Review: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

This review was originally written for 3DS Blessed, found here.

Videogame sequels walk a tightrope – especially ones in popular series. Developers have to decide if they want to build upon the past experience or forge a new one, and both choices have drawbacks.

A game too rigidly modelled after its predecessor risks stagnation. A game breaking new ground risks alienating an existing fandom.

With over a decade’s worth of games behind it, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate walks this same tightrope. There’s no doubt that it’s a bigger, better version of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (like, duh), but does it stand out against the increasing numbers of rival Hunting Action titles out there?

The answer is yes – barely.

Continue reading

Subversion Through Destruction: Embracing The Queer Power Fantasy


This feature was originally written for One Hit Pixel and can be found here.

Sometimes you just feel like breaking something.

Sometimes, you’ll feel better once you’ve absolutely dominated your aggressors, laid waste to the weak, and are told that you’re a force to be reckoned with. Doing that down the pub on a Friday night will put you in a holding cell, but thankfully we have video games to provide that experience instead.

It’s the power fantasy, being whisked away to somewhere where you’re stronger, smarter and more capable than what you can achieve in meatspace, and you’re awed for it. It’s probably the easiest experience to obtain in our current gaming landscape – almost every action game is about empowerment beyond your normal means.


However, this empowerment comes in precious few flavours. Either you’re a dashing white guy with a cocksure attitude or you’re a grizzled white guy with a macho attitude.

It’s not random coincidence – the image of the ‘bald space marine’ been an in-joke among gaming enthusiasts for years. To indulge in a power fantasy in a game is to invariably be straight, white and male.

Being only one third of those things, I find those experiences rather restricting in multiple ways. From a purely academic standpoint, having the same protagonists regurgitated is woefully trite. But emotionally, it’s rather chilling – even alienating – to not see someone like you act in a role of power.

As a black person, am I not allowed to see myself lead (in ways other than raw muscle)? As a gay person, am I not allowed to goddamn see myself in any capacity?

Fortunately, Porpentine’s games raise two middle fingers to that, with long fake nails and chunky diamond rings.

Continue reading

Duelling In The Digital Age: Hearthstone And Online TCGs

This feature was originally written for One Hit Pixel, found here.

Throughout my years, I’ve been a big fan of trading card games. From playing Pokémon in primary school though to drunken nights of Magic: the Gathering at university; it’s something that tickles my gaming senses of collection and customisation. Though admittedly it’s possibly one of the dorkiest past-times this side of LARPing.

Even if you wouldn’t be caught dead at the gaming table of your local hobby store, it’s very likely you’ll soon be encountering decks and duels in your gaming future – trading card games (TCGs) fit astoundingly well into today’s video game market, and developers are starting to take notice.

Continue reading

Truth or Ludum Dare: How I Survived the Game Jam

Ludum Dare, Indie Games, 10 Seconds, Pizzapocalypse 20XX

This feature was originally written for One Hit Pixel, found here.

Over the last month, I have transformed.

I went into the cocoon as a mere journalist, and emerged as something strange, new and beautiful. A games developer.

The best part is, you can too – all it takes is a mixture of gentle encouragement and a games development event to give you a good hard kick up the ass.

Enter Ludum Dare (The vowel in ‘dare’ is long, like in ‘car’, so my witty headline doesn’t work, but whatever), an indie game making event that happens a couple times every year, and most recently on August 23rd-26th. People from all over, professionals and newcomers alike, step up to the challenge to make a game over the course of a weekend, adhering to a special theme.

Continue reading

Review: Soul Sacrifice Delta (Vita)

Soul Sacrifice, Review

This review was originally written for One Hit Pixel, found here.

The Monster Hunter series sitting in Nintendo’s pocket left a hole in the PlayStation Portable’s heart. Monster Hunter’s style of mission-based multiplayer (often called Hunting Action) was a major draw to the Sony handheld. So when the PlayStation Vita arrived and Monster Hunter wasn’t around to claim its usual spot, a surge of competitors arose to take the throne.

And surprising everyone, Keiji Inafune got involved. Yeah, the Mega Man/Mighty No.9 guy. His entry, Soul Sacrifice, was one of the earliest titles for the Vita and it did… underwhelmingly. As with any new IP, it had teething problems.

The challenge in Monster Hunter is how limited your abilities can be – attacks are slow and leave you open. Running and dodging consumes stamina. You spend as much time chasing your target as you do fighting it.

Soul Sacrifice has its challenges, but they rarely overlap with the Monster Hunter framework. Your attacks are agile and rapid, you can run and roll indefinitely, and quests put you right up in the target’s face with no scouting required.

