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The best and worst games of 2013: Infinite March

Apr 06 // Jordan Devore
Etrian Odyssey IV (3DS) Etrian Odyssey IV the best series title yet, and an excellent place to start if you've never played one before. It is, by far, the most accessible series game yet, with its Casual mode and its wide-open, free-exploration gameplay. And for the first time, despite being a dungeon crawler at heart, an Etrian Odyssey title feels like a sprawling adventure.  For series fans, everything you love about Etrian Odyssey is here, and then some -- better music, art, monsters, and mapping. You will not be disappointed. For everyone else: fans of classic dungeon crawling, fans of planning and plotting, or fans of a sizable challenge, I cannot recommend Etrian Odyssey IV enough. Read the full Etrian Odyssey IV review Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus (PlayStation Vita) On top of the technical issues, there's barely anything new that's been added here to justify another purchase. It's a shame, because I really enjoyed the original Ninja Gaiden 2 and Sigma 2. Team Ninja really missed the opportunity to add a killer feature like the ability to replay Time Attack missions with extra characters or enhance Ninja Race, which would have justified a double/triple-dip. With the removal of content like Japanese audio and online co-op, this game doesn't offer enough to truly justify the "Plus" in its name. Team Ninja really needs to get its act together going forward, or the Ninja Gaiden series will be beyond repair. Read the full Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus review March of the Eagles (PC) There still remains some obstacles to an enjoyable evening of name-calling and war-declaring, unfortunately. Throughout my multiplayer matches, there's been players dropping, a shoddy "metaserver" that simply didn't work, the need to connect directly via IP as if we were still in the '90s, and the weirdest issue so far: the checksum of half the players changing, stopping us from being able to play together for about 30 minutes. Get past that nonsense and it's bloody marvelous. If you have the patience.  I'd happily recommend March of the Eagles based exclusively on the multiplayer, but if you prefer your gaming to be a solo venture, then it might not really offer quite as much. Those looking to get stuck into a historical war and not a lot else may still find conquering Europe and giving ol' Bonaparte what for entertaining, though, and as a game doesn't tend to go on for longer than eight hours in single-player, it won't devour your life.  Read the full March of the Eagles review Driftmoon (PC) [...] diehard RPG fans like myself will find things like the lack of party controls and the basic skill tree a bit too simple when compared to games like Baldur's Gate orThe Witcher. Driftmoon is, in its own right, an adventure worth having though, largely thanks to its witty writing and absolutely splendid humor. It’s a bit of salvation in a genre that seems to be limping by these days. Driftmoon is very obviously a labor of love. A lot of time and dedication went into creating it, and it shows. Though it may fall short in some areas, this is a classic RPG through and through. Beginners and veterans alike should take note and try out the demo at the very least. Read the full Driftmoon review Alien vs. Predator: Evolution (Android, iPhone, iPad) In fact, as I think about it, I have to give the devil his due. AvP: Evolution is actually worse than Colonial Marines -- ever so slightly worse. At least getting from A to B in Gearbox's insulting mess was relatively stress-free and didn't cause me to want to break something. For that roaring triumph, Colonial Marines now gets to enjoy not being the worst Aliens game to be released this year.  Congratulations to AvP: Evolution! You've managed to be marginally worse than an unfinished, buggy, outsourced piece of trash. You must be very proud.  Read the full Alien vs. Predator: Evolution review Tomb Raider (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Tomb Raider could so easily have gone wrong, and its opening gambit looks like it's heading down a most erroneous path. It starts off with some ambushing QTEs and absolutely pummels Lara Croft into the dirt to such a degree, you'd almost suspect the developers were getting off on it. This first impression is an awkward obfuscation, however, one that soon erodes to reveal a savvy, thoughtful, and above all, immensely enjoyable game. In fact, I'm happy to go on record as saying this is the best Tomb Raider game I've played. Tightly produced, competent in both its puzzling and its combat, this is one reboot that manages to be unequivocally superior to its predecessors. Read the full Tomb Raider review Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires (PlayStation 3) The Empires series is generally considered the best type of Dynasty Warriors spin-off, but with Koei's latest efforts smacking of no effort at all, this particular release comes across as unnecessary and pointless, especially with Dynasty Warriors 8 already out in Japan and inevitably preparing for a Western launch in a matter of months. This is still a decent enough game if you literally cannot get your fill of Warriors games, but for this lifelong fan of the series, Koei's been delivering too much of too little for a while now, and I'm about at the end of my tether. Read the full Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires review Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Hangman (iOS, PC [Reviewed]) As a first episode, The Hangman does more right than it does wrong. The influence of Jane Jensen, and Phoenix Online's previous work on its labor of love, The Silver Lining -- itself inspired by the hey-day of adventure gaming -- makes Cognition feel very much like what I suspect Sierra Online would have been putting out now if they were still around. Most importantly, I'm eager to get stuck into the second episode.  Read the full Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Hangman review Dollar Dash (PC, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade) Dollar Dash is a serviceable game, even if it doesn't aim very high. If you're bored of constant deathmatches in Spelunky's multiplayer versus mode, or you've saturated every last round of Bomberman and the many clones it spawned over the years, Dollar Dash will give you a few evenings of enjoyment. Read the full Dollar Dash review Mass Effect 3: Citadel (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC) For those of us who are heavily invested in the series, for whatever reason, it means putting away something special. This was a modern sci-fi epic that attempted, at least, to give the player a voice. I don’t think this trip quite took the path that anyone thought it would, but it’s been an interesting ride. If this is how BioWare wants to close Shepard’s chapter, I can live with this. It’s not a perfect finale, but it’s one that highlights the best we’ve seen from the series so far, and it’s not without its own set of endearing idiosyncrasies.  Read the full Mass Effect 3: Citadel review DmC: Devil May Cry: Vergil's Downfall (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) In a way, Vergil's Downfall represents the game DmC might have been -- less fluff, more style. But at the same time, like many areas of DmC, it lacks substance. You'll fight very samey enemies across five areas that also bear a resemblance to stages from the core game, which at the end of the day, just isn't quite enough to justify DLC pricing for everyone. If you loved DmC, you really can't go wrong here. But if it wasn't everything you had hoped for, Vergil's Downfall will do little than give you a glimpse into the stylish Devil May Cry of old, at least from an aesthetic perspective. Read the full DmC: Devil May Cry: Vergil's Downfall review God of War: Ascension (PlayStation 3) Ascension had challenges coming from every direction from early on. Some of the franchise's core mechanics have grown a bit tired over the past years, which had gamers questioning the need for another title. Beyond this, some questioned the need for a prequel story. Most of all, the idea of a multiplayer addition was initially off-putting to vocal series fans. But, like Kratos, Sony Santa Monica ripped through every one of these challenges with their bare hands to bring us a game that is so fantastic that it should make anyone that ever questioned them feel bad for doing so. God of War has never looked or played better than this. Kratos has never been as deep or interesting as this. They've set the bar so high that I have no idea how they'll be able to follow this one up. Sony Santa Monica should be proud. Series fans should be proud.  Read the full God of War: Ascension review Kersploosh! (3DS eShop) With a bit more content and some tweaking, Kersploosh! could have been one of the best games on the 3DS eShop, because as it stands, it's a hard sell for people who like their experiences padded with more content. If you're okay with a short, enjoyable journey to the bottom of a well though, it's more than enough. Read the full Kersploosh! review The Bridge (PC) The Bridge surprised me multiple times during the eight or so hours I played it. It surprised me with the devious simplicity of the level design, the dark theme that permeates the entirety of the game, and I was especially surprised by how satisfying the game was as a whole. Some of the puzzles are a bit of trial-and-error since the more complicated mechanics take a certain amount of experience to fully understand. The difficulty can also be a bit wonky at times, alternating back and forth between "hard as a five star Sudoku" and "easy as a word search." Read the full The Bridge review SimCity (PC [reviewed], Mac) There is some promise for this to be a good game, but promise alone isn't enough. Even if they do manage to get their servers back online and functioning, I still know that if something goes wrong on their end I will lose all of my saved games. My cities are at the mercy of EA's servers and my Internet connection, and while there are some nice things to be found in SimCity, the need to always be online and feeling forced to play with other people ruins the experience.  I wanted to like this game, I really did. At first I started to enjoy it, but soon all I found was frustration. I can't recommend this game to anyone, and I don't want to play it anymore myself because I am afraid of seeing all my efforts lost due to server issues. It's a decent game if it worked right, but the online dependency, forced multiplayer, and DRM ruin it.  Read the full SimCity review The Banner Saga: Factions (PC, Mac) Consider Factions for what it is: A testing ground and potential cash cow for Stoic's upcoming commercial release, and a fun sample of what's to come. If I were not in the middle of Fire Emblem, I may continue to play Factions -- hell, I may play a random match here and there, anyway. This unorthodox release that has Kickstarter backers in a frenzy is not worth getting so worked up over, as it suggests the single-player Banner Saga may be a gem -- a gem that some will have Factions users to thank for helping make it what it is. Read the full The Banner Saga: Factions review ATV Wild Ride 3D  (3DS eShop) In many ways, ATV Wild Ride 3D is stuck in the 90s, but that isn't wholly a bad thing. It does everything that it advertises -- it allows you to ride ATV vehicles on some pretty neat courses, in 3D. Just don't expect much more than that. Read the full ATV Wild Ride 3D review Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds (Xbox Live Arcade) With its colorful characters, gorgeous sprite graphics, 8-bit tracks, and multiple game modes, there's a lot to love here. I must admit, while I wasn't familiar with the fighting game on which it's based, I'm seriously hoping it passes through localization, as I'd love to play that title as well. Whether playing couch co-op or online, it's a great way to spend an afternoon with friends, though hopefully they'll patch for having a more stable connection for the latter. Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a simple game that anyone can pick up and play, but belies a deeper feel for combos like a traditional fighting game would, while adding a minimal skill tree for damage and speed boosts like an RPG. It's deep without being too deep, which makes it just the right amount of fun. Read the full Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds review Richard & Alice (PC) There is a lot of text to get through, but Richard & Alice is a well-paced adventure. Dialogue-heavy moments between the titular characters are broken up by Richard, under player control, interacting with his room, emailing the prison staff, attempting to fix the AC, all the time still chatting to Alice, and then there are the flashbacks which are evenly paced throughout.  Despite being a short tale, there are multiple endings and subtle, easy-to-miss pieces of information that make Richard & Alice worth at least a second playthrough, something I just did this afternoon. It isn't required, however, as this is a complete story, and all the endings have something to offer both in terms of the closure they provide and their emotional weight. Read the full Richard & Alice review LEGO City Undercover (Wii U) For all its faults, charming is absolutely the word best describing LEGO City Undercover. While more could have been done to exploit the sandbox scenario, and while it sticks a bit too nervously to formula than it could have, Undercover is nonetheless a frequently pleasurable, occasionally hilarious little romp in a new LEGO world full of potential. Should TT Games get another chance to revisit this idea, I hope for -- and expect -- a lot more of an expansion on the concept, and a lot more focus on the fresh elements that provide Undercover's highest points. As for this first try, we have a pretty damn good effort that I'd love to see more of.  Read the full LEGO City Undercover review Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS) Your mileage may vary; from various impressions around the net, a lot of folks have already voiced their approval. And that's fine. I'm happy if you are able to look past the complete exclusion of any of the traditional Castlevania values and appreciate the Western-focused approach, even if it isn't original in the least. I simply cannot share in your enthusiasm. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate is not the fusion of old and new Castlevania designs that was teased; it merely cements MercurySteam's ambition to keep the Lords of Shadow sub-series as distant from the main branch as possible. Not the worst thing in the world, but still quite disappointing. Read the full Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate review Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (PS3) In short, Gust definitely seems to be straddling the line with Atelier Ayesha, showing that they have the talent to construct a plot which doesn’t rely on swimsuit competitions, yet aren’t quite ready to dedicate themselves to the taxing demands of a full RPG adventure. What we’ve left with then is a game without an audience. Fans of traditional RPGs will be turned off by the minimal exploration elements; fans of anime babes in skimpy costumes are unable to get their fix, while fans of generic cutesy anime nonsense really don’t command the buying power to make Atelier Ayesha anything more than a niche title. Read the full Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk review Naruto Powerful Shippuden (3DS) It may not be a perfect brawler, but it's certainly a fun one, and one that any Naruto fan would enjoy. Don't let the art style dissuade you from enjoying the action here, as the RPG-esque elements of stat boosting and defense increases add a special something that future games in the genre should take note of. The humor may also not be for everyone, but if you're like me, you'll love the fact that the game doesn't take itself seriously. It fits the art style as well as the general goofy nature of the characters and situations. Plus, with it being based on Rock Lee's spin-off, you're already getting a unique experience gamers haven't yet tapped into. It's the ideal mix of fun and funny, without being too over-the-top. Read the full Naruto Powerful Shippuden review Super House of Dead Ninjas (PC) This is one game that I know I'll be playing long after this review is finished with. The instant challenge and frantic pace makes it perfect to just pick up and play for 15 minutes, while the tight controls and potentially limitless number of floors makes it easy to pour hours into. If you're not convinced, then check out the free version and see if it floats your boat. I do have one caveat, however. Whatever you do, don't play this with a keyboard. It's possible, but you'll just be giving yourself another unnecessary and fairly unpleasant challenge. Thankfully,Super House of Dead Ninjas comes with native controller support, and after a few initial hiccups, it seems to work perfectly now. Read the full Super House of Dead Ninjas review The Showdown Effect (PC) The Showdown Effect's success will ultimately be dictated by the number of players that stick around. They need to host the games, and they need to provide the challenge for other players. Unlike Magicka, it's a multiplayer, online-only experience, and that's something of a risky endeavor for a small studio. It's a game that deserves to be played, however, and it's one that's a hilarious spectacle to watch too -- something that Arrowhead clearly realizes and is keen to exploit with its Twitch.tv integration. Maybe I should make one of those video thingymabobs? Nah, I don't need any more people laughing at how awful I am.  Read the full The Showdown Effect review Dead Space 3: Awakened (PC, Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3) Speaking as a fan of Dead Space, I feel I could skip Awakened and miss absolutely nothing of value. While some of the new ideas are nice, the sense of disappointment that none of them are capitalized upon offsets any good they do, while the story is nothing you couldn't explain in a single Tweet. While the gameplay is as solid as anything found in Dead Space 3, it could also be acquired simply by replaying chapters of Dead Space 3.  Dead Space 3: Awakened is a whole lot of not much at all. Read the full Dead Space 3: Awakened review Darkstalkers Resurrection  (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) If you're opting to play online, the netcode is extremely solid, and I had a chance to play around 50 games with little to no interruptions or issues. The GGPO-powered online system works just as advertised, and with eight-player lobby support, YouTube upload functionality, and an online tournament mode, Resurrection really shines online. Although the visuals deserved a much larger upgrade than a lazy filter, the fact of the matter is, the engine still holds up amazingly well, and the netcode is near perfect. If you've always been curious about this franchise, now is the time to take the plunge -- if you're a fan of old-school 2D fighters, you won't be disappointed. Read the full Darkstalkers Resurrection review Vampire Crystals (WiiWare) After beating the final boss, the story pulls a Ghosts 'n Goblins and forces you to replay the entire campaign for the true ending, only now the levels take place at night and enemies are unfathomably more aggressive. I died three times during the revamped first stage before dropping the controller and saying, "No more." Clearing the three worlds once only requires a handful of hours, but the tedium that sets in early on makes it feel like far more time has elapsed. There was no way I was suffering through all that again. I can appreciate the classic arcade spirit of Vampire Crystals, but it does little to mask the shortcomings of old-school design while adding its own set of issues. Playing it single-player is chore, but convincing a group to play with you might be even more laborious. There just isn't enough meat on these dusty old bones. Read the full Vampire Crystals review Ridiculous Fishing (iPad, iPhone [reviewed]) Yes, perfect is the word for Ridiculous Fishing. Everything comes together to deliver a cohesive whole that works to alternate between making you smile, making you wonder, and most of all, making you want more. Thankfully, the game is quick to offer more. Just when you think you've seen the end, there's a new area, new item, a new kick in the storyline, or new fish to savor.  Ingeniously designed, continuously compelling, painstakingly crafted, dripping with personality, packed with content -- I like everything about Ridiculous Fishing. Read the full Ridiculous Fishing review Gears of War: Judgment (Xbox 360) Gears of War 3 was still a great little game, but represented the kind of step down indicative of a series that's running out of steam. Gears of War: Judgment puts paid to that impression, proving there's plenty of vitality in Epic's flagship yet; provided it's willing to try some new spins on its established formula. OverRun alone is worthy of praise, but there's just so much stuff going on in this package, there's something for all followers of the series. A few of Judgment's experiments may not be as fondly received as others, but overall it's hard to complain about a game that tries so much, and succeeds in almost all its endeavors.  Read the full Gears of War: Judgment review StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (PC) Heart of the Swarm is a fantastic addition to the StarCraft series, and quite frankly feels on par with a $60 game. It brings almost nothing new to the table, but there's nothing wrong with sticking to a formula you know works well. If you enjoyed Wings of Liberty, or just like RTS games in general, there's no reason not to pick this one up.  Read the full StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm review Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS, Wii U [reviewed]) Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate definitely isn't for everybody. It requires a lot of time and dedication that some people simply can't put forth. It will take a while to get used to the controls, to determine which weapon is best for you, and to discover the tiny nuances to the gameplay. After all is said and done and the big monster is slain, however, nothing is more rewarding. Encountering monsters in Monster Hunter isn't like most other games. Monsters will take your breath away shortly before they take your life away. This is a game that will force you to learn from your mistakes, lest you repeat them and achieve the same failure as before.  While the visuals are far from stunning and the online lacks any sort of host migration, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is one of the best and most rewarding experiences in a long time, and will certainly keep you busy for a while. Read the full Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate review Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Betrayal (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The Betrayal tries to offer more variety than The Infamy did thanks to its high flying antics, but it never truly transcends those ideas on a base level. If it offered a full sandbox with ridiculous spirit powers, it could have made for a pretty amazing superhero sideshow. Instead, the powers feel fairly limiting, as do the worlds they take place in; which feels like a wasted opportunity. Perhaps if the third part can bring the craziness up to 11, this "what if" story will pack a little more punch. Until then, you may want to hold off on going all in, or even partly in, at this point. Read the full Tyranny of King Washington: The Betrayal review Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS) In many ways, Dark Moon's ScareScraper is one of the best multiplayer modes I've ever played. There's so much variety to it, and the formula of combining the cooperative nature with competitive, playful elements is genius. My wife and I couldn't stop playing, and every time I had friends over who owned a 3DS, I beamed a download play version to their portables for a quick few rounds. If Dark Moon was just a single-player experience, it would have been a fleeting, yet enjoyable adventure. But with the addition of an infectious multiplayer element that can't be replicated anywhere else, it makes Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon even better than its predecessor, and one of the clear-cut best games on the 3DS. Read the full Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon review Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 (PC [reviewed], Xbox 360, PS3) There is an enjoyable camp quality to the script, which is full of nonsensical twists and tough guy talk ("We've got a major shit sandwich!") that takes itself way too seriously. I can see some appeal in getting together friends and having some drinks while playing. The constant waypoints and enemy icons make me think that being inebriated would make for an acceptable challenge. Nevermind online, which is composed of 2 maps, 1 mode (Team Deathmatch), and 0 active servers. The task set before Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is not a hard one: make sniping fun. Apparently, City Interactive didn't get the memo, filling the game with a never-ending sequence of following an NPC guide through uneventful, recycled, and ugly environments. Even at four hours, Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 requires a level of patience and commitment that even the best snipers won't be capable of. Read the full Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 review Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360) While the game isn't a genuine sea change from its predecessors, it stays true to the franchise's foundations, and makes up for any lack of innovation with the grand, beautiful spectacle that is its hallmark. The iterative refinements Cyberconnect2 have implemented over the series' history have helped to deepen the gameplay as well, bringing a more satisfying competitive experience while still maintaining accessibility. Though it stumbles somewhat due to unfortunate narrative placement, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a must-play for any Naruto fan, as well as anyone looking to have a good time wallowing in fun anime ridiculousness. Read the full Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 review The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Wii U) It's easy to believe Terminal Reality had the skeleton in place for a unique and enthralling take on the Walking Dead franchise, but with a deadline looming, added absolutely nothing to the bones and tossed out something woefully undercooked. Survival Instinct clearly isn't finished, and has no business expecting money from any paying customer. It's the kind of hurried, jury-rigged game that risks dealing damage to a property -- an especially sour note considering all the excellent work achieved by Telltale's The Walking Dead. By contrast to 2012's adventure game, Survival Instinct cashes in all the property's goodwill to churn out a botched, incomplete, hideous little waste of time and energy.  Read the full The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct review Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity (3DS) It's always tough to judge whether or not a game should be commended or punished for streamlining a series that previously catered to a niche audience. In this case, it simplifies the experience a bit too much, but given that this is the most accessible game yet, it could lead to more potential fans, which is always a good thing. Although it may not be the best game in the franchise, Gates to Infinity is still an enjoyable dungeon crawl, and a beautiful-looking game to boot. So long as you can deal with an easier adventure, this is another mystery worth solving. Read the full Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity review BioShock Infinite (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) As a game, BioShock Infinite has its successes and its falterings consistent with any suitably complex piece of interactive entertainment. As a story, as an exercise in drawing the player into a believable and relevant world, as proof of exactly what a videogame can mean to a person ...  Well, I already said it. BioShock Infinite is damn near perfect. Read the full BioShock Infinite review HarmoKnight (3DS eShop) [...] HarmoKnight is a wonderful bundle of charm and joy that doesn't really punish failure but rather encourages perseverance and dedication. There isn't even a "Game Over" when you die! Instead, the screen reads, "Oh Dear..." Reminds me of a mother who picks up a child who fell off the jungle gym, dusts him off, and gently urges him to try again. It's such a minor touch, but it's nonetheless uplifting. Maybe I'm sentimental like that. It's been seven years since Game Freak last made a non-Pokémon title. HarmoKnight feels like the promising start of many wonderful new experiences to come, so I can only hope we don't have to wait another seven years for a follow-up. Read the full HarmoKnight review Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360) Satisfying gameplay is the crux of the Tiger Woods franchise. All the new modes in the world wouldn't matter if it didn't feel so amazing to actually play. Luckily, Tiger Woods PGA 14 stays true to the core gameplay, and adds a very worthwhile mode with Legends of the Majors. All of the other new bells and whistles are either mediocre or long overdue. The game is hard to recommend to someone who picked up last year's outing, except perhaps to the big golf enthusiasts among you who would appreciate the Legends of the Masters mode more than anyone else. If you're like me, though, and haven't picked up a Tiger Woods game in a while, PGA 14 has the classic gameplay that made the series stand out from its competitors, even if it is starting to show its age graphically. Read the full Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 review Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Wise Monkey (iOS, PC [Reviewed]) Though The Wise Monkey is not all it could have been, it's a strong second episode. Much of it, however, felt almost like filler. The murder of Erica's brother and The Hangman case remain effectively untouched throughout most of this installment, and it does worry me that it has now set up even more mysteries while answering absolutely nothing. I don't doubt that it will all tie together somehow, but Cognition throws so few bones to the player that even the enjoyment of speculation is fruitless.  Read the full Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Wise Monkey review Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The core of Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is still decent. It's a serviceable game, and provides the kind of no-frills, unimaginative action that can at least provide cathartic fantasy violence. If that's what you want, however, you're better off getting the last game -- one that felt more refined, offered more compelling interaction, and will likely be available to purchase for peanuts these days. The Devil's Cartel, by contrast, is buggy, unnecessary, and outstays its welcome before the credits close.  Army of Two has never been an especially bad series, it's just never been an especially good one.The Devil's Cartel is the ultimate example of this. Is it bad? Not especially. But it's a far, far cry from good. Read the full Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel review Sword of the Stars: The Pit (PC) The Pit is very difficult and has that same feeling of "okay, just one more run" that both Binding of Isaac or FTL: Faster Than Light have, but it still feels a bit "been there, done that." The Easy difficulty setting in conjunction with being able to save at any time are great boons for new players, while both the Hard and Insane difficulties are present for you crazy masochists who enjoy that kind of punishment. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Sword of the Stars: The Pit, there just isn't anything that is really mind-blowing. It is a well-polished roguelike that doesn't stray far from expectations, but instead stays in a rather comfortable zone from a game design perspective. Read the full Sword of the Stars: The Pit review Dead or Alive 5 Plus (PSVita) When it comes right down to it, one of last year's best fighting games on home consoles has become one of this year's best handheld fighters. Play control is never hampered by the more cramped constraints of the small button layout, graphics aren't sacrificed on the smaller screen, and just about everything from the feature-rich home version is included here, with a few noticeable exceptions. While not all the extra modes are fantastic, there's something to be said for extra content at all in a port, and the cross-save and cross-play functionality is a welcome addition to any Vita game. Read the full Dead or Alive 5 Plus review DLC Quest (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Indie Games) Still, for less than five dollars, there's enough charm to justify the entry fee. The game's dialog induces anything from smirks to cringes, while the retro-themed graphics and music are joyful in their simplicity. It's a cheap game, with a rudimentary premise, that does enough to keep its joke fresh and feels inherently validating for a player who's grown weary of the game industry's less savory practices.  At the very least, you'll get your money's worth, which often cannot be said for the many games DLC Quest owes its creation to. Read the full DLC Quest review
March 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of March 2013
What a month! Now that March is well behind us (and we remembered to take a look back to ponder), I feel confident in saying that between BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider, and yet another Gears of War, we are well into ...

