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WayForward

Adam Tierney and Mariel Cartwright on the evolution of Til Morning's Light

May 17 // Jonathan Holmes
Tell us about the origins of Til Morning’s Light. Where did the concept come from and how did you two get involved? Adam: It started as an original WayForward pitch that Mariel and I teamed up on 5 or 6 years ago. In fact, I think it might have been the first project we worked on together. Mariel: I had just gotten started working with WayForward at the time, as one of my earliest game industry gigs. I do a lot of art for WayForward’s game pitches, and this was one of the first ones I did art on! I always thought it was a cool concept so it was great to see it come back after all this time. Five years is a long time. What changed about the concept between that initial document and the game you ended up making? Adam: Not as much as you'd think. From the beginning, the main character was always a teenage girl named Erica, locked in a haunted house, trying to survive overnight and escape by morning. The enemies were different - just bugs and rats and bats, from what I recall. And the concept was originally envisioned as a 2D sideview game (like the original Clocktower), whereas the final game is fully 3D. But thematically, it didn't change much. Mariel: Yeah, surprisingly, from my end the biggest thing visually that changed about Erica was her outfit. It was actually fun to revisit just a few drawings I did back then and really try to bring that character to life. Can you talk about each of your roles on the game? Mariel: I was the lead concept artist.  I designed Erica, the NPCs, and most of the creatures under Adam’s direction. I also storyboarded all the cutscenes in the game, and did a few bit illustrations you’ll see in the game. Adam: I wrote and directed Til Morning's Light, and led the design team. I basically oversaw all creative aspects of the production, working with all the artists and coders as they implemented everything. How would you describe Erica? What did you hope to accomplish with her? Adam: I've always loved the standard setup of a young female protagonist in horror games and films. In the original pitch, we had a very clear visual for Erica (from Mariel's art), but she didn't have much of a defined personality back then. After the game was signed with Amazon Game Studios, we came up with the idea of making her very meek and timid at the start of the game, then slowly evolving her to be more aggressive and powerful over the course of her adventure, so that the girl who came out at the end would feel like a completely different character. Mariel: I think Erica is someone that a lot of girls can relate to— smart, self-aware, but shy and afraid to stand up for herself. Adam: Stephanie Sheh (who voices Erica) really brought Erica to life as sort of a cute dork. Once we heard her take on the character, all remaining dialog was written with that personality in mind. So Erica got a little more hammy and sarcastic as production went along. In what ways does Erica “evolve” over the course of the game? Adam: In terms of VO and story, she begins the game timid and easily-frightened. Her wit and sarcasm is still there, but it's less confident. As the game progresses and she has to defeat all these insane bosses and creatures, Erica gets more and more frustrated and aggressive, so that by the end of the game she's the strongest person in the house. It was a lot of fun to build a story around the idea of your main character slowly evolving over the course of 12 story hours. Mariel: She also changed visually as well - starting with just her normal outfit at the beginning and becoming more tattered, dirty and messy as she progresses through the house. It’s a cool way to evolve her both mentally and physically and show how far she’s come. How would you compare Erica to other WayForward characters? Adam: She's much more subtle than most of WayForward's heroines. With characters like Shantae, Patricia Wagon, and Kebako (Cat Girl) you have very loud, action-packed, dynamic personalities that hit the ground running. With Til Morning's Light, there were still the usual WayForward sensibilities (especially in the visual design and gameplay), but we wanted a very slow build of the characters, and a slow reveal of plot points, with more emphasis on emotional highs and lows than we typically include in our game stories. Mariel: Yeah, Erica is less cartoon-y and more relatable of a character, I think. I definitely I see a bit of myself in her and I’m sure many others will too. Is Til Morning’s Light a “horror” game? How scary is this thing? Adam: Most people would consider it a horror game, I think. "Spooky" might be a slightly more accurate term. There are lots of unsettling, creepy moments, but there's no real blood or gore. If you've ever seen the film Coraline - which is kind of a film for teens, although there is still real risk and death - we're tonally pretty close to that, but maybe a little bit older and darker. I'd say our bosses are probably the scariest thing in the game - even though they're each charismatic (in their own ways), they're also a tremendous, deadly threat to Erica. What’s the gameplay like? Is it a mix of action and puzzling? Adam: Yeah, the game is equal parts exploration, combat, and puzzling. You explore the mansion grounds, which spans over 100 unique locations. Advancing through the game is very lock-and-key driven (in typical horror genre fashion). Combat is rhythm-based, using a touch input system of taps and swipes that get more complicated and challenging as you advance. And puzzling involves a little of everything - deciphering clues, finding pieces, combining and manipulating objects - everything you've come to expect in this genre. Mariel: Erica is a normal girl that’s been thrown into a crazy situation, so she doesn’t have an arsenal of weapons to blow up her enemies. She instead has to rely on what she has, which is basically just herself, so the combat and puzzles were designed around that. Are there any unique features in the game you can talk about? Adam: Most of the ghosts you encounter in the game are friendly. As a general rule in this game, ghosts are good and creatures are bad (and it's explained why through the story). But occasionally you'll come across a ghost that's lost and attempts to flee from Erica. These moments provide a game-long secondary objective to locate and essentially rescue all the 'lost souls' in the game (ghosts without memory of who they are or where they come from). This process involves first revealing the ghost by using the camera on Erica's phone (a mode that's enhanced in the Fire phone version