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Hands-on with Kinect Disneyland Adventures

Oct 17 // John Speerbrecker
Kinect Disneyland Adventures (Xbox 360)Developer: Frontier DevelopmentsPublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease date: November 15, 2011 Along with the authenticity of the park, you will be able to treat the collectibles the same way you would in real life. One item that I remember when I visited Disney World as a child was the autograph book. Every character that I met was able to sign my book and 20 years later, I still have it. Your character in the game will have his/her own book to have each character sign. Another very popular item in the parks today are the pins that people are collecting around the world. You will be able to go around the park to try to get all of them to wear on your special lanyard. The entire environment is interactive. You will have a set of tools that your character will be able to use in such as a megaphone and a magic wand. You can use the megaphone by putting your hands to your face and yelling at the people and objects that you come across. Using the wand will let your character cause some of the little statues to dance and while this happens, they will also drop coins. There are dozens of items that you can zap and animate. The wand pays homage to one of my favorite non-cartoon Disney movies, Bedknobs and Broomsticks. While you are traversing the park you will come across many of the Disney characters that we have come to know and love. Each member of this vibrant cast will have a series of quests for you to complete in order to earn more money and obtain new items to use. We first bumped into Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story where he helped us become a space ranger. This is the biggest yet most welcome difference between the game and reality. Instead of just going on the virtual ride and coasting along, they have made it into an interactive adventure. A adventure that will essentially give you a work out and also give you a great chance to dance around in some instances. Later I was dropped in with a developer on Disneyland Adventures and we were transported into the world of Toy Story and dressed in costumes that reflected that universe. In here was a simple shooting mechanic where. When it was all over, we were sent back to the park in our regular clothes and were now Space Rangers. One fun/embarrasing thing about each adventure is that Kinect will take your picture at the end that you will be able to upload via Kinect share or Facebook.  From Toy Story, it was off to Splash Mountain. Here we were following the Brear Rabbit down the Briar patch. Along the way you will have to physically jump to have your character jump over the barbs. While you are running down the path, you will need to pick up money as you go along in order to get the highest score. After that we got to hop into the log boat and pantomime paddling in order to steer the boat downstream. I liked that how my arms paddled directly effected the direction of the boat and not just be a generic pathway to travel. For added effect, have a friend with a bucket of water on standby to dump on you at a moments notice. It's a Small World was the last adventure that we took. I had no idea how they could make this into a game with the ride being a bunch of creepy anamatronic children. But they managed to do it and somehow, these kids are not haunting my dreams. In fact this adventure was the most exhausting of the three that we tried. First, we are in a boat that we will have to motion like we are turning a crank to make the boat go. Then, we come across three randomly selected countries that we will learn how the locals dance. In America, we line dance and did a rain dance. In Africa we did some traditional tribal choreography. Even though these dances seemed quite complicated the game was very forgiving. There is so much to this vacation on a disc. Frontier Developments are touting that there is fifty hours of gameplay including twenty adventures to partake in with or without a friend. With such a true recreation of the park, my biggest question would be whether it could deter people from going to the park. I mean, it is kind of far. Other than that, Its great to get to see a place that had such strong feelings from my childhood in a easy to access experience. Game wise, what it boils down to is a collection of mini-games that are based in Disneyland. Since there are a whole lotta people that love this place, it will be interesting to see how this will do for kids and us children in men's bodies later this year. 
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As we all know, there are dozens of new games coming out this year. I'm not just talking about the big blockbusters for us grown ups. There is also a large group of gamers that happens to be a bit younger and some of you migh...

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Zynga bringing out new games to Facebook and mobile


Oct 17
// John Speerbrecker
Zynga, who basically runs the world of Facebook games, held a press conference last week in their offices in San Francisco. In this rendezvous, they talked about many of their upcoming projects and hinted at creating their...
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Preview: Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure


Oct 07
// John Speerbrecker
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is doing something no other videogame has ever done by making real collectible toys be an integral part of a videogame experience. It's a novel concept, one that has left many people scratching their head at such an idea. In this new ambitious take from developer Toys for Bob, I finally got to see first hand just how this whole concept works.

