Tag Archives: Game Review

Game Review: Airplane Mode

Nonsense games (as I like to call them) have become rather popular over recent years. Titles like Goat Simulator, I Am Bread and Octodad: Dadliest Catch, et al. Those games that are really stupid and often offer completely pointless and irrelevant style gameplay. Games that put you in the shoes of weird and wonderful protagonists… or a slice of bread, and allow you to just play around with the game’s world and physics. While nonsense games have become en vogue recently, they’re not exactly new. Back in 1993 there was Monty Python’s Complete Waste of Time game, and it was exactly what the title suggested. I think perhaps one of the more infamous nonsense games came from the unreleased, Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors for the Sega CD. While the game was never officially released, it has been leaked onto the interwebs. Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors was a collection of pointless mini-games, the most (in)famous one being Desert Bus. In it, you have to drive a bus from Tucson, Arizona, to Las Vegas, Nevada, around a 415 mile trip… and you have to do it all in real time too. The bus can’t go any faster than 45mph and the in-game journey takes around eight hours of non-stop ‘play’ to complete. There’s no racing, no interactions, no traffic. Just you, an open desert road and a bus.

Well, developer Hosni Auji has thrown his pilot’s hat into the ring to try and make a nonsense, long haul travel game for a new generation, Airplane Mode. In the game, you are a passenger on a flight in economy class… and that’s about it really.

The Game

Your flight is from New York to Reykjavik, which takes around six hours, real-time remember. But if you don’t fancy that, then you can opt for a shorter New York to Nova Scotia, a two hour trip… and yes, I’ve spent the last few hours as a virtual airplane passenger just to to this review. I went for the latter, shorter flight, but I did stick it through till the end.

So, the game doesn’t bore you with having to wait around in the departure lounge, nor do you have to board, find your seat and store your luggage. Airplane Mode starts with you already in your seat… but you do have to go through all the pre-flight safety, taxi to the runway, etc. You even have to endure the pilot’s chit-chat they always do. Being stuck in an airplane seat in economy class offers you a few options. There’s the screen in the back of the seat in front of you. Just like real life, you can use it to watch movies, play games, check on flight info. You can even order your in-flight meal… oh yeah, you get fed on your flight.

FOOD

Aside from the screen, there’s the pocket on the back of the seat that houses the safety card you always get on flights. The magazine that has articles to read, endless ads for perfume, etc. And it’s all recreated in the game too, yes you can casually flick through the magazine and discover all sorts. There are even puzzles you can enjoy crosswords, sudoku and more.

I must admit, I couldn’t work out how to actually fill in said puzzles as you can’t use the keyboard to type in. So I just put the magazine back, a bit dismayed that I couldn’t actually interact with the puzzles. See, the game doesn’t tell you how to do anything, you just have to move the pointer around and click, see what works. That’s when I discovered my carry on luggage under the seat. My bag was then placed on the seat next to me and I could open it… and there it was, a pen I could pick up and use. Honestly, I felt like I had just discovered the Ark of the Covenant. I quickly picked the flight magazine back up and found not only could I now write with the pen to do the puzzles, I could write, draw and scribble freely.

Putting the magazine and pen back, I explored my bag some more. A novel, an actual novel I could read in game. Against the Grain (À rebours) by J K Huysmans, it’s a real book too that you can buy in real life. There was a USB cable, no idea what it was for, but I plugged it on to the USB slot in the chair regardless, shortly after, I discovered that you have a mobile phone. Yes, you can charge your in-game phone, it has a battery life and everything. So I left my phone charging while I turned my attention back to my bag.  A pair of Bluetooth headphones that you can use with the previously mentioned screen to hear what’s being played. Oh, and there’s also a blank note book that you can use to write and draw with the pen,  anything you like too…

DICK

Now I had my headphones working, I played around with the screen some more. There are three (public domain) films you can watch and even a Buggs Bunny cartoon. I kept exploring, but that was when the flight attendant came over and told me to do my seatbelt.

