Monday 30 June 2014

From There To Here

Do you remember all the cultural events between 1996 and 2000? Well you don’t have to, because remembering them for you in a genuinely bloody good mini-series drama, or dramatic mini-series, is From There to Here. Out now on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, From There To Here centres around Daniel Cotton (Philip Glenister, from Life on Mars and the like) who, with his Father and Brother, ends up on the warm end of an IRA bomb in Arndale on the 15th June 1996.  It’s there he meets a young woman named Joanne (Liz White, Crimson Petal And The White and others) under a bit of roof that fell on her, like a Whomp from Mario 64.

Finding themselves infatuated with each due to their shared and survived tragedy, Daniel gives Joanne a wee lift home where he briefly meets her children and decides he wants to give her one of those loud, elongated, wet and particularly special hugs.  She asks him if he’s married and though he means to say “Yes I have kids and a family and I’m rich and own a company that makes sweets” he said “No I’m single and I’m poor don’t ask questions you stupid woman” and she loves him all the more for it.

Daniel’s brother Robbo (Stephen Mackintosh, Kick-Ass 2) frequently borrows money from his brother to do silly things; betting £10,000 on England winning Euro ’96 and opening and running clubs.  He also happens to be in debt to some bad, bad dudes who will definitely try and fuck him right up at some point. So he’s in dire need of cash or they’re gonna come round and leave his milk out on a warm day and not tell him, leading to him wasting cereal the next morning as it chunks out onto his bran flakes like cottage cheese.  He’s also a bit of a lad so there’s some boobs to keep people entertained too.  Their appearance is brief though; wank and you’ll miss ‘em.

His wife does fuck all but helps their daughter run as a labour candidate.  His son Charlie is entrusted with upgrading the business of sweets and making loads and loads of money in a way that only he will understand and everyone thinks is very clever and confusing and that’s okay.

That’s basically the premise and it’s actually enthralling from the very beginning; the bomb at the start, the black sense of humour and the constant almost Curb Your Enthusiasm levels of tension caused by various characters making fucking terrible decisions. Sometimes it feels like a very well crafted drama worthy of any film studio, others it feels like an intense episode of Brookside (yes, even more intense than the Murder on the Orient Express style finale), but I was on the edge of my seat at moments I wouldn’t have expected.  The downside with the tension is that for a lot of it you’d need to have forgotten some things you know about the period; like just how amazing Gareth Southgate wasn’t in Euro ’96.

Part 2 (remember, this is a mini series) started off with a slightly irritating etcha-sketch style beginning, completely erasing the point of the cliff hanger in the previous episode, but throughout it continued to hold my attention and it would’ve distracted me from my work if I hadn’t been walking around in the sun listening to podcasts.

The 3rd part, as often happens a la The Matrix and the original Spider-Man trilogy, was the weakest of the three but tidied everything up nicely. Not exactly a happy ending but a realistically messy one, if not entirely nihilistic. The show was very absorbing, the acting was some sort of notch, not top but notch nonetheless. From me there, to you here, I suggest that you give this one a go at some point in your meaningless lives.

From There To Here gets a 4/5.


Dave Roberts

From There To Here at CeX

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Sunday 29 June 2014

Murdered: Soul Suspect

Four years ago Dark Void was released, the third-person adventure that was kind of a rip-off of the 1991 film The Rocketeer. Set some time before World War 2, Dark Void not only gave the player the ability to get into some top notch action on the ground, but also let them take off into the skies for some pretty neat aerial action. Developed by industry newcomer Airtight Games, I felt that Dark Void was hugely underrated. Sure, it didn't exactly reach the thrilling heights it should have, but it didn't squander its potential either. Since its release I have been keeping a close eye on what Airtight Games has been cooking up, and after seeing their latest title at E3 2013, I've wanted to play this game for quite awhile.

Developed by Airtight Games and out now for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 comes Murdered: Soul Suspect, a game that places you in the shoes of a dead man. The set-up is rather simple yet effective. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, you play as Detective Ronan O'Connor, a hard-boiled cop that even the cast of Sin City could be proud of. Unlike most games where you're trying to ultimately prevent death, in Murdered: Soul Suspect that idea is quite literally throw out of the window, as at the very start of the game Ronan is hurled out of a three story building. Then, to finish him off, his killer pumps some bullets into his chest. Ronan's killer is the Bell Killer, a serial killer the Detective was investigating for some time, but despite his untimely demise, Ronan finds that before he can pass on he must resolve some unfinished business. That unfinished business is finding out the identity of the Bell Killer. Now in control of the ghostly version of Ronan O'Connor, the player must discover the truth behind the Bell Killer, thereby allowing Ronan pass on to the other side.

The story set in place even before you control Ronan is powerful and attention grabbing. However, once into Murdered: Soul Suspect, the gameplay itself doesn't reflect the narratives impressive promise. As Ronan the player will need to explore the town of Salem, which is presented as an open sandbox world, one that’s a little small. As Ronan the player can move through the environment, objects and people. While walking around, the player can often eavesdrop on the various inhabitants of Salem too, which can often lead to some interesting tidbits. However, Ronan's very physical looking form kind of kills the thrill of being a ghost at times, as apart from being able to walk through objects (which at times just looks like a glitch) and the fact that your character is grey and see-through, there's nothing spooky or paranormal about how your character looks, acts or moves. This extends to the general mischief you can cause, which purely relies on terribly scripted sequences with equally painful scripted character responses.

Ronan is able to use his ghostly powers to help him in his detective work, though sadly many of these powers are not only boring, but rarely used in any surprising ways. Though teleportation and possession sound interesting on paper, within the game they end up just being powers to mark off your list when aimlessly trying to solve a mystery. When you arrive at a new case the answers are generally right there in front of you, and it just takes time to put all the pieces together, as opposed to, you know, intelligence! It's because of this, the bland cast of characters, the various useless plot-lines, the limited powers that aren't even implemented properly, and the awful stealth segments in which you kill demons, that Murdered: Soul Suspect not just undercooked, but a major, major disappointment.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is one of those games that had such an imaginative idea, such a wonderful potential packed angle, that it should be fantastic. It should have, but it's not. Instead of a game that could have open an interested dialogue about life and death, we get a clumsy “whodunit”, with the paranormal/ghost angle used purely as a veneer. It's not bottom-of-the-barrel material, but it's not exactly good either.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is DOA and gets a 2/5.


Denis Murphy

Murdered: Soul Suspect at CeX

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Saturday 28 June 2014

Floating Skyscrapers

Best described as a subtitled, Polish, independent, gay-interest drama, about a swimmer, that opens with an oral sex scene in a public toilet, Floating Skyscrapers would be easy to dismiss as another indie film treading the same old water. But is there substance under its film festival-pleasing surface? I dove in to take a look.

