Gamestyle Wikipedia Page

Thanks to Rogue Soul for the heads up on the Gamestyle Wikipedia page. This was a useful resource to track the history of the website and the team involved – especially the early days. Technically its gone from Wikipedia for whatever reason they want to quote (they’ve lost my pending donation)  and any future support.

However we do have the images of the page and I’ll copy the text beneath as well. That’s what an archive is all about.

gamestyle_wikipedia_1 gamestyle_wikipedia_2 gamestyle_wikipedia_3 gamestyle_wikipedia_4 gamestyle_wikipedia_5

Gamestyle is a UK-based independent computer and video gaming website that was launched in 1999 by Dean Swain, under the name Dreamers128.

Gamestyle covers video game software reviews, previews, news, and other information. After starting out on its own, Gamestyle was linked with a small American media network called FanGen. Later, Gamestyle broke free of FanGen and merged with fellow independent site GameHub.

To date, Gamestyle remains independently operated.

History

Launched in 1999 by Dean Swain, the site focused exclusively on Dreamcast games, under the guise Dreamers128. Approximately a month after launch, the site rebranded to Gamestyle.co.uk, became a multi-format site, and began to cover all console systems – though coverage of other consoles was restricted to previews alone.

With sites of this stature somewhat of a rarity, Gamestyle was quickly tied to a small American media network named FanGen who covered running costs of the website. Under FanGen, Gamestyle turned to become a more humorous, ‘punky’ website which displayed images of semi-nude women on the front page.

The FanGen link remained until Gamestyle merged with another UK independent, GameHub. This merger saw an increase in visitors to the site, due to the popularity of GameHub. With each newer build of the website, Gamestyle progressively lost its attitude and tamed the humour in written articles.

To date, the site runs primarily on gamestyle.com and is now funded by Dean Swain, Dave Carlson, Matthew Cox and Jason Julier.

Main site

Gamestyle’s main page displays the latest news, reviews, previews, and links to areas for the following platforms: Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance. Visiting each console section shows a list of the latest articles, the most popular games on that console, and an index method for users to track down games of interest as quickly as possible.

The new version of Gamestyle launched on 11 April 2010. The main page was launched a few days earlier but the final release updated the review and preview hubs, allowing further searches and the highlighting of top scoring articles and random pieces from the archives.

Reviews and rating system

Gamestyle has a strict review policy and they themselves believe their reviews to be trustworthy and unbiased, granting a fair review score. While none of the writing team are professionals, Gamestyle delivers new content daily on weekdays and also at weekends.

Though in articles, Gamestyle refers itself in third person, staff writers are also credited. Reviews are also listed on GameRankings,[2] Metacritic,[3] Rotten Tomatoes,[4] andMobyGames.

Their reviews were considered highly enough to be included alongside IGN and Electronic Gaming Monthly on Nintendo‘s UK marketing print campaign for Metroid Prime. These adverts were printed in numerous gaming magazines, on advertising hoardings across UK towns and cities and also online.[citation needed]

Developments

Gamestyle is constantly looking to evolve and improve the site. In March 2007 a new feature was launched that connected any posted news story, with a related topic in the forum. This allowed users to discuss events and offer opinions on breaking news in the world of videogames.

2008 version

January 2 saw the launch of the latest version of the Gamestyle site. Then new modern, white look was a dramatic change from its predecessor.

Blog

On June 22, 2008 Gamestyle introduced its own blog. The aim of this extension was to attract new regulars to the site and provide an outlet for the whole team to provide extra comments on their reviews or gaming news. The blog is an open forum for staff members to post about anything from films to their latest review.

2010 Version

Arguably the best version of Gamestyle so far. The 2010 edition incorporated comment functions for the first time in years, allowing users of Facebook & Twitter to give their opinions on articles.

2010 Upgrade

As of 1 November 2010, Gamestyle started coverage of mobile phone releases with Fruit Ninja being the first review. This date also marked its arrival on the Opera portal. The front end and forum were matched under the same banner design, allowing greater ease of navigation.

Retro Gamer Magazine Website Of The Month

In issue 60 of the popular Retro Gamer magazine, Gamestyle received their website of the month award.

“Gamestyle has been around now for a staggering ten years and remains one of the most entertaining non-corporate gaming websites around. Featuring a thriving community, Gamestyle prides itself on its well-written and non-biased reviews and covers everything from the latest 360 and PS3 releases to the classics like Metroid and Football Manager.

Indeed, one of Gamestyle’s greatest strengths is that it’s able to offer something for everyone and as a result is a true gamer’s website, with polite and enthusiastic forum members and a small core team of talented writers. Oh and if you fancy a giggle then look for the Project Zero/Fatal Frame review in their massive archive.”

2012 Hack and Rebuild

In 2012 Gamestyle was the victim of an attack and had to rebuild from the very bottom again. Despite losing everything, the current team has pushed on to keep the Gamestyle name running. The focus has shifted somewhat with more reviews based around ‘Indie’ titles and has seen the site build up a solid relationship with indie developers over the months. The team is much smaller now, but by no means any less dedicated.

The reviews are still coming and the site has undergone another redesign.

2013 Back To Social Media

In 2013 Gamestyle decided to get back into the social media space. The Facebook page has become active again along with our Twitter account. All articles will be found on both and the team encourage users to interact.

Gamestyle Offline

Gamestyle also creates and hosts a downloadable PDF magazine. Now published on an infrequent basis, Gamestyle Offline[5] is intended for the visitor to print their own copy for ‘on-the-go’. Gamestyle maintains that download figures of each issue are promising, and are known to have worked with video game publishers such as Vivendi Universal to create special editions.

At the close of 2006 there are eleven issues of the magazine, three of which are special editions. Each issue contained content that one may not typically find on the main site, such as interviews with developers and features on specific subjects. Gamestyle has been known to publish reviews of various titles in Gamestyle Offline, before publishing them online, as a selling point of the PDF magazine.

As of January 9, 2008, Gamestyle began a five-part series called ‘Gamestyle Offline: The Missing Issue’. This brought together the five remaining unpublished features that were intended for Issue 10 which was put together at the end of 2005 with the intention of releasing a new issue in early 2006. Number 10 was meant to represent a new start for the series, with a new look and a new issue editor but unfortunately the project never saw the light of day.

Gamestyle Live podcast

The spirit of the Offline magazine has been carried onto a new format, the podcast. The show covers all the latest news, site developments, reviews, releases and some opinions. It is available via the website or one can subscribe with iTunes.

