(Mini) Game Review: The Gallery

Full-motion video (FMV) games were huge in the 90s. Rarely were they ever any good, but they were popular. Aviary Studios are the developer and publisher behind a new FMV game called The Gallery. How does the FMV genre of game hold up today and is this one any good? Well, that is what this review is for.

“An art curator is held hostage by a portraitist who threatens to detonate a bomb unless their demands are met. ‘The Gallery’ contains two interactive narratives – set in 1981 and 2021. Both eras are significant periods of socio-political unrest in Britain and there are distinct similarities and differences across the two stories.”

So then, as the blurb there just covered, there are two timelines being played out here one in 1981 and one in 2021. Even though the two stories are 40 years apart, they share a lot of similarities. Both stories are set against unrest in the UK. The protagonists have the same name, Morgan. They are both art curators, both working at Argyle Manor. In both timelines, Argyle Manor is struggling to stay afloat. Both stories feature a portrait artist called Dorian, who wants to paint Morgan. Then, in both timelines, Dorian has a bomb is threatens to detonate it, if their demands are not met. Basically, you are playing the same story, with some differences, 40 years apart.

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I use the word ‘playing’ in its loosest possible term. This is an FMV game and you don’t really ‘play’ it, you just experience it. This is a film with some slight and minor interaction. A scene of the film will play and you get to pick one of (usually) two decisions to see how the rest of the film and story pans out. The different choices that you make will lead to different scenes and ultimately, different endings. Each of the two stories features multiple endings. The one set in 1981 has a whopping 12 endings and the one in 2021 has 6.

There are a lot of parallels between the two stories too. Some actors play characters in both tales and some dialogue is repeated verbatim (see the trailer). Some of the scenes play out almost identically too. Even the main characters, Morgan and Dorian, are played by the same actors. Only their characters are reversed depending on which story you chose. Anna Popplewell plays protagonist Morgan in the 1981 story, with George Blagden playing antagonist Dorian. However, in the 2021 story, George Blagden plays protagonist Morgan and Anna Popplewell plays protagonist Dorian. The duality of the storytelling and how the characters and scenes work between the two (otherwise) unconnected tales is really interesting to see.

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The 1981 story and the 2021 yarn do follow pretty much the same premise too, but with enough differences to warrant a playthrough of each at least once. All of which brings me to my conclusion…

£12 is what The Gallery will set you back and it is available on everything, including iOS & Android. I admit that is not a bad price point but for me, this is something that is better to watch than ‘play’. In terms of being a game, there really is very little here. I did go through both stories once and despite the fact that there are plenty of scenes and multiple endings that I did not see, I really felt zero compulsion to go through the stories again. This was very much a ‘one and done’ experience for me.

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As much as I enjoyed the story, as much as I loved the duality of the storytelling and as great as the acting is, this is really not worth ‘playing’ multiple times. I think that this would’ve worked better as a film experiment than a game. The FMV genre of games is flawed in that, they hardly contain any gameplay… which is the main draw of a game. So, it is not an issue with this particular title, more an issue with the genre as a whole. What worked and what was seen as ‘cutting edge’ back in the early 90s when the FMV genre was everywhere, really fails to work these days.

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All being said, even though I felt that this one was a bit ‘flat’ and didn’t pull me in for multiple playthroughs. I still think that, if you are an FMV genre fan, you should look into giving The Gallery a try. The dual story is an interesting concept and the acting is great too. It’s just not a game though.

Game Review: Blind Fate: Edo No Yami

A good while back now, I played and reviewed HyperParasite from developer Troglobytes Games (buy it, it’s awesome). Over 2 years since it was released in 2020, I still enjoy having a blast now and then. I became an instant fan of the studio and have been eagerly awaiting their next title. Blind Fate: Edo No Yami (published by 101XP) is that new title and it is one of the main games that I have been really, really looking forwards to this year. Now I have played it, was it worth the wait?

“Dive into a world that mixes Sci-Fi and ancient tradition. Slash through robots with a trusty katana, use hi-tech implants to navigate the surroundings, dodge enemy attacks, and land devastating finishers. Reclaim the past following the way of the Japanese samurai in the fantastic period of New Edo.”

