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Amazon Fire TV

Review: Jackbox Party Pack 2

Oct 13 // Nic Rowen
Jackbox Party Pack 2 (PC [reviewed], PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV)Developer: Jackbox Games Inc.Publisher: Jackbox Games Inc.MSRP: $24.99Released: October 13, 2015 The Jackbox Party Pack 2 includes five games in the collection, two of which are returning Jackbox favorites. Fibbage 2 keeps the same great format of creating believable (or hilarious) lying answers to trivia questions to bamboozle your friends while adding in a few new tricks (the new one-time use “deFIBrilllator” gives you a 50/50 chance between the right answer and a single lie instead of seven) and more than doubling the number of questions of the original. While Fibbage still supports 2-8 players, it has borrowed the audience feature of Quiplash to allow audience members watching on a stream or through the web based game client to vote on their favorite answers, sliding even more points to the most entertaining or diabolical players. This feature is particularly great for streamers and folks with large social media circles, just send out the room code and anyone who is interested and join in and see how clever you and your friends are free of charge. Quiplash, which was separately released last summer as a stand-alone title, returns as Quiplash XL. It's identical to the original, but includes the DLC question pack and an extra 100 prompts to spice things up (nice to have after starting to run into rerun jokes after playing a lot of the original). Quiplash is by far the most free-form of the games, simply setting up jokes and asking the players to fill in a punchline. Your friends then judge “WHO IS MOST FUNNY” and vote on which answer tickled them the most. It's quick, easy, and endlessly entertaining.   The only flat note I can think of is that it doesn't seem as lovingly reworked as Fibbage 2. While Fibbage 2 features new art, new tricks, and the freshly adopted audience system, Quiplash XL is just “more Quiplash” with no added bells or whistles. Not a bad thing, but not thrilling either. While the new questions are definitely welcome, if you just bought Quiplash and the DLC question pack a few months ago, it may damage the value proposition of the pack. Fibbage 2 and Quiplash XL are the anchor games of the pack and likely the two titles most groups will spend the majority of their time with, especially as the night wears on and a combination of exhaustion and inebriation make the other games a little too much to handle. Fortunately, they're so good that they basically justify the cost of the pack on their own. But don't count out the rest of the collection. The other games in the pack are a little more daring in design and show that Jackbox Games isn't afraid to venture out of it's comfort zone, for better or worse. Next is Earwax, which unfortunately seems like the lame duck of the pack to me. Earwax prompts players with a question or leading statement and asks them to answer not with words, but with two random sound effects from a selection that is different for each player every round. “What is this party missing?” Maybe it's an “awooga horn” and a “metallic crash.” Or maybe it's a “(female voice) Oh yeah” and a “very long, wet fart.” Are these jokes working? No? Yeah, I thought so too. And that's the sad part about Earwax. While some rounds shook buckets of laughs out of my group, most were met with nervous tittering and awkward silences. You don't know what the choices will exactly sound like, so often the inflections on a line will be different from what you intended, or what seems like a cute joke will just fall flat. The pace of the game is off too, with everything between introducing new prompts to playing sound effects taking just slightly too long, bogging down the experience (especially after a dud round). The concept is interesting, but the execution just didn't pan out. Thankfully, the other new additions to the Jackbox family fit in much more smoothly.   Bidiots, the spiritual successor to Drawful, is a drawing game with a bidding and bluffing element that is surprisingly engaging. At the start of each game, each player is given two prompts to (poorly) draw with their finger tip, a budget of $3000 to bid with, and a few tidbits of secret information other players may or may not have, like how much a certain piece is worth. Where things get interesting is that multiple players will likely have prompts that are vaguely similar to each other. Three separate players may have “day at the beach,” “getting a tan,” and “sunburn.” Your goal is to finish the game with the most cash possible, cash you earn by driving up the price of pieces you made, and successfully winning bids for high value pieces -- a trick easier said than done with the number of thematically similar pieces going around. “Sunburn” might be worth a cool $3800, but what if you confuse it with the near worthless “getting a tan?” To help guide you, rich art patrons will occasionally text you throughout the game with tips like “Player 2 knows the exact value of the next piece” and if you get really stuck, you can always take on a predatory loan, easy cash now that you'll pay back with interest at the end of the game. Bidiots is a ridiculously great time. While it may take a little more explaining than the other games in the previous collections, the result is a mix of the same goofy fun of Drawful with a sly layer of strategy underneath. Really great if your friends are used to playing competitive boardgames or otherwise enjoy a little bit of mental warfare with their games. Definitely the standout of the new games. Last is the off-kilter Bomb Corp, a game that plays like a faster, less complex version of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Bomb Corp ditches the faux game-show trappings of the other games with the odd premise of being a new worker in the poorly run office of a bomb factory; your job is to disarm all of the accidentally activated bombs by referring to the instruction manual. Of course this is a party game, so the instruction book will be divided between up to four players with each player getting one or two (often intentionally contradicting) rules. Each bomb presents increasingly complex logic puzzles to solve as the rules get more byzantine. Rule #1 might say to disarm by cutting all the wires from right to left, Rule #2 says that no green wires can be cut even if another rule says to do it, Rule #3 stipulates that only Player 2 can cut odd numbered wires, while Rule #4 is a correction to Rule #2 that says green should have been written as “blue” all of which you try to frantically communicate as the timer clicks down. *Boom* Bomb Corp is a surprising addition to the pack with a distinctly different feel from the rest of the games. I see if as a great option to get folks who may be a little nervous about the more creative games into the swing of things with a more structured experience. That said, the later levels of the game have to potential to stall out a group if you keep getting blown up on the same section. It should also be noted that Bomb Corp can be played by a single player, which gives the pack a smidgen more value for those times when you don't have a group around, but doesn't seem a huge addition either way. Brass tacks, the Jackbox Party Pack 2 made me and my friends laugh our asses off, and that's what it's all about. I can't think of an easier or quicker way to reduce a room to a giggling mass of hysteria, just toss it at a group of people and go. Party Pack 2 is a ridiculous value that is sure to provide you and your friends with a lot of laughs and great memories, exactly what every party game should aspire to. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Jackbox Party Pack 2 photo
A jacked up good time
Last year, The Jackbox Party Pack showed everyone how to do party games right. It served up quick, punchy laughs, and did it all with zero hassle. This was thanks in no small part to the game's innovative interface that allow...

