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Dragon Age: Origins

What’s the best game you’ve ever played? That’s like asking someone to choose between his or her favourite books, films or children. (The clever one, obviously.)

I pondered for not very long and my mind was firmly stuck on Dragon Age: Origins. While not without its flaws, this was the first game I fell in love with. It was the first game I sat, tears rolling down my cheeks during the credits after some 60+ hours of gameplay. After watching them, immediately selected ‘new game’ from the menu. So, how did those lovely and clever bods at Bioware achieve this?

DA:O was released in Europe November 2009, published by EA as a multi platform release. I played the 360 version and thought that the controls and mechanics were mapped out very well, despite it being a port from the PC. PC gamers will never be convinced and it’s not my job to do so, but I got on very well with it on console. The developers describe their work as a ‘high dark fantasy RPG’, set in the mythical land of Thedas, specifically Ferelden.

The story centres on the movement known as the Grey Wardens sworn protectors of the people and the scourge of the malevolent Darkspawn,which plague the land. There is a change in the air. The Darkspawn are about to unleash the fifth Blight, and the Archdemon (an Old God, manifested in the form of a huge Dragon) unto the world. On top of this, the land is engulfed in civil war, with Gondor and Rohan, I mean Redcliffe and Denerim refusing to come to the other’s aid.  Yes, it’s like LOTR, but so what? LOTR is awesome. Essentially, it’s up to you to reunite a warring land, whilst battling your way through various situations, gathering companions along the way and ultimately defeat the Archdemon. This takes place alongside an ongoing backstory and rich lore hinting at the rivalry between the mages and the templars, humans, dwarves and elves which makes the world seem even more real.

Choice is King in this game. In most WRPGs, there is an aspect of character customisation at the beginning, but Bioware like to go one better. The background and class that you choose will actually shape the first hour or so of gameplay in a way I had never experienced before. Your opening experience will be vastly different depending on your combination of choices. There are six possible beginnings, human noble or Mage,  dwarf noble or commoner, and City or Dalish elf. I predictably went for the Mage option first, so I’ll take you briefly through that experience.

You begin in ‘The Circle’, a great tower where mages are ‘kept’ for both study and safety (from others and themselves). The opening hours, as you come to expect from an RPG, are tutorial based standard fetch quests or kill some giant rats/ spiders to get you used to the combat. Something Bioware pokes fun at during the human noble questline “Giant rats? It’s like the start of every bad adventure tale my Grandfather used to tell.” The combat system is highly geared towards a tactical, strategic approach, with the player being actively encouraged to step back, analyse the situation and adapt and act accordingly. It is, however possible to take a more slapdash approach and make your way fairly easily through the land of Ferelden, if you play on the easiest setting, although you will still get caught out with some of the more difficult enemies. There’s no shortage of things to kill.  You will find yourself battling many different enemies of varying standards, ranging from those pesky Darkspawn, Drakes, Dragons, Hurlocks, rogue mages, rogue templar and werewolves, amongst others.

Home Sweet Home.

The left trigger pauses the game. It brings up an in combat menu by which you can heal party members, revise tactics and very usefully rotate the camera to assess your targets whilst still being paused and safe. There are a couple of negative aspects of the combat, however. The link between you pressing a button for a sword strike or a spell cast is rather delayed, which somewhat detracts from the sense of immediacy. Indeed, on the easier settings in some of the longer battles you find yourself absent mindedly pressing the ‘A’ button repeatedly in a rhythmic fashion. I, at times found myself playing one handedly, surfing the web at the same time to get me through a particularly long and tedious encounter. On the whole, though the combat is enjoyable enough and allows you, of course, to level up.

As a fairly traditional RPG, there is a lot of focus on looting and levelling. There are a myriad of available weapons to use for your character and your companions, and the inventory system can seem a little daunting at first glance with there being so many options for customisation. However it is far from the most complicated I have seen, and does become extremely manageable as you invest more hours into the game. Levelling up is based on the XP you get from winning battles or completing quests, and is nicely balanced. You won’t find yourself levelling too quickly and reaching the cap long before the end of the game. In fact on my first playthrough I missed the achievement for reaching level 30 by mere points.

