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Adventure Games

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

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

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 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 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

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...
Life is Strange delay photo
Life is Strange delay

Life is Strange Episode 2 launch has been delayed

C'est la vie
Feb 26
// Kyle MacGregor
[Update: Square Enix declined to provide more information when pressed for comment. However, Dontnod addressed the matter over Twitter, saying "development is on track and we're looking to release it before the end of Ma...
Hunger photo

Damn, Hunger is unsettling

Almost as unsettling as hunger
Feb 25
// Steven Hansen
LittleBigPlanet Vita developer Tarsier's new project, Hunger, is looking impressive. And spooky. It's that good kind of "everything is off kilter and uncanny" beat of constant unnerving versus any sort of aggressive scare. T...
Batman trailer photo
Batman trailer

Get possessive over Gotham in this Batman: Arkham Knight trailer

The darkest bright
Feb 25
// Steven Hansen
The upcoming, M-rated end to Rocksteady's Arkham trilogy has a lovely new trailer out today. And this one isn't polished, artsy CG the series is known for. Some well cut in-game footage, a view of the rogues gallery teaming ...
Mature Bats photo
Mature Bats

Batman: Arkham Knight has an M rating

For, you know, Mature
Feb 24
// Steven Hansen
The end of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, squeaked by with a PG-13, but it looks like Rocksteady's Arkham trilogy didn't have the same luck. Arkham Knight director Sefton Hill told IGN that the gam...
Telltale photo

Telltale's first original series is a TV show and videogame crossover

Lionsgate is an investor
Feb 24
// Brett Makedonski
Telltale Games has a propensity for surprising when it comes to revealing new projects. The news that it was creating a story-based Minecraft was so far out of left field, that it prompted us to wonder aloud what the nex...

Review: Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore a Fedora

Feb 23 // Jason Faulkner
Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore a Fedora (PC [reviewed], Linux, Mac)Developer: Glass Bottom GamesPublisher: Glass Bottom GamesReleased: February 20, 2015MSRP: $14.99 You control firefighter turned private investigator Emma Jones and her sidekick Franky, the titular fedora-wearing cat, as they begin a case involving a death and a missing will. That’s the intro; a phone call and you’re off. Emma and Franky are obviously great friends, but there's no establishing motive or history for their friendship to start you off with. This instantly removed me from the story because it turns the dialog into a huge inside joke. As the game continues you find out a bit about the two’s history, but by that point I was no longer immersed because it felt exclusionary, like I was hanging out with a pair of people who went to grade school together and constantly referred to things I was never a part of. The writing itself is of dubious quality. Some of it is genuinely funny and engaging, while other times it feels stilted and dull, as if the developers just needed more length to the script. Most conversations you take part in have at least a couple branching paths, but inconveniently you can’t switch topics while talking to someone. You have to finish your discussion, close the dialog box, and then go through the whole thing again until you reach the other branch you want to go down. With some branches being embedded in other branches it was a pain at times, especially for someone who likes to read as much dialog as they can in a game. The majority of your time in the game will be spent roaming the city searching for clues. This is really where the game both shines, and becomes incredibly frustrating. The city and interiors of buildings are great looking, and I really liked the 3D spin on the traditional “Metroidvania” setup. [embed]288062:57459:0[/embed] However, the omission of any sort of cartography took one of the things I really like about this game and made it into something that became more and more maddening as I played through. Imagine having to memorize all of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s map, but with turns and corners. So instead of know that to get to the Library you have to go right and up, you have to memorize, take a right turn, go right, take a left, keep left, and you're constantly going to new locations as you find more clues. Progressing through the game is primarily a case of using Emma’s non-lethal revolver to solve puzzles, and gathering clues from various locales and using the information gleaned from them to question people to find where to go next. The revolver can be equipped with various specialized rounds, bubble rounds to reveal hidden levers and areas, fire rounds to burn certain materials, knockdown rounds to knock things down and propel you through the air, and several others. The revolver must be changed out or reloaded individually by clicking to first remove them then clicking on the empty chamber to reload it with the selected bullet type. The biggest problem I had with the gameplay and probably the whole game is that it never really tells you anything. Sure Franky might give you hints at certain points, but I went almost the whole story without knowing you could just hold the “R” key to reload without having to click all four chambers, which was one of the things I found supremely tedious. A tooltip stating that fact would have saved me a lot of sighing. Hot Tin Roof isn’t terrible by any means, it just seems as though Glass Bottom Games had certain things it wanted to put in a game only to realize it had to actually make all those things fit together and the studio never really quite figured out how to make it flow naturally. The first part of the game definitely showcases their best work, and in contrast the latter parts of the game seem tedious with platforming sections and a marked departure from the humorous, exploratory tone of the initial sections of the title. My enthusiasm as I went through Hot Tin Roof slowly diminished until the only reason I felt compelled to finish it was for the mere sake of completion. There’s quite a bit of good stuff here, I loved the city and the 3D effects in it, and I would have loved to see it on a platform like the Nintendo 3DS where its playstyle would be more at home. All in all this game isn't a horrible experience, and for those that can get past the disjointed feeling of its various components there's a decent time here to be had. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Hot Tin Roof review photo
This is no Picasso
I’ve really been delving into the indie scene lately. There’s a huge amount of games coming from smaller development studios, and I’ve found a few that really impressed me. When I heard that a “crime n...

