I Can’t Afford: Spider-Man on PS4

We’ve all been there. It’s the end of the month. Finances are a little bleak. Your pals are raving about the new smash-hit title, and you don’t even have the console with which to play it on, never mind the game. Wow, I probably should have led with that. No PS4 AND no money? Ooft. Sorry, champ. But it’s okay. Just because you can’t afford to play Spider-Man on the PS Quad doesn’t mean you can’t have some web-slinging fun with New York’s favourite son. Here’s a short guide from your friends at Ludotempus, master purveyors of everything independent and retro, saying “yes, you can’t afford to play Spider-Man, but no, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.” Here’s some alternatives for you webheads.

Spider-Man 2, 2004 (PS2, Xbox, GameCube)

Alright, alright. Let’s get the obvious part out of the way: Spider-Man 2 is at the forefront of great video game tie-ins, because it seamlessly brought Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man to life in a way that other video games simply hadn’t done. Without sounding corny, there’s two major characters to Spider-Man – the hero himself and the city of New York, and I think this game thrives because it does both justice. You’re able to swing about with such freedom, such abandon, such limitlessness that this game becomes a really breathless and intoxicating experience. Other titles saw you controlling Spider-Man. Here, you simply are Spidey in how effortless it feels to dip and dive through the city streets, which feel truly alive – this was the first Spider-Man game to really give a true account of the world around Spider-Man, instead of near-exclusively forcing our hero into cramped hallways and darkened warehouses. As such, the open-world and the fluidity of control play smoothly together, which makes this a game still worth looking at 14 years on (Insomniac certainly did), especially if you’re a Tobey Maguire mark like I am. You can still pick up this game for a couple of pounds/dollars second hand, but for the love of Lee, do NOT buy the PC version. It’s an entirely different game and made from nightmares.

Spider-Man, 2002 (PS2)

Now, we just covered this game’s younger and (debatably) more attractive sibling, which might have you wondering, “Why is he talking about an inferior prequel?”. It’s exactly that mindset that I’d like to expel, that this game has nothing to offer. This game might be showing how venerable it is 16 years on with clunky controls and shoddy camera work baring their wisdom teeth, and the level-based linearity hasn’t aged as nicely as the open-world design of Spider-Man 2, but there’s still a lot of entertainment to be had with this title, which is a charming title that’ll last you about 10 hours, offering a reasonable expansion on the events of the film. It’s fun and well-presented, with serviceable combat and web-swinging, guest appearances from lesser-spotted villains like Vulture and Shocker, and great sound design with dialogue provided by Mr Maguire, as well as surprisingly great, memory-touching music, considering this game was only ever intended as a “cheap” tie-in. There’s also a horde of extras for fans of the comic books, such as scrapped designs and a suit created by Alex Ross. The only thing that undercuts the game is how silly it gets, but that’s only because its animations have only began to look more comical with time. Otherwise, this is a fairly faithful, if linear, experience that ties itself well to the source material and is even cheaper than the vaunted sequel; should only be about £2/$2 to pick up for a web-swingingly good time.

Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, 2008 (DS)

Let’s get away from the obvious for a minute, though. You knew Spider-Man 2 is good; everybody and their mum says so. Let me tell you something you don’t know: Friend or Foe on the DS was a tidy little beat ’em up game that most people overlooked since it was tied to a console release that bombed. The console releases bombed for good reason, but the DS title didn’t quite deserve that fate. In no way is this title the best game in the world, nor even the best game on this list, but the action and controls are tight enough to keep you rapt until the closing credits. You’ll fight through hordes of mooks as Spider-Man, but the upside is that you get to team up with characters such as Dr Octopus, Green Goblin, Black Cat, and even Blade in a war against the arch-villain of this title, Mysterio. The premise and gameplay is cool enough to keep your attention, but the combinations of strange bedfellows that you can create make this worthy of a second look at the very least, especially now that the game only costs £4, or a dollar or two more if you live in the States, especially if you want something unpretentious and unadulterated with respect to the essence of the comic books.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, 2000 (PS1, Dreamcast)

