Punch a wolf in the face because the Radiophonic Sea Creatures have resurfaced once again!
In ‘The Shallows’ this week we discuss Awesome Games Done Quick, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, nuclear war with North Korea and Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Then in ‘The Depths’ we delve into Liam Neeson’s world and talk about such films as Darkman, Taken and The Grey… Plus all the usual Radiophonic Sea Creatures craziness to boot.
All those Neeson flavored goodies can be enjoyed right here: http://www.mediafire.com/listen/fekf9klmvn0j2jn/RadiophonicSeaCreatures#5_-_Neeson_Season.mp3
So what you have here is only the second (or BETA) episode we recorded. Oh well. This episode, which a few eagle-eyed Axeheads might have heard due to it being briefly uploaded on and then deleted from EBA, dwells upon post-apocalyptic media.
This transitional episode can be enjoyed right here:
Put a stupid red hat on your pet dolphin because the Radiophonic Sea Creatures have resurfaced once again!
In The Shallows we discuss Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2, Valve’s decision to region-lock games, Street Fighter V, Kick Ass 2 and Alien Isolation.
Then we get all seasonal in The Depths with our Christmas Special. It’s something of a podcast stocking and I don’t want to spoil what’s inside. Prepare for murdered reindeer, peeing into mason jars, perverted shopping mall Santas and Johnny Depp dressed up as Cat Woman. All the usual Christmas stuff, basically.
All that and more can be enjoyed right here:
In ‘The Shallows’ we discuss Geoff Keighley’s Video Game Awards, next gen Grand Theft Auto V, Interstellar and Her.
Then in ‘The Depths’ we give our Games of the Year list which includes games like Mario Kart 8, The Last of Us: Left Behind, Shovel Knight, Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Batman Arkham Origins, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Destiny and many more.
All that underwater fun can be enjoyed right here:
Ah… Those sacred days of unboxing a new console. Is there anything better in life? If you answered “no” then you should seriously get yourself a girlfriend. But hot bother between the sheets not withstanding, new consoles are ace! One of my favorite memories was unwrapping my girlfriends ti… oh, wait. Ahem. One of my favorite memories was unwrapping my brand new Super Nintendo on Christmas day. The game bundled with the console? None other than epic space shooter Starfox (or Starwing as it was called in the UK back then).
Lest we forget, Starfox was a completely unique game when it was released. 3D graphics of this caliber had never been seen on a home console before. To get all the visual splendor up on screen, Nintendo created a new in-cartridge addition called the Super FX chip. It was mindblowing back in the day. The graphics of the future… Today! The game itself was an on-rails arcade shooter. You had your default lasers and superbombs to fire with (power-ups for which could be collected in-level) and barrel rolls, knife rolls, braking and boosting to evade with. Bar being able to switch to an in-cockpit view during space sequences, that was pretty much it. Simple, addictive arcade goodness. The game’s highlights included giant screen filling bosses, branching paths in the hubworld, a shitload of secrets to uncover and a cast of colorful characters (and yes, we all hate that bastard Slippy Toad). Of course, the game wasn’t quite perfect. Firstly, it was very short; you could finish the entire thing in under an hour and there wasn’t much replay value after you’d seen everything. It could also be said that Andross made for a particularly bland final boss (a bunch of squares assembled into the shape of a face. How uninspired is that?). But although it also hasn’t aged so well (what early 3D games have?), it was still an unmissable title back in the day.
Starfox was a very successful game on the SNES, so a sequel was duly commissioned on the N64. Starfox 64 (or Lylat Wars in the UK) mostly kept the on-rails formula intact but did offer up a few innovations. Most interesting among these was the free roam sequences, where Fox and company would switch the wing formations on their ships (that sounds familiar) and the ‘rails’ would be ditched in favor of sweet, free-form dogfighting. They also added extremely slow ground based tank sections, which nobody liked and are best forgotten about. So too for the disappointing multiplayer dogfight mode. In theory, 4 player competitive action sounds like a good idea but it actually developed into a lot of flying around aimlessly, trying to shoot targets that were almost impossible to hit. In a word; boring. Add to that the fact that the already annoying Slippy Toad had, like, a five year old ‘actor’ voicing him (shut the FUCK up Slippy!!) and the title starts to look more and more like a scarred successor. Whilst that is a little unfair (it was, in fact,a very solid action game), the 64 bit iteration didn’t quite make it into the same league the SNES original.
