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Review: Broken Age: Act 2

Apr 27 // Caitlin Cooke
Broken Age (PC)Developers: Double Fine ProductionsPublisher: Double Fine ProductionsReleased: April 28, 2015 MSRP: PS4, PS Vita, PC, Mac, Linux, Ouya: $25 / iOS and Android: $15 Broken Age is very much designed and intended to be played as one game, not chopped up into two parts. If you've managed to hold out this long to play both acts together, rest assured that you've done yourself a favor. The second act gets straight to business, dumping the player into some heavy plot points right off the bat. The game’s challenging puzzle logic also comes through in full force with no time to ramp -- progressing in the game relies heavily on prior knowledge of the landscape and characters. I asked for more puzzle complexion in my review of Broken Age: Act 1, and boy did I get it. The puzzles are of the same kindred as the first act -- difficult to piece together at first, with a dash of trial and error mixed in. However, this time around the obstacles are far more difficult and obtuse, requiring deep creative thinking, but more often than not bordering on the “impossible to solve without help” realm. I found myself pondering puzzles for long periods of time until eventually giving up, clicking through every possible option as a last resort. Where the first part of Broken Age had more environmental exploration and shorter, more gratifying puzzles, the second act tends to lean on more long-term challenging puzzles. Puzzle solutions from the first portion of the second act were used throughout almost the entirety of the game -- much of my time was spent drawing out diagrams on post-its and endlessly referencing them. The ability to switch between stories is still present, which comes in handy when stuck on a puzzle or in need of a change of scenery. However, during certain parts of the game some puzzles require information from the other side of the story. This caught me off guard at first but was less annoying once it became obvious that this would be a theme throughout the latter half of the game. The bar from Broken Age: Act 1 is definitely met if not exceeded in Act 2 in terms of the visuals, nostalgia, and clever dialogue. However, the setting in the second act is practically the same as the first half of the game, with the exception of a few minor changes. Although I adore the characters in Broken Age and was happy to see them again throughout the second act, I had hoped to experience new scenery and perhaps new characters. The story in Act 2 goes in a strange direction, and feels rushed -- especially compared to the first act, which has an even progression and was much more cohesive. Conversations are had between characters that lay plot points out on the table very quickly, and in an uninventive way. It seems a tad thrown together, and I would have preferred to discover the plot through means of gameplay instead of having it explained via single lines of conversation. Unfortunately, by the end of the game I was also left with with a lot of unanswered questions. Since it had taken a year for this second installment to make it to us, I had expected a little more on that front. Broken Age: Act 1 was so perfect that perhaps my expectations were inflated when playing through the second half. However, despite the challenges Broken Age is still very much a beautiful game with a heartwarming story. The puzzles, as frustrating as they are, come from a place of creative invention that defines the point-and-click genre. I choose to treasure its high points-- the charming characters, ingenious dialogue, and silly childlike whimsy. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. This reviewer also backed the game's Kickstarter campaign.]
Broken Age 2 review photo
Mostly worth the wait
[Disclosure: I backed the Kickstarter. A review copy was used for this verdict.] Three years since the launch of the infamous Double Fine Adventure campaign and a year after Act 1’s much-anticipated release, Broken Ag...

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Devolver Digital Dtoid Live Stream: VOTE for your favorite!


Democracy? Conspiracy? YOU CHOOSE!
Mar 28
// Caitlin Cooke
Today marks the end of our week of Devolver Digital streaming, and to celebrate I'll be playing through one or two the various games we've streamed this week. Vote for your favorite in the comments or let me know on Twitter&n...
Not a Hero live stream photo
Not a Hero live stream

Devolver Digital & Dtoid Live Stream: Not a Hero


Vote BunnyLord
Mar 25
// Caitlin Cooke
Welcome to day two of our special partnership with the amazing folks over at Devolver Digital! Yesterday, we took a look at Farmer Gnome's western shooter A Fistful of Gun and Titan Souls, an action game w...
PAX East photo photo
PAX East photo

PAX East 2015 community photo time!


Brrrrrr!
Mar 20
// Caitlin Cooke
Now that we've all climbed out bed, it's time to rejoice over the good times of PAX before we went into PAX plague hibernation. What adventures we've had on this staircase year after year! This time, the cold and wind was bac...

Severed is full of one-handed vengeance

Mar 10 // Caitlin Cooke
The colorful art style of Guacamelee! makes its return in a beautiful, dark package. In Severed you play a young heroine set out on a course of vengeance after losing her home and her arm in a brutal attack. Her dark story coupled with the deserted surroundings made for a chilling atmosphere, and etched within the demo were moments that tugged at my heart ever so slightly.   The movement style is a refreshing version of old-school first-person dungeon crawlers, allowing you to choose directional paths in a four-pointed compass-like system. Enemies spawn immediately when arriving to a location, and players swipe to attack while moving directionally to combat multiple monsters in a room. Each enemy has its own rhythm in terms of attacking, blocking, and parrying, and when various monsters start to compound together in a room it becomes advantageous to memorize their patterns.  Once enough successful attacks have been built up, players can enter a mode that slows down the monster’s movements and allows them to sever appendages to go in for the final kill. Once slayed, enemies drop various objects which can then be used to upgrade health, defense, and severed power. Health is only given from a mysterious orange fruit which hangs in solitude on a magical tree.  The final boss in the demo took me a while to master, but once I did I felt like I was on top of the world. He dropped a piece of neat-looking armor, which supposedly imbued my character with a special power for the rest of the game. I learned later that all bosses drop a piece of armor with a unique power, and that both the power and the armor can be upgraded throughout the game. At first it took me a while to adjust to the movement and touch screen-style exploration, especially when I needed to move and attack at the same time. I have such tiny hands, so having to hold the Vita while swiping and hitting the directional pad proved to be difficult at times. However, I quickly came to appreciate the interactivity of the world, especially when it came to fighting monsters.  Although the demo was pretty fleshed out, the team mentioned that it plans to make a lot of improvements before launch. Vertical elements will be added to levels, like staircases in rooms that will expand the dungeons vs. one flat area. A daytime/nighttime feature will also be included, which will enable environmental puzzles in the world. The team also plans to feature NPCs, who will introduce more dialogue to the story. Personally, I loved the quiet nature of the character and general silent plot progression, so my hope is that the team keeps it as simple as possible. Severed comes out this summer for the PS Vita, and Drinkbox also anticipates releasing it for other touch screen-friendly devices as well. I can tell that there are big things to come from this game, and can't wait to get my hands on the full release.
Severed photo
But hopefully, you'll have two to play with
There’s something serene about exploring a desolate place for the first time. Too often in games I find myself dropped into an environment, expected to pick up the pieces quickly to achieve a goal and left with little t...

Toto Temple Deluxe photo
Toto Temple Deluxe

Headbutting for goats in Toto Temple Deluxe!


GET THE GOAT!
Mar 09
// Caitlin Cooke
For better or worse, sometimes you just have a hankerin’ to steal a goat. Those of us at PAX East with said craving headed over to Toto Temple Deluxe, which delivered goat-stealing gameplay in a fast-paced keep-away bra...