Ranked: The Gears of War trailers

Mar 18 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]248958:47621:0[/embed] 6. Gears of War: Judgment Despite its impending release, the Gears of War: Judgment trailer has to be the worst of the bunch. It completely ignores the formula that was expertly refined in the previous trailers. Featuring the song "Shooting the Moon" by Mona, the Gears of War: Judgment video takes an entirely different approach than all of its predecessors. Focusing on action, combat, and testosterone, it feels less like a Gears of War trailer, and more like the run-of-the-mill trailer released for almost any other videogame. It's tough not to view this one as the black sheep of the Gears of War trailers. [embed]248958:47622:0[/embed] 5. Gears of War 2 - I Have A Rendezvous With Death This is the most unique of the Gears of War trailers, in the sense that it's the only one to feature a poem instead of a song. Borrowing choice lines from Alan Seeger's writing, this video seems to move step-in-step with the poem. Despite being only the second Gears of War trailer, it didn't take long for Epic to find their groove. This video is highlighted by several defining characteristics that tend to find their way into the series' other trailers. [embed]248958:47623:0[/embed] 4. Gears of War 3 - Ashes to Ashes When Cliff Bleszinski appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to announce Gears of War 3, they showed this reveal trailer. The video unveiled some interesting tidbits about the game such as the inclusion of a female COG, and the introduction of the Lambent as enemies. Aside from these revelations, the video was quite phenomenal. It's probably the trailer that best depicts the hopelessness of war. The look of utter defeat on Dom's face as he gives in to the realization of death is nothing short of incredible. As the camera fades out to show all sects fighting one another with the COGs caught squarely in the middle, you couldn't help but feel as if Gears of War 3 couldn't release fast enough. [embed]248958:47626:0[/embed] 3. Gears of War 2 - Last Day The "Last Day" trailer may be the most emotionally effective one of all because it shows purely the human side of war. There's no combat or action, just soldiers reflecting on the weight of war. As Dom looks at a creased picture of him and Maria, and Marcus stares into the ominously overcast sky, their lives seem semi-normal. That is, until the camera follows Marcus to show him walking from a golden field into a Locust camp -- expressing the permanent blurring of lines between what can even be considered normal anymore. As their elevator plummets into the ground in perfect synchronization with the music, you know that normal's out the window. [embed]248958:47627:0[/embed] 2. Gears of War 3 - Dust to Dust "Dust to Dust" is the trailer that was made for the game that was set to close out the original trilogy. It's unusually action-packed, as it was made to correlate nicely with the apex of the series. What made this trailer really special was the style in which they went about packing in all that action. The entire video is one continuous camera shot, and it's in slow-motion. This, coupled with Mazzy Star's "Into Dust", made for one of the most memorable trailers of all time. [embed]248958:47628:0[/embed] 1. Gears of War - Mad World Here it is. The "Mad World" spot is hands-down the best Gears of War trailer. This probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone. In fact, there's a solid chance that you clicked this article solely to watch it again. When this trailer began to air in 2006, not only did it turn a lot of people on to Gears of War, but it's the reason that a lot of people even bought an Xbox 360 in the first place. There was never any question that "Mad World" would be at the top of this list. In fact, if this were a list of best videogame trailers of all time, this one would probably be in the exact same spot.
Gears of War trailers photo
The emotional side to these tough guys
The Gears of War franchise has a history across its four titles of releasing some of the best cinematic trailers in gaming. Despite the series' reputation of being all about impossibly muscle-bound space marines murderin...

Ranked: The five best Castlevania games

Mar 05 // Chris Carter
As a side note, I have been playing Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate as of yesterday. Reviews are all over the place, and personally, I find it to be a serviceable 2D platformer. No, it's not the classic Castlevania you know and love, but just like Lords of Shadow, it manages to strike a decent compromise and acclimate itself to the genre to the point where most people would have fun with it. There are exploration elements, but they feel limited -- and as a warning, yes, there are some QTEs. I wouldn't consider it even close to worthy of this list, but then again, these are some of the best games of all time on offer here. As usual, the following list is in no particular order. Super Castlevania IV (Super Nintendo - 1991, Virtual Console - 2006) What Castlevania list would be complete without Super Castlevania? A revolution at the time, Super brought Castlevania into the new era of 16-bit, with a mind blowing array of graphical prowess, and an incredible soundtrack to boot. Protagonist Simon Belmont could now whip in eight directions, hold out his whip to utilize a new attack, and grapple select hooks. You could also (gasp!) control your character while jumping, and crouch walk. As a result, players had more control over Simon's actions, creating a more action oriented feel. In short, it sought to keep the franchise from being antiquated, and it succeeded. If you haven't played it yet, definitely make time soon to do so -- it still holds up, even if Egoraptor thinks that all of these new freedoms of control result in a less complex game overall. Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (PlayStation 2, Xbox - 2005) I love the art direction for Curse of Darkness, to the point where visually, it's probably my favorite in the franchise. Although the level designs weren't always up to par in the first portion of the game, the art and character designs are so beautiful, that they ended up spawning a two volume manga spinoff. Another reason why I enjoy Curse of Darkness is how original it is, and how Konami managed to keep the game fresh, yet distinctly Castlevania. Instead of yet another Belmont, this game features Hector, a former Devil Forgemaster for Dracula. Hector's quarrel deals with his former friend, Isaac, who murdered his wife. There's a ton of content here, including a full explorable castle, tons of items to collect, a complex level system involving familiars, and a fully playable Trevor Belmont. It plays like a mix of Lament of Innocence and Symphony of the Night, which is incredibly unique from a gameplay perspective. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (PC Engine - 1993, Wii Virtual Console - 2010, SNES [remake] - 1995, PSP [remake] - 2007) The release schedule of Rondo of Blood is a confusing riddle that took me years to decipher. Originally, it was released in 1993 as a Japan only title for the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16). It had multiple paths, a super ability that let you go berserk with sub-weapons, some of the best level design in any Castlevania game, and the ability to play as both Richter Belmont and Maria, his lover's sister. In short, it was hectic, and one of the better games from a pure action standpoint. Not content with keeping the game in Japan, Konami remade the game on the SNES into the version most Americans are familiar with today -- Dracula X. When Dracula X was released, critics were divided, some calling it a serviceable remake, and others calling it an inferior port. Years later having played the original Rondo of Blood, I tend to agree with the later sentiment, but Dracula X is still a very playable game if you haven't tackled it already. Even still, Konami wasn't done with Rondo. Years later, they released Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles [pictured], a 2.5D PSP remake that also included the sequel, Symphony of the Night in one package. Chronicles as a port is closer to the original, and it's a better experience than Dracula X. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Game Boy Advance - 2003) Choosing a favorite portable Castlevania game is torture. They're pretty much all good in their own way, but one in particular stuck out: Aria of Sorrow.As weird as it sounds, Soma Cruz is one of my favorite protagonists in the franchise, mostly because of how crazy he is conceptually. I mean, a teenage reincarnation of Dracula? How much wackier can you get? Gameplay wise, it plays out pretty much like Symphony of the Night. There's a fully explorable open world, an experience system -- the whole shebang. Hell, even the life meter looks 1:1 like Symphony of the Night. But it's the tactical soul system that set sit apart. Soma is one of the more unique heroes in that he can absorb the souls of his fallen foes to gain new abilities (think Blue Mages in Final Fantasy). You could trade these souls through a Game Boy Advance link cable, and collecting them was as addicting as Pokémon. Also, an optional New Game+ Mode is never a bad thing, nor is an additional Hard Mode, Boss Rush, or a mode in which you can play as Julius Belmont. As a spiritual successor to Symphony of the Night, Aria of Sorrow delivers. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation - 1997, PSN - 2007, Sega Saturn - 1998, Xbox Live Arcade - 2007) I know I said this wasn't in any particular order, but I can't resist making the following statement: Symphony of the Night is easily my favorite Castlevania game ever. Full stop. It has one of the best soundtracks of all time, incredible level design, and one of the most classic twists in all of gaming. Alucard is also one of the most enjoyable videogame protagonists I've ever had the pleasure of playing with. He's incredibly versatile, fun to play, and an all around badass. From start to finish, Symphony of the Night reminded me why I even like playing games in the first place. Everything wasn't painfully obvious and the difficulty was at just the right setting, to the point where it took actual effort to persevere. When everything was said and done, you felt like you actually accomplished something, rather than feel like the developer held your hand through the entire experience. To have such an Earth-shattering revelation as an entire second castle that's different enough, yet familiar, after you obtained a secret ending that essentially doubled your game length, was mind blowing. I've been enamored by a lot of 2D platformers over the years, but it's distinctly possible that none of them have captured my attention as well as Symphony of the Night. It's that good.
Top 5 Castlevania games photo
Timeless classics
Castlevania is a very personal series for me. I grew up with the franchise from the very first game's wondrous release, through my utter confusion with Simon's Quest, all the way full circle to the newest iteration of the fra...

The best and worst games of 2013: February Rising

Mar 04 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Cart Life (Windows) Hofmeier gives the player the freedom to trap themselves in the rat maze of low-income retail, but surrounds this with a world of distant figures for whom jobs don't exist and success has been tamed. While in shellshock from the burn of menial work and poverty, only the character and short term problems seem to exist. The figurative and literal connections Hofmeier makes between physical input and character action are profound and immediate, creating emotions that bleed into reality and beg for contemplation. Eventually, the worker must look past their own problems and become a part of society. In Cart Life, there is no world to connect to. After personal discoveries are made through the game's mechanics -- which are unfortunately paired with a multitude of game crashes -- the player is left to repeat a virtual life of monotony and zero-sum progress. The most reasonable action is to do the thing that real life cart vendors can't: Turn your back on the job and go do something else. Read the full Cart Life review  Croixleur (PC) Drawing inspiration from Devil May Cry's Bloody Palace mode, the game's story mode takes place in a tower filled with monsters. Players are placed in a series of arenas and must defeat a set number of enemies in order to progress to the next floor.  It's pretty simple and there aren't a whole lot of frills to the package, but what Croixleur does (combat), it does very well. Slashing, dashing, move canceling, the mechanics of everything seem incredibly refined and well tuned. Standard attacks are complemented by a sizable arsenal of unlockable weapons, each with their own properties and special moves. Nuanced systems help flesh out an otherwise unadorned game, as players will need to learn how everything works together to see it through to the end. Read the full Croixleur review  Tokyo Crash Mobs (3DS eShop) Tokyo Crash Mobs is a match three puzzle game where you play as one or two young women who throw or roll human beings at other human beings wearing the same colored clothes. This makes the human beings form "cliques," then disintegrate. At first, the two women appear to have different motivations for taking action in this way. Grace wants to have a fun time at the club, but she's at the back of the line. Only the first ten people of the line will get in. Her solution to this problem is to kill everyone in front of her using her mysterious disintegration magic until she gets to the front.  Read the full Tokyo Crash Mobs review  Omerta: City of Gangsters (PC, Xbox 360) If you're really into mafia movies and other cosa nostra flavored dealings, you might get some pure novelty enjoyment out of it on a Steam sale, provided you can put up with the repetitive nature of the game. For everyone else, it's probably best to "forgettaboutit". Read the full Omerta: City of Gangsters review Aero Porter (3DS eShop) Yoot Saito is most famous for creating the Dreamcast classic Seaman, arguably the strangest game ever made. It is a game where you take care of a fish man. That's it. Do a marginally good job, and you may have a few interesting conversations with it about existentialism and the possibility that The Beatles weren't real. Then he'll leave. Game Over.  Knowing this about Yoot Saito, I went into Aero Porter expecting something surreal. Shame on me for thinking I know what to expect from Yoot Saito. While Aero Porter does delve into a few playfully strange moments, it's a fairly straightforward game about sorting luggage. What's strange about the game is that it's compelling. Sorting luggage sounds boring as hell. You'd have to pay me to do it in real life. In videogame form, it's something that I'm paying Yoot Saito and Level-5 for the permission to do.  Read the full Aero Porter review Dungeonland (PC) Let me start off immediately by confirming the challenging nature of the game: indeed, this is a "hardcore" dungeon crawler in every sense of the word. Exemplified by the fact that Dungeonland's lowest difficulty setting is "Hard," this game will throw the kitchen sink at you, go to a hardware store and put every other appliance on credit, then throw more at you, while sticking you with the exorbitant bill. Read the full Dungeonland review Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 (PlayStation Network, Wii U eShop, Xbox 360) When Warriors games get a sequel, it typically gives all its characters a complete overhaul, with new looks and movesets to justify a fresh purchase. Not so in Ken's Rage 2, where any aesthetic alterations are minimal at best, and playable characters boast the exact same moves they had in the last game. None of the existing content seems to have been updated at all, and in some areas, even appear stripped down and inferior. Read the full Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 review Dead Space 3 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Dead Space 3 could have been the best entry in the series, and in many ways, it still does provide some of the franchise's most energetic, thrilling, entertaining moments. The changes thrown into the game inevitably damage its charm, though, and make this a step down from its predecessors. A step down from Dead Space's high standards don't necessarily make for a bad game -- far from it, in fact, for this is still a bloody great game and well worth any fans' time. It's sad that market pressure and industry fear tried so hard to ruin things, but one can at least savor the victory of Dead Space 3's creative success in spite of commercial encroachment.  Try as they might, ain't nobody killing Dead Space yet.  Read the full Dead Space 3 review Proteus (PC, Mac) As mentioned, there is a beginning and end to Proteus. It won't take long, either -- I finished in under an hour. Since it is entirely about exploring an unknown, randomly-generated island, there are more things to see and do than can be accomplished in a single playthrough. You can make also "postcards" of a specific moment during the journey that act as save points and can be revisited at any time. It may prove difficult to tear yourself away from the game in the first place, since exploring the island becomes such a memorable experience. Do you remember your first night cycle in Minecraft? The terror and fright that struck as soon as that first monster approached from out of nowhere? There is a similar feeling in Proteus, except the feelings of terror and fright are replaced with beauty and splendor, gazing into the night sky and marveling at the stars. Read the full Proteus review Aliens: Colonial Marines (PC, PlayStation 3,  Wii U, Xbox 360) Aliens: Colonial Marines is more than a disappointment. It's downright depressing. I can't say if it's the result of a lacking budget, rushed development, or sheer carelessness, but having the nerve to present this as a full retail game is inexcusable. It's simply not finished, and it certainly isn't worthy of being considered a legitimate followup to Aliens. As a story, it's inconclusive, riddled with cliches, and underwhelming. As a game, it's incoherent, insubstantial, and blatantly unconsummated. It took over five years for me to finally play this game, and less than five hours to feel nothing but a shocked emptiness at the thing I'd first downloaded with feverish anticipation. Read the full Aliens: Colonial Marines review Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) In fact, "inoffensive" is probably the word that best describes Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time from the perspective of a fan. It fits right in with its predecessors, offering a rather lengthy campaign and a fair quantity of optional content that's fun to play, though not particularly challenging most of the time. While there may be an expectation that a series' arrival in a console generation outshine all that came before, Sanzaru has made a perfectly acceptable game that may not advance the genre, but feels comfortable with right where it is. Read the full Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time review Special Forces: Team X (PC, Xbox Live Arcade) I would hope that no one is so desperate for a third-person cover-based shooter on PC that they have to resort to playing Special Forces: Team X. It's bland, uninspired, unpolished, and borderline unfinished. The already paltry amount of players is sure to dwindle in the coming weeks and months, leaving Special Forces: Team X nothing more than a line in some unfortunate fans' Steam library.  Special Forces: Team X offers nothing unique to the genre and is likely to leave players unfulfilled. What could have been an interesting, inoffensive multiplayer game turned out to be a buggy mess without so much as a hint of something fresh.  Read the full Special Forces: Team X review Bentley's Hack Pack (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) If you're a retro gamer, you've already played other titles that present the core precepts these mini-games provide, but Bentley's Hack Pack has an interesting enough framework to actually compel you to keep going, with a bit of the ol' Sly charm to boot. For a few bucks, it's worth taking the plunge. Read the full Bentley's Hack Pack review Serious Sam Double D XXL (Xbox Live Arcade)  The aesthetic of Serious Sam Double D XXL isn't anything great, bordering on generic. All of the classic enemies from the core games are present, which really makes it feel like a Serious Sam game. Even the new enemies are absurd enough to fit right in with the existing world. The music is also generic, with background music that does its best to sound as epic as possible to accompany the chaotic action on-screen. Serious Sam Double D XXL isn't going to blow anyone away, but it can make for an entertaining afternoon, with or without a buddy. It does a good job of capturing what the Serious Sam games are all about while at the same time changing the type of gameplay typical of the series. Read the full Serious Sam Double D XXL review Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Metal Gear Rising is not Solid but still, unmistakably Metal Gear. Despite its lack of seeming significance to the larger scope of the franchise and less complex plot, it does no harm to the setting and features enough action-packed combat that nobody should really give a toss about the story anyway. Seasoned fans should be aware all the same that this is a wholly different series, taking a different approach with a team that has a wildly different set of skills and experience. The work they do well is stunning and overwhelms the shortcomings to mild grievances at worst. Very challenging difficulty settings and hidden unlocks await the enamored, while those seeking something a little less demanding of their time should appreciate the brisk pace. Players who don't expect they will return for a second round might consider making Revengeance a rental, however, if they have concerns that its short length won't measure up to the full retail price tag. Read the full Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review Capcom Arcade Cabinet (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) If you don't mind waiting until late May, Arcade Cabinet represents a decent value for the discounted $29.99 asking price over the $45 you'd pay for the five packs. I'm certain I spent over $50 in quarters in playing these titles for this review, if you'd like to look at it that way.  Of course, if you already have some of Capcom's other collections, you'll need to decide for yourself if the online and social features make these re-releases worth the outlay. As far as titles go, there's nothing that could be considered new in the collection, though the new online features and presentation should not be glossed over.  Read the full Capcom Arcade Cabinet review Crysis 3 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Crysis 3 attempts to strike a balance between Crysis and Crysis 2, but in doing so manages to lose a little bit of what made each game appealing. The result is a title that doesn't truly match the open-ended excitement of the first game nor the revelatory empowerment of the second, yet manages to provide enough of both to at least tantalize, even if it doesn't completely satisfy. Solo play is shorter than previous installments and not as enjoyable, but multiplayer goes some way toward apologizing for it by stepping up its game and providing a gripping new experience in Hunter mode. This is a game that feels like the very essence of a "third installment" -- Familiar to the point of looking overplayed, but nonetheless refined and suffering no lack of quality.  Read the full Crysis 3 review Urban Trial Freestyle (3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) The setup for Urban Trial Freestyle is pretty simple. You play as a generic motorcycle rider who has to get from point A to point B, with no context given as to why the trip has to be made.  Your only job is to utilize your bike's acceleration, brakes, and directional capabilities to get there -- it's kind of like Excitebike, but a little more puzzle-like in nature. It's a lot harder than it sounds, as the slightest mistake can send you crashing into a wall or cracking your skull open on the hard pavement.   Read the full Urban Trial Freestyle review Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) As previously mentioned the main change in gameplay is the power of the wolf. Utilizing the ancient powers of one badass cup of tea, Connor will be able to summon a pack of three wolves to chow down on enemies, and cloak himself at will (using his health as "MP" essentially). Using the cloaking power is pretty fun at first. Basically, as long as an enemy doesn't bump into you, or you have a solid amount of health, you can stay cloaked. What this means is that you can stealth kill enemies right in front of other people and remain a deadly shadowy visage so long as you can pay the MP for it. This leads to a ton of cool stealth puzzle opportunities that force you to figure out what the best course of action is in terms of moving between hidden bushes and buildings, using the cloak to fill in the blanks. Read the full Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy review Star Wars Pinball (Google Play, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Each table is chock full of beautiful art, character cameos, and tracks pulled straight from the films' soundtracks. These first three tables are a bold and equally stellar introduction to Star Wars Pinball, and they'll keep you more than busy until Zen Studios drops the next batch. At about $10, this is a bit more expensive per table compared to the usual $10 for four tables, but the package is certainly worth the asking price. If you're not a fan of Star Wars, but love pinball (or vice versa), Star Wars Pinball will make you a fan. Zen Studios has created the most interesting and content-rich tables yet, with their obvious love of the source material piercing through each of the fantastically crafted tables. Read the full Star Wars Pinball review Impire (PC) All of a sudden I was getting crashes every single mission, and to make matters worse, my saves were being corrupted. Most of the game is filled with "been there, done that" moments, but for me I literally had been there, playing that very mission, and I had to do it all over again. These aren't levels I wanted to do once, let alone twice. At this point, I should add, for the sake of transparency, that I failed to finish Impire's final mission. It crashed the first time I attempted it, then the second time it crashed and corrupted my save file. I packed it in at that point.  Read the full Impire review Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (Mac, PC, PlayStation Network, Wii U eShop, Xbox Live Arcade, iOS) Runner2 feels like a very natural progression for the series. The team at Gaijin Games has crafted a more nuanced and impressive follow-up to what was great title in its own right. Avant-garde but with a healthy respect for the past, Runner2 is a marvelous rhythmic platformer that just about anyone should be able to enjoy. Read the full Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien review Everything else Destructoid reviewed: Razer Orbweaver Gaming Keypad All in all, I don't see myself using the Orbweaver for absolutely every game I own, but I keep it hooked up to my PC all the same, next to my keyboard. I've found that for basic image editing required for my writing career, and my frequent MMO habits, it suits my needs fairly frequently. I've created a number of profiles for a few MMOs I play, and one for a few image touch-ups that I'll be using for the foreseeable future. If you don't play a lot of PC games I don't see a need for splurging here given the high price point, but for everyone else, it's a decent investment. Read the full Razer Orbweaver Gaming Keypad review Razer Taipan Gaming Mouse The Razer Taipan is a great middle ground for those who like to play competitively, regardless of whether or no they're playing in actual tournaments. It's simple enough as to not be overwhelming, while at the same time having plenty of features that the more hardcore players want to see, such as quickly adjustable dpi settings and macros. Read the full Razer Taipan Gaming Mouse review The History of Sonic The Hedgehog There is a delightfully optimistic tone throughout the book, even while discussing the less-than-stellar chapters in the Sonic saga -- I'm looking at you, Sonic 2006! I find that to be quite reflective of the Sonic fanbase, but in a good way. We know the series isn't the most consistent in quality, but ol' Mr. Needlemouse was once on top of the world, so there's no reason why he can't make a comeback as long as the passion remains.  The History of Sonic The Hedgehog is must-read for the diehards and lapsed fans. We may be unsure of where Sonic is heading, but I think we can all admire his storied journey.  Read the full The History of Sonic The Hedgehog review
February 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of February 2013
Our monthly reviews recap continues on from the series return last month. January was packed full of great games, to the point of sensory overload. Thankfully February didn't have as many new titles, giving us a chance to cat...

