Posts Tagged ‘Steve Boxer’

Sony to relaunch PlayStation Store – Console news

The online virtual market is to receive an extensive makeover that makes it more inviting and logical to navigate

Sony has treated its web-based PlayStation Store to a major – and no doubt, PlayStation 3 owners would contend, much-needed – redesign. It will go live on 17 October, perfectly timed for the games industry’s crucial Christmas sales period, and amounts to a tacit acknowledgement by the Japanese company of the increasing importance of digital downloads in comparison with traditional disk-based games.

Gordon Thornton, vice-president of Sony Network Entertainment Europe network operations, explains the company’s motivation behind the redesign: “We wanted to create a PlayStation experience, and we wanted to address some of the issues that consumers were telling us about the old version, which were around search and navigation – they wanted us to make it easier for them to find content.” Sony took pains to emphasise that the move was consumer-led – according to its Game Store development manager, Elliott Dumville, “The essence of this is driven by what consumers are telling us – it’s not just that we read articles in the press, forums, blogs and so on. We’ve been getting to know our consumers better, getting to understand their needs, likes and dislikes as far as shopping for games and other content on the web is concerned.”

So what is new?

The most obvious alteration to the PlayStation Store is a new home page, titled What’s New, which scrolls sideways, carousel-fashion, and looks an awful lot more inviting than the old home page, featuring cutouts of games characters, screenshots, videos and a parallax effect which comes into play when you scroll. “It’s an all-new user interface,” says Dumville. “What’s New always covers a mixture of content, and what we asked was: ‘How do we make the products the stars of the store?’ So it’s a more HD experience – every page of the carousel has one ‘hero’ title.”

Perhaps more importantly for digital shoppers, the site’s structure has been improved. “One of our design principles was that we always want people to know where they are, so they never hit a dead end,” says Dumville. Thus, if you do scroll to the end of a section, you’re given a number of options to go to what Sony reckons are other parts of the site you might be seeking. The main menus at the left of the PlayStation Store are split into what Dumville calls “above the line and below the line” sections – so are essentially two menus in one.

One particularly welcome upgrade for more decisive digital shoppers is a proper filtering system. Dumville says: “You can filter by game type, price (such as seeing what’s available for under £10), online multiplayer games, release date, accessories and so on.” And Sony has ripped out the old search engine, with its familiar but ugly and rather daunting on-screen keyboard, with a much friendlier and more intelligent system, which encourages you to build searches one letter at a time, and tries to anticipate what you’re seeking. Dumville, for example, searched for Call of Duty Black Ops: Rezurrection by simply inputting R, E and Z. And he admitted: “One of the challenges for the existing store was if you were looking for an add-on to a game, you’d have to head to multiple places.” Basic stuff, for sure, but given the popularity of downloadable content these days, at least one cardinal sin previously performed by the store has been rectified.

Dumville and Thornton confirmed that the PS Vita and PSP Stores will remain separate entities from the PS3 store – you’ll have to select a menu option for each from the home page. “That comes from a lot of feedback that told us people don’t want to be distracted by things they aren’t interested in,” says Dumville. “Most consumers at the moment are looking for PS3 content.”

It would be easy to argue that the redesigned PlayStation Store is merely what it should have been in the first place, but Sony deserves credit for listening to its consumers and taking the trouble to fix it. It’s certainly impressive as such things go, in that it looks and feels inviting (surely, a greater inclination to browse will lead to more impulse purchases), and is much quicker, easier and more logical to navigate. And Dumville and Gordon promise that Sony will continue to update it, on a more or less fortnightly basis, with a flow of content including streaming trailers, and structural tweaks if consumers demand them.

PlayStation Store: key improvements

• Carousel-style, content-rich, side-scrolling menus.

• Full filtering system.

• Much friendlier and more intelligent search engine.

PlayStation

Games

Sony

Steve Boxer

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Posted on October 13th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Gravity Rush – review

PS Vita; £29.99; cert 12+; Sony

The PlayStation Vita is only a few months into its life-cycle but thus far, it has failed to capture the public imagination. A state of affairs which is nothing short of scandalous, since it is, by some considerable distance, the finest handheld console ever made.

You can attribute its lack of success to a number of factors – a highish price in a recessionary time (although it’s still less than half the price of an iPad); the demise of GAME lessening hands-on opportunities; too close a resemblance to the vastly inferior PSP; uncharacteristically ineffective marketing by Sony; or the lack of truly compelling games. Sony, at least, is taking steps to address the latter deficiency, with Gravity Rush at the forefront.

