AO Tennis 2 – Nintendo Switch Review

Tennis has always translated quite well to the video game realm, from Tennis on the Atari 2600 to the now life-like AO Tennis 2!

The bar set by Virtua Tennis 2 on the Sega Dreamcast all those years ago is what we judge every new tennis video game by. Some might think this to be a somewhat crude way of judging a game, but we say, go and play Virtua Tennis 2 now, you will note that it still plays darn awesome. So how does Australia’s Big Ant StudiosAO Tennis 2 compare to Sega’s flagship tennis game? Wellllll, if we told you right away, you wouldn’t bother reading the rest of this review. Stick around, as we send a few volleys and aces over your way from the Australian Open!

First off, this second game in the series takes tennis realism up a few notches. Australian development studio, Big Ant Studios, has done a admirable job in nailing the authenticity and atmosphere of Australia’s Grand Slam, from the Melbourne Park courts to the featured players, like Rafael Nadal and our very own, Ash Barty.

The roster of players is good, but not great. Missing are some top ranked players, namely Federer, Djokovic, Medvedev and Andy Murray. The sole Aussie flag bearer is Thanasi Kokkinakis. At least we get to play as Ash Barty on the women’s side. Oh yeah, you also have the choice of creating and customising your very own tennis star! The game features an impressive customisation engine, which we really don’t care for (we rather just play tennis!), but it’s impressive nonetheless. On the whole, the graphics are ok and look pretty good from a distance, but things start to look a bit rough when zooming in on the close-ups. It doesn’t detract too much from the game, but it is one of its weaker points. The crowd is also nothing to write home about, so lucky you don’t notice it while smashing the ball back and forth over the net.

Where this game shines is in its all new (and lengthy, in a good way) narrative driven career mode. The career mode clearly takes inspiration from games like NBA 2K games. There are heaps of story-based cutscenes that cycle and change depending on how well or how badly you’re playing. To add more (good) tension, the frequent press conferences have an impact on how the press and fans feel about you. So if you intend on having a McEnroe or Nick Kyrgios type meltdown on court, then be prepared to cop flack in the newspapers – a great touch, which adds to the realism.

So how does it play? Well, it’s not as fluid as any of the Virtua Tennis games we’ve played, but that is a high bar to get over. As it is, AO Tennis 2 plays well enough, with a slight floaty feel to the game, where timing your shot is crucial. Luckily, it didn’t take us too long to get into the swing of things (pun fully intended), so we were serving and returning the ball with ease and in the spots where we wanted the ball to go. With all the shots mapped well on the Switch’s controller (Joy or Pro), there is no shortage of shot choice.

What are our overall impressions of this game? Playing AO Tennis 2 in career mode on the Nintendo Switch will have you swinging the virtual racquet for ages. If you prefer your tennis a bit wacky, then stick with Mario Tennis Aces, but if you yearn for a more realistic tennis game on the Switch, then this is your only choice.

image source: HomeRun PR

 

Disclosure: AO Tennis 2 [Nintendo Switch eShop code] was kindly provided by HomeRun PR for this review.

 

SEGA Master System: A Visual Compendium – Book Review

It is fair to say that when it comes to visual compendiums, no one does it better than Bitmap Books. We love all of our visual compendiums in our library, and it looks like that this new one based on Sega’s 8-bit console, the Master System, will compliment the series perfectly.

Back in the mid 80s, it was all about the Commodore 64 and Amiga when it came to gaming. Consoles were an afterthought during this period, till Sega released their Master System in the west. Known as the Sega Mark III in its home country (Japan), the western version (Master System) made a decent splash once it hit the market towards the end of 1987. The Master System grabbed our attention back then due to Sega’s arcade pedigree, with their arcade conversions looking and playing much better than their equivalent on the 8-bit micros. It is unbelievable to think that the Master System had a massive following in the west (bar North America), where the NES played second fiddle to it. This visual compendium is for all those folks that transitioned from their 8-bit computers to Sega’s venerable 8-bit beast. Even if you didn’t own the Master System, if you got to play on it, then this book will bring back a lot of memories by inducing that lovely drug we call nostalgia.

