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Upsilon Circuit preview photo
Upsilon Circuit preview

Upsilon Circuit could redefine multiplayer in online gaming


Uncharted territory
Mar 20
// Rob Morrow
Robot Loves Kitty's ambitious Upsilon Circuit is what I would consider the quintessential slow-burn, developing story in independent games today. In keeping with the premise of the TV game show-inspired title, the New England...
PAX East photo photo
PAX East photo

PAX East 2015 community photo time!


Brrrrrr!
Mar 20
// Caitlin Cooke
Now that we've all climbed out bed, it's time to rejoice over the good times of PAX before we went into PAX plague hibernation. What adventures we've had on this staircase year after year! This time, the cold and wind was bac...

Beyond Eyes abstracts the world as perceived by a blind girl

Mar 18 // Darren Nakamura
Representing blindness through a primarily visual medium is tricky. I can imagine a game that goes whole hog, only showing what a blind person skilled with echolocation can perceive, but then most players would shut down and quit. Beyond Eyes takes a more user-friendly approach; protagonist Rae can sense her immediate surroundings, which remain displayed for the player to see, leaving a painted landscape in Rae's wake. Some particularly noteworthy sounds and smells are displayed more prominently, or from further away. The PAX demo began with a church bell tolling in the distance, highlighting a sort of goal point to work toward. There were also notable aromas to follow, represented as visible gossamer wisps drawing Rae near. Even with the ability to paint her immediate surroundings, controlling Rae can be a bit jarring at times. Sometimes she'll be walking toward a brook, expecting the path to slope downward toward the water, when suddenly a huge stone bridge appears, giving an entirely new shape to the expected landscape. Other times she will be walking along a path with just empty space ahead, only to be stopped abruptly by a house that wasn't visible two steps before. More interesting is watching Rae's perceptions change as she gains new information. Early on in the demo, she interacted with some crows, and she did not like them. She curls up her arms over her body when she gets near things that frighten her, and the crows had that effect. Later on, she nears a chicken enclosure, but from far away she can only tell that there are birds inside of it. She imagines them as giant crows, and doesn't seem keen on investigating more closely. When she does near the chickens and she realizes what they are, they morph from the smooth black birds to fluffy white ones. Near the end of the playable section, there was an ominous black cloud. It clearly frightens Rae; it's loud and messy, but it isn't immediately obvious what it is. After she cautiously walks to it and interacts with a nearby object, players hear the screeching tires of a braking vehicle and the beeps of a modern crosswalk. The black cloud parts, allowing her safe passage across the street. Upon reflection, this scene was powerful in a sort of tragic way. We often take for granted something as mundane as crossing a busy street, but for Rae, all she really knew about it was that it was dangerous. She didn't even have a clear picture in her head of what the street was; all she could tell was that she could be seriously hurt if she came too close to it. The only real complaint I had with Beyond Eyes was with the controls, and even then I can't help but think that the issues are deliberate. Directing Rae is sluggish; starting to move from a standstill or changing direction take some time. Her normal walking speed is slow. Similarly, interacting with objects doesn't always seem to work, and when it does it still takes a bit of time to execute. Thematically, this could be another representation of Rae's blindness; she doesn't know exactly where she is with respect to the environment, so she needs a little bit of extra time to feel it out. Even so, as a player who wanted to paint as much of the world in color as possible, Rae's slow movement was frustrating, at least in the context of being at an appointment at PAX East and wanting to make sure I got the full experience. Perhaps at home it will be easier to play in a more relaxed state where the overall speed isn't as much of a bother. In all, the way Beyond Eyes handles its central conceit is commendable. Though representing blindness through colorful environments seems contradictory at first, it has some clever ideas in using the player's visual information as an abstraction for Rae's other senses. A few of these ideas showed up in the short PAX demo, and I am intrigued to see what else can be done with Rae and her painted world.
Beyond Eyes preview photo
Ironic beauty
I have been following Beyond Eyes since I first heard about it a year and a half ago. Videogames can be powerful tools for relating experiences that may otherwise be difficult to comprehend. Blindness both fascinates and terr...