Starr Mazer adds Transformers composer Vince DiCola, high profile crossovers

Feb 12 // Darren Nakamura
Starr Mazer photo
Shovel Knight, Hyper Light Drifter, Children of Morta
Starr Mazer came out of the gate with an impressive roster of artists working on its soundtrack. Despite having a huge list of talent to pull from, developer Imagos Softworks has added another composer sure to pull on some n...

Worlds Adrift photo
Worlds Adrift

Worlds Adrift has open-world swinging, flying ships

Fingers crossed for a Spider-Man mod
Feb 09
// Jordan Devore
The thought of harvesting more trees and crafting more trinkets is unappealing, but I'll put up with those mechanics if it means getting to swing around in an open world. This is Worlds Adrift, an adventure game from Surgeon...
Shelter 2 photo
Shelter 2

Shelter 2 dips its adorable little lynx toes into March

What should their names be?
Feb 09
// Jordan Devore
Despite the typical Portland bleakness, I'm all warm and fuzzy after rewatching this Cuteness in Shelter 2 video Steven posted the other week. Those lynx cubs had better not die young. We've been saying February for months no...

Review: Sunless Sea

Feb 08 // Ben Davis
Sunless Sea (PC)Developer: Failbetter GamesProducer: Failbetter GamesReleased: February 6, 2015MSRP: $18.99 Let's get something out of the way real quick: this game is sloooow. Much like a voyage across the sea in real life, sailing across the Unterzee will take a long time. The entire map is fairly large, and your ship moves at such slow speeds that it makes the world feel even bigger than it actually is. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I know it will surely turn some people off, so be warned. Patience is a requirement. If you think you've got the patience for arduous oversea voyages, then you're in for quite a rewarding adventure. Sunless Sea takes place in Fallen London, a bizarre, Victorian-era version of London that has been buried far below the Earth's surface in a huge underground cavern, with a vast ocean known as the Unterzee stretching as far as the eye can see. You'll meet a colorful cast of characters, consisting of freaks, criminals, and anthropomorphic animals (perhaps they've been mutated?). Some will want to help you or even join you on your journey. Others will want to kill you. Maybe someone will even fall in love with you. [embed]287376:57231:0[/embed] As captain of a sailing vessel, you'll be traveling from port to port, exploring and learning about the islands of the Unterzee, while trying to achieve your ambitions. You have to make sure your crew stays fed and sane, your hull remains intact, and your fuel reserves are sufficient. Any oversight could quickly spell death for you and your crew. When you begin a new adventure, you're able to customize your captain. You get to pick a silhouette and decide how you want people to address you (Captain, Sir, Madam, etc.). You also have to choose your past. What you did in the past before you became captain will grant you a bonus to specific abilities, such as greater firepower as a veteran or increased knowledge as a poet, but you can also choose to remain shrouded in mystery. Your ambition will determine how you win. If you desire fulfillment, you'll need to acquire enough items to write a book describing all of your accomplishments, stories, and adventures. If you desire wealth, you'll need to amass a great enough fortune to purchase a mansion and retire. Or perhaps you only desire to discover the whereabouts of your lost father, and return his bones to London for a proper burial. It's up to you how the game ends. Achieving your ambitions will be difficult. Your first attempt will most likely end in death. Maybe even your second and third attempts will be failures as well. But each death gives you the opportunity to pass something on to your heir, who will become your next captain. You can pass down money, weapons, crew, or maps to help your successor in your next adventure. If you were exceptionally skilled during a particular playthrough, you can even write a will or earn some other bonuses which can be passed down in case you die. And you will probably die, a lot. Sunless Sea's inspirations really shine through, especially with influences like FTL and Sid Meier's Pirates. There are lots of randomly occurring events, a la FTL. While sailing, you might discover a bad omen, such as a white bat perched upon your ship. Or perhaps your conversation with an island local doesn't go so well, and you end up in a knife fight. Or maybe your crew will lose their trust in you and attempt a mutiny. Your