Little Big Planet 2 Review

After playing through Little Big Planet 2 for a few weeks I can solidly say that the game is AWESOME! Though I didn’t really need to wait a few weeks to realise this, as the game has been amazing since day one. The levels are aesthetically well built together, with clever featues crammed throughout! This and the inclusion of various new features such as power ups and the sack bots just add to game when playing alone and with friends! My only dissapointment with the game was the lack of “Go! Team” in the soundtrack! But that’s something I got over quickly enough.

Little Big Planet 2 brings a whole new storyline to the game as Sackboy has to defeat the evil Negative-a-tron, a monster that takes all good in the world and makes it.. well.. negative. The story mode also brings in a complete new set of 3D creator characters that aren’t card cut-outs to the side! These characters are continuous throughout the game, aiding in narrating the game, and making the player aware of their objectives. This and the inclusion of new bonus levels such as survival, challenge and versus levels has seen Media Molecule take Little Big Planet to a whole new level since the last game.

As mentioned, Little Big Planet 2 brings an assortment of new features including power ups, controllable creations and sack bots. The power ups really add to levels as players are now able to grapple and lift any blocks, or other sack bots above their heads and throw them. No more slow dragging!  These features give an enhanced playing experience in both single and multiplay modes. In multiplay particular I find the grapple amusing as you can just shoot and drag other players, or grapple along with them.

Now the sackbots are a collection of tiny robots that are completely customisable in create mode. You can control pretty much all the aspects you need to in their personality and abilities, as well as looks! For example you can make them good or bad, able to jump or not, able to use power ups, and even dress them up like normal a normal sack person! The sackbots aid players in completing various levels throughout both story and online levels. Their survival also affects the end score and items you receive.

Finally there are various controllable creations, such as a rabbit. When controlling the rabbit for example, sackboy can jump super high and crush objects as he lands on various breakable objects. When controlling the dog sackboy gets to blast objects out of the way with supersonic howls, and the round.. ferret.. like hamster.. thing.. lets you roll through levels at high speed with the boost ability which basically lets you fly! Even though you already get to fly with the BEE!!! A creation that allows sackboy to shoot down enemies and objects whilst flying through levels to complete them. All in all the controllable creations were a nice little feature that gave more variation to the 2d mario-esque run and jump levels.

As with the last game, LBP2 encourages players to play along with friends or random people online as levels include x2, x3, and x4 features that require assistance in order to get a full 100% end score. This and challenging side levels which are made less stressful with a bit of help successfully encourage players to interact with each-other and co-operate as they go on to complete the game. I’ve personally found that multiplayer has been one of the most enjoyable features of Little Big Planet 2 for me, as I’ve always had a thing for co-op style game levels, so the ability to play ANY level in a co-op style. It’s also safe to say that I’d be nowhere near 100% on the gobotron shooter challenge level had I not played it with friends!

Another familiar feature is the ability to play through other players published levels. This feature of the Little Big Planet games has molded the games so you can pick them up any time and do something  completely new. With all the new features in create mode that incorporate the games various new power ups, and sack bot players, users are able to create new and challenging levels that give that little bit extra to the gameplay. The sackbots can be modified to look like normal sack people, sizes of which can be altered! The best use of this I’ve seen so far was a level where you could walk into a sackbot and control it and its gun like a giant robot! To top this off, at the end of the level the author gives you a controllable zombie character for your own levels! Which is another feature of LBP I’ve always loved! The ability to share your creation with others to use in their own levels.

The multiplayer interface has been altered too to make it a lot easier to find genuine fun to play levels, rather than the “PLAY THIS GAME FOAR PHREE COSTUMEZ N ST00FZ!” traps that were spamming the Little Big Planet 1 online world. This is avoided with the inclusion of “MM Picks” levels – chosen by the people over at Media Molecule, these levels are generally all awesome and really make the best of the new features presented in Little Big Planet. There’s also a cool levels feature thats presents loads of top rated community levels that are equally as awesome. They even managed to help out people like me who can never pick which level to play with the “Dive in” feature that throws you into a random multiplay level with a random group of players.

