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My greatest gaming regret is never making it to one of those ridiculous BattleTech Centers

May 29 // Nic Rowen
While BattleTech Centers were a video game experience, I'd say they had more in common with a laser-tag joint than an arcade. It was a production; one part video game, one part fantasy. They'd sit you down inside an overly-complex facade of a mech cockpit they called a “battle pod,” complete with WWII bomber-style tail art and mock technical information plastered on the side. Inside were a dizzying array of peddles, throttles, joysticks, and an assortment of quasi-functional warning lights and buttons. The pod was totally enclosed, fully immersing the pilot in the fantasy of actually being in command of a giant war-machine. They'd give you a call sign, have you watch poorly acted in-universe tutorials of how the game worked (staring Jim Belushi of all people!) and print out “after action” military reports (scorecards) of your performance. Mechwarriors would play a networked multiplayer death match, piloting their giant mech against with other real live humans piloting their own mechs from separate pods. All of this in the year of our Lord 1991. It was astounding for the day. In just a few short years, they'd have the technology to allow players in different BattleTech Centers around the country play against each other, likely the first introduction to online multiplayer for many mech nuts. Again, this is in the early '90s! [embed]292997:58730:0[/embed] Even voicing the idea out loud, I have no idea how it got off the ground. It sounds like a pipe-dream. A mad fantasy scribbled down in the margins of a high school notebook during the last few minutes of a particularly boring English class. Not something real people would spend real money on. It sounds exactly like the product of one of the “wouldn't it be cool if...” head-in-the-clouds conversations I'd have with my brother when we were kids. Even at the absolute height of the franchise's popularity, I can't imagine dedicating an entire building to mechanized combat. Nowadays, The Avengers are about the most popular thing on Earth, with their combined movie franchise making more money than some national GDPs. Still, I can't imagine getting any investors jumping on board to make Iron Man Centers where you strap on some fake Tony Stark gloves and a helmet and shoot repulsor blasts at other players. It's insane. Still, BattleTech Centers happened. There was a time when you and 15 or more friends could pile into a couple of vans, drive to a BattleTech Center, and spend the afternoon recreating the 4th Succession Wars of the early 3000s from the comfort of your personal cockpit -- and I fucking missed it. Nothing gold can stay. As the popularity of BattleTech as a whole began to wane, and the general market shifted away from arcades in favor of home consoles, BattleTech Centers around the world began shuttering their cockpits. There were reattempts at the idea. BattleTech: Firestorm came out in early 2000s with improved Tesla 2 cockpits (capable of “Advanced Mission Mode” which actually turned on all of the extra switches and controls in the cockpit, changing them from a cute cosmetic affectation to necessary instruments). But despite a small hardcore audience of enthusiasts, battle pods are on the brink of extinction. There are a few places still running BattleTech pods, but they are scattered throughout the country and operate on a much smaller scale. A few half-functioning pods tucked in the back of an arcade at a Go-Kart track in New Mexico. A small mech cache in Houston that is only open on occasional weekends or by appointment. Or the Fallout Shelter Arcade's wandering BattleTech exhibition that travels between conventions and events, dropping pods in the middle of a show floor for curious attendees. Even with these last few preservationists, the clock is ticking. The machines are getting older, spare parts and the knowledge to repair them increasingly scarce. Soon, the few remaining pods around may suffer the “lostech” fate that befell the advanced Star League technology of the BattleTech series (an end that is deeply depressing to the part of me that still wants to climb into a cockpit, and bizarrely exhilarating to the part of me that is a bone-deep MechWarrior nerd). Look, I know these centers are dead for a reason. I get that they were cheesy as hell even when they were new. I know the games probably haven't held up. The once quasi-mystical LAN multiplayer experience is completely unnecessary these days and there are any number of better mech games and pilot sims to spend your time on. [embed]292997:58731:0[/embed] But good lord, I just would have loved to have gone to one back in their heyday. Just the idea of dragging a few of my friends and family (who aren't obsessed with giant robots) to one of those centers puts a smile in my heart. Sitting through the terrible videos, climbing into one of those big fake cockpits, it's just the right blend of something I would enjoy both ironically and completely sincerely. Of course I would immediately switch it to the so-called Advanced Mission Mode and spend most of the time flailing about trying to figure out the controls and basically waste the opportunity. I know myself, I'm exactly that kind of jerk. I guess I should start planning a road-trip to catch up with one of the few remaining clutches of pods scattered around the country. The big, silly BattleTech Centers of yesterday are gone, and I'll never get the chance to go to one, but their legacy is still around -- at least for now. I don't want to add another regret to the pile. 
BattleTech Centers photo
They'll never bury me in my robot
I've done a lot of things I'm not proud of in my life. I've made a lot of mistakes, missed some opportunities that still feel like a cavity in my heart, know that I've done wrong. But if I'm being honest? My number one regret...

Top Tentacles: Gaming's greatest cephalopods

May 29 // Ben Davis
Blooper - Super Mario Bros. series Bloopers are the classic squids of gaming. They've been a part of the Super Mario Bros. series ever since the first entry, and have appeared in many different forms, including the Gooper Blooper from Super Mario Sunshine, the Big Blooper from Super Paper Mario, King Calamari from Super Mario RPG, and many more. Blooper was even a playable character once in Mario Party 8. He was the only character I ever played as in that game, of course, but it made me wish Blooper was playable more often. I hope we see him in Mario Kart as a racer sometime, or participating in one of the Mario sports games, or even just appearing as a party member in a Paper Mario game. We need more friendly Bloopers! Ultros - Final Fantasy VI Oh, Ultros. This musclehead-hating, fire-fearing octopus acts as a comic relief boss fight, whom players must battle several times throughout Final Fantasy VI. He'll fight you in the water, on land, in the air, and even on stage during a live opera performance! It's hard to pick a favorite character in Final Fantasy VI, because the cast is so rich and diverse, but Ultros is pretty high up there. The game just wouldn't be the same without him, popping up in the most unexpected places with a big, goofy grin on his face. How can you not love adorable old Uncle Ulty? Octorok - Legend of Zelda series Another classic video game cephalopod, like the Bloopers. Octoroks are octopus-like enemies from the Zelda series, although unlike real octopuses, they often only have four tentacles and they like to spit rocks instead of ink. Octoroks have undergone some major design changes over the years. They started out as little round red and blue land-dwelling dudes who barely resembled octopuses, then moved into the water, turned purple, and began to look more like their namesake in Ocarina of Time, and then became more of a giant squid-like enemy in Wind Waker in the form of the Big Octos. The Big Octos are my favorite incarnation; it was always quite a thrill to encounter one in the big open ocean. No matter what they look like, though, you can almost always expect to run into an Octorok at some point during Link's adventures. Ikachan - Ikachan Splatoon isn't the first game where you could play as a squid! Way back in 2000, Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya released a freeware game called Ikachan, the predecessor to his wildly popular indie game, Cave Story. Ikachan follows the story of the titular hero, a cute little squid on a mission to aid his fellow sea creatures who have been trapped in a cave after a series of earthquakes and are running out of food. It's a rather short game, but it's free and unique enough to be enjoyable. Plus, Ikachan has a little starfish buddy named Ben, so of course I'm gonna like the game! Ikachan actually makes a cameo appearance in Cave Story as well. If players manage to beat Ironhead (another character from Ikachan) in the Waterway without getting hit, a swarm of squid that look just like Ikachan will flood the screen! Octavian, Marina, and Zucker - Animal Crossing series Ever since the first Animal Crossing game, all I've ever wanted was to have an octopus neighbor move into my town. At first, the only available octopus villager was Octavian, the grumpy red dude. I saw him in a list of possible villagers, and dreamed that one day he'd move in next to me, walking around on land like it's no big deal. But alas, it never happened. I never even saw him visiting in a tent or igloo. The newer iterations of Animal Crossing have introduced two more octopus neighbors into the mix: Marina, the cute, pink one; and Zucker, the one that looks like a walking takoyaki. While I was playing New Leaf last year, I somehow had one spectacular week where both Octavian AND Marina moved into my town! They're both still there today, and I'm never letting them leave. Now all I need is Zucker, and I'll have the holy trinity of Animal Crossing neighbors! Launch Octopus - Mega Man X Launch Octopus is the robo-octopus boss from Mega Man X who resides in an underwater military base. He's able to fire homing torpedoes and create huge whirlpools, which can be very dangerous when X is trapped underwater. I also love his opening animation, where he points at X with a tentacle and then points to the ground. "You're goin' down!" There was another cephalopod boss later on in the series in Mega Man X5, who goes by the name of Squid Adler. Unfortunately, I have yet to play X5, but I heard Squid Adler is named after Steven Adler from Guns N' Roses, so that's pretty cool. It reminds me of the Squid Vicious character from the newest Chibi-Robo game. I'm liking this trend of rock star squids. Who's next, Ringo Squid? Inkay and Malamar - Pokémon series Inkay and Malamar are a pair of squid Pokémon from the newest generation. They're pretty interesting because, while based on aquatic animals, they're actually not water-types and cannot learn any water-type moves (aside from one TM move). Instead, they are Dark/Psychic-types. With special techniques like Topsy-Turvy and Contrary, these squids like to pull the old switcheroo, reversing stat changes on themselves or the enemy. Inkay also has a really weird method of evolving. Players actually have to hold the 3DS upside down while it levels up in order for it to evolve into Malamar. Of course, Inkay and Malamar aren't the only cephalopod Pokémon. There's also Octillery, a pretty cool octopus Pokémon, although I've never understood why it evolves from Remoraid. I mean, remoras and octopuses don't really have anything to do with each other. It would have made more sense for Remoraid to evolve into Mantine or Sharpedo, or just not evolve at all. But I guess Pokémon doesn't really have to make sense biologically, so whatever. They can have a fish evolve into a cephalopod; why not? Octodad - Octodad series Hmm... I must have made a mistake. I figured a game called Octodad would be about an octopus, but all I'm seeing here is a normal human dad in a fancy suit standing alongside his beautiful family. How strange. Sorry for the mix-up, folks! Moving along... Giant Squid - Endless Ocean series This one's a bit more on the realistic side. What makes the giant squid in Endless Ocean so exciting for me is the fact that real life giant squids are so incredibly rare that only a few people have ever actually seen one alive. Even though they live on our planet, the chances of actually seeing one are slim to none. So encountering one in Endless Ocean is really as close as I'm ever going to get to meeting my favorite animal. In Endless Ocean: Blue World, players can find the giant squid in a deep ocean crevasse. It blocks the entrance to a cave, threatening to attack, so it has to be lured out by leading a sperm whale (its natural enemy) over to the cave. The squid and the whale then begin an epic fight for survival, right in front of you! Swimming alongside the giant squid in Endless Ocean was such a magical experience for me. I usually went out of my way to visit it, just to watch it float gracefully through the water, propelling itself with its tentacles, staring at me with its huge eyes. It's honestly one of my most cherished video game memories. Inklings - Splatoon I've only played about an hour of Splatoon so far, during the Global Testfire, but I can already tell that these squid kids are amazing. I mean, they're humans with squid-like features and the ability to turn into cephalopods at will. How great is that? If I had the ability to transform into any animal in real life, there's a very good chance I would choose to be a squid, just like the Inklings. This game really speaks to me. I'm a kid now! I'm a squid now!
Top Tentacles photo
Octopus, I love you
Happy Splatoon Day, everyone! With the release of Nintendo's new squid-based cooperative shooter, it only seems appropriate to celebrate by taking a look at some of the great cephalopod video game characters out there. For th...

Review: Adventures of Pip

May 29 // Chris Carter
Adventures of Pip (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One, Wii U)Developer: Tic Toc GamesPublisher: Tic Toc GamesReleased: June 4, 2015 (PC, Wii U) / TBA (PS4, Xbox One)MSRP: $14.99 When Pip kicks off you're introduced to a tiny kingdom fated to be saved by a princess who can create and control pixels -- a sort of Star Wars-esque "Force" that guides the universe. Of course, an evil villain (the Skeleton Queen) wants it all to herself, and captures said princess, crafting the world in her image. It's up to Pip, a lone pixel, to save the day. The premise is fairly cool because it's not overly-meta, at least, not obnoxiously so as some recent games tend to be. It embraces the theme just enough to be adorable, and the queen in particular sports some very neat looking animations. The actual game is a platforming romp, and it's very quick to start. Pip will have to make do in his pixel form at first, which can jump and float, with the ability to kill enemies by jumping on their heads like Mario. Levels are designed with an SNES feel to them, mixing retro graphics, 8-bit, and 32-bit styles, which remind me of classics like Disney's Magical Quest. The main gimmick of course is the aforementioned evolutionary procedure. Using "Bitstream enemies" (read: glowing blue things), Pip can evolve into a boy. His new found abilities include punching and wall-jumping, and can be best compared to getting a mushroom in a Mario game. You can also devolve at will, sparking an explosion that does damage to enemies, and opens up certain walls. To get back to your boy-state, you'll have to find another Bitstream foe -- levels are designed around this concept so you won't get stuck. [embed]292813:58703:0[/embed] What I really like about this system is that it freezes the game when you change forms, adding a bit of tactical value to the act. Sometimes you'll need to kill an enemy to evolve mid-air, jump over a bed of spikes, then blow up a wall to land safely. There's also other nuances like the fact that pixel-Pip can bounce higher off springs, and so on. After several levels you'll also earn the 32-bit version of Pip, which can now use a sword to deal more damage and break blocks. Interestingly, 32-bit Pip cannot walljump -- so you'll need to devolve to the boy to solve some puzzles, and in turn, evolve again, and then revert all the way back to a pixel. It doesn't really get old or tedious. It takes just the right amount of time to switch back and forth, and again, the levels are designed directly around this concept. It's great. As you progress, a bit of wear and tear will set in. You'll save citizens from danger as collectibles of sorts, an endeavor that I tired of after the first few stages. There's also a problem with the level layouts themselves -- they're generally not memorable. While there is a great deal of interesting puzzle-platforming situations, I really can't recall any of them after completing the game, which takes roughly five hours to do. There also came a point where I stopped even trying to locate and open jewel chests to earn the only currency available in the game. The main reason is that the item economy is completely off-kilter, as vendors charge an arm and a leg for everything -- some items will take you an entire playthrough to earn, and they aren't even gamebreaking or special, which is nuts. Don't expect a whole lot of extras or options either. The PC version just has a pair of sliders to tinker with the sound and music volume, the launcher has a few resolution choices and a windowed option, and it sports three save file slots. That's it in terms of functionality. Adventures of Pip is an inoffensive platformer that doesn't do a whole lot wrong, but it won't stand out in your mind a few days after beating it. While it does last though, it'll bring a smile to your face.
Adventures of Pip review photo
From pixel to hero
I've always been fascinated by games that tackle evolution. Not necessarily the scientific principle, but the mechanic -- though a few titles like the brilliant E.V.O.: Search for Eden have managed to address both. Adventures of Pip which features a tiny pixel that turns into a real boy, and then a hero, isn't quite as groundbreaking, but it's still fun to play.

