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Destructoid Originals

New Year photo
New Year

What are your New Year gaming resolutions for 2016?


If you say 4K or 1080p, I'll cut you
Dec 29
// Zack Furniss
Just three more days (for me, I don't know about you weirdos outside of California) and 2015 is over. Any New Year's Resolutions you have that are related to gaming? I personally want to start playing Rocksmith at least ...

Cell games: I tried to build a pacifist utopia but the Internet ate me up

Dec 27 // Steven Hansen
And so I'm not quite sure how I ended up back on Agar.io, a free game you can play in your browser. You are a cell, a circular blob, and there are other cells floating about controlled by other real-life people. Ostensibly the goal is to get as big as possible because larger cells can devour smaller ones and self-preservation, I'm told, is a natural human instinct despite how frequently I eat food that is clearly past its expiration date (I cut the mold off, I'm not stupid). There are, however, even smaller blobs littered around Agar.io's grid that are stationary and not controlled by other people. Eating them will make you bigger. So, an experiment. What if I got big through non-violence? Could I eat my way to the top in peace and then, plump on vegan balls, force my philosophy onto the others? Would I be able to do that by example, or would that require force, undercutting my moral high ground? I pondered these questions as I casually jetted around with the extra speed being small affords. When you start out it's easy to avoid the lumbering behemoths and you're not a substantial meal, so while I occasionally hightailed it away from folks with names like "idecidewholives," things were pretty uneventful for a while. The big boys squabbled between thmselves for rank and I was able to find plenty of balls to gobble in the southern section of the grid. I even placed on the leaderboard (10th) and that's when things started getting dicey. Once you become a big player on the board, the folks atop you are looking for an easy meal to plump their girth. At one frightening point I had reached the left most edge of the map and a slightly-bigger-than-me "usa" was coming up my rear. But as I fled north I was running straight into "GREAT KOREA," then just below me on the leaderboard. I had a choice: devour the weaker "GREAT KOREA" unfortunately blocking my escape, or get et up by "usa." I had a moment of weakness. If I offed "GREAT KOREA," I could double right back and absorb the trailing "usa," too. Instead I took a hard right and lost half my gut to a fixed spike ball. Now smaller and faster, I made a full escape, and went back to consuming the non-living resources. At some point I have to address the radical militant group in the room and, look, I realize that naming myself "howcanijoinISIS?" is probably not the best idea when trying to run on a platform of peace and nonviolence, but the latter notion came to me after I had already started my campaign and chose my name. I thought it was funny. Especially in an election year, "ISIS" oft repeated is a "Bloody Mary" boogeyman uttered in your bathroom mirror to scare your youngest, most gullible cousins until it starts to sound like a nonsense word. Coca-cola coca-cola coca-cola coca-cola coca-cola. Ok. Here's when things got surprising. I continued to build myself back up through non-violence until I hit a score of something like 906 and the counter stopped ticking. I might have been too big to notice, but eating up little pips didn't increase the ticker and didn't seem to be affecting me growth. I was bumped out of the top 10, seemingly unable to get back there without devouring others. I wandered aimlessly thinking my experiment a wash. And then I ran into two similar-sized cells. They were both a little smaller and as we converged accidentally from three different points, I pumped the brakes to show I wouldn't eat them. As a show of friendship I ejected a little orb of mass in their direction and then headed away. Then, they both did the same. One of them, a blue ball called "JakeFromSt.Farm," started following me. You can call it an alliance, but I think "Jake" noticed I was a friendly green orb spinning my wheels on this earth and copied my example. We kept enough distance for his safety, occasionally blasting mass each others' way not dissimilar from Journey's delightful chirp. I was not aggressive towards any smaller balls we passed and neither was "Jake." We were just palling around the petri dish. Jake about caught up to me in size so he must have realized I was stagnant, at which point something even more surprising happened: Jake split in two and sent half of his mass rocketing towards me. I couldn't avoid eating it. He gave up half of his body for the cause. I had an honest-to-goodness acolyte on the path towards Agar.io non-violence. I placed as high as 7th on the leaderboard. I knew I could grow stronger yet if I could convince more players to join the cause. Suddenly I didn't have to be a stagnant, say, Switzerland, but I could maybe one day roam the board, followers in tow, turgid. A global power. I could be the USA of Agar.io except my $670 billion in "defense" would, truly, be working towards everyone's defense because I will have done it through non-violence. A world not even Big Boss himself could envision; he, instead, choosing nuke-as-deterrent instead of leading by example. It was a nice hope. I lost Jake in a taut dogfight (or dogflee?) and part of myself, too. I was erased from the global leaderboard. Not too long after I would be wholly absorbed, chased by "doge," a circle with the shiba meme painted in the middle, right down the gullet of a giant red circle called "hola." War. War never changes.
Asshole internet photo
I don't know Split from Atom
The Internet. It's a place where cats reign, where strangers will give you DIY tips for making fucking machines [as in machines to sex; I am not being overly enthusiastic about the general idea of machines], where Silicon Val...

Score attack! Mario, Metal Gear, Witcher, and more games better than Star Wars

Dec 21 // Steven Hansen
Now, at year's end, Destructoid's Brett Makedonski rekindled this bonfire in my head with an innocuous tweet, "How does Rotten Tomatoes work? If something's a 6/10 or better, does that review count as 100% fresh for the aggregation?" I replied, "yeah." And then, [embed]328101:61584:0[/embed] What Brett gets at seems like a no-brainer concern for anyone who works in video games. What happens when the average games gets across-the-board 7s and then comes up as a perfect? Well, thankfully movie reviewing is a bit less insular than video game reviewing and there's a bit more disagreement. There are more people giving negative reviews -- even to almost universally praised things. And that's okay! Let's look at 2015's common Game of the Year award candidates and, via Metacritic, see what their RottenTomatoes "freshness" might look like (the percent of reviews that are positive, versus the average score). The closest thing to a negative review among the 874 total are two instances of 5/10. The lowest Metacritic score here is an 81 (Splatoon) while the highest is 93 (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Undertale) for an average of 88. For a more direct comparison, Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Metacritic score (they do movies, too) is 81. RottenTomatoes, which also displays an average rating, albeit less prominently, has the film at 83. I don't think anyone who worked on the project is going to miss his Xmas bonus. This isn't to rail on Metacritic, a common target for its reductionism, for game developer bonuses contingent on its averages, for failing to include individual writer names on its listings. Nor is it to kick the tires on the "do review scores matter" question, crossing up hypothetical opponents and swishing a "read the words" as if it were a mic drop. What these trends point to is a blind spot in game reviewing and the lack of diverse opinion. There are reasons for this, but first, note that the above comparison is, admittedly, not one-to-one. There are publications rating games not on Metacritic, there are game and movie publications that don't score reviews, movie aggregate sites have a wider pool to cull from because of the prominence of movie reviews as newspaper/magazine staples. But the Metacritic sample size is still a large representation of major outlets writing about games. Okay, so, why? Oh, man, so many reasons, most of which overlap in various ways. First let's try this out: You can be smart about games, but absolutely terrible at actually playing Bloodborne, for instance. And that's not me projecting -- I'm the best Souls player on staff. It does get to a good point, though, which is how game reviews are assigned. Familiarity with the French New Wave canon may inform your thoughts on the new CGI Samey Explosions, but lot of styles and techniques work across eras, genres, etc. This knowledge is more cumulative. Games? Content, style, presentation, physical means of interaction vary so wildly. Someone joked they need a community college course on Xenoblade Chronicles X. Twitch shooters and Devil May Cry-style action games require additional physical skill and execution. Sure, knowing about RPGs and progression systems helps a critic working on a sports or action game when those genres started adopting those systems regularly, but god damn, some people just can't do a Dark Souls. And so there are often experts. There's "the Dark Souls woman," or the "the JRPG guy," or the "the MOBA person." And that's not all bad. Sometimes the expert or genre fan has broader context or deeper insights. However, the setup is fated towards homogeneity. Especially when coupled with -- I'd be remiss not to mention this -- the tendency of major video game writing publications towards hiring middle-class-and-up white dudes. Similar types of people with similar experiences all reviewing the same stuff. And there are reasons for this, too: members from that group are most likely, especially in this economy, to be able to work unpaid internships or for the bum rates that writing gets these days, period, while having financial security or backup otherwise. Sometimes it's just a Rolodex problem, as Jenn Frank noted.  It is much more sane to write a review of a 100-minute movie for $50 than a 100-hour game for $50. With its shorter history, gaming media exists more so in the current era of devalued writing that has felled everyone from, well, all the game sites that have closed down recently, to the best film (The Dissolve) and sports/pop culture outlets (Grantland). I think this translates -- to the sincere dismay of everyone involved -- to a lot more "good enough" writing than we'd all like, especially when most of the people who are writing about games are underpaid, hustling freelance, or both. This is a general publishing woe perhaps exacerbated by games writing's shorter canon and fewer agreements on how even to talk about games (aside from the established, book report-y "is it fun?" style). Demanding more rigor from overtaxed, underfunded writers and editors working in a devalued, fraught industry within a generally struggling economy, well, damn, it's tough. A doable step, though, is actively hiring from a wider pool of applicants than your typical just-graduated-22-year-old-Nick. I think here at Destructoid we do a good job simply encouraging our reviewers to be as straightforward and honest as possible without kowtowing behind cookie cutter review formulations and tasteless writing that goes down without a fuss, but serves no one (I'm cautiously optimistic that fans of the genre will enjoy this return to the series roots). Average starts at 5, and all that. Some of the biggest holiday releases (Fallout 4, Halo 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider) came in under 8. But it's almost more disheartening for the state of gaming as a whole that folks across the net will point to an incredibly good score like a 7/10 as rabble rousing, as trolling for hits, and that collectively -- as in the Chart Chart Binks above -- it's rare to even end up on the "negative" side of the spectrum. Someone has to dislike something.
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Yes, they all reviewed better
There are exactly 100 professional reviews culled on the Bloodborne Metacritic page. Of that 100, 99 are "positive" and 1 is "mixed," a lowly 7/10, which I'd suggest is still positive. Oh, so nobody dislikes this game? When I...

The Haters Guide to GOTY Season

Dec 20 // Nic Rowen
Bloodborne Bloodborne is a thrilling action-adventure game set in a dark gothic world. Blending monster-mash aesthetics, eldritch terror, and From Software’s uniquely brutal flavor, Bloodborne is a masterful return to form for director Hidetaka Miyazaki. Why it secretly sucks: Wow, the story is “there is no story?” What a fucking concept. Here, take a look at this blank page I just pulled out of my ass. Am I a master storyteller too? How many times are we going to recycle this formula anyway? We get it From Software: you hate gamers and want to punish them. Take off the gimp mask already. The Witcher 3 The Witcher 3 is the biggest and most ambitious entry in The Witcher series. An open-world role-playing game done right, you can easily lose yourself in the world of the Northern Kingdoms and Geralt’s thankless job as a slayer of monsters. Deep but accessible combat and a murky world of moral greys made this game stand out in a year where it seemed like another open-world game came out every other week. Why it secretly sucks: Sure, The Witcher 3 got to be a good game, eventually. Gotta love a developer that “supports” its game right? Especially when “support” means “fix everything that was broken at launch.” No thanks. When I spend $60 on a game, I expect it to work on day one, not day 76. BT-DUBS, I still think Geralt moves like he has potion bottle up his ass. Heroes of the Storm A MOBA by the brain trust at Blizzard, this objective-based action bacchanal takes all of your favorite Wolrd of Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft characters (along with a few others) and throws them into a mercifully fresh take on the MOBA genre. Easy to jump into, but with as much depth as any other MOBA, Heroes of the Storm is quickly positioning itself as a serious alternative to League of Legends and Dota 2. Why it secretly sucks: Don’t you get it? MOBAs are intentionally designed to be inscrutable to screen out the riff-raff. Why the hell would I want to play with a bunch of filthy casuals? Also, I can’t communicate with the enemy team at all? How the hell am I supposed to tell them how much I appreciate their mother on a nightly basis? Rocket League A breakout indie hit, many people got their first taste of Rocket League for free on the PlayStation Plus program, but it quickly established itself as a game people would pay good money for on PC and soon Xbox One. A video game ass video game, Rocket League is a smart, lean, competitive team game that’s easy to jump into but has a seemingly endless skill ceiling. Why it secretly sucks: Well, it, you know… Cars are stupid. Metal Gear Solid V The swansong of series director Hideo Kojima. The drama surrounding Metal Gear Solid V’s development might have overshadowed a lesser game, but The Phantom Pain proved it could speak on its own. Trading the carefully manicured set-pieces and lengthy cinematics of the series’ previous titles for open-world espionage sandbox and a focus on uninterrupted gameplay, MGSV feels one part wild experiment, one part perfection of an established formula. Why it secretly sucks: Remember everything I said about The Witcher 3? Now say it in reverse. MGSV might have been an awesome game when it came out, but ever since then Konami’s been working it over with a crowbar and a pair of pliers. Look at it, all broken with microtransactions and marred by economy rebalances. Who would want it now? If we held the GOTY’s in September, maybe it would have had a chance, but if I got this turd under my tree now I’d want to do a little wet work on Santa. Also, Kiefer Sutherland blows. Fallout 4 Long awaited and much hyped, Fallout 4 is Bethesda's follow up to both the beloved Fallout 3, and the mega-successful Skyrim. Set in a more colorful take on the post-apocalyptic world of Fallout we saw in the Capital Wasteland or desolate New Vegas dunes, Fallout 4 is a behemoth of a game with an unbelievable amount of side missions to unearth, companions to meet, and odd little slices of life from the end of the world to stumble upon.  Why it secretly sucks: My dog got stuck in an elevator's doors and I never saw him again. 0/10.  Rise of the Tomb Raider Rise of the Tomb Raider is Lara Croft’s second post-reboot adventure, and by far her best. While 2013’s Tomb Raider felt like a functional (if weirdly torture-porny) re-imagining of what the series used to be about, this one feels like Lara’s back for real. A focus on tomb exploration and puzzles while still hitting hard with jaw-dropping action showpieces, Rise of the Tomb Raider might just be the series high point. Why it secretly sucks: We consider GOTY’s for dead systems? Maybe you could say this is the best game nobody played. How many copies have they sold now, like 30? Nice job on that exclusive deal guys, really worked out. Call me when the PC version is ready. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Massive beasts? Brutal difficulty? Impenetrable mechanics? We’re not talking about another Souls game, we’re talking about the other red meat - Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. The juggernaut of a series continues to find impressive new ways to go over the over-the-top action of previous installments. Why it secretly sucks: Sorry, I don’t live in Japan. Batman: Arkham Knight Supposedly Rocksteady’s last entry in the Arkham series, they didn’t leave anything on the table with Batman: Arkham Knight. Set in a positively gorgeous vision of Gotham City under siege, Batman faces down his greatest foes (and greatest failures) in this final adventure. Why it secretly sucks: The Batmobile, the Batmobile, the Batmobile. How could they have thought that forcing the Goddamn Batman to fuss around with a bunch of fiddly puzzles in his car was a good idea? It’s a little difficult to “be the Batman” when you’ve flipped your whip over trying to navigate a stupid little ramp the Riddler set up to collect a meaningless trophy (which you need if you want to see the real ending). Also, shout-out to all you PC players! Keep chasing that dream. Evolve A cooperative/competitive five-player monster hunt from the team behind Left 4 Dead. A game that demands smart teamplay and clever mind games from every player involved, Evolve could be a gaming heaven or hell depending on who you played with. Why it secretly sucks: *Continuous, mean-spirited laughter until they leave the room*
Haters GOTY photo
The lump of coal in your heart
Destructoid’s Game of the Year awards are upon us. It’s a time to celebrate another year of excellent video games, share what surprised us, and evangelize the forgotten gems and stealth hits that may have gone unn...

Hooray for Digital Hollywood?