In each of the origin stories you eventually are approached by a Grey Warden. Duncan has a proposition for you. You’ve turned some heads in the quests you’ve done so far and he wants you to sign up. Me? A Grey Warden? *bats eyelashes* Well, why the hell not? I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? Oh Duncan, you sneaky snake.

Before you begin your mammoth quest to unite two warring cities and gather all that you can to come to your aid, you must undergo ‘The Joining’, This is the ceremonial ritual necessary to join the Grey Wardens and the part the Duncan conveniently negelected to tell you about. In order to join the Wardens, you must drink Darkspawn blood. Which will either kill you instantly or infect you with ‘The Taint’ (the means by which the creatures communicate and organise themselves) which enables you to sense the spawn and the Archdemon, but will kill you in 30 years or send you mad. Nice one, Dunc.

I’ve got to do what now?

But you do it, because it’s your destiny to be a hero. This is where the adventure really begins. As a HUGE fantasy fan I can honestly say that this is one of my favourite stories of all time, and wouldn’t want to spoil it too much, because it’s a fantastic experience that provides some genuinely jaw-dropping, heart- wrenching moments. Safe to say that if you like swords, shields, orcs and dragons you will not be disappointed. You travel through various beautifully rendered areas which look gorgeous. Whether you’re in the sprawling wilderness of the Korcari wilds, hanging out in the lively inner sanctum of Denerim, or exploring the royal palace, it’s a breathtaking world, with only the occasional frame rate issue that interrupts the atmosphere.

The added crux is that these heart wrenching moments are your doing. You make the choices that will inform which factions ally with you and are against you. You decide who joins your party. You decide on the fate of people and ultimately the fate of the world. Bioware do such a good job of making you care about the characters (and feel such animosity towards the antagonists) that I have no trouble admitting that on numerous occasions I sat, controller in hand, going over the decision with a pained expression, characters motionless on the screen awaiting my choice. I could hardly believe that my choices were having such a far reaching impact in the world. There was one point where I felt real rage at a character’s betrayal. I actually went and bitched about this character. “How dare they?! After all I’ve done for them!”

The story, characters, back story and the way they are conveyed to the player, are quite simply brilliant. The voice acting is superb, with some big names delivering standout performances, Steve Valentine as the dashing Alistair will always be a genuine crush of mine. And you thought it was just sad teenage boys who had crushes on videogame characters. Turns out sad twenty something women do, too. The dialogue is elegantly written, and at times is laugh out loud funny as well as cry out tears sad. Amongst the other protagonists (or potential antagonists depending on how you treat them) you have Zevran, a member of the Antivan Crows Assassins, with a penchant for the kinky things in life, Leliana, a member of the Chantry who was formerly a bard with a less than holy background and Morrigan, a wonderfully sarcastic, bitchy and sexy witch of the wilds whom many will take it upon themselves to try and tame.

I think it’s safe to say this guy got a rather large punch round the chops.

The relationships are yet another aspect that draws you in. Treat someone badly and they may leave your party. Treat someone well and you may hear whispered conversations of how they respect you or even have a crush on you. There is a possibility for romance (or a one night stand) with most characters, and each has their own sexual preference. Everyone is different. Some people (for example) will appreciate a compliment, while others will see it as suspicious. This is often a minefield of trying to please everyone, which ultimately as you can probably surmise from that distraction called real life, never works. Alistair and Morrigan are delightfully pitted against each other and have some hilarious conversations when you are wandering the world, constantly trying to get one up on each other. That conflict comes to a wonderful, epic conclusion at the end of the game, something I would not wish to deprive anyone of experiencing themselves

This entire epic, ranging experience requires an appropriate soundtrack. Inon Zur, a prolific composer in the videogame industry with game scores like Fallout 3, amongst others under his belt, delivers a fantastic accompaniment to the game. It’s that special kind of music that instantly takes you back to a moment in the game, whether it be a particularly sad moment or an intense battle, the atmosphere is captured perfectly and translated into music for your listening pleasure.