The great Wave 4 amiibo hunt is on today, and it's about what we expected

May 29 // Chris Carter
Here is the absolute worst part about the Wave 4 launch -- everything is coming out at the same time. Did you want Greninja and Jigglypuff, and missed the 15-minute online order window at 3AM EST? Tough. Unless you have a loving spouse or a family member to wait in line at another store, you have to choose between them. The same goes for Ness, an exclusive that you'll need to go to a GameStop location at opening to snag today. Silver Mario throws another wrench in the equation, as he was only officially announced roughly a week ago and tossed into the mix seemingly to watch consumers squirm. The GameStop I went to was completely sold out of everything but Pac-Man, Silver Mario, and the Splatoon amiibo when I arrived. In case you're wondering, the Splatoon series is looking exceedingly common. Charizard and Wario's rarity kind of jumps store-to-store, and I'd expect a Diddy-like situation in the future where they are rare at first, then become common. Pac-Man seems to be a confirmed common. Ness seems to be very rare, but I don't know if he's a unicorn just yet, unlike Shulk. Surprisingly, Silver Mario seems to be everywhere today, but who knows what his status will be next week. This is what the GameStop situation typically looks like elsewhere. Again, Robin and Lucina are as rare, if not rarer, than Marth at this point. Many stores didn't even have them, and my location only got two of each. I've been listening to testimonies all day, and the rub on Target is that although rumors circled that each store would get as many as 20 Jigglypuffs, most of them only obtained 4-10. One tip I've heard from the East coast crowd is that lots of folks are heading to Target, and not Toys"R"Us, so you might be able to sneak into a smaller line there. Though it must be said that the latter is not getting a lot of extra Greninja stock across the country, with most going to pre-orders -- call your store if possible first to avoid disappointment. For those of you who are in earlier timezones where retail locations haven't opened yet, the folks over at Amiibo News and Nintendo Inquirer have concocted a pretty killer shopping guide for today. If you're going out, good luck!
Wave 4 amiibo photo
Good luck
Today, Wave 4 of the amiibo shopping "experience" begins. We already assumed it was going to be hell on earth based on the pre-order process, and it turned out to be fairly uninspiring all around as shops opened across the US...

Halt and Catch Fire explores the early days of online gaming

May 28 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]292774:58672:0[/embed] Twenty months after the end of season one in 1985, the lead characters have essentially moved on from work on PCs and plan on striking out into something new. After the launch of the Giant, the PC they spent all of the first season building, Joe McMillan (Lee Pace) seeks to rebuild his life after ultimately compromising on his vision for what the future of computers could be, and realizing that his methods of success have harmed others. His number two, Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), struggles to find direction after departing Cardiff Electric, and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna Clarke (Kerry Bishé) have been hard at work on their new start-up company Mutiny, an online gaming network running on the Commodore 64 platform. With users paying a monthly fee to play multiple titles online with a community of gamers, they seek to expand the company and plan to change the way people seek entertainment and communicate with others. Much like the last season, Halt and Catch Fire's attention to detail and faithfulness to the era is as strong as ever. Focusing on the early stages of the consumer version of what we now know as the Internet, there's a lot of ground to cover for a start-up that deals with the state of online gaming. Though there were other (real) online PC services that offered gaming and many other functions around 1985 -- such as Prodigy, CompuServe, and Quantum Link (now known as AOL) -- the fictional Mutiny of HACF is a service that exclusively streams games to users. With such titles as Tank Battle, Checkers, Chess, and Backgammon serving as the basics, much of their attention towards game creation is focused on a title known as Parallax, a MUD (Multi User Dungeon) RPG series that spans multiple chapters. Looking back, the 1980s was a strange time for games. With the console video game market in a crisis, arcades serving as a hub for social interaction and competitive gaming, and the home PC audience gradually expanding, it's certainly a far cry from what we experience now in the present. What I really like from these episodes so far is that we're seeing a sense of  uncertainty during the time. Given that this is set post-video game console crash, games on cartridges are often regarded by characters as inferior to the offerings and potential of PC gaming. During one of my favorite scenes, the coders at Mutiny are discussing what game to work on next, with one of the new hires suggesting that they focus on technical innovation rather than game creation, as the former usually gives rise to the later. [embed]292774:58671:0[/embed] It's interesting to see a television series focus not only on game development, but the building of an online community during 1980s. Let alone doing it in a way that actually depicts realism, and quite frankly, honesty for what the gaming audience is all about. I watch a lot of television. I'm quite used to seeing different programs spout out random catchphrases and obligatory references to popular games in order to connect with gamers. But the brilliant thing about Halt and Catch Fire is that it not only features characters who are hardcore gamers, but they use their passion as the fuel for their creative endeavors. And that is refreshing to see on a television series. I was a big admirer of the first season, and though it felt a bit uneven and had some pacing issues, it definitely showed potential to become something great. And I can safely say that its potential is finally being realized in its second outing. I was impressed with the beginning of this season, and though I may be biased because it's got a deep focus on gaming, I feel that the new change of scenery, and a new focus, has given the series a much needed rejuvenation. It sure feels much more energetic and hipper because of it. If you haven't seen the show yet, the first season is available now on Netflix, and its second season is set to debut May 31 on AMC. If you're interested in the creation of technology, and hearing a bumping soundtrack to go along with it, then I highly recommend giving it a watch. Also, this series has by far the coolest TV intro ever. That alone is enough to deserve it your attention.
Halt and Catch Fire photo
The thing that gets us to the thing
In case you couldn't tell, the 1980s is having a bit of comeback. With so many games and films (Kung Fury is out today!) seeking to emulate the vibrant and lively era, there's plenty of people out there feeling nostalgic for ...

22 (probably) games that are way harder than Dark Souls

May 28 // Steven Hansen
Conversation around From Software's turgid-uttered sacred cow, the Souls series (Bloodborne, too) has such a strange fixation on difficulty, of shuddering players shivering under its hurts so good sadism. Namco Bandai fed into it with Dark Souls and Dark Souls II's marketing. I've died hundreds of times in hundreds of games. And it's very strange how people nod in agreement to the novelty of death and difficulty as if instant fail states were not one of gaming's founding blocks (to the point where some people have stupid arguments about whether things are or are not games). It reminds me of how Telltale's recent adventure games trump up "player choice" as if players haven't been choosing since positioning their Pong paddle. Ok, "narrative" choice? Umm, how about text adventures from 1981. Come on. Souls games aren't hard. I don't say that as a nose-upturned, "gotten gud" vet. They are about endurance and resilience more than sadistic, chronic difficulty. They are a challenge, but not monstrous or mean as people often make them out. Heck, I've seen someone who plays maybe one or two games a year get a platinum trophy in Demon's Souls. There's no club. Anyone can do this. They're designed to let anyone play and finish. Over on the webpage (and mobile application) Twitter, one-time Destructoid contributor Stephen Beirne (no relation!) loosed a series of posts about Souls and I am in accord. "I can't get behind the argument that Dark Souls is abusive due to its (presented sense of) difficulty. And I think this is because I find Dark Souls to be far, far less difficult than a game like, for example, Super Mario Brothers. Platforming is difficult! It's very difficult! It's not fun and it's agonizing and it's pointless and hateful." I love platformers, but this raises some great points, aside from the subjectivity of difficulty. No one's good at everything. I am bad at not having loads of sex, for example. Irish Stephen (not to be confused with Welsh Stephen) is bad at platformers. Young Steven (me) was bad at telling Kurt Russell and Patrick Swayze apart. There is a relative novelty to Souls games, though, and I think that's where some of the obsession over exaggerating the difficulty comes from (aside from general chest pounding reinforced by marketing to try and create a positive-feeling in-group). But it isn't in death. It's as a 3D action game. Late '80s, early '90s gaming was filthy with platformers. Mario, a pop culture icon up there with Michael Jordan and the wild shirtless Mark Farner, comes from New Jump City. The genre has only gotten easier, shedding quarter-gobbling design (the removal of "lives"), allowing you to skip levels after repeated death. While some folks are plum bad at 'em, we've had a lot of tries at being good at them. Compare to the 3D action game, which might not have even hit its stride until the PS2-era in the 2000s (PS1-era ones tended to be wonky and platforming-heavy), but at least didn't even exist until 3D graphics. In our young medium, the 3D action genre is younger still, (blood)born(e) of platformers and agèd over the last decade. Souls games occupy a genre that has a decent chance at being a new challenge to folks. It also operates different than genre-defining stuff like Devil May Cry or God of War, thanks in part to the RPG bits. The latter, reflex-based ilk are linear and need momentum. And so you can limp along, button mash, and be not all that good, for which they'll stratify you (chumps skirt by with C-ranks and stamina, experts carve up the world with SSS-rank endless combos). But you're still getting through, moving along. Even I meandered my way through the "hard" Devil May Cry games. And on the RPG side of the Souls mix, there's a history of having the numbers and grind fallback, limited reflex-oriented fighting. And suddenly, Souls, where the difference isn't "coast by or be good," but, more closely, "coast by or die." It rewrites the expectations of 3D, third-person action relative to genre standard bearers. All it asks you to do is get by, and so it skews the relationship to death and performance. The general experience of Devil May Cry is that sometimes you'll die. Mostly, you'll empty out rooms with the killing precision of a child flailing at a piñata. Eventually, you'll be an expert slayer. Souls changes that bell curve. Mostly you'll die. Eventually you'll get by. Rarely, you'll be a wrecking machine, an offensive weapon. It's about winning, eventually, instead of winning more and more impressively.  Souls offers other outs, too. You can go grind and level up, get more gear, buy more arrows. You can often fuck off elsewhere, to another stage, or on another path, rather than bang your head against one boss. Masochistic? When's the last time a text adventure let you type, "this is stupid, next question?" How about trying to suss a point-and-click puzzle that expects you to pry open a manhole, stretch a patch of human skin over it into a trampoline, and jump up through an open window? Souls games are designed to encourage you towards eventual success, even if it means breaks, detours, or extra hours. You don't get a gold star for killing the Flame Lurker without the ribcage exploit. You don't get a demerit for safely perching yourself with a bow and taking 100 potshots to down a far off creature. In Souls' judgment, it's all the same. What matters is you did it. I don't find that sadistic at all.
Not actually a listicle photo
Why the Souls series' hardened rep?
"Prepare to die," Dark Souls warns, flashlight under face, as if 30 years of video games hasn't already prepared me. "I'm not a masochist," people say, letting six years of Souls pass from afar, like they're looking out a tra...

Review: Hatred

May 28 // Chris Carter
Hatred (PC)Developer: Destructive CreationsPublisher: Destructive CreationsReleased: June 1, 2015MSRP: $19.99 To be clear, I don't have an inherent problem with Hatred. We've seen far, far worse in terms of the video game medium -- in this very generation with Grand Theft Auto V's playable in-game torture scene. Or even Ninja Gaiden III's new "cutting" system, where enemies scream in agony as they're sliced into multiple pieces of flesh. The obvious difference here is that a lot of the targets in Hatred are civilians, which put people on edge. But really, plenty of mainstream action titles have more nuanced takes, killing servicemen and women, officers of the law, and yes, plenty of civilians. Where Hatred partly fails is that it doesn't really make any meaningful statements in regards to its violence. That that it needs to, mind, it kind of just "is." The main character (who is not named) hates the world, so he's going to take down as many people as he can before he dies. That's basically it. He starts in his neighborhood, then branches out across the surrounding area, using various forms of transportation to do it. I suspect there are going to be thinkpieces spouting up across the 'net after release, but don't expect anything as interesting as the ones that were spurred by Hotline Miami playthroughs -- another ultraviolent romp. All the while, he's ranting pseudo-philosophical nonsense. The developers have noted that he isn't trying to quote or channel anyone in particular, and boy can you tell when he says repeats tired phrases like "dust to dust" and "the death is waiting." Half the time you can't even hear what he's saying over the sound of gunfire and explosions. Nothing about the presentation is memorable outside of the distinct visual style. [embed]292912:58710:0[/embed] As a shooter, Hatred is fairly impressive (outside of the sparing terrible vehicular controls). Destructive Creations clearly has a knack for the genre, which makes the fact that it decided to create this lifeless world more disappointing. Shooting feels responsive, and the control scheme is easy to pick up and play, especially on a controller. I don't like that there isn't a toggle option for sprinting (you have to hold it down, which hurts your thumb after a while), but aiming, including the precision-aim system that provides an imaginary laser sight while holding the trigger, is spot-on. Visually, Hatred is somewhere in-between unique and messy. The grey sheen generally looks great, but it does get old after a few levels. Plus, you'll want to jack up the gamma considerably, as the playable character tends to get lost in the fray. Individual objects are all rendered with care though, and the destruction system allows you to do things like craft new exits by blowing through walls. There isn't a whole lot to do in those worlds though. It's level-based, and most missions boil down to "kill [x] number of civilians, then kill [x] number of police, then escape." There's a few unique levels like a sewer chase with the SWAT team or a linear stage taking place on a moving train, but most of them follow this same principle. The train scenario in particular presents some interesting possibilities, in that random civilians on-board are armed. It's often hard to pick them out of a crowd, and if a gun drops, they'll run to pick it up. That mission only lasts a few minutes though, then it's onto the next generic hub. Seriously, that's about all the game has to offer.  I also encountered a few bugs while playing, including disappearing bodies, wonky physics that caused some deaths, and a few fatal game crashes. Several levels were also mislabeled in the level select screen and sometimes, mission objectives wouldn't calculate correctly. The crashes in particular really hindered my playthrough, as they were all at the very end of a level, which forced me to replay them from the start. If it weren't for these issues, it would be a decent twin-stick shooter. Developer tools are evidently going to happen which may allow more interesting levels, but haven't been provided at launch. If you're curious, here's a full video rundown of the options menu. There's nothing really special about Hatred. It's a twin-stick shooter. It has guns in it. It has objectives. Most of the time those objectives involve acting like a menace to society or blowing stuff up. It doesn't have anything new to bring to the table, or anything interesting to say about the genre. You can go back to yelling at it now if you want.
Hatred review photo
Do you hate it?
When Hatred debuted, I pretty much kept quiet. No one can really win in that situation, when the explosion of opposing viewpoints was at its loudest. I decided to wait until the finished product was out and play it for m...

