Pinball FX 2: Star Wars Pinball Tables (Xbox 360) – Review

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I was never really a big fan of pinball games on consoles – I was more of a hands-on with the machines kid. Since starting up with Pinball FX 2, my views have most definitely changed. Zen Studios are definitely known for being able to bring to life popular franchises in the form of pinball tables. The newest addition to the ever growing table list are the Star Wars tables that were announced a little while back. This week’s update brings us three of the ten announced – The Empire Strikes Back table, Boba Fett table, and Clone Wars table.

First up was The Empire Strikes Back table. With this movie being probably the best of the whole series, waiting to see the table itself was hard. Personally, I was a little disappointed with the table. The character voices on this table were very non-believable and didn’t bear hardly any resemblance to those from the movie. The top half of the table seems to be very overcrowded, almost as if everything that was left out of the pretty empty bottom half and had been squeezed in at the top. Style wise, it isn’t so bad. The lightsaber that makes an appearance every so often to beam the ball to where it needs to go is a nice addition, as is the artwork used on the table. Sitting back and looking at the table and pointing out different sections is very satisfying. Overall though, this is probably the most simple of the three tables to play and get the hang of.

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Next up is the Boba Fett table. This is my personal favourite out of all three of the tables. It has plenty going on, no matter where on the table you are. The character voices on this table were very convincing. They include the voices of Jabba the Hutt, Darth Vader, Storm Troopers, and of course, Boba Fett. You are also presented with various mini but fun missions to complete throughout playing. These help to boost your score by a million points here and there. If like me, you are unfortunate as far as losing the ball more often than not, then you will be greeted with the sight of Boba Fett using his wrist launcher to save the ball – I love this! Boba and his wrist have saved my ball plenty of times! This is most definitely the best of the three tables.

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The third and final table included in the first of the Star Wars table packs is The Clone Wars. This table is also fun to play, though in my opinion, not as much as the Boba Fett table. The character voices on this table are ok, but not great. It also does get a bit repetitive having Yoda repeat the same sayings over and over again. The Clone Wars table doesn’t have as many sections like the Boba Fett table, but that in no way makes it any less fun to play. There are plenty of sections on the table that allow you to rack up some high scores, as well as a few different areas to send the ball flying to.

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This table pack is definitely my favourite addition to the list of Zen Studios table list. As I mentioned earlier, the Boba Fett table is by far my most favourite table of these three and is the one that I find myself going back to play time and time again. The Empire Strikes Back table is lacking a bit of everything and The Clone Wars table is somewhere between the previous two. Saying this, I can see myself playing this table pack again and again, even just to try and beat my previous high score. I think that this table will go down well with fans of the franchise as well as non fans – the tables are that great! Zen Studios have again proved that they can turn their hand to adding anything into the Pinball FX 2 world, and can keep their fans happy at the same time.

Now to wait for the next pack…

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Skulls of the Shogun – XBLA – Review

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Skulls of the Shogun by 17-Bit mixes a game that includes action and turn based strategy in a way that I have not only not seen before, but also a way that works pretty well. From previous experience, some turn based games can drag on quite a bit and quickly become boring. I can honestly say that I never felt any of these feeling while playing Skulls of the Shogun.

For both people that are new to turn based games, as well as seasoned professionals, I would recommend that you take a look at the “How to Play” guide before playing – it shows you the basics of the game really well.

Skulls of the Shogun was actually in development for a very long time, especially for an XBLA title, but was it worth the wait? In my opinion, definitely! Once you see the game for yourself, you will see how those long years have paid off. Not only is it very easy on the eyes with the stunning animations, it is also something that is very good and easy to play.

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Once you actually get into playing the game you will find that there are a few things you need to pay attention to. As the storyline progresses, more units are added easily and smoothly to the ranks. I did find that while playing, it is easier to use the D-pad to scroll through the units than it is to use the left thumb stick as the thumb stick can prove a bit fiddly.

