Eurogamer Expo Kicks off in London

October 30, 2009 by Andy Giff  
Filed under News, Nintendo, PC, Playstation, Xbox

The Eurogamer Expo currently in it's second year is in London for the next two days

The Eurogamer Expo currently in it's second year is in London for the next two days

Almost 2000 people queued up at 11 o’clock this morning to get into the second Eurogamer expo in London where many of this year and next year’s new releases are being shown off to the public.

After a successful two days at the Royal Armouries in Leeds the expo has moved down to the Old Billingsgate building in London for today and tomorrow. Late announcement Battlefield Bad Company 2 features alongside titles such as Mass Effect 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Left 4 Dead 2 that are playable at the Expo.

New, Bigger DSi Announced

October 29, 2009 by Andy Giff  
Filed under News, Nintendo

The new, much bigger DSi LL/XL

The new, much bigger DSi LL/XL

Nintendo has recently confirmed it’s latest modification of it’s insanely popular handheld. The new DSi LL, as it is currently being called over in Japan, features a 4.2 inch screen (1.3 times bigger than the DSi screen), improved battery life and a jazzy new “Dark Brown” paint job.

Penned for a November 21 release in Japan at a price of 20,000 Yen it will come with three free DSi-ware games including two Brain Age titles. It is apparantly targetting a more mature audience that prefer their handhelds to be larger (with a weight of 314 grams it is hardly suitable to fit in a young child’s pocket).

If you feel like upgrading to the latest DS yet again then you won’t have too long to wait as Nintendo have slated a Quarter 1 2010 release in Europe as the DSi XL. Some may say it is too soon, and also argue that bigger is not necessarily better for a handheld, but the bigger screen will certainly be exciting for some…

Tower Bloxx Deluxe

October 29, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under PC, Reviews, Xbox Live Arcade

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Overview

Title: Tower Bloxx Deluxe

Release Date: 21/10/2009

Developer/Publisher: Digital Chocolate

Genre: Family, Puzzla & Trivia

Platform[s]: Xbox Live Arcade, PC, Mobile Phones

Storyline

The city of Sunnyvale is in decline. The population is shrinking and its shops and businesses are closing down – and that’s where you and your avatar come in!! Using the cheap and affordable Tower Bloxx of the title, you’re tasked with rebuilding Sunnyvale’s towns and villages in an attempt to improve the population count and get the wheels of industry turning once more in this colourful, kiddie-lite puzzler. Digital Chocolate are well known for making simple, fun and kid-friendly titles on both PC and Mobile, and Tower Bloxx Deluxe is it’s first foray into console gaming. Based on a simple flash game for the PC where you have to drop living quarters (or Bloxx, if you prefer) on top of each other to create blocks of flats, the Deluxe version takes things into the third dimension and adds a few different game types to mix it up a bit.

Gameplay

In keeping with the original, TBD’s gameplay is extremely simple – your Avatar controls a crane that drops levels in a tower block on top of each other, with the key being to place them as squarely as possible – press A to drop your block, new residents begin to fly in on umbrellas (Mary Poppins style), Sunnyvale gets its economy back and everyone’s happy. But, things aren’t that simple – successfully landing your blocks on top of each other requires a keen eye and quick reactions, as off-centre placements will cause your building to start swaying (disturbingly, this doesn’t discourage people from brollying in) and you’ll soon find yourself locked into a battle of wits as you try to predict how sharp the sway of your building will be compared to the swing of the block you’re waiting to drop.

Points are scored for every block you drop successfully, and if you manage a perfect drop it encourages more new residents to move in to your building, increasing your overall population and score multiplier. If you miss a block it tumbles to the ground and, if you’re very unlucky, it may even knock a few levels off your tower, decreasing your population and score. It’s a fairly annoying prospect at times, particularly if you’ve spent ages antagonizing over the perfect time to drop your block only to watch it sail off into the distance, knocking out a few floors as it goes.

As you progress through the main story mode, you unlock new tower types offering more floors and extra residential spaces, adding a subtle strategy element to the proceedings – each town is made up of a grid and you decide which colour towers to place in each slot. Each tower has to be placed correctly (red can only sit next to a blue, for example), and some micromanagement is involved with rebuilding old towers with new blocks that encourage more residents to move in, capitalizing on space and resources.

Alongside the main game, Digital Chocolate have thrown in a local co-op mode (presumably in an attempt to get kids and their parents gaming together), where one player drops the blocks whilst the other nudges the off-centre ones into place. There are also 4vs4 local matches available, Time Attack modes and a Single Game where you’re challenged with building as big a tower as you can, eventually ending up in space where new residents zoom in wearing astronaut suits and jetpacks. Surprisingly, there is a complete lack of Online play – but you can send your friends a challenge to beat your score in the single build-as-big-a-tower-as-you-can mode, but we can’t help imagining what an online co-op session would be like.