Very Quick Tips: Splatoon

May 28 // Chris Carter
General tips: Try out every weapon in the game. Too intimidated to play online with it? Go to the shop to give it a trial run in the training course. Play whatever you want, but know that early on, there will be a lot of rollers out there to deal with. Talk to the cat in town every day for the occasional bit of free gold. Try to recharge your ammo by going into ink constantly. If you can get somewhere by way of your squid form, do it. There are lots of advanced tactics in this game, but one is done by inking the ground quickly below you, squid morphing, and jumping away from your opponent. Repeat as many times as necessary. In the campaign, you can press any level to instantly super jump to it -- it's really useful for getting around quickly, and I didn't even realize it until the very end.   Turf War: This sounds self-explanatory, but when you're playing Turf War, look for a special (grenade or super attack) that can earn you more turf. For instance, the Splash Wall is a great defensive tool, but other powers will help you actually cover more ground. You always want to be taking turf, even while taking out enemies. Later on in a match, look around for areas that haven't been covered yet. It's safe bet that the enemy team hasn't even realized that this place exists, and likely won't return to it as the match ends. Always watch the GamePad map after a death. Is your ally deep into a base with lots of uncovered ground? Tap them to super jump to them. Mash the screen (gently) in case they die -- you'll jump over there anyway if you tap in time. You'll learn to see certain weapons on the map by the pattern they lay down. For instance, it's easy to spot a roller going in a straight line, switching the territory color. Learn to spot them and stay away if necessary, and get to higher ground. Ambushing people on walls is a great tactic to stay alive if you're outgunned. While running around a corner, quickly ink the wall and stick to it. Most players won't suspect an aerial attack from behind. Don't have enough time at the end of a round after a respawn? Paint objects quickly in your base. You won't have time to super jump or get to any useful location. Splat Zones: Always get to the zone immediately, but create at least one path back. If you have nothing to do and your zone is more than covered, consider ruining the other team's path towards their spawn. It'll significantly slow them down when returning. There are a lot of items here that particularly shine in Splat Zones, like Splash Walls. Use these to block off choke points and prevent enemies from rushing into your zone.
Splatoon tips photo
Jelonzo is the coolest
Just because Splatoon is a light-hearted online experience, that doesn't mean that it lacks depth. Here are some tips to help you along the path to ranked dominance.

WildStar F2P photo
Here's all the details
For years, WildStar was touted as the next great subscription-based MMO. It was unveiled all the way back in 2011at Gamescom, and the hype kind of built from there. I had a chance to play multiple builds, and I liked wha...

Review: Magicka 2

May 27 // Steven Hansen
Magicka 2 (PC [reviewed], PS4)Developer: Pieces InteractivePublisher: Paradox InteractiveReleased: May 26, 2015MSRP: $14.99 If you haven't played the first Magicka, the set-up is still familiar enough: up-to-four-player overhead adventuring and monster killing. The trade tools are the big difference. You're granted immediate access -- there's no progression system, really -- to eight different magics, just about all of which can be combined, in different strings and quantities. There's a balance between stronger spells, which are more complex to cast, and dealing with basic elemental affinities. On a controller, spells are mapped to four face buttons, while L1 swaps to a second set of four spells, a system I much prefer over the first's fighter-like quarter circles. Once queued, they can be cast forth offensively, as area of attack, or unto oneself. And Magicka 2 is more than willing to let you drop a rock on your own noggin as easily as you might heal yourself. Or let you set an unfortunate friend on fire. Magicka 2 gets most of its good will for its co-op, which is why controllers for couch play are sort of preferred, though you can play online, and in parties of any make up (two local, one online, and so on). While playing co-op can make the worst game fun, Magicka 2 is definitely improved with and seems designed around having friends to revive you and to separate enemies whose AI encourages them to clump in writhing, obscuring masses. It is no fun to play solo, constantly drowned in a sea of goblins. [embed]292791:58693:0[/embed] The clean interface and easy drop in, drop out are about the only significant improvements over the original. That and the lack of bugs. Enemy AI mildly trips out sometimes and, especially in co-op, being anywhere near the edge of the screen feels like you're constantly stuck on screen restrictions mixed with level geometry, but mostly it's a clean running -- and lean running -- game. Collision detection also comes into play with the physics heavy final boss fight, which was equally the most creative and frustrating encounter.  The story is told over 10 or so brief chapters with replays encouraged by challenge instances and modifiers (collectable artifacts) that allow for Mortal Kombat Test Your Luck-style additions. Madly increased movement speed (please), extra unsafe damage boosts. There's a fair amount to tinker with. That's if you want to tinker, though. Again, Magicka 2 just feels like more Magicka levels and I felt fairly sated not even having finished the first. There's a giant enemy crab as a sort of sub-boss, and then you fight another giant enemy crab, and then you fight two giant enemy crabs. It gets redundant. Enemies are fodder, relentlessly marching toward you en masse, hardly flinching in the face of your supposedly powerful magics. The crowds get messy and you die, or you do a lot of running backwards while spraying spells at your angry entourage like metal filings chasing a Wooly Willy pen. It often feels like the equivalent to a shooter with lengthy mounted turret sections, the discovery of powerful spell combinations evoking sighs of, "Thank god, I can kill the next wave of 20 goblins more easily." And while I appreciate Magicka 2's lighthearted take on fantasy tropes, I don't like the bulk of its humor, which confuses making references with making jokes. It's like a non-hipster version of Life is Strange, allowing you to be self-satisfied for having seen Game of Thrones rather than Battle Royale. Thwacking a wooden cow -- or your friend -- and it exploding into chunks of meat is always funnier, but Magicka 2's actual jokes at least fare better than the winks and nudges. Repeated insistence that Dracula-accented, narrative-driving Vlad is not a vampire? Even a deadpan loading slide regularly reserved for game tips that just says "Vlad is not a vampire." Funny. Oregon Trail jokes? Belongs on Epic Threadz next to the "I [picture of cartoon bacon] BACON" shirts. If you want to pat yourself on the back for getting in-jokes and you can drum up enough play pals for co-op, you might find Magicka 2 [Borat voice] very nice! Like its references, though, Magicka 2 is just a retread.
Magicka 2 review photo
Spelling inside the lines
Magicka 2's tagline is "learn to spell...again," and that sums up the sequel to the Paradox-published, surprise-millions-selling first Magicka. The second fantasy trope stuffed outing comes from Pieces Interactive, makers of ...

'What Remains of Edith Finch?' is far creepier than I could've imagined

May 27 // Brett Makedonski
I was overcome by curiosity when I first saw this house in the distance. I wanted to explore every inch of this family's makeshift mansion; I wanted to glean any information about them that I possibly could, as if I were playing Gone Home all over again. That curiosity was quickly stunted as I realized that there simply isn't that much in Edith Finch to explore -- not yet anyway. Hallway after hallway was adorned by locked doors with nothing but nameplates and years on them. After looking at maybe the third one of these which told of a particularly premature death, I remarked "Sad. He didn't live very long at all." "You'll find that's a recurring theme in this family," Dallas quickly replied. What Remains of Edith Finch? is exceptionally dark in that it doesn't just speak of all this tragedy; it shows it. The majority of the game is made up of chapters wherein you relive exactly how the individual family members die. And, each one looks to be drenched in just as much mystery as morbidity. The one playable instance during our demo told of the untimely fate of a small boy, maybe seven years old at most. One night, he awoke to great hunger pangs. With a self-narration that proved to be equal parts adorable and macabre, he set off to do what any child in that situation would: find something to eat. The bathroom didn't hold much to satisfy his growling tummy, as he consumed a tube of toothpaste that didn't quite sate his appetite. [embed]292645:58691:0[/embed] It was then that he turned into a cat on the prowl for a bird to eat. With some guided platforming, he chased the feathered creature from branch to branch in hot pursuit. Eventually he caught up, devoured the unfortunate jay, and suddenly transformed again. Now, the little boy was an owl in a snowstorm. Rabbits ran through the fields below, and he swooped down to pick them up, three in total. Disturbingly, Edith Finch presented each of these hares being gulped down from a first-person perspective (as the whole game is), completely devoid of gore yet still unsettling. He noted how full they were making him, but how he wanted to keep consuming more. Then, he was a shark in the open waters taking giant chunks out of a seal. As the seal bloodied the water, he got more and more frenzied. Finally, he morphed into a sea monster -- one who navigated the deck of a ship and crept up on unsuspecting sailors before killing them. Almost as quickly as it all began, it was over. The boy was back in his room. He crawled under his bed, somehow knowing the fate he was destined to suffer. Maybe more disconcerting was that he seemed at terms with it. He knew this monster would kill him, and that was that. I don't fully understand exactly what happened to this little child, but then again, I don't think I'm supposed to. There's clearly a mystery that What Remains of Edith Finch? has buried across it's twenty or so short stories, and it's one that I'm ridiculously excited to unravel.
Edith Finch preview photo
But I could not be more curious
"What fucked up person came up with this?" I asked. Giant Sparrow creative director Ian Dallas sheepishly raised his hand. He knew I wasn't admonishing him, though; the expression on my face and the excitement in my voice gav...

Review: Splatoon

May 27 // Chris Carter
Splatoon (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No .2Publisher: NintendoReleased: May 29, 2015MSRP: $59.99 Players will start the journey as a measly level one squid in Inkopolis. You should learn the layout in roughly 20 minutes. It's not huge, but it has a lot of character, mostly due to the fact that other players are littered about the townside. No, this isn't quite like a Phantasy Star Online lobby with live players running around, they're more like static NPCs that draw upon the character's avatar, style choices, and Miiverse postings. If you're not keen on walking everywhere to play a specific mode, an easy-to-access map is located on the GamePad -- perfect. There is one annoying thing about the hub world -- the news station. Every so often at certain intervals, a fake "news" show will play, interrupting whatever you're doing. It displays the next set of levels that are up for multiplayer, and any other relevant events that are happening. A lot of you will probably think it's cute, and it is a neat idea, but sometimes they're literally repeating the same phrases on the same stages I've seen multiple times over -- it's not a dealbreaker, I just wish I could just skip through it. Shops, however, are anything but annoying, as I'm a full-on fashion addict. Whether it's the shoe, shirt, or hat boutique, I'm usually inside of a [digital] brick and mortar location ready to spend all of my cash on clothes I will never wear. These items are mostly cosmetic however, and even though they do have some stats attached to them, they're negligible at best. So if you aren't down with the idea of amassing clothes, you probably aren't going to be spending a lot of time in Inkopolis. [embed]291959:58680:0[/embed] It also must be said that the story mode isn't really linked to the hub world, which is mostly for multiplayer. Any acquisitions from the hub are strictly used in online play, though you can unlock some weapon blueprints in the campaign and you'll get a few bonuses to bring back after you complete the story. In other words, think of the single-player narrative as a staging grounds for playing online. The levels themselves are very well designed, and in line with a 3D Mario game -- which is definitely a compliment. There's a lot of variety found in every single stage, with mechanics like geysers, invisible paths, moving blocks, and a whole lot more. Gimmicks never outstay their welcome, and just as you've started to master a concept, Splatoon moves on to the next one. The pacing is superb. Boss fights aren't exactly innovative, as they all boil down to "kill the giant weak point three times," but they are fun to play. They remind me of less inspired Mario Galaxy or 3D World fights, even down to the enemy models. All in all you'll go solo for roughly 30 levels, which should last you 10 hours -- a little less if you rush, a little more if you go for all of the collectibles (which do a great job of worldbuilding, by the way). So how is the game actually played? By inking everything in sight, of course! Well, sort of. In the campaign you'll have access to just the Splattershot, which is like a rapid-fire rifle. You'll use your colored ink to defeat enemies and create paths, which can be crafted on most surfaces on the ground and most walls. By holding the L trigger you'll instantly morph into a squid-form, which isn't capable of attacking (outside of a special super ability), but can traverse quickly in ink. You'll have to master the art of offense as a kid and defense as a squid to really grasp what Splatoon has to offer. Other weapons essentially mirror other shooters (Splat Charger is a sniper rifle of sorts, there's also a grenade launcher and a light machine gun) outside of the Splat Roller, which is utterly unique. In my mind it's easily the most fun weapon to play with in the game, as you'll roll your way to victory, painting the town as you run and destroy enemies along the way. It seems broken at first glance, but it's actually pretty balanced, as skilled snipers and nearly anyone with a gun can counter it from high-ground, all the while earning points online (which I'll get to in a minute). Outside of the story mode there's also "Dojo," which is strictly a one-on-one offline affair, with one player using the GamePad, and another the Wii U Pro Controller. Your goal is to pop 30 balloons, and you'll have the ability to choose from every basic weaponset as well as five arenas. It's fun, but extremely limited, and felt like a momentary distraction from anything else. It was really disappointing once we realized that we can't play together online on the same console. As for the amiibo-centric mode, the only figure I had access to was the Splatoon Boy for the purposes of this review. It keeps the high going from the campaign, mostly because it is the campaign. Each figure features the same levels, but with a new weapon -- in the Boy's case, a Splat Roller. The rewards are mostly gold, with some cosmetic items and the rare weapon variant. So is it worth $35 to pick up the lot? Based on the Boy, I'd say "no," but it's a nice extra. Try the story first, and if you are really itching to play it multiple times, grab them.The main attraction of course is online play. The entire draw of Splatoon is simplicity in this regard. Matches are short, and they don't feature voice chat. In other words, even if you get spawn camped or dominated, matches are only a few minutes, and you don't have another team taunting you along the way. The core mode you'll be playing right off the bat is Turf War, which is a lot like Tony Hawk's Graffiti gametype -- kills don't matter, and the more you paint the battlefield your color, the higher your score at the end. Your personal score is how you level-up online, earn gold for clothes, and unlock the right to use new weapons. I enjoy lots of shooters, and in my mind, Splatoon has easily carved its own little niche around them. It's a more relaxing affair, both in terms of the zen-like qualities of the paint, and the online experience in general. It's refreshing to be able to try out new loadouts without fearing that they might not be viable, and the maps are fairly easy to learn as they are symmetrical. Don't worry though, there's plenty of room for advanced tactics, which the playerbase is already experimenting with just based on the Global Testfire events. My favorite trick that I discovered while playing online is to paint a wall while running from someone, quickly hide as a squid, and leap out from above as they turn the corner. Ranked play by way of the Splat Zones mode, unlocked at level 10, can be a respite from constant Turf War matches. Based on the current XP gain, it should take roughly a day's worth of playing to unlock, and although Nintendo automatically enabled it for my build of the game, a "certain amount of players" will need to reach 10 to play it. It's basically King of the Hill, with more of an emphasis on zone control and kills than Turf War. Your objective is to score as many points as possible while owning a point on the map, keeping everyone else out of the area. It's pretty great, but sadly, these are the only two current online modes. Nintendo has revealed that more are in the pipeline (Rainmaker and Tower are already confirmed), but for now, you'll have to deal with just two. Online play was smooth for me during the past two weeks of testing on pre-launch servers. I've played well over 100 games, and there were only a few sessions that were dropped during matchmaking. Once the game arrives we'll provide a launch-day report of the server situation, but for now, it's been wonderful. There are a few hangups with the way this component was designed though. When you're in the queue for a round, you can't quit -- not even with the home button. It's a bit odd, especially if you realize that you need to handle something in real life, as your only option is to turn the Wii U off. Additionally, you can't switch up your weapons while you're waiting for a game to start, as you can only do that in the previous menu. Also, after a match is completed, if you hit "yes" to quickly start a new match, you cannot change your loadout there either. It's odd, as nearly every other shooter allows you to do so, and it breaks up the pacing to constantly drop games (that you can't quit) to go try a new style. No voice chat actually isn't a big deal to me in unranked Turf War as it's going for a more casual type of gameplay, but it really should be an option in Ranked play. After all, Nintendo set up a grading system that sees your rank drop if you lose. I'd appreciate the ability to at least communicate with my team. Lastly, there's nothing implemented currently for AFKers (I guess Nintendo is relying on short matches to eventually weed them out), and there are limitations in the current build in regards to playing with friends. After matching up and playing a few games, the game will switch you around on opposite sides every so often. An update is coming later this year will allow friends to play together consistently -- odd. None of this really bothers me all that much, but I can see some of these problems being major issues for a lot of you out there. The thing that mostly bothers me about online play is that there's only a handful of maps and two modes at the moment. In some ways, Splatoon's online component is disappointing, and the lack of so many features will likely push other shooter fans away. But most of those shortcomings can be forgiven in my mind because of how damn fun it is. As a shooter it's refreshing, and as a 3D platformer it's up there with some of Nintendo's greatest creations. You'll quickly forget about the fact that you're playing Turf War over and over as you squid down an alley, leap across a gap, and shoot enemies in the air as you fall. All Nintendo needs to do is keep supporting Splatoon, because the foundation is fantastic. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. Nintendo also provided the Squid Boy amiibo.]
Splatoon review photo
A splash hit for Nintendo
If you think Nintendo hasn't been taking risks, you haven't been paying attention. Yes, most fans await the next Mario and Zelda announcement with bated breath during every E3 presentation, but the publish...

