Braid is a fairly new indie title, falling under the categories of Artsy, Puzzle-Platformer. It's available for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

The story (that I can tell you without giving too much away) centers around Tim the small hero of the story, and his journey through various levels in an attempt to rescue his princess.

As to what has happened to the Princess, who she is etc. I can't say. . . Not because I want to avoid spoiling the story, but because there is so much speculation as to who she is that there doesn't seem to be one absolute correct answer.

The reason for this is simple, the story makes next to no sense and is given to the player in small chunks of text picked up from books at the start of a new world.

Braid is a very artsy game which looks like the graphics have been painted onto the screen with water colour paints with very detailed lush backgrounds that have some mild animation and overall it looks more like you are playing a work of art rather than a game.
however, don't let that fool you, despite being an arty game it is one that will really test your thinking muscles, but more on that later.

The animation in the game while fairly simplistic is also done very well and looks very well polished overall, granted there are only 3 main enemy types and they all work in essentially the same way, but that doesn't matter, they look very well done and just little touches to the animation really add something special to the title.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the gameplay looks familiar, looks a little bit Mario-ish, because it is,

this plays very much like a tribute title, but with an added difference, you cannot die in Braid.
While you can get hit and this will cause a brief death animation (including a shocked look on Tim's face) with the press of a button, you can rewind time and right your mistakes.

And this is where Braid comes into its own. For those of you who played the Prince of Persia Sands of Time Trilogy, you'll be well versed in rewinding time to right a mistake. Unlike the PoP series though, Braid will allow you to rewind time right back to the start of the section you were playing. In most cases the ability to rewind time will be essential to clear certain areas of the game.

In order to complete the levels (and eventually the whole game) Tim must collect 12 puzzle pieces per level. There are a total of 60 puzzle pieces dotted about in the levels with each completed puzzle opening up a section of pathway leading to the final level.

Each world in Braid has a different skill to teach, while time can be rewound in all levels, in each world there is also an added skill or trick to get around, for example in one world, whenever you rewind time, Tims' Shadow will leave his body and complete the task that Tim did prior to the rewind, while this sounds confusing, it works very well and Shadow-Tim can be useful for hitting levers or switches so that Tim can get through the next section.

There is very little of this to speak about, the background music is a classical piece on a loop, which is alright for a while but will eventually get on your nerves. Tim himself makes no noise except for the occasional grunt when he "dies". Aside from that there are the usual boings and bouncing noises expected from a Mario style game. Despite this, the sounds that have been portrayed work very well and the minimalist approach works for the title rather than against it.

With the exception of 1, it is possible to get every trophy on a single run, the only ones available here are bronzes and silvers, there are no golds and as expected from a download title, there is no platinum.

So with all the trophies being available in one run, it shouldn't be that long a game right?
WRONG! While it's true the whole game can be run through in about 45 minutes (If you can complete the speed run challenge) The main story is only part of the game as a whole.

At the start of the game Tim sees a series of 8 stars in the sky making up a constellation, however, the stars are missing, they are in fact hidden in the levels, not only can looking for those stars take a while, but in one case at least getting to the star will swallow up at least an 2 hours of your time. (It should also be stated that there is at least one star that you only have one chance to get, miss it and start over)

Overall this provides a decent challenge and the player is rewarded with a change to the ending for collecting each of the stars.

Finally there is then the option of the speed runs, available once the game has been finished (stars not required) in order to complete the challenge you will need to enter each world, collect every puzzle piece and complete the puzzles themselves within 45 minutes (60 minutes for PC and 360 Owners) nothing else is unlocked from this aside from the usual trophy/achievement,
so really it's for bragging rights only.

That being said the amount of time that would need to be invested in order to speed run the game would more than make up for the price of the title and allow the player to feel that their money was well spent.

Final Thoughts
Overall Braid is a well put together title that suffers slightly from a lack of original thought when it comes to level design, the reason for this is that on later stages, you'll find that the level is the same as one played earlier but the skills required to complete the level have changed and require a re-think.
At the price being asked for it, it may seem a little pricey and unless you plan on getting everything done within the game then you may feel that you haven't gotten your moneys worth as on a first play-through (without worrying about collecting stars etc) it can be a very short game.

A very pretty though pricey, quirky platformer, well worth a look if you loved both the Mario and Prince of Persia franchises.
May not be for everyone so use caution when buying.

