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Podtoid 309: Code Name Li Po

Nov 01 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]318540:60947:0[/embed] Stuff we talked about: Greg Rice, M.D. How free games on PlayStation Plus work Pecs and breast tissue Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle Remasters How Double Fine scored the rights to remaster classic LucasArts games Comedy in video games (and why it's so rare) Halo 5: Guardians Rocket League Quality testing Guitar Hero Recent Episodes: Podtoid 308: Back to the Force Podtoid 307: The Millennials Podcast Podtoid 306: Tales of Tokyo Game Show Podtoid 305: The Voice of God Podtoid 304: The Phantom Pain Send any tips, queries, and Jennifer Capriati-autogaphed apparel to [email protected]
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Guest starring Greg Rice of Double Fine
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. On this week's episode, Double Fine renaissance man Greg Rice joins the program to discuss the studio's Day of the Devs event and other topics both Double Fine and not Double Fine-related.

Dtoid Designs photo
Dtoid Designs

Dtoid Designs: The 5 best Halloween Super Mario Maker levels

See how creative this community can be!
Oct 31
// CJ Andriessen
Last month we asked you, the Destructoid community, to show us your level creation skills with the first Dtoid Designs contest. The challenge was to create a Super Mario Maker level based on the theme of Halloween a...

Video game ghost stories #3: Buried in the ground

Oct 31 // Ben Davis
~ I met all of my neighbors today. Most of them were really nice; I can already tell that Samson and I are going to be great friends. The eagle was a bit grumpy though, and the cat seemed full of herself. But I'm sure we can get along! A lot of them also have Gyroids in their homes. I tried to ask where they came from, but no one seems to know for sure. Buzz, the grumpy eagle, told me that he sees them in the ground sometimes when it's raining. Very strange... I'd never even heard of them before moving to this town. Aside from meeting the neighbors, I also got a job working at the raccoon's convenience store. So he runs the only store in town and manages all of the properties. It seems like he has as much influence on the town as the mayor. Maybe even more. He gave me a job and a place to live, so I definitely owe the guy. I'm not sure where I would be without him. ~ It was raining all day today, and guess what I found? As I was running late to work, I tripped over a lump in the ground. It was a Gyroid; Buzz was right! It was making this really weird gurgling sound and moving around every now and then like it was trying to break free of the mud. It had that sad, vacant expression that all the other Gyroids have. For some reason, I felt like I couldn't just leave it there, so I decided to take it home. ~ I got a letter in the mail today from Monique, the snooty cat. Apparently she's moving away soon. I've only been in town for about a week, so I didn't get to know her very well. The other neighbors say that people come and go all the time here, so it's not really strange for someone to suddenly decide to move out. Well, maybe someone a bit nicer will move into her place. In other news, that Gyroid I picked up the other day seems to be doing fine. It's still making that gurgling sound, though. I thought it was just doing that because it was stuck in the mud out in the rain, but it keeps gurgling away every so often. The sound mixed with its expression is a little unsettling. Sometimes it almost feels like it's trying to tell me something. ~ Today was the day that Monique was supposed to move out, so I decided to walk over to her place to see if she had left yet, and her house was gone! There was no sign of it anywhere. I got really confused, thinking I had walked to the wrong part of town, but her house definitely used to be right there. I remembered she lived directly south of the post office, so there was no mistake. Did they just bulldoze her house as soon as she left or something? Why would they do that? I went over to ask Samson what the deal was, and he says this kind of thing happens all the time. Whenever someone decides to move away, he gets a letter from them in the mail, and then a few days later they've left town and their house is gone. He thinks it must be Nook's idea to demolish old houses, since he owns the properties. It seems like a waste of money to build brand new houses for every new neighbor, though. Oh well. It's not really my problem. ~ It's been raining all week. I went to the post office today to deposit my rent and happened upon another Gyroid. Strangely enough, it was lying in the ground right where Monique's house used to be. This one was writhing around and making a horrible wailing noise, rather than the gurgling sound the other one makes. Wailing with that sad, empty expression... it sent a shiver down my spine. Once again I felt compelled to bring it home with me. I stored it in the basement next to the gurgling one so that I wouldn't hear the wailing all the time. They only seem to make noises when they see me. ~ Today was a big day! There was a sign near the museum saying that someone new was moving in soon, so construction on their house was underway. I also got a letter in the mail from Buzz saying he's about to move away. Things sure do happen quickly in this town. I went to say goodbye to Buzz, since we've been on good terms lately, but he seemed really distracted. I guess he has a lot to do to prepare for the move, so I can't blame him. I'll miss him, but at least I can look forward to meeting the new neighbor. ~ It rained again today. I had the sudden urge to go for a walk near where Buzz used to live, and guess what? I found another Gyroid, right where his house used to be. It was just like what happened when Monique moved. This one makes a hollow wooden sound, but it still feels like it's trying to tell me something. I took it home, of course. I'm starting to get a very weird feeling about these Gyroids, though. I keep finding them whenever someone moves. Could it be a coincidence? ~ Samson will be moving away soon, according to a letter I got in the mail. I can't believe he didn't tell me in person! I went by his house to talk to him about it, but he seemed out of it. It reminded me of how distracted Buzz had been before his big move. This is really sad news; I'm gonna miss that mouse. But it does give me a chance to settle some suspicions I've been having. I plan to camp outside Samson's house to see what happens tonight before the big move. ~ Oh my god. He killed him. Tom Nook killed Samson. I was hiding in the trees next to Samson's house, and around three in the morning, Tom Nook knocked on his door. When Samson opened it, Nook hit him in the head with an axe! I couldn't see what happened next, because Nook went inside and closed the door. All I could hear was the sound of an axe thumping. Next thing I know, Nook came back outside, dug a hole in the ground, and buried what looked like body parts. Then he stole all the furniture and disassembled the entire house with unbelievable speed and skill, and walked calmly back to his store with all of Samson's belongings in tow. My heart was pounding out of my chest as I ran back home. What just happened? I have to get out of town quick. Should I warn the other villagers first? A hollow wooden sound made me heart skip a beat. I looked in the corner and saw the Gyroid from Buzz's house, and suddenly it hit me. Nook had buried Samson's body in the ground outside his house. He must have done the same with everyone else. Is this how Gyroids are created? From the bodies of the dead? But why are they still moving and making sounds? Do they remember? My mind is reeling from everything that has happened tonight... ~ I must have passed out last night. I awoke to someone knocking on my door, and got up and answered it without thinking. It was Rasher, the new neighbor. He said he got a letter from me in the mail telling him I was moving soon. Was I being pranked? It took a moment for his words to register, but suddenly everything made sense. I didn't know what to say. I must have shrugged off Rasher in a haze as I stumbled back into my house. It must have been Nook who sent all those letters. No wonder Samson didn't tell me he was moving. It wasn't his choice. Tom Nook chooses who comes and goes in this town. And I'm the next to go.
Video game ghost stories photo
Happy Halloween!
Journal Entry #1: I moved to a new town today. It was a last-minute decision, and I didn't even have a place picked out, so it was a little scary. Luckily, a raccoon named Nook showed me some really cheap houses to rent, so I...