You are the antivirus in Disney Universe

Oct 05 // John Speerbrecker
[embed]212787:41138[/embed] Disney Universe (Wii, PS3, Xbox 360)Developer: Disney Interactive StudiosPublisher: Disney Interactive StudiosRelease: October 25, 2011MSRP: 49.99 In order for the game to recognize your antivirus warriors, they will have to wear a costume from the world of Disney. There are over 42 choices of costumes, like the lovely Ariel (The Little Mermaid). Each costume comes with its own tool and they can be upgraded multiple times through the course of your adventure in order to make you stronger against the virus minions. One thing that I found great in this whole regard are the many different costumes you can wear. You can find yourself taking many hours with each costume trying to get all of their tools set up to the maximum level. You can even share your tools with other players. The level design does lend itself to a side-scrolling platformer with many puzzle elements. In one part of the game, we had to find some rather large seeds and plant them. Then we had to find a source of water which helps the plants grow to an instant tree that we were able to use to get to the next area. In the world of Aladdin, we had to find pieces of a scarab and assemble them to create a key that would help us exit the level. The best way to play is through four player co-op mode. It's a real treat for those of you with children or if you just happen to like cutesy games. While you are playing co-op, a flying flashing red cube will appear to help you move along in the level. If you touch the cube, it can do all sorts of fun things like turn you into a basketball and all of a sudden, you have a little game of tag happening where whoever gets touched by the ball, becomes the ball. It's a nice short little diversion. Disney Universe looks like the worlds that we have come to know from Disney. Vibrant, colorful, and full of imagination and wonder. The story is something that feels a little uncommon from what we have seen from Disney, but not doing the same thing over and over is always a welcome idea.
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In a whole new world under the sea, in a tale as old as time that brings the circle of life together. This is a snapshot of the Disney universe, basically. In Disney Universe the game, you get the chance to experience the var...

Dungeon Defenders is bringing it to the hardcore

Oct 03 // John Speerbrecker
[embed]212118:41111[/embed] Dungeon Defenders (XBLA, PSN, PC)Developer: Trendy EntertainmentPublisher: ReverbRelease: October 19, 2011MSRP: 14.99 Dungeon Defenders is exactly what it sounds like. You are one of four warriors who are trying to protect your Eternity Crystals from the onslaught of Goblins and hordes of monsters. You will use your towers to help defend against the attacking hordes alongside your weapons and abilities.  Gameplay is based on a set-up phase and attack phase with each wave. Depending on what options that you choose in the tavern, you will be able to set up your towers in the map without problem. Then when all the players have set up what they could, you touch the crystal to unleash the many monsters that just hate crystals and want to do nothing more then just beat the crap out of them. During the attack phase, you can utilize your towers against your enemies and go toe-to-toe directly with them. Enemies will drop mana that can go to either repairing or upgrading your towers. It seemed that I gradually was peeling away the surface of the game in my playtime and each layer that was peeled off was more inviting and interesting to see. Each time that we played, we could choose to play in any of the difficulty settings available which would affect what kind of loot and experience we would get. Of course, replayability is always an option to help build out your character and get that awesome loot. You can also control the camera to be in third-person or you can zoom out to give it a more traditional isometric view of the map. There are four types of characters to use and you can use multiple characters in your match. So, if you want the magic missile towers in the game but want the attacking power of the Squire, you will be able to switch them before you release the horde. Another awesome aspect of this game is that while you play, you will not have to worry about one of your characters having items that you will not be able to find later as your inventory is shared with every character you create on your user ID. The Apprentice uses elemental magic who has a great mix of offensive and defensive towers. With that, his towers utilize ranged attacks and will also strip resistances away from the enemies. A small tip is that you can use a fire debuffing tower and then have your other towers attack the enemies with fire to be more effective. He performs more long distance physical attacks, both of which can be charged to unleash a much more violent version of them. The Squire is most likely the more balanced of the characters. He has a good balance of offensive and defensive towers that have a lot of hit points so they will be much more stronger to the attacks of the goblins. One unique aspect of the Squire is that he is the only character that can attack. With that, you will be able to send the Squire out to block the incoming enemies while you are able to repair your towers. Since we all want to include girl characters in our lives, we have the Huntress to fill that need. She is a very stealthy character that places traps that will severely hurt the enemies. Her physical abilities also allow her to become invisible and travel behind enemies where she can lay traps such as proximity mines.  Arguably, the most complex character to use is the Monk. This fighter does not use any physical blockades to stop the mobs of gobs. All he uses are auras that inflict status effects. For example, he can create an aura that slows down the enemies or electricity damage enemies. He is also the only character in the group that has both ranged and normal attacks, both of which are buffed by the staff that he uses. Each character is given their own tavern where you can buy equipment, manage your inventory, and choose the level that you will go to next. Also, you can level up your equipment and purchase a pet for your character to have by their side, like a flying tiger or a dragon. You will also be able to adjust the appearance of your fighters in the tavern.  Dungeon Defenders can be played through co-op, solo, local, online or even PvP. There is a survival mode where you will encounter wave-after-wave of enemies that will get at you nonstop. There is also the challenge mode where you can try to beat certain criteria, such as trying to defend your crystal while it teleports throughout the map. We played one level where the goblins just dropped out of the sky and we had to make sure that they didn't destroy the crystal in the level.  At first look at this game might be a little daunting to an unsuspecting player. As you charge through the levels, start building up the armor and weapons though, you'll be hooked.
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Just when you thought that you have already seen every type of tower defense game, the team at Trendy Entertainment have thrown us a curveball with what might be the most all encompassing version of the genre to date. To be more specific, this is a four-player-co-op-action-adventure-hack-n-slash-RPG-tower-defense-game.  Yeah, you read that right. It's time to lock yourself away for a while.

