Hmm, well, I’m not really sure about this one. Usually I make a snap decision about a game and spend the rest of the time playing it trying to convince myself to be objective and form a well-rounded opinion.
For those of you who don’t know, Fable Anniversary is a remake of the original Fable, to celebrate its tenth anniversary; see what they did there? I always thought that the first Fable was my favourite out of the three, and I still think it is… I think. I’m just not sure anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, this is very much an improvement on the first game; the graphics, lighting and overall smoothness of the game is obviously improved. But that’s pretty much it. To me, they’ve basically given it a complete aesthetic make over, but then just gone “Well, it looks prettier, fuck it”. I just feel like they could have done more with it, like, the ability to dual wield magic in the later games was awesome, so was the fact you could have a dog, and kids, and so many things. I understand it would have been a task, but if they could have adapted all of the improvements they made in the later game into the original, I think the whole experience would have come off a lot more nicely. And yes, I’m sure some purists love it the way it is, and that all the new things they put into the Fable series as the years went on were awful, but fuck them, they’re essentially wrong. I’m not stupid; I understand what a re-make is. I just think they could have made a little more. I get that you’ve got to stick to the bones of the first game, and avoid just making Fable 4 (which wouldn’t be awful to be fair), but if you stick to, say, the bones of your ex, and build them from the skeleton up to be a lot more attractive, they might still have that really annoying voice or still might be a total dickhead. Regardless of how much you might change how they look, sometimes you’ve got to go a little bit deeper than that.
I think I’m making it out to be a bad game, which it isn’t, it really isn’t. I think that when Fable first came out in 2004, it was great. It was new and exciting and depending on your choices, different shit happened. It was literally a milestone for mainstream gaming (I say mainstream because one of the designers Peter Molyneux had already had one or two games with similar ideas (such as Black And White) but none before Fable had the same level of exposure and success). There’s no doubt that this game inspired many games after it, but that’s kind of the point. The Fable formulae has been developed and improved, not only by Lionhead Studios, but by game developers world-wide. From the KOTOR series and the Mass Effect franchise, all the way to the more recent Dragon Age games, choices in game have such a massive role, and a lot of that is thanks to games like this.
Saying that, just because it’s one of the originals, doesn’t mean it’s the best. Sure, I think everyone’s thankful that some Homo erectus invented the wheel, but I doubt you’ll be rocking the “stone wheel” look on your car anytime soon.
Things change, things improve, and I think there’s room for re-makes for games, but just, better ones. Granted, the new version boasts a whole new save system and - wait for it - achievements! I know, applause and awe, right? Maybe I’m just not in a very nostalgic mood, but then again, I was when the game arrived, and it seems to knock me right out of it.
I hadn’t played the original for what seems like years, (and actually might be quite close to that) but within the first hour of gameplay it went from “Oh my god, I remember that from the first game, isn’t that cool!” to “Oh, I remember that, and that, and that. They haven’t really changed much have they?” Everybody knows that once you complete a game, you should give it a little bit of time before you go back to it, or you won’t get the full effect and it’ll just be repetitive for you. I don’t know about you, but I think a few years is easily enough time before going back to a game, but within no time at all I felt like I’d been playing it yesterday, (and not in the “I remember like it was yesterday” kind of way, as in the “I feel like I’ve walked this dull path from the Hero’s Guild to the lookout point 1000 times, they still haven’t upgraded the fast travel have they? Looks like I’ll just be killing these annoying as fuck bees for a while then.”) There’s just a certain amount of improvements you have to do before you can re-release a game, and I think Lionhead studios are just below the quota on this one. Every time they released a new Fable I thought “Someone’s milking the cash cow again”, but each time it was actually an improvement (generally), and each one changed my mind… until this one.
 I’ll just have to play through it a few more times and hope the nostalgia comes back in waves and hordes, hopefully then I’ll be able to find it slightly more palatable.
It’s not a bad game, it’s actually quite a good game, but I just think if you want a trip down memory lane with this game franchise, then just save yourself some time (and about £25) by downloading the first one instead. If you want to look back fondly on a game’s past, you go for Pokémon Red or Blue, not Leaf Green or Fire Red.
Some things shouldn’t be messed with, but if they are, they should be messed with sufficiently to make an adequate improvement. Maybe I’m just being narky because I don’t have plans for Valentines. Fuck the world.
★★☆☆☆

Hmm, well, I’m not really sure about this one. Usually I make a snap decision about a game and spend the rest of the time playing it trying to convince myself to be objective and form a well-rounded opinion.

For those of you who don’t know, Fable Anniversary is a remake of the original Fable, to celebrate its tenth anniversary; see what they did there? I always thought that the first Fable was my favourite out of the three, and I still think it is… I think. I’m just not sure anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, this is very much an improvement on the first game; the graphics, lighting and overall smoothness of the game is obviously improved. But that’s pretty much it. To me, they’ve basically given it a complete aesthetic make over, but then just gone “Well, it looks prettier, fuck it”.
I just feel like they could have done more with it, like, the ability to dual wield magic in the later games was awesome, so was the fact you could have a dog, and kids, and so many things. I understand it would have been a task, but if they could have adapted all of the improvements they made in the later game into the original, I think the whole experience would have come off a lot more nicely. And yes, I’m sure some purists love it the way it is, and that all the new things they put into the Fable series as the years went on were awful, but fuck them, they’re essentially wrong.
I’m not stupid; I understand what a re-make is. I just think they could have made a little more.
I get that you’ve got to stick to the bones of the first game, and avoid just making Fable 4 (which wouldn’t be awful to be fair), but if you stick to, say, the bones of your ex, and build them from the skeleton up to be a lot more attractive, they might still have that really annoying voice or still might be a total dickhead. Regardless of how much you might change how they look, sometimes you’ve got to go a little bit deeper than that.

I think I’m making it out to be a bad game, which it isn’t, it really isn’t. I think that when Fable first came out in 2004, it was great. It was new and exciting and depending on your choices, different shit happened. It was literally a milestone for mainstream gaming (I say mainstream because one of the designers Peter Molyneux had already had one or two games with similar ideas (such as Black And White) but none before Fable had the same level of exposure and success). There’s no doubt that this game inspired many games after it, but that’s kind of the point. The Fable formulae has been developed and improved, not only by Lionhead Studios, but by game developers world-wide. From the KOTOR series and the Mass Effect franchise, all the way to the more recent Dragon Age games, choices in game have such a massive role, and a lot of that is thanks to games like this.

Saying that, just because it’s one of the originals, doesn’t mean it’s the best. Sure, I think everyone’s thankful that some Homo erectus invented the wheel, but I doubt you’ll be rocking the “stone wheel” look on your car anytime soon.

Things change, things improve, and I think there’s room for re-makes for games, but just, better ones. Granted, the new version boasts a whole new save system and - wait for it - achievements! I know, applause and awe, right? Maybe I’m just not in a very nostalgic mood, but then again, I was when the game arrived, and it seems to knock me right out of it.

I hadn’t played the original for what seems like years, (and actually might be quite close to that) but within the first hour of gameplay it went from “Oh my god, I remember that from the first game, isn’t that cool!” to “Oh, I remember that, and that, and that. They haven’t really changed much have they?” Everybody knows that once you complete a game, you should give it a little bit of time before you go back to it, or you won’t get the full effect and it’ll just be repetitive for you. I don’t know about you, but I think a few years is easily enough time before going back to a game, but within no time at all I felt like I’d been playing it yesterday, (and not in the “I remember like it was yesterday” kind of way, as in the “I feel like I’ve walked this dull path from the Hero’s Guild to the lookout point 1000 times, they still haven’t upgraded the fast travel have they? Looks like I’ll just be killing these annoying as fuck bees for a while then.”) There’s just a certain amount of improvements you have to do before you can re-release a game, and I think Lionhead studios are just below the quota on this one. Every time they released a new Fable I thought “Someone’s milking the cash cow again”, but each time it was actually an improvement (generally), and each one changed my mind… until this one.

