Friday, 28 January 2011

Twitter VS Spam

Genre: Tower Defence
Format: Mobile Phone
Publisher: PopCap

Twitter Vs Spam is an interesting, and rather pertinent, new release for mobile phones from PopCap. You play on the Twitter side and, in increasingly difficult levels, must place varieties of the "Twitter Bird" in different horizontal firing positions in order to defeat ever growing quantities of marching Spam tins.

The attacking tins cover the different varieties of Spam that are available: Bacon, Turkey etc. For some reason, Turkey is insanely difficult to destroy, even with the "acid powered" Twitter bluebird.

We like this game as it helps you destroy all the pain in the arse Spam on Twitter.

VT Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Long Walk

Genre: Real Time Strategy/Third Person Shooter
Format: PS3, Xbox 360, PC 
PEGI: 18
Publisher: A&E


Stephen King's cult 1979 novel (written under the pseudonym, Richard Bachman) is brought to vivid life in this new release by A&E. 

The designers have taken a huge gamble and place you in the role of "The Major" (the shady antagonist of the novel) rather than the walkers. This switch was probably essential as a 400 mile version of Daley Thompson's Decathlon would be hell on both fingers and controllers!

As 'The Major', you oversee the 'walk' and organise everything from monitoring 'warnings', distribution of food/water canteens and certain aspects of crowd control. You have a small team of soldiers and half-tracks at your disposal, which you must place in positions around the walkers where they will be able to monitor the contestants speed and ensure that none of them try to make a break for it into the woods or crowds of spectators (the crowds start non-existent and develop into massive, troublesome, throngs in later stages).

Trouble on the 'Road'
When a walker exceeds their 3 warnings and needs to be 'ticketed' (an in-game euphemism for brutal death) the interface switches to 'third person shooter' mode. In order to attain maximum points you must despatch the poor lad in as short a time as possible and remove the body before the 'morale' level of other walkers dips excessively and they feel inclined to make a break for it en masseThis horrific mode of play also kicks in when a member of the crowd (this includes children and, on one occasion that we saw, a dog) tries to interfere with the walk. It's a controversial part of the game (in a "Manhunt" sort of way) and, although it feels morally wrong, it is incredibly well presented - blood and brains fly everywhere - and it does fit with the tone of the novel.

The voice acting of the walkers, which can be 'tuned in' using your soldier's high-tech listening devices, follows the dialogue of the novel very closely and is provided by the likes of Tom Hanks (Garraty), Paul Sorvino (McVries) and Kevin Spacey (Stebbins) amongst other famous names. This all adds to the realism and user  involvement in the game.

The only let down for us at VT is the rather muddled interface in which all of this macabre fun is brought together. Controlling the soldiers is not as easy as we would like and the AI of the walkers is sometimes lacking.

VT Rating: 7/10

Friday, 21 January 2011

Royal Wedding

Genre: Simulation (Dress Up)
Format: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Deep Silver

Awww, so cute
With the Royal Wedding of balding William and Kate (of so many strange facial expressions) Middleton due on 29th April 2011 it was inevitable that a game would appear.

The proffered Nintendo DS title is a fairly standard 'dress up' game that would not stretch the intellectual abilities of your average 5 year old. We struggled to stay awake whilst playing it.

FFS give Kate some hair!
Pick the wedding outfits for both the betrothed and, for Kate only, give her a nice hairstyle. Unfortunately, there isn't a similar option for William - he will have to go with either his current wispy hairdo or a number 2 all over (we bet he doesn't go with this suggestion).

Anyway, good luck to the happy couple and, whatever you do, don't buy this game.

VT Rating: 7/10  

Foster and Allen: Folkband

Genre: Rhythm Game
Format: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
PEGI: 12
Publisher: Harmonix

The Cover

Does the world need this game? Well, it's a small yes and a rather larger no.

Legends of Easy Listening Celtic music, Foster and Allen, are the latest 'band' to get their own Rhythm Game. All 783 album songs by the illustrious duo are available either within the game or as downloadable content. The game comes with acoustic guitar and accordion controllers.

