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Viking Squad photo
Viking Squad

Viking Squad beats enemies to death with fish


Back-to-back PAX East winner?
Mar 16
// Jed Whitaker
Four vikings worshiping different gods fight their way through procedurally generated environments with various weapons including a fish; no, it isn't your family reunion but the upcoming beat-'em-up Viking Squad. Marvel at ...
A.N.N.E photo
A.N.N.E

Put your one true love back together in A.N.N.E


Metroidvania and space shooting goodness
Mar 16
// Jed Whitaker
As someone who never got into non-linear Castlevania games and had never finished a Metroid, I've recently been really turned on by metroidvania games. Aroused, even. A.N.N.E takes the genre a step further and mixe...

Gigantic made me gigantic in the pants

Mar 16 // Jed Whitaker
Gigantic centers around two teams of five players battling to kill the opposing teams guardians. Guardians are gigantic monsters that will advance to attack the enemy guardian once powered up, temporarily stunning it to allow your team to attack. Powering up guardians is achieved by capturing locations on the map or by scoring kills. Each guardian has three sections of health and whichever team can take down the opposing team's guardian first is crowned the victor. Unlike other MOBA-style games, Gigantic doesn't have waves of enemies to kill and grind, nor does it have a store to buy items. All skill management is built into a tree-like leveling system. Need more damage? Then upgrade an ability that allows 20% more damage. You can earn XP from kills, assists and helping to capture points -- basically anything that helps the team. The short amount of hands-on I had with the game had me playing as Voden, a character that looks like a combination of a fox and a gazelle. Voden bounds around the map with ease as he not only has the default sprint and dodge that all characters have, but can also a super jump off the healing pools he can drop. Bow and arrows are Voden's main weapon. He also has a decoy he can drop that attacks, a pool of acid that damages enemies and allows him to shoot poison arrows, and giant roots that hold enemies in place for a brief period so teammates can deal damage. Bouncing around the map and poking enemies for damage was a ton of fun, and had me smiling the whole match even though we lost. I seriously can't wait to play the game again. I've been obsessively checking my email hoping for a closed alpha invite (which you can sign up for here). Gigantic is free to play and expected to launch later this year exclusively on Windows 10 and Xbox One. It will feature optional crossplay between platforms as Microsoft is publishing the game. For now I'm going back to refreshing my email, hoping developer Motiga hears my prayers.
Gigantic Preview photo
It has been far over four hours; I need a doctor and an alpha invite
At PAX East this year I walked past many of the larger booths and gave them little attention, as I am typically more interested in indie games. I got invited to a press-only demo for Gigantic -- a game I only knew of by ...

Dropsy photo
Dropsy

Did a clown who farts in a Porta Potty win PAX East?


Dropsy like it's hot
Mar 15
// Jonathan Holmes
Last week on Sup Holmes, I ranted to David Fox about how his game Zak McKracken is the greatest point and click adventure about subversion of corporate power structures, empathy,  and opening your eyes to the world...
Final Fantasy Type-0 photo
Final Fantasy Type-0

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD features school girls Vs. dragons on ice


Off-screen fun for the whole family
Mar 15
// Jonathan Holmes
Our full review of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is coming up tomorrow, but in the meantime, here is some off-screen footage of the game to get you thinking. As a lapsed fan of the series (the last main series Final Fantasy game I...

Samus asks Nintendo for a new game

Mar 14 // Jonathan Holmes
Nintendo and Metroid photo
...but she'll settle for a hug
Nintendo is famous for frustrating some of their diehard fans. The irony is, those fans are only frustrated because Nintendo is doing a lot of things right. It may not let us buy a lot of their products, and it often ta...

