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Adventure Games

Back in 1995 photo
Back in 1995

The new retro: Japanese mystery Back In 1995 looks like a PS1 game


Want to feel old? The PlayStation 1 is retro
Apr 17
// Steven Hansen
Ah, 1995. A good vintage. Earthquakes in Russia and Japan combined to kill nearly 10,000, the New York Times published Ted Kaczynski's manifesto, folks made Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream into a videogam...
Rapture photo
Rapture

PS4 exclusive Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture coming this summer


Still alive!
Apr 16
// Steven Hansen
Chinese Room's (Dear Esther, Amneisa: A Machine for Pigs) enigmatic Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture has a new trailer accompanying a PlayStation Blog post explaining that it's "a couple of weeks out from Beta."  I...
Samorost 3 photo
Samorost 3

Samorost 3 looks like the surreal point-and-click adventure of my dreams


That world design is something else
Apr 15
// Jordan Devore
The last time I wrote about Samorost 3, I expressed surprise and delight that Amanita Design was making another one of these charming point-and-click adventure games. Today, a year and a half later, I could do the same -- I ...
Arkham Knight photo
Arkham Knight

Batman comic will provide the Arkham Knight's origin story


His mother would not buy him a Nintendo and he became resentful
Apr 15
// Steven Hansen
If the headline sounded like "Arkham Origins," don't be frightened. Rocksteady is back and WB can't hurt you any more. Except with delays into late June. But that's a "it's for your own good" hurt, like forcing you to eat you...
Charnel House photo
Charnel House

The Charnel House Trilogy pulling in to the station April 16


It's a game about trains. Prepare for puns
Apr 14
// Joe Parlock
If I were a smarter man, I’d be railing to fit as many train puns in to this news as is possible, but I will conduct myself properly and keep us on track. Richard and Alice developers Owl Cave Games will be releasing it...
Deals photo
Deals

First episode of Telltale's Game of Thrones free on Android


Timely
Apr 13
// Jordan Devore
$4.99 is the usual asking price for episodes of Telltale's Game of Thrones series, but not today, valued Android user. The debut episode, Iron From Ice, is free if you download through Amazon. In his review, Darren said the g...
Witcher 3 opening photo
Witcher 3 opening

Watch the bewitchering first 15 minutes of The Witcher 3


Lilac and gooseberries
Apr 06
// Steven Hansen
This is the first 15 minutes of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, without the opening cinematic, but still with a couple minutes of cutscene followed by horse riding and monster smashing. I've yet to catch up on the series ahead of ...

