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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Inside and Shadow of the Beast.

Transcript Edit

So it's yet another typically quiet July, stretching ahead of us like the long dusty road that connects two cesspools, let's take a look at some indie games exclusive to consoles, or as I like to call them, class traitors!

I still miss those innocent days of the Xbox Live Summer of Arcade, when the Xbox 360 would break the mid-year drought with a showroom of indie digitals, like a rich man digging a paddling pool in his front yard for the little street urchins to play in, while he watches from his darkly lit room window, sweating profusely. And for a moment this week, the spirit of Summer of Arcade returned, when the Xbone coughed up a spiritual successor to Limbo, the depressed self-harming beach babe of the 2010 frolics.

So let's take a look Inside. Er, sorry, I meant to say "Let's take a look at Inside". And that's going straight on to my list of game titles that are needlessly awkward to google, alongside Fuse, and Wet, and Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, which is very awkward to google if your girlfriend ever looks at your search history.

Inside opens with a small child lost in a dark forest, and you're given the implied instruction to keep moving right until something tells you to stop. Nothing wrong with having a comfort zone, of course, but one could be forgiven for thinking at first glance that PlayDead Studios have merely slapped a sporty red top on the protagonist of Limbo and left it at that. It's an atmospheric puzzle-platformer of the "child lost in scary world" genre that remains even after all these years, to fast-track indie acclaim. You have a jump button, and a "pull things" button, and you will die like a Game of Thrones supporting actor demanding a salary increase.

But while the similarity to Limbo remains stark, things feel a little different when you start getting chased by dogs and scary men with flashlights, and we discover there's slightly more of a plot going on Inside, I mean, in Insi-- Oh ah fuck it, I'm just gonna call it Thatcher's Britain from now on, alright?

Where in Limbo you're an insignificant of interest where the characters only see two ounces of nutritious alternative to pork, there's definitively something a bit deeper going on in Thatcher's Britain, if the authorities are chasing you with scary dogs. As we explore the city, we uncover a sinister society where a scientific elite exploit the case of what could be artificial humans, or brainwashed humans, or the living dead, or Brexit voters. It's all kept in the background and open to interpretation, your job is to keep moving past the interesting things and try not to get murdered by the interesting things.

It's got a handful of new mechanics to puzzle your way around. Since Limbo, the protagonist's head has been reduced in size, for improved buoyancy, so now you can actually swim. And there's a recurring mechanic in which you remote controls some artificial Brexit voters, that in certain points of the game start to make it feel like somehow a even bleaker Abe's Oddysee .

But ultimately none of it fully shakes off the Limbo comparison, at least until the very last sequence of Thatcher's Britain. It is by no means a long game, and there are several elements one feels don't get a proper payoff. What was with that underwater baby thing with the 70s hairdo? What happened to that pig we hung around with? I thought we were getting along really well. But it is the last few minutes that most dominate my thinking when I go over Thatcher's Britain in my head, when the game takes the last exit to Bonkersburg. I very much don't want to spoil anything, but if you ever fallen asleep while watching Children of Men and had that dream where you're chased down a hallway by your father's disembodied testicles, it might seen weirdly familiar.

A long journey unexpectedly turns into a few minutes of chaos and horror, and abruptly stops in a way that feels simultaneously relieving and anticlimactic. It's like watching The NeverEnding Story up to one of the scary bits and then shooting yourself in the head. And honestly I'm not even sure I recommend it. Certainly memorable and effective, but I left feeling more depressed than satisfied. Well, if they made Sex and the City into a film, there must be a market for depressing things.

Anyway, Thatcher's Britain was only Xbone exclusive for like a week before the Steam release, so let's move on to something that's still console exclusive as far as I know, Shadow of the Beast on the PS4. A remake of a classic Amiga sidescrolling beat-em-up. The usual line one takes for remakes is "What's the point of remaking something when it's already a classic?", and happily that is a question that will come nowhere near this venture, because the original Shadow of the Beast was a load of old knobblers, in which the principal activity was standing in one place mashing the punch button until everything stopped moving, so it's a perfectly sound idea to try the recipe again, but maybe with one less cup of diarrhea and one more cup of God of War.

And so in Shadow of the Beast, we are the titular beast, who resembles a purple dude wearing a Pokemon over his head, we were created as a living weapon by an evil sorceror, we break free of their control and proceed to murder our way through the sorceror's minions, to talk about our list of grievances to the big baddy. So far so good, or rather, so far so god, of war. Where the game tries to evoke that game that inspired it is in the combat, which is very much in the spirit of keep pressing the punch button, enemies approach in single file, from in front and back, and most of the can be instantly killed in one hit.

What's the word for this strange feeling inside me, this cozy feeling, of warmth and familiarity, and makes me feel like I'm in precisely the place where I'm most comfortable? Oh, I remember. Hatred. I hate this combat system. Because it's one part combat and one part PaRappa the Rapper , and when you activate Rage of the Gods, I mean Frenzy Mode, I mean "I can't even remember what it's called, I can't be arsed to look it up", it becomes entirely a rhythm game, with preanimated kills instead of music, but I couldn't even look at them because I had to focus entirely on the timed button prompts, so my dude could have been befriending enemies with piñata parties for all I know. What's more, every move you make locks you into animation that you can't cancel out of, like drew the short straw, and like a threesome participant who drew the short straw, you have practically no defense against being stabbed from both sides.

With time, however, I did find myself gradually getting the hang of the rather needlessly complex array of moves, blocks and dodges. It turns out that all along the best strategy was "keep pressing the punch button", and when I did the final boss fight with a weary confidence in my abilities, and then, joke upon joke, the final boss fight uses different gameplay altogether, like an engineering degree course that ends with a pie eating contest. It becomes a Space Harrier jetpack shooter! The original did something similar, but let's not forget that this was in a bygone more experimental age, when game design involved throwing ideas up in the air and breaking out the elephant gun.

The theme with this week's episode has been "games that turn into something else torwards the end". But while Thatcher's Britain somewhat gets away with it, by being constantly vague, Shadow of the Beast seems to merely forget what it was supposed to be doing. At the start, the villains steal a baby, and we go after them in pursuit, but I don't think that baby is ever brought up again! A baby isn't something one can quietly drop, the last baby I dropped certainly isn't quiet.

Addenda Edit

  • A beast in bed: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I suppose Dark would be a pretty awkward title to google as well if anyone had ever wanted to google it anywhere ever
  • How about all these british politics gags
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II

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