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Review: Tales from the Borderlands: The Vault of the Traveler

Oct 20 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: The Vault of the Traveler (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: October 20, 2015 (Mac, PC, PS3, PS4)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.] At the end of the previous episode, so many questions were left unresolved. What happened to Felix? Where is Vaughn? How is Rhys going to deal with Handsome Jack? Who is the Stranger who kidnapped Fiona and Rhys to get the whole thing started? All of those questions get answered. The story of the Stranger is particularly well done. Over the course of the series it has become clear he was a known character. I had a couple of guesses, some of which were shot down along the way as people died. When it was finally revealed, it caught me by surprise, but doesn't feel like a cheap copout twist. Some hints were there on the way. The other big question looming over the series over its duration centers on Gortys. Most of the story takes place via flashback narration in which the perky robot is happy and healthy, but the present-day bits have had Rhys, Fiona, and the Stranger collecting her pieces all over again. What happened to her? [embed]315774:60751:0[/embed] It's a question I personally fretted over because Gortys has become my favorite character in the entire Borderlands universe. Her unrelenting optimism and childlike demeanor are so refreshing on the cutthroat planet of Pandora, giving her best lines that much more comedic weight. Gortys delivers several laugh-out-loud funny lines this time around, but a sad effect of Telltale design is that some players might never even hear them. My favorite came as a response to one of the dialogue choices. It almost makes me want to play through again just to see if there were any great lines I missed out on. This episode gives another substantial reason to warrant a second play through. Getting ready for the final confrontation, the usual gang of suspects has to put together a team, pulling from the supporting cast reaching back as far as episode one. In a move Telltale ought to adopt for all its series, it spells out exactly who is available and why or why not based on past choices. I covered for Athena when Janey was suspicious after the chase in Hollow Point, so she would be willing to fight with me again. I was hesitant to call myself a Vault Hunter, so Zer0 never took much notice and was unavailable. Not only would I have to replay this last episode if I wanted to see Zer0 in action again, I'd have to basically start from the beginning. Given how good this series is, I'm not upset about that. I doubt the final outcome of the fight with the Traveler is any different depending on which characters join in, but the battle itself is customized depending on who is there. It's intrinsically cool to see each character in action given the circumstances of the encounter, but I am reluctant to spoil the specifics. One of the aspects of this series that amazes me is just how impactful it can be on the Borderlands universe. What started out as a story about a middle manager and a lowly grifter has irrevocably altered Pandora as a whole. While The Pre-Sequel worked within the confines of the existing lore, providing back story for Hyperion and Handsome Jack, Tales builds new stuff on top, setting up for the inevitable Borderlands 3. Thinking of the future, there are a few open-ended plot points in this last episode. Though a lot of past choices were highlighted and their effects were explicitly shown, the choice that puzzled me the most is given to Rhys as he is describing his struggle with Handsome Jack. As far as I could tell, nothing in this series was affected by it despite its potentially huge consequences. Additionally, there's the very end. After the climactic battle with the Traveler, as the group is celebrating and grabbing loot, there's one final scene that might be setting up for a whole new adventure starring Rhys and/or Fiona. Whether that becomes Tales from the Borderlands Season Two or part of the mainline series, I don't know. But it will definitely get Borderlands nerds excited considering the possibilities. I cannot recommend Tales enough. Borderlands fans will love the fresh take on the dark comedy universe. Telltale fans will love the smart writing and callbacks to choices made throughout. People who don't fall into those categories might still love it because it is just that great. This last episode maintains the action, drama, and comedy present throughout the series. It ties up all the major loose ends while leaving just a hint of room for more to come. Most of all, it solidifies Tales from the Borderlands as Telltale's best series to date, a pinnacle of modern adventure gaming. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Borderlands finale review photo
Your journey ends here
[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.] What a...

Downwell tips and tricks to get down the well well

Oct 20 // Steven Hansen
Advanced - Killing enemies without touching the ground builds combo. Use your Gunboots to control your descent and stomp on enemies (except bright red ones) whenever possible to refill ammunition. - Time voids. There are magic bubbles built into the walls of the well. Stop in them to grab chunks of 100 gems, hearts, and battery for your Gunboots (more ammo). As long as you crash land in the bubble, and not outside of it, it doesn't end your combo. - Stop & shop. The merchant's shop also has a time void. Buy batteries, health, and expand your health. Any heart you get when maxed out fills a little four-block white bar below your HP meter and filling that will also expand your max health. - Junk that isn't blocks or platforms can be stomped on for a brief pause in downward momentum, ammo refill, and a couple gems. All the detritus in the first area, the candles in the second area, and so on. - Turtles won't die to bullets, so you can empty your clip into them to really slow things down, then bop them for a refill if you need a reprieve or to take stock of what's below you. - End your combo at 25. All this talk of maintaining combos. This is because at 8 you get a 100 gem bonus, then a battery bonus, and finally, at 25, a heart bonus. Hearts are the most precious commodity, so forget the style points, just keep killing your combos at 25 and stock up on hearts. - The Knife and Fork upgrade (eat dead bodies for health sometimes) is great and so is the one that creates a blast whenever you stomp on enemies. Anything that shoots bullets upwards can be extra helpful starting in world 3 or so. - The Laser and Shotgun kind of suck at first with limited ammo, but they are powerful and, thus, probably the best late-game for controlling your fall. - Levitate Style for life. Playing the game unlocks new styles, like the 6HP, tubby Boulder style, but Levitate offers the easiest body control (comboooos), though you might reach a point where the fast-falling boulder helps shave seconds off your best time -- worry about getting to the end once, first. - There's a wall jump! It requires pretty perfect timing and can help in a pinch. Or at least for snuffing out candles in wall well rooms, picking up a couple gems like searching the couch for pennies.
Downwell guide photo
Tips, tricks, highlights, scores & stats
Downwell is one of the best games of the year and it's only $3. If the stellar reviews and word of mouth are enough to convince you that this game is excellent, you're in luck. And while it's pretty great to just learn how the game works through repeated, vicious deaths, here are some tips to get good quick. The Basics - Go down the well