Overall, this game is for RPG fans, first and foremost. It’s an immersive, epic, beautifully crafted world that can’t help but suck you in. The story and conclusion are worthy of that illustrious Bioware stamp and if you play it, it will stay with you. It is not without its pitfalls, but the frame rate and some issues with the combat are mere minor complaints.

My first playthrough, as I mentioned took me about 60 hours. I have subsequently played it twice more with all of the expansion packs and DLC (all of which are excellent) and sunk an additional 140+ hours into it. It is still on my shelf in pride of place and I will never trade it in. It holds a special place in my heart as the first game I truly loved and, just as it will stay on my shelf it will stay in my heart. It made me laugh and cry, and it has the power to make you do so too.

Ahem.

Someone pass me my staff, I’m off to kill some Darkspawn.

Follow me on Twitter: @iguanahat and of course follow Zero1Gaming if you don’t already: @zero1gaming

My Retro Years: Paul James

First off, I would just like to introduce myself and say ‘Hi’, I’m Paul, Founder of Z1G  and if you have ever interacted with @zero1gaming on Twitter then it was me you were interacting with, I’m the guy behind the big red Z.

‘My Retro years’ is a feature where the author tells his/her story of their early months and years as a gamer.

Before I go any further I should point out that I’m no writer, hence which is why this is my very first written post, but I think it’s only right that I should contribute my story to this brand new feature. I hope you enjoy!

Being born in 1971 meant that my generation was going to be the first generation that was lucky enough to grow up alongside the growth of video games. My first experience of video games would have been in the late 70s early 80s playing iconic games such as Space Invaders and Pacman in arcades in the local seaside resorts of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, places my family visited a lot during the summer months of my childhood.

The first game I can remember getting hooked on in these arcades was called Pole Position and I would have been around 11 years old. It was 10p a go and I would spend all my money on this one game, I played this until I was about 15 and it took me a good two to three years before I mastered that game and completed it.

The first time I ever saw and played on a console was at youth club at about the age of 12 or 13. I can’t remember the exact model, but it was an Atari and the game us kids played on the most was called Pitfall. 

Although the Atari was a huge success during the late 70’s through to the mid-80’s, I can honestly say I didn’t know anyone who actually owned one, apart from our youth club. To be honest I didn’t really spend too much time playing on the Atari, I was too busy getting up to no good with my mates whilst wearing our skin tight jeans and luminous yellow socks. Oh yes that was the fashion at the time, spray on jeans as we used to call them and to gain access into these jeans you literally had to give yourself a wedgy, the most effective way I found getting into them was to pull on them as hard as you possibly could whilst bouncing around your bedroom like a baby kangaroo on a diet of smarties, after about five minutes of this you were in. Once in the spray ons, the bottoms of them would sit about 2-3 inches above your shoes so the luminous yellow socks could be seen by anyone within a one mile radius. Oh dear, what a bunch of Wally’s we all must of looked, but hey, it was the 80s, it was allowed. And the fashion seems to have come back around again anyway, haha!

Getting away from baby kangaroos and bunches of Wally’s, although the Atari wasn’t the world’s first games console, it was the first console to be a huge commercial success which shaped the way forward for all the consoles that have succeeded it…… and I got to play on it.

