My name is Eric. I'm 32.
Here are some random things I'm into:
The Buy it/Avoid it Report - back issues #001 - Ilomilo, Uncharted 2, Infinity Blade, Pac-Man CE DX, Battlefield BC2: Vietnam, PixelJunk Shooter #002 - Batman: Brave & Bold, DJ Hero 2, Dead Space 2, Bionic Commando Rearmed, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Bulletstorm #003 - Pokemon Black/White, PixelJunk Shooter 2, Monster Tale, God of War III, BIT.TRIP RUNNER, Torchlight #004 - Portal 2, Steel Diver, Sin & Punishment Star Successor, Pilotwings Resort, Crysis 2, Blocks That Matter #005 - L.A. Noire, Alice Madness Returns, Resident Evil Mercenaries 3D, Shadows of the Damned #006 - GoldenEye 007, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, AC: Brotherhood, Sword & Sworcery EP, Trenched #007 - Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Jetpack Joyride, Gears of War 3, The Binding of Isaac, Renegade Ops #008 - Dark Souls, League of Evil, Uncharted 3, Batman: Arkham City, Super Mario 3D Land #009 - The Buy it/Avoid it Report's Awards - 2011 #010 - Spelunky, Max Payne 3, Trials Evolution, Mario Kart 7, Escape Goat #011 - Super Hexagon, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Lollipop Chainsaw, Mark of the Ninja
Secret Moon Base - episodes Subscribe on iTunes - a podcast about video games and other stuff with my pals knutaf and Occam
Hello, bloggers. I have been struggling with what direction to take The Buy it/Avoid it Report for a while now. Although I have always enjoyed writing it, lately I just haven't been buying much. Other than a few digital games here and there, I've mostly been renting games through GameFly in an effort to save myself some money. I've never been much of a collector so this just makes more fiscal sense.
So, because I'm weird and I can't write about games that I didn't actually buy in a blog that makes purchasing recommendations, I changed the name. It's more for my sake than yours, I assure you. Also, "buy" and "avoid" aren't really opposite ideas, but "play" and "avoid" are. That makes sense, right? The only problem now is that I'm setting myself up for confusion between my "P/A Report" and the real PA Report. Hopefully Ben Kuchera won't get too upset. Anyway, let's roll.
>> Going into this game without any expectations was, for me, an impossibility. I found it difficult to avoid making constant comparisons to the original Bioshock. The lighthouse, the magic powers (known as Vigors this time), the impossible city built entirely around one man's belief, the recordings scattered throughout the world -- it all felt so familiar. And yet, it was very different in a lot of ways, too. Unfortunately, not always for the best.
Let me just say, the city of Columbia is undeniably gorgeous. It captures the feeling of the time period perfectly and is an absolute marvel from beginning to end. Also, I absolutely love the sky rails. The feeling of leaping to and from them was exhilarating every time, and they really nailed the roller coaster vibe they were going for. Though the guns in general are fairly uninteresting, the shooting itself does feel tighter. This may be a side effect of fighting in much larger environments, but overall it was a definite improvement over the original. And the music? Oh my god, the music! Amazing beyond words.
However, the story (which was what I was most excited about) failed to resonate with me. It's strange because I liked Elizabeth as a character, but I felt like the developers shoehorned her into the gameplay in way that just came off as rushed. Her ability to open tears was nothing more than a parlor trick for Booker to use during combat, which is disappointing because it had so much potential. The ending, which I won't spoil, did have some truly great moments, but ultimately felt very separate from the rest of the game. It's sad to say, but the whole experience came off as condensed, compromised and cobbled together.
PLAY IT because the brain of Ken Levine produces some of the most ambitious and fantastic concepts that video games have ever seen.
AVOID IT because the original Bioshock set a bar so high, anything bearing its name must now be a masterpiece or nothing at all.
>> Fun fact: The original Darksiders was the very first game I "reviewed" in this blog. I liked it a lot. Sure, it borrowed almost everything from other games, but it did it well, and I respected that. The sequel follows that trend, taking elements from loot-heavy games like Diablo and melding them with the combat from God of War and the environmental puzzles from Zelda. However, its Darksiders II's sense of style that sets it apart from the aforementioned games. Like any game with such a strong look, its bound to be polarizing for a lot of gamers; you either like it or you don't. Personally, I like it.
I found Death to be a lot more fun to play than his brother War. He's faster, more agile and doesn't look like a fridge wrapped in a blanket. He does sometimes resemble someone attending a Korn-themed Renaissance Faire but I found that charming in its own way. The world was a lot bigger, too, in terms of both area and scale. Massive stone statues and huge characters are everywhere, which honestly makes Death look pretty scrawny. He can hold his own, though, and consistently outsmarts his larger foes using his size and speed to his advantage. Combat is roughly 80% of this entire game, so it's a good thing that it feels really satisfying.
Almost everything you kill drops loot in this game. Though I didn't get fatigued by this as much as in Borderlands, it was still a little much. Anything that takes me out of the experience and forces me to navigate a menu better be quick and easy, and unfortunately that is a major flaw for this game. The map, inventory screen, upgrades and missions were all tied to one button, which made opening up the pause screen and searching for what I needed a chore every time. A game this big needs a dedicated map button, period. There are also a lot of awkward load times scattered throughout the game which began to grate on my nerves. Perhaps bigger isn't always better.
PLAY IT if you can appreciate a game that's heavy on the mashy combat and light on the character development and meaningful plot.
AVOID IT if the screenshots turn you off because this game is fucking long and the style never ever lets up.
>>Dead Space is my jam. I've never found myself wanting it to be more horror or more action; I love it just the way it is. The gore is visceral (hurr), the setting is super neat and the lack of a HUD is one of my favorite features ever. It's almost ignored at this point but health, stasis, directional markers, video communications and your inventory screen are all displayed on (or projected from) Isaac's suit. They are woven into the game itself and add to the creepy, sci-fi atmosphere. I think it's freaking brilliant. But that's a feature in all Dead Space games, so what makes this one different?
One of the biggest changes is weapon crafting. It might not sound like a big deal but I found it to be immensely satisfying after a little practice. Weapon parts can be found all over the place, taken to the B.E.N.C.H. and assembled into many classic and new weapons. They could also be imbued with different effects which add an extra layer of variety. Two examples of weapons I made were a cryo-flamethrower with a force gun attachment and a burst-fire assault rifle with an underslung electric shotgun. Weapon parts could be used indefinitely so if I needed to switch it up, I just deconstructed and started from scratch. Universal ammo for all weapons was a slight downer, though.
For the record, I was never forced nor tempted to mess around with any microtransactions. It's easy to point the finger at EA and claim their taking advantage of impatient people but, honestly, my playthrough was not affected at all by their inclusion so I couldn't care less. They are easily ignored, and that's a good thing. The co-op, however, was not as easy to ignore. A few locked doors I came across suggested that I invite a friend in order to play. And Carver (who a co-op partner would control) just sort of pops his head in randomly during the single player campaign. It was strange but I definitely prefer this method to the alternative of having a constant AI controlled co-op partner getting in my way all the time.
PLAY IT because killing nightmare flesh monsters in space is cool and wearing really badass space suits is cool, too.
>> In Far Cry 3 you play as a 20-something douche bro named Jason Brody who single-handedly takes on an entire island of mercenary killers in order to save his awful friends. Now, I'm not the type of person who needs a really good reason to run around and shoot up and entire island. Just give me a gun and I'll conjure up my own motives if I have to. I think what bothers me most about this game is that it tries to take itself very seriously even though the story and characters are all really goddamn dumb. The only thing Vaas accomplishes by being great is making everybody else look that much worse.