The ten most meaningful videogame quotes of all time

Mar 02 // Anthony Burch
10. "John Romero's about to make you his bitch" Hubris. It invariably arises manifests in the top personalities of any profession, and the games industry is certainly no exception. Prior to the release of John Romero's Daikatana, the long-haired developer -- still riding high from his Doom and Quake successes -- released a rather striking, minimalist, full-page ad in multiple gaming magazines. It read: "John Romero's about to make you his bitch." And nothing else. Well, nothing else other than Ion Storm's logo and an equally pompous urging that gamers "suck it down."  From there, everyone knows the story: Daikatana was delayed, then sucked complete balls upon release, and Romero faded into relative gaming obscurity. His fall, and the arrogant advertisement which started it all, nicely epitomize developer douchebaggery moreso than any other single sentence in the English language. Whether we're talking about Derek Smart touting Battlecruiser 3000AD as "the last thing you'll ever desire," or George Broussard's hilariously silly and underwhelming "trailer" for Duke Nukem Forever,  or Julian Eggbrecht's suggestion that those reviewers who hated Lair actually weren't playing it correctly, big egos, big gaming budgets, and big failures often go hand in hand.    9. "You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike." Simultaneously immersive and frustrating, beautifully worded but logically irritating, this one line epitomizes both the strengths and flaws of the classic text adventure. "You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike" is -- if you'll permit me to be absurdly nerdy for a moment -- a very well-constructed sentence. It is a statement of mystery and ultimate possibility. It's brief, yet descriptive enough that your mind can fill in all the blanks: the details of what the maze looks to are ultimately up to you, but you're given enough information about the current location to make an informed gameplay decision. Sort of. Because, when you really get right down to it, "a maze of twisty passages, all alike" is a horrendously confusing thing to read when you're trying to make your way out of a maze. How many passages? Alike how? What the hell am I supposed to do? It is this mixture of attraction to the language, yet utter confusion in conquering it, that makes me give up every text adventure I can find after ten minutes of play.   8. "You were almost a Jill sandwich!" Gamers are no strangers to horrible, horrible dialogue; whether we're getting haphazardly-translated Engrish from our friends in the Orient or simply suffering from lazy writers, awful dialogue and videogames tragically tend to go hand in hand. I find it hard to pick just one example of horrendous writing to stand for literal decades' worth, but, if only because I'm loathe to give "All Your Base" any position on any top ten list, Barry Burton's famous line from the original Resident Evil will do. If you ever wonder why so many gamers have a hard time taking interactive storytelling seriously, "you were almost a Jill sandwich" is the reason why. Far more irritating than those games which simply elect to have no story whatsoever are those which try to be entertaining, terrifying, or cleve but fail miserably in the attempt -- namely, games like the Resident Evil series.  Ben Croshaw partially covered this in a recent video, but consider the ridiculousness of a survival horror game which, despite containing insanely supenseful gameplay, has one of the most laughably convoluted and poorly written plots in gaming history? Where, after almost being squished to death, a character responds not with a relatable statement of surprise like "JESUS CHRIST ARE YOU OKAY WE NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE," but by making a snarky joke about sandwiches? The adorably bad writing found in so many, many, many videogames serve as a constant reminder to better, more story-conscious game developers: this is what you need to be better than We'll never be truly rid of horrendous dialogue and plot -- every storytelling medium has its share of lazy creators -- but it's nice to have cringe-inducing lines like "Jill sandwich" to remind us that games could, and should, be much more than just decently entertaining gameplay wrapped around an irrelevant or stupid story.   7. "That's the second biggest monkey head I've ever seen!" This is the single best quote in all of (non text-based) adventure gaming. Period. Spoken by Guybrush Threepwood upon seeing an absurdly large monkey head idol (which, over the course of the series, he tends to do more than a few times), it epitomizes the brilliant writing found in some of the best games of the adventure genre's heyday.  Leisure Suit Larry dealt with sex jokes, Sam and Max dabbled in anthropomorphic absurdity, and the Monkey Island series, with its insult swordfighting and fiendishly difficult puzzles, nimbly jumped back and forth between the high- and lowbrow. In many of the most popular franchises during the late 80's and early 90's, adventure fans experienced a quality of humorous or dramatic writing which, to my mind, has rarely been matched in the years since. When the player wasn't scratching their head over how to get past one of any number of frustratingly difficult puzzles, they were rewarded with some of the sharpest, most clever writing in the history of videogame storytelling. From a writing point of view, everything the Monkey Island series is -- and everything the best adventure games were -- can be found in this quote.   6. “Didn’t we have some fun though? Remember when the platform was sliding into the fire pit and I said ‘Goodbye’ and you were like ‘NO WAY!’ and then I was all ‘We pretended we were going to murder you’? That was great." Remember how I was talking about adventure game writing of the late 80's and early 90's? Remember when I said that the level of hilarity achieved in those seemingly simplstic games had rarely been matched since? Portal is why I used the word "rarely." Portal fever swept the Internet literally overnight after its release. Less than 12 hours after the Orange Box hit Steam, you could find gamers singing the praises of the Weighted Companion Cube, showing appreciation for the snarky-yet-scary characterization of GLadDOS, and chanting "the cake is a lie" as if it were scripture. Apart from containing a technologically astounding gameplay mechanic, Portal helped remind gaming cynics like me that games can not only be fun, innovative, and challenging in today's world of endless sequels and ripoffs, but friggin' hilarious as well. GLadDOS constantly drops darkly humorous hints considering the character's past and future. The player is forced to care for a cubic hunk of metal as if it were the love of his life. The final showdown with the evil AI constantly jumps back and forth between the suspenseful (as you attempt to defeat her before she floods the room with poison gas) and the hysterical (as one of her personality spheres recites a recipe for cake). If we're lucky, future game writers might take a few cues from Erik Wolpaw and learn that where humor is concerned, we gamers are much more likely to latch onto dark, witty irony than idiotic machismo. Portal's writing doesn't quite match the level of a Monkey Island or a Sam and Max, but it gets close enough in a time of awful one-liners and obvious jokes that it is, in its own way, slightly more uplifting and meaningful.   5. "Hey dudes, thanks for rescuing me! Let's go for a burger...Ha! Ha! Ha!" Ah, the mid-to-late 80's. A time of relative innocence for the videogame. Before the time of Mortal Kombat or Hot Coffee, when arcade games still came equipped with "Winners Don't Do Drugs" disclaimers, absurd fun was the name of the game.  Anyone over the age of twelve can nostalgically remember a time when videogames, despite being considered an exclusively "nerd" pastime, had a happy-go-lucky quality to them. You could inextricably describe a game's plot and story in a single sentence ("you're a chef and you have to make hamburgers by running over the different ingredients and avoiding bad guys"). This was the time of the arcade; the time where you had to actually go outside if you wanted to play something new and awesome.  The quote which defines this era will differ for each gamer according to which game he or she played most frequently. For my money, though, the final lines of Bad Dudes will never be matched, in grandeur or hilarious tone, by any other game from the period. Or ever.    4. "Prepare for unforseen consequences." Half Life: Episode Two taught me that videogames can be better than movies. They can elicit a greater emotional response, and, given their extended running times, the player can get more of a chance to become attached to his or her NPC co-stars. Originally spoken to Eli Vance just moments before first entering the test chamber at Black Mesa, the G-Man's mysterious message to a then-unconscious Alyx Vance actually gave me the goddamned chills.  As the shady, sallow asshole with the weird vocal rhythm leaned down to manipulate a character who I had come to admire and feel empathy for, I almost yelled at the screen. I wanted the G-Man to stay the f*ck away from Alyx. Not because it would affect the gameplay in any way. Not because I was worried about what it meant for the plot. Not for any number of legitimate reasons, other than the fact that I simply cared about Alyx. I knew what the G-Man represented, and I wanted him to stay the hell away from my friend. Upon hearing the G-Man whisper those words to Alyx, I suddenly understood that I had been wholeheartedly enveloped by Half-Life: Episode Two's story and characters. I'm sure most gamers didn't get the exact same reaction out of this scene that I did -- to the best of my knowledge, I may be the only person alive who considered Episode Two the single best part of the Orange Box -- but no one who has spent several hours with Dog, Alyx, Barney and Kleiner can deny their personal, emotional attachment to those characters.  Additionally, this quote speaks volumes concerning one of the Half-Life saga's main themes -- namely, the constantly chaotic, unpredictable, seemingly contradictory nature of life. Everything the player does after first exiting the tram in the first Half-Life ends up having terrifingly far-reaching and unforeseen consequences. Gordon fights through Xen and destroys the Nihilianth, only to find that his initial actions in the test chamber may have summoned an even greater evil. Later, while under the thumb of the G-Man, Gordon kills Wallace Breen and seemingly harms the Combine -- and is suddenly robbed of his victory by being put into stasis once again. In Episode Two, Gordon is finally free from the G-Man's control and heads to White Forest...only to find that the G-Man actually wants him to go there. Is Gordon free, or a slave? Is the G-Man good or evil? No game series has ever had me so interested in the answers to the questions it posed.   3. "War. War never changes." Even after most of the world has been turned into nuclear ash, even after the world governments have crumbled and the social infrastructure decays into anarchy, even when, after the greatest and most horrible war of all, the human race has every reason to band together in an effort to save one another from total annihilation -- they don't. War never changes. Fallout may be one of the most cynical, nihilistic game franchises in existence, which also makes it one of my personal favorites. Rather than half-assedly cultivating a world-weary tone through a sepia color scheme and needlessly gruff-sounding protagonists (I'm looking at you, Gears of War), the Fallout series tells the tale of some people who try to act with common decency in a world utterly lacking in it, and who are subsequently tortured and killed and exiled for their troubles. Cormac McCarthy would be proud.  In the world of Fallout you can do varying amounts of good on your quest through the Wastelands but, more often than not, your efforts can be just as easily undone by bad luck or the corruption of others. You can save the Ghouls of Necropolis from starvation, only to hear of their slaughter at the hands of Super Mutants. You can help the Brotherhood of Steel find new technology, but they'll use it to further their war-driven, quasi-fascist agenda. And no matter how much good you do in the original Fallout -- no matter how quickly you save the denizens of Vault 13 from dehydration and destroy the Super Mutant base -- you will always be cast out by a hypocritical, bureaucratic Vault Overseer who claims that your heroism will make you a bad role model for the other Vault Dwellers. Without getting into a current sociopolitical discussion, let me just say that the themes suggested in Fallout (punishment of morality in an immoral world, the hypocrisy of authority, the petty and violent nature of humankind) can be seen quite clearly even today. Wars are driven by greed, necessity, stupidity, or fear -- and even after the cities have been burnt to cinders and the countryside irradiated, war will never change.   2. "...But our princess is in another castle!" Videogames, according to Warren Spector, are work. We enjoy playing them, yes, but they also take a great deal of effort and frustration to actually complete. Before getting our ultimate reward, whatever it may be (a cool ending, a beautiful cut scene, a clever bonus level), we actually have to work to reach it. This quote, repeated lord knows how many times throughout the original Super Mario Bros, represents this fun/work dichotomy better than any other I can think of. When working their way through a Bowser level in Super Mario Bros, a gamer's thought process goes something like this: "Crap crap crap crap crap JUMP wait wait wait JUMP run run crap crap crap run CRAP DODGE THE FIREBALL crap crap crap haha take that you stupid Koopa King woo this is awesome I get to meet the Princess HEY WHAT THE HELL." Perhaps it was my feeble, insipid, six-year-old mind getting ahead of itself, but I fully expected the Princess to be waiting for me at the end of every goddamned castle. Sure, she wasn't in the last one, but hey -- life is full of infinite possibilities, and a game this fun wouldn't dream of continually frustrating me over and over by dangling the carrot of possible victory in front of my nose, only to yank it away once I've seemingly reached my goal, right? Right? Wrong.  It was fun getting to the not-Princess every time, don't get me wrong, but after continually not-finding her over seven worlds of gameplay, the Nintendo Entertainment System began to feel a little bit like work. The kind of work I'd be absolutely ecstatic to go to everyday, granted, but work nonetheless.   1. "Would you kindly?" Not only is this a moving, shocking, and all-around incredible quote about the consequences of blindly accepting authority, but it also represents one of the single most insightful statements ever made about videogaming in general. Cut scenes are a form of gameplay slavery. They rob the player of control, take him out of the moment, and force him to passively witness as the events of the game -- the events he is supposed to have some degree of local agency over. Ken Levine knows this, and chose to exploit it in creating one of the most memorable story twists of all time. When the player finds out that he has been subliminally controlled by Atlas throughout the entire game, he or she experiences a very sudden, shocking reassessment of values. Having gone through the game thus far with the single-minded intent of beating Andrew Ryan to a bloody pulp, the player is suddenly forced to ask a question most other games would never dream of proposing to the player: "Why am I doing this?"  Why, upon first entering Rapture, do you inject a Plasmid into his veins for seemingly no reason? Why do you follow Atlas's every instruction? Why do you kill the innocent, nonviolent-unless-provoked Big Daddies? Why do you want to kill Ryan? The answer is depressingly simple: you did these things because you were told to. Not because you necessarily had any personal investment in the action, but because someone asked you nicely. Even after realizing this, the player remains completely powerless to stop himself. In an older article I wrote ("Exploring BioShock's storytelling flaws"), I had this to say about the final "would you kindly" cut scene:  Noninteractivity is used brilliantly within the context of the scene: for perhaps the first time in the entire game, the player doesn’t want to kill Andrew Ryan, but Jack’s violent nature and refusal to question his orders are too much and the player is forced to watch, horrified, as he mercilessly and uncontrollably batters Ryan to death. It stands as the single greatest noninteractive cut scene in gaming history. Ever.  As a storytelling device, noninteractivity is used as a weapon against the player: you don’t want to question why you’re doing what you’re doing? Fine -- you’re nothing better than a mindless, robotic slave, and you have essentially given up the human gift of choice. Having control taken away is, within the context of the story, a tangible punishment for accepting things on face value and blindly following orders.   BioShock wants us to question authority and instruction not just for the big stuff -- politics, work, education and so on -- but for videogaming, as well. When Cortana asks you to pistol-whip a bunch of aliens in Halo, why not stop for a moment and really think about why you're doing it?  One might suggest that questioning authority in a videogame, where structure is more or less mandatory and even the most nonlinear games still have an inescapably linear storyline, would be an ultimately meaningless gesture. But if you're willing to take everything a videogame presents you with at face value, how much more are you capable of accepting without question? If the player is asked to mow down armies of faceless baddies simply because they are "evil," what does that even mean? For these reasons, "would you kindly" is, quite simply, the most meaningful videogame quote of all time. It deeply affects the player on both emotional and intellectual levels; not only that, but the intensity of the former inspires the latter. As the player feels hatred and betrayal from his amiably-worded induction into slavery, he becomes much more likely to take Andrew Ryan's dying words to heart: A man chooses; a slave obeys.    Check out more classic Destructoid articles in our Golden Archives
Game quotes photo
An exaggeratedly titled top ten list? On the Internet? Surely you jest!
[This month, Destructoid turns 7 years old! Here's the top article of this weekend back in 2008. You can browse more of these in our Golden Archives. Nostalgic yet? -Niero] Call me a weakling, but it's been more or less forev...

The top ten Contra songs OF ALL TIME

Feb 24 // Tony Ponce
10. "Venus" - Contra: Shattered Soldier (PS2) [embed]246547:47171:0[/embed] Shattered Soldier's soundtrack blends pulse-pounding techno, produced by Konami musician Sota Fujimori, with face-melting metal, done by none other than the legendary Akira Yamaoka. Contra gave Yamaoka a chance to let his inner metalhead out, which would surprise those who only know him for his much more atmospheric work on the Silent Hill series. The intro theme, "Venus," sets the tone for the rest the game -- a much darker, grimier Contra then you've ever played before. That intensity comes at a price: the soundtrack as a whole is very repetitive and doesn't lend itself well to standalone listens. But as the backdrop to your alien-murdering rampage, it will make you feel like a god. 9. "Alien Hive" - Contra 4 (DS) [embed]246547:47172:0[/embed] WayForward knocked the ball way out of the park with Contra 4. It is the most consistent game in the entire series, enhanced even further by Jake "virt" Kaufman's stellar soundtrack, which heavily re-interprets classic Contra tunes while adding plenty of amazing original numbers. "Alien Hive" may be the penultimate level, but its music makes it sound like heroes Bill Rizer and Lance Bean's final assault. It is intense and furious, made all the more haunting with sound bites of people shrieking in despair. And if you want to hear an even more amazing version of this track, check out "Let's Attack Aggressively!" off the Contra 4 rock arrange album Rocked 'n' Loaded. 8. "Area 2" - Operation C (GB) [embed]246547:47173:0[/embed] I'll never stop praising the incredible sound quality of the original Game Boy, so you better get used to my bringing up Game Boy music whenever I find an opportunity. The soundtrack for Operation C, the portable side story between Super C and Contra III, consists almost entirely of re-arrangements from the two NES games. With one notable exception. And like the amazing tunes in Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge, it is so heavy on the bass that you could drown in it -- more proof that, if you are playing Game Boy without wearing headphones, you are doing it wrong. 7. "Ruins" - Hard Corps: Uprising (PSN / XBLA) [embed]246547:47174:0[/embed] Hard Corps: Uprising may not be the most curious entry in the Contra series -- that distinction goes to Contra Force, which technically isn't even a Contra game at all -- but it is easily the most unique. Uprising takes the franchise in a whole different direction, fueled by a soundtrack composed by Daisuke Ishiwatari of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue fame. Uprising features the same deft guitar work found in the venerable Arc System Works fighters, but the music that plays during the "Ruins" level is a little extra special. With the melodious incorporation of organ and piano sections, "Ruins" at first sounds like it could have been pulled out of a post-Symphony of the Night-era Castlevania. But then the crazy guitars come back and simply DO. NOT. QUIT. 6. "Boss" - Contra (NES) [embed]246547:47175:0[/embed] Easily the most badass boss theme of any NES game, this piece of music lets you know that shit just got real. Even though it only lasts 35 seconds before looping, I could seriously listen to it on repeat all day. I wish I could replace other games' boss music with this one. So why is it only played at the end of the two "Base" levels and nowhere else? I love the original Contra to death, but I can't forgive Konami for such a gross oversight. For shame! 5. "The Showdown" - Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES) [embed]246547:47176:0[/embed] If you ask me, I find the soundtrack to Contra III to be on the weak side when stacked against the rest of the series. Whereas Contra music is typically loud and rhythmic, Contra III's is a lot slower and more ominous, which I admit fits the game's apocalyptic tone. Some people swear by the music, but it simply doesn't feel like Contra to me personally. Which is probably why I don't remember Contra III as fondly as I do the other entries. That said, the final battle music is insanely cool. You have to test you might against against a gauntlet of progressively more aggressive bosses, including a few familiar faces from the NES days. To reflect the multiple phases, "The Showdown" is split apart into three movements, each more intense than the last -- the Contra equivalent of Final Fantasy VI's "Dancing Mad." Nice. 4. "GTR Attack!" - Contra: Hard Corps (GEN) [embed]246547:47177:0[/embed] I'm in the "Hard Corps > Contra III" camp. Furthermore, I believe that Hard Corps is the best Contra game period. I'm sorry if you disagree with me, but I couldn't give less of a damn. Among its many triumphs over Contra III is its hard rock-dance soundtrack that puts the Genesis' FM synth sound chip through its paces. And among the game's many different boss themes, "GTR Attack!" stands head and shoulders above the rest. Like the NES Contra "Boss" music, it unfortunately only plays twice -- but one of those fights is against an incredibly cool endlessly transforming mechanical chimera, so I'll let this particular musical oversight slide. 3. "Jungle Normal" - Contra 4 (DS) [embed]246547:47178:0[/embed] Paying homage to the original Contra "Jungle" theme is not an easy feat, but Jake Kaufman is not some bum off the street banging on a keyboard. He wanted to recapture that same feeling you got when you hopped off the chopper that first time back in 1988 (or 1987 for you arcade jockies) and felt empowered by the music. I'd like to think that he succeeded and more. Fun bit of trivia: Did you know that the "Jungle Normal" theme is actually a shortened version of a Contra-inspired chiptune that virt released way back in 2002 called "Vile Red Falcon"? "Jungle Exploder," the "Jungle Normal" arrangement found on Rocked 'n' Loaded, is actually more based on the original chiptune than the Contra 4 version. 2. "Jungle" - Contra (NES) [embed]246547:47179:0[/embed] It's one of the most iconic pieces of videogame music ever. Naturally, the classic "Jungle" theme would worm its way near the top of the list. No matter how many times I hear it, no matter how many times it's re-worked or remixed, it never gets old. I'm certain you all feel the same way too. Trying to describe Contra's "Jungle" music is like trying to describe perfection. It simply can't be done. You just hear it and go, "Oh, totally! Yes! Yes! That's right!" The memories all come flooding back: the exploding bridge that sent you into the drink, the glory of the spread gun, the wall. Boys became men and the Konami Code became a playground mantra. So why did I give it the #2 spot and not top honors? 1. "The Hard Corps" - Contra: Hard Corps (GEN) [embed]246547:47180:0[/embed] This is why. You begin with a shot of a city street overrun by robots, the skyline ablaze. Out of nowhere, you come barreling through in your armored truck, mowing the bastards down like weeds, until you collide into a broken-down car and fly through the windshield. You land unscathed, of course, and you proceed to blow everyone away. You rip apart a giant spider before an earthquake cracks the ground. A flame-throwing robot blocks your path, but you send it crashing into a building, knocking the structure over and giving you an incline to climb to the rooftops. Miles in the distance, you see a towering cyclops razing the city with its eye beams. It spots you and immediately jumps to your location. The sheer power emanating from its body causes debris to levitate, and you must flying cars and laser beams. And that's just a mid-boss! Meanwhile, the music is going BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! And you wonder why I'm calling it the best Contra song of all time!? It's read "hardcore" for a reason. BONUS! "Simon 1994RD" - Contra: Hard Corps (GEN) [embed]246547:47181:0[/embed] Even though "Simon 1994RD" is not in my top ten, there's no way I couldn't not mention it in an article about Contra music. In Hard Corps' third stage, there is an alternate exit that takes you to a secret tournament. Your first opponent is a strange afro-headed man who is a cross between Castlevania's Simon Belmont and Japanese vocalist Masato Shimon; he tosses a fish cracker boomerang while a dance remix of "Vampire Killer" plays in the background. Afterwards, you fight an alien baby in a carriage, then a tear in the fabric of space-time sends you into the distant past where you marry a monkey. God, I love this game. [embed]246547:47185:0[/embed]
Top 10 Contra songs photo
Sound Card 012: Rocked and loaded!
Castlevania. Mega Man. And finally, Contra. With this, my holy trinity is complete. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the greatest run and gun videogame series ever, Allistair Pinsof ranked the top five Contra games. ...

Ranked: The top five Contra games

Feb 23 // Allistair Pinsof
5. Contra: Hard Corps - 1994 - Genesis At long last, Sega fans had awesome Konami games to dangle over their Nintendo friends' heads with Castlevania: Bloodlines and then Hard Corps; a game that many series fans still hold as the plateau of dual-gun-totting, manly, hyperactive shooters. Playing Hard Corps between other series entries this week made me notice just how amazingly fast this game runs. Music cues up and grand entrances are made in The Alien Wars, but in Hard Corps robots just burst through walls and then it's on. Even the hilarious intro displays this attitude, with your chosen hero nonchalantly driving through enemies and a mini-boss before jumping out of his vehicle, beginning the game. Hard Corps is a practice in excess and it's what makes it a polarizing entry; not as in, "is it good or not," but "is it the best or not?" The multiple paths, characters, weapon sets, and endings makes Hard Corps the most replayable Contra, but it also makes it a bit unfocused and uneven. It also takes the series to a level of difficulty outdone only by Super Contra (arcade). 4. Neo Contra - 2004 - PlayStation 2 (also available on PSN) After Nobuya Nakazato (mastermind of Hard Corps, The Alien Wars, and BEST GAME SEGA GAME EVER Rocket Knight Adventures) got the series back on track with Shattered Soldier, he threw it back into rough waters with Neo Contra: The sequel that no one asked for and that few gave a chance -- but DO give it a chance! Neo Contra takes the half-assed top-down missions of Super C and makes a great shooter out of them. The speed, controls, and manic pace of action makes Neo Contra a Smash TV for the PS2 generation. It's kinetic techno soundtrack, ridiculous cutscenes, and unpredictable bosses make for one of the series oddest but best entries. It would be higher on this list if it were longer and more cohesive (two complaints shared with Shattered Soldier). 3. Hard Corps: Uprising - 2011 - PS3/Xbox 360 With no Contra name attached and a fighting game studio developing, expectations were low for Uprising and it was quickly forgotten after release. While I understand the reasoning for the former, I don't get why Uprising isn't hailed as one of the greatest digital releases of its time. Yes, it really is that good. Uprising does away with the grim, '80s sci-fi film aesthetic of the Contra series in favor for a brighter, Anime look that recalls Dreamcast titles. No more dark blue backdrops of cities in decay and giant, creepy robots. Despite this change in art direction, Uprising is a natural evolution for the series that combines all the control improvements introduced in The Alien War and Shattered Soldier. The levels are much longer than any Contra before it, but now the player can quickly dash through them and zip through the air like a ninja -- in fact, there is even a ninja player that makes the game play like Strider. Shattered Soldier missed the platforming elements that defined the series' best entries, but Uprising cranks them out along with crazy level design and boss fights that require tricky jumps and wall climbing. Uprising doesn't quite capture the spirit of the series, but it definitely plays like a Contra -- and a very good one, at that. 2. Contra - 1988 - Nintendo Completing Contra on one life is a right of passage for all gamers. It's the quest to videogame Mecca that all should make. Through this spiritual quest, you will learn just how tightly designed Contra is, how what you thought was cheap design was really dumb player mistakes, and that good, minimal design is timeless. It's true that Alien Wars and Hard Corps ramped up the action and visuals, but there is an elegance to the simplicity of the original. This isn't nostalgia talking, as Contra was never a favorite of mine growing up. There is a reason why the alien wall, waterfall, 3D stages, and opening jungle come to mind when thinking of Contra. Playing Super C and Contra back-to-back really highlights the subtle details in design that makes Contra a timeless, thrilling adventure. And, yes, I agree that it's too bad Super C didn't make this list. 1. Contra III: The Alien Wars - 1992 - Super Nintendo (also available on Virtual Console) This is when shit got real. Giant penis turtles, flying on a rocket, evil robot heads shooting friggin' lazers, creepy alien bosses ... this is when shit got too real. Like the original, Alien Wars remains a timeless action game due to the simplicity and restraint in its design. Every gun is perfect, every stage is different, and every encounter presents its own lessons to be learned. Sure, the Mode 7 levels aren't the best parts but they add some nice variety to the traditional stages. Sure, it's short but the campaign holds its own to recent Call of Duty's in offering a series of intense set pieces -- and, unlike Call of Duty, these set pieces are fully interactive and change the way the game is played. The Alien Wars brought about many clones on competing systems, but none were as bombastic, over-the-top, and sublime as Contra's magnum opus. [Image by Maher Al-Samkari]
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When heroes, not douchebags, wore bandanas
While other kids were chasing mushrooms, leveling up mages, and debating boss orders, real tough guys were playing Contra. Though the series saw a dip in quality in the PlayStation generation, it still stands as one of the mo...

