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Rhymedown Spectacular: Cabin Fever


The brains behind Jimquisition and Zero Punctuation get lyrical
Oct 02
// Jim Sterling
Oh look, more bloody poems for your damn eyeholes.  You are totally allowed to look at this video by clicking on it and watching it until completion. It's okay, I won't mind. I won't tell.
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You've got wang
Here's some Shadow Warrior to tide you over while our review is in the works. I go stab stuff up, look for glowing statues, and watch rabbits having sex. All in a day's work for this Stan Bush enthusiast!  We might do more of this one. Depends how much y'all like it. 

Review: Rain

Oct 01 // Jim Sterling
Rain (PS3)Developer: PlayStation CAMP, AcquirePublisher: SonyReleased: October 1, 2013MSRP: $14.99 Rain is the story of a little boy who accidentally becomes invisible. More than that, the town that once was so familiar is shrouded in darkness, assailed by a downpour of rain, and plagued by mysterious beasts intent on doing him harm. Visible only when the rainfall covers his body, he comes into a contact with a similarly afflicted girl, and together they must try to find their way through the storm and avoid the sinister forces out to get them.  PlayStation CAMP's tale is a simple one, but it's delivered with a subtlety and poignance that manages to hit the right note, whether it aims to make you sad or delighted. With no voice acting to speak of, the narrative unfolds by way of text placed stylishly around the game's world, something I always appreciate in a game, but one that can prove just a touch distracting during the more platform-oriented sections. Nevertheless, it's a pleasingly presented, thoughtfully told story that ends on a most enamoring note.  Drawing from platformers, stealth, and puzzle games, Rain smartly turns its central conceit into a variety of interesting ideas, never dwelling on one neat trick for long. The unnamed boy cannot fight back against the beasts that stalk him, but he is only visible to the creatures when standing directly in rain. The most common way of avoiding peril, therefore, is to sneak past by walking underneath roofing, canvas, and anything else that provides shelter from the water. Of course, since the boy is invisible in such circumstance, spatial awareness (and an eye on wet footprints) is crucial to ensure one knows where they're going.  New twists on this idea are dripped into the adventure as time progresses. Creatures themselves start wandering, invisible and deadly, in sheltered areas. Large puddles can give the boy's position away, while mud clings to him and renders him visible in any condition. Some monsters must be lured away from passages by noise, or huge passive creatures may be walked under for moving cover. Worst of all, the lurching Unknown is constantly in pursuit, and his regular harassment makes for some surprisingly frightening sequences.  When the boy and the girl unite, they'll need to cooperate to progress. Rain doesn't go out of its way to be too inventive here, with a whole bunch of block puzzles, boosting to higher ledges, and mutual opening of gates providing some standard environmental hindrances. Despite the relatively unimaginative puzzles, however, it's a unique pleasure to watch the two invisible friends interact with and help each other.  Rain excels at providing moments of serenity punctuated harshly by jarringly sad or scary occurrences. When the game's calming music is playing, and the children are padding through the drumming of the rain, it's hard not to smile. Such elegant sequences are, however, tinged with fear of the Unknown rearing its misshapen head, or soured by the evocatively animated sadness and confusion of the silent heroes. Bittersweet is a word best reserved for experiences such as this.  While Rain is a largely pleasant experience, some blemishes dampen the adventure in less literal ways. Controls are a little finicky, with the boy sometimes either feeling not responsive enough for his jumps, or too responsive and twitching off a ledge or away from an interactive object. A few of the chase and stealth sequences are overly reliant on trial and error too, albeit without it being as smartly woven into the design à la something like Limbo. There's nothing that will ever keep you stumped for more than a minute or two, but sometimes the game suffers from making you try to predict what the developers were thinking.  It's also a shame that, for all its clever little tricks, none of Rain's ideas quite feel as fleshed out as they could have been. The first time you see just a mudstained pair of feet clomp in a roofed corridor, it's a joy. However, such unique spins on the central premise are showcased once or twice, and never really given much time to shine or reach their potential. Some of the simpler uses of Rain's gimmicks seem to exist purely to showcase how clever the whole idea is, and make you look at the cool visual style. While it is, indeed, cool, it can be frustrating to think about how shallow the use of these ideas are, when juxtaposed against the possibilities.  I will also say that, as much as I found the Unknown to be an intimidating enemy, the sheer number of times he pops up to spook the player tends to have a diminishing effect over the course of the game. By the end of it, he's come back more times than Jason Voorhees, and he starts to make eyes roll rather than close up tight. Still, he's very unsettling for the first half of the game.  Nevertheless, Rain is a pleasure, and its visuals are indeed sublime. Aside from the general enjoyment one gets from the weather and invisibility effects, the profound animation is what really makes Rain as gorgeous as it is. The way the children slide on rain-slicked tiles, or cover their faces from the incoming water make them feel incredibly alive, giving them a sense of believability and sympathy that most photorealistic, Hollywood-acted games would kill to achieve.  The art design is impeccable, too, most notably with the monsters. Abstract, and yet unnervingly familiar, the vaguely formed beasts that hound the player are wonderfully designed to resemble common animals while maintaining an alien and utterly cold form. It's an effective style, that works well against the great, dreary, yet hauntingly pretty background.  Rain is not quite the model of refinement that some of its PlayStation Network peers have been, but it's an overwhelmingly amiable, effectively cultivated little adventure. Calming and scary, amusing and sorrowful, Rain is a game that jogs calmly through a gamut of emotions, rather than sprints headlong into mood whiplash, and it's incredibly difficult to ever dislike it, even during its twitchier moments. Rain is, above all, a most balmy experience.  Also, it's nice to see the PS3 finally getting a rain-themed exclusive with a good story.
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Hydroeclectic
Sony has a stable of impressive top-tier game franchises -- Uncharted, Killzone, God of War, the kind of blockbuster productions every console needs to open eyelids among the mainstream users. I, however, will remember Sony's...