Review: Dyscourse

Apr 06 // Darren Nakamura
Dyscourse (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Owlchemy LabsPublisher: Owlchemy LabsReleased: March 25, 2015MSRP: $14.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Rita is one of the six characters to survive a catastrophic plane crash on a desert island, and she functions as the only sane person in the group. George and Jolene are an older couple on the verge of divorce, Steve is an ultra-pessimistic corporate drone, Teddy is a paranoid conspiracy theorist, and Garrett is a gamer out of touch with reality. Each cast member is distinct, both in voice and back story. This serves to keep scenes interesting, even after the second or third time experiencing on, but it does suffer a bit in believability. Teddy and Garrett have some of the best lines, but they are such caricatures that it's difficult to take the whole thing seriously. Playing through one story takes roughly an hour, spanning about ten in-game days. In contrast to other choice-driven narratives (Mass Effect, Telltale titles), Dyscourse is built to be played multiple times. Not only is it short enough to warrant that, but it branches in such a way that experiencing all of the main plot lines would take at least three separate runs, and seeing everything requires even more. [embed]289893:58024:0[/embed] Between the crash and the end, characters can will die. Additionally, several modified pigeonhole principle situations come up: four characters are present but only three can fit on a raft, three are on the raft but there is only enough food for two, and so on. The result is that certain scenes can be experienced with several different combinations of characters, and the outcomes of those scenes may vary depending on who is present and in what physical and mental state. One such scene had Rita and Steven striking out to find food and coming across an abandoned military outpost. It is padlocked shut, but Steve has a hidden talent for lockpicking, so the duo can gain access. For those curious how the scene would have played out if, say, Garrett had come along instead, Dyscourse includes a "Day Rewind" feature that allows players to go back to the beginning of each day to see what would have happened if another option had been chosen. It's not quite as robust as I would have liked (some sort of functionality that visualizes or otherwise keeps track of which branches have already been chosen would have been great), but it's a nice addition nonetheless. In an example that shows how much certain decisions actually matter, one of my plays through had Rita fighting a jaguar and losing an arm. Later on, when it came to the big decision point opening the second act, one of the options was entirely locked out; Rita wouldn't be able to climb the mountain with only one arm. Less obvious examples pop up throughout. Though each of the other survivors is generally unhelpful and inept in most cases, each appears to have some special skill to help get through a particular situation unscathed. I'm convinced that there must be a way to leverage that perfectly in order to get all six survivors off the island, but after three and a half plays, I haven't found it. Though I have only managed to rescue three of six every time, I do feel like I am getting closer, gaining knowledge over time that can lead to a perfect run. Maybe I'm chasing ghosts. Special mention should be given to the sound design. The soundtrack never takes center stage, but it complements the part silly, part serious life-and-death adventure. Steel drums evoke the tropical setting without being too upbeat. Characters speak in Animal Crossing-esque warbles, allowing for the divergent storylines without requiring a huge volume of voice work. Dyscourse set out to be an adventure game in which player choice has significant effects on where the narrative goes. To that end, it succeeds. As a relatively short experience, it encourages players to replay, learning new information with each new choice. As a result of that, no one play through feels like a "true" one. Despite being so full of death and despair, it lacks the expected emotional weight, partly because of the cartoon presentation but mostly because there's always the option to try again and see what can be done differently. That said, each story crafted is fun and sometimes funny. Watching an early decision ripple out to future consequences, then rewinding and seeing what would have happened if something else were chosen is an entertaining exercise. I'm going to keep playing at least a few more times until I see all of the different scenes and maybe even find my true story. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Dyscourse review photo
Choose wisely
[Disclosure: I backed Dyscourse on Kickstarter.] A common thread in new school adventure and role-playing games is the emphasis on player choice, with an implied promise that through individual decisions players can build a u...

Sega Genesis horror photo
Sega Genesis horror

New horror visual novel resurrects the Sega Genesis


Sasha Darko's Sacred Line Genesis
Mar 27
// Jordan Devore
Every so often we hear about a new game for old consoles and while I haven't yet splurged on a physical copy of one of these titles yet, I dig the idea. WaterMelon, the group behind the RPG Pier Solar, is publishing a horror...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Sword in the Darkness

Mar 25 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: The Sword in the Darkness (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: March 24, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] Like the previous episode, The Sword in the Darkness opens with Asher across the Narrow Sea. Hothead that he is, his sections always seem to be more action-oriented than the others. As an introduction to the episode it sets an energetic tone, though most of the other sections follow the more subdued light exploration and dialogue trees Telltale is known for. Asher is presented with a major this-or-that decision early on, and it comes during such a panicked situation that I was actually caught off guard by it, despite knowing what to expect by now. The scene does a good job of getting the adrenaline pumping and then presenting players with an impossible decision. I think I shouted some profanity at my monitor when it showed up. Well played, Telltale. Though Asher is charming and fun, Mira's tribulations in King's Landing continue to be the most interesting. Cersei, Tyrion, and Margaery all show up, and each wants something from the eldest Forrester daughter. Though the audience with Cersei in episode one was nerve-wracking, the politicking here provided the most sustained tenseness in the series. [embed]289414:57887:0[/embed] Cersei doesn't want Mira associating with Tyrion, Margaery wants her marriage into the Lannister family to go smoothly, Tyrion wants to team up with Mira to make some money, and Mira wants to give her family the best chance at survival by manipulating relationships in King's Landing. Keeping everyone happy while still achieving Mira's objective requires delicate balance, and there are very real consequences presented for crossing any of the major players. Mira's navigation of nobility politics feels more like Game of Thrones than any previous encounter. Previously, Gared hadn't been too important in the overall story of House Forrester, but now his purpose is made clear. The North Grove plot point introduced in episode one and ignored in episode two is revisited, and it sets a more tangible goal for future episodes. Where before it seemed like Gared being sent to The Wall was just an excuse to show scenes with Jon Snow, now it seems like a carefully calculated decision, both in-universe by Duncan and outside by Telltale. I'm much more interested to see where Gared's story goes now than I was coming into episode three. The most focus is placed on the events at Ironrath, where the Whitehill soldiers are becoming increasingly unruly. There are a couple of different approaches to take, but even if the player decides to go down one path, there are a number of scenes that test resolve. The smart choice for the long run is rarely the one that feels right in the moment. It's a strange situation, because Ironrath's state by the end of The Sword in the Darkness is obstensively worse than it was at the end of The Lost Lords, but I feel more optimistic about the future. As Rodrik, I made choices for the greater good that I thought might let other characters down, but the team all appeared to be on the same page. For the first time in the series, I don't feel like I have made all of the wrong choices. For sure, sacrifices had to be made. Not everybody ended up happy. By some metrics, each of the playable characters is worse off than before. But as a whole, the group finally has direction. Where the first two episodes took their time setting up the narrative machine, The Sword in the Darkness finally puts that machine into motion. Telltale's initial promise that each character's actions will ripple out and affect the others is coming to fruition. I only expect to see that even more with the next episode. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
The wheels are in motion
Telltale seems to be getting into the swing of things with Game of Thrones, in more ways than one. For starters, it only took seven weeks since the last episode for this one to come out. If Telltale can keep up that pace, the...

