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Consoles are also currently on sale!
Dishonored 2 Limited Edition for all platforms is $34.99 on Amazon.]]>
No Man’s Sky (PS4) for $19.99 at GameStop]]>
Battlefield 1 is $27 at Walmart]]>
Doom (PS4) is $19.99 on Amazon]]>
Fallout 4 is $19.99 on Amazon for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.]]>
You can get Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series – Amazon Exclusive Edition (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) for only $79.49 on amazon right now!]]>
For $1 you get Carcassonne and Scotland Yard.
For $3 you also get Splendor, Catan, and THE aMAZEing Labyrinth.
For $5 of more you also also get Ticket To Ride, San Juan, and Galaxy Trucker.
More games will be added.]]>
It’s a great game for two players!]]>
The same deal is available at Walmart for both PS4 and PC, stock is limited.]]>
Click here for today’s lightning deals.
12AM PDT – Muramasa Rebirth
6AM PDT – Clue: $50 Amazon Credit on Xbox 360 Console
$50 Amazon Credit on Xbox 360 Console
8AM PDT – Clue: Prepare to unleash your inner beast as you go after an army of wicked extraterrestrials
The Serious Sam Collection
10AM PDT – Clue: Save 50% on this game on the Poptropica Islands
Poptropica Adventures – Nintendo DS
12PM PDT – Clue: Throw explosive fireballs and shoot lightning as devastatingly powerful Vigors surge through your body to be unleashed against all that oppose you.
2PM PDT – Clue: Xbox 360 4GB with Kinect Nike+ Bundle with $50 Amazon Credit
Xbox 360 4GB with Kinect Nike+ Bundle with $50 Amazon Credit
4PM PDT – Clue: Get this volcanic Skylanders Lightcore Character at a hot price.
Skylanders Giants Lightcore Single Character Eruptor
5PM PDT – Clue: A robotic suit-wearing dragon who is one of the playable Skylanders in the Skylanders series, first appearing in Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure.
6PM PDT – Clue: Skylanders Giants Series 2 Whirl Wind
Skylanders Giants Series 2 Whirl Wind
7PM PDT – Clue: Skylanders Giants Series 2 Shroom Boom
Skylanders Giants Series 2 Shroom Boom
9PM PDT – Clue: Noise-canceling boom microphone can be adjusted for optimal sound quality for crisp and clear voice communication.
It might be an Xbox 360 Headset]]>
Borderlands 2 doesn’t have that much content. Said no one ever. Let’s be honest, Borderlands 2 has to be one of the most updated games to come out on any platform. Since it’s release a year ago, they’ve released two additional playable classes for the game, a level cap increase pack that also added a new game mode for players looking to complete their third playthrough, and four additional campaigns for the game – Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty, Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, and Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. In addition to what is currently available, there will be another level cap increase with a new map that allows players to “overlevel” and equip gear past the new level cap, which is 72, and will add backpack, ammo and bank slots. It’s with this dearth of content that Borderlands 2 became the first game in which I actually purchased the Season Pass.
Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep was originally intended to be the last piece of content for the title, and was set to serve as sort of a “season finale.” However, the fine folks at gentlemen at Gearbox did not anticipate how much fans wanted even more, which caused the creation of the upcoming Headhunter Packs. The Headhunter Packs are smaller bits of content, something that isn’t the length of a full-on DLC campaign. They contain a new area, a few missions, and culminate with a big boss battle. Defeat of the boss earns the player the ability to wear their head in the game, hence the name of the content, Headhunter Pack. The first is T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest, a sort of Halloween themed affair, which has the player battle Jacques O’Lantern at the end. This is the first of the three currently planned Headhunter Packs to be released. Pricing on the Headhunter Packs have not been released yet, but due to the nature
In addition to the plethora of DLC announced, also recently announced was the new Game of the Year Edition of Borderlands 2. This GOTY edition will contain the Psycho and Mechromancer classes, the four DLC campaigns and the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack, everything that was covered by the first season pass plus the two classes. It will not include the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2: Digistruct Peak Challenge, nor will it include any of the new Headhunter Packs. It is sort of intended as a way for a player new to the game to get in and started and have all of the core content for the game. But what about the future? Gearbox states that they had never planned to do Headhunter Packs, but were quite pleasantly surprised by the fan response and their demand for more Borderlands 2 content. When all three Headhunter Packs have been released, they will go back and re-evaluate, and decide from there whether to work on another campaign DLC.
In the days that came before PAX Prime 2013, Firaxis announced that there would be an expansion pack to their critically acclaimed turn based strategy title, XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It will be titled, XCOM: Enemy Within. The theme of the expansion centers around a new way to progress your soldiers in the game. In addition to giving the troops psionic abilities in the original game, there are two new progression paths in this expansion. One of the huge concepts in the original game is how humanity takes alien technology and then integrates it with existing human gear to enhance it. Enemy Within takes this further, and starts to modify the soldiers themselves. The first progression path available is the Mech Trooper, which cybernetically augments soldiers, replacing their body with a giant robotic body which also mounts heavy weaponry. The second path is enhancing soldiers genetically, giving them new superhuman abilities.
The demonstration we were shown took place on one of the new maps, a hydroelectric dam. Firaxis states that the map pool has been increased by fifty percent, and there are also 8 new multiplayer maps. Several abilities of the mech trooper were showcased. They’re initially armed with a minigun, which can then be replaced later on with a railgun. They have an ability called collateral damage that will destroy cover in an area and do some damage to units behind it, but the most fun was a new ability called Kinetic Strike that can only be described as a rocket powered fist. In the demonstration level, this ability was shown off with the Mech Trooper quite literally punching a sectoid off of the dam.
The contrast to the cybernetically enhanced Mech Troopers are the genetically augmented soldiers now available. How this mechanic works is that these genetically enhanced soldiers receive super powers by spending a new resource, called Meld. Meld can be found on certain maps in semi-random locations. The canisters of Meld scattered across the map have a timer on them and will explode, damaging everything around them. This is meant to encourage players to play more aggressively, rather than the quite passive and safe move and overwatch method. Some of the powers available are muscle fibers, which allow the soldier to leap to high points without the need for ladders, neural feedback, which severely damages Sectoid Commanders which attempt to psionically attack them. Finally the last ability shown was one called bioelectric skin, which essentially gives a soldier a short range radar, allowing them to track enemies that are unseen.
Humanity, doesn’t receive all of the new toys, however. The aliens receive two new units which can change gameplay drastically. The designers, having added a Mechanized soldier to the Humans, wanted to do the same for the aliens to complement the existing mechanized units. They considered doing a mechanized Muton, sort of a ranged Berzerker, but realized that the Muton was already a fairly strong ranged unit. Their thinking went down the path of wondering which species in the game would probably be the most keen to develop this technology, and the answer was the Sectoid. Thus was the Mechtoid born. Its a large mechanized unit with twin plasma cannons. What makes it especially deadly is that when paired up with a regular Sectoid, the regular Sectoid can mind meld with it as in the original game, but here, the mind meld doesn’t just add to the Mechtoid’s health – it adds a pretty powerful psi shield, really requiring the player to take down the regular Sectoid before engaging the Mechtoid.
The second alien unit is the stuff of nightmares. Quite literally one of the developers’ nightmares. They combined the two things they feared the most – sharks and spiders, into this flying mechanized shark-spider hybrid that can also cloak. It is terrifying. Their one regret is that they were unable to make it shoot laser beams, as aliens only use plasma-based weapons. So yes, there are flying robotic shark-spiders called Stalkers, that can cloak and which look like one of the machines from The Matrix. They roam the battlefield looking for lone soldiers, such as a sniper on a perch, and will literally strangle them. While strangled, the soldier is unable to perform any actions, and receives an amount of damage which ramps up over time. Should the Stalker be destroyed, the soldier is put into a “Catching Breath” state, and they will not be effective for a little bit.
This expansion will be a downloadable DLC on Steam, but for console, will be sold with the original game and all current DLC in a Commander’s Edition which will be priced lower than the original game was at launched. Commanders can expect a call to action on November 12, 2013.
Before I get branded a Sony fan boy forever, let me preface this by saying, both controllers are perfectly fine controllers and I will be getting both of them. Also, based on the size of your hands and personal preference, this could all be moot to you. With that being said, I wanted to break down why the PS4’s Dual Shock 4 edges out the Xbox One controller for me.
Lets start with the PS4’s predecessor the Dual Shock 3. The DS3 was essentially a Dual Shock 2 with motion support. Basically the same shell with new guts. It has short stubby handles that are angled in such away that only about half your hand fits on the thing. Gripping the DS3, requires a light grip. This is the only way to get quick access to all of your controls. Then if you grip it too tightly and you get the dreaded controller sweat. This was mainly due to the paint job. It is a fine, glossy finish that doesn’t give much air to your skin, thus causing sweat to build up. Then there are the sticks. The tops were convex meaning your thumbs would slide off the rounded tops. And last but not least was the triggers. They curved down and towards you, making gripping them kind of an annoyance. Overall, the DS3 was a functional, but not ideal controller for me.
So what’s better about the Dual Shock 4 you ask? Well first off, its a wider controller, in order to make room for the touchpad. They’ve stretched the thing out and made the handles longer. They’ve also made the handles at a better angle. It feels natural holding the controller. If you take your hands, put them a six inches apart in front of you and rest them in a natural position, thats about how you hold the controller. It really feels snug and secure in your hands. Then there’s the texture of the paint. It has a cross etched pattern on the bottom. While I didn’t play for hours, I can only assume the sweatiness issue should be greatly decreased. I noticed none at all playing for 30 minutes or so. The sticks have been improved as well. They have a crater in them that actually lets you have grip of the thumb stick. They also feel like they have more resistance than their predecessor. The triggers have also been redesigned. They are narrower, but they are also angled away from you now. Thus letting you get a good grip and pull on them. Every button feels like it is right under your fingertips ready to be accessed. If I had any complaints about the thing, the sticks may be a little high, but I hardly noticed after I got going.
Lets switch over to Xbox. The 360’s controller is one of the best controllers of all time. I’ve had the same controllers since launch and they still work great. It’s really hard for me to find faults in that controller. Its very comfortable in my hands and I prefer the placement of the sticks not being parallel. The biggest draw back to the 360 controller has always been its d-pad. More of an analog stick with a cross on it. It has been the bane of fighting game fans for years.
With that being said, it seems pretty obvious what Microsoft needed to do, fix the d-pad and we’re all good. But thats not exactly what happened. The first thing I noticed about the Xbox One controller is how sharp it is. It’s almost as if they were trying to copy the styling of the square Xbox One. Which doesn’t make sense for a controller unless you’re Nintendo. It seems narrower. The handles are thinner and for me, this means I’m getting less of a complete grip on the thing, and more of a lighter hold. When I attempted to hold it like I would a 360 controller, it felt a little jabby in my hands. The sticks and the buttons are all grouped tighter. This is a good thing as all the buttons are easily accessible at all times. The triggers are wider curving around the sides of the controllers and feel great. The triggers also have haptic feedback, but none of the games I demo’d appeared to have that turned on. The shoulder buttons may take some getting used to. There were several moments where I’d go for them and not press hard enough to register. I am just so used to the quick press of the 360’s bumpers. The d-pad on the other hand feels great. I didn’t really have to use it other than giving orders in Battlefield 4, but it feels snappy and responsive. I am sure the controller will be fine and dandy for years to come, but what sums up my whole argument in two words is, when I picked up the controller, the first thing that came to mind was “Mad Catz.”
I think the really interesting aspects of these two comes from the comparison. If you just used one or the other, you will be completely satisfied, but when you pick up the Xbox One controller, quickly followed by the Dual Shock 4, it’s immediately noticeable how good the DS4 feels in your hands. The DS4 has finally given up its baggage of past controller design and moved on to something spectacular. And that’s really my point here, it’s not that Microsoft has screwed up, it’s that Sony has created something awesome. These two controllers are very different and I will need to spend a lot more time with them to see if my opinion changes, but at the moment, I’m giving it to Sony.]]>
At E3 this year, Microsoft announced a new downloadable title from Press Play, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. Coming in Q1 of next year to both Xbox One and Xbox 360, Max is a sidescrolling physics puzzle-platformer designed to appeal to a wide variety of ages.
You play as Max, a red-headed kid with enough hair gel to kill an elephant, and your brother has been kidnapped into another dimension. As you make pursuit you quickly get some help from a witch who enchants your marker to help you along your journey.
My hands on time with Max: The Curse of Brotherhood in a private hotel room only gave me a glimpse of the story, but what I really got out of it, was a good chunk of time to play through some levels. The marker mechanic is extremely clever. It can only be used in specific places, but its up to you how you use it, and how you solve the puzzles.
At first, you can only raise and lower pieces of earth, but later on, you are drawing tree branches, making water ways and more. It relies heavily on physics puzzles and solutions didn’t appear to be canned. There were several moments throughout the demo where I was able to solve a puzzle in ways they didn’t think I could, but that may be because I was just so awesome at it.
The controls and puzzle mechanic are all very intuitive. It makes sense that you would draw a water jet to shoot a branch you drew across a gap to make a bridge. The gameplay focuses on what matter, there really isn’t combat to worry about, leaving you to focus on exploring and figuring out puzzles.
The games world is extremely varied from what I could see, with a unique beautiful art style. Even if the story seems a little below my age group (grown-ass adult) I will be purchasing this game and cannot wait to see how the rest of the game’s powers change things up. With the variety of puzzles and approaches, this is the kind of game where epic speed runs will be a thing of wonder. I personally, can’t wait to see that.]]>
The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is quite possibly the most creative free to play game that’s coming out that hardly anyone has heard of. This needs to change. The title comes from Ubisoft, and didn’t originate from the wish to build a dungeon crawler, but the idea of creating a space where players can create things, and then allow different players to then interact with them. The whole castles and fantasy theme came later.
Upon first glance, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot looks like any other 3rd person, isometric dungeon crawler set in a fantasy realm with bright colors vaguely reminiscent of the Dreamworks Shrek universe. It’s only after playing the game for a bit that the asymmetrical gameplay presented takes center stage, and then manages to steal the show. The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot focuses on wealth and the accumulation of it. The player starts the game by entering generic, NPC made dungeons, and then navigating past all of the included traps, and defeating whatever monsters are in the way until they reach the final chamber, and past that, the treasure room. If you were successful in navigating the castle without dying and under a certain amount of time, you’re then welcome to pilfer a decent percentage of whatever was in the coffers.
However, building dungeons is incredibly fun. The best way to describe it is you’re playing a version of the Sims where you’re encouraged to be an asshole. Heck, not even encouraged but rewarded. The first thing to do is to place some mines in your castle – these gold and life force mines provide a steady revenue stream, and from there the player can start using the collected resources to upgrade and build out their castle, from upgrading and customizing rooms, to adding creatures and bosses, and putting in traps. Creatures and boss creatures can also be upgraded to have one of several abilities, so there’s a quite real possibility for a great deal of complexity as the player can pair up customized creature sets that complement each other well. There are also checks in place to ensure that a player can’t pack a dungeon room with a thousand creatures and make it impossible for anyone to clear. Each creature is assigned a numerical value that tells us how powerful it is, and there is a cap of just how much numerical power can be concentrated in a certain area. This levels the playing field. There are also other fantastic features to the game, and the best is that upon completing a castle, you can leave a note for the owner. My day was made when someone who was unable to clear my castle sent, “WTF.” There’s also a replay mode so you can watch what people who entered your castle did inside, and a test mode where you can attempt to tackle your own defenses yourself.
This title is currently in closed beta, and Ubisoft is targeting an open beta by year’s end, and of course, release soon thereafter. This game is for PC, and is a ton of fun.]]>
By: Michael Dao
We last saw Transistor at PAX East 2013. It was the newly announced follow on title from Supergiant Games, developer of the successful and critically acclaimed Bastion. Now, though Transistor does share a lot with Bastion, as time passes, we can see that the two are clearly different titles in both gameplay and appearance.
Upon first glance, the games are quite similar. They’re both third person action games that have role playing elements, there’s sort of a dynamic narration system like there was in Bastion, and the backgrounds are all beautifully hand drawn. That’s where the similarities end. Whereas Bastion centers around a catastrophe befalling a world and the journey to do something about it, Transistor is the story of a singer who survives an attack on her life, and her story in this cyberpunk world.
The version of the game that we saw at PAX East 2013, was clearly a very early build of the game, although it did run flawlessly, and had an incredible amount of polish, and it is only by comparing it to the version that is being shown at PAX Prime 2013 that we can say that. The core mechanic is this turn-based style of play that can be best compared to the combat system Fallout 3. The player simply has to pull the right trigger to enable the turn system. From here, the game pauses and the player can then choose their movement and actions carefully. Every choice they make depletes a meter, and once they queue up the actions they wish to take, a second pull of the right trigger executes all of the queued commands. At that point, the player needs to wait until they can access the turn again. It is probably wholly possible to play the entire game without using the system, and relying on sheer reflex and action game chops, but the turn system allows for some thought and planning, and there are some puzzle sequences that will require its use. On the flip side, there is no greater joy in this game than executing a well thought out plan that decimates the enemies on the screen.
The biggest difference between the versions is that in this latest iteration, more of the customization options that we saw the likes of in Bastion are now in Transistor. As Red travels and kills enemies in her world, she earns experience points and levels up. As she levels up, she unlocks these modifiers to the abilities that she unlocks in the game. the first one that opens up is a modifier to backstabbing. There is currently bonus damage to attacking from behind to certain mobs, and the modifier can be attached to certain abilities, so that when you attack from behind using that specific ability, even more damage is done.
The new news from Supergiant about Transistor is that the game will be released on PS4 and PC. the build that was playable at PAX Prime 2013 was on PC using a PS4 controller. They incorporated a nice little touch on the game where the light bar on the front of the controller pulsed as the narrator spoke. This is of limited utility. Although Sony advertises the lightbar as a way to differentiate which player is using which controller, which is a fair use of it, they also state that it can be used to deliver some information, such as the health status of a player, but to be honest, it’s practicality may be limited. It just happened to be by chance that the pulsating light when the narrator spoke was even something that was noticed, by how I, and how I suspect most people will be holding their controllers. There is no current word on whether or not Transistor will be coming to any other platforms. Precedence says that it will be coming to the XBox at the very least, as Bastion was made for almost every platform under the sun – PC, Mac, Xbox 360, iOS, Google Chrome, Linux and OnLive. Right now, the title is only announced for PS4 and PC, but that may change as we get closed to the release date, which is looking like early 2014. They’ve stated their second priorities after their initial release on Steam and PS4 will be Linux and Mac, which will probably use Steam, but no details on any other platforms, although they have not ruled any out.
And yes, for the interested, Darren Korb returns as the composer, the art is still by Jen Zee, and vocals are still by the ever lovely Ash Barrett.]]>
Pretty much the first thing I wanted to get my hands on at PAX this year was my most anticipated launch title, Forza 5 for Xbox One. The 6th title in the Forza series is exclusive to the next gen system and is a show piece for Microsoft.
The game is simply gorgeous, filled with amazing detail in every aspect of every car. Stitching and bumps in carbon fiber can be seen all over the super cars. While these cars have more polygons than ever before, that means little when traveling at a 100 mph through a bend. The worlds are more alive in Forza 5. Looking off in the distance, you can see activity everywhere. Little touches such as a helicopter flying around in what appears to be a fully rendered city in the distance.
I actually played the game twice, once with a new Thrustmasters wheel, and once with the controller. The wheel setup was nice with strong force feedback and heavy pedals. I asked the representative if this wheel was launching with the system like the Mad Catz one was, but he couldn’t comment. Unfortunately for the wheel demo, they were leaving the difficulty on easy. Easy mode in Forza basically makes the car break and turn for you. The controller demo I played felt good, but I was expecting to be blown away with the new haptic trigger feedback, but I don’t think it was on, or it was so subtle I didn’t notice. Either way, the racing in Forza feels like Forza. It’s a simulation racing game that offers enough assists and rewind abilities that anyone could play any car.
That’s the main downside to Forza 5, if you’re looking for some incredible new gaming experience, you’re looking in the wrong place. This is a racing game that plays like Forza, but looks incredible and runs super smooth.
The build I played was running on real Xbox One hardware, and it’s still early, but I have to mention, the load times were really long. After picking a car, it would load into an auto gallery view, showing you every angle of the car. I thought several times I had pushed the wrong button and was just in ‘look at car’ mode. But no, it was actually just showing me that until it could load the car color selection. It was about 15-30 seconds, which is a long time when you just want to get into it. After selecting the car, a non skippable cinematic view of the course would play for another 15-30 seconds before finally letting you play. Now, this could be just them wanting demo’ers to see the new pretty graphics, but we’ll have to wait and see.
I came away from Forza excited. Excited to get a next gen console and have a very pretty racing sim to show off how I didn’t waste our vacation money again honey. No seriously, look at the stitching in the passenger seat. So pretty…]]>
By: Michael Dao
Titanfall certainly has a storied history. It’s creators, Respawn Entertainment, are at it’s core, Jason West and Vincent Zamepella, the former President of Infinity Ward, and the former CEO of Infinity Ward. They were fired, according to an SEC filing from Activision for “breaches of conduct and insubordination.” This was March of 2010. One month later, the LA Times reported that they were forming their own studio under the name of Respawn Entertainment. They were to receive funding from Electronic Arts’ Partner Program,
Not much was heard from them since, until they announced their first game at June 2013’s E3. It is to be called Titanfall, and will be on the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and the PC. Titanfall is a science fiction first person shooter. The centerpiece of the game is it’s eponymous Titans, which best described as giant mechs that a player can get into in the heat of combat. Not much is currently known about the single player campaign, as unsurprisingly, the focus has been on the multiplayer component of the game.
At PAX Prime, we were able to get some hands on time with the title. It plays just as good as everyone’s been saying it does. The game is both fast and slow in all of the right ways at all of the right times, and that’s a part of what makes it such an exciting game to play. Movement is quick, and respawning is near instantaneous – you always spawn close to the fight so you can get right back in there, with an absolute minimum amount of time spent in travel. When you add in the fact that each player is equipped with a jetpack, combat quickly enters the third dimension, and retains its frantic, delightful pace. The actual combat and shooty bits of the game aren’t as fast as one would expect from a Call of Duty title, it’s definitely slower, and takes more to kill an opponent. In this regard, it plays more like a Battlefield title, and in a quite interesting feature, there are also NPCs involved in multiplayer maps.
What really separates Titanfall from the rest of the pack was the objective based multiplayer scenarios, the one we had to complete required the rescue of someone or other while our opponents had to prevent as such. To be honest, both sides really just turned the game into a deathmatch as we reveled in the refreshing gameplay mechanics. The game starts as most modern shooters do, on a screen that asks the player to choose their class/loadout. The first difference is that after selecting a loadout, the player must then select a loadout for their titan. The game plays as one would expect, except with the addition of jetpacks, which makes the game more vertical than one would expect. After a certain amount of time passes, the player can call down a Titan, which is a giant mech that they can call down from the sky, and which gets dropped after a few seconds. The wow moment of the game was when a piloted Titan took an extreme amount of damage. I was forced to eject, which shoots the player into the air. The really cool part was that I happened to land on the back of the Titan that had destroyed mine, and was able to rip away an armor plate and shoot inside it. It did not survive the encounter. Revenge is indeed sweet.
