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Firewatch photo

Campo Santo's debut game is Firewatch, an exploration mystery

Intriguing, to say the least
Mar 13
// Jordan Devore
Firewatch is exactly the kind of original game one would expect a studio like Campo Stanto to produce. This is a first-person exploration mystery coming from artist Olly Moss, Mark of the Ninja lead designer Nels Anderson, an...

Review: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Feb 10 // Wesley Ruscher
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (PS Vita)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NIS AmericaReleased: February 11, 2014MSRP: $39.99 As Makoto Naegi, you've been accepted to the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy, a school that only admits the most talented “Ultimate” students of various fields each year. Though strangely for Makoto, he’s pretty average across the board and only got the chance to enroll because he won a raffle as the “Ultimate Lucky Student.” However, upon reaching the school’s gates, his luck begins to run out. Inexplicably, Makoto suddenly loses consciousness only to awake hours later in what appears to be the school’s gym surrounded by 14 other “Ultimate” students. No one knows what is going on, except for one fact: they’re trapped. [embed]270284:52512:0[/embed] It’s here where a maniacal remote-controlled bear named Monokuma appears -- a two-faced Teddy Ruxpin looking monster, with a penchant for rules -- who drops the bombshell that all the students are now imprisoned at the school for the rest of their lives. That is, unless they are willing to do the unthinkable to earn graduation from the academy: murder another student without getting caught. Well it wouldn't be much of game, or a story, if some of the students didn't eventually succumb to the pressures and start killing each other. In the time leading up to a murder event, known as “the Daily Life,” you’ll spend the majority of it getting to know each student and trying to understand the situation that has befallen you. During this time, you’ll explore the available areas of the school from a first-person perspective. Similar to the investigation scenes in the Phoenix Wright series, you’re free to scour each area in search of information or to perhaps talk to a student hanging out in the area. Once all the information is collected for the day, the game pushes the story forward. Eventually the game awards the player with “free time,” which allows Makoto to roam the school and build stronger relations with other students. Akin to Persona’s Social Link segments, whom you talk to is completely your choice. Additionally, you can also purchase gifts from a capsule vending machine to gift to them in order to increase your bonding. The interactions are quite simple, but they are a necessity since they also allow Makoto to build up special skills that he can later use in the game’s main attraction: Class Trials. All this good willed nature comes to an end with the discovery of a murder, in which the game enters the “Deadly life” section of gameplay. The first phase consists of investigating and collecting clues, called “Truth Bullets,” for the looming trial ahead. Like the earlier phases of the Daily Life, the game pushes the story forward upon the collection of all pertinent information. These moments that lead up to the Class Trial could be very tedious under a poor script. And though NIS America’s localization is usually hit or miss with me, the majority of the characters here are exceptionally interesting. I found myself enjoying the messed up situations that surrounded even the more flamboyant characters; waiting to see how they would respond once the crap hit the fan. Of course, with fourteen characters you’re bound to find tropes, but their predictable tendencies are often used to throw players off the scent. Additionally, the game moves at a much more rapid pace than most other adventure/visual novel style games which helps keep the tension focused throughout. Once the Class Trial begins though, the tension magnifies immensely. Similar to the Phoenix Wright series, false accusations can be your undoing, but unlike those games, time also serves as your opponent. There are four main styles used for figuring out who the culprit is in each trial (Nonstop Debates, Epiphany Anagram, Machinegun Talk Battle, and Climax Logic) and they get progressively more difficult as the game moves on. Nonstop debates lead off each trial and involve all surviving classmates. During these discussions, it’s up to the player to find contradictions in specific highlighted phrases and shoot them down with the acquired Truth Bullets gathered from the previous investigation. White noise created from other students can interfere with hitting the right statement in later trials in addition to some other surprise elements that are added later to up the difficulty of these scenes. As the answers begin to unfold in the trial, players eventually get into a one-on-one Machinegun Talk Battle debate with a fellow student. This style threw me for a loop the first time, as it mixes rhythm based gameplay with shooting down a student’s remarks. Progressively, like the other styles, it gets harder to maintain the rhythm further since opponents can make your tempo bar disappear or change the speed of the rhythm entirely. The idea to add action, via shooting or by rhythm, segments into the actual trial is something I really enjoyed once I got the hang of things. It cleverly brings tension -- something you would actually feel if your life was on the line -- during every murder trial. The fact that things get more difficult, later in the game, only amplifies the disparity of the situation at hand. Getting an answer wrong is one thing, but it’s entirely different when you choke under the pressure of time. My favorite of the gameplay styles though was the Climax Logic puzzle. In this style, a comic strip -- that recreates the events of the murder -- must be put together using the fragments of information derived from the trial with the basic facts already known. Time is your only enemy here, but there are typically extra potential answers to each slot in the puzzle that can lead a player astray. Danganronpa mixes a variety of art styles throughout each case, but the way it all comes together helps paint an exquisitely disturbing picture. Its mix of 2D and 3D, over-the-top death scenes, hyper stylized murder images (with neon pink blood) combined with a well thought out story make the game’s world all that much more alluring, even amongst its sadistic nature. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is easily one of the most intriguing games I've played in quite some time. It’s as if Persona and Phoenix Wright got together and had a little demon spawn that I didn't want to put down -- no matter how disturbing it can be at times. For fans of adventure/visual novel games, this is an easy must play on Vita this year. But it’s also a great entry for those who tend to find this type of game a little on the slow side and well worth the time.
Trigger Happy Havoc  photo
Phoenix Wright X Persona
Adventure games enable developers to guide their audience on an incredibly focused journey. Completely scripted -- with little variation or user input that impacts the outcome -- they rely on the quality of their storytelli...