The next game in the Starfox series was Starfox Adventures on the Nintendo Gamecube. This was the last game made by Rare for Nintendo before they left for Microsoft and became absolutely redundant. But actually, Rare were already starting to become redundant before they even left Nintendo. Sure, they had made the amazing likes of 007Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Banjo Kazooie but their last game before Starfox Adventures was the underwhelming Jet Force Gemini. That was a game that looked great but had awkward controls and was boring to play. And so it was with Starfox Adventures too. Heck, the game wasn’t even supposed to be a Starfox title! It was originally developed as a new IP called Dinosaur Planet before Nintendo wrangled Rare into switching it over to the Starfox franchise. Hence, here we have a game that plays nothing like the first few titles and seemingly has nothing to do with the license save for a few grafted on character skins. The gameplay itself was a mishmash of very typical Zelda tropes. Starfox Adventures took it’s place in line with a million other mediocre Ocarina of Time copycats. Simply put, it was soulless to play and an obvious indicator that Rare’s creative fire had all but been extinguished. It isn’t a game that anyone remembers when compiling a ‘best-on-Gamecube’ list and neither will it ever appear on a ‘best games that Rare made’ list. Despite being graphically stunning, it merely ended up as a poor man’s adventure game.
After Starfox Adventures, the series slipped further into despair with Starfox Assault, a lukewarm retread of the on-rails shooter formula and the pointless DS strategy game Starfox Command. A brief ray of sunshine was flashed momentarily by way of Starfox64 3D on the 3DS, which let us all briefly revisit the days when the Starfox brand actually meant something. Who knows what’s next for Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, Falco Lambardi and Slippy Toad. Can Nintendo ever truly resurrect the franchise in a relevant way? My money’s on the “Slippy Toad Rendition” game, where we finally get to waterboard that motherfucker. I’d buy that for a dollar!
Who likes to bust balls? I certainly do. Every time I see a ball, it’s go time! Be it a soccer ball, a tennis ball or someone’s gonad, that ball is gonna get popped. And if I’m at a kid’s party and there are balloons… God help them. Luckily, videogame therapy came to my aid back in the early nineties in the form of the excellent arcade machine Super Pang.
Super Pang… doesn’t it just feel good to say that. Seriously, say “Super Pang” three times fast. Fun times, my friend. Uh… Anyway, Super Pang was a game all about (you got it) breaking balls. “How do you break balls?” I hear you ask. Whilst you’d usually accomplish it with excessive amounts of unnecessary swearing, here you rely on a trusty harpoon gun… Oh man! They should have called it Super Poon. Who wants to get some poon? Oh wait… So yeah, you can only shoot strait up with your ‘poon. When your poon connects with some balls (!) they break into smaller balls. When you shoot those balls, they become even smaller balls. Eventually they become so small that you can just pop them. When all balls are broken, it’s screen over and the next stage awaits.
Each stage represents a country by way of a fetching static backdrop and the overall campaign represents a world tour. There are power-ups to collect (including the legendary spreader), strange creatures to poon, time limits to beat and high scores to smash. It’s a good old-school smorgasbord of arcade delights. More over, the cute animated graphics lend the game a timeless look that ages well and retains it’s charm. And should you want to do some pooning in the comfort of your own living room, there is also a decent Super Nintendo port available, too.
The Super Nintendo version does include a significant number of sacrifices, though. The main one being the arcade’s two player co-op mode… NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Let’s face it, on the sacrificial level that’s pretty fucking steep. That’s like if the devil told you “I’m going to give you a new car but in return I’m going to snik your balls and watch you bleed out.” This home console version also features less stages, which means you get less of those awesome backdrops. But the core game remains unaltered and it is still colorful, ball bustin’ fun, of which I played a shitload when I was still a young Chu. Still… If you ever find the fantastic Super Pang arcade machine in the back of a forgotten pub somewhere, be sure to pump some in it’s slot and get yourself some serious poonin’.
Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas (it’s Christmas day as I write this, you see). While it could possibly be argued that 2013 was a disappointing year for gaming (too many sequels, too predictable), I nether-the-less had a lot of fun at home with my various forms of electronic entertainment. Here are my personal top five moments of gaming related joy this year…
#5: Jack Tretton mic bombs E3
Sure, it’s all said and done now. The consoles are out and Microsoft has totally reversed track on their whole online DRM nonsense. But if you step back to E3 2013, you might just be able to re-catch that excitement of a certain Mr. Tretton stepping out on stage and basically announcing; “Enough of this shit! Let’s just play some fucking games!” It was a moment in time that excited the blood and stirred the senses… Also to see Microsoft scrambling back over themselves in the wake of it was pretty hilarious.