Silly story aside, the gameplay is solid. As almost everyone who's played Far Cry 3 will tell you, clearing outposts is an absolute joy. There are many ways to go about it and even when your master plan turns to shit, it's still fun. Once cleared, you'll find various hunting and assassination missions on the bulletin boards which can lead to better equipment and more experience. There are also radio towers that need to be climbed and disabled, which allow you to see more of the map, which in turn lets you see more outposts. It forms a surprisingly compelling gameplay loop which unfortunately (or fortunately) doesn't involve the campaign at all.
There are some strange design choices, I found. Plants that can be harvested are clearly marked on the minimap (which is fine), but also flash white in game so they are IMPOSSIBLE to miss. Besides being unnecessary, I found it to be very distracting. Just let me enjoy the lush jungle landscape without constantly reminding me that I'm inside a videogame, please. Also, Jason Brody apparently has very brittle bones because very small jumps will cause him to break his thumb and wrist all the time. Oh, and tattoos magically appear on his arms when he learns new abilities because that makes sense.
PLAY IT because there is a lot to love about this game, even if almost none of it involves playing the campaign.
AVOID IT because at one point you have to burn a marijuana field with a flamethrower while dubstep plays in the background. Seriously.
>> Now here's a game that knows exactly what it is and executes that concept almost flawlessly. Sleeping Dogs is about an undercover cop who's tasked with infiltrating a gang in Hong Kong. It's certainly not a unique idea, but it facilitates this type of open-world gameplay very well. People who want to be the good guy but wreck a bunch of cars and beat up lots of dudes in the process will feel right at home here.
Subpar driving mechanics can make or break games like this but, thankfully, the vehicle controls feel very natural in Sleeping Dogs. It's really fun to speed up behind someone on the highway, leap out onto the roof of their car, toss them out onto the street and slide in the drivers seat all without ever dipping below 70 mph. Guns are actually fairly scarce for a majority of the game, which is great because the melee combat is really satisfying. It's all about bone-breaking counter attacks, flying jump kicks, melee weapons and environmental hazards. I'd often just beat up innocent people in the streets; that's how fun it was.
What I wasn't expecting was for the story to be as compelling as it was. A big part of that was how well the characters are voiced, Wei Shen in particular. Being an undercover cop, he's obviously trying to blend in as well as get the job done. As the lines between good and bad begin to blur, it's hard not to empathize with him. I went into this game expecting some kung fu gangster action with a weak story, but came away very, very impressed. It's a fucking shame about that karaoke minigame, though. Holy lord that was the worst.
PLAY IT because the streets of Hong Kong are corrupt as shit and all those delicate gangster legs aren't going to break themselves.
AVOID IT if you're annoyed by Asian accents and bright, neon lights.
>> If you had told me a couple years ago that the new Tomb Raider game would knock my socks off, I probably would have laughed in your face. I had roughly zero respect for Lara Croft and assumed her popularity had simply stemmed from her big boobs and short shorts. However, when this reboot came around and I started seeing footage, I instantly noticed a difference. Lara was filthy, cut up, bruised and beaten but had a fire in her eyes that wasn't there before. She looked tough as hell. All of a sudden she was a compelling character.
This game does so many things right that it's ridiculous. The environments are incredible looking but also brilliantly constructed. Linear paths bleed into huge, open areas with tons of secrets to discover. Running, jumping and climbing are all tuned perfectly. It's simply a joy to traverse the environments, and the animations for every movement are simply fantastic. You get Lara's signature bow very early in the game and can upgrade it extensively. It was so fun to use that I often forgot that I was even carrying guns at all. I didn't need them.
There are lots of cinematic moments in Tomb Raider that feel heavily inspired by the Uncharted games. Yes, I see the irony in that statement. Stuff will crumble or break at the worst times and Lara will have to make countless life-or-death leaps before the credits roll. The main difference here is that the theme of survival is constant. She may survive a terrible fall, but she'll land on a piece of rebar and have to pull it out herself. The character you start as and the character you finish the game as are two completely different people, and you get to witness the entire transformation. It's an incredible journey.
PLAY IT if you are craving a cinematic adventure with perfect pacing and impressive production values.
AVOID IT if you're bad at quicktime events because the death animations are almost too violent to have to watch over and over again.
Alright, let me get a piece of this Top 10 action. I feel I should quickly preface this list by saying that I have yet to fully indulge in the likes of Hotline Miami, Far Cry 3, The Walking Dead (only 3 episodes in so far) and X-COM. It's safe to assume that if I had, this list would probably look a lot different. However, out of all the fantastic games I actually did play this year, here are my top 10, in alphabetical order.
- I don't play a lot of games twice but the open level design and intriguing moral choices in Dishonored were just too well done for me to ignore. The streets of Dunwall were dense, vibrant and rich with history. Here's hoping this isn't the last we see of it.
- The way Fez toyed with my perception (physically and mentally) was nothing short of brilliant. I didn't just "play" this game over the course of a single weekend; I was absorbed by it. It's a real shame Phil Fish's big mouth turned a lot of people away from this incredibly magical experience.
- It took a while for me to come around but I'm finally a believer! In spite of having no cutscenes, HD graphics, complex animations or spoken dialog, FTL manages to deliver drama and intensity like no other game this year. The hours just seem to melt away.
- I've never particularly enjoyed the single-player campaigns in Halo games but that all changed with 4. Cutscenes were effective, the environments were gorgeous, and the gameplay felt immensely satisfying. That goes for the multiplayer too. Just an all around great package.
- Put your hyperbole goggles on, kids: this game is perfect. The animations are great, the gameplay is tight, the game is a decent length, the story is well crafted and it absolutely nails the feeling of being a ninja. This is the new high bar for stealth games. (You can remove the goggles now.)
- For me, the Mass Effect trilogy is all about my squad. Sure, I want to save the galaxy (not that I really have a choice) but my main concern when coming into 3 was to conclude the story of Garrus, Tali, Wrex, Liara, Legion and all the other characters I love. I was not disappointed.
- I'm not really a fan of bullet-hell games mostly because I'm just plain awful at them. Somehow, Sine Mora managed to lure me in with it's biplanes, gorgeous visuals and incredible boss battles. Then I stuck around for the engrossing story, which features a bison in a wheelchair. Yep.
- I knew I was going to love this game. I only recently become a fan of roguelikes (mostly thanks to The Binding of Isaac) and everything about Spelunky had me excited. Randomly generated environments, permadeath and deceptively cute visuals. It's so addictive, I'm still playing it!
- Fans of fighting games all have their favorite series and Tekken is absolutely mine. What makes TTT2 so special is its 59 playable characters (like cybernetic ninjas, luchadors and bears), 2v2 tag battles, insane combo system and some of the most beautiful stages I've ever seen.
- Trials Evolution took everything I loved about Trials HD (ultra-sensitive controls, humor, punishing level design) and polished it beyond my wildest dreams. As great as the packed-in stages are, users can also share their custom built tracks meaning I'll never run out of levels. :D
Hello gamers and welcome to the Buy it/Avoid it Report!
If you're new to the Cblogs, this is a feature I've been posting on Destructoid for the last couple of years. It started as a video game journal of sorts, to help me remember all the games I played, and slowly evolved into the collection of mini-reviews you see today. Obviously, there are plenty of expansive game reviews out there that go out of their way to explain every mode and feature a game has to offer, which is helpful if you actually want to know every little detail.
The Buy it/Avoid it Report is for the TL;DR crowd. I don't want to explain every aspect of a game and I definitely don't want to take up too much of your time. In fact, if the three small paragraphs under each picture are too much to handle, I've attempted to boil each game down to a simple positive and negative comment, just for you. Maybe I should take this a step further and condense my thoughts down to a single word. Maybe just attach a number at the bottom? I'll try that next time, but since I've already written this thing...
