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Chris Schilling

Contributor

Chris Schilling writes about video games for a living, and knows an awful lot about Pokémon. Ask him anything. (Though he may have to confer with his son.)

RecommendedJoe Danger Infinity review

Bigger, better, more Battenberg.

Spookily, it's a year almost to the day since I wrote about Joe Danger Touch for this very site, and much of what I said then still applies to this follow-up. Like its predecessor, Infinity is a giddy, colourful joy of a game, a collection of brilliantly designed, hazard-strewn gauntlets which the eponymous stuntman - along with a collection of unlockable characters - automatically speeds through, as you tap and swipe to prompt him into endos, wheelies, backflips and several other tricks. If you liked that game a lot, as I did, I'm confident you will get on with this famously.

There's a room within EAD Tokyo's offices where the employees working on new 3D Mario games stick Post-It notes of ideas on the walls. Only about one in every 50 makes it into the games, claims producer Koichi Hayashida, but I strongly suspect that there were a few empty walls by the end of development on Super Mario 3D World. Every level is a non-stop bombardment of stuff, with familiar concepts and enemies used in fresh and exciting ways, and brand new ingredients liberally sprinkled on top.

Wii Party U review

Instant Mii play.

Imagine you've recently made a new friend. They're fun, a little different, slightly unsure of themselves, but a good laugh once you get to know them. They've invited you to a get-together at their place. But an old friend is back in town. Now this friend loves parties, and usually ends up the centre of attention - at least until they decided to take a step back from the limelight a couple of years back.

Saints Row 4: Enter The Dominatrix review

Tune in, strap on, cock out.

Enter the Dominatrix is potentially a fascinating case study in how games evolve. In its nascent form, it was an expansion pack for Saints Row: The Third until THQ decided it merited a full-blown sequel. This, then, presents a shorter, alternative take on the Zin invasion, with the simulated Steelport in which the Saints are trapped taken over by a rogue AI program, the titular Dominatrix.

You could cut a heck of a trailer from Sonic Lost World. Slice its levels up into two-to-five-second snippets and you'd find dozens of moments of visual magic. OPEN ON: Sonic arcing around a loop at full tilt. CUT TO: Sonic skipping past enemies, spinning and somersaulting over mechanical ladybugs before punting them into the ether. CUT TO: Sonic skidding across grind rails out of the screen, sprinting across walls, pinging between bumpers like a spiky pinball, leaping and bouncing as the world rotates around him. CGI close-up, witty one-liner, title splash, done!

GTA Online: Rockstar ate my gangster

Is the troubled multiplayer mode worth persevering with?

GTA Online is a shambles. And that's not always a criticism. The disorder is part of what makes it so entertaining; you've played better driving games and better shooters, but everything in Los Santos is so gloriously chaotic and unpredictable that it's no surprise many people are persevering with it - despite myriad issues that would bulldoze just about any other online game. When it works, it's often a joy.

"To vanquish without peril is to triumph without glory." Had 17th-century French playwright Pierre Corneille not suffered the misfortune of being born 400 or so years before Vanquish was released, I'm fairly sure he would have admired Shinji Mikami's excellent third-person shooter. Indeed, there's an echo of Corneille's words in the Mikami-directed remake of Resident Evil on GameCube: the more challenging difficulty setting, Mountain Climbing, points out that "beyond the hardships lies accomplishment". It's a maxim that has served one of the medium's best game designers well over his storied career, and particularly so here.

On the face of it, Kingdom Hearts would appear to be a worthy subject for a remake. This was, after all, the unlikely crossover that spawned an enduring franchise - an action-RPG that, against the odds, managed to capture the hearts of two seemingly incompatible fanbases: Disney and Final Fantasy.

Blackbar review

Blankety blank.

In light of recent events, a game about a draconian regime desperate to monitor and control the flow of information feels particularly timely. A text adventure with a twist, Blackbar offers a potent reminder of the power of the written word.

The play's the thing

Smarter writing in games is a good thing, but let's not forget the importance of intelligent systems.

