Devil’s Third Review

Military and melee weapons poised and at the ready, the hyper-violent Devil’s Third brings an interesting twist to the hack and slash come action shooter genre. But its clever changes of pace are often few and far between, with its choppy frame rates, sluggish AI and egregious in-game textures.

From the creator of the modernised Ninja Gaiden series Tomonobu Itagaki, alongside his team at Valhalla Game Studios, Devil’s Third challenges players to die harder with its appealing mix of slick swordplay and linear third-person shooter combat. The game is director Itagaki’s answer to one of Hollywood’s legendary movies, as not only does it combine the greatest action stars from the ’80s such as Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in its main character Ivan,  it blends them together with killer enemies, extreme yet superfluous stunts for the wow factor, and a ridiculous yet verging on hilarious difficulty scale. And just like an ’80s action flick, its aesthetics are more than a little rough around the edges, often sporting flat and ugly textures in each area, but it doesn’t make the Wii U game any less fun to play during multiplayer maps and its single-player campaign.

Before players let themselves loose in multiplayer mode, Devil’s Third features nine missions across Asia, Europe and America throughout its story mode. Playing as former mercenary Ivan, your assignment is to eradicate the terrorist group you once swore allegiance to and tackle the oncoming chimera virus, while earning the right to both freedom and redemption.

With each mission taking place in a different area, exploration is rewarded for those with curious souls. Up to six trophies can be found within the nooks and crannies of each level, as well as nine easy-to-find instrument war trophies throughout the game. Loot lovers beware though, as Devil’s Third often plants gigantic, unnecessary areas in maps with nothing but grim surroundings. It’s this lack of interaction and in-game detail which is a real disappointment for thrill-seeking collectors.

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The Asian setting is easily the prettiest and most impressive graphical art within Devil’s Third.

There are, however, moments where story mode’s layout and beauty truly shines. The spine-chillingly, creepy hospital halls and chimera-injected citizens patrolling its length throughout mission three replicate enemy Clickers’ movements from The Last of Us, while mission five’s Asian pagodas, shoji screens and blossom trees are highlighted wonderfully under the game’s moonlight effect. Devil’s Third also features some intriguing off-the-wall elements during missions to vary the monotonous shoot and slash mechanic. Players can take control of machine guns and pick off enemies one by one, shoot from the back of a helicopter, and blast through snowy fortresses inside a tank. It’s in these insanely fun moments, often coupled with pertinent music, that Devil’s Third really starts to crank up its gameplay gears.

If you’re unfamiliar with Itagaki’s previous games, Devil’s Third brings three difficulty modes to the table with casual, standard and hardcore. Depending on which mode you choose, each mission will last between one and two hours and supplies plenty of ammunition, so you can expect a fairly meaty single-player campaign. And given story mode’s variety, there are often many weapons littered on the ground.

Arming yourself with a flamethrower is particularly fun against chimera-infected hostiles, while using the rocket-propelled grenade against helicopters and some bosses can turn the battle in your favour. The game also supplies players with plenty of melee weapons, including a Katana, Machete and the Ninja Sword to name but a few. Taking down enemies in a hack and slash style will boost Ivan’s Enbaku meter and make his tattoos glow. Unleashing the Enbaku enables a near invulnerability mode, leading to devastating – and often comedic – finishing blows.

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Touching legs, touching swords, touching finish. Playful fight sequences are just the best, no?

Despite the third-person shooter’s satisfying weapon choice and game mechanics, it’s awash with flaws. An incredibly choppy frame rate combined with sluggish AI can seriously hamper the mood and your in-game strategy. It’s especially apparent in smaller trench-like or sewer areas, where enemies often suffer glitches in between running and shooting, bodies miraculously vanish and then reappear above you, sticking out of a wall, or jammed between a literal rock and a hard place. And there are even times when the frame rate drops significantly between cinematic cutscenes; Ivan seemingly can’t catch a break. Plus when under heavy enemy fire, the frame rate can suffer so greatly it affects your overall weapon aim which features stiff movement, rather than a more natural, fluid motion.

Problems with the mission marker often occur too, with substantial lags between each objective. I’ve often aimlessly – and with great frustration – shot at dead hostiles in order to trigger the next objective, or even walked blindly into the next enemy camp to stimulate movement. Not only will you feel idiotic in doing so, you’ll plaster Ivan with so many bullets in the back, he’ll be walking out with a new blood-soaked tattoo. No “yippee ki yays” or a spare vest to be found around here.