Here are Destructoid's Top 10 games from PAX East 2015

Mar 14 // Kyle MacGregor
Just Shapes & Beats Imagine a shoot-'em-up without the shooting. Just Shapes & Beats is just that, an addictive multiplayer experience about avoiding an incoming barrage of bullets headed your way. Enter the Gungeon We headed to PAX East with high expectations of Enter The Gungeon and came away even more excited about the top-down gun-fighting shooter -- if that's even possible. Downwell Downwell is a lo-fi platformer that really nails the gameplay. In fact, we had so much fun with it that developer Ojiro Fumoto commented on how long we stayed at the booth. Twitch gameplay bliss. Knight Squad Chainsawesome Games describes Knight Squad as Bomberman meets Gauntlet. What does that mean? An incredibly fun multiplayer game that grabs you and doesn't let go until the party's over.  Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, one player wears an Oculus Rift while another sifts through a real-life binder and walks them through the process of diffusing a bomb. Wow! Tumblestone Don't dismiss Tumblestone as "just another match-three" game. This is a truly intelligent puzzle game with mode variants that completely change the way you approach the genre. Affordable Space Adventures Affordable Space Adventures makes excellent use of the Wii U GamePad. Anyone who likes asymmetric co-op multiplayer should check this out. It feels like the game Wii U was made for. Severed Severed may have had a lengthy demo, but it left us craving more. Between its dark story, unique touchscreen inputs, and Drinkbox's signature art style, it's definitely something to keep an eye on. Necropolis Harebrained Schemes really took us by surprise with its new third-person action game,Necropolis. This is an absolutely gorgeous roguelike with thoughtful combat and personality in spades.  Axiom Verge Axiom Verge is certain to draw a lot of comparisons with classic Metroid titles, but it's so much more than just that. Come for the nostalgia, stay for a unique experience that stands on its own.
Top 10 PAX East photo
All the winners, in no particular order
PAX East ended several days ago, but its memory lingers on -- as does the sickness it bestowed on a handful of us poor Destructoid staffers. Much like how Jesus died for our sins, we risked our health for you, dear readers. S...

Just Shapes & Beats is bullet hell without the shooter

Mar 13 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]288716:57651:0[/embed] Just Shapes & Beats is about as simple as games get, but don't mistake its straightforward design for a lack of challenge. The "trippy space avoider" only asks players to survive, but achieving that goal is no easy feat. Berzerk's latest creation draws inspiration from shoot-'em-ups, but nixes the shooting. It's still all about dodging waves of projectiles, but without the ability to return fire. The experience seemed particularly well-suited for the show floor, with its splashy, eye-catching visuals and a pulsing chiptune soundtrack that was equally alluring. However, I think it was the crowd that first caught my attention. The congregation surrounding the Berzerk booth couldn't help but shout with a palpable passion that was as magnetic as anything happening on-screen. Just Shapes & Beats supports up to four players, who must share the void space between bullets. Upon taking too much damage, a player will begin floating helplessly toward the edge of the screen, leaving her teammates precious seconds to mount a rescue or forge ahead alone. [embed]288716:57782:0[/embed] I almost can't imagine Just Shapes & Beats sans multiplayer, considering playing with others was such a large part of my experience with the game. It was one of a couple titles I couldn't help but share with my colleagues, dragging Caitlin and Darren over to a station at an after-hours indie event, where the team showed off something I sincerely hope makes it into the final build. It's a level featuring an iconic theme song and silhouetted characters from a popular media franchise that I've been asked not to specifically name just yet. Berzerk is currently working on acquiring a license for the music and fears jail time should this cat get out of the bag too soon. The team is also experimenting with more somber jams, like the second movement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony, to contrast with the energetic techno beats. I can't wait to experience all that and everything else Just Shapes & Beats has to offer when it launches later this year.
Just Shapes & Beats photo
Δ & ♫
"Congratulations, you just survived the tutorial," Just Shapes & Beats coder Mike Ducarme teased the small crowd clustered around Berzerk Studio's PAX East booth. A quartet of us had just run the gauntlet, bobbing and wea...

Magnetic: Cage Closed let me fling myself around with physics

Mar 13 // Darren Nakamura
Like most modern first-person puzzle games, Magnetic is broken up into several discrete challenge rooms. Everything necessary to find a solution is contained within and nothing can be brought in or taken out of a room, aside from the magnet gun central to the mechanics. One of the hooks that sets Magnetic apart is that each room is a cube, part of a large facility full of others like it. The cubes can move and rotate with respect to one another, but as a spectator on the inside, it isn't obvious exactly how. So a particular exit may lead to different rooms on separate playthroughs (or even within a single playthrough in some cases), depending on choices made. In the PAX demo, one introductory choice was shown. I was ushered into a room, stripped of my magnet gun, and placed in front of a big, red button. Will I press the button or not? (I pressed the button.) Guru Games said the later choices would hold more weight, dipping into morally ambiguous territory, but none were shown. [embed]288987:57763:0[/embed] The meat of Cage Closed will feel familiar to most puzzle fans. There are pressure plates to activate, weighted boxes to manipulate, deadly traps to avoid, and exits to reach. The magnet gun does bring its own unique gameplay to the table, thanks to the realistic physics. Not only do the magnets behave like real (extremely powerful) magnets would, but the Newtonian principles are at work as well. If the player tries to attract (or repel) something with a large mass, it's the magnet gun wielder who will move. This sets up some extreme platforming, where pointing downward at a magnetic plate and repelling can set up for some huge jumps. Pointing toward a plate on the wall and hitting the attract button can keep the player suspended over a dangerous chasm. The rooms can be completed methodically, but Guru Games is also building Magnetic to encourage speed running and other high-level play. The most difficult level in the PAX demo was one with an emphasis on speed rather than thought. It took a few tries, but I eventually was able to careen through the spike-ridden corridor and make it out the other side without being impaled. It took a bit of trial and error since it required rounding a corner and seeing what traps awaited in the middle of the jump, but it was manageable. Breaking up puzzle gameplay with something more skill-based lets different parts of the brain rest, though I can imagine it being a little frustrating for players hoping for a more singular experience in either direction. Both styles of play were done adequately in the PAX demo, and I hope a good balance of the two is maintained in the final release. Magnetic: Cage Closed is bringing its magnet-based puzzle platforming to PC later this month.
Magnetic: Cage Closed photo
There were some puzzles too
"It's not a gravity gun; it's a magnet." Guru Games, developer of Magnetic: Cage Closed, stressed this to me at PAX East. It works like a real magnet, with fields radiating out in all directions, rather than affecti...

