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Failsafe photo

Failsafe wants to inject Mirror's Edge with a bit of Studio Ghibli

Not to mention sweet grappling hooks
Nov 03
// Joe Parlock
I’d never realised how much I needed Mirror’s Edge with a Studio Ghibli coat of paint until I saw the Kickstarter for Failsafe. Developed by Game Over, it appears to combine Mirror’s Edge, Studio Ghibli, Sh...
Angels with Scaly Wings photo
Angels with Scaly Wings

How to bang your dragon: Dragon dating sim revived

Angels with Scaly Wings
Nov 02
// Steven Hansen
"I'm imagining the beginning to Stand By Me, but, instead, 'Hey, kid, you ever plow a dragon?'" Crude. But that's what I had to say about Dragon Dating Simulator last year. The project ultimately missed its funding goal, onl...

Review: Poncho

Nov 02 // Laura Kate Dale
Poncho (Mac, PC [reviewed], Vita, Wii U)Developer: Delve InteractivePublisher: Rising Star GamesReleased: November 3 (PC, Mac), TBA (Vita, Wii U)MSRP:  $14.99, £10.99Rig: Intel Core i5-4690K @ 3.5 GHz, with 8GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, Windows 7 64-bit Having witnessed the end of the world, robotic protagonist Poncho sets out in search of a gigantic tower, in the hopes that tracking it down will allow the world to be saved. Poncho is a side scrolling, pixel art, 2D platformer with a twist. While parallax layers are generally only aesthetic, in Poncho you play an adorable robot who can leap at will between foreground and background environment layers. Jumps between layers take into account your vertical height. Momentum is conserved during the layer jump, so the challenge is getting yourself into the perfect gap at the perfect time. The biggest problem with Poncho, as well as the biggest strength it had going for it, is the way puzzles are designed to incorporate switching layers. When the puzzles work they are fantastic. Jumping off a foreground platform, timing your layer switch perfectly so you land on a background platform, continuing your movement to leap and mid-jump switch again to catch yourself in box, before switching forward one layer further to drop a small distance to safety. When layer switching puzzles are well thought out, they are a joy to play through.  [embed]318651:60965:0[/embed] When those puzzles fall apart in execution, the game tends to become a frustrating mess, where progress is arbitrarily slow, and lengthy twitch challenges are presented with minimal safety nets. Vertical jump puzzles that go on far too long, with failure resulting in starting from scratch. Horizontal jumping challenges where numerous platforms switch layers at differing speeds, without the ability to study all of them in advance of attempting the challenge. Solid platforms that incorrectly register as having been landed on, causing infinite falling loops. A good chunk of Poncho's level design stopped being inventive and ended up simply frustrating. Also of note, often Poncho feels like its reaction-based platforming and slow, methodical exploration gameplay are at odds. Keys hidden through the world need to be collected to progress, but often I missed hiding places in the world because I was too concerned with managing to complete a lengthy, safety net-free challenge. When the only chance to collect information on a puzzle is while half way through it, searching for progression-unlocking keys was the last thing on my mind. Ultimately I'm left at a little bit of a loss with Poncho. It's a great concept, and when it's working it's a great inventive challenge, but when it goes downhill, it put a huge damper on my experience as a whole. I wanted to like it, but it was tough given some of the rough puzzle and level designs on show. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Poncho review photo
Adorable concept, poor execution
The first time I played Poncho was at EGX around two years ago. Its unique visual identity, compelling set of gameplay mechanics, and endearing protagonist drew my attention among the crowd of other indie games playable at th...

Crowtel photo

Crowtel is cute and pay what you want

Pay for it with a (bird) song
Nov 01
// Nic Rowen
I've only spent about 15 minutes with Crowtel and it's already winning me over. Released earlier today by indie developer Sinks, Crowtel is a sweet little platformer about a Crow trying to tidy up his surreal hotel before a p...
Lovers in a Dangerous photo
Lovers in a Dangerous

Sup Holmes embraces nothingness with Asteroid Base

Sup Holmes every Sunday at 2:30pm EST!
Nov 01
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] [Update: Thanks so much to...
Sup Holmes photo
Sup Holmes

A look at the evolution of the games industry with 3 veteran developers

Sup Holmes every Sunday at 2:30pm EST!
Nov 01
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] Hope you all survived Hall...
Indivisible photo

Lab Zero to launch Indivisible PS4 demo on Nov. 3

It takes a golden calculator
Oct 30
// Mike Cosimano
Today, Lab Zero Games and 505 Games announced a PS4 version of their Indivisible prototype, to be released on November 3 for all PlayStation Network users. If you have a computer and want to play the prototype right away...

