Fallout 3 Avatar clothing hits Xbox Live this week

November 24, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under News, Xbox

Bethesda are releasing a rather snazzy line of Fallout 3 clothing for your Avatars this week – hitting on Thursday the 26th of November 2009.

The full list looks something like this, and although we still baulk at the idea of paying for the gear, the Vault Boy suit and head is just too awesome to miss.

  • Vault 101 Suit –   240 MS Points
  • Bethesda Game Studios Shirt — 80 MS Points
  • Fallout 3 Ringer Shirt – 80 MS Points
  • Vault Boy Shirt  — 80 MS Points
  • Vault Boy Suit — 240 MS Points
  • Vault Boy Head — 80 MS Points

All items are unisex, bar the Vault Boy suit and head – which is strictly for the guys.

Triple Whammy Xbox Live Deal of the Week!

November 24, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under News, Xbox

In a somewhat generous gesture, Microsoft are offering Xbox Live users 3 quite resepectable Deals of the Week to splash their hard-earned on this week.

First of all, Fable 2’s See The Future DLC has been reduced from 560MSP to 400MSP, which some people will feel is a fairer price point, given the comments on the length and quality of the content.
Click here to add Fable 2’s See The Future DLC to your download queue.

Surely the pick of the bunch is the ultra-addictive Peggle, usually priced at 800MSP and now at the ridiculously bargain price of 400MSP; VGR Network proven to waste more hours of your life than MW2 and the Eastenders ominbus’ combined. Click here to add Peggle to your download queue.

And finally, the probably quite overpriced in the first place Death Tank is reduced from 1200MSP to the slightly more worth it 800MSP. Imagine MW2 meets Worms with tanks instead of annelids and you’re halfway there with this side-on blastfest. Click here to add Death Tank to your download queue.

Madden NFL Arcade hits Xbox Live and PlayStation Network this week

November 24, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under News, Playstation, Xbox

EA’s first attempt to bring it’s much loved Madden series lands on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network tomorrow (Wednesday the 25th of November 2009).

Priced at 1200MSP on Xbox Live and 14.99USD (around £9.00) on PSN, the game offers fast-paced 5-on-5 action on a smaller than usual 60 yard field. A range of power-ups will also be available, as will the option to fully customize each match.

XBox Live “Super Guide” on it’s way

November 24, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under News, Xbox

Apparently, Microsoft have filed a patent for a “Super Guide” on Xbox Live – recently utilised in Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros Wii title.

Theoretically, players will be able to pause difficult sections of a game and pull up hints and walkthroughs submitted by other users. What format these guides will take is speculative at the moment, but it has been suggested video clips and “commentaries” will potentially be included as part of the service.

It is still up in the air as to whether the service will be free or available for Gold Xbox Live Members etc, but watch this space for further info.

What do you guys think? Would you be willing to use/pay for this kind of service? Would you want to submit your own content to help other frustrated gamers??

Bayonetta demo hits 3rd December

November 23, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under News, Playstation, Xbox

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Capcom’s latest femme fatale, the Sarah Palin-alike Bayonetta, hits the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live with a playable demo across the US and Europe on December 3rd.

Already receiving perfect scores from the likes of Edge and Weekly Famitsu – who awarded the Xbox 360 version of the title 10/10 and 40/40 respectively – Bayonetta is set for release in the US on the 5th of January 2010, and in Europe on the 8th of January 2010.

The game follows the heroine of the title as a witch-cum-sexy-librarian type creature, who blasts her enemies with swords and guns mounted to her ankles and also wears her hair like a costume – only removing it to summon massive demons to help fight off her ridiculously large enemies.

Xbox Live cull attracts legal action

November 23, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under News, Xbox

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In an amazing case of “cashing in”-ness, US law firm AbingtonIP is actively encouraging anyone banished from Xbox Live for having a modded console to contact them.

Although they agree that modded consoles are against the Xbox Live code of conduct, AbingtonIP’s main bugbear seems to be that Microsoft timed the ban to conincide with the release of Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2 - presumably accusing Microsoft of sucking as much money out of pre-orders as possible before bringing the banhammer down.

With up to one million users potentially being banned during the action worldwide, we expect AbingtonIP to make a shedload of cash before retiring to a place in the sun and chuckling to themselves whilst sipping Mojito’s.