#4: Metroid Madness!
Earlier this year, I had a very strong urge to revisit the world of Metroid. That urge soon turned into a full blown bout of obsession. Over the course of about a month I played through and finished; Metroid Fusion (twice), Metroid Zero Mission, Metroid Other M and Super Metroid. Along the way I discovered that Other M isn’t a complete dog of a game and Fusion is actually my favorite 2D entry in the franchise. If Nintendo ever get around to making another full Metroid game, the WiiU is as good as bought!
#3: Bioshock Infinite
I loved Bioshock Infinite. That came as a bit of a surprise to me, because I didn’t particularly love the original Bioshock. I thought it was a decent FPS adventure with oodles of atmosphere, but love it… Well, no. But I was in love almost as soon as I set foot in the world of Bioshock Infinite! With it’s floating cities, amusement park style visuals, alluring science fiction detailing and extreme violence, the title just blew me away. Even better, the game had awesomely fun combat mechanics as well as some memorable emotional peaks. I loved every second and ended up playing through the game twice.
#2: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
God bless PSPlus. After playing through the “Best Game Ever Made (c)” Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and finding it merely a solid game, my wont to play the insanely hyped third installment wasn’t particularly high. But in a moment of boredom, I decided to download the free 40GB digital version on PSPlus. Man am I glad I did because it rocked the shit! I felt that it was a far superior title to Uncharted 2 in every conceivable way… Oh, and it was better than the Last of Us too. The plot line, dialogue, combat mechanics, atmosphere, set-pieces, gameplay variety… It was all pretty much perfect. I was flipping out the whole time whilst playing! So much so, in fact, that I went back and replayed Uncharted 2. And whilst I did enjoy that game incrementally more than last time, it still didn’t come close to the thrills of Drake’s Deception. See… Sometimes (Michael Bay pay attention) a little restraint can work wonders!
#1: Becoming a gaming ‘journalist’
Wow… How egotistical does that sound. It kind off makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. Still, I don’t know how else to say it. This year I started this website (patronized by all of 10 people… and thank you for that, btw) and the (slightly) more successful Axehead Assembly podcast over on Epicbattleaxe.com. These endeavors have added a lot of work into my free-time, especially editing the podcast, but getting together with friends from around the world, chatting about games and entertaining people while I’m at it… That’s a very special thing indeed. And as ramshackle as my website is, I fucking love it. Which is why I’m writing this blog on Christmas day instead of playing Minecraft! So thank you if you’ve been part of either my website or podcast. Happy 2014 to you all!
Batman: Arkham City might well be the best video-game sequel ever made. It retains the core elements that made it’s prequel Arkham Asylum such a revelation, while expanding the series’ ambition exponentially. The open world works excellently in Arkham City. Better yet, the way the limitations of the it are actually written into the story is a stroke of genius. The world feels real and integral to the plot, rather than just a sandbox to swing around in. Likewise, the story’s flow works brilliantly, with each villain having their own reasons to exist within it. Nothing feels shoehorned in and everything just seems natural. Just like Arkham Asylum, this really feels like a genuine Batman adventure. The pacing also deserves a mention; the game peaks at all the right moments and ends in a suitably climatic fashion.
Technically, the game looks beautiful and is (outside of Uncharted or The Last of Us) one of the best looking titles on PS3. The world drips with bleak, Gothic atmosphere and drops the jaw at many intervals. Snowy Gotham vistas and a romp through Penguin’s twisted, fortress-like museum are both phenomenal highlights. The game’s controls and level design are universally tight, rarely offering up problems, bugs or glitches (which is no mean feat in an open world game). The open world traversal is fun (who doesn’t like divebombing?) and the famous, fast paced combat is still top of it’s class (who doesn’t like kicking people in the nuts?).
Arkham City is pretty much a perfect sequel. Such a perfect sequel, in fact, that it’s hard to see how the series can maintain it’s momentum. How do you ever make a Batman game that can again move the goalposts so spectacularly? How do you ever make a Batman game where an open world would make as much sense? It’s going to take a magician to pull that one off, I think. So… Batman: Arkham City is a true, authentic Batman adventure, a masterclass on how to do a videogame sequel right and a really fun to game to boot.
