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Adventure Games

gamescom trailer photo
gamescom trailer

Soul Axiom is looking good and weird


Hey Soul Axiom...
Aug 10
// Steven Hansen
While I've known Soul Axiom to be a distinct game, the mix of games with Souls in the name and Axiom Verge this year has muddled my brain up. Soul Axiom is looking like it will muddle my brain up, too, from this surreal trai...
Stasis photo
Stasis

Stasis shows sci-fi horror from a different perspective


Isometric adventure game releasing soon
Aug 10
// Jordan Devore
More sci-fi horror games? Sign us up. This one, Stasis, was made possible thanks to crowdfunding. It's an isometric point-and-click adventure game with shades of Event Horizon (cue mental images of a sliced-up Sam Neill). Ahe...
Sons of Anarchy photo
Sons of Anarchy

What the hell happened to the episodic Sons of Anarchy game released back in January?


I did some digging
Aug 10
// Chris Carter
[Update: a representative from Silverback (who presumably saw this article) has responded. They note that "Silverback Games was hired as a consultant to assist with the creative and some of the technical foundation for t...
Ittle Dew photo
Ittle Dew

Ittle Dew 2 announced, unfortunately not spelled Ittle Dew Tew


That was too obvious, I guess
Aug 09
// Zack Furniss
If there has been a Zelda-shaped hole in your heart piece, Ludosity's Ittle Dew was a good way to fill the void. It was short, but the freedom to solve puzzles in different ways was a welcome change from the establi...
I like rusty spoons photo
I like rusty spoons

The first act of Salad Fingers point-and-click adventure game is out!


Where's May Gone
Aug 09
// Jed Whitaker
Remember Salad Fingers, the creepy online Flash cartoon by David Firth? Well an officially sanctioned point and click adventure game has been in the works for some time, having even been Steam greenlit. The first act is now ...
Telltale Borderlands PAX photo
Telltale Borderlands PAX

PAX Prime attendees able to 'crowd play' Tales from the Borderlands Episode 4


Potential hints about its release date
Aug 06
// Darren Nakamura
With just a little over three weeks to go, PAX Prime is almost upon us. The full schedule isn't available yet, but Telltale sent over a snippet including its plans at the sold out gathering. On Saturday, August 29, Telltale w...
Thimbleweed Park photo
Thimbleweed Park

Ron Gilbert's Thimbleweed Park coming to Xbox One, Windows 10


'Use balloon animal with corpse'
Aug 04
// Kyle MacGregor
Today at Microsoft's gamescom conference in Cologne, Germany, The Secret of Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert took the stage to announce that his upcoming adventure game Thimbleweed Park would be coming to Xbox One and W...
Kentucky Route Zero photo
Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero Act 4 is 'not canceled'


Christmas in August
Aug 03
// Mike Cosimano
Kentucky Route Zero developer Cardboard Computer has taken to its Twitter account to address the existence of the forthcoming Act IV. The developer is adamant that the game has not been abandoned, even though no concrete rele...

Review: Submerged

Aug 03 // Jed Whitaker
Submerged (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4, Xbox One)Developer: Uppercut Games Pty LtdPublisher: Uppercut Games Pty LtdRelease Date: August 4, 2015 (PC / PS4 NA), August 5, 2015 (PS4 EU), August 7, 2015 (Xbox One)MSRP: $19.99Rig: Intel Core i7-3930K @ 3.2 GHz, with 32GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 980, Windows 10 64-bit An immobile young boy with a gash on his abdomen and a young girl arrive on a boat to what looks to be a very tall church surrounded by water and the peaks of skyscrapers; the girl spots a parachute on the top of a skyscraper in the distance and decides to investigate. Upon hopping back in the boat and making her way to the structure without issue she slowly climbs to the top and finds an emergency ration that conveniently has just what she needs to help her brother.  Instead of scaling back down the skyscraper a cutscene plays showing the girl arriving back at the church and standing over her brother applying bandages. She then takes a nap before waking up and spouting off some random thing she needs to find to help her brother recover from his ailment, and sets off to scale another skyscraper. This cycle happens nine more times over the course of around four hours before a very predictable ending as unceremonious as the beginning. Maneuvering the boat between the top most portions of skyscrapers through the glistening ocean underneath you as dolphins, whales, stingrays and other wildlife make themselves known is awe-inspiring at first; then you realize everything kind of looks the same. The main buildings where rations are located have their own unique architecture from afar, but when scaling up them they all seem rather similar. [embed]297002:59765:0[/embed] Driving the boat isn't exactly thrilling and at times can feel rather clunky especially when trying to fit through tight spaces and bouncing off surroundings. A boost button gives one a bit of extra speed at the cost of making it even harder to control, but it isn't that useful as the game is open and exploration of basically the entire world is necessary. A map and periscope are provided to make exploration a bit easier; the map fills itself in while exploring, and the periscope can be used to locate rations, drawings and boost upgrades. Any items spotted with the periscope are marked on the map for easy locating. These tools combined make finding most everything rather easy, though they aren't exactly hard to locate to begin with. Climbing up buildings is the other main activity in Submerged, and it couldn't be more dull. Close-up views of cement walls of the girl shimmying along randomly placed ledges just to climb up and find another ledge to shimmy and climb; it is one of the utmost boring gameplay mechanics in any game ever, and it makes up a majority of time spent in Submerged. Occasionally there will be a drain pipe to climb while enduring an extremely annoying clunk sound each time the character's hands hit it, as if she were holding stones in her palms; luckily a minute climb up a ladder on the side of a crane at one point is more bearable. There are branching paths while ascending buildings where 60 collectable drawings can be found that tell the story of how the city came to it's watery demise. Each building that houses a ration will have a few of drawings, mostly on their own little side paths that are easy to spot. If a drawing is passed while ascending and the ration box is located you'll have to make the call whether or not it would be worth it to backtrack, as grabbing the ration will take you back to your brother automatically and  you'll have to re-scale the building otherwise. Since there are no fast travel points and the ration boxes can't be reused to go back to your brother it leads to tedious backtracking no matter which option is chosen, there just may be more or less of a trek.  The rest of the city story drawings can be spotted in small buildings tucked around the city. These small buildings are nearly identical to each other and just require climbing up one or two easy to spot ledges to get to drawings, and have clearly been used as an excuse to extend the length of a still short game.  Overall collecting all the drawings easily took more time than gathering all ten rations, and those who don't care about the story of the city will surely be able to complete the game in around two hours or less. I personally collected all the drawings and I still don't know exactly what happened to the city; the drawings equate to colorful cave paintings and leave a lot to interpretation. In hindsight, I'd recommend not fretting too much about collecting them at all. The main story is also told through similar drawings displayed with no real contextual in-game reason after collecting rations and going back to your brother. What little story here is so predictable and trope-ridden that it was hard to care about; a troubled family with an alcoholic adult and a protective older sister. I'm all for playing as a female character, but a girl in a post-apocalyptic world whose only trait is that she takes care of her younger male sibling just isn't interesting or original. The story has been done a million times over, and really the only thing original Submerged has going for it is the setting.  Within under ten minutes time you'll have experienced all the game has to offer; boring boating, equally dull scaling of buildings and peering out a periscope to find the next white and green building to climb. There is no failstate, no urgency, no combat, just moving from point to point and monotonously collecting shit. The story isn't interesting, the gameplay is boring, everything looks the same aside from a few landmarks, and the whole ordeal is over in no time. You're better off saving your money instead of sinking it on the titanic failure that is Submerged. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Submerged review photo
Drowning in monotony
Sometimes games take concepts from other popular titles and combine them into a beautiful mix -- this is not one of those games.  Was boating your favorite part of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker? Do you play Unchart...

