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4:00 PM on 12.19.2014

Review: Kalimba

Games built around co-op have always had a place in my life. When I was younger, I had a lot of friends who were gamers, which made it easy to pick up and play multiplayer titles. As I grew up, I attended college, met more ga...

Chris Carter


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Nominees for Destructoid's Best Game Mechanics of 2014 photo
Nominees for Destructoid's Best Game Mechanics of 2014
by Brittany Vincent

[Image credit: Mike Lambert]

You can have the greatest narrative in the world and sprinkle memorable characters and scenes throughout a game, but all of it's for naught if your mechanics can't shine through. As the great Irving Mills once wrote, "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing."

These nominees spotlight the best of games that transcend the simple title of "functional" and instead go for the gold when it comes to making things feel absolutely solid. Pulling off combos is akin to wrapping yourself up in a silk robe. You never have to fight these games in order to complete objectives. They're all titles you'd be playing over and over even if the other aspects were lacking. They simply feel right. We all know I'm talking about Bayonetta 2, but here's a list of other games, I guess. 

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GOTY 2014: Best interpretive representation of Jeff Goldblum photo
GOTY 2014: Best interpretive representation of Jeff Goldblum
by Steven Hansen

Someone once told me I talk like Jeff Goldblum. This is not true. I also don't look like Charlie Day, Peter Frampton, Bret McKenzie, Michael Sheen, or Dikembe Mutombo. But at least I appreciated the former (tip: don't tell people who they look like; it is confusing and uncanny at best, offensive at worst). If I could channel a fraction of Goldblum's swarthy, gangly, aloof sex appeal or ability to vomit stomach acid onto his food while his shedding, greasy hair starts to look like a perm, my life would definitely be better. Especially if I had the vomit thing. 

And so it is that the third Steven Hansen's Destructoid's GOTY 2014 award is for the Best interpretive representation of Jeff Goldblum. If you missed them, here are the awards for illiteracy (Best willful misspelling in a title) and Best musical.  

Because I am being sneaky/horny and using a shirtless Goldblum to adorn this post rather than art from the winner, now it feels like I have the element of surprise on my side and I'm pussyfooting around giving the award. Juking left, juking right. Will there be a world-shattering upset? I can feel you tittering with suspense as if you were hanging on Jeff Goldblum's every word and "Look," hand gestures. 

Without further stalling, I hereby award Transistor the Steven Hansen's Destructoid's GOTY 2014 award for Best interpretive representation of Jeff Goldblum! Supergiant's sophomore effort is almost cool to a fault. It is aloof, but with a sumptuous, angular aesthetic that mirror's Goldblum's icy-hot mystery. 

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Predicting the next Telltale Games series photo
Predicting the next Telltale Games series
by Kyle MacGregor

The people at Telltale Games are wizards. There's no other explanation. They have an uncanny ability to coax money men into handing over the keys to some of the most valuable properties in the entertainment business. Then they seemingly have carte blanche to toy with things people hold dear, churning out officially sanctioned fan fiction right and left like there's no tomorrow.

They did it to Back to the Future. And Law & OrderNow they're doing it to MinecraftMinecraft!

Sometimes it turns out great. Other times Jurassic Park happens. It's wonderful. It's awful. It's everything that's right and wrong in the world. And it's going to happen again. And again...

I'm curious, though. What will they do next? Let's explore the possibilities. Let's find out.

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Toys
Toys"R"Us canceling Lucario amiibo orders
by Chris Carter

[Update: Toys"R"Us put pre-orders back up momentarily this morning, and I expect them to either be faulty or drop very soon. Try to re-pre-order if you want at your own risk!]

[Update 2: Now the retailer has taken off the listing entirely -- there's not even a "sold out" page. What a circus.]

The day the Lucario amiibo went on sale, I pre-ordered it. As in, weeks ago. Now Toys"R"Us is canceling orders, including mine. For reference, Lucario is exclusive to Toys"R"Us and you can't get it anywhere else. Huh?

