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Review: System Shock: Enhanced Edition

Oct 10 // Patrick Hancock
System Shock: Enhanced Edition (PC)Developer: Looking Glass Studios / Night Dive StudiosPublisher: Looking Glass Studios / Night Dive StudiosReleased: September 22, 2015MSRP: $9.99 The first thing to address is what has actually been updated in this "enhanced" version. Since buying the Enhanced Edition comes with the original, it was easy to compare the two, despite me never playing it previously. The updated version's aesthetic is just overall better. The game sounds and looks much better, with smooth textures and crisp audio.  Controls are also much more user-friendly. Pressing the E key will switch between locked and free mouselook, which is a huge upgrade compared. Players will be going back and forth rather frequently, so having this process streamlined is a godsend.  The atmosphere of System Shock is always touted as one of its strongest points. The physical atmosphere can be creepy at times, with blood sprawled on the wall spelling messages of help and warning, but some of the music tracks just kill any sense of dread or fear in the player. It's certainly not bad music, but it doesn't quite fit in with the overall aesthetic and feels....funky. Like, ToeJam and Earl funky. There are also a TON of sound effects that are often played on top of each other. The resulting cacophony of noise is anything but pleasant. Hell, just fighting a couple of cyborgs results in the "BEEBAPOBEEBAPO" of the enemies layered on top of the sounds of the player's weapon of choice, which is rough to listen to. Don't get me wrong, there are moments where the sound is the strongest factor, but the lousy parts are just as memorable, and for all the wrong reasons. [embed]313454:60689:0[/embed] Despite being over 20 years old, System Shock plays rather well, though it has its quirks. The movement is a bit janky, like the fact that moving diagonally is way faster than simply going in a straight line. The user interface is easily maneuvered, and I recommend that players use the fullscreen mode -- it minimizes most of the interface and increases the visibility of the environment. Plus, with the updated textures, things don't look horrible when they take up the entire screen. Combat is simple and easy to understand. Since switching between free and locked mouselook is a button press away, it's quick to adjust to various combat situations. Using the user interface to switch weapons may take some getting used to, but it's not complicated to figure out and eventually becomes second nature.  Generally, the question of "Why don't I just buy and mod the original version?" comes up. To this, I say good luck finding it! System Shock: Enhanced Edition is, for all intents and purposes, the only way to play the original game if you don't happen to already own it. Even if the old version were available, the enhanced version is at a great price and packs in all of the common mods to make the game much more enjoyable. Perhaps the best part about System Shock, which is naturally still part of the game, is the ability to customize the difficulty in every aspect. Combat, puzzles, missions, and Cyberspace can all be altered to a difficulty of zero to four. Combat and puzzles are rather self-explanatory, while lowering the mission difficulty removes plot elements and changing the Cyberspace difficulty alters the time limit and challenge of those segments. While certain aspects of System Shock don't hold up in today's world, a surprising amount of them do. New players, like myself, can jump right in and have a very enjoyable experience, full of atmosphere and action. The enhanced version is exactly what it claims to be, and makes the game way more playable than the original version. If you've ever been curious about the first title in the System Shock series, now is the best time to jump in! [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
System Shock review photo
I've never played the original System Shock. I understand how important it was to the RPG and FPS genres as a whole, but I was five years old when it came out, which is slightly too young to appreciate it. I've played the sec...

SpyParty update photo
SpyParty update

Watch SpyParty transform before your very eyes

Except Toby
Sep 21
// Patrick Hancock
SpyParty, the only game to make me wish I was a computer, has once again made a pretty big step forward. The basic map, the ballroom, has always been the first thing that new players see. It's very basic, with plenty of ...

Review: Act of Aggression

Sep 21 // Patrick Hancock
Act of Aggression (PC)Developer: Eugen SystemsPublisher: Focus Home InteractiveReleased: September 2, 2015MSRP: $44.99  Act of Aggression's plot takes place in the near-future where political agencies are being exploitative during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The player takes the side of the Chimera and U.S. government, who believe a group called the Cartel are behind this financial crisis. There are also standalone missions that play out from the perspective of the Cartel. The campaign isn't the most interesting story, which is compounded by downright terrible voice acting. I'm honestly not sure if they were going for a "so bad it's good" angle, but the end result is just bad.  The campaign also does a poor job of acting as the game's tutorial. After completing a campaign, jumping into an online match will be mostly foreign. Personally, I recommend playing through AI skirmish matches to get used to how the actual game handles before jumping online. That way, players can take their time reading unit descriptions and getting a feel for the various factions. [embed]309347:60454:0[/embed] Gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played a real-time strategy game before. Players need to harvest resources, build up their base, create an army, and wipe out the opponents' base. There are four resources to keep track of: oil, aluminum, rare earth elements, and electricity. The first three are harvestable from the map using Refineries, but electricity is created by specific buildings. There are other ways to acquire certain resources, like occupying banks or constructing specific buildings.  Not everything is par-for-the-course RTS gameplay. Players can send ground troops to occupy any building that litters the map. Soldiers inside of buildings have increased defenses from that structure, with the obvious downside of being stuck inside the building. Enemies can either attack the building in an attempt to destroy it and kill the soldiers inside, or send in their own troops to fight inside. Winning battles inside of buildings seems to be a case of numbers; having more soldiers than the enemy will end in a victory. There are tons of buildings spread across just about every map, which makes traversing an area way more interesting since the enemy can be in any of them. As mentioned, large bank buildings will generate (finite) resources when occupied, so the early game usually consists of players rushing towards those areas. It's easy enough for players to take a bank next to their base, but heading directly towards an enemy bank early on can also be worth it. It's an incredible gameplay mechanic that truly does alter competitive play. Another important element involves prisoners of war. After a soldier is defeated in battle, they don't disappear from the map. Instead, they become a unit that has no action other than to move. Players can have the wounded soldiers retreat to base, but if an enemy gets there first, they can capture the POW. From there the enemy can generate resources, and even be traded for different resources. This is something that can really impact the late-game, and can easily separate mediocre and great players.  Base building is standard for the genre, and consists of three tiers of buildings. Certain structures need to be built before constructing anything from a higher tier, and many of the late-game buildings require rare earth elements, the late-game resource. It feels like a natural progression, and still allows for many different "builds" and strategies. Perhaps the best part about playing Act of Aggression is that it actually feels like war. Players, in general, need to have a well-balanced army to see any sort of success. "Deathballs" of a single unit can see mild success, but will usually fail to bring complete victory (trust me, I've tried). Having a balanced army, stationing units in buildings, and occasionally calling in airstrikes made me feel more like a strategist than any RTS in recent memory. Each faction can also build a "superweapon," which takes the form of a nuclear missile. All three superweapons are pretty much identical, with some numbers being changed like area of effect and damage. These aren't an automatic victory once they are built, and in fact can be defended against by certain factions with specific structures.  It's important to note that "actions per minute," or APM, isn't an emphasis here. Players won't need to worry very much about micromanaging their armies in the midst of an intense battle. It's more about keeping your enemy on their toes with a strong overarching strategy, along with intelligent placements and makeups of an army. Visually, Act of Aggression impresses. Players may not realize it, but zooming in reveals a nice level of detail given to each of the units. It can be hard, using the normal camera level, to discern between specific units which makes combating armies tougher than it needs to be.  It's unclear whether or not Act of Aggression will have any legs to stand on within a few months. The player count hovers around the 1,000 to 2,000 range at any given time and I've had no shortage of players to compete against online. The larger price tag is likely limiting its playerbase, and it can be hard to justify due to the lackluster single-player option.  This might not be the prophet of the next wave of "golden-era" RTS games, but it's a fresh entry to a genre that desperately needs it. It's one of the few games that has truly made me feel like a strategist, and changes the way I approach familiar situations when playing online. For those only interest in single-player, I'd recommend looking elsewhere. If online multiplayer or even AI skirmishes are all you need, Act of Aggression delivers a wonderful product. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Act of Aggression review photo
Enter the hotseat
Act of Aggression claims to be built like games from the "golden era of RTS." You know, back when StarCraft and Command and Conquer were taking the industry by storm. At least, I assume that's what they mean because...

