This week, NBA 2K14 slam dunks onto PS4, LEGO Friends settle onto Nintendo 3DS and Scribblenauts Unlimited gets creative on Wii U. Meanwhile, Icycle On Thin Ice and Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse provide some early Christmas cheer on iPhone and iPad
NBA 2K14 | PS4 | Basketball | £53.99
NBA 2K13 was a monstrous release for the world’s number one NBA video game, slam-dunking more than 38 Sports Game of the Year and ‘Best Of’ mentions. No pressure, then, for its first spot of on-court action on the PS4. Well, you’ll be pleased to hear NBA 2K14 raises the bar yet again, delivering the best basketball gaming experience for sports fans and gamers around the world. If you’ve played this game on PS3 or Xbox One, you might notice a cleaner menu system, and some interesting new game modes to get your teeth into. But there is no ‘might’ about you noticing the ludicrous fidelity of the graphics - surely as realistic as sports sims can get without pulling on your shorts and singlet yourself. Gameplay marries the incredible ebb and flow of real basketball with slick controls and awesome attention to detail, and while not every mode feels fully realised yet, this represents a major leap forward for the series.
LEGO Friends | Nintendo 3DS | Action | £33.99
This is not LEGO as we know it. The new toy franchise has been tailored specifically towards the young LEGO ladies out there rather than the boys, and presents a totally different premise to the all-action fun we’ve come to know and love from the block-building stable. The venue of Heartlake City offers fans the chance to express their individual style and personality as they explore the city. You’ll shop for the latest outfits and accessories, select the perfect hairstyle, decorate your bedroom and even pick out a pet, before embarking on a collection of low-key mini-games. In cutesy dress-up style, you can attend horse riding camp, perfect a dance routine, practice karate, or care for an animal at a rescue centre, and all without raising your pulse above sedentary. The graphics may be cute, and the sparkles and bows may dazzle for a while, but the gameplay couldn’t be further from the raucous and gloriously-realised blocky worlds from previous LEGO titles. A definite try before you buy.
Scribblenauts Unlimited | Wii U | Action/Puzzle | £34.99
Scribblenauts Unlimited sits somewhere comfortably between game and software demonstration, holding a vast vocabulary in its back-end that players can draw upon to conjure almost any object or person their brain can come up with. These are used to solve puzzles throughout, such as calling upon a bone to help a hungry dog. Things get a lot trickier than that, as Maxwell and Lily’s adventure continues, and it’s the more bizarre suggestions that you throw at the game which will bring the most enjoyment - a vampire in a floating bath may be capable of solving more teasers than you first thought! Delivered in crisp HD graphics simultaneously on the Wii U’s Gamepad and your TV, Scribblenauts Unlimited is the kind of game you’d show a non-gamer to prove just how clever computers are. But when the bragging is over, this side-scrolling open world still presents an entertaining and taxing challenge to puzzle fans, as well as young gamers with big imaginations.
Icycle On Thin Ice | iPhone/iPad | Action | £0.69
iOS platformers don’t get any more engaging than this. Thrust in control of Dennis, a chap stranded in a series of sub-zero environments with only his trusty two-wheeler to help him escape, the dynamically changing landscapes will challenge even those with the quickest digit dexterity. It’s beautifully presented, incredibly moreish, and even after your first playthrough you’ll want to go back and complete the challenges you might have missed when you were more concerned about avoiding the whopping block of ice about to land on your head. Boosts and upgrades earned by collecting ice in each level add variety to gameplay and, aside from a few niggles here and there, it’s a wonderfully unique experience in what is a very well-worn genre. From bleak cityscapes to underwater adventures, you’ll never know where Dennis and his bike will take you next - but you’ll always be willing to go along for the ride.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse | iPhone/iPad | Action | £6.99
The Castle of Illusion first opened its gates on the Mega Drive some twenty years ago, offering an excellent platform experience with a devilish difficulty level. It’s testament to the original title that it has been resurrected for the iOS generation, and you can see how much love has gone into this rework, with stunning HD graphics and a slick touchscreen control interface. The game remains remarkably tricky, though, so don’t expect a Disney-soaked stroll through cartoon-land. What you can bank on, though, are some of the highest production values you’ll find on a smartphone or tablet app, which more than justifies the lofty price tag. With PS4 titles transferring seamlessly to PS Vita through second screen sharing, the ante has been well and truly upped for what we’ll come to expect from small screen gaming. But Mickey has got all the moves and more, and Castle of Illusion is a rock solid platform romp you shouldn’t ignore.