The 2013 film tells the story of Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk), a handsome, twenty-something Polish swimmer living with his mum (Katarzyna Herman) and girlfriend Sylwia (Marta Nieradkiewicz). Kuba’s got a lot going for him but feels unfulfilled. His relationship with Sylwia, though loving, feels strained, and Kuba spends his off time cruising the swimming pool locker room for meaningless gay encounters.

One evening, after being dragged to an art exhibition by Sylwia, Kuba meets another handsome Pole (innuendo not intended) called Michał (Bartosz Gelner) and the two quickly hit it off. What follows is a slice of life drama about finding your feet as a gay man living in Poland, a country where homophobia is apparently still rife – last year, one of its former presidents said gay politicians should be made to “sit behind a wall” at the rear of the parliament building while another, in 2007, suggested homosexuality would lead to the end of humanity as we know it.

Indeed, Kuba and Michał come up against homophobia a few times in the film, meaning Sylwia isn’t the only reason they have to explore their budding romance in secret. The couple’s family relationships are also incorporated into the plot, with both sets of parents struggling (or flat out refusing) to accept their sons’ sexuality.

The film is beautifully shot (to the point where any single frame would look good as a poster), with a muted colour palette and some mesmerising underwater photography. It’s peppered with nudity and semi-explicit sex scenes, which do feel gratuitous at times… not least because the film’s only straight sex scene plays out in all its gory, pube-licking detail (it’s exactly as unerotic as it sounds) while the gay sex – arguably far more important in the context of the film – is cropped and hidden behind the usual Hollywood smoke and mirrors.

And the story’s told in a grim, harrowing way, like a too-earnest student film. Lingering shots, wordless conversations, and unsympathetic characters abound, making the film’s one and a half hours feel like a slog. There are only so many times the “strained home life” card can be played before you start wishing the characters would sit down and do something about it. And the film’s ending, though clearly intended to be heartrending, fails to pack an emotional punch. There’s no discernable character development or big, emotional climax to be had, here – just credits that feel like they’ve come 15 minutes too early.

All in all, Floating Skyscrapers just doesn’t feel like it has enough to say. And maybe that’s OK, all things considered. It was the first Polish movie to tackle LGBT issues head-on like this; if it inspires debate, or change, or even just more gay-interest Polish cinema, surely it can only be considered a success. As a film, though, to be sat and watched and enjoyed, it’s far less successful – and its appealing visuals aren’t enough to make up for its disappointing plot and bland ending.

Floating Skyscrapers gets 2/5.


Mike Lee

Floating Skyscrapers at CeX

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Friday 27 June 2014

Worms Battlegrounds

In 1995 the gaming world changed for me.

Why? Because that was the year that saw the release of Worms, a turn-based artillery game that I must have pumped 300+ hours into. However, while I always loved the Worms franchise and hastily bought the sequel upon release, I didn't play any of them after Worms 3D. Worms 3D killed it for me, personally. Gone was the 2D slick aesthetic, instead utilising clumsy 3D graphics. It was an interesting take on the franchise and it did at least feel like a Worms game, but it just didn't do it for me. So, after countless Worms titles I haven't played, this is my first Worms game in a decade. Does it live up to the original?

Developed by series creators Team17 and out now for PS4 and Xbox One comes Worms Battlegrounds, the biggest Worms title to date. One thing worth noting is that this entry is a console port of last years PC title Worms: Clan Wars. Compared to other Worms titles, there is somewhat of a story here. Worms Battlegrounds takes place in a museum and is narrated by Katherine Parkinson, of The IT Crowd fame. Parkinson plays Ms. Pinkle, a mysterious woman who is highly interested in unusual artefacts. Through taking part in various worm-on-worm battles, your goal is to defeat the evil Mesmer and steal the fabled Stone Carrot. The story is simply and effective, and just enough to keep the game driven, but not consumed, by narrative.

Story mode is broken up over 5 different types of environment, with a total of 25 missions available throughout. The missions take place within the various historic installations around the museum, and depending on which era the installation is focused on, the level design will reflect the setting. From the Stone Age, Vikings and beyond, there's a diverse array of environments to battle in. However, compared to previous Worms games you won't only just be fighting in these levels, as some are solely geared more towards platforming, while others are heavy on puzzle solving. Even before being armed, your worms are pretty unique and fall under one of four classes, which come in the form of Scout, Scientist, Soldier and Heavy. As expected, each class is considerably unique, so having a squad that's an even-handed selection of each class is usually the best option.

As always the gameplay plays out like any previous Worms title. Through using a vast, vast selection of weapons you must eliminate the opposing team through turn-based attacks. It's not as easy as it sounds, as different weapons follow different trajectories and cause varied types of destruction. Another element to keep in mind (and something that the old Worms games didn't have!) is that because the levels are completely destructible, if demolished recklessly you may find that the environment itself becomes a threat. For instance, breaking a wall that's blocking water can potentially drown some, if not all, of your worms. This added element of environmental hazards is an excellent addition to gameplay, and is another factor that ends up keeping the player on their feet.

Multiplayer is fantastic too, with both local and online modes being supported. The multiplayer game modes follow the usual formula, but it's in those intense online or local battles where Worms Battlegrounds is perfected. I loved the game but it's only during multiplayer when I thought to myself, “This is just like the old days playing Worms on the PS1!”, which effectively made Worms Battlegrounds a roaring success in my mind.

Overall Worms Battlegrounds is a worthy entry into the series. I can't speak for the last few Worms titles, but as someone played it during its early years, I thought Worms Battlegrounds perfectly captured the feel of the classic Worms era. Blending lovely 2.5 visuals, a huge array of epic weaponry, delicious environmental destruction and a truly show stopping multiplayer mode, Worms Battlegrounds may be your next addiction.

Worms Battlegrounds worms its way into my gaming schedule and gets a 5/5.


Denis Murphy

Worms Battlegrounds at CeX

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Oculus Rift (DK1)

Personally, I've always loved the idea of Virtual Reality. It ties in with my love for gaming and that want, need and desire to explore new, different and interesting environments. Whether it's an alien planet or a recreation of a real-world city, I'm there. But gaming on a monitor or TV can't fully immerse a gamer properly, as they're not really in the world. The Oculus Rift changes this. 

The concept of Virtual Reality stretches as far back until the 1950's with Morton H Eilig's Sensorama; a crude yet impressive machine that catered to a whole slew of senses. However, the kind of VR we all imagine and dream of is not the Sensorama. Instead, it's the Metaverse from Snow Crash, the Holodeck from Star Trek and the Matrix from, well, The Matrix. It's the idea of stepping into a world that is not our own, all within the confines or our own home. While you may not to be able to have adventures alongside Jean-Luc Picard in the guise of Dixon Hill just yet, since 2012 VR has very suddenly made some massive advancement. While we've hoped VR would truly take off in the 90's, due to pricing and technical limitations it didn't made it too far. However, this time it's happening, it's really happening. Get ready, as soon VR will be everywhere.