of the game), then after the ghost is revealed, chasing it around the area until Erica absorbs it. Performing this process on all lost souls in the game yields a very special reward. What’s the story like in this game? And how did that come together? Adam: As I mentioned, it's really all about Erica. Although there are over a dozen speaking characters in the story, the story revolves around her. And even the types of secondary characters we included were done as a way to highlight different aspects of Erica (romance, confidence, being a child, being an adult, etc). I'd say the story legitimately runs the gamut of being very funny at times, then very unsettling, then very depressing, and ultimately a (hopefully) very satisfying conclusion. Mariel: I did all the storyboards, so it was important to really show how she changed from scene to scene. Everything from her expressions, posture, and appearance changed as the story progresses, so I’m hoping people really relate to that. Adam: The story was developed between WayForward and Amazon Game Studios. As a publisher, they are very collaborative and tend to assign 'experts' in each area of the game. So rather than me working on the game's story with only producers, they had a story expert who would go back and forth with me on plot, characters, and drafts of the script. The process was very exciting, and I think the story and dialog we ended up with is more developed than if we'd just put it together on our own. The game is getting a release on iOS, Fire phone, and tablets. Were there any challenges in making a game like this for mobile devices? Adam: Not really challenges as much as things we needed to keep in mind. Thematically, there are a lot of complex actions Erica performs in the game. But we wanted the game's controls to essentially support single-touch throughout the adventure. So boiling down a fairly complex, traditional horror game design to a handful of single screen taps took some real thought. The combat, as I mentioned before, is rhythm-based, and this came from us experimenting with a variety of different approaches early on. Initially, we tried combat that was directly-controlled (hit for hit), but to get that feeling good on a mobile device, we had to essentially overpower Erica (which worked against the game being a horror title). So, we ultimately went with a minigame-like rhythm interface, similar to Buddha Finger or Elite Beat Agents. Once we did that, we were able to have tight, challenging combat, but still keep Erica as only a semi-confident combatant. How is TML different from other action-adventure games offered on the iOS and Fire devices? Adam: First and foremost, it's a really meaty game. I think gamers will be surprised by just how much content is here - story, characters, locations, secrets, battles, etc. It feels like a console experience shrunk down for mobile devices, rather than the more bite-sized adventures you often see on mobile. There also doesn't seem to be a tremendous amount of deep horror games on mobile devices. There are a few that attempt this – Amazon Game Studios just shipped another great horror game, Lost Within, on mobile devices a few weeks ago. But overall, I think most publishers and developers don't attempt the genre on mobile because they doubt the possibility of something being creepy and immersive on a tiny screen. Hopefully Til Morning's Light will go toward proving that these types of games are very possible, and work well, on mobile devices.  How has working with Amazon on this game been? Adam: Amazon Game Studios has been a dream to work with. They're very hands on, but at the same time never interfered with the process or put up walls. I think their primary goal is to understand the kind of game that the developer is envisioning and then do everything they can to help realize that vision. Whether we were tackling story or combat or puzzling, I don't recall ever getting any mandates or notes I disagreed with (which as publisher, would be completely within their rights to do). They just sought to fully understand what this game was all about then use any and all expertise they had available to help make it as great as possible. I look forward to working with them on another project in the future. Were there any previous games in particular that influenced your work on Til Morning’s Light? Mariel: Oh man, I love horror games— Silent Hill, Clock Tower, Resident Evil, Fatal Frame — with a soft spot for ones with female protagonists, like Haunting Ground. I love stories where a normal girl is thrown into a terrifying situation and has to fight her way out, so I tried to channel that into Erica. Adam: I've loved horror games and films ever since I was a kid, so I'm sure it all had a subtle influence on this game. My project previous to Til Morning's Light was a Silent Hill title, which is my favorite game series. So SH fans might note some similarities in this game. The same goes for Resident Evil, Luigi's Mansion, Castlevania, Metroid - anything creepy with room-by-room progression.  Who’s the target audience for this game? Adam: Core gamers, the same people enjoying the best games on PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and Steam PC right now. From the beginning, Amazon Game Studios let us know that this product should appeal primarily to core gamers, which is why Til Morning's Light is a very robust, console-like experience. Obviously we tailored the controls to what works best for mobile devices and tweaked some of our design implementations based on how people enjoy mobile games. But the goal was generally to create something very substantial and immersive. At the same time, there's no real blood or gore in the game. So although it can get pretty dark and unsettling and tense at times, younger gamers who aren't easily frightened should also find the game appropriate to play. Anything else you want to let our readers know about Til Morning’s Light? Mariel: I’ve wanted to be part of a horror game for a long time, so it was awesome to be given the opportunity to work on Til Morning’s Light. I can’t wait ’til it’s out so everyone can see what we put together! Adam: This is the most personal game I've ever worked on, and the talent on this team was some of the best that WayForward's ever put together. I can't wait for gamers and horror fans to check the game out, and hopefully it resonates with you all the same way it did with us.
Til Morning's Light photo
Skullgirls and WayForward devs speak
[Til Morning's Light is a new horror adventure title from WayForward and Amazon Game Studios, bringing together talent from titles such as Aliens: Infestation, Skullgirls, and... Sailor Moon? We've got a v...