Jimquisition: Vertigo

Sep 30 // Jim Sterling
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Jimquisition happens every Monday!
Let's look for a playable woman protagonist in a videogame that doesn't rely on the same pool of restrictive stereotypes as every other playable woman protagonist. To do this, let's look at a fighting game from 1994. That one about the dinosaurs. Yes, that one. Because I damn well sure can't find many better example. Folks, be prepared ... to RAGE.

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So stupid
People keep talking about Cookie Clicker like it's the most amazing game yet, but don't get it. I don't get it. I don't get it. I don't get it. Click.

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Turkey buzzard vulture
Oh look, it's Neverending Nightmares, that creepy looking adventure game Jonathan talked about the other day. It's only got a few hours left on its Kickstarter, and this video probably won't help it. We can only cross our fingers! Anyway, I played the demo. You can watch me play it, if you want. 

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I am sad now
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is funny, gloriously shameless, and solid in the action department. It is also, unfortunately, kind of broken in unforgivable ways, and if you get caught in its terrible traps, you could ruin your entire game.  I wish I could just be showing off how much fun this game is. I can't though. Now I'm sad in my face. 

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Podtoid 271: Tingle's Tiny Tadger


Podtoid hits the Destructoid frontpage every Thursday!
Sep 26
// Jim Sterling
It is an experimental new Podtoid, as this week we recorded the questions segment live! Yes, the question part of the show was broadcast online and we answered queries in REAL TIME! It went of surprisingly well, too.  El...

