PSN Game Review: Stacking

I feel a lot of people I speak to who own consoles have never really explored the online store and seen the range of quirky, interesting games that one simply cannot purchase in a boxed version. So a new series is born: PSN Game reviews. I start with what has become my favourite; Stacking.

Part puzzle, part point and click adventure in a sense, Stacking has the player literally “stacking” and “unstacking” Russian dolls…wait come back it’s really quite a charismatic, addictive little game! You play as chimney sweep Charlie, a member of a family in trouble who become enslaved by an evil baron and it’s left to Charlie to rescue them all, and many other dolls. This is done via stacking Charlie into incrementally increasing sized dolls, whom all possess a special ability, from bears that growl to disrupt audiences, to needing to stack into several dolls to cause more of a fire than a small spark (I must be careful not to spoil things.)

Overall the idea is simple, solve the puzzles utilising several dolls abilities to progress the story, and in this case, the story is a good one. In addition, the art style in this game is beautiful and possibly the most unique in any game I have seen, the dolls do not speak, the game is set in a silent film world, in what looks like the 1920s, telling the story through title cards and unvoiced dialogue. The tapping of typewriters and clattering of projectors really adds to the unique qualities of this game. The soundtrack of tinkling pianos and violins is beautifully emotive, and the sound effects for specific dolls are excellent, and at times hilarious.

Puzzles can be solved multiple ways to keep you coming back, and add variety to the mechanic, and each level has a list of hi-jinks, which are actions that don’t need to be completed to advance through the story, but that do result in new rewards at your hideout. There are sets of dolls to find, either particular families, or dolls with similar abilities, and when you successfully stack into them all, you are rewarded with a mini-drama.

In one word I would describe this game as whimsical, and I’m racking my brain for another game I could use that word on and cannot find one. The only let down for me was the camera which was a little ropey at times, and very often didn’t pan out enough for me to enjoy the scenes for what they were, beautifully crafted, sepia toned set pieces. I genuinely got lost in the world and happily whiled away several hours at a time solving puzzles, completing side quests and marveling at the quaintness of everything.

I’m aware this sounds a little odd to the role player and shooter fans amongst you, but since there’s a free trial of the game on the UK PSN store (I can’t speak for XBLA and other regions) you have nothing to lose in checking it out, trust me on one thing though, it’s really quite different from the usual puzzle games or casual gamer type creations on the Wii.

General Scoring

Gameplay 10/10 Addictive, simple effective controls and a hint system should you need help.
Graphics 8/10 Beautiful but not much to challenge the system so it’s a couple of points short of perfect.
Sound 10/10 Sound effects are great and background ambient noises really stand out in the game.
Music 8/10 Piano and string prettiness, I just wish there was more variety.
Story 9/10 For a downloadable game, the story is a good sizable chunk.

Wildcards

Originality 10/10 There really is nothing else like Stacking.
Trophies 10/10 Challenging but not infuriating, awards the completionist in us all.
Art Style 10/10 The game looks so unique, and dolls are beautifully rendered.
Value for money 9/10 Pricier than some downloads on the store, but definitely worth the asking sum.
 Difficulty 7/10 Completing the game to see the story play out is reasonably straight forward, finding all solutions is however, very challenging.

Total Score: 91%

Let me know what you think, and suggest any games like it, in the comments below.

Continue Reading

News: UC3 in Playstation Home

Finally a reason to spend some time in Home on PSN…

Tomorrow after a little maintenance, the Uncharted 3 Home space goes live and features a rather awesome mini game.

The Fortune Hunter game is set in Yemen and has you searching for treasures while battling waves of attacks from enemies, not only do you have to dodge bullets, but collapsing walls and falling crates are added into the mix to keep you on your toes.

Your efforts don’t go unrewarded though, as those who complete all the challenges the space has to offer over the coming weeks, will receive a voucher code for a Kickback Endurance Booster to use in the full game!

To help you out, a number of weapons have been hidden within the space including a machine gun, a pistol and some grenades.

So put on your best virtual togs and head to the UC3 space in home tomorrow evening, I may catch you there 🙂

Continue Reading

Exploits: Uncharted 3 Multiplayer Beta

 

Following on from the news that Playstation Plus subscribers gained access to the UC3 Multiplayer Beta this week (See here ) I have a few tips to share with you all, since testing the waters after work this week;

1) Use weapons at close range, even if this isn’t your normal playstyle…it would seem that enemies take a ton of bullets to kill off, regardless of what gun you are using.

2) The new Buddy system isn’t just about highfiving…you can respawn on your buddy when they are not in combat, incredibly useful if this is in fact, a real life buddy, who can take cover while you spawn, then you can both launch an attack on an enemy together!