Til Morning's Light is a smart take on traditional survival horror

May 15 // Jonathan Holmes
Til Morning's Light starts off with protagonist Erica Page being forced into a big spooky house by two of her more narcissistic, subtly sociopathic peers. While they aren't as overtly monstrous as some of the enemies Erica will encounter later in the game, they definitely come across as soulless. I won't be surprised in the slightest if they turn out to be cannibals. Erica doesn't seem deterred, even in the face of harsh teenage snark and a probable death trap. This is the point in the game where Til Morning’s Light first shows you're playing as a character who has probably played a lot of the same survival horror games you have. Like the movie Kick-Ass, where the costumed heroes are open fans of superhero comics like Batman and Spider-Man, Erica seems to recognize how much her current dilemma feels like something from a PS1- or PS2-era horror title. It's a risky move, which if done poorly, could have easily broken suspension of disbelief. Thankful, Til Morning's Light has the tact needed to have the opposite effect. Erica seems even more believable and easy to relate to given her knowledge of survival horror. If you are the kind of person whose mind might wander to memories of virtual Raccoon City if you were ever trapped in a old, abandoned mansion, then you and Erica already have something in common.  You won't have too much time to sit and relate with Erica, though. It only takes her a few minutes of mansion exploring before she comes into contact with some serious threats in the form of giant flying insects. In the face of actual danger, she's less apt to wear her experiences with horror games on her sleeve and more apt to get into a kill-or-be-killed mentality, which also makes her easy to relate with.  Til Morning's Light is coming to multiple platforms, but it was designed for touch screen interfaces, which might have some of you worried about how fun its combat might be. Much as Superbrothers did with Sword and Sworcery, WayForward has found a smart way around the touch-only design interface that keeps the action simple but tense. Bumping into an enemy on the exploration screen triggers a battle not unlike in a turn-based RPG. Once you start fighting, there's no time for passivity. Things break down into a design that's probably most easily comparable to Elite Beat Agents, except without the upbeat party feel and all the fear of total failure. Tap a circle at just the right time as a ring closes around it. Hit it at the perfect time, do big damage. Come close, you'll squeak by. Fail outright, and you take a hit. Circles appear on screen at unpredictable rhythms and placements, so you'll have to keep your eyes and fingers active to stay alive.  It might not sound like it should work for a horror game, but the level or powerlessness and tension I felt during these encounters was a perfect fit for the genre. Like most real-life fights, combat in Til Morning's Light seems like it should be simple -- just hit the thing that's causing you problems and don't screw up. Of course, these fights are rarely that simple (especially as you gain new weapons that change the combat system) leading to teeth-clenching suspense where even the smallest mistake can make you suffer. These bloodthirsty bugs might feel like arbitrary horror game enemies at first, but dig a little deeper and you'll find that there is a valid explanation for their place in the mansion. I don't want to give too much away, but rest assured that in my time with Til Morning's Light, none of the action, exploration, and puzzle solving felt like it was there just to follow the "rules" of survival horror game design. Everything had an explanation, even the Resident Evil 4-like shop keeper who manages to pop up in the most unusual, dangerous places. Knowing that those explanations are there, should I be brave enough to discover them, was just one of the things that kept me wanting more from Til Morning's Light.
Til Morning's Light photo
Self-aware, spooky, but not smug
[Til Morning's Light is a new horror adventure title from WayForward and Amazon Game Studios, bringing together talent from titles such as Aliens: Infestation, Skullgirls, and... Sailor Moon? We've got a variety of exclusive ...

Shantae on Steam photo
Shantae on Steam

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse sheds Nintendo exclusivity for Steam


Releasing this Friday on PC
Apr 21
// Jordan Devore
Surprise! WayForward is bringing Shantae and the Pirate's Curse to Steam on April 24, 2015. Having failed to nab the well-received game twice now -- first on 3DS, and then again on Wii U -- perhaps Steam will make all the dif...
Apple Watch Gaming photo
Apple Watch Gaming

Adventure time with WayForward's Watch Quest: Heroes of Time for Apple Watch


Mathematical?
Apr 14
// Jed Whitaker
The first adventure game made exclusively for Apple Watch, Watch Quest: Heroes of Time, has just been announced by WayForward. Your iPhone will serve as your kingdom, while your journey takes place on your shiny new Appl...
Mighty Switch Force photo
Mighty Switch Force

Mighty Switch Force! makes the jump to iOS with a funky trailer


Well that was sudden
Feb 10
// Chris Carter
WayForward sent me an interesting note today -- Mighty Switch Force! is coming to iOS in the form of Mighty Switch Force! Hose it Down. Wait, what?! This isn't going to operate just like past entries though, as it is not a t...
Shantae photo
Shantae

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is fun, on sale on 3DS


A nice romp for a lower price
Jan 11
// Jonathan Holmes
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse recently launched on the Wii U eShop, and while I haven't played through the whole thing yet, I can attest to the consistently charming comedy in its first few hours or so. It's clear that the ...
Shantae photo
Shantae

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse may hit the Wii U this year


Currently available on 3DS
Dec 10
// Chris Carter
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is a pretty great Metroidvania title that hit the 3DS earlier this year. It was a continuation of the series following Risky's Revenge, and will lead into Half-Genie Hero which hopeful...