Review: Human Resource Machine

Oct 30 // Laura Kate Dale
Human Resource Machine (PC [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: Tomorrow CorporationPublisher: Tomorrow CorporationReleased: October 15, 2015MSRP: $9.99, £6.99 Human Resource Machine is a game that functionally aims to teach its players basic visual programming logic. You are a human, programming analogue tasks need completing on a day to day process. Players will need to create a visual programming loop that will allow you to mindlessly complete your task over and over. The reason you need to do your job in an efficient, automated, programming manner? Robots are coming to take your job. Initially, these programming tasks are accessible enough for non coders to wrap their head around quickly. Need to transport all inbox items to the outbox in an unchanged order? Take an item from the inbox, take it to the outbox, loop back to the start until everything has been moved. Need to take a pair of inbox items and take them to the outbox, but in the opposite order? Take the first item, place it on the floor, take the second item to the outbox. Pick the first item off the floor, take that to the outbox. Jump to the start and repeat. The problem is, around half way through the game starts requiring you to understand programming logic concepts it hasn't taught you before. Reading up on these concepts online can be complex, and working out how to build a programming function after only short while being hand held through basics can be rather frustrating. [embed]318222:60916:0[/embed] Here's one: build a machine that recognizes zero sum strings, then add up everything in the string, then create a Fibonacci sequence up to but not exceeding the value of your zero sum string, and place all values from the resulting Fibonacci sequence into the outbox using a limited set of tools. You can copy from or to limited memory spaces on the floor, add held and stored values together or increase a memory value by one. That kind of logic takes several considerable leaps, on top of trying to master a technique you only just learned for the first time. I think ultimately this is my biggest problem with Human Resource Machine. It's presented in advertising as a step by step tutorial on learning programming logic, but for newcomers to code some of the logical leaps are to complex to get through any method besides trial and error. For those who already program, much of the early game will likely be too easy. I feel like Machine doesn't really commit fully to being a game for new coders or for experienced programmers. It tries and fails to straddle a difficulty line. The game's plot is also essentially non-existent. The trailer tells you robots are coming for your job, which would clearly be better performed by a robot. Eventually, robots arrive and are better at your job than you. Some of the hints of an interesting story are there, but there is no pay off at all. Considering the subtly delivered narratives in World of Goo and Little Inferno, this was a real shame. Still, let's talk a little about what Human Resource Machine gets right. For those who keep up with the programming challenges as they are introduced, there are also a pair of optional optimization challenges for each puzzle -- such as, "have fewer than X instructions in your program," or "completely process the data in less than Y moves." Often it's impossible to complete both challenges with a single program, so it pushes you to re-optimize processes rather than just finding a solution that works. Learning where you could cut dead weight from a programming string felt hugely rewarding. The game also encourages players to not just successfully process a given set of data, but behind the scenes multiple sets of data are run through your program to ensure it works for every set, not just the current set. If a data set exists for which your program would break, that data set is provided to you, so you can debug the program step by step and see where it falls apart. The inclusion of step by step debugging tools to watch where your program's holes are was really beneficial, and encouraged understanding how your solution works, rather than just being content with the success itself. I came out of Human Resource Machine unsure who it was really designed for. It's at times too simple for experienced programmers, and often made leaps too large for beginners to overcome without obtuse outside research. While I had a sense of accomplishment every time I made progress, said progress at times felt like I was an infant thrown into water and expected to swim straight away. I might manage it, but it's not the ideal teaching method to leave me feeling comfortable going forward. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Human Resource Machine photo
My brain is not a machine
Tomorrow Corporation, the studio behind World of Goo and Little Inferno, is one of my favorite indie developers of the last couple of years. Known for creating polished indie games with accessible mechanics and interesti...

WayForward photo

One of WiiWare's best games is now on mobile

WayForward's Lit is back on iOS, Android
Oct 29
// Kyle MacGregor
WiiWare may not be fondly remembered by many, but for years Nintendo's old digital platform was one of my favorite places to discover hidden gems. In fact, some of my favorite games from the last generation (Lost Winds, ...

