Posts Tagged ‘3DS’

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

With the real 3DS Resident Evil experience – Revelations – not arriving until later in the year, it would seem that Capcom have simply opted to knock together a bonus game and charge full price for it. It’s a real shame, as Mercenaries is a cracking little shooter that can’t quite shake off the restraints of its bonus game roots.

If you’ve played either Resident Evil 4 or 5, then you’re probably pretty familiar with the objective already. You have two minutes to rack up as many kills as possible before either the time runs out or you eliminate all 150 enemies on each level. Smashing time extensions and killing enemies with melee attacks will allow you to keep playing for longer, while stringing together a combo of defeated enemies will see your score go into the stratosphere before you know it.

Enemies and levels are all taken from the aforementioned games, including classics like the Village and Public Assembly, as well as the lesser-enjoyed levels Warzone, Castle, Missile Area, Mines, Ship Deck and the Prison. The enemies are a mixture of Cultists, Majini and Combat Majini, with a few Uroboros mutations – exploding heads, the shell-like creature made of innards – thrown in for good measure

Adding to your woes are each level’s special enemies, such as the Chainsaw Majini, Garrador, Executioner, Red Executioner, Gatling Gun Majini and the utterly, utterly terrifying Super Chainsaw Ganado (remember him?). Much tougher than the regular foes, these angry bastards crop up at specific points and will kill you – or worse, ruin your score – if not dealt with immediately. Mercifully, they always make a distinctive sound before they arrive so you don’t get surprised by them – although the Big Man Majini is a sneaky bugger – but their appearance is always cause for concern.

Happily, you’re given plenty of ordnance to deal with the bad guys. Each of the eight characters have a different weapons set, alternative costumes and three slots for selected skills. Naturally, mastering all of these means playing the game repeatedly, so if you’re new to the Mercenaries experience, you may find yourself completely overwhelmed. Series veterans will be pleased to see the Chris and Claire, the Redfield siblings, as well as Barry Burton and Rebecca Chambers. Rounding out the cast are Hunk, villain Krauser and eternal nemesis Wesker. The easiest character is undoubtedly Krauser, thanks to his powerful bow and rocket launcher combo, as well as the fact that almost all of his melee attacks are guaranteed to kill.

Scores range from rank D (you survived) to rank SS (you killed pretty much everything), and the better you did, the more the rewards. These can be simply unlocking a new character, opening up the next set of missions, earning a new costume or even being granted a new skill. These are incredibly useful little perks that can dramatically alter the state of play at any given moment. There are perks for almost everything – some improve your melee attacks, some upgrade the functions of each weapon, some increase the amount of time you get from a melee kill and there are some that do incredibly specific things, like give you a time bonus every time an enemy is killed when a seven is in the time counter, or add lightning properties to your melee, or make it much easier to bring down the bigger enemies. Using each skill in a round will grant you points, allowing you to upgrade them to a maximum of three levels, at which point you are granted an additional ability. For instance, the Medic skill increases the amount of health you recover from green herbs, and at level three gives you an extra health bonus from each critical hit you score.

On top of this is an absolutely cracking online mode. While the first three missions are simply training stages designed for single players, later levels allow you to take a friend along for the slaughter, either in local link-up or online. It’s incredibly simple to find a game online as the servers are always busy – in fact, they’re so busy that many games will disappear as you click on them, so it’s easier to host a game than join one. Once you’re in, everything goes smoothly, as the vast majority of players online are utterly excellent, meaning that perfect teamwork is never far away and achieving SS ranks on every mission becomes a doddle. Thankfully, the game doesn’t mind if you score highly in Solo or Duo play, as all the rewards will come to you regardless.

For all the fun, the replayability and the enjoyment that Mercenaries offers, it still cannot escape the fact that it is merely a bonus game stretched out to feature length. Thanks to the incredibly long learning curve – eleven training missions! – the actual game feels decidedly short, with only eighteen levels where you actually get to do your thing. And no matter how many times Capcom switch the enemies, time of day and time extensions around, they can’t hide the fact that you will be playing the same arenas over and over again. What’s weirder is that the game is clearly designed as high score challenge game, so why is it that only your very highest record gets saved?