Dec 19 // Stephen Turner
Cinematic aspirations have gone hand-in-hand with gaming since the '90s, maybe even before with the advent of tie-in merchandise. It sounds crazy, but you can easily spot a bit of Night Trap in Until Dawn’s roots, and you can even trace the elements of Take-Two’s previous post-war mystery, Black Dahlia, in its recent publication of L.A. Noire. But while those past games were influenced by movies, the more recent are clearly drawing from the current “Golden Age of Television.” Film has always been a bad fit for gaming, where the three-act structure is stretched out for the sake of long-form interaction, and it’s definitely a medium that developers are turning away from. Now we’re in an era of episodic games, serialised chapters, ensemble casts, and cliffhanger beats every hour. Even Microsoft tried to turn the Xbox One into an entertainment studio. In a way, the industry’s new approach to making its own TV shows is partially why licensed titles are all but dead. You could argue Telltale Games is keeping the dream alive with Law & Order: Legacies or Game of Thrones, and yet you could also argue that its model still follows the TV show formula. And as big-name actors move to cable for storylines missing in current cinema, there’s also migration of younger actors towards an interactive medium they love and understand. Personally speaking, TV show licenses and tie-ins are a guilty pleasure of mine. From Alias to Lost: Via Domus, from 24: The Game to The X-Files, they’ve all been completed more than once, even when some didn’t deserve 15 minutes of anyone’s time. More often than not, they’re rush jobs with contractually obligated stars dragged into the recording booth on their days off, aimed at enthralled fans during a show’s most profitable zeitgeist. But for the bit-part actor in us all, that’s where the fun really lies. While the likes of Blade Runner, Ghostbusters: The Video Game, and The X-Files work because you’re in the supporting cast (and those three are genuinely worth a look), games are becoming increasingly photorealistic to the point where there’s no room for the fan-fiction insert. It’s all about the audience member playing the actor playing the main character; an immersive disconnect that’s becoming far too common. Seeing a character as just, let’s say, Peter Stormare doesn’t have to be that way, though. Take Rockstar Games’ recent output, where a lesser-known actor’s face is used for character colourisation. James McCaffery was the voice of Max Payne long before he became the face and Ned Luke put on the pounds to give literal weight to his jaded industry experiences in Grand Theft Auto V. What an experienced stage/film actor brings is a quality performance, in both motion capture and dialogue delivery, and it’s this all-rounder type that has established voice-only actors running scared. We’ve seen them on social media, tweeting out job-saving hashtags and inflating monetary fees to make up for their years of complacency (not to name names, but after seeing several attempt improv-comedy on YouTube, the complacency has been real for some time). There are still those, however, who prefer the old ways when it comes to digitised acting. FMV has tried to make a comeback recently, though it hasn’t been truly successful. In fact, because of so many advances in technology and the current games already mentioned, we’re now in a position to see why FMV is antiquated with the likes of Telsa Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure, Missing: An Interactive Thriller, and Contradiction. None of these mentioned are awful, just limited. FMV used real actors on virtual stages, and so the main problem lied in the passive-to-interactive transition, between third-person cutscenes and first-person control. When you compare Tex Murphy to Until Dawn, the latter succeeds because essentially it’s an animation, from actor to set dressing. And it’s those developers that believe FMV should still be utilised if it means bringing out the kind of human nuances that get lost in digital translation. Remedy’s upcoming Quantum Break is a merger of live-action television and digitised acting, as the former fleshes out the backstory and the latter does its immersive work in-game. Alan Wake’s American Nightmare was the studio's first attempt at this, using FMV as a quick and cheap alternative to animated cutscenes. It’s hard to say if Quantum Break’s televisual gimmicks will work, given how diluted or confused multimedia storytelling has been in the past (and downright disastrous in the cinematic case of Southland Tales), but at least it’s an exciting proposition in an ever evolving industry, showing us that developers are willing to take the risks as long as they understand past failures. Known actors have orbited in and around video games for a long time, far too many to name here, only now they’re being squeezed into body stockings and made to march around cold warehouses; basically the Hollywood of today. Their current digitised guises might be a trend, might even be a fad, but they’ll always be that odd surprise in an IMDB search on a lazy afternoon. Whatever the argument, for or against, an actor can only bring so much credibility to the table. And that’s something we still strive for in this infantile industry. But for any of this to work, we need good writers and great directors to put these complicated pieces together. And despite a gaming industry closing in on its Hollywood dreams, especially with the what-could've-been star power of Silent Hills, it’s still a long way off when it comes to great minds, good eyes, and sharp tongues.
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*Mo-Cap Jazz Hands*
Until Dawn’s success is much deserved, considering it was co-written by the guy who gave us The Last Winter, in which Ron Perlman and Connie Britton are terrorised by a ghost moose. Jokes aside, and regardless of the st...

The best new IPs of 2015

Dec 18 // Laura Kate Dale
Undertale While Undertale's release this year was a complete surprise to most people who played it, a turn-based JRPG bullet hell game that remembers your actions, allows you to avoid murder, and has dateable skeletons is a pretty easy pitch to get people to check it out. The game has quickly amassed a rather large and dedicated fan following, and it's not hard to see why. The unusual blending of genre mechanics, the homages to EarthBound, the stellar writing, and the screenshotable nature of the cast was just prime for spreading like wild fire. Undertale may not be the longest game, and it's unlikely to ever get a direct sequel, but it has firmly cemented itself deep in the hearts of many a gamer this year. I laughed, I cried a bit, I screamed in frustration, and I walked away guilty. That's more of an emotional ride than can be said for most video games. Even if I now do feel my sins crawling on my back. Bloodborne While Bloodborne had a considerable head start on many of our best new IP contenders, as the spiritual sequel to the highly successful Dark Souls games, this particular IP did not take the easy design route. Taking Dark Souls' unforgiving combat style and pairing it with a rich new lore, additional mechanics that incentivized aggressive combat techniques, and a considerably upped gameplay pace, Bloodborne invites players to fight their way through a world that was memorable, challenging, and surprising on a regular basis. While there is a new Dark Souls on the way, Bloodborne is the franchise I'm more excited to see a sequel to. Splatoon Splatoon is the very embodiment of Nintendo looking at what other people were doing, and creating something fascinating by adding its own Nintendo Twist. The idea is simple: make a competitive online shooter where players' primary aim is not to shoot other characters, but to shoot non-sentient structures and surfaces. Online shooters are incredibly popular as a genre, but there's very little in the way of options for younger players to get into playing (you know, unless they play Call of Duty in spite being seven). It's an under-served market, and Nintendo seized it perfectly. Splatoon not only managed to capture attention with a unique art style and colour palette, its consistent long-term roll-out of new content has kept players engaged longer than many other comparable releases. Life is Strange Okay, I'll be the first to admit my beloved Life is Strange isn't perfect by any stretch. It's melodramatic, it's at times stilted in its writing, and it has some major issues with pacing. Still, the series is also one of the most memorable things I played this year, and it does things no other games are daring to do. Life is Strange managed to get a lot very right. It used time travel as a gameplay mechanic to get around not knowing the context of your choices in episodic narratives, allowing players to properly commit to choices they made. Pick a choice, watch it play out, rewind, check out another choice, decide which you want to commit to, and go ahead fully in favour of your actions. Life is Strange also managed to tackle some tough themes in a tasteful way, giving agency over real-life situations to powerful effect. Oh, and I really, really like Chloe. I played the entire game constantly trying to kiss her at every possible moment. Her Story Her Story is an ambitious game that tried something untested, and managed to pull it off. Set on a late-nineties British Police computer database, the game tells a nonlinear narrative through tagged, live-action video files. The concept was simple. Start with the word "murder," search the database for any relevant clips, investigate a woman's statements to police, and unravel a deeply bizarre crime. The performances of the game's leading lady were truly top notch, as was the narrative and the natural structure for unraveling plot threads. There was always something to look for more information on, and as additional clues became visible, the plot had numerous unexpected turns. Seriously, Her Story is really damn strong. SOMA SOMA is a terrifyingly grounded horror story about themes of desolation, humanity, sacrifice, and what it means to truly exist. Yep, those are heavy themes to tackle, but SOMA handles them admirably. Giving a wholly bleak view of humanity's future, it makes a strong case that everything we do is ultimately meaningless. Not a depressing thought at all. Besides the strong story, it also wowed with its presentation. From elaborate degrading structures to creature designs that twist expectations, I was constantly impressed with the cohesive structure of the game. Also, SOMA is just plain scary. Until Dawn Until Dawn is an interactive horror movie game, built from a collection of well-known genre tropes mashed together. Throw a bunch of kids in a spooky remote cabin with nightmare monsters, and see what happens. The genius of Until Dawn's design is that the tropes being drawn from are not consistent or predictable, making plot turns hard to see. Experienced horror genre fans will at times see what's coming and be able to make informed choices regarding what to do. Personally, I was a fan of deliberate murder. Let's see what we can do to kill everyone off as gruesomely as possible. I suppose you could try and keep people alive too, if you want.  I just hope we get new Until Dawn games in the future that are not on-rails VR shooters. Ori and the Blind Forest On a simple mechanical level, Ori and the Blind Forest is decent, but nothing special. It's a side-scrolling metroidvania that does everything solidly, but doesn't push much in the way of new ground. So, why is it on this list? Because it was god damn beautifully, visually and as a narrative. Picture those Rayman games from a little while back, but done to a much higher level and accompanied by a Ghibli-esque soundtrack. Ori and the Blind Forest is a technical masterpiece and I can't wait to see what the studio works on next. The Beginner's Guide The Beginner's Guide is a weird game, in that it caused a huge splash upon launch, with many reviewers hesitant to say anything at all about it. People were affected by it, not always positively, and it clearly had a strong impact on many players. A few months on, it's still unclear how genuine the narrative told is, or how much we can rely on the narrator of the experience. But if you have around and hour and a half and want to be floored by an unexpected narrative, you'll be hard pressed to do better than The Beginner's Guide. Just make sure to complete it within your Steam refund window, as there are legitimate reasons to want to return this game after purchase. [To clarify the above statement regarding refunds, while I view this game as a work of fiction, and recommend people play it as such, many players view the narrative as an accurate work of non fiction. If you fall into the camp that view this as non fiction, an aspect of the narrative implies that the content is stolen wholesale from another developer. While I paid for the game and believe doing so is a morally acceptable action, what I wish to make clear is that if players disagree with my reading of the narrative and feel I reccomended them an experience they didn't morally agree with, there is a financial way to back out of that purchase. This is not an encouragement to back out of payment due to length, but simply me pointing out that if you finish the game and believe the narrative to be non fiction, and if you believe that you purchased stolen goods, there is a way to avoid your money remaining with that developer in this very specific case. My initial vague comment was an attempt to avoid a major spoiler for the narrative, but has unfortunately left the reasons for my recommendations open to wider interpretation]  Dropsy In the lead up to launch, many people following Dropsy assumed that before its end, it would take some upsetting or dark horror twist. A point-and-click adventure, it is actually anything but a horror experience. It's a simple game about a socially isolated individual who wants nothing more than the simple joys of companionship. Beneath the initial appearance of Dropsy the clown is an individual whose primary interaction with the world is a hug button. Quests are told through pictorial desires. You bring people together, people see the good in you, and you hug. Dropsy is one of those games that's a beautiful palette cleanser. If you're feeling video game murderer fatigue, it's an experience poised to make you feel just a little better about the world. Gravity Ghost Gravity Ghost is a simple game mechanically. You play the ghost of a young girl, jumping among planets and stars to reunite animal bodies and spirits. It's relaxing. There are no punishments for failure, and the experience is almost mesmerically smooth and simple. It is a gorgeous, laid-back experience hiding a deep and relatable human story. The game deals with themes of growing up. It deals with taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions, processing loss, and the connection that remains to those we lose. Gravity Ghost's narrative is simple, elegant, and resonant in a way few games manage. Read Only Memories Read Only Memories is a charmingly written, wonderfully stylised, instantly memorable point-and click-adventure that released earlier this year. It tells a cyberpunk story of crime, politics, technology, and relationships that's super intriguing from start to finish. Oh, and it also happens to have a cast full to the brim with simply handled diversity. You've got gay characters, trans characters, a bunch of other different types of characters, and the fact they may be gay or transgender never becomes the forefront of who they are. They just happen to be those things without any fanfare, and it's wonderful to behold.
Best New IPs photo
Not every series is Assassin's Creed yet
Video games are increasingly expensive products to create. Every generation as graphics increase in quality, the sheer size of teams required to put together new amazing, fantastic worlds grows dramatically. With video games ...

GOTY 2015: Best logo

Dec 16 // Brett Makedonski
Immutable as I am in that belief, one game this year had the most brilliant logo that I've seen in a long time. Maybe ever, honestly. Gross as it is to shine a light on these marketing efforts, it's an easier pill to swallow given that the logo might be the best thing about this game. Pat yourself on the back, 2K marketing team; Evolve had the best logo of 2015. At first glance, Evolve's logo is nothing to write home about. It's minimalistic in its presentation, nothing more than some squares, rectangles, and a modest font. Actually, if you didn't know anything about the game, it'd be easy to mistake it as a really dull and uninspired look. At least Fallout 4 sprung for a lightning bolt in the "o." So, let's get just a little backstory on Evolve. It's a four-versus-one asymmetric multiplayer game. A team of four players takes on one giant monster. That's what's happening in the logo -- four letters in small squares are pitted against the final "e" in Evolve, a letter that gets a rectangle as long as the first four boxes combined. That rogue "v" represents a legal system-style "versus," as if this should be the way all court cases are determined. It's tough to remember a video game logo that's so on-the-nose, yet so clever about it too. Usually, understatedness is left wanting. Dead Island has a palm tree so you know there's an island, Rage has an anarchy sign so you know that there's anarchy, and Sonic Boom boomed so hard that it cracked all the letters. These are not examples of good logos. Even though it's almost 2016, so many game logos are stuck in 1996. They are hellbent on having attitude (or, 'tude as the designers might say). It's why so many gleam of gun-metal gray or have electricity shooting from the letters. Whatever it takes to let you know that This Is One Of The Cool Video Games. It's the equivalent of box art with a man toting a gun slung over his shoulder looking slightly away from the camera. Evolve skirts that and it does everything right (well, as far as its logo is concerned, anyway). Instead, it's simple and elegant and functional and restrained. More simply put: Evolve's logo was not dumb while most other logos were very dumb.  It's not like the competition was any good, but Evolve ran away with the best logo of 2015. In a wasteland of bad video game logos, 2K and Turtle Rock created one worth looking at and one worth thinking about. The game's legacy probably won't last a whole lot longer, but hopefully its logo's legacy lasts for years to come.
Best logo photo
More like LOTY
As media, we have no business caring about the marketing of video games. In fact, we actually have a professional obligation to parse through it, finding the good information and discarding the bullshit. That's, like, half th...

Devil's Third photo
Devil's Third

Is Itagaki's career in AAA development over?


Did the devil do him in?
Dec 13
// Jonathan Holmes
Tomonobu Itagaki got his start at Tecmo back in 1992 working as a graphics programmer on Tecmo Super Bowl for the SNES. It was a fitting start for a man whose career would be largely defined by creating games that fuse Japane...

