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Steam Weekend photo
Steam Weekend

Klei's games are free to play on Steam this weekend

Discounts, too
Nov 12
// Jordan Devore
Between Don't Starve and Mark of the Ninja, there's a lot of love for Klei around these parts. The studio is now a decade old, and it's celebrating that milestone with a Steam promotion. You can play these titles for free on ...
Yooka-Laylee character photo
Yooka-Laylee character

New Yooka-Laylee character channels old school graphics

Nov 11
// Darren Nakamura
Ever since the announcement that Team17 would be publishing the Kickstarter-funded Banjo-Kazooie-like Yooka-Laylee, news has been pretty quiet on it. There have been a couple of backer updates, including one showing a cute sk...
Game of Thrones screens photo
Game of Thrones screens

First screens for Game of Thrones finale are non-canon (for me)

Gared fights a claymation bear
Nov 11
// Darren Nakamura
The long-awaited season finale for Telltale's Game of Thrones series following House Forrester is almost here. It releases next week, but today we have a few tastes of what to expect. Mira looks like she's in trouble with the...
Deals photo

Steam Machines are out, so there's a game sale

The Steam Link sounds intriguing
Nov 10
// Jordan Devore
Today is a big hardware day for Valve. The Steam Controller ($49.99), Steam Link ($49.99), and Steam Machines (starting at $449.99) have officially launched in North America and Europe. Impressions of those devices have been ...
Contingency Plan photo
Contingency Plan

Invisible, Inc. gets new agents and more in next week's expansion

One of the best games of the year
Nov 05
// Steven Hansen
Six months after its release, one of my favorite games of 2015 (and also 2014) is getting its first expansion. Contingency Plan is heading to Invisible, Inc. (PC, Mac, Linux) next week on November 12. Contingency Plan offers,...
Deals photo

It's time for's big fall sale

Spend $5 and you'll get System Shock 2
Nov 04
// Jordan Devore has begun its fall sale on some 350 games and, all right, I'll look. But that's it! This year, there's an extra bit of motivation on top of the discounts. If you spend $5 during the sale, you'll get a free copy of Sys...

Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: Assembly Required

Nov 02 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: Assembly Required (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: October 27, 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 The one big risk Telltale took with this episode was hinted at the end of The Order of the Stone. Depending on whether players choose to side with Olivia and seek out Ellegaard or to side with Axel and look for Magnus, the entire first act of the episode will play out totally differently. On the one hand, it's a bold step forward for Telltale, which is often criticized for touting its choice-based gameplay while delivering roughly the same story to everybody regardless of the decisions made. With the choice of Ellegaard vs. Magnus, the consequences were immediate and impactful, affecting a huge chunk of this episode. The final outcome might not be any different, but the journey certainly is. On the other hand, it provides for an experience uneven among players. The first half of the episode takes about 40 minutes to get through, and most people will only see one of the two segments. It stings a little because I chose to find Ellegaard, but was later led to believe that the Magnus section is the more entertaining of the two. If nothing else, it might convince me to start up a second save file just to see what I missed. [embed]318431:60938:0[/embed] Speaking of Ellegaard and Magnus, both characters are fairly unlikable. Ellegaard is haughty and aloof and Magnus is snide and combative. It creates a conflict between the two that might serve a narrative purpose in the future, but mostly just makes me wish I could have chosen neither of them right now. That turns out not to matter much, since both make an exit not long into the collective journey and bring the group back down to the core members again. Just when Story Mode threatens to feature a real, interesting human moment, the action leading to the episode's climax starts up, postponing the good stuff until a future episode. The cast continues to perform adequately. Each of the characters has his or her own distinct personality, and the actors deliver well enough. The writing is still falling flat for me. Things are happening, the narrative is progressing, but it's just not especially good yet. None of the jokes made me laugh. None of the drama made me think. After two episodes of Minecraft: Story Mode, I find myself struggling to care. It's a story and I am experiencing it, but that's the best I can muster. It's not bad enough that I'm dreading having to play three more episodes, but it's not good enough that I'm looking forward to it either. It could cease to exist and I would be utterly unfazed. There is some hope for the future of the series, as Assembly Required has planted some interesting seeds of what's to come, but it's not quite there yet. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Minecraft review photo
The story is building...
Telltale fans have grown accustomed to a two-to-four month wait between episodes. So when the studio surprise launched Assembly Required just two weeks after The Order of the Stone, it caught everybody off guard. Even though ...

