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Simulators

Into the Stars is an intense Space Opera, hits early access July 9

Jul 02 // Alessandro Fillari
Into the Stars (PC, [previewed], Linux, Mac)Developer: Fugitive GamesPublisher: Iceberg InteractiveRelease date: July 9, 2015 on PC (Early Access)Set in the far future where mankind has populated the outer reaches of the known universe, you take on the role of a captain for the last human ship carrying a most precious cargo. After a war with an alien race destroys the last colony of humans, you must lead the remaining survivors and your crew on an exodus through uncharted territory in order to find a new home in Titus Nova, located in the far end of the galaxy. Along the way, you'll recruit new crew members, trade with neutral alien factions, and wage an on-going struggle with the aliens that destroyed your home planet. With the fate of many lives in your hands, you'll have to make many tough decisions in order to secure the future of humanity, while also keeping your one and only ship in working order. The developers weren't shy about sharing their influences for Into the Stars. From Battlestar Galactica, to Firefly, Star Trek, and even Guardians of the Galaxy -- the folks at Fugitive Games wanted a space adventure that emulated the same wonder and awe from classic Space Operas, while injecting a tense and hectic atmosphere that gave players the sense that one wrong move could lead to disaster. Storytelling was an important area of focus for the devs, and while there aren't really any cutscenes or dramatic set-piece moments, the players will be able to create their own captain, crew, and ship parameters (with adjustable stats and areas of focus) from scratch -- giving them freedom in how they play and choose to forge their way across the galaxy.With an entire galaxy map to explore, you'll have to choose wisely where you want to guide your ship, as many different resources are consumed during travel, and dangerous foes might rear their ugly heads. Taking place on over 90 tiles shown on the galactic map, each space represents a sector of the galaxy that can be explored. Players can freely steer their ship within the tile and explore at their own pace. Each tile possess their own unique points of interests, planets, culture, resources, and other sources of intrigue. While some randomness comes into play, the developers wanted to give the entire universe a hand-crafted look and not rely on procedural generation to fill in the blanks. And the results are quite stunning. The visuals within Into the Stars are a feast to behold, and the work from the Unreal Engine 4 shows great promise. From soaring past gas-giants, derelict spacecrafts, to massive floating artifacts from alien cultures, there's much to explore within the galaxy, and it'll take more than one playthrough to witness all the visuals. Though be warned, spending too much time in a certain section of the galaxy will attract the attention of hostile forces that wish to wipe you out.Taking cues from titles like XCOM and FTL, the developers at Fugitive Games wanted to have a strong focus on crew and resource management while gathering resources and keeping ahead of danger. Your ship will need resources and a strong crew to keep flying, and in order to keep both on the up, you'll have to take risks and even make some sacrifices. When you come across planets and installations throughout your travels, you can send probes or Away Teams (a capable team of explorers) down to the point of interest to search for resources and valuables. Though bare in mind, these places can often be dangerous and result in some deaths or harm to your ship if things go south. During one instance, we sent our away team to a remote planet and found many valuable resources with no incidents. Unfortunately, our luck wasn't so great when we went to a derelict human spaceship. An accident occurred which resulted in the deaths of some crew. [embed]295154:59311:0[/embed]As a whole, Into the Stars is a game about taking risks. While some cases may call for the occasional space heroics, most of the time you'll have to play it safe. During planetary examinations, sometimes its better to send probes, which result in a mini-game where you mine materials. Though keep in mind, the lives of your crew and your cargo of human survivors are a valuable resource as well. While traveling in space, you'll come across merchants that may sell goods at the cost of valuable materials vital to the function of your ship. While giving away minerals may be easy, in some cases merchants may request some humans for the trade. It's a pretty grim prospect, and though it may be easy to turn down a request when its first presented to you, you might be in a tight spot and have to entertain the offer. By any means necessary, your ship has to make to Titus Nova, and you may have to make some decisions that could compromise your own captain's humanity.But what would any space opera be without epic ship battles? When you encounter foes that seek to raid your ship, or just want to wipe out what's left of humanity, you'll have to defend the vessel and command your crew in a battle of wits and instinct. Unlike other space-sims, battles take place in quasi-term based format within the confines of the ship. Within the bridge, you have a clear view of the attackers, and you'll have to simultaneously adjust shields, make repairs, and strike against the enemy when the time comes. Initially, I found the battles to be a bit confusing and somewhat dense. It's all in menus, and you have to keep track of different crew attributes and ship parameters to stay one step ahead of your enemies. When making repairs, your view switches over to the engine room as you monitor hull breaches and causalities, all while the enemies are still attacking. While the smaller foes can be easily defeated, facing groups of enemy ships and some of the more massive cruisers can result in somewhat lengthy battles.I was largely impressed with Into the Stars. While we're definitely seeing an influx of space-sims as of late, this title subscribes more to the technical school of thought, rather than the focus on action and explosions. While I admit I got a bit lost during some moments, and had to consult some tutorials, I found Into the Stars to be an incredibly ambitious game that seeks to install a simultaneous sense of dread and awe from players. Not many games can get me feeling nervous while traveling through a lush and colorful galaxy filled with rich cultures and places to explore. If you're looking for something a bit more introspective and technical for your spacefaring needs, then you'll definitely want to keep an eye on Into the Stars.Into the Stars - Early Access [Steam]
Into The Stars photo
Find a crew, find a job, keep flying
The Space Sim genre has been one of the most ambitious and sought after titles from developers and fans alike. Ever since the early days of gaming, there's been a desire to craft a title that allows for exploration across a s...