Review: Downwell

Oct 20 // Steven Hansen
Downwell (PC [reviewed], Android, iOS)Developer: MoppinPublisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: October 15, 2015MSRP: $2.99 Downwell asks you to learn with it, explaining nothing outside of the control scheme (move with directional pad or analog, jump and shoot with one button) and the upgrades between levels. Initial expeditions down the well are clumsy. Your Gunboots start with limited charge (think: ammo) and you have to refill them by touching solid ground. Or -- wait, they refill when you stomp on an enemies' head, too? -- and, oh no, don't try and stomp on an enemy that is an angry bright red. These are the kind of things you learn as you delve deeper and deeper into Downwell's four worlds (three levels each) and they are presented intelligently. For example, the first spat of blood red enemies that you shouldn't be jumping on all have spikes, video game shorthand for danger. Later ones won't warn you so nicely. And of course there's trial and error, too, like touching a hot stove, for those who don't get it. Level randomization requires you stay engaged. Different power up offerings between levels will change how you play. Dimension-shattering time voids are occasionally cut into the well walls and host a treasure trove of gems or different ammunition. The latter is where the Super Crate Box comparison is obvious. [embed]316411:60790:0[/embed] Changing ammo isn't a strict necessity, but it practically is, given that picking up a new ammo types will often come with a heart or some battery charge for the Gunboots (more ammunition between reloads), but different ammo types function in drastically different ways. Shooting is actually more useful in fighting gravity and keeping yourself from falling too quickly into unseen trouble than it is for killing enemies; they should typically be bopped. Especially since bopping enemies fills your Gunboots and stringing together kills without touching down gives you rewards. It's best to stomp out enemies, using your ammo stores to occasionally slow your descent or send you across the screen to stomp something else. Aside from the constantly changing levels, ammo types, and upgrades, new "styles" are unlocked over time, like the "Boulder style," which features a much fatter boy who starts with six HP instead of four, but only gets to choose from two between-level upgrades instead of three. Then of course there are dozens of Palette options that change the colors of the game, though I have only found a handful I like as much as the default black, white and red. The variety makes the frequent deaths more palatable and I would probably buy a custom dedicated handheld that just played this game. Because death comes so quickly, health is at a premium. If you slowly inch your way down the well, stopping at every platform and dutifully eliminating enemies, you'll take forever and likely not rack up enough gems to clear out shops, which are operated by the the most adorable timeline version of a snowman (who gives a good disapproving face when you jump behind the counter). But as you get better and can chain combos, netting gem, battery (ammo) and health bonuses, you can stay in the black, even increase your max HP. It's all about building a better, more equipped you while you play. It's always fraught, mind. You are working against gravity and your stabilizing shots will sometimes rip the ground from under you as you destroy blocks on the way down that might have offered reprieve. Or you accidentally shoot an enemy you're coming up on, losing a chance to replenish your ammo, and end up in a dangerous free fall. My 15-hour transition from inelegant tank (Boulder style) laboring down the well to eyes-closed, 25-kill-combo (Levitate) falling with style has been a flurry of close calls, of "one more run," of consistently dying to the boss despite doubling my starting health. The knees-braced bullet pounding side winding across the screen to slow my descent, the meaty pop of brain stomping and the brief upward moment it grants before gravity yanks me down again. And for such a noble reason. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Downwell review photo
Falling with style
Once upon a time I was falling in love, now I'm only falling down wells. Downwell is a game about getting down a well, but the only way to get down the well is to learn how to get down the well well. Because this Game Boy thr...

