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Yoshi’s New Island UK Review

The cutesy-pie platformer makes its debut on the Nintendo 3DS, but does our endearing green dinosaur flutter to success or crack under the pressure? Unfortunately for Yoshi’s New Island, the game flounders among the clouds instead of reaching new heights.

In his first outing on the 3DS, Yoshi’s on a brand new adventure with Baby Mario in tow and this time he means big business by hurling eggs of all shapes and sizes straight into an enemy’s path. But the road to reuniting Baby Mario with Baby Luigi isn’t particularly tough, neither is it part of a flourishing imagination, rather the game’s ground-pounded into an unappetising mush, lacking flavour in diversity.

Yoshi’s New Island brings six new worlds to explore with gorgeous pastel-crayon backgrounds of volcanoes, mountains and forests, which are both eye-catching and appealing to newcomers, children and fans of the franchise. However, the foreground images are less distinguished and sharp, particularly in 3D, serving up run of the mill designs for the rainbow-coloured Yoshis and Baby Mario.

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Make sure you don’t get hit by falling lava rocks, Baby Mario will not be pleased.

While the artistic design suffers somewhat, Arzest produces some fun and engaging levels, bringing variation to Yoshi’s standard jump, flutter and gobble pattern. Standout levels such as Hop ‘n’ Pop Till You Drop, Spin Lift Drift and Fire Watermelon Wonderland in worlds four and five present players with unique level mechanics to hone skills, while keeping the tone light-hearted by popping bubbles and bouncing between penguins. World 6’s Chomp Rock Challenge also offers a great change of pace for the game’s otherwise blasé style and ramps up the difficulty scale, especially if you’re picking up collectables.

But for many of the levels, Yoshi’s New Island becomes jaded and lacks in real zest. Mid-boss fights with Kamek and world boss fights are over in a flash with weaknesses that are typically easy to exploit. Plus, there are blind spots within boss levels, where you can simply stand and avoid any magical beam or fiery attack hurtling your way. And while it’s refreshing to hurl large eggs into pipes and enemies to watch the destruction unfold, or to uncover secret doors and exits, the mechanic is not utilised enough. However, Arzest has found perfect equilibrium with Yoshi’s vehicle abilities. Tilting the 3DS is wonderfully incorporated with Bobsleigh and Drill Yoshi, where an invigorating pace breaks the repetitive pattern. But Submarine Yoshi sinks by its own game mechanics, creating havoc with its less fluid and accurate motion.

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Kamek’s so easy to defeat, he’s even bested by Baby Bowser. Poor guy can’t catch a break.

Players can breeze through Yoshi’s New Island in less than ten hours, but obtaining flowers, red coins and stars, plus keeping Baby Mario happy with your quality babysitting service can prove quite the challenge. Clever secrets with question mark clouds and hidden doorways bring vivacity to the platformer, keeping more accustomed players enthralled. While hunting for collectables can provide sustenance for players, the game’s music leaves little to be desired, and the once upbeat melodies turn stale very quickly.

Though Yoshi’s New Island is refreshing and lively in parts, it suffers from occasional mechanical flaws and a dearth in imagination. It’s a game worth shelling out for if you’re a die-hard Yoshi fan, but less sunny side up for others.

6/10

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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze UK Review

The Banana King of the Jungle teams up with Dixie, Diddy and Cranky Kong to defeat those devious Snowmads in Tropical Freeze, and it’s certainly a master class in platform gaming.

In his fifth Country Adventure, Donkey Kong is ready to brace the icy platforms and defeat the Snowmads in full-fledged HD on the Wii U. But you’d be a fool to believe you were in for an easy ride in Tropical Freeze – prepare to go bananas and pummel your chest in frustration at the game’s devilishly delectable platform levels.

Tropical Freeze introduces six new worlds for gamers to explore – Lost Mangroves, Autumn Heights, Bright Savannah, Sea Breeze Cove, Juicy Jungle, and Donkey Kong Island – and all are absolutely gorgeous in aesthetic appeal, with some levels verging on the delightfully berserk in gameplay design. But there’s a minute problem revealed from the outset which dilutes an otherwise first-class and beautiful game: the loading screens. Though loading length can be bothersome for many, it’s the lag that’s the crux of the matter here, with Donkey Kong halting mid-sprint or mid-roll while the Wii U tuts in a grumpy fashion. While the hold-ups would – in many games – go unnoticed, Tropical Freeze’s design is ultimately flawless, granting it an unfortunate but noticeable red flag.