So then, what is Blind Fate: Edo No Yami all about? You play as a cyber-samurai called Yami, in what is basically a scrolling hack ‘n slash game. Oh yeah, you are blind too. See, it was this concept of playing as a blind character that really piqued my interest. Video games are a visual medium and blindness is a pretty huge obstacle to overcome. How do depict playing as a character that can not see, in a video game where seeing (from a character’s point of view) is paramount? I think this would be the best place to describe how Blind Fate: Edo No Yami works.

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As Yami is part-cybernetic, he has certain machine-based skills. For instance, you don’t have human senses per se, you have sensors. These sensors can be selected, on the fly, as you play and they are used to pick up sound, heat and smell. Different enemies can and will be shown when you use these sensors. Most enemies make a sound when they move, so you’ll know where they are because you can hear them. If an enemy has a gun and fires it, the heat from the barrel will give away where they are, and so on. Once you hit an enemy, they will remain visible for a while, so you can see them more clearly. Leave it too long between hits though and your blindness will make them disappear.

The blindness also works with the levels themselves. You are given data of the area that you are in, as a way for you to ‘see’ your surroundings. The only problem is that, a lot of the time, that data is outdated. This means that not everything that you see (or don’t see) is necessarily there… or not there. This is why you need to find more up-to-date data of your surroundings to fill in certain gaps. I mean, you can walk into an area that is completely corrupt and the in-game graphics will show that corruption too. But, find some data, it is uploaded into your cybernetic brain and you’ll have a far better visual of your surroundings. The collection of data applies to the enemies too. The more you have on them, you more you know about them and the easier they become to see.

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Seriously, how Troglobytes Games have implemented the idea of blindness is pretty damn unique. There’s a brilliant touch that explains how it all works at the very start of the game. You have an AI guide called Tengu, which tutorials you through the opening and explains how your blindness and vision works. In the first area, it is raining, but the raindrops do not move, they are static and stuck in the air. The rain does not move because the data you have been given is static, so your cybernetic system produces it as static. You don’t have information on how the rain is falling, just that there is rain. The game is full of little details like this.

But enough about the implementation of blindness, how does the game actually play? Well, as I said earlier, this is a hack ‘n slash title. You know the score, scrolling levels, hit enemies and take out bosses. You have the standard light and heavier ranged attacks, a dodge/roll and a block/parry. But don’t let the simplicity of the mechanics fool you, there is some depth to the hacking and slashing. You have the usual combos, but if you land so many hits, you will reveal a weak spot on your enemy. This opens up for a powerful attack based around your sensors, which you’ll have to switch to in mid-combo. You can also perform devastating finishing moves with some pretty awesome-looking animations.

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In terms of the combat, Blind Fate: Edo No Yami starts out really bloody hard. You know how games usually have a difficulty curve that slowly increases? You don’t get that here, you get a difficult game from the off. A lot of that difficulty is tied into the fact that you are blind and can not see your enemies, at first. As I mentioned earlier, the more data that you collect, the more visible your enemies become. Coupled with the upgrades and skill tree, Blind Fate: Edo No Yami is a game whose difficulty curve seems to work in reverse. The more you play, the more you learn about your enemies and the more you unlock skills and upgrades, the easier it becomes. Don’t get me wrong, this never becomes an easy game, it just gets easier while still maintaining a high difficulty.

You can’t just go running in and start smacking the attack button as if you are playing Golden Axe. Well, you can but you just won’t last very long. Blind Fate: Edo No Yami isn’t that type of hack ‘n slash game. The fights here are a tad more methodical and precise. You have to learn your enemies’ attacks, pay attention to their patterns and strike only when you know there is an opening. When there are multiples of different enemies on the screen too, that can get a little ‘hectic’. Boss fights can be punishing if you are not adequately prepared and you will die… a lot.

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The high death count is something that I can tell, will frustrate some players. That early difficulty spike is a rough hill to climb and I am willing to bet that it will put a lot of people off. For me though? Yeah, it was hard, sometimes unfairly so. But I kind of liked it and when I did finally overcome a particularly tricky spot and the sense of achievement when taking out a boss, that had already killed me several times over previously, was immense.

There is a story, that I’m not about to spoil here. But you do find out how and why Yami became cybernetic. The game jumps back in time throughout the evolving plot as fills you in on your character’s history. Dialogue between characters can sometimes be pretty funny, especially with the previously mentioned AI guide, Tengu. Then there are some stylish cutscenes as you progress which fill out the story nicely. Good voice acting is backed up with some great and very authentic sounding music to give the game Blind Fate: Edo No Yami a nice bit of presentation. And yes, you can pet the dog.