Experience Points .28: Pokemon Red/Blue

Dec 12 // Ben Davis
The Big Six Every trainer has their own method of choosing a team in Pokémon. Some players choose only the most powerful Pokémon, such as legendaries and whatnot. Others choose Pokémon based on stats and abilities, in order to maximize their fighting potential. Some people might even just go with whoever they find first, without swapping them out for something different. Or maybe they want to try using only certain types, such as having an all Water team like Misty. I always chose to use my favorite Pokémon, regardless of strength or stats. Sometimes I'd even keep them from evolving, because I simply preferred how they look unevolved. Cubone was always a staple in my teams, since he's my favorite one. Marowak is cool too, but he loses some of Cubone's charm in my opinion, so I never let my Cubones evolve. Other common choices for my Red and Blue teams included Haunter, Scyther, Cloyster, Weepinbell, Omastar, and Mr. Mime (it's true, I like Mr. Mime!), among others. I never used legendaries, and I usually dropped my starter Pokémon at the earliest opportunity. I'm probably kind of weird in that regard. My teams may not have been the most powerful, but they got me through the main games easily enough, and I loved seeing them all in the Hall of Fame. Battling other players was another story, however. I was terrible at fighting my friends' Pokémon. I even entered a tournament once, and lost in the first round. But at least I went down with a team I cared about! Bringing the legends down a peg I may not use legendary Pokémon on my teams, but I do enjoy hunting them down and catching them... only to let them sit in the PC forever, remaining completely useless to the world now that they're in my possession. You thought you were hot shit, Mewtwo? Think again! Ahem... as I was saying, coming across a legendary Pokémon in the wild was always thrilling. Finding Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos just chilling in their respective locations got me really excited, and I knew I'd be in for a difficult fight. It's almost impossible to catch them until they're at the very last sliver of health and also asleep, and trying to get them to that state without killing them or being killed by them in the process can be quite tense. And then I'd just start chucking Pokéballs at them. Like hundreds of Pokéballs, because I never wanted to use my one Master Ball. Sometimes I'd go through my entire stock of Ultra Balls, Great Balls, and regular balls before finally capturing a legendary Pokémon. I always thought it was funny when I'd catch one in a regular Pokéball, because then they don't even get to enjoy the luxury of living inside of a nicer ball. They're doomed to live in the cheapest home, stuck in the PC forever, like they deserve. I'm such a jerk. All Pokémon go to Heaven My favorite Pokémon actually gets his own little storyline in Red and Blue, so of course it was one of my favorite moments in the game. In Lavender Town, the player comes across the Pokémon Tower, which is essentially a seven-story graveyard for deceased Pokémon where trainers come to pay their respects. It's also home to wild ghost Pokémon, as well as wandering Cubones. While exploring the town and the tower, the player will hear about a Cubone whose mother was killed by Team Rocket while she was trying to protect her child. A man named Mr. Fuji apparently went to the tower to stop Team Rocket and help the Cubone, but hasn't been seen since. Towards the top of the tower, the player will suddenly be stopped among the gravestones with a creepy warning: “Be gone... intruders...” A battle with a ghost ensues, which turns out to be Marowak, the Cubone's deceased mother. She cannot be captured, even with a Master Ball (she's DEAD, you heartless trainer!), but defeating her in battle will ease her spirit and allow her to pass on to the afterlife. Afterwards, Mr. Fuji can be found at the top of the tower, and he's happy to hear that Marowak's spirit has been calmed. I always assumed that the Cubone in question was whichever Cubone I ended up catching, since I made it my mission to catch one as soon as possible. That way he would have friends to cheer him up and help him cope with his mother's passing. Poor little guy... Did I mention how much I like shorts? One of my favorite things about the Pokémon games are all the weird comments that the random trainers make whenever they're encountered. They usually manage to bring up something completely unexpected and off topic, giving the player unnecessary information about their lives without being asked. We just met, and you're bragging to me about how cool your boyfriend is? He sounds great, but maybe introduce yourself first before diving right into your personal life. The most memorable line comes from a Youngster outside of Pewter City. He walks up to the player and the first thing he thinks to say is, “Hi! I like shorts! They're comfy and easy to wear!” …Ummm, that's cool, I guess. It's always a good idea to start a conversation with a stranger by talking about your pants, right? This kid is so fired up about shorts, it's like we're suddenly in some kind of clothing commercial. And now I can't stop staring at this kid's pants... maybe it was really a clever distraction strategy all along! In the zone I was always a big fan of the Safari Zone. It had lots of cool Pokémon to catch and I didn't even have to fight them. Just throw down some bait and toss some Safari Balls and hope for the best! I spent a ton of time there trying to catch all the rare Pokémon the park had to offer, like Scyther, Pinsir, Tauros, Chansey, Kangaskhan, and Dratini, and picking out the best hunting spots to find each of them. I always made it a point to catch Scyther before I left (or Pinsir, depending on the game), since he was one of my favorites. Plus, chucking rocks at Pokémon felt pretty good sometimes. Especially if they were being obnoxious and refused to be captured. Don't want to be my Pokémon, Tauros? Maybe some rocks to the face will change your mind! Sometimes I threw rocks at them just because they were appearing too often and annoying me, like all those Nidorans when all I wanted was a Scyther. Too bad there aren't any Zubats in the Safari Zone. It sure would feel nice to throw some rocks at those guys! The truck Pokémon Red and Blue were rife with rumors of secret things players could find. While not actually a part of the game per se, some of the rumors still have significant value when I think about the time I spent with the game as a naive youngster. I remember trying desperately to access Bill's “secret garden,” a hidden area located behind Bill's house which supposedly housed many rare wild Pokémon. It was somewhat believable because there appeared to be a path leading offscreen right behind his house, even though there was no visible way to access it. I also remember trying to pull of a specific sequence of events in order to discover a leaked Pokémon named “Pikablu,” which actually turned out to be Marill. Both of these rumors were false, of course. But the biggest rumor of all involved the truck near the S.S. Anne where Mew was supposedly hiding. This rumor was particularly convincing because of how tricky it was to access the area, and because of how weird it was that the truck even existed in the first place. In order to find the truck, players have to faint on the S.S. Anne after obtaining HM01 from the captain by losing a battle before leaving the ship. This will bypass the short cutscene of the ship leaving port, meaning players could go back at any time to visit the ship again. Later, return to the S.S. Anne after teaching a Pokémon to use Surf, and surf off the boardwalk right before entering the ship. The player will be able to freely surf around the harbor, which contains nothing except for one very conspicuous truck, which strangely doesn't appear anywhere else in the game. According to the rumor, the truck could be pushed aside by having a Pokémon use Strength, similar to moving a boulder. And in the space where the truck used to be, it was possible to encounter the legendary Mew, which at the time was impossible to obtain without going to an official Pokémon event. The rumor was false, but that didn't stop me from trying everything I could possibly think of to move that truck. It had to be there for a reason, right? Why would there be some random truck in a hard-to-reach area for no reason at all? There must be something! Unfortunately, the only thing to ever come out of that truck was severe disappointment. Glitch in the system However, there were some rumors that actually turned out to be true. I heard talk of a secret Pokémon named Missingno, who could be found under special circumstances by surfing along the coast of Cinnabar Island. So of course, I had to check it out for myself! Missingno did, in fact, exist. After completing a sequence of events involving the old man in Viridian City and surfing along the coast of Cinnabar, I finally encountered the fabled creature... which turned out to be a weird mess of random pixels. It was a glitch. The glitch Pokémon, whose name is short for “Missing Number,” could actually be caught, raised, and used in battle. It could even be used for item duplication, meaning it was possible to get infinite Rare Candies by simply encountering Missingno. But being a glitch, it also corrupted some of the game data, so finding and catching one was rather risky. I still did it anyway just to see what would happen, and while it did interfere with some stuff, like scrambling sprites and messing with the Hall of Fame data, nothing particularly bad seemed to happen. Maybe I just got lucky. Regardless, Missingno is still one of the coolest video game glitches ever. Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition.25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.26: Dark Souls.27: GoldenEye 007
Pokemon Red/Blue photo
Welcome to the world of Pokemon!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Brutal Mode is the best thing to happen to Rock Band in years

Dec 11 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]325866:61490:0[/embed] Take a look at this video of me playing. It'll give you a greater sense of what actually makes this difficult. Sometimes I play well, other times I play poorly. At no times, however, am I playing comfortably. For those who have spent countless hours honing their Rock Band proficiency, this is the perfect addition to the game. It forces the hardcore community to play differently than they've played before, but while still using the same skills. This is built for the people who chase full combos and won't accept anything less. It taps into their meticulous drive to play well, and beautifully flips it on its head. Brutal Mode is maddening and it's not because of the vanishing notes. It's because of the psychological mind games the mode plays. Any well-versed player will tell you that they don't watch the notes reach the bottom of the track. Instead, they reach a sort of inner-harmony where they immediately internalize the note and play it in time while doing the same for every other note that flows downward. It's not a sensation that can be easily explained to anyone who hasn't felt it. This mode's brilliance lies within the fact that it changes the Rock Band experience from a visual one to an audial one. Sure, there's a preview of the upcoming notes, but it's on you to know the correct time to play them. Feeling the music is necessary; disconnecting from the music and trying to brute force the notes on what seems to be the right beat will just result in awkward plunks and wails. Overthinking it is a formula for failure. Ironically, when you're failing is when Brutal Mode is maybe at its toughest. It'd seem natural that the inverse is true; the worse you're doing, the longer you can see the notes. That should be easiest. It's not, though. Not even close. Any fluctuation in the process can temporarily damn you. Seeing those notes and thinking about them switches your mindset back from audial to visual. As it turns out, your brain can adjust to sticking to one of those; flip-flopping is where you get confused and freeze up. The invention of Brutal Mode is a staunch informer that being able to see the notes is a huge crutch, even if it doesn't seem that way.  In 2010, Harmonix tried to advance the Rock Band experience by introducing Pro Mode -- a way for players to actually learn the instruments they were simulating. It didn't fare all that well. The barrier to entry was high and the learning curve was steep. As it turns out, a lot of people who spent a bunch of time mastering Rock Band and Guitar Hero didn't want to start from scratch on a new skill; they wanted to build on the ones they already have. Brutal Mode feels as if it were built for that audience. It's an extension of the toughest Rock Band has to offer while managing to change the way the game is approached. Anyone who's good enough at Rock Band to take a serious try at Brutal Mode has long ago lost the magic that comes with improving at the genre. This helps recapture some of that. That's a win by any measure, brutal as it may be.
Rock Band 4 photo
And the toughest
Harmonix rolled out an update for Rock Band 4 earlier this week that included a whole bunch of unexpected additions. It's impressive in its scope. A lot of the changes were meant to make Rock Band 4 feel more like a...

Animal Crossing amiibo Festival Drinking Games

Dec 05 // CJ Andriessen
Miller’s (Light) Crossing We start with a game for the lightweights among us. You know who they are, the boys and girls who begin to slur their words before they’ve finished their second drink. For them, I present Miller’s (Light) Crossing. This game keeps it simple by utilizing only the most basic aspects of the board game. For Miller’s (Light) Crossing, any type of light alcoholic beverage can be used. White wine, Zima, Bartles and Jaymes, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Redd’s Apple Ale… basically any drink you’d find in a Connecticut sorority house refrigerator. Take a drink when: You miss a special space Roll a one twice in a row Come in second, third or fourth in a bug catching/fishing contest You’re the last to complete the stamp square (or don’t complete it at all) Share a spot with another player (both players drink) It’s a Holiday Finish your drink when: You come in last place at the end of the game. Crazy Redd Solo Cup For those of us who can plow through a six-pack before we even start to feel it, I present Crazy Redd Solo Cup. This game goes a bit deeper into the amiibo Festival experience by adding the “excitement” of character visits. Throughout a single session of the game, you will no doubt be visited by a few characters, sometimes multiple times. These characters, should you land on their space, will offer up opportunities or games that can help or hinder you. For Crazy Redd Solo Cup, how you fare with those characters will either keep you sober, or get you drunk. For this game you’ll need step up the alcohol quality and quantity. Ditch the light stuff and grab a case of your favorite mass market beer. If it has a commercial featuring people in their 20s partying, a guy eye-fucking a Clydesdale, or some dude droning on and on about the water in Colorado, it's perfect for this game. Couple that drink with your favorite hard alcohol for shots and you're ready to go. Take a drink: If you fail to land on a special space Do not win the Phineas game If the number card you win from Katie is less than four If you get a number card from Dr. Shrunk If someone has a tarot card from Katrina and you help them by rolling their number Give money to Joan When you land on a Purple Happy Points & Bells space Somebody takes Bells from you Share a pink spot with another player (both players drink) Take a shot: If you go into debt. Share a purple spot with another player (both players take shots) Opposite Day puts you on a purple space Fail to roll more than six on Twice Dice Day Finish your drink: Sell your turnips at a loss When you come in last place at the end of the game. A Whole Lottie Alcohol For the heaviest of heavy drinker, we present A Whole Lottie Alcohol. There is a lot to remember with this game, so it’s best to have your designated driver around to remind you of the rules 30 minutes in when you’re long past shitfaced. For A Whole Lottie Alcohol, we’re combining some of the rules found above with new ones guaranteed to have your head in the toilet by the end of the night. Just like Crazy Redd Solo Cup, you’ll need to pair your favorite shot with a beer. Take a drink: If you go into debt and each day after you’re still in the negative When you come in second or third in a fishing/bug catching contest. If you fail to land on a special space Do not win the Phineas' game If the number card you win from Katie is less than four If you get a number card from Dr. Shrunk If someone has a tarot card from Katrina and you help them by rolling their number Give money to Joan outside of buying her turnips When you land on a Purple Happy Points & Bells space Somebody takes Bells from you Share a pink spot with another player (both players drink) Roll a one twice in a row Take a shot: If you go into negative Happy Points When you don’t roll doubles on Twice Dice Day When you come in last in a fishing/bug catching contest. When you’re the last to finish the stamp square (or don’t finish at all) Share a purple spot with another player (both players take shots) Opposite Day puts you on a purple space When you don’t collect the most candy (during October) Finish your drink: Anytime someone asks you why you bought this game When your character in the game takes a correspondence course. When it's a holiday. Finish everybody’s drink: If you come in last at the end of the game Now, if you don’t have an hour or so to enjoy any of the games I’ve listed above and you’d rather just get drunk as quickly as possible, I got you covered. In as little as five minutes you can get soused through Sunday with one of these drinking games that utilize the mini-games found in amiibo Festival. Wet & Wild World Balloon Island will probably be the mini-game you play the most after Desert Island Escape. This Plinko-style game is easy to play, tasking you with dropping a character onto a small island while bouncing off of balloons worth different points. The island isn’t that big, which means there’s always a chance you’ll end up in the water. Take a drink when: You end up in the water This game only lasts three rounds, so you want to make sure the liquor you’re drinking is strong. I mean really strong. So strong an old man would say this alcohol puts hair on your chest even though you’re a girl, strong. Are You Drunker than a 5th Grader? Quiz Show is both the most obvious mini-game found in amiibo Festival and the most poorly implemented. Not only do you have to know the correct answer to the question (which sometimes requires an encyclopedic knowledge of the Animal Crossing series), but you’re also required to time your guess correctly in order to have the opportunity to answer. Eventually the game breaks down to just four people fighting over one NFC reader, even when sober. It’s really a mess, but the Are You Drunker than a 5th Grader? drinking game celebrates that mess. Take a drink when: You try to answer a questions when it’s not your turn You don’t attempt to answer the question at all Take two drinks when: You get the answer incorrect You choose who takes a drink when: You get the answer right Because this game could have you taking north of 15 shots in just a few minutes, our lawyers have informed us we cannot tell you to play this with hard alcohol. Something about alcohol poisoning, criminal negligence, yadda-yadda-yadda. Instead, try beer shots. I suggest a higher caliber of beer, like a porter from your local microbrewery or one of those craft beers that thinks it invented hops. Just try not to spill too much on the Wii U controller, those things are expensive. Schlitz Family Robinson Desert Island Escape is made for one player, but when you get two friends involved it can turn into an easy co-operative drinking adventure. The object of the game is to find the pieces you need to make a raft and get off of one of thirty different islands. As you traverse these isles, you’ll find tools that will aid you in your journey. You’ll also find creatures that attack you, holes that swallow you up and bees that can sting you. For Schlitz Family Robinson, each player controls one character and you punish those who don’t pull their weight. Take a drink when: You fail to defeat a wild creature (or run away) You fail to catch a fish You fail to get some honey (or run away) You fail to get out of a hole You waste a step going onto a square you didn’t need to Finish your drink when You fail to get off the island As easily the most worthwhile game found in amiibo Festival, Schlitz Family Robinson is meant to be played over several rounds. Stick with your favorite beer or wine and get buzzed slowly throughout the night. This game isn’t a race to see who will be first to pray to the porcelain God, it’s a journey. *This is, obviously, a joke as there is no amount of alcohol that can make watching baseball enjoyable.
amiibo Festival photo
Fucked up, gonna get fucked up
Driving, sex, and watching baseball: what do these three things have in common? They can all be made better with alcohol.* The same can be said for board games. From beer checkers to battle shots, mankind has found fun and ...

