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Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider trailer shows off hot grappling hook action

Also: tomb exploding
Sep 21
// Darren Nakamura
Lara Croft probably has some sort of death wish. Mountain climbing can be good exercise and recreation, but I don't think anybody in her right mind would swing from a grappling hook, launch 30 feet, then catch on a vertical r...
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile photo
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Of course Pokemon Shuffle Mobile's leaderboards are hacked

Because why wouldn't they be?
Sep 21
// Darren Nakamura
There are already a lot of reasons why Pokémon Shuffle Mobile is inferior to the previously released 3DS version, like the increase in item prices, the removal of Jewel rewards for beating Mega evolutions, and the...

More Quick Tips: Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Sep 17 // Darren Nakamura
First things first: the time-sensitive stuff If you read nothing else of this guide, this is what you should take away. Enter the code 65607110 under Settings > Code for Lucarionite. This code expires on September 30, 2015. Lucarionite will let you Mega evolve Lucario, which is a huge help throughout the game. I'll explain why in detail later. Your first long-term goal should be to capture Groudon. Groudon is currently part of a special event set to expire on September 25, 2015. Opportunities for both of these are likely to show up in the future, but obtaining them now will be a great help for getting through the early, mid, and late game. Matches The game explains the basics of making matches, but leaves a lot of nuance for the player to discover. Moving a Pokémon on the board almost always involves swapping two Pokémon. On a board with few disruptions, you can frequently make matches on both ends of the swap. Taking the above into account, double-ended matches do not occur simultaneously. The Pokémon being dragged into place matches first, while the one swapped back by default matches second. This can come into play if you want to control how surrounding tiles fall. In general, by swapping from the bottom up, you can increase your chance of getting lucky as the dust settles. When matching a single Pokémon both horizontally and vertically, precedence is given to the larger match (for example, a match of four will clear before a match of three). When the horizontal and vertical matches are equal in size, the horizontal match will take precedence. This can be very important when matching certain Mega evolutions. Abilities Short descriptions of abilities are given, but some could use more explicit explanation. With a few exceptions, abilities are usually activated for only the first Pokémon matched in a single combo. Exceptions include powering up a Mega evolution and activating a Mega ability. These will occur no matter how far down a combo the match occurs. Power of 4 (Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Kangaskhan, and more) will activate every time a match of four is made for the first match of a combo with the corresponding Pokémon. Most other abilities activate some fraction of the time, with bigger matches (fours and fives) increasing the chance the ability will activate. Before playing a round, take the time to familiarize yourself with your Pokémon's abilities. When making a double-ended match, it's better to take a chance on a random ability like Opportunist than waste a first-match-in-the-combo on Block Smash when there are no blocks around. Types The Pokémon Shuffle type chart follows the X/Y type chart. Here are some important notes. Unlike classic Pokémon, Shuffle has players building teams of four specifically to fight a single type at any given time. Instead of taking a team that covers a wide set of types, you want a whole team of Super Effective (double damage) Pokémon for the task at hand. Fighting-type is the only type Super Effective versus Normal-type. This is partially why obtaining Lucarionite for Mega Lucario is so helpful. Thus far, Lucario is the only Fighting-type that can Mega evolve. Ground-type is the only type Super Effective versus Electric-type. This is partially why capturing Groudon early is so helpful. With Groudon, you can build an all-Ground team after Stage 101. Without Groudon, you can't have an all-Ground team until Stage 136. All other types have at least two types that are Super Effective against it, so it is much easier to build an appropriate team. Some levels feature weak Pokémon as a fixture and are easier to complete if those Pokémon are brought along as part of the team. Togekiss is easier to beat with Togetic along. Milotic is basically impossible without bringing Feebas to the party. Don't forget this is an option; several stages use the trick. Mega evolutions Mega evolutions are a big part of Pokémon Shuffle, but strategy is key. Several of the early Mega evolving Pokémon (Audino, Kangaskhan, Lopunny) are Normal-type. They are not Super Effective versus anything. Due to its higher base attack power, Mega Lucario is preferable to the Normal-type Megas unless fighting Poison-, Flying-, Psychic-, Bug-, or Fairy-types. If you hit the Optimize button repeatedly when building a team, it will cycle through different Mega evolving Pokémon. It is up to you to determine which one is actually most appropriate for a given level. In shorter stages (10 moves or less), it is often advantageous to leave out a Mega evolving Pokémon entirely. Since it takes time to Mega evolve, it is generally better to bring a Super Effective regular Pokémon as opposed to a normal damage Mega. Sometimes it can even be better to switch a Super Effective Mega out for a different Super Effective Pokémon with a greater attack power. Mega abilities are not created equal. Mega Gengar is great for stringing together big combos, but terrible for taking out unbreakable blocks. Mega Aerodactyl is great for taking out blocks, but useless in stages without those disruptions. Don't just take what Optimize gives you. Grinding In general, you won't want to grind, but here are some tips for when you should. Usually, the path to greater power is to capture stronger Pokémon. A single Pokémon's power can increase up to 20 points by leveling up to MAX, but base attack power can range from 30 to 90. Capture Pokémon with a base attack power of 60 or above instead of grinding your 40s and 50s. You can reasonably make it up to Mega Glalie (Stage 120) without grinding or using items. If you haven't already, this is a good time to switch to Expert stages to catch some of the upper tier Pokémon. Moltres, Blaziken, and Entei would specifically help against Mega Glalie. Getting S ranks on Main stages unlocks Expert stages. I can be worthwhile to go back to previously completed stages in order to bump the ranking. Experience is awarded in proportion to the number of moves a level contains. Buneary (Stage 21) is the best stage for grinding experience until Ampharos (Stage 130). Snorlax (Stage 183) technically awards the most experience of any main stage, but it is much more difficult to complete than Ampharos. An uncompleted stage still awards experience, but it's less than if the stage were completed. Meowth (Stage 37) can be played repeatedly to grind for coins. You only keep the coins if you beat him, so you have to be able to balance matching coins and attacking, but not attacking too quickly. Spending You can still play Pokémon Shuffle Mobile without spending a dime, but you'll have to be smart about it. Check in every day for 500 coins. Make sure to play the Special stages during the weekends for Meowth's Coin Mania. When making coin matches, a match of three is worth 100, a match of four is worth 300, and a match of five is worth 500. It is more profitable to get one match of four than two matches of three. Patience is the greatest asset in Pokémon Shuffle. You will be tempted to use a Great Ball often, but it is almost always better to save those coins. Even something as low as a 10% capture rate means (on average) ten tries to get it, or five hours of waiting. A single Great Ball on Mobile costs 3500 coins, or seven days of checking in. One thing I keep in mind when going for captures with low percentages is a comparison to a standard six-sided die. If you have a 17% catch power, that's like rolling a 6 on the die. It's not exactly likely, but if you roll the thing enough times you're bound to hit it eventually. The best time to use a Great Ball is when it triggers Super Catch Power on a particularly difficult battle. If you can't consistently beat a stage and you get Super Catch Power, it's probably worth it. Save your coins for the competitive events. These are often the only ways to get certain Mega Stones, and they are only awarded to a fraction of participants. Attack Power+ is an easy way to make sure you're in that group. When you do spend your coins, spend them wisely. Some stages are only difficult because of disruptions. Use a Disruption Delay on these. Some begin with a huge obstacle but get easy once that is cleared. Use a Mega Start (and an appropriate Mega Pokémon) on these. Determine the main problem of a level and use the tool best suited to tackle that problem. For the Main and Expert stages, you should not need items at all until you start going for S ranks. Be patient with your captures, be smart with your matches, and wait for that one really lucky run. So there you have it. Now that I have this all written out, it might not really be a set of "Quick Tips," but you should now be better prepared to take on the addiction that is Pokémon Shuffle. Good luck!
Pokemon Shuffle tips photo
Let's diglett deeper
Earlier this year, Pokémon Shuffle released on 3DS and Chris Carter handed out some tips for success in the free-to-play match-three puzzler, despite the fact that he didn't care much for it. He's so magnanimous. Pok&e...

