The second half of 2015 was much busier for the diligent reviews team at MLG, but will there be any howlers or hum-dingers? If you missed the first half of the review, check it out here. If you did, let’s pick up where we left off, by getting straight into the second half of the year beginning with…
July saw the summer drought of releases come true again with just two reviews. Si Stevens lukewarm response to Lego Jurassic World ended with 6.5/0 and the recommendation to save your coin for a price-drop or for the monolithic Toys To Life entry Lego Dimensions. Batman Arkham Knight for the first month fared better with a 9/10 review from Derek “Digi” Roberts who could look past the overused batmobile sections in what was “a fantastic end to a well-constructed trilogy”.
August began with digital bunker-botherer Rory McIlroy PGA Tour earning 7/10, gaining marks from Si Stevens for the solid gameplay and excellent sound design – losing them for last gen graphical output and lack of polish. Munkimatt’s review of A Pixel Story also included 7/10, with “a challenging difficulty and some ingenious puzzle solving do much to counter a slightly weak story”. Derek “Digi” Roberts saw much to praise in the enhanced edition of Risen 3: Titan Lords, first released in 2014. He found a deep, compelling and massive RPG, just in case you needed another after The Witcher 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Lords of the Fallen. Less immersion and time sucking gameplay was discovered by Si Stevens in Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings, a game “great for wasting 20-30 minutes but for extended plays starts to lose its personality”. Talking of time, Munkimatt had a wonderful one playing Kings Quest with the “beautiful art style, well written story and brilliant voice acting” earning the second 9/10 of the month. Another dose of indie excellence came from M.C.Escher inspired The Bridge. Innovative gameplay and unique presentation garnered 8.5/10 from Derek “Digi” Roberts who saw the intense difficulty spike as the only negative in an otherwise laudable end to the month.
Alright, deep breath… September saw 10 games reviewed in the month, a record for the year. Beginning (somewhat unconventionally) with The Last Word. Si Stevens gave this conversational combat RPG 6.5/10 noting that “it is refreshing to see a studio take a risk in regards to how they approach battles” and despite the novelty weakening quickly he saw promise in studio Twelve Tiles. Munkimatt was disappointed by the underwhelming story in Beyond Eyes, a new entrant into the rapidly growing (and best new term to come out of 2015) “Walking Simulator” genre. Whilst, a relaxing walk in the company of blind protagonist Rae as she searches for her cat, the watercolour surroundings couldn’t paint over a game that didn’t meet it’s potential, earning 5/10. Si Stevens changed the pace in his review of streamlined hack n slash dungeon crawler Gauntlet: Slayer Edition, giving it 8.5/10 – a game at it’s best when you can make use of the 4-player co-op. Showing the diversity of indie offerings these days, Coffin Dodgers offers some silly co-op fun for arcade cart racer fans. Whilst it won’t compete with the established canon of carting giants, the quirky backdrop of pensioners racing in mobility scooters being chased by death scored points with Si Stevens earning 6.5/10. Not so fun was the “extremely repetitive gameplay, somewhat average presentation, cheap feeling combat and non-existent story” of generic dungeon crawler The Weaponographist. A sad 4/10 from Munkimatt consigned it straight to the bargain bin.
Derek “Digi” Rogers reviewed the first big release of the Autumn in Open World movie tie-in Mad Max. Whilst the disconnected story was disappointing Digi praised a huge, enjoyable and utterly enveloping game, awarding it 7.5/10. A similarly large release saw Si Stevens forwent the usual disdain in annualised sports games to find a gem of the series in Madden 2016. The wealth of new features and unique experiences on offer gained 9/10 and the noteworthy praise as “the best Madden in years”. The next-gen re-release of moving puzzler Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons had Si Stevens praising the consistently changing puzzle mechanics. Telling any people who missed it the first time around to “pick this up now” he gave it 8/10. Submerged, a similar game in many accounts, failed to provide Derek “Digi” Roberts enough of a challenge leading to the lower 6.5/10 score. MLG could only end a blockbuster month with a blockbuster game, up stepped Disney Infinity 3.0. Si Stevens announced this (“perhaps the best ever”) sequel as a true competitor in the toys-to-life genre. He did warn about the hammering your wallet may take with all of the peripherals. Modern games eh!