The 'Nintendo in-print' Holiday gift guide

Dec 04 // Jonathan Holmes
Rhythm Zinegoku A quick disclaimer: I contributed a couple of pieces to this collection, as did former Destructoid editors Topher Cantler and Colette Bennett. I didn't get paid for my work though, and I don't get a cut of the sales either. In fact, I had to buy my two copies of the zine with my own bucks. You'll get no complaints from me about that, though. As a diehard Rhythm Heaven/Tengoku fan, this collection was a must-have for me from day one. Every stage from the first three games is represented in some way or another, so regardless of which is your favorite, you're sure to see plenty of familiar faces. The biggest star artist here is probably Natasha Allegri, creator of Fiona and Cake and Bee and Puppycat, though there are plenty of other contributors that fans of the series may recognize. The zine is currently out of stock, but it should be available for purchase again any second now, so keep your eyes peeled. [embed]322553:61380:0[/embed] Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda Clyde Mandelin is probably best known for spearheading the fan translation of Mother 3, so it's no surprise that he's partnered with Fangamer to create a series of books dedicated to examining the process of translation and localization. He's started off with the Legend of Zelda series, and it's not just the video games he's looking at. There is plenty about the Zelda board games, the breakfast cereal, and other bits of related merchandise that make up part of the franchise's massive history. Though these diversions into the obscure make for plenty of enlightening moments, the book does well to regularly return its focus to the original Legend of Zelda. So much was done to transport that seminal title from its first home on the Famicom Disk System to the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Western audience that played there, with much of that work inadvertently helping to spawn the lore and literal "legend" that makes up the series today. It's hard to imagine an invested Zelda fan being disappointed with what Mandelin and his team have produced. Nintendo Force: Iwata tribute issue Here's another one I contributed to, but again, Nintendo Force's sales numbers don't affect me financially in any way. I work for the magazine because it's really fun to share my interest in Nintendo's past, present, and future with the Nintendo fan community. This issue is without a doubt our greatest success in meeting that goal to date.  While we were all deeply saddened when Nintendo president Satoru Iwata passed away earlier this year, his passing did a lot to bring fans of his work together. Case in point, with this tribute issue, we worked our butts off to compile a detailed history of Iwata's career in game development, all while reflecting on exactly why he was such a great role model to gamers and game developers. I'm not totally happy with my personal output for this issue (there are at least two sentences on one page that still look wonky to me), but I have no hesitation in recommending every other page of it to diehard Nintendo fans (and I think I only worked on like four pages, so it's easy enough to skip over my stuff if you want). Splatoon Ikasu Artbook Splatoon has been out for less than a year, and it's already developed a larger fan base than some Nintendo franchises that have been around for ten times as long. While many were hoping that the game's popularity here in the U.S. would lead Nintendo of America to publish the official Splatoon Ikasu Artbook outside of Japan, it's looking like their hopes may have been in vain.  Thankfully, importing it is easy enough, and the only bits that really require literacy in Japanese to fully appreciate are the Twitter logs and comic strips in the back. My biggest gripe with the book is there are a ton of pages dedicated to showing off renders of clothes and weapons that are taken directly from the game. That feels a bit like a waste of space. That said, the bulk of the book's 320 pages are filled with rare or unique storyboards, character design documents, and visual plans that have plenty to offer Splatoon fans everywhere.  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Nintendo Power manga Shotaro Ishinomori is most famous for creating Kamen Rider and Cyborg 009, but he's also one of the creative minds that helped shape the Legend of Zelda series as it moved beyond its first few entries. While we don't know exactly how influential his A Link to the Past manga was for the games that followed it, there are plenty of ideas that debuted here before going on to become mainstays of the Zelda series. The core story more or less follows the events of A Link to the Past on the SNES, but the manga also marks the first time the Zelda series depicted a fairy as a ball of glowing light that helps lead Link forward in his adventures. It's also the first time Link ever traveled under the light of a death-faced moon, his face hidden behind a Zora mask, while working to infiltrate a monster's fortress. To tell more may lead to spoilers, but trust that there are plenty of eye-opening ideas here, new and old, for Zelda fans to chew on.  Good Nintentions Jeremy Parish is one of the most passionate, well-informed video game experts in the industry today. He's been writing about games for over ten years, covering everything from level design analysis to current game news to charting the history of gaming as a whole. He's already put out a number of books, but Good Nintentions is probably his biggest and best work in print to date.  Though the title doesn't make it totally clear, the subject of the book is the Nintendo Entertainment System. Literally everything about the console is examined, from its inception, its eventual demise, and everything in between, including detailed descriptions of of over 200 NES games and their developers. Few are able to keep a keen eye on the past, present, and future of gaming as well as Parish, so those interested in any and all eras of the medium would do well to check out his work. Second Quest There's been plenty of chatter lately about the idea of a Legend of Zelda title that stars a woman. Second Quest, a Kickstarter-funded comic book from writer Tevis Thompson and artist David Hellman, gave the idea a detailed look earlier this year with a story that deftly turns multiple Zelda conventions on their heads. If "history is written by the victors," then it's fair to guess that the legend of Zelda, Link, and Ganon may be skewed towards demonizing the losers of those conflicts. Second Quest tells the story of a young woman who discovers that guess to be true, and in doing so, sets forth alone on a journey to the unknown.  Though the story doesn't technically star Zelda or Link (likely due to obvious copyright issues), Second Quest still manages to think on two characters, and many other Legend of Zelda mainstays, in multiple thought-provoking ways. Concepts of sexism, matriarchy, xenophobia, religion and myth as method of societal control, and other more sophisticated sociological concepts are explored, but not at the expense of telling a tense and thoughtful standalone story. While only those true Zelda experts will likely get more out of all the parallels between Second Quest and The Legend of Zelda series, the only real prerequisite to enjoying this story is an interest in lovingly crafted, hand-drawn fantasy comics.  [embed]322553:61381:0[/embed] A Guide to Village Life Animal Crossing is like knitting. Both involve relaxing, repetitive interactions with soft, warm materials that can eventually lead to the creation of something much more substantial. While the series has never gone the literal route of Kirby's Epic Yarn or Yoshi's Woolly World, any fan of the games will tell you that playing Animal Crossing can feel just as comforting as a putting on a hand-made sweater.  It's that hand-crafted feeling that makes Kari Fry's A Guide to Village Life such a perfect fit for the series. This 256-page hand-drawn catalog of the flora, fauna, villagers, and other Animal Crossing attractions is about as affectionate of a love letter as any video game could hope to receive. If you also love Animal Crossing, you'll find a lot to relate to here. 
Shopper's guide photo
'Buy my book!' ~ Jay Sherman
While much of modern society has moved on to the world of "electrons and information", there are two demographics that still eat up the printed page: kids and old people. Interestingly enough, these are also the two age group...

Kojima photo
Kojima

Konami gives Hideo Kojima an entire hour of outdoor time (Fauxclusive)


To celebrate his Game Awards win
Dec 04
// CJ Andriessen
Saying it's not the monster the media has made it out to be, Konami confirmed today it let Hideo Kojima out of his cell for one whole hour as a reward for his win at The Game Awards. Kojima and his team took home the award fo...
Super Mario Maker photo
Super Mario Maker

Dtoid Designs: The Mario at the Movies Challenge


Let's make some Oscar bait!
Dec 01
// CJ Andriessen
Update: The submission period has expired. Thank you to everyone who entered. Dtoid Designs is back for the threequel and this time, it's personal. Originally for the third month of the contest I was going to go with a festiv...

The Goon needs a video game, and so do these comics, too!

Nov 30 // Stephen Turner
The Goon What’s it about? The Goon runs a protection racket out of a Depression-era port town with his partner and only friend, Franky. It’s easy money until the zombies show up, and The Goon has to face the demons of his past in order to protect the sort-of-innocent. Did I mention the giant talking lizard, roller derby girls, and even a man made of wicker? Yeah, that happens along the way, too. How would it work as a game? You could easily set it up as a co-op brawler, where The Goon and Franky fight, shoot, shank, wrench, and quip their way through the zombie hordes, before tackling the more serious issue of werewolves, burlesque house killers, and Lovecraftian parodies. Think Hellboy: The Science of Evil, but more fun. Why isn’t there a game, then? It’s all about timing. Whereas the similar Hellboy broke the glass ceiling with a movie, during a time when obscure comics were worth a risk, The Goon hasn’t had the same chance. Years after its announcement, The Goon movie is still stuck in development hell and creator Eric Powell is currently slowing down his output, opting to do mini-series runs instead of monthly issues. So, in a way, the heat has died down on what is otherwise one of the best comics around. Fell What’s it about? Detective Richard Fell is maverick cop with plenty of book smarts and an ego to bolster it. But after he gets his partner seriously injured, Fell is transferred to Snowtown, a crime ridden burg where madness prevails and the good rely on magic to protect them. The more methodical and cynical Fell figures it's down to him alone to clean up the streets, even if it means being just as violent as the criminals he's chasing. How would it work as a game? I adore detective games, but unfortunately most punish you for not following the developers’ train of thought. Act too clever or arrive at the same solution from a different angle and you’re slapped on the wrist for not sticking to the script. Phoenix Wright and L.A. Noire were notorious for this, while Hotel Dusk and Heavy Rain were far more forgiving, allowing you get back on track with a roundabout line of questioning. The idea of Fell being too smart for his own good (and at times, to his own detriment) perfectly falls in line with the player's own inventiveness. So having a game where you're free in drawing your own conclusions, but having to know when to hold back information or lay it all down for the best sentencing would make for an intense balancing act; one that credits the player for being smart on their own accord. Why isn’t a game, then? Fell was short-lived at 9 issues long, released sporadically over 3 years (2005-2008). It’s probably too much of a risk for such a dead comic, and Warren Ellis is either too busy rocking out with Grinderman (Edit: Not the same Warren Ellis!) or writing another book to check his emails. Stumptown What’s it about? Dex Parios is the sole proprietor of Stumptown Investigations, a P.I. agency based in Portland, OR. She’s perpetually stubborn, witty in the face of danger, and not afraid to get into a fight. She’s also damn good at solving mysteries, which is pretty useful as she’s in deep with the casinos, has to look after a brother with Down syndrome, and owns a Dodge that needs repairing on regular basis. But as much as she needs the money, she never gives up on a client and her cases usually shine light on the darker side of Portland; the one all but forgotten in the midst of a hipster boom. How would it work as a game? I wasn't a fan of Life is Strange, but that’s really down to me wanting a straightforward neo-noir set in the Pacific Northwest than a Donnie Darko homage with bad dialogue. However, its point and click/choice-and-consequence gameplay perfectly suits Stumptown and Dex herself (brilliantly written by Greg Rucka, a man who understands solid female characters). In the comics, she’s constantly strong armed by client compromises and her own addictions, so it would be nice to see a game where a modern day white knight is bent out of shape as loyalties to one person has a knock-on effect to others. Plus, the episodic nature would be ideal for standalone cases. Why isn’t it a game, then? The straightforward detective game is a rare beast. It has to have a gimmick to work, to keep the player engaged and allow a broad audience to win. I’d love to see a no-frills experience happen, though, and the Portland backdrop has currently been refreshing mysteries in the media from Backstrom to Cold Weather and even the police procedural elements of Grimm. Look, I'm just obsessed with going to Portland at the moment, okay? DMZ What’s it about? The near future: America has been torn apart by a second Civil War. Manhattan is now a demilitarised zone, with its poorest citizens trapped in a Westernised No Man’s Land. Reporter Matty Roth enters the zone to get the scoop of a lifetime, but ends up becoming the news as the DMZ heads towards revolution. How would it work as a game? The Walking Dead and This War of Mine have both shown there’s an audience for moral choices and tough decisions. You could go either direction for DMZ, either as a Telltale adventure or as a survivalist scavenger hunt. Much like The Goon, this one writes itself with a rich lore without you knowing every little detail to buy in. Why isn’t it a game, then? Eh, This War of Mine already exists and does an excellent job of highlighting war from a civilian perspective. Plus, The Division, which is basically all the action parts of DMZ in one condensed package, is on the way. Got to love Ubisoft for taking existing IPs and tweaking them enough to pretend it was their idea all along; see also: Watch_Dogs and Person of Interest. Girls What’s it about? Petty bitterness and primal urges threaten simple common sense when a town is invaded by identical naked alien women who just want to procreate. Trapped in a giant dome, a battle of the sexes erupts between its human cast. Their very survival depends on telling the men to keep it in their pants. Guess how that turns out. How would it work as a game? Girls would be controversial as a video game, but played right, it wouldn't be anything more shocking than what Catherine achieved with its sexual dilemmas. Video games shine when they’re allowed to be reflective of player interaction, even throwing back excuses for our Machiavellian nature. There’s a scene in The Walking Dead: Season One’s finale, where Clem’s kidnapper goes over the choices Lee has made, and at times, breaks the fourth wall. Think about it: Did you really save Carley over Doug because she had the gun, or because she was a potential love interest? Imagine a game like Girls having the same “don’t bullshit me” attitude as you doom a whole town with your virtual dick. Why isn’t it a game, then? It’s a comic about naked alien women and the men who take advantage of them. Stark naked lady bits and all! As much as I’d love a game like Girls, it’s probably not going to be on Steam any time soon. 100 Bullets What’s it about? Several wronged people across America are given an offer by a mysterious old man named Agent Graves: One untraceable gun, 100 spare bullets, and a carte blanche for revenge. Some buy into it easily, others chew over the morality of it all, but those who impress Graves end up being taken under his wing and into a conspiracy that's integral to the country's violent history. How would it work as a game? Despite the snappy title, 100 Bullets is more of a hardboiled thriller than an action series. It's a saga where every pull of the trigger has a far reaching consequence, where loyalties shift, and just about every character struggles to see the bigger picture. When the violence does happen, it's the end result of some messy choices and the gory outbursts are nasty periods at the end of every chapter. As a game, 100 Bullets would work best as a cocktail of third person shooting and tailored choices, much like Blues & Bullets. It would make for some nail-biting decisions and morality plays, where killing someone actually means something, good and bad. Why isn't it a game, then? Well, it's not like someone hasn't tried already. Personally, the cancelled game had it all wrong from the start. Yes, Cole Burns is probably the second famous character of the series, but that doesn't make him a good fit for a shootbang protagonist. He's actually the kind of shit stirrer you'd find on an episode of The Apprentice. Also, making 100 Bullets a generic third person shooter just takes the depth away from, in my mind, one of the best comic books ever made. Criminal Macabre What’s it about? Cal McDonald is a junkie private eye and monster slayer for a bunch of ghouls living in the L.A. sewers. He's a total badass, and this is before he gets wings. How would it make a good game? Despite the umbrella title, The Cal McDonald Mysteries are usually solved with a lot of guns and even more painkillers. I can almost see a Max Payne-meets-Constantine shooter with moments of crime scene investigation and crazy demon boss fights. But mostly crazy demon boss fights. Why isn’t it a game, then? Cal's creator, Steve Niles, worked on F.E.A.R. 3, and I'm guessing that terrible game has scarred him for life. That, and as much as I love the series, it would have to be a stellar third person shooter to be remotely successful; something that's gone the way of the B-tier developer. Crossed What’s it about? Post-apocalyptic, rape and murder nightmare fuel, one that makes The Walking Dead look like a camping trip. Forget making any decisions, you’ve already been buggered and God knows what else. How would it work as a game? I don't know, try asking uber-fan and Community Manager, Occams Electric Toothbrush, because he's a sick son of a bitch. Why isn’t it a game, then? Because as I've already said, our Community Manager, Occams Electric Toothbrush, is a sick son of a bitch. Right, enough about my choices, what comic would you like to see made into a game?
Comics as games photo
Eric Powell, call me, yeah?!
I’m not a fan of “The Capes” when it comes to comic books, but I understand why they’re such an easy fit for video games. Superheroes are proactive investigators and brawlers with adventures based sole...