The single-player campaign does an excellent job of showing you everything that you would need to know throughout each mission. Each new unit that is introduced allows you time to get used to them before the next is brought into play. Some people may find the teaching of things and the game advancement a little on the slow side, but for those new to this style of play, I think it is just the right pace. Unit wise, there is General Akamoto – you have to protect him throughout the game, once he dies it’s game over – three bog-standard units, and three magic wielding monks. Having a low number of units and characters isn’t as bad as it sounds. It saves on confusion while playing the game because there aren’t loads of different characters to have to scroll through and assign tasks to. Each move that you make with each unit does contribute to the overall gameplay because each move does have an impact on the outcome of the game, and only having five moves per turn definitely puts your thinking cap to work. It’s pretty easy to upgrade the units – just eat the leftover skulls of your enemy.

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Players can move their units around and place them where they see fit, as long as they keep them within the movement circles that are visible when you have each unit selected. You can move around inside the movement circle as much as you want to until you find the right spot to take your turn from. Once you have taken your turn, you can retreat and hide behind another unit, as long as they are inside the white circle. Each unit has their limits as far as moving goes, so it may be a good idea to have a mixture of each unit in different places. You can link units together to create a Spirit Wall, which enemies cannot barge their way through like they could if you just had a single unit standing in their way.

Multiplayer is probably where this game excels the most, even moreso if you have a few friends that you can get to play with you locally. Online play works surprisingly well, and there is also an asynchronous mode that allows you to play with Windows 8, Surface and WP players also – this is called Skulls Anywhere. I did not get a chance to try this, unfortunately, but I am hopeful that it is going to work as well as the main game.

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The slight issue with the left thumb stick is really the only negative that I could come up with from my time with the game. Saying this though, it is not negative enough to put me off playing the game, not by any means. Using the D-pad is something that helps counteract the issue with the thumb stick because it is that little bit more accurate.

Overall, I think that Skulls of the Shogun will be enjoyed by people of all ages, as well as people who have never played strategy games before to those who are hardcore players. The five move turn limit keeps things from taking ages to play, as well as not being overly taxing on the brain. It helps to keep the element of fun in the game, rather than making it too serious. This is most definitely one of the XBLA games that I will be recommending to people who may ask for something that is easy and fun to play.

Megamind: Ultimate Showdown Xbox 360 Review

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Here we have yet another game based on high charting movie. Would Megamind: Unltimate Showdown be as successful as the movie though?

We get started in the game where the movie left off. Megamind has been left as a hero, instead of the criminal that he was, and is now working towards bringing peace to the city. As you have probably guessed already, the peace doesn’t last long. His arch-nemesis, Blue-Tighten (, yep, I did spell it corrently), and the Doom Syndicate decide to show up. They steal the DNA tracking device, as well as causing city wide havoc. It is up to you, Megamind, to find the parts of your DNA tracking device, while trying to restore order to the city.

The game itself isn’t a bad one, but it isn’t a great one either. The controls are pretty basic – run around continually shooting everything that stands in your way. The only real dangers in the whole game are the ones that come with the edges of buildings and gaps that you have to jump over.

On the box it shows that this game is a 2 player game. Now while you can play with a friend in co-op mode, player 2 will only be able to run around shooting enemies and picking up blue orbs as he goes. When the loading screen pops up, it says that player 2 can reach some areas that player 1 can’t – I did not come across any of these areas during my whole playthrough, so unless they were cleverly hidden, there are no said places. I wouldn’t like to be player 2 either – the camera only tracks Megamind, so you could quite easily get lost or forget where you are when you go off-screen until the game respawns you back next to Megamind.

Another thing that clearly wasn’t though out very well is the fact that the robot character blends in with the background a little too well, so this is another way that you could quite easily lose track of where the robot that represents player 2, is. Nine times out of ten, the only way that we could find out where player 2 was, was by having the robot fire a few times to give away his location. The last thing that bugged me a bit was the fact that only player 1 was awarded achievements whilst playing the game. You would think that playing as a team would earn you the same achievements – but no, two separate playthroughs would be required to earn all achievements for both players.