Review: Overlord: Fellowship of Evil

Oct 29 // Jed Whitaker
Overlord: Fellowship of Evil (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)Developer: CodemastersPublisher: CodemastersReleased: October 19, 2015MSRP: $18.99 When Codemasters announced it was making another Overlord game, it was met with excitement. That is, until people saw the gameplay; a top-down hack and slash Diablo-like. After having played the full seven-hour campaign, I can tell you if you were expecting a bad Diablo clone, you weren't far off. The combat feels like a combination of Diablo and the Gauntlet series: mindless button mashing and killing lots of enemies. Let me stress that when I say mindless, I mean mindless; there were times I could literally feel myself looking away from the screen and staring at the beige walls in my lackluster apartment while I instinctively mashed the attack button, not a thought going through my mind. I've played lots of dull games in my day, but this one takes the cake and takes a giant dump on it, then throws it into a dumpster half filled with water, trash, and drowned rats. While that description may make it sound interesting, I assure you this is one train wreck you won't want to go near, or even look at. Fellowship of Evil's visual style reminds me a lot of early Unreal Engine 3 games, as the game is mostly shades of brown, red, blue, and gray. There are only a few different locales you'll visit, and only one single level was easy on the eyes, which is the very last level that somehow bursts with color. [embed]317942:60902:0[/embed] Aside from trudging through long, ugly levels with snooze-fest combat, there are puzzles to complete, if you can call them that. Is it really a puzzle if the answer is mere feet away, or if the camera obnoxiously pans to the next step in the puzzle as if  you couldn't have just figured it out yourself? These sorry excuse for brain teasers have you stepping on switches in a certain order or sending the correct colored minion through colorful fire to step on a switch to open the gate to the next area, just so you can continue mindlessly beating swarms of the same few enemies, over and over and over. Since this is supposed to be a co-op RPG, up to four people can suffer through this monotony together, gathering loot after each wave of enemies is destroyed throughout levels. Instead of having loot drop from enemies, Codemasters decided to spawn tons of breakable chests that explode, throwing various forms of currency in all directions. The first time this happens I couldn't help but feel excited, but after seeing it over 50 times I couldn't be bothered to care. Each form of loot can be used to upgrade your character and minions, as well as purchasing new weapons; none of which are needed. Every character feels very overpowered and upgrades only make them more so, so there ends up being very little challenge by the end. Minions can be used for combat, but seem to serve little purpose other than distracting enemies, which isn't really necessary since they can easily be stun locked just by chipping away at them until they are dead. Some boss fights require minions, but use the same colored fire gimmick as the puzzles, and are just as mindlessly dull. Not only is this sorry excuse for a game boring and ugly, it is also quite buggy. Various times throughout my play through I encountered enemies freezing in place on death, or comically flying up and off the screen. While playing on couch co-op only the first player actually gets any loot, while the other players can collect loot but not spend or save it, thus just denying loot from player one. This may be by design as I was playing on the PC through Steam which has no way of signing in multiple players to their accounts, but Codemasters should have thought of that when it decided to sell the game on Steam in the first place. I played a majority of this game online, or at least in the online mode as only one time did a random player join my game. In the middle of a level another player popped in, helped for a bit, then disappeared before the level was over with, and that was it. It seemed like a smooth experience, but clearly there aren't a lot of people playing this online, nor should there be, because it is utter tripe. The only enjoyable part of the entire experience was the writing and voice acting. Gnarl, the narrator from the original games is back and leading the charge again, making clever little quips and jokes along the way. Hilarious but I don't think many people are willing to eat a shit sandwich to get to a diamond, or in this case a few chuckles. Overlord: Fellowship of Evil is an experience I'll be glad to forget: a mindless, tedious, boring excuse for a game that tortures the player throughout, much like the characters in the game torturing the poor souls of the innocent. Maybe that is the point and Codemasters has done an amazing piece of art. As if.
Review: Overlord: FoE photo
Shit. That would be my review of Overlord: Fellowship of Evil if one word reviews were passable, but since that isn't the case I guess I'll give you all a few paragraphs describing shit. Are you one of the few people who remember the Overlord series with fondness? Then stop reading now and forget this game ever existed, you'll be better off having never played it. 

Rocket League mutators photo
Rocket League mutators

Low gravity and cubic ball are mutators headed to Rocket League in a free update

Watch a preview tomorrow
Oct 28
// Darren Nakamura
Rocket League fans will probably want to just skip ahead and watch the video below. It gives brief mention to the additions Psyonix is making to the car soccer game next month. It goes by pretty quickly, so I took the time to...

Review: Assault Android Cactus

Oct 28 // Chris Carter
Assault Android Cactus (PC [reviewed], PS4, PS Vita, Wii U)Developer: Witch BeamPublisher: Witch BeamReleased: September 23, 2015 (PC) / TBA 2016 (PS4, PS Vita, Wii U)MSRP: $14.99 Although Cactus starts with a cute little intro video that sets up the whole shooty affair, it's a fleeting moment, as the game quickly centers in on gameplay over exposition. It essentially features a galactic police officer named Cactus, who crash lands into a gigantic spaceship and saves three other bystanders from certain death. United, they band together to defeat the mysterious evil force on board, headed by four guardians (boss characters). Cactus has one hell of a presentation for an indie project. While the narrative might be light (voice acting is few and far between), the visual style makes up for it in spades. Every character looks and feels different, and the enemies are varied to the point where each individual baddie requires a slightly different strategy. The sound effects are spot-on and have a weight them, and the musical score is more than enough to get you in the mood to shoot things. What I really like about Cactus is that each stage feels unique. Most of them are confined arenas, but the vast majority of them morph as the level progresses in interesting ways. For instance, one starts off with mysterious boxes littered about the landscape, which sequentially explode, opening up more of the map, at the cost of another giant enemy to fight. Other arenas feature small scrolling sections similar to a dungeon crawler, or fixed areas that add hectic hazards to the mix periodically. [embed]317399:60845:0[/embed] Each character has a different main weapon (from a typical shoot 'em up single-shot cannon to a shotgun), and a temporary alternate fire triggered by dodging. My personal favorite pick is Aubergine, who has a droid as her main ability (which can be controlled remotely, and independently from her own movements), and a singularity gun as her alt fire. Cactus is a twin-stick shooter for sure, but its core concept is what sets it apart -- the battery mechanic. With Cactus, your battery is perpetually running out, and only killing massive amounts of enemies will yield you a recharge power-up. If you take too much damage you'll simply fall down, with the power to mash buttons and pick yourself back up. For reference, four players are supported locally, and all of them share the same battery. Things can get pretty crazy, especially with the sheer amount of enemies the game throws out. You have to be constantly moving to stay alive, taking advantage of the various pickups like speed or firepower boosts, along with lockdown icons that temporarily disable all the enemies on-screen. If you aren't always moving around and seeking out batteries and power-ups, you won't make it far. The story mode will only take you a few hours to complete (or less), but Cactus shines when playing with friends -- plus, there's additional "Infinity Drive" (survival) and "Daily Drive" modes to conquer. Assault Android Cactus kind of snuck up on me, and is easily one of my favorite shooters of the year. I'm really interested in seeing what developer Witch Beam comes up with next. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Assault Android Cactus photo
A fantastic twin-stick fix
Every once in a while a game slips past my grasp due to any number of assignments that I have to tackle at a time. One such title is Assault Android Cactus, which I really enjoyed during its Early Access incarnation, and happened to launch just recently on Steam. I regret not jumping into the final version immediately, as it's one of the best twin-stick shooters in a long while.