I began exploring my cramped space and found you can interact with the light and air-con above the seat. Close the blind in the window, pull down the tray, recline the seat. There’s even a sick bag and yes, it is useable too. The PA system interrupted my enjoyment of the Bugs Bunny cartoon as the captain spoke to detail me in on the flight, then after the safety video, we were off into the sky. Honestly, I was really quite impressed with how much detail and interaction there is… for a game where you sit in a seat of an airplane.

When we were firmly up and away, I noticed a little toilet symbol further down the aisle of the plane and I clicked on it. Yup, you can go to the toilet in the game and there’s even more interactions. Turn on the taps, get some soap, use paper towels, lift the toilet seat, flush the toilet. Even the baby changing table can be played with. After which pointless playing around, I returned back to my seat. There was a baby crying in the background, a few minutes later and we hit some turbulence. All of theses in-flight events are random too. You can even sometimes get a faulty screen that refuses to work properly.

PA

Anyway, after the flight attendant dished out the snacks and beer, which I got to choose, it was soon time to land. That’s when I decided to play around with my in-game phone and found even more stuff. Music, a camera option so you can take and even view pics, podcasts. You can listen to podcasts via your phone. I mean, I have told an abridged version of events here, but that two hour flight (no pun) flew by as I was too busy enjoying myself, playing around with all the little things the game allows you to. I’m still not sure that I found everything.

Overall

You know what? I actually really enjoyed this. Just remove the concept of you being stuck on a long haul flight and you have a fun little toybox to play around with here. Crosswords, sudoku, real films, in-flight magazine to read, a book, music to listen to and more. There are a few things that let the experience down. More puzzles in the magazine would be great. It seems to be the same puzzles in the magazine every time you play. I did restart the flight several times to check, even launched the longer six hour flight too. Every time I did, I got the exact same magazine with the exact same puzzles. So it would be nice to see some variation in the puzzles that are there and even add more variety of puzzles too. How about some spot the differences, word-searches, etc?

BOOK

Maybe some more (public domain) books? There’s loads of great, classic short stories and novels out there that are free to read which could be included in the game with ease and at no cost. More PD movies would be great. If they got that Bugs Bunny cartoon as PD, then there are plenty more that could be included. How about different classes? Being stuck in economy is something many of us are used to. So why not let us experience business class or even first class flights?

In all honesty, I really enjoyed this far more than I thought I would. If they add more features in future updates (see my suggestions), Airplane Mode could really get very interesting. In all honesty, it really is just a façade for being able to enjoy public domain works or draw cocks in a notebook, there’s nothing wrong with that either. I had a load of fun playing around with what the game offered, it just needs a bit more meat on the bones to add to it’s value. But what is here is surprisingly fun. I mean, just how many games can you think of where you can watch Bugs Bunny cartoons while drawing a picture of some huge (if somewhat angular) boobies?

BUGS

Game Review: 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin

I grew up watching seventies chop-socky flicks. Those distinctly cheesy, bad effects, badly dubbed, masters with long beards teaching students type of kung-fu films. Before Bruce Lee came along and revolutionised Hong Kong cinema, proving that kung-fu films could be so much more and even break down boundaries with Enter the Dragon, there was this unique brand of martial arts films that captured my heart from a young age.

SHAOLINS ROAD

Over the years, there have been a few games that have tried to emulate seventies kung-fu flicks. Titles like Shao-lin’s Road, Kung-Fu Master or more recently Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao, among others, have all tried to bring some of that Hong Kong, chop-socky love to gaming. From developer Sobaka Studio comes a new game hoping to capture some of that stylised kung-fu cinema magic with 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin. But is it Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury amazing or Jackie Chan’s New Fist of Fury atrocious?