Dtoid Designs: The five best Un-Mario levels

Nov 30 // CJ Andriessen
[embed]323057:61316:0[/embed] Thank you to everybody who entered this month. We will have a new contest starting on December 1. If you'd rather play these fine levels than watch, here are the level IDs you need: #5 Out of Another World (v 1.1) Disqus User: Algator C8B5-0000-00E0-E743 #4 DonkeyKong Country Jungle Hijinx Disqus User: Anikid 443B-0000-00B9-9B52 #3 Mario RAMPAGE *Post Your Score!! Disqus User: Alfonso Navarro B36A-0000-00E1-CFB3 #2 Pitfall II - The Lost Caverns (Atari) Disqus User: GameMakr24 A4B4-0000-00EC-8BCA #1 Super Sniper Bros: Aim & Fire Disqus User: CTMike 16E0-0000-00E0-4AF8   If you would like to try out the level I created for the Un-Mario Challenge, check out Arino Hawkins & the 1001 Flames here: 43AF-0000-00DD-02F8
Dtoid Designs photo
Check out the winners of round two
This month for the second Dtoid Designs contest, I challenged you to use Super Mario Maker to create the Un-Mario level. How exactly does one create a level that doesn't play like it comes from a Super Mario game using only S...

What're you playing? IS IT FALLOUT 4?

Nov 28 // Steven Hansen
I was playing Fallout 4 recently, but I think I’m going to leave it for a while for some decent mods and bug fixes to come out before heading back into it. Instead, I’ve been slowly trudging my way through my first run of Bloodborne (currently trying to beat the Shadows of Yharnam), as well as the recent PC rerelease Sonic Lost World. Playing something as grimdark as Bloodborne and then immediately hopping into a Sonic level based on colourful tasty treats can feel like being hit by a freight train sometimes, but both games are a lot of fun!  I can't stop playing Rise of the Tomb Raider. I think it might be a sickness. I know I have a tendency to fall in love with games (even crappy ones), but there's something so soothing and zen-like about exploring the Geothermal Valley and scouting for Survival Caches. It makes me not wanna finish; in order to delay the inevitable, I've taken to returning to old paths and gathering all the collectibles and finishing up all the Challenges. Besides the diving. Lara will not fecking dive for me. Otherwise I'm playing Destiny. I did leave it for Halo 5 for a bit, but there's still no better multiplayer experience. Like a booty call, I came crawling back to Bungie, a bunch of wilting flowers in one hand and shrugging off my jeans with the other.  I've been a bit restless with my gaming recently, so I've gone back to play a couple of games that I know I enjoy, having a little bit of comfort gaming in among the big reviews season. Revisiting Danganronpa 2, replaying To The Moon and even briefly jumping back in to Half Minute Hero. Other than that I've been sinking some time into playing Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires for Destructoid which should be getting some coverage toward the end of this week and playing the odd game of Peggle on iOS while travelling. I just want to get through all those challenge puzzles again. I'm so bad at playing video games, folks. I've got probably six or so hours clocked on Fallout 4, and after my save being erroneously deleted I think I might wait a month or two before coming back to it. Meanwhile I've been dragging myself kicking and screaming through a genocide run in Undertale, as well as putting a few runs into Sublevel Zero before I sleep most nights. I went on a shopping spree a week or two ago and grabbed a bunch of Dreamcast games, so I'm finally learning Street Fighter III: Third Strike as well as finally getting around to playing Jet Grind Radio for the first time. Oh, and that Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows DLC is dope. I've been in full-blown "gotta catch 'em all" mode with Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon and Yo-Kai Watch. I'm pretty much done with Yo-Kai Watch, but I'm still trying to beat some of those post-game bosses. They're really hard! I'll probably have to find a good place to grind if I ever want to beat them all. Apparently if I lived in the world of Pokemon, I would be a Mudkip. Who knew? I'm a bit disappointed that I haven't been able to recruit Cubone yet, but I'll manage (I guess). I like that Super Mystery Dungeon lets me see a side of the Pokemon that I don't often get to see. They all have personalities, quirks, and opinions and it's really fun to get to know them all. It's like that episode of the anime where they all wash up on a desert island and Ash's Pokemon end up hanging out with Team Rocket's Pokemon and you get to hear what they're actually saying to each other. Except in the game, you don't have to listen to all that "Squirtle Squirtle!" "Charmander!" "Bulba Bulbasaur!" nonsense. Thank god. At my real job, we're entering what is known as the busy season, aka hell month, aka all employees on suicide watch month. That's right, I work in retail. So after eight stressful hours of people telling me I ruined their Christmas or I made their children cry (both of which just make me laugh, laugh, laugh), I like to come home and play a game that really relaxes me; like Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson. Nothing helps me get through the holidays better than pretending the people I'm slicing and dicing up in that game are the customers who annoy me so much. What's that Mrs. Stevens? Your Christmas is a bust because we ran out of Monopoly sets and you decided not to order until December 22nd? How about I make it up to you with a katana to the face? Oh Mr. Peters I'm sorry. You were supposed to get that package before Thanksgiving so you could give it to your daughter as a Thanksgiving gift, as if that should be a real thing? Eat boot, asshole! Baby life has kept me from playing any game solo for more than 30 minutes at a time, but I've been playing Nintendo Badge Arcade every morning while I'm in the bathroom (70 badges so far and I haven't spent a cent), and I've got a new record on Super Graviton in VVVVVV (19.43 seconds!). I also finally managed to get through Plague Knight's campaign in Shovel Knight, and was shocked by how sincerely touching many of the cut scenes were. When other people are around, we've been popping in Runbow, Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, and Sportsball while swapping off turns keeping the kid happy. Juggling games and child care is like a game unto itself, and so far, I haven't lost any lives. Maybe I should go pro. My backlog's now ballooning to include the likes of Metal Gear Solid V, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, the last episode of Game of Thrones, Destiny and other games which I know are really good and fun to play, and it's all because of Fort Construction Simulator 2287 Fallout 4. About 30 of the 40-or-so hours the savegame timer is telling me I've had with Bethesda's latest have been spent with the game's gratuitously deep settlement system. On the one hand, it's dreadfully unnecessary and essentially cuts the legs out from under Bethesda's most accomplished main story so far (though that isn't saying a whole lot in the grand scheme of things). On the other hand, my Sanctuary Hills settlement is really coming along, in that romanticizing-shantytowns kind of way. Check it out below (complete with royalty-free music courtesy of Youtube's copyright enforcement thingamabob): [embed]322272:61236:0[/embed] I've spent every spare moment of the past two weeks as a post-apocalyptic hoarder in Fallout 4. Just like grandpa working on his train sets, the miniature model enthusiast in me has surfaced in a weird way and I've gone deep on the settlement building aspect of the game even though it's really, genuinely, terrible. All of my settlers have cute little ramshackle apartments, access to clean water, and all the laser guns they could ask for even though I'm still not sure what (if anything) they can do for me after 20 hours in. Please send help. After spending around ten hours getting the elderly Mama Murphy high as fuck in Fallout 4, I fell back into my own personal addictions: Halo 5: Guardians and Hearthstone. I can't help it, I just love opening card packs, as well as the rush of having close matches which both games provide. Recently played through the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands with my boyfriend which was surprisingly hilarious, plus it fed my newfound obsession of Hunter S. Thompson, as there is a character that looks and dresses like him.  Other times I'm lying in my bed with my Vita playing through Superbeat: Xonic for review obsessively, while loud techno and metal fill the air alongside my swearing.   I want to say I'm re-experiencing Undertale's charming pacifist run. A game chock full of so many secrets that I'd replay the entire game to see the things I missed like Sans' room or beating Thundersnails. Or I could say I'm replaying Bayonetta 2 and trying to unlock the other, extra hard secret characters like Rosa or Rodin. But I'm not. I'm playing Nintendo Badge Arcade. I put a dollar in to grab the Animal Crossing badges just now, because of course I will, I have the Isabelle and signboard 3DS theme. You can also never play too much Super Smash Bros. 4, especially with Cloud on the horizon. I recently finished up the latest Minecraft: Story Mode episode for review, and it was all right. I have a few games on my list to get to before we start working up our Game of the Year lists, like Undertale and Life is Strange, but I haven't started either of those. Right now I'm on vacation, away from my PC and consoles, so all I'm really playing is stuff on my 3DS and my phone. I've been getting through Hitman GO, which is dressed up like a cute little board game about murder. Also still chugging away at Ultimate Angler on the 3DS, because StreetPass games are always going to be the best. What am I playing? More like what aren't I playing, right?! But, can we talk seriously for a minute? I'm begrudgingly playing Fallout 4. Have a bunch of people above me already talked about Fallout 4? I haven't bothered to look, but I bet they did. You're probably reading this article while you take a break from Fallout 4. It's goddamn everywhere. I'm not sure I have a lot of nice things to say about it but I'm still playing it. I guess that counts for something. I think it's my favorite Ubisoft game ever. The missus and I are currently burning through The X-Files, just in time for the new mini-series in January. You know, I'm amazed at how well the entire show holds up (though, I say this as we currently work our way through Season 7, a.k.a. David Duchovny's last full season, a.k.a. it all goes to shit) and I've totally fallen back in love with Gillian Anderson, reigniting my first TV crush from all those years back. Not even her awful wig in those new trailers can diminish it, now! Anyway, as part of the binge, I played The X-Files FMV game in its intended place during Season 3; between Wetwired (where Scully goes coco-bananas due to broadcast signals) and Talitha Cumi (the finale where Mulder befriends that guy from The Invaders). As a game, it has all the hallmarks of why FMV failed, but also it works remarkably well in trying to emulate the show within such limitations; especially when it came out just as The X-Files loosened up, got cool, and put out its best work. Also, I'm currently playing through Breach & Clear: Deadline, which isn't too bad considering the Steam Sale price. It's a spin-off of a tactical shooter in the vein of Rainbow Six/SWAT/Doorkickers, but the fact it involves rushing zombie hordes makes a lot of your tactical decisions, and the very title, a tad redundant. But, hey, it's actually a fun little game if you're not too cynical about the planning and light RPG elements. Also, also I'm still playing PAYDAY 2 because I'm a monster on par with Hitler. If you've followed my quickposts of late, you know I have been on a huge Castlevania binge, which will be concluding soon with Rondo of Blood, Order of Ecclesia and then Symphony of the Night's Maria Mode. I also recently finished Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin. I've also been playing Child of Light, Fire Emblem: Awakening and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS. This will be my third time through Awakening, which is starting to become something of an annual tradition for me. It's just such a charming game and I usually lose Vaike along the way, but maybe he'll live this time. Sadly, I can't marry Tharja, but Nintendo will let me marry her prior incarnation in Birthright next year. Smash is the main obsession right now, though. Just unlocked Jigglypuff and I'm maining Zero Suit Samus, Robin and Pikachu so far. Mostly Zero Suit Samus since Samus is the best ever when she's not in Metroid Other M. Robin is an interesting challenge with the limited use of tomes and swords, I just have to get over Robin not looking like my Robin in Awakening. It's like seeing a Commander Shepherd, but it's not your Shepherd. I'm hoping Shovel Knight and Shantae get to join the fray through the Smash Ballot, too. If some sulky, spikey-haired, fake soldier with glowy eyes can get in, the Cerulean Spader and a bellydancing half-genie are fair game. I guess we'll see. My experience of Fallout 4 as read by SNL’s City Correspondent, Stefan: The hottest new experience in video games right now is Fallout 4.  This post-apocalyptic thrill kill club has it all. Ashes. Crab people. Mad Max Scarecrows. And just when you think you’ve seen it all…what’s that? Teddy Bear Night Light! (It’s that thing where you kill a Glowing One then cover it in teddy bears.) Thanks to The Old Hunters DLC, I'm back into Bloodborne. I left off months ago with a new game+++ save file, so I had to start fresh and work my way back up to even access the expansion, much less make any real progress in it. Far too many hours later, I'm so close to the end. I've done everything but take out the optional boss, and I can hardly imagine that ever happening without summoning a near-flawless co-op player. It's such an unforgiving fight! As much as it's a total slog and I've become exceedingly impatient, I'm too stubborn to give up. I also got one of those $20 PlayStation TVs and, after scrolling through the online system library, I'm now just playing old favorites like What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord? and Patapon. Worth it. People can pretty much see what I've been playing through reviews, but in addition to the Bloodborne DLC and Xenoblade Chronicles X, I'm peppering in some Final Fantasy XIV and Destiny. The latter is really winding down though as Bungie hasn't introduced anything new in a while, and since my normal raid group is starting to get pissed at the triple-RNG involved in hard mode (getting the item, then getting the right level, and the right roll), they don't play as much. Beyond that my wife and I still play Pikmin 3's bingo versus mode on occasion, as well as Black Ops III via split-screen. Whenever I'm in the middle of college finals, I tend to gravitate towards games that can be played in the space between cram sessions. And every year since 2012, the game I pick to fill that void is the regular Call of Duty release. I am part of the problem.  Black Ops III is difficult to come back to after the similarly-themed Advanced Warfare. The gun sight that lit up enemies and the corner-friendly boost in Advanced Warfare were cornerstones of my almost 1:1 K/D ratio (impressive for someone who is normally very bad at shooters), and losing those tools in the transition to Black Ops III was a blow. Plus, as of Thanksgiving, we've officially hit the point where people have those maps memorized from every angle. Call of Duty's progression system continues to be immensely satisfying on a macro and micro level, culminating in a cycle that's difficult to escape when there's an upgrade perpetually right around the corner, so it's not like I'm going to quit any time soon. I barely have time to play anything else! I'm still playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. Is it just me or does this game not have an end? Sure, I picked it up in the summer almost a full year after release -- but I'll be damned if I haven't given in to my completionist mindset trying to pick up every last shard. Is it worth it? Almost 100 hours into the game and at this point contemplating ways to conjure up a mass kool-aid suicide in Skyhold just to keep something -- anything -- moving along in the plot. That Cullen though. He's no Alistair, but you can't deny that fur mantle. BioWare - 3; Caitlin - 0 (let's not forget about Thane). Reporting live from Santa Teresa, New Mexico! This forced vacation has allowed me more game time than usual. On the way over here in the RV, I played Eldritch Horror and Dungeons & Dragons with my lady and her brother. On the digital front, I brought my laptop and I've been playing more Killing Floor 2 and some Downwell. If you think the latter game is difficult, try it on a bumpy ass RV with poor weather stripping. Before the trip, I finished Rise of the Tomb Raider, which I enjoyed, but might as well have been called Tomb Raider: The Exact Same Narrative Beats as the Last Time, or even Tomb Raider: Why are the Only Good Parts of the Story Buried in Shitty Audio Logs? Obviously, I have some thoughts about this. You'll be hearing from me soon. And gosh, I haven't even started playing Fallout. I might just wait until next year.  I've been eclectic. I jumped into some first-time-in-months Rocket League that dulled after winning at least 10 in a row. I turned on XCOM, got in that save where I was naming everyone after Destructoid staff, remember I'd fucked up last time I was streaming it, and proceeded to watch everyone I work with impaled and vomited on by chryssalids (only Caitlin and Darren survived by virtue of having been in the infirmary). Kicked around some Downwell but it wasn't pulling from the cloud save and knocking off rust sans Levitate style was taxing. Stopped myself from mindlessly playing more Resident Evil 4.  After all the hit 'em and quit 'ems I settled into some The Testament of Doctor Mabuse because I wanted to watch more Fritz Lang and fell asleep during Stromboli. All substitutes for Rififi and other Criterions not in Hulu's collection. I've also been watching that Jessica Jones program, the only superhero thing I've seen since Guardians of the Galaxy (and before that, the first Avengers, and part of some X-Men movie in the airplane window reflection of the guy in front of me). I appreciate the reduced scale and attempts at not sharing the same visual style as others of its ilk (all the action looks the same! They're all shot and edited the same!), I'm torn on always having "Basketball Jones" stuck in my head. - What in Sam Hill are YOU playing?
What'cha playin'? photo
With my heart?
Lord on a skateboard we did it, that's it, the year's over, there's nothing left to get through in 2015 (year 3 of Luigi). I'd like to thank everyone who got us this far and let's just coast into 2016, done completely with ho...

Sup Holmes photo
Sup Holmes

Rally 'round the family with Runbow and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime


Sup Holmes every Sunday at 2:30pm EST!
Nov 25
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] With Thanksgiving almost u...