Were you banned during the action? Would you consider contacting the law firm?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

November 20, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under PC, Playstation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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Overview

 

Title: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
 

Release Date: 10th November 2009 (Worldwide)
 

Developer/Publisher: Infinity Ward/Activision
 

Genre: Shooter
 

Platform[s]: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Storyline

 

Set five years after the death of Imran Zakhaev (Call of Duty 4’s main antagonist), the Ultranationalist party has taken control of Russia and starts attacking the US. A terrorist called Makarov (one of Zakhaev’s former generals) heads up the attacks, and it’s down to Soap and a host of new characters (along with an old favourite) to hunt Makarov and shut him down. Kicking off in Afghanistan and taking in many locations around the world from Washington D.C. to the Caucasus Mountains in Russia, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is an epic tale of battle, honour and betrayal that will – quite simply – blow your socks off, put them back on and then blow them off again, just for a laugh. And you will love every single bloody minute of it.

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Gameplay

First of all, the basics: MW2 plays exactly the same as CoD4, and despite a change to the HUD everything else remains the same. In case you haven’t played CoD4 (apparently there’s still a couple of you out there), LS controls movement, RS is the “look” function, RT is your (often hair) trigger, LT aims, LB and RB launch differing types of grenade, and the face buttons reload and switch weapons. MW2 also employs the same squad-based FPS action as the first outing, using increasingly impressive set-pieces and situations to move the action along – which, being honest, left a lot of gamers wondering if things could get any better after Zakhaev had been dispatched and, as it stands right now, let me be the first to tell you that things are precisely 153% better. Let’s get this straight, MW2 rocks. Not just in the “oooh, that’s quite good” way either, this is full-on-rock-and-roll “Ozzy Osbourne just jumped on stage with Kurt Cobain and Keith Moon and nailed a 20-minute long rendition of the best bit in Stairway To Heavenrocks.

The game starts with the standard training level, but instead of treating you like the newcomer, you’re instructing a group of new recruits at an Army base in Afghanistan. Wandering around the base post-training, the attention to detail becomes clear – soldiers play basketball, fix trucks, smoke and trade small talk, adding to the level of realism and helping you feel like you’re actually part of a living, breathing unit. This follows throughout the main campaign, and with increasingly hair-raising moments thrown at you (sometimes relentlessly), coupled with the sound of gunfire, Hans Zimmer’s superb soundtrack and your comrades voices backing you up in your headset we can honestly say we’ve never experienced anything quite as epic or immersive.

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Although the game suffers from the tried and tested “CoD respawning enemies” factor, Infinity Ward have reworked the AI so your quarry will now actively hunt you down and attempt to push you towards the next checkpoint – although at times it’s all too easy to become pinned down and overwhelmed by the sheer number of bullets flying at you, and popping in and out of cover to take your foes down usually ends in death from an opposite angle. It’s usually impossible to take out every enemy in a section (unless you’re particularly skilled), and running away is sometimes the best form of defence. Which begs the question, where did the 20-odd guys who were just trying to shoot your face off disappear to after you ran into the next street?! It’s a minor quibble however, as the next street is usually full of more enemies, and the action can be so frantic you really need to keep your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings in order to progress.

It is possible to just blast through the game in as gung-ho a manner as possible, but in order to stay alive you need to adapt tactically to each situation, and we’d actively encourage you to do so in order to get the most from the game. Dying over and over again in the same place for the same reasons can get old rather too quickly. For instance, in one stage you’re pitched into darkness without night vision, and the area fills with bad guys with laser sights on their weapons – firing at the source of multiple red dots and keeping your location secret is a tough call and requires a bit of subtlety and a keen aiming eye to pull it off, whereas just steaming in will get you torn to shreds. It’s the knowing which tactic to employ in each situation that’s the kicker, and from time to time things can descend into a little bit of trial and error, but it keeps the campaign fresh and exciting and the whole thing will keep you on your toes until the final (shocking) stages of the game.

Each stage is distinct and memorable in it’s own right, asking you to provide predator missile support whilst defending a Burger Town restaurant in one or zipping down the side of a snowy mountain in a skidoo in another, and the set-pieces are sometimes ridiculously epic…I know we just mentioned about the closing stages of the game being shocking, but we can’t enthuse about MW2’s story and diversity enough. It’s a rip-snorting adventure that careers you from situation to situation in a fantastic fashion and it’s all too easy to become wrapped up in its “filmic” qualities.