The Plot

Set during the Chinese Year of the Water Monkey in 1572. You play as Wei Cheng, who’s parents were killed by Wokou (Chinese pirates) when Wei was a child. Taken in by his grandfather, Wei learns all about the family fishing business… as well as how to fight with a staff. Now a grown man, Wei’s village is attacked by bandits, his grandfather is killed and Wei is left for dead. Buddhist monks find Wei and nurse him back to health. This is when Wei learns those bandits were actually deadly Wokou. With the help of the monks, Wei sets out for revenge.

The Game

At heart, 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin is very basic scrolling beat ’em up fare. If you’ve ever played Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, Battletoads (just not the new one) or similar, then you’ll know exactly what to expect here. Move around the levels and smack the crap out of bad guys with various attacks. Even though 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin does have that basic style gameplay, there’s a lot more going on beneath which adds so many more layers to the gameplay.

9 MONKEYS OF SHAOLIN ACTION

You have your standard quick-light attack, a slower-heavy attack, a thrust raged attack and a dodge move. Then there’s a deflect/parry move which is used for defence, stringing together moves by mixing things up will build your combo score, bigger combos give you more points. Finish levels to earn reward points and use those points to spend on upgrades and for your moves. You can swap your standard staff weapon for something else, with different weapons having different modifiers and abilities. Special equip-able items and footwear, numerous variables that allow you to create a character they meets your own playstyle. These weapons and items are earned just by finishing the various levels ion the story.

There there are the additional attacks by holding down the left or right trigger buttons and pressing one of the three standard attacks. You’ll soon be learning acrobatic moves and magical attacks that will cause enemies to float, slow down and even pull enemies toward you, all of which can be upgraded. The story is split into five different chapters, each representing a clan of the Wokou that attacked your village. With each chapter featuring multiple levels and a boss fight. The levels themselves can be really creative and often offer something unique along the way, fight in a sawmill and you’ll find saw blades that need to be dodged, storms can bring lighting strikes that can hit you and the enemies, levels in long grass will slow you down and make enemies harder to see. Honestly, 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin really does offer a lot of little nuances that add layers to not just the levels but also the fighting itself.

9 MONKEYS OF SHAOLIN ACTION 2

Different enemies have their own strengths and weaknesses, meaning you’ll need to experiment with your variety of attacks to discover the best way to deal with each enemy type. And if that’s not enough for you, the game still offers more. There’s co-op action so you and a friend can play though the entire story together. Either online or even some old school, couch co-op. There are little statues hidden on the levels which unlock amusing gameplay mods. Remember GoldenEye 007 on the N64 with it’s big head, paintball mode, etc? Well you have some of those style unlockables here too. Give your character a big body, the emeries big heads and so on, just to add a little comedic slant to your game.

I did manage to finish the game in one sitting, in around four hours or so. It’s not a huge title at all. There are twenty-five levels, which does sound like a lot, but each level can be finished in just a few minutes. Still, you don’t really want a title like this to needlessly drag on anyway. 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and neither did it feel too short. Besides, even though I finished it, I am going back to find all of those secrets and even try to finish it on the hardest difficulty. I really enjoyed this slice of retro beat ’em up action.

9 MONKEYS OF SHAOLIN ACTION 3

Overall

The only thing negative I really have is that the game never really goes full seventies kung-fu flick style, aesthetically speaking. I’d loved for it to have had a Chinese language with English subtitles to add a layer of authenticity. Maybe some seventies style film grain (could be one of the hidden extras, I’ve not yet found them all). A funky seventies soundtrack. But those really are just very minor niggles. 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin is fantastic and as an old school beat ’em up fan, this really scratched an itch.

Review: Ride 4

I do have a bit of a soft spot for racing games, grew up playing them and still very much enjoy the genre today. However, there’s one motorsport discipline that I’ve never really gotten into from a gaming perspective, motorbikes. I think the last time I played a bike racer was Super Hang-On in the arcade, back in 1987… maybe the original Road Rash.

