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28 Jun 2022

REVIEW: I Saw Black Clouds on PC (Steam)

Review by Jon Donnis
I have reviewed a few FMV (Full-motion video) games in the past, and I am back once again with I Saw Black Clouds.

If you have never played a FMV game before, think of it more as an interactive movie, whereby you make decisions for the main character in the film, and that will result in different outcomes, meaning that once you have finished playing, you can start again, make different choices and not just see different scenes, but also a completely different ending.


I Saw Black Clouds is a story about Kristina who has just found out about the unexpected death of a close friend. She travels back to her home town to find answers, but as she does, she uncovers a string of dark secrets, and those secrets turn out to be way scarier than she could ever have imagined.


Part supernatural horror and part psychological thriller, the game plays a bit like one of those feature length dramas you get on ITV late at night. The difference of course being that you the viewer can help choose the path the main character takes.


An interesting addition to this game, as opposed to other similar FMV games is the stats screen, depending on your choices you will see a graph that covers your personality traits, honesty, strength, morality, tact and introspection, as well as relationships with other characters. And perhaps most importantly how you face the situation in front of you, with denial, acceptance, or guilt
  
Starring Nicole O'Neill as the lead character that you will help make decisions for, this game is fully filmed in the UK, and has a very British feel to it.

Acting is of a decent level, and everything is filmed in HD, so looks and sounds to a high quality.


The Good
I Saw Black Clouds has a decent story, intriguing characters, and even some jump scares. Nicole O'Neill is great, and stands out in her performance on screen.

The Bad
I Saw Black Clouds suffers some of the same problems that many FMV games suffer, when making a decision, the game needs to load the correct scene to play next, which does mean a brief bit of lag, and sometimes the music from one scene to the next, will just stop, which just makes it all the more obvious that a new scene has been loaded up. There is also very little time to read the choices and then make the decision.

Overall
One way I have learned to play FMV games over the years is to sometimes just sit back and watch it like a film. When you do not make a choice, the game will make the choice for you. You will still get to the end eventually, and you will see one ending. This just feels better than sitting up close to a computer screen, constantly waiting for the next choice to come up. Once you have seen the film this way, you can restart, and luckily you can now skip scenes you have already seen, meaning you can make different choices, and watch unseen scenes fresh. Perhaps this is not the ideal way to play the game, and not the way the makers intended, but it does solve a few of the issues I have mentioned. But then that in itself raises another question, is it still a game, if you don't play it and just watch it like a film?

I Saw Black Clouds may not be perfect, but it is a decent little low budget supernatural horror thriller, and I do like them, as you would know if you read my Movie reviews on www.beentothemovies.com and with the option to make choices, it does make things more interesting.

I score I Saw Black Clouds a fair and honest 7/10.

Worth a look if you are a fan of British made supernatural/horror thrillers.

Out Now on Steam.

26 Jun 2022

REVIEW: American Theft 80s on PC (Steam)

Review by Jon Donnis
I have never played an open world "Thief Simulator" before, so when I was invited to check out American Theft 80s I was intrigued.

Set in the 1980s a time I remember well, the game has a pretty simple concept. You control a character, who is a thief, and well, that's pretty much it.
Ok there is actually more to it than just that. 


You start of the game about to break into a posh house, you are given simple instructions, get in through a window, pick up anything you can steal, avoid the guard. Simple right! Wrong, after hiding, the guard finds you, and you are shipped off to jail.

When no one is around, escape, and you are back in the world as a free man. Go get your car from the impound lot, and go visit a local bar where you can meet with a man, who will give you jobs to earn money. Complete the jobs, and then take anything else you steal to the local pawnshop to exchange for cash, which you can then use to buy things like flashlights, hammers, crowbars etc, all things that can help you break and enter.


When I first started playing, I thought I might be a bit overwhelmed, you need to watch the routine of people, remember their routes, what time of day they move about and so on, but the game does a really good job of walking you through things at first, and easing you into how everything works.

