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.