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Sword Coast Legends photo
Sword Coast Legends

Sword Coast Legends releases September 8, new trailer


Put away the pens and paper
Jun 09
// Zack Furniss
I'm loving being a Dungeon Master in the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons thus far, even if time has done its best to keep me and my adventurers playing Hoard of the Dragon Queen. I'm casting a sideways glance towards...
Humble Bundle photo
Humble Bundle

Old favorites return for the Humble Indie Bundle: All-Stars


Eight solid games for under eight bucks
Jun 09
// Jordan Devore
On the heels of its fifth birthday, Humble Indie Bundle has packaged eight damn fine games for its All-Stars bundle. You probably own most of these, but here goes anyway: Pay what you want: World of Goo, Super Meat Boy, Dust...
Programming puzzler photo
Programming puzzler

Tomorrow Corporation's new game is Human Resource Machine


An approachable take on programming
Jun 09
// Jordan Devore
I liked World of Goo. I loved Little Inferno (for reasons I'm still not sure I fully grasp). I'm into what Tomorrow Corporation is cooking. The team's next game, Human Resource Machine, is an exercise in controlling office w...

Review: Massive Chalice

Jun 08 // Steven Hansen
Massive Chalice (Xbox One, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Double Fine ProductionsPublisher: Double Fine ProductionsMSRP: $19.99Release Date: June 1, 2015 A talking cup with the alternating voices of an old man and younger woman gives you a "Hello Commander," informing you that you, an immortal being tied to the chalice, are the only one who can navigate humanity to victory against the encroaching, monster-filled Cadence. With that brief set up, you pick five pre-generated families to serve as your starting vanguard of fighters. It's an aesthetic choice. Try and pick families with distinct flag colors (and fun surnames) because otherwise keeping track of them is a mess. The Fab Five have different stat-affecting traits (bred) and personalities (learned) and three different base classes that can be combined to make sub-classes with slightly different abilities. You're also seemingly bound to get stuck with an asthmatic early on whom you can rightly cast off into the scary orange mist because they will be useless and the life of an individual isn't worth much in a 300 year war effort. Massive Chalice operates on two levels. Combat is turn-based with grid movement and two actions per turn. Walk a bit and then attack, or walk further and leave yourself unable to attack are the big ones. The latter has a chance of leaving a character screwed if they wander into the obscured battlefield Fog of War and reveal a pack of waiting enemies. Outside of combat, there is scant decision-making and a lot of hitting the Advance Timeline button as you try to make it to year 300 to destroy the Cadence by building kingdoms for your characters to bone in to produce better soldiers and advance the bloodline. [embed]293482:58868:0[/embed] Combat, however, feels one-dimensional, perhaps appropriate for the rote meat grinder that is 300 years of war. There's no cover or overwatch, never objectives beyond kill everything within line of sight. Inch forward, kill, inch forward, kill. I often had to double back through the sometimes obnoxiously routed, procedurally generated levels to off one last monster that was content to, I guess, walk around in circles in the far off map corner for all its turns. Enemies are impressively distinct. Ruptures create a wide berth of corrosive tiles upon death, Lapses sap soldiers' XP, Wrinklers age soldiers on contact. But Massive Chalice only metes out these highly specialized enemies and facing them over and over, in larger and beefed up quantities, gets tiring. Its turn-based strategy feels brute forced and basic. Even with the addition of sub-classes and the tips screen advising carrying members of every class, I still felt like fielding a team of five Hunters to SOCOM its way through fights was ideal and borderline easy (on Normal mode). The Alchemist's volatile, limited projectiles killed more of my own troops than enemies in my last run and sending the melee-focused Caberjack into the fray always feels too dangerous. This, though, raises a huge problem with the lengthy final fight that I've found unwinnable without the area of effect moves of the other classes. Nation management, too, feels simple and sterile. You are asked to choose between research projects which take years to finish. The most obviously necessary are the Keeps, which is where you retire soldiers to and appoint a mate on the grounds of eugenics. I find that once I get Keeps built and Übermenschs screwing, research becomes haphazard. A couple pieces of gear (mainly for Hunters), the experience raising item, and then I'm mostly choosing something at random and slamming on the "Advance Timeline" button until someone else dies of old age and needs to be replaced at their post. It is clinical and the soldier stat effects feel slim (so long as you avoid breeding a handful of proper blights, like asthma). The idea of bloodlines is a good one, but the sparse overworld (the same Simon panel of territory and occasional, stoic look at a throne) does not support any narrative or connection in the vein of a Crusader Kings-like strategy game. All there is are brief, occasional text adventure events that have you make a decision (how will you settle a squabble between two troops?) that might affect some mild stat. Meanwhile, the short shelf-life of fighters doesn't support any connection to individual troops in combat, save for the one or two fights you'll have a high-level troop with a funny nickname. The most attachment I felt was to a flag color. This becomes a weird problem with the ending, which tries to suddenly loop back around and deliver an unnecessary story element that, at best, would "explain," in-universe, subsequent playthroughs. It is odd, unnecessary, and even robs you of basic world-saving catharsis. It also reminded me that, on Normal, I've yet to come close to my kingdom falling, which belies roguelike claims, while on the other hand I sort of dread playing 300 more years (plus failure restarts) on higher difficulties because of the simple combat. Massive Chalice is both beautiful and approachable, somewhat rare qualities in the genre. But its 300 year arc bends toward apathy and inhumanity. By mid-game, what was novel and enticing becomes a slog. The nation and bloodlines are mostly built out, ending the high level tactics, and battles become more brute force as the same enemies double in HP, power, and quantity. I felt like middle management making the same position appointments that a computer could make more quickly and all I got for my click click clicking was combat with bigger numbers on the same handful of stages. There is some payoff with the bloodline idea at the end, but it is not worth the rote meat grinder to get there. [This review is based on a retail build provided by the publisher.]
Massive Chalice review photo
Great fighter with a glass jaw
Double Fine's less scrutinized Kickstarter success, Massive Chalice, has been formally released half a year since entering Early Access. Along with Invisible, Inc., it formed a one-two punch of time-eating, XCOM-tinged turn-b...

