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21 Mar 2021

REVIEW: PACER on PC (Steam) - UPDATE: Xbox Version Reviewed

Review by Jon Donnis
The year is 1995, I am a teenage gamer, I switch on my Playstation, now known as a Playstation 1. I load up a new game called Wipeout. It is a beautiful game, instead of driving cars around a track you are steering futuristic hovercraft like vehicles around insane tracks, the game was pretty much perfect and was one of the reasons for the success of the PS1. Fast forward some 25 years and we have the release of a game called PACER (Previously Formula Fusion), a game that has been in development since 2015, the so called "spiritual successor" to Wipeout, part of the team making PACER actually worked on the original 3 Wipeout games in the 1990s. Can you imagine how excited I was to hear about this game?

I am lucky enough to get a Review Code from R8 Games, I download and start the game, and I am instantly disappointed. So disappointed that I wonder if I am stuck in the Early Access version of the game previously known as Formula Fusion, I even send a screenshot of the main screen to the PR company to see if this is the case. Nope I have the right game.

Right from the start I just feel so let down and disappointed. Don't get me wrong, the game looks great, the tracks are all beautifully rendered, the vehicles all looks smart, on a purely aesthetic level, the game looks like everything you would expect it to be, the problem is everything in between. 

There are AI issues, and these are issues that will be fixed I am sure of that, but this game has been in development for 5 years, these bugs should not need me complaining about to be fixed, they should have been ironed out years ago.

Let me give you an example, in some races you will start the race and before you know it every opponent has disappeared into the distance, even if you race a perfect lap they are gone, then after another lap they suddenly start appearing, and by the end of the race they are either all dead on the track or crawling along at slow speeds. Now this doesn't always happen, I complained about this, and for now it seems that this has been improved, again this game has been in development for 5 years.

The tracks themselves as I have said are gorgeous, but the take away the fancy graphics and these are uninspired tracks, for what is supposed to be a futuristic racer where you are going at breakneck speed, some levels force you to slow down to stupidly slow speeds so that you don't spend half the race just bouncing off the sides of the track one after the other. Other tracks are better in that you get the chance to actually go fast, but then the pretty graphics actually end up becoming confusing and you can't see what the line is, the amount of time I have barrelled head first into a wall purely because the colours of the wall match the colours of the previous part of the track is beyond frustrating. Yes, I know you learn the tracks as you play, but even after learning the track and knowing what was coming up, I still found myself just struggling to see where to position my craft, for what is really not that hard of the part of the track. It is little things like this, track design, that really lets this game down.

What's next, ok career mode, the menu is really confusing and badly designed here, but let's say you figure things out, there is no real direction as to what the career is that you are playing, you start off with a training level, then a F3000 part of the career, where you take part in various races, and because of the various AI issues I mentioned earlier, you will find yourself randomly at a level that no matter how good a racer you are, you will just keep losing, and then purely by what seems like luck, you will pass the level, the elimination level (last person after so many seconds is eliminated) is a perfect example.

And I haven't even gotten to the weapons systems yet, these are so poorly designed that I just didn't bother turning them on for races unless I absolutely had to.
You can modify your craft, add and change weapons, have different load outs etc, but you will look at it once, and then just use default options to race with, as it really doesn't make a difference.

And then there are the air breaks. There is no "right trigger" to accelerate and "left trigger" to break here. Nope, to accelerate you hold down the A button if using a controller, and then your triggers are used to break, which in turn throws your vehicle to the left or right as you approach a corner. This was used on the original Wipeout games, and on them it worked, on this though they just don't quite pull it off. I just found myself either slowing down to much and then accelerating into a wall, or too late, it just doesn't quite feel as intuitive as it should. Maybe I am just too used to normal breaking systems, really the air breaks should work more like a hand break turn does in a normal racer.

The problems with this game are just too many, if this was the early access, then I would probably say how much potential it has, and how it could be the spiritual successor to Wipeout that everyone wants it to be. But for a game that has been in development for so long, to still be so flawed in the absolute basics is disappointing.

The Good
The game is beautiful. 

The Bad
Everything else

Never have I wanted to love a game as much as this, to say I am disappointed is an understatement.

