Monthly Archives: August 2010

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days – Review

Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk

When I sit down to write reviews I always try and take a positive stance wherever possible. Even through their darkest hours, most games hold within them flashes of brilliance or originality that guided them to through preproduction and out onto the shelves of shops worldwide. There are occasions, though, where the sight of the end credits causes you to sigh in utter relief that your time with this particular title is through.

Kane and Lynch is not a bad game. It’s competently put together, handles reasonably well and offers an interesting visual approach. It also, however, stands as a monument to mediocrity as none of its composite features ever raise themselves above the decidedly average.

When first we meet our protagonists, they are in the middle of the seedy underbelly of Shanghai, about to rough up an informant. What follows is a chase through the backstreets, eventually leading the pair into a whole heap of trouble. You control Lynch in this third-person shooter, moving him from cover to cover, spraying bullets readily as he fights his way through the chaos unfolding about him.
Lynch may be a badass, but saunter out guns blazing and he’ll be on the floor in a pool of his own blood before he knows it. Levels must be tackled steadily, hunkering down behind a sturdy barricade, picking off rival mobsters one by one before pushing on to the next piece of cover. Follow this simple concept and as long as there are enough bullets in the clip then there’s a good chance you’ll keep him alive long enough to progress proceedings.

All through this, the action is depicted as though being filmed on a moderate quality camcorder. Bleeding light, shaky handicam points of view, and the wind rustling past the mic all reinforce the feeling that their adventure is being viewed on YouTube. After your initial exposure it’s easy to forget the effect is there, such is the subtlety at times; and it never hampers play.
What does begin to grate, nonetheless, is the repetitive nature of the settings that you stumble across through your grainy lens. Be it fish market, sweatshop, ironworks, airport or city street, they can all be stripped back to an uninspiring linear path with boxes of varying sizes stacked en route so both you and those opposing you have something to hide behind. Though this could describe many a game, the firefights were no different in the opening scene to those experienced in the closing moments. This was further exacerbated by perfunctory AI and enemies that only ever varied their evening wear and not their tactics.

It is easy to call out games for being repetitive, but many offer other elements to create a sense of variety. Halo is just run and gun, but the quality of the AI allows situations to play out differently each time; and Call of Duty might be a constant push through monster closets, but their set-pieces do an incredible job of hiding such trivial details. With Kane and Lynch, barring the penultimate level, there is not one memorable moment that I can recall.

Most disappointingly is that when the penultimate level does arrive, it’s such a welcome diversion to the standard stop-and-pop experience you wonder why it took them so long for them to mix things up, and just how many people will never make it that far – drained as they will be from the rest of Dog Days.

For a gauge of what could have been, the online multiplayer shows a great amount of potential with a variety of modes suited to Kane and Lynch’s criminal undertakings. There’s no tacked on deathmatch, instead there are a series of scenarios based around bank robberies, jewel heists and double crossing mobsters. After the ordeal of the four-and-a-half hours of campaign, the energy and fluidity of the action found online was a breath of fresh air.

It’s easy to be down on any single game, but these tones spring not from a vengeful hate but from disappointment. So much of it seems to be developers going through the motions, punctuated by a couple of genuinely arresting moments which only served to further condemn the rest of the package. Dog Days’ only salvation is found online with friends.

5 /10

Commander: Conquest of the Americas – Review

Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk

In fourteen-hundred and ninety-two;
BIGsheep sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Copenhagen;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain-en.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the mini-map to find his way.

Commander: Conquest of the Americas (CCOTA) is a strategy game set in the age of discovery. Columbus has only recently happened upon a large, unexplored landmass, and on hearing this news half of Europe strike out to stake their claim on the riches that it hides. Setting sail from home, you command a tiny fleet stocked with no more than those eager to start a new life in a strange land. What they find is as yet a mystery. How their fare, equally so. As commander of the new colonies, however, those questions will constantly weigh heavy on your shoulders.

