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Review: Blues and Bullets - Episode 1

Jul 29 // Laura Kate Dale
Blues and Bullets - Episode 1 (Xbox One, PC [Reviewed])Developer: A Crowd of MonstersPublisher: A Crowd of MonstersReleased: July 23, 2015MSRP: $4.99Rig: Intel Core i5-4690K @ 3.5 GHz, with 8GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, Windows 8 64-bit The first episode of Blues and Bullets does a really good job of setting up an incredibly creepy mystery right off the bat. A child locked in an underground cell, a creepy scraping sound that chills the bones, and an attempt to escape an inhuman beast. The opening minutes of the game are decidedly unsettling and, when juxtaposed with the ensuing grounded crime noir elements, really serve to give a narrative hook to work toward.  From there, we jump straight into some of the more mixed elements of Blues and Bullets' design. The initial noir crime elements of the game are painfully slow. From the walk speed which never increases above an infuriating crawl to the automatic camera whose angles often won't allow you to see where you're heading, you'll spend a lot of time guessing which way to go, being wrong, and having to achingly slowly trek back until you find where you're going. On the topic of speed, the dialogue in the game, while well written and performed, is also poorly paced. While the characters' lines are delivered well, there are often awkward gaps between lines of speech, or between a sentence and a reply. While the dialogue is well written, these pacing issues really detract from the flow of tension-filled scenes. [embed]296832:59723:0[/embed] The combination of awkward camera, dreadfully low walking speed, and stilted dialogue pacing made the first half of the narrative at times a chore to play, in spite of how much I wanted to enjoy it. That was a huge barrier, and one that would have turned me off if I were playing this for pleasure. Still, there were things in the opening act of Blues and Bullets that were pretty noteworthy, namely the inclusion of third-person shooter segments. The inclusion of sections that required ducking between cover, taking shots, switching out weapons, and planning an assault on a heavily guarded mob boss's home were particularly enjoyable. It's nice to see a point-and-click adventure game have more of these traditional gameplay elements, even if the aiming was, once again, painfully slow. While the black and white aesthetic of the world is generally striking, I was shocked at how poorly the game ran on a  decent spec gaming PC. For a game as visibly indie as Blues and Bullets, my PC frequently chugged, stuttered and flickered far more than I would have expected. In short, the PC version is horribly optimized. At this point, around half way through Blues and Bullets first episode, I was about ready to give up. Then, it finally started to catch my interest with a visually captivating, highly abstracted visual design segment. Narration became paired with giant looming words jutting from the ground, the word "hell" came accompanied by walls of flame and discussions of gunshots game paired with third person shooter sections darting back and forth between giant letters for cover. Suddenly, Blues and Bullets was doing something visually arresting. It didn't last long, but it caught my attention far better than the general tones of grey the world had been painted in. Following this, the narrative finally picked up by introducing a handful of those creepy occult horror themes from the introduction of the game. Walking around deathly slow is boring. Walking slowly around a room with a gruesomely mutilated human corpse feels far more tonally appropriate. Ultimately, Blues and Bullets shows a lot of promise, but this first episode alone is very hard to recommend. In its latter half it really starts to shine, with third person gameplay, creepy crime solving, and an intriguing cast of characters. It's just a shame so much of the early game was so painful to get through. The first episode ended on a truly gripping exchange that sold me on trying the second episode, but the first episode in a vacuum is at times more painful to play through that any new IP can afford to be. Definitely keep an eye on Blues and Bullets. If Episode 2 can start off with the same pacing and tone that Episode 1 ended on, we might have a really strong point and click adventure series on our hands. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Blues and Bullets photo
A mix of fantastic and insufferable
Blues and Bullets is a crime noir episodic adventure game that jumps back and forth between artistically stunning and unplayably dreary more times than I care to count. Over the course of a few short hours the first episode h...

The Following photo
The Following

The Following is the 'massive, story-based' Dying Light expansion


With dirt buggies and bows
Jul 29
// Steven Hansen
Zombie free-running game Dying Light teased vehicles as a part of its DLC plan earlier this month. Indeed, Techland has confirmed that all-terrain dirt buggies are a big part of the, "feature-heavy, story-based expansion pack...
Heroes of the Storm photo
Heroes of the Storm

Blizzard enacts Stimpack XP bonus for new Heroes of the Storm players this week


July 28 through August 4
Jul 29
// Chris Carter
If you're a new player who logs into Heroes of the Storm from now until August 4, you'll earn a seven day Stimpack bonus for your troubles. In essence, it's an XP boost, which is augmented on a bonus for having a friend in yo...
Titanfall photo
Titanfall

Nexon and EA partner up to bring Titanfall Online to Asia


Titanfall-flavoured free-to-play PC action
Jul 29
// Vikki Blake
Electronic Arts has teamed up with Nexon to bring a free-to-play version of Titanfall to Asia. Details are scant, but we do know it'll be available on PC and called, unsurprisingly, Titanfall Online. Talking to IGN, Nexon pre...
Xbox One photo
Xbox One