Review: Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham

Jan 05 // Caitlin Cooke
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], PlayStation Vita, Wii U, 3DS, PC, iOS)Developer: Traveller's TalesPublisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentReleased: November 11, 2014MSRP: $59.99 Lego Batman 3 opens to a familiar plot line: Lex Luthor has his heart set on becoming President of the World, dragging other villains along with him in his quest. The Justice League scrambles to meet them head-to-head, but not before Brainiac steps in to shrink Earth for his marble collection. The game's cast of heroes and villains reluctantly join forces to defeat him in a variety of settings, including shrunken versions of the Earth’s most famous cities and the Lantern worlds. The traditional Lego game formula is present as usual in this edition. Players waltz through a fairly linear level and solve puzzles to move forward while searching for studs and minikits to unlock content. Characters also rotate in and out of levels, ensuring that players don’t get caught in a routine. This mixes things up a bit and keeps the gameplay engaging, especially since most of the main characters have different abilities to explore (ie, Wonder Woman using her bands to deflect lasers or Martian Manhunter shapeshifting). A few main characters can change into various suits on a whim, presenting new gameplay options. Batman can change into his Space Suit to jetpack around and shoot laser beams, or he can squeeze into a Sonar Suit to become invisible. The suits bring a unique and enjoyable element to the gameplay, but leave little room for players to progress through levels on their own. The game telegraphs these necessary wardrobe changes with notifies an icon, prompting the necessary suit to procure. As is typical of the Lego series, there's plenty of content to explore, including over 150 characters to unlock. Beyond Gotham excels with its extras. Most notable are its mini-games, which include Tron-like “hacking” requiring maze navigation around computerized obstacles, and a side-scrolling space shooter reminiscent of Resogun. These distractions were my favorite part of Lego Batman 3, providing a much-needed reprieve from the monotony found within the primary campaign. The levels themselves seemed more open than usual, expanding in scope and size as the game progressed. Although interesting to explore, at times I’d get stuck on cliffs or hang helplessly in midair. Some of the later levels were hampered by wonky camera angles and viewing perspectives, which proved difficult when playing split-screen. At one point, I had to force my second player out of the game so that we could expand the screen to trigger an event. From a two-player perspective, this caused a lot of frustration and only seemed to get worse later in the game. It was also disappointing that the Beyond Gotham didn't showcase an open Gotham world like in its previous installment. At first, the extra content is split up into various hubs: the Batcave, the Watchtower, and the Hall of Justice. After a steep investment in playing through the main plot (around eight hours), Lantern worlds can be unlocked. Each world contains racing trials, quests to unlock characters, and unlockable vehicles to fly around. In a lot of ways, it felt like a step backwards to have a hub-based system, especially when most of it opened up at the end of the game. As noted earlier, anyone looking for a Batman adventure you won’t find one here. Screen-time amongst the characters is divided up fairly well, leaving Batman and Robin in the dust. When they do make an appearance, they’re more focused on bickering back and forth like an old couple than saving the world. Despite this oddity, the dialogue is as crafty and well-written as Lego titles come. Practically all characters have a delightful personality-filled moment with plenty of references thrown about. Particularly amusing was Lego Batman 3's take on Mr Freeze -- full of puns and a intentionally terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger accent. You could say it was ICE to see him. Comic book fans will enjoy the assets used in this game, especially with regard to music. For example, Superman and Wonder Woman's original songs play on loop when they take flight and don’t cease until they land. Every character also (hilariously) sings their own rendition of the 1960s Batman theme song when players rest on the character selection screen. Voice acting is top notch and talent is pulled from Kevin Smith and Conan O’Brien, who play themselves. The latter tends to be a bit annoying after a while, acting as your tutorial guide and spewing out the same information every time you cross paths. Lego Batman 3 is as fun as Lego games come, but it needs to be taken with a dose (or two) of patience. The controls and camera angles are unforgivable at times, but there’s usually a moment of greatness to numb the pain -- like when Robin deploys a mini version of himself in his Techno suit, or when Wonder Woman’s 1970s TV show theme blasts when she takes flight. Fans of the Justice League (or DC comics in general) will get a lot of enjoyment out of this game, but I wouldn’t recommend playing if you’re looking for a Batman adventure. There’s simply too much fun to be had in the DC universe to give it all to one man. As far as Lego games go, it’s not perfect, but it delivers a solid story and a plethora of DC characters to play around with, which is more than ICE can ask for. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Lego Batman 3 review photo
Brainiac's mini-games
Don’t let the name fool you -- this is by no means a Batman game. The Dark Knight may grace the box, but underneath its bat-enameled shell lies a Justice League game at heart. A menagerie of DC heroes and villains combi...

Review: Heavy Bullets

Oct 08 // Caitlin Cooke
Heavy Bullets (PC [reviewed], Mac)Developer: Terri VellmannPublisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: September 18, 2014MSRP: $9.99 At its core, Heavy Bullets is a clean, yet unforgiving roguelike shooter-dungeon-crawler hybrid. Its pace is fast and its enemies faster, pouncing at a moment’s notice and leaving little time for reaction. A few simple mistakes will land you back at square one with a new, randomly generated dungeon full of new surprises. Each of the game's eight levels is a hunting ground beckoning for strategy. Stepping through this jungle is at first easy, almost calming -- enemies seem fairly tame, the vending machines and hidden items plentiful. The graphics are old-school, crisp, and bright, while the sounds of bleep bloops ring through the levels, reminiscent of a bygone era in gaming. Heavy Bullets' most important feature, however are the titular bullets, which rebound from a successful kill and can be immediately recycled for future use. The game quickly ramps at Level 2 -- pathways become more windy and narrow, and mobs appear where you’d least expect them. Each playthrough is completely random, so it’s virtually impossible to predict exactly what scenarios might arise. Only one thing is certain in Highrise Hunting Grounds: enemies continue to increase in numbers and difficulty while resources grow thin. The one saving grace is the banking system, a useful feature that allows players to store cash or a single item for future runs. Last Wills and Insurance can also be purchased from banks, which upon death carry money and bullets through to the next run. However, only one item can be carried at a time so unless a Last Will is equipped, everything is lost save for what’s been deposited in the bank upon death. Heavy Bullets has a number of useful items to discover and equip. Basic FPS items are present like mines, bombs, a knife, etc. -- but there are also a few interesting items with a variety of applications, including the boom box, high heels, and proximity sensor. The usefulness of the nontraditional items is debatable and I was often confused or unclear on exactly what some of them did, even after equipping them. Medical and ammunition vending machines are also sprinkled throughout the levels. But since everything is randomly generated, it’s often difficult to come across these stations right when you need them. Backtracking through the levels doesn't prove useful either -- the game throws up laser barriers from time to time to prevent players from going back too far. Walking through them is possible, but at the risk of depleting life. Although I enjoyed the idea and aesthetic behind Heavy Bullets, I couldn’t find myself getting excited to start the next run every time I died. Difficulties aside, for a simple game with such little forgiveness, I felt it needed to be a bit tighter. For example, enemies would sometimes go straight through a corner or a wall to attack me, which was obviously not intended. I liked that the levels and enemies were randomly generated, but I found there was still something left to be desired. Perhaps the game could have benefited from more enemies, events, discoveries, or more unique items. The neon charm was always a pleasure to play through, but overall I felt Heavy Bullets wore thin over time. If you’re a huge fan of rogue-like dungeon crawlers it’s worth a shot, but not six bullets.
Heavy Bullets photo
Roguelike FPS wrapped up in neon swag
The security system in Highrise Hunting Grounds has gone rogue, and you’ve been sent to shut down the mainframe. With only six initial bullets, you must fight your way through eight levels of neon jungle rife with lethal spiders, turrets, bush worms, and feisty cat-balls. It’s a good thing your bullets bounce back, because you’ll need them.