Take On Mars photo
Take On Mars

Take On Mars gets a new trailer, beta this summer


Another A-Ha subheader probably
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
I've been interested in Take On Mars for a while, but I'm always a little wary of doing the Early Access thing. On the one hand, there's exploring real-life locations on the red planet. On the other, there's playing an unfin...
Planet Coaster photo
Planet Coaster

Elite: Dangerous developer creating theme park simulator 'Planet Coaster'


This isn't set in space...
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
In a strong departure from the space battles of Elite: Dangerous, Frontier announced a theme park simulator tonight at the PC gaming show at E3. The Planet Coaster: Simulation Evolved trailer started with an empty grass lot,...

American Truck Simulator photo
American Truck Simulator

American Truck Simulator used Google Maps


Real roads, fake trucks
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
I've always been fascinated by Euro Truck Simulator, but never jumped in because, pff, who wants to drive in Europe? This is America; we drive on American roads here and we speak American. As it turns out, American Truck Simu...

Review: Fallout Shelter

Jun 15 // Chris Carter
Fallout Shelter (Android, iOS [reviewed])Developer: Bethesda Game StudiosPublisher: Bethesda SoftworksMSRP: Free-to-playRelease Date: June 14, 2015 (iOS) / TBA (Android) The gist is that you'll basically need to build your first vault from scratch, with a power source, a water treatment plant, and a cafeteria to serve food as a baseline. As you play the game, more citizens will line up outside of your vault, ready to suit up and get placed into a new room. As time passes, said NPCs will work and earn you resources, which can be gained by tapping on the location -- simple stuff that I'm sure you've seen before. Other than a few nuances like the ability to place male and female NPCs in a living space and potentially create children or ship off inhabitants to scour the wasteland off-screen, that's it. It's a lot like SimTower, or its mobile successor, Tiny Tower. Tapping is the name of the game. Unlike many games though, Fallout Shelter actually forces you to keep up with your resources. If you don't power your vault enough, rooms will shut down. If you don't keep your NPCs fed, they will lose health and productivity. A low water resource will cause your citizens to become irradiated, and so on. Your personal hamster-wheel involves completing objectives and upgrading rooms to earn caps, which in turn allow you to build more rooms to take in more inhabitants, which unlocks more advanced buildings. It's all pretty straightforward, but sometimes objectives are a bit broken, as you'll need to re-do things you may have already completed (specifically in the case of equipping an NPC with a certain item in my game). The entire process is enhanced by the fact that visually, Fallout Shelter is far more impressive than most resource-management games on the market. I love how when you double-tap on a particular room it does this 3D-like zoom, which looks great when juxtaposed to the cartoony art style of the vault inhabitants.  It's very easy to click on everything, and although the scrolling sensitivity could use some tweaking, the game as a whole is responsive. During its E3 conference last night, Bethesda noted that it didn't have any underhanded sales tactics with Fallout Shelter, as it was playable offline "without energy meters." Now, that's technically true (it works in airplane mode), but you will have to wait to earn more caps from rooms to actually do anything substantial with your vault other than look at it. What's actually cool about Shelter is that you can "hurry up" activities by taking a chance rather than spending premium currency (like every other game on the market) -- the catch is that room might explode or cause an "incident," which may kill off citizens or spread to other rooms. These can involve things like fires, or even radroach infestations. In the latter case, I had just equipped my mess hall officer with a handgun, which she used to fight off said roaches. It's a nice risk-reward feature that you don't see often. For a game like this the pacing is decent, as most early-game resources take one to three minutes to earn. It's slow though for sure in terms of earning caps and building new rooms in the long-term, as Fallout Shelter is an experience that's meant to be played over time -- so much so that many of you may give up on it after all the waiting involved. There are optional microtransactions however in the form of "lunchboxes," which range from $0.99 per box to $19.99 for 40 of them. You'll earn "Shelter Cards" for your trouble, one of which is guaranteed to grant you a rare item "or better." For the purposes of science (and this review) I purchased one, which granted me a stimpack, a 10mm pistol, 100 caps, and a sturdy piece of battle armor. All of these items aren't particularly game-breaking, and you can earn a few lunchboxes yourself by completing objectives. Faster world progress hinges on earning lots of 500 cap boxes on a whim, so I see the obvious slot machine draw here that Bethesda is going for. Fallout Shelter is a pretty inoffensive mobile resource management game. While it could have exploited fans at every turn like EA tried to do with Dungeon Keeper, it's actually a nice little way to spend an afternoon while you wait for Fallout 4 to come out in November. Just don't expect anything particularly exciting, as it is slightly skewed towards enticing you to spend money on it -- lest you wait to enjoy it in short spurts. [This review is based on a retail build of the free-to-play game. $0.99 of in-app-purchases were made by the reviewer.]
Fallout Shelter review photo
Free-to-tunnel-snake
Last night at Bethesda's press conference, we got our first surprise of E3 2015: a brand new mobile game set in the Fallout universe called Fallout Shelter. It looked innocent enough, hearkening back to classics like XCOM as ...

