Thursday 17 August 2017

Games: Enjoy a healthy dose of paranoia

Prey (XO/PS4/PC) ★★★★★ Age: 18+

Prey
Prey
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Baudelaire once mused that the finest trick of the devil is to persuade you he doesn't exist. There's something of the 19th-century French poet's philosophy in Prey, a portmanteau of several existential shooters that ask why are we here and what it means to be human.

If that sounds like heavy going, never fear. Prey tucks the narrative into the crevices between the tense and fierce action sequences on board an art-deco space station overrun by angry aliens. Some of these extra-terrestrial devils possess the ability to mimic real objects - a plant, a chair, a mug - and conceal themselves as they wait to pounce. Others prowl the corridors aggressively, growling ominously before attacking with terrifying speed.

At first, the odds seem incredibly unfair - you're a lowly scientist armed with nothing more than a wrench and a strong arm. You will die. A lot. But then you discover neuromods - bodily upgrades injected directly into the eye (ouch) - and stumble on a series of tasty weapons.

Stealth remains the default approach throughout, but your growing abilities tip the scales in your favour. By now, you're possibly thinking Prey sounds naggingly familiar. Any fan of System Shock, Bioshock or Dishonored will recognise its brand of freeform problem-solving and deeply woven storyline. Prey may not be quite their equal, but sometimes it's better the devil you know, as the old cliché goes.

Tumbleseed

(Switch/PS4/PC) ★★★★★ Age: 7+

Play the beautiful Tumbleseed as far away as possible from everyone - your screaming will quickly become annoying. You scream frequently because Tumbleseed is hard. Really hard. And yet utterly compelling.

You're tasked with lifting a spherical seed up a mountain by balancing it on a horizontal vine. But the 2D slope is cluttered with chasms and roving creatures, requiring you to delicately feather each end of the vine to roll your seed past.

In such tight spaces, mistakes become inevitable and very regular - hence the screaming, but the lure of just one more go is irresistible, especially as you gain confidence in your skills and reach the higher levels with their tempting array of power-ups.

Farpoint

(PSVR) ★★★ Age: 16+

What appears to be a gallant attempt at a first-person shooter in VR quickly reveals itself as a repetitive fairground ride on rails. An astronaut stuck on a remote, barren planet faces down a procession of hostile, scuttling bugs.

Alternating visually between bland corridors and startling skylines, Farpoint is carried a considerable distance by its novelty - particularly if using the optional new gun peripheral sold with the game. But once you realise the shallow range of its combat and limited freedom of movement, you're left wondering when the first great VR shooter will arrive.

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