It’s clear with Little Big Planet 2 that Media Molecule have really outdone themselves. The game was definitely worth the wait, and I can’t wait to see what DLC packs they release for this game over the coming year as even now I’m struggling to put it down!

 

10/10

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Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

Initially with Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood I found myself expecting a game purely focused on multiplay with little story involved. As a result of this I was thrilled to find this was not how it turned out and that It picked up right after the cliff hanger in Assassins Creed 2 with a further plot line that led to an even bigger cliff hanger!! Seriously! Like WOAH!

Assassins Creed Brotherhood picks up from where the second game ended and continues on with new memory sequences belonging to Ezio Aldetori. This for me added to the flow of the game as it made it familiar from the start and helped me get into the games plot and storyline a lot quicker, this and the way in which you can freely leave the animus as you wish gave a better playing experience than the previous two for me.

One distinctive change to the game is the ability to take your horse anywhere you want rather than having to leave it outside the city gates to never be seen again.. You can even call your horses in this game! Kind of like Link calling Epona… except in this case it’s Ezio whistling for the most recent horse he rode..

Another notable feature is the ability to recruit and train assassins into the brotherhood. Recruited assassins can be called into battle anytime, or used to take out enemies to help you stay undetected. They can also take out every single enemy in the area in an arrow storm! I found this to be a handy little feature and a fun side game to send assassins off on missions and train them up! It was like leveling up Pokemon… but with people that kill other people rather than monsters that hit eachother..

The game doesn’t necessarily leave you short of things to do after completing the story either as it contains a whole abundance of awesome challenges and tasks from the courtesans, thieves and mercenaries! Though these are all quite similar as they are generally just assassinations and races, I found it was more interesting as the level of difficulty varied between the challenges as they contained more variation rather than the same old “save the lady from guards”

Now the multiplayer! This is the feature I thought I would hate, as when I played it at Eurogamer it was utter bollocks! Just walking into someone would make you assasinate them.. which was silly.. there are people all over so missing people was pretty hard in itself.  FORTUNATELY however! This was not used in the final release as you now have to choose to assassinate someone before they are killed rather than just strolling into them. I mean COME ON! Imagine if you killed people by bumping into them.. I’d be a serial killer or dead by now! Maybe both.

I feel the multiplayer adds a competitive edge to the game where it was lacking before. I also think the inclusion of levels online is a good touch as it encourages you to play to unlock more online features and be top of the class. Though for me I’m just leveling up so I can have 100% on my PSN trophies as I get the level 50 achievement!

All in all, not many games will push me to get all of the achievements available, and the fact I’m still playing it says enough! I love this game!

9/10

 

Palm Pre 2 – First Impressions

I don’t know if anyone will remember, but a smart phone came out just over a year a go called the Palm Pre exclusively to O2. Now, this phone got copious amounts of bad reviews and people were really put off getting one. I feel the main reason was because of the OS on the phone, WebOS. Just over a year later and the sequel is out! However, it hasn’t been going down too well at all, just like it’s predecessor.  And this time, it’s isn’t available with a specific network as none wanted to take it up.

Well, HP Palm, as they are now known, have kindly given me a Palm Pre 2 to try out for a few weeks, and i must say, it is a massive improvement from the original. The Pre 2 is host to a 1Ghz processor, seemingly an industry standard these days, 512MB RAM, 3.1″ touch screen, full QWERTY keyboard, 16GB storage and a 5.0 mega pixel camera with LED flash. These are pretty similar to the original bar the 1Ghz processor and camera as it was a 600Mhz down clocked to 500Mhz previously with a 2 mega pixel camera and 8GB storage, with 16GB on the Pre Plus.

Now, i know on paper it looks pretty much the same device, and even in design the only differences are that it has a flat screen on the front. Other than that, the features are taken from the Pre Plus. But the major difference is on the inside. The OS. That’s right folks, this device is running WebOS 2.0. Now for most of you, you don’t know the original, which i can’t blame you as it was poorly advertised, so i will run down the basic features now.

