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Knuckle Sandwich photo
Knuckle Sandwich

Knuckle Sandwich is another peculiar RPG


Keep 'em coming
Jan 18
// Jordan Devore
I could have sworn one of us had already touched on Knuckle Sandwich, but I guess not. This latest teaser is as fine of time as any to introduce the surreal role-playing game and its prominent noses. The story, at least initially, has to do with a cult and missing people. Could the two be connected? Playing as a dude who is bored to tears of his new job at the diner, it's on you to investigate.

Review: The Bug Butcher

Jan 18 // Jordan Devore
The Bug Butcher (Mac, Linux, Windows [reviewed])Developer: Awfully Nice StudiosPublisher: Awfully Nice StudiosRelease: January 19, 2016MSRP: $7.99 When I close my eyes, I now see aliens splitting apart into smaller aliens, again and again, until there is nothing left. I can picture exactly how they will move; when they'll strike. Clearly, this game has seeped into my mind. It only took a few short hours. As the titular exterminator, you're called into a research facility to clean up an infestation of creepy crawlers. Each of the 30 levels has the same basic premise -- "the only good bug is a dead bug!" -- but varying stage hazards, gimmicks, and enemy types keep the action engaging. Even after going back through most of the levels several times now, I'm yearning for more. It's all so very satisfying, and the scoring system and character upgrades further incentivize repeated playthroughs. I'll happily oblige. Every alien has a distinct look and movement pattern, but there are constants. They always enter the screen from above, telegraphing their descent so you aren't caught off guard. This is a game that rarely, if ever, feels "cheap." The majority of the bugs bounce around, touching down for a split second before going airborne again. Others hover from side to side, or stick to the ceiling. One pest crawls on the ground, waiting to pounce like a Facehugger. After taking enough damage, most will split into smaller beings that can quickly fill the room if left unchecked. This is important because, crucially, you can only shoot straight up. Positioning is everything. [embed]334931:61897:0[/embed] You'll have to keep an eye out for items that temporarily boost your damage or speed, and weapons like a laser beam, lightning gun, or rocket launcher. None of these last long, but they all pack a hefty punch and are enjoyable to wield. By keeping your combo up, you can also earn one-time-use abilities to, say, become invincible or freeze every alien in place if you're in a bind. Vanquished bugs litter the floor with coins, and there's a score-based, end-of-level payout. In the main Arcade mode, you can buy passive perks and permanent upgrades to make any weapons or abilities you might encounter mid-battle more useful. (To be clear: you always begin levels with your standard machine gun. Which is fine! It's quite good.) You're only able to equip a single perk at a time and, between the three choices, I prefer the one that lets you take a hit without dropping your combo. There's also Panic mode, playable alone or with a friend in split-screen, in which you try to survive for as long as possible. You can keep fighting until you're either out of health or out of time. For me, it's invariably the former. I have no problem scrambling to grab time extensions, but in doing so, I become too reckless. At any point, it's possible to pause the action to buy upgrades for your current run. Unlike in Arcade mode, these purchases aren't persistent across levels. The Bug Butcher gets chaotic, but rarely is it frustrating. Even when the screen is packed with enemies, you still have this overall awareness of where you should be standing, and when. The difficulty curve is spot on. It does a stellar job of making you feel mostly in control -- and, at times, over-powered -- without letting you sleepwalk to victory. You'll have to work for those high scores. I loved the responsive controls, and that's a big factor when examining an action-heavy game like this, but the presentation is also commendable. The art and sound design play pivotal roles. Bugs are squishy, just as you'd expect, while power-ups serve as a visual and auditory jolt of energy. The thumping electronic soundtrack is unrelenting, further helping to keep you in The Zone. If there's a major complaint to be made about The Bug Butcher, it's that there simply isn't more of it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Bug Butcher review photo
Do your part!
When I first heard about The Bug Butcher last year, I thought it looked like a nice modern take on the bubble-popping shooter Super Pang. But I held off. I have a regrettable history of playing games in Steam Early Access onl...

