Author Archives: Lucius P. Merriweather

About Lucius P. Merriweather

The first game that Lucius ever played was "Horace Goes Skiing" on the ZX Spectrum. Yes, he's that old.

Review: Zone of the Enders HD

Zone of the Enders is embarrassingly short, repetitive, packed with piss-poor weapons and has a plot that makes no sense. Yet somehow I found myself quite enjoying it.

I think I’m right in saying that it was one of the launch titles for the PlayStation 2, and at the time reviewers were wowed by its next-generation graphics. Even in the HD edition it looks a bit dated nowadays, particularly the cut scenes, with their weird approximations of human beings – imagine the odd-looking humans in the original Toy Story after they’ve survived a terrible plastic-surgery mishap. But the robot-on-robot action moves at a terrific pace, and I can imagine many PS2 owners wheeled out this game to show off the prowess of their new machine.

“Oh my god, your face! I’m so, so sorry.”

That said, I do remember seeing preowned displays practically knee-deep in copies of this game not long after its release – probably because you could finish the whole thing in a day. I saw off the story in about 7 hours, but you could easily do it a lot quicker, and there’s not much reason to return. It’s something that would have annoyed me 20 years ago, but nowadays with my boring, responsible adult life, a lovely short game that I can finish in a couple of nights is a real blessing.

The actual gameplay involves boosting about in your ‘orbital frame’ (i.e. massive robot) and essentially whacking the square button as fast as you can when you encounter any other massive robots. There are about ten or so secondary weapons you can collect over the course of the game, yet all but three – which you get right near the end – are utterly useless. I mean REALLY useless. I tried using them occasionally as an alternative to just going up to enemies and whacking them in the head with my big fancy sword, but I may as well have just been breathing heavily on them for all the damage they cause. It’s a shame, because just flailing your sword around all of the time gets old pretty quickly, and it doesn’t help that there are only three (yes, three) types of enemy – all of which require pretty much the same tactics. That is – you guessed it – smashing them about the body and face with cold steel (or whatever your future sword is made of).

Mash square button to flail sword. Repeat.

And yet. AND YET. I still found it strangely enjoyable. Perhaps it’s just the catharsis of beating things up while piloting a big robot. Perhaps its just the frenetic pace of the battles. Or maybe its because I just really love how sparks fly from your pointy metal feet when you boost along the floor. (I never got tired of that – sometimes it’s the little things that keep you going.)

I even started enjoying the utterly bizarre plot. Some bad enemy robots attack a space station around Jupiter for some reason, and a kid who looks about nine ends up piloting an advanced robot for some reason, then some crazy woman in a kick-ass robot starts murdering everyone FOR SOME REASON. Then it ends with a climactic battle that I won’t spoil for you here, except to say that IT MAKES NO SENSE.

The boss battles add some much-needed variety.

Still, the game gets noticeably better as it goes on. The first dozen or so levels are pretty much identical – go to an area, kill all of the robots there, repeat – but the final string of bosses are great fun to fight, and just before the end it mixes up the gameplay a little by charging you with finding bombs while fighting off bad guys. If the ideas from those last few levels were expanded across the game as a whole, it would have been much better. As it is, it’s a pretty weak and repetitive game that’s worth playing through to get a glimpse of the PS2’s past, but otherwise hardly a classic.

It’s basically FINE.


Filed under Reviews

From The Armchair: Stealth, How I Hate Thee

What ho, chums!

I’ve been thinking of giving my Xbox 360 the old heave ho for a while now. But before I let the old girl go, I wanted to sample some of the handful of games I’ve procured for it that I’ve yet to cast my critical eye over. I blew the dust out of the old dear’s vents and fired up the white 12GB beast. A quick look at my profile revealed it’s been a whole year since I last switched her on – how time flies.

Of all the unloved Xbox 360 games on The Mantelpiece, Metro 2033 was the one that most intrigued me, so that was the one I reached for. Based on a Russian novel, the game tells the tale of a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where the survivors of the disaster have formed a new society in the city’s metro system, safe from the radiation and mutant horrors above. But mutant attacks are on the increase, and new, mysterious entities known as ‘Dark Ones’ have appeared on the scene.