Talk turns technical with Masquerada: Songs and Shadows' Ian Gregory

Mar 18 // Rob Morrow
[embed]289169:57825:0[/embed] While discussing these various systems, the word synergy came up many times during our brief chat. It became obvious that the team has put a lot of thought into how each classes' skills can and should complement the others, ensuring that no single character is ever considered the "best." As such, each character class has specific strengths and weaknesses, but if each are used effectively, players can manipulate the battlefield by splitting up and isolating creatures from large mobs, as well as maximize the group's damage output potential by layering the classes' complimentary spells and skills into the more lethal combined attacks. Gregory showed me several examples of how the different classes could work together to greater effect. For example, using a pull-like Void spell to gather enemies into a tight group could be combined with a well-timed use of the Sicario's Fissure ability -- a charge attack that damages all enemies in its path -- to maximize your damage output. Another method of combining the group's unique characteristics would be to leverage their elemental capabilities. An example of this would again make use of the water-based Void ability, but this time, instead of lining up enemies for an efficient physical attack, another character's lightning ability could come into play, electrocuting the drenched mob. Positioning on the battlefield also has additional importance in Masquerada. Gregory notes that "all player characters, NPCs, and enemies have armor (seen in the video above as color-coded circles surrounding each character) that must be dealt with before being able to damage them directly." For example, character's attempting to tangle with foes head-on will find themselves dealing damage only to that foe's armor until it can be destroyed. However, armor mitigates only half the damage dealt to a target when struck from the flank and attacks to the rear cause full damage to a target, rendering armor useless. A side note to armor is that the player character's armor has the capacity to regenerate unlike an enemy's, which is rendered useless after a certain number of attacks. Also, certain characters, such as the Sicario, can sacrifice armor altogether for an added boost to damage output at the risk of becoming injured in the act. Character skills are another important aspect that warrants explanation when discussing Masquerada's combat systems. As shown in the video, each character has a row of different abilities at their disposal in the action bar. Gregory notes that anyone familiar with Dota 2 or League of Legends will have a general idea of how to use them from the onset, e.g.,  after each use of a particular ability it won't be available again until its cool-down timer refreshes. One big difference in the way Masquerada handles skills is in how they evolve over time. Witching Hour Studios has chosen to eschew experience points altogether. Instead, at certain key points in the game's story each character will be issued a set amount of skill points to spend in their respective skill trees. This not only avoids tedious grinding, but it ensures that the developers have a good handle on all of the potential outcomes of character development and can tailor the game's encounter difficulty accordingly. Also, each skill can be modified as you progress further in the game, allowing you to tailor characters to your particular play style. Gregory gives a specific example of this when talking about upgrading Cicero's teleportation skill, Zephyr. In this instance, Zephyr can go two ways: offensively or defensively. The offense-oriented modification blasts out hot air when Cicero re-appears and the defensive modification blasts cold air to freeze enemies at Cicero’s original location, buying him valuable time to recover or cast other spells. As the "pause-for-tactics" descriptor indicates, all aspects of Masquerada's combat can play out in real time or the game can be paused to enter a tactical mode by hitting the spacebar for more contemplative and complex setups. You can of course use a mixture of the two if you wish. It's up to the player on how they decide to enjoy the game. However, as mentioned earlier in the article, the game's combat is designed around leveraging each of the character's special abilities in concert with the others to achieve the greatest effect, so the tactical mode will probably be necessary for the more dangerous encounters. A year seems like a long way out to be this intrigued about a game, but I must admit, after getting some quality hands-on experience coupled with Gregory's intricate and passionately detailed description of the mechanics, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows has turned out to be one of my first most-anticipated games coming out next year.
Masquerada preview photo
Character synergy, combat, and skill systems detailed
While at PAX East, I was fortunate enough to schedule a chat with the co-founder and creative director of Singapore-based Witching Hour Studios, Ian Gregory, to talk about the studio's beautiful upcoming "...

RIVE was my favorite twin-stick shooter at PAX East

Mar 17 // Rob Morrow
Once safely out of the asteroid belt and into the facility, RIVE began to look a lot more familiar. My spider-like vehicle scuttled across floors, tracking baddies with its 360-degree auto-cannon and laying waste to the swarms of fast-moving enemies that attempted to impede my progress. RIVE mixes up the intensely satisfying shooting elements with a healthy dose of action platforming as you make your way deeper into the facility. Jumping is controlled with the left trigger, which at first felt awkward but, according to Ginkel, was a necessary concession to accommodate the game's right stick-controlled aiming mechanics. After a few successful hops and double-jumps, the ground-based movement began to feel natural to me again, allowing me to track enemies mid-air and deliver a hail of bullets in full 360 degrees, creating a colorful light show of explosions intermixed with charred bits of enemy debris. As I blasted my way deeper into the facility I began to pick up consumable items. Only three were available in the preview build; two offensive and one pickup that would replenish health. EMP projectiles that could freeze enemies in place with an electromagnetic pulse and homing missiles were the two offensive types on offer. Out of the two, I would always go with the missiles -- stunning your enemies is nice, but turning them into scrap is nicer. Hacks also played a big role in the game, adding some interesting tactical opportunities if used inventively. You start off picking up one that will allow you to override security systems, unlocking doors that bar your path. The next one you find allows you to hack Lifebots, floating drones that will top off the health of whomever is in control of them at the time. One really handy use I found for the Lifebot was in one of the two boss battles in the preview. By taking control of it, I could stay below the boss pouring out the damage while my floating medic topped me off with health, mitigating any damage that I took in the process. Lastly, you'll discover a hack that will allow you to take control of the pesky Kamikaze bots encountered throughout the levels. Once in control of them, a zero-g field radiates out, creating a sphere you can hop into and use for a lift to reach previously inaccessible sections in the level. Wrapping up the demonstration, I joked with Ginkel about how radically different RIVE is from Two Tribes' previous games. He nodded in agreement and grinned proudly as we watched PAX attendees blast their way through the beautiful shooter displayed on the large monitor before us. It truly is a gorgeous title, but it's got the chops to back up the good looks in spades. If RIVE's any indication of the future direction of the development studio, I think we're all in for a treat. While the puzzle platformer Toki Tori 2 is a solid title in its own regard, I'm really happy that the studio went in this new action-oriented direction. RIVE just does so many things right you'd think its creators had been designing shooters all along. RIVE is tentatively scheduled for a Q1 2015 release on PC, PS4, Wii U, and Xbox One
RIVE preview photo
Family-friendly puzzle platformer this game is not
When I learned that Netherlands-based Two Tribes Studios (Toki Tori & Toki Tori 2) was bringing its snazzy metal-wrecking, robot-hacking, twin-stick shooter RIVE to PAX East this year, I jumped at the...