You have an onscreen map which really helps, you can peak through keyholes and gaps, so you don't need to just barge through a door or window.

You can sleep in your car, to pass time, you can put disguises on, and save your progress at phone booths.

As you progress through the game, you can rob pretty much everything, houses, the bank, shops, a museum, but of course you will need the right tools, the right disguise as well as understand the layout, the guard's movements and so on. The bigger jobs you do, the more your reputation grows and the better you become. You might even need to run from the police if they see you, so always make sure your car is easy to get to, and ready to drive for a fast getaway. And as you get more money, you might want to invest in a better car, and even buy and decorate your own house.

Throw in some old minigames, and you have a decent game here, with lots to do and a great learning curve.

I really was surprised how detailed this game was, and how easy it was to pick up. Call me impressed, when to be brutally honest I wasn't even sure if this would be a game I would like.


The Good
As a total newbie to this genre, I was really impressed, and this is a game I will keep playing, long past finishing this review.

The Bad
As this is an indie game, the graphics are hardly "next gen" but they are decent.

Overall
What can I say, this is a great game, go buy it. 

Out now on Steam

24 Jun 2022

MINI REVIEW: Slot Shots Pinball Collection Early Access on PC (Steam)

 

Pinball is BACK! Slot Shots Pinball Collection Early Access features five tables, with one more table planned to release over the coming months for a total of at least six tables playable in this collection. Also included in the Early Access is a score attack mode- a one minute multiball thriller with increased mission and slot payouts (and each mode has its own separate online leaderboard system)!

The Good

Large collection of original tables. Multiple camera views and responsive controls. Good soundtrack

The Bad

Some ball physics are a tiny bit off.

Score

7/10 

Out Now

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1886290/Slot_Shots_Pinball_Collection/





REVIEW: Ghostwire: Tokyo (PS5)

Review by Jon Donnis
The largest city in Japan, Tokyo finds itself overrun with deadly supernatural creatures, the entire population of Tokyo have vanished.

Your job is to find the source and rid the city of these creatures and the evil cult that created them.


Your character Akito managed to survive this "snap" of sorts, due to a friendly spirit (KK) who gave him extra life source and elemental powers.

Akito and KK are basically the same in the game, they talk to each other which gets annoying quick. So do what I did and put the Japanese language on, just seemed better when I couldn't understand them.


As you travel around the map you will "cleanse" Torii gates, that will unlock more of the map and allow you to progress further. Don't do this and dense fog blocks your path. You will face countless waves of enemies that you have to beat, as well as have to look for certain items.

Combat revolves around you firing magic out of your fingers, breaking through the enemy's "aura" and then destroying their core. 


As your magic is elemental, your spells are the obvious Wind (fire balls of wind energy), Fire (Kinda like explosives or bombs) and Water which I dont need to explain surely? You get a bow and arrow to fire as well. As you fight with the enemies, people new to the PS5's Dual Sense controller's triggers will instantly notice some cool resistance as you slowly break down your enemy. Little things like this really do stand out if you are not used to them.

There is not much to the fights themselves, the AI is pretty poor, fire off your magic, damage the enemy until you can rip out its core, and then the same over and over throughout the game. A bit more variance would have been welcome.

The graphics are excellent as you would expect, and if you stop to look at the work put in, it is very impressive. Everything looks spooky, and fans of the supernatural will enjoy the visual aspects.


The Good
Visually everything is spot on, the battles are fun if repetitive.

The Bad
An empty Tokyo with no people, just seems wrong.

Overall
Ghostwire: Tokyo is good but not great, there is potential here, but it just lacks in certain areas where really it should shine.

It is not scary in the least, the enemies are a bit boring, and the game can be completed way too quickly.

There are parts of this game to enjoy, but perhaps not enough to demand a £50+ price tag.

I score Ghostwire: Tokyo a fair 7/10

Released 25th March 2022

22 Jun 2022

MINI REVIEW: BubbleShot - on PC ( Steam )

 

From RetroBug comes a simple Puzzle Bobble clone.

