Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Netflix Comes To The UK - What Does This Mean For Our Consoles?

Netfllix, (the American DVD movie rental and video streaming company), has announced today that it plans to bring its resources to Britain. Nevertheless, instead of a DVD rental service, Netflix will be offering a video streaming service to TVs, PCs and videogame consoles for a small monthly fee.

It is thought that Netflix  has decided to extend its services to the UK after problems with the DVD rental portion of its business led to the loss of around 800,000 subscriptions to the American version of its business.

Nevertheless, it is thought that the Netflix video streaming service will have a positive impact on UK video game consoles, including the 3DS, which has tried to forge its own links to the American version of Netflix already, and which is already geared to showing 3D videos via its own video streaming service.

It is thought that the Netflix service may also be offered on the upcoming PS Vita console, however, we must point out that there are no direct plans for this at the moment.

No commencement date for the UK version of Netflix has been announced yet, but it certainly seems as though Netflix is determined that its launch should attract as many potential customers as possible.

Remember to check in with Mini Gamers over the coming months for more news on this exciting development.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn Review [3DS]

Movie tie-ins have gained a rather notorious reputation for not being very good, and we have to say that unfortunately, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn does very little to improve this reputation.

The game starts (rather oddly) with a mini-game. Players must try and fly an aeroplane through a thunderstorm whilst avoiding several random lightening strikes.

However, as there are no instructions for this portion of the game, players could find themselves with a 'Game Over' screen before they've even properly started! Nevertheless, once past this early section, a set off clear on-screen instructions helps players to know what to do next.

The game is divided into chapters and the main plot is told in a series of animated 3D comic-strip stills, which are very entertaining and look graphically stunning in 3D.

Nevertheless, as with other games of this type, the actual playable missions contain a set of very easy and unexciting tasks such as 'ESCAPE' or 'FIND TINTIN' or 'FOLLOW ALLAN' etc.

In fact, the only portions of the early levels that we found remotely interesting was when we were able to play as Tintin's pet dog, Snowy.

Snowy has the ability to dig at soft earth in tunnels and to climb up walls using his paws. He can also sniff out other characters, which adds a refreshing extra dimension to what would otherwise be a very repetitive game.

The game seems to be marketed at gamers under the age of ten, but this is at odds with the game's 12+ rating (for violence).

However, even the apparently 'violent' comical fighting scenes are aimed at a younger intelligence. For example, the majority of bad guys face away from Tintin, which means that they can be easily defeated with a quick blow to the back of the head. Occasionally one or two enemies will come bounding across and attack Tintin first, but again, this is a rare and refreshing experience.

One area in which the game does temporarily redeem itself is with the end-of-level Boss characters, including Allan Thompson. These 'Boss' fights really do require ingenuity on the part of the player and help to lift this otherwise stagnant game.

In conclusion, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a good game for younger gamers, but would fail to impress an adult audience overall.

Although the 3D graphics do look amazing, there is not enough clear plot or in-game action to make this game a worthwhile purchase except to the most die-hard of Tintin fans, and perhaps not even then... a total disappointment. Overall rating 5/10.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

PS Vita: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - What Do We Know So Far?

With only a few short months before the Playstation Vita emerges onto the Japanese gaming market, Mini Gamers examines the recent spate of news articles concerning Sony's new handheld device, and asks whether the PS Vita is gearing up to be an international success or whether it will all turn out to be a bit of a disappointment...


The PS Vita (then known only as the 'Sony NGP') was announced on the 27th of January this year after months of speculation about its existence.

Amongst other things revealed about the new console, were its hardware specifications, including an enhanced graphics card, front and rear cameras, a rear touch pad and OLED touchscreen, and dual analog sticks, making it one of the most technological handhelds that Sony has ever produced.

However, Sony then surprised gamers by announcing that the console would be relatively low-priced despite its technological advances, with the 3G wireless version priced around £219, whilst the non-3G version was expected to cost around £187.

More good news came recently. Sony announced that the console would not be region-locked, unlike its main competitor, the Nintendo 3DS, meaning that gamers could purchase PS Vita software cheaply by obtaining it from other countries, including America.

Sony also recently announced that it would be offering previous PSP owners an opportunity for 'cheap downloads' of their previous UMD games onto the new console. According to gaming website, Siliconera, Sony plans to offer gamers downloadable PSP titles at a 'special price' when the console launches in Japan.

 However, it is yet unclear what form this price reduction might take, or whether similar offers will be available next year when the console launches in North America and Europe.

Sony have also provided details of the various launch dates for the PS Vita console release, which have now been confirmed as:

December 17th 2011 

 February  22nd 2012  
Worldwide release including Australia, America and Europe.

This  means that although Japan will get the Vita in time for Christmas, it won't be too long before the rest of us get to experience this nifty little console for ourselves.