Ace Attorney 6 photo
Ace Attorney 6

Ace Attorney 6 trailer is looking pretty feudal

Nice beard, judge
Sep 17
// Darren Nakamura
Capcom has a new Japanese trailer up for the recently announced Ace Attorney 6. Though I don't know what they're saying, it has all the desk-pounding and witness-badgering we have come to expect from the series. Also, check o...
Lost in Harmony photo
Lost in Harmony

Valiant Hearts creator teams up with Wyclef for Lost in Harmony

'Mystical and brave'
Sep 16
// Darren Nakamura
Valiant Hearts' director Yoan Fanise worked at Ubisoft for 14 years before leaving earlier this year to form his own studio, Digixart Entertainment . Today at Tokyo Game Show, the fledgling company revealed its firs...

Review: Leo's Fortune

Sep 16 // Darren Nakamura
Leo's Fortune (Android, iOS, Mac, PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Windows Phone, Xbox One)Developer: 1337 & SenriPublisher: Tilting PointRelease: April 23, 2014 (mobile), September 8, 2015 (Mac, PC, PS4), September 11, 2015 (Xbox One)MSRP: $4.99 (mobile), $6.99 (non-mobile) Originally released on mobile last year, Leo's Fortune is now playable with a controller elsewhere. It's equal parts precision platformer, speed platformer, and puzzle platformer, alternating between the three to keep the experience fresh throughout. Leopold is a slippery guy, which aids in the speed sections. Certain areas have ramps and curves built in, giving Leo a playground to jump, inflate, and dive toward the exit quickly. Of the three styles of platforming present, this is the most exciting. The other two styles slow Leo down considerably. With his inflate ability, he can not only jump and launch off walls, but he can also slow his descent, giving himself greater control in spiky sections. Here, Leopold's slipperiness can get him into trouble; he will sometimes maintain momentum from a speed section straight into a trap. It can be difficult to make the small adjustments necessary for the precision segments, because pressing in one direction for more than a split second will send him careening in that direction. The puzzles are a welcome change of pace, though they never really tax the brain. For the most part, they are the same kinds of physics-based puzzles we've seen elsewhere. They're certainly not bad, but they're never mindblowing either. [embed]310626:60351:0[/embed] All of this is tied together by an after school special-esque story. Though the specifics of the big twist aren't exactly predictable, it's clear throughout that Leopold is barking up the wrong trees and stands to learn a life lesson. It's almost like one of Aesop's fables; it comes with the moral of appreciating people over possessions, which is a great message to teach children, but feels trite to those who have heard it before. In that way, the story mirrors the puzzle sections. It's totally serviceable, but I'm not particularly impressed by it. Where Leo's Fortune excels is in the presentation. Leopold's fuzz and a lot of the environmental effects are fantastically animated. Leo slides as he moves, meaning he doesn't have any walking or rolling animation, but despite that he exudes personality, particularly through facial expressions. I love the look he gives when he inflates. So what we have in all is a beautiful platformer with ups and downs (literally and figuratively), a mundane narrative with a good message, and some real difficulty toward the end. The whole game probably only takes about an hour or two to finish (with full game speedruns clocking in at about 45 minutes. It's not a must-buy, not even for platformer fans, but it's a cute little game that most people can find some fun with. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Leo's Fortune review photo
Favors the bold
Coins. Plenty of games have them scattered around to collect, but few explain why they're there in the first place. If they're so valuable, why did somebody just leave them there? Leo's Fortune gives a reason. The titular mus...

Game is a 4 Letter Word photo
Game is a 4 Letter Word

New podcast is like This American Life for video games

Game is a 4 Letter Word
Sep 15
// Darren Nakamura
A long time ago on this very Internet web page, Destructoid had one community member temporarily step up to "the big leagues" to provide front page coverage during PAX 2007. I mean, that has happened a lot; a good portion of ...
Nintendo Direct photo
Nintendo Direct

Nintendo Directs aren't going away

'No details to provide now'
Sep 15
// Darren Nakamura
The most recent Nintendo Direct video was released three and a half months ago, covering Chibi Robo: Zip Lash, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, Bravely Second: End Layer, and other titles. It was short and unassuming; we...
N++ photo

N++ is even bigger and more difficult than we thought

For wizards only
Sep 10
// Darren Nakamura
N++ released back in July with a bold claim: "No way anyone 100%s it." Given its enormous level select screen featuring more than a thousand levels and the brutal difficulty the series is known for, it seemed fair enough to m...
Ausaustin's Creed photo
Ausaustin's Creed

Journey composer Austin Wintory scored Assassin's Creed Syndicate

More than three hours of music
Sep 10
// Darren Nakamura
Since his work on flOw, Austin Wintory has been fairly well-known in the indie game scene. He has since provided the soundtrack for Journey, The Banner Saga, Monaco, and other small titles. All those years of creating unique ...