Layton 7 photo
Layton 7

Layton 7 for 3DS and mobile is not MY Layton

This is how it starts
Aug 28
// Tony Ponce
I... I brought this upon myself. I said that Layton Brothers: Mystery Room was a great game. I said it was an excellent iOS companion to the traditional Layton series. I never should have had faith that a major gaming compan...
Mega Man 2 box art photo
Mega Man 2 box art

Why does Mega Man use a pistol on MM2's cover?

Interview with box art illustrator shines light on this mystery
Jun 27
// Tony Ponce
If you were asked to list the worst videogame cover art of all time, the gold-and-blue monstrosity that appeared on the original Mega Man's box would appear undoubtedly be mentioned. Nowhere near as bad but still pretty bad ...

Exclusive: Here's a teaser of the E3 badge insert

Come back in a few hours for the full artwork
Jun 09
// Niero Desu
Update: Nobody's sketch is even close! Here's a rotated more clear version to help you out. Let's play a game, shall we? Attached is the official badge insert for E3, blanked out on embargo until tomorrow morning. The die cut...

All evidence of XCOM shooter silently disappearing

2K Games suspected of assassinating FPS spin-off
Apr 16
// Jim Sterling
Evidence of the long-in-development XCOM first-person shooter is starting to disappear from the Internet, 2K Games apparently trying to wipe all trace of it from existence. The publisher itself is only offering "no comment" i...