Yep, Ultra Street Fighter IV on PS4 sure looks great

May 26 // Chris Carter
[embed]292798:58682:0[/embed] At this point there are 44 characters in all, and you can select a fighting style from every different iteration of the game. It's pretty comprehensive, but again, most people aren't going to dig into all of the configurations for every fighter. In other words, if you already have a previous version of Ultra, especially on the PC, you'll probably just want to stick with that, as it's proven to work well at this point. 1080p60 on a console is nice, and only the most trained veterans will be able to notice the minor input lag from the previous generation to the PS4 -- since it's going to be the new de facto build for tournies, you can only assume this will be patched soon, but nothing has been confirmed yet from Capcom. The menus are a bit slower compared to other versions, which seems like a bug -- still, it's not a dealbreaker unless you compete at a high level. In terms of my netcode testing, all of the matches I've played have been very smooth. My main issue has been finding games, which you can likely chalk up to a launch-day "wait and see" crowd. I can't predict the future in terms of the adoption rate on PS4, but so far I don't have any major issues to report. We'll update you if that changes. Oh, and as community member Beelz points out, PS4 USFIV is the standard for this year's EVO. Ultra Street Figher IV [PSN]
Ultra Street Fighter IV photo
But there's a few bugs to squash
[Update: players have been reporting various bugs with the PS4 version across the net. While I didn't encounter any of these in my roughly 20 hours of testing outside of the ones mentioned here, it's important to be aware of ...

Fighting games and roguelikes are my personal school of hard knocks

May 26 // Nic Rowen
Titles like The Binding of Isaac, FTL, Nuclear Throne and (my latest obsession) Darkest Dungeon make it their business to stymie and frustrate your futile attempts to get to the credits screen. They delight in throwing a wrench into the works, tearing apart promising looking runs or dungeon crawls with a few merciless rolls of the RNG. They move around the win conditions and goalposts from the traditional idea of “I gotta get to the end and dunk on the last boss!” to “oh God, please just let me survive a little longer this time.” Victory isn't just marked by, well, victory, but by discovery and learning. Seeing a new enemy, figuring out a new trick or strategy, and learning to avoid whatever awful thing killed you last time. Those small successes are what dubs a run a win. It's tough to turn that switch that demands progression off in your brain. It has been dutifully conditioned by years of games where victory is the expected outcome. But it's those wild unfair swings in a roguelike that completely mess you up that makes them so satisfying. The emotional roller-coaster of suddenly losing a beloved party member, or picking up an item that completely gimps your current build, or getting screwed by a few unlucky rolls that leave you facing almost certain doom. These factors that push you out of your comfort zone and force you to come up with new strategies broaden your horizons, you have to think about the game and really consider all of your options rather than relying on one or two recipes for success. Those runs that truly are hopeless? Well, they just let you appreciate the good ones a little more. It took me a long time to realize it, but fighting games are much the same when you get right down to it. While you always want to win a fight, just adding more notches to your W/L ratio isn't, and shouldn't be, the goal. What you really should be aiming for is learning. When Street Fighter IV came out, I was very hot-to-trot for some online play. I remembered dominating at SFII in grade school, all the hours I sunk into collecting every ending in Alpha 3 on the PS1, the times I used to rush through Marvel Super Heroes on one quarter in the arcade. I thought I was good at fighting games, and was looking forward to a chance to prove it. I swagged online like I was O'Hara from Enter the Dragon, obnoxiously breaking boards in front of Bruce Lee like it meant something. My fights ended up going about as well as his did -- Boards, and CPU opponents, don't hit back like the real deal. [embed]292757:58670:0[/embed] I'll be completely honest, I almost quit playing fighting games at that point. Nobody likes to lose, especially when you're losing at something that used to be a point of pride for yourself. Thankfully, despite its rough and tumble exterior, the fighting game community actually has a great attitude about these things. EVERYBODY loses. It's what you take away from those losses and how you come back from them that defines you as a player. Shortly after SFIV came out, I was introduced to David Sirlin's Playing to Win, a book that is all about the philosophy of fighting games and is as close to a bible for the fighting game community that exists. I remember when I first read it I distinctly thought “this guy is an asshole.” Playing to Win can be a very abrasive read if you come from a background of playing fighting games for fun. If you ever thought your next door neighbor was cheap for constantly sweeping in Mortal Kombat 2, or angrily called someone a “spammer” for repeatedly tossing out fireballs from across the screen, or think there is such as thing as too many throws in one round (a philosophy I can no longer recognize except in direct reverse), Sirlin's opinions will probably rub you the wrong way. These self-imposed rules and ideas about how the game should be played are the foundation for what he considers a “scrub mentality,” a mental framework that will always limit how far you can go in fighting games, and ultimately, how much joy you can derive from them. Embarrassingly, I saw a lot of that “scrub mentality” in myself. The way I'd get angry at “coward” Guile players for tossing endless sonic booms, or frustrated with people constantly choosing the blatantly over-powered emperor of Muay Thai, Sagat, for easy wins. But when you stop looking at what other players are doing as “cheap,” and start looking at your losses as learning experiences rather than straight out defeats, a lot of that frustration evaporates. It takes real effort and time, but when you internalize that outlook, fighting games become less stressful, more enjoyable, and infinitely more beautiful. Of course people are going to throw sonic booms as Guile, he's a machine made by the Air Force to do exactly that. It may be true that Sagat (or whatever character) is over-powered and easier to win with and disproportionally popular as a result, but how can you blame people for making a choice that will tip the odds in their favor? You have that choice and opportunity too, and if you decide to stick with a different character you'll just have to make peace with the fact that you'll run into tough matches and try and develop a strategy to deal with them. You can either get frustrated, stomp around, and quit/uninstall the game forever, or you can thicken your skin. Learn how to roll with the punches, and take something away from the mistake. Either figure out ways to avoid it in the future, or come to peace with the idea that sometimes things are out of your control. These are not new concepts, ideally we should always be trying to find the positive side to a set-back or learn from a mistake. But to me, at least, nothing else crystallizes the idea of learning from a loss into a rock hard truth than pitiless rougelikes and fighting games. And after spending so many years immersed in both genres, I like to think that I've been able to take those lessons and apply them to other areas of my life. It's not always easy, and I won't claim to be some kind of Zen master who never gets frustrated, but I know I'm definitely a more patient person now than I was five years ago.
Learning from failure photo
Learning from my (many) failures
The last few years of games for me have been all about defeat. Constant, unending, expected defeat. I think I'm better for it. It wasn't always like that. In fact, for most of my life, games have been all about completion, vi...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: Sons of Winter

May 26 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: Sons of Winter (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: May 26, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] Those following along with the series shouldn't expect any major changes in how events play out. There is lots of dialogue, lots of split-second decisions, a handful of quick-time events, a little bit of exploration, and not much else. The split between the four living playable characters stays about the same as well: Mira's sections are almost entirely dialogue-based and Asher's are generally more action-focused. Despite being the Forrester known better for stabbing first and asking questions later, Asher's story in Meereen comes with some of the more interesting this-or-that decisions this episode. Where Rodrik has to choose between murder and mercy, Asher has the more nuanced quandary of loyalty to the family that exiled him and loyalty to his sellsword partner Beskha. Parts of Beskha's past come to light in Sons of Winter that give the situation more gravity. Of all the decisions in this episode, Asher's handling of the mission in Meereen is "the big one" for me, and I'm most anxious about the potential fallout from my choice, which won't show up until next episode at least. [embed]292557:58611:0[/embed] Mira's tribulations in King's Landing continue to be a high point for the series. Though this episode lacks the big names -- neither Cersei, Tyrion, nor Margaery makes a significant appearance -- the way Telltale handles Mira shows genuine understanding of what makes the source material so great. Any game could have quick-time swordfights, but a Game of Thrones game ought to be more than that. Her best scene is at Tommen's coronation feast. It comes closest to being like a classic adventure game. She must navigate the celebration cautiously, eavesdrop on conversations to gain information, and use that information at the right time. Even if it turns out not to be the case in the end (as Telltale games often do), the feast scene felt like it could have ended with a much different outcome. As it stood for me, I came out of it laughing, pleased with how clever I felt to have achieved what I wanted and particularly smug about the last line I had Mira say to close out the scene. It reinforced the idea that in King's Landing, shrewd manipulation of information is just as powerful as a sword, if not more so. Rodrik has his own share of politicking to deal with on the home front. A new opportunity lands in his lap that could help return control of Ironrath to House Forrester, and he has his own decisions to make, though they seemed a bit more obvious. Satisfy a desire for petty revenge near the beginning and he loses some leverage for later on in the episode. I'm curious to know how things shake out with other choices; in contrast to the first few episodes I feel like I made the best decisions for Rodrik this time around. There is a tense scene as Rodrik at Highpoint, the Whitehill stronghold. Not only are the stakes high, but it also rewards an attention to detail. Prior to the meeting with Lord Whitehill, some light exploration can help to reveal information that can be used in the encounter. It's another instance where proper intel beats physical force that feels right in place in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe. Gared's scenes were the least interesting this time around. Where prior episodes set him up to be part of the party that goes to Craster's Keep, he ends up with a blander story. It still has room to get better once the importance of the North Grove is revealed, but in this episode it felt a bit like he was stagnating. The oil paint aesthetic that turns people off remains, though it does feel like Telltale has tuned down the baffling polygon edge blur effect that plagued the first two episodes. It's still present, but not nearly as distracting as it used to be. There aren't any heart-stopping moments or dramatic twists like there were in the early episodes, but Sons of Winter sets a good pace and keeps it up throughout the episode. It's great to see the continued focus on shrewdness over brute strength for most of the characters, especially considering House Forrester's situation in Westeros. What the family lacks in soldiers, it must make up for in cleverness. Being party to the events makes me feel clever, whether I truly have much of an effect or not. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
Son of a...
At the end of Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series was in an interesting place. Nearly all of the playable characters were in tough spots, but all of them ended the episode with some h...