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Looks like Jaws made his way into DK’s territory – can you keep your cool on this perilous track?

Once past the loading lag, a wonderful dose of melodic music and opulent tones enriches the jungle experience. With David Wise’s prowess invigorating Retro’s latest DK adventure, it’s nothing short of mesmerising. From the swinging groove of Mangrove Cove, to the mellow and sultry serenity of the aquatic levels, and eventually to the icy undertones and synthesized pop within the game’s final stages, Wise creates a phantasmagoria of melodies designed to immerse the gamer into the heart of the jungle. The music wraps around the game’s atmosphere with such beauty, it only elevates Tropical Freeze’s gameplay to new heights, giving us a hankering to crack out those old DK bongos and tap to the beat.

As a platform game, Tropical Freeze is both a joy and a challenge to play. With four types of controller mode supported, as well as off-TV play on the GamePad, Retro has delivered to the masses. The controls are smooth and highly responsive, however, the underwater spin attack can be tricky to control at first, but adapting to its use is easy enough. However, it’s an undeniable shame that the GamePad isn’t utilised into core gameplay for a unique experience.

Various checkpoints serve as pit stops throughout levels to keep you from throwing in the towel, plus a number of coins, puzzle pieces, and the famous Kong letters are also hidden in each level. The unique Kong-POW meter, which can be filled by collecting bananas and accessed with Dixie, Diddy or Cranky, adds an extra level of depth and gives players the opportunity to turn enemies into various power-ups on screen.

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Each world keeps you on the edge of your seat and throws a plethora of tricks your way.

Tropical Freeze’s HD visuals are glorious on the Wii U, but it’s the superb level design which reaches the definition of a master class in platform games. Design behind levels such as Trunk Twister, Grassland Groove, Cannon Canyon, High Tide Ride and Jelly Jamboree are visually fruitful and deliver exquisite camera angles at rapid speed. Not once is there a hiccup when shifting to a different angle, further emphasising the fluidity and atmospheric appeal of the game.

The Donkey Kong franchise is renowned for its challenging levels – and Tropical Freeze is no different. The underwater levels will strike your panicked soul to the core. Frantically reaching that last Kong letter before inching past a spiked ball, all while keeping an eye out for an air bubble is not for the faint-hearted. But also of notable merit for its stalwart challenge is World 5’s Fruity Factory – a death trap of unforgiving battering knives and sickeningly, high-powered spiked boards. But even that is outpaced by a number of boss levels such as the hoot-along showdown in World 2, where you’ll never look at feathers in quite the same way again.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a masterful addition to the franchise and, combined with the luxurious soundtrack, is a challenging experience worth going bananas over.

9/10

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Destructoid Gives Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze 10/10

More reviews of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze have just come through. Online gaming publication Destructoid gave Donkey Kong’s latest 2D adventure a perfect 10/10. This clashes with GameSpot who awarded the game a 6/10 and EDGE and Eurogamer who both awarded the game 7/10. Here’s an extract from the review.

It’s an incredibly crafted platformer with an HD sheen and an insane attention to detail, and any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to experience it. With the addition of control options to the already proven formula, Retro Studios’ rendition of Donkey Kong is pretty much flawless.

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Wii Sports Club Golf Review

It’s time to tee off and take up your club in Wii Sports Club Golf for the Wii U. With improved controls Golf is better than its predecessor, but the GamePad serves as an unnecessary second-screen, relegating it to the rough rather than the fairway.

When Wii Sports launched back in 2006 for Nintendo’s seventh generation home console, it was a smash hit and incorporated some of the best sports to rival your friends on. Cut to the present day and Nintendo has revealed the updated HD versions of Tennis, Bowling and Golf, with Boxing and Baseball to feature at a later date. But are there enough changes to warrant parting with your hard-earned cash to fully purchase Golf, or is it worth keeping to the 24-hour passes for those lazy Sundays?

