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9:11 PM on 01.26.2015  

The Play it/Avoid it Report - 003 // Mario Kart 8, Sunset Overdrive, and more

What's going on, Destructoid Cbloggers? Are you getting tired of me resurrecting this feature once a year? Tough shit! I played a few games that I want to talk about and I am going to use this platform to do so. If you've never seen this series before, check out the bottom of my sidebar for a list of past issues.

So I took the plunge and bought an Xbox One over the holiday season. Couldn't pass up a deal that came with an extra controller and year of Xbox Live for $350. Overall, I like it a lot more than I thought I would. Besides better graphics and all that jazz, some of the new features are really appealing. Being able to stream directly from the console is super cool, and being able to 'snap' stuff like achievements to the side is really handy. I love how quickly the system loads up, and the fact that it remembers exactly where I was in game when I powered down last. Also, did you know that every achievement you earn is basically a free wallpaper? Pretty slick.

Okay, enough of that. On to the good stuff. Here's what I've been playing lately.

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It should come as no surprise to anyone who follows me on Twitter or listens to my podcast, Secret Moon Base, but I friggin' love The Binding of Isaac like no other. I logged over 500 hours into the original and absolutely could not wait to get my hands on this sequel/remake. It's the sort of thing that I never ever thought would happen but I'm so very pleased to see it become a reality. The original game was brilliant in a lot of ways, but was sadly plagued with a shit-ass framerate and a somewhat rushed, hand-drawn art style. Thankfully, both of those things are much improved in Rebirth. I've heard of some slight issues on Vita, but as far as the Mac/PC version is concerned, the framerate is solid as Iraq. The new pixelated art style seems to be a point of contention for a lot of people, but you'll hear no such complaints from me.

As I mentioned above, this game sits somewhere between 'sequel' and 'remake'. Every item, enemy, character and boss is back, although a lot of them have been shifted around and altered. Some notoriously shitty items (like Lemon Mishap) are less shitty now, and others have been changed from trinkets to passive items, or from pick ups to trinkets, etc. For instance, you no longer have to sacrifice your trinket spot for the Polaroid (woo!) and the fucking Wiggle Worm is a trinket now rather than a permanent passive (thank god). Also, you can drop unwanted trinkets, pills and cards now! Am I dreaming? Another huge change is the store, which can be upgraded via the donation machine in the back. This is one of the few things that carries over to each run, and since some of the new unlockable shop items are absolutely fantastic, you'll want to get on this sooner than later.

One thing I'm not in love with, however, is the new soundtrack. For reasons I do not know, the entire original Danny B score was scrapped in favor of a more ambient one by Ridiculon. Now, it's not the worst thing in the world but, overall, it's just too low-key and uninteresting in comparison. But I won't let that drag me down. This game is too fucking fun to get caught up on inconsequential shit like that. You want to hear something crazy? There's already an expansion in the works which promises to include even more items, enemies, bosses, challenges, playable characters and stages. Whew, that's a relief because if this game was in need of anything, it's more content. Jesus H. Christ.

 

Play it if you enjoy totally normal activities like finding money in poop and crying on stuff to death.

Avoid it if you prefer to spend your free time laughing and interacting with friends and loved ones in this miracle we call life.

 

Let's be honest. You already know if you like Mario Kart or not. It's one of the few game series that's been around long enough and sustained a decent level of popularity throughout the years that, even if you aren't a fan, you've played it. Don't lie. You've accidentally hit a banana peel and watched in horror as numerous members of the Mushroom Kingdom laugh in your face as they zoom past you. You've enjoyed the warm comfort first place for nearly three laps only to get demolished by the blue shell mere inches from the finish line. You've hit yourself with a green shell. We've all been there. When it comes to Mario Kart, what separates the lovers from the haters is the ability to roll with the punches (or fireballs or whatever). You have to accept that you will get horribly fucked over at some point, but know that you will have the opportunity to crush someone else's dreams in the near future. It's the constant ebb and flow of emotion that makes Mario Kart "fun". You are never safe.

So anyway, there's a new Mario Kart for Wii U and it is exactly what you'd expect: amazing. Or terrible, depending on your feelings towards the series. There are 32 unique tracks. Some brand new, others returning favorites that have been tweaked or improved. There are a couple new items, like the boomerang and fire flower. The biggest change to MK8 are the addition of anti-gravity sections. Some tracks will twist upside down or let you ride on the walls. Strangely enough, it's integrated in such a way that feels totally natural. One second you'll be underwater, then pop out on dry land, bust a hard left and take an anti-grav shortcut, then blast off a huge ramp and glide down to the track. It's incredibly satisfying, not to mention drop-dead gorgeous. This is easy one of the most visually pleasing games I have ever played, no joke. The replay feature even lets you slow down the action so you can cower in fear as Luigi stares into the depths of your soul as he overtakes your position.

I went ahead and snagged the DLC bundle too, which is split into two separate paks. Both come with three extra characters, 8 tracks and a few new vehicles to customize. Some of these DLC tracks expand beyond the confines of the Mario universe and let you race around in other classic Nintendo worlds, such as F-Zero, The Legend of Zelda and Excitebike. All in all, I was very impressed. And since it was priced so reasonably (the bundle is only $11.99), I basically had no choice. I mean, did you friggin' see the Epona motorcycle? I'm not ashamed to admit that the screenshots alone aroused me sexually. If I were to have a single complaint, it would be that the character selection is seriously lacking in the obscure goon department. Where is Dry Bones? Petey Piranha? King Boo? Does anyone seriously use Toadette??

