Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor was More, and Less, than Meets the Eye (of Sauron)

Shadow of Mordor

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor was an arcade-style beat-‘em-up in the guise of an open-world adventure game.

The 2014 game, which will be getting a sequel soon, boasted the unique “Nemesis System”, which allowed the game’s orcs to have power struggles, comment on the player’s previous actions, and allow for personalized game experiences.

With the Nemesis System, orcs levelled up with the player. They began at the bottom of the food chain, and as the player advanced time (usually through death), the orcs would beat each other up to gain status and new abilities. If the player were to be killed by an orc and fight them again later, the orc might say, “Didn’t I already kill you?” Or if the player “killed” an orc in a particular battle, the supposedly-dead orc might reappear with a scar or burn mark, ready to take revenge.

Nobody stayed dead in that game, apparently. I mean, the protagonist dies at the beginning. But it’s okay because he’s got a ghost possessing him? But the ghost is an elf? I don’t really remember the details. Anyway.

It was a well-praised system that ultimately acted as window dressing for killing scores of orcs, which, in most games of this type, would all look exactly the same. Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System gave personality and history to the orcs and their respective clans, driving the player to more meaningful encounters.

Here’s the thing. Shadow of Mordor wasn’t a very deep game.

It had a beautiful, if mostly bland, open world, and some requisite collectibles scattered around. It had some fun with the Lord of the Rings universe, but never reached the heights of the books. It didn’t have a smorgasbord of minigames or filler quests, like an Assassin’s Creed. And it didn’t have a huge cast of fun characters, like the Arkham Games.

If it were a book genre, it would be sword and sorcery, rather than high fantasy. And as a game, I’d sooner call it an arcadey action game rather than an epic adventure game. And that’s great.

Shadow of Mordor came out at the very end of September, 2014. The previous big game was Destiny, which came out at the very beginning of the month. And the next major release wouldn’t be until November, when all the typical AAA releases came out. In short, it was a fairly dry time of the year (assuming you wanted a break from Destiny). Shadow of Mordor was a snack between big meals.

Shadow of War
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/15939671592/

And I think there’s a market for that.

A “good enough” game, released in a slow season, to tide players over until the full-course AAAs can come out to play. Shadow of Mordor was a tight game, with fun action, that didn’t try to be more than it needed to.

Not every game needs world-ending stakes and gigantic set pieces and NPCs with filler quests to pad out the game length. I preferred the lean focus of Shadow of Mordor over the bloated Arkham Knight and the stretched-too-thin Assassin’s Creed: Unity. And I could still enjoy the open adventure format that games like Bayonetta didn’t deliver.

With all this said, I’m open for a bigger and better version of this game with Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. Maybe it’ll be the Assassin’s Creed 2 to Shadow Mordor’s Assassin’s Creed 1. Or it’ll just be more arcadey orc-killin’, which would be fine with me. I just really, really hate orcs. Maybe I should talk to someone about that…

Wii U Release for Pokken Tournament Announced

Pokken Tournament, the new Pokemon fighting game from the developers of the Tekken series, has been confirmed for a Wii U release.  The game was originally released exclusively in Japanese arcades and there was a deal of concern over whether it would release on the Wii U or not.  All worries can be laid to rest as Pokken Tournament will release on Wii U worldwide in the spring of 2016.

We also have a new fighter announced for the roster (sort of) with Pikachu Libre joining the cast.  It’s certainly a controversial choice as there are literally hundreds of fan-favorites that could have been focused on instead, whereas Pikachu Libre easily could have just been an alternate costume for the Pikachu already on the roster.

Still, looking at the layout of the select screen suggests that there will be at least four more characters added to the game by the console release, and there’s always a chance of more either at launch or as DLC.  Which Pokemon are you hoping to see enter the ring?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

ZHEROS – In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Brawl

Rimlight Studios has announced that upcoming 3D brawler will be ready for release on Xbox One via the [email protected] self-publishing program.

ZHEROS is a stylised sci-fi action game combining frantic fun, crazy creatures and monstrous mechs! Set in a futuristic and colourful landscape you take control of either Captain Dorian or Mike punching, kicking and shooting your way through robotic enemies to stop the evil plan of Dr. Vendetta. Think the over top heroism from Captain Qwark in the Ratchet & Clank series.