Known to have the largest head-mounted display (HMD) collection in the world, in 2012 a young inventor named Palmer Luckey decided to create his own. The device was known as the Oculus Rift, and compared to other HMDs currently in the market, it was aimed towards gamers at an affordable price. Simply put, the Oculus Rift is a HMD that delivers a stereoscopic 3D picture to the viewer, while also tracking the users head movements. This essentially puts a gamer into the gaming environment like never before. John Carmack (mastermind behind Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake) was impressed with the Rift so much that he showed it off at E3 2012 working with Doom 3 BFG Edition. The Rift was received with praise and soon found its way to Kickstarter, in a bid to bring it to the market. Asking for $250,000 and subsequently raising an overall $2,437,429, the Rift released its first Developer Kit (DK1), and since there have been many games, demos and experiences created solely for use alongside the Rift. While Oculus plan on releasing the DK2 quite soon which will then be followed by the long awaited consumer version (CV1) at an unknown date, I got a chance to try out DK1 for myself. Here are my thoughts.

The demo I got to try is RiftCoaster, which places you on a virtual rollercoaster. Putting the Rift on was a dream come true, as I've been dying to try it since 2012.  It was lighter than expected, felt comfortable on my head, but once I got into the experience I completely forgot I was even wearing it. First off, the resolution on the DK1 is quite low, but this will be drastically improved with the DK2, and even more so with the CV1. Despite the low resolution I instantly felt like I was there. From the real sense of depth and presence I was feeling, my brain was literally in shock. Then the rollercoaster began to move. As it began to pick up speed I kept jerking my head around to take in the environment. It was simply incredible! Every head movement I made was instantly mimicked on screen, which went a long way in helping to make the experience feel authentic.  While looking down and seeing no body did take away a certain level of presence within the virtual scene, it didn't ruin it. Then the rollercoaster got to the top of a hill. At that point I did something very bad, I looked down. Believe me, due to the 3D and head tracking working together, I had a true sense of being up high, very high. Then, right before my brain could even deal with that fact, the rollercoaster plummeted down, hit sharp turns and twisted. The next few minutes were almost a blur, as I just enjoyed the experience of fully inhabiting a 3D environment. The most telling part about how real it felt was that afterwards I was told that I was intensely gripping my chair, as the sense of motion was very, very real for me. Taking off the Rift and imagining the possibilities made my head spin. From viewing movies in a virtual cinema, interacting with other Rifters online and even exploring some of the countless game worlds available on PC, I wanted a Rift more than ever. I still do.

The RiftCoaster was great but I'm hungry to try more. I went into the experience after watching countless videos and reading many articles about the Rift, but nothing could prepare me for how great it truly was. RiftCoaster is just the tip of the iceberg, as I can see the Rift eventually changing games, movies and entertainment in general. Most recently Facebook acquired Oculus. While the knee-jerk reaction to it was quite alarming, in the long run I can see this as a wonderful thing. With Facebook behind the Rift, and Oculus backed up by an outstanding and loyal community of followers, I expect it to explode into the mainstream next year. Whether you're ready for it or even want VR to happen isn't important. It's happening regardless, and it's going to be incredible.

Oculus Rift DK1 gets a perfect 5/5.


Denis Murphy

Oculus Rift at CeX

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Thursday 26 June 2014

Delivery Man

A long time ago, roughly two years, the French part of Canada made a comedy film called Starbuck that was charming and original and not brilliant but not terrible. As of this month you can now buy an American remake starring Vince Vaughn under the pseudonym ‘Delivery Man’. The film concerns David Wozniak (Vaughn) who has suddenly found out he's the father of 533 twenty-somethings.

To be blunt, this film is terrible. If you can stop your logic circuits for just a second it’s got a sprinkling of charm, but not much more than a sprinkling. David Wozniak has refused to grow up, works for his father’s company and has never progressed or even become particularly good at his job. This is illustrated immediately by him having a parking ticket, and we can judge by his nonchalant manner that he is used to getting parking tickets. Everyone starts talking to him about how he shouldn’t have children, just before he finds out that he is going to have a child and massively in debt.

From here, almost the very beginning, it becomes nothing more than the cinematic version of a one-liner comedy set. Set up/Punch Line. Set up/Punch Line. A practice in predictability, waltzing from terrible plot point to terrible plot point. In true movie fashion, Wozniak comes to terms really quickly with having a child… just moments before a lawyer breaks into his house to inform him he has nearly 600 children from a four year wankfest he had twenty years previously in a sperm bank. Due to a mix up, every fluid ounce of his liquid descendants have been offered to every woman who came into the bank.

Now due to other legal things that they brush over, because they knew that we wouldn’t care a jot, there is a risk that all these people are going to find out he is their dad and come to his house. This worries Wozniak as he assumes they’d ask for money, or want to play monopoly knowing full well he’s lost the wee dog and the top hat, or something… I can’t think of anything properly terrifying right now. His friend, who isn’t played by Seth Rogen but is being played as Seth Rogen, is almost a lawyer and defends him against being outed as the parent of this mass of people.

For some reason Wozniak eventually becomes obsessed with stalking all his children. Now the weird thing, apart from fathering 533 kids, is that he finds them all with ease no matter what they are doing. I assume he has some GPS built into his DNA that means he just knows where they are. He even starts getting involved in their lives, going so far as to convince a young girl not to do heroin anymore, which she does but then goes to work the next day completely fine. I don’t think these people have ever seen Trainspotting to know how unlikely it is that she’d make it to the end of the street.

The film though heavily flawed, is charming in its way and Vaughn is sympathetic as David Wozniak. I would heavily suggest that you do not watch the trailer however because the film doesn’t have a lot of eureka moments and they all show up. Chronologically. Destroying any or suspense tension in the film. There’s a character that rants at length about how he is pissing away his life and it causes him to hate people and want to die pretty much 100% of the time… I don’t think I’m able to empathise anymore than I already do.

If you have someone sexy with a nice bum coming round and you want to kiss them on the face at length while drunkenly ignoring the film you have on, this will be a good one to do it with. But I wouldn’t even accept a free copy of it, even if it was stapled to tickets to some far away country and a thousand pounds in cash…

Okay, yes I would.