 

Play it if you just can't get enough of this crazy, genre-defying series.

Avoid it if you have definitely had enough of this stupid, dumb-ass series.

 

 

Pssst. Hey you, gamer. Over here. Do you like stabbing things in the body, neck and face? Well, I have some very very good news for you. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor lets you stab an infinite hoard of filthy orcs in the body, neck and face non-stop for around 15-20 hours. How does that sound? "Can I decapitate them in slow motion?" Fuck yes you can. Bathe in steaming hot Orc blood as the recently emancipated heads of your victims fly gracefully through the air. "But sometimes I like to shoot arrows at them, too," you say. Fret not! Draw your bow and fire a barrage of arrows into the chest cavities and eye sockets of disgusting Orc warchiefs to your heart's content. They practically beg for it! "But sometimes I like to peacefully wander the countryside and pick flowers and stuff." Hmm, okay... I guess you can do that too, if you want. There is a variety of plant life that you can, err, harvest vigorously. Uhh...look out, plants! No one likes you!

Full disclosure: I'm the gamer in that scenario. I love silly, over-the-top violence, but I also appreciate having something to do that's not brutally murdering life-forms. Shadow of Mordor scratches both itches. After some tutortial nonsense, the game basically just drops you into a huge section of Mordor and lets you do what you want. There is a story, sure. Something about revenge, I guess. I found it completely uninteresting, but if you're into The Lord of the Rings you'd probably dig it. The naked goblin dude is in there for a bit and says "my precious" a lot. You guys are into that shit, right? There's also a ghost elf that pops out of your body from time to time who tells you where to go, which is helpful. I was too busy slaughtering Orc warchiefs to care, though I fear I may have gone a little overboard.

The big thing in Shadow of Mordor that everyone likes to bring up is the Nemesis system. Though I won't go so far as to call it revolutionary, it was pretty fucking cool. I sort of got addicted to discovering their fears and weakness by interrogating lower thugs and, later in the game, sending them death threats to increase their power and get better rune drops. I do have a bit of advice, though - don't do what I did and nearly max all of your skills before moving on to the second area. There are certain skills unlocked by playing story missions that are really interesting and change up even basic encounters in a major way. Some even involve *gasp* not indescriminately killing everything that crosses your path. I know, I was shocked, too! Oh yeah, the combat is lifted from the Batman: Arkham games and you can climb around like in Assassin's Creed. Good stuff.

 

Play it if you stopped reading after the first paragraph and rushed out to your local video game retailer.

Avoid it if you kind of sympathize with the Orcs and even maybe wish you were one of Sauron's minions sometimes.

 

Before I popped the disc in, I guess I was in the dark as to what kind of game Sunset Overdrive actually was. I saw the previews and thought to myself "Yeah yeah, another open-world shooter. Been there, done that." But I was wrong as hell. In actuality, I had never been here, and I had never done this. At least, not all in one game, and it certainly never felt this damn good. Sunset Overdrive does what a lot of modern games inevitably do; borrows heavily from other successful franchises. Imagine a game like Crackdown, with its massive city full of collectibles and power ups, then multiply that by the grinding and combo system from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Now add Rock Band's extensive character creator and the crazy weapons from Ratchet & Clank and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Long story short, it's completely bonkers and an absolute fucking blast from beginning to end.

Once I got a hang of the intuitive combo system, traversing around the city just clicked. It's sort of like {spoiler} when Neo realized he was the One and saw the Matrix for the first time {/spoiler}. The city transformed before my eyes. Cars, awnings and vents became launch pads. Power lines, ledges and rooftops became grindable surfaces. Walls became sidewalks. I never had to touch the ground. I would actually get excited when a mission would tell me I had to go to the other side of the city. It's almost hard to believe but I can count the number of times I used the quick travel feature on one finger, and that was an accident. Sometimes my character would say "I'm really glad I can quick travel!" and I'd be like "Shut your goddamn mouth." There are some who might feel like there are too many things to collect in this game, but I am not one of those people.

Besides flipping and flying around with ease, there's also a lot to shoot at in Sunset Overdrive. There are three factions of enemies - Scabs (humans), the OD (infected), and Fizzco Robots (yep, robots) - and each are weak to specific types weapons, which forces you to stay on your toes and swap often. This is great because there are a ton of weapons to choose from, and they can all be customized and leveled up. My aresenal changed all the time, save for a few favorites. The Roman Candle was just too freaking good! I should also mention that the character creator was a breath of fresh air. You are free to change your sex and body type whenever you want, and all clothing, hairstyles, and accesories work regardless. You can be a bearded lady. You can be a delicate beefcake. You can be a well-dressed, emo-gothic assassin with sugar skull face paint and an eye patch like me. Go nuts.

 

Play it if you've been waiting your whole life for a video game that ignores all the boring realistic bullshit and takes full advantage of the medium.

Avoid it if you really, really don't want to buy an Xbox One no matter how freaking cool this is.