Outlast II photo
Outlast II

Looks like Outlast II will have a religious theme

Fall 2016
Oct 29
// Jordan Devore
After the critical and commercial success of Outlast, it's only natural Red Barrels would want to continue down that path with a sequel. The first teaser for Outlast II debuted today, and its religious subject matter already seems more intriguing than the nightmarish asylum of the first game.
Telltale photo

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 2 stealth launches today

Wow, that was fast
Oct 27
// Laura Kate Dale
[Update: While we were initially told by a Telltale staff member that the EU release of episode two was being held until Friday, it now appears the digital EU release date is in fact today.] In an unexpected surprise mov...
Free games photo
Free games

Steampunk mini-golf game is free on Steam all day

That's a lot of steam
Oct 26
// Brett Makedonski
High in the sky, above the clouds, there is a mini-golf course. That's what Vertiginous Golf would like you to think, anyway. And, up there, rounds are free forever if you click a few buttons right now. Steampunk mini-go...

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

Oct 20 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: The Vault of the Traveler (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: October 20, 2015 (Mac, PC, PS3, PS4)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] At the end of the previous episode, so many questions were left unresolved. What happened to Felix? Where is Vaughn? How is Rhys going to deal with Handsome Jack? Who is the Stranger who kidnapped Fiona and Rhys to get the whole thing started? All of those questions get answered. The story of the Stranger is particularly well done. Over the course of the series it has become clear he was a known character. I had a couple of guesses, some of which were shot down along the way as people died. When it was finally revealed, it caught me by surprise, but doesn't feel like a cheap copout twist. Some hints were there on the way. The other big question looming over the series over its duration centers on Gortys. Most of the story takes place via flashback narration in which the perky robot is happy and healthy, but the present-day bits have had Rhys, Fiona, and the Stranger collecting her pieces all over again. What happened to her? [embed]315774:60751:0[/embed] It's a question I personally fretted over because Gortys has become my favorite character in the entire Borderlands universe. Her unrelenting optimism and childlike demeanor are so refreshing on the cutthroat planet of Pandora, giving her best lines that much more comedic weight. Gortys delivers several laugh-out-loud funny lines this time around, but a sad effect of Telltale design is that some players might never even hear them. My favorite came as a response to one of the dialogue choices. It almost makes me want to play through again just to see if there were any great lines I missed out on. This episode gives another substantial reason to warrant a second play through. Getting ready for the final confrontation, the usual gang of suspects has to put together a team, pulling from the supporting cast reaching back as far as episode one. In a move Telltale ought to adopt for all its series, it spells out exactly who is available and why or why not based on past choices. I covered for Athena when Janey was suspicious after the chase in Hollow Point, so she would be willing to fight with me again. I was hesitant to call myself a Vault Hunter, so Zer0 never took much notice and was unavailable. Not only would I have to replay this last episode if I wanted to see Zer0 in action again, I'd have to basically start from the beginning. Given how good this series is, I'm not upset about that. I doubt the final outcome of the fight with the Traveler is any different depending on which characters join in, but the battle itself is customized depending on who is there. It's intrinsically cool to see each character in action given the circumstances of the encounter, but I am reluctant to spoil the specifics. One of the aspects of this series that amazes me is just how impactful it can be on the Borderlands universe. What started out as a story about a middle manager and a lowly grifter has irrevocably altered Pandora as a whole. While The Pre-Sequel worked within the confines of the existing lore, providing back story for Hyperion and Handsome Jack, Tales builds new stuff on top, setting up for the inevitable Borderlands 3. Thinking of the future, there are a few open-ended plot points in this last episode. Though a lot of past choices were highlighted and their effects were explicitly shown, the choice that puzzled me the most is given to Rhys as he is describing his struggle with Handsome Jack. As far as I could tell, nothing in this series was affected by it despite its potentially huge consequences. Additionally, there's the very end. After the climactic battle with the Traveler, as the group is celebrating and grabbing loot, there's one final scene that might be setting up for a whole new adventure starring Rhys and/or Fiona. Whether that becomes Tales from the Borderlands Season Two or part of the mainline series, I don't know. But it will definitely get Borderlands nerds excited considering the possibilities. I cannot recommend Tales enough. Borderlands fans will love the fresh take on the dark comedy universe. Telltale fans will love the smart writing and callbacks to choices made throughout. People who don't fall into those categories might still love it because it is just that great. This last episode maintains the action, drama, and comedy present throughout the series. It ties up all the major loose ends while leaving just a hint of room for more to come. Most of all, it solidifies Tales from the Borderlands as Telltale's best series to date, a pinnacle of modern adventure gaming. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Borderlands finale review photo
Your journey ends here
[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, who consulted on the story for Tales from the Borderlands, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] What a...