  • You have a palm account that syncs wirelessly with a cloud based server and stores all kinds of information such as contacts, apps and other linked accounts.
  • The accounts you can link include Facebook, gmail, windows exchange and outlook, hotmail and AIM.
  • The OS is built around a card based system used for multi-tasking which, to date, is the best i’ve seen on a phone.
  • There is a gesture area under the screen used for all sorts of functions such as the back and forward functions of the internet and quickly changing between open cards.
  • App settings are found in a drop down menu at the top when the app is open.
  • One massive feature is called Synergy which allows linking between all of your accounts such as collecting the same contacts into one, collecting photos and info from you facebook contacts and much more.
  • One of the best features is the notification bar that pops up at the bottom. Unlike other devices where the notification gets in the way with what you’re doing, it gives you a basic run down of what it’s about at the bottom whilst pushing the bottom of the screen up. If touched whilst like that, the relevant app opens. If left alone, it dissipates into a little icon in the bottom right corner, which when touched will open up an expanded view of the message which you can either act up and open the app right away or swipe away for later.
  • Another important feature is copy and paste. Probably one of the most useful features of phones at the moment, and WebOS is very good at it.
  • Another huge feature is over the air firmware updates. When connected to a 3G signal or WiFi it will download the update and then alert you when it has finished. When on 3G it will periodically download as it can sometimes use a large amount of data.
  • Just by touching the bar at the top you get quick access to the full date, battery percentage, Aeroplane mode toggle and other toggles such as Wifi and Bluetooth. With VPN added for WebOS 2.0.
  • There are of course loads of other really awesome and important features, but i can’t go into them all or you won’t hear what is new.

One thing that has changed in the new OS is the ability to have more cards open at once, and also, you can collect similar cards together to take up one card space on the card view. This is pretty handy as it means i can get straight to my important e-mails whilst all my social networking stuff loads by pressing the middle “button” and pushing all that social stuff to the side making my e-mails the focus. On top of that, of you are only done with facebook, then you can just push that card off the screen at the top, and it’ll close. Simple and efficient.

Another impressive feature, and one of my favourites, is the just type feature. Now, it may not seem that impressive, but it is so useful. When on the home screen, slide out the keyboard, and just type. From there you get a multitude of options such as a selection of contacts, google suggest, a whole host of searches including wikipedia, twitter, facebook and more, and the best, quick actions. With quick actions, you can start typing something that literally has just popped into your head, and then tell that text to be saved as a memo, or be sent as a message, or even update your twitter and facebook. The cooler thing is, as more and more apps come out, more and more quick actions will be added. Along with that, you can add your own websites to search on provided they add the system, which a lot already have.

There are of course loads of other features on this phone, but i don’t have that much time to talk about them all, so i’ll leave it there for now, but i will be posting a video with a comparison against the original pre.  On an overall basis, i love WebOS the first time i had it with the Pre, but the hardware wasn’t really great. Again, the hardware isn’t fantastic, but the power of WebOS is astonishing this time round, and with a faster processor everything just runs that little bit better. I would love to be able to get the phone myself just for the OS as it is truly fantastic. For that this phone gets a 9.2/10.

Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Review

The other day, a kind company known as Push Start Media sent me Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit as i won a competition. Now, this was one of the games going on my christmas list, but now it doesn’t need to be on there. Anyway, so i’ve been playing it, and i’ve noticed some awesome things about it, and some not so awesome things, but here is my review.

Need For Speed is usually a game that is brilliant for the tuning up of cars and making them look gangsta. Along with this, they are usually very similar to arcade style racing games. This all changed when they released Shift. That game was very realistic and less gangsta than most of the other and also focused on actual racing more than street races. This was different, but fresh.  Hot pursuit however has kinda gone back to what the games were before, but with a fresh perspective on street racing. You get to play as the police that shutdown the races. And that is so much fun, but more about that later.