Delivery Man gets 2/5


Dave Roberts

Delivery Man at CeX

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Wednesday 25 June 2014

Google Glass Explorer Edition

Google Glass Explorer Edition is a Beta Product and it shows. It doesn’t do any of the things I want to do in the way that I want it to do them, the battery isn’t great, they look ridiculous, it doesn’t have many features - but I still want it because it’s the coolest thing I have ever touched. Cooler than the first time I touched an iPhone, cooler than the first time I turned on an XBox 360, cooler than the first time I used a tablet computer. They’re also really, really nerdy, but I can deal with that.

Everywhere you go when wearing Glass you get the same four questions:
"What is that thing?"
"What does it do?"
"What do you see?"
"How do you use it?"

What is that thing?
Glass is a Android based wearable. It syncs with your mobile phone via bluetooth and has a prismatic display that sits just above your right eye. It’s beautiful to look at, but you still wouldn’t want to wear it. They look like something I’d imagine I’d be wearing in 2042, almost alien. They feel nice in your hand, well built but unexpectedly light. When you put them on, they're comfortable. If not for the screen over your eye, you might not even notice you've got them on. They come in five colours: white, black, grey, orange and blue.

What does it do?
It works a lot like a standard bluetooth headset, except it has a screen so in addition to taking/making calls, you can also send emails, text messages, get directions and a litany of other things, all via a translucent display, voice commands and touch controls along the side. The call quality isn’t spectacular, on a busy street you may struggle to hear a phone conversation and whomever you’re talking to is definitely going to struggle to hear you, but in a quiet environment it’s typically fine. The speaker uses bone-conduction, which is cool, but not as high-quality as when using the included earpiece. The display is okay, but you’ll struggle to see it clearly in bright light.

What do you see?
You tap the side of the device to turn it on, and a small screen turns on in your peripheral vision. It says the time and “ok glass”. This is how you operate it, you say “ok glass” and then give your command (Google, Take a Picture, Record a Video, Get Directions To, Send A Message To, Make A Call To). THE UI is clean, simple and really nice to look at; you feel like you’re in a video game. You can also use the touchpad on the side of Glass to swipe through a timeline of events - your latest emails, text messages, notifications - great when on a busy train or to quickly read messages.

How do you use it?
Once you’ve got it set-up (which is surprisingly simple) - it just works. Get a text message? Look up and to your right, and just read it. Want to respond? Tap the arm on the side and speak your response, the Glass transcribes and sends it for you. Decided to walk to your nearest CeX and get a little lost? Tap the arm and say, “Ok Glass navigate me to CeX” and then follow the arrow on your screen. A friend gives you 500 Argentine Pesos and you want to know how much it’s worth? Tap the arm and say, “Ok Glass, what are 500 Argentine Pesos in Pounds?” and it will tell you.

Glass is something I never knew I wanted, but in it’s current iteration I’m not 100% sure it’s something I need. It stands out too much, you can’t make it more than a couple blocks without someone stopping to ask you about it. You would never, ever wear them on a date. But they’re fun and when they can make them look a little less outlandish, they’re the future.

In it’s current state, Google Glass gets a 2/5, but with the potential for a 5/5 in the not too distant future.


Alex Raftas

Google Glass Explorer Edition at CeX

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Tuesday 24 June 2014

Samsung Gear 2

The latest edition of the Samsung wearables series has arrived, and perfectly timed too, in case you thought your shiny new S5 might feel lonely. No more Android means no more “Galaxy” – so this watch is simply rebranded as the Samsung Gear 2.

Whilst the packaging is near enough identical, once you unveil the watch itself you will indeed find some small but impactful changes. Most notably, the 2MP camera and microphone have both been repositioned on the bezel itself as opposed to the strap, allowing the strap to become interchangeable. Samsung currently offers a small selection of colours, but you can also find a variety of third party straps in a wide range of materials and designs. Kinda brings me back to the days of the face-changing 3310, fun times for all.

The home button has been re-housed in the centre beneath the screen, an infrared blaster added above and a heart-rate sensor tucked neatly around the back. In other words, the Gear 2 can be used as a remote for your TV via the Watch On app, and as a personal trainer via the fitness tracking app – great for some, useless for me, it is what it is I guess.

Overall, the Gear 2 is a couple grams lighter and not quite as chunky as the original, allowing it to sit comfortably on the wrist and feel more like a real watch. It’s also worth mentioning that the battery life it has dramatically increased, lasting 2-3 days with typical usage, and it is now water-resistant up to 1 metre, so come rain or shine you’re good to go (dunno how far I trust this whole “waterproof technology” fad though).

As I mentioned, the Gear 2 no longer supports the ever-popular Android operating system; it runs on Samsung’s very own OS – Tizen – and seems to be a little more user friendly. The initial setup, for example, is far less fiddly and NFC is no longer required; simply download the Gear Manager on your smartphone and the device will pick up pretty much instantly.

Unlike the Galaxy Gear, customisation features are far less limited with the addition of multiple fonts and the option to use photos as backgrounds (without downloading the Watch Styler app). The compatibility has also improved, working with a wider range of Samsung devices with more still to follow. The only real drawback of Tizen is that it’s still quite new, so the app availability is limited (for now).

Perhaps my favourite new feature is the standalone music player; any music stored can be played back using Bluetooth headphones, though for some reason, Samsung chose not to increase internal storage keeping it at just 4GB. They also chose not to update the charging method, sticking firmly to the use of an irritating charging cradle; though the cradle has been reduced in size, I’m sure near enough everybody would prefer to just plug it in like you would a phone. I hear a replacement charging cradle costs around £60, so maybe it’s a moneymaking ploy? Can’t think of any other justification myself.

Personally, I’m still not convinced, as I’m sure you can tell; it’s still a whole lot of “wow… but so what?” to me. If you were one of those who considered or actually bought the Galaxy Gear, however, you won’t be disappointed by this upgrade. The Gear 2 is more of the same plus a few much needed tweaks and improvements here and there; it’s not perfect, but it’s getting closer to what I imagine when I think of my ideal smart watch. You can tell they put a lot of thought into what went wrong before, and how it could become a more relevant device, but there’s still a fair amount of room to move forward.

Samsung Gear 2 gets a 3/5.


Samsung Gear 2 at CeX

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Monday 23 June 2014

Mugen Souls Z

You gottta hand it to Compile Heart, as they're one of the few developers that are huge supporters of the PS Vita. You see, the PS Vita hasn't sold amazingly well so far, which is pretty surprising as it's a fantastic little, yet powerful hand-held. So with that in mind, Sony need more supporters like Compile Heart, which are developers who will stick with a product to the bitter end. This is what I believe Compile Heart are also hoping to do with the PS3 which, despite still being a big seller, is slow but surely being edged out by the PS4. It's not dead yet by a long shot, but it's on that slope of being phased out. Now Compile Heart are once again offering up some goodness for Sony's every growing arsenal of gaming treats.

