Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts


Disaster Report 4 Plus photo
Disaster Report 4 Plus

Disaster Report 4 Plus is looking real nice on PS4

I'm glad it's back
Nov 27
// Ben Davis
Disaster Report 4 Plus: Summer Memories received its debut trailer and some shiny new screenshots today. Developer Irem previously announced Disaster Report 4 for PS3 back in 2010, but it was delayed and then canceled shortly...

Review: Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon

Nov 27 // Ben Davis
Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon (3DS)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NintendoMSRP: $39.99Released: November 20, 2015 To start things off in Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, the player will take a short personality test. The test determines which of the 20 starter Pokémon they will become; it also chooses their partner. However, the results can be overruled if the player is unhappy with their chosen 'mon. The game picked Mudkip for me, with Torchic as my parter, so I just went with it. The story of Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon revolves around a human who has been turned into a Pokémon and has lost their memory. The Pokéhuman wakes up in confusion to find that they're being attacked by a group of Beheeyem, but they're quickly led to safety by a kind Nuzleaf with a southern accent who shows them the ropes and brings them into town. Once in town, the player will make some new friends, meet up with their destined partner, and begin going on expeditions into mystery dungeons. From here, the main storyline will begin to reveal itself in bits and pieces. There are whispers of Pokémon around the world mysteriously being turned to stone, the Beheeyem are still following the player, and their memory of being a human refuses to return to them. Eventually, everything will start to fall into place and a grand adventure of world-ending proportions will unfold. But before all of that happens, there are dungeons to explore. These make up the core gameplay, of course. Mystery dungeons are made up of randomly generated grid-based floors filled with enemy Pokémon, items, and traps. Enemies only move when the player moves, so sometimes it's best to take things one step at a time so as to avoid suddenly becoming overwhelmed with foes. [embed]322769:61271:0[/embed] To attack, just hold down the left bumper to open up a menu of four possible moves, then select an action. It's also possible to combo moves with other team members by tapping the right bumper, which activates an "Alliance" to hit an enemy with multiple moves at once. Strategy is key to winning battles. Sometimes the best course of action is to waste a turn so that the enemy might move closer, opening up the possibility to land the first strike. Or, maybe it would be safer to switch positions with another teammate so they can take a blow and allow others to heal. Perhaps a liberal use of items will get the player out of a jam. A lot of planning and foresight is necessary in order to survive most confrontations, so simply spamming attacks is not going to cut it for the most part. Moving around dungeons will slowly heal injured Pokémon, but it will also decrease a hunger gauge as well, and if hunger reaches zero then the Pokémon's health will slowly begin to deplete. On top of that, there are status effects to worry about, such as poison or burns, which will stop Pokémon from regenerating health and will hurt them. Other effects, like confusion, can mess with a Pokémon's movement or ability to act. This can prove to be very annoying and potentially dangerous, so it's always a good idea to have the proper items available. Actually, a big part of mystery dungeon navigation involves managing items effectively. Only a certain amount can be held at once, but items will be scattered about all over the place and will quickly fill up the bag. It's a good idea to figure out which are the most important and plan accordingly. Some of the more important ones are oran berries and reviver seeds which are necessary for healing, elixirs which replenish the PP of moves, apples which stave off hunger, and wands and orbs that keep enemies at bay or help with dungeon navigation. There are also "Looplets" which act as the sole source of accessory. These can be upgraded with "Emeras" or gems which provide a wide array of different effects to help with combat and navigation (some may even cause a Mega Evolution!), but the Emeras will disappear upon exiting a dungeon. If the player fails a dungeon, they will lose all the items and money currently being held, unless they opt to wait for a rescue mission. These can be arranged on Pelipper Island, where the player can request help from other players via passwords, QR codes, local wireless, or IR connection. Alternatively, the player can simply return to their old save in order to retain items and money, but of course progress might be lost. Helper Pokémon can also be sent out from Pelipper Island for streetpass purposes, although I haven't encountered any yet. While story dungeons will force the player to use specific teams of Pokémon, normal dungeons will allow the player to choose any three Pokémon they wish to use. More Pokémon can be recruited by completing expeditions or simply chatting with folks around town, so the pool of possible allies will continue to grow larger and larger. All 720 Pokémon are available to be recruited, including legendaries, gender variations, all forms of Unown, and more. Using Pokémon in dungeons will allow them to level up and and learn new moves. I don't believe they can evolve, but since their evolutions can also be recruited, it doesn't really matter too much. Normal expeditions are where Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon really shines, but unfortunately they are few and far between until the main story has been completed. Free play finally opens up in the epilogue, but players are looking at about 20+ hours of gameplay and cutscenes before that happens. Aside from that, my only real complaints are the lack of skippable cutscenes and the fact that some story missions don't provide much opportunity for preparation. Even though it often allows the player to choose the items they want to take along and check out the shops beforehand, I still occasionally found myself woefully unprepared for story missions and ended up getting stuck with lousy equipment. The game also tends to save before long cutscenes right before boss fights, so I was forced to rewatch the same scenes over and over again whenever I died. The one before the final boss was particularly frustrating; it was so long! I'd have to say my favorite part of Super Mystery Dungeon is the way the Pokémon are portrayed. In most games and in the anime, the Pokémon simply say their own names and their personalities, if they have one at all, can only be implied. The main cast of characters in Super Mystery Dungeon consists of a good mix of Pokémon from each generation, and they're all given their own voice, each with different quirks, opinions, personalities, and sometimes even accents. It's really fun to learn about these guys in a new light. Some that I liked before I ended up hating this time around (like Pancham and Shelmet, those jerks!), while others that I may have ignored in previous games quickly became some of my favorites (like Espurr!). The cutscenes may have been long and the story may have been a little over-the-top, but I'd say it was worth it in the end just to get to know some of the Pokémon a bit better. Having never played any of the previous entries in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, I can't really compare it to the earlier games. However, for my first foray into Pokémon roguelikes, I had a great time! The difficulty seemed to ramp up considerably in some places, but between items, Emeras, and the random elements, I was generally able to figure out a strategy that worked well enough for me to just barely make it through. But if that doesn't work for some players, there are always the rescue missions to fall back on in case of an emergency. If you're like me and you haven't tried a Mystery Dungeon game yet, this one comes highly recommended. I'm fairly confident fans of the series will not be disappointed either. On its own, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is a quirky, light-hearted spin-off with well-developed dungeon crawling gameplay that provides a satisfying level of difficulty and gives the player plenty of room to develop their own strategies, all the while offering tons of customization options with a huge roster of potential allies and moves. It's a solid entry in the Pokémon franchise. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Super Mystery Dungeon photo
Like Magic(karp)
The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon spin-off series transports the colorful cast of pocket monsters from the role-playing games into the challenging world of a roguelike dungeon crawler. Super Mystery Dungeon retains the charm...

The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth coming to PS4, but other platforms unlikely

'Outlook NOT good'
Nov 20
// Ben Davis
Afterbirth, the expansion to The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, was released last month for PC users. Owners of Rebirth on other platforms have since been left waiting, but according to a tweet yesterday from Edmund McMillen, the...
Read Only Memories photo
Read Only Memories

Read Only Memories is coming soon to PS4 and Vita

Turing breaks his way onto consoles
Nov 19
// Ben Davis
Read Only Memories, the cyberpunk adventure inspired by Snatcher, will be making its way to consoles soon on PS4 and PS Vita, as announced today on the PlayStation Blog. I reviewed Read Only Memories last month when it was re...

Review: Typoman

Nov 19 // Ben Davis
Typoman (Wii U)Developer: Brainseed FactoryPublisher: Headup GamesMSRP: $13.99Released: November 19, 2015 In Typoman, the player controls a small hero made out of the letters that spell the word "hero." This little guy must navigate a treacherous landscape riddled with puzzles and traps, all of which are also made out of words and letters, in a quest to reclaim his lost arm. It's your basic puzzle-platformer, with the main draw being that all of the puzzles and platforms are composed of letters. Pits are filled with pointy As, ladders are built out of Hs stacked on top of each other, and traps are created around words like "gas" and "crush." Meanwhile, enemies formed from the words "hate" and "evil" roam the land looking to put an end to the hero's adventure. In order to solve puzzles and bypass traps, the hero must rearrange letters to spell new words. See a raising platform that won't move? Try to form the words "up" or "on" out of the letters nearby. Stuck in front of a flooded pit full of rainwater? Maybe the problem can be solved by adding another letter to the word "rain." The first area of Typoman (what you see in the trailers and demo) is full of simple, clever puzzles such as these, easy enough to solve without help but fun enough to make me smile. [embed]321539:61169:0[/embed] To make spelling easier, the Wii U GamePad can be used to quickly rearrange any nearby letters into new words, provided that the letters are all touching each other. The hero can also rearrange letters manually by picking up individual letters and pushing, pulling, or throwing them into place, but this takes a lot longer than using the GamePad. As the game goes on, the puzzles start to become a lot more complex, but not always in a good way. By the third and final area, almost all of the puzzles involve a "letter dispenser" which provides the hero with nine or more different letters to choose from in order to form a solution. Not all of the letters from the dispenser are necessary, and sometimes a puzzle might require choosing the same letter multiple times. I found these puzzles to be a bit too unintuitive for my liking. Usually, the area would be set up in a way where I wasn't exactly sure what the game even wanted me to do, what type of end-goal action I was looking for, so I ended up just sitting there staring at the letters on the screen for about twenty minutes trying different words that never did anything. Typoman does provide a hint system for these difficult puzzles, which essentially tells the player which word will help them out through vague inspirational quotes. The puzzles become so difficult, though, that it's really hard not to just give up and take the hints after standing around doing nothing for a long time. And even after the solutions were revealed to me, sometimes they still didn't make much sense. For these longer words puzzles, I would have liked for there to be multiple solutions. For example, one puzzle that had me stumped for a long while had a very simple (if illogical) four-letter-word solution to be created out of a possible eight letters. Other words such as "stairs" or "raise" seemed like they could have possibly helped, since the puzzle involved platforms of various heights and distances which needed to be connected, but they did nothing. Instead, each puzzle seems to be looking for one very specific word in order to perform a very specific action, and it's the player's job to try and figure out what exactly the game is looking for. The problem is, neither the word nor the action required is usually very obvious. Puzzles aside, the platforming segments also needed a lot of work. Jumping is very sluggish, and the player is often required to time jumps at the very last possible moment in order to clear pits. On top of that, many of the traps have no warning at all until they have already been triggered, leading to a lot of trial-and-error gameplay. Deaths often felt like they weren't my fault at all, since I usually had no way to know that death was imminent until it was too late (don't even get me started on the final boss, by the way). Luckily, there are no lives and dying simply brings the player back to the beginning of the last puzzle, but it's still frustrating since these types of things happen throughout the entire game. On top of the confusing puzzles and poor platforming, Typoman also had long load times, a surprisingly short length, and a strangely serious, eerie atmosphere which I felt clashed with the otherwise quirky nature of the game. In the end, I was left wondering exactly what type of person Typoman was meant for. As someone who loves words and word games, it wasn't very satisfying to try and figure out which exact words and letters I was expected to use. Getting creative never helped, and instead I usually had to resort to guessing blindly until something worked or simply relying on hints which was no fun at all. And for other people who aren't great at word games or simply don't enjoy them, I can see Typoman becoming very boring very quickly. The beginning of Typoman showed promise, full of amusing and creative moments, something that anyone could enjoy. But unfortunately it wasn't able to hold that momentum for very long and quickly devolved into tedium and confusion, and lots of standing around doing nothing. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Typoman review photo
Not grate
Word games have always been a passion of mine. Looking at a group of letters and trying to form new words out of them can be fun and intellectually stimulating. So what if we took a word game and combined it with a platformer...

Quick tips for making friends in Yo-Kai Watch

Nov 15 // Ben Davis
The main thing you'll want to do when trying to befriend a certain Yo-Kai is figure out which type of food is its favorite. This can be a bit difficult, as there's no way to know for sure without throwing a bunch of different things at it and seeing which one it likes best. Plus, there are a ton of food types to choose from (rice balls, bread, candy, milk, burgers, ramen, vegetables, meat, and more). Some of them are easy to guess: for example, Mochismo, the Yo-Kai based on mochi, likes rice balls; and Chummer, the shark Yo-Kai who can be seen eating grass, likes vegetables. For everyone else, it might be simpler to just look up a guide rather than waste a bunch of food trying to figure out what they like the most. The best guide I've come across can be found here. When using food during battle, press the Y button to use the food on an enemy rather than a member of your party. The food will usually be eaten by the center enemy in battle, so if you're looking to befriend a different one, either defeat the middle Yo-Kai first and then use a food item, or place a pin on the enemy you want to focus on. Strangely enough, it can sometimes end up that a Yo-Kai other than the one you threw food at will ask to be friends after the battle, which can be annoying, but it happens. Another good tip for making friends is to try and find a Yo-Kai with the Popularity skill. This skill makes foes more likely to become friendly after battle, so it's always a good idea to have someone with this skill on your team while hunting for new pals. Yo-Kai with the Popularity skill include Cupistol, Casanuva, Shmoopie, and Pinkipoo. But make sure you don't have Casanono or Pookivil on your team, because their Unpopularity skill might scare potential friends away. Cupistol and Shmoopie can be found relatively early on, so they will probably be the best bet for players just starting out. Cupistol is a rank D Yo-Kai who can be found in the Downtown area around Graduate Street to the north. Look around the trees there for a rank D to appear on your watch. Cupistol will also sometimes appear along with Happierre, a rank C Yo-Kai who can be found in the trees in that same area. Make sure to bring lots of bread when trying to befriend Cupistol. Shmoopie is a rank C Yo-Kai who can be found in the grassy patches of Mount Wildwood. I believe this one always appears alone, so no need to worry about accidentally befriending someone else. Shmoopie likes hamburgers, so stock up on those before hunting for him. The other two, Casanuva and Pinkipoo, can only be found later in the game. Casanuva can be evolved from a Cupistol if fused with the Love Buster item. Likewise, Pinkipoo can be evolved from Shmoopie when combined with the Love Scepter. They can also be found in the wild. Casanuva likes to hang out in Nocturne Hospital, sometimes alone and often as a counterpart with Betterfly or Compunzer. Pinkipoo can be found in the final area of the game, which is maybe a bit spoilery so I won't get into it here, but you'll know it when you see it. Both Casanuva and Pinkipoo enjoy the same food as their unevolved forms (bread and hamburgers, respectively). The final tip is a bit more unreliable, but if you get lucky it can really help. Occasionally during battle, a floating wisp will appear which can be hit with a pin for various rewards. Sometimes, a bunch of hearts will pop out of the wisp, which means foes will be much more likely to become friendly after the battle. It's not something you can count on, but if you ever see a wisp during a fight with a Yo-Kai that you really want, be sure to hit it with a pin just in case! Of course, even after doing all of this, there's still a chance that the Yo-Kai will not want to be your friend, which can be frustrating. But these tips should increase your chances significantly. I found that after obtaining a Casanuva, I was spending way less time grinding for friends, so apparently the Popularity skill works well, especially when combined with food. Just keep at it and eventually you'll have all the friends you could want!
Yo-Kai Watch tips photo
Just be my friend already!
Yo-Kai Watch recently released in the west earlier this month. I've been having a blast with it, but I've also been having some difficulties as well. So far I haven't been able to find any good guides to help walk me through ...