My first experience of video games in the home was round my best mates house. His parents bought him a Commodore 64 and we would spend many evenings in his bedroom waiting for the games to load, back then we spent more time loading them than we did playing them. A few months later, Christmas arrived, it would have been around 1985 and I managed to talk my parents into buying me a Commodore 64 which cost £200, a lot of money now, let alone then, but I managed to talk them round to my way of thinking and get one. However when the C64 first hit British shores in 1983 to take on the British built and market leader Sinclair ZX Spectrum, it cost a whopping £399 where the ZX cost less than half at £175. By 1986 the C64 had taken top spot and was outselling the ZX. Did I ever play on the ZX? Well I seem to remember my cousin having a ZX, but cant remember what games we played on it. I also remember going round a friend of my mates who had one and we played Manic Miner on that, and I recall the graphics being pretty similar in standard to the C64, maybe the Commodore slightly edged it.

Leading up to that Christmas, I remember going shopping with my mother to buy some games for the C64 so I had some to play on, on Christmas day. The first game I bought that day was called Monty on the Run and it cost £9.95, this is one of the games my mate and I had wasted large parts of our teenage years waiting to load in his bedroom, and I wanted that game too. This game from memory used to take about 20-30 minutes to load and would quite often crash right at the end and the process would have to start all over again. Very expensive games were made on a cartridge which had an instant loading time but most games back then were on cassette tape and the loading times were horrendous. Another downside to gaming in the 80s for most kids playing in their bedrooms was, most of us had black and white TVs, yes we had to play our games in black and white but we were the lucky ones because a lot of kids didn’t even have a TV in their bedroom, let alone a computer to play games on. Other games I owned or played on the C64 were Manic Miner, Pole Position (but the graphics were awful compared to the arcade version) Kickstart, Ghostbusters, Bounty Bob Strikes Back, Fruit Machine Simulator, Rambo,  I also had a game which came free with the C64 on a cartridge called The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4, it was based on the TV series and it was utter tosh! If you don’t be believe me, please check out the video below, this game was about as addictive as pulling your finger nails out. The only good thing about this game was that it was on cartridge and it loaded instantly, had it of been on tape, its fair to say the loading time would of been more interesting than the game itself and without doubt just before the little analogue tape counter on the tape deck would of been nearing the end of loading the game, I would of been begging for it to crash!

At about the age of 15 my mate and  I started hanging around in our local café and played the arcaders in there, there was two I played an awful lot of and they were Pacland and Paperboy. I loved Pacland, the graphics were so smooth and cartoony, which is what got me hooked on it, I don’t think I ever completed this game but I certainly got very close if I didn’t. Paperboy I did complete, took me a while but I did complete and loved that game too.

After all this, gaming would pretty much leave my life for quite a few years while I went out into that big wide world and built a life, but it came crashing back into it in the late 90s when I went out to buy my sons first ever console, the PS One, for Christmas. I distinctly remember when I got it home I just had to give it a try to make sure it worked before wrapping it up and putting it under the tree lol. Gaming was back in my life!

Today I’m playing Battlefield 3 and experiencing graphics I hoped as a kid gaming would achieve one day, but never believed it would happen in my lifetime.

Also the ability to game with your friends whilst they are sitting in their house and you are sitting in yours playing over the thing they call the internet.

It’s fair to say the internet conversation was way beyond our imaginations and never discussed when my mate and I were growing bum fluff waiting for Monty to load.

That’s ‘My Retro Years’, if you are still reading thank you, the rest of TeamZ1G will also be telling their stories in the coming weeks. But us here at Zero1Gaming would like to get to know our readers better and what better way to do that is to hear your story too, every gamer has a beginning and every gamer has a different story to tell, we would love to hear your story and share it by publishing it on this very feature.

If you are interested in telling us your story, please contact us using the form below, our Facebook page or drop me a tweet over on Twitter.

Before I leave, I would just like to take this opportunity as it will be a while before I post again, to thank  all of Team Z1G, Anthony, Hannah, Kirsty, Matt, Mike, Ollie, Rachel, Raymond and Tim for all their hard work and fantastic content they provide for Zero1Gaming, thanks guys. Also like to thank a very special person in my life called Ally, she has supported Z1G from day one and helps me daily with bits and pieces behind the scenes, thanks girl. Last but not least, thank you to each and every one of you who has supported us since we launched, that goes to everyone who reads our posts, follows us on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, retweets our tweets, reads and shares our Facebook page posts. I have met some truly wonderful people over the last nine months, thank you all so very much.