 

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That's it, guys. Hope you enjoyed the glorious return of the Play it/Avoid it Report! The Cblog editor doesn't spell check (as far as I could tell) so just ignore any glaring spelling mistakes and I'll do my best to write another one before 2016. See ya next time.

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4:26 PM on 10.24.2014  

I don't blame you for forgetting about the SECRET MOON BASE podcast. (Here's a new episode!)

 

 

Welcome back, fan of Secret Moon Base! Yes....it's been almost a year since our last episode. Yes, we are very sorry. Yes, we'll literally do anything we can to make it up to you. Hopefully that thing involves us recording our voices for 2 hours and providing you with a free digital copy via iTunes or our [url=http://www.secretmoonbase.net]website[/url], because that's what I'm offering you today.

And hey, is this the first time you're hearing of [url=http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Secret%20Moon%20Base]Secret Moon Base[/url]? Neato. We are a podcast that focuses (mostly) on video games, food, sex(?), humor and the power of friendship. The cast includes myself, [url=http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/knutaf]knutaf[/url], [url=http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Occams]Occams[/url] and [url=http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Mr%20Andy%20Dixon]Mr Andy Dixon[/url]! We are all over 30 years old, which basically means we have over 100 years of video game playing experience combined! Not impressed? That's understandable! We actually met here on Destructoid years ago and have been friends ever since.

This episode is a reunion of sorts but we quickly get back in the swing of things. Occams has some strong words for Destiny's loot system, I talk about some issues I had with Batman Arkham Origins, knutaf confronts the P.T. demo head on, and Andy shares his thoughts on playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel way before the average gamer. On top of that, we chat a bit about PS4 vs Xbone (Wii U Master Race!) and talk about our favorite animals. Rivetting stuff!

#036 - Tina Turner Monkey

You can stream the episode from the link above, or subscribe to us on iTunes and take us with you!

We are going to try and record an episode once a month, so stay tuned for more SMB goodness in the near future. If you'd like to ask us questions or tell us what you really think, you can hit us up on Twitter @theSMBpodcast. See you guys next episode!

(FYI: knutaf's sandwich blog is real. For real.)

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4:19 PM on 09.29.2014  

ATTENTION ALL SMASH BROTHERS: I CALL DIBS ON BOWSER JR.!

Listen up, nerds. I know you're all clamoring to get your hands on this very popular character, but back off. He's mine. I am officially calling dibs on the Prince of Darkness himself, Bowser Jr.! Though there is absolutely no reason I should have to explain myself, I will, if only to pad out the word count of this blog.

 

CHECK OUT HIS RIDE

[img]http://www.destructoid.com//ul/user/5/56866-281852-BowserJrclowncarjpg-620x.jpg[/img]

Look, this thing is basically the Swiss army knife of weaponized hovering clown vehicles. It has drill hands, saw blades, a freaking cannon and can deploy explosive robots! And the organizers of the Smash Bros tournament let him bring it with him! Hahahaha! He's basically cheating! That's a classic Bowser Jr. move, right there.

 

HIS DAD CAN BEAT UP YOUR DAD

[img]http://www.destructoid.com//ul/user/5/56866-281852-kingbowserjpg-620x.jpg[/img]

Just look at that magnificent bastard. Shit, I wish he was my dad. I'd get to live in a sweet castle. We'd roll around in our airship "kidnapping" pretty ladies and blowing Mario's shit up. Coins out the ass. What a life. Bowser Jr.'s a lucky kid.

 

HE'S EIGHT CHARACTERS IN ONE

[img]http://www.destructoid.com//ul/user/5/56866-281852-Koopalingsjpg-620x.jpg[/img]

By calling dibs on Bowser Jr., I'm essentially calling dibs on EIGHT different characters. That's Bowser Jr., Iggy, Larry, Lemmy, Ludwig, Morton, Roy aaaaand Wendy. Man, the look on your face is priceless. While you guys were all fighting over Shulk and Jigglypuff, I went and pulled the oldest trick in the book!

 

HE'S A FUCKING TURTLE

[img]http://www.destructoid.com//ul/user/5/56866-281852-bowserjrchargingpng-620x.jpg[/img]

Boom. This whole time you though he was a koopa, didn't you? Yeah, well, it's pretty clear you haven't been paying attention at all. I wish I didn't have to play the race card but it is what it is. He's a turtle. I'm a turtle. Turtles are amazing. Get fucked.

 

Well, that about sums it up! I feel like I should apologize for the whole "get fucked" thing. It just sounded good at the time. Anyway, see ya on the Battlefield, suckers!!

 

[img]http://www.destructoid.com//ul/user/5/56866-281852-bowserandkidsjpg-620x.jpg[/img] 

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3:57 PM on 03.09.2014  

The Play it/Avoid it Report - 002 // Wind Waker HD, GTA V and more

Hello, Destructoid. Believe it or not, The Play it/Avoid it Report is back after an extended hiatus. I'm going to skip my traditional intro and dive right in. Let's do this.