The game can be played solo or via local co-op, you and a friend can battle through various enemy types using unique and engaging combat.

ZHEROS looks like a fun light hearted break from the gritty realism of most new releases, to see the game in action check out the gameplay video below:

ZHEROS will be playable at the upcoming Gamescom event. What other [email protected] games are you looking forward to seeing? Let me know in the comments below.

Skyscrappers – Platformer fighter hybrid announced for Xbox One and PS4

Skyscrappers

Skyscrappers

Groundshatter has announced an upcoming four player brawler heading to Xbox One and PS4 this year. Following a formula not dissimilar from SpeedRunners it features four players all competing to remain on screen, the difference is that the battle takes place on a collapsing building. Whilst jumping between sections you will also have to be vigilant of enemy players attacking you.

Unlike most modern releases Skyscrappers multiplayer is exclusive to local play, there will also be a single player mode as well.

In the gameplay video released we are introduced to four playable characters; Phileas, Kichirou, Solene and Jessica. All have their own weapons and unique style.

If you are a fan of quick competitive action with friends then this will be the game for you. Check out the gameplay video below.

Are you excited for Skyscrappers game? Could this be Xbox and PS4’s very own Smash Brothers? Let me know in the comments below.

Retro Corner: The Simpsons Arcade Game

The Simpsons Arcade Game

Arcade

Now, I’m not the type to bust out a long, rage-tastic diatribe about licensed games. Let’s all just admit that they (usually) suck monkey nuts, and get on with our lives.

Still, it wasn’t always that way. Like the decrepit old gamer I am, I remember the glory days. The days we had truly fantastic games-of-the-movie to enjoy. The likes of the Mega Drive’s The Lion King and Aladdin are still celebrated as some of the best platformers of the early nineties. Right around this time also came… The Simpsons Arcade Game.

Released by Konami in 1991, this was a scrolling beat ’em up in the Streets of Rage vein. Think of it as a toony Golden Axe, with less of those dodgy-looking dragon things to ride and more of Homer swinging Marge around by the hair as a special attack. You don’t want to miss that, so let’s take a look.

As far as plotting goes, this is all fairly conventional for the genre. There’s been –wait for it– a kidnapping. Here, it’s Maggie, after she inadvertently swallows a flying diamond during a jewellery raid. The thief is none other than Waylon Smithers, who snatches the girl so as to not lose her precious shiny cargo. Naturally, Ma and Pa Simpson don’t take kindly to the theft of their daughter, and so they set off in pursuit of Smithers with Bart and Lisa in tow.

The Simpsons Arcade Game 2

There’s a little suspension of disbelief needed here. When was ol’ Waylon ever such a dastardly criminal? Where did he get a whole army of goons to attack the family? Is he suddenly some kind of camp underworld kingpin? None of that matters. This is a fine setup for a little side-scrolling punchin’-and-a-kickin’ goodtimes, and that’s all we need to know.

You’ll chase Burns’ underling through all manner of familiar Springfield locales, from Moe’s Tavern to the power plant and Krustyland. There’s also a level set in a dream sequence, which is a popular device in the show itself. Throughout the stages, there are cameo appearances from other Springfieldians, and lots of in-jokes and such which are sure to be appreciated by fans.

In gameplay terms, too, this is a standard-issue brawler with a Simpsons makeover. Controls are as simple as you’d expect, with the usual jumps, throws and quick combos on offer. There are also tag team attacks, appropriate to the characters using them, which are highly damaging and pretty darn funny too (Homer’s spousal abuse mentioned above, for instance).

All in all, The Simpsons Arcade Game is a solid beat ’em up. It’s no genre classic, but it’s a fine and fan-pleasing effort. In licensed game terms, the Simpsons have fared a little better than most through the years, and this is my favourite title bearing their name.