Community

The Gamestyle forum now has over 1000 members, many who are regular visitors. While this number is smaller than other communities, it enables a more personal level of interaction between members, many of whom take part in meet ups to share their love of video games.

Staff

Owner: Dean Swain

Development: Matthew Cox (design) and Dave Carlson (implementation)

Editor: Jason Julier

PR Contact: Bradley Marsh

Writers: Bradley Marsh, Ben Gleisner-Cooke, Mark Ford, Gareth Chappell, Stef Snell, Adam Gulliver, Simon Farrow

Previous Staff: Andrew Revell, Andy Lucas, Anna Ghislaine, Colin Whiteside, Dan Gill, Daniel James, Gareth Chappell, Garry Webber, Gopinath Chandran, Hanley, Tom Knowles, Usman Zia, Richard Meerman, Drew Middlemas

Other previous staff writers for Gamestyle have gone onto further their career, include Garnett Lee of 1UP.com,[6] Ollie Barder of The Guardian and Darren Jones, retro editor ofgamesTM and Retro Gamer.

Webarchive: http://web.archive.org/web/20151218121356/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamestyle

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Medal of Honour: Rising Sun

Gamestyle Archive Intro: Medal of Honour had a few ups and downs during its initial years. After an initial burst of interest those scripted events and on-rails-feeling torpedoed any long lasting gameplay. This review is from JJ and 2003.

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Once Medal of Honour had ravaged Europe, the logical next chapter on its pilgrimage of destruction was the Far East.  And so Medal of Honour: Rising Sun arrived, promising more of the same but with enhanced features and online support for Playstation 2 owners.  However is this one release too far?

This time you take the role of (yet another) All-American white hero.  The pride and joy of his hometown, this young soldier finds himself thrust into the fierce conflict, and soon begins to shine.  Introductions aside, as ever this marks the beginning of several levels conveniently scattered across the conflict timetable.  Medal of Honour releases are predominantly known for their knockout first level, and Rising Sun is no different.  Taking place at Pearl Harbour the opening salvo is a roller coaster ride of emotions and locked doors.  However on reflection Gamestyle soon realises that it is a piece of magnificent trickery and deception.

The previous incumbent (Frontline) despite the widespread acclaim was home to several fundamental gameplay issues, which Gamestyle could not overlook.  The preference for linear levels and Hollywood glitz (this time featuring the THX logo) over any real game play were the most damming of all.  The cynics may claim that it was enjoyable, but in retrospect how many have returned?

Unfortunately things have not improved with the next instalment – as any glimpse of creativity is soon taken out and shot at dawn in favour of a concrete release date.  Electronic Arts may pride itself on hitting its targets in terms of release dates, but surely any project management must allow for ideas to improve the package?  If you set out to create a bog-standard first person shooter, then that is all you will produce, and no amount of glitz can distil such a fact.

Pearl Harbour is the ideal example of how badly this series is relying on old habits, and failing gamers.  It is as linear as a one-way street in a car with no reverse gear; once experienced there is no need to return.  Again and again the player must do as the developer commands to trigger the next event.  Take for instance the sequence in a baseball stadium.  This could have been a fine set piece as you crawled through seating areas taking out guards and sniping distant targets.  Instead Gamestyle took out its targets in gung-ho fashion, and then nothing.  Backtracking through the level did not reveal any solution.  Unfortunately one sniper remained unnoticed in the stadium, and only when he was dispatched did this trigger the next sequence.  Soon enough enemy troops appeared from nowhere (amazing how Japanese soldiers can teleport themselves) complete with poorly scripted AI, and then the doors opened.

Oh, how EA has tried to butter up this game with various bonuses for good performance and hidden extras. The medal system has been used previously in the genre to reward great play, not as an excuse to “beef-up” a shallow and unbelievably short £40 release.  Unfortunately the levels are indicative of the problems prevalent throughout the whole of this release.  The game feels rushed, the graphics in many places are substandard, and make the jungle levels in Turok Evolution seem positively Halo-like in comparison.  At times Rising Sun can get messy, really messy (think pop-up, poor textures, slow down, blocky graphics etc) and it’s hard not to think that it was rushed out for the Christmas market.

The emphasis on realism has been retained but now the game feels decidedly unbalanced.  Many of the weapons handle badly, but combine this with the poor implementation of control and you realise why your opponents resort to banzai charges; sometimes it’s the only way to hit the target.  Rising Sun is also dowsed in sentimentalism, which Gamestyle believes oversteps the mark.  This isn’t a tribute or appreciation society, rather a cheap ploy to earn a few dollars more.  This time around Medal of Honour has gone too far.

Surely a commercial release such as this must contain some positive aspects?  Well, its certainly not the loading which is the longest yet on the Playstation 2, and frighteningly so.  Few releases have allowed Gamestyle to obtain a brew during loading and return with time to spare.  However the music and accompanying effects are superbly replicated on the soundtrack, continuing the solid work in Frontline.

Casting aside all this negativity leaves only the co-operative, multiplayer and online modes.  Thankfully these manage to deliver entertainment if you have a multi-tap or online connection.  The offline multi-player mode is enjoyable fare, despite those ugly textures and too many pickups.  The online aspect is even more entertaining, as Rising Sun provides several well implemented maps and voice support.  Admittedly the actual online experience is basic with only a few servers and players available, but Gamestyle experienced intense combat, consistent victory and little lag.  This could all change if Rogue Soul goes online, so Gamestyle will enjoy victory while it lasts.

Humour aside there is nothing worthwhile about Medal of Honour: Rising Sun, as it marks the lowest point in the series.  Time has finally caught up with the old fashioned game dynamics, limited ambition, compromises and the release date has proved its undoing.    Electronic Arts are proudly driving up sales and profits, but in the case of Rising Sun at the expense of the game and consumer.  Whether this release has caused long term damage remains to be seen, but do not even consider it as a worthwhile purchase.

Gamestyle Score: 4/10

SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals

Gamestyle Archive Intro: it seems hard to remember the era when online gaming was nothing more than a pipe dream. For Gamestyle and its followers in the early 90’s this was a period when the internet was only slowly becoming a possibility. Playing Quake 3 on the Dreamcast via a 33.3k modem was a memorable and impressive technical feat. The game that captured the true spirit of the internet and co-operative play was Sonic Team’s Phantasy Star Online; a magnificent experience.