Pug Butts photo
Pug Butts

Sniffing pug butts given an accessible controller for disabled gamers

Detachable butt in the full release
Oct 28
// Joe Parlock
Butt Sniffin Pugs is a game about exactly what you’d expect: walk around a park, sniff pug butts, get new abilities, sniff more pug butts. While that does sound wonderful, there are other people on this site who have mo...
PlayStation 4 exclusive photo
PlayStation 4 exclusive

PlayStation 4 enabling DJs with Avicii music rhythm game Vector

This is the world we live in now
Oct 27
// Steven Hansen
In 2015, 1 out of 3 humans are DJs. This has led to global gridlock as necessary goods and services plummet under insistence that, "you should come see my set." The population rate is in decline, too, as more men become DJs;...
Boundless photo

Boundless is wandering onto your PS4 via a weird portal in 2016

Where are you going little creatures?
Oct 27
// Laura Kate Dale
I have literally no idea what Boundless is, but it looks pretty damn interesting. Some kind of 3D adventure game with a voxel art style where you walk through shimmery ethereal portals in the world maybe? Those portals look pretty cool in motion, that much I know. So, what do you make of this reveal trailer for Boundless? Whatever it is, you'll be playing it on PS4 in 2016.
Free games photo
Free games

Steampunk mini-golf game is free on Steam all day

That's a lot of steam
Oct 26
// Brett Makedonski
High in the sky, above the clouds, there is a mini-golf course. That's what Vertiginous Golf would like you to think, anyway. And, up there, rounds are free forever if you click a few buttons right now. Steampunk mini-go...