Almost as if they know that players are more interested in the forthcoming Revelations title, Capcom have stuck a short demo into Mercenaries. While this seems like a great idea, it’s shorter than any demo you have ever played. In fact, it takes longer to load than it does to play through, making it more of an interactive cutscene than a demo. The free trailer in the eshop is longer.

So Mercenaries is a peculiar bag, one that manages to be everything it should have been and yet nothing at all. It’s a cracking co-op title, a solid action game and has plenty of depth to it. However, it can be pretty much done 100% in the space of a week by anyone who knows what they’re doing – the Mercenaries target audience, for instance – so as to whether this is worth full price depends on how much you enjoyed the bonus game the first time around. A shame, really, as it’s almost excellent.

79%

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Is there anything left to say about Ocarina of Time? The game is almost fifteen years old now and has appeared on the N64, GameCube and Wii since then. Surely any power it once had has been diminished by repeat showings, and this latest re-release can only be indicative of the 3DS’s struggle to find its own ‘killer app’.

Or so you’d think. As it turns out, there’s a lot of life left in Ocarina, widely regarded – and rightly so – as the greatest game of all time. The game’s ability to surprise might have been diminished in the thirteen years since its release – the plot twist is the gaming equivalent of ‘I am your father’ – but it’s lost none of its power to leaving players gasping in awe.

If you’ve already played it, you don’t need to the story recapping. If you haven’t, then you are the envy of all the others. You have no idea what awaits you – the scale of the quest, the incredible bosses, the spellbinding music, the dizzying dungeons and temples – everything here feels as fresh as it did on that day in 1998.

Except it’s been given a lick of paint, thanks to the development team at Grezzo. Nintendo’s masterpiece has never looked as good as it does here. Facial animations have been updated, characters now look exactly like the pre-release art detailed them, backgrounds are no longer blurry and distant, textures are sharp and clear and everything looks so real you can almost touch it. The Master Sword now sits in gloomy darkness with a single mystical light thrown down from an overhead window – the sight of which brings shivers of anticipation. The game looks like it could have been made yesterday. Jabu-Jabu’s Belly has never looked so slimy.

On top of this, Grezzo have thrown in a few new features. Completing the game once unlocks the staggering challenge of the Master Quest, which is now even harder than before. Not only are the puzzles more difficult, but enemies deal more damage and everything in the game is mirrored. The other new feature is the excellent Boss Rush mode, activated by going to sleep in Link’s bed. Here you are challenged to fight all the bosses again, one after the other, in one sitting. It’s an outstanding feature, especially given that many of Ocarina’s bosses remain some of the greatest in the series’ history.

Grezzo have even found a way to put the gyroscope to good use. You can now tilt the 3DS to look around at an area, aim with the bow and search for targets with the hookshot. While this may be an acquired taste – for instance, horseback archery is a damn sight harder this way – for many it will present a fun new possibility, and it’s faster to use.

As for the 3D effect, this is perhaps its most staggering use yet. The vast expanse of Hyrule Field, the scale of the bosses, leaping from Zora’s waterfall, making the jump across Gerudo Valley on horseback – these sights were all amazing the first time around. Seeing them in 3D is even greater.

Of course, none of these improvements would mean a thing if the game underneath them wasn’t so good. Ocarina might be showing its age a bit now, with some clunky puzzles, gameplay that was refined even more by the next three titles, the irritating guardian fairy pointing out the obvious every five minutes, but the sheer sense of joy is totally unrivalled. The game is older than most whole franchises, yet the title screen alone still strikes a chord and floods the player with waves of nostalgia. There is nothing on earth like this.

Should you buy Ocarina? Yes, undoubtedly. If you’ve played every single re-release to date, this might be a tough sell as there’s little new here except for a change of depth. However, this is the best version of the best game of all time. If you’ve ever wondered how close games have come to perfection, this is proof.