Gravity Rush is the perfect riposte to those (non-gamers) who insist on maintaining that the latest generation of mobile phones have rendered specialist portable consoles redundant. Originally earmarked for the PS3, its sheer ambitiousness and lavish execution make any games seen on iOS or Android seem laughably basic.

Gravity Rush’s creator, Keiichiro Toyama, worked on the original Silent Hill, and while his latest game is nowhere near as dark as that cult-classic, it’s every bit as weird – in a similarly endearing Japanese manner. An homage to the comics of Frenchman Moebius, it melds an anime visual style with some truly innovative and original gameplay, which would be a triumph on the PS3, let alone the PS Vita.

You play a young, amnesiac woman, soon dubbed Kat, who wakes up in a town in which disturbing happenings have become commonplace. Gravity shifts, plus an infestation of alien creatures called Nevi, are causing havoc. Kat hooks up with a black cat and discovers that, thanks to her new-found familiar, she can set gravity to operate in any direction. Which enables her to reach previously inaccessible areas and, in the game’s early stages, rescue inhabitants of chunks of the town which are being sucked away to oblivion. As well as being a hot blonde, Kat kicks ass with an array of kung-fu-style moves, the most potent of which are launched from mid-air.

Initially, Kat’s missions are fairly trivial, designed to familiarise you with her various moves (she can, for example, carry objects with her as she flies around, and slide on appropriate objects). She finds somewhere to live, falls in with some odd characters, engages in a spot of detective work and helps the police eradicate Nevi outbreaks and foil the evil plans of a criminal called Alias.

There are several RPG mechanics – including a map showing missions, side missions and people you can talk to for information, and you spend the crystals you collect on upgrading Kat’s powers. As you progress, she acquires ever more powerful and impressive-looking new attacks.

Gravity Rush builds judiciously. The story missions generally conclude with boss-battles, each harder than the last, and the three most epic – and downright psychedelic – missions see Kat spirited away to an alternate reality, where she battles increasingly large and nasty Nevi in order to retrieve lost chunks of the city.

It’s all endearingly bonkers, as any Japanese game should be, and with its distinctive art style (and cut-scenes arranged like comic-strips), it’s a visual feast.

There are a few quibbles, though. You have to adjust the sensitivity of the targeting system slightly, and the sliding mechanism, which uses the motion-sensor, can be fiddly. At times, you can become confused about which way is up, and some of the music should have been confined to an elevator.

But none of those minor gripes seriously detract from Gravity Rush’s truly fresh and original gameplay, or the enticing, cleverly populated world in which it is set. It’s a triumph that such a characterful and impressive-looking game can be played on a handheld console.

It’s doubtful whether it, alone, can kick-start sales of the PS Vita, and that’s a shame, because it deserves more than mere cult status. Real gaming aficionados will derive much delight from it, though.

• Game reviewed on the PS Vita

Rating: 4/5

PS Vita

Games

PlayStation

Sony

Handheld

Steve Boxer

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Posted on June 13th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – review

PlayStation 3; £39.99; Naughty Dog/Sony; 16+

Games exclusive to a single console have apparently been subjected to 1940s-style rationing these days, but rumours of their death have clearly been exaggerated. In recent years, the burden of providing a reason to buy a PlayStation 3 rather than Xbox 360 or Wii has been shouldered by Naughty Dog’s action-adventure franchise Uncharted, so the third iteration, subtitled Drake’s Deception, is the company’s great white hope for this Christmas. So it’s a good job that, like a polar opposite of the England football team, it seems able to feed off the pressure and achieve new heights.

As ever, Uncharted superficially adheres to the blueprint established by the Tomb Raider games, in that the game’s protagonist, Nathan Drake, divides his time between acrobatic leaping, climbing and swinging around, shooting and solving puzzles. That’s where the resemblance ends though. Uncharted 3 has a cinematic grandeur that would make Lara Croft choke with envy.

Talk of adhering to blueprints, commendably, is slightly misleading in Uncharted 3’s case. From the beginning, it makes clear its intention to avoid the predictable and obvious, mixing up its gameplay and exotic locations cleverly. It begins with Drake and his mentor Sully, unarmed, taking part in a great brawl in a London pub. Which illustrates two things: first, the game’s hand-to-hand combat engine has been massively improved (although it takes a back seat once weapons enter the equation). And second, that the franchise has raised its game in terms of virtual acting to a level only previously occupied by LA Noire. Those tiny incongruities that remind gamers they aren’t actually controlling a Hollywood movie have been ruthlessly eradicated, and the dialogue is vibrant rather than clunky.