Review: STASIS

Sep 01 // Patrick Hancock
STASIS (Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: The BrotherhoodPublisher: The BrotherhoodReleased: August 31, 2015MSRP: $24.99  The story begins with the main character, John Maracheck, woken from a stasis (heh) pod on a spaceship called the Groomlake. It's immediately obvious that something big has happened here, as there is broken machinery, plenty of bloodstains, and no one around. John sets out to find his wife and daughter, in addition to finding out what the hell he's doing here in the first place. I won't spoil anything further, but what follows is a grim and morose tale that will certainly leave an impression on the player. As the story begins to unfold and more elements of the Groomlake's history become clearer, players shouldn't be surprised if a sickening feeling washes over them. There are scenes in STASIS, especially towards the end of the game, that I'm not sure I'll ever forget. The only way I can think to describe them is: fucked up. And that is the kind of "horror" that STASIS sets out to achieve. The game doesn't just throw jump scares at the player in every scene; instead, it builds an atmosphere that will make players uneasy. There are a few jump scares, but they actually work because they're infrequent and unexpected. This is a true horror game: creepy and unsettling, with scenes sure to embed themselves in the player's mind, whether they like it or not. Much of the plot is told through PDA journal entries found around the ship. These entries are well written, and players will find themselves excited to find new ones. Entering a room often reveals quite the scene, and as players read the PDAs, the events that transpired in the room come in to view. All of a sudden that blood splatter or broken machinery makes perfect sense. [embed]308755:60221:0[/embed] The biggest issue the plot has is pacing. For someone who figures out all of the game's puzzles with relative ease, the pacing is great. For those like myself, however, who struggle with classic adventure game puzzles, the pacing can fall apart quickly. In general, I suck at figuring out puzzles in adventure games. That being said, I managed to get through most of STASIS' puzzles without struggling. When I did struggle, however, oh boy was it rough. After spending over an hour trying to figure out what to do, the game's atmosphere and themes crumble away, and the I began to look at it from a mechanical point of view. "Okay, what haven't I clicked on yet," or "which item haven't I tried to use on everything yet?" are signs of desperation and even frustration. At that point, the creepy background sounds and eerie music were just noise and I was furiously clicking on everything in hopes that it would work. For players who end up at this point, I have a few tips. First of all, make sure you've read everything. Many times, hints are offered through various PDA journal entries or in the mouse-over descriptions of things. Read them carefully! Always try to combine items, and use items on just about everything. Finally, if you're truly stuck, look it up! It's better to keep moving with the story than to spend hours banging your head against the wall, hoping for the best. Shoutouts to my Destructoid colleague Stephen Turner for helping me through some of the harder puzzles; that guy is a rockstar. With the exception of those few obtuse puzzles, most of them range from very obvious to "just the right amount of thinking." As mentioned, hints are almost always available to those who are observant enough, even though some don't come off as hints initially. Piecing together these clues feels great, and solving most puzzles provides a strong sense of accomplishment. The game takes an interesting isometric perspective, similar to RPGs like Baldur's Gate or Planescape: Torment. The view cannot be zoomed in or rotated, so what you see is what you get. This is probably for the best, since the game uses a fairly low resolution and zooming in would not be pretty. It isn't always easy to see where to exit a room, so it's best to hover the mouse over the edges of each room to find all of the exits.  Objects that can be picked up or PDAs that can be read have a glint of light, signaling to the player that they should click on it. This helps alleviate the "pixel-hunt" that many adventure games suffer from, though not completely. While interactable items sparkle like a gem in the sky, environmental objects do not. I did occasionally find myself slowly scanning my mouse over an area to see if I had missed something to click on.  While this is inconsequential, the pathfinding in STASIS is a little wonky. Often times John will take the longer route to get to an item instead of the obviously shorter one. Some of the animations are also a bit funky; certain movements don't quite line up with the surrounding environments at times. Both of these have no gameplay impact, but they can break immersion and remind the player that they're playing a video game.  The model for John also stuck out as odd. He's completely dark, like a shadow. Other character models seem to have some texturing done, but John...doesn't. Even when in a room with plenty of light, John stands as a dark figure. It comes off as unfinished, though it seems to be a deliberate choice. The sound design, however, is top notch. Various background noises easily take front stage at times, making an already creepy room into a downright terrifying experience. Sound effects after interacting with specific objects are downright perfect, and make me question the lengths that the developer went to to get such sounds. STASIS is one of the most memorable experiences I've had from gaming in quite a while. Some puzzles can be frustratingly obtuse, but the majority are a pleasure to solve. The game will take most people between six to ten hours to complete, depending on puzzle-solving skill, and just about every moment is sure to stick with the player in some way. STASIS is a game that is not to be missed by anyone craving an eerie and sinister experience. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
STASIS review photo
Something you won't forget
Generally, I tend to avoid both adventure and horror games, which makes my attraction to STASIS a bit perplexing, since it's both of these things. I've been invested in the game's development for years, anticipating its relea...