As your fleet searches for a new place to call home, there’s a vast amount of coastline to choose from. Ranging from the icy Alaskan north to tropical Brazilian beaches, the decision is based as much on the local resources as the local amenities. The warmer south will produce coffee, cocoa and tobacco leaves, whilst the more temperate north possesses animal hides, leather and ore, all of which can be harvested and sent home on a long boat to offset the cost of running such a colony so far from native soil.

The vast proportion of NitroGames’ creation is based around economics. Everything has a price, be it establishing a hospital, bringing in soldiers to protect the population, or constructing a tannery; the new world can be expensive. To aid the cause, fleets can be setup to automatically run trade routes, sailing from port to port, picking up produce before returning home to sell them in the capital city. From personal experience, these need to be put in place early, for without a steady income, the adventure is over before it has even begun.

Once the coffers start to rattle rather heartily with coinage, choices begin opening themselves up. Should one expand their fleet to increase trade, maybe create a few warships to keep the locals in line, or enrich the lives of the colonists with churches and theatres? To hamper matters, however, you have four advisors on hand to inform you what the King thinks of your performance. Failure to keep this quartet happy will mean your time as Commander will be short; they’ll ask missions, forts, fleets and palaces to be built, all whilst maintaining a healthy balance sheet, so a compromise must be struck between requests and financial practicalities. Meanwhile, natives will raid your towns, foreign powers may declare war, and pirates constantly circle. Makes you wish you’d never left home and the dank streets of London.

When laid out, the basic premise of CCOTA is a tried and tested format of battling against a series of challenges with a limited set of resources. Where it falls down, however, is in the execution; primarily that you can go for long stretches of time without being able to do anything. Once a trade route is setup, barring a drastic change in resource gathering, you can just leave it be for many years, during which time you’ll be bombarded with requests from your advisors. The usual solution to their problems involves spending money, and so you just have to sit there, waiting for cash to roll in, hoping that you get enough to fulfil their request before they go off in a strop. Failing to comply then typically exacerbates matters as their next request probably will be grander than the one before, costing more money, which you still don’t have.

In the meantime, there is minimal micromanagement of your colony and your ships, and the only major variable that can be altered is the tax rate. Whilst the fleet’s shipping route is highly customisable, it is symptomatic of the UI as a whole, being functional but lacking intuitive behaviour and making simple jobs such as checking your fleet’s cargo a laborious process.

It’s not all menus and economics, however. Naval warfare plays a reasonable part in proceedings, with the possibility of vast armadas striking at one another just a declaration of war away. As the rival fleets go to war, play switches to a new arena, one that shows the detail of the ships in a much greater scale than the normal trading view.

Battles can be played out in a number of ways, including the traditional high-up RTS tactical view of a general overseeing his army, one where direct control is taken of a single ship, and, for those uninterested in such spectacles, the ability to instantly resolve proceedings. The change of emphasis from trading is almost disconcerting at first, but firing bank after bank of cannons and seeing your opponent’s sail crumble to dust under your firepower is a highly satisfying sight. As with the rest of CCOTA, battles are slow, but the pace here is far better suited to proceedings.

Thankfully, given the length of time to build a sizeable fleet in the main campaign, the developers decided to include a dedicated battle mode for captains to practise in. Just as well, because the thought of what my military advisor would say if I came back with five sunk galleons to my name is not worth contemplating.

Despite the pacing and the lack of micromanagement, CCOTA still proves an engaging affair, showing the strength of the underlying premise. Playing sans advisors is an option, but without them the game meanders far too easily. Unfortunately, though, I feel only the most dedicated of strategy fans will be able to penetrate the depths on offer. The brutal learning curve and long stretches of nothingness will see many fall foul of scurvy and weevils long before America in conquered.

6 /10


Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk

Seeing a developer close its doors is a sad sight to witness. The lost talent, the huge amount of time invested in its wares, and the projects that will never see the light of day; even more than in the wider business world, the loss of a creative company is something so much more than striking a name from the list at Companies House.