Dropsy challenges perceptions of beauty, proves that love really can conquer all

Mar 13 // Rob Morrow
[embed]289013:57770:0[/embed] Dropsy features a defined story, though it will require a little effort on the player’s part to put the pieces together to form the whole. Like most good stories, it has a beginning, middle and an end. And as such, the game can be played as a straight point-and-click adventure all the way through; but I think those doing so would be missing out on a great deal of what it has to offer. If you take the time to venture off the preset narrative path, I think you’ll be pleased to discover that the alternate objectives that may seem unrelated to the main storyline are perhaps just as much a reason to play as the objectives that move the game’s plot forward. Dropsy doesn’t waste your time if you choose to do so, though. Unlike typical side quests in games, these have a unique and satisfying quality that are not only fun to complete but offer further insight into this intriguing character in a meaningful way. The ones featured in the PAX demo that I played were what Jay calls “hug puzzles.” As you explore Dropsy’s world you’ll encounter people from all walks of life, as well as animals from time to time. Each seem to be in some form of distress and it’s up to you to discover the nature of their problems and set about to make things right. If can you deduce what’s making them unhappy, you’ll be rewarded with a satisfying hug or fist bump from the NPC, and collect their picture to hang above your bed. This gallery functions as a sort of tally board for all of the good deeds you’ve done and the positive changes you’ve made in the world. It's quite addictive, and one of the most fulfilling side quests that I've seen in a game. The mechanics in Tholen's point-and-click are what you’ve become accustomed to in the genre – certain objects in environment are interactive, serving to either shed light on the broader backstory of the game, or move the narrative forward. Items that can be collected are stored in Dropsy’s pants. A drop-down menu at the top of the screen allows you to access these as needed. One of the first puzzles you’ll encounter is a large yellow bird that is blocking the exit from Dropsy’s tent. When you attempt to communicate with it, the bird screams at Dropsy, startling him, and a series of pictures appears above its head cluing you in to the nature of its distress. In this instance, the bird is hungry, and it just so happens that Dropsy has recently acquired the snack cakes the bird’s icons indicate. Bring down the menu, select the item required and offer it to the NPC. Now that the bird's no longer hungry it flies away and the path is clear. By displaying kindness and an unselfish, caring demeanor in the face of a fearful and prejudiced world, Dropsy overcomes the obstacles that are placed in his path, proving that if given the chance, perhaps love truly can conquer all. This seems to be the central theme in Jay's game and it's a beautiful one. I won't go further into detail on the particular puzzle elements or the many weird and wonderful characters you'll encounter in the strangely enchanting world of Dropsy at the risk of possibly spoiling the game for you. I'll just leave off saying that for those who are planning on picking up this exceptional title, you're in for something truly special.
Dropsy preview photo
Let's go on a hugventure
One of the highlights of my time at PAX East was sitting down and chatting with Dropsy’s creator, Jay Tholen. Jay’s a quiet, thoughtful man with what seems to be unlimited creative energy at his disposal. His some...