Five most notorious videogame ripoffs of all-time

Feb 22 // Vito Gesualdi
Zynga wasn't even creative enough to come up with their own RGB skintone values... Thing is, the laws regarding which aspects of a video game are covered by copyright are actually quite fuzzy, and unfortunately, EA and Zynga have settled the matter out of court, failing to establish the precedent so badly needed in this legal gray area. Just one look at the app store and you'll find hundreds of blatant clones, quick hack jobs thrown together to capitalize on the success of other popular games. Though if you dig deeper into the history of the industry, it becomes obvious that ripoffs have been a big part of the gaming industry since its very beginning. So, as a bit of a history lesson, here are five of the most notorious game ripoffs of all-time. The Great Giana Sisters When Super Mario Bros. first released in 1985, it revolutionized gaming forever; the wildly successful game laid the foundations for the side-scrolling platformer and showed off just how powerful Nintendo’s Famicom system was. In fact, the Famicom was actually more powerful than many home computers of the time, something made very apparent by Hudson’s disgustingly ugly PC port of Nintendo's most famous game. Who needs sidescrolling when you've got screen flicker? Interestingly enough, though developers eventually figured out how to make sidescrollers work on the PC, by that point Nintendo was no longer interested in porting their games, even turning away a spot-on a Mario demo put together by id Software (who would go on to use the technology in Commander Keen). So, with PC gamers eager for their own Mario game, it seemed obvious that someone would eventually come along with a simple clone to help fill this hole in the market. What people didn't expect is just how blatant they'd be about it. See, Time Warp Productions might’ve almost gotten away with cloning Mario if they’d had the sense to not make their lifts so painfully obvious. Despite some minor graphical changes (diamonds instead of coins, owls instead of goombas), The Great Giana Sisters looks exactly like Super Mario Bros. In fact, the first stage of the game is an almost perfect copy of the first stage of Mario, with the few extra pits thrown in before the final flag not enough to fool Nintendo's copyright lawyers. See, our warp pipes are orange. It's a totally different game. Though Nintendo never took any legal action against Time Warp, they did make it very clear to retailers that those continuing to peddle this blatant Mario clone might find their orders for Nintendo product going strangely unfulfilled. As a result, the game was quickly removed from store shelves, and is now quite a desired item for Atari ST and Amiga collectors.   However, the strangest thing about The Great Giana Sisters is that this strange, forgettable clone survived to the modern age. While as recently as 2009 the series was still ripping off Mario, the latest Giana Sisters’ game was actually a wholly unique puzzle/platformer. Though the series will likely always carry the stigma of having ripped off gaming’s most beloved franchise, it’s definitely interesting to see a series finally trying to find its own identity.    Most of Square's early game catalog Though Square (now Square Enix) has earned a reputation as one of the finest purveyors of RPGs (at least until Final Fantasy XIII…), there was a time when this fledgling game company was barely a blip on the radar. It wasn’t until Square got approved to develop games for the original Nintendo system that they really got to work… ripping off Sega. And don't ask why a company named Square has a stylized Triangle in their logo... See, in the mid '80s Sega had some of the most popular arcade games around, but the home ports were only available on their own Master System console. Square saw the chance to cash in with some quick clones and capitalized on it. One of their first releases, 3D World Runner, was a terrible ripoff of Space Harrier which kept most of the action on the ground, only letting you fly around and shoot dragons (see: the fun parts) during the tragically short boss battles. Not long after came Rad Racer, a blatant copy of Sega's arcade racer Outrun, which, despite being a minor hit, wasn't enough to pull Square's revenues out of the red. With Square’s money running out, company director Hironobu Sakaguchi decided to take a risk on ripping off the work of a different company, now looking to Enix’s wildly popular Dragon Quest (itself a ripoff of Origin’s Ultima series) for inspiration. Knowing that if the game failed he’d quit the game industry and head back to school, Sakaguchi realized this ripoff could be his “Final Fantasy.” Ms. Pac-Man When Pac-Man first hit American arcades in October of 1980, the little yellow circle immediately began gobbling up not just power pellets, but quarters as well, quickly becoming one of the most popular arcade games of all time. Given this wild success, North American distributor Midway was eager to put out a sequel, though the developers at Namco were strangely dragging their feet. Around this same time, three young programmers were realizing the potential market for arcade conversion kits. Arcades were constantly purchasing new games in order to keep players interested, but each new machine was a risky investment, as a bad game might not bring in enough money to cover the cost of the machine. Conversion kits were the perfect solution, letting arcade operators upgrade games that they already knew players would like, while costing much less than a new machine. The trio quickly formed the General Computer Corporation (GCC) and set to work making plug-in boards. The original Plug n' Play game. Unfortunately for the boys at GCC, their idea wasn’t too popular with arcade manufacturers, who stood to lose plenty to this new technology. Atari was the first to react, taking GCC to court over Super Missile Attack, a mod of Missile Command. Though the two parties settled, GCC realized it could be fairly risky to continue with their new venture. However, they’d already sunk much of their time into a ripoff of Pac-Man, called Crazy Otto. With nothing to lose, they decided to see if Midway would consider buying their mod. See, it's like Pac-Man with legs! Totally new! What happened next is gaming history. Midway liked Crazy Otto so much they actually signed a deal behind Namco’s back, rebranding the game as Ms. Pac Man and quickly releasing it to arcades. Though Namco’s own sequel, Super Pac-Man, would release later that same year, the souped-up ripoff of the original Pac-Man’s code was the better game by far. What’s even more interesting is that GCC would later take Midway to court over their game Baby Pac-Man (a similarly unauthorized sequel), claiming they were originally responsible for the idea of a Pac-Man family. I mean, it’s one thing to ripoff a game, another to have your ripoff become the game’s official sequel, and another entirely to sue the company who helped make your ripoff an official sequel because they liked your ripoff so much they started making their own ripoffs based on it. GCC makes laser printers now, which seems like a much less confusing industry. Angry Birds If you think you're sick of seeing crappy Angry Birds merchandise littering your local shopping mall, imagine how the developers of Castle Clout must feel, having devised the simple game formula which has now made Rovio millions of dollars in app sales and licensing deals.  This ranks right below Decca Records not signing The Beatles on the "missed opportunity" list. Though Castle Clout is definitely a bit rough around the edges, all the basic elements of Angry Birds are in there. Structures waiting to be toppled, various bad guys to be squished by the falling blocks, and a big catapult firing off a variety of projectiles. Though Angry Birds added some serious polish, and replaced the awkward catapult mechanism with some wonderfully responsive slingshot touch controls, at heart, it's still a clear evolution of this now forgotten flash game, and you hope they'd at least have the courtesy to send the guy a free t-shirt. Indeed. Thing is, it’s kind of hard to be upset at Angry Birds. After all, the mechanic of using catapults to knock down structures can be traced back to, oh I don’t know… the ancient greeks? If anything, the real moral of the story is that if you have a successful flash game, get that thing on mobile phones as soon as possible, preferably adding a bunch of crappy cartoon animal mascots to it, so you can later brand every piece of merchandise known to humankind. The Simpsons: Road Rage The Simpsons: Road Rage is what happens when you have the rights to one of the most successful television franchises of all time and zero total creativity. I like to imagine that someone in the planning meeting for this game asked, “Why would the Simpsons be driving taxis?” before being dragged down to the basement and bludgeoned to death with sacks of money. Remember, this is Electronic Arts: the same guys who invented a bunch of crappy original characters just so they could try to ripoff Marvel vs. Capcom. The same guys who wanted to make their own Goldeneye and came up with the idea of a guy with an actual golden eye.  This is unfathomably stupid. Point is, EA is full of dangerous psychopaths who care more about money than logic, and if they say the Simpsons are going to be driving taxis then you best shut your mouth and start programming. So, you might be wondering what makes Road Rage a notable ripoff. After all, there are plenty of crappy licensed titles which blatantly steal their ideas from other games, with The Simpsons having copied everything from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to Grand Theft Auto without incident.  See, our game has a hand instead of an arrow. totally new! What Electronic Arts didn’t know is that, unlike the other developers they stole from, Sega actually owned patents on some very specific Crazy Taxi features. For instance: pedestrians that jump out of the way of a car, or giant floating arrows which show the player where to go. That’s right, Sega owns the rights to people not wanting to get hit by cars and arrows that point at things. They should’ve really pushed their luck and tried to get a patent for cars that drive really fast. Rather than take a chance on forfeiting all the money they’d made from the million or so copies of Road Rage sold, EA choose to settle the eventual lawsuit, much like they did this month in response to Zynga's counter-suit (saying it's okay that The Ville ripped off The Sims Social, because The Sims Social was ripping off CityVille to begin with). It seems that until a big company like EA decides to grow a pair and actually fight it out in court, small game developers are pretty much forced to accept that their original ideas will be endlessly cloned, as has been the case in this industry for decades now. Now, if only we could pass some laws outlawing crappy Simpsons games…
Videogame ripoffs  photo
Okay games, great lawsuits
When I first heard that Electronic Arts was suing Zynga over The Ville, a rather blatant ripoff of EA’s The Sims Social, I was pretty excited to see the outcome. After all, there’s nothing worse than a company whose only business model is to steal the works of small game developers, and given some of The Ville's obvious lifts, it seemed as though EA had a very solid case.

Seven of the toughest games to run on PC

Feb 21 // Brett Makedonski
Battlefield 3 (2011) The Frostbite 2 engine sure is visually pleasing as it showcases some of the best-looking environment destruction in games. However, if your PC isn't in tip-top shape, it's more likely that Battlefield 3 will look like a janky game of Jenga gone awry. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1996) Back in a time when videogames didn't look all that great, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire boasted a "universe so detailed you [could] see the tow cable around an Imperial AT-AT." Fascinating stuff. The only problem is that it required 3D Acceleration, a feature that was very new to graphics card manufacturers. Ultima IX: Ascension (1999) How difficult was Ultima IX: Ascension to run? It took a few years for most players to be able to finally play it. A need for advanced hardware, coupled with poor optimization, made for a game that most people couldn't play. Not that it really matters -- Ultima IX: Ascension is sort of the black sheep of the series, and most fans refuse to accept it as canon. Far Cry 2 (2008) Far Cry 2 featured some of the most dynamic scenery ever witnessed in games. Between the vast expanses of African wilderness, the realistic and ever-changing wildfire mechanics, and the detailed storm effects, Far Cry 2 was one of the most compelling games of 2008. Unfortunately, it also wasn't one that many people could play on max settings. Myst (1993) Myst is a bit different from the other entries on this list in that it didn't necessarily require a computer with high specs to run. No, its main barrier to entry was just a CD-ROM drive -- something that not many people had in 1993. Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) Grand Theft Auto IV was hailed as one of the grittiest and most realistic open-world sandboxes ever. While this might be the case, many PC players had a tough time immersing themselves in the game, as deficient performance acted as a constant detractor. The consensus seems to chalk it up to a poor port from console versions. Regardless of whatever the real issue was, it took quite the machine to efficiently run this title. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (2011) The Witcher 2 is one of the prettiest RPGs in years, and garnered many near-perfect and perfect review scores. However, it's also one of the most resource-demanding titles, and many are hard-pressed to actually see it in its full glory. But for those that can, it's a sight to behold. These seven titles were/are some of the most difficult games for PCs to run. That being said, there are certainly plenty out there that didn't make the list. Which games have frustrated you due to inability to play them at full-capacity?
Can't run this photo
Obviously Crysis-inspired
The Crysis series is well-known in the PC community as being the benchmark of sorts for games that require a high-end computer to run. It began in 2007 with the release of the first Crysis. It's undeniable that the game ...

Down the rabbit hole of fake PlayStation 4 crap

Feb 19 // Allistair Pinsof
Even as Google cooks up new algorithms for its searches, the presence of SEO bastards filling the internet with useless, misleading crap for clicks ($$$) continues to grow. The current crop of fake PS4 sites is a good example of this. To those that don't make mad money games blogging, SEO stands for search engine optimization. Putting priority on placement of certain buzzwords. The headline "Britney Spears boobs PS4 am I really pregnant?" would do wonders on our site, if it didn't do an even more wonderful job driving our current audience away. Perhaps, I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know -- but while I'm at it, use condoms (rubber bands and Ziploc bags aren't the same thing!) -- so let's jump into the good stuff: fake-ass PS4 sites. If you do a Google search and click a couple pages past ye olde' IGNs and Kotakus, you'll be greeted by a list of sites with eye-sore URLs (that I won't link to, in fear of forwarding malware/spyware): ps4info.com, ps4playstation4.com, sonyps4.com, etc. These crappy Wordpress-based sites feature "exclusive" leaked footage of the PS4, numerous console images, lists of unofficial games, pre-order info, and tickers counting down an unannounced release date: [embed]245902:47031:0[/embed]  You probably shouldn't click on this. What these sites don't have is any contact info or transparency on who started the damn thing. Occasionally, you'll find mention a company name if you dig deep enough. Here's FutureROI: respectable webmasters of SonyPS4.com along with OurWeed.com and L0Lz.com. It does not surprise me in the least to discover FutureROI is Las Vegas-based. I mean, why wouldn't they be? If it sounds like I'm ragging on these SEO scambait sites, I'm actually not. Sure, what they do is scummy, pointless and toxic to our online environment, but I find it all so delightfully kitsch. I love reading six-plus paragraphs of a writer pulling PS4 factoids out of their bumhole, stealing DeviantART console renders and presenting them as *LEAKED* pictures, and the horrid site design that is at once evident of less than 48 hours of work and nostalgic of GeoCities fan pages of the '90s. Instead of getting mad, let's laugh at these dumb sites by highlighting the five worst PS4 console images (original source of each design linked below): 1) This thing Glass + touch = future? I get the sense that something along that equation is being taught at design schools, because I see this kind of crap everywhere in design forums. I don't even know what the hell this thing is. Why would you want the system menu on your physical console? Why would you want a postage stamp video feed of your game on your lap? How comfortable would this thing even be? The only real advancement I see here is that the PS4 could double as a fancy food tray. [via convoyrider] 2) Whatever the hell this is This is what would happen if Adidas designed the PS4. Coming soon to Big Lots and Payless Shoes! [via Nebojsa Nadj] 3) This car radio-looking garbage I love the "connect to 4 screens" remark. Because there really is a big market of people who own four TVs side-by-side, and a lot of potential in games to take advantage of it. I'm even more puzzled by how you set this down, or does it just constantly wobble back and forth on its rounded frame? [via Neklas Heller] 4) This 100% legit, non-Photoshop'd system Even my eight-year-old imagination couldn't foresee this monstrosity. [via HypeUp] 5) The PlayStation toaster Whether or not the graphics or controls are revolutionary, this model guarantees to reach new heights in fire hazard probability. [via PSU] ------------------------------------------------------------------ Come tomorrow, Sony will unveil the future of PlayStation. I don't doubt that this racket of fake PS4 info will continue, but the kitsch factor will be lost along with the use of fake system and controller mock-ups. So, let's cherish these final hours of ignorance and intentional misdirection. Post your favorite PS4 mock-ups below, along with any you made on your own. And as always, wildly speculate and pretend you have eXclusive infoz from your friend who works at Sony.
$$$$$$$$$ photo
Seems legit
Wherever there is public interest, there are con artists preying upon the susceptible. How many shoddily-built iPod rip-offs must one buy or mid-life-crisis-inducing timeshares must one occupy, before this lesson is learned? ...

Ranked: The five best Clover and Platinum games

Feb 19 // Chris Carter
From 2006-2007, many members of Clover Studio left the defunct developer to form Platinum Games. As a result, I thought it would be fun to include both studios in this list, especially in honor of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. We'll see how Platinum's own Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 fare later this year. As a side note, the following list is in no particular order. Viewtiful Joe (GameCube, PlayStation 2 - 2003, 2004) What can I really say about Viewtiful Joe that hasn't been said a million times over? It's truly one of the best 2D platformers of all time. Defying all logic that most designers in the genre were prescribing to at the time, Viewtiful Joe opted to go the route of technical platforming, which made it feel like a 2D fighting game on wheels. Add in some of that Clover charm, including unforgettable bosses, memorable levels, and a ton of variety in terms of the moveset, and you have one amazing game. Even today, the game's art design and colors really pop, regardless of your platform of choice. If you somehow missed this gem, make sure you check it out. Okami (PlayStation 2, Wii - 2006, 2008) If you ever told me that the creators of Viewtiful Joe would create one of the best Zelda games of all time, I would have laughed in your face. Three years later though, against all odds, they did it. Okami graced the PS2 and pretty much blew everyone away right out of the gate. The amazing art style, the engaging, unique paintbrush gameplay, and RPG elements kept people entertained during this lengthy affair.It also had a great story and wonderful themes to boot, as it was on naturalistic spiritualism, and Shintoism, two ideologies rarely acknowledged, much less explored in the West. Okami will no doubt go down as one of the best RPGs of all time, and it's well deserved. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 - 2013) I had the chance to play through Revengeance last week, and I have to say -- it's probably the best action game I've played since Platinum's own Bayonetta.Combat is swift, rewarding, challenging, and tight. It took me nearly an hour to fully grasp the game's concepts (even after playing the demo quite a bit), but once I did, Revengeance really nails down that feeling of controlling a badass cyborg ninja. Surprisingly, it takes the whole "slaughtering innocents" angle that Ninja Gaiden III tried to go for, and nails it. It never gets too preachy, because the narrative is about Raiden himself, his past, and his struggle to acclimate to the evolving political and social climate. Of course, it's a bit hard to take the story seriously when he's slicing giant gorilla robots into thirty pieces while riding missiles like surfboards, but for what it's worth, I was entertained and engaged throughout. In fact, I have something I like to call the "mouth wide open" test. If a game drops my jaw at least once, odds are I'm having fun. My jaw dropped constantly playing this game. I don't really want to spoil any of the insane over-the-top action here, but needlessly to say it was a blast. Platinum said they really wanted you to feel like Raiden acts like Metal Gear Solid 4's cutscenes. I'd say they accomplished that, and then some. Bayonetta (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 - 2010) In my mind, Bayonetta is locked in eternal combat with Devil May Cry 3 as the best action game of all time. Combat is deep, rewarding, and it's one of the hardest challenges I've ever played in my life, if you count the higher difficultly levels. Not since Ninja Gaiden's Master Ninja mode did I struggle so much with having to learn pinpoint, perfect-frame dodging, and then some, but I loved every second of it. It's also packed to the gills with content, making it one of the most complete action games ever made. It may be cheeky a times, and the plot may be a fairly throwaway affair, but I challenge you find many action games that can measure up to it. Barring a few other masterpieces, Bayonetta is in a league of its own. God Hand (PlayStation 2, PSN - 2006, 2011) Now we come full circle, to one of my favorite games ever, in any genre. Although I would put a few action titles a notch above God Hand in terms of the raw quality of combat, very few experiences  have entertained me as much as Clover's lovable brawler. The endearing characters, the outlandish set-pieces and insane bosses -- it's a world that I want to be a part of on a constant basis, and often times I'll replay the game just to get a piece of it. But it's not just a straight brawler, to be clear. God Hand mixes some of the best design found in beat 'em ups to date, and mixes things up with fully explorable 3D environments. In just about every nook in cranny there's a hidden item, or someplace to visit. In addition all of that, Clover made the game extremely challenging in a completely fair way. God Hand introduces a fairly unique way to keep you on your toes: a difficulty level that adapts to how well you're doing, mid-game. It's a really cool idea that keeps you constantly upping your game. Also, Poison Chihuahua Racing. The fact that this exists makes me happy.
Clover & Platinum ranked photo
Timeless classics
If you were to poll me as to what some of my favorite games of all time were, you'd see a lot of Clover Studio and Platinum Games titles on that list. Quite a bit, actually. Both studios are comprised of brilliant minds that ...

Moments in Presidential history: Cats, mechs, and burgers

Feb 18 // Allistair Pinsof
1988 - President Ronnie rewards good work with fast food (Bad Dudes) Why reward military service with a historic statue, when you can give two hardworking members of the Secret Service a burger instead? This is the difference between the Japanese and English ending of Bad Dudes; it's also the difference between a good and a great president. 1993 - President Clinton is on fire (NBA Jam) There are many critics who are quick to point out Clinton's lackluster sax playing -- let's just say he's no Kenny G; man, does that guy know how to suck and blow -- and his inability to keep booty calls on the DL, but no one can deny his ability to shoot some hoops in NBA Jam. 1998 - President Richardson puts "Near-humans" in their place (Fallout 2) Being president in the 2020s isn't easy, especially when there are asshole mutants with massive Gatling guns roaming the country. In such dark and dry times, America needs a president that isn't afraid to commit acts of genocide and nuclear warfare which is why President Richardson -- wooden, emotionless face and all -- continues to inspire. [embed]245775:47021:0[/embed] 2001 - President Mr. President shows that inaction is sometimes the best action (Sonic Adventures 2) In the face of great tumult and terrorism, Mr. President decides to relax in his limo and let a little blue hedgehog do the heavy lifting. If only our current president could learn a thing or two from him. [embed]245775:47020:0[/embed] 2004 - President Visari gives a rousing speech (Killzone) Visari doesn't appear in the first Killzone, but his presence in the game's introductory cinematic lingers on. Such is the power of a great presidential speech that inspires the people to rise up and senselessly murder. [embed]245775:47023:0[/embed] 2004 - President Wilson takes matters into his own hands (Metal Wolf Chaos) So many Presidents enter office complaining about the problems that the past president left, only to then turn around and burden the next president with their own unfinished issues. Well, Wilson pilots a freaking mech. So he's not going to take shit from either end. He's going to handle it and give foreign adversaries his "flame of justice." [embed]245775:47022:0[/embed] 2008 - President Ackerman works with canine allies toward common goal (Command & Conquer 3) In a progressive stance, Ackerman moves the national dialog from being "for or against illegal immigration" to "for or against attack dogs handling illegal immigration." Resourceful, fair, and firm. 2009 - President Cat shows that great presidents shouldn't be labeled by species (Sukeban Shachou Rena) Only in Japan can the American dream be truly realized.
The Greatest Presidents photo
WE SALUTE YOU!
On President's Day, it's our duty as bloggers to supply the unwashed, malnourished Kmart-lovin' masses of America with reminders of awesome, fictional Presidents in games. I mean, it's not like I get to take the day off, so w...

The nine worst girlfriends in videogames

Feb 14 // Vito Gesualdi
Jessica – Final Fight On the surface, Final Fight’s Jessica seems like a rare catch, a high-society gal with a definite knack for fashion and a particular interest in bad boys. Not to mention how hard it can be to find a decent date in Metro City, unless you’re into having beautiful transvestites beat the crap out of you. The real problem with dating Jessica though? Meeting her parents, specifically daddy: Yes, Haggar is pile driving a shark, and no, he doesn't need to explain why Meet Mayor Mike Haggar, the man who pioneered the pro-wrestling politician angle (long before Jesse “The Body” Ventura tried to steal his swagger). This is the kind of father-in-law you don’t want to mess with, as one wrong step will result in a literal whirlwind of hurt. Remember, this is the man who tackled his city’s gang problem by punching it to death; the kind of guy who goes to work in suspenders because he knows that he’s just going to rip through any dress shirt he puts on once he thrusts those beefy arms out to his sides and spin-punches the crap out of whatever junior assistant screwed up his coffee order. So, how do you think he’s going to treat the guy who forgets his little girl’s birthday? If your answer was anything other than “pile drive his skull into the pavement,” you've got a lot to learn about Mike Haggar’s America. And don’t even think about trying to report your savage pummeling to the police, because Mike Haggar IS THE LAW. How do you really think Jessica’s former boyfriend wound up in jail? I really shouldn’t have told her she looked fat in that dress… Aeris – Final Fantasy VII To be fair, Aeris actually seems like a pretty fantastic girlfriend. She’s a dedicated church-going woman, maintains her own small flower selling business, and despite being relentlessly pursued by the evil corporate goons at Shinra she manages to maintain that winning smile. I'm dying Cloud... you'll carry this moment with you for the rest of your life... If anything is wrong with Aeris, it’s the fact that she’s well… deceased. But beyond the obvious fact that necrophilia is generally frowned upon, the bigger problem is this girl doesn’t know how to stay dead. And I'm back!  See, one of the great things about dead people is that they stay dead. For instance, I miss my grandfather a lot, but because he has the decency to remain in his corpsebox deep beneath the earth, I’ve mostly been able to cope with the loss. Aeris however, seems to pop her head up in just about every new SquareEnix game that comes along, which has got to be weighing a serious emotional toll on her former boyfriend. What’s that Cloud? There’s a movie sequel to the game where you watched me get a sword jammed through my heart? How’s about I show up and help reopen those terrible wounds? Oh, Square’s making a fun Disney tie-in game meant for preteens? How do you feel about my dead ass prancing around? Would a corpse woman tormenting her former lover be appropriate for this E-rated title? Thing is, though it’s creepy to watch Cloud chase his dead girlfriend through the streets of Toontown, watching Tifa continue to pursue that spikey-haired jackass is even worse. Seriously, girl, it’s time you stop crushing on that mopey loser and get with a real man. Might I suggest a little bit of brown sugar to spice up your life?Catherine - Catherine Many men hope to wake up with a beautiful woman in their bed, though before you start pining for the titular character of Atlus’s Catherine, know that this privilege comes with a horrible price. You think it’s bad when your girlfriend forces you to watch some crappy Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy? Imagine if instead she forced you to fight for your life in a terrible nightmare realm, featuring the two worst things in the world: trippy demonic manifestations of your darkest fears, and CRATE PUZZLES. [embed]244682:46909[/embed] To be fair, main character Vincent totally deserves to be impaled by a giant fork. He’s got a perfect girlfriend already (Katherine), and he wants to sleep around with some blonde hussy. Why? Because he’s afraid of commitment? Get it together jackass. Point is, if you happen to be dating a fantastic woman and some random chick with a suspiciously similar name starts flirting hard up on you, it might be time to GTFO. Anybody - Fire Emblem: Awakening When battling your way through Nintendo’s blistering tough series of strategy RPGs, it’s hard to not get attached to the game’s many capable women. Beautiful sorceresses, graceful Pegasus knights, even scantily clad immortals, so the Lolita-fetishists can pretend they don’t have a problem. She's 1000 years old! IT'S NOT CREEPY! Problem is, as attractive as these women may be, your chance of forming a lasting connection is slim. Because let’s face it, you suck at strategy RPGs. Half these girls are going to die before you even make it through the tutorial missions. Rose – Metal Gear Solid 2 Making a relationship work definitely requires a lot of communication. Thing is, while many men complain about their girlfriend’s constant texting, imagine how it would be if you had a stealth communication device implanted in your ear canal, and for no good reason, the military decided to give your girlfriend the frequency code. I know a lot of people weren’t fans of Metal Gear Solid 2’s Raiden, but regardless of how you feel about long-haired pretty boys with samurai swords, you have to have some sympathy for a guy who’s busy trying to rescue the goddamn President of the United States, only to get forced into a conversation about his “feelings.” Hey baby, I’m about to fight an immortal vampire atop an oil platform. Can we maybe talk about this later? Yorda - Ico Look, I get it, there’s a certain exotic appeal to having a foreign girlfriend. Hell, there’s even an entire industry catering to supremely lonely creeps who would rather buy a wife from abroad than take the chance on becoming a decent person. That being said, somehow the weird glowing girl from Ico leaves much to be desired. Thing is, it’s going to become very hard to make a relationship work when the only conversation topics your significant other understands are “climb that crate” and “dammit, you stupid girl, I’m all the way over here -- will you please get away from those shadow monsters, please!” Seriously, don’t even get me started on those shadow monsters. What’s that, all your guy friends are having a poker night? Sorry, buddy, but you’re stuck at home making sure your significant other doesn’t get pulled into a swirling portal to oblivion. Pass.Tails – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Look, I’m not personally into the whole “furry” thing, but even if you were going to pick an animal partner I think you could do much better than Sonic’s stupid fox girlfriend. Not only does she have one of the most annoying voices in all of gaming, but--Wait, Tails is a guy?Oh. Well he still sucks.Sakura – Street Fighter Though I understand the whole schoolgirl thing definitely appeals to many fellas, you may want to seriously reconsider breaking your state’s statutory laws for a fling with this spunky street fighter. As cute as Sakura may seem, her methods of showing affection are borderline psychotic. I mean let’s be honest, Sakura has a major crush on Ryu. Though rather than express her affection in a sane and rational manner, she instead decides to basically become his female clone. So while taking to wearing a similar headband is on par with your typical teenage obsession, putting in countless hours of training to learn all of a man’s signature fighting moves? That’s beyond the realm of creepy obsession. Do not want. Every male game protagonist ever Sorry fellas, but you’ve gotta admit that for every lackluster gaming girlfriend, there’s about fifty muscle-bound morons who offer literally nothing in terms of dating potential. Just take a look at some of our most beloved gaming stars: a fat middle-aged Italian plumber who still hangs out with his brother; a guy who thinks mullets are still in style; a physics nerd. This douchebag. And of course, legions and legions of muscle-bound morons whose only real method of communication is some indiscernible grunting and a burst of fire from their plasma rifle.Point is, as much fun as it is to jump into the shoes of these digital heroes, real girls aren’t hiding in castles. As nice as fantasyland might be, maybe it's time for losers like us to turn off the console and get ourselves a real date. Nah... [Haggar image courtesy of jnkboy]
Worst gaming girlfriends photo
Suddenly my prom date seems alright
If you’re anything like me, Valentine’s Day is a very special time of year. A time to be reminded that your crippling social anxieties and complete lack of desirable personality traits mean you’re likely to ...