I'm not alone it seems, as our own Brittany Vincent and Bill Platt have had their orders canceled too, as well as a number of readers out there who reached out last night. We are following up with both Nintendo and Toys"R"Us to see what the deal is. It's entirely possible that the latter wants people running into the store at the release date and buying add-on items. That's retail for you.

Between this, the holy trinity, and Rosalina pre-orders selling out in 30 minutes in the dead of night, this has become a total shitshow by Nintendo and the retailers involved, which chose to do exclusive amiibo in the first place. Why is it that Activision and Disney were able to sell millions of dollars worth of Skylanders and Disney Infinity toys near launch without a hitch?

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Nominees for Destructoid's Best Narrative Design of 2014 photo
Nominees for Destructoid's Best Narrative Design of 2014
by Brett Makedonski

[Image credit: Mike Lambert]

It's impossible to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes for great narrative design. It's just something you know when you see. It's more than an outstanding story (although, that's certainly a requisite). It's the melding of game mechanics with narrative to create an experience that's elevated beyond those two parts individually.

But, the thing is, there's no formula to ensure it'll work in perfect harmony. All too often, games that excel at telling a story fall somewhat flat with gameplay, or vice versa. It takes a special title to work hand-in-hand with itself to create that seamless whole.

When that happens, it's a wondrous feeling. We're left with the games that can keep us on the edge of our seat in delight, or slouched as deep in the couch as possible, gutted with despair. We're left with the games that we can't stop playing, or that we can't stop thinking about when we're not playing. We're left with the titles that cement the idea that videogames are a transcendent medium.

These are Destructoid's nominees for Best Narrative Design of 2014.

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Evolve offers a refreshingly robust and devious co-op experience photo
Evolve offers a refreshingly robust and devious co-op experience
by Alessandro Fillari

There's been a lot of buzz surrounding Evolve, the new co-op shooter from Turtle Rock Studios. Helmed by the same developers of the original Left 4 Dead, fans have certainly been chomping at the bit for more information. After a successful closed alpha, the developers took a lot of notes on how players experienced the game to make a better title.

Set on the colonized planet Shear, players take on the roles of hunters seeking to eliminate powerful alien creatures that are attacking the human colonists. If that sounds a little boring, then players can inversely control the malevolent beasts to wipe out the human invaders to reclaim the planet. Though it's often seen as a mash-up between Monster Hunter and Left 4 Dead, which is a totally fair and accurate description, Evolve certainly has unique traits of its own.

At a special press event, we got the chance to get some hands on time the game, while learning more about some of its additions.

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GOTY 2014: Best musical photo
GOTY 2014: Best musical
by Steven Hansen

What a dismal showing this year. Last year had Frozen, which tailed into this year, world without end, amen, with a long icy tail like Halley's comet. When are we going to have the "Let it Go" of videogames? We'll never have made it as an artform until games can produce a number with such virality and ubiquity that I start to wonder, "Wouldn't my life be better without a son," and "Remember the end of Ichi the Killer, with the sewing needles? That movie had some good ideas." 

Here are some of the so-called "big musicals" of 2014 that failed to register a single musical number: Alien: Isolation. Dragon Age: Inquisition. The trailer for the new Star Wars film. Bayonetta 2. Dark Souls II. Embarrassing. 

While no one put their bach into it to interrupt all sense of tone and pacing with a barrage of gaudy sung intermissions, I hereby award Kentucky Route Zero Steven Hansen's Destructoid's GOTY 2014 for Best musical, namely for its one stirring musical number in Act 3. This is quality over quantity folks. Kentucky Route Zero's first two parts are enough to make it one of the best games of last year, and the lone Act 3 enough to make it one of this year's best--and the best musical. 

First, the number pop ups organically, at a place you might expect song singing to happen, rather than in a prison or a dementia care home or the post office or just generally a place where you might not expect synchronized singing of thoughts and emotions by patrons. Oh, also a hair enhancement clinic. That's another one where a musical number feels out of place. Anyways, the sensibility of the time and place clashes beautifully with the levels of mediation inherent to the genre and toyed with in the mechanics. Just play the damn thing, the whole of it. 