Good:

50 levels to beat. Classic gameplay. Arcade, casual and Challenge modes. Only a couple of quid.

Bad:

Brings nothing new to the genre.

7/10

Out Now

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1955820/Bubble_Shot/

19 Jun 2022

REVIEW: Summertime Madness on XBOX

Review by GamingCouchPotato.co.uk Staff
Summertime Madness is a single-player first-person puzzle game. The game starts off with a nice intro.

"The city of Prague was under siege, ravaged by war.
Buildings were falling, churches were burning, and everything was to be washed away forever.
A painter lived there, isolated from the outside world. The worse the terrors of war became, the more the artist obsessively painted beautiful landscapes as a contrast to the evil he had witnessed. One night, a mysterious figure appeared in the house seemingly out of nowhere. The stranger walked slowly around the room, inspecting the paintings. He then sat down in front of the artist; to offer him a deal.
The chance to enter one of his own creations, far away and free of war. But he would have to find his way back out before midnight, or else his soul would become trapped in the canvas forever. Feeling alone, on the edge of madness, terrorized by the scent of death creeping in from the streets, the artist shook the mysterious man's hand, accepting the deal.
A few moments later, the house was empty."

Once the intro has finished, you get a choice of how to play the game. 
Classic Mode = 6 hours to finish the game.
Advanced = 3 hours to finish the game.
Explorer = No time limit.

Once you have chosen which you prefer, your characters eyes open and you find yourself in a beautifully drawn 3D world.
You play as the painter, now inside one of the paintings, who has seemingly made a deal with the mysterious figure, basically representing the devil.


As you walk about you will need to solve puzzles and explore your surroundings.


For a puzzle game, there is a lot of walking around, which seems strange, but I understand that the game makers want to give you a peaceful experience, but then why add time limits?

The puzzles themselves involve a lot of running back and forth, and unfortunately the puzzles in general are really poorly thought out. And instead of a challenging feel, they will just make you frustrated. The first puzzle for example, run back and forth turning the wheel on a ship, open doors, close doors, pull a lever, ring a bell, it all gets a bit tedious. The exact puzzle mechanics tend to be very easy, but wrapped in ridiculous back and forth running about, that is just annoying and not much fun.


The game doesn't hold you hand either in any way, some puzzles are just confusing and make no logical sense, and since you have no real idea what you are supposed to do, the feeling to just give up and turn the game off, grows and grows as you play.

The Good
The game is beautiful, the visuals and sounds are all of the highest quality.

The Bad
The puzzles are poorly thought out, and frustrate more than challenge.

Overall
The base of a good game is there, it is just ruined by puzzles that are just terrible in their delivery.

I score Summertime Madness on Xbox, a poor 3/10



16 Jun 2022

MINI REVIEW: Neodori Forever on PC (Steam)

 

Neodori Forever is a retro inspired, endless arcade 3D racing game inspired by the beloved old classics. A colorful cast of rivals is waiting to race against you on a variety of vibrant environments.

Collect power ups and coins on the way to expand your car collection and outrun the competition.

The Good

Fun, old school racing game, addictive, and challenging.

The Bad

Controls can be tough, and drifting needs improving.

Overall

Fun game - 7/10

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1963660/Neodori_Forever/





15 Jun 2022

REVIEW: Blast Brigade vs. Evil Legion of Dr. Cread on Nintendo Switch

Review by Jon Donnis
Blast Brigade vs. Evil Legion of Dr. Cread comes from Allods Team Arcade and published by MY.GAMES.

The game is a classic style 2D side scrolling platform game in the style of Metal Slug, for any of you old school gamers.

Inspired by 1980's action films, you find yourself trying to save the world, using an array of weapons and bombs to help you along the way.


The game has its tongue set very firmly in its cheek, and this sets the stage for what is a very fun and action packed game.

You start off watching a cinematic of a plane being blown up, the Pilot and a Scientist grab a parachute and jump, while Jeff is asleep in the back of the plane, Jeff wakes up, grabs his gun and plummets to the island below.