Experience Points .27: GoldenEye 007

Nov 07 // Ben Davis
No guns, mines only, final destination The main reason GoldenEye is remembered so fondly is no doubt because of the multiplayer. Four-player split-screen multiplayer was a big deal at the time, especially for a first-person shooter on consoles. It was actually my very first experience with a first-person shooter. I played GoldenEye so much with my brother, friends, and cousins that we started to develop our own rules and go-to gameplay modes which dominated our multiplayer sessions. My absolute favorite thing to do in multiplayer GoldenEye is to play "proximity mines only." Choosing proximity mines also comes with a few guns as well, but my friends and I played where we would only kill each other with the mines. Guns were only to be used to shoot mines, never other players. Of all the weapon types to choose from, and even of all the different types of mines to choose from, proximity mines were the most fun, in my opinion, due to how unexpectedly they can explode. Just toss a mine up on a wall, wait for someone to wander too close to it, and BAM! "Proximity mines only" matches were especially tense because of how tiny the mines are, making them rather difficult to spot. If a player sees one before walking too close, they can carefully aim and shoot it down, or even toss another mine at it to make it explode. This could also cause a chain reaction of nearby mines exploding as well, engulfing the entire area in flames as players run for their lives. I always tried to find clever places to hide mines, such as on the ceiling, on the floor, on an ammo crate, or on a glass wall (which I then shot, of course, leaving the mine floating in thin air). The element of surprise when someone walked into a room and suddenly exploded without seeing a mine anywhere in sight never got old. Sometimes a player would even respawn directly on top of a mine, dying in a dramatic explosion immediately after coming back to life. My friends and I would sit there and play with proximity mines for hours, blowing up and howling with laughter every single time. Nooks and crannies Speaking of multiplayer, the Complex stage was totally my jam. The Basement may have been the best layout for proximity mine matches, but I always felt the most comfortable running around the Complex. The reason for this was because of the Complex's secret hiding places. There are a few areas in the Complex where it's possible to sort of phase through the walls, leading to small rooms where I could hide and wait for people to walk by. Somehow, very few of my friends knew about these hiding spots, so I could wait in safety while they wandered around the building desperately searching for me, then pop out and shoot them while their backs were turned. They would never see me coming, and would get so mad because I surprised them every time. I felt like a ninja. The Complex also had some of the best sniping spots. Whoever managed to make it to the upper-level room in the middle first usually ended up racking up a ton of kills, since there were windows opening out to several of the main rooms all in one convenient location. There's also a spot in the room with the spiral ramp where it's possible to hide in the shadows and shoot people from below. I tried to take advantage of all of these different hiding spots to kill my friends from safe locations and confuse the heck out of them by staying out of sight. Of course, after a while my friends stopped picking that level because they knew I would win! Kong. James Kong. GoldenEye's cheat options were a ton of fun to play around with, and conveniently available to choose from a menu on the main screen. Paintball Mode was almost required to be turned on while playing with my friends. All it did was replace bullet holes with splotches of paint, but for some reason, it was the only way we played. I always liked to draw smiley faces out of the paint by carefully shooting designs onto the walls. We also played around with Turbo Mode occasionally, which greatly increases everyone's movement speed. This made "proximity mines only" even more chaotic! The weirdest cheat in GoldenEye, though, was called DK Mode. This cheat transforms all of the character models into grotesque shapes which are apparently supposed to resemble Donkey Kong, with huge heads, tiny bodies, and really long arms. The characters look so inhuman and ridiculous that it's almost impossible not to laugh. I mean, look at Natalya up there. What even is she? Combine DK Mode with Turbo Mode and my friends and I would be out of breath from laughter in no time at all! Crazy gorilla people zooming around at high speeds, their gigantic heads popping up out of nowhere with their freakishly long arms pointing a gun at me... it's just too much. I'm so glad Nintendo published this game, if only because it gave us these hilarious, hideously deformed characters as a cheat option. I am invincible! Everyone has their favorite Bond character to choose for multiplayer matches, whether it's the classic choices of James or Natalya, the villainous Xenia or Jaws, or even the more generic Helicopter Pilot or Moonraker Elite if you're feeling sassy. Just don't go picking Oddjob, or else you're probably going to lose some friends! My favorite character has always been Boris. He may just be a boring old computer technician, but I loved his bold fashion choice of wearing a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt and shorts for combat. There's no way to be stealthy while wearing a Hawaiian shirt, which means Boris is apparently confident enough in his abilities to attract the attention of everyone around him and still come out a winner (he is invincible, after all). Or maybe he's trying to confuse everyone into thinking he's a civilian. Or he's simply clueless when it comes to combat situations. Whatever the reason, I love his style and wouldn't want to play as anybody else! Far from the uncanny valley One of my personal favorite things about GoldenEye is all the bizarre faces on each of the character models. They're meant to look like the actors from the movies, and the enemy faces are meant to look like some of the staff at Rare. What they actually look like, however, is more like a cut-out of a real human's face stretched over a cartoonish 3D model, which I suppose is a technically accurate description of how they were made. The faces look so weird on the character models though, to the point that it's honestly hilarious. The enemy soldiers' faces are especially fantastic, because many of them have these exaggerated expressions that never change. So as they're rolling expertly across the ground, shooting with a gun in each hand, and falling over in dramatic death animations, they always have that same silly expression no matter the situation. I think my favorite face is the bearded guy with the crooked grin and what looks like a scar across one eye. I feel like I see him all over the place, and no matter what he happens to be doing at the time, his expression always makes me laugh. I wonder who that guy is? Spies on a train The multiplayer isn't the only fun thing in GoldenEye, of course. The single-player campaign is solid as well, taking Bond on missions throughout Russia and Cuba to visit all of the main locations from the film. There are a bunch of neat missions, including Frigate, where he must rescue several hostages on a ship near Monte Carlo; Statue Park, where he has to navigate a maze of creepy statues in the dark; and the Streets of St. Petersburg, where he drives a tank through the city while trying not to kill too many civilians. One of my favorite levels is the Train mission. This level was pretty difficult for a few reasons. It takes place almost entirely aboard a train, with Bond moving from the tail end up towards the engine, which means combat happens within confined spaces. Not only are the train cars small, but they're packed full of boxes and swarming with enemy soldiers, so Bond has to be very careful or else he might end up trapped between a group of bad guys all shooting him at once. The most intense bits are towards the end when he has to move through the passenger cars, since soldiers could be hiding behind any of the multitude of closed doors. Somehow, a few enemies always manage to end up behind me! The most difficult part of the level comes at the end, though. When Bond enters the final train car, he finds Natalya being held hostage by Ourumov, with Trevelyan and Xenia standing guard behind them. He must act quickly and shoot Ourumov before he can kill Natalya. The other two make their escape (I always tried to shoot them anyway, even though they always manage to get away), leaving Bond and Natalya trapped inside of the train with a short amount of time before it explodes. The rest of the mission involves trying to find a way out of the train by using Bond's handy watch laser to melt open a panel in the floor, while waiting for Natalya to hack into a computer in order to locate the Janus secret base. As usual, Natalya is slow as molasses and takes her sweet time cracking Boris' password, leaving just a few seconds to escape the train before she blows up. This is life or death, Natalya, hurry it up! Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition.25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.26: Dark Souls
GoldenEye 007 photo
For England, James?
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...

Swery65 photo

Swery65 is taking a break from game development

Get well soon, Swery!
Nov 06
// Ben Davis
Game designer Swery65, best known for creating Deadly Premonition and D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, posted on the Access Games blog today that he will be taking a short break from game development to recover from reactive hypogl...
Undertale on TV photo
Undertale on TV

Undertale is too demonic and evil for the 700 Club

Sans has been giving people a bad time
Nov 03
// Ben Davis
[Header image by Nibroc-Rock.] Undertale, one of my favorite games released this year, made a very unlikely appearance recently on the 700 Club, a Christian television program hosted by Pat Robertson. The show received a ques...

Video game ghost stories #3: Buried in the ground

Oct 31 // Ben Davis
~ I met all of my neighbors today. Most of them were really nice; I can already tell that Samson and I are going to be great friends. The eagle was a bit grumpy though, and the cat seemed full of herself. But I'm sure we can get along! A lot of them also have Gyroids in their homes. I tried to ask where they came from, but no one seems to know for sure. Buzz, the grumpy eagle, told me that he sees them in the ground sometimes when it's raining. Very strange... I'd never even heard of them before moving to this town. Aside from meeting the neighbors, I also got a job working at the raccoon's convenience store. So he runs the only store in town and manages all of the properties. It seems like he has as much influence on the town as the mayor. Maybe even more. He gave me a job and a place to live, so I definitely owe the guy. I'm not sure where I would be without him. ~ It was raining all day today, and guess what I found? As I was running late to work, I tripped over a lump in the ground. It was a Gyroid; Buzz was right! It was making this really weird gurgling sound and moving around every now and then like it was trying to break free of the mud. It had that sad, vacant expression that all the other Gyroids have. For some reason, I felt like I couldn't just leave it there, so I decided to take it home. ~ I got a letter in the mail today from Monique, the snooty cat. Apparently she's moving away soon. I've only been in town for about a week, so I didn't get to know her very well. The other neighbors say that people come and go all the time here, so it's not really strange for someone to suddenly decide to move out. Well, maybe someone a bit nicer will move into her place. In other news, that Gyroid I picked up the other day seems to be doing fine. It's still making that gurgling sound, though. I thought it was just doing that because it was stuck in the mud out in the rain, but it keeps gurgling away every so often. The sound mixed with its expression is a little unsettling. Sometimes it almost feels like it's trying to tell me something. ~ Today was the day that Monique was supposed to move out, so I decided to walk over to her place to see if she had left yet, and her house was gone! There was no sign of it anywhere. I got really confused, thinking I had walked to the wrong part of town, but her house definitely used to be right there. I remembered she lived directly south of the post office, so there was no mistake. Did they just bulldoze her house as soon as she left or something? Why would they do that? I went over to ask Samson what the deal was, and he says this kind of thing happens all the time. Whenever someone decides to move away, he gets a letter from them in the mail, and then a few days later they've left town and their house is gone. He thinks it must be Nook's idea to demolish old houses, since he owns the properties. It seems like a waste of money to build brand new houses for every new neighbor, though. Oh well. It's not really my problem. ~ It's been raining all week. I went to the post office today to deposit my rent and happened upon another Gyroid. Strangely enough, it was lying in the ground right where Monique's house used to be. This one was writhing around and making a horrible wailing noise, rather than the gurgling sound the other one makes. Wailing with that sad, empty expression... it sent a shiver down my spine. Once again I felt compelled to bring it home with me. I stored it in the basement next to the gurgling one so that I wouldn't hear the wailing all the time. They only seem to make noises when they see me. ~ Today was a big day! There was a sign near the museum saying that someone new was moving in soon, so construction on their house was underway. I also got a letter in the mail from Buzz saying he's about to move away. Things sure do happen quickly in this town. I went to say goodbye to Buzz, since we've been on good terms lately, but he seemed really distracted. I guess he has a lot to do to prepare for the move, so I can't blame him. I'll miss him, but at least I can look forward to meeting the new neighbor. ~ It rained again today. I had the sudden urge to go for a walk near where Buzz used to live, and guess what? I found another Gyroid, right where his house used to be. It was just like what happened when Monique moved. This one makes a hollow wooden sound, but it still feels like it's trying to tell me something. I took it home, of course. I'm starting to get a very weird feeling about these Gyroids, though. I keep finding them whenever someone moves. Could it be a coincidence? ~ Samson will be moving away soon, according to a letter I got in the mail. I can't believe he didn't tell me in person! I went by his house to talk to him about it, but he seemed out of it. It reminded me of how distracted Buzz had been before his big move. This is really sad news; I'm gonna miss that mouse. But it does give me a chance to settle some suspicions I've been having. I plan to camp outside Samson's house to see what happens tonight before the big move. ~ Oh my god. He killed him. Tom Nook killed Samson. I was hiding in the trees next to Samson's house, and around three in the morning, Tom Nook knocked on his door. When Samson opened it, Nook hit him in the head with an axe! I couldn't see what happened next, because Nook went inside and closed the door. All I could hear was the sound of an axe thumping. Next thing I know, Nook came back outside, dug a hole in the ground, and buried what looked like body parts. Then he stole all the furniture and disassembled the entire house with unbelievable speed and skill, and walked calmly back to his store with all of Samson's belongings in tow. My heart was pounding out of my chest as I ran back home. What just happened? I have to get out of town quick. Should I warn the other villagers first? A hollow wooden sound made me heart skip a beat. I looked in the corner and saw the Gyroid from Buzz's house, and suddenly it hit me. Nook had buried Samson's body in the ground outside his house. He must have done the same with everyone else. Is this how Gyroids are created? From the bodies of the dead? But why are they still moving and making sounds? Do they remember? My mind is reeling from everything that has happened tonight... ~ I must have passed out last night. I awoke to someone knocking on my door, and got up and answered it without thinking. It was Rasher, the new neighbor. He said he got a letter from me in the mail telling him I was moving soon. Was I being pranked? It took a moment for his words to register, but suddenly everything made sense. I didn't know what to say. I must have shrugged off Rasher in a haze as I stumbled back into my house. It must have been Nook who sent all those letters. No wonder Samson didn't tell me he was moving. It wasn't his choice. Tom Nook chooses who comes and goes in this town. And I'm the next to go.
Video game ghost stories photo
Happy Halloween!
Journal Entry #1: I moved to a new town today. It was a last-minute decision, and I didn't even have a place picked out, so it was a little scary. Luckily, a raccoon named Nook showed me some really cheap houses to rent, so I...