Review: Nvidia Shield

Sep 25 // Jim Sterling
Nvidia Shield Manufacturer: NvidiaReleased: August 29, 2013MSRP: $299.00 The first thing you'll notice about the Shield is how it refuses to compromise on the things handheld gaming systems most commonly acquiesce. This is a big lump of plastic -- it can just about fit in the pocket, but you'll look like you've got the world's worst thigh tumor. It's chunky, and possessed of not inconsiderable weight, but that's because it's a screen sat atop a full-fledged, console-level controller. There's very little difference between it and an Xbox 360 controller, with its full-size, clickable dual analog sticks, face buttons, bumpers and triggers on the shoulder, and D-pad. The center of the controller also features a large button to access Tegra Zone, a back button, a start button, an Android home button, and a button to bring up volume controls. The obvious downside to having a full-on controller as a handheld is that you're, well, carrying a full-on controller around with you. The upside, however, is you've also got the most game-capable handheld system ever made, able to do things other systems simply can't.  [embed]262335:50645:0[/embed] Where it's taken the PlayStation Vita over a year to get one first-person shooter to get it right, and even then it has to compromise, the Shield launches with a rock-solid alternative right out of the gate, one that doesn't have to skimp on functionality in the least. While Dead Trigger isn't exactly the most impressive shooter ever made, it's nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable to be able to play a handheld FPS that actually feels like a real FPS, rather than a developer's noble approximation. Games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Sonic the Hedgehog, and The Bard's Tale are all simply better here than they are on other Android devices, making the Shield a viable choice for those who want to try some of the souped-up Android releases, but aren't into the idea of touchscreens.  This is also where the Shield humiliates its closest comparative system, the Ouya. Like Ouya, the Shield is a dedicated gaming system that gives you physical controls for Android-powered games. Unlike the Ouya, the Shield's native controller is responsive, the system itself is incredibly powerful, games feel like they belong on it, and the system is overall just more pleasant to use. The Shield also has full access to the Google Play store, with a real Android OS that can run any app. Of course, games not designed specifically for Shield controls are awkward to run on a touchscreen with a great hunk of plastic hanging off it, but the fact it has the option to access so much more than the Ouya makes it a superior alternative.  Comfortable in the hands and capable of running games at their highest settings, Shield is a lot of fun to play around with -- and this is not taking into account its ability to run a range of emulators for old games that you totally already have the physical copies of.  So far, my only real complaint with the physical design of the thing is the D-pad. The Shield really did elect to imitate the Xbox 360 controller in every way possible, including a rather dreadful and imprecise directional disc-thing. For the most part, it's not too much of a problem to deal with, but it can make twitchy platform games more of a hassle than they should be, and it certainly doesn't make playing something like A Link to the Past any easier.  Android games specifically designed for the Shield are thinner on the ground, and while more Tegra-powered games are appearing on the Shield Store, it's going to need a lot more support. There are already some solid titles worth getting, with the aforementioned Dead Trigger, Vice City, and Bard's Tale all good choices, but there's a very real risk at this stage that the game's library could suddenly dry up. I hope it doesn't happen, but it's not uncommon for a handheld system to become a software wasteland in a short span of time.  As well as the physical controls, the Shield's screen supports multitouch, and you can even use the right stick as a mouse, bringing up a cursor for menu and web browsing. The left stick acts as a traditional console controller would, meaning you have three methods of input and can interact with the system as you would a console, PC, or smartphone.  The screen itself is a five-inch display that flips up and rocks a 1280x720 resolution. On top of such a large controller, it feels comparatively flimsy, but it's all solidly built stuff. Games, naturally, look pretty damn good on the screen, and it does a more than adequate job of showcasing the Tegra-4 titles it was built to support. Audio is where I was really impressed, however. The two front-facing speakers are situated neatly above the face buttons and D-pad, and are capable of blasting out some damn loud sound. Handheld systems typically fail when it comes to providing sufficient audio, but these speakers are frankly incredible.  Another plus point is the battery life. Up to 20 hours of life can be gotten out of the system when streaming content from a PC, with a fair few hours of regular use available too. I want to say you'll get at least five hours from the thing if you're running games from the device itself, and altogether I found this machine working far longer than any comparable device.  As well as utilizing a full Android OS, the Shield also run's Nvidia's own little playground, TegraZone. Here, you get quick access to your Shield game library, as well the Shield Store, which collects those Google Play games customized specifically for Shield controls. Not all of these games are as elegant as they could be -- some confusingly utilizing touch-only menus or requiring a full recustomization of the buttons (looking at you, Shadowgun Deadzone) -- and some of them are straight-up garbage. Still, the titles worth getting are really worth getting.  TegraZone's biggest feature, however, is its "PC Games" section, allowing users to stream games from their PC directly to the system using Steam. The feature is still in beta, something Nvidia warns users about with good reason. While a fantastic idea, it is currently unreliable, as well as a complete pain to set up. To even get a game to work, it requires diddling around on your PC first. You'll need to make sure everything is updated, download TegraZone to your computer, run your desired games at least once, ensure you've a fast enough wi-fi router, and potentially fiddle with your Firewall and DPI settings. Even when you have everything in order, sometimes messages can pop up on your PC that interrupt streaming, or the connection could terminate for unknown and seemingly arbitrary reasons.  The beta status also limits the amount of games that currently work, and even among the ones that do, only a few work very well. Sleeping Dogs, for example, puts a mouse cursor in the center of the screen while it streams, and an attempt to move it using the Shield's touchscreen will disable all controller input. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is just laggy, and suddenly stopped working completely after only two successful attempts to get it running. Also, the less said about Half-Life 2, the better.  However, all complaints aside, when the planets align and the thing actually works as intended, it's seriously impressive stuff. BioShock Infinite runs pleasantly, with only vaguely perceptible controller lag, while Borderlands 2 is almost perfect. If it weren't for the mouse cursor issue, Sleeping Dogs would also be triumphant, looking lovely on the Shield's screen and running at an impressively silky pace. When everything comes together smoothly, there's definitely a magical quality to the process.  A lot of critics have been down on the Nvidia Shield, but I honestly don't know why people have been so harsh. Games look great and run superbly, the controller is big but beautifully functional, and its wide range of features makes it superior to dedicated systems like the PS Vita in several ways. It delivers on several of the Ouya's promises better than the Ouya ever did, and while the PC streaming is still highly problematic, it at least works, and one would hope its post-beta performance is far better. Of course, it has to be said that it's an expensive little toy, with an asking price of $299, and that's really going to be the dealbreaker for a lot of people. For an Android system with an unsure future and no guarantee of continued software support, three hundred bucks is going to be too rich a gamble for most. As a piece of hardware, I feel the Shield fully justifies its asking price, but these days it's so much less about the hardware, and more what you can do with it. That said, having full access to Google Play, and its range of emulators (most of which work with the physical control options) severely opens up what the Shield can do beyond its "official" uses.  The Shield's biggest feature needs to get itself out of beta soon, and it will need a lot more Tegra-powered games under its belt before it can be a real competitor. However, the device is quickly becoming one of my favorite handheld gaming systems to date, and as a generally big fan of portable gaming, that says a lot. It was never going to appeal to everybody, but to the right buyer, the Shield may be the perfect handheld.  You've just got to be the really, really niche type of buyer it's gunning for. 
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Come back with your shield, or come back on it
[Disclosure: Nvidia has provided Destructoid with a number of computers for PC game review purposes in the past. If you feel that may make our reviews of any of their products "biased" or "paid off," you are welcome to.] The ...