I think it’s time I returned to my comfort zone, slip back behind the scenes, grab the steering wheel of the Twitter feed and leave this writing malarkey to the experts.

Please check out the videos of some of the games mentioned above and don’t forget to contact us with your ‘Retro Years’.

Thanks for reading

Paul

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Battlefield 3

From the first second it looked fantastic. Sublime. A perfect combo of graphics and attempts to murder my lovingly crafted PC. Never before, not even in the likes of Crysis, have I seen this much beauty packed into 1 PC game. Even with all settings on low it looks like a masterpiece, something done by one of the great artists of our ages. Standard Definition videos do not flatter this game, they make it feel underdressed, the viewers are only seeing the standard, nothing special but the people playing the games know just how jaw-dropping the scenes are.

I honestly expected a little more from the singleplayer but these days it seems if it has explosions and around 5 hours of missions then it should be the only thing in a military first-person shooter that you experience alone.

And a decent singleplayer experience is just what dice served up, filled with the old Russian bad guys and plot to blow up New York. EA were trying to beat Call of Duty but it seems they just ended up making the same singleplayer game as their slightly bigger competitors. More of the same as your competitors with the same idea may sell but it never makes it sell more.

This was of little importance of course. What really matters in these games is the multiplayer. In theory Battlefield‘s multiplayer is a great blend of teamwork and big guns, combining the 2 best aspects of war games and mashing them in with prone – a feature that has not been seen in the Battlefield franchise of years. All of these features combined can surely take down the might of Call of Duty MW3 which is in all probability the same game as they released 4 years ago. That was what Electronic Arts believed, so they made a game that struck the target market where Activision did not.

Call of Duty caters to the casual market, whereas Electronic Arts decided that the hardcore PC player should be playing their games. If they can’t win in sales they can win in their audiences skill level would be another thought running through EA’s CEO’s mind when marketing this game. His tactics here seem to have worked, you have people of very high skill level who have undoubtedly been playing First Person Shooters with their keyboard and mouse for years, so much their gameplay is near impeccable.

Of course all these professional champions who are skilled enough to induce rage in the opposing team and clear entire servers makes it hard for people who are not natural-born perfectionists at military FPS’s with a keyboard and mouse (such as myself) to get a foot in the door. Thankfully EA have realised all the new arrivals to their franchise have to learn to play well with friends somewhere and have put in a superb co-op mode, based on the missions in the campaign. For me these missions are of a higher quality than those in the campaign so I think we can be expecting some DLC for those missions.

The Multiplayer maps, as always in the Battlefield franchise, are huge. The highlight map has to be Seine Crossing, with house to house action unseen in a game this large. An honourable mention though to Caspian Border, I just can’t resist hopping in the jets whose only purpose seems to be crashing, going far to fast and blowing up other jets. More useful are the helicopters. Though hard to master they can act as valuable tools in the heat of battle, whether it be covering a bomb sites and conquest flag or troop transports to swiftly manoeuvre your men from one side of the fantastic and beautiful map to the opposite end, and drop them off at a bomb site and rain down hot lead from the heavens to stop them being slaughtered by the mass of enemy troops on the opposing team.

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64 players has to be one of the best features, bringing the constant action up to the fast pace of Call of Duty at times, but people nick the vehicles so you often have to think (and walk) on your feet. At this point I have made the game seem like a paradise nobody but the sternest anti-FPS gamers could hope to resist the allure of. Sadly this idea I planted in your head with this review is quite mistaken. I absolutely despise this game as much as I love it.