99%

Dead or Alive Dimensions

And in the red corner, the first rival to Street Fighter’s fighting genre crown, and making its debut appearance on a Nintendo console – Dead or Alive Dimensions. Both are competent, accessible and highly enjoyable fighters, so who will be crowned the champion?

Dimensions marks itself out as a very different fighting game almost immediately by focussing on the technical side of battle, thanks to the infinitely complex Triangle System. Each attack is one of three kinds – Hold, Throw or Strike – and all operate on a rock-paper-scissors scale. For instance, if an opponent attempts a Throw, you can counter with a Strike, defeat a Hold with a Throw or stop a Strike with a Hold. This intricate little system hides a wealth of tactical decisions, making each attack a potential disaster or the ultimate triumph.

In addition to the complex fighting system, each arena features several obstacles that you use to your advantage. People can be kicked through windows, off balconies, down mountains and staircases, all of which adds to the feeling that the fights are organic, that the flow of battle could change at any moment.

There are a wealth of game modes available from the off. The story mode (Chronicle) attempts to fit the stories of the previous four DOA games into one bite-size piece and comes off as totally impenetrable, seeing the player jump from character to character and doing battle with anyone and everyone. It’s a complicated story, but it does also introduce the fighting mechanics to newcomers one piece at a time. It’s also where most of the unlockable characters are hiding, making it well worth the two or three hours of play time.

Other game modes include the token Training, Free Play, Local Play and Internet Play, however, more interesting are the Arcade, Survival and Tag Challenge options. Arcade sees you doing battle with eight of increasingly tough enemies in six different difficulties, while Survival pits you against a non-stop stream of opponents. Weakest of the bunch is Tag Challenge, not because it’s a bad idea (you and a CPU partner versus one or two adversaries), but because the ‘Tag In’ command has been mapped to the Block button. This means that anytime you try to counter an attack, you accidentally summon your partner and one of you gets kicked in the face. It’s a bit of a mess in the end, as no amount of skill or practice can make you not call your partner at the wrong moment.

On top of the various gameplay modes, there’s a wealth of secrets to be dug up. Each character has multiple costumes – at least three, although the female fighters have up to eight – and there are a huge amount of hidden trophy figurines. One thousand, in fact. God knows how you’re supposed to unlock most of them as many appear to be random. Some are earned by completing the modes, others can be purchased at random by exchanging your hard-earned Play Coins. The only real point of the figures is that you can view them in the super-creepy Showcase, where you can angle the females for optimum panty/ breast shots – in full 3D. Funnily enough, this mode has seen the game banned from several countries under child protection laws.

If there’s one major difference between Dimensions and SSFIV, it’s that DOA gets perhaps the best use yet out of the StreetPass feature. Not only can your data pass over to someone else’s 3DS (with a character that fights based on your preferences), but you can download add-ons straight from the developers. At the moment, new costumes are being given out, as well as new Throwdown challenges, where the development team send out their own fighters to lay waste to any challengers. The only downsides are that you can only take on the challenge once – if you lose, tough luck – and that you need to have the game inserted to receive any information.

As for the 3D effect, it works just as well here as you might expect. The ability to try and circle your opponent sees the whole arena shift and swirl before your eyes, although there’s nothing here that really leaps out at you like the Ultra moves in Street Fighter. In fact, using the 3D actually slows down the pace of the game – not by much, but it’s definitely noticeable.

So that’s Dimensions. A worthy adversary to Street Fighter’s crown, although the month-long wait between the games means that any power this game had to wow players had been slightly diminished. Still, it’s an incredibly technical, deep and rewarding scrapper that’s a worthy purchase for any fighting fans. If Street Fighter didn’t feature enough 3D breasts jiggling around, DOA is the next logical choice.

85%

Super Monkey Ball 3D

What went wrong for this once-mighty franchise? The first instalment was the perfect test of skill and courage, forcing players to demonstrate total mastery of the GameCube’s nimble analogue stick in order to navigate a treacherous maze. The slightest mistake saw you plummet to oblivion, but the game was always fair.