 I’ll just have to play through it a few more times and hope the nostalgia comes back in waves and hordes, hopefully then I’ll be able to find it slightly more palatable.

It’s not a bad game, it’s actually quite a good game, but I just think if you want a trip down memory lane with this game franchise, then just save yourself some time (and about £25) by downloading the first one instead. If you want to look back fondly on a game’s past, you go for Pokémon Red or Blue, not Leaf Green or Fire Red.

Some things shouldn’t be messed with, but if they are, they should be messed with sufficiently to make an adequate improvement. Maybe I’m just being narky because I don’t have plans for Valentines. Fuck the world.

I vividly remember waking up from nightmares as a small child. Peering out into what appeared to be never ending darkness, a sea of shadows that the longer I stare always seem to stare right back at me. Wondering as you watch, if you are in turn being watched, something is almost smelling you, waiting for you to stumble into the darkness and straight into it’s arms. This is how it feels to play the recently released on the PS4 (previously PC exclusive) first person survival horror Outlast. 
Outlast is a profoundly and continually terrifying experience. Set in the remote mountains of Colorado, at fictional Mount Massive Asylum, we find ourselves thrust into the shoes of Miles Upshire, an independent journalist acting on the tips of a former insider at the institute. We begin the game by stepping out of Miles’ car and onto the harrowing and beautiful grounds of the asylum. It’s from this point on that our defenceless four hour journey into the heart of darkness begins. It’s a unique and brutal experience like no other. Despite having endured and enjoyed all the Silent Hills, Resident Evils (before they got all awful) and Amnesias that the world had to throw at me, nothing has chilled me, thrilled me and consistently thrown me from my chair as often as Outlast did.
One of the things that makes Outlast such a unique experience is the shoes you are thrown into. Miles is a journalist. Not a former marine or a super muscled Batman-esque anti hero. He’s just a dude with a night vision camera and as Outlast continues to scare the holy balls out of you, it becomes abundantly clear that Miles had no idea what he was setting himself up for when he stepped onto the grounds of this godforsaken nuthouse. Outlast is a beautiful experience, with astounding lighting that makes up much of the dynamic of the game, using darkness and shadows as places to hide but stark hallway lighting or swinging disembodied florescent bulbs as neon signs for the inmates of Mount Massive to use as a visual GPS. It also sounds fantastic. I have read reviews that stated that Outlast’s sound design falls down if not enjoyed through a headset but I can personally tell you that the ambience and effect of the soundscape is not lost on regular speakers. Running dually through my TV and a 7.1 top of the line sound bar, every creak, grunt, smash and harrowing laugh was heard to a near pitch perfect level.
Having never played the PC version (this is a port, after all) I can’t speak for the original control scheme, but the PS4 version is dead on in terms of the usability and functionality of the use of the Dualshock 4, using your limited abilities and mapping them brilliantly to the controller. I was in terror of every turn of every doorknob. Every small rumble of the controller as I waited inside a locker or under an upturned hospital bed filled me with suspense and a burning desire to soil myself and hide under my own bed. The world that is created within Outlast is one that I was yet to experience before this week and I doubt it is one I will experience again anytime soon because within the walls of that institute, I, a grown man, was reduced to a shaking & swearing shell.
Details are key within this world. Whether those details be inmate’s following you through footprints left by traipsing through a puddle of blood, or a door left open where it was previously closed before. Every detail has meaning and that meaning usually leads to turning a corner into a psychopath wielding a knife or a bat or a severed human arm. 
With so many small gorgeous details, all of which fill a very well realized world, brimming over with malice and ill intent, the one thing that seems to have gone amiss is attention to detail in the enemy character models. They are downright ugly and I don’t mean because they have missing lips or a patch of skin stitched over one eye. The character models are.. average, aside from a few stand outs. Including one particularly nasty customer met later on in the game who bares a striking resemblance to Doctor Satan. Points for anyone who get’s that reference. 
In Outlast, your aim is to discover the truth but you can’t do that if you can’t stay alive. There are no shotgun’s in Outlast, you can’t charge at your attackers with a knife or swing a bat at their enormous, hideous faces. You have two choices, run and hide or die and sometimes, running and hiding will get you lost or thrown into a corner or a dead end and when you turn around and are faced with an axe wielding inmate. You only have the other choice, die. Within the walls of Mount Massive, I died. I died a lot. I ran, I hid, I jumped, I screamed and most of the time, I died but in no way should this be considered a bad thing. You need to watch, learn and adapt to survive in Outlast and once you’ve mastered hiding and taking the chances you need to in order to get away, that is when Outlast is at its most rewarding.
Your saving grace in Outlast comes in the form of your camera. For Miles Upshire it’s a fantastic way to keep a record of the horrors he experiences but for you, it’s the only eye you have in what sometimes feels like a never ending stretch of dark hallways. Lined with dried and fresh blood and the parts of the dismembered men who came before you and it’s this camera that brings us some of the games stand out moments. The scramble away from a maniac as your battery dies, hunting frantically for another in an attempt to use it to find a way to hide. Or in order to find your way around the environment, avoiding conflict as best you can, just to get to the next doorway or the next lit bulb. Your camera is a gift but in those moments when it dies or for some reason is unusable, the fact you are without it becomes a horrifying burden.
Outlast is an exercise in exploration and survival, it’s an experience like no other I have ever had and frankly, it’s one I’m not sure I’d want to experience again. It’s a tense, well-written, bleak and thoroughly harrowing journey into not only the depths of a home for the depraved but also the minds of those inmates. Not to mention, in many cases, the closet maniacs entrusted with caring for them. Stumbling across diaries, documents and case studies about the experiments that have gone on within these walls and in some cases, beyond them, only serves to create a darker world. A bleaker outlook for Miles and what may lay in front of him. It’s dark, terrifying and in most cases, I find it defies description. If you have a PS4 and a PS+ account, I implore you to download Outlast and give it four hours of your life. I guarantee they will be four hours well spent. Just don’t let Mount Massive get into your head, because when you power down your PS4 and put down your controller, those harrowing screams may just keep ringing through your brain and if they do, I can only apologise and sympathise.
Eventually they will go quiet. Eventually.
★★★★☆

I vividly remember waking up from nightmares as a small child. Peering out into what appeared to be never ending darkness, a sea of shadows that the longer I stare always seem to stare right back at me. Wondering as you watch, if you are in turn being watched, something is almost smelling you, waiting for you to stumble into the darkness and straight into it’s arms. This is how it feels to play the recently released on the PS4 (previously PC exclusive) first person survival horror Outlast. 

Outlast is a profoundly and continually terrifying experience. Set in the remote mountains of Colorado, at fictional Mount Massive Asylum, we find ourselves thrust into the shoes of Miles Upshire, an independent journalist acting on the tips of a former insider at the institute. We begin the game by stepping out of Miles’ car and onto the harrowing and beautiful grounds of the asylum. It’s from this point on that our defenceless four hour journey into the heart of darkness begins. It’s a unique and brutal experience like no other. Despite having endured and enjoyed all the Silent Hills, Resident Evils (before they got all awful) and Amnesias that the world had to throw at me, nothing has chilled me, thrilled me and consistently thrown me from my chair as often as Outlast did.

One of the things that makes Outlast such a unique experience is the shoes you are thrown into. Miles is a journalist. Not a former marine or a super muscled Batman-esque anti hero. He’s just a dude with a night vision camera and as Outlast continues to scare the holy balls out of you, it becomes abundantly clear that Miles had no idea what he was setting himself up for when he stepped onto the grounds of this godforsaken nuthouse. Outlast is a beautiful experience, with astounding lighting that makes up much of the dynamic of the game, using darkness and shadows as places to hide but stark hallway lighting or swinging disembodied florescent bulbs as neon signs for the inmates of Mount Massive to use as a visual GPS. It also sounds fantastic. I have read reviews that stated that Outlast’s sound design falls down if not enjoyed through a headset but I can personally tell you that the ambience and effect of the soundscape is not lost on regular speakers. Running dually through my TV and a 7.1 top of the line sound bar, every creak, grunt, smash and harrowing laugh was heard to a near pitch perfect level.