This visual compendium is a tribute to the amazing pixel art, product design and graphic design associated with Sega’s classic 8-bit console. Having the official backing and license from Sega, this is the first book of this kind to be released for the Master System. As the title suggests, the visuals are the main focus, with 200-word soundbites of text accompanying each single game spread. With around 200 games covered in this tome, you are sure to get an eye-full of nostalgic candy. But wait, there is more! There are a series of larger features and interviews with developers and artists, like Mutsuhiro Fujii, Takashi Shoji, Steve Hanawa and Rieko Kodama to name just a few, ensuring a good mix of words with gorgeous visuals.

With any published Bitmap Books tome, you are assured of holding a premium quality product in your hands, from the lenticular heavy board slipcase, spot varnished cover, printed lithography and vibrant colours throughout, the standard is nothing short of high! Oh yeah, each book also comes with a set of old school 3D Glasses – now that is cool!

If you are (or were) remotely interested in the Master System or you actually played on one (or was lucky to own one back in the day), then this visual compendium is for you! We highly recommend this awesome book.

The lowdown:

  • Title: SEGA® Master System: A Visual Compendium
  • Publisher: Bitmap Books
  • Front & Back Cover: Hardback, sewn binding, spot varnish cover and spot varnish dust jacket
  • Pages: Gatefold pages, Lithographic print
  • Slipcase: 3mm protective board slipcase with lenticular fascia
  • Pages: 432 (cover to cover)
  • Bonus: 3D Glasses
  • Retail Price: AUD$69.95 from Pixel Crib

Disclosure: SEGA Master System: A Visual Compendium was provided by Pixel Crib for this review.

 

John Wick Hex – Review

Prepare to suit up and take down your enemies in John Wick Hex from the team at Bithell Games, out now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

John Wick Hex is a fast paced turn-based strategy game centring on everyone’s favourite killer of boogeymen. While some people may feel that a property like John Wick would make a good first-person shooter, the team at Bithell Games have managed to perfectly turn the fluidity and speed that Wick is known for into a turn-based strategy game that feels action packed. Players move through levels on a hexagon based grid with their actions being noted as “time taken” on a bar at the top of the screen. Enemies also have a time bar just below the player’s which allows you to plan your approach depending on their actions. An enemy may be planning to draw his weapon and shoot Wick allowing the player not enough time to fire first but perhaps enough time to roll away or even disarm their opponent. All actions take differing amounts of time from firing weapons, reloading, healing yourself and even just standing or crouching. Once a level is completed it can be replayed back at full speed in a fluid action scene demonstrating John Wick’s skills.

Levels are diverse and stylish, leaving each one’s approach in the hands of the player and their own particular style. Slow and methodical is often a winning strategy, with players made to think always a few steps ahead just like our protagonist. Carrying out certain moves will require the use of “focus” meaning that Wick will often need to take a short break and recompose himself before he can continue. This can be done at any time but allowing your focus to drain in the middle of a fight can prove to be fatal. Patience is certainly a requirement to playing John Wick Hex as levels can often be difficult and go from bad to worse in an instant requiring multiple playthroughs to get right.

Those familiar with the John Wick lore will love all the subtle nods to the movies and expansion of the universe in general, while newcomers are in for some exciting discoveries about these popular characters. The game has a wonderful comic book styling to it, featuring bright neon lights and dark dingy alleyways, that feels perfect for this kind of action. John Wick Hex offers a lot in the way of replayability and will push a lot of players to their limits while trying to get that perfect playthrough.

Not for the faint of heart or low on patience, John Wick Hex is a fantastic game with a lot of style and charm that might just push back a little too hard for some players to fully enjoy.

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Mat Panek, Chief Reporter
Retromancer – Collector, repairer & fan of retro games & tech. Atari to Amiga, Nintendo to Sega! LD, Zip, Beta and a proud dad! One half of the TiredParents on Twitch.

Follow Mat on Twitter and Twitch

 

 

Disclosure: John Wick Hex [EPIC Games Store] was kindly provided by Power Up PR  for this review.