“September a blockbuster month?” October snorted derisively, “we’ll see about that”. And see we did, with October offering 15 reviews for a huge range of games. Derek “Digi” Roberts kicked us off with Quest of Dungeons, a “simple, enjoyable dungeon crawler” with great depth earning 7.5/10. Next up was puck-smuggler NHL 16 in Which Digi found an accessible but deep sports experience, giving 8.5/10 not least for the many different game modes suited to different players. Munkimatt’s 7/10 review of noir adventure Blues and Bullets Ep. 1: The End of Peace had him struggling to avoid looking up spoilers due to the compelling story which even permeated the credits. No spoilers to tell you that the next title was about football… FIFA 16, the next entrant in the now dominant kicking simulator, garnered almost universally positive responses from the round table which gave the game a “back of the net” rating on aggregate. Another game that gained a great response was Until Dawn, the PS4 horror choose-your-story adventure. Horror-averse Munkimatt braved the cold to declare this an unexpected hit, and at 9/10 “an absolutely essential PS4 pick up”. Not to be outdone, Transformers: Devastation proved that you don’t need tense serial killers and frosty breath to garner critical acclaim. In-form studio Platinum games metal brawler won Si Stevens heart with its’ retro presentation and slick gameplay to garner 9.5/10 (and a recently announced TMNT game that looks to play much to the same crowd).
The fourth MicroMachines wannabe of the year Super Toy Cars was reviewed by furyac3. Gaining 6.5/10 as a decent distraction from more hardcore racers it offered competency if not revolution in terms of gameplay and presentation. A game that struggled with competencies was 4/10 was slow and basic puzzler Lumini in which tuds17 “struggled to find any real merit”. Munkimatt saw elements to praise in trivia party game The Jackbox Party Pack, but the slant towards US centric questions and the filler game modes dragged the score down to an underwhelming 5/10. Engrossing BMX side-scrolling stunter Pumped BMX+ beguiled jlewsey15 with it’s accessible difficulty curve and recommended for fans of the genre at 7/10. Derek “Digi” Roberts dusted off his vocal chords for “what could really only be described as a competent karaoke game”, the 6.5/10 Now! That’s what I call Sing. Retro throwback I Can’t Escape Darkness was praised by ChattyMcCBear for slow burning spooks and sense of player rewards similar to Dark Souls but suffered from a lack of depth at 6/10. Horror also inflects the story based adventure of 6.5/10 Nightmares of the Deep: Cursed Heart which offered furyac3 a nice change of pace from the normal hi-octane pursuits of modern games. Award-winning puzzler Mushroom 11 garnered strong praise from tuds17 claiming that the innovative mechanics lead to “something to experience”. Corpse Party: Blood Drive ended the month on a lower note with 4/10. The ambition to set up the story wasn’t matched by the long term appeal of the dialogue and gameplay, jumping genres too quickly.
As the days darken further, the flood of reviews reached a fever pitch with a year record of 17 in just one month. November kicked off with the appropriately bleak Masochisia. Whilst an interesting experiment in telling a brutal stories around mental illness and with presentation called “on-point” by ChattyMcCBear, the point-and-click failed to fully engage and lacked depth garnering 5/10. Continuing with the dark theme, Calvino Noir scored 6/10 for being a stealth platformer that does “as many things right as it does wrong” according to Derek “Digi” Roberts letting down another richly developed setting. Turn based tactical RPG Wasteland 2 Directors Cut changed the setting to the Wild West with an intensely deep levelling system and strategic gameplay. Si Stevens warned away those expecting a bullet-fest but recommended the 8/10 title for everyone else. Bonkers driving sim Roundabout made sure that there was light-hearted fun at the end of autumn with a truly bonkers central mechanic (driving a car that is constantly spinning). Whilst jlewsey15 gave the title 5/10 for lack of polish, he applauded it “for its sheer wackiness and originality”. Gogul1 almost found the stinker of the year in Rock ‘n’ Racing Offroad DX awarding an equal low of 2/10 and starting his review with “Should you buy this game? No”. Pretty definitive advice from MLG there. A more valiant attempt came from the developers of Bedlam, reviewed by ilehnert as 5/10. Whilst the fast paced retro shooter explored the history of the genre in an authentic way, there was little joy to be found in the constant hopping between eras and the grating meta-narrative. ChattyMcCBear’s review of Beyond Sol portrayed a gem of a space-based RTS to appeal to fans of Sid Meier or Mass Effect. Described as a colourfully presented dollop of space fun it was recommended to fans of the genre at 8/10. Another 8/10 came in the form of Dishonoured: Definitive Edition. The 2012 steampunk world of Dunwall having aged rather well according to ilehnert despite being a “port rather than an impressive remaster”.