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash photo
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash

Bowser Jr. and his dead father join the ranks of Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash

Skeleton and son
Oct 31
// Ben Davis
The most recent trailer for Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash introduces both Bowser Jr. and Dry Bowser to the court. Neither character is new to the Mario Tennis series, although Junior is now bringing the Koopa Clown Car along...

Video game ghost stories #2: The faces

Oct 30 // Ben Davis
"What's this? Green clothes... White fairy... Sir, could you, by chance, be a forest fairy? Oh my! My name is Tingle! I think I am the same as you, sir. A forest fairy! Alas, though I am already age 35, no fairy has come to me yet..." Link was very put off by Tingle's appearance. The grotesque features, the ill-fitting clothes, the overt jealousy of Link's fairy companion. He decided it was best to avoid this strange man for now. After reclaiming his lost ocarina, Link used its mysterious powers to travel back in time a few days and spoke with the Happy Mask salesman again. The man upheld his promise to return Link to his former self. He played a somber tune, and Link's body began to shift and change rather violently. It was not exactly a pleasant experience. As he left the leafy form behind, Link felt in his heart the soul of a Deku Scrub passing on to the afterlife. When he came to, he noticed a mask lying on the ground in front of him. A mask resembling the face of a Deku Scrub. With this mask, he would be able to switch between forms at will. Continuing on his journey, Link took to the snowy mountains. Just outside of the Goron village, he caught a glimpse of Tingle floating in the distance. Link decided to try and pass him by. He hadn't spoken to Tingle yet since going back in time, so the man shouldn't recognize him anyway. But as he trudged past through the snow... "Hello, Mr. Fairy! How nice it is to meet again out here in the mountains. You do not look yourself, though... You appear to have changed bodies! How can this be?" Link was taken aback. How did Tingle know who he was? He was certain he hadn't spoken to Tingle since the dawn of the first day. And he recognized Link even though he was no longer a Deku Scrub. Perturbed, Link gave Tingle a suspicious glance and continued on his way. In the mountains, Link met the ghost of a Goron which led him back to its grave. The ghost was restless, but after playing the Happy Mask salesman's somber tune, it seemed to be at peace. Once again, Link felt in his heart the soul of the Goron passing to the afterlife, leaving behind a mask in its place. He tried on the mask, and felt his body being ripped and molded into a new form. He could feel a remnant of the soul of the departed Goron pulsing through the mask as he admired his new body. Leaving the grave, Link was once again assaulted by the pesky 35-year-old. "Mr. Fairy! You have changed bodies once again! I am unsure how you have obtained this power to become a Goron or a Deku Scrub at will, but I must know. If I could become a true forest fairy... You must teach me your secret, Mr. Fairy!" Link barely acknowledged Tingle as he left the mountain in a hurry, eager to be far away from the unsettling middle-aged man. Returning to the first day once again, Link made his way to the Great Bay coast only to discover a Zora in distress out in the waves. He quickly dove in and dragged the body back to the beach, but it was too late. The Zora gave its final breath, and died right there in front of Link. He decided to play the somber tune once more and acquired the Zora mask. Remnants of the Zora's soul pulsed through Link's body as he donned the mask, transforming into a slender, aquatic form. Suddenly, he noticed Tingle floating in the air a short distance away. Was he being followed? Tingle approached with a shocked expression on his face. "I saw what you did, Mr. Fairy. You took that dead Zora's face. It made you turn into a Zora! Interesting. How interesting!" Link noticed a peculiar glint in Tingle's eye that sent a shiver down his spine. Why was Tingle looking at him like that? He thought about trying to explain that it was a mask and not the Zora's actual face, but he couldn't find the words. Instead, he backed away awkwardly, turning to leave as Tingle continued to look him up and down. Some time later, Link arrived at Ikana Canyon. Soon this whole ordeal would be over, and he could finally return to Hyrule. Unfortunately for Link, he would have to deal with the fairy fanatic once again. It seemed as though Tingle was able to be everywhere at once. Or maybe he really was following Link wherever he went... He approached and spoke in an unusually grim tone. "Mr. Fairy, I know now how I can finally become a real forest fairy. I've watched you do it time and time again. You took their faces. You wear their faces to inhabit their bodies. This is the key to your secret power, and it will soon be my power to wield as well." Link hesitated for a moment, caught off guard by Tingle's sudden malicious attitude. The man's expression told Link he was dead serious. He reached a shaky hand out towards Link's face, cackling excitedly. "Mr. Fairy... give me your face." Link turned and ran as fast as he could. Ducking behind a dilapidated hut, he whipped out the ocarina and hurriedly played the Song of Time. Back in the clock tower, Link fell to the ground, gasping for breath. He thought he would just stay put inside for a while. It was the best hiding place he could think of. Nobody ever seemed to enter the tower, aside from the Happy Mask salesman. And speak of the devil... "Ah, perfect timing! I just got done speaking with a client who is willing to pay an exorbitant price for a certain mask. However, this mask is not yet in my possession. But it shouldn't be too difficult to acquire. In fact, its source is standing right in front of me. All I need is... a little something from YOU."
Video game ghost stories photo
Counting down until Halloween
Link made his way out of the clock tower, still in Deku Scrub form thanks to the Skull Kid. He just needed to find a way to return to his regular body. The Happy Mask salesman apparently knows the secret. Wandering around Clo...

The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth is out now on Steam, have a trailer!

Coming soon for other platforms
Oct 30
// Ben Davis
Afterbirth, the expansion to The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, was released earlier today on Steam. Just in time for Halloween! There's also a creepy release trailer to go along with it, featuring a disturbingly realistic vision...

Video game ghost stories #1: Man eater

Oct 29 // Ben Davis
~ The new recruit has turned out to be very useful in battle, although their tactics are rather unsettling. I don't know how to put this delicately, but... they have literally been eating our enemies alive. They have a voracious appetite which seems as though it can never be satisfied, and they have a taste for almost anything. It's good for us, as they have been making short work of the monsters in our path and scaring the rest of them away. It's a bit disturbing to watch, though... All that slurping and crunching is gruesome. It makes my stomach turn over just thinking about it. ~ Today we were fighting some soldiers from Alexandria and our new recruit tried to eat them. Human soldiers. The rest of our party was horrified, and I told the new recruit that they could not eat humans. They seemed very disappointed. They kept muttering, "but it look so tasty," and, "I so hungry." Everyone has been a bit wary around them since the incident. Perhaps it's time to find a replacement. They're bringing down morale and making everyone uncomfortable. For now, I guess I'll wait and see if something like this happens again. ~ I awoke today to find that a member of our group had gone missing. His old rusty armor was still lying at the foot of his bed at the inn, but he was nowhere to be found. Maybe he ran away in the middle of the night? I guess I wouldn't blame him, and leaving his armor behind would allow him to escape quickly and quietly. I will miss him. Even though the two of us didn't quite get along, he was a tremendous asset in battle. ~ The new recruit has been acting stranger than usual lately. They keep giving everyone these really weird looks and their mouth starts drooling... I keep thinking we should just ditch them, but since we lost Rusty we really can't afford to lose any more members. ~ Another member of our group has gone missing. Her spear and clothing were strewn about her bed, and now I'm seriously worried. There's no way she would have left without her things. I think it's time to leave the new recruit behind... I'll let the other two in on the plan, and hopefully we can escape tonight. ~ I stayed up all night waiting for the perfect opportunity to wake the others and leave, but the new recruit apparently sleeps with their eyes open? Watching them... sleep?... sent shivers down my spine. I'm not sure what to do at this point. We might just have to make a run for it. ~ We made our escape while the new recruit was busy feasting on a large basilisk. The slurping and munching was quite loud, so hopefully they didn't hear us over all the noise they were making. We managed to hail a passing airship and returned to Alexandria to come up with a new plan for our adventure. The princess has been really scared lately, and we've all been mourning the disappearance of our two allies. I have a horrible feeling we won't be seeing them again... but at least the three of us are safe now. ~ The new recruit followed us to the Capital! How did they know where we were? How did they get here so quickly? They surprised us late at night, a crazed look in their eyes. I grabbed the princess and ran, but I didn't know where the mage had gone. I hope he found a place to hide or something. I don't know where else we can go, but we have to get away. For now, we're going to hide in the woods outside of town. ~ The princess and I became separated in the woods somehow. One second she was right behind me and the next thing I know she's gone! I've been calling her name and running around in a panic. What should I do?! ~ They're here. They followed me into the woods. I can hear their heavy breathing and horrible slurping sounds. I fear there is nowhere left to run or hide. They seem to know exactly where I'm going at all times. I've been running all day. I don't know how much more of this I can take... Just thinking about their awful, dead eyes and insatiable appetite fills me with dread. Is this the end for me? If someone finds this journal, heed my warning! Stay away from the Q -- (indecipherable scribbling) . . .
Video game ghost stories photo
Counting down until Halloween
Journal Entry #1: We recruited a new member to our party today, but they're a little... strange. We found them hanging out in a swamp eating frogs. At first, I thought it was an enemy, as their appearance startled me, but they seemed eager to join our team and we need all the help we can get. Let's hope for the best!