In another hair-raising error, story mode will plant Ivan into enemy saturated ambushes straight off the mark. During the earlier missions, you’ll encounter Big Mouse in an overtly surreal boss fight. Not only is this fight terribly unbalanced with a boss that has no distinct pattern and a dash that outruns your own, you’ll need to obliterate 20 plus soldiers before you are inevitably blown apart. Let’s not even joke here, just sign me up for the Suicide Squad, please. No capes either.

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Get to grips with the multiplayer mode in Devil’s Third, choose your weapons wisely for each map!

In stark contrast to the game’s subpar single-player campaign, Itagaki has given much care to its online multiplayer mode. Players will begin by customising their own male or female avatar as a Gunner, Assault or Sniper, equipping them with armour, camouflage and weapons with load-outs of their choosing. Weapons are only purchasable with in-game Dollen, of which you’ll be supplied with 30k at the start, while avatar gear can only be bought with rare golden eggs received at the beginning of your campaign, or from levelling up.

Golden eggs are, in fact, so rare that they can be bought with real money in the Nintendo eShop – it’s a little unorthodox to see some of the game’s biggest and best weaponry locked behind an insurmountable amount of Dollen, only purchasable if you trade one of your Golden Eggs for 100,000 Dollen or more.

Microtransactions aside, new players can only battle against others in drill matches until a certain level is reached to play in Siege. With a variety of modes from chicken catching to a steal-the-flag Transporter mode, there’s plenty on offer across a range of well-designed maps to tickle those multiplayer taste buds. For the most part, the frame rate during online matches appears to be very stable unlike during story mode, so there’s certainly less frustration when it comes to engaging with the enemy. And if you’d rather seek out achievements during matches, you can keep track of all your kills – whether it’s a headshot, long shot, your kill streak, or a revenge kill – on the Wii U GamePad, along with player statistics. There’s also an in-game chat room where you can type messages to friends as a substitute for voice chat.

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Current power struggles and your faction or clan are detailed in this Siege map layout.

Of course, the real challenge in Devil’s Third is during Siege matches. You’ll need to keep your wits about you here in order to join a clan or faction, or perhaps even lead your own as a commander, wiping out an enemy clan in a fortress takeover or through contributing to your clan’s overall effectiveness by providing extra Dollen. Unfortunately, due to the rather diluted servers pre-launch, I’ve yet to sample Siege mode. And given it’s a large part of the game, it would be unfair to pass judgment upon it at this stage.

In its own right, Devil’s Third has an astute multiplayer experience and features wonderfully wacky drill matches, which are a pleasure to play. Though its single-player campaign doesn’t quite hit the mark, and clever moments are often fleeting, it’s still a worthy game for any Wii U owner. Perhaps it’s the Devil’s multiplayer charm that keeps me playing – it’s certainly not story mode’s horns.

7/10

Famitsu Reviews Devil’s Third

The review scores from the latest edition of Japanese gaming publication Famitsu are in. The review that you will be most interested in is Devil’s Third. The fast and frantic shooter received good review scores as the four reviewers gave it an 8/9/8/8 which is rather impressive given the feedback from western media. Then again, Famitsu is renowned for being generous with their review scores. Our review for Devil’s Third will be coming very soon so be on the lookout for that.

  • Devil’s Third (Wii U) – 8/9/8/8
  • Girls Like Robots (Wii U) – 8/8/8/8
  • Puchikon Magazine First Issue (3DS) – 6/7/9/8
  • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PS4) – 7/6/8/7
  • Rollers of the Realm (PS4) – 6/6/8/6
  • Rear Pheles -Red of Another- (PSV) – 5/6/6/6

Source

Thanks, Paidenthusiast

Famitsu Reviews Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

The first review of the intriguing Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is in from Japanese gaming publication Famitsu. The magazine awarded the spin-off title a 9,9,9 and an 8, which is a rather good score. However, this is Famitsu who are renowned for being generous with their review scores. Here’s the reviews.

Reviewer 1 – 9

Although this is a spin-off game, a great deal of content from the Animal Crossing series, like characters and furniture, is used smoothly and you get into a trance while creating elaborate rooms. It’s also nice that you can coordinate things like schools and hotels in addition to homes. It is comfortable to arrange furniture with the touch pen. You get new things such as furniture and wallpapers from the villager requests even after seeing the staff roll for the first time, so it seems like you can enjoy the game for a long time.