Microsoft plans to integrate PC to Xbox streaming


They already announced Xbox to PC
Jul 29
// Mike Cosimano
In an interview with The Verge, Xbox head Phil Spencer spoke to the possibility of streaming games from your PC to your Xbox One. The just-launched Windows 10 comes packaged with Xbox One to PC streaming functionali...
Rocket League free map photo
Rocket League free map

Take a gander at the upcoming Rocket League map


Inspired by Utopia from SARPBC
Jul 28
// Patrick Hancock
Rocket League is taking off like a, well, rocket I guess. The simple complexity seems to really be jiving with a lot of people, and I couldn't be happier. As a big fan of Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, ...
Don't get cocky photo
Don't get cocky

The spinaroonie is the least earned, most deserved Rocket League goal


Great shot kid, one in a million
Jul 28
// Steven Hansen
Rocket League is really, really good and Skeleton War is the Booker T of jet car soccer.
OK photo
OK

Play the Red Ash prototype in your browser, though it is not fun


Mega Man Legends spiritual successor
Jul 28
// Steven Hansen
Keiji Inafune and Comcept are really trying to sell Red Ash: The Indelible Legend, Inafune's follow up to Mighty No. 9 and spiritual successor to Mega Man Legends. Its Kickstarter campaign ends in five days and it is hardly m...
The Witcher 3 photo
The Witcher 3

Gwent cards won't carry over for The Witcher 3's New Game+


Plan accordingly!
Jul 28
// Jordan Devore
While New Game+ isn't an option for The Witcher 3 yet, it will be soon. But before you commit to another playthrough, you should know what will and won't transfer. CD Projekt RED has answers. New Game+ will bump you to level ...

Review: Life is Strange: Dark Room

Jul 28 // Brett Makedonski
Life is Strange: Dark Room (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One[reviewed])Developer: Dontnod EntertainmentPublisher: Square EnixRelease date: July 28, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) Interestingly enough, Dark Room largely betrays the pacing set forth by the previous three installments. Those chapters had a tendency to meander as Dontnod built the world and its characters. There wasn't anything inherently bad about that. Actually, now that the game's nearing its conclusion, it's paying dividends. We're invested in the story surrounding Arcadia Bay. Still, Dark Room is always tugging at your sleeves, trying to guide you somewhere. The stakes in this episode have been raised to a degree that doesn't lend itself to killing time. Urgency permeates the entirety of Dark Room. Rushing from one location to another advances the plot as things escalate steadily, and there's not always a chair handy to take a mental breather. As quickly as things move, a lot of the brilliance behind this episode comes in the form of finally tying together past events and seeing how they cause everything to shake out. There's some resolution, even if it's not full resolution. Dontnod has proven that it expertly laid the framework to affect future encounters. One particular instance comes in the form of another spat with a familiar antagonist. The branching paths can lead to several outcomes, none necessarily more optimal than the next. [embed]296752:59714:0[/embed] Another prime example is very un-Life is Strange, and maybe the only time Dark Room just sat still for a minute. Max has a board of clues that she must use to put together some damning evidence against someone. Putting on Max's sleuthing hat, the puzzle requires carefully finding related documents and grouping them in a sensible way. Odd as it may have seemed, this section nicely conveyed a sense of inter-connectivity and broke up the episode's breakneck speed. The rest of Dark Room's high points were the bleakest moments the game has seen, none of which should be discussed here. This episode doubled down on grim material and somber social issues. The absolute best thing Dark Room does is that it still somehow manages to present most of this (and the characters tied to it) from a complex perspective. It's not dealing in blacks and whites -- even though it's completely expected by now, given the nature of the subjects. The more time spent in Life is Strange, the more obvious it is that this isn't the game we may have originally thought. The supernatural won't overshadow the social issues. The rewind mechanic often doesn't feel like an option because you want to live with your decisions. Somehow, Dontnod resisted the urge to lean on these aspects, even though they'd be the easiest to lean on. The game's immeasurably better off for it. So, after another cliffhanger ending, we're left awaiting the conclusion and with no real idea where the narrative might go. Dark Room has been the most masterful installment in Life is Strange thus far, and it sets us hurtling toward the finish line. If the first 80 percent is any indication, it probably won't be a "happily ever after" ending. Only one thing's certain, though: that ever-present throat lump will be along for the ride.
Life is Strange review photo
Super Max
I played the fourth episode of Life is Strange with a lump in my throat. You know, the sort of uneasiness that puts a slight pressure behind your ears. The lump waned and grew with the chapter's crescendos and decrescend...

Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

Pacifism is 'not necessarily a goal' for Fallout 4


It's a wasteland, after all
Jul 28
// Jordan Devore
Officially, Fallout 4 players will only be able to romance human companions. They'll also have to resort to violence to complete the story; no perfect pacifist runs, from the sound of it. "You can avoid [killing] a lot," VP o...
StarCraft II mod photo
StarCraft II mod

Not even StarCraft II is safe from Rocket League


Aqua League mod
Jul 28
// Jordan Devore
I wasn't kidding when I said that funny goal gif convinced me to download Rocket League. Psyonix's driving/soccer game is brilliantly designed, and now I'm obsessed with it like the rest of you. My infatuation even extends to...

King's Quest developer talks silent film influences, possible Wii U port

Jul 28 // Chris Carter
Destructoid: Can you give us a bit of background on the history of The Odd Gentlemen and the acquisition of the King's Quest rights? This is a rather long story but I'd like to hear it from your perspective. Matt Korba: Many people have tried to bring back King's Quest over the years, in many different ways.  Our game and concept was built from the ground up, so besides public knowledge I don't know anything about the direction other teams wanted to take the series.  What I do know is that a little over two years ago, Activision was looking to fund and support a development team to reimagine King's Quest. They put out a call for ideas to various studios. I had been meeting with Activision since I was a student working on Winterbottom about possible collaborations, but it wasn't until King's Quest came along that we found a match.  King's Quest is my favorite series of all time so you can imagine how excited I was for a chance to bring the classic series back to life.  I met with Lindsey (our producer) and Evan (our art director) on the roof and we put together a pitch over a very long lunch for what we thought would be an interesting direction. It centered on King Graham as a very old man sharing stories from his past with his curious granddaughter Gwendolyn.  At the time we were only nine people, but Activision loved our creative pitch so much that they took a chance on us.  This rarely happens in the industry. It was a big risk for them because, they could have gone with a larger team, or a team that has shipped more titles on more platforms, but they decided to go with a small team that had the best creative (and the biggest KQ nerd). I am externally grateful to them for that. From there, Sierra was brought back, they fostered the growth of our company and here we are today.  What lead to the choice to include action sequences in this new rendition? I particularly liked how everything wasn't just a QTE. The original directive was to reimagine and update the classic series for a modern audience.  But, for us that wasn't a good enough reason to include small action sequences.   One of the most important parts of a good adventure game is pacing, and for us we are always trying to strike a balance between gameplay, story, and art.  If we were going to include anything it needed to serve that purpose. The action sequences help to break up the pacing and keep it interesting. When we put an action sequence in the game it usually has a puzzle element, branching choice, or a story point to it. We decided early on that if something can be played it should be, as opposed to watching a cutscene. This theory is not new to our game, the classic series mixed things up with action as well. The early games even had jumping and swimming controls. Remember climbing the beanstalk in KQ1 or the whale tongue in KQ4? The games felt pretty dangerous when you had to time a click just right before a wolf ate you or to throw a pie at an attacking yeti in KQ5, and of course using the arrow keys to avoid the paths of monsters added tension to the exploring.   Will we see the same cast of characters, notably the knights, pop up in other episodes? The game takes place over the lifetime of Graham.  That means that not only does much of the cast return, but they age as well. Players will get to control Graham from a young squire to a very old man.  Each chapter will also introduce new characters. How was it working with the voice cast? I noticed that all of them seemed to have a lot of fun based on the strong performances. It was an amazing experience. The fact that we got all those people still baffles me.  Our casting director Eric Weiss, did a phenomenal job of getting together a great cast. There were few occasions where we had placed a sample voice clip into our casting doc and Eric would just say "Why don't we just cast that person". To which we would say "Huh? We can do that"? We had done some small VO work in the past but this was definitely a huge learning process for the whole team. I think in general the cast got excited, because games like this don't come around everyday. This was a story filled with charm and humor, they wouldn't need to record 500 stabbing exertions or one line taunts. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for young Graham's mannerisms? I noticed that he seemed familiar when he'd get really excited about something. The inspiration for him was really only the classic series.  With other characters I can say, oh Groucho Marx inspired him, or Monty Python inspired them, but Graham was difficult.  We wanted to allow Graham to grow into a hero.  We didn't think it would be appropriate for a Graham to be a traditional "Bad Ass." We have seen enough characters like that already. We looked at the classic series and knew where we needed to take him, so we worked backwards.  I wrote this line early on to describe Graham and everything stemmed from there. "While other knights returned from their quests trailing bloody victories behind them, Graham returned with friendly dragons and yeti companions." Oh, and silent film, we pulled a ton of his physicality from the silent film greats; Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd.  Do you have any sort of timeline in mind for future episodes? We want to make sure the games are great and of high quality.  When we announce the schedule I think people will be impressed.  This is not a game you will have to wait a year in between chapters.   Was there any consideration in terms of developing for Wii U? If the game does well it can definitely end up there as well as some other platforms. But, we are still a relatively small team and 5 platforms at launch almost killed us! Just in case you haven't heard this yet, I feel like I need to make the case for the Land of the Green Isles (I saw the tapestry Easter egg on the wall in the castle). Is there a chance we may see them and some Alexander adventures in the future? Season 1 is focused on Graham's adventures, but if there is a demand for it anything is possible. That said some of your favorite charters just might be coming back in future chapters.   Likewise, if you can answer this question, where does the series stand on re-releases of the classic entries? This game is a big testing ground for many people.  If it can prove that there is still an audience for this type of game at this type of scale, then I think it opens many opportunities for us, Sierra, and other development studios as well.
King's Quest interview photo
'This game is a big testing ground'
As you could probably tell from my review, I was blown away by King's Quest: A Knight to Remember. I went in with very little in terms of expectations and at the end of it, I was looking at a Game of the Year contender. Spurr...