Experience Points .26: Dark Souls

Oct 24 // Ben Davis
Serenity Dark Souls is home to one of my absolute favorite locations in video games, but I might not have even known it existed if I hadn't looked up a guide. Deep in Blighttown, there's an illusory wall hidden behind an unassuming treasure chest which leads to the inside of an enormous tree, an area known as the Great Hollow. I probably never would have found this secret entrance on my own, but I'm really glad I heard about it. Carefully following the branches down the trunk of the tree, I eventually emerged out of an opening at the bottom. The discovery that followed was absolutely stunning. The Great Hollow led to an unexpectedly huge, open area called Ash Lake, which certainly doesn't look like it belongs deep underground. I found myself on a quiet island of sand, surrounded by murky waters and many more gigantic trees growing up into the air in the distance, much like the Great Hollow I had just exited. It was like I had just discovered the birthplace of the world. Though the area felt vast and secluded, I actually wasn't alone. Ash Lake is inhabited by a few other living creatures, including some territorial shellfish, an angry Hydra, and the Everlasting Dragon, a peaceful, immortal being who grants travelers the power to transform into dragons themselves. I don't know what it was exactly, but something about Ash Lake really resonated with me. There's this unimaginable peacefulness to the place, and everything about it feels so mysterious and magical. It's a secret beach where I could go and just relax and think about life without being bothered by anything (well, other than the Hydra). I spent a really long time just wandering the sands, taking in every inch of the landscape and admiring everything around me, and it quickly became my favorite place to waste time. I wish I had been able to discover Ash Lake on my own, without any prior knowledge of its existence, because that really would have been something. It would have been so exciting, like I had just uncovered the greatest secret of Dark Souls that no one else knew about, and Ash Lake was all mine. But alas, I was apparently not very observant during my first playthrough. Biggie Smalls As far as difficult Dark Souls boss fights go, the fight against Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough is one of the best. The duo encapsulates two very different boss types: one small and agile, the other slow and powerful. Each of them would easily pose a threat on his own, but now they're fighting together and must be defeated simultaneously. It's one of the most taxing fights in the game, requiring players to keep track of both enemies at once and never let one of them out of sight, lest they sneak up from behind for a beat-down, all the while choosing the perfect opportunities to land any hits on the pair without being exposed to a counterattack. And as if the fight weren't hard enough already, once one of the duo is defeated, the other absorbs their fallen comrade's powers and their health is fully restored. If Ornstein goes down first, Smough takes his ally's lightning power to become slow, powerful, and electric. If Smough is the first to fall, Ornstein inherits his buddy's size to become giant yet still as agile as before. It's up to the player to decide which one they feel they can handle and try to kill the other one first. I can't even count the number of times I died to these guys, but eventually I developed a solid strategy for beating them solo. Personally, I always tried to take down Ornstein first, because Mega Ornstein is a bit too big and speedy for my liking. Mega Smough, on the other hand, is much easier to keep track of, and I found I could use the pillars to my advantage to keep him at a distance since he always seems to walk directly towards the player. Smough is not too bright, apparently. He's definitely the brawn to Ornstein's brains. The harrowing adventures of the onion knight A lot of people tend to think of Solaire as their trusted companion in the world of Dark Souls, but personally I always preferred Siegmeyer's company. Siegmeyer of Catarina is a jolly, yet somewhat lazy knight wearing an odd set of armor with an onion-like appearance. He can often be found napping or meditating near an obstacle he is unable to overcome, and requires the player's help to pass through. Siegmeyer's quest line basically involves getting him out of all sorts of predicaments as he goes off on his adventures. Eventually, the player will meet his daughter, Sieglinde, who shines a bit of light on her father's personality, saying that he's always going on adventures and getting himself into trouble, so she has to go looking for him to keep him safe. Their quest line culminates in a rather sorrowful manner, ending in Ash Lake where Sieglinde stands near her father's body. Sieglinde says he went hollow and she had no choice but to kill him. But evidently, this isn't the first time this has happened, as she previously stated, "If he goes hollow, I'll just have to kill him again." What a tragic existence, to have to constantly follow her father around as he slowly goes mad and then kill him before things get too troubling, and repeating the process all over again. My good friend Nic Rowen wrote a spectacular piece on this very moment from the game, where he compared Siegmeyer's condition to Alzheimer's, and now that theory is pretty much canon in my mind. Off with his tail! The one thing I miss about Dark Souls is the ability to acquire new weapons by chopping off the tails of my enemies. It was such a fun idea, but sadly it didn't return in Dark Souls II or Bloodborne. The "cut off its tail" strategy applied to many of the bosses in Dark Souls, provided they had a tail to attack. Once I discovered it was a running theme in the game, I made it a point to inspect every boss for a tail and made sure to cut it off before the fight was over. This made some fights a lot more intense, since I'd have to change up my usual strategy to move around behind the boss and try to lop off the tail without causing too much damage. I died many, many times to Seath the Scaleless, simply because I was so preoccupied with making him Seath the Tailless. The tail weapons were all great additions to the player's arsenal, so taking the time to obtain them was usually worth it. There's the Drake Sword, of course, every new player's saving grace which can easily be taken from the Hellkite Dragon, as well as the Dragon King Greataxe and Moonlight Greatsword taken from the Gaping Dragon and Seath, respectively. I also personally really liked the Gargoyle Tail Axe from the Bell Gargoyles, which I thought was one of the cooler looking weapons due to the way it bends when it swings around, even though it's not that great stats-wise. It's even possible to cut off the tail of the Everlasting Dragon, the massive NPC found in Ash Lake. This will net the Dragon Greatsword, which basically looks like a huge hunk of stone roughly shaped like a sword. Don't worry though, attacking the dragon won't cause him to become aggressive since he is apparently immortal. Hope he can grow his tail back, at least! Come out, come out, wherever you are I was never very good at Dark Souls PvP, but I still really enjoyed playing with other people just because of how great the summoning and invasion systems are. But since combat wasn't my forte, I started to try and find ways to mess with other players instead. One of my favorite strategies for toying with invaders is by using the good old Chameleon spell. Chameleon disguises the player as an object from the environment, such as a vase or a statue, something that will most likely appear inconspicuous to the other player as long as it's not moving around or sitting in an unusual spot. It became like a fun little mini-game for me, trying to find the perfect hiding spots for my Chameleon-disguised body and seeing if any passing invaders would notice. Some players were very observant and were able to locate me right away and attack, while others spent forever wandering around the area, passing right by me several times before giving up and leaving or offering me the perfect opportunity to sneak up and surprise them. It was always really tense whenever an invader would move near me, as I sat there wondering if I was actually well hidden or not. I saw a similar thing on YouTube where someone dressed up as an enemy knight and took their place, which is sort of like using the Chameleon spell only way more clever. I never tried this myself, but I really want to do it someday. Messing with invaders is just too much fun! He ran into my knife... ten times I've always liked the idea of permanence in the Dark Souls series. Attack an NPC enough and they'll become angry and fight back, remaining aggressive for the rest of the game (unless the player seeks absolution). Kill an NPC, and they'll be gone forever until the next playthrough. I learned this the hard way in Demon's Souls, when I was practicing with my new weapons in the Nexus and managed to piss off the Crestfallen Warrior. This made me particularly careful of my actions around NPCs from then on, since I wouldn't want to screw myself over by accidentally angering or killing someone important. Killing NPCs can sometimes be useful, though. The Souls games tend to have at least one evil character who will go crazy and start killing off other important characters if left unchecked, so it's sometimes a good idea to take someone out if they seem really shady. The NPCs often drop really great items too, so it's worth it to kill them at least once during multiple playthroughs. Usually, I would wait until the end of my second playthrough before going around and killing every NPC for their souls and loot, and then start a new game to bring them all back again. My first time through Dark Souls, I almost managed to keep everyone alive, aside from one small slip-up. When I found the hidden passage to the room housing Quelaag's sister, I tried to enter only to be blocked by something in front of me that I couldn't quite see. I looked down, noticed an Egg Carrier in my way (those creepy, egg-infested enemies that laze about and sometimes attack), FREAKED OUT, and quickly stabbed it to death without a second thought. I only realized it was actually an NPC afterwards, when I noticed the dialog at the bottom of the screen while he was dying. Umm... oops! Sorry, Eingyi! Maybe don't get in someone's way like that when you look so unsettling? Living with regret Every once in a while, the Souls games like to throw in an unexpectedly emotional boss fight to keep the player wondering about their own true motives. In Demon's Souls, it was Maiden Astraea, and in Dark Souls we have Sif, the Great Grey Wolf. Sif is a rather massive wolf with the unique ability to wield a huge greatsword with its mouth. Sif is not too shabby with the sword either, able to swing it around in large arcs and jump nimbly through the air while swinging downward. But aside from simply being an adorable, fuzzy wolf, the fight is not overly emotional at first. That is until Sif takes too much damage and begins to lose steam, sadly limping across the battlefield, attacking much more slowly and deliberately, and even falling over due to the sheer exertion of swinging a gigantic sword around while injured. Dammit, Dark Souls! Why do you have to make me feel so bad about killing a boss? I really wanted nothing more than to spare Sif and let him live his wolfy life, but unfortunately there's no way around it. And of course, after the Artorias of the Abyss DLC was released, the fight with Sif somehow became even more unbearable. During the DLC campaign, the player can find Sif in the Abyss, where Artorias left the wolf protected under a barrier to prevent it from becoming corrupted. Sif can then be summoned to help during the fight against Manus. If the player goes to fight Sif in the main game after completing the DLC area first and rescuing the wolf, the introduction cutscene will be noticeably different. Sif walks up to sniff the player, recognizing them from before when they fought together, and lets out a melancholy howl before taking up the greatsword with resignation. And then the player has to kill Sif and feel just completely awful doing it. Sorry, buddy... Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition.25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Dark Souls photo
Praise the Sun!
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...

Experience Points .25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Oct 10 // Ben Davis
Valiant villain I've always been a big Bowser fan, so I was very excited when I played Super Mario RPG for the first time and discovered that Bowser actually joins Mario's team. This was the first time the two rivals teamed up together, and it was awesome. Super Mario RPG actually begins with a boss fight against Bowser to save Princess Toadstool, leading the player to believe it's going to follow a similar storyline to the previous Super Mario games. But that all changes immediately when a giant monster sword descends from the heavens and lodges itself in Bowser's Keep, laying claim to the castle and kicking Bowser and his minions out. Mario spots Bowser and his army several times as they're attempting to regroup and take back the keep. Finally, they meet face-to-face in front of Booster's Tower where a lone Bowser reluctantly decides to lend his strength to Mario's team (because he knows they're headed for his castle anyway). He declares Mario and friends to be honorary members of the Koopa Troop for the duration of their travels together. Bowser is probably my favorite party member (sorry Geno!). He's a powerful asset during a fight, able to summon a Big Boo to terrorize enemies, wield a Chain Chomp as a weapon, and even toss Mario around like a projectile. He also brings a lot of humor to the group. This is the first game where he's characterized as sort of a goofball. He tries really hard to keep up the reputation of being a tough, mean bully, but it's pretty clear that he's really just a big ol' softie. You just keep being you, Bowser! It's axin' time! Super Mario RPG has arguably one of the greatest boss battles of all time: the Axem Rangers! After a particularly grueling fight against the Czar Dragon in Barrel Volcano, as well as its undead form, Zombone, Mario finally gets to take a break and revel in the light of the newly recovered Star Piece. Unfortunately, it's a short-lived victory, as the Star Piece is suddenly swiped right out of his hands by stealthy assailants. The thieves reveal themselves to be none other than the "amazing," "unbeatable," and "gorgeous" group, the Axem Rangers! They're clearly inspired by another group of similarly colored Rangers, only they're much more dastardly. Mario chases them up to the rim of the volcano where they attempt to make their getaway on the airship, Blade. The fight commences aboard the airship, where the Rangers declare their motto and attack. It can be a difficult battle, since there are five targets to focus on, each with their own attacks and specialties. Eventually they start to drop out one by one, each complaining about something trivial like being hungry, having a headache, having runny make-up, and accidentally breaking their sunglasses, to which Axem Red always has a snarky retort. Finally, Red changes strategies and takes control of Blade for their ultimate attack, the Breaker Beam. But despite their showmanship and underhanded tactics, the Axem Rangers are still no match for Mario and company. Of course, that doesn't stop them from being awesome and having the coolest motto! "We fight for evil! We live for disorder! We like what we do! We struggle for chaos! We are... the AXEM RANGERS!" Sniff competition Booster is one the most memorable characters in Super Mario RPG, but a big part of why I like him so much is because of his Snifit buddies. Booster himself is kind of insane; he never seems to have a good grasp on reality, so he relies on his Snifits to help him out and explain things to him. They help solve a lot of simple mysteries for him, like what to do at parties, how to eat cake, and what it means when someone is crying. Without his Snifits to keep him under control, who knows where Booster would end up. While Booster's main posse consists of three Snifits (simply named Snifit 1, Snifit 2, and Snifit 3), there's actually a secret side quest to expand his army. In Booster Pass, Mario might come across an enemy called an Apprentice, a blue Snifit who hopes to impress Booster by beating Mario in a fight. They are very weak enemies, so most players will probably just kill them and be on their way without a second thought. But I always liked the Snifits and wanted to help the little guys out, so I tried losing to an Apprentice on purpose once just to see what would happen. After a really long battle where I just defended and let the little dude pummel me with weak attacks, he finally "beat" me. Instead of getting the usual Game Over, though, it returns to Booster Pass where the Apprentice proudly exclaims that he'll become Snifit 4 and runs off excitedly. Congrats, buddy! Mario can actually keep battling Apprentices in this way until there are eight Snifits. They can all be found at the top of Booster Tower, where they're still super thrilled with their new titles. Well, all of them except for the eighth Apprentice, who woefully explains that Booster only wants seven Snifits and that all of his training was in vain. Poor guy... at least you tried your hardest! I am matter... I am antimatter... Monstro Town is my favorite area in Super Mario RPG for several reasons. For one, it has a great theme song and a bunch of cool, friendly monsters to talk to. All the enemy types Mario has been fighting have all gathered in this secluded villager in order to live peacefully with no wish to fight. There's also a few side quests to do here, such as fighting Jagger and his sensei Jinx at the dojo and playing a nice little game of "Find the Flag" with the Three Musty Fears. But my favorite side quest involves a sealed door and a mysterious neighbor. The friendly piranha plant hints about hearing their strange neighbor next door mumbling about crystals and evil. If Mario brings a Shiny Stone from Moleville, the crystal will react to the door and the seal will be broken. Upon entering, Mario finds himself floating in a strange dimensional rift and is greeted by a creepy purple being who calls himself "Culex, Dark Knight of Vanda." If Mario agrees to fight him, he will be up against the most powerful foe in the game, even more daunting than the final boss, Smithy. Culex is particularly awesome because of his ties to the Final Fantasy series, since the game was created by Squaresoft and Nintendo. While he's not based on a specific character, he's designed to look like a typical final boss from the series. The encounter with Culex also uses several songs from Final Fantasy, including the battle theme from Final Fantasy IV, the victory theme, and the main theme of the series which plays while they are speaking after the fight. I always thought Culex was a really cool idea for a crossover boss fight. Plus, the fact that he's so well hidden made it that much more surprising and exciting when I finally entered his door to find myself in another dimension speaking to a character who probably shouldn't exist in the Mushroom Kingdom. Well done, Square! Super Mario Shmup Super Mario RPG has a lot of fun mini-games to play whenever Mario wants to take a break from his grand adventure, but the one I spent the most time with was probably Beetle Mania. Beetle Mania is a handheld game that Mario can buy from a Toad in the Mushroom Kingdom Inn, which can then be accessed from the main menu during any area of the game. It's basically a really simple shoot-'em-up where the player controls a tiny beetle that shoots stars at incoming Koopa shells. The shells bounce around and remain on-screen until they are hit. Each shell grants two points when shot, and explodes into a burst of other stars that can hit more shells to trigger a chain reaction which can quickly multiply the score up to thousands of points per shell. Even though it only rewards two points for an individual shell, the score can easily skyrocket in seconds due to combos if there are a bunch of shells on-screen at once. I believe the high score is something like 99,999,999 points, which I never came close to personally, but I definitely made it into the millions a few times, and I wasn't even playing for that long! It's an addicting mini-game due to how satisfying it is to watch the score jump higher and higher so quickly, and I found myself taking breaks from the main story to play Beetle Mania for a while just because it was so much fun. Do you remember what your high score was? Wedding woes Super Mario RPG's story is full of goofy plotlines and even goofier characters, but the silliest part of the game by far happens in the town of Marrymore, where Booster attempts to marry Princess Toadstool. Crazy old Booster, who was holding Toadstool captive after she fell from the sky and landed in his tower, decides that their strange meeting must be destiny and that they should get married (obviously). When Mario climbs the tower to rescue Toadstool, Booster flees to Marrymore with the princess in tow and it's up to Mario and friends to crash the wedding. After barging into the chapel with Bowser's help busting down the doors, they accidentally bump into Toadstool, causing her to drop all of her wedding accessories. A quick mini-game ensues, where Mario has to collect all of her dropped items in a time limit. Afterwards, she says she'll reward Mario with a kiss. But this causes Booster and Bowser to feel left out, since Bowser thinks he deserves a kiss for breaking down the door and Booster wants a kiss too since everyone else is getting one. A confusing rush occurs as everyone goes in to try and get a kiss from Toadstool. Depending on the player's skill during the previous mini-game, Mario could get a kiss from Toadstool, Bowser, Booster, or even Bowser and Booster at the same time! The lucky bastard! Since the wedding is pretty much off at this point, Mario, Toadstool, and Bowser start to leave the chapel, but the way is blocked by the chefs who have just brought the wedding cake in and are distressed to see that the bride is leaving after they spent all day baking the (rather hideous) cake. In a fit of anger, the chefs attack, initiating one of the strangest boss fights in video game history. After a bit of fighting, the massive dessert the chefs were so proud of actually starts to move on its own, and the chefs flee the scene. Then the main battle against the living wedding cake begins, and it's a pretty difficult fight. After putting out the candles and eliminating the top two tiers, Booster and the Snifits arrive just in time to eat the remainder of the cake. They deliberate for a bit on the best method for consuming such a huge treat before the Snifits finally just toss the entire thing into Booster's open mouth (but not before Booster notices that it's moving!), destroying the evil dessert once and for all. It may have tried to kill most of the wedding party, but at least it was delicious! Say WHAT?! Super Mario RPG is so good at humor that even some of its more serious moments are rather hilarious. Take one of my favorite moments, for example, where Mallow's grandpa reveals his true origins. Mallow was raised by his grandfather, Frogfucius, in Tadpole Pond, an area populated by frogs and tadpoles. Naturally, Mallow grew up believing that he, too, was a tadpole, even though he really looks nothing like one. That is, until the fateful day that he met Mario. After retrieving his grandfather's coin from a thief with Mario's help, they return to Tadpole Pond to speak with Frogfucius about what to do next. He advises Mallow to accompany Mario on his adventure, but Mallow seems surprised, saying, "I'm only a simple tadpole! This adventure isn't for me!" Frogfucius turns around, the happy music fades out, and suddenly the tone becomes deadly serious. "Mallow, my boy, I've kept this from you until now, but you're... not a tadpole!!!" DUN DUNNN!!! (*Actual sound effect used in the game.) Needless to say, Mallow is shocked! His whole world is turned completely upside down. Everything he thought he knew about himself was a lie. It even starts playing a really sad piano tune and Mallow starts to cry. And yet... I couldn't stop laughing! Poor Mallow... but I mean, come on man, look in a mirror or something! Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition
Super Mario RPG photo
Fungah! Foiled again!
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...