With the inclusion of the Wii U’s GamePad, second-screen gaming has reinvigorated Golf since the Wii’s days. Now there’s a virtual ball placed firmly at our feet, and we can gauge the strength by practising a few shots before taking our professional golfing stance – accompanied with an optional argyle vest and cap – to give it a real whack. After judging the wind direction, the placement of the shot and the potential distance we should cover, the game mirrors Golf exquisitely but to the detriment of fun.

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Remember, no matter how frustrated you are, don’t step on the GamePad.

Rinsing and repeating glances from the GamePad to the TV screen and playing by the rule book becomes tiresome for the average gamer. In no time at all, you’ve shirked your golfer’s clothes and backed the creative path, wondering how many times you can avoid the water and sand bunkers by taking the most unusual path possible. The GamePad may reflect the challenges of the sport in reality, but it doesn’t require an in-depth study to remain under or on par. It’s just as beneficial to keep your eye on the TV screen, feeling the strength and dexterity in your swing, without even giving the GamePad a second glance.

Controller accuracy has been improved greatly with the Wii Motion Plus. Gripping the remote with two hands gives you much more control over the direction of the ball, as a one-handed swing will more than likely veer off course, landing you in the rough or worse. Both Lakeside and Classic routes give you ample opportunities to keep on par in the three, nine and eighteen hole courses, offering up enough variety for players.

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Under par, that smile never putted a double bogey.

If you’re looking to play with a friend or group of people, the Skill Shaper courses present a lighter mood on the greenery. Putter Madness will help you gauge the strength of shots, with the highest scores achievable when putting from a greater distance, while Target Shooter keeps you on track by creating a barrier you must pass in order to score big points. But Golf’s most amusing mini-game is Bingo Clubber. Players are presented with a bingo board and must either calculate the shot correctly, or just leave it to chance, in order to score big points. For those players in need of light relief, teeing off to score points on a bingo board brings vivacity to an otherwise demanding game.

Of course, the biggest and brightest element to Wii Sports Club is the ability to play online with players across the world. Playing Golf online pits you against players with varying skill levels. It’s great to see how other players tackle courses – where you may even score some tips – but an equal measure of Schadenfreude is also thrown in.

If you’re a fan of the sport and like a challenge, Golf is certainly up to scratch, but the average gamer is best sticking to the day passes on those rainy days.

7/10

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Mario Party: Island Tour UK Review

Mario’s back for another round of board games in the latest Mario Party, but the plumber’s party-host mojo has seemingly one-upped and left. With many mini-games and game modes proving bland and uninspiring, Island Tour gets left in the shadows.

Together on Nintendo’s home consoles and handhelds, the Mario Party series has spawned into double figures, with the latest game holding party-goers in its thirteenth instalment. It seems rather fitting that Mario Party: Island tour languishes in the unlucky number hot seat, as there’s no real spirit and sparkle to its board games – even Bowser’s efforts to become the party-topper in his tower falls a little short – maybe the island life has left them all a little heavy-eyed on this occasion.

Firing up Mario Party in single-player and local multiplayer mode will give you a solid amount of options in both Party and Mini-Game modes. There are seven board games to choose in party mode, and for those who prefer to spend their time besting the AI players at mini-games, Perilous Palace Path and Star-Crossed Skyway provide sumptuous entertainment, while giving you a little room to engage with your devilish and playful side.

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Can you keep your cool and make it to the goal in Perilous Palace Path?

In Star-Crossed Skyway, the main aim is to collect the most mini stars in order to win, but you must either be the first player to reach the end of a skyway board to collect the most stars, or win mini-games against other players to do so. However, depending on which space you land on, mini stars can be deducted by picking up mini ztars, so if you want to catch the runaway winner, sneakily switching the order of stars at the end of the board may just change your fortune. Similarly in Perilous Palace Path, players can pick up the Crazy Kamek item to send the front player into your space – infuriating for the player in first place, but creates endless hilarity for those players at the back of the pack,  especially when partnering up with other 3DS owners.

If Mario was ever in need of an enemy to gatecrash his party, Banzai Bill would be aiming for the top of the list – second only to Bowser. But if Banzai Bill’s Mad Mountain board game is anything to go by, Mario should have stomped him flat as soon as he reached the door. In the game, players are tasked to reach the goal while avoiding any Banzai Bill spaces or rolling his bullet-sneering image on the die. Not only does the game begin to get tiresome after the first ten minutes as a mini-game only pops up every three turns, it’s also maddeningly infuriating to see the goal only 15 short spaces away from your character, knowing that someone will set off Banzai Bill from his cozy casing on the next turn. Playing with friends gives you more control over the game, though after ten minutes, it’s probably best to work together in order to defeat Banzai Bill, rather than claim victory.