Review: I am Bread

Sep 08 // Darren Nakamura
I am Bread (Mac, PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed])Developer: Bossa StudiosPublisher: Bossa StudiosReleased: April 9, 2015 (Mac, PC), August 25, 2015 (PS4)MSRP: $12.99 I'm glad I stuck with I am Bread until the end. There was a point about halfway through when I considered giving up. I was spending a lot of time getting to the end of a level and then failing and having to start from the beginning. I was constantly fighting the camera in addition to the controls. I just wasn't having any fun. Eventually, it gets better. As a slice of bread, each of the four corners is assigned one of the shoulder buttons. Holding one of the buttons will make that corner stick to a surface. By alternating which corners are anchored, the bread can walk, climb, and even jump. The big problem I faced early on has to do shape of the bread. It is essentially a rectangle, and it is constantly flipping and rotating. Though the corners are labeled with their corresponding buttons, it doesn't feel intuitive. Sometimes the top left corner on screen is controlled by L1; sometimes it's controlled by R2. After spending more time with it, some nuance does show up. Since it's cut from a loaf of bread, the slice has two rounded corners; those are always L1 and R1. Also, since the length and width of the slice aren't equal, orientation can be manipulated in order to increase or decrease stride. There is room for impressive maneuvers to be performed, but man is it hard to get to that point. [embed]309590:60274:0[/embed] Even after coming to terms with the unintuitive controls, I never felt quite comfortable with the camera. It's always sluggish to respond, it doesn't allow any zoom control, and it's often clipping through walls and objects in tight quarters. The main goal in I am Bread is to become toast without getting dirty or wet. This means a lot of climbing along walls and across furniture. It isn't always clear what surfaces are safe. Toenail clippings on a pillow (ew) are hard to spot, and moldy walls aren't clearly delineated from clean walls. Getting to the end of a level with 100% edibility takes some trial and error. It is somewhat open in that there are multiple paths across an area and occasionally there are multiple heating elements available for toasting. It's a bit of a missed opportunity for organic difficulty scaling; I can imagine there being a fast-but-difficult route to complement the slower-but-easier route. As it is, there doesn't seem to be any obvious structure. Though the story mode was more frustrating than fun for me, the additional modes add their own twists along with new bread types. Bagel Race switches in a round rolling bagel, adds cardboard race track pieces to the levels, and has players hitting checkpoints as quickly as possible. Rampage uses a baguette, which features simpler two-button control as it tries to smash as many plates and vases as possible in a strict time limit. Cheese Hunt features cracker bread, which is more rigid and is prone to breaking, as it focuses more on exploration. Finally, Zero G adds rockets to each of the bread's four corners, allowing for total control in the zero gravity environments. As much as I didn't particularly like the plodding, frustrating story mode, I can't help but be impressed by how differently each of the additional modes plays. All of them are difficult to control, but I ended up finding some enjoyment in Bagel Race and Zero G. Fortunately, every mode is available from the start. Still, when I think about I am Bread as a whole, I'm reluctant to say it's good. It's a silly idea and it seems like developer Bossa Studios had a lot of fun building all of the different modes, but I wish I were having that much fun playing it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
I Am Bread review photo
Not worth the dough
I can only imagine how I am Bread came to be. I picture a couple of friends sitting around, drinking, when one says, "Man, wouldn't it be funny if we made a game where you play as a slice of bread?" Then everybody laughs and ...