Bloodstained Vita photo
Bloodstained Vita

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night will get a PS Vita version


By the same team doing the Wii U port
Jun 06
// Darren Nakamura
Back when Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night hit its Wii U stretch goal a week ago, it also revealed that for an additional half million dollars it would come to the PlayStation Vita. I was pretty sure it would hit that b...
Mighty No. 9 photo
Mighty No. 9

Mighty No. 9 has a one-hit-death mode


Uh, thanks but no thanks
Jun 03
// Jordan Devore
A few Mighty No. 9 updates to talk about today. First, all launch-window versions of the game will come with the Retro Hero DLC, which gives protagonist Beck a blocky, weirdly Minecraft-esque appearance and, good lord, a one...
Play this game photo
Play this game

Hot Date is a MERCILESS pug speed dating sim


Amazing and free
Jun 03
// Steven Hansen
Dates are sweet. The fruit. Dating? Hit or miss. So many games with dating elements boil down to easy win conditions, wooing success. It's very easy to pick out what you're supposed to say to these fake, digital people to mak...
Team Fortress 2 photo
Team Fortress 2

The Team Fortress 2 Maps Workshop Beta has arrived


We're free from the tyranny finally
Jun 03
// Joe Parlock
A few years ago, I used to read through a forum dedicated to making maps for TF2. It had people producing stuff that might be even better than the official maps from Valve. They would collaborate, share tips, and teach each o...
Gravity Ghost PS4 photo
Gravity Ghost PS4

Gravity Ghost is headed to PS4 with some new content


Erin Robinson's first console game
Jun 02
// Darren Nakamura
Gravity Ghost released early this year, and I thought it was a touching tale alongside its entertaining zen gameplay. Though it was well received critically, its audience has been limited to those playing on PCs. Soon, that p...
I wish I was a baller photo
I wish I was a baller

Regular Human Basketball is a beautiful monstrosity


For two to ten players
Jun 01
// Jordan Devore
The creators of Crawl have come out with a free game for Windows, Mac, and Linux that has friends jumping aboard giant basketball-playing robots and controlling their individual mechanisms to perform different functions. Reg...
Mystery Trading Cards photo
Mystery Trading Cards

Steam is dropping Mystery Trading Cards right now


Gearing up for the Summer Sale, probably
Jun 01
// Darren Nakamura
I just happened to craft a badge this evening (for 0rbitalis -- review incoming) and with the dropped rewards I saw mostly the usual stuff: a background, an emoticon, and one other thing. Usually that third thing is a coupon ...
Bloodstained Wii U photo
Bloodstained Wii U

Bloodstained hits Wii U stretch goal, Vita stretch goal revealed


I'm interested in this
May 30
// Darren Nakamura
Though the Kickstarter page for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night still lists the current total at under $3 million, a recent backer update revealed that adding in non-Kickstarter PayPal funding brings it up to that mark. So ...
Terraria 1.3 photo
Terraria 1.3