Pharmaceutical Tycoon game Big Pharma is definitely a strong entry for fans of the genre according to Munkimatt who claimed that the game will win no awards for presentation but has a charm that is oddly mesmerising for those willing to invest their time. ilehnert’s review of WWE 2K16, unapologetically littered with wrestling puns, presented the next entry of a franchise in need of a little TLC. Despite being a much better title than the previous year, the game still felt like better things were on the horizon, with the recommendation to leave this 6/10 on the shelf and wait for 2K17. For his sins, tuds17 was called upon to wrestle with Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced edition, the giant beast of an RPG describing it as a game for “RPG players of old looking for a new slant on your genre”. Slick and easy to pick up with loads of customisation, 8/10 was the final judgement. Another game offering newness within old trappings was Football Manager ‘16. The 9/10 score from Si Stevens celebrated a game that for him “surpasses all expectations and delivers a fresh take on the franchise whilst keeping the core of the game familiar”. Persona 4: Dancing All Night was the next game under the MLG microscope, scoring a solid 8/10, ilehnert describing it as an enjoyable rhythm game albeit one that should only really appeal to someone with an investment in the series. Another spin-off, this time from TV, was Adventure Time: Finn and Jake Investigations. Suffering from spin-off syndromes like loose gameplay and a rushed feeling, the game wasn’t without it’s charm earning 6/10 from gogul1. Completing a trilogy of off-shoots was Minecraft: Story Mode, another story game from Telltale Games. Tuds17 was impressed by the notable cast-list, but with breezy storytelling eventually concluded the 6.5/10 game to be “a nice distraction, and not a lot more”. A game that could have been similarly disappointing was the Musou version of the famous Square Enix series Dragon Quest Heroes. Derek “Digi” Roberts was pleased to find any doubts unfounded though, praising “an extremely well-polished and solid combination of arcade combat with traditional JRPG leanings” with a 9/10 score. 6/10 racer Need For Speed left ilehnert wanting more as the admittedly lush presentation didn’t fail to hide the issues of a lacklustre story, meaningless online features and lightweight driving.
Kicking off the December rush for Christmas crackers was an easy task for the “overwhelmingly fun” Shovel Knight that was released on home consoles after a handheld debut in 2014. The retro-styled and hugely-difficult title would be undersold if you look just at the 8/10 score given by Munkimatt who also described it as a “masterpiece in platform gaming” and “one magnificent package dripping with 8-bit excellence”. Much more accessible for gamers young and old was multiplayer leviathan Star Wars Battlefront. Furyac3 had the pleasure of visiting these richly realised worlds engaging in vast and detailed battles that went much beyond fan service. The lack of a rich single player campaign seems to be the only thing depriving the game of top marks, with the final score an admirable 9/10. Whilst Battlefront was riding the hype of The Force Awakens, so too was Snoopy’s Grand Adventure hoping to cash in on the goodwill for the recent cinema release. Sadly for the game, ilehnert was not swept up by movie goodwill conceding that “it’s a fun game to play with your family” but not worthy of attention from more serious gamers, scoring 5/10. The penultimate game of the year was a preview of Iron Fish penned by Tuds17. Describing the deep sea thriller as “infuriating and dull in equal measure” there was still a glimmer of hope. One to watch in 2016 perhaps. The final game of the year was very out of season given the festivities during it’s writing, with TheCBear diving into a wild west with a demonic tinge. He described the turn-based strategy Hard West as “a top game with good replayability” applauding the gameplay and customisation with a hearty recommendation.
There you have it! No 0’s in the whole year, but no perfect 10’s either. With a strong showing of 7/10 and above games maybe there are a couple of recommendations for the bargain bin in the months to come. Let us know if you’re going to try any in the comments. The (frankly crazy) release schedule for 2016 will ensure that your reviewers will be busy this year so stay tuned to your favourite MLG.
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