Fallout Shelter photo
Fallout Shelter

Be an overseer of a vault in Fallout Shelter for mobile devices


Available on App Store tonight
Jun 14
// Darren Nakamura
[Update: Bethesda's Pete Hines mentioned on his Twitter that "we will have info later about [an] Android version."] At Bethesda's E3 press conference, the big draw was Fallout 4, but nestled in the middle of the Fallout prese...
Diluvion Kickstarter photo
Diluvion Kickstarter

Manage an ornate submarine in the open world of Diluvion


2D and 3D gameplay
Jun 10
// Darren Nakamura
Sure, big name Kickstarters like Bloodstained and Yooka-Laylee are in the spotlight right now with their campaigns winding down having made millions of dollars. But don't forget that there are others out there looking for th...
Yandere Simulator photo
Yandere Simulator

Yandere Simulator lets you poison Japanese schoolgirls


Hey, I didn't use that much poi...
Jun 05
// Steven Hansen
We should talk more about Yandere Simulator, which we last covered when YouTube had a fit about its upskirt creep shots (an optional mechanic for gaining favors) and pulled development videos for sexual content. The Hitman-l...
Play this game photo
Play this game

Hot Date is a MERCILESS pug speed dating sim


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

Harvest Moon comes to Wii U, PC with Seeds of Memories


First time
Jun 02
// Steven Hansen
The Harvest Moon series is coming to Wii U and PC for the first time with the upcoming Seeds of Memories, developer Natsume announced today. Seeds of Memories draws from the almost 20 years old original, "to evoke the feeling...
Cat simulator photo
Cat simulator

Naughty cat sim Catlateral Damage now on Steam


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

Tunnel snakes rule! Cities: Skylines update adds tunnels and more


Euro-centric maps and buildings
May 19
// Steven Hansen
The excellent city-builder Cities: Skylines is going subterranean with its first big update. The expansion includes: Three new European Themed Maps Over 50 European style buildings for the new European map themes Wall-to-wal...
Cat Lart, Mall Cop photo
Cat Lart, Mall Cop

Asshole cat simulator Catlateral Damage out next week


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

I've never seen anything like Carpe Fulgur's new project


This Starry Midnight We Make
May 07
// Jordan Devore
Carpe Fulgur introduced Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale to hundreds of thousands of players in the West and, last we had heard, was helping XSEED Games localize The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter. Now the ...