Wii U photo
Wii U

Steamworld Dig is better on the Wii U


Best of both worlds
Aug 25
// Caitlin Cooke
This isn’t the first rodeo for SteamWorld Dig -- the cute mining adventure game first arrived last year on the 3DS eshop, followed by a Steam release. Now it’s making a comeback to the Wii U this week on August 28...
Podtoid photo
Podtoid

Podtoid 286: Dreams of Island Dictatorship


This show still exists
Apr 30
// Caitlin Cooke
We're back! This week Conrad Zimmerman, Jonathan Holmes, and Caitlin Cooke chat about PAX East, why every videogame is basically Earthbound, and why Firefly is the best thing since sliced bread and nobody else should say anything differently ever. We also learn more about Conrad's regime over his imaginary island! Listen to it via direct download or through iTunes.

Review: Daylight

Apr 29 // Caitlin Cooke
Daylight PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4)Developer: Zombie StudiosPublisher: Zombie StudiosRelease: April 29, 2014MSRP: $14.99 The player awakens as Sarah, a young woman trapped inside an abandoned hospital with a smartphone conveniently at her side. A creepy man barks instructions and vague allusions to her past through the phone, which also acts as a map and a light. Glow sticks can be collected and used for light and double as a basic hint system, casting a soft green glow to highlight item containers or puzzle mechanisms. Flares are the only other usable items and are used to fend off the creepy witch ghost thing that haunts you throughout the game. The goal is to make it through each level without getting too close to creepy witch ghost thing, who I am now dubbing Miss Ghost. Miss Ghost is deadly and can appear at any time, more often so as Sarah collects “remnants” -- notes and articles scattered about the levels. The mechanics are similar to Slender; the more remnants that are collected, the higher the threat of meeting Miss Ghost. Once all of the remnants have been found, the strange man over the phone instructs Sarah to collect a “sigil” -- basically a creepy token like a busted up bible or a haunted teddy bear -- and bring it to the gate to unlock the next area. Unfortunately during this phase, Sarah is not able to use glow sticks or flares, essentially making it a “run for your life” type of situation. I appreciated this from a horror perspective -- however, this feeling waned after I noticed that running right past Miss Ghost wasn't much of a problem at all. The game alternates between these “sigil” areas, and more laid-back puzzle levels where the goal was to get to the next area of the island. I didn't find these levels too engrossing as most of the tasks involved moving boxes around slightly or finding a lever to move past a barrier. That coupled with the fact that the glow sticks basically told you where everything was, there was really no challenge here. The overall atmosphere of Daylight was certainly chilling. The lighting was spot on - whenever Sarah put down her phone to bust open a new glow stick, the entire area would grow scarily dim. In true jump-scare fashion, the game would often have various items fly off the wall or unleash disturbing sounds at random. Occasionally Sarah would black out, and in an instant the game would transport me to a creepy hallway starring Miss Ghost. Though short, feeling properly creeped out was the high point of the game. Sadly, the rest of Daylight was lacking. Miss Ghost overstayed her welcome midway through the game, I had become immune to her scares and eventually just stopped using flares for fun. Even the plot couldn't compel me to care -- the remnants weren't particularly interesting, and reading them felt like I was taking a class on Horror 101. I also found certain mechanics to be annoying -- the fact that I never really ran out of glow sticks or flares enough to feel panicked, Sarah’s constant whining of the same three phrases over and over again, the autosave functionality not working properly at times...the list goes on. Daylight does however have an interesting concept up its sleeve, besides the randomly generated levels. The game also integrates with Twitch, allowing viewers to enter commands and create spooky sounds or other events for the player. I wasn't able to test this feature out, but I can only imagine the havoc that Dtoiders can wreak on our Twitch channel. Overall I felt as if Daylight was made as a jump-scare machine with a loosely tacked-on plot. I never felt invested in Sarah or cared much for the mysterious man rambling through her phone. In fact, I was more concerned with getting Miss Ghost off my back so she’d stop screaming, more so out of annoyance than fear. Daylight would have benefited from a fresh set of spooks rather than intermittent scares and muddy plot lines, but at the end of the day if you’re looking for a cheap thrill you've found it.
Daylight review! photo
Starring: generic creepy witch ghost thing
I've been an enthusiast of the horror genre ever since I laid hands on Eternal Darkness for the GameCube. Although not a fair comparison to many survival horror games since, I’ve understood what it takes for...

Magic photo
Magic

Magic 2015 Duels of the Planeswalkers coming this summer


Introducing fully customizable decks
Apr 16
// Caitlin Cooke
Magic 2015 Duels of the Planeswalkers was announced for release this summer on Xbox One, Xbox Live Arcade, Steam, and mobile devices. While not a surprise considering they've produced a new game every summer for the past...

Struggling to survive in This War of Mine

Apr 16 // Caitlin Cooke
I started out with three characters stationed in an abandoned, war-torn house. Each person brought a different strength to the table from their previous life -- i.e., the journalist was good with people and the firefighter fared better in combat. During the day, I had my characters cook food, build beds, and craft weapons to prepare for what the night would potentially bring.  Occasionally, traders would come to offer various goods but often wanted much more in return -- there was no such thing as an "easy" trade. I also had to be cognizant of how much time I was putting into trading -- a day timer loomed above my characters, their walking and crafting speed dropping the more worn down they became. Every night I had to decide who kept guard, who went out to scavenge at night, and who was lucky enough to catch some sleep. The decisions were easy at first, with the obvious thought that I'd pair everyone up to the task that matched their skill, but I found quickly that there is no "easy" part of war. Sleep deprivation, hunger, sickness, and serious wounds slowly brought my characters down, making it harder for them to do anything useful. At night I sent my scavenger off to collect resources from various buildings -- I could choose which structures to sneak into, but it was a gamble in terms of what (or who) I'd find. Stealth was a necessity, as people did not take kindly to me sneaking into their base and stealing their stuff. One night I had returned from a successful night of scavenging only to find that a troupe of bandits had sacked my own base and severely wounded one of my people. By the end of the of the sixth day my characters were all but dead. My journalist, despite the fact that she was sleeping most nights, had developed a sickness and hunger that probably wouldn't keep her alive much longer. My scavenger was defenseless since we had no materials to craft weapons, and the fireman had been beaten to a pulp during that random ambush. They gave me verbal cues letting me know that they wouldn't survive another day, and knowing that I had already failed them I put down the controller.  This War of Mine was an interesting commentary, despite its depressing and difficult nature. The mechanics were a tad difficult to grasp at first, but once I got the hang of it I felt much more comfortable. I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves before it's released this year.
PAX photo
Stayin' alive has never been so hard
In a sea full of bright, action-packed games at PAX it was a surprise to see such a serious greyscale game like This War of Mine, an 11 bit studios title about life during war. Rather than placing the focus on combat as most ...