Maybe I just hoped for too much, maybe I have been so spoiled with games like GRIP that anything that does not reach that level is going to be a disappointment in comparison. Sadly I can only score this game 4/10, and that is only because there is a part of me that hope that there is still time for the game makers to fix these issues, redesign the tracks, fix the AI, and turn this game into everything it should be.

Review by Jon Donnis

UPDATE: Xbox Review
I was sent the Xbox version of Pacer to review. Here was the perfect chance for the game makers to fix all of the bugs and problems of the PC release, into a nice little release for Xbox. Everything always seems to play smoother and better on a console I find.

Well I turn it on, and its the same god awful confusing menus.
Ok, maybe they spent the past 6 months fixing the AI issues and general gameplay problems.

As far as I can see it has all the same problems, and the game makers have done nothing.

The game does play a bit smoother in general, the graphics all seem more "consoley" if that makes sense. But the basics of the game remain unchanged.

So disappointed. After being so frustrated for the PC release, I just hoped that the game makers would pay attention and fix everything for the console release.

As such I score Pacer on Xbox a 3/10. 
They lost a point because they did nothing.

20 Mar 2021

REVIEW: Samurai Shodown on Xbox One

Review By Jon Donnis
Although I have never been the biggest beat em up fan, I did grow up in the era of Streetfighter 2, and the seemingly never ending roll out of beat em up games on the Neo Geo. Samurai Shodown was one of the most popular games on the Neo Geo back in the early 1990s. So fast forward nearly 30 years and the kings of the Beat em up "SNK" have released Samurai Shodown, this time on Xbox, but it is not just a port of an old game, no, it is a new game with all the flashy graphics you could ever want, but still retaining the feel of a classic 90s beat em up.

Ok lets not worry about the story. Because lets be realistic here, who cares. It is a beat em up, one on one action.

There is a feature called ghost characters, whereby the game learns your style of play and then creates a CPU controlled ghost of you. This ghost can then played by other players around the world. It is almost like online play but without you actually having to be online, if that makes sense. It is an interesting feature, although I have no idea how accurate it is, or if it is really any different to regular AI controlled opponents. I played a few ghosts of other players, but if you had not told me, I would not have noticed anything different.

For some reason I couldn't seem to get the online mode to work, I am guessing not enough people have the game yet? Or I am playing at a time when no one else is, so I cant comment on the online modes.

The game plays in 2D, and there are some pretty cool execution-style finishing moves like slicing your opponent in half. They are pretty satisfying.

There are various modes, including the usual story mode, time trial, survival and so on. I did find however that pretty much all of the modes are basically the same, you just fight one character after the other. There is no real difference between them. But I'd rather they be there than not.

Games like this however are best played against your friends, but since we are in a global pandemic, I cant even try that, so with the online mode not working for me, and no friends to play, I am stuck with the story mode.

The Good

The graphics are pretty, everything is what it should be in a game of this time, you have your usual moves, nothing groundbreaking, but there is nothing really wrong with the gameplay itself. It is all very good.

The Bad

Some of the menu options are tiny, you will really struggle to see unless you are right up against the screen, most people play Xbox while sat 6 foot away from the screen. My TV is 42" and I struggled to read some menus despite having 20/20 vision. There are also some issues with slow loading times, as well as the fact this is a 40gb download, but I cant for the life of me see where that 40gb has gone to.


This is one of those games that ticks all the boxes you could want, but also doesn't really offer anything new or original. Flashy graphics can only take a game so far.

If you do not have any beat em ups in your collection and want one, then this is a great pick. You will enjoy it. If however you already have a fair few, then I am not sure what this would offer that you don't already have.

I enjoyed Samurai Shodown, it's a good game, but it is nothing special.

I score Samurai Shodown a solid 7/10 and it is available now on Xbox

Review by Jon Donnis

8 Mar 2021

REVIEW: In Rays of the Light on Xbox One

In Rays of the Light is the latest release from Sergey Noskov. A "first person meditative quest" game, whatever that means.

You start of the game in an abandoned Russian school/university. You have no idea who you are, nor do you seemingly know what to do, or where to go.

