Injustice: Gods Among Us ‘Ultimate Edition’ (PS4, 2013)

With the release of Injustice 2 looming, I thought now would be as good a time as any to finally play the first game’s single-player story mode.

I’ve had a soft spot for Injustice ever since it first came out. I like NetherRealm‘s current output, with the engine they debuted with 2011’s Mortal Kombat reboot being easy for fighting game novices like me to get to grips with, and Injustice throwing some silly gimmicks into the mix to boot. Industry pros weren’t fans of the interactive environments, but I thought they were a nice addition, befitting the game’s superhero theme – and the core fighting system was still satisfying and deep.

Me and my pals have sunk countless hours into the game’s multiplayer, but I had never made time for the story mode until now.

The five-ish hour yarn is a fun, dimension hopping superhero romp that didn’t quite hit as hard as the studio’s Mortal Kombat stories, but was still leaps and bounds ahead of most of its genre contemporaries. It does have an evil Superman as the antagonist however, so at least that’s something fresh as far as recent blockbuster movie/TV offerings go.

The mode sees you switching to a new character every four or five fights, meaning you’ll have the basic tactics for half the roster down by the time you finish. The frequent swaps mean the story is rarely dull and no one outstays their welcome. There aren’t many twists and turns outside of the opening cinematic, but it’s a decently put together story considering the number of characters involved.

It’s worth noting that I played the ULTIMATE EDITION(!) which is a PS4 remaster of the PS3/X360 original. It is unfortunately far from perfect, as cutscenes are rife with slow down and video artefacting, and in general the game looks very blurry and rough around the edges. Thankfully, the in-game action runs beautifully, with responsive controls, detailed, destructible environments, and characters that come with a bevy of additional costumes.

Despite its many gimmicks, Injustice: Gods Among Us is still a rock solid fighting game with tonnes of single player game options and huge amounts of multiplayer value. Playing it as a primer for the sequel has me excited for what next week holds.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PS4, 2017)

The closing hours of Resident Evil 7 make for one of the most disheartening final acts in any game I’ve played recently. It meant that my lasting impression before I sat down to write this review was pretty negative. But, looking back on the experience as a whole, this was still a satisfying reboot of the Resident Evil series – one that showed it still has potential to tell a mostly compelling story. Moreover; the gameplay was arguably the best it’s ever been, delivering a tight survival horror experience that melded old and new genre philosophies.

Venturing into the realm of first person horror, which has massively come into vogue since Resident Evil 6, RE7 takes a number of cues from its genre peers. The gorgeously rendered, meticulously detailed household hallways feel akin to P.T. The emphasis on running and hiding in some sections is reminiscent of Outlast and Amnesia.

However, most importantly, this game’s biggest influence is its own history. Gameplay involves intensive inventory management, lots of scares as you duck and weave through tight corridors, picking your battles wisely due to tough ammo restrictions, and simple yet rewarding puzzles. It’s the classic Resident Evil formula, with the insane plot reigned back and all the modern bells, whistles and quality of life improvements you’d expect from a big release in 2017.

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Me and the lads played through Resident Evil 7 in full. Watch here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLftMG3gVCguWXY5bMdi5s3VtfHnESp_Te

The plot is set in the same universe as all previous RE games, but largely unrelated bar some late game teases and nods. Wandering around a creepy mansion (see? Classic Resident Evil!), protagonist Ethan must find his girlfriend, rescue her from the monstrous Baker family, and escape in one piece. It’s refreshingly small-scale and focused – especially early on. No grander conspiracy, no world-endagering evil – it’s a claustrophobic horror with elements of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw, The Blair Witch Project and other horror staples.

Where it goes off the rails is the aforementioned final act. Things get, well, a little too Resident Evil-y for me. While certain elements of RE’s past are welcomed back, some aren’t. The creepy, small-scale plot is sacrificed for goofy boss battles and set pieces that feel like the exact type of thing the first half of the game was successfully getting away from. The plot peaks far too soon, limping across the finish line with a needless final hour and boss battles that wouldn’t be out of place in a forgotten PS2 era spinoff in this long running series.

Setbacks aside, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is still a reassuring return to form for the series. The locations are beautifully realized in their disgusting details, the gameplay is tight and satisfying, and the plot at least has signs of getting away from the series’ bloated past, even if it lazily falls back on tired tropes on the home stretch. Resident Evil 7 is a must own for survival horror fans, and one of the most enjoyable games of 2017 so far.