Review: King's Quest: A Knight To Remember

Jul 28 // Chris Carter
King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: The Odd GentlemenPublisher: Sierra EntertainmentReleased: July 28, 2015MSRP: $9.99 per episode / $40 for the "Complete Collection" To be clear, this isn't a true continuation of the series, but rather, a "re-imagining" with the same characters, and some of the same events. For the most part, this new rendition is going to tell side stories that happened between the games over the course of five episodes -- A Knight to Remember is the first. There's plenty of fanservice scattered about to keep old fans happy, but newcomers won't be lost in the slightest in their first foray into Daventry -- it's a great balancing act. When I first booted up the game, it was seemingly taking a low-key Ico-like approach, which I really dug. The protagonist didn't talk much initially, and you're thrown into an unknown situation that sets up the rest of the tale. It immediately reminded me of a Don Bluth project, with beautiful scenery and interesting character designs. There are a few areas I encountered that had some screen tearing issues, but nothing that affected my enjoyment significantly, or crashed the game in any way on Xbox One. Slowly but surely the game opened up and started to become more talkative, at which point I immediately fell in love with it. The way the game is framed is through the narration of King Graham, who is telling his granddaughter the tales of his youth. Christopher Lloyd plays an older Graham to perfection, with plenty of "grandpa puns" and lots of heart. You can tell he's really enjoying it and isn't phoning it in like some stars might (Destiny), and in fact, the entire cast is one of the most organic collective of characters I've ever seen in a game. There's tons of great references to classic films like The Princess Bride with a welcome appearance from Wallace Shawn, and even direct references to characters like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. While I don't want to spoil the surprises, they're done with the utmost respect to the source material, and never approach the level of an annoying forced meme. It helps that the game's animations are incredible, and it's hard to not laugh out loud when you see Graham frantically running with his arms flailing about like Disney's Ichabod Crane. In fact, I've never laughed so hard at a game in my life -- trust me when I say that's not an exaggeration. I particularly like how the game handles death with the Grandpa Graham narration mechanism, which even makes failure funny. There's also a few hilarious references to characters "remembering that" from Telltale games, and a clever use of the narration technique in other ways. For instance, there's one part where you're walking on a log, and after going over it again, Graham mentions that it would be repetitive if he had to explain that bit over and over to his granddaughter, so it transports you to the other side. It's convenient and charming in the same breath. One thing I need to mention is that the game is not as hardcore as past King's Quest titles, which is to be expected. The narration element sort of clues you in sometimes to the solution (which again, is done very well), and I really like how the game focuses in on objects you are currently trying to use a piece of equipment on, to eliminate any nasty instances of pixel-hunting. There's also plenty of choices to be had that change the story in smaller ways, like leaving tips in a collection plate in any empty store, or bigger conundrums that promise more of an impact in future episodes (stay tuned to future reviews to see how this plays out). While the first hour or so of the roughly five hour adventure is rather linear, the game opens up significantly after that, with a large sandbox that isn't as massive as a classic adventure game, but big enough to roam around in. There's also some third-person obstacle dodging, mild on-rails platforming, and several first-person aiming sequences. There's a few quick-time events but they are very few and far between, which is a nice touch, as modern adventure games use them as a crutch far too often. Of course, A Knight to Remember also has several puzzles as well as some memory work involved, which are well executed. So yes, it's much more involved than your average Telltale game. I wish King's Quest: A Knight to Remember was a bit more taxing, but I loved everything about it. If this series does well I hope we get to see the adventures of other family members like Alexander, and additional areas like the Land of the Green Isles. Right now though, I'm going through withdraws for the second episode already. Move over Telltale, there's a new adventure king in town. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
King’s Quest review photo
A kingly modern classic
Not all revivals or remakes instill a sense of nostalgia within me. For instance, if we ever got that sequel to Kabuki Quantum Fighter we were promised in the original's credits, I wouldn't be all that excited. But King'...