The PlayStation 2 needed its own online experience and for Europe SOCOM was the launch title, going live almost a year after its American debut. Now games are dominated by online play and military combat. Gamestyle was fortunate enough to receive the review code for this title. It came as an impressive pack; perhaps the most impressive this writer can recall. Providing everything you needed to go online including the LAN adaptor and USB headset – which I occasionally still use today. In comparison the title has faded from memory unlike Call of Duty. This review dates from June 2003.

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When the Playstation 2 finally made its online debut, the flagship launch title was SOCOM: Navy Seals. This taut anti-terrorist game became the most functional online release and until recently remained the best reason for overcoming the hurdles between an offline and online playing session.

Gamestyle is aware of cheap Ghost Recon comparisons, however both titles offer a different perspective on tactical warfare. In SOCOM you control a SEAL unit, which is a highly-trained elite American unit, often engaged in anti-terrorist activities. Such a premise allows the team to be inserted into various environments with differing goals – showing good imagination and variety throughout. And unlike Ghost Recon, when you die here you are not conveniently transported into another body; even virtual life is precious. Releases such as these can be overcome with realistic demands, and to a certain extent lose the immediacy of a quick ten-minute session.

While SOCOM is faithful to its real-life counterpart (and is well researched, offering a satisfying blend of existing weaponry and tactics), it is thankfully not an American military training simulation. Zipper Interactive has managed to create a game which successfully bridges the gap between both camps, and proves engaging enough for the experienced warfare connoisseur or the most casual recruit. In retrospect, this is something that similar releases have failed to achieve to any great extent. Offline, the missions are well-planned yet remain forgettable, offering little reason to return. The opposition AI is decidedly average and shows rudimentary awareness of human foes. Mission goals can be tackled in any set order, and allow for a variety of different approaches. Even the gung-ho action fan will find much to savour, as the squad can be left to fire at will. Adding to its universal appeal is the implementation of the third-person view, which allows for easier squad control. (A first-person camera is included, however given its clunky nature and relative framiness, is an option best avoided.)

As the flagship title of the PS2 online experience, SOCOM has embraced everything that the new medium has to offer – albeit with mixed results. Being the first title to support the much-vaunted voice communication feature, means that this trailblazer was never going to technically satisfy (but only because it was the first). The communication – offline – is reasonably accomplished, and allows the player to direct his squad independently of position. Even with a thick (northern-Scottish) accent, Gamestyle managed to guide the elite troops with Lemmings-like precision. SOCOM is an evolutionary step forward from (Dreamcast’s) Seaman, which hinted at the possibilities afforded by the in-game microphone. For those uncomfortable with such a feature – or let’s face it, unable to afford the headset – intuitive menus exist as a back-up. Not content with merely directing troop movements, Zipper Interactive has enhanced the headset feature by using it for communication updates from HQ during play. A simple touch, but one that really drives home the practicality of the peripheral, which is more than just a two-way communication device.

Again, it serves to heighten the realism and immersion, but without increasing the learning curve. Unfortunately, the quality of the audio signal – online – leaves a great deal to be desired. In this game, it lacks the free-flowing clarity of its rival (Xbox Live), but second-generation (PS2 online) titles will no doubt overcome this tentative drawback. Visually, SOCOM is again functional, as the real gameplay cannot be measured by exotic environments or realistic-looking enemies (although the fogging can become rather intrusive). Moreover, any sustained interest stems from what is going on beneath the visuals – such as the aforementioned communication. Given the memory limits imposed by the strictly online environments obviously chastises any grandiose design – which perhaps explains the disappointing textures and low-level detail. After all, creating a wonderful environment full of life, incidental objects and multi-routes does not translate well online, and with sixteen players involved.

SOCOM: Navy Seals manages to avoid the main drawback associated with taking your Playstation 2 online because a thriving community of regular players supports it. Sixteen players – divided into two camps – facilitates highly-charged matches where good guys versus bad guys. Whether you play terrorist or army hero, expect an addictive experience (regardless of clan membership). Xbox Live users are aware that when Ghost Recon: Island Thunder participants hit double figures, the server can go into meltdown. Amazingly, the functionality of SOCOM avoids such a problem; and the only price to pay is the long sequence before joining or starting a match. Gamestyle feels that this indeed is a small price.

So, there you have it – a game that manages to deliver an online experience which completely overwhelms the single-player mode. If you have not yet endeavoured to go online with your Playstation 2, this perhaps provides a compelling reason to do so.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

Ratchet & Clank 2 Unedited

Gamestyle Archive Intro: yesterday we welcomed back the published review of Ratchet & Clank 2, however during the restoration from 2 sources, the differences between the submission and the final edit were noticeable. So perhaps as first and potentially with more reviews to follow, here is my original 2003 draft.

ratchet

Ratchet & Clank 2 is a release that Gamestyle finds hard not to love.  This is the quintessential modern day platformer, which covers all bases and ultimately leaves its potentially taxing platform foundations behind.  This is bubblegum, mirthful gaming and ultimately the game that delivers the fun, which Mario Sunshine could not.  Seriously, Ratchet & Clank 2 is that good.

Whereas Jak II went all “bad”, Ratchet & Clank continue their merry exploits, forging ahead with little regard to market trends. Is there a story?  Well, yes there is of sorts, but it only serves as an opening for a space carnival.  The characters are firmly tongue in cheek with well-pitched speech.  Receiving a distant call for help, the heroic duo set out to aid Abercrombie Fizzwidget – the chairman of Megacorp.  A devilish thief has snatched a secret experiment from the giant company, and obviously Megacorp wants it returned.  On route Ratchet & Clank are given new training (hence the “Commando” subtitle) in preparation for their new galactic adventure.

A bog standard storyline is given a new freshness by the cartoon influenced character designs and cut sequences; some of which just exist to put a smile on your face.  Insomniac has buffed this game to perfection, and the evident humour and nods to influences are splendid, as are storylines to the original release.  If Pixar created videogames, then Ratchet & Clank 2 would be exactly what Gamestyle would expect from the talented studio.

Initially Ratchet & Clank 2 only fleetingly rises above average, offering the standard shooting, jumping and exploring scenario, which Gamestyle has seen on countless occasions.  Then things begin to develop.  You see, the main game isn’t about skill or challenge (there are extra modes that cater for such niceties) instead its about grasping the largest, funniest and most extreme weapon in your arsenal and going out into the galaxy and having fun; blasting everything.