The game’s narrative flow, as tortuous as we have come to expect, also provides an extra level of immersion. It soon busies itself by filling in a crucial chunk of back-story, as you flash back to control a teenage Drake in Cartagena, Colombia – where he first encounters Sully. The game then returns to the present day, apparently competing with itself to take you to ever more exotic locations as Drake’s treasure hunt takes shape.

You wouldn’t say that Uncharted 3’s gameplay is fantastically innovative. It’s very much a traditional game, and takes care to be forgiving for those who wouldn’t describe themselves as hardcore gamers. It does, nevertheless, feel fresh and ground-breaking. It flows magnificently, and is much more tightly plotted than the average movie, despite lurching across the globe. Drake and Sully’s banter compares favourably with that of the best-buddy movies, and is leavened by the occasional reappearance of various allies from previous Uncharted games. The (British, and nicely observed) baddies dog you every step of the way, so bouts of adventuring are usually followed (or even preceded) by shoot-outs. Drake even gets to show off his horsemanship skills at one point. As ever, the shooting places great emphasis on plundering guns and ammo from dead enemies, and different classes of enemy (including heavily armoured tank characters), keep that side of the game interesting. Uncharted 3 is gratifyingly keen to make its shoot-outs more challenging and hectic than its predecessors.

Graphics-wise, Uncharted 3 is beyond impeccable – it is one of the finest looking games ever. The trademark rich, colourful and vibrant environments are present and correct, and the cities are better populated, and therefore much more convincing, than before. And there are a couple of unexpected aspects to the game. At times – thanks to a baddie with a habit of firing darts filled with mind-bending drugs – proceedings become positively psychedelic. And Drake and his cronies have become much more humorous than before, never knowingly sparing the wisecracks.

Decades ago, all the talk in the world of games centred on beating Hollywood at its own game – but what we got, instead, demonstrated how difficult that was. But Uncharted 3, perhaps for the first time, represents what we all hoped games would eventually evolve into. Its production values are sky-high, and it puts you at the centre of a gloriously rich and irresistible world, controlling a character who is heroic, but also convincingly human. It’s also mildly didactic, and feels less dumbed-down than any mainstream movie we’ve come across in years. For once, you’re able to forget that it’s a mere collection of ones and noughts: the sheer slickness and believability of Uncharted 3’s production and characters ought to induce widespread self-flagellation in Hollywood.

Rating: 5/5

PlayStation

Games

PS3

Sony

Steve Boxer

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Posted on October 25th, 2011 by  |  No Comments »

OnLive – review – Console news

The latest gaming news:

£69.99; onlive.co.uk

There’s a school of thought which states that the future of video games lies in the cloud, and the arrival of OnLive – the first credible cloud-based gaming service available to consumers – offers a great opportunity to test such claims.

Head for its website, and you will discover an impressive level of flexibility – once you’ve signed up (for free), you can pay to stream a large library of games to your PC, Mac or, via downloading apps, iOS or Android tablet. But, most impressively, you can buy a micro-console that lets OnLive operate through a bog-standard TV.

The latter setup represents OnLive at its most compelling – on the PC, you can buy boxed copies of most of the games for similar amounts to what OnLive charges (although there’s a PlayPass subscription option, for £6.99 per month, that gets you free access to 100-plus games and discounts on new releases).

It’s true that it gives Mac users access to games about which, hitherto, they’ve only been able to dream – such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, BioShock, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Borderlands – and the same applies to the tablets, although they remain hamstrung by their familiar control-system issues.

But if you fork out £69.99, you get a tiny box roughly the size of two cigarette packets, a controller (which is pretty reminiscent of that of the Xbox 360) and a bunch of cables including, commendably an HDMI.

Plug it into your TV and your broadband router, and you’re taken to a home screen which lets you jump instantly into a library of games which is generally pretty impressive – full titles are mixed up with shorter XBLA/PSN-style games including the likes of Braid – although it does have some conspicuous gaps, such as the complete absence of anything published by Electronic Arts, Activision or, of course, rival console manufacturers Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

Nevertheless, there are some absolute gems to be found, and the overwhelming impression is that it would provide the perfect, low-outlay introduction to games for someone who has never owned a console.

It has some tricks up its sleeve, too. You can use it to jump straight into multiplayer games like Homefront, and you can spectate on games being played by anyone on the system. Plus you can record clips of your finest moves, and upload them straight to Facebook.