Gameplay when on foot and mounted are quite different experiences. My time without a Titan was spent running from cover to cover, taking out what militia, or NPCs I could, while hunting other players and and avoiding enemy Titans. A person on foot is not much good against a Titan without the aid of cover or elevation, and I was none too good at using my jetpacks to gain some air. Gameplay in a Titan is fantastic. In certain situations the mounting animation of the Titan has it grabbing you and stuffing you inside the cockpit. It was certainly startling the first time it happened, as I thought I had done something wrong, or perhaps the enemy had hijacked my Titan. No, it was just awesome occurring. Though the encounter ended with my team losing the match, the game wasn’t over, in defeat, we had to evacuate to a rooftop location where a dropship would pick us up. Of course, this is not immediate, and for a few tens of seconds, it was quite tense, as the landing zone had to be defended. Evacuating successfully gives a point bonus, ostensibly towards character progression. Even in defeat, the game was awesome.
Graphically, the game looks fantastic. Everything about Titanfall proclaims that it is a next generation title, from the solid frame rate to the graphical fidelity that can only be experienced on a next generation console. It is probably the first title for the Xbox One that truly shows off what it can do, and title people should be most excited about. It’s just a shame that it’s not a launch title, and is coming in Spring 2014.]]>
Stealth Inc, or by its cleverer original name Stealth Bastard, is one of those indie games that seems like it was made specifically for me. While not completely lacking in story, it’s really not that important. You play a clone, assumedly, stuck in some kind of facility that is designed to test your stealthing abilities. Throughout the game you are bombarded with taunting messages from some other stealth test subject. And thats about it, but thats not the point. Like a lot of great indie titles of late, this game lives and dies by its mechanics.
Stealth Inc is a 2D puzzle platformer, with stealth elements as the name implies. Shadows are cast around the room allowing you to hide from deadly security turrets and things only get crazier. Your clone has a pair of goggles that turn red when he’s visible, orange when partially visible, and green when you’re good to go. As the shadows move around the room you need to access terminals and switches in order to open the exit door. Take one step in front of a turret while being completely lit up though, and you will die almost instantly with a gruesome laser blast to the head, followed by a taunting message from someone…
The game has 80 levels to start and they are split into chapters. Each chapter adds a single element to the game making things extremely complex by the 5th or 6th chapter. Moving pillars around to cast life saving shadows, using warps in interesting ways, and even walking clone killing robots to ruin your day. With each chapter focusing on a new mechanic, without getting rid of the old ones, the game rarely feels stale. Stealth Inc does what every puzzle game should, and thats making you feel ever so cleaver for solving it. And unlike some puzzle games, just because you know the solution doesn’t mean finishing the level will be a walk in the stealth park. Precision timing and jumps are vital throughout the entirety of the game.
The games characters and interactive elements are all 3D objects with walls being a flat black. This does cause some issues when it comes to knowing whats a floor and whats instant death. I spent several levels running back and forth trying to figure out where to go, only to realize the thing I thought was a shadow, was really a solid black box I could jump on. Not being able to tell whats what, isn’t a fun puzzle to solve.
Stealth Inc is a great puzzle platformer, if youre a fan of puzzle platformers, or stealth, you should definitely check this out. Its $9,99 and that includes cross buy! You can buy it on either PS3 or Vita, and the game will show up on both, and with the press of a button your progress is synched between them. Indie games like this are what make the Vita and PS3 such an insanely good combo. So keep em’ coming Sony.
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PlayStation Move Motion Controller
Clue: Navigation has never been easier.
Playstation Move Navigation Controller?
Clue: Get the portal for the ultimate battle to save Skylands.
Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure Starter Pack
Clue: A new adventure that lets you bring the Skylanders to life on your mobile device.
Skylanders Battlegrounds: Mobile Starter Pack
Clue: Join Mickey and Oswald in an epic battle
Epic Mickey 2
Turtle Beach Ear Force DP11 Dolby Surround Sound Gaming Headset
Clue: Live the Legend at a hot price of $14.99
007 Legends most likely
Clue: Agent 47 in his latest adventure in this Videogame
If you didn’t play Hotline Miami when it came out on PC, then you missed an incredible game. From the second you turn on the game, you will know that you are in for an experience that you haven’t had before. The graphics are lo-fi and just feel grungy and weird. The title screen is filled with eye-crossing colors and a text that is maybe Russian? Who knows. While the pseudo 8bit graphics are clunky, they are also very expressive – when you slice an enemy’s throat, you know you are seeing arterial spray.
The sound track for Hotline Miami is so good that it deserves its own paragraph. It is confused and moody and sinister and sets the perfect mood. You are a bad person doing bad things in a bad place. The tracks by M O O N have a special place in my heart. Get a hold of the soundtrack, it will stay in your playlist for ages.
Besides mood, Hotline Miami is all about combat, and once you get the hand of it, it is wonderful. You will die constantly, but similar to games like Super Meat Boy, you are thrown back into the action so quickly that you won’t get too frustated. More like deliciously frustrated. There are endless options for dealing with enemies. Every floor is a puzzle that you can approach from 10 different ways. The enemy AI is unpredictable enough that you will have to improvise and do it in a split second. If you are caught flat-footed you will most certainly be dead.
Here is a typical combat scenario: Burst through a door knocking over an enemy – throw your knife at a second enemy before he can shoot you – grab the baseball bat dropped by the first enemy and cave in the skull of a third enemy coming from across the room – drop down onto enemy one before he can stand back up and gouge his eyes in. This will happen in a span of less than two seconds. Everything is fast and brutal and just gross. You will feel like you need to take a shower afterwards.
I played through Hotline Miami on PC and adored it, but having it live on my Vita is just a pleasure. It plays perfectly, and using the Vita’s sticks is a big improvement over mouse and keyboard. One of the absolutely key components to survival is selecting an enemy as your target. It always felt a little clunky to me on the PC, but the Vita’s touch screen makes it effortless.
Why are you doing this stuff? Why are you wearing weird animal masks? Man, who knows. So much of Hotline Miami feels like a bizarre fever dream. You finish a mission and go into a store and you are given a pizza or a VHS tape. I still have no idea why. All I know is that Hotline Miami has a singular feeling and mood that you can’t get anywhere else.
In my brain I know that Hotline Miami probably deserves 4.5 stars. Okay, maybe 4. I just love it so much though – so fuck it:
This review is based on a retail copy of Hotline Miami provided by Devolver Digital. It is also available on PS3 and PC.]]>
Naughty Dog’s latest game, The Last of Us, is the story of a grizzled survivor (Joel) who thinks he has lost everything, and a young girl (Ellie) who has been hardened by a world gone horribly wrong. 20 years earlier, a fungal infection wiped out most of Earth’s population, and transformed the victims into mindless killing machines. You know – zombies.
The military has disolved the American government and taken over what is left of humanity. Something resembling civilization still remains in tiny pockets of a few american cities. A group known as the Fireflies is working against the military and trying to reinstate all branches of the government. Outside of the quarantine zones, the world has been retaken by nature. Everything is overgrown and humanity has been reduced to roving bands of murderers and bandits. The infected are everywhere.
Joel has lost so much that he no longer has any regard for morality or even human life. Traits that work well in his profession as a smuggler in Boston’s quarantine zone. He is part of a deal that goes south and ends up being hired to smuggle a 14 year old girl (Ellie) out of the city. That is where our story begins.
The absolute center of The Last of Us is the relationship between Joel and Ellie which grows in a completely believable way throughout the game. The bond is cemented with unparalleled voice acting, masterful story telling and completely believable emotion expressed through the character’s facial animations. I found myself completely lost in their world and totally invested in their story. Forget a character dying – my stomach was in knots because of the possibility of Joel and Ellie being separated.
Combat is brutal and unflinching in its realism. Joel has long ago lost any remorse he might have had for killing scores of human enemies. Anything to survive. Combat scenarios can be approached in many different ways. Joel has a “listening” ability which allows him to get a sense for where enemies are and where they are moving to. He also has an arsenal of handguns, rifles and homemade melee weapons at his disposal. Joel can’t take a ton of damage, so typically it is best to stealth-kill as many enemies as possible, but that tends to only last so long. Once you are spotted, combat devolves into a frantic barrage of spiked-bats, molotov cocktails and homemade explosives. The brutality of the combat almost always leaves you feeling like you just narrowly escaped death, and you start on the hunt for supplies to craft more medkits.
Human foes react very differently than the infected which tend to charge right at you once you are detected. Humans will flank and try to flush you out of cover. I found myself mostly using my ranged weapons on humans and shotguns and melee weapons against infected.
The Last of Us has an engaging crafting system. For once it makes sense that your character is picking through every bit of garbage he can get his hands on to find something useful. Any tape or alcohol or sharpened bit of whatever could be all that stands in-between you death at the hands of some monster (be it human or infected).
The world of The Last of Us is beautiful and haunting and savage. The game can be grueling and make you feel uncomfortable or downright sick, but it is an amazing story and something that everyone should play. Some of the very best parts are things that I can absolutely not talk about in a review, but I will tell you that they are sticking with me a day after finishing it, and most likely will stay with me for quite a while.
This review is based on a retail copy of The Last of Us provided by Sony Computer Entertainment America. It is a PS3 exclusive.]]>
I loved the original Dead Island . Its gameplay, much of it borrowed from Skyrim, fits right into the bleak zombie apocalypse environment. The ability to create your own personal zombie killing machine made it work well both as a single and multiplayer title. Add in features like weapon crafting and hundreds of quests and Dead Island was like a warm pair of slippers on cold night – the right type of “just one more hour” gameplay that I personally crave. Riptide is a lot like that, just not as good.
Let me first say: please give the original Dead Island a shot since it is a lot of fun and you can probably get it for less than $20. Unfortunately, Riptide adds almost nothing new to the genre, much less anything of significance to the last entry. You start out as one of the previous survivors, or a newly added immune hero, right where Dead Island left off. If you choose not to import your save from the previous game, you hop into the boots of an already leveled-up character. Regardless, you start off with several levels to your name and ability points. This makes it a little awkward for new players to the franchise since they will be making character building choices without any real knowledge.
So, who is this game for? Honestly, it should be for me. More Dead Island is a good thing in my book but, yeesh, Riptide starts off slow and clunky. That military ship section which serves as the tutorial is all over the place and leaves the player with more questions than answers. But it is over quickly enough and you are once again stranded on an unfortunate island much like Riptide’s predecessor. The high class resort theme is replaced by a jungle survivor motif that was recently flooded. Riptide derives its name from the flood that happens early in the game, and this changes the landscape of your zombie murdering adventure.
New traversal options are: boats! Well, only boats. Riptide has boats now. Also added, a new zombie which will attack your boat. Water, get it, there is lots of water. Instead of traversing via scavenged cars the main mode of transport, at least initially, is the boat. It is fun to pilot and feels rewarding when you smash into the living dead. But, the boats are a little too spread out, causing you to run through the dangerous zombie infested waters. It can be a bit of a slog since you cannot travel as fast through water on foot.
Luckily, the second area of the game changes the landscape and you do not need to rely on water transport. I understand that I sound negative, but I was looking forward to this game. Even after the marketing for it was… gross. Riptide keeps many of the original’s quirks along with adding very little to the franchise. That is what hurts. Instead of learning from the mistakes of the previous entry there are just some extra window dressings added on. New zombies and crafted items will stand out initially. Later, waves of enemies will attack your stronghold and must be beaten back through the brute strength of the survivors and improvised traps. These sections usually link two large story chunks together. If you for instance need to travel to another island, anticipate a large horde of zombies attacking you and your pals.
Riptide still manages to be fun by retreading some of the original game’s hooks. Combat is still tactical if you choose to use analog fighting. Line up all of your attacks to neutralize the tougher zombies instead of just mashing attack. It still works and manages to keep the combat from getting too rinse and repeat. Once you arm your warrior with a great new weapon and head out to clear some undead the game still manages to click into your reward centers. Completing quests for money, weapons or new crafting schematics still manages to feel rewarding while dangling that carrot in front of you.
Let’s be honest. Riptide is strange. It isn’t quite an expansion, but it isn’t a sequel either. There is plenty of gameplay for rabid Dead Island fans but the whole product can get repetitive. Some of the flaws are not new, but I think that makes them worse. Strange zombie spawning pits and repetitive dialogue are actually more of a problem in Riptide. Making the same game with a new island and some extra bells and whistles thrown in for good measure doesn’t win many hearts. If you haven’t played the original Dead Island than skip Riptide. If you have, you may want to gauge how fondly you remember the 2011 title. Maybe just keep that tucked into the warm parts of your heart.
This review is based on a retail copy of Dead Island Riptide for the Xbox 360 provided by Deep Silver. It is also available on PS3 and PC.]]>
Click here to get these deals
Lightning deal schedule:
12:00 AM PDT – 007 Legends Wii U
6:00 AM PDT – Clue: Save 25% on this collector’s edition for Call of Duty on PlayStation 3
7:00 AM PDT – Clue: I’m not saying that I’m Batman, but no one has ever seen us in the same room together.
10:00 AM PDT – Clue: Meet Zombies on this tropical island
12:00 PM PDT – Clue: Hit this deal out of the park!
2:00 PM PDT – Clue: Hakuoki: Warriors of the Shinsengumi for the PSP (PlaystationPortable) system
3:00 PM PDT – Clue: Ni No Kuni is a heart-warming tale of a young boy named Oliver, who embarks on a journey into a parallel world in an attempt to bring his mother back from the dead.
5:00 PM PDT – Clue: Totally immerse yourself and focus on the task at hand with this official headset of Major League Gaming!
7:00 PM PDT – Clue: Bring your summer vacation gaming to a new level!
9:00 PM PDT – Clue: Fight aliens
Amazon is has video game lightning deals all day today. They also have Injustice: Gods Among Us on sale all day for $34.99 for standard and $64.99 for the collector’s edition. See below for the full schedule of Lightning Deals.
Click here to get these deals.
12:00 AM PDT – Dead Island Riptide
6:00 AM PDT – AmazonBasics Carrying Case for Nintendo 3DS, DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL
9:00 AM PDT – Hint: Play Lara Croft´s latest adventure
12:00 PM PDT – Turtle Beach Ear Force PX21
2:00 PM PDT – Forza Horizon Limited Edition
4:00 PM PDT – AmazonBasics PlayStation 3 Wired USB Chat Headset
6:00 PM PDT – Hint: This ultimate collection has two best-selling Kinect games
By: Michael Dao
Independent games can be fantastic, and in an age of where most of the titles that are released from the big publishers are either sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, or make the use of licensed material, indie developers are a great way to play games that are refreshingly unique and that sometimes push the boundaries of what we thought was possible. Stealth Bastard Deluxe: Tactical Espionage Arsehole, is a title which combines two wholly disparate genres in a manner which is sure to delight fans of either one. It manages to display a level of polish, refinement, ingenuity, and sheer cheek that sadly, the industry ofttimes lacks too much.
Stealth Bastard is a game that can be best described as a combination of Metal Gear Solid, and Super Meat Boy. The former is a third person action game that has a great deal of emphasis on combat and stealth, where the latter is an incredibly hard, yet incredibly satisfying puzzle-platformer. The genesis of this combination, I hope, was something akin to when people discovered that peanut butter and chocolate go together – two things people wouldn’t think to mix, but once discovered, is rather life-changing.
The title is simple in design, and plays as one would expect a platformer to. The single button used is to jump, and the player can hold up in order to activate switches along the way. It’s the design of how such a simple game proves the skill of the developers here. The player character has a set of what can only be night vision goggles, and provide a visual cue as to how stealthy or not so stealthy the player is. The goggles glow green when he’s in total darkness, yellow when only partially visible and red when fully exposed. The game also features various modern niceties, such as the ability to hang off of ledges.
In this make believe world of stealth tactical clones that is entirely made up and based nowhere near the real world, the levels can be designed in ways that are creative and fun. The game’s levels do a fantastic job of introducing new concepts. Instructions are provided to the player via literal writing on the walls, and it’s even hilariously entertaining to read when you inevitably fail. Death comes quickly and easily in Stealth Bastard, and thanks to the near instantaneous revival, you are controlling a clone after all, it never feels like a chore. It’s as if the game acknowledges that you are terrible at the game and just wants to make the bar to trying again and again incredibly low.
Stealth Bastard starts off easily enough, and consists simply of sticking to the shadows and avoiding the eye of security cameras, but soon adds twists and turns to steadily ramp up the difficulty. There are robots with laser beams, environmental hazards, laser beams in general, spinning wheels of death, you name it. The one off putting thing about puzzle platformers is that the difficulty often ramps up too quickly, leaving the player stuck and needing to consult YouTube for a solution. In Stealth Bastard, the problem isn’t so much the puzzles, not only are they cleverly designed, but they tread that often oh so very thin line between too hard and too easy. They are hard enough where the player has to think and reason out the next step, but not so easy that there is no sense of accomplishment when completing a level. It feels really good to work out how to get through a certain level, and when the point does come that you get stuck and have to look for a video online, the solution is never one where you feel that you’d have never figured it out in a thousand years, it’s often a solution where you kick yourself for not having figured it out yourself because you just overlooked some small detail. Personally, I found that most of my deaths were a result of my execution. I knew what I needed to do to advance levels, I just didn’t have the hand eye coordination to do so, and it took a little bit of practice to clear certain areas.
The Deluxe version of the game comes with some 80 levels or so and is packed with replayability. Each level is timed and there are both global leader boards as well as a friends only leader board for the competitive sort. There’s also a level editor and the ability to play community levels. Upon beating a chapter, one can go back and use a different sort of clone with different gear and abilities to play in an entirely different manner. On top of all of these great features, Stealth Bastard feels like it was designed to fit in the life of a busy gamer. Each level takes no more than a few minutes to complete. Most of the levels, can be completed in or around a minute give or take, if you look at the leaderboards, and that’s not a bad thing. I’ve been playing the game in bite sized chunks, and it fits well in that capacity. It’s a great way to kill fifteen minutes or so while you’re waiting for your dinner to come out of the oven, or perhaps if you have a few minutes before your StratOp in Eve Online is set to begin. Overall, if you’re a fan of just one of the genres that comprises Stealth Bastard, it’s worth looking into.
Stealth Bastard is currently available on Steam.
We’ve come so far in terms of gaming. We have huge expansive worlds with amazing graphics, incredibly complex gameplay, but nothing quite compares to an extremely polished 2D platformer. It is one of the oldest genres of gaming and I am astonished by how much fun they can still be. If you’re a fan of Super Meat Boy or N+, you’re next controller crushing addiction is here to satisfy your needs.
Battleblock Theater starts out sweet and innocent as you and all your friends travel the seas on the S.S. Friend…ship (their joke not mine). You land on an island inhabited by unusually well dressed cats. Better dressed than the cats we see every day, so it’s pretty incredible. The cats main source of entertainment is a theater/prison. They immediately put your fearless leader Hatty under a spell using a…hat, who then promptly starts using you for the demented cat shows. All of this is hilariously narrated and overflows with Behemoth style. The story is told with simple yet clever cut scenes in-between the games chapters.
This set up is the perfect excuse for actual gameplay. It is an extremely polished 2D platformer set in squared off levels. All the components are made out of a set of blocks. There are fan blocks, jump blocks, fire blocks that make fly into the air, warp blocks the list goes on. This along with items strewn about is all crammed together in an exhaustive amount of levels in some incredibly creative ways. The generous spawn points never make the going too frustrating and it only gets better with friends.
There are several modes for multiplayer which include all out battling to CO-OPing the single player. The brilliant thing is the CO-OP levels seem the same at first, but almost every level has been modified to require you to work together. One player stands on the switch, while I pick them up and throw them into their watery graves, because I’m hilarious.
With all the good, the one stumbling block (pun intended) is the combat. I never really got the hang of all out combat. When I had to fight an enemy, it usually put a damper on my mood because I would usually resort to button mashing hoping I would land a blow.
Even still, the platforming and never ending creativity out of the levels kept me playing. The story is hilarious and its incredibly addicting to collect all the prisoners from the evil cats. There are hundreds of levels and I still haven’t seen them all, and when I’m done with those, they are making more every day with the built in editor and that is definitely a good thing.
This review is based on a retail copy of Battleblock Theater for the Xbox 360.]]>
By: Michael Dao
The proliferation of tablet devices has changed how we interact with the internet and our digital media in profound ways. Just a few years ago, people would be found on the subway commuting to work with their mobile phone in their hands, inevitably playing solitaire or some such game. As touchscreen phones rose in prominence, mobile games got more complex and one could argue better. Angry Birds is certainly a long stone’s throw away from that Snake game pre-installed on my very first cell phone, one of those indestructable Nokias. Fast forward to the present day, and the landscape has changed somewhat again. Though a large number of people are still fiddling with their mobile phones, a goodly chunk of them have been replaced with either e-readers such as the Kindle from Amazon or the Nook from Barnes and Noble, or full on tablet devices, such as the iPad from Apple.
Having a relatively inexpensive and powerful device with a moderately sized touchscreen will change how we interact with our games for sure. The first application that comes to mind is that of board games. When the iPad was first released, there was a Scrabble application that used the iPad and then iPhones or iPod touches to hold that little stand that has all of the letter tiles on it for each player. Kind of ridiculous, yes, but it was a glimpse at just what was possible with the proliferation of smart, wireless devices. Following Scrabble closely were tablet adaptations of popular board games such as Puerto Rico and Ticket to Ride. These were little more than copies of an existing ruleset which was then made to work with a touch interface without too much fuss. Though fun, these games didn’t really move the bar in terms of innovation.
The good news is that developers are realizing that tablets will be a great place to start building innovative strategy games. The form factor of the device and how it is used in peoples lives lend it to being the perfect device for asynchronous turn based strategy games. A tablet owner can easily play a few turns before bed, maybe a few more on the toilet, and a bunch on the subway commuting to work. At this past PAX East, Firaxis announced that they would be porting their critically acclaimed strategy game, X-COM to iOS. The announcement was one of those things where after the surprise faded, everyone just kind of went, “Huh, that makes a ton of sense. I wonder why no one’s done this sort of thing sooner.” But here’s the thing, people are.
Breach and Clear is an tactical turn based strategy game from Gun Media. I got a chance to play it at PAX East and I really like what they’ve done. I think for smaller or less experienced teams, they all want to make a game that reaches so far, that things start being left cut and the final product is poorer for it. Cue the Eddie Izzard bit about the British high school guidance counselor telling their student to, “Scale it back a bit.” The best titles often take a single really great gameplay mechanic and distill it to its purest form. Look at Jetpack Joyride from Halfbrick Studios. You control a guy with a jetpack and you press the screen to make him go up, and you let go to make him fall. Along the way you avoid bad things and collect coins, and the occasional power-up. The same is true with Breach and Clear. The player controls a team of elite special forces, and is a turn based tactical game where the object is to do just what the title says, breach and clear.
The game starts out with the player looking at a building and choosing the entry points for his or her squad. Using the respective device’s touchscreen, waypoints, movement paths and firing arcs need to be set so that the troops entering the building can take down the inhabitants without suffering any casualties of their own. It actually plays out much like the mission planning portion of the original Rainbow Six first person shooter, and that’s not a bad thing. The planning portion was actually more fun than the shooty bits – as they say, I love it when a plan comes together, and whoever plays the title will certainly feel that sense of satisfaction of completing a level. The game will ship with a multitude of levels, and will be free to play, supported by in app purchases.
Breach and Clear will be available this year.]]>
Recently, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced that as a part of President Obama’s upcoming budget, NASA would be receiving $100 million to start the process of capturing an asteroid, bringing it into a safe lunar orbit, and then finally sending astronauts to it by the year 2021, thus leading the way to mining the asteroid and setting us up for future missions to Mars. In the spirit of space exploration, it would be an excellent time to talk about Kerbal Space Program.