Amplitude's multiplayer mode has been reworked for the better

Mar 13 // Darren Nakamura
At its core, the multiplayer mode plays the same as the single player. Different tracks are set up, each representing a piece of instrumentation used to build a song. Gems are arranged on the tracks, and it's up to the players to hit the right buttons with the beats to collect the gems. Standard rhythm game fare. In multiplayer, everybody is sharing the same set of tracks, but only one person can score from a given track at one time. Whichever player has been on a track the longest is at the front of the line; those behind have to switch to a different track to collect gems. One of the great things about Amplitude is that it encourages a sort of zen state, where the player is not only focusing on the track at hand, but also dedicating some almost subconscious processing power to the periphery. Not only does a high-level player watch the track currently being played, but also the next track to jump to. Additional players and another layer to this. Now it's necessary to keep tabs on other players, predicting their movements and reacting accordingly. [embed]288465:57583:0[/embed] There are other ways to interfere with opponents. While a track is usually first come, first served, certain powerups can tip the balance. One allows the player to jump to the front of a track, essentially stealing it from another player. In my play time at PAX East, I was able to hop in behind another player, deploy a series staple Autocatcher to delete his track and claim it for my own, then zip off before he realized what had happened. Classic. Harmonix's Annette Gonzales also described a cooperative mode, though I didn't get a chance to try it out. It came from experiences similar to my own with the older titles. When there is a significant skill gap between players, competitive modes aren't really fun for anybody. Like Rock Band, Amplitude can be a place where people come together to (re)create music, not just to see who can press buttons better. Amplitude is expected to release for PlayStation consoles this summer.
Amplitude at PAX East photo
Vying for position
I have some good memories of playing single player FreQuency years ago. However, the only memories I have of the multiplayer mode are of me playing against my friends in high school and crushing them, then going off...

The Swindle preview photo
The Swindle preview

The Swindle perfectly balances roguelike mechanics with approachable gameplay


The people's roguelike
Mar 12
// Rob Morrow
On my last day covering PAX East, I had the chance to sit down with the inimitable Dan Marshall from Size Five Games to have a look at his gorgeous, stealthy, steampunk-centric burglary simulator The Swindle. We’ve...
What Samus Wants photo
If she did, her game would probably look a lot like Axiom Verge
Dan Adelman worked for Nintendo for many years, and was one of their unsung heroes for much of that time. While he has consistently voiced affection and respect for the company, he did end up resigning last year, in part bec...

We Happy Few's bright exterior hides a dark secret

Mar 12 // Darren Nakamura
Compulsion was fairly tight-lipped on the story of We Happy Few, but did give a few details to get me started. It takes place in a dystopian city on an island, where everybody exists in a constant state of euphoria thanks to a drug called Joy. At least, everybody except the player, who finds himself to be the only lucid person among the smiling drones. The goal is to find a means and an opportunity off the island, but neither is clear from the outset. Without much obvious direction, the more immediate concern is survival. The player has a few meters to keep track of, including hunger and thirst. Eating and drinking keep those at safe levels, but finding supplies is the tricky part. Or it's one of the tricky parts. Another thing to consider is that the government laces the town's water supply with Joy. It sets up a sort of push and pull, where drinking too little causes dehydration and drinking too much will put a lot of the upper into the player's system. This has some beneficial gameplay effects like increased stamina, but comes with a hard crash after a while. Overdosing can cause the player to black out and lose a day entirely. [embed]288935:57741:0[/embed] Past basic need management, there are other supplies to be found in the world of We Happy Few, many of which can be crafted into more interesting items like lockpicks or weaponry. Fighting isn't always the best option; stealth is often preferable. The interesting thing about We Happy Few's stealth is that it isn't about skulking in the shadows, but about blending in with the population. Walking down the street in broad daylight will garner no suspicion from the locals, but loitering in one spot for too long or sprinting will. I could almost imagine my character passing others with exaggerated arm movements and a forced smile just to avoid any second glances. There is a planned day/night cycle, with different events occurring at different times throughout the day. I was not able to see that in my time with the game, because I jumped out of a third floor window and broke my legs in a botched escape attempt before the day could turn to night. It seems like it's meant to be a fairly short but replayable game, because the team at Compulsion is putting some effort into procedural generation for the city. Though the overarching story and player goals will remain the same from run to run, individual playthroughs may yield different buildings or events, and the layout of the city will always change after the player dies. Creative Dude Guillaume Provost didn't use the word "roguelike," but it did seem to lean in that direction. Combat in the preview build was mostly melee-based, with angry Joy addicts coming at me with skillets and cricket bats. Unlike the crafting and stealth systems, straight combat didn't feel particularly deep, but I didn't have enough time or resources to create any of the cool toys that were available in the menu. Compulsion has already nailed the atmosphere for We Happy Few. As it turns out, there are some cool ideas for a game under that too, and the way the gameplay and the narrative interact via the unique stealth system is a great touch. It certainly needs some more time to fully flesh out the ideas laid out, but so far this looks like one to watch.
We Happy Few photo
Happy, happy, joy, joy!
For a while, the general aesthetic in games was dark and grimy, with muted colors to convey dismal feelings. The more recent counterculture of color was welcomed, bringing happiness back to the medium. But a funny thing happe...