Star Trek: Infinite Space is boldly going there

Sep 21 // John Speerbrecker
Star Trek: Infinite Space (PC)Developer: Keen GamesPublisher: GameforgeReleased: 2011Price: Free Hearing about a free-to-play Star Trek game might just catch some of you off guard. We also know that Star Trek fans also can be some of the most hardcore fans in the world. That being said, those expectations are high and we always need a good Star Trek title. This is set up in the timeline of the Deep Space Nine world, where your job is to defend the Alpha Quadrant against all of the unknown denizens that tend to live in the universe. The story is written by Lee Sheldon who has written a few of the Next Generation episodes; Michael and Denise Okuda (authors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia) also contributed to the detail of the game's story arc. In terms of graphics, this game is incorporating a full 3D graphics engine called the Unity engine in the browser. You can see the detail in everything that you encounter in space from the architecture of the Ferengi hub to the nebula that you might have to mine ore out of.  There are two factions to choose from: Federation and Klingon. When choosing which one, even though you might think that one is a good guy and one is not, do not be confused. This game is meant to be played the way you want to. If you want to pretend like you are a drunken Captain Kirk and have not a care for anyone else just to get your job done, you can do that. The option to actually be a kindhearted Klingon is also available should you choose to play that way. Main story missions will take you through the campaign so that you can really immerse yourself in the surroundings of the world of Deep Space Nine. These missions are unique to each faction and can have multiple outcomes. Battleground scenarios are there for you to try out different roles in groups or to fine tune your play-style. You could keep trying different tactics to defeat that annoying Borg cube that has been giving you problems. Exploration missions, which are a crucial part of the Star Trek world, are also there for you to finally get out and see what lies beyond the frontier. The Central Hub in this game will be your launching point for you to meet up with friends and for you to build a party that will be able to go out and rule the galaxy. In the hub, you can show off your illustrious gear that you paid cash for or you can just go emote crazy and keep tapping your communicator to see who gets the most annoyed first. Yes, there is also and emote for you to "engage" as well.  Since you are the captain of the ship, you also have to successfully manage your crew. You will have to work with your Science officer, Security officer, Medical team, and your engineer. As you play this game, you will utilize them to successfully manage your missions and they'll help you succeed. As you level up, you can use some of your skill points to help build your crew to make challenges with them easier to win. Infinite Space plays like a top-down action game. You have your skill bar at the bottom of the screen so your photon torpedoes are at the ready. From the overhead perspective, you'll control your ship and easily navigate it through levels. It works very similar to an RTS style of control for your ship where you can either drag it with a mouse, point and click, or use the WASD keys. For this game still being in development, the visuals are shaping up to be great.  In this demo, a Intrepid Class ship was used to complete the mission. As for the HUD, they really nailed it with the interface of how it would look if we were actually using a control panel. We took the starship around an asteroid field and into enemy territory, where we were promptly ambushed. After spamming photon torpedoes and phasers, we managed to get out safely and continue on to our destination. In combat, the key is to weaken enemy shields; sending a disruptor their way to slow them down will be a great help while you take the time to flank them, for instance. Morality also plays a key role in this game where you will be faced with decisions that can influence your future. In one example, you are given a choice to blow up a ship with your away team on it or wait for them to try to capture the rogue who might escape without your interference.  Star Trek: Infinite Space also promises over 180 hours of playtime. They really want to give players the tools to play how they want. So if you want to gang up on that pesky Borg Cube with three Defiant class ships, go right ahead. There will be twelve ships for each side of the game, but within that, there will be many variations of the ships to work with. With this title stepping into the free-to-play realm, it is surprising to see all the work that they put into the detail of the game and the detail of the universe to get it just right for fans. Infinite Space will be out later this third quarter and it looks like it just might be the chance for us to boldly go there...for free.
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Let's face it, Star Trek games have been a challenge for most developers. With many titles in the past that have tried endlessly to capture the universe in a way that can please the fans of the series, the team at K...