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How quickly can you throw him off his golden-spiked perch in Bowser’s Tower?

Playing the game without AI characters or friends gives you the opportunity to explore Bowser’s Tower. Bowser’s livid he wasn’t invited to Mario’s bash, so he’s created his own party pad with 30 floors full to the brim with mini-games. Of course, Bowser throws in a few tricks to liven up the soiree by making your adversaries more challenging or deducting party points from your total.

On each floor you’ll have a choice between two mini-games, with a mid-boss challenge every five levels. Mini-games based on luck such as Spin and Bear It, and Egg Drop, can be irritating when you lose, forcing you to start the floor over, but if you’re adept at skill-based mini-games such as the rhythm-tapping Strike a Chord, or timing your button pushes and jumps in Abseiling Antics and Great Bars of Fire, you’ll breeze through the tower with considerable ease. Though boss fights are the most challenging mini-games, there’s no such need to revisit Bowser’s Tower – save for gaining a handful of party points and unlocking collectibles – as you can replay them all in Free Play mode.

As always, the Mario Party series needs to be enjoyed with friends to get the most thrills out of the game. However, Nintendo’s choice to bar online play in Island Tour has hindered the game’s longevity, critically. Although the mini-games and board games – for the most part – are enjoyable, the lack of a challenging single-player mode with Bowser’s Tower relegates Island Tour to the sidelines, and with no online play Mario doesn’t even need to show us the door.

5.5/10

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Bravely Default UK Review

Rekindle your love for the JRPG and strike your sword into the heart of the enemies in Luxendarc as you fight alongside Tiz, Ringabel, Agnès and Edea. Even with the core elements of a Final Fantasy game, Bravely Default sets itself apart with a high-spirited and, at times, risqué story in spite of its monster-ridden world.

Square Enix and Silicon Studio together delivers Bravely Default – a brand new IP set in the world of Luxendarc. Taking a hefty amount of inspiration from the Final Fantasy series and Dragon Quest, Bravely Default is an RPG player’s dream. After a brief cutscene with the Wind Vestal Agnès and her plea for help, the player is introduced to Tiz – a 19-year-old man whose simple life in Norende has been torn apart by the events of the Great Chasm.

As the sole survivor of the great catastrophe, Tiz meets Agnès when investigating the ruins of his village, becoming her well-travelled guide. But when Eternian soldiers attack the Wind Vestal, Tiz is adamant that he should fight by her side as her protector and, later, her friend. When travelling together, the two meet both Edea – a former duchy supporter – and the flirtatious Ringabel, who suffers from amnesia. Seeking to recover the ancient crystals from dark and monstrous beings, the group helps Agnès on her long quest to rid Luxendarc of the ominous, potent evil.

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Venturing into the scenic Kingdom of Caldisla sets the scene for players after the appearance of the Great Chasm.

At first glance, Bravely Default’s design can appear flat and lacking in aesthetic merits. The Kingdom of Caldisla and, more specifically, the palace looks akin to a cardboard cut-out rather than the lustrous and gorgeous detail of hand-drawn art. However, once accustomed to the playfulness of the storyline, the flat-pack designs begin to unfold as a theatre set, casting a warm glow around the player as a pseudo director. Much like design, though, the stereoscopic 3D is not utilised to its full capacity until entering Florem with brightly-coloured flowers, and later Hartschild with its fiery lava background, which are both visually stunning.

The game’s combat system is fairly simple and grounded in the traditional RPG formula. Turn-based attacks from enemies are varied by using the Brave and Default commands, which can be used to players’ advantage. Choosing to default for a number of turns will help your characters stock up on BP, in order to unleash a series of attacks on the enemy for an ostentatious victory. For tougher enemies, though, strategic planning pays off much more than a frontal assault, so you’ll have to choose wisely when determining which job command to give your characters, as well as when to let loose those special moves. Sleep points are also not necessary to beating the game, but allows those who are stuck on a particular boss fight to use an extra move in dire consequences.