fate is often up to chance, so you'll have to stay on your toes and try to make the wisest decisions when conflicts or opportunities arise. However, there are plenty of scripted events which happen during every playthrough as well. There will always be a tomb-colonist seeking passage on your ship, as well as a shady man in London's port who requires your assistance moving goods across the sea. Eventually, you'll familiarize yourself with these things, and the beginnings of your playthroughs will become second nature. Speaking of events, the writing in Sunless Sea is top-notch. It's definitely one of the game's highest qualities. There will be a lot of reading, but the stories and dialogue are thoroughly engaging, offering plenty of excitement, scenes of horror, unexpected outcomes, heartwarming moments, and more. Every island has a story to tell, and each trip back to any particular port might reveal new information. There are also occurrences that can alter the world around you. While I was playing, a house that I visited frequently suddenly caught fire and burned to the ground, meaning I could no longer depend on the residents for comfort and supplies. You'll also find that islands will occasionally shift around upon starting a new adventure, so you may end up getting lost at sea looking for a place that you swore was there a moment ago. The world of Fallen London is ever changing, so you will need to adapt accordingly if you wish to keep up. Then there's the combat to consider as you're preparing to set sail. The seas are swimming with giant crabs, jellyfish, sharks, and other creatures, plus enemy pirate ships armed with cannons of their own. Different enemies require different strategies, but staying behind your foe and keeping them within range of your light is usually a good idea. Defeating enemies can yield useful rewards, but oftentimes, the best strategy is just to flee. Especially when an enemy has way more health than you and can kill a crew member with each attack. Then you'll probably want to evade detection and escape until you have a better-equipped ship to handle the assault. You can upgrade your ship with new weapons, engines, lamps, and more, but make sure to pay attention to which part of the ship a particular piece of equipment belongs to. Not every ship has a space for aft or forward items, rendering certain weapons and equipment useless unless you purchase a new ship. I learned this the hard way, several times. I kind of wish they made this information a little more noticeable, to be honest. Nearly every action you can do has its own risks and rewards. You might choose to turn off your lamps to avoid enemy detection or save fuel, but the darkness will also quickly increase your crew's terror levels. If you set the engines to full power to narrowly escape an attacking enemy, you run the risk of causing a fire aboard your ship. Every decision requires contemplation. Reckless behavior can end your adventure quicker than anything else. There's plenty more to this game, but much of it is better learned through exploration or trial and error. Once you grasp the basics, your trips overseas will become more manageable, and your goals will become clearer. You'll learn how to avoid danger, where to make the quickest profits, and you'll begin to play more and more efficiently. It takes time, but it's worth it. As I've mentioned previously, be sure to keep in mind that Sunless Sea is very slow and often unforgiving. Of course, these aren't necessarily negative qualities, but it does make it difficult to recommend this game for everyone. If you expect fast-paced action, despise multitasking, or can't handle defeat, then this game probably isn't for you. However, if you are patient, enjoy strategy and planning, and are ready to spend hours upon hours sailing the cold, dark oceans, then you will most likely find Sunless Sea to be a very compelling and satisfying adventure. There are still many mysteries of the Unterzee that I have yet to discover, and maybe I never will see everything there is to see. But that just makes Sunless Sea even more exciting for me. The realm of possibilities seems endless, and every time I set sail I find something new. The sea is calling to me. Perhaps it's calling to you, too. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Sunless Sea reviewed photo
The sea calls to me
Adrift at sea in a massive underground cavern. No natural lighting to speak of. Your ship's hull has taken a beating from enemy cannon fire and giant crustaceans. Fuel and supplies are running low, but you might be able to su...