Review: Life is Strange: Out of Time

Mar 25 // Brett Makedonski
Life is Strange: Out of Time (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One[reviewed])Developer: Dontnod EntertainmentPublisher: Square EnixRelease date: March 24, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) This is a tremendous step in world-building, but Dontnod did too little with the time it had in this chapter. Episode two spends entirely too long plodding about and convincing others that, yes, Max's time-rewinding powers really do exist. Despite so much screen-time given to Max and Chloe, neither Max's personal narrative nor the relationship between the two was advanced significantly from the foundation laid in episode one. Major pacing issues plague most of this installment. While the tempo has problems, Life is Strange has no difficulty reaching incredible crescendos at the drop of a hat. These are the moments that will surely make a long-lasting impression. The final act of Out of Time holds an encounter that almost the entire episode builds toward. When it happens, it's tough to swallow the raw emotion of it all, regardless of which outcome you're saddled with. But, those type of pinnacles wouldn't pierce so strongly if they weren't slowly built upon. Small interactions accumulate as puzzles are pieced together across multiple sources. Out of Time deals heavily with subjects such as drugs, sexual abuse, and debilitating depression. That'd be daunting enough in its own right, but the player's given perspective of both the victim and those who are maliciously perpetuating the gossip. It's tough to stand by and watch someone that down and out, but it's heart-wrenching to see them relentlessly bullied. [embed]289314:57864:0[/embed] Out of Time's lasting mark will be that it's the episode where choices begin to actually matter. Those aforesaid peaks in action come to a head eventually, and many decisions made (no matter how seemingly innocuous they may have been) act as the winds of change that could very well trigger a maelstrom. There's just too much gray area between good and bad for everyone's arc to have a pleasant conclusion. Dontnod has done well so far to not telegraph a clear-cut route to achieving a desirable outcome. While Out of Time has a tendency to meander (like Max herself), it hits hard in its critical moments. This episode succeeds in that it's adept at creating sincere concern for most of the inhabitants of Life is Strange. That depth is appreciated, but Out of Time felt like a giant step to the side, as we aren't much further along than we were at the end of episode one.
Life is Strange review photo
The squirrels and the birds come
I just finished episode two of Life is Strange, and I've spiraled down a playlist of Ben Folds songs. Out of Time is Kate Marsh's story, but "Kate" is too cheerful; this tale isn't about daisies, dandelions, and butterfl...

Broken Age photo
Broken Age

Broken Age Act 2 will be ready for you on April 28


If I'm reincarnated as a tree, I want to look like this
Mar 25
// Jordan Devore
Double Fine has settled on April 28, 2015 as the release date for Broken Age Act 2 on PC and Broken Age (both acts) on PS4 and PS Vita. European console players have to wait a day. There's Cross-Buy on PlayStation, and saves ...
Game of Thrones trailer photo
Game of Thrones trailer

Trailer for Telltale's Game of Thrones Episode 3 unfolds some earlier plot points


Spoilers for Episode 2 in the video
Mar 23
// Darren Nakamura
Well, this one snuck up on me. I thought I had been following most of Telltale's releases pretty closely, but it turns out that Game of Thrones Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness is coming out tomorrow. Who knew? In the tr...
Lucasfilm photo
Lucasfilm

GOG.com scores Zak McKracken, Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb


Plus Outlaws, Loom, The Dig, and Monkey Island: LeChuck's Revenge
Mar 19
// Jordan Devore
Lucasfilm and Disney are trickling out more good old games with digital-distribution premieres of Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, and Outlaws on GOG.com. They're only $5.99 a pie...
Telltale photo
Telltale

How do you feel about the current Telltale formula?


