Reaching for the stars – Starlink: Battle for Atlas review

Ubisoft might be a little late to the party when it comes to toys-that-appear-in-your-games peripherals but with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the company could have a hit with pint-sized space explorers who like to play with toys as part of the game they’re playing.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas treads the commonly told tale of an evil entity wanting to take over the solar system and it’s up to you to save the day but central to Ubisoft’s space game are the plastic spaceships and figures that use a special mount that fits to your controller then brings the ships to life in-game.

Fox McCloud’s famous starship & the special base that the Joycon’s slot into and the spaceship toy locks into.

I played the Nintendo Switch version (it’s also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), where you slide a Joycon onto each side of the mount then attach the spaceship toy/ you have. Each craft and pilot has different abilities and weapons. The toy feels a little heavy on the controller to start with but you soon get used to it.

As a bonus for Nintendo Switch players, the Switch version has a toy based off  Fox McCloud’s Arwing spaceship and the wily fox himself – and it’s a beauty of a craft, and Fox plays a major role in the game, with Switch exclusive missions focusing on the Star Fox team.

Fox McCloud in the flesh. Well, plastic. Alongside him is pilot Mason Rana.

 

If you’re something of a toy collector then things could get expensive if you decide to buy as many ships as you can afford. The starter pack costs around $118 with additional ships setting you back about $58 a pop for a spaceship. Additional weapons packs cost around $30. You snap on the attachments, which appear in-game and you can swap out weapons and modify them on the fly, depending on the enemy you’re squaring off against.

Some of the other spaceships that you can buy for Starlink: Battle for Atlas.

That said, the toys aren’t necessary to actually play the game so you don’t have to buy them if you don’t want to: You can play it without spending a cent on the ships and weapon attachments, if you want.

The game takes place on a variety of planets with different fauna and flora, as well as the Atlas star system, and while there is a bit of a grind where you have to explore planets for clues to help you in your missions, mine for resources, form alliances with other alien races and do busy work for locals to move the story forward,  I was surprised how much of a smile it put on my face. Maybe it was the fact that I was controlling the on-screen spaceship with a controller that looked like the on-screen spaceship.

The combat is fast and fluid enough, and it seems to hold a pretty consistent frame rate on the Switch, something that is vital for a game that relies on fast reflexes. It’s a lot of fun, too,  swapping out weapons mid-battle when you realise your initial arsenal isn’t up to scratch, but young players might find the intricacies of weapons management mid-battle  a little daunting, though.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a lot of fun, even with the grinding busy work and some repetitive missions, but the toys add a different dimension to the game play that will appeal to spaceship fans. Parents, just keep in mind that the cost will mount up if your game fan wants more and more ships and weapons.

Heck, 10-year-old me would have danced with delight if I’d been able to play a game like Starlink: Battle for Atlas with its snap-on space ships and weapons.

Thanks to Five Eight Distribution for the review copy of Starlinke: Battle for Atlas and the toys.

No blog for a while: I’m on holiday

Morning.

I was hoping to have a review of Spider-Man for you before I left for four weeks holiday in Canada – but, alas, the review code has not appeared. If it does, it’ll after I get back in mid-October, before I kick into Red Dead Redemption 2 (which I’ve pre-ordered).

As the title says, I’m on holiday for four weeks, touring around Canada and its locales. I won’t be updating the blog during that time.

Thanks to those of you that still stick around: I do appreciate your loyalty.

If you follow me on Twitter, I’ll post photos of my Canadian adventures.

See ya.

Good on ‘ya, mate: Australian gaming site Player 2 streaming for charity

Despite our Trans-Tasman rivalries, I’m very fond of the game writing chums in Australia that I know and interact with, so I’m always happy to help out when one of my fellow game writers across the ditch is doing something that benefits those less fortunate.

So, read on for a press release from Player 2’s Matt Hewson about the site’s upcoming gaming marathon for the Terry Campese Foundation in Australia. There’s the chance to win quite a few game-related prizes if you’re watching the live stream, too.