Developed by Compile Heart and out now on PS3 comes Mugen Souls Z, an RPG that might satisfy the anime enthusiast in you. Mugen Souls Z is a direct sequel to Mugen Souls, which was released on the PS3 back in 2012, and opens up focusing on Chou-Chou, the protagonist of the first game. As seen in the original Mugen Souls, Chou-Chou's life goal is to rule all the seven worlds. With that goal still in mind at the start of Mugen Souls Z, Chou-Chou finds herself on a new planet and comes face to face with Nao, a treasure hunter. His latest find is an old coffin, a prize that Chou-Chou wants for herself. However, inside the coffin is “ultimate goddess” Syrma. In a surprising turn of events, Chou-Chou is miniaturised and made powerless, while the player is then given control of the sleeping beauty, Syrma. Now, with Chou-Chou merely acting as a bite-sized supporting character, you must go on a quest in the role of Syrma to help Chou-Chou reclaim her powers. The story is cute and light hearted, and its cast of characters reflect that sentiment perfectly. If you're looking for a grimdark or even slightly emotional RPG here... look elsewhere. Mugen Souls Z is painfully aware of how fluffy and cute it is, but hell, it works.

Mugen Souls Z's gameplay is nothing new, and could easily be described as a balance between exploration and battling. That isn't to say it's not good, but we've seen it all before. The battle system in place is exactly what you'd expect from any self-respecting Japanese RPG, and once a creature is encountered, a battle kicks off. The player can use four characters at once during any given battle, though upon a team member’s death a more capable comrade can replace them. It's a turn-based affair, which ticks all the usual boxes, but Mugen Souls Z does have a few tricks up its sleeve that prevents it from becoming boring. Those tricks come in various forms, with the best one being that, when it's your turn in battle, you can move your character within a certain radius. This isn't just a throwaway gameplay mechanic, as where you stay for your turn will dictate both who you are able to attack, or who is able to attack you. Another nice addition is the use of items that add buffs and debuffs to characters within a certain area, as opposed to the usual RPG tactic of such items merely effecting one team member. This puts an interesting spin on gameplay, and though it doesn't stop Mugen Souls Z from being a little mediocre, it certainly adds a fresh element to gameplay. 

Outside of the main mission there's also a few side-quests to enjoy. These come in the form of different worlds that will test your battle skills. Whether it's placing Syrma in a tournament-like scenario in which she must battle creature after creature, or worlds that test more specific battle skills, Mugen Souls Z has a lot to offer outside of the main story missions. In fact, you also get to take command of G-Castle, your home/gigantic intergalactic robot, and fight other giant robots in epic space battles. It's like watching an episode of Power Rangers, complete with the awful, crappy acting. Awesome!

Visually Mugen Souls Z is alarmingly reminiscent to almost every other game in Compile Heart's history, but is ultimately a delight to behold. The graphics are understated yet stylised, while the level, character and creature designs are brim full of charm and wit. Strangely enough, the worlds I found myself in during Mugen Souls Z reminded me of Spyro the Dragon. There's just something so quaint and lovable about them that I just fell in love with its world.

Overall Mugen Souls Z is very fun, but it just doesn't do enough new to warrant a better score. Everything from the battle system to the exploration aspect of the game just feels a little rushed, as if Compile Heart merely built upon the original Mugen Souls a little. That said, if this kind of game is your bag, you'll have a lot of fun!

Miniaturise your expectations and you'll love it, but Mugen Souls Z gets a 3/5.


Denis Murphy

Mugen Soul Z at CeX

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Thursday 19 June 2014

Mario Kart 8

I remember like it was yesterday. On my 8th birthday I woke up to the feeling of something heavy by the foot of my bed. I was too tired to open my eyes, so I let me feet do all the work. After feet-feeling it for awhile I figured out two things; 1) It was a cardboard box, and 2) it was pretty heavy. After laying there for awhile, preparing myself to let natural light burn my eyeballs, I sat up and opened my eyelids. I looked at the bottom of the bed and a hazy, blurry image started to come into focus. I couldn't make it out at first, but when I did my heart just leapt. It was a Super Nintendo console. I had to literally pinch myself in case it was a dream (it hurt, by the way!), but after realising that this was indeed the waking world, I grabbed the box and tore it open. What's even better was the fact that under the SNES was a copy of Super Mario Kart. The endless nights I spent playing Super Mario Kart will never be forgotten, and because that game meant so much to me as a child, this latest instalment in the franchise had a lot to live up to. But the question is... is it any good?

Developed by Nintendo and out now for the Wii U comes Mario Kart 8, proof that Nintendo still knows how to create classics. Technically from a baseline level, gameplay remains the same compared to its original SNES counterpart, though with some excellent additions to gameplay, and this all leads to Mario Kart 8 feeling like the most perfectly executed and honed Mario Kart yet. 

Before getting into a race you of course must choose a driver. The bevy of 30 characters to choose from is impressive and varied, and range from unlikely drivers such as your Mii, Iggy, Roy and Shy Guy to more expected ones like Mario, Luigi, Bowser and Donkey Kong. It's a superb roster, though I was somewhat disappointed by the amount of baby versions of other characters included here. There's just far too many, that it ends up feeling like filler. Each character's vehicle can be customised too in three different ways; kart body, wheels and glider. These additions and changes are unlocked after every 50 coins collected, adding both different stats and a nice extra level of visual flair to the races. There's nothing quite like opening your glider to reveal it's a Japanese styled Bowser kite, or changing your kart itself to a motorbike shaped like Mario's favourite dino friend, Yoshi!

There are two types of track; Nitro and Retro courses. As implied from the name of the latter, retro courses are recreations of previous tracks in the Mario Kart franchise. For instance, Donut Plains, the original course we all know and love from Super Mario Kart, is included in all its retro glory, while others such as Moo Moo Meadows, Cheep Cheep Beach and DK Jungle also make an appearance. The new Nitro courses fit seamlessly next to Mario Kart 8's retro counterparts, and are presented and designed flawlessly. From the colourful Sunshine Airport (a course based on Super Mario Sunshine on the Gamecube) to the spooky Twisted Mansion, the variety of locations in Mario Kart 8 is quite a treat. Each track just plays so well that there's no dud tracks throughout the game. 

The biggest change-up to gameplay is the ability for anti-gravity racing, which essentially means that players are now able to drive up walls and ceilings. This simple yet game-changing ability puts a whole new fresh spin on gameplay, as you won't have to only look behind and ahead of you for other drivers, you'll often see them zipping ahead of you right above your head! However, this won't be a constant ability throughout a race as it merely kicks in at certain points. The usual Mario Kart power-ups are here as always too, but with the addition of anti-gravity comes Nintendo's decision to design tracks with that new ability in mind. It's not overdone, but tracks have clearly been created with anti-gravity in mind. Don't worry though as most of the retro tracks rely on classic, straight forward kart racing instead. That's what makes Mario Kart 8 so special. It gives the player a whole slew of possible ways of tackling a race. Want to purely focus on using anti-gravity? Prefer to hit the tracks in classic Super Mario Kart style? Fancy trying to use power-ups to hinder other drivers? Or will you choose to make use of the many alternate routes before you? Regardless of your answer, Mario Kart 8 has you covered.