Huge News: Charity Edition

Jan 27 // Caitlin Cooke
Huge News photo
Granting wishes left and right
This week Jonathan and I partner with an amazing charity to grant Benny Disco (@TheBennyDisco) his dream of writing news for the video game industry! Please enjoy this latest installment as we read off Benny's favorite news stories from the past week.  Love us? Hate us? Have questions or want a shout out on the show? Let us know at [email protected]!

Review: Broken Age: Act 1

Jan 24 // Caitlin Cooke
Broken Age: Act 1 (PC)Developer: Double Fine ProductionsPublisher: Double Fine ProductionsRelease Date: January 14, 2014 (for backers) / January 28, 2014MSRP: $24.99 (with free update for Act 2) Shay has lived his entire existence on a spaceship designed for toddlers. Day after day he’s coddled by the ship’s “mother,” an overbearingly saccharine computer unwilling to allow him to take care of himself. Mother babies Shay in every way, including knitting sentient pals to keep him company and forcing him to take his daily nutrition paste. Shay’s unending routine consists of completing childlike “missions,” like saving his yarn pals from an ice cream avalanche or a hug-attack, which are designed to keep him occupied throughout his existence. Struggling with his confined life, Shay manages to discover a secret part of the ship and quickly experiences what it means to have real responsibility. Vella wakes up on the last day of her life, preparing to uphold the long-standing tradition of being eaten by a giant abomination named Mog Chothra to keep her village safe. A town that once prided itself on raising fierce monster-fighting warriors, Sugar Bunting now concedes to offering up its finest maidens to Mog Chothra during what they call the “Maiden’s Feast.” While the other maidens are excited to be considered potential meals, Vella can’t help but wonder if there’s another way out. She rises up to fight against her supposed destiny of becoming a delectable treat for Mog Chothra and breaks free to search for a way to defeat the monster before it consumes her town. Both stories are engrossing and highlight a certain childish curiosity that I haven’t felt in a long time. I adored every second wandering through these worlds - the dialogue on all fronts is hilarious and crafty, the story elements thoughtful. Broken Age captures a style that is imaginative and expressive while still maintaining an environment that's easy to interact with. Above all, the art is captivating so much so that at certain points in the game I found myself staring at scenes just to take it in. Almost everything comes to life in Broken Age - characters range from charming to downright ingenious, all with spot-on humor and fantastic voice acting. One of my favorites is a needy spoon who regularly vies for the attention of Shay by shouting things like "It is my honor to be your training spoon today sir, I can't wait to start MISSION NUTRITION!" Puzzles are integrated well into the character’s personalities - I found it amusing to discover what dialogue or actions would make characters give up an item or a piece of information. The game allows for switching between both stories seamlessly, which is not only creative, but a very useful feature. I enjoyed going back and forth regularly because it allowed for me to pace out the stories (for example, not getting too far on one side) and also gave me a chance to escape if a particular puzzle was stumping me. I also felt that Shay’s story involved more interactive gameplay elements while Vella’s focused more on dialogue and riddles, so being able to leave one story and hop to the other gave me a nice break. The format of Broken Age is obviously very reminiscent of the older point-and-click adventure games, however there are a few interesting camera perspectives and design choices in the game that change up the formula a bit. For example, in one area of the game you can literally fall through clouds if you’re not careful where you step. Another section has the camera angle peering in through a window that’s being cleaned by an adorable spaceship minion. These details seem marginal, but they keep the gameplay fresh and original. I found that the gameplay is so seamlessly integrated with the art that it’s sometimes hard to tell when you’re supposed to be viewing a scene and when you need to take action. For instance, it took me a while to solve one of the first puzzles in the game because the action I needed to take was during what I thought was a cinematic sequence. Although I appreciate that the game never took me out of the moment mentally, it did become frustrating after a while. My solution to this was to whip my mouse around the screen just in case the action circle appeared in future cinematics. Broken Age manages to keep the hand-holding clues to a minimum without completely withholding answers from the player. However, as the game progressed I wasn't entirely clear on what actions I could take. During one puzzle in particular, I had tried to combine and use every item possible to get past what I thought was the obstacle, but really all I had to do was move around it. The puzzles eventually make sense in time and are fairly thoughtful, although some of them could have stood to be a bit harder -- because for the most part, they didn't require a lot of brainpower. In the end this may not be a terrible thing but I would like to see a tad more complication thrown into the mix for Act 2. I haven’t felt this surge of nostalgia and excitement about a game in a long time, and I truly think Broken Age will be looked back fondly as one of the greats. That being said, the first Act is only a few short hours and ended on a nail-biting cliffhanger with no word on how long we’ll be waiting for the rest of the game. In some ways I feel cheated, but in the end it’s the heart of the game that matters - and that certainly isn't broken.
Broken Age review photo
Point-and-click heaven
[Disclosure: I backed the Kickstarter. A review copy was used for this verdict.] The game formerly known as "Double Fine Adventure" has finally made its debut -- or should I say, half-debut. Broken Age: Act 1 is the culmina...