Kerbal Space Program is a game and a simulation. It’s another Steam Early Access title, which allows players to purchase the game now and experience how it evolves as it undergoes further development. Even though it is under an early phase, what it has is a whole lot of premise. The first thing to understand about Kerbal Space Program, is although it does appear incredibly cute at times, it is a complicated game. The game puts the player in the role of a manager of a space program and the point is to perform missions that places Kerbals, these short little green guys, into space. All of that is performed by designing spacecraft, putting it on the launch pad, and then sending it into space. It all sounds simple enough, but with Kerbal Space Program modelling physics in a good amount of detail, mastering this simulation might not make you a rocket scientist, but closer to one than many would expect.
At this point in the development of the game, the scope is rather limited, but what the simulation does allow the player to do is taken to an incredibly deep level. The process starts in the design phase of the game where the player has to build a rocket capable of carrying a command module into space and if the player so chooses, back to the surface of the planet again. There are so many choices here that it can be a bit overwhelming. The game does have a built in tutorial, but it is incredibly hard to follow. A novice rocket scientist would be best served by searching for Kerbal Space Program 101 on YouTube, for an absolutely fantastic series of tutorial videos.
To call Kerbal Space Program a game at this point would be misleading. At this stage, it’s more of a toy, a giant sandbox. Even so, this should not stop you from not purchasing and getting early access to this title. Missions will be added in the future, as well as support for user created missions. When that happens, you can bet your bottom dollar, that I’ll be creating a mission where you have to send Bruce Willis, and a rag tag team of oil miners out to stop an incoming asteroid and then bringing them back home. Space is exciting, and truly the human race’s final frontier. Seeing asteroid mining happening in our lifetimes becoming a distinct reality is something I would never have imagined possible when I was growing up.
This isn’t a rehash of Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space where the player can take over a space program in 1957. It’s kind of unclear why this game exists. I happened to only download the demo at first because I noticed that a friend on Steam was playing it, and I was intrigued. It’s an important title to check out. There are precious few quality games available that are nonviolent. Kerbal Space Program is a fantastic simulator that will give people the joy of being able to launch little people into space. There’s a ton to do, from trying to actually launch a craft to the moon, to building the most ridiculous functioning spacecraft physically possible. It’s a title worth sponsoring, and even in it’s early state will provide a whole LOT of entertainment for just about anyone who has even a casual interest in space exploration, or even if they’re just curious about what it takes to launch something up there.
Available now on PC, Mac and Linux on Steam.]]>
By: Michael Dao
Crossovers have always been popular. When you get your metaphorical peanut butter into my chocolate, and I get my metaphorical chocolate into your peanut butter, it’s just better. That being said, crossovers can work either really well, or rather poorly. Someone actually wrote a book that mixed the universes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the X-Men. That sounds like the worst idea in the entire panoply of bad ideas, but the Amazon reviews actually state that it’s not an entirely terrible read. More recently, there was the Archer slash Bob’s Burgers crossover that a lot of people seemed to enjoy. A discussion about why anyone would voluntarily watch Bob’s Burgers not at gunpoint is beyond the scope of this review, as I feel that Bob’s Burgers is a bad show and that people who watch it should feel bad, but it was popular. [*editor’s note: Bob’s Burgers is amazing] So Telltale Games, creator of the much lauded The Walking Dead series of games and other adventure games such as Back to the Future, takes a break from all of their adventuring and brings us Poker Night 2, which, as the title suggests, is a poker game.
Somehow, I had missed the first Poker Night game, entitled, Poker Night At The Inventory. The concept remains the same, the developers at Telltale wanted to create an experience that detailed what popular characters did when they were “off,” and the first iteration of the game featured Max from Sam and Max, Strongbad from the Homestar Runner site, The Heavy from Team Fortress 2, and Tycho from Penny Arcade. The draw of the game would be getting to see characters from assorted and disparate universes interact like normal people. Well, as normal as is possible. Poker Night 2 features a new cast. The players opponents this time around are Brock Samson from The Venture Brothers, Claptrap from Borderlands, Ash Williams of the Evil Dead, and finally, Sam from Sam and Max. And the dealer is GLaDOS. Hijinks will ensue.
The big draw of a game like Poker Night 2 would be the characters and their interactions with each other. Let’s be honest here, no one is going to be playing this game because of the hard hitting poker simulation that it offers. (To be fair, I wouldn’t know what a hard hitting poker simulation would even look like.) In this regard, it does succeed. The voice acting is fantastic, and the writing is absolutely top notch, and had me quite literally, laughing out loud at points. The absolute best thing about the game is how the characters will continue to play poker while the dialogue occurs. It’s a very small feature, sure, but I feel that if one of the AI players had to finish what they were saying before deciding to check or bet, I would want to murder the Poker Night team at Telltale in their beds at night.
Even though the dialogue is both fantastically written and acted, the game suffers from the same thing that every scripted experience suffers from: repetition. It took until my third tournament that a sequence was repeated, and there are some actions that have few too many scenes and animations – for example, when a player wins a pot. If I have to see Ash pull out his shotgun and use it to rake in all of his chips another time while making some sort of comment that doesn’t come to mind only because I’ve repressed it, I may scream.
Poker Night 2 is currently available for Xbox Live, PSN, and PC and Mac on Steam.
Guys, Star Command is finally here. The story of Star Command is an interesting one, it managed to successfully fund not one but two Kickstarters, one for the mobile release and another for PC/Mac. The developers are well known for being, outspoken, shall we say, and the game was delayed a lot of times. Seriously. A lot. Reading updates from Warballoon for the past half year only served to make me more and more skeptical, and just a little ago, they made an admission that their final product would only encompass approximately thirty percent of their original vision for the game. In the words of the immortal Eddie Izzard, they needed to look at what they wanted to do originally, and scale it back a bit. Even still, it’s hard to fault an indie studio for not truly expecting the amount of work it would take to achieve the reach they originally intended to. Still, thirty percent of something amazing should still be pretty good, right?
Star Command was originally billed as sort of a science fiction slash Game Dev Story mash up. A sim type game where you hired crew members, designed and built your own ship, researched technologies, and just had ADVENTURES. In space. Leveling up your crew. Doing Captain Kirk-esque things. Sleeping with hot aliens. You know, every nerd’s dream come true. We were looking for a rich, deep, experience, sort of a mashup of the fantastic FTL and Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story with a little bit of X-Com thrown in for when aliens inevitably beam onto your ship and you need to repel boarders . The reality of it is that the experience is much more shallow and one dimensional than what we were all probably expecting, and though parts of the game are absolutely fantastic, the hollow core of it dominates the experience.
Even though the basic gameplay of Star Command is shallow and not terribly fulfilling, there is a lot to like here. The graphics are that perfect combination of retro and charm. The ship design is creative and can be considered a character in its own right. The contrast between the pixel art and the wonderfully beautiful backgrounds gives one a true sense of both the beauty, majesty, and scope of space. And the soundtrack. Composed by Marius Masalar, I can say without a single moment of hesitation, that this is the best soundtrack ever created for a mobile title. It certainly sets the mood and does add to the entire experience.
In the end, Star Command ends up being a light experience, and at a different price point, say at the ninety-nine cent level, would be an acceptable purchase. The bad news is that three dollars, it would be considered a “premium” game, and it just doesn’t deliver the sort of experience that one would associate with a game at that price. An easy comparison to make would be to put it up against Ridiculous Fishing, another iOS game that sells for the same price. Ridiculous Fishing is a much more enjoyable experience, and a simpler game all around, probably took less time to develop, but was infinitely more fun. The things that Star Command does, it does well. It’s just a shame that it just leaves us wanting what it could have been, as opposed to what it actually is. People who are fans of the genre will probably get some enjoyment out of the title – heck, I own every single iOS title Kairosoft has released, but others will probably best served by staying away.
Star Command is currently available on iOS and will be coming to Android, PC and Mac in the near future.
By: Michael Dao
Monaco has to be one of the most eagerly awaited independent games in recent memory. In 2010, it won the Seumus McNally Grand Prize and the Excellence in Design award at the Independent Games Festival, and took Destructoid’s PAX Prime Must. Play. Award in 2012. Upon seeing it for the first time in 2011, I was taken aback about how good it was, and how much fun I had playing it with other people. I inquired as to if Pocketwatch Games had a release date for the title, and they demurred, stating that the game would be released when it was ready. Fair enough. Fast forward a year later to 2012, and I had yet another go at the game and found a really great title even further polished, and unbeknownst to me, undergone a complete rewrite. Once again, I inquired as to the eventual release of the game, and my inquiries were rebuffed once more. The year passed, and still no release date. 2013 came and still not a peep, and then all of a sudden, the word came that it was finished and had a release date. And the peasants rejoiced.
People really enjoy crime movies, and especially the sort of the caper variety. I define the caper genre as films similar to the Ocean’s trilogy, or The Italian Job, and possibly even Heat, the sort of motion picture where a group of disparate individuals, each with specialized abilities get together to pull off some sort of heist. This is how the game was originally described to me. It was a game that combined Ocean’s Eleven with Pac-Man. It’s a statement which will induce an involuntary double-take, but it’s also a statement which is, quite pleasantly, wholly correct.
The entire object of Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, is to steal things. The player controls one of eight characters, and generally has to break into a secure location, avoid the guards and various security systems inside, steal the macguffin, and leave the premises. It all sounds quite simple at first, but the title has a certain level of subtlety to it which gives it this charm and adds a large amount of replayability. The first is in the characters. Each has their own special ability. The locksmith can unlock doors and safes much faster than his compatriots, the gentleman can disguise himself whenever he’s hidden, and the mole can tunnel through any wall that stands between him and his objective. In total, there are eight of these characters, each with its own special “hook.” In addition to this, each level may have certain items scattered about, such as a gun with which to kill guards with, or a wrench that will allow the player to instantly complete any action they are working on, to a crossbow which will incapacitate guards silently. All of these items are single use, unless the player collects ten yellow diamonds, which then gives another use.
The single player and multiplayer portions of Monaco are disparate enough that they warrant separate discussions, and it’s interesting how a single independent title can offer such varying types of gameplay. The single player campaign is quite entertaining and manages to introduce the player to the game and its mechanics quite well. There is a storyline that unfolds and the player unlocks additional characters until they have received the full complement of eight to play with. The difficult scales well, and the most enjoyable thing about it is how deliberate the gameplay is. It requires thought and a modicum of planning. A great way to describe it would be stealth action, and it often has the kind of tension that a player would get playing a Splinter Cell game or a Metal Gear Solid title. Upon completion of each level, the player’s time to completion is recorded, with a time penalty added for each diamond left behind, and there is indeed a leaderboard. This leaderboard and time penalty certainly add a good amount of replay value to perfectionists and the competitive.
Multiplayer, however, is a different animal altogether. There is four player simultaneous co-op play, and the experience can mimic that of the single player campaign if there is a good amount of communication and teamwork. Though this can be fun in its own right, the real fun is when things go terribly, terribly wrong. One person can alert a guard and then manage to drag the guard into his or her compadres, who also then start fleeing in separate directions, and quite possibly into other guards can cause a special kind of chaos and mayhem, turning the playing of the level into a shouting match. There is not a small amount of potential for things to turn physically violent. Things are always SOMEONE’S fault, and getting through levels with all of the mayhem will induce either a ton of laughter or end friendships, and this is exactly the sort of fun one wants to have on a game night with three of your friends.
Overall, Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, is indeed the game we have all been waiting so long to play. The single player campaign is fun, and the writing clever. The level design is well done. The multiplayer mode has a lot of fun to it. The music from a Grammy nominated composer is fitting and eclectic. It is hard to imagine a person that would not get at least a moderate amount of enjoyment out of the game. On second thought, it isn’t that hard to imagine. It’s just that their opinions of games are bad and they should feel bad, too.
Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine is currently available on XBox Live and Steam for PC. A Mac version will be coming soon.]]>
Besides the ten lightning deals, you can also save on Sony’s angriest mascot today. God of War: Ascension will be on sale all day for $39.99, or you can get the PS3 God of War Ascension Legacy Bundle for $279.99. Full schedule of lightning deals below.
Click here to get these deals
12:00 AM PDT – Gears of War: Judgment
5:00 AM PDT – Clue: The Master Chief returns to battle an ancient evil bent on vengeance and annihilation
7:00 AM PDT – Clue: Agent 47 he takes on his most dangerous and personal contract to date
9:00 AM PDT – Clue: Team up to take down the Necromorph threat.
11:00 AM PDT – Clue: Envelop yourself in a richly detailed, 3D sound field as your favorite video games spring to life!
1:00 PM PDT – Clue: Give yourself an audio advantage!
3:00 PM PDT – Clue: What choices will you make to escape alive?
5:00 PM PDT – Clue: Race on some of the best driving roads in the world
7:00 PM PDT – Clue: Put 13 great sports at your fingertips!
9:00 PM PDT – Clue: Experience the LEGO The Lord of the Rings heroes come to life in an all new way!
When I first put my hands on the keyboard I was nervous that everything that followed would be a huge disappointment. I had little faith that Zenimax and Bethesda could take the award winning experience from Skyrim and apply it to an MMO. While my time with the game did not quell all my fears I am eagerly looking forward to what The Elder Scrolls Online has to offer upon release.
I chose to make an orc Sorcerer named “Tim Orcman” for my preview. I figured magic is always one of the more difficult gameplay styles to make engaging in an MMO and was curious to see how TESO handled the arcane. At level one the combat options were limited to using a fire staff and one spell which used a good portion of my mana. TESO follows in the footsteps of some recent action-MMORGS like Tera or Guild Wars 2 encouraging players to move and block attacks during combat. This keeps the TESO from being compared too closely to World of Warcraft and captures some of the spirit of Skyrim’s combat. If you block an enemy’s attack you can put them in a dazed state that earns you extra experience points. Besides that it was left-clicking to shoot blasts of fire from my staff, summoning a familiar then at later levels throwing some offensive magic.
I started out in the Daggerfall Covenant, one of the game’s three starting areas. This was a desert locale that still managed to keep the feel of previous Elder Scroll games with ample use of Dwemer Ruins and a similar art direction as Skyrim. A local pirate wanted me to help with a handful of tasks that ultimately led to me gaining her trust and safe passage out of the starting area. In a fresh change of pace I was given the option of completing a series of sidequests that promised to make the final quest a cake walk and gave much needed experience points. I could have chosen to skip the sidequests and attempt the zone’s final quest much earlier, but it would have been much more difficult since I wouldn’t have earned the aid of the other quest givers in town. Once I completed the side characters’ stories they promised to offer me some help with my quest.
Leveling borrows more from Oblivion than it does from Skyrim. Once you gain enough xp to increase your level you can spend a point in one of the many talent trees. I chose to spend most of my points in the Daedric Summoning tree but I had the option to place them in different armor skill trees or my other Sorcerer trees. I was told that as you play through the game you will unlock more skill trees from the various guilds’ factions. Advance far enough along the Thieves Guild and you could unlock their skill tree. After spending your point to unlock the skill you gain individual levels for it through use. My Summon Familiar spell gained in strength after summoning several familiars.
The same is true for other non-combat skills. The design of TESO is much more open then previous entries in the series. The creators want to give the player as much choice without punishing their creativity. I could have chosen to spend my points in both the Dark Magic and Heavy Armor trees without any penalties. After you gain a handful of levels combat opens up and you start earning rewards at a fairly constant rate. Being attacked will give you higher skills in you armor tree and attacking will increase whichever tree you decided to spec down. Some of the more powerful spells even require you to have earned certain skill levels. For instance, if you didn’t attack enough with your staff you wouldn’t have earned enough experience in staffs to unlock the deep tree talents. The balance between spending skill points and leveling up skills is definitely something that makes TESO feel like it earns its place with the series.
There are plenty of MMO tropes that pop their annoying heads up to remind you that you are in fact not playing a traditional Elder Scrolls game. The designers try to inject more story within the quests but at the end you still have to kill 8 goblins or escort a friendly NPC. That doesn’t mean that the quests are boring, but fans of Skyrim that have never played an MMO will definitely be disappointed.
By: Michael Dao
Bioshock Infinite is the third game in the Bioshock franchise. The first was a critical and financial success, known for its unique setting in the underwater city of Rapture, and was considered to be one of the finest examples of storytelling in modern interactive media. The second title, Bioshock 2, brought us back to the city of Rapture 10 years after the events of the first game. The second game was received rather well, although without the universal acclaim that it successor had enjoyed. Many cited the return to the same setting or Rapture lent a feeling of deja vu to the title. So, we are finally brought to Bioshock Infinite, the latest addition to the series. It is difficult to call it a sequel, as the game takes place in 1912, four or so decades before the events of the original Bioshock, and knowledge of the events that transpired in the first game are not necessary. In fact, there are only cursory references to the first title. A player can safely play Bioshock Infinite without having played any of the previous games and not miss out on anything. That is definitely a good thing, because Bioshock Infinite is a whirlwind of a title, and making someone play through two predecessors in order to really enjoy this title would be cruel and unusual punishment and should be outlawed by the United Nations. Yes, it is that worthwhile of an experience.
The thing about follow-on games in a franchise is that they inevitably draw comparisons to their predecessors, and Irrational Games probably had that in mind when they announced that the setting for Bioshock Infinite would take place in the flying city of Columbia, a sort of steampunk American city in the year of 1912. The visuals and architecture of Columbia are astounding, and really do manage to give the player a sense that Columbia isn’t a flying island with buildings on it, but a real flying city made up of multiple parts. Politics and social issues have always been a part of the message of Bioshock, and the setting of the game does bring to light some portions of American history that were not, so to speak, our finest hour. A very apt description of Columbia found on the internet was that it was a “city full of magic and racism.” Also present to a disconcerting level was the degree in which American Exceptionalism, the idea that the United States of America had some sort of special destiny, that it was a “city upon a hill,” was displayed in the game. However, one could argue that it was historically accurate if one looked at the attitudes of Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt.
The next big point that separates Bioshock Infinite from its contemporaries is the presence of Elizabeth. The premise of the game is that the player takes on the role of Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton employee turned private eye who has managed to rack up some substantial debts. In order to clear these debts, a man has hired DeWitt to travel to the city of Columbia and to kidnap Elizabeth and bring her back to New York City. Elizabeth is your companion for most of the game, and may be the best thing that has happened to shooters since sliced bread. Escort quests in almost any genre of video game are usually incredibly painful. Proper pathing for artificial intelligences are never 100 percent foolproof, and they often do something stupid that gets them killed. Elizabeth, however, is never a hindrance. She will dutifully follow Booker around, and when necessary, supply him with much needed goods, such as ammo and health. In fact, it can probably be said that the game really is about Elizabeth and how she has the worst escort quest ever – taking care of Booker. She becomes such an integral part of the experience that the times where the player is forced to be without her, the experience becomes quite markedly different.
The game plays like a competent shooter with a veritable buttload of wrinkles. The weapons are interesting and different enough to accomodate various playstyles. There are achievements attached to acquiring a certain number of kills with each weapon, so switching it up is encouraged. Unique to the Bioshock universe are what are called vigors, though the lay would probably just call them magic spells. The right trigger and right shoulder button control weapons firing and selection, while the left trigger and shoulder are used to cast these vigors, which range from a magnetic shield that allows the player to collect bullets and then shoot them back at their foes to the ability to possess an enemy combatant and then make them fight against their compadres. Since Columbia is a flying city, the third dimension is added into the mix with the use of a rail system. Separate parts of the city are linked together via this system of rails in the sky. Booker can use a hook to swing from the rails with one hand, and with a gun in the other. The rails make him quite mobile, and also gives him the opportunity to perform aerial takedowns on threats beneath him. The final wrinkle here is Elizabeth’s ability to open tears in reality. Certain locations on the map have tears in reality that Elizabeth can open on command. Using these tears, the player can either have health or certain weapons spawn. They can also spawn in cover for their use, or even friendly turrets or units. All of these gameplay concepts are introduced slowly, to acclimate the player, but it isn’t long until an absolute blast is had going through a tough battle, using every tool Booker has at his disposal, opening rifts while shooting at foes, hanging on a rail sliding, finally leaping down to dispatch an enemy.
The most special thing about Bioshock Infinite is the narrative. Going into serious detail with it is to invite spoilers, so we will only discuss it in general terms. The storytelling in Bioshock Infinite is mildly flawed. Plotwise, things move at a glacial place for the first three fourths to four fifths of the game. Motivations for characters sometimes don’t flesh out during this time, but then in the very last bit of Infinite, they resolve and everything at the beginning is supposed to retroactively make sense. The pacing of the story just seems off a lot of the time. The plot itself does have some holes to it, and certain plot points are easily predictable, but it’s still enjoyable. What it absolutely excels at, however, is its ability to evoke an emotional response from the player. If you’re able to suspend disbelief and just accept that Booker and Elizabeth are growing an extremely strong bond together in such a short period of time, there are moments in the game that invoke a wide range of emotions, from making you sick to your stomach to flat out anger, and finally, complete shock.
That’s the reason someone who like shooters and believes in video games as an interactive medium should play Bioshock Infinite. It does have its flaws. The plot can be weak at times, and the level of violence can be a bit disturbing for those that do not normally play shooters. Ken Levine has truly shown us what kind of an emotional response can be evoked by a video game. The ending left me speechless, and will be one that sticks with me for a very long time, and it wasn’t even the content of the ending, it was just how it was done. Everything about this game, the engineering, the presentation, was built to hit gamers feelings, and it was successful, but it does have its issues. First are the plot points discussed earlier. Second is the excessive violence in the game. Chris Plante has already written an excellent editorial about how the level of violence in Bioshock Infinite has actually limited its audience, and finally the game is difficult. Novice gamers or those looking for a more story driven experience will find it difficult to complete even on the easiest setting. Most people will be able to play Bioshock Infinite and have a great twelve to fifteen hours with it, but sadly, not all.
Bioshock Infinite is currently available for the XBox 360, PS3 and PC via Steam. The copy reviewed was the XBox 360 version.
What starts as a basic platformer button masher grows into a strategic, combo-dependent fighting game full of strategy and culture. DrinkBox Studio’s new platformer, Guacamelee! is a charming nod to the Mexican culture that is worth well more than it’s $15 price tag.
The journey begins with Juan, a tequila-loving farmer who dreams of joining the ranks of the famed luchadors of his land. Like the rest of his quaint town of Pueblucho, Juan is helping to prepare for Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, a celebration in Mexico to honor one’s deceased relatives. Juan’s world is flipped when the special guest of the celebration, El Presidente’s daughter, who also happens to be Juan’s childhood friend, is kidnapped by a band of undead villains led by the vengeful Calaca. As with all “rescue the damsel in distress” games, the player must venture through various temples to try and rescue the girl. Though Guacamelee! sticks to this formula, the game gives the player a unique experience through its Mexican theme and gameplay.
Side characters such as Fray Ayayay and Tostada are just a few examples of Guacamelee!’s comedic yet stereotypical take on Mexican culture. Every now and then a character will use an understandable Spanish word such as ‘excelente,’ drop ‘el’ before random words and there is even a mariachi band for the player’s listening pleasure. Of course, they play “El Jarabe Tapatio,” more commonly known as the “Mexican Hat Dance.” But DrinkBox Studios manages to surpass the basic conventions of the culture by showing the Aztec roots of the Day of the Dead through the temple design. Each of the three temples is filled with beautifully designed Aztec-styled stonework and as the player progresses through the temples, new enemies that appear take on more Aztec garb.