Splatoon's newest map epitomizes the game

Aug 21 // Patrick Hancock
Note: For ranked, I'm currently hovering between B- and B. General Honestly, I think just about any weapon can succeed on Flounder Heights with the correct strategy. Rollers and Inkbrushes will likely have a harder time since they can't ink the walls themselves, but that's what teammates are for! Since it's so large, players seem to lean towards longer-ranged weapons, but that is not the only way to go! My main weapon is the Sploosh-O-Matic, a very short-ranged weapon, and I've been doing just fine. Players really need to adjust their playstyle to their weapon here, probably more than any other map.  Since I use a short-ranged weapon, I use the walls to create sneaky paths and come up from behind. When I switch to something with a longer range, I tend to hang back way more and stick to the standard paths. This is why I think the map epitomizes the game: using your weapon in the best way possible is essential to thrive. For some, that's clinging to walls and taking shortcuts, for others, it's holding a position; every weapon has its place on Flounder Heights. Turf War There is a lot of surface to ink here. Often times, I'll find myself leaving the spawn a minute or two into the game and still have an entire path to coat with fresh ink! Normally I would advise not to bother with inking the spawn, since it will likely get inked over time from people respawning. With Flounder Heights, however, I'm changing my tune. It is very possible for an entire area near the spawn to go un-inked for an entire match, since there's so many other places to be and most people just super jump from spawn after their first death. Sprinklers and Inkstrikes are, as usual, very efficient here, especially with the verticality of it all. A single sprinkler or well-placed Inkstrike might ink three different levels at once, making it much more of a pain to clean up! The high ground in the center of the map is a very strong position to hold. You can see a lot from any given spot up there, but at the same time, there's so many different areas that the enemy can come from. Personally, I'm a fan of taking the middle low ground, then looping back around to come from behind. Tower Control The path for the tower in this mode is pretty straightforward, but can definitely be difficult to stop. After the tower leaves the center, it goes up and over a wall, which can be a big pain when chasing the tower down since the wall itself isn't inkable. Luckily, the tower moves slowly enough that Squidkids can just go down the ramp and cut off the tower. This might be me making things up, but the base of the tower seems larger here. Like, the part that players need to climb up to actually ride the tower. This makes things real difficult for players on the ground level to splat those actually on the tower. Luckily, there's plenty of high places on the map to combat this, but it is interesting.  I've been rolling with the Squiffer for Tower Control, and it hasn't let me down yet. There's definitely plenty of places for Chargers to station themselves and pick off anyone on the tower, though the Squiffer is a more in-your-face kind of Charger.  Splat Zones Despite being such a large map, the two zones in Splat Zones are right next to each other. They are both in the center of the map, separated by a small grate and two archways. Charger weapons and the Heavy Splatling can shoot from one zone to the other. It seems like a strange decision, given such a large map, but it does succeed at creating MASS CHAOS in the center. Killer Wails are especially strong here, since you can hit both zones at once! One bit of advice: don't forget that the grate is....a grate. I've seen plenty of teammates try to avoid getting splatted and just fall right through the grate. It's not a bad idea to head to the center of the map, below the grate, and paint the walls so your teammates can swim right back up afterwards. Oh, and each zone can be taken by a single well-placed Inkstrike. Just keep that in mind! I used the Heavy Splatling primarily in Splat Zones. I loves its range and ability to hold an area. Plus, since it's possible to take a zone with an Inkstrike, I could defend one zone while simultaneously taking the second! While in control of both zones, it's not a bad idea to push forward a bit to paint the opponent's travel routes. Forcing them to repaint those paths can earn you some precious seconds! Rainmaker Again, despite this being such a large map, Rainmaker can be over in the blink of an eye. The path from the Rainmaker's location to the goal is very short. Regardless, 90% of my Rainmaker battles here have been nail-biters. One time my team, with only three people, came within inches of claiming victory. It's moments like those that make me wish I could play with the same people multiple times in a row. Please don't forget that the shield around the Rainmaker pushes you back. Far too many people have been pushed off one of the game's many high buildings trying to burst that shield and getting too close.  I do wish Rainmaker utilized more of the game's many paths. There's really only one way into the final area, which makes it a big chokepoint. There is technically a second route to get there, but it's out of the way and doesn't make much sense to take since the enemy can see where the Rainmaker is at all times. General Map Tips Squid Beakons: These things are made for this map. With so many different paths and plenty of surface area, getting back to a "hot zone" of activity can take quite a while. Put some Beakons in one of the maps nooks and crannies and your team will love you. Echolocator: This already-great ability gets even more use here. Knowing where the enemy is in such a large space is crucial! Likewise... Cold Blooded: Don't let those Echolocator jerks know where you are! Especially useful for those who like to climb around and be sneaky. Bubbles and Krakens: Don't forget that shooting people in Bubbles or in Kraken form will knock them back! If you're on one of the many elevated areas, you don't necessarily have to run!
New Splatoon Map photo
Instant favorite
Splatoon's newest map, Flounder Heights, is amazing. It takes place on top of an apartment complex and is absolutely gigantic. There's so many routes to take at any given time! There is a lot of potential in this map, and it ...

Rocket League pro match photo
Rocket League pro match

You need to watch the Rocket League grand finals

The best match you have ever witnessed!
Aug 21
// Patrick Hancock
Major League Gaming (MLG) just completed hosting its first Rocket League tournament, and the grand finals was one of the most exciting things I have ever witnessed. The two competing teams were Cosmic Aftershock an...
Rick and Morty Dota 2 photo
Rick and Morty Dota 2

Now Rick and Morty can nar-*belch*-rate your Dota 2 matches

Radiant just wiped out the Roshan guy!
Aug 21
// Patrick Hancock
The announcer packs for Dota 2 are easily some of the best purchases available within the free-to-play game. Personally, I go back and forth between the Stanley Parable and Bastion announcers. Not only are the...

The sexiest way to play Curses 'N Chaos

Aug 19 // Patrick Hancock
Curses N Chaos Guide photo
So really, it's the only way
While reviewing Curses 'N Chaos, I've come across a lot of different strategies. Ultimately, though, only one proved useful. So before you go out trying to kill monsters like a n00b, please watch this pro-level video from the top player on the pro circuit, me.

Review: Curses 'N Chaos

Aug 19 // Patrick Hancock
Curses 'N Chaos (Mac, PC [reviewed]. PS4, PS Vita)Developer: Tribute GamesPublisher: Tribute GamesRelease Date: August 18, 2015MSRP: $9.99  Curses 'N Chaos opens with a beautifully animated cutscene that sets up the threadbare story: Lea and Leo are cursed to live under Thanatos' Shadow by the evil Wizard King and need to kill monsters to break the curse. Then, it's time to fight monsters! Players can choose either character to brawl as, both of whom play the same. Multiplayer can be utilized either locally or online, and the PC version does use Steam for player invites. Gameplay is simple, challenging, beat-em-up action on a single screen. Players can run, attack, jump and double jump, and attacking at different times yields new moves. For example, attacking while jumping performs a jump kick that is stronger than a standard grounded attack. Players can also perform a running punch and an uppercut, both of which are as strong as a jump kick. Oh, and by pressing down, players can dance. This slowly builds up extra points, and it is recommended that players take every opportunity to do this as much as possible. [embed]306739:60064:0[/embed] Single-use items are a huge part of combat. Each player can hold one item at a time, but can also "bank" one by giving it to a friendly owl who will hold it until the player summons it again. Learning how each item acts is just as crucial as learning the enemy patterns. If an item is left on the ground for a few seconds, it will disappear for good, but players can "juggle" items to refresh its timer. New items can be forged in between rounds by using the alchemist. Here's a tip: don't go blindly combining items hoping for the best. There's a Grimiore that spells out what items can be combined, so use it! Once a new item is forged, it can be found and used during battle. The player can also buy items with the money collected from killing monsters, and start off battles by having certain items already. Each stage consists of ten waves of enemies followed by a boss. As the player progresses through the game's thirteen stages, enemies get more complicated behaviors and become harder to take down. The player gets five hearts and three lives to make it to the end.  Completing all the waves and beating the boss is no easy feat. About five levels in is when things start to get nuts, with enemy behaviors becoming much more erratic and difficult to deal with. Enemies that seemed so docile when introduced suddenly become incredibly potent when combined when paired with other enemy types. Enemies between stages do vary, but their behavior is limited. Many of the new enemies introduced are just re-skins of older enemies that take more hits to kill. They all look great and tend to fit a general theme, but I found myself saying "oh, this is just Enemy X, but with twice the health." In addition, each wave has a 60 second timer. When the timer reaches zero, Death shows up. This isn't an automatic loss, in fact it's more like the ghost in Spelunky that chases the player after they spend too much time in a level. Death will chase the player around and slash at them it catches up. A hit from Death means death (duh), but he's easily enough avoided. The biggest difficulty regarding Death comes with the boss fights. They too have a 60 second timer, which is definitely not enough time. Luckily, they will often drop an hourglass item that adds 15 more seconds to the clock, postponing Death's arrival.  The boss fights are traditional "memorize their tells and patterns" battles. They are beautifully animated and sometimes downright cruel in their behavior. Nothing is insurmountable, even for players going at it solo. The difficulty of these boss fights does tend to vary dramatically, though. Some boss fights took me several tries, while later fights left me with no hearts lost, only to have the next one be super difficult again.  While I've already mentioned how great the game looks, thanks in part to Paul Robertson, the audio is equally wonderful. Each track evokes a wave of nostalgia to older generations while simultaneously setting an intense tone for the battles. Likewise, the little jingles are perfect and I don't think I'll ever grow tired of hearing them. The entire art and sound teams over at Tribute has consistently shown that they know how to nail a theme. Curses 'N Chaos is an example of game purity. One screen, simple controls, and intense difficulty. There isn't much replayability outside of playing with new friends or going for a new high score, but just getting through all of the stages the first time will not be quick. For players who fancy a challenge, either solo or with a friend, Curses 'N Chaos is not one to miss. 
Curses N Chaos Review photo
Punches 'N Jump kicks
I've played Curses 'N Chaos at two consecutive PAX conventions, and have come away impressed each time. Part of it was due to their show floor setup of giant arcade cabinets. However, the biggest draw of the game was its...