7 Nintendo Attractions that Universal Studios Needs Most

Nintendo

Nintendo and Universal have announced that they are working together to create attractions at Universal Studios theme parks based on Nintendo games and there is plenty of speculation to be had on what could come out of this.  Sadly, I have accepted the fact that the King Kong/Donkey Kong grudge match of my dreams isn’t going to be made a reality.  However, I do have seven more practical attractions that we’ll likely see manifest out of this partnership.

Rob

7) R.O.B.’s Arcade

Obviously, there has to be at least one arcade involved in a collection of Nintendo attractions and there would be no better figurehead than the Robotic Operating Buddy that helped sell the NES.  The entire arcade could have a unifying theme of old-school technology tying all of the cabinets together, possibly with a large, animatronic R.O.B. in the center of it all.  Granted, an arcade doesn’t really need to be made into an attraction in and of itself, but do you really think Universal Studios is going to cut corners on this?  The only question, ironically enough, is what specific games they would host at any Nintendo arcades.  There are plenty of classics like Donkey Kong and Balloon Fight, but Nintendo has been out of the arcade market for a long time and there are only so many old arcade machines they can drudge up.  Then again, if they bring a few cabinets of Pokken Tournament to the park, that alone would draw in customers.

animalcrossing

6) Animal Crossing Village

Won’t anyone think of the children?  Any theme park has to have an area or two dedicated to small children and Animal Crossing would be a perfect addition for the Nintendo section.  There’s no need to worry about any grander attractions, but plenty of possibilities for colorful and diverse play-areas that would be perfect for kids.  Sure, most gamers won’t care much for it unless they have kids of their own, but Universal does have a wider audience to consider than just you and me.

F-Zero

5) F-Zero Roller Coaster

There is going to be at least one roller coaster involved.  This is a fact of life.  What better choice for a high-speed thrill ride than the series all about high-speed thrills?  Imagine blazing through three rounds of a twisting course of dives and turns while the theme to Mute City booms over the speakers.  I rest my case.

luigi-Mansion

4)Luigi’s Mansion

I’ll get to more straightforward Mario attractions later, but a haunted mansion based on Luigi’s Mansion is too perfect to pass up.  Along with all of the usual trappings, there’s also room for goofy elements to the attraction given the more jovial tone of the games.  Humorous props and even an interactive ghost hunt could quickly make it into a unforgettable experience.  At the very least, it would have to pop up once a year for the Halloween Horror Nights.

Milk_Bar_(Majora's_Mask)

3) Lon Lon Milk Bar

Apparently, one of the new features at a lot of Universal attractions is themed drinks.  Well, Nintendo certainly has no shortage of options for just that and a Legend of Zelda-styled cafe could be the nexus for it all.  The Zelda series has enough potions to base actual drinks off of that it’s already a long-running joke on the internet that Link is secretly an alcoholic.  On top of various colorful potions that brewers would have plenty of creative freedom to work with, there’s also the Lon Lon Milk and Chateau Romani for kids and adults respectively.  Beyond that, there are plenty of in-game items from other games that could easily be made into real drinks.  Celadon City Lemonade, Brewster’s Choice Coffee, Super Star Soda, Palutena’s Divine Wine, Yoshi’s Fruit Punch, Pikmin’s Cream Soda; the possibilities are endless.

metroid

2) Metroid Adventure

Universal Studios is well-known for their immersive and exciting rides like their ones based on Jaws, Spider-man, and Harry Potter.  Mario and Zelda are the obvious picks for such an attraction, but Metroid could have the greatest potential of them all.  Combine the dark, claustrophobic corridors with the horrific, colossal monsters that the series is known for and the ride practically builds itself.  They could make it an interactive shooting gallery or opt to keep the tone serious and frightening.  Even if most of it ends up being CGI, it wouldn’t be that distracting for anyone used to playing the games.

MushroomKingdom

1) The Mushroom Kingdom

There absolutely has to be a Mario attraction, but what kind should they settle on with all of the possibilities available.  Should it be a tour ride similar to the Metroid one I suggested above?  Should they build a real-life Mario Kart race track?  A recreation of Peach’s castle?  The answer is all of the above.  Several of the major attractions at Universal parks have sprawling areas that go above and beyond the attractions themselves and recreate a slice of the worlds that their bringing to life.  The Harry Potter and Simpsons attractions are prime examples of just how in-depth they will go with shops, restaurants, and other props that make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.  Of course, I don’t expect a complete recreation of the Mushroom Kingdom given the limited space that they’ll be able to allow it, but putting together just the right elements will be all they need.  If there’s one attraction that needs to come out of this deal, this is it.