Guacamelee! is not an easy game. DrinkBox gives the player only the slightest tutorial before throwing them into the fire. The first temple has a steady pace, but the difficulty of both the puzzles and combat challenges continues to increase right up until the end of the game. The only way to dilute the difficulty is by finding or purchasing the health and power upgrades or by becoming a combo master. Without either of these, expect to die a lot. As if the increased difficulty wasn’t hard enough, DrinkBox incorporates flipping between the world of the living and the dead into combat and puzzles – a distinct aspect of the game that adds a welcome challenge.
The controls are not any excuse for failure. There wasn’t a time when the controls felt unresponsive or inaccurate. Aside from the infrequent enemy somehow refusing to be affected by an attack, the combat system is nearly flawless. The player’s repertoire of attacks grow throughout the game, which DrinkBox leaves up to you to master. If the player truly needs help, combo training is available in the city of Santa Luchita.
As perfect as Guacamelee! appears to be, it could not escape its fair share of problems. One would expect the co-op to be a highlight of the game, considering the ‘2p Press “Start”’ text is always looming on the top right corner of the screen. That isn’t the case. Enter Tostada. When Juan’s otherworldly companion joins the game, both characters must stay within the same boundaries of the screen or one player must forfeit the right to play. Upon the forfeit, the player becomes a bubble and must float around the screen until popped by the other player. This forces the players to choose who gets to solve puzzles in temples – unless both players can perfectly follow each other’s actions. The only benefit of the co-op is being able to have a friend jump in to help defeat a difficult boss or gang of skeleton baddies.
Though an infrequent problem, the speech boxes can be annoying. If the speech box is to long or too wide for the area of the screen, it will move to a different side of the character. This also happens if a non-playable character is moving while talking. This breaks the connection between the player and the game. As minute as this problem may seem, it shouldn’t be something that is present in a game of this caliber.
Despite the speech box flaw, Guacamelee! is visually and audibly appealing. For being a platformer, the game has a surprising amount of depth. The characteristic bright colors of the Mexican culture shine through in both the world of the living and the dead. An added bonus is the appearances of other video game characters and references to Internet memes like Grumpy Cat, Link from the Legend of Zelda, the Castle Crashers and many more on the billboards, posters and in the stonework. The catchy trumpets and traditional acoustic guitar mixed with hints of techno make the music addictive and add to the player’s epic journey. When the player changes to either the world of the living or the dead, the art and music change accordingly – a fantastic detail that helps immerse the player.
DrinkBox Studios utilize stereotypical aspects of the Mexican culture in a playful manner that works, and even adds some depth through the design. Though the co-op isn’t very enjoyable, the creative puzzles and fun combat make up for it. The multitude of side quests, challenge tower and secret content are a welcome surprise for a $15 game that could have easily become a full-blown $40 PlayStation Vita title. Guacamelee! is a PlayStation Store must-buy game for anyone who is ready to step up to the challenge of being a supernatural luchador.
This review is based on a retail copy of Guacamelee! for the PS3 provided by Drinkbox Studios. It is also available on the PS Vita.]]>
By: Michael Dao
Wandering the Indie Megabooth at PAX East 2013, certain games inevitably stand out from the others for a multitude of reasons; either they stand out visually or aurally, or there’s some snippet of gameplay seen while meandering past that makes a person pause. Swapper was certainly one of them, and with good reason. It may turn out to be one of the most visually interesting as well as thought provoking independent games released in recent memory.
Swapper, the first title from Facepalm Games of Helsinki, Finland is not just what is advertised as an atmospheric two-dimensional puzzle platformer. Don’t get me wrong, it is all of those things, but it is so much more. On a metaphysical level, it starts a conversation about what life is, what consciousness is, through the introduction of a device called a Swapper. The game takes place on an abandoned space station. The protagonist has this Swapper – and it lets them create a clone, and then transfer their consciousness to it at will. Clones can be summoned at any point in time, and placed anywhere that the player currently has line of sight to, and uncontrolled clone will simply mimic the actions of the clone that the player is actually controlling. This all seems quite simple, but when there are obstacles added to the game, such as red lights which the player cannot swap through, things suddenly become a bit more awesome. Or complex. Your choice.
The graphics in the game are what draw people to the title first, and it’s actually quite interesting. When commenting on how great they looked to the developers, they remarked that all of the objects and items in the game are based on real world items – pictures were taken of objects and clay models were taken of items and were placed in the game. A creative solution for people who are not artists. It allows them to focus on the gameplay and design aspects of their game, rather than trying to hire an artist.
Swapper is another title which really delves into some deep metaphysical questions that other media have asked in the past. In the movie Prestige, is Robert Angiers, actually him or is he a copy? If you look at Star Trek lore, there were protests with the invention of the transporter. Supposedly, a transporter works by converting matter into energy, recording all of the information on the matter, and then “beaming” it to a location where the data is used to reconstitute the physical form. Again, the question here is one left to philosophers, if the beamed person still is you, or just a copy. In Ghost in the Shell, consciousness can be transferred nearly at will. Is our ghost our soul? I suppose it all depends on what we define as consciousness, or perhaps a soul, and if that is something we can indeed transfer. All these questions will be explored when Swapper reaches us soon on Steam.
Swapper will be available on Steam later this year.
By: Michael Dao
It is incredible in my eyes that some people still continue to debate whether or not games can possibly qualify as art. Revisiting the debate is absurd. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City currently has an exhibit of fourteen games, and will be expanding it to a total of forty titles in the future. Let us just say that certain games much like certain forms of other media, can and should be considered art, but oft times it is much more about what the player experiences rather than what the artist is trying to express. Many say that it is when we are outside of our comfort zones that we truly grow, and the medium of games is maturing to the point where talented designers are creating experiences for us that make us take long hard looks at the parts of ourselves that we are most uncomfortable with. Just recently, a title was rejected by the Apple App Store because it was a game where products were made with child labor, where the entire point of the game was to educate the player as to where some of the products that they purchase really came from. Even more recently saw the release of Bioshock Infinite, a title that unabashedly brings out America’s not so finer moments into the light of day.
Prison Architect is not a title guaranteed to entice window shoppers. It’s one of the first titles on Steam’s Early Access, a program that lets purchasers play the game while it is in an early alpha state and get to play titles as they evolve on their march to completion. Even though this title is only in a prototype alpha state, it plays better and with fewer issues than some of its contemporaries.
Introversion Software certainly pulls no punches as you play the game for the first time. The tutorial sequence shoves the player into the role of an assistant to a warden who has to prepare for the execution of a death row inmate. The player quite literally learns how to play the game by building an execution chamber, with an adjoining cell for this inmate. The inmate’s story is told through a number of animated panels that will easily remind the player of the adult nature of this game. The story is best left experienced, but suffice it to say that though it is light and not quite believable, it does question the American criminal justice system and the death penalty.
The game is actually a fantastic simulation game, that reinforces the fact that a good game need not have mindblowingly amazing graphics. All of the humans in the game look quite like the characters in any of Yahtzee Croshaw’s Zero Punctuation videos. The first task each prospective prison warden has is to construct buildings, and lay down power and water. A basic prison needs a kitchen for food, a canteen to serve the food in, a holding pen, some showers, and perhaps a yard where the incarcerated can get some exercise to stave off boredom. Prisoners get delivered, and the entire goal is to house the prisoners and keep them out of trouble, as the prison will then receive additional funds to expand. As a player designs and builds his or her prison, strong memories of laying down roads and zones in Sim City come to mind. Which may or may not be a coincidence.
As time passes and more money is accumulated, additional facilities can be constructed, such as individual cells, solitary confinement cells, common rooms stocked with pool tables and televisions for the inmates, and additional numbers and kinds of personnel can be hired for the prison too. Standard guards are replaced with riot guards, janitors can be hired to maintain the buildings, and doctors and infirmaries can be added to boot.
The great thing about the early access is how well everything works. The only things that were really missing from the core experience was some guidance on what to do in the mid to late stages of the game, and the fact that some features weren’t implemented yet. Hiring lawyers doesn’t do anything, and if someone dies in the prison, their body gets put in the morgue… permanently. So if a lot of people die, a pretty big morgue needs to be built. Aside from a few pathing problems, Prison Architect is a ton of fun, even where it is now. Introversion, who are responsible for Defcon and Darwinia, claim there are many more bugs in the game, but sadly, none were encountered.
Prison Architect will allow the player to run a shambles of a prison chock full of violence to see what hilarity will ensue, or the player can choose to manage a model facility akin to what are in nations like Norway. As it stands, it is a good amount of fun, and only more content will be added in the future. However, more than the fun that will be involved, is how the game will make the player consider what their opinions on prison and the criminal justice system.
Prison Architect will be on PC, Mac and eventually Linux, but early access is currently available on Steam.
This review of Sim City will cover the state of the game as it is two weeks after its release when the server issues which the game became known for have been sorted out. I feel that it is important to acknowledge the issues that were present in the days following the release of the game, but it will also not be the experience that most of the people that purchase the game or are looking to purchase the game will have.
The title of the game, Sim City gives the player a good indication of what the game has in store. The game puts the player in charge of a smaller city of a region that is inhabited by other players like yourself. This is the first significant change in the game from the previous titles in the franchise. This new Sim City, is indeed a multiplayer game, although it does not have what many would consider a traditional multiplayer mode. Because players are building a city, multiplayer is cooperative and not adversarial. The game starts with the selection of a region, and a plot of land in the aforesaid region, and it is off to the races we go, building a city.
The gameplay, at first, will be instantly familiar to fans of the series. The mayor constructs roads, and then zones areas into one of the following types of zones, residential, commercial and industrial. Residential zones are places where your citizens can live, industrial zones give them a place to work, and commercial zones are the shops and stores where they can then spend their hard earned money. Each of these, in turn, then generates tax revenue for the city, which can then be spent maintaining infrastructure, expanding the city, or upgrading and adding to the existing infrastructure. It all sounds simple enough, but soon additional services are required for the city – police stations to reduce crime, firehouses to keep fires from running rampant, and schools to both get citizens better jobs and to reduce crime and the chance that buildings catch on fire. (Crazy, right?)
And that’s pretty much the core of the game right there. It is essentially an exercise in happiness management. The mayor needs to keep the citizens of their city happy by providing services, and making sure that the city is clean and safe all the while making sure that the city is living within its mean, that it is not outspending the amount of money it receives in taxes. Happy citizens then attract more visitors to the city, creating a greater demand for services and amenities, while also increasing tax revenues, and thus a city becomes a living, breathing thing, and hopefully a sustainable one. Sooner or later, that small town, if managed well, has become a small bustling metropolis.
It’s at this point that longtime fans of the franchise will take some issue with the game. The first complaint that one hears out there are that player cities are small. People will not get to build sprawling metropolises complete with suburbs and outlying sections of land providing utilities the way that they were able to in the past, and also absent from the game is the ability to terraform the playing area. The game can’t help but start to feel cramped once the mid game is reached, and though there is a lot of gameplay still left by what one would consider the middle of the game, it becomes more of a fight to find the land to build higher tech buildings than an exercise in city planning.
The late game does force cities in a particular region to specialize. Friends who have populated a region together will have the ability to plan and share resources, much like in real life. Many commodities and services can be sold to other players, such as water, and sewage capacity. A judicious city planner will have left plenty of real estate open in order to specialize their city and build specialist buildings which will bring in enormous amounts of trade or tax revenues, depending on the path chosen.
Opinions on Sim City have been as divisive as they have been wide ranging. Some feel that it’s a fantastic title. Others believe that it is a failure because of all of the server issues that consumers were forced to endure in the opening days of the game. More still feel that its stifling claustrophobia make this title a terrible game. It happens to be that it is all of these things, and at the same time it is now. There are elements to Sim City that are absolutely brilliant. There are few greater joys than seeing one of the buildings in your city upgrade itself to a skyscraper for the first time. There is also very few things that are as disappointing as buying a title that you have been eagerly anticipating for quite a long time, and not being able to enjoy it because of server issues.
Sim City, though it had its foibles, is a good game. At its lightest, it is a complex city-building model, and at it’s deepest it teaches the player valuable lessons about sustainable cities, and how they operate. Perhaps the long term effects of Sim City will be its greatest legacy. How many current mayors grew up playing the original games in the franchise, and how many mayors of the future will be influenced by the concepts of sustainability espoused by this title?
Sim City is currently available on the PC.
Growing up, one of my favorite toys were LEGO building block kits. You could follow the instructions and create amazing scenes and buildings, or you could just build anything that you wanted to, the only limit being your imagination. Idyllic scenes, great battles involving pirate ships, were all possible in the mind of a child armed with several hundred LEGO blocks in his or her arsenal. The only limit is the number of LEGOs that our parents could afford to purchase. Today, we live in a digital age. In a world where relatively inexpensive computers are incredibly capable, we can easily understand the appeal of titles such as Minecraft, which allow the player to build to construct just about anything they can come up with.
However, there are some issues with Minecraft which never allowed it to take hold in my very own heart the way it has in the hearts of so many. First was the fact that every thing needed to be built by the player, and the second was that there wasn’t so much in the way of things to do past building. Sure, you had creepers and they were something to worry about, but my heart demanded more. Epic battles surrounding a castle, adventures with pirate ships. Castle Story may not have pirate ships, but as you may have surmised from the title, it does have castles. Boy, does it have castles.
If you look at Castle Story from a very high level and compared it to Minecraft it would serve as an eerily accurate allegory for manufacturing in the United States. Bear with me, this actually works. The point of Minecraft is that the player is dropped into this randomly generated world, and using just the materials about in the world, they have to construct shelter and then weapons from creatures that attack under the cover of darkness. It’s fun. Numerous people enjoy the title every day. A quick Google Image Search will show you some of the amazing things that people have built in Minecraft, either all by themselves, or with friends. It’s that fact right there which brings me to the biggest reason that I never really got sucked into Minecraft. I hated doing everything by myself.
Here is where the allegory kicks in. In Minecraft the player has to design and then implement whatever it is they want to build. Though Castle Story does indeed narrow the scope of the sandbox that you can play in, it still has the potential to be even more enjoyable than Minecraft. On the surface, it is clear how the former title influenced the latter. The player exists in a randomly generated world, with a day night cycle. When night comes, monsters attack, and the daytime is spent gathering resources and preparing a defensive structure of sorts. Some might call it a castle, even. The innovation in Castle Story is that instead of designing and building the castle, the player simply designs a castle, and there are these small yellow men who then gather the necessary resources and build the castle for the player. In fact, some of the workers can be converted into knights and archers to better defend the player’s castle. No longer does the player have to implement his or her ideas. They simply need to design it, a cerebral exercise, and then outsource the work to something that can be automated.
Castle Story is currently in an early prototype build available to its Kickstarter backers on Steam. Beta is expected later, but already what is shown is promising. Although monsters are not yet included, many people are building castles, and it’s as fun as one would expect. Gamers that liked Minecraft should definitely keep an eye on this title.
Disclaimer: The Kickstarter for Castle Story is already over, and I was a backer. However, I did not claim my free hug exclusive to backers at PAX East.
Castle Story will be available on multiple platforms.]]>
Spec Ops: The Line and The Darkness II for $4
Instead of laying down $4 for a tall drink at Starbucks, put that money towards getting your hands back on the keyboard and mouse when you purchase Gamefly’s Spec Ops: The Line and The Darkness II PC bundle. Whether your are looking for a modern military experience or supernatural rampage, these shooters from 2K games will satisfy your needs. Use the code “GFDAPR20” for an additional $1 off your purchace.
Far Cry 3 for $29.99
Rescue your friends from insane warlords, explore a mysterious island and hunt some exotic animals in Far Cry 3 for $29.99.This sale is just in time for the rumored expansion, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, which may or may not be a clever April Fools joke. Regardless, expect an expansion for the game in the near future.
Dishonored for $29.99
Sneak or slash your way through the city of Dunwall in Dishonored for a reduced price of $29.99. This beloved stealth IP earned many awards including Edge Magazine’s Best Game of 2012.
2000 Microsoft Points for Xbox LIVE and Halo 4: Map Pass & 400 Free Points for $24.99
Save yourself $4.99 and receive 400 free Microsoft Points when you purchase the Halo 4: Map Pass from Best Buy. Currently, two map packs have been released with the third and final map pack, Castle, arriving on April 8.
Persona 4 Golden for $29.99
Solve a series of mysterious murder cases in the shoes of a Japanese high school student for $10 less in ATLUS’ Persona 4 Golden for the PlayStation Vita until Friday, April 3.
Hitman Trilogy HD for $24.99
Replay through all three of Agent 47’s classic assassinations in the remaster bundle, Hitman Trilogy HD. In addition to Hitman Contracts, Hitman 2 Silent Assassin and Hitman Blood Money, you’ll receive an exclusive art book with your purchase.]]>
The excellent Tomb Raider is on sale today for $41.99. Check out the full schedule of lightning deals below.
Click here to get these deals.
12:00AM PDT – Tomb Raider Collector’s Edition – $75.99
6:00AM PDT – Clue: The perfect solution for traveling with your Xbox 360 or PS3 Slim.
8:00AM PDT – Clue: A Kingdom of Hearts for the handheld
9:00AM PDT – Clue: This ultimate collection has two best-selling Kinect games wrappe…
11:00AM PDT – Clue: Black Ops II on Xbox 360 or PS3 for $34.99
1:00PM PDT – Clue: Dance the night away!
3:00PM PDT – Clue: Dance to the Magic of Disney
5:00PM PDT – Clue: Rock On, Rock Long
6:00PM PDT – Clue: A headset that delivers the Dolby® surround sound advantage to PS…
8:00PM PDT – Clue: Travel back through time to learn the best dance crazes from acros…
9:00PM PDT – Clue: The speediest way to become Most Wanted.
At CES, Nvidia announced that they were going to be entering the portable gaming market by entering with their own home brewed Android console – Project Shield. The idea was preposterous – until we realized that the unit was much more than just a portable device that could play android games.
The handheld looks like a standard controller with two analog sticks, a single directional pad on the left hand side, and four buttons along with shoulder buttons and triggers for each hand. Inside, we have an Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core processor, and the screen is a 720p capactive touch screen which, when closed, flips down over the controls of the gamepad. The more interesting features of the handheld, are twofold. however. First, the handheld will allow streaming of PC games from the owner’s PC, such as games from Steam onto the handheld. This is interesting enough, as it will allow gamers to play their favorite Steam games anywhere in their household, as opposed to at their desk on their laptop. The second piece of this puzzle is that the handheld can also stream said games to the television in the living room, thus allowing PC gaming on what is traditionally the largest screen in the home.
Playing PC games on the television has been a goal of many a gamer. However, the problem lies in the fact that to do so used to require running a ton of cable from the home office to the living room, or simply purchasing a separate pc purely for gaming and or media purposes in the living room. With Project Shield, one simply needs the portable, and a PC that has at the very least an Nvidia GTX 650 graphics card.
Hands on, the Shield was about what one would expect. Games ran quickly, something that isn’t quite surprising, considering how much power the unit is packing. The display looked good as well, packing 291 pixels per square inch with a five inch 720p display. To put that more into perspective, it’s a bit less dense than an iPhone 5 which has a pixel density of 326 ppi, and better than a 15” Retina MacBook Pro, which has a pixel density of 220 ppi. (The 13” Retina MacBook Pro has a slightly higher ppi count of 227.”) The controller does place my hands in a way that my forearms are parallel to each other, rather than at an angle that most other controllers do. It isn’t uncomfortable, but it is different.
It goes without saying that this handheld is a feat of engineering, and will allow many people to game with their PCs in the living room. However, personally, I do find myself asking myself where it would fit in my personal gaming ecosystem. Games that I tend to play on the PC are those that benefit from the use of a keyboard and mouse, Looking at my Raptr profile, and Twitter feed, I’ve been playing a LOT of Starcraft 2. Though theoretically possible, and I have heard of one Masters level player that does play with a gamepad, it is not a title that someone wants to play with a controller. Games that are optimized for a controller, I’ll purchase on a console, and the PS Vita is my primary platform for handheld gaming in bed, and with the additional functionality granted it by the upcoming PS4, it will probably remain in that role.
So, the big question is, “Where Project Shield will come in for me?” The funny thing here is that the answer to that question is the answer whenever there is any sort of discussion about an upcoming hardware platform. No matter how impressive a hardware platform is on paper, nothing will tear me from my established gaming ecosystems without enough of an incentive to break free of those ecosystems. What it will take to get me to purchase a Project Shield, are a number of titles that that will make me want to play them with a controller on my television using my PC. The bad news is that with a new incoming generation of consoles, it becomes a much tougher sell.
Project Shield will be available in Q2 2013.
The game is the buddy cop storyline told so many times. The same old, sentient machine drags a human through the streets, fighting bad guys with motorcycle kung fu all the while, building a new friendship and with your spanish mechanic that you can’t understand. And of course there is another sentient motorcycle to mess up your day. A badass hog called “Spike”.
The game is an on-rails shooter/melee combat game. You fly along highways with only steering and boosting at your command. There is no brake in Loco Cycle. As you drive, you shoot the evil corporate suits with machine guns. When flying enemies are introduced, Iris can launch into the air for a fury of kicks and kung fu. You can expect plenty of new moves and upgrades as well while progressing through the game.
One of the new elements shown off this pax is what they call “cinematic sequences.” In these sections, crazy action happens while prompting context sensitive button presses to avoid destruction. The sequences shown were completely over the top and seem to break up the action quite well.
While the game appears to be a downloadable title, based solely on what I could gather of the scope, it is not confirmed as one. Either way, look for it this year coming to the Xbox 360.]]>
Attendees of PAX East 2013 havd the opportunity to check out the newest trailer for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The eight and a half minute long video showed off tons of locations, ship to ship battle sequences and most importantly – whale hunting.
As Edward Kenway, a pirate trained by assassins, you are in control of both your ship, the Jackdaw, and your crew. The Jackdaw is your “Starship Enterprise” where you can command your crew to do your bidding. If you see a beautiful island through your spyglass then you can search it for hidden Mayan treasure. Or you can show off your pirate skills and attack enemy ships. The team behind Black Flag wants to have players explore all of the islands that populate the world through either main story missions or optional side-quests.
The navel combat is reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed 3’s but the developers promise that the final product will be more fleshed out and polished. You have the option of strafing you targets and firing upon them with your cannons or you can give the signal to your crew to board. Boarding has your AI crew secure grappling lines to the opposing boat and pull it towards the Jackdaw so you can jump across. Edward was shown swinging from the tops of the ship’s rigging and even diving under the water to get to the defending ship. Since he is an assassin he likes to keep his options open.
If hunting rival vessels in the sea isn’t doing the trick Ubisoft confirmed that there is a hunting mechanic that allows you hunt and kill the animals found throughout the Caribbean. We were shown Edward leading the Jackdaw after a very large and angry whale but the scene cut away before anything too concrete was shown. The benefits to hunting, other than ridding the ocean of whales, are tangible rewards that you can use to better your ship or your equipment. It sounded a lot like the hunting system in Far Cry 3, which is awesome news.
Edward is also an incredible swimmer so he is not limited to searching for hidden treasure on land. In one series of shots he was shown jumping from a high ledge, eagle scream included, and diving deep under the water. He then swam through some sunken wreckage to a glowing treasure chest. While this is all going on there were about half a dozen sharks swimming all around him. One scene showed Edward getting eaten by a shark and in another he stabbed one and rode it like in a rodeo. I am so in.
The idea of a hyperconnected future is one which is quickly becoming that of the present. The idea of a world where everything is connected, has an ip address and can be reached on and controlled by a network is no longer the idea of a idealistic science fiction writer. Ubisoft takes that concept one step further in it’s upcoming title, watch_dogs. It asks us to believe in a fictional future Chicago powered by an operating system called ctOS – an operating system for a city which uses all of its interconnected devices in order to provide solutions to complex problems such as traffic, mass transit, and crime prevention. Imagine a computer system that knows so much about individuals living in a city that it can model the probabilistic likelihood of crime taking place with a fair degree of accuracy. It is something straight out of an Isaac Asimov short story.
