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The Walking Dead S2 photo
Clementine takes the lead
Telltale Games has today lifted the lid on The Walking Dead: Season Two. Another installment of utterly depressing zombie sorrow is coming out way. It is a time to be both excited and fearful. There will be so much sad! As s...

Review: Batman: Arkham Origins

Oct 28 // Jim Sterling
Batman: Arkham Origins (PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montréal / Splash DamagePublisher: Warner Bros.Released: October 25, 2013MSRP: $59.99 Arkham Origins is, as the name implies, a story set before the events of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, featuring a younger and more hotheaded Batman as he defends himself against assassins hired by Black Mask. They have one night to "kill the Bat," though things grow significantly more complicated when Batman has his first ever encounter with The Joker and, conveniently, a load of other supervillains who also have never faced Batman before now.  The problem with prequels rears its ugly head. Just as the Star Wars prequels awkwardly shoehorned chance encounters with previously established characters, we're supposed to believe that Batman met not only the Joker, but Bane, Deathstroke, Mad Hatter, Killer Croc, and a whole bunch of other Gotham City antagonists in a single night. It could only have been a couple of years ago, too, if the environment and visible technology are anything to go by. This is despite everyone looking at least a decade younger.  One of the real thrills of the previous Arkham games was in seeing which members of the Batman rogue's gallery would turn up next, a thrill that simply isn't in Origins. The assassins hired to take out Batman are mostly D-list baddies at best, while more credible opponents have simply been pulled from previous games. Apparently, we needed far more Bane, a character who has been in every Arkham game to date, than any newer, more interesting characters. With the exception of Deathstroke and Firefly, fresh introductions to the villain roster inspire little more than apathy.  The lack of excitement inspired by the villains permeates Origins' entire story. While the plot has one or two interesting moments, events seem rushed through and barely fleshed out. The whole assassin storyline becomes an unresolved mess, while the relationship between Batman and Joker condenses years of animosity into a handful of hours. One of Arkham Asylum's biggest strengths was that it avoided any sort of origin story, allowing us to delve straight into a world we knew without trying to sprint clumsily through a back story. In Origins, a team of lesser writers attempts to do what superior talent wisely avoided, and the results are what any reasonable person could expect. Arkham Origin's narrative simply doesn't feel very fleshed out, a problem made all the more galling by Warner Brothers' presumptive promises of incoming downloadable content to "pick up where the story left off." With that in mind, the entire campaign feels like little more than a delivery system for more paid content, which is fairly despicable.  Reusing much of the map from Arkham City, Warner Bros. gives us another open-world game set in Gotham's streets, but one that makes far less sense. Gotham was full of criminal gangs in City because we were in a gated section of town designed solely to house criminal gangs. Gotham was apparently Arkham City years before the events of Arkham City, at least according to Arkham Origins. Makes you wonder what it was that Dr. Strange actually did to change anything in the previous game.  Alongside of the map, most of the gameplay has been recycled too. Yet again, you'll be gliding from rooftop to rooftop, collecting Riddler trophies (now called "extortion data"), and punching out bad guys. Combat is yet again a case of pounding on opponents and obeying button prompts in order to counter enemy attacks, while utilizing the same arsenal of gadgets found in previous titles. Something about melee combat in Origins feels off, with Batman frequently failing to target foes properly, punching thin air, and failing to perform ground takedowns. I replayed Arkham City a few months before this, and found none of the problems with combat that Origins has given me. One fresh addition to the game is quick travel. After clearing out data scrambling devices in key areas of Gotham, Bruce Wayne can use the Batwing to quickly enter a new section of town. This is a welcome new addition, especially since mission destinations seem to force players to cross the same lengthy, interminably boring bridge. That said, one has to watch the same dreary cutscene every time they use the Batwing, but it's better than the lengthy alternative, even if you do have to navigate some poorly designed environmental hindrances to unlock the travel points.  The only other added feature enhances crime scene investigation. Using Batman's trusty Detective Vision, players can examine evidence in crime scenes to build a virtual reconstruction of events. Taking a blatant page from Capcom's Remember Me, these reconstructions may be rewound and replayed in order to find fresh evidence. The attempt to add more detective work into a Batman game is respectable, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Funnily enough, it turns out that watching a blue virtual reality man fly backwards through the air so that you can hunt for little red triangles is very boring.  There are a number of boss fights, though few of them are anywhere near as inventive as the ones in Arkham City -- which weren't all that inventive to begin with. Many of them are just straightforward combat encounters laced with quick-time-events, with the battle against Firefly providing the only truly unique encounter. As for the several Bane fights, they are uniformly repetitive and utterly chaotic. It should be common knowledge that tossing more and more regular enemies into a boss fight doesn't make it more difficult so much as it makes it more of an anarchic bloody mess. It should be common knowledge, but WB didn't know that, apparently. On top of that, Arkham Origins is littered with glitches. I had the game crash on me twice in a row while fast traveling, and I encountered a number of physics bugs that saw enemies become almost untouchable or completely disappear. At one point, I needed to restart a checkpoint because a character I needed to interrogate couldn't be interacted with. These are just the issues I had, with many other users reporting other bugs, such as important ledges that can't be climbed, and horrendous framerate drops. Warner Brothers' proprietary little online account system -- an aping of Origin and uPlay -- also appears to be broken, as using it can further make your game unstable.  Because this product seems to be going out of its way to epitomize the concept of the cynical cash grab, online multiplayer has been crammed in with all the grace of a cat in a bathtub. Essentially a mediocre third-person cover shooter with Batman shoehorned into it, Arkham Origins Online pits three of Bane's thugs against three of Joker's goons, with two other players taking on the roles of the Dark Knight and Robin. It's a three-on-three battle, with the rival gangs capturing territory and shooting each other, while the superheroes use gadgets and predatory stealth to take them out.  As a gang member, you can look forward to awful movement controls, with the character wildly swinging when trying to run, sometimes not running at all, and occasionally refusing to fire his weapon. As Batman or Robin, you get to be frequently stuck on walls, or have diving kick attempts halt in mid-air for no good reason. The demented controls and obnoxious errors were able to be experienced almost instantly, and consequently, I managed to withstand only a few rounds before having to turn it off, utterly appalled.  Add to that a general sense of lag and graphical texture pop-in, and you have one buggy, unwieldy, ugly, deeply unpleasant bit of online guff. It's almost as if the whole thing was cobbled together quickly to satisfy some advertising department goons, so much so that I'm pretty sure that's what happened.  Is there any good in Arkham Origins? Well, when it works properly, there's still a general satisfaction in getting to be the Batman. There is still a basic amusement in stalking criminals, stringing them up by their feet, popping out of vents to tackle enemies, and tossing Batarangs around. It's still neat to grapple up onto buildings, and utilize classic gadgets. WB Montreal can't really take any of the credit for whatever good Origins does, however, considering anything "new" in the game is a malingering disappointment. It must also be said that Troy Baker does an impressive turn as the Joker, whose scenes are sometimes pretty damn fun to watch. There's also one genuinely well done section of the game involving the Clown Prince of Crime, though to detail it would venture into spoiler territory. It's a shame many of the other voice actors, as well as the script, make for difficult listening. Anything involving the Penguin and his "British" assistant is so badly written and terribly acted that I felt almost offended. There are few things more dismaying in the videogame industry than a publisher that's willing to throw its own creative successes under the bus for a chance at easy money. This is what Warner Bros. has done with Arkham Origins. It's contemptuously pissed all over what Rocksteady accomplished with the previous Arkham games and shat out a soulless wreckage of a game. The only good in Origins comes from work already accomplished in previous games, with a whole lot of bad added in. If all you want is to re-experience Arkham City's gameplay, I'd recommend you just replay Arkham City, because at least that packed in a lot more fan service and didn't make such blatant concessions for narrative DLC and utterly contrived multiplayer modes.  If Batman: Arkham Origins does one thing well, it's epitomize the kind of exploitative garbage that has steadily eroded so much faith in the so-called "AAA" gaming scene. When publishers whine and moan about piracy or used sales, this is the kind of game you can point to when you ask if it's any surprise that so few customers are willing to gamble $60 on a brand new game. This is the kind of game that, when publishers panic over flagging sales, you can hold up and say, "You did it to yourselves."  In that regard, Batman: Arkham Origins is not the game this industry needs. It's the game it deserves.
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Defective Vision
Batman: Arkham Origins had to endure a lot of cynicism from the peanut gallery as it rushed headlong from sudden announcement to pre-Christmas release. It's hardly surprising, too -- after the Arkham series earned high c...