Review: Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide

Oct 26 // Joe Parlock
Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)Developer: FatsharkPublisher: FatsharkReleased: October 23, 2015 (PC) / TBA 2016 (PS4, Xbox One)MSRP: $29.99 Vermintide is set in the underused gothic End Times setting of the Warhammer universe, where the city of Ubersreik has come under siege from a rising army of Skaven (rat-men). Taking control of one of five different character classes, four teammates can fight their way through 13 different missions. Vermintide’s writing certainly isn’t going to win any awards: each mission is very loosely connected by a pretty unimportant story that serves purely as exposition for the level about to be played and not much else. To take out the Skaven, each class has a huge array of different weapons and equipment to choose from. Some, such as the elf and the mage, rely more on ranged tactics, whereas the likes of the dwarf and the old mercenary are more able to get up close and personal and do some real damage with melee weapons. Each class serves their own role, and no matter what combination of the five a team has, they all mesh well together to ensure no one character is carrying the others. Melee combat feels meaty and bloody, and despite it ultimately comes down to mashing one button until everything is dead, it feels a lot more involving than that. Once I had mastered the timing required for blocking, I was going toe to toe with even the strongest enemies and coming out on top, and god damn did it feel good. It’s nowhere near as complex Chivalry or Bloodborne, but Skaven were turning into puffs of red mist and piles of giblets left, right and centre, and for a brief time I was a rodent-killing god to be revered and feared. There’s great variety to the different stages, and it's obvious Fatshark know how to make use of environments to make the co-op play interesting. From trudging through the city streets, to wading through the swamps toward a Skaven camp, each level feels unique and manages a decent balance of linear chokepoint corridors with some fantastically complex larger areas to make sure no environment grows stale. For example, one mission takes place entirely in one big area where the team are scrounging for barrels of what I assume is gunpowder. The different platforms turn the space into a vertical maze of ramps and ladders that mean they can be fatally separated in a very short distance. Good stuff. Once they’ve succeeded, the entire team are rewarded with random pieces of loot, decided by a dice roll. The character progression of Vermintide is one of the biggest differences between it and similar titles. In a way, it works a lot like Team Fortress 2’s massive array of items: much of the loot available works as more of a ‘sidegrade’ than an upgrade. Most items aren’t categorically better than an item you already have, but may mesh better with your preferred playstyle. For example, my fire mage has two staves I like to swap between: one functions as a shotgun, with a focused beam as a secondary attack to take out further enemies; the other feels more like a rifle with faster more precise shots, and as a secondary it has a large short-range area of effect attack. Neither is better than the other, but I really have to change how I play depending on which I choose to use in a mission. There will, of course, come a point where I am vastly over-leveled for them, but by then I’ll have a whole new group of staves to pick from. The chances of getting the loot you want in the dice roll can be improved through collecting grimoires, tomes, and extra die scattered around the mission. The catch here is that these two item types take up space that could be used for precious healing items. They add a degree of risk vs. reward to the game, as those who replay levels with a more gutsy approach will net better rewards than those who play super conservatively. It’s a cool system that can really pull teams together, knowing there will be tangible rewards for covering each other in the long run. Unfortunately, these are just extras. When you strip away the superfluous bells and whistles and get down to just killing the shit out of a horde of Skaven, what you’re left with is a game that is ultimately treading into the same territory we saw years ago. Vermintide doesn’t wear its influences on its sleeve; it wears them as a full lycra bodysuit that leaves nothing to the imagination. For starters, the Skaven’s AI is pretty much the same as any zombie game’s ever: they spawn, they’ll rush towards you and will keep hitting you until they die. I get rat-men wouldn’t be the most intelligent thing in the world, but if they’re smart enough to make armour and formulate tactics (stopping which is the basis for many of the missions), then surely they’d know how to freaking flank every once in a while? Most of the stronger boss type Skaven have an L4D analogue: the sneaky, pouncing Gutter Runners are practically Hunters, Pack Masters can pull players away from their team just like the Smoker, and the Ogre Rat is the literally just the Tank with a rodent face stapled on Silence of the Lambs style. That lack of originality extends to the missions too. While the environments are brilliant, the way levels progress feels exactly like Left 4 Dead. You’re tasked with moving through an ultimately linear space while fighting back against procedurally spawned hordes of enemies, with supplies and more intense ambushes happening at the drop of a hat. Eventually, you and your comrades will come to a conclusion that generally involves holding out against an extended onslaught of enemies before escaping to an extraction point. If it’s not that, your team will be tasked with going through a slightly more open area to collect a predetermined amount of a certain material, all while surviving against the hordes of enemies. Even the teamwork mechanics are the same as Left 4 Dead. If a teammate takes too much damage, they will become incapacitated on the floor until someone can get them up. If they happen to die while incapacitated, they will spawn a little later in the level to be rescued by the remaining members. Players can even become incapacitated by dangling over deadly drops, waiting for someone to pull them up. Identical to Left 4 goddamn Dead. As I have said, I adore that series. It’s got hectic shooting, combined with a necessity for tight teamwork that can really pull even total strangers together. Dispatching hordes of zombies in a gory fashion with a variety of weapons and in a variety of locales always made going back into the game just as fun as the first time, and Vermintide very much feels the same way. Except Left 4 Dead 2 came out six years ago, and it shows the few improvements its made over its most obvious inspiration just aren’t enough to let it stand on its own merits. Unoriginality aside, I also noticed a fair few technical problems with Vermintide, especially when it came to the backend server that manages the character progression and matchmaking. There were relatively frequent periods of downtime, or times where matchmaking would take far, far longer than normal. Fatshark have managed to keep on top of most problems, and seem to be fixing them quickly in the days following the game’s release, but they’ve still been prevalent enough to get in the way of me playing the game. Ultimately, Vermintide is more than the sum of its parts. It has wonderful visual direction and level design, with a character progression system that made me want to carry on grinding for new loot just to see what options it’d open up for me. The combat is satisfying, and the way teamwork is encouraged meant I managed to connect with total strangers in ways I haven’t had the chance to for a very long time. I wasn’t getting annoyed at random people on the internet, for the duration of that mission they were my teammates, and even things like Payday haven’t managed to give me that feeling. I’ve had a lot of fun, and certainly don’t regret any of my time with it. I absolutely recommend anyone who enjoys co-op FPS to give it a try, because it might well be the best to have come out in a long time.  I just wished that Fatshark had tried to be as original in the gameplay as they have in the visual direction. At times, it just felt like I was playing a mod, and depending on how you look at it that’s either the biggest compliment or the absolute worst thing I could say about Vermintide. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Vermintide photo
I feel like I've done this before...
Left 4 Dead is one of my favourite games. The summer of 2009 was spent staying up until five o’clock in the morning, playing the same campaigns with the same group of friends, and it was by far the most fun I’ve e...

Ollie, ollie photo
Ollie, ollie

Goonies meets Stephen King's It in this new Oxenfree trailer

They all float down here, Georgie
Oct 23
// Jed Whitaker
Apparently when ex-Telltale and ex-Disney employees get together, they make things that are both horrifying and beautiful, such as their upcoming game Oxenfree. According to the latest trailer, you'll play as a teenage girl ...
Volume  photo

Volume: Coda is a launch title for Playstation VR

Free story DLC coming to Sony consoles
Oct 22
// Laura Kate Dale
We may not yet know an exact date for the launch of PlayStation VR, but we do now know at least one piece of software that will be playable on the hardware on launch day. Volume: Coda is a story expansion for Volume, indie de...
Woolfe photo

Rebellion has bought the 'Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries' IP

I need Sniper Elite: Happily Never After
Oct 22
// Joe Parlock
A while ago, we reported that developer GRIN was closing down. Unfortunately, this meant all of the physical Kickstarter rewards for its game Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries would not be given to backers, and there would be no m...
Octodad on Wii U photo
Octodad on Wii U

Octodad: Dadliest Catch to get Wii U release on October 29

Just in time for Halloween
Oct 21
// Darren Nakamura
While children are dressing up as Marvel superheroes and/or Disney princesses and adults are doing the same but with sexy versions (think Ant Man but with assless chaps), one humble cephalopod will be dressing up as a regular...
Gunboots photo

Without gunboots, Downwell was an altogether different game

Peek at this prototype
Oct 21
// Jordan Devore
Slowly but surely, Downwell is taking over our staff. As it well should -- it's fantastic! It might not look the part at first glance, but get your hands on this game (preferably with a controller), and you'll see why it's in...