To be specific I detest the EA servers that host the multiplayer games and co-op. The game is riddled with holes (not bullet ones either) and glitches. It will crash for no reason and refuses to run if I have steam open. Origin is terrible and even more shocking is the battlelog system implemented. It was quite obviously a rushed response to Call of Duty‘s Elite service and it really shows. Whatever happened to using in game menus EA? Tiptoeing outside the regular gaming box with their in-game things was a terrible idea and really marks this game down purely for awkwardness with doing anything with your friends.

Joining a game is hell, servers will be full the moment you click join and if you by some unearthly miracle do manage to get into a game with 3 other friends in tow you shall be split up into different squads, forcing you to delve into the multiplayer in-game menus, which I have to say are superb, and leaving your squad and joining another.

EA have been so badly engrossed in their war with Activision over their sales they forgot to produce a great game, which is why I am giving Battlefield 3 a 7. Not because it isn’t good, but out of pure frustration that Dice could have done a far superior job sorting out the game.

7/10

Dark Souls

You’d think that the most immersive game world would be the most fantastic, the most beautiful, and the most addictive. But often it is not the beautiful worlds and perfect scenery that capture and sell a game. Some games, much like Dark Souls are in no way perfect but capture you in that world. You feel life. You feel death. You feel cows. Well maybe not cows but it certainly drags you into the game like nothing else.

Even when you are away from the game of a night, because you are tired of death and misery, a feeling that you should actually be playing Dark Souls emerges. It then grips you and makes you obsessed. You HAVE to get past these enemies. You HAVE to beat that boss. Just as you finish a level you have feel that you must return to the dangerous world and play it again.

It gets under your skin like nothing else you will ever experience. I couldn’t leave it alone. In the course of a week I spent over 30 hours on it. I didn’t even know I had 30 hours of spare time to spend! Sometimes you just put the controller on the floor and walk away for 20 minutes because it is so hard but no matter the fury you had at it when you left it will be gone and you will be back playing Dark Souls within half an hour, still dying at the same point but perseverance will serve you well and you will finally get past your obstacle, however big and however deadly.

Dark Souls, unlike it’s spiritual predecessor Demon Souls, is very varied in the choices you make and the things you can do. Most of the game shows multiple paths you can choose, but some will be locked to you and some will show you nothing but death. There is a slight amount of trial and error, as some paths can take a lot of time to go along or hold the deadliest enemies along them but some reduce time spent travelling significantly and can help you avoid hordes of enemies that could pose a threat.

 

The enemy archetypes are varied. Early on you will only be facing zombielike creatures which are easy to take down and only vary in weapons and shields. Don’t get too relaxed though, they can still be tough if you don’t think about the combat and what you are doing. The game forces you to be awake and ready at all times. Every single second you are open to ambush and it really makes you feel like you are vulnerable no matter where you are.

My first experience of the game was not having a clue what everything was. Attacks got to be a button right? Wrong. Being completely inexperienced at RPG’s like this may have been a setback now that I look at it. I journeyed on, not dying for the first half-hour I had played the game. I was as pleased as punch, I thought that this game was really hard. I had conquered a boss with little difficulty and was making great progress. That was until I chose the wrong path. At first I thought I had hit the jackpot, treasure chests all around me, loads of goods I plundered.

There wasn’t an obvious exit in the form of a door so I took a small jump that didn’t hurt my health. What I happened to leap into, unbeknownst to me was a graveyard. No biggie I thought. It’s not like there will be skeletons rising from the ground. Next thing I know there were skeletons rising from the ground. I really should’ve guessed, what with it being a graveyard. I hit one of the skeletons with my sword and discovered it had little health and I knocked half of its body off. Easy. Too easy. And sure enough it was. The skeleton just rose again at full health. It was obvious that I would not defeat 1 bony assailant, let alone 2 I tried running. Through the graveyard. I couldn’t help feeling like an absolute idiot as I picked up about 20 skeletons who were now chasing me and to make problems worse there were now really big ones with weapons. Running wasn’t an option but death was.