Brave Exvius photo
Brave Exvius

Newest mobile Final Fantasy celebrates with FFVI nostalgia

Playable Magitek Armor Terra
Oct 19
// Steven Hansen
A new Final Fantasy is out this week and you won't be alone in not knowing or caring. Apparently the "too sexy" Mevius Final Fantasy already came out in June, so it's been a hot four months since the last one (not counting r...
Fallout Shelter update photo
Fallout Shelter update

Meet one of Fallout 4's characters early in Fallout Shelter

Plus new hard mode, cloud saves
Oct 16
// Steven Hansen
The many-millions-maker Vault dwelling mobile game from Bethesda, Fallout Shelter, got its 1.2 update, which includes a new survival mode and, for some, one of Fallout 4's characters. Piper, who runs a newspaper in Fallout 4...
Borderlands photo

Tales from the Borderlands' season finale gets a trailer

Tales from Borderlands Space
Oct 16
// Mike Cosimano
I'll be the first to admit -- I was extremely skeptical about Tales from the Borderlands, especially considering how disappointed I was by The Walking Dead's second season. But I'm happy to have been proven wrong. This game l...
Pokemon Go photo
Pokemon Go

Nintendo, Pokemon Company, Google invest $30M in Pokemon Go dev

Well, I'd hope so...
Oct 15
// Steven Hansen
Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and Google have come together to throw a combined $30 million at San Francisco-based Niantic, developer of the recently announced Pokémon Go. Niantic started as an internal Google...

Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: The Order of the Stone

Oct 13 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: The Order of the Stone (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: October 13, 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 To its credit, Minecraft: Story Mode does a lot well. The use of Minecraft's engine and iconic visual style is a nice workaround to keep the Telltale Tool from showing its age. It's hard to complain about low-polygon models for a world comprised mostly of cubes. Despite having fewer moving parts to work with on the character models, the characters are as expressive as they need to be. By narrowing or widening eyes and tweaking eyebrows, the block people (and pig) can show a range of emotions in a cartoony sort of way. The voice work aids in bringing the low-fidelity characters to life as well. The cast is impressive, including the likes of Patton Oswalt, Billy West, and Paul Reubens, to name a few. Though the characters look similar in the beginning, each has a defined personality that comes through thanks to the actors. Much like a session with Minecraft proper, by the end of the episode my brain stopped seeing everything and everyone as a collection of hard-edged polyhedra and just accepted them as regular places and people. [embed]315133:60717:0[/embed] However, the all-star voice cast does highlight The Order of the Stone's biggest shortcoming. With such big names in comedy doing the dialogue, it's disappointing how little comedy there is in the script. There are a few gags that find their mark, but most are worth only a smile or a chuckle; none really stood out. On the other end of the spectrum, the drama doesn't really deliver either. The elements are there: life-or-death situations, uncertainty, mistrust. Still, none of the prototypical "big choices" felt like they carried much weight. Of the five choices shown at the end, the first is just a judgment call with an unknown and arbitrary outcome, two involve whether you want to be an asshole to a guy who doesn't deserve it, one won't have clear implications until a later episode, and the last is a decision on which of protagonist Jesse's two friends has a better plan for what's to come. The choices highlight an emphasis on the future. Put plainly, The Order of the Stone is heavy on exposition, setting up the backstory, characters, and events for the rest of the season. While necessary, it misses some opportunities to be memorable in its attempt to lay the foundation. Story Mode will probably be more of a hit among Minecraft fans than general Telltale fans. The Order of the Stone features a few Minecraft-specific gameplay bits and references. A couple times during the episode, players are presented with a problem, given some materials, and tasked with crafting a solution. Recipes are given for those who don't know what to make or how to make it, but other craftable objects are present as well. While trying to make a stone sword, I accidentally crafted a lever. After a playful rib about me not knowing what I was doing, the materials were returned so I could forge the weapon. Later on, the group has to hit a pressure plate beyond a hallway filled with arrow traps. Recipes and materials are given for a couple possible tools to use. It would be great if there were other hidden solutions to discover for those who know the source material inside and out. In addition to the crafting puzzles, there is one classic adventure game puzzle found toward the end of the episode. It isn't especially original or taxing, but along with the crafting it does represent a step in a more gameplay-oriented direction from the recent story-only Telltale series. So far, Minecraft: Story Mode is like a Saturday morning cartoon. Sure, there is conflict, but it doesn't feel dire. Sure, there are funny bits, but the comedy isn't sharp or intelligent. Sure, there is a story, but it doesn't feel like it matters yet. There is some hope for this series to be great in the future, but The Order of the Stone is just okay. The Minecraft-specific gameplay is a nice way to shake up the usual formula. The blank slate of the universe allows the tale to go wherever it wants. The voice cast is full of actors who can do great work. But the writing needs to be more engaging if Story Mode wants to be taken seriously among Telltale canon. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Minecraft review photo
Exposition mode
Telltale has seen ups and downs with its licensed titles. With Jurassic Park the studio was still figuring out what works and what doesn't. More recently, The Walking Dead and Tales from the Borderlands have shown the strengt...