Anyway, I’ve just never been attracted to motorbike racing in the same way I am with cars. I know nothing about the sport, nor do I have any interest in learning about it either.  So in that regard, I’m probably the last person that should review a motorbike racing sim… so here’s my review of motorbike racing sim, Ride 4.

RIDE 4 ACTION

If you have ever played any kind of racing game recently, then you’ll find things are pretty standard here in terms of game modes. Single races, where you can take any of the bikes out for a ride on any of the tracks in the game. There are 176 different bikes from 17 different manufactures. Brands like BMW, Honda, Ducati, Suzuki, Triumph and more all offer various machines to ride on. Then there are the tracks, split over three continents, America, Europe and Asia. All three offer multiple real-life race tracks. Laguna Seca, Imola, Brands Hatch, Suzuka to name a few, thirty tracks in all to enjoy. So just pick a bike, pick a track and away you go for some single race action.

Then there are the endurance races. Pick a race length from 20 minutes to 24 hours. Choose your a bike, though you have to use a specially modified endurance bike. Select a track, tinker with the weather and time of day, time compression. Hit the track for a very lengthy race. There is also the basic time trial mode where it’s just you, your bike and the track. No opponents and no racing other than against the clock, a great way to learn the numerous circuits. There is also a career mode, which I will cover soon. But aside from the multiplayer mode (which I couldn’t really test with the game not being out as I write this), that’s about it for you racing options. Ride 4 offers pretty much what any other racing game offers, it neither excels nor falls behind in this regard, it’s all pretty much standard racing fare.

RIDE 4 ACTION 2

There are some nice features to play around with, a photo mode that is accessible from the pause menu, so you can take some snaps of your bike racing action. Of course you can tinker and tune your bike, buy new engines, transmissions and so on. You can even customise your rider, name, gender, info, riding styles and more. Then there is the editor where you can create your very own helmet and riding suit designs, you can even design your own unique liveries for the bikes. Ever played Forza Motorsport and its creation system? Same thing here. When it comes to the customisation, there really is a lot to get your head around with Ride 4.

In terms of looks, Ride 4 is a cracking looking game too. I know several of the tracks very well and they all looked fantastic. Tearing around Monza, Donnington Park, Interlagos and they felt like the tracks I knew. I’m not a bike person, yet the machines all seemed great too, I can’t say if they are authentic or not, but they are nicely detailed and looked like bikes… so that’s good. I did a race in the rain, which for me is the true test of how a racing game should look. Ride 4 looked stunning, reflections on the track, rain kicking up and hitting the screen, puddles formed on the circuit… it looked and felt like a wet race, ticked all the boxes for me. So far, so good. Until…

RIDE 4 ACTION 3

So that career mode I previously mentioned. Every good racer needs a career mode and I wish I could tell you how good this one is… but I couldn’t actually play it. From what I saw, it looked quite extensive. Split into three leagues, there’s the regional leagues (European, Asian and American), a world league and then the final leagues (superbikes and endurance). But before you can take part in those, you need to earn your licence by doing several tests. A time attack, lap on a test track, ride through gates, etc. Could I pass these tests? No. Oh I tried, I tried dozens and dozens and dozens of times. The tests are just too damn strict, from extremely tight times to beat to the test being a fail if you so much as put a millimetre of your bike off track (seriously, a millimetre). I did manage to do three of the tests after many, many, many attempts and a lot of time spent, but they got so frustrating that I just gave up in the end. I could not even get into the career mode to tell you what it’s like. I had to switch on all of the driving assists, and I’ve never done that with any racing game before. Yet, even with all the help the game offers… I could not do those damn tests to play career mode. I’ve had the game for over a week for review and I could not review the main part of the game.