Weird west photo
Weird west

Tactical weird western Hard West hits Steam soon

Supernatural strategy game
Oct 19
// Jordan Devore
I hope Hard West makes the most of its setting. It's a supernatural western with turn-based, tactical combat against cultists, cannibals, and demons. I've been keeping tabs on it since Steven's preview a couple months back (a...
Mushroom 11 screenshots photo
Mushroom 11 screenshots

Mushroom 11's world is beautiful desolation

Have some screenshots
Oct 17
// Darren Nakamura
Every so often a game comes along that lends itself to a big ol' screenshot gallery. To fit the bill, a game obviously needs to look good, but it also helps if it has a simple control scheme that allows easy access to the F12...

Review: Mushroom 11

Oct 17 // Darren Nakamura
Mushroom 11 (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: UntamePublisher: UntameReleased: October 15, 2015MSRP: $14.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Creation through destruction is a central theme in Mushroom 11, represented both in its story and its gameplay. Here, players control a green slime mold with a peculiar trait: it will always try to maintain the same number of cells at all times. If one dies, another one grows anew. The kicker is that the new cell can appear next to any other currently living cell, so long as there's space for it in the environment. It can show up near where the original cell died, appear on the other side of the organism, or manifest in a totally different location if the mold has been split into two or more chunks. Instead of direct control over the blob, players are given what's basically an image editor erase tool. Click in a spot to designate a circular area that will destroy any cells within. Right click for a smaller circle and finer control. That's all there is to it. What results is a reversal in thinking in terms of movement across the desolate landscape. You don't have control of where it goes; you have control of where it doesn't go. Destroy in one place so you may create in another. [embed]316036:60766:0[/embed] The control scheme sets up for some great physics-based puzzling. Early on, the challenges are in reaching high objects, climbing steep walls, and clearing small gaps. Most are small feats of engineering, requiring the creation of towers and bridges with the ooze. Sometimes, this brings about a sort of "leap of faith" situation, where it can take ten or more minutes carefully constructing a shape that fits a puzzle's needs and very nearly clears an obstacle, but for the last push it requires a quick erasure of everything but the tip. It's a huge relief when it works, but an incredible bummer when it fails. Those who err on the side of caution may spend a lot of time tediously trimming cells one by one, hoping with each destroyed square, the new one will pop up in a desirable location. That example is a subset of one of my biggest problems with Mushroom 11. The cardinal sin of a physics-based puzzler is when the player knows the solution but cannot manage the execution. The tedium of the slow approach is one thing, but a small handful of puzzles get downright infuriating due to the semi-random nature of the cell growth. There was one in particular in the seventh stage that had me second-guessing my solution after almost an hour spent on it. I had the right idea, I was just not quite fast enough. When I finally did complete it, I didn't feel like I had done anything fundamentally different that time than I had during the hundred previous attempts. In broader terms, the difficulty of Mushroom 11 was a surprise. The first couple levels can be easily completed in less than a half hour. The next few clock in at under an hour. The seventh stage took me as long to complete as the other six combined. It is not messing around. Early on, a lot of the greater challenges are optional, rewarding players for exploration or going the extra mile. At the end, some of the mandatory challenges almost made me quit and the optional ones seem damn near impossible. I eventually had to take a break because my finger was sore from how hard I was holding down the mouse button. It's almost as if Mushroom 11 transitions from being a puzzler to an action game during the final act. Not only do some of the sections require precision, they also demand speed. The control scheme can provide for either on its own, but having both at the same time can take a bit of luck. The world this all takes place in is strangely beautiful. It paints a picture of an earth after humanity, full of desolation and decay. Each level has its own look to it, but the trend is toward less machinery and more nature as the game progresses. Humans may be gone, eradicated or forced to flee, but life still goes on in their wake. Again, creation from destruction. Overall, Mushroom 11 is a worthwhile experience. It has its missteps, most notably when its puzzles favor brute force over elegance or when it doesn't play to its unique control scheme's strengths. But its uniqueness is its greatest asset; there isn't anything else quite like it out there, and it takes a different kind of thinking to get through. I wouldn't be surprised to hear some may abandon it before finishing due to its difficulty, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see diehards pop up, going for the no-death and the 100 percent runs. For me, I'm totally happy with my single playthrough. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Mushroom 11 review photo
Doesn't quite go to 11
From the beginning, Mushroom 11 establishes itself as something different. Though it has been done before, the whole concept of traveling from right to left in a 2D game can still be jarring simply because of its rarity. It s...