This 3D instalment, the seventh in the franchise, is little more than a parody of its former self. Gone is the feeling of skill, the challenge and even most of the fun. This is a game designed for players who can barely walk straight, let alone navigate a pixel-wide guitar string.

The days of choosing between Beginner, Advanced and Expert are long gone, as this game reminds us. Instead there are eight one-size-fits-all worlds, supposedly progressing in difficulty, not that you’ll ever never notice it. Each level is as wide as an airport runway and none of them feature any obstacles harder than bumpers or tiny lumps on the floor. In fact, most of the time your main challenge will be trying to rush through the convoluted maze before the ridiculously generous sixty seconds expires.

If that sounds elitist, then that’s the fault of the writer. After all, this is a game for a new generation of players, for those who aren’t familiar with the glory days of monkeys in balls. But then again, this isn’t a hard game. In fact, the majority of the game can be beaten within two hours. Having stumped up thirty five quid just to play it, you’d expect a little more monkey for your buck.

Sure, there are a couple of other bits bolted on to the side, but they’re equally insipid. Monkey Race is an appalling version of Mario Kart minus the enjoyment. Monkey Fight is a knockoff Smash Bros clone that handles like the developer was drunk and both of these mini games can be played with other people, although your friends may hate you for it. Why isn’t Monkey Target – widely renowned as the best Monkey Ball mini game ever – on here? Was it too similar to Pilotwings? Are Sega so lazy they won’t bother to develop a decent game before they release it?

Not everything about the game is bad. There is one saving grace – the 3D effect is remarkable, especially on some of the busier stages. The backgrounds loop, swirl and entice your eye at all times, miles away and yet so close. The mazes stretch out to the horizon and desperate sprints to the finish line suddenly become so much more intense when you can see how close you are to it.

But, being Sega, they’ve found a way to do away with that. There are two control options for the mazes – the comfortable circle pad and the motion-controlled gyroscopes. Unfortunately, Sega haven’t taken into account that the 3D effect doesn’t work when the system is moved away from being perfectly eye level, meaning that the gyroscope controls can only be used when the 3D is turned off. This is like playing an arcade game after smashing the screen.

Other than that, there’s not much else to say for Super Monkey Ball 3D. Far too short, far too easy, with no replay value at all. Perhaps it’s time to put this franchise to bed.

30%

Pilotwings Resort

Nintendo’s Pilotwings franchise has been sorely missed on the company’s platforms, having last appeared on launch day for the N64. Now the mission-based flight simulator finally makes its return, as a strange hybrid of its former self crossed with one of the games on Wii Sports Resort.

The appeal of the 3D technology is really made obvious here. The gorgeous landscape of Wuhu island stretches out to the (equally beautiful) horizon. The volcano towers above the landscape. The staggered islands are miles from the shoreline. Having the depth makes a world of difference to the game, taking two separate ideas and merging them in an incredible new in-your-face way.

The game is divided into two main sections: Missions and Free Flight. The latter is fairly self-explanatory, consisting of the entire ‘Plane’ game from Wii Sports Resort and adding in extra unlockable vehicles. It’s an amazing demonstration of the 3DS’s capabilities, although the tight time limit often leaves you unable to really explore to your heart’s content. The Missions see you tackling several objective-based flight challenges in three vehicles – the plane, rocket belt and glider.

Easiest of the three is the plane, which has excellent handling and allows you to rattle along at a fair pace, while the glider is probably the hardest, asking you to fly through thermal updrafts at the right angle and stop when needed. The rocket belt seizes the middle ground, managing to be both enjoyable and yet fiddly. There are a host of different missions to complete, ranging from the tutorial missions – land the plane – to the seriously difficult – glide in the air for three minutes before landing immediately.