Metal Slug x Battle Cats photo
Metal Slug x Battle Cats

Metal Slug teams up with The Battle Cats

Remember Metal Slug?
Oct 12
// Jordan Devore
My experience with Metal Slug Defense is watching former Destructoid writer Jim Sterling suffer through its free-to-play trappings for a video. My experience with The Battle Cats, a similar strategy game about overwhelming yo...
Indie in Berlin photo
Indie in Berlin

Fired Dead Island 2 devs leave Yager, start indie studio

Plus, hints at super secret project
Oct 12
// Steven Hansen
Three Yager (Spec Ops: The Line, Dead Island 2) developers have left the company to go indie as inbetweengames. This is a few months after publisher Deep Silver dropped Yager as the developer on Dead Island 2, just a few mon...
Shakira photo

Shakira and Angry Birds developer teaming up for 'Love Rocks'

Oct 12
// Chris Carter
Do you love Shakira? How about Rovio, the developer of Angry Birds? Well I have a pitch for you -- it's a game featuring Shakira, created by Rovio. Whoa! Yes, this is not a joke or drill, Love Rocks is a real thing. You ...
Fungal Asshole photo
Fungal Asshole

Indie dev's angry rant demonstrates the stress after being Kickstarted

Or is it all satire?
Oct 08
// Jed Whitaker
Having never heard of Elysian Shadows -- a 2D RPG that was Kickstarted for PC, mobile, Ouya, and even Dreamcast -- I stumbled across the above video of one of the developers, Falco Girgis, seemingly going off. Apparentl...
Telltale Borderlands photo
Telltale Borderlands

Tales from the Borderlands finale releases on October 20

Here's a teaser for it
Oct 08
// Darren Nakamura
You might have heard how the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands is now available for free. If you haven't, well, Telltale really wants to drive that fact home. That's how they get you. The first hit is free. You want...
Devolver Digital photo
Devolver Digital

Downwell is going to take over my life

One run at a time
Oct 07
// Jordan Devore
I was on board with Downwell (PC, iOS, Android) as soon as I saw this gif. It's a game about descending a narrow well as a little guy with guns on his boots. Gun boots! Shooting slows your descent and, crucially, destroys ene...
Bob's Burgers pinball photo
Bob's Burgers pinball

Bob's Burgers coming to Zen Studios pinball games

I don't see Tina, the best character
Oct 06
// Darren Nakamura
Joining Family Guy in Zen's "Balls of Glory" Pinball Pack is the vastly superior Bob's Burgers. The table is set up on the street outside the titular restaurant, with It's Your Funeral Home & Crematorium next door and Jim...
Noon VR photo
Noon VR

Noon VR is a neat home experience, but the tech is very limited

Far from true VR
Oct 02
// Chris Carter
As most of you know, I'm not completely sold on VR yet. I mean, I actually really like the tech, it's very cool, but I'm literally not sold on it. I've had a full-time job basically since I was 15, so I could genera...
Minecraft: Story Mode photo
Minecraft: Story Mode

Meet the cast of Minecraft: Story Mode with this trailer

'I'm a PC'
Oct 01
// Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode officially kicks off on October 13 with its first episode The Order of the Stone. Though we previewed it recently at PAX Prime, there haven't been any trailers for it since the teaser back in July. With ...
RPG Maker MV photo
RPG Maker MV

The next generation of RPG Maker arrives this month

You can make the next Corpse Party!
Oct 01
// CJ Andriessen
RPG Maker, that RPG creation tool you say you're going to use to make the greatest role playing game ever but then don't, will see its next iteration launch on October 23 with RPG Maker MV. At $80 you can create the next gre...

Review: PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist

Sep 29 // Jed Whitaker
PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist (Android, iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 6S Plus])Developer: Outerminds Inc.Publisher: Outerminds Inc.Released: September 24, 2015MSRP: $4.99 PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist caught me off guard with its production values and gameplay. At first, I was expecting a half-assed cash-in on PewDiePie and the other co-starring YouTubers' popularity, but instead I found a fully voice-acted platformer reminiscent of such classics as DuckTales and the more recent Shovel Knight. Yeah, I can't believe I just typed those words either. Using the left side of the screen as a virtual joystick that spawns wherever your finger first touches and the right side of the screen as a jump button, you'll help PewDiePie and friends hunt down the evil barrel king that stole all his fans, aka bros. Going from left to right while jumping on enemies to kill them isn't revolutionary, but the ease and precision of the controls are. I've played many touch screen games and this is the first that felt like it nailed translating traditional controls; deaths felt like my own fault and jumping between platforms surrounded by certain death was smooth as butter. Each level adds something new, such as jumping from moving cars and rhinos, to a side-scrolling space shooter, to levels where you must avoid enemies for a set amount of time in a small area until help arrives. Help is provided by other popular YouTubers like Markplier and Jacksepticeye, whom voice themselves.  [embed]312909:60547:0[/embed] These other YouTubers can then be unlocked, and each have their own unlockable abilities as well that can be equipped two at a time -- one attack and one defense. Abilities have a cooldown timer that is replenished by killing enemies or digging through piles of debris found throughout stages. This debris also grants coins and/or health power-ups and sometimes a collectible patch, of which there are many. Attack abilities are mostly useless; I found jumping on enemies' heads to be easier than waiting on them to walk through a pug's fart cloud. Defensive abilities fair a bit better. One of them grants you three hearts of health every so often, which can be useful for boss fights and the more difficult levels. All abilities and characters are unlocked in a store using in-game currency that's earned by killing enemies, found throughout the level, and awarded at the end of levels based on performance and difficulty. Speaking of difficulty, there are four options to choose from, the default being easy mode. I tried a few levels on hard, the second lowest difficulty, and found them to live up to that label, adding more enemies that hit a bit harder. For the purpose of this review, I played most levels on the default easy difficulty, which proved challenging at times.  My only qualms with the game in general are that it seemed like not enough coins could be earned to unlock everything by the end (likely to entice players to go through the harder difficulties), that I had to watch cute pugs die, and that some characters used stereotypical gender signifiers. As you go through the levels as PewDiePie, you're joined by his two adorable pugs who will sacrifice their pugly lives instead of letting their owner take the last hit. Upon this sacrifice, they gib into little puppy chunks, and give a heartbreaking yelp. While this drove me to be more careful, it was disturbing. As for the gender signifiers, there are some barrels that are pink and give birth to smaller barrels upon death, and a rhino wearing lipstick -- a minor complaint but nothing I'll lose sleep over. While I didn't get any of the references or inside jokes like why PewDiePie is being attacked by barrels, or the copious amount of ducks and exploding cows, I could appreciate that it was something zany his fans will surely love. For those wanting a solid mobile platformer, consider dropping the five bucks on PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist, as it has a kickass chiptune soundtrack, colorful levels, and tight touchscreen platforming. If you're a PewDiePie fan, then making the purchase is a no-brainer. The game took me a just over a couple of hours to complete, though completionists will be able to get a lot more mileage out of it. My time and money were well spent, and it almost made me want to watch a PewDiePie video. Almost. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Review: PewDiePie: LotB photo
*Yelling and farting sounds here*
Anyone who frequents YouTube knows who PewDiePie is, but if you don't, he is an over-the-top let's player that parents don't get and kids love, as well as the most-subscribed person on YouTube. And now he has his own game.&nb...