Seeing a developer close its doors when you know people who work there is worse. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but there’s the sense of worry when the news first breaks, and then sorrow as Twitter then lights up and the realisation of what is happening sinks in. At that point all you can do is send your best to those concerned and wish them well.

Over the last couple of years this, and a number of other close scares, has happened to me more times than I care for. This week it was the sad news that Realtime Worlds had not only cut loose a number of staff but eventually sunk into administration.

After the success of Crackdown, very few doubted their followup, APB: a large scale, online game that attempted to merge the sandbox qualities of the aforementioned title with a more gritty world in which games of cops and robbers ran rampant. Unfortunately the public didn’t bite, reflecting badly on the balance sheet of a company that invested heavily in an area of gaming that doesn’t come cheap.

Their situation highlights the tightrope that so many developers walk. Striving to create a triple-A product, millions upon millions of pounds are sunk into infrastructure, team numbers and hardware, but if that game doesn’t sell well then it could all go horribly wrong. And the worse thing is, in most situations, there’s nothing you can do to mitigate such circumstances; you could produce the highest rated game on Metacritic, but nothing guarantees financial success.

It’s a fragile existence at times, and one that explains why so many studios are more than happy to be bought up by publishers or sign up to long term publishing deals; you can’t put a price on stability.

We wish all those at Realtime Worlds, and everyone else affected recently, all the best.

Inside the Industry

Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk

I’ll always remember my wife’s aunt turning to me one Christmas and quizzing me on what “games” – plural – I had made this month. Never has an eyebrow risen so quickly in bemusement. However, being on the inside of the industry, it is easy to forget that to others we operate mostly under a curtain of secrecy, occasionally throwing out trinkets when we deem them ready for public consumption.

With that in mind, I’ve set myself the task of producing a series of articles to shed light on what goes on behind the scenes at a games studio, imparting some knowledge on just how we go about trying to make a game. Hopefully with each instalment you’ll consider the curtain to have been raised a little higher, and by the time we’re done you’ll have a far greater understanding of the creative process.

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, I feel it necessary to introduce the players involved in such a production. When easing folk in to a discussion about how a game team operates and how all its many facets function together, I like to resort to the following description: designers come up with the ideas; artists create the assets to bring the world to life; programmers glue the whole thing together.

If only it were that simple. There are many specialised roles within those broad categories. So many, in fact, that it’s hard to keep tabs on all of them at any one time. Teams can expand and shrink, different skills are required at different stages, roles can evolve, and, as priorities shift, people can switch back and forth between teams.

What does remain constant, though, are those three initial descriptions. Wherever there’s a game being made, you’ll find designers, artists and programmers. So, in alphabetical order, may I present to you…


These are the talented people who are responsible for bringing us such a diverse range of styles. Be it the Latino Viva Piñata, the striking minimalism of Mirror’s Edge, or the half-tuck of Uncharted’s Nathan Drake.

There’s quite a chain involved in reaching that final, polished stage, though. Initially concept artists create images depicting the general themes and feeling of a title, before modellers take those pictures to create a range of 3D characters and backgrounds. Any character models are then sent off to riggers who insert a skeleton, which can then be brought to life by a team of animators.

Blurring the boundaries between programmers and artists, we also have technical artists. These like to dabble with scripting and programming, liaising heavily with the graphics programmers in a bid to bring the two disciplines closer together so as to extract the most from their pipeline and the console.


To my mind, a designer is often the most misunderstood role of any of those involved in the development process. Many believe that to be a good designer you simply need to be able to rattle off game concept after game concept in a bid to create the next triple-A behemoth. Though this may be true to some degree, their true talent lies in considering the player at every point of the experience. This could be as simple as ensuring the UI is as uncluttered and intuitive as possible, but it also expands into areas that border on psychology.

How does a player learn about your world? What rules have you set up and do you ever contravene them? Are colour palettes used to draw the eye correctly? Has this puzzle been adequately explained? Is there enough reward for this risk? Where are my scissors? It’s a barrel full of questions that always need consideration.