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Podtoid 275: A Moment on the Nips


Podtoid hits the Destructoid frontpage every Thursday!
Oct 24
// Jim Sterling
On this week's episode, the gang opens an authentic Vietnamese restaurant with Jonathan "Lucky Dragon" Holmes' genuine recipes, while Willem Dafoe suffers a nipple-flavored curse at the hands of Brad Dourif. Elsewhere, there ...
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Killzone: Shadow Fall gifs showcase power and design


Graphics thralls, unite and be delighted!
Oct 24
// Jim Sterling
The Killzone series has always pushed graphical horsepower as one of its biggest selling points, and it's hard not to get excited at all the pretty lights and motion blur. As such, gorgeous gif images tend to crop up whenever...
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Day One: Garry's Incident developers censoring criticism


Exploiting YouTube's copyright protection is kind of poopy, guys
Oct 21
// Jim Sterling
Wild Games Studio, the company behind Day One: Garry's Incident, is currently caught up in a controversy surrounding criticism of its game on YouTube. Immensely popular PC game critic John "TotalBiscuit" Bain has accused the ...

Review: Sonic Lost World

Oct 18 // Jim Sterling
Sonic Lost World (Wii U)Developer: Sonic TeamPublisher: SegaReleased: October 28, 2013 (US), October 18, 2013 (EU)MSRP: $49.95 The hardest thing to get used to with Sonic Lost World is the concept of speed not being everything. After years of shifting away from intricate platforming in favor of lengthy, linear race tracks, Sonic Team has reintroduced the idea of speed as a reward rather than a central premise. There are moments where Sonic races along pathways and reaches super speeds, but trying to play most of the game with that "Gotta go fast" mentality will lead to trouble. Learning when to slow down is crucial.  Rather than automatically run at high speeds, players must now use a sprint button, otherwise Sonic will walk at a more leisurely pace. Levels are packed with platforming sections, hidden areas, and other obstacles to create a game far more in line with original 16-bit Sonic titles, even when played from a 3D perspective. In a clear nod to Mario Galaxy, many of the levels consist of disconnected landmasses with their own center of gravity, allowing Sonic to walk the full way around them and shift the camera's perspective. Many of these levels can indeed be raced through in a manner akin to Sonic Adventure or Generations, but to do so would be to miss out on a lot, and sometimes make progress harder. [Watch this space for our official video review -- coming soon!] Sonic also has access to a whole bunch of extra tricks which work surprisingly well. The classic spin dash is back, and the homing attack comes in a jump and kick varieties, with enemies requiring different tactics to beat. Some opponents will need their own projectiles kicked back at them, while others might need to let their guard down before taking a hit. While the homing attacks are still messy at times, and often drag players unwillingly into trouble (thanks to double jumps and attacks sharing one damn button), the added variety in attacks, and the need to switch up tactics, makes combat more interesting than the usual button-mashing seen in other contemporary Sonic games. Some light parkour skills have been added to Sonic's skillset, allowing him to run along walls, automatically flip over small ledges, and perform more intricate walljumps. He can bounce down swiftly, akin to using the bubble powerup in Sonic 3, and he can crouch for reasons I've not yet understood. It takes a short while to get a handle on how everything works, but once you get used to Sonic's initially odd behavior whenever he's sprinting near walls and obstacles, it's surprising just how elegant the parkour actually is -- the fact it's mostly optional and never hamfistedly shoved in the player's face certainly helps! The Whisps from Sonic Colors make their return, and once again bestow unique abilities upon Sonic when utilized. After collecting a Whisp, Sonic can activate it by pressing an icon on the GamePad's touchscreen, and enjoy some sort of gimmick-infused way of navigating a level. For example, the classic blue variation allows players to flick the touchscreen and send Sonic whizzing across a section of level. The orange Whisp turns Sonic into a rocket which can be aimed at new platforms using gyroscopic controls. For those worried about the game becoming nothing but a tech demo, Whisps are surprisingly uncommon and understated in their appearances. In fact, they can often be optional, and their use is not as abrasive as other games with enforced touch/motion controls.  Sonic Lost World most certainly requires some acclimation on the part of the player. In fact, I despised it when I first started, and it wasn't until I got used to the subtle intricacies and replayed a few levels with a fresh perspective that I found myself having a ton of fun with it. Levels mostly work great with the new gameplay, boast excellent setpieces, and use speed as a reward to satisfying effect. Lost World is also pretty damn good as both a 3D and 2D platformer, with the controls and physics shockingly adept at both types of gameplay -- very useful, since some stages shift constantly between the two styles to great effect.  