After a successful charity event last year, the Player 2 team are coming back once again to raise money for the Terry Campese Foundation. Last year the team raised over $3700 for the charity, every cent of which went to helping sick and underprivileged families from the Canberra and Southern NSW regions. This year the crew aim to beat that mark and are looking at the possibility of reaching $4000.

The 24-hour gaming marathon will occur on the 15th of September, kicking off at 10am and running for a full day. The team will be playing one game every hour, including titles such as The Halo Master Chief Collection, Rock Band, Street Fighter Anniversary Collection and the ever-popular NBA Jam, all in the name of this great cause.

To encourage people to donate the Player 2 team has gotten together an impressive list of prizes that includes over 200 items. Games such as Spider-Man, Far Cry 5 and Nier Automata are up for grabs along with great books, soundtracks, merchandise and even a working Pip-Boy 3000! All of these prizes will be given out to people that donate $2 or more to the event.

“The chance to help out a charity such as Terry’s is an honour and a privilege” said Player 2 Editor, Matt Hewson.

“At Player 2, we often lament the lack of positive coverage our favourite hobby receives from mainstream media, so we feel it is our responsibility to lead by example. We are a small site in the grand scheme of things, but as we have shown previously our size doesn’t stop us from helping out in a meaningful way. The Terry Campese Foundation is a charity that aims to help those who are struggling in life, be it from illness or poverty, and that is something I feel we can all get behind”

The whole event will be live streamed on the Player 2 twitch channel and will covered extensively on Player 2’s social media channels, with on-the-spot giveaways for viewers and followers. For more information about the Player 2 Charity Marathon Supporting The Terry Campese Foundation head to http://www.player2.net.au

It’s a Sunday night, I’ve had a busy week (including attending a work conference all day today) , my brain is tired, so here’s a press release prepared earlier by PriceSpy. Normal service will resume this coming week. Perhaps.

According to data insights  from PriceSpy, the fully impartial price and product comparison service, Sony PlayStation is dominating the New Zealand gaming world.

Based on historical clicks, the most popular game right now is God of War, claiming the top spot for four consecutive months.  Following closely behind is Detroit: Become Human.  Since its release in May 2018, it has quickly become the second most-popular game of the moment.

 Top Games for July 2018

  1. God of War (PS4)
  2. Detroit: Become Human (PS4)
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
  4. Octopath Traveler (Switch)
  5. Gran Turismo: Sport (VR) (PS4)

Top Games for June 2018

  1. God of War (PS4)
  2. Detroit: Become Human (PS4)
  3. Horizon: Zero Dawn Complete Edition (PS4)
  4. Far Cry 5 (PS4)
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

Top Games for May 2018

  1. God of War (PS4)
  2. Detroit: Become Human (PS4)
  3. Far Cry 5 (PS4)
  4. Gran Turismo: Sport (VR) (PS4)
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

 Top Games for April 2018

  1. God of War (PS4)
  2. Far Cry 5 (PS4)
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
  4. Destiny 2 (PS4)
  5. Grand Theft Auto V (PC)

Halo Fireteam Raven: A pictoral essay

As I mentioned earlier this week, I was in Auckland for work so was able to head along to the New Zealand launch of the Halo Fireteam Raven arcade machine at Timezone in Auckland’s Wairau Valley.

It was nice event, with like-minded individuals chatting, eating delicious nibbles, imbibing fluids and, of course, being among the first in NZ to play the dual-screen, four-player Halo Fireteam Raven arcade machine.

Short verdict? It’s good. It’s very, very, very good. Actually, it’s a helluva lotta fun, letting you fill the combat boots of a Halo spartan taking on the covenant hordes – with some mates along for the ride.

Feast your eyes on these images of some obligatory Spartans controlling Spartans in Halo Fireteam Raven & some video of the game in action.

Sadly, the machine was too big to to fit in my carry on luggage for the flight home a couple of days later.

 

Halo Fireteam Raven launches in NZ tomorrow night

There’s a new Halo game launching in New Zealand tomorrow night – but you can’t buy it at your local retailer or play it on your Xbox One (or One X console).