I then knew not to go that way. That is a prime example of how Dark Souls gives you a boot in the arse for going the wrong direction and teaches you to be very wary at all times. From that moment in the game onwards I always checked my back, always made sure I was not wandering down the path of certain death and I must say it is fantastic. There is a thrill every time you defeat a boss, or do something smart, or go the right way. It makes you glad to be alive. And glad to be dead.

I would recommend Dark Souls to only the most dedicated players. It is a trek that will have you mad but gives a challenge that just no other game does. This in an absolute gem of a game from Namco Bandai and even if it has flaws you are too busy shouting to see them.

9/10

Destructopus

Games for the mobile community are notoriously difficult to get right. You can have a game that looks quite good, but is in fact a buggy nightmare and a disaster to play, or there are the games that are great to play, but look a bit like a reject from the days of the ZX Spectrum. Only a certain few games manage to get the balance between controls & graphics. Unfortunately Destructopus doesn’t quite fall into that category, but it’s a really good effort.

In Destructopus you play as a rampaging monster who has just received the wake up call from hell, namely an off-shore oil drill into the head – ouch! Clearly a bit aggrieved by this intrusion you stick your head up to find the planet in a bit of a state, namely down to those pesky humans. As an environmental activist you decide to take some direct action and destroy as many buildings, cities, power plants and factories as you can and if those humans try and stop you. Well, you have woken up hungry, so they probably deserve it.

The game takes place over four zones covering city, forest, desert and wasteland, with each zone containing five levels. You trample through each level destroying what you can using three basic attacks; swipe with your claw, chomp with your mouth or shoot a laser beam out of your eye. As the destructible environment is different you will need to use all three to get the most points. Some buildings are higher and require a mouth chomp, others are lower and need a swipe and some require a bit of both.

Of course the homo-sapiens aren’t about to let you destroy all they have built and will fight back in the form of soldiers shooting at you, as well as tanks, attack choppers and fighter jets. These also require a combination of the three attack moves to kill.

You control the monster using an onscreen set of buttons, a joystick in the left hand corner and the three attack buttons on the right hand side. Your monster can move forwards, shuffle backwards and duck. Duck is used to avoid certain enemy attacks and it’s at this point that the game moves from easy pastime to frustratingly annoying.

The controls themselves are a little bit flimsy, you will find yourself pressing the same button a few times because you didn’t press it in the right place, the aiming for the laser beam is tricky to get right and you’ll miss targets more than you will hit them.  At the start the amount of enemies on the screen is at a manageable level, however as you progress it becomes more and more difficult to actually avoid any attacks successfully due to the amount of rockets/bullets heading towards you at the same time.

The control scheme and the abundance of enemies on screen do let this game down. Early on you can see the fun the developers had creating it, sending a stack of storage tanks flying to squash three people as they run for their lives. The game also looks great, with smooth running graphics and a fair bit of detail. The sound of the game is ok, in the menu screens you’ll have a riff of guitar music playing however in game there’s no music at all, just the screams and squishes of the human racing fleeing.

Glitchsoft seem to be committed to this game and are in the progress of preparing other modes and updates for it, maybe in one of those they will update the control scheme to something a bit more manageable.

Destructopus is made by Glitchsoft Corporation and is currently free on the App Store.

7/10

Metroid Prime

Being asked to pick your favourite game of all time and review it is, in my opinion, like asking a parent to pick a favourite child and to announce it in front of all their other children, and then give a list of reasons as to why this child is better than the other. I’ve been gaming for about 20 years now and I’ve played many games, some beyond awesome, some not so awesome and some I would rather forget, so trying to whittle it down to one game was a tough job.

After much floor pacing, list making and consulting with auguries, the afterlife and other gamers I managed to settle on one game and annoyingly it was one of my original choices.