In fact, Lost World has some of the best level design in the entire series, presented with a sense of cohesion and fluidity that Sonic Team has so very rarely displayed any aptitude for. Whether you're zipping along a series of tube-shaped worlds, navigating some tricky sidescrolling sequences, or tackling the Deadly Six in a selection of simple but energetic boss battles, there's a whole lot to love, provided you can get into the new way of playing.  However, this is a Sonic the Hedgehog game, and it seems we can never have one of those without a few massive caveats. For indeed, while Lost World boasts some of Sonic Team's best ever work, it also boasts some of its worst. As usual, problems occur when the game tries to be too clever for its own good and deviate from what is guaranteed to work. So it is that the game is packed full of some gimmicky, poorly designed crap that threatens to tear down all the goodwill earned by its quality moments. Whoever designed the flying levels, for example, ought to be institutionalized, and there are regular sections that see Sonic bouncing awkwardly across tiny clouds with a camera that provides a woefully misleading perspective. While the notable majority of levels are polished and fun, there are unintuitive and sloppily designed ones that consistently threaten to rear their hideous heads. To Sonic Team's credit, it stole something else from recent Mario games -- the ability to skip sections if you fail enough times. After several deaths, a set of wings will appear as a pickup, whisking you to the next checkpoint. It's not necessary for most of the game, but during those sections where awful camera angles or ill-conceived ideas screw over the player, they might present a valid option. Another long-running issue also dampens the overall fun -- the gauche demand for levels to be replayed before new ones will unlock. Lost World keeps a running tally of animals rescued from enemy robots or Eggman pods, and new levels won't unlock until you've collected enough of them. You can get through much of the game without worrying about it, but once you start hitting latter stages, the requirements ramp up and you'll most likely be forced to play through previous stages until you reach the arbitrary score. There's absolutely no reason for it; it's there purely to extend the running time through artificial means. It's fortunate that many levels are good enough to withstand multiple runs, but it's still a tacky and underhanded thing to do.  Lost World, like so many Sonic games, has caused me to yell in anger and give up in frustration. Unlike most of the "modern" installments, however, it's also regularly thrust itself back into my favor with excellent level structuring and excitingly paced action. For every awful segment that fails, there are at least two that succeed. While I have snarled angrily at the game, I've smiled with delight a lot more. I must once again emphasize that the game's new attitude takes some warming up to, but as soon as it clicks with you, it's hard to hate.  It helps that the game is beautiful to look at, carrying nostalgic visuals that blend the modern with the retrospective. Most of the enemy robots are redesigned from the classic Genesis games, while environmental details are culled from some of the best in the series. However, each Badnik or setpiece has been given a significant enough overhaul to become much more than cheap callback fodder, and there are enough original ideas on display to show off exactly how much thought and care went into the aesthetic style. The Deadly Six, Sonic's new antagonists, are wholly representative of this, each one boldly realized and unlike anything the series has shown us before, yet appearing to fit right into the world seamlessly -- certainly a far cry from the dark and brooding creatures the series has so often tried to clumsily shoehorn into Sonic's bright and colorful universe.  The soundtrack, however, is the true star of the show. Featuring a selection of incredible, highly memorable tunes, Lost World's music is highly infectious and once again evokes a sense of nostalgia while remaining wholly original. Whatever they were doing to pull these fine tracks out of the woodwork, they need to keep doing it! Sonic Lost World can wildly swing from brilliant to horrific at the drop of a hat, but when one steps back and takes a look at the whole production, one sees far more to love than hate. Certainly, the nastier elements prevent it from being the truly great installment it could have been, but the experience is good enough to where I would desperately entreat Sonic Team to keep doing what's been started here. Please, no more desperate shifts in tone and level design, no more dramatic new overhauls. On a fundamental level, Lost World absolutely nails it, and does what Sonic should have been doing a long, long time ago.  All it needs is time to refine, and Lost World could become the start of something beautiful. 
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Sonic boon!
While it's still popular to suggest Sonic the Hedgehog hasn't had a decent game in decades, this generation alone has at least shown significant improvements. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was an enjoyable, if controversial game, whil...