Lovely Planet Arcade photo
Lovely Planet Arcade

Super cute, super tough Lovely Planet is getting a sequel


Don't be fooled by the cheerful graphics
Jan 15
// Ben Davis
A sequel was just announced for Lovely Planet, the deceptively adorable, exceedingly difficult first-person shooter from indie developer Quicktequila that released on Steam in 2014. The sequel, called Lovely Planet Arcade, cl...
OmniBus photo
OmniBus

OmniBus is the unstoppable force of public transit


Goodbye immovable objects
Jan 14
// Darren Nakamura
According to the trailer below, the long-awaited OmniBus is finally on its way, after a two-decade toil in development hell. Also according to the trailer below, it has made the cover of Time, Forbes, and Rolling Stone. Somet...
Element photo
Element

Element is a space RTS 'for people who don't have time'


To play space RTS
Jan 14
// Steven Hansen
Our community monster Mike Martin has the real box quote when he alerted us to Element: "Guys... This gave me wood." But I'll soldier on for context. The minimal real-time strategy game is actually available right now on Ste...
One Dog Story photo
One Dog Story

Serious Cave Story vibes come off One Dog Story


Woof
Jan 14
// Darren Nakamura
Cave Story is so revered among indie game enthusiasts, it's little surprise it would be cited as an influence for others making a game. One Dog Story lists it up there with others like Battletoads and Shovel Knight. One Dog S...
Saiconauts photo
Saiconauts

Psychonauts 2 campaign closes with $3.8M in funding


Psycho killer, run run away
Jan 12
// Steven Hansen
Double Fine took to new crowdfunding/investment platform Fig for the development of a sequel to the beloved Psychonauts. The project reached its funding goal of $3.3 million five days before the close of the campaign before c...
Psychonauts 2 photo
Psychonauts 2

The first Psychonauts 2 story info is starting to emerge


Raz needs to deal with some old wounds
Jan 12
// Laura Kate Dale
Since Psychonauts 2 recently got announced, many fans of the first game have been wondering where the plot of this new game might be heading. Thanks to a reddit AMA with Tim Schafer, we now know a lot about the plot of Psycho...
Yooka-Laylee photo
Yooka-Laylee

Former Rare designer Kev Bayliss joins Yooka-Laylee developer Playtonic


Playtonic is 99% Rare alumni now
Jan 12
// Joe Parlock
Kev Bayliss has one hell of a history in gaming. He was part of some of Rare Software’s biggest games. He was the producer and character designer for Killer Instinct, and also had an integral role in the graphics design...
Longest Night photo
Longest Night

Longest Night is a nice little tease for Night in the Woods


It's been updated with new writing
Jan 06
// Jordan Devore
While combing through the wasteland that is my pre-holiday-break email, I happened upon a link to Infinite Fall and Finji's Longest Night from our beloved gift-giver Jonathan Holmes. I'm glad I did! This is a short lead-in ...

Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: A Block and a Hard Place

Jan 05 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: A Block and a Hard Place (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: December 22, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Where the first two episodes in the season induced apathy, this one causes ambivalence. It's a fine distinction: I was struggling to care about Jesse and his friends at first; now I care enough but find myself disappointed with the final result. For every beat Minecraft: Story Mode hits well, it stumbles once or twice. On the one hand, the more deliberate progression of this episode can be a good thing. It opens up the gameplay to include actual (albeit easy) puzzles along with the standard dialogue trees and quick-time events. Also, without lulls in the action, it could be bombastic to the point of grating. If it's always high energy, then it's all the same. On the other hand, the plodding of the first half of this episode is as dull as can be. There's a horse travel montage near the beginning illustrating just how far it is to get to the Farlands, and protagonist Jesse has the option of the classic whine "Are we there yet?" Even with the cuts of the montage, I felt the same. I get it; it's far. Let's move on. [embed]327542:61558:0[/embed] Once the action finally does pick up at the end, it still treads a questionable path. The full story about The Order of the Stone is revealed, and it plays out as foreshadowed. It's always a little awkward when a story treats something like an earth-shattering reveal when most would see it coming from the hints in previous episodes. Perhaps if I had led the life Jesse did, it would have been more impactful. Then, almost as if checking off all the Telltale boxes, we get another character death. This loss feels more important than the one in the third episode, since it's a likable character. Death in children's entertainment is nothing new (see: Bambi, The Land Before Time, Transformers [1986]), but it generally comes with a purpose. While we'll have to wait for the fifth episode, my sneaking suspicion is the only reason this death was written in was a cynical attempt at eliciting emotion. The really strange part of the whole scene is that in the middle of the mourning (when I have a full pout on my face), Story Mode lets loose a visual gag referencing the source material. Admittedly, it's probably the funniest thing in the whole episode -- so few of the jokes are worth even a chuckle -- but it feels wrong to have it punctuate the rest of the sad scene so bluntly. With the Wither Storm properly defeated, Jesse and the gang are proclaimed to be the new Order of the Stone, and A Block and a Hard Place ends with the vague promise of new adventures coming in the next episode. Unless it's tightly written and self-contained, I'm not interested. More likely, the last episode will open up a can of worms that won't get resolved until Season Two. This episode could very well be considered the finale for the first season. It wraps up the Wither Storm saga, it answers the questions about the Order of the Stone, and it delivers a semi-happy, hopeful ending for the crew. If only it did that without an utterly boring first half and the clumsy insertion of mandatory Telltale story elements, it might have also been a good ending. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Minecraft review photo
Denouement-craft
What a weird episode. After the high energy of The Last Place You Look, this one slows down the action shortly into it, and it doesn't really pick back up until the very end, which feels like the end of a season. But then, th...