Halo: Fireteam Raven is the first arcade edition of Microsoft’s much-loved FPS game Halo to come to New Zealand – and it’s getting its first outing at Timezone Xtreme Entertainment Wairau in Auckland tomorrow night (August 28)

The arcade game lets  four players either play cooperatively, or compete against each other in the Halo universe, and boasts a 130-inch, 4K  widescreen and 5.1 surround sound. Halo: Fireteam Raven lets fans of the Halo franchise play alongside Master Chief in the battle to ward off the enemy forces of the Covenant and the Flood infestation.

Here’s the official trailer for the game:

As luck would have it, I’m actually in Auckland tomorrow night for work so I’ll be popping along to Timezone Wairau to check out the Fireteam Raven and the festivities I’ll  post images to my twitter feed (@GamejunkieNZ) during the night, too,  if you want to see what the arcade machine looks like.

Also, if you attending the event and see me, come say hi!

 

 

 

 

Huawei nova 3i: A budget priced phone with a high-end presence

Huawei’s nova3i smart phone is a budget handset with flagship features that’s  missing one thing that a flagship smartphone does: The hefty price tag.

The last Huawei phone I reviewed was the P20, which I thought was a good phone but it just didn’t wow me, especially given the flagship P20 Pro wasn’t much more price-wise. The nova 3i has impressed me no end.

For starters, I love the iridium purple (Huawei calls it iris purple) on the glass/metal back: It looks classy and high-end, and makes the phone look more expensive than it is. It’s nice to see a budge phone that is a little different from the usual gold/white we so often see on smart phones. Some one said to me it looks kind of like an iPhone X, too, and it does – but without the eye-watering price point.

 

The nova 3i has a 6.3-inch IPS screen  ( FHD at  2340 x 1080), an impressive 4Gb of memory, is running Android 8.0 (with Huawei’s Emotion UI 8.2) and its 128Gb of storage is expandable to 256Gb via MicroSD. It also lets users set Te Reo as a language, which is a great touch for those of us in Aeotearoa. The battery life was damn good, too.

The nova3i has four camera lenses (two front-facing, two rear-facing) like Huawei’s flagship P20 Pro but – and here’s where saving would have been made – not from renowned company Leica. The nova 3i takes pretty damn good photos, which I’ve posted here, and camera software uses AI to enhance where it sees necessary. Sometimes it makes the original image look better, other times, though, it makes the original image look a little over-saturated, overall I was really impressed with the camera and the images.

Before: The original image with the Huawei nova3i’s AI mode disabled.

After: The image with the AI mode enabled. Note how the blue sky looks brighter, as does the sand.

Before: Another shot from the same beach with the AI mode disabled.

After: Again, note how much brighter the same and blue sky is thanks to the AI mode.

I think one of the main reasons I’m so taken with the nova 3i, though, is the price point: This is a phone with Rolls Royce looks but with at a Datsun 180B price. At $499, I’m more likely to upgrade my ageing Samsung Galaxy S7 with the nova 3i than I am Samsung’s recently released Galaxy Note 9, which may kick the Huawei’s arse when it comes to specs and performance, but these days, I’m not that keen on spending $1700 to $2000 on a phone, not matter how impressive it is (Nor would I want to, actually.)

The Huawei nova 3i does everything I need it to in a smartphone, and at a far more affordable price. As a budge conscious tech-head, that’s a win in my book.

Thanks to Huawei for providing a nova 3i hanset for this review.

Figment review: Battling the thoughts in your head

Figment, a puzzle/platformer for Finish indie developer Bedtime Digital Games for the Nintendo Switch, reminds me a lot of a children’s story book, with its whimsical artwork and fairy tale locations, except it’s set within the human mind with all sorts of weird shit going on.

Seriously, though, for most of the game the environments are like something you’d find in Alice in Wonderland, with teapots for houses, flowers made out of stringed instruments and white fluffy clouds providing a peaceful backdrop, things are more sinister than they seem at first in this fairy tale land, populated with memories, thoughts and urges and home to the voices in our head.

When Dusty (the game opens with him relaxing in a rocking chair, dreaming of ice for his drink) finds the nasty figments of the imagination have invaded the world, causing chaos, he must save the day. Accompanied by ever-optimistic bird Piper, Dusty must battle his way through a variety of dangers to, well, save the day.