It’s an intriguing set-up, and it’s wonderful to see a post-apocalyptic game that – for once – isn’t set in America. In the sense that it features mutants and is set in an underground ‘bunker’ of sorts, Metro 2033 bears close similarity to Fallout 3. But the Russian setting really makes it feel different, and this is a much more linear adventure – a first-person shooter full of corridors rather than a full-blown RPG.

The characterization and atmosphere are simply excellent. Each station is dripping in detail, packed full of eye-catching posters and NPCs going about their daily business of survival. I spent a good while just listening in on their conversations and taking in the lore of this subterranean world. Individual societies have sprung up at each station, and traders trek back and forth between them. Some have been taken over by communist or fascist ideology, and have started wars with their neighbours. It’s a fascinating world to take a glimpse into.

The gameplay, too, is clever. Bullets are scarce, and the weapons you find are often cobbled together from spare parts. Cleverly, the currency of the metro is military-grade bullets that have survived from before the war – which are really too valuable to fire. Instead, you mostly have to rely on weak ammunition that’s been fabricated in makeshift factories across the underground. I love the fact that there’s no HUD to speak of, too – things like objectives can be found on a clipboard that you hold in front of you, using a lighter to illuminate it.

So, a great game then. Or perhaps not.

It all fell down at the point when my companion Bourbon was incarcerated by bandits. I started the level in the air vents, as a guard walked by whistling on a set patrol pattern. “Shit,” I thought, “It’s a bloody stealth level.”

And it was all going so well, too.

I hate stealth games. I simply don’t have the patience for them, which is odd because I’m usually a very patient person when it comes to pretty much everything else. Perhaps it’s because I play games for escapism, for the feeling of exploring exiting new worlds, discovering fascinating stories or embodying an all-powerful avatar. Not skulking about in the dark and hiding in drains.

I’ve always felt like this. I remember playing Metal Gear Solid for the first time (on the Dreamcast, interestingly enough, thanks to Bleemcast), and just wondering what the fuss was all about. I found the game thoroughly irritating with its endless monologues and boring sneaking, and gave up on it after no more than a couple of hours.

I found Deus Ex: Human Revolution similarly frustrating. Thankfully though, that game at least let you beef up your weapons to the point where by the end I pretty much ignored stealth tactics in favour of going in guns blazing. It was a similar story with Dishonored – the game gave you the option to focus on sneaking or all-out warfare, and I unfailingly chose the latter. Sure, I might start off being a bit stealthy, but by the end of a level I’d always be relying on brute force to finish off my objective.

Sadly, the brute force method is highly unreliable in Metro 2033. After about 12 attempts, I finally managed to get to Bourbon by mowing down all the guards in the way, but it was very tricky. Artyom, your character, can’t take many hits before buying the farm, so it took a long time to carefully work my way through and eliminate all the guards without dying myself.

Still, I finally did it, and the next level was a treat. One of the things I really like about this game is that it’s not just mutants you face – there’s all sorts of really weird paranormal shenanigans going on too, and no-one really knows what’s causing it. I lapped up all the bizarre phenomena, and when that ended, I found myself on the front lines of a war between Nazis and Communists.

And then there was another f***ing stealth level.

This time, the ‘non-stealth’ route was practically impossible. Faced against a legion of armoured Nazi guards with shotguns, I died continually. Eventually, enough was enough. I turned off the Xbox and vowed never to play Metro 2033 again.

It’s a real shame, because it’s a beautiful game (if you can call a post-apocalyptic subway beautiful), and it does a superb job of conjuring atmosphere. But unlike Dishonored (and to a lesser extent Deus Ex), stealth is pretty much required, rather than an option.

F***ing stealth.

I think I’ll just read the book instead.


Filed under From The Armchair

Celica arrived!