Minecraft screenshots photo
Minecraft screenshots

A cartload of Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 4 screenshots


Better late than never
Jan 04
// Darren Nakamura
Vacation travel kept me from being able to get to the latest episode in Telltale's Minecraft: Story Mode right away. I just finished it, and as always, I had my finger on the screenshot button the whole way through. Mayb...
Valve ARG photo
Valve ARG

This sure seems like a new Valve ARG


Ring in the new year with a rabbit hole
Dec 30
// Jordan Devore
Valve has seemingly slipped an alternate reality game (ARG) into the 2015 Winter Steam Sale. Over the past week, users have been searching for what they perceived to be clues all across Steam and in Valve's still-unraveling N...
Terraria: Otherworld photo
Terraria: Otherworld

Terraria: Otherworld is coming along


Now releasing in 2016
Dec 29
// Jordan Devore
Re-Logic is keeping itself plenty busy with work on Terraria (content updates, mobile/console fixes, launching next year's Wii U version) and its new spin-off game, Terraria: Otherworld, which has shades of tower defense. It'...
Hot phone Date photo
Hot phone Date

No Friday plans? How about a Hot Date (with a dog)


MERCILESS pug speed dating sim returns
Dec 18
// Steven Hansen
I covered and played the heck out of the MERCILESS pug speed dating sim Hot Date when it was released this summer, but maybe you didn't. So already we're doing good: reminding you of a cool game you could be playing right now...
Firewatch video photo
Firewatch video

Fyrst look at more beautiful Firewatch fyytage


Fun with thumbnails!
Dec 18
// Steven Hansen
I wrote about Firewatch's topless teens, meaty hands, and mystery way, way back at the beginning of this year (wanna feel old!?). The gorgeous, narrative driven game from artist Olly Moss, Mark of the Ninja designer&nbs...
Minecraft: Story Mode photo
Minecraft: Story Mode

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 4 trailer gathers the Order of the Stone


For the 'Wither Storm Finale'
Dec 17
// Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: A Block and a Hard Place is gearing up to release next week, so today we get the requisite launch trailer for it. This episode is promised to be the "Wither Storm Finale," with the last episode in the s...
Steam Trading Cards photo
Steam Trading Cards

Steam is dropping Mysterious trading cards again


For the 2015 Holiday Sale
Dec 16
// Darren Nakamura
Earlier this year I got a jump on the Steam Summer Sale event by happening to craft a badge at the right time. As luck would have it, it happened again. No, I don't just always craft badges. Okay maybe I do. I noticed this ev...
Minecraft: Story Mode photo
Minecraft: Story Mode

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 4 will be home for Christmas


Releasing December 22
Dec 11
// Darren Nakamura
It's almost bizarre to think that the first episode of Minecraft: Story Mode was out less than two months ago, and here we are gearing up for the fourth in the series. Episode Four, A Block and a Hard Place releases on PC on ...

Review: Girls Like Robots

Dec 09 // Darren Nakamura
Girls Like Robots (iPhone, Linux, Mac, PC, Wii U [reviewed])Developer: PopcannibalPublisher: PopcannibalReleased: November 12, 2015 (Wii U)MSRP: $6.99 Girls Like Robots starts off strong. The hand-drawn art is cute and inviting. Characters are expressive and the narrative that strings everything together alternates between comfortably familiar and bizarrely irreverent. Even the central puzzle idea seems to have promise. By taking into account all of the little rules about who likes sitting next to whom, satisfying logic puzzles can be constructed. Indeed, some of the better levels had me reasoning through a succession of a-ha moments, working through the necessary if-then statements in my head in order to come to a suitable solution. Girls Like Robots even does the classic Smart Game Design Thing (™) of introducing a new mechanic over the course of it in order to keep everything fresh. Some levels ask for negative happiness, some are timed, one has an almost Tetris-esque line-clearing mechanic. Sometimes it gets really weird, with fireflies bouncing off blocks to destroy underground insect lords. [embed]325021:61447:0[/embed] And yet despite all that, I found myself bored more often than not with the seating chart gameplay. The early levels in a section are appropriately small, trivially easy in order to introduce a new idea. The problem is that it doesn't scale well: increasing the size of a puzzle increases the difficulty and complexity, but it transforms from a solvable logic exercise to a muddle of trial and error. So few of the puzzles hit the sweet spot, where the solution is neither immediately obvious nor unreasonably obtuse. Even finding the correct solution in some of the bigger challenges isn't satisfying, because the outcome doesn't appear to be substantially different than any number of failing configurations. It's all just a mess of cute characters arranged into rows. Thankfully, there is a skip button to blow past any puzzles that are taking too long. I never used it, but I found myself tempted a few times, simply because I wanted to see where the story would go next but I wasn't enjoying myself while I was actually playing. There's no doubt that Girls Like Robots is charming, and that quality alone is enough to make it worth seeing through to the end. But while the wacky story and self-aware narration is enough to carry interest, the actual puzzles work against that. In the end, the game mirrors its own volcano picnic scene. It's cute, it's weird, it sounds like a fun idea at first, and there are some delicious pies to find here and there, but somebody is going to get burned. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Girls Like Robots review photo
I think they're just okay
Girls like robots. It's the name of the game, and it's the first piece of information given. Most of the time spent is in laying out seating arrangements of emotional square people in an attempt to maximize happiness. Girls l...