Does it need more complexity?
Mar 18
// Chris Carter
Once upon a time, adventure titles were among the hardest challenges in the gaming universe. "Pixel-hunting" is a phrase many old school gamers are all too familiar with, searching for the exact right spot on the screen ...
Borderlands screenshots photo
Borderlands screenshots

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2 screenshots, we got 'em


Over 100 Atlas Mugged screenshots
Mar 17
// Darren Nakamura
Another Telltale episode, another excessively large set of screenshots taken as I played through with an Xbox 360 controller while keeping my pinky finger on the F12 key. Tales from the Borderlands still looks great despite t...

Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Atlas Mugged

Mar 17 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: Atlas Mugged (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: March 17, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] To its credit, Telltale owns up to the long wait between episodes. The opening line is Marcus commenting on how long it has been since the last part of the story. Then he goes into a recap of the main events from Zer0 Sum, leading into the beginning of Atlas Mugged. Hyperion executive Rhys and Pandoran con artist Fiona have stumbled onto some unknown but hopefully valuable Atlas technology, just in time for a digital reconstruction of Borderlands 2 antagonist Handsome Jack to load into Rhys's mind. Jack comes and goes over the course of the episode, typically when Rhys suffers head trauma, and he often offers his brand of morally bankrupt help. Though he only appears during certain scenes, Handsome Jack sort of steals the show. Rhys, Fiona, and the rest of the gang have some good lines, but Telltale's treatment of Jack is on point. He is simultaneously deplorable and hilarious, which serves the concept of Telltale adventure games well. In Borderlands 2 he was a likable villain; in The Pre-Sequel he was a detestable hero. Here, he can be either, allowing the player to choose whether to heed his more outlandish suggestions or to risk progressing without his aid. [embed]288757:57654:0[/embed] Episode 2 has the two protagonists separating and reuniting again and it still works great as a narrative device. Seeing the what from one perspective and then the why from the other gives extra insight to events, though Atlas Mugged lacks some of the punchier revelatory moments that Zer0 Sum had. There are still some secrets set up for later, like the function of the Gortys Project or the identity of the paddy hat-clad character. Fiona gets an upgrade to her single-shot pistol in this episode, allowing it to deal an elemental damage of her choice among incendiary, shock, and corrosive. Knowledge of the shooters in the series seems to help with knowing which element to use in which situation. Another kink thrown in is in addition to having limited ammunition, each element appears to be usable only once, so players may be locked out of one they want for the future. It's the kind of inter-episode mechanic that may or may not pay off intellectually until later. Neither of the established characters who made cameos in the first episode show up again here, but a few new ones do. Scooter and Athena are among those who make an appearance, and I hope for the narrative's sake that this isn't the last we see of them. Given her background with the Atlas corporation (see: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx) Athena plays a particularly interesting role that brings up questions I hope to see answered. From a gameplay perspective, this runs by the standard of modern Telltale titles. It includes the unique Borderlands hooks like Rhys's bionic eye and Fiona's management of money, but they are less emphasized than in the previous episode. Tales still feels like a Borderlands game, but slightly less so now than before. Though puzzles have basically been expunged from Telltale's modus operandi -- and I have come to terms with it -- there is one section where it still stings a little to think about. In it, Rhys has to restore power to an electronic system and it skirts the edge of requiring just a touch of critical thinking, but it ends up being a simple exploration exercise. The setup almost begged for some sort of puzzle; it was disappointing that the solution was so mundane. Past that, the main gameplay is exactly what we all expect from Telltale. Dialogue trees, quick-time events, and the occasional big choice to make. Keeping consistent with the first episode, the writing is sharp, the jokes are plentiful, the plot is intriguing, and the action is over-the-top. What it lacks is easily forgiven because what it contains is really good. Visually, Tales from the Borderlands is as great as ever. The bright colors and hard edges still work well with Telltale's engine, and they juxtapose against the dark comedic themes in a way that never seems to get old. I did experience a couple of minor graphical glitches, but 99% of it ran like a dream. In the end, Atlas Mugged is not quite as good as Zer0 Sum. It had me chuckling five minutes in, but there were fewer laugh-out-loud moments. It maintained high intensity in its action sequences, though none quite compared to the earlier death race. It used the unique Borderlands mechanics just a bit less. Its narrative lacked any jaw-dropping twists or powerful moments of clarity, but it still remained engaging throughout. Though it is slightly less than excellent, it is still great, and I can hardly wait to see where it goes next. Telltale, please don't make me wait so long before Episode 3. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Borderlands review photo
It's here Atlas
[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, who consulted on the story for Tales from the Borderlands, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] Tales ...