Review: Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash

Oct 08 // Ben Davis
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash (3DS)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoReleased: October 9, 2015MSRP: $29.99 In Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, pint-sized aliens have invaded Earth, stealing resources along with everyone's favorite snacks, and it's up to Chibi-Robo and his partner Telly (who is now shaped like a computer) to save the day. Chibi-Robo will travel the globe, putting a stop to the aliens' plans and rescuing any snacks he might come across (all based on real name-brand snacks and candies from around the world). To navigate the areas around him, Chibi-Robo uses his plug as a whip to destroy enemies, collect items, grapple onto certain surfaces, or helicopter across pits. The plug can ricochet off of walls as well, opening up a lot of possibilities for interesting platforming as the player tries to angle the perfect shot in order to reach distant objects. The cord starts off rather short at a measly 6 inches at the beginning of each level, but it can be lengthened up to 120 inches by collecting blue orbs. [embed]314129:60631:0[/embed] Aside from the plug mechanics, there are plenty of jumping sections, puzzles to solve, enemy hordes to destroy, items to collect, and even a few levels which have Chibi-Robo skateboarding, wakeboarding, and traveling by balloon to reach the end. There are also some pretty cool boss fights to round out each world. Just looking at the platforming mechanics alone, Zip Lash is a perfectly competent entry to the genre. Each world changes things up with new ideas and interesting layouts, so that the gameplay doesn't become stale too quickly. Once again, Chibi-Robo's health is indicated by his power supply, which slowly depletes as he's moving around and decreases significantly if he falls into a pit or gets hit by an enemy. He can recharge at any outlet by inserting his plug, which will cost a few watts (watts are earned by recycling trash). He can also buy spare batteries as a backup. For the completionist gamers out there, each level is filled with several hidden collectibles to find, including the aforementioned name-brand snacks, special medallions, Chibi-Tots playing hide-and-seek, toys to talk to, and trash to clean up and convert into energy. If something is missed the first time through, levels can be replayed in order to search more thoroughly, but only after certain conditions are met. Which brings me to my least favorite aspect of Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash. Most platforming games like this feature a map with each level laid out on a path, which are then played sequentially. Zip Lash tries to subvert this common feature by implementing the "Destination Wheel." After each level, Chibi-Robo will spin the wheel to select a number. This number determines the amount of spaces he'll move on the map, which in turn determines the next level to play even if it's not the next level in the sequence. Once every level on a map has been discovered and beaten, the player can then proceed to the next map. Basically, this means that most people will be playing the levels out of order, which could have been a neat idea. The problem, however, is that maps are laid out in a circle, and if the player loops around and lands on a level they have already played, they will be forced to play it over again in order to proceed and pick another level. Because of this, this one simple idea of the Destination Wheel single-handedly demolished my excitement for Zip Lash. Being forced to replay levels due to bad luck is not a fun mechanic. The only reason I can think of for this to exist in its current state would be to artificially extend the game's length, and that's not something I can get behind. They even included a separate wheel to spin for boss levels, which is completely pointless and a waste of time as there's only one space on the entire wheel. The Boss Wheel might have been a funny joke if the Destination Wheel wasn't already such an annoyance. Granted, there are ways to sort of bypass the wheel. Wheel numbers can be purchased with moolah (the in-game currency) so that the player will be more likely to land on a number they want. It's also possible to get more than one spin, assuming the player was skilled enough to hit the gold or silver flying saucers at the end of the last level. Finally, once every level has been beaten and the world has been cleared, players will no longer have to spin the wheel for that world and can freely select whichever level they wish. If only it were possible to do that from the start... Unfortunately, the Destination Wheel wasn't the only problem I had with Zip Lash. As if being forced to replay levels due to poor spinning wasn't enough, certain areas of each level will only become accessible after the levels have been completed. These areas are totally optional and are only used for the chance to obtain costumes for Chibi-Robo (which can also be obtained by finding codes posted on Miiverse), but it still sucks to have to replay every level again, possibly for a third time or more if the player is really unlucky, just to find everything. I also had some problems with the lack of checkpoints during the skateboard/wakeboard segments, but that seems like a comparatively small issue next to everything else. All that wheel nonsense sadly soured Zip Lash for me, which is a huge shame because almost everything else about the game is fun and charming. The new platforming mechanics work well, the boss fights are exciting, and Chibi-Robo himself is as cute as always. I would have been content with this game had it not been for the awful Destination Wheel. If you're a die-hard Chibi-Robo! fan, or if the possibility of having to replay the same levels over and over again doesn't bother you too much, then Zip Lash might be for you. Unfortunately, it's tough for me to give this game a good recommendation after the frustrating time I had with it. I still love you, Chibi-Robo, but this was not your best effort! [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Chibi-Robo review photo
Poor little robot...
I've been a fan of Chibi-Robo! ever since the original was released for the GameCube back in 2006. It was a weird, adorable adventure game with a tiny robot who was tasked with cleaning up an enormous house, with happy musica...

No Man's Sky photo
No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky developer creates a Stephen Colbert star system on the Late Show

Oct 04
// Ben Davis
Sean Murray of Hello Games, the studio working on No Man's Sky, recently appeared on Stephen Colbert's new late-night talk show, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The developer discussed the overwhelming scale of the game (...
Blacksea Odyssey photo
Blacksea Odyssey

Harpoon enormous space creatures to shreds in Blacksea Odyssey

And rock an epic beard while doing it
Oct 04
// Ben Davis
Developer Blacksea Odyssey recently announced a top-down shoot-'em-up by the same name, in which you can play as a cybernetic old man with a crazy long beard and hunt down giant space creatures with a harpoon. Blacksea Odysse...

Review: Read Only Memories

Oct 02 // Ben Davis
Read Only Memories (PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: MidBossPublisher: MidBossReleased: October 6, 2015MSRP: $9.99 The story of Read Only Memories begins with the appearance of a peculiar robot named Turing, who breaks into the player character's apartment after their creator, Hayden, was mysteriously kidnapped. Turing decides that the player character, who is a journalist and a friend of Hayden's, is the most statistically likely to be able to help them. Thus begins the search for Hayden in the technologically advanced, cyberpunk-inspired city of Neo-San Francisco in 2064. In this futuristic setting, scientists have discovered many new ways of enhancing the human body through cybernetics as well as genetic modification, meaning it's common to see people with robotic limbs, blue skin, rabbit ears, and other such bizarre enhancements walking around as if it's completely normal. Not to mention the ROMs, robots like Turing, which are just as commonplace and are on the verge of becoming sapient, able to think and feel as humans do. As expected, anti-hybrid and -cybernetic groups such as the Human Revolution have begun to pop up warning people of the dangers of such technologies. [embed]313479:60589:0[/embed] During the player's search for Hayden, they will meet a colorful cast of strange and interesting characters and be asked to participate in some rather shady activities, sneaking around the law in an attempt to learn secrets and uncover truths. Some characters can be trusted while other cannot, but they're all able to provide leads, information, and other helpful things if the player can successfully persuade them. The gameplay largely consists of your typical point-and-click adventure mechanics, nothing really new here but it works just fine. People and objects can be interacted with by looking, touching, talking, or using an item. Interacting with the same thing multiple times might yield different results, so sometimes it's a good idea to look at, touch, or talk to someone or something more than once. There's also a wide variety of items at the player's disposal, which can be picked up and used in certain situations. There is no item combining to be done, however, and pixel hunting is not a problem since anything that can be interacted with will be highlighted by mousing over it, so many of the more annoying adventure game elements were left alone. Much of the gameplay centers around conversations and choosing dialogue options, but there are plenty of puzzle-solving sections as well. These include direct puzzles, such as looking at a map and closing off intersections in order to divert a cab back to the player, as well as more indirect puzzles like trying to find the right item to gain access to a house or figuring out how to coerce someone into giving up information. None of the puzzles are too obtuse, and some of them are rather forgiving if the player messes up at first. The story features several branching paths and alternate endings, depending on how the player chooses to interact with characters and how successful they are at figuring out puzzles. It's possible to befriend or make enemies with several of the characters, so try and decide who will be the most helpful and choose the appropriate responses. Breaking the law and causing mischief seem to be unavoidable, but how it's done is up to the player. As most of Read Only Memories involves reading text, I found the writing to be entertaining and engaging, if overly-technical at times. They did a great job of giving every character a thorough backstory, making each of them interesting and relatable with their own quirks and behaviors. I particularly enjoyed Turing's fondness for painting and the player character's strange obsession with plants. There were, however, a few groan-worthy references and an occasionally disappointing lack of variety in dialogue options. Read Only Memories originally set out to do one thing: foster the inclusion of diverse characters, especially those of the LGBT persuasion. Thankfully, the end product is much more than just that. The characters' sexualities and gender identities, which include plenty of gay and straight, trans- and cis-gendered individuals, are revealed in a natural way or left up to the player's imagination. Meanwhile, we have a story built around mystery and intrigue, with topics of crime, technology, and politics taking the forefront of the discussion in the lives of these characters who just happen to be a certain way. Personally, I felt the LGBT themes were handled appropriately and naturally without being too heavy-handed, but I'm sure some will disagree with me. I would recommend Read Only Memories to anyone who enjoys point-and-click adventure games, as it's an excellent addition to the genre, borrowing many of its key elements while ditching some of the more obnoxious ones. It's also a great choice for anyone who is looking for more diversity in their video games, as it does a wonderful job of promoting inclusion without making it the sole focus. Plus, there's an awesome, adorable little robot friend to hang out with, and who doesn't want that? [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Read Only Memories review photo
Cyberpunk chic
MidBoss, the team behind the LGBT-centric gaming convention, GaymerX, has been having quite a successful time lately. After reaching its Kickstarter funding goals at the end of 2013, the team has been hard at work creating it...