Sony's recent announcements about PS Vita Memory Stick prices came as a shock to many gamers as the lowest prices were almost triple the price of most memory sticks and a lot higher than those memory sticks used in the older PSPs. Nothing really to suit poorer budgets. Details of the PS Vita memory sticks can be found by clicking HERE.

Sony have announced that they will cease production of UMD games for the new console, opting instead for a new game-cartridge system, which they have called NVGs. However, this means that the console will also be incompatible with older PSP games as it will no longer feature a UMD slot.

This means that PSP owners will be forced to either keep their existing PSP consoles as well as buying the new PS Vita in order to continue using the original games, or they will be forced to sell their existing software and then purchase a downloadable version for the PS Vita. Either way, this seems to be quite an off-putting factor for older PSP fans. 

Furthermore, Sony have recently announced that downloads on the 3G model of the PS Vita will now be limited to a disapointing 20MB during the console's initial launch, but Sony has stated that this may vary in the future.


   It is yet unclear how the PS Vita will perform in the weeks and months after its release in both Japan or the rest of Europe. The console is vastly superior to the PSP or PSP Go, and, despite one or two minor bad points, the PS Vita does have plenty of  appealing features.

Nevertheless, the PS Vita has come under heavy-fire from critics who say that Sony are simply trying to rival the Nintendo 3DS, which, despite its obvious gaming advances is still struggling to make a good impression in the overall gaming market. Does this mean that the PS Vita is doomed to fail?

According to SCEJ President, Hiroshi Kawano, he does not see 3D smartphones or the Nintendo 3DS as a threat to the success of the PS Vita.

Speaking at the Tokyo Game Show 2011, Kawano claimed the two consoles were radically different, not only in their price and performance, but also in the fact that the PS Vita will contain many more elements aimed at 'Social Gaming', which has become very popular over the past few years.

Furthermore, Kawano claims that 3D smartphones only have gaming as a bonus, rather than as their main focus and therefore, he does not believe that this will be a major competitor for the PS Vita console.

Kawano said: "Gaming is not the main focus of smartphones but merely just a bonus. The PS Vita, on the other hand, is designed for games, with extra features like social networking elements and applications built on top of that... people who want to buy a gaming system will not go out and buy a smartphone for exactly this reason." [Sourced from: http://au.gamespot.com/events/tgs-2011/story.html?sid=6334983]

The PS Vita looks to be shaping up nicely, with several games such as Escape Plan, Gravity Rush, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, and Little Big Planet to name but a few. Nevertheless, one thing is certain - the PS Vita will only succeed if gamers want a console and go out and purchase one. Thus, one question still remains: Is the PS Vita what current gamers really want?

Mini Gamers in interested in what you think about Sony's latest offering. Why not leave us a comment and let us know? We'd love to here your thoughts on the subject.

Monday, 17 October 2011

One To Watch: The Sims 3: Pets [3DS]

The Sims 3: Pets is about to arrive on 3DS console, so what can fans expect from the second title in The Sims 3 handheld gaming range?

The Sims 3: Pets [3DS] allows players to create some unique pets for your Sims to play with, by customising different breeds of cats and dogs and giving them a choice of three individual personality traits, including: Brave, Skittish, Loyal, Piggy, Independant, AggressiveNeat, Friendly, and many more besides.

This game also gives players the chance to immediately create two Sim characters for their household as well, so that they can instantly create a family unit (two Sims, one pet). This is an improvement on the original Sims 3 3DS game, in which you were only allowed one Sim to begin with, and it opens up several different possibilities for interactions between the chosen Sims based on their individual character traits.

One thing that Mini Gamers has learned will be missing from The Sims 3: Pets is the ability to map a photograph of oneself onto your chosen human Sim(s).  This is a shame as we thought that this ability was one of the positive aspects of the first Sims 3 game.

However, customisation of your human Sim characters can still be achieved by dragging the stylus on the bottom screen and reshaping parts of the Sim's face, which can in some cases produce a very effective lookalike for those players wishing to put themselves in the game.

Karma Powers are again used in this game. The all-new Karma Powers are as follows:

+ A Little Ray of Sunshine: Gives an immediate boost to Sims/pets with no interruption.

+ Transmography:  Turns a human Sim or their pet counterpart into either a cat, dog or  human Sim, depending on their current species.

-  Solar Flare: unleashes a random and dangerous Solar Flare on your unsespecting Sims.

- Feral Possession (pets only): Forces your normally lovable pets to go absolutely crazy and wild.

- The Sickness: Leaves your Human Sims feeling very ill all of a sudden.

Karma Powers have also now been upgraded so that it is possible to spend more play coins than you actually have available, so that you can use more Karma Powers in your Sims/pets lives. However, players should be aware that there are serious consequences for over-spending your play coins in this game...