Review: Kerbal Space Program

May 05 // Jordan Devore
Kerbal Space Program (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: SquadPublisher: SquadReleased: April 27, 2014 (version 1.0)MSRP: $39.99 This is a game built to last. There are people out there spending hundreds of hours playing, learning, and teaching Kerbal Space Program and I'm not talking about some miniscule group of superfans. It's the kind of game that, whether you like it or not, comes creeping into your mind when you're supposed to be off doing literally anything else. It's contagious. There are a lot of deep, dense systems at play, and getting a handle on even the basics (knowing apoapsis from periapsis, prograde from retrograde) necessitates a commitment to learning real-world science and game mechanics before it "gets fun." I mean, sure, cobbling together a rocket, to use that word loosely, is enjoyable. At first. But then I came to realize what was possible in this sandbox and grew restless, forever in search of the next self-set milestone. However much effort you put into Kerbal, you'll get exponentially more back. Early on, you're met with one humbling experience after another. I went into the tutorials all bright-eyed and cheerful before the overwhelming reality of physics (my most dreaded subject in high school) came crashing down on me. The game's cartoon alien astronauts, the Kerbals, are a welcome sight. Their oddball expressions and mannerisms help warm up what would otherwise be a cold, calculated simulation. Not long into a training mission, one of them told me the job at hand "should be pretty easy even if you're not a famous rocket scientist like myself." Not a moment later, there I was, licking my wounds and wondering why that Kerbal had turned my home office into a house of lies. I'm not sure I've ever failed a videogame tutorial multiple times before. This is confidence-shattering stuff. My first hour or so is a blur by now, but I took notes along the way. "Intimidating homework," I summarized. Reading instructions, re-reading them, trying to do what they describe, failing, then repeating the process and inching slightly closer to success -- this is how it goes. Until, suddenly, it clicks. Bliss. [embed]291550:58433:0[/embed] The first time my rocket lifted off correctly, I cracked a smile and laughed with astonishment. It was joyous. Incredible. Then the thing started spinning out of control and the Kerbals trapped inside were doomed. I knew it, but did they? Those poor, brave, totally naive little green men. Upon failing the lesson, my instructor said he wasn't expecting disaster to strike. Personally, I had been counting the seconds. It gets better, though. You, the player, get better. On Twitter, I was told to seek out community-made guides and I'll echo that advice. The in-game tutorials aren't nearly as clear or hands-on as I would've liked, and a lack of grammatical polish didn't make using them any easier. Walkthroughs and wikis might as well be mandatory. There are folks out there like Scott Manley who are producing exceptional videos, and I'd be so lost without them. The simple act of watching someone else solve a problem -- escaping the atmosphere without burning an obscene amount of fuel, matching a distant vessel's orbit, saving a Kerbal lost in space (sorry!) -- can be enough to give you that edge. Thankfully, constructing rockets is simple. You drag individual components onto a 3D stage and snap them together. It's not quite building with LEGO bricks, but given the game's complicated subject matter, it is surprisingly close. Which parts you select for your ship and in what order, however, can be overwhelming. That's more of a problem in Sandbox mode, where you're given total freedom with a vast list of similar-looking pieces, than in Career mode, where new technology trickles in as you grow your space program from the ground up. Another surprise: the controls are, relative to learning astrodynamics, not too tough to figure out. The user interface is initially confusing, what with all of the gauges and that intimidating navigation ball to monitor, but Kerbal Space Program makes smart use of the keyboard. Cobbling together a bunch of ships and finally getting one of them to orbit the Earth-esque planet Kerbin for the first time is an awesome feeling. As in, awe-inspiring. It's a big milestone -- one I won't soon forget -- but there are countless more to tackle. You can switch to a map of space to track your vessel's trajectory and set up maneuvers to reach, say, the Mun (moon), or an asteroid, or make the journey back home. Actually, you can do whatever you want -- this is an open-ended game, after all -- but maybe don't sprint before you can crawl. For me, there is such a thing as too little structure in games, and for that reason I found myself switching back and forth between Kerbal's Sandbox and Career modes. The latter has a tech tree and jobs for you to take on. Newcomers will find its scope far more comfortable. As you gain science points by conducting research in the field and transmitting the data to your base (or physically bringing it and your spacecraft back safely to Kerbin's surface), you'll unlock access to more advanced gear. As you complete jobs -- testing specific parts at certain speeds and altitudes, or taking tourists on a ride without killing them, for example -- you'll get funds to upgrade your space program. A third mode, Science, rests in between Sandbox and Career. You'll still have to earn new parts by collecting science points, but, unlike Career mode, you won't need to worry about your space program's money or reputation woes. There are also several standalone scenarios, some of which were created in collaboration with NASA (get this game into schools!), that bypass the whole planning and building process and put you straight into an active mission. They're a great worry-free practice environment. Outside of those core modes, there are numerous mods to tinker with. The game has attracted a passionate, talented, dedicated community of players and creators. Even if the developers at Squad stop supporting Kerbal Space Program with new content and polish updates, I'm convinced this game will still be relevant a decade from now. My main fear of simulation titles is that I'll get bored. But, come to think of it, not once was I bored with Kerbal Space Program. I may have felt confused, and irritated, and hopeless at times, but those setbacks were fleeting. My desire to improve remains steadfast. Even the smallest accomplishments feel like massive victories, and once you experience that euphoria, you won't want to quit. Watch your ambition soar. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Kerbal Space Program photo
Science doesn't screw around
I might have never touched Kerbal Space Program had it not been offered as a review assignment. What a tremendous shame that would've been. From a comfortable distance, I had seen enough of this hardcore rocket-building and ...

Goat Simulator DLC photo
Goat Simulator DLC

GoatZ DLC brings fire-breathing zombie elephants to Goat Simulator


Also includes boring human zombies
May 05
// Alissa McAloon
Zombies are coming to Goat Simulator and absolutely no one is surprised. The zombie-filled GoatZ expansion calls itself "the only survival game on Steam that isn’t in Early Access," which is only a little untrue. ...