Review: Life is Strange: Chaos Theory

May 26 // Brett Makedonski
Life is Strange: Chaos Theory (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One[reviewed])Developer: Dontnod EntertainmentPublisher: Square EnixRelease date: May 19, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) As Life is Strange plays out chapter by chapter, it's increasingly difficult to talk about with any degree with specificity. Doing so not only runs the risk of spoiling the many significant plot points that continually punctuate this game, but it also feels like a disservice to discuss Life is Strange's events in black and white when much of its brilliance lies somewhere else. It's not a linear story progression that makes this title worthwhile, rather it's the character building and continually changing relationships that constantly shine. While episode two felt like it meandered too much, it laid the framework for an effective third part. Just spending that extra time inside the head of Max, getting to know Chloe, and seeing the incessant vitriol at Blackwell made for characters who are easier to empathize with. It all pays off in a big way in Chaos Theory as the cast is finally at a place where the audience feels like it knows them and cares for them. At the forefront of this trend is Max's relationship with Chloe, as the duo is ditching the re-introduction stage and have hit a groove of sorts with their interactions. There are plenty of moments when Chloe's rebellious carpe diem spirit rubs off on Max in a charming way; likewise, Max's level-headed and rational demeanor affects Chloe, probably for the better. [embed]292750:58673:0[/embed] These conflicting personalities may have been most at equilibrium during a serene midnight dip in the academy's swimming pool. It's here that the two are at their most introspective and humble. It's here that they express that they lean on one another. There's an understated emotionality about it all that makes it one of Life is Strange's best scenes yet. Really, the swimming pool scene best exemplifies the quality that Dontnod's employed masterfully throughout the three-fifths of Life is Strange that we've seen: restraint. It would've been easy to highlight the moment with some sort of memorable event. But, the developer didn't. Instead, it let the two simply talk, which wonderfully lends humanity to them both individually and as a team. However, it's not just Chloe and Max that are further humanized. Almost all characters have some sort of sympathetic progression, as Life is Strange continues to prove that it excels at dealing in shades of grey. We get a glimpse at how scumbag drug dealer Frank has loved and lost. We see how "step-prick" David password protects his computer not with a nod to his army service or himself, but with a receipt that holds the date he met his wife. The latter of those revelations is discovered through a fetch quest-style puzzle. As painful as it is to admit, this element of gameplay is still where Life is Strange is at its very worst. The reason that's sort of tough to swallow is because it always encourages exploration and will often reward the curious. However, when it forces that wandering upon the player, the pacing drops from a self-imposed standstill to a mandatory one. It's enough to deaden the mood rather quickly. It's a rare instance of Dontnod eschewing that aforesaid restraint to somewhat negative results. Thus far, the developer has done a great job keeping everything in check so as to not go off the rails. The time-rewinding mechanic still doesn't feel as if it's taken over the game nor does it serve as a permanent crutch. Instead, it's mostly sparingly used, usually to glean more information from a tight-lipped witness. Similarly, Life is Strange hasn't yet gone full-out on the paranormal aspect that clearly hangs over the entire story. This reserved approach is appreciated, as it lends weight to the characters and their personal circumstances rather than spotlighting the supernatural. There may be an imminent deviation from that pattern in the very near future, though. In the waning minutes of Chaos Theory, Max discovers a new ability that could easily shift the narrative focus. Chaos Theory is effective in that it's the first time Life is Strange asks the player to evaluate the net benefit of Max's ability to alter time. Until now, it's mostly dealt in small affairs where the results are immediately noticeable. Episode three finds a way to work on a longer timeline and with more at stake. In all honesty, it's the first time I've felt that exact heart-wrenching emotion that I experienced eleven years ago when watching The Butterfly Effect. The cliffhanger that Chaos Theory ends on is so perfect for this portrayal of the fictional Arcadia Bay, Oregon where nothing's ever perfect. However, it's also scarily dangerous in that it very well might render most of the world-building a moot point. It'd be such an absolute shame if that were to happen. We have to wait to see if that's the case. But, Life is Strange now has me in its grips, and if I'm worried, it's only because I care. I finally really, truly care. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Life is Strange review photo
Tornadoes in Texas
I'm worried about Life is Strange. But, it's not the same concern usually expressed when a game's teetering dangerously close to mediocrity or worse. It's the type of uneasiness reserved for a title that's taken three install...

Final Fantasy was almost called Fighting Fantasy: Creator explains actual reason behind the name

May 26 // Steven Hansen
Sakaguchi recently gave a keynote address at Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University on, "the globalization of Japanese-produced games," according to RocketNews' translation of a Famitsu article. According to Sakaguchi, the team wanted a title that had a simple abbreviation in the Roman alphabet (FF) and a four-syllable abbreviated Japanese pronunciation ("efu efu"). Because of the setting and style, "fantasy" was an easy choice. "Final" wasn't the first choice of adjective, however. The initial proposed name was "Fighting Fantasy," but it was already taken by a tabletop game. And so it is, Final Fantasy. "To be sure, we had our backs to the wall when we were developing Final Fantasy," Sakaguchi said, "but really, anything that started with an F would have been fine for the title." Of course, Sakaguchi's explanation doesn't discount the fact that "final" could've carried some import, even if it was a secondary choice shoehorned into an earlier-made decision. Famed series composed Nobuo Uematsu was thought to have clarified the origin behind the name six years ago in a Wired interview. Uematsu confirmed Sakaguchi's often repeated explanation that he would have had to quit and go back to university had the game not been successful, but at that time Uematsu agreed that the ultimate reason for the name was that Square was going belly-up and the folks working on it figured it was their last production. At the least, Sakaguchi's explanation adds a new wrinkle to what has always been an inalienable piece of gaming history. Final Fantasy creator reveals the real reason behind the “Final” part of the hit series’ title [RocketNews24]FF』はどのように世界に広がっていったのか? 坂口博信氏と浜村弘一ファミ通グループ代表が“国際日本ゲーム研究カンファレンス”にて語る [Famitsu]
Fighting Fantasy?! photo
Disputes long taken for granted origin
Why's it called FINAL fantasy if there's a load of 'em, an internet commenter snickers before calling American football "hand egg" and ordering three more bacon meme t-shirts from Epic Threadz. The trodden joke has an equally...

Experience Points .14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

May 23 // Ben Davis
Cor Blimey! Yangus... how do I describe this man? He's sort of the comic relief character, he has a weird name, his background is rather shady, he wears some kind of odd spiky fruit husk on his head, he has an annoying catchphrase, he's short, fat, hairy, brutish, and overall conventionally unattractive. And yet I love him so much! Dragon Quest VIII lets the player choose which party member they want to walk around as, so as soon as I figured this out, I obviously picked the big, lovable oaf. I never played as anyone else. I mean, how often do I get to be a chubby hairy dude in a videogame? Not nearly often enough. Yangus' comic relief even manages to make its way onto the battlefield. If he pumps up his Humanity stat, he'll gain some pretty hilarious moves. One such move, Golden Oldies, has Yangus shouting "Grandad!" and calling forth King Trode and a mob of rowdy old men to rush the enemy for lots of damage. And then there's the Underpants Dance, which unfortunately does not involve Yangus dancing around in nothing but his underpants, but rather dancing around while waving two pairs of boxers about in an attempt to shock enemies. They're not the most useful of moves, but I still used them at just about every opportunity, simply because they made me smile. I mean, what's not to love about an underwear attack? Yangus actually got his own spinoff game, Dragon Quest: Young Yangus and the Mystery Dungeon, but of course it was only ever released in Japan (boo!). I'm glad he was apparently popular enough to warrant a game of his own, though! Slime, I choose you! Outside of the main quest, the best part about Dragon Quest VIII is the ability to recruit monsters from the field and form monster teams. These teams are primarily used for the monster arena sidequest, but they can also be sent out during normal battles to help the party fight at any time in the game. I've always loved the monster designs in the Dragon Quest series, so being able to recruit some of them for my own team was really appealing to me. All of my favorites, including the King Slime, Cyclops, Golem, Hoodlum, Orc King, Jargon, Jumping Jackal, and so many others are able to be recruited. I usually had one team full of monsters that I liked, regardless of how powerful they were, and one team comprised of monsters built to win battles. Depending on which monsters are placed on a team together, they might even be able to earn special bonuses or abilities. For example, a team composed entirely of slimes will get double the amount of hit points. My personal favorite team is called My Three Golems. A team of three golems will be granted a special ability which allows them to fuse together, creating a super powerful mega golem named Mazin with 999 HP and all-around impressive stats. So not only are the golems one of my favorite enemy designs, but they're incredibly useful in combat as well! Metallic menaces There's nothing more satisfying in Dragon Quest VIII than landing a killing blow on a Metal Slime. Not only are the metallic gelatinous blobs incredibly difficult to defeat, but they yield a crazy amount of experience points, so hunting them down is definitely worth it. These guys come in three variations: Metal Slime, Liquid Metal Slime, and Metal King Slime. Obviously, the Metal King Slimes are the rarest and most sought after of the slimes. These lustrous foes are so difficult for several reasons. For one, they have ridiculous defenses; most attacks will only deal a single point of damage or nothing at all, barely causing more than a scratch. They also have an extremely annoying tendency to run away from battle as soon as possible, meaning players have to rush to destroy them as quickly as they can before the slimes are able to slip away. Not to mention the Metal Slimes are rare enough that even seeing one usually causes my heart to skip a beat, only for my hopes to be swiftly dashed as the slime runs away in the first turn. Players need to have a solid strategy and plenty of luck in order to take them down. It takes a lot of patience, but it's worth it. The first time I defeated a Metal Slime was one of the best feelings ever! Shakin' it is all I know In just about any JRPG, you can expect to fall victim to status effects. JRPG veterans are always prepared to be poisoned, paralyzed, burned, confused, and put to sleep. But what about becoming so obsessed with dancing that you can no longer focus on fighting? In Dragon Quest VIII, they got a little creative with the status effects by adding in a few silly ones, including an effect known as the dancing bug. Certain enemies will occasionally break into a dance so infectious that the team of brave warriors just can't help but join. Characters who catch the dancing bug will be unable to act for a turn, since they'll be too busy busting a groove. The penalty of the effect is nothing special, just a missed turn, but it was so unexpected that it immediately became my favorite thing. Sometimes I'd just sit there and allow dancing enemies to attack me, just so I could watch each of my characters let loose and have some fun. It almost feels like more of a reward than a penalty. Who cares about a missed turn when it means I get to watch Yangus prancing around? Le Puff-Puff There's a running joke in the Dragon Quest series known as "Puff-Puff." It's a pervy joke based on the idea of rubbing one's face between a woman's breasts. Usually not my thing, but I have to admit that the secret Club Puff-Puff room in Dragon Quest VIII definitely made me laugh. It was actually the first time I had encountered the term before, so when I found the room I didn't quite know what to expect. A burly muscleman greeted Yangus at the counter and invited him into an adjacent room where a girl in a bunny outfit beckoned him into a chair and offered to give him a "Puff-Puff." I accepted out of curiosity. The screen went black, there were weird bouncy noises, and the woman asked, "Have you ever felt a pair as warm and soft as mine?" Uhhhhh... When the lights came back on, Yangus was sitting there with a blindfold on as the woman was rubbing two slimes on either side of his face. Blissfully unaware Yangus looked like he was having the time of his life, and I couldn't help but laugh at the unexpected turn of events. As a gay man, it reminded me of that scene in The Emperor's New Groove where Yzma pulls up her skirt and everyone starts cringing until they realize she's just revealing a hidden knife. "Whew, ohh okay!" The endless corridor Of all the fantastical locations and creepy dungeons in Dragon Quest VIII, there's one area that always stood out in my mind as being particularly interesting. In the final dungeon, the Black Citadel, there's a certain room shaped like a huge circle. The party enters from a hallway off to the side, eerily decorated with four statues of the party members themselves, and loops around the circle. But strangely, it just brings them right back around to the entrance. The first time I encountered this room, I was very confused. I ended up backtracking around the circle again thinking I had missed something. There's this huge circular room, with lots of windows and doors lining the exterior, but nothing to find there? No new paths or anything to interact with? I kept wandering around, thinking I had surely just missed some small thing, when I suddenly noticed the room had changed. As I was looping around, the windows and doors I had passed several times before had become mysteriously boarded up, and the ground was all cracked with pools of poisonous-looking water seeping in. What's going on? I looped back around to the entrance again, only to find that the entrance had disappeared! And even more unsettling, the statues of my party members had all been beheaded! Was I trapped and doomed in this creepy eternal hallway? Since there was nothing else I could do, I made another loop and the hallway started to change again. The walls lined with windows and doors began to disappear, only to be replaced by dungeon cells full of skeletons. Finally, an exit opened up across from where the entrance had been, although the beheaded statues were now completely decimated. Talk about creepy, but at least I was finally out of that place! Later on, when exiting the castle, I had to run back through the scary endless hallway (nooo!). The room slowly began to reform back to its original state, and the statues rematerialized. And then, right when I tried to leave through the entrance, the statues attacked me! Of course the creepy self-mutilating statues would come to life. To be honest, this area is kind of a chore to navigate, having to run through this long hallway until the entrance and exit appear, but the atmosphere of the place really left an impression on me. I was genuinely on edge the entire time, thinking something awful was about to happen. When did the survival horror genre creep its way into my light-hearted JRPG? I certainly didn't expect it, but I also kinda liked it! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing
Dragon Quest VIII photo
A slime appears!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Weekend Deals: Witcher 3, Blizzard & WB Games titles on tap