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Priced at around £17 and is available on everything right now. To answer my query in the intro of whether Blind Fate: Edo No Yami was worth the wait? For me, yes. But I can tell you now that this is going to be a game that some people will not enjoy. It can be frustrating and it can be unfairly difficult a times too. I don’t know, maybe I was just in the mood for a game that would quite happily slap me around the face and then expect me to thank it for the honour too? There’s a slight Metroidvania angle in that, unlocked skills can open up previously unexplored areas. Your sensors can be used to find secrets and alternate routes. There’s really a lot packed into Blind Fate: Edo No Yami and plenty to enjoy. You just need the patience to get past that opening difficulty spike.

There is a demo available. That might be a good idea to check out before you decide if you’re going to give this a purchase or not. Oh, almost forgot to mention. I’m in the credits for this one.

(Not So Mini Mini-Game) Game Roundup: Arcade Paradise – All Of The Games

Nosebleed Interactive and Wired Productions’ Arcade Paradise is amazing. I gave the game a full review a while back, right here. For those not in the know, Arcade Paradise is a business sim where you turn a laundrette into a very 90s arcade. Within Arcade Paradise are over 30 in-game and very playable mini-games. There are so many games in the game that there are even games within games… within a game. Right here, I’m going to do a bite-sized look at every game found in Arcade Paradise. Going through the whole lot in alphabetical order, from start to finish.

Air Hockey: Everyone knows what this is, a staple of any and every arcade in the 80s. Controlling a paddle-thing, you have to try and score more goals than your opponent by smacking a plastic puck around. It’s air hockey and a decent digital version of it too.

Attack Vector: A kind of shoot ’em up… I guess? You play as a tank enemies appear at the side of the screen, ready to kamikaze crash into your tank. You have to move your turret around and shoot the charging enemies before they take you out. This one is quite tricky because the rotation of the turret is a little awkward and stiff. You’ll need split-second timing and reactions of a cat to rack up a decent score.

Barkanoid: The first game (alphabetically) to feature a member of Arcade Paradise’s mascot family. This is basically an Arkanoid clone… with a dog instead of a bat/paddle. Use Zebby the dog to bounce a ball around to destroy various coloured blocks, some drop power-ups. Destroy all of the blocks and move on to the next level. Simple but very playable stuff.

BARKANOID POSTER

Blockchain: Or as I call it, ‘gaming crack’. I think that the best way to describe this game is, it is Tetris with a bit of maths thrown in. You have to place numbered blocks to destroy the ever-rising blocks underneath. The numbers that you drop have to match the vertical, horizontal (or both) total amount to destroy that block. As an example, if there is a single block at the bottom, then you’ll need to drop a 2 block on top of it to destroy it. The one block at the bottom and the 2 block you placed = 2 blocks in total. Put a 5 block on a grouping of four and so on. Sounds simple, because it kind of is. But when you have multiple blocks of varying sizes and random numbers to drop, things can get confusing. My favourite game in Arcade Paradise as it is simple and massively addictive.

Blobs From Space: This is a Space Invaders pastiche. Playing as a tank, at the bottom of the screen. Alien blobs keep descending and you have to shoot them before they reach the bottom. There are some boss battles that add a little variety. Other than that, this is Space Invaders. I have a little niggle with this game. The turret of the tank that you control is angled left or right, depending on which way you are moving. However, your projectiles always fire directly up. I keep thinking that the projectile is going to come out at the angle that the turret is facing and it throws off my aim. It’s just a little personal niggle in an otherwise fun little game.

Bomb Dudes: Have you ever played Bomberman, or if you are of a certain age and continent, Dynablaster? Well, that is what this is. Your character is armed with a bomb and you blow up walls and enemies to advance to the next stage. Some walls have power-ups in them to give you extra bombs, longer explosions and such. This is Bomberman, and a pretty good version of it too.

BUGAI

Bugai: This is the game’s version of Puzzle Bobble. Different coloured bubbles… or bugai, in this instance.  Match colour for colour and drop the bugai onto your opponent’s playing field to make things more difficult for them. Win and advance to the next stage. The stages take place at locations all over the world and your opponents are various characters from the plethora of games in Arcade Paradise. An easy and fun to play puzzle game.