Pacing is also a key area, proving a constant balancing act. How do you keep a player engaged but not overwhelmed? How much legwork turns an expansive world into a tedious one? This has never been more pertinent than with motion-controls, where players could quite conceivable become physically exhausted if the pacing is not pitched correctly.


The days of single-handedly producing full retail projects are behind us. With millions of lines of code now powering the magic, games are just as much a matter of project planning and coordination as they are knowing your way around C++.

The sheer scale of the task allows us coders to specialise in specific areas. There are the graphics programmers who pull all sorts of tricks to make things as shiny as possible, whilst AI specialists turn their hand to the tricky problem of providing an opponent for the player that’s good but not unbeatable. Network engineers dedicate themselves to providing smooth experiences over Live, and gameplay programmers are responsible for liaising with the designers and making the game “feel” right. Again, the latter in particular is becoming increasingly interesting with the advent of motion-controls and the new possibilities they present.

Away from the individual game teams, there are also engine and tool teams dedicated to supplying applications to ease development. These range from interfaces that sit on the PC, reporting back useful information from the console, to creating the means by which artists and designers can push their work directly to the console and then edit it in real-time.

Of course there are others; a host of producers, musicians and administrators help keeping things ticking over, but hopefully they won’t mind taking a back seat for the time being. Given what I have planned, each will get their day in the spotlight.

If you’d like a particular aspect of the industry discussed, please do get in touch at bigsheep@7outof10.co.uk and we’ll see what we can do.

Puzzle Dimension – Review

Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk

My gaze has been locked unflinchingly on the screen for several long minutes now. I stare, as if a chess Grand Master, contemplating not just my next move but many dozens ahead. One wrong turn now and I might as well restart. Goddamn that flower!

Puzzle Dimension is a puzzle game centred about moving a marble through a tiled level and collecting flowers before heading for an exit portal. Although required, this trite description does little to convey its mind bending qualities. Seemingly simple levels turn labyrinthine, rolling up curving strands of tiles can cause the wall to become the floor, and multitudes of special tiles hamper your marble on route to its goal. At times, it’s if M. C. Escher had gotten a hold of Marble Madness.

Do not be alarmed, newcomer; these babblings are caused by extended exposure to later levels. Early stages ease you in gently, with simple, flat layouts, slowly building the complexity in an astute manner that will teach you the skills to crack any puzzle. Special tiles are introduced as you progress, though gradually so as not to overwhelm, and take their inspiration from classic gaming elements. Ice blocks will cause marbles to skid out of control, cracked tiles allow a single visit before crumbling away, fire pits wait to torch your precious sphere, and switches control anything from vanishing blocks to spikes.

Puzzles, however, are nothing without considered design, and Doctor Entertainment executes this in superb fashion. Within each of the ten “worlds” that divide up the 100 levels, there is a well-pitched progression that at first introduces new tiles and then proceeds to build on them, both in terms of interest and challenge. Some of the later stages are not for the feint hearted, but the structure is such that by the time you become truly stuck you will have probably opened up another world should you need a distraction.

Thankfully, handling you marble in these testing circumstances is straightforward. It’s not physics based, so when you prod it one direction it will only move one square; this is a game that hinges on puzzle solving, not twitch reactions. Speed runs can be tried so as to rack up high scores, but the ability just to sit, stare and contemplate is something I found most welcome.

Visually, the tiled worlds are just as interesting as the puzzles they contain. When each level is begun, the scenery is rendered as if created from pixels, very much akin to 3D Dot Heroes. As you roll about, any tile or object you come close to changes into a high resolution, polygonal model. The same is true with the music, starting out as 8-bit chip tunes and evolving through to modern day clarity. Though this may be a reward to some, the retro obsession that seems commonplace in this day and age did make me wish that this transformation could be flipped on its head.