The Silent Hill Retrospective: Origins

Nov 21 // Stephen Turner
Origins is, without being too harsh, a Xerox of the original. The big picture is always in frame, but many of the details, what made the original Silent Hill so special, are faded. Familiar faces fulfill their established roles, locations are revisited and remixed, and the journey from the outskirts of town to the middle of nowhere seems oddly comforting. It's Silent Hill re-told by fans; a closeness that robs Origins of an outsider perspective and player alienation. Narratively speaking, Silent Hill's success was down to its "one-and-done" attitude. For all the weirdness on display, its character motives were clear and the important historical aspects were found on every street corner; allowing us to fill in the blanks with little conjecture. Origins, as the name suggests, fills it in for us at the expense of brevity and credibility, as all those detours into exposition and connections actually harm the original's acts of desperation and improvisation. Be honest: Do you need to know exactly how a baby girl ends up at the side of the road in Silent Hill? Isn’t it more tragic and disturbing when the Masons stumble upon her, and letting our imaginations run wild? That's the major narrative flaw of all prequels, though. They can only embellish, not establish. Silent Hill never needed Travis Grady. While he’s actually a likable protagonist, and his profession as a trucker is quite metaphorical (motel suicides and freeway escapism go hand-in-hand), his story is, sadly, just an excuse for new gameplay ideas and player agency. Origins is Alessa Gillespie’s story, from the house fire to the rear view mirror. One passes into lore, the other is just a footnote, but both vie for your attention in an act of narrative dominance. Unsurprisingly, it seeps into every scene between Travis and Alessa, as he struggles with her manipulations, before succumbing to the role of catalyst. To its credit, Origins made good on its use of mise-en-scene when it comes to giving Travis definition. The various locations were grandiose, gothic, and theatrical - each one a conspiratory labyrinth beyond the understanding of a small blue collar man - with only the Riverside Motel being intimate and claustrophobic for the sake of acceptance and heroism. For a character dragged along by established events, Travis' only form of control is through the use of mirrors, now portals to The Otherworld and back again. Though it reinforced his strength to rebel against the ruling class of Silent Hill, the act also dampened its most foreign aspect. The Otherworld (here, a fire-damaged mess until the familiar rust-and-blood takes hold) was no longer this conceptual tour-de-force that made the audience endure for its narrative riches. Now it was a tourist attraction, one that could be appraised at the flip of a switch. Though their appearances are little more than novelty, seeing Silent Hill's cast all young and fresh faced left us with a wistful yearning, not unlike finding old snapshots of family and friends. Dahlia Gillespie was a white-trash brunette, while Dr. Kaufmann looked a little more dashing without the spare tires. Sure, their stories were already told, but if Origins couldn't escape the past, at least it would have fun reveling in nostalgia. Most affecting, though entirely arbitrary, is Lisa Garland. Instead of being seen through the eyes of a child, we see the drug addict once alluded to in her diary. At the motel, that sound of her having sex in a nearby room perfectly deconstructs the naïve adoration of her fanbase, bonding them to an equally heartbroken Travis in the process. Personally, it's one of the better parts of Origins, a subtle, real-time moment that Climax would refine in every one of Shattered Memories' car journeys. From then on, a grittier, gut-punch characterisation would permeate all of the Westernised Silent Hill games. Origins isn't an awful game, nor is it a stellar one. It simply exists. There's always a shallow memory waiting to strike, deep in the mist, lost to the shadows. Psycho-sexual images roam the halls, lumbering beats loosely touch upon its protagonist's travels, nurses make their return and substitutes like The Butcher step in for missing icons. Origins works best at conjuring up warm feelings when revisiting Central Silent Hill, left to your own devices and Akira Yamaoka's bite-sized score (which is more of throwback, than throwaway). But for every right, it's bound by a necessary wrong. Personally, that's what make the game so middle-of-road, rather than outright terrible. But it's impossible to ignore the fact Origins was meant to reboot the series with a fresh set of eyes, and sell a few PSPs in the meantime. Instead, it only served to strengthen the trepidation in its fanbase. Silent Hill would go through a difficult time, of which much is still up for debate, before Konami gave up on this outsourcing malarkey. From Origins to Downpour, as much as they tried new ideas, they were always reliant on what the fans liked to sell as many copies as they could in the face of dwindling interest. And who knows if P.T./Silent Hills will get that resurrection it deserves. But no matter what happens, just like Travis Grady, Origins will always remain the little guy in the big burning house, almost consumed by the flames of the past.
Silent Hill photo
'You all left that girl to burn!'
Silent Hill: Origins opened with an outsider saving a little girl from a house fire. But when you look back on its place in the series, it meant so much more than a simple rescue. Travis Grady had problems of his own, but the...

Does it matter if Link is a boy or a girl?

Nov 20 // Jonathan Holmes
[Art by  Kuvshinov-Ilya] To its credit, Nintendo has done an admirable job of concocting a way to help fans to imagine Link as both a specific person and an abstract concept at the same time. He's actually not always named Link. You, the player, choose his name before starting each of his games. He also never speaks, further solidifying him as non-character who's only purpose is to act as doorway for the player into the game world. Yet, by leaning hard on both the reincarnation myth and the use of multiple timelines, Nintendo has managed to shape Link into a series of individual characters in the minds of many. In doing so, it has squelched most of complaints the character/non-character used to attract, though it took them a little while to get there. Many fans were outraged when the Wind Waker radically changed who Link was and how he was drawn. A lot of these fans had become extremely attached to a singular idea of who Link was and how he should look. This new Link broke from those ideas, causing their suspension of disbelief to break along with it. It's no surprise then that it was fans who originally came up with the theory that the Zelda series takes place over multiple timelines. They were clearly more invested in believing that Link was real than Nintendo was. Strangely enough, it looks like a lot of those diehard fans are also against the idea of Link ever being a woman. Their devotion to their head canon feels similar to how some Catholics hold tight to their traditional gender divisions. Just a few days ago, a diehard Zelda fan was telling me that making Link a woman would be "pointless," and if someone wants to play a game starring a woman, that there are plenty of other choices out there. I pushed back with the idea that what's pointless to them may mean a lot to someone else. To counter that obvious point, they put on their best empathy-face and said that the Zelda series should not have to bend to the preferences of fans. It's the exactly line of thinking I've heard from well meaning but overly dogmatic Catholics over the years, who advise folks who want to bear confession to a female priest to simply abandon Catholicism in favor of Unitarian Universalism or some other wacky new faith.  [Art by Liart] Nintendo itself has been relatively inconsistent in explaining if Link has to be a man or not. The director of the recently released Triforce Heroes said for that game's story, it wouldn't fit the mythology for the leads to be women. So that's one answer. On the other hand, Eiji Aonuma, producer of the Zelda series as a whole, has never ruled out that we'd get a woman iteration of Link someday, stating that he was going to wait and see how the playable women characters in Hyrule Warriors were received before making that decision. I'm guessing the fact that Hyrule Warriors sold pretty darn well is one of the reasons Linkle went from being a rejected concept sketch to a full-blown character (who may or may not be a reincarnation of Link). In the absence of official word from Nintendo, fans have created their own schema around the question of Link's inherent maleness, just as they they created the split-timeline long before it was adopted as canon. The one I hear the most is that Zelda must always be a woman (because it's the Legend of Zelda, not the Legend of Zeldo) and therefore Link must be a man, as the potential for heterosexual romance between the two leads is a key part of the Zelda's legend. Of course, Nintendo has never explicitly stated any of that. Why would it? As a company that wants to appeal to as many potential customers as possible, it'd have little reason to insult its queer fans or cut itself off from the option of a female Link someday. Linkle is clearly a move towards testing those waters, though it won't likely jump all the way in until it is sure it will be profitable. It's a direction it has been publicly headed in for a while, driven in no small part by the stats showing how women are becoming a larger and larger part of Nintendo's customer base.  It's arguable that the company has been moving towards giving players the option to chose the gender of the green clad Hylian hero for years now.  [embed]321406:61194:0[/embed] It wouldn't even be the first time, technically. Some of the Satellaview Legand of Zelda games allowed for players to chose the gender of their character. So does every modern Fire Emblem, Pokémon, and Animal Crossing game, as will Xenoblade Chronicles X when it's released outside of Japan next month. It's not just in the RPGs either. Nintendo's latest hit character, the Inkling, also comes in boy or girl shapes. In fact, the vast majority of Nintendo's Wii U titles allow you to play as a woman some or all of the time. It could be that the publisher finally noticed that Monster Hunter, Mass Effect, Fallout 4 (the potentially biggest entertainment release of the year) and countless other modern Action-RPGs have let the player decide the gender of their "link" to the game world without suffering any loss in sales. Maybe they are on the cusp of allowing today's Legend of Zelda players to do the same.  That said, it's clear that many people would be upset if Nintendo began providing players with that level of choice. Ironically, a lot of these players are also harshly critical of Nintendo for not keeping up with the times when it comes to cross-buy purchases across consoles games and other consumer friendly practices. What we demand out of our game publishers says a lot about us, and will eventually determine what those publishers end up producing. My guess is that like everything with business, the question of how much Link's gender matters will be answered not in some political debate, but in dollar signs. 
Linkle photo
Linkle: The new Samus or a next Waluigi?
Linkle's debut as a playable character in Hyrule Warriors Legends seems to mean something big to a lot of people, but I guess that's par for course. Regardless of how long it's been since you actually played a Legend of Zelda...

'We're drift compatible': My favorite weird co-op games

Nov 19 // Nic Rowen
Bimini Run Bimini Run is one of those old 16-bit games where I wondered for years if it was just some kind of fever dream of my imagination or not. Forget showing up on lists of “classic Genesis games” or anything, I could never find another person who played it let alone had an opinion about it. But it was something special for it’s time. A bizarre Miami Vice meets proto-open world speedboat game with an even more bizarre two-player mode. Bimini Run could be played alone, but if you were young and had an annoying little brother who insisted on playing as well (like I totally did), there was an option to let you both play at once by splitting the driving and shooting between two players. Player one would take the wheel (rudder?) while player two would man the machine gun and mortar launcher (like all speedboats have, right?) and together you’d try and weave around a pixilated coastline and light up other boats, helicopters, and huts. Make no mistake, this was the worst way to play. But it was also the best. For a game that we only rented once and has wallowed in relative obscurity ever since (although some fans did come out of the woodwork when Giant Bomb did a quicklook of it recently), I have fantastic memories of Bimini Run. It was a trial by fire for my brother and I of just how dedicated we were to beating the game in a single weekend balanced against the urge to kill each other out of frustration. I’m pretty sure it started the long-standing tradition we have to this day in co-op games where he’s the designated driver while I man the guns. Quite a legacy for a forgotten game. Lucky & Wild Speaking of driving and shooting, did you know there was an arcade rip off of the ‘80s cinema classic Tango and Cash? It’s true. Lucky & Wild, released by Namco in 1992 was a sit-down arcade cabinet that played like a hybrid shooter/racing game. The player in the driver's seat would drive with one hand, shoot with the other, and try and keep track of everything else going on at once. Player two would shoot and feel jealous/relieved that they only had one thing to do. I suppose driving and shooting is one of the more common types of co-op play out there, but Lucky & Wild added up to more than the sum of its parts. It was an anomaly, offering something completely different from the legion of other lightgun games sandwiched into the dark and dingy recesses of your local arcade. If you were smart, you’d divide up the work; Let player one focus on driving and keeping his gun trained on large, easy-to-hit targets. Player two was on crackshot duty, responsible for shooting down incoming rockets or bombs and making your quarters stretch as long as possible. It was also funny for its day. Lucky & Wild played the braindead buddy cop setup for all its worth, an affectionate parody of the most popular kind of movies from the ‘80s. Lucky & Wild really was wild, and we were lucky to play it. It’s the kind of arcade game that emulation just can’t do justice to. You had to be there, sitting in that cabinet, mercilessly elbowing the hell out of the ribs of whoever just steered you right into another rocket or wall. It’s a co-op experience that would be difficult if not impossible to relive nowadays. I’ll be honest though, Lucky & Wild is a favorite of mine for personal reasons as much as it was a legitimately cool game. One of my favorite dumb memories is convincing my mom and grandma to sit down in behind the wheel and guns to give it try in a food court. After a few minutes they did surprisingly well! What can I say, my grandma loved dumb ‘80s action movies. Battlefield There are plenty of cooperative shooters out there, but let’s be honest, most of them just have two players doing the same thing at the same time. In Gears, Marcus and Dom are both diving into cover, shooting grubs, and chainsawing the occasional unlucky goober. Maybe you’ll divvy up the equipment -- Dom will grip the sniper rifle while Marcus keeps things clean with the shotgun -- but that’s about as diverse as it gets. If I included shooters, this article would be a lot longer and a lot less interesting. There is one big exception I’m willing to make to the rule though, because when it comes to usual co-op strategies I have to give it up for the Battlefield series. Not only does the series promote some of the coolest class synergies and co-op strategies in any game, but it tests you and your partners to make them work in a chaotic shit-show of a massive firefight that is constantly changing. Sure, there are a lot of shooters with the “I’ll drive and you shoot” divide, but none of them do it quite like Battlefield. It’s more like “I’ll pilot this specific type of helicopter and man the dumbfire rockets and flares while you take this specific gunner position and simultaneously repair the bird, man the gun, and occasionally fire a guided missile” or “I’ll drive the APC, you all get out behind the objective, toss out recon probes, and storm the place from an oblique angle while I draw fire.” If you want to make the most out of the vehicles in the Battlefield series, you’ll need at least one teammate you’re in total sync with and ideally a few more for proper Thunder Cloud Formation action. Of course I have to give extra props to Bad Company 2 and BF3 in particular. My brother and I played an unhealthy amount of both of them and had a few techniques down to a science. BC2’s amazing destruction system (pound for pound still the best in the business in my opinion) let us breach and clear like pros -- if by “breach and clear” you mean my bro opening up a hole in the wall with a grenade launcher and me running in and quickly tossing around enough C4 to bring down the whole building. Or when we’d go fly swatting in BF3 with the Recon unit’s laser designator and the Javelin missile system, keeping the skies nice and clear. With some good teamwork, just two players working together in the right way at the right time could make a huge difference in a game defined by its massive player count. Brothers gonna work it out, indeed. Portal 2 Goddamn do I love the idiot robots of Portal 2’s co-op mode. Yeah, GLaDOS get’s all the love (and she should, she’s excellent), but I gotta give it up for P-Body and Atlas, the robotic testing duo of dubious intelligence. You know that trust game where one person leans back until they fall and trusts that their partner will catch them? It’s supposed to reinforce bonds and break down suspicion. Well, Portal 2’s co-op is kind of like that, only instead of leaning back till you tip over, you’re suspended over a massive chasm filled with acid or molten slag, and instead of catching you, nine times out of ten your dickbag partner decides it would be hilarious to make you take a swim. It reinforces resentment, and encourages squabbles and problem drinking. Portal 2’s co-op mode wasn’t long, but it was memorable. It let you play with puzzles that would be impossible in single-player, forcing you and your partner to think laterally and develop all kinds of new strategies and ideas. Especially when you get far enough into the game to play with the frictionless gel and bouncy paint. What I love most about Portal 2’s co-op though was how the addition of an extra player opened up ways to break the game. If one Portal player can come up with weird speedrun routes and unintended solutions to puzzles, two players working together could bust the testing facility wide open. Me and the person I went through the co-op campaign with were so committed to being clever little assholes that I’m still not sure if we ever solved all of the puzzles “properly.” The only thing more fun than playing with your toys is breaking them in some entertaining way. Just like strapping fireworks to G.I Joes behind the school. Left 4 Dead Yeah, yeah, I know I just said no more shooters, and yes, as the default survivors in L4D, you’re pretty much all doing the same thing -- shooting zombies and smacking things with your medpack. But that’s for the boring old humans with their stupid guns and lame one-liners. What I’m talking about is when you play for the other team, when you take control of the zombies. I don’t think L4D ever got the credit it deserved for its multiplayer, but on the same blush, I can understand why. Playing as the zombies in multiplayer was a tense game of peek-a-boo, chicanery, guts, and teamwork. It took three other teammates with a solid understanding of the game, excellent communication, and the wits to make the best of things when the RNG just refused to spawn a freaking Smoker for your team when you really needed one. These qualities were what made it feel so damn good when it all clicked, and what made it fall apart into one-sided stompfests for the humans when it didn’t. Each type of special infected the players could take control of had their own role to play in the zombie apocalypse, and it took careful coordination and skill to make them work. Because you never got to choose your infected type, you had no choice but to get good at all of them if you wanted to take the multiplayer seriously. I spent a long time trying to perfect 25-point Hunter jumps and Smoker skillshots in the winter of 2008. I watched a lot of YouTube videos about just how far Boomer spray could spread or how much it would arc at a distance before becoming ineffective. Learning how to not crack under the pressure of suddenly becoming the frighteningly (somewhat less than his reputation would have you believe) powerful Tank and not just eat a molotov as soon as it spawned. I think it’s a strange and wonderful thing that playing as the drooling zombies became the “thinking man’s” part of L4D. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes Bomb disposal might just be the ultimate co-op game. Who would have guessed that the threat of sudden explosive death could bring friends and family together like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes does? Turns out that confusing instructions, bad second-hand descriptions of what a device looks like, and the ruthless pressure of a ticking countdown is the perfect recipe for a fun evening with your crew. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is another one of those games that you have to play to really get. The Oculus version is probably the best (I wouldn’t know), but the PC version works just as well so long as nobody cheats and peeks at the screen. For anyone unaware, it's a game where one person tries to disarm an explosive device by relaying a description of what it looks like and what it's doing to his or her team of “experts” who can look things up in a confusing, often poorly organized, printed-out bomb disarming manual. Bonus points if you find a battered old binder to keep the manual in and mess it up with some coffee stains and dog ears for that “authentic” experience. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a group co-op game. While it’s fine with two players, it’s fantastic with three or four. Not because it will make you more effective bomb disposal experts, more the opposite (at least at first). Getting more hands on the manual means more chaos and squabbling, more people talking over each other and pulling the book away from one another. More sudden BOOMS. Eventually, everyone will pick up on their own tricks or areas of expertise and you can start delegating certain roles to different players. Suddenly you’ll actually start surviving and taking on more and more complex bombs. It’s like watching the Keystone Cops transform into the Hurt Locker crew over the course of an evening. Well, until the drinks start taking their toll. Then it might be time to segue over to Gang Beasts or Jackbox, something a little less cerebral. I'm still waiting for the dream weird co-op game. A kind of Qctodad meets Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes where you and four friends control the different limbs and head of a mech, Voltron style. The day someone comes up with that is the day I'll press-gang all of my friends into the robotic defense force. Until then I guess I'll have to be satisfied with forcing someone into playing Cho'gall with me. I'm always on the lookout for other weird co-op games. If you have some you love that I missed, please share them with in the comments below!
Drift compatible photo
You can always find me in the drift
I’ve been thinking a lot about ogres lately. Specifically, Cho’gall, the recently released two-headed character in Heroes of the Storm. As far as I know, he’s totally unique in the MOBA world as the only her...

