With its top-down perspective and charming visual style, one might dismiss The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening as lesser Zelda. Not that you would, or could. Because this remake of the beloved Game Boy classic is essentially a love letter to fans of the series. Of which, our own Alex Andreadis considers himself to be. A fan.
And so over the past week he's been spending most of his days in the beautiful and strange location that is Koholint Island.
With the built from the ground-up Link’s Awakening remake arriving on the Nintendo Switch it’s important to talk about its origins and some of the constraints Nintendo had when dealing with old-school Game Boy hardware. First off, simply getting to play a Zelda game on a handheld back then was a revelation. But like the 8-bit NES original, Game Boy Zelda was limited to rendering action screen-by-screen. The image would not scroll with Link, so the game’s environments and dungeons and top-down combat were designed with this limitation in mind. That said, Nintendo made the most out of it and jammed something interesting to see and do on every screen.
Fast forward to today, and many Zelda games later, we can now revisit this Game Boy classic on the exponentially more powerful Nintendo Switch hardware. From the moment you boot up The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Switch, it's clear that this remake has been a labour of love. And really, the new visual look is without a doubt the prettiest Zelda game I've played. The re-designed introduction transforms the handful of frames seen in the Game Boy original into a stunning sequence of beautiful hand-drawn art. This sets the tone because everything here is, for lack of a better word, better than ever.
Out on PC and console, Remedy's Control is already a Game of the Year contender. No matter the platform the cinematic look of the game is often stunning, but on PC - with the right GPU - Control's visuals enter the realm of next-gen. With full NVIDIA GeForce RTX ray-tracing support it adds immeasurably to the immersion.
And offers a glimpse at the next-generation of gaming - as Nathan "nachosjustice" Lawrence found out.
To date, we’ve seen promising first-gen applications. Reflective surfaces from puddles of water to the barrel of a gun in Battlefield V displaying environment detail both seen and unseen. Revamped real-time lighting in Quake II that is completely ray-traced (I’ll be writing more on this later). Global illumination in Metro Exodus. And some other impressive tech demos you can download for free off the NVIDIA website. They are, in effect, great demonstrations of the tech and the potential that ray-tracing holds in store for players.
But as great as they can look, they pale in comparison to just how impressive the ray-tracing in Control is. Make no mistake, even without ray-tracing Control is a gorgeous game. With ray-tracing enabled, it’s positively stunning to the point where it’s tough to go back to the ‘RTX Off’ setting. After all, Control isn’t the kind of shooter that particularly rewards 144-fps responsiveness – my preference for the likes of Rainbow Six Siege and Battlefield V.
Remedy Entertainment’s cinematic presentation is the perfect match for showcasing just what the fps-destroying tech can do.
When it was first announced DAEMON X MACHINA got a lot of attention due to both its look and pedigree. A fast-paced mech action game from some of the core team behind the fan-favourite Armored Core series of games. With the title making its debut this month we've spend enough time both in and outside of our giant robot counterparts to bring you our full review.
Daemon X Machina, developed by Japanese studio Marvelous Inc. with Armored Core’s Kenichiro Tsukuda in tow, falls into this category.
Robust, deep, and rewarding mech customisation with short-burst missions made up of fast-paced action. The sort of stuff that can initially feel like a simplified shooting gallery, but soon opens to take full advantage of all those newly salvaged missile launchers, armour pieces, and speedier robo-legs. Pilots, these being those you fly with and your own player avatar, share the stage with their mechanised counterparts. And on that front Daemon X Machina goes that extra robo-mile, with one of the best player creation tools we’ve seen in a long while. So many wonderful hairstyle and facial options worthy of an RPG.
Adam 'Griz' Matthew has spent a week deep in the glorious 16-bit worlds of the SEGA Mega Drive Mini, where he has rekindled his love for many of the classic games from the era. Plus, dug up some memories of that one time as a youngster he was enlisted into the Great War. That being, the 16-bit consoles war between Sega and Nintendo.
And he's quick to point out that this isn't the first time Sega's dipped back into the 1900s to release a 16-bit compilation - but it might be the most impressive.