Adding to the replayability is the three star scoring system. Each set of missions, rated in glass from bronze to diamond, requires a certain amount of completion stars before the next one will unlock, although this usually means earning two of the three stars. Achieving a perfect score simply ups the ante as more variables are introduced and the game is made harder for you. The game seems to delight in taunting you, demanding that you master each vehicle and strive for perfection in all your scores.

Everything counts for your score. There are marker balloons, score capsules and speed panels that require a suicidal burst of energy to crack. The slightest grazing of scenery will see you docked two points, while completing the mission quickly with the perfect landing can mean the difference between passing and failing.

There is one quite massive downside to Pilotwings Resort, and that’s its longevity. While it initially seems like there’s a heck of a lot to do – unlockables, missions, multiple rankings, etc – it won’t take players long to realise that all of these are over far too quickly. At most, there’s a weekend’s play here, and that’s if you go out of your way to see and do everything, which is enormously disappointing for a first-party title.

Admittedly Pilotwings Resort has not been made with lengthy gaming sessions in mind. This, like the Wii Sports titles before it, is the game that you are supposed to show off to your friends and get them hooked on the hardware. From that perspective, the game is a total success. The unforgettable sight of the island as you fly over, under and around it will probably come to define the potential of the 3DS. If only the game had a bit more depth to it and felt like less of a technical demo, this would be a must buy. Like this, it’s destined to be the game you pick up after the first one wears thin.

70%

Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition

Probably the most essential title to be launched on day one, this is a full, complete 3D version of the excellent 360/ PS3 brawler. All the modes, all the characters – even the achievements are all present and correct. Absolutely everything from the console game has been ported across to the handheld perfectly, with almost no reduction in quality.

The setup is similar to every other fighting game in existence: you select the play mode, pick a character and off you go. There’s a pleasing variety of options, from the story-driven Arcade mode (with seven difficulties) to Trial challenges, where you need to complete a certain set of moves to pass through to the next level.

All thirty five characters are present and correct, from household names like Ryu, Chun Li and Bison, right down to the ones everyone pretends to remember – Cody, anyone? Each character comes with their own move set and their own speed, although you probably won’t play with most of them after you find the character that suits your style.

The 3D effect is perhaps a minor one, but it does add to the overall immersion of the experience. Swamps and jungles now seem to go on forever, crowds are more densely packed, warehouses larger and deeper than ever before. Landing a super or ultra move means that the final blow now happens right in your face, as opposed to taking place on a screen. This increases the intensity enormously and makes every single fight feel so much more epic and personal.

Perhaps the most significant difference is the addition of touch screen controls. Two of each character’s signature moves, as well as their super and ultra combo, are all mapped onto buttons on the touch screen, allowing even the most unskilled player the chance to unleash the devastation. For pro players, these buttons can be changed to other, smaller combos, like grapples and throws. Thankfully, there’s an option to fight online against players who use the same control type as you, meaning that button spammers will still be destroyed by those with skill.

In addition to an excellent online package, this 3DS version also experiments with the StreetPass feature in an interesting way, even without the game cartridge inserted. The figures you unlock by earning Figure Points (or by converting your hard-earned Play Coins) can be arranged into a team of five, each with a different set of stats. StreetPass anyone else who has done the same thing and you figures will battle, with the winner earning more Figure Points to buy more team members. It’s simplistic, but strangely absorbing, requiring real dedication to finding the ideal team.

Unfortunately, the game does still suffer from the same flaws as its bigger brother, namely in that it can become fairly repetitive fairly quickly. Playing online against people who simply spam attacks can be annoying if you don’t have the skill to counteract their moves and – StreetPass aside – there aren’t any features here that take advantage of the 3DS’s unique abilities.

If you’re looking for a great game on day one, then look no further. An enjoyable, reasonably replayable and exceptionally solid game, SSFIV3DE packs one heck of a punch.

90%

Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars

Gung-ho action franchise Ghost Recon isn’t the most obvious series to try and turn into a turn-based strategy game. It isn’t even the obvious candidate for a launch day game on a 3D system. In spite of those challenges, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars turns out to be a surprise treat.