>> A lot of iOS games try too hard, struggling to work within the obvious limitations of the platform. They attempt to cram PC or console experiences onto the smaller screen, often at the expense of proper controls and playability. What they should do is study the platform’s strengths (quick, portable, simple) and capitalize on them. There are definitely more than a few games that “get it”, but even fewer fucking nail it as gracefully and effortlessly as Super Hexagon.
Before I gush too much, I should get one thing out of the way: Super Hexagon is ridiculously hard. Like, seriously hard. My first attempt was over before I was aware it had even begun! The moment you hit start, you’re immediately thrust into crisis mode, and it only gets more hectic and intense the longer you manage to survive. The screen rotates and spins at random while walls relentlessly close in on you, threatening to crush your tiny triangle friend. The vibrant colors melt into each other as everything pulses relentless to the beat of the music. You’ll no doubt get lost in the chaos and may feel like progress beyond the 20 second mark lies outside the realm mere mortals.
But then something will just click. You’ll get it. Around the 30 second mark, your brain will cease all non-essential activity, the world around you will melt away and you’ll be elevated to a higher plane of existence. You’ll no longer be playing Super Hexagon; you will BE Super Hexagon! Gods will kneel at your feet as your score climbs past the 40 second mark but you’ll laugh in their faces. There’s no stopping you now. 50 seconds. The universe is in the palm of your hand. 55 seconds. Immortality is within your grasp. As you cruise past the 60 second mark, you'll take a millisecond to acknowledge your infinite brilliance and *BAM!*, it's over. You hit a wall, moron. But before you’ve even had a chance to mourn your death, you’ve already restarted. Resistance is futile, you see. Super Hexagon is in control now.
BUY ITand a storm of absolute power will crush your frail human form as your soul transcends the very limitations of pain and desire.
AVOID ITas long as you don’t mind trading in all your gamer street cred for an oversized “Wimpy Weinerhead” t-shirt.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U
>> The console version of the original Tekken Tag Tournament came out a long time ago; 12 years to be exact. My friends and I picked it up on launch day, along with the PlayStation 2, and spent the rest of the day shouting, smack talking and laughing our asses off as we pummeled each other into the ground. It was the best of times. Years went by and we continued to play it. Crazy juggles were memorized. Tournament brackets were scribbled in notebooks. Champions were crowned. Friendships were tested. Yeah, no one was really getting laid back then either.
Over a decade later, here I am playing Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and I honestly couldn’t be any happier. Nearly every character is back (over 50 in total) with more to be released as free DLC in the following months. When you consider the sheer amount of moves and animations each character has, it’s staggering. For someone who’s never picked up a Tekken game before, I could see this being somewhat of a problem. Luckily, Namco has included one of the most comprehensive tutorial modes I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. Fight Lab, as it’s known, may not make you “good” at Tekken, but you’ll definitely come away with a much better understanding of the components involved. Even I learned some stuff.
Offline is solid, as expected, but the biggest improvements lie in the online section of the game. Matchmaking in Tekken 6 was slow and boring, with the matches themselves often suffering from extreme bouts of lag. This made landing juggles and defending yourself a chore. That’s all changed with TTT2. Search parameters can be set ahead of time, assuring that you only get matched up with players who have solid internet connections. You can also see if they’re prone to rage quitting by viewing their disconnection rate before you okay the match. Brilliant. Wins feel earned and losses feel deserved. For an online fighting game, you can’t really ask for anything more than that.
BUY ITif the sight of a drunken Kung Fu master and a massive robot going toe-to-toe with a bear and a dinosaur sounds fucking awesome.
AVOID ITif you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a juggle in a Tekken game and thought to yourself, “this is complete and utter bullshit”.
>> I have a lot of love in my heart for the No More Heroes series and its creator, Suda51. So much, in fact, that I often catch myself making excuses for some of his other games' shortcomings in spite how regularly they crop up. Like an overly supportive parent, I turn a blind eye to his failing grades because I know he's trying his best. The reality of this started creeping in when I played Shadows of the Damned, but I shook it off. After all, that game wasn’t bad; it was pretty decent! Though it breaks my heart to say it, Lollipop Chainsaw is equal parts tedious and mediocre, with only a pinch or two of inspiration.
Where to begin? The entire game feels like an intrusive, painful tutorial. Go here, press this button. Jump here. This is exactly how you kill this type of enemy. Press X, right here. After every single successful combat section, the camera leaves its place behind Juliet, flies over to a point in the level where you need to go next and highlights it with a big-ass sign. It's literally impossible to miss and impossible to skip, even during the high score mode. I've come to expect this kind of incessant handholding during the first level, but the whole fucking game?! What's worse is each section of the game is split up into these tiny, walled-off areas. Where the fuck else would I even go?! It’s completely unnecessary and just plain sad because without that constant annoyance, the game could actually be kinda fun.
The combat in general is pretty solid, albeit a little too stiff for my tastes. Akira Yamaoka delivers a really fantastic soundtrack which, like Shadows of the Damned, matches the tone of the game perfectly. The supporting cast of characters, as with all Suda51 games, are as insane as they are lovable and hilarious. Nick (the decapitated talking head hanging from Juliet’s waist) in particular had near-flawless comedic timing. Some of the bosses are pretty epic too. But sadly, even the highest quality ingredients can be utterly ruined if prepared by an unskilled chef, and Suda51 still has a lot to learn. He may be famous for his burgers, but his barbeque chicken salad tastes like shit.
BUY ITif my food analogy flew way over your head and now you’re just wondering what time T.G.I. Friday’s closes.
AVOID ITif the thought of someone constantly interrupting you during sex to remind you how to thrust sounds annoying.
>> Stealth games, by and large, only appeal to a specific type of player; one that enjoys the hunt more than the kill. While lurking in the shadows, he carefully scans the environment for possible environmental hazards and marks targets in optimal assassination order. Once the plan is set, his mind clears as he waits for the perfect moment to strike. There’s nothing to fear as the outcome of each careful step has already played out in his mind. The silence that follows the last victim’s muffled gasp is the assassin’s ultimate reward. He disappears once again into the shadows, leaving not a trace of his existence.
Mark of the Ninja understands this perfectly. Every room, every enemy and every weapon are an eager assassin’s wet dream. Take out a spotlight with a kunai and anyone within range of the sound will come to investigate. Crawl along the ceiling like a spider as they make their rounds. Toss a dead body into their line of sight and watch as they scream in terror, killing their allies as they fire blindly into the darkness. Though kills often end with the sharp end of a sword emerging from a soldier’s warm chest cavity, the moments leading up to it have the potential for some seriously satisfying foreplay. The stages in Mark of the Ninja are fairly complex too, offering many alternate paths and allowing for vastly different strategies. As an optional challenge, it’s even possible to complete them without killing anyone and/or avoiding detection altogether.
What makes the overall gameplay so interesting and exciting is the way Mark of the Ninja handles sight. Not only is your enemy’s vision limited to their line of sight, but so is yours. Being a 2D game, there are often rooms that are technically visible to you as the player, but are blurred out because your character cannot physically see them. While hiding in a vent, you’ll have to carefully peek out in order to see your surroundings. In order to see if the roof is clear, you’ll have to climb up the wall and peer over the edge. It’s a brilliant way to handle sight and one that I hope other games borrow. Sound is handled in an equally elegant way, ensuring that the player is constantly aware of who can hear what and ultimately use that to their sneaky advantage.
BUY ITif you relish the calm, peaceful moments just before you pounce on some unsuspecting goon and fillet his esophagus like a trout.
AVOID ITif you haven’t enjoyed hiding in dark places since that one time you ducked into the closet while your parents “wrestled”.