Roses and tears: 10 depressing videogame romances

Feb 14 // Taylor Stein
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – Big Boss and Eva Love can blossom anywhere. If the Metal Gear series has taught us anything (besides the usefulness of a cardboard box) it is that romance is especially prominent on the battlefield. Why would bullets, explosions, and a team of evil super soldiers deter one from indulging in a little affection? While Big Boss fought off Eva’s motive-driven advances, he was unable to resist her overt feminine charm indefinitely. After a romantic encounter complete with wine, a fireplace, and a bear skin rug, Eva skipped town, leaving the battle-hardened veteran heart-broken and empty handed. I guess Snake would've been better off sticking with his M1911A1. Final Fantasy 10 – Tidus and Yuna Ah, there’s nothing sweeter than teenage love. Combining raging hormones with the responsibility of saving a world tormented by perpetual death is certainly a unique formula for passion. During their pilgrimage to defeat the ever-returning nightmare Sin, Tidus and Yuna found romance as a convenient way to ignore the foreboding reality of their quest: Yuna’s death. Throughout a series of plot twists and extensive battles, players save Yuna from her sinister fate. Too bad the protagonist Tidus turns out to be from a dream world and disappears into a poof of nothingness. Dead Space – Isaac and Nicole The horror genre isn't ideal for heartfelt connections. The closest that scary games often get to featuring physicality is through a zombie bite to the neck. Too bad no one sent the memo to Isaac Clark. What started as a standard repair job on the intergalactic mining vessel the USG Ishimura, quickly turned into a terrifying test of survival among reanimated corpses and alien monsters. Did I mention that his girlfriend Nicole was stationed aboard the ship? I’m sure you know where this is going. Not only does the poor systems engineer discover that his girlfriend has been dead since before his arrival, he develops mental instability causing him to see visions of her, courtesy of an alien artifact. Thanks, Nicole, insanity is a perfect parting gift. Infamous - Cole and Trish There are very few actions in life that cannot be forgiven. Being held responsible for an explosion that wiped out a chunk of a city, killing thousands, would definitely be one of those unforgivable moments. Ever since The Blast, Cole's relationship with his girlfriend Trish took a turn for the worst. Blaming him for the death of her sister, Cole became a monster in her eyes. In an effort to win back her trust, the now super-powered hero went above and beyond to assist Trish and the citizens of Empire City. Just as affections were beginning to turn around, Trish was kidnapped, forcing Cole to make a difficult choice. Save the love of his life, or save a team of doctors; serve his personal desires or act on behalf of the greater good. Either way, Cole is pretty much screwed. Choose Trish and she spends her last dying breath describing how much she despises what Cole has become. Rescue the doctors and Trish praises his decision yet still dies from her injuries. Lose-lose situation is an understatement. Final Fantasy VII – Cloud and Aerith What does a spiky-haired soldier, an innocent flower girl , and a well-endowed bartender have in common? In the boring arena of reality, absolutely nothing. Within the fiction of videogames however, the trio arguably represent the most notable love triangle in the gaming world. Regardless of who the player chooses to pursue as a romantic interest, Aerith or Tifa, fate intervenes in the cruelest way possible. A scene of tranquility is instantly transformed into the epitome of shock, alarm, and terror. While praying at an alter, the silver-haired villain Sephiroth seemingly appears from the heavens and impales Aerith with his eight-foot-long Masamune. In an instant she is gone, collapsed in Cloud's arms. To hit the point home, Aerith's theme song begins to play in the background, and the reality that Final Fantasy VII actually had the audacity to kill off a main character halfway through the game, is fully realized. Mass Effect 3 – Commander Shepard and Romantic Partner Saving the galaxy from sentient machines may seem like a tall order, but after three installments of the Mass Effect series, it's pretty safe to say that Commander Shepard always finds a solution. Whether through diplomacy or a firefight, humanity's savior has proven to go above and beyond the call of duty. This applies both on and off the battlefield. Seducing a slew of men, women, and alien crew mates is all fine and good, but the end of the world has a way of offering a sobering reminder as to what is at stake. There will be no civilian life for Shepard and her partner; no white picket fence and no blue children. Ensuring the survival of the entire galaxy is not a job that one simply comes back from. All that can be said between the larger-than-life figure and her significant other is a somber goodbye before the true suicide mission commences. At the end of Mass Effect 3, the hero alone ventures into the depths of the Reaper operated Citadel. The first human Spectre is given a choice that will forever alter the course of the galaxy, to end the cycle of destruction that has continued in secret for millennia. Ultimately, Shepard's decision opens a new chapter for the galaxy, while putting an end to her own. Whether truly dead or not, Commander Shepard's closest squadmate is forced to hang her name on the Normandy SR2's memorial wall. In an act of remembrance signifying Shepard the soldier, the legend, and the human being.  Shadow of the Colossus – Wander and Mono Love has the power to transform a young man into a hero; a vigilant civilian into a seasoned warrior. In the case of Wander, the desire to revive his romantic interest Mono, inspires him to commit a laundry list of questionable choices. Stealing an ancient sword is risky yet understandable. Entering a forbidden land is yet another precarious decision. But following the instructions of an ominous, obviously evil, being is a step in the wrong direction. Whether due to naivety or injudiciousness, Wander proceeds to slay 16 enormous colossi in the hope that his new "ally" will reawaken the beloved maiden. Instead, the sinister lord Dormin possesses his body, transforming Wander into darkness incarnate. In the end, Mono successfully opens her eyes and returns to the land of the living. Wander, however, regresses to the age of an infant, marked with horns upon his head to signify a curse. As the only bridge connecting the forbidden land from the rest of the world falls, only Mono, altered Wander, and his trusty steed Agro remain. The two are together again, yet they are worlds apart. Alive but isolated in a land of danger and mystery. The Darkness - Jackie and Jenny Hit man with a heart of gold may seem like an oxymoron, but in the case of Jackie Estacado, the seemingly opposing identities are more than true. After the death of his parents at a young age, Jackie was sent off to an orphanage where he met the love of his life, Jenny Romano. Their childhood friendship blossomed into an adult romance; a relationship seemingly too good to be true. Unfortunately, Jackie's profession would be the factor to catalyze the sudden change from conjugal bliss to marital tragedy. On the eve of his 21st birthday, Jackie was targeted in an assassination attempt by his own organization due to fears that he was attempting to take over the Franchetti Family. In an effort to shake Jackie at his core, Don Uncle Paulie kidnaps Jenny and travels to the orphanage from their youth. Jackie arrives in a homecoming of sorts to witness his enemies berating Jenny. In a scene of absolute helplessness,  the Darkness seizes Jackie's body, preventing him from intervening as the Don raises his gun to Jenny's face. Boom. Jenny crumples to the floor and the antagonists escape. Even through suicide, Jackie is unable to find peace. The Darkness cannot live without its host, and thus he returns to the land of the living, forced to continue his existence as a pawn of the malevolent being. Gears of War 2 – Dom and Maria Battling for humanity’s survival against a horde of reptilian humanoids may seem like a challenging feat, but the steroid-pumped, macho men of Gears of War claim otherwise. Corporal Dominic “Dom” Santiago, one of the elite soldiers chosen to fight against the Locust, is forced to not only deal with the hardships of war, but also with an internal struggle fueled by the death of his children and disappearance of his wife Maria. When news is received about her whereabouts, Dom trudges through hordes of alien forces to her rescue. The good news is Dom finds his wife alive. The bad news is she is malnourished, scarred, and mentally broken from the torment of slave labor. In the ultimate display of love, Dom ends her suffering with a single bullet to the head. Damn. God of War – Kratos and Lysandra Kratos may be Sparta’s most prominent ladies man, boasting encounters with countless women and even the Goddess of Love, but he wasn’t always the king of promiscuity. Before the demigod was known to partake in threesomes with advanced button-pressing sequences, he was a devoted husband and father. In a desperate move during a losing battle, the Spartan devoted his allegiance to the god of war Ares in return for victory against enemy Barbarian tribes. Through a twist of fate fueled by Kratos’s thirst for power, he was tricked by Ares to raid a nearby village. Blinded by Ares' power,  Kratos slaughtered every man, woman, and child in the village, including his own wife Lysandra and child Calliope. If that wasn’t enough, Kratos was cursed by a village oracle, forcing him to forever wear the ashes of his dead family on his skin. From that day forward, Kratos became known as The Ghost of Sparta; and ever since then, God of War has represented one of the most depressing love stories in videogames. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- What is your favorite videogame romance? Have you ever felt moved or saddened by gaming love affairs gone wrong?
Sad videogame romances photo
Still think love conquers all?
Valentine’s Day inspires a variety of emotions. While love is in the air for many, cupid has more sinister plans for a select few. A poor Valentine's Day for an average person might include seeing a movie alone or a sol...

Games to play with your boyfriend on Valentine's Day

Feb 14 // Caitlin Cooke
Portal 2 Who doesn't love to play adorable robots that can hug and high-five each other all day long? Atlas and P-body are like mini versions of your relationship, only they’re more prone to falling off ledges! For those of you new to the co-op portion of the game, GLaDOS, your evil (or maybe just misunderstood) A.I. guide leads you and your partner through various rooms in order to retrieve data disks for a certain unknown but most likely evil purpose. Portal 2 is a great way to bond with your boyfriend, especially if you’re both into puzzle-solving hijinks! Saints Row: The Third Nothing says “I love you” like taunting your boyfriend with a big fat purple dildo. Saints Row: The Third is the sandbox game you wished for and finally received -- it’s fantastically silly, loads of fun, and extremely self-aware. To be honest, I haven’t played through much of the game because I’m too busy doing stupid stuff like skydiving out of airplanes and crashing parties, but from what I've seen it’s the perfect game to play with that someone special. So, what are you waiting for? THQ isn't getting any younger…oh wait. Torchlight II Surprisingly, killing lots of things can be delightfully romantic. Created by members of the original Diablo II team, Torchlight II pays homage to those long lost yet reawakened hack-n-slash dungeon-running games. The music will give you all kinds of nostalgic lady boners, and you even get to choose your own pet, ranging from a panther to a random made-up animal like the Chakawary, featured above. As an added bonus, you and your boyfriend no longer need to fight over loot -- you both get your own! Gone are the days of “No, honey, YOU take One-eyed Willy’s Other Eye!” Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game This Valentine’s Day, you and your boyfriend should wreck the s*@$ out of Ramona’s 7 evil exes. Why? Because nothing says romance like kicking some side-scrolling ass to amazing chiptune music, that’s why! Even if you haven’t read the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels (which if you haven’t, you totally should) the game is a blast. The sprites are adorable and the game puts a totally unique spin on traditional side scrolling beat-em-ups by just being…completely silly. My personal favorite characters to play are Scott and Kim - they were meant to be together anyway, right? Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed Go back to your roots and share something special with your significant other, like your favorite Sega characters! AiAi, Beat, B.D. Joe, Tails are just some of the few playable characters which you can level up. Even better, the levels in this game are insanely immersive -- in addition to your standard driving you can also fly and float your way through the track (which, by the way, often falls to pieces during the last lap). Racing Transformed will soon win your heart and become your go to "kick your boyfriend's ass" game.  You Don’t Know Jack Boyfriend doesn't game much? You Don’t Know Jack is the ticket - everyone loves a super difficult, zany trivia game. The only catch is that you’ll probably end up as an ex-couple by the end of it. Every round contains 10 questions plus a few bonus rounds, and a “Wrong Answer of the Game” in which you have to keep your eyes peeled for an answer related to the “sponsor” (which can be anything from Banana Toasters to Granny’s Roach Butter). Overall YDKJ is a quick and fun way to enjoy each other's company this V-day. Plus, who doesn't love a game where you get to screw your significant other? Honorable Mention: Having your boyfriend cuddle up and watch you play Condemned…in the dark. 
Games to play w/ your boo photo
Romance is just a game away!
Valentine's Day isn't always about getting taken out to dinner and receiving fancy treats and trinkets. Okay, well maybe it is, but who's to say that you can't get a little gaming on the side? Consider spending some quality time with your boyfriend by reeling him into the following co-op games. If he resists, consider your future with him wisely...

Top five ways for a gaming couple to bond

Feb 13 // Taylor Stein
1. Breakfast and controller in bed. Mornings often reflect the epitome of stress; a battle against the clock thrusting dreary souls out into the unforgiving cold, all under the guise of necessity. Often enacted as a daily skirmish against the alarm clock or a misguided affair with the snooze button, the essence of get-up-and-go is undoubtedly hard to come by. Perhaps the most gratifying gifts that one could offer would be to transform that frantic morning hustle into a relaxing videogame inspired reprieve? Breakfast in bed with a side of videogames represents the trifecta of happiness: comfort, relaxation, and entertainment. Wrapped in a bundle of absolute joy, no mortal could deny the pleasure of munching down scrambled eggs and toast, with controller in hand, and eyes fixed upon the TV screen. Grant your loved one the gift of game time, in the most absolutely wonderful way possible. 2. Complement your valentine's gaming hobby with a custom controller. There are a multitude of tools that we depend on in our work lives. Carpenters are reliant upon a trusty set of power tools, and a film crew would be lost without expensive recording equipment. For the average gamer, the necessary tool of the trade is none other than the controller. With a few analog sticks and a handful of buttons, a gamer is able to take charge of any situation. Commanded to defeat a dark overlord? Easy. Trusted to free an entire kingdom? No problem. How about saving a princess? I'd like to see a wrench do that. After years of button mashing, control-stick grinding, and perhaps a few rage-induced slams to the floor, the closest thing that many will get to holding a gun, sword, or magic lance often shows its age. Rather than replacing an old controller with a standard model, invest in a custom version and kick Valentine's Day up to epic levels. Personalize the device with your loved one's favorite colors, patterns, or decals, and you're sure to impress your beloved. Not to mention, with a gift like that, your partner will certainly be willing to share. 3. Make your partner a home cooked meal ... with videogame flair. In the words of famous playwright George Bernard Shaw, "There is no love more sincere than the love of food." Take out is great and fast food gets the job done, but there is undoubtedly something special about a dish prepared from scratch with the ultimate flavor enhancer, love. How does one describe the savory, unctuous delight of a home cooked meal? From first glance the senses explode in a frenzy; aromas envelop one's being as eyes lock on the gastronomical marvel. Mouth salivates, brain revs in anticipation, and stomach awaits a close encounter of the culinary kind. Successfully delivering a sensory explosion of this nature will easily earn you 100 bonus points with your significant other, but as a gamer, 100 measly points just isn't enough. We've explored every inch of Skyrim, unlocked ultimate weapons in the realm of Final Fantasy, and built impressive achievement and trophy lists while amassing loads of virtual gold, coins, and rupees. Going the extra mile is what we do. Add a videogame inspired food item to the party, and the real-life celebration will be complete. Show your sweetheart that you can get your Cooking Mama on while embracing the hobby that they hold dear. A little bit of creativity goes a long way, and a Pac-Man cupcake is sure to make this Valentine's Day memorable for all the right reasons. 4. Plan a special trip for the two of you ... to a videogame convention. Taking a trip with a romantic partner often signifies a noteworthy milestone in a couple's relationship. You trust your significant other enough to showcase your post-nighttime bed head, and they trust you enough to spend more than 24 hours by your side. Armed with the fluttery sentiments of love, an island getaway might be the first notion to enter your thoughts. Your sweetheart might thank you, but your wallet sure won't. How memorable can sunbathing really be anyway? It might be impossible to agree with that special someone over politics or religion, but if you're dating a gamer, videogames are always a sure bet. Skip the tropical oasis and buy two tickets to a gaming convention instead. You'll still be able to achieve a level of romance in between events and exhibits, while managing to satiate your partner's inner nerd, geek, or game enthusiast at the same time. Not to mention, couple cosplay is always an option. Master Chief and Cortana anyone? 5. Have a couple's night in, cuddle up, and play co-op together. When a couple must manage the rigors of daily life: school, work and kids, paired with a cultural emphasis on conspicuous consumption, it can become easy to forget that a relaxing night at home is not only an option, but a fun alternative to the constant flow of dinner outings and movie dates. The fast-paced lives that many of us lead can act as an uninvited buffer between two people actually enjoying each other's company. If there is one day to step up and break the mold of an archetypal weekday evening, it's on Valentine's Day. Instead of dealing with hassle-filled dinner reservations, spend the night at home with your special someone and bond over a shared hobby of videogames. Playing together might be a rare treat, making it all the more memorable when you can successfully devote an hour or two to Valentine's Day co-op. There's nothing quite like bonding over surviving a horde of zombies together in Dead Island, or tag-team chainsawing an enemy alien in Gears of War. Despite the probable gory subject matter of the games you'll be playing, don't make that an excuse not to cuddle together in the name of Cupid.  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but any gamer male or female can appreciate a gift that facilitates, encourages, and promotes their pastime of gaming. It is rare to be taken seriously as a gamer; we're instantly typified along a stringent line of negativity. With so much antagonism or simple misunderstanding within the general populace, having someone by your side who understands the thrill of saving Hyrule for the umpteenth time, is priceless. You might criticize Valentine's Day for being a commercial holiday or sulk at its arrival for other reasons, but if love and videogames could find a middle ground, maybe it would be worth giving a chance after all? Trust me, roses and chocolates get old fast. Why not break free from the traditional boring offerings and give your significant other something that they'd really enjoy this Valentine's day? [Images courtesy of Bitmob, Rolf Venema, Vox Efx, Echo.Plexus, Game Set Watch, and Feast of Fiction.]
Tips for gaming couples photo
Romance AND videogames? Heck yes.
Taylor is an avid gamer, sushi lover, and overall nerd. After founding two gaming-related sites of her own, she went on to intern with G4, and can now be found across the interwebs writing about videogames of all kinds. At le...