Some enemy battles in dungeons and random encounters on terrain, however, can become stagnant, particularly when levelling up for an all-powerful and malicious boss. Lacklustre battle design tends to detract from the heartfelt and gripping story, becoming monotonous far too quickly. Changing job commands helps to diversify the otherwise sluggish battles in dungeons and on land, so are often prime areas to level up a character as a ranger, time mage or swordmaster to name but a few.

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Will you join forces with the Wind Vestal and help her defeat Luxendarc’s enemies?

For RPGs, the music must reflect the poignancy of the story, or the gripping tones of a battle to work in harmony with the game – and Bravely Default does just that. With some enthralling tracks, boss battles can be an exhilarating experience, and together with the in-game voice acting, they satiate the players’ needs. Yet though the music is wonderful, a problem with pitching soon becomes apparent. Emotional cutscenes between characters – particularly death scenes – can be thrown from their beautiful reverie by a blast of spine-chilling music, offsetting the mood and pace entirely.

Bravely Default’s storyline is delightfully well-paced, with well-rounded and distinct characters. But flaws in its design and the execution of the game’s music can detract from the overall experience. Nevertheless, Bravely Default is a must for RPG players with its witty, daring subplots and powerful tale.

8/10

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Super Mario 3D World UK Review

Super Mario 3D World serves up a delightful platformer treat, with gorgeous visuals, ingenious level design and charming new items and modes which brings a wonderful depth to the game not seen since the Galaxy series.

The beauty of Nintendo’s beloved franchise is the warmth and nostalgia it brings to those who have grown from childhood to adulthood with the red-capped plumber, but it’s also a series that appeals to the younger generation – and that’s exactly why local multiplayer is so significant in Super Mario 3D World.

For the first time, you can choose to play with your friends and family in multiplayer mode, where the fastest player to reach the goal gets the top tier of points, or you can work as a team in order to catch those elusive green stars Bowser’s minions keep under lock and key. But there’s no demand to play in a team, single-player mode delivers just as much fun throughout the game with intriguing puzzles and Mystery House dashes to capture additional green stars. Multiplayer mode is, in fact, just another level of fun – an extra tier or layer on an exquisite cake, if you will. And though online multiplayer is missing, it doesn’t detract from the game’s appeal, just its longevity.

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Mario and co. get to play with shadows in this fantastic level – can you find all the secrets?

For any 3D Mario game, the key to its success resides in the level design – and Super Mario 3D World’s is divine. From an imaginative shadow level such as Shadow-Play Alley, which requires you to think outside the box, to ghostly levels full of pesky Boos and a Zelda-themed dungeon named Switchblack Ruins, where lighting torches with the fire flower power-up is the key to progressing, there are so many areas to discover.

Side-scrolling and timed levels offer up some heart-pumping action, where precision with jumps is absolutely vital, and scales up the difficulty for avid players. But unlike the Galaxy series, progressing through the story only requires you to complete levels, rather than collecting stars. In fact, green stars are only crucial when unlocking additional levels or the final boss level, serving as an achievement for those who wish to capture them all. You can also collect stamps in each level and use them on Miiverse to discuss interesting scenarios in the community.

Yet, the most ingenious and cleverly designed levels are actually those that don’t involve the core cast. Captain Toad’s adventures are a breath of fresh air for the franchise, giving players an extra challenge by collecting green stars without jumping. Turning the camera’s position will allow you to see the level from every angle, and finding the solution is – more often than not – harder than it first seems.

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Can you help Captain Toad claim all those green stars without jumping?

Mystery Houses also serve as a welcome accompaniment to the main game, where using Toad’s agility, or Luigi’s big leaps of faith will often score you five or ten green stars to add to your total. Frantically scrambling up walls using the cat power-up, kicking golf balls into POW blocks, and boldly rushing where no character has dared before in ten seconds flat gives the game such a wild adrenaline rush, and will surely have you climbing the walls in hilarious frustration.

Super Mario 3D World also houses some wonderful additions with its power-ups. Besides being aesthetically gorgeous to look at in yellow, green, pink and blue, the cat suit is also one of the most used items in the game. Swiping those sharp paws at enemies and clutching onto walls to reach hidden coins or stamps brings another dimension to the game, offering new ways of exploring to outwit friends for the best score. And in true cat style, you can even laze around in levels by not moving a muscle – your character will simply sit, tail swishing, cleaning its paws. Other power-ups include an ice boot, item boxes, which feature a torch or grant you the power of flight, and cherries which add a doppelgänger – or three – to your control, all elevate the game to new heights.