Web games photo
Web games

There is no Game is a captivating, uh, not-game


So long, fourth wall!
Jul 29
// Jordan Devore
"Save the goat. Save the world." The less you know about There is no Game, the better. Click away! [Via Dennis Wedin]
Dropsy photo
Dropsy

Well, I'm no longer afraid of Dropsy the clown


I am scared of whatever that was at 0:35
Jul 29
// Jordan Devore
Dropsy is a well-intentioned, upbeat clown who happens to be utterly terrifying. He's misunderstood! Given my fear of grotesque clowns, I've kept my distance, but curiosity got the better of me here. I clicked the trailer. It...

Review: Life is Strange: Dark Room

Jul 28 // Brett Makedonski
Life is Strange: Dark Room (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One[reviewed])Developer: Dontnod EntertainmentPublisher: Square EnixRelease date: July 28, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) Interestingly enough, Dark Room largely betrays the pacing set forth by the previous three installments. Those chapters had a tendency to meander as Dontnod built the world and its characters. There wasn't anything inherently bad about that. Actually, now that the game's nearing its conclusion, it's paying dividends. We're invested in the story surrounding Arcadia Bay. Still, Dark Room is always tugging at your sleeves, trying to guide you somewhere. The stakes in this episode have been raised to a degree that doesn't lend itself to killing time. Urgency permeates the entirety of Dark Room. Rushing from one location to another advances the plot as things escalate steadily, and there's not always a chair handy to take a mental breather. As quickly as things move, a lot of the brilliance behind this episode comes in the form of finally tying together past events and seeing how they cause everything to shake out. There's some resolution, even if it's not full resolution. Dontnod has proven that it expertly laid the framework to affect future encounters. One particular instance comes in the form of another spat with a familiar antagonist. The branching paths can lead to several outcomes, none necessarily more optimal than the next. [embed]296752:59714:0[/embed] Another prime example is very un-Life is Strange, and maybe the only time Dark Room just sat still for a minute. Max has a board of clues that she must use to put together some damning evidence against someone. Putting on Max's sleuthing hat, the puzzle requires carefully finding related documents and grouping them in a sensible way. Odd as it may have seemed, this section nicely conveyed a sense of inter-connectivity and broke up the episode's breakneck speed. The rest of Dark Room's high points were the bleakest moments the game has seen, none of which should be discussed here. This episode doubled down on grim material and somber social issues. The absolute best thing Dark Room does is that it still somehow manages to present most of this (and the characters tied to it) from a complex perspective. It's not dealing in blacks and whites -- even though it's completely expected by now, given the nature of the subjects. The more time spent in Life is Strange, the more obvious it is that this isn't the game we may have originally thought. The supernatural won't overshadow the social issues. The rewind mechanic often doesn't feel like an option because you want to live with your decisions. Somehow, Dontnod resisted the urge to lean on these aspects, even though they'd be the easiest to lean on. The game's immeasurably better off for it. So, after another cliffhanger ending, we're left awaiting the conclusion and with no real idea where the narrative might go. Dark Room has been the most masterful installment in Life is Strange thus far, and it sets us hurtling toward the finish line. If the first 80 percent is any indication, it probably won't be a "happily ever after" ending. Only one thing's certain, though: that ever-present throat lump will be along for the ride.
Life is Strange review photo
Super Max
I played the fourth episode of Life is Strange with a lump in my throat. You know, the sort of uneasiness that puts a slight pressure behind your ears. The lump waned and grew with the chapter's crescendos and decrescend...