Review: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse

Oct 23 // Chris Carter
Shantae and The Pirate's Curse (3DS [reviewed], Wii U)Developer:  WayForward Technologies / Inti CreatesPublisher: WayForward TechologiesMSRP: $19.99Released: October 23, 2014 (3DS) / TBA 2014 (Wii U) Shantae and the Pirate's Curse follows the storyline so far, which sees Shantae living a normal life without the genie powers that were taken from her at the end of the last game. This doesn't change up the formula much, as she still has her signature "hair whip" ability to attack enemies, and will still gain new powers over the course of the game -- they'll just be a little less genie-like in nature (though I miss her transformation forms dearly). It feels like a natural progression of the story, and it's interesting to see Shantae interact with people around her as a human. As usual, the narrative is over-the-top and wacky with jokes and references galore. It's never "laugh-out-loud" funny, but WayForward does a decent job of keeping things interesting, and their characters likable. The conceit this time involves an unlikely alliance with Shantae's nemesis Risky Boots, to put down the evil curse of the Pirate Master, Risky's old boss, once and for all. Instead of following the concept of Revenge's giant, singular open world, Curse instead has a small collective of islands, which function as mini-worlds with the same focus on exploration. [embed]282790:56058:0[/embed] This is where I become a tad conflicted. It's noble that WayForward would want to mix up the formula, but each map as a separate entity feels less impressive than one actual world. All of them have their own unique themes (a desert, a snow world, and an undead bog for instance), but the maps themselves feel small, and getting from place to place can be a hassle. Instead of teleporting around using spots in one hub, Shantae has to get back to the start area each time, access the ship, and sail somewhere else. After unlocking a new island, this usually comes into play in the form of some puzzle that must be solved before accessing the new dungeon. The task isn't always clear, so it may require players to search every previous island inside and out before progressing with the story. It helps that the core game itself is so solid that it's fun to roam around, but it can get tedious over time to have to island jump over and over. The bosses also aren't as memorable this time around, and even a comical boss rehash doesn't do the trick. Having said that, the actual mechanics are as slick as ever. WayForward's formula for Shantae is among its best work, and every jump, hair whip, and ability use feels perfect. This time our hero will have to rely on items and pirate gear to do the job, including classic concepts like potions and attack-boosting drinks, as well as more game-changing upgrades like a downward slashing scimitar and a gun. Because her newfound powers and items are so fun to play around with, the sometimes clunky transportation setup is excusable. The actual dungeons have some pretty interesting layouts (with plenty of secret areas to find, some of them downright dastardly), and overall I felt like a few of the game's areas were some of the most challenging zones WayForward has crafted yet. If you're like me and gobble up platformers for breakfast, you'll find a lot to like here. It took me roughly seven hours to complete the story with a decent amount of exploring. As a general rule it is longer than Risky's Revenge. Diehard fans can search for every heart piece in the game, as well as gather every bit of dark magic (hidden across each world) to unlock the true ending. Thankfully, WayForward has placed an indicator on the selection screen that shows how many of each collectible is left in every world -- so taking on that endeavor is manageable and not a hair-pulling ordeal. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse under-delivers on a few aspects of the overall package, but the fact remains -- genie or not, Shantae is still very much relevant in the current market. Just keep in mind that at times it feels like an appetizer for the upcoming Half-Genie Hero, which sees the full return of Shantae's powers as well as a fully playable Risky Boots.
Shantae reviewed photo
She's still got it
I've always thought that Shantae is a bit of an underrated series. While WayForward can be hit or miss these days, I can always rely on their ability to craft a good platformer. Shantae: Risky's Revenge for the DSi ...

Shantae photo
Shantae

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse launches this week on 3DS


Wii U version delayed until winter
Oct 21
// Chris Carter
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse hits Nintendo 3DS this week. As the third game in the series, the story follows Shantae as she loses her genie powers and learns to fight as a pirate. It'll have the same classic Metroidva...
Til Morning's Light photo
Til Morning's Light

WayForward passion project gets picked up by Amazon


First person horror! Boss Fights! Sailor Moon!
Oct 19
// Jonathan Holmes
Til Morning's Light is a new original I.P. from WayForward, published by Amazon, to appear exclusively on Amazon Fire Phone. It reminds me of what Platinum and Nintendo did with Bayonetta 2, According to WayForward's Ad...
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WayForward and Amazon Game Studios team up on Til Morning's Light