But we do feel that the Single Player game might be slightly overlooked in favour of the (albeit superb) Multiplayer option. Building on the perks system of the original, MW2 offers a heap of new perks (including ‘pro’ versions), callsigns, emblems, attachments and killstreaks to mess around with – and all can be customized to suit you and your preferred playing style. These are unlocked by completing challenges or getting to a certain rank in multiplayer, and for every kill, condition met or game won you receive XP, adding to your overall ranking level. All the usual Team Deathmatch and Free For All match types return, but IW have thrown in some new games in the form of Moshpit (a randomly selected ‘playlist’ of three games), Team Deathmatch Express (offering a shorter time in the lobby between games) and a new Third-Person mode in the Free For All and One on One games, which pulls things out of the standard FPS view and means you can see your CoD character on screen for the first time. Although it sounds like it shouldn’t work, it does – and it manages to keep the same fast pacing as the rest of the multiplayer options and offers another fresh aspect to the game.

Added to this is the new Special Ops mode, a series of challenges that can be tackled singularly or in co-op, and range from Horde style endurance tests to protecting your comrades with an AC-130. It’s a brilliant addition to an already stellar package, and we guarantee you’ll want to rinse the mode to get the max amount of stars for each mission, and the kudos from your peers, of course!

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Graphics

If CoD4 is the attractive older sister, then MW2 is the drop-dead gorgeous younger sibling you just knew would turn out to be way more attractive. The levels are varied and beautiful, and in HD they are glorious. Dust kicks up in sunlight, gun barrels flare and things catch on fire, causing a heat haze to rise. If things weren’t so hectic it would be quite easy to spend a fair bit of time wandering around exploring and seeing all the little touches each level has to offer (such as the Army base in the opening training section or the chickens frantically thrashing about in their cages during the Rio De Janeiro stage), and some of the vistas on offer are stunning. The characters look chunky and individual, and the lip-syncing and motion-capture is absolutely spot on. The only minor complaint we have is the dodgy “bobbing” animation NPC’s seem to have when running up stairs in the main campaign, but strangely enough this either doesn’t happen or isn’t noticeable during Multiplayer. You can really tell that Infinity Ward have stepped up their graphics engine for this one, and it’s hard to believe our faithful grey boxes haven’t given up the ghost processing all the beauty.

Audio

Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer provides the musical score for MW2, and it compliments each situation magnificently. From points of relative serenity to the most frantic of shootouts, Zimmer’s accompaniment adds an extra layer of sheen on to an already polished title. At points it’s both beautiful and poignant and makes some of the more dramatic set pieces a completely emotional experience. The voice acting is superb – every character you come across feels like a real person, and never once is the script clichéd, stereotypical or hackneyed. If MW2 had been pitched as a film we suspect Hollywood would be fighting amongst itself for it – and with all the old cast reprising their roles and some of the new guard (Lance Henriksen, for example) providing vocal duties you will find yourself caring about each and every character within the game. You will notice incidental noises like explosions, bullet ricochets and birds singing in the trees during a particularly frantic battle scene and you’ll wonder just how much there is going on that you really haven’t noticed.

Overall Score & Replayability

Modern Warfare 2 is the most hotly anticipated game of 2009 – if not the decade – and judging by the success of CoD4, it’s not hard to imagine Infinity Ward have attempted to pull out all the stops to go one better by making MW2 an even more epic, enjoyable and immersive experience. While we all knew IW would pull it off with ease, there has always been the small voice in the back of everyone’s mind saying “What if it’s rubbish? What if it doesn’t live up to the hype?”, and I’m pleased to say that that voice is now well and truly silenced by an M4A1 with an ACOG Sight.

Despite the general shortness of the excellent main campaign (on average it’s taken the VGR team around 5 ½ hours to complete), it’s so ridiculously epic that it doesn’t feel like you’ve been cheated at all. Add to this the enemy intel items you need to hunt down in each level and the Veteran difficulty mode to unlock, you won’t mind returning to it again and again. However, Multiplayer is the real jewel in MW2’s crown, with its refined customization options and sheer addictiveness; we can see it holding us over until MW3 inevitably rears its wonderful head. Don’t look at MW2 like another FPS or another instalment in the CoD series – look at it as it deserves to be: a beautiful piece of modern interactive entertainment. Purchase instantly.

Wallace & Gromit Episode 2 – The Last Resort

November 12, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under PC, Reviews, Xbox Live Arcade

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Overview

Title: Wallace & Gromit Episode 2 – The Last Resort

Release Date: 04/11/2009 (XBLA), 05/05/2009 (PC)

Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games

Genre: Family, Puzzle & Trivia

Platform[s]: XBox Live Arcade, PC

Storyline

After ridding West Wallaby Street of the Giant Bee menace in the relatively successful Fright of the Bumblebees, Wallace & Gromit are all set to embark on a well-deserved holiday – but a freak thunderstorm and a burst water main in the basement force the plasticine duo to stay at home. A brutish Scotsman and dastardly plot threaten to ruin things further, but as usual W&G set out to save the day in their own bumbling, innocent fashion.