Lovers Release Date photo
Lovers Release Date

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime finally gets a release date

And it's soon!
Aug 18
// Patrick Hancock
I've been waiting to play Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime since I first saw it at PAX East two years ago. It's a unique cooperative game that constantly keeps the players (see: lovers) on their toes. Each player can cont...
Heat Signature access photo
Heat Signature access

Gunpoint Exclusive Edition now grants access to Heat Signature

Tom Francis is a kind god
Aug 18
// Patrick Hancock
Tom Francis, creator of Gunpoint, is letting certain people alpha test his upcoming game, Heat Signature. Anyone who owns the "Exclusive Edition" of Gunpoint on Steam has access to the new game until August 30. While Mr....

I can't keep up with all these Splatoon updates!

Aug 17 // Patrick Hancock
[embed]305716:60031:0[/embed] Patch 2.0 Heavy Splatling This is definitely one of my new go-to weapons. I still don't feel completely comfortable while using it, but I can already see its potential. The Heavy Splatling needs to spin up before firing, but does not need to be fully spun up to begin firing. The longer the player spins up, the more shots will come out before stopping.  I've been using the Splatling as a more defensive weapon, similar to a Charger-type weapon. It's natural to want to go on the offensive with it since it seems to beastly, but it's just not as effective at in-your-face killing compared to most other weapons. However, using it to hold a location? That's when it shines like a rainbow after a storm!  The Splash Wall is a great pairing for the Splatling, since it's great to use as cover while charging up. It definitely helps to have some Sub Saver abilities on hand though, since the Splash Wall takes a ton of ink to deploy. Slosher I thought the Slosher would be a new favorite of mine, considering I prefer to play up close and personal, but I just haven't jived well with it. It takes two sloshes to kill, so springing up and surprising someone isn't as effective as I'd like. Due to its solid range and accuracy, those who are effective with the Slosher are the ones who hang out at the edge of its range and are constantly moving around in squid form. I'm also not a fan of the pairing of the Slosher with Burst Bombs. I feel as if they serve the same purpose. I can't think of very many situations in which throwing a Burst Bomb would be better than just sloshing it up. Maybe one of you pro Slosher users can enlighten me... New Music [embed]305716:60005:0[/embed] First of all, let me just say how much I love the fact that the in-game music has in-game bands. It's the dedication to things like this that make Splatoon so consistently awesome. The new battle tune is great. I love the chiptune-y vibe from it. I'm also really glad to have more than one single music track for battles. The music that plays during the last 15-30 seconds of the original track was starting to make me go crazy... New Urchin Underpass So, I wasn't completely sure why Urchin Underpass needed a makeover, but after playing its new incarnation, I'm happy to never ever go back. The new map is so much more open than the original. The tree near the spawn apparently caused issue for players, so they moved them to the very center of the map. This is actually a brilliant decision, since these trees perfectly obfuscate part of the center of the map so snipers can't just sit on the elevated sides and wreak havoc.  I didn't mind the map before, but now Urchin Underpass is easily one of my favorites. I feel as if there are a lot of options at any given moment, which is really when Splatoon shines the most. Splatfest Victory Conditions So they changed how Splatfest victories are calculated, and increased the victory part of the equation to count four times. We've since had a Splatfest, which was Marshmallows VS Hot dogs in North America. Marshmallows had a huge popularity lead (64/36), and Hot Dogs had a slight victory lead (48/52). The result was a close one at 256 to 244. So, is this the solution? Personally, I think it's a good idea. I don't mind that popularity factors in to the equation.  Victories are definitely important, and now are weighted way more heavily as a result. Although the change didn't give team Hot dogs the victory, it did make it very close, which is impressive considering the population gap.  Rainmaker Mode This isn't part of the 2.0 patch, but did hit the game very recently. It's a new mode that works a lot like capture the flag. There's a weapon, called the Rainmaker, in the center of the map, and your goal is to bring it to your opponent's base. The Rainmaker acts like an Inkzooka, but can be charged for a much bigger tornado blast. It's a great addition to Ranked mode, but people clearly need some time to understand it. The weapon is enclosed within a shield when it is dropped, and the shield must be popped to pick it up. My advice to all you squidkids out there: pay attention to your surroundings before you pop the shield! I average around 15 kills in this mode, simply because people are staring with tunnel vision at the Rainmaker, ignoring everything else. Teamwork is essential, since movement speed is lowered while holding the weapon. Moving with a squad to protect the Rainmaker feels great, similar to how protecting the payload cart feels in Team Fortress 2.  Okay, I think I'm caught up now with the major Splatoon updates. Unless they just announced one while I was typing this....did they?
Splatoon updates photo
So much new content
It seems like every time I boot up Splatoon, Callie and Marie are telling me about something new added to the game. Weapon variations are added all the time, and just recently, a big 2.0 patch hit. New gear, new types of weap...

Rocket League cars photo
And why isn't it the Merc?
Rocket League is the new hotness. The newest update added in some new cosmetic items, and I'm sure most of you have been playing around with the new toys. The new cars, Takumi and Dominus, are easily the most used at the...

Rash in Killer Instinct is a cameo done with love

Aug 17 // Patrick Hancock
What I love: Rash plays like he's ripped right out of Battletoads. He can grow ram horns and headbutt his opponent, turn into a wrecking ball, kick with a giant spiky boot, and even call in the infamous speeder bike. While these sounds completely ridiculous, it never feels out of place or strange. I mean, this is a game with robo-dinosaurs and flame cats. Rash has a ton of mobility around the stage. He can zip around the screen using his tongue, though it won't do any damage if it hits the opponent. An added benefit to the tongue is that it will eat projectiles, which in turn helps Rash build meter! The wrecking ball move can also be used to get around the stage, making Rash able to zip and zoop around the screen to keep the opponent on their toes.  My favorite moment so far has been against an Orchid. We were both very low on health, so she starts spamming her fire cats across the stage. Since Rash doesn't have a projectile, I just decided to keep eating hers. Eventually she ran out of Instinct and I was able to use the Shadow version of the Wrecking Ball to seal my victory! The animations and sound prove that this isn't just some ham-fisted nostalgia-fueled cameo done for the money. It's clear that a lot of care was taken when re-creating Rash for the modern era. Going back and forth between Rare Replay's Battletoads and Killer Instinct's Rash is way too seamless. Players can even button mash while fighting to perform a combo, though this isn't super useful. [embed]297480:60011:0[/embed] What needs to change before he's finished: The biggest thing that irks me about Rash is that he only has one linker move, Battering Ram. Every other character has more than that and I expect Rash to by March as well. Rash's trailer seems to have a second linker in the form of a traditional Russian dance, so perhaps we'll see that come March. Other pieces are missing as well, like an actual Ultra, but that's a given for his final version. His throw demonstrated in the reveal trailer has Rash picking up the enemy and moving with them, just like in the original Battletoads, but this is not implemented in the current version.  Rash feels like a great addition to the Killer Instinct cast. If this is how all future cameos are done, then I am all for adding in more. I have a feeling I'm going to go through some intense withdrawal between September and Match without having Rash on the roster.
Rash in Killer Instinct photo
Just give him like, one more linker?
Battletoads is an interesting entity. It's really hard, and everyone knows it. It garnered a big following long after its release and has become more and more infamous over time. Then, the characters appeared in Shovel K...