The sumptuous visuals are the first thing that will attract your attention with Figment: They’re said by the developers to be hand-drawn, and by golly, does it look gorgeous, with an art style that belies the undertones of what Bedtime has called a “musical action adventure”.

The second thing that you’ll be captivated with is the wonderful voice acting which at times is delightfully over-the-top, and the musical score: Both are just delightful, with the score supposedly “defined by your exploration of the world”, which means that it adapts to how you react with the world: Move closer to the cello-like flowers and the strings sing, wander closer to a tuba-looking tree and the music takes a more brass band-like tone. It’s delightful and really adds a nice personal touch to the game.

The puzzles won’t cause you to have a brain haemorrhage, ranging from things like tracking down the handle that will turn the windmill that will blow away the nasty black fog and finding the right colour battery that will power the windmill to finding the missing pieces of a brass band bridge that will let you cross to another part of the world. Combat generally involves Dusty whacking unspeakable horrors with his sword or knocking back projectiles from said unspeakable horrors.

Figment is a delight to play, both visually and the way that the sound reacts to the player’s movement through the game world, and it’s further proof that games from small independent developers are a perfect fit for Nintendo’s console.

Remember how I commented last week on the great year that Nintendo was having?  Well, Figment is further proof of that.

Thanks to Bedtime for providing a digital code for Figment

Red Dead Redemption 2: I am ready

Rockstar dropped a game play trailer of the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 this morning, and after watching it today, I pity any other game/s that is/are coming out in October because, seriously, RDR2 is going to leave them sniffling wrecks, crying, curled up in the corner of a room.

Here’s 6 minutes and five seconds of RDR2. I pre-ordered this game two months ago. I usually never pre-order video games. In fact, I’ve pre-ordered only two video games in 40 years of playing video games (this and Batman Arkham Knight).

I have no more words. Just watch the trailer.

God, October can’t come fast enough. My PlayStation 4 is ready and waiting.

Element: An RTS game for people who really don’t have time for RTS games

Element (Nintendo Switch)

What a year the Nintendo Switch has had.

Despite being the least powerful console of the big three (Nintendo, Microsoft and PlayStation), I can quite comfortably say that I spent more time playing games on my Switch than I do the other consoles I own.

There are so many great reasons to own a Switch, and Element, from New Zealand developer Flightless, is another one.It’s a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch.

Element’s narrative involves a space craft fleeing a decaying solar system. Arriving in a new solar system, you must visit each planet (named after elements on the periodic table, ie barium, titanium, silicon, gallium), mining enough crucial resources to ensure your survival. Sounds simple, right? Well, kind of. You see, while you’re mining for resources, enemies are doing the same thing, You’ll have to build attack and defence forces and assault the enemy while mining the planet for all you can.

Early planets like Boron offer very little challenge, with minimal enemy presence, but by the time you get to planets like platinum, the enemy threat starts increasing. Planets like iridium and neon, have well established enemies that pose a dangerous threat.

Element is a really nice fit on the Switch, with an appealing low-poly look to it and intuitive controls. Using the Switch’s touch screen, you can zoom into the action so you can get a good handle on things and strategize accordingly, and rotate around planets using the right analogue stick.  After a while, you’ll find yourself rotating around a planet like an old hand, plonking down mines and defence units as you target enemy mines with missiles.

It feels a little bit Command & Conquer to me sometimes,  making you think strategically before you do something  while also making you think two steps ahead for potential threats.

Flightless has described Element as a real-time space strategy game for those who don’t have time for real-time space strategy games which, let’s be honest, is probably a lot of us these days. It’s the sort of game that is perfect for bite-sized gaming chunks during lunchtime or just before bedtime, letting you play through two or three planets in a session then call it quits for the night but still feel satisfied.

Update: Something that I suddenly thought about after an email exchange with Flightless director John O’Reilly was that Element would really work with a two-player network co-op mode where where each player controlled a faction. I think that would really work well with the game play in Element. 

 

Thanks to Flightless for the Element review code