Free-to-play Hellbreed is NOT about demon sex

Sep 19 // John Speerbrecker
Hellbreed (PC)Developer: InflammablesPublisher: GameforgeReleased: September 19, 2011MSRP: Free As the story tends to go in games of fantasy, there is a great evil in the world. In this case, it is an evil warlord named Darken who -- with his team of minions -- is trying to destroy the world. The gods in this world saw him coming with his hordes and fragmented the world so that it would be more difficult for him to control everything and that is where you and your friends come in. Your goal is to reunite the fragments of the world and locate the mystical fountain that will destroy Darken and his army of darkness. With the help of others in this game, it can still be quite a challenge, albeit a rewarding one.  There are three types of warriors that you can choose from in the game. There is the Seige Master who is skilled at using all things mechanical like crossbows and ranged weapons. One of his abilities is to cast rocks from the sky to demolish enemies. There's also the Huntress for all of you elf lovers out there. She is a nimble, long-range fighter whose powers are nature-based and she can also summon beasts to help in her plight. Of course, no party would be complete without the Warrior, who is just the meat and potatoes guy of the group. He has all of the special close-range attacks and will tank when needed.  Hellbreed will start out in the general meeting area which is called Jumprock; this is the staging area for your games. From there you can chat with other players and trade or sell equipment. Then when you are good and ready, you can take off into a mission to fufill your quests. When playing online, it works out well to have a good balance in your team. Although it can be fun at times to have all one type of character, there is always a chance of getting decimated pretty easily. In terms of items, the weapons are upgradeable and there are also recipes in the game that you can use to buff your current skill set. Be careful -- once you use a recipe, it will be gone. If you need more space in your pack, you can also use diamonds which are the real currency treasures in the game. You can use those diamonds to help you buy that special item that will make you totally badass or just make your time in the game go a little bit faster, and who doesn't like speed? In addition to there being a metric ton of stuff to pick up in this game, they have also included achievements that you will be able to show off to people online. This is a nice step not usually seen in free-to-play games and it is a welcome one. Now, if we can only streamline these so that there is an overarching measurement in all games like this so we can see all of them together and not just on a game-to-game basis. Hellbreed was developed all in house from an engine created by the Inflammables and it seems to be working out nicely. Along with that, they are able to offer 150 levels for you to explore.  All in all, this game will give you a ton of stuff to do with your time, either in five-minute increments, or an hour or so long campaign. Since it is flash-based, it can even work on my crappy netbook!   Hellbreed is live as of today.
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Hellbreed, which is being released today, is about a splintered world where you and a party of up to three friends need to gather together and assemble it using skills of magic, might, and mayhem. For anyone who has been...

One last look at Gears of War 3 from new eyes

Sep 14 // John Speerbrecker
Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)Developer: Epic GamesPublisher: Microsoft Game StudiosTo be released: September 20, 2011MSRP: $59.99 Team Deathmatch should be self-explanatory, but if you don't know yet, it pits five against five in a duel to the death and the last team standing wins. One aspect of this multiplayer mode that really struck a chord with me is that the team has to share lives. So if there are only 15 re-spawns available and you have someone on your team who really sucks, your chances of coming back to the game can be severely hindered. The maps themselves are small and intimate; the action can go from really fast-paced to a more strategic shoot out from opposite corners. They are all gorgeous, with an insane variety of landscapes for you to impale your opponents against. Of course, in those killing modes there are a wide variety of types to play in. King of the Hill is a territory based mode where you have to keep control of an area for the longest to win. Wingman is a two on two on two on two single-elimination deathmatch. Capture the Leader is where your team has to capture and hold the opposing team's leader until they win. Execution and Warzone are both back with their single-elimination play and killing fast and accurately is crucial to these modes. Horde Mode is for those of you who have time. There are fifty waves of enemies that you will have to strategically defend against. This mode, if you are not careful, could take a few hours so keep your bedpans nearby. It was fun to be forced to work together as a team, planning who should be in charge of building barriers and decoys in the map. Our group was wasted around the 16th round -- not too bad for having little to no communication. Beast Mode is what got me on the hook. I've never had the chance to play another type of mode like this before. I loved the fact that you had to work together as a team. You take control of one of the creatures in Gears of War 3, each with their own ability. The balancing of their abilities is crucial for your team to destroy the humans in 12 rounds. According to the developers, the quality assurance team was able to get through all the rounds within approximately 15 minutes. After playing this game as a new person to the franchise, I finally get it. "It" being why people love this game. In some ways, I feel that Gears of War might have been one of the titles that helped the Xbox 360 in its earlier days of Live to have such a robust online community. I felt compelled to actually work and talk with my teammates in the game instead of other first-person shooters where you can just log on and ignore everyone and still have a moderate amount of fun. Yes, there is still the stigma of this being a "Hey Bro Dude!" kind of game, but that is okay -- it is still kicks ass. The only questionable aspect I had seen is that, in the customization menu, you have the option to change skins, and many of those options had a little dollar symbol on them. After clicking on a icon, I was brought to the marketplace menu. I guess that is one way to get a little more buck for your bang. Of course, now I want to get the super hyped Gears of War 3 Xbox 360 and pick up the past two titles. This is going to be quite an expensive year and we haven't even hit the Christmas season yet. If you want to check out more about this game, get ready for Jim's review tomorrow!
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First off, I have never played a Gears game until recently. Not that I have anything against the franchise, its just that we were two ships passing in the night -- that, and I am without an Xbox 360. I had the opportunity to play three of the multiplayer modes -- Team Deathmatch, Beast, and Horde Mode -- ahead of the game's full release next week.

Preview: Burnout Crash!