King's Quest developer talks silent film influences, possible Wii U port

Jul 28 // Chris Carter
Destructoid: Can you give us a bit of background on the history of The Odd Gentlemen and the acquisition of the King's Quest rights? This is a rather long story but I'd like to hear it from your perspective. Matt Korba: Many people have tried to bring back King's Quest over the years, in many different ways.  Our game and concept was built from the ground up, so besides public knowledge I don't know anything about the direction other teams wanted to take the series.  What I do know is that a little over two years ago, Activision was looking to fund and support a development team to reimagine King's Quest. They put out a call for ideas to various studios. I had been meeting with Activision since I was a student working on Winterbottom about possible collaborations, but it wasn't until King's Quest came along that we found a match.  King's Quest is my favorite series of all time so you can imagine how excited I was for a chance to bring the classic series back to life.  I met with Lindsey (our producer) and Evan (our art director) on the roof and we put together a pitch over a very long lunch for what we thought would be an interesting direction. It centered on King Graham as a very old man sharing stories from his past with his curious granddaughter Gwendolyn.  At the time we were only nine people, but Activision loved our creative pitch so much that they took a chance on us.  This rarely happens in the industry. It was a big risk for them because, they could have gone with a larger team, or a team that has shipped more titles on more platforms, but they decided to go with a small team that had the best creative (and the biggest KQ nerd). I am externally grateful to them for that. From there, Sierra was brought back, they fostered the growth of our company and here we are today.  What lead to the choice to include action sequences in this new rendition? I particularly liked how everything wasn't just a QTE. The original directive was to reimagine and update the classic series for a modern audience.  But, for us that wasn't a good enough reason to include small action sequences.   One of the most important parts of a good adventure game is pacing, and for us we are always trying to strike a balance between gameplay, story, and art.  If we were going to include anything it needed to serve that purpose. The action sequences help to break up the pacing and keep it interesting. When we put an action sequence in the game it usually has a puzzle element, branching choice, or a story point to it. We decided early on that if something can be played it should be, as opposed to watching a cutscene. This theory is not new to our game, the classic series mixed things up with action as well. The early games even had jumping and swimming controls. Remember climbing the beanstalk in KQ1 or the whale tongue in KQ4? The games felt pretty dangerous when you had to time a click just right before a wolf ate you or to throw a pie at an attacking yeti in KQ5, and of course using the arrow keys to avoid the paths of monsters added tension to the exploring.   Will we see the same cast of characters, notably the knights, pop up in other episodes? The game takes place over the lifetime of Graham.  That means that not only does much of the cast return, but they age as well. Players will get to control Graham from a young squire to a very old man.  Each chapter will also introduce new characters. How was it working with the voice cast? I noticed that all of them seemed to have a lot of fun based on the strong performances. It was an amazing experience. The fact that we got all those people still baffles me.  Our casting director Eric Weiss, did a phenomenal job of getting together a great cast. There were few occasions where we had placed a sample voice clip into our casting doc and Eric would just say "Why don't we just cast that person". To which we would say "Huh? We can do that"? We had done some small VO work in the past but this was definitely a huge learning process for the whole team. I think in general the cast got excited, because games like this don't come around everyday. This was a story filled with charm and humor, they wouldn't need to record 500 stabbing exertions or one line taunts. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for young Graham's mannerisms? I noticed that he seemed familiar when he'd get really excited about something. The inspiration for him was really only the classic series.  With other characters I can say, oh Groucho Marx inspired him, or Monty Python inspired them, but Graham was difficult.  We wanted to allow Graham to grow into a hero.  We didn't think it would be appropriate for a Graham to be a traditional "Bad Ass." We have seen enough characters like that already. We looked at the classic series and knew where we needed to take him, so we worked backwards.  I wrote this line early on to describe Graham and everything stemmed from there. "While other knights returned from their quests trailing bloody victories behind them, Graham returned with friendly dragons and yeti companions." Oh, and silent film, we pulled a ton of his physicality from the silent film greats; Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd.  Do you have any sort of timeline in mind for future episodes? We want to make sure the games are great and of high quality.  When we announce the schedule I think people will be impressed.  This is not a game you will have to wait a year in between chapters.   Was there any consideration in terms of developing for Wii U? If the game does well it can definitely end up there as well as some other platforms. But, we are still a relatively small team and 5 platforms at launch almost killed us! Just in case you haven't heard this yet, I feel like I need to make the case for the Land of the Green Isles (I saw the tapestry Easter egg on the wall in the castle). Is there a chance we may see them and some Alexander adventures in the future? Season 1 is focused on Graham's adventures, but if there is a demand for it anything is possible. That said some of your favorite charters just might be coming back in future chapters.   Likewise, if you can answer this question, where does the series stand on re-releases of the classic entries? This game is a big testing ground for many people.  If it can prove that there is still an audience for this type of game at this type of scale, then I think it opens many opportunities for us, Sierra, and other development studios as well.
King's Quest interview photo
'This game is a big testing ground'
As you could probably tell from my review, I was blown away by King's Quest: A Knight to Remember. I went in with very little in terms of expectations and at the end of it, I was looking at a Game of the Year contender. Spurr...