Terraria 1.3 has mine carts and a release date: June 30


Terraria jumps the shark
May 28
// Darren Nakamura
Every time a new Terraria update trailer comes out, I find myself watching and rewatching it to try to pick out things that are new. The most obvious one in this 1.3 trailer is the mine cart. Now that it's here, it surprises...
Cat simulator photo
Cat simulator

Naughty cat sim Catlateral Damage now on Steam


Next, we need a cat cleanup simulator
May 27
// Jordan Devore
When we aren't talking video games, we're talking cats. Yesterday, it was servals. (Haha, those little heads!) Today, I'm hoping to steer the conversation from face-shredding wild African cats to the cats of the sea (otters)....

Donut County is a feel-good physics toy with flashes of Katamari Damacy

May 26 // Jordan Devore
Creator Ben Esposito describes his game as a "whimsical physics toy," and that's apt. A racoon chucks donuts from an airship and also rides a scooter, sometimes. Objects and animals topple when you trip them (and you will trip them). Puzzles feel organic, not forced. [embed]292754:58669:0[/embed] Early on, you'll discover that consuming fire and corn will cause popcorn to shoot back out of the hole (which you can then eat, obviously). Later, nabbing two rabbits results in lil babies spilling out of the pit. Another level involves interrupting an ant picnic with fireworks. The more I played, the more I didn't want to stop. The hungry hole is one of those mechanics that instantly makes sense but never seems to lose its energy or appeal. It just feels right. I wish I could've beaten the whole game in one sitting, right then and there, but this was only a preview. Donut County wont be ready for PC, Mac, and iOS until later this year. I'll be waiting. [embed]292754:58668:0[/embed]
Donut County photo
Unwinding: The Video Game
In Katamari Damacy, you roll up stuff. Small stuff, to start. Then cars, ships, buildings, mountains and, eventually, entire worlds. In Donut County, you slide an insatiable hole around to help it eat anything it can fit inside its maw. The more the hole consumes, the bigger it becomes. Where does it end up? How big can the hole grow? I'm not sure. But damn do I want to find out.

Game of Thrones screens photo
Game of Thrones screens

Game of Thrones: Sons of Winter screenshots, we have some


Painted with blood
May 26
// Darren Nakamura
Another episode of Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, another batch of screenshots I took while playing through for review. There weren't any huge twists this episode, so I'm not afraid of spoiling too much, but as alwa...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: Sons of Winter

May 26 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: Sons of Winter (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: May 26, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)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.] Those following along with the series shouldn't expect any major changes in how events play out. There is lots of dialogue, lots of split-second decisions, a handful of quick-time events, a little bit of exploration, and not much else. The split between the four living playable characters stays about the same as well: Mira's sections are almost entirely dialogue-based and Asher's are generally more action-focused. Despite being the Forrester known better for stabbing first and asking questions later, Asher's story in Meereen comes with some of the more interesting this-or-that decisions this episode. Where Rodrik has to choose between murder and mercy, Asher has the more nuanced quandary of loyalty to the family that exiled him and loyalty to his sellsword partner Beskha. Parts of Beskha's past come to light in Sons of Winter that give the situation more gravity. Of all the decisions in this episode, Asher's handling of the mission in Meereen is "the big one" for me, and I'm most anxious about the potential fallout from my choice, which won't show up until next episode at least. [embed]292557:58611:0[/embed] Mira's tribulations in King's Landing continue to be a high point for the series. Though this episode lacks the big names -- neither Cersei, Tyrion, nor Margaery makes a significant appearance -- the way Telltale handles Mira shows genuine understanding of what makes the source material so great. Any game could have quick-time swordfights, but a Game of Thrones game ought to be more than that. Her best scene is at Tommen's coronation feast. It comes closest to being like a classic adventure game. She must navigate the celebration cautiously, eavesdrop on conversations to gain information, and use that information at the right time. Even if it turns out not to be the case in the end (as Telltale games often do), the feast scene felt like it could have ended with a much different outcome. As it stood for me, I came out of it laughing, pleased with how clever I felt to have achieved what I wanted and particularly smug about the last line I had Mira say to close out the scene. It reinforced the idea that in King's Landing, shrewd manipulation of information is just as powerful as a sword, if not more so. Rodrik has his own share of politicking to deal with on the home front. A new opportunity lands in his lap that could help return control of Ironrath to House Forrester, and he has his own decisions to make, though they seemed a bit more obvious. Satisfy a desire for petty revenge near the beginning and he loses some leverage for later on in the episode. I'm curious to know how things shake out with other choices; in contrast to the first few episodes I feel like I made the best decisions for Rodrik this time around. There is a tense scene as Rodrik at Highpoint, the Whitehill stronghold. Not only are the stakes high, but it also rewards an attention to detail. Prior to the meeting with Lord Whitehill, some light exploration can help to reveal information that can be used in the encounter. It's another instance where proper intel beats physical force that feels right in place in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe. Gared's scenes were the least interesting this time around. Where prior episodes set him up to be part of the party that goes to Craster's Keep, he ends up with a blander story. It still has room to get better once the importance of the North Grove is revealed, but in this episode it felt a bit like he was stagnating. The oil paint aesthetic that turns people off remains, though it does feel like Telltale has tuned down the baffling polygon edge blur effect that plagued the first two episodes. It's still present, but not nearly as distracting as it used to be. There aren't any heart-stopping moments or dramatic twists like there were in the early episodes, but Sons of Winter sets a good pace and keeps it up throughout the episode. It's great to see the continued focus on shrewdness over brute strength for most of the characters, especially considering House Forrester's situation in Westeros. What the family lacks in soldiers, it must make up for in cleverness. Being party to the events makes me feel clever, whether I truly have much of an effect or not. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
Son of a...
At the end of Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series was in an interesting place. Nearly all of the playable characters were in tough spots, but all of them ended the episode with some h...

