This week, Batman: Arkham Knight swoops onto PS4, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward hits PC, and Inside Out Thought Bubbles pops onto iPhone. Elsewhere, Xenowerk and har.mo.ny 3 deliver atmospheric shooter and colourful puzzler experiences on smartphone and tablet
Ross Wilkinson checks out this week’s hot tips:
Batman: Arkham Knight
A swooping, cinematic sensation for action fans
Comic book fans can celebrate, the very latest journey into the world of the Caped Crusader is staggeringly good – in every way.
Here, Batman confronts the ultimate threat against the city he has been sworn to protect, as the Scarecrow returns to congeal an imposing array of super villains, including The Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn.
We’re also introduced to developer Rocksteady’s uniquely-designed imagining of the Batmobile, which you can get behind the wheel of for the first time in the franchise.
Whether you’re ripping through the streets or soaring across the skyline of the iconic Gotham City, you won’t fail to notice the astounding level of gorgeous next-gen detail crammed into the delightfully gloomy Gotham locale.
And the story that unfolds is one that will leave Bat fans gobsmacked.
It’s a triumphant return that melds players firmly behind the iconic mask, and whether you race through the main story to discover the stunning conclusion or take your time uncovering every last iota of exhilarating action, Arkham Knight will leave you amazed at how far gaming has really come.
Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
A heavenly extension to the fantastic Final Fantasy franchise
Since the release of the original Final Fantasy back in 1987, the iconic RPG series has continued to showcase spectacular visuals, ultra-imaginative worlds and rich stories that have driven the genre to where it is today.
No wonder more than 110 million units have been snapped up around the world.
Such is the esteem that FF is held in, even an expansion pack such as Heavensward is worthy of a fanfare, and here we uncover a new story that plunges adventurers into the heart of the Dragonsong War, the bloody thousand-year conflict between the knights of Ishgard and the dragons of Dravania.
It’s an awesome upgrade in every sense, as adventurers can enjoy an increased level cap from 50 to 60 for all disciplines, a new playable race, new dungeons and raids, new primal battles, plus new mounts that allow players to take to the skies – flying black chocobos, single-rider airships, dragons and more!
There isn’t much extra you could ask for here from an extension to the FF XIV experience, save for more of the same in another expansion pack…
Inside Out Thought Bubbles
iPhone/iPad, Free (with in-app purchases)
Pop ’til you drop in Pixar’s movie tie-in puzzler
Pixar’s Inside Out film is pulling in the plaudits for its kid and adult-friendly take on the psychology of our emotions.
So what better way to maximise your reach than by reprising a familiar puzzle genre for the mobile masses, all dressed up in the artwork of this shiny new star of the big screen?
Yes, essentially this is Puzzle Bobble after a Pixar makeover, with those original Bobble bubbles now thought bubbles which you must pop by firing spheres of the same colour into similarly tinted groups hanging from the top of the play screen.
A variety of special moves are afforded to the different characters (or emotions) in the game, while a series of different challenges await on different levels as you progress. There’s really nothing new here that any self-respecting mobile puzzle fan won’t have seen a dozen times.
But, dressed up in the heart-warming hype of another runaway success from the studio that brought us Toy Story, Up and many other animated classics, Inside Out will no doubt tempt you to pop ’til you drop.
Intergalactic shooter will set your pulse racing
Xenowerk drops mobile gamers into the gloom of a dilapidated research facility where plenty of things will go bump in the night.
As you desperately try to reach your objective in each of the short, action-packed levels, your pulse will satisfyingly quicken as you’re beset from all sides by an impressively varied bundle of intergalactic enemies.
The twin-stick controls (one for movement, the other for shooting direction) work admirably, and will go some way to helping you keep the bloodthirsty baddies at bay, while a range of weaponry and armour upgrades are facilitated by the collection of blue orbs scattered across the environments.
There are a lot of selling points for Xenowerk, despite it rarely treading away from the well-worn third person action/horror path.
Excellent pacing and level design provide that “just-one-more-go” magic, and its requirement for tactical combat ahead of gung-ho run and gun ensure that it’s anything but mindless mobile fodder as you reach the later levels.
A mesmerising, minimalist palette of colour puzzling
The advent of iOS 7 ushered in an era of flatter, simplistic game design, superbly suited to the puzzling genre, which could still capitalise on mind-bending puzzle mechanics without the need to dress its games up in the very latest lighting or texture effects.
Har.mo.ny 3 is one such title that has proved to be a sleeper hit in its first two iterations, and this third outing provides yet more puzzle challenges packed with colourful minimalistic style and a soothing musical score that will suck you in and stimulate your brain in a way more akin to hypnosis than a traditional gaming fix.
A whopping 90 levels await, where your “simple” objective is to rearrange blocks to move matching colours into their correct order.
It may not sound that captivating, but once you’ve spent an hour or two in this bizarre world, you might find it hard to come out.
What’s Hot & What’s Not:
So gaming’s biggest annual expo, E3, has come and gone with all the top games creators showcasing the blockbusters they have up their sleeves for the second half of 2015.
Highlights included the reveal of apocalyptic RPG Fallout 4, EA’s stunning Star Wars Battlefront and news that newer versions of the Xbox One console will be able to run your old Xbox 360 games.
The big franchises dominated the headlines, as Halo 5, Gears of War 4 and Forza 6 were all rolled out for the masses.
A trailer for the remake of Final Fantasy VII also pulled in 3.5 million views online in the hours after its unveiling at E3.
It seems our appetite for new gaming experiences remains as ravenous as ever, and if this year’s expo is anything to go by, it’s going to be a sweet six months ahead.
Meanwhile, in the charts this week, LEGO Jurassic World roared back to the top of the tree in an otherwise very quiet week for new releases.
This was due in no small part to E3, which consumed pretty much all the biggest publishers’ time and effort, leaving the established titles to jostle gently amongst themselves for the highest position possible in the top ten.
1. LEGO Jurassic World
2. The Elder Scrolls: Online
3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
4. Grand Theft Auto V
5. FIFA 15
6. Payday 2: Crimewave Edition
7. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
10. Minecraft: Xbox Edition
Leisure software charts compiled by Chart Track, (c) 2015 UKIE Ltd