Tomb Raider photo
Tomb Raider

Square Enix CEO on Tomb Raider exclusivity: 'It wasn't an easy decision'


Uh...
Jul 28
// Chris Carter
Finally! We now know the exact details on the Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity deal that Microsoft worked out with Square Enix -- it took them long enough. But even with this information, the backlash that began with ...
FF Type-0 HD photo
FF Type-0 HD

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD will have DOTA 2 bonuses, 'exclusive loading screen' on PC


Haha what
Jul 28
// Chris Carter
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies bet...

Life is Strange: Episode Four Achievement guide

Jul 28 // Brett Makedonski
Dark Room: Finish Episode 4: Dark Room This is the only Achievement that's earned through story progression. Just finish the fourth episode. Easy peasy. Ambient: Take optional photo #1 in Episode Four: Dark Room The first photo op takes a while to get to. It's available as soon as Max has control of her camera again. Take a picture of Chloe while she's working hard at her computer. Time-Lapsed: Take optional photo #2 in Episode Four: Dark Room Fortunately, we don't have to wait as long for the second photo as we did for the first. Once in step-douche's garage, go take a gander at the bird's nest that's hiding behind the plank. Move the plank to the side and take a picture for Max's Arcadia Bay Wildlife Series. Make sure to move the plank back when you're done; drill sergeant David doesn't like people messing with his stuff. Balance: Take optional photo #3 in Episode Four: Dark Room You know that ominous totem pole in the corner of the Blackwell Academy courtyard? Well, now there's an ominous pile of stones in front of it. Go ahead and take a picture of the "Blair Witch" rocks for this episode's third Achievement. Rangefinder: Take optional photo #4 in Episode Four: Dark Room This one's also in the Blackwell courtyard. Go talk to Samuel -- he's sitting on the bench -- about animals, squirrels in particular. He'll throw a nugget of food, which attracts one furry friend. Use the box of food next to Samuel to lure another squirrel over. When they're snacking together, take a picture of them. Gamma Value: Take optional photo #5 in Episode Four: Dark Room Once in the boys' dorms, take the hallway to the right and look out the window. There are some footprints that Max finds photo-worthy. Dioptic Power:Take optional photo #6 in Episode Four: Dark Room Before long, you'll end up on the beach. This episode's sixth photo is the third beached whale from the right. Snap a picture for some of the saddest Gamerscore you'll ever earn. Fisheye: Take optional photo #7 in Episode Four: Dark Room This one requires some quick reflexes and possibly a rewind or two. Off to the left of the barn is a bird posted up on the fence. Take a quick photo of it. If our feathered friend flies away, reverse time until he sits still long enough for a picture. Manually Exposed: Take optional photo #8 in Episode Four: Dark Room The next one's owlfully easy to find. There's an owl hanging out in the corner of the loft in the barn. Once you're up there, do what Max does best. Slideshow: Take optional photo #9 in Episode Four: Dark Room This one's inside the End of the World Party. Go around the outside of the pool and up to where the VIP booth is. Go into the unmarked door. When in there, take a photo of Justin at the sink with his lower half lined up with the skeleton graffiti. Tripod: Take optional photo #10 in Episode Four: Dark Room In the pool area of the End of the World Party, move off to the right side and look up and out the windows. Find a place where you can line up a nice double moon shot. Wait. Double moon?! Shutterbug: Take all optional photos in Episode Four: Dark Room This one will unlock as soon as you pick up the last optional photo. Two Achievements for the price of one!
Life is Strange photo
Point camera, earn Gamerscore
We're inching ever-closer to the conclusion of Life is Strange. As we get nearer to knowing what the narrative holds for Max and Chloe, we find a bit of familiarity in the Achievements. Like always, episode four Dark Roo...

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided photo
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex Mankind Divided dev 'rectifies' issues for non-lethal play styles


'Supporting all different play aspects'
Jul 28
// Vikki Blake
The decision of whether your foes live or die in Deux Ex: Mankind Divided -- particularly in your boss battles -- will once again be yours and yours alone.  Talking to OXM, Deux Ex: Mankind Divided directo...
Fallout: The Frontier photo
Fallout: The Frontier

Huge upcoming Fallout: New Vegas mod introduces nuclear winter


But all we have is a video for now
Jul 27
// Brett Makedonski
Those who play Fallout: New Vegas are used to an arid and hot landscape, but one upcoming mod based on Bethesda's 2010 game flips those tables. It's trading desert stereotypes for a frigid tundra environment, and it all...
Killing Floor 2 photo
Killing Floor 2

Explore Italy's underparts in Killing Floor 2's next update


The catacombs, specifically
Jul 27
// Zack Furniss
While we still don't have a date on the Incinerate N' Detonate content update (personally hoping for late next month), Tripwire Interactive has teased an upcoming map: Catacombs. Instead of being beneath the Burning Paris map...