3) Boosters and kickbacks are forms of power-ups for your character. Boosters are equipped before a match, bought money you’ve made during earlier sessions, while kickbacks are activated during a match with medals that you’ve earned via different types of kills and assists, spend some time in the menus creating a loadout that works best for your playstyle.

Continue Reading

Review: Dirt 3

Dirt 3
Correct me if you think I’m wrong, but it would seem that back in the days of Nintendo and Sega, (And Sony’s earlier days) it was the Racer that was championed above all genres, with the likes of Formula One, MarioKart, Ridge Racer, Sega Rally, Daytona…the list goes on.

Fast forward a decade, and into one in which Sony and Microsoft rule the roost, and it seems all the money and fame is in the FPS genre, personally, this makes me rather sad, but I try my best to stay objective for you guys.

So to tip the balance of my FPS review last month, this months first review is of Dirt 3. In a sentence…I have not had so much fun playing a racer since Toca Touring Car championship on the Playstation 1, and trust me, that isn’t through lack of trying as racers are a genre of choice for myself, I tend to buy quite a few. So this game is truly something special, as I struggle to fault it…let’s break it down a little.

(Before I do, its worth noting that I have not played a “Dirt” game before this one, rally games, yes, but not a Dirt game. I am about halfway through this, have unlocked all racing modes, and have briefly tested the multiplayer options.)

Powered by the Formula One engine, Dirt 3 is one of the best looking racers around today, the weather effects are especially noteworthy. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of modes and event choices in the game, there’s straight up rallying, rally cross which has more of a race feel, a mode which name escapes me where you race in fierce looking trucks, and for those who like a challenge, and an opportunity to show off some skills, there’s Gymkana. Gymkana involves obstacle courses in which you much perform various stunts to earn points. Track wise, you drive through Finland, Michigan, Norway, LA, Kenya, and Monaco, all rendered beautifully, and each very different.

Codemasters really paid attention to detail in this game, cars respond well to subtle control changes, different weather conditions really do prompt different driving styles, the crowd cheer you on as you turn a corner, and the menu system is sleek and unique.

My gripes are the learning curve…Casual is too easy, Intermediate, a massive jump into, “way too tricky to be fun.” Also worth mentioning is the car unlock mechanism, rather than buying cars with cash you earn, you unlock cars as you gain experience levels, OK in theory, but you gain the best XP bonuses from using newly unlocked cars, a little strange, but there is a good choice of vehicles at least.

A fantastic addition to the game, and one which I hope Codemasters and others build on, is the ability to upload clips of your races straight to YouTube, however, these clips can only be 30 seconds long, and aren’t in glorious HD. Even so, it’s a nice way to showcase your skills and share your gaming experience with friends.

Finally to the multiplayer; This I believe caters for everyone, there’s party modes such as capture the flag and tag games, as well as time trials and Gymkana events for the more serious racer among you. You can create you own games as well as join general games via the matchmaking feature.

Overall this is a solid game, that I find difficult to fault, the locations, track variations, and event types are plentiful, it looks and sounds excellent, and the multiplayer modes are great fun. If you are looking for a rally type racer, this is as close to perfection as it currently gets.

General Scoring

Gameplay 10/10 Utterly addictive, my only gripe is the large differences between difficulty settings.
Graphics 8/10 Genuinely feels like a trip around the world, and weather effects are impressive.
Sound 8/10 Customisable voice guide, crowd and engine noises are great.
Music 9/10 Excellent soundtrack, but why is there no music during the races?
Story 8/10 There is a loose narrative running through with the presence of a coach and sponsor.

Wildcards

Handling 9/10  Assists genuinely assist, but can be switched off, and cars handle differently in different conditions.
Trophies 8/10 A little too many stunt based trophies in my opinion, not enough credit for racing well.
Multiplayer 10/10 Top marks for variety, and frankly, it’s just plain fun.
Variety 10/10 Plenty of different locations, track variations, and event types.
Cars 8/10  It’s a rally game thus there’s not much but rally cars, but there is an impressive selection.

Total Score: 88%

What’s your favourite racer of this console generation so far? Let me know your choice and reasons for it in the comments below.

Continue Reading

News: Uncharted 3 Multiplayer Time!

PlayStation Plus subscribers in Europe,South Africa, The Middle East,Australia and New Zealand, will have access to Uncharted 3’s Fully Featured competitive multiplayer mode from Wednesday, October 5, 2011. And more maps and goodness will unlock as the weeks progress.

 This is a great way to get a headstart on leveling up your profile, as key aspects of your progress during the competitive multiplayer experience, will carry over into the final retail copy of the game!

 This will be available when the store update goes live, for us in the UK, that’s Wednesday at around 3pm, see you all online!

Continue Reading