Having never played the PC version (this is a port, after all) I can’t speak for the original control scheme, but the PS4 version is dead on in terms of the usability and functionality of the use of the Dualshock 4, using your limited abilities and mapping them brilliantly to the controller. I was in terror of every turn of every doorknob. Every small rumble of the controller as I waited inside a locker or under an upturned hospital bed filled me with suspense and a burning desire to soil myself and hide under my own bed. The world that is created within Outlast is one that I was yet to experience before this week and I doubt it is one I will experience again anytime soon because within the walls of that institute, I, a grown man, was reduced to a shaking & swearing shell.

Details are key within this world. Whether those details be inmate’s following you through footprints left by traipsing through a puddle of blood, or a door left open where it was previously closed before. Every detail has meaning and that meaning usually leads to turning a corner into a psychopath wielding a knife or a bat or a severed human arm. 

With so many small gorgeous details, all of which fill a very well realized world, brimming over with malice and ill intent, the one thing that seems to have gone amiss is attention to detail in the enemy character models. They are downright ugly and I don’t mean because they have missing lips or a patch of skin stitched over one eye. The character models are.. average, aside from a few stand outs. Including one particularly nasty customer met later on in the game who bares a striking resemblance to Doctor Satan. Points for anyone who get’s that reference. 

In Outlast, your aim is to discover the truth but you can’t do that if you can’t stay alive. There are no shotgun’s in Outlast, you can’t charge at your attackers with a knife or swing a bat at their enormous, hideous faces. You have two choices, run and hide or die and sometimes, running and hiding will get you lost or thrown into a corner or a dead end and when you turn around and are faced with an axe wielding inmate. You only have the other choice, die. Within the walls of Mount Massive, I died. I died a lot. I ran, I hid, I jumped, I screamed and most of the time, I died but in no way should this be considered a bad thing. You need to watch, learn and adapt to survive in Outlast and once you’ve mastered hiding and taking the chances you need to in order to get away, that is when Outlast is at its most rewarding.

Your saving grace in Outlast comes in the form of your camera. For Miles Upshire it’s a fantastic way to keep a record of the horrors he experiences but for you, it’s the only eye you have in what sometimes feels like a never ending stretch of dark hallways. Lined with dried and fresh blood and the parts of the dismembered men who came before you and it’s this camera that brings us some of the games stand out moments. The scramble away from a maniac as your battery dies, hunting frantically for another in an attempt to use it to find a way to hide. Or in order to find your way around the environment, avoiding conflict as best you can, just to get to the next doorway or the next lit bulb. Your camera is a gift but in those moments when it dies or for some reason is unusable, the fact you are without it becomes a horrifying burden.

Outlast is an exercise in exploration and survival, it’s an experience like no other I have ever had and frankly, it’s one I’m not sure I’d want to experience again. It’s a tense, well-written, bleak and thoroughly harrowing journey into not only the depths of a home for the depraved but also the minds of those inmates. Not to mention, in many cases, the closet maniacs entrusted with caring for them. Stumbling across diaries, documents and case studies about the experiments that have gone on within these walls and in some cases, beyond them, only serves to create a darker world. A bleaker outlook for Miles and what may lay in front of him. It’s dark, terrifying and in most cases, I find it defies description. If you have a PS4 and a PS+ account, I implore you to download Outlast and give it four hours of your life. I guarantee they will be four hours well spent. Just don’t let Mount Massive get into your head, because when you power down your PS4 and put down your controller, those harrowing screams may just keep ringing through your brain and if they do, I can only apologise and sympathise.

Eventually they will go quiet. Eventually.

Recent massive success stories in video games have been very varied, to say the least. None, however, will match the “freemium” game, e.g. Farmville, The Simpsons: Tapped Out, et al. Their premise is very, very simple - point click enough times and you thrive. It’s mindlessly addictive and for some, very time and money consuming. So, if we’re to assume that this is probably the most addictive thing that gaming has yielded in the past 5-10 years, it’s a wonder this hasn’t translated to ‘hardcore’ gamers - a video game with the click-and-fill principle with a more game-oriented interface. No ‘share with friends’ and instead, collectibles and adventuring. 
Godus is the first step towards this. The game is in early alpha and is a sort of The Sims meets Civilization. You play the game as a deity who giveth and taketh away - the opening frame of the game has you looking over two people bashing away at a rock. No tutorials. You click the two denizens of this world and a little “+100” floats into the ether. And suddenly, you’re hooked. Click on the rock a couple of times and it is destroyed, giving the two humans space to build a house. It’ll feel like you’ve been playing for about five minutes until your two humans have turned into sprawling settlements.
The main gameplay element in Godus is a simple click and drag to move layers of the landscape out of the way or bring them forward. The more flat, unobstructed space you have, the more space your people have to build settlements on. The more settlements you have, the more believers you have. With every believer you can collect more prayers, which manifest as purple bubbles above the settlements. Click on the bubbles, pop them, and gain more power. The further you play, the larger your jurisdiction becomes and you will expand over huge unruly landscapes, which you must tame in order to build your following. As you explore the world, you come across chests and crates full of resources which will help further your civilization. 
Godus is in early alpha but its gameplay seems almost fully formed. Some of the interfaces are confusing to navigate and some menu bars haven’t been fully completed yet, but it shows a lot of promise. There’s also signs of an early multiplayer - though not online, yet - which requires you to accomplish certain feats inside a time limit, for example expanding your population more than the other player inside of five minutes, or the more exciting one, expand your population enough to destroy the other players. I’ve had a taste of this just once but I am itching to try it again. Add into this the prospect of playing against your friends online and it’s shaping up to be a pretty smart and replayable multiplayer. 
The game has relatively simple cel shaded graphics but it never feels as though it lacks in detail. Your citizens have very monotonous outfits and their character models are all the same, but if anything it helps to focus you as the player, not developing attachments to what amount to drones, allowing you to focus on expanding your power. From what I’ve played of the alpha, the game seems very much bug-free and more and more rewarding the more you play - the final stages of the game seem to be geared towards the space race. 
When the final version of Godus is released, expect a much more developed game - the opening menu informs you kindly that the alpha is probably only around 40% of the final game, which means we have a hell of a promising game. Think of this as Farmville but you’re farming prayers. Or something.
★★★☆☆

Recent massive success stories in video games have been very varied, to say the least. None, however, will match the “freemium” game, e.g. Farmville, The Simpsons: Tapped Out, et al. Their premise is very, very simple - point click enough times and you thrive. It’s mindlessly addictive and for some, very time and money consuming. So, if we’re to assume that this is probably the most addictive thing that gaming has yielded in the past 5-10 years, it’s a wonder this hasn’t translated to ‘hardcore’ gamers - a video game with the click-and-fill principle with a more game-oriented interface. No ‘share with friends’ and instead, collectibles and adventuring. 

Godus is the first step towards this. The game is in early alpha and is a sort of The Sims meets Civilization. You play the game as a deity who giveth and taketh away - the opening frame of the game has you looking over two people bashing away at a rock. No tutorials. You click the two denizens of this world and a little “+100” floats into the ether. And suddenly, you’re hooked. Click on the rock a couple of times and it is destroyed, giving the two humans space to build a house. It’ll feel like you’ve been playing for about five minutes until your two humans have turned into sprawling settlements.

The main gameplay element in Godus is a simple click and drag to move layers of the landscape out of the way or bring them forward. The more flat, unobstructed space you have, the more space your people have to build settlements on. The more settlements you have, the more believers you have. With every believer you can collect more prayers, which manifest as purple bubbles above the settlements. Click on the bubbles, pop them, and gain more power. The further you play, the larger your jurisdiction becomes and you will expand over huge unruly landscapes, which you must tame in order to build your following. As you explore the world, you come across chests and crates full of resources which will help further your civilization. 