Thoughtful level design adds to the enjoyment; as if you cannot progress further on one planet, why not take a hike to another?  Whereas in the original weapons could be bought and no more, in the sequel Insomniac has given more thought to proceedings.  Again, most can be bought, but special platinum bolts (hidden cunningly throughout the levels) can be spent on incredible enhancements.  Not only this, but by using a weapon consistently, its experience grows until it evolves into another devastating weapon.  With a multitude of weapons available, killing and demolition has never been so much fun.  Sometimes though, Insomniac is a victim of its own brilliance, as weapons (such as the therminator and tractor beam) can only be used when conditions allow.  Why not break the shackles completely?

Weapon strength and deployment at times is vital to conquering some more populated planets, but with infinite continues available experimentation is encouraged.  Beyond weaponry other tools are available, such as backpacks, gadgets and armour.  Discovery of a new weapon or tool often facilitates the need to return to an impediment, and opens up new avenues on completed levels.  Disappointingly the levels are again (like so many releases) based on natural states such as ice, desert, swamp and forest.  This is however a minor quibble, as the general design and construction is extremely strong, vibrant and engaging.  The levels are linear but qualities such as these disguise any shortcomings in freedom.

Linking several of the planets are space dogfights, which again suffer from that age-old problem of positioning and sense of direction.  This is the weakest aspect of Ratchet & Clank 2, as if it wasn’t key to progressing and the collection of vital minerals (for ship modifications), Gamestyle would not have bothered.    The racing sections fare better, but with such a game of such a high standard as this, a microscope is required to find any mentionable issues.

If one becomes shell shocked by the constant destruction in the main game, then there are various challenges (racing, dog fighting and combat) that not only provide vital currency but also serve a little more variety, as well as secrets.  Clank has his own levels but again the “buddy” dynamic isn’t high on the agenda, but when it is expect some fantastic moments such as the transformer mini-planet battle.

As Insomniac have a sharing agreement with Naughty Dog, you’d expect Ratchet & Clank 2 to be visually striking, and it certainly delivers.  From the moment you pick up the controller you are guaranteed an interruption free experience.  Animation, size, clarity, textures and frame rate, form an enchanting package.  After Ghosthunter, Gamestyle continues to be impressed by what the Playstation 2 is capable of delivering.

Without question Ratchet & Clank 2 surpasses Mario Sunshine as the best genre offering of the current generation.  And with strong sequels to Jak and Ape Escape already available on the Playstation 2, it’s with strong company.  Insomniac has given us easily the most enjoyable release of the year, and a title that puts the fun back into gaming.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

Ratchet & Clank 2

Gamestyle Archive Intro: here’s another example of a restored review using 2 sources. On the original backup spreadsheet the text suddenly ends with about 3 paragraphs to go. Fear not, as I had my original draft as part of the archive.

It’s interesting comparing both as the word document is the original submission. Reviews on Gamestyle were put through the editing system to clean up any text issues. Sometimes the editing when too far. Certainly when reading both sources here the differences are surprising. The issue with the excel file is that paragraph spacing are lost – using another source gives the original breaks – but in this case I’ve noticed the 2 versions are different. Maybe tomorrow I’ll put up the rough and ready form?

The Ratchet & Clank series was one of those unique examples of a franchise that united all ages and appealed to all levels of skill. Looking back now, it’s one of my PlayStation 2 highlights and the series itself was of a consistently high standard. This review dates from November 2003.

ratchet 

Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded is a release that Gamestyle finds hard not to love. This is the quintessential modern-day platformer, which covers all bases and ultimately leaves its potentially-taxing platform foundations behind. This is bubblegum, mirthful gaming that basks in the primary delivery of fun – something which Mario Sunshine, for example, could not.

Seriously, Ratchet & Clank 2 is that good. Whereas Jak II went all “bad”, Ratchet & Clank continue upon their merry exploits, forging ahead with little regard to market trends. Is there a story? Well, yes there is of sorts, but it only serves as an opening for a space carnival. The characters are firmly tongue-in-cheek (and with well-pitched speech). Receiving a distant call for help, the heroic duo set out to aid Abercrombie Fizzwidget, the chairman of Megacorp. A devilish thief has snatched a secret experiment from the humongous company, and obviously Megacorp wants it returned. On route, Ratchet & Clank are given some ‘commando-like’ training in preparation for their galactic adventure.

A bog-standard storyline is given a new freshness by the cartoon-influenced character designs and cut sequences; some of which simply exist to put a smile on your face. Insomniac has buffed this game to perfection, and the evident humour, subtle nods and external influences are splendid (as are storyline references to the original release). If Pixar created videogames, then Ratchet & Clank 2 would be exactly what Gamestyle would expect from the talented studio.

Initially, Ratchet & Clank 2 only fleetingly rises above average; offering the standard shooting, jumping and exploring scenario that Gamestyle has seen on countless occasions. Then things begin to snowball. You see, the main game isn’t about skill or challenge (there are extra modes that cater for such niceties), instead it’s about grasping the largest, funniest and most extreme weapon in your arsenal and going ‘locked and loaded’ throughout the galaxy; having fun and literally blasting everything.

Thoughtful level design adds to the enjoyment – if you cannot progress any further on one planet, why not take a hike to another? In the original game, weapons could be bought and simply stockpiled, whereas in the sequel Insomniac has lateralised the proceedings. Again, guns can be bought, but special platinum bolts (hidden cunningly throughout the levels) can be found and sold for incredible enhancements. Not only this, but by using a weapon consistently, its experience grows until it evolves into something more devastating. With a multitude of weapons available, killing and demolition has never been so much fun. Sometimes though, Insomniac is a victim of its own ambition; weapons (such as the therminator and tractor beam) can only be used when conditions allow. Why not break the shackles completely?

At times, weapon strength and deployment is vital to conquering some of the more populated planets; but with infinite continues available, experimentation is positively encouraged. Beyond weaponry, other tools are available – such as backpacks, gadgets and armour. Discovery of a new weapon or tool often facilitates the need to return to an impediment, and opens up new avenues on already completed levels. Disappointingly, the levels are routinely (like so many releases) based on natural states, such as ice, desert, swamp and forest. Albeit this is a minor quibble, as the overall design and construction is extremely robust, vibrant and engaging. The levels are linear, but qualities such as these disguise any shortfalls in freedom.