Review: Niko: Through The Dream

Jul 27 // Jed Whitaker
Niko: Through The Dream (PC)Developer: Studio Paint Publisher: Studio Paint MSRP: $9.99Released: July 10, 2015  A girl named Niko wearing wild face paint visits the grave of a passed loved one. She lays down and drifts asleep, when a tiny cute black creature with big bright white eyes sneaks into her mind and influences her dreams; or at least that is how I interpreted the opening pencil-drawn anime cinematic of Niko. The story is told subtly from then on via drawings found in-game and a post-credits cinematic, most of which lets you interpret it as you will instead of outright telling you what you just experienced, something I wish more games did.  Niko's minimalistic style makes beautiful use of the Unreal Engine. Most early levels are white and almost canvas-like other than shadows and a few a colorful pieces, and later on things get a bit more dark and eery. The soundtrack evolves alongside levels, starting bright and charming and eventually becoming chilling and tense. Rarely do game soundtracks feel so on point with what is on the screen and as memorable as Niko's, especially for a team's first game. Each level of Niko features a unique puzzle based on colors, shapes, platforming and even sounds. Most puzzles can be solved without much fuss, particularly for observant players as clues are usually hidden somewhere not far from the puzzles themselves. I'd be here all day if I described each type of puzzle, so just know the variety is enough to keep the whole adventure interesting.  [embed]296684:59697:0[/embed] Platforming puzzles aren't frequent, but when they do occur be ready to die a few times. Luckily, the checkpoints are really frequent and loading them is instantaneous, keeping frustration near non-existent. Niko aims to provide an enjoyable experience over one that tests your skills, and it certainly delivers. Nothing ever felt too difficult. Puzzles are mostly easy to figure out once you've got the logic down, though one of hardest puzzles is a platforming section where you turn into a ball. In ball form, the control scheme is vastly different: the view is top down, and if you're using a gamepad, the left stick moves the ball while the right stick decides the trajectory. Once I finally mastered the controls, I was able to finish the puzzles without much fuss, but it felt out of place in an otherwise beautifully-crafted game. Along the journey a few different characters come into contact with Niko such as cute black fuzzballs with eyes, and a giant white-masked black figure, both of which would feel right at home in a Studio Ghibli film. There is no dialogue in-game, but rest assured the characters are anything but flat. Over the course of the story, you'll see the masked figure evolve and convey emotions all without a single word of speech.  Niko only takes around five hours to complete, but those hours are time well spent. Completionists can seek out hidden collectable teddy bears that unlock Steam achievements, and a few other secrets along the way that will help extend the playtime a bit. The bears are often hidden behind some of the more difficult and rewarding puzzles, or just out of sight.  Beautiful levels with equally beautiful story, characters, and music come together to form one amazing puzzle adventure. Niko: Through The Dream is easily one of the best first-person puzzle games I've played, and a strong contender for my game of the year. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Niko Review photo
When Portal met Ghibli
First-person puzzle adventure gaming was reinvigorated with the release of Portal, and the genre has since become one of my favorites. The surreal Antichamber showed us how to think outside the box. The Unfinished Swan&n...

Street Fighter beta woes photo
Street Fighter beta woes

Capcom is sorry about the Street Fighter V beta


Beta players will get an 'incentive'
Jul 27
// Jordan Devore
The first Street Fighter V beta didn't go over so well. Despite Capcom's best efforts, error messages were a frequent sight among participants. Players struggled to get into matches all weekend. "After three days of testing, ...
OlliOlli 2 photo
OlliOlli 2

OlliOlli 2 [skateboard trick]s its way to PC this summer


We can't nail when it'll land
Jul 27
// Brett Makedonski
Up until this point, OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood has only shown off its sick tricks on PlayStation platforms. Impressive as they may be, developer Roll7 will soon prove the game has more up its sleeve than just PS4 a...
Steam photo
Steam

I miss Monkey Ball, so I'll probably play Polyball


Watch the trailer
Jul 27
// Jordan Devore
I miss Super Monkey Ball so much. Granted, I still have my copy, and I'm into Monkey Target now more than ever, but a proper new console game would also be nice, y'know? If it ended up being junk, I could always just return t...
StarCraft II photo
StarCraft II

StarCraft II adds confetti explosions for its fifth birthday


Workers beware
Jul 27
// Jordan Devore
StarCraft II is five years old today. Hooray? Many of us are probably more concerned with how the standalone expansion Legacy of the Void is shaping up. I was about to move onto my next browser tab, but something caught my ey...
Witcher 3 update photo
Witcher 3 update

The Witcher 3 is adding New Game+


It'll be free, of course
Jul 27
// Jordan Devore
Even if I don't end up starting a New Game+, I love knowing it's always an option. I had expected the feature to be in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which I still haven't even begun (I'm only now on inFamous: Second Son, as far a...
League of Legends photo
League of Legends

Pro League of Legends team goes undefeated


Sets new record by going 18-0 in LCS
Jul 26
// Ben Pack
Following its victory at League of Legends Championship Series, professional eSports team Fnatic is celebrating not only a successful regular season, but a historic achievement. The group managed to do something no other...
Dota 2 wildcard matches photo
Dota 2 wildcard matches

Dota 2 wildcard matches are now underway


Fighting for a chance at millions
Jul 26
// Patrick Hancock
The wildcard matches for the biggest eSports tournament of the year have officially begun! Dota 2's International 2015 tournament has already raised over $17 million, and four teams are about to fight for their shot at the pr...