Mario Kart 8 all comes together so perfectly that I got that sense of joy I felt back in 1993. From the lush and beautiful graphics that present a world that is both detailed yet cartoon-like, to the incredibly slick, responsive and in-depth driving mechanic that Nintendo have mastered, it's hard to not fall in love with this game. Topped off with a truly excellent 12-player multiplayer mode, this is finally the game the Wii U has been waiting for. With sales now up 600% in the UK alone, it seems like Mario Kart 8 has just saved Nintendo's console. With good reason too, as Mario Kart 8 is a modern classic. Buy it.

Mario Kart 8 races to the finish and gets a perfect 5/5.


Denis Murphy

Mario Kart 8 at CeX

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Wednesday 18 June 2014


At the heart of every good movie is a good story. You can have the best actors, the best soundtrack and the best director, but all of these are pointless unless the story interests us and makes us feel. Thankfully, Nebraska has every single one of these. The result is a movie that has us crippled with laughter one minute, and the next having an existential crisis.

Nebraska tells the story of a father and son who travel 750 miles to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect the father’s $1million that he won through the mail. Armed with only the letter that the father, Woody, is convinced will earn him his fortune and the son’s, David’s, old Subaru, the pair set off. On the way the pair familiarise themselves with estranged family and Woody’s old hometown. As the secret gets out about Woody’s million, the town becomes interested in him again, leading to conflict, the revealing of secrets and the testing of relationships.

Nebraska is not your typical father-son movie. Rather than being boringly predictable and unoriginal, it deviates from what we expect and becomes something much more. It does this by creating a conflict of ideas. David always wants to go back home and Woody is always set on reaching Lincoln so he can buy his truck and air compressor to replace his old stolen one. The story that we see on screen only scratches the surface of these deep and complex characters.

David and Woody have both hit dead ends in their lives and desperately need to shake things up. We are only shown little elements of their lives outside of the story we see in the movie, which is an absolutely brilliant technique. We develop our own sense of who these characters are and their relationship together. Will Forte, perhaps best known for his small part on How I Met Your Mother as Randy Wharmpess, plays David brilliantly and proves that he is definitely one to watch. Meanwhile Bruce Dern gives the performance of his lifetime as Woody. All the way through it is difficult to see him as an actor, he adopts the part that well. A confused alcoholic is a common character but this portrayal is so heartbreakingly convincing that at times the pity we feel becomes unbearable. He makes this common archetype as unique as it was the first time it was ever seen.

Yet another reason to love this movie is the uniqueness and originality of it. Every scene is completely fresh. From searching for lost dentures on a railway track to stealing an air compressor, Nebraska makes use of the rolling and deserted hills by often creating a sense of lawlessness. Accompanying the barren locations is the lack of colour. Against the studios wishes it was filmed monochromatically. Personally, I think that this is the best decision made in regards to this movie. The lack of colour allows us to focus solely on the characters and story, rather than looking beyond and into the background.

The black and white reflects Woody’s character so well. In his hometown, we learn a lot about his past life and how full it was compared to now. At times it almost feels like we are going back in time to see what Woody used to be like and how he got to where he is now. We suddenly find ourselves wondering who is telling the truth and whether Woody really is the cold, old man we thought him to be.

Often is the case that Woody blends in to the background, allowing the supporting cast to take the reins. June Squibb and Stacy Keach both shine as the devil and angel on Woody’s shoulders while Bob Odenkirk provides comic relief. Amongst the rather poetic message of the movie are scenes that will have your stomach aching from laughter. At times the comedy seems out of place, often just thrown in every now and then because the opportunity arose rather than carefully placing it where it would be most effective.

Nebraska is a film that has everything. A beautiful story filled with characters that are easy to love and easy to hate that often clash in an explosion of wit and succinctness. Underneath the hard exterior and lessons on tough love is a movie that will leave you feeling upbeat with a positive outlook.

Nebraska gets a 4/5.


Jonny Naylor

Nebraska at CeX

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Tuesday 17 June 2014

Reasonable Doubt

Just released on Blu-ray and DVD is the film we’ve all been waiting for to remind us not to kill people and to not get blackmailed by serial killers. I’m talking about “Reasonable Doubt” of course, but don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it, no one starring in the film seems to know they are in it either.  It stars Dominic Cooper, Samuel L. Jackson and some of the least impressive supporting cast seen, since my primary schools adaptation of “Young Children Crying On Stage In Front Of Their Parents”.

Mitch Brockden (Cooper) is a lawyer with a perfect family, a great job and, just like ever other lawyer in every other film, he’s up for the newly open D.A position. He’s sure to get it to… that is as long as he doesn’t perform a hit and run while drunk and end up entangled in a weird blackmail thing with Samuel L. Jackson and a murder victim. Aside from hit and run shenanigans, Mitch is a self made man and a true ‘Merican, working his way up from a terrible neighbourhood to the perfect life. He’s a good guy with a scumbag brother, who keeps trying to drag him down but eventually ends up saving his life.  All picture perfect and entirely bland. In fact his character’s name was only changed from [Generic Lawyer Number One] after test audiences thought it made him seem too interesting and mistook the lazy writing for satire.

It starts off with a girl looking for her ball so far in the woods, away from where she was playing in the snow, that whoever kicked it needs to apply for their local under 10s football team. Cue Brocken who, after having fifteen too many tequilas, walks out of a bar and gives grief to some children who are standing near his car with intent.  He decides to drive home at a fast speed making sure to kill a man on his way home so he can be blackmailed later. 

From here on in every character seems to be behaving like no person ever.  They frequently walk up to Brockden and say:

Have you got something to tell me that you might have done?” 
You are under arrest for the murder of… that last doughnut” 
Is that a homicide in your pocket? Or are you just pleased to see me do a hit and run last night?
The reports from the lab say that the wounds on the victim’s head indicate that he was killed by a lawyer, probably one looking for the D.A office job and probably with black hair and definitely sitting in the chair beside me.

The film isn’t particularly enjoyable but it kept me watching until the end… barely.  I found the story interesting and Samuel L Jackson is fantastic at being intimidating, as we all know. The script was the weak point though; nothing but cliche after cliche that made it almost unwatchable.  Because the film is about a lawyer, every police officer in the film is shit at their job… and come to think about it, so were all the scriptwriters and directors. Though admittedly the pacing was quite good. All in all Reasonable Doubt feels like a particularly bad law show with Samuel L Jackson in it as a guest star, it was one of the least memorable films I’ve seen, adding less to my life than a handful of wispy hairs.