Ubisoft has kept tight wraps on specific details on the game, but the protagonist is Aidan Pearce, a hacker who has compromised the ctOS that runs Chicago and with the aid of his handy smartphone, has access to any of the city’s systems, all in the pursuit of protecting his family. With complete control of the city, the player is able to use it as a weapon, and to accomplish this goal, Ubisoft has stated that everything that goes on in the city is modelled, so as Aiden may short circuit and shut down the traffic signals at an intersection, the ensuing mayhem is dynamic and occurs procedurally, so no two crashes will ever be identical. The flip side to that is how Aiden reacts to these situations, how he handles them will impact the experience of a player, as a mass murdering psychotic will be received by the residents of Chicago in quite a different manner than an altruistic Robin Hood type.
We’ve seen specific gameplay sequences already, ones where Aiden is set to kill someone, and others where he has to tail potential victims in order to stop their would-be assailants. These activities often turn into an inevitable police chase where Aiden has to evade law enforcement, by hacking barriers to rise and stop police cruisers, and perhaps even by controlling local mass transit, providing him with an escape route. Overall, watch_dogs is a creative new title with the depth and creativity to keep a captive audience. An open game world where anything can be hacked could potentially offer limitless hours of entertainment if everything is modellas as well as claimed.
watch_dogs is set to be released Holiday 2013 on the Playstation 4 and XBox 360.
Capcom announced at PAX East that it is reviving its classic Dungeons and Dragons arcade series with a an HD update. The HD remastering will be known as Dungeons and Dragons Chronicles of Mystara and includes two titles, Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara.
The series is a fantasy brawler and you’ll be able to pick your character, level them up, and play online with friends. The online co op is the biggest addition to the franchise allow for drop in drop out co op. You can also play the game classic style with friends locally. Also included in the remake is the inclusion of online leader boards that will track a myriad of stats including total experience earned.
The game is is being released in june for XBLA, PSN, Wii U eShop, and Steam for $14.99. And as a bonus, or an apology, the Wii U version will include exclusive touch screen enhancements. Take a look below at the gallery for some shots of the game.]]>
The game starts off introducing the main character, Red. She’s a singer, and for some reason, five assassins have just tried to kill her with a weapon, the Transistor. But this is where things take a turn. The Transistor teleports Red out of danger, and we soon discover that the circuit board-sword looking item is sentient and serves as narrator and guide for the game. Transistor is a science fiction third person action game. Red advances along this city, and finds an insidious enemy, the Process which is killing people and taking the city and remaking it into a home for itself.
Transistor plays in a novel way. Upon first glance, it seems like a standard third person action game, but the central mechanic to combat in this game is this idea of a turn. At any time, the player can decide to take a turn, where they are now able to move and plan while the creatures in the game are paused. There is a bar at the top of the screen which depletes as the player moves and performs actions. In addition to that, upon completion of the turn, the Transistor needs to recharge and no attacks can be made for a few seconds afterwards. This leads to more strategic combat and the opportunity for some cunning puzzles.
Bastion, when it was released, was something I considered to be a labor of love. It was a game where it was clear that the creators’ had such an attention to detail, not because they wanted to get rich and retire, but because the loved the world that they had created, and they wanted to do it justice. The same goes for Transistor. The assets in the game are all once again hand painted, the sound is masterfully done, with both Darren Korb and Ash Barrett returning.
The masterfulness of the people at Supergiant Games is that in the course of a short demo designed to introduce the main characters of Transistor, and introduce us to its basic gameplay, they’ve managed to create and flesh out an incredibly interesting universe, and charged with an incredible amount of raw emotion. It leaves the player wanting plenty more, and as the demo ends, seeing that the estimated release date is in 2014 is just crushing. We know very little about Red, why there are five assassins out to kill her, and just what the Transistor is, but we want to know more.
No platforms have been announced for Transistor as of yet, but Supergiant Games is expecting a release in 2014.]]>
During Capcom’s first ever pax east panel, they announced they are remastering the original Duck Tales game.
The game is not just a face lift, the entire game is redone with 3D environments with 2D hand-drawn characters on top. Around 70% of the game is directly from the original game with a new tutorial level, as well as new cutscenes to help flesh out the story. Most importantly thought, is the ability to have scrooge swim in his money pit. While it is of my opinion, that diving into a pile of gold would probably kill you. This is still a welcomed feature.
If you aren’t aware of the Duck Tales cartoon or the original game, it is a 2D platformer from the NES era starring a family of ducks that go on adventures. It is widely considered to be a classic of the genre. This remastering appears to be faithful to the original. Check out the screen shots below to get an idea of what to expect when it releases on digital downloads everywhere for $14.99 this summer.]]>
Unforunately, hopes were a bit quashed when 10:00 came and it was announced that their new title would be Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, a free to play online collectible card game. This may turn people off, but after having actually played the game, it has a good amount of promise. A gamer who has played a collectible card game in the past will feel right at home with Hearthstone, and it’s pretty easy to compare it to Magic: The Gathering, the benchmark of collectible card games. The main difference is that there is no land/mana system. Cards are cast and used with mana crystals. Each player starts a round with one, and gets an additional crystal with each additional turn, so each player gets one crystal the first turn, two during the second turn and three on the third turn. Crystals do not roll over, so the emphasis on the game is placed on card selection and use, rather than having a bad stream of luck where the player draws no lands, or only lands. Of course, there are cards that confer additional mana crystals.
Hearthstone will be free to play, with players able to play with pre-constructed decks immediately. Additional cards can be acquired either through battling A.I. opponents or online opponents, and booster packs will be available for purchase as well. Each booster pack guarantees a rare card for the player, and in an interesting wrinkle, Blizzard has created a crafting system with its cards – should a player purchase a card that they already own, they can disenchant the card into materials that then can be used to either upgrade existing cards or create new epic cards.
Actually playing the game was fun. The fundamentals were easy to pick up and some of the subtleties became clear in the middle of the first game without much guidance from the devs. My only regret was that my opponent figured them out before I did. With an initial library of 300 cards, how can you go wrong with free to play?
Hearthstone will be available on PC, Mac and iOS.
Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm is the expansion pack to the wildly popular 2010 real time Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty from Blizzard Entertainment. It’s an expansion pack that has a lot to live up to. The first expansion pack to the original Starcraft, Brood War was so popular that many continued to play it for both pleasure and in an esports context a full decade after its initial release in 1998. The game continued to be played competitively past the release of the sequel, Wings of Liberty, in 2010. Having a game that is not only just supported but enjoyed and to have professional competitions using it for over a decade is incredible. The inevitable comparison people will make is to its predecessor, Brood War, and whether or not it can hold up, and what place does it exactly hold in the franchise.
Heart of the Swarm is officially called an expansion pack, and throughout the game, one will indeed wonder just why this is an expansion pack, and not a full fledged sequel. Some of the choices that Blizzard makes here are peculiar. Looking at the campaign and multiplayer. a gamer could argue that they are remarkably similar in terms of gameplay one can expect. In fact, Heart of the Swarm contains all of the knowledge that Blizzard has gained making Wings of Liberty, that a consumer would get more out of the purchase than with the original. The single player campaigns are of similar length, each telling the story of one of the central characters in this epic trilogy. However, Heart of the Swarm contains many more multiplayer features that will give someone that is finished with the single player campaign much more in terms of replayability. The goal of Blizzard, here, is to make multiplayer gameplay much more accessible to anyone with even the least cursory of interests in playing multiplayer, and to hold the interest of players that are into the esports scene.
It is important to note, with the release of games that require internet connectivity, what the day one experience was. In my experience, it went extremely well. Customers who were already owners of Wings of Liberty and started their game client were welcome to a patch which also included the core elements of Heart of the Swarm. A player who had purchased the game on physical media wouldn’t even have to install from a disc. They activated the game on Battle.net, started up the client, and the game would stream any information it had to during gameplay, and items that were not in the previous patch would download in the background. Those that had to download the game client had a good experience as well, as the downloader is a hybrid, harnessing a direct download from Blizzard’s own servers as well as using a peer to peer download system. There were no hiccups playing on the first night, except for one instance where I was disconnected from Battle.net. However, because the game had checked in with the servers, I was able to continue playing in offline mode without any issue – the only downside was that any achievements earned would not count.
The campaign is fantastic. Taking place three weeks after the conclusion of Wings of Liberty, the story focuses on Sarah Kerrigan and her quest for revenge. A player can expect approximately 10-15 hours of gameplay from the single player campaign, more if they’re a perfectionist and really wish to get every single achievement in the game. There’s not much to add about the campaign mode outside of saying that it’s just good. Blizzard did not want to change gameplay drastically here, and the game does conform to what a gamer would reasonably expect from a real time strategy title. However, it is because of these, constraints, for lack of a better term, that we see just how creative Blizzard has gotten with some of the missions. Included now are some mini-boss fights, and a particularly entertaining mission where the player has to pilot a battlecruiser, destroying a mercenary’s defenses and space station in order to free an ally. They’ve managed to keep things fresh, and not just making each level another exercise in building up a base and then destroying the enemy’s base. The campaign is everything that a player would expect from a AAA title from Blizzard; there are top notch cinematics, a great cast of voice actors, and a storyline that though it was not a work of groundbreaking literature, was able to convey motivations and emotions, and one that will make the player care about the consequences of their actions. The title also tips its hat towards the Mass Effect trilogy, in that choices made in the first game are referred to in this expansion.
Even though the campaign is top notch, what will give Heart of the Swarm its legs is the multiplayer. As good as and as well polished as the campaign was, a lot of work was put into making the multiplayer as accessible and as interesting as possible. The convention used to be that the single player campaign would serve as sort of a tutorial for multiplayer adversarial matches. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Designing game balance for a single player campaign is quite a different beast, than designing game balance for multiplayer scenarios. People playing multiplayer for the first time would ofttimes find themselves being destroyed by other players that had only the rudiments of skill. This can be incredibly frustrating to a novice player. So, Blizzard has done a few things to solve this. Still in place from Wings of Liberty is it’s fantastic matchmaking system. This system pits players against people with similar levels of skill. The goal is to learn enough about a player so that they win about half their matches. With each match the player plays, the system gets better at knowing just how good a player is. This is combined with a redesigned league system. Previously there were leagues, coded Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master and Grandaster. Bronze players were the bottom 20 percent, Silver next 20 percent, Gold middle 20 percent, Platinum the next 20 percent, Diamond the next 18 percent, and finally Master comprising the top 2 percent in the game and Grandmaster consisting of the top 200 players in the region. Heart of the Swarm changes the proportions so Bronze is the bottom 8 percent and Gold consists of the middle 32 percent, making Bronze for outright beginners and Gold for most players. That ranking is all well and good, but means nothing if the player doesn’t even finish the first five placement matches to determine what league they go in. So now, there is a new multiplayer tutorial which introduces how to play multiplayer in Heart of the Swarm. There are now three additional tutorials per race which teach the player how to be competitive at the Bronze level.
Finally, a lot of work has gone into making the game more friendly towards players who are a bit more advanced at the multiplayer. There’s now a levelling system where people can earn experience points which then unlock things like skins and decals, and profile portraits, but the replay system is where things have gotten really interesting. A player can now invite friends to watch a replay together, and for the player serious about learning the game, it has now a take control feature that allows the player to jump in the middle of a replay and continue playing. There were a number of launch day events featuring professional Starcraft 2 players, and the most interesting and exciting match was seeing a Zerg versus Terran matchup with all of the new units. The first match, the Zerg player had won the match, and the hosts of the launch event had them watch the replay and talk about what had happened, but that’s not the interesting part. To showcase the take command option, which is new to Heart of the Swarm, they had the players take control of the game at the fifteen minute mark and play it to completion. This time with a bit more experience under his belt, the Terran player won.
Heart of the Swarm has something to offer everyone interested in the genre. Though the title does require ownership of Wings of Liberty, it plays like a stand alone game, and not an expansion. This does raise the cost of entry of a player new to the franchise. Wings of Liberty, at this writing can be found for $20 online and Heart of the Swarm is at $40. A gamer that plays Starcraft 2 will be purchasing Heart of the Swarm, no questions asked. Access to the new multiplayer units and the new features throughout the entire game make $40 for the title a no-brainer. The true question at hand, is if someone new to the franchise should pull the trigger at an outlay of $60. The answer is yes. Two full campaigns and all of the improvements to the multiplayer, and the single player game make this title a great value still at the $60 price point. Gamers should come for the single player experience, and then stay for the multiplayer. now that the learning curve is now more of a ramp, rather than a cliff. This game will be purchased without any question by gamers who are interested in the genre, and is entirely recommended to people who don’t generally play real time strategy games, or are somewhat curious about what esports is all about.
I want to set the proper stage for this review in order to avoid any confusion. I love Dynasty Warriors in all of its forms. I think Tecmo Koei knows how to tap directly into my pleasure / reward centers, causing me to pour dozens of hours into their games. Now that all of this has been said I hope you understand that it causes me some amount of pain to say that Fist of the North Star Ken’s Rage 2 is so disappointing that I wonder if I should re-play past Tecmo Koei games. Perhaps my Stockholm Syndrome has ended and this is a brave new world where I agree with the masses that yes, these games are kinda bad.
Ken is a master of Hokuto Shinken, a martial art that attacks opponents’ vital points often causing them to explode. In fact, in the post-apocalyptic world of Fist of the North Star, Ken is the sole heir to this deadly art, which leads to strife in many of the new towns he visits. Early in the game you are told that this fighting style brings chaos wherever it goes. With the world being ravaged by what appears to have been a nuclear war Ken plays the wandering do-gooder aiming to bring some peace and joy to the harsh landscape. Since he is the master of Hokuto Shinken Ken has the “might” to make injustices “right” in a society where the strong rule the weak.
Ken’s Rage 2 uses this premise to lead you through a re-telling of the now 30-year-old story of Fist of the North Star. Levels are organized into chunks of “kill x number of bad guys” presented with all the imagination of a congressman’s tie collection. Combat is a familiar beat ‘em up format a la Dynasty Warriors but everything feels slow and unconnected. A mixture of light attacks that can be followed up by heavy attacks in the form of combos gives Ken’s Rage 2 both its combat system and its supposed diversity. The problem is that the combat never felt like it flowed correctly. Instead of pressing X,X,X,X,X,X you can press X,X,Y,Y for stronger results that actually have an impact on how your controlled character progresses. More on that later.
When I see combos like the ones mentioned above a part of my brain kicks into high gear. Apologists for mindless beat ‘em ups, which I would consider myself, argue that the depth comes from figuring out how to link your attacks into the most devastating chains possible. You could mash X and beat a level but that defeats the purpose and sabotages any fun you could have with the game. For Ken’s Rage 2 the strategy quickly dries up and at the worst moments appears to be non-existent. Practically every encounter is the same, so even if there was depth to be had there is no reason to explore it. To make matters worse I found Ken himself, who you will be playing for the majority of the time, to be one of the more un-interesting characters.
If you are a fan of the fiction of Fist of the North Star, or for some strange reason excited by the gameplay of Ken’s Rage 2, then the amount of content in this package will be very attractive. Each character, of which there are over 20, can be leveled up in unique ways depending on how you play. If you decide to only use the second playable character Rei’s standard attack you will grow your stats in a different way than you would if you used his heavy attacks to defeat foes. The system feels a little silly since so much of the data is behind the scenes and if you wanted to build a character in a specific way the already-boring gameplay would devolve into a maddening stew of mashing X. But, yes there are lots of things and stuffs to do in this game including alternate campaigns and costumes.
The story is actually presented in an interesting way. The interstitial dialogue bits are shown in a faux manga style page with the camera jumping from cell to cell (read: reverse comic book). Playing Ken’s Rage 2 leads to an appreciation for the source material and I even found myself wishing I could skip every combat encounter just to soak in the story. If only there was a movie or book that told Ken’s story…
For the fans of Fist of the North Star there are actually extra story vignettes presented in the non-canon Dream Mode. You choose a side character, typically a villain like one of Ken’s brothers, to run through a set of “what if” missions. The gameplay for these missions originally appears lifted from the Warriors franchise where the player captures a series of bases on a large open map. The problem is that it appears very little effort was put into tweaking the changes in gameplay from the main story mode. Enemies will still stand back and not attack while you are trying to capture their base. This means that instead of showing off your impressive kenpo moves to a large group of enemies you have to fight the peons one at a time, which is terrible.
I desperately wanted to like Fist of the North Star Ken’s Rage 2. I tried to find little gems to focus on during my attempts to master its systems and uncover all the story bits. After a host of issues I was only playing so I could write this review. While the overall story tried to pull me in, essentially every other facet of the game was actively pushing me away. I think I will check out the anime at some point, which is the only positive thing to come out of my time with Ken’s Rage 2.
This review is based on a retail copy of Fist of the North Star Ken’s Rage 2 for the Xbox 360 provided by Tecmo Koei. It is also available on the PS3.]]>
In Metal Gear Solid 2, gamers were presented with a bait and switch. They thought they were going to play Solid Snake, and ended up stuck with a whiney unknown character named Raiden. Many years went by before Kojima’s strange obsession with the character resurfaced in Metal Gear Solid 4. In that time Raiden had become a lot more interesting – as well as transforming into a cyborg ninja. The problem with MGS4 was that all the amazing things that Raiden pulled off happened during cut scenes. If you take the new, cooler blade wielding Raiden and add in the ability to actually control him while he is pulling off super-human ninja moves, then you have Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
“Power fantasy” it putting it mildly when you think about how you play Rising. There are some half-hearted stealth sequences, but there is nothing stopping you from plowing right through the middle of said sequences with sword flailing. PlatinumGames, masters of the action game, developed Rising and their fingerprints are all over the title. To parry, Raiden makes an attack towards his enemy, Rising’s version of cover is the ninja run, which makes Raiden invulnerable to enemy bullets – Raiden dashes around automatically cutting bullets out of the air with his sword.
The only time the action slows down is when Raiden enters “blade mode”. If he has enough fuel cells, Raiden can slow down time to a crawl, and freely swing his sword with the right analog stick, or line up horizontal and vertical slices which are then enacted with your controller’s face buttons. Stunned or vulnerable enemies will literally be sliced into smaller and smaller pieces. Raiden’s cyborg vision allows him to see a red box on defeated enemies while in blade mode. Slice through that and he can perform a “Zandatsu”, which exposes the enemy cyborg’s chewy center and allows Raiden to rip out what looks like a glowing blue spine. The maneuver completely refills Raiden’s health and fuel cells, making the Zandatsu the lynchpin of successful combat, especially since entering blade mode quickly drains Raiden’s fuel cells. Lesser enemies quickly start to look like ambulatory health packs.
Don’t take this to mean that Rising is a walk in the park. Even lesser enemies can quickly put Raiden on his back if he isn’t careful. Bosses and mini-bosses often have armor or even limbs that have to be cut off in blade mode before they can be properly zandatsued.
The narrative in Rising is erratic at best. At times it is silly or cheesy but self-aware and other times (especially in the last chapter), it is atrociously heavy-handed with the message it is trying to deliver. I did find myself enjoying some of the back and forth with Raiden’s pet cyborg wolf, but boy, some of the codec dialogs were brutal to sit through. Especially considering Rising is a relatively short experience.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is at its best when Raiden is dashing from enemy to enemy, cutting them into little teeny bits. The action hardly ever takes a breather, and the end result is a very fun experience.
This review is based on a retail copy of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance for the Xbox 360 provided by Konami. It is also available on the PS3.]]>
We have a new set of lightning deals today. Also, Dead Space 3 is on sale for $39.99.
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12:00 AM PST: PS3 – 250GB Amazon Exclusive Family Entertainment Bundle for $249.99
6:00 AM PST: Clue – Bring Epic Mickey: The Power of Two into the real world with this light-up, Paintbrush Controller!
7:00 AM PST: Clue – A premium shooter at a not-so-premium price.
9:00 AM PST: Clue – In the distant future, in the darkest regions of space, the ghosts of the past whisper your name.
11:00 AM PST: Clue – Official New Owner’s Kit for your PS3 system
1:00 PM PST: Clue – Dance to the magic of Disney
3:00 PM PST: Clue – Island hop through fantasy lands on your DS!
4:00 PM PST: Clue – Agent 47 takes on his most dangerous and personal contract to date
6:00 PM PST: Clue – Bring Epic Mickey: The Power of Two into the real world with this light-up, Clicker Controller for the Wii and Wii U!
7:00 PM PST: Clue – Zombie game collector’s edition!
9:00 PM PST: Clue – Experience every jolt, bump and shudder with this officially licensed Wireless Racing Wheel for Xbox 360
In the past, Xbox Live Indie Games has been hit or miss. On the one hand, there are fantastic titles such as, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1, and then there are various “games” you can buy that just serve to make your controller vibrate on command or the game whose purpose is solely that to turn your television into a fireplace. Considering how Microsoft has just killed XNA, it might seem like a waste of time to play and review an XBLIG title. The problem here is that Arcadecraft has been generating a lot of positive buzz, and it is certainly well deserved.
I had first heard of the title from Dave Voyles in 2012 at PAX Prime, when he told me of a simulation game that puts the player in the shoes of an 80s arcade. I was sold at “simulation game” and “arcade”. I recall quite clearly that my first reaction was that I was angry at myself for not coming up with the idea – being that simulation games and arcades are both things that I do indeed love dearly. In fact, the memory of the day that I learned that my childhood arcade had gone out of business was one of my sadder ones, even though it happened in adulthood.
The first thing that the player will notice about the game is that it exudes a level of polish. The game looks incredibly sharp, and if you’ve played any number of XBLIG games in the past, it is immediately obvious just how much time was spent polishing the title. It looks better than a good number of Xbox Live Arcade titles, to boot, and the level of production put into the sound was astonishing. The player feels like they are being catapulted into a dark arcade. A quick press of the start button at the title screen which prompts the player to insert a coin, and they are introduced to their assistant who guides them into the gameplay mechanics of Arcadecraft and gives them regular status updates. From here, the player must choose the name of their arcade, and it’s off to the races.
The start of the game will be familiar to those that are fans of simulation games. The player is given a small amount of seed money, and a limited number of arcade machines to purchase. The twist here is that the seed money was loaned to the player, and the goal is to have $13,500 in cash at the end of 1981 to repay it. Gameplay is straightforward enough. How much money each arcade machine makes is correlated to its popularity, which for all intents and purposes, is in the shape of a parabola. When a new machine is purchased, it’s not very popular, but as more people play it, it becomes more popular, until the machine gets old and no one plays it anymore. It becomes a delicate balancing act, as the number of people that enter the arcade is determined by an arcade’s popularity, and one of the ways to keep the player’s arcade popular in the beginning is to purchase new arcade cabinets every single month. This becomes incredibly tricky with a limited amount of funds.
This does bring us to a few things that are annoying about the game. The smaller issue is that there’s not much of an endgame – there are no supplementary goals past repaying the loan except to rack up a high score on the leaderboard. This can be forgivable considering the fact that this is an indie title, and developed by two full time people. The main issue is that of pacing. The arcade becomes unwieldy to play in later stages. When the player’s arcade consists of 30 video game cabinets, it will become well nigh impossible to collect money from each machine, even with the aid of a hired employee, eject players who are beating up on the video games, keep the soda machine restocked, and repair damaged machines. Add in the random events that the game throws at the player, such as power outages, there is just too much micromanagement for this simulation. At this point, many of the nuances that made the game so great in the early stages of the game, are lost. No longer does it matter if an arcade game sits alone. No longer will the player care that the Protectian 1 arcade game is getting a popularity boost because the player set it next to its sequel, Protectian 2. The game just becomes an exercise of collecting money and making sure the video games are operating.
