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Preview: Wipeout In The Zone (Xbox 360)

Jun 03 // Sherilynn Macale
Wipeout In The Zone (Xbox 360)Developer: ActivisionPublisher: ActivisonTo be released: June 14, 2011 If you’re not familiar with the title, Wipeout In The Zone is based on ABC’s hit show Wipeout which, similar to Ninja Warrior, throws people into an extreme obstacle course and challenges them to complete it in order to win a fairly sizeable stack of cash. When asked to comment on the similarities between the TV show and the videogame, Associate Producer at Activision, Matt Hohl, stated, “We wanted to follow the formula of the show. There are nine episodes, each with three rounds just like on TV. And we even have the original hosts who came in and recorded over 2,000 lines of dialogue just for the game.”  Part of the fun of Wipeout In The Zone is the twisted amusement you get from watching someone make a complete jackass out of himself while he plays. There was definitely more than one occasion where I found myself pointing and laughing when someone slipped up or cursed in frustration. Much to my regret, of course, as this same treatment was eagerly returned during my own play through. According to Hohl, one difference between the videogame and the actual show is that you can now hurt these videogame characters in ways that you obviously can’t in real life (without actually killing anyone, anyway). Hohl continued, “The obstacles in the show are already crazy. But the developers were able to make them even crazier in the Kinect version.” Between ducking and sidestepping to dodge incoming boxing gloves from the Sucker Punch wall, attempting to maintain my balance while tightrope walking over to the next obstacle, and jumping up to avoid the swinging obstructions in my path, I can definitely vouch for the “craziness” of the obstacles.  After seeing how out of breath everyone appeared to be following their own play throughs, I assumed that I’d be sweating up a storm as well. Fortunately, this was not the case and I walked away feeling rather refreshed. This could either mean that I am the perfect specimen of human health, or that the intensity of the game is determined by the stamina of the individual player. That being said, I personally do not find this game to be too much of a workout and can definitely see even the laziest person enjoying it. As for how fun it was to play and how in sync Wipeout In The Zone was with my movements, well, there was definitely a slight lag time between my actions and the game’s response. For example, I found myself having to leap much earlier than anticipated to get my avatar to register the jump, though this is something that you get used to after a couple. Other than that, Wipeout In The Zone wasn’t too terrible and is pretty much what you’d expect from an avatar-based Kinect game. It’s nothing that really blew my mind or made me want to run out to GameStop for a preorder, but I can see myself snagging it for a drunken kickback with friends alongside Rock Band or Guitar Hero. Sherilynn "Cheri" Macale is a freelance journalist and illustrator who can't exactly decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life and so does absolutely everything. Harass and prod her via Twitter, check out the badassery on her Website, and leave a friendly message on her Facebook.
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When I was told that I’d be previewing Wipeout In The Zone for Kinect, I thought for sure that Destructoid was trying to torture me through some sort of new-editor-hazing-process. For one, I’m a writer, not an ...

Hands-on: Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten

May 15 // Sherilynn Macale
Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten (PlayStation 3)Developer: NISPublisher: NISTo be released: September 2011 To be honest, I know absolutely nothing about the series aside from what I picked up at the NIS Spring Event. It has something to do with hell, right? And cute anime characters with wings or something? Luckily, Steve Carlton, Localization Coordinator at NIS, was able to clear up the plotline for us while schooling me on what’s up with the finer details of the game (and trust me, there are plenty). According to Carlton, the Disgaea games typically involve the crazy hijinks of the Netherworld (or Hell) and the goings on within. This time around, you begin the game as Valvatorez, previously a powerful tyrant overlord who gains his vampirish powers by ingesting human blood. However, after making a promise with a human girl to never to drink the blood of humans again, he loses his powers and drops to the lowest level of Hades, the Netherworld Prison. There, Valvatorez is in charge of training and disciplining Prinnies (the human souls of corrupt criminals and thieves who, after being transformed into comical penguin-like characters, must be trained to both act and speak a certain way in order to atone for their sins). Suddenly, problems! The demons in charge of scaring humans into being good aren’t doing their job. The Netherworld, affected by their slacking, is churning out far too many Prinnies, and Hell just can’t handle the overpopulated upkeep. Oh no! The President of Hell, in an attempt to keep the peace, decides to exterminate all of the Prinnies in one fell swoop. This prompts Valvatorez -- who has promised to keep the Prinnies safe -- to launch an anti-government campaign going against the laws of the Netherworld in order to overthrow the President and discipline everyone on the proper ways to run Hell. Mischief ensues! After getting a chance to test out the game myself, the first thing I noticed was the wacky and over-enthusiastic voice acting (think DeathSpank or a silly infomercial). It’s interesting that they chose a comedic tone for a game that definitely could have been a bit on the darker side. While taking my sweet time enjoying the introduction and studying the cute anime character sprites, some huffy journalist from some media site that’s not Destructoid tapped me on the shoulder