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>> On paper, Dishonored may not seem like an entirely new concept.  It’s a revenge tale about a bodyguard-turned-assassin (yep) who must rescue a kidnapped princess (sounds familiar) while taking down a cast of evil tyrants (been there) by sneaking across rooftops (uh huh) and stabbing them in the neck (totally saw that coming).  What sets it apart and gives it a unique charm, however, is the decaying city of Dunwall.  Its streets are wrought with plague infested rats, an oppressive police force and scheming gangsters lurking in the shadows.  Hidden safely behind walls of light (bug zappers for poor people) lie the wealthiest of Dunwall’s inhabitants.  Rich off of whale oil and drunk with corruption, these socialites get dressed up and throw extravagant parties in their mansions to keep their minds off the horrors that exist outside.  As for the middle class, well, there is no middle class.

Though not technically an open world game, Dishonored does set you loose in large, interesting environments where you’re free to explore and traverse as you see fit.  Ledges, rooftops, balconies, windows, ducts and poorly lit corners are everywhere, and a teleportation ability you acquire early in the game (called Blink) gives you the power to jump between safe points without being detected.  For someone who enjoys sneaking, it’s an empowering feeling.  You’ll never be stuck searching for a ladder again.  If you’re not so sneaky, you’ve got plenty of more violent options too.  On top of a some fairly standard weapons and gadgets, you can summon a bunch of bloodthirsty rats, blast people off ledges with wind and even freeze time so you can carefully line up the perfect headshot.  You’re basically a god.

The first handful of missions in Dishonored are a treat.  You’re often informed of a terrible person and then dropped off in their backyard with nothing more than a waypoint and your equipment.  Whether you choose to kill them or find a much more devious way of removing them from power is up to you.  Though it is tempting to sink your knife blade into their eye the moment you see them, the non-lethal options are immensely satisfying and often far worse a fate than simply dying.  Unfortunately, the story (and subsequent gameplay) takes an uninspired turn and the game ends with kind of a fart.  That being said, I enjoyed this game enough to play it to completion twice (back to back) which, for me, is very rare.

PLAY IT if you love games that encourage experimentation and respect you enough to let you make mistakes.

AVOID IT if hearing the screams of someone being eaten alive by a pack of diseased rats might possibly haunt your dreams for all eternity.

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>> This sequel to Donkey Kong Country Returns brings back the Kong family to battle a horde of vikings who have used a magical ice dragon to freeze Donkey Kong Island and steal all their bananas, I think. I have no idea why a bunch of owls, walruses and penguins are interested in large amounts of fruit but, like any Nintendo platformer, the story doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Tropical Freeze takes everything that was great about its predecessor (imaginative level design, interesting enemies and satisfying platforming) and kicks it up a notch. With no more motion controls to sour the experience, and no GamePad functionality shoehorned in, Tropical Freeze is pure, unadulterated platforming bliss.

This time around, Dixie and Cranky join the cast of playable characters and each have their own unique abilities. Dixie retains her floating ability from Donkey Kong Country 2, while Cranky can bounce on his cane (à la Duck Tales) to negate spike damage. Though their assistance is never necessary for completing a level, it does effectively double DK’s health and make certain challenges and secret areas much easier to reach. Swimming is also brought back, but vastly improved. DK and his buds glide through the water with a grace that would have been impossible to express on the SNES hardware. It’s little details like the way DK naturally twists through the water that make this game truly stunning to see in motion. And the music...oh god, the music. David Wise has completely outdone himself once again.

Speaking of details, Tropical Freeze is bursting with them. From the burning fields of an African savanna to a bustling juice factory full of dangerous machinery, each and every level feels totally fresh and exciting. And new concepts are thrown at the player constantly. In one stage, I went on a crazy minecart ride through a lumber mill which became a log flume mid-way through, then seamlessly transitioned back to rails. Another had me riding Rambi through an active tornado while avoiding lighting strikes and flying debris. On top of that, I found the boss fights to actually be challenging, which surprised me. I couldn’t stop playing this until I had collected every single “KONG” letter and puzzle piece, and now that I’ve unlocked Hard Mode, I can’t wait to jump back in.

PLAY IT if you consider yourself a fan of difficult 2D platformers -- it literally doesn’t get any better than this.

AVOID IT if it bothers you that the only non-pantless member of the DK family wears denim cutoffs.

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>> I can already tell this is going to be more negative than positive, but stick with me. Grand Theft Auto is a hugely popular franchise, made by a company who has a ridiculous amount of talent. In the eyes of most gamers, they can do no wrong. After all, what other game lets you steal cool cars, do drugs, bang hookers, run people over, rob banks, skydive, get tattoos, punch everyone, play a round of golf, get drunk, cross-dress and play the stock market? With such a giant world and so many things to do, what’s not to love? Well, for starters, it’s pretty boring.

GTA V tries something new by letting you play three different protagonists. There's a crazy one, a cool one and a depressed one. They each have a different special ability and have their own story arcs, but to be honest, the story is uneventful, packed with pointless filler missions and ends on a real low note. A huge disappointment when compared to Red Dead Redemption or even Max Payne 3. The most touted feature -- switching between characters mid-mission -- is not only used sparingly (only a handful involve all three characters working together) but implemented in a way that doesn't allow you to experiment at all. Every mission feels very scripted, and if you don't switch to the right character at the right time, you'll typically fail and have to start over from the last checkpoint. In typical GTA fashion, most (if not all) of the supporting characters are horrible stereotypes or wacky parodies. Maybe I'm just getting older but they're not nearly as funny as they think they are and it's all starting to feel really stale. Like I said, they can do better.