Review: Mario Party: Island Tour

Nov 27 // Caitlin Cooke
Mario Party: Island Tour (3DS)Developer: Nd CubePublisher: NintendoRelease Date: November 22, 2013MSRP: $39.99 Mario Party: Island Tour presents a variety of game modes: eight main party modes, three minigame modes, and StreetPass minigames. Party mode focuses on the core of the Mario Party series -- characters progress on a game board with the goal of either getting to the end first or collecting the most mini-stars. Each party mode is rated in three different categories: Skill, Luck, and Minigames. For example, the Rocket Road game is rated at two skill, four minigame, and five luck because it’s basically a game where you roll a die to get to the end of a line, but also contains many tiles that make you switch places with opponents (i.e., lots of luck involved). Estimated play times are also shown, which I found helpful but somewhat unreliable. I had kind of hoped for a mode that resembled the original premise of Mario Party -- screwing over other players to collect the most coins and stars. Unfortunately, nothing like that exists. It’s almost as if they took each aspect of the original Mario Party and chopped it up into different modes. One board’s goal is to collect mini-stars, another board focuses on items that affect players, etc. There isn’t really one “complete” Mario Party experience. That being said, there are a few boards that break from the mold. For example, Kamek’s Carpet Ride utilizes cards instead die, forcing players to use a bit of strategy in which cards they decide to play. In Bowser’s Peculiar Peak, the goal is to stay in last place by not making it to the end or Bowser will smash you with his hammer. These modes are somewhat enjoyable but not really the complete package I was hoping for since the goal is usually one-sided and involves finishing the board. To make matters worse, the gameplay is somewhat unbearable at times. I realize this is a child-friendly game, but Toad goes above and beyond with babying the players. His trademark is to point out something obvious each turn -- like who is about to win the game or how many rounds until a minigame is played. If I get a card or item that could potentially allow me to win the game, he’ll say something like “Between you and me, if you use this, you could reach the goal!” Nothing is left for you to figure out on your own. Island Tour seems rigged in the sense that nothing is truly randomized -- the games are fair to a fault. Toad will sometimes rearrange the turn orders based on minigame ranking to allow players who are behind to catch up. Each mode also seems to have a mechanism to prevent players from progressing too far ahead, whether it be Bonzai Bill knocking players back or a Whomp blocking the path. In Star-Crossed Skyway players are forced to stop advancing once they hit a certain platform, allowing everyone else to catch up. And usually there’s some sort of “random” havoc that happens every once in a while to even the playing field for opponents who are behind. The one mode I actually enjoyed was Bowser’s Tower, a single-player story(ish) driven game where you climb a tower and defeat bubble ghosts by playing minigames. As you climb, Bowser likes to randomly select a punishment or reward which could affect enemy levels or your sacred Mario Party Points (which are used to purchase collectables). There’s also an option to save and come back later to finish the tower, which is a useful addition for folks who are strapped for time. Minigames are the highlight of Island Tour -- there are a wide variety of games and for the most part they’re entertaining and original. I was happy to find that 3DS capabilities were used in most minigames -- tilt, 3D, mic, touch screen, dual screen, and augmented reality all made an appearance. I did notice however that any of the games utilizing the mic were extremely off. I tested both voice impersonation games with my fiance -- he whispered lewd things into the mic while I actually attempted to play and I lost each and every time. It was hilarious, but disappointing. Although I enjoyed most of the minigames, Mario Party: Island Tour lacks heart at the end of the day. I explained the situation to a non-gaming friend and she replied, “So if this were a party in real life, the host basically ordered too much salad instead of pizza.” Her assessment is eerily accurate -- in the Mario Party diet, the salad is the necessary but restricting structure and the pizza is the delicious, random fun that makes it worthwhile. The amount of hand-holding in this latest installment leaves me longing for the Mario Party days of yore -- a time when people actually worked hard to win minigames because it got them that much closer to the big reward: a star. The minigames in Island Tour are enjoyable but the structure around them can be tiring and almost too fair to bad (or just plain unfortunate) players. The only true merit of Mario Party: Island Tour is the ability to play Mario Party with your local friends on the 3DS. As long as they have a 3DS and are close-by, playing via Download Play is fairly quick and painless. However, the lack of online play and the overall single-player experience is a pretty big bummer. Unless you’re desperate and need a quick Mario Party fix on the go, stick with a console version if you can.
Mario Party review photo
More like Island BORE
I consider myself a Mario Party veteran -- I’ve been a huge fan of the series, with a particular emphasis on the cutthroat days of the N64 titles. There’s nothing like losing the skin on the palm of your hands t...

Review: Super Motherload

Nov 21 // Caitlin Cooke
Super Motherload (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: XGen StudiosPublisher: XGen StudiosRelease Date: November 15, 2013 (PS4) / November 26 (PS3) / 2014 (PC)MSRP: $14.99 Your adventure in Super Motherload begins as Employee 1001 -- a miner working for the Solarus Corporation on Mars. Solarus is hungry for precious minerals, and it's your job retrieve them. Aided by Mister Fix-it (your AI partner), you descend deep into the planet's crust to find minerals to exchange for cash to upgrade your rig. Refueling, repairing, and buying upgrades are the main staples required to continue the descent into the unknown. The further you dig, the more you begin to learn about the secrets of Mars and the strange occurrences happening throughout the various Solarus bases. Excerpts of video logs and sound bytes come through occasionally throughout the dig, and as a result you’re sometimes left with a fetch quest. The interruptions are interesting but brief however, allowing more time to do what you do best: dig. Digging and refueling is a very simple gameplay mechanic, but despite the repetition the game is somewhat complex. Mostly, this is due to the fact that the deeper the dig, the more complicated the soil gets. For example, after hitting the third base (about a quarter through the game) I started to notice less open space and more metal plates blocking my path, forcing me to find a way around (or through) them to reach valuable gems. The game ramps up its presentation as well, with more and more complicated systems. At first, the Motherload starts off with a smattering of minerals such as “bronzium” and “goldium” which are fairly easy to obtain. Soon enough, the treasures become more valuable deeper into the descent, from rubies all the way to “unobtanium.” Eventually, upgrades can be bought to automatically “smelt” minerals together which make interesting combinations like “katana gold.” Smelting adds a bit more variety to the mining gameplay, allowing for the crafting of bombs and forcing players to think more carefully about the order in which they collect minerals. Gameplay isn't restricted to just "digging" though, as there are a number of different bombs that are made to blast through different types of elements, as well as some interestingly shaped bomb explosions to help navigate through barriers. For example, a “T” bomb will help blast the area directly above and one space to the left and right, creating said "T" shape. Some valuable minerals are trapped within rock or metal barriers that players must explode properly, without destroying the loot. I really enjoyed these short challenges but longed for a bit more complexity and variety as the same puzzles showed up over and over again. Despite the repetition in bomb puzzles, maps are randomly generated upon each new game making it so you’ll never play the same map twice. Characters also have a different set of upgrade levels and abilities, making gameplay a bit different depending on which character you choose. For example, the unlockable character Laika is a ghost dog who doesn’t take any hull damage, and another extra character, Demitri, has unlimited electron bombs. I also noticed that stations have different abilities and items for sale upon each new game -- in one game I purchased an ability to turn magma into money but in another game I found the same station selling an ability that makes “ironium” turn into fuel. Some of the upgrades can feel like downgrades at first -- like increasing the rotor speed is potentially dangerous as you can quickly damage your digger. However, once you get to the endgame these speed upgrades come in handy. About three quarters into the game though, I found a lack of plot movement and an increased difficulty in navigating around blockades. Even after purchasing all possible upgrades for my character it still took quite some time to get to the end and I was not prepared for what I had to do next. After spending hours digging through Mars, the endgame delved into new mechanisms that took me by surprise. However frustrating, I found it rewarding to complete it in the end. I heartily enjoyed Super Motherload -- so much so in fact, that I’m already whizzing past on my second playthrough and I plan to unlock and upgrade the rest of the characters. The act of collecting minerals and selling them has never been so exciting, and I can’t quite place my finger on why. Perhaps it’s the ’80s vibe and the stellar OST that is reminiscent of Hotline Miami, or the feeling of zen when I dig. Regardless, I can’t seem to stop playing. I did run into a few small but notable snags that are worth mentioning. The first problem I encountered was the touchpad -- bombs can be dropped by swiping or clicking the touchpad in a manner of ways. Me being the clumsy person that I am, I often dropped or misplaced my fingers on the controller making it so that I accidentally used up bombs at least a few times during each session. There isn’t a way to turn off touchpad functionality, so I learned to be extremely cautious with how I picked up and put down my controller. Local co-op is available, but to be honest I found it to be more stressful than playing alone. Players share a fuel tank, which means that fuel gets wasted a lot more easily so it’s a bit harder to progress. Everyone also shares a single screen -- all players have to be in the same area for the game to function. If you leave your controller sitting for more than a few seconds, the game automatically removes your character from play. I can see how co-op could be fun with the right group of people, but I personally prefer the single-player experience. And what a fantastic experience it is, despite its flaws. Super Motherload is simple enough so that anyone can pick it up and play, but complex enough for mining veterans to keep coming back to fully upgrade characters or even risk playing in hardcore mode. The sci-fi ’80s vibe is delightful and the perfect setting for this ridiculously addicting game. I find myself coming back to it at the end of every day, ready for a new adventure underground.
Super Motherload review photo
It's not too late to go back...
Super Motherload was supposed to be my “tester” experience -- the first game that I booted up on my PlayStation 4 to get a feel for the system. I planned to take a few minutes to acquaint myself with the control...