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Podtoid 274: Twilight Reborn


Podtoid hits the Destructoid frontpage every Thursday!
Oct 17
// Jim Sterling
On this week's Podtoid, the gang opens Boston's best fetish dungeon, Jonathan Holmes preserves the sperm of the greatest living human, Paul Stanley encourages his friends, and stalkers get stalked by stalkers who stalk stalke...

Review: The Stanley Parable

Oct 17 // Jim Sterling
You don't. 
Stanley Parable HD photo
Don't read any reviews ... except this one!
How do you review a game like The Stanley Parable? To describe any one part of it is to risk its ruination. To detail what it has to say about game design, the illusion of choice, and the psychology of the gamer is to tell yo...

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Oh look, it's time for more Indigo Prophecy! This time around, we get racist in a bookstore (again), we play basketball by watching basketball and pressing buttons, we push a wheelchair, and we play Simon Says while cutscenes have all the fun.  Indigo Prophecy thrills us all. 

Jimquisition: Toxic

Oct 14 // Jim Sterling
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There has been much talk about how the gaming world is too toxic, too negative, too full of anger and rage. Jimquisition argues there might be just the right amount of it. The issue is in how it's used.  Anger is a powerful weapon, but like all powerful things, it must be handled with care. Venom can be harnessed to our benefit, provided we be careful not to let it spill into our own faces.

Squirty Play - Iesabel

Oct 14 // Jim Sterling
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Must stop playing hack n' slash RPGs
For some reason, I keep thinking hack n' slash RPGs will make for a good video. I keep getting it wrong, or at least picking the wrong games. This is Iesabel, a game that somehow got greenlit for Steam, despite it being utterly rubbish.  Check it out. It's not good.