Binding of Isaac photo
Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth is releasing on October 30

Devil's Night
Sep 07
// Darren Nakamura
When Edmund McMillen brought word of the new Greed Mode in The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth, most of the shouts in the comments were, "Looks great, when can we play it?" Soon enough. The features for the DLC are detailed over...
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile photo
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Pokemon Shuffle Mobile squeezes more out of players

A mathematical analysis
Sep 04
// Darren Nakamura
When I started playing Pokémon Shuffle Mobile earlier this week, I noticed a weird discrepancy between it and the 3DS version. When the option to use a Great Ball came up, it was asking for 3500 coins, up 40% from 2500...
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile photo
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Here's how Pokemon Shuffle Mobile stacks up to the 3DS version

Pros and cons
Sep 04
// Darren Nakamura
After about my 50th hour into Pokémon Shuffle for the 3DS, I regretted getting into it late. When it released, I did what most people do when they hear "free-to-play;" I tuned it out without giving it a second thought....
Borderlands Xbox One photo
Borderlands Xbox One

Borderlands supported on Xbox One Backward Compatibility in November

'Strip the flesh, salt the wound'
Sep 03
// Darren Nakamura
Current-generation console owners have been able to get their Borderlands fix via The Handsome Collection, but the game that started it all is notably missing from the HD rerelease. Soon enough, Xbox One users will have a way...
Humble Tom Clancy Bundle photo
Humble Tom Clancy Bundle

Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six abound in the Humble Tom Clancy Bundle

...Redeem on uPlay
Sep 01
// Darren Nakamura
Years ago, my friends and I used to make a habit of sneaking up on one another from behind and putting each other in headlocks. We called it "Splinter Celling." We also called series protagonist Sam Fisher "Tom Clancy" as a l...
EndWar Online beta photo
EndWar Online beta

Tom Clancy's EndWar Online closed beta starts today, runs through November

'War never ends'
Sep 01
// Darren Nakamura
I had forgotten about Tom Clancy's EndWar Online. It was originally announced just about two years ago, took on some alpha playtesters, and went dark to everybody else. Today, it is coming out of alpha and into a closed beta ...
Borderlands movie photo
Can it top Tales from the Borderlands?
Borderlands is Gearbox's star property. Though The Pre-Sequel was kind of a letdown, Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Tales from the Borderlands have all been critical and/or commercial successes. Of course 2K and Gearbox woul...

LawBreakers trailer photo
LawBreakers trailer

LawBreakers features a few different aerial movement abilities

Gameplay trailer shows four classes
Aug 28
// Darren Nakamura
Two days ago we got the first reveal for Cliff Bleszinski's new arena shooter LawBreakers. Today we get a brief look at the gameplay and if I had to describe it with one word, that word would be "motion." Each of the four cla...
Headlander reveal photo
Headlander reveal

Double Fine reveals 'retro-futuristic' metroidvania Headlander

That's using your noggin
Aug 27
// Darren Nakamura
Double Fine Productions rarely retreads ground with its games, so it comes as no surprise that its next big title is not Psychonauts 2 (like it should be) but is instead a 2D adventure about a disembodied head who can attach ...
Rocket League photo
Rocket League

Rocket League free for Steam Hardware preorders

In celebration of over 1 million sales
Aug 27
// Darren Nakamura
Rocket League has been an out-of-nowhere phenomenon. I had assumed its large player base was made up mostly of users who downloaded it for free through PlayStation Plus. As it turns out, it has sold more than a million copies...
Amazon Underground photo
Amazon Underground

Amazon Underground boasts 'actually free' Android apps and games

Shh, don't tell anybody
Aug 26
// Darren Nakamura
Well this is interesting. Normally we brave, noble Android users get the shaft in terms of software, with iOS set up as the lead platform for a lot of games and developers muttering "we're working on an Android version set to...
Steambirds Alliance photo
Steambirds Alliance

Spry Fox showing off bullet hell MMO at PAX Prime

Steambirds Alliance
Aug 26
// Darren Nakamura
Spry Fox (Triple Town, Alphabear) will be at PAX Prime, and in addition to the undoubtedly cute bear posters it's giving out for free, it will also be showing its newest title, Steambirds Alliance. In a newsletter, Spry Fox d...
The Binding of Isaac photo
More structure, risk/reward
The Binding of Isaac is one of the kings of procedural generation, but Greed Mode in the upcoming DLC Afterbirth is set to give it a little more structure. Instead of a random layout, each floor has the same plan, with a stor...