Championship Darts: It’s darts. What more do you want from me? Three different AI opponents to play against. You throw ‘arrows’ at a dart board to try and go from 301 to 0 in the fewest darts thrown. The first person to ‘check out’ wins. It’s darts.

Communists From Mars: A shooter that is most definitely influenced by the classic Missile Command. Missile projectiles rain down from above and you shoot them down and hopefully, while pulling off some chain reactions to minimise the shots you take. Really good and frantic fun in the later levels.

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Cyber Dance: A rhythm-based dance game, not at all too dissimilar to Dance Dance Revolution. Only you can play without looking like an idiot by flailing your legs around. Instead, just tap the direction on the pad in time with the arrows on the screen and the beat of the music. Not my cup of Yorkshire Tea at all, I just do not like rhythm-based games. But hey, it does feature some pretty good music.

Fruit Crush: This is a Dr. Mario-type game. Only, instead of you having to match coloured pills, you match fruit. Match four of the same fruit and it disappears from the screen. Build up combos to get high scores and boom. A basic puzzle game that is easy to get into but hard to master as risking building high is the key to getting the combos, but also a surefire way to lose.

Graffiti Ballz: This is a little harder to explain. It is another easy to get into puzzle game, but it doesn’t really have a comparable counterpart. Playing as a spray can, you aim and shoot ‘ballz’ of paint and have to match colour for colour. In an ever-increasing and multiplying match ’em up title. Sounds really crap but honestly, I have spent way too much time on this (not as much as Blockchain) as it is really addictive once you get the hang of it.

Gravichase: Is a vector graphics game where you control a spaceship. There is an ever-decreasing circle, or black hole, or something that is made up of rings. Anyway, the ever-decreasing thing has one gap in each ring and you have to move your ship so it goes through the gap of each decreasing ring. All while gravity does its thing and pulls you and the circle thing into it. Fast reactions are key here and the frustration factor is high.

POOL

Hustler: It’s pool. What more do you want from me? Yeah, I know I did this with the darts game too. Still, it’s the same thing, just with pool. Three AI opponents to play against and you pot balls. I did find that this was terribly unforgiving and you can line up a shot that looks great, only for the ball to bounce out of the pocket when it really should’ve gone in. It’s an unfair game of pool that punishes you for being anyway half-decent.

Jukebox: It’s a jukebox. Okay, so technically not a game. Just a nice-looking machine that plays music. As there are some great tunes in Arcade Paradise, it’s worth mentioning the jukebox anyway. A good selection of 90s-inspired tunes with clear homages to the likes of The Prodigy and Oasis, etc. You can flick through the selection and pop on a song while you play some games.

Knuckles & Knees: An old-school styled beat ’em up with multiple characters and an upgrade system. A really good beat ’em up too. Mindlessly redundant, but really good. Things get a little meta with this one as you can go into a King Wash (which is the name of the laundrette in Arcade Paradise) within this game and find playable arcade games within the arcade game that you are playing… that is within the main game that you are playing. These mini-mini-games are just fun distractions over ‘proper’ games, but I did say that I was going to cover every game in Arcade Paradise, so… Flyguy: Is a Flappy Bird clone. Toad: An endless and stripped-back version of Frogger where you just keep crossing a road. Brick: A simplified version of Arkanoid. Snake: It’s Snake, that game that was on Nokia mobile phones in the late 90s. Racer: An endless ‘racer’ where you have to dodge traffic.

LINE TERROR

Line Terror: Oh man, this one is tough. You know games like Qix where you have to fill in the screen while being chased by enemies? Well yep, that is what this is… and it is punishingly hard too. I couldn’t even finish the first stage. If you are feeling a bit masochistic and want to punish yourself, play some Line Terror for a few minutes.

Llama: This one is found on the PDA that you use to manage various aspects of your arcade. Not a ‘real’ game in the sense of the others, more of a fun little distraction. It is a bit like Flappy Bird, in that it’s a continually scrolling thing with you having to avoid obstacles by jumping over them, as a llama. I think that this is a subtle reference to the work of Jeff Minter. If not, it is now.