The top 30 indie games to look out for in 2013

Feb 08 // Patrick Hancock
[embed]243620:46723[/embed] A Hat in Time (PC)Release: Q4 2013Official Website Greenlight Page  I've already talked about how awesome this game looks. Spoilers: really awesome. If you were to go back and play Donkey Kong 64, your time might not be as pleasant as you remember. Those N64 3D platformer are bit rough around the edges. Imagine though, if those edges were smoothed and brought into a modern day. Could be monumental. Obviously from the footage that is currently available things look a bit clunky. I really hope everything gets ironed out by the time this releases because I really hope this game lives up to its high expectations. [embed]243620:46724[/embed] Age of Decadence (PC)Release: October 2013 (Demo available)Official Website Greenlight Page  If you're like me and grew up on games like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, any isometric fantasy looking game is likely to make you sit up in your computer chair. Age of Decadence is one of those games, except it throws one more beautiful spice into the mix: SRPG battling system. It's like this game was made for me. I think they've been spying on me, wiretapping my headset and somehow observing my dreams. SRPG gameplay within a traditional isometric RPG with an in-depth character creation system? So wonderful. There's a demo ("public beta") available on the official site if you're somehow, in some way, still on the fence about it. [embed]243620:46725[/embed] Among the Sleep (PC, Mac)Release: 2013 ("later this year")Official Website When it comes to horror games, I'm a goddamn scaredy-cat. I get frightened playing Minecraft on a pretty regular basis. Amnesia spooked the CRAP out of me, and I have never finished it. So why am I excited for Among the Sleep? Well, considering you play as a baby, it's got an extra level of meta-narrative that, while playing it, I will almost certainly be a baby, scared to turn each and every corner.  [embed]243620:46726[/embed] Dead State (PC)Release: December 2013Official Website  Zombies! Tired of them yet? I'm sort of getting there, but there are two games on this list that are keeping me excited about them. Dead State is one of them Kickstarter dealies that I actually went ahead and backed. An interview with RPS forever ago originally spurred my adoration, so I was happy to help fund the title. It seems to focus more on tactical gameplay rather than running and gunning, and I like that. Forging relationships, finding shelter, gathering supplies, all enveloped in some turn-based gameplay sweetness? You bet your bippy I'm excited! Zombies or not, this game has serious potential.  [embed]243620:46727[/embed] Distance (PC, Mac, Linux)Release: Summer 2013Official Website Greenlight Page  Although I haven't yet played Nitronic Rush, I am still very excited for Refract Studios' next game Distance. The game's more than just a racer, it encourages exploration, allowing cars to jump and fly around to " find hidden paths, as well as find secrets that reveal the city's past." Is this game going to have some lore surrounding it?! I hope it comes with a Beastiary! Well, probably not but I'm still pretty darn excited! Else { heart.break() } (PC)Release: 2013Official Website  Hey there, I know programming code when I see it. You can't sneak nothin' past me, videogame. Not much is known about Heart.break() but the little information that we know has me very intrigued. I'm not sure I've heard of a game with more potential before, and I've seen game pitches on Kickstarter! With a persistent world, Heart.break() aims to have the user actually writing code to solve puzzles and deal with situations. If I've learned anything from my computer science days, it's that there are so many ways to approach one simple task, leading me to believe that people will come up with very interesting ideas while playing this game. [embed]243620:46815[/embed] Hammerwatch (PC, Mac Linux)Release: Q2 2013Official SiteGreenlight Page Imagine if the old Gauntlet games had online coop and mod support. That's essentially what you're getting with Hammerwatch. The old Gauntlet games had a certain charm to them, since raiding dungeons with your buddies will probably never get old or stale. It could be the most mindless gameplay in the world, but if you were lootin' corpses with some friends, it didn't even matter. Hammerwatch is bringing that formula into the new century with online coop, which is great since I no longer live near my closest friends. The mod support will make sure that, providing there is a community around it, Hammerwatch will never get boring and will consistently have new content. Hooray! [embed]243620:46728[/embed] Intruder (PC)Release: 2013Official Site  Other than Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, I don't really remember the last time I was actually excited for a first-person shooter. I grew up playing Team Fortress Classic and Counter-Strike, but the popular FPS games these days don't strike the same chord.  It's pretty great, then, that Intruder has my interest. It's in such an early stage that nothing really has any textures, making the progress videos nothing short of endearing. I mean, just look at these screenshots! Intruder is focusing more on gadgets and environment in what looks to be a slower-paced FPS team game. Looking our for trip wires, unlocking doors, and avoiding security cameras are all taking place in what otherwise looks like a classic FPS. [embed]243620:46729[/embed] Legend of Dungeon (PC, Mac, Linux)Release: March 2013Official Website Greenlight Page  Such a pretty game! Let's run down the checklist of things that make games awesome, shall we? • Co-op - CHECK • Permadeath - CHECK! • Dynamic music and lighting - CHECK!! • Randomized dungeons - CHECKITY CHECK • DRM free - CHECK PLEASE! I'm a big sucker for roguelike-likes, so this game is going to please me greatly. Sounds good, looks good, let's just hope it….plays good. [embed]243620:46730[/embed] Lifeless Planet (PC, Mac)Release: 2013, February for AlphaOfficial Website  Somehow, the Kickstarter for Lifeless Planet flew right over my head and I hate myself for it. I'm a huge fan of outer space, so exploring an unknown planet sounds right up my alley. It, in a way, reminds me of the first time I played Red Faction: Guerrilla. It doesn't have the destruction, the terrorism, or the economical plot, but I had a genuine blast exploring Mars in RF:G. My character knew the area well, but I sure didn't. Unlike RF:G though, Lifeless Planet is, well, much more lifeless. Creepy, mysterious, and haunting environments turn this from a basic exploration game into one that is likely to scare the pants off of me. [embed]243620:46731[/embed] Monaco (PC, Mac, XBLA)Release: Soon! Not soon enough?Official Website Monaco is pretty much tied with SpyParty as my #1 most anticipated game of next year. Playing the beta with my girlfriend is so exhilarating. Sitting in vents while I draw out a plan on my monitor with my finger feels freakin' fantastic. Once you realize that this isn't a game in which you sneak past everyone, things just snap into view. It's okay to be spotted occasionally, in fact sometimes you want to be! Causing distractions for your partner(s) so they can make a move is wonderful! There's even challenge levels that unlock for those of us who love to ramp up the difficulty without some arbitrary slider.  [embed]243620:46817[/embed] New Game+ (PC)Release: 2013Official Website  When Jasper Byrne, creator of Lone Survivor, says that he's thinking about making a dungeon crawler that's a mix of The Legend of Zelda and Demon's Souls, you don't just get excited, you get mondo-excited. When Jasper Byrne announces that he is no longer working on the project, now titled New Game+ you don't just get sad, you get turbo-sad. But then, when Jasper Byrne announces that he's going to resume working on New Game+ again, you don't just approach with cautious optimism, you approach with an unhealthy amount of hysteria. [embed]243620:46732[/embed] Overgrowth (PC, Mac, Linux)Release: 2013 (Playable build with preorder)Official Website Lugaru, like Braid, was a very important game to me. It was one of the first legit indie games I ever played. When I was told it was made by one guy in high school, my mind was all "no way!" Then when I was told he made them bunny people because regular-ass people were hard to model it made me realize that developers know what they're doing. So many things are done on purpose, and not by coincidence or chance. Overgrowth is the big-boy sequel to Lugaru, and that's sort of all I need to hear. The first game was brutal in its difficulty, ramping up ever so perfectly from its already difficult beginning. It was all about mastering the controls and thinking clearly. From what I've played of Overgrowth, this will be even better.  [embed]243620:46733[/embed] Owlboy (PC)Release: 2013, or maybe neverOfficial Website  This game! You might remember your parents talking about how much they were looking forward to playing Owlboy once they got home from fighting overseas in the Vietnam War.  Alright, so maybe that's a bit of hyperbole, but this game has been in development for some time now. Every once and a while we get a little nugget of information to remind us that hey, this still exists, but it definitely isn't as steady as I would like. I want this game! At least there's a (out of date) demo to hold us all over for now. [embed]243620:46734[/embed] Path of Exile (PC)Release: Late 2013Official Website  I am not a fan of Diablo III. I won't get into it, but Blizzard made some really dumb design decisions that turned me away. Torchlight II is great, but it still hasn't compelled me to finish it yet. Path of Exile may very well also fall a bit flat. I'm skeptical of the ARPG genre more than ever, yet Path of Exile still has my interests piqued. The Final Fantasy-esque systems at play are what really get me. The sphere grid from FFX is the passive skill grid in Path of Exile, allowing you to completely customize your character. There are some great videos out there of people making extremely weird characters that simply manage to work. There's also a FFVII materia system at play with the skills and items, creating even more customization! I know it's free-to-play, which is more often a bust rather than a boon, but from what I've played in the open beta so far, the model is anything but intrusive. Please get this one right, guys. [embed]243620:46735[/embed] Prison Architect (PC, Mac, eventually Linux)Release: 2013 (Playable build with pre-order)Official Website Introversion Software, the developers behind Darwinia and Uplink are at it again with Prison Architect. A simulation game about managing a prison just sounds like it is ripe with hilarious potential. Judging from the trailer, that is absolutely the case. Prison Architect is available to play if you pre-order the game, giving you "exclusive access to game breaking bugs." What's not to like about that?! [embed]243620:46736[/embed] [Video courtesy of YouTuber user MayaTutors] Project Zomboid (PC, Mac, Linux)Release: 2013 (Demo available)Official Website  This poor game. So much love, then some dismay, some hate, and now people seem to be just fine with it, though some may have all but forgotten about it. Project Zomboid has overcome its problems and is still, in fact, going to be a videogame. Gotta love that can-do spirit. Survival is emphasized in this, the second zombie game to still have my attention on this list. People who are already playing the early builds of the game seem to really be into it, challenging each other to try and outlast them. Combined with great aesthetic and diehard developers, this is game I look forward to getting my hands on.  [embed]243620:46816[/embed] Quadrilateral Cowboy (PC)Release: 2013Official Website  Remember all those nice words I said about Heart.break()? Well, double that for Quadrilateral Cowboy. Blendo Games, the developer behind both Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving is also behind this game, which utilizes an in-game laptop for you to code objects in to solve puzzles. It looks pretty smooth, throwing down the computer and quickly writing a line of code. Hopefully you don't need any experience with programming so I can continue to recommend every game Blendo Games puts out to everybody I know. I have a lot of faith in Blendo Games to make this live up to the potential.  [embed]243620:46737[/embed] Routine (PC)Release: 2013Official Website  Another horror game that will scare the butt off me and I'll probably never finish, Routine said the magic words: randomized content and one life. Oooooh yeah, that's the way I like it. Space is such a perfect setting for this game, and hopefully this game can capitalize of the absolute fear of the endless void that I think most of us have.  [embed]243620:46738[/embed] Runner 2 (PC, Wii U, XBLA, PSN)Release: SOON!Official Website  Runner is my favorite of the BIT.TRIP series. I've beaten it twice, gotten all Perfects (not double), and still play it from time to time. Naturally then, I'm really excited for Runner 2. While I think that the new aesthetic is a step backwards, that hasn't deterred my excitement for this sequel. After playing it at Pax East last year and speaking with Gaijin Games was a great experience. The game plays exactly how I want it to, complete with intense challenge and beautiful music. If Gaijin Games only makes one sequel, I'm glad it's to Runner. Scale (PC, Mac)Release: 2013Official Website  I saw this game being played at E3 while I played the equally awesome Moonlighters (more on that later). Basically, you have a gun that can scale things larger or smaller in order to reach certain areas of the map. Unfortunately I didn't get to play it myself, but from what I saw I could tell that this game would be one to keep an eye out for. Like the gun from Portal, this has incredible potential.  [embed]243620:46739[/embed] Sportsfriends (PC, Mac)Release: Summer/Fall 2013Official Website  Local multiplayer, what's that? In the Age of the Internet, many people grow up not know what it's like to physically push someone after they womp you in a competitive multiplayer game. Or to place bets on who is going to win as it happens right in front of you. Sportsfriends is bringing all of that back with some of the most deviously simple competitive games. J.S. Joust is a great game, though it's a bit unfortunate it requires so many PS Move controllers to play. Most people don't have one, let alone 5. I mean, it's not like you can do much else with them. The other games like TENNNES, BariBariBall, and Hokra have already proven to be extraordinary competitive games, since they've released early builds to the Kickstarter backers. Simple, complex, local multiplayer at its best. [embed]243620:46740[/embed] StarForge (PC, Mac, Linux)Release: Late 2013Official Website  Hmm? Oh, here's that boatload of potential I ordered. Thanks, StarForge!  When I first played the early demo of StarForge I definitely thought it was cool, but it was hardly representative of what the game aimed to be. The videos on the site make a much better case than that demo ever did. Terraforming, base building, aliens, super physics, space, this game aims to have it all. I just hope that they don't aim too high and fall short. If anything, StarForge should allow for some pretty silly fun with buddies. [embed]243620:46741[/embed] Super TIME Force (XBLA)Release: 2013Official Website  I played this at PAX last year and it was easily one of the best games there. Insane difficulty and a absolutely amazing concept make Super TIME Force one of my most anticipated titles of the new year. Once I fully understood how the base mechanics worked, things just naturally clicked. If one of your characters dies, your next character is able to save them by eliminating whatever killed the first character. If you do that, it acts as a checkpoint for when that second character dies. Wonderful premise, great marketing, and a solid studio make this one of the best. Expect to see this on top 10 lists in December.  [embed]243620:46742[/embed] The Iconoclasts (PC)Release: 2013 (Demo available)Official Website  Some games look good. Some games, on the other hand, look like The Iconoclasts. Everything is just so refined and beautiful. Playing the demo allowed me to see things in motion, proving that rainbows can actually shoot out of your eyeballs if you see something beautiful enough. This game is probably (hopefully?) already on many radars, so now that I've reminded you, I'll move on.  [embed]243620:46743[/embed] The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa (PC, Mac)Release: 2013Official Website  If you haven't played Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden then you really should go and do that now. It's pretty much the best Space Jam related game to date. Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa looks to keep the insanity of the first game going while simultaneously changing the genre and continuing the story. Let me just take the synopsis from the official site: The year is 666X. A powerful youngster, wise beyond his years, awakens from a B-Ball induced coma aboard the mysterious dwarf space ziggurat Necron 7, held captive by the Malevolent A.I. Cuchulainn. With no memory of who he is or where he came from, he adopts the identity of X114JAM9 and sets off into the Post-Cyberpocalyptic Wasteland in search of the enigmatic Cyberdwarf, the only one who can reveal to him the terrible truth behind his forgotten past and make sense of his harrowing future. Face your destiny.  Find The Cyberdwarf. There you have it. B-Ball induced coma. X114JAM9. Find the Cyberdwarf. Easy? [embed]243620:46744[/embed] The Moonlighters (PC)Release: 2013Official Website  I played this at the IndieCade at last year's E3 and really fell in love with it. Telling the story about some out-of-work actors who decide to execute a real heist, this game is filled with humor, good looking art, and some great gameplay moments. The level I played had me switching between the different characters in order to complete various elements of the heist. Certain characters are better at different things, so it's imperative that the player knows where each person excels and uses them to their maximum efficiency. The Witness (PC)Release: 2013Official Website  Jonathan Blow made Braid. He is now making this. Need I say more? I need'nt, but I shall. Braid was a very important game in my life, and taught me that big things can come in small (downloadable) packages. The Witness is a much bigger package, but I expect it to be just as important.  The Witness is an exploration and puzzle game, set on a seemingly empty island. I suppose it's a bit like Myst, except way prettier. I have faith in Jonathan Blow to make something memorable that will be the talk of the town when it is finally released. [embed]243620:46745[/embed] Towerclimb (PC)Release: 2013 (Playable build with preorder)Official Website Greenlight Page  There's just something awesome about going upwards. Maybe it's because we're usually going down, into some dungeon or lair in order to eradicate an evil. TowerClimb, however, has us going the opposite direction, possibly escaping from something? Who knows, but it's exciting. It seems like it will not only reward patience, but also execution. The roguelike elements are what really get me into it, with random powerups and a difficulty meter that's through the roof. This ain't no Doodle Jump.  [embed]243620:46746[/embed] Under the Ocean (PC, Mac)Release: 2013 (Playable build with preorder)Official Website  Fact: I already know this game is wonderful. I've had the beta for a while and have really been enjoying myself. Here's my ten second pitch: A game about resources and survival on a 2D plane with beautiful art. There's a building element and way more to discover as you trek along, either through a predetermined story mode or through a newly added random terrain mode. The random terrain mode is what I spend most of my time in, since, if you couldn't tell by now, I love me some random elements in games. Definitely keep an eye on Under the Ocean as we move through the year.
Indies rule photo
But you knew these already, right?
Everyone's always talking about their radar. "Definitely adding this to my radar" or "This kind of flew off my radar after a while." Well, I'm about to bombard your radar with so many bleeps, sweeps, and creeps that you won't...

Top ten unforgettable deaths in Dead Space

Feb 07 // Allistair Pinsof
10) Death by Infector fail - Dead Space I love how these guys are all set on mind control and then their instincts get the best of them, so they say, "Ah, screw it! I'm just going to take his head off. Joy!" [embed]244169:46801[/embed] 9) Death by Machine - Dead Space 3 Every now and again, Isaac will stumble into a quick, pointless death by machine. At times, it can be comical how easily he explodes. I always expect "Ludicrous gibs!" text to pop-up. [embed]244169:46796:0[/embed] 8) Death by vomit - Dead Space 2 The manners of these necromorphs! [embed]244169:46797:0[/embed] 7) Death by hunter - Dead Space The hunter is the blue collar alien predator. You can always count on him to appear and brutally dismember Isaac, regardless of series entry. [embed]244169:46792:0[/embed] 6) Death by deepthroat - Dead Space 2 ... you know ... I don't think I'm going to touch this one. [embed]244169:46799:0[/embed] 5) Death by improper kissing technique - Dead Space 3 This is why you should read some eHow articles before going on your first date. Also, remember: If she clears her throat two times in the first hour of the date that means she is totally begging to marry you, brah! [embed]244169:46795:0[/embed] 4) Death by screwdriver - Dead Space 2 It's not often that other humans interact with Isaac. This scene suggests that may be a good thing. [embed]244169:46800:0[/embed] 3) Death by angry space babies - Dead Space 2 Isaac Clarke's misadventure in babysitting makes a strong argument for why you should leave angry space babies the hell alone. [embed]244169:46793:0[/embed] 2) Death by kung fu spider - Dead Space 3 Maybe laughter wasn't what Visceral were going for with this death, but I can't help but laugh at a spider that restlessly beats the hell out of Isaac. Reminds me of that They Live fight scene that goes on and on for 5+ minutes. The laughter soon turns to disgust as the spider crawls into Isaac's mouth. Gross! [embed]244169:46798:0[/embed] 1) Death by eye exam - Dead Space 2 I have a fear of things touching my eyes, and I suspect this is a shared feeling. I could never wear eye contacts because I would just freak out when trying to put them on. So, this death -- arguably the most memorable scene in the series and even games of the past 3 years -- hits a particular nerve. [embed]244169:46794:0[/embed]
Top Dead Space deaths photo
The faces of (space) death
One of the elements of classic horror is that when the horrible thing you are dreading finally happens, it happens in a way far more gruesome than you expect. Visceral Games got this part right so many times in its Dead Space...

Five space horror games worse than Dead Space 3

Feb 05 // Allistair Pinsof
It astounds me that Capcom hasn't brought the Resident Evil franchise to space -- though some Dino Crisis 3 detractors will insist that this is a good thing -- so Galerians is the next best thing. Except it's really not "best" at anything. Exploring a futuristic lab as an androgynous, psi-enabled 14-year-old boy is an okay concept, but developer Polygon Magic (Incredible Crisis) piled on convoluted mechanics, muddy backgrounds, and unintuitive controls. Its PS2 sequel didn't fare much better. After releasing the little-known pioneer of survival horror Doctor Hauzer, developer Riverhill Software took the genre to space with OverBlood and its even more baffling sequel. From the voice acting to combat, OverBlood stood as a reminder of how much Capcom pushed things forward with Resident Evil -- which, let's be honest, didn't have good voice acting or combat to begin with. OverBlood was rescued from complete obscurity by Game Informer's Super Replay series, in which the crew played through this bizarre series in its entirety. Laugh at their misfortune, instead of suffering yourself. As an anxious new recruit at Destructoid, I jumped at any review opportunity that entered my inbox in 2011. When I played Afterfall, that habit was corrected. Afterfall begins well enough -- despite looking like an Unreal Engine 3 school project -- but things go horribly wrong once the the plot sets off into generic sci-fi horrorland. The game's shameless coping of Dead Space wouldn't be so bad if the shooting and puzzles were remotely enjoyable. I was praying the game would just end, and my prayers were answered: I was playing an erroneously labeled retail copy that was really a preview build. Bullet dodged! Here's one nice thing I can say about Lifeline: It was ahead of its time. And now, here's the truth: It's still hot garbage. Trying to control an avatar by voice commands wouldn't even be fun if it worked properly, which Lifeline didn't. Watching this space waitress run into walls and open the wrong door is enough to make anyone pine for the days of tank controls. From Software was never a developer of hit titles -- not until Demon's Souls that is -- but Echo Night is a notch more obscure than its King's Field and Armored Core series. Beyond, the third entry in the franchise, takes place in space and accurately depicts how boring it must be to live on a space station, ghosts or not. Beyond has some great ambition and atmosphere, but the end result is game so dull that I wanted to open the air lock and go spiraling out into space. In many ways, it feels like precursor to Frictional Games' excellent blending of first-person adventure and horror. I can only imagine how great Beyond could have been in Frictional's hands.
Worse than Dead Space 3 photo
Better purchases can be made
By now, you may have heard the inarguable, absolute truth -- as is the case with Destructoid's reviews that are handed down from the maker to our holy reviewers -- that Dead Space 3 is not as great as the first two games. B...

Five Best Fire Emblems photo
Five Best Fire Emblems

Ranked: The five best Fire Emblem games


Take a look at the franchise's history
Feb 05
// Chris Carter
Fire Emblem is a pretty mysterious series to many gamers out there. Firstly, it's a strategy RPG (SRPG), which already places it in an established niche. Then you have to consider the fact that Nintendo didn't release the ser...

Five space horror games better than Dead Space 3

Feb 05 // Allistair Pinsof
In Dead Space, the sound design stirs the nerves as alien rattling, clawing, and screaming echoes down a hall. And when the necromorph comes within sight, the sensation of fear peaks, causing the player to nervously misfire a couple rounds before hitting. But, what if necromorphs couldn't be seen? Enemy Zero is such a game, wherein aliens are invisible and can only be eliminated up close. The first-person view, extremely limited ammo, and hush-quiet ship of Enemy Zero make it a space horror game that is yet to be matched in its pure, visceral scares. It's a bit too simple for its own good, and once the tricks of the AI are learned, the illusion of the aliens goes out the window with it. Yet, Enemy Zero is the first game I'd recommend to those who think Dead Space isn't scary enough. Pick a genre, pick a perspective -- hell, even pick a platform -- and there is likely a worthy Aliens game for you. From the overlooked run-and-gun action of Alien Resurrection to the eerie Metroid-inspired Infestation, the Aliens series is among the few franchises to successfully make a transition from theaters to consoles, time and time again. Let Jim Sterling, Aliens connoisseur, be your personal spirit guide. No "When I was 12" qualifiers here: I still find the Metroid series unsettling in its atmosphere and haunting sound design. Without relying on the jump scares, gore and narrative padding that Dead Space frequently indulges in, each Metroid game achieves a similar tone of menace and isolation. From landing on planet Zebes to evading bounty hunters, Metroid never offers the player a safe haven from predators. It may not be as shocking as Dead Space, but it's definitely as effective. There are few horror series appropriate for kids that still manage to scare the pants off adults. Every year, people install and play System Shock 2, despite having to navigate the swamps of fan patches, setup troubleshooting, and cryptic .nfo documents that point the way to running the revered title on current systems. It's true that System Shock 2 led the way to Ken Levine's work on BioShock, but it's not true that BioShock carried the same elements of horror that made SS2 a remarkable game full of unforgettable scares. I wrote about one I had here, and could write about many more if I only had the patience to reinstall it on my current computer -- Oh, what the hell ... I sure am cheating here. Cryostasis doesn't take place in space; it takes place in the North Pole, 1981. But, what makes a space horror game a space horror game? The tech and presence of the planets and stars, I'd argue. But, it's the confines of a ship, adrift and left nowhere, and the complete isolation that makes enemy encounters so scary. Cryostasis even offers the bonus of surreal dream sequences, especially near the end, that will speak to the sci-fi nut. I could have listed Doom 3 or Dino Crisis 3 (it's not bad, really!) here, but I chose Cryostasis instead because it really nails the elements of space horror even if it doesn't take place in space. [Image by modusprodukt, courtesy of deviantART]
Better than Dead Space 3 photo
In space, no one can hear you be mediocre
By now, you may have heard the inarguable, absolute truth -- as is the case with Destructoid's reviews that are handed down from the maker to our holy reviewers -- that Dead Space 3 is not as great as the first two games. Bei...

10 videogame films to watch on Netflix this weekend

Feb 01 // Allistair Pinsof
eXistenZ (1999) "Leading virtual-reality game designer Allegra Geller is testing a new prototype when an assassin wielding a daunting organic weapon attacks her. She survives the assault but must "portal" into her own game to get to the bottom of the intrigue." Why watch? Just as director David Cronenberg's Videodrome explored televisions subversive effect on our unconscious, eXistenZ does the same for videogames. Also, WILLEM DAFOE!!! The Thirteenth Floor (1999) "Two scientists have created a virtual reality 1930s Los Angeles so true-to-life that the occupants don't know they exist only in a computer chip -- until a homicide connects the parallel worlds of the simulated and the creators." Why watch? Overshadowed by The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor quickly left theaters without even developing a cult following -- it certainly deserves one, as it's one of those great mind-benders that makes you ask the big questions about reality. Special When Lit: A Pinball Documentary (2009) "Special When Lit rediscovers the lure of a lost pop icon: pinball. This award-winning documentary joins fans, collectors, designers and champion players from around the globe who share the story of a phenomenon that once swept the world." Why watch? Though I prefer Tilt, a similar documentary, this one also does a good job of documented a scene and era that few know today. Before Call of Duty and Doom were the bane of politicians, pinball was. Strange, no? Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade (2007) "At the unassuming Twin Galaxies arcade in Ottumwa, Iowa, early gamers fought for bragging rights at the 1982 Video Game World Championships. See how competitive gaming started, and meet arcade owner Walter Day, who still oversees scoring." Why watch? It's a shame that King of Kong isn't on Netflix streaming right now, but, in all honestly, Chasing Ghosts is a much better film on the same subject. This humorous, feel good documentary takes a broader view at hi-score chasers without applying bias. Indie Game: The Movie (2012) "This captivating documentary follows several independent game designers as they painstakingly develop their games and hope for breakthrough success. It also explores the quirky sensibility these personalities bring to their art form." Why watch? A gorgeously shot time capsule of indie game development in the early-2010's. Read my full review on Flixist. Video Game High School (2012) "In a world where professional video gaming is the biggest sport on Earth, hapless young gamer Brian D gets the chance of a lifetime: to sharpen his skills with the best of the best by enrolling in the most elite private gaming academy in the world." Why watch? Originally a $600,000 web series, but it works just as well as a movie. If you want to zone out and see some mildly funny videogame references, it will do the trick. Postal (2007) "Clearly inspired by the provoking humor of "South Park," this dark, cheeky satire loosely based on a video game of the same name centers on jobless trailer-park resident Dude (Zack Ward) and his ethically challenged Uncle Dave (Dave Foley), who are desperate for cash. The men cook up a scheme to pinch a shipment of Krotchy dolls and sell them on eBay. Unfortunately, Al-Qaeda has the same idea ... but plans to lace the toys with avian flu." Why watch? Because you can't beat Verne Troyer getting molested by an angry horde of monkies. Double Dragon (1994) "In earthquake-ravaged "New Angeles," an evil tycoon holds half of the "Double Dragon," a medallion that -- when whole -- will give him mystical powers. But two teen brothers possess the other half -- and aren't about to give it up without a fight." Why watch? There is no arguing whether it's great or not -- I mean, it's God-awful. But, pair it with the Podtoid commentary and some beer and you have yourself a good time. Avalon (2001) "Set in futuristic Europe, Avalon follows the contestants of a virtual-reality war game played for money and points. The game, however, is illegal, and players quickly become addicted -- but one can only leave the game by winning. The primary action of this technology-saturated sci-fi thriller focuses on the elimination of a player whose soul has become trapped in the game. Mamoru Oshii directs this Japanese-Polish film." Why watch? This live action, MMO-influenced film by the director of Ghost in the Shell isn't nearly as embarrassing as you may suspect. It's actually pretty darn neat! WarGames (1983) "After unwittingly hacking into a supercomputer at North American Aerospace Defense Command, David moves his piece in a seemingly innocent video game -- and tells the computer to start preparing a real nuclear strike." Why watch? WarGames may have the most dated technology on this list, but it is the most timeless film. This one deserves all the praise it gets, from the tense-as-all-hell opening to the cathartic finale. ------------------------------------------- Looking for more films to watch? Explore our movies tag or visit our sister site Flixist!
Top game films on Netflix photo
Shall we play a game?
With Netflix open to all subscribers on Xbox 360 this weekend, regardless of account type, now seems like a good time to highlight some Netflix streaming videogame films well worth watching. Be sure to add your own picks below!

Top ten best THQ games: Remembering a giant

Jan 31 // Allistair Pinsof
Anyone who knows me, knows that I loves me strategy games. I love StarCraft, Rise of Nations, Sins of a Solar Empire, Civilization -- you name it. Company of Heroes was probably the first one that got me really into WWII from a strategy perspective. It is also one of the first games that took advantage of advanced graphics -- namely, destructible environments -- that have a huge effect on gameplay. As tank shells create craters, for example, your infantry can use the modified terrain as cover. Subtle details like that keep gameplay fun and dynamic and also provide a refreshing twist on the classic RTS. - Daniel Starkey [Take a look back at our previous Company of Heroes coverage.] Licensed games, as a general rule, tend to be rather uninspired affairs. Relic Entertainment's acclaimed Warhammer 40,000 titles fly in the face of that trend. Space Marine and the Dawn of War series are genuinely entertaining titles that pay homage to Games Workshop's license rather than abuse it. Relic has delivered quality experiences time and again, developing games capable of standing on their own merits while still providing ample amounts of fan service for the already initiated. As someone who has spent more than a fair share of hours painting miniatures and rolling dice, it's clear Relic has a great deal of reverence for the source material. Captain Titus' battle with Ork and Chaos forces on Forge World Graia brought that universe to life for me. I wish Relic the best and hope that their new overlords at Sega allow them to keep making these games for a long, long time. - Kyle MacGregor [Take a look back at our Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine review.] While the game was initially buggy, a heroic modding community has managed to make S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl into something worth celebrating; despite its dreary setting and almost constant peril, the Zone was a place that oozed life. It is a brave game both mechanically and tonally, considering no FPS has come close to what S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl attempts is slightly sad; the singular highpoint of the whole Call of Duty franchise is when the series visits Pripyat in the irradiated zone. - Alasdair Duncan [Take a look back at our S.T.A.L.K.E.R. coverage.] It feels wrong to love Saints Row 2, but it feels even worse not to. The presentation lacks polish, the writing is tasteless, the focus is aimless ... but it's so fun!  Where Saints Row made a marked improvement on the GTA series' controls, Saints Row 2 makes a remarkable improvement on almost every other level. GTAIV offered flawless presentation but boring combat; Saints Row 2 is just the opposite. It's the sandbox game I've always wanted, where nothing matters but the player having fun. Want to surf on a car for no reason?  Hell ya!  Want to ride golf carts through a mall while doing a drive-by?  YES! Even the music is awesome in this game. GTA is great but nothing compares to firing infinite rockets at cop cars while driving to Hum's "Stars". If only I could merge Saints Row 2's gameplay with GTA4's presentation and story, I'd have the greatest game ever. For now, I'll take Saints Row 2 over GTAIV.  After all, I can watch The Wire if I want inner city drama.  - Allistair Pinsof [Take a look back at the only Saints Row 2 video that matters on the internet.] Lock's Quest is one of the most unique games released on the Nintendo DS. It spices up tower defense with direct character control and RPG elements.  Long before Iron Brigade and Starhawk, Lock's Quest had players building walls and constructing turrets to later fight among them. The ability to directly control Lock on the battlefield may seem trivial at first, but it adds an entirely different prioritization element to tower defense, where Lock's location, health, and special abilities all factor into the decision making process.  As a tower defense game, it really shines in that it's not unforgiving in its difficulty, but the later levels really feel like they push you to your limits. While it's satisfying to have a great base built that easily repels the hordes of robots, it doesn't get much better than feeling all is lost only to scrape by with a well timed electrical explosion that takes out the last of the advancing enemies. Lock's Quest is pure fun, whether you are a fan of tower defense or not. - Darren Nakamura [Take a look back at our Lock's Quest review.] 50 Cent: Bulletproof was an awful waste of time. 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, on the other hand, stands as the greatest guilty pleasure for any person who was brave enough to try it back in 2009. 50 Cent and G-Unit are playing a venue somewhere in the Middle East where his payment is in the form of a diamond skull, because why the hell not? As luck would have it, that skull is stolen and 50 Cent goes on a bullet hose rampage, destroying the country and yelling "you fucked up!" at everyone until he finds it. Because no one takes Fiddy's skull. No one. - Brett Zeidler [Take a look back at our 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand review.] Red Faction: Guerrilla is initially interesting for its building destruction mechanics. It's quite a hoot to blow up a building's support beams and watch it tumble down into pieces on top of anyone around it. I might die in the process, but it hardly matters since I'll just get a new guy and have at it again. That's when it hit me: these thoughts and ideas have a lot, perhaps too much, in common with those of terrorists. After all, the goal is to drive these uninvited invaders off of the planet, since they're only there for economic reasons. Guerrilla explores terrorism in an almost uncomfortable way, by executing it perfectly. Throwing away a life in an explosive raid is okay to do within the game, though it does make me a bit uncomfortable. And I love that. - Patrick Hancock [Take a look back at our Red Faction: Guerrilla review.] Very few games have warmed my heart like Costume Quest. There's just something about it. Although many people were quick to point out it was a very basic RPG experience, for a downloadable title it was perfect. Subtle changes to RPG tropes, like candy as currency and trick-or-treating as quests, helped showcase that the game wasn't merely a homage, but a labor of love. Combat has elements reminiscent of Super Mario RPG and exploring the whimsical world never felt like a chore. Double Fine did a great job recapturing the spirit of every child's favorite evening, and THQ did the right thing by publishing it. - Chris Carter [Take a look back at our Costume Quest review.] Until the arrival of Darksiders 2, drawing comparisons to Zelda was used interchangeably as a slight and compliment. Whether shamelessly cribbing from God of War, Portal, and Panzer Dragoon made the game stronger or not was also a point of contention. Never before had a game attempted such blatant copying of contemporary, popular games. Though some resisted Darksiders -- and still do -- for me, it showed that there is no shame in copying others when quality and holistic design come before tribute. The variety of level design comes from copying other titles, but Vigil Games is what made all the disparate parts come together in a game that continues to surprise until its end. When stripped away from its idols, you get Darksiders 2, the equivalent of a dried-out sponge. - Allistair Pinsof [Take a look back at our Darksiders review.] Some people may say that its predecessor, Saints Row 2, was a funnier and better game. These people are afraid of change. The Third is the full realization of what the series had been working towards. It is utterly ridiculous and doesn't pretend to be anything but. By doing this, the actions of the player outside of cutscenes fall in line with the character's actions within them, unlike a certain other company's open world games.The http://deckers.die mission in particular is what skyrockets this game above any other. In a single mission you become a toilet, a sex doll, use the Mega Buster, participate in a text adventure, and fight a boss that simulates lag. I truly hope that when future generations talk about the best levels in video games, deckers.die is sitting alongside the classics. - Patrick Hancock [Take a look back at our Saints Row: The Third Dildo Baseball Bat review.]
Top Ten THQ Games photo
From wrestlers to panda-suit-wearing sociopaths
When assessing a publisher's impact on the industry, we tend to focus on the highs rather than consistency. THQ was anything but consistent, putting out Nintendo DS shovelware, rushed licensed games, and taking part in one of...