Review: Tropico 5

May 05 // Robert Summa
Tropico 5 (Mac, PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Xbox 360) Developer: Kalypso MediaPublisher: Kalypso MediaReleased: April 28, 2015 (PS4)MSRP: $59.99 Tropico 5 is a learning experience. How you choose to learn is completely up to you. There is a mission and campaign mode that will certainly steer you in the right direction, but that didn't appeal to me and I suspect most will want to do more than that as well. As a Civ junkie, I don't like to be limited with my creations -- in that, when a specific mission ends, so does your island. For me, sandbox mode is where I spent most of my time and where I would imagine most players will. Sandbox is the true meat and substance within Tropico 5. Not only can you set your win conditions, but you can choose between multiple economic and political difficulty levels, starting era, the money initially available (unlimited is also an option) and the number of citizens that start on your island. But probably even more critical to your island's success is the land itself. While you will have plenty of pre-made islands to choose from, there is also a map generator that offers endless combinations of whatever creation you want -- for example, you can choose between different sized-islands and the amount of resources available. Even if you skip much of the campaign, you will still be able to learn as you go. Within the game itself is a sort of quest function where specific tasks will need to be completed. Whether it be to build a library or extra military buildings, the game does an excellent job of teaching while doing. For someone like me who hates to read directions or endless strategy guides (preferring to figure stuff out on my own), this is a perfect implementation. But it's not just the quests that will guide you. The detailed faction and happiness statistics will help you be the leader you want to be. There are various factions all vying for greatness and it's your job as leader to finely balance what you want for your island and what your people actually want and need. To help you lead, there is a dynasty system where you can name and set specific management roles to created characters that will give bonuses to buildings based on their specific abilities -- there are generic managers, but you can't level those up like you can dynasty members. For example, you can have a celebrity manager that is best suited for hotels or you can have a magnate who works well with oil and mining buildings. These dynasty members are part of El Presidente's extended family and can benefit you greatly within the game. Ignoring them or their abilities will only make your leadership that much more challenging. Of course, it's not just your island you have to worry about. Tropico 5 is also a nation builder. Within it, you'll have to juggle the trade of exports and imports and appeasing the Russians while at the same time not pissing off the Americans. As time moves on from the Colonial Era to the Modern Era, you will have even more nations and scenarios to deal with. There are many situations in your virtual island experience that feel like they mirror how a real nation and leader needs to function. Tropico 5 is a constant balancing act and a game filled with trial and error. You should be warned, if you find yourself to be a Civ addict, then you will quickly find that Tropico 5 offers the same kind of grab. Hours melt away. As you complete one task, something else comes up that you feel drastically needs your attention. The amount of management, while it can seem overwhelming, is really the draw and appeal of the game. There is a multiplayer component, but really, unless you want to build an island with a friend or desperately want to compete against others, you probably aren't going to bother. It works, so that's all most players can really ask for when it comes to multiplayer within nation builders. The game is not without its minor faults or seemingly-impossible challenges. While I do keep the pace of time in its most forward position, it never felt like I could appease or completely stop rebel attacks or uprisings. These occur when citizens are unhappy or you have specific constitution options active, but no matter what, I found myself dealing with this constant nuisance. Also, there were occasional save issues. In fairness, I played the majority of my time with Spotify running in the background, so whether or not that sometimes caused games not to be saved, I don't know. It doesn't happen often, but it can be devastating if you're not paying attention and haven't saved in a while. Even though there were no real issues with the controls themselves, perfectly placing roads can take some getting used to, but it doesn't strongly detract from the game. While Tropico 5 isn't the game-of-the-year masterpiece of a generation, it's a more-than serviceable sim and strategy title that can satisfy a grossly under-served genre within the console community. If you love SimCity and Civilization and are dying for something similar on your PS4, then there really is no reason not to have and enjoy this game to its fullest extent. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Tropico 5 review photo
It's good to be the king
City and civilization games on consoles are a rare thing. I'm not exactly sure why that is, but my guess would be that traditionally, these games only enjoy their moderate success on PC. Whether it be the limitations of conso...