Arcadecraft is one of the one or two best games ever published on XBLIG. Though there are some nits to pick with the game play, the game did have me playing for at least three solid hours at a time. It was a ton of fun seeing what new arcade cabinets I could purchase with the passing of each month, and trying to come up with an optimized layout. The toughest part about this review is in deciding to which bar Arcadecraft should be held. Should it be compared with its peers in XBLIG or with full on XBLA titles? Perhaps neither. The production values and gameplay place Arcadecraft above and beyond almost anything else on XBLIG. It compares with and does better than many titles found on XBLA. Arcadecraft is the best 240 Microsoft Points an XBox 360 owner can spend today, and can be wholeheartedly recommended to both fans of simulation games and arcades.
Arcadecraft is currently available on the XBox 360, and will be coming to PCs.]]>
The Elder Scrolls Online beta doesn’t have a date at this time, but Bethesda is inviting “future members of the Aldmeri Dominion, Daggerfall Covenant, and Ebonheart Pact” to sign up for the beta. Bethesda also released a new six minute cinematic trailer (embedded below). The trailer follows a warrior, mage and rogue as they make their separate ways into a tower and eventually encounter each other. How closely this gets to game play is unclear, but the standard MMO archetypes are all present and accounted for.
Sign up for The Elder Scrolls Online beta here.]]>
The first set of Amazon Lightning Deals for the year is a solid one. But the best deal of the day may be Far Cry 3, which is on sale all day for $34.99. Check out the full schedule of Lightning Deals below.
Click here to get these deals.
12:00 AM PST – Plantronics Gamecom X95
5:00 AM PST – Clue: Just in time for the end of the lockout!
7:00 AM PST – Clue: Do you have the Need? The Need to go really really fast?
9:00 AM PST – Clue: Perfect your First Touch in the new year.
11:00 AM PST – Clue: Agent 47 finds himself pursuing redemption
2:00 PM PST – Clue: Begin the Halo Reclaimer saga in style, whenever and wherever!
4:00 PM PST – Clue: Throw the ultimate party with this Dance game.
6:00 PM PST – NBA Baller Beats
8:00 PM PST – Clue: If you’re serious about gaming, get serious about sound!
Steam sales may quite possibly be the best thing to ever happen. There are so many games that a gamer would never experience if not available at a lower price in a timely manner. Sleeping Dogs had gotten a lot of good press, but with the onslaught of good games released throughout 2012, it was hard to justify the money or the time to devote to the game. Then there was a Steam sale. A game that was only at the edges of my radar became a no brainer at fifteen dollars, and it was incredibly fortuitous that I did purchase the game at that price point, because Sleeping Dogs is a title that is worth paying full retail for.
Sleeping Dogs is a Grand Theft Auto-style game, so much as Othello and Taller Than A Dwarf are both plays. It is an open world, there are cars, and lots to do. The most startling thing about Sleeping Dogs is how well it draws you into its universe with an incredibly compelling story. The plot bears a large similarity to many Hong Kong crime movies like Hard Boiled, Infernal Affairs, and the American remake, The Departed. You play Wei Shen, a police officer on a deep undercover mission, with the goal of taking down the Triads. Along the way, the player wonders if Wei will remain loyal to organized crime, or if he will fulfill his mission of bringing down organized crime.
Though the story is rather generic, and the setting for numerous movies, it does manage to stand apart from the rest through the use of some spectacular writing, and strong voice acting. Each character that Wei encounters has strong motivations and a purpose that the player can easily discern. More than with many other games in recent history, Sleeping Dogs manages to make the player care about the NPCs in this world, even if they are some lowly triad soldiers. Take that, and combine it with a cast that includes Edison Chen, Lucy Liu, and Emma Stone – it’s going to be a good time.
Gameplay is equally entertaining. The developers have managed to give the player a living, breathing Hong Kong. Each neighborhood has a distinct feel about it, and there is never a lack of something to do. The most interesting aspect of the gameplay is how there are three separate experience branches that the player will go down. During each mission, Wei will earn Triad experience points when he hurts rival gang members or other “bad” things, while he starts with a set number of police experience points, which then gets subtracted from as he does things, such as running over pedestrians with a car, or killing bystanders. It is important to note here that these two pools of experience points do not represent a zero-sum game. Finally, there is face, which is increased by performing sidequests in each area. All three branches unlock new abilities.
The time a player will spend as a part of the Hong Kong organized crime scene is satisfying. The people encountered are memorable and well fleshed out, and overall, the shortcomings of the game are pronounced because everything else is just so well done. Combat can be repetitive, and even more so if the player is in an area where they cannot use environmental attacks, such as pushing someone’s head into a handy nearby table saw, much to their compatriots’ dismay. In addition to that, some of the characters in the game aren’t fully fleshed out. For example, Wei can go on dates with women, but only two. Dates, that is. It is quite disconcerting to meet a new character, go on a date mission with them twice, and never interact with them ever again, or even find out what happens to them, and again, it is quite noticeable when all of the other relationships get so developed.
By the time this review is published, you should be able to pick up the title new at $30. It’s not often that a great crime story like this is told in ANY sort of media, not just a video game. If open world action adventure games are your thing, you’ll really enjoy Sleeping Dogs. If you like crime movies such as The Departed and Heat, you’ll really enjoy Sleeping Dogs. If you… you get the point. A title like this with competent gameplay and a GREAT narrative is one that needs experiencing. I enjoyed Sleeping Dogs and so will you.
Sleeping Dogs is available on PC, X360 and PS3]]>
Devil May Cry or DmC for short, brings us a brand new Dante from the beginning. You can tell its a new Dante because of his new hair cut, something that has caused massive rifts through the internet forums. But as I don’t care about imaginary people hair cuts, the new do doesn’t bother me. Dante is younger than in previous games, and he hasn’t started his demon hunting business yet. Instead, he is living it up as a smooth talking carney, ladies man. Still unaware of his REAL potential, he appears to be squandering his life away in booze and meaningless sex. Meanwhile the world is being taken over by a terrorist group called “The Order.” Their first act as a terrorist group was to get rid of all the people with original ideas for names of terrorist groups. Dante quickly gets dragged in to the conflict as he is sucked into purgatory.
The story is a bit silly and melodramatic at times, but it all kind of works. Everything in the game is so over the top, that you have to just go with it. Unlike most Devil May Cry games, I have to give DmC tons of credit for having a legible storyline. I was never lost on Dante’s goals and objectives. I knew why we were going on missions and what the end goal was. The story is not the most complicated thing, and this is a positive note. The story’s not really the point anyway.
DmC is character action game, and completely over the top and crazy, I couldn’t stop. Every single level has new and interesting enemies or combinations of enemies. All the while, you are earning new powers and unlocking abilities to the point where you need to pull of some impressive finger acrobatics to get that coveted SSS ranking. The brilliant thing is it starts off slowly and ramps up gradually. There is essentially one attack button, then there are modifiers to that attack. You have your sword in the middle, then a light weapon and a heavy weapon. These weapons are selected on the fly with the triggers and this allows for insane combos and tons of variety. Certain enemies can only be hurt with one weapon, so you’ll be switching back and forth mid fight.
The game can be a bit button mashy if you let it be – your enjoyment out of the game will vary based on what you put into it. If you want to go through the game smacking the Y (or triangle on PS3) button over and over, you probably aren’t going to have a good time. You can get through it, but why bother. This game is all about flying towards enemies, smacking them off a cliff, jumping after them, slamming them down, flying back, slamming another enemy down, launching a third enemy up, gun juggling him, charging up a blast and decimating him when he lands.
If you’re an action game fan, and want to put in the time to become good. This game will provide tons of challenge and excitement. I want to tell you about all the crazy crap that happens, but you really need to see it for yourself. So stop worrying about how Dante is “emo now cause he has black hair” and go get this game. It’s crazy how good it is.
DmC: Devil May Cry is available for X360 and PS3.]]>
This review does contain spoilers. At the very end.
Persona 4 Golden was my favorite game of 2012. As time passes, I find that it may very well be my favorite game of all time. It was my love of the game which caused me to go back and finally finish Persona 3. Upon finishing my first playthrough of the title, I found myself wanting more. There have been confirmations that Atlus is working on a Persona 5, but I needed something to sate my appetite right NOW. Knowing that a Persona 5 was in the works was of no real comfort. The next game in the series would not bring me back to the sleepy town of Inaba, it would certainly feature a new cast of characters and a new location. The best a fan could hope for would be a cameo from a minor character.
It was here that I learned of an anime adaptation called, Persona 4: The Animation. I was leery at first. Adaptations of video games are generally hit or miss affairs. I think the last good one I watched was the adaptation of Valkyria Chronicles, and that was back in 2009. Watching the animated series was a way to satisfy my need to spend more time in Inaba, and it could very well answer another question. Finishing the game the first time took me over sixty hours. Taking longer to do so is well within the realm of possibility. Asking a gamer to give up 60 game hours in a season where strong title after strong title was being released is a lot. Could spending approximately twelve to thirteen hours watching the anime possibly replace the experience of playing the sixty-plus hour game? We ask that question.
The premise behind Persona 4 is simple enough. The nameless protagonist has been sent to live a year with his uncle in a backwater town, Inaba because his parents have to travel internationally for a year. It is during that year in which the story of Persona 4 occurs. Soon after the protagonist, (named Narukami Yu in the anime) arrives, the sleepy town is rocked with a series of grisly murders and disappearances. The object is to save those that have been kidnapped, and investigate just what is happening in Inaba. The story focuses on several themes, the most important of which is the power of social bonds that one forms with the people around them, and most of the game is that – the player lives the normal life of a Japanese high school student, making friendships and building relationships with both playable characters and non playable characters. This is done by giving the player the ability to choose just how he spends his time. Your relationship with your cousin won’t ever improve if you don’t spend time with them. It is this sort of storytelling that really sets the game apart from any other. It is through these interactions with other characters that pieces of their personal story are revealed, oft times tackling complex social and personal issues.
This is where the anime fails. The game puts the player on a schedule. There is only a finite amount of time in which to do things. Unless the player is on a tight, regimented playthrough on their second time through the game, it would be well nigh impossible to maximize each social link possible in the game. Continually, the game is forcing the player to make decisions about who they are spending time with and for how long. After school today, are you going to spend time with Chie, or are you going to spend it with Yosuke? This is a zero sum game. Spending time with one of your friends means you won’t be spending it with someone else. The relationships that are built in a playthrough are so much more meaningful because the decision was made to build them. This is a choice that is taken away in the anime. Instead, all relationships here are developed, and are therefore less meaningful.
Don’t think that the animated adaptation is some sort of blight on the earth. It IS fun. There are some moments and characters in the anime that aren’t in the game, but this isn’t a bad thing. They either serve to expand on the universe or supplement it. This is no Greedo shooting at Han Solo first. The best part, however was a story arc that showed the events in the game from the point of view of another character, and not the protagonist. The first episode showed him inexplicably spending a lot of time with middle aged women, and the second episode told the story from the main character’s perspective.
The biggest question here is whether or not the anime can replace the experience of playing the game. Others have said that it is indeed possible, that after having watched the series and not playing the game, they feel that they really don’t have the need to play the game. Unfortunately, I feel that those that only watch the anime and not the game are missing out on the core of the whole experience. The central themes of the discovery of self and of social bonds, and of choice are too weighty to truly convey with in a medium that isn’t interactive. Yes, the series does have us experience most of the major plot points in the game, someone who’s experienced both would say it is a good adaptation, but it is not something that is ideally viewed on it’s own. It is an excellent production, and can stand on its own. Though it makes a wonderful supplement to the game, those looking for the full experience should play the game first.
Spoilers be ahead!
My greatest reservation about the anime series on its own, has to be, without a doubt, it’s treatment of the ending. It is bewilderingly Japanese. Incredibly ambiguous endings are, as it were, a thing. Example: Escaflowne. Van and Hitomi vanquish the evil empire and save the planet, and I think at some point they profess their love for each other. No, no happy ending for the pair. Hitomi has to return to Earth to live out the rest of her days away from the love of her life. Bullshit.
Persona 4 has three endings, one bad, one good and one perfect. The good one ends with the protagonist leaving the town of Inaba after the year, all of them professing their undying friendship. I call this the bullshit ending. When an entire game stresses the fact that true power lies in your relationships with others, the game simply cannot end with the protagonist leaving with no real plans to return. This leads into the perfect ending which fast forwards time to a few months after the good ending. Here we have the protagonist return to the town of Inaba, reuniting with his lifelong friends and seeing how they’ve grown up a bit and changed. It is that ending which I feel best represents the true theme of the game, showing that when you make such strong bonds with people, distance doesn’t matter, you will do what it takes to return to them.]]>
If your town happens to be Boston, or the greater Boston area, then you are in luck! The Boston Festival of Indie Games will be held on September 14, 2013 at MIT. Both indie developers and indie game enthusiasts will flock to the esteemed university to see what is in store for the future of games.
As an attendee you can expect to get hands on time with dozens of games presented by both college students and industry veterans. At previous Festivals you could have played early versions of popular iOS games like Fieldrunners 2 and Jack Lumber then switch on over to Shade, a survival game that takes place in a “massive MC Escher-like space-station.”
If electricity is not your thing the Boston Festival of Indie Games houses dozens of board games that you will wet your old fashioned whistle. This will be your only chance to try out a handful of independent games that you will not find anywhere else. With a host of helpful and friendly exhibitors to show you the ropes you may find your brand new tabletop obsession.
Be sure to check http://bostonfig.com/ for further updates throughout the year. The Boston Festival of Indie Games is a truly unique experience so you will definitely want to clear your schedule.]]>
Sega has released a sequel to the popular Kingdom Conquest for iOS and Google play. KCII is a free to play strategy game that combines various aspects from MMOs, card building games, city management sims and dungeon crawlers. I know that I personally enjoy an epic battle from time to time and I assume you do too. Check out the trailer and be sure to let us know what you think of Kingdom Conquest II!
Since X-Com was such a great remake of the original turn based strategy game, it got me looking into other often overlooked genres of my youth. In my early teens, I played a lot of 4x games – explore, expand, exploit, exterminate. Those that grew up in the same era as I did will recall great titles, such as Master of Orion and Ascendancy. Thinking about those games makes one wonder – if Firaxis can take a niche and somewhat antiquated genre and modernize it into a critical darling, winning game of the year awards left and right, then surely someone can or has actually done so with the 4x genre.
The concept of Endless Space is simple enough. The player is in charge of a star empire and needs to explore the universe, claim territory, research technology, and win the game. The best way to describe the game is to liken it to one of the Civilization franchise, only in space. However, each modern or even relatively modern 4X game is very heavily patterned after the original Master of Orion.The genre has a number of hallmarks that are common to the genre. First is the fact that the game is in space. Games can and usually start with the player in control of a single planet in a star system, and the beginning of the game is spent sending scout ships to neighboring systems in search of planets that can support life. Once these planets are found, the home system needs to construct a colony ship, load a number of citizens onboard, and sending it off to the new system, all the while building improvements in your home system to better the economy and your rate of research.
However, it is the middle of the game where things really take off and start to get interesting. One of the most enjoyable parts of these games is designing the ships that belong to your space fleets. The process of choosing a weapons and technology mix to go on a ship derived from the technology you’ve chosen to research is incredibly satisfying. Seeing ships you design trounce opponents in combat is incredibly awesome, and heartbreaking when they get destroyed. Though it does not build the level of attachment that one gets in X-Com, it does exist. The biggest and most interesting part is the mid-game where the player has to decide, based on his or her position in the game. Does one go for a technological victory, racing up the tech tree? Or is the player in the best position for a diplomatic victory, having befriended all of his or her neighbors?
The important, simple, question here is, “Well, how does Endless Space stack up?” The answer is decidedly less so. First, Endless Space is an independent game, and is a great accomplishment. However, there is something that is just missing from the game that is ever so difficult to put a finger on. The game meets all of the requirements of the 4x genre – almost all of the checkboxes are checked. The only real mechanical change is that of combat, where it has an interesting collectible card game aspect. Combat has three phases, where each side chooses a card that may convey friendly bonuses or enemy penalties – making the selection of cards a strategic, five option version of rock, paper, scissors.
When it comes down to the wire, Endless Space is a good time sink. A large number of hours can and will be spent learning the nuances of the game, and what optimal strategies will look like. The problem is that for some reason, the game feels more sterile than its predecessors. In the original Master of Orion, each race had a distinct feel to them, whereas in Endless Space they all feel sort of the same, with only some characteristic bonuses. The technology tree also suffers and feels like a checklist rather than a journey of discovery and the evolution of a race’s technology. Though Endless Space does have some faults, it fills the need of a modern title for 4x fans. It is a title that fans of the genre will get some enjoyment out of, but not a title everyone will want to play, especially when the first two Master of Orion titles are available on Good Old Games for six dollars for the pair.
Endless Space is available via steam for PC and Mac.]]>
#10 Mass Effect 3
by Tim Lanning
This generation’s best space opera concluded in Mass Effect 3. While several issues marred Shepard’s final voyage, ME3 is still a great game. It improved the combat in a number of much needed areas and even added a fun and engaging multiplayer mode that no one thought would succeed. Who knows what the view of this game will be in the future, but for now it definitely earned a place in our top ten, if only barely.
by Michael DiMauro
Fez succeeds on several levels. When you first sit down with it, you will be utterly charmed by the gorgeous 8bit atheistic (including the music), the simple platforming and the extremely clever game mechanic of being able to rotate the entire game space. If that was all there was to it, then Fez would have been a sweet little indie game that would have been great to spend a few afternoons with. That is just the very tip of the iceberg. Beyond the adorable surface of Fez lives one of the deepest puzzlers in years with challenges so fiendish it took the power of the internet weeks to sort them all out. That is, if they really are all sorted out.
#8 Sleeping Dogs
by Mike Dao
Sleeping Dogs was the biggest surprise of the year, having only picked it up due to the Steam Winter Sale. Though it was only bought because of a discount, it ended up being one of the best experiences a gamer can have in 2012. The story puts you in the shoes of an undercover cop in Hong Kong, trying to bring down one of the major organized crime syndicates in the city. With very believable environments, and top notch voice acting, Sleeping Dogs has provided the gamers of 2012 with a gripping crime story as enjoyable as The Departed, or the movie it was originally based on, Infernal Affairs.
#7 Mark of the Ninja
by Nick Bristow
If Dishonored is 3D stealth done right, then Mark of the Ninja is 2D stealth done absolutely perfectly. It really makes you feel like a ninja. You are the all powerful killing machine in the shadows you always wanted to be.
#6 Far Cry 3
by Nick Bristow
Far cry 3 is just packed with fun things to do. There are vehicles, wing suits, and animals to hunt just to name a few. As you go from mission to mission, you will find pirate bases, rare animals, and tons of emergent gameplay. You can approach almost every situation however you like and the fun is what you make it.
#5 The Walking Dead
by Michael DiMauro
The Walking Dead is a game that will be imitated for years, as it is one of the very few video games that gets “story” right. It sets an unparalleled atmosphere that give a palpable sense of the sense of a post apocalyptic world. Your mind won’t be blown by game-play mechanics, but that isn’t what is important to The Walking Dead. The game aspect really shines with player agency, and how you become even more attached to the characters in the story because of how deeply the decisions you are making affects them. If only my colleagues are human hearts, The Walking Dead would have landed much higher on this list.
by Mike Dao
The stealth action genre is one that saw a lot of entries this year, but it was a new IP from Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda that took the crown. Everything from Dishonored is fresh, from its steampunk setting to its first person stealth gameplay. Though the voice acting is rather bland, the game plays quite intelligently, providing the player with multiple paths to success. Considering the fact that the universe gets darker with each person the protagonist kills, the game provides ample incentive to go back and replay levels with different approaches. Dishonored is a more intelligent stealth action game and deserves to be on this list.
#3 FTL: Faster Than Light
by Tim Lanning
Faster Than Light surprised so many with its addictive “just one more try” gameplay and deep strategic ship customization. Its humorous writing soothed your wounds after a poorly devised strategy resulted in the death of one of your valuable crewmembers. Its stop and start battles always kept the frantic pace of ship-to-ship combat in check. And its final boss was so difficult that finally beating it rewarded one of this years best moments in gaming. FTL will relentlessly torture you but it will still find a place in your heart.
#2 Persona 4 Golden
by Nick Bristow
It may be considered a cop out in terms of best game of the year because as you may know, Persona 4 came out in 2007 on the Playstation 2. While that is a valid point, Persona 4 Golden is an expanded version of that game and more importantly on the Vita. This last point is what, in my opinion, takes it from great to incredible. I don’t have time to sit in front of my TV for hours as I get lost in a dungeon, but thanks to the Vita’s suspend game states, I don’t have to. I can pause at anytime and take the game at my own pace. It’s a huge, meaty RPG with tons to do. It is an experience everyone should have.
by Mike Dao
Permanent Death is something gamers do not encounter often, as from the old days of gaming, even Super Mario Brothers gave the player three lives to start with and the opportunity to earn more. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a brilliant remake of a beloved PC title, and manages to bring turned based strategy games to the mainstream, removing all of the cruft, leaving behind an incredible experience which makes every single decision that the player makes meaningful. It is a game that makes a war for humanity’s survival so much more personal, and it is a game that deserves to be called the best of 2012.]]>
How many times have you said to yourself, “what if there was a world run purely on WHALE oil?” I am sure, if you are like me, this is just about every single day. The world of Dishonored finally gives you that maritime fantasy.
Dishonored is a brand new first person stealth IP. Getting a new IP this late in the console cycle is rare, but getting a stealth RPG that is actually good this late in the cycle is an incredible feat. Whoever signed off on this plan should be given a medal, because this game is one of the most refreshing experiences in a long time.
You play as Corvo, a voiceless protector of the empress and her daughter. The world they govern is infected by plague. Rats cover the streets devouring corpses as they run amuck. You have just returned from an expedition trying to find a cure. As soon as you get back to the empress, she is killed by a group of assassins with amazing powers and pin the murder on you. They then kidnap her daughter Emily. Your only goal is to get her back.
The game does an amazing job getting you to love this family. From the dialogue and brief interaction with Emily, it is very clear your character is attached to them, more than just a simple guard. The whole world is lovingly crafted. The game is level based, but each level is like a mini open world. There are NPC’s to find and interact with, side missions, and a few surprises to discover.
Each mission’s main objective is to find and assassinate someone. How you accomplish this is completely up to you. Your character develops powers by finding runes around the levels. Depending on your play style, you upgrade the powers you want. These include things like a short teleport, slowing time, and summoning a swarm of rats. How you use these to complete your mission is completely open. You can possess a guard and walk through their defenses, teleport to rooftops, or just flat out murder everyone. You have to be careful with that last one. Making more bodies means the plague will spread faster, creating more enemies. This mechanic is actually quite brilliant, the game recognizes you want to kill a lot, so it gives you more things to kill. If you don’t want to kill though, it is possible to complete the entire game without murdering anyone. In order to do this, you must investigate every situation in order to find the alternate way to dispose of your foes. I found this style of play to be extremely rewarding. It requires a lot more problems solving and forces you to use your powers in a variety of ways.
The real story of the game is the one you make. How your character deals with these situations. Unfortunately the actual story isn’t that amazing. It is a very simple revenge story with a not a lot of payoff, but the world they have built is so rich and “lived in” that I didn’t mind.