 

 

Woven – Nintendo Switch Review

Prepare to unravel the tangled tale of Woven, out now on the Nintendo Switch from the team at Alterego Games.

Woven is a rather laid back Adventure game with puzzle elements set in an adorable wooly and stitch filled world. Players take control of an unlikely hero named Stuffy, a well meaning but incredibly clumsy creature that stumbles across a strange mechanical firefly called Glitch. Together they will attempt to discover why all these metal machines have suddenly appeared, what has happened to all of Stuffy’s friends and Glitch’s missing memories. The game is accompanied by a charming storybook style rhyme, that tells the story of our heroes as players progress through the land. By collecting blueprints and using the knitting machines spread throughout each world, players will reshape Stuffy into various different animal designs to solve puzzles and traverse obstacles. Becoming strong animals will allow players to move heavy objects and becoming nimble characters will increase players movement options.

Stuffy starts off as an elephant but quickly players will begin to find blueprints for various other animals from aardvarks to giraffes and deer. Although there are dozens of different animals there is only a handful of required skills, this means lots of animal skills overlap leaving it up to the player to find and use the animals that they love. It is possible to mix and match body parts and fabric types however players see fit, making each version of stuffy as unique as you. A keen eye and exploration is certainly rewarded as hidden throughout the world are a myriad of different blueprints and fabrics for players to use.

Controls are fairly simple and most puzzles can be worked out with ease meaning that players both young and old can enjoy Woven. We did find a handful of rather ambiguous puzzles that took us a little bit longer to figure out than they should have but this certainly didn’t ruin our experience. The world surrounding our heroes is adorable and relaxing for the most part and we found it an enjoyable place to explore and observe with lots of nice little touches spread around.

Woven is a delightful and charming adventure game with a few simple flaws that prevents it from being perfect. Players that crave the simplicity and fun from classic puzzle platformers will thoroughly enjoy every seam and stitch in Woven’s unique world. 

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Mat Panek, Chief Reporter
Retromancer – Collector, repairer & fan of retro games & tech. Atari to Amiga, Nintendo to Sega! LD, Zip, Beta and a proud dad! One half of the TiredParents on Twitch.

Follow Mat on Twitter and Twitch

 

 

Disclosure: Woven [Nintendo Switch eShop code] was kindly provided by PR Hound for this review.

 

 

WRC 8 – Nintendo Switch Review

Scandinavian flick your way into WRC 8 on the Nintendo Switch, out now from the team at Kylotonn.

Being the official game of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship means that WRC 8 has a lot to live up to and it is ready to prove itself. WRC 8 features a heavily redesigned career mode that includes an in-depth research and development skill tree as well as team and Calendar management. This gives players some fantastic options on how to run a team however they choose to suit their play style. Players can dictate which practice sessions are participated in to hone their skills and which aspects of the car and team they wish to invest in. The main campaign has 2 different modes including Front-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive depending on how much of a challenge players are after. Apart from the campaign there is also the standard versus, practice or time trial modes to play. Additionally, Kylotonn has brought back the WRC eSport events to participate in weekly for those that like an extra challenge. 

Featuring 14 Rallies and over 100 stages, there is plenty for players to sink their teeth into. The new dynamic weather system means that race preparation is crucial to gaining the upper hand. Rain and snow will visibly start to gather on the track and cause variation in the vehicle’s handling and traction, leading to some pretty hairy situations if you are not prepared. Rally is a tough sport and those not used to the driving style and skill required will definitely feel the pressure even at easier difficulties.

Graphics take a real hit in handheld mode but this is to be expected on the switch, while docked the graphics are notably improved and look great. Vehicle selection in the base game does feel a bit limited with only a handful of extra vehicles available outside of the major teams. Other vehicles are available to purchase depending on player preference but it would have been nice to have a few more of them included.

Fans of the WRC games and rally overall will love what WRC 8 has to offer the series but more casual racers may feel a little daunted. The Nintendo Switch has been craving some serious racing simulations since it’s release and WRC 8 is ready to deliver. 