Touch-based action adventure for Fire phone
Oct 14
// Dale North
Til Morning's Light was developed by WayForward in cooperation with Amazon Game Studios, and it's coming exclusively to the Fire phone.  So far we know that Til Morning's Light is set in a haunted New England mansion th...
Shantae photo
Shantae

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse launches next month


...in the United States, at least
Sep 16
// Kyle MacGregor
WayForward is targeting a mid-October release for Shantae and the Pirate's Curse in the United States, the developer announced this week via Twitter. No word on a specific date just yet. The studio also indicated the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS platformer will have a later arrival across Europe and Australia due to the localization and submission processes. Please understand. WayForward [Twitter]
TMNT: Danger of the Ooze photo
TMNT: Danger of the Ooze

Activision announces sidescroller Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze


Donatello has a gap in his teeth now I guess
Sep 04
// Darren Nakamura
If you are like me, you have not really followed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a couple decades. The last thing I really remember was 1991's The Secret of the Ooze and Turtles in Time on the Super NES. Sure, I have hear...
Xtreme Sports photo
Xtreme Sports

Shantae's secret origin lies in... Xtreme Sports?


Lets hope for Xtreme Belly Dancing in the sequel
Aug 24
// Jonathan Holmes
Before WayForward hit Kickstarter success and critical acclaim with their Shantae series, they got their feet wet on the Game Boy Color with Xtreme Sports. It was their first game on the handheld, giving it special senti...
Xtreme Sports photo
Xtreme Sports

Celebrate Y2K all over again with WayForward's first GBC game


Extreme Sports coming to the 3DS Virtual Console next week
Aug 02
// Jonathan Holmes
Late last year, we were lucky to have industry legend and founding member of WayForward Matt Bozon on Sup Holmes. That's where I heard about Xtreme Sports, WayForward's first Gameboy Color game. It sounded like a cross betwe...
Shantae photo
Shantae

See what's new in the Shantae: Risky's Revenge PC cut


Mostly quality of life additions
Jul 14
// Chris Carter
Although Shantae: Risky's Revenge started off as a DSiWare game, it eventually was available to play on the 3DS, and was ported to iOS. Now it's heading to the PC with a few new extras. The first most obvious addition is the...
Shantae photo
Shantae

Shantae: Risky's Revenge will see a PC release on July 15th


This is the one that was released on DSiWare and iOS
Jul 09
// Chris Carter
Shantae: Risky's Revenge is a fantastic game that helped bring some life to the relatively limp DSiWare service once upon a time. It's since been released on iOS due to its popularity, and now, it's hitting the PC on July 15t...
Shantae photo
Shantae

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse will steal all your booty this summer


Sashay, Shantae!
Jun 09
// Brittany Vincent
The latest entry in the Shantae series is nearly here, and it's making its way to a 3DS or Wii U near you this summer. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is WayForward's latest successor to the excellent Shantae: Risky's Revenge...
Adventure Time photo
Adventure Time

Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom releasing this November


Slamacow, mathematical, etc.
May 08
// Brittany Vincent
Adventure Time, that delightfully trippy Adult Swim cartoon masquerading as primetime Cartoon Network material, is receiving a brand new game in the form of Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom, due out Novembe...
Shantae 3DS photo
Shantae 3DS

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse delayed for a 'couple more months'


WayForward confirms that you'll have to wait
Mar 04
// Chris Carter
Remember when we reported that Shantae and the Pirate's Curse for the 3DS was "almost done?" Well it appears as if it's not really all that nearly done, as WayForward has further delayed the game for a few more months. WayForward has its hands full with this and Half-Genie Hero, the latter of which has no release in sight. WayForward [Twitter via Nintendo Life]