Review: Laserlife

Sep 29 // Ben Davis
Laserlife (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Choice ProvisionsPublisher: Choice ProvisionsReleased: September 22, 2015 (PC, PS4), TBA (Xbox One)MSRP: $14.99 Laserlife tells the story of an astronaut who died out in space, whose body drifts aimlessly along with the wreckage of a space ship. The body is discovered by "future intelligences who have no concept of humankind" as they delve into the astronaut's subconscious to extract memories in an attempt to learn of the skeleton's history and how this human ended up dead in outer space. Players control the future extraterrestrial entity in the form of two lasers. Each laser is controlled separately with the analog sticks, and they can both reach any part of the screen. Movement is very fluid and the lasers feel great to control as they spin and dance effortlessly around the screen. Each level consists of four stages. During the first stage, Memory Molecule Collection, players must move into position and press the trigger buttons at the right moment to collect memory molecules. Later levels introduce molecules which must be held in position as well as ones which must be moved to a new position. An insufficient amount of molecules collected during the first stage will reset the level, but this was never a problem for me while playing on normal difficulty. [embed]313018:60553:0[/embed] The second stage, Memory Harmonization, involves moving into position in order to hit targets. The hit boxes for the targets seem to be smaller than they are for memory molecules, so movements need to be slightly more precise, although the targets turn green once the lasers are in the correct position. These were the most difficult stages for me personally, even though they just involve moving around without having to time button presses. The final two stages are the easiest. During the Warp Phase, players must avoid colliding with red barriers, or mental blocks, by moving towards the openings. Finally, the Memory Materialization stage finishes out the level with the player moving the analog sticks as quickly as possible until the bar at the top of the screen has depleted. Once all of this has been completed, the memory will be fully extracted and appear as a physical manifestation of a significant object from the astronaut's life. If players find that the game is too challenging, or too easy, there are a few difficulty settings to choose from which will increase or decrease the amount of obstacles to deal with. There are also leaderboards to browse, with separate leaderboards for each difficulty, if that's something that interests you. Music is obviously a huge part of any rhythm game, and the soundtrack could easily make or break the game. Laserlife's soundtrack is very chill and atmospheric, which fits perfectly with the outer space setting. It's best to play this game with headphones in order to really focus on the music. I felt the soundtrack could have been a bit more varied at times, however, since all of the songs are very spacey and sometimes started to sound a bit similar after a while. Maybe they could have had some tracks that fit more with the theme of some of the memories, like a lullaby for the childhood memories, or even mixed in more spoken parts. One of my favorite tracks was used towards the end of the game, which had mission control voices being played over the music. I felt that was an idea they could have experimented with a bit more, because it worked really well for that one level. Unlike the Bit.Trip games, the sound effects from collecting memories and hitting targets don't really add much to the music itself, which was slightly disappointing. Obstacles are arranged so that they match up to the music of course, but interacting with them merely makes a dull sound which is often barely audible against the soundtrack. Having more robust sound effects might have helped make the soundtrack pop a bit more, and it would also be easier for the player to tell when they missed something. Laserlife has a lot of big ideas and an interesting premise. I love the concept of extraterrestrial life coming into contact with a human skeleton adrift in space, and trying to learn something about the strange creature's origins. The grand themes of human existence and the persistence of memory are ideas that I would like to see more games try to tackle. In this case, however, I found the overall experience to be a little underwhelming. It's fun for a short rhythm game, but with only 12 levels, it felt like Laserlife never really got a chance to fully explore the broad topics it brought to the table. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Laserlife review photo
Drifting through space
Choice Provisions is best known for the excellent rhythm-based series, Bit.Trip, a saga spanning six games (and one spin-off) which abstractly dealt with themes about a man's journey through life. The studio has been toying w...

Experience Points .24: Deadly Premonition

Sep 26 // Ben Davis
The man who wasn't there The big question on everyone's minds while playing Deadly Premonition is always, "Who is Zach?!" York talks to himself a lot, and he's always addressing someone named Zach who is not actually present. There's never a physical manifestation of the person he's talking to, and Zach never responds out loud, although York does speak as if Zach is talking to him as well. They seem to be best friends, and York always asks him for advice. So who is he? Is Zach an imaginary friend? Does York have some kind of mental disorder such as a split personality? Did Zach die and York is still in denial? All of these possibilities crossed my mind while playing through Deadly Premonition, but about halfway through I decided on something else which I kind of liked. Maybe Zach is the player, meaning every time it seems like York is talking to himself, he's really trying to have a conversation with the player to try and piece together the mystery of what's going on around town. It would have been a clever way to make the player feel included in the story, even if their name wasn't actually Zach. Zach's true identity is revealed towards the end of the story, and it's about as cheesy and melodramatic as I would have expected from this game. I do sort of wish they had kept his identity a mystery, though. Coming up with possible theories about Zach was a lot more fun than learning the truth about him. Let's take this baby for a ride For a perfect example of the kind of thing that makes Deadly Premonition an awesomely bad game, let's take a look at the driving mechanics. The first time I got in a car, the controls seemed jarring and overwhelmingly complicated. The game assaults you with a huge list of controls. Every single button seems to do something different. Not only can York steer, accelerate, brake, and change the camera angles, but there are also buttons for honking, turning on the headlights, using the windshield wipers, signaling turns, and talking (either to a passenger or to himself). I'm surprised they didn't include buttons for the radio and air conditioner too, while they were at it. All of these controls may seem like a lot to remember, but really, none of these things are necessary aside from steering, accelerating, and braking. The headlights don't really help much when it's dark, and likewise, the wipers don't help much while it's raining. And who knows why anyone would ever need to use turn signals in a video game. So why were all of these complex controls included? Beats me. I guess they wanted the experience to feel more realistic, but it honestly just makes it feel way more absurd. And not only do the vehicles have superfluous controls, they also break down over time and run out of gas, meaning if York wants to keep driving the same car, he'll have to take it to the gas station for refills and repairs. All of this just to drive from one location to the next in a murder mystery game, as if it's trying to be a driving simulator on top of everything else. The driving mechanics are incredibly bizarre and mostly unnecessary, but I kind of love them for those exact reasons. There's so many things to do in the car with no real justification for their inclusion, and I think that's hilarious in a way. All the girls say I'm pretty fly One of my favorite things in Deadly Premonition is its random inclusion of beard growth and hygiene mechanics. It may not be obvious at first, but York's face will slowly start to accumulate stubble over time, and his clothes will become dirtier the longer he wears them. At first I was confused about why he was able to shave at every mirror he came across, not to mention the fact that he was dry shaving (sometimes mere seconds after he had just shaved, if I kept making him... ouch!). Soon I stopped shaving, because it didn't seem to do anything. And then the stubble started to come in. I was pleasantly surprised. Beard growth mechanics in Deadly Premonition? Unexpected, but why not? The game already has everything else going for it. Obviously, I kept the beard for the remainder of my playthrough, because beards are awesome. But what about the hygiene mechanics? This one took me a lot longer to figure out. Eventually, as I was playing, I began to notice flies hovering around York. It started with one fly, and I thought it was just a random background element of the specific scene that was happening. Maybe the police station had a fly problem? Who knows. Soon the flies began to multiply, to the point where York was holding a town meeting amid a veritable swarm of insects. Only none of the characters were reacting to them. I thought, "Okay, now this is getting ridiculous! What is the deal with these flies?!" I had to resort to looking it up online, because I was seriously confused. Apparently, York's clothing gets dirty over time, so he needs to get his suits dry cleaned every now and then to stay fresh and keep the flies away. Who would have guessed? After I found this out, I honestly considered staying in my dirty pink suit for the rest of the game anyway, just because of how hilarious all of the cutscenes were with a horde of flies swarming around York during serious moments. It made me laugh, but ultimately the little bugs were too distracting, so I had to get rid of them. Geez, York, take a shower or something! A damn fine cup of coffee There are many reasons to love Mr. Francis York Morgan (I mean look at that smile... how could you not love a face like that?), but my favorite thing about him is his unbridled, almost alarming excitement for food and coffee. Much like FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper's enthusiasm for coffee and pie in Twin Peaks, York can't hold back his love for certain foodstuffs. A few of the most memorable scenes in Deadly Premonition are about food, such as when Polly brings York a cup of coffee for his first day on the case. Before she brings it over to him, he warns, "I am very particular about my coffee. The very best you have, please," with a charming smile that surely melted the old lady's heart (or her eyes). He takes his time enjoying the cup, and even has a surprising revelation while staring into the dark brown liquid. Afterwards, he can go back for another cup (and another... and another), and each drink gives him a new fortune. I have to wonder how he gets these fortunes, though. Are they appearing to him in the coffee itself, like the letters "F K" did? The fortunes are pretty long, so that would be rather impressive. Maybe he just has such a strong connection to coffee that it speaks to him every time he drinks it. Maybe he is the coffee whisperer. Another great scene is when he tries a special sandwich for the first time. After ordering a turkey and gravy sandwich and a fresh cup of coffee (obviously) from the local diner, Mr. Stewart stops by to pick up his lunch and convinces York to change his order to a turkey, strawberry jam, and cereal sandwich. Or as York calls it, the "Sinner's Sandwich." York is skeptical at first, but tries it anyway. His reaction to eating the concoction is perfect. He takes one bite and literally jumps back out of his seat, staring at the sandwich in awe and proclaiming, "I can't believe it! This is... fantastic!" The camera then pans to Emily, who has a look of thorough disappointment at her friend's choices. I have yet to try this sandwich myself, but it sure sounds... interesting. I can't imagine turkey and strawberry jam going well together, and "cereal" is a pretty vague ingredient. I wonder what kind of cereal would be best to use? Beauty in death Deadly Premonition had some of the best death sequences I've ever seen in a video game. Obviously, this is a bit of a touchy topic, because I don't want to spoil too much for anyone who hasn't played the game yet. But even the very first victim, Anna Graham, who we see strung up to a tree in the opening cutscene, looks like some kind of beautiful, bloody angel of death. Creepy and unsettling, but at the same time aesthetically pleasing. We don't actually see her being killed, though. The rest of the victims' deaths are just as dramatic, except the player must watch as they happen. I think the second victim's scene was my personal favorite, because the tension was so incredibly palpable. It was such an intense moment, and the color palette and placement of the body helped make everything stand out. I'm usually not one for appreciating blood and gore, but Deadly Premonition's death sequences were just so well executed that it was hard not to appreciate them. More than just a pretty (ugly) face If there's one thing that Deadly Premonition does legitimately well, it's character development. Every single character is memorable in their own way. They all have unique personalities and backgrounds. Even minor characters seemed interesting, even though I might have only talked to them a couple of times. Take the hospital receptionist, Fiona, for example. York really only has to talk to her once or twice during the entire game, but in that small amount of time I learned that she likes reading best-selling books, she's studying for a medical exam, and she has a crush on the hunky doctor she works with. She could have easily just been another random NPC with no personality, but they fleshed her out and made her seem important. I was actually surprised when I got to the end of the game and realized I only talked to her twice, because it almost felt like it was setting her up to be more crucial to the plot. And I could say the same for just about every other character. There was Mr. Stewart, the creepy, quiet, gas mask-wearing man and Michael who talks for him; Polly, the kind old hotel owner who is hard of hearing; Thomas, the shy police assistant who is great at cooking and knows a lot about squirrels; Kaysen, the friendly traveling plant salesman who has a cool pet dalmatian; Isaach and Isaiah, the creepy-cute twins; Nick, the art-loving cook who is very quick to anger; Lysander, the "general" who wears a sergeant's uniform; and even "Roaming" Sigourney, the crazy old lady who is always lost and carrying a pot around. They're all wonderful characters with so much personality packed into each and every one of them. I think the characters are the biggest reason why Deadly Premonition became such a huge cult hit. If the characters had been dull and uninteresting, I'm not sure most people would have put up with the weird controls, poor graphics, and sometimes tedious gameplay to make it to the end. I know the reason I couldn't put the game down was because the characters were all so likable and I couldn't wait to see more of the story to find out how things turned out for everyone. Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3
Deadly Premonition photo
'F K'... in the coffee!
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...

Review: Undertale

Sep 24 // Ben Davis
Undertale (PC)Developer: Toby FoxPublisher: Toby FoxReleased: September 15, 2015MSRP: $9.99 Undertale is the story of a human child who falls into a deep underground cavern filled with monsters and must find a way to escape back to the surface. The monsters had all been banished there by the humans long ago, so tensions are high whenever a human drops in to visit. The player quickly meets two monsters, a flower named Flowey and a motherly cow/rabbit monster named Toriel. They seem nice enough, but they are monsters after all, so should they really be trusted? The journey through the caves is filled with puzzles, turn-based random encounters, and a whole lot of humor. The outstanding gameplay mechanic here, though, is combat. It's a unique system, and even though encounters are random, they don't occur often enough to become an annoyance. In fact, I usually found myself looking forward to my next encounter. [embed]312265:60496:0[/embed] The turn-based combat in Undertale works very differently from most other RPGs. While attacking or defending, a box will appear with a short mini-game to complete in order to determine the amount of damage given or received. Attack mini-games involve stopping a moving bar along a slider at the perfect moment for maximum damage. The majority of defense mini-games play out a bit like a bullet hell; enemies will usually send out a volley of projectiles, and the player must move their heart around to avoid getting hit by anything. Bosses each have their own slight alterations to the defense mechanics, and the game does a good job of changing things up from time to time so that it's not always strictly bullet hells. Attacking is not the only option, however. There are two other choices, Act and Mercy, which will provide much of the core combat gameplay for many players. The Act option offers several ways to interact with the enemy, which change depending on which monster is being fought. These can range from friendly actions such as "Compliment" or "Hug" to meaner things such as "Pick On" or "Ignore." Choose the wrong interaction and the monster might become more aggressive. Choose the correct interaction and the monster might become happier or no longer wish to fight. When this happens, the Mercy function opens up and the fight can be ended non-violently. I honestly enjoyed trying out every possible option anyway, even if I already knew what to do, just to see how the monsters would react. Basically, it's the player's choice whether to destroy the monsters or show them mercy. Killing monsters grants money and XP which can raise the human's LV. Sparing monsters is only rewarded with money (and perhaps a new friend). It's entirely possible to play through the entire game without killing anything and remain at LV 1, and it's also possible to kill everything. But keep in mind that every decision has consequences. Aside from combat, there are also puzzles to be solved in order to navigate the caverns, but for the most part these are very light. I can't imagine many players will get stuck on any of the puzzles, and actually some of them are solved by the monsters themselves because they doubt the human's abilities. The puzzles aren't particularly impressive, but they're used more as a way to keep things interesting as the player is exploring rather than trying to stump them. One of Undertale's greatest strengths is its wonderful cast of characters and its extremely witty sense of humor. While the main character is sort of a gender-neutral blank slate for the player to inhabit, the monsters are anything but. I quickly fell in love with just about every character I came across, even some of the common enemies, since it's possible to have conversations with them during battle. Everyone in Undertale is so memorable and interesting, I just wanted to hug them all (and I did hug some of them!). The humor is spot-on as well. I haven't laughed out loud this consistently during a game since EarthBound. Between listening to a long conversation of terrible skeleton puns, having a flexing contest with a muscle-headed merhorse, cooking and eating a cup of instant noodles in the midst of battle, finding out how item names like Butterscotch Pie or Spider Donut are abbreviated, and hundreds of other hilarious moments, my face was starting to hurt from smiling and laughing so much. The thing that really hooked me, sealing the deal for Undertale being such a phenomenal game, was how it deals with player choices. I don't want to spoil much in this regard, but there are multiple endings as well as many moments and lines of dialogue which can be altered depending on the player's actions, and some of the things the game remembered seriously surprised me. It's really difficult to talk about what makes Undertale so great without spoiling anything, but if the concept sounds interesting to you at all, I highly recommend checking it out. Don't let the somewhat plain-looking graphics turn you off, because the game more than makes up for that through its superb gameplay, characters, and writing (not to mention the excellent soundtrack!). And actually, many areas, objects, and characters are surprisingly beautiful and well-drawn, so even the lackluster art style started to grow on me after a while. Undertale provided me with many hours of laughter, happiness, and warm, fuzzy feelings, all the while surprising me with some truly sad and shocking moments out of the blue. It's the kind of game that I'll want to replay many times in order to see how all of the various choices play out, and I'm sure I will remember it fondly for years to come. I hope everyone else can find as much joy from playing Undertale as I have! [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Undertale review photo
Pure happiness
Every once in a while, a game comes along that takes you completely by surprise. I noticed a lot of people talking about Undertale recently, and how great it was. The screenshots looked a little underwhelming, but I decided t...