Meteor Madness: Is a bit like Asteroids, kind of. You control a spaceship and have to blast asteroids away. Only, there is the added objective of picking up and delivering a gem. With vector graphics style and an inertia movement aspect that will really throws off how the ship moves when it has picked up its load. I really liked this one as I was a big fan of Asteroids back in the day.

Minesweeper: One of the games found on the PC in the office in the game. Yup, there are games on the in-game PC. There’s not really much to say about this, it’s Minesweeper. There are mines hidden on a board and you have to clear the board without setting off the mines. This game was a game that everyone had on their PCs in the early 90s, mainly because Microsoft included it as a free game with Windows 3.1.

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Racer Chaser: Pac-Man meets Grand Theft Auto in this maze game. Playing as a yellow sports car, you have to avoid the police while trying to clear the screen of money. Pick up this game’s version of a power-pill and turn into a tank, so you can run over the police. Get hit by the police when in the car and you have to run around on foot and try to make it back to your car to continue, while shooting the chasing police with your boombox. This one is great fun and another game that I probably spent way too much time on.

Shuttlecocks: Is Pong. Nothing fancy, no additions, just good old Pong. I love how this one is presented in the game because it does look like the original Pong arcade cabinet. The screen even has interference and static just to add to the very, very, old-school vibes. The all-time arcade classic reborn in a game that celebrates arcade classics.

Slime Pipes: This one is a puzzle game that is very clearly inspired by Pipe Mania. You have to connect the pipes to create an uninterrupted flow for the slime to travel through and reach the exit. Playing against the clock as you only have so much time before the slime is released. You’ll have to work fast to get the pipes connected. Another frustrating but fun, ‘one more go’ type of game.

Solitaire: The other game found on the PC in the office and if you don’t know what this is, are you even a gamer? This, of course, is the classic card game in digital form and one of those games that you’ll often find added to those early 90s versions of Windows. Play well enough and everyone enjoys a cheeky game of Solitaire now and then.

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Space Race Simulator: Take a pinch of OutRun, add a few drops of F-Zero and you have this. An arcade racer that definitely has a very 90s vibe. The cornering can be a little tricky at first but when you get used to using the break and sliding, it soon comes together and begins to feel right. There’s an upgrade system to improve your vehicle too. Good fun, though I’d have liked to have seen a couple more race tracks.

Stack Overflow: This is another puzzle game where you have to stack boxes… and it’s brilliant. The boxes are different colours and you can only stack a colour on top of the same colour. You have limited space to stack and a strict time limit to try and stay ahead of. Easy to get into and wonderfully addictive to boot. This is another one that, once I start playing, I find it very hard to stop.

Strike Gold: Another game featuring one of the Arcade Paradise mascot family. Playing as Woodguy Jr., you have to mine as deep as you can. Limited by your oxygen, you dig coloured tiles and pick up extra oxygen along the way. Mine for gold that can be used for upgrades. Try to get as low as you can without having everything fall in on your head. It plays a lot like Namco’s Mr. Driller and that’s a good thing.

Table Football: Surely everyone knows what this is. Foosball! Controlling a line of football players on a rod, you use those players to try and whack the ball into your opponent’s goal. I never liked this in the arcades when I was a kid but no retro arcade would be complete without one.

THUMP GOPHER

Thump-A-Gopher: Another arcade staple, this is Whac-A-Mole with gophers. Naughty gophers pop up through holes and you have to hit them by pressing the correct button on your pad for a high score. Don’t hit Woodguy Jr. though as you’ll lose points. A true test of reflexes and strangely hypnotic after a while.

Toad and Turtle: Is another clone of another arcade classic, Frogger. Controlling a toad, you have to make it across a busy road and all while dodging traffic. Jump on logs and turtles in a river, to then take little toad home to safety. Rinse and repeat while you try for that elusive high score. I loved Frogger in the arcade and I love this version of it too.

UFO Assault: This is kind of like a reverse Space Invaders crossed with a reverse Missile Command. A single-screen ‘shooter’ where you play as the attacking aliens. You have to drop bombs onto a city to destroy the buildings. The buildings vary in height and your UFO descends down the screen every time it reaches the edge. So, you have to destroy the buildings before you crash into them. This one is all about timing as you can only drop one bomb at a time and have to try to score a hit with (almost) every one. There is a little room for error, but miss too many buildings and it’ll soon be game over.