Gone Home is a critic's dream game. I liked it a little more than Oli did, a little less than most other reviewers, but whatever you think of it, there's plenty of thematic meat to chew on, some brilliant writing, and a particularly progressive bit of character development (which shouldn't really be considered progressive but, in terms of video games, it absolutely is). More importantly, it's over in two hours. You can get a review and a couple of features out of that, easy, with a total time investment far less than that 6/10 action game you trudged through for 20-odd hours a couple of months back.

SteamWorld Dig review

Gouge away.

Few would have been aware of SteamWorld Dig's existence before the last Nintendo Direct saw Satoru Shibata rather casually announce that it was to launch on the eShop immediately after the end of the presentation. I'll admit, I dismissed it on sight: though it looked nice enough, it reminded me too much of the disappointing Dillon's Rolling Western, if only for the Morricone-esque whistling on the soundtrack.

Flashback review

The quest for identity.

Flashback's title screen allows you to play through the original 1992 game in its entirety. A generous move on the part VectorCell, developer of this remake, you might think, but the message is obvious: Look how far we've come. The idea is that we have a quick play of the original and then find out what a difference two decades' worth of improvements in game design and technology can make.

Saints Row 4 review

Grand heft auto.

It feels strange to say it, but Saints Row has to be chalked up as one of the success stories of the current console generation. It's an unlikely kind of triumph: what began as little more than a poor man's GTA has evolved into a kind of anything-goes sandbox action game, but it's hard to pick out a defining characteristic beyond the fact that it lets you do stupid stuff.

Gitaroo Man is a game that could only have been made by people with a deep, deep love of music. But it's not just a love: it's an innate understanding of tone, of rhythm, of melody, of feel, and how the very best songs combine all that into something wonderful. Little wonder that voice on the title screen breathes the name of its hero with a sigh of pleasure that approaches post-coital bliss. Ahh, Gitaroo Man.

It's odd, isn't it, that as the possibilities video game technology allows become ever more amazing, the keener developers are to recreate the real world. Contemporary games wear their verisimilitude like a badge of honour, while PR blurbs parp half-truths about 'authenticity' and 'realism' with depressing regularity. Imagine being that guy who went into game development full of excitement and ideas and ended up having to render the creases in Tiger Woods' immaculately modelled golfing slacks.

Kokuga review

Huh, what? From the maker of Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga? Gimme!

Kokuga landed on the eShop recently with alarmingly little fanfare. In ordinary circumstances, that would be understandable: publisher G.rev isn't likely to have any kind of marketing budget to give it a push, while many will be put off by its ostensibly expensive Ł13.49 price tag (although it received a full-price retail release last August in Japan, which helps explain it).

GoatUp 2 review

Guff love.

The news that Jeff Minter is working on a new Tempest game for Vita probably means GoatUp 2 is the last Lllamasoft title we'll see on iOS for a little while, although his most recent blog suggests he's not abandoned the format entirely. It's a pity for those of us who've enjoyed one of the most prolific spells of the veteran designer's career, even as he's demonstrated increasing frustration at the lack of attention his games have been getting.

Crabitron review

Chela instinct.

Giant crabs: didn't that meme die in 2006? Fortunately, the battles Crabitron is based on actually took place just off the shoulder of Ganymede rather than in ancient Japan. And it turns out that space is just the place for an oversized crustacean to get his grub on, full of galactic taxi cabs, nebula ambulances and delicious interstellar burgers. Of course, there's always the threat of meteor showers and police star cruisers to worry about, but hey, you have a big old pair of claws to swat such irritants away while you chow down.

Crush review

No more candy for you.

I was listening to the Kermode and Mayo podcast the other day, during which the two were joined by Joss Whedon, who was there to talk about his recently released take on Much Ado About Nothing. Kermode affectionately referred to the film as a palate cleanser, and this description seemed to mildly irritate Whedon.

Into the Dead review

A zombie auto-runner? Yep, sounds like the end of days.

Admittedly, the concept isn't all that promising. A zombie-themed auto-runner is an unholy union of two of the most tired trends in games right now, and that's before you consider the small matter of micro-transactions. Happily, it is a small matter thanks to sensible monetisation, while the game itself turns out to be a surprisingly smart little time-waster, suggesting someone at Pik Pok one day wondered how Left 4 Dead might play with the sprint button stuck down.