Review: King's Quest: A Knight To Remember

Jul 28 // Chris Carter
King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: The Odd GentlemenPublisher: Sierra EntertainmentReleased: July 28, 2015MSRP: $9.99 per episode / $40 for the "Complete Collection" To be clear, this isn't a true continuation of the series, but rather, a "re-imagining" with the same characters, and some of the same events. For the most part, this new rendition is going to tell side stories that happened between the games over the course of five episodes -- A Knight to Remember is the first. There's plenty of fanservice scattered about to keep old fans happy, but newcomers won't be lost in the slightest in their first foray into Daventry -- it's a great balancing act. When I first booted up the game, it was seemingly taking a low-key Ico-like approach, which I really dug. The protagonist didn't talk much initially, and you're thrown into an unknown situation that sets up the rest of the tale. It immediately reminded me of a Don Bluth project, with beautiful scenery and interesting character designs. There are a few areas I encountered that had some screen tearing issues, but nothing that affected my enjoyment significantly, or crashed the game in any way on Xbox One. Slowly but surely the game opened up and started to become more talkative, at which point I immediately fell in love with it. The way the game is framed is through the narration of King Graham, who is telling his granddaughter the tales of his youth. Christopher Lloyd plays an older Graham to perfection, with plenty of "grandpa puns" and lots of heart. You can tell he's really enjoying it and isn't phoning it in like some stars might (Destiny), and in fact, the entire cast is one of the most organic collective of characters I've ever seen in a game. There's tons of great references to classic films like The Princess Bride with a welcome appearance from Wallace Shawn, and even direct references to characters like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. While I don't want to spoil the surprises, they're done with the utmost respect to the source material, and never approach the level of an annoying forced meme. It helps that the game's animations are incredible, and it's hard to not laugh out loud when you see Graham frantically running with his arms flailing about like Disney's Ichabod Crane. In fact, I've never laughed so hard at a game in my life -- trust me when I say that's not an exaggeration. I particularly like how the game handles death with the Grandpa Graham narration mechanism, which even makes failure funny. There's also a few hilarious references to characters "remembering that" from Telltale games, and a clever use of the narration technique in other ways. For instance, there's one part where you're walking on a log, and after going over it again, Graham mentions that it would be repetitive if he had to explain that bit over and over to his granddaughter, so it transports you to the other side. It's convenient and charming in the same breath. One thing I need to mention is that the game is not as hardcore as past King's Quest titles, which is to be expected. The narration element sort of clues you in sometimes to the solution (which again, is done very well), and I really like how the game focuses in on objects you are currently trying to use a piece of equipment on, to eliminate any nasty instances of pixel-hunting. There's also plenty of choices to be had that change the story in smaller ways, like leaving tips in a collection plate in any empty store, or bigger conundrums that promise more of an impact in future episodes (stay tuned to future reviews to see how this plays out). While the first hour or so of the roughly five hour adventure is rather linear, the game opens up significantly after that, with a large sandbox that isn't as massive as a classic adventure game, but big enough to roam around in. There's also some third-person obstacle dodging, mild on-rails platforming, and several first-person aiming sequences. There's a few quick-time events but they are very few and far between, which is a nice touch, as modern adventure games use them as a crutch far too often. Of course, A Knight to Remember also has several puzzles as well as some memory work involved, which are well executed. So yes, it's much more involved than your average Telltale game. I wish King's Quest: A Knight to Remember was a bit more taxing, but I loved everything about it. If this series does well I hope we get to see the adventures of other family members like Alexander, and additional areas like the Land of the Green Isles. Right now though, I'm going through withdraws for the second episode already. Move over Telltale, there's a new adventure king in town. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Kings Quest review photo
A kingly modern classic
Not all revivals or remakes instill a sense of nostalgia within me. For instance, if we ever got that sequel to Kabuki Quantum Fighter we were promised in the original's credits, I wouldn't be all that excited. But King'...

Life is Strange photo
Life is Strange

Life is Strange Episode Four will debut on July 28


One more episode to go
Jul 23
// Chris Carter
Square Enix has revealed the release date for the fourth episode of Life is Strange, titled Dark Room-- July 28. The above video is a teaser of sorts, but it does contain spoilers, so be warned. The episode is allegedly taki...
Life is Strange photo
Life is Strange

Life is Strange Episode Four is probably imminent, but not definitely


Achievement lists are telling
Jul 21
// Brett Makedonski
It's been a little while since we last heard from Max and Chloe in Life is Strange. To be exact, it's been nine weeks since the third episode released, meaning the next installment should be right around the corner. There's a...
Game of Thrones screens photo
Game of Thrones screens

Game of Thrones: A Nest of Vipers screenshots, we have some


Hisssss
Jul 21
// Darren Nakamura
Another episode of Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, another batch of screens I took while playing through for review. This batch seems especially small, for two reasons. For one, I was less diligent about taking scree...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: A Nest of Vipers

Jul 21 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: A Nest of Vipers (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: July 21, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] Throughout the series, Asher and Mira have been the more interesting characters to follow, the former for his action and wit and the latter for her suspense and guile. Ethan and Rodrik at Ironrath have been fine as central characters, but haven't stood out. Gared's exploits at The Wall and beyond have easily been the least exciting thus far. A Nest of Vipers shakes up that split, if only a little. Asher still stands at the top with scenes dense with action and dialogue choices that feel important. He and his partner Beskha find themselves in a fighting pit in Meereen, seeking combatants to follow them back to Westeros. During this sequence, the stakes are high and it genuinely seems like failure is possible, forcing Asher to return home without any extra aid. One other point for Asher is Telltale's injection of humor into his lines. Though Game of Thrones takes an entirely different tack than Tales from the Borderlands, the little pockets of comedy help to break up the oppressively somber tone of the episode. One line in particular had me audibly chuckling, which I think is a first for this series. [embed]296123:59553:0[/embed] Mira's sections, on the other hand, lacked a lot of the punch they have had in past episodes. Where the coronation ceremony scene in Sons of Winter left me feeling smart for having successfully navigated and manipulated King's Landing politics, both of Mira's major scenes here just had me along for the ride. The first scene is one with Cersei and the second features Tyrion in his cell, locked up and awaiting trial for the incident at Joffrey's wedding. Perhaps because she was playing opposite two of the strongest personalities in Westeros, Mira didn't seem to do anything important or have much of an impact. This episode does set up for one final showdown with Cersei, in what sounds like it might be a life-or-death situation. Gared's journey toward the nebulous North Grove continues, and how it can possibly help House Forrester so many miles south is still a mystery. That said, it's finally getting to the point where Gared feels important again. The first four episodes were spent putting him in place, first getting him to The Wall, then getting him north of it. Now he actually gets to do something. Of all the intertwined stories, Gared's feels the most hopeful at this point. He's in a pretty sticky situation, but it's difficult to imagine a scenario where he doesn't make it out to at least play his part in the grand scheme during the finale. Everybody else in House Forrester might die and the clan might be wiped from the map, but he's going to get to the dang North Grove. Next time. The crux of the story still lies in Ironrath, with Rodrik dealing with the fallout from the last episode. It's a little disappointing; all of the clever politicking from Episode Four is essentially nullified by the traitor. Where it previously seemed like a peaceful resolution could be possible, it's now clear that this story can only end with bloodshed. That isn't to say Rodrik's sections were bad; there were still plenty of interesting decisions to make along the way. They may not all have a major effect on where things end up, but a few appeared to have serious immediate consequences and a few others appeared to affect how the final episode will shake out. This episode culminates with a particularly emotionally impactful finale, the kind Telltale has steeled us for with series like The Walking Dead. It's difficult to discuss without going too far into spoiler territory, but I can say that I was thinking about the last scene hours after I played through it the first time. It could go down as the most memorable section for the entire series. It's strange. Detailing all of A Nest of Vipers' parts makes it sound about average, if not even a little disappointing compared to the previous episode. But this one ends up working well as a cohesive unit, even if some pieces fall flat. This episode has its highs and its lows, but it still leaves an unforgettable impression. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
Now we're getting somewhere
Anyone following my exploits as House Forrester in Telltale's slice of A Song of Ice and Fire will know that the first four episodes have been a lot of setup for the main event. While only one episode felt like filler (The Lo...