Reviewer 2 – 8

I’m glad that you can design exteriors of buildings and gardens in addition to indoor furniture. It’s also nice that you can coordinate interiors of schools and shops. You can also take pictures inside finished buildings while changing the owner’s roles and clothes. The evaluation after finishing a task isn’t particular, as the client’s reaction doesn’t change if you put in the required furniture, so it feels a bit desolate if you put a lot of effort to the design.

Reviewer 3 – 9

Since the game is specialized in room building, arranging furniture is greatly easier to do than in a traditional game of the series. You can upgrade items that go to institutions and shops or establish windows, doors, gardens or even environmental music, so you will unconsciously get absorbed into the game. When you’re going this far, you’d want to have a house of your own, but that unrealized dream feels real somehow. A daily report finishes the tasks of that day, and while there is also the aspect of work experience, it’s also good how you can connect with your earlier works with the report.

Reviewer 4 – 9

As this game is specialized in the home designing of the Animal Crossing series, the game isn’t as deep as the traditional series since you can’t experience the general village life. A special thing to mention is the conversations with different characters whose personalities overflow with ambiance. It’s great that thanks to these, you can enjoy the game so that it doesn’t feel repetitive. It is interesting to catch a glimpse of how a past client is living his/her life, and that also makes it worthwhile to come back to the game.

Source / Via

Thanks, MasterPikachu6

Yoshi’s Woolly World Review

With fluffy wool and yarn balls at the ready, Yoshi returns for a fully fledged, naturally adorable and truly magical outing on the Wii U. Nintendo’s struck gold once again with another must-have title for the home console, knitting together a platformer paradise suitable for all.

From the developer of Kirby’s Epic Yarn and published by Nintendo, Yoshi’s Woolly World features cute-as-a-button gameplay with six worlds of effortlessly gorgeous and diverse levels to satiate players of all skill levels. Stretching across eight levels per world, players are tasked with piecing together Craft Island’s inhabitants after Kamek launched his dastardly plan, turning all the Yoshis into several wool pieces. Having scattered their threaded remains across each world, Green and Red Yoshi are the only two survivors and, as such, are tasked with the perilous journey to gather all the Wonder Wools and sew their dinosaur friends back to life.

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Craft Island: Strategically placed on an iced doughnut with a dollop of ice cream.

Yoshi’s Woolly World gives players the chance to seamlessly switch between two different modes: Classic and Mellow. With Classic mode, you’ll be able to experience the highs and pitfalls of a Yoshi game, while in the distinctly easier Mellow mode, Yoshi will sprout flutter wings in order to pass over pitfalls and avoid enemies or obstacles with the push of a button. But the ability to customise your yarn ball throw to either hasty or patient is what revitalises the game’s classic style, particularly if you want to ramp up the difficulty by way of accuracy. The side-scrolling platformer is also compatible with four controllers including the Wii U GamePad with off-TV gameplay, the Wii U Pro Controller, a Wii Remote, and the Wii Classic Controller Pro with an attached Wii Remote, giving plenty of choice.

As the name of the game suggests, Craft Island and all of its associated worlds are created from knitted thread or stitched fabric. Each level produces its own aesthetic quirks, whether through spools of thread, sewn scarves, threaded butterflies, cotton wool snow, buttons, zips with flames, and even blankets with shadowed platforms. Its beautifully detailed and deeply imaginative level design will produce awe-filled gasps on a regular basis, making players feel a little giddy with glee. Yoshi’s Woolly World is simply gorgeous from top to bottom and showcases some utterly delightful creativity to constantly gobble up and digest, mimicking our charming friend.

Through natural woods, fiery woollen lava, dreamscapes and over coloured pipes and rainbows, players won’t just feel mesmerised by the game’s aesthetics but also by its fluid control scheme. Instead of throwing eggs at various woolly enemies, Yoshi can unravel enemies into pools of thread, or string them together by aiming yarn balls. And, has been the case throughout the franchise, Yoshi can swallow up enemies, spit them out or digest them into extra yarn balls. Of course, those undeniably cute bops and squeals he makes when flutter jumping are back to cocoon us in a warm, fluffy burrito blanket, inevitably melting our hearts with his endearing characteristics.

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Watch out for Mega Yoshi’s tail swipe, if only T-Rex’s looked that cute, right?