Review: Double Dragon: Neon

Feb 14 // Patrick Hancock
Double Dragon: Neon (PC [reviewed], PSN, XBLA)Developer: WayForward, Abstraction GamesPublisher: Midnight CityMSRP: $9.99Release Date: February 6, 2014 (PC)  Double Dragon. Billy’s girlfriend, Marian is kidnapped. Get her back. Story. The plot is barebones because, well, games of this time and genre always had barebones plots and this is really a re-telling of the original Double Dragon tale. The story advances through some in-game actions at the end of levels along with lines of voice work interspersed throughout the levels themselves like “I have to find Marian!” Special praise goes towards Skullmageddon, the pun-loving antagonist in Double Dragon: Neon. His voice work and dialogue are so damn amazing that each encounter is something truly special. The ending, in particular, is something you won’t forget any time soon. In the beginning, players may think that Neon has “clunky” controls. Things seem to happen sluggishly, regardless of what your fingers are doing. You see, the controls take some time to really understand. They’re “clunky” on purpose. Everything has some weight to it, even running. It’s deliberate, not clunky. Mashing buttons, which is common in the genre, is sure to result in a swift death. Think of it like a fighting game: everything has a certain amount of frames, and that’s how long the move takes. Like a fighting game, a player who understands the controls will be pulling off some “bread and butter” combos to defeat even the most common of enemies. The first enemies encountered are no joke: if they manage to pull off their combo (two hits), you’ll be down about half of your health. Half! On Normal difficulty! Give it time, and after a while you will be executing very intentional combos that really feel satisfying. [embed]270593:52601:0[/embed] At the core of the gameplay is the dodge mechanic. A perfect dodge results in “Gleam,” significantly increasing the damage of all attacks. Even without perfect dodges, evading attacks is absolutely crucial because as I mentioned, one mistake can lead to a lot of health being taken away. If a direction is pressed while dodging, the player will roll in that direction. Mastering the dodge is the first step to mastering the combat. When playing cooperatively, both players can high-five each other. This is a mechanic in the game. Players can high-five to gain health or earn Gleam, chosen by the initiating high-fiver. But be careful! Your bro can totally psych you out and leave you with nothing!   In addition to punches and kicks, there are special moves, called Sosetsitsu, which can be collected and used. In order to unlock Sosetsitsu moves, a player must first collect cassette tapes from defeated enemies. The more tapes of a specific Sosetsitsu collected, the more powerful that tape gets. This means that your favorite Sosetsitsu might be significantly weaker than others, due to nothing but dumb luck. On the other hand, this situation may encourage players to use Sosetsitsu moves that they would otherwise ignore, adding more diversity to their playstyle. These moves use an energy bar, and each moves uses a different amount of energy. There are also Stances, collected in the same way. These are passive abilities, usually in the form of stat increases. Some will have specific conditions, like increases attack power in correspondence with consecutive hits, while others will straight up increase a player’s defense. Like the Sosetsitsu moves, these are acquired and improved by collecting tapes. Double Dragon: Neon supports fully rebindable keybind controls, but regardless of which keys were used I couldn’t get comfortable playing on a keyboard. Once I began using an Xbox 360 controller, however, everything was much better off. It doesn’t natively support controls outside of the Xbox controller, so keep that in mind when jumping in. This game is the '80s. It’s a beat-'em-up with cassette tapes, bright neon lights and colors, and over-sexualized men and women, the latter occasionally screaming “punish me!” as they die. Everything about the aesthetic acts like a time machine to an era saturated with hair metal, jean jackets, and Rubik’s cubes. The game is also absolutely hysterical. As mentioned, Skullmageddon steals the show every single time he’s on screen. Enemies cartwheel on screen yelling “GYMNASTICS!” Billy will ask “What the butt?!” when trying to use a key on nothing. It’s as campy as Adam West’s Batman on a camping trip in the best of ways. Super special mention has to go to the game’s audio. Jake Kaufman is absolutely brilliant. It evokes classic '80s metal and arcade games simultaneously, fitting the game’s theme perfectly. In what might be the best thing ever, each Stance and Sosetsitsu has its own jingle to go along with it for when the player hovers over it. These jingles are, to put it bluntly, completely mindblowing. They’re simple, stupid, and again, contribute to the overall campy '80s feel of the entire game. Without Mr. Kaufman, Double Dragon: Neon would fall painfully short of being “the complete package.” With him, the game is elevated to a level that very few achieve. Not everything is perfect in this PC version, however. There seems to be some stuttering after playing for a certain amount of time, likely due to a memory leak. Rebooting the game solves the problem, but that doesn’t absolve the issue. Online multiplayer is also included in this version, but from my experience, the lag makes it unplayable. Considering how demanding the combat system is, input lag is nothing short of a death sentence. In addition, it is possible to join someone else’s game at any point, without being able to filter. When I searched for a game, I joined someone who was in the process of fighting the final boss, even though my save file was still on level three. Had I not already beaten the game, I would have been pretty upset considering how delightfully wonderful the finale is. If you don’t want anything spoiled, host your own games. I fear that a lot of people will give up on Double Dragon: Neon too early, either because it “isn’t real Double Dragon” or because of the “clunky controls.” I encourage you to stick with it, because Neon truly is one of the best games in the genre from any decade. It’s got humor, visual flair, excellent gameplay, and a brilliant soundtrack. Some technical problems hold this version back from being near-flawless, so it might be in your best interest to grab a “bro” and team up in local multiplayer, high-fiving each other until your hands bleed. I think Double Dragon: Neon can be summed up perfectly using a jingle from one of the game’s Stances, titled "Training Wheels": "Dad took off my training wheels, boy oh boy how good it feels!"
Double Dragon Neon review photo
Grab a bro
Beat-’em-ups are quite the strange genre to me. I grew playing many of them: Simpsons, X-Men, and Turtles in Time in the arcades were my jam. In fact, I’d say they are still my jam. That said, it’s easy to r...