The really brilliant thing about The Sims 3: Pets is that the pets in this game are also fully controllable. Ever wondered what it was like to be a dog or a cat? Now is your chance to find out. Have your dog/cat choose who to bite or sniff, when to dig holes or where to go to toilet - its all up to you.

One of our few gripes with this game is that the 3DS circle pad is used to control all the Sim/pet movements and object selections in and around the town. We found this awkward, especially if trying to select an object in another part of the house to where our Sim/pet was currently occupying. As a result, we spent a lot of our time zooming in and out during gameplay, which soon got very frustrating.

The Sims 3: Pets Trailer for 3DS, PS3 and Xbox Kinect

Overall, the Sims 3: Pets is not a bad attempt at bringing the PC experience of the game (minus horses) to the 3DS console. Players will find the new Karma powers very entertaining. Overall rating: 8/10.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Game of the Week: Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure [3DS]

Spyro gets his first outing on the 3DS today in a new spin-off action game, which has been entitled: Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure.

The concept of the game is simple: There are a group of beings called 'Skylanders', who help to protect an area of their world known as the 'Skylands'. Now an evil tyrant, called Hektore, has frozen these magical beings and banished them down to Earth. Only the legendary Portal of Power can bring the Skylanders back to life!

 This game is particularly interesting, as it allows players to use specially-designed interactive figurines (some provided with the game itself) which can be connected to the console via a special hub known as 'The Portal of Power'.

Although this is not an entirely new idea in videogame entertainment, it is certainly an ambitious undertaking for a handheld console. What's more, is that up to 32 figurines can be purchased for use in the game so the virtual enviroment and character abilities can be expanded.

Characters also remember previous upgrades and in-game experience each time they are placed back in the Portal of Power, and in this way the whole virtual world of Skylanders really does seem to come to life.

Three figurines are thought to be included in the 3DS version of Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure - Dark Spyro, Gill Grunt and Trigger Happy, and each character comes with its own set of magical weapons and abilities. Some shops have also sold the game with either Stealth Elf and/or the Ignitor figurines instead.

Moreover,  both the figurines and the portal/hub are non-platform-specific, which means that figurines which are supplied with the Wii version of the game, for example, can also be used with the 3DS version.  Nevertheless, with an average price of £8 per figure, it may take gamers a long time to actually complete their collection.

The 3DS version of  Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is more of a platform-adventure than the other versions. Players must collect special 'crystals' which allow them to unlock bonus levels. Whenever players successfully finds a crystal, they will enter into a timed-battle against one of the Skylander enemies. If they win the battle they can unlock the bonus levels.

Another feature of the 3DS version include the ability to 'tag-team' between the supplied Skylander figurine characters, enabling players to make the most of their combined skills and experiences.

The 3D environments are stunning and really do add to the illusion that the player is battling dark forces in an actual magical realm.

Official TV Trailer

In conclusion, Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is a unique game that seems to suit the 3DS very well. The game has tons of replay value and will appeal to platform-adventure fans of all ages. Definitely a game that it would be nice to see at the bottom of your Christmas Stocking this year. Overall rating: 9/10.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Review: Spider-Man: Edge Of Time [3DS]

Everyone's favourite neighbourhood Spider-Man swings into action in his very first 3D outing this week in Spider-Man: Edge of Time.

What is immediately apparent is that this particular game has at least attempted to build on the success of the last Spider-Man game title, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which saw Peter Parker's alter-ego split into four distinct personalities from four alternative universes.

Edge of Time has a similarly strong narrative plot, with Future Spider-Man uncovering a plot to assassinate the his past-self with a dose of anti-venom. Nevertheless, actions in one time zone have serious repercussions on the other, can our hero use this knowledge to his advantage?

Nevertheless, where the strong narrative in Spider-Man: Edge of Time could be seen to potentially form the backbone of the game's success, it is more often than not the reason that the game seems static in places.

For example, having two Spideys in the same place but in two different time zones means that players are often be expected to play through the same levels with only minor adjustments to allow for the past/future changes. This can get a little boring at times.

Of course, the main objective of this type of game is to 'get the bad guys as quickly as possible', but even in this task, the game only seems average at best. Enemies are reasonably easy to beat in most of the levels, except during the big Boss Battles, where one would expect things to get a little bit harder.

However, Spider-Man: Edge of Time soon becomes a game of two different extremes, as these aforementioned Boss Battles seem to take the combat to an almost 'impossible-to-beat' standard, with several Bosses having huge energy bars that hardly seem to drain, or weak-points that are difficult to locate. Although this is fun for the first few levels, it soon becomes frustrating.

Nevertheless, Edge of Time does have its good points too. Graphically and audibly speaking, the 3DS version of Spider-Man: Edge of Time is probably the closest representation of the home console version(s) of the game that players could ever wish for.