But if you were one of the fans who believed Yoshi’s Woolly World would be a pushover – myself included – we were sorely incorrect. In terms of difficulty, Good-Feel has balanced the game wonderfully. While you won’t be throwing any yarn controllers at the TV – akin to Donkey Kong difficulty levels – you won’t be tearing your hair out in frustration with easy-as-pie levels either. In order to gather all the levels collectibles – five smiley flowers, five wonder wools, Miiverse stamps hidden in jewels, and hearts – you’ll be suitably challenged.

With countless secret areas to unveil, it’s platforming nirvana built specifically for Nintendo fans. Despite its Classic and Mellow modes though, players may feel an itch for extra challenges in a much more difficult mode. And though you can unlock special levels in each world after all 40 smiley flowers are collected, these are just a small taste of a meaty challenge, meant for nibbling only. A mode for experienced players would only have added to the joy Woolly’s World brings.

Past Yoshi games have undoubtedly contained a few dud levels, yet this HD platformer only seems to get more entertaining the deeper players tread. Some of the best levels arrive with Good-Feel’s ability to create intrigue and wonder. From sitting on the back of a woollen dog named Poochy – yes, it’s as deliriously cute as it sounds – to entering doors and experiencing Yoshi power-up sequences with Mega, Motorcycle, Mermaid, Plane, Umbrella and Digger Yoshi. Each world serves up fantastic levels such as a magic carpet ride to channel your inner Disney Prince, riding down curtain rails with exhilarating speed in Sunset at Curtain Falls, or hiding in the shadows within blankets for a similar feel to Super Mario 3D World’s Shadow Play Alley. It’s a real shame the game suffers from occasional frame rate drops during a level which switches perspectives, though, jarring play when Yoshi moves through doors in Duplicitous Delve for example.

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It’s a whole new world. Excuse the pun, and the singing, sorry.

But it’s the extensive variation between levels and evenly spaced checkpoints that means players will never get bored on their first, second or even third play-through. And with five Wonder Wools distributed throughout each level, finding them and unlocking a different Yoshi pattern to play with is profoundly rewarding – Candyfloss Yoshi looks good enough to eat, while Alpine Yoshi is great fun for camouflage on the snowy slopes.

In each world, players will encounter one mid-boss and an end boss to thwart their progress. Though they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to comedic value, their easy-to-spot weaknesses and ground pound to stun mechanic is a little wearisome for experienced players. Aside from these more mundane moments, players can refresh the game by using certain amiibo. Tapping either a Yarn Yoshi or a standard Yoshi amiibo to the Wii U GamePad will unlock double Yoshi – similar to the cherry found in Super Mario 3D World. Though it will only give players control of one Yoshi copy, it mixes up gameplay with amusing consequences. Yoshi’s Woolly World is also compatible with every amiibo character – bar from Pokemon – and touching the GamePad with a design such as Zelda or Link will import their Yoshi pattern into the game. It’s a simple yet effective mechanic, and I can’t quite mock the appeal.

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Life is like a box of Yoshis, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Playing the game in single-player mode is justly rewarding, but choosing a friend to play alongside in co-operative local play can be hilariously frenetic. Playing with another in the first world’s Bounceabout Woods was a delectable treat. From swallowing and spitting each other out, to focusing on taking down bigger enemies together, Yoshi’s Woolly World is enjoyable with two players from the beginning. With both players frequenting the screen, if one gets left behind you’ll simply turn into an egg and take a short flight over to the player ahead. You’ll have to work together as a team to reach the end of the level, or you could just swallow the player up if you’re feeling particularly mean-spirited, dragging them to the end as a yarn egg.

Of notable merit in Yoshi’s Woolly World is the background and level music. Much like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, the musical tones of the jungle and ice worlds are particularly inspiring. I’ve often just left the game on in the Scrapbook Theatre in order to listen to the stunning and idyllic tones of Craft Island. With its relaxed pace, the game can be completed within 25 hours, though gathering all the collectibles will take it over 30 plus, and largely depends on skill level.

With its beautiful aesthetic appeal, cutesy gameplay and some suitably tricky levels, Yoshi’s Woolly World knits together impeccably. A near perfect game, it’s a must-own for every Nintendo fan. So make sure you tie up your loose ends by bringing an extra needle and thread, as you’ll be playing this game for hours on end.

9.5/10

Splatoon Review

It’s time to let your tentacle hair down and splatter enemies in vibrant style with Nintendo’s brand new IP for Wii U. With its super slick battles combined with ingenious puzzle elements and gameplay, the third-person shooter Splatoon is deeply engrossing, addictive and injected with a tank full of fun.