I’m not sure the film would have felt much different if it was a bunch of non-celebrities shuffling about in suits in front of Samuel L Jackson, while some people read random lines from James Patterson novels at them.

Reasonable Doubt gets a 2/5 cos it’s not very good.


Dave Roberts

Reasonable Doubt at CeX

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Monday 16 June 2014

Sony Xperia Z2

It's no secret that Sony have been improving their devices through the years in a bid to remain industry leaders. First TVs, then cameras, now comes a big step forward for smartphones with the Xperia Z2. With the Xperia Z2, Sony show that, not only are they market leaders but also a shark, that the other big fish should be weary of and although the Xperia Z2 is not perfect it has features that can make any smartphone user envious. Most of the other "big fish" announced their smartphones during Q1 of this year, and now the streets are flush with them; the HTC M8, the Galaxy S5 and soon the LG G3. Should you trade up for Sony's Xperia Z2? Let’s find out!

Let’s talk about its guts! First we find a Snapdragon 801 with a 2.3 Ghz Quad-Core CPU and 3GB RAM. Yea, they may just be numbers to you but these numbers are what make your phone faster and smoother. With these specs it doesn’t matter how many apps are open, this smartphone will not let you down. Next up is the rather low internal memory, coming in at only 16GB but you always have the chance to improve with an external micro SD card up to a whopping 128 GB.

The display is just amazing. At 1080p Truer HD, 5.2'' inches and 424ppi ( pixies per inch), this screen is definitely one of the best screens that I ever seen and the difference when comparing it to others in its class are apparent. It also sports IPS LCD touchscreen with 16 million colours which mean that images appear beautifully sharp and the brightness allows for a fantastic display even in bright sunlight.

Speakers are also just in the right position! Which may not seem important, but you'll come to appreciate them when listening to your favourite tunes while sitting around in the park this summer. They aren't too loud and offer an amazing quality of sound. In fact Sony has done a commendable job with the design and build of the Z2. The tempered glass back looks like a bigger iPhone 4S and the front panel looks great. The aluminium chassis also makes the handset extremely sturdy and a few wayward knocks won’t hurt it.

If you’re the kind of person who absolutely loves photography and the Windows Lumia isn't your thing, then this phone was created for you. The rear camera comes in at an eye popping 20.7 MP, and the quality is just fabulous. I've never seen an android phone with such an amazing camera. But don't worry selfie enthusiasts - the front facing camera comes in at 2.2 MP and is perfect for all your Instagram needs ;)

The 4K Video functionality is tricky to assess. On the one hand, the quality is really good but in the other, it makes the file HUGE and after 10 minutes of recording, the phone just crashes due to overheating. So in small bursts it's good indeed but for any extended period of time it just craps out. You could always can record with normal HD but where is the fun in that?

As ford the OS; the Z2 runs on Android 4.4.2 KitKat along with a slightly tweaked Xperia skin but in keeping with Android's openness, if you don't like it you can always install a theme you do like from the Google Play Store. Last but not least, if you've always been annoyed that you can't take calls, post selfies or listen to music in your shower, well you can now! The water and dust proofing make this phone exceedingly useful for those with active lifestyles or people on holiday.

To sum up, don’t be afraid to go with this device. It's an amazing phone and will be a big contender even in the next few years to come.

In short...


The Sony Xperia Z2 at CeX

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Sunday 15 June 2014

Borderlands 2 [PS Vita]

When the PSP was released there was one huge flaw in its design; it only had one thumb stick. Though this may not seem that much of a big deal at first, this led to any first-person title awkwardly utilising the square, cross, triangle and circle buttons in place for a second thumb stick. This literally led to any first-person PSP title being a complete chore to play, which naturally sucked the life and enjoyment out of a game. However, Sony learnt their lesson from the PSP, and with the advent of the PS Vita came the inclusion of dual thumb sticks. Granted it was expected, but in terms of design it's a massive step up form the PSP, as now first-person titles didn't control like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube while drunk.

Developed by Iron Galaxy Studios and out now on PS Vita comes Borderlands 2, a game that tries to perfectly replicate its console counterpart. You see, as many of you know Borderlands 2 was originally released in 2012 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, under development by Gearbox Software. Since its release it has gotten a good few bits of DLC content, but somewhere down the line there came a decision to bring it to the PS Vita. Handing over the reigns to Iron Galaxy Studios for this port, Gearbox Software's goal was to make it an authentic Borderlands experience. Did they succeed?

Set five years after the events of the original Borderlands, you once again you land on the planet of Pandora and take the role of a vault hunter, which is essentially like Indiana Jones... but in space! I know, pretty awesome, right? Though finding vaults is your initial mission, you ultimately end up going toe-to-toe with Handsome Jack, the wonderfully named villain of Borderlands 2, and ruler of Pandora itself. Handsome Jack has big apocalyptic plans for Pandora, and you step in to end his reign of suave terror.

Chances are if you're reading this review you want to know how Borderlands 2 on the PS Vita is different compared to its console original, as opposed to a general review of the game. To put it simply; in terms of content it's a perfect replica, but when it comes to visuals it's sadly mediocre. This hand-held version of Borderlands 2 retains the essence of the game, which focuses its gameplay; blending both the first-person shooter genre, with that of action role-playing. Through using a huge array of devastating weaponry, the player is able to fiddle around with their character’s skill tree. In using the skill tree the player can gain new abilities, or even improve their handling of various weapons. It almost creates a new genre within itself, leading to gameplay that is fun, robust and suited for a number of different play styles. But while this version does indeed feature the meat of the original Borderlands 2, it's missing quite a lot that made it so special.

I have two major complaints here. Firstly, the graphics, though impressive for the PS Vita, are pretty as screen-shots but almost fall apart when in motion. The frame-rate drop particularly during the last half of the game is pretty significant, mostly while in the heat of some pretty intense shoot outs. This ends up crippling the game, while other problems even extend to the textures throughout. Whether it's that of a location or character model, Borderlands 2's textures on the PS Vita often look muddy, dull and a massive downgrade from its console daddy.

Overall Borderlands 2 for the PS Vita is passable. While it does contain the entire console Borderlands 2 experience in the palm of your hands, it does so at the expense of the visuals and frame-rate, both of which are lacklustre. These problems won't kill your gaming experience, but they'll put your patience to the test.

Borderlands 2 just about cracks the vault and gets a 3/5.