Documentary photo
Documentary

Watch the full Double Fine Adventure documentary for free


Game development seems scary
Jul 20
// Jordan Devore
2 Player Productions has been following Psychonauts maker Double Fine for years now. Its documentary, Double Fine Adventure, tracked the crowdfunding and creation of Broken Age with exceptional depth. The twentieth and final...

Review: The Magic Circle

Jul 20 // Nic Rowen
The Magic Circle (PC)Developer: QuestionPublisher: QuestionMSRP: $19.99Released: July 9, 2015  The Magic Circle (the aforementioned meta-game inside of this real life title) is Ishmael “Starfather” Gilder's brainchild. The long awaited sequel to his beloved fantasy game 20 years in the making, mocked as vaporware by detractors and seen as the holy grail by his fans. A monochromatic fantasy world (that was a Doom-like sci-fi game for the first ten years of development) and probably the worst game ever made. Until you come along that is. Inserted into the game as a nameless play-tester, you see the drama play out in front of you. A world made of patchwork fixes and temporary assets while the developers, represented as giant floating eyes, loom overhead, changing things by whim. If the project wasn't already doomed by constant redesigns, oversized egos, and feature-creep, things take a surreal turn when something reaches out to you. Something that lives inside the game. Something that seems vaguely sinister, with its own agenda, an axe to grind against “the gods” as he calls the developers. What is it? A rampant A.I. that's somehow grown deep inside the mess of code? A machine spirit? You don't find out its exact nature until fairly deep into the game, and even then there is room for interpretation. What's important is what it shows you, how to get elbow deep into the guts of the code and rewrite it to your liking. How to use a simple but powerful editor to take the legs off one creature and stick them onto another. How to turn an enemy into a friend into an enemy of your other enemies. How to remake the world to your design. Then he sets you loose, a poltergeist in the programming, hacking in features, resurrecting cut content. Sometimes you play the part of a technological necromancer, finding content in the limbo of vaporware and dragging it back into the game. More often, you're Dr. Frankenstein, ripping bits and pieces off of creatures and stitching them back together to make your own beautiful little monster babies. The result has a pleasing effect, satellite dishes and broken bits of star ships poking out of the cliched castle walls of Ishmeal's would-be opus, an army of weaponized mushroom men following at your heel. Once the tutorials are over and the rather unorthodox premise established, the middle chunk of the game opens up into a sandbox that has you solving puzzles and indirectly slaying monsters by breaking all the rules. The flexibility of the editor, what you can do with a few swapped abilities here, a slight behavioral shift there, is astounding. Many of the puzzles (such as they are) can be solved in so many ways that I was almost always unsure if I did it the “right” way, or if I just bent and broke things until the pieces all fell where I hoped they would. I love that feeling, it's beautiful when games that are confident enough in themselves to not only let that happen, but applaud the player for doing so. There is a light tone to the whole affair. The various developers are chatty, with some great performances turned in from James Urbaniak (better known as Dr. Venture from the Venture Bros.), Ashley Burch, and others. There are audio diaries to discover, developer commentaries from a defunct version of the game to collect, and change logs detailing the carnage of the development process scattered around, all of which reveal not only what a comedy of errors The Magic Circle has become, but also the various neurosis and flaws of the team members. The comedic tone of the writing and performances feed right back into the gameplay. Silly decisions abound, like the developers (the real ones) always went with the fun idea rather than the easy or clear one. For example, there is no upper limit on how many creatures you can have following around you at once, so things can, and likely will, easily devolve into chaos as you walk around with a fire-spewing zoo trailing behind you. Similarly, there are no limits on how you can swap abilities so it's easy to make truly ridiculous creatures, like a flying demon puppy with a railgun mouth. But aside from the obvious circus-show of zaniness, there are tons of small jokes and clever winks. Little details like picking up copies of your own avatar to increase your health (represented by placeholder art that looks like a cylinder with arms). Being able to re-name every creature you hack so you can make your own fun. At one point I ended up changing the name of the game to “Duke Nukem Presents The Magic Circle” and I giggled at my handiwork off and on for the rest of the night. It's just fun to tinker around in. The objectives of the game are purposely vague -- you need to wrest control of the title away from its current creators, how you're supposed to accomplish that as a disembodied phantom inside the game isn't clearly laid out – but they don't have to be. Exploring the half-built world of The Magic Circle, this pitiful thing, marked with the visible scars of development notes, vestigial remains of deleted content still clinging to it, concept art hastily plastered over the seams, is the meat of the experience. One you wouldn't want to rush through even if you knew exactly what you were supposed to do. And one, that even with a healthy amount of goofing around and experimentation, is over too soon. The sandbox is tiny, and once the game enters its final chapters there is no coming back to it. While The Magic Circle has a compelling third act and some neat surprises to throw at the player (sometimes with the intent of harm), it's hard not to feel like the game is a little thin on the whole. While the central conceit is fun, you don't spend as much time playing with it as you'd hope. The runtime is already short, and a good chunk of it is taken up with monologues that occasionally veer into full on lectures as well as multiple epilogues. For a game that is about grand ideas betrayed by shaky execution, it's tempting to explain the lack of substantive content as more sneaky meta-commentary, but while the idea makes me smirk, I don't think it's good enough to give the game a free-pass. But The Magic Circle isn't just about the gameplay, it has a message. A whole lot to say about what it's like to make games in the modern video game industry. The stresses it places on people, the incorrect assumptions creators have about their work, and the untamed expectations of a judgmental audience. Despite being a commentary on the industry, The Magic Circle isn't gauche enough to single out a specific target. Ishmeal is a composite of several flawed, egotistical developers who are big on hype, hazy on details, and always ready to blame someone else for their shortcomings. There are shades of Molyneux in the mix, flickers of Cage, a sprinkling of Garriot, and a heady musk of Romero to round it out. Coda, an ardent fan of Ishmeal's former works who worms her way onto the team, represents the new era of the participant fan; The streamer, the wiki editor, the super-secret pre-beta fan tester, and all the good and ill that's come along with that shift. Her passion and reverence for the virtual worlds she's dedicated her life to is engaging and even a little familiar -- we're all enthusiasts around here. But, her obsessiveness and the sheer gall of her skewed priorities quickly become unsettling. Beneath all the fan-girl glee is a shrewd, nasty sense of undeserved entitlement and ownership, the sort of overly-invested fan that will send shamelessly ego-stroking love letters to a developer one day and thinly veiled death threats the next. Less well defined is Evelyn Maze, a former eSports celebrity who is unwillingly tied to Ishmeal's sinking boat through contractual chains (a clumsy way of explaining her combativeness while dodging the question of “why doesn't she just quit?”). She represents the “games are for playing” kind of gamer who has no patience for cut-scenes and a thirst for competition. A philosophy which directly collides with the “Starfather's” vision of a story-heavy RPG yarn with no combat. As Maze is the unofficial second-in-command of the studio's disorganized hierarchy (that seems to work like a hippie-commune as run by Joseph Stalin) her and Ishmeal's constant bickering results in a lot of flushed efforts and confusion on the part of the team, right in line with some of the horror stories we've heard about the industry the real world. And somewhere in there is you, simultaneously gawking at the car crash while pouring more gasoline on it. Are you just another player in this world? A different sort of creator? Are you sabotaging this whole thing, or just giving it the sharp kick it needs? The problem with talking about a game that aims to surprise is it's hard to get specific without ruining the experience. But I guarantee, in the near future a lot of ink is going to be spilled about The Magic Circle. The final third of the game goes to some weird places that demand to be dissected. The message is a little muddled, with so many accusing fingers thrust in so many directions that I'm sure different people will come to radically different conclusions of what it all means. But it's a message worth hearing, and a world worth exploring, if you care about video games and the people that make them. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Magic Circle Review photo
The medium is the message
The Magic Circle is a game set inside of a game, where you bend and break the rules to make it another game entirely. This is all in service of makings a meta-contextual statement about the game making industry and the tension between the creator and the audience. Still with me after that? Then you're probably The Magic Circle's target audience.