I wanted to be The Wizard

Oct 31 // Nic Rowen
Anyone else remember the movie The Wizard? You know, that piece of shameless Nintendo product placement released to the public under the guise of entertainment? The film where we learned to “love the glove?” Well I do. Frankly, it was a real piece of shit of a movie, but I saw at an impressionable time and it will always hold a small special place in my heart. The Wizard was a weird movie. It was a cynical exercise in co-marketing that waffled between cheesy narm and uncomfortable self-seriousness. It told the story of a traumatized autistic child but also featured a pubescent Fred Savage uncomfortably flirting with some poor 13-year-old girl.  At the time though, the only message I took away from The Wizard was about being wicked sick at video games. About being so unbelievably good that people would stand up and cheer when they saw you stomp on a goomba, that they would lose their shit when you set a record lap in Radmobile. That the solution to fixing everything wrong with your life was as simple as finding the the warp whistle. I was in love with the idea. I was never a cool kid, never popular. Even in the context of our lame-ass church youth group, I was pretty low on the old totem pole. But with this game competition I knew I’d been given a golden opportunity. I was good at games, way better than anyone else I knew. While the details about the competition were a little sketchy, the one thing they were sure of was that it would culminate with a big screen performance projected on the theater screen in the camp’s main auditorium (just like the end of The Wizard!) and the winning group would receive a brand new Sega Genesis console. This was my chance stand out and impress everyone. To win a prize for our group and be a big shot. To show them who I really was. And for better or worse, I did. I remember being so thrilled the morning of the competition. The tournament had a weird structure. There would be some preliminary games played during the afternoon to whittle down the herd a bit (which for the life of me I can’t remember) and for the main event that evening to determine a winner, we’d be playing Sonic the mother fucking Hedgehog. The fools were playing right into my hands. It was like it was meant to be. Sonic was practically my best friend. I was a fucking EXPERT at Sonic. In fact, I’d already won a small competition at a local video store years ago (a story I blogged about back in the day) playing Sonic. A little piece of trivia I decided to slyly keep to myself that whole afternoon, only sharing it with a few members of my group. I let them know that so long as we made it to the finals we were good. A few years before this, I pretty much spent a summer of my young life playing Sonic 1. It was the only game we had for the Genesis at the time and rentals for the system were scarce in my area, so I just ended up replaying it over and over again. My obsessive knowledge of the Green Hill Zone had served me before, and it looked like it was set to pay off again.   That evening we slowly filled the auditorium/theater room. The councilors, bless them, had done a really great job of making it a cool event for the kids. They’d wired up a system to play on a small monitor at the back of the room while the action was projected across a surprisingly professional movie screen for the spectators. They were even handing out bags of popcorn. As an uber-geeky 11-year-old who practically worshiped games, seeing the Sonic title screen displayed 30 feet wide and hearing the familiar music piped through a theater sound system was practically a religious experience (I mean, probably not the one the councilors intended, but still). They'd rigged up some kind of scoring mechanism that rewarded both time and points. Each group would pick someone to play for them and it was up to that kid to set as high a score as possible. Truth be told, I ignored them shortly into the whole explanation because I knew that in Sonic, time and points were the same thing. The person who finished the level the fastest and cleanest would always outscore everyone else, regardless of how many robots they popped or rings they collected. In fact, it seemed almost misleading to even separate the ideas (not that I was going to tell the other kids that). We were slated to be the third group up to bat. The way the competition was set up one member of each youth group would represent their little tribe for this final confrontation, and of course I was the designated hitter. I'd talked up my Sonic skills and knew I was the one to do it, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a little last minute doubt, some panic. I mean, it had already been a few years since I was really into Sonic, what if I was rusty? What if I choked? This whole thing could backfire. As soon as I saw the first two teams take their turn, I knew how mistaken such doubts were. Please know that I’m not trying to brag when I tell you how badly I beat the other kids. I’m not trying to hold up my skill at Sonic when I was 11 years old as some kind of point of pride. It is just the plain fact that I annihilated the other kids as soon as it was my turn. In whatever block of time they gave each of us to rack up points, I made it all the way to Robotnik, killed him, and started on the next zone before they told me to stop. None of the other kids made it that far -- some of them didn’t even clear the first stage. The worst part about it? I wasn’t even all that happy with my performance. I knew that if I had practiced I could have done A LOT better (#humblebrag before it was cool). You have to understand, the other kids were not “gamers” like I was. They were there to play around, see the hedgehog jump over the spikes and collect a few rings. For them, the definition of being good at the game was “not dying too much”. At the height of my Sonic obsession, I was measuring success by milliseconds. It was straight up rhino versus baby stuff. Shockingly, most of the kids weren’t exactly stoked by my performance. Instead of the cheers I expected, there was a decidedly uncomfortable atmosphere. A few scattered (begrudging) applause here and there amidst a whole lot of murmuring. Even the kids from my own youth group were kind of quiet. They were excited to win of course, but they took the temperature of the room and knew it probably wasn’t the best time to bust out in jumping jacks. I saw a couple of the adults running the event talking to each other. I got the distinct impression they were talking about me, like this was a problem. Like they thought I cheated somehow -- if not in actuality, at least in the spirit of the competition. I was a little 11-year-old ball of indignity, utterly galled at the injustice of it. Nobody thought it was cheating earlier in the day during the Shirts and Skins basketball match (FYI, I was a Shirt by insistence) when the kids that played youth league basketball scored easy rebound after easy rebound on me. Why should they have? The basketball kids put in the work, practiced, and were (way) better at basketball than me. But when I got a chance to take them on in the one weird arena where I excelled, suddenly it was somehow a trick? They were acting like I conned them when really I was just incredibly over-specialized at a game they were unlucky enough to turn into a competition (and yeah, I could have probably stood to branch out a bit more with my hobbies, but shut up). In the end, our group was declared the winner. I mean, what were they going to do, say my turn didn’t count? Much to my disappointment, there was no parade. The competition just kind of petered out as the last few groups took their (pathetic) turns and shuffled off. Our youth minister took the stupid prize Sega and I never saw it again. Either he kept it for himself, or decided that video games weren’t appropriate for a religious environment, or maybe the whole boondoggle just left him with a sour taste. After that, I was pretty sure I was doomed. I had my big chance and somehow blown it by being too good (which I thought was the whole freaking point of a competition, but what do I know). I started to wonder if there was anyone out there who loved games the way I did. This was 1994, way before I would even learn what the Internet was. The only other real game enthusiast I knew was my brother. It was the heyday of Jack Thompson and the popular idea that Mortal Kombat was turning kids into crazed serial killers. Magazines like EGM and Nintendo Power let you know you weren't completely alone, but it all felt so far away and removed from real life. It was a weirdly lonely time to love games. The deflated balloon of my misguided childhood dream is why I can’t get mad at modern YouTube stars who make 4 million a year screaming at the screen while they play games, no matter how much I don’t personally like the content. It’s why I don’t sneer at eSports, even when they struggle with growing pains and identity crises. It’s why I try to book days off every year in the summer to watch EVO. For as silly as it can be, I love the growth of games as a spectator event. The now-reality that people really will gather to watch talented players being wicked sick at games, to cheer them on and lose their shit with every big play and comeback. The fulfillment of The Wizard’s promise, delivered 25 years late, but finally arrived. If an 11-year-old were to stumble on The Wizard today, he or she could take it the same way I did, but they wouldn't be so wrong. The idea of a video game tournament people give a shit about isn't some Hollywood fantasy anymore, it's a daily reality. Now, The Wizard (however dated and cheesy) would play like any other movie about garage bands making it big, or underdog athletes with a lot of heart triumphing against the odds. Hollywood schmaltz of course, but the same kind that inspires some kids to pick up a guitar, or start running extra laps before school. The kind of schmaltz that sets some kids on an arc that will take them beyond dabbling in a hobby or pastime and take it further, to see if they can turn their passion into a profession. I was too early to be The Wizard, but there is a whole generation of apprentices out there just waiting for their shot.
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Games as a spectator sport
When I was a kid in the ancient days of the early ‘90s I was part of a church youth group. Obviously this was before I morphed into a surly, foul-mouthed teen (and then an even more profane adult). Every year the youth ...

The Silent Hill Retrospective: The Room

Oct 31 // Stephen Turner
Though the town of Silent Hill was the series' stalwart, it was beginning to feel stale; a terrifying place in danger of being your favourite holiday destination. It was time to move on, put roots in new places, and we found one in the form of South Ashfield. Where the eponymous town excited us with a cautionary network of alleyways and dead commerce, South Ashfield was far more narrow and alive in design; a downtown apartment building on a busy intersection, all oblivious to the horrors of Room 302. SH4: The Room is a modern ghost story at heart, assimilating the usual Eastern commentary on social estrangement and visceral Western horror. It’s Rear Window and Ringu by way of House of Leaves or The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (and most notably, Coin Locker Babies). Worlds expand and contract, panopticon prisons take urban shapes, and ponderous social angst weighs heavily between the mod cons. Though Henry Townshend finds a way out of his apartment through a hole in the bathroom wall, escape is always an illusion, a false hope, and we buy into that through the contrast of a washed-out, lifeless Room 302 with the colourful and abstract worlds on the other side of the portal; not quite reality, not quite The Otherworld, but a misty recollection of both. For Henry, real hope is found in the people around him, usually just a locked doorway out of reach. Compared to Silent Hill 3's minimal cast, here, we find a microcosm of downtown life – party girls and nerds, old men who should be retired, bullies, and sweet social butterflies - while the rest are strangers tucked away in tiny shoeboxes across the street. Most aren’t destined for anything more than the 21 Sacraments, a ritualistic killing spree conducted by Walter Sullivan, but they're also refreshingly lacking in riddles and dreamspeak. Their everyday exchanges and daily routines make them real people rather than purpose built characters; which makes their inevitable deaths all the more disturbing. Voyeurism is SH4: The Room’s greatest strength, feeding and preying on our own inquisitive nature, producing horror and fascination through the flip of a coin. Information is doled out in piecemeal, letting us play the amateur sleuth on South Ashfield Height's tenants, before coming to the morbid realisation that this exactly what our captor (and the game itself) wants. And throughout it all, our intentions are never questioned when we linger on a subject longer than necessary; especially with Henry's neighbour, Eileen Galvin. “I don’t know if you’re a detective or a pervert,” wondered Laura Dern in Blue Velvet; a line perfectly apt for our machinations. When Henry and Eileen finally meet in St. Jerome's Hospital, she's a "broken doll", an image of sex and death in a plaster cast and party dress. The eroticism on display is meant to be simultaneously wanton and repulsive; a painful looking reminder of our obsession and regret. When Eileen struggles to keep up, or when Henry has to find new paths for her, the emotional attachment overrides the chore. Unlike Maria, Eileen never quietly shadows Henry on their journey. She fights back, decipher clues, and lends a comforting voice. Their companionship is constantly threatened by the presence of Room 302, as Henry is forced to leave her behind, and what was once a place of sanctuary becomes less inviting as time goes on. And the switch between needing Room 302 to Eileen becomes increasingly prominent in the second half, when the possessions and exorcisms get out of hand. [embed]317761:60935:0[/embed] The human connection ensures Henry and Eileen's survival. Between them, they quickly gain the one thing Walter Sullivan has always yearned for. His deplorable acts are underlined with abandonment issues and sinister adoption, asking the audience if its either down to nature or nuture. Walter's killings are brutal and inhumane, so divorced from his childhood that he's split into two forms. Though they want the same thing, both child and adult Walter are at odds with each other - the child being a manifestation of memory and guilt that the adult refuses, much like Locane Twins' murders, to acknowledge. As king of his own Otherworld, an inanimate space becomes a living being through the projection of self and a change within language. It's as much as a denial as the human form Walter takes, leaving everyone else to slither or stutter and peel away from the walls of his warped memories, unable to connect unless it's through white-noise and death. But despite this unique, abstract take on disconnection and projection, SH4: The Room is undermined by some questionable design choices. The emphasis on relentless, unstoppable enemies forces the player to miss out on details, the constant backtracking to Room 302 creates the slowest of start, an ill-thought out limited inventory, an arguably dull protagonist (though that's more the fault of an early lack of interaction), and most erroneous of all, a repeat of locations in the second half. Though it pains this retrospective to say this, with SH4: The Room being a personal second favourite, it's the perfect example of how video game narratives can live and die by gameplay itself. Still, when SH4: The Room works, it does so by tapping into a free flow of subconscious fears and moving on from the comforts of Silent Hill's clichés. No radio warnings, not even a single flashlight, but the Otherworld was still out there, still finding ways to reach relatives of former victims, still bleeding from the rotten core and into new corners. The idea was finally less about another physical world and more of our own human flaws writ large, all scored by Akira Yamaoka's best work. Most of it all, it made downtown life a little bit frightening again. Though it would be the last of the "Team Silent" games, it would also be the last time, for a very long time, that Japanese horror games would be this bewildering and confessional. SH4: The Room casted an assimilated eye and frustrated mind, not to mention the most violent of hands, on our deepest social anxieties. And yet, Silent Hill in its final Eastern form left us on a happy note, with Henry and Eileen joking about finding a new place, under a blinding sunlight. A human connection. After so many years of bittersweetness, you couldn't ask for a nicer send-off from the darkest of video games.
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'Did you find your mommy?'
What makes the difference between houses and homes? Is it the space itself or the people inhabiting them? Is it down to the memories we create for ourselves or the aged familiarity of the spaces around us? And if a room is in...