My gripes with the campaign aside, there is fun to be had. The driving feels really tight and satisfying. The world itself is incredibly large, gorgeous and feels very real. There are distinct locales and enough square footage to really keep you entertained for a long time. One feature I really appreciate is the ability to actually hide from the police. Once you break their line of sight, you can hide in bushes or in alleys until your wanted level fades (which takes a weirdly long time). I tried the multiplayer once but was immediately kicked from the game. After all the negative things I read about lost character saves and questionable pricing of online items, I never bothered going back to it. Although the gun play is an improvement over the previous versions of the game, it still lags far, far behind other games in the genre. Say it with me now: They can do better.

PLAY IT if you'll kill or steal anything a game tells you to as long as they slap a waypoint on the mini map, put a gun in your hand and promise you a monetary award.

AVOID IT if you're tired of playing better-looking versions of creatively bankrupt game franchises.

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>> I’ve made my feelings of the original Wind Waker no secret; it’s a brilliant game. Not only is it undoubtedly my favorite Zelda, but one of my favorite games of all time. So it should come as no surprise that when Nintendo announced it was getting an HD remake for the Wii U, I jumped for joy. I already knew the game would look absolutely stunning in HD, but the fact that Nintendo was going the extra step to fix some of the game’s faults made me even more excited. The end result doesn’t feel like a re-release of a decade old game; it’s a polished, tighter version of a near-perfect game that serves as a love letter to fans of the original, as well as a great entry point for those who never got the chance to play it the first time around.

The graphics in Wind Waker have aged incredibly well. The unique cel shaded look and Pixar-like animations translated beautifully to HD. Words like “sharp” and “crisp” don’t do it justice at all; it looks alive. Fabric flaps in the wind, colors burst off the screen and the improved lighting engine made my heart swell. But there are many other improvements beyond the cosmetic overhaul. MiiVerse (the social aspect of the Wii U) is integrated into the game in the form of Tingle Bottles. While traversing the oceanic world, you’ll come across these glowing green bottles drifting in the water and washed up on shores which contain messages from others players. These can be anything from written requests for assistance with puzzles to humorous selfies of Link in interesting situations. Their inclusion breaks up the seclusion of this single player game, and gives veterans an opportunity to help struggling players. I loved it.

The world in Wind Waker is quite large, but since most of that area is covered in water, sailing is your primary means of transportation. Personally, I loved feeling the mix of curiosity and anticipation when I saw uncharted islands appear on the horizon, but a lot of players complained that the sailing became tedious over extended periods of time. Thankfully, Nintendo addressed this issue by introducing the Swift Sail, an item that doubles the boat's speed as well as removes the need to play a repetitive song to change the direction of the wind. It’s an intuitive solution to one of the game’s only nagging problems. Well done, Nintendo.

PLAY IT if you cherish games that truly capture the feeling of exploration and discovery.

AVOID IT if you prefer the type of sailing that involves excessive amounts of pillaging, questionable prosthetics and scurvey-induced diarrhea.

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>> Games like Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac have already shown me how much roguelike elements can breath new life into well-worn concepts, so when I heard the name Rogue Legacy, I knew I was in for a treat. In spirit, Rogue Legacy is like Castlevania. Players choose from a pool of playable characters with different classes, spells and genetic quirks, and must traverse a dungeon full of evil knights, wizards and undead horrors in their quest for glory. Not only is the dungeon layout completely different every time you embark on a new quest, but things like items and enemies are randomized as well, meaning you never quite know what will be behind the next door. It’s an exciting but sometimes brutal experience that encourages experimentation and vigilance.

Death is very common in Rogue Legacy, especially when you’re first starting out, but the upgrade system in the game ensures that no run is a total loss. Any gold you collect is passed down to your next of kin and can be used to purchase skill upgrades (which affect all future characters), better classes, and even new equipment. Slowly but surely, you’ll increase your players health, magic and attack power, which increases your chance of survival, which lets you collect more gold, which of course allows you to purchase more upgrades. It’s a pretty satisfying gameplay loop that cuts down on a lot of the frustrations of permadeath, but it’s not without some problems of it’s own. These become less of an issue the longer you play, but early on it can feel like you’re taking baby steps towards an unreachable goal.

There were a few other niggling issues that became increasingly more annoying the longer I played. Being forced to re-equip every single new character with armor and runes to suit their class before each run was a chore. I would have loved the option to save a loadout for each class. I also think they could have added more game-changing genetic quirks to the mix. Baldness and IBS are funny to see the first time around, but since they don’t have any real affect on gameplay, they quickly become uninteresting. And since there’s a fairly small pool of quirks to begin with, they show up pretty frequently. I’m having a lot of fun with Rogue Legacy (currently playing NG++++++++) but I think I’m more excited about how much further they could take this concept with a sequel.

PLAY IT if you’re looking for something to satisfy your hunger for roguelikes while you wait for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth to drop and make all your dreams come true.

AVOID IT if you don’t have the patience for games that force you to fail repeatedly before they get “fun”.

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Thanks for reading, guys. I wish I had the patience to write a better outro but struggling with the Dtoid blog editor has nearly ruined my weekend. See ya next time!   read


10:04 PM on 01.28.2014  

My Top 10 Most Wanted Characters for the New Super Smash Bros.!