As it is developed by Criterion Games, you expect a few things. Great graphics, awesome maps and arcade style handling. In this you get all three of those things, and a lot of Burnouts best features appear in this game. It has great graphics and all the cars look nice and shiny, until you crash them, then they just look destroyed. It’s awesome. The map is huge, which is similar to Burnout: Paradise and it covers a lot of different environments. And the cars handle just like the burnout series. Drifting is easy to do, and the cars are just fast and epic really. Along with that, the nitrous system is pretty much the same too. The more dangerously you drive, the more of it you get. Essentially, this is just a new Burnout game, in a new skin, and it’s fantastic.

One thing that has been taken out from this game that is in other Need For Speed titles is the car tuning and upgrading. I’m not too sure why it’s been removed, but it is missed. Instead of buying a car and turning it into a beast, you get to drive pretty beasty cars in their natural form. As you progress through the game, you get a rank for both street racing and policing, and the higher your rank, the more cars you will have access to. On top of this, you get to take part in races that require different car types as you progress.

There are a few race types: Standard race, Hot Pursuit, Time Attack and Free Drive. Standard races sees you racing against cars of the same type along part of the map at stupid speeds. Time attack is a one man race to drive a length of road in a certain time. Free drive is, well, free drive. Hot pursuit is brilliant. It sees you either as a police car or race car going essentially head to head for superiority. You have access to several weapons in these races which include Spike Strips, EMPs, Turbo (Racer Only), Jammer (Racer Only),  Road Block (Police only) and Helicopter (Police Only). All of these harm your opponents progress in different ways and really shakes up the gameplay from other titles.  All of these race types, along with driving dangerously and completing milestones give you bounty. Bounty is used to level you up and unlock more cars. The more bounty you have, the more cars and speed you will have.

One awesome feature of this game is the Autolog. This acts like a social media center for the game and is the hub to everything. It gives you news, updates, general information and your friends scores. It uses live leaderboards to mark your progress in the game against your friends, but this also affects your bounty within the game. You post the fastest time out of your friends in a race, you get an extra 2000 bounty. Your friends are better than you at this game, you get no extra bounty. Competitive types, like me, will love this feature.

Overall, i love this game. It’s the perfect arcade racing game available at the moment. It combines racing and law fighting like no other game has before it. Even though it is lacking in a few places, you don’t feel it needs it when you are driving a Bugatti Veyron at over 200MPH. 8.1/10.

Noble effort from Bungie – Noble Map Pack 1 Review

Ok, so Halo: Reach was a massive game this year, and i had the chance to go to the premiere event in London before release. Since then, it has gone on to be the biggest selling Halo game of all, and has the largest number of players to go along with that. But does that mean the pressure is on Bungie to make awesome maps for multiplayer like with Halo 3?

With the release of the Noble Map Pack for Halo: Reach, we see some of Bungie’s latest work on the title with the creation of 3 new maps: Anchor 9, Tempest and Breakpoint. I will start with the latter, Breakpoint.

Breakpoint is a HUGE map, and i mean proper big. It’s should be used mainly for big team battle, as it can take forever to find anyone. It is very similar to the older map, Avalanche, which was awesome for big team games. On the map you get a variety of vehicles, and 2 bases that are linked together through the mountain in the middle. I found it to be quite a challenging map as people like to use the jet packs, sniper rifles and the top of the mountain to generally wipe everyone and everything out. On top of that, as soon as some one is in the Banshee, if you don’t take it down, you are destined to die over and over again. It’s a pretty irritating thing, but it happens. Overall, i was pretty disappointed with this map, it isn’t as fun as Avalanche and can get a bit tedious when people keep slaughtering you with sniper rifles and Banshees.

Map 2 is Tempest. This is a pretty average sized map, very similar to Valhalla. There are two base structures at either end with a fighting ground in the middle, with varying surface types and different height levels. There are a few cave passages and a river to one side. This map is brilliant for 6 v 6 team battles, and even some rumble pit game types. A lot of the fighting here is medium to long range, but you can get some close range encounters, so it’s worth carrying a shotgun or something. There are no vehicles on this map, which makes the battle a lot more even, and means you can spread out a lot more. I have found the best tactic is to hang wide with the DMR and pick off the weaker ones with head shots, and just back up people on your team with cover fire. This is a pretty fun map, but i don’t see myself picking it over some of the pre-existing maps.