Oh my, those are some gorgeous people. Another PAX Prime is in the books and it was an absolutely wonderful time, as expected. After waiting patiently all year, it's a shame that it flew by so fast! Why can't all Dtoiders just live in the same city? It would make hanging out a lot easier, just saying.
I'll tackle this blog in a similar manner as last year, just pictures and captions. No one wants to read an in-depth six paragraph description of my Gears of War: Judgement comeback win, right? Didn't think so. It was pretty amazing though. A real heartwarming, underdog story. I'm actually kind of hurt that you don't want to hear about it. Whatever, man.
Before PAX started, the group and I decided to check out the Seattle Gum Wall. I was not impressed.
Outside the convention center, I ran into mega-collector Funktastic! He treated Handy with the honor and respect he deserves. A true gentleman. (Special appearance by my finger.)
The handsome yet humble Niero was kind enough to pose with Handy as well! Side note: I'm pretty sure the guy in the SEGA shirt farted.
I saw Beyamor and Law of Thermal Dynamics flashing gang signs at each other while waiting in line for the Destructoid panel. Law contorted his body in an attempt to cover Bey's face. So close!
Dtoid staffers Jordan Devore and Conrad Zimmerman also posed with Handy. Unfortunately Conrad was distracted by someone nearby drinking a raspberry smoothie. He really wanted a sip!
I found Sonic hanging out near the Sega booth. He looked piiiiiissed.
The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers wanted some sweet Handy action too. Really love the lighting in this room.
I was really excited to finally see Girl with Big Sword and Girl with Big Gun Arm at PAX! Their costumes were accurate and well made. (Somebody help me out here...)
A convincing MGS4 Meryl was on the show floor as well! Unfortunately that guy that constantly poops his pants was there too. Aaaaaand I just remembered the end of MSG4. What a horrible mess.
While I was lurking around the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 booth waiting for my turn, I noticed a familiar face to my left. It was Katsuhiro Harada!! Having been a Tekken fan for over 13 years, this was a big moment for me! I was so nervous. After playing TTT2 for the last couple of days, I really regret not kissing that man on the lips. The game is a fucking masterpiece of fan feedback and fan service. Buy it!
The big man himself, Mr. Destructoid. I actually got to try on the new helmet this year, which was pretty cool. It's slick! (Finger appearance #2)
At 3 am on Saturday night, just after recording a LIVE Secret Moon Base episode, people were understandably tired and depressed. The fun was almost over. I had to do something.
I quickly assembled the three wisest men I know (Qalamari, knutaf and Occam's electric toothbrush) and tasked them with figuring out how to raise people's spirits. Beyamor was amazed by their speed and professionalism.
Within seconds, everyone sprung into action. Time was running out! This had to be perfect.
And the result was absolutely fucking stunning. Surrounded by my friends, this was without a doubt my happiest moment at PAX this year. Those are tears of joy.
Thanks again for everyone who made this trip awesome! knutaf and magpie for having us. bbain for bringing Cards Against Humanity; so fun! SuperMonk4Ever for giving me $10 and scaring me with his laugh. ;) Mr Andy Dixon for bringing his Rock Band equipment. And everyone else for hugging me even though I'm scary looking. My PAX experience would not have been half as fun without you guys. <3
Hello gamers and welcome back to the Buy it/Avoid it Report! In this series I take a quick look at some of the games I've played recently and attempt to summarize what makes them worth playing, as well as a few reasons why you may want to avoid them. I try to keep things short because there are a million in-depth reviews out there so, if you're looking for that sort of thing, they shouldn't be hard to find. But you're already here so...
>> Deep down, in the depths of my soul, lies a raging masochist. As my virtual deaths pile up, he grows stronger. When I clench my teeth in frustration, his thirst for pain becomes more fierce. When I’m emotionally spent and questioning my skill, he laughs and commands me to try again. I am nothing but a vessel carrying out his vicious demands. As tears of shame stream down my face, soaking my beard with regret, he rises up from a pool filled with the blood of a thousand deaths and whispers his name in my ear -- “Spelunky.”
Originally a free retro-style PC game, Spelunky is a platformer with roguelike elements -- dungeon layouts, items, traps and enemy placement are random, though the way they react to each other are not. The finality of permadeath ensures that there are no second chances so it is absolutely essential to learn how these various elements react to each other, and which of those reactions will kill you immediately. The short answer: all of them. You will die many nearly-impossible-to-foresee, Rube Goldbergian deaths in your quest for treasure; a lot of which will make you question what you could have possibly done differently. I’ve found that taking it easy and making smart decisions instead of rushing around like a greedy, gem-hound is usually a good start.
The biggest change Spelunky went through in its transition to the Xbox LIVE Arcade is in the graphics department. The gritty, pixelated look from the original has been tossed into the abyss and replaced with cheerful, almost cartoon-like visuals. This can be misleading to new players because it doesn’t match the tone of the game at all. The laid back, jazzy soundtrack is also feels somewhat out of place. Regardless, there is fun to be had. I personally like the look of the characters and witnessing their horribly violent deaths is just icing on the cake. Especially the shopkeeper. Fuck that guy.
BUY ITif you are willing to knock a few years off your life expectancy in exchange for massive amounts of virtual wealth.
AVOID ITif the thought of an adorable, little pug rotting at the bottom of a snake pit because of what you did is just too much to handle.
This game is currently $15.00. If you feel that price is way too steep, go play the free one on PC. Your complaints are invalid!
>> Poor Max. I wasn’t around for his first two games but it’s easy to see how hard it was on him -- he’s an overweight mercenary who filters what remains of his shattered life through hard liquor and painkillers. Throughout the story (during cutscenes and gameplay) Max is always talking, either out loud or to himself. This is often used to remind the player what Max is supposed to be doing, but also to keep the player in Max’s head at all times. He’s constantly doubting himself and his abilities, which can leave little seeds of doubt in the player’s head as well. I found myself asking, “Can this fat, old dude really pull this off?”
Max Payne 3 is a crazy ride, filled with some absolutely insane action sequences. I read a preview which made a similar claim before the game had come out and I shrugged it off because they always say that. But I promise you, this one delivers big time. During certain pivotal moments, the game will force you into bullet-time and allow you to pull off some truly unbelievable feats. These are the types of situations that most games relegate to cutscenes, but here you actually get to experience them through gameplay. Even the normal encounters have “fuck yeah!” moments, with slow, cinematic camera angles that track the final killing bullet as it makes a beeline for some poor sap’s eye socket.
Though I loved the game, it does have its flaws. The pacing can be inconsistent, with some areas of the game being harder than they should be. The weapon system can take a little getting used to, but I appreciate the level of realism put in place. It’s really cool to notice the little details, like when Max tucks one gun under his arm while he reloads his other. The aiming can feel sluggish too, which forces the player to use the slow down mechanic as more of a crutch rather than a fun option. Still, these gripes didn’t dilute the experience and I walked away from Max Payne 3 hungry for more. Luckily the multiplayer is pretty fun too.
BUY ITif you’d like to experience the most compelling video game portrayal of an alcoholic gun wizard with nothing to lose.
AVOID ITif repeated depictions of realistic gore and violence just aren’t your thing.
I'm not sure if this is a spoiler or not but this game features THE most realistic looking female nipples I have ever seen in a video game. The beard hair looks pretty amazing too, just not as nippley.
>> Ever since I played Excitebike for the NES, I’ve had a weird soft spot for motocross games. Gaining speed, hitting massive jumps and landing smoothly massages the pleasure center of my brain, resulting in an adrenaline rush that few games can replicate. I wasn’t completely aware of this strange preference of mine until I got my hands on the Trials HD a few years ago. I was blown away by the high level of precision required and the purity of its execution.