Borderlands photo

Tales from the Borderlands' season finale gets a trailer

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

The Cossacks coming to Europa Universalis IV this year

Plus free update to the game
Oct 15
// Steven Hansen
I've always liked the word "Cossack." It's fun to say, it's got two c's and two s's, it's how John Cusack's name should be pronounced, and it's basically a mashup of "cock" and "ballsack." So I was with the Cocksacks until t...
Wanderer photo

Feast your eyes on sci-fi platformer-RPG Wanderer

Lo-fi Firefly
Oct 14
// Darren Nakamura
When it comes to pixel art, there is good stuff and there is bad stuff. Recently launched on Kickstarter, Wanderer falls easily into the former category. I just love the look of the pixelated characters on the more painterly ...
Home Free photo
Home Free

Dog adventure Home Free headed to PS4

The logo has a dog's butt!
Oct 13
// Jordan Devore
I was as pleasantly surprised as Darren to see Home Free, a survival game about a lost dog in a randomly generated city, reach its funding goal on Kickstarter in under a week. More good news: it's coming to PlayStation 4 in a...

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

Oct 13 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: The Order of the Stone (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: October 13, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit To its credit, Minecraft: Story Mode does a lot well. The use of Minecraft's engine and iconic visual style is a nice workaround to keep the Telltale Tool from showing its age. It's hard to complain about low-polygon models for a world comprised mostly of cubes. Despite having fewer moving parts to work with on the character models, the characters are as expressive as they need to be. By narrowing or widening eyes and tweaking eyebrows, the block people (and pig) can show a range of emotions in a cartoony sort of way. The voice work aids in bringing the low-fidelity characters to life as well. The cast is impressive, including the likes of Patton Oswalt, Billy West, and Paul Reubens, to name a few. Though the characters look similar in the beginning, each has a defined personality that comes through thanks to the actors. Much like a session with Minecraft proper, by the end of the episode my brain stopped seeing everything and everyone as a collection of hard-edged polyhedra and just accepted them as regular places and people. [embed]315133:60717:0[/embed] However, the all-star voice cast does highlight The Order of the Stone's biggest shortcoming. With such big names in comedy doing the dialogue, it's disappointing how little comedy there is in the script. There are a few gags that find their mark, but most are worth only a smile or a chuckle; none really stood out. On the other end of the spectrum, the drama doesn't really deliver either. The elements are there: life-or-death situations, uncertainty, mistrust. Still, none of the prototypical "big choices" felt like they carried much weight. Of the five choices shown at the end, the first is just a judgment call with an unknown and arbitrary outcome, two involve whether you want to be an asshole to a guy who doesn't deserve it, one won't have clear implications until a later episode, and the last is a decision on which of protagonist Jesse's two friends has a better plan for what's to come. The choices highlight an emphasis on the future. Put plainly, The Order of the Stone is heavy on exposition, setting up the backstory, characters, and events for the rest of the season. While necessary, it misses some opportunities to be memorable in its attempt to lay the foundation. Story Mode will probably be more of a hit among Minecraft fans than general Telltale fans. The Order of the Stone features a few Minecraft-specific gameplay bits and references. A couple times during the episode, players are presented with a problem, given some materials, and tasked with crafting a solution. Recipes are given for those who don't know what to make or how to make it, but other craftable objects are