Harmonix Music VR could supplant Audiosurf for me

Mar 12 // Darren Nakamura
Harmonix had two zones on display at PAX East. One was a serene beach scene and the other was an on-rails trip through a constantly changing techno landscape. I chose the latter, and loaded up The Foo Fighters' "Everlong" for my run through. It works a bit like those old school music visualizers in that it reads the characteristics of any song and generates visual content from it. The mini environments were designed; I saw birds flying, giant structures, and other recognizable elements. However, their behaviors and appearances are determined procedurally. I actually had to ask about that last bit, because some sections of the visual content synced up so well to the audio that I wasn't sure if the transitions were built specifically for the limited library on display. During the long snare roll build up near the end of "Everlong," it kept switching between various scenes. The switching increased in frequency until the crescendo when the guitar and vocals come back in, at which point it stuck with one scene that was more colorful and alive than it had been previously. It was incredible. When it was over, it was strange to take off the VR headset. By the end, I definitely felt like I had been in another place, and removing the headset transported me back to the show floor. As a way to enjoy music, I haven't ever experienced anything else like it.
Harmonix Music VR photo
A new way to experience music
Audiosurf is more than seven years old now (wow), but it still holds a place as a desktop icon on my computer. I still play it regularly. The thing is, I almost never play it on any setting other than Casual with Mono. It is ...

Social Justice Warriors photo
Social Justice Warriors

Did Social Justice Warriors Win PAX East?


Hard to tell the SJWs from the trolls sometimes...
Mar 11
// Jonathan Holmes
Mere seconds ago, I discovered that I am on the original list that inspired the development of a game called Social Justice Warriors. There is even an attack in the game based on some of the specific wording found ...
Hungry Hungry Crossfire photo
Hungry Hungry Crossfire

The best thing I saw at PAX was not on the show floor


A true blend of genres
Mar 11
// Patrick Hancock
Let me set the scene: Day 1 of PAX has come to a close, or at least the show floor has. My friends and I have just finished dinner and are on our way back into the convention center to check out the Super Smash Bros. tou...
Dad by the Sword photo
Dad by the Sword

Dad by the Sword features limp, floppy swords


Jean shorts, evil hot dogs, and jealous beast-men make for a delightful game
Mar 11
// Rob Morrow
Dad by the Sword is iOS developer Rocketcat Games' first entry into the PC market and boy howdy, is it a doozy. Part sword-fighting simulator, part long-running dad joke, all demented loveliness. Rocketcat's design expe...
Enter the Gungeon preview photo
Enter the Gungeon preview

D&D meets bullet-hell shooter in Enter the Gungeon


Kill the past
Mar 11
// Rob Morrow
During my time on the show floor at PAX East 2015, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dodge Roll Games to get a hands-on demo of its new gun-fighting dungeon crawler, Enter the Gungeon. When you think gun-centric games, ...

