Wednesday 20 October 2010

Game REVIEW: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1

NB. This is a review of the wiiware version of the game, any differences between this and the psn, xbox arcade and iphone versions will not be covered as I have not played any of them.

There have been so many disappointing Sonic games over the last few years that it's begun to feel hard to believe that the hedgehog was once one of the greatest video games characters of all time, but when Sonic Team announced the episodic Sonic the Hedgehog 4 - a direct sequel to the Mega Drive's Sonic & Knuckles which would use the original 2d side scrolling style which made Sonic popular in the first place, there was finally a glimmer of hope that this could be the game that saved the hedgehog from being ridiculed forever. At 1500 wii points (or £10) it already has a tall order to fill given its status as a episodic game (as in this isn't the whole thing).

But right away this game feels so right. There are no proper cutscenes, no voiceacting, no extra characters - just Sonic, Eggman, badniks (for those not as familiar with classic Sonic terminology - the robots with animals trapped inside), chaos emeralds and a whole lot of rings. Despite it not being the full Sonic 4 experience there's still a good amount of content here - 4 zones each consisting of 3 acts and a boss, a final stage and 7 special stages. This game even includes the ability to play as Super Sonic after collecting all 7 chaos emeralds! As far as Sonic's abilities go he's back to just jump, spin dash and the inclusion of the homing attack (with I was initially skeptical about, but not fully understand the inclusion of). A minor gripe is that as Sonic falls he now comes out of a ball (leaving him vulnerable), but the inclusion of the homing attack makes instant death less likely once the attack has been properly mastered. The speed of the game is just wonderful, managing to maintain the speed a Sonic game should have without becoming too hard to follow or having the player lose control and fall into a bottomless pit. The special stages are a nice twist on the originals from Sonic 1 - only this time you control the tilt of the level rather than Sonic himself. So far I've only got 4 emeralds and they're becoming increasingly challenging - something that makes for a good replay value once you've finished the 4 zones.

The only main problem I have with this game (and funnily enough its also the exact opposite of what was wrong with every other recent Sonic game) is it's lack of originality. The levels are in some instances carbon copies of classic zones, there are no new badniks present in the game whatsoever and the bosses are the same other than the fact is they get an update toward the end (Green Hill, Casino Night, Labyrinth, Metropolis and Sonic 2 Death Egg zones to be precise). If I wanted to play these bosses, I'd play the original games. I'm all for homages as the next person is, but what I wanted to see was a classic style Sonic game with some new ideas, not constant throwbacks and updates to the originals.

Despite this, Sonic 4 is without a doubt the best Sonic game in a long long time and if episode 2 can fix the problems this episode has, we'll undoubtedly be looking at the best Sonic game since the Mega Drive era. Welcome back Sonic the hedgehog. You have been sorely missed.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Classics 6th Doctor/Stealth Cyberman 2-pack

Character Options have really been churning out the Forbidden Planet exclusive classic Doctor Who figures. Not really sure why, because if anything they should be focusing on the new series 5 figures (which so far have been less than impressive on the whole), but then I'm not going to complain. One of the more cost effective figures in their recent releases is 6th Doctor/Stealth Cyberman (or Cyberscout if you prefer) set from the story Attack of the Cybermen. Not much really to say about the figures on the whole so I'll let the pictures do the talking, but I still have a few words on the subject.

The 6th Doctor (as played by Colin Baker) is a straight re-release of the figure included in the very first wave of Doctor Who classic figures, albeit with a brand new accessory (which sadly isn't the Sonic Lance that was prominent in so much of the story). Despite the fact that many buyers will probably already own the figure, it remains a great likeness of Colin Baker's Doctor with a fair bit of articulation (not spectacular, but no Who figure is).

There's not much to say about the Cyberman I didn't cover in my earlier review of the Earthshock Cyberman....except that it's black. In fact, if you want to get technical, this isn't even an Attack style Cyberman. The show Cyberscout didn't wear moon boots and the mouth piece was solid black rather than clear. Nevertheless these slight inaccuracies don't detract from how good the Cyberman looks, and the solid black makes a nice variation in a display of what will be primarily silver giants.