Demon's Souls

Demon's Souls; a title not currently out in the UK, is it worth the import cost?

The basic premise behind demon's souls is your fairly usual end of the world, in fact it has a similar premise to the recent Prince of Persia, a big bad God has been sealed away after nearly destroying the world and the ruler of Boletaria decided to throw caution to the wind, use the powers that shouldn't have been used and released the big bad once more, people die lots of screaming wailing and perhaps even some gnashing of teeth and then you come along, the last great hope for the people of Boletaria. That pretty much is the story of the game, yes it's a weak story but that appears to be the only bad thing about the game so far.

The game starts with the usual character customisation and allows you to select from various classes from thief to a member of the royal family. The choice of character has no effect on the story it merely sets your skill points at certain levels.

once all that is done, the game starts. . .

And now a warning Demon's Souls is not a game for everyone, it is an action RPG, it has been likened to an updated Blood Omen or an adult version of Zelda, that said the game is hard, not hard as in "Why can't I get past this bit?" but hard as in "What the hell just happened I'm dead. . . . Again!" make no mistake you will die a lot in this game, but it's not such a bad thing, in fact at the end of the tutorial section the game actually starts with your death.

Upon death you lose your physical form, your health stats are halved and your soul is taken to a place called the Nexus, this is where the original people sealed off the big bad and you discover that you are now trapped in it, no big deal you can still go out and fight in an effort to reclaim your physical form and progress through the game.


Graphically, this game isn't too shabby, there are some very nice visuals and moments where your jaw will drop, this is most likely to happen during boss battles, especially when you realise the scale of the characters you're fighting. Here, as a perfect example, is a shot of one of the bosses, the little guy that's been highlighted? Yeah that's you.

So as you can see, there are moments when you will feel totally over-whelmed by the odds against you.

Everything in the game seems to have this really nice polish to it, the graphics do a wonderful job of setting the scene and in some cases really help the gameplay along as well. While it's a very dark game, the use of colour has been put to very good effect, quite a few titles on the PS3 have this washed-out effect or haze to the graphics, Demon's Souls doesn't rely on that, it uses the colours to set the atmosphere and it does it very well.

The first thing that a lot of people have said about this game in a negative manner (aside from the lack of a story) is that there is no music, to a certain extent this is true, the only music in the game comes from the opening titles and boss battles, during the actual levels themselves music is practically non-existent. But in this case it is not a bad thing, just like the graphics, the sound (or lack of it) is used to set the scene and again it does a fantastic job, the musical score is a very rich classical style and would easily sound at home in a high production movie or even being played in a concert, it's well written, well paced and not over-powering, if you happen to buy the collectors edition you'll get the soundtrack CD with the game and that can be worth the extra price alone.
Other sounds within the game are the usual fare, footsteps, grunts, swords clanging and dead things groaning, all of which are used well and don't feel overdone.

Simple controls are used for everything and they feel very intuitive, walking with the left stick, camera with the right and so on.
Combat however is a little different, you have a choice of weapons and as such a choice of attacks, R1 does a basic attack, R2 a stronger attack, L1 blocks with your shield (if you have one) and L2 does a sweeping move with a shield that will allow you to push an enemy away. If you get your timing right that sweep will leave the enemy exposed and allow for a quick riposte with your sword either killing your opponent instantly or leaving them weakened to the point where a kill is easy.

You can also switch from one handed attacks to two handed with a simple button press, this allows for stronger attacks but limits your defence, so it does mean it's always a difficult choice opting to go for a two handed attack.
You can also change weapons on the fly, either for different shields or even switching from a sword to a bow or crossbow, this can all be done by a simple tap on the d-pad and again works very well for the player.
The problem arises however if you need to switch out more than that, so for example you have a bow, a crossbow, a sword and a wand, you have your sword equipped with the bow ready, but you come across an enemy that is immune to physical attacks, at that point you have to go into the equip screen and switch out for the wand, however the game does not pause while you do this so you need to be in a safe area before making the all important switch.

Firstly it should be pointed out that the currency used in game to improve your weapons, armour and buy supplies are the souls of those that you kill, there is no money, no bartering and no other option, you need the souls of the fallen to aid you in your quest this is important as without their souls, you cannot buy new weapons, repair or improve your old ones, buy new spells or even build up your skills.