The game itself is so simple, anybody could pick up a controller and play it without having to read instructions or view a tutorial. The hardest parts of the game are the boss fights – which is to be expected. Saying that though, even they are easy – the tricky part being playing through and getting through the actual boss fight without dying. The way the platforms are setup, getting your footing can be a little tricky sometimes, but definitely not difficult, by no means.

As you run aaround the levels, shooting everything in sight, you will see blue orbs – B.I.N.K.E.Y – ‘Blue Ion Nano-Kinetic Energ-Y. Collecting these enables you to upgrade your weapons as you go on, giving each weapon a greater range, or the ability to do more damage. However, if you do die during the game, you will be charged a small amount of B.I.N.K.E.Y to respawn.

As you go through the levels, you will see that there are collectable loot items – I am just not sure how to see how many items there should be, or to see what levels you have picked the items up on. Surely it wouldn’t have been too hard to put in an icon somewhere to show you if you had picked up the item(s) for that level or not.

You can definitely tell that this game was made for children. The controls – LS moves Megamind, A for jump (double A is double jump), B lets you use switches and X is what you use for attacking – are straightforward, the levels are even more straightforward.

Adding together all of the points above, Megamind: Ultimate Showdown is an ok game if you are playing single player – not so much in co-op. It does seem as if this game was thrown together in a hurry, with its often tricky platform movements. If you are looking for an easy game for the kids to play, or for something quick and easy to boost your GS by 1,000 points, then this would be the game for you. I wouldn’t recommend you go out of your way to buy it though.

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean Xbox 360 Review

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After playing other games from the LEGO video game franchise, I was slightly sceptical about LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean.  After playing the game, my scepticism quickly disappeared.  The latest installment of the LEGO series is more than likely the best I have played so far – top notch, full of giggles and enough to keep you entertained.

These games are aimed at the younger generation, but I doubt there are many adults that don’t enjoy a blitz on any of these fun filled games.

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean follows suit and slots in line behind the previous LEGO titles, but there are some obvious changes.  The battles aren’t as large and don’t last as long as other titles, such as The Clone Wars.  Things were more focused and improvements were made on the actual gameplay.

There are some people set int heir ways and who are adamant that the LEGO titles are redundant and keep spouting the same thing over and over, then playing this game probably won’t change your views.  Each to their own though, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

LEGO Pirates is definitely one of my favourite titles from Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO franchise – it’s as if they have learned from the previous titles and bundled everything into this title.  You have your small hub area that grants you access to each movie, and each movie comes with their own set of levels.  You go from level to level solving puzzles, chopping and changing between characters and using their different abilities to the max.  The battles between good and bad are still fun, but just as challenging as previous games and the stories are reasonably close to how they are in the movies.  I would go as far to say that the game makes the movies seem even better, as they seem to get you more involved.  I found myself rewatching the movies to spot parts that I didn’t remember or that I thought weren’t actually in the movies.

You will find all the characters present – at least all of the significant characters – all with their features and personality traits.  None of the characters come close to that of Jack Sparrow though, much like the movie.  His LEGO self comes complete with grunts, drunken swaggers, and even the good old trusty compass.  The compass does what it does in the film – it leads Jack to what he wants.  Whether it be a spade to dig, a bone for the dog, or a Ship in the Bottle for the collections, the compass comes up trumps every time.

The levels themselves are reasonably easy.  It doesn’t take too long to finish, but they aren’t over too quick so that you are left wondering “is that it?!”.  Having to reply the game and levels for each movie is where it becomes time consuming.  You can go back through in Free Play mode and try to hunt out all of the collectibles that you missed the first time.  As with other LEGO games, you can play in Free Play mode with any of the characters that you have unlocked so far in the game, and you can also use their abilities – which do come in handy.