A bit of a cheeky cop-out, this, but it’s our list and you’re the one with no money, so shut up. As a reward for completing Career Mode 100% (all gold medals in all three competitions, and all goals completed) with a created character, you’ll be bestowed with the lovely honour of playing as The Human Spider himself. I don’t think much more needs to be said – you’re playing as your favourite hero in one of the greatest games of all time, but since I get paid per word, I’ll say more anyway. Racking up points in long, flowing combos in Pro Skater 2 is feverishly addictive, and getting to do so as Spider-Man is ridiculous, but satisfying in a deep part of yourself that you just can’t explain. Maybe that’s what the world needs. Peace, love, and Peter Parker doing a McTwist in Marseille over the fountain. Maybe then we’d be a lot happier. If you’re not satisfied by that, then the knowledge that Mr Parker has four different alternate costumes, one being the Symbiote suit should stifle you for now. If you haven’t stopped reading this immediately to buy a copy of Pro Skater 2, then you’re hopeless, but for those that need an extra push; copies on PS1 (the most accessible way of playing the game) float around the £7.50/$10 mark, which is a bit pricier than the other titles mentioned here, but considering you’re getting Spider-Man doing a 720 melon? Money well spent.

The prices referred to in this article are accurate as of September 2018. Remember, have fun, and keep it cheap and cheerful out there!

Story-Driven Title “Whispering Willows” Coming To Switch

If you’ve felt that the selection for independent titles on Nintendo’s eShop has been a bit anaemic (and well overpriced at that), you may well be in luck, as Akupara Games have just announced the upcoming release of a new-to-Switch title, Whispering Willows, via a trailer released this Friday.

Whispering Willows will be a port of a game previously released on the PC and Ouya in 2014 by Night Light Interactive, but it looks to have found a natural home on the Switch, four years later. The game looks to be a 2D platformer with hand-painted graphics, and will emphasise a story-driven experience “full of twists and betrayal”, as well as exploration and puzzles to keep the player busy.

Adventure games that harken back to Metroidvania often do well on Nintendo’s platform, which will be a boon for the developers and also fans of the genre. The handheld nature of the console also pairs well with intimate experiences, which Whispering Willows looks to offer.

The story will see you taking control of a young girl named Elena who is in search of her father in the frightening setting of the Willows Mansion. Elena will be confronted by spirits both benevolent and malevolent, but she is imbued with the powers of astral projection thanks to an amulet left to her by her dad, which will allow her to solve the puzzles left by the mansion, according to the official press release. The game had been decently well-received in the past, earning 63% from aggregators Metacritic.

The Los Angeles-based independent publisher-developer, noted for previously being behind titles such as Little Bug and Desert Child, look to continue their commitment to uplifting smaller games; the company specialise in “delivering next-level results” for clients that might not have had the knowledge or power to launch their games on platforms such as the Switch themselves.

The Switch port will be released on the 25th of September for $9.99 on the eShop, and the trailer can be viewed here: 

RuneScape To Have Music Library Released For First Time Ever

The creators of the world-conquering and hugely popular MMORPG series RuneScape, Jagex, announced in Cambridge today that they would release two albums’ worth of original music related to the venerable fantasy franchise in collaboration with the The Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, and Laced Records, a music publisher.

Two records entitled RuneScape: The Orchestral Collection and Runescape: Original Soundtrack Classics are available now on streaming platforms such as Spotify. Physical releases will come later on – fans will be able to pre-order either CDs or double vinyl sets if they want to get their hands on something tangible.

The compilations feature work from James Hannigan, who is a BAFTA-award winning composer who has previously been heard on franchises such as Harry Potter and Command and Conquer – specifically, this was soundtrack work from the decently-received Order of the Phoenix, as well as the creation of the main theme from Red Alert 3, the Soviet March.