Double Dragon photo
Double Dragon

Double Dragon: Neon now available on Steam


Get ready to ROOOOOOOOCK!
Feb 06
// Conrad Zimmerman
The zaniest adventure of Billy and Jimmy Lee is available for PC players today, as Double Dragon: Neon arrives on Steam. You may now purchase it for the perfectly reasonable sum of $9.99. Setting aside all of the awesome...
Spin the Bottle photo
Spin the Bottle

WayForward celebrates Wii U sales with Spin the Bottle


Bumpie's Party
Feb 01
// Jonathan Holmes
Nintendo recently announced plans to reward consumers who buy games on their consoles by making future purchases less expensive for them. Like a lot of the stuff they announced at that big press conference, it's actually som...
Wonder Momo photo
Wonder Momo

New Wonder Momo, guys


Obscure brawler gets modern makeover
Jan 30
// Jonathan Holmes
When Wonder Momo was first released in arcades and the Turbo Grafx 16, no one in the United States knew what "Magical Girl Anime" was. Game publishers were still changing women into men on a regular basis for "marketing reaso...
Shantae photo
Shantae

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is nearly done


Finally!
Dec 31
// Chris Carter
If you haven't heard, there are three Shantae projects in the works by WayForward -- two new original games, and a PC port of Risky's Revenge. One of those new games, Pirate's Curse, is set to his the 3DS at some point, ...
Shantae photo
Shantae

Shantae: Risky's Revenge iOS gets a controller update


It popped up last night
Dec 12
// Chris Carter
Shantae: Risky's Revenge got a stealth update on iOS last night that allows for the use of MFi controller add-ons. The game was never impossible to play on a touch screen as it wasn't that difficult, but of course, tactile co...
Sup Holmes photo
Get to know the people that make great videogames
Last Sunday on Sup Holmes (now on iTunes) we were treated to company of Cristina Vee, voice actress for League of Legends, BlazBlue, Tekken: Blood Vengence, Skullgirls, Pokemon Origins and many other games and animated ...

Review: Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon (3DS)

Nov 25 // Chris Carter
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don't Know! (3DS [reviewed] PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360)Developer: WayForward TechnologiesPublisher: D3 PublisherRelease Date: November 19, 2013MSRP: $29.99 (3DS), $39.99 (PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360) As the name might imply, Explore the Dungeon is predictably a dungeon crawler through and through, as players are tasked with completing a randomly generated 100-floor labyrinth. There's no real plot to speak of (and that's fine), as Princess Bubblegum wants you to get to the bottom of why prisoners are escaping from said dungeon. From start to finish as either Finn, Jake, Marceline, or Cinnamon Bun (as well as a few other secret characters), you'll basically just battle your way to the end in the exact same way -- but you most likely won't make it very far. On the 3DS, the presentation is lazy, lackluster, and shameful. As a fan of retro games, I'm actually quite fond of an 8- or 16-bit style every so often, if it's done right. But here, it's clearly a placeholder for a rush-job, as the cutscenes look like they were created in Microsoft Paint, and the animation is awful all around. It doesn't help that the voice acting sounds tinny on the 3DS (like it was recorded in a parking garage) and the writing is devoid of any charm or wit whatsoever. But this lack of effort pales in comparison to the animation in-game, which renders it borderline unplayable. Simply put, the game is constantly chugging along at a snail's pace, with a perpetual framerate problem. There's no run button by default to make it better, so it feels like the entire game is running in slow motion. I honestly have no idea how the 3DS version was allowed to be released in its current condition. [embed]266260:51570:0[/embed] Gameplay isn't much better, unfortunately. It's as bare-bones as you can get. You'll have your standard attack button at your disposal (which can be charged), as well as blocking, dodging, sub-weapons, and a super power. The sad part is you won't need to mix up any of these concepts beyond mashing your normal attacks -- the AI is so poorly designed that you can get by without any sort of deviation in strategy. Although each character has a different playstyle or power (Jake and Marceline can traverse gaps, Finn can equip more items), your choice won't matter in the end because you can just breeze through the boring dungeons with any of them. While the first few floors start out promising, you'll quickly realize that each level is a ghost town, with the same few enemies repeating over and over 10 levels at a time until a new theme arises. In lieu of any sort of multiplayer found in other versions, you get a cute BMO on the bottom screen that barely talks. Foes consist of uninspired designs that vaguely resemble characters from the show, and bosses aren't that much better. The only real value the game has in terms of fan service is at the very end, where it reveals a plot point that is yet to be presented in the show. That's... literally it. The actual dungeon layouts, which tend to follow the same formula of "the staircase is always on the opposite end from where you start," are utterly uninteresting. When coupled with the boring enemy designs and the fact that you don't actually earn experience from killing anything, there's absolutely no incentive to explore in Explore the Dungeon. Speaking of experience, you have to "buy" your actual upgrades in town with the gold you acquire from the dungeon. Should you choose to go back up (you'll get the option every five floors), you better spend all the money you have -- because you lose it when you leave the hub world. It's a design choice that makes no sense whatsoever considering the game is far from "hardcore" in any other aspect. Why limit your ability to develop your character and at least have fun? Although this review is based on the 3DS game, I did get a chance to play the console version, and it's a much better experience in every respect. Not only does the game not suffer the perpetual slowdown problem of its portable cousin, but it's four players, and generally looks better all around. There are also a number of other small improvements, like the fact that Lady Rainicorn's dialog is in Korean -- small touches that show more effort. It still has the same dull gameplay as it's essentially identical in terms of feature parity, but with three other Adventure Time fanatics it could be a good bargain-bin purchase -- because it will hit the bin sooner than later. At some point during the development process of Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon 3DS, someone should have looked at the current build, and scrapped the project entirely. Whereas Regular Show 3DS was a flawed love letter to retro fans, Explore the Dungeon is a sheet of paper with chicken scratch scrawled on it. It's the worst game WayForward has put out in years, and yet another example of a wasted licensed game opportunity.
Adventure Time review photo
Unacceptableeeeeee!
I remember my first episode of Adventure Time. It randomly came on the TV one day and I had no idea what it was -- but I couldn't stop watching. There was something about the show that kept my eyes glued to the screen, watchi...