Not only is the Wii U game chock-full of hidden references to previous Mario games and Nintendo franchises, but it’s full of vibrant new modes, cleverly designed levels and superb music, which will have you itching to pick up the GamePad again and again. Super Mario 3D World is, quite simply, a joy to play.

10/10

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IGN Reviews Bravely Default, Awards It With An 8.6

IGN has reviewed Square Enix’s Bravely Default for the Nintendo 3DS and has given the game an 8.6 out of 10. IGN praises the game’s risk-reward battle mechanic, from which the game gets its title, the  strategic elements of the game, which include the job system, the art style, and the “splendor” of the world. While IGN thinks the story is rather generic, it is still well-told and in a grandiose way. The voice acting is hit and miss, but overall IGN believes it is one of the more enjoyable entries into the JRPG genre.

“Bravely Default offers a handful of modern twists on what is otherwise a fairly traditional JRPG, albeit one that is exceptionally refined, characterful and well-made. It’s no revolution, and if random encounters and turn-based battles turn you off, you won’t find anything to change your mind here. But fans and open-minded newcomers will enjoy a substantial adventure that proves the JRPG is alive and kicking.” – David Evans, IGN

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Super Mario 3D World Review

3D Super Mario platformers are among the best video games of all time. With superb titles like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy 2, each entry in the series becomes a staple of its generation – and rightfully so. Forget about a groundbreaking story and top-notch graphics; 3D Super Mario games are all about fun, and Super Mario 3D World is no different.

While strolling along in the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach come across a never-before-seen transparent Warp Pipe. The four stop to admire the unusual object until a green bug-like creature springs out of it. The creature, known as a Sprixie, is frantically panicking and tries to figure out where the Warp Pipe had taken it. Suddenly, with no explanation and zero dialogue, the big bad Bowser pops out of the same tube, glances at Mario and the gang, traps the Sprixie in a bottle, and takes it back with him into the Warp Pipe.

Without giving it much thought, the brave Peach leaps into the Warp Pipe, followed by Mario, Toad and then Luigi. The heroes end up in a brand-new realm called the Sprixie Kingdom, which consists of multiple worlds that are connected – akin to how courses are placed in most Super Mario games; if you weren’t told it’s a new territory, you’d think it’s another version of the Mushroom Kingdom.

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In practically every Mario game to date, Peach is the damsel in distress, offering a legitimate motive for Mario’s epic adventures. Because of this, it was initially alarming to see her role being replaced by a meager bug. You eventually overcome the concern, however, after realizing the game plays like previous great Mario titles.

From the start of the game, you get to select which character you want to play with. Each character is unique and has its ups and downs. Toad, for example, is the fastest runner with the weakest jumping abilities. Although Luigi leaps the highest, his jumps are sort of uncoordinated. Peach can briefly float but can barely run in her pink gown. And Mario is the most balanced character, with his solid jumping and running skills. Players can complete the game with a character of their choice, and they can experiment with the others whenever they like, giving significant reasons to replay levels.

In each course, you are tasked with reaching the Flag Pole. In the first set of courses, the goal is a cinch to reach; however, a greater challenge is offered in later courses as well as to those seeking hidden Green Power Stars and collectible stamps. The game boasts a variety of colorful courses, each with its own theme, puzzles and unique setting. It is easily the best-looking Mario game to date, with a charming soundtrack to boot.

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The game supports all Wii U’s control schemes, including the Wii U GamePad and Wii Remote. I preferred playing with the GamePad for its full-fledged analog sticks, attributing to precise movement and fluid controls. The GamePad also gives players special abilities. Through its 6.2-inch touch screen, you can freeze enemies, open doors and reveal invisible objects. All GamePad-specific features are welcome additions, albeit a bit underwhelming when trying to showcase what’s so special about the giant controller.

The game introduces a couple new power-ups – most notably the Super Bell, which transforms your character into a cat. As a cat, players can pounce on objects, scratch enemies and scamper up walls. While wearing a cat suit, you feel more secure, as it allows you to climb back up if you slip off a platform. It feels right and its functions totally make sense, because… after all, cats have nine lives.