Puzzle Dimension is the epitome of a game where the longer you spend with it, the more you will get of it. Early levels are simple for a reason: the designers don’t want to scare you away. Before too long you’ll be dancing your marbles over precariously thin ice bridges, bouncing them off springed tiles and navigating through impossible mazes that take in the walls, the ceiling and even the flip side of the “floor” you’re standing on. Gravity may be relative in Puzzle Dimension, but what’s certain is that this is a puzzle experience you should not pass up.

8 /10

Toy Story 3 – Review

Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk

As the old cliché goes, I don’t expect much from film tie-ins, much less animated ones. I’ve witnessed grown men lowering themselves to their level simply because the’re a cheap way to inflate their Gamerscore: Ice Age 3, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Night at the Museum 2, some people have no shame.

Avalanche Software obviously had enough of them too, and with Toy Story 3 they’ve decided to walk a different path. It may still be a platformer with a selection of levels taken from the movie, but refreshingly Disney have allowed them to take inspiration from GTA and World of Warcraft.

Open up the Toy Box and you’ll find yourself placed in an old frontier town, nestled in the dusty American plains, where Hamm is major. There you get to jump, climb and explore the settlement and its surroundings, mining for gold and riding Bullseye through canyons. But you also get to complete quests for townsfolk that earn you cash and allow upgrades to be bought for the Toy Box, which opens up further quest-lines. Slinky might want his cattle rescued from the rocky outcrops they’ve somehow become perched on, Major Hamm requests you clear up the bandit problem, or a local could simply request you just take a lovely picture of their friend. There’s a reasonable amount of variety put into missions, seldom falling back on the “Collect X of Y” template.

The cash earned from being a helpful citizen can then be invested into expanding the town’s boundaries, accessing areas such as Sid’s haunted house, Zurg’s space port or Lots-O’Huggin’ Bear’s Enchanted Glen. Each is replete with its own bonus level and each can affect the main town, loosing ghosts, fairies or aliens in amongst the bemused townsfolk.

Despite all these distractions, I found the main attraction to be the ability to customise the town. Each building can be painted in colour schemes ranging from traditional wooden panels to the bright tones found on Nemo’s flanks. Everything from the windows to the picket fence can be tweaked to your own personal tastes, and the same applies to those mingling through its streets. Invest in a hair dressers and clothes shops and you’ll be able to produce a town full of Vikings, hippies, or Buzz Lightyear lookalikes. There are a great set of quests that encourage playing dress-up, too.

The more extravagant options, however, can only be unlocked by collecting the many orbs that litter the game. Each is its own costume or haircut, and means that you’re willing to explore every nook and cranny to see what secrets you can unlock. This lead to a true highlight of mine when I found a treasure trove of Monsters Inc orbs and I now have a squat chap walking around town as Mike, the large, green eyeball.

Story levels aren’t without merit either, and take inspiration from the film without feeling they have to stick to the plot too rigorously, often fleshing out the adventures the toys are experiencing when being played with. The primary difference between these and the Toy Box is that here you play as Buzz, Woody and Jessie, switching between the three as befits the situation. Buzz is strong and can throw other toys, Woody can leap great distances, and Jessie has the ability to jump on objects the other two wouldn’t fit on.

Again, Avalanche should be credited for packing out the eight levels with a healthy variety of themes, from run-and-gun to straight platforming, puzzle sections to stealth. At times the general difficulty level would suggest that the younger audience is not necessarily who Toy Story 3 is aimed at, and this is reinforced by many instant death moments and numerous sections where failure is the only way to learn what’s coming next. Though when playing to its strengths this is all forgotten, and towards the end there are a couple of levels that use the switching back and forth between the main trio to wonderful effect.

On its own, however, the main story, though scattered with variety, just lacks that spark of inspiration. The Toy Box is where players will probably spend most of their time and is indeed what separates this out from the myriad of other animated tie-ins. It’s by no means a classic but it should be appreciated and praised for trying to be so much more.

7 /10

Kirby’s Epic Yarn – Hands On

Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk

Strangely, I’ve never played a pure Kirby game. I have, however, turned my hand to Kirby’s Dream Course (a strange mini-golf game) on the SNES, Kirby’s Pinball Land on the Game Boy, and Kirby Canvas Curse on the DS; plus put the adorable pink blob to good use in Smash Bros. All were good in their own special way, but none could be classed as a traditional Kirby game.