I freaking love Super Smash Bros. It's one of my favorite fighting game series of all time, but as fun as the games are, the anticipation leading up to each new release is almost just as fun! The speculation! The suspense! The horror! Each new Super Smash Bros. title has a more diverse and interesting cast that guessing who will be announced next is almost a game in and of itself!

Now, of course, there are the more likely picks (Pac-Man) and obvious fan-favorites (Ridley) but since this is my blog, I can be as ridiculous as I want. So completely ignoring logic, rational thought, your opinions and licensing agreements, I am going to list my top 10 most wanted characters for the new Super Smash Bros. on Wii U and 3DS!

Here they are, listed from "No fucking way" to "You've got to be kidding me". Oh, and if you're dying to see which Tales character I picked, you can stop reading now. Just a heads up! 

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10) WALUIGI



- You know if a list starts off with Waluigi as the most likely participant, it's all downhill from there. Waluigi is Wario's brother, I think. Not really sure. He shows up in Mario themed sports and racing games and not much else. He's lanky (like me), tall (like me) and pretty damn annoying (...) so I think he'd be a great fit for Smash Bros. Although Peach already has some Mario sports themed attacks, I imagine Waluigi would have his share as well. Part of his problem is he doesn't really have his own identity due to his lack of involvement in story based games. Maybe Smash Bros. could do something interesting with him.

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9) PROFESSOR LAYTON



- Professor Layton games are insanely popular on the DS, so adding him to the roster actually doesn't seem all that crazy. The only problem is, he's not really a fighter. However, that hasn't stopped Sakurai in the past. Heck, look at the Villager from Animal Crossing and the Wii Fit Trainer! Of course Luke would have to show up in some form or another and Professor Layton's Final Smash would obviously be some kind of thing related to his giant pointing finger. I'll let Sakurai-san sort out the messy details, I just want to beat people up with puzzles!

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8) TYRANTRUM



- Look, I loved the Pokemon Trainer from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but I also love dedicated stand alone characters like Pikachu. I also love dinosaurs. Slap a beard on a Pokemon that's also a dinosaur and I'm beginning to wonder why this motherfucker isn't in all Nintendo games. See ya later, Mario. There's a new mascot in town. Look at this badass! Real talk; there are enough cool Pokemon to justify their own fighting game, but there's still plenty of room in the Smash Bros. lineup for more 'mon. Or just get rid of Jigglypuff. No one will care.

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7) CHIBI-ROBO



- I fell in love with Chibi-Robo! back on the GameCube. Not so much his game (although it was pretty fun for what it was) but I just think his character design is classic. Also, since he's sort of like Inspector Gadget, he has a ton of potential to be an amazing Smash Bros. character. I think his energy mechanic could probably be implemented in a bunch of interesting ways. Maybe he could slap his plug into the ground to slowing reduce his damage percentage or use it to power up like Samus' charge beam. If anything, I think Chibi-Robo would be a fantastic replacement for R.O.B., who probably isn't coming back.

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6) YOSHIMITSU



- Since Namco Bandai (or is it Bandai Namco?) is lending a hand this time around, it's incredibly likely that a Namco (or Bandai) character will be making an appearance. Although Pac-Man is almost a shoe in due to his classic status, I think Yoshimitsu would be a better choice. Not on is Yoshimitsu a veteran of two popular fighting franchises -- Tekken and SoulCalibur -- but he's a freaking immortal alien samurai. He'd fit right in with the crazy cast and since he is now playable on Wii U in the fantastic Tekken Tag Tournament 2, I think he deserves it. Fuck Pac-Man, especially the version with arms and legs.

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5) MIDNA & WOLF LINK



- Twilight Princess may not have been a perfect game. It may not have been the best Zelda game. But it was responsible for bringing one of the best Zelda characters ever to life - Midna. Sassy. Abusive. Hilarious. Midna was, in my eyes, the perfect sidekick for Link. Everyone's favorite mute elf is much better off when he hangs out with someone who can do the talking for him or things get awkward pretty quick. Obviously, Midna would have to be riding Wolf Link to have the full Twilight Princess effect, but seeing as there are already two separate versions of Link announced for the game, this one is highly unlikely.

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4) HENRY HATSWORTH



- Yeah, I know. Henry who? Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure is one of my favorite DS games and you've probably never heard of it. If that's the case, then you're missing out on a really unique puzzle-platformer hybrid with tight controls and plenty of difficulty. It also features some really imaginative characters and Henry turns into a giant teapot robot sometimes. If that's not a brilliant Final Smash waiting to happen, I don't know what is. TEA TIME! *cue heavy metal music*

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3) EARTHWORM JIM



- Okay, these picks are definitely starting to get into the "not in a million years" realm. Earthworm Jim is one of my favorite video game characters of all time but he hasn't been in a decent game since Earthworm Jim 2 on the SNES/Genesis. That doesn't mean I want to see him any less in Smash Bros., though. His wacky animations and sense of humor would fit right in with the rest of the eclectic crew, not to mention his stage would be amazing. I just really want a new Earthworm Jim game, guys. C'mon. Someone buy the rights and hire me on as a consultant. Let's do this.