What do you think of the suggested attractions listed above?  What kinds of attractions would you like to see take form out of the partnership between Nintendo and Universal?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Retro Corner: Space Invaders

Space Invaders

Space

Aliens, as we know, generally get a bad rep in video games. Did Gears of Wars’ Locust horde come in peace? They did not. They came in a limb-loppy, face-shooty fury. Then there’s the Covenant, which consists of several species; all of whom rate pretty highly on the douche-o-meter. Or how about the Timesplitters? Or the Greys from Destroy All Humans!? The clue’s in the title there.

In sum, extra-terrestrials are not our friends. They do not befriend lonely little urchins called Elliot, perform heartwarming glowy fingered gestures, or phone home. And if they ever do phone home, it’s only to arrange some mail order weapons of mass destruction to vaporise us with.

So you’ll forgive humanity for being a little hostile back. Over the years, aliens have been gunned down en masse in video games. Even more so than zombies, and that’s saying something. Today, we’re tracing all of this back to the original outer space menaces: the space invaders. Of, y’know, Space Invaders.

Space Invaders 2

The game hit arcades back when there actually were arcades, way back in 1978. Its premise was as simple as you’d expect of gaming’s early days: you’re a blurry laser cannon on the bottom of the screen. Equally blurry waves of aliens approach from the top of the screen. If they reach you, it’s not going to end well. So shoot! Shoot ‘til your shooting finger can shoot no more!

But you know the setup. Space Invaders is among the most iconic games ever made, alongside the likes of Mario, Pac-Man and the equally ancient Asteroids. Even if you aren’t decrepit enough to have played the original, you’ll know the pixellated aliens anywhere.

This one was such a hit because it nailed everything that early arcade games were about. Simple, instinctive gameplay. The ol’ classic ‘easy to pick up and hard to master’ idea. It was also very addictive, and ate many, many quarters in its time. Not to mention the highscore factor.

Space Invaders
is one of those icons of gaming that is still going in some form or another. It’s been ported to all manner of systems, given spangly modern remakes and re-releases, the full works. More than that, it has been an inspiration to later generations of games and has permeated pop culture. Children who weren’t born for decades after the game’s release now wear it on t-shirts, and that’s got to say something.

“How’s THIS for an Idea for a Game?” #2: Bullet Hell in the Bathroom With ‘Toilet Kids’

Toilet Kids

As we know, arcade games aren’t big on story. There’s a time and a place for complex, convoluted Da Vinci Code-esque plotting, and this isn’t it. Was Pac-Man an ambitious take on corporate greed, eating up everything in sight to turn a profit and eating your competitors alive in the process? No, no it wasn’t. Nuts to that.

Although that does sound quite intellectual, come to think about it.

But anywho, the Streets of Rage and Asteroids of the world are about action, not storylines. There’s some brief prattling at the beginning to set the scene, maybe a sparce cutscene or two in between levels, but that’s all you get. And all you expect.

Retro-style scrolling shooters in particular know this. Even the thoroughly demented ones. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Toilet Kids.

The premise is simple: a little boy needs the toilet in the middle of the night. While doing his business, he is sucked head-first into the lav and emerges in an oddly beautiful world. While floating on his tiny toilet-craft, he has to dispatch all manner of bizarre enemies, all to get back to bed. Maybe simple isn’t the operative word, but it’s too late to backtrack now.

That angel really should put some clothes on.
That angel really should put some clothes on.

You’ll meet what appears to be a genie made of poo. You’ll be attacked by huge frogs who pee on you, and angry flying penises. But hey, we’ve all been there.

At its heart, this PC Engine oddity from Japan is a fairly conventional shooter. You’ll collect power-ups, shoot mid-air opponents and bomb the ones on the ground. There are highscores to go for, and everything else you’d expect of the genre. It’s just the enemy design and the theme itself that sets Toilet Kids apart.