Rocket League free map photo
Rocket League free map

Take a gander at the upcoming Rocket League map

Inspired by Utopia from SARPBC
Jul 28
// Patrick Hancock
Rocket League is taking off like a, well, rocket I guess. The simple complexity seems to really be jiving with a lot of people, and I couldn't be happier. As a big fan of Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, ...
Dota 2 wildcard matches photo
Dota 2 wildcard matches

Dota 2 wildcard matches are now underway

Fighting for a chance at millions
Jul 26
// Patrick Hancock
The wildcard matches for the biggest eSports tournament of the year have officially begun! Dota 2's International 2015 tournament has already raised over $17 million, and four teams are about to fight for their shot at the pr...
New Splatoon weapons photo
New Splatoon weapons

Splatoon gets new minigun and bucket weapons

The game that keeps on giving
Jul 25
// Patrick Hancock
A new Japanese commercial for Splatoon highlights some brand new weapons coming to the game, including a minigun like the Heavy's in Team Fortress 2. In addition to that, there's a literal bucket that just sloshes paint...

Review: SlashDash

Jul 17 // Patrick Hancock
SlashDash (Xbox One)Developer: Nevernaut GamesPublisher: Nevernaut GamesMSRP: $9.99Released: July 17, 2015  SlashDash is a local-multiplayer only game. There is no one-player mode, no bots, no challenges, nothing. If there are not at least two players, it's impossible to play any mode. I just wanted to make that perfectly clear before anyone reads further. It uses a simple control scheme, but that doesn't make it a simple game. Players can slash with their sword, perform a small teleport forward, or throw a weapon forward. Hitting an enemy with a thrown weapon like a kunai will stun them for a brief moment of time, but slashing them will kill them, forcing them to respawn. It takes less than a single round of play for players to fully comprehend the controls, but the feeling of mastery is still a long ways off.  The biggest quirk is that players cannot slash and move at the same time. It may sound like a non-issue, but in a fast-paced game like SlashDash, it makes a world of difference. It forces players to really think about their attacks, because a single missed attack might be the difference between victory and defeat. Everyone moves at the same default speed, so missing an attack and stopping is a huge setback. There are four modes available: Capture the Flag, Assassination, Deathrace, and Mirror Match. Capture the Flag (CTF) is easily the best mode available. It doesn't deviate far from what players would expect from a CTF variant. It's 2v2 only, and one player must grab the opponent's flag and return it to their base to score a point. The player carrying the flag is slowed, but their teammate can slash them and give them an extra boost of speed. It's incredibly important to master this skill, and forces players to think about what move would be better: boosting your flag carrier, defending them, or attacking the opponent who has your flag. Other than simply outplaying an opponent, mind games are a huge part of CTF. There's a deceivingly large amount of options at any given time, regardless of which role a player is filling. Of course, all of this happening with friends nearby or on the same couch is what really pumps the excitement into SlashDash. [embed]295953:59548:0[/embed] Assassination gives each team a Shogun to protect. The Shogun will blindly follow one player, and slashing your own Shogun will make it run to your teammate. It's important to know that the Shogun will run in a straight line to your teammate, and will get caught on any pieces of environment that are in the way. It's hard to find a good Shogun these days. The Shogun variant is interesting, but doesn't tend to provide the same amount of excitement as CTF. Having the Shogun generally forces the player to run away, and these matches can easily devolve into very defensive matches from both teams. Deathrace is a fancy way to say Deathmatch, with a slight twist on the formula. This is a free-for-all mode where each player has a bar that fills as long as they are alive. If a player is stunned or killed, the bar is slowed. The first player to fill their bar wins. The leader has a ring around them to indicate they are in first, but it's really hard to see by how much. The bar that fills for each player is a circle in the middle of the stage, and makes it near-impossible to see how close players are to one another. Mirror Match is the worst of the bunch. In this mode, every player gets five ninjas to control, each acting at the same time. It's possible to separate them by using the environment, but this mode is basically just chaos. There wouldn't be much wrong with this, except that the frame rate drops heavily while playing, even with just two people. I've even had the game crash on me on this mode. If it didn't struggle to run, Mirror Match could be a chaotic distraction from the other modes, but as it stands, it is unplayable. There are nine maps, and each of them are quite unique from one another. One map is made of ice with less friction, while another has spikes that rise from the ground that will kill anyone who steps on them. Map knowledge is an important skill, since it is crucial to know what the ninjas can and cannot teleport over. Being chased by an opponent and failing to teleport over a gap because it was too far can lead to some quick deaths.  New throwing weapons can be unlocked, seemingly through games played. This is never made very clear, but considering all I have done is play matches, I think it's safe to say that playing more matches unlocks more throwing weapons. It's a shame, though, because there will be people who download the game to play with friends and only have a single throwing weapon, the Kunai, to use. It takes some decent playtime to unlock them, too, which seems counter-intuitive to the design of the game as a whole. The different weapons all have very different effects, and cater to multiple different playstyles. The smoke bomb, for example, creates a big puff of smoke around the ninja, making them impossible to see for a moment (warning: do NOT use in Mirror Match, for the love of frame rate). The Poison Kunai, on the other hand, stuns for a very small amount of time, but prevents the enemy from teleporting for a short time instead. Playing around with the throwing weapons is a blast, once they're all unlocked. One huge issue is the rematch button. Opting to rematch restarts the match, but every player is reverted back to the Kunai for a throwing weapon, regardless of what they picked. Originally this is fine, since it's the only weapon unlocked, but as people start to select different weapons, the button becomes useless. Despite incredibly polished visuals with a true homage to Japanese culture, there's a ton of gameplay hiccups, After playing a game and going back to the main menu, the "Instructions" option becomes invisible. It's still there, just invisible until the player selects it. Selecting rematch after "Random" is chosen for the stage brings players to the same level, instead of a new random one. I've encountered freezes multiple times, even outside of Mirror Match. And after a match, the options for rematch, mode select, and stage select can block a player's statistics if they accidentally hit a button too early, which is common when the end of a match is intense. I really do love SlashDash, but only when playing with four people. Currently, there's a lot of blemishes on the product as a whole, most of which seem like glaring oversights. There's also not a lot going on for people who don't regularly have friends over at their house to play multiplayer games. With no single-player and even lackluster two-player options, SlashDash exists for a certain kind of player. Hopefully all of the bugs can be fixed, because playing Capture the Flag with three friends is easily one of the best local multiplayer experiences out there. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
SlashDash review photo
Bring your friends...or else
SlashDash first grabbed my attention at PAX East, where it easily soaked up a good amount of my time on the show floor. Also, I'm pretty sure Dylan Sprouse was working the booth. Or maybe it was Cole? I guess it could ha...