Review: Chroma Squad

May 04 // Josh Tolentino
Chroma Squad (PC) Developer: Behold StudiosPublisher: Behold StudiosReleased: April 30, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Not that they really needed to, of course. Such a "feature" would interfere with play, and there's plenty of service in the game as it is for fans. The play, in this case, is of the turn-based tactical variety, as if Behold took XCOM and ran it through the parodic, pixelated filters of Knights of Pen and Paper.  Like the former, players will manage a small squad of combatants, with unique classes and abilities, running them up against groups of goons and the occasional boss, one turn at a time. Like the latter, every mechanic serves as a distillation of tokusatsu's essence through heavy referencing and a clear, almost palpable appreciation of the source material. The premise alone is ripe enough with potential that it's baffling more games haven't taken advantage: Players manage a fledgling production studio, with each mission treated as an "episode" of an upstart spandex superhero show. Names, casting, and even catchphrases are up for customization, as well as the requisite selection of bright primary colors to outfit the roster with. If players want to commit sentai sacrilege and name a non-red-colored character the "Lead," no one can stop them but their inevitable guilt (guilt, I say!). Cast members can also be selected from a pool of actor candidates, each with their own special qualities.  [embed]291251:58411:0[/embed] When the cameras start rolling and the minions exit wardrobe, the fight is on. The goal of any given mission is to amass as much "audience" as possible, by performing flashy attacks, fancy stunts, and of course, winning the fight. Additionally, optional "Director's Instructions" add extra conditions, such as finishing off boss monsters with a screen-filling finishing move, or not killing off the boss before dispatching the cannon-fodder minions. Such extra goals help introduce variety to the combat, which is more simplistic than one might find in XCOM or other dedicated tactical titles. Enemies follow simple patterns and lack much in the way of extra abilities, so most of the tactics devolve to crowd and ability cooldown management rather than more elegant stratagems. Chroma Squad's main mechanical wrinkle comes in the form of "Teamwork," which allows squad members to leapfrog over each other to boost their movement range, or carry out simultaneous attacks with adjacent teammates. This, alongside somewhat simplistic giant-mecha boss battles, give the game enough of a unique flavor to override its otherwise thin tactical substance.  Following the mission, gained audience is converted into "fans," and also into increased studio funding, the better to buy one's way out of Papier-mâché costumes and into some real spandex duds. Behind the scenes, the studio itself can be outfitted with various upgrades that improve performance in each episode. Buying health care for the actors improves their health in combat, and improving the lighting on set reduces enemies' chance to dodge or counter blows. Materials dropped in combat can also be used to craft customized gear with semi-random statistics, a useful (and cheap) alternative to costly store-bought costumes and weapons. Fan mail can be answered for flavor and smaller benefits, and players can even choose marketing agencies to confer more benefits. Going with a niche-market enthusiast firm might increase the amount of fans gained after an episode, but will likely lack the mass-audience-gathering benefits of a more mainstream advertising push. Tradeoffs like that characterize much of Chroma Squad's meta-game. Speaking of meta-things, the game's narrative and missions regularly break the fourth wall, and form one of the game's potentially divisive aspects. While the self-aware script and obvious understanding of tokusatsu's many conventions and tropes lend it an endearing level of charm, some players might be turned off by references to dated Internet memes and other metahumor. Personally, I found the story hit quite a bit more than it missed, but I will admit that at times the dialog read more like a forum chat log than a script, and wasn't always helped by rough spots in the localization and editing. Then again, it's not like tokusatsu attracts its fans for complex plotting and characterization, so it may balance out in the end for players in the right mindset. What isn't as easy to let by are some unfortunate, if minor, technical and design blemishes on Chroma Squad's pristine pixelation. Mission scripts would occasionally freeze in "cutscene" mode, forcing me to start the mission over. A nasty little bug accidentally equipped low-level equipment on my giant robot, making some late-game boss battles much more tense than I'd have liked them to be. One bug even gave me control of an enemy unit rather than my own squad members for a few turns! Thankfully, dev posts on the forums appear to indicate that Behold is aware of most of the bugs I encountered, and a patch is in the works at the time of this writing. Beyond that, the lack of a mid-mission checkpoint or save, or a mission-select option is inconvenient for players wanting to explore the game's branching story paths (especially for those curious to see what Behold has to say about Kamen Rider). That said, the team has stated a New Game+ option may yet be in the cards for a future update, so repeated playthroughs may become more appealing in the future. Zordon may have wanted "teens with attitude," but Chroma Squad and its unabashed, utterly geeky love-in for all things tokusatsu shows something even harder to find: A game with heart and soul. That heart shines through the rough edges, and in some ways even turns them to its advantage. It might have taken quite a while in getting here, but fans of spandex-clad superheroic finally have the videogame to help them fill that little fantasy. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Chroma Squad review photo
Lights, Camera, Henshin!
Ever since a badly-dubbed lady popped out of a dumpster on the moon, sending a weird computer-man to seek "teenagers with attitude," geeks of a certain age have been on the lookout for a game that can capture the essence of w...