The final map is Anchor 9, and this is a small map. Built in a space station, you can battle inside, or outside in space. That part is pretty epic, and sounds awesome. However, you are very very vulnerable when out in space as travel is slower and jumping can take a while. Inside is a place of death, just pure death. It’s pretty hard to find somewhere that is safe from enemies, especially if you need to recharge your shields. I found that this map is perfect for the smaller team games, and rumble pit games too. Head hunter is brilliant on this map, and can really test a players skill. Again, there are no vehicles on this map, but that’d be silly if there were. This is by far the best map in the pack, and is a favourite of all the maps in Reach.

This map pack overall is pretty average, and at 800MSP is a pretty good deal. It does add an extra 250 achievement points for you crazy achievement hunters and really shows what the developers can do with maps. I have enjoyed this map pack and am looking forward to the next one, whenever that maybe.

Gran Turismo 5 Review

So, the coveted Gran Turismo 5 is finally out in the world, after about 6 years of delays and teasers, we got the final product in our hands on Wednesday. The only thing is, was it worth the wait?

Well, I’ll start with the initial movie at the beginning. It looks superb, but I can’t quite figure out if it is rendered graphics, or real life video, but it’s spectacular none-the-less. One issue with it though, is it doesn’t actually show any cars driving around, or anything like that. It’s just a lot of industrial footage with some cool crazy pianist playing in the background. Still, it’s pretty cool.

Instead of jumping straight into career mode, I played arcade mode for a while. Now, this menu is pretty simple to use, and it’s is very easy to navigate. You get to choose from 4 games modes. Single Race, Time Trial, Drift Trial and Split Screen. Yes, that’s right guys, Split Screen. That’s a pretty rare feature today what with online gaming taking over. In single race, you can choose from your favourite cars, a selection of arcade cars, or cars from your garage. There isn’t that much of a choice in the arcade car selection, but it does hold host to some cool cars. You get to choose from the gran turismo original tracks, a selection of real world tracks, city tracks, snow and dirt tracks and to my surprise, your own tracks. The same goes for all the other modes in arcade. You get very basic tuning functions such as tyre type and ABS and other little things, and there are 3 difficulty levels. Pretty basic arcade mode to be honest.

Now, the actual racing is what you have bought this game for, and I shall review that. Did you play Gran Turismo 5 Prologue? Because if you did, then you will be very familiar with this game. I was very disappointed with this. The physics engine doesn’t seem to have had much of a revamp in the 5 or so years since Prologue was released. The handling feels very heavy, but with that it’s very easy to spin your car. I’m not too sure what it’s like in real life, but this is pretty annoying in a game. However, one thing they have kinda got right, or fun as it should be said, is their dirt engine. When you are racing on dirt or snow, the cars are pretty easy to slide along and it’s incredible fun. I mean, it’s not the best dirt engine around, but this is still very fun. Especially with the drift trials. They are a party game in themselves.

Something that was shown off was the weather engine and the change of light. These two features alone get a part in the review because of what they actually add to the game. When rain starts, it doesn’t just start full on like in other racing games (need for speed underground 2), it gently brings it in and then it can start thrashing should it wish to. This really affects the handling and causes your car to be more likely to slide. It is in fact very similar to the weather engine used in the F1 2010 game, which is fantastic. Now, the change of light is also epic. The way the sun sets, and the lights come on is epic, and not just that, but the lights reflect off dust clouds and road signs and it looks the balls. It is the most advanced light feature I have ever seen in a game like this.

Something else that was bragged about was the amount of detail put into the cars, eventually bringing it the title of most realistic looking racing game of this generation. I must admit, I am a little disappointed here as well. You get two classes of cars in the game. Standard and Premium. The premium cars hold up to the most realistic looking racing game as the in car detail is spectacular, and nothing has been missed out. Even when you look behind you see the back seats and the rear of the car. On these premium cars, there are a few extra features too, such as working windscreen wipers and a horn. That’s right, you can beep the horn throughout the race, annoying all the other racers. However, these features don’t appear on all the cars. The standard cars, which make up the most part of the selection only have the outside. You can’t even get behind the steering wheel. Compared to Forza 3, this is pants. Literally, pants, and coming from a game where it says it goes into extreme detail on the cars.

