Bargains and Bins (PS2)

I recently got together with fellow Square-Go writer Phil Harris to look through the blasted wastes of Gamings last bastion of wrong, the Bargain Bins.

Read the results here.

Bargain Bin

By Graeme Strachan & Phil Harris
Bargain Bin

From the bargain bins in your high street game shop, to car boot sales and pawn shops, you can find second-hand games cheap as chips all over the place. Our Boys, Brian and Phil, have been out trying to find the best, and worst, of them.

……………

The only rule of Bargain/Bin; if it’s under a fiver then it’s fair game.

With Brian away on his holidays it’s been up to Phil to entice other Square-Go reviewers into the wondrous world of Bargain Bin, at gun point.

This week Graeme Strachan joins the team and has even selected his own games for “treatment”, thus getting to keep them once the reviews are done. Expect tears, expect laughter but best of all expect some ribbing and more Bin for your buck than expected.

Alter Echo

“I’ve never seen anything like this!” says Nevin, your spunky young hero, upon reaching a room identical to the earlier ones, only a bit more yellow. Yes, as the box says, the, “intense action set in a unique universe!”, just doesn’t stop.

Story follows the usual team gone to planet to retrieve mad scientist, Paavo. He’s gone mad creating Echoplast, don’t you know, a substance that can be formed into anything. With such a great toy you do wonder why he went mad and his early creations may have had the psychiatrists back at base pressing the loony button but what the hell. Nevin is shot down from space where he is engulfed by Echo, Paavo’s rogue and sentient Echoplast creation with one major sexual and oedipal complex.

In game tutorials fail to help and merely delay the action. Yes adventurous sword play soon gets dull so it’s nice on level 2 where it tells you how to use the look around function. Set controls are a killer too with only the vertical axis being invertible, please someone explain this. Alter Echo is lazy construction at its finest and level design that looks like the Soul Reaver team had gone on holiday and Outrage Entertainments had snuck in and stolen their designs.

The voice of Echo sounds like the bastard child of Terence Stamp and Eeyore and at times comes across as either being some sort of retarded child or a paedophile grooming Nevin for nefarious purposes. With constantly respawning and boring enemies, and a set of transformations which are about as exciting as new pants at xmas; Alter Echo has nothing to keep you involved.

Add the in-battle puzzle game, that makes the heinous mistake of not utilising the D-Pad for movement when that’s what the idea is, and allows you to watch the attacks happen in cheesy anime blurry-background-o-vision, and the answer is…

Bin


Fightbox

Fightbox is based on a BBC TV Series. Remember it? No, we didn’t either and if the intro sequence is anything to go by then it’s no surprise. Having cancelled the webpage the BBC are obviously trying to distance themselves from this 2003 “hit” show, and they’ve almost succeeded given the dirth of information on the web. Okay enough with slagging the show, the game is its own animal and should be judged as such. We’ll need a noose.

Fightbox allows you to craft your fighter as you see fit. Yes stupidly small heads and large legs, making your warrior look like its wearing jodhpurs, are the name of the game. Changes adapt your character’s abilities and by earning points you can gain upgrades making your warrior better. Even colour can be updated so there’s a big plus for in-game adaptability. With many different combat modes there is an air of anticipation for the game itself. So after crafting the warrior of your choice it’s into combat. What else could you want?

Well a control system that doesn’t give you motion sickness and induce rage at the woolly turning circles and god-awful collision detection would help. How about context reactive keys that send instructions to your on screen fighter by the cans and string method of communication, or an unreliable combo system. Why not have buttons for punches on the lower keys and ones for kicks higher, a jump that moves you inches forward or a run function that really just doesn’t.

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! Woeful sound effects, ugly graphics and AI bosses who do more than a little to distract you from everything else that’s wrong. The back of the box says, “relive the Fightbox TV experience”. Follow history and turn it off.

Bin


Mafia

Beautiful! It looks amazing, Mafia goes all out to impress in its intro. If the gameplay sucks, then it’ll be a disaster.

The game gets off with a painfully slow car chase, your taxi moving about as fast as a London Cabbie the Friday night before a bank holiday. Yes it’s another PC conversion but given the style there was enough for us to hang on in there. The next level also involved taxiing people around but luckily your taxi seemed to have gained a bit of a speed boost and so it was slightly more engaging.

In these early levels however you can take a chance to familiarise yourself with the controls and enjoy the good use of sound effects and nicely balanced 20′s music that doesn’t play at all times, just during dramatic moments or when you’re near a radio. Graphically there’s nothing wrong here either, except for lens flare for no adequately explained reason. In fact there’s a lot to be said for the nicely designed environments, cars and realistic physics.

Those of us who want a slower pace of life should enjoy this Grand Theft Auto experience, although unlike those games this is not so much a sandbox game as a mission to mission experience. The problem for many gamers will be that Mafia takes a while to get to speed and added loading cuts between city segments and horrendous saving moments don’t help. Graeme had problems finding the first real contact but we’ll put that down to “binexperience”.

Given the size of the game, the ease of play and the ease with which you can return after a break, Mafia presents a package that, whilst possible to knock, does just what the family wanted. (I.e. in true style while wishing to avoid waking up next to horses heads) As if you needed more convincing we even featured the PC version in our For the Love of… series.

Bargain

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