Now comes the real meat of the game, how it actually plays, this is not a game you could pick up casually, Demon's Souls is a punishing game, it's not unfair, it's not cruel but it is very demanding, if you try to do something which you shouldn't be able to do (like walk into a group of 5 enemies when starting out) you will die, no ifs no buts, just a "you are dead" screen and you're back to the last checkpoint you hit with all of your souls dropped.

But the game does have ways in which it can help you out and aid you in avoiding the dreaded death screen, firstly when you die a pool of your blood is left on the floor, if you reach that you can reclaim all of the souls you just lost, it's a nice feature and allows you to get back into the game without getting too depressed about dying a lot.

Secondly if you happen to be signed in to your PSN account while playing you'll notice a few other changes to the game, there are other blood pools on the floor, touching one of these blood pools will give you a brief recording of the last ten seconds before that player died, but it only shows their body movements, not what killed them, therefore some of it is left to guesswork on your part.

Another interesting feature is the ability to leave notes on the floor for other players, these notes are compiled from a series of pre-created sentences (to avoid rude words) to allow players to leave hints, however the notes can also be misleading, meaning that you run into certain death thinking you were going to be safe.

Playing while online also allows for you as a player to summon other players to aid you, this is with the aid of a rare item and will allow teamwork on some of the harder areas within the game.

Finally there is the option to invade another player as a phantom, this again uses a rare item, but if you invade and succeed in defeating the other player you get your physical form back.

Overall it works very well and Demon's Souls is a very immersing title, unlike a lot of other action games, this one forces you to improve at every step and to think before you act, it's a refreshing change from the usual run and gun style of gameplay of late.

Demon's Souls has the now obligatory trophy support, but even this is done well, there aren't any of the silly "Well done you started a new game" trophies, the trophies on offer are given as a result of getting past some of the harder points in the game such as the bosses, this again adds to the overall sense of achievement for killing a boss, it could be that Demon's Souls is one of the first titles to get trophies right.

Negative Aspects
The game does have its flaws though, the first one, as already mentioned being the very poor story, which really lets the title down, such a well crafted piece of work needed a stronger story to it.
Combat has its own issues, notably the riposte move mentioned above, getting the timing right can be an absolute nightmare, however this makes it all the more satisfying when you get it right.
One of the drawbacks of a lot of games is that they hold your hand too much, without giving the player any choice as to where to go next, this game suffers from the opposite, you are thrown in at the deep end without any guidance as to where you should be going, this can lead to the player feeling like they are bashing their head against a brick wall.

As already said, Demon's Souls is not a game for everybody, it is without a doubt one of the hardest games on the PS3 (that I've played so far) and will challenge even the most die-hard RPG fans, it's challenging, punishing and in some cases downright evil, but it is definitely a game worth playing if you like a decent RPG with some challenge.
It does have a very steep learning curve that could be likened to a cliff face, but this also adds to the overall feeling of achievement when anything does go right during play.
There are debates at the moment as to which is the better title Demon's Souls or Dragon Age: Origins, I'll let you know when I get the chance.

A very tough, beautiful RPG with a steep learning curve and some very well implemented gameplay innovations,
it could be well worth the import cost for the EU, slightly let down by the lack of story and objectives.

Numblast (PSN Title)

Numblast. . .

What is it?

Numblast is another of those Japanese Puzzle games that has recently hit the PSN and the premise is simple, rotate 4 cubes at a time until such time as you get a 2x2+ square made of the same numbers, thikn Lumines but starting with a full board and you'll get the rough idea, but more on that later.

Numblast has the expected tacky storyline that we've come to know and love from Japanese games, in this instance Choco (The guy with the wings) is researching the energy put out from Numblast cubes when they are aligned correctly when something goes horribly wrong

Akasaka (Choco's teacher) comes in just at the
moment and despite yelling at Choco to stop what he's doing, Akasaka gets hit with the full force of the Numblast energy and the magical cubes transform him into . . . something else.

A Monkey! Not just any monkey however, in a truly Japanese bat-shit crazy storyline Akasaka now has a multicoloured tail and an annoying tendency to vomit eggs from his mouth when he absorbs more energy from the Numblast cubes.

Choco must now work hard with the cubes to try and get his teacher back to his original form, and cue the title screen.

There are 3 modes to this title, Endless, Puzzle and Time Trial all do pretty much exactly what they say on the tin.