present as well. While trying to make a stone sword, I accidentally crafted a lever. After a playful rib about me not knowing what I was doing, the materials were returned so I could forge the weapon. Later on, the group has to hit a pressure plate beyond a hallway filled with arrow traps. Recipes and materials are given for a couple possible tools to use. It would be great if there were other hidden solutions to discover for those who know the source material inside and out. In addition to the crafting puzzles, there is one classic adventure game puzzle found toward the end of the episode. It isn't especially original or taxing, but along with the crafting it does represent a step in a more gameplay-oriented direction from the recent story-only Telltale series. So far, Minecraft: Story Mode is like a Saturday morning cartoon. Sure, there is conflict, but it doesn't feel dire. Sure, there are funny bits, but the comedy isn't sharp or intelligent. Sure, there is a story, but it doesn't feel like it matters yet. There is some hope for this series to be great in the future, but The Order of the Stone is just okay. The Minecraft-specific gameplay is a nice way to shake up the usual formula. The blank slate of the universe allows the tale to go wherever it wants. The voice cast is full of actors who can do great work. But the writing needs to be more engaging if Story Mode wants to be taken seriously among Telltale canon. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Minecraft review photo
Exposition mode
Telltale has seen ups and downs with its licensed titles. With Jurassic Park the studio was still figuring out what works and what doesn't. More recently, The Walking Dead and Tales from the Borderlands have shown the strengt...

Firewatch photo

Firewatch is such a lovely looking game

Releasing February 9, 2016
Oct 12
// Jordan Devore
I'm supposed to tell you that Campo Santo's wilderness-set exploration mystery Firewatch will release on February 9, 2016 for PlayStation 4, Windows, Mac, and Linux. That's the news today. But I've fallen into an image gallery wormhole, and I'm taking you with me.
Indie in Berlin photo
Indie in Berlin

Fired Dead Island 2 devs leave Yager, start indie studio

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

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

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

Are you patriotic enough for this Broforce ballad?

Urge to salute... rising!
Oct 08
// Jordan Devore
Broforce is almost done with Steam Early Access. The run-and-gun game starring action-movie lookalikes will see a full release for Windows, Mac, and Linux on October 15, 2015. Next up? Hell. Literally! In upcoming levels, the bros will wage war against Satan. Sounds about right. Until then, get ready to shed a few tears while watching this loving tribute to America.
Telltale Borderlands photo
Telltale Borderlands

Tales from the Borderlands finale releases on October 20

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

Reshape planets with a friend in Astroneer

I'm so into this
Oct 07
// Jordan Devore
It's morning still. I feel way too groggy to let out an audible "whoa!" while watching a trailer for a video game, but Astroneer managed to elicit one anyway. Two, actually. It was the player-controlled terrain deformation th...
Indivisible photo

Skullgirls dev's metroidvania RPG Indivisible is looking pretty dang good

Up on Indiegogo, with a playable demo
Oct 05
// Darren Nakamura
Back in July we got a barebones announcement that Skullgirls developer Lab Zero Games has been working on a role-playing game called Indivisible and that it would begin a crowdfunding campaign for it late in September. It's ...
Home Free photo
Home Free

Dog RPG Home Free funded in five days

Kicks Arfer
Oct 05
// Darren Nakamura
Things have been looking kind of sad over on Kickstarter lately. Aside from the huge names making games like Mighty No. 9, Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained, and Shenmue 3, it seems like the ratio of successes to failures has i...