I love Sonic and I always have. I remember staring google eyed at the first game in my local game store when I was eleven years old. And so the love affair began. Sonic 1,2,3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Adventure, Sonic Advance… All great classic titles that fill me with joy and nostalgia.Of course, there have been some truly hideous Sonic titles sent out there too. Although it’s beloved by a certain contingent, I felt the rot got semi-started by Sonic Adventure 2 which was buggy and poorly made. And then it got worse; Sonic Heroes, the Sonic Rush series, the Sonic Advance sequels, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic Unleashed and… Possibly the worst game OF ALL TIME, take a bow Sonic ’06. But the blue blur has bounced back in recent years. Sonic Colors pulled Sonic out of the crapper and games like Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing, Sonic 4: Episode II and the sublime Sonic Generations re-cemented his position as king of the mascots.
And now we have Sonic: Lost World on 3DS. Which is… Unbelievably bad. The unfortunate (and recurring) trait of forcing in mechanics that don’t work or belong has been pushed into overdrive with this game. Sega has thrown everything and anything at the wall to see what sticks. Here’s a hint, Sega; NONE OF IT DOES! Infuriating design choices, limited actual ‘platforming’ levels (the kind that are unhindered by awful gimmicks), a crazy amount of trial and error… It’s just bad heaped upon bad. And it’s really unforgiving to boot. That’s such a shame because the demo was tons of fun. It was colorful with tight controls and interesting wall-hoping mechanics. Why can’t they just make a game like that without messing it up with all kinds of annoying shit? I sincerely hope that the WiiU version is better because this awful title represents a real stumbling block for the franchise. Basically; avoid this terrible 3DS ‘game’ at all costs!
Beyond Two Souls is an exceptional videogame. From a narrative standpoint, it really truly delivers upon David Cage’s storytelling ambition. Past games like Heavy Rain have always had good intentions but have never been able to sustain coherence or quality throughout their playtimes. Beyond Two Souls, whilst definitely having the odd rocky moment (an occasional blip of stupidity here, a meaningless interlude there), finally manages to convince and hold interest.
This is partially due to the way in which the tension is ratcheted up spectacularly during the final third. Oh yes, the climaxes in Beyond Two Souls are of the truly unforgettable style. But even before you get to the total awesome-sauce of kicking some serious ethereal ass or crying your eyes out in the emotional roller-coaster ride of a finale, the game gives you definite indicators of how fucking great it will become. Whether it’s letting your frustrations out on a hapless S.W.A.T team, stealthing through covert C.I.A ops or terrifying yourself with trips through eerie, blood spattered laboratories, Beyond Two Souls’ early highlights come thick and fast.
It would, of course, be a gross disservice to not point out the excellent vocal performances of Ellen Paige and Willem Dafoe; they really sell their characters with expertise. But the supporting cast, most notably the unsung souls that portray Cole and Ryan also do a fantastic job. Their supporting characters are sold just right and their arcs lead to some really moving and spectacular moments. I got genuinely attached to them and every time they were in peril I was a nervous, emotional bag of bones.
The graphical output of the game is generally impressive but not in a “these are the best graphics I’ve ever seen on PS3!” sort of way. It looks mostly great but there are certainly a few rough patches scattered about. There are undoubtedly a whole slew of PS3 games that look better (The Last of Us, for example). The art design is really terrific at times. There’s obviously a deep seated love of Sci-Fi at the root of the title and you can catch many visual cues from the likes of Alien, The Abyss, The Thing and many more. The game also has a really neat line in horror-house scares and atmospherics. That feeling of heading off into the inexplicable unknown has been well crafted here; you feel isolated, vulnerable and without any understanding of what lurks around the next corner.
Gameplay and control wise, It has to be said that Beyond Two Souls can be a bit hit-or-miss. Earlier sequences in the game (particularly the montage and stealth training sequence) can border on the awful… or plunge strait past it, depending on your tolerance of doddery mechanics. Likewise, the general way that Jodie controls like a tank in a confined space doesn’t help immersion much. Unexpectedly, however, later QTE fights prove to be excellent and exciting and the one section where you properly implement your stealth training is also surprisingly fun. Overall, I came away from Beyond Two Souls with my mouth agape, my eyes brimming with tears and my body eager for another playthrough. Well done Quantic Dream! Excellent stuff indeed.