PS4 / UE4 Ethan Carter photo
PS4 / UE4 Ethan Carter

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter looks better on PS4 but runs worse


There are some frame rate issues
Jul 16
// Jed Whitaker
It hasn't been highly publicized, but the PlayStation 4 version of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was rebuilt from the ground up in Unreal Engine 4. The current PC version runs in UE 3. Due to the new engine, this mysteri...
Uncharted photo
Uncharted

Yep, Nathan Drake still destroys everything in the Uncharted remaster


That helicopter never stood a chance
Jul 16
// Brett Makedonski
Much like Kratos' continued penchant for yelling at every opportunity, it's nice to see that reckless destruction doesn't just stop following Nathan Drake now that he's moved to PlayStation 4. A visit by him is a guaranteed ...
Game of Thrones trailer photo
Game of Thrones trailer

Telltale's Game of Thrones Episode Five: A Nest of Vipers trailer ramps up


The calm before the storm (of swords)
Jul 16
// Darren Nakamura
From that trailer, A Nest of Vipers seems like a perfect title for this episode. The question is: which character is in the nest? Asher finds himself in a pit fight (presumably to the death), Gared is north of The Wall in Wi...
Game of Thrones photo
Game of Thrones

Episode 5 of Game of Thrones will drop later this month


Here, look at some pretty pictures
Jul 16
// Vikki Blake
The fifth installment of Telltale's Game of Thrones series, A Nest of Vipers, will be released later this month. Good news if you've been growing impatient, particularly as we're already halfway through July. Yay. The confirm...
1979 Revolution photo
1979 Revolution

1979 Revolution explores the Iranian revolution


And not from an American perspective!
Jul 13
// Steven Hansen
West Asia (the "Middle East") doesn't get great screen time in games. Mostly it's a setting for contemporary American war stories rather than for stories of the people who live there. 1979 Revolution changes that, setting yo...