Review: Alien Rage

Sep 25 // Jim Sterling
Alien Rage (PC)Developer: CI GamesPublisher: CI GamesReleased: September 24, 2013 (NA), October 4, 2013 (EU)MSRP: $19.99 The true name for this game is Alien Rage - Unlimited. I don't know what is supposed to be very "unlimited" about it, and frankly, I don't care. I have more important things to think about. I'd sooner think about a single plastic button, sat in a room that nobody's entered for fifty-six years, than think about why Alien Rage is supposedly so lacking in limits.  It is, of course, an ironic title at best, for Alien Rage is limited in every conceivable way. It's limited by the constrained adolescent imagination that concocted its paper-thin story and undistinguished universe. It's limited by its own confusion as to whether it's a classic run-and-gun arcade game or a more ponderous cover-based shooter. It most certainly limits the player, reducing him or her to a pool of guns that feel similar to each other, giving them the hit points of a creampuff, and constructing tedious corridors full of identical, monotonous, brainless combat encounters.  As I said, the game is torn between wanting to join Hard Reset or Bulletstorm in the "classic throwback" arcade set, and kowtowing to modern sensibilities concerning cover, iron sights, and methodical firefights. The result is a game in which cover systems exist for enemies, but not for the player, in which the "hero" is so weak he can barely take a few shots, but if he decides to crouch behind a wall, the enemies will bumrush him and shoot the generic bald bastard to bits. It's a game in which the shotgun is useless, for getting too close to the enemy is instant death, and iron sights are a miserable prospect, since the mindless opponents skitter about so damn much. Alien Rage so desperately wants to be "hardcore", too. It's pitiful in its grasping attempts to convince you of how "hardcore" it is. It makes you almost want to humor it. Oh, Alien Rage, your core is so hard, baby, you're so challenging, you're so old school! Where games such as Hard Reset actually understands the kind of smart design that goes into crafting a nostalgic, hectic, rewardingly challenging shooter, Alien Rage naively believes tossing tons of mindless enemies at the player is a close approximation to well-designed game difficulty. It's not. It's just adding to the confusing, confused mess that is this schizophrenic experience.  One would at least hope that a game so wildly meandering would at least be mildly surprising at times. It is not. It's just dreary corridor after dreary corridor of visually uninteresting aliens, blasting away at you with all the subtlety of a fork to the anus. You can easily see it going for a Serious Sam avenue of relentless combat, but it's actually quite tricky to balance that kind of persistent onslaught against the propensity to grow tiresome. In a game this graceless, the balance is missed by several generous miles.  This is all before we get to Alien Rage's most vile crime -- the animation. Whether reloading, running, opening a door, or tapping on a keypad, Alien Rage's camera attempts "realistic" movements to such an extreme, swaying, serpentine degree that you're either going to get motion sickness or a migraine -- most likely both. My eyes ached within moments of kicking up this woozy adventure, and I have no idea how the lost souls working on the thing were able to keep up development without vomiting into a gigantic vat.  There is multiplayer, an option that proves more enjoyable than the campaign, if only for the fact that the awful pendulating animations are taken out. This seems to imply the developer knew how offputting and unhelpful the motion sway actually is, but insisted it be retained for solo mode. In any case, the game is easier on the eye when shared online, though the gameplay is of the stock, mid-nineties variety available in dozens of equally uninspired games. You run around plain arenas, shooting at opponents with very little in the way of visual or audio feedback. It's a disconnected, alienating experience. It's not terrible. It's just kind of there, like a chair nobody sits on.  The true tragedy of it all, however, is that when you cut through the glitches, the mediocrity, the sensation of standing on a fragile boat, and the design's lack of commitment, one can actually find a quasi-competent first-person shooter attempting to happen. When it's not breaking itself for no reason, Alien Rage does work. The shooting actually has some weight to it, the arcade-like scoring system is a nice touch, and for the first few minutes, I really thought a potential sleeper hit was on the cards. Only when CI Games is allowed to showcase the true depths of its ineptitude, does the mask of potential fall ignobly away.  It may not sound like it from the well of anger this game has quite rightly opened up inside me, but there really is a good game trying to happen. With competent design decisions backing it up, the fundamentals of Alien Rage could make for something genuinely entertaining. Unfortunately, the only entertainment Alien Rage has given me was in the writing of this review. It's usually a saddening thing, to have to trounce a game so utterly, but in this case, I felt I deserved a treat.  To make the joke about Alien Rage inspiring actual rage is an obvious, unambitious, and relatively lame decision. I can't think of any decision more befitting this pointless little product. 
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They got the 'rage' part right
I didn't get very far into Alien Rage, I'm going to admit that right off the bat. It was not, however, for the want of trying. There are parts in Alien Rage where the game decides that working properly is for losers, so it do...

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Rhymedown Spectacular: Press X


The brains behind Jimquisition and Zero Punctuation get lyrical
Sep 25
// Jim Sterling
This week, Yahtzee details that growing videogame tradition, the need to press "X" in order to do anything and everything. Meanwhile, your buddy Jim Sterling pays tribute to one of the finest actors ever born, Dean "Once Was Superman For A Bit" Cain.  Oh, Dean Cain. You're so beautiful.

Alien Rage - Now Bloody Playing

Sep 25 // Jim Sterling
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Squirty Gun
In today's little carnival of misery, I try to contain my internal juices as I play Motion Sickness: The Game and fire my squirty gun at the Genericons. Yeah, Alien Rage isn't very good.  A full review is coming later today, where I further eviscerate this complete waste of time and money.

Race The Sun - Now Bloody Playing

Sep 24 // Jim Sterling
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Crashing and burning
People have been buzzing about Race The Sun lately, and so I decided to check it out for your sensual enjoyment. I'm not very good at it, but I'm having a laugh with it, and that's what matters. At the end of the day, that's what bloody matters.  So yeah, watch this video if you like! Oh, and Race The Sun can be voted for on its Greenlight page right here.

Jimquisition: To Play The Villain

Sep 23 // Jim Sterling
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Jimquisition happens every Monday!
Some gamers are skipping Grand Theft Auto V, unwilling to play the role of a thief, a gangbanger, or a psychopath. While others may shy away from being the villain, Jim Sterling actively revels in it. Indeed, to play the villain can not only be fun, it can be downright fascinating.

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Very, very drunk
Here we go, at last! The thrilling conclusion to Outlast, played by a man who ended how he started -- completely pickled. In this final chapter, we evade the Nude Brothers, we witness the Big'Un get what he deserves, we reun...

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Three fuses!?
Your good pal Jim Sterling returns to Mount Massive Asylum for another descent into madness. This time, we see yet more naked butts, faff about with three fuses, get chased by the big'un again, and have an encounter with a pair of old, nude, friends.  There. You got another Outlast video. Satisfied? Satisfied, now that you got, finally, your cheesy balls? 