Video game ghost stories #2: The faces

Oct 30 // Ben Davis
"What's this? Green clothes... White fairy... Sir, could you, by chance, be a forest fairy? Oh my! My name is Tingle! I think I am the same as you, sir. A forest fairy! Alas, though I am already age 35, no fairy has come to me yet..." Link was very put off by Tingle's appearance. The grotesque features, the ill-fitting clothes, the overt jealousy of Link's fairy companion. He decided it was best to avoid this strange man for now. After reclaiming his lost ocarina, Link used its mysterious powers to travel back in time a few days and spoke with the Happy Mask salesman again. The man upheld his promise to return Link to his former self. He played a somber tune, and Link's body began to shift and change rather violently. It was not exactly a pleasant experience. As he left the leafy form behind, Link felt in his heart the soul of a Deku Scrub passing on to the afterlife. When he came to, he noticed a mask lying on the ground in front of him. A mask resembling the face of a Deku Scrub. With this mask, he would be able to switch between forms at will. Continuing on his journey, Link took to the snowy mountains. Just outside of the Goron village, he caught a glimpse of Tingle floating in the distance. Link decided to try and pass him by. He hadn't spoken to Tingle yet since going back in time, so the man shouldn't recognize him anyway. But as he trudged past through the snow... "Hello, Mr. Fairy! How nice it is to meet again out here in the mountains. You do not look yourself, though... You appear to have changed bodies! How can this be?" Link was taken aback. How did Tingle know who he was? He was certain he hadn't spoken to Tingle since the dawn of the first day. And he recognized Link even though he was no longer a Deku Scrub. Perturbed, Link gave Tingle a suspicious glance and continued on his way. In the mountains, Link met the ghost of a Goron which led him back to its grave. The ghost was restless, but after playing the Happy Mask salesman's somber tune, it seemed to be at peace. Once again, Link felt in his heart the soul of the Goron passing to the afterlife, leaving behind a mask in its place. He tried on the mask, and felt his body being ripped and molded into a new form. He could feel a remnant of the soul of the departed Goron pulsing through the mask as he admired his new body. Leaving the grave, Link was once again assaulted by the pesky 35-year-old. "Mr. Fairy! You have changed bodies once again! I am unsure how you have obtained this power to become a Goron or a Deku Scrub at will, but I must know. If I could become a true forest fairy... You must teach me your secret, Mr. Fairy!" Link barely acknowledged Tingle as he left the mountain in a hurry, eager to be far away from the unsettling middle-aged man. Returning to the first day once again, Link made his way to the Great Bay coast only to discover a Zora in distress out in the waves. He quickly dove in and dragged the body back to the beach, but it was too late. The Zora gave its final breath, and died right there in front of Link. He decided to play the somber tune once more and acquired the Zora mask. Remnants of the Zora's soul pulsed through Link's body as he donned the mask, transforming into a slender, aquatic form. Suddenly, he noticed Tingle floating in the air a short distance away. Was he being followed? Tingle approached with a shocked expression on his face. "I saw what you did, Mr. Fairy. You took that dead Zora's face. It made you turn into a Zora! Interesting. How interesting!" Link noticed a peculiar glint in Tingle's eye that sent a shiver down his spine. Why was Tingle looking at him like that? He thought about trying to explain that it was a mask and not the Zora's actual face, but he couldn't find the words. Instead, he backed away awkwardly, turning to leave as Tingle continued to look him up and down. Some time later, Link arrived at Ikana Canyon. Soon this whole ordeal would be over, and he could finally return to Hyrule. Unfortunately for Link, he would have to deal with the fairy fanatic once again. It seemed as though Tingle was able to be everywhere at once. Or maybe he really was following Link wherever he went... He approached and spoke in an unusually grim tone. "Mr. Fairy, I know now how I can finally become a real forest fairy. I've watched you do it time and time again. You took their faces. You wear their faces to inhabit their bodies. This is the key to your secret power, and it will soon be my power to wield as well." Link hesitated for a moment, caught off guard by Tingle's sudden malicious attitude. The man's expression told Link he was dead serious. He reached a shaky hand out towards Link's face, cackling excitedly. "Mr. Fairy... give me your face." Link turned and ran as fast as he could. Ducking behind a dilapidated hut, he whipped out the ocarina and hurriedly played the Song of Time. Back in the clock tower, Link fell to the ground, gasping for breath. He thought he would just stay put inside for a while. It was the best hiding place he could think of. Nobody ever seemed to enter the tower, aside from the Happy Mask salesman. And speak of the devil... "Ah, perfect timing! I just got done speaking with a client who is willing to pay an exorbitant price for a certain mask. However, this mask is not yet in my possession. But it shouldn't be too difficult to acquire. In fact, its source is standing right in front of me. All I need is... a little something from YOU."
Video game ghost stories photo
Counting down until Halloween
Link made his way out of the clock tower, still in Deku Scrub form thanks to the Skull Kid. He just needed to find a way to return to his regular body. The Happy Mask salesman apparently knows the secret. Wandering around Clo...

Video game ghost stories #1: Man eater

Oct 29 // Ben Davis
~ The new recruit has turned out to be very useful in battle, although their tactics are rather unsettling. I don't know how to put this delicately, but... they have literally been eating our enemies alive. They have a voracious appetite which seems as though it can never be satisfied, and they have a taste for almost anything. It's good for us, as they have been making short work of the monsters in our path and scaring the rest of them away. It's a bit disturbing to watch, though... All that slurping and crunching is gruesome. It makes my stomach turn over just thinking about it. ~ Today we were fighting some soldiers from Alexandria and our new recruit tried to eat them. Human soldiers. The rest of our party was horrified, and I told the new recruit that they could not eat humans. They seemed very disappointed. They kept muttering, "but it look so tasty," and, "I so hungry." Everyone has been a bit wary around them since the incident. Perhaps it's time to find a replacement. They're bringing down morale and making everyone uncomfortable. For now, I guess I'll wait and see if something like this happens again. ~ I awoke today to find that a member of our group had gone missing. His old rusty armor was still lying at the foot of his bed at the inn, but he was nowhere to be found. Maybe he ran away in the middle of the night? I guess I wouldn't blame him, and leaving his armor behind would allow him to escape quickly and quietly. I will miss him. Even though the two of us didn't quite get along, he was a tremendous asset in battle. ~ The new recruit has been acting stranger than usual lately. They keep giving everyone these really weird looks and their mouth starts drooling... I keep thinking we should just ditch them, but since we lost Rusty we really can't afford to lose any more members. ~ Another member of our group has gone missing. Her spear and clothing were strewn about her bed, and now I'm seriously worried. There's no way she would have left without her things. I think it's time to leave the new recruit behind... I'll let the other two in on the plan, and hopefully we can escape tonight. ~ I stayed up all night waiting for the perfect opportunity to wake the others and leave, but the new recruit apparently sleeps with their eyes open? Watching them... sleep?... sent shivers down my spine. I'm not sure what to do at this point. We might just have to make a run for it. ~ We made our escape while the new recruit was busy feasting on a large basilisk. The slurping and munching was quite loud, so hopefully they didn't hear us over all the noise they were making. We managed to hail a passing airship and returned to Alexandria to come up with a new plan for our adventure. The princess has been really scared lately, and we've all been mourning the disappearance of our two allies. I have a horrible feeling we won't be seeing them again... but at least the three of us are safe now. ~ The new recruit followed us to the Capital! How did they know where we were? How did they get here so quickly? They surprised us late at night, a crazed look in their eyes. I grabbed the princess and ran, but I didn't know where the mage had gone. I hope he found a place to hide or something. I don't know where else we can go, but we have to get away. For now, we're going to hide in the woods outside of town. ~ The princess and I became separated in the woods somehow. One second she was right behind me and the next thing I know she's gone! I've been calling her name and running around in a panic. What should I do?! ~ They're here. They followed me into the woods. I can hear their heavy breathing and horrible slurping sounds. I fear there is nowhere left to run or hide. They seem to know exactly where I'm going at all times. I've been running all day. I don't know how much more of this I can take... Just thinking about their awful, dead eyes and insatiable appetite fills me with dread. Is this the end for me? If someone finds this journal, heed my warning! Stay away from the Q -- (indecipherable scribbling) . . .
Video game ghost stories photo
Counting down until Halloween
Journal Entry #1: We recruited a new member to our party today, but they're a little... strange. We found them hanging out in a swamp eating frogs. At first, I thought it was an enemy, as their appearance startled me, but they seemed eager to join our team and we need all the help we can get. Let's hope for the best!

If Tales from the Borderlands characters were Vault Hunters in Borderlands 3

Oct 27 // Darren Nakamura
Character: Fiona Possible Action Skill: Hidden Gun. Though it isn't exactly intimidating, especially considering the vast arsenal a typical Vault Hunter carries around, Fiona's single-shot pistol could be buffed for enormous damage, like a Destiny Gunslinger's Golden Gun. If nothing else, the ability to add any of three types of elemental damage could be useful. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: High. The latter half of the season details Fiona's training to take care of herself in a fight. Those who visit Felix in the final chapter learn of his desire for her to give up the con game and find a new life. All signs point to Fiona as the most likely candidate to be a Vault Hunter. Character: Rhys Possible Action Skill: Echo Eye. Most Action Skills are used solely for combat, but this could be employed during exploration to find hidden caches and shortcuts. Additionally, it can be used during combat to highlight weak points and hack electronics-based enemies into fighting for Rhys. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: Low. Though Rhys did a bit of fighting throughout the series, he was never proficient with it. After stealing the rights to and revitalizing the Atlas corporation, it sounds like he is best set up as a supporting character for the future instances of Borderlands. Character: Sasha Possible Action Skill: Swindle. Sasha uses her feminine charms to stupefy enemies into inaction. Enemies defeated while Swindle is active have a greater chance of dropping valuable loot. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: Medium. Sasha has demonstrated basic weapon proficiency, and like her sister, could stand to drop the life of a con artist. She didn't receive combat training from Athena, so she might not quite be suited to the life of a Vault Hunter just yet. Character: Vaughn Possible Action Skill: Fudge the Numbers. Borderlands is about making bigger and bigger numbers pop out of enemies, so who better to manipulate that than an accountant? Activating Fudge the Numbers would grant huge boosts to Vaughn's attack and defense, and can be powered up later to add a confusion effect on bandits. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: Medium-low. Vaughn took to the wastes of Pandora well, and he has the rock-hard abs of a Vault Hunter, but he is probably too busy as the leader of the Children of Helios, who have a penchant for pacifism. Character: Gortys Possible Action Skill: Mech Mode. Normally Gortys scoots around in her cute ball form, but upon activating Mech Mode, she digistructs her arms and legs and becomes a brawler. Not only that, but she can adopt the abilities of nearby teammates, a little like Claptrap's ability from The Pre-Sequel, only less random and more useful. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: God I hope so. Gortys is the best new character and I would play as her in a heartbeat. Not only that, but she has shown she can fight and has the heart to protect her friends. She has also demonstrated having no qualms with bad people dying. Character: Loader Bot Possible Action Skill: Bulldoze. Loader Bot equips a BUL Loader arm and charges forward, pushing enemies together for area-of-effect damage or off cliffs for instant kills. This may be difficult given Loader Bot has lost most of his original body over the course of the series. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: "Hi." Loader Bot does what is necessary to get the job done, and his new body seems more than capable of handling the dangers of being a Vault Hunter. However, his main motivation seems to be protecting Gortys, so he might not have the desire to become a Vault Hunter unless she does it first.
Borderlands photo
Dibs on Fiona
Tales From the Borderlands (Season One?) wrapped up last week, and it was fantastic. One of the coolest things about Telltale's effort is how it will have an indelible impact on the main series. Once Borderlands 3 comes aroun...