and, in an irritated tone, asked if I was playing the game or not. Uhm, obviously, lady. Do you not see the PS3 controller in my hand? I politely told her that, yes, I am playing the game, and I also happen to be taking notes (with a wave of my iPhone in her face). She backed off (das wut I thought, son!) and left me to my gaming. Feeling a bit flustered (dang, people be pushy up in this bizz), I attempted to skip through the rest of the intro dialogue and found that it was fairly slow going. For one, you can’t really just mash X and fly through the script. Pressing start over and over also doesn’t seem to do much in the way of speeding things along. Glancing behind me, I could see the line growing and the amount of people watching my screen filling up. Oh, the pressure! Fortunately, Hamza “CTZ” Aziz was there to pat me on the shoulder and kindly say, “Screw them. They can wait their turn. You’re fine.” Destructoid FTW. After I finally reached a playable part of the game (they start Valvatorez off in his base of operations, sort of like a camp site), I was pleased with how quickly and smoothly I could navigate the map. Swiveling the left analog stick allowed me to steer Valvatorez through the base camp, while tapping L1 or R1 rotated my view by 90 degrees in whatever direction I chose. I could also zoom in or out to three different angles by holding square and again tapping the front left or right trigger buttons. Confusion followed when I realized I had no idea what I was doing or where I was supposed to go. There weren’t exactly any indicators saying, “S’cuse me, dumbass. Yer s’pose ta do this or talk ta this person right hurr.” Maybe this is due to me hurriedly skipping through the dialogue? Though I am something of a speed-reader anyways, so that probably wasn’t it. It took me a bit of talking to random NPCs littered throughout my base (who, according to Carlton, merely serve to supplement the storyline) before I managed to discover a glowing character with pigtails who apparently launches strategy battles for me. I first played through a tutorial that discussed the basic controls of battling. Then, feeling like a smarty-pants, I attempted to execute the button commands I had just learned. But wait, what was happening? Why isn’t X doing what it’s supposed to do, and why isn’t Circle behaving?! Again, maybe this is due to me rushing through the tutorial (though I swear I was paying attention to what does what), or perhaps due to the fact that this is a Japanese-to-English port, and they are still working on the translations for correct button mapping. Either way, it was simple enough to figure out with a little trial and error. The battle configuration was easy to understand and is fairly similar to every other strategy game I’ve played. I deployed fighters, clerics, etc by selecting my base panel (this glowing blue tile on the floor) and deciding on which characters I wanted to send into battle, then positioning them across the grid within their range of movement. A maximum of ten characters from your party can be on the field at any time, while your base panel holds the rest of your deployable stock. Eager to see my army in action, I quickly stationed my characters and executed their attacks, surprised when other minions I happened to place nearby joined in on the attacks for massive collaborative combos! The animations were so nuts that I can’t even really describe to you what it was that I saw (view the trailer for an idea), but I did get a chance to ask Steve Carlton for more details. “The multi-character attacks are random, but there are ways to increase the percentage of them occurring. The way you set up your government across the field affects how each person teams up with one another,” Carlton states. Massive character combo attacks with a huge personal army of minions to deploy? Color me intrigued. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to play through as much of the game as I would have liked, and from a follow-up interview with Steve Carlton, it turns out that I’ve only barely scratched the surface of Disgaea 4. The official trailer, for example, only touches on a few of the awesome features in the game -- like fully customizable maps, monsters that transform into weapons, the ability to log onto the Network and pirate characters from your friends and then discipline them into obedience, etc. Carlton estimates that the game will take maybe 40 hours to wrap up if the player just sticks to the main storyline with a dry run. As is the case with most complicated JRPGs, all of the side quests, mini games, and micro-customization features could possibly log you at anywhere from 200 - 300 hours to fully complete. A few more cool things you can expect from Disgaea 4 include: Weapon Mastery on anything from knuckles to swords (leveling up your weapons reveals unlockable skills and ultimate attacks which you can then also level up in order to become as powerful as possible -- holy crap); tons of monsters to both defeat, capture, and train into recruits for your already massive army; ways to level up your items or characters that involve battling down through different layers of maps within those characters or items; and defeating matches taking place inside of your minions or weapons themselves. PHEW! I’m sure I could go on forever about the incredible depth of Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten and the overwhelming strategy nuances it boasts, but ultimately, it comes down to the players to explore these features themselves. With a release date set for September 2011 and a price point at $49.99 ($59.99 for the Premium Edition), it sounds like NIS has plenty of time to fine tune the otherwise tongue-tying features of the game for its American audiences. Sherilynn "Cheri" Macale is a freelance journalist and illustrator who can't exactly decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life and so does absolutely everything. Harass and prod her via Twitter, check out the badassery on her Website, and leave a friendly message on her Facebook.