Life is Strange Ep. 2 photo
Life is Strange Ep. 2

Life is Strange Episode 2 release date revealed


Prepare for mega-hipster action
Mar 16
// Jason Faulkner
Rejoice, fans of awkward teenage women walking on train tracks! The official Life is Strange Twitter account announced the second episode in the series will be available March 24. The episodes were supposed to be released in ...

Tim Schafer open to revisiting Psychonauts

Mar 13 // Laura Kate Dale
With that out of the way, we got Tim to chat a little about his career over the years. First up on the chopping block was a question we had been dying to ask Schafer for a while. Just how did he expect people to get through his obtuse adventure game logic back in the day? I have no idea; people were smarter back then. Playing the games I sometimes wonder that myself. I think, "This puzzle's really hard, how are people supposed to get that?" Part of the reason is that back in the day [...] the thinking was "people are not going to finish this game." Sometimes we thought that. That's why we did the easy mode in Monkey Island 2, but the answer is for most of these puzzle the hints are there if you keep talking to people, if you keep digging down. Most of them are hinted at if you keep exploring all the dialog.  So we made the first half of Broken Age and the first half is always easier than the second half of a game. We were like "this is too easy." We made Grim Fandango and that's too hard. Adventure game fans are hard to please. Next up on our list of questions was one that readers have been trying to get an answer to for a while. Which of Tim's series means the most to him, and which would he most like to revisit? That's a tough question because of course every game is important at the time. There's things people don't expect when they ask me this like Kinect Party -- did you ever play Kinect Party? It was our lowest-selling game of all time. It's a Kinect game where little kids play with their grandparents together and it was really rewarding to see families playing that, it was just so rewarding, you know? The world of Psychonauts is so interesting because you can just keep creating more brains every time you meet somebody and wonder what the world inside their brain looks like. It also feels like the kind of unfinished story of Eddie Briggs [Brutal Legend] would be a great excuse to work with Jack [Black] again. It's hard because of how Grim ended. It was a really rich and full world but I feel like that character had such a complete progression that I feel like he's done with. I don't know if I want to go back down that road with someone who isn't Manny. All the other ones, a lot of them at least like Psychonauts you can just imagine. For Brutal Legend it's kind of already designed because we had to throw away half that game to get it done two years late. It's a lot easier to imagine going forward with that or Psychonauts. A recent hot topic brought sharply into focus by Peter Molyneux's Godus was the effect crowdfunding campaigns can have on audience's faith in developers. From pitching your game to fans for financial investment before development has begun to the pitfalls along the way, with Schafer himself previously facing the firing line from disgruntled Kickstarter backers, we wanted to know if he plans to continue crowdfunding his future projects and what effect he thinks Kickstarter failures have on the reputations of developers. There were so many great things to Kickstarter when it first exploded and we had that rush of not just money but also goodwill too. That love and support from the community told us that people want to play adventure games still and that was really important to us. Because everything's announced at the start of creating your game and not the end like we normally do, it makes more sense to be transparent like we were. That made us vulnerable to a lot of criticism because people could see "oh, the schedule's changing" or "You're doing this thing the way I don't want you to do it." The experiment's not over yet and I'd still call it an experiment, but being that exposed and vulnerable was difficult. There were some good things and toward the end there have been some bad things. My hope was that by being really transparent and showing all the ups and downs of game development, that people who play games would start to understand more of what goes on when making a game. But still, after all this time, it still seems like people get super mad about things that are totally normal. Things like schedules slipping happen on almost every project but people just don't hear about it because we don't usually show people.  I think developers have to learn like publishers had to learn before the warning signs when a game is in trouble and what is just going through the normal ups and downs of development. The question I personally wanted an answer to the most: when is Broken Age: Act 2 coming? Well we're in beta now and we're going to come out this spring. There's not much time left in spring. When's the last day of spring? It's coming out this spring which is very soon. At this point we pushed him on how soon was very soon? We confirmed basically that it's more than three days away still. Well, not this week. I've been playing the Vita version on the plane over here. It's finished, we just want to catch all the bugs. Finally, with all our serious questions out the way, we ended the interview on a slightly lighter note. Yes, you guessed it, we asked him about his favorite butts in videogames. We mainly learned that Tim Schafer rarely thinks about butts when designing a character. Favorite butt in videogames? Are there a lot of butts in videogames? I guess everyone has a butt but you don't often get to see them. I guess in third-person games you're running behind them. I'm now trying to do the interesting task of trying to visualize butts from videogames, they don't usually get a starring role. I'm now seriously worrying I've not been paying enough attention to butts in the games that I've made. Have we ever shown any butts in my games? Yep, you've stumped me with butts. Manny's butt in Grim Fandango is boney; it's basically just a pelvis in a suit.  In Costume Quest actually there was a cat that had a very prominent butt featured, so I guess that butt.
Tim Schafer interview photo
Schafer talks Broken Age, crowdfunding, narrative, and butts
Last night Destructoid attended the videogame BAFTAs in order to do some hard-hitting journalism. Speaking to Tim Schafer, who was in attendance to hand Shadow of Mordor the BAFTA for Best Design, we spent ten minutes discuss...