The enabling technology behind OnLive converts the graphics of games running on the system’s servers to video, which it streams to you without having to go anywhere near a graphics processor. But that strength is also a weakness in one crucial respect: the quality of the visuals it provides is entirely dependent on the speed of your broadband.

Unable to acquire more than 2Mbps bandwidth, we found that visually, it lags way behind the graphics of the current crop of consoles (perhaps approaching the performance of the original Xbox). We reckon it would take about 8Mbps for it to approach the visual polish of the Xbox 360 or PS3.

You often notice a blockiness typical to video-compression and, of course, when you experience broadband slowdown spikes, the graphics become murkier.

That doesn’t necessarily detract too much from your enjoyment of the games: older titles such as Borderlands never looked great anyway, and one aspect of the system that is mightily impressive is the complete absence of any discernible lag in the controls.

If visual aesthetics are a concern, and you don’t have access to the fastest broadband available in this country, OnLive probably isn’t for you.

But if you’re looking to generate a gaming library from scratch, without paying huge amounts of money on a pile of games and a pricey console, plus are happy to forgo the big blockbusters such as Modern Warfare 3, Fifa, Battlefield 3 and their ilk, then OnLive should make you very happy indeed.

And when super-fast broadband becomes widely available, it will become a much more attractive proposition. OnLive isn’t the future yet – but it will be one day.

Rating: 3/5

Games

Internet

Broadband

Digital video

Steve Boxer

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Posted on October 1st, 2011 by  |  No Comments »

Bafta game awards: what the celeb gamers said

Dara O Briain and Jason Bradbury reveal they’re fans of Limbo, while Danny Wallace tells us how he got into Assassin’s CreedMass Effect 2 hailed as Call of Duty is snubbedBafta game awards: highlights in pictures

Celebrities are often wheeled out to add appeal to games launches, often without providing any sort of proof that they actually are gamers. However, the Bafta game awards offered a unique assembly of celebs who did have some sort of stake in the games industry.

Dara O Briain, in his third year as presenter, was a particularly safe choice – every year, the man manages to craft a glorious standup routine concentrating solely on games, which would be an impossibility if he was not an enthusiastic gamer.

So, is turning games into comedy difficult? “I find it surprisingly easy to come up with stuff based on games. Last night I had to tell jokes about the TV industry – that was infinitely harder. I’ve played five of the six nominees for best game this year, with the exception of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.”

So which ones was he rooting for? “Limbo and Heavy Rain. I’m intrigued to see if Heavy Rain will be awarded for the narrative leap it made away from the obvious blockbusters. And it will be interesting to see if Limbo will be awarded for gameplay that you couldn’t sustain over 40 hours of play. I’m a 39-year-old with two kids, and that’s the only sort of game I can play through these days.”

The Gadget Show presenter Jason Bradbury, another noted gamer in the public eye, also lauded Limbo: “I was challenged on The Gadget Show to build a game, and I based it on the Limbo aesthetic.”

But the game he was rooting for most enthusiastically was: “It might surprise you: Dance Central. Things like Call of Duty: Black Ops are such obvious vote-winners with the mass gaming public, but Dance Central does something unique in cahoots with an incredible piece of technology in Kinect.”

Bradbury also singled out Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood: “Assassin’s Creed has really grown over the years, and Brotherhood is fantastic … [while] Halo: Reach [is] almost the perfect multiplayer experience.”

Actor Sir Ben Kingsley proved pleasant and approachable, although he admitted: “I’m not really a gamer. But I have enormously enjoyed being on the creative side, starting off with my voice acting for Fable III. I think being able to get involved with games is very, very good for us actors.”

One attendee, of course, has gone beyond voice acting, by appearing more or less as himself in Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood: Danny Wallace. Indeed, it could be argued that Wallace has conjured an acting career from his Assassin’s Creed appearances – he was fresh back from filming a pilot in LA.

The whole thing, he said, began at a Bafta games awards ceremony a few years ago: “The weird thing is that it was at one of these when a rather drunk man came up to me and said he wanted me to be in his game.”

Actor Robert Llewellyn, known among other things for being Kryten in Red Dwarf, said: “I’m a very late convert to gaming – when I grew up, computers took up entire buildings. But now, I’m obsessed with Angry Birds.”

Llewellyn also confirmed that a new series of Red Dwarf has been commissioned, with Doug Naylor doing the writing, although filming is currently being stymied by the cast’s diverse commitments.