Developed by Nintendo EAD’s team, Splatoon is your inner child’s dream come to fruition. It’s messy, colourful and gorgeously fluid in control. The third-person shooter is a sweet blend between US and UK-based TV shows such as Fun House or Double Dare – from the late ’80s and early ’90s – and the popular activity Paintball. Though if you’d rather be pain-free and always wanted to be gunged on Nickelodeon, Splatoon is as close as you’ll get to the action. Perhaps it’s my own inner child speaking but splattering enemies and painting the turf with ink is so satisfactory and fabulously fun, I could play all day.

Though online play is at the heart of the game, Splatoon also has a solid single player campaign which features 27 levels of platform magic. Playing as either a boy or girl Inkling, with adjustable skin and eye colour changes, you are tasked with bringing back the stolen Zapfish and must fight the Octarian Army using both humanoid and squid forms. By shooting coloured ink from your weapon, you can exterminate enemies at the push of a trigger. And turning into your squid form not only replenishes your ink tank, but it also enables players to move with stealth, jump higher and avoid enemy detection.

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Take that splat to the face, you slimy Octotrooper!

While it will never follow in the footsteps of Nintendo’s famed plumber – nor does it intend to – with its difficulty scale, the shooter showcases Mario-esque elements in style and gameplay. Sunshine jokes aside, players can ink invisible platforms to reveal walkways, slide fluidly through ink rails, blast rotating propellers to reach higher areas, hunt down keys to open launch pads, and even climb upon ink-soaked, expanded sponges.

Single player mode’s Octo Valley also serves up some interesting characters in the form of Cap’n Cuttlefish, bearing similarities to Kapp’n from Animal Crossing – though sadly without the melodic tunes – and notable bosses throughout the six worlds. Boss weaknesses are, however, painstakingly obvious which dilutes battle in light of its often chaotic environment. Players also have the opportunity to collect orange squid eggs in order to upgrade weapon damage rate, their ink tank and purchase an assortment of bombs. Discovering sunken scrolls throughout single player mode is also a great way to add to your private weapon collection during online battles. Simply take your blueprints to Sheldon in the weapons shop to unlock new and enticing guns or rollers to try before purchasing.

Adding to Splatoon’s puzzle elements in Octo Valley are various levels featuring Octolings and Octo Inkstrikers. While splattering the Octarian Army is insanely fun, players will need to keep their wits about them when confronting more difficult opponents. Octolings can move through ink, as well as use artillery, and Octo Inkstrikers seize the moment to throttle Inklings in one fell swoop. It’s in these stealth-favoured levels that Splatoon shines the brightest, often requiring much more thought than the standard splat-and-go approach.

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The guy on the left is the real legend, but definitely a Captain – I mean, Kapp’n.

Aside from single player mode, the third-person shooter also features local co-operative play in the Battle Dojo, amiibo compatibility which unlocks extra challenges, and four gear shops in the central hub, Inkopolis. In the Battle Dojo, two players fight against each other and compete to win the most points by shooting balloons. While one player controls their character via the Wii U GamePad in off-TV mode, the other must use an additional controller – such as a Classic Controller or a Wii U Pro Controller – to play on screen. With only five areas to battle in currently, local co-op is highly limited and, unfortunately, one of the game’s downfalls. On the other hand, Inkopolis’ shops alternate their stock on a daily basis, so if you’re looking to keep up with the trends and upgrade your defences with hats, shirts and shoes there’s plenty on offer to do so.

Of course, the real meaty section of Splatoon lies within its online battle modes, including Turf War from launch, and Ranked Battles. In Turf War, you’ll play with up to eight players in four-versus-four online matches, where you must ink the most ground in your team’s colour for a chance to win. How many points you individually score will depend upon two different factors; how much ground you ink and how many of the opposite team’s players you manage to splat. Points accumulated will also level up your character, gain you in-game money to use within Inkopolis and allow you to unlock different weapons per level gained.

From launch, you’ll be able to play up to five different stages including Walleye Warehouse, Arowana Mall, Urchin Underpass, Saltspray Rig and Blackbelly Skatepark. While each area has its quirks, they also provide you with strategic routes depending on which weapon is chosen. And with Nintendo adding extra stages and free DLC after the game’s launch, stages are likely to be varied enough without becoming monotonous.