As you explore the island, you will collect coins that will help you upgrade your weapons and abilities, as well as collect grenades, and eventually assemble a team that will help you as you fight the weird and wonderful enemies that the island is full of.


Areas on the island include jungle villages, cliffside prisons, volcanoes, and ancient temples.

I am playing this on a Nintendo Switch Lite, and as is often the problem with the Switch Lite, sometimes the controls can be a bit tricky. The right analog stick is used to aim your weapon, and the right trigger is used to fire, now I have decent sized hands, so can reach both, but even then, hand ache will come in soon. This game definitely works better with a regular controller.

As you play you will eventually have available to you a decent amount of weapons and tools, not just big guns and grenades, when you are first exploring, you will notice areas you can't reach, well later on when you get a grappling hook with one of the characters you add to your team, you can go back and explore those areas and in turn unlock the secrets they hold.


Another part of the game is the ability to upgrade buildings at your base area, this allows you to get better weapons, tools and upgrades, and this really does add an extra element to the game including customizing specific abilities for your character, including faster reload times, magnet to help collect coins, a longer period of invulnerability after you are hit by an enemy, more ammo etc.

Enemies include hybrid monstrosities, giant robots, cyborg ninjas, and other evil minions. Further along into the game, as you assemble your squad, you can switch between them as you play, each character has different abilities and specialities, which is important if you want to explore certain areas.

You start off with "All-American Jeff, and later can channel the deadly rage of Shura, decommission enemies as the cyborg Scotsman Galahad, and help the chakram-wielding Vortex reclaim her island."

The boss fights are quite tough, and will need pattern analysis if you want to beat them, nothing impossible, just needs effort to keep trying until you beat them.


Luckily there is a in game save option whenever you see a hammock, get a quick rest, your grenades are refilled as is your energy. And you can also quickly move between areas once you find the motorbike.

The game should give you at least 20 hours of play, more if you really want to explore every single corner of the island. There are multiple paths, and nearly always a way to go you haven't found yet.

The game is fully voice acted, and full of humour, and is definitely worth your time.


The Good
Stunning cartoon/comic themed graphics, which look incredible. Gameplay is easy to learn, but tough to master, and the boss fights offer a decent challenge.

The Bad
Works better with a proper controller. And some of the humour won't be for everyone.

Overall
A thoroughly good 2D metroidvania adventure.

I score Blast Brigade vs. Evil Legion of Dr. Cread on Nintendo Switch a solid 8.5/10

Add it to your collection now!
Out now on Nintendo Switch

12 Jun 2022

REVIEW: Disney Speedstorm PC - Beta Test



Review by Jon Donnis
I was invited to try the new Disney Speedstorm Closed Beta Test on PC. I kind of wish I wasn't now.
Speedstorm is made by Gameloft, and runs pretty similar in style to other Gameloft games like Asphalt 8 and so on. The basic model of the game is free, but there are lots of micro transactions. But as with the other Gameloft games, you can still play it without paying, but you might be limited to how many times before your energy runs out etc.

At first look you may think this is a Mario Kart style game, but for PC, well get that out of your head. Even though you might drive "Karts", this is very much a Mobile style game.


You play the game on circuits inspired by Disney and Pixar worlds, and you can play with a collection of characters from those franchises. The biggest name of which is Mickey Mouse. And yes, you have to put up with his god-awful voice too.

Some of the levels include the docks from Pirates of the Caribbean's Pirates Island and the wilds of The Jungle Book's Jungle Ruins map.

The game will run in "Seasons" with new content and challenges dropping with each new season release.


As with similar arcade racers, you accelerate with the right trigger on a gamepad, and break/drift with the left trigger. You have a boost button for when your meter fills up, giving you a short boost of speed, you have a jump/trick button, which allows you to jump your vehicle, or if flying off a ramp can let you do a barrel roll. You can also collect offensive and defensive weapons, drop a mine, fire a weapon, short teleport forwards and a shield are the ones that come to mind so far.