Endless mode allows the player to keep going for as long as they can, not that you can ever run out of moves, so as you progress some of the coloured blocks change colour, going from the bright shiny brick that it was into a black heavy looking stone but keeping it's original number value, get 4 of those stones together in a square and they are too heavy to be turned. You can still save the game though by matching the numbers on the black squares as per usual, if the whole screen fills with black squares, the game is over.

Puzzle mode is what you would expect of this sort of title, there are 50 puzzles to work your way through, challenging you to complete them in the smallest amount of turns as possible, the learning curve on the puzzle mode isn't too steep but by level 40 be prepared to start tearing your hair out.

Time Trial is a 3 minute run at the game encouraging you to get the highest score you can within the given limit, this is essentially done in the form of combos, say you get a 2x2 square of green blocks, they turn yellow, if there are 2 yellow nearby that would make a 2x3 shape, they will also turn and so on. It's not so easy to put into words so take a look at the following image, please note the following image was home-made and does not represent the actual gameplay.
Annoyingly, because of the way this blog is made, you need to click the picture to see the animation.

As you can see the premise of the game is fairly simple and it's this simplicity that makes it terribly addictive, the story is quirky, the graphics have a nice cartoony feel to it and the music is both fast paced but non-intrusive, this title is well worth the £3.99 price tag and you could do a lot worse than pick up Numblast.

The game has Trophy Support for those trophy lovers out there, some fairly easy to get (reach level 10, reach level 30) others are a nightmare (get a Numblast in time trial mode, get a gold award on every puzzle level)

So. . . what's wrong with it?

Not a great deal actually, the game itself is pretty well polished and sturdy, the first major downside is that the tutorial covers some of the game but not all, for example it doesn't actually explain what a "Numblast" is, for those of you wondering, a Numblast is when you manage to clear the whole screen of blocks, it is possible but bloody hard to do.

The main letdown of this game is the multiplayer, in that there isn't one, no two player mode online or offline, which is a shame as it could have been worked in so well, a high combo for player one means more black blocks for player two and so on.

The lack of multiplayer support will almost certainly cause this game to vanish into obscurity which is also a real shame as it's one of those titles that will drink away hours of your life without you even realizing it.

It should also be noted that the game is frame for frame the same on the PSP, the only real difference between the 2 is that one has trophy support and the other doesn't, sadly it still means if you want the game on both machines, it will cost you just under £8.

A surprisingly good Japanese Puzzle game, well worth the small cost but ultimatly let down by no multiplayer.
Still worth a good play for you bachelors out there.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)

So Batman: Arkham Asylum has finally hit the shelves, with the launch of the demo a couple of weeks before, fans were given a good idea of what to expect from the title, but how does the full game compare?

So where to start?

For those of you who have been living in a cave since the early 60's Batman is about a vigilante crime fighter who (for his own reasons) dresses like a giant Bat.

Batman has sworn to protect Gotham City and its inhabitants from the many villains and ne'er do wells that plague the dark streets and crooked alleyways of the night.

While there have been many memorable bad guys in the Batman series, none are so easily remembered as The Joker, those who have been keeping tabs on the movies and such may now start thinking of a balding croaky voiced actor most known for telling people that they "couldn't handle the truth" or more recently a fairly young guy most known for his adventures up a mountain where things were a bit different, remember folks what happens on the mountain, stays on the mountain.

For those of you still clueless as
to the identity of the joker,
it's this guy right here. . .

Oh. . . ermmm. . .
Wait. . . sorry wrong game,

my mistake it's actually
this guy, (that's more like it)

Batman and The Joker have had what can only be considered as a long running feud and in Arkham Asylum, The Joker has decided to end his war with Batman once and for all.

Moving on, for those of you who haven't played the demo or have been living in the aforementioned cave, the game starts with Batman driving The Joker direct to Arkham Asylum, there is no passing go, there is no $200, but then this is Batman we're talking about, a creature not known for excessive mercy.

Upon arriving at the loony bin, Batman gets the feeling that something is a little off, it's been too easy, The Joker must have a trick up his well-tailored purple sleeve.

And as luck would have it, the old B-man is right, as soon as The Joker steps into the facility, he starts in motion his current devious plot.

With a quick headbutt to the guard and a kick to the chest for the doctor, The Joker goes free!