I couldn’t work out if it was me or the game being really unfair and unforgiving. As I said at the start, I’m not a bike person… but I can play racing games… I think. I’ve never had this issue with any other game like this. I can race okay in the other modes, I can put up fight and even secure a podium or three in single races. On tracks that I know well, I could put in some decent times in time trial mode. It took a while to get used to riding the bikes in the game, they feel really heavy and you have to think about turning into and out of the corners about three turns in advance, but I got used to it. Yes, it is very different to racing a car around a track, I get that. I know I would never be able to ride a bike like this in real-life around a real track, but then again, I doubt I would ever be able to drive a Ferrari F40 around Monza in real-life on a real track… but I can do just that well enough in a driving sim. I just can not pass the tests to play career mode… even with the driving assists on. I became convinced the problem was the game.

RIDE 4 ACTION 4

But is it really the game that is the problem and not me the player? I’ll happily admit (and I already have, several times) that I’m not a bike person at all, so there is a very good chance the issues I have with the game are not really with the game, as I just don’t understand bikes. So, I did a little research into the previous Ride games. As of writing, the original Ride holds a metascore of 54 on Metacritic. Ride 2 holds a 66 score and Ride 3 has itself a slightly better score of 76. They’re not exactly great scores are they? Very average to above average at best. Getting better with each new game yes, but still not great scores. Quick side-note, all of those scores on the Xbox as I’ve been playing the Xbox version of Ride 4. So as a franchise, Ride isn’t exactly setting the racing gaming world alight is it? Perhaps it is the game that is at fault and not so much me, or at the very least, there’s a bit of both there? But again, I got on okay with the single races, etc. It’s just those damn tests for career mode, they’re too ‘effin strict and the game is just not accessible for newbies to bike games like me.

Plus, seeing as I was having such a disappointing time with Ride 4, I thought that may be my driving skills had dulled. So I loaded up both Forza Motorsport 7 and F1 2020 just to re-test my skills. I was tearing around tracks, racing, fighting for positions and really bloody enjoying myself too (without all the assists on too). It has to be the game, I may not be a bike person… but I know a good racing game from a distinctly average one and average is what Ride 4 really is.

I really wanted to enjoy Ride 4, I honestly did, but it’s just rubbed me up the wrong way. As someone who plays racing games regularly and a person who considers himself pretty good at the racing genre, I just found it too punishing for what it is and a very stubborn game to truly get into. Ride 4 is just very, very meh for what I did get to play.

Windbound Review: A Breath Of Fresh Air Or Load Of Old Guff?

Generally speaking, I do enjoy a survival game. Starting with nothing and having to build up your inventory. Search for and gather materials, make basic tools and slowly progress, evolving your weapons. Learn how to craft new items and defend yourself against the evils of the game. Every survival game follows the same basic recipe… and this can be a title’s downfall. Survival games can tend to get a bit ‘samey’ and soon become rather tiresome. So, they need an interesting kick, a spin on the genre that separates it from the many others already available.

Windbound is a new survival game on the market, but is it different enough to stand out against the others? From developer 5 Lives Studios and publisher Deep Silver comes this new title.

You play as Kara, a warrior, who after being caught in a storm is washed up on the shores of a small island (one of many). Separated from your tribe, you have to explore your surroundings, build your resources, discover the secrets of the mysterious islands and hopefully, regroup with your tribe.

In typical survival game fashion, you start with nothing. Waking up on the beach of an island, you begin by gathering the basics, small rocks and dry grass. As you pick up items, you learn new crafting skills, but you’ll soon find yourself pretty much trapped, the island you start on is rather small, though randomly generated each time you play. You’ll soon find an oar… a very special oar. This then opens up the ability to build a boat. But given your lack of resources, your boat is limited to a simple grass canoe. Still, now you can get out there onto the seas and explore what are known as the The Forbidden Islands.

The game is split over several archipelagos and the main aim is to explore each island on each archipelago, find the strange alters that have a connection to the amulet you wear. Once all of the alters have been activated, you can open up the gateway to the next archipelago. But there is a progression system installed to each of the archipelagos and the islands found in them. For instance, the first one you find yourself in really has very little going on. You’ll find bare basic resources and a few wild animals. You start with nothing and gain little more then a pointed stick as a weapon. Still, kill some of the wildlife and they’ll drop new items such as bones and skin. Set up a fire and dry out the skin to turn it into leather, maybe the wildlife dropped some meat, so get that cooking to fend off hunger and top up your health. Soon you’ll be able to upgrade your pointed stick to a bone tipped spear and take on bigger enemies.