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Holy sh*tballs, this game is crazy. How do I even begin to describe how insanely complicated, yet ridiculously awesome Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten appears to be? Explosions, demons, monsters, penguins, pirates, massive p...

Hands-on: Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3Ds's Master Quest mode

May 11 // Sherilynn Macale
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (3DS) Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo To be released: June 19, 2011While I am typically the first in line to snag myself the latest in new consoles or gadgets, the 3DS is one system that I’ve patiently waited on picking up (mainly because it has no games worth playing just yet). But after sitting down with Nintendo to take Ocarina of Time for a test run, it was obvious that they were aiming to take full advantage of the shiny new features of the 3DS and incorporate them into the game as much as possible. Utilizing the 3D depth slider on the side of the handheld moves you from 2D to 3D in an instant, allowing you to control how strong you want your 3D Zelda experience to be. This is a feature that varies from game to game and is, of course, up to the developers to utilize (something that the Nintendo devs clearly took into account in order to make our experience with the game that much more enjoyable.) During this particular test run, I was able to view the remastered version of the Water Temple where everything from the vividness of the shifting water to the textures on the walls was now much more crisp and clear. Even Navi’s trail of sparkling fairy dust popped from the screen as she zipped from one item of interest to the next, chirping her familiar “Hey” and “Listen” catch phrases to grab my attention.I felt silly peering around my handheld looking for the C-Up button to access Navi’s hints as I’ve so often done with the N64 original, only to be pleasantly surprised when I found that they’ve now integrated Navi into the 3DS’s touch screen. A simple tap to Navi’s icon in the top left corner of the bottom screen brings her conveniently to life. And even more convenient still, they’ve managed to integrate the entire menu into the lower hub, making the overall navigation a breeze.You might remember how frustrating and time consuming it may have been to constantly pull open the menu in order to remap Link’s weapons and equipment to the various directional C-buttons.  However, in this updated version of Ocarina of Time, you are able to quickly map any item you want to hot keys (or shortcut keys) on the touch screen by simply tapping them to switch their positions. And hey, less time spent popping open your menu means more time spent actually playing and enjoying the game! The Water Temple, for example, is now much easier to navigate and explore through the use of the integrated touch screen menu. If you’ve played the original, you’ll remember Link’s essential Iron Boots -- an item that provides Link with enough weight to sink him down through the water in order to help him access various levels of the temple. Unequipping these boots, of course, floats him back to the surface.Other items and weapons like Din’s Fire, bombs, and of course Link’s handy slingshot or bow and arrow can also be hot-keyed as desired. But the 3DS takes playing with these old-school favorites to a whole new level by utilizing the system’s gyroscopic aiming feature.With your bow and arrow or slingshot equipped, you can tilt and move your handheld around, twisting and turning in order to shift Link’s aim in the game harmoniously with your own. While this might be awkward to view from afar during, say, a bus ride to work or school, the accuracy of this feature is surprisingly precise and smooth in execution and is something you do not want to miss out on. Can you imagine fishing with this feature? Or even better, playing through the Shooting Range in the Gerudo Fortress? Or bombing your way through the bowling alley minigame? There is so much fun to be had with a system that not only immerses you visually in the Zelda world, but now gives you a physical experience as well. However, if you are anything like me and are easily embarrassed by the thought of swinging your handheld around in public (god forbid I get so into the game that I actually smack someone mid-aim!), you’ll be happy to know that this is a feature we can easily switched on and off. So no worries! We can all secretly enjoy the awesome gyroscopic goodness within the privacy of our own homes.But again, all of these new features are simply add-ons to an already amazing game well loved by fans worldwide. Although the entire Zelda world has been rebuilt visually from the ground up with better textures, sharper