But he doesn't run for the exit. . . he runs instead into the Asylum, luring Batman into a trap.

Ok, so that's the basic premise of the game without giving too much away. Suffice to say that the plot and script of the game have been written very well and this is only the start. . .

But how does the game play?

For those of you expecting to run in and start button mashing, you're going to be disappointed, why? Because this game actually has depth as well as a comic license, it's not to say that the game has no combat aspects, they are there in spades as well as the guys to fight, but it's not about charging in and saving the day; you are required to use your brains a little, certain enemies will cut you down within seconds unless you plan your attacks out a bit before hammering the square button.

Fighting in the game is a well planned out affair, you have your basic attacks (hammering square) but you also have to be on the lookout for counter-attack opportunities, when a thug gets close enough to attacking you have the option to hit the triangle button and hit them with a nice counter, it might not do a lot of damage but it allows you to add to your combo meter and avoids you taking a hit.

You might not normally care about a large amount of combos in other games, but in Batman: AA it's essential, each successful hit to the villains is worth it for the added exp (that's right I said it, experience points) that exp can be used to level up the skills and attacks of the Dark Knight.

For those of you that have played the demo of this game, did you enjoy the inverted takedowns? The extensive combo attacks? well if so, you're going to have to work for them in the full game, you start with very little in the way of skills, it's your basic punch/kick to start off with, but the upgrades are there, from the aforementioned inverted takedowns to things such as explosive Batarangs, remote control Batarangs, upgraded armour and more combo attacks.

When you are not beating seven shades of brown stuff out of the criminally insane, there are puzzles to solve and hidden pathways to discover, this is all accomplished with help from the new detective vision.

This nifty little trick allows the Bat to see around or through walls and even people, showing all and sundry as a bright blue skeleton, those enemies that are armed however show up in red instead, thereby making it easier to spot who needs to be taken out first.

The detective vision isn't only useful for that however, air conditioning grates glow a bright orange through those eyes, allowing the player to find hidden pathways or the various collectibles that are dotted around the levels, (these range from Riddler trophies to info points about the asylum).

Something missing from the arsenal of movements though is the ability to jump, not to worry though, running at a ledge will cause the caped crusader to jump automatically, he can even pull his cape out to allow for a small amount of gliding, believe me when I say that the inclusion of a jump button would have made little to no difference to the game, high up areas are still reachable thanks to the grappling hook, allowing you to clamber up on top of gargoyles, or even just to reach high ledges.

So that's how the game plays, but how does it look?

In a word, gorgeous.

Graphically, this game is stunning, everything has been given that polish to the point where you can't tell where the cutscenes end and the game begins, as an added touch the camera can be controlled a small amount while going through said cutscenes.

The character animation is flawless right down to the off-coloured teeth in The Jokers wide mouth, some characters have even received a makeover from their comic/cartoon persona, most notably in this department is The Joker's right-hand gal Harley Quinn

Harley has had a severe makeover, gone is the red and black spandex with additional jester hat, instead we have purple and black leather with the added items from a nurses uniform to turn her into the Asylum's nurse from hell.

Other characters to have received a makeover include Poison Ivy and Killer Croc, the latter looking something more like Godzilla's baby brother.

So we know it looks good, we know the gameplay is there, but how does it sound?

Pretty impressive actually, the background music is as you would expect from a Batman production, dark and moody when it needs to be, loud and energetic when fighting.

The main interest area of the audio in this game however is in the script; the original cartoon cast have been called in to lend their vocal talents to the characters once more, for fans of the original cartoons this couldn't be better, the script is well written and all voiceovers are given the polish you have come to expect from the Batman series. The Joker has been given some excellent one-liners during the few opening scenes and these may be missed on your initial play-through but the attention to detail and the addition of those lines just shows how much thought has been put into the whole game.

Overall this is a fantastic title, well-written with good production values. Every part of this title has been well implemented
and you could do a lot worse than drop some cash down on this game. With the exclusive PSN content allowing you to play as the Joker as well for challenges this is a must-have for any fan of the series.

Worms (PSN Title)

Finally the cult classic that is worms comes to the PSN, what can be said about it?

For those of you who don't know (is there anyone out there who's never heard of this game?), Worms is a 2D turn based warfare game, players get a short amount of time to move around the landscape and blow seven shades of pink stuff out of the other players, this can be with weapons ranging from the usual bazooka or shotgun, right up to the more bizzare holy hand grenade or exploding sheep.