Review: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 2

Mar 26 // Fraser Brown
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Wise Monkey (iOS, PC [Reviewed])Developer: Phoenix Online StudiosPublisher: Phoenix Online StudiosReleased: January 30, 2013MSRP: $9.99 ($29.99 for all episodes) Still reeling from her showdown in Boston's Old Meeting House, Erica is not given a moment of respite. Minutes after The Wise Monkey begins, her colleague and romantic interest, Sully, is brutalized and kidnapped right in front of her eyes, the latest victim of The Wise Monkey serial killer. While the many unanswered questions over her brother's murder and the events of the day before still fill Erica's mind, her main concern in The Wise Monkey is the rescue of Sully, and she has a new boss -- an intolerable man in an appalling pastel blue suit -- breathing down her neck. There's no timer counting down to Sully's demise, but the personal nature of the investigation, as well as the fact that it appears as if nobody else is doing anything about it gives agency to the adventure. It's quite a bit shorter than the previous episode, but it's also more focused. During much of The Hangman, Erica was dealing with the dramatic shift in her abilities, and there was a large amount of exposition -- this time it's all about taking down a serial killer. Erica's new boss, McAdams, is a bit of a shit, but he makes it clear that rescuing Sully should be a top priority for everyone. So, it's a tad strange that Erica has no back-up or aid whatsoever. In fact, the two times she needs help from the FBI, she has to break the rules, potentially losing her job, when she is pretty much ignored. Even her mentor and sometimes partner, John, is of absolutely no help. In fact, the fat, donut-gobbling fellow spends the entirety of the game sitting at his desk. It's an odd shift from the previous game, where Erica spends quite a bit of time working out the case with her colleagues, each time getting a new puzzle to solve in return for their assistance. Barely any of the characters established in The Hangman get more than one short bit of dialogue, actually. Erica's IT buddy doesn't even feature at all, his desk sitting empty with a sign saying "AFK." I found most of the characters to be two-dimensional at best, so I had hoped to see them fleshed out a bit more this time. I guess making them completely unimportant barring Rose, Erica's psychic mentor, and Cordellia, her comrade in misery -- and even they get only the smallest of roles -- is one way to solve that problem. The upside is that this forces Erica to be something of a lone hero, a role she handles with aplomb. Her dialogue and Raleigh Holmes's performance makes up for the lack of other interesting characters quite a bit, and Erica spends much of the game in a believably frustrated state. She clearly doesn't have time for bullshit, and when she's not getting angry at suspects, she's making sarcastic remarks about some of the idiots she has to deal with. A particularly memorable scene sees Erica interviewing the ex-roommate of a suspect, who unfortunately happens to be an irritating new-age forgetful ditz and tarot fan. A lot of the scene is played for laughs, and it may have felt tonally out of place in a thriller if it wasn't for Erica's obviously thinning patience, having to put up with this idiot when she has a friend to rescue.   One of The Wise Monkey's most obvious improvements are the puzzles, which I found hit or miss in the first episode. Erica's cognition abilities are far more prominent, and they make for the most intriguing head-scratchers. On top of the abilities she uses in The Hangman -- all of which return -- she gains a new power where she is able to see the past via interacting with multiple inventory objects. It's put to good use over the course of the game, and gives greater meaning to some of the items she picks up. Outside of the cognition puzzles, everything else is logical, though not without some degree of challenge. I confess I was stumped for a wee while a couple of times, and not due to unnecessary obfuscation. My only real complaint in regards to this aspect is the not-insubstantial amount of backtracking, with several puzzles running across multiple scenes, and some areas being used with quite a bit of frequency, leading to them outstaying their welcome. The case itself is a grisly investigation, with the victims' corpses being horribly desecrated, and one with far more compelling twists and turns than its predecessor's. Its climax will undoubtedly leave some unsatisfied, however, although I suspect it will be a matter of taste, as Cognition episodes seem to revel in cliffhangers and creating more questions.  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. 
Cognition episode 2 photo
A gruesome second outing
The coffee in Boston's FBI offices must be a really special kind of black sludge, capable of turning ordinary investigators into relentless machines. Or maybe Special Agent Erica Reed has just transcended the need for rest or...

New mystery car game photo
New mystery car game

This mystery game 'might' be a new Destruction Derby

A return to a once glorious franchise?
Feb 23
// Chris Carter
You're going to need a little context for this one, so here's a brief history lesson on the destruction derby genre. In 1995, Reflections Interactive began work on a franchise for Sony called Destruction Derby. Thi...
The Ship video photo
The Ship video

Criken's Quickies takes a humorous look at The Ship

The indie "whodunit" PC game explored
Feb 11
// Chris Carter
Although the indie PC game The Ship had a myriad of technical issues, the fact remains that it was still good fun with the right group of people. As a whodunit experience, The Ship tasked players with avoiding one mystery ki...

The Phantom Pain trailer gets an 'Alternative Version'

What are you up to, Joakim Mogren?
Dec 21
// Jordan Devore
Well, that's two more times I've had to watch the trailer for The Phantom Pain, a game announced by Moby Dick Studio at the 2012 Spike VGAs that may or may not be Metal Gear Solid V or connected to the franchise in some curr...

Can Pop-Fiction finally uncover the Mega Man 9 'secret'?

Capcom's most annoyingly elusive mystery
Oct 21
// Tony Ponce
I don't know why I don't share GameTrailers' Pop-Fiction more often. That show is great! It's been just over four years since the Blue Bomber returned to his 8-bit roots in Mega Man 9. And though game masters have torn every...

Is Square counting down to World Ends with You sequel?

Aug 20
// Jim Sterling
[Update: By setting your computer's clock forward, you can reveal more information on the countdown. Changing music and the gradual reveal of the city have practically confirmed something TWEWY-related. The last two days of t...

Club Nintendo now offering mystery boxes

Apr 25
// Chris Carter
Remember all those "mystery toy" lines in the 90s, where you'd buy unknown capsules that would sometimes dissolve in water? Many toy manufactures are still making them actually, preying on our child-like sense of curiosity --...

Even more hints of a The World Ends with You sequel

Apr 21
// Tony Ponce
Even since we learned that The World Ends with You characters would be appearing in Kingdom Hearts 3D, rumors have been swirling that a sequel to the sleeper DS hit is just around the corner. We still don't have any confirmat...