Destructoid's dream list of Wii U remakes

Jan 24 // Tony Ponce
Viewtiful Joe 1 & 2 Watching the latest trailer for The Wonderful 101, I get a sudden urge to replay director Hideki Kamiya's original tokusatsu game, Viewtiful Joe. Ever since Clover Studio was shuttered, Capcom has let this marvelous property go to waste, trotting Joe out only for crossover fighters. It's time to bring the "henshin" hero back with an HD compilation of the two mainline titles! Viewtiful Joe was every bit as stylish as its titular star, rocking that cel-shading like the world was ending. As two of the most visually striking games on the GameCube, an HD overhaul would only make them look more amazing, with thick bold lines and nary a sharp polygonal corner. I also see a great opportunity for Capcom to tweak the games for the GamePad in order to incorporate touch abilities from the DS installment, Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble! In that game, Joe could split the screen in half by drawing a line, swap the top and bottom screens, and manipulate objects in the environment. It might sound a bit gimmicky, but I strongly believe that there is potential for some clever puzzles and gameplay across two screens. But perhaps that's leaning too far into sequel territory. I really just want a Viewtiful Joe 1 & 2 combo pack so that maybe Capcom will wake up and complete the trilogy. Killer7 Killer7 is one of the most celebrated games to come out of Japan, but it can be a bit polarizing for some, particularly with the control scheme. That wouldn't be an issue with the Wii U, however, with the ability to customize multiple control options and tweak them into perfection. Think about it -- changing personas on the GamePad? Viewing all the pertinent information you need without having to pause the game? Those who wish to use IR controls would also have the Wii Remote at the ready thanks to the Wii U's diverse control options. Visually, although the original is still relevant, a nice HD sheen will do wonders in bringing Killer7 to a new generation. Now is a great time to strike while the iron is hot, as Suda has enjoyed immense success since No More Heroes. Suda, I hope you're listening! Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem You'd be hard-pressed to find a videogame mindfuck as crazy as Eternal Darkness. I mean, it can be done, especially if you dig deep into the PC's recesses of adventure titles, but there was something special about playing Eternal Darkness on a Nintendo console that made it delightfully macabre. Think of the possibilities with the Wii U GamePad! The insanity effects when your character's sanity bar drops too low, a staple of Eternal Darkness, could be even more absurd as the game plays tricks on your GamePad and TV in tandem. Given the large number of items and weapons, on-screen equipment capabilities also have the potential to improve combat. The only real Achilles' heel of the original was the graphical limitations of the GameCube and Silicon Knight's development tools, both of which are rectified on the HD Wii U. Chibi-Robo! Plug into Adventure! When this game was first released, videogames about "relationships" and "achievements" were a rarity. These days, they're all anyone can talk about. Chibi-Robo! did all that first, and in this writer's humble opinion, it did it all best. What appears on the surface to be a simple game about a tiny robot making his way through a suburban home quickly evolves into an adventure into family dysfunction. The husband is out of work and obsessed with escapism through watching TV and collecting toys. The wife feels lost and alone, with only little Chibi-Robo to confide in. The daughter thinks they're all awful and spends most of her life pretending to be a frog. Only Chibi-Robo can save them from divorce and despair. You also get to play a game of Tamagotchi. Think of how amazing that would be in HD! This under-appreciated masterpiece deserves a second chance, in high definition or otherwise. Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest Hey, you know that Tokyo Jungle game that's so trendy right now? Back in the day, there was a game just like that, but with added heaven, poops, rainbows, and cubes. That game was called Cubivore. Can you imagine seeing them cube-faced dicks in HD for the first time with no jaggies? Mega Man Network Transmission This game is awesome in theory, but pretty messy in practice. What better time to clean up by changing the character run speed and tweaking the enemy damage threshold / power than during Mega Man's 25th birthday? For those who haven't played it, Mega Man Network Transmission is a 2D platformer that features a Battle Network-style remix of multiple characters and bosses from the classic Mega Man series. It feels like two or three old-school Mega Man games in one, with the addition of polygon-based graphics and Zero from the Mega Man X series thrown in for good measure. It's a shame that more fans of the series haven't played this one. It would be hard to imagine an HD remix of this obscure title selling well at retail, but throw that thing down on the Wii U eShop for $10, and the game could finally find the audience that it always deserved. Odama This quirky combination of pinball and battlefield tactics was one of the last titles published for the GameCube, and it remains one of my favorite titles from that platform. As Yamanouchi Kagetora, a young general in feudal Japan, the player leads a small force of men against a massive army using their secret weapon, a huge stone ball called the Odama. A great combination of action and strategy, the player has to issue commands to their troops (by voice -- Odama made use of the GameCube microphone peripheral) while simultaneously directing the Odama by way of flippers and tilting the landscape. A remake of Odama on Wii U could be extraordinary. For starters, there's no longer need of any peripheral devices to play, as the GamePad's built-in microphone addresses the need to issue voice commands. Likewise, tilt controls could be managed with the GamePad's accelerometers rather than buttons, and I expect that such action would feel quite satisfying with that broad controller in hand. Of course it will never, ever happen. Smashing together two niche gameplay genres seems like a good way to make a game with an even more limited audience, and Odama did not fare well either critically or commercially upon release. Still, if we're dreaming, I'd love to see another stab taken at this unique game. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures When the Wii U was first revealed, one of the first games that came to mind was The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. For the fortunate few who could muster all of the necessary hardware to play a four-player game, this was one of the most hectic cooperative-competitive hybrid experiences of its time. The GamePad seemed like it was built for Four Swords Adventures, with action moving between the main screen for outdoor environments and individual screens for indoor areas. That's not even mentioning that the hand-drawn Wind Waker-esque sprites would look incredible in HD. Sadly, when Nintendo announced that support for four GamePads wouldn't be included in the Wii U's capabilities, the dream of having more people with access to such a unique style of gameplay was dashed. With online capability, it's still technically plausible, although a lot of the charm would be lost without the ability to have four players smashing pots and throwing each other into pits all on the same screen. Star Fox Adventures Despite all of the flak that it gets for its departure from on-rails shooting, Star Fox Adventures was actually a pretty great action-adventure game. As Rare's last game for a non-handheld Nintendo system, both its mechanics and its world were expertly crafted. Remade on the Wii U, the aptly, if not unimaginatively, named Dinosaur Planet and all of its scaly inhabitants could look fantastic. The GamePad wouldn't have to do much more than display a map or function as Fox's inventory screen, and it would be a streamlined experience. However, in the spirit of a true remake, Star Fox Adventures could be revamped to include more uses for Fox's sidekick Tricky, promoting him from a useful tool to a fully controllable cooperative partner. With the GamePad screen, Tricky could explore areas independently, aiding Fox in more meaningful ways. P.N.03 Combat is often described as a dance, and few games epitomize that rhythmic struggle more so than P.N.03. Vanessa Z. Schneider is a graceful heroine, one who responds to the ebb and flow of combat with acrobatic leaps and stylish moves, dodging and hurtling over gunfire with the elegance of a figure skater. It's just too bad that she handles more like Jill Valentine than Michelle Kwan. Tank-like controls, a holdover from Shinji Mikami's work on the Resident Evil games, make for a steep learning curve. However, it's mastering P.N.03's systems and working within its constraints that makes the game such an enjoyable experience (and the pulsing techno and synth-rock soundtrack doesn't hurt either). I wouldn't mess this stylish arcade shooter's addictive formula for the world. Save, perhaps, for a fresh lick of paint and change of venue. Vanessa would look mighty pretty in high-definition on the Wii U. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is my second favorite game on the GameCube, falling right behind the near-perfect Resident Evil 4. It was infinitely more charming than I had expected it to be. The art direction is among the best the series has seen, and I think, even in its original form, the game still holds up today. The stylized, impressive visuals are ripe for an HD remake and wouldn't expose any unsightly seams. A lot of the game's personality also comes from Kumi Tanioka's brilliant score, which is earthy, ancient, and incredibly unique. Still, while I got an uncommon kick out of playing the game solo, cooperative play is where it's at. Crystal Chronicles featured up to four player co-op and used the Game Boy Advance link cables so each player could access their own menus and deal with typical RPG fare without a convoluted system that burdens everyone else. The Wii U essentially offers a more advanced, standardized version of the Game Boy Advance-to-GameCube connection, making the parallel a no-brainer. Allowing for both local and online play also mitigates the hurdle of getting four people together in a room, though I feel the journey might lose a little luster without that inimitable, personal couch co-op feel. I've been disappointingly unimpressed by what I've played of follow-up entries in the Crystal Chronicles series, so going back to where they got everything right would be a nice way of introducing a more accessible version of the series to a new set of fans ready to caravan across the lands.
Wii U remakes photo
These GameCube titles deserve an upgrade!
Oh Nintendo. Now you've done it. In announcing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Reborn, a hi-res upgrade of the classic GameCube adventure, Nintendo has set a precedent for Wii U remakes. The gloves are off and everything ...

Game critics collective top 10 games of 2012

Jan 14 // Allistair Pinsof
The Process Each site’s game of the year receives 3 points. In the rare case that there were two winners (ugh), those 3 points were split (i.e. 1.5 points each). I split 4 points among nominees, cutting off nominees to four entries where possible. In the cases where nominees were unranked, I included all nine (or whatever number) and split four points between them (rounded to .4 points each). If a site had more than nine nominees, I didn’t include them at all because having 20 nominees is just silly. In the case that two games had the same number of points, I favored the one with more votes (i.e. those that appeared on the most lists).Finally, I must point out that some sites were left off this list because I couldn’t find their list or they opted out of doing one this year (see: 1UP). The List 15. Black Ops 2: 2.4 (3 votes)14. Spelunky: 2.4 (4 votes)13. Guild Wars 2: 2.8 (4 votes)12. (tie) Spec Ops: The Line: 3 (1 votes)12. (tie) Xenoblade Chronicles: 3 (1 votes)11. Trials Evolution: 3 (3 votes) 10) 6.7 (5 votes) "Can you remember when you first found out that the game was going to be set during the American Revolution? There was a good chance that sales of adult diapers skyrocketed as a result. Ubisoft, we salute you." - Complex 9) 7 (5 votes) "It's a perfect, wordless sci-fi parable - and an elegant comment on the development of video games themselves, expressed in a way only a game could articulate." - Eurogamer 8) 11.1 (9 votes) "Halo 4 showed that a fresh set of hands couldn’t hurt a franchise so strong and so loved." - GameRevolution 7) 13.5 (13 votes) "In a medium where narrative threads commonly go unresolved, BioWare should be commended for concluding most of the major sub-plots that were introduced in earlier games in the series." - Polygon 6) 16.7 (14 votes) "If you are up for a good laugh while shooting things in the face, Borderlands 2 is a worthy game to add to your collection. Soon enough, you'll see numbers popping above people's heads in real life and will feel compelled to search every Porta Potty on the street for cash." - Destructoid 5) 19.6 (16 votes) "Every part of Dishonored works in exquisite concert, every system complementing the others with a graceful cohesion that speaks of Corvo himself, and of the generosity in freedom and participation Dishonored extends to its players. Few games burst as fully formed from the ether – perhaps Dunwall’s most remarkable achievement is that it feels so inevitable." - Edge 4) 20.6 (15 votes) "A multiplicity of tactics and paths provide the player with a sense of true psychosomatic and terrestrial exploration. Far Cry 3 is a intrepid sequel that eschews the series's previous mistakes and leans on its strengths with the relish of a practiced hunter." - Slant Magazine 3) 28.7 (17 votes) "I could accuse developer thatgamecompany of obvious manipulation, warping the environment and the very light to instill emotions within me, but isn't that the point? To master the language of the medium, to be evocative and to make us walk a steep path and then let us savor the views from its peak? In Journey, world building, writing, and design feel like they're the same thing." - Joystiq 2) 29.9 (19 votes) "The game is deep but intuitive. It rewards planning and focus, it penalizes failure. It requires patience but can still be exciting. It's an easy game to start playing and a tough one to stop. Plus, that music when you're going into battle, always gets us pumped." - Kotaku 1) 38.9 (23 votes) "I want back the hour of my life I wasted on this game.First, this isn't a game. It is an interactive movie. It is one of those inane "push the right button when it flashes on the screen" snooze fests. It is about 90% cut scenes with the occasional button push. If you like CoD type games or open worlds, you will HATE this "game".Second, even for the genre it is terrible. The game has two modes: 1) an easy mode where it gives you hints about what is expected of you; and 2) a hard mode where there few if any hints. Not knowing what to expect, I opted for the hint mode. I would have actually been better off going it on my own.The first time this barely interactive cartoon lets you do anything, you have to get out of a car, get off your handcuffs, and deal with a cop-turned-zombie. After you have crawled to where your back is up against a police car, the screen starts flashing "look at cop". Ok, I look at the cop. The character says something and the zombie keeps coming. So I look at cop again. Same result. The screen says again "look at cop". So I look at the cop again. And he jumps on me and eats my brains -- "You are dead" says the game. After it reloads, when it tells me to look at the cop, I DON'T look at the cop, but look to my right and left and find a shotgun with a shell. Then I get to shoot the zombie. So what you actually have to do is the exact opposite of what the hint on the screen is blaring at you to do.And this is the VERY FIRST TIME you interact with the game. It does not get any better. I thought this style of game went out of vogue 30 years ago with the old Dragon's Lair quarter eater of the 80s. Sadly, it appears that this particular developer is going retro.If you are a fan of the Walking Dead and this review makes you mad (as seems to be the case based upon the feedback I have seen on the negative reviews), after you get done downvoting me, download it for free, realize I was absolutely right, and go spend your money on the next season of the Walking Dead TV show or some other merchandise. I PROMISE you that you will thank me for it. If you buy this game you will be throwing away money that could be used to actually satisfy your Walking Dead fix and entertain you.Don't say you weren't warned." - Angry Amazon.com user reviewer Gary, who did not factor into our ranking The Rest FTL: 2.4 (3 votes)Mark of the Ninja: 2.4 (3 votes)Super Hexagon: 2.4 (2 votes)Max Payne 3: 2 (2 votes)Sleeping Dogs: 2 (2 votes)Hotline Miami: 1.4 (2 votes)Diablo 3: 1 (1 votes)FIFA 13: 1 (1 votes)DOTA 2: 1 (1 votes)Tribes: Ascend: 1 (1 votes)Awesomenauts: 1 (1 votes)PlanetSide 2: 1 (1 votes)BlackLight Retribution: 1 (1 votes)Zero Escape: .8 (2 votes)Hitman: Absolution: .7 (1 votes)Crusader Kings II .4 (1 vote)Papa & Yo .4 (1 vote)The Unfinished Swan: .4 (1 votes) The Oddballs Xenoblade Chronicles received rave reviews, accumulating to a Metacritic score of 92. Yet, it only appeared on one list: Slant Magazine's, which gave it game of the year. Likewise, Mark of the Ninja and Trials Evolution have 90+ Metacritic scores but only managed to appear on 3 lists. The biggest shock is our #10 and #9 entries. Assassin's Creed III divided critics almost as much as Resident Evil 6, but still managed to make this list (mostly due to receiving top honors on at least one list). Fez, on the other hand, is one of the most well received games in 2012 in terms of reviews and social media buzz (I can't think of many other games discussed so fervently on Twitter.) The Sites Kotaku: XCOM    Noms: Super Hexagon, Crusdaer Kings II, Journey, Papa & Yo, Spelunky, Walking Dead, Zero EscapePolygon: The Walking Dead    Noms: Dishonored, XCOM, Journey, Far Cry 3Joystiq: Journey    Noms: Super Hexagon, Walking Dead, XCOM, FezGames Beat: Walking Dead    Noms: XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Xbox 360, PC)Journey (PSN)Borderlands 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)Far Cry 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)Halo 4 (Xbox 360)Dishonored (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)Gamespot: Journey    Noms: Dishonored, Guild Wars 2, Halo 4, Mark of the Ninja, Mass Effect 3, Spelunky, Walking Dead, XCOM, Zero EscapeMachinima: Halo 4    Noms: Borderlands 2, Black Ops 2, Dishonored, Mass Effect 3, Walking Dead, XCOM, Game Informer: Mass Effect 3 XPlay: Borderlands 2    Noms: Journey, Halo 4, Assassin’s Creed 3, Black Ops 2, XCOM, Hitman, IGN: Journey    Noms: Borderlands 2, Hotline Miami, Guild Wars II, FTL, Dishonored, The Unfinished Swan, Mass Effect 3, The Walking Dead, Halo 4Game Spy: XCOM    Noms: DOTA, Guild Wars 2, Planet Side 2, Borderlands 2GameFront: Walking Dead    Noms: Dishonored, XCOM, Tribes, Borderlands 2Yahtzee: Spec Ops: The LineNoms: Dishonored, The Walking Dead, Far Cry 3, XCOM,Total Biscuit: Journey    Noms: Awesomenauts, PlanetSide 2, FTL, BlackLight RetributionLazy Game Reviewer: Far Cry 3Noms: Sleeping Dogs, Dishonored, Mark of the Ninja, Borderlands 2 EDGE: Dishonored    Noms: Trials Evolution, XCOM, Spelunky, Super HexagonComplex: Walking Dead    Noms: Journey, Far Cry 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, FIFA 13Game Planet: Far Cry 3    Noms: Borderlands 2, Walking Dead, Mass Effect, Guild Wars 2Game Focus: DishonoredOXM: Walking Dead    Noms: Trials Evolution, Mark of the Ninja, Fez, Mass effect 3Dark Zero: Journey    Noms: Halo 4, Mass Effect 3, Walking Dead,Borderlands 2The Guardian: Dishonored, XCOM    Noms: Journey, Borderlands, Far Cry 3, EuroGamer: FezRev3: JourneyTelegraph: Walking Dead    Noms: Journey, Dishonored, XCOM, Far Cry 3GameRevolution: Assassin’s Creed 3    Noms: Halo 4, Far Cry 3, Mass Effect 3, The Walking DeadSlant Magazine: Xenoblade Chronicles    Noms: Journey, Walking Dead, Borderlands 2, Far Cry 3Thunderbolt: Walking Dead    Noms: XCOM, Hotline Miami, Far Cry 3, Max Payne 3Gamestm: Borderlands 2    Noms: Dishonored, Fez, FTL, Halo 4GameCentral Video Games: XCOM    Noms: Journey, Dishonored, Mass Effect 3, SpelunkyDigital Spy: Walking Dead    Noms: XCOM, Far Cry 3, Mass Effect 3, Trials EvolutionDtoid: Walking Dead    Noms: Borderlands 2, Dishonored, Journey, Mass Effect 3Giant Bomb: XCOM    Noms: The Walking Dead, Far Cry 3, Fez, JourneyVideogamer.com: Halo 4    Noms: The Walking Dead, Max Payne 3, Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3 Gamesradar: Walking DeadAction Trip: XCOM    Noms: The Walking Dead: Season One (Telltale Games), Diablo 3 (Blizzard Entertainmentl), Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal), Assassins Creed 3 (Ubisoft Montreal).EGM: Far Cry 3    Noms: Borderlands 2, XCOM, Walking Dead, Sleeping DogsGameTrailers: XCOM    Noms: Assassin’s Creed 3, Black Ops 2, Journey, Mass Effect 3, 3DJuegos: Dishonored
Critics top games of 2012 photo
You probably can guess #1
My insatiable hunger for tracking and displaying the most revered games of the year will not end. I blame Metacritic. I also blame Metacritic for not doing a proper job in aggregating the best games of the year. While the sit...

A look back at 2012's most wanted games

Jan 04 // Allistair Pinsof
These are the games where our expectations were happily met by glowing reviews from Destructoid and other sites. Overall we were "right" about 21 out of 27 games. What we said in January: Prior to playing the beta, I wasn't so sure about Diablo III. All these years later, could it compare to the fond memories we have of its predecessors? My doubts disappeared almost immediately. It's funny how quick I was to forget that Blizzard takes its sweet time for a reason. What we said in our review: Even if it's not a perfect game, there's something special about Diablo, and it's something that keeps people playing beyond just a basic addiction to loot. That I've already sunk over 40 hours into the game in just over a week and I'm not even close to being bored of it yet is a testament to the magic of Diablo, and something that can't be ignored. [8.5] Metacritic: What we said in January: Arkane Studios make the type of games I like to play. It so happens that these are the type of games that rarely get made these days. Beyond Irrational Games, Bethesda, and Valve, no developer wants to take the risk of spending years crafting a rich, varied world that you can explore. It takes time, money, and a whole lot of skill. And, finally, Arkane have all three of these, which is why I think Dishonored will shape up to be one of 2012's most memorable single-player games. That, and I was blown away when I saw it in action at QuakeCon last year. What we said in our review: Dishonored is that game of 2012. It's the big intellectual property that comes to retail and shows up the competition by being bold, original, and -- more importantly -- brilliant. [9.0] Metacritic: What we said in January: Jenova Chen, Kellee Santiago, and their studio thatgamecompany made a name for themselves with their 2009 PSN title, Flower. It was a fundamentally simple game that nonetheless elicited passionate emotional responses from players, and few (if any) other titles since have matched it in those respects. What we said in our review: Journey's interactive, visual, and aural elements work together, rather than fight with each other, in order to provide a flowing, seamless, influential, and utterly exhilarating experience.    This is interactive art. This is how it's done. [9.0] Metacritic: What we said in January: See what happens when a company digs out its ears and listens to the fans? It was pretty much like pulling teeth with Nintendo, but now Xenoblade Chronicles is on its way to the US. Sure, I could have imported the European version, but having a cheaper option is always nice. What we said in our review: I am incredibly grateful to Xenoblade Chronicles, for it has rekindled my love for console JRPGs, a love that had been systematically throttled by the likes of Square Enix and tri-Ace for the past few years. [8.0] Metacritic: What we said in January: I could probably talk about Far Cry 2 all day. Despite all its failures and unrealized ambitions, its design supported player agency and offered nonlinear gameplay in ways that few games even dare to try, much less realize with a modicum of success. Allowing the player to approach a situation from any standpoint with any strategy and essentially design their own experience in such a vivid and immersive game world made Far Cry 2 an exciting step forward for the medium.  What we said in our review: One of those rare games where I feel no mode has been damaged by the inclusion of any others, Far Cry 3 is a well-rounded package that provides a mass of content clearly produced by developers who cared deeply about what they were doing. Far Cry 3 is going to be the last major mainstream release of 2012, and after quite a spotty year, I can at least say this industrious triad of amusements ends the past 12 months on a high note. [8.0] Metacritic: See also: Rhythm Heaven Fever La-MulanaRetro City RampageUncharted: Golden AbyssGravity Rush SSX Max Payne 3 Lollipop Chainsaw Borderlands 2  Resident Evil Revelations Paper Mario Pokémon + Nobunaga's Ambition Zero Escape: Virtue's Last RewardTheatrhythm Final Fantasy Quantum Conundrum Guild Wars 2 These are the games we got horribly wrong. We aren't gambling people for a reason. Sorry if you purchased any of these. If you did, you should have read the review first, ya dummy! What we said in January: I genuinely love the Kinect system and have managed to maintain a high level of optimism for it, but the games designed typically suffer from a severe lack of complexity. Developers are still testing the boundaries, seeing what design implementations work with full-body motion controls and which do not. For my money, I have long maintained that the solution lies in combining the control options of Kinect with the traditional controller.  What we said in our review: At its core, it's a basic mech game with a "realistic and gritty" feel to it that you've seen a million times before. Maybe at some point, the Kinect requirement can be patched out of it. Until then, piloting these Vertical Tanks even while sober may result in a loss of brain cells. [3.0] Metacritic: What we said in January: This game looks like an absolute delight, and is a shoe-in first-day pickup for me. A delightfully vicious little puzzle game in which two differently sized creatures have to escape from various Saw-like traps, Escape Plan marries intricate environmental puzzling to beautiful, stylized graphics to create something very unique looking. The protagonists, Lil and Laarg, are some of the most unusual game heroes I've seen in a while, and the ability to play around with them using touch controls ought to make for some remarkably tangible characters.  What we said in our review: Escape Plan never aims to be anything more than a showcase of the PlayStation Vita's touch controls, but said controls are so insensitive and poorly implemented that the best it can hope for is to be used as an example of what not to do when designing a Vita game. [4.5] Metacritic: What we said in January: Oh shut up! Dynasty Warriors is the greatest game series ever developed, and anybody who says otherwise is a thieving liar! In any case, Dynasty Warriors NEXT looks to inject some fresh ideas into the franchise, utilizing as it does every single mode of input the Vita boasts.   What we said in our review: Awful obligatory minigames aside, there's a solid game to enjoy at the core. You'll just have to be a really big fan to suffer through the dire moments. [6.0] Metacritic: What we said in January: Pikmin and Overlord fused together in the fires of Hell, set to music that makes you want to whip your hair around in a headbanging fury? Smart dual stick controls, big bosses and hilarious dialogue move this title to the top of my launch list. Where do I sign? I'll sign in blood! What we said in our review: It may not be the best-looking game in the Vita's launch line-up -- and it's definitely lacking in the variety department -- but the frantic gameplay and the insane death metal soundtrack help take the sting off. [7.0] Metacritic: See also:  The Last Story I Am Alive Many of our anticipated games have moved on to 2013. Even worse, some of them we haven't heard from in a long time. Let's check back in and see what's going on. What we said in January: I haven't watched an episode of South Park in about a year. Outside a couple episodes, it's never held my interest (You Have 0 Friends" was the last great one). The episodes typically start off with a good premise, but then run that premise into the ground through repetition and dull writing. Yet, here I am looking forward to Obsidian's attempt to RPG-ify the beloved brats and bring new life into Matt Stone and Trey Parker's ever-aging lovechild. Last update: There was an awesome new gameplay trailer at the Spike VGAs. The game now has a release window of Spring. Hopefully, we'll hear soon and THQ will manage to get it out without collapsing (we believe in you!) What we said in January: It wouldn't be a "most anticipated PS3" list without The Last Guardian, right? This game's numerous and lengthy delays -- I've put it on this list for three straight years, now -- haven't reduced my anticipation for it at all. What does have me somewhat worried is the departure from Sony of the project's visionary director, Team Ico's Fumito Ueda; at least he'll finish the game, and at this point, we're still assuming that that'll happen this year. Last update: They're working on it or so we have been told.   What we said in January: I played the game at E3 and absolutely fell in love with its crisp visuals and addictive gameplay. I can't wait to play more of Luigi's Mansion 2 when it comes out later this year! Last update: Chad Concelmo, who wrote the above piece, now works for Nintendo's PR. 1) That shows how much can change in a year. 2) TELL US WHEN THE GAME IS COMING OUT ALREADY, CHAD, WON'T YOU!??    See Also: Dragon Quest X Killzone VitaThe Last of Us Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance BioShock Infinite Professor Layton vs. Ace AttorneyRodea the Sky Soldier DOTA 2 [Images via Pixelitis, Garage Door Fail, and Retriever Man]
2012 Reflections photo
Remember Last Guardian?
The staff of Destructoid are a bunch of chiseled yet humble geniuses that make the world better every day through our humanitarian efforts via gaming news and features. The only flaw that can possibly be said about us that we...

