OLD TIME HOCKEY
Format: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: V7 Entertainment
ETA: TBC 2017
Inspired as much by classic, simpler ice hockey titles from around the late Nineties as it is by the Seventies, Old Time Hockey is the kind of arcade sports game we’ve missed. It’s got all the classic hockey moves, plus cartoon action and lots of violence. And, of course, it’s got a retro Seventies look to it, too, just for some added flavour. We’ve not had a good tongue-in-cheek sports game for a while and this one looks to have strong gameplay and a sense of humour. The fact that games can descend into fistfights with full punching controls is evidence that V7 Entertainment knows what hockey is really about.
Super Mario Run
IT’S NOT ABOUT COST, IT’S ABOUT CONTENT
Many thought Mario would never be able to heave his chubby form onto mobile devices and yet here we are, watching Nintendo’s mascot run endlessly across our iPhone and iPad screens.
Don’t judge Nintendo’s first proper foray into mobile gaming just because it comes in the form of an constant runner. Super Mario Run is a surprising twist on the well-established genre, delivering a mobile game that oozes classic Nintendo charm. Most of which comes from the look and the feel of the game, even if you only opt for the free tier, rather than the complete £7.99 option.
The graphics and soundtrack are Super Mario at its best, colors popping beautifully from the screen, and the left to right gameplay is a nod to the best kind of nostalgia.
The gameplay is perfectly suited to mobile devices too, with Mario running until you tap for a short jump or hold for a longer one. Using just these two movements, you can wall jump, vaul over enemies and take advantage of ‘pause pads’ so you can plan your next move.
Tour mode is initially your mainstay, as you’ll be running through various Super Mario worlds, exploring how an constant runner Mario game works. You’ll only get the first world (of six) unless you fork out the full price, but it’s still enough to keep you busy.
Each level has three tiers, with different colored coins strategically positioned about the world that requires Mario to run, jump and flick to different points in order to nab them.
However, if you’re not an obsessive completion, Tour mode can quickly feel repetitive as you’re merely jumping and running through 24 different levels with similar hurdles.
Thankfully, you’ve also got the multiplayer Rally mode, where you compete against other Super Mario Run racers asynchronously. Here, the gameplay evolves from simple jumps, to acrobatic spins, rolls and more, all executed with perfectly-timed taps of the screen.
Performing such feats, collecting coins and taking out enemies combine for an overall Rally score. Besting your foe means nabbing all the Toads you’ve impressed, but also all theirs too. It’s surprisingly satisfying.
OTHER FORMATS: Android
RELEASE: Out now
ONLINE REVIEWED: Yes
Toads then populate The Kingdom, which is basically a place to spend coins on mini-games, decorations and other nostalgic tat.
Although Nintendo has introduced a few new features since release, Super Mario Run still feels like it’s missing something. It looks and feels like a proper Mario game, but it can quickly become so tiresome that we no longer play. It’s all too easy to exhaust Tour Mode and the Kingdom has no staying power.
The free tier will be plenty for most Super Mario Runners, and for the full investors, you’ll soon be reduced to a few daily Rally runs.
MISSING MODE: Without the strongest and most consistent of 3G or Wi-Fi signals, you can’t play it at all. The lack of offline mode is a significant mistake for Nintendo’s first ‘mobile’ game.
A CLASSIC NINTENDO GAME RUINED BY REPETITIVENESS.
Play 4th and goal online
FORMAT: ONLINE GAME
When you play 4th and Goal online, you pick from a wide range of teams, select your team colors and prepare to win the championship. Score touchdowns, make big hits, and choose plays created by real (including professional!) football players. Remember that in this game there are no punts… It’s 4th and goal!
4th and Goal 2016 is an awesome sports game. This exciting sports game uses Flash to run smoothly in most browsers. 4th and Goal 2016 has been played by 725679 people and has received a rating of 9.2 / 10 by 6358 people.
Use the space bar to snap the ball.
Use arrow keys to run with the ball or play defense
Use the space bar for spin moves while running
Use the space bar for big hits on defense – can cause fumbles!
Press A, S, D to pass the ball on offense
Press W while running to use SPEED BOOST
Time of each match can be set to 5:00, 10:00 or 15:00. Also, you can choose skill levels: Rookie, Veteran, All Pro, Hall Off Fame.
Format: PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color
Developer: Luxoflux Corp.
Key Staff: Peter Morawiec, Adrian Stephens,
Edvard Toth, David Goodrich, Jeremy Engleman (all designers/developers)
In league with Sean Vesce, Dan Stanfill and other key personnel, the result was Interstate ’76, a funky and cinematic vehicular combat game that placed players in an alternate Seventies world where the oil crisis of that decade never went away. It’s a cheerless scenario, and one that is told via souped-up, deadly vehicles and discordant vigilantes.
