Football-mad Mario just fails to hit the target: PETER HOSKIN reviews Mario Strikers – Battle League Football
Mario Strikers: Battle League Football (Switch, £49.99)
It’s 1-1 in the final minute of the Cup. But here’s a chance for the winner. I draw my leg back, focus my thoughts and sinews on the top corner of the net. And then….an extradimensional mushroom man careers into my standing foot, before a bomb knocks me totally off my aim.
Mario Strikers: Battle League Football isn’t your traditional game of association football. In fact, it is to that noble sport what Mario Kart is to, say, Formula 1; full of pitfalls, speed boosts and characters such as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and the nefarious Bowser.
At least to start off with, it’s tremendous fun. Your first few hours will be spent familiarising yourself with the surprisingly intricate control system, with its dodges and precise through-balls and teammate-assisted tackles.
There’s currently little to do in the game beyond those Cup matches, with the same roster of characters and the same handful of stadia
It’s more demanding than Mario Kart but, in some respects, more satisfying — a game of skill as much as dumb luck.
Then your next few hours will be spent unleashing those skills in games of five-a-side mayhem, alongside or against either your friends or the AI. Those moments when your team pulls off a Hyper Strike — an almost unstoppable shot that’s accompanied by a nutty animation — are their own sort of victory.
But then the limitations of Battle League come sliding in, like that mushroom man.
There’s currently little to do in the game beyond those Cup matches, with the same roster of characters and the same handful of stadia. The addition of upgradeable sportswear for your players, to change their abilities, only adds so much.
Which forced me, eventually, to return to the best not-really-football game of them all: Rocket League. Sorry, Mario, you’re on the bench next week.
The Quarry (PlayStation, Xbox, PC, £64.99)
Verdict: Horrific fun
Welcome to Hackett’s Quarry. You’ll like it here. There are log cabins, a lake, a big ol’ campfire, and the last of the summer’s sun is poking through the trees to turn everything orange. It’s a kind of American Dream.
But it’s also a kind of American Nightmare. There’s a bunch of teenagers – the hot one, the other hot one, the nerdy one, etc. – who are being hunted by whatever monsters there are in the woods. You could say that, in a sense, these teens are actually… the quarry.
It’s a setup that’s straight out of an 80s fright flick. And it’s very similar to developer Supermassive’s previous Until Dawn (2016), too. Just like that game, you’ll be trying to keep the kids alive by choosing which paths – of the literal and conversational variety – they go down. Oops! You chose wrong! Now a wolf-boy-thing is gnawing away at our unhappy campers.
So it’s fair to say that The Quarry is formulaic, but it’s also a perfection of that formula. The characters, while never much more than tropes, are written and performed (by digital versions of real-life actors) so well that they’re actually worth saving. The mysteries are unfolded at a masterful pace; slow at first, then with bloodcurdling speed. And, yes, the scenery is stunning.
Supermassive have also made more of one of Until Dawn’s great charms. Lots of people ended up enjoying that game with others – making life-and-death decisions from the sofa, together – so now, in The Quarry, there’s an optional gameplay mode by which different players can take control at different moments.
As a social experience, there are few games that can match The Quarry. But warn your guests: they’ll need strong temperaments and stronger stomachs for some of the night’s events. There’s fun and charm and nostalgia here, but also horror.