It has earned itself an immortal place in gaming history, for being the first title ever to feature creepy pig-faced spiders with bare human butts.

The Best Games You’ve Never Heard Of: Men’s Room Mayhem

Mayhem

Continuing our journey into the more obscure corners of the Gamingsphere, we have another indie release. This time, we’re fleshing out one of video games’ more neglected genres: the Help Tiny Cartoon Dudes Not to Pee on the Floor ’em up. Because that’s totally a thing, mostly courtesy of Men’s Room Mayhem.

This arcade title was brought to us by Ripstone. It’s a cheeky little touchscreen affair, akin to the acclaimed Flight Control in its toontastic visuals and control system. Only, here, we’re directing a stream of patrons around the men’s room, and trying to prevent lapses in hygiene/fistfights/puddles of pee on the floor. Yes indeed.

Men’s Room Mayhem consists of a series of… bathrooms, increasingly fancy locations which serve as the game’s levels. You’re presented with a topdown view of your urine-smelling domain, and a fairly strict time limit. ‘Customers’ will enter the bathroom of their own accord, and you must draw a path for them to follow. From the entrance to the urinal/toilet (a charming little icon above their heads will show you which they need) and back to the door, put simply.

Etiquette bonuses, handwashing bonuses... they're all here for the wily player.
Etiquette bonuses, handwashing bonuses… they’re all here for the wily player.

Naturally, though, there’s more to it than that, which is where that big ol’ MAYHEM in the title comes from. As with Flight Control, you’ll need to manage everybody on the screen at once. Your stylus-flailing skills will have to be top-notch to avoid all of the dangers, as this deceptively simple-looking game has a lot of factors to consider.

Firstly, patrons cannot cross paths. This will instantly cause a fight to break out (perhaps symbolic of men’s extreme intolerance for small talk while they’re having a wee). This will give you one ‘strike,’ of which you have a limited number before game over. The same applies to taking too long to get somebody ‘relieved,’ which will yield you another strike and a mess on the floor.

Suffice it to say, once the game has introduced you to the basics it gets very hectic very quickly. Later, special characters will appear, and have particular requirements (for rather obvious non-dangly-anatomy reasons, the rare female visitor can’t use the urinals). Men’s Room Mayhem is an odd little package, but one full of achievements to earn and highscores to tackle. If it strikes a chord with you, there’s a very addictive experience here.

Retro Corner: Asteroids

Asteroids

Ah, Asteroids. As retro gaming celebrities go, this guy is right up there. You’ll see him at swanky game-y cocktail parties, entertaining his groupies alongside Space Invaders and Pac-Man and other such A listers. These are the retro games, and they demand your attention.

Which is why I’m typing words at your face regarding Asteroids right now. So buckle up, because here come some more.

This arcade classic was released way back in 1979 by Atari. It’s credited as one of the games which kick-started the Golden Age of Arcade Games (which is an actual thing, a fancy title complete with capital letters and everything), which is a huge deal for a humble and simplistic shooter. Let’s take a look.

The premise is easy enough to grasp. You are the pilot of a tiny triangular spacecraft, trapped in the middle of an asteroid belt. Not relishing the prospect of a miniature fiery death, your objective is to blast the rocks flying around your ears and survive for a long as possible. Unable to ‘escape,’ the whole thing’s just one survival mode.

Asteroids 2

You control your craft by means of that awkwardy turn-y go-y system we all know so well. It will have to be mastered, as only the deftest of pilots find their way onto the leaderboards. Asteroids is certainly punishing, as a simple slip or unexpected collision will spell your doom. Health bars? Shields? There was none of that newfangled business in 1979. You don’t pass go. You don’t collect $200. You just explode.

If you’ve ever utilised hyperspace mode and cried a little as it materialised you right in a asteroid’s darn face, you’ll know how cheeky the game can be. But more important than that is how successful and influential it was. Defender, Space Invaders and the like were all cut from the same cloth, and hold all of the virtues of early gaming: accessible, instant fun, which was as addictive as it was deceptively challenging.