Review: Traverser

Jul 09 // Conrad Zimmerman
Traverser (PC)Developers: Gatling Goat StudiosPublisher: Adult Swim GamesMSRP: $14.99Released: July 9, 2015 The setting for Traverser is its strongest asset. The underground remnants of humanity live in Brimstone, a floating city suspended in a cavern near the Earth's core. It's a city with two sides, literally and figuratively, with one side using some form of anti-gravity technology to allow people to live upside-down. A wealthy populace occupies the upper, properly oriented half, enjoying a life of relative ease under the care of the Raven Corporation. A working class labors beneath, forced to wear breathing masks due to the poor availability of air their work makes possible. This arrangement caused friction over time, as one might expect. Workers striking at an oxygen refinery plant to demand better conditions has grown into a full-scale rebellion, turning to violence to deliver their message. It's in this environment that the player assumes control of Valerie Bennett, the daughter of Raven Corporation's chief scientist. Her story begins on the day she becomes a Traverser, a new form of peacekeeper in the city. With the rebellion more active than ever, Valerie becomes drawn into the conflict to play a central role. [embed]295678:59439:0[/embed] There is a cartoonish element that lies at the core of many aspects of Traverser. Brimstone is a bleak place, a society which has seemingly fallen back to an earlier industrial age in retreating from the world above, but there's a softness to the visual design which undercuts the aesthetic tone. A few scripted sequences exist solely for their comic effect in lightening the mood. Character designs are fairly simple, with slightly exaggerated features and energetic voice acting performances that leave no question exactly what kind of person each is. These are generally good things. Not in terms of the plot, necessarily, which probably would have benefited from a little bit of subterfuge for its twists. No, the whimsical elements function as a distraction in a game that wants you to think about its world, but not too deeply. They make the bigger incongruities easier to swallow. For example, the role of the Traverser itself makes little sense in practice. As described, the job is a sort of secret police force and, upon successfully completing her exam, Valerie is instructed to remain in her street clothes so as to not draw attention to herself. That would be good advice, were it not rendered irrelevant by the large electronic gauntlet she's given, the Gravity Glove, which everyone in the city seems to know exists and is the trade tool of a Traverser. It is a neat tool, though. With it, Valerie can fire a beam to manipulate objects considerably larger than herself with ease. This is done with the mouse, pointing and clicking to lift objects and move them freely. Holding the right mouse button allows a held item to be rotated while the scroll wheel raises and lowers it. Objects can be lifted from a considerable distance but are dropped if the beam is broken. The range of items that can be picked up and moved is not insignificant, but most of the time the Gravity Glove is used to move or stack boxes to gain access to higher areas. Occasionally, there will be a room that takes better advantage of its capabilities and limitations to produce something slightly more challenging, but most of the puzzles will underwhelm experienced players of 3D adventure games. This aspect is quite unfortunate, because it seems like the pieces are in place to do some interesting stuff. About a third of the way through, the player is introduced to the concept of using multiple objects together to accomplish goals, culminating in the game's first boss encounter. Yet it never proves more creative than at this point, the remainder of the game featuring fairly standard adventure puzzle tropes (mirror reflections, levers, dragging items from one end of a room to another) separated by bits of light platforming and stealth. The challenges in Traverser are not poorly designed, merely underwhelming. To Gatling Goat Studios' credit, many can be approached in a couple of different ways and it's enjoyable whenever the player has an opportunity to feel as though they have subverted the intended solution. As there's only light violence and Valerie's capabilities are mostly defensive, the game's content could work for a younger audience. Parents may want to do a solo playthrough (which should take 3-4 hours) or watch a video of the conclusion before sitting down with the kids, though. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Traverser review photo
The air isn't all that's stale here
The Earth has lost its sun and become a frozen wasteland bereft of breathable air, but humanity struggles on in Traverser, the debut title from Gatling Goat Studios. A 3D platforming adventure, the game excels in presenting a...

Review: Subject 13

Jun 29 // Caitlin Cooke
Subject 13 (PC) Developer: Paul Cuisset , Microids Publisher: Gravity Europe SAS Release: May 28, 2015 Subject 13 begins dramatically with your character, Franklin Fargo (yes, that’s his actual name), attempting suicide via driving into a river. As he descends into the water, a mysterious event occurs which transports him into an abandoned research facility inhabited by a strange disembodied robotic voice. Franklin (otherwise known as Subject 13) is encouraged by this entity to use his intellect to solve puzzles and make it out of the compound -- and thus begins the challenge. The gameplay has a nice balance to it, starting off with fairly simple concepts as an introduction but not taking too long to get your mind ticking. Most of the challenges are spin-offs of popular games and brain teasers like Reversi, Minesweeper, sliding puzzles, etc. If you aren’t a fan of these kinds of puzzles -- especially sliders since they make up approximately half of the puzzles -- then this game may not be for you. There’s also a bit of traditional point-and-click detective work along with finding items as you search for ways to make it past obstacles. The game’s inventory allows you to inspect, rotate, and zoom in on any item -- which adds additional complexity to the puzzles, as many of them require you to modify, combine, or inspect items to find solutions. If you get stuck, a hint is available at any time, however I found them to be simple and would often give me information I had already figured out on my own. Contextualized pointers are extremely helpful and help you determine if an object is movable, or requires an item to move forward. When solving more complex puzzles, the game transitions to a clear first-person viewpoint which makes the puzzles easy to work with and simple to back out of with the scroll of a mouse wheel. Luckily, there were only a few moments when I felt puzzle logic or solutions were obtuse and I needed to search for help online. While Subject 13 isn’t extremely long, the pacing is just right in terms of the story. Small plot elements are sprinkled throughout in “testimonies”, recordings from researchers who had lived in the complex. The mysterious voice that guides you throughout the game also occasionally asks questions to which you can respond and in turn receive background info on Franklin. Strange occurrences become more and more frequent as you progress, revealing more of the interesting details of the story. Eerie background music is perfectly stationed throughout, amplifying the mysterious setting. The plot and story elements seemed to borrow heavily from other games (ie Portal and Mass Effect come to mind), however Subject 13 is interesting in its own right. The only real downside to the story was the quality of the dialogue and voice acting -- unfortunately the latter wasn’t very good, and some of the dialogue came off as cheesy. The writing could have also used some proofing, as there were times when the dialogue didn’t match up with the subtitles, or just didn’t quite flow well. However it was a valiant effort for an indie game with only two voice actors. Being a puzzle fanatic, I really enjoyed Subject 13, but I was disappointed with a few elements. For example, sometimes the action wheel where you could view or take an item wouldn’t connect, depending on which angle you were viewing the object from. More than a few times I found that I missed clues because of this. I also felt it was a bit of a let down to make the last puzzle of the game an extremely large, glorified Minesweeper. I was hoping that with the ingenuity of some of the previous puzzles that the game would go out with a bang. That being said, Subject 13 as a whole is thoughtfully challenging. I can see it working really well for casual and hardcore puzzle fans alike as it intermingles timeless puzzles with original concepts. Despite the storyline having some slightly cheesy and generic moments, it was intriguing enough to keep me interested and engaged. Although it doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessors in the genre, it’s definitely worth a play if you’re a fan of exploration puzzlers. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Subject 13 review photo
Logic always wins
Point-and-click puzzle adventures set in an abandoned world were always my favorite games to play growing up. There’s something exciting about uncovering the story of a desolate world via solving puzzles -- games like T...