Let's stop pretending Halo 5's gameplay matters

Oct 27 // Kyle MacGregor
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE CUTSCENES END There is a way to add new systems to an existing formula without fucking things up. The best example of this comes from Killzone: Shadow Fall, which has these aerial drones called OWLs. These things can create energy shields, hack computers, create zip lines, and even inject your character with drugs. They're great! Kind of like Cortana used to be, actually. You know, before she died. Be warned: The words you just read may be considered spoilers. With Cortana gone, Master Chief has made some new friends IRL. Sadly, despite having corporeal bodies, they're all incompetent, often walking into walls or standing in the open getting shot at instead of following simple orders. They're also very bad drivers -- even worse than my uncle Ted, who once ran over the neighbor's cat backing out the driveway and ruined Christmas for everyone! There are other problems, of course, including some mundane boss fights, no local co-op, and tedious level design. Seriously Bungie, how many arenas are you going to lock us in until we kill all the enemies? There's more than one way to flatten a cat, you know. HALO 5 IS AWESOME Thankfully, the cutscenes do a visceral job showing what the Xbox One is capable of from a graphical point of view, pumping out a story that's every bit as good as big-budget Hollywood blockbusters like Vin Diesel's San Andreas and Jurassic World. After finishing the campaign on normal, I went back and tackled it a second time on easy just to see all the explosions and hear Nathan Fillion talk all over again. And now that the game's out, I plan to watch a replay on YouTube and do a quote-along. I really love Halo 5, even despite the tiresome gameplay. It's not that I'm not upset with the horrific friendly AI, the endless corridor shooting, and cribbed Call of Duty mechanics. I am. It's just between all the fun to be had gazing at cinematics and listening to audio chatter, some garbage gameplay is a trivial detail in a package sold for only full retail price plus tax and microtransactions. You're guaranteed your money's worth with Halo 5. The crap parts shouldn't meaningfully impact your enjoyment at all.
Halolz photo
Halo 5 rocks, except for the shooty bits
Halo 5: Guardians is a video game much like any other; some parts of it are real good, others not so much. Take the story, for example, this part of Halo 5 is pretty nice. There's a reason why we gave the game ...

Fatal Frame V photo
Fatal Frame V

Despite all the hubbub, I'm still getting Fatal Frame

May I live to regret it
Oct 26
// Jonathan Holmes
Our own Zack Furniss had a pretty bad time with Fatal Frame V, as detailed in his excellent review. Having just finished the hour-and-a-half long free demo for the title myself, I completely understand where he's coming from,...

Podtoid 308: Back to the Force

Oct 25 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]317378:60841:0[/embed] Stuff we talked about: Back to the Future Star Wars Darren's naughty pics James Bond Jurassic World Destiny drama Nintendo shit Life is Strange Downwell Kingdom Fatal Frame V Recent Episodes: Podtoid 307: The Millennials Podcast Podtoid 306: Tales of Tokyo Game Show Podtoid 305: The Voice of God Podtoid 304: The Phantom Pain Podtoid 303: A Good Amount of Cocaine Send any tips, queries, and #forcefriday horror stories to [email protected]
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The Future Awakens
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. Steven, Kyle, and Darren are joined by PCWorld's Hayden Dingman to discuss the latest news in the world of video games: Back to the Future and the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.

Experience Points .26: Dark Souls

Oct 24 // Ben Davis
Serenity Dark Souls is home to one of my absolute favorite locations in video games, but I might not have even known it existed if I hadn't looked up a guide. Deep in Blighttown, there's an illusory wall hidden behind an unassuming treasure chest which leads to the inside of an enormous tree, an area known as the Great Hollow. I probably never would have found this secret entrance on my own, but I'm really glad I heard about it. Carefully following the branches down the trunk of the tree, I eventually emerged out of an opening at the bottom. The discovery that followed was absolutely stunning. The Great Hollow led to an unexpectedly huge, open area called Ash Lake, which certainly doesn't look like it belongs deep underground. I found myself on a quiet island of sand, surrounded by murky waters and many more gigantic trees growing up into the air in the distance, much like the Great Hollow I had just exited. It was like I had just discovered the birthplace of the world. Though the area felt vast and secluded, I actually wasn't alone. Ash Lake is inhabited by a few other living creatures, including some territorial shellfish, an angry Hydra, and the Everlasting Dragon, a peaceful, immortal being who grants travelers the power to transform into dragons themselves. I don't know what it was exactly, but something about Ash Lake really resonated with me. There's this unimaginable peacefulness to the place, and everything about it feels so mysterious and magical. It's a secret beach where I could go and just relax and think about life without being bothered by anything (well, other than the Hydra). I spent a really long time just wandering the sands, taking in every inch of the landscape and admiring everything around me, and it quickly became my favorite place to waste time. I wish I had been able to discover Ash Lake on my own, without any prior knowledge of its existence, because that really would have been something. It would have been so exciting, like I had just uncovered the greatest secret of Dark Souls that no one else knew about, and Ash Lake was all mine. But alas, I was apparently not very observant during my first playthrough. Biggie Smalls As far as difficult Dark Souls boss fights go, the fight against Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough is one of the best. The duo encapsulates two very different boss types: one small and agile, the other slow and powerful. Each of them would easily pose a threat on his own, but now they're fighting together and must be defeated simultaneously. It's one of the most taxing fights in the game, requiring players to keep track of both enemies at once and never let one of them out of sight, lest they sneak up from behind for a beat-down, all the while choosing the perfect opportunities to land any hits on the pair without being exposed to a counterattack. And as if the fight weren't hard enough already, once one of the duo is defeated, the other absorbs their fallen comrade's powers and their health is fully restored. If Ornstein goes down first, Smough takes his ally's lightning power to become slow, powerful, and electric. If Smough is the first to fall, Ornstein inherits his buddy's size to become giant yet still as agile as before. It's up to the player to decide which one they feel they can handle and try to kill the other one first. I can't even count the number of times I died to these guys, but eventually I developed a solid strategy for beating them solo. Personally, I always tried to take down Ornstein first, because Mega Ornstein is a bit too big and speedy for my liking. Mega Smough, on the other hand, is much easier to keep track of, and I found I could use the pillars to my advantage to keep him at a distance since he always seems to walk directly towards the player. Smough is not too bright, apparently. He's definitely the brawn to Ornstein's brains. The harrowing adventures of the onion knight A lot of people tend to think of Solaire as their trusted companion in the world of Dark Souls, but personally I always preferred Siegmeyer's company. Siegmeyer of Catarina is a jolly, yet somewhat lazy knight wearing an odd set of armor with an onion-like appearance. He can often be found napping or meditating near an obstacle he is unable to overcome, and requires the player's help to pass through. Siegmeyer's quest line basically involves getting him out of all sorts of predicaments as he goes off on his adventures. Eventually, the player will meet his daughter, Sieglinde, who shines a bit of light on her father's personality, saying that he's always going on adventures and getting himself into trouble, so she has to go looking for him to keep him safe. Their quest line culminates in a rather sorrowful manner, ending in Ash Lake where Sieglinde stands near her father's body. Sieglinde says he went hollow and she had no choice but to kill him. But evidently, this isn't the first time this has happened, as she previously stated, "If he goes hollow, I'll just have to kill him again." What a tragic existence, to have to constantly follow her father around as he slowly goes mad and then kill him before things get too troubling, and repeating the process all over again. My good friend Nic Rowen wrote a spectacular piece on this very moment from the game, where he compared Siegmeyer's condition to Alzheimer's, and now that theory is pretty much canon in my mind. Off with his tail! The one thing I miss about Dark Souls is the ability to acquire new weapons by chopping off the tails of my enemies. It was such a fun idea, but sadly it didn't return in Dark Souls II or Bloodborne. The "cut off its tail" strategy applied to many of the bosses in Dark Souls, provided they had a tail to attack. Once I discovered it was a running theme in the game, I made it a point to inspect every boss for a tail and made sure to cut it off before the fight was over. This made some fights a lot more intense, since I'd have to change up my usual strategy to move around behind the boss and try to lop off the tail without causing too much damage. I died many, many times to Seath the Scaleless, simply because I was so preoccupied with making him Seath the Tailless. The tail weapons were all great additions to the player's arsenal, so taking the time to obtain them was usually worth it. There's the Drake Sword, of course, every new player's saving grace which can easily be taken from the Hellkite Dragon, as well as the Dragon King Greataxe and Moonlight Greatsword taken from the Gaping Dragon and Seath, respectively. I also personally really liked the Gargoyle Tail Axe from the Bell Gargoyles, which I thought was one of the cooler looking weapons due to the way it bends when it swings around, even though it's not that great stats-wise. It's even possible to cut off the tail of the Everlasting Dragon, the massive NPC found in Ash Lake. This will net the Dragon Greatsword, which basically looks like a huge hunk of stone roughly shaped like a sword. Don't worry though, attacking the dragon won't cause him to become aggressive since he is apparently immortal. Hope he can grow his tail back, at least! Come out, come out, wherever you are I was never very good at Dark Souls PvP, but I still really enjoyed playing with other people just because of how great the summoning and invasion systems are. But since combat wasn't my forte, I started to try and find ways to mess with other players instead. One of my favorite strategies for toying with invaders is by using the good old Chameleon spell. Chameleon disguises the player as an object from the environment, such as a vase or a statue, something that will most likely appear inconspicuous to the other player as long as it's not moving around or sitting in an unusual spot. It became like a fun little mini-game for me, trying to find the perfect hiding spots for my Chameleon-disguised body and seeing if any passing invaders would notice. Some players were very observant and were able to locate me right away and attack, while others spent forever wandering around the area, passing right by me several times before giving up and leaving or offering me the perfect opportunity to sneak up and surprise them. It was always really tense whenever an invader would move near me, as I sat there wondering if I was actually well hidden or not. I saw a similar thing on YouTube where someone dressed up as an enemy knight and took their place, which is sort of like using the Chameleon spell only way more clever. I never tried this myself, but I really want to do it someday. Messing with invaders is just too much fun! He ran into my knife... ten times I've always liked the idea of permanence in the Dark Souls series. Attack an NPC enough and they'll become angry and fight back, remaining aggressive for the rest of the game (unless the player seeks absolution). Kill an NPC, and they'll be gone forever until the next playthrough. I learned this the hard way in Demon's Souls, when I was practicing with my new weapons in the Nexus and managed to piss off the Crestfallen Warrior. This made me particularly careful of my actions around NPCs from then on, since I wouldn't want to screw myself over by accidentally angering or killing someone important. Killing NPCs can sometimes be useful, though. The Souls games tend to have at least one evil character who will go crazy and start killing off other important characters if left unchecked, so it's sometimes a good idea to take someone out if they seem really shady. The NPCs often drop really great items too, so it's worth it to kill them at least once during multiple playthroughs. Usually, I would wait until the end of my second playthrough before going around and killing every NPC for their souls and loot, and then start a new game to bring them all back again. My first time through Dark Souls, I almost managed to keep everyone alive, aside from one small slip-up. When I found the hidden passage to the room housing Quelaag's sister, I tried to enter only to be blocked by something in front of me that I couldn't quite see. I looked down, noticed an Egg Carrier in my way (those creepy, egg-infested enemies that laze about and sometimes attack), FREAKED OUT, and quickly stabbed it to death without a second thought. I only realized it was actually an NPC afterwards, when I noticed the dialog at the bottom of the screen while he was dying. Umm... oops! Sorry, Eingyi! Maybe don't get in someone's way like that when you look so unsettling? Living with regret Every once in a while, the Souls games like to throw in an unexpectedly emotional boss fight to keep the player wondering about their own true motives. In Demon's Souls, it was Maiden Astraea, and in Dark Souls we have Sif, the Great Grey Wolf. Sif is a rather massive wolf with the unique ability to wield a huge greatsword with its mouth. Sif is not too shabby with the sword either, able to swing it around in large arcs and jump nimbly through the air while swinging downward. But aside from simply being an adorable, fuzzy wolf, the fight is not overly emotional at first. That is until Sif takes too much damage and begins to lose steam, sadly limping across the battlefield, attacking much more slowly and deliberately, and even falling over due to the sheer exertion of swinging a gigantic sword around while injured. Dammit, Dark Souls! Why do you have to make me feel so bad about killing a boss? I really wanted nothing more than to spare Sif and let him live his wolfy life, but unfortunately there's no way around it. And of course, after the Artorias of the Abyss DLC was released, the fight with Sif somehow became even more unbearable. During the DLC campaign, the player can find Sif in the Abyss, where Artorias left the wolf protected under a barrier to prevent it from becoming corrupted. Sif can then be summoned to help during the fight against Manus. If the player goes to fight Sif in the main game after completing the DLC area first and rescuing the wolf, the introduction cutscene will be noticeably different. Sif walks up to sniff the player, recognizing them from before when they fought together, and lets out a melancholy howl before taking up the greatsword with resignation. And then the player has to kill Sif and feel just completely awful doing it. Sorry, buddy... Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition.25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
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Praise the Sun!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Cash money photo
Cash money

PewDiePie nearly has enough money to buy his soul back (Fauxclusive)

One more healthy quarter and it's his!
Oct 16
// CJ Andriessen
Earlier this week Forbes Magazine listed the ten richest celebrities on YouTube and to the surprise of absolutely no one, gaming personality PewDiePie ranked as the top YouTube earner with more than $12 million dollars m...
Elite controller photo
Elite controller

What if your garbage kid throws your Elite controller parts down a storm drain?