The most brilliant aspect of the Trials series, at least in my eyes, is that you control the rider -- not the bike. This may seem like a small detail, but the effects on gameplay are huge. As you (the actual human) tilt the analog stick, the rider shifts their weight. This alters the bike’s orientation which obviously affects its interaction with the environment. Even the slightest movement of the stick can have huge consequences once it’s filtered through each element. This can be somewhat of a roadblock for casual players since they’re not accustomed to harsh repercussions from such small actions. However, this is also what makes Trials so insanely satisfying because once you understand how this intricate machine works, you can manipulate and exploit it.
Trials Evolution takes this solid groundwork and expands it in nearly every direction. The dark, depressing warehouse environments from the first game have evolved into a massive outdoor map, which feature a refreshing mix of mountains, cliffs, towns, rivers and forests. The path your character follows can curve now, allowing for some incredible environmental stuff that was impossible in HD. There’s also an improved level editor that takes a lot of cues from Halo Reach’s Forge mode. Levels created here can now be shared with anyone on XBL, not just your friends list, which means there are always new tracks and challenges to tackle every time you turn the game on. On top of all that, there’s a 4-player multiplayer mode tossed in, just for fun.
BUY ITif the combination of precise controls, high difficulty and leaderboards are enough to make you salivate.
AVOID ITif failing a jump for the hundredth time would cause your controller to spontaneously shatter into a thousand pieces.
It's not terribly important, but you can also customize your rider and bikes to a much greater degree this time around. What? Maybe I like to make my wheels two different colors? Leave me alone.
>> The Virtual Boy aside, every Nintendo system since the SNES has had a Mario Kart game released on it. Although the videogame industry has gone through a lot of changes since then, the mechanics and core gameplay of Mario Kart remain untouched. Power-sliding, drafting and a few well aimed shells are still the best ways to get ahead of the pack. Though some may complain about the random items, veterans of the series are quick to remind them that it’s pronounced “Mario Kart,” not “Gran Turismo.” A game in which bananas are a common weapon is not one to be taken so seriously.
Mario Kart 7 obviously keeps the tradition going but manages to add a few ingredients to the classic recipe. All karts now have a glider built in that allows them to soar through the air after huge jumps. This leads to some cool, optional shortcuts as well as giving you a great sense of scale as you soar above a track. Underwater segments are also new this time around but they’re mostly cosmetic. Movement feels a little sluggish but it makes those moments when you burst out of the water that much more satisfying. They also weren’t shy about upgrading some of the older stages with these new mechanics, which is pretty awesome.
Like Super Mario 3D Land, this has a super colorful, clean look that I doubt I’ll ever grow tired of. With 3DS games already looking this great, I literally can’t wait to see what it’ll be able to pull off in the next couple of years. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredibly solid online play as well. It’s easy to hop into a match with random people; no pesky friend codes required. They’ve also introduced a community feature which allows you to create groups of like-minded racers for easy multiplayer sessions. Hopefully Nintendo continues to include this type of thing for more of its franchises.
BUY ITif you specifically bought the 3DS because of solid franchises like this.
AVOID ITif you can’t fucking believe Nintendo has managed to repackage and sell the same game seven times.
I didn't use an actual screenshot here because the 3DS doesn't look great blown up on the computer screen. You're welcome!
>> Trying to find a truly great game in the sea of mediocrity known as Xbox Live Indie Games can be tough. It’s a lot like sifting through the iOS game market. Neither service seems to worry too much about quality control but with such ridiculously low prices, why bother? With so many options and no real marketing, it’s easy for good ones to get buried and forgotten. It is for this reason that I would like to draw your attention to Escape Goat.
You play as a goat who finds himself trapped in a prison and charged with the ridiculous crime of “hat theft”. Being a puzzle-platformer, successfully escaping will require a combination of quick reactions and a sharp intellect. As a goat, your skill set is very goat-like. You have a vicious headbutt move used to destroy specific blocks in the environment and you’re a natural climber thanks to a realistic double jump. The graphics and music give off strong 8-bit Castlevania vibe, never a bad thing. Nothing is too simple nor too over the top, clearly the sign of intelligent game design.
Early on you meet a fellow prisoner; a mouse who happily joins you in escaping. In doing so, he adds some critical moves to your arsenal and becomes essential to solving many of the mind-bending puzzles. His small mouse-body is perfect for slipping into tight spaces and accessing areas that the muscular goat cannot. While hitting switches to open doors is not a new idea, Escape Goat takes the concept one step further. Entire walls, floors and ceilings shift right before your eyes, which can transform once simple looking stages into completely different layouts. It’s really amazing to see in action.
BUY ITwhether you’re a puzzle game fan or a serious 2D-platfomer connoisseur.
AVOID ITif you think puzzles are really just brain-demons conjured by Satan himself sent to deceive and pillage your tender, innocent mind.
That's it! I had no intention of reviving this series when I sat in front of the computer a few hours ago but, here we are. Though I can't commit to any kind of regular schedule for these reports, I will put one out when I have enough to talk about again. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next issue!
The Binding of Isaac is brutally difficult, complicated and incredibly deep. These things combined can also make it a somewhat confusing, clumsy experience for those just starting out. After sinking 100+ hours into this beast, I figured I should at least share some general knowledge that I’ve picked up over that time. Hopefully this will help clear up some questions a few of you have about this mean motherfucker of a game.
This "manual" covers the original game content along with stuff that was added with The Wrath of the Lamb expansion. Although the expansion does make the game significantly more difficult in some ways but also adds a bunch of neat stuff that makes the overall game more fun too. If you don't have it, get it! Also, if you don't have it, a lot of the stuff mentioned below is gonna sound foreign.
Disclaimer: I didn’t fully realize how huge this game was until I started cataloging all the different categories of items and rooms. This was initially supposed to be a “quick reference” guide for newbies to the game but it ended up being much bigger than I planned. The danger of SPOILERS is a possibility, I guess. I don’t go into any depth about the story, specific enemy types or boss strategies. This will most definitely fall into TL;DR territory for most of you but I’m okay with that.
ISAAC > Isaac is the default character and your only available choice the first time around. He starts with 3 red hearts and all of his other stats (speed, rate of fire, power and range) are set at 2. He also gets one bomb.
+ If you complete "The Womb" stage with ??? you'll unlock the D6 for Isaac. This incredible item allows you to "re-roll" most Special Items you come across in the event that you find them unsatisfactory. Unlocking the D6 is a pain in the butt, no doubt, but so worth it. It takes Isaac from being a safe character choice to being one of the best (around), in my opinion.
MAGDALENE > Maggie has long, blonde hair with a red bow on top. This character is specialized towards health with 4 red hearts at the start and something called the Yum Heart -- a Rechargeable Item that fills one empty heart container per use. She is slightly slower than Isaac but her larger health bar and Special Item make her a decent beginner's character.
+ The Yum Heart is handy during the early levels of the game but don't be afraid to swap it out if you come across something better.
+ To unlock Magdalene you must collect 7 total red heart containers in a single playthrough. Seeing as Isaac already has 3 to start, you'll only need to find 4 health upgrades. This will just happen naturally over time so there's no real reason to "try" to unlock her.
CAIN > Cain is the dude with the eyepatch. He starts with 2 hearts, a key and a slight bonus to speed and power, though his range is slightly shorter than Isaac's. He also starts with a Modifier called the Lucky Foot. This effects almost every random thing in the game, meaning your pills will be better, you'll have better luck at the Arcades and you'll find more money. Cain is "easy mode", plain and simple.
+ To unlock Cain you must collect 55 or more coins in a single playthrough. I found this to be slightly more difficult than unlocking Magdalene because I had to keep myself from spending all my glorious wealth. The easiest way to "accidently" unlock Cain is by finding the Dollar.
