Picture of Chris Schilling

Chris Schilling


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.)

Last year, when discussing Kristan Reed's 10/10 review of Zookeeper FX Touch Edition, Oli suggested that "the next iteration is a shoo-in for our first 12". Thank goodness App of the Day doesn't require me to award a score, because I might just have had to disagree with him. Zookeeper Battle is excellent, but I'm not convinced it's worth more than an 11.

Retro/Grade Review

For those about to rocket, we salute you.

Back in 2009, when Retro/Grade was nominated for two IGF awards, it probably seemed a great idea to make a game designed to be controlled with a guitar peripheral. Three years and one rather protracted development period later, it finally arrives on PSN with everyone having long since packed up their Rock Band and Guitar Hero instruments. Axe or no axe, Retro/Grade is worth playing, but I strongly recommend digging out those pieces of forgotten plastic, even if - and I'm speaking purely hypothetically here, you understand - it takes upwards of two hours to locate the wireless dongle.

Saturday Soapbox: How do you solve a problem like Mario?

Does New Super Mario Bros. 2 represent a creative cul-de-sac? And if so, does it even matter?

Currently sitting on a Metacritic average of just 78 per cent, New Super Mario Bros. 2 is comfortably the lowest-scoring mainline Mario game to date. That tally may be acceptable by many standards, but for one of gaming's most consistent performers, the numbers aren't good.

Saturday Soapbox: Yearning Japanese

Lamenting the death of the import scene.

A little over a fortnight ago, I bought Anarchy Reigns from an online retailer; this week I downloaded New Super Mario Bros. 2 from the eShop on my Japanese 3DS. In the past, importing games of this stature was a no-brainer for me, but on both occasions I hesitated before taking the plunge. It seems many others have been equally reluctant.

App of the Day: Slydris

Lateral damage.

A one-man studio turning out sharp, inventive shooters like Inferno and Super Crossfire with alarming regularity, radiangames - aka former Volition designer Luke Schneider - should be something of an App Store phenomenon by now. He probably would be, in fact, if anyone bothered to buy his games.

App of the Day: Autumn Dynasty

Fall of the empire.

As someone with all the tactical nous of George Armstrong Custer, I enjoy a mildly abusive relationship with strategy games: I like them, but they regularly humiliate me, usually for having the temerity to favour a gung-ho approach to combat. Still, it doesn't take much to tempt me back in for another beating, and being a sucker for a pretty art style, the painterly appearance of Autumn Dynasty was more than enough.

App of the Day: Cytus

Bemani for nothing.

In the late 1990s, Konami's Bemani division was synonymous with music games, dominating the Japanese arcade scene to the point where its name became a catch-all term for the entire genre. Rhythm games of a form, in truth they were really more like Simon Says elevated to the level of performance art.

Retrospective: Virtua Striker 3 ver. 2002

"Rainbow! Fantastic! Wonderful goal!"

These days when the previews for the latest iterations of FIFA and PES emerge, I find myself wincing a little. Not because the improvements I read about aren't worthwhile, because they frequently are. But every year offers something extra to learn: new tricks, flicks, adjusted physics, an overhauled defensive model.

App of the Day: Extinction Squad

Death becomes herd.

Disaster! In an event worryingly reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan stinker The Happening, the world's animals are leaping to their deaths. This time, however, it is dodos that are at the root of the problem: dodos that have been discovered and reintroduced to the wild by conservationist Chuck Darwin (think Attenborough on nandrolone). It's up to Chuck - or rather his pair of bandy-legged assistants - to bounce the suicidal creatures to safety using a trampoline.

App of the Day: Oh! Cube

Chip off the old block.

The trouble with describing logic puzzles is that it's impossible to make them sound as gripping as they often feel when you're playing them. In Oh! Cube's case, I thought I had a nifty get-out clause: I was going to link you to Eurogamer's review of Picross 3D, and say "it's basically this, but on your iPhone". Only Picross 3D was never reviewed within these pages, perhaps for the reason mentioned above. On, then, with the tedium!

"Football, bloody hell." There's probably never been a truer, more eloquent summary of the beautiful game than that given by a beaming, breathless Alex Ferguson after his side's last-gasp Champions League victory against Bayern Munich. Those three words perfectly encapsulate a sport both vainglorious and just plain glorious, a game that can swing from abject tedium to high drama in seconds.

App of the Day: Penny Time

Baby I'm board.

It's odd that Penny Time should celebrate the anarchic, anti-establishment nature of skateboarding, only to then submit to one of the most punishing authorities of all: rhythm. Here you skate to the beat, pulling off hippies (it's a boarding term, you filthy animals), ollies and slides within coloured markers. Screw up the timing, or pick the wrong move, and you'll fall off - or 'stack', as the game would have it - and it's all the way back to the last checkpoint with you. In other words, this is a game that asks you to stick two fingers up to the system by following the most exacting of rules. It's a curious irony in a very strange little game.

App of the Day: This Could Hurt

Press screen to not die.

In most games you essentially act as your avatar's brain, using your fingers and thumbs to send electrical impulses to their body and limbs: run here, jump there, climb this, pull that. In This Could Hurt, the latest game to roll off the prolific Chillingo production line, you have but one command to issue to your plucky hero: stop.