Go to bread photo
Go to bread

May 4 brings space battles to I am Bread, but the spaceships am bread


Go to bread
May 04
// Steven Hansen
I am Bread hams a good egg, if you know what I mean. I expect maybe one person to follow my pinballing free association, but I was hanging out with mio cugino da Roma yesterday, and there's your one hint. Anyways, in the spi...
Project CARS photo
Project CARS

Here is your Project CARS full car listing


Jay Leno says hi
Apr 30
// Robert Summa
The upcoming racing sim Project CARS has been on the radar for many of those who live and breathe the genre. Slated for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on May 8, here is the full car list that we know about so far (65 of which will come with the standard edition).
Tropico 5 photo
Tropico 5

Tropico 5 is like crack for your PS4


Multiplayer impressions coming soon
Apr 27
// Robert Summa
I'm a sucker for city-building and Civ-like games. Since the very early days of SimCity and SimTower, I've poured countless hours into building my virtual communities and empires. With Tropico 5 now ported over to the PlaySta...
Kerbal Space Program photo
Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program launching on April 27


I'm proud such a dry title is also a pun
Apr 21
// Joe Parlock
Squad has announced Kerbal Space Program is finally hitting 1.0 and leaving Early Access in a week's time. Mark the date on your calendars, space aficionados and sadistic Kerbal killers: April 27 will see the game finall...
I am Bread photo
I am Bread

I am Bread's latest trailer exceeds all expectations


It's just a slice
Apr 09
// Brett Makedonski
Bossa Studios is realistic with what people will expect from a simulator about being a slice of bread. The developer goes so far as to dedicate the first few seconds of this trailer to what that game might look like. Turns o...
No Pineapple Left Behind photo
No Pineapple Left Behind

Pineapples are our future in No Pineapple Left Behind


'Children are complicated'
Apr 09
// Darren Nakamura
School, right? We've all been there. One day you're studying for tests and gossiping with friends, the next day you and the entire student population of your school have been turned into pineapples. I hate it when that happe...