Godus is in early alpha but its gameplay seems almost fully formed. Some of the interfaces are confusing to navigate and some menu bars haven’t been fully completed yet, but it shows a lot of promise. There’s also signs of an early multiplayer - though not online, yet - which requires you to accomplish certain feats inside a time limit, for example expanding your population more than the other player inside of five minutes, or the more exciting one, expand your population enough to destroy the other players. I’ve had a taste of this just once but I am itching to try it again. Add into this the prospect of playing against your friends online and it’s shaping up to be a pretty smart and replayable multiplayer. 

The game has relatively simple cel shaded graphics but it never feels as though it lacks in detail. Your citizens have very monotonous outfits and their character models are all the same, but if anything it helps to focus you as the player, not developing attachments to what amount to drones, allowing you to focus on expanding your power. From what I’ve played of the alpha, the game seems very much bug-free and more and more rewarding the more you play - the final stages of the game seem to be geared towards the space race. 

When the final version of Godus is released, expect a much more developed game - the opening menu informs you kindly that the alpha is probably only around 40% of the final game, which means we have a hell of a promising game. Think of this as Farmville but you’re farming prayers. Or something.

The results of our Best Of 2013 poll have finally landed. Click here to see them in full.
Here’s Jimmy Hatcher’s original review of New Leaf:

The first thought that comes to most people’s heads when they think of the Animal Crossing series (if they haven’t played the games) is usually that it’s a cute game that has more in common with Farmville than, say, Gears Of War or something out of the Call Of Duty franchise. For the most part, you’d have a hard time finding anybody who would classify Animal Crossing as a series of titles for hardcore gamers (ugh) due to its bright colours, light and cheery music, and lack of a story structure or mandatory objectives. This is a false train of thought however, and as anybody who is a longtime fan of the series since the release of Animal Crossing for the GameCube in 2001 (the first title released worldwide) will tell you, Animal Crossing requires a tremendous amount of focus and diligence.
Animal Crossing hardly relies on your sense of hand-eye co-ordination and too many, this immediately disqualifies it as being any sort of game for a mature, “hardcore” gamer. Indeed, outside of the fishing and bug catching, there isn’t a whole lot of stress put on your ability to hit a button at the right time. This ignores the real challenge of the game though: patience. Animal Crossing is a waiting game through and through. One of its chief features is the real-time clock. Unlike other open world games like Grand Theft Auto or its many clones that utilize an accelerated time system which mostly functions as a means to determine whether streetlights are on or off and also move at an accelerated rate (e.g. 1 second = 1 minute), Animal Crossing has a true real-time clock. One hour in-game is one hour of real time. When you aren’t playing, time goes on inside the game. This leads to situations where playing at the late hours of the night leaves you with no way to buy furniture or sell the various things you’ve collected during your time in the game. You could adjust the game clock forwards or backwards, but your town will become overgrown with weeds and your villagers will leave after you ignore them for too long. The only option, if you want to “game” the game is to wait. 
The developers of Animal Crossing seem to want to point out that anybody can focus hard and twitch their finger hundreds of times a minute at targets on a screen. What most people can’t do is plan ahead, make their own goals and take action. In Animal Crossing, these are the most important skills to getting anywhere in the game. You need to plan ahead to play when you have time in your real life, You have to decide how you’re going to go about making money to pay off your loans (more on that in a bit), you have to boot up the game every day and repeat this in order to achieve any sort of progress. In the world of Animal Crossing, the carrot and stick present in other games still exists, the proverbial carrot is just a lot smaller and on a much longer stick.
Animal Crossing is frequently touted as having “no objectives”. It’s commonly described as a game about boredom or relaxation. This is true to a degree but like most games, Animal Crossing has goals and objectives you must clear. The common “jobs” for the player in all games of the series are filling the museum, expanding their house, and paying off their loans. Filling the museum requires (without save file-ruining time travel) At least one year of continuous gameplay. Certain fish and Insects only appear during specific seasons and fossils can only be found at a rate of roughly 3 per day or less. Along with this, finding authentic paintings is a matter of sheer luck and anybody who has managed to fill their museum’s art gallery has a level of willpower that I envy. The other primary goals go hand-in-hand. When you first arrive in your town in any Animal Crossing game, you are required to purchase or build a house for an amount of money far beyond what you can afford. From then on, you are required (until New Leaf) to upgrade the size of this house and add floors for ever-inflating cost until you are eventually in a prohibitive amount of debt that must still be paid off. Raising the funds to fully expand the players house and also pay off the loans for this expansion consumes most of the time spent playing the game. In the later stages of the home improvement process, it’s a battle of attrition as you sell fish, bugs, and fossils for mere thousands of Bells (the in-game currency) while your loans total in the sub-million hundreds of thousands. This brings the “casual” nature of Animal Crossing into doubt. Sure, the game can be picked up and played for 20 minutes a day, but you’ll never make any headway on your museum collection or making enough money to pay back your loans at a decent rate. The only way to “clear” the game in a decent amount of time is to put in hours a day over the course of a year or two, more akin to a game like Skyrim than Facebook Peggle. That being said, I don’t know anybody personally who has cleared every part of the game. I, myself, usually run out of patience and abandon my games long before I ever pay off even my third house expansion or fill even one section of the Museum. Somewhere, on a lost GameCube memory card, my town waits for me to return and take care of these things as if I never gave up and started wasting my time on Fire Emblem: Awakening. 
The lack of any storylines is also frequently brought up as both a positive and a negative point for the series. Like most other assumptions however, this is wrong. There’s a rich story in Animal Crossing, you just have to learn to listen to the people in your town. Other than the villagers themselves  who over time develop friendships and rivalries and trade furniture and clothes while you try to pay off your loans and occasionally stop to interact with them, the background characters (as if there were any foreground characters) have stories of their own. If you put in the time to say hello every so often to the quiet hedgehog at the back of the tailors shop (it makes sense in context, trust me), you discover not only the story behind her life and why she’s so shy, but also that of the mercantile tanuki Tom Nook, who goes from owning a small shack selling a few essentials and one item of furniture to becoming a real-estate developer in the latest game in the series, New Leaf. Indeed, there is a story to Animal Crossing, you just have to take the time to listen and gather the clues over the course of the series. Unlike most games, you don’t figure it out at your pace you figure it out at the pace of someone else’s life, as it’s their story to experience first-hand and yours to find out about later. Contained is an important lesson about paying attention and getting to know the people around you. 
Animal Crossing is one of the hardest games you will ever play because it requires you to have mental fortitude rather than an ability to shut out distractions and react over and over to the same stimuli and engage in simulated violence with no repercussions. Push villagers around or hit them with your bug catching net? They will get mad and through some manner of Video Game Developer Sorcery, everything they say will hit on a personal level despite being tiny 3D animals that speak in a weird gibberish language. Chop down all the trees? They’ll begin to hate the town (and you by proxy, as the town is an extension of the player) and move away. All acts of violence in Animal Crossing end with your friends leaving you. Any attempt to play Animal Crossing how you would play most other games ends with a condescending rebuke from the game itself. Running itself is an action for which the game extends a giant hand from the screen and wags a finger at you to say “No, no.” When running, fish disappear into deeper water, bugs fly or jump away, flowers are torn up, in the rain you slip and fall. You’re punished for trying to do anything quickly. Trying to catch the biggest fish you can find will frequently net you a Sea Bass, which are far from worth the trouble for the amount of Bells they net for sale. Furthermore, being too twitch-happy on the A-button while fishing will scare the fish away, you have to wait for them to nibble and draw the lure underwater before you can reel them in. Changing the system clock brings more terrible annoyances. In the end, it all comes down to patience once again.
Animal Crossing is a special type of game. For all it does to infuriate anybody who considers themselves a “hardcore gamer” with its forced slow pace, colourful and cheery “for kids” aesthetic and emphasis on diligence and patience over brute force or quick-but-satisfying acts of violence, It gives back by providing a challenge to the part of the brain that doesn’t often get much attention from modern entertainment. Animal Crossing requires that you set daily goals, stick to them, and be diligent if you ever want to “clear” the game. It also lets you do everything at your own pace and develop your own type of gameplay. Maybe it’s truly the first real-life simulator in an age when “realism” to most people means gruff stubbly men with big guns and boob physics. Animal Crossing wants you to believe it’s a casual game to play every so often, but that’s just so it can trick you into using your head for a few hours a day for a change.