May 23 // Dealzon
Top Deals Spintires (Steam) — $7.20  (list price $30) <- In Russia, mud plays in you Project Cars (Steam) — $33.99  (list price $50) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DRM-Free) — $39  <- use code DEALZO-N35OFF-WITCHE Humble Store Encore Sale <- over 300 titles to throw your $$$ at Bundle Star May Sale <- just added, better SoM value here Blizzard Games (US Only) StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm — $9.99  (list price $20) Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty — $9.99  (list price $20) Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls — $19.99  (list price $40) WoW: Warlords of Draenor (PC DVD) — $29.99  <- raise your hand if you still play WoW WB Games Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Steam) — $20  (list price $50) Gauntlet (Steam) — $6.40  (list price $20) The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (Steam) — $4  (list price $20) Injustice: Gods Among Us - Ultimate (Steam) — $4  (list price $20) Mortal Kombat Komplete (Steam) — $4  (list price $20) Bastion (Steam) — $3  (list price $15) <- muy excelente Recent Releases 05/21: Xbox One White Special Edition Halo Bundle — $349  (list price $399) 05/19: Farming Simulator 15 + $10 Gift Card (PS4, XOne) — $49.99   05/14: Galactic Civilizations III (Steam) — $40  (list price $50) 05/14: Not A Hero (Steam) — $9.09  (list price $13) <- not to be confused with the excellent Japanese manga 05/12: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (Steam) — $12.80  (list price $16) 05/08: Euro Truck Simulator 2: Scandinavia (Steam) — $14.40  (list price $18) 04/30: Solarix (Steam) — $12.99  (list price $20) 04/30: Block N Load (Steam) — $8.40  (list price $15) 04/28: Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown (Steam) — $24.79  (list price $40) PC Game Deals Battlefield: Hardline (Origin) — $30  (list price $60) Need for Speed Rivals: Complete(Origin) — $19.99  (list price $40) Prototype Franchise Pack (Steam) — $16.83  (list price $60) World of Diving (Steam) — $13.29  (list price $20) Life is Strange: Complete Season (Steam) — $12.48  (list price $20) I am Bread (Steam) — $9.74  (list price $13) <- play as a bread. duh. Rugby 15 (Steam) — $7.98  (list price $40) Command and Conquer The Ultimate (Origin) — $4.99  (list price $20) Console Deals Wii U + Super Mario 3D World + Nintendo Land — $274.99 Evolve (PS4, Steam) — $39.99  (list price $60) Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate (Nintendo 3DS) — $29.99  (list price $40) Xbox Live Gold 3 Month + $10 Xbox Gift Card — $24.99  (list price $25) Turtle Beach CoD: Adv. Warfare Headset (PS4) — $19.99  (list price $80) Power A Mini Series Wired Controller (Xbox One) — $19.99  (list price $40) LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (PS Vita, 3DS) — $7.99  (list price $20) Laptop Deals 17.3" MAINGEAR Pulse, i7-4700HQ, GTX 870M, 16GB — $1,799  (list $2,399) 17.3" Alienware, i7-4710HQ, GTX 980M, 16GB — $1,699  (list $1,999) 15.6" Alienware, i7-4710HQ, 4K Touch, GTX 970M, 16GB — $1,599 <- actually decent specs 17.3" Lenovo Y70 i7-4710HQ, GTX 860M, 16GB — $949  (list $1,500) 14" Lenovo Y40-80, i7-5500U, Radeon R9 M275, 8GB — $629  (list $1,150) HDTV Deals 55" Vizio 4K Smart TV — $899.99  (list $1,000) 65" Sharp 1080p Smart TV + Wireless Speakers — $799.99  (list $1,000) 49" LG 4K Smart TV — $649.99  (list $1,600) - perfect for seeing Geralt's hair down sampled to 900p Game deals from Dealzon. FYI: sales from certain retailers help support Destructoid.
Weekend deals photo
All digital products must go
Got nada in plans for this Memorial Day weekend? For $7, you can enjoy getting stuck in mud while trucking around in Russia via Spintires. Currently historic lowest price that we've spotted. Rare discounts on Blizzard titles ...

Destructoid chats with Archie's Ian Flynn about Mega Man and Sonic's second 'Worlds Unite' crossover

May 22 // Chris Carter
Chris Carter: Why did you ultimately decide to create another Mega Man and Sonic crossover? Was there unfinished business with "Worlds Collide?" Ian Flynn: “Worlds Collide” was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, so we poured all our love into it. When we got the opportunity to revisit the idea in “Worlds Unite,” it was great to revisit the premise, but it begged the question: how do we top the last go-around? The answer, of course, was to go bigger, bolder, and with even more crossovers! C: Speaking of "Worlds Collide," how would you rate the sales of those issues in comparison to the regular Mega Man line? I: They were huge. People really responded well to “Worlds Collide.” Hopefully folks will be just as enthused for “Worlds Unite.” C: Did the decision to split them up between different comic lines work well? I: It did! It brought some extra attention to Sonic Universe and Mega Man. We made sure to make it very clear and easy to tell which issue readers needed to pick up next as they jumped from title to title. C: As you may know, there's been a polarizing reception to Sonic Boom, particularly when it comes to the games. How would you sell the inclusion of that subfranchise into the "Worlds Unite" universe? I: The games established the characters and world in that media, the comics and cartoons expanded upon that and have been very well received. The Boom characters help balance the franchise representation -- two types of Mega Man, two types of Sonic -- while also bringing some much-needed levity to an otherwise very dramatic adventure. C: As a follow-up, what went into choosing the additional Capcom universes to represent in "Worlds Unite?" There's massive amount of rich universes to pick from, so it must have been difficult. I: It was really hard to choose, because I wanted to play with all the toys! But we narrowed it down to those we thought would best mesh with Sonic and Mega Man. Resident Evil wouldn’t exactly fit the tone of brightly colored animal-people and robots, right? Capcom was very receptive and supportive. C: I'm really jazzed that the Red Arremer is making an appearance. What's your favorite non-Mega Man/Sonic character that will be joining the fray? I: It’s no secret that I’m a huge Skies of Arcadia fanboy, so having Vyse and the crew show up makes me happy. And I’ve always wanted to play around in the Street Fighter universe, and I had a lot of fun with those characters. C: Can you talk a bit about when the Mega Man X storyline will take place in regards to the game series? I: Everything kicks off some time after Mega Man X7. Axl is a member of the Maverick Hunters, and the Next-Generation Reploids have yet to appear. C: Finally, I asked this years back, but I'll ask it again! What are the chances of getting a standalone Mega Man X comic series? I: Unfortunately, a Mega Man X series is just not in the cards right now. C: Thanks for your time! The 12-part "Worlds Unite" storyline will begin on May 27 at comic shops across the country (and digitally), and will span roughly three months across issues of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Boom, Sonic Universe, and Mega Man. Feel free to peruse the gallery above for a ton of amazing artwork, preview pages, and cover art, some of which has never been seen before.
Mega Man and Sonic photo
It starts next week
Back in 2013, Archie Comics released a rather groundbreaking crossover -- "Sonic & Mega Man: Worlds Collide." It was a joint effort between Capcom and Sega properties, and brought the two iconic heroes together to battle ...

PC Port Report: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

May 22 // Patrick Hancock
[Note: Screenshots and video used in this post are taken from my experience with the game.] Tested on: Intel i7-4770k 3.50 GHz, 8GB of RAM, Geforce GTX 970, Windows 7. Framerate measured with FRAPS. I'd be remiss if I didn't address the now-infamous trailer of the game that incorrectly showed what it would look like back in 2013. The developers have since downgraded what the game can do, and have addressed the issue. There are lots of elements to this and it isn't as simple as "downgraded because consoles" or "they couldn't afford it," but the end result is still the same. Regardless of that trailer, The Witcher 3 still looks phenomenal. In order to achieve 60 frames per second with my setup at 1080p, I needed to play with the settings a bit. Most things were kept at the Ultra settings, except for the foliage and shadows, which were turned down to High. The game stays consistently above 60 FPS for me now, even during combat and most in-game cutscenes. Some cutscenes are evidently capped at 30 FPS, which is offputting and incredibly noticeable. The biggest setting to turn off in order to achieve a good framerate is HairWorks. With HairWorks on, hair does looks absolutely stunning and is perhaps the best rendering of hair I've ever come across, though up close it's still a bit funky looking. There are three options for HairWorks: on, Geralt-only, and off. If fully on, even the monsters and Geralt's horse will have HairWorks-quality hair. However, even when I had this on "Geralt only," the framerate would fluctuate between 30 and 50 at any given moment. Yes, the hair looks great, but it is not worth the huge dip in framerate. Another option to be aware of is the "Hardware Mouse." It's located under Options in the Video section for some reason, and anyone playing with a keyboard and mouse is likely going to want to turn this option on. Doing so disables mouse acceleration, essentially making the mouse "feel" like it is supposed to. Many of the .ini files located in the installation folder can also be edited to further customize many of the options. [embed]292553:58627:0[/embed] There's some strange odds and ends in the options to take note of. To turn on unlimited FPS, the FPS slider needs to be all the way to the left. The middle option is 30 FPS, and the right option is 60. For those playing on a big television screen via Big Picture Mode or something similar, be aware that the font size is rather small, and the HUD size does not get any bigger, only smaller. In fact, there's only two sizes for HUD size: Large and Small. Controlling Geralt with a keyboard and mouse is somewhat clunky. Turning is awkward and slow, and managing to interact with a specific object or NPC can be a struggle. Combat on a mouse and keyboard feels fluid, at least. Controlling Geralt with a controller simply feels better, all things considered. It's not that controlling him with a keyboard and mouse is awful, but there's an unfortunate feeling of "this just isn't right." Switching to a controller input is as simple as hitting any button on a connected controller. As soon as the game detects a controller input, everything is switched to controller prompts and the game immediately recognizes it. The same goes with switching back to the keyboard. The responsiveness of switching is fantastic, and future PC game designers better take note. The keyboard keys can be remapped, except for movement. The WASD keys are set in stone. When using a controller, all of the buttons are locked in at the default assignments; there is no remapping of any of the buttons. Since the PC release, there has already been a couple of large patches to help improve performance and fix bugs. CD Projekt RED has always put a lot of focus on the PC community, and that certainly still seems to be the case with The Witcher 3. More patches are on the way, and despite the console-esque nature of the third iteration, I would not expect the game to be neglected on PC going forward. It's also important to note that, apparently, it is coming to SteamOS/Linux. There was a banner on Steam saying as much, but CD Projekt RED has not commented on the Linux situation. Currently, the game is only available for Windows. Some users have been reporting crashes on their systems, but I have yet to encounter a single one. Mods are still in their infancy, but they are there. Mostly small game tweaks at the moment, but the toolkit is evidently on its way. It took a couple of years to get the official modding toolkit out for The Witcher 2, but it has been promised to come out sooner for the latest installment. Plain and simple, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a great PC port. Whether or not it should have ever been a "port" in the first place is a separate discussion, but what's presented here to the consumer is thoroughly enjoyable. Oh. and you can skip all the splash screens when booting up. 10/10, would port again.
Witcher 3 on PC photo
Gwent Simulator 2015
The Witcher is an interesting series on PC. The first game was a PC experience through and through: you could pause the action at any time and movement was mapped to mouse clicks. The second was way more action-oriented ...

Review: Til Morning's Light

May 21 // Chris Carter
Til Morning's Light (Android, Fire OS, iOS [reviewed])Developer: WayForwardPublisher: Amazon Game StudiosReleased: May 21, 2015MSRP: $6.99 At the start of the tale, Til Morning's Light feels like it's going to be a typical teenage adventure, with two "popular" girls and an outcast -- otherwise known as our hero, Erica. After being made fun of as a potential fan fiction writer, she's pushed into an abandoned mansion, and the door is boarded up behind her. Those are some pretty sick bullies! It gets even sicker when she realizes that the mansion isn't abandoned after all, and is actually inhabited by ghosts and gross insect-like creatures. Cue the Luigi's Mansion parallels. Armed with only a flashlight out of the gate, Erica will roam about, discovering the secrets of the mansion, filling in various bits and pieces as she goes. She'll go about this by wandering around, which is accomplished by simply holding the screen and moving towards a direction, or tapping where you want to go. Whatever feelings you may have towards touch controls, let me just say, they work wonderfully here. In fact, the entire game is filled with fairly inoffensive touch gimmicks, like rotating pieces of paper around to find more hints (a la Resident Evil), or flicking the screen to search pantries and the like. The whole affair is built upon a really fun atmosphere, as the characters (ghosts, mostly) you meet all have personality, and for the most part, are likable. Their personalities lack depth and the character building is pretty light fare, but it feels more akin to a Saturday morning cartoon, which a lot of potential players will dig. Erica jokes about there being a lot of keys to sift through though, but there's plenty of truth to it. You'll embark upon plenty of fetch quests, with a healthy mix of box puzzles (evoking more Resident Evil parallels) and basic problem-solving. For instance, one old-timey picture has a timestamp on it, which clues you in to the placement of the hour, minute, and second-hands on a nearby clock. If you find yourself stumped, you can pick up coins along the way, which can purchase hints, as well as items from an in-game store. Combat is another big part of the game, taking place on a rhythm-like stage. It's a lot like Elite Beat Agents (but less engaging), starting off with timed taps on the screen, then swipes, and so on. I like the idea in theory, but there's a lot of enemies to fight in the game, and since the battle system isn't super deep, it can occasionally feel tedious. It can get really tough even early on, and as the game states after booting it up, you'll probably want to use headphones. While the mansion isn't exactly open-ended and tends to be a tad too linear at times, you eventually will make your way to more interesting areas -- like the greenhouse wing, which features plenty of holes to dig up for hidden items. It's at this point in the adventure that you'll also unlock the Spectral Phone, which can spot hidden spirits in the wild, with 20 in all to find. That's about as deep as the exploration-angle gets, but it thankfully never gets to the point where it's straight-up dull. Think of a wheel with only one or two spokes on it, and you'll have an idea of what to expect. Til Morning's Light never really goes the full mile with any of its concepts, but they all mesh well together and the presentation is enjoyable enough. I don't think it's going to make headlines or change the horror game in any way, but it's a fun way to spend an afternoon and another respectable showing for Amazon's game division. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Til Morning's Light photo
Nancy Drew meets Luigi's Mansion
WayForward has stuck to doing what it does best -- platformers -- for most of its career. But every so often it branches off and does something a bit different, like Silent Hill: Book of Memories, and now, Til Morning's Light. As an odd mix of Luigi's Mansion filled with rhythm-based combat, it mostly works.