Linking several of these planets are dogfights in space, which again suffer from the age-old problem of positioning and sense of direction. This is the weakest aspect of Ratchet & Clank 2, and if it weren’t key to progressing (i.e. the collection of vital minerals for ship modifications), Gamestyle would probably not have bothered. The racing sections fare much better, but with a game of this distinction, even ‘microscopic’ problems become hard to detect.

If one becomes shell-shocked by the constant chaos of the main game, there are various challenges (racing, dog fighting and combat) that not only provide vital currency, but also serve up a little variety – as well as secrets. Clank has his own levels but again the “buddy” dynamic isn’t high on the agenda, but when it is expect some fantastic moments such as the transformer mini-planet battle.

As Insomniac have a sharing agreement with Naughty Dog, you’d expect Ratchet & Clank 2 to be visually striking, and it certainly delivers.  From the moment you pick up the controller you are guaranteed an interruption free experience.  Animation, size, clarity, textures and frame rate, form an enchanting package.  After Ghosthunter, Gamestyle continues to be impressed by what the Playstation 2 is capable of delivering.

Without question Ratchet & Clank 2 surpasses Mario Sunshine as the best genre offering of the current generation.  And with strong sequels to Jak and Ape Escape already available on the Playstation 2, it’s with strong company.  Insomniac has given us easily the most enjoyable release of the year, and a title that puts the fun back into gaming.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

Lord of The Rings: Return of the King

Gamestyle Archive intro: 2 sources combine to restore a previously lost review. This is a technique I’m sure we’ll see more and more of over the lifespan of the archive. In this case the review dates from November 2003 and JJ. The spreadsheet backup ends suddenly right after ‘the PAL version is disappointing’ but using our resources it’s all good now.

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LOTR: Return of the King is the third and final instalment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, although Gamestyle suspects Electronic Arts is already concocting new and devious ways of ‘alchemically’ rebranding the licence. The battle for Middle Earth has finally begun, and only the Fellowship of the Ring can prevent evil from winning through.

Gamestyle will not divulge the storyline – which obviously allows players to experience parallel events – before the film reaches cinemas. All that needs to be said is that key moments from Return of the King are broken down into the form of fifteen levels. These are punctuated by in-game sequences and footage from the film itself – guaranteeing spoilers all the way. Those familiar with LOTR: The Two Towers will be on common ground, as unsurprisingly, the hack ‘n slash ethic is retained. The combat system is extremely shallow, and Gamestyle can find little in depth to favourably commend it. Chopping through waves of automatic foes is simply a means of enjoying the cinematic sequences, which inevitably lead to those valuable experience points. These can be spent between missions on special moves and combos (when you have reached the applicable level).

Of course, how the members of the Fellowship made it this far into the trilogy with only a simple spell or chopping move to call upon is something of a mystery. In spite of this, the upgrade system is enjoyable, and presents the best evidence yet of replay value; especially as each character only has ten skill levels to work through. As some character selections are forced upon the player (depending on the level), the curiosity value is piqued somewhat more than it should be.

The branching structure of the mission layout allows for some variety when approaching the grand finale. However, Gamestyle completed every level before progressing up the tree, and expects others to effectively do the same. The layout does however sprinkle some much-needed freedom of choice into a melting-pot full of constraints and repetition. The appearance of bonus extras are a welcome diversion, and given that Electronic Arts has contractual agreements with New Line Cinema, includes access to the actors and storyboards from the trilogy. It is unfortunate that such interludes are extremely brief, and The Hobbit’s interview for example is entirely risible. The levels themselves are bursting with action, movement, and the riposte of death.

The execution is a tad disappointing, given the introduction and rousing soundtrack, as you are left with a totally linear and limiting experience. Everything is very much set in stone, with a reliance on scripted events that so castrated EA’s Medal of Honour. An example would be the convenient location of explosives, placed right near the guard towers. If it wasn’t obvious enough, the camera suggestively pans around to provide the optimal view to triggering their detonation.

LOTR: Return of the King is an exceptionally dumb game, and fails to elicit any thought from the player – save for slash and stab. Some may enjoy switching off all thought processes for an hour or so, but Gamestyle expected much more, given the rich vein of source material. LOTR: Return of the King excels though when it comes to visuals, and like any Hollywood blockbuster, is loud, brash and superficial. The screenshots back up this verdict, as the game is very much like wandering through a museum. There is plenty to see, but you are unable to touch or qualitatively interact with the majority of objects on show. The main reason for this is linear constraints; no doubt needed for hitting that November release date. The camera too is likewise fixed, and its aloofness does not improve matters; always hinting at what might be possible, but never revealing the true texture of its canvas (though the implementation of backdrops is cleverly recognised). Regardless, EA’s programming proficiency is unquestioned, and does help to camouflage the shortcomings of the game to a certain degree.

The PAL version is disappointing – especially for Playstation 2 owners and should have been subtitled Hail to the Thief.  By this Gamestyle highlights the expected black border, which fills the bottom of the screen, however this is minor when pitted against its American counterpart.  The DTS soundtrack has vanished, and despite the excellent remaining Pro Logic soundtrack, a missed opportunity to experience what Xbox players take for granted.  Most devastating of all is the removal of the online co-operative mode.  This proved an opportunity to play online with another, work through the game and communicate through the USB headset.  Instead European players will have to make do with the offline version, yet still pay the full retail price.

The lifespan of Return of the King is very much debatable, as the single player mode can be completed in only a few hours, and that is sizeable chunk of this release.  The removal of the online co-operative mode, scuppers any long term interest that co-op offered potentially.  There are no exclusive levels for this mode, only the ability to play with a friend.  Why such a feature was removed is unknown – perhaps an attempt to avoid the problems that have plagued FIFA 2004 and its online mode.  Thirteen levels may sound impressive, but the actually playtime for each rarely rises above twenty minutes.  Add to this a dubious level such as King of the Dead, which is nothing more than a glorified boss encounter, and Gamestyle beings to value such things as a ten-day return policy.

Return of the King is enjoyable while it lasts, but there is little progression as the third game in a series. Without the flair of Electronic Arts presentational skills and the attached license this would be deservedly overlooked.  The tragic realisation is that at the final hurdle, the series has run dry.

Gamestyle Score: 4/10

NBA Jam

Gamestyle Archive intro: its always a delight to bring you a debut writer into the archive and here’s another with Gopinath Chandran giving us his verdict on NBA Jam from September 2003.