Mafia 3 (PS4, 2016)

Here’s a video review I produced last year.

It was a format I was toying around with a lot in 2016, and hope to revisit in the future. I enjoy editing but it is a tiring process, especially on a budget — you might be able to tell this isn’t made with elite level tech or software.

Regardless, I like how it came out and hope to get back to video reviews soon.

A Normal Lost Phone (Mobile, 2017)

Buy this game here. I got this game for 0.10c on sale, its regular retail price is $2.99

There’s an interesting niche-within-a-niche developing in indie games, as a number of titles experiment with giving players fake operating systems to poke around in, in lieu of more typical adventure game settings.

‘Her Story’ is an acclaimed example, giving players a faux-Windows 95 desktop to dig around in, in an attempt to piece together a tale of mystery using disjointed interview clips.

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‘A Normal Lost Phone’ is, as you’d expect, a ‘phone simulator’ that lets you snoop around a facsimile of an Android device that belonged to a stranger.

As these things always do, it starts off innocently enough; the phone belongs to a frustrated teenager, who texts their pals and grumbles about the whiney drama that teenagers typically grumble about.

Diving deeper, usually by finding passwords to various locked apps, unveils a more complex story, with some genuinely interesting twists. The game builds drama by telling you one thing occurred, as protagonist Sam recalls it to his close friends, but slowly plants seeds of doubt regarding how much he trusts them, and how honest he’s really being.

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With a lovely twee soundtrack of indie tunes, the game’s tone is similar to that of Life is Strange or 13 Reasons Why, which have set the standard for teen drama in the last three years. As with those works though, expect some mild clunkiness with A Normal Lost Phone’s attempts at recreating teen patter.

With password deciphering being the only real puzzle element, the story here is thankfully interesting enough to justify the price of entry. The game is only about 60 minutes long depending on whether or not certain passwords stump you, or how much of the flavour text you want to take in. The runtime works though, offering players a simple yet satisfying hour of point-and-clicking, with some food for thought to boot.

Disc Jam (PS4, 2017)

I got this game for free via PlayStation Plus. Its regular retail price is €14.99.

Earlier this year, Disc Jam seemed to pop up overnight. By the time I heard of the public beta on PS4, the full release was just around the corner.

I don’t closely follow any of the communities dedicated to Windjammers, the early 90s faux-sports game for NeoGeo that has a cult following and inspired many homages, including Disc Jam, so I wasn’t sure just how long this tribute act had been bubbling under the surface.

From playing it, it isn’t really evident that this is the full release; it currently feels like an ‘early access’ experience players can buy into now, in the hopes the developers will follow through in the months to come.

Disc Jam is collection of well crafted, nuanced mechanics that have the potential to form a die-hard community of competitive players, but its cold and robotic presentation is a turnoff.

The game successfully modernizes the core Windjammers premise, a futuristic fusion of ultimate frisbee and tennis, with a new isometric perspective and most of the original game’s mechanics intact. What it fails to recreate, or rather doesn’t even try to recreate, is its bombastic, quintessentially 90s aesthetic. You don’t need to have owned a NeoGeo to appreciate the sights and sounds of Windjammers; its colour pallet and soundtrack would inspire nostalgia in anyone who enjoyed video games in the 16-bit era.

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The original Windjammers, with it’s over-the-top sense of style, is coming to PS4 in the near future.

Disc Jam lacks soul. It didn’t need to shamelessly ape Windjammers aesthetic, but it needed something. Something other than two vanilla character models throwing a disc back and forth on an empty tennis court with no audience, and generic stock music in the background. Upon release, the game’s main menu sported a ‘thank you’ message from the small development team promising more modes, skins and content-a-plenty in the coming months. I hope they deliver, because the rock solid, easy-to-learn/hard-to-master mechanics of the gameplay deserve better. The game has an Overwatch-esque loot system, where success in matches earns you a random skin or victory pose – but the time investment is so high, and the skins so drab and uninteresting, that it’s hard to care.

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With no single player options as of this writing, it’s hard to recommend Disc Jam, even at its modest price. It feels like a game that graduated from beta to ‘full release’ without actually changing anything — it passed the neccesary quality assurance tests and was suddenly on sale. Should a fresh coat of paint and bevvy of new modes roll out in the coming months, this could be one to revisit in late 2017.