With Epic Yarn, Kirby returns to his roots. This is as traditional as you can get, and you move Kirby from left to right, bouncing off various ledges and blocks in a bid to collect as many shiny things as possible before reaching the end of the stage. Of course, if it were that simple there would be no need for the ream of text you see below.

As with Paper Mario, Nintendo has wrapped this title up in a unique style; so much so that the look itself will become as much a part of discussion as level design and gameplay mechanics. Again like Paper Mario, it’s so interwoven that it affects both of these directly, as Kirby, his environment, and even his enemies, are all made from material.

The whole world looks as though my wife’s craft room has finally collapsed in on itself and evolved its own ecosystem: creatures wander about depicted in strands of wool; backgrounds are assembled from patches of cloth and sown together, with the seams themselves providing purchase for Kirby. It’s a delightful looking place, producing a wonderful image that appears two-dimensional whilst at the same time achieving a subtle depth as if layering thin pieces of cloth over one another.

Kirby can no longer inhale those around him; instead he can now use his own wool as a whip attack. Tapping this attack will cause enemies to explode into their component threads, whilst holding down the button will pull them to him, with Kirby then holding them above his head as a ball of yarn which can be thrown to break, block or destroy further foes.

The whip’s not just an offensive weapon either, as the embellishments that can be found throughout the land (such as buttons, zips and tabs) can be used in conjunction. Some will allow players to swing from them as though Indiana Jones, whilst others reveal their secrets as portholes into the layers of fabrics behind, or even the whole background itself can be pulled and ruffled towards our hero compressing entire sections of the level.

Some of the most charming moments were when exploring these other layers, with Kirby’s mass bulging through, picking up the various jewels secreted away behind the scenes.

Though there is no longer the chance to suck up others to absorb their powers, our rotund hero still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Hold down the jump button when in mid-air and his strands will reform themselves into a balloon, dive under water and you’ll see him quickly spin himself into a submarine. All these little titbits go together to create one of the most delightful platformers ever devised.

For those not impressed with woollen submersibles, maybe you’d be more taken by another of Kirby’s forms: Mecha-Kirby. Upon reaching the end of one stage, we were suddenly reformed into a large, circular tank which took up the majority of the screen and fired missiles the size of a Wii-mote. To top it all off we then fought a dragon, so it’s hard to argue that Good Feel and HAL Laboratory aren’t attempting to craft a little something for everyone.

On a very objective level, putting aside the colourful trimmings, Epic Yarn is shaping up to be an incredibly solid 2D platformer, full of variety. The addition of a co-op mode where two of you vie for each level’s secrets simply adds to the enjoyment, although the tale for two is fundamentally the same as it is for one.

Of course, you can’t ignore the fabric for too long, and it only serves to enhance what already feels like a confident return for Kirby with a decidedly playful mood.

Since forsaking my Wii, the one thing I have missed out on is a good platformer. Whilst I may have treated Crackdown as an evolution of the genre, a tradition jump-‘em-up has eluded me with very little on the Xbox or PlayStation cutting the mustard. With Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Nintendo once again prove they are the company to turn to.

Metroid: Other M – Hands On

Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk

I risk the wrath of many when I say this, but I’ve never been fond of the first-person Metroids. I’ve worked my way through the majority of Samus’ 2D, side-scrolling adventures, but I swapped Metroid Prime with a work colleague for the original Splinter Cell and felt that I’d walked away with much the better deal. Though Metroid: Other M still contains the first-person perspective, Team Ninja have decided to throw out much of what has epitomised the Game Cube and Wii iterations and stamped their own take on Nintendo’s classic franchise.

The first change which you’ll immediately notice is the increased exposition. Although plot has been an increasingly important element in the evolution of the Prime series, the first hour of Other M is heavily loaded with pre-rendered cutscenes that take us through Samus’ experience post Super Metroid. As if dealing with post traumatic stress, she talks of the bond with the baby Metroid which saved her from Mother Brain, and the emptiness she now feels now that it is gone.