Aug 31 // John Speerbrecker
Burnout Crash! (PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade [Previewed]Developer: Criterion GamesPublisher: Electronic ArtsTo be released: September 20, 2011 This version of Burnout revolves around the crashes in a colorful arcade setting. You take control of your choice of car and take off into the intersection. When you get there you can either crash into a car to get your combo off and running or just smash into a building. There are a few game modes available for you to choose from as well, and yes, they all involve crashing.  There are three single-player modes in this game and all of them are playable with Kinect. Road Trip is like a survival mode to see how many points you can get until you get a game over. Rush Hour is the time attack mode where you have to crash a certain amount of points within a set time limit. The third mode is Pile-Up which is a puzzle-centric mode.  We played Road Trip for the majority of the single-player time. It feels like a really finely tuned pinball game like the developers said. As you continue to build up points you will get special features released. In one case, a thunderstorm approached and destroyed the demolished cars on the screen for a greater bonus. When you reach the end of a round one of six disasters will happen on your town to destroy everything. The amount of cars that you kept from escaping the screen will directly influence how powerful the disaster will be.  The disasters such as Alien invasion or a Tsunami are a sight to see as they eradicate everything on the screen. The levels are bright and colorful and each one is full of surprises and hidden things for you to help grow your bonus score. The party mode of the game using Kinect was one of the most interesting modes of the game. Using various poses and pretending to drive a car into an intersection proved to be very fun and some of the actions that you have to perform tend to be quite comical. For example, we had to gesture like we were laying an egg in order to get the crash to happen. Steering the car was quite simple as well, you simply put out your hands like you are holding a real steering wheel. To move the car around the screen the Kinect camera can detect how far away you are and translate it to the movement of the car on the screen. In terms of playing with your friends who will also play online, you get to issue challenges to people on your friends list to see who is the better person at causing all of the destruction. As you issue a challenge, your friend will have the opportunity to try their hand at it and see if they can beat your score. If they do manage to beat your score, they will be able to keep a golden cup by their ID until you can beat their score. The game will also recommend friends for you through the use of EA's new service, Origin. The most noticeable piece of this game was its extensive use of sound. The entire time as a crash happened there was a sound that I instantly associate with slot machines. If you got a bonus or a big combo a little bit of a pop song would come in. The use of these sounds really connect with the user in an enjoyable way so that the player feels rewarded each time that they do something spectacular, like crash a special gold car or one of the red sports cars that appear within the game. Like others have said before, people are kind of on the fence about the game.  The concerns that have been addressed make sense because when you have a brand like Burnout, there are certain expectations that the public wants. One of those expectations is speed, another is the crashes and finally, races. This title might be a piece of the Burnout pie, but we all like pie. 
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When we first heard about a new Burnout game, we had in our minds a brand new speed and ripped metal jaunt through some serene countryside and traffic-jammed cities. What we got is a game that is trying to capture the essence...

Preview: Warp

Aug 30 // John Speerbrecker
[embed]209951:40621[/embed] Warp (Xbox Live Arcade [Previewed], PlayStation Network, PC)Developer: TrapdoorPublisher: Electronic ArtsTo be released: Winter 2011  In the spirit of other action/stealth games, you try to use the tools at your disposal to get by the guards and reach your objectives within the level. In this demo, you are able to play in a variety of different ways which can fit many different play styles. For example, you can play the game entirely in a stealth way and just use your alien powers to get by guards and traps or you can play aggressively and teleport into your enemies to cause a little bit of bodily explosions. OK, it's a gruesome depiction of what would happen in the movie Aliens if the alien in the person's body was ten times larger. There were lots of meaty bits flying around afterwords. If you are not careful, more soldiers will arrive to help put you out of your misery. Teleportation is just one of the powers that the team was able to show at the demonstration. This power will let you travel through thin walls, into barrels, people, and turrets. While you are inside one of these objects, it is up to you on how to proceed next. Do you blow up the whole thing, or do you sneak around waiting for a guard to pass by? In most cases, there is no incorrect answer, which adds to the fun factor of the game.  In addition to the warp power, there is another power called echo that Zero can use to create a ghost of itself and have that figure walk through walls to distract any onlookers that might be in the way of your intended route. This was seen where a soldier was in an adjacent room looking straight at the door that you are behind. Zero was able to create his echo and have it go into the room to draw the soldier away from the door and allow the real Zero to run past the soldier and into the next area.  There are also four other powers -- to be announced at a later date -- that will be available in the full version of the game. Each power in this game will be able to upgrade through the use of grubs which are the in game currency that you can spend to do things like make your warping silent of create multiple echos. As for multiplayer, there have been no announcements regarding co-op. However, there will be the addition of challenge rooms where you compete against your friends to see who can earn the best time. Warp feels new to me, even though it could be compared to a very Solid action stealth game, but in the demo, it almost felt a little like a puzzle game with each room being a challenge in and of itself. In the short time that I spent with it, I found it to be a fun snapshot of what is to come in a couple of months. With the abundance of downloadable games that are available and are still being created, let's just hope that the final version will be as promising as the demo. Warp will be available in winter of 2011/2012 on PSN, XBLA, and PC.
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What do you do when walls don't matter? This was a question posed by the developers of the upcoming game Warp. The team at Trapdoor started working on the mechanics first by toying with teleporting through walls and into...