Gameplay

For anyone who played Fright of the Bumblebees, you’ll be pleased to know that the control system remains exactly the same (a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it), giving an overall feel of consistency to return players. Newcomers will find things easy to grips with however, using LS to control your onscreen character, the left and right bumpers to cycle through the onscreen objects and X to call up your inventory.

Your job is to guide the title characters through a series of charming puzzles, using a combination of items and NPC’s in order to make it through each one. For instance, the first major hurdle you’ll come across is ridding Felicity Flitt (your neighbour and possible love interest) of an amorous Scotsman attempting to take her to the beach for the day. Felicity refuses to budge due to the weather, but the Scotsman will not leave her doorstep until he’s convinced a thunderstorm is on the way. Using Wallace’s love of cheese and a conversation elsewhere, you receive a delivery of Stilton that causes his stomach to rumble, dampening the Scotsman’s advances on poor Felicity and sending him on his way.

Things rarely get more complicated than this, and despite a few random solutions, answers are generally handed to you on a plate – but then W&G is primarily a family franchise, so it’s the sort of thing you can see the kids sticking on with Mum and Dad after a Sunday lunch, suiting the core demographic quite nicely.

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Graphics

Consistency runs throughout The Last Resort, with it clearly using the same graphics engine from Episode 1. We believe Telltale have given the gameworld a bit of a spit shine too, with everything looking crisper than before – the small dimples and imperfections in the plastecine characters are there, and in certain situations you can still easily forget you’re playing a game and are watching an interactive version of the show. Despite the small odd graphical glitch and dodgy bit of lip-synching, we really can’t fault TLR’s graphical flair.

Audio

The Last Resort excels sonically as well, with the guy standing in for Peter Sallis making another star turn out as Wallace. All the characters from …Bumblebees return, along with Duncan McBiscuit, the rampant Scotsman and this episode’s bad egg. Each of the characters are still voiced impeccably and don’t sound out of place in the W&G universe, but certain sections of the dialogue do feel a bit hackneyed and are, in some cases, actually quite cringe worthy.

Overall Score & Replayability

Wallace & Gromit fans will love The Last Resort, and anyone who played and enjoyed Flight of the Bumblebees will too. Its instantly accessible interface and big, bold style overall will entice kids and (dare we say it) casual gamers in for a quick bash, and in some ways it’s a funnier, better looking  and more enjoyable jaunt through the W&G universe. However, it really is just more of the same and those looking for a more cerebral challenge or who found nothing attractive about Episode 1 will have no need to download this. We would, however, recommend this over and above …Bumblebees for anyone looking for a few hours respite from the upcoming onslaught of Modern Warfare 2.

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Borderlands

November 12, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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Overview

Title: Borderlands

Release Date: Consoles: 20th October 2009 (North America) & 23rd October 2009 (PAL). PC: 26th October 2009 (North America) & 29th October 2009 (PAL)

Developer/Publisher: Gearbox Software Inc/2K Games

Genre: Shooter

Platform[s]: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Storyline

Borderlands is all about treasure. The Vault is a fabled place lying dormant somewhere on the distant planet of Pandora, said to contain immeasurable wealth, power and long-forgotten Alien technology. Taking control of one of four mercenary/treasure hunters, you set about relieving Pandora of its indigenous life-forms in a quest for The Vault, helping out the locals, slaying bandits and making an all-round nuisance of yourself to anyone who gets in your way.

Gameplay

Let’s get straight to the point here, a lot of ‘hoo-hah’ has been made about Borderlands’ supposed melding of our beloved FPS and RPG genres – promising an RPS (Role Playing Shooter, fact fans!) experience like no other, featuring infinite combinations of weaponry, enemies and missions. At first glance, it appears that Gearbox Software has managed to pull it off rather successfully, with elements from both genres clearly both present AND correct. RPG fans will be bowled over by the sheer amount of items there are to collect, buy and sell and FPS aficionados will be happy with the run and gun gameplay that lies at the heart of the title. But, upon further inspection (and after a lot of man hours invested), the cracks begin to show and you realize that the experience isn’t as deep as you’d been led to believe which, for a game that offers 160 quests, is quite a worry.