The game itself is not overly hard.  Run around the game smashing people and items up, collect studs, which in turn you can use to unlock things ingame.

All in all, the game itself is splendid – probably the best LEGO title to date.  It is pleasant to look at, the graphics are eye catching andit seems that any problems found in previous titles are pretty much non existant.  No online co-op mode, but local co-op is just as good as previous titles.  If you play local co-op and stray from your partner, it converts to splitscreen, which is awesome.

Another great game from Traveller’s Tales.  No matter if you an adult or a child, there are hours of enjoyment to be had from this game.

Now to wait eagerly for the next installment…..

**Review written 03/09/11

Fable Heroes Xbox 360 Review

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When I first heard that another addition to the Fable series was coming, I was instantly excited.  You tend to think of an epic journey through an amazingly, stunning world, followed by a feeling of greatness when you have completed it.  With Fable Heroes, the downloadable spinoff from the other Fable games, you don’t get any of this.

Gamers of pretty much any age can pick up a controller and get involved in the multiplayer experience that Fable Heroes does offer.  It seems that this is aimed towards getting people to play either co-op or multiplayer, instead of enjoying a single player experience.

When you start playing Fable Heroes, at the start of each game, you can choose a character from the Fable world that you wish to play with (Reaver, Hammer, Garth and Hero).  You unlock more characters as you progress through the game, but we’ll come to that later.

You are always stuck in a foursome with the other characters – you can play by yourself, but the computer takes over control of the other three characters.  It doesn’t matter who you choose, the gameplay always goes in the same direction.  Each one of the characters has three different attack moves: basic, medium “flourish”, and much stronger area attack.  Using the area attack costs you one of your life hearts, so use it wisely.  Using the flourish attack does take a bit of time, so in turn could case you to encounter some health (coming to this shortly) loss during the build-up, it is safe to say that using the basic attack move is the easiest and quickest – meaning that it could quite quickly turn into a game of just bashing the same button on the controller.

Fable Heroes is definitely best played when you have people to play with – yourself and three other players.  The game allows players to drop in and out as they please, so you don’t get stuck playing by yourself, and having to restart levels when people decide to leave.

You are given a handful of health hearts at the beginning of the game – once these are gone, you linger as a ghost.  This isn’t as bad as it sounds though as you can still deal damage to the enemies, but are unable to pick up any coins that are dropped during battle,and are also unable to use the battle move that requires health.  If you are lucky enough to pick up a dropped health heart while floating around as a ghost, you will regenerate and be able to carry on as normal – you only have that one health heart though until you pick more up.

You will notice some familiar places as you travel on through the game – for example Bowerstone and Mistpeak, as well as seeing familiar faces that you must fight throughout the game, such as Balverines.  It is basically a case of fighting a bunch of bad guys, moving on a little, and then fighting more bad guys.  It tends to be like this from start to finish, so don’t expect anything like what you are used to as far as the previous Fable titles go.

You come across barrels and various objects that you can smash, bash and hammer your way through, that all release gold or health hearts.  Collecting as much gold as possible is pretty important as you need this to purchase upgrades when you come across the board game that pops up at the end of each level.  You earn dice rolls depending on how much gold you collect throughout the game, as well as getting random die drops from treasure chests during game play.  Each square on the game board gives you three options to buy from, all at a different amount of gold.  They vary from attack bonuses, to increasing your maximum multiplyer, weapon upgrades, and even character characteristics.  Each character has the same things to unlock, so I guess it is a case of fully upgrade one, move on to the next and do the same all over again.  Unfortunaltey, you also get some unlucky dice rolls – some of the game board squares don’t allow you to buy anything until you have unlocked a certain part of the game.  Another unlucky roll could have you land on a square that you have bought all of the upgrades from, basically wasting a roll since you can’t get anything else.