Review: Nova-111

Aug 25 // Darren Nakamura
Nova-111 (Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One)Developer: Funktronic LabsPublisher: Funktronic LabsReleased: August 25, 2015 (Mac, PC, PS4)MSRP: $14.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Conceptually, it's a little hard to wrap one's head around at first. Thankfully, Nova-111 eases players into the ideas a little at a time, introducing new mechanics throughout the six-hour campaign. Some science experiment has gone wrong and messed up time. Now it's all wonky (that's the technical term). Set on a square grid, each player movement counts as a single turn. For every turn taken, any enemies also get a turn. So far, it sounds pretty standard, but here's the wrinkle: some objects act in real time rather than being set to a schedule of turns. The first example are the stalactites. If the player bumps one from the side or travels underneath it, then it will begin to fall at a steady rate, whether the player (and enemies) are moving or not. It sets up a particularly satisfying scenario: get chased by an enemy, run under a stalactite, then stop dead and just watch as it crushes the pursuer. [embed]307759:60125:0[/embed] As it progresses, Nova-111 adds more and more combinations of real-time and turn-based gameplay. Some enemies' movement is turn-based, but when attacked set off a countdown timer before exploding. Some will grab the player and must be defeated quickly. Eventually, some enemies move in real time, independent of turns taken. It's a real brain bender at times. Just when I thought I had a good handle on the situation, taking things slowly and flawlessly taking out the dangerous aliens, I'd get thrown into a situation where I needed to react quickly and I'd fall apart. The combination of real-time and turn-based gameplay forces me to think differently than I ever have before. It takes two ideas I've known for years and turns them into something that feels totally new. Nova-111 doesn't stop with that basic idea. Through the course of the game's three main areas, new enemies, terrain, and mechanics are presented. There are doors, switches, sliding blocks, oil, teleporters, fire, stealthy bits, and more, each interacting with the weird time scheme in its own way. While tactical combat and puzzles are the main points, exploration also plays a role. The overarching goal is to collect the 111 scientists scattered across the game, most of whom are in fairly well-hidden locations. At first most of the secret areas are accessed by passing behind false walls, but the best are in plain sight but require solving a more taxing puzzle. The art design supports the exploration aspect well. At the beginning of a level, most of it is covered in a sort of fog of war. Any square in line of sight and within a certain range is uncovered, and the uncovering effect (and environments in general) look fantastic. I spent a lot of time in the early levels moving very slowly, just taking in the artwork as more of the world was revealed. The exploration aspect isn't all rosy. Individual levels are broken up into several smaller areas, but each area cannot be played independently. It isn't obvious which area a missing scientist may be in, so going back through old levels for 100% means replaying a lot unnecessarily and wasting a lot of time bumping into walls. The levels take between 20 and 30 minutes apiece, which is just too long for me to want to replay. I would have preferred if each bite-sized area were shown on the level select screen, with its completion statistics displayed. Those who aren't daunted by having to replay entire levels will enjoy the New Game+, which is essentially the same experience but with several cheats available to be toggled on or off. Where previously some care needed to be taken to conserve abilities, New Game+ allows players to go wild with them. Even though I don't see myself replaying Nova-111 for full completion any time soon, I liked what was here. It has a sharp look, some chuckle-silently-in-my-head comedy, and gameplay unlike anything else I have experienced. It forced me to think in a totally new way, which is increasingly uncommon with most established genres. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Nova-111 review photo
Champagne supernova
Genres and mechanics have names for a reason. When something comes up often enough, it's worth developing a shorthand and grouping things together that feel alike. In the past few years, mashing up genres has become the new i...

Tabletopia Kickstarter photo
Tabletopia Kickstarter

Tabletopia wants to be the premier digital board game platform

A magical world made of tables
Aug 24
// Darren Nakamura
So we already have Tabletop Simulator, but a new challenger approaches. Tabletopia aims to bring board games into the digital space in a similar manner, and it has taken to Kickstarter for its last push in funding. It works b...