Figuring out which of the usual suspects I'll play in Fallout 4

Nov 13 // Nic Rowen
Character creation is something I love in games, maybe a little too much. As I’ve talked about before, I have a tendency to slip into an eternal planning mode -- sketching out possible character builds, ideas, and dorky little stories -- while never actually sitting down to play any of them out if I’m not careful. Or I end up chain-smoking characters, making one, playing around for an hour or so (which barely counts as playing at all when you’re talking about the Fallouts and Dragon Ages of the world), and wandering back to the “new game” screen to try out another one. Pretty soon, I’ve had the game for over a week and have only managed to see the tutorial area. Not a great use of one’s time. What I’ve come to over the past few years has been a system of recycling a few characters over in different games in different genres. I take the same characters with the same basic preferences and attitudes and run with them. Building around a few personality traits like “loves sneak attacks and charms his way through conversations” or “always goes with the most aggressive combat option available and never tells a lie” and try to fit them into whatever game I’m playing. Sometimes that means running straight at the enemy with a two-handed sword, other times it means teleporting to them with a nuclear-powered shotgun in hand. To me, it’s been the best middle ground between ruthlessly planning out my characters and pointlessly faffing about. Not only do I have a rough idea of what kind of skills, equipment, and storylines I want to lean towards with a character, but by having clearly defined characters with their own weird ways of going about their business, it also keeps the gameplay fresh. I’ve made characters based on myself in the past, or just gone with the generic hero type they start you with, but you know what? That’s boring. When I call a character Nic, curse him with a mop of red hair, a slightly round face, and send him out to save the galaxy or tame the wasteland, he always turns out to be a real fence-sitting drag about it. Because I can’t help but start approaching the game the way I would in real life, as a kind of generally decent guy who doesn’t want to set off a nuclear bomb in the middle of a crowded settlement, or really stick his nose in other people’s business either. I end up equipping weapons and armor based on stats and efficiency because it’s not like I have a strong preference in real life. Left to my own devices, things tend to be a little drab. But if I put myself in the shoes of Jabberwalk, a bomb-chucking madman, it’s a different story. Or Sophie, a de facto serial killer who always takes the most backstabbing or underhanded “solution” to a problem possible and has a real love for stilettos and straight razors. Or Gershom, a lumbering old man driven by his principals to help the weak as best he can, and grind the wicked into a fine paste with the biggest hammer or piece of unwieldy artillery around. Or maybe Piss-Pot, a disgusting lizardman who is always a treat to try and build in games that don't include lizardmen as an option. Things get interesting fast with those weirdos. Their baked-in preferences force me to approach the game differently, to play around with different perks, conversation choices, and gear that I might not touch otherwise. Which leads me to Fallout 4 and trying to figure out which of my little rotating cast would fit the game best. Fallout 4, annoyingly enough, starts out presupposing the player character is the type to have successfully held down a pre-war job and a working relationship, not exactly traits a lot of my characters tend to fit in with (which maybe says a little bit more about myself than my characters). I plan to spend a lot of time wandering the Boston wasteland, and I want to make sure I’m doing it with a character that will enjoy it as much as I’m hoping I will, so it’s not a decision I take lightly. I’m leaning towards a sneaky type of character; the villainous side quests in Fallout are always the best, after all. I’d love to know how other people do it. Do you make a fresh character out of whole cloth every time you start a new game? Brew up a self-insertion character and stab orcs or shoot super mutants as a slightly cooler version of yourself? Or is this the most obvious thing in the world and everybody has their own set of recurring characters like me and I’m the last one to know about it? Did Fallout 4’s implied backstory change the way you made your character this time around? Let me know in the comments!
Character creation photo
A man's character is his fate
I never walk into a character creation screen alone. Every time I start a new RPG where you have to brew up a character to spend the next 30-80 hours with, I bring a few familiar faces with me. A small cast of characters I&rs...

Is Rise of the Tomb Raider the best Uncharted?

Nov 11 // Steven Hansen
Now, though, Lara's come out ahead. It was a mild challenge during the Rise of the Tomb Raider review to not compare it to Nathan Drake's adventures. The things that excited me about Uncharted 4, that differentiated it from its stale third entry, a lot of those have -- at least superficially -- been done by Rise of the Tomb Raider. The contextual stealth bushes (as seen in the upcoming Horizon Zero Dawn, too), the grappling hook. Uncharted has always had stealth and its grappling hook might prove more meaningful than Rise's I-can-jump-further-now tool, but those things might not feel like meaningful additions with two games from a direct competitor now released since the last Uncharted five years ago. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception was less than well-received for bringing little new to the table, instead offering a disjointed series of set-pieces that could have been strung together by throwing darts at a board. Rise of the Tomb Raider threads its hub worlds and set-piece sections -- a derelict Soviet gulag built vertically into the side of a mountain -- together much more organically. It also basically mushes Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3's antagonists into one game (spoilers in this paragraph). Konstantin is a Burberry-clad Lazarević, just as driven and merciless -- a common trope of a character -- and even serves as Rise's final boss fight in full tactical gear, not unlike in Uncharted 2. Here, though, it's a stealth affair with Konstantin disarming Lara, who must sneak around the ruined arena and stab him a few times. Meanwhile, equally posh Ana, the character really running things, has shades of Katherine Marlowe. Superficial, maybe. Maybe it stands out because of the general rarity of older-aged British women as villains. Rise of the Tomb Raider also handles the requisite third act turn to the supernatural better than any Uncharted since the first, which became a creepy, horror-tinged affair to smartly contrast all the lush jungle violence. In Rise, it means expansion to the visual palette with all the blue flames and orange embers (shortly after introducing the new class of regular enemy with the lens flare-ish flashlights and dot sights -- a good look). The enemies' melee focus makes sense and moves the third act away from strict cover shooting, which is welcomed for its variety but also because the cover shooting is probably Tomb Raider's weakest part. Then there's Rise's position as one of the prettiest games of the year, an Uncharted staple. It isn't just the technology or graphical fidelity, but a new focus on using color, lighting, and other visual cues to set the mood. It is colorful without Uncharted's more cartoonishness. Had Uncharted 4 made its holiday 2015 release, it mainly would've been up against itself, or its past self. Being better than Uncharted 3 would've been enough for a lot of people. Rise of the Tomb Raider raises the standards though, by iterating in a lot of areas where Uncharted excels. The former is still bogged down by bloat (crafting and skill trees and static menu audio logs and so on) and a go-nowhere story that was more than tired by the time Uncharted got to it (protagonists want thing, antagonists also want thing), but it nails movie-like visual direction (down to the color grading) and exhilarating platforming.
Rise of expectations photo
Standards up five years post Uncharted 3
Both Crystal Dynamics and Microsoft lucked out that the tumult behind Uncharted 4: A Thief's End's development shift and scrapped work pushed Naughty Dog's adventure into 2016. It gives Microsoft the best exclusive holiday...

Review Drama photo
Review Drama

Fragile gamer says she just can't handle Destructoid reviews anymore (Fauxclusive)


She can't even
Nov 10
// CJ Andriessen
Wiping a stream of tears from her cheek, New Jersey gamer Claudia Bennet confirmed today she can no longer deal with reviews from Destructoid.com. "I just don't understand," Bennet cried while clutching her copy of Fallout 4....

Experience Points .27: GoldenEye 007

Nov 07 // Ben Davis
No guns, mines only, final destination The main reason GoldenEye is remembered so fondly is no doubt because of the multiplayer. Four-player split-screen multiplayer was a big deal at the time, especially for a first-person shooter on consoles. It was actually my very first experience with a first-person shooter. I played GoldenEye so much with my brother, friends, and cousins that we started to develop our own rules and go-to gameplay modes which dominated our multiplayer sessions. My absolute favorite thing to do in multiplayer GoldenEye is to play "proximity mines only." Choosing proximity mines also comes with a few guns as well, but my friends and I played where we would only kill each other with the mines. Guns were only to be used to shoot mines, never other players. Of all the weapon types to choose from, and even of all the different types of mines to choose from, proximity mines were the most fun, in my opinion, due to how unexpectedly they can explode. Just toss a mine up on a wall, wait for someone to wander too close to it, and BAM! "Proximity mines only" matches were especially tense because of how tiny the mines are, making them rather difficult to spot. If a player sees one before walking too close, they can carefully aim and shoot it down, or even toss another mine at it to make it explode. This could also cause a chain reaction of nearby mines exploding as well, engulfing the entire area in flames as players run for their lives. I always tried to find clever places to hide mines, such as on the ceiling, on the floor, on an ammo crate, or on a glass wall (which I then shot, of course, leaving the mine floating in thin air). The element of surprise when someone walked into a room and suddenly exploded without seeing a mine anywhere in sight never got old. Sometimes a player would even respawn directly on top of a mine, dying in a dramatic explosion immediately after coming back to life. My friends and I would sit there and play with proximity mines for hours, blowing up and howling with laughter every single time. Nooks and crannies Speaking of multiplayer, the Complex stage was totally my jam. The Basement may have been the best layout for proximity mine matches, but I always felt the most comfortable running around the Complex. The reason for this was because of the Complex's secret hiding places. There are a few areas in the Complex where it's possible to sort of phase through the walls, leading to small rooms where I could hide and wait for people to walk by. Somehow, very few of my friends knew about these hiding spots, so I could wait in safety while they wandered around the building desperately searching for me, then pop out and shoot them while their backs were turned. They would never see me coming, and would get so mad because I surprised them every time. I felt like a ninja. The Complex also had some of the best sniping spots. Whoever managed to make it to the upper-level room in the middle first usually ended up racking up a ton of kills, since there were windows opening out to several of the main rooms all in one convenient location. There's also a spot in the room with the spiral ramp where it's possible to hide in the shadows and shoot people from below. I tried to take advantage of all of these different hiding spots to kill my friends from safe locations and confuse the heck out of them by staying out of sight. Of course, after a while my friends stopped picking that level because they knew I would win! Kong. James Kong. GoldenEye's cheat options were a ton of fun to play around with, and conveniently available to choose from a menu on the main screen. Paintball Mode was almost required to be turned on while playing with my friends. All it did was replace bullet holes with splotches of paint, but for some reason, it was the only way we played. I always liked to draw smiley faces out of the paint by carefully shooting designs onto the walls. We also played around with Turbo Mode occasionally, which greatly increases everyone's movement speed. This made "proximity mines only" even more chaotic! The weirdest cheat in GoldenEye, though, was called DK Mode. This cheat transforms all of the character models into grotesque shapes which are apparently supposed to resemble Donkey Kong, with huge heads, tiny bodies, and really long arms. The characters look so inhuman and ridiculous that it's almost impossible not to laugh. I mean, look at Natalya up there. What even is she? Combine DK Mode with Turbo Mode and my friends and I would be out of breath from laughter in no time at all! Crazy gorilla people zooming around at high speeds, their gigantic heads popping up out of nowhere with their freakishly long arms pointing a gun at me... it's just too much. I'm so glad Nintendo published this game, if only because it gave us these hilarious, hideously deformed characters as a cheat option. I am invincible! Everyone has their favorite Bond character to choose for multiplayer matches, whether it's the classic choices of James or Natalya, the villainous Xenia or Jaws, or even the more generic Helicopter Pilot or Moonraker Elite if you're feeling sassy. Just don't go picking Oddjob, or else you're probably going to lose some friends! My favorite character has always been Boris. He may just be a boring old computer technician, but I loved his bold fashion choice of wearing a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt and shorts for combat. There's no way to be stealthy while wearing a Hawaiian shirt, which means Boris is apparently confident enough in his abilities to attract the attention of everyone around him and still come out a winner (he is invincible, after all). Or maybe he's trying to confuse everyone into thinking he's a civilian. Or he's simply clueless when it comes to combat situations. Whatever the reason, I love his style and wouldn't want to play as anybody else! Far from the uncanny valley One of my personal favorite things about GoldenEye is all the bizarre faces on each of the character models. They're meant to look like the actors from the movies, and the enemy faces are meant to look like some of the staff at Rare. What they actually look like, however, is more like a cut-out of a real human's face stretched over a cartoonish 3D model, which I suppose is a technically accurate description of how they were made. The faces look so weird on the character models though, to the point that it's honestly hilarious. The enemy soldiers' faces are especially fantastic, because many of them have these exaggerated expressions that never change. So as they're rolling expertly across the ground, shooting with a gun in each hand, and falling over in dramatic death animations, they always have that same silly expression no matter the situation. I think my favorite face is the bearded guy with the crooked grin and what looks like a scar across one eye. I feel like I see him all over the place, and no matter what he happens to be doing at the time, his expression always makes me laugh. I wonder who that guy is? Spies on a train The multiplayer isn't the only fun thing in GoldenEye, of course. The single-player campaign is solid as well, taking Bond on missions throughout Russia and Cuba to visit all of the main locations from the film. There are a bunch of neat missions, including Frigate, where he must rescue several hostages on a ship near Monte Carlo; Statue Park, where he has to navigate a maze of creepy statues in the dark; and the Streets of St. Petersburg, where he drives a tank through the city while trying not to kill too many civilians. One of my favorite levels is the Train mission. This level was pretty difficult for a few reasons. It takes place almost entirely aboard a train, with Bond moving from the tail end up towards the engine, which means combat happens within confined spaces. Not only are the train cars small, but they're packed full of boxes and swarming with enemy soldiers, so Bond has to be very careful or else he might end up trapped between a group of bad guys all shooting him at once. The most intense bits are towards the end when he has to move through the passenger cars, since soldiers could be hiding behind any of the multitude of closed doors. Somehow, a few enemies always manage to end up behind me! The most difficult part of the level comes at the end, though. When Bond enters the final train car, he finds Natalya being held hostage by Ourumov, with Trevelyan and Xenia standing guard behind them. He must act quickly and shoot Ourumov before he can kill Natalya. The other two make their escape (I always tried to shoot them anyway, even though they always manage to get away), leaving Bond and Natalya trapped inside of the train with a short amount of time before it explodes. The rest of the mission involves trying to find a way out of the train by using Bond's handy watch laser to melt open a panel in the floor, while waiting for Natalya to hack into a computer in order to locate the Janus secret base. As usual, Natalya is slow as molasses and takes her sweet time cracking Boris' password, leaving just a few seconds to escape the train before she blows up. This is life or death, Natalya, hurry it up! Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition.25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.26: Dark Souls
GoldenEye 007 photo
For England, James?
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Resident Evil photo
Resident Evil

Did the Umbrella Corporation help write the TPP? (Fauxclusive)


You down with TPP?
Nov 06
// CJ Andriessen
The full text of the Trans Pacific Partnership, the massive trade deal that will finally turn the Pacific Rim into one giant corporatocracy, was released yesterday to an expected amount of skepticism. While government offic...
Dtoid Designs photo
Dtoid Designs

Dtoid Designs: The Super Mario Maker Un-Mario Challenge


Can you make a non-Mario level?
Nov 01
// CJ Andriessen
UPDATE: The entry period for November's Dtoid Designs contest has ended. Dtoid Designs is back for round two. What's that? You missed the results from October's challenge? But they were posted at 9:30 on a Saturday night that...
Dtoid Designs photo
Dtoid Designs

Dtoid Designs: The 5 best Halloween Super Mario Maker levels


See how creative this community can be!
Oct 31
// CJ Andriessen
Last month we asked you, the Destructoid community, to show us your level creation skills with the first Dtoid Designs contest. The challenge was to create a Super Mario Maker level based on the theme of Halloween a...