You take command of a team of (up to six) Ghost Recon commandos, each of which has a different weapon, secondary weapon, different armour and a different field of movement. Shadow Wars manages to avoid the usual rock-paper-scissors combat of strategy games by its clever use of squares. The battlefield is divided into squares of movement, with cover and height advantage playing an important role in deciding where to stand for your attacks. Another factor is your weapon, as each has a different range and some have splash damage that can play to your advantage – for instance, chucking a grenade causes damage to a group standing close together, while the knife will instant kill someone who is one square away.

The squad themselves are a nicely rounded bunch and their abilities make a difference in your approach to mission. There’s the all-rounder, medic, heavy weapons guy, sniper, invisible scout and engineer. Each successful mission allows you a maximum of two upgrades for each character (up to level twenty five), though it’s up to you which squaddies have priority.

Each time you complete a mission, you unlock either a bonus ‘challenge’ map or a multiplayer campaign. The two-player sections can be a little odd (you take it in turns using the 3DS, like the old Battleship board game), but the challenges are excellent. Set on the same maps as the missions, the challenges see you either racing against time to complete an objective, holding out against a superior force or simply trying to escape without losing a squad member. They’re fast, fun, hard and addictive.

As a strategy game, Shadow Wars may disappoint any that coming looking for more tactical gameplay – after all, Advance Wars is more in-depth than this one. However, it will probably have a wider appeal than any other strategy title simply because this game is far more accessible.

The story might be a forgettable excuse to have six Americans waging war against the entire Russian army and the final missions get bogged down in throwing hateful, too-hard robot enemies at you, but up until then the game is solid, enjoyable and extremely good fun. As a 3D strategy title, it doesn’t make that much use of the software – aside from really looking down into the playing field – but, then again, it’s good to see a game that places more value on being good than shoehorning in a silly way to play.

Shadow Wars is an enjoyable little game with plenty to do and even more to unlock. With three difficulties for each mission and a storyline lasting roughly ten hours, as well as a host of extra bonus challenges on the side, Shadow Wars comes highly recommended.

85%

The first thing that becomes apparent when you boot up the 3DS fresh out of the box is that it’s a miracle machine with the potential to change gaming forever. Whacking up the 3D slider to full for the first time is an unforgettable experience: the background literally warps away into the distance, leaving a clear distinction between that and the text in the fore. The 3D effect is an outstanding one, made all the more impressive by just how effective it is. The slider is easy to position, allowing it to be placed just right for each player’s eye.

After you’ve set up the system to your specifications, you get to take the 3DS online or (if you’re Anne Diamond) set up parental controls to crack down on fun. A quick update from the servers gives you a free demo video – nothing special, just some landscape shots set to funky music, but what it suggests is a wonderful future of full 3D movies in the palm of your hand. In perfect clarity.

The 3DS comes pre-loaded with several Wii-style channels. There’s the 3DS Camera, positioned on both the outer and inner lid, that can take 3D photos at any time by pressing one of the shoulder triggers. 3DS Sound allows players to stick music on their SD card (free with the console) and listen to it whenever.

The Mii Maker returns from the Wii, allowing you to create even more monstrosities with added content and to transfer your existing Miis over. You can also take a photo of people and have the Mii Maker create a face based on it, or scan a QR (Quick Response) image and upload a whole new one. The Wii’s Activity Log makes a return appearance here, as does a channel devoted entirely to Health and Safety. Bloody killjoys.

There are a couple of short demonstration features with the console. First up is Face Raiders, an amusing point-and-shoot title where your face (or those of your loved one/ people on the bus) gets drafted into playing the role of a villain. You then have to swivel, turn and move your body to aim at the attackers, using the built-in gyroscope to point the screen. It’s a short, fun, highly amusing blast that provides a great introduction to the software. More impressive is the Augmented Reality game that utilises the six AR cards provided with the console. In AR, you have to place a card on a flat surface and aim at it with the system. before long, the camera is distorting the surface of the image – be it a table, garden, or sleeping partner’s forehead – and unleashing a pleasing collection of minigames that encourage movement like Face Raiders. Best of the bunch is probably Shooting, as you then get the hilarious sight of a giant dragon emerging from whatever background you’ve chosen.