Review: Bedlam

Oct 21 // Patrick Hancock
Bedlam (PC [reviewed], PS4)Developer: RedBedlamPublisher: KISS ltdReleased: October 13, 2015MSRP: $19.99 The player assumes the role of Athena, a normal everyday woman who has somehow woken up inside a virtual world of a video game. She makes plenty of self-aware quips throughout Bedlam, ranging from obvious and cringy to downright hysterical. She quickly realizes she's in a shooter from the '90s, and it's not long until she manages to escape through a glitch in the game to be transporting to various other worlds. Bedlam will take players through different time periods and genres of video games, but does eventually become too formulaic. Players will enter a world, complete its objectives, enter an "in between" glitch world, and then move on to the next section. While not predictable in the sense that the new world will be a surprise, the concept becomes rigid and boring. There is an underlying story besides "look at the funny parody worlds," and unfolds through in-game radio chatter and hidden sections within each world. It's all based on the book by the same name, which I haven't read, but seems to deal with essentially the same thing. In a way, Bedlam felt like a long winded way of saying "hey, you should read the book." The story is somewhat engaging and certainly well written, but the lack of closure at the end of the game was a huge letdown. Bedlam handles like a first-person shooter, with one or two exceptions, and does a great job of nailing down the shooting mechanics. Each world has a unique set of weapons to acquire, but ammo for each gun is limited to its respective world. This sounds like an interesting mechanic on paper, but in reality the player gets so many guns that ammo is never an issue due to the wide breadth of options. In fact, and I didn't think I'd ever say this, but there are likely too many weapons. They all have their small quirks and differences, but all of the shotguns, machine guns, and pistols might as well be identical. The large number of options also makes it a pain to switch between weapons, especially when using the mousewheel. Every number on the keyboard is assigned to a weapon, and it never really felt worth it to memorize what was where.  There are also platforming sections that take place during the in between glitch worlds. I'm hesitant to even call them platforming sections since the player is literally jumping over small distances from one long rectangle to the next. They are in no way challenging, but I did die a few times, usually because I had no idea that there was no ground in between certain sections. Most of these sections are only there to keep the player busy while radio chatter occurs to thicken the plot. [embed]316393:60801:0[/embed] Perhaps the best part of Bedlam is the "tour" through various styles of first-person shooter tropes. I won't spoil them all here, but all of the classic FPS environments are present, and some that will definitely take players by surprise and have them laughing. Of course, going back in time does have its design downfalls, as some worlds are more barren than anything else, and there's a few instances of poor mission design that will leave players frustrated and anxious to jump into the next section. The last level in particular is especially drab. It falls into the classic pitfall of "throw everything possible at the player and see how they do." Honestly, I used the explosive weapons to rocket-jump through just about all of it. Perhaps that was intended, but considering how wonky rocket-jumping physics are in Bedlam, I highly doubt it. Each world ends with a boss, and they're all impressively mediocre. The big thing shows up, player shoots it a lot -- fin. The last boss in particular is tedious, and offers up just about zero challenge to the player. Despite the poor boss fights, the game has enough brilliant small moments to really stand out. After I had completed the game, the things that stuck with me were the tiny segments that used its plot device to its strength and didn't adhere to the obvious formula that it was playing with. I'm confident in saying that there are enough of these to keep the player interested throughout most of the game. To accompany the decade-hopping mechanics, the game's aesthetic varies from place to place as well. Most noticeably, the models get progressively better as the meta-titles get more modern. However, things like the health and body armor pickups remain the same throughout every world. It would have been interesting to see the developer also explore how health system evolved as the genre itself did, but instead we get floating health packs that are way out of place in most of the worlds. The voice acting, at least, is top notch. The radio chatter is entertaining and very well done, it's just a shame that a handful of times I was forced to read the subtitles because the surrounding noises, like being in a firefight, drowned out the actual voice acting.  Bedlam will take players on a jaunt through various first-person shooter worlds, but the problem is that none of them are particularly great. There are some absolutely wonderful and memorable moments strewn throughout the five or six hour experience, but they are brought down by some poor design in both the missions and boss fights, and essentially the entire last chapter. I genuinely did have some great laughs, and there are worse ways to kill an afternoon, but ironically Bedlam falls prey to many of the same issues of the games it apes. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Bedlam Review photo
Actually, it's relatively tame
Similar to Evoland and its sequel, Bedlam is a game that hops between time periods and genres of gaming history. The latter, however, is a first-person shooter. I've grown up playing as many FPS games and mods ...