The levels each have set challenges to complete, come first, use a full boost 3 times, do a trick, the usual stuff. The levels start easy and as they get harder, you will need to upgrade your vehicle to stay competitive, you do this through collecting "Shards" during normal races.


Now let's get down to business. The Closed Beta Testing has been something of a disaster, the vast majority of people are unable to even start the game, I also struggled, but then tried a few compatibility tricks, (run in Windows 8 Mode, with Admin privileges on, restart PC) and that seemed to help to get the game to run. Very long load times, a buggy interface that crashes often, so don't try exploring the menus too much. The races themselves are ok, when it is running, it all looks great, but often things freeze for a half a second before starting again. 

It truly seems insane to me that they would push out this game for Closed Beta Testing when it should still be in internal alpha testing. Surely the developers aren't learning anything they wouldn't know if they just played the game themselves for 5 minutes.

Disney also has been having a terrible time recently PR wise. With multiple employees being arrested and charged with sex crimes against children, their opposition to an anti-grooming bill, which comes as no surprise considering who they employ, and the fact they are about to lose a lot of powers in Florida with the park there. So the fact that their name, logo and characters are associated to this game is damaging to not only Gameloft, but this poor start is damaging to Disney too.

The only saving grace is that the game when it is ready will be free, it will be available on all formats, and it will run smooth by the time it gets a console release, since they are much stricter on releases than Steam.


The Good
It is a free arcade racer, with recognisable characters from your favourite Disney films.

The Bad
At its base it is an Asphalt 8 clone, that is no where near as good as said game, oh and it has Mickey Mouse in it, who I hate.

Overall
Terrible start. Should never have left internal Alpha testing, and has pissed off a lot of people excited to play a PC based Kart racing game.

I score Disney Speedstorm an unplayable 2/10. (The 2 is purely if you can get the game running, the tracks do look nice)

11 Jun 2022

REVIEW: World CHAMPIONS: Decathlon

Review by GamingCouchPotato.co.uk Staff
Back in 1983 we were introduced to a game called Track and Field. Fast forward to 2021 and we have World CHAMPIONS: Decathlon. A true homage to not only Track and Field, but all of the Olympic type sports arcade games of the 80s.

The graphics are full retro style, and the sounds are as if you were stood in an arcade in the 80s.
We are back to button bashing greatness.

There are ten events to choose from, which you can take part in one at a time, as well as all ten in succession in the Decathlon mode.

You have...100 metres, Long jump, Shot put, High jump, 400 metres, 110 metres hurdles, Discus throw, Pole vault, Javelin throw and 1500 metres.


You can play in single player mode, or person vs person mode, local and online, however when I tried online I couldn't find a match.

The controls are simple, you have two buttons for speed, and then one for an action, for example to jump. And that is it, everything is super simple and easy to play.

There are leader-boards and achievements to unlock. Each event will have at least 3 achievements to get. One will be to beat a certain score, then an elite achievement where you have to beat a better score, and of course an achievement if you get the world record. There are even a few bonus achievements you can get, for example, spot a UFO or complete the 110m Hurdles in a certain time, without jumping.

And I will say that the 1500 metre race is gruelling, tapping buttons as fast as you can, non stop for 3+ minutes sounds easy, but your fingers are gonna get a workout that's for sure.



The Good
A proper retro Track and Field style game, it really does have everything you could want.

The Bad
This is a small complaint, but I think that when you have two buttons you need to press to run, they should have to be pressed alternatively, where as in this you can press both together, this makes things much easier than it should be. I also think that a lack of control on the jumping events, again makes things too easy.

Overall
I was a huge fan of Olympic style games in the 1980s. I love a good button bashing game. I think there are a few tweaks that could be made to this game to make it a bit harder which in turn makes it more of a challenge. That said I thoroughly enjoyed playing, and it brought back some great memories of my youth.