Within the first few minutes, you will figure out the general mechanics of the game, you will find a flash light, a pipe and keys. Flash light to see in the dark, pipe to open boarded up doors, and keys to erm... open locks. From this point on, you can basically go anywhere in the game, still no real instruction of what you are supposed to do, or where to go. And this is why I would assume the game is called a "first person meditative quest".

Around the school, there are a few buildings, a bus and some cars. You can't go much further than this. So what do you do? Well you wonder around, a lot. Slowly but surely you will start to figure a few things out, find a few puzzles to solve. For example a locked lucker with a 3 digit combination to work out, by looking at a few of the photos dotted about the location, you will realise that they have numbers on. I had already made a mental note of two of the numbers, so just through trial and error figured out the lock.

Eventually you will find yourself in the basement and turning on a generator, and without spoiling things further, you will find yourself aimlessly walking around in near pitch black, trying to figure out what to do or how to get out. Although this is supposed to give you a feeling of fear and dread, I just found myself frustrated, and only found my way out I am sure by pure accident. I kinda knew what I needed to do at this point, use some coins on a machine, to get out a part, that would then be used in a lecture room, to allow a projector to run. The only problem, I have no coins, and no idea where to get them, I have spent hours wondering around, searching every inch of everywhere without luck. I even did something I hate to do and checked out a walkthrough video, the only problem? The coins in the video are in a car, but in my game, they are not there. So that is it for me, I finally gave up. The walkthrough video was for the PC release from a while back, and I am playing the Xbox version, so obviously the coins are in a different as yet undiscovered location. At some point I will check out a walkthrough and then finish the game.

I found the coins, right near the start, next to the vending machine you kick to get a can of pop!

I finished the game, and watched one of the available endings, all good in the end. But missing one little thing really did drive me mad!

The Good
There is a feeling of wanting to continue, to figure things out, and that is why I spent so much time on this game.
The music is really cool, very melodic. The graphics are decent, and there is an interesting story to figure out.

The Bad
The lack of ever really knowing what you need to do, or where you need to go, as well as the fact that if like me you get stuck, that's it, the game for you is basically over, if you have looked at every inch of the place and still can't find what you are looking for, this quickly becomes tedious.

An interesting concept for a game, but the lack of instructions will put a lot of people off. For as far as I did get, I enjoyed getting there, but beyond frustrated that I couldn't finish the game.

I score this game a fair 6/10 - A few tweaks, a hint system, a bit of instruction etc, a few more puzzles and this game could easily get to 7/10.

Review by Jon Donnis

6 Mar 2021

REVIEW: Orange Cast - PC (Steam)

Review by Jon Donnis
From Team Rez comes Orange Cast. A 3rd Person sci-fi shooter. You play as an elite space trooper, you will take on a "heroic, action-packed adventure throughout the galaxy" sounds fun.

The first thing you will notice as you play the game is that you won't understand what's going on, well not directly. Thank god for subtitles. The game is Russian made, so unless you understand Russian you will have to rely on the ability of the translators.

As I mentioned previously, you are an elite space trooper, you head off into the Universe to complete missions. You start off with the tutorial, and to be honest this is where the problems start, the aiming system just feels off, I tried with a keyboard and with a gamepad, and I just did not feel comfortable with either as a control method. The firefights with enemies are just not accurate enough, so instead of trying to fire accurately, which is very hard due to the control system, I would just run at opponents and try to fight hand to hand, as that seemed like an easier way to actually beat an opponent, the problem is if you are facing more than one, they will quickly overwhelm you. With that said the AI is terrible. 

Graphically the game has its moments, but there are also many issues with frame rates, and graphical bugs. This is acceptable on early access, but not on a game that has hit a proper release. Some of the areas are fun, and do look nice, but overall, you can't forgive one thing because something else looks pretty.

The Good
The terrible dialog, can actually be entertaining, so bad it is good if you know what I mean. Some of the areas look great.

The Bad
The gameplay is just quite boring, it's not a game that makes you want to get to the next area, you just kind of play, and it feels ok. And that is not enough in a genre that is absolutely full of top games.

The game is what it is, I hate to give bad reviews, because i know how hard people work on these games, and maybe not being Russian means, I miss a lot of the nuance in the game, but it is just not for me.