Top Ten Legit Pokemon

Oct 13 // Jim Sterling
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Too legitty to quitty!
With Pokemon X and Y now out for public consumption, you're probably curious as to what the best Pokemon are for your silky pleasures. Fortunately, Jim Sterling is here to drop knowledge bombs in yo' face, and tell which Pokemon are the most legit.  I know lots of things about Pokemon. Let me talk to you about Pokemon.

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Grab a mop and get sloppin'!
Hey there, cool friends! I've got more Indigo Prophecy coming to you, but right now I'm having a go at pulling my own little YouTube channel up by its bootstraps and experimenting with things. What yummy fun! Here, I play Vi...

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This is racist, right?
On today's thrilling adventure into David Cage's mental brainspace, we kick the crap out good friends, we get claustrophobic while trying to do our job, and we get very quiet and guilty when lots and lots of racism happens.  Also, crap stealth and some other things. 

Review: Pokemon X and Y

Oct 11 // Jim Sterling
Pokemon X and Y (3DS)Developer: GameFreakPublisher: NintendoReleased: October 12, 2013MSRP: $39.99 You know the Beedrill by now. You're a young boy or girl, and you set out from your crummy little town to seize adventure and become a Pokemon master. After choosing one of three starter Pokemon -- Chespin, Fennekin, or Froakie -- you move from town to town, battling Gym Leaders to claim their badges, encountering a team of criminal ne'er-do-wells, filling up the Pokedex for a friendly professor, and naturally doing what you can to catch 'em all.  X and Y does absolutely nothing to change up the structure of the adventure. You'll use HM moves like Cut and Surf to unlock new paths of travel, you'll wake up a sleeping Snorlax with a Pokeflute, and you'll have regular battles with rivals (though this time they're actually friends of yours rather than a long arrogant nemesis). The only major change to the story structure comes in the form of a sub-narrative concerning Mega Evolutions, one of the game's newer features, but it's really just ancillary stuff used to sell the concept.  If you were looking for a totally fresh adventure to shake up the narrative, you're likely going to be very disappointed the moment you discover your first tree-based roadblock and realize it's the same old thing. Of course, many would argue you're doing Pokemon wrong if a compelling new story is something you play for.  Indeed, the comfortably familiar drips off everything in X and Y, which will likely come as a welcome surprise to those fans worried the game might change too much. While battles look more dynamic than ever, thanks to a gorgeous new graphical style that fully animates your battling beasts, the turn-based, rock-paper-scissors style combat is back with a vengeance. Pokemon still learn new moves as they level up, are still limited to four moves, still come in a variety of types with strengths and weaknesses, and still evolve into new, more powerful forms. There is a fresh Fairy-type Pokemon, designed to give Dragons something to be afraid of, but that's about it.  None of this really needed to be changed, however. The joy of Pokemon has always been in the acquiring of more monsters by beating them down and capturing them in little balls, in training your favorites to build a team of six treasured animals, and in feeling evermore powerful as your mutant buddies pound down the competition. While much of the freshness of X and Y comes from its aesthetic overhauls, that's really all that was required. And they're incredibly wonderful aesthetic overhauls! As already noted, battles look truly alive thanks to the fully 3D visuals. While the Pokemon still stand in their own little spots and never come into direct contact, one can easily suspend disbelief and get drawn into the fight. Each of the 'Mons' many attacks are uniquely animated, and often take advantage of the 3DS' visual trickery to create some eye-popping little setpieces. Getting to see Bulbasaur whip at the opposition with its little vine arms, or watching as the Water Dance move casts down an enveloping rainstorm offers a gleeful delight that makes this old cynical reviewer feel like an idiotic child again.  Mega Evolutions provide some limited new discoveries, adding a fourth evolutionary tier to a number of Pokemon. During the course of the story, players pick up a Mega Ring which, when used on a valid Pokemon holding its own special item, allows that monster to temporarily evolve into a new and powerful form. The visual changes aren't dramatic (Mega Venasaur, for example, just gets bigger and sprouts more plants off its body), but the creatures themselves get a good stat boost and the transformations themselves are visually stunning.  It's not the new look, nor the Mega Evolutions, that really makes X and Y worth your time, however. The game's biggest drawback is also its biggest strength -- no, it hasn't changed much beyond what we first saw in 1998, but the simple joy of catching monsters, seeing the world, and getting stronger feels as endearing as it always has. It helps that the brand new creatures introduced for X and Y are also some of the best designed in the series (Froakie's evolutions are utterly beautiful), and those Pokemon included from past games are typically the coolest ones. I always felt later Pokemon games struggled with the designs of the monsters, and things got too contrived and stupid. X and Y brings back a real sense of creativity in the monster department -- and I don't think the keyring one looks that bad either! This, for me, has always been the true highlight of the game -- encountering ever more wondrous looking creatures and making them yours. X and Y absolutely delivers in that regard.  The visual improvements extend to the overworld as well, with travels outside of battle using shifting camera perspectives, eight-directional movement, and a richer amount of detail to make a more absorbing world than we've seen in the series to date. Moving around with the analog nub is a little awkward, especially when you get the roller blades and start sliding all over the map, but traveling feels swifter and less cumbersome than it does in previous installments, while caves and other special locations often play around with the camera to constantly draw players closer to the action. You can also customize your character with jackets, pants, hats, and accessories, as well as pick a limited number of hairstyles and eye colors to get more personal.  One gameplay improvement comes in the form of a more streamlined structure that ups the pace and makes the world more convenient to navigate. You gain useful things like your starter Pokemon, EXP Share, and the bicycle far more quickly, because what's the point of delaying the inevitable? Some may claim the game is easier than before, but there's always been a constantly widening gap between the player and the A.I., and that seems to be the same way it's always been. Just because the game's been streamlined and made more accessible, doesn't mean it's any less "hardcore".  Things aren't quite as elegant as they could be. Having to go through the usual repeated dialog when healing at a Pokemon Center, and needing to navigate a whole ocean of menus to find simple items, are a hassle that only get more dreary as the adventure continues. It's never totally unbearable, but one grows tired of going through the motions after extended play periods.  X and Y uses the game's second screen to toss in a few minigame features as well. A Super Training simulator can be accessed which employs a simple little shooting game to gain extra stat boosts, and you can tap on punching bags to further enhance your chosen creature's abilities. Super Training is also a way of getting around the previously impregnable Effort Value system, something I personally appreciate, though hardcore fans may not. There's also a little virtual pet addition, which lets you stroke your favorite Pokemon, feed it treats, and play silly touch-based minigames. Nothing here is truly exciting, but it makes for a fun little distraction when you need a break from the constant catching and grinding.  Game Freak has worked hard to streamline the online functions, and while the game's not quite up and running in this regard at the time of writing, we know how it'll work. The Player Search System allows one to trade and battle players conveniently, without the need for unwieldy friend codes, while O-powers are used in battle against human opponents to boost the powers of one's Pokemon. If you're feeling narcissistic, you can also make and show off videos of your beautiful living possessions. Everyone must see the trophies you have forced to do your bidding. Forever. X and Y's soundtrack is utterly lovely, by the way. The little jingles that play while random trainers challenge you to fights always raise a smile, the battle themes are all energetic, and the quieter tunes are legitimately beautiful. Probably my favorite soundtrack since the original releases! Many will tell you that Pokemon X and Y totally shakes up the stale old Pokemon foundation, but they are simply dazzled by the bright lights and flashing images. This isn't a problem though, because some of us love the "stale" old Pokemon foundation, and we're happy to get it looking as good as it's ever looked. I want to walk around in grass and toss my balls in a magic dog's face, and that's exactly what I get from X and Y. That I get it with beautifully animated combat and gorgeous, vivid colors just totally seals the deal.  Nobody has demonstrated they can do Pokemon better than Pokemon can. X and Y does everything it needs to remain relevant, to prove why it's the top of its field, and if that's not good enough for you, there's nothing Ekans say to change your mind.
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Froakie dokie!
Certain game series can get away without making significant changes to their formula -- in fact, there are some that would risk infuriating their fans if they did alter too much. Games like The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter...