Games

Steve Boxer

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Posted on March 18th, 2011 by  |  No Comments »

Yakuza 4 – game review

PS3; £39.99; cert 18; Sega

There are plenty of very good games that slip under the radar before eventually being accorded cult-classic status, but Yakuza is the only franchise I can think of that has been awarded that dubious distinction. Perhaps Sega’s Japanese gangster series fell victim (at least outside Japan) to the company’s withdrawal from the console race, which in turn decimated a once-healthy fan-boy culture that revered no game more than the rambling, evocative Shenmue. The Yakuza games are uncannily Shenmue-like, which is unsurprising given they were developed by much of the Shenmue team.

If you’re one of the few who played Yakuza 3, you’ll find Yakuza 4 agreeably familiar. Again, it’s an action-RPG, set predominantly in an ache-inducingly evocative rendition of modern Tokyo through which you wander, performing often offbeat plot-forwarding missions and fighting random thugs. There’s a stupendously convoluted plot examining the minutiae of yakuza life and its codes of honour, which unfolds in the form of long cut scenes. So, yes, it doesn’t exactly represent the state of modern gaming art – but even those cut scenes are so lovingly crafted that you won’t resent watching them.

Yakuza 4 does improve on Yakuza 3 in some crucial areas. It puts you at the controls of four characters, at first separately, although they come together at the end and you can switch between them. The combat has been simplified slightly (it was a bit fiddly), and there’s a much more sensible means of upgrading your characters’ abilities. Each character has a different fighting style, which sucks you deeper into the ins and outs of the fighting system. The familiar environs of Kamurocho – certain to evoke a nostalgic yearning among those who have spent any time in Tokyo – have been opened up slightly, with rooftops and underground malls now accessible. There’s even more to do when you just bimble around, GTA-style: the bizarre phone-photography Revelations are back, and you can while away hours in games arcades or gambling dens.

There are a couple of dodgy aspects, though. Yakuza 4 prides itself on conforming to Japanese ways which just might be a tad out of step with political correctness in the 21st century.

For example, the first character you play, apparently philanthropic money-lender Shun Akiyama, owns a hostess bar, so you must negotiate a sub-plot in which you turn a girl into a money-spinning hostess. At least that has the decency to be the dullest part of the game.

Nevertheless, Yakuza 4’s production values are through the roof, its plot is gripping and quirky, it’s often very funny indeed, and it would undoubtedly sell in millions if it was published by Rockstar rather than Sega.

It’s a hidden gem which you won’t find advertised on TV or pushed at you via the medium of a giant marketing budget, and it might just cause those who once owned Dreamcasts or frequented the arcades to shed a tear or two.

Rating: 4/5

Games

PlayStation

Sony

Role playing games

Strategy games

Steve Boxer

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Posted on March 15th, 2011 by  |  No Comments »

Killzone 3 – review – Console news

PS3; £39.99; cert 18+; Guerrilla Games/Sony

Sony’s flagship first-person shooter provides a nice illustration of the PlayStation 3’s progression to maturity: the original Killzone was delayed and, frankly, a bit ropey in technical terms, the next iteration vastly improved, and Killzone 3 is a mighty impressive beast indeed.

It picks up the story exactly where Killzone 2 left off, before flashing forward six months, chronicling the efforts of Sevchenko and Velasquez to escape Helghast, after their assassination of Scolar Visari (which, initially at least, aren’t exactly helped by the officious Captain Narville, although he redeems himself later).

The nuked ruins of Pyrrhus set a magnificent graphical tone which the rest of the game sustains, and Killzone 3 addresses a criticism of its predecessors by employing varied locations – including a colourful alien jungle, a space-station and a polar outpost.

The gameplay is satisfyingly varied from the off, with plenty of vehicles to pilot (including a spacecraftand an exoskeleton), great machine-gun-equipped jet-packs, some monstrous Helghast weapons (such as multiple-rocket-launchers that can be ripped from their mounts) and even a touch of stealth at one point.

There are some highly memorable boss-battles, particularly the one that involves taking down a 20-storey-tall super-mech called a MAWLR. Guerrilla Games clearly set out to create something as cinematic as Call of Duty, and this time around, it succeeded impressively.

Story-wise, Killzone 3 also towers above its predecessors, with plenty of cut-scenes depicting the hubris and arrogance of the Nazi-like Helghast (whose leading protagonists are voiced by the likes of Ray Winstone and Malcolm McDowell). Sevchenko and Velasquez still aren’t going to win prizes for their profundity, but the spiky dynamic between them and Narville at least lets you glimpse the personalities they previously lacked.