Red Ash prototype footage looks pretty rough

Jul 25 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]296626:59685:0[/embed] The work-in-progress was developed by Hyde Inc. using placeholder assets, some of which were pinched from Mighty No. 9, to give prospective backers a vague idea what Red Ash might be like. Hyde also showed off a character model of protagonist Beck that looks more representative of the concept art. Between that, the prototype, and this mock-up of a screenshot, maybe you can conjure a mental image of how the final product will turn out, you know, should it ever get funded. Red Ash: Prototype Check [Comcept via Kickstarter]
Red Ash gameplay photo
Too little, too late?
Red Ash hasn't become an overnight success for Comcept. Unlike Mighty No. 9, the project is struggling to meet its $800,000 Kickstarter goal, having raised just over half that with 9 days to go. With the clock winding down, Comcept is trying to turn the campaign's fortunes around, announcing a potential PlayStation 4 release and sharing some early footage of a pre-alpha prototype.

Review: Five Nights at Freddy's 4

Jul 24 // Nic Rowen
Five Nights at Freddy's 4 (PC)Developer: Scott Cawthon Publisher: Scott Cawthon Released: July 23, 2015MSRP: $8.00 The setup of Five Nights 4 intentionally replicates the design of the first game. The original cast is back, their avenues of attack directly mimic their first outing, and the general layout of your besieged room is the same, making this entry feel like closing a loop. But, this time instead of haunting a creepy knock-off Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, they're spooking up your home instead. There are no more security cameras to monitor, no more batteries to fuss over. You're just a little kid with a flashlight, scampering between the two doors into his room and whatever might be lurking in his closet (or right behind him). The type of sense you rely on has been inverted: instead of keeping an eye on things, this time you'll be listening for whatever is out there. When you creep up to a door you have to pause, wait a moment, and listen for any kind of breathing or noise in the darkened hallway. If you hear something, you need to shut the door as fast as you possibly can. If it's clear, shining your flashlight down the hall will ward off anything stalking towards you. If you're wrong though, and the monster is right there, and you shine your flashlight right into its toothy mechanical face, well, it's is the last thing you'll ever do. What this means mechanically, is that you need to absolutely crank up the volume to reliably hear things. Headphones are nearly required. Of course, the jump scare death animations are as loud as ever. Do you see where this is going? Sonic fucking boom. If you want to know if this game made me yelp, or jump, or spill my coffee and send me trudging to the kitchen for a roll of paper towels while I swore angrily under my breath -- yes, it did. Of course it did. It's a cycle of protracted periods of peering into the darkness and intensely listening to absolutely nothing interrupted with SUDDEN. LOUD. JUMP. SCARES.   [embed]296612:59683:0[/embed] It's an easy, dull, and obvious trick. The final refuge for a game that has run out of any other ways to scare people. Don't think of anything new and clever, forget introducing any kind of gameplay twist, or carefully establishing tension or mood. Just take the basic components, crank up the contrast, pump up the volume, and jam the severity. It's trite, lazy even. I'm not sure how the inevitable Five Nights at Freddy's 5 will be able to top this kind of “subtlety.” Maybe it will come with a pair of electrodes you attach to your testicles, so it can administer 5,000 volts of spookiness every time something goes “boo.” *BZZZZZT* What, did that make you jump? Sissy. There are a few other tricks. Monsters introduced in later nights operate with slightly different rules, and by the time the fifth night rolls around, you'll be sprinting all over the bedroom trying to keep things locked down. Unlike previous games though, the rules don't feel tight. Things are sloppier, with more guesswork and chance baked into the experience. When I died, I often had no idea what I did wrong. And if I'm being honest, when I succeeded I wasn't always sure why. Frustrating deaths and unearned victories are equally unsatisfying in their own way. The animatronics' logic was never clear enough to me to come up with a reliable strategy to keep them at bay. I supposed that could be intentional, a way of always keeping even seasoned players on their toes, but I think that's giving the design credit it doesn't deserve. More than any other Freddy game so far, I just felt exasperated and annoyed playing through Five Nights 4.   