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10 June, 2017

The 9% Devil Microsoft Must Shake at E3 2017

A new report into the games released between E3 2016 and E3 2017 shows a horror Microsoft statistic.

It’s been a tough 12 months to be an Xbox fan. It’s not like the console has been gathering dust unused in homes across the world. Far from it. But there’s been little in the way of exciting announcements to rally behind. In fact, outside of Halo Wars 2 - which is in truth just a spin-off title in a niche genre - it’s been slim pickings on the blockbuster exclusive front since last December’s Dead Rising 4. Worse, previously announced prospects like Scalebound and Fable Legends have been cancelled.

The one shining light has been the promise of Project Scorpio, the most powerful console ever made, but the problem isn’t hardware. The problem is software. Xbox needs big blockbuster games consumers cannot get elsewhere if it’s going to bring in new players and prevent jaded fans from being tempted by Sony’s promise of consistent, exclusive blockbusters and VR on PS4.

Now a new report has emerged showing exactly how Sony and Microsoft’s 12-months between E3 press conferences has gone. There’s a tonne of information in the report, but a few of the most notable figures include;

1. Only 9% of the 33 games mentioned in the E3 2016 Microsoft press conference were unannounced prior to the show, one of which was Gwent: The Witcher Card Game. (Sony’s press conference consisted of 63% new games).

2. 70% of the games shown in the Microsoft E3 2016 presser were indie titles. (Sony’s conference contained just 6% indie titles)

3. Of all the games mentioned, only 55% have actually come out. (Sony released 67% of its mentioned games)

I really hope that Microsoft is aware of these figures. This is exactly what is leaving some Xbox One fans – and certainly potential new owners - disillusioned with the console. Microsoft needs to lift that 9% up to 60% or 70%. I’m all for the indies, but they shouldn’t be the lion’s share of the showcased titles – especially given many of them aren’t exclusive.

Usually I don’t think gamers would be too fussed on the number of titles that get released within a year of the press conference, but this time around it’s different. With so few exclusive blockbusters released in the last year, Microsoft need to not only announce new titles, but rock solid release dates to go with them.

Hit all these markers, and Microsoft will come out of E3 2017 with its chin high and plenty of positive press. Repeat last year’s performance, however, and Project Scorpio won’t save them.

Where to Next?

If you love your science-fiction, and in particular games and universes like Mass Effect, then you should definitely check out Adam Exits. The brand new novel by lifetime gamer Nicholas Abdilla is pulling in five star reviews and will immerse you in a great new world somewhere between Star Wars and Phillip K. Dick. There's more information here, or you can pick it up on Amazon or iTunes now.


03 September, 2016

Overcooked Review – "One of the best modern couch co-op games this decade"

Overcooked is a classic co-op multiplayer game for a new generation of players.

Lately I’ve been feeling like there is a hole in my usual circulation of games. I feel like we’ve been missing a suite of great multiplayer party games that were so huge in the 2000s. Games like Pokémon Stadium, WarioWare and Mario Party. Thankfully Overcooked fills that whole perfectly.

Overcooked is the only game that has ever had me frantically cooking fish and chips on three moving trucks, driving down an icy road. And the first game to ever show me how to make soup on a pirate ship on the high seas. It is also the first game to ever force me into an argument over whether it's harder to make burgers or pizza.

Oh, and it has a dedicated "swear" button. Still not convinced?

19 August, 2016

Ninja Pizza Girl Review

Indie developer Disparity Games delivers something hot and tasty to gamers on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Mac and PC

Ninja Pizza Girl is a neat title. It’s eye-catching, humorous and oh so very indie. But Disparity Games’ second release isn’t really about any of the things in its title. Its protagonist is a ninja pizza girl, but the game stands out more for its take on life as a teenager than it does for Shuriken or extra cheese.

In a future where blokes on scooters can no longer cut it, Gemma is a ninja pizza girl doing deliveries for her family’s pizza shop. Players guide her through a slightly sci-fi city, running, jumping and cartwheeling over ledges with one goal: deliver the pizza, and deliver it hot.

The levels aren’t brutally hard. Missing a jump just means taking a different route, and there’s no such thing as a health bar. It’s an accessible and friendly game, with an upbeat, thumping soundtrack punctuated by comic book cutscenes that are full of real character.

More experienced players need not fear, however. Whilst the multi-storied levels make it impossible to die, they also allow some routes to be better than others, and a carefully timed button push is needed to land smoothly, flip over obstacles, wall-jump and slide as required – it’s reminicent of the Mirror’s Edge mobile game. And despite the welcoming set up, getting an A-graded time still requires plenty of skill and practice.

But on to those teenage tribulations. Disparity Games is a Queensland outfit consisting of ex-AAA developers Nicole and Jason Stark, with added input and influence from their four children (daughter Raven is behind the game’s comic-book style illustrations). It’s that family origin that gives Ninja Pizza Girl its soul.

It was a simple question from Jason Stark to his daughters that changed the course of the entire game. Their response to “what scares you the most?” transformed Gemma’s enemies from the usual robots or monsters into a very real villain – other teenagers. They taunt and tease Gemma, pushing her to the ground and draining all the colour from her world.

That little tweak from physical to mental damage doesn’t change the gameplay – you can run and jump around without a second thought – but what’s left of my teenage self certainly took note. That is how it was. Sometimes it felt like other people had beaten you with nothing but a few nasty words and an unkind glance. Sometimes it sucked. Sometimes all the colour disappeared.

Luckily Ninja Pizza Girl is also about overcoming all that junk. About having fun; about being there for your friends and family. And about doing that crappy job really well. Gemma is an unusually normal gaming protagonist – not royalty, not the chosen one or a superhero, but just a teenager doing her thing.

As a result the game feels very genuine, and it’s pretty funny to boot. For those who find that little something within themselves that resonates with Gemma (and the Stark girls, by extension), Ninja Pizza Girl offers an experience that isn’t often seen in video games, much to our industry’s disservice.

The game is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and Mac. Read a full interview with the developer in Episode 8 of Grab It.

Claire Phillips


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