Review: Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

Sep 22 // Ben Davis
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (3DS)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoRelease Date: September 25, 2015MSRP: $39.99 Happy Home Designer puts the player in the role of interior decorator as an employee of the Happy Home Academy. It's your job to listen to clients' requests, fulfill their needs, and add your own bit of flair to their home designs. There are more than 300 villagers in need of decorating advice, and Isabelle will visit with requests to design public facilities around town. Each villager request will have a special theme to follow pertaining to their vision of an ideal home, such as "a tropical resort," "a forest of books," or "a bamboo playground." They'll bring along a few pieces of their favorite furniture which must be used in the design, but the rest is up to you. Design their yards, the exterior of their homes, and of course the inside as well, and try to fit the theme to make the clients happy. Isabelle will also drop by occasionally with requests to design larger public spaces, such as restaurants, schools, hospitals, and more. Many of these buildings have multiple rooms to decorate, each with their own set of requirements. These were the most fun for me, because I got to use items which I never wanted to use in my own home in previous Animal Crossing games, and the layouts were a lot different than what I was used to working with, so everything felt new to me. [embed]311329:60430:0[/embed] Every new request adds new items to the catalog of furniture at your disposal. Any of these new items are sure to make the client happy, although ultimately it really doesn't matter too much. They will be pleased as long as the furniture they brought along is used, and it's actually not possible to say that the house is finished until those items have been placed, so there's really no way to make any of the clients unhappy. This was the most disappointing thing about the game to me. I was hoping to be graded on my designs, with the ability to make clients happier with more thoughtful interior decorating skills or upset if their house turned out to be a disaster. In reality, they'll be just as happy if you take time designing a beautiful house as they will be if you walk in, unpack their boxes, and say that everything is finished without adding or moving anything at all. It's terribly unsatisfying, but I suppose it does give players the freedom to play however they like without the fear of upsetting any of the villagers. Fortunately, your designs can be graded by other players if you choose to upload them to the Internet via the Happy Home Network. Houses and public facilities can be rated by four different categories: cuteness, coolness, uniqueness, and the "I'd live here!" factor. If you find an interesting design online, you can visit that person's house to walk around and check it out before giving an assessment. It's a pretty neat feature and a good way to get some feedback, but it's not quite the same as having the game score your designs. That being said, designing rooms is still super fun, and easier than ever to do. Just drag, drop, and rotate furniture with the touch screen, add more items from the catalog, duplicate items with the L and R buttons, drag unwanted stuff to the trash can, and voila! No more slowly pushing and pulling furniture into place (but you can do that too if you want). Also, there are no bells to worry about, so the only limit to the amount of items which can be added to a room is the space afforded by the floor plan. Decorating rooms in Animal Crossing has never been simpler. There are also options to add ceiling fixtures, create your own custom designs, have Cyrus refurbish stuff, add background noise other than music, and more which can all be unlocked with Play Coins. Once a house or public space is finished, you're free to go back and visit it whenever to hang out with the residents or offer a remodel (although public spaces can only be remodeled after they have all been built). Villagers who have been helped already can be found walking around town, and new potential clients can also be found wandering around with thought bubbles above their heads. Finished public spaces will also be used by villagers, and their roles within the buildings can be chosen by the player (meaning you can decide which villagers are customers or employees). Happy Home Designer features support for amiibo cards. The game includes one amiibo card to start with, and more can be bought in packs for $5.99. The cards can be used to design homes for special villagers who wouldn't normally come by as clients. I got Lyle's card, for example, a higher-up at the Happy Home Academy, so I got to decorate my coworker's home. The cards can also be used to summon villagers to public spaces, so the town can be populated by all of your favorite villagers. That's essentially all there is to Happy Home Designer. Just design homes and admire the finished projects. But even for such a simple idea, I still find myself going back in to see which villagers are looking for a new home and how interesting their theme sounds. It's strangely addicting, and designing homes for some of the more offbeat villagers like the mad scientists, wrestling fanatics, and criminal masterminds is really fun. I just wish they had built in some kind of grading rhetoric for how well your designs resonated with the clients. There has always been a grading mechanic for your own homes in previous Animal Crossing games, where the Happy Home Academy would award points based on how well the furniture fit together, how everything was arranged, and so forth. It's strange they would scrap that idea for a game built entirely around the Happy Home Academy, but that's the way it is. I would recommend Happy Home Designer for anyone who really enjoys designing and decorating virtual spaces. If finding the perfect furniture for your house in Animal Crossing was your favorite part of the series, then you'll surely get some enjoyment out of this game. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Animal Crossing review photo
Comfortable living
Animal Crossing's home design feature was actually the thing that got me hooked on the series in the first place. Back when I was addicted to building houses in The Sims, one of my friends came over for a visit and broug...

Laserlife photo

Bit.Trip studio set to release rhythm action game Laserlife this month for PC and PS4

Skeleton astronaut laser action!
Sep 12
// Ben Davis
Choice Provisions, the studio responsible for the Bit.Trip series, has been teasing the idea for a similar rhythm action game called Laserlife since way back in 2010. It seems the idea will finally come to fruition later this...

Experience Points .23: Mother 3

Sep 12 // Ben Davis
Monkey business My favorite character in Mother 3 doesn't remain a party member for very long, but he uses his short amount of time to really shine. Chapter 3 introduces a cute little monkey named Salsa, who is being led around by a horrible man named Fassad. Fassad forces Salsa to perform for him with a device which electrocutes the poor monkey for disobeying. He has also kidnapped Salsa's girlfriend and threatens to harm her if Salsa doesn't do what he says. Fassad is a rather despicable man. Eventually, Fassad drags Salsa to the quiet town of Tazmily, hoping to trick the citizens into buying his "Happy Boxes" (which are basically televisions or computers) by charming them with Salsa's dance moves. He then forces Salsa to deliver the heavy electronics to each of the customers, which means he's free to walk around town without Fassad following him around for a while. Even though he's under strict orders to deliver the Happy Boxes in a timely manner, he can still pretty much do what he pleases. This is one of the most powerful moments in the game to me. A little chime plays each time Salsa picks up a Happy Box, but it's definitely not a happy chime. It's more of an apprehensive tune, which foreshadows the eventual downfall of Tazmily due to the Happy Box catalysts. And poor Salsa is the one being forced to deliver these evil boxes against his will, probably unaware of what he's about to cause. The music for this section, "Monkey's Delivery Service," is one of my favorite tracks. It almost sounds happy at first, but there's this subtle mournful tone to the music which starts to creep in once the player becomes aware of what's happening. It's quite brilliant. Chatting with the local townsfolk of Tazmily while he's supposed to be delivering boxes, Salsa will get a lot of comments about how sad he looks. Makes sense, given his current predicament and the horrible treatment he's been getting. Also, if he looks in the mirror at Lucas' house, he'll think to himself, "What does a smile look like again?" It almost broke my heart the first time I noticed this. But thankfully, Salsa is eventually redeemed, freed from Fassad's evil clutches, and reunited with his girlfriend. It's a good thing he got a happy ending, because I don't know how much more sadness I could have taken. I just wish he could have stayed with Lucas and friends for a while longer! Freaks of nature The enemies in Mother 3 are just amazing. Along with the usual wacky foes, such as living trees, walking musical instruments, and baked yams, Mother 3 also introduces chimeras into the mix. And these aren't your typical chimeras; these jumbled up monsters are all sorts of unexpected and terrifying! Some of the tamer chimeras include the Muttshroom and the Pigtunia, mixing animals and plants to horrific (possibly humorous) effect. But then things start getting crazy when Lucas and friends encounter such bizarre beasts as the Batangutan, an orangutan head with bat wings; the Ostrelephant, an elephant with ostrich legs and an ostrich head for a trunk; and the Parental Kangashark, a hammerhead shark with kangaroo legs and a pouch holding a baby Kangashark. The scariest chimera of all, however, is the Horsantula, a horrible hybrid of horse and tarantula, with eight horse legs, a tarantula torso, and a frightened-looking horse head (*shiver*). A real-life horsantula would probably make me shit my pants... that thing is truly the stuff of nightmares! And then, of course, there is the Ultimate Chimera, which appears to be some kind of demonic creature with a baby chick attached to its head. This foe is practically invincible. It actually cannot be fought in typical combat, and in fact, if it catches Lucas then it's automatically game over! The party's only hope for survival is to run for their lives and hope they're fast enough to escape. But there is a secret which temporarily leaves the Ultimate Chimera incapacitated... Snake charmer Mother 3 took the series' trademark ridiculous inventory items to a whole new level by introducing the Rope Snake, an item that actually becomes a character in the story (and one of my favorite characters at that!). Duster first purchases the Rope Snake from the ghosts in Osohe Castle to help him cross pits as a sort of adorable grappling hook device. Duster also uses the Rope Snake to try and grab hold of an escaping Pigmask airship, with Lucas, Kumatora, and Boney hitching a ride as well. At this point, Rope Snake proudly announces that he's now a major character in the story (and breaks the fourth wall in the process). But unfortunately for everyone else, he also announces that he's unable to support the weight of three people and a dog. His jaw gives out and they all fall from the sky. Later on, Rope Snake gets a second chance and tries to redeem himself by grappling onto a flying bird cage with the party in tow, but his jaw gives out again and everyone falls out of the sky for the second time. His pride shattered from letting his friends down twice, poor Rope Snake leaves the party to go hide in a hole and feel sorry for himself. I've never felt so bad for a snake before as I did for Rope Snake. I just wanted Lucas to give him a hug and tell him that they still believed in him, but instead they just let him go. It's okay, Rope Snake! You tried your hardest! Eventually, the gang meets back up with Rope Snake in New Pork City. He excitedly tells the party that he's close to becoming a behemoth of a snake and wishes them a happy new year, but it seems like Lucas and company are trying to avoid him. It's like they don't even care about their reptilian friend's feelings, the jerks! Oh well. You'll always be cool to me, Rope Snake! Mother 3: The Musical Mother 3 introduced an awesome new mechanic to the turn-based battle system where the player could keep an attack going by repeatedly pressing the button to the rhythm of the music. It's pretty difficult to get the timing just right, and it changes depending on the battle theme, but once you get the hang of it, it's extremely satisfying to pull off. A single attack can turn into a string of several more smaller attacks, stacking up the damage to quickly take down foes. I always enjoy when turn-based JRPGs add interesting mechanics like this to make the combat feel more action-oriented. Games like Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario were really good at this too, keeping players on their toes by allowing them to do extra damage or defense with a well-timed button press. Mother 3's rhythmic combat is possibly my favorite system, simply because of how fun it is to tap along to the music and watch the damage numbers steadily increase and bounce off the enemy. I like to imagine these attacks playing out with Lucas and friends circling around the enemy and bashing them to a rhythm, kind of like that scene from Shaun of the Dead where Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" suddenly starts playing on the jukebox. It's like a fully choreographed dance for every fight! I pity the fool who tries to throw his life away One of my favorite things about the Mother series are all the crazy NPCs. It's one of the few games where talking to every NPC I come across is almost always a rewarding decision. Everyone seems to have something interesting, funny, or completely random to say. Mother 3 happens to have my favorite NPC in the series. He doesn't have a name, and he can't be found wandering around on his own. Instead, he seems to appear out of nowhere whenever Lucas tries to walk on the railroad tracks leading out of Tazmily. If Lucas tries to enter the cave on the tracks, a man will shout, "Hold it!" and run on screen to grab Lucas and pull him off the tracks. He'll then go on about how dangerous that was, urging Lucas not to just throw away his life, and to forget they ever talked. After he walks away, a message pops up saying, "Your life was saved." The gravity of the conversation was so unexpected that I couldn't help but laugh. Even better, the man will continue to save Lucas' life each and every time he tries to enter the cave. He has different dialogue each time, growing more and more impatient and exasperated with Lucas until eventually he gives up trying to convince him not to throw away his life and just rescues him quietly with nothing more to say. The man also bears a striking resemblance to Mr. T, which just makes the whole scene so much more entertaining. Thanks for saving my life, Mr. T! Lucas be trippin' When Lucas and friends find themselves washed ashore on a seemingly deserted island with all of their items missing, they must go foraging for food. The only thing to be found, however, is a group of brightly-colored mushrooms. Lucas' dog Boney steps back as Lucas, Duster, and Kumatora consume the fungi for sustenance. At first, the mushrooms seem to be all right. That is, until they start to take effect and the party falls to the ground, the worlds turns bright pink and purple, and everything starts shifting and swirling. Maybe eating these strange shrooms wasn't the best idea after all... oops! Suddenly, the party springs back to life with the message, "Lucas and company felt just dandy!" But the island looks totally different now, and is strangely populated by... people you know? While running through the jungle, the party will encounter friends and family members who shouldn't be there. They're all saying really strange things, but they're just illusions. They can even be battled and destroyed, revealing that they were actually enemies shrouded in disguise. The jungle is also strangely littered with mailboxes, and these mailboxes are filled with some of the most insane things you can imagine. Among the many mailboxes Lucas comes across, some of my favorites include the following contents: "Inside the mailbox was the sound of yourself crying," "Inside the mailbox was absolutely nothing. Nothing after nothing came bursting out," "Someone looked back at you from inside the mailbox! ...Or so it seemed, but you were the one looking from the other side, too," and my personal favorite, "There's nothing in the mailbox. Except for the 1000 rat corpses." Man, those mushrooms were no joke! Eventually, the party arrives at the house of Mixolydia, the local Magypsy, who notices that they're all hopped up on shrooms and kindly knocks them back to their senses. So ends Lucas' crazy, drugged-out adventure through the psychedelic island jungle full of horrific, mind-blowing discoveries. It's just too bad they didn't run into Mixolydia before they decided to take a dip in a nice, relaxing hot spring which actually turned out to be a disgusting sewage dump... blech! The saddest man in the world Mother 3 has some awesome boss fights, but there's one optional boss that really stands out from the rest. Granted, he's not really boss material per se, but he does get the "Strong One" boss music, so I think he technically counts as a boss. I'm talking, of course, about Negative Man. Lucas finds Negative Man hunched over on all fours, alone and unmoving in the middle of a cave. If the party decides to battle him, they had better be prepared for the easiest fight of their lives! It's so easy, in fact, that I actually feel pretty bad for the guy. Negative Man very rarely attacks, and when he does, he can only manage to dish out a measly single point of damage. Mostly, he'll just be pathetic and feel sorry for himself. Instead of attacking, he'll use up his turns muttering things like, "There's just no way I can win..." or, "Just get rid of me now..." or even, "I'm nothing but a worthless protoplasm..." Meanwhile, Lucas and company just keep mercilessly beating the crap out of him until he's defeated. Poor guy... I almost want to just let him win so that he might feel a little better about himself. But let's be real, that could take ages and I don't want to wait that long. Sorry, Negative Man, but today's not your day! [embed]310276:60326:0[/embed] Open Sesame Tofu The Mother series is at its finest whenever it's trying to be funny, which is admittedly almost all the time. One of the funniest moments hands down happens in Mother 3 when Wess must open a secret door in Osohe Castle. And what better way to open a secret door than by... dancing in front of it? For a bit of background, Wess is an elderly gentleman with a rather serious disposition who spends most of his time scolding his son, Duster. The last thing I'd expect someone like Wess to do would be to let loose and start acting silly. But when the father-son duo finds themselves blocked by a grim-looking door, Wess does the unexpected. He urges Duster to turn around because he's about to do something embarrassing. And then, out of nowhere, some upbeat, goofy music begins playing and Wess starts shaking his butt and performs just about the silliest dance I can imagine, causing the door to crack a huge smile and open. It might just be my absolute favorite moment in the Mother series, just because it's Wess of all people. For an old guy, he can really shake it! Later in the game, Salsa also gets to perform the dance to open the door. It's a lot more adorable when Salsa does it, but also a lot less shocking and hilarious because he's not an old man. Video games could really do with more old folks dancing, in my opinion. Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider
Mother 3 highlights photo
A story is a series of memories
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...