Here’s Jimmy Hatcher’s original review of New Leaf:

The first thought that comes to most people’s heads when they think of the Animal Crossing series (if they haven’t played the games) is usually that it’s a cute game that has more in common with Farmville than, say, Gears Of War or something out of the Call Of Duty franchise. For the most part, you’d have a hard time finding anybody who would classify Animal Crossing as a series of titles for hardcore gamers (ugh) due to its bright colours, light and cheery music, and lack of a story structure or mandatory objectives. This is a false train of thought however, and as anybody who is a longtime fan of the series since the release of Animal Crossing for the GameCube in 2001 (the first title released worldwide) will tell you, Animal Crossing requires a tremendous amount of focus and diligence.

Animal Crossing hardly relies on your sense of hand-eye co-ordination and too many, this immediately disqualifies it as being any sort of game for a mature, “hardcore” gamer. Indeed, outside of the fishing and bug catching, there isn’t a whole lot of stress put on your ability to hit a button at the right time. This ignores the real challenge of the game though: patience. Animal Crossing is a waiting game through and through. One of its chief features is the real-time clock. Unlike other open world games like Grand Theft Auto or its many clones that utilize an accelerated time system which mostly functions as a means to determine whether streetlights are on or off and also move at an accelerated rate (e.g. 1 second = 1 minute), Animal Crossing has a true real-time clock. One hour in-game is one hour of real time. When you aren’t playing, time goes on inside the game. This leads to situations where playing at the late hours of the night leaves you with no way to buy furniture or sell the various things you’ve collected during your time in the game. You could adjust the game clock forwards or backwards, but your town will become overgrown with weeds and your villagers will leave after you ignore them for too long. The only option, if you want to “game” the game is to wait. 

The developers of Animal Crossing seem to want to point out that anybody can focus hard and twitch their finger hundreds of times a minute at targets on a screen. What most people can’t do is plan ahead, make their own goals and take action. In Animal Crossing, these are the most important skills to getting anywhere in the game. You need to plan ahead to play when you have time in your real life, You have to decide how you’re going to go about making money to pay off your loans (more on that in a bit), you have to boot up the game every day and repeat this in order to achieve any sort of progress. In the world of Animal Crossing, the carrot and stick present in other games still exists, the proverbial carrot is just a lot smaller and on a much longer stick.

Animal Crossing is frequently touted as having “no objectives”. It’s commonly described as a game about boredom or relaxation. This is true to a degree but like most games, Animal Crossing has goals and objectives you must clear. The common “jobs” for the player in all games of the series are filling the museum, expanding their house, and paying off their loans. Filling the museum requires (without save file-ruining time travel) At least one year of continuous gameplay. Certain fish and Insects only appear during specific seasons and fossils can only be found at a rate of roughly 3 per day or less. Along with this, finding authentic paintings is a matter of sheer luck and anybody who has managed to fill their museum’s art gallery has a level of willpower that I envy. The other primary goals go hand-in-hand. When you first arrive in your town in any Animal Crossing game, you are required to purchase or build a house for an amount of money far beyond what you can afford. From then on, you are required (until New Leaf) to upgrade the size of this house and add floors for ever-inflating cost until you are eventually in a prohibitive amount of debt that must still be paid off. Raising the funds to fully expand the players house and also pay off the loans for this expansion consumes most of the time spent playing the game. In the later stages of the home improvement process, it’s a battle of attrition as you sell fish, bugs, and fossils for mere thousands of Bells (the in-game currency) while your loans total in the sub-million hundreds of thousands. This brings the “casual” nature of Animal Crossing into doubt. Sure, the game can be picked up and played for 20 minutes a day, but you’ll never make any headway on your museum collection or making enough money to pay back your loans at a decent rate. The only way to “clear” the game in a decent amount of time is to put in hours a day over the course of a year or two, more akin to a game like Skyrim than Facebook Peggle. That being said, I don’t know anybody personally who has cleared every part of the game. I, myself, usually run out of patience and abandon my games long before I ever pay off even my third house expansion or fill even one section of the Museum. Somewhere, on a lost GameCube memory card, my town waits for me to return and take care of these things as if I never gave up and started wasting my time on Fire Emblem: Awakening. 

The lack of any storylines is also frequently brought up as both a positive and a negative point for the series. Like most other assumptions however, this is wrong. There’s a rich story in Animal Crossing, you just have to learn to listen to the people in your town. Other than the villagers themselves  who over time develop friendships and rivalries and trade furniture and clothes while you try to pay off your loans and occasionally stop to interact with them, the background characters (as if there were any foreground characters) have stories of their own. If you put in the time to say hello every so often to the quiet hedgehog at the back of the tailors shop (it makes sense in context, trust me), you discover not only the story behind her life and why she’s so shy, but also that of the mercantile tanuki Tom Nook, who goes from owning a small shack selling a few essentials and one item of furniture to becoming a real-estate developer in the latest game in the series, New Leaf. Indeed, there is a story to Animal Crossing, you just have to take the time to listen and gather the clues over the course of the series. Unlike most games, you don’t figure it out at your pace you figure it out at the pace of someone else’s life, as it’s their story to experience first-hand and yours to find out about later. Contained is an important lesson about paying attention and getting to know the people around you. 

Animal Crossing is one of the hardest games you will ever play because it requires you to have mental fortitude rather than an ability to shut out distractions and react over and over to the same stimuli and engage in simulated violence with no repercussions. Push villagers around or hit them with your bug catching net? They will get mad and through some manner of Video Game Developer Sorcery, everything they say will hit on a personal level despite being tiny 3D animals that speak in a weird gibberish language. Chop down all the trees? They’ll begin to hate the town (and you by proxy, as the town is an extension of the player) and move away. All acts of violence in Animal Crossing end with your friends leaving you. Any attempt to play Animal Crossing how you would play most other games ends with a condescending rebuke from the game itself. Running itself is an action for which the game extends a giant hand from the screen and wags a finger at you to say “No, no.” When running, fish disappear into deeper water, bugs fly or jump away, flowers are torn up, in the rain you slip and fall. You’re punished for trying to do anything quickly. Trying to catch the biggest fish you can find will frequently net you a Sea Bass, which are far from worth the trouble for the amount of Bells they net for sale. Furthermore, being too twitch-happy on the A-button while fishing will scare the fish away, you have to wait for them to nibble and draw the lure underwater before you can reel them in. Changing the system clock brings more terrible annoyances. In the end, it all comes down to patience once again.

Animal Crossing is a special type of game. For all it does to infuriate anybody who considers themselves a “hardcore gamer” with its forced slow pace, colourful and cheery “for kids” aesthetic and emphasis on diligence and patience over brute force or quick-but-satisfying acts of violence, It gives back by providing a challenge to the part of the brain that doesn’t often get much attention from modern entertainment. Animal Crossing requires that you set daily goals, stick to them, and be diligent if you ever want to “clear” the game. It also lets you do everything at your own pace and develop your own type of gameplay. Maybe it’s truly the first real-life simulator in an age when “realism” to most people means gruff stubbly men with big guns and boob physics. Animal Crossing wants you to believe it’s a casual game to play every so often, but that’s just so it can trick you into using your head for a few hours a day for a change.