Hack photo
Hack

Locked Steam achievement requires you to hack game's code


Invisible, Inc.
May 26
// Steven Hansen
It's not to say that secrets are no fun anymore, but the internet sure can take the luster out of 'em. I mean, what would have been the point of my dog eared, note scribbled Myst notebook if I could solve the whole thing cons...
Enless Shadowrunner photo
Enless Shadowrunner

Shadowrun returns again with Shadowrun: Hong Kong


Coming this summer
May 22
// Steven Hansen
One of the concerns I've had that could affect a possible Kickstarter bubble burst is a sort of "what next?" Fans fund an IGA-led Castlevania-like en masse, then what? Do they fund it again once the novelty wears off? In 201...
Telltale Game of Thrones photo
Telltale Game of Thrones

Telltale's Game of Thrones Episode Four: Sons of Winter trailer gave me chills


Winter is coming, after all
May 21
// Darren Nakamura
Although winter is coming, things are really starting to heat up for House Forrester. While the first couple episodes took a lot of time to set things up, the last one really started putting things into motion. With Episode ...
Mushroom 11 photo
Mushroom 11

New Mushroom 11 trailer and details out now


Rocket ship, catapult, release window
May 20
// Darren Nakamura
I have been pretty keen on Mushroom 11 since I first saw it at PAX East 2014. Since then, just about everybody on staff who has played it has come away with positive thoughts. Hamza called it one of his favorite games at PAX...
KFC game photo
KFC game

KFC takes us through the life of Colonel Sanders in a game


Double Down Browntown
May 20
// Darren Nakamura
Colonel Sanders lived an interesting life. In an attempt to bring him back into the public eye, fast food chain KFC wants to tell the story of his life, though it seems like it might be embellished a bit in the free minigame ...
You Must Build a Boat photo
You Must Build a Boat

10000000 sequel You Must Build a Boat out on June 4


'10000001' too on-the-nose
May 19
// Darren Nakamura
You Must Build a Boat has been in the works for a while. Originally planned as a free update to hit match-three puzzle game 10000000, it eventually ballooned into something big enough to be its own thing. That was more than ...
Cat Lart, Mall Cop photo
Cat Lart, Mall Cop

Asshole cat simulator Catlateral Damage out next week


PC, Mac, Linux, Ouya
May 18
// Steven Hansen
I went to bed at like 7PM last night without cleaning up after dinner because I am always tired. This morning, while trying to work, I had to clean up because my cat (he's so cute, yes he is, yes he is) kept jumping on the l...
A Telltale game series photo
A Telltale game series

Episode 4 of Telltale's Game of Thrones is coming, here are some screens


More like LAME of thrones
May 18
// Steven Hansen
Ah, Game of Thrones. I forget it's still a huge thing sometimes, like when I recently learned Mad Men is still on. This time it's the fourth episode, "Sons of Winter," of Telltale's adventure game take on the J.R.R. Tolkien property to remind me it's still around. Here are some pictures. Darren Nakamura liked the last episode and will be doing up a review of this'n when it comes.