Ultimately, it wasn’t the exact experience veterans craved and that left it critically lacking.

Soul Sacrifice Delta is the result of a return to the drawing board – taking the base game and tweaking the mechanics but more importantly adding new content. While it didn’t magically become Monster Hunter in the transition, the experience has been polished to a sheen, enjoyable in a context wholly separate from its peers. In fact, the presence of Delta renders the first game thoroughly obsolete, and has, in a way, a second game’s worth of new things to play.

Continue reading

Review: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (360/PS3)

Final Fantasy, Lightning Returns

This review was written for One Hit Pixel, found here.

At the Yusnaan Colosseum, the crowd roars as I face off against my final opponent. Me: dressed in a dramatically tailored purple suit, hefting a katana twice my size. Him: a 10 foot, ornately armoured dragon.

Child’s play.

I strike hard and fast. I’ve studied his kind in the bestiary, and know just what moves will knock him off kilter. I unleash a flurry of sword slashes, timing them rhythmically and with mounting force.

My foe starts winding up a counter attack, but I’m ready. In the blink of an eye, my outfit changes into an elegant bodysuit and cape that looks like it featured in a Balenciaga fashion show. My weapons switch alongside, and with expert timing I hold up a shield to parry the dragon’s swipe.

The impact is made with such force that the dragon finds himself in a sprawling heap, as I tower over him – sword poised for the final blow. I whisper to it as I plunge the sword into its neck.

“Motherfucker, I’m fabulous.”

Continue reading

Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies (3DS)


Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney, Dual Destinies

This review was originally written for One Hit Pixel, found here.

The Dark Age of the Law. The low point of the nation’s legal system, where the end justifies the means, false arrests and fake evidence run rampant and the line between prosecutor and criminal is heavily blurred.

…According to the Ace Attorney series, at any rate. Capcom’s point-n-click courtroom drama has been a cult favourite in both the East and West; firm proof that this breed of narrative-heavy game still suited the current generation. With the 3DS as fertile ground, the Ace Attorney series has stepped things up. The result is sharp and streamlined – both aesthetically and mechanically.

Continue reading

Review: Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor: Overclocked (3DS)

Shin Megami Tensei, Devil Survivor Overclocked, SMT, 3DS

This review was originally written for One Hit Pixel, found here.

We face a lot of difficult choices in our lives. Many of you reading this are playing Pokémon X/Y and have had to decide between Chespin, Fennekin or Froakie as your starter Pokémon. It’s something that has kept me awake long into the night, eyes bloodshot and hands trembling. However, even when life’s choices feel overwhelmingly significant on the surface, they may not be all that important beneath; you may not even have to dig that far.

The same is true of video games. A game where every choice was immense and game changing would be seriously bloated. As such, the smarter games out there deftly weave in the big choices with the little ones, complete with enough polish and obfuscation where it’s hard for the player to tell the difference.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked both adheres to and totally ignores this paradigm – which is risky for a game thematically based around choices.

Continue reading

Review: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS)

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, 3DS

This review was originally posted on One Hit Pixel, and can be found here.

I had fallen out of love with action RPGs. Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance played well, but is obsessed with its own terrible plot, and the less said about what I think of Dark Souls, the better. It was a genre that didn’t feel fun any more; then I played Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. It managed to do something I hadn’t seen in the genre for a few years – not take itself seriously, but remain in top form mechanically.

If you’re a Monster Hunter veteran, you already know this – but this review isn’t so much for you (reinforcing your opinions aside). Those of you who are cautious newcomers, please read on.

Continue reading

Express Yourself: Being a Fashionista in the Gaming World

This feature is also available at n-Europe, found here.

Self-expression is an inherent part of almost all video games. By simply being a medium where the audience can interact with the work, they’re allowed to make an impact within the game. Even doing nothing at all is technically an expression.

But that viewpoint is pretty pretentious and nebulous. In a practical sense games have two ways most people consider outlets for expression – building environments and player customisation. There are deviations of course, but what you come across in mainstream titles will boil down to one of those two.

To be hyperbolic, building (or destroying) environments doesn’t give me much joy. I know there are plenty of people who spend countless hours crafting the perfect urban environment in SimCity or constructing a golden, penis-shaped fortress in Minecraft, but it’s not my thing.

What I can burn hours on is thorough character customisation – perfect for my egoistic nature. Most games are very mechanical about this (will you put points into attack, defence or custard pie resistance?), but the real draw is the fashionable side.

Continue reading