graphics, and more lively NPC animations -- the actual layout of the dungeons and puzzles as well as general storyline have been preserved. Little tweaks in the script have been added here and there to help explain the additional features of the 3DS, of course, but other than that the overall Ocarina of Time experience has remained largely unaltered. Why mess with a formula that already works, right?Dan Owsen, a translator present at the preview that has worked on many of the Legend of Zelda games including Ocarina of Time, stated, “[Nintendo] didn’t make too many changes. Usually when we release classic games, we tend to keep the original text. There might be a few places where it could have been polished up, but I think it’s good they just left it as is.” Though while the all-important large chunks of the game have been left untouched, some pieces of the Ocarina of Time world have definitely been through an upgrade. Take, for example, the Gossip Stones (or Sheikah Stones) scattered throughout Hyrule.  Previously, Gossip Stones spat out random hints and babble, or offered the time and remained generally useless to Link’s quest (though I’m sure more than a few of us have sought them out to see if we could discover any hidden Easter Eggs in their pointless blathering). This time around, however, they are now the bearers of indicative Hint Movies that serve to jog your memory and help you solve the more frustrating puzzles in the game, clue you into treasures you may have missed, or lead you to various side quests and mini games. Of course, it’s not going to be that easy to work out the answers from the visions alone. After all, the Hint Movies are exactly that: hints. They are more like leads that tip you off to the locations of puzzle-solving keys, encouraging you to soak in the actual environments of the visions in order to figure out the answer on your own, rather than acting as would-be FAQ/Walkthroughs that give you point-blank solutions. For the more seasoned Zelda players who already know the ins and outs of the game and don’t quite need or feel a use for the new Sheikah Stones (as cool as they might be), 3DS Ocarina of Time offers a newer and better Master Quest mode. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Master Quest is a more difficult version of the game that originally was only available in limited edition quantities to those who pre-ordered The Wind Waker and later came with GameCubes in the US. It basically ups the ante by challenging the player with much more difficult dungeons, as well as tougher puzzles to solve while following the same, familiar storyline.Nintendo, again keeping to their winning formula, hasn’t changed the dungeons or puzzles from the original Master Quest and has left them pretty much untouched in every shape and form.  Except this time, enemies are smarter, strike harder (double damage!), and the entire Zelda world has been mirror-imaged, forcing you to relearn and explore the environment as a now right-handed Link.And if that’s still not enough awesome Zelda goodness for you, the brand new Boss Challenge Mode could very well be the more exciting experience you’ve been looking for. In this fresh feature, you now have the chance to relive every boss fight you encounter throughout the game, but with a timer! Challenge your friends and compete to see who can get the best time on Dodongo, or race to beat Gohma in this additional element of the game, and then replay it again to beat your own score. But that’s not all. Once you’ve conquered the entire game and have hacked and slashed your way through every big baddie challenger, you will then unlock Boss Gauntlet -- a hardcore run through of every boss in the game, but with a catch: You only have one life. Phew! For the seasoned Zelda veterans only.With remastered visuals, additional features, brand new play modes, and amped replayability that takes total advantage of the 3DS’s abilities, Nintendo has managed to take a title that all Zelda fans look back on fondly and make it even better. Finally! A game worth buying a 3DS for. Will you be standing in the long line with me, $39.99 in hand, to snatch up your own copy of the “new” Zelda: Ocarina of Time on June 19? Sherilynn "Cheri" Macale is a freelance journalist and illustrator who can't exactly decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life and so does absolutely everything. Harass and prod her via Twitter, check out the badassery on her Website, and leave a friendly message on her Facebook.
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Being a huge Zelda fan myself, I can’t tell you how stoked I was to hear I had a chance to preview the 3DS remake of what is possibly the Nintendo 64’s most well-known title, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. ...