Review: Downwell

Oct 20 // Steven Hansen
Downwell (PC [reviewed], Android, iOS)Developer: MoppinPublisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: October 15, 2015MSRP: $2.99 Downwell asks you to learn with it, explaining nothing outside of the control scheme (move with directional pad or analog, jump and shoot with one button) and the upgrades between levels. Initial expeditions down the well are clumsy. Your Gunboots start with limited charge (think: ammo) and you have to refill them by touching solid ground. Or -- wait, they refill when you stomp on an enemies' head, too? -- and, oh no, don't try and stomp on an enemy that is an angry bright red. These are the kind of things you learn as you delve deeper and deeper into Downwell's four worlds (three levels each) and they are presented intelligently. For example, the first spat of blood red enemies that you shouldn't be jumping on all have spikes, video game shorthand for danger. Later ones won't warn you so nicely. And of course there's trial and error, too, like touching a hot stove, for those who don't get it. Level randomization requires you stay engaged. Different power up offerings between levels will change how you play. Dimension-shattering time voids are occasionally cut into the well walls and host a treasure trove of gems or different ammunition. The latter is where the Super Crate Box comparison is obvious. [embed]316411:60790:0[/embed] Changing ammo isn't a strict necessity, but it practically is, given that picking up a new ammo types will often come with a heart or some battery charge for the Gunboots (more ammunition between reloads), but different ammo types function in drastically different ways. Shooting is actually more useful in fighting gravity and keeping yourself from falling too quickly into unseen trouble than it is for killing enemies; they should typically be bopped. Especially since bopping enemies fills your Gunboots and stringing together kills without touching down gives you rewards. It's best to stomp out enemies, using your ammo stores to occasionally slow your descent or send you across the screen to stomp something else. Aside from the constantly changing levels, ammo types, and upgrades, new "styles" are unlocked over time, like the "Boulder style," which features a much fatter boy who starts with six HP instead of four, but only gets to choose from two between-level upgrades instead of three. Then of course there are dozens of Palette options that change the colors of the game, though I have only found a handful I like as much as the default black, white and red. The variety makes the frequent deaths more palatable and I would probably buy a custom dedicated handheld that just played this game. Because death comes so quickly, health is at a premium. If you slowly inch your way down the well, stopping at every platform and dutifully eliminating enemies, you'll take forever and likely not rack up enough gems to clear out shops, which are operated by the the most adorable timeline version of a snowman (who gives a good disapproving face when you jump behind the counter). But as you get better and can chain combos, netting gem, battery (ammo) and health bonuses, you can stay in the black, even increase your max HP. It's all about building a better, more equipped you while you play. It's always fraught, mind. You are working against gravity and your stabilizing shots will sometimes rip the ground from under you as you destroy blocks on the way down that might have offered reprieve. Or you accidentally shoot an enemy you're coming up on, losing a chance to replenish your ammo, and end up in a dangerous free fall. My 15-hour transition from inelegant tank (Boulder style) laboring down the well to eyes-closed, 25-kill-combo (Levitate) falling with style has been a flurry of close calls, of "one more run," of consistently dying to the boss despite doubling my starting health. The knees-braced bullet pounding side winding across the screen to slow my descent, the meaty pop of brain stomping and the brief upward moment it grants before gravity yanks me down again. And for such a noble reason. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Downwell review photo
Falling with style
Once upon a time I was falling in love, now I'm only falling down wells. Downwell is a game about getting down a well, but the only way to get down the well is to learn how to get down the well well. Because this Game Boy thr...

Review: Pulse

Oct 20 // Jed Whitaker
Pulse (PC)Developer: Pixel Pi GamesPublisher: Pixel Pi GamesReleased: October 20, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Eva's story isn't exactly original as it is essentially a mashup of a Disney cartoon and M. Night Shyamalan's The Village. Pulse centers around Eva, a girl blinded at a young age, who defies her parents and attempts a dangerous pilgrimage using only echolocation and her imagination to visualize the world around her. What motivated Eva to embark on this journey is never explained, though the results of her actions are evident by the time credits roll in around an hour and a half later. That's right, an hour and a half for a penny shy of 15 dollars, which means you're paying over 16 cents per minute of gameplay. On top of that, there is a Steam achievement for beating the game under 30 minutes, so it clearly can be done faster. Whether or not the cost of entry is worth it depends on how much you value the artistic style of Pulse, because the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. That isn't to say that it's bad, just that it doesn't really go anywhere. From the moment the game starts and you take your first few steps, you'll have grasped everything it has to offer. [embed]316434:60795:0[/embed] Walking causes colorful rippling sound waves to trace the world hidden within the black void that is Eva's vision. Following the paths as they are revealed in the darkness, you'll come across Mokos, which are round, Furby-like critters with giant puppy dog eyes. Mokos can be picked up and thrown to cause sound in the distance -- giving Eva a brief glimpse at the level ahead -- and can be placed in giant hamster wheels to open closed doors.  The only area where Pulse really deviates the gameplay is one requiring Eva to walk slowly across a frozen lake, taking care to pay attention to where the ice is cracking beneath her feet thus allowing a safe passage. Aside from that, you'll come across a couple of areas of simple platforming, and not much more, which is honestly a shame for how great the game looks. Unity isn't exactly known for having the best-looking games, but Pulse proves that the engine isn't the problem by having one of the most gorgeous presentations this year; from a vibrant forest, to a tundra, to a living cave, Pulse is stunning. Due to the way Eva is imagining how the world around her looks, the world is brightly colored in a minimalist way, meaning each level only has a few colors total. One level is mostly blue, while another is mostly shades of orange, which sounds like it would hard to navigate, but the creators made it work and I never found myself lost a single time.  Pixel Pi Games managed to take the concept of a blind heroine and create something beautiful around it, but considering the game took less time to complete than this review and costs 15 dollars, it is hard to recommend to anyone but those thirsty for an artistic game or a unique character. If Pulse had a longer, more in-depth story with evolving gameplay, it would be easily recommendable. As it stands now, it feels more like a proof-of-concept than a full-fledged game. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Review: Pulse photo
Expensive art without vision
While having a blind protagonist isn't exactly a brand new idea, Pulse tackles the subject in a unique way that proves that video games are indeed art by being one of the most colorful experiences I've played to date.  Unfortunately art sometimes comes with a high price and ends up not only lacking vision, but being a bit short-sighted.