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My theory of a Deadman CD collection
In this thrilling installment of Indigo Prophecy, we drink water, play the guitar, punch a bag, play the guitar, and listen to more Theory of a Deadman. The fun literally never ends. It will never end. The fun is literally going on forever.  It's gonna move!

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Podtoid 273: Julia Child's Ghost Penis


Podtoid hits the Destructoid frontpage every Thursday!
Oct 10
// Jim Sterling
Danny Baranowsky is in the house, back with the Podtoid gang by popular demand. The game composer is on hand to talk about Jonathan going face-down-ass-up, Conrad pottering about in the garden, and Julia Child scaring childre...
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Living my pawn's life
I fiddle with the temperature knob and get murderous as I play Quantic Dream's true classic, Indigo Prophecy. Laugh along as we murder people in bathrooms, interrogate distraught women, and listen to music about women doin' ya wrong. Oh Theory of a Deadman. You scallywags!

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Gamers: The Official Picture


This is basically what they are
Oct 09
// Jim Sterling
Screenshot taken of the comment section of BF4Central.com, in a post about the upcoming Battlefield 4 Battle Packs.  As you can see, it manages to capture absolutely everything about the modern gamer in just two short statements.
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Best tutorial ever ... except kind of not
There probably won't be any more Legends of Dawn, because the game crashed while I was recording and took all the video with it. Buggy game, that is! Fortunately, we have a different legend for you, with Legends of Aethereus!  Enjoy the world's most thorough tutorial, and let's kill some Definitely-Not-Orcs!