Well, my Celica amiibo actually arrived about a week ago, but what with all the hoo-ha about E3, I’ve not thought to mention it until now. Take a look, she’s a beaut:

In fact, I think this is the best looking Fire Emblem amiibo yet. Even better, she doesn’t have creepy eyes.

I’m aiming to collect all of the Fire Emblem amiibos, but tracking down Corrin has proved tricky – pre-orders are already sold out everywhere. Hopefully come July I’ll manage to pick one up…


Filed under Amiibos

The five best games of E3 2017

E3 is finally over, after a seemingly endless stream of barely watchable conferences, Earth-shattering game announcements, utterly desirable plastic figurines, tepidly received hardware, surprisingly sweary trailers, zombies, androids, gods and superheroes, visions of the post-apocalypse (and zombies), more visions of the post-apocalypse (and Nazis), and visions of Mario *being* a dinosaur (no Nazis or zombies).

But did we get any of the things we wished for? The Manor folk are on hand to run through their top five games from this year’s E3 – Professor GreilMercs already listed his highlights, but here are the picks from the Baron and Lucius.

Baron Richenbaum Fotchenstein

#5 Marvel vs.Capcom Infinite

This game just hits me right in the Marvels and cranks the classic video game character nostalgia up to 11 with what looks to be a super fun and ridiculous single player campaign. This is the most excited I’ve been about a fighting game in ages.

#4 Doom VR

In theory this could be the best of all, because I loved the new Doom so much and was already thinking about playing it again and wishing it was VR capable, and here we are. I’m hoping that the teleport movement in the trailer isn’t the only option though, and slightly worried that the transition from non-VR to VR controls might be a little tricky for a game with so much fast movement and jumping involved.

#3 Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Looks to be more of the same of the last one, but that was a ton of fun so I’m quite alright with that.

#2 The Evil Within 2

A sequel to the greatest horror game of this generation besides Resident Evil 7? Of course I’m interested in that!

#1 Metro Exodus

If this can really live up to its promise of an open world set in the beautifully decrepit Metro universe, and the high production values of the previous games tend to make me believe that it can, then this could end up being the game of the year for me. Sci-fi, horror, first person shooting, and a huge world full of content? What more can a man ask for?!

Lucius P. Merriweather

#5 Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido

This new IP was announced quite late on in E3, but it quickly became one of the games I’m most looking forward to. It’s an action puzzle game from the makers of NES Remix, and it looks wonderfully absurd – you have to collect sushi from the conveyor belt in front of you and fling the dishes at your opponent. But the best thing has to be the music – check out the trailer to see what I mean.

#4 Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Wolfenstein: The New Order was a wonderful surprise after a string of lacklustre Wolfenstein titles – the story was compelling and the gameplay was a refreshing return to old-school health packs. The sequel – now set in a  Nazi-run America – looks just as good. Can’t wait.

#3 Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Well this one was a bit of a surprise. Thanks to leaks, we knew there was a Mario/Rabbids crossover game on the way, and most people groaned at the news, expecting some sort of dull mini-game compilation like the previous Rabbids games. But instead we got XCOM and Mario with a gun – I don’t think anyone saw that coming. What’s more, it actually looks really, really good.

#2 Super Mario Odyssey

We all knew that Odyssey would be good – there’s nary a dud game in the Mario back catalogue – but from the footage revealed at E3, it looks like it’s shaping up to be something extra special. The ‘possession’ mechanic is a wonderful idea, and the sheer variety of ideas on display is breathtaking. I mean, you can possess a dinosaur. A DINOSAUR. Roll on October.