Pretend to be Mick Foster with one of these.
The gameplay is exactly the same as every other rhythm game that has ever been produced (only much slower).

If you have ever wanted to strum a guitar to 'Bunch of Thyme' or fondle an accordion to 'The Mountains of Mourne', then this offering is for you. Everybody else: move along, nothing to see here.

VT Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Flight Simulator Drone Attack

Genre: Simulation, Action
Format: PC
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Ever wanted to drop a bomb on a secret Taliban meeting using a model aircraft? Now is your chance with the latest in the Flight Simulator franchise. Matching the actual flight procedures of the General Atomics MQ1 Predator as much as Article Three of the US Constitution will allow, Drone Attack is an enthralling simulation.

True to the reality of operating one of these deadly toys, you only have to control take off, landing and picking targets. The former two will not present a challenge to any aficionado of earlier entries in the franchise as the controls are pretty much the same as any standard aircraft. The real fun comes with the targeting.

These two are doomed...
Deciding who is an enemy when you only have grainy thermal/night vision image available is quite a challenge and the missions, probably mirroring real life, are quite vague.

All in all, deadly fun.

VT Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sid Meier's Recession

Genre: Turn-based Strategy Game
Format: PC
Publisher: Activision

Only the singular genius that is Sid Meier could make a game based on the current global recession anything other than a bad joke. His finesse and intelligent overseeing is evident in every screen of this powerful offering.

You are the leader of one of 100+ nations and must make the all important decisions that will either drag your country out of the mire or bury them even deeper. All of the economic, foreign and home choices are yours.

The game interface is intuitive and very similar to Civilization V. It feels good from the start and you will be dashing around the screens, trying to save your country from utter despair, in no time at all.

If you get to this - you're screwed
The 'riot' scenes are nicely presented. You will soon be crushing those demonstrators with any number of advanced crowd control devices that are available to countries that have resource managed in the right way.

The only let down about this game is that it makes you feel like killing yourself.

VT Rating: 7/10

Friday, 14 January 2011

Lady GaGa Karts

Genre: Racing/Rhythm Game
Format: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: Nintendo

Interesting stuff...
Imagine the scene. Nintendo executives appear at Lady Gaga's house (would she have a house, or does she live in a sort of avant-garde butchers fridge?).

"Ms Gaga, we would like to offer you $10,000,000 to put your name to an unlikely Nintendo Wii game where players, playing as you,  race rivals on go-carts to a studio and then sing several of your greatest hits. Interested?"

"Where do I sign?"

This, or something very much like it, must have happened because we now have the Wii game which promises much (well, not that much) and delivers only adequately.

You are Lady Gaga. You are in a race on the streets of New York. Your competitors are a number of real and imagined competitors of Lady Gaga. If they get to the studio first they will release the "new song" instead of you.

Hurry, little girl, Ke$ha is gaining!
The surreal action involves racing go-carts against the likes of Ke$ha, Christina Aguilera and Amy Winehouse. All of whom have a number of tricks up their sleeves, which readily appear in the race in order to force you off the road. The race itself is quite exciting and the Wii responds well to the wheel (included with some versions of the game). The bog standard rhythm based studio section isn't as exciting. 

Our advice - Lady Gaga, stick to 'singing'.

VT Rating: 7/10

The King's Speech

Genre: Simulation/Adventure/Education
Format: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Nintendo

You would have thought that The King's Speech, a historical drama movie about King George VI's struggle with a stutter, was the last movie that would generate a 'game tie-in'. You would be wrong. 

Nintendo, shrewd as ever, foresaw the Golden Globe nominations, Oscar buzz and growing cinema audiences  and bring us a game that they hope those throngs will be dashing straight from the cinema to buy. But will they?

The game follows the movie plot fairly closely. You must guide King George through a series of state occasions (starting with his speech before the Empire Exhibition in 1925) and sessions with Lionel Logue, his Speech Therapist. The better you play, the more points you get and the King's stutter becomes less pronounced. The final test is the 1939 radio speech given on the declaration of war with Germany. Mess this up and England is a laughing stock, succeed and the British Empire will defeat the Hun.