Preview: The Baconing

Aug 08 // John Speerbrecker
The Baconing (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC, Mac)Developer: Hothead GamesPublisher: Hothead GamesTo be released: 2011 Hothead Games asked their community for a title to the new game without divulging any information about it. The winner of the submission contest obviously has a thing for pork products of some type and hence, The Baconing was born. The title conveniently ties into the games storyline where our hero is bored from vanquishing too much and wonders what would happen if he would put on all six Thongs of Virtue (the powerful items from the previous game) at the same time. This attempt at bizarre fashion creates the monster in The Baconing known as the Anti-Spank. To stand a chance against this new menace, Deathspank will have to burn each of the Thongs in the five fires of bacon scattered around the world. Your journey will entail traveling a vast science-fiction world with inspiration from films such as Blade Runner and family home game Simon. So, the story sounds compelling enough -- who doesn't like magical thongs that can create your own personal nemesis, right? With the previous Deathspank games, the team admits that the gameplay did not hold up over the course of eight hours. Just an eight-hour button masher that you were finding yourself rushing through to get to the next scene, basically. One major fix with this is the improved AI that will now bring the fight to you instead of just standing around waiting for you to come and vanquish their faces.  In order to combat the new AI, which will overwhelm Deathspank in every direction, is his new shield charge that pushes enemies back. This will allow the player a chance to regroup and use different attacks such as his crossbow. There are seven different crossbow variations that are all chargeable to give you a stronger attack, much like the shield. The Baconing has quite a few puzzles to solve and you'll be able to decide on how to move forward. For example, in one puzzle, I had to make a rhyme with some monks to get a code to proceed into the next area. I could either choose to answer their riddles or simply kill them. To top it all off, there are also going to be seven unique Weapons of Justice which will be usable after defeating a certain amount of enemies. Other weapons include a chainsaw and my personal favorite, a laser-guided attack from fire-breathing dragons. The environments are all updated as well. In the last games, level design felt a little barren. Now they have added new set pieces to allow for a cover system where Deathspank can hide behind walls and barrels to plan his attack. There is also local co-op with a new character to the Deathspank world. Your co-op partner is Bob from Marketing and he is a freaking shark who uses a swordfish as a weapon! He might not be an integral part of the story, but he is a great addition to the world of The Baconing.  The environments in the game are as colorful and fun as the story. Along with the Spanktopia world which has the whole Blade Runner-future-slum feel, there are also ones that really add to the color of the narrative. There is the Forbidden Zone where we noticed elements from the game, Simon. You might also notice elements from Battlestar Galactica or Knight Rider here. Then there's the Forbidden Kingdom world where you will have to work with the Nuclear Family in order to restore order to their amusement park. In the park, you work with their mutant creation named Muto, the mutant mouse-type thing that resembles a certain superstar from Disney. The last area we visited was the glorious land known as Rainbows End. Of course, if you have rainbows, you have ... gangsta-ass leprechauns. In their musty old casino -- which resembles Atlantic City -- you must help them with some magical jobs to secure certain goods which will help you along with your quest to save the world. The inventory system has also been revamped to accommodate all the various items that are in the game and they have made it easier for you to organize your stuff. You will be able to quickly find what you are looking for instead of having to sift through hundreds of random items that you don't need to use. The Baconing is a revitalization of the Deathspank series. In this edition, every item, system and the design has been touched by the development team. The team at Hothead is really trying to give new and old players a nice sweaty thong wrapped in bacon, soaked in beer batter and deep fried to sink their teeth into. The game looks like it will be a hit and I can't wait to give this version a solid play-through or two.
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Much like the Rapture, the Quickening, and whatever other religious world changing event is coming, The Baconing is upon us and we must get our collective asses back into church and pray that our savior Deathspank can save us...