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Some of Gamestyle’s favourite childhood sayings were, “Is it the shoes?” and “BOOMSHAKALAKA!” And now the game that brought the world those sayings returns for its first incarnation on the Playstation 2. But does the veteran franchise still retain the magic on court? Originally an arcade game, <i>NBA Jam</i> hasn’t lost any of its arcade feel in the conversion to home console.

NBA Jam has done away with a lot of basketball’s rules – including back-passing, the three-second rule and even the number of players on each team. Reduced from five (on each team) to three-on-three games, NBA Jam doesn’t try to be a basketball simulator. Instead, it replaces them with huge, impossible dunks and super-quick gameplay. The game is easy to learn and electrifying to play. Within a few minutes, you’ll be performing awesome dunks and flashy passing moves. The rules are simple basketball ones (which just about everyone knows): two points for getting the ball in the net – from inside ‘the key’ – and three points from outside. Players can perform the normal moves and tricks, shots, fakes, spins and even alley-oops (where one player throws the ball towards the basket and another player dunks it in).

True to its arcade roots, there’s a turbo button – which gives players a minor power-up for a few seconds at a time. They can suddenly run faster and shoot better, and shove opposition players to the ground (which is legal in NBA Jam). Manage to get three consecutive shots in, and your player is now ‘on fire’; while in this state, his stats are maximised and he has unlimited turbo for sixty seconds. He can also perform even more outrageous dunks and shoot from just about anywhere. The only way to douse his ‘fire’ early is if the other team makes a basket. But these are all features that were in the older incarnations of the game. One of the new additions this time is the inclusion of ‘hot spots’. Each team has a Jam Meter that needs to be filled; Jam Points are awarded for scoring points, dunks, three-point shots, alley-oops (or basically, by just being great on court). Once the meter is full, you can press R3 to place a hot spot on the court. If you take a shot from the hot spot, your player makes a gravity-defying shot. With each hot spot, your score goes up in value – but so does the number of points needed to fill the Jam Meter; making it increasingly difficult to get a hot spot as the game progresses.

There are three modes of play on offer in NBA Jam: a standard Exhibition mode, where you can take on the computer (or a friend) in a one-off 3 on 3 match; Tournament, in which you take on each of the 29 modern NBA teams to become the “Jam Champion”; and finally (and perhaps uniquely), a Legend’s mode. In Legend’s mode, you take a modern team back in time to challenge the best NBA teams of the old-school generation. The graphics even change to reflect the era; adopting a grainy black-and-white TV style. The courts change to the old type of courts, and the (Legend) players can be seen wearing authentic ‘short’ shorts. Who likes short shorts? Legends do, apparently. Generally-speaking, the graphics are only bog-standard (and could even be described as outdated). The player models are good, although some people might find them a little too ‘cartoony’. The player movements and animations aren’t really up to much and are a little choppy.

The sounds are good; although the commentator is funny the first time around, he quickly becomes very, very repetitive over the course of even one match. The music is typically urban and entertaining, and creates that much-needed B-ball atmosphere. Extra features include a create-a-player mode, unlockable characters and a Jam Store. This allows you to spend points earned through playing the game on extras such as outfits and player’s accessories (and even outdoor courts). NBA Jam’s main selling-points are the easy-to-master controls and frenetic gameplay – but as well as it does these things, it also fails in many other areas. Major ones. While the graphics, player movement and animation are all quite functional, what really lets the side down is the AI. Your team-mates cope quite well offensively – independently creating alley-oop opportunities – but on defence they sometimes just stand around, allowing the opposition team to dribble right by them. And they also rarely try to grab the defensive rebound – leaving the opposition to pick up the ball after missed shots.

Although the controls are well thought out, trying to steal the ball away from an opponent is very difficult; reducing it to a combination of button-bashing and praying. Much of the game’s enjoyment comes from your first few goes, or from multiplayer. You have the option of playing with a friend (against the computer) or playing against each other. However, playing with a friend quickly gets old as two players can often destroy the computer-controlled team. With the return of NBA Jam comes the return of pick-up-and-play gameplay and quick, fast-paced (and exciting) basketball entertainment. However, it is also accompanied by lacklustre AI, repetitive commentary and a short lifespan. Casual basketball fans will probably find a great week’s worth of entertainment in this – and committed fans will love the Legend’s mode – but for a longer lasting challenge they’re better off looking elsewhere. “Is it the shoes?” No – it’s mostly the (unsatisfactory) AI.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

The Simpsons: Hit and Run

Gamestyle Archive Intro: older formats were littered with poor licensed titles and I do remember this Simpsons cash-in having limited appeal; it certainly wasn’t too bad compared to what we were used to.  This review dates from December 2003 and is from Gareth.

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In recent memory, The Simpsons’ licence has been tacked onto just about any old piece of tat going – from the ‘alleged’ ripping-off of the Crazy Taxi formula to rubbish wrestling games. In fact, the last time The Simpsons got a proper run-out into the world of gaming goodness was way back in the day of 8-bit gaming, with platformer Bart vs. The Space Mutants.

The latest effort comes in the form of a Grand Theft Auto-inspired game (Simpsons’ Manhunt anyone?), which on the surface may seem a strange choice (and a fair few changes have been made to keep everything from getting too violent). So, GTA without the violence in a PG-rated Simpsons’ world… dear lord, what have we let ourselves in for? The Simpsons: Hit and Run may well be a copy of yet another popular and commercially viable formula (with a tacked-on gimmick), but it would be harsh to dismiss the title out of hand. In reality, Hit and Run only borrows certain things from GTA, but otherwise bears little resemblance to Rockstar North’s classic title.

The game sets players a number of missions in prescribed areas – driving from one place to another – and driving somewhere else is generally all that is needed to complete these tasks. There is little in the way of the on-foot sections found in GTA, and even the driving missions are only recognisable in an abstract sense. Each area of the game has players controlling one of The Simpsons brood, as they go about their driving tasks. Once a set number of missions have been completed, it’s onto the next area where a different member of the family does much the same. While there are things to do apart from the main missions, the freedom offered by other titles in this genre really shows up Hit and Run; indeed, apart from looking for collectible cards and the odd hidden gag event to trigger, there is not much else worth aimlessly wandering the streets of Springfield to find. This hampers the long-term appeal of the title, as the missions will only take the experienced gamer a couple of days to get through. However, for what the game strives to do, it does relatively well.