Next Splatfest announced photo
Next Splatfest announced

The next Splatfest announced for the Americas

How do you like your rides?
Jul 09
// Patrick Hancock
Nintendo of America has announced the details for the next Splatfest in Splatoon, and it's much sooner than I thought it would be! The Splatfest starts the night of July 17, at 9:00 PM PT, and runs for 24 hours. As for the te...

Tower Control is the best mode in Splatoon

Jul 08 // Patrick Hancock
[embed]295623:59421:0[/embed] Tower Control This mode starts with a neutral, floating tower platform in the center of the map and tasks players to move it into the enemy's base by standing on it. The path of the platform is marked on the map, so everyone knows exactly where you're going. My enjoyment with this mode largely depends on the map, but Tower Control has provided my best moments in Splatoon. Most maps are great in Tower Control, but one gets special mention for being not-so-great, and that's Saltspray Rig. I love map to death, but its Tower Control variant is just so darn small. I've won or lost rounds within a minute multiple times, often only being able to respawn once before the round is over. This isn't to say that it's impossible to have intense rounds on Saltspray, but I don't find them as common as in other maps. The beauty of Tower Control is how it made previously unappealing weapons super awesome to me. I've never touched a Squelcher before, but the Custom Dual Squelcher with Squid Beakons and the Killer Wail is a favorite in this mode. Squid Beakons assure that my teammates can come back to the action quickly, and the Killer Wail is absolutely perfect for defense. Remember, you know exactly where the enemy will be, and I've used this information to score a triple-kill many times using the Killer Wail in Tower Control. It's so good. I also started using the Classic Squiffer, which I used to think was a garbage weapon. Its sub abilities, the Point Sensor and Bubbler, are also perfect here. Many people "hide" in the ink when on the tower, so the Point Sensor allows me to show my team exactly where they're lurking. The platform isn't big, but the tower itself will block some ink if they're in the right spot. The Bubbler is always amazing, but when a team needs a final push, it's exciting to jump on the tower and protect everyone with a Bubble all at once! Plus, it doesn't hurt that all snipers are awesome in this mode, especially ones that don't need a long charge like the Classic Squiffer. .96 Gal Deco This weapon is a re-skin of the .96 Gal, but comes with a Splash Wall and Kraken as its sub abilities. The Splash Wall becomes way more effective in Tower Control, but the Kraken's recent nerf makes it way more underwhelming (see: balanced). As much as I love the .52 Gal weapon, the .96 leaves me hurting for ink too much to feel "in control." Considering Splash Wall takes a ton of ink, I'll continue to stick to the .52 Gal from here on out. As great as Splash Wall is for Tower Control, I still believe the original .96 Gal is a better option. Both the Sprinkler and Echolocator are some top-tier abilities regardless of mode, and their pairing on the original make it a hard option to pass up. Sploosh-O-Matic This is my new favorite gun. I generally stick to the Inkbrush or Blasters, so I'm a fan of close-quarters combat. The Sploosh-O-Matic feels like an honorary blaster with its short range and incredible damage output. I can't stress the short range enough, though. In an Inkopolis dominated by Aerosprays, short-ranged weapons are often caught out if they're not careful. One thing that surprised me was how incredibly fast this gun can fill its special. I was getting my Killer Wail ability way more often than with anything else. The best part is, since ink management can be tough with a gun like this, and using a special instantly refills ink, it's good to have a quick-use special like the Killer Wail. It's wonderful to ink a ton of ground, use the Killer Wail to kill or deny an area, and then keep on inking. Squid Beakons are just the icing on the cake, since they will always be a great choice to help out your team. Is anyone else as addicted to Splatoon as I am? If so, which new weapons are your favorite? Feel free to add P-Dude to your friends list to play together sometime!
Splatoon update is good photo
The Sploosh-O-Matic is my new favorite
Splatoon has gotten very frequent update ever since its initial release, and I have been gobbling them up as much as I can. New weapons, maps, and modes have consistently kept the game fresh, even for those who have alre...

Huge TF2 update photo
Huge TF2 update

Team Fortress 2 becomes Counter-Strike tomorrow

New map, mechanics, and balance changes
Jul 01
// Patrick Hancock
Team Fortress 2 gets a new update tomorrow called the Gun Mettle Update. To summarize, the game is taking on many ideas from its much more popular cohort, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. First of all, weapon skins...

Review: RONIN

Jun 30 // Patrick Hancock
RONIN (PC)Developer: Tomasz Wacławek Publisher: Devolver DigitalMSRP: $12.99Released: June 30, 2015 RONIN uses a barebones and cliche story. The main character wants to avenge their father and does so by killing five targets. A photograph with all of the targets together, along with the father, is used as a loading screen, which leads to the assumption that they were close at one time. What happened between then and now isn't ever delved into, and the player is sort of left with little to no story to go off of. Just kill the targets, because dead father. Got it? Every target plays out exactly the same. Two stages of going around and hacking computers, then one stage with the target in it. This repeats every single time, with the exception of the final stage. Even the stages with different objectives play exactly the same way, so it hardly matters. Playing RONIN feels like playing the same mission over and over again, about twelve times.  Each level even has the same three mini-objectives: don't kill any civilians, don't set off the alarm, and kill every enemy. If all three of these are completed, a skill point is awarded. This is the only form of character progression, and is essentially mandatory. The skills add combat techniques like throwing and recalling the sword or deploying a hologram. Certain skills are way better than others. For those who are about to play: get the skill that allows for hanging up unsuspecting enemies, then go for the one that allows teleporting to enemies. They are by far the best skills. [embed]294727:59273:0[/embed] There are two forms of gameplay: free form and turn-based. While outside of combat, movement is free form. Jumping uses the mouse and functions a lot like jumping in Gunpoint, for those familiar with the game. Holding the jump button brings up an adjustable arc, and releasing the jump button sends the player in that arc. However, unlike Gunpoint, this mechanic is incredibly awkward and never seems to work the way it should. When spotted by an enemy, turn-based combat begins. The game pauses and will show where the enemy will be firing, allowing the player to make a move accordingly. The player always moves first, so attacking at a guard who is about to fire works out just fine. The problem is that the only way to move is to jump. If the player is hanging from a ceiling and a guard is about to shoot them, it is impossible to just scootch a little bit to the right. The only option from hanging is to jump down, which isn't always a great option. Jumping on an enemy will stun them, forcing them to recover for two turns. Stunning an enemy also awards one point towards the Limit Break bar. This bar slowly fills up with action points as the player stuns or kills enemies. These points are used to utilize the acquired skills, or to use the Limit Break itself. If the bar completely fills up, the Limit Break is automatically activated, which allows two turns at once. Once used, the bar is completely drained. Most of the time, I would have much preferred to not use the Limit Break and instead use my skills to dispatch enemies. The issue is that jumping takes one action point to use, and if the player doesn't either stun or kill an enemy, that point is lost. Some skills, like throwing the sword, can only be activated mid-air for some reason. This means players have to waste an action point jumping, then next turn they can spend the two points it takes to throw a sword and complete the action. This essentially means it takes three skill points to use the skill instead of two, and can be quite frustrating.  Battles are essentially puzzles to be solved by the player, and there is often only one real solution. Most rooms have one entrance, and from there it is a matter of figuring out how to hop around in the most efficient way. Players with different skills will approach a battle differently, but given a single set of skills, they will solve battles in just about the same way every time. There are also only four enemy types throughout the entire game, so battles are different ways of arranging the same thing. Despite the awkwardness of the jump and frustrating design decisions in many of the levels, every once in a while something beautiful happens. It happens when all the skills are used effectively and players actually feel like a Ronin warrior. These moments occur somewhat frequently, and do a lot of good to help alleviate the otherwise constant frustration of memorizing a level's solution. There are checkpoints throughout each stage, though it's not conveyed to the player where they are. They can be pretty generous at times, usually saving right before a battle. However I did encounter instances where the checkpoint left me in an inescapable position, forcing me to restart the level. At one moment, the game saved just as the alarm was going off, making it unavoidable. The game then crashed immediately afterwards. The option to go back to past checkpoints would be a very welcome addition. The last mission has zero checkpoints, and forces players to do the entire thing all at once. It's a great mission compared to all of the others, largely because it's actually somewhat different, but considering the amount of accidental deaths I've had on it alone, it's an asinine decision. There's also a New Game+ mode, which adds more difficulty to the stages. Behavior also seems to change, as guards that previously shot in a contiguous straight line now had upwards recoil. The problem is, there's no incentive to play New Game+. The standard campaign was already the same mission every time. Why do it again? There are no new skills to acquire, just an added challenge for those who are yearning for more of the same. While I played this game on PC, it is clearly designed for tablets. The user interface is awful, consisting of simple text and gigantic buttons. To perform any action, players must click on big floating circles above the object, whether it be to kill an enemy or ride an elevator. Sometimes players can tap the W key to perform an action, like moving the elevator up a floor, but other times it simply doesn't work, like when entering the elevator. It's gaudy and frustrating to have to click on these bubbles all the time. RONIN strives to achieve the level of masterful design of games like Gunpoint and Mark of the Ninja, but seems to have overlooked what made them so special in the first place. It has its moments of truly feeling like a badass, but they do not make up for the frustration of everything in between. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
RONIN review photo
Where are the other 46?
When I first saw RONIN, I thought I was looking at a mod for Gunpoint. The jumping mechanic appeared the same, the environments were almost identical, and the idea looked just about the same. Turns out, RONIN is not that...