The career mode is very similar to that of forza 2. Some races are only accessible when you reach a certain level as a driver. This gives the game some form of progression, which is nice. However, the menu is scattered all over the place on the home page, and can be very confusing when trying to find your garage as some of the options aren’t labelled.  In career mode, you unlock special races which are races designed to test you. Now, these races are really cool. One of them is a camper van race on the top gear test track. That’s awesome fun, and another is a karting race. The issue with these races is that they are shown as being a huge part of the game, but they aren’t. They are only special races. Well, up until the professional races that is, i haven’t got any further than that.

The car customisation isn’t better than forza, and is actually still at a very basic level. You can tune up your cars by buying parts and such unlike the prologue, but other than that, it isn’t too good for the amount of time we’ve waited for the game. The theatre mode returns so you can save and watch your replays back, especially if you did something awesome. A feature i haven’t been able to test is the Playstaion Eye feature. Apparently you can look left and right just by turning your head or something. That’s cool, but i’m sure it’ll get really confusing should you turn to look at your cat, or to get a quick drink on a straight. Another feature i haven’t used is the track builder. I can only imagine what it will be like, but i’ll leave that for you to comment and tell me about.  On top of that, you can play the game in stereoscopic 3D if you have the capabilities. I tried that out at eurogamer and it was awesome, especially the view that overlooks the whole car. The car popped out the screen while the track went into the screen.

All in all, a 6 year wait for a game is pretty rare, especially when it is promised time and time again. Considering they pushed the release date again and again, the game doesn’t really hold up to it’s expectation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic game, but doesn’t really beat anything else out at the moment, especailly Forza 3. The handling is heavy, the cars are too easy to spin, the graphics are good, but too rich. I’m giving this game a 7.1/10.

Sonic the Hedgehod 4: Episode 1 | Review

Sonic the Hedgehog is a game series that’s been present in my life since i was a kid. I remember playing on my dads megadrive; often getting him to complete levels for me as i would constantly die, but all the same loving the game to bits! So hearing about Sonic 4 pretty much left me ecstatic!

Over the past few years we’ve seen a few platform Sonic games crop up, however none of them (with the possible exception of the speed stages in Sonic the Hedgehog on the PS3) have managed to present the same swift moving fast paced levels that keep you observing the screen as you speed through multiple stages! This is an positive to Sonic 4 as it brings back the fast paced environments that saw the Sonic series rise to popularity, but in a modernised 3D style!

Certain aspects enhanced the overall  game play for me as they kept it different to the original games, whilst maintaining similarity where needed.  I found that the way the whole game rotates with Sonic as he runs a loop to be an amusing addition as it kinda throws you off for a moment, but also keeps the game fast paced as you’re now being spun around the unexpected. I also thought that including Sonic’s homing attack was a great move by the developers as it threw in a decent ability that has cropped up in recent platform releases, and added more mixture to the game play as it provides more ways to speed through levels, and get the princess chaos emeralds!

The level styles themselves are similar to the ones from the first 3 Sonic releases, but in a much more modernised 3D environment! This gives stunning levels to speed through with catchy backing tracks to keep you playing along happily, so no complaints there! I was especially pleased to see the return of the casino city style levels (even if they were the bane of my childhood…)

In terms of boss stages, i feel the game has successfully shaken things up from the previous games as it adds little twists to the boss tactics that remove the repetitive easy kill style! Now if you get caught out, or don’t pay attention you could end up dead! If anything however this just adds to the game as it makes it less of a speed through with little effort and be complete thing.

Whilst playing the game i only really found one thing that bugged me, and that was how you still die as you get stuck between platforms!!!! Other than death by poor playing, i found that this game was extremely enjoyable to play, and was highly reflective of the games i used to love as a kid. Plus the fact it’s available on most consoles aswell as the iPhone and iPod Touch make it a must have game if you’ve ever enjoyed the original sonic games!