Tumblestone is the most intelligent 'match three' game I've ever played

Mar 11 // Patrick Hancock
Tumblestone contains both single-player and multiplayer modes. I spent most of the time in the multiplayer mode, which was the most interesting balance of speed and wits that I have seen in a long time.  The idea behind the game is to clear the board of the colored blocks. To do so, the player needs to shoot three of the same color from the bottom of the board. So far, everything is pretty straightforward. However, doing this in the wrong order will result in no possible matches after a while, which then forces the player to reset the board and try again. Yes, it is important to be fast, but it is more important to be correct! In multiplayer, everyone has the same randomly generated board. From there, it's a matter of who can clear the blocks in the right order the fastest. This is possibly the only game of its kind that made me, in a competitive multiplayer match, stop and stand back to really think about my next move. I could hear other players rushing to remove blocks while my section of the screen was motionless, yet I wasn't panicking, just concentrating. [embed]288776:57720:0[/embed] Things only get more complicated when different variants get thrown into the mix. Wildcards, for example, add in multicolored blocks that can go with any color. However, each color needs to use one Wildcard in order to clear the board, so the player must then keep track of which colors have already used Wildcards and which ones haven't. Ty Taylor, the developer, said he wants to make it more obvious to the player as to which colors the Wildcards can be used with to reduce the stress a little. Another interesting modifier was Color Lock, which restricted the same color from being matched up back to back. Though it sounds simple, the puzzle layouts make it quite complicated. The Shot Blocker modifier throws a stone in the middle column that switches on and off with each shot. Knowing this, players need to plan out their shots accordingly, since pieces in the middle will not be available every other turn. Perhaps my favorite modifier was a more complicated version of Shot Blocker, though I can't recall the specific name at the moment. The mode placed a Shot Blocker in the column the player uses for three consecutive shots. So, if a player takes a match from columns one, two, and three, those become off limits after their respective shots. However, the fourth shot will remove the first Shot Blocker placed and move it to the column the fourth shot was in. If it sounds confusing, it is! But only at first. This mode really forces players to think ahead, and "speed" almost becomes an afterthought in this mode. There were even times where I forgot I was competing against other people right next to me! Each modifier forces players to think completely differently, and aren't hard to understand. After a few failed attempts, most players will realize exactly what's up and start going very methodically. Ty also mentioned that future builds may be able to mix modifiers together, which I don't even want to think about right now. A sense of progression quickly becomes noticeable. While at first I felt a bit overwhelmed by some of the game modes, it didn't take long to become acclimated and start churning out victories. It's a pretty great feeling to know where you messed up in a puzzle, then breeze through the first half only to stop and think three moves ahead before diving into the second half.  My time with the single-player components was limited, but there are plenty of options for those who will be going it alone. A Marathon mode is an untimed, infinite mode for those who want to go for high scores. A Story Mode is also included, with 360 puzzles in 12 worlds, each world introducing a new modifier and likely pushing that modifier to the limit. Oh, and for those curious, Tumblestone is just fine for red/green colorblindies like myself. I was worried at first, but not only does each color have a specific face on it, but the reds and greens are at a very different brightness (dark red and light green) and were easy to tell apart. In addition, choosing a wrong color to match with in multiplayer will bring up arrows pointing to possible correct options. Both the single- and multiplayer offerings in Tumblestone come off as incredibly substantial modes. The competitive multiplayer got really heated on the show floor, even with occasional pauses to go into a deep, zen-like thought. This was one of my favorite games of PAX East, and luckily it's headed to just about every platform out there later this year! 
Smart puzzle photo
From the creators of The Bridge
The first impression of a game matters a lot at PAX. If people aren't intrigued almost immediately, they may never play the game at all. My first impression of Tumblestone was "oh cool another match-three game." I don't ...

Samus wants to be in Shovel Knight

Mar 11 // Jonathan Holmes
What Samus Wants photo
Like Stella, Samus wants her groove back
When we last checked in with Samus, she was trying to score an interview with Tim Rogers, co-creator of Videoball. Despite the fact that she's been appearing in videogames for over 25 years, he still didn't know who she was....

Harebrained Schemes nails it once again with Necropolis

Mar 10 // Rob Morrow
Another noteworthy difference between the games is the absence of a rolling mechanic in Necropolis. The analog in Harebrained's title is the dash ability -- once tapped, your character will hop back a short distance. By limiting the character's ability to quickly roll out of the way of danger, Necropolis' combat feels riskier to me. Obviously, you can use the dash to escape from danger, but the distance you travel is much shorter, so it may take a few stamina-draining hops to get far enough away from an enemy to avoid its attacks. Before I move on to discussing the game's environments, I wanted to add one last thing about the combat systems that I found intriguing, and that's what the team refers to as its "living ecology of threats." I'd read about it before but with scant details available at the time and wasn't sure what to make of it. In the demo, however, its use was made very clear -- the Gem Eater, or as we've described him, the Shark Man -- has an insatiable appetite for (you guessed it) gems. And, as it happens, the Grine creatures mentioned before are composed of a crystalline substance that the hulking monster finds irresistible. [embed]288700:57694:0[/embed] Mike McCain, art director for the project, tipped me off on this, suggested that instead of going toe to toe with the brute that perhaps I should use him to my advantage instead. McCain pointed out a nearby mob of Grine and advised me to kite the beast in, letting him do what came naturally. As soon as he spotted his prey, he forgot about me entirely and began battling my foes for me. This opened up a wonderful tactical opportunity as I could swiftly and safely move in for a few strikes, gradually chipping away at his health before inevitably having to face off with him by myself once he was through with the Grine. Where Necropolis really sets itself apart is outside of combat, however. As you can see in MMORPG's footage of the PAX demo above, the procedurally generated environments have a stylish and clean look to them, standing in stark contrast to the oppressively gritty-looking From titles that helped inspire it. Necropolis' gorgeous low-poly environments look almost dream-like in their abstract, geometric structure and layout. It's quite impressive, really. For a title that's going for such a minimalistic design, the effect is paradoxically lavish when taken in as a whole. The game also differentiates itself from typical roguelikes in its approach to level design. Harebrained Schemes manages to trick the eye in the way that it handles the procedural elements; the end effect looks more like preplanned environments than randomly assembled rooms tacked together. If you didn't know that the levels were being procedurally generated with each new game, it would be easy to come away thinking that the layouts you'd just played were static. I'm not sure if it's the utilization of wide-open spaces where you can look out into the distance or stare down into an abyss that makes it feel so, but in any case, the effect works very well. Out of all the titles that I saw at this year’s PAX East, it was a no-brainer to choose Harebrained Schemes' stunning new action-roguelike as one of the two games that I would select for my editor’s choice awards for the show. Its elegant and thoughtful combat, both familiar and new, was an absolute pleasure to experience firsthand. For fans of third-person action games, especially those who enjoy From Software’s titles, Necropolis is one to fix firmly on your radar.
Necropolis preview photo
Murderous beauty
As I explored the opening area of Harebrained Schemes' third-person action roguelike Necropolis at PAX East 2015, I discovered an inviting treasure chest. Upon opening it, I realized too late that I wasn’t alone in that...