Questions for Microsoft and Scuf
Oct 16
// Brett Makedonski
I briefly tinkered with the Xbox One Elite controller at E3 as part of a larger platform demo about the direction of the system. I didn't play any games with it or mess with any high-level customization programming. Instead, ...
Is that a Game Boy? photo
Is that a Game Boy?

'Is that a Game Boy?' Navigating simple questions as a socially awkward adult

What is your name? What is your quest?
Oct 15
// Darren Nakamura
The other day I was sitting in the lunch room alone, playing on my 3DS. I was having a go at the current Pokémon Safari in Pokémon Shuffle, trying to capture the last 'mon I needed from the event. In walks one o...
Legend of Zelda photo
Legend of Zelda

Is The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes too formulaic? (Fauxclusive)

This all looks & sounds so familiar
Oct 15
// CJ Andriessen
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is the first Zelda game for the 3DS to utilize co-operative play in a series that has traditionally been a single-player experience. So why does it feel so familiar? I played Tri Force He...

Experience Points .25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Oct 10 // Ben Davis
Valiant villain I've always been a big Bowser fan, so I was very excited when I played Super Mario RPG for the first time and discovered that Bowser actually joins Mario's team. This was the first time the two rivals teamed up together, and it was awesome. Super Mario RPG actually begins with a boss fight against Bowser to save Princess Toadstool, leading the player to believe it's going to follow a similar storyline to the previous Super Mario games. But that all changes immediately when a giant monster sword descends from the heavens and lodges itself in Bowser's Keep, laying claim to the castle and kicking Bowser and his minions out. Mario spots Bowser and his army several times as they're attempting to regroup and take back the keep. Finally, they meet face-to-face in front of Booster's Tower where a lone Bowser reluctantly decides to lend his strength to Mario's team (because he knows they're headed for his castle anyway). He declares Mario and friends to be honorary members of the Koopa Troop for the duration of their travels together. Bowser is probably my favorite party member (sorry Geno!). He's a powerful asset during a fight, able to summon a Big Boo to terrorize enemies, wield a Chain Chomp as a weapon, and even toss Mario around like a projectile. He also brings a lot of humor to the group. This is the first game where he's characterized as sort of a goofball. He tries really hard to keep up the reputation of being a tough, mean bully, but it's pretty clear that he's really just a big ol' softie. You just keep being you, Bowser! It's axin' time! Super Mario RPG has arguably one of the greatest boss battles of all time: the Axem Rangers! After a particularly grueling fight against the Czar Dragon in Barrel Volcano, as well as its undead form, Zombone, Mario finally gets to take a break and revel in the light of the newly recovered Star Piece. Unfortunately, it's a short-lived victory, as the Star Piece is suddenly swiped right out of his hands by stealthy assailants. The thieves reveal themselves to be none other than the "amazing," "unbeatable," and "gorgeous" group, the Axem Rangers! They're clearly inspired by another group of similarly colored Rangers, only they're much more dastardly. Mario chases them up to the rim of the volcano where they attempt to make their getaway on the airship, Blade. The fight commences aboard the airship, where the Rangers declare their motto and attack. It can be a difficult battle, since there are five targets to focus on, each with their own attacks and specialties. Eventually they start to drop out one by one, each complaining about something trivial like being hungry, having a headache, having runny make-up, and accidentally breaking their sunglasses, to which Axem Red always has a snarky retort. Finally, Red changes strategies and takes control of Blade for their ultimate attack, the Breaker Beam. But despite their showmanship and underhanded tactics, the Axem Rangers are still no match for Mario and company. Of course, that doesn't stop them from being awesome and having the coolest motto! "We fight for evil! We live for disorder! We like what we do! We struggle for chaos! We are... the AXEM RANGERS!" Sniff competition Booster is one the most memorable characters in Super Mario RPG, but a big part of why I like him so much is because of his Snifit buddies. Booster himself is kind of insane; he never seems to have a good grasp on reality, so he relies on his Snifits to help him out and explain things to him. They help solve a lot of simple mysteries for him, like what to do at parties, how to eat cake, and what it means when someone is crying. Without his Snifits to keep him under control, who knows where Booster would end up. While Booster's main posse consists of three Snifits (simply named Snifit 1, Snifit 2, and Snifit 3), there's actually a secret side quest to expand his army. In Booster Pass, Mario might come across an enemy called an Apprentice, a blue Snifit who hopes to impress Booster by beating Mario in a fight. They are very weak enemies, so most players will probably just kill them and be on their way without a second thought. But I always liked the Snifits and wanted to help the little guys out, so I tried losing to an Apprentice on purpose once just to see what would happen. After a really long battle where I just defended and let the little dude pummel me with weak attacks, he finally "beat" me. Instead of getting the usual Game Over, though, it returns to Booster Pass where the Apprentice proudly exclaims that he'll become Snifit 4 and runs off excitedly. Congrats, buddy! Mario can actually keep battling Apprentices in this way until there are eight Snifits. They can all be found at the top of Booster Tower, where they're still super thrilled with their new titles. Well, all of them except for the eighth Apprentice, who woefully explains that Booster only wants seven Snifits and that all of his training was in vain. Poor guy... at least you tried your hardest! I am matter... I am antimatter... Monstro Town is my favorite area in Super Mario RPG for several reasons. For one, it has a great theme song and a bunch of cool, friendly monsters to talk to. All the enemy types Mario has been fighting have all gathered in this secluded villager in order to live peacefully with no wish to fight. There's also a few side quests to do here, such as fighting Jagger and his sensei Jinx at the dojo and playing a nice little game of "Find the Flag" with the Three Musty Fears. But my favorite side quest involves a sealed door and a mysterious neighbor. The friendly piranha plant hints about hearing their strange neighbor next door mumbling about crystals and evil. If Mario brings a Shiny Stone from Moleville, the crystal will react to the door and the seal will be broken. Upon entering, Mario finds himself floating in a strange dimensional rift and is greeted by a creepy purple being who calls himself "Culex, Dark Knight of Vanda." If Mario agrees to fight him, he will be up against the most powerful foe in the game, even more daunting than the final boss, Smithy. Culex is particularly awesome because of his ties to the Final Fantasy series, since the game was created by Squaresoft and Nintendo. While he's not based on a specific character, he's designed to look like a typical final boss from the series. The encounter with Culex also uses several songs from Final Fantasy, including the battle theme from Final Fantasy IV, the victory theme, and the main theme of the series which plays while they are speaking after the fight. I always thought Culex was a really cool idea for a crossover boss fight. Plus, the fact that he's so well hidden made it that much more surprising and exciting when I finally entered his door to find myself in another dimension speaking to a character who probably shouldn't exist in the Mushroom Kingdom. Well done, Square! Super Mario Shmup Super Mario RPG has a lot of fun mini-games to play whenever Mario wants to take a break from his grand adventure, but the one I spent the most time with was probably Beetle Mania. Beetle Mania is a handheld game that Mario can buy from a Toad in the Mushroom Kingdom Inn, which can then be accessed from the main menu during any area of the game. It's basically a really simple shoot-'em-up where the player controls a tiny beetle that shoots stars at incoming Koopa shells. The shells bounce around and remain on-screen until they are hit. Each shell grants two points when shot, and explodes into a burst of other stars that can hit more shells to trigger a chain reaction which can quickly multiply the score up to thousands of points per shell. Even though it only rewards two points for an individual shell, the score can easily skyrocket in seconds due to combos if there are a bunch of shells on-screen at once. I believe the high score is something like 99,999,999 points, which I never came close to personally, but I definitely made it into the millions a few times, and I wasn't even playing for that long! It's an addicting mini-game due to how satisfying it is to watch the score jump higher and higher so quickly, and I found myself taking breaks from the main story to play Beetle Mania for a while just because it was so much fun. Do you remember what your high score was? Wedding woes Super Mario RPG's story is full of goofy plotlines and even goofier characters, but the silliest part of the game by far happens in the town of Marrymore, where Booster attempts to marry Princess Toadstool. Crazy old Booster, who was holding Toadstool captive after she fell from the sky and landed in his tower, decides that their strange meeting must be destiny and that they should get married (obviously). When Mario climbs the tower to rescue Toadstool, Booster flees to Marrymore with the princess in tow and it's up to Mario and friends to crash the wedding. After barging into the chapel with Bowser's help busting down the doors, they accidentally bump into Toadstool, causing her to drop all of her wedding accessories. A quick mini-game ensues, where Mario has to collect all of her dropped items in a time limit. Afterwards, she says she'll reward Mario with a kiss. But this causes Booster and Bowser to feel left out, since Bowser thinks he deserves a kiss for breaking down the door and Booster wants a kiss too since everyone else is getting one. A confusing rush occurs as everyone goes in to try and get a kiss from Toadstool. Depending on the player's skill during the previous mini-game, Mario could get a kiss from Toadstool, Bowser, Booster, or even Bowser and Booster at the same time! The lucky bastard! Since the wedding is pretty much off at this point, Mario, Toadstool, and Bowser start to leave the chapel, but the way is blocked by the chefs who have just brought the wedding cake in and are distressed to see that the bride is leaving after they spent all day baking the (rather hideous) cake. In a fit of anger, the chefs attack, initiating one of the strangest boss fights in video game history. After a bit of fighting, the massive dessert the chefs were so proud of actually starts to move on its own, and the chefs flee the scene. Then the main battle against the living wedding cake begins, and it's a pretty difficult fight. After putting out the candles and eliminating the top two tiers, Booster and the Snifits arrive just in time to eat the remainder of the cake. They deliberate for a bit on the best method for consuming such a huge treat before the Snifits finally just toss the entire thing into Booster's open mouth (but not before Booster notices that it's moving!), destroying the evil dessert once and for all. It may have tried to kill most of the wedding party, but at least it was delicious! Say WHAT?! Super Mario RPG is so good at humor that even some of its more serious moments are rather hilarious. Take one of my favorite moments, for example, where Mallow's grandpa reveals his true origins. Mallow was raised by his grandfather, Frogfucius, in Tadpole Pond, an area populated by frogs and tadpoles. Naturally, Mallow grew up believing that he, too, was a tadpole, even though he really looks nothing like one. That is, until the fateful day that he met Mario. After retrieving his grandfather's coin from a thief with Mario's help, they return to Tadpole Pond to speak with Frogfucius about what to do next. He advises Mallow to accompany Mario on his adventure, but Mallow seems surprised, saying, "I'm only a simple tadpole! This adventure isn't for me!" Frogfucius turns around, the happy music fades out, and suddenly the tone becomes deadly serious. "Mallow, my boy, I've kept this from you until now, but you're... not a tadpole!!!" DUN DUNNN!!! (*Actual sound effect used in the game.) Needless to say, Mallow is shocked! His whole world is turned completely upside down. Everything he thought he knew about himself was a lie. It even starts playing a really sad piano tune and Mallow starts to cry. And yet... I couldn't stop laughing! Poor Mallow... but I mean, come on man, look in a mirror or something! Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition
Super Mario RPG photo
Fungah! Foiled again!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Chibi-Robo photo