You can play the entire game alone or with up to three other locals simultaneously. If you choose the multiplayer route, try finding people who are familiar with Mario games. Inexperienced players tend to frustrate the game and run around without knowing what to do, giving the prominent player extra responsibility to constantly explain the game’s seemingly straightforward controls and mechanics. This issue could have been alleviated if the game contained online multiplayer. Not once did I play without wishing my Wii U friend who lives 563 miles away could join me.

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Despite excluding online multiplayer and assigning Peach’s iconic role to a bug, Super Mario 3D World is an amazing game. Its addictive gameplay, alluring visuals, catchy music and high replay value all add up to form a compelling package. It’s one of the greatest games of the year and among the best Wii U has to offer. It’s another reason to prove why Mario is the king of platformers.

9/10

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Professor Layton And The Azran Legacy Review

The professor is back and on his final journey as Level-5’s series protagonist – and he doesn’t disappoint. But his adventure to unfold the truth of the Azran Legacy is also a path to self-discovery; just who is Hershel Layton?

Both the sixth entry to the series and the conclusion of the prequel trilogy, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is not just chock-full of brainteasers and puzzles to get those cogs turning, but is also home to a wonderfully well-paced storyline, giving long-time fans of the games a particularly poignant ending. Though the storyline is, for the most part, utterly gripping, it suffers from occasional dull mystery sub-plots, which lack gusto and serve as weak filler for the main plot.

Largely a simple storyline, the Azran Legacy sees Professor Layton, his assistant Emmy and trusty sidekick Luke travel the world in search of the Azran civilization and the truth behind their culture. After discovering the “living mummy” named Aurora encased in ice, they team up with Professor Sycamore – an expert on the Azran – to unfurl the mystery and reignite Aurora’s memories as messenger of the ancient civilization.

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Professor Layton and his team discover the Azran messenger, Aurora, encased in ice.

Over the course of the story, new areas will open and allow players free-reign to choose which place to visit next. Each destination – nine in total – has its own charm and characters, appealing to a number of ages, while also sporting a neat variety of puzzles. For younger players or those new to the game, main storyline puzzles are never mind-boggling, so game progress will in no way be hindered for too long. However, for the adept puzzle player, sub-plot mysteries may feel easy and become tiresome in the long-run – Phong Gi and Torrido’s sub-plots prove as notable examples, where clues are blatant and simplistic.

Aside from the delightfully charming story of Mosinnia – where waking up adults from an ongoing slumber is the key to solving the mystery – the sub-plots are, largely, weak distractions to the main plot; though they do allow the player to warm to Professor Sycamore and Aurora as characters.

The ability to travel freely between destinations – via Sycamore’s airship, The Bostonius – adds an extra level of depth to the game, giving treasure or hidden puzzle seekers ample opportunities to explore. Mini-games can be acquired from in-game characters and include Dress Up, Nut Roller, and Blooms and Shrooms, with additional levels added as you progress through the story. A newspaper, The World Times, also provides new places to investigate in order to uncover further details to the story, find collectible items for Layton’s chest and look for hidden puzzles.

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The beautiful and snowy town of Froenborg both begins and ends the Azran mystery – can you solve the secrets of the ancient civilization?

With over 500 puzzles to discover and solve, players will need all the brain power they can muster. However, to beat the main storyline and boss, only a mere 75 puzzles need to be solved. Ingenious puzzles include Very Specific Scoops, Troubled Waters and Bibliofiling, but there are flaws in others such as Poster Predator, where the lack of a provided picture results in the player guessing rather than sliding tiles with logical thought.

Previous Professor Layton titles have granted fans of the series an explosive finale – and Azran Legacy delivers twofold. Surprising twists and turns will divulge the truth about Layton’s past and uncover the Azran civilization’s true intent, keeping the pace equally lively and tense. Plus, the emotion portrayed between characters is astounding and adds profundity to their individual stories, giving the fans a satisfying ending to Layton’s journey.

Although Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is not without its faults, the game depicts a fascinating journey into the fictitious world of the Azran, granting players plenty of puzzles to decipher, as well as a rewarding end to the wonderfully clever and tip-top gentleman, Professor Hershel Layton.

8/10