Adventure Time trailer photo
Adventure Time trailer

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon gets a launch trailer


Because I DON'T KNOW!
Nov 19
// Brett Zeidler
In case it slipped under your radars, Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! has a quick new launch trailer to remind you that this is a thing that came out today among all the awesome stuff launching thes...

Review: Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby in 8-Bit Land

Nov 02 // Chris Carter
Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby in 8-Bit Land (3DS)Developer:  WayForward TechnologiesPublisher: D3 Publisher (NA) / Namco Bandai (EU)Released: October 29, 2013MSRP: $29.99 I hope you weren't expecting something that plays out like an episode of the show, as 8-Bit Land's setup is basically "Mordecai and Rigby get sucked into a game console and have to fight their way out." The visuals and presentation will most likely underwhelm as soon as you boot up the game, mostly due to the fact that there's no voice acting, and no ancillary characters outside of Benson (who shows up for around 10 seconds). The same goes for the music in the sense that it doesn't sound like WayForward put a lot of effort into it. Thankfully, the 3D effect is also fairly minimal, but like 3D Classics: Kirby's Adventure it adds a tiny bit of personality to the art style to give it a much-needed boost. But as retro fans often know -- graphics aren't everything. Since this is a mostly straightforward platforming affair, the core gameplay is where 8-Bit Land shines. There's a very cool switch mechanic that allows you to press one button to change between Mordecai an Rigby, both of whom are equipped with different abilities. Mordecai is a bit more limber, and has a double-jump ability, and his counterpart is lower to the ground, allowing him to run into tunnels and other smaller places. It sounds simplistic, but the way it's executed is near flawless. You can switch between the two at any time (even in the air), allowing for some flexibility in terms of how you approach the game. You can use Rigby to run through an area, jump into the air, switch to Mordecai to double jump, then switch back to Rigby. You'll also have the ability to use either style for essentially the entire level, so for the most part you can play as your character of choice outside of a few locations. [embed]264739:51136:0[/embed] There are a number of retro references in the package, including a Mega Man-style "beam down" level intro, an armor mechanic that pays homage to Ghosts 'n Goblins, a Gradius space ship, and a few level themes that feel like direct nods to DuckTales. None of it will blow your mind (that's the theme of this game), but anyone who grew up in the '80s/'90s era will crack a smile here and there. Levels have three golden tapes hidden in them to unlock a few extras, as well as cash (that functions like Mario's coins), and power-ups. After clearing a stage you'll have the opportunity to earn extra lives or more cash, by betting money or 3DS Play Coins in a game of chance. While it's not an essential part of the game, it's always appreciated to have titles use the Play Coin system. Once you've cleared a few worlds the game opens up, as you'll unlock the Gradius-style space ship for special shoot-'em-up sections, and the ability to drop into a top-down isometric view, Smash TV style. These abilities only work in certain areas (designated with space-themed or grey wallpaper), and work in tandem with character switching to allow for some crafty combinations. You'll have to master every mechanic together at once to unlock each level's golden tapes, which was easily the most fun part of the game. A boss will cap off each world, and they're all fun to fight in their own right. The way they tend to work is that you'll start off completely oblivious to their hitboxes and attacks, and learn as you go -- then once you figure it all out, you'll be able to kill some of them in less than 30 seconds. In typical retro fashion I felt a sense of accomplishment after besting them, combined with a sense of confusion as to why I didn't conquer them on the first try. There aren't a whole lot of extras, which is disappointing considering the game is only a few hours long. In addition to a sound/music test unlockable, there's also a concept art gallery, cheat codes (cleverly delivered with a device called the Game Djinn), and a New Game+ mode with tougher enemies. WayForward had a chance to add in a whole lot more here and ape the concept of DLC and microtransactions, but didn't -- so what you see is more or less what you get. Mordecai and Rigby in 8-Bit Land feels a lot like one of my favorite DSi platformers no one played -- Pro Jumper: Guilty Gear Tangent. It pretty much knows what it is, and even if it doesn't offer up anything new for those who normally loathe platform games, it'll still placate fans of the genre. So while it feels a bit phoned in at times, fans of old-school gaming will no doubt get an afternoon of enjoyment out of it.
Regular Show review photo
Button mash with the Mustache Cash Stash
Regular Show is one of my favorite programs on TV right now. It took the simple Beavis and Butthead setup of two slackers getting through their day-to-day routine, and added a bit of '80s and retro sheen to it, alon...


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