Review: Swords and Soldiers II

May 20 // Chris Carter
Swords and Soldiers II (Wii U)Developers: Ronimo GamesPublisher: Ronimo GamesReleased: May 21, 2015Price: $19.99 This time around, the playable armies of the Chinese and Aztecs have been replaced by Demons and Persians. Although the former two will be sorely missed (I'll never forget some of their sayings), the replacements have more than enough tricks up their sleeve to justify their inclusion. The way Swords and Soldiers II works is strikingly similar to its predecessor. As a strictly "one on one" affair, players will opt to build and research units, sending them in a straight line against another foe. If one gets close enough your units will start attacking their resource accruing units, and just like a complex RTS, your days are numbered as your enemy whittles down your base for a win. It's not just a "set it and forget it" style, as a constant array of diverse spells that can be used at any time keep you on your toes, and can change the tide of any given battle within a round. My favorite part of this scheme however is how quickly everything goes down. After you have the gold, units can be built instantly. Other than the select few instances in a match where you need to erect towers, no real "buildings" need to be created. It's all action all the time, but there is depth to it. While Soldiers does have a story mode, the heart of the game lies within its head-to-head versus and skirmish gametypes. [embed]292182:58551:0[/embed] The campaign is basically table-setting for everything else, giving you a rundown of the strengths and weaknesses of each individual unit, some ideas for how armies counter one another, all set to the tune of a really goofy story that illuminates some background on all three armies. It's not going to win any awards, but the jokes are occasionally laugh out loud funny, mostly due to the superb voicework that carries over into the other modes. Where the sequel mostly succeeds is diversity between the armies. Vikings mostly focus on spells, Demons, towers, and Persians have a health mix of both with their own unique trappings. Every time I started to embed myself in an army I felt like I was playing an utterly different experience, which is definitely a positive. Over time I ended up gravitating towards the Persians, who have some really cool abilities on-hand. I really love the invisible units that are only seen while attacking, but they're balanced, expensive to build, and have plenty of counters. I also enjoyed the low mana-cost cannon structure, which does nothing on its own, but can fire a low-damage, tiny genie-summoning canon shot across the map. I quickly learned that Demons could counter my stealth units by building barrel riders -- suicidal creatures that would explode and destroy them even if they were invisible, and were at a lower cost. In return I researched the bribe skill, which allowed me to take over specific units at a cost of gold and mana. There's hundreds of counters like that across the multitude of characters and strategies present in the game, and thankfully, it's never too overwhelming at any given time. After seeing a new unit you'll have an incentive to try out the army and use it yourself, which is really easy to do considering how open the research tree is at the start. If you want to spend all of your starting gold just to build one big unit -- you can do that. Likewise, you can bunker up with a defensive-strategy at the start, or "Zerg" rush with some low-cost units. It's surprisingly balanced and open-ended. Another new layer of depth is the gold and mana drop mechanic. On every map, airdrops will occasionally fall down and litter the map. You're presented with a choice -- let your gold gatherers stay within the comfort of your base for consistent riches, or brave the world for a massive reward. This is on top of micro-managing your army, spells, researching, and building responsibilities. It gets even more intense on one map in particular, where the only way to any resources of any kind is to pick up drops. Multiplayer is played by way of one mode -- a local versus setup where one player uses the GamePad, and another, the TV. Although the lack of online play is a bummer, Ronimo really chose a perfect platform that caters directly to the dual army conceit. In short, it's a perfect situation for my wife, who prefers the TV and the Wii U Pro Controller (though a Classic Controller Pro and Wiimote can be used), and myself, who vastly prefers the GamePad. I ended up plugging in some noise cancelling headphones so I couldn't hear her unit sounds (and vice versa), and it was a much easier setup than we achieved with the previous game, getting two PCs together, logging into Steam, and hoping we consistently connect to one another. There is one hangup though -- you can set your tweak a few extra stats in versus like your starting gold settings or change up build and cooldown rates, but you need to do this every round once you quit out of a session. It will work if you stay the same armies on the smae level to "rematch," but it feels like an oversight to have to switch it back every time. Your mileage may also vary if you don't have a friend to play with, but then again, that's where Skirmish comes in. If you don't have anyone on hand, you can opt to play with the AI. Surprisingly it's actually challenging, though I will say that the CPU cheats from time to time, like when it throws down an area-of-effect (AOE) ability on the ground, knowing that your invisible units will cross over it. Still, I can put everything on random and play skirmish for hours, despite the fact that there wasn't anyone to revel in my victories with on the couch. Although Swords and Soldiers II has a limited appeal for those of you who like to only game solo, it's a fine strategy title, and a perfect mix of brevity and depth. I'm likely still going to be learning the ins and outs of each army months down the line, which is a really great thing. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Swords and Soldiers II photo
Vikings, Demons, and Persians, oh my
Swords and Soldiers, released in 2009 as Ronimo's first game, was an underrated treasure. Although it was soon eclipsed by their subsequent release of Awesomenauts a few years later, it remained a staple in my house, as it was wonderously easy to pick up and play at any time. Swords and Soldiers II builds upon that foundation and adds just enough depth to keep things interesting.

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition brings the gang back together

May 18 // Alessandro Fillari
Now this isn't the first time that the original DMC series has received the Special Edition treatment. A year following the release of 2005's Devil May Cry 3, Capcom released an enhanced version that made a number additions and tweaks -- most notably the inclusion of a playable Vergil with his own moves and levels to play through. Now with the release Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition coming, nearly eight years after the original, the creative minds at Capcom sought to rekindle the same enthusiasm found in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition for this supped up re-release. And much like the recent Definitive Edition for DmC, they looked their well-received PC release as the base."There was content in the PC version of the original DMC4 that was not possible for consoles at the time due to hardware limitations. We have always wanted to provide these features to more DMC fans, most notably Legendary Dark Knight Mode," said DMC producer Takashi Fujii. "We wanted to provide a good action game that really gives the player a lot to sink their teeth into. With the features I’ve mentioned previously, and the addition of three new playable characters we’ve designed, I think fans will be very happy with all the content we’re offering in DMC4 Special Edition. With the hardware capabilities introduced in the new console generation, it proved this was the right time to revisit DMC4 and provide all of these features that we had been thinking about."Back when Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition was revealed last year, we all got a nice tease showing that Vergil was going to be making a return. But who would've thought that DMC's leading ladies, Trish and Lady, were going to get in on the action as well? While the ladies were already present in the core DMC4 story, Vergil's campaign in the Special Edition features his own unique story taking place many years before the events of DMC3 and 4. In addition to these new characters are several tweaks and upgrades made to the core game. Such as higher texture and graphical quality, auto-saves, rebalanced orb and proud soul economy, official trophy support across all platforms (take that early generation seven architecture!), and also some tweaks to puzzles -- such as the infamous dice game. It's a pretty meaty package. You might as well call it "Super Devil May Cry 4." The larger cast was a way for Capcom to offer variety in a convincing and fun way that stayed true to its combat heritage."Everyone plays Devil May Cry games a bit differently, and so with Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition in particular, it was important to us to give players more ways to enjoy the gameplay experience," explained the producer. "It was important that these characters each had distinctive combat styles, so fighting a boss you may have fought as Nero, for example, will feel very different from doing so with Lady or Vergil." In the two hours I spent with the game last month, it was quite clear that a lot of work went into the new characters. Though of course they're still going through the same areas and fighting the same bosses from the original game, that didn't really bother me all that much after getting settled with the new characters. Any fan will tell you that the combat is the crux of the series, and the new characters offered a lot depth and complexity that are totally unique to them -- which really set themselves apart from both Dante and Nero. And yes, for those who've gotten really comfortable with Dante and Nero over the last seven and half years, you'll be please to know that they're largely untouched (aside from general gameplay tweaks). "No changes have been made to Nero or Dante," said the producer rather bluntly and with the utmost clarity. So please, use high-level tricks such as guard flying and intertia to your heart's content. And with the sharing functionality on PS4 and Xbox One, showing off your high-flying antics and finger acrobatics will be much easier than before.For those who read my long preview last month, you could tell that I was quite smitten with this title. Devil May Cry is easily my favorite Capcom IP, and seeing it return this year with two really cool titles was a total joy for me. Checking out the new characters in DMC4SE was a complete blast, and I can't wait to dive back in from the beginning. I'm telling you guys, Trish and Lady are not to be messed with. Vergil's got some serious moves, and his concentration mechanic is a total game-changer, but these ladies are total bad-asses. I cannot wait to see some high-level exhibitionist videos later once people get them in their hands.With the release next month just after E3, you'll have the opportunity to get some quality time with the gang again. We all remember that tease at the end of DMC4 with Dante, Lady, and Trish teaming up to battle more demons, so it's definitely exciting to see that it's finally coming to fruition. So don't let this slip past you. If you've been screaming for a chance to return to these wonderfully goofy characters in this over the top world, you finally got it.And by the way, be sure to check out Capcom's weekly twitch livestream on Wednesdays for sessions with DMC4: Special Edition  by Capcom staff.
Devil May Cry photo
Capcom Producer talks revitalizing DMC4
In case you missed it, Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is now a thing. Following up on their release of the excellent DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition (seriously, it's great), Capcom are readying their second hit o...

Review: Schrodinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark

May 18 // Darren Nakamura
Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark (PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Italic PigPublisher: Team17Released: May 12, 2015MSRP: $9.99 Raiders of the Lost Quark takes place in the quantum world, zoomed in so far the elementary particles of matter are visible. Previous knowledge about quantum physics is not required to play, though it does enhance the experience a bit. For instance, there are six flavors of quarks: up, down, top, bottom, charm, and strange. Schrödinger's Cat uses the first four flavors of quark in his platforming adventure (charm and strange are much rarer), and just like in real life, the quarks combine in groups of three. This central mechanic is smart. It allows Schrödinger's Cat to employ a lot of different abilities, using only the four shoulder buttons. It starts off with basic combos: three up quarks form a propeller that will carry the cat upward, three down quarks form a drill that will destroy terrain downward, three top quarks form a protective bubble to safely pass through hazards, and three bottom quarks form a platform to stand on. From there, quarks of different flavors can be mixed and matched. Two ups and a down (or two downs and an up) will form a missile that can be fired in any of the four cardinal directions. It ends up being one of the most useful abilities. With all of the combinations, there are 14 different abilities. Though it sounds confusing, it all comes fairly naturally, and there is a helpful quick reference on the pause screen detailing all of the different constructs. [embed]292295:58563:0[/embed] At its best, Quark takes the quark combination mechanic and applies it to a puzzle platformer. Half of the levels are designed, giving the player a specific set of quarks to overcome a specific task. Though several quark groupings can achieve similar outcomes (the copter, base, and bounce constructs will all help Schrödinger's Cat move upward), a limited supply of quarks means having to choose wisely, considering what will be left for other tasks. If it were just the puzzle platformer levels, Schrödinger's Cat would a tight little game that does its thing well. It's unfortunate that between the puzzle levels are procedurally generated filler areas. Though they still make use of the quark combination mechanic, the abundance of quarks takes away any sort of interesting decision making or a need for much forethought. Though there are 14 different abilities, I found myself mostly using the same 4 in these sections. There's no need for creative problem solving when the copter, missile, bubble, and net can do everything that needs to be done. It highlights the drawbacks of procedural generation. It can be a powerful tool for two types of games: enormous sandboxes that would be unreasonable to hand-design (Minecraft) and short, replayable experiences that reward experience over memorization (Spelunky). Raiders of the Lost Quark is neither of these. The procedural levels aren't interesting enough to merit a huge open world and aside from some new dialogue there isn't a whole lot of reason to replay it after going through once. Another downfall that stems from the procedural generation is in the environmental art. The destructible terrain and the chunky grid look outdated in the best cases. At worst, the environments are almost nauseating in their color choices and design. This come in stark contrast with the character artwork. Cutscenes have a sharp cartoon look, and the animations are smooth and visually interesting. Schrödinger's Cat's movement and combat animations are particularly good. The supporting cast members have really inventive designs, bizarre enough to fit well in the weird and wonderful subatomic universe. The art for the quark combinations is noteworthy as well. Looking closely at each construct, players can pick out which quark is performing which function, as they all stretch, bend, and combine together. It even helps from a gameplay perspective, where each design is memorable enough on its own that it helped me recall which quarks to summon for a particular ability. Even with the ones I used less frequently like the parachute, I can picture which colors go into it and use that to activate one without having to pause for the reference. Though the overall story is silly, the writing is good. Comedy in games is difficult, but Raiders of the Lost Quark had me laughing out loud a few times. That said, I'm a science geek, so your mileage may vary when it comes to the physics jokes. On a more disappointing note, I did run into a handful of notable bugs during my play through. On multiple occasions I got stuck in the level geometry. Sometimes there would be a creature listed for capture but that creature wasn't actually present, leading to unnecessary time wasted scouring the area. The Bosons were especially hard to work with; they are supposed to attack one another when brought too close, but I had several that wouldn't budge. None of these issues were gamebreaking; a reset to the last checkpoint or leaving and returning to an area fixed all of them. They still hurt the experience through wasted time. None of those waste as much time as the procedurally generated levels, which are easily the biggest flaw in Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark. They take up about half of the play time, present very little worthwhile gameplay, and feel like a drudge by the end. If it cut all the fat and featured only the smart puzzle-platforming found in the hand-designed levels, Raiders of the Lost Quark would be a leaner, more engaging, and ultimately much better game. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Schrödinger's Cat review photo
A superposition of good and bad
"Schrödinger's Cat" refers to an old physics thought experiment that highlights the weirdness of the quantum theory. Though it generally applies to very small particles, a device could be designed that leverages the prob...

What if Twitter was a Real Life Party? Video games and violence

May 16 // Jonathan Holmes
With video games in particular, there's absolutely no way of knowing what effect games alone will have on a person on a long-term basis. Some studies saw that many people show a diminished capacity for empathy after playing some videogames, but other studies show the opposite. Unless science is able to gather a perfect test group that is able to be studied by the effects that video games have on them alone, it will never be able to provide us with any conclusive answers. More qualitative, general observations aren't much more helpful. Sure, there are more mass shootings in America now than ever before, but the violent crime rate is also down overall. It would be easy to guess that means the rise of violent video games in America gives most people a positive outlet for aggression, decreasing their capacity for violent crime, while having the opposite effect on a group of outliers who later become mass murderers, but that kind of guess would be completely silly. That kind of guess would have to discount all the other concurrent trends in America today, like the increased levels of violence in film and movies, the increased use of thought- and mood-altering drugs (both street and prescriptions) in modern society, the drastic changes in our sociological/political/nutritional landscape, the Internet's influence on culture in general, and so many other factors. If you know a social scientist who can isolate video games from all those factors in determining how a person has been affected by his or her environment, I've got a crisp $20 bill with their name on it.  Regardless, this video wasn't meant to be a serious debate about all these issues, so I'm not even sure why I'm getting into them now. It's just a little animated reenactment of an unusual and semi-cute interaction I had with someone on Twitter. I hope you like it.  
WIT WAR LP photo
Social media animated!
One of the great things about the Internet is the limitless opportunity for social interaction it provides. While it always saddens me to see people use Twitter and other social media tools for the primary purpose of putting...