Valve recruitment ad points to hardware plans

Apr 13
// Jim Sterling
Valve is recruiting, but it's not just looking for a few extra bodies. According to its job listings page, the company wants hardware boffins to help create brand new gaming experiences. Those adamant that Valve is working on...

Just Add Water teases Hand of Odd, which is great!

Apr 12
// Jim Sterling
I remember first reading about Hand of Odd, way back in my school days. A simulation game set in the Oddworld universe, it had only promises to deliver until it was postponed in 2004. Last year, Just Add Water confirmed it wo...

Discovery Project is a thing about things with things

Mar 09
// Jim Sterling
Here's another mysterious PS Vita announcement for you to ruminate on. It's called Discovery Project and it's about ... something.  Kadokawa Games joined forces with Sony to tease this mysterious project, which seems to...

Mega Man creator working on 'amazing' PS Vita game

Mar 09
// Jim Sterling
While most of the Vita's "announcements" today have been fairly unimpressive, there has at least been one intriguing tease. It comes courtesy of Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune, who revealed he's working on something "am...

Testament of Sherlock Holmes vid has a lovely ambiguity

Dec 21
// Conrad Zimmerman
I love a good mystery and, as a result, I'm a big fan of Sherlock Holmes stories. I haven't played a game yet which I felt did a truly great job of putting me into a Holmes mystery, but The Testament of Sherlock Holmes ...

Atlus' next game's title starts with a 'G'

Dec 13
// Josh Tolentino
And that's about all they've revealed about it so far. G-reat. They've also G-amely invited us, and any one of you g-oons out there who g-ives a poop about Atlus' next g-ame, to try to g-uess, as they drop more clu...

Valve begins hyping something (HALF-LIFE 3 CONFIRMED OMG)

Dec 12
// Jim Sterling
This past Saturday, Valve released a video featuring Portal 2 antagonist Wheatley. Unsurprisingly, the Internet descended upon it with icepicks and magnifying glasses, ready to take it apart and examine every frame for clues ...

'Unbelievable' PS3 exclusive teased as 'The Last of Us'

Dec 05
// Jim Sterling
Sony has a PS3 exclusive in the works that, apparently, we "will not believe." It's due for unveiling at the Spike Videogame Awards on Saturday, but we've been given a little taste today, courtesy of a teaser site called The...

L.A. Noire director's next game is Whore of the Orient

Nov 28
// Jim Sterling
L.A. Noire writer/director Brendan McNamara is getting back on the saddle following Team Bondi's demise, putting together a brand new game with a rather flavorful title. It's called Whore of the Orient, and word of its d...

Green Man Gaming pulls EA games from shelves

Oct 08
// Jim Sterling
Digital distributor Green Man Gaming has yanked Electronic Arts games from its virtual store shelves around the world, except for the United Kingdom. It is the second service to do this, with games controversially disappearin...

Square Enix removes memory card requirement from Vita box

Sep 30
// Jim Sterling
[Update: Square Enix has indeed confirmed that Army Corps won't demand a memory card, so the conspiracy theories can be laid to rest. However, the fact that a "Memory Card required" logo still exists is what really unsettles ...

A new Sony video has popped up on Youtube and sparked an avalanche of rudderless speculation from rabid fans. The live-action trailer contains elements of various videogames, including LittleBigPlanet, Metal Gear Solid and T...


I Am Alive spotted in the wild via ESRB rating

Sep 26
// Jim Sterling
Ubisoft's I Am Alive looked all set to join Sadness as the next big game that was never going to happen, but an ESRB content summary has been recently spotted that seems to say otherwise. We've had a few tips pointing it out ...

Sufferrosa is an 'experimental storytelling project'

Sep 11
// Tony Ponce
Do you like Choose Your Own Adventure books? Do you like pompous foreign art experiments? Were Sega CD FMV games the highlight of the 16-bit era for you? Then you are gonna love Sufferrosa! From director Dawid Marcinkowski of...

Warhammer 40K: Space Marine disappears from UK Steam

Sep 09
// Jim Sterling
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is on sale in the United Kingdom today, but those looking to get the game on Steam will notice that it's suddenly not on the storefront. The game recently blipped out of existence, and nobody's ...

Have more Sherlock Holmes screenshots

Aug 30
// Victoria Medina
Round two of the Testament of Sherlock Holmes screenshots are in and the game still looks good. The Testament finds the detective unable to solve a crime that paints him as the main suspect. As he begins to look more guilty h...

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