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Jimquisition happens every Monday!
You were promised an episode on season passes, in the wake of Jimquisition complaining about downloadable content. There is a season for all things, and that season has come to pass. Here is a nice little bit of shouting on why season passes are ridiculous, and why it would behoove you to pass up on the bloody things.

Review: Beyond: Two Souls

Oct 08 // Jim Sterling
Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)Developer: Quantic DreamPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: October 8, 2013MSRP: $59.99 Beyond: Two Souls, is about a girl called Jodie, played by Ellen Page, which is important to note as Jodie is also every character Ellen Page is typecast into playing. She screams, and is sarcastic, and does that half-smile thing, and that's more or less all there is to her personality. She also has more personality than almost every character combined, including the criminally misused Willem Dafoe, crammed as he is into the role of Jodie's dreary paranormal doctor/caretaker, Nathan Dawkins.  Dawkins has charge of Jodie because she possesses dangerous powers -- or rather, the invisible creature inextricably linked to her does. Jodie is bound to an otherworldly being called Aiden, over which she has limited control. He is unwieldy, fiercely protective of her, and is the reason Jodie spends most of her life in a laboratory, under constant surveillance.  While Beyond has a cast of archetypal and terminally uninteresting characters, it has to be said the writing is noticeably better than it was in Heavy Rain. Dialog is slightly more believable, scenes are less awkward, and there are fewer glaring plot holes or embarrassing pseudoscience. However, the story is presented awfully, in a nonlinear fashion contrived to evoke the movies of Godard, Altman, or Tarantino. [embed]263180:50813:0[/embed] There's nothing wrong with the use of disrupted narrative, but it's a technique that requires more care than Beyond even comes to close to providing. One moment, Jodie's a child in a secret lab, the next she's a homeless adult, then a teenager, then a child again, then a member of the CIA. The narrative breaks seem arbitrary and deliver nothing of value to the actual story. Disjointed and only vaguely connected sequences occur without adequate lead-in, and regularly deliver moments that would have had far greater impact had they been presented in a linear story, where the appropriate amount of pacing and build could be achieved. Instead, we're supposed to deeply care about characters who have been barely introduced, while following at least three stories, and a handful of non sequiturs, that have very little to do with each other.  Even worse, the application of the nonlinear narrative comes off as a lazy excuse to put Jodie in situations without having to adequately explain them, which gives the entire game a fractured, pointless atmosphere. Indeed, there seems no real point at all in having broken up the story, other than to mimic those films Quantic Dream perpetually crawls in the shadow of. As such, an attempt to look clever has come across as little more than clumsy pretentiousness.  This is to say nothing of Beyond's total lack of character development. Its frequent time hopping does little to help the fact that there's nobody to root for, and even less to remember. One character, for example, is introduced in an early scene as a cold, unlikable hardass, right before we skip to Jodie falling in love with him years later. She tells us -- through Aiden -- that he's so funny, and great to be around, but we never see any evidence of this. The best he becomes is a generic love interest with no distinguishing features. If we have to be told what a character's personality is, without the character ever exhibiting a single trait pertaining to its verbal description, the writing has failed completely.  Admittedly, there are some decent scenes, but those are mostly thanks to tried and tested narrative tropes seen dozens of times before. The scene in which Jodie is bullied at a party before Aiden wreaks violent revenge is stylishly done, but it's nothing Carrie didn't do better. Likewise, Jodie's barely meaningful adventure in the Navajo Desert is Beyond's best sequence of events, but it leans heavily on well-worn and practically gauche Native American stereotypes to make it work.  I've managed to go a long while before mentioning any gameplay, and one gets the feeling Quantic Dream would like it that way. Essentially following in Heavy Rain's footsteps, Beyond is another spiritual successor to Dragon's Lair, with even less agency and some awkward controls thrown in for good measure. As Jodie, interactions are restricted mostly to walking around, opening doors, engaging in restrictive conversations, and indulging in the occasional quick-time-event sequence. For much of this, the player's input is almost entirely optional. QTE action sequences can be completed without needing to even pick up the controller, as Jodie will survive all encounters if you fail every single button prompt. She'll get hurt a bit, and the story might have a slight temporary diversion, but that's about it. Even dialog, if you don't choose a response, will eventually play itself out.  