Weekend Deals: Witcher 3, Galactic Civilizations III up to 28% off

May 16 // Dealzon
Top Deals Witchin' Deals The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — $36 at GMG  Use code: 40OFFW-ITCHER-DEALZN The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — $42.99 at DLGamer  (list price $60) The Witcher 3 + $10 Rewards (PS4, Xbox One) — $59.99 The Witcher 3 + $10 Xbox Gift Card (Xbox One) — $59.99 More Top Deals Galactic Civilizations III (Steam) — $39  (list price $50) Xbox One Master Chief Bundle + 2 Games + $100 eGift Card — $379.99  (list $450) Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate (3DS) — $29.99  (list price $40) Tomb Raider GOTY Edition (Steam) — $4.68  (list price $30) Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition (Steam) — $4.68  (list price $30) Thief (Steam) — $4.68  (list price $30) Recent Releases 05/12: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (Steam) — $12.48  (list price $16) 05/06: Project Cars (Steam) — $36.99  (list price $50) 05/05: Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (Steam) — $15.60  (list price $20) 04/30: Block N Load (Steam) — $9.94  (list price $15) 04/21: Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China (Uplay) — $7.95  (list price $11) Upcoming Releases 05/26: Magicka 2 (Steam) — $11.70  (list price $15) 06/23: Batman: Arkham Knight Premium Edition — $70.19  (list price $100) 06/23: Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward — $31.20  (list price $40) 06/23: Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition (Steam) — $19.50  (list price $25) PC Game Deals Just Cause 3 (Steam) — $42.12  (list price $60) Ultra Street Fighter IV (Steam) — $14.44  (list price $30) World of Diving (Steam) — $13.29  (list price $20) Spintires (Steam) — $12.95  (list price $30) DMC: Devil May Cry (Steam) — $10.62  (list price $50) Red Faction Collection (Steam) — $10.19  (list price $60) Darksiders Franchise Pack (Steam) — $9.34  (list price $60) Remember Me (Steam) — $6.37  (list price $30) Enemy Front (Steam) — $5.85  (list price $30) Thief: Master Thief Edition (Steam) — $5.15  (list price $33) Demonicon: The Dark Eye (Steam) — $4.68  (list price $40) Killing Floor (Steam) — $3.90  (list price $20) XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Steam) — $3.51  (list price $30) Console Game Deals Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (PS4, Xbox One) — $47.99  (list price $60) Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (PS4, Xbox One) — $47.99  (list price $60) Dying Light (PS4, Xbox One) — $39.99  (list price $60) Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360, PS3) — $29.99  (list price $60) The Crew (PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360) — $29.99  (list price $40) Skyrim Legendary Edition (Xbox 360, PS3) — $19.99  (list price $30) PS4 Borderlands: The Handsome Collection (PS4) — $47.99  (list price $60) Destiny (PS4) — $28.49  (list price $50) Xbox One Mortal Kombat X (Xbox One) — $44.99  (list price $60) Xbox Live 12 Month Gold (Digital Code) — $40.95  (list price $60) Xbox Live Gold 3 Month (Digital Code) — $16.95  (list price $25) Minecraft (Xbox One) — $14.99  (list price $20) Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (Xbox One) — $9.99  (list price $20) Misc Console Deals Borderlands 2 (PS Vita) — $19.99  (list price $40) Freedom Wars (PS Vita) — $19.99  (list price $30) The Walking Dead: Season 2 (PS Vita) — $14.99  (list price $30) The Wolf Among Us (PS Vita) — $9.99  (list price $30) Laptop Deals 15.6" HP Omen 15t, i7-4710HQ, GTX 860M, 256GB — $1,049.99  (list $1,600) 14" Lenovo Yoga 3, i7-5500U, 8GB, 256GB SSD — $949  (list $1,250) 15.6" Lenovo Z51-70, i7-5500U, 8GB, Radeon R9 M375 — $829  (list $1,080) 11.6" MacBook Air, i5-5250U, 128GB SSD — $749.99  (list $900) HDTV Deals 49" LG 4K 3D LED TV with webOS + $200 eGift Card — $999  (list price $1,699) 60" Sony 1080p 120hz Smart LED HDTV — $889.99  (list price $1,799) 55" Vizio 1080p Smart LED HDTV — $597.99  (list price $798) 48" Sony 1080p Smart TV + $150 eGift Card — $498  (list price $528) Hardware Deals PlayStation 4 + Last of Us Remastered + PlayStation TV — $399.99  (list $400) Nintendo 3DS XL + Case (Blue, Red, Black) — $149.99  (list $175) Samsung 850 EVO SSD 2.5" 1TB MZ-75E1T0B/AM — $336.34  (list $450) Crucial M500 Series SSD 2.5" 960GB — $279.99  (list $520) AMD Radeon R7 Series SSD 2.5" 240GB — $99.99  (list $165)
Weekend deals photo
Now where's my $500 GPU...
Update 5/27: A new 40% off coupon has sprung up on The Witcher 3. Use code 40OFFW-ITCHER-DEALZN at checkout at GMG and drop the price to $36. The The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is finally releasing next week May 19th...

Review: Stretchmo

May 15 // Chris Carter
Stretchmo (3DS)Developers: Intelligent SystemsPublisher: NintendoReleased: May 14, 2015Price: Free-to-play with microtransactions ($9.99 for everything) The way Stretchmo's microtransaction setup works is very confusing at first glance. Initially, you'll have access to a select few intro puzzles. After that, there's one 100 level pack for $4.99, three 50 level packs for $2.99 each, and the option to buy all of them for $9.99 upfront. If you buy each add-on individually, there's a small discount for purchasing more. My guess is that the series didn't perform as well as Nintendo would have hoped outside of Japan, so they want to give international players a chance to "get a taste" for a few bucks. Whatever the case may be, it's not a bad idea as it basically functions as a demo, outside of the fact that there is no way to sample individual packs. As for the game itself, it's pretty much business as usual outside of one new addition. Our heroes will have to solve various block puzzles and reach a predetermined goal (usually at the top of the heap) by pulling and pushing them into submission to create new paths to jump and cross. In this edition you'll have the power to "stretch," blocks on the side, which actually adds quite a bit of depth to the proceedings. You'll soon learn that blocks can be manipulated in a multitude of different ways from every single angle, creating some of the most taxing puzzles yet. Intelligent Systems also brought back the convenient zoom feature, as well as the effective 3D technique, which makes it very easy to move about each creation. Beyond that one new mechanic Stretchmo's gimmick is found in its various level packs, which all have a different theme and character. The 100 core levels are hosted by Mallo, and are actually the easiest of the bunch -- some of which are even remedial. If you enjoy the core Pushmo experience, I'd recommend picking them up, but they aren't anything special. [embed]292153:58540:0[/embed] Poppy is next in line, with items that are themed after real-life objects. While her 50-stage gauntlet has a bit of charm to it it's only marginally more difficult than Mallo's adventure, and I wouldn't say that it's essential in any way. Corin on the other hand kills it with the Fortress of Fun. This add-on brings in more gadgets, including full-on enemy characters to deal with. They remind me of the Sackbots from the Little Big Planet series in that they're crudely designed and only sport a base-level AI, but they're probably the most innovative addition to the series yet, because nearly every level is crafted around avoiding them and jumping on their heads. It adds a degree of twitch action that wasn't really present before. Papa is the last pack in the bunch, and his theme is old NES classics. You'll find levels designed around retro art like an 8-bit Mario head, much like the maps that so many players have created and shared on their own. This add-on however has the benefit of being the most difficult set of levels in the game, and when you add in the stretch ability, I'd be comfortable with making the claim that they're actually some of the biggest challenges in the entire series. For those who are interested, yes, Stretchmo still has a creation studio (that's enabled after you make one purchase). It can read QR codes just like the old iterations, and your gadget unlocks are tied directly to your progress in each pack. In other words, if you want enemies you'll have to buy Corin's levels, and so on. [embed]292153:58557:0[/embed] While all of this is generally pretty great, there are a few downgrades in comparison to the previous version. In particular, the Pushmo World Fair feature from the Wii U release is sorely missed. Although the idea of socially sharing your QR codes with one another is cool, I loved the ability to instantly jump in and casually browse through online creations, even if I didn't play all of them. I also miss the screen real estate provided by the GamePad, which has since spoiled me. Still, the new concepts presented in two of the level packs (Fortress of Fun and NES Expo) make up for it. If you've never given Pushmo a fair shake before, trying out the free stages in Stretchmo is a great way to start. While I'd generally recommend going the full mile and buying the whole thing outright, you can also just spring for the Fortress of Fun for a few bucks and come out on top. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Strechmo review photo
Sure, I'll push some mo'
Nintendo has been silently crafting some killer franchises over the years. While he may not light up sales as much as Mario, after four years, I'd consider Pushmo's Mallo to be a fully-fledged Nintendo character. Now he's back in his fourth game on the 3DS in the form of Stretchmo, which adopts a rather odd free-to-play scheme that essentially functions as a demo.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster on PS4 looks better than ever, but has major problems

May 14 // Brett Zeidler
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (PS Vita, PS3, PS4 [tested])Developer: Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixReleased: May 12, 2015MSRP: $49.99 In terms of the entire package, the PS4 version is the exact same compilation as the original remaster release. The international versions of both base games, Eternal Calm, Last Mission, and the super weird audio drama are all here. Nothing in terms of gameplay content was added or removed. However, there appears to be an alteration or a major bug affecting FFX's random number generation. People even more keen than myself on FFX have noticed the RNG system is completely broken in the PS4 version. Random encounters and events are supposed to be, well, random. However, this is no longer the case in this version. Encounters always occur when they are supposed to, they will always have the same enemies, and the battles will always play out exactly the same way. No matter how many times the game is reset, the occurrence and outcome of encounters or events that involve the RNG system are set in stone. This has a drastic affect in key aspects of the game. Say you're having trouble on a specific boss, and if you could just land that twenty-second hit it would change the tide of battle for you. Well, the bad news is on the PS4 version you're always going to miss that twenty-second hit as it stands. Additionally, this changes ribbon farming, blitzball, and likely everything else that involves RNG. I couldn't test every aspect of this, but I could easily predict down to the second when my first battle against two Chimera would occur during one of my saves in the Calm Lands. I could have tracked this up to as many subsequent "random" encounters as I wished. I checked the exact same save file on PS3, and encounters were always random. FFX-2 does not appear to have this problem. [embed]292113:58550:0[/embed] A major complaint of the PS3 and Vita release was the new rearranged soundtrack. It seemed a lot of people simply outright hated its existence, whereas others would have at least preferred the choice to switch to the original soundtrack. Thankfully, players now have that option at any point during their playthrough. I actually really enjoyed the remaster soundtrack, but on my current playthrough it's been nice to use the original. It sounds amazing. The Besaid Village theme in particular sounded the best even back in 2001. Unfortunately, the background music system also has a major bug in the PS4 release. Background music on the PS2, PS3, and Vita versions continued playing where the track left off once a battle occurred, but now this is no longer the case. For a game like FFX that has a ton of random encounters, you will likely only ever hear the first ten or twenty seconds of a track unless you stop and listen to the music. It appears to have to do with how the soundtrack switching system was implemented, affecting both FFX and FFX-2. The soundtracks sound amazing, which makes this bug so unfortunate. Hopefully it can easily be fixed in a future patch. Cross-Save was a great feature of the PS3 and Vita version, and it's been extended here for the PS4 version. Once a particular game is fired up, all old saves that were stored in the cloud previously can be accessed just as quickly and easily as before. It took me less than a few minutes to install the game, start up Final Fantasy X, load a save from awhile back, and instantly pick up right where I had left off at that point. That's pretty cool. The PS4 version of the remaster has even more enhanced visuals, which is pretty amazing considering how incredible and smooth the game looked on PS3. To check this, I started a fresh playthrough on both consoles on the same television and played them alongside each other. The PS4 does have a slight graphical enhancement overall, but I really only noticed it because I was looking for it. There's a sort of extra crispness to the PS4 version, and the occasional aliasing issues that were still on the PS3 version are gone here. It's not a major overhaul, but the improvements are there. Additionally, Square claims more NPCs and monsters received enhanced models. I didn't notice any of these in my current playthrough (it's really hard to just stumble upon these without knowing specifically which were enhanced), but seeing poor-looking character models in the same scenes with enhanced ones was a big complaint, so it's nice to know this was addressed in some fashion. However, some other major complaints were not addressed at all. Cutscenes, for whatever reason, are still not skippable and there's no option to toggle between the old character models and the remastered ones. These types of things don't detract from my experience, but they were definitely huge complaints upon release last year, and it's unfortunate they weren't taken care of here. Some of those cutscenes are really long, man. As is stands, the PlayStation 4 version of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is not the definitive version of the compilation. Even for super fans of Final Fantasy X, it's hard to recommend a version of their favorite game that has broken RNG, a background music bug, and still no skippable cutscenes no matter how beautiful the game looks or how incredibly fast it loads now. With an MSRP of $50 it's also a really hard sell to a brand-new player when the other two versions are currently so much cheaper, even more so if they already own one of those two versions (especially since they launched at $40). The PS3 version does lack the original soundtrack, but other than that it offers the truest experience of Final Fantasy X and X-2. If you must have it on PS4 or that's your only option, I'd honestly recommend waiting for the RNG and background music issues to hopefully be patched soon and the inevitable price drop. If those two major issues are ever fixed, the PlayStation 4 version of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster would easily be the definitive package.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 PS4 photo
Spira never felt so good
Barely over a year after its original release on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster makes its way to the PlayStation 4. A remaster of a remaster, if you will. However, the original releas...







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