We live in a time where most games are delighted to hand out virtual tchotchkes for the lowliest accomplishments. Pressed start to continue? Here, have a Trophy! Viewed the tutorial? 20 Gamerpoints for you! It's an ego massage for the easily disheartened: reward the player to keep them from switching off. All of which makes Match Panic something of an anomaly; it's not often you'll find a game purpose-built to make its users feel very stupid indeed.

Retrospective: P.N.03

Schneider house rules.

The one thing everyone remembers about P.N.03 is that it was the first game in the Capcom Five, the publisher's proposal to prop up the then-ailing GameCube with a set of third-party exclusives. Though the games turned out quite nicely, the plan wasn't exactly a roaring success: Dead Phoenix was canned, while Resident Evil 4, Killer7 and Viewtiful Joe were ported to PlayStation 2. Only P.N.03 remained loyal to the Cube, though that's less a case of a publisher attempting to stick to its guns so much as a total lack of interest in a new version.

Skylanders, eh? What a cracking wheeze. Take a game, gate off much of its content (including several levels, a clutch of power-ups and all but three of its playable characters), and release a bunch of toys at seven quid a pop to act as glorified unlock keys. Then drip-feed supplies to stores over six months and watch the cash roll in. You can almost picture Bobby Kotick skipping around his boudoir, casually flicking piles of loose banknotes into the air in slow motion. Just me?

Solitaire has been pre-installed on home computers since the early '90s, so why everyone's decided to remake it all of a sudden is a bit of a mystery. If the timing seems unusual, however, it's easier to see why it's ripe for a makeover: it's a game that everyone's familiar with, that barely requires any instructions to play, and it has that all-important element of luck that adds just enough frustration to keep you wriggling away on the end of its hook.

App of the Day: Disc Drivin'

Flicking with friends.

I don't think I ever used the word 'asynchronous' before iOS took over the world, but it seems you can't escape it these days. What happened to good old 'takey-turny' multiplayer, eh? Why do we have to have a fancy new word for it? And while we're at it, what ever happened to 'skill' as a term of appreciation?

Fable Heroes Review

Hobbes spring eternal.

If you think about it, Fable's an unusual choice for a spin-off. It's a game that covers so much ground - its myriad distractions ranging from rhythm action to town building, from gambling to Sims-style housekeeping and socialising - that it would seem to leave little room for any further asides.

Retrospective: Killer7

Try it, you might hate it.

"At best, playing the game is like having someone shout in your ear for 15 hours straight. At worst, it's like getting a high colonic with balsamic vinegar."

An angry mass of pink projectiles swarms from the top of the screen, surrounding a small craft near the bottom. Overwhelmed, the player guiding this avatar desperately attempts to manoeuvre between these deadly bullets. Time and again he's hit, a shriek piercing the air with every death.

App of the Day: EPOCH.

Shoot many robots.

After the brilliant Binary Domain reminded me how wonderful shooting robots could be, I happened across EPOCH on the App Store, which promised further mech-blasting fun. One problem: it was a third-person shooter.

"This is a nice game that may well turn into a great game," was Chris Donlan's opinion on Hero Academy in January. Three months, two new teams and one additional battlefield later, was Donlan's prediction right?

App of the Day: Fibble

Roll with it.

Amid all the guff about Fibble being a totally new direction for Crytek, adding a new string to its bow and whatnot, it's interesting to note that it actually shares plenty of common ground with the developer's previous work.

From Duck Hunt to Angry Birds, gaming has a rather fractious relationship with our feathered friends, but rarely has a title been quite so committed to the act of avicide as Madcoaster.

I've been playing this Pickford Brothers' BAFTA-nominated puzzler on and off for months now - not that you'd be able to tell by looking at my scores - but it wasn't until very recently that I realised what it reminded me of. In both its reappropriation of a classic pub game and its light-hearted, parochial charm, it's the game equivalent of '80s TV gameshow Bullseye.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 Review

The course whisperer.

Last year's philandering cad is this year's comeback king. 12 months ago, Tiger Woods suffered the ignominy of having his face removed from the box of EA's golfing game owing to his off-tee indiscretions. Yet now he's back, albeit with ruddy-cheeked pretender Rory McIlroy lurking (if such a cuddly man can lurk) in the background. But does this year's game have the feel of a creaky but experienced older stager, or the raw energy of a fresh young whippersnapper?

Affordability and ubiquity might be the crucial factors in the success of iOS as a gaming platform, but it's also the sheer immediacy that makes it such an attractive proposition for portable play. I've been spending a lot of time with Vita lately - chiefly thanks to the wonderful Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition - but I'm finding Sony's machine is best-suited to those occasions where I have 10 minutes or more to fill. For those snatched moments of play, the wait for the microwave to ping or the kettle to boil - ah, the perpetual excitement of life as a freelancer - it's my iPod touch that comes out.

Where would video games be without the humble crate? Broad-shouldered marines would have to find something else to crouch behind, bad guys would have to store their munitions in an untidy pile, and pressure-activated mechanisms would remain untriggered.