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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...

Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: The Last Place You Look

Nov 24 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: The Last Place You Look (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: November 24, 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 After having found Ellegaard the redstone engineer and Magnus the griefer in the previous episode, the gang needed only to locate Soren the architect for the full original Order of the Stone to be accounted for. The journey to find Soren takes the party to some peculiar locations, most located in The End. However, since Soren is a master builder, the areas highlighted are more diverse than the typical darkness of The End. Between Soren's feats of engineering in the overworld and colorful constructions in The End, it's a nice nod to Minecraft proper players who are known to build some of the craziest things. Soren himself is a much more likable character than some of the other members of the Order of the Stone. Where Ellegaard and Magnus were basically insufferable (especially after they were brought together), Soren is quirky and at times genuinely funny. Voiced by John Hodgman, he's neurotic and paranoid, but still fun to be around. [embed]321869:61211:0[/embed] Overall, the quality of the writing has taken a half-step up from the previous two episodes. None of the jokes elicited any sustained belly laughs, but I did let out a few snorts and chuckles along the way. The Last Place You Look started up a running gag where Axel falls on top of Lukas repeatedly, which happens just enough to be comical without getting tired. Some of the seeds of drama sown in previous episodes have begun to sprout, and while it still maintains the kid-friendly narrative, it's finally beginning to feel like the events happening matter and Jesse has an important role to play. The greatest success of The Last Place You Look is that it allows the player to feel accomplished while still moving the narrative along. This is, after all, only the third episode in a five-episode season, so anybody who knows Telltale knows everything won't be resolved here. But even so, the climax of this episode feels like a high point for the team. Sure, they're not done with their mission, but they did something, at least. There's never really any downtime during this episode either. Though there are a few sections of walking around and talking or searching for clues, they all serve a purpose and generally lead to action sequences. The first action sequence in particular is probably the best so far in the series, melding the fantastic environments, a sense of danger, and the classic Telltale decision-making into a tight opening credit roll. One thing that might turn some off is the quiet lowering of the bar for success during the action sequences. Some of the quick-time events seem more demanding here than usual, but I noticed after I flubbed a button press or two, the resulting animation didn't seem to react accordingly. Perhaps it takes multiple failures in a single section to make a difference. More experimentation is necessary. As much as I may praise The Last Place You Look, it is with respect to the first two episodes of Minecraft: Story Mode. It definitely is an improvement, but an improvement from mediocrity is just okay. The comedy is slightly improved, but still doesn't hold a candle to that of Tales from the Borderlands. The characters are becoming easier to sympathize with, but they aren't are interesting as those from The Wolf Among Us. The drama is beginning to heat up, but it doesn't come close to what we saw in The Walking Dead. Perhaps it's unfair to compare Minecraft: Story Mode to Telltale's more adult-oriented series. This is built for a particular demographic, and it seems like it's really hitting with that audience. The Last Place You Look is more of the same -- and slightly better, if anything -- so those who have enjoyed the series thus far will be pleased to just keep on trucking. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Minecraft review photo
Looking up
Minecraft: Story Mode didn't impress me with its first two episodes. Aimed at young players and Minecraft super fans, its writing didn't have a whole lot going for it past its Saturday morning cartoon plot and series in-jokes...

Steam sales photo
Steam sales

The next big Steam sales will have more stable discounts


So long, daily and flash deals
Nov 20
// Jordan Devore
Valve is tweaking the way it handles major sales on Steam -- at least the next pair. The upcoming autumn sale (November 25 - December 1) and winter sale (December 22 - January 4) will not feature the limited-time daily deals ...
Undertale who? photo
Undertale who?

Hollow Knight could be the next surprise indie hit


Such style. Much metroidvania. Wow.
Nov 20
// Jed Whitaker
The metroidvania-esque Hollow Knight took the Internet by storm yesterday, making it to the front page of reddit at least twice, and it could potentially be the next surprise indie hit following Undertale's recent succe...