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Which weapon will you opt for; a roller, a sniper, a straight forward splatter gun? You might be stuck for choice!

However, there are considerable flaws in online play; a lack of match customisation is a particular sore spot with sessions locked to three minutes before you’re back in the lobby waiting once again. Plus, the five maps available from launch reduce to just a measly two, which are switched out every four hours. It’s tiresome when your 50/50 chance results in a string of battles on one map mode. But in order to combat the waiting times, Nintendo has added the retro arcade game Squid Jump to alleviate frustrations. It’s a neat extra, particularly when a blank screen is the easier choice.

If you’re itching to play some challenging matches, ranked battles are certainly your calling card. These strategic battles won’t be open from launch, however, you’ll be able to fan the flames of war once enough players have reached level 10. In Splat Zones, players fight against each other to take control of specific zoned areas. Again, there’s a set time limit which cannot be customised, and it’s particularly irksome during such battles when they can be over at the drop of a hat. Imagine shaking a can of pop or soda, watch it fizz a little, and then hand it over to the nearest person. Swap the pop for ink, and it’s bottled chaos, though perhaps without the angered face.

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Are you truly ready for Turf War as a squid kid yet? Get ready to paint the town, er, pink!

As much as I love Callie and Marie’s name choices, their introductory regular and ranked battle announcements are far from fresh. Mashing the A button like you’re rocking out at the Pokemon Center is the only option here as there’s no skip button, but at least the duo are much more interesting in design – apologies to the numerous Nurse Joys. With no voice chat in the lobbies or even between friends, Splatoon becomes a little ghostly, particularly since online co-operative play isn’t even an option with the Wii U GamePad as the only playable controller. It’s a missed opportunity from Nintendo on both parts, given the game is a few tentacles short from perfection.

With an intense online battle mode and free content updates promised from Nintendo, Splatoon is quite possibly the most entertaining third-person shooter you’ll play this year. Its varied though short single player campaign, coupled with a great control scheme and puzzle elements, gives players an adequate breather from online battles. So stock up on extra calamari, as you’ll be making ink squid rings in no time.

8/10

Please bear in mind that this review was written and based from a pre-launch set up, specifically for review purposes. As Splatoon is primarily based online, the final score may change when the servers are fully functional and when additional DLC has been released. 

Splatoon Currently Sits At 81 On Metacritic

With only 2 days to go to the big release, reviews are flying in for Splatoon and so far Metacritic has it on a Metascore of 81. There’s been 26 reviews so far, 21 positive and 5 mixed, but nobody outright dislikes Splatoon at the minute. It’s a great score, but with all the hype I was expecting a little higher. For some comparison, other Wii U games that also achieved a Metascore of 81 are: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Affordable Space Adventures. Although, there is still time for it to increase! Here are some of the critic reviews:

The Escapist
90
The game’s single player is surprisingly in-depth for a title that has been marketed as a multiplayer game, combining elements of platforming and shooting in a style of game that reminds me of Ratchet & Clank or Jak & Daxter.
FNintendo
70
A strong emphasis on its online mechanics means that most of Splatoon is to be experienced on a multiplayer basis, which would be at a higher level if all future options and contents were already available. Given the importance of cooperative online play and team work, it’s also difficult to understand why there’s no voice chat but despite this shortcoming, Splatoon has all conditions to become a must have classic, once all the contents are made available.
NF Magazine
95
I think I’m addicted to ink. [Issue #15: Making a Splash! – May/June 2015, p.68]

Code Name S.T.E.A.M. UK Review

Team up with Henry Fleming and other pop culture characters in a brand new IP for the Nintendo 3DS. But hold on to your steampunk top hats as the alien menace gets into gear to terrorise innocent bystanders between London and America. With its comic-book style aesthetics, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. may look remarkable but its lack of substance derails gameplay entirely – ironically running out of steam.

From the developers behind such notable game series as Fire Emblem and Paper Mario, Intelligent Systems has teamed up with Nintendo to produce an entirely new and heavily stylised IP, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. Taking its inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft’s works, the turn-based strategy title features many pop culture and literary references in its superbly crafted and visually appealing Steampunk world. Set between distinguished areas in London and America, players will get to grips with the story basics in campaign mode, alongside introductions from the game’s main characters Henry Fleming, John Henry and president Abraham Lincoln. After a brief encounter with the aliens, aid comes from the airship Lady Liberty and you’ll receive a new mission as Code Name S.T.E.A.M. members – a handy acronym for Strike Team Eliminating the Alien Menace – to defeat all alien forces and save the world from complete obliteration.