Review: Schrodinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark

May 18 // Darren Nakamura
Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark (PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Italic PigPublisher: Team17Released: May 12, 2015MSRP: $9.99 Raiders of the Lost Quark takes place in the quantum world, zoomed in so far the elementary particles of matter are visible. Previous knowledge about quantum physics is not required to play, though it does enhance the experience a bit. For instance, there are six flavors of quarks: up, down, top, bottom, charm, and strange. Schrödinger's Cat uses the first four flavors of quark in his platforming adventure (charm and strange are much rarer), and just like in real life, the quarks combine in groups of three. This central mechanic is smart. It allows Schrödinger's Cat to employ a lot of different abilities, using only the four shoulder buttons. It starts off with basic combos: three up quarks form a propeller that will carry the cat upward, three down quarks form a drill that will destroy terrain downward, three top quarks form a protective bubble to safely pass through hazards, and three bottom quarks form a platform to stand on. From there, quarks of different flavors can be mixed and matched. Two ups and a down (or two downs and an up) will form a missile that can be fired in any of the four cardinal directions. It ends up being one of the most useful abilities. With all of the combinations, there are 14 different abilities. Though it sounds confusing, it all comes fairly naturally, and there is a helpful quick reference on the pause screen detailing all of the different constructs. [embed]292295:58563:0[/embed] At its best, Quark takes the quark combination mechanic and applies it to a puzzle platformer. Half of the levels are designed, giving the player a specific set of quarks to overcome a specific task. Though several quark groupings can achieve similar outcomes (the copter, base, and bounce constructs will all help Schrödinger's Cat move upward), a limited supply of quarks means having to choose wisely, considering what will be left for other tasks. If it were just the puzzle platformer levels, Schrödinger's Cat would a tight little game that does its thing well. It's unfortunate that between the puzzle levels are procedurally generated filler areas. Though they still make use of the quark combination mechanic, the abundance of quarks takes away any sort of interesting decision making or a need for much forethought. Though there are 14 different abilities, I found myself mostly using the same 4 in these sections. There's no need for creative problem solving when the copter, missile, bubble, and net can do everything that needs to be done. It highlights the drawbacks of procedural generation. It can be a powerful tool for two types of games: enormous sandboxes that would be unreasonable to hand-design (Minecraft) and short, replayable experiences that reward experience over memorization (Spelunky). Raiders of the Lost Quark is neither of these. The procedural levels aren't interesting enough to merit a huge open world and aside from some new dialogue there isn't a whole lot of reason to replay it after going through once. Another downfall that stems from the procedural generation is in the environmental art. The destructible terrain and the chunky grid look outdated in the best cases. At worst, the environments are almost nauseating in their color choices and design. This come in stark contrast with the character artwork. Cutscenes have a sharp cartoon look, and the animations are smooth and visually interesting. Schrödinger's Cat's movement and combat animations are particularly good. The supporting cast members have really inventive designs, bizarre enough to fit well in the weird and wonderful subatomic universe. The art for the quark combinations is noteworthy as well. Looking closely at each construct, players can pick out which quark is performing which function, as they all stretch, bend, and combine together. It even helps from a gameplay perspective, where each design is memorable enough on its own that it helped me recall which quarks to summon for a particular ability. Even with the ones I used less frequently like the parachute, I can picture which colors go into it and use that to activate one without having to pause for the reference. Though the overall story is silly, the writing is good. Comedy in games is difficult, but Raiders of the Lost Quark had me laughing out loud a few times. That said, I'm a science geek, so your mileage may vary when it comes to the physics jokes. On a more disappointing note, I did run into a handful of notable bugs during my play through. On multiple occasions I got stuck in the level geometry. Sometimes there would be a creature listed for capture but that creature wasn't actually present, leading to unnecessary time wasted scouring the area. The Bosons were especially hard to work with; they are supposed to attack one another when brought too close, but I had several that wouldn't budge. None of these issues were gamebreaking; a reset to the last checkpoint or leaving and returning to an area fixed all of them. They still hurt the experience through wasted time. None of those waste as much time as the procedurally generated levels, which are easily the biggest flaw in Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark. They take up about half of the play time, present very little worthwhile gameplay, and feel like a drudge by the end. If it cut all the fat and featured only the smart puzzle-platforming found in the hand-designed levels, Raiders of the Lost Quark would be a leaner, more engaging, and ultimately much better game. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Schrödinger's Cat review photo
A superposition of good and bad
"Schrödinger's Cat" refers to an old physics thought experiment that highlights the weirdness of the quantum theory. Though it generally applies to very small particles, a device could be designed that leverages the prob...