Preview: Dragon Age II: Legacy

Jul 20 // John Speerbrecker
Dragon Age II: Legacy (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Mac)Developer: BiowarePublisher: Electronic ArtsTo be released: 7/26/2011 Legacy is a prequel based on the Hawke family and sees you playing as Hawke's father where you'll travel around Kirkwall with some familiar characters from Dragon Age II. I won't give away too much about the storyline but just know that there are quite a few twists and turns revolving around the Hawke family. Largely their relationship with a possible Darkspawn so powerful that the Grey Wardens had kept him hidden for a million years. In the demo, Hawke's father is the lead character of the group and is traveling down into the depths around the Grey Warden prison. Here we are first visited by one of the new Darkspawn enemies, a burly rascal with a shield that covers his entire body. The AI has been improved and the creature was able to hold itself pretty well against me. This speaks well of the team for increasing the challenge as DAII was critiqued for being too easy at times. As your team continued into the prison, you come across more of these large shield wielding Darkspawns and must use everyone's abilities to their fullest to strategically eliminate them all. The new focus on team work is another welcome addition as there looks to be more depth in combat now. This expansion also sees the environment being more part of the combat, such as utilizing saw-blades in the floor or using a wall to pin enemies or even get pinned yourself. The quest continued on and I ran into the first mini-boss battle. After fighting this demon for about a minute, it was clear that this is not a simple walk and spamming attacks wouldn't work. Even on the easy setting, my entire team was killed. It was actually exciting to see that I actually had to plan my attacks in order to win.  After the mini-boss was killed, we were introduced to the newest addition to the game which is your class specific special weapon that acts as a key to help seal off the evil forces. In the demo, I played as a rogue and my special weapon was a dagger. When I defeated the previous mini-boss, I was able to help grow our weapon by adding an extra ability to it. These special weapons will also be usable in Dragon Age II, even if you haven't finished it. Additionally, you can start playing Legacy at anytime, even if you haven't beaten Dragon Age II proper. The team at Bioware assures us that they have taken the feedback from both fans and critics to heart and promises an engrossing story to add to what I think to be the already amazing trip that is Dragon Age II.
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Buckets of blood will be shed in the newest expansion to Dragon Age II. This little gem of a franchise was started in late 2009 and with Dragon Age: Origins, Bioware had a hit. With that release, they also brought about...

Preview: Kirby Wii

Jul 15 // John Speerbrecker
Kirby Wii (Working title) WiiDeveloper: HAL LaboratoryPublisher: NintendoTo be released: Fall 2011 The story begins in Kirby's world as Kirby, Meta Knight, King Dedede, and Waddle Dee are taking a leisurely stroll through the colorful landscape. Then BAM! A giant alien spaceship appears from a rip in the space time continuum and crash-lands in a nearby field. The team rush to the ship where they find a lone character lying unconscious on the floor. He wakes up and is in dire need of the hero's help to repair his ship. The team agrees to help and travel all around Dreamland to find all the parts of the alien's ship to help him return home.  While we couldn't go into specifics about the story, there is the possibility that this "friendly" alien could be a total bad guy using Kirby to do all the legwork so he can take over Kirby's world. That's my theory anyway and hey, it has happened before (See Milky Way Wishes.) You can play Kirby Wii all by yourself, but up to three friends can join in at anytime to work together in co-op. Other players can drop in and out on the fly and friends can play as either Meta Knight, King Dedede or Waddle Dee. Co-op buddies just hit a button to join into the game in progress and if the person needs to pop out for whatever reason, they can just drop out without affecting the main player. All the players share the same number of lives so if a co-op buddy dies, Kirby will lose a life. If Kirby dies, then the entire team will have to start off back at the beginning of the level.   Kirby will consume enemies to take their powers of course, just like the classic games. He can use his super suction to swallow a rattle snake, for example, and through a complex digestion process, a cowboy hat will appear on his head and give him a lasso fight enemies. You'll want to strategize a little bit with the powers you consume in order to get all the items in a level or to help you find that elusive secret warp zone.  Among the varieties of different abilities both new and old are a new set of super power-ups. These new super attacks typically take out everything on the screen but can only be used for a limited period of time. The first of these new super attacks was the giant sword. Kirby can take one swing and eradicate everything on the screen, even certain land objects. My favorite super attack during my hands-on was the fire hat. Used normally, it bellows a short stream of fire to help you along your adventure. When it is powered up, the flame will change into a dragon made of fire and consume all the enemies on the screen. Overall, Kirby Wii was plenty of fun. The incorporation of drop in and out gameplay is a must for those of us that have people at home that love the co-op experience. Also, I can't wait to make people yell at me when I don't give them a hug (a kiss?) to replenish their health.  Here's more on Kirby Wii from our E3 hands-on time. [embed]203285:39202[/embed]
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Finally, that little pink puffy character with the suction power of a Dyson will have his first adventure for the Wii in the style of the old school games. Sure, there was Kirby's Epic Yarn, but Kirby Wii (working title) is all about the consuming and gaining of new powers. I had the chance to to check out a few of the levels the other day and from what I played, Kirby Wii is looking really good.