We also see glimpses of Samus’ life before she was a bounty hunter, when she served time in the Galactic Federation (GF) military. There, due to her sex and demure stature, she felt sidelined by her squad mates, eventually leading to her exit from the GF taking up a more solitary profession.

When Nintendo executives spoke about taking a deeper look into Samus’ story, they weren’t wrong. If the opening scenes are indicative of what is to come in the rest of Other M, covering quite a traumatic time for Nintendo’s own super soldier, then by the conclusion she’ll be definitely looked upon in a more human manner. Quite a feat given how much time she’s spent hiding behind that visor.

What we know the girl best for, however, is ridding the universe of space pirates and her ability to turn into the most lethal pinball known to man, both of which remain unerringly true. In this latest adventure, though, she does it from a new perspective. You view Samus from the classical third-person point of view, but rather than simply being restricted to two dimensions, she can now wonder into the screen as well. This extension makes it visually feel reminiscent of last year’s Shadow Complex – strange, given how much that in turn was inspired by this series.

Almost reinforcing the return to classic Metroiding, only the Wii-mote is used, dispensing with the need for the analogue stick on the nunchuck. The Wii-mote is held sideways with the d-pad moving Samus around, and the three main face buttons used for beam charging, jumping and turning into the morph ball. Given how complex some control schemes can before, this return to simplicity is indeed refreshing.

As the usual array of monsters make themselves known, there is a reasonable amount of auto-aim to help you rid yourself of the threat. Given the now digital motion and a slight depth issue associated with moving in and out of the screen, this is not unwelcome, and aiming roughly in their direction should be enough to see energy shots reach their target.

Of course for those wishing to see the action through her famous visor, simply taking the Wii-mote and aiming it at the screen will be enough to flip yourself into Samus’ helmet. From this perspective, enemies can be locked on to and blasted away with missiles and beam alike. Also, in less intense situations, objects of interest can be scanned and examined. The downside of this viewpoint is that you’re locked to the spot until you swap back. Early fights had me constantly switching back and forth as foes either closed in too quickly, I hadn’t given myself enough space, or I hadn’t appraised the situation fully.

In the demo, we joined Samus as she responded to a distress signal (a “baby’s cry”) from a vessel floating in space. Finding the space hulk all but abandoned, we fought our way through corridors filled with nasties to reach the bridge. Fighting these standard foes needs no more than space and the ability to fire your weapon quickly, as these sections are mostly about exploring your environment and eking out every last secret you can find from them. Swapping to the visor view in these situations can give a completely fresh take on your surroundings, pulling you into the screen and allowing closer examination.

Before long we stumbled across a group of GF soldiers, and by a shocking coincidence they turned out to be her old detachment. Reunions were cut short as a giant purple monster reared its ugly head and caused the first true test of Samus and the new control scheme.

As the monster flailed its tentacle-like limbs around, I dodged in third-person around the room, looking for a moment to unleash rockets into the beast. At which point I’d flick the Wii-mote around, go into first-person, lock-on to the highlighted weak points and then unleash a salvo that took great chunks off his health. Timing and placement was required as you needed to make sure you weren’t only out of range of the lashing tentacles but able to respond to the soldiers who were laying down covering fire with their freeze guns.

The notion of weak spots and patterns are nothing new, especially to the world of Nintendo bosses, but the blend of gameplay styles link so seamlessly as to give the concept a new take. Indeed, the joining of the old and the new Metroids into one new package could be a combination that sees the series recapture the spirit of the originals, whilst continuing to satisfy the Prime fans that have only ever known Samus in 3D.

Other M has completely changed my view on the recent home console versions of Metroid, and with only a month to go before it hits the shelves, quite ironically it may be Splinter Cell: Conviction that gets traded in to see me bring Samus home.

Metroid: Other M is out on the Wii at the start of September.