Crows Crows Crows photo
Crows Crows Crows

Crows Crows Crows' first game is hidden behind a big ARG

From a creator of the Stanley Parable
Oct 20
// Joe Parlock
The people who worked on The Stanley Parable are doing some interesting stuff at the moment. First Davey Wreden released his stellar game The Beginner’s Guide out of nowhere, and now William Pugh and his new studio Crow...
Sup Holmes photo
Sup Holmes

Sup Holmes gets slammed with Jane Friedhoff

Sup Holmes every Sunday at 4pm EST!
Oct 18
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] [Update: Thanks so much to...
Mushroom 11 screenshots photo
Mushroom 11 screenshots

Mushroom 11's world is beautiful desolation

Have some screenshots
Oct 17
// Darren Nakamura
Every so often a game comes along that lends itself to a big ol' screenshot gallery. To fit the bill, a game obviously needs to look good, but it also helps if it has a simple control scheme that allows easy access to the F12...

Review: Mushroom 11

Oct 17 // Darren Nakamura
Mushroom 11 (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: UntamePublisher: UntameReleased: October 15, 2015MSRP: $14.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Creation through destruction is a central theme in Mushroom 11, represented both in its story and its gameplay. Here, players control a green slime mold with a peculiar trait: it will always try to maintain the same number of cells at all times. If one dies, another one grows anew. The kicker is that the new cell can appear next to any other currently living cell, so long as there's space for it in the environment. It can show up near where the original cell died, appear on the other side of the organism, or manifest in a totally different location if the mold has been split into two or more chunks. Instead of direct control over the blob, players are given what's basically an image editor erase tool. Click in a spot to designate a circular area that will destroy any cells within. Right click for a smaller circle and finer control. That's all there is to it. What results is a reversal in thinking in terms of movement across the desolate landscape. You don't have control of where it goes; you have control of where it doesn't go. Destroy in one place so you may create in another. [embed]316036:60766:0[/embed] The control scheme sets up for some great physics-based puzzling. Early on, the challenges are in reaching high objects, climbing steep walls, and clearing small gaps. Most are small feats of engineering, requiring the creation of towers and bridges with the ooze. Sometimes, this brings about a sort of "leap of faith" situation, where it can take ten or more minutes carefully constructing a shape that fits a puzzle's needs and very nearly clears an obstacle, but for the last push it requires a quick erasure of everything but the tip. It's a huge relief when it works, but an incredible bummer when it fails. Those who err on the side of caution may spend a lot of time tediously trimming cells one by one, hoping with each destroyed square, the new one will pop up in a desirable location. That example is a subset of one of my biggest problems with Mushroom 11. The cardinal sin of a physics-based puzzler is when the player knows the solution but cannot manage the execution. The tedium of the slow approach is one thing, but a small handful of puzzles get downright infuriating due to the semi-random nature of the cell growth. There was one in particular in the seventh stage that had me second-guessing my solution after almost an hour spent on it. I had the right idea, I was just not quite fast enough. When I finally did complete it, I didn't feel like I had done anything fundamentally different that time than I had during the hundred previous attempts. In broader terms, the difficulty of Mushroom 11 was a surprise. The first couple levels can be easily completed in less than a half hour. The next few clock in at under an hour. The seventh stage took me as long to complete as the other six combined. It is not messing around. Early on, a lot of the greater challenges are optional, rewarding players for exploration or going the extra mile. At the end, some of the mandatory challenges almost made me quit and the optional ones seem damn near impossible. I eventually had to take a break because my finger was sore from how hard I was holding down the mouse button. It's almost as if Mushroom 11 transitions from being a puzzler to an action game during the final act. Not only do some of the sections require precision, they also demand speed. The control scheme can provide for either on its own, but having both at the same time can take a bit of luck. The world this all takes place in is strangely beautiful. It paints a picture of an earth after humanity, full of desolation and decay. Each level has its own look to it, but the trend is toward less machinery and more nature as the game progresses. Humans may be gone, eradicated or forced to flee, but life still goes on in their wake. Again, creation from destruction. Overall, Mushroom 11 is a worthwhile experience. It has its missteps, most notably when its puzzles favor brute force over elegance or when it doesn't play to its unique control scheme's strengths. But its uniqueness is its greatest asset; there isn't anything else quite like it out there, and it takes a different kind of thinking to get through. I wouldn't be surprised to hear some may abandon it before finishing due to its difficulty, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see diehards pop up, going for the no-death and the 100 percent runs. For me, I'm totally happy with my single playthrough. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Mushroom 11 review photo
Doesn't quite go to 11
From the beginning, Mushroom 11 establishes itself as something different. Though it has been done before, the whole concept of traveling from right to left in a 2D game can still be jarring simply because of its rarity. It s...

Prey for the Gods photo
Prey for the Gods

Prey for the Gods looks like a new Shadow of the Colossus

But will they be watching?
Oct 17
// Mike Cosimano
At first, Prey for the Gods looks very similar to a crafting-heavy survival game a la Rust filtered through some Never Alone. But that's only the first part of the trailer. Prey for the Gods looks beautifu...

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