Wednesday 20 November 2019

Donkey Kong gets his timing wrong with Tropical Freeze

Reviewed: Donkey Kong - Tropical Freeze, Fable Anniversary, Outlast, Primal Flame

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for Wii U
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for Wii U
Fable Anniversary for Xbox 360
Outlast for PS4
Primal Flame for iOS by Irish developer Irrelevant Fish
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Wii U

RATING: 8/10

AGE: 3+

RIGHT game, wrong time. Coming so soon after the bloody marvellous Super Mario 3D World, DKC: Tropical Freeze is not quite what Wii U owners needed from Nintendo – another platformer.

In fact, if Nintendo is trying to connect potential buyers to its struggling Wii U console, surely a variation on a theme is not the compelling entry required in a limited release schedule. Especially seeing as it’s one that fails to exploit the unique qualities of the Wii U: chiefly the iPad-alike GamePad controller.

Had the roster been much more diverse for Wii U, we would look more fondly on this 2D side-scroller that enhances the amusing DKC formula and provides long-lasting entertainment.

There’s much to admire here, including the crisply colourful level designs, varying from underwater shenanigans to disintegrating platforms and airborne adventures. As always, the mine cart levels work best, requiring twitch reactions and good memory for the rollercoaster ride.

But as much as it brings a smile to the face, Tropical Freeze also feels achingly familiar, with limited multiplayer and, worst of all, scant use of the screen on the GamePad.

Aside from enabling you to play without using the TV, Tropical Freeze ignores the winning potential of that second screen, damning its host platform as just an extension of the original Wii.

History may well be kinder to DK’s latest outing but right now it fills a gap that isn’t there.



Fable Anniversary


RATING: 6.5/10


QUITE why you’d want to play a 10-year-old game that wasn’t a considered a classic in the first place is a bit of mystery.

Certainly, Fable had the potential to be epic when it hit the original Xbox in 2004, coming from the Lionhead studio of Peter Molyneux, he of Populous, Syndicate and Theme Park fame. Molyneux famously promised a morally binding medieval fantasy RPG, “for every choice, a consequence”.

Fable, though, turned out to be a sporadically witty but shallow role-player best appreciated by anyone fond of the toilet humour in British sitcoms.

The morality layer – in which characters changed their attitude to you depending on your behaviour, good or evil – was so thin as to be invisible. Lionhead went on to refine and bolster the formula in Fable 2 to much better effect.

So that leaves us with a graphically enhanced, lightly tweaked remake in Fable Anniversary. But too often the animation and glitches remind us we’re playing a 10-year-old game while the straightforward hero plot delivers few surprises.

Still, at a reduced price, Anniversary provides many hours of gentle entertainment, albeit of a form that has been bettered several times since.




RATING: 8/10

AGE: 18+

WHEN practically every game gives you a gun, it takes courage (or maybe just savvy) to make one in which you have no weapons at all.

It doesn’t matter so much that Outlast’s premise is founded in cliché. A journalist investigates unearthly activity at an insane asylum. When he finds the front gate abandoned and all signs point to a gruesome secret, he doesn’t just cut and run, he ploughs on alone.

Alone, except for a camcorder which frames much of the action thanks to the infra-red sensor that enables him/you see in the darkness cloaking the bloodied halls of the asylum.

It’s a scenario cribbed liberally from the likes of Blair Witch and Spanish horror [REC], right down to the sound of your ragged breathing and jump scares aplenty. That not everyone you meet is a danger adds immeasurably to the tension, leaving you uncertain whether each gibbering loon in your path will kill you or just drool on you.

When the murderous inmates do emerge, your only option is to run and hide in conveniently placed lockers or under beds, waiting terrified for them to give up the hunt (or haul you out and wring your neck).

But Outlast can sustain this edge for only so long, as you realise you’re following the same patterns and, if determined enough, can sprint past the homicidal maniacs to your next goal.


Primal Flame


RATING: 7/10

AGE: 3+

IRISH developer Irrelevant Fish makes a distinctive debut with a collect-em-up thoughtfully enhanced by dreamy visuals and a gentle soundtrack.

The object is to keep a flame burning by collecting light seeds while dodging energy-sapping particles and snap-jawed plants. Irrelevant Fish has worked hard to create a tactile pleasure to the gameplay, with the fire sparked by swiping across the screen to light a match, only catching flame after two or three attempts.

Kudos too for avoiding in-app purchases or hard-sell ads.

Primal Flame’s weakness stems from its lack of variety. With only three worlds to play in, the drive to keep circling the screen with your finger loses its impetus after a few minutes.

The obscuring nature of using your finger as a fat stylus also means the game is best suited to the bigger screen of an iPad, where it’s much easier to target the stems of the chasing plants to cut off their heads.



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