Video Air Hockey: I bet you can’t guess what this is? A digital version of air hockey… that is already in a digital video game. That’s twice the digital! It plays just like normal air hockey, but digital.

VOSTOCK

Vostock 2093: Plays very much like a classic shoot ’em up. Think along the lines of Galaga and Galaxian, only with a bit of a twist. See, this is a kind of sequel/follow-up to Nosebleed Interactive’s Vostock Inc. game. Shoot enemies, earn coin and spend that coin on upgrades so you can shoot more enemies and bosses. Good fun.

Woodgal Jr.: Here is where we really get into the whole Arcade Paradise mascot family. The game is simple but a hugely addictive test of reflexes and reactions. Playing as Woodgal, you have to chop away at a never-ending tree. Random branches get in the way on the left or right and you just have to dodge them as you chop by moving Woodgal left or right.  Hit a branch and it’s game over.

WOODGAL

Woodgal’s Adventure: Woodgal is back, in her very own adventure. A simple match-3 type game mixed with a little RPG. Solve the match-3 boards and earn items that you can use to explore the map further. More enemies, more match-3 boards to complete until you reach the end. Oh, and Woodgal is joined by her dog Zebby from Barkanoid.

Woodguy Golf: It’s Woodguy, the father, husband, brother (I honestly don’t know) of Woodgal. Anyway, he was also in the Strike Gold game further up this list. This is basically Golf from the NES and plays the same way too. A basic and simple to play golf game with some challenging holes to test your skills.

Woodguy Jr.: This is just Woodgal Jr. but featuring the Woodguy character instead. The exact same game and plays the exact same way too. However, Woodguy Jr. actually came first, as it was a mini-game in Nosebleed’s Vostock Inc. before appearing in Arcade Paradise. There’s a wonderful shared universe thing going on here.

ZOMBAT 2

Zombat 2: The last game on the list is also one of my favourites. A twin-stick shooter with you pitted against wave after wave of zombies. Kill the undead (if that makes sense) and they drop coins, which you can use to buy new weapons in the shop. Eventually building to a small arsenal of guns and explosives for you to kill even more zombies with. Bloody pixel violence that’s great fun to play.


There you go. All of the playable games found in Arcade Paradise. A great game that every arcade fan should play, so go and buy a copy right now. It’s available on everything.

(Mini) Game Review: Last Beat Enhanced

I have a lot of love and respect for solo indie devs. Creating a game on your own can’t be an easy thing to do. Oscar Celestini is one of those solo devs and he has teamed up with publisher 7 Raven Studios to release an updated version of his 2020 game with Last Beat Enhanced.

“Vanquish the Mad Stroke gangs across 8 levels! Punch and kick your way to defeat enemies, use melee and throwing weapons to defeat the most powerful bosses, collect bonuses and enjoy special shots. Race your motorbike at full speed in the bonus stages, earn money to unlock additional characters and secret images from a rich gallery!”

Last Beat Enhanced is an old-school, stylised beat ’em up. Think along the lines of the NES version of Double Dragon and there you go. Featuring multiple characters, each with varying stats, strengths and weaknesses. You have your standard beat ’em up gameplay and plough your way through dozens upon dozens of bad guys (and gals) and take on a boss at the end of each stage. There’s one attack button, a jump, block/parry and of course, a special move. It really is all pretty much standard stuff.

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What gives Last Beat Enhanced a bit of a USP is that you earn money for upgrades and to unlock new characters. How you earn that money is simple, beat people up. You’ll earn coin for every hit you land and every enemy you defeat. Now, if you can string together blows without you getting hit yourself, you’ll increase your beat multiplier. The higher the multiplier, the more money you will earn. So, there’s a real incentive to not just ‘button mash’, but to try and actually pick your targets and attacks carefully, as to not leave yourself open to a fist to the face and break your multiplier.

Money can also be found just lying around on the levels too. As this is a classic beat ’em up, you’ll find various items lying around or when you break open boxes, barrels and such. Health items, weapons and so on. The main stages are interjected with some bonus stages such as you riding a motorbike or smashing up a car with your fists (where have I seen that before?). As I said earlier, this is very standard stuff for this genre.