Ken Levine on the evolution of Elizabeth in Burial at Sea

Oct 04 // Caitlin Cooke
In Burial at Sea: Episode 1, Elizabeth seemed a little bit jaded, if not completely cold, in comparison to her personality in BioShock Infinite. I asked Ken to elaborate on what's happening with her character, and he explained, "In [Burial at Sea: Episode 2], there will be even more changes and each experience. It's really about taking Elizabeth from the woman you met in the tower [in Infinite], this naive person, to the person at the end of Infinite who's gone through some terrible things, [then] to this femme fatal, opaque, cold and then going inside and seeing what caused all of that." "When you get to the end of this, where does that leave her and what does this experience do to her? We basically want to show you the world from her perspective [...] that's a journey that you can complete only when you step into her shoes." After learning about the "lighthouses" from BioShock Infinite, it can be confusing to understand where Burial at Sea falls in the timeline and how it fits into Elizabeth's world. Ken Levine clarified that "This is 'Elizabeth prime,' this is the Elizabeth that went through the experiences in BioShock Infinite and this is the Rapture from BioShock. We're not splintering that." Elizabeth's combat style in Burial at Sea: Episode 2 hasn't been announced yet, but the gameplay will be more of the survival-horror variety. Ken elaborates on the gameplay that "It's probably even more resource management intensive and stealth oriented. Elizabeth is a different person, she's not a "guns blazing" person. "Without going into too much detail, it's the world through her eyes. Each game (BioShock Infinite, Burial at Sea: Episode 1) are bespoke experiences, we're working on game experience stuff that varies from each of them." Perhaps we will be getting a completely different gameplay mechanic when we step into Elizabeth's shoes. There is no official release date for Burial at Sea: Episode 2, but I imagine we'll have our answers when it's most likely released sometime next year.
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A cold, jaded lady
Warning: Minor plot/theme spoilers  BioShock Infinite - Burial at Sea: Episode 1 ends on an interesting note to say the least, and I'm curious to see what is in store for the next episode. When it was announced, Burial a...

Preview: BioShock Infinite - Burial at Sea: Episode 1

Oct 04 // Caitlin Cooke
[embed]258998:49773:0[/embed] BioShock Infinite - Burial at Sea: Episode 1 (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Irrational GamesPublisher: 2K GamesRelease: Holiday 2013 Elizabeth informs you that she knows a crazy artist named Cohen (sound familiar?) who may know the whereabouts of Sally. After viewing the new areas Rapture has to offer, your first objective is to procure a rabbit mask that will grant entry into Cohen's secret party. This task introduces a new aspect of gameplay where Elizabeth distracts shopkeepers as you wait for the right timing to sneak into the back areas. I found it highly enjoyable and tense (in a good way), but also very brief as this particular mechanic doesn't show up again in the DLC. Once you steal this mask, you enter Cohen's crazy little party. From there, those of you who have played the original BioShock can assume things get dark and twisted very fast. Note: This is the last of the story I'll reveal.  The combat mechanics in Burial at Sea, including Plasmids, are very much the same as in prior BioShock installments. However, this time around resource management is much more prevalent than it was in Infinite. On medium difficulty I found myself often running out of bullets and Eve, thus having to conserve my resources to ensure I could make it through to the next area. This was intentional from a gameplay perspective, and I actually found myself getting more out of the combat situations versus the rushed combat mentality of BioShock Infinite. Enemies are different this time around as well. They were much less likely to rush at me, and often times I could observe them milling about before they were even alerted to my presence. This gave me time to plan my attacks in advance, making it easier to strategically place Plasmid traps and route enemies. Despite the lack of resources I ended up feeling more accomplished at the end of my battles, which is something I didn't really feel in Infinite despite the numerous and often large amount of enemies. The setting in Burial at Sea is gorgeous and colorful -- all assets have been redone, breathing in new life to Rapture. Bars, shops, art galleries, and even slot machines adorn the main area. One of the settings, a derelict department store, is an interesting space in its own right. Clothing, electronics, toys and various other relics from Rapture in the 1950s are scattered about in a creepy yet eye-catching way. The pacing and overall design felt much more open than Infinite as well. So much more open in fact that at one point I had accidentally skipped two parts of a quest because I bypassed it. Enemies had cropped up in the meantime making it harder every time I made a mistake in my path selection. Hidden areas are still prevalent in Burial at Sea, with Elizabeth always at the ready to help pick locks. Audio diaries are scattered about, providing extra context to what's happening in Rapture at the time and also some interesting tidbits regarding a certain "phenomena" occurring. I highly recommend not skipping these! I fully completed this DLC and truly enjoyed it. In fact, I loved it so much that it makes me wonder why it's not a standalone game. I felt like it blended the best parts of both BioShock and BioShock Infinite; the combat was challenging and thoughtful, the story was captivating, and the pacing was perfect. Infinite was a fantastic game in its own right, but bringing Booker and Elizabeth to Rapture is literally a whole new world. Burial at Sea: Episode 1 does not have a specific release date, but they do anticipate it coming out before the holidays. We'll do a full proper review closer to release. In the meantime, enjoy this ominous "Fact from Myth" video which foreshadows what may have happened after Elizabeth and Booker meet in Rapture ... [embed]262949:50775:0[/embed]
BioShock Infinite photo
All assets have been redone, breathing in new life to Rapture
Warning: minor plot spoilers I swore hand over heart that I would not spoil the resolution of Burial at Sea, so that will remain a mystery until the rest of you fine citizens get to enjoy it before the holidays. However, to g...