It's time to pray for Chibi-Robo

God have mercy
Oct 08
// Jonathan Holmes
Chibi-Robo is a refugee from GameCube country, born from the co-mingling DNA of the industry's most well-known publisher and one of its least mainstream-friendly developers, he was ready to die from the moment he hit the grou...

Joe Mad (Darksiders, Battle Chasers) has answered your questions

Oct 06 // Jonathan Holmes
[embed]314164:60637:0[/embed] Kevin Bowyer: Wii U version? Loved Darkstalkers II for the Wii U. Joe Mad: It’s not currently in the plan, unfortunately. We are a small team on a tight budget, so we had to be choosy about which consoles to launch on. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen further down the road though. Jesse Johnson: How does he feel about the new apple flavored skittle? I feel it ruined the candy as a whole. I'm a bit pissed really. Joe Mad: I actually really like it (sorry!). I usually buy Darkside Skittles (because I like to pretend it says Darksiders) but for some reason the yellow skittle in the blue ‘Tropical’ bag is one of my favorites. Pineapple I think? ThePich: How does that armor bra on the redhead work?  Joe Mad: I honestly have no idea. Magic, probably! [embed]314164:60638:0[/embed] Dango: Who are these Darksiders that the games are named after? Joe Mad: It was meant to describe the Horsemen, but really encompasses the game as a whole, since even the ‘good’ guys are ‘dark’ characters. You seek the aid of Dead Lords and go on quests for Demons. Angels are corrupt. It’s not your typical ‘save humanity’ hero story! Cosmonstropolis: What's your go-to while pooping? What book are you currently reading?  Joe Mad: Usually, if I’ve forgotten to bring my phone into the bathroom with me, I’ll just grab at whatever’s nearby—shampoo labels, toothpaste, etc. But I’m currently reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Black Company. And don’t worry, I always put my phone back in my pocket before I touch anything nasty. Swear! Barry Kelly: With a very ambitious game and what appears to be a very frugal budget and development time, which changes in the industry over the last few years do you most attribute to being able to deliver a project like this? Better experience? A tighter, closer knit team? A more focused and defined game design and scope? Better development tools? etc  Joe Mad: All of the above! Our small team is very experienced, and we’ve all worked together for years. We carefully scoped this game to be manageable for our team size and budget from the onset. You’d be surprised what a small dedicated team can do when it’s a passion project. Alex Heat: Darksiders 3 when? Joe Mad: We get this question a lot. The information is out there, but for those that don’t know, Vigil Games was dissolved when THQ went bankrupt, and Darksiders was sold to Nordic Games. They own it now, and seem very committed to continuing to do great things with the series (Check out the Deathinitive Edition, coming out in October!) We are just as curious/excited as you guys about the possibility of a DS3! It’s out of our hands! [embed]314164:60643:0[/embed] Ahr Ech: Why is the guy from Berserk just standing in the background of that header?   Lex: Same reason why Miss Fortune is in the front maybe? Joe Mad: Heh. Not taking the bait! Keiichi Morisato: What is your favorite Zelda game? Joe Mad: Gameplay wise, Ocarina of Time. Art wise, Windwaker! John Seiler: Are we going to see new collections of the old Battle Chasers book along with new comic stories? I really liked the issue that Adam Warren did and would love to see other writers and artists take a stab at that world. Really, I just miss that world. Joe Mad: Thank you. Yes, I plan on making all the old books available again in physical form. Stay tuned for details! Brandon Dunlap: From what we see from the game play videos there will be 3 active players and everyone else will be reserved, will there be an on the fly swap feature in combat, and why did you choose to go with 3 active characters, and not 4? Joe Mad: There’s more weight to choosing your party makeup when you’re forced to pick 3 (out of 6 available characters). You can switch them out at any point when you’re in town prepping for your adventure. It also speeds up the combat a bit, the pace feels better. And visually, it allows the characters to all be larger on screen. So, lots of reasons! [embed]314164:60639:0[/embed] Adolfo Arredondo: Have you thought about selling Battle Chasers action figures? Cartoonish like Disney Infinity or more detailed? Joe Mad: Yes! There’s no solid plan at the moment, but it’s something we all geek out about, so hopefully we can make it happen before too long! Anthony Griego: Any chance we will see Akimon in the game? He was one of my favorites and I was always bummed he was *spoiler* killed! Joe Mad: Actually, Akiman is very much alive, it was Bengus who we saw get blasted (though there’s no proof he’s actually dead). I will for sure touch on these guys in the books again—as far as the game, we will have to wait and see. Toshiro Miphony: Will Battle Chasers the game be released as timely as Battle Chasers the comic? If so, I can't wait until it's released in 2021. Joe Mad: No, it’ll be on a tighter schedule. Mastersith40: Will Liquid! return to color the comics? Joe Mad: I would really love for this to happen. Both Aron Lusen and Christian Lichtner have gone on to become video game art director rock stars, so they are out of the comics biz these days. But I will use all my powers of persuasion (and guilt!)  to try to lure them back when the time comes… [embed]314164:60640:0[/embed] churchofvirus: Why no physical copy of the game at any backer level? This turns off a large amount of potential backers. Joe Mad: We would really love to do these! We decided against it for Kickstarter since we were strongly cautioned against it by some of our good friends who had large successful KS campaigns. It mainly comes down to (very unpredictable!) shipping costs, production costs, and managing order fulfillment (among other reasons).  Maybe we can make it happen later down the road. I’d love one sitting on my shelf too! Mike Payne: Of your own work, what sticks out in your mind as some of your favorite pieces? what's your least favorite?  Joe Mad: I definitely think my BC era stuff is among my best as far as comics go. I was really happy with the splash art I did recently for Battle Chasers: Nightwar. Sadly, I tend to hate most of my stuff shortly after I do it, so I don’t latch on to specific pieces very often. And of course, I absolutely hate all the older stuff I’ve done, like Excalibur, Deadpool, and a lot of my X-Men stuff (sorry guys!!! ). I was just going through growing pains still as an artist back then, and I only see the bad when I look back on it, never the good! Mike Payne: When you started to bring anime into your style were you ever unsure about it? Did editors ever make you doubt your style choices? Joe Mad: No, actually the editors were very supportive! It was some of the fans who really, really hated it and made me doubt, lol! Specifically on the Uncanny X-men stuff. I’d get comments on the dumb hairstyles, missing nostrils and giant eyes quite often. Back then, we still had fan mail in the form of letters, so I would have these huge piles of hate mail that I eventually stopped going through in order to preserve my sanity! [embed]314164:60642:0[/embed]  Jonathan Holmes: I'd love to see Battle Chasers crossover with other games, like Darksiders, Shovel Knight or maybe Skullgirls. Is it possible? Do you want me to get you in touch with those guys? The Skullgirls team just announced just announed a party based RPG, so it could be a perfect fit.  Joe Mad: Oh man, Shovel Knight rocks. You don’t know how bad we wanted to make a Metroidvania game (cannot wait for Chasm!). An intro would be awesome. I definitely wouldn’t rule out a Darksiders crossover. We are still good friends with those guys (which is why they let us use the Chaoseater in Battle Chasers!) And Indivisible looks fucking gorgeous. I’m backing it for sure.
Battle Chasers photo
Comics, game development, and Skittles
The Battle Chasers: Nightwar Kickstarter is in its final days, and to help celebrate its resounding success, comics legend Joe Mad, creator of Battle Chasers and Darksiders, has answered a boat load of questions from you, the...

Law junk photo
Law junk

Every video game delayed in the UK (Fauxclusive)

Damn you consumer protections!
Oct 06
// CJ Andriessen
Following the enactment of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which guarantees a refund for any digital video game purchase if they are found to be faulty, not as described or not a quality product; every video game publisher an...
Disney Infinity photo
Disney Infinity

Ask any and all of your Disney Infinity 3.0 questions here

Oct 01
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] [Update: Show's over folks...

When a bonus mode is better than the main game

Sep 26 // Kyle MacGregor
There's just something about Monkey Target. It seemed to have the power to transfix random passersby that might otherwise have little interest in games. Perhaps it was the peaceful music, which never seemed to get old no matter how many times you heard it. Maybe it was the bright colors that pulled people in -- a vast cerulean ocean stretching out as far as the eye can see, rainbow-coated targets, and rows upon rows of golden (and bizarrely Dole-branded) bananas hanging in the air. Maybe it was just the alluring concept of a bunch of monkeys in translucent balls rolling themselves down a slope toward the sea, popping the capsules open and gliding over the water toward faraway bull's-eyes. It's strange and fantastical -- the sort of thing you would have never dreamed up on your own in a million years, something you can learn in a minute but take a lifetime (or at least countless hours) to truly master. I'm not sure what it is about Monkey Target that I love so much. Everything, probably. Even today, I dusted off my old GameCube and fired the game up for a little "research." An hour later I was still trying to best my high score, just as enamored as I was 10 years ago. Are there any extra modes you enjoy more than the main games they're attached to? Funnily enough, the Chao Gardens from another Sega series, the Sonic Adventure games, also come to mind. Please share your favorites with us in the comments below.
Super Monkey Ball photo
Monkey Target forever
Super Monkey Ball was magical. It's a series for which I have so many fond memories. I have this vision in my head, a strong mental picture of half-a-dozen guys in a dimly-lit college dorm room playing Monkey Target 2. There ...