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Nominees for Destructoid's Best Multiplayer Design of 2014 photo
Nominees for Destructoid's Best Multiplayer Design of 2014
by Chris Carter

[Image credit: Mike Lambert]

Friends can make any game worth playing. Growing up, couch play was a staple in my household. I would often have videogame themed birthday parties, inviting all of my buddies over to have fighting game tournaments and, one time, a Tenchu II level editor challenge.

While a great single-player game can always elicit strong emotional reactions within oneself, a great multiplayer game lets you share those emotions with your loved ones. These are the games that made us feel special this year. The ones that had an impact on our lives as we gamed into the late night hours with the best of company.

These nominees have mechanics specifically designed to facilitate engaging interactions with others, which inherently differs from the design choices found in solo experiences.

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GOTY 2014: Best willful misspelling in a title  photo
GOTY 2014: Best willful misspelling in a title
by Steven Hansen

Might be your taste makers on this webpage made a Huge™ boner and left Samurai Gunn out of its 2014 game of the year plans. Because of its mid-December 2013 release, it was left out last year, too, and should have had 2014 eligibility. And there certainly isn't a multiplayer game I've had more fun with over the course of the year than the only game trying to carry Bushido Blade's torch. 

And there ain't a game that makes better use of a superfluous double consonant neither, so I am hereby awarding Samurai Gunn the Steven Hansen's Destructoid's 2014 GOTY award for Best willful misspelling in a title.  

Like a real gun or a decorative katana beneath your anime tits wall scroll, the second 'n' just makes you look cooler. This is how you name a game folks (incidentally, this is how you don't name a game, for the love of my Rouroni Kenshin reverse blade replica katana).

Do you see a lazy, '90s raditude 'z' slapped on the end there? Oh hell no. You may get three bullets per life, but there ain't no god damn, highfalutin pluralization nonsense happening here on the part of developer Teknopants. No. They doubled downn. That shows grit. Character. "You pronounce every god damnn letter," it screams. And you have to, or else you're pronouncing it wrong, like when you pronounce anno (year) as ano (anus). This isn't Samurai Ass. It's Samurai Gunn. Though I wouldn't mind seeing the former. Hit me up. 

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A game like X-Files and True Detective? Just don't go Normcore photo
A game like X-Files and True Detective? Just don't go Normcore
by Jonathan Holmes

Oh no! It's the end of our three part interview with Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, creators of Maniac Mansion and the masterminds behind Thimbleweed Park, a game that has currently raised over $500K on Kickstarter. We didn't learn that David Fox, the creator of Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, was on the team until after this interview was over. Otherwise we would have included him in this interview too. Sadly, it's too darn late for that, as the Kickstarter has less than 24 hours to go until it's all over

The campaign recently hit the stretch goal for full voice acting, but it's still far off from the iOS/Android goals. It'd be a big deal if they got there, as it would open up their potential audience by at least a few hundred people, maybe more if Apple could just figure out how to properly market the iPhone. C'mon Apple, when are you going to learn how to properly promote your brand?

We talked to Ron and Gary about why those smart phone stretch goals are important to them, the potential for console ports, fetishes, being otherwise unemployable, Joe Flaherty, and a lot more. Thanks again for the interview gentleman, and for returning to the style of game design that helped me to fall in love with the medium all those years ago. I've been waiting for you two to get the band back together since I was 12 years old. Now let's just cross our fingers and hope that you can live up to 25 years of built-up expectations.

No pressure.

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MechWarrior Online's Community Warfare has taught me what it feels like to be the frustrated parent photo
MechWarrior Online's Community Warfare has taught me what it feels like to be the frustrated parent
by Nic Rowen

In the land of MechWarrior Online, Christmas came early last week. Or severely, massively late depending on your perspective. Much like my relationship status with MWO in general: it's complicated.

Community Warfare, the long-, long-awaited “core pillar” of the game finally debuted (in beta form at least) last Thursday. A week ahead of the scheduled patch that was intended to usher in a new golden age of stompy robot combat, and roughly three years behind schedule otherwise. It's finally arrived, the holy guts of the game; the real MechWarrior starts here.

