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Review: Cities: Skylines photo
Review: Cities: Skylines
by Jason Faulkner

The connection between the design and implementation of the sidewalks and streets we use on a daily basis requires a huge mental leap for me. Walking down the cobblestone in my city and looking up to see the sky framed with highrises inspires my sense of awe. It’s as if they represent humanity’s dominion over the natural world, and seem to stand as a testament to our species’ tenacity. It’s as if their monolithic forms are a raised fist against all the devastation and hardship we’ve experienced as a whole since we left the fertile crescent over 60,000 years ago.

To make a city of our own, to imitate and create the spaces in which we live our lives is quite alluring. The nurturing and planning that goes into creating your own little virtual metropolis is naturally stimulating to the desire to solve problems that most of us find so innate. For more than a decade, Maxis’ SimCity series was the go-to for a city-building fix. However, the changes in the latest iteration of the series were very unpopular, and begged the question, “Is the city-building simulation genre dead?” Cities: Skylines answers with an emphatic, “No,” and goes beyond what even the venerable SimCity series had to offer.

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Review: OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood photo
Review: OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood
by Kyle MacGregor

OlliOlli was a pleasant surprise. A year ago, the minimalist skateboarding game materialized out of nowhere, deconstructing the genre and distilling its essence down the barest essentials. It stripped away any traces of excess, resulting in an experience focused on eliciting trancelike states and a never-ending pursuit of high scores.

Simultaneously accessible and unfathomably intricate, OlliOlli lured players down the rabbit hole, presenting itself as an airy side-scroller just long enough to get its hooks into you before quickly giving way to something far weightier and more profound.

And now it's been topped in virtually every conceivable way with an unexpected sequel, OlliOlli 2.

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Review: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number photo
Review: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
by Chris Carter

For some, Hotline Miami was an existential look at the current macro-state of videogames. You were told to commit random acts of murder seemingly without remorse, and at the end, you get a bit of interesting commentary on the culture of violence. Many argued that the only way you can truly win is to not play, and it started some insightful conversations.

For me, it was a really bitchin' action puzzle game that made me constantly reinvent my strategy for each and every level. It was an experience that didn't hold my hand at every turn, and let me be as creative as I wanted while a kickass soundtrack blared in the background.

Hotline Miami 2 may not be as "profound" as its predecessor, but it's still a bloody good time.

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Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode 3 photo
Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode 3
by Chris Carter

When I first approached Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I was fairly cautious. I had been burned many times by Resident Evil games in the past, but having played through Episode 1 and 2, most of my concerns were alleviated.

At this point, I think I can heartily recommend Revelations 2 as a whole, even if Episode 3 drags momentarily.

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Review: Ori and the Blind Forest photo
Review: Ori and the Blind Forest
by Chris Carter

Every so often I come across a game that just makes me smile. I mean, I play videogames almost daily because I have fun doing it, but certain titles have me grinning from ear to ear the entire journey for a myriad of different reasons.

Ori and the Blind Forest is one of those games. It's just plain enjoyable from start to finish, and doesn't waste your time.

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Review: Shelter 2 photo
Review: Shelter 2
by Jason Faulkner

Underneath the vision of all but the most observant of people lay the secret lives of the animal kingdom. From the meekest field mouse to the mighty lion, each is born into a world of hardship and violence, where merely surviving is the ultimate goal. Humans, with our obsession over the minutiae of modern society, can't fathom the sheer terror and panic that many animals face multiple times per day.

Few forms of media attempt to strip away the ties that bind us to the sentient, and force us into the role of a wild animal. The Shelter series has attempted with minimalistic graphics and gameplay to translate what it would feel like to be a scared and lonely new mother defending and providing for her litter. This iteration focuses on a family of lynx, and although you are a predator, the vulnerability of your position is poignantly felt. But even though Shelter 2 evokes a certain amount of emotion, the package leaves something to be desired.

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Review: Five Nights at Freddy's 3 photo
Review: Five Nights at Freddy's 3
by Nic Rowen

While it has been a mere four months since the last sequel was released, Five Nights at Freddy's 3 is set years after the events of the first game. Crafty businessmen keen to exploit the gory legacy of the infamous Freddy Fazbear's Pizza restaurant have assembled a slapdash haunted house attraction, Fazbear's Fright, using real props and recovered animatronics from the infamous murder restaurant. What could possibly go wrong?

I can't help but wonder if one-man-band developer Scott Cawthon is being a bit cheeky with this setup, commenting on the popular accusation that he's cranking out sequels of his surprise cult hit to cash in. I suppose you can't blame a guy for striking while the iron is hot.