#1 Monster Hunter World

This game came as something of a surprise, as it’s heading to PS4 and Xbox One rather than Nintendo’s machines. What’s more, it looks utterly stunning – after sampling Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate in HD on the Wii U, I’m looking forward to another HD monster hunt with even shinier graphics. It seems Capcom have given the mechanics a long-overdue shake-up as well, so this looks like almost a new start for the series. Still, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will make its way to the Switch as well…

Special mention – It didn’t quite squeak into my top five, but I want to give special mention to Griftlands, a cartoon-style RPG from the makers of Don’t Starve where the emphasis is on charming and swindling your way through the game. Looks very promising…

And that’s it! Thanks for reading our coverage of E3 2017 – if you missed anything, you can find all of the posts archived here. See you back here next year! We’ll leave you with this wonderfully infectious tune ‘I’ll Be Your 1-Up Girl’ from Super Mario Odyssey…

(Apparently it’s sung by no less than Pauline, who’s now the mayor of New Donk City…)

UPDATE FROM LUCIUS – D’oh! I just realised I completely forgot to mention the new Metroid games, which were specifically on my wish list! Seeing as we have no footage of Metroid Prime 4 whatsover, it’s hard to put it in my top five, but I reckon Metroid: Samus Returns should go in at number 2, nudging out Sushi Striker at number 5 (sorry Sushi Striker). I played Metroid II recently, but it was a struggle to get used to the old-school gameplay (there’s not even a map for chrissakes), so I can’t wait to play the remake. Samus Returns seems to add some nifty innovations, too: check out the fancy counter move in the gameplay trailer below. Day one purchase, I reckon – and it’s been far too long since we had a new 2D Metroid.


Filed under Best-of Lists, E3, E3 2017

All of the amiibo announced at E3 2017

Well, Nintendo certainly went all out on the amiibo announcements at this year’s E3. Here’s a look at what delightful plastic figures we can expect over the next few months, starting off with the ones that everyone’s getting most excited about…

Metroid amiibo

Oh yeah, now we’re talking. Nintendo announced two amiibos to tie in with the release of the Metroid II remake, Metroid: Samus Returns. But the thing that’s got everyone excited is that the Metroid is SQUISHY. Yes, it doesn’t take much to get amiibo fans all hot under the collar. Both are due on 15 September 2017.

Fire Emblem amiibo

Next! Chrom and Tiki are on their way to accompany the release of Fire Emblem Warriors:

Chrom’s odd asymmetrical trouser look seems to be really prominent here – he’s a queer fish when it comes to sartorial matters. He’s gone for an odd choice of pose, too – I’m fairly sure that’s not the right way to hold a sword. For Tiki, they seem to have gone with her original look from Mystery of the Emblem rather than the updated style in Awakening and Heroes – all very 80s anime. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but the look is gradually growing on me.

For the base, they’re gone for the same style as the recently released Alm and Celica, and no doubt we’ll be seeing a whole host of other Fire Emblem amiibo in due course. Can’t wait! Neither of these has a release date, but we can expect them at the same time Fire Emblem Warriors is released in the autumn.

Zelda amiibo

I have to say, the detail on these ones is stunning. These four new Zelda amiibo – the Goron champion Daruk, the Rito champion Revali, the Zora champion Mipha and the Gerudo champion Urbosa – are being released to tie in with the second DLC pack for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. All look pretty amazing, and no doubt will be extremely hard to get hold of – especially considering that the original Breath of the Wild amiibo have sold out pretty much everywhere (I’m still trying to get hold of ‘trouser Zelda’ for a reasonable price – scalpers are charging upwards of £30-50 online).

A few people have already commented on Urbosa’s awkwardly placed support strut – it’s certainly the most X-rated amiibo we’ve seen so far. There’s no official release date for these yet, but expect them in around December, when the DLC drops.

Mario wedding amiibo

These three are to tie in with Super Mario Odyssey, in which Bowser becomes a pimp in New Donk City. Probably.

Considering what a bonkers game Odyssey is turning out to be, it’s somewhat fitting that we have some suitably weird amiibo to accompany it, with two rival grooms competing for the affection of a somewhat worried looking bride. I probably won’t get these ones myself – collecting the Fire Emblem and Zelda amiibos is enough of a strain on my wallet as it is – but I’m very glad they exist. All are due out on 27 October 2017.