Well now that you're up to speed, how does this version fare? It utilizes the cartoony look that started with Worms 2 on the PC but has been tarted up a bit to match the new graphical style from the Worms open warfare series, in fact if you have the first open warfare title for the PSP, then you won't see much of a difference here.

For the solo players out there, there isn't a great deal to do, create your team, choose one of many humerous sound banks that your worms will gibber away with, pick a gravestone for when one of them finally bites the big one and while away your time fighting against the CPU in either multiplayer matches or the challenge mode. Challenge mode consists of 20 levels, your team against a CPU team or teams of increasing difficulty.

For those of you new to the series, there is an "intense" training mode, this consists of 3 levels, one on how to walk, one on how to jump and finally one covering the use of the more basic weapons.

The controls are very simple and at no point do they get confusing, it's very easy to move your chosen worm around the landscape and very satisfying when you get that perfect shot.

For the online fanatic, there is an online multiplayer mode, up to 4 people can play against each other on a randomly generated landscape kitted out with mines, obstacles and explosive barrels, the online mode can get very intense especially because other human players will play in a totally different way to the sterile and imaginationless play style of the CPU teams.

For you trophy lovers out there, Worms has some simple to earn trophies and some that will have you tearing your hair out trying to get, the online play trophies especially are nasty.

The sounds in the game are almost exactly as they were in the previous games lifted straight from the older versions of worms on the PC but with a lot of new speech banks added, this gives the feeling of an old classic but with a fresh new coat of paint.

The downside of worms on the PS3 is simple though, PC owners have seen it, run it and played it better at almost every turn; level creation is non-existant on the PS3, the amount of weapons is woefully cut down from the huge list available on PC versions, the aiming feels a little off centre and players cannot customise their teams past names, pre-set graves, and the afforementioned speech banks.

These are the only weapons available, it's a bit of a drop from the 50 or so that PC players are used to.

This shouldn't push you away however as it plays in a very fluid manner and the missing weapons are not really much to cry over as you're still left with a selection of the best available, all in all Worms PS3 is a nice edition to the worms franchise but if you are a fan of the original PC versions (especially Armageddon) then you may find that the £7.99 price tag is a little too high for what feels like a cut down title.

Worms is and always will be a multiplayer game, that being said though I must admit I would have preferred a few more things for the solo players to do, the 20 challenges available will not keep anyone busy for very long, granted the fun of worms is in playing with friends, the occasional smack talk and the jaw of your victims crashing to the floor as you pull off an amazing shot with deadly accuracy, however since most of this game is lifted from older versions it would have been a nice edition to include some of the various missions, training and challenges from those previous games in the series.

The problem comes with how to score this title, firstly it's a Worms game and as they go this one feels like the kid brother of the more accomplished titles, however it is a return to the tried and true 2D format which should be rewarded, that being said though, this still feels like Worms-Lite as opposed to a fully developed title.

A great game for those new to the series, for the older player though,
this may be considered a waste of money.

Flower (PSN title)

OK yes I bought Flower and even worse I bought it as one of those excuse titles, you all know the type of title i mean, "I got it for my girlfriend" or "I got it for my kids" or even "I got it to show off what an HD game can really look like". . . Waitaminute that's exactly it, that is what this game does, this game shows off exactly how good HD graphics can look.

Visually this is a stunning title, with top notch visuals throughout, the grass looks like grass, the petals look like petals and so on, you can honestly believe that the landscapes you're flying over could be real world locations. As a game however, there isn't a great deal of gameplay to it.

Like Flow from the same developer, Linger in Shadows and even Tori Emaki before it, Flower is a relaxing "game". You move the lead petal by simple manipulation of the sixaxis controller and you can control a burst of wind behind the whole bunch by holding down any of the four buttons and that's about it, there are no enemies to kill, no high speed chases, just the landscape shooting past as you fly overhead.

The best way to describe the actual gameplay on this title is likening it to a 3D version of snake, you start off with one dot, eat another dot to become 2 dots etc. except for the fact that the dots in question are actually flowers blooming on the ground that's exactly how this works, unlike snake though, you can choose to move away from the ground and explore the whole gameplay area from above, giving you a chance to take in the lush visuals.