Instead of playing each level for fun, it turns into a battle for the coins – which can prove troublesome if you are playing with three other people who leave you to do all the battling while they run around collecting all of the loot.  The game itself can be finished very quickly, a few hours or so, which doesn’t really offer anything to draw you back into the game to play it again.  The only bonus would be the fact that you have an option to transfer gold to Fable: The Journey when it is released – you could always bribe your kids to keep playing for this reason (if you have any).

The game itself is pretty impressive to look at.  The levels are bright and colourful, and when combined with weather effects (snow, etc), and the characters themselves are nice to look at.  They have a ‘puppetty’ look to them (button eyes), while being impersonations of their actual character.  When you blend the character style with the level style, they actually fit quite well together – definitely one of the better things about Fable Heroes).

To sum Fable Heroes up, with limited but varied attacks, minimal replay value, and multiplayer support, this isn’t a game that I would recommend unless you have young children who would enjoy it, or a group of friends that you can play with.  Saying that though, it really is easy on the eye with the bright colours and great looking levels.

If it takes your fancy, give it a shot – if it doesn’t, then don’t.

**Review written 21/05/12

Kinect Sports Xbox 360 Review

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This was the first game that I purchased after getting my Kinect unit on launch day. Nearly a year later, it is still my favourite game to be released so far!

While other sports games have tried to get up to par with Kinect Sports, none have managed to come close yet.

This game has been compared to Wii Sports – in my opinion, it is better! Sure, the games are cartoony, they are easy to play and kids love them, but so do the adults. This game goes hand in hand with a night in with friends and brings a lot of fun (and there is no chance of a controller flying out of your hand and going through the tv screen!).

The game comes with 6 sports events for you to try your luck in, as well as mini games that you can access through the game menu. There is also free DLC from the Xbox Live Marketplace, which adds more mini game options to the list. You can try your hand at a bit of boxing without the black eyes, try your luck at track & field events without hitting the hurdles, a bit of football without getting studs in the shins, some volleyball for those cold winter days, bowling without the chance of dropping the ball on your toes, and some table tennis without dropping the bat. Definitely easy to assume there is a bit of everything to suit everyone’s tastes.

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Even on those days and nights where you have no one round to play with, you can always find a game online. This always proves to be a lot of fun on both sides.

We all know by now that the 2 player games on Kinect may be a bit troublesome if you don’t have much space to play and move around – your head could go out of shot or there may be a problem getting your feet in shot – this can easily be resolved with a bit of furniture shifting.

I took my Kinect unit and games to my sisters when I went to visit a few months ago – she went out the next day and bought herself one, along with Kinect Sports.

A great game that is a lot of fun – there isn’t much else to say really.

I hope that Kinect Sports 2 is half as much fun as the first!

**Review written on 22/08/11

Blur (Xbox 360) Review

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Blur is an awesome game that has been overlooked by many an Xbox fan.

The gameplay comes packed with power-ups, easy on the eye graphics, and a crazy multi player experience. Single player career mode challenges you and you racing skills to the max with a large variety of levels and challenges to complete. The better you do, the more fans you earn, the more cars you unlock – it’s as simple as that!

There is an option in the game to share your game play antics with your Facebook and Twitter friends by using the in-game sharing buttons. It is a great way to include everyone, whether they have the game or not.

Controlling the car is pretty easy, no matter what your racing skill is. Drifting takes a little getting used to, but there will be no stopping you once you get the hang of it. The graphics will have you trying to spot different things as you go round the track – in Brighton you will be looking for the pier, in Brooklyn, you will be admiring the bridge.

The game audio just adds to the game playing experience. Once you hear the sound of a shunt being fired towards you, you start to panic and find a way to stop yourself getting hit. You can hear the sea crashing when going through the beach tracks, listening to cars plummet off the cliffs after driving past the Hollywood sign – there is something for everyone.

The best way to explain it is.. If you are/were a fan of Mario Kart, but you feel as if you are too old to play it, this game is for you! It provides an action packed, fun filled. ever pleasing racing experience that has to be witnessed to understand how good it really is.

Very highly recommended to everyone!

**Review written 24/08/11