A search on EB Games will reveal at least two other tiny, quasi-official Mega Drive consoles. Likewise, it seems to be gaming law that you can't release a new system without having a Mega Drive Collection rock up.
Basically, if nostalgia was a stock, Sega's would be at a low. The market is about as flooded as that damned Aquatic Ruin Zone in Sonic the Hedhehog 2. That being said, what's on offer here is a bonafide official experience. We're talking authenticity and accuracy, both in the feel of those button presses and the replication of 16-bit “Blast Processing” on your telly. Like a righteous Gilius Thunderhead, the Mini kicks its lesser dwarven rivals in the face and secures the true OG magic for itself.
Where the decision was made early on to target 60 frames-per-second. Recently we sat down with The Coalition’s Technical Art Director Colin Penty to discuss the challenges behind this decision. A technical feat that showcases the power of Xbox One X hardware alongside retaining the stunning visuals that the Gears of War franchise is known for.
“It was actually one of the first decisions we made,” Technical Art Director, Colin Penty, at The Coalition explains. “We grabbed a Gears of War 4 map, Dam, and then did a test. Try to get it running at 60, just to prove that we could do it. And, we got it running at 60.”
Doubling the frame-rate, on paper at least, one can’t help but think that in order to do so the team at The Coalition would need to make sacrifices. Resulting in a smoother but perhaps less impressive visual experience than Gears of War 4 – with fewer pieces of eye-candy littered about the screen. Subtract from one pile to add to another. A line of thought born from AAA console releases mostly targeting 30 frames-per-second.
“But, you know, 60 wasn't enough,” Colin adds. “We also wanted to also push the visual quality higher as well.” This decision led to the Xbox One X version of Gears 5 taking a priority of sorts, where the various teams met, and the new target of 60 frames-per-second was set. “We couldn't tell them, hey, we're going to do 60 and it's going to look worse to get to 60. I would have had the whole Art Team with pitchforks at my desk if we did that. Any sacrifice we would do, visually, to hit 60, it had to be invisible to the player.”
Truth be told we weren't all that enamoured with developer Spiders last attempt at a grand BioWare-style RPG - The Technomancer. But, we still loved its ambition. With Greedfall the studio has delivered its best RPG to date - with a narrative and focus on choice that matches its ambition.
Prior to its release, if you caught wind of developer Spiders latest fantasy role-playing adventure Greedfall, you probably noticed that it has a certain air about it. Specifically, the aroma of a mid-to-late 2000s BioWare release.
Where story, player choice, and deep role-playing mechanics converge into the sort of memorable experience one remembers long after the controller is put down. Or, hands raised from an already stationary keyboard.
Dragon Age by the way of a colonial setting, reminiscent of that Assassin’s Creed game where you became a pirate. A sentiment that certainly rings true in all that is Greedfall. In an almost literal sense. This is more Dragon Age than Assassin’s Creed – there’s an emphasis placed on world building and setting up the stakes versus spectacle or grandiose action sequences.
Like a dramatic slow burn, the explosive stuff arrives much later, bringing with it the full weight of several hours of increased curiosity. Curiosity that then simmers into unbearable tension.
Double Fine may have made headlines most recently after being acquired by Microsoft in the publishing and tech-giant's bid to create a stable of first-party developers to build an exclusives portfolio capable of combating both Sony and Nintendo (the latter can't really be done, let's be honest), but quietly the studio released a little game called RAD, and it's rocked our world.
Here's a snippet from our review:
There’s a genuine franchise-in-waiting in RAD, but I fear its soft launch and lack of any major marketing, plus its niche setting might see it living out in the wastelands it so expertly portrays. Maybe, however, with Cyberpunk 2077 on its way and with a renewed focus on all things neon, synth and radical, RAD might find a dedicated market. And if I’m Microsoft who now owns Double Fine (and unfortunately I’m not), I’m lookin at this gem with nostalgic yet forward all-seeing eyes, and just how far RAD could actually go.
Which is to say, you need it. Arriving as an Early Access title, Unrailed! gives players a chance to build a railroad either on your own, or cooperatively with a friend in an isometric cutesy map visually reminiscent of Crossy Road.