Whether you want to mindlessly murder everyone, or be a shadow disposing of foes in a non-lethal fashion, you can. How you complete the game is really up to you, and once you have, you’ll want to do the whole thing again to experience the other side of morality.
Amazon has decided to make christmas a little more merry by loading up on Lightning Deals today. Besides the full schedule, they are also selling Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two all day for $19.99 on X360/PS3 and $25 for Wii/3DS.
Click here to get these deals.
Lightning Deal schedule:
5:00 AM PST
6:00 AM PST – Clue: Bring Epic Mickey: The Power of Two into the real world with this light-up, Paintbrush Controller for the Wii!
7:00 AM PST – Clue: Bring Epic Mickey: The Power of Two into the real world with this light-up, Clicker Controller for the Wii and Wii U!
8:00 AM PST – Clue: PS3 New Owner’s Kit
10:00 AM PST – Clue: Island hop in this awesome DS Game!
11:00 AM PST – Clue: These Turtle Beach Call of Duty: Black Ops II limited edition wireless headsets give you the tools to dominate the competition
12:00 PM PST – Clue: NBA 2K13 for $39.99!
1:00 PM PST – Clue: Feast your eyes on this epic Skylanders display stand,just position your Skylanders and you’re ready to play in style!
2:00 PM PST – Clue: Go after Messi’s goal record
4:00 PM PST – Clue: Created to appeal to the serious fighting game enthusiast, nothing brings the arcade experience closer to home!
5:00 PM PST – Clue: Who will your hero be?
6:00 PM PST – Clue: A headset that delivers a comfortable, high-quality audio experience for PlayStation 3 gaming
7:00 PM PST – Clue: Begin the Halo Reclaimer saga in style, whenever, and wherever
9:00 PM PST – Clue: Burn some rubber to make your getaway
Assassin’s Creed 3 is on sale all day for $33 and has three $3 credits: $3 of Instant Video, $3 Digital Games Credit, and $3 Trade-in Credit.
Click here to get these deals
12:00 AM PST
5:00 AM PST
7:00 AM PST
8:00 AM PST
10:00 AM PST
12:00 PM PST
4:00 PM PST
6:00 PM PST
8:00 PM PST
9:00 PM PST
Black Friday is over, but Amazon is still serving up lightning deals. Sure, these are heavily focused on the casual set, but there are a few games in the mix that you should find interesting. The Deal of the Day is Just Dance 4 for $22.99.
Click here to get these deals.
12:00 AM PST or 3:00 AM EST
5:00 AM PST or 8:00 AM EST
7:00 AM PST or 10:00 AM EST
9:00 AM PST or 12:00 PM EST
11:00 AM PST or 2:00 PM EST
1:00 PM PST or 4:00 PM EST
4:00 PM PST or 7:00 PM EST
5:00 PM PST or 8:00 PM EST
8:00 PM PST or 11:00 PM EST
10:00 PM PST or 1:00 AM EST
Amazon’s Cyber Monday offerings are here, and there are quite a few of them! Besides a number of recent games being half off (Dishonored, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) there are buckets of lightning deals. We have posted the full schedule below.
Click here to get these deals.
9:10 AM PST or 12:10 EST
9:15 AM PST or 12:15 EST
1:09 AM PST or 4:09 EST
1:10 AM PST or 4:10 EST
1:11 AM PST or 4:11 EST
1:40 AM PST or 4:40 EST
5:10 AM PST or 8:10 EST
Tomorrow may be Cyber Monday, but Amazon is continuing their string of Lightning Deals today. Yesterday’s popular Halo 4 deal is back, and there are also a couple gems like The World Ends with You to keep the serious gamers happy.
Click here to get these deals.
9:10 AM PST or 12:10 PM EST
11:00 AM PST or 2:00 PM EST
1:10 PM PST or 4:10 PM EST
Click here to get these deals.
There is no color to describe today – but there are lightning deals. Amazon has been sneaking new deals in through out Black Friday “week”, so keep your eyes peeled for updates. Follow us on twitter for the latest.
Click here to get these deals.
9:10 AM PST or 12:10 PM EST
1:10 PM PST or 4:10 PM EST
A whole new set of PC download games have gone live on Amazon. There are over 400 items on site, but here are our favorites.
Click here to see all the deals
As expected, the list of Lightning Deals hitting today has grown significantly. Here is the new schedule:
Click here for these deals.
5:09 AM PST – 8:09 AM EST
9:09 AM PST or 12:09 PM EST
9:10 AM PST – 12:10 PM EST
Amazon has decided to release their “full” Black Friday Week lightning deal schedule early this year. I would take this list with a heavy grain of salt though. In past years, Amazon has been known to sneak extra deals in here and there. The fact that they are only listing three deals for Cyber Monday tells me that there will certainly be more deals popping up along the way.
Our favorite deals are in bold.
Click here to get these deals.
9:15 am PST
1:10 pm PST
9:10 am PST
1:10 pm PST
9:10 am PST
1:10 pm PST
5:10 am PST
1:10 pm PST
5:10 pm PST
9:10 pm PST
5:10 am PST
9:10 am PST
1:10 pm PST
5:10 am PST
1:10 pm PST
Forget Brown Thursday, today is Beige Monday, and we have lightning deals to discuss.
Click here to get these deals.
9:10 am PST
1:10 pm PST
Walmart went ahead and leaked their own Black Friday deals early this year, and they are looking like the deals to beat this year. Some hightlights:
Over 45 games prices at $25. Highlights:
Over 30 games prices at $15. Highlights:
Over 25 games prices at $10. Highlights:
To see all the deals, click here.]]>
FIFA Soccer 13 is on sale all day for $39.99. The deal I am most excited about today is $10 off Hitman Absolution. Today only!
Click here for these deals.
To be honest, I never finished the original Borderlands. It had a lot going for it. It was described to me as a sort of a Diablo-slash-World-Of-Warcraft type game, only a first person shooter, albeit one that had a four person cooperative campaign. It was the game where Tim Lanning and I became friends. Or perhaps adversaries, history will decide that one. However, the fact remains that I never finished the game, nor the plethora of DLC that came out for it after it’s release. I feel a little guilty about that. Not as much as I should, but a bit. But there were a lot of good reasons why I didn’t finish the game, and believe me, I really wanted to. The writing was funny, the cel shaded graphics were different enough to provide a really unique visual style, and the game played well. The only problem was that the game was not very friendly to the single player. This may be more of a testament to my lack of skill at video games, but the dungeons in the first Borderlands were incredibly tough – and a person really needed one of two things to clear them successfully, friends or to grind out levels so that your character was high enough of a level to clear the instance on their own.
It was with this hesitation that I went into Borderlands 2. Having seen previews of it previously, I had a pretty good idea to expect. The developers seemed to take the good features of the game, and expounded on them. The original title had a lot of different guns, and there are even more in the sequel. And the gun types are amazing as well. There is one weapon manufacturer that makes disposable guns, when the gun you are using is out of ammo, your character doesn’t reload it, they simply throws the gun at a target like a grenade, and it explodes – amazing!
Someone new to the franchise does not need to have played the first game, as most of the salient plot points are gone over. What happens in the second game is fairly far removed from the first title, so much that the four playable characters in Borderlands 1 appear in Borderlands 2 as NPCs. But to be honest, it really doesn’t matter. Somewhere in the game, there is a storyline. There are a lot of quests to do, and there are a lot of guns, and armor and rewards available. There’s also a villain involved, and to be fair this villain is pretty interesting and funny, but all of these things are ancillary to what the game is about. The game isn’t about thwarting this villain and saving the world from this oppressive power hungry corporation. This game is a scenario generator – it generates scenarios where you and up to three of your friends can shoot all sorts of interesting guns and fight interesting baddies.
The game does improve on the original in that it is indeed possible to complete the game alone in a reasonable manner without exploring the multiplayer options, but it is in the multiplayer that the game truly shines. My personal favorite feature is the near seamless drop in and out multiplayer that it offers. The simplicity in which it operates is great. Upon starting the game, the player can see at the title screen which of his or her friends are currently playing, and what the level of their character is. Joining their game in progress is as simple as clicking on their name and choosing the character with which you would like to play.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PC version Borderlands 2 provided by Nvidia. It is also available for X360 and PS3.]]>
Today’s lightning deals are now live. You can also buy Madden NFL 13 for $39.99.
Click here for these deals.
6:00 AM PDT – Clue: Hold on to your controller and don’t get a black eye.
8:00 AM PDT – Clue: Trick or Treat. Get this ghostly game a month before Halloween.
10:00 AM PDT – Clue: Explore the streets on Hong Kong in this open world action game
1:00 PM PDT – Clue: Feel like you’re right in the game with each action you take using this PS3 accessory.
4:00 PM PDT – Clue: Advanced Bluetooth gaming headset for Playstation 3
5:00 PM PDT – Clue: LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
8:00 PM PDT – Clue: Immerse yourself in dynamic surround sound while enjoying crystal-clear communication on the PlayStation Network
It is a shame that it took so long for FTL to be created. The design is so simple and the execution is so perfect that the wait has been worth it. How many geeks have dreamed of being Captain of their own ship with the ability to yell “FULL POWER TO ENGINES” while battling an alien threat? Every geek. The gaming landscape should be completely clogged with decent ship managing games but our dystopian present has only now been graced with FTL.
Faster Than Light was one of the first Kickstarter successes in the video game scene, so the anticipation was thick. There was some fear that it would be the first of a string of high profile Kickstarter failures. This is an unfortunate light to view FTL in when you first boot it up. I personally was at the edge of my (captain’s) chair and more than a little nervous.
As you begin your mission you are presented with a somewhat customizable crew and a ship named “The Kessler” by default. The creators of FTL, Subset Games, created an excellent tutorial to ease you into your roll as a commander. The initial learning curve is low but as you finish the tutorial you are told that you are expected to die often and that is part of the fun. The Kessler is equipped with a range of weapons and operation systems that you must juggle to maximum efficiency with your trusty crew to accomplish your mission.
You are tasked with relaying an important bit of intel that is crucial for the war between the evil Rebels and your Federation. Each game of FTL is unique and you never really know what to expect. As you enter each system you spend fuel to travel from point to point either fighting off enemy ships, trading with friendly outposts or assisting the local population. It is important to know that FTL is considered roguelike –like; the major tenants of roguelikes are represented. Each map is completely randomly generated. If you die, you are dead forever and there are no second chances, but as you adventure you earn rewards that help you survive.
Deciding how to upgrade your ship is just as important as knowing when to pick your battles. As you fight enemy ships or assist the inhabitants of the universe you earn scrap that can be used to upgrade your ship or to buy additional components from stores. You could choose to focus all your scrap on the best weapon systems, but if you neglect your engines or shields you will die. On the other hand you could try to use robots to do your fighting knowing that you may run out of drone parts and become weaponless. Plus, if you complete certain requirements you can unlock additional ships for future games, which opens even more gameplay options.
Since the galaxy maps are always different you will not know the best ship to bring to the fight. A good balance is usually preferred but the genius of FTL is that there are so many different outcomes for both your ship and your individual adventure. Each unsuccessful attempt to stop the Rebel forces feels hand crafted and manages to keep you playing long after you have screamed and cursed at your computer. Every attempt feels like “this could be it” and after almost a dozen hours it has not become the least bit repetitive. Also I haven’t beaten the damn game.
FTL can also be reduced to a resource manager if you are feeling reductive. In order to reach the final boss you have to save enough fuel so that you can actually reach it. But as you’re told with each new game, you do not have enough resources to reach your goal so you have to fight for them. While you are hopping from system to system you are being pursued by the Rebels who slowly take over the entire map, making travel much more difficult. Therefore you are forced to earn your rewards by fighting pirates, rebels and the like in order to earn the aforementioned scrap to see you through your mission.
Your crewmembers are in charge of running the more complicated systems so that they run more efficiently, repairing your ship and fighting off the odd intruder. Meanwhile you are also commanding the gun systems to target specific locations on the enemy ship. You can choose to destroy their shields and then focus your firepower on their weapon systems leaving them both offensively and defensively incapacitated. You can also target different sections of the ship if you have other goals.
FTL is nearly perfect for what it is. The only complaint is that it is really hard, but I think that is also one of the things I love about it. It can really kick you when you are down but I also love the stories it creates. For example, I was on my way to saving the universe but I attempted to rescue a space station and my crew got killed by giant spiders. If you are a fan of planning and space combat then you owe it to that budding star captain in your heart to pick up FTL.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PC version FTL: Faster Than Light provided by GOG.com. It is also available for Mac.
FTL: Faster Than Light is available on GOG.com]]>
Suddenly, out of no where, a brand new game emerges! Not just another game in one of the many established genres, a brand new type of game. On the surface, Harold appears to be just another 2D racing game, and while the goal of finishing first may be the same, the roles are reversed. Instead of controlling the racer, you are playing the course, making Harold one of best surprises of PAX Prime.
You play a guardian angel in guardian angel school. Think Harry Potter in terms of the story. The final test is to help a randomly selected human win an obstacle course race. Lucky you, you get the worst racer of all time – Harold. Using your guardian angel powers, you’ll have to guide him to the finish.
While playing, you can encourage him to jump, shoot lightning at him to speed him up, and manipulate the course to Harold’s advantage. The other part is making sure the other runners don’t quite make it. The one limited power is the sprint, this requires you to use what is essential Harold’s life. If you take the risk you can make him run the whole course, but if you fail to save him once after depleting it, Harold will not respawn and just die.
In order to win, you will need to jump back and forth setting up the next obstacle to make sure Harold can make it. This is pretty varied based on the obstacles Harold must face. There are suspension bridges for example – you select them and hold up on the stick making the bridge go tight. As Harold moves over it, you can flick it down to send a wave, pushing him along. Not being able to control the character, I didn’t think the skill ceiling would be that high. I figured, once I got the hang of the controls setting up each obstacle would be a piece of cake. First of all, I was wrong, it is very challenging keeping everything in line and when the developer took the controls, it was like magic. He was jumping back and forth, setting traps, cutting ropes to have Harold fly past obstacles, and finding amazing shortcuts. Most of all, the game looks extremely fun and impressive when you know what you’re doing.
Every level has a “real shortcut.” This shortcut shows a quick fully animated cut scene showing how Harold hilariously makes it through. I have been assured that getting these shortcuts is no easy feat. They often require split-second timing and taking them is usually a risky decision. When you do make it though, you save a bunch of time and you get more excellent animated cut scenes.
The animation in the game is truly top notch. Some of the best I’ve ever seen in a video game. After Disney shutdown their studio in Florida, Harold’s developers scooped up top talent – and it shows. Everything in the game looks gorgeous. The current plan is to release Harold on PSN and Xbox Live. The game was originally developed for the DS though, and would probably work really well on a tablet. *HINT *HINT
You can look for the game in early 2013.]]>
The house of mouse is back with another tale for their main and most underused character. Epic Mickey 2 picks up right where Epic Mickey left off. I won’t spoil exactly where or how, but you get back in the action. Epic Mickey 2 is a platformer with a unique painting/paint thinning element. When you play as Mickey, you have a paint brush which lets you paint the world to solve puzzles, create items, and make friends. You also have the power of paint thinner. This allows you to destroy the paint world in order to solve puzzles, destroy items, and kill friends.
The action is very tight and platforming is a standard affair. This generation hasn’t seen too many great platformers so its nice to see someone still making quality games in the genre. The biggest new addition to the sequel is drop in, drop out co-op. A second player can join in at any time as Oswalt. That old rabbit from disney’s past. He has a remote that lets him zap people. He is primarily a support character.
Also new to the sequel is voice acting. Everyone in the world is voiced, even on the Wii! And if you do play on the Wii, you can get special nunchuck controllers that are themed for the game. There is a wand that has a glowing brush head which changes colors based on whether you’re using paint or thinner. There is also a wii remote themed for Oswald. I found these to be not so great though. The Oswald remote doesn’t have a real joystick, but slide pads similar to the 3DS. The movement of the stick wasn’t very smooth and would occasinally get stuck if you press to hard. There was no word on if this or the brush would come with the game or not. If they did, I’m sure your kids would love them, otherwise, they aren’t really necessary.
The game is coming to virtually every platform (Wii, PS3, Xbox, PC, MAC, 3DS) and the differences are straight forward. Better control and graphics with the Xbox and PS3. And the Wii and PS3 with move, offer motion controls.
If you enjoyed the first game at all, Epic Mickey 2 doesn’t look like it will disappoint. It will be out September 18th.]]>
By: Michael Dao
As technology progresses, so does that of the games that we play. You just have to compare Pong to, say, Gears of War to understand where technology is taking the games we play. However, board games have remained mainly static. Chess, in thousands of years has not seen much in the way of advancement. Monopoly, with the exception of this one edition that uses ATM cards, has remained as a collection of a board, metal game pieces, paper money, and metal shoes, cars, irons, and battleships. So, now we have Sifteo.
Sifteo is an interactive game system. The base set costs $129.95 and comes with three cubes, a base, four games and a download of a fifth game. So this is how the whole package works. The centerpiece of the system are the three cubes that come with the base package. The best way to describe them are that they are electric dominoes. They’re these cubes that have a small screen on the face but they’re not just a screen. They have accelerometers and sensors built into them, so they actually interact with each other. It doesn’t sound very revolutionary, but the hardware is simple, and like with anything else the true beauty of the platform is in the software and in its flexibility. Sifteo brings the best of two worlds of gaming together. It’s a video game of sorts, and through the use of a micro USB cable, new games can be downloaded and enjoyed, and because the game is physical in nature, it adds the tactile enjoyment of, say, a miniature based board game that video games just don’t have.
The game platform is also expandable. The starter kit comes with the base station which has a speaker built in, and three cubes. Additional cubes can be purchased at $29.95 each, and the system can currently support up to a total of twelve cubes. The set comes with a total of five games, and additional games can be purchased at the price point of around 8-10 dollars per game. Coming soon, actually is a licensed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game made specifically for this platform, and independent developers can get in on the action as well, as the SDK will be made available to the public this fall.
Right now, the platform is undergoing a change. The next hardware revision that we’ve been discussing here will be shipping in November, and there’s a lot of potential. They’ve just signed a games deal with Nickelodeon. The games library right now is rather light, considering the updated units are not available, but there is a lot of potential here. It all depends on if the platform is attractive enough to draw in some quality developers to create interesting, new experiences on it. Right now, the only available games are an adventure game, and variety of puzzle games. It feels to me that Sifteo is a rife place to see some really interesting strategy games. Perhaps using each cube as a piece that displays real time information. Enough cubes could probably make someone’s Dungeon and Dragons game quite entertaining. When Sifteo arrives in November, it is certainly a product you should look into.]]>
Over the years, there have been a lot of ninja games. Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi, and Tenchu have all done their unique takes on the ninja genre. While they were been good in their own ways, they’ve all missed out on the most important thing a ninja game should do – make you feel like a ninja. This seems obvious, but in Ninja Gaiden for example, you are just running around hacking people left and right. A ninja should be stealthy, clever, and most of all a total badass. This is a tall order, but when it all comes together, you get one of the best games I’ve ever played.
In Mark of the Ninja for XBLA, you play a ninja who has been chosen to seek revenge on a force that has attacked your clan. You have been given special tattoos that will make you more powerful. Lets get this out of the way real quick, the story is not the strongest part of the game. It gets you going, gives you something to do, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It does its job. Moving on, the point of this game is stealth. Don’t let that scare you. Stealth has done you wrong for so long, you’ve probably forgotten how good it can be.
Stealth is actually fun in Mark of the Ninja. You have to move through the 2D world, grappling from hook to hook and sneaking through shadows in order to reach your assigned objective. Every stealthy thing you do gives you points and every time you alert a guard you lose points. When you are being stealthy, you feel like a complete badass. You are very powerful and it makes you the hunter. In most stealth games, you are hiding for your life, and one shine of a flash light will send you back to a checkpoint. The complete oppossite is true in Mark of the Ninja, while getting spotted can lead to an early death, its not the end of the world. You can fight your way out of most situations but, if you’re stealthy, taking out enemies couldn’t be easier or more fun.
You start with limited capabilities. You can walk up behind someone to kill them stealthfully. And if you match the directional prompt on screen, you will kill them silently. As the game progresses, you gain more abilities of your choosing. I particularly like the bat, where you drop down on your enemies and kill them mid-fall. I will drop down and kill a guard, wait for someone to see the corpse and come running at it, and drop down for another kill.
This being just one of numerous ways you can set up your prey. You also get a variety of items throughout the game. You can take out lights, throw smoke bombs, and a whole assortment of ninja tools. Each scenario in the level is like a puzzle, and you’ll have to use all your tricks and tools to get through it perfectly. Figuring each area is very satisfying and rarely frustrating thanks to the excellent visual cues in the game.
All the aspects of the stealth are well defined. Any time you make a sound, a ring appears showing where and how far your sound is going. About to break a light, you can see how many guards will hear it. Guards have a vision cone that shows exactly where they will pick you out. All these cues make stealth fun instead of frustrating. If you get caught, its never the games fault. It clearly shows you how you screwed up.
The game is fast, fluid, and polished. The controls are precise and the stealth action is unmatched. I really hope this marks a change for the stealth genre, because I want more. Simply put, the best ninja game of all time.
This review is based on a retail copy of Mark of the Ninja provided by Klei. It is an XBLA exclusive.]]>
Free to play has come a long way in the past couple of years. Free to play used to mean low quality, money grubbing, and facebook. Loadout is the complete opposite, it is extremely polished, fair priced, and most importantly fun.
The main hook of the game is the “Loadout” you pick. It is a class based shooter, but the classes aren’t pre-defined. Your class is based on the weapon you make. You customize all the parts of your gun, building the playstyle you want. I made a rocket launcher, that had six barrels, a mini rocket magazine, full auto trigger, and a laser guided sight. This turned out to be extremely effective. I was able to laucnh missles into the air and guide them to the target with ease. And with my team mate shooting me with healing bullets, I was able to dominate the match.
The classes really come down to the type of ammunition you put on the gun. You can choose health, and then no matter which projectile you choose (rockets, bullets, plasma, etc) it will heal. So you can load up a remote control heal missle gun. Shoot it up in the air and guided it to a buddy across the map to heal him in a fire fight.
In the demo I played, all the parts for the guns were unlocked from the start, but in the final product you’ll have to put in the time to get them all. I was assured, that if you play long enough you can get all the parts without spending a dime. This is a F2P title however, so spending a little cash will speed things along.
This does not look like a F2P game, it is very reminicsent in style to Team Fortess 2. Graphics are bright and colorful, and the blood fountains that sho0t out of a missing limb or head are just beautiful. The game apparently scales well only requiring a DX9 card and a Pentium 4 proccessor, but it still supports all the bells and wistles of DX11.
I honestly can’t beleive this game is free to play. I would pay good money for this, and I intend to. You can sign up for the closed beta right now, and they are looking to release sometime this year.]]>
UPDATE: All codes have been claimed!
The Thrifty Nerd crew has received 100 beautiful Beta codes for the upcoming PS3 shooter Dust 514. If you aren’t familiar with the game, it is a ground-breaking title that will give an extra dimension to cult-favorite MMO Eve Online. You can read all about the crazy idea in our preview.
If you want in on the beta all you need to do is comment on this post with your twitter handle. The first 100 replies (with a proper twitter account) will be DMed a code by @thriftynerd. You should probably follow him since he won’t be able to DM you if you don’t.