So basically the worth of the set comes down to what figures you already own, because essentially you're paying £25 for a re-release and a (slightly inaccurate) repaint. I happen to not own a (loose) 6th Doctor and can't get enough of Cybermen, so this was an instant buy for me. On the whole though, as far as classic Who figures go it's pretty average and perhaps one that the less hardcore collectors can avoid.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Revoltech Professor Layton

This is it.

This is the review I've wanted to do for a long time.

Here we go.

Revoltech Professor Layton (which if you didn't know is the star of the Nintendo DS puzzle games of the same name) is a figure that has caught my eye and occupied my 'must buy' list for a long time now, but at the same time I never go around to actually buying him. Now, after a series of unexpected events led him to him appearing in my hands and (swiftly might I add) purchasing him, he is finally mine. It's time to see what the internet has been raving about and what pictures have been suggesting. Is Professor Layton one of, if not the, best Revoltech figures to date?

And the answer is yes. By god yes.

EVERYTHING works about this figure. The fact is proportions aren't realistically human make the sculpt really stand out and the revo joints integrate nicely into the design (something I've never really found with human/humanoid revoltech figures). The soft plastic of his coat adds some great variety to the types of materials used in the figure and (most importantly) his changeable features are easily removable. The hands are held in by small tabs which are both easy to remove and hold in nicely, and Layton's changeable faces are exactly the same. Ten out of ten so far.

His accessories are also utterly fantastic. Here we have a variety of hands (one of which is holding a teacup), an extra face, a base, a teacup and saucer, book, pen and even a table and chair set! Layton can sit down and drink tea like a true English gentlemen alongside any figure in your collection! Speaking of which, this is where Layton's full potential as a figure really comes into play....

....because not only is he compatible with his own slew of extra features, but also a ton of ones that come with other Revoltech figures! While admittedly he may not be able to hold some of them, this is a chance to see Layton as you've never seen him before, whether if be flying into the air, slashing swords or wielding pistols! And while he's doing this Layton doesn't lose any of his character, looking good in almost any situation he's put in. So far my personal favourite has been rocketing him into the air with Gamera's rocket legs.

In conclusion this figure is a triumph in pretty much every single way. Sure I prefer my Gurren a lot more, but even he doesn't hold as many possibilities as the good professor. If you're a Layton fan you should definitely own this, and if you're a Revoltech fan you should get this just for the endless fun Professor Layton offers.

Friday 1 October 2010

Book REVIEW: The Only Good Dalek

In attempt to both add something a little new to the blog AND break up the current cluster of figure reviews, here's a new section devoted to manga, novels, comics and all things book. The first thing up for discussion is the brand new Doctor Who graphic novel The Only Good Dalek, by Justin Richards & Mike Collins and starring Matt Smith's 11th Doctor and Amy Pond.

The synopsis reads;
Station 7 is where the Earth Forces send all the equipment captured in their unceasing war against the Daleks. It's where Dalek technology is analysed and examined. It's where the Doctor and Amy have just arrived. But somehow the Daleks have found out about Station 7 - and there's something there that they want back.

With the Doctor increasingly worried about the direction the Station's research is taking, the
commander of Station 7 knows he has only one possible, desperate, defence. Because the last terrible secret of Station 7 is that they don't only store captured Dalek technology. It's also a prison. And the only thing that might stop a Dalek is another Dalek...

As this synopsis suggests, the story deals with the possibility that there could ever be a good Dalek - a topic that has been brought up in various Doctor Who stories over the years. What this graphic novel has that the other stories don't though is a story complete with twists and turns where the reader is never really sure what side certain Daleks are on. This is the Daleks at their very best once again and something the new series (bar Dalek) has never really captured (although the 10th Doctor novel Prisoner of the Daleks did in spectacular fashion). Not only that, but the
re's plenty of classic references for the more knowledgeable Doctor Who fan. Within the first few pages there's Skaro's landscape, robomen, ogrons, slythers, varga plants and a heap of background cameos of classic Dalek designs. The art even bears similarity to (my much loved) TV21 Dalek comics of the 60s - particularly the spaceship interiors which look fantastic alongside the blue strategist battle computer Daleks.

All in all this is a must have for Dalek fans - great story and great art all around which brings the Daleks out back on top.