Unraveled photo
Unraveled

Adventure RPG Unraveled journeys through a child's imagination


Hopes to reach more platforms via Kickstarter
Mar 11
// Ben Davis
Indie developer RosePortal Games has been working on an adorable adventure RPG called Unraveled, about a young girl with a wild imagination searching for her lost parents. The story is based on real events, inspired by a docu...

Firewatch has topless teens, meaty hands, and mystery

Mar 09 // Steven Hansen
Henry clambers up rocks in the Wyoming wilderness with some effort. When I walked towards a little broken bridge, the distance between the side was so small that I felt, in other games, I might be able to walk right over it without jumping. For Henry, it required a little wind up, a jump, and a moment to steady himself on the other side. This mundane pace isn't a slog, it's an important part of Henry's characterization. And, so far, it is there without feeling "unfun," if that's a worry for you. It is restrained, but not patience taxing, and you're constantly engaged in radio dialogue while milling about (atypical in narrative/dialogue heavy games that have you focused on text or choices at the expense of movement). It is Henry's first day on the job as a park lookout. On the other end of his radio is his supervisor, Delilah. They are surprisingly glib for being recently acquainted, especially given their professional dynamic, but otherwise the dialogue felt natural. Except for Henry's bumbled, "p-p-p-p-p-p-panties." [embed]280443:55506:0[/embed] Tasked with investigating some fireworks, Henry finds an abandoned camp with fireworks and booze strewn about. I opted to hang onto the still full whisky bottle, which Henry assured me was a good brand. After kicking out the fire, you can follow a trail of undress all the way to the lake. Delilah is unfazed by reports of bras and underwear, and maybe even chastised Henry's bumbling use of the word "panties," which, c'mon, "underwear" is fine. Down at the lake the two nude swimmers in the distance are illegible against the sun and real creeped out by the weird old guy wandering around. You can yell at them (or ask nicely) to quit with the fireworks, or just throw their boombox into the lake and kill their tunes. They also issue Henry a sick burn in the form of a Sizzler buffet joke. I am pro Sizzler jokes forever. More intrigue abounds as day gives way to a brilliant blue night. A mysterious figure in the distance that Delilah assures you is just a hiker becomes more ominous when you find your lookout tower broken into. What Firewatch has done right in this piece of the game so far, removed from the overall narrative, is provide enough grounding detail to its gorgeous world. That and use the radio mechanic to weave "choose a response" style dialogue divergence a bit more neatly into walk-and-talk play.
Firewatch hands-on photo
Firewatch with me
I've been firewatching out for Campo Santo's new 'exploration mystery' since hearing about the talent behind it. Artist Olly Moss, Mark of the Ninja designer Nels Anderson, and season one The Walking Dead ...