That’s it! Good luck to you all!]]>
Capybara Games first made a splash in 2011 with their indie adventure game, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery. It was released shortly after the iPad 2 was released in the US and soon became one of the must play experiences on the platform. It received critical acclaim, and was soon ported to other platforms, including Windows, OS X and Linux. They are not the sort to rest on their laurels, and at PAX East 2012, they revealed to the world and their adoring fans what they were working on, and what we could expect to see from them next – Super TIME Force.
At first glance, Super TIME Force appears to be a two-dimensional side scrolling shooter very similar to Konami’s Contra for the Nintendo Entertainment System twenty five years ago. The art direction of the game is pixel art, and though it does bear some resemblance to that of Superbrothers, it is wholly a different creation. It’s a challenging game, and on my own play through of the demo that Capybara Games was showing to the public, it was only a few tens of seconds after I started playing that I died. However, it is at the point of death where the pure genius of this game is revealed to the player. Death, in many games, is a terminal point, a halting place where your progress ends, but it isn’t so in Super TIME Force. When a player dies, they are indeed sent to either the beginning of the game or their last checkpoint, but this time, they aren’t alone – they have the opportunity to select their character again, and this time they can go through the portion of the game they just played, but not alone, their ghost from the last play through is there, fighting along their side. Imagine a game of Super Meat Boy where the visions of your past attempts were made physical and were there to help. That’s what this game is like.
The idea of playing in conjunction with your past attempts to succeed at the game is one that’s tough to wrap your head around, but that’s only just the beginning. There are four characters to choose from at the beginning, and they all play differently. One is a standard soldier, one shoots a spready-type gun, and there’s a sniper to boot. There are also additional characters to unlock throughout the course of the game as well. What Capybara games has so far is a competent shooter, and on its own the characters, the art and environments would make this a good game. When the time replay self-cooperative gameplay is added, it takes this game to the next level. Those aren’t the only things that make this title potentially amazing. Superbrothers featured an incredible soundtrack, and it was one of the best aural experiences on iOS. People should probably expect no less from Super TIME Force.
Quality, new experiences are ofttimes rare in the world of gaming, which is why a lot of people watch independent developers, because that’s where a lot of real innovation comes from in this industry. Since seeing the title for the first time at PAX East, it’s clear that Capybara has been hard at work, adding new content to their upcoming title. When Super TIME Force finally hits us in 2013, we all should make sure that our televisions are ready. Oh, and make sure you watch the trailer in the embedded video up top. It’s probably the best video game trailer I’ve seen in 2012. Seriously.
Super TIME Force will be arriving to consoles near you in 2013.]]>
By: Michael Dao
Along with Friday’s big news that in addition to PAX East and PAX Prime, there would now be a PAX Australia, PAX Drop Bear, was the announcement that in 2013, PAX Prime would be a four day event. At the PAX Prime media briefing, additional details arose. The choice to hold a convention in Australia came from surveys that solicited opinions, and overwhelmingly, fans wanted a convention in Australia. Dates and the host city along with additional information will be made public in the coming weeks.
The decision to make PAX Prime a four day event happened because of how 3 day badges sold out for PAX Prime this year in merely hours. The goal is to make sure that every person who wants to go to PAX can, and to this end, there will no longer be three day badges, or in this case four day badges. There will be individual one day badges for each of the days, and those that purchase multiple badges will receive a discount – though the exact amount of the discount has still yet to be decided.
PAX East remains a 3 day event as the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is a sufficiently large venue that expansion isn’t necessary at this time.]]>
By: Michael Dao
While most other outlets are scouring the expo hall floor, waiting for their media appointments to see all of the AAA games and reporting to you the progress of all of the titles you’re gong to be purchasing this holiday season regardless, ThriftyNerd.com is marching to the beat of its own drum, it’s walking down the path less taken, it’s taking a less beaten path. You get the point. Hidden away in a corner of the Nvidia booth and available for play was an early, early version of SimCity.
The ground shook with anticipation when it was announced that 2013 would see a new installment of the franchise which gave rise to the best selling video game series on earth, The Sims. The original had the player become the mayor of at first a small town, and they had to turn their small town into a thriving metropolis, or sometimes, just survive against a plethora of natural, and perhaps not so natural disasters. The player would do so by zoning areas to become commercial, industrial and residential zones, building roads, utilities and providing for and paying for all of the services that a burgeoning locale requires. The trick was to keep the tax revenue flowing, while concentrating on growing the population, and tax base of your city. As with any simulation, the older versions of SimCity, had many realistic elements, and the game could be incredibly circular at times. As the population of a city grew, crime became more of a problem, and to stop people from leaving the city, police stations needed to be built. The only thing is that police stations cost money, and to pay for them, the population needed to be increased. Sometimes, it felt as if the player was forced to rob both Peter and Paul simultaneously, as it were.
One of the major changes to the expected was the social and multiplayer aspects of the game. Although this means that similarly to Diablo 3, SimCity can no longer be played offline, it does open up some unique and interesting opportunities to the player. New cities must connect to a regional highway, and it is this highway that brings among other things, new residents, but it is also this highway that connects the player’s city to the cities of other players. Yes, you read correctly, things just got real. Connecting cities in this manner provide all sorts of possibilities. No longer does a city exist in a vacuum, it lives in a much greater ecosystem. Things that you do have an effect on neighboring cities, and there is the opportunity for certain synergies to be achieved. One player may decide that they wish to manage an environmentally friendly, sleepy residential town, devoid of heavy industrial areas, and just have their citizens commute to another city to work. Or perhaps you’re that industrial power, with an empire of steel willing to deal with additional pollution, but also providing jobs to other cities and selling them excess power generation. You can clearly see the potential here.
These pie in the sky concepts are all pretty good, but how does it look? The graphics are much improved so far, but it is still early days for the game. The game shares more with The Sims than its previous incarnations, and that’s not a bad thing. The interface was simple and has a similar button layout. Anyone who has played SimCity Social on the Facebook will feel right at home in navigating all of the possible build options, and as befitting a game of its pedigree, the game looks great zoomed all the way out, as well as zoomed all the way in. The player can actually zoom to a single resident and see what they are doing and where they are heading. Each resident of the town appears to be simulated.
The greatest changes made to the game as compared with previous versions, however has to be the gameplay. It follows the trend of many remakes, in that a lot of the minutiae has been removed in order to allow the player to focus on the core gameplay elements. I will admit that I was never very good at SimCity. There was always one part of the game I would hit after a few hours where I would never be able to grow the city any further without taking on some serious debt, the politics of which I will not debate in a virtual world. There was also a good amount of micromanagement in older titles. Roads had to be built, of course, but so did items like power transmission lines, sewer pipes, and water lines. It isn’t enough to zone areas and collect money, services needed to be provided, and it was often difficult to lay out water in an area that only just needed it. So, in this title, all services of that nature are tied to roads, which does make sense, allowing people to plan more effectively just using roads.
SimCity has always been an open ended game. The last title, SimCity 4, followed this mold, and I had a great difficulty playing the game, as the cities I built would never really scale all that well, and my town would soon find itself in fiscal crisis. The new title, however, nips this right in the bud, what’s greatly improved upon are the feedback mechanisms for the player. It’s easier to see just what is going on in your city, and what its residents are thinking. The best improvement to tackle this issue, however, is the addition of a quest system of sorts. There is no bright gold exclamation point that the player needs to get to and click on to read a quest description for. The closest analogue here is something that again, players of SimCity Social will find familiar. Your city has an adviser that will provide intermediate goals. These goals provide the player with a focus and sense of direction that will appeal to gamers that like the concept of city management game, but do not care for the open world aspect of it.
Announced at the Game Changers event, SimCity certainly does that. Having gotten to spend some time with the game, it was incredibly satisfying to experience new concepts executed brilliantly within a formula that has managed to retain its popularity since its first installment in 1989. Whether the final product is as good as this demo leads us to believe it will be does remain to be seen. However, I can tell you that during the entire time I was playing the demo, I was smiling. I’m pretty confident it will be.
SimCity will be available in February 2013 for PC and Mac.
By: Michael Dao
PAX Prime 2012 is the first time that Americans have had the opportunity to play the sequel to one of the best strategy games created, X-Com: UFO Defense. We’ve previewed the game previously with great excitement, and being able to play it for the first time, I can safely tell you that the hype is well deserved. This game not only advances the genre, but it holds true to its source material.
The demo started with an opening cinematic, where a squad of rookies are being slaughtered by an alien incursion. The sole survivor of the squad of rookies is screaming into his radio begging for assistance, and just like that, the cavalry, a squad of high level soldiers are dispatched to his location. Previously, we’ve only seen a lower level team, so it was great to see how the soldiers can grow. The last to disembark from the aircraft was clearly a human with psionic abilities, which was described to us as being “beyond human.” As he stepped out of the Skyranger, the audience was told that it was only fitting that the man who created Civilization would be the man who would save it. Yes, Sid Meier was strutting out ready to unleash his mental powers on the alien invaders. We got to see specialized armor, from the sniper that was encased in Archangel armor, allowing them to pick off targets with ease while in the sky, to the Assault’s Ghost armor which gave them the ability to be invisible as well as a have a faster run speed.
Having the opportunity to play the beginning of the game, one can say that the Enemy Unknown certainly knows how to manage tension. The first few levels are a good introduction, giving players new to strategy games a handle on the mechanics involved, while giving X-Com veterans that are familiar with the franchise a look at what’s changed. The first mission teaches the tough, tough lesson of losing troops, as only one makes it home alive. While teaching players key concepts, the early missions are still rather story driven. Overall, the game captures the essence of its predecessors. There’s the feeling that there’s a much larger picture that you’re initially piecing together, and still present is the continual pressure of prioritization. Does one decide to research better armor for their soldiers instead of performing an alien autopsy? Does one defend China against an alien terror mission over one in the United Kingdom?
Though we have seen various gameplay videos in the lead up to release, seeing gameplay and experiencing gameplay are two completely different things, and the player can’t help but draw comparisons to the original. At the panel for the game at PAX East, the developers stated that they had removed a lot of the “bullshit” from the game, things to micromanage, situations where the player would lose their squad during their very first turn. Playing the game, it really appears that they have kept true to their word. Gone are time units – for the most part, players can move or shoot, or move twice. Ammo management is also taken out, you don’t have to make sure that your aircraft are stocked with ammo, you just control each soldier’s individual load. To say that things were removed from the game would be to do it a great injustice. It would be much more fair to say that it the game was distilled into its core components. By limiting the number of troopers that the player can take on a mission to 4-6, each soldier becomes that much more important, and encourages more offensive play, as opposed to how many people would play incredibly conservatively with past X-Com titles.
Right now there are two concerns about the title. The first is replayability. There are numerous levels in the game, and it has been stated that a person could play through the game twice without playing the same level twice. Still, that number is finite, and with the more cinematic gameplay, it makes sense. Each environment just HAS to be lovingly handcrafted, as opposed to how levels were randomly generated in the past. The second is which version to get, Xbox 360 or PC. The PC will have more graphical options, better resolutions and a different UI, whereas the Xbox 360 will have Achievements, and if you’re
anything like me, more people to play with in multiplayer.
We have until October 9, 2012 to decide.
If you’re in that camp of people who find sim racers like Forza too hard and Need for Speed too unrealistic. Microsft has answered your very specific prayers. Forza Horizon is a new racing game coming to the Xbox 360 on October 23, and it appears to be riding the line between arcade racer and realistic sim. The demo at PAX Prime was, to my surprise, extremely enjoyable.
The cars and physics appear to have been pulled straight from Forza 4, but it plays like Forza 4 with most of the assists turned on. I wasn’t able to turn them off in the demo, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you could in the final product. The end result was that Horizon leans more to the arcade sige, and the racing felt fast and exciting.
While Forza 4 is confined to predetermined racetracks, Forza Horizon lets you loose on the open road, weaving in and out of traffic. It is very reminiscent of Burnout in that regard. And doing Burnout-like gameplay with realistic physics is a great combination. You’re still getting all the crazy close calls, but you have real physics to deal with, making those split second passes that much more exhilarating and rewarding. If you do mess up, the rewind feature from Forza 4 is there to ease your frustration.
There does appear to be some semblance of story, and I honestly can’t say how thats going to play out from the one level demo, but it did remind me a lot of the Burnout Paradise announcers. Even if that portion falls flat, I can’t wait to take this game on with a wheel and heavy foot.
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By: Michael Dao
Dust 514 is quite the ambitious undertaking. It embraces the concept of transgaming, which is something that I hope is the next big thing in gaming. So the first thing we have to do is go into what transgaming actually is.
Transgaming is the idea of linking disparate gaming worlds together. Those were just a bunch of words, but let’s just give you an overly simplified example of how transgaming could work using a real life example that I’m pretty sure you can relate to. My friend Mark loves him some World of Warcraft. He plays a good amount of it. Now, his girlfriend Liz, does not play World of Warcraft, and really isn’t interested in doing so. But she DOES love casual games. Bejeweled, and some sort of slot game on her iPhone that I’ve never heard of. But how do we get them playing TOGETHER? Let’s do some imagineering. What if there was a World of Warcraft branded version of Bejeweled where if Liz performs an act such as getting a five gem match, it provides Mark with a temporary in-game buff? Or perhaps, we have a situation where Mark wins a battleground match and that provides Liz with a boost to her score multiplier? Now instead of two people playing separate games, we have two people assisting each other and enjoying the same universe – and most likely both will be spending more time in their respective games. This is transgaming. A game that tons of people love is Overwatch, but some may find it difficult to rank up. Check out this Overwatch rank boosting to help you.
So, this is what CCP is trying to achieve with it’s new title, Dust 514. To sum it up, it’s a sci-fi themed first person shooter that’s a Playstation 3 exclusive. Nothing exciting there, but the details soon take a quick turn. It’s a downloadable title which is going to be free to play and supported by microtransactions. And if that hasn’t piqued your interest yet, the Dust 514 universe will link up fully with their internet spaceships MMO, Eve Online. I think I might just have your attention now.
Eve Online has a reputation for being a rather unforgiving sandbox MMO. The best way to describe what the experience is like is to use a World of Warcraft metaphor. In World of Warcraft when a player character dies, they get resurrected at a certain point, and all of their equipment takes a durability penalty. When item durability hits zero, it is useless until repaired by an NPC for a price. Contrast that with Eve Online, where if a player character loses their ship, that’s IT. Their ship is truly and utterly gone, along with the weapons and equipment installed on the ship’s hull. This provides a problem for the new player as people get attached to their ships. Two lessons vital to learn here are to not get attached to ships, and that a person should never fly what they cannot afford to lose.
So how does Dust 514 work? Upon loading the game, it’s clear that the interface takes a number of cues from it’s older brother, Eve Online. Some graphics are reused, this is most notable when you’re configuring your character, and isn’t a bad thing. The gameplay is standard FPS fare, one notable mission is where one side has to shoot down a large ship that is headed to a destination, using hand held heavy weapons, or heavy anti ship guns on the map, while the other side has to prevent the ship from being destroyed. Gameplay is fairly quick, though it feels as if there should be more respawn points or that they should be closer together. The title is still in beta, so there are a lot of things that can easily be adjusted. But what is the game like? It shares a lot of the design philosophy that you see rampant in Eve Online. If your character perishes with an upgraded weapon, they lose it and it has to be repurchased, and much of the balance in Eve is seen here. For example. In Eve, a well skilled pilot in a medium sized ship can indeed kill a player in a larger, more expensive ship if the second player has not trained their skills to an appropriate level.
And the skills. My word, the skills. The skills are time based, so access to better or different gear is dependent on how long a person plays. It is a system that rewards specialization greatly – the developers have stated that it would literally take a player years in order to learn all of the skills available. It’s also a system that both rewards veteran players without overwhelming new players. Skills have five levels of achievement to them, and a person can reach the fourth level in a relatively short period of time. However, reaching that fifth level will take more time that it took to get through the first levels. Getting that very last increment of improvement is an arduous process, and one not taken lightly.
But the biggest question remains – how will the game interact with the large Eve Online universe? CCP, the developer of Dust 514 and Eve Online have an annual gathering of fans each year in Iceland called Fanfest. Imagine a PAX Prime, but instead of a celebration of all video games, it just focuses on Eve and Dust. It’s about a thousand people that fly out to Iceland to attend Fanfest, but considering the subscriber base numbers approximately 400,000, that’s a pretty impressive amount of people. It was at this Fanfest that CCP showed a focus on Dust 514, and a bit of what they plan for the game. Live footage was shown of a fierce ground battle with troopers assaulting a base. Unable to crack its defenses, one of the soldiers aims what appeared to be laser designator at a defensive position. The other screen showed the image of a lone ship orbiting the planet the ground pounders were on, and the ship fired. Switching back to the view on the ground, the encampment was engulfed in explosions and the attacker’s mission was successful.
That there is the entire point of transgaming. Eve Online has always been a niche game, albeit one with an incredibly dedicated and loyal following. It’s a game with an incredibly steep learning curve, one that some would charitably call a learning cliff. But the universe is fantastic. Friends who do not care for the game play of Eve Online can now enjoy a first person shooter experience within the same universe, and they can play cooperatively with internet spaceship pilots in the sky. This past week, the first steps to make this happen occurred. The beta servers of Dust 514 were linked with the test server for Eve Online for the first time, and the first rudimentary connections were made – players in each camp can now chat and send mail to each other. Items for Dust players are appearing in the markets of Eve, though they cannot be purchased as of yet. Transgaming is about bringing people together. The more cynical among us would say that this is just an attempt at enlarging a potential market. I say that this is a way to give gamers a disparate, yet shared experience. I say that this is a way to allow people to create more unique and interesting stories together. I say that this is the future.
Full Disclosure: The author of this article is a member of Test Alliance Please Ignore.]]>
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Papo & Yo is art. Over the years there have been many arguments about whether games can be art or not, and Papo & Yo is hopefully the last nail in the coffin of that silly debate. Minority Creative Director Vander Caballero sets out to make you feel a certain emotion with his game, and achieves his goal beautifully. When you realize it is an autobiographical tale, it makes the impact that much heavier.
You play as Quico, a young boy living in a South American favela. Quico has to look after his friend Monster, who pretty much just sleeps and eats coconuts. Monster does have a serious problem though, he can’t stop himself from eating poisonous frogs, and when he does he goes crazy. Once Monster gets a hold of a frog, he literally bursts into flames, and will chase Quico until you find a special blue coconut.
Quico lives in a surrealist world where the laws of physics don’t always have a lot of meaning. You might be surprised by the graphics when you first play Papo & Yo. It runs on the Unreal Engine, and is very realistic. Rarely do you find a puzzle/platformer made by an indie developer set in a realistic world. Once you delve into the mechanics of the game, you can see what a smart choice it is. Quico can interact with chalk drawings that change the buildings around him. The impact when he pulls on a chalk rope and the walls of a building literally peel back is astounding.
The contradictions in the world of Papo & Yo are what makes it special. You are in a grimy, realistic world, but then the a building will sprout wings and fly away, or grow legs and hop around. It is a whimsical world where you can stack dozens of buildings and create a bridge with them, but there is still a menacing undercurrent felt in the moody interaction between Quico and the other characters.
The puzzles in Papo & Yo are fantastic, mostly because they allow you to interact with the environment in such a unique way. You might pull a stairway out of the side of a building that wasn’t there before, or figure out a way to move a building that is blocking your path. You have a number of tools to work with. You can coax Monster to help you, you have a robot friend named Lulu that can let you double jump and unlock certain areas that you can’t reach. You also have a mysterious friend who leads you through most of the game. The puzzles are never going to really challenge you or blow your mind, but there is still joy to be had just by completing them and seeing what will happen next.
Papo & Yo is a reasonably short game. You will be able to finish it in a sitting or two. It also has a linear story line, and while you can probably solve the puzzles in a few different ways, there isn’t much reason to play through the game again. The one caveat is that if you are a trophy hound, there will be an incentive to play through multiple times. All that being said, I am completely okay with a game not over-staying its welcome and being a contained experience. Every second I played of Papo & Yo was an enjoyable one, and I have no interest in them watering down the experience for the sake of adding a few hours of play time or some bullets to the back of the virtual game box.
Papo & Yo is an experience that you probably haven’t had before, and it is well worth your time and money. If you have a PS3 and a soul, I highly recommend that you give it a try.
This review is based on a retail copy of Papo & Yo provided by Minority. It is a PSN exclusive.]]>
by John Parie
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are a pretty well know bunch of guys and have been together for quite some time; so it should come as little surprise that when Death finds out that his brother War is in a bit of trouble with the Charred Council following the events of the first Darksiders game, that he is eager to set right what was once put wrong.
The game begins with seeking out the help of an elder that can help Death locate the Tree of Life, the one thing that can restore humanity and set his brother free. Unfortunately, the Horsemen have a bit of history with the gentleman and he is less than willing to help, which leads to Death getting saddled with a burden that will follow him through the game, but he does eventually makes his way to the land of the Tree of Life.
This first NPC interaction sets the tone for the rest of the game, highlighting that while Death and War are brothers, they are two different personalities all together. While War was content to try and appease the people he encountered, Death is snarky, egotistical and you get the distinct feeling he is willing to break a few eggs or double-cross a few people to accomplish his goal.
The differences don’t end there – gone are the lumbering movements of War. Death moves about the world with parkour style moves and the speed of an Olympic athlete. This change really invigorates the game and makes traveling through the world and traversing puzzles throughout dungeons feel very fresh.
Another new aspect this go around is the loot and character building systems that have been added. Much like a traditional dungeon crawler, enemies now drop weapons, armor and potions that can be used to spec out your character to match your particle fighting style. All of the loot is randomly generated sans a few named unique items. There is one particle weapon type of note and that is possessed weapons. These weapons can be upgraded by “sacrificing” other magical weapons that you find to the possessed weapon. Once enough weapons have been sacrificed the weapon will level up and you can choose from a list of upgrades. Possessed weapons can be upgraded to level 10, allowing you to create weapons that are tailored to you.
To take the customization up one more notch the team added a skill tree system to the mix. The skill tree has two primary trees, Necromancer and Harbinger. The Necromancer side focuses on raising enemies from the death to fight alongside you as well as steeling life from your opponents. The Harbinger side is designed to maximize the damage done by your weapons and make you a standalone killing machine.
The combat has a martial arts feel to it because of its fast pacing and the fact that Death darts around the screen from enemy to enemy. War’s shield has been replaced with Death’s ability to dodge. These dodges allow you to chain together attack strings so long that when preformed correctly, Death can clear a room without ever stopping. The combination of swords, scythes, hammers, polearms, pistols and evasion allow each combat situation feel fresh and unique as opposed to a formulaic mashing of button is a particular order. To top it all off, the finishing moves have been improved and for the most part shortened. This faster finishing moves allow you to perform satisfying final blows without completely taking you out of the combat for what previously felt like an eternity.
The world itself has a feeling of grandeur in Darksiders 2. The gloomy, dark burning city has been replaced by a world with a wide range of environments and dungeons. Even the dungeons have a grander feel, with high ceilings and large mechanical devices you must use to complete your tasks. The score matches the world very well, offering subtle changes as you pass from one area to another and a hint of crescendo as a warning for players to get ready for an impending battle or event.
One last nice touch is the addition of a recapping system that plays a “previously on” video for player when they launch the game and continue previously saved game. This small touch helps players stay up-to-date with the story and in turn move involved with its progression through the game.
Overall, the team at Vigil has taken previously good game and improved it. The addition of the RPG and loot elements are a welcome touch that should add an extra layer of depth and replayablity to the Darksiders 2.
Darksiders 2 is scheduled to launch on Xbox 360, PS3 and Steam on Aug. 14.]]>