The Springfield environment is well represented, with everything more or less where it should be – and recognisable characters from the series all make themselves available at one point or another. The handling of the cars is very much in the realms of arcade-like, but the vehicles handle well and generally do what you want them to. At least this time around the basics have been delivered in a competent fashion – something that cannot be said of almost every other Simpsons’ title in recent years. Unfortunately, there is just not enough to make the game a worthwhile purchase in its own right. After the first few areas missions begin to feel repetitive, and moments of trademark humour come far too infrequently to keep players wanting to press on and see what happens next. This, coupled with the fact that most missions seem to have nothing to do with the overall plot (and that the plot is so dull that you do not care anyway), only pulls the title further down into the realms of the exceedingly average.

For fans of the series, there is the odd bit of replay value – new costumes and vehicles can be purchased, and there is always the hope that the next gag event will actually amount to something more than simply falling over or blowing up. For truly diehard fans, there is an unseen episode of the Itchy & Scratchy cartoon to be bought – once all the collectible cards have been found. Apart from these odds and sods, there is little else here apart from the samey missions; even going on a wild spree of knocking down innocent people holds little reward as the cops simply come and fine you (before letting you loose again). Also, due to the licence needing to have ‘gratuitous’ violence removed, there are no guns to be found – so, unless you want to go around kicking people along the pavement, it all wears thin rather quickly.

Overall, The Simpsons: Hit and Run is both a surprise and a disappointment. It is nice to see a Simpsons game that is finally worth playing – unfortunately, it is only worth playing for a few hours because anything after that sends the player tailspinning into a cul-de-sac of repetition. The basic gameplay and dynamics have been implemented well, but is that really enough in this day and age? Well, critically it isn’t – but it does bring hope that one day a truly great Simpsons’ game will come crashing through the creative barriers. Until then, it’s back to Bart Vs The Space Mutants on the old (8-bit) pavement… or Bart’s Escape from Camp Deadly (on the Gameboy).

Gamestyle Score: 5/10

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Gamestyle Archive Intro: a fine reboot of a classic gaming series and an excellent review from Daniel James. Very few games received a 9, never mind a 10, at Gamestyle. So when the site gave out such a score, you knew that it was going to be a high quality gaming experience.

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It’s been eight years since Lara Croft set foot into her first temple, in what was to become one of the finest examples of precise traversal through 3D space. The marriage of preset movements, cleverly-structured environments and wide range of manoeuvres gave Tomb Raider (and its audience) a unique sense of spatial awareness that no amount of ‘Lara-pimping’ from Eidos has ever managed to recapture. Basically put; 3D games got lazy.

Gamestyle only brings up the legendary Tomb Raider as an example, because it’s clear to see how Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia update continues with the ideals and themes of Core Design’s original vision. Indeed, if Tomb Raider was the natural progression of the original Prince of Persia motif, then The Sands of Time is the genre evolved. The Prince, son of King Shahraman, has acquired a magic Dagger; a mystical artefact that uses sand to control the fabric of Time. An unfortunate accident occurs when he is tricked by The Vizier (a traitor to the Maharajah’s service) into unlocking the Sands of Time from the Forbidden Hourglass, which proceed to devour the souls of the inhabitants of this medieval Persian kingdom. Thanks to the magical Dagger of Time, the Prince is able to avert death (by rewinding time to undo any further unfortunate accidents) or to wreak it (by thrusting it into the now-soulless evil inhabitants of the palace). But use of the dagger is secondary to the core dynamic of the game, which thankfully, is one of the most solid Gamestyle has ever come across.

There have been very few games that offer a sense of place like The Sands of Time does. Structured into individual rooms/sections, the Prince must navigate a series of environmental hazards laid out in precise arrangements that match his abilities perfectly. Much like the original Tomb Raider did, you can walk into a room and immediately recognise the route you will need to take based on what you know you can achieve. However, where Prince of Persia ‘evolves’ the idea is in the fluidity of how it all occurs: Lara was rigid – both her physicality and her personality. Precise as she may have moved, there was no panache, no style, no fluidity. You knew where you stood because she wouldn’t go anywhere else. Walk, run, stop, roll; all computationally preset. The nimble Prince doesn’t suffer from any such ‘robotics’. Instead, Ubisoft Montreal have done an exceptional job in taking Tomb Raider’s basic mechanics and articulating movement that fluently disguises the computational gymnastics. Ledges, precipices, swing bars, pillar columns, pits – all are positioned at precise distances from each other, as if to assure the player that their jumps, runs, climbs and swings will solidly connect. And they do; consistently.

Prince of Persia allows you to look effortlessly cool, running up walls, back-flipping, rolling, swinging and grabbing, all performed with style and precision. Indeed, it often feels as though the Prince knows exactly what you want to do even before you do. A tiny misalignment here and there will be ignored in favour of properly executing the desired move. Wall runs can be linked into jumps, jumps into grabs, grabs into swings, swings into jumps and jumps back into the perfect landing. Of course you’ll always run into the occasional problem, be that due to the (very rarely) obscured camera or simply a misjudged distance; but this is where the aforementioned Dagger comes into play and offsets any minor frustrations. When filled with sand, a tap of the L1 button triggers a ‘time rewind’ function (complete with impressive visual warping effect). Holding the button for a maximum of ten seconds can rewind your fate until you’ve sufficiently reached a safe section of your timeline. In this respect, any slight (and Gamestyle means slight) risk to the tentative nature of acrobatics can be overcome – or rather, your fear of them can be – by ‘undoing’ them. This encourages the player to take more risks than perhaps they normally would.

Considering the control and environments are so finely-tuned in the first place, the added bonus of less risky manoeuvrability places Prince of Persia into the upper reaches of classic game design. Where Prince of Persia chiefly differs from Tomb Raider is in its modular level structure. Though linked together throughout, the environment puzzles are very much self-contained in relatively small areas. Furthermore, a tap of the L2 button zooms the camera out to show a ‘landscape’ view of the current area – extremely useful for getting one’s head around the spatial puzzles. Another (far more noticeable) area where it differs is in the way combat works. ‘Works’ may not be a generous enough synonym for the combat system.