Review: Renowned Explorers: International Society

Nov 20 // Darren Nakamura
Renowned Explorers: International Society (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Abbey GamesPublisher: Abbey GamesReleased: September 2, 2015MSRP: $19.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit In Renowned Explorers, the goal is to become a particularly renowned explorer among the group known as the Renowned Explorers. This is achieved by going on expeditions, recovering valuable treasures, making scientific discoveries, and navigating combat situations. Basically, an expedition is separated into two parts: resolving text-based events while traveling between nodes on a map and tactical combat on a modified hex grid. Both sections have elements of procedural generation, so there's always a sense of exploring the semi-unknown, even on an expedition to the same location as a previous run. Area maps are covered in fog of war, with only the nearest nodes visible. Combat arenas will vary the layout of obstacles, choke points, and healing zones. [embed]321138:61123:0[/embed] Indeed, Renowned Explorers is a "roguelite," meant to be played multiple times in order to truly master it. Herein lies one of the biggest hurdles I had to get over in order to enjoy it. For a game meant to be played again and again, it just takes way too long. A single run consists of five expeditions, and each expedition can take 30 to 45 minutes depending on how many encounters there are. It took me days to get through my first run because of the time commitment. This does speed up with experience, because combat becomes much faster after learning the ins and outs of it. Even so, expeditions easily last 20 minutes or more, so it's not the kind of "just one more" experience a roguelite needs to really grab somebody. This is exacerbated by the planning phase that occurs in between expeditions. Here, players spend the resources gathered during the previous expedition to purchase improved gear, recruit followers, and perform research. This is easily the densest part of Renowned Explorers for a new player. Every resource is connected to another in some way, and the game takes a laissez-faire approach; it presents a bevy of options and lets the player sort out what to do with them. Navigating the nooks and crannies of the planning phase can be exhausting at first, which makes the thought of taking on a new expedition right away seem that much more unreasonable. By far, my biggest disappointment starting off was with the combat system. It advertises multiple ways to resolve encounters; an explorer can be aggressive with physical attacks, be devious with insults and threats, or be friendly with encouragement. The three styles have a rock-paper-scissors relationship, so an aggressive approach is advantageous against a friendly enemy for instance. The problem with it is that each form of "attack" draws from the same "hit point" meter, which represents a foe's willingness to keep fighting. You could punch an enemy until he has only a sliver of health remaining, then finish him off by encouraging him to believe in your cause. Fighting and talking don't feel like they function differently. The battle system is hardly different than a simple three-element magic system at first. Only after really digging in did I spot the nuance. Some encounters will provide different rewards depending on how they are resolved. More importantly, it's the asymmetry in the rock-paper-scissors system that makes it interesting. Aggressive attack damage is a function of physical power, where devious and friendly attack damage comes from speech power, so an orator might have a stronger pair of scissors than he has a rock, so to speak. Within the speech powers, there is asymmetry as well. In general, devious skills cause debuffs while friendly skills cause buffs -- on friends and enemies alike. So while the current mood might call for a friendly attack, it is still necessary to weigh the risk of increasing the enemy's attack power in return. The point is: the combat system is deeper than it initially lets on, but it takes some effort for a player to really understand that. That basically describes Renowned Explorers: International Society on the whole. It features a set of deep systems with complex mechanics and relationships, but it places most of the burden on the player to discover it. I'll admit, I disliked it until it all fell into place and revealed itself for what it is. I'm not chomping at the bit to keep playing, but I am curious to delve deeper. Different combinations of explorers can beget different tactics both in and out of battle. That thought alone is enough to keep me from uninstalling it.
Renowned Explorers review photo
A lot to dig into
I'm glad I stuck Renowned Explorers out. For the first couple hours it was kind of a slog. Not exactly bad, but dense, unwieldy, and unexciting. I would finish an expedition and quit, not wanting to get back to it until days ...

Game of Thrones Season 2 photo
Game of Thrones Season 2

Telltale's Game of Thrones is getting a second season


Surprise, surprise
Nov 20
// Darren Nakamura
After finishing the season finale for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, I had my suspicions that it was all setting up for an inevitable second season. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Telltale CEO Kevin Bruner co...
Emily is Away photo
Emily is Away

Emily is Away's AOL-style chat hits eerily close to home


It's like a game about my life
Nov 19
// Darren Nakamura
The tagline for Emily is Away is what got me to try it out. "Relive your awkward teenage years." Sure, that sounds like a blast. It's a short text adventure set in the early 2000s and made to look like AOL Instant Messen...

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