Civilization Beyond Earth photo
Civilization Beyond Earth

Civilization: Beyond Earth getting an expansion this fall


Settle the oceans in Rising Tide
May 18
// Darren Nakamura
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth came out last year, and although I loved it, a lot of the series' hardcore fans picked it apart as being less complex than past entries. Though it doesn't nearly address every complaint,...
Trigger photo
Trigger

Trigger looks to examine the PTSD process from the inside out


A visual novel about trauma
May 17
// Jonathan Holmes
Amy Dentata is a game developer's game developer, though her next project doesn't look like it's made to appeal strictly to game design theorist. Trigger is a visual novel about suffering from PTSD and the process of discover...
Evoland 2 photo
Evoland 2

Evoland 2 is part shmup, part platformer, part RPG, part puzzler...


Cute little microcosm
May 14
// Jordan Devore
After watching this debut trailer for Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder, I regret missing the first game. The basic concept of an adventure that evolves from 2D to 3D and spans multiple genres is the s...

Review: Action Henk

May 13 // Jordan Devore
Action Henk (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: RageSquidPublisher: RageSquidReleased: May 11, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Action Henk, who I desperately want to call Action Hank, is past his prime. He's a toy, and a middle-aged, beer-bellied one at that. If you played this game back when it was on Steam Early Access, you can dress him up as a certain ring-carrying blue hedgehog. More than just a fun nod, it fits. There are hints of Sonic the Hedgehog in how Henk builds up his speed, how he roars through loops, and also in the chipper, infectious music. But for as fast as Henk moves, and he is always moving (or you're messing up), it's not hard to follow him, and he doesn't get lost in the chaos. Ghosts are a big help in that regard. Even on your first time through a level, you can race alongside an AI ghost, allowing you to see precisely what it takes to achieve a bronze, silver, or gold medal before executing the winning strategy yourself. This cuts out a fair amount of guesswork and, as a result, unnecessary (see: cheap-feeling) failures. [embed]292039:58519:0[/embed] It's not just running across wooden blocks and vaulting over the (lava) floor of a messy kid's bedroom. Crucially, our aging action hero can slide down ramps to pick up extra speed. Knowing precisely when to start and stop sliding makes all the difference on the leaderboards, as those fractions of a second add up rapidly. It's hard to put into words how enjoyable the movement system is, so I'll just say this: some 70 levels later, it doesn't let up. I'm still digging it. Eventually, Henk comes across a Hookshot, though it's only usable in select levels. Which makes sense, given that the device demands bigger, more open-ended environments to accommodate its huge range. It fits in so well with the existing physics and feel of Action Henk. Flying off a ramp and firing the shot at the exact right moment to fling Henk directly forward is a never-ending joy. The way the device is introduced partway through the game led me to believe there might be more abilities or items later on but, sadly, there aren't. There are more characters to unlock, though. Stages are capped off with a head-to-head race against another toy -- beat them, and they'll join your side. By earning every gold medal for a stage, you'll unlock a coin collection level. These are more compact than the standard fare but they're also less linear. The challenge is primarily in figuring out the best possible route to grab every coin within the time limit. Clear these levels, and you'll earn a new character skin (including one reminiscent of Michael Jackson from "Thriller"). Even if I didn't have the goofy Sonic outfit for Henk, I probably would've stuck with him anyway. I found most of the other characters grotesque. Besides racing against AI and player ghosts, there's also a separate multiplayer mode complete with a chat room. Here, you're competing against other people in real time. You can redo the course as often as you'd like until you're satisfied with your score or the clock runs out. While it's the same old levels from single-player, there's a greater sense of urgency and competition. Finally, there's a level builder with Steam Workshop support. The editor is quick and intuitive to use thanks in large part to the simplicity of the user interface and building blocks. Just drag, drop, copy, and paste pieces onto the screen until you've cobbled together an obstacle course. It's that straightforward. Making something worth sharing will take more time, of course. Barring the final, post-credits set of levels -- which is absolutely brutal -- it shouldn't take more than a few hours to get through Action Henk with decent rankings. Although the game doesn't outstay its welcome, that can be difficult to appreciate. I was left wanting more, particularly in terms of level variety, but the essence of the game is great. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Action Henk review photo
Toy story
Going into Action Henk, a time-trial platforming game starring action figures, I expected to grow frustrated. I figured that once the training wheels came off, the challenge would rise to a point where perfection, or somethin...


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