The paradox of selling The Beginner's Guide

Oct 03 // Darren Nakamura
When the game begins, writer and narrator Davey Wreden talks about a person he used to know named Coda. He builds a history between them: they met at a game jam, Wreden was fascinated by Coda's games, this one particular game was the first Wreden saw though it isn't the first presented to us, and so on. He inserts little details about the relationship, like how they used to argue about whether games need to be playable to be meaningful. Given the mundane setup, there's no reason not to take Wreden at his word. He speaks directly to us, letting us know our role. We are people playing a collection of art games, and he is our guide through it all. Everything fits as a nonfiction work. As we play further, we see the games get darker in tone. Coda crafts inescapable prisons. He has players destroy the machine that produces his ideas. He creates game worlds with obstacles that are impassable without altering the code. Not only that, but the time between each "release" increases. In the beginning, Coda's games have only a few weeks between them. Toward the end, he is spending months. Wreden takes notice, and he worries about his friend. At this point, I was a little worried myself. So Wreden went on to show Coda's games to others, thinking the validation of hearing how good his stuff is might work him out of his funk. This sets in motion the climactic sequence, a game built specifically for Wreden. After some grueling tasks only surmountable through attrition or reprogramming, we come to a hallway filled with messages. They are the first explicit thoughts we get from Coda, after a whole game of supposing from themes and symbolism. And the message is clear: Davey, stop trying to analyze me and stop showing my games off as if they were yours to share. This sequence hit me hard. "Oh god," I thought, "I've been wading through this guy's personal space this whole time without his permission." I felt like I just took part in something terrible. I felt a chill run down my body. I felt awful. Wreden addresses the irony himself, in his increasingly distraught voice over. By releasing The Beginner's Guide, he's doing the exact opposite of what Coda wanted, and he's a terrible person for it, but he just can't get it out of his mind and he needs help finding Coda, to find out what makes him tick. It was here I went back through other details I hadn't previously given much thought. In the original email chain Davey Wreden sent to Destructoid, he made it clear William Pugh, his collaborator on The Stanley Parable, was not involved in this project. At the time I shrugged it off as an unimportant piece of information for my purposes. Looking back on it, it only gave more credence to the whole narrative; Wreden wanted to leave Pugh out of this, making sure everybody knows he alone had done a very bad thing. But then I thought about one thing: the price. Wreden is selling The Beginner's Guide for 10 dollars. He took a collection of somebody else's games, which include a game about not sharing his games, and is selling it for profit. That's just unthinkable. Suddenly, the illusion popped. I had been taken for a ride. Coda is not real. He never was. Herein lies the paradox. As a complete narrative package, The Beginner's Guide had me fooled. I was so emotionally invested in the history and events because it felt so real. I felt genuine regret over my actions affecting a real person in this world. But the entire history surrounding Coda is a fabrication. It has to be. Wreden crafted a fiction so convincing I was sad and angry. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Isn't that worth 10 bucks? For me, there's no question. Of course it is. But the fact it costs anything pulls back the curtain on it. Would the experience be even more powerful if it were free? I think so. I would probably still think Coda is real if it weren't for this detail. The Beginner's Guide is easily worth the price, but it would be worth even more if it cost nothing.
The Beginner's Guide photo
Or, I'm sorry if you're real, Coda
The Beginner's Guide released a couple days ago, and it made me feel stuff. If you are not averse to having feelings, you might want to play it. More importantly, if you have not yet played it, you probably don't want to cont...

