World Cup souvenir lacks strength in depth to be a real winner
REVIEWED: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil; Towerfall Ascension; Invizimals
IF you’re going to buy this, buy it now because within a few weeks it’ll be redundant and within a few months it’ll be superseded. That’s the bargain you’re making with the devil created by EA’s marketing machine.
Here’s the deal – take last year’s FIFA game, remove a huge chunk of its content (including clubs, competitions and killer match modes such as Ultimate Team, obviously), add one specific tournament (albeit the biggest one on the planet) and then charge almost full whack. Congratulations, you’ve just made 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.
Forgive my cynicism but EA showed two years ago that it could do the sensible thing and release a mid-year tournament (Euro 2012) as an inexpensive expansion pack. Why not with this year’s World Cup? You can fill in the dots yourself.
Owners of FIFA 14 would be hard-pressed to notice the gameplay differences (though admittedly the goalkeeper’s new wobbly-kneed distraction techniques at penalties got a laugh out of me). Certainly, the new animations (zombie-like crowd scenes) or jazzy presentation (garish menus and samba tunes) are as useful as a David Moyes team-talk.
The true value of this, ahem, souvenir edition lies in replaying the qualifying stages (where you could undo Trapattoni’s damage, for instance) or play out the tournament in advance of the real thing. Both options are hugely enjoyable on the face of it – FIFA still offers a fantastic game of football, no question – yet they come at a high price, literally, for long-time fans of the series.
Note too that next-gen consoles have been shut out of this update – it’s PS3 and X360 only . But given the cold-hearted grasp for your wallet perhaps that’s not such a terrible omission.
TO SIT down in front of Towerfall is to be transported back in time to about 1985. Not just because of the retro eight-bit graphics but also it thumbs its nose at modern online gaming in favour of in-your-face local-only multiplayer.
Frankly though, if you can’t get a couple of friends round (and shell out for a couple of extra PS4 controllers – ouch), fuggeddaboutit. Towerfall is built for raucous offline multiplayer where you jostle with pals on the couch and lord it over each other in sweet victory.
Gameplay-wise, it's dead simple (and simply deadly at times). You control archers with just three arrows each, fighting to the death in a 2D platform arena. The pace is furious, with opponents leaping around like Mario on crack and – get this – capable of catching an inbound arrow before hurling it back.
It’s a skill that once mastered never loses its appeal and Towerfall offers a variety of game modes to keep things fresh. Particularly hilarious is the option to enforce instant death if you fire your bow when you’ve no arrows.
While there is a rather limp single-player campaign, you do have to ask how much value you’ll get from Towerfall unless your mates come over for a session regularly. It leaves me wondering how hard it could have been to add online multiplayer, even though it will never match the intensity of local matches.
RATING: 5/10 and 6/10
TWO parts Pokemon to one part Skylanders, Invizimals has spawned its own TV series after five years of quietly ploughing its own kid-friendly furrow. But the step up in prominence and budgets hasn’t translated to improvements in the latest instalments of the franchise.
The PS3-hosted Lost Kingdom comes off like a limp imitation of Ratchet and Clank. Featuring live-action cut-scenes obviously inspired by children’s afternoon TV dramas, the gameplay fares worse, hampered by lethargic controls.
On PS Vita, The Alliance performs a little better, making use of augmented reality in its Pokemon-style creature battles. You will need to dig out your AR cards that originally came with the Vita and be prepared to carry them with you at all times – otherwise the game simply refuses to work.
The Alliance manages to be entertaining in short spurts, though it quickly becomes repetitive. The ever-reliable Brian Blessed supplies some hearty voicework but even he can’t drown out the little voice telling the player there’s better fun to be had elsewhere.