I score this game 4/10

Review by Jon Donnis

4 Mar 2021

REVIEW: Death Tales on Nintendo Switch

Review By Jon Donnis
Can a game be too pretty? Too colourful? I don't know, but boy does Death Tales on Nintendo Switch push those limits.

You play as a new "Reaper" who has gone rogue, you will collect souls as you play, I don't think I have ever heard that as a description before?

Anyway, the game is a 2D plat-former, you will fight enemy after enemy, you will learn spells, collect equipment that allows you to customize your reaper, interact with characters who will give you quests. Spells include things like fireballs, freeze powers, angel wings, meteors, and stampeding unicorns. Now I have got your attention haven't I?!

So, let's get to the nitty gritty. You have 30 levels to beat and souls to collect for "Death". That is the basic game, but is it any good?, first the visuals, as I mentioned earlier, this game is colourful, very colourful, like completely and utterly colourful, but with that said, it never becomes a distraction, everything is smooth, everything looks great. The soundtrack fits nicely with the game-play, it is also not distracting. Fighting against enemies is very hack and slash, one complaint would be that enemies do not have any power bar, so there is no way of telling if an enemy needs one more strike to kill, or a few. Only a small problem but one that should be fixed for enemies that need more than 2 hits to kill.

The cut scenes and events are nice but I couldn't figure out how to skip them or even if you can, unfortunately this means if you are replaying levels to get all of the rewards you find yourself having to sit and watch things over and over, frustrating, but not a deal breaker.

The Good
Did I mention the graphics were really colourful? The game-play is fun, easy to get used to, pretty simple hack and slash 2D plat-former, just from that description you know what you are getting.

The Bad
Some of the in-game menus could be better.

A simple game, with a somewhat original premise, it only costs £7.99 on release in the UK, so won't break the bank.

I score the game a solid 7/10
Worth a look

Review by Jon Donnis

3 Mar 2021

PREVIEW: Early Access version of Ultimate ADOM: Caverns of Chaos

Preview by Jon Donnis
I got my hands on a copy of the Early Access version of Ultimate ADOM: Caverns of Chaos. A sequel to a game called ADOM (Ancient Domains of Mystery) that was released back in 1994. ADOM is wat is known as a "Roguelike" game, a subgenre of the RPG game that usually finds itself in a dungeon as you crawl through procedurally generated levels, turn-based gameplay, tile-based graphics, and permanent death of the player character. Ultimate ADOM brings that concept to 2021.

The idea of such a game is that it should have unlimited re-playability, since the levels are different every time you start a game. You will face an endless amount of monsters, you will craft items, explore and improve your skills.

Here is a quick look at the Synopsis
"Evil has been vanquished. Peace has returned to Ancardia, and the peasants dare to dream once more of prosperity. Seven very different factions vie for control over the cataclysmic aftermath left behind by Andor Drakon's defeat. And somewhere, deep down in an inhospitable cave, ChAoS is stirring again.

Pick up your blade, prepare your spells, check your daggers and ready your bow, for you are about to enter the ominous Caverns of Chaos. Choose your allegiance carefully, for you are nothing more than an expendable asset to the masters you choose.

Fight for a mercenary's glory and purse, for the justice of a folk in decline, for the light of purity or even for ChAoS itself. Every choice you make will determine how you approach the ever-changing Caverns of Chaos before you."

As you play you will soon realise that everything can be interacted with, whether that is breaking through a solid wall, pushing coffins to reveal all sorts, smash through doors, turn doors into monsters who may then serve you. And so on.

There are plenty of different characters, classes, genders, races and so on to choose from. Magic to learn and master, spells to cast and hundreds of skills to unlock.

As first mentioned, this game is an early access version, so in its present state it feels quite empty, but with that said the game makers are very clear in their objectives, and they want and need feedback as a way to help the game grow and improve.

The game is a long way from being finished, but it has potential, whether that potential is fulfilled, only time will tell.

If you are old enough to have played and enjoyed the original, then I think you should check this game out, and even help it grow by being a part of the community.

If, however, you never played the original, and are perhaps not aware of the term "Roguelike" then you might want to wait until the game is finished.

For now, it looks promising. Good graphics, simple game mechanics. Could be something special.

Preview by Jon Donnis

Available on Steam