Interstate ’76 was released on PC in 1997 to generally positive reviews and sales. Keen to accentuate the cinematic side of videogames, Activision itself was pleased with the result, and soon pondered about how to approach another platform with its fresh IP.
Working at Sega of America as a game designer and producer, was Peter Morawiec; together with software engineer Adrian Stephens, the pair were based in a small satellite office in Burbank, California. “We were approached by Howard Marks of Activision,” begins Morawiec, “who was interesting in funding a team to develop for the PlayStation. At that time, Sega was in reorganisation, the Saturn was floundering and we were between projects, so after a great run it seemed like the right time to try something new.” The result was Luxoflux, a new developer co-owned by the two men and based in Santa Monica, California. “Howard was basically looking for a console adaptation of Activision’s Interstate ’76 franchise,” recalls Morawiec, “but since that game was more of a serious adventuretype simulation, ultimately we ended up using it as more of a springboard for a completely new arcade-style game. Nothing was converted or used from Interstate; both the technology and the assets were developed anew.” As befitted Luxoflux’s freshly minted status, the roles of its two members, Morawiec and Stephens were initially all-encompassing, as the former explains. “My duties involved being the lead designer, plus, suddenly, being an all-round small business owner: securing leases, hiring, legal and accounting.” Stephens remained throughout the sole programmer. He says, “As with Comix Zone [Morawiec and Stephens’s previous collaboration at Sega], Peter did the design and art and I created the technology, which involved creating a game engine for the PlayStation and developing all the tools we needed to create the game assets, such as a terrain/level editor and 3DSMax plugins.” By the time Vigilante 8 shipped, the team was up to grand total of five, with Edvard Toth, Jeremy Engleman and David Goodrich all on board. “It was a large effort for such a small team,” continues Morawiec. “I created the overall game design, characters, built the vehicles, weapons, effects and also did some sound design.” With Stephens occupied on coding duties, it was soon apparent the pair needed someone to begin artwork design. One of those people was Edvard Toth. “I was still in the UK when Peter hired me,” he says, “and one of the pre-requisites was to check out Interstate ’76. I really enjoyed the all-in commitment to the Seventies theme.” Toth had gained invaluable experience in the UK working for famous developer Psygnosis where he had designed and developed the cult RPG Perihelion: The Prophecy. Nevertheless, he jumped at the chance to join Morawiec and Stephens in California. Also with the team by this time were Jeremy Engleman and artist David Goodrich. “I had been approached by Activision for an artist role on its Battlezone reboot,” recalls Goodrich, “However the position had been filled the day I was interviewing. I guess I interviewed well, because they asked me back a few days later to meet the Luxoflux team.” Goodrich met with Morawiec, Stephens and Engleman in their small office in Santa Monica. “They were interviewing me for an artist position that mainly involved making all objects and vehicles in the game destructible, something that was rarely seen in games of that time.” Having graduated from a large studio, Goodrich was sceptical of the size of Vigilante 8’s team. “I had some concerns about such a small group successfully making it to launch, but I confess this was a hasty conclusion on my part, especially considering the subsequent success of Luxoflux and its games.”
However, the proposed scenario for Vigilante 8 endeared itself greatly to the new recruit. “I researched Interstate ’76 once I knew I was going for the interview, so I could get a feel for the game I would be modelling on. I was amazed by it, the stylised visuals, Seventies funk and car customisations caught my interest immediately, and the storyline was also engaging and entertaining.” So having introduced the team, what about the game itself? As with Interstate ’76, global tensions surrounding the shortage of oil are a key element behind Vigilante 8’s plot. The nefarious Oil Monopoly Alliance Regime (OMAR) is seeking to monopolise the world’s oil trade and is opposed by just one remaining country: the United States of America. With shortages of gasoline causing a near-economic breakdown in the country, OMAR hires professional terrorist Sid Burn to organise troops in the American Southwest and begin targeting oil refineries and other commercial installations throughout the region. Desperate for help, civilians have decided to take the law into their own hands and formed a band of defenders known as the Vigilantes. The player can take on the role of either a member of the Vigilantes or Sid Burn’s cadre of villains known as the Coyotes, with each character having its own specific ending. Recalls Morawiec, “To be honest, the characters and their backstories were developed in the service of the vehicle selection, a sort-of gameplayfirst approach. In other words, the vehicles came first, then we brainstormed suitable characters to go with each car, weaving a storyline to connect it all together.” Despite the clear influence of Interstate ’76, involvement of the original team in Vigilante 8 was kept to bare minimum, as Morawiec reveals. “We had a couple of brief discussions with Zack and his team early on, but I could tell they weren’t very keen on our direction.
