Mr. Shifty Review (PC)

Mr Shifty is much, much easier than its clear inspiration, Hotline Miami. Thanks to your ridiculously overpowered ability,  there’s only a couple of rooms in the whole game that gave me any problems. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with some serious power tripping in video games.

If you’ve seen X-Men 2, you can understand the main innovation in Mr. Shifty, you can teleport just like Nightcrawler. Your bamfing is even accompanied with a little puff of smoke, and you can do it five times in quick succession before it needs a few seconds to recharge. With this ability you can charge headfirst into full rooms of enemies, all pointing machine guns at you, and dispatch them all before they know what’s happened. Bamf. Punch. Bamf. Punch. and so on. Over the course of the game you also find a variety of melee and thrown weapons that can help you out like a broom, a metal pipe, a shield, and even a trident.

The whole game only took us just under three hours to beat, but that was in three sittings and we loved every second of it. Levels are short and most stages introduce some kind of new mechanic like new enemies or traps. The levels ramp up just after they’ve introduced a new idea so, for example, when you first find proximity mines you have all the time in the world to figure out what sets them off and the fact you can pick them up and throw them once they’re activated. Within a couple of levels you’re sprinting at full pelt through a minefield, grabbing one, teleporting through a wall into a room full of enemies, throwing it on to someone’s chest, teleporting back in to the room that just exploded and watching the enemies disintegrate. Moves like this are surprisingly common in the game.

The whole thing is played from the top down perspective, similar to Hotline Miami, but it doesn’t have the same visual style. The animations are quick and sometimes impressive, and the fact that bodies will stay on the floor even when you return to an area is a nice touch, but it’s not a spectacular game and you’ll be hard pushed to remember anything about what even the main character looks like once you’re done.

Everything from the music to the dialogue is incredibly generic for a video game, I think on purpose, and this gives it a certain blandness which is unfortunate when the main mechanic of the game is so engaging.

If you’ve got a spare afternoon and £10 free, Mr Shifty is definitely a worthwhile play. It might not be a classic but we really hope we see this mechanic return for more games.

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One Life Left Gaming Café opening soon in Norwich

Norwich (our favourite city) is getting a gaming café on St Benedict’s Street opening in May.

At One Life Left you will be able to pay a tiny fee for a table where you can play console games, both modern and retro, while drinking some coffee and eating a panini. There will also be alcohol served in the evenings, when it will be 18+ only.

Whenever you head down there will be a range of leaderboard challenges and tournaments ongoing that you can participate in to leave your mark. Get the best time in Forza, get the highest score in Pac-Man, and so on. These competitions might last across a month, with prizes for the winners. Participation will also build up your rank by way of coloured wristbands, operating a little like the martial arts system. When you sign up at the café you can get a white wristband, but you can work your way up through the colours, finally reaching black and maybe even gold, based on your performance.

We’ll be there for major eSports events and shows like E3 that will be put up on the screens, on top of all this there will be hosted tournaments and of course the chance to just play casually with your friends. The venue will also be available for private bookings and parties.

For more information check out their Facebook page and website. We’ll of course be there for the opening to bring you our full impressions!

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Xbox Scorpio Reveal Liveblog (with Digital Foundry)

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Yooka-Laylee Review (PC)

Originally we expected Yooka-Laylee to be the next best thing to Banjo Kazooie Threeie. Turns out it’s defiantly a game of it’s own, and stands up against Banjo-Tooie without relying on it for the sake of Nostalgia.

Taking heavy cues from the N64-era of games where genre conventions were basically set in stone, Yooka-Laylee will be immediately familiar to anyone who played games like Banjo, Super Mario 64, or Donkey Kong 64. You have a central hub world, and from this you can travel to other worlds via books assuming you have enough pages (think stars or jiggies). In each world (and the hub) you can complete a range of challenges to get more pages, or you can gather the hundreds of feathers. You can also upgrade your abilities as the game goes on, gaining access to new areas.

The core gameplay is very reminiscent of the old games, but the level of polish demonstrates how Playtonic have made a modern entry into an old genre, rather than just making an old game in the modern era (like so many 8bit indie games are doing lately). You can jump, glide, roll, and spin attack and it all feels just right, with just enough extra movement to give the illusion of weight and just the right height to the jump to makes distant jumps feel impossible even when they aren’t. The abilities you can upgrade get a little confusing, but all of them make previously difficult challenges much easier, allowing you to go back and get even more out of previously-completed levels.

Speaking of this, once of the new features in the game is that you can expand each world. When you first enter a new zone it will seem huge, and have a full compliment of challenges, pages and feathers. Go back outside and spend a few pages and you can expand the zone, often to double the size. It’s an impressive mechanic and sometimes a little dismaying when you think you’ve nearly completed an area only for it to grow immensely (and often vertically).

The music is another accomplishment for Playtonic. It’s all original, but has the same uplifting jauntiness that we came to love from the music by Rare (I still have the Diddy Kong Racing theme stuck in my head nearly two decades later). The graphics too are extremely polished with particularly good character models and draw distances. Of course on PC everything is as customisable and you’d expect – this definitely isn’t a shoddy console port.

The only real issue we have with the game is the camera. During some of the games more challenging sections (usually involving a boss or big fight of some kind) the camera has a tendency to flip around, ruining the way you move. This was an issue for Super Mario 64 and I’d like to think that we’ve progressed since then, but the exact same problems are rearing their ugly head. I’m not sure if this could be fixed with a patch, but for now it’s a mild annoyance that only crops up during a handful of sections.

Overall, Yooka-Laylee is everything I wanted from this game. It’s good enough to deserve its own franchise and in many ways replace Banjo Kazooie rather than simply exist as a homage to it. Looks like Playtonic really are Rare reincarnated, and that can only be a good thing.

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