Review: Read Only Memories

Oct 02 // Ben Davis
Read Only Memories (PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: MidBossPublisher: MidBossReleased: October 6, 2015MSRP: $9.99 The story of Read Only Memories begins with the appearance of a peculiar robot named Turing, who breaks into the player character's apartment after their creator, Hayden, was mysteriously kidnapped. Turing decides that the player character, who is a journalist and a friend of Hayden's, is the most statistically likely to be able to help them. Thus begins the search for Hayden in the technologically advanced, cyberpunk-inspired city of Neo-San Francisco in 2064. In this futuristic setting, scientists have discovered many new ways of enhancing the human body through cybernetics as well as genetic modification, meaning it's common to see people with robotic limbs, blue skin, rabbit ears, and other such bizarre enhancements walking around as if it's completely normal. Not to mention the ROMs, robots like Turing, which are just as commonplace and are on the verge of becoming sapient, able to think and feel as humans do. As expected, anti-hybrid and -cybernetic groups such as the Human Revolution have begun to pop up warning people of the dangers of such technologies. [embed]313479:60589:0[/embed] During the player's search for Hayden, they will meet a colorful cast of strange and interesting characters and be asked to participate in some rather shady activities, sneaking around the law in an attempt to learn secrets and uncover truths. Some characters can be trusted while other cannot, but they're all able to provide leads, information, and other helpful things if the player can successfully persuade them. The gameplay largely consists of your typical point-and-click adventure mechanics, nothing really new here but it works just fine. People and objects can be interacted with by looking, touching, talking, or using an item. Interacting with the same thing multiple times might yield different results, so sometimes it's a good idea to look at, touch, or talk to someone or something more than once. There's also a wide variety of items at the player's disposal, which can be picked up and used in certain situations. There is no item combining to be done, however, and pixel hunting is not a problem since anything that can be interacted with will be highlighted by mousing over it, so many of the more annoying adventure game elements were left alone. Much of the gameplay centers around conversations and choosing dialogue options, but there are plenty of puzzle-solving sections as well. These include direct puzzles, such as looking at a map and closing off intersections in order to divert a cab back to the player, as well as more indirect puzzles like trying to find the right item to gain access to a house or figuring out how to coerce someone into giving up information. None of the puzzles are too obtuse, and some of them are rather forgiving if the player messes up at first. The story features several branching paths and alternate endings, depending on how the player chooses to interact with characters and how successful they are at figuring out puzzles. It's possible to befriend or make enemies with several of the characters, so try and decide who will be the most helpful and choose the appropriate responses. Breaking the law and causing mischief seem to be unavoidable, but how it's done is up to the player. As most of Read Only Memories involves reading text, I found the writing to be entertaining and engaging, if overly-technical at times. They did a great job of giving every character a thorough backstory, making each of them interesting and relatable with their own quirks and behaviors. I particularly enjoyed Turing's fondness for painting and the player character's strange obsession with plants. There were, however, a few groan-worthy references and an occasionally disappointing lack of variety in dialogue options. Read Only Memories originally set out to do one thing: foster the inclusion of diverse characters, especially those of the LGBT persuasion. Thankfully, the end product is much more than just that. The characters' sexualities and gender identities, which include plenty of gay and straight, trans- and cis-gendered individuals, are revealed in a natural way or left up to the player's imagination. Meanwhile, we have a story built around mystery and intrigue, with topics of crime, technology, and politics taking the forefront of the discussion in the lives of these characters who just happen to be a certain way. Personally, I felt the LGBT themes were handled appropriately and naturally without being too heavy-handed, but I'm sure some will disagree with me. I would recommend Read Only Memories to anyone who enjoys point-and-click adventure games, as it's an excellent addition to the genre, borrowing many of its key elements while ditching some of the more obnoxious ones. It's also a great choice for anyone who is looking for more diversity in their video games, as it does a wonderful job of promoting inclusion without making it the sole focus. Plus, there's an awesome, adorable little robot friend to hang out with, and who doesn't want that? [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Read Only Memories review photo
Cyberpunk chic
MidBoss, the team behind the LGBT-centric gaming convention, GaymerX, has been having quite a successful time lately. After reaching its Kickstarter funding goals at the end of 2013, the team has been hard at work creating it...