However, the best features are the most subtle ones. Keeping Nintendo’s tradition of social activity and personal health alive is the excellent StreetPass feature. If you turn on the wireless connection and close the lid without turning off the system, the 3DS keeps a track of how many steps you walk, converting these into Play Coins (ten per day, 300 in total). These can be used in the Mii Plaza, to purchase puzzle tiles to complete images, or to hire heroes in the lightweight yet fun RPG mode. In addition to this, if your 3DS comes into contact with another player’s, your Miis will swap over, bearing gifts for each other and adding to your Mii Plaza count. You’re encouraged to meet as many people as you possibly can and, quite bizarrely, it’s incredibly satisfying to have new faces appear in your Plaza.

In addition, the hateful Friend Codes are (almost) abandoned. While you still need to swap codes with a friend to have them appear on your 3DS, you only need to do it once. After that, you’re saved onto each other’s systems in a profile screen similar (but as not as comprehensive) to that of Xbox LIVE. You can see what the other is playing and leave a message – although rude text will be censored.

You can also return to the home menu at any time simply by pressing the button. The genius is that the game will simply pause quietly in the background. This will allow you to make notes, check your online friends, notifications and – in a future update – surf the internet. All while the game waits paitently for you to return.

It’s brilliant, no doubt about it. But the system isn’t perfect. For one thing, battery life is shocking. With full brightness, wireless and 3D all on at the same time, you’re looking at a battery that will last for a mere three or so hours. After you sort out the brightness and turn the wireless off when it’s not needed, that can last up to five hours – but that is not going to do down well when the big games roll out. Who’s going to want to play Ocarina of Time or Resident Evil: Revalations for just a few hours at a time? Anyone with sense can practically smell the inevitable 3DS Lite re-release with improved battery life.

Also, if you play in the sunlight, the 3D gimmick fails to work. It’s a strange one, but if direct sunlight falls on the screen, then the optical illusions fails to trick your eyes into seeing a 3D image. Instead, the screen will only blur when you slide the 3D bar.

While the battery issues can’t really be ignored, the 3DS is undoubtedly a work of genius, transforming a stagnating playing field into something fresh and exciting. The gimmick is a small one, and there aren’t many games out for it right now, but this is definately technology to get behind.

It’s like the Oscars, only without anything of the glamour. Or the TV coverage. Or the stars. So, nothing like the Oscars, then.

Underappreciated Gem of the Year

Winner: Alpha Protocol

It’s buggy, occasionally clumsy and short. But where Alpha Protocol succeeds is its charm. Players are given control of a rogue spy and asked to choose how to interact with people and what order to play the missions in, but it all seems to have purpose. While Mass Effect might be a better, deeper and more meaningful RPG, Alpha Protocol clocks in at a meagre six hours and encourages its players to go back through and find out what happens when they do things a little differently. It’s not the best game, but by God is it deep once you discover the vast number of options at your disposal.

Runner-Up: Alan Wake

Once again a tight, well-written game is ignored. Seems that players want explosions and gunplay, not fantastic and memorable characters in an intriguing mystery with emotional depth. Tsk.

Highlight of the Year

Winner: GoldenEye 007

Why does this get the top spot? It’s simple. All the tension, the worry, the stomach-churning doubt that so many millions of gamers went through after it was announced at E3… it was all for nought. GoldenEye 007 is a fantastic remake of an undisputed masterpiece, far and away the best FPS title on the Wii and possibly one of the finest Wii games yet made. This award is given for the moment you realise, ‘Oh my God… it’s actually good!’