There is music to Flower, but you hardly notice it, it's very quiet but the sounds get punctuated every time you collect a new flower, giving you the ability to play out some piano-based tunes, needless to say that all you can control is the tempo based on the speed of your collecting, but it's still a nice touch and adds a small amount of fun to the title.

If you have played and enjoyed flow, then Flower is the next step for you as it evolves on everything that was done in thatgamecompany's first title, the controls appear to be more responsive with Flower allowing you to rotate the camera very quickly behind the lead petal and thereby control the direction of travel, you can see that a lot of work has gone into the control system and thatgamecompany have really pulled out all the stops in making the sixaxis responsive to the slightest movement.

Flower has some easy to earn trophies for the trophy lovers out there too, some are as simple as play a level and wait ten minutes before playing another one or don't play the game for a week (I'm not sure that's a good message to send to the people who just purchased your game but hey it's their design), but then it has some harder trophies too, such as collect all 3 of the rare flowers in each level, these hidden flowers can be tricky to find and will really add playtime on to those of you going for all of the trophies.

Bottom line is, if you're fed up with what you've been playing lately and fancy a relaxing title then you could do a lot worse than Flower. . . even if it is your only excuse title.

This is a high score for this type of title and it's all been earned on the visuals and the smoothness of the controls.

Eat Lead (Again?)

That's right ladies and gentlemen, it's time for another Gincairn Review, this time on the new D3 title
"Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard"

Firstly a bit of back story, to start with how can this be called "the Return of Matt Hazard" when we as gamers have never heard of him before? Well it's all a part of the story behind the game itself, you see Matt is a semi-retired video game hero from the 80's, his career kind of bottomed out after the abysmal HazMatt Kart racing


and the water pistol shooter Soak'em and the video game company he works for has hit rock bottom, that is until a new developer joins the ranks and decides that the new title is going to star the one and Only Matt Hazard!

When Matt enters the first level things seem to be going to plan, well rehearsed script, good dialogue and enemies to shoot, then funny things start happening, enemies from old games start turning up and the other characters don't seem to be sticking to the script. Someone is hacking the game and trying to kill Matt Hazard once and for all.

And that's the basic plot. . .

Eat Lead is a parody game, it never takes itself seriously and pokes fun at a lot of other games while referencing bits and pieces from days gone by, it breaks the fourth wall in almost every level and it has some of the silliest trophies available for any game, a bronze being given for starting a new game, pausing for the first time and finishing the tutorial but there are some harder ones to nab too, killing two enemies with one bullet for example.

Eat Lead is a third person shooter and as with Socom, the player can view from over either shoulder and aiming is made easier depending on your viewpoint.

The weapons available are varied and pretty good fun, going from a Magnum to dual wielding six shooters in a wild west themed level or switching to a grenade launcher picked up from the Russian missile factory each has their own benefits and since guns can be looted from fallen foes, there is never a shortage of ammo.

The guns themselves aren't the main focus of the game however, it's the cover system where Eat Lead excels, find a handy spot of cover to hide behind and you have three options available, blind fire, pop up and aim or even run to the next point of cover (this is done automatically by the player selecting the appropriate space and pressing the correct button). The cover system works very well and really sets the game apart from other titles of its type. You can't hide behind crates and boxes forever though, enough shots will cause the boxes to de-res leaving a glowing
blue hole in the ground where your life saving crate had once been.

Graphically the game is great and certain points of the story will harken back to the old Disney film Tron, with a small twist of the matrix movies thrown in for good measure (for example enemies "bleed" code instead of claret).

There are some nice nods to older games, stealth aspects from MGS, explosive fire extinguisher play from Dead to Rights and silly in-game humour likening back to the old lucasarts point and click games.

The bosses are varied and also come right out from the older games that the title pokes fun at, Altos Stratos for example is a final fantasy-esque character who attacks, heals and uses items all from a blue menu that pops up in front of him.

The sound in-game has it's own good points too, the music is involving and sometimes cheesy with a final fantasy like tune being played when you have cleared a room of the enemies swarming in, voice acting is great from the gravelly Matt Hazard to the Arnie inspired Sting Sniperscope, with Matt plugging his own catchphrase ("It's Hazard time") at every available opportunity.

The game does have its flaws though, the first time I played it the shoot from cover feature was glitched, instead of the gun aiming where I wanted it to, the aiming reticule would twist and aim at the sky, the only way around it was to restart, thankfully this was right near the start of the game and didn't crop up again.