Telltale Borderlands photo
Telltale Borderlands

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2 trailer brings more bangs and booms


Atlas Mugged
Mar 09
// Darren Nakamura
Yesterday, PAX East attendees were treated to a sneak peak of the trailer for Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2: Atlas Mugged. Today, it is available for mass consumption. Things are heating up on Pandora for Rhys, Fiona,...
Telltale Borderlands Ep 2 photo
Telltale Borderlands Ep 2

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2 set to release week of March 17


Atlas Mugged
Mar 08
// Darren Nakamura
Telltale's panel came and went with some fun stories of the studio's journey but nary an announcement of what the developer is doing now. Judging from the comments in just about every Telltale article that goes up, the second...
Telltale x Penny Arcade photo
Telltale x Penny Arcade

Penny Arcade would team up with Telltale on a Thornwatch game


You know, if Telltale would have it
Mar 06
// Darren Nakamura
In a question-and-answer session at PAX East today, Penny Arcade founders Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik got onto the topic of their fantasy IP Thornwatch, which Krahulik has developed into a tabletop game. In an offhand com...
Documentary photo
Documentary

The wonderful Double Fine Adventure documentary is going free


Look for episodes on YouTube every Tuesday and Thursday
Mar 03
// Jordan Devore
Folks who helped crowdfund Broken Age have gotten an up-close look at how Double Fine operates thanks to episodic videos chronicling development of the adventure game. With 18 episodes down, 2 Player Productions has produced...
Oxenfree photo
Oxenfree

Oxenfree is bringing some flair to new-school adventure games


Waiting for the OlliOlli crossover...
Mar 03
// Darren Nakamura
Last year a group of former Telltale and Disney employees came together to form Night School Studio. At GDC this morning, the indie developer unveiled its first project, "supernatural teen thriller" Oxenfree. The studio's Te...
Psycho-Pass photo
Psycho-Pass

Psycho-Pass game dated on Xbox One, with a badass new console decal


May 2015
Mar 02
// Chris Carter
Psycho-Pass is a pretty great anime, and I'm excited for the upcoming Xbox One game, set to debut in Japan this year. We won't have too long to wait either, as developer 5pb has announced a release date -- May 28. There ...

