StreetPass shop reviews

In the latest software update for Nintendo’s 3DS, the Streetpass plaza was updated with a shop that allows new Streetpass-focused games to be bought and downloaded. Now that the system has been out for several years the original streetpass games are getting a little dull, so it makes sense to inject a little more incentive for gamers to keep their 3DS on them at all times. Currently four titles are available: Streetpass Squad, Streetpass Garden, Streetpass Battle and Streetpass Mansion. Each game has been developed by a different studio and interestingly each of the four games has a list of achievements that allow you to win ‘tickets’ that can be cashed in for various prizes (i.e. hats). I’ve taken the financial gamble of downloading the four games to give you my initial impressions below. Luckily for me, they all turned out to be pretty fun.

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Tomb Raider review

A once-troubled series proves it has what it takes to survive

Release date: March 5 Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Stalking through the dry brush and over a river-worn rocky outcrop I spot my quarry: a pair of grazing deer. My first arrow connects just below the jaw of deer one, dropping her instantly, and deer two takes flight. Unfortunately for her I’m no stranger to survival, and she can’t quite move quick enough to escape my second arrow, which hits her in the neck. As I move forward to loot the animals and claim my experience point prize, I hear a familiar chime and spot something exciting in the nearby cliff face: the partially obscured entrance to a secret tomb.

I’m in Tomb Raider‘s endgame. The story of supernatural meteorological activity and creepy cults has concluded and there isn’t a bad guy to be found on the map, yet I’ve returned to track down the remaining tombs, max out my abilities and upgrade all my weapons. There’s a lot to do and see in the game’s open, sprawling, island setting, and it’s absolutely worth seeing as much as you can.

Unlike Legend and Underworld, which (while excellent) felt like a return to the ideals of the original Tomb Raider but with modern bits and bobs, the reboot is a game entirely of its own. This is an emotional, deep, refined and thoroughly satisfying experience, throughout which you’ll solve environmental puzzles, traverse varied and challenging terrain and dispatch hundreds of enemies in a pretty impressive range of combat situations, all in the narrative context of a fresh take on quite a familiar story.

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Trine 2: Director’s Cut review

A puzzle-platforming fan’s greatest fantasy

Release date: Nov 18 (US), Nov 30 (AU, EU) Platform: Wii U

Trine 2 is a very special game. It takes the promises and ambitions of the original Trine – organically-integrated puzzles, clever platforming, a seamless blend of the age-old warrior/mage/thief trinity – and delivers it all in a refined, bloat-free package. The Director’s Cut for Wii U continues that spirit of refinement.

The game is prettier than it’s ever been before, owing to entirely new graphical effects, detail and assets. It’s more technically sound than ever too – boasting advanced anti-aliasing, a rock-hard framerate and the sharpest resolution yet on a console version of the game. This is the most complete version of Trine 2 on a console, containing all the incremental updates that have been added since its original release, as well as the full expansion Goblin Menace, previously only available on PC. It’s also been fully retrofitted to take advantage of the Wii U’s unique controller, meaning you can use the touchscreen to switch weapons, aim, and conjure magical objects, and you can even play the whole game on the gamepad’s screen rather than the TV. All purely optional of course.

But I’m getting ahead of myself with Wii U specifics. There are many reasons why Trine 2 is such a special game, and barely any of them are merely technical.

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Little Inferno review

A slow burn, but worthwhile

Release date: Nov 18 (US), Nov 30 (AU, EU) Platform: Wii U, PC

A cursory glance around the internet at reviews and impressions of Little Inferno reveal a pretty large breadth of opinions, ranging from the highest praise of literary elitists (“a triumph in the argument for games-as-art”) to the scorn of action-addicted zealots (“more of a toy than a game”), hitting on many differing conclusions along the way.

Both extremes and many in between fail to capture the exploratory puzzle game that lies at the heart of Little Inferno, an experience encased in some very charming visuals and sound design, existing playfully against a gothish propaganda narrative which has something fun and interesting to say. If you’re the kind of gamer who enjoys spending a few hours being intrigued by a well-told emergent narrative, if you don’t mind a slower pace of gameplay consisting mainly of discovering all the little delightful surprises and easter eggs the developer has thrown in, and if the below trailer whets your appetite, I suggest you go download Little Inferno now while you still have relatively few preconceptions. If you still need convincing though, read on.

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Chasing Aurora review

Majestic flight mechanic has its wings clipped

Release date: Nov 18 (US), Nov 30 (AU, EU) Platform: Wii U

Flight mechanics have always been very common in video game design. An obvious reason for this is that they offer increased depth of exploration –  moving from place to place can become more streamlined and elegant, plus maps can be built vertically as well as horizontally – but a deeper impetus could be found in every human’s latent desire to take flight themselves.

Playing with flight can be extremely fun, particularly if the mechanic is tuned just right to ensure control is complex yet not overly challenging. People want to feel as if they’re in practised control of something very freeing and powerful. It’s this balance that is all but perfected in Chasing Aurora: one of the handful of indie games to grace the Wii U’s eShop at launch. Once the controls are learned and mastered, flight in this mountain-themed, bird-focused game is very enjoyable. The game implements a combination of fine analog stick control, a variable flap (long even flaps to propel you, short rapid flaps if you need to climb or push through resistance) and a dedicated dive button that sends you plummeting in a satisfying arc. It’s easy to imagine how, with a free and varied game design to complement the flight system, this could become a standout downloadable title for Nintendo’s new system. The problem with Chasing Aurora, however, is that the surrounding game design very rarely allows the central mechanic to reach its lofty potential.

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Puddle review – Wii U version

An ironically solid tilt platformer

Release date: Nov 30, 2012 (AU, EU), TBA (US) Platform: Wii U

The opening moments of Puddle promise subtle jazz and believable environments, as you tilt the Wii U’s gamepad to rotate the gravity of the world and spill a cup full of coffee. After that coffee falls however so does the facade of normalcy. Jazz gives way to an energetic electro score and Puddle’s gameplay picks up to match.

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Wii U eShop reviews

As is the case with any platform launch the major games media websites are currently chock full of reviews and impressions for Wii U’s biggest games. However there’s only so much time in a day and as per usual the smaller indie titles are generally relegated to cursory once-overs if they’re covered at all.

The Weekly Rift has you covered though, and this launch I’ll be covering eShop titles exclusively. Take a look below to see which games are currently planned to be getting the full review treatment and when.

Dec 1 Puddle

Dec 4 Chasing Aurora

Dec 10 Little Inferno

Edit 1/12/12: It was my intention to have Trine 2: Director’s Cut and Mighty Switch Force HD reviews up as well, but they seem to be missing from the Australian Wii U store. I’ll have them up ASAP if that changes.

Edit 3/2/13: Trine 2 finally made it to the eShop last week! My review is live here.