One Piece mobile photo
One Piece mobile

One Piece: Thousand Storm is a new free-to-play mobile game

Coming to Japan next year
Sep 28
// Chris Carter
When I was in Japan, One Piece was absolutely everywhere. From ads on trains, to stores full of Tony Tony Chopper figurines, to a host of Pachinko machines, you couldn't avoid the Straw Hat Pirates. Now they're about to ...
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile photo
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Of course Pokemon Shuffle Mobile's leaderboards are hacked

Because why wouldn't they be?
Sep 21
// Darren Nakamura
There are already a lot of reasons why Pokémon Shuffle Mobile is inferior to the previously released 3DS version, like the increase in item prices, the removal of Jewel rewards for beating Mega evolutions, and the...
Final Fantasy Type-0 photo
Final Fantasy Type-0

Final Fantasy Agito reborn as Type-0 Online

In development for PC and mobile
Sep 19
// Kyle MacGregor
After recently announcing plans to abandon Final Fantasy Agito, Square Enix has unveiled its successor, Final Fantasy Type-0 Online, which the publisher is branding as an "evolution." In development at Chinese MMO house ...
Tokyo Game Show hands-on photo
It makes sense to me
Candy Crush is like, bad, right? I mean, I'll still suggest to my mother that she should read a book instead of wasting time on that crap (talk about some role reversal), but it's difficult to dislike the game with any inten...

Amazon Fire TV photo
Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition comes with Shovel Knight

And a proper gamepad
Sep 17
// Jordan Devore
There's a new game-centric Fire TV bundle on the way and it sports a familiar controller. The Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition packs in Shovel Knight, DuckTales: Remastered, a 32GB microSD card, and a wireless gamepad for $139.9...