Launching a game towards the end of a generation’s cycle is often a very risky move. See, gamers are often fickle creatures; they want what’s new and, if it’s pretty close, they’re not so likely to give a shit what’s immediately in front of them, instead choosing to look right through it to whatever it is they can barely see on the horizon, that new shiny beacon. The end of a console’s cycle is usually reserved for those games that companies want to sell double the number of, by releasing it on the old generation and then again on the new, or pieces of crap they want to get out without anyone making a big hoo-ha about how bad it is. Leave it to Naughty Dog, then, to buck all trends going and make one of the most emotionally rich, exciting, heart-pounding, and investing video games of the year, nay, of this generation.
Naughty Dog have, since the mid-90s, been about delivering some of the more memorable platforming games. From Crash Bandicoot, to Jak & Daxter, to, heck, even Uncharted in a way, they’ve carved their path as the go to developer for fun, often pulpy, action games. The Uncharted series is the one that left a real mark in the gaming psyche. A mix of great level design, characters, and far-fetched storylines, every single instalment was just a blast to play; not stupid and mindless, but not exactly cerebral either, a lovely middle ground. So when word got out that Naughty Dog were creating a new IP set for release towards the end of the PS3’s cycle that was unlike anything they’d done before, there was some caution and hesitation. Why not just make a fourth Uncharted which could then be ported over to the PS4? But Naughty Dog wanted to take a risk, and it’s one that well and truly paid off for them.
Of course, on paper, The Last Of Us should succumb to every Hollywood cliché going, something Naughty Dog even cheekily acknowledged when hosting the UK launch of the game at a cinema also screening I Am Legend and The Road that same night. A tale of two survivors, Joel and Ellie who would be unlikely to get a long in any other situation, are thrust together by a series of twists and turns, including one of the most heartrending opening sequences which really lets you know things in this spore-filled world are completely fucked up. And so, it’s a credit to the writers and designers, as well as the stellar voice cast, to completely forego expectations and creates something that prefers subtlety and nuance to outright feeding you backstory and so-on with a silver spoon. Even the causes of the gorgeous apocalyptic scenes around you is not entirely clear, and the motivations behind why Joel and Ellie are travelling across the wasteland, which twist and turn as the story progresses, becomes more and more difficult to pinpoint. What begins as a simple trip to another city in order to deliver Ellie, whose blood could create a cure (huge throwbacks to Children of Men here), turns into two characters that begin to rely on one another to live. 
It’s a mature story told in an incredibly mature way. Videogame tropes usually mean that everything is outright explained to you, think the literally hours and hours of exposition that sit on the Metal Gear Solid series. Here, however, what isn’t said is often way more powerful that what is; a piece of information received with merely a facial expression. Gameplay wise, the game feels equally weighty. There’s no bounding around like a springbok on speed here, you’re instead limited by what an actual human can do. You’re constantly seeking ladders to reach higher places or planks of wood to cross gaps and it’s this that keeps the game grounded. Snapping an enemy’s neck is not a quick twist and you’re done deal, it’s a struggle; grotesque and drawn out as your enemy gurgles and spits. Punches are slow and often stupid, not fast and pretty. By choosing to scramble around the scenery, it feels a lot more immersive. Yet, while the idea of exploration and collecting everything in sight which is so ingrained in the gamer’s psyche works here, seeing as in a post-apocalyptic world you need to collect everything in sight to survive, the more game-y aspects do draw you out from the experience a little, particularly Joel’s “X-Ray” hearing. It’s something you’d expect from a game, but when the rest of the experience is so expertly realised, it becomes all the more obvious to spot the chink in the armour.
Still, The Last Of Us is a game that never treats its audience as anything but adults. It’s superbly paced, with emotional beats coming at almost perfect moments without feeling heavy handed or over-the-top. That giraffe scene, perhaps the one scene that will most stick in my memory, is an absolutely perfect breather, the quiet before the big storm that feels quite similar to the march of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Everything here feels like it belongs, from the characters who have managed to survive be it due to their wiles or their strength, to the debris in the cities. It never really holds your hand, instead allowing you yourself to get your bearings and explore abandoned houses to understand more about the world. Most importantly, it feels like an AAA title actually deserving of its blockbuster status, with adverts on the side of buses and on TV.
The Last Of Us is essentially what video games have been trying to achieve since they matured into a storytelling medium. While individual parts have obviously been taken from other places, as a whole, it’s an extraordinary exploration through melancholic lows and the occasional high, a study of hope and loss, and proof enough that video games do have the potential to knock Hollywood’s crown. It’ll take a few more shoves, obviously, but The Last Of Us is a hell of a first push for that crown.

Launching a game towards the end of a generation’s cycle is often a very risky move. See, gamers are often fickle creatures; they want what’s new and, if it’s pretty close, they’re not so likely to give a shit what’s immediately in front of them, instead choosing to look right through it to whatever it is they can barely see on the horizon, that new shiny beacon. The end of a console’s cycle is usually reserved for those games that companies want to sell double the number of, by releasing it on the old generation and then again on the new, or pieces of crap they want to get out without anyone making a big hoo-ha about how bad it is. Leave it to Naughty Dog, then, to buck all trends going and make one of the most emotionally rich, exciting, heart-pounding, and investing video games of the year, nay, of this generation.

Naughty Dog have, since the mid-90s, been about delivering some of the more memorable platforming games. From Crash Bandicoot, to Jak & Daxter, to, heck, even Uncharted in a way, they’ve carved their path as the go to developer for fun, often pulpy, action games. The Uncharted series is the one that left a real mark in the gaming psyche. A mix of great level design, characters, and far-fetched storylines, every single instalment was just a blast to play; not stupid and mindless, but not exactly cerebral either, a lovely middle ground. So when word got out that Naughty Dog were creating a new IP set for release towards the end of the PS3’s cycle that was unlike anything they’d done before, there was some caution and hesitation. Why not just make a fourth Uncharted which could then be ported over to the PS4? But Naughty Dog wanted to take a risk, and it’s one that well and truly paid off for them.

Of course, on paper, The Last Of Us should succumb to every Hollywood cliché going, something Naughty Dog even cheekily acknowledged when hosting the UK launch of the game at a cinema also screening I Am Legend and The Road that same night. A tale of two survivors, Joel and Ellie who would be unlikely to get a long in any other situation, are thrust together by a series of twists and turns, including one of the most heartrending opening sequences which really lets you know things in this spore-filled world are completely fucked up. And so, it’s a credit to the writers and designers, as well as the stellar voice cast, to completely forego expectations and creates something that prefers subtlety and nuance to outright feeding you backstory and so-on with a silver spoon. Even the causes of the gorgeous apocalyptic scenes around you is not entirely clear, and the motivations behind why Joel and Ellie are travelling across the wasteland, which twist and turn as the story progresses, becomes more and more difficult to pinpoint. What begins as a simple trip to another city in order to deliver Ellie, whose blood could create a cure (huge throwbacks to Children of Men here), turns into two characters that begin to rely on one another to live. 

It’s a mature story told in an incredibly mature way. Videogame tropes usually mean that everything is outright explained to you, think the literally hours and hours of exposition that sit on the Metal Gear Solid series. Here, however, what isn’t said is often way more powerful that what is; a piece of information received with merely a facial expression. Gameplay wise, the game feels equally weighty. There’s no bounding around like a springbok on speed here, you’re instead limited by what an actual human can do. You’re constantly seeking ladders to reach higher places or planks of wood to cross gaps and it’s this that keeps the game grounded. Snapping an enemy’s neck is not a quick twist and you’re done deal, it’s a struggle; grotesque and drawn out as your enemy gurgles and spits. Punches are slow and often stupid, not fast and pretty. By choosing to scramble around the scenery, it feels a lot more immersive. Yet, while the idea of exploration and collecting everything in sight which is so ingrained in the gamer’s psyche works here, seeing as in a post-apocalyptic world you need to collect everything in sight to survive, the more game-y aspects do draw you out from the experience a little, particularly Joel’s “X-Ray” hearing. It’s something you’d expect from a game, but when the rest of the experience is so expertly realised, it becomes all the more obvious to spot the chink in the armour.