"Phew! Made it!" Luigi's post-stage cry is a classic example of Nintendo's economical approach to characterisation. While his brother's celebratory "Oh yeah! Mario time!" is the sign of a man enjoying himself, happy to be bounding through these joyously bright, precision-designed worlds, those three words reveal a humble guy just happy to have made it to the goal pole in one piece. Luigi's no hero: he's just bound by duty, tasked with rescuing the Princess while big bro's away.

11 years: that's how long it took Nintendo to top Super Mario 64 with Galaxy. For over a decade, this astonishing, genre-redefining game reigned supreme, towering above all its peers, an influence not only on every other 3D platformer but on every game with a three-dimensional world. How do you follow that?

Impossible Road review

Roll with it.

70 points. Seventy! I grip my iPad mini as if clutching a rare and precious artefact, my heart just about ready to punch through my ribcage. I'm elated, relieved - perhaps even a little proud. But a nagging question remains: am I actually enjoying myself?

If you ask me, sound design is such an underrated facet of a good puzzle game. Think of Game Boy Tetris and the wonderfully weird little squiggle it treated you with for clearing four lines at once. Or the original Puzz Loop's snooker-ball clacks, Bejewelled's clinking gems and Drop7's porcelain crack. It's a big part of what keeps you coming back - if you think about it, a lot of puzzle games are essentially about tidying up, and the pops, bangs or jingles that reward you for a job well done are the game equivalent of being handed a sheet of bubble wrap after hoovering the spare room.

The Football Playbook review

No silver linings.

It hasn't been a vintage football season. Following last year's high drama, improbable triumphs and ridiculous injury-time comebacks, we've witnessed what happens after the Lord Mayor's show. The Premier League was won four weeks early by a side even its own fans would admit was hardly at its best. Two of the candidates for the usually nail-biting relegation battle were decided by playing out a goalless draw so lifeless as if to ensure neither side would be missed. Pundits talk of the Champions League upsetting the natural order of things, but this is hardly the first time Barcelona have suffered a shock defeat in the semis. A season that began with so much promise has been steadily petering out as it has progressed.

Trawling the Google Play store from an Android phone can be a deflating experience. As shop fronts go, it's poorly designed, ineptly curated, and the vast majority of its game apps are late-arriving ports of iOS hits. Android might be one of the biggest potential markets for games, but Apple's App Store is where the really good stuff is found. Piracy is so rife that I can't blame developers for not bothering - but that doesn't make the situation any less disappointing.

Beastie Bay review

Creatures of habit.

Beastie Bay will remind you a lot of other Kairosoft games, like Game Dev Story. During its simplistic monster battles, it will almost certainly remind you of Pokémon. But it most reminded me of a maths teacher I had in primary school who would use strange examples to make the subject more interesting: instead of apples and coins, it was dinosaurs and doughnuts. All that silliness would distract us all from the fact that we were doing boring old sums, and Beastie Bay uses similar misdirection techniques, with moments of calculated weirdness - and the occasional dose of cute - to deflect attention away from its systems. Which, when it comes down to it, are often little more than busywork.

Saturday Soapbox: The lost art of keeping a secret

Are big budget games losing their mystery in the face of aggressive marketing?

When was the last time you were surprised by a game? Actually, let's get more specific: when was the last time you were genuinely taken aback by a narrative or mechanical development in a big budget console game?

App of the Day: Joe Danger Touch

Contains scenes of moderate peril.

Ah, Joe Danger, the nearly man of the download services. Too often dismissed - and unfairly so - as Trials Lite, the diminutive stuntman's PS3 debut was loudly heralded by critics but never quite became the smash hit it deserved to be. And if the leaderboards for Joe Danger: The Movie are anything to go by, it might even be a little generous to label its sequel a cult favourite.

Rayman's never been a great character, but his games have always been pretty good. Take Rayman 2, for example. It isn't shamelessly wheeled out at the launch of every new console simply to swell Ubi's coffers - though that's a part of it, probably - but because it's a genuinely decent platformer.