Review: The Beginner's Guide

Oct 01 // Darren Nakamura
The Beginner's Guide (Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Everything Unlimited LtdPublisher: Everything Unlimited LtdReleased: October 1, 2015MSRP: $9.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit The Beginner's Guide opens on a de_dust-like Counter-Strike map with Wreden narrating. It isn't Wreden narrating to save money on a voice actor or Wreden narrating the in-game story. Davey Wreden is narrating as Davey Wreden, telling a story about his personal life. He was once friends with another game designer named Coda. Ever since meeting at a game jam, he had been fascinated with Coda's work. Most of the games are short, five to ten-minute affairs involving walking and philosophical musing. All were built in Source, but the art styles vary. Coda never released his games publicly, but Wreden hounded him to play each one upon completion. What we play through is Coda's entire body of work, presented chronologically. All the while, Wreden offers insight about game design, from the nuts and bolts of the tools used to the deeper symbolism of a particular segment, whether it was intentional or unintentional. [embed]313130:60582:0[/embed] Unlike a lot of these narrative-focused games, which allow the player to passively experience the story, absorbing or ignoring as much as desired, it's the kind of experience that demands intellectual engagement. I mean that literally; Wreden explicitly asks the player to send him critical analysis, providing an email address toward that end. There is exactly one puzzle in The Beginner's Guide, and it is repeated a few times. It involves two doors and solving it requires an irreversible step. When solved, the entrance is sealed and the exit is open, providing only one possible path: forward. Wreden's interpretation of this puzzle involves a symbolic closure of the past, marking something as "complete" and putting it out of mind. While I was playing through, my mind went to thoughts about having to take risks in order to progress and the idea of finding comfort in familiar things.  The structure provides a strange sense of immersion only a few games can manage. I am not the avatar of the character in these environments navigating through them; I am the guy sitting at his computer, playing a game while another guy talks to me about it. The story being told is a history that took place in the real world, and together we are piecing together the deeper meaning behind these weird art games. The roundabout immersion is ironic in a way. Normally making it clear the player is just someone playing a game adds a layer of disconnect. Since the reality matches with the premise in The Beginner's Guide, it actually drew me into the meta-narrative even more closely. I realized about halfway through just how emotionally invested I had become. I found myself marveling at Coda's creations just as Wreden had done before me. I spent time reading every note posted in one section even after being told I didn't have to. I wanted to understand the person who made these just as much as Wreden. I was grateful for his aid when it came to surpassing the intentionally frustrating or impossible barriers. I had to see it through to the end. And then, just as my emotional investment hit its peak, the revelatory climax rolls in. Maybe Coda isn't the enigma Wreden paints him as. Maybe he just wants to be left alone. Wait, maybe he wouldn't want me playing his games. Maybe I'm violating his personal space by participating. Maybe I'm an asshole for doing things against someone else's wishes. Maybe I'm a bigger asshole for writing a whole review about it. My involvement as just the guy sitting at his computer playing a game is non-negligible at this point. I've been thinking about this game a lot for the past 36 hours. It demanded I think about it, at first only superficially, but later more substantively. I mulled over a lot of questions when I should have been sleeping. I continued thinking right when I woke up. I think I dreamed about it in between. I won't spoil with the explicit questions here, but I'm sure we will be talking more frankly soon. On the surface, The Beginner's Guide is a game about game design and critical analysis. Digging deeper, it provides a window into the mind of a man I might not have fully understood otherwise. It does all of this in a way only a video game could. More than anything else, it has caused me a lot of introspection, a feat few games ever achieve. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Beginner's Guide review photo
Start here
The Stanley Parable is famous for its fourth wall-breaking narrative, taking the maligned "walking simulator" genre and showing how effective it can be in the hands of a capable designer. When writer Davey Wreden surprise-ann...

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