Lego Legend of Zelda

After the commercial success of Lego Minecraft, independent creator Michael Inglis has sought to replicate this achievement with a rare and innovative set devoted to Lego Legend of Zelda.

Appealing to a wide mix of geeks around the world (gamers, toy fanatics, collectors, general otaku), Inglis has created a detailed campaign for his Lego Zelda concept including developed product ideas and a highly-viewed viral video. Having recently obtained the required support of over 10,000 followers, Lego will now officially review his ideas for potential product release.

Fingers crossed for some Lego Lon Lon some time soon!

Lego Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time

What Lego Zelda Ocarina of Time figures could look like..

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Avengers Assemble Banner

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to see perhaps the most hyped film of the year (dismissing Prometheus and Dark Knight Rises of course), Marvel‘s Avengers Assemble. Never has a film review been so necessary – I promise to make it as spoiler-free as possible.

Marvel film releases have been at best a mixed bag in the past. There are some great successes, Jon Favreau’s celebrated Iron man series perhaps the most obvious of late, but some horrendous failures too; Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy is particularly offensive on many levels. Bloody emo Spidey. Roll on Marc Webb‘s Amazing Spiderman I say!

Yet, with this rather volatile back catalogue, Avengers Assemble has been eagerly anticipated across the board, receiving rave reviews.

I was as excited to see it as everyone else, but had a number of concerns:

– Being a big budget comic book adaptation, will it deliver more substance than the conventionally expected visual competence using CGI?

– With six hero protagonists, will it manage to spread screen time evenly, treating all with necessary significance?

– Will Chris EvansCaptain America be as uninspiring and one-dimensional as in his solo film?

Wow… boy did it deliver! Multiple Thorgasm!

Avengers Assemble Cast

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong…

Rarely do you come out of a film with a desire to watch the whole thing again immediately… you do with Avengers Assemble. I get the impression that it’s one of those films you could watch endlessly without it becoming tiresome.

Perhaps the greatest success of Avengers Assemble is that it manages the difficult task of dividing screen time between the many protagonists, doing exactly what Spiderman 3 couldn’t. Raimi’s third instalment introduced two villains, Venom and Sandman, resulting in a poorly conceived and lengthy plot that somehow manages to skim over each of their respective stories. Avengers on the other hand, takes double the amount of characters and delivers a generous helping of each, satisfying both cinema and comic book aficionados alike. Though little individual narrative is developed throughout the film for each hero, there is just enough of their personal back stories to introduce them, ensuring that the viewer is not lost.

Obviously Joss Whedon was helped by the fact that the heroes in Avengers Assemble are all interacting in one concise narrative, whereas Venom and Sandman featured in entirely separate storylines. In this respect, being an ensemble film, there is fortunately no real need for a developed examination of each character’s origins. Furthermore, for the most part they have been all been introduced already in other Marvel films, with the exception of the new Hulk and Hawkeye.

To remedy this, Whedon’s introduction of Hawkeye as a villain (I shall say no more..) works as an effective replacement for a back story, giving the viewer an insight into his abilities and an immediate sense of recognition.

Avengers Assemble Hulk

Ho ho ho… Green giant.

The cast of Avengers Assemble is absolutely wonderful. There are top performances across the board, paying particular attention to Robert Downey Jr’s familiar role as gloriously narcissistic inventor Tony Stark/Iron Man, and a surprise new appearance by Marc Ruffalo as Dr Bruce Banner/Hulk. Ruffalo’s performance is especially memorable, portraying the duality of a calm, collected intellectual subduing a beastly, undiscriminating aggressor. As a new hero on the scene (let’s ignore the poor adaptations by Ang Lee and Louis Leterrier), he stands out massively, with a role as huge and menacing as the green giant himself.  This effectively explains why Ruffalo has been signed for 6 Marvel films as the Hulk. On a less significant note, there is also a nice cameo from Cobie Smulders, forming a well-needed departure from the turd pile that is How I Met Your Mother.

Avengers Assemble Iron Man

Iron Man, the Swiss Army Knife of super heroes.

An impressive script sees each character playing off the others, providing some genuine moments of hilarity. Tony Stark is clearly king here… but unexpectedly, Viking god Thor manages to throw down too! At its heart, Avengers Assemble is a high energy action flick, proficiently mixing composition, acting and CGI. However, one of the greater triumphs is its comedic execution. From the taunts of Downey Jr, to the incredibly funny confrontation between Loki and Hulk (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it), the film captures the fists and the funny bones, ensuring that there is a level of accessibility for those being dragged to the cinema by their sons/boyfriends/husbands.

One criticism of Avengers Assemble is that perhaps there is not enough substance there, beyond the heavyweight action and sporadic comedy, to satisfy those uninterested in comics or action films – though, if you fall into this camp I don’t know why you would go to see the film anyway; it’d be like a fan of Scorsese going to see the latest Twilight banality. The plot is incredibly simple, sacrificed entirely for balls-to-the-wall action. This is certainly a necessity however; a more complex, layered film would have made the ensemble casting impossible to achieve successfully. I have to admit though, seeing this film without prior knowledge about the Avengers comic history, or at very least having seen a few of the characters solo films, may leave you a little puzzled at times, and certainly have a reduced appreciation for everything that’s happening. The subtle introductions of each hero make this pre-knowledge key to an understanding of how characters relate to each other, although the amazing action sequences and comedic rivalries can be appreciated regardless of this.