Graphics

Matching the simple gameplay, TBD’s graphics are bright, bold and undeniably colourful – making it an instant winner with the kids. The overall look and feel is very My Sims, and the addition of Avatars as residents is a nice touch. Progressing from the hustle and bustle of the city into the sky and then into space is quite an amazing journey, and the little touches (like the astronauts and jetpacks) make a big difference and show some care and attention to detail has been taken. The Avatars themselves aren’t overly well animated, as most of them seem to statically glide across the screen into the buildings, but most of the time you won’t even notice.

Every now and again a prompt to press Y to “watch” will appear, and these opportunities focus in on an Avatar wandering around on the ground to an aeroplane circling your building – they’re all delightfully random but we can imagine little ones will enjoy these minor diversions. The swing of the buildings is also convincing, but it makes you wonder A) why they don’t topple and B) people keep moving into them, even when you’re 150+ blocks deep and in outer space…

Audio


Sonically, TBD continues the kid-friendly feel with cute (see: grating) music that bumbles happily along in the background, convincing you that the wheels of industry and turning and that you’re actually getting something done. In outer space the soundtrack goes all “out there” with the kind of weird noises that you would hear (we imagine). When you place a block perfectly, a whole bunch of Avatars fly into your building with a Lemmings-esque “wheeeeee”, which never fails to raise a smile, and the other incidental sound effects (aeroplanes buzzing about, for instance) all fit nicely into the game.

Overall Score & Replayability

Although it’s an extremely simple game, it does take some getting used to, and it won’t be long before you’re retrying towers over and over again, or challenging your friends to see who can build the biggest – plus there’s some tantalizing achievement points on offer (build a tower of 100 blocks, for example) which are worth hunting down. The lack of online multiplayer is a downer, and we can only see Tower Bloxx Deluxe being played in small bouts – it doesn’t lend itself to long play sessions as things can get too repetitive, even for the least ADHD-affected kid you can muster. To be fair, the 800MSP price point is a bit high when you look at the overall quality of the game, and bar something to keep the little oiks occupied over half term we can’t see this having much long-term value.

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‘We Sing’ Debut Trailer

October 23, 2009 by Susan Taylor  
Filed under News, Nintendo

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Nordic Games has just released the debut trailer for their upcoming singing game We Sing. Coming exclusively to the Nintendo Wii across Europe and Australia on November 13th, We Sing is the first karaoke game to feature simultaneous four-player participation!

The trailer shows the various game modes interlaced with some gameplay footage.  Game modes shown include; Solo, Versus, Group Battle, First to 5000 and Pass the Mic.

It’s a Rock Band Halloween

October 23, 2009 by Susan Taylor  
Filed under News, Nintendo

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Harmonix and MTV Games today announced their spookiest DLC packs yet, all of which will be available to download via the Rock Band Music Store next week, just in time for Halloween. Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii owners can pick these up on October 27th and Playstation 3 owners can grab them on October 29th.

These tracks will be available for purchase as a Rob Zombie pack, a Wolfmother Pack and as individual tracks on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 system and as individual tracks on Wii.

The track listing is a good one and is the perfect addition to any Halloween parties you may be holding this year!

• Rob Zombie – Burn
• Rob Zombie – Dragula
• Rob Zombie – Superbeast
• Wolfmother – New Moon Rising
• Wolfmother – Pilgrim
• Wolfmother – Sundial
• Wolfmother – White Unicorn
• Wolfmother – Woman
• Liz Phair – Rock Me
• Morningwood – Best of Me
• Morningwood – Sugarbaby

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

October 23, 2009 by Rob Knight  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews

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Overview

Title: Uncharted 2

Release Date: 16th October 2009

Developer/Publisher: Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America

Genre: Third Person Action Adventure

Platform[s]: Playstation 3

Storyline

Uncharted 2, the sequel to the critically acclaimed PS3 exclusive from developers Naughty Dog has arrived a little under two years after the original and once again finds roguish hero Nathan Drake on the trail of fortune and glory. An artefact found in a ship that was part of Marco Polo’s lost journey returning from China in 1292 leads Drake, Victor Sullivan and new allies Chloe Frazer & Harry Flynn on the trail of the “wish-fulfilling” Cintimani Stone. As with any good action adventure all does not go to plan however and twists and turns along the way see Nathan in a race against time and a gang of mercenaries lead by a crazed war criminal to be the first to reach the treasure.