Now, don’t get us wrong – Borderlands has a lot to offer, and there’s plenty to see and kill on the way. For starters, the game has a random weapon generator that (at last count) offers anything up to 17,000,000 different combinations of ammo, barrel length, colour and size. So, every time you see a crate that looks like it has something interesting in it, the need to crack it open and get your hands on whatever lays inside is too much to bear. Handguns that fire shotgun shells, sniper rifles that cause your prey to explode into flames and machine guns that fire cats (we made that last one up) are some of the best examples we’ve come across so far, but for every exciting new kind of weapon there’s another humdrum revolver or bottom-end shotgun ready to clog up your inventory until you find a shop ready to take it off your hands.

These shops take the form of vending machines (a bit like those in Bioshock), stocking the usual health packs, weapon upgrades and shields that appear to be de riguer in any FPS worth it’s salt nowadays, as well as a “bargain of the day” that’s only on offer for a limited period of time – sometimes so tantalizingly expensive that you do all you can (without selling what you already have) to get the cash together to purchase it before returning and finding that you’re too late.

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Cash can be gleaned in a number of ways, from cracking open the myriad safes, toilets and piles of dung (yes, you read that right) that litter the landscape, to prising it from the cold, dead hands of your foes. When we say “prising”, we actually mean “button pressing” – instead of automatically collecting something when your character wanders over it, you have to stop and look at the item in question and then press X in order to retrieve it. It’s overly annoying and can easily disrupt the flow of the game, especially when you’re caught in a massive firefight with a group of bandits and run out of ammo: life would be so much easier if you just picked items up automatically instead. There is an alarming amount of stuff to be harvested however, and practically everything you kill either drops cash or ammo, and it appears to be relevant to the weapons you’re carrying at the time, meaning you’re never far from a full clip somewhere along the line.

Killing things earns you XP (experience points, for the non-initiated) which you use to level up, as does completing quests – which (in some cases), you need to do pretty quickly in order to progress through the story mode. When a quest is presented to you it tells you what level you need to be at to stand a chance of completing it, and most of the time you need to grind in order to do this. Unfortunately, most of these quests feel non-descript and samey, requiring you to “go here, kill him, collect this” in varying orders and it all gets rather repetitive rather quickly. Even the story-led missions lack emotion or anything worth remembering, and with little or no dialogue between you and the NPC’s (save the odd sarcastic comment when you kill something) it’s hard to build up a strong connection to your character. It’s like Gearbox read a list of all the things normal gamers care about (decent storyline and attachment to your character, for example) and got it mixed up with all the stuff we don’t instead. This may indicate a leaning towards old-skool gaming values of old, but without the core gameplay to back things up it just feels like urinating in the wind.

Graphics

Looking like a cross between Prince of Persia and Afro Samurai, Borderlands follows the underused cel-shading method, which at least gives it a unique comic book style feel. The landscapes are vast, and there’s a real sense of scope and distance all around you. Unfortunately, most of the terrain looks like the same arid desert landscape you visited earlier and save the odd bandit camp or wind turbine it could very well be. Likewise, the enemies on offer are quite varied, from the mutated canine Skags to the highly amusing Psycho Dwarf fraternity, but despite the odd random variant (Level 12 Corrosive Skag, anyone?) they all look and act exactly the same. Texture pop is also an issue, with it being glaringly obvious in some places.

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Audio

Sounding like a cross between a twangy Ennio Morricone Soundtrack in places and Deliverance on LSD in others, Borderlands screams “old skool Western movie” – most of the NPC’s have faux-texan accents and sound like every cowboy cliché extra you’ve ever heard in a Clint Eastwood movie. The bad guys really all sound the same, and tend to spit the same token insults and taunts, with only the high-pitched giggling of the Psychotic Dwarves providing any real giggles. The gun sounds are quite convincing however, and the explosions have some real meat behind them – but why are the vehicles so quiet?!! They look beefy, but make little or no sound at all…the track over the opening movie is fantastic, though!

Overall Score & Replayability

As scathing as this review may seem, Borderlands does have a quirky charm – it is quite unlike anything available on the market today and we can’t quite put our fingers on what that something is. It could be the overall annoyance and complete lack of satisfaction you get when playing the game (the effort/pay off ratio is very low on this one), or it may be the unique graphical flair and the fact that Gearbox have tried to create something a bit different and, to some extent, have succeeded. The FPS and RPG elements mould into each other quite well but (and I’m paraphrasing here) neither are remarkable enough to achieve an outstanding final product. Nevertheless, the time we spent with Borderlands was quite enjoyable and it’s easy to whittle away a few days on Pandora’s sandy vistas – just don’t expect anything life changing.

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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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