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2) KRANG



- Chances are, if a single TMNT character somehow made their way into Smash Bros., it wouldn't be this bizarre-ass villain. It'd probably be Leonardo or some shit. Fuck that. Krang is a badass, and his mech-suit (I don't think it has a proper name) turns him into a giant badass. Just the thought of stomping around in a free-for-all match as one of my favorite TMNT characters makes me absolutely giddy. He was in a couple NES games back in the day, so this is totally viable. I haven't been keeping up with any of the new iterations of the cartoon but there's no way they're as cool as the original. My nostalgia is too strong for them. For the record, I'd also accept Rocksteady or Rat King.

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1) ULTRAMAN



- Not gonna lie, I know basically nothing about Ultraman. When I was compiling this list, I decided to search for Bandai characters to see what came up and apparently this dude had his own Super Nintendo game back in the day. That's good enough for me. Judging from most of the pictures I found, I'm a little concerned that he's always the size of a building but in my mind he's like Ant-Man and can change size. Look, let's be honest, this is never happening but I figured while I was making crazy predictions, I may as well throw a huge curveball at the end. Plus, he's pretty popular in Japan, right? There's a chance....

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That's all I got. Let me know if you liked any of my choices or why I'm an idiot for forgetting some Fire Emblem character I've never heard of. Later.   read


1:16 AM on 05.16.2013  

The Play it/Avoid it Report - 001 // Bioshock Infinite, Sleeping Dogs and more

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.

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>>  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.

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>>  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.

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>>  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.

 AVOID IT because EA made it.

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>>  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.

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>>  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.

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>>  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.

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That's it folks.  This was a long one but it had been a while since the last issue so I guess I was making up for lost time.  Thanks for reading!  See you next time.   read


11:33 PM on 01.02.2013  

My Top 10 Video Games of 2012!

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   read


9:08 PM on 10.02.2012  

The Buy it/Avoid it Report :: Issue #011



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...

Let's do this!

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Super Hexagon
iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

>> 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 IT and a storm of absolute power will crush your frail human form as your soul transcends the very limitations of pain and desire.

AVOID IT as long as you don’t mind trading in all your gamer street cred for an oversized “Wimpy Weinerhead” t-shirt.

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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 IT if 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 IT if 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”.

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Lollipop Chainsaw
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

>> 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 IT if my food analogy flew way over your head and now you’re just wondering what time T.G.I. Friday’s closes.

AVOID IT if the thought of someone constantly interrupting you during sex to remind you how to thrust sounds annoying.

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Mark of the Ninja
Xbox LIVE Arcade, Steam

>> 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 IT if you relish the calm, peaceful moments just before you pounce on some unsuspecting goon and fillet his esophagus like a trout.

AVOID IT if you haven’t enjoyed hiding in dark places since that one time you ducked into the closet while your parents “wrestled”.

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That's all I've got. I messed with some of the formatting this time and made a new header. What do you think? As always, thanks for reading and I'll see you next time!   read


3:41 PM on 09.14.2012  

Corduroy's PAX 2012 Adventure, featuring Handy!



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   read


8:57 PM on 07.26.2012  

The Buy it/Avoid it Report :: Issue #010



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...

Let's do this!

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Spelunky
Xbox LIVE Arcade

>> 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 IT if you are willing to knock a few years off your life expectancy in exchange for massive amounts of virtual wealth.

AVOID IT if 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!

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Max Payne 3
Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC

>> 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 IT if you’d like to experience the most compelling video game portrayal of an alcoholic gun wizard with nothing to lose.

AVOID IT if 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.

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Trials Evolution
Xbox LIVE Arcade

>> 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 IT if the combination of precise controls, high difficulty and leaderboards are enough to make you salivate.

AVOID IT if 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.

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Mario Kart 7
Nintendo 3DS

>> 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 IT if you specifically bought the 3DS because of solid franchises like this.

AVOID IT if 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!

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Escape Goat
Xbox LIVE Indie Games, PC

>> 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 IT whether you’re a puzzle game fan or a serious 2D-platfomer connoisseur.

AVOID IT if you think puzzles are really just brain-demons conjured by Satan himself sent to deceive and pillage your tender, innocent mind.

I wrote this before Escape Goat was released on PC and before I had the pleasure of chatting with the creator on my podcast. I also won a fan art competition, my first ever!

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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!   read


3:09 PM on 07.19.2012  

The Binding of Isaac -- Instruction Manual

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.


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* PLAYABLE CHARACTERS *
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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??? > 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.
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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.
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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.
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* HEARTS *
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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.
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* KEYS *
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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.
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* BOMBS *
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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!)
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* CURRENCY *
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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!)
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* DISPOSABLE ITEMS *
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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!)
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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!
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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.
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* SPECIAL ITEMS *
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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).
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* STANDARD ROOMS *
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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.
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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!)
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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!
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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.
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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!)
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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.
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* SPECIAL ROOMS *
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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...