The idea behind Community Warfare has always been to have players recreate and rewrite the history of the Battletech franchise. To combine the qualities of a largely player-run MMO like EVE with a mech combat simulator. The chance to pick a side and become either a noble Inner Sphere pilot fighting to defend your home, or a member of the crusading Clans, deep-space warlords who left the known solar system centuries ago and have returned as almost alien invaders; humanity's past sins come back to haunt them.

You narrow that allegiance down further, pledge yourself to a particular Great House or tribal Clan, seize home-worlds from the others, foster relations you will inevitably betray, engage in a deadly dance of political and steel warfare. Like Game of Thrones in space, but with giant mechs and laser cannons instead of a bunch of creepy dudes on horseback.

If you're already guessing that what's been released has failed to live up to the hype, give yourself a gold star.

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Review: Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- photo
Review: Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-
by Chris Carter

I've spent many late nights with Guilty Gear. Week-long tournaments, money-matches between friends; it was the perfect series to play around with, and one of my most competitive. But as time went on, the franchise started to get a little stale. We saw the same exact character models, the same movesets, and not much in terms of innovation.

Guilty Gear Xrd changes that significantly with a complete overhaul of the visual style on top of everything that made Guilty Gear so great in the first place.

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GTA Online heists look good and sound even better photo
GTA Online heists look good and sound even better
by Jordan Devore

Alright, heists in Grand Theft Auto Online look terrific. It's been a long wait, and we're not done waiting just yet -- Rockstar says the free update for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One will arrive in early 2015 -- but at least we've got something to look at, finally. Eases the tension.

Speaking to IGN, GTA Online producer Imran Sarwar admits designing four-player heists "turned out to be a lot more difficult than we originally thought [and] took several passes from scratch." One challenge, he says, "is that unlike a heist in Story Mode, every player needs to feel central to the action at all times, and that's much more challenging than it appears."

The final design sounds cool. The leading player will have to put money down to set up a heist and won't receive a payout until the finale is finished, but they have control over the crew, their outfits, and their cuts. "Switching between the roles of crew member and heist leader will give players a totally different experience," says Sarwar. "Some missions have all players working as one unit, some require players to take on specific tasks like hacking or crowd control, while others require players to split into smaller teams to complete separate high value objectives."

Each heist, of which there are "five unique strands involving over 20 total missions," will culminate in a set-piece mission. "I don't want to spoil a whole heist," says Sarwar, "but a favorite would be the finale of an epic prison break where players come from different points on the map to join together at just the right time. It requires a pilot, a demolitions expert, and some undercover work to pull it off, and it takes real teamwork, the ability to think fast and a lot of communication to put all the pieces in place to extract the target flawlessly."

GTA Online Heists: New Trailer and Info [Rockstar]
Grand Theft Auto 5 Online Heists (Finally) Revealed [IGN]

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Don't Starve Together works just as well as you'd expect it to photo
Don't Starve Together works just as well as you'd expect it to
by Chris Carter

Starting this week, you can buy into the Don't Starve Together beta if you don't have access already. It's $5 if you own the base game, and it comes with a gift code for the core package as well as two Together codes.

So how does it work? First you'll have to sign up for developer Klei's proprietary service with your email and date of birth. The process was kind of buggy, as the in-Steam browser constantly errored out and didn't display the right screen. I had to restart Steam twice, and then wait 15 minutes for an "instant" verification link.

Thankfully, everything was smooth sailing after that.

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Review: Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris photo
Review: Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
by Darren Nakamura

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was a surprise hit for me. I had never been a huge Tomb Raider fan, but its focus on puzzles, asymmetric cooperative multiplayer, and replayability drew me in. It's hard to believe that was already four years ago.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (abbreviated as Lara Croft: TOO, which any word nerd will appreciate) picks up the torch from Guardian of Light, adding four-person multiplayer, new puzzle mechanics, and updated visuals. It has a great formula for success, but it slips a little in execution.

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