Hands-on: High Flyer Death Defyer

Apr 12 // Sherilynn Macale
High Flyer Death Defyer (iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, iPad [Previewed]) Developer: Game Mechanic Studios Publisher: Game Mechanic Studios To Be Released: Summer 2011 HFDD is a primarily tilt-based mobile game that relies on the sensitivity of your device to steer you left or right, send you nose-diving through the environment, or slow you down for more maneuverability in order to avoid obstacles. A simple tap to the screen deploys your jetpack and will allow you to fly safely upon floating platforms. Activate your jetpack too late and it will overheat and explode! But for those of you lucky enough to land healthy and whole, these platforms will act as checkpoints while you progress through the highly explorative world of HFDD. But why do you need checkpoints? HFDD isn’t some bubblegum candy game where you’re happily prancing through the air while tra-la-la-ing through one level to the next. You’re probably going to die! While thorough details concerning the storyline are pending announcement closer to the predicted release date (sometime in Summer 2011), President and Creative Director, Jason Alejandre, was still able to let this little tidbit slip.   “We can’t tell you much about the plot of the game at this point, as we’ll be revealing more about the plot, characters, and world of HFDD over the coming months. All I can really say is that our protagonist -- a treasure hunting member of the Death Defyer squad -- starts out as a bit of an anti-hero looking for fortune, sort of like Han Solo, but ends up discovering something much larger and far more sinister. The details of the plot -- and the sinister force -- will be unveiled soon.” Alejandre mentioned three different worlds in HFDD, each containing 10 different levels. In the level I was able to explore during WonderCon, I found myself barrel rolling past menacing red propellers that threatened to chop me into delicious little pieces of man-flesh (though a simple swipe across the screen was enough to twirl me out of harm’s reach.) I also steered myself through blue stealth rings which, at the time, I mistook for “power ups”, but was later able to clear up with Alejandre. “The stealth rings are really there to protect you from detection by the bad guys and, from a gameplay perspective, to get players to fully explore each level, instead of just nose diving straight to the bottom. So they aren’t exactly power ups, per say. But, in addition to the O-shaped stealth rings you saw, there are harder-to-find D-shaped rings that take players down an alternate path for extra treasures, challenges, and replayability.” Being the sort of player who enjoys exploring and searching out those little hidden Easter eggs or glitches that you can only find by veering off the predicted path, it was cool to hear that Game Mechanic Studious had sorted out this little detail and catered to my particular audience. After getting a taste of the game for myself, Alejandre showed me a quick animated preview of a mechanical beast perched atop a floating rock, amused when I immediately began firing off questions about the monster, asking about its origins, how he plans to incorporate it into the game, and what its purpose within the story would be. Is it there to help us in the game? Are there more of them? Alejandre replied with, “The mechanically-augmented beast is indeed your ally, and he’ll help your hero in navigating the world, escaping bad guys and advancing the plot, but I can’t reveal any more than that for now. We’ll have more announcements about the ally beast -- as well as other huge monsters and the roles they will play -- closer to launch.” Navigation in HFDD is incredibly simple and responsive, and the controls are easy enough to pick up and execute. Meaning your grandma will probably even get a kick out of it. Speaking of sharing, I did inquire for us social game types about whether or not we’d be able to compete with friends via leaderboards or social media networks, etc. To which Alejandre replied, “We’re exploring every possible option for scores and leaderboard tracking and will integrate those wherever appropriate. We really want to encourage players to challenge their friends and other Death Defyers through the social channels, so you can post your fastest time and be like, “Beat that!” Or if you earn a really tough trophy, be all, “Can you do it?!” We like that community feel, and want it to be more present in mobile gaming.” After only two months of development (including art direction, level design, controls, and engineering), High Flyer Death Defyer is already shaping up to be something uniquely special. While certain parts of the game definitely remind me of flight navigation favorites like Star Fox or Jak & Daxter, there’s just enough originality to make this title distinct. I was surprised by the level of detail they had put into the smallest of animations. For example, I was fortunate enough to be able to view one of the supposed many death animations when HFDD glitched for a moment (something I’m sure they’ll be working the kinks out of during further development). I’m looking forward to seeing how they integrate social media into the game (as this is definitely a huge part of mobile gaming nowadays.) I'm also looking forward to discovering more about who our protagonist is running from, what sort of cool treasures he might collect, and what other awesome equipment and allies he might run into during his adventures (if any). High Flyer Death Defyer should be available via iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android, with a release date aimed for Summer 2011. There’s no announcement on a final price point yet, but it will be competitively priced as they are eager to get the game into as many hands as possible. With that said, does HFDD look like your cup of tea? What do you hope to see out of this game? Sherilynn "Cheri" Macale is a freelance journalist and illustrator who can't exactly decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life and so does absolutely everything. Harass and prod her via Twitter, check out the badassery on her Website, and leave a friendly message on her Facebook.
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Afraid of heights? Can’t climb down a ladder to save your life? Would you rather eat dirt than step one foot into a roller coaster? Well suck it up, buddy. This game isn’t for the weak of heart. In Higher ...


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