Steam Controller photo
Steam Controller

Steam Controller and FPS: PAX East 2015 impressions


'A little rumbly'
Mar 10
// Jed Whitaker
One of what was seemingly the better-kept secrets at PAX East 2015, the Steam Controller, was available for hands on at the Alienware booth connected to the company's Steam Machines. I was able to test the previous iteration...
Cosplay photo
Mama Mia!
Sexy Nintendo is inevitable. Some will try to fight it, or even mock it. In doing so, they are choosing to live on the wrong side of history. I know how they feel. I scoffed along with the rest of them back when the burgeoni...

Severed is full of one-handed vengeance

Mar 10 // Caitlin Cooke
The colorful art style of Guacamelee! makes its return in a beautiful, dark package. In Severed you play a young heroine set out on a course of vengeance after losing her home and her arm in a brutal attack. Her dark story coupled with the deserted surroundings made for a chilling atmosphere, and etched within the demo were moments that tugged at my heart ever so slightly.   The movement style is a refreshing version of old-school first-person dungeon crawlers, allowing you to choose directional paths in a four-pointed compass-like system. Enemies spawn immediately when arriving to a location, and players swipe to attack while moving directionally to combat multiple monsters in a room. Each enemy has its own rhythm in terms of attacking, blocking, and parrying, and when various monsters start to compound together in a room it becomes advantageous to memorize their patterns.  Once enough successful attacks have been built up, players can enter a mode that slows down the monster’s movements and allows them to sever appendages to go in for the final kill. Once slayed, enemies drop various objects which can then be used to upgrade health, defense, and severed power. Health is only given from a mysterious orange fruit which hangs in solitude on a magical tree.  The final boss in the demo took me a while to master, but once I did I felt like I was on top of the world. He dropped a piece of neat-looking armor, which supposedly imbued my character with a special power for the rest of the game. I learned later that all bosses drop a piece of armor with a unique power, and that both the power and the armor can be upgraded throughout the game. At first it took me a while to adjust to the movement and touch screen-style exploration, especially when I needed to move and attack at the same time. I have such tiny hands, so having to hold the Vita while swiping and hitting the directional pad proved to be difficult at times. However, I quickly came to appreciate the interactivity of the world, especially when it came to fighting monsters.  Although the demo was pretty fleshed out, the team mentioned that it plans to make a lot of improvements before launch. Vertical elements will be added to levels, like staircases in rooms that will expand the dungeons vs. one flat area. A daytime/nighttime feature will also be included, which will enable environmental puzzles in the world. The team also plans to feature NPCs, who will introduce more dialogue to the story. Personally, I loved the quiet nature of the character and general silent plot progression, so my hope is that the team keeps it as simple as possible. Severed comes out this summer for the PS Vita, and Drinkbox also anticipates releasing it for other touch screen-friendly devices as well. I can tell that there are big things to come from this game, and can't wait to get my hands on the full release.
Severed photo
But hopefully, you'll have two to play with
There’s something serene about exploring a desolate place for the first time. Too often in games I find myself dropped into an environment, expected to pick up the pieces quickly to achieve a goal and left with little t...