Experience Points .24: Deadly Premonition

Sep 26 // Ben Davis
The man who wasn't there The big question on everyone's minds while playing Deadly Premonition is always, "Who is Zach?!" York talks to himself a lot, and he's always addressing someone named Zach who is not actually present. There's never a physical manifestation of the person he's talking to, and Zach never responds out loud, although York does speak as if Zach is talking to him as well. They seem to be best friends, and York always asks him for advice. So who is he? Is Zach an imaginary friend? Does York have some kind of mental disorder such as a split personality? Did Zach die and York is still in denial? All of these possibilities crossed my mind while playing through Deadly Premonition, but about halfway through I decided on something else which I kind of liked. Maybe Zach is the player, meaning every time it seems like York is talking to himself, he's really trying to have a conversation with the player to try and piece together the mystery of what's going on around town. It would have been a clever way to make the player feel included in the story, even if their name wasn't actually Zach. Zach's true identity is revealed towards the end of the story, and it's about as cheesy and melodramatic as I would have expected from this game. I do sort of wish they had kept his identity a mystery, though. Coming up with possible theories about Zach was a lot more fun than learning the truth about him. Let's take this baby for a ride For a perfect example of the kind of thing that makes Deadly Premonition an awesomely bad game, let's take a look at the driving mechanics. The first time I got in a car, the controls seemed jarring and overwhelmingly complicated. The game assaults you with a huge list of controls. Every single button seems to do something different. Not only can York steer, accelerate, brake, and change the camera angles, but there are also buttons for honking, turning on the headlights, using the windshield wipers, signaling turns, and talking (either to a passenger or to himself). I'm surprised they didn't include buttons for the radio and air conditioner too, while they were at it. All of these controls may seem like a lot to remember, but really, none of these things are necessary aside from steering, accelerating, and braking. The headlights don't really help much when it's dark, and likewise, the wipers don't help much while it's raining. And who knows why anyone would ever need to use turn signals in a video game. So why were all of these complex controls included? Beats me. I guess they wanted the experience to feel more realistic, but it honestly just makes it feel way more absurd. And not only do the vehicles have superfluous controls, they also break down over time and run out of gas, meaning if York wants to keep driving the same car, he'll have to take it to the gas station for refills and repairs. All of this just to drive from one location to the next in a murder mystery game, as if it's trying to be a driving simulator on top of everything else. The driving mechanics are incredibly bizarre and mostly unnecessary, but I kind of love them for those exact reasons. There's so many things to do in the car with no real justification for their inclusion, and I think that's hilarious in a way. All the girls say I'm pretty fly One of my favorite things in Deadly Premonition is its random inclusion of beard growth and hygiene mechanics. It may not be obvious at first, but York's face will slowly start to accumulate stubble over time, and his clothes will become dirtier the longer he wears them. At first I was confused about why he was able to shave at every mirror he came across, not to mention the fact that he was dry shaving (sometimes mere seconds after he had just shaved, if I kept making him... ouch!). Soon I stopped shaving, because it didn't seem to do anything. And then the stubble started to come in. I was pleasantly surprised. Beard growth mechanics in Deadly Premonition? Unexpected, but why not? The game already has everything else going for it. Obviously, I kept the beard for the remainder of my playthrough, because beards are awesome. But what about the hygiene mechanics? This one took me a lot longer to figure out. Eventually, as I was playing, I began to notice flies hovering around York. It started with one fly, and I thought it was just a random background element of the specific scene that was happening. Maybe the police station had a fly problem? Who knows. Soon the flies began to multiply, to the point where York was holding a town meeting amid a veritable swarm of insects. Only none of the characters were reacting to them. I thought, "Okay, now this is getting ridiculous! What is the deal with these flies?!" I had to resort to looking it up online, because I was seriously confused. Apparently, York's clothing gets dirty over time, so he needs to get his suits dry cleaned every now and then to stay fresh and keep the flies away. Who would have guessed? After I found this out, I honestly considered staying in my dirty pink suit for the rest of the game anyway, just because of how hilarious all of the cutscenes were with a horde of flies swarming around York during serious moments. It made me laugh, but ultimately the little bugs were too distracting, so I had to get rid of them. Geez, York, take a shower or something! A damn fine cup of coffee There are many reasons to love Mr. Francis York Morgan (I mean look at that smile... how could you not love a face like that?), but my favorite thing about him is his unbridled, almost alarming excitement for food and coffee. Much like FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper's enthusiasm for coffee and pie in Twin Peaks, York can't hold back his love for certain foodstuffs. A few of the most memorable scenes in Deadly Premonition are about food, such as when Polly brings York a cup of coffee for his first day on the case. Before she brings it over to him, he warns, "I am very particular about my coffee. The very best you have, please," with a charming smile that surely melted the old lady's heart (or her eyes). He takes his time enjoying the cup, and even has a surprising revelation while staring into the dark brown liquid. Afterwards, he can go back for another cup (and another... and another), and each drink gives him a new fortune. I have to wonder how he gets these fortunes, though. Are they appearing to him in the coffee itself, like the letters "F K" did? The fortunes are pretty long, so that would be rather impressive. Maybe he just has such a strong connection to coffee that it speaks to him every time he drinks it. Maybe he is the coffee whisperer. Another great scene is when he tries a special sandwich for the first time. After ordering a turkey and gravy sandwich and a fresh cup of coffee (obviously) from the local diner, Mr. Stewart stops by to pick up his lunch and convinces York to change his order to a turkey, strawberry jam, and cereal sandwich. Or as York calls it, the "Sinner's Sandwich." York is skeptical at first, but tries it anyway. His reaction to eating the concoction is perfect. He takes one bite and literally jumps back out of his seat, staring at the sandwich in awe and proclaiming, "I can't believe it! This is... fantastic!" The camera then pans to Emily, who has a look of thorough disappointment at her friend's choices. I have yet to try this sandwich myself, but it sure sounds... interesting. I can't imagine turkey and strawberry jam going well together, and "cereal" is a pretty vague ingredient. I wonder what kind of cereal would be best to use? Beauty in death Deadly Premonition had some of the best death sequences I've ever seen in a video game. Obviously, this is a bit of a touchy topic, because I don't want to spoil too much for anyone who hasn't played the game yet. But even the very first victim, Anna Graham, who we see strung up to a tree in the opening cutscene, looks like some kind of beautiful, bloody angel of death. Creepy and unsettling, but at the same time aesthetically pleasing. We don't actually see her being killed, though. The rest of the victims' deaths are just as dramatic, except the player must watch as they happen. I think the second victim's scene was my personal favorite, because the tension was so incredibly palpable. It was such an intense moment, and the color palette and placement of the body helped make everything stand out. I'm usually not one for appreciating blood and gore, but Deadly Premonition's death sequences were just so well executed that it was hard not to appreciate them. More than just a pretty (ugly) face If there's one thing that Deadly Premonition does legitimately well, it's character development. Every single character is memorable in their own way. They all have unique personalities and backgrounds. Even minor characters seemed interesting, even though I might have only talked to them a couple of times. Take the hospital receptionist, Fiona, for example. York really only has to talk to her once or twice during the entire game, but in that small amount of time I learned that she likes reading best-selling books, she's studying for a medical exam, and she has a crush on the hunky doctor she works with. She could have easily just been another random NPC with no personality, but they fleshed her out and made her seem important. I was actually surprised when I got to the end of the game and realized I only talked to her twice, because it almost felt like it was setting her up to be more crucial to the plot. And I could say the same for just about every other character. There was Mr. Stewart, the creepy, quiet, gas mask-wearing man and Michael who talks for him; Polly, the kind old hotel owner who is hard of hearing; Thomas, the shy police assistant who is great at cooking and knows a lot about squirrels; Kaysen, the friendly traveling plant salesman who has a cool pet dalmatian; Isaach and Isaiah, the creepy-cute twins; Nick, the art-loving cook who is very quick to anger; Lysander, the "general" who wears a sergeant's uniform; and even "Roaming" Sigourney, the crazy old lady who is always lost and carrying a pot around. They're all wonderful characters with so much personality packed into each and every one of them. I think the characters are the biggest reason why Deadly Premonition became such a huge cult hit. If the characters had been dull and uninteresting, I'm not sure most people would have put up with the weird controls, poor graphics, and sometimes tedious gameplay to make it to the end. I know the reason I couldn't put the game down was because the characters were all so likable and I couldn't wait to see more of the story to find out how things turned out for everyone. Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3
Deadly Premonition photo
'F K'... in the coffee!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Halo 5 photo
Halo 5

Halo 5's grunts are so adorable when they're sleeping

Also, when they're trying to murder you
Sep 24
// Brett Makedonski
We've spent well more than a decade conditioned to abhor The Covenant. Every time we see them, everything immediately dissolves into an all-out firefight. There's no love loss at all. But, maybe those guys aren't so bad -- e...
Coximano Challenge photo
Coximano Challenge

The Coximano Challenge: Super Mario Maker

It's a metaphor for life!
Sep 22
// Mike Cosimano
I used Super Mario Maker to drive one of my good friends into the arms of alcoholism. When Myles Cox (the Destructoid Video Boy who had his day) and I workshopped the idea that would become the Coximano Challenge, we fig...

How the hell did I become a MOBA player?