CEO 2015 highlights photo
CEO 2015 highlights

My favorite matches from CEO 2015

The best of the best!
Jun 29
// Patrick Hancock
CEO 2015, one of the biggest fighting game tournaments of the year, took place this weekend and had some insane moments. My favorite was probably the above match between Armada and Leffen in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Yes, it'...
CEO 2015 finals! photo
CEO 2015 finals!

Tune in to the final day of CEO 2015

All the fighting games you could want
Jun 28
// Patrick Hancock
CEO 2015 has been underway all weekend, and today is the peak of all the hype. Just about any fighting game you could ever want to watch will be streamed today with some of the best players in the world competing. The events ...
Stay freeeshh! photo
Stay freeeshh!

Splatoon's first balance patch nerfs the Kraken

Two new weapons are being added tonight
Jun 26
// Patrick Hancock
We've got some Splatoon update information to share! Two new weapons are being added to the game tonight, and an actual balance patch is coming on June 30. The two weapons tonight are the Carbon Roller and Custom Dual Squelch...
New SteamOS photo
New SteamOS

New SteamOS 'brewmaster' now available to download

Unless you're on AMD hardware
Jun 26
// Patrick Hancock
SteamOS, Valve's answer to Linux gaming, has been rather quiet recently. SteamOS is releasing later this year, and it looks like Valve just took the next big step towards achieving that goal. A brand new version of SteamOS, c...

Review: Cosmochoria

Jun 25 // Patrick Hancock
Cosmochoria (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Nate SchmoldPublisher: 30/30Released: April 27, 2015MSRP: $9.99  When Cosmochoria begins, the player is plopped into an unknown point in space with a few seeds and a gun. From there, they are tasked with restoring planets using seeds to bring some color and harmony back to the universe. Along the way, the player uncovers secrets about the history of the universe and destroys some evil beasts that come to ruin the party. The backstory isn't exactly rich with details or particularly interesting, but it does help build the universe. The game is a bit of a mix between a tower defense and a twin-stick shooter. It's a very unique combination, and honestly I'm not sure that description does it much justice. As the player flies around to different planets, they must plant seeds to restore the planet back to life. The bigger the planet, the more seeds needed. A player must first tend to the seed to plant it, which makes them immobile for a short time. Then, it takes some time for the seed to fully bloom. Once a seed blooms, it drops more seeds for exponential seed gains (players will never run out of seeds). After enough seeds have bloomed on a planet, it becomes restored! This does two things: the planet now has a "health pool" that it can transfer to the player to heal them up, and it brings the game one step closer to the next boss fight. The latter is not explicitly stated, but from my experience is true. Naturally, enemies come to chop off the player's green thumb. Luckily, the player can use a resource called Bricks to create towers and defend the planets. In addition, there's always the trusty gun to ward off foes. Ammo is unlimited, but Bricks are not. Bricks are occasionally dropped by enemies and are far scarcer resource than seeds. Towers are the standard fare of rapid-fire, fireballs, shields, and close-ranged.  [embed]293752:59233:0[/embed] While playing, I heavily favored gunplay over towers, especially once I unlocked the shotgun. When I was building towers, it was generally because I felt guilty for having so many Bricks saved up or because I expected a boss fight to break out. The bosses are quite the mixed bag. A handful of them act in very similar ways, but the game does change them up often enough to keep the players on their toes. Towards the mid-point of the game, I had no idea what to expect from any upcoming boss fight. In some cases towers were quite useful, whereas in others they were borderline useless. The final boss fight, while fittingly grand in scale, can be confusing because it forces the player to use a weapon they may have never tried before. For anyone stuck like I was: your weapon during the final boss fight can be charged, so charge it. The common enemies have interesting behaviors, but there are not enough different types. Towards the latter half, everything starts to feel like it's on auto-pilot. Plant seeds, kill the same enemies, move on. It got to the point where I could predict what was going to happen and when. Enemy spawning felt way too formulaic instead of being organic.  Cosmochoria is not meant to be completed in a single life, but it isn't what would be considered a "rogulike," "roguelite," or even a "rogue-lighter-that-lite." Killing foes rewards red crystals, which can be used in between playthroughs to purchase upgrades. Things like life, speed, starting seeds, and new weapons can all be purchased and have various prices. While it is probably technically possible to complete the game with the starting stats and equipment, it's very unlikely. Plus, it would be a slow and painful process. The increase in efficiency after getting a new weapon is huge and dramatically improves the experience. The early-goings can get a bit dull, since even a skilled player has to take their time killing enemies and bosses at the slow pace the starting weapon achieves. My second run lasted for a couple of hours, but I didn't make tremendous progress. New characters can also be unlocked, but not through spending crystals. They need to be found, usually through completing mini-objectives, during the game. They do have slight differences. For example, the ninja character becomes intangible while planting seeds. This is an incredibly neat mechanic, though enemies still know where the player is and will often just hover above and hurt them as soon as they become tangible again. Regardless, it still has its uses and is better than the starting character (but not as naked). In addition to upgrades, players can find artifacts to modify the way the game is played. The modifiers vary wildly in what they do and are completely optional. Some make the game harder, like only refilling jetpack fuel with kills, while others do the opposite, like removing certain types of enemies completely. It's a great way to spice up the core gameplay with mini-objectives of finding artifacts and to customize Cosmochoria to the player's liking.  The game saves the player's progress after each boss fight, though towers and location of planets do not stay between lives. The amount of planets restored is saved, but they are in different locations and different sizes. In addition, all planted towers are removed between lives, which further discouraged me from planting them in the first place.  The art and music are both wonderful, making the time spent in Cosmochoria memorable. The art is downright adorable in every way. Colors pop, which has a huge impact when restoring planets. Players can really see their progress in that regard. What once was a drab and lifeless husk of a planet becomes a bountiful and beautiful one,giving the player a real sense of accomplishment. Cosmochoria is a great way to explore space, but falls short in some aspects of its design. The core mechanics are great, but the latter half feels too repetitive, and there's not much real incentive to replay the game, despite there being many new things to uncover. It is certainly worth the time invested into it, though it may not have players screaming for more. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Cosmochoria review photo
In space, no one can hear you plant
When I first played Cosmochoria at PAX, I had to be pulled away from the demo station because of an appointment. The game's blend of calming gardening mixed with tower defense and space spelunking really jived with me. A...