The emphasis on carefully listening for every creak and groan in the darkness isn't just a lame way to manufacture easy scares. It's also a way to ruin one of the greatest pleasures I've had with the series, namely playing the game with an audience. While others sneer at Freddy's for being pure Twitch/YouTube bait, I've always understood it. I get why these games are fun to watch because I know how well they play in the living room with a couple of spectators and rotating victims. There is a real joy in playing these games with someone else or two in the room to watch you screw up. To have a small chorus whispering “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit...” behind your shoulder as the tension mounts. Of having someone to exchange nervous glances with when the doors stop working and it's 5 AM going on 6 AM and there is just the tiniest chance that you might roll over to the next day before Freddy pops out and – “OH GOD HE'S IN THE ROOM!” Those were moments I missed while I played Five Nights 4. What I'd think about while I was all hunched up in my chair with a pair of headphones clamped on tight. The memories that made me feel like a traitor whenever I violently shushed anyone in the room who made even the slightest distracting peep. However you played the previous games, know that this Five Nights is purely for the lone wolves and streamers out there who don't mind strapping on their pair of overly-expensive, sound-canceling Beats By Dre. But enough about how I resent the bargain-basement scares and penny-ante tricks the game uses to provoke a response from you. Enough about how this game is profoundly annoying and deeply unimaginative on a mechanical level. As a person who has followed the series since its start, the most damning part of this boondoggle of a game is how it absolutely folds under the pressure of its own established narrative. After all the teasing and hints, the essay-length forum posts and amazing fan-made theory videos that manage to be more entertaining than the games themselves, the promise that THIS Freddy's will be the one to finally answer the series long-standing questions -- it completely flubs the landing. All of the world building and story momentum generated by the first three games lurches to a disappointing stop, like a wind-up car gummed up with carpet lint. Yes, the infamous “bite of '87” is finally addressed in Five Nights 4. But like so many smoke monsters and Cylon replicants, the mystery was always better than any answer the series could reasonably provide. You see it, say “meh” to yourself, and retroactively wonder what the big deal was in the first place. The fact that this kind of anti-climax is common doesn't excuse Five Nights 4 of its wet noodle narrative and limp “reveals.” If anything, all of those previous failures should have been taken as cautionary tales, the value of mystery should be known and respected by now. Some questions are better left unanswered. It doesn't help that the way the game wraps up heavily implies that the events it depicts should not be taken literally. Yes, the tired old “it was all a dream/nightmare, or maybe a metaphor, or like a weird trippy memory, I don't know” trope is dusted off once again, so nothing is particularly clear. That's without getting into how the chaotic mass of prequels, reveals, and reinterpretations the games have constructed now threatens to collapse into a superdense black hole of no-longer-giving-a-shit at this point. I almost broke out a whiteboard trying to figure out the series' mythology at this point. “Okay, so this game is set in '87 to see the infamous 'bite,' around the same time as the prequel events in Five Nights 2. But it's also BEFORE the murders of the children that haunt Five Nights 1 and what you find out happens with Springtrap in Five Nights 3. The Purpleman doesn't really have a role, but he does show up in a cameo. Wait, are the kids in the last cutscene the eventual murder victims? Oh god, I'm seeing spots. Is this a migraine, or am I having a stroke? Do I need to call 911? If I die, are they going to find my body splayed out in front of a computer with a bunch of crazy notes about Five Nights at Freddy's? Am I going to end up as some shitty urban myth about how Five Nights totally killed a reviewer?” This game is stressful in all the wrong ways. The now familiar Atari-esque mini-games appear between chapters to deliver their payload of exposition and spooks, but all the menace of those scenes has been lanced and drained by repetition. There is a new sort of mini-game between nights where you play Weeping Angel stop-'n'-go with an animated plush doll. Stop him on a specific mark and you can knock two hours off the next night. Let him get too close or run out of time and, you guessed it, JUMP SCARE! It's the one new addition Five Nights 4 brings to the table, and it feels like the shadow of a reflection of an afterthought. You don't need to play this game. Even if you've been invested in the series up till now, it's just going to disappoint you and rankle your nerves. The interesting gimmicks have been completely rung out of the franchise; this game is imaginatively bone dry. The louder, nastier jump scares that are left are just a crass attempt to try and distract you from the lack of innovation. The story, the ongoing mystery of Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria, and the strange goings-on surrounding it are best left to your personal headcanon or favorite fan theory. You'd be better served experiencing Five Nights at Freddy's 4 the way it was obviously intended to be enjoyed. By going on YouTube and watching some twenty-five-year-old, dressed like a fourteen-year-old, scream and cry his way through the game like a seven-year-old. The game truly has come full circle. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Five Nights 4 Review photo
This guest has overstayed its welcome
Well, it's been a few months, time for another Five Night at Freddy's game I suppose. I don't like to be cynical. I don't volunteer to review games, and pay for them out of my own pocket, hoping that they'll disappoint me and...


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