Review: Story of Seasons

Mar 31 // Brittany Vincent
Story of Seasons (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: MarvelousPublisher: XSEED GamesReleased: March 31, 2015MSRP: $39.99 The alternative moniker isn’t indicative of a “reboot” of the games or anything like that, however. It simply represents the fact that the Harvest Moon name has changed hands from previous publisher Natsume to XSEED Games. Developer Marvelous has crafted a game that’s much more deserving of the title than Natsume’s recent effort Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, and fans have something meaty and entertaining to look forward to within. But first, a bit of a history lesson. Harvest Moon's life began on the Super Nintendo, where it was known as Bokujō Monogatari, which roughly translates to "Farm Story." It was a novelty then as it is now: a game where you spend your days taking care of cows and harvesting crops as the seasons gently roll through spring, summer, fall, and winter. The goal, ultimately, is to build a house, woo a girl (it was always a girl in the early days), and settle down into a peaceful, pastoral existence.  [embed]289757:57980:0[/embed] Story of Seasons is an interesting amalgamation of what made these games exciting upon their descent into western culture interesting back when I was younger and continues to make them addictive in a modern setting. As it happens, there’s also an astronomical amount of things to do. This has to be the biggest, most sprawling farm sim game related to Harvest Moon I’ve seen so far, in terms of both management aspects and activities to perform. Harvest Moon: A New Beginning is similar in many ways, but it seems Story of Seasons has expanded on it significantly.  Luckily the beginning of the game isn’t so complicated, only offering you the chance to figure out who you want to use as your avatar throughout your adventure. It’s good to begin with something you can manage that’s as simple as deciding who you want to be. You can choose to play as a male or female farmer, both tasked with heading to the sleepy Oak Tree Town, in dire need of a skilled farmer to care for one of the town’s sprawling ranches. You’re neither skilled nor a farmer when you start out, but that’s what makes Story of Seasons so exciting: throwing caution to the wind and heading out to pursue a new profession in an unknown place to help a town in need. There are plenty of other farmers in town to help show you the ropes and ensure you know all there is to know before you plant your first seeds. Together, all four of you can hopefully restore Oak Tree Town’s Trade depot back to its former glory, with the right amount of crops and care. There’s a long road ahead of you, though, and a ridiculous amount of training required before you can even set foot in your own farm. It’s off to Eda, longtime resident of Oak Tree town, to act as your mentor as she prepares you to plant, water, and harvest crops, raise farm animals, how to use and upgrade tools used around the farm, and important information like your Health and Stamina. It’s a wealth of information that can feel like a slog to get through at first, and can feel overwhelming at first. This is absolutely not a fast-moving game. You’ll need some patience to take in all of the little things that you’ll find truly add up by the end of your farming internship, but sticking to it feels extremely rewarding. That’s where Story of Seasons tends to differ from Natsume’s “traditional” Harvest Moon games the most. Rather than arriving at a farm and getting started immediately, you’re given extensive training before allowed to set foot in a farm that’s in any way yours. Even your starter area is adjacent to Eda’s, as if the folks at Marvelous don’t quite trust you with your own area yet, supplanting new features and other additions as you go along. Unlike similar titles in the past, you’ve got more to worry about than if you watered your crops for the day or if your character is looking a bit haggard while tending to crops out in the rain. Your character’s Health and Stamina play central roles in keeping your farm efficient and productive, and there are plenty of ways to satisfy both requirements beyond simply going to bed. For instance, you can eat a small meal, head to a hot spring, or rest in order to ensure your health is restored, but losing it is another deal entirely. This time around even if you do something as small as walk outside during a torrential downpour, you’ll see your health drop, just as you would if you decided to stay up late in-game. In this, it lends a more realistic lilt to farming life. Along with the stamina points, represented by the number of hearts your farmer has on-screen, it communicates the message that farmers are still fragile, often weary human beings who need time and training to work themselves to the bone and keep themselves healthy. Luckily, the two difficulty modes (Normal and Seedling) offer options for players looking to keep things light. Seedling Mode finds stamina consumption levels lowered by 50%, which makes for a completely different experience when starting out, as do the positive multipliers on store items, prices, stock, and more. New players may consider Seedling Mode as a viable option when becoming acquainted with Story of Seasons, as there are alterations between that and Normal Mode that are indeed a boon for newbies looking to get started quickly and with fewer frustrations. Speaking of making things easier, farming feels much more convenient than before. You can work with a 3x3 area when working with watering, planting, and the like, and you can hold down your action button while walking to continue with what you’re doing. If you want to water crops you can keep walking around. If you’re planting seeds, your character will scatter them in the air. It all feels quite intuitive. Controls work with you rather than against you. The only way you might falter is if you find yourself struggling with the in-game tasks constantly thrown at you, and the multitude of extra assignments available to take on. Managing your farm becomes simpler the more you learn about doing it, but there are still several things to keep track of, including your farm house, animals, the crops you’re tending to, and special sheds that can be used to convert raw materials like dairy products and the like into useable food items like cheese or yogurt. You can make clothing, pottery, seasonings, engineer seeds and crops, and more at the Maker Sheds, all of which are extremely important when your farm is up and running proper. There’s a large variety of crops to keep up with as well, including special Super Mario Bros. crops like Super Mushrooms and Fire Flowers. These are interesting, cheeky additions that feel right at home on the 3DS, and when you harvest Super Stars to ensure the crops you have remain fresh. Aside from working on the farm, there are multiple interactions you’ll have with villagers and other NPCs. Some of these can lead to special relationships that can end in marriage and children, and others will give you gifts, interact with you, and befriend you as you make your way as a farmer in Oak Tree Town. These help keep things light, but also act as reprieves from the toil of day-to-day proceedings of planting seeds, harvesting crops, exporting goods for sale, and ensuring your farm remains profitable. Much like real life, offering a chance to interact with others, build relationships, and participate in events and activities beyond that of simple hard work provides several benefits. You’ll find as a player that you’ll appreciate these personable interactions as much as the satisfaction of cultivating a successful farm. Story of Seasons looks fantastic, feels great, and offers an overabundance of things to do and places to see. It’s a farmer’s paradise, though its almost excruciatingly slow tutorial and internship will take a large amount of patience to get through if you’re to see all the game has to offer, and there is a lot. Expect to clear your calendar for this excellent portable farming sim, as you’ll be spending several hours turning a profit to impress the townsfolk of Oak Tree Town, your future husband or wife, or even your friends playing alongside you.
Story of Seasons  photo
For every sim, there is a season
As a fan of both casual and intermediate simulation and farming games, the Harvest Moon series has always been a mainstay for me. I grew up on several different iterations of the Natsume-published entries beginning with Harve...

RollerCoaster Tycoon photo
RollerCoaster Tycoon

Devs explain why the RollerCoaster Tycoon World trailer looked like ass


Fool me once ...
Mar 20
// Robert Summa
In case you missed it, we recently got a glimpse of the new RollerCoaster Tycoon installment and oh boy did it look like complete dog shit. Granted, graphics aren't the biggest expectation when it comes to a game like this, ...
Goat Sim on Xbox photo
Goat Sim on Xbox

Lick the world: Goat Simulator releases for Xbox One and Xbox 360 in April


Better tell the teens about this
Mar 13
// Jordan Devore
Oh, right, Goat Simulator is coming to Xbox One and Xbox 360. That's happening in April. This short new trailer says as much, but there's another reason to watch: a real goat stands on an Xbox One. It tickles me knowing they...
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...
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...
Deals photo
Deals

Next week's Cities: Skylines pre-order deals up to 27% off


The citybuilder you're looking for?
Mar 06
// Dealzon
Next week's release of Cities: Skylines has a pre-order discount right now making it cheaper than 2013's SimCity at MSRP. The new city-builder game from Colossal Order starts at $29.99 and can be pre-order for ...

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