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Lion, Henry and Tiger Lily’s special quirks make them great additions to your team. Now where is Lion’s medal of courage?

Throughout campaign mode, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. introduces a number of playable characters with special weaponry, attacks and quirks for a memorable gaming experience. Popular characters from The Wizard of Oz – such as Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man – make an appearance, as well as featuring characters from H. P. Lovecraft’s fictional works like Professor Randolph Carter, and Tiger Lily from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. With intriguing voice acting, catchy musical tracks, and an artistic style that breathes life into the storyline – which is only amplified by the stereoscopic 3D effects – the third-person strategy shooter has all the super slick elements to allure handheld owners with the making of an incredible new IP. But it unfortunately falls short in its often tiresome and mundane gameplay.

Players must choose four playable characters for all main campaign missions, with up to 13 unlockable. Each map encountered throughout the story has its own hidden routes with subtle twists to vary your attack mode, layouts for stealth enemy takeouts, and a number of scattered collectibles such as gears and medals. All characters are equipped with a staple weapon, as well as an additional sub weapon, which can be switched out to newer artillery with the more medals you collect. As its environment suggests, all characters are limited in movement and offensive attacks by the amount of steam carried. And although this gives ample challenge for players strategically, steam shortage becomes particularly frustrating in the earlier levels when higher boiler upgrades have yet to be unlocked. Essentially, it’s this slow moving process that boils all enthusiasm up into a dried and scorched river bed.

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Sometimes the characters are painstakingly obvious. Yes shouting will really help you stay hidden, guys. Rolls eyes with supreme levels of sarcasm.

From the beginning of Code Name S.T.E.A.M., players will be able to perform what are known as overwatch attacks. If you’ve saved up enough steam during your previous turn, playable characters will automatically fire at enemies who step within their ranged attack. It’s a neat twist that works both for and against you, since enemies can also launch their own individual overwatch attacks, too. And though there are many enemy types within the game, they are never truly distinguished from one another, all seemingly moulding into one big enemy to pulverise.

Having played the game both with and without Nintendo’s fast-forward enemy update, it’s quite clear there’s a considerable difference. Beforehand, the time-consuming alien attacks were egregious and superfluous – I even had time to boil a kettle and make a coffee in the time it took for all alien movements to reach a conclusion. But now, players can double the speed on a regular 3DS and triple it on a New 3DS with the new fast-forward function, so you never have to forcibly watch the action take place. It’s still missing a skip button, however, particularly when enemy forces are redundant – or out of the firing zone – and you’re simply searching for collectibles. It’s a real disappointment from Intelligent Systems, especially since the choice to skip turns is utilised within the Fire Emblem franchise. Nevertheless, the update makes enemy scenarios bearable instead of a mundane chore.

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These Fire Emblem amiibo characters are also compatible with Code Name S.T.E.A.M., providing you own a New Nintendo 3DS. A peripheral for older systems will be released by Nintendo in the future.

With no overview map in missions, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is certainly a challenge. There’s a real thrill and sense of freedom when going in blind to a new area, but it may leave some misguided. I’ve often restarted certain maps in order to find the most effective path, but this can be terribly time-consuming especially with those infuriating eyestalkers watching your every move. The best and most satisfying moments, however, arrive when up against large alien gunners or in a one-versus-one death match in A.B.E – the Anthropomorphized Battle Engine as it’s also known. These stages disrupt the monotony of the sluggish forward march to the green-lit goal and indulge players with light-hearted, action-packed segments that excel in the steampunk aesthetics and comic-book style.

Outside of the main storyline, players will be able to access local or online versus missions with three different modes available. Pilot A.B.E to victory, battle to the death or go for gold with medal battles on a range of easy to difficult maps. Like campaign mode, you’ll control four playable characters but will be restricted to planning your movements and attacks in just 60 seconds. Careful, stealthy decisions are thrown out the window here as focusing on all four proves difficult in the allotted time. Perhaps, focusing on one character in online versus mode would have produced cat-and-mouse styled results instead of oddly disjointed battles.

Though it has its drawbacks and features a largely hit and miss storyline, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is worth taking the 3DS plunge on its artistic merits alone. But sadly the game lacks depth on many levels, much like those wispy steam clouds. A few short puffs and it’s game over for enthusiasm.

7/10

Based on the PAL Version.