Viridi photo

Grow your own virtual succulents with Viridi

And play with your own virtual pet snail
Aug 29
// Ben Davis
Viridi is a free-to-play gardening simulator which released on Steam last week in which you grow and care for a pot of succulent plants. The plants grow in real time even while the game is closed, so this isn't the type of ga...

Review: Flywrench

Aug 26 // Ben Davis
Flywrench (PC)Developer: MesshofPublisher: MesshofReleased: August 24, 2015MSRP: $9.99 Flywrench is a little difficult to describe without actually seeing it in motion. It's essentially an aerial obstacle course, where the goal is to guide the ship to the end of the level while passing through barriers and avoiding walls. It has the same sense of intense difficulty with rapid respawning as many notably punishing platformers such as Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV, without actually being a platformer per se. The flywrench moves by flapping its wings, and it will plummet to the ground rather quickly if it doesn't keep flapping. If the flap button is held down, the wings will come together to form a vertical line and the ship will change colors from white to red. Another button makes the ship barrel roll out of control and turn green, and also allows it to bounce off of boundary walls. The color of the ship is very important, because it can only pass through barriers if it matches the color. A big part of the gameplay involves quickly switching between forms so that the ship can safely travel through barriers, all while continuously flapping to stay afloat. [embed]307954:60146:0[/embed] The levels start off rather simple, slowly introducing new mechanics in short areas so that the player doesn't get overwhelmed too quickly. Moving from planet to planet, the levels steadily become more difficult. Each planet introduces a new obstacle to overcome, such as rotating barriers, turrets, switches, gravity pools, and more. All of this culminates in the final planet, Mercury, which steeply ramps up the difficulty by throwing every mechanic at the player in a gauntlet of truly challenging stages before the grand finale of the Sun. Like Super Meat Boy, Flywrench is one of those games that requires a lot of patience and determination to master, and you'll be filled with joy and rage simultaneously as you try to overcome the challenges. Once I got to Mercury, I found myself involuntarily clenching up as I tried repeatedly to overcome a tough level, tossing out all kinds of expletives every time I died, before rejoicing and fully relaxing every part of my body once I finally succeeded. And then I continued on to the next level and repeated the process all over again! But it's all worth it for those beautiful moments where I seem to soar quickly and flawlessly through a tough level, pulling off impressive aerial stunts like it was second nature. The Steam release of Flywrench makes a lot of much-needed improvements upon the prototype version. Perhaps most importantly, the physics have been tweaked to make it much easier to maneuver precisely through the air. The ship keeps its momentum going with every movement and flap, and barriers now hold that momentum until the ship has passed through them. It also feels much easier to maneuver left and right while changing colors now. Also, the ship will slightly gravitate towards the exit portals when it's close enough, so even if your aim is a little off, it still might be good enough to get sucked into the exit. All of these changes make the gameplay a bit less frustrating and allows the player to feel more in control. Granted, it is sometimes a little too difficult to break momentum, which led to a huge number of deaths as my flywrench flapped one too many times and was unable to slow down before crashing into a wall. But that's just something to get used to. The graphics and soundtrack were also greatly improved. It now has that signature Messhof art style seen in many of his other games such as Nidhogg, with added effects such as a trail of exhaust leading out of the ship and an explosion upon death. The soundtrack was completely redone with electronic tracks by Daedelus and a host of other artists, and they sound much nicer than the previous scratchy, industrial-sounding music. Overall, the game is simply more pleasant to look at and listen to. A few new modes were added to the Steam version as well, including time trials and a level editor. Each planet has its own time trial which unlocks once you have beaten every level for a given planet, so you can test your skills by beating each stage quickly with as few deaths as possible and try to climb the leaderboards. The level editor is also pretty neat. It allows you to create your own planet and add as many levels to it as you want, which can then be downloaded and enjoyed by other players. It'll be interesting to see what kinds of challenges other people can come up with. Flywrench comes highly recommended from me, especially to those gamers who are always seeking a new challenge. If you enjoyed Super Meat Boy, VVVVVV, and the like, you will certainly enjoy this one as well. It does a really great job of easing new players into the mechanics too, so it's worth trying out even if the difficulty sounds daunting. I can definitely see myself coming back to replay Flywrench many times down the line. The feeling of determination as I try to conquer a punishing game and the satisfaction of finally emerging victorious is like an addiction, and I'm forever thankful that games like Flywrench exist to scratch that itch. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Flywrench review photo
Flying high
You may have heard of Flywrench before. A freeware prototype version of the game has been floating around since 2007, and many people were introduced to it due to the eponymous flywrench appearing as an unlockable character i...

EarthBound vinyl photo
EarthBound vinyl

The EarthBound soundtrack is getting a vinyl release next year

Available for pre-order tomorrow
Aug 25
// Ben Davis
[Disclosure: I backed the Kickstarter for the Mother original arranged soundtrack on vinyl.] Earlier this year, independent record label Ship to Shore PhonoCo. acquired the licensing rights to release the Mother soundtrack on...

Review: Snakebird

Aug 24 // Ben Davis
Snakebird (PC)Developer: Noumenon GamesPublisher: Noumenon GamesReleased: May 4, 2015MSRP: $6.99 At first glance, Snakebird isn't all that intimidating. It's made to look cute and appealing, with bright colors, simple cartoon graphics, and adorable bird/snake hybrid characters which easily bring to mind more casual games like Angry Birds. But be warned: this is far from a casual experience. On one hand, the cute art style helps by drawing people in and keeping them calm and relaxed while they fail again and again at the puzzles, impaling their adorable snakebirds on spikes and throwing them off of cliffs. But I do worry that the simple graphics might turn some players off to the game too soon. It's definitely not the type of game that it appears to be, but I kind of like that it subverts expectations like that. [embed]307530:60107:0[/embed] The goal of every level is simple: eat all the fruit and get each snakebird into the portal. No snakebird can be left behind, so if one makes it into the portal but the other one can't reach, you might have to start over from the beginning (or at least backtrack a few moves). Eating a piece of fruit increases the snakebird's size by one segment, usually making it easier to navigate certain puzzles. But be careful! Just because a piece of fruit can be reached doesn't mean the puzzle has been solved yet. Most puzzles involve finding the correct path to the fruit, which is not always the most direct path. In fact, the most direct path more often than not will lead to a snakebird getting stuck or dying, but keep in mind that you can easily backtrack in case mistakes are made. If a snakebird dies, the game immediately resets to the last move before death, and you can keep backtracking from there if need be. Once all fruit has been eaten, the portal will open, creating an exit from the level. One of the largest sources of difficulty comes from simply figuring out the physics and abilities of the snakebirds. While there is a tutorial level, it really only covers basic movement and how to open the portal. Everything else is up to the player to figure out, and it's not always obvious. Here are a few mild hints for new players who find themselves getting stuck really early on (possibly even on the second or third levels). Normal physics don't really apply to snakebirds. They always hold their current shape while falling. They can sit on top of floating fruit without eating it. They can push other snakebirds and certain obstacles (or multiple things at once), sometimes even in ways that might not make a whole lot of sense when you think about it. Snakebirds that are pushed will always maintain their current shape. Also, it's usually a good idea to try and figure out what position they will need to end up in to reach the portal, in order to plan out your moves accordingly. Eventually, through trial and error, you'll develop skills and moves that you wouldn't have even dreamed of at the beginning of the game, and you'll start flying through the puzzles, only to get stuck again a little while later on a puzzle which requires a new skill to be discovered. This might leave some players overly frustrated, but options for each level are not endless, so players are bound to figure out a solution as long as they keep trying new things. Snakebird does a good job of keeping things interesting by introducing new mechanics every so often, including the addition of multiple snakebirds in a single level, spikes, movable platforms, and teleportation portals. Each themed area introduces something new, and then there are the special star levels which will test your abilities to the fullest. There are a total of 53 levels, and the difficulty of each level will probably vary from player to player. The map is also non-linear, so beating one level might open up several more to choose from. It took me about 13 hours to beat every level, although I had a particularly tough time figuring out a few of them (a couple that come to mind include level 20 and level 44, both of which took me WAY too long to figure out). Usually, I would have to sit and stare at a difficult level for a while, or even stop playing entirely and just take some time to ponder the level and all of the possibilities, and then come back later with fresh ideas. But the feeling of finally completing a seemingly impossible puzzle after so much failure is just so wonderfully satisfying! Personally, I think Snakebird could have benefited from a few extra features. Including statistics such as the amount of time it took to finish a level or the number of moves used would have added a bit to the replayability. As it is now, once a puzzle is solved, there's really no incentive to go back and try it again. Leaderboards would also be a welcome addition, since I'm sure many players out there figured out way more efficient methods of solving certain puzzles than I did. Snakebird is not for everyone. But for those puzzle-lovers out there seeking the ultimate challenge, definitely give Snakebird a shot. You might be surprised by how often this game will leave you stumped, but that just makes the feeling of overcoming challenges so much sweeter! [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Snakebird review photo
Delightfully challenging
Well-designed, challenging puzzle games can be hard to come by these days, but they are out there. Games like Antichamber, English Country Tune, and Splice are a few Steam titles that come to mind for providing particularly h...

Auto-loading more stories ... un momento, corazón ...