Viewtiful Joe 2

Gamestyle Archive Intro: what we think is another writer debut with Arron Hanley who tackles the sequel to a much-loved classic. Can Viewtiful Joe deliver on the PlayStation 2?

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Gamestyle fancies a challenge, although it’s rare to find a challenging title that is also enjoyable. It’s fair to say that we weren’t disappointed with Viewtiful Joe – originally released on the GameCube and a format exclusive until Capcom decided to bring the cries of ‘Henshin-A-Go-Go Baby!’ to the Playstation 2, via the colourfully-titled sequel, Viewtiful Joe 2. The original game saw you fighting your way through levels attempting to rescue your girlfriend – who wasn’t controllable at the time – however, Capcom have now teamed Joe and Silvia so they can help each other out with the simple tap of a button. After a humorous introductory video that outlines the story, you are transported to a prehistoric setting (don’t ask) dressed as Normal Joe in his T-shirt and cap – and where you’re tasked to recover seven ‘Rainbow Coloured Oscars’.

Both Joe and Silvia return in 3D form (along with the enemies), although the standard backdrops look like pieces of cardboard – hardly a revelation, given that the original game had the critics applauding it. Also returning is Joe’s ‘viewtiful’ style of fighting and his range of special attacks; Silvia however is not a victim this time but Joe’s able companion. Initially, her style of fighting is a simple kick and extendable boxing glove (thus ensuring she won’t break any nails), however as you progress both will receive their hero suits and be ready to take on the new villain. Although Joe doesn’t have any specific moves at first, his Viewtiful style is soon upgraded with even further moves. The game is straightforward: beat up enemies and bosses, jump, dodge and continue forth. However, this simple formula requires that you perfect your timing and moves. The game has some very simple puzzles but they can become frustrating – timing is the key here, as some of the puzzles require you to switch between Joe and Silvia in order to progress. Joe can use his powers to slow down time, and this proves effective in many ways (such as increasing the power of your hits upon enemies, or simply landing more precise hits).

Any help proves to be invaluable as Viewtiful Joe 2 is not an easy game – in fact, the difficulty settings have been changed to Normal and Hard (whereas before ‘Kid’ setting could’ve passed as easy and ‘Adult’ very hard). The game only has seven levels – or reels, as they are officially known – but they are quite large and will take some time to complete. The levels have varying themes, from the prehistoric beginning (which is 10 million years B.C.) to an ice age, and even a ninja-themed level – all of which look superb, but prove superbly difficult. Each level consists of acts, which are then split into several missions. At the end of each ‘reel’ there’s a boss that you must defeat in order to gain an Oscar; on completion of each reel you’ll be ranked on time and defence, and awarded Viewtiful points for using your VFX and destroying multiple enemies.

As with its predecessor, the trend for using cel-shaded graphics continues. The sharp visuals on each of the main characters (including enemies) look as ‘viewtiful’ as ever, although the levels themselves don’t look to be pushing the Playstation 2 hardware. The environments are appealing and well-presented, with distinct features pertaining to the levels (such as dinosaurs and lava erupting from volcanoes); these bring the game to life, almost as if Joe and Silvia have been caught on film. Capcom have also continued their trend for providing superb sound. The voice acting, the explosions and tunes that are played whilst combating the enemy remain outstanding. Joe and Silvia have real personality, as do some of the bosses (who might chit-chat for a while and provide some light relief). However, despite the comic book explosions and madcap music, all of this was replicated in the prequel – so it doesn’t really bring anything new to the player.

While Gamestyle enjoyed the challenge that Capcom threw at us, we couldn’t really spot the differences from Viewtiful Joe (bar the new adventure): it has the looks, style and sound of the original, but doesn’t make it any better nor worse. It’s simply more of the same, and gamers who have played the first one will know what to expect (although newbies may be put off by the revised difficulty). As a bonus, players can unlock the ’36 Chambers of Viewtiful’, a side-quest that will take even longer to complete. Gamestyle thoroughly enjoyed Viewtiful Joe 2, but it was nothing new to us. Slightly easier this time around, with the same energy as before, but not enough to reinvigorate the series.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

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Cold Fear

Gamestyle Archive Intro: this is an incomplete review but it seems over 75% intact so we’re going with it as it stands in the archive. Cold Fear was an interesting idea on paper with a different setting to the usual scare ’em videogames of the time. Yet the execution let the side down. This review was from JJ and maybe one day we’ll find the complete version.