Game News Haikus photo
Game News Haikus

Game News Haikus: PAX East Edition


Zen distilled stories
Mar 17
// Darren Nakamura
Last week's video was a little late thanks to PAX East, and I said I'd make it up to you. This week, instead of seven haikus we have ten, and for good reason. In this series, we normally take a look at the stories that gathe...

It's easy to zone out in the open ocean of Windward

Mar 16 // Darren Nakamura
It's easy to understand how Windward did this to me: it has a gameplay loop similar to Civilization's. Though it plays nothing like Sid Meier's strategy series, it sets the player up with an unending series of very small tasks to accomplish. Finish one, and the next seems like another quick jaunt. With few clear stopping points, this can go on ad infinitum. The most highlighted gameplay feature of Windward is its action-RPG ship combat. Ship cannons can only fire off the sides, always perpendicular to the ship's movement. It sets up a unique combat choreography where each ship vies for position to the bow or stern of its target. In the beginning, this means a lot of circle strafing until one ship sinks the other, but eventually some special abilities unlock and things get a bit more interesting. While the always-on cannon fire and the more powerful triggered volleys can only target enemies to the sides, most of the special abilities work with a full 360-degree range. These include bathing an area in burning alcohol, noxious gas, or obscuring fog. With these, hit-and-run tactics become more viable, chipping enemies down from afar before dropping anchor, taking a hard turn, and letting loose on any pursuers. [embed]289081:57795:0[/embed] Though the ship combat is the most advertised feature, it isn't what I spend most of my time doing. Underneath it are a handful of different systems that give players more to do. A campaign consists of a few dozen connected areas, each procedurally generated. Taking over all of the towns in an area will allow players to assert control, and the full campaign involves controlling as many areas as possible. Closer to the center of the world map, the the neutral pirate faction is a bigger threat, so players must grow on the way. This involves picking up new pieces of gear; there are improved hulls, sails, cannons, crews, and even captains to be found as random drops or through missions. The missions give players tasks after the pirate threat has been eliminated from an area (or before, for the daring). These often involve delivering an item between cities or neutralizing a recently spawned pirate ship. Completing a mission will level up the city where it was taken on, giving it new items to purchase. Additionally, there is an economy where cities will have surpluses and shortages of commodities, so a good chunk of cash can be earned by playing the market, buying low and selling high. This is what I spend a lot of time on. I will enter a new area, clear it of pirates as soon as I can, and then live the life of a seafaring merchant, mapping out the most efficient paths in order to maximize the return. In practice, it means I sail to a city, take on a mission or two, load up some cargo (with a destination that matches the mission), then sail to the next city. Each trip takes a minute or two, so the barrier to starting up one more trip is always low. Then before I know it, I have spent another hour and circumvented a map a few times just completing missions, leveling up cities, and collecting my rewards. It's a little strange, because I'm not entirely sure that it's fun in the classic sense. The combat is certainly the more exciting portion of Windward, and especially when resistance ramps up and it takes a fleet to drive the pirates out. Still, I more often find myself just sailing across the bright blue ocean, listening to the calm tropical music, and planning out the route to my next big score.
Windward preview photo
Avast ye salty dog
The PAX East expo floor is one of the least peaceful places to play a game. There are sweaty crowds, children who haven't learned to use their inside voices, and booths blasting dance music and/or eSports commentary. And yet,...

Dad by the Sword photo
Dad by the Sword

Anti-dads, claymores, and hotdogs in Dad by the Sword


Jed by the Kepa
Mar 16
// Jed Whitaker
While at PAX East, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kepa just before the show floor closed on the first day. He and I were both frazzled, but that didn't stop him from smiling and refusing to take my bait to say that his g...
Wander photo
Wander

Wander by Wander lets you wander in Wander while wondering why you're a tree


Best dressed dev of PAX East 2015
Mar 16
// Jed Whitaker
At PAX East, I spent a majority of my time playing indie games but the one that really stood out is Wander, a non-combat exploration MMO about discovering the story of the world around you. The booth was an outlier...
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....


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