JUDAS > This little guy wears a fez. He starts with only 1 heart (yikes) and 3 coins (who cares), but has the highest starting power stat of any other character. He also begins his quest with the Book of Belial. When activated, this book increases attack power through the roof but only for the current room.
+ Judas is a risky character to choose but if you can find some health upgrades early he can evolve into a pretty formidable beast. It's usually best to save the Book of Belial item for boss battles and difficult rooms, unless you've already replaced it with something better.
+ To unlock Judas you must defeat the second main boss. In order to do so, you must beat the game once to unlock an extended area of the game and then beat that as well. It's a tall order for someone just starting out but if you have Cain unlocked already, use him. Like I said, he's easy mode.
??? > This awful thing has blueish grey skin and X's for eyes -- I often refer to him/her as the dead baby. It starts with NO red hearts but has 3 soul hearts instead. On top of that bullshit, it cannot heal and all standard health upgrade items have absolutely no effect. The only way to gain more health is by collecting more soul hearts. Ughhhh. In other shitty news, it starts with an item called The Poop and, yes, it is as useless as it sounds.
+ You'll want to replace The Poop with ANYTHING else as soon as you can. Seriously, what the hell is poop good for? I used it to block an enemy's path once but that's hardly a strategy. Screw this dumb item.
+ To unlock ??? you must beat the entire game 10 times -- a hefty challenge. Though you may not necessarily want to unlock ??? for fun, remember that he/she is ultimately the only way to unlock the D6 for Isaac, so it may be worth the struggle.
EVE > Eve has black hair with long bangs covering one eye. She has 2 hearts to start along with slightly higher speed and a lower attack stat than Isaac. What makes her kind of intriguing is she also starts with two Special Items. The Dead Bird spawns the when you take damage in a room and will attack any enemies that get close to you until you leave said room -- he can be a real lifesaver at times but you obviously want to avoid taking damage if you can help it. The other one, known as the Whore of Babylon, transforms you into a black demon and increases your attack damage greatly, however it is only activated when your health drops down to 1/2 of a red heart.
+ There is a tricky way to keep the Whore of Babylon power indefinitely but it requires a steady supply of soul hearts, which it doesn't see as health. You'll also have to purposely avoid regular health pickups as they will increase your red hearts and transform you back into regular Eve.
+ To unlock Eve you must make 2 deals with the Devil in one playthrough. This is not terribly hard to do and may even happen accidently if you're playing like you have nothing to lose. The only factor you don't necessarily have control over is the Devil Room itself, but it'll show up after a boss battle eventually.
SAMSON > Samson has long brown hair and a red headband. He only starts with 1 red heart and 1 soul heart but all of his other stats are set at 2, just like Isaac. What makes him unique is his starting item, Blood Lust. This Modifier increases his attack power with each successful kill in the current room, eventually turning his tears to blood.
+ Obviously 1 freaking heart isn't that great so finding health upgrades is a must for Samson. The first few levels can be a real pain with him, even with his special power.
+ To use his Blood Lust properly, you'll want to focus on the weaker enemies (flies, grubs, etc) first, then use the increased power to take down the bigger guys. Certain bosses that spawn smaller enemies can be a real breeze with Samson if you use this technique.
+ To unlock Samson you must skip two Treasure Rooms in a single playthrough and successfully kill Mom. This can be done fairly easily as long as the first couple Treasure Rooms give you decent enough items to survive.
RED > Red hearts are the most common health item. An empty heart container can be filled by picking up one of these, though extra containers are harder to come by. Permanent health upgrades are usually the reward for defeating a boss.
BLUE > Also referred to as “soul hearts”, these are a non-permanent health upgrade. Once a soul heart is depleted, it’s gone for good. I like to think of them as shields rather than health. They can be found in shops, hidden within dark rocks or obtained through special items.
WHITE (rare)> Very uncommon and only found in halves. They may appear to act just like a regular soul heart but they are far more special. If you manage to keep one in your health bar until you drop down to the next level, it will transform into a new permanent heart container! If you're lucky enough to find second one, it will create a permanent heart container right on the spot! (thanks bbain!) They reside behind the soul hearts in your health bar so protect them if you can.
+ If you’re low on health, check your map. If you left any hearts in previous rooms, it will show their location. Backtracking is always worth the trip!
+ Even if you have a bunch of hearts, don’t get cocky. You can lose quite a bit of health in a relatively short amount of time if you’re overconfident. It’s been my downfall way too many times.
+ Don’t hurt yourself! That might sound like an obvious “tip” but there are many environmental things (explosive barrels, spikes, etc) that can be just as dangerous as an enemy if you’re careless. Play it safe and keep your distance. There’s no time limit in Isaac so there’s no need to rush.
+ Some rechargeable items (like books) may give you hearts. So, even if you don’t necessarily want to carry it around for the rest of the level, pick it up and use it once then replace it with your previous item.
SILVER > Can be found just about anywhere. They’re used to open locked doors, locked barriers and locked chests. Pretty standard key stuff. A single key can be the difference between getting a sweet new upgrade and being a regular turd, so think about that next time you’re about to use your last one.
GOLDEN (rare)> When found, this key is placed over your current inventory of silver keys. It grants you unlimited unlocks but only for the current floor. It’s still a good idea to actively search for silver keys so you’ll be prepared for the next floor.
+ Always save one for Treasure Rooms (signified by a golden door). There’s one Treasure Room per floor (unless it’s an XL floor, in which there will be two) and those are where the big upgrades are. Besides the first floor, which is a freebie, all Treasure Rooms require one key to open so be smart!
+ If you have a lot of money, save a key for the Shop as well. Nothing’s worse than having 43 cents sitting in your wallet but no key to open the freaking door with. Shops can be a lifesaver sometimes, but only if you can get inside.
+ This may be redundant but try to be frugal with your key usage. Locked chests are tempting but imagine using your last key only to get two pennies in return. That’s not a good trade-off and it’s happened to me more than once. Of course if you’re rolling in 10+ keys you can do whatever the hell you want.
STANDARD > Primarily used for blowing shit up. They have a blast radius of two panels, meaning they’ll damage the square they’re on and two panels in each direction. Once mastered, you can be fairly surgical with your bombs if you place them just right. Though they only really come in one type, they can be upgraded with extra power, increased blast radius, poison effects, homing abilities and others.
+ Keep an eye out for dark rocks and blow them up! They’re noticeably darker than regular rocks and, if you look closely, they have a small “x” on them. They usually have a couple soul hearts inside but sometimes money and keys too.
+ They can create bridges! Crazy, right?! If you need to cross a pit (to reach a useful item or chest) you’ll need two things: a bomb in your inventory, and a rock on your side of the pit. More specifically, the rock has to be right next to the pit in question. If you place a bomb directly behind the rock, with the pit on the opposite side, the explosion will destroy the rock and create a bridge in the process. If that’s confusing, imagine where you would stand if you wanted to push the rock into the hole -- place the bomb on that panel. This is an insanely helpful technique that I use all the time.
+ You can push them around before they blow up. I can’t say I use this all the time but it’s good to know. You wouldn’t want to carefully place one (to create a bridge, for instance) and bump it with your fat ass as you run for it. It’s embarrassing, even if you’re the only witness.
+ You are not immune to your own bombs so treat them with the respect they deserve. Once placed, get the hell away from it. Though bombs only have a two panel blast radius, it’s always smart to move as far away as you can from a live one. Be safe!
+ Bombs are tricky to use properly in combat. Remember how I mentioned you can push bombs? Well, some enemies can too, and they’ll push it right back in your face. On top of that, the fuse on a bomb takes a few seconds to actually blow up. Since enemies tend to move around a lot, it’s tough to predict where they’ll be in that amount of time and you can end up wasting more than a few -- not to mention hurt yourself in the process.