WINDBOUND FIRE

Progress to the next archipelago and you’ll find new resources. Bamboo, which can be used to upgrade your vessel. Go from a pretty crappy grass canoe to a more versatile bamboo raft, why not stick some hulls on it to make it more nimble and sturdy, build a sail and use the wind to carry you from island to island. Upgrade to a bow and arrow to take on bigger and more aggressive wildlife. Find even more new resources and so on. Keep on going, slowly upgrading your weapons and boat until you have a pretty mean arsenal and impressive catamaran. You’ll also find in game currency as you explore and inbetween each area, you’ll have the chance to spend that currency on (randomly generated) upgrades to help you in your adventures. Keep moving from island to island, archipelago to archipelago and discover the secrets of the Forbidden Islands.

Windbound is, at heart, a survival game… but it’s also a something a little different to  survival games you may be used to. There’s no base/home building here as you are continually moving from island to island, progressing though each archipelago. You never settle, just keep moving. Things like food management are here, but it really takes a bit more of a backseat over other elements of the game and other survival titles. You’ll probably not really enjoy the sailing aspects of the game either, I certainly didn’t, not at first. But as you progress through the game and learn how to upgrade your vessel, the sailing becomes more of a joy… sometimes, though as you build your vessel bigger and bigger, it becomes much more cumbersome to control. Plus, when I was playing, I found I had to sail into the wind more often than not, which really slows you down.

WINDBOUND BOAT

Truth be told, I found Windbound a little too restrictive as a survival game and seasoned survival gamers may feel the same too. It’s too simplified too linear. There’s no real exploration as each of the islands you visit are really very small all told. You find one, gather some basic resources, active the relic and move on. You spend around ten minutes on some of the larger islands and literal seconds on the smaller ones. Spending most of your time at sea finding the islands than on the actual islands surviving. As you do progress through each archipelago, the islands do become more interesting I admit, but the issue is that they only get really interesting in the final one or two areas.

Plus, there is the lack of game modes here… just the one. There’s a story mode and two difficulties to chose from to play through that story and that’s it. For a survival game, Windbound really lacks punch and the small islands just don’t offer the exploration a title like this should. The game needs a proper free-roam/survival mode where you can discover the game at your own leisure without the story and larger areas to explore too. But with the game deigned as it is with small islands spread over five archipelagos, there’s just not enough here to take in. I honestly found the opening three archipelagos a bit dull, then when the game did finally kick into gear and grab me towards the back end, the credits were rolling. Very much a one and done title for me as there’s just nothing to pull me back into it.

WINDBOUND BOW

Still, saying all of that, I didn’t dislike Windbound. It’s a very nice little game. The obvious compassion to Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Breath of the Wild games in terms of some of the gameplay elements and graphics are fair I feel, especially the sailing and degrading of weapons and tools. I’m pretty sure that developer 5 Lives Studios were influenced by both games. Windbound features some great weather effects, you can see the dark storm clouds form in the background, lighting flashes away. But do you chance going into the storm to get to the next island or wait it out for the storm to pass? Windbound is full of nice little details like that and as each game is randomly generated, it’ll be different each time you play.

For me, as a bit of a survival game fan, Windbound is just lacking. It needed more meat on its bones, the islands should’ve been bigger with more to explore. Plus the fact you do spend so much of the game at sea, there’s surprisingly little to actually do when you are sailing, no fishing for instance and very few places to explore. It needed more than the one game mode too. I finished the game in about three sittings over three nights, only playing for a few hours at a time and as much as I enjoyed it, there’s nothing here to make me want to play again.