More Quick Tips: Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Sep 17 // Darren Nakamura
First things first: the time-sensitive stuff If you read nothing else of this guide, this is what you should take away. Enter the code 65607110 under Settings > Code for Lucarionite. This code expires on September 30, 2015. Lucarionite will let you Mega evolve Lucario, which is a huge help throughout the game. I'll explain why in detail later. Your first long-term goal should be to capture Groudon. Groudon is currently part of a special event set to expire on September 25, 2015. Opportunities for both of these are likely to show up in the future, but obtaining them now will be a great help for getting through the early, mid, and late game. Matches The game explains the basics of making matches, but leaves a lot of nuance for the player to discover. Moving a Pokémon on the board almost always involves swapping two Pokémon. On a board with few disruptions, you can frequently make matches on both ends of the swap. Taking the above into account, double-ended matches do not occur simultaneously. The Pokémon being dragged into place matches first, while the one swapped back by default matches second. This can come into play if you want to control how surrounding tiles fall. In general, by swapping from the bottom up, you can increase your chance of getting lucky as the dust settles. When matching a single Pokémon both horizontally and vertically, precedence is given to the larger match (for example, a match of four will clear before a match of three). When the horizontal and vertical matches are equal in size, the horizontal match will take precedence. This can be very important when matching certain Mega evolutions. Abilities Short descriptions of abilities are given, but some could use more explicit explanation. With a few exceptions, abilities are usually activated for only the first Pokémon matched in a single combo. Exceptions include powering up a Mega evolution and activating a Mega ability. These will occur no matter how far down a combo the match occurs. Power of 4 (Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Kangaskhan, and more) will activate every time a match of four is made for the first match of a combo with the corresponding Pokémon. Most other abilities activate some fraction of the time, with bigger matches (fours and fives) increasing the chance the ability will activate. Before playing a round, take the time to familiarize yourself with your Pokémon's abilities. When making a double-ended match, it's better to take a chance on a random ability like Opportunist than waste a first-match-in-the-combo on Block Smash when there are no blocks around. Types The Pokémon Shuffle type chart follows the X/Y type chart. Here are some important notes. Unlike classic Pokémon, Shuffle has players building teams of four specifically to fight a single type at any given time. Instead of taking a team that covers a wide set of types, you want a whole team of Super Effective (double damage) Pokémon for the task at hand. Fighting-type is the only type Super Effective versus Normal-type. This is partially why obtaining Lucarionite for Mega Lucario is so helpful. Thus far, Lucario is the only Fighting-type that can Mega evolve. Ground-type is the only type Super Effective versus Electric-type. This is partially why capturing Groudon early is so helpful. With Groudon, you can build an all-Ground team after Stage 101. Without Groudon, you can't have an all-Ground team until Stage 136. All other types have at least two types that are Super Effective against it, so it is much easier to build an appropriate team. Some levels feature weak Pokémon as a fixture and are easier to complete if those Pokémon are brought along as part of the team. Togekiss is easier to beat with Togetic along. Milotic is basically impossible without bringing Feebas to the party. Don't forget this is an option; several stages use the trick. Mega evolutions Mega evolutions are a big part of Pokémon Shuffle, but strategy is key. Several of the early Mega evolving Pokémon (Audino, Kangaskhan, Lopunny) are Normal-type. They are not Super Effective versus anything. Due to its higher base attack power, Mega Lucario is preferable to the Normal-type Megas unless fighting Poison-, Flying-, Psychic-, Bug-, or Fairy-types. If you hit the Optimize button repeatedly when building a team, it will cycle through different Mega evolving Pokémon. It is up to you to determine which one is actually most appropriate for a given level. In shorter stages (10 moves or less), it is often advantageous to leave out a Mega evolving Pokémon entirely. Since it takes time to Mega evolve, it is generally better to bring a Super Effective regular Pokémon as opposed to a normal damage Mega. Sometimes it can even be better to switch a Super Effective Mega out for a different Super Effective Pokémon with a greater attack power. Mega abilities are not created equal. Mega Gengar is great for stringing together big combos, but terrible for taking out unbreakable blocks. Mega Aerodactyl is great for taking out blocks, but useless in stages without those disruptions. Don't just take what Optimize gives you. Grinding In general, you won't want to grind, but here are some tips for when you should. Usually, the path to greater power is to capture stronger Pokémon. A single Pokémon's power can increase up to 20 points by leveling up to MAX, but base attack power can range from 30 to 90. Capture Pokémon with a base attack power of 60 or above instead of grinding your 40s and 50s. You can reasonably make it up to Mega Glalie (Stage 120) without grinding or using items. If you haven't already, this is a good time to switch to Expert stages to catch some of the upper tier Pokémon. Moltres, Blaziken, and Entei would specifically help against Mega Glalie. Getting S ranks on Main stages unlocks Expert stages. I can be worthwhile to go back to previously completed stages in order to bump the ranking. Experience is awarded in proportion to the number of moves a level contains. Buneary (Stage 21) is the best stage for grinding experience until Ampharos (Stage 130). Snorlax (Stage 183) technically awards the most experience of any main stage, but it is much more difficult to complete than Ampharos. An uncompleted stage still awards experience, but it's less than if the stage were completed. Meowth (Stage 37) can be played repeatedly to grind for coins. You only keep the coins if you beat him, so you have to be able to balance matching coins and attacking, but not attacking too quickly. Spending You can still play Pokémon Shuffle Mobile without spending a dime, but you'll have to be smart about it. Check in every day for 500 coins. Make sure to play the Special stages during the weekends for Meowth's Coin Mania. When making coin matches, a match of three is worth 100, a match of four is worth 300, and a match of five is worth 500. It is more profitable to get one match of four than two matches of three. Patience is the greatest asset in Pokémon Shuffle. You will be tempted to use a Great Ball often, but it is almost always better to save those coins. Even something as low as a 10% capture rate means (on average) ten tries to get it, or five hours of waiting. A single Great Ball on Mobile costs 3500 coins, or seven days of checking in. One thing I keep in mind when going for captures with low percentages is a comparison to a standard six-sided die. If you have a 17% catch power, that's like rolling a 6 on the die. It's not exactly likely, but if you roll the thing enough times you're bound to hit it eventually. The best time to use a Great Ball is when it triggers Super Catch Power on a particularly difficult battle. If you can't consistently beat a stage and you get Super Catch Power, it's probably worth it. Save your coins for the competitive events. These are often the only ways to get certain Mega Stones, and they are only awarded to a fraction of participants. Attack Power+ is an easy way to make sure you're in that group. When you do spend your coins, spend them wisely. Some stages are only difficult because of disruptions. Use a Disruption Delay on these. Some begin with a huge obstacle but get easy once that is cleared. Use a Mega Start (and an appropriate Mega Pokémon) on these. Determine the main problem of a level and use the tool best suited to tackle that problem. For the Main and Expert stages, you should not need items at all until you start going for S ranks. Be patient with your captures, be smart with your matches, and wait for that one really lucky run. So there you have it. Now that I have this all written out, it might not really be a set of "Quick Tips," but you should now be better prepared to take on the addiction that is Pokémon Shuffle. Good luck!
Pokemon Shuffle tips photo
Let's diglett deeper
Earlier this year, Pokémon Shuffle released on 3DS and Chris Carter handed out some tips for success in the free-to-play match-three puzzler, despite the fact that he didn't care much for it. He's so magnanimous. Pok&e...