Avengers Assemble. It’s non-stop action from start to finish.

It’s constantly moving forward, without even a minute of lag or waffle. That explains why the two and a half hours felt like just fifty minutes. Wish I could say the same about more Marvel films…

Is Zelda an RPG

Earlier this week I was presented with the following video by Happy Console Gamer. It poses the question is Zelda an RPG? Watch…

Having been a Zelda fan for years now, remembering fondly Link’s Awakening on the original Gameboy, it struck me as weird that I’ve never really considered this question before. Though, looking online I can see that Zelda’s genre is a fervently discussed issue in the gaming community! Time for me to throw in my two cents…

I would never profess to be a particular fan of RPGs, Fable, Fable 2 and Fallout 3 sitting neglected on my shelf for the last year or so. It’s not that I have a disliking for them, far from it. I simply don’t have time to grind away for 70+ hours before I am satisfied that the game has been explored sufficiently. With the sheer number of games that are available currently, I generally favour more linear titles that can be knocked out in 10 hours. Sorry Skyrim. Having said that, one of my favourite games of late is unequivocally The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. So enamoured with Shigeru Miyamoto’s latest endeavour, I actually sessioned it over the course of a few days, thoroughly exploring all areas, collecting bugs, weapon upgrades and heart containers.

This actually leads me on quite nicely to a discussion of whether Zelda is an RPG or not.

With an initial examination it is very easy to observe various features from the Legend of Zelda series that would indeed suggest that they are RPGs. Elements of quasi-grinding have always been key additions to the games, repeatedly killing low level enemies or slashing grass in order to collect enough Rupees to purchase items from the many in-game shops. This was especially prevalent in Skyward Sword with the addition of bug collection, in turn allowing for the upgrade of weaponry (another typical RPG trait). Similarly, the autonomous accumulation of hearts, a task which the games neither require or guide you in, further promotes Zelda  as an RPG. Furthermore, health and ammunition requirements have always been left open to the player; progression is not restricted by low attainment of both, beyond the player’s own struggle to defeat certain bosses with low ammo, health or healing potions, of course.

It’s this level of freedom which perhaps stands out as the most RPG-like aspect of the Zelda franchise. Though the games have an ingrained thread of linearity with strict narrative progression, individual exploration and discovery form extensive side plots. This can be seen in the quest for heart containers, or the many secondary plots from each title, completion of these unnecessary for ‘clocking’ the games: I often reminisce about Link’s Awakening, delivering [1990’s SPOILER] dog food to the crocodile; it was a completely unrelated side quest but one which was entertaining and very satisfying.

Additional RPG elements of Zelda titles include protagonist characterisation, or lack thereof, and speech mechanics. In each iteration of the franchise you play the role of a protagonist whose character is deliberately vague. There is no audible speech, he has no voice. In fact, characterisation goes very little beyond clarifying that he is a young ‘hero’. This affords the player the opportunity to stamp their own personality onto Link – even down to the name! Moreover, the games’ speech mechanics often allow the player to choose alternating responses when conversing with other characters (notably in Skyward Sword). However, though on the surface this gives the impression of player control, really with all answers generally resulting in the same consequences it is in fact an illusion. When was the last time you chose the ”wrong” answer in a Zelda game?

This, I feel is the key reason why Zelda is not an RPG. As explained above, it is true that there are many elements from the Zelda franchise that do indeed mirror those found in RPG games, yet they don’t quite have the required scope to render them entirely so. Narrative structures are decidedly linear, forcing players to complete tasks and temples in a strict order (areas must be completed in a set pattern for plot progression – generally, the new weapon obtained from one temple will allow access to the next). Apart from increasing your stock of life and ammo which eases the difficulty of combat, your exploration has very little impact on storyline. In fact, it is fair to say that there is no real way to change how the stories progress which is perhaps the most significant feature of RPGs.

Add to this the general lack of character and weapon customisation, and the exclusion of any experience based levelling system (with the obvious exception of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link), and you have a franchise that fails to meet the expectations of the RPG genre on many levels. Yet, in most recent execution this is changing somewhat; clearly Skyward Sword has taken Zelda to new heights, making it more and more like a role playing game. And who knows where this significant precedent could progress to in the future?

To answer the question then, is Zelda an RPG? No, it’s simply an immersive action adventure with familiar role-playing traits.

The real question is though, does this definition have any impact upon the quality of the game? The answer to this is much less contested…

Thanks to Mo, for the suggestion!

Last night at about 3 am there was a horrendous scaffolding collapse in London’s Notting Hill Gate.

Scaffolding collapse in Notting Hill Gate

Though sources suggest the collapse was a result of aggressive winds, I suspect otherwise…

… check out a zoomed in image:

Caught red handed...