Enemy AI is not perfect and will lead to some very boring games of hide and seek while you try to find that last hidden enemy. Lastly, the game has a tendency to get very samey after the first few levels but the humour and commentary from Matt can make up for that and even alleviate the boredom.

As already mentioned for the trophy lovers out there, there are some very simplistic trophies to grab but also a few real challenging ones too, this does ensure that the avid trophy collector will keep coming back for more in an attempt to collect the full set.

The best way I could describe this game would be it's a fun but not too serious action shooter that I would recommend at least for people to try once, it won't be everyones cup of tea but can be worth a giggle if you're looking for a simple action fest.

Overall I'd give this a very solid 7 with just the occasional glitches and slight repetition stopping it from being an 8, a decent title that just screams for a sequel.

Trash Panic (PSN Title)

So i decided after watching all of the E3 videos and so on to get Trash Panic, it looked like a great addition to the PSN and something that you could really get your teeth into.

The premise is simple, you are charged with filling a giant dustbin, trash falls from above and it's your job to stack, smash, burn and rot all the trash you can, without causing too much (if any) to fall out onto the office floor/street/generic setting.

While the premise is simple, playing the game itself isn't.

The control system is simple enough, left to go left right to go right etc. Pressing up causes the current trash to drop hard and fast, if it's big enough, it will smash some of the trash already in the bin, if not it will just sit on top, worse still if it's a rubber item it may bounce out of the bin landing on the floor, three items drop and your game is over.

If the bin gets too full you have to
option to burn it with flammable trash,

rot it with biological trash

and in some cases blow it up with
dynamite or gas cannisters.

Keep filling the bin until you have met the required amount of waste disposal as per the weight counter in the corner of the screen, any junk that comes out of the bin if damaged doesn't count against you as such but can have a negative effect on those going for a high score.

There are a couple of other gameplay mechanics to consider as well, firstly there is the mottanai, these are items that are not meant to be destroyed dropped or damaged in any way, instead get them safely to the bottom of the bin and they are taken out by the on screen characters (The Gomi), as a reward you are given a piece of helpful trash; this could be anything from a heavy piece to smash other trash down, or an explosive of flaming trash to help clear more junk out of the way. Destroying the mottanai comes with a penalty, more trash gets thrown at you and scattered around the bin making it harder to clean out, it also has a negative effect on your score at the end of the round.

The second mechanic is the "boss" trash, this is a large item that takes many hits to destroy, the problem is you have 10 seconds to do it in or else more trash gets dropped on your bin. like this


Overall as already stated it's a very simple idea, following the tetris format but with a slight twist, so. . . what's wrong with it?

Honestly? There is a severe lack of information on how to play the game, while there is an instruction area, those instructions are 18 pages long on screen and don't make a great deal of sense, the controls feel sluggish and in some cases while slamming down one piece of trash a second one will pop up and cause the 2 to drop at the same time, while this isn't a problem at the start of a level, towards the end it can mean the difference between level complete and game over.

Secondly, the game itself is very short, there are only 5 areas which increase in both size and junk (from computers in level 1 to skyscrapers and spaceships in level 5), while there are 3 levels of difficulty and a few challenges thrown in, these feel tacked on and don't really give you the impression that this game was made to last.

The biggest let down though is the multiplayer mode, both players have a bin on the screen and must fill and clear as well as they can, one dropped piece of trash means a loss to that player, as your bin fills up it also raises itself off of the floor, when it reaches a certain height, it tips and drops a large portion of its contents into the opposing players bin, again the controls feel off and with a lack of any decent tutorial the multiplayer mode also feels tacked on; almost as if it were added as an afterthought, there could have been so much more to the 2 player option, but the fact that 1 item dropped means game over any multiplayer games feel short and frankly, confusing.

All in all trash panic is a great idea, it has good HD graphics interactive backgrounds that react to explosions in the bin and so on and a half decent soundtrack that doesn't get annoying very quickly but the game itself has been let down by its implementation and a lack of any clear instruction, even an interactive demo would have been better than the 18 pages of nonsense provided.

There is a demo available on the PSN now, so if you get a chance to play it, give it a go, but I wouldn't recommend paying out for it, save your pennies for something like fat princess instead.

A simple idea let down by poor implementation and poor multiplayer experience.