amount of light that Wake has to accompany him. I also felt that the light played a big role in the thrill factor of this game – the obvious case being that if the player was afraid of the dark, to which the little child deep inside of me is therefore, it escalates the amount of suspense and tension within the player when the creepy noises start to come into play.

After completing the story mode portion of American Nightmare – I did find that I could of easily gone back and played through it again, even if it was just to pick up the missing collectables that I left out. With a good lifespan for an arcade game of 5-6 hours, dependent of how much exploring you done, the first play through was an enjoyable and yet somewhat nostalgic one. With some references back to the first game, including some loose ends being tied up, it made me want to go back and give the first game another run through but instead, I dove straight into Arcade mode.

The bare essentials of the arcade mode are waves of enemies coming at you within a 10 minute time limit and you have to wade it out until the ten minutes are up and the sun rises again for another day. Based on your performance, you will get rated on a 3 star system to which you can unlock more levels the more you progress and the more stars you accumulate over time.

Starting off on the first level out of ten, I felt very pressured and again, that on-the-edge-of-your-seat action was happening for yet another time. Arcade mode takes one of the best things out of the story mode – the battles with the taken – and crams as much action as it can throw at you within the ten minutes. With minimal time to breathe and resupply your ammo, you do feel very protective of the ammo you are using and aware of where your next supply of ammo and health will be.

The amount of area you have to play with is great. With wide open areas in graveyards, old towns and oil fields, you can’t help but find yourself exploring the area. Explore in the right places and you might strike you luck with some better weapons, ammo supply and flash bangs. One of the best things that I came across was a crossbow which I could use as a weapon – and I thought the nail gun was the best thing since sliced bread with regards to weapons in this game – but dear lord did I have fun with that crossbow!

I think making the arcade mode the focus for the release of the game was a good idea. It provides a challenging experience but that of which, doesn’t get boring or dull and is different every time you pick up that controller and play it. It’s easy to pick up and play and start trying to beat your friends’ scores that are on the leader boards before you go into a game. One thing I would of liked there to have been for the Arcade mode was co-op. I think it would have benefited a lot by having the ability to get two friends to take on these ten minute challenges , making the game more fun and exciting  than what it already is.

Alan Wake American Nightmare is a definite buy for anyone who loved the first game however, new comers to the game will still find this an enjoyable game and an experience they will not be forgetting for a while. I must add here that the actor, Ilkka Villi who plays Alan Wake and Mr. Scratch, does a very good job with the TV spots that Mr. Scratch has throughout the game – each of which looks like they should be in movies with the amount of peril and emotion that’s being put into each of the shows.

To wrap things up with this review, I was really impressed by American Nightmare and thought it was an excellent game to help fans of the first game not only gain a bit more knowledge and understanding of the world that Alan Wake is in, but to surpass the time before the proper sequel gets released to us. Suggestion to new-comers to the game, pick up the first game before playing American Nightmare and you’ll appreciate it so much more when you do come round to playing it.

I’m giving Alan Wake American Nightmare 9 out of 10, mainly due to the lack of co-op but as a stand-alone arcade game, is a real gem amongst the rocks.