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* THANKS FOR READING *
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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!   read


1:57 PM on 06.29.2012  

Blood, Shit and Tears: The Binding of Isaac



I need a fucking key. Just one. I’ve been wandering through the horrible labyrinth battling nightmare fetus monsters for an hour so I think I’ve earned it. I’m covered in fecal matter and dried blood and all I really want right now is a single key. It’s a small request, really. I mean, I’ve cleared seven rooms on this floor alone but all that you’ve bestowed upon me is 4 pennies and bomb. Can I melt down this copper and pour it into a key mold? No. Can I rig this bomb to blow the lock of the treasure room door? No. So give me a key. Right now. No, fucker, that’s a heart. I don’t need a heart. I feel like I’m not accurately expressing how badly I would like for you to give me a key right now. Okay, okay, another penny. Ha ha ha. The joke’s on me, I get it. You know I want a key so you won’t give me one, is that how it is? Fuck it, I’ll fight the boss without your help.

It’s been a while, Cblog friends. I haven’t been around much lately and I apologize for that. I had a lot of fun last year with the Buy it/Avoid it Report (a semi-regular collection of mini-reviews) but this year has been very different. I haven’t been as inspired to write but I’ve also been distracted by another project, the Secret Moon Base podcast. Though knutaf, Occam and I have been on a recording hiatus for the last couple of weeks due to stuff, I’ve been having an absolute blast with it - far more than I anticipated. All our guests have been great the feedback so far has been lovely. Once we all get settled, I fully expect to hop back in the saddle and bust out more episodes. /plug

During our break, I have been completely absorbed by The Binding of Isaac, a top-down dungeon crawler rogue-like from Ed McMillen of Super Meat Boy fame. It came out on Steam sometime last year for like $5, which is a fucking steal. I instantly fell in love with it and was obsessed for a couple of weeks but eventually moved on to something else, as we gamers do. When the Wrath of the Lamb content expansion grew closer, I was drawn back into the depths of the basement like a mighty mammoth sinking into a tar pit. Except the tar pit was hours of extremely punishing bliss and the mammoth was me. I’m bad at metaphors.

So what makes it so addicting? Randomization, a key element in rogue-likes. The dungeon layouts, items, enemies and (most) bosses you encounter on each level are completely different every time you play. It keeps things exciting and, more importantly, makes the game nearly infinitely replayable. Over the last month I have put in nearly 50 hours into The Binding of Isaac, perched on the edge of my seat almost the entire time. Even after playing for this long, I still haven’t seen everything. Kind of impressive, if you ask me.

There are hundreds of items to collect and equip, with a lot of their effects stacking on top of one another. This leads to some incredibly powerful combinations, as well as some completely absurd ones. I’ve transformed precious young Isaac into a relentless hell-demon commanding an army of flies and squirting acidic blood from his tear ducts. I’ve morphed him into a ghostly angel capable of firing laser beams from his eyes as he calls down lightning strikes at will. Of course I’ve also evolved into a lumpy, slow cyclops who spits chocolate milk and pees a lot. It’s a new adventure every time and rarely ever boring.

But it is frustrating. Sometimes infuriating. Since nearly everything in the game is random, it can often seem like fate just isn’t on your side. You’ll come across a bunch of locked chests and treasure rooms, but have no keys to open them. You can walk into a room with a unsavory layout and get the shit beaten out of you by a gaggle of low level enemies. Occasionally you’ll be forced to take on a tough boss with little more than a single heart. A lot of times, it’s just not fair.



This brutal, unforgiving experience is compounded by the constant pressure of perma-death. With the exception of a few rare items that grant you a second chance, all deaths lead back to the start screen. One little maggot with a tricky attack pattern can be your demise. A simple misplaced bomb can cause a chain reaction leading to your death. A fly you failed to see buzzing up behind you can sap your last bit of health. Hindsight is 20/20 after a particularly stupid mistake. As you stare blankly at the game over screen, dark thoughts of quitting and playing something else may creep into your mind. But your redemption is only a quick character selection away. Next time will be different because, well, it has to be. As long as you treat each death as a learning experience and push forward, you will get better and you will be rewarded...eventually.

If I’m painting too grim a picture, don’t worry. Feelings of extreme power and moments of triumph are common too, you just have to work for them. It helps to make intelligent use of your limited resources but of course luck has a lot to do with it too. However, with a little experimentation, you may discover that you have more control over this random world than you previously realized.

Take the bomb, for instance. It’s a weapon, sure. You can place it on the ground and damage enemies within its blast radius. It can also be used to blow up rocks that stand in Isaac’s way or destroy slot machines after you’ve had your fun with them. It can open a path to secret rooms if you happen to place it along certain walls. It can even create bridges to platforms that seem inaccessible by carefully aiming the debris of an adjacent rock. Point being, there are many uses for this one item that took me many hours to discover. Techniques that I use frequently now were only clear to me after a series of happy accidents.

Keys are also vital to your survival, they’re just not as versatile. A key is your only ticket into shops and treasure rooms - two of the most common places to upgrade your arsenal. The random nature of the game can often make keys a rare commodity, as I explained in the intro. The game will tempt you with chests and locked barriers, but if you fuck up enough times (like me) you’ll eventually train yourself to always keep at least one spare key in your inventory.

There’s a lot more to talk about (item combinations, enemy strategies, curses, trinkets, etc.) but that may be an entirely different blog. For the time being, just know that I am deeply in love with The Binding of Isaac and I encourage you to try it out if you haven’t yet. It’s definitely not for everyone but if you’re looking for a challenge and enjoy a dark, twisted sense of humor, it’s brilliant.   read







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