Unlike the Croftian method of draw-and-shoot, the Prince uses the more traditional sword (and dagger) weapon for close-range brawling, but borrows stylistically from contemporary sources such as The Matrix. The Prince can jab, slice and block (as you’d expect), but also launches and flips himself over enemies’ heads by running up and over them – flipping in mid-air and landing behind them, bringing his weapon down on their unsuspecting rears. He can also use the environment to his advantage, performing various wall-launched attacks (as well as rolling sideways or flipping backwards to safety). All this is performed with the same ease and agility of normal movement, and is very satisfying to watch. The Dagger is the only means of permanently dispatching undead foes, as thrusting it into their downed bodies absorbs the sand within them – and fuels the very dagger used to defeat them. And then there is the two-character dynamic, as mirrored by Sony’s own ‘Ico’. But rather than being a helpless and fragile angel, Farah (daughter of a conquered Indian Maharajah) is quite skilful at running and jumping herself (though not to the same degree as the Prince), and adept at using her bow for self-defense. Her presence is frequently required at signposted areas, and thankfully, the AI routines that govern her actions are solid (along with some tightly-scripted dialogue).

Prince of Persia doesn’t skimp on the graphics-side, either. In addition to the very solid character models are the natural-looking environments which feature swaying palm trees, crumbling stone balconies, and reflective rippling water. A luminescent glow constantly emanates from everything, and a rustic haze overlays every scene. The effect is quite beautiful, even before the supplementary zoom and special effects. The sound, whilst atmospheric, can sometimes be a little too quiet. Voice-overs aren’t as clear and crisp as you might expect, and music is either totally absent or quietly ambient rather than pronounced – but all sound is more or less above-board and quite in keeping with the atmosphere.

Ubisoft have presented this game extremely well; the tale – as narrated by our hero (in well-spoken Princely tones) – is paused, interrupted and continued, as if the story was being told in retrospect. When death occurs, the Prince will stop and correct himself on the misrepresentation of events, and when you save your progress, he informs you that the story will continue from there next time. Those save points (displayed as pillars of sand from the ground) trigger a future vision, showing the area ahead in vague glimpses, giving you some idea of what to expect between there and the next save point. This method of storytelling (and being led by the hand) gives Prince of Persia an almost linear structure, however in this instance, such a form is wholly welcomed. There is no getting lost at any time, no wandering without aim; just sequences of superbly-crafted 3D environmental puzzles and combat situations – and although a little on the short side, it is long enough to keep you enthralled but ends before boredom has any chance to set in. Forget the (forgettable) Angel of Darkness. Lara needs to be laid to rest in her last tomb; The Prince of Persia is everything that Eidos’ once illustrious heroine had sought to become (and more besides). It is one of the finest 3D games ever produced; nay crafted. At last, this is the ‘third place’… this truly is the third dimension. History has just been rewritten.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

A Dog’s Life

Gamestyle Archive Intro: Chris reviews a unique gaming experience with A Dog’s Life that dates from the end of 2003. They don’t make them like this, now, before or any time soon.

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A Dog’s Life is one of the few games where the protagonist can openly defecate and urinate on the surroundings. Had a certain Dave Mirra been a bit more rebellious, of course, then this might not be the case. Gamestyle wonders who else’s mind went all scatological when told of a game centred in the ‘realistic’ world where you control one of man’s best friends.

You play as Jake, a lovable hound who was nearly dog-napped by two imbecilic dog catchers. Unfortunately, despite failing to nab you, they’ve stolen your bitch. So you’ve got to rescue her by tracking down those pesky catchers and doing things that only animals (and Tom Green) would do. Let’s start out by congratulating Frontier, the development team fronted by David Braben (co-creator of the classic Elite) for actually getting to create and (more importantly) publish something slightly unusual. And we’ll continue by looking at how you play as a dog. There are two views that are interchanged; a third-person (sic) view and a first-person (sic) view known as ‘Smell-o-vision’, where you see the world like the pedigree chums do – through the medium of smell. Thankfully smells are colour-coded, which may not be biologically accurate, but this is a small concession to make for gameplay.

In the levels – based around the village of Clarksville, the snow resort of Minniwahwah, and the urban sprawl of Boom City – you need to use your Smell-o-vision to track down different scents. The largest volume of scent will get you a bone as a reward, while others will enable you to compete in a selection of mini-games involving the dog relative to that level. The mini-games mix between the energetic (chasing) the rather obvious (repeat the sequence) and the scatological (marking your territory – need Gamestyle say more?). Each level has a mixture of smells and direct missions. Certain humans require some doggy power to help them out; like the boy whose toy helicopter is on the roof, or the farmer with a fox problem. Jake can’t do all the missions required, so after you win a mini-game the local hound will allow you to take control of its body and perform tasks on Jake’s behalf.

Although the body-changing isn’t an especially innovative idea, the way that it’s incorporated into the gameplay is excellent. There is a problem of structure, however – as you may find a certain scent on beginning a level, complete the mini-game and are now in control of a dog with a time limit, but without knowing what to do. Maybe the stone-cold sober approach would be to find the 50 purple scents from every level (if you will, the ‘common scents’) – thus completing the levels – then moving onto the other colours. The flaw could be that you’re thinking like a dog; running about like a rocket on wheels. That isn’t even a major flaw in the game. Arguably, it is the repetitive nature that will put off more experienced gamers, though former fans of platformers will find some solace here. The puzzle aspect is well-judged, and a sense of reward is pleasing.

The game does have considerable charm, and is pleasant to play (a compliment, by the way), which is not only down to some well-written one-liners, but also to the music. The score is excellent; comprised of lo-fi instrumental – almost chill-out tracks – utilising guitars and some marvellous xylophone sounds. It’s very relaxing. The flaw would be the size of the game. Whilst not exactly explorable, the levels can be gotten through fairly swiftly and there are no multiplayer options. Completion in a week will be easy, and although not every bone will have been unearthed – nor every scent unearthed – with no multiplayer, A Dog’s Life barks ‘Rental!’ more than anything else. It feels petty so late in a review to bring up graphical issues, yet there are many here that do nothing to damage the game, but enough to diminish the experience of exploring this world. Although not vital, when creativity conjures up an atmosphere such as this, the small infractions are noticed. The memory card save is also rather hefty, taking nearly one-sixth of a memory card.

As an experience, as well as a smartly-written and smartly-presented game, A Dog’s Life is a great example of off-beat European software. Gamestyle greatly enjoyed being Jake for a while, and hopes that more imaginative titles will come around. However, kids – the doggy game is more for Christmas, and not for ‘life’.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10