Much like the attraction itself, Five Nights 3 is a grab-bag of recycled parts with some new gimmicks tossed in to liven up the experience. How much fun that is will depend on your tolerance for the now expected (but still embarrassingly terrifying) jump scares, and if you come to the series for its gameplay, or for its world.

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Review: Criminal Girls: Invite Only  photo
Review: Criminal Girls: Invite Only
by Brittany Vincent

We all know the PlayStation Vita is now the de facto home for all things Japanese. Ports, remakes, re-releases, and original content all trickle down similarly to the little handheld that could, and the Vita port of 2010's PSP adventure Criminal Girls is one of the latest to join the fold. The original release picked up a subtitle on its way westward and found place in retail sales as Criminal Girls: Invite Only.

The Vita release is a strange amalgam of role-playing elements and simulated discipline that feels right at home on the handheld. These prisoners have been bad, bad girls, and it's up to you to push them toward the road to redemption. 

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Review: Zombie Army Trilogy photo
Review: Zombie Army Trilogy
by Chris Carter

The Sniper Elite series has been around for quite some time, entertaining fans since 2005 on pretty much every platform known to man. But alongside of the core historical-centric games there has been a lesser known sub-franchise known as Nazi Zombie Army, complete with a demonic Hitler and the same sniper-heavy gameplay of the core franchise.

Rebellion Developments has repackaged the two existing games in a brand new bundle called Zombie Army Trilogy, which also includes a previously unreleased third entry. Confused yet? Don't be, because in essence, they're a collection of horde-mode like encounters with mixed results.

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Review: Crimsonland photo
Review: Crimsonland
by Chris Carter

Last year, a remake of Crimsonland debuted on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4.

For whatever reason, we never got around to reviewing it. Now that it's debuting on the PlayStation 3 just this week (with Cross-Buy for all three platforms), this is the perfect time to fix that.

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Review: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars photo
Review: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars
by Darren Nakamura

A little more than four years ago, Nintendo released Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! on the original DS. It continued the series' focus on the miniature Mario robots, to the chagrin of fans of the platforming in the original. In our review, Jonathan Holmes said "It didn't make me feel much, or think much, or have much of a memorable effect on me at all."

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars plays the same as Mini-Land Mayhem!, but with a few new features. It remains a puzzle game that acts as filler; it can be picked up and played just as easily as it can be put down and forgotten.

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Review: Starwhal photo
Review: Starwhal
by Robert Summa

Even though narwhals look like some sort of bastardized version of a dolphin and unicorn, they are actually whales -- hence the name narWHAL. However, the horn that gives most narwhals their distinctive look is mainly associated with males of the species. Sorry, it's a guy thing.

In Starwhal, that tusk is your key to everything. In the game's chaotic and seemingly random moments, paying close attention to your tusk can be your only sign of refuge.

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Review: Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines photo
Review: Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines
by Josh Tolentino

Like many games of its type, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines features a tiny graphic in its text boxes to remind players they can press a button to advance to the next line. Usually the graphic is of an X or O button pressing itself, but Oreshika's is of a little weasel pushing a button with its nose.

It's animated, and viewed from the side the little weasel can also look just like a person, sitting on their knees Japanese-style, bowing respectfully, over and over. That behavior's almost emblematic of the game's attitude, as it's so eager to let players do what they like (sometimes to their own detriment) that it almost comes off as desperate. 

But hey, they're gonna be dead soon anyway, so perhaps some deference is warranted.

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Review: Helldivers photo
Review: Helldivers
by Conrad Zimmerman

Mankind has expanded throughout the galaxy, having come together under one government, a "managed" democracy. From the Super Earth homeworld, humanity spreads its message of liberation and freedom to every planet they land upon; the liberation of their natural resources and freedom from human opposition, that is.

And if you don't like it, expect them to spread a whole lot of ordinance instead.

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Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode 2 photo
Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode 2
by Chris Carter

I didn't expect to enjoy the first episode of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 as much as I did. It was nice to see Barry and Claire back in action, and the co-op elements were implemented in a neat asynchronous manner. Not to mention the killer Raid Mode that might be the best iteration yet.

The good times keep rolling in Episode 2 with a great atmosphere, more Raid levels, and an compelling-enough narrative.

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Review: Screamride photo
Review: Screamride
by Chris Carter

When I first saw the debut trailer for Screamride, I assumed it was a simulator. Growing up with Sim Theme Park and RollerCoaster Tycoon, I relished the idea of creating and managing my own commercial park and divining new and innovative ways to thrill people.

That's not what Screamride is. Instead, it's more like a series of minigames based on three concepts -- creation, destruction, and riding. You do that over and over, with mixed results.

In the end though, Frontier Developments' formula is a therapeutic way to spend an afternoon, even with its faults.

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