The only criticism you could level at the game’s single-player campaign is that it’s a bit short, which is very much the modern way, but need not be so – as Dead Space 2, for example, ably demonstrated. Technologically, though, there’s no doubting that it’s a tour de force, an impression enhanced by the fact that it works in stereoscopic 3D and can be played using the Move and Motion Controller.

This is precisely the stuff for which Move was invented, so it’s pleasing to report that it works beautifully with Killzone 3, adding some well thought-out tweaks to the control system, such as twisting to reload and a melee attack which is launched with a stabbing motion.

Online, Killzone 3 isn’t going to cause mass outbreaks of tumbleweed on CoD and Battlefield servers but, once again, it improves on Killzones 1 and 2. The objective-based Warzone mode is back, with a number of improvements, such as five classes which give you special abilities at a much earlier stage, and quicker access to heavy weapons, vehicles and, especially, jet-packs. It also adds a Team Deathmatch mode, which should prove popular.

Overall, Killzone 3 proves to be the top-notch first-person shooter that we hoped versions 1 and 2 would be. The PlayStation 3 is now reaching the middle of its life-cycle, and thanks to games like this, it should end up being just as legendary (and successful) as the PlayStation and PlayStation 2.

• Game reviewed on PS3

Rating: 4/5

Games

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Sony

PS3

Steve Boxer

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Posted on February 21st, 2011 by  |  No Comments »

Super Mario Galaxy 2 for Wii | Game review

Game review; £39.99; cert 3+; Nintendo

Consoles usually take a while to get into their stride, but the Wii, as befits its disruptive nature, seemed to have reversed that trend. The compelling games with which it was furnished when new dried up in recent months to a trickle of dross, and one suspects many Wiis began to gather dust in the back of toy-cupboards. The arrival, then, of Super Mario Galaxy 2 could not be more timely.

The problem isn’t likely to resolve itself until medical technology allows us to clone several copies of Nintendo’s in-house development genius, Shigeru Miyamoto. At least Miyamoto-san saves his best efforts for games featuring Mario, as Super Mario Galaxy 2 amply demonstrates.

Structurally, it is near-indistinguishable from its predecessor, with several worlds to navigate, each split into seven or so galaxies (the last of which presents you with a boss to be defeated before you’re awarded a Grand Star). This time around, you can opt to play as Luigi as you enter each galaxy. As in the first Super Mario Galaxy, you have to reach stars to open new galaxies, by executing deft platform moves and solving all manner of puzzles, often involving delicious mischief with the laws of gravity. Those puzzles are invariably so good that they will make you chuckle and nod in appreciation of their sheer cleverness.

The key to reaching what often appear to be unreachable stars is Mario’s array of power-ups and special abilities, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 has two new ones. The first is a drill attachment, which Mario carries above his head; shake the Wiimote, and he will burrow straight through the centre of whatever planet he is on. This clever mechanic can be used for puzzle-solving by, for instance, burrowing to the top of pillars too high for Mario’s jumping abilities, or for boss-battles, in which you have to time and position your burrowing to hit creatures’ vulnerable parts.

But the undoubted star of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is Mario’s old mate, Yoshi. He appears in many galaxies, bringing a range of abilities when Mario jumps on his back. With his lizard-like tongue (the direction of which you can control with the Wiimote), he can gobble up and spit out enemies, and swing from designated points. Feed him Blimp Fruit and he will float for a while. And when he swallows a chilli pepper, he gains the ability to run like Forrest Gump (complete with boggle-eyed expression and siren sound effect), enabling him to temporarily escape the normal restrictions of gravity (although he becomes tricky to steer).

All of Mario’s existing power-ups appear, too, including Bee Mario and Fire Mario (one clever ice world can be reshaped by Mario’s fireballs and by rolling snowballs into melted areas). There are underwater worlds and a flying sequence in which Mario is suspended from a Fluzzard, and at one point, he can power-up into a rolling boulder. His ground-pound move also features heavily.

As the above suggests, the surreal nature that characterises Mario’s games is to the fore. Mated with the game’s irresistible sweetness, the outcome is a game-world which is truly universal in its appeal – the youngest children and grizzliest hardcore gamers alike will be held equally rapt by its charms. A long-overdue reminder of what the Wii is all about.

Rating: 5/5

Games

Wii

Nintendo

Steve Boxer

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Posted on May 28th, 2010 by  |  No Comments »