Doorways - Now Bloody Playing

Sep 21 // Jim Sterling
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Scissory, Circley, Skewery, Cage
Discovered a new horror game on Steam last night, so I decided to record myself playing it for your ridiculous entertainment. It's called Doorways, it bills itself as a survival horror game, but it kind of isn't. It's interesting, though! Why not watch the video and see if you, too, find it interesting? Maybe you don't. That's okay too.

Shelter - Now Bloody Playing

Sep 20 // Jim Sterling
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Little Assbadgers
Time for some more stupid gameplay video stupidity for you to swallow into your gawking eyes. Why not watch me play Shelter for a minute? I'm going to wander around and drop onion things in front of little baby badgers.  Well then, that's fun isn't it? Yes. That's fun.

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Podtoid 270: Cookie, Suds Me Up With Soap And Foam!


Podtoid hits the Destructoid frontpage every Thursday!
Sep 19
// Jim Sterling
It's the satire special of Podtoid this week. To celebrate Grand Theft Auto V, we're having Jonathan Holmes commit hate crimes in Boston ... ironically! Elsewhere, Willem Dafoe thinks back on a fine luncheon, Holmes becomes e...

Review: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

Sep 18 // Jim Sterling
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 3Publisher: NintendoReleased: September 20, 2013 (NA), October 4, 2013 (EU)MSRP: $49.99 The Wind Waker debuted on the GameCube in 2002. Its visual style is crafted with such perfect simplicity, however, that the HD coat of paint effortlessly obscures any suggestion of it being over a decade old. From the moment the title screen appears, The Wind Waker HD delights with its bright, crisp, colorful visuals. It's the perfect kind of game to re-release in HD -- something that already looked fantastic, and was held back purely by the constraints of standard definition.  Unlike games that perpetually push the notion of "photorealism" and subsequently look pitifully dated when resurrected in future generations (the original Killzone springs immediately to mind), the elegant cartoon stylings of The Wind Waker lend it a timeless visual quality that raises a huge grin when gawped at for the first time in 1080p. To conclude this shameless fellating of The Wind Waker's art style, and its suitability for high definition, Nintendo made a fantastic call on this one.  Though visually timeless, the GameCube classic has aged in other areas, particularly when it comes to its basic interactivity. This is an issue exacerbated by the Wii U GamePad, the analog sticks of which are a bit too twitchy for Link's movements and have a tendency to overreact to the slightest of nudges. It doesn't help that the combat itself is a little bit clunky these days, while the need to travel across vast quantities of ocean -- helped nonetheless by some excellent background music -- can feel like something of a chore these days -- at least until you get the Swift Sail. There are some gyroscope controls thrown into the mix, because obviously there are, and they're maybe 50% effective at what they do. While I appreciate the theoretical ease of selecting the grappling hook, physically moving the GamePad to aim it, and instantly letting loose, the inescapable twitchiness and sensitive motion input makes it difficult to stay on target, and as such, the intended fluidity only works in about half of its uses. Fortunately, you can turn these features off, or you can use the Pro Controller if you want a far more traditional experience without the modern hindrances and benefits.  Griping aside, Nintendo's done a solid job of streamlining some of the more clanking elements of gameplay. The GamePad's touchscreen does an excellent job of presenting extraneous information, as well as making inventory management a breeze. The ability to swipe items into the action buttons at will eliminates that common Zelda problem, the constant need to pause the game and switch equipment around. Similarly, the lower screen also houses the world map, which provides similar convenience for sailing from island to island. These improvements are merely minor touches and do little to significantly overhaul the experience, but they're all welcome changes that subtly contribute to crafting a superior experience.  On the subject of streamlining, some minor gameplay fixes have been made to reverse some of the game's most notorious drags. The hunt for the Triforce shards has been made far less infuriating, with most of them now available on land with only three requiring tedious ocean fishing. You can also wander around Wind Waker's pretty world in first-person view should you desire, but you won't be able to use all your items.  Other additions include a beefed up Hero mode -- available as soon as you begin a new game -- the ability to upload Picto Box selfies using Miiverse, and message bottles. At the time of writing, this latter feature is not currently online, but when it is you'll be able to write messages that, via Miiverse, shall appear as bottled messages in other peoples' games, floating in the ocean for random retrieval. While currently offline, it's a neat little idea that ought to give Miiverse fans something extra to play with.  At the press of a button, you may switch the entire game from your television to your GamePad, though obviously you'll lose the added benefits of having a permanent inventory/map screen in your hand. The controller's screen is also a subpar method of displaying how gorgeous Wind Waker is, and it's highly recommended you stick to your TV as much as possible.  Most importantly, however, everything irrevocably enchanting about The Wind Waker has been preserved for this HD re-release. Its sense of color and optimism, the overwhelming eccentricity of its oceanic world, the vibrant sense of life and excitement that permeates this particular game more than any other Zelda title to date. There's something innately special lying at the heart of this one, something extra joyful that its series brethren lacks. This is not to say other Zelda's aren't as good, or even better in some ways, it's just that none of them have the same magnetism in the personality department. This is why it's my favorite entry in the series, even if I couldn't quite say it's the best one.  Indeed, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker suffers from some archaic mechanics, its fundamentals not having aged quite so gracefully as its aesthetics. Its unwieldiness and occasional sluggish pace can, in fact, grow temporarily infuriating. However, the streamlined menu system and map access go some way toward making up for any setbacks, while the unmistakable Wind Waker charisma ensures you won't ever stay mad at it for long.  After all, in a world of greedy cartography fish and cynical French Minesweeper purveyors, how could you not keep smiling? 
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'Hoy there, small fry!
[Note: Join us Thursday @ 2pm PST for a live video + chat discussion about this review.] The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is easily my favorite Zelda game in the series -- a not altogether uncommon opinion, now that many y...