Review: Leo's Fortune

Sep 16 // Darren Nakamura
Leo's Fortune (Android, iOS, Mac, PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Windows Phone, Xbox One)Developer: 1337 & SenriPublisher: Tilting PointRelease: April 23, 2014 (mobile), September 8, 2015 (Mac, PC, PS4), September 11, 2015 (Xbox One)MSRP: $4.99 (mobile), $6.99 (non-mobile) Originally released on mobile last year, Leo's Fortune is now playable with a controller elsewhere. It's equal parts precision platformer, speed platformer, and puzzle platformer, alternating between the three to keep the experience fresh throughout. Leopold is a slippery guy, which aids in the speed sections. Certain areas have ramps and curves built in, giving Leo a playground to jump, inflate, and dive toward the exit quickly. Of the three styles of platforming present, this is the most exciting. The other two styles slow Leo down considerably. With his inflate ability, he can not only jump and launch off walls, but he can also slow his descent, giving himself greater control in spiky sections. Here, Leopold's slipperiness can get him into trouble; he will sometimes maintain momentum from a speed section straight into a trap. It can be difficult to make the small adjustments necessary for the precision segments, because pressing in one direction for more than a split second will send him careening in that direction. The puzzles are a welcome change of pace, though they never really tax the brain. For the most part, they are the same kinds of physics-based puzzles we've seen elsewhere. They're certainly not bad, but they're never mindblowing either. [embed]310626:60351:0[/embed] All of this is tied together by an after school special-esque story. Though the specifics of the big twist aren't exactly predictable, it's clear throughout that Leopold is barking up the wrong trees and stands to learn a life lesson. It's almost like one of Aesop's fables; it comes with the moral of appreciating people over possessions, which is a great message to teach children, but feels trite to those who have heard it before. In that way, the story mirrors the puzzle sections. It's totally serviceable, but I'm not particularly impressed by it. Where Leo's Fortune excels is in the presentation. Leopold's fuzz and a lot of the environmental effects are fantastically animated. Leo slides as he moves, meaning he doesn't have any walking or rolling animation, but despite that he exudes personality, particularly through facial expressions. I love the look he gives when he inflates. So what we have in all is a beautiful platformer with ups and downs (literally and figuratively), a mundane narrative with a good message, and some real difficulty toward the end. The whole game probably only takes about an hour or two to finish (with full game speedruns clocking in at about 45 minutes. It's not a must-buy, not even for platformer fans, but it's a cute little game that most people can find some fun with. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Leo's Fortune review photo
Favors the bold
Coins. Plenty of games have them scattered around to collect, but few explain why they're there in the first place. If they're so valuable, why did somebody just leave them there? Leo's Fortune gives a reason. The titular mus...

Five Nights World photo
Five Nights World

The next Five Nights at Freddy's is an RPG

Recruit the nightmarish machines
Sep 15
// Jordan Devore
Five Nights creator Scott Cawthon claims there "will NOT be a Five Nights at Freddy's 5." That's hard to believe, but one thing is for certain: those horrific animatronics aren't going away. In a post today, Cawthon announced...