More Mario amiibo

Along with the fancy wedding amiibos, these two rather more pedestrian amiibos were announced for the Super Mario range: Goomba and Koopa Troopa. Nothing too exciting to see here, but a couple to keep an eye out for if you’re planning to complete the Super Mario set. Personally, I’ve avoided the Mario set, as they all look rather plain compared to the fantastic detail on the Fire Emblem characters and Smash Bros. characters like Shulk and Ganondorf.

Although of course I had to make an exception for Toad. I mean, who doesn’t love Toad?

Bye for now!


Filed under Amiibos, E3, E3 2017

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Filed under Editorial

E3 2017: 5 new and exciting things from the Nintendo Spotlight

At a svelte 30 minutes, Nintendo’s E3 presentation was far shorter than its rivals – but it packed a few truly stunning reveals into its relatively slim running time. The low points were undoubtedly Reggie Fils-Aime’s interminable ramblings, where he stirred in metaphor after metaphor and ended up producing a truly inedible word soup.

“The game is fun. The game is a battle. If it’s not fun, why bother? If it’s not a battle, where’s the fun?”

Oooookay Reggie, I sort of see where you’re going…

“It’s a test that you pass, or a quest that you fail. A race against time. Fun and battle always locked together. But the game is also something else. It’s a passport to new worlds. Maybe even an odyssey.”

Nope, sorry, you lost me.

Anyway, onto the games. (Or battles?)

#5 Pokemon on Switch

Tsunekazu Ishihara from The Pokemon Company looked up from his notepad for long enough to tell us that a new Pokemon game is on its way for the Switch – and that was pretty much it. It’s exciting news, but all we know is that it’s in development and that “it may not release for more than a year”.

#4 Xenoblade Chronicles 2

We knew that this game was coming, but now we finally get to see a bit more of it in action. My first impressions were a little lukewarm compared to the reveal of the previous two games. The first Xenoblade Chronicles had the unique gimmick of taking place on two enormous giants, and X had giant robot suits and dinosaurs to dazzle the eye, whereas XC2 looks like it treads more traditional JRPG territory by comparison. BUT, with all the flying ships whizzing about, it has a strong Skies of Arcadia vibe – and that’s a very good thing indeed. The slightly ropey English voiceover may take some getting used to though. Apparently it’s still set for ‘Winter 2017’, although I will take that with a pinch of salt – both previous games slipped quite considerably.

#3 Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

We already saw this game at Ubisoft’s conference, but it’s worth highlighting here because – against all expectations – it looks like something utterly amazing. Basically, it’s Mario does XCOM, a sentence I never thought I’d ever write. As a huge fan of the XCOM games, I’m intrigued to see how this plays – and it looks pretty funny, too. Man, XCOM with a sense of humour – we live in interesting times…

#2 Super Mario Odyssey

This game looks seriously bonkers. And that is a very good thing indeed. The big change is that Mario can possess enemies by flinging his cap at them, which immediately brings to mind the underrated N64 classic Space Station Silicon Valley. It opens up all sorts of avenues for explorative gameplay, and from this first extended look, it seems Odyssey could very well beat Super Mario 3D World in terms of sheer imagination. The variety of environments is impressive – the design team has really gone for broke on this one. And Mario possesses a FLIPPIN’ T. REX AT THE END. Mental.

#1 Metroid Prime 4

In the end it was just a title, but it was enough. METROID PRIME 4. Three words that have sent the Twittersphere into absolute meltdown. Ten years after the last Metroid Prime game, and following the tepid reception to Other M and Federation Force, Nintendo has finally listened to the fans and given them what they wanted. And – bombshell upon bombshell – MP4 wasn’t even the only Metroid game Nintendo announced.

Those are my highlights, but we also saw glimpses of new Kirby and Yoshi games – neither set my world alight, although they’re sure to please fans of the series. The other big news was that Rocket League is coming to Switch – and already people who own the game on other systems are talking about getting the Switch version as well, just for the portability. It seems that Nintendo really hit on something that people love when they came up with the Switch, and judging by the strong games line-up in their presentation, the company has a rosy year ahead.


Filed under E3, E3 2017