Review: Alphabear

Aug 22 // Darren Nakamura
Alphabear (Android [reviewed], iPad, iPhone)Developer: Spry Fox, LLCPublisher: Spry Fox, LLCReleased: July 8, 2015MSRP: Free (with microtransactions) The core mechanic in Alphabear is easy to pick up, but it bears an elegance upon close inspection. Letter tiles are placed on a variable-sized grid, and players are tasked with forming words with those letters. Using a letter clears it from the board, replaces it with a bear, and reveals new letters in any adjacent spaces. Bears can grow in size as long they have a full rectangle of cleared tiles to fill. Each tile has a countdown on it, decrementing by one for each turn taken. If any countdown reaches zero, that letter turns to stone, removing it from the pool of usable letters and taking up valuable real estate where bears could live. The end goal is to score the most points, which come from two main sources: words formed during a game and bear size at the end. Each letter's value decreases with its counter, so word values are calculated from both length and how close each individual letter is to expiring. For bear size, the aim is to create the biggest bear possible; one full-board bear is worth more than two half-board bears. [embed]307196:60082:0[/embed] All of these mechanics come together to make a game that isn't just about showing off vocabulary and anagram skills. For one, there is focus and direction. Tiles with low counters are shown in increasingly alarming colors, where those one turn away from fossilization pulsate with a deep red but those with four or more are a placid green. Instead of dumping upward of two dozen letters on the player and saying, "make some words," it makes using certain tiles more urgent, bringing them to the forefront. Maybe I could make a ten-letter word with these tiles over here, but I really need to use this J that's about to expire. It also causes the player to think ahead: not only does one want to use all of the tiles showing a one this turn, but he should also make sure he can deal with the tiles showing a two for next turn. Another important result of the base mechanics is the idea of spatial importance. The tiles all have a location, and clearing a tile in a certain area might be more beneficial than doing so in another. Some spaces are marked with a star or a skull, signifying the letter set to appear there will either have an unusually high countdown or an especially low countdown. Setting off a skull when there are several twos left in play is a bad move. The mechanics make the center of the board more important too, because a stone in the way there will prevent having a screen-filling bear at the end, but a stone along the edge or in a corner will only decrease its size by a small amount. The boards aren't all the same; the layout of a particular board affects how players will attack it. The last bit of significance that emerges from Alphabear's mechanics is a strong risk/reward scenario. Forming long words is worth more points right away, but it opens up more tiles at once. It brings more opportunities for even larger words but also more opportunities to miss using a tile in time. Play it safe, unlocking only a few new tiles per turn and banking on a large bear at the end, or go big on word scores at the risk of losing out on bears? There isn't a definite answer. In a word, Alphabear brings strategy to a genre that has severely lacked in it in the past. Considering the countdowns, board layout, and the available letters brings much more nuanced decision-making than the typical directive of "make the biggest word you can think of." Sometimes it's better to make a weaker word in the moment in order to pull ahead in the end. Every single turn presents this mental exercise. Outside of the main meat of the gameplay, there is also an almost Pokémon-esque collection mechanic. Completing a level above a par score nets the player a bear; completing it above a gold score gives a chance for a powerful rare bear. Each of these bears has its own costume and consistent with Spry Fox's modus operandi, they are all adorable. Look at Milky Bear (below)! It's a bear dressed up as a carton of milk. So cute. Each bear has its own powers to bring to the levels. Some only affect score, some have a noticeable impact on gameplay. By collecting the same bear multiple times, it levels up, increasing its multiplier. This makes high scores for future runs of the same board easier to attain. Not only does Alphabear inject strategy into a word puzzle, it also uses these light role-playing game elements to keep me playing. A particular level might be too hard now, but I can come back to it later with some beefed up bears and try it again. At the end of a level, the newly hatched bear will form a series of phrases using the words played during the game. You might have seen these on social media already. It's a silly little touch, but it adds another bit of meta to the experience. Not only do people go for high scores, they also go for words that would make for funny sentences to share with friends. The one big sticking point for many is Alphabear's free-to-play scheme. It uses an energy mechanic (honey), allowing for only a couple of games before honey is depleted. It builds up over time or can be accumulated by watching ads. Personally, I loved the gameplay so much I paid the five bucks for unlimited honey and haven't regretted it. Even then, the bears each have cooldown periods and the other currency (used to wake up sleeping bears and to play special levels) suffers from diminishing returns over the course of a day, so players who buy unlimited honey may still feel stifled. Spry Fox wants players to come back day after day; I'm fine with that, but I know there are many out there who aren't. Indeed, I'm still playing Alphabear on a nearly daily basis. I couldn't say how many hours I've put into it already (I'd estimate maybe 20?), but I'm not even halfway through all of the chapters. The injection of strategic concerns to a word puzzle is such great design. I would like that enough on its own, but the collection aspects, cute bears, and social media meta elevate it further. [This review is based on a free game with microtransactions purchased by the reviewer.]
Alphabear review photo
If you had told me three months ago there was still untapped potential in the genre of using letter tiles to form words, I probably wouldn't have believed you. If you would have told me a word puzzle game would end up being o...