Gameplay

While the original Uncharted was seen as a poster boy for the then underused power of the PS3, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves truly is an amazing step in really showing what the console is capable of. All features and characters from the original are present and correct but it is apparent right from the start that Naughty Dog have not rested on their laurels and churned out a carbon-copy sequel, instead fashioning what is one of the most visually stunning and groundbreaking titles of this console generation.

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Obvious comparisons will always be made to the Tomb Raider series and more recently Gears of War and its’ sequel on Xbox 360 but I truly cannot remember enjoying a game as much and feeling the urge to carry on playing into the wee small hours in a long time, if indeed ever. With regard to the breaking of new ground I feel that you have to look back as far as the original Tomb Raider on PS1 to find an equal and, dare I say it, the spectacular set pieces from the Gears of War and Killzone series are distant memories once you have played through the first few levels of Uncharted 2.

The developer has made a conscious effort to improve the maligned aspects of the original such as the repetitive ledge-to-ledge jumping (or in my case plunging to my doom) and room-clearing gunplay as well as the underwhelming but much trumpeted hand-to-hand combat system that prevented Drakes Fortune from receiving higher review scores overall. Four difficulty levels from Very Easy to Hard also make this accessible to a wide range of players who may possibly be more used to the FPS genre with the added bonus that you can change the difficulty on the fly.

In almost all aspects of the improvements the creases have been well and truly ironed out although a few niggly moments in climbing sections require you to try a few times in order for your character to realise where you are trying to get to next. Also fairly early on a number of enemies appear that are near impossible to defeat which, while not a bad thing as far as difficulty goes, can be a frustrating leap up from the more general enemies that are encountered. There is also a level, which by means of a flash-forward at the very start of the game, is somewhat repeated later on but even this is handled differently the second time around so it’s absolutely not a game-breaker.

The selection of landscapes in which levels take place along with swings in tempo where one moment you find yourself fleeing down narrow streets from a truck or hanging from a train while escaping a helicopter gunship are then countered with sections through chilling icy levels and a near silent breather through a Himalayan village.

The truly great script includes some genuine laughs and the neatly paced scattering of set-pieces really does make this seem more action film than action game. Attention to detail is also spot on with the puzzle-breaking Journal (called into action on numerous occasions throughout the game) containing many revealing insights into the character of Nathan Drake ranging from graphs of scariness, the bottom level of which is shown to be Sully’s moustache! to a list of Drake’s girlfriends past.

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New to this series is the introduction of Multiplayer which includes many of the standard modes such as Deathmatch, Elimination, King of the Hill and the Domination-like Chain Reaction which provides players with the option to extend their playing experience beyond the single-player campaign and also includes co-op levels and machinima mode along with multiplayer cinema replay mode. This is however extra icing on the cake to what is the major draw of the title, namely the main storyline.

Graphics

You may have already picked up that graphically this game is stunning. On an HD display the 720p vistas have such high levels of detail that you will find yourself wishing that the single player had a cinema mode also that would let you pause the game, swing the camera around and simply stare at what surrounds your character. Indeed on levels such as Locomotion there’s so much detail missed as you rumble along hanging onto or running across the top of the train that I started to wonder how much time the team had spent drawing this largely unseen yet amazing scenery. In fact, Naughty Dog have stated in interviews that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves uses between 90 & 100% of the Cell Processor’s power and takes up nearly the full capacity of the 25GB available to them on the Blu-Ray and you have to say that it shows.
It’s also quite telling in the 11 hours and 11 minutes that my first play through took that the statistics screen tells me I stood still for 1 hour and 40 minutes – admiring the views !

Sound

I played the game both through a home cinema amp and using headphones (for late-night playing into the early hours – it really is worth losing sleep over) and in both instances the sound field including explosions & gunshots, crashing cars, trucks & locomotives through to the serenity of children playing in the Himalayan village and birds tweeting in the jungle were perfectly balanced.

Audiophiles are more than catered for with audio mode selections including Stereo, Stereo Headphones, Dolby Pro Logic II, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, PCM 5.1 and PCM 7.1 taking full advantage of pretty much every setup that anyone may play the game through.

Overall Score and Replayability

With obvious nods to the Indiana Jones series and The Empire Strikes Back amongst others this truly mindblowing game goes further in blurring the line between game and film as entertainment media than any preceding it. Where Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare included superb storytelling, level variation and multiplayer excellence, this includes all of that and characters that you feel an affinity towards by the time the credits roll.
I can’t wait to start my next playthrough of the single player campaign, trophy support and multiplayer will add longevity and variation as needed and there is even a Twitter feed update option that, although seemingly broken at the moment, will tweet level and chapter progress as you go and annoy your friends !