+ There are a few exceptions when bombs are actually pretty helpful during combat. A few bosses (Chub and CHAD specifically) like to charge directly at you with their mouths wide open. If you can plant a bomb directly in their path, they'll eat it, causing them to stop as it explodes in their stomachs for some pretty substantial damage. (thanks bbain!)
PENNIES > One cent. They’ll look like little copper circles, just like in real life. These (and all other forms of currency) can be used to buy helpful items at Shops or gambled away at Arcades. Every penny counts so be sure to pick them up if they’re easy to get to.
NICKELS > Five cents. Nothing more, nothing less. They’re dark grey and appear to be the same size as a penny.
DIMES > Ten cents. They’re small, silver and make a really neat sound when you pick them up. Worth using a bomb to obtain one from behind a rock wall, I’d say.
QUARTERS (rare)> Twenty five cents. Even though you won’t see them often, they do exist so I figured I’d list it here.
DOLLARS (rare)> Strangely, 99 cents is the maximum wallet amount. Regardless, you’ll never have to worry about money again. Buy out all the Shops! Gamble in the Arcade! Go nuts!
+ Remember the common prices for items are between 3 to 15 cents before you waste a key on the Shop’s locked door. No need to go in if you’ve only got two cents to your name.
+ In the grand scheme of things, money isn’t terribly important in Isaac. It’s a nice reward for clearing a room or opening a chest but don’t waste a bunch of resources just to get to a couple of pennies. Money will come naturally over the course of your game so just spend it wisely.
+ When Quarters and Dollars are picked up, they're treated like Special Items instead of regular currency -- meaning Isaac will stand still and triumphantly hold the item up in the air. These few precious seconds can lead to unwanted damage if you happen to be surrounded by enemies at the time so wait until the room is cleared before picking them up! (thanks Wrenchfarm!)
PILLS > These are one-time-use items which have random effects for every playthrough. They can increase or reduce your stats but there’s absolutely no way to know until they’re ingested. The game will keep track of pills you’ve taken and, if you find the same one again, it’s effect will be displayed next to it in the upper right corner. You can only hold one pill (or card) at a time.
+ My dirty little secret: I eat every new pill immediately because how else am I going to know if it’s good or bad? This may technically be bad advice so eat them at your own risk. If you’re not a risk taker, you can ignore them.
+ There is one item in particular that promises “better pills”, so keep an eye out for that. It looks like a doctor’s surgical mask.
+ One of the pill effects is known as "bad trip" and usually damages you by one full heart. If you manage to pick up another one, hold onto it! If your health drops down to 1-2 hearts (unknown exactly), the pill will transform into a full health one! I totally didn't know that! (thanks bbain!)
TAROT CARDS > These brown cards are also one-time-use-items but their effects are not random. They have specific names and have a huge variety of different effects. Learning them all is a challenge and I keep telling myself that I’m going to make a list or something but it hasn’t happened yet. Take notes if you’re proactive. Google ‘em if you’re a cheater.
+ Here’s a few off the top of my head: “The Moon” teleports you to a Secret Room. “The Chariot” will make you invincible for a short period of time. “The Devil” will boost your attack until you leave the room. Obviously knowing their effects before you activate them means you can use them properly.
+ If you’re about to use a tarot card you’ve never seen before, be ready for anything. You could be teleported directly to the boss which would be unfortunate if you’re not prepared!
PLAYING CARDS (rare)> These red and white cards can (with the exception of the Joker) double your current inventory of specific items which can be a huge help. Once used, they disappear from your inventory.
+ The 2 of Hearts doubles the number of red hearts you have up to, but not exceeding, full health. It’s handy if you’re at half health but obviously not so much if you’re already full.
+ The 2 of Spades doubles the number of keys in your inventory. If you have any, it will give you two. Sometimes I hold onto this for a bit to see if I can find any extra keys before I use it.
+ The 2 of Clubs doubles the number of bombs in your inventory. Yep. The tip I listed above applies here as well.
+ The 2 of Diamonds...*drum roll*...doubles your money! As with all the “2 of” cards, it can be immensely helpful if used correctly.
+ The Joker will teleport you to the Devil or Angel Room. These rooms will offer you Special Items, albeit in different ways. The Devil Room requires you to sacrifice health, while the Angel Room is just really nice and gives you the item free of charge.
* SPECIAL ITEMS * ___________________________________________________________________________________
MODIFIERS > These are items that become a part of your character when picked up, which is nice because inventory space is minimal in Isaac. They are usually a reward for defeating a boss, purchased at Shops for a premium price or a few other random ways. You’ll know they’re special because they will be floating above a pedestal and look very unique. Not only do their effects stack with one another but they change Isaac’s appearance as well. Witnessing Isaac’s slow bizarre transformation is basically my favorite aspect of the game.
+ By and large, their effects are positive. They can increase your health, speed, damage, rate of fire, shot speed or luck. They can also modify your shot pattern, bless you with the gift of flight or make your skin poisonous to the touch. There are so many to find and unlock that I still haven’t seen them all!
+ Not all can be seen as positive so remember ones you hate and avoid them. For instance, there’s a snake item that causes your tears to fire in a wavy pattern, which is not helpful to me. In fact, it usually causes more harm than good so I don’t even bother picking it up now.
+ Take a good look at them before you pick them up. A lot of items can seem somewhat similar but have vastly different effects. It’ll also help you identify it if you come across it in the future.
+ When you pick one up, pay close attention to the bottom right corner of the screen. For a few seconds the game will show a description of that particular item’s effects.
COMPANIONS > These little guys and gals are neat. Once they join your ranks, they’ll float around or behind you, helping you out in various ways. Some will fire their own bullets or periodically gift you items. Others can act as 1-ups or block incoming bullets. Friends are cool.
+ Since they don’t technically take up an inventory slot, don’t be afraid to pick them up. I’ve yet to find one that I didn’t like, though one of them does like to steal money off the floor before I get to it. It’s cool though because he’ll poop out helpful items afterwards so we’re bros.
RECHARGEABLE ITEMS > These are items that you carry in the Space Bar portion of your inventory. They have to recharge after each use but can be used indefinitely. You can only carry one of them at a time so they’ll have to be swapped out if you want to carry something new.
+ Experiment! Like Modifiers and Companions, these come in all sorts of varieties so it’s hard to summarize their individual effects without going into detail on each item. They can be anything from books to body parts to decoys. Some are serve as special attack moves and others can teleport you at random. Since the game won’t always spell it out for you, pick it up and try it out!
+ They’ll recharge a some of their meter each time you clear a room of enemies. Some recharge faster than others so just keep an eye on the bar next to the item. When it reaches the top, you can use it again.
+ Don’t get too attached. Your currently equipped item and the new one on the pedestal can be swapped so don’t worry about taking something new for a spin. If it sucks, come back to the room and swap it back. Easy.
+ Avoid redundant effects. If your character already has wings, you probably don’t need an item that grants temporary flight. If you have a ton of bombs, you probably don’t need an item that can spawn one every so often. This seems obvious but I figured it was worth mentioning.
TRINKETS (rare)> These are items with passive abilities that can be swapped out, kind of like Rechargeable Items. You can only carry one at a time, with the exception of a Special Item which allows you to carry two. Your currently equipped Trinket is displayed in the upper left corner of the game screen. They have a wide variety of effects and are not explained by the game at all.
+ I... don’t have a lot of help for you here. Some of these are okay but others seem useless. I’ve found a couple that don’t even activate unless you have ½ of a heart of health! A couple examples of ones that I like: the Flat Penny (causes extra keys to spawn when you pick up money) and the Pinky Eye (some of your tears will be poisonous).