Remembering studios that closed in 2012

Dec 22 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Hudson Soft Founded on May 18, 1973, Hudson Soft has been a force in this industry for so long that it seemed as if it would always be around. By 2003, the company had over 500 employees, with studios in both Tokyo and California. Throughout its history, Hudson designed a vast amount games and characters, including the iconic Bomberman, as well as less-iconic-but-still-identifiable Bonk. This story was one that was drawn out, as last year saw the closure of the offices in California. The final nail would come this year, when even the Tokyo offices would also be shut down. It’s something that is definitely heartbreaking for many a fan of the company's works, as well as people who loved the classic bee logo -- doubly for people in both categories like me. With the closure came the announcement that Konami would be absorbing what was left of Hudson, and retiring the name. So while the cute bee might be put out on the rocker on the front porch, hopefully the properties that bee ran won’t be neglected in the future. THQ & THQ San Diego Yesterday we reported that THQ had filed for bankruptcy. The company may not intend to reduce its workforce size during this period, but it's not a very optimistic situation. In March, the company reported a net loss of $239.9 million for the end of the fiscal year, which was over $100 million greater than the previous year's loss. Shortly after, THQ publicly made a deal with Electronic Arts to sell off its license to the UFC franchise. This directly lead to the closure of the THQ studio located in San Diego, the team behind the UFC games. This is one of those times that just goes to show you how fragile some things are in the industry. One deal sealed the fate of a whole studio, and all the workers there. While this might not be the end for THQ yet, the company's long-term survival is by no means guaranteed. I don't usually root for a publisher, but my heart is out for this one, if only for Saints Row 4. Black Hole Entertainment Black Hole Entertainment might be known for a few different games. It developed a couple of Warhammer games: Mark of Chaos and Black March. The company's most notable recent achievement would be Heroes of Might and Magic 6, which can be claimed as the reason for its downfall. Shortly after filing for bankruptcy, an insider from the company came out with claims that Ubisoft, the publisher they worked with, was at fault. The claims laid down include a lack of accountability from Ubisoft for missed deadlines, consistently sudden changes and feature removal demands by Ubisoft, and Ubisoft restructuring the key development team numerous times. Supposedly, the penalties from the missed deadlines, as well as the losses from money spent on features taken out of the game after completed made it so that an unreasonable 200 million copies needed to be sold before Black Hole would see any profit. Whether these claims are true is unknown, but the fact that the company went bankrupt still remains. Radical Entertainment Radical Entertainment is mainly known for the recent series Prototype, but it has been around since 1991, getting passed between multiple publishing companies through its history. There were layoffs, and many claimed that these layoffs lead to the crash of the Vancouver game design market. It was the oldest studio located in Vancouver, after all. This story happens to have a silver lining, as it appears that the company is still partially intact, functioning as a support studio for Activision Blizzard. Rockstar Vancouver/Barking Dog Rockstar's Vancouver studio is known for Bully and the recently released Max Payne 3. Shortly after the release of Max Payne 3, it was announced that Rockstar would be dissolving the studio to refocus its efforts in Canada on its Toronto-based studio. This story does not bring the saddest news of closure though, unless you're someone complaining about the decline of the Vancouver market. All 35 of the Vancouver employees were offered positions within the Toronto studio. With the additional claim of more positions being created afterwards, hopefully this leads to big new projects coming from those folks. Sony Liverpool/Psygnosis Sony Liverpool, perhaps better known as Psygnosis, is the studio behind the WipEout series. At the start of the year, Sony Worldwide Studios came out with an announcement that they would be restructuring the Liverpool studio. Many of the projects they were working on were halted as a result. It wouldn't be until August when the announcement finally came about the studio's closing. The studio employed roughly 100 people across two development teams. The studio was reportedly working on two projects at the time, each for the next-generation Sony console. While the facility at Liverpool remains functional, it is only to house other Sony Computer Entertainment Europe departments. The status of the two projects, one being a new WipEout, is unknown. BigBig Studios BigBig Studios, I feel, is mainly known for Pursuit Force, one of the better launch games for the PlayStation Portable. The studio was formed from a core team of four former Codemasters employees. Sony acquired the studio in 2007, and assigned them to work exclusively on games for the portable system. That might have been the major component in the downfall of the studio, due to the generally dismal life of the portable device itself. The last game they made would be the recent Vita game, Little Deviants which released to less-than-stellar reviews. The studio would be shut down at the beginning of the year as part of restructuring of Sony's European studios. Zipper Interactive Zipper interactive started out making computer games before it became tied to the franchise that would rule the company for the most of its life span, SOCOM. In 2006, the studio was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment and would go on to make games exclusively for the PlayStation brand.  Not to let SCE Europe have all the fun restructuring studios, SCE Worldwide Studios announced in March that Zipper Interactive would be shut down. The reason given was that it was part of a normal cycle of resource re-alignment within Sony. The studio had roughly 80 employees at the time of closure. Its recent games, SOCOM 4, MAG, and Unit 13 are still going to be supported, according to Sony. Paragon Studios NCSoft is one of the few companies that almost exclusively deals in MMOs. Of course, most of that is acquiring studios that make those kind of games and just putting the monetary system on top of that. There are two things that usually happen. Either the game becomes too bloated to sustain from a financial standpoint, or the people calling the shots shift their focus to something "new." Such is the case with City of Heroes, which was finally shut down this year, much to the outrage and disappointment of its players. The really sad part comes with the liquidation of Paragon Studios, the developers behind the game. As of now, I don’t exactly know what happened to the folks who worked there, whether they were reassigned, or just let go entirely. At the very least, I hope that they are all still out there making games. 38 Studios and Big Huge Games 38 Studios started in 2006, originally named "Green Monster Games." Founded by Baseball star Curt Schilling with a dream to make his own MMO, he seemed to start out the right way, hiring talent that had great experience in the game world. In addition to writer R.A. Salvatore and artist Todd McFarlane, former general manager of games at Comcast Jennifer Maclean, former lead engineer at EA Jon Laff, and a former lead designer of EverQuest Travis McGeathy were in the employ of the studio. To further bolster the prestigious talent base of the company, 38 games acquired studio Big Huge Games, of Rise of Nations fame. The single-player RPG that BHG was working on at the time would be turned into a tie-in to Schilling's MMO. It all looked like it was going the right way, and in 2010, the studio received a $75 million dollar guaranteed loan from the state of Rhode Island to relocate their business to the state, in the hopes of creating new jobs. In February of this year, that RPG would see release in the form of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which received favorable reviews. A missed loan payment just a few months later, and very shortly after, the entire 379 person workforce was laid off, with 38 Studios entering bankruptcy. Schilling and his studio has come under investigation since then for criminal charges, though at the time of writing, no federal charges have been filed against him. A state-level investigation is still underway. As for the folks under Big Huge Games, they're still happily together as Epic Baltimore.
Studio Closures in 2012 photo
Taking a sec to pay respects
This year was great in general for videogames. Beyond the predictable success of games like Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II, there were a ton of hits that came out of nowhere, including not just big publisher titles, bu...

Overlooked games of 2012

Dec 21 // Allistair Pinsof
Thomas Was Alone (PC, Mac) It's really no surprise that Thomas Was Alone flew under the radar for most gamers.  As an indie puzzle-platformer starring a bunch of single-colored rectangles, it isn't immediately apparent what makes Thomas Was Alone special.  While the puzzles themselves aren't particularly difficult, the real element that shines is the narration and storytelling.  The rectangles that make up the cast have more distinct personalities than some blockbuster game protagonists, and despite their minimalist representations, I found myself identifying with and even caring about each of the characters. Thomas Was Alone does more with its character development over its three-hour play time than other games do in 30 hours.  The fact that the story itself is unique and interesting is just icing on the cake.Sine Mora (PC, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade) Sine Mora is one of the best games I've played all year and almost no one I know has heard of it. Simply put, it's a shoot 'em up that handles extremely well, looks great, and provides a solid challenge; if you let it. Akira Yamaoka's beautiful soundtrack augments the amazing gameplay which is mostly hinged on the concept of slowing down time.Instead of a regular health bar, you'll take what I refer to as "time damage" which is tied to your time manipulation mechanic. The better you do, the more power you'll have to utilize -- which means relying on it can get extremely risky. All of this will play out in front of a fairly well done mature story that involves unique anthropomorphic creatures and heavy themes, such as genocide and sexual assault.It's a shame so many people will miss out on it due to their preconceived notions of shoot 'em ups, but if you're just the least bit curious, I'd recommend giving it a shot during the next Steam, PSN, or XBLA sale.Tribes: Ascend (PC)"It looks like Halo," said a distinctly un-impressed Mikey Turvey, when I suggested he play Tribes: Ascend. Aesthetically, he was right; it's red vs. blue power-armoured dudes shooting each other with guns, but the other game that I though of whilst playing Tribes was Tiny Wings. Yes, the charming iOS title had the same sense of momentum and constant movement I got from Tribes. It's just so damm fast! You're constantly on the move, and the large arenas mean you're not simply spawning and getting killed within seconds. You've got some time to find the fight and swoop in for an immediate impact.Tribes: Ascend even managed to redeem Capture The Flag for me which is usually my least favourite multiplayer mode. Matches turn into lunatic chases, especially when carrying the flag. Mid-air duels became frequent, flying in from seemingly out of nowhere to snatch victory. With short and frantic matches being the order of the day, Tribes: Ascend became my multiplayer quick fix game in 2012. Long may it continue into 2013 and beyond.The Real Texas (PC, Mac) The Real Texas is a game that constantly fills my mind. You know, like when you say "Gurl are yo' legs tired? Cuz you been runnin' through my mind ALL day!" The Real Texas' legs must be super tired at this point, is what I'm saying. I replay events from the game in my head, approaching them from different ways.  Some things still remain a mystery to me.The Real Texas is a criminally overlooked game, one that will make you smile, laugh, and best of all, think! It's a quirky journey through one of the best settings in video games. It also has one of the best boss fights of all time, towards the end of the game. You need to play it, sit back, and enjoy yourself.  Natural Selection 2 (PC) I absolutely love competitive games. I grew up on Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, and Day of Defeat. These days, I spend the majority of my time in Dota 2, TF2, SpyParty, and now Natural Selection 2. The combination of both real-time strategy and first-person shooting allows for such a degree of depth that necessitates teamwork and creates for some amazing gameplay moments. The amount of teamwork that is required and performed consistently astounds me. The game's community, including the developers, is very nice and make what would otherwise be a daunting competitive game into a warm, welcoming experience. If you're at all interested in competitive games, whether they are FPS or RTS games, you owe it to yourself to jump into Natural Selection 2.Sound Shapes (PlayStation Network)Why is a game that's essentially a music sequencer in your pocket (or on your TV) presented through a simple platformer with a beautiful art style so criminally overlooked? Even Deadmau5 and Beck were intrigued with the game enough to sign on and provide exclusive new sounds/songs to Sound Shapes. The game's only goal is to pick up all the sound pieces, completing the sonic landscape until the player makes it to the end. It's a simple idea, but the way Sound Shapes presents the idea makes it like no other game out there. But, what really makes the game special is the level editor, and the community that supports it with creative and amazing levels that truly provide limitless entertainment.Spec Ops: The Line (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)On the surface, Spec Ops: The Line looks like a typical military shooter where you're tasked with taking out the bad guys and saving the day -- and that is exactly what it wants you to think. As you progress through the the game, you slowly begin to realize that the inner workings of the main character's mental wellbeing clash with the reality he and his comrades face, or rather the reality they're led to believe. Spec Ops offers the most haunting and horrifying story of any military shooter of this generation. By emphasizing player's expectations for a hero experience, developer Yager tears it all down by forcing players to face the grim nature of war in the worst ways possible. In one of the game's many cryptic messages, the following question is presented to the player and helps to shed on light on what Spec Ops: The Line is all about: "Do you feel like a hero yet?"La-Mulana (PC, WiiWare)Just when we thought the WiiWare remake of La-Mulana would never leave Japan, it finally made the journey, first as an enhanced PC port then later in its WiiWare incarnation. I'm so glad it did, because this is a game that needs to be played by retro purists the world over.And damn, is it ever retro! Typically, people hear "retro" and think super hard bosses and insta-kill death traps. While that is a very accurate representation of the game's enemies and platforming, La-Mulana also hearkens back to days when players were given next to no instruction on where to go and what to do. Think finding the hidden paths in the original Zelda and Metroid was tough? Try solving the myriad puzzles that La-Mulana's ruins toss your way with only the barest of clues. If you think you'll be able to beat this game without a pad and paper handy for note-taking and map-making, you are dead wrong!But for all its challenges, La-Mulana is never outright unfair. The next move you need to make is right there if you are willing to invest the time and effort, and should you do so, you'll be rewarded with one of the richest Metroidvanias ever made, with an incredible pixel art style and an even more incredible soundtrack. Akai Katana (Xbox 360)Is it too early to call Akai Katana Cave’s greatest achievement since the ‘90s? Well, I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway: It's Cave's greatest achievement since the '90s! After supplying some of the greatest bullet hell shooters to reach arcades, Akai Katana refreshes the format with its innovative system that encourages players to consider bullets as possible lifesavers along with life-enders. The new Climax mode makes things even more exhilarating by providing superior weapon power and scores through controlling enemy bullets. Akai Katana is about so much more than dodging and firing. There is a metagame that surrounds the core mechanics of the genre, making for a thrilling arcade shooter that continues to excite me.The Darkness II (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)I threw up a little in my mouth when I saw The Darkness II arrive in my mailbox. “Why did I want to play this?” From watching the private E3 demo to reading reviews, I couldn’t be less impressed by the game. I was shocked when I found myself legitimately drawn into the game’s story, charmed by the visuals, and addicted to its unique, brutal close-quarters combat. In contrast to Halo 4, the campaign has a great pace and made me genuinely interested in the mysteries that the narrative presented. In contrast to Black Ops 2, the combat gave me freedom and challenged me with new enemy types and scenarios. Ironic then that I once found the year’s most charismatic first-person shooter to be uninspired. Follow my lead and give it a chance. Gotham City Impostors (PC, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade)I haven’t had more fun with a game this year. Surely, that’s enough for GCI to earn my #1 spot and it did for some time. Even so, I must concede that I likely won’t have as much fun next year with it. This isn’t the game’s fault but its developer and publisher, who have left one of the most refreshing, joyful competitive shooters of 2012 out to die. With a limited map section, half-assed transformation to free-to-play, and very small community (on PC), I don’t see a bright future for Gotham. But, let’s remember the good days: The days of rappling across building tops like a madman, gliding down with bat wings, double jumping over enemies and unloading a shotgun into their back, and trampolining our way to victory. [Do add me on Steam if you’d like to play: Lonelyspacepanda] Binary Domain (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Most people ignored Binary Domain, likely dismissing it as just another shooter. But under the skin of this absurd and entertaining action game, there's a fairly nuanced story that makes for one of the more interesting experiences of the year. Amidst some brief commentary on climate change and nationalism, Yakuza Studio poses a very poignant question regarding humanity: specifically, who is human and who is not? The crux of the story centers on Hollow Children, robots that are programmed to believe that they're people and for all intents and purposes appear as such. Set in a society that was built on the backs of robots and featuring characters that are disgusted by them, Binary Domain draws some pretty interesting parallels with societal roles surrounding oppression, specifically slavery in 19th century America. With the Hollow Children, a grey area exists. One that nobody is willing to recognize or accept. That is, until the issue hits too close to home and forces people to re-evaluate the prejudices they've lived with for a lifetime. Gravity Rush (PlayStation Vita)It's hard to contain my love for Gravity Rush in a paragraph. I was instantly smitten with its visual style, a masterful blend of cel shaded anime and French comics; it has some of the most stunning, inventive art direction I've ever seen. Deftly careening through a lively, full realized cityscape never loses its appeal. There's something strangely hypnotic, comforting, and invigorating about the gravity shifting mechanic, as you fall in every which direction at breakneck speeds. The level of detail and manner in which everything -- gameplay, narrative, aesthetics, music -- coalesces is nothing short of an artistic and stylistic triumph, and I particularly loved the shift from a whimsical, colorful narrative to a surreal, existential meditation that simultaneously, obliquely deals with some fascinating topics like fascist militarization and political upheaval. It's one of the best games I've ever played and alone reason enough to own a Vita. Thirty Flights of Loving (PC)15 minutes. In a pithy 15 minutes of gameplay, Thirty Flights of Loving, is more affective and effective in its story-telling than most bloated big releases are in 15 hours. Between abrupt French New Wave style jump cuts, Thirty Flights packs a thrilling heist and gunfire concerto, a surrealist dance party, a surprisingly developed relationship, and oranges. The non-linear editing style requires the player to piece things together, though there is plenty of ambiguity and intrigue left over. There’s a lot going on here despite the deceptively simple visual style and succinct narrative. At 15 minutes long, you don't have much reason not giving this indie gem a shot.Papo & Yo (PlayStation Network)E3 may be gaming's highest pantheon of pomp and circumstance, but my personal game of the show was Papo & Yo, an allegory for Minority Games' creative lead Vander Caballero’s childhood, during which he dealt with an alcoholic father he loved, but also feared. The surrogate players in the allegory are Quico, a young boy living in the favelas of Brazil, and his fearsome pal Monster. Papo & Yo, wearing its inspirations from games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus on its sleeve, is palpably personal -- a rare feat in the too-many-cooks-diluting-the-broth realm of video games -- and its final act hits hard. Caballero's goal was to make this world a little bit of a better place and provide a space of both escape and understanding for people dealing with similarly tough scenarios and he succeeded.
Underdogs of 2012 photo
Meet us at the bargain bin
When a stack of releases lands on our desks every week, they can't all be winners, but that doesn't mean the rest have to be losers, either. Prowl your local bargain bin, make some eBay searches, and keep your eyes out for a ...

Five reasons you need to go to MAGFest 11

Dec 21 // Jayson Napolitano
While the merchandise area at MAGFest used to be crammed into a small lobby area, it's now expanded into an entire hall dedicated to everything from game music CDs to hand-painted 8-bit pixel art and everything in between. Whether you want to satiate your late night craving for Pocky or take home a souvenir from the event, you'll likely spend a good amount of time (and money!) on the awesome stuff being sold. Videogames! It's great to meet up with a friend you haven't seen in a long time and catch up over a friendly game of Mario Kart. Or Halo. Or Smash Bros. Whatever game it is that you like to play, it will likely be in the 24-hour game hall. Nearly every console is represented along with a ton of arcades (the newly-released DJMAX Technika 3 was available last year). And did I mention you can play ANY TIME you want? The major draw for MAGFest has always been the music. There will be over 40 acts performing this year, including special guest Yuzo Koshiro's DJ set and the new futuristic funk stylings of The OneUps. In fact, there are so many bands and artists performing that they have three separate stages for the event! Of course, there will also be Metroid Metal, The Megas, Armcannon, virt, Danimal Cannon, the Video Game Orchestra, and countless others on hand playing at all hours of the night and early morning, so don't miss out! While the special guests often get the most attention (Yuzo Koshiro, Kinuyo Yamashita, and Chris Huelsbeck are pictured above), there are tons of others who will be on hand, including Jake "virt" Kaufman, Jon St. Jon (voice of Duke Nukem), and more. And that's only the official guest roster. Over 6,000 people attended MAGFest last year, and those included all sorts of people from the gaming industry, so don't be surprised if you run into somebody you know or have heard of, or make new friends with the numerous attendees who share your passion for games and music. If you want to know where the official Destructoid meetup is for MAGFest, this is it. Destructoid Live! is scheduled for Friday, January 4, at 3PM and will feature Destructoid staff -- and of course you -- in an interactive session with fun, prizes, and memories that will last a lifetime. Be sure to join us, and don't forget to stick around for the group photo afterwards! --- MAGFest is really something special. There are other events out there that do gaming and music, but not like this. Come out to National Harbor in just less than two weeks, meet some cool people, play some games, listen to some great music, and have a great time with Destructoid and the rest of the attendees! Get your tickets and learn more here: http://magfest.org/Chime in and let us know your favorite MAGFest memories if you've attended in the past, and let us know what you're most looking forward to this year. 
MAGFest photo
And the music is just one of them!
MAGFest is hands down my favorite event of the year. The music and gaming festival not only features an endless buffet of both these things, it also has a lot more on offer as it grows each and every year. We've already menti...

The worst videogame covers of 2012

Dec 19 // Allistair Pinsof
Paws & Claws Pampered Pets Resort 3D [Nintendo 3DS] Before we mourn the golden years of THQ, let's remember all the shovelware with awful covers it put out. Football Manager 2013 (PC) Porn Site Pop-up Ad: The Videogame Let's Ride Best in Breed 3D (Nintendo 3DS) I can't decide what's more disturbing: CG horse or the girl's Photoshop'd hair. 007 Legends (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Someone probably went to college to learn how to make covers like this and here you are, reading this article. That must make you angry, huh? Batman: Arkham City: Game of the Year Edition (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) This would be on our list even if Destructoid was featured on the front, and we are shameless people. Ghost Whisperer (PC) One day your Jennifer Love Hewitt deviantART page may also grace the cover of a Legacy Games classic. Capcom Digital Collection (Xbox 360) I feel pretty confident in saying that the bootleg boxes in Taiwan are probably more imaginative and appealing than this piece of crap. FIFA Soccer 13 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, Wii U, Vita, 3DS, PSP) Billy: "They have corndogs in the stands! YAAAAY COOOORN DOOOGGGGGIIES!!" FIFA Manager 13 (PC) Coach Jimmy: "GODAMMIT, BILLY! Get your sweet little retard ass back on the field before I put my corndog in your dillhole!" Kinect Nat Geo TV (Xbox 360) Once you imagine him without pants, you can't unsee it. A 2-way TV experience, indeed. The Hip Hop Dance Experience (Wii, Xbox 360) It's rather unfortunate that its target audience of beat-loving meth addicts doesn't know how to read. Reality Fighters (PlayStation Vita) You have to appreciate the honesty on display: "You will look like a complete jackass while playing this game." Giana Sisters: Twisted Dream (PC, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade) This cover reminds me that The Banger Sisters and Hot Topic exist. Need I say more? Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir (3DS) On the list for false advertising. (It is not a groper simulator.) ProCycling Manager Season 2012 (PC) "No, wait! That's my thermos filled to the brim with boiling hot coffee!" Imagine Babyz (3DS) [Insert your joke about touching babies in 3D here.] Purrpals Purrfection (3DS) The "This game will make you believe in God!" quote on the back seems a little strong. NBA 2K13 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, Wii U, Vita, 3DS, PSP) I'm all up in your cyberspace, doing cyber-dunks. Lucius (PC) After five weeks of refusing to buy Lucius a Nintendo 3DS Red Flame bundle, he will now stare angrily at you until you feel compelled to look away. Heroes of Ruin (3DS) Even a mere glance at this cover instills such a pang of nihilism and apathy, that I have to wonder what dark wizards made such a wonder of mediocrity possible.
lol, videogames, lol photo
20 embarrassments
Most game covers are forgettable and generic, but a select few transcend into levels of such awfulness that they stick with us all year long, like a never-ending scab. From cheap shovelware to incredibly awkward sports photos...


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