The music was originally recorded in two stages for these albums: the first coming in 2012 in Bratislava by the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra – this is more than likely the original compositions recorded for the game in the first place. The last part of the record was completed in December 2017 at the aforementioned Abbey Road Studios, and will likely form the basis for Disc 1.

Guy Pearce, Director of Brand and Creative Production at Jagex, was vocal about releasing the soundtrack for the sake of the fans. “The community has been telling us for a long time that RuneScape’s music is, for many, the soundtrack to their youth and that they would like it to be more easily available. So, we’re thrilled to be able to make original, current and classical versions of some of their favourite tracks available for them to listen to where, when and how they want.”

The two albums are available to listen to now on streaming sites, and can be ordered through Laced Records here (if you live in the US): www.lacedrecords.com and here (rest of the world): www.lacedrecords.co.

Bully/Canis Canem Edit (PS2) review

“You got Canis Canem Edit in the USA? Bully for you, son.” So goes the most painful joke I’ve ever written in order to crowbar both titles of this game into the opening line of this review in order to maximize the search engine potential. And people call me a hack! Nevertheless, Bully is a 2006 open-world action adventure game published by Rockstar, and specifically developed by their Vancouver branch.

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Pac-Man 256 Review [ORIGINAL TEXT]

[Hi guys. After all the madness that went down from the Pac-Man 256 review, I became slightly famous and made a name for myself as well as sinking one of the scummiest ships in the video game journalism industry. Not bad for a day’s work, eh? People seemed to really enjoy the review, and as such, because it’s no longer hosted under Paul Ryan, who swiftly deleted it the morning after — like the internet forgets — I’ve decided to put it up here forever for everyone’s viewing pleasure. And, also, unlike what Paul Ryan thinks, this writing belongs to me, and not him, no matter how many phony EULAs and CAD orders he cobbles together from Bing searches, so this is going on my site where it belongs. In time, I would like to do an actual review for the game — it certainly deserves it. Anyway, you and your kids and your kids’ kids can read the review that the internet seemed to like a wee bit. Enjoy.]