Final words – one of the best games I have played in a very long time, if you have a PS3, 11-15 hours available to you and are 15 or over (the BBFC is still watching after all ;-) ) buy it, buy it, buy it. You will absolutely not be disappointed.

Major Nelson dismisses Blu-ray link

October 23, 2009 by Daniel Gillespie  
Filed under News

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Yesterday we reported that Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, let slip that Blu-ray accessories could well be on their way to the Xbox 360.

Even though Microsoft already released a statement backtracking Ballmer’s comments, Major Nelson has today come out and pretty much closed the idea of Blu-ray coming to the Xbox. He said:

“During an interview yesterday, Steve Ballmer was asked about Blu-ray and the Xbox 360. I want to clear something up – Steve was referring to Blu-ray accessories for the PC. As we have said in the past, we have no plans to introduce a Blu-ray drive for the Xbox 360. In fact, the future of home entertainment starts very soon when Xbox 360 becomes the first and only console to offer instant-on 1080p streaming HD movies. With a library of thousands of TV shows and movies to choose from, Xbox 360 owners can instantly watch the movies they want, when they want, in the highest form of high definition.”

Who knows what to make of this…

Army of Two: The 40th Day – New Video & Screenshots Released!

October 23, 2009 by Susan Taylor  
Filed under News, Playstation, Xbox

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Army of Two: The 40th Day is the sequel to the hit third person shooter, Army of Two. Set in Shanghai, China the game focuses on the Army of Two fighting their way through the city as they try to uncover the secret of the 40th Day. The game is looking very snazzy indeed and we have six new screenshots to share with you all and an exciting video previewing the “Extraction” multiplayer mode for the game.

You don’t have too long to wait to get your hands on this game, it is set for release on the 15th of January 2010 (Jan 8th for Europe) and is coming to the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PSP.

Roll on January 2010!

10 New Prison Break Screenshots

October 23, 2009 by Susan Taylor  
Filed under News, PC, Playstation, Xbox

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Prison Break: The Conspiracy is an upcoming game by Zootfly, based on the hit TV series Prison Break. It will be available on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. The game was originally due for release earlier this year, but due to The Company closing down it was put on  “indefinite hiatus” until a new publisher was found.

If the screenshots below are anything to go by, this is going to be one game I’m glad that made it to the shelves.

Panzer General: Allied Assault

October 22, 2009 by Susan Taylor  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox Live Arcade

Overview

Title: Panzer General: Allied Assault

Release Date: 21st October 2009

Genre: Strategy/Card Game

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade

Developer/Publisher: Petroglyph Games / Ubisoft

Storyline

Panzer General Allied Assault follows the last two years of World War II. It is June 1944 and America has joined the Allies in the war against Germany. It is up to you to gather your troops and march across the battlefields to defeat your opponent. You will take the beaches of Normandy, fight for victory in the Battle of the Bulge and seek to take control of strategic German cities in Operation Lumberjack.

Gameplay

If you loved Magic: The Gathering, than this is the next game for you to buy. Panzer is a strategical card game played on top of a board game setting. The object of the game is to commander a large unit of troops across the board to defeat your enemy. As this is a strategy game you really need to concentrate on thinking tactically, as one wrong move could cost you the lives of your men.

There are three game types for you to choose from – Campaign, Skirmish and Multiplayer. The campaign is your basic singleplayer mode as you work through the story of the war up to it’s end. Skirmish gives you control over what map you play, which faction and side you play on and even the objectives for the game. Multiplayer is what it says on the tin, online gameplay with others.

It is clear from the start that Petroglyph Games have put a lot of thought into how they would set up Panzer. With an in-depth “How to Play” system and a tutorial that is very easy to understand, this game can be easily picked up and enjoyed by gamers who are new to this genre. I personally found  Magic: The Gathering, to be a bit overwhelming, but Panzer has given me the chance to get my teeth into a decent card-based strategy game that has clear and concise instructions on how it is meant to be played.

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“Prestige” is the currency of the game, which is can be earned by taking over neutral/enemy tiles (which is rewarded to you at the end of your turn) and destroying enemy units. Prestige is used to buy new cards to add to your hand. You are given four new cards at the beginning of each turn and may hold as many cards in your hand as you like, but you cannot purchase new cards once you are holding ten. There are two types of cards that you can hold, Ability Cards (Action and Combat) and Unit Cards.