Delver - Now Bloody Playing

Sep 18 // Jim Sterling
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Don't go chasing waterfalls
Today I am playing Delver, a roguelike-esque first-person adventure recommended to me after I played Paranautical Activity. For those of you who weren't so hot on that latter game, methinks this one is far more your speed.  We will have more Outlast for you this week, that much is certain, I just felt like trying new things. I may give Shelter a go next. Then it's back to the scarytimes!

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Rhymedown Spectacular: Whine out of Ten


The brains behind Jimquisition and Zero Punctuation get lyrical
Sep 18
// Jim Sterling
This week, Yahtzee tackles ludonarrative dissonance and puts forth a most eloquent explanation. Meanwhile, I ... well ... look at the title. You know what this is about. You know.  And you love it. 
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Come at them hard!
Here's some Grand Theft Auto V gameplay to cram inside of your heads. If you are one of those not currently playing it, this will be a delightful little treat for your mushy brains. Alternatively, if you are playing it, come click on the video anyway. My ego needs the views.  Enjoy some moving pictures of me running through GTAV's "Blitz Play" mission. It's a thing you can do!

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Jimquisition happens every Monday!
This week, Jim loads his gun and shoots holes in the argument that certain games suffer from ludonarrative dissonance, just because they're violent. Because really, people, that's not even what ludonarrative dissonance is! If you're gonna use big words to sound smart, use 'em correctly ... guttersnipes.