Affordable Space Adventures is the Wii U experience I imagined in 2012

Mar 09 // Darren Nakamura
Affordable Space Adventures puts players in the role of space tourists, in control of a Small Craft™, a ship woefully underequipped for the perils of interplanetary exploration. It starts with only a flashlight, but gains new components over the course of the game. Early on the fuel-burning engine activates, and the explorers can get moving. As new systems come into play, they are controlled on the GamePad, referred to in game as the "heads down display" (heh). Some systems are binary; they are either on or off. Most have variable levels of power, from zero (off) to five (max). Success hinges on managing which systems have power at which times. For instance, pushing the thrusters' power up to the higher levels can allow for a quick escape but will overheat the engine if left for too long. Further on, the explorers encounter armed drones to circumvent. Though they are dangerous, their sensors are limited. Some detect heat, some detect sound, some detect electrical activity, and the most robust detect a combination of the three. Each ship component produces some amount of each, so the key to getting past the sentries is figuring out which systems are essential and which can be temporarily powered down or shut off. [embed]288785:57661:0[/embed] At this point, Affordable Space Adventures becomes a sort of puzzle game. It starts simple: if a drone senses heat and/or sound but the ship just wants to descend, then the trick is to hover above the danger zone, kill the engines, then restart it after passing safely by. Climbing through a similar situation would require the electric engine, which has a different feel to it in addition to producing different detectable effects. Later on, things get more complicated. Some drones can sense both heat and electricity, so players have to come up with clever solutions for avoiding detection or destruction. One section had us turning off the decelerator and coasting through a drone's area of effect. Another had me crank up the antigravity to gain upward momentum, kill the engines, then restore them just in time for my pilot to navigate us to safety. The game can be controlled by a single person using the GamePad, and it works fine, though it can get a little hectic coordinating the systems management on the touch screen with the piloting on the big screen. Where Affordable Space Adventures really shines is in two- or three-player cooperative mode. With two players, the one with the GamePad controls the systems and the flashlight while the other controls piloting, scanning, and firing flares. Almost everything players can do is interconnected so communication between teammates is essential. For instance, while the pilot is the one who activates the scanner, the engineer is the one who aims it. Adding a third player splits the labor further, adding a science officer to the mix. I was only able to play with two during my time, but even that was a great experience. It simulates the action on a spaceship bridge, where each person has specific roles and success comes from coordination and communication between teammates. Other games have done this, but Affordable Space Adventures is probably the most accessible of its ilk, requiring fewer players and just a single console. As a single-player or a cooperative game, Affordable Space Adventures makes excellent use of the Wii U GamePad. Any who like asymmetric cooperative multiplayer would do well to check it out. When the team works well together it can overcome some tricky circumstances. When the team doesn't work quite so well and the ship explodes and everybody dies, well, that's funny too. Affordable Space Adventures should be available on the Wii U eShop on April 9. The final price has not yet been decided.
PAX East photo
Better late than never
When Nintendo first unveiled the Wii U, my mind raced with ideas for games that could be created with the two-screen interface. A lot of the cool stuff that the DS did could be transferred to the big screen. Better yet, title...

The Witcher 3 photo
The Witcher 3

There was almost ice skating in The Witcher 3


The concept was prototyped
Mar 09
// Jordan Devore
Let's take a moment to imagine Geralt ice skating in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Ahh, sweet bliss. Over the weekend, senior game designer Damien Monnier told a crowd at PAX East about CD Projekt RED's canceled feature. "It was ...
D4 photo
D4

The Kinect's best game may come to PC, compliments of Swery


Swery showed of a build of D4 on PC at PAX East
Mar 09
// Jonathan Holmes
We'd seen the tweets hinting at it before, but over this past weekend at PAX East, Dark Dreams Don't Die on PC became a reality, at least for a few days. Swery, creator of Deadly Premonition and Dark Dreams Don't Die (D...
Toto Temple Deluxe photo
Toto Temple Deluxe

Headbutting for goats in Toto Temple Deluxe!


GET THE GOAT!
Mar 09
// Caitlin Cooke
For better or worse, sometimes you just have a hankerin’ to steal a goat. Those of us at PAX East with said craving headed over to Toto Temple Deluxe, which delivered goat-stealing gameplay in a fast-paced keep-away bra...
Mineplex photo
Mineplex

Weirdest thing at PAX East 2015: Mineplex freezing cold fan line


Popular Minecraft Lets Players meet fans on the streets
Mar 08
// Jonathan Holmes
Videogame events are know for their strange sights, but after going to PAX or E3 for a few years, one can start to feel like they know what to expect. That sense of routine was thrown out the window this past Saturday while ...

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