Unit Cards hold the key to game, without access to your troops you would have no chance in beating your foe. Units range from light infantry to heavy artillery. Each card has important information about your Unit; it’s health, defense, attack and any special support bonuses they offer the rest of your troops.

Action Cards can only be used during your main turn and not during combat. They require you to select a specific target on the board depending on it’s action. For example, you may want to call in a bombardment to destroy an enemy unit that has taken hold of a town you need.

Combat Cards can only be used during combat and never your main turn. You can use as little or as many combat cards as you please during combat, just thinking carefully about your choices.

Before each game you are given a mission briefing and objectives that need completing. Most games have more than one objective, but you do not have to complete them all to win the round. In fact, all you need to do is complete ONE objective to win.

The game begins with each person setting up their units onto the board and each player takes a turn to begin moving their troops across the map to achieve their goals. Combat arises when a unit is adjacent to an enemy and the decision is made to attack that enemy. This is where you can now use your combat cards to influence how the battle goes. Panzer has a very useful combat display at the top of the screen that shows the health, attack and defense values for the two units locked in combat. This game also goes one step further and shows you the potential values if you use X, Y or Z combat card.  So instead of a unit being able to retreat, you can select the correct card to use and the display will update to “Unit Will Die.”

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Once your combat card selection is done, you are then given a chance to sacrifice any card from your hand to further increase your attack or defense values. You may think you have the upper hand in combat with an attack of 20 versus your enemy’s defense of 10 and health of 5 – But if your enemy then sacrifice a card which increases it’s defense to 15 and you’ve not increased your attack power, than you have wasted a whole turn as you will not damage your enemy at all! So think wisely and seal their defeat by picking the right card to sacrifice in the moment of need.

Don’t think it’s over yet, there is one last aspect to combat that can be the make or break of your attack and that is the die roll. Once you’ve played your combat cards and sacrificed a card a single die is rolled, with a range from -2 to +3, which is then added/removed from the attack value. I was all prepared for a unit to die, but with the roll of the die my enemy’s attack value was decreased by 3 points and my men lived to see another battle.

Another great aspect of this game’s combat system is the supporting unit structure. For example, if you have a group of Paratroopers trying to destroy an enemy tank (which would be impossible to do alone), any of your units that are within range (tanks, artillery etc) are able to take part in the combat and increases the attack value, working in your favour. This means that placing your units around the board randomly is a bad idea – You need to think tactically!

Once you have successfully destroy an enemy unit, you are given the choice to either gain a certain amount of Prestige or to take that amount from your opponent. You are also faced with the decision of advancing forwards onto the tile where you enemy just stood. Sometimes it is in your advantage to move onwards and take it over, but if your enemy wasn’t defeated and merely retreated back than you may be in for some trouble.

There is a section for you to customise your deck (which feeds the hand you hold), but the system itself is quite confusing and Panzer has lost a few points from me here. As you progress through the Campaign you unlock new cards to use and, if you’re anything like me, you want to give those new cards a test-run on the battlefield… Good luck finding them!

Graphics

As this game is an Arcade game, don’t go expecting mind-blowing graphics with top-notch cinematics, because there aren’t any. None of this take away from the game itself as, to be fair, Panzer is a board game and I don’t think you could really make the game look anymore like a board ‘n card game than it already does.

Each map is based on famous battles and battlefields from World War II and although they aren’t exactly picture-perfect, they are interesting nonetheless and the terrain tiles match the terrain of that location. Panzer is a very colourful 3D game which doesn’t have cringe-worthy pixel in sight.

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Audio

The musical score is very similar to what you would hear in other movies and games based around World War II, big brassy sounds and notes that inspire you to battle onwards to victory!

Sounds effects include troops shouting commands such as “Return fire!”, the sound of the waves, a seagull flying above, planes overheard and the sound of gunfire off in the distance. It’s the small details like this that really get you into a game and I am glad great attention was paid to this.

Overall Score & Replayability

Panzer General: Allied Assault is a highly addictive game if you’re the type of gamer who loves a) card games b) strategy games and c) World War II games. With a very steep learning curve, even the novices of this genre can pick this up for 800MS points and enjoy the pleasures of taking down their foe through their mind alone. Be sure to try out the multiplayer side of Panzer as well, especially if you’re an achievement whore looking to get a few new points to their name!

It is a shame that this game can be fully completed in a very short amount of time and has very little replayability within the single player mode and unless new maps are released (highly unlikely) than even the multiplayer mode will soon grow repetitive and tiresome.

That being said, if you’re looking for a nice little game to get addicted to for the meantime, definitely give this game a go.

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