The game is fully voice-acted and the banter between the characters really does make the player feel part of the Spider-Man universe, which is then further enhanced by some incredibly slick 3D graphics, which are guaranteed to impress all who see them, and rounded off with some pretty solid camera angles.

There are also some really good timed events within the game too, these help to elevate some of the tediousness caused by some of the more static levels within the game. The dramatic tone of the music also helps to build the tension here too, helping to convinced even the most normally calm person that he/she is about to run out of time any second.

Furthermore, the so-called 'Web of Challenges' function has been carried over from Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, providing successful players with a new selection of bonus missions and challenges to undertake once the main campaign mode has been completed. This does help to enhance the game's replay value slightly.

Official Debut Trailer

In conclusion, the 3DS version of Spider-Man: Edge of Time is a good visual representation of the home console versions and has some limited interesting features. Nevertheless, the game features difficult bosses and repetitive gameplay, which is likely to bore most hardcore gamers within a matter of hours. Overall rating: 6/10.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Game of the Week: Virtual Villagers - A New Home (DS/DSi)

The popular PC games franchise, Virtual Villagers, finally landed onto Nintendo DS/DSi consoles this week. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, Virtual Villagers is a real-time, strategy-based virtual life simulation.

 Players must help to take care of a  tribe of people after their previous home has been destroyed by a volcanic eruption, and they are now forced to work to rebuild their homes and the tribal population. The Nintendo DS version is actually a condensed volume of the first three games from the PC series.

Virtual Villagers does seem to naturally suit the Nintendo DS consoles, and Mini Gamers is surprised that there has not been a DS console release of this game until now.

The overall gameplay is simple: Players can assign tasks to the villagers. They can choose from a selection of jobs such as Farmer (grow new plants and crops), Priest (nuture the souls of your tribe, boost morale), Parent (give birth and raise children to adulthood), Builder (erect huts and other buildings for the tribe),or a Healer (to heal sick or wounded villagers)  etc. This will help your tribe to grow, develop and settle into their new homes.

As this game is played in real-time and features a strong story progression, your tribe members will continue to learn new skills and grow in ability within the task that you have set for them, even if you are not playing the game - The tribe continues to function even when your DS/DSi is turned off!

The same can be said about the Villagers lifespans. Villagers who are born into the tribe will start off as babies and progress through childhood, adulthood and old age, where they will ultimately die.

However, it has to be said that the entire life process can be fulfilled quite quickly, so you might lose more inhabitants to death than you want to. Nevertheless, players do have the option to 'freeze time' overnight if they wish, which can be useful if you want to build a very skillful tribe or limit the amount of deaths or illnesses that occur whilst you are away from the DS console.

The game also features over sixty different puzzles for players to solve. Players must raise the villagers skills up to a specific level in order to solve puzzles, which takes a bit of time and patience, but is very rewarding, as these puzzles provide clues, which will then help the player to unlock the secrets of Mysterious Island.

 Virtual Villagers: A New Home  also contains a good selection of mini games, which can be completed to earn extra skill points or to speed up certain daily tasks. The mini games include tasks such rain-dancing, fruit-picking or fishing and even sawing wood, amongst others, and they help to add extra entertainment value to the game.

Official DS/DSi Trailer
In conclusion, this cute and gentle game will not suit everyone, but is likely to appeal to fans of strategy games and real-life virtual simulations such as Animal Crossing, Enchanted Folk or My Sims. The attention to detail about each villagers thoughts and feelings help to create a very realistic virtual environment and makes this an incredibly charming game.

It has easy-to-understand controls, which also makes it a good game for younger gamers to enjoy, but does not exclude older gamers who are looking for a simple and fun little game for those spare few  hours. Overall rating: 8/10.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Why October 2011 Could Be The Most Exciting 3DS Games Month So Far...

It could be argued that handheld gaming has undergone a bit of a drought recently, especially in terms of 3DS games. Nevertheless, there are several upcoming 3DS titles on the horizon which have given us a slight cause for celebration.

As well as some great movie tie-ins such as The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn and Captain America: Super Soldier, 3DS gamers are also scheduled to get their hands on some unique 3DS games, including James Noir: Hollywood CrimesDr. Lutrec and the Hidden Knights, Spiderman: Edge of Time, The Sims 3: Pets and NCIS 3D, to name but a few.

Nevertheless, there's more good news for fans of retro games and virtual board games, as both Mahjong 3D: Warriors of the Emperor and Tetris 3D will be making their debut on the 3DS console by the end of the month.

It may not be Mario Kart 7, but we reckon that this eclectic list of games will help to keep most 3DS gamers satisfied in the run up to Christmas. What's even better though, is that the Mini Gamers blogsite is dedicated to previewing and reviewing as many of the new games for you as is humanly possible.

Remember to check in with the Mini Gamers blogsite for more news on these games as it occurs.