Metroid Prime may not be the most iconic of the much loved, but lesser known Nintendo franchise, for that accolade please see Super Metroid, but it is the game that the word “game-changing” was invented for. Released between November 2002 and April 2003, depending on where you are in the world, Metroid Prime was the rebirth of a franchise that some considered dead. It was also the first Metroid game in eight years, the previous instalment being the aforementioned Super Metroid. The game continues the adventures of everyone’s favourite Bounty Hunter as she travels through the galaxy kicking Space Pirate booty!

For those of you that have never played a Metroid game Samus Aran is our protagonist in the ongoing fight against the evil Space Pirate horde. At this point in the series she is a bit of a mystery, but what we do know is that she was born on a planet that came under Space Pirate attack, her parents were killed in the attack and she grew up vowing to avenge them. She briefly joined the Galactic Federation, however she soon dropped out for reasons unknown at this time and went freelance.

The plot finds Samus answering a distress call from a Space Pirate frigate, finding some rather unseemly experiments and bumping into her old pal Ridley. Ridley was last seen burning to death in some lava eight years ago although as the Metroid Prime Trilogy takes place before the events of Super Metroid Ridley hasn’t actually been burnt yet. The Metroid timeline is a confusing place to be. Second degree burns aside; he has been put back together and is now known as Meta Ridley. New and improved Meta Ridley then scarpers to a nearby planet with Samus in hot pursuit.

Samus lands on this new planet and after a bit of exploring discovers the planet is known as Tallon IV and that it was once a part of the vast Chozo civilisation. Our heroine then proceeds to search the planet and try and find out what it is the Space Pirates are up to. The game continues to use the same path as previous Metroid games – an “open” world that requires certain upgrades to allow you to fully explore. So while not exactly a groundbreaking plot it was the way in which this game was presented that really makes it stand out.

In the eight years since Super Metroid, gaming had moved on in leaps and bounds. The move away from 2D side-scrolling games prompted Nintendo and Retro Studios to try something new and different. Nintendo crafted the moniker “first person adventure” and promised fans that they would get something completely mind blowing.  They delivered.

From the first moment Samus’ ship lands on the abandoned frigate Orpheon, to the final battle with the Phazon corrupted Metroid, Metroid Prime is a visual feast. The textures, the colours, the scenery, it is beautiful to behold.  After so long out of the spotlight Nintendo had to show fans that it was committed to the Metroid franchise, and that the eight-year wait between games had been worth it. Retro Studios cancelled four other games in order to concentrate on Prime and the dedication shows.

When the move from 2D Samus to 3D Samus was announced the fans reaction was overwhelmingly negative. Fans just couldn’t imagine how their beloved heroine was going to move and many thought that Nintendo was taking too big a risk and that Retro Studios should be given a project with less history and preconceived ideas. The gamble truly paid off and the game was a massive critical success. It won numerous “Game of the Year” awards, was given some of the highest scores on any game during the Gamecube era and beyond, and still to this day it regularly crops in the Top Ten of many “Games of all Time” lists.

The Metroid franchise has always been popular with the sub group of gamers called Speed Runners. The current quickest completion time for Metroid Prime is 1 hour and 1 minute! The best 100% completion time is 1 hour and 24 seconds! If you’ve played any games of the series before you know that that is an amazing achievement

I could literally talk and write for hours about this game, trilogy and franchise as a whole. Ever since those crazy Super Metroid days I have been in love with this series and even when the series falters (see Metroid: Other M) they can still produce something amazing. Metroid Prime was the first part of the “Prime Trilogy”, followed by Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Prime & Prime 2 were both on the Gamecube with Prime 3 being released on the Wii. In 2009 the whole trilogy was re-released with added wiimote capability on one disc for the Wii however I am aware that some regions have now discontinued this and it was never released in Japan. Personally I’m looking forward to the inevitable HD remake when the Wii U hits in a few years. The thought of Metroid in HD is beyond awesome!

So, if you haven’t played the series before or if you haven’t played it for a while I recommend you do so now. Dust off that Gamecube pad, hunt for that memory card, sit down and be prepared to remember why you love gaming.

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