Review: Grand Theft Auto V

Sep 16 // Jim Sterling
Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Rockstar GamesPublisher: Take TwoReleased: September 17, 2013MSRP: $59.99 Grand Theft Auto V tells the story of not one, not two, but three criminal degenerates, whose paths cross in the San Andreas city of Los Santos. LS is a city of superficiality and vapid trends, a dumping ground for both the liberal hipster and the exploitative corporate suit, and it's here that our three protagonists embark on a series of flamboyant crimes in order to clear debts, settle scores, and eventually get out of their respective ruts.  Franklin is a small-time gangbanger and repo man, desperate to innovate and change the way his old fashioned friends go about their lives. Michael is a former bank robber and murderer, now retired after a bank job gone wrong and attempting to adjust to family life with a wife, daughter, and son who hate him. Then there's Trevor. There is Trevor.  [embed]261879:50494:0[/embed] GTA V, more than any other game in the series, reduces the focus on supporting characters to fully emphasize its main antiheroes. There are no wacky crime bosses and accomplices with their own unique story arcs in this one, replaced instead with a more comprehensive running narrative that switches focus between Franklin, Michael, and Trevor. Franklin becomes the son Michael never had, learning the criminal arts in ways his former lifestyle could never teach him. Michael, meanwhile, is attempting to avoid his old lifestyle, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that he revels in it deep down, and his expressions of regret are mere hypocrisy.  Trevor, meanwhile, is jaw-dropping. A composite of Hunter S. Thompson and every character Jack Nicholson ever played, the meth dealer and gun runner who operates out of Sandy Shores is everything wrong with Grand Theft Auto, dialed up to gloriously entertaining proportions. He represents everything a mainstream news pundit has ever thought about GTA, the quintessential videogame psychopath -- a drug addict, a murderer, an omnisexual driven almost entirely by libido and bloodlust (and yet possesses a perverse sort of nobility). His involvement in Grand Theft Auto V brings some of the series' darkest moments, as well as its most lighthearted. He's disgusting, he's disturbing, and I think I love him.  GTA V's story is about irredeemable people doing unjustifiable things, but balances this against genuinely intriguing characters who, despite their stereotypical foundations, remain at least affable, even if they never stop being terrible. Each character has his own narrative arc, weaving in and out of a joint story that develops their relationship to each other, from uneasy allies to even less easy friends, and it's often hard not to sympathize with characters who, through all their murder and mayhem, ultimately wind up as rather sad and pathetic creatures. Whether it's Franklin constantly being burdened by his idiot friends, Michael's quiet desperation, or Trevor's highly evident mental problems, each character is rendered tragic in some way, but not in the same kind of oppressive depression that drenched Grand Theft Auto IV's Niko Bellic. GTA V allows itself to have a lot more fun, especially where Trevor of Trevor Phillips Industries is concerned, and tells a darker story than GTA IV did, in a far less bleak way.  Taking place in the series' biggest map yet, GTA V allows us to switch between all three characters in a massive representation of Los Santos, as well as its surrounding mountains and the coastal town of Sandy Shores. At any time (save for plot-driven restrictions), players can jump from Franklin to Michael or Trevor and back again, each one in a different part of the city for a range of reasons. You may drop in on Trevor while he's drunk and wearing a dress in the mountains, or swing by Franklin's while he's playing with his dog, Chop. When you're with a character, you're free to engage with Los Santos as you've engaged with every GTA city for the past decade -- use it as your criminal playground, jacking cars to get about, slaying pedestrians for fun, indulging in a wide variety of distractions, and completing story missions.  One major improvement in GTA V is the driving. Cars control so much better than they did in the last installment, no longer sliding across the tarmac with soapy recklessness. Vehicles are a joy to drive around Los Santos, turning elegantly, and allowing greater air control to make stunt jumps and high-speed car chases far less frustrating to pull off. Of course, some cars handle better than others, with top-heavy trucks and the fastest sports cars proving harder to use, but everything is immensely more pleasurable to drive this time. It's just a shame that the same cannot be said for planes and helicopters which, after all this time, still handle terribly -- and are still shoehorned into far more main missions than is necessary.  Attempts have been made to improve the typically clunky combat, though to a less successful degree. The auto-targeting system is twitchy and unreliable, while cover mechanics still come off as dated and unwieldy. However, there are lots of weapons to play with, as well as upgrade, with light attachments, extended clips, and paintjobs to add. It's nowhere near as varied and wild as something like Saints Row, but the weapons feel powerful in the hand, and it's especially delightful to get hold of the heavy artillery, from the classic chaingun and rocket launcher, to the amusing remote-controlled sticky bombs. There's a new way to shake off the cops this time around. When "wanted" by police, players will have to escape out of the line of sight of incoming cops, and then stay hidden. Once out of the line of sight, the map will highlight nearby filth, with a cone of vision representing what they can see. Stay out of the cones, either by hiding in alleys or driving smartly, and the cops will be lost. It's a much nicer idea than what GTA IV did, and I love the stealth aspect of it. I just wish it didn't take so long to lose the cops entirely -- having to engage in stealth for protracted periods of time, just because a cop saw you jack a car, can grow a little tiresome.  Each character can level up various stats by engaging in activities that use them. For instance, the more you run, the more your stamina improves, the more you drive, the better your driving gets. These stats have a subtle effect on the game, allowing you greater control of cars or to sprint for longer, and while leveling them up isn't essential, it certainly doesn't hurt, and doing so is natural enough that you never have to worry about it. Michael, Trevor, and Franklin also get one unique special skill each, activated by pressing in both analog sticks. Michael can slow down the world during combat, Franklin can do the same for vehicles, and Trevor can boost his damage and defense after getting really angry. Again, these skills are far from essential and make no major impact, but their inclusion is not unwelcome.  With its hours upon hours upon hours of content, GTA V provides some incredible new story missions full of explosive setpieces and increasingly frantic scenarios. Each character has a unique series of missions, some of which cross over with other characters, and bring with them a unique flavor. Franklin finds himself embroiled in assassination plots and carjacking objectives, Michael's missions see him juggling his family life and his criminal dealings, while Trevor's experiences all end with equal amounts of carnage and chaos. A lot of classic gameplay, from surreptitiously tailing enemies to sniping key targets, are represented during the course of the campaign, with a few new twists thrown in.  Missions are graded depending on completion time, and the fulfilling of optional objectives, and each one may be replayed at any time for a better score. If you fail a part of a mission three times, you also get the option to skip at in exchange for a lowered mission grade. While some may lament this "casualization" of the series, I consider it one of the best things to come to GTA. Open world games regularly suffer from "that one mission" syndrome, that one thing that hamstrings and gets in the way, or a mission type that drives them wild. Being able to sidestep that one infuriating helicopter sequence or hated street race is a nice security option -- and nobody's forcing you to take it.  The biggest addition to the mission structure is the presence of heists. These are major missions involving all three characters, in which large theft jobs are undertaken. Before a heist can be pulled off, players meet up with Lester, an old associate of Michael and Trevor's, and plan out the attack. Heists usually give our antiheroes one of two choices -- being smart and stealing the goods with little fuss, or shooting their way in and escaping with all the subtlety of Rockstar's satire. After choosing a method, players then pick up a crew, choosing extra characters to act as drivers, gunmen, and hackers. Experienced crew members take a larger cut of the end score, but will ensure the job goes more smoothly. Conversely, you can pick less skilled allies for less cash, but their abilities may make the mission harder (for instance, your choice of hacker can mean the difference between thirty seconds or a full minute to rob a store before the cops arrive).  