As with Heavy Rain, the potential for thrilling chase sequences and action scenes is mercilessly dashed against the rocks in favor of an experience so arrogant, it cannot bear to throw up a barrier between you and its allegedly brilliant story. Once you cotton on to the fact that your personal input is almost meaningless, and the impact of your inaction is frivolous, your only real incentive for "playing" is to humor the game, and it does indeed feel like you're patronizing it when you decide to play along with the fantasy of player agency. Nowhere is this more typified than one sequence in which I could choose to speak up in order to stop something bad happening to another character ... and I didn't say a word. It didn't really matter if the bad thing happened (there was only a cosmetic change) and I simply didn't care about the bland, superficial plot vehicle whose lifeless idea of life was in my hands.  There's no tension, no sense of investment, no pleasure to be derived from getting personally involved. Just a plodding, methodical march towards the game's warbling conclusion.  At almost any time, you can switch to Aiden with a press of the Triangle button, but like with everything in this game, any sense of choice and freedom is a mere illusion. As Aiden, you may move through walls, knock objects around, and possess or choke characters, but his skills all amount to one big waste of potential. You only need to be Aiden when the game specifically tells you (or forces you) to be him, and you only interact with the tiny handful of objects available -- all helpfully labeled with bright blue dots. If, for example, Jodie is under siege by a SWAT Team, you can only possess one or two of the arbitrarily predetermined targets, as each scene has a specific way in which it wants to be played. This, of course, opens up a few plot holes, when you start wondering why Aiden only seems to possess certain characters, and why Aiden can only knock over a few objects, and seems to forget these useful powers when the plot decides to invent a sense of threat out of whole cloth.  It's also not very enjoyable to play as Aiden, despite what promise he has. The floating controls are awkward, sluggish, and disorienting, while the way in which you interact with the world -- holding down buttons and moving the analog sticks about -- is ungainly and alienating. It shouldn't feel boring or bumbling to be a wrathful poltergeist, but Aiden manages to be both. In fact, he may not even be the wrathful vandal he's portrayed as. After five minutes in the steering wheel, one could reasonably assume he's just drunk.  There's really not much else to say about the way the game plays. Whatever it tries to throw at you -- whether you're avoiding beastly entities from the cringingly named Infraworld, taking cover to shoot at terrorists because of reasons, or delivering a baby in an abandoned building, you're really just performing the same somber actions, pulling analog sticks and pressing buttons when commanded like some Pavlovian experiment gone wrong. This is not a game to be played, it's an instructional video to be followed, in order to further unlock a story that isn't very good, a story spat at the viewer in shattered, tattered pieces.  Visually, Two Souls is okay to look at. Yes, the uncanny valley faces are impressive on a technical level, but the frequent texture pop-in and robotic bodily animations swiftly defecate on the magic. The game is prone to brief freezing, and loading times are fairly dreadful. Environments are bland, and overall the visual quality fails to stand out in this day and age. Still, if you're curious to know what Ellen Page would look like with every hairstyle ever, you'll find yourself adequately sated.  At least the soundtrack is beautiful, and it does a good job of making certain scenes more compelling than they'd otherwise be, while the acting is a huge step up from Heavy Rain. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe do fantastically, given the mediocrity they have to work with, while the supporting cast is fairly solid too. It's a shame much of the dialog still makes me want to cover my eyes and scrunch my eyes up tight, but at least the delivery is convincing enough.  For all the complaints that can be leveled at Beyond -- and they can be leveled in feckless abundance -- the overwhelming problem with it is that it's just plain boring. Like a sociopath, Beyond: Two Souls knows how to act like it has a heart, while providing nothing of the emotional depth required to connect with an audience. Its characters can smile, and cry, and tell us they're feeling all of these feelings, but their paper-thin presentation and the frequent narrative dead ends prevent any of their pantomime from becoming too convincing. And that's all Beyond: Two Souls is -- a pantomime. A childish play at being a meaningful journey, a vapid illusion of passion and poignancy. Nothing but a pantomime.  A perishingly dull pantomime. 
Beyond reviewed photo
Show a little soul
It's hard to divorce David Cage, the public figure, from the games Quantic Dream makes. He is, after all, a man who put himself in Indigo Prophecy's tutorial, immortalized as the movie director he's always dreamed of being. T...

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Skittlers!
In what is easily my favorite Now Bloody Playing to date, I battle Skittlers and meet the best voice actors in the world, all with Legends of Dawn! I had a blast with this one, and you can expect to see much more of it in future. Way too much of it. 

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Podtoid 272: Horses Are Watching A Toy Masturbate


Podtoid hits the Destructoid frontpage every Thursday!
Oct 03
// Jim Sterling
On this week's Podtoid, Jonathan Holmes finally breaks bad, but not before he runs the sexiest dog hotel you ever did see! Elsewhere, Willem Dafoe goes to Heaven and meets a saucy Dolly Parton, while MANY OTHER THINGS HAPPEN!...
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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.
Rain review photo
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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