When you set out to reinvent the classics, you are greatly advised to watch your step. A brave new direction for a beloved franchise may be just what the character needs, but God help you from the wrath of the fans if you do it wrong. You can’t play around with remakes, especially if the source material is beloved. It’s nearly sacrilege. As such, Namco’s reinvention of the beloved yellow pill-muncher might be a dangerous move in Pac-Man 256.
The idea of Pac-Man 256 is derived from what happens in the original Pac-Man when you clear 256 levels; on level 257 [ed note: yes I fucked this up and it haunts me every day — clear 255 levels, 256th is buggered. As you were.], the game becomes a garbled mess that becomes unplayable. A good example of a garbled mess is Brash Games; this very website that strips authors of their writing credits when they leave the site, later attributing them to the sole owner and editor, Paul Ryan, making your work completely pointless, just as Pac-Man is completely pointless after level 256. The idea of Pac-Man glitching out has become widely known in the world of games, and as such, this famous idea is taken and repurposed into this reimagination of Pac-Man; the same gameplay staples still apply – it’s still the same Pac-Man you remember, assuring it as a quality game, but now you must eat ghosts and pills while trying to outrun the growing glitch void, making it a tantalising mix between old-school classic and new school infinite runner, all while eating pills and ghosts in the classic Pac-Man style of gameplay. As a whole, this works astoundingly well – there’s an immense amount of pressure that makes the game exciting in a sadistic way; avoiding the void becomes truly heart-pounding; coincidentally, this is the same void my reviews will probably disappear into after I leave this site.
Namco Bandai haven’t changed too much of the winning formula, and why should they? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Everything that we grew to love in the original iterations is still present; the classic sound effects, the musical stings, and even ghosts. Speaking of ghosts, did you know that Brash Games deliberately ghosted themselves from Metacritic, GameRankings, and OpenCritic (marking themselves as “out of business on Meta and GR, which is an outrageous and egregious lie – it’s here right now) to avoid having any sort of public record of reviews available which would have attributed work to the proper authors? It’s true! In fact, when reviewers leave, work gets automatically attributed to “Brash Games”, which is solely operated by Paul Ryan, thus making it seem like he did all the work. OpenCritic are doing an investigation into the behaviour of the site and everything. But what truly deserves investigation is the new alterations added to the game in order to freshen up the format; this is very much a case of teaching an old dog new tricks. For one, the game has upgradable power-ups such as lasers and freeze attacks that Pac-Man can pick up and use for a limited time in the level, which serves to give you an edge over those pesky ghosts. This is a welcome change, as it doesn’t make the game too easy, rather helping to level the playing field when you’re stuck in those frustrating tight spots when cornered by three or more ghosts. It’s also presented in a sharp new way; instead of the old-school top-down view in 2D, we get an extremely sweet isometric 3D view, and this approach to graphics really surmises the whole game. It feels the same, just different, like a deep and welcoming kiss from a new lover; it’s inextricable from the new and the strange, but just feels so GOOD.
Also, a touch of modernity added to the game that works surprisingly well is the use of tasks within the game that reward players. These tasks include eating X amount of ghosts, using power-ups X times, scoring X amount of points – very achievable tasks that make Pac-Man 256 extremely reminiscent of a mobile game. This is no bad thing, as arcade games were historically made with short and sweet play sessions in mind – why not take Pac-Man to the next logical step of “pick up and play” and incorporate these mobile elements. This works superbly – this becomes a title that you can go back to over and over and over, providing mileage in gameplay for years to come. This applies if you’re the type to play 4 hours at a time or just 5 minutes every lunch break; the replayability is immense.
Complementing the brilliant reimagined gameplay is a fantastic soundtrack. Namco Bandai shy away from the sound of silence, which is, at the time of writing, exactly what I received when I announced my resignation to the editor Paul Ryan and clarified I would leave Brash as soon as possible. No email, no apology, no “I wish you the best in your future endeavours”, nothing. Pure radio silence; the only acknowledgement I received was that my name was pulled from the contributors list quietly. Some might call that cowardly – I’ll leave it to your interpretation. Rather, the game exploits low-key techno beats to gracefully update the beloved musical stings and background tracks. And (I promise this is the last time I utilise this painful segue) speaking of exploitation, Brash Games took advantage of naïve young writers, offering them no money, but exposure, which is useless when you essentially pretend your writers did not exist later on down the line.
I thought this game was great, but I’m going to – on behalf of Brash Games – award it a 1 out of 10. I do this safe in the knowledge that the editor will change it later without me knowing to fit the score HE would prefer. This is not an exaggeration: review scores selected by authors were changed by the editor without warning, explanation, or consideration, and several alumni of Brash Games corroborate this. As such, I would not want to begrudge my former editor another opportunity to do this.
(And now, because this game is a quality product and deserves some dignity, which Brash is totally bereft of, here’s the real review: this is a solid remake of a beloved classic that could potentially provide as many hours of joy as the original. Graphics and music have been updated tastefully, as has the gameplay, which uses mobile-style micro missions to reward players. It’s a great spin on an old ball, and as such, Pac-Man 256 is completely worth a look, even if you’re only vaguely familiar with the source material. Fantastic value for money, too, being priced at sub-£5/$5. 9/10.)
By the way, if it wasn’t completely clear, with the publishing of this review, I quit Brash Games for the way it treats its writers, and I will endeavour to make sure new writers do not fall into the same trap. Nobody will pay me for this – it’s not a job that pays in the cash money sense, but the sense of satisfaction that I’ll get from making sure a talented writer doesn’t get taken advantage of is more than worth it. Good luck on Monday for when the OpenCritic report gets released.