Denis Murphy

Borderlands 2 at CeX

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Saturday 14 June 2014

The Monuments Men

Out now on the Blu-rays and the "deeveedees" is a new old timey war film about people who were real but not actually in the war, and did good things but were actually all a wee bit boring. Welcome onto the stage that is your life ‘The Monuments Men’, starring the kind of people who usually make good films like Bill Murray, George Clooney, Matt Damon and other people that you won’t be able to figure out where you know them from but know are very famous.

The film is about the end of World War II, a time when the Nazis were starting to lose a bit and, in a fit of bad sportsmanship and typical Nazi dickheadery, started stealing and burning all the art in the world, believing the theory that if you erase someones history you erase their identity. Like clearing your web browser, except well before of the existence of the internet, erasing any record of what you've been up to. The problem with The Monuments Men is there is so much story to tell, so they never get to the point of telling any of it. If I didn’t already agree that preserving art and history is important, I would not have been convinced by the film, finding myself siding more often with the Allies generals who were standing around, confused about why these ‘soldiers’ were bothering them about art.

Aside from the main story, Matt Damon has himself a nice little 'side quest'; to go and seduce Cate Blanchett. Typically a superb actress, she's used dreadfully here with a french accent akin to a Pépé le Pew cartoon and I was absolutely blown away by her mediocrity and lack of chemistry with Damon's character.  

The Monuments Men struggles with the common problem of trying to be lighthearted while discussing a heavy subject, without becoming a parody, so it’s message gets across to the audience effectively. From castle, to pit, to grave, to cathedral, to casual murder, to scene about smoking, you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing or feeling and are left confused. The film plays like an episode of The Fast Show, with little explanation or dialogue per scene. The few scenes that are at a healthy length have tension and are engrossing but they are far apart and they only disappoint by reminding you how good the film could’ve been. Were it only more structured.

There's nothing particularly wrong with it, nothing particularly good either.  As with a lot of films in this vain I was left with the generic feeling that the Nazis were bad and the Allies were good and not much else. It was a light hearted way to kill an afternoon and it’s nice seeing Bill Murray no matter what the situation is, even if he was telling me I had colon cancer, I think it would be oddly calming.

The Monuments Men gets a 3/5.


Dave Roberts

The Monuments Men at CeX

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Friday 13 June 2014

Nintendo @ E3 2014

Missed the Nintendo E3 event? Want to check out the highlights without watching the whole thing? Don't worry, CeX has you covered!

E3 2012 was Nintendo's last time hosting a live press conference. Since then they have merely showed pre-recorded events online in place for the more traditional E3 show. I have to admit, it does kind of ruin the joy of E3, as most of its charm is down to the fact that it's live and happening right in front of you. Regardless of what format they're approaching, this was Nintendo's chance to tell you why you need a Wii U. Amid dismal sales and an increasing amount of developers no longer supporting it, the Wii U needs something special Here's the rundown...

Super Smash Bros. (Wii U, 3DS)

The long awaited footage of Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS was revealed, but, personally, it was both good and bad. Firstly, the gameplay looks perfect. Originating from back in 1999 on the Nintendo 64, Super Smash Bros. pitted players against each other using their favourite Nintendo characters. From Link, Zelda, Mario, Bowser and Captain Falcon, the first entry in the series is still considered a true masterpiece. However, while the latest game in the series looks to retain its gameplay excellence, the new addition of the “Amiibo” system has me a little worried. In short, Amiibo works exactly like the tech used that transports characters into the Skylanders videogame series. Upon buying a small character toy and scanning its base into the Wii U, all of your character stats will be saved to that specific figure. So if you're going to your friends house for some Super Smash Bros. action, just scan your Mario Amiibo into his Wii U and BAM!, your unique Mario is in his game. The idea is nice, and though it does serve a neat little purpose, I worry about how much Nintendo will milk it. Still though, bring on Super Smash Bros! Kirby has been looking for an ass kicking for a while now!

The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)

The big news from Nintendo's E3 show was the return of The Legend of Zelda. However, the biggest noticeable difference with this new entry into the beloved franchise is the fact that it is open-world. Yes, The Legend of Zelda is going open-world, folks. Beyond that details are largely unknown, though Nintendo has recently said something rather interesting about the individual seen in the trailer. We of course only assume it is Link, but that may not be the case. When asked why Link looks so different in this incarnation, producer Eiji Aonuma stated, "No one explicitly said that that was Link". The plot thickens. Regardless, the sheer idea of an open-world Zelda title is enough for me to not regret buying a Wii U in the first place. Excellent.

Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)

After being quite a big fan of Xenoblade on the Wii, I was quite looking forward to seeing more of its direct sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles X. However, my hopes were shattered when Nintendo unleashed a tacky, crappy anime trailer instead of showing anything of the actual game itself. I was gutted, but after looking for gameplay after the event ended, I was floored by how good gameplay looked. Why is it that the Wii U, the least powerful console of this generation, has some of the best looking graphics? Why Nintendo didn't show some of this delicious gameplay during their event is beyond me, but what's clear is that, proper Nintendo promotion or not, I'll be all over this come 2015.

Mario Maker (Wii U)

This game might just be perfect for the Wii Pad. Mario Maker essentially lets you edit or create your own Mario levels, which you can instantly stop, pause and play at the touch of a screen. It's a neat little idea that will serve the Wii U's unique tech quite well, but I do wonder if it has a market outside of the hardcore Nintendo fans though. I mean, everyone loves Mario, but not everyone wants to painstakingly move blocks and Koopa shells across a 6-inch screen with a stylus. 

Yoshi's Woolly World (Wii U)

One reason why I love Japanese game developers is because someone out there sat down and thought, “Lets make a game where everything is made of wool”. The concept is simple yet absurd, but the sheer idea that someone chose to do that is just, well, lovely! The gameplay from E3 of Yoshi's Woolly World looked quite similar to its predecessor, Kirby's Epic Yarn, but what's interesting is that the woolly world can be bent, pushed and altered during gameplay. This potentially opens up a whole slew of new gameplay possibilities, and this is exactly the kind of innovation the Wii U desperately needs. 

Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)

Amid the consoles initial reveal, Nintendo blew gamers away when they announced that Bayonetta 2 was a Wii U exclusive. Now it's time to see some of the gameplay, and it's certainly shaping up quite nicely. Once again putting you in the role of the sexy, deadly and agile Bayonetta, Nintendo are hoping to bring its rather large cult following over to the Wii U. Disappointingly though, series designer Hideki Kamiya is no longer the guy in charge on Bayonetta 2, but hopefully Platinum Games can pull it together without his involvement him. 

Overall Nintendo's E3 appearance, though lacking in any kind of a physical presence may have been successful trying to woo gamers into a buying a Wii U. Showcasing some pretty fresh and interesting titles, Nintendo's financial woes just may be behind them.

I'd give it a B+

Denis Murphy

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