I probably would have felt the same, their vision of the franchise was a lot more intellectual and realistic.
FORMAT: Xbox One
OTHER FORMATS: PS4, PC
DEVELOPER: Ubisoft Annecy
RELEASE: Out Now
PLAYERS: 1 (2-4 online)
ONLINE REVIEWED: Yes
It should be the perfect time of year to have a winter extreme sports game to sink your teeth into, but Steep’s biggest selling point is also its biggest mistake: it’s yet another open world, this one offering snowboarding, skiing, wingsuiting and paragliding.
Sports games usually pick either an arcade or simulation angle, but Ubisoft Annecy tries to straddle the line between both, and takes itself far too seriously with daft cut-scenes unveiling a newly found mountain with a voice-over that talks to you about how “epic” it is and how you must conquer it. It’s daft, unnecessary, and risks obscuring the fact that Steep can actually feel fantastic when you’re left to your own devices.
Luckily, then, after you’ve been walked through all of what it offers via a lengthy tutorial, you’re left to explore. Steep is a pretty game, especially when the sun hits the right angle and the lens flare blinds you like when you’re driving to work on a crisp winter morning, and despite the fact there’s far too much screen furniture most of the time, the mountains and valleys themselves are a delight to explore and discover… before the awkwardness sets in and you just give up.
Imagine you’re drifting gently through the snow on your skis to your waypoint. You’ve spotted a bit on the map that will unlock a drop zone, and you want to get close enough to whip out your binoculars and reveal it for fast travel.
But you’re on a downward slope, and suddenly you’ve missed it. Momentum gone, you can either fast travel all the way back to the top and hope you don’t miss it again, or you can put your gear away and trudge (and we do mean trudge; even using the run button) uphill, in the snow, to find a vantage point to turn and get back on track.
It’s painful, and means that after the opening few hours you’re going to exclusively use fast travel to get from course to course, and only explore when you need to find new places to race.
On top of this, there’s a litany of tiny issues that are infuriating. Some of the ideas are brilliant in theory, like a seven-minute long, open course that runs for miles, and encourages freedom, with no guideline to show you how to get from A to B. In practice, after six minutes you might realize you aren’t going to get back up to that finish line because you took a wrong turn and you’ve just wasted your time. Want to pause the game mid-race? No chance. Doing so will kick you back to the starting point, so if the doorbell goes and you’re expecting a parcel, you’ve a tricky decision to make.
Then there’s the tone. A dudebro-type guy is often your point of call over the radio, but he won’t shut up.
There’s also an attempt to create a Forza Horizon festival feel to the whole game, but it would have been better if you were just left to explore and race without the need for any kind of narrative.
There is a good game buried underneath all the strange decisions, though. As there are four classes of extreme sport on offer, the actual game-play is a mixed bag. Choosing between skiing and snowboarding, for example, will pretty much come down to personal preference, as they feel very similar, offering big jumps and tricks that are easy to pull off. Paragliding is difficult to control, and rarely fun, because most of the courses have an ideal path that not only gets you to the finish quickly, but also keeps you catching air to stay high.
Wingsuiting, then, is the star of the show.
The thrill of hurtling downward, skimming the snowy dust with your belly to gain more points never fades. Catching a gust of air to throw yourself higher and hit that checkpoint ring is a rush, and nailing that run through a cavernous gap in a mountain is rewarding and very moreish, begging to be perfected.
Teaming up with friends is easy, too, as you’d expect nowadays. Even if you don’t have a gang of pals to play with you can just hit a button and join up with any random folk nearby. Doing so means you share your knowledge, and areas you unlock while teamed up will become available on everyone’s map.
But as Steep gives, it also takes away, and there are areas gated off until you reach a particular level. Sure, completing races, scoring big, or even just smashing your bones to pieces (there is a progression system for each type of activity: exploration, bone breaking, etc) will see you level up at a decent pace. But the idea of a narrator telling you that it’s your world to explore and then blocking you from places until you reach an arbitrary level makes for a game that is, ultimately, at odds with itself.
Plus unlocking clothes for your avatar hasn’t been fun in years.
Steep isn’t without moments of joy.
Watching back your best bits and taking pictures as you’re upside down mid-jump is pure elation in gaming form. But then there will be a course that feels as though it was intended to make you angry by placing too many obstacles in the way of a downhill slalom.
It could have been something special, and there’s tremendous potential for a sequel, but for now, Steep feels like a game of two halves. It tries to do too much and fails to capitalize on what it does best, and as such, makes for a tricky game to recommend.