Borderlands screenshots photo
Borderlands screenshots

Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride screenshots, we got 'em


Catch a screeeeeeeeeen!
Jun 23
// Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride is out today, and it continues the excellence the series has been known for thus far. As I normally do while playing through Telltale titles, I had my finger firmly planted on the F12 ...

Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride

Jun 23 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: June 23, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] When we last saw Fiona and Rhys, the duo had just constructed the Gortys Project while Vaughn and Sasha were being held hostage. Atlas Mugged ended with a significant Telltale choice for Rhys to make: trust Fiona in her ability to improvise the situation or trust the shadow of Handsome Jack residing in his own cybernetic head. Though the decision was given a lot of weight, the episode concluded before we got to see much of an effect. As it turns out, the opening sequence to Catch a Ride plays out quite differently depending on which option was selected earlier. It's enough of a difference that along with the review code, Telltale sent a message imploring me to play through the episode twice in order to see just how far-reaching the consequences are. The differences are there, and they persist until about the third act, but at that point the two branches sort of homogenize together. Without giving away too much, trusting Handsome Jack unlocks the help of three characters who aren't necessarily available to those who instead trusted Fiona. However, by the end, all three are out of the picture one way or another, despite that they could have been particularly useful. [embed]294552:59205:0[/embed] It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody who has played a Telltale game in the past few years that the overall narrative threads all begin and end in the same place, but Catch a Ride does feel like an improvement in that regard, if only slightly. Though the player cannot really affect how the story ends, certain scenes play out differently enough to warrant another look. One silly change I appreciated was that Rhys's Echo Eye ability is corrupted if he lets Jack into his systems. Instead of the dry humor found in the default descriptions, Jack inserts his own brand of over-the-top musings. I do wish this idea were taken further; there is a section in which Rhys has to hack a computer and having a digitized version of Handsome Jack ought to have helped in that situation. Fiona also goes through some questionable design territory with her abilities. Where her sleeve gun was previously limited, providing the possibility for interesting choices, its power is unlocked in the episode. It nullifies the opportunity cost that piqued my interest in Atlas Mugged; when I spent that incendiary bullet singing Finch's hair off in the second episode, I thought that would be the last time. Now it almost feels like Telltale is trying to set Fiona up to be a proper Vault Hunter in Borderlands 3. While on the one hand it will definitely be cool to see Telltale's original characters in Gearbox's next effort in the main series, it would detract from her uniqueness as a smooth-talking con artist were she to become another gunslinging badass. Speaking of characters, we do get a few new cameos from the main series here, although their inclusion feels a bit like fan service. After playing through twice, I'm still not quite sure why they were there, but it could very well be something that is planned to be explained in the future. As it stands, they show up, say some funny lines, do some outrageously violent things, and advance the story in a way, but their motivation isn't clear. That is a relatively minor complaint, especially considering the best thing Catch a Ride has going for it is one of the new characters. Gortys turns out to be a friendly robot and she easily has some of the best lines in the episode. With the personality of an earnest young child, she feels so out of place in the dark wastelands of Pandora that I couldn't help but be charmed. Everybody on the planet is gruff, insane, murderous, jaded, or at least sarcastic so having one character who is none of those is just perfect. Some of Gortys's lines tap lightly on the fourth wall; those are worth a lasting grin. There is one scene of hers in particular that had me laughing heartily, both times I played through. Even knowing it was coming, the setup and delivery were so on point that it killed. Ashley Johnson's voice work was perfect for the role. I don't know how this story ends, but I hope Gortys survives the ordeal in one way or another, because Borderlands needs to keep that character around. It may seem like a lot of my thoughts on Catch a Ride are negative, but they are minor quibbles in the grand scheme. Though I'm a little disappointed the two protagonists aren't using their unique skills as much as they did in the first episode, the story they team up to tell is still completely engrossing. The writing is as sharp as ever, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. The end of the episode has just the right amount of cliffhanger to it. Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride feels like a complete chapter in the story, but now I have a rough idea for what to expect in the next two episodes. With that narrative skeleton in mind, I am looking forward to watching the rest of the series play out now more than ever. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] Tales from the Borderlands: Atlas Mugged (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: March 17, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit
Telltale Borderlands photo
Worth the fare
[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, who consulted on the story for Tales from the Borderlands, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] Ever s...

Telltale Borderlands photo
Telltale Borderlands

Meet Gortys in this Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride trailer


She's adorable
Jun 23
// Darren Nakamura
The third episode for Tales from the Borderlands is out today on PC and PlayStation consoles (with the rest out this week) so Telltale sent along this shiny new trailer for it. In it, we see some cameos from Vault Hunters Br...

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