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Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Lost Lords

Feb 03 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: The Lost Lords (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: February 3, 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.] That is to say, one of my versions of House Forrester is doomed. For Iron From Ice and now The Lost Lords, I have run through with two separate save files. I do not recommend doing this for a couple of reasons. For one, playing through more than once lifts up the curtain on which choices actually make any sort of difference in the story and which ones lead to the same place regardless. Most choices do not have any immediate impact; only a select few shape the narrative into something unique to an individual player. This is standard Telltale modus operandi at this point, so it should not surprise most who have been following the developer for the past few years. For two, it shows how utterly inept I would be in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe. For my initial playthrough, I live in the moment and make the decisions that feel right. Sometimes I mouth off, sometimes I am defiant, but often I keep cool and try to maintain allies. My second save is labeled "Jerks" and in it I play House Forrester as a group of inconsiderate, self-serving assholes. For my first save, I find myself sparing lives when I should kill, making promises I should never keep, and helping others before helping myself. For my second save, I do the opposite. By most measures, the Jerk Forresters are in much better shape than the True Forresters. [embed]286540:56983:0[/embed] Where Iron From Ice set the stage for the series, The Lost Lords begins to put everything into motion. The Stark-esque scattering of the members of House Forrester is deliberate, planned to coincide with major events from the novels. Mira continues to serve Lady Margaery in King's Landing just prior to King Joffrey's wedding. Gared has completed his journey to The Wall to begin training before Mance Rayder launches his assault. Newcomer Asher is traveling between Yunkai and Meereen just as Daenerys is campaigning to liberate the slaves in Essos. Of course, plenty of focus is given to Ironrath, the seat of House Forrester, in the aftermath of Episode One. In a way, it works against The Lost Lords to be set precisely when it is. The build-up will likely be worth it once everything is in place and it all starts to hit the fan, but in the moment it feels like a lot of waiting. Consequences for some of the major choices from the last episode show up here. If Mira asked Margaery for help last episode, then Margaery will be unwilling to provide any assistance now. Ethan's choice of Sentinel in Iron From Ice affects how the Whitehill soldiers are treated in The Lost Lords. The former consequence seems like a major one; an entire avenue of intrigue involving the Queen of Thorns may be locked away in the future. The latter does not appear as important; Lord Whitehill is ornery and spiteful regardless. Thus far, Mira had only been exposed to the diplomacy, secrecy, and espionage of King's Landing. In The Lost Lords, she gets her first taste of the more overt awfulness of Westeros. Her story is still the most subdued of the playable characters. Her audience with Queen Cersei in the first episode was chilling and tense, but there are no comparable scenes in this episode. Gared still holds the cryptic information given to him by Gregor in the beginning of Iron From Ice, and he hopes to become a ranger in the Night's Watch in order to investigate that further. It only comes up optionally, but it seems like he will be the center of that subplot in addition to being present during the huge battle at The Wall. Asher was teased in the first episode as the hothead exile brother, and his scenes show as the most action-oriented. He is apt to fight his way out of trouble, but he does have a sharp wit when he needs it. His story about returning to Westeros from Essos to help save his house has potential to be interesting, but it is only starting out. The oil paint aesthetic remains constant, with both its pleasing 2D backgrounds and distractingly fuzzy 3D objects. I did experience a few typical Telltale glitches, like teleporting character models, but nothing gamebreaking. Overall, The Lost Lords is a fine episode for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, but it does not stand out. It is not exactly filler, but it does feel like it exists almost entirely as exposition, putting the pieces into place for all of the really exciting stuff to happen in a future episode. It does begin to demonstrate the far-reaching consequences of each character's choices, but it lacks the truly memorable scenes found in the first episode. If Iron From Ice felt like a punch to the gut, The Lost Lords is the throbbing pain afterward. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
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Feeling the Ironrath
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Feb 02
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