Runner-Up: The 3DS

If this was released in December as it should have been, it would be the winner in most of these catagories. Nope, we have to wait until next March to play games in 3D. Without glasses. On a handheld. With over one hundred games in development for it. Including TWO Resident Evil titles. *dribbles*

Disappointment of the Year

Winner: Red Dead Redemption

It’s good. It’s fun. The feeling of exploration and loneliness is second to none. But Marston’s a bastard and players aren’t given a single reason to care about his family. Even when you are reunited with them, they come across as total jerks. The best parts of this game are in the final third, when you visit the wonderous northern landscape, but that’s after around twenty hours of playing. Vastly overrated by the gaming press, this is definately not worth paying full price for.

Runner-Up: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1

Sixteen years is a long time to wait for the continuation of a very simple story. The reason for this game, as good as it was, getting nominated as a disappointment is simply that it was too familiar to the original Mega Drive titles and not enough of its own thing. Also, it’s bloody expensive.

Bastard of the Year

Winner: John Marston

He has a problem with killing… but he’ll do it anyway. He wants answer, now, dammit… but he’ll wait patiently and get jerked around in the meantime. He’s the baddest mother in the West… but he’ll work for grave robbers with no incentive. He’ll do anything to protect his family… but if he doesn’t like how you’re raising your kids, he’ll talk down at you. Bastard.

Runner-Up: Sonic the Hedgehog

Sixteen years? You made us wait sixteen years while you figured out that what we wanted is to run left to right really fast? And then you release the sequel we always wanted (Sonic 4 Episode 1) and your first great 3D game in the same goddamn year? You bastard!

DLC of the Year:

Winner: The Passing (Left 4 Dead 2)

Not only are The Passing’s three short maps fun, but the game comes complete with ‘The Mutations’, a special feature that changes the rules on a (current) bi-weekly basis. At the time of writing, developers Valve are encouraging users to create their own Mutations on the PC and these are now being incorporated into the updates. For the first time ever, user-created games are arriving on the 360, and it’s a hell of a good thing.

Runner- Up: Undead Nightmare (Red Dead Redemption)

The add-on is funnier, faster and far superior to the entire game.

Dick Punch of the Year

Winner: Alan Wake

You pay forty pounds for a game, you’d expect there to be an ending. Nope, you have to buy that separately. Twice. Oh, and if you didn’t get the first edition of the game in the week it came out, you have to pay for both add-ons, not just the second. Way to alienate your audience, Remedy.

Runner-Up: The 3DS

Nintendo have recently become the masters of revealing a product just a few scant months before they release it. The Wii’s major releases for the past two years have followed a similar trend: usually revealed in the summer, out by Christmas. When the 3DS was unveiled, everyone placed it at number on their Christmas lists. But then Nintendo did the maths and realised that, actually, they won’t be able to make enough. So now we wait. At least March isn’t that far away anymore.

Piece of Shit of the Year

Winner: Just Dance

Just… just vile.

Runner- Up: Iron Man 2 (DS)

Although the copy reviewed was on the DS, this covers all version of the game. A terrible, terrible title with literally nothing going for it, clumsy controls horrendous graphics and a storyline that had nothing to do with the film.

Game of the Year

Winner: Deadly Premonition

Not everybody likes Deadly Premonition, but the reason it’s taken home the gold prize here is for one very simple reason: it’s different. It’s essentially a murder mystery, but it’s what it’s not that effortlessly turns Deadly Premonition into one of the most unforgettable games of all time. It is not very good. Badly animated, poorly voiced, appallingly written and just plain shit throughout and yet it’s so goddamn compelling. You’ll constantly stop and call your friends over to witness this game with you because it’s hilarious. A unique title and certainly one that deserves more recognition that it’s gotten. If that doesn’t convince you, this will:

Runner-Up: GoldenEye 007

Almost winning the title, GoldenEye 007 is an outstanding remake of one of the greatest games ever made. The fact that it manages to redo almost every aspect of the peerless original, in a brand new way, and throws in the modern gaming extras including stealth, online multiplayer deathmatches and local split-screen chaos add up to one of the most essential purchases of the year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, one and all. We’ll return in 2011 for more sporadic updates and bitter humour.