Still, The Last Of Us is a game that never treats its audience as anything but adults. It’s superbly paced, with emotional beats coming at almost perfect moments without feeling heavy handed or over-the-top. That giraffe scene, perhaps the one scene that will most stick in my memory, is an absolutely perfect breather, the quiet before the big storm that feels quite similar to the march of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Everything here feels like it belongs, from the characters who have managed to survive be it due to their wiles or their strength, to the debris in the cities. It never really holds your hand, instead allowing you yourself to get your bearings and explore abandoned houses to understand more about the world. Most importantly, it feels like an AAA title actually deserving of its blockbuster status, with adverts on the side of buses and on TV.

The Last Of Us is essentially what video games have been trying to achieve since they matured into a storytelling medium. While individual parts have obviously been taken from other places, as a whole, it’s an extraordinary exploration through melancholic lows and the occasional high, a study of hope and loss, and proof enough that video games do have the potential to knock Hollywood’s crown. It’ll take a few more shoves, obviously, but The Last Of Us is a hell of a first push for that crown.

Halfway through reviewing Anchorman 2, I got bored and played through the first episode of the new The Walking Dead season… of games. I don’t quite get why they persist on calling them episodes and seasons; I get that there’s a TV show tenuously linked to the game under the Walking Dead franchise umbrella, so they don’t have to shove the idea down my throat at every available opportunity. It’s like one guy got a good idea and decided that his was the only idea worth using, so it’s used on every corner of every street in the city of his idea. At the start of every episode, it even does the whole gravelly-voiced “Previously, on The Walking Dead” thing and re-caps what happened in the last episode. This was in the first series, and it seems to carried on unpleasantly into the second. I’m the kind of guy who sits down to play a game, and stops two days later when nothing else can be done on it. It’s not a trait I’m proud of, and I go through games far too quickly, but hey-ho, that’s me.
Don’t get me wrong, the pre-episode updates were useful when I moved onto the second series, as it’d been a fair few months since I’d played the first game, and it kept me nice and updated with the whole, y’know, story and shit. But even this was kind of redundant; I’ll give you a clue to what happens in the first season [SPOILERS!]: EVERYBODY DIES. Like seriously,  even the person you play as dies. The only people who survive are the young girl you basically look after as your own child for the entire first game before she either shoots you in the head before you turn into a walker or leaves you to shuffle off this mortal coil whilst leaning against a radiator, and two others called Omid and Christa, who are both wankers anyway so who cares. True to fashion, Omid dies within about five minutes of “All That Remains”, and Christa seemingly gets stabbed a little while later. She could be alive, she could not, I couldn’t care less to be honest.
If you’ve played the first game, you’ll know that only two people mattered: the player character Lee, and Clementine (previously mentioned surrogate daughter figure). The end of the first game when the two get separated for good is a truly heart-wrenching moment in gaming. You’ve essentially raised this girl for a whole game, taught her how to survive in the zombie wasteland, and bam, you get bitten, and the rest is deep emotional scarring in my gaming history.
This second season/game sees the focus shift to Clem, which is a bit weird. Telltale tend to focus on storytelling in all of their games, from this to The Wolf Amongst Us to Jurassic Park and probably their upcoming Game Of Thrones adaptation, with your actions and decisions in-game affecting the outcome of the story (how profoundly, I don’t know, doubt it’s anything major, but a few changes are noticeable).So to play a game where there is such an emphasis on character relations, when you’ve already got a mental relationship in your head with the character you’re now playing as is just a bit strange. In the first game, you are basically a father figure, and you can obviously choose to be a caring father or a more distant chap. This really messes me up, because I chose to be an attentive character, so I really built up a rapport with Clementine, but I did it as Lee. So now I’m playing as Clementine, building relationships with other father-like figures in the game, and it just feels weird to me.
I don’t know, I guess it’s like going out with your ex to choose their next partner; if they don’t have me, I want them to be alone forever. Is that too much to ask?
So for a game so heavily reliant on story and characters, it’s made it overly hard for me to make any connections with anyone in the game so far, but then again, maybe it’s just me being immature and possessive of Clementine. I spend so long with that kid, I don’t want her to have no baby-daddy. 
I’m sorry, I’ll stop now.
As for the actual game, they’ve done that fab thing where they split the season into five episodes, and even though I’ve already paid for all five episodes, only the first one is currently been released. This is something I’d define as a royal piss-take. That’s something you do when you’re an independent company running out of money and you need the sales of the games to pay for the remainder of the development, it’s not something I expect from Telltale Games. Give me what I paid for, you cunts.
The graphics have been improved, maybe? It’s nothing too exciting, but with the rough sketch comic style of graphics for this game, they’ve never been the real selling point, and it hasn’t been boosted much by the second season The gameplay is pretty much the same too, as I said, it’s essentially a click-and story game. But you don’t buy this game for excellent graphics, you don’t buy it for innovative gameplay, you buy it for the story, the characters, and the feels. Oh so many feels.
It’s hard to even call it a game to some degree; it’s more like an interactive book, which is fine really. Most of the time you’re engaged in some kind of dialogue, which will have some ridiculous impact on the story down the line if you chose option A instead of B. But as I said, you don’t buy the game for a lot of reasons, but you do buy the game for one reason: It’s probably one of the best story-telling experiences ever to be put into gaming format.
And for that reason, you buy the game.

Halfway through reviewing Anchorman 2, I got bored and played through the first episode of the new The Walking Dead season… of games. I don’t quite get why they persist on calling them episodes and seasons; I get that there’s a TV show tenuously linked to the game under the Walking Dead franchise umbrella, so they don’t have to shove the idea down my throat at every available opportunity. It’s like one guy got a good idea and decided that his was the only idea worth using, so it’s used on every corner of every street in the city of his idea. At the start of every episode, it even does the whole gravelly-voiced “Previously, on The Walking Dead” thing and re-caps what happened in the last episode. This was in the first series, and it seems to carried on unpleasantly into the second. I’m the kind of guy who sits down to play a game, and stops two days later when nothing else can be done on it. It’s not a trait I’m proud of, and I go through games far too quickly, but hey-ho, that’s me.

Don’t get me wrong, the pre-episode updates were useful when I moved onto the second series, as it’d been a fair few months since I’d played the first game, and it kept me nice and updated with the whole, y’know, story and shit. But even this was kind of redundant; I’ll give you a clue to what happens in the first season [SPOILERS!]: EVERYBODY DIES. Like seriously,  even the person you play as dies. The only people who survive are the young girl you basically look after as your own child for the entire first game before she either shoots you in the head before you turn into a walker or leaves you to shuffle off this mortal coil whilst leaning against a radiator, and two others called Omid and Christa, who are both wankers anyway so who cares. True to fashion, Omid dies within about five minutes of “All That Remains”, and Christa seemingly gets stabbed a little while later. She could be alive, she could not, I couldn’t care less to be honest.

If you’ve played the first game, you’ll know that only two people mattered: the player character Lee, and Clementine (previously mentioned surrogate daughter figure). The end of the first game when the two get separated for good is a truly heart-wrenching moment in gaming. You’ve essentially raised this girl for a whole game, taught her how to survive in the zombie wasteland, and bam, you get bitten, and the rest is deep emotional scarring in my gaming history.

This second season/game sees the focus shift to Clem, which is a bit weird. Telltale tend to focus on storytelling in all of their games, from this to The Wolf Amongst Us to Jurassic Park and probably their upcoming Game Of Thrones adaptation, with your actions and decisions in-game affecting the outcome of the story (how profoundly, I don’t know, doubt it’s anything major, but a few changes are noticeable).So to play a game where there is such an emphasis on character relations, when you’ve already got a mental relationship in your head with the character you’re now playing as is just a bit strange. In the first game, you are basically a father figure, and you can obviously choose to be a caring father or a more distant chap. This really messes me up, because I chose to be an attentive character, so I really built up a rapport with Clementine, but I did it as Lee. So now I’m playing as Clementine, building relationships with other father-like figures in the game, and it just feels weird to me.

I don’t know, I guess it’s like going out with your ex to choose their next partner; if they don’t have me, I want them to be alone forever. Is that too much to ask?