Shenmue 3 success photo
Hoping for a Dreamcast stretch goal
One of the bombs dropped last night during Sony's press conference was that Shenmue 3 was coming, if the Kickstarter succeeded. It was a tough journey, but after a harrowing handful of hours, the project managed to ...

Ryu is gunning for top tier in the new Super Smash Bros.

Jun 14 // Patrick Hancock
First, let's discuss Ryu's stage, Suzaku Castle. In short: it's wonderful and weird. The music is great and speeds up when things are getting down to the wire. The default mode will definitely not be tournament-legal, since it has a walk-off on the right side. For general entertaining play, however, it's superb. Strategies will change depending on the side the fight is happening on, and since there's a lot of open space on the left side, you can expect some serious ledge play at times. There are two platforms on the left, one on top and one on the bottom. The top one has no grabbable ledges, but the bottom one does. The ledges on the bottom platform are a bit wonky, as characters who come up towards the center of the platform will snap to a ledge that seems way too far to snap to. Players will also only snap in the way they are facing, it seems. Here's a GIF to demonstrate what I mean: As for the character, the first thing I did was take Ryu into the Training mode. He's got at least twice as many attacks as a standard character, and I need to know what they are and how they act before I go into a match. From here on out, I will refer to his light attacks as the attacks executing by tapping the button, and heavy attacks as the ones where the player has to hold the attack button. There's apparently a medium somewhere in the middle, but I'll be damned if I can pull it off intentionally. Holding the attack button doesn't even feel like truly "holding" it. I was worried that having to hold down a button for an attack would feel weird, but it is still very quickly executed. Now I'm worried that I'll "hold" the attack button for too long when I want to do a light attack! You really have to consciously tap the button to execute a light attack. In general, heavy attacks are the ones that come out for me when I'm not thinking. Ryu is definitely a thinking-man's character. Throwing out attacks isn't going to cut it. In each scenario, players must think "okay, light or heavy?" and then execute properly.  Let's start with the special moves. Hadoukens are a great way to cover an approach or force the opponent to make a move. You can not spam Hadoukens, as there can only be one out at a time. The Shakunetsu Hadouken can be activated by performing a half-circle forward motion and an attack button. This Hadouken is slightly stronger than holding the special button down (8% compared to 7%) and will carry the opponent with them over 5 hits. It's great for edge guarding since it takes the enemy for a ride. Shoryuken is a great recovery move and can be a kill move at high percents. It kills Mario at around 105% with no Rage, for example. Personally, this is my go-to kill move in combos, but I'll speak more on that later. Also, it's possible to input down-forward twice to execute this move, instead of doing the normal Dragon Punch motion of forward, down, down-forward. [embed]293924:58985:0[/embed] The Hurricane Kick, despite being called "hugely destructive" by Sakurai, is rather lackluster as an attack. It does less damage (9% if inputting the command) if the opponent is very close to Ryu, and more damage if they are hit during the spinning phase (13%). It pushes the enemy vertically, and doesn't kill Mario until around 130%, and that's with no Directional Influence. As a recovery move, however, the move is wonderful. Ryu can act after it, allowing him to Tatsumaki to gain horizontal ground, and then Shoryuken to go vertically. Finally, his Focus Attack. This is easily the most interesting special move Ryu has. While charging it Ryu has one hit of super armor. While charging, Ryu will flash twice, once for each increasing level. If the player hits the opponent before it flashes once, the opponent will be knocked back. If he hits them after it,  they go into a crumple state, just like Street Fighter IV. The second flash happens a split second before it is fully charged, which means it's a level 3 Focus Attack, which leads to a longer crumple. Also, if released in level 1 or 2, the Focus Attack will be absorbed by shields. Releasing a fully charged Focus Attack will still crumple a shielding opponent. Most importantly, Ryu can dash-cancel the focus attack while charging or after a hit. If an uncharged Focus Attack hits a shield, Ryu can also dash-cancel the lag. In Street Fighter IV, this was known as an "FADC," or Focus Attack Dash Cancel. This allows a guaranteed hit on crumpled opponents. It's super satisfying to pull off a FADC into a kill move like Shoryuken. It's also a good psych-out move to dash-cancel a charging Focus Attack, similar to how Sonic can cancel his Spin Dash. It's important to note that when inputting a Street Fighter command to perform a special move, it must be done in the direction Ryu is facing. If you wanted to do a Shakunetsu Hadouken backwards, for example, it would instead register as a Tatsumaki (quarter-circle back). It is not pleasant when you're expecting one move to come out and get another, so keep this in mind! Ryu's normals are incredibly varied thanks to his unique ability to have TWO OF EVERY TILT. Some of the more useful ones I've been using are his strong forward-tilt, Collarbone Breaker. It does not completely destroy a fresh shield, but it comes very close to doing so. His heavy up-tilt is also very useful and does 12%. Other than that, I've been using both version of his down-tilt a whole lot. The reason I use his down-tilt is because it can be cancelled into any of his special moves on hit. This is my go-to setup after a successful crumple, as well. Basically, I look for opportunities to FADC into a heavy down-tilt which I cancel into a Shoryuken. In case you forgot, I'm still talking about Super Smash Bros. here. As for some other notable moves: His forward smash is incredibly powerful (22% fully charged) and moves him forward, making it have a deceptively long range. His down air spikes, but only if Ryu is close to the opponent when it connects. His up smash and up air are good at keeping opponents airborne, but have short ranges. Literally all of his special moves help with his recovery. Both his Focus Attack and Hadouken give him a little vertical boost, so use them to surprise an opponent while recovering! So, what's Ryu's weakness? Well, other than the fact that players may flub inputs from time to time, I would say Ryu's biggest downside is his throw game. None of his throws are kill throws, and they don't seem to lead into any combo opportunities. Regardless, I think Ryu is going to be a very viable fighter at a higher level of play, and is a blast to experiment with no matter how good you are at the game. Also, always play as the pink Ryu to pretend like you're Dan Hibiki.
Ryu Smash Impressions photo
Watch as I Tastumaki to my death
Remember the first time you went online with Street Fighter IV with your favorite character, Hakan, and fought about 100 Ryus in a week? And they all spammed Hadoukens and always woke up with a Shoryuken? Wouldn't you like to...

New Smash Stages photo
New Smash Stages

Hyrule Castle and Peach's Castle stages coming to Smash Bros.

Poke Floats still suspiciously MIA
Jun 14
// Patrick Hancock
Two new stages are coming to the newest addition of Super Smash Bros., both of which were originally in the Nintendo 64 version. Both Hyrule Castle and Peach's Castle will be coming at a future point in time. Sakurai introduc...

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