King George and Logue having a row
Essentially, the gameplay is just a matter of selecting the words that appear with the stylus as quickly as possible. However, there are some mini-games where the user must attempt to emulate the King's stutter (using the DS microphone) in order to win more 'Therapy Time'. These 'stutter tests' border on bad taste, but are quite fun.

So, will the mostly adult cinema goers be flocking to Game, Amazon and Gamestation to buy this game after attending their local Showcase or Vue? We highly doubt it.

VT Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Nigella Express

Genre: Simulation
Formats: Xbox 360 (with Kinect)
Publisher: Ubisoft

Cover Image

Utilising some (probably not all) of the power of the Xbox 360 Kinect, Nigella Express is the title that Ubisoft are hoping will create 'a stir' amongst more culinary inclined gamers. Food goddess, Nigella Lawson, has never put her name to a game before (unlike fellow celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, who had a forgettable foray in to the Nintendo DS world), but she will be hoping that a franchise can be built on this premise.

So, what is the premise? Well, it's pretty similar to the old DS favourite Cooking Mama. The player must complete a number of tasks, in an allotted amount of time, by mastering a number of bodily movements that correlate to certain cooking practices. These include: chopping, slicing, dicing, pouring and icing. Still awake?

Great Parsley chopping

This is Kinect, so extra points are awarded for more flamboyant movements (imagine Ainsley Harriott on acid) and the patented Nigella hair flick is also supported (don't overdo this as we found it caused a nasty system crash).

There are Single Player and Two Player 'Cook Off' options. 'Cook Off' reminded us of the TV programme, Ready, Steady Cook... quite good fun. There is also a sort of 'Campaign' mode where you must produce all of the recipes in the 'Nigella Express' book for them to be judged by a virtual Michelin inspector. This was quite difficult.

Graphically, the game is adequate and the on-screen movements work reasonably well with the Kinetic's motion tracking. Nigella is recreated in all her glory and children will like the 'dress up' option where they can change her clothes and hairstyle.

To sum up - thank goodness it wasn't a Jamie Oliver game.

VT Rating: 7/10

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Road

Genre: Third Person Action Adventure
Formats: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Nintendo DS
PEGI: 18+
Publisher: Rockstar

Nintendo DS Cover Art
The movie of Cormac McCarthy's seminal apocalyptic novel was released in January 2010 to a chorus of indifference. After almost a year we are being asked to get excited by the multi-platform release of the game based on The Road movie. You may wonder if excitement is possible.

The Road game has been held in 'design hell' since January 2010 due to creative differences between Cormac McCarthy and Rockstar. McCarthy had, apparently, always imagined the game of his novel to be purely Real Time Strategy. "I saw it as a cross between Empire Earth and Age of Empires." He told IGN. "I mean, the novel has RTS written all over it - two people, scavenging stuff, building things, making do. You know what I mean?".

Rockstar had other ideas.

What they have finally produced and released, much to McCarthy's disapproval (but grudging acceptance), is a Third Person shooter that blends Survival Horror with elements of RTS. This heady mix has its moments but the dilution of both genres serves to distance itself from hardcore lovers of either.

PS3 Screenshot
The bulk of the gameplay is reminiscent of Rockstar's previous efforts. The Man and The Boy (readers of the novel will understand the mechanics of this relationship) must fend off a series of adversaries and pitfalls before the (depressing/uplifting) climax is reached. Cut scenes are suitably dramatic, the grey and dismal landscapes of the novel/movie are faithfully reproduced, The Boy's constant cries of "Papa, Papa, Papa" when you wander away from him and the RTS mini-games are only slightly tedious.

What Cormac McCarthy made of the Harley Davidson, Rocket Launcher and Flame Thrower that The Man can obtain during the later stages of the game has not been reported.

VT Rating: 7/10 (PS3 version)