* STANDARD ROOMS * ___________________________________________________________________________________
COMMON ROOMS > These make up the majority of all floors. The room you start in is always empty but other common rooms will be a mix of enemies, rocks, shit, fire, spikes, pits and just about anything else. Items that are unreachable or unneeded at the time will remain there to be retrieved later if you wish.
+ If you enter a room with enemies in it, all doors will close and remain locked until every enemy on the screen has been killed. Once cleared, the doors will open and you might be rewarded with a small item or chest in the center of the room.
+ Shoot the shit! Seriously though, be sure to destroy all poop piles and put out all fires when possible. Every once in awhile you’ll be rewarded with coins or hearts -- always a lovely surprise.
SELF-SACRIFICE ROOMS > It’s a bloody room with a single set of spikes in the middle. If you purposefully hurt yourself on the spikes enough, you might be rewarded with items. It’s like a horrible slot machine that you play using hearts and should only be used under rare conditions. If there are spare hearts lying around the map, for instance, take it for a spin and see what happens.
+ Some Special Items can grant temporary invincibility which, if used in tandem with the spikes, can trick the room into granting you items even though you haven't lost any health! (thanks PhilK3nS3bb3n!)
TREASURE ROOMS > You should get excited when you see this golden door! Inside lies an upgrade item that will either stack with your current abilities or be a rechargable item you can use over and over. Almost always worth the price of admission, one key.
+ As I stressed earlier, always keep a spare key around for these rooms. Just do it!
SHOPS > Signified by a coin on the Map, the doors are brown with a keyhole in the center. Usually a shopkeeper will have 3-5 items for sale -- if you touch an item you can afford, you’ll buy it.
+ As a general rule, I usually avoid the Shop on the first floor. It’s rarely worth the key seeing as I typically haven’t found much money yet.
+ Sometimes instead of a Shop you’ll be forced to fight the mini-boss Greed. It’s not a super hard fight but it can catch you off guard so beware.
SECRET ROOMS > Every single floor has at least one secret room though it’s location is not immediately visible on your Map. Inside are usually coins, but every so often you can find a special item or even a mini boss. Since their locations are random (just like everything else), finding them can be tricky.
+ To open their “door”, place a bomb in the center of the wall adjacent to their location. If placed correctly, an opening will appear. Enter and collect what’s inside but remember that the door will disappear when you leave. If you need to re-enter, you’ll need to blow the door open again.
+ These can be found through random accidents but may also be searched for if you have enough bombs to fund your research. A common place for the Secret Room to reside is an empty space on the map surrounded on 3 sides by rooms. These can be easier to spot early on, when the maps are smaller but may not be worth the effort late in the game. (thanks Wrenchfarm!)
+ There are a number of Special Items (like the Joker playing card) that can help you locate Secret Rooms. Very helpful.
+ If you're unfortunate enough to come across Super Greed hiding inside a Secret Room, just run out! Though most doors lock you in during a fight, the hole in the wall stays open and provides a nice little "oh shit" escape hatch. (thanks Wrenchfarm!)
BOSS ROOMS > The exit of each floor is guarded by a random boss. It should be pretty clear which door leads to the Boss Room due to the demonic skull that resides above the doorway. Since the dungeon layouts are random, it’s not uncommon to stumble upon the boss room door before you’re finished exploring the full level. It’s your choice when you want to take them on so don’t go through that door until you’re ready for a fight.
+ Since the bosses are random, your strategy will differ for each one. Figuring out the weakness and patterns for each one will take time. Even after 100+ hours, I’m still seeing variations and completely unique bosses from time to time.
+ As I said earlier, it’s your choice when you choose to take the boss on. On rare occasion I’ll stumble across the Boss Room early and, if I’m in good shape, take them on right then and there. After the fight, I’ll collect the Special Item and use it to help me clear out the rest of the rooms. But do whatever you’re comfortable with.
* SPECIAL ROOMS * ___________________________________________________________________________________
LIBRARIES > The door looks similar to a Shop but if you look at the Map, you’ll notice the icon is a book instead of a coin. Inside you’ll find two books (random, of course) free for the taking. Unfortunately, you can only carry one at a time so choose wisely.
+ Books are placed in the Space Bar location of your inventory which means they can be reused indefinitely as long as you allow them to recharge. Since only one Space Bar item can be held at a time, if you already have something cool, you’ll have to decide which you’d rather have. Decisions, decisions.
+ Some books cause a soul heart or tarot card to spawn when activated. These are worth picking up and using once, even if you don’t plan on carrying it around with you. Take what you can get.
ARCADES > These should be easy to spot because there’s a huge neon sign above the door flashing the word “ARCADE”. Unlike most locked doors, this one is unlocked with a penny instead of a key. Once inside, there will be three games you can play.
+ The Slot Machine on the left is one cent per play and can reward you with more money, hearts, bombs, keys or sometimes pills. When you’re done using its services, blow it up with a bomb. You will almost always get something from inside.
+ The Blood Bank on the right is basically a hearts-for-cash ATM. It's often a good idea to use it if you have a bunch of spare hearts lying around. If you used enough times, it'll explode and grant you a special item! The IV Bag is kind of worthless, but if you're lucky you'll find a Blood Bag which increases your health and refills four hearts. Since the average amount of hearts required to make the Blood Bank explode is four, your hearts should be completely restored. This strategy isn't recommended once you progress past the Womb stage as it requires more health per each use. (thanks bbain!)
+ The dude in the middle wants to play a shell game with you. If you pay him a penny, he’ll reveal an item under a skull, cover it and proceed to quickly mix it up with two other skulls. When he stops you can take a guess at which skull hides the item. Guess correctly, you get the item. Guess wrong, a buzzer will sound and a fly will spawn. You can blow this guy up too if you’re a dick.
CHALLENGE ROOMS > These rooms are marked by two crossed swords above the door, or a bloody sword icon if you’re looking at the Map. Inside is usually a chest containing some random item(s). However, if you choose to open it, the door will slam shut behind you and you’ll be forced to battle 3 waves of enemies. If you’re feeling ballsy, go for it.
+ You can only enter regular Challenge Rooms if you’re at full health. Their doors remain locked otherwise.
BOSS CHALLENGE ROOMS > Similar to the regular Challenge Rooms but these have a Special Item inside, but BEWARE -- if you pick it up you’ll have to fight two bosses in a row! Yep. Oh, and you can only enter if you have a single heart. Hmmm, nope. Not for me.
+ If you can enter, you’ll see what item is up for grabs before you delve into the actual challenge. It may be worth the risk if the item is really, really good.
DEVIL ROOMS > After defeating a boss, a second door will sometimes appear with a demon head over the doorway. Inside you will be given the choice to sacrifice permanent hearts in return for various curses. A lot of these Special Items are fairly tempting but it’s often hard to part with 1-3 full hearts. Choose wisely.
+ Every so often you’ll have to fight a demonic boss instead. If defeated you’ll be rewarded with a lump of coal. Merry Christmas!
ANGEL ROOMS (rare)> Same as Devil Rooms, these will sometimes appear after a successful boss fight. Inside you’ll find any one of a few angelic items. Better yet, you won’t have to sacrifice any life in order to gain their heavenly abilities. Score!
+ Uhhh, if you're in it, you're lucky! Pro tips...
* THANKS FOR READING * ___________________________________________________________________________________
Hoooooooooly shit that took a long time. Of course it’s only after writing this monstrosity that I realize you could have easily just looked at the Wiki or something else online, albeit without my literary touch. Regardless, it’s been done and it was fun to write. I hope this helps to clear up some questions a few of you may have. I may do a combat strategy and basic enemy guide if you guys feel it's necessary. Of course if any veterans out there have any tips or suggestions that I failed to include, please let me know in the comments. That goes for mistakes too!