Ken Levine on BioShock Infinite's new DLC, Burial at Sea

Jul 30 // Caitlin Cooke
Ken and his team have built Burial at Sea from the ground up, including the objects and assets. This was surprising to me seeing as it's only DLC, but Ken explains, "it was a huge undertaking and I’m not exactly sure why we do things that take so much time, but we thought this was our last chance for a while to give our fans a love letter so we decided to do it.” This method seems to pay off -- when Ken describes the game to me, I can already tell how unique it will be compared to previous installments. He continues: “It’s basically two parts -- [the first episode] takes place in sort of the pristine Rapture, and that’s very much like being in Columbia at the beginning. There’s a hubspace that’s pretty…I think actually one of the best BioShock spaces that the team has ever built in terms of what I like to see. "I look at levels like the medical level in BioShock and Fort Frolick as sort of the right structural layout of things because they’re less linear, they’re more sort of the center. They feel organic to me, [but] buildings are designed in a hierarchical fashion […] where the more big action stuff tends to push you down a single corridor. It is a constant struggle to get the team around that non-linearity. We’ve definitely done a better job I think in this DLC than we did in Infinite." When I asked about the story, Ken didn't want to get too much into the specifics so as not to spoil it, but he did say that everything ties together and certain characters will make appearances. "We’re fans of integration, we’ll put it that way. We want to both give people a chance to see characters from BioShock before they splice up as much as they do and what they were like beforehand. There is a very well known character in BioShock who will be involved substantially in the story [...] It is connected to the larger story.” Ken also touched on a few themes from the original BioShock, and mentioned that this DLC will dive a bit deeper into the intricacies of Rapture. "You see this opening part which is in pristine Rapture and there’s this whole quest there that doesn’t involve combat and your journey takes you to […] a department store that’s now a prison that you’re there for a reason, you’ll find out. That’s a very traditional BioShock experience with all the fucking crazy splicers down there and the place has gone to shit. So you get both -- you get the pristine Rapture and the ‘gone to shit’ Rapture in the same package.” I prodded about the second episode, in which players get to experience everything through the eyes of Elizabeth. I was particularly interested in Booker's role, but it hasn't been fleshed out completely so Ken was hesitant to share a lot of information. However, he has an outline of a story in mind and wants it to have a different combat feel than the other games. “We’re in relatively early stages of the third part of the DLC [Burial at Sea Ep 2]," Ken told me. "It’s something that we wanted to do, we didn’t know if we could or had the time or resources but finally we decided it was important that we did it. It’s funny, each of the DLCs are a different combat feel, the first one [Clash in the Clouds] is very much like Infinite. The second one is much like BioShock, we reintegrated much more of the player-initiated combat notions of BioShock. In the third one, it’s almost like survival horror. Elizabeth is not like Booker, she’s not a huge tank. We’re still figuring out the details, everything is open to change, but we want her to feel like she’s always on the bleeding edge of resources and decisions and even push the stealth mechanic." Ken continues, "We also have this notion of grifting from the original game that we didn’t have time to do, and I wanted to show that side of Elizabeth and her saviness through her wits to get the things she needs done, done.” When I asked about everyone's favorite characters, the Luteces, Ken said that "I'm not only a huge fan of writing them but I'm a huge fan of working with Oliver [Vaquer] and Jennifer [Hale] on them, and I'll leave it at that." For now, Ken seemed excited about the future and about what fans will think of Burial at Sea. He explains, “We never know what we’re doing next but I think if we knew… it wouldn’t be surprising because we’d have to surprise ourselves. I’m just curious to hear people’s reactions. We know people were frustrated by how silent we were and how long it was taking, but at the end of the day we’re always going to make the choice to present things in a way to actually give people a sense of what we’re doing and do the thing that we think is right for the gamer in the long run, not in the short run. So they’re frustrated that they haven’t gotten the content yet, but we could have done something quicker but it wouldn’t be this. People get anxious but I think they’re going to be pretty happy.”
BioShock interview photo
Returning to Rapture on the eve of its downfall
Irrational Games, and Ken Levine in particular, have been known for creating games with innovative narratives and unique gameplay. BioShock Infinite is no different, and we expect the same for the remaining downloadable cont...

Return to Rapture photo
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea set on the eve of Rapture's downfall
Irrational Games revealed the intentions for their remaining BioShock Infinite downloadable content plans to follow up the Clash in the Clouds DLC: Burial at Sea, a Booker and Elizabeth tale set on the eve of Rapture's down...

BioShock Infinite's first DLC is out on Steam today

Jul 30 // Caitlin Cooke
BioShock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Irrational GamesPublisher: 2K GamesRelease: July 30, 2013 (PC) / August 2013 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Clash in the Clouds does not tie into the storyline specifically but rather is a standalone arena-based combat game. You continue to play as Booker Dewitt with Elizabeth at your side, tearing the fabric of space and time to obtain useful items in battle (as usual).  The DLC consists of four maps (The OPS Zeal, Duke and Dimwit Theater, Raven's Zone, Emporia Arcade) with each containing 15 encounters, or waves, of enemies. The waves get progressively more difficult and sometimes require a lot more strategy vs combat in the main game, especially as the enemies grow in number. The beauty of Clash is that it can be fun for both hardcore arena players or for gamers who want a bit of challenge without the need to be ranked. If players can successfully beat all 15 waves without dying, they'll be placed on the glorious leaderboards for all to see. If the player dies at any point, they can resume the game to continue collecting cash but won't make it onto the rankings. Extra lives can be purchased at the office door in between waves, which allow players to spawn at the door with no penalty and at full health. Players earn Silver Eagles at the end of each wave, and can also get bonus Eagles by killing enemies in various ways (headshots, vigor combos, etc). "Blue Ribbon Challenges" can also be attempted to earn cash bonuses throughout each wave. For example, a few of mine were to defeat enemies only with the hand cannon, or defeat enemies only using the skyline. At the end of each wave, health and salts replenish and you have the opportunity to stock up on new guns or buy upgrades with your money. Silver Eagles can also be used to purchase artifacts from the Columbian Archaeological Society, a really neat-looking atrium with a giant bronze statue of Songbird hanging above. This was actually my favorite part about the DLC -- you can buy character statues, individual songs playing on their own phonograph, Kinetoscopes, Voxophones, and concept art to fill out the space. There's even something waiting for you when a certain duo is unlocked ... but I won't spoil the surprise. Overall I enjoyed my time with Clash in the Clouds. For $5, or included in your Season Pass purchase, you can't really go wrong. It's honestly worth it just to unlock some really cool story items from Infinite and test your combat skills when shit hits the fan.   Clash in the Clouds is coming at you later today on Steam, and will be released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by the end of the week. Burial at Sea, the next two downloadable content packs for BioShock Infinite, were also revealed to us, and this will be story-driven content that is set on the eve of Rapture's downfall. Rapture being the setting of the original BioShock. You'll even get to play as Elizabeth here. Check out the trailer and our impressions of that here.
BioShock Infinite DLC photo
Clash in the Clouds is an arena-based combat game
We're here folks! Breathe that big ol' sigh of relief because by midday you'll see BioShock Infinite's first piece of downloadable content, Clash in the Clouds, available for download on the PC through Steam. Clash in the C...

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Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments looks sweet


Demo puts LA Noire to shame
Jun 15
// Caitlin Cooke
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is the seventh installment in the Sherlock Holmes series from Frogwares development studio, and so far it's looking pretty stellar. Crimes and Punishments holds many firsts for the seri...
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It's Deadfall Adventures Time!


Aztecbraic!
Jun 15
// Caitlin Cooke
UPDATE: Deadfall Adventures will be $39.99 on PC and $49.99 on X360, not $60. Deadfall Adventures may seem like an Indiana Jones or Uncharted rip-off, however the game is doing the exact opposite: it is engrained in the ...
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Contrast lights the way to fun platforming


And a has a cool setting to boot!
Jun 14
// Caitlin Cooke
Contrast is hands down the most unique game I played at E3. It's rare to find a game that melds adult themes with the whimsical storytelling mechanics of a child's mind. Blended with interesting puzzle platforming, Contrast is surely going to spark some interest when it arrives.

Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies is lookin' fine in 3D

Jun 13 // Caitlin Cooke
The demo I played was very reminiscent of the original series with the same dialogue style and basic gameplay mechanics but with the extra oomph that the 3DS can offer - mainly, short 3D cutscenes and added graphic detail. Oh, and of course Phoenix's hair is even more spiky in 3D. Players can still shout OBJECTION! into the mic and I imagine the investigation will also incorporate some 3DS features, however the demo did not get into the crime scene portion.  The court scene was very much the same as it's always been -- lots of banter, pressing the witnesses, presenting evidence and of course all the courtroom drama that goes along with it. It was entertaining watching Phoenix stumble his way through his first investigation in years - it wouldn't be an Ace Attorney game without embarrassing the main character! The new gameplay mechanic, the "mood matrix," allows Phoenix to sense how the witness is feeling during their testimony -- happy, angry, sad, or surprised. Pinpointing an unexpected emotion allows for Phoenix to press the witness even further on their testimony, exposing new information. It didn't seem very difficult but it was interesting being able to view the witness' memories play out. I found this to be a unique addition and I'm curious how it will play out in the long run. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is being released in Japan on July 25th with western regions following suit in the fall for 3DS download only. Yes, it's sad, but hey at least we're getting it, and getting it soon!  
Phoenix Wright photo
I have no objections
I'm a big fan of the Ace Attorney series but fell off the wagon somewhere between the Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth games, so it's exciting to see that Phoenix is making a comeback in Dual Destinies. The game takes place...

Magrunner photo
Magrunner

Magrunner: Dark Pulse looks really darn cool


Magnets, how do they work?
Jun 13
// Caitlin Cooke
Magrunner: Dark Pulse is a game that you may brush off as a Portal imitator at first - but I urge you not to do so. After playing through some levels on the E3 show floor, Magrunner has caught my attention not just with its delightful puzzle-solving mechanics but through the world and story itself.
XSEED photo
XSEED

Rune Factory 4 is pleasantly complex


'Harvest Moon on steroids'
Jun 12
// Caitlin Cooke
Attending E3 has given me the chance to try out some games I normally wouldn't think of picking up - Rune Factory 4 being one of them. I always considered the Rune Factory series to be a Harvest Moon imitator until I gave it ...

Review: Might & Magic: Duel of Champions

Jun 03 // Caitlin Cooke
Might & Magic: Duel of Champions (PC, iPad)Developer: UbisoftPublisher: UbisoftRelease: May 28, 2013MSRP: Free Duel of Champions begins with your choice of a faction: Haven (protection and healing), Inferno (attack damage), or Necropolis (infecting and stealing life). The story and deck you receive depends on the faction you choose -- I chose Haven and ended up as an elite mercenary, fighting for the glory of the holy empire in battle. The campaign map started off with a few missions and included a boot camp (tutorial) to learn the basics. Each encounter (duel) started off with some dialogue to tie into the plot, and after finishing the duel I was showered with rewards like XP, gold, and seals. At first the gameplay seemed very generic but as the tutorial eased me into it I realized there were a lot of elements at play. Cards are not only cast with resources, but may also require a combination of three different abilities to come into play: might, magic, and destiny. Each player is represented by a hero who can add one of these three abilities to their pool or in lieu, can cast a special ability. To add to the complexity, each player brings eight event cards to the duel which are shuffled together and brought out in twos. On any given player's turn, they have the option to play one or both cards if they have enough resources. Some of these cards are simple -- each player draws a card, add 1 attack to this creature, etc. -- however some event cards have the power to turn the tables quickly. Three types of main cards can be found in the deck: creatures, spells, and fortunes. Fortune cards require enough of the "destiny" attribute to put into play and twist the rules of the game (i.e., adding resources to a player's pool). Spell cards are pretty typical and usually affect creatures on the board (like raising an attack score, or eliminating a creature from the board). Creatures have an attack score, a retaliation score (damage dealt back to an attacking creature), and health points. Health is not regained at the end of the turn so players have to be careful with how they place cards and who they attack. During the action phase players can cast creatures onto the battlefield, which consists of two rows on each player's side. There are three types of creatures -- flying, melee, and shooter -- each having their own rules on where they can be deployed on the board (i.e., the front line, back line) and how they attack. Creatures usually have to be in the same row as an enemy creature to make the attack, and can only perform one action each turn. If no creatures are in the row to block the attack, players can attack the enemy hero instead. Just like Magic the Gathering, once a hero's life total goes from 20 to zero the game is over. Players can win gold, seals, and XP by winning duels (PvP) or encounters from the single-player campaign. Gold and seals are used to buy consumables (like tickets to compete in a tournament), decks, and card packs. Gold is accrued much easier than seals and you'll utilize more of it to unlock decks and packs, whereas seals are won at a much slower rate but are used to purchase rarer items. After playing through the tutorial, I found that I had enough seals and gold to buy about five card packs. Not bad, although it seems like you'll need to play quite a bit or hand over the cash to unlock rare decks. Despite all the fun I had playing Might and Magic: DoC, I had my share of pet peeves when running through the game. The game moves way too fast on an enemy's turn -- it's hard to tell what they're casting and what the effects are, and since there's no way to pause the game I found myself having to backtrack by clicking through cards in their discard pile. I suppose this is something that players would get used to once they're more familiar, but it would benefit newbie players to slow it down a bit at first. I also felt like if I made one or two mistakes the game was basically over -- it's hard to recover from a duel when your battlefield is basically empty.  The dialogue in the main campaign isn't really anything to rave about, but at least it's there - it allows for nice context that many collectible card games do not provide. However, you can't really skip through it even if you've already played that specific encounter. I also wish there were more ways you could play with your friends but alas Practice mode is the only option at this point. You can't remove the timer and there are no rewards/XP offered so playing in Practice is kind of pointless. Fortunately, playing in Duel mode (normal pvp match) is worthwhile as you receive rewards even if you lose. I was surprised in a good way to find that I never had to wait longer than 20 seconds to find a match. I did notice that practically everyone I played with was way more advanced than I was in terms of skill, which gave me the impression that only super hardcore players stuck around after the beta. However, on rare occasions I did actually find myself playing against similarly-skilled opponents. My favorite and least favorite part of the game happens to be the same thing: the deck-building tool. I love that the game actually HAS one, for starters. The most important piece, however, is that you can completely customize decks to your liking as long as cards are in the same faction. Unfortunately though, I found the tool to be a bit cumbersome and confusing -- it's hard to see the cards and there's no real structure overall. For first-time players it would be super beneficial to have a tutorial or a "suggested" deck tool which could assist players in building decks from scratch. Might & Magic: DoC is easy to learn but quite difficult to master. Card fans seem to already be flocking with almost 150k ranked players and duel wins up in the thousands. The game has been in beta for months but with the official launch Ubisoft has added a new card series called Herald of the Void, which includes 120 new cards.  When I first started up Duel of Champions and played through the tutorial, I never thought I'd be playing for the next four hours. I found myself becoming easily lost in the game, with my duels lasting over a half hour but only seeming like 10 minutes. It's a solid CCG for sure, and one that I don't mind being tied to at the moment. 
Duel of Champions review photo
A delightfully addicting CCG
Might & Magic: Duel of Champions is yet another contender in this year of our collectible card game lords, 2013. CCGs are being released in droves this year and with most of them running on the free-to-play model, competi...







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