The next Harry Potter has a very Gears of War feel

Jul 11 // John Speerbrecker
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, DS, PC)Developer: EA Bright LightPublisher: Electronic ArtsTo be released: July 12, 2011 There are quite a few other similarities between this game and Gears of War. For example, in Harry Potter, you lead a team of grizzled high school veterans against hordes of Death Eaters. In Gears, you lead a team of grizzly military types against evil aliens. Your lead character in Harry Potter has a scar on his face as does Marcus Phoenix of Gears. They both like making big explosions and running around with their friends blowing stuff up too.  The team says that they have addressed what the fans were asking for from the previous version of Deathly Hallows, such as being able to play as other characters in the story. During the demonstration,  Professor McGonagall was used to fight off one of the giant bosses in the game. They also simplified the control scheme. Each spell in Harry's arsenal is mapped to a button on the controller and you simply pull the R trigger on the controller to cast whichever spell is equipped. There is quite a bit of strategy in the way that you will have to defeat your enemies. Certain spells are just for defeating your enemy's shields and other spells are for dealing damage. You will have to find the right method of knowing which spell is going to be needed to take out the bad guys. Later in the game, you will also get the Apparate spell which will allow Harry to teleport to nearby cover in case of a surprise attack which seemed to happen often. This game is a great starting point for kids whose parents will not let them have the Gears experience or if they are just Harry Potter fans in general. Either way, it is definitely a game that can be enjoyed by all. If you really want to spoil this game, there is a movie that will be coming out on Friday based on the exact same story. You should watch it. It's a big deal, apparently. 
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During the EA Summer showcase, the newest entry to the Harry Potter videogame series was available to check out just before it becomes available this Tuesday. In this final chapter of the story, you must save the world and yo...

Preview: The Sims 3 Pets

Jul 10 // John Speerbrecker
The Sims 3 PetsDeveloper: The Sims StudioPublisher: Electronic ArtsTo be released: Fall 2011 The PC version was not playable at the event but the creature creator was available to toy around with. In the creator, I was able to pick a breed of horse and then tweak how I wanted it to behave, whether it was mean spirited or just plain goofy. You are also able to design the coloring of the animal. One dude next to me made his horse coat resemble a bowl of fruity pebbles. My horse was just black with blood around its mouth because every pet I have ever owned has gained a taste for raw meat.  Customization is as can be expected with all the sliders, color palettes, and attitudes that you you would enjoy imposing on your ferocious yet cuddly beast. Many people will create their favorite pet that might have passed away in the hopes of bringing it back to life virtually. Of course, saying it like that makes it sound like some Pet Semetery kind of thing. That being said, you can make all sorts of demon dogs and cats and have them running around your little sim village bringing joy and turmoil to all of the citizens in your world.Another big difference between the PC version and the console version is that on PC, you will also have exotic pets like parrots and other birds. For the consoles, they will be part of a special edition that can be seen here. But its more than certain that the other pets could be download content in the future. One big difference that can make the console version more appealing is the inclusion of Kinect with the 360 version that was shown off. With Kinect, you are able to give it voice commands to help navigate the menus that can be somewhat overwhelming at times. In the demonstration, the presenter was able to have the pet play with the other sims and then, by using voice commands, have the dog cause chaos on a nearby chair.  Voice commands can be a great adaptation to this game and let's just hope that it adds to the overall experience instead of subtracting from it.At the tail end of this..ahem. They are trying to do some new things to this franchise which we don't usually see from other developers. Lets just hope that it will lead to good times with puppies or kitties or mean horses with a blood lust.
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It's the Summer of the Sims and at the EA Summer Showcase, there were disc (Frisbee) catching dogs on hand to excite the crowd about Sims 3 Pets. Just like the title implies, this expansion adds pets to the core game that peo...

Preview: The Sims Medieval: Pirates and Nobles

Jul 09 // John Speerbrecker
The Sims Medieval: Pirates and Nobles (PC)Developer: The Sims StudioPublisher: Electronic ArtsTo be released: August 2011 In addition to the new quests, items and characters, there is a new treasure hunting system in the game that will give your pirates the choice to search the land for buried treasure using maps that you find and earn. There is quite an abundance of new items and you will have plenty of hours to spend trying to unearth all of them. Something that has also been added to the expansion is the addition of little flying birds. The pirates will have the option to use parrots to help them out on their quests, whereas the nobles will have falcons to help them find treasure and solve puzzles. Of course, you will also be able to have cages for them to live in and at the moment there is no confirmation that they will be able to say, “Polly want a cracker.” Hopefully, it will not be confirmed since there is no way to translate anything into Simlish. If you played the original game, one standout aspect of it was something unique called the Pit Monster. This was a monster that you could send people to who did you wrong as punishment and they would be tossed into this deep, dark pit where a giant tentacle monster would do unspeakable things to them in the blackness of the hole. Pirates and Nobles has added a new toy for you to torture play with called the interrogation chair. In it, you will be able to extract information from your enemies/friends and will be able to complete your quests and get information, such as treasure locations. Various methods of interrogation include something as simple as tickling the informant with a feather, or you can use a chinchilla to work the prisoner over until you get the required info, if you are feeling particularly just plain weird. When EA first showed the game during GDC, it was great to see a version of the Sims that guys can play. With all the quests, challenges, item crafting, and leveling, it's great to see them take a great idea and build on what makes the core game interesting and playable to a larger demographic: men with addictive personalities. The Sims Medieval will come out this August for around $29.99. 
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How much “YAR!” can you handle?  The Sims Medieval came out back in March and as we might have seen with other Sims games, we have a new expansion ready to roll out in Pirates and Nobles. As the title impli...


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