Review: The Deer God

Feb 27 // Ben Davis
The Deer God (PC)Developer: Crescent Moon Games and Cinopt StudiosPublisher: Crescent Moon GamesReleased: February 27, 2015MSRP: $14.99 The Deer God places the player in the hooves of a young fawn, reincarnated from a hunter who died in an accident while shooting a majestic stag. To pay for your sins against nature, you must live as the deer you once hunted, roaming the lands and accumulating good karma in the hopes of pleasing the Deer God and returning to your human body. Without a doubt, the best thing about this game is its gorgeous graphics, complemented by a peaceful, relaxing soundtrack. It's essentially a 2D side-scroller set in a pixelated 3D world, with parallax scrolling to help the 3D pixel environments pop. There are lots of other effects that help make the world come to life, like beautiful lighting, weather conditions, background wildlife, and more. It's quite stunning at times, but that alone wouldn't be enough to give The Deer God a solid recommendation. With mechanics influenced by endless runners and roguelikes, gameplay revolves around survival elements and environments that are procedurally generated as you run. In some respects, this works quite well. It's fun at first to run around as a deer and explore the various landscapes, while foraging for food and dealing with enemies in your quest for survival. However, it felt as though the longer I played, the more these fundamental mechanics started to lose steam. The levels began to suffer from extreme repetition, as I found myself scaling the exact same walls, jumping over the exact same pits, and running into the exact same puzzles much too frequently. In some cases, such as while trying to complete quests, these mechanics even seemed detrimental to the gameplay itself. [embed]288249:57523:0[/embed] As a deer, you can run, jump, and tackle enemies. More abilities can become unlocked later on. Some of these are gained through quest progression, while others are found randomly and require puzzle-solving to earn. The randomly found abilities include some pretty awesome techniques, like shooting fireballs from your antlers, growing plants to use as platforms, summoning bolts of lightning, and more. This is where the real fun comes from, but it's a shame that these moves are sometimes very difficult to find, given the randomness of their locations. The longer the deer lives, it will grow older, faster, and stronger, eventually maturing into a full-grown stag. But be careful not to die, because you might be reborn as a weak fawn again. When a new game is started, there are two difficulty settings to choose from: Normal and Hardcore. Normal mode will auto-save whenever a landmark is reached or a quest is discovered. These places act as checkpoints where new fawns will respawn after a deer dies. Hardcore mode is essentially perma-death, so if your lives run out, a whole new file must be started. Honestly, though, lives are so abundant that the difficulty setting really doesn't make much of a difference. Not only are there extra lives that can be found throughout the environment, but you can also mate with other deer to create offspring that will carry on your legacy. Even playing in Hardcore mode, I always ended up with so many lives and offspring that I never felt pressured to be careful around spikes or enemies. The enemies can be quite ferocious, but you can always just flee and avoid combat to stay alive. Fighting usually involves headbutting enemies over and over until someone wins, but the special abilities like antler fireballs can take foes down quickly. Then there are the boss enemies; these were the most exciting moments in the game for me. Two of the bosses are quest-related, but a few others, like giant cobras, badgers, and toads, are found randomly. Bosses require totally different strategies from normal enemies; sometimes parts of the environment must be used to your advantage, while other bosses will shield themselves from attacks or spawn smaller enemies to distract you. I wish more of the regular enemies required unique tactics like this. As enemies are defeated, the karma bar will fill up with good karma. Bad karma can also be acquired by killing innocent animals. With too much bad karma, you might be reincarnated as a weaker animal such as a rabbit, which is essentially useless in combat. Finding a special totem will return the deer to its original form. I still don't really know whether there are benefits to good or bad karma. It looks like there are light and dark abilities which can be unlocked depending on your karma, but even as a saintly stag, I was still able to unlock all of the evil abilities. This may have been a bug, but I'm not entirely sure. Aside from the deer's abilities, there are also items that can be found in bushes, barrels, and other hiding places. Items range from stat-enhancers, making you faster, stronger, or able to jump higher; friendly animals to be summoned, like bees, tortoises, and falcons that can fight for you; and other items with varying effects, like food to replenish health. Using items and abilities can be a little strange, though. They're manually assigned to specific keys, but pressing each key essentially reassigns that item or ability to the shift key. So if fireballs are assigned to the first slot, you'll hit the 1 key, then hit the shift key to shoot fireballs. This isn't the greatest method; even when I thought I'd become accustomed to it, I'd still screw up often and use an unintended item or ability. The Deer God may seem like an endless runner at first, and it can certainly become one if you want it to last forever, but there is a main quest line to be completed if you wish to achieve an ending. Unfortunately, the quests are by far the weakest aspect of the game. They range from fetch quests, to boss battles, to short, easily-solved puzzles. Many of them can be completed a mere couple of steps away from the starting point, but others require you to find the correct procedurally generated area, which can be a huge pain. Sometimes, this means looping through the same environments over and over again until you finally find the necessary location. It can be very annoying, but I suppose this was meant to be played as an endless runner anyway, so randomly discovering quest objectives might have been the point. Either way, aside from the boss battles, the quests are all so simple that they're not very fun or satisfying. They're essentially just menial tasks that must be completed in order to see the credits. There's also a multiplayer mode, which allows two friends to join a game together. The two players inhabit the same world, and can move around independently or work together to solve puzzles and discover new areas. The goal in multiplayer is simply to live as long as possible and find as many abilities and things as you can. There are no quests. If one player dies, they can come back to life if the other player mates with another deer to create a fawn. But if both players die, then it's game over. I had quite a bit of fun messing around in multiplayer, although there was some weird lag at times. As of this review, there were still quite a few bugs that I discovered during my time with the game. These were mostly visual bugs, like the train clipping through mountains and the health bar not appearing properly at times. Nothing game-breaking, but still distracting nonetheless. Hopefully they'll get these sorted out in the next update. The Deer God is a nice enough game to pick up and mess around with for an hour or so at a time, but the magic begins to wear off after a while. The layouts of the environments become monotonous too quickly, and the boring and occasionally tedious quests were an unfortunate addition. I feel as though it might have been more engaging as a true endless runner, testing how long you could survive as a deer and how far you could travel, kind of like what they did with the multiplayer mode. Of course, the abundance of extra lives currently makes it so that you really have to try to lose, so an endless run is not a very difficult endeavor at the moment. I really do feel that there are some great ideas and potential here, though. I enjoyed running around the beautifully serene landscapes as a majestic deer, so if that's all you really expect from The Deer God, then you'll likely get some enjoyment out of it. Anyone looking for something more, however, might be left disappointed. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Deer God reviewed photo
Flawed fawn
In a lot of ways, The Deer God is a love letter to nature. The idea was born from the developers' childhood memories of playing in the woods and seeing wild deer, and that admiration of the outdoors is quite apparent. The for...

Armikrog photo
Armikrog

Can 2015 be the year of clay, please?


Kirby and the spiritual successor to The Neverhood are a start
Feb 26
// Jordan Devore
Ooh, a chance to talk about clay animation and armatures without straying away from videogames. Better jump on it. This video takes us behind the scenes of Armikrog, a point-and-click adventure that made it through Kickstar...






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