Here's the official line from publisher Daedalic Entertainment:
Featuring fast-paced moment-to-moment gameplay, procedurally generated landscapes and tricky terrain, Unrailed! challenges players to keep an unstoppable train moving to its destination.
Unrailed! demands strategy, coordination, and communication across a variety of gameplay modes because this train simply will not stop for anything! Plan ahead, cut down trees and rocks, lay down tracks to avoid hazards, upgrade your train with new wagons, and fend off any creature that gets in your way. Play with up to four players in co-op, take on Endless mode, where just one misstep can end your journey, or work as a duo to get your train to the station before your rivals in competitive multiplayer.
As an extra bonus, all players who helped test Unrailed! during closed beta will be upgraded to the full version of the game for free as thanks from Daedalic Entertainment and Indoor Astronaut. The feedback provided by players in closed beta was invaluable to the game’s development, and the team will continue to work with the community on new features, improvements, fixes and more throughout early access.
For three generations of non-handheld platforms under the banner of The Big N, talk of the consoles' lack of third-party support permeated their existence. Sure, the Wii brought Ninty back into the modern videogame landscape, but waggle would be its eventual downfall, while the Wii U's basic clunkiness would be its. Now, however, the Nintendo Switch is carving out a successful path even Nintendo might not have envisoned.
The major differentiator will be in Nintendo's eventual adoption of 4K HDR visuals and a more powerful unit, but as we type, new games and more developers and publishers lend their wares to the Switch's library, and we're all the better for it.
Most recently, The Eyes of Ara a Myst-like first-person puzzler from 100 Stones Interactive -- a Brisbane-based developer has been announced as coming to Nintendo's ever-growing Switch library.
Here's the official word:
On Nintendo Switch, The Eyes of Ara’s secrets come to life like never before with dedicated touch screen and Joy-Con support. On the go, piece puzzles together with the ease of a finger or stylus. When docked, guide the Joy-Con to precisely point at puzzle objects using the inbuilt gyroscope. These intuitive control options make exploring the richly detailed environments as empowering as it is rewarding.
After years of silence, a strange radio transmission erupts from a centuries-old, long-abandoned castle. As the technician hired to investigate the call, enter the perplexing citadel, navigate massive, detailed environments, and solve complex puzzles to uncover the truth behind the mysterious signal.
A labyrinth of secret suites and intricate mysteries in a fantastical setting await. In each of the castle’s beautifully crafted areas, find helpful clues and objects, using or combining them in inventive ways to venture deeper. Lost keepsakes and other secrets off the beaten path tell the captivating story of those who came before.
“Community and critical support for The Eyes of Ara have made it possible to bring this enchanting castle and all its tantalising mysteries to Nintendo Switch, where exclusive control options make the game more accessible than ever,” said Ben Droste, lead developer, 100 Stones Interactive via press release. “When Switch owners enter this castle, they’ll find a perplexing world full of secrets that rewards deep thinking with even deeper mysteries.”
The Eyes of Ara is now available for pre-order via the Nintendo eShop with a limited-time 15% pre-order discount and will release for Nintendo Switch on Oct. 15, 2019 for $14.99 USD. It is currently available on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. On Switch, The Eyes of Ara will support English, French, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese and Simplified Chinese languages.
Thanks to lovely people at Blizzard Entertainment we've got 5 x Hearthstone Tombs of Terror Adventure Packs to give away Which will include access to all Four Chapters (as they're released), 1 Random Saviors of Uldum Legendary, and 1 Card Back when the latest Solo Adventure launches!
Ready your whips, wands, and dino-saddles - it's time to save Uldum!
Fight against E.V.I.L. with Reno, Elise, Finley and Brann as they strive to squash world-threatening plagues and extinguish Rafaam's villainous plot.
Battling your way through multitudes of miscreants to reach the 4 Plague Lord boss battles will be no easy task but fear not! With 4 new Dual-Class abilities and 24 new Signature Treasures at your disposal, you and the League of Explorers are well equipped to take on Hearthstone’s newest Solo Adventure – Tombs of Terror!