Gassy Mob photo
Gassy Mob

Fart on everyone and run away with Gassy Mob

Devolver Digital publishing, of course
Aug 19
// Darren Nakamura
Fart. Toot. Fluff. Pass gas. Flatulate. However polite you want to be while describing gas escaping from a butthole, it's still a pretty impolite thing to do in public. Impolite and funny (to me). Like this classic gem: Why ...
Borderlands screenshots photo
Borderlands screenshots

Tales from the Borderlands: Escape Plan Bravo screenshots, we got 'em

Is episode five out yet?
Aug 18
// Darren Nakamura
Wow wow wow. This episode was so good, guys. I don't think I've ever given a 10/10 to anything on Destructoid before. Y'all need to play this series. For those who would rather just look at some pretty pictures, I have those ...

Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Escape Plan Bravo

Aug 18 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: Escape Plan Bravo (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: August 18, 2015 (Mac, PC, PS3, PS4)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] Things were looking bad for Fiona and Rhys at the end of the third episode. Sure, Gortys found her first upgrade and the path to the Vault of the Traveler became clearer, but newcomer Vallory had the group pretty well pinned under her thumb by the end. Complicating matters was the revelation that the final Gortys upgrade isn't even on Pandora; it's up on Hyperion's moon base Helios. For a series known for fast travel between exotic locations and featuring interstellar travel as part of its lore, it's easy to forget just how infrequently anybody takes a trip off Pandora. Usually, denizens of the wasteland are stuck there. And so the first act of this episode involves the non-negligible task of actually getting from Pandora to Helios. The group grows as August and Vallory's henchmen ride along to ensure Rhys and Fiona don't try anything funny and Scooter hops in as the on-board mechanic. It's a pretty motley crew, well deserving of the '80s rock credits sequence rocket launch montage. [embed]306135:60017:0[/embed] Telltale continues to demonstrate its comedic mastery with Tales from the Borderlands. One of the funniest parts comes from a totally visual gag within the launch montage. It elicited more laughs with no words than some comedy games do with thousands. The written jokes here are on point too. Each of the characters brings something different. Gortys remains a highlight through the whole ordeal, even if she has fewer lines than she did in the previous episode. Fiona's sarcasm hits just the right notes. Handsome Jack is about as likable as a murderous psychopath can be. The plan that comes together even allows players to act like total assholes without having to feel too bad about it. The trip to Helios also allows for one of the most bizarre scenes in recent memory. Without spoiling too much: it's a classic Telltale quick-time event action sequence, but it involves a horde of Hyperion accountants and a lot of mouth-made sound effects. It isn't all laughs. The series has had its serious moments in the past, but Escape Plan Bravo will cement Tales into the overall Borderlands lore. It is no longer a side story on Pandora. It feels like its own proper entry in the timeline, with real effects on the world Gearbox built. It's a stark contrast with Telltale's other current series Game of Thrones. While the events in that series are important to the Telltale-designed protagonists, they aren't important to anybody else in that world. Telltale's characters and story in Tales from the Borderlands are important to Borderlands as a whole. I have to imagine there is at least a modicum of trepidation when handing over a franchise to another developer, but if Gearbox had any fears that Telltale wouldn't do right by Borderlands, those fears would be unfounded. If anything, it feels like Gearbox needs to hire the Telltale writers to consult on Borderlands 3. Escape Plan Bravo solidifies Tales as a must-play series for those interested in the Borderlands universe. I cannot wait for the last episode, The Vault of the Traveler. There is so much to resolve: Vallory, Handsome Jack, Vaughn, Gortys, the masked man, Felix, the vault. I'm stressing out just thinking about it all. There isn't much more to say without spoiling the best episode of Tales from the Borderlands yet. I laughed. I cried. I haven't been able to say that about a Borderlands game since Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, or about a Telltale game since the first season of The Walking Dead. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Borderlands review photo
Encore! Encore!
[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, who consulted on the story for Tales from the Borderlands, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] Tales ...

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