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Mat Panek, Chief Reporter
Retromancer – Collector, repairer & fan of retro games & tech. Atari to Amiga, Nintendo to Sega! LD, Zip, Beta and a proud dad! One half of the TiredParents on Twitch.

Follow Mat on Twitter and Twitch

 

 

Disclosure: WRC 8 [Nintendo Switch eShop code] was kindly provided by HomeRun PR for this review.

 

 

Read Only Memories Issue 1 – Comic Review

Read Only Memories is a new cyberpunk noir comic being published by IDW, based in the universe of the game with the same name. Set in the time between the first game and the upcoming title Read Only Memories: Neurodiver, the story follows the character of Lexi Rivers, previously a detective and now a private investigator. Starting off the story we see Lexi posing as a reporter in an attempt to see if her clients wife is being unfaithful and giving some nice insights into the character of Lexi and the world of Read Only Memories. Upon returning to her apartment, Lexi is confronted with a robot whose significant other has gone missing and requires her help in tracking him down.

Read Only Memories quickly pulls the reader into the corrupt and intriguing world thanks to some nice bread crumbs and story hooks from the talented storyteller, Sina Grace. Also helping to draw in the reader is the gorgeous artwork by Stefano Simeone, that gives some wonderful contrast between the bright neon metropolis and the dark underbelly of Santa Cruz. Simeone’s art is simple yet expertly effective in helping to evoke real emotion and depth from the characters and their surroundings.

Whether you are a fan of the games or just looking for some good cyberpunk noir, Read Only Memories is one comic you should certainly keep on your radar.

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Mat Panek, Chief Reporter
Retromancer – Collector, repairer & fan of retro games & tech. Atari to Amiga, Nintendo to Sega! LD, Zip, Beta and a proud dad! One half of the TiredParents on Twitch.

Follow Mat on Twitter and Twitch

 

 

Disclosure: Read Only Memories [comic] was kindly provided by Stride PR for this review.

 

 

The Fisherman: Fishing Planet – PS4 Review

Grab your tackle box and find yourself a nice spot at the lake in The Fisherman – Fishing Planet, the latest from the team at Fishing Planet LLC.

The Fisherman is an immensely deep and detailed online multiplayer fishing simulator game where players will seek out various species of fish across multiple countries and locations. Boasting life-like fish AI, realistic aero/hydrodynamics and over 110 different fish species in game, The Fisherman is certainly a leap forward for fishing sims. Players will have the chance to customise every part of their fishing kit, including but not limited to: rods, reels, leading lines, floats, hooks and even equipment bags. With so much variety and choice it can be a bit daunting at first for new players but the tutorial system is very detailed and spread out very effectively. Fishing is affected by multiple different conditions, just like real life, including time of day, weather and bait used so players will need to plan out each expedition depending on what they wish to try and catch.

On a standard PS4, The Fisherman visually looks good but has the usual sim game rigidity in certain secondary aspects like level elements away from the waterline but the details in the fishing itself are fantastic. Fish and fishing equipment are highly detailed and branded with different stats or visual flair so you can customise your character and load-out however you prefer. Equipment is also modelled to be as close to their real world counterparts as possible, meaning that rods, reels and fishing lines can break if used incorrectly or if too much tension is applied.

Being an always online game means that players can obviously play with friends but it also means that the game is constantly being populated with other players from around the world. This can help hint towards better fishing spots and adds to the sense of community around this title, which appears to be nice and strong. Fishing challenges and competitions are available to compete in online and bring with them some nice friendly rivalry and competition for players from all over the world.

Regardless of whether you are a casual fishing enthusiast or a die hard fan of the sport, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet has a lot to offer with the added benefit of not needing to wake up early in the morning.

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Mat Panek, Chief Reporter
Retromancer – Collector, repairer & fan of retro games & tech. Atari to Amiga, Nintendo to Sega! LD, Zip, Beta and a proud dad! One half of the TiredParents on Twitch.

Follow Mat on Twitter and Twitch

 

 

Disclosure: The Fisherman – Fishing Planet [PS4 PS Store code] was kindly provided by Homerun PR for this review.