Sep 20 // Nic Rowen
I remember trying Dota 2 a few years ago. I had just watched the International and it seemed like everyone else did too. Hype was at an all-time high, and it felt like the moment to finally try it out for myself. I did it right, I did my homework before I started playing: read a few beginners guides, watched a few videos to prepare myself; I was a professional. I had modest expectations, I knew the game's rep, that it was complicated, had an abrasive community, and could be rough on new players. I thought I was ready for it. As you might have guessed, I wasn't. I wasn't just bad at Dota, I was horrific at it. Looking at the action on my monitor was like staring into a void of despair. Every single one of my few matches was a ghastly car wreck that would tumble and twist and dismember over the course of 40 excruciating minutes, and I was forced to look it all straight in the eye. After all, I was the one behind the wheel. I was, despite my best intentions, despite my goody-goody studying and prep work, possibly the worst Dota player of all time. It turns out there is a huge gulf between knowing what you're supposed to do, and actually doing it. I was never where I was supposed to be, never doing what I was supposed to, constantly buying the wrong items, requesting the courier at the wrong time, and my teammates were sure to let me know it. I've been playing online multiplayer games for more than half my life, I'm used to a little shit talk now and then. But I've never encountered vitriol so purely distilled and highly concentrated as I did as a noob in Dota. The worst part was that it didn't even make sense. Sure, I sucked. I sucked hard. But so did they. I was being matched in with other new or low-performing players, and while I didn't have an expert eye, I could tell none of the chucklenuts I was teamed up with were exactly pro-players in their own right. They were heaping scorn on me, and each other of course, not out of a place of superiority, but a place of expectation. They knew Dota was supposed to be foul and mean, so they acted that way. It didn't matter if they had the chops to back it up, shit talking was done for the sake of shit talking. Not that I want to imply being great at a game gives you license to be an asshole (it doesn't), but there is something especially grating about being told to “git gud” by someone failing just as hard as you. Is there anything less appealing than a community that embraces an ethos of shittiness? So yeah, I might have been the one driving, but there were four other assholes in the backseat pulling my hair and messing with the radio. Is it any surprise we all wound up mangled in a ditch? So I begged off. MOBAs were not for me and never would be. I couldn't hang in that group and I had no interest in even trying. However enchanting the action on the International tournament stage was, however interesting the genre seemed to be in the abstract, however cool/funny/cute any particular character was, it wouldn't be worth putting up with all the crap surrounding it. Flash forward to a few weeks ago. I've got the nebulous idea of giving a MOBA another shot for this series, I'm thinking, obviously, Dota. But, when I tell a few friends about it, they remind me they've been trying to get me to play Heroes of the Storm with them for months now and if I'm gonna play a MOBA, it's going to be that one on pain of excommunication. Well, might as well hit two birds with one stone right? Heroes of the Storm will give me plenty of material to work with, right? Well, yes and no. Sadly, I don't have sadomasochistic stories about suffering to share. On the bright side, I am pretty excited to talk about my new favorite game. I have to explain to you how bad it's been. How quickly this new addiction spiraled out of control. I went from begrudgingly playing Heroes of the Storm as an academic exercise to subscribing to two different Heroes of the Storm-centric podcasts to listen to while I'm not playing. I went from thinking “oh, some of those characters might be kind of cool” to owning a bunch of mini-figs of the cast. Please understand, I haven't bought plastic crap for my desk in years. I got away from the pre-order statue, premium action figure game when I realized it was getting difficult to find room for a coffee mug in my work area and never looked back -- until now that is. What the hell is wrong with me? I can't say what exactly it is about Heroes that makes it so much fun. I mean, the basics are obvious, it's a well-constructed, highly polished game with excellent variety and constant influxes of new content in the form of characters, maps, skins, and balance adjustments. It's more welcoming to new players, with (from what I've experienced) a less abrasive community. Sure, you still run into the occasional jerk, but they're rare (it helps that there is no communication between opposing teams and muting someone is as easy as clicking their name). I'm not sure that explains it entirely, but for some reason this one hooked me, badly. When I love a game, I really love a game. I'll play them with a pretty scary amount of fixation. Since becoming a (somewhat) more professional games writer in the last year, I haven't had the time or focus to really deep dive on a game like I used to. But I can feel it happening with Heroes, all the old symptoms are there. I've already started pushing the game on others as a per-emptive defense mechanism, building a network of enablers. Like some cliche schoolyard drug dealer straight out of a PSA, I got my girlfriend and family to “just try it out” too and dragged them down to my level. Judge me now, but know that you judge yourself. To me, Heroes triggers the same impulses as Team Fortress 2 did when I was at the height of my passion for it. A wonderful combination of enjoying the silly characters and goofy aesthetic (Blizzard knows the premise of the game is ridiculous and the characters are appropriately flippant about it) while being absolutely captivated by the mechanics underneath. I've always loved class-based team games, and Heroes is very up front with character roles and the niches they occupy. If you squint hard, it almost like playing something like Team Fortress 2 from a bird's eye view, or maybe the commander's chair. I like the wheedling, the finagling, the uncountable little nuances of positioning and timing and situational awareness that make all the difference. How spotting just the right place to be in a team fight can secure a crucial kill that you know deep in your bones wouldn't have happened if you didn't scout it out right. How using the right skill at exactly the right time can be game winning. While using the same skill half a second earlier or later would be meaningless. How the mini-map becomes your very best friend in the world. How you slowly learn to fear the enemies you don't see on it more than the ones that are clearly charging towards you. The ones you don't see are the clever girls about to Velociraptor you from your blindside. Right now, all the MOBA players reading this are shaking their heads, “No shit, that's exactly what we've been saying for years!” and they're right. What I've discovered isn't some big secret about MOBAs that I'm sharing the hot scoop on. It's only revolutionary to me. But life is made of tiny, personal revelations. Practically everything you love was appreciated by others before you stumbled onto it. I don't want this to read as a hit piece on Dota 2 while I lavish praise on Heroes of the Storm. Despite my rough introduction to it, I still think Dota 2 is one of the most entertaining and interesting games on the market. I bet that if I tried it out now with the skills and basic familiarity with the genre that I've built up with Heroes I'd have a much better time with it. Really, it's the concessions and cuts from other MOBAs that are a big factor of why Heroes is so much more fun for a new player. There's no item shop to overwhelm you with options, no last hitting, or creep stacking. Ideas like jungling, capturing Roshan, and using minions to push lanes are more formalized into mercenary camps and map objectives in game. Everything has timers on it, things are explained. The inscrutable mysteries and highly specialized, uber-obscure knowledge of Dota is one of the things that makes that game so interesting to watch and to think about. But, and you're free to call me a wimp here, when it comes to actually playing something, maybe explaining what you're supposed to do isn't the worst idea in the world. I like mystery in games, I like mental work, but it has to be in the proper context. In something like Dark Souls I'm more than willing to explore the world, experiment with mechanics, and generally take a few lumps in the process. But that's a (mostly) single player experience built on those ideas. MOBAs are more like a sport, a competition between two teams where you have up to 9 other people depending on you to do your part to make it a good match. Thinking about it like that, it seems insane to me to hide half the rules of the game. To suddenly throw another ball onto the field and then scream at someone when he gets hit in the face with it. You could call Heroes of the Storm “baby's first MOBA” and you wouldn't be entirely wrong. But is it really that bad to want to get your feet under you before being asked to run a race (on a course with deathtraps and spike-pits, where all the other competitors are swinging around bicycle chains and throwing lawn darts at one another)? Who knows, maybe my infatuation with Heroes won't last. Maybe in a month or so I won't be feeling the rush as much as I did the first time, and I'll be looking for a more concentrated, more complex dose of MOBA action. I'll come sheepishly up to Dota, or even League of Legends, looking for a new kind of hit. Who can say? I'm a MOBA man now, and whatever the flavor, I don't see that changing anytime soon. Previously on Out of my Comfort Zone: #01: Thirsty, hungry, and crappy in ARK: Survival Evolved
HotS experiences photo
Out of my Comfort Zone #02
Okay, I'm going to let you take a peek behind the curtain on this one. I chose to tackle a MOBA for the second entry of Out of my Comfort Zone because I thought it would be funny. I thought it would be a story of failure, pai...

Dtoid Designs photo
Dtoid Designs

Dtoid Designs: Show us your Super Mario Maker skills

Let's see what you can do!
Sep 20
// CJ Andriessen
UPDATE: Entry for this contest is now closed. Thank you everybody who submitted a level. Earlier this month, after more than a year of waiting, Nintendo finally released Super Mario Maker on the Wii U. Our own Chris Carter li...
The New Normal photo
The New Normal

Major game studios ask that you just lower your standards from now on (Fauxclusive)

Throw any expectations out the window
Sep 19
// CJ Andriessen
Following reports from video game QA testers that the industry hasn’t learned from the errors of the past, publishers and developers around the world today asked gamers to just lower their standards from here on out. In...

The Silent Hill Retrospective: Silent Hill 3

Sep 19 // Stephen Turner
At its heart, Silent Hill 3 is about a girl coming of age. From the opening nightmare sequence, we’re treated to very familiar horror iconography: blood red hues, a fascination with blades, of something foreign inside the body, and a cute mascot in disturbingly lifeless poses, all set in an abandoned amusement park. Heather’s journey home takes her through teenage hangouts and public places, their dark sides brought to the fore, all the way to Silent Hill and deep within. Little Red Riding Hood by way of Dario Argento, if you will. Her survival depends on a reconciliation between childhood and adult life, with her former selves being these literal, separate slices of life. By the end, Heather is not Alessa, nor Cheryl, but its through their remembrance that she ultimately becomes her own person, able to make her own decisions in life. On the other side of the coin, there's Claudia Wolf, the story's misguided antagonist; a colourless imitation of a reasonable young adult, preferring the comfort of blind faith over autonomy. Adulthood, or at least what we find of it in Silent Hill 3, is represented by the messes of men. Douglas Cartland is a walking list of mistakes, whereas Vincent Smith takes a perverse pride in belittling the ignorant few. One seeks redemption, the other deals in exploitation. The cast might be minimal, but it works for the duality on display. Lines are drawn and lesson are learned. Douglas, himself, finds redemption through parental guidance, something he thought he'd lost, a lifetime ago. [embed]311452:60439:0[/embed] As a direct sequel to a fairly obtuse original, past events are recalled and plainly deconstructed. Riddle speak is deftly cut down by barbed tongues, infallible fathers are shown to be weak and vulnerable (breaking down our own hero worship in the process), and The Order is explained in definitive detail. It's this clarity that ends up being vital to Heather's character growth. Particularly telling is how her descriptive texts turn from dismissive to thoughtful, reflective and empathetic, along with the bloodstains that are eventually splashed across her pure white jacket. The Otherworld returns to its original form, now a higher-definition of improbable locations, foetal-like defects and rattling heads (for his final game, Masahiro Ito's designs were part-freakshow, part-macabre fairytale). It's a harsher world, full of abattoir tiles and maddening works of art, an intensity that almost goes overboard in places; bringing back the surface level scares that were missing in Silent Hill 2. It's visceral, but it needed to be that way. The Otherworld doesn't adapt, it grows with its protagonist. And it's most obvious in the way the skeletal walls and beasts of raw flesh develop rippling layers of skin as you progress. The Otherworld is a fearful representation of pregnancy and birth, all of which ends with an abortion of sorts. For a series that prides itself on subversion, Silent Hill 3 is rather transparent with its humanist values. Both pro-choice and nihilistic towards religion, the messages come through clearly at the most shocking of times and even breaks the philosophical fourth-wall when needed (note how Vincent usually addresses the audience through POV angles). At one point, the player is asked to forgive or condemn Claudia's actions, and the answer doesn't lie in the usual act of altruism. Silent Hill 3 will always be most famous for the line, “They look like monsters to you?” but that's always been a sly misdirection at best, or a love letter by a dev team on their way out. Personally speaking, it’s a symptom of why Silent Hill 3 never crawled out from Silent Hill 2's shadow; the constant post-modern distractions took focus away from the bigger picture. But you could also argue that it was down to a waning interest in survival horror, or an emphasis on unrefined combat, badly paced locations, or even the re-use of assets for a quick turnaround. And none of these would be wrong, either. That said, especially after replaying it for this retrospective, Silent Hill 3 is a game in need of re-appraisal. The tired, introspective tone from the developers is actually more relevant now than on release. Heather Mason also manages to be a strong female character, one that earns that title, rather than put on a pedestal from the get-go. And this was in 2003, remember. The Otherworld was as close as we were ever going to get an HD remake, complete with so many hidden details and huge advancement in character design. And it's rarely said enough, the haunted house section is completely underrated in the way it pulls the rug from underneath the player. Hey, maybe, ironically, it's a reconciliation with the past speaking. In any case, no matter where you place it – best, mid-tier, worst (personally, mid-tier) – Silent Hill 3 signaled the dying days of "Team Silent," but there was one more oddity that would send us tumbling down the rabbit hole and into a realm of existentialism that hasn’t been explored in video games since.
Silent Hill photo
'It's about your birth.'
Silent Hill 3 is a mean-spirited game, but then that was always the point. In order to value her future, Heather Mason is dragged, kicking and screaming, through the muck and mire of her past. Yes, she’s given the tools...

MGSV photo
And someday you feed on a tree frog
Before the tactical espionage begins, certain "important announcements" must be ignored...

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