Starbound combat photo
Starbound combat

Starbound's combat update should make fighting more interesting


Secondary abilities, new weapon types
Dec 08
// Darren Nakamura
I'll admit: my hype for Starbound is nowhere near the level where it was two years ago. Being in beta for that long can do that. After my group exhausted the quest lines for the first iteration, we never really went back, des...
The Elder Scrolls Online photo
The Elder Scrolls Online

Want to play The Elder Scrolls Online for free?


Here's everything you need to know
Dec 08
// Vikki Blake
Always fancied giving The Elder Scrolls Online a try but haven't yet been able to commit? Here's hoping you have some free time this weekend as Bethesda is giving you the chance to try before you buy.  From Thursday, Dec...
TWD: Michonne photo
TWD: Michonne

Here's your first real look at The Walking Dead: Michonne


Three part mini-series coming in 2016
Dec 03
// Alissa McAloon
It might not be The Walking Dead: Season 3, but an all new trailer for The Walking Dead: Michonne is better than nothing. The mini-series was first announced back in June and hasn't seen much publicity since then. ...
WTWTLW photo
WTWTLW

Gone Home programmer's new game looks like a Van Gogh painting


Where the Water Tastes like Wine
Dec 03
// Darren Nakamura
Johnnemann Nordhagen broke off from Fullbright a few months after Gone Home's launch. About a year ago, we got a teaser image for his new project of a wolf playing cards, but there has been radio silence since then. Tonight a...
The Cossacks are coming photo
The Cossacks are coming

Europa Universalis IV on sale in time for Cossacks expansion


Cheap EUIV ahead of 6th expansion
Dec 01
// Steven Hansen
As we famously reported a couple months back: The Cossacks are coming, the Cossacks are coming! Well, those cock and ball sack hybrids have hit Steam as Europa Universalis IV's sixth major expansion. It will run you $20 -- n...
metroidvania photo
metroidvania

Heart Forth, Alicia is really coming along


Get outta my dreams
Nov 30
// Jordan Devore
The latest Kickstarter update for Heart Forth, Alicia is a lot to get through. There's been a delay -- from Q1 2016 to the second half of the year -- but rather than just give a basic explanation for the change of plans, the ...
PS4 streaming photo
PS4 streaming

Official PC and Mac streaming is coming to the PS4


Sorry, third-party programs
Nov 27
// Joe Parlock
Have you ever gazed longingly at the Xbox One's ability to stream games to a PC? Have you ever wished your PS4 could do the same thing, wished to be taken into the sweet embrace of inFamous: Second Son or Metal Gear Solid V s...
Fez photo
Fez

Oh my gosh, this Fez vinyl!


The game has a new limited edition, too
Nov 25
// Jordan Devore
I was checked out for the day when I saw this vinyl set for Fez, or so I thought. It's so dang good! Disasterpeace is one of my favorite musicians working in games right now, and the Fez soundtrack is among his best work, eas...
Steam sale photo
Steam sale

Steam's autumn sale is different this year


Prepare to scroll
Nov 25
// Jordan Devore
Send help! It's that deal-filled time of year when I have far too many browser tabs open. As you might have noticed from the new storefront illustration, Steam began its autumn sale today (officially, it's the "Exploration Sa...
Minecraft screenshots photo
Minecraft screenshots

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 3 screenshots, we got 'em


Look at last
Nov 24
// Darren Nakamura
The third episode for Minecraft: Story Mode is out today, and it's actually not half bad. I think I took more screenshots this time around than in the first two episodes as a result. Going through these after the fact, it's o...

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