Video game ghost stories #3: Buried in the ground

Oct 31 // Ben Davis
~ I met all of my neighbors today. Most of them were really nice; I can already tell that Samson and I are going to be great friends. The eagle was a bit grumpy though, and the cat seemed full of herself. But I'm sure we can get along! A lot of them also have Gyroids in their homes. I tried to ask where they came from, but no one seems to know for sure. Buzz, the grumpy eagle, told me that he sees them in the ground sometimes when it's raining. Very strange... I'd never even heard of them before moving to this town. Aside from meeting the neighbors, I also got a job working at the raccoon's convenience store. So he runs the only store in town and manages all of the properties. It seems like he has as much influence on the town as the mayor. Maybe even more. He gave me a job and a place to live, so I definitely owe the guy. I'm not sure where I would be without him. ~ It was raining all day today, and guess what I found? As I was running late to work, I tripped over a lump in the ground. It was a Gyroid; Buzz was right! It was making this really weird gurgling sound and moving around every now and then like it was trying to break free of the mud. It had that sad, vacant expression that all the other Gyroids have. For some reason, I felt like I couldn't just leave it there, so I decided to take it home. ~ I got a letter in the mail today from Monique, the snooty cat. Apparently she's moving away soon. I've only been in town for about a week, so I didn't get to know her very well. The other neighbors say that people come and go all the time here, so it's not really strange for someone to suddenly decide to move out. Well, maybe someone a bit nicer will move into her place. In other news, that Gyroid I picked up the other day seems to be doing fine. It's still making that gurgling sound, though. I thought it was just doing that because it was stuck in the mud out in the rain, but it keeps gurgling away every so often. The sound mixed with its expression is a little unsettling. Sometimes it almost feels like it's trying to tell me something. ~ Today was the day that Monique was supposed to move out, so I decided to walk over to her place to see if she had left yet, and her house was gone! There was no sign of it anywhere. I got really confused, thinking I had walked to the wrong part of town, but her house definitely used to be right there. I remembered she lived directly south of the post office, so there was no mistake. Did they just bulldoze her house as soon as she left or something? Why would they do that? I went over to ask Samson what the deal was, and he says this kind of thing happens all the time. Whenever someone decides to move away, he gets a letter from them in the mail, and then a few days later they've left town and their house is gone. He thinks it must be Nook's idea to demolish old houses, since he owns the properties. It seems like a waste of money to build brand new houses for every new neighbor, though. Oh well. It's not really my problem. ~ It's been raining all week. I went to the post office today to deposit my rent and happened upon another Gyroid. Strangely enough, it was lying in the ground right where Monique's house used to be. This one was writhing around and making a horrible wailing noise, rather than the gurgling sound the other one makes. Wailing with that sad, empty expression... it sent a shiver down my spine. Once again I felt compelled to bring it home with me. I stored it in the basement next to the gurgling one so that I wouldn't hear the wailing all the time. They only seem to make noises when they see me. ~ Today was a big day! There was a sign near the museum saying that someone new was moving in soon, so construction on their house was underway. I also got a letter in the mail from Buzz saying he's about to move away. Things sure do happen quickly in this town. I went to say goodbye to Buzz, since we've been on good terms lately, but he seemed really distracted. I guess he has a lot to do to prepare for the move, so I can't blame him. I'll miss him, but at least I can look forward to meeting the new neighbor. ~ It rained again today. I had the sudden urge to go for a walk near where Buzz used to live, and guess what? I found another Gyroid, right where his house used to be. It was just like what happened when Monique moved. This one makes a hollow wooden sound, but it still feels like it's trying to tell me something. I took it home, of course. I'm starting to get a very weird feeling about these Gyroids, though. I keep finding them whenever someone moves. Could it be a coincidence? ~ Samson will be moving away soon, according to a letter I got in the mail. I can't believe he didn't tell me in person! I went by his house to talk to him about it, but he seemed out of it. It reminded me of how distracted Buzz had been before his big move. This is really sad news; I'm gonna miss that mouse. But it does give me a chance to settle some suspicions I've been having. I plan to camp outside Samson's house to see what happens tonight before the big move. ~ Oh my god. He killed him. Tom Nook killed Samson. I was hiding in the trees next to Samson's house, and around three in the morning, Tom Nook knocked on his door. When Samson opened it, Nook hit him in the head with an axe! I couldn't see what happened next, because Nook went inside and closed the door. All I could hear was the sound of an axe thumping. Next thing I know, Nook came back outside, dug a hole in the ground, and buried what looked like body parts. Then he stole all the furniture and disassembled the entire house with unbelievable speed and skill, and walked calmly back to his store with all of Samson's belongings in tow. My heart was pounding out of my chest as I ran back home. What just happened? I have to get out of town quick. Should I warn the other villagers first? A hollow wooden sound made me heart skip a beat. I looked in the corner and saw the Gyroid from Buzz's house, and suddenly it hit me. Nook had buried Samson's body in the ground outside his house. He must have done the same with everyone else. Is this how Gyroids are created? From the bodies of the dead? But why are they still moving and making sounds? Do they remember? My mind is reeling from everything that has happened tonight... ~ I must have passed out last night. I awoke to someone knocking on my door, and got up and answered it without thinking. It was Rasher, the new neighbor. He said he got a letter from me in the mail telling him I was moving soon. Was I being pranked? It took a moment for his words to register, but suddenly everything made sense. I didn't know what to say. I must have shrugged off Rasher in a haze as I stumbled back into my house. It must have been Nook who sent all those letters. No wonder Samson didn't tell me he was moving. It wasn't his choice. Tom Nook chooses who comes and goes in this town. And I'm the next to go.
Video game ghost stories photo
Happy Halloween!
Journal Entry #1: I moved to a new town today. It was a last-minute decision, and I didn't even have a place picked out, so it was a little scary. Luckily, a raccoon named Nook showed me some really cheap houses to rent, so I...

I wanted to be The Wizard

Oct 31 // Nic Rowen
Anyone else remember the movie The Wizard? You know, that piece of shameless Nintendo product placement released to the public under the guise of entertainment? The film where we learned to “love the glove?” Well I do. Frankly, it was a real piece of shit of a movie, but I saw at an impressionable time and it will always hold a small special place in my heart. The Wizard was a weird movie. It was a cynical exercise in co-marketing that waffled between cheesy narm and uncomfortable self-seriousness. It told the story of a traumatized autistic child but also featured a pubescent Fred Savage uncomfortably flirting with some poor 13-year-old girl.  At the time though, the only message I took away from The Wizard was about being wicked sick at video games. About being so unbelievably good that people would stand up and cheer when they saw you stomp on a goomba, that they would lose their shit when you set a record lap in Radmobile. That the solution to fixing everything wrong with your life was as simple as finding the the warp whistle. I was in love with the idea. I was never a cool kid, never popular. Even in the context of our lame-ass church youth group, I was pretty low on the old totem pole. But with this game competition I knew I’d been given a golden opportunity. I was good at games, way better than anyone else I knew. While the details about the competition were a little sketchy, the one thing they were sure of was that it would culminate with a big screen performance projected on the theater screen in the camp’s main auditorium (just like the end of The Wizard!) and the winning group would receive a brand new Sega Genesis console. This was my chance stand out and impress everyone. To win a prize for our group and be a big shot. To show them who I really was. And for better or worse, I did. I remember being so thrilled the morning of the competition. The tournament had a weird structure. There would be some preliminary games played during the afternoon to whittle down the herd a bit (which for the life of me I can’t remember) and for the main event that evening to determine a winner, we’d be playing Sonic the mother fucking Hedgehog. The fools were playing right into my hands. It was like it was meant to be. Sonic was practically my best friend. I was a fucking EXPERT at Sonic. In fact, I’d already won a small competition at a local video store years ago (a story I blogged about back in the day) playing Sonic. A little piece of trivia I decided to slyly keep to myself that whole afternoon, only sharing it with a few members of my group. I let them know that so long as we made it to the finals we were good. A few years before this, I pretty much spent a summer of my young life playing Sonic 1. It was the only game we had for the Genesis at the time and rentals for the system were scarce in my area, so I just ended up replaying it over and over again. My obsessive knowledge of the Green Hill Zone had served me before, and it looked like it was set to pay off again.   That evening we slowly filled the auditorium/theater room. The councilors, bless them, had done a really great job of making it a cool event for the kids. They’d wired up a system to play on a small monitor at the back of the room while the action was projected across a surprisingly professional movie screen for the spectators. They were even handing out bags of popcorn. As an uber-geeky 11-year-old who practically worshiped games, seeing the Sonic title screen displayed 30 feet wide and hearing the familiar music piped through a theater sound system was practically a religious experience (I mean, probably not the one the councilors intended, but still). They'd rigged up some kind of scoring mechanism that rewarded both time and points. Each group would pick someone to play for them and it was up to that kid to set as high a score as possible. Truth be told, I ignored them shortly into the whole explanation because I knew that in Sonic, time and points were the same thing. The person who finished the level the fastest and cleanest would always outscore everyone else, regardless of how many robots they popped or rings they collected. In fact, it seemed almost misleading to even separate the ideas (not that I was going to tell the other kids that). We were slated to be the third group up to bat. The way the competition was set up one member of each youth group would represent their little tribe for this final confrontation, and of course I was the designated hitter. I'd talked up my Sonic skills and knew I was the one to do it, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a little last minute doubt, some panic. I mean, it had already been a few years since I was really into Sonic, what if I was rusty? What if I choked? This whole thing could backfire. As soon as I saw the first two teams take their turn, I knew how mistaken such doubts were. Please know that I’m not trying to brag when I tell you how badly I beat the other kids. I’m not trying to hold up my skill at Sonic when I was 11 years old as some kind of point of pride. It is just the plain fact that I annihilated the other kids as soon as it was my turn. In whatever block of time they gave each of us to rack up points, I made it all the way to Robotnik, killed him, and started on the next zone before they told me to stop. None of the other kids made it that far -- some of them didn’t even clear the first stage. The worst part about it? I wasn’t even all that happy with my performance. I knew that if I had practiced I could have done A LOT better (#humblebrag before it was cool). You have to understand, the other kids were not “gamers” like I was. They were there to play around, see the hedgehog jump over the spikes and collect a few rings. For them, the definition of being good at the game was “not dying too much”. At the height of my Sonic obsession, I was measuring success by milliseconds. It was straight up rhino versus baby stuff. Shockingly, most of the kids weren’t exactly stoked by my performance. Instead of the cheers I expected, there was a decidedly uncomfortable atmosphere. A few scattered (begrudging) applause here and there amidst a whole lot of murmuring. Even the kids from my own youth group were kind of quiet. They were excited to win of course, but they took the temperature of the room and knew it probably wasn’t the best time to bust out in jumping jacks. I saw a couple of the adults running the event talking to each other. I got the distinct impression they were talking about me, like this was a problem. Like they thought I cheated somehow -- if not in actuality, at least in the spirit of the competition. I was a little 11-year-old ball of indignity, utterly galled at the injustice of it. Nobody thought it was cheating earlier in the day during the Shirts and Skins basketball match (FYI, I was a Shirt by insistence) when the kids that played youth league basketball scored easy rebound after easy rebound on me. Why should they have? The basketball kids put in the work, practiced, and were (way) better at basketball than me. But when I got a chance to take them on in the one weird arena where I excelled, suddenly it was somehow a trick? They were acting like I conned them when really I was just incredibly over-specialized at a game they were unlucky enough to turn into a competition (and yeah, I could have probably stood to branch out a bit more with my hobbies, but shut up). In the end, our group was declared the winner. I mean, what were they going to do, say my turn didn’t count? Much to my disappointment, there was no parade. The competition just kind of petered out as the last few groups took their (pathetic) turns and shuffled off. Our youth minister took the stupid prize Sega and I never saw it again. Either he kept it for himself, or decided that video games weren’t appropriate for a religious environment, or maybe the whole boondoggle just left him with a sour taste. After that, I was pretty sure I was doomed. I had my big chance and somehow blown it by being too good (which I thought was the whole freaking point of a competition, but what do I know). I started to wonder if there was anyone out there who loved games the way I did. This was 1994, way before I would even learn what the Internet was. The only other real game enthusiast I knew was my brother. It was the heyday of Jack Thompson and the popular idea that Mortal Kombat was turning kids into crazed serial killers. Magazines like EGM and Nintendo Power let you know you weren't completely alone, but it all felt so far away and removed from real life. It was a weirdly lonely time to love games. The deflated balloon of my misguided childhood dream is why I can’t get mad at modern YouTube stars who make 4 million a year screaming at the screen while they play games, no matter how much I don’t personally like the content. It’s why I don’t sneer at eSports, even when they struggle with growing pains and identity crises. It’s why I try to book days off every year in the summer to watch EVO. For as silly as it can be, I love the growth of games as a spectator event. The now-reality that people really will gather to watch talented players being wicked sick at games, to cheer them on and lose their shit with every big play and comeback. The fulfillment of The Wizard’s promise, delivered 25 years late, but finally arrived. If an 11-year-old were to stumble on The Wizard today, he or she could take it the same way I did, but they wouldn't be so wrong. The idea of a video game tournament people give a shit about isn't some Hollywood fantasy anymore, it's a daily reality. Now, The Wizard (however dated and cheesy) would play like any other movie about garage bands making it big, or underdog athletes with a lot of heart triumphing against the odds. Hollywood schmaltz of course, but the same kind that inspires some kids to pick up a guitar, or start running extra laps before school. The kind of schmaltz that sets some kids on an arc that will take them beyond dabbling in a hobby or pastime and take it further, to see if they can turn their passion into a profession. I was too early to be The Wizard, but there is a whole generation of apprentices out there just waiting for their shot.
The Wizard photo
Games as a spectator sport
When I was a kid in the ancient days of the early ‘90s I was part of a church youth group. Obviously this was before I morphed into a surly, foul-mouthed teen (and then an even more profane adult). Every year the youth ...


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