Have you seen this man?

Games are becoming easier and easier to access right from the comfort of your home. Whether it’s digital downloads or simply your friendly neighbourhood delivery service, you no longer need to leave the house in order to access the world of games at your disposal.

The trouble is though, games are now too accessible, and there is swiftly becoming too many of them! You’ve got full titles, DLC, arcade and indie games, the list in endless. There simply isn’t enough time to try everything out, even just brief demos… what we need is some guidance.

Step in Hammy, with the new feature ‘Trial or Error’.

I will play the multitude of trial games, meaning you don’t have to, offering guidance on which titles are worth your time and which ones should be avoided like the daily reruns of Rules of Engagement. Bloody elvish David Spade.

AVOID: Ninja Gaiden 3

Developer: Team Ninja

Publisher: Tecmo

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii U

 

Well, you know what they say, ‘the best things come in pairs’. Perhaps Team Ninja should have listened to this old adage before they embarked upon the third installment of their hack n’ slash series Ninja Gaiden. The demo is indefensibly poor, hampered by generic narrative, an over reliance on QTE, and a combat system that no longer rewards you for proficient knowledge of its intricacies.

Perhaps the biggest crime is that it’s simply not fun. When a game revolves around the merciless killing of enemies, with a multitude of death-bringers in your arsenal (swords, claws, scythes), then it’s completely unforgivable for it to be anything less than exciting and gratifying. Unfortunately for Ninja Gaiden 3, it’s well below par, feeling tedious and dishearteningly unoriginal. Worse still you are completely unable to appreciate any of the combat animation as a result of its speed and the needlessly close camera focus.

And why is it that when developers struggle with new iterations of their franchise they seek an ostensible solution in the use of jolly ol’ blighty as a setting. (Grand Theft Auto, Modern Warfare 3). It may well curry favour with UK fans, but it doesn’t make up for failings in other areas.

They did make the start menu read horizontally though; innovation at its finest!

Avoid Rating: 9/10 (the equivalent of avoiding ITV2 if you have no desire to watch tantastic entertainment degenerates Katie Price, Peter Andre or Kerry Katona).

DOWNLOAD: Fez

Developer: Polytron

Publisher: Polytron

Platforms: Xbox 360 Arcade

 

Finally, a game that does everything right.

With Fez, independent developers Polytron have managed to deliver exactly what Ninja Gaiden 3 failed to: originality of concept and execution. You take the role of Gomez, a pixelated miniature version of Stay Puft (with a similar reliance on snazzy headwear) as he embarks upon a mystical 2D journey.

The narrative is pleasingly simple: collect golden cubes in order to access areas previously locked. The real conceptual majesty surfaces in how you manage to do this. Fez affords you  the ability to rotate levels at 90 degree intervals, providing perspective changes that reveal new areas and alternative paths of progression. This creative innovation is the primary reason that the game is so engaging; it’s a puzzler unseen before, playing with your perception, prompting curiosity and thorough examination.

For me, Fez is immediately reminiscent of Super Meat Boy – the charming pixelated 2D visuals, the magical combination of puzzler and platformer, all tied up with some wonderful bleepy chiptune. It’s another indie dev success, following in the footsteps of Braid.

It’s wonderfully simple, but immersive and thoroughly engaging. Give it a go now!

Download Rating: 10/10

It’s with unfortunate frequency that the gaming industry comes under attack from mainstream media. It’s a suitably accessible sacrificial lamb when societal norms or expectations are broken, whether it be in regards to horrific mass murders, increasing divorce rates, or simply teenager’s rotting teeth.

Well once again, the industry enters the firing line, now criticised for delivering nothing but “juvenile, silly, and intellectually lazy” titles. This rather simplistic, and let’s be frank, stupidly ill-informed opinion, comes care of writer Taylor Clark, in a recent edition of The Atlantic. In a lengthy article he posits that “video games, with very few exceptions, are dumb”, citing a couple of saving graces including the highly-regarded indie platformer Braid.

Finally though, us gamers get a voice, a method of retaliation – and crucially, not on a platform only read by us! Michael Abbott of Brainy Gamer, takes insult from this hyperbolic critique, striking back with the mockingly titled ‘Smart Game Catalogue’. Soon to become the go to bible for intellectually stimulating titles, the catalogue will address Clark’s article by collating information on any game deemed witty, clever or intriguing. And the best part is, he needs our help!

So do your duty, respond to this sensationalist tripe by adding your own entry and help create a complete compendium of smart games. Your industry needs you!

 

Via Kotaku

If you’re never ventured into the mysterious sci fi world of the Dead Space franchise (tsk tsk) and purse strings are tight after a boozy St George’s Day celebration, then Steam have heard your anguish.

Kicking off their Midweek Madness offers this week, they are selling Dead Space and Dead Space 2 with 75% reductions (£2.49 and £3.75 respectively). Download them now!

What better way to deal with that Bombardier-fuelled hangover?

Via Destructoid