When the plan is in place, a heist will usually require extra equipment to be procured by the player. For instance, if you choose to rob the jewelry store the smart way, you'll need to complete a mini mission to procure a pest control van full of gas, which will be pumped into the store's venting system and render the opposition inside unconscious. If you take the violent route, you'll instead be required to rob a cop truck of its rifles.  Heists are some of the lengthiest and most action-packed missions in the GTA series. The ability to switch between three characters also works really well in making them more engrossing. One moment you'll be in Trevor's shoes, sniping cops as they descend on the crew from rooftops, before switching to Franklin to mow down the ground-level opponents. Sometimes you'll be forced to play from one perspective before being thrust into another, while other missions give you a choice.  These big jobs are fantastic and include some of the more enthralling missions I've ever played through in an open world game, and the way they change depending on your choices are quite clever indeed. It's just disappointing there aren't more of them. Entire new systems seem to have been included for the sake of heists, but the story includes a comparative handful of them, with a greater majority of missions being more traditional GTA-style experiences. Each heist is unique and memorable, but the unlocking and ranking of crew members, as well as the various choices heists bring, feels a little wasted. What's there is thrilling, but there was so much more potential.  Perhaps complaining about there not being more in a game that does so much is greedy, however. As I said, there are hours of content heaped upon hours of content. As well as main missions, our "heroes" also encounter a range of "freaks and strangers" with their own story arcs and requests. Here, the game allows itself to really go to town in creating eccentric characters, such as the dumpster-diving, celebrity obsessed, elderly British couple who hire Trevor to steal items from movie and music stars, or the sleazy paparazzo who uses Franklin to get close to TV stars and snap candid pictures. A fair number of these encounters are hilarious, and offer many up GTA V's most bizarre missions, whether you're punching out the gold tooth of a member of Love Fist, or using a digital camera to film a sex tape.  Oh, and Trevor -- further cementing his status as a twisted celebration of the GTA series -- brings back the classic "Rampage" missions, having to eliminate waves of enemies to punish them for mocking his Canadian heritage. They're absolutely brilliant.  On top of that, random events happen across Los Santos throughout the day, with players able to get involved or ignore them. A woman may have her bag snatched by a biker, or someone may scream for help and lead the player's into an attempted mugging. These random events often carry little rewards, but there's no penalty for ignoring them, and they appear at regular intervals.  From playing tennis to watching television, more mundane daily activities are also on offer, and sometimes differ by character. Michael, for example, can do yoga in his back yard or visit his therapist for some quality Sopranos time, while Trevor may go hunting and sell the meat for extra money. The city is also full of establishments to be purchased, either to make more money from businesses, or unlock helipads, garages, and docks. Some businesses will text requests to the owner, asking for help in delivering goods. Doing so will ensure greater profits that week. Some properties can only be bought by specific characters, while others are left up to the player. Buying up the city was one of my favorite parts of Vice City, and I'm very happy to see it included here. You can also call up your friends to go hang out -- and it'll be your choice this time, since nobody harasses you to go bowling like they did in GTA IV. You can explore the Internet on your smartphone to see the latest Bleets or LifeInvader statuses, enjoy a full fledged stock exchange to try and make more cash, and go to the strip club if you want to do the dumb things that will probably generate the most online controversies. If you'd like to further compound the teenage thrills of doing the naughty things your mom won't let you do, there is booze to get drunk off and bongs to get high from. Because you're so hardcore.   Despite all this stuff to do, it's still just fun to goof off and go exploring. While Los Santos is not a living, breathing city, Rockstar's done a solid job in creating the illusion of something more dynamic than it is -- provided you suspend your disbelief and go with it. It's obvious that Michael's not out doing loads of things while you're with Franklin, but flitting across the city to see him wandering out of coffee shop while muttering, "Everything hurts," makes you think he could've been out on errands all day. If you wander too far or get lost, switching characters is also a perfect way to get out of a jam or move more toward an area where there's better stuff to do. It's a randomized take on fast traveling, but it's never not amusing.  GTA V's visuals are a little dated, not looking that much better than GTA IV, but one can forgive that given the utter scale of the map. Los Santos is huge, dwarfing the environments of previous games, with undersea exploration and mountain ranges adding a ton of variety to the surroundings. As an analog of Los Angeles, it's also really nicely designed, capturing the overly stylish look of the big city and the darker, nastier elements of the less tourist-friendly areas.  As you might expect, the sound direction is impeccable as always. Voice acting in this series never fails to impress me, and this is some of the best yet. From Franklin's street smart seriousness to Michael's barely controlled rage and Trevor's hyperactive mania, the performances found in GTA V are some of the very best in the series. The acting is backed up by a great soundtrack. Original music in missions does a great job of building tension, while there are loads of radio stations playing delightful licensed music, from Elton John, to Def Leppard and -- of course -- All Saints. If you ever get bored of making your own entertainment, there's also more talk radio, where Lazlow and friends chatter away for your amusement as you drive.  There's no doubt this is Rockstar's biggest production yet. As well as taking place in an utterly massive open world, the storyline is at its most ambitious, and attempts to make the experience as fluid and sleek as ever are highly evident. Though aspects of the game remain old fashioned and more could have been done to switch things up, the end result of still a game of spectacular scope and density of content. And while the narrative is as morally reprehensible as ever, the underlying intelligence backing up the wanton immaturity manages to keep GTA V treading the line of acceptable. There will be much pontificating on the morality of the game, and what its story says, but in GTA V, I see a game that knows its own reputation, owns it, and makes fun of itself in a nonetheless celebratory fashion.  Grand Theft Auto V is both a reflective and deflective game, diving into the heart of the GTA series with more than a few subtle things to say about itself. Michael is tired, and old, and wants to change, but he can't, and eventually he grows to accept and even enjoy that. Franklin is smarter than his surroundings, dreaming big but held back by old fashioned ideas. Trevor is hilarious, surprising, and a disgusting degenerate. All three characters, in their respective ways, feel representative of the Grand Theft Auto series as a whole, and contribute to making GTA V what it is -- the ultimate culmination of Rockstar's beloved and despised series. Personally, I think that's a fine thing to be.  Also, Trevor regularly spoons his juggalo friend's cousin Floyd while he sobs and apologizes to his out-of-town girlfriend for what he's just done.  So, that happens. 
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Rhymedown Spectacular: Secret Cream


The brains behind Jimquisition and Zero Punctuation get lyrical
Sep 12
// Jim Sterling
Your ol' chums Jim and Yahtzee are back with more rhymes for your face. This week, Yahtzee talks about the rigors of guard duty, while I share revitalizing secrets with you. Kweh! As always, the human condition is explored by the pair of us. 






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