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With umpteen movies released by Hollywood which deal with horrors afloat, it’s bizarre that developers have taken so long to seize upon a workable template. Even for Gamestyle, the mere notion of ‘survival horror at sea’ instils an icy-cold fear of the unknown which has hitherto inhibited us from spending some quality time with the game. The first step in overcoming one’s fears is to confront them… As a coastguard you are dispatched to a Russian merchant vessel that is somehow adrift on the high seas – and despite a heavy pounding by the forces of nature, it refuses to submerge. Unusually, there was no Mayday signal to respond to; rather you are acting on orders from higher up the chain of command. Luckily, these merchant crewmen come adequately trained and armed, because the rescue mission is soon reversed into one of survival.

Cold Fear begins positively, as it aims to confront the player with the predicament of being stranded on a ghost ship in an almighty storm. The screen sways from side to side, and the camera behaves erratically – a brilliant piece of design if it weren’t for the fact that it’s ongoing throughout the game. There is no opening sequence which familiarises your skills and training (nor any convenient link to an operative who might help); you are very much alone – with only a gun and gumption for survival. These opening moments are best compared to Metal Gear Solid 2, but here the ship’s deck feels more dangerous, more alive and far more threatening.

The efficient use of the environment also extends to items within the ship – as light bulbs will go out, bodies will nervously twitch; in fact there is always something happening to divert your attention (and thus raise the fear factor). Wading through a half-flooded corridor is a telling moment: you just know that something is out there, waiting to pop up. This somewhat compensates for the disappointing opponents you will stumble across – beginning with the Russian sailors. There is no means to communicate with the crewmen (who are obviously at their wit’s end); instead gunplay is the only language they’ll understand in Cold Fear. Essentially, this is a missed opportunity, because it dumbs down what could have been an otherwise invigorating situation and/or voyage of discovery. Despite the many locked doors and open cabins, there is no escaping the fact this is a linear adventure. Information and objects are drip-fed as you navigate the crumbling interior of the ship – often at times you’ll be solving puzzles without really knowing it.

Each cabin is in a terrible state: blood and bodily remains are scattered everywhere (ramping up the gore factor), and fire rages wherever the seawater subsides. Opponents line themselves up nicely, with crewmen automatically anchored behind the nearest cover; the infected will quite often throw themselves into your line of fire and quite early you’ll discover the infection can take over corpses that have lain silent for days. This prompts a lot of backtracking – and a series of headshots into those who have already fallen foul of the ultimate coastguard (but feels familiarly like content that is stretched too thin). Meanwhile, Cold Fear certainly impresses with its visual style; the crisp textures are courtesy of the Renderware toolset which again delivers in spades.

The outdoor sections (where the storm is raging) are perfectly-reproduced, with hazardous-to-your-health objects forever dancing in the wind. In fact, there were moments where Gamestyle wanted to reach out and wipe away the drizzle from our television screen (not to mention donning the waterproofs). However, there was no time for such pleasantries, as every minute spent outside weakened our resistance to the elements. The predictable opposition becomes increasingly harder to kill as you make your way through the ship.

Part of the reason for this is the atrocious targeting system (and largely useless camera angles provided in the free-roaming third-person perspective). A halfway measure to correct this is playing the game from an over-the-shoulder viewpoint; this improves accuracy (but not nearly enough to satisfy) and makes fairly good use of the laser sight (along with the handheld torch). Without this option, Cold Fear would have been virtually unplayable. Another horrid piece of direction is evidenced by save points: in the survival horror genre, players are quite accustomed to saving at regular intervals. This acts as a safety mechanism, but in Cold Fear this assurance has been strictly linked to pivotal moments in the storyline. The first save point for instance is too far into proceedings, and unless you are playing on the two easiest difficulty levels, a real pain to reach. Of course, given the premature playing time (and the lack of unlockable extras) this decision was perhaps understandable, but nonetheless frustrating. The omission of frequent saving is not helped by the fact that Cold Fear does not provide a map option – which can prove (review ends)

Gamestyle Score: 6/10