Review: Dropsy

Sep 15 // Zack Furniss
Dropsy (Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows [reviewed])Developer: Tendershoot, A Jolly CorpsePublisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: September 10, 2015 (Windows, Mac, Linux) / TBA (Android, iOS)MSRP: $9.99 Last week I said that Dropsy's music was "brimming with the earnestness you feel when you're about to tell someone you love them for the first time." I'd like to extend that statement to include the entirety of the game. While it's hard to swallow that idea when it is juxtaposed against the titular clown's disquieting countenance, I assure you that his adventure is more uplifting than it is horrifying. Some background: Dropsy had always looked different, and had a hard time communicating with his fellow humans. Animals, however, always found a fast friend in him. This ability to talk to creatures furred or feathered gave him a skill to perform and please people with. Through use of this talent, Dropsy convinced the crowds to love him. He and his parents were Big Top circus performers until a mysterious accident set the tent and their reputations ablaze. Daddy Dropsy survived, but Mommy Dropsy didn't. A short cinematic conveys all of this to you, and your first "quest" is to leave a memento on your mother's grave in the cemetery on the other side of town. Though it starts off on a somber note, Dropsy quickly becomes an exploration of what it means to bring happiness to a stranger. Dropsy wants to hug everyone to show him that he loves them the way he hopes that they can love him, but most people aren't keen on the idea. By helping each NPC in the game by way of light puzzles, you can eventually earn that sweet, short embrace. Whenever Dropsy meets someone in need, thought bubbles appear over their heads to convey what it is they want or need. The difficulty lays in trying to parse what exactly these small pictures mean, and it can be frustrating at times. But the beauty of this is that it places the player right in Dropsy's clown shoes, effectively showing you how hard it is for the poor guy to communicate. If each character could just verbally tell you what they required, this would be a short game. But that isn't the world Dropsy lives in. Though there is the aforementioned main quest, Dropsy is non-linear in such a way that you can wander the entire city (a beautifully pixelcrunchy mish-mash of city, desert, bayou, and forest) within the first few minutes. People that you meet early on might have secrets that you won't unravel until the back half of the game, which I completed in about five hours. You'll gently float through town with your queue of animal buddies, spreading love to all who will receive the message. Most puzzles are solved by having the right item stored in Dropsy's overalls. These often won't require too much of you, though there are a couple of tricky scenarios in the latter half of the game. There are a couple of pixel hunts and logic leaps that aren't immediately apparent, but that is mostly in regard to side quests. You don't have to make everyone happy in order to complete Dropsy, but I recommend having multiple saves so that you can go back and earn all of those sweet hugs before the ending sequence locks you out. While many suspected that this would be a horror game before it came out or that there would be some disturbing twist halfway through, that never ends up being the case. Instead, this is a celebration of the small victories we achieve when we become even the slightest bit closer to someone. Dropsy's appearance lends itself to terror and has lead to his alienation, but his presence brings an indomitable cheer to anyone who gives him a chance. Every so often, Dropsy subverts this tone with an emotional kick right in your heart's crotch, and it hurts in the best way. In the interest of being as earnest as this game, I felt a hope while playing Dropsy that I don't usually associate with gaming. This a point-and-click where your main interaction with the world is a hug button. You can play as a dog who has a map with all of his favorite places to pee, who wiggles his eyebrows when he finds a new place to mark. You can re-unite families or learn more about your own. There's an optional button in the menu to turn on the sound effects for your clown shoes.  This levity, this world, and these people are going to be with me forever. If you've ever complained about there being too much violence in gaming, or that games are all the same, and you don't play this... I hope somebody hugs you.
Dropsy photo
The best hugventure you can embark upon
I finished Dropsy about a week ago. Though an increased workload at the ol' day job slowed down this review, I'm grateful that I had extra time to put together these thoughts. Most would take that to mean that Dropsy&nbs...

Electronic Arts photo
Electronic Arts

EA silently kills a bundle of nice mobile games

Many older titles pulled from app stores
Sep 12
// Kyle MacGregor
Earlier this month, Electronic Arts removed over a dozen of its older mobile titles from the iOS and Android app stores with essentially no notice. The blow came on September 1, when the publisher whispered via its support site that the following games would be disappearing that very same day:

Which Pokemon would you find in your neighborhood?

Sep 11 // Steven Hansen
Excelsior I've lived a couple different places in Excelsior, including my current digs. You'll find savvy Sneasels and Scythers scurrying through the fragrant wild fennel fenced off alongside the sloping freeway underpasses on your way up to the relative wilds of Glen Park. Murkrows dot power lines along Geneva and Mission. Ekans occasionally slither down from their dry McLaren plains into the European-named streets below. The Meowths, too, will come down and brave the streets to swipe coins, while a more timid crew stays completely up in the hills. Exeggutors wander Mission freely while Machokes are hard at work. Noe Valley Wandering Magnemites have been spotted in increasing numbers in this region. They are mostly nocturnal and drain the batteries of residents' Teslas. Eevee, of course, are prized in Noe Valley, including its fashionable evolutions brought about by precious-gem-owning old money. Except Jolteon. Fuck Jolteon. Wandering Trubbish and Garbodor, abandoned in Dolores Park by transplants and tech assholes, have been spotted wandering into outlying regions such as Noe Valley, but only the latter employs underpaid Quagsire to wash the trash Pokemon downhill into the Mission. Fort Funston San Francisco's beaches are typically cold and free of the Southern California, bathing suit clad beaches people often associate with the state. The lesser known Fort Funston, south of the creatively named Ocean Beach, is a haven for owners of dog Pokémon like Growlithe and Arcanine, which are allowed to run freely amid the wild Sandshrews and Sandiles burrowed in the beach. The dogs are free to chase Wingull up and down, sniff the occasional washed up, dead Krabby, and sometimes roll around in Sealeo corpses, covering themselves in disgusting, rotting viscera. Beware if you bring your smaller pup Pokémon as assholes nearby (the country club?) occasionally rise their Rapidashes down onto the beach, threatening the safety of all dogs in this typical haven. Plus they shit everywhere and do those prissy fucks get off their high horse to pick it up, like the responsible dog owners? Of course not.
Pokemon Go Proust photo
An on-going Pokemon map of San Francisco
Forget the open-world Pokémon console RPG with wild pocket monsters represented on-screen instead of in random encounters. Nintendo just went and leap frogged all of us by partnering with a mobile company to bring Pok&...

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