LAST BEAT SCREEN

As you can see from the trailer and screens here, Last Beat Enhanced has a very 8-bit graphical style. It kind of looks like a game that would have been produced if the NES had a love child with the Master System. The pixel art is fine and works well too, with some nice little background details on the levels. There are secrets to find on each stage and loads of unlockable art and such. There’s also the addition of a two-player couch co-op option, very old school.

Last Beat Enhanced is going to set you back the princely sum of around £9, available now on all the consoles. Oscar Celestini has done a great job of capturing that old-school beat ’em up feel. But I don’t think that I’d be happy spending £9 on this though. It’s a nice little distraction for a couple of hours and fun for a short while. If you want to unlock all of the extras and art work, etc, then be prepared for a lot of grinding, several dozen hours of it. Then there is the upgrade thing, they only last for one run. You can spend an hour or so saving up the cash for an upgrade, and it’ll only last until you lose your one and only life. Then you have to spend that hour or so to buy the upgrade again.

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I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy Last Beat Enhanced, because I did. It really is a well-made and is a loving tribute to the likes of Double Dragon and the whole late 80s/early 90s beat ’em up craze. I just don’t think that this is quite worth the £9 asking price. Wait a while and grab it in a sale instead.

(Mini) Game Review: Q.U.B.E. 10th Anniversary

10 years ago and the first-person puzzle game, Q.U.B.E. was released. I never played it. I had certainly heard of it, I just never got around to playing it. Now, developer and publisher Toxic Games has released Q.U.B.E. 10th Anniversary. If I told you that this was a 10th anniversary celebration of the game Q.U.B.E., would you believe me?

“Entirely rebuilt from the ground up, Q.U.B.E. 10th Anniversary is the ultimate celebration of the decade-old original, bringing refined visuals, completely redesigned and revised gameplay sections, and a whole new chapter to the award-winning, brain-twisting first-person puzzler.”

As well as an impressive visual overhaul (see the trailer above), this new version offers other refinements. Built from the ground up, it also features ‘completely redesigned and revised gameplay sections, and a whole new chapter’. The publicity blurb says that the new chapter alone offers around 4-6 hours of gameplay. That’s pretty good for a single chapter of a game. Then, Q.U.B.E. 10th Anniversary gives you the option of playing through the original 2012 version or the 2014 director’s cut, which adds a story narrative missing from the original version. Plus, there’s a director’s commentary (I love these things), collectables to find, concept art and more. throw in some accessibility options too. It really does sound like a very stuffed package of a game, with plenty to keep you busy.

QUBE SCREEN 1

The core gameplay has you using various coloured cubes, each with their own properties, to reach the level exit of the room that you are in. So, by ways of a ‘for instance’, the red cubes can be raised and lowered to reach areas. The blue cubes are trampolines to bounce you around. Yellow cubes work like a podium/step with a low, middle and high-type thing and more. It is simple and basic stuff, but it can also get the old grey matter working as you often have to juggle the various cubes to reach your goal. As you progress through the game, the rooms that you have to exit become more complex. While the main aim is still just to reach the exit, how you actually do that gets trickier and tricker. You’ll soon have to use the cubes to guide a ball to a specific point. Some parts of the room can be twisted and turned. Some areas are played in darkness. There’s a decent variety of elements that keep the puzzles fresh and you thinking.

QUBE SCREEN 2

Priced at £15 and available for all the major consoles and PC right now, is Q.U.B.E. 10th Anniversary worth a purchase? For me, as someone who had not played the game the first time around? Yes. I really enjoyed this. I can’t compare it to the original, as I said, I never played it. But it is kind of similar to Portal, in terms of the puzzle side of things. I don’t think I would call Q.U.B.E. a great game and just as a bit of research for this review, I looked at how the game was originally received when released back in 2012. It got mixed and average reviews. I can understand why too as it is a very okay game. But I’m reviewing Q.U.B.E. 10th Anniversary and asking if it is worth it.

QUBE SCREEN 4

With all of the extra content, the two versions of the game, the new chapter, visual overhaul and everything else? I do enjoy a good puzzle game and this is a good one. All of the extra content takes it up a few notches over the mixed and average reviews that the original got, in my eyes. The core gameplay isn’t exactly remarkable and if I am being honest, I did much prefer Portal and its sequel for a game of this type. But that does not mean that Q.U.B.E. 10th Anniversary isn’t worth a purchase, I honestly think that it is and you get a lot of game for your coin too.