I Score World CHAMPIONS: Decathlon a solid 8/10

Review by GamingCouchPotato.co.uk Staff



REVIEW: Scarf - On PC

Review by GamingCouchPotato.co.uk Staff
Scarf is a puzzle/3D platforming, narrative driven game,

Not much of a storyline as such other than the taglines of "what it means to be a hero". The game's main gimmick is that your scarf is a living creature, when you first start it kinda looks like a dragon, then you collect an orb and make friends with it and it turns into a regular scarf that goes around your neck. Once you have merged with the scarf, you quickly learn that it is the child, and that the mother scarf, creature thingy, was ripped apart by bad souls, who then used her threads to make portals. Baby scarf tried searching for their mother to no avail. Finally, by merging with your character, the story can be told.

You are then off and running, on a search to trap the souls who have created their own worlds.

Look I was pretty confused too, so can we get past the nonsensical storyline?


Each area has its own unique qualities, and as you play you will learn new scarf-based abilities, and you will discover the secrets of each area while solving pretty standard puzzles, jumping to different parts, gliding and so on. Very generic stuff.

The Good
The game is quite pretty, everything looks and sounds fine.

The Bad
This is a short game, about 2 hours at most. The controls are clunky, and unfortunately a lot of the gameplay is quite tedious. At times it feels more like a walking simulator as opposed to a proper puzzle/platformer. And the fact you will complete it in one sitting and then have no need or want to play it again seems like not the best way to spend £12.


Overall
The game is not all bad, I just don't think any single element of the game is particularly good.
It has value more as walking simulator, something to pass the time instead of something to challenge.

I score Scarf on PC a 5/10. Could have been so much more. You could literally watch a 2 hour playthrough on Youtube for free and get the same out of it.



5 Jun 2022

REVIEW: Vesper: Zero Light Edition on Nintendo Switch

Review by GamingCouchPotato.co.uk Staff
Vesper: Zero Light Edition is a side scrolling 2D platformer, first thought really was that it reminded me of Abe's Oddysee.

You play as an android called Seven, (Not quite Borg, but they could have used a different name perhaps). Seven is lost on a weird planet and you start with no powers, weapons, or really any way to defeat enemies, so at first you will need to use stealth to get past your enemies, luckily you will eventually get hold of the "Drive Gun", a weapon that can absorb light, create darkness and control minds, so at least now you have a chance. You use the gun in a few different ways, you can absorb light which then creates a dark spot which you can hide in, to avoid enemies. Then you can use that absorbed light and transfer it into machines which will allow you to open doors/portals, or activate traps etc. 



The levels themselves act as a puzzle to solve, which when you get the drive gun, the game turns from stealth to action, and then that is the main way to solve said puzzles.

Along the way you will collect documents (logs) that will reveal the truth behind the "Vesper Protocol". (nothing to do with the moped scooters as far as I can tell.)

I mentioned Abe's Oddysee at the start for a reason, that reason being the controls. Abe was a very deliberate game, very precise. Now this game tries to be like that, but the controls are just not very responsive. This is massively important when you are in a sequence of trying to escape an enemy or activate a platform etc.
 

The Drive Gun, which is controlled by the right stick, also lacks a feeling of intuitiveness. And when you know what you want to do, and the sequence should be pretty simple, you are forced to stop, get the aim right, and it just takes something away from the gameplay.

Although there are gameplay issues, one thing there is no issue with is the graphics, everything looks incredible, the backgrounds, the characters, everything is of a very high standard. The soundtrack although understated, comes in at the perfect moment, and really helps create the atmosphere that is needed in a game like this.

The main problem with the game is its length, you will complete it pretty quicky, and although a second playthrough is worth it, the frustration of some of the gameplay elements may put you off. Not to mention that some of the levels are tedious, in part due to the pacing issues I mentioned earlier.


The Good
The graphics, the atmosphere, everything looks and sounds incredible.

The Bad
Poor controls and bad pacing spoils what could have been a much better game, could future updates/patches fix these issues?

Overall
Short game that will attract 2D Platform/Puzzle fans, poor controls hurt the game, but there is still a decent game here, but you might want to play in short bursts, or you will finish it way too quick.

I score Vesper: Zero Light Edition a fair 6/10