So for a game so heavily reliant on story and characters, it’s made it overly hard for me to make any connections with anyone in the game so far, but then again, maybe it’s just me being immature and possessive of Clementine. I spend so long with that kid, I don’t want her to have no baby-daddy. 

I’m sorry, I’ll stop now.

As for the actual game, they’ve done that fab thing where they split the season into five episodes, and even though I’ve already paid for all five episodes, only the first one is currently been released. This is something I’d define as a royal piss-take. That’s something you do when you’re an independent company running out of money and you need the sales of the games to pay for the remainder of the development, it’s not something I expect from Telltale Games. Give me what I paid for, you cunts.

The graphics have been improved, maybe? It’s nothing too exciting, but with the rough sketch comic style of graphics for this game, they’ve never been the real selling point, and it hasn’t been boosted much by the second season The gameplay is pretty much the same too, as I said, it’s essentially a click-and story game. But you don’t buy this game for excellent graphics, you don’t buy it for innovative gameplay, you buy it for the story, the characters, and the feels. Oh so many feels.

It’s hard to even call it a game to some degree; it’s more like an interactive book, which is fine really. Most of the time you’re engaged in some kind of dialogue, which will have some ridiculous impact on the story down the line if you chose option A instead of B. But as I said, you don’t buy the game for a lot of reasons, but you do buy the game for one reason: It’s probably one of the best story-telling experiences ever to be put into gaming format.

And for that reason, you buy the game.

Watch: Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season Two trailer
Poor Clementine just cannot catch a break. Those of you who played through Season One of Telltale’s incredible adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse will remember just how emotionally draining it was, especially the heartbreaking final episode, and it’s likely this second instalment (technically the third, if we count this year’s 400 Days) will be even worse since we play as Clem herself. Sleepless nights and constant worrying about the wellbeing of a fictional character lay ahead, when episode one of Season Two is released on December 18th.

CLICK TO VOTE

And so, we finally get around to the third instalment of the Batman: Arkham series, a well put together group, which has sufficiently impressed in the past. In the past you say? Does this insinuate the third game has not lived up to its predecessors? Well, let’s see shall we.

(This review might contain a few cheeky spoilers here and there for the game and its prequels, but then again, it’s a review, what the fuck did you expect? Either way I thought I’d be a top notch guy and give you a warning anyway, so be warned, I’m pretty much going to get straight into it.)

At the end of Arkham City, they killed The Joker off (I did warn you.), and as any semi-Batman fan can tell you, that’s an awfully bold move. Obviously when they were trying to conceive the latest edition, they ran into the sizable problem that they had killed off probably the main villain, a difficult scenario for any design team, I imagine. But luckily, one of the blatant creative fucking geniuses over at Warner Bros. Games Montréal decided “Hey, wait, if we just did a prequel-sequel, we could still have The Joker!” It obviously went down a storm and here we are now. As I’m sure you can tell, I just disagree with this whole concept. It just introduces the possibility of so many inconsistencies throughout the game. For example, in this game, Batman gets some bad ass electric boxing gloves, and they seriously kick ass, so why the fuck did he ditch them? Why aren’t they in the other two games?

It’s what I like to call the Star Wars dilemma. You’re trying to create prequels, with better tech, new ideas, but you can’t be over the top because you get dickheads like me going “Why the fuck wouldn’t the Empire re-invent the Droidekas? They were fucking kick ass, even Jedi ran away from them fuckers”. It’s unfortunately the same here, sure, it really was a necessity if you wanted to include the main villain, but why kill him off in the first place then? I suppose the prequel idea helped with the voice actor change over. Some people might not have noticed, but the voice of Batman changed for the final game (Roger Craig Smith coming in to replace Kevin Conroy), which to be fair is hardly noticeable, probably due in part to Batman’s limited dialogue anyway, but still, good job.

And revisiting the Star Wars theme, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), voiced The Joker in the previous two games, but he (most regrettably) retired the role, and was replaced with Troy Baker. This, unfortunately, isn’t as easy on the ears as the previous switch. The voices are easily distinguished between, I didn’t even know about the switch until I played the game, and I thought “Hey, that doesn’t sound like The Joker I know and love”, so I looked it up, and alas, it wasn’t. I’ve always been a fan of Mark Hamill’s Joker and - warning, unpopular opinion ahead -  I actually prefer his character to the darker version Heath Ledger portrayed. He was really missed throughout the game, and the enthusiasm he brings to the role through his voice acting was an insurmountable void that really just put a downer on the whole experience.

The Joker wasn’t all bad though; there was a rather enjoyable part where you played as him, as a character in his own psyche. It gave a really fun glimpse into the mind of a character which has previously been a no-go-zone. To see Batman the way The Joker does, was a novel idea, and it’s originality actually impressed me. Pity that is lasted a whole of 7 minutes game time.

But away from that, the gameplay: It was alright. Don’t get me wrong, when the original Batman: Arkham Origins was released, the combat mechanics and the character design were unique, revolutionary for Super-Hero games. But really, four years down the line, it’s like they’re trying to sell me the same thing with a different storyline. Which is also a bit of a theme throughout it, while making my way around Gotham City, I came upon a part of the map from the previous game, and I thought “Hey, isn’t that a cool little thing, they’ve kept part of the city exactly the same from the second game”. Then I thought, is it cool, or a bit of lazy programming? Sure I get it’s genuinely the same piece of land, but has it not changed at all over the entire timespan the games have been set in? Maybe I’m just being pedantic, so I’ll let them off.

The addition of even more villains, an even bigger map, and a multiplayer mode (plus extra Deathstroke mode as DLC, which I can’t access due to my lack of internet connection at the moment), are all very big pluses. But I still can’t help but think they’ve realised they’ve found a winning formula, so they’ve tried so desperately hard to preserve it, that straying even slightly from the previous instalments amounts to blasphemy.

Most of the in-game fights are repetitive, sure it’s a challenge to take down a group of thugs without getting hit, and the never-ending struggle to push your combo counter just.. one.. higher.. But in the end it’s just like, fly around, hit some people in the face, move on. And that’s another point, what have most of these people even done? I saw two men standing on a roof-top, having a chat about how “Ball-freezingly cold” it was, or something to that effect, they weren’t armed, they weren’t threatening me in any way, hell, they weren’t acting in the slightest of criminal manners, and what does Batman do? Of course he glides over to them and proceeds to kick seven shades of shit out them. No evidence, no questions, just a bloodthirsty man in a cape, preying on innocent civilians that happen to be on the roof while he’s passing by.

Well, I say Batman beat the shit out of them, technically it was me controlling Batman, but still, when did Batman games become GTA in a cape? Styling himself as “The World’s Greatest Detective”, you’d think he’d have more of an investigatory procedure before he starts kung-fu-ing randomers in the street, but hey ho.

Even the puzzles in the game seem to be CTRL+C’d and CTRL+V’d from the old games (Or Command C’d/Command V’d for our Apple consumers out there). It’s a lot of, oh, let’s go into the vents, let’s sneak up behind them, let’s use this gadget on that depressingly obvious “use a gadget on me”-looking item over there, let’s do the same thing we’ve been doing for 2 game already. It’s just tiring, tedious, and disappointing.

It seems the developers have the phrase “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” engraved onto their souls. But I have another idea for you: if it’s not broken, fucking improve it.

 Is it too much to ask to be surprised? To be excited by the prospect of a genuinely new and creative idea? Why should we pay for old ideas and recycled imagination? I completed the game, I enjoyed parts, and had to physically drag myself through others, certain segments just became so repetitive I had to stop playing for a while just to entertain myself. And what kind of game should you stop playing because it’s actively boring you? Maybe I shouldn’t have been so stubborn and just stopped playing it, then again, maybe I should have done something constructive instead of sitting on the couch playing Batman: Arkham Origins, maybe you should be doing something more constructive than reading an internet review of an average game. What’re your goals in life? How is reading this going to ever help you achieve them? Be proactive and do some good with your day.

God, I sound like my Nan.