GameFly Streaming photo
GameFly Streaming

GameFly will be the next to fail at Netflix-style game streaming

Give it 10 years
Jun 03
// Steven Hansen
Anyone playing games on PlayStation Now? Anyone still have an OnLive controller? The controllers were pretty good, actually. We accidentally threw a few out a couple years back while cleaning out the Destructoid Show set, thi...

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

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

Amazon Fire TV photo
Amazon Fire TV

The Amazon Fire TV is getting a few much-needed upgrades

This thing plays games, you know
Apr 14
// Chris Carter
As a device, I really like the the Amazon Fire TV. In many ways I use it more than my Roku 3, mostly due to the ability to play more interesting games from time to time with the native controller. It's also getting a hea...

Sling TV photo
Sling TV

Sling TV has room for improvement, but the price and service are on point

Impressions from a few months of use
Mar 30
// Chris Carter
Sling TV has been out for a few months, and I've had the opportunity to test it out for myself on iOS, the Xbox One, and my Roku 3. As a method to cut the cord on cable, the price is the most enticing entry-point -- a mere $2...
Sling TV photo
Sling TV

Sling TV gets AMC added to its base package

A big win
Mar 04
// Chris Carter
Sling TV is a pretty neat cable-cutting service that's already live on the Amazon Fire TV, Roku 3, and in the coming weeks, the Xbox One. Today, it debuts AMC in its base package, which is still priced at $20 per month. This ...
Amazon Fire TV photo
Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV gets Sling TV today, also Telltale's Game of Thrones

And Luftrausers
Feb 12
// Chris Carter
This is an "Amazon Download" update of sorts, as the publisher has just sent word that Sling TV has launched for the Fire TV and Fire Stick. New apps have also been added, including Telltale's Game of Thrones series, which is...

Sling TV, which brings live TV to Xbox One, is looking great so far

Jan 28 // Chris Carter
Although it's not quite ready for launch just yet, I had a chance to test out Sling TV on both the iOS and Roku 3 platforms, as the Amazon and Xbox apps aren't currently available. The idea is to help facilitate cord-cutting from the antiquated cable model, where you're paying upwards of $100 or more for hundreds of channels you don't need. When coupled with a few extra services like Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon Prime, the concept gets even sweeter. So what does it offer for your 20 bucks? ESPN, ESPN 2, TBS, TNT, HGTV, Food Network, the Travel Channel, CNN, the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, and ABC Family are included in the base package, with a two extra add-on tiers (Kids and News) available on the side for $5 each. ESPN is likely going to be the crux of this campaign, particularly given that subscribers will gain access to the Watch ESPN app. With more sports options, this service will have a gigantic impact on the market. The prospect of ESPN alone is enticing for a lot of millennials and stalwart non-cable owners, but I can see many folks enjoying at least one or two of the other channels consistently. For instance, Regular Show or Adventure Time fans will be able to catch those shows on Cartoon Network -- which is a good thing given how terrible and limited the network's official app is. But without a heavy-hitting drama network like FX, HBO (set to launch its own service this year), or Showtime, it's going to be a hard sell for some -- TBS is no FX. There's another potential holdup for prospective buyers, which is the entire "live TV" aspect. The reason so many people have cut the cord is the immediacy of the Internet. Binge-watching entire seasons of Breaking Bad or House of Cards in one or two days is now the norm. A lot of you out there are not going to watch certain shows at certain times when on-demand is available elsewhere. Sling TV also comes with an option to watch on-demand films though, including some new releases. It's not as amazing as a standard cable setup or even Amazon's Instant Video section, but it has a good deal of new releases on-hand, with more to come after the full service rolls out. Once you rent something you have 30 days to watch it, and 24 hours to finish it once started. In other words, it's a standard on-demand service, which is a nice thing to have packed in the box. Dish has also announced that it has a partnership with the Maker network to provide a host of online videos, but that content isn't live yet. Performance-wise, Sling TV is near-flawless, and I was legitimately surprised at how well it worked out of the box, even in its preview state. It's the same quality as any 1080p cable box would provide, and even on LTE it's still crystal clear on my iPhone 6 (you can even adjust the picture performance to help ease the data-cap pain). Mobile support is a big differentiator from some of its competition, which don't even function without WiFi. All in all I only had a few drops with roughly 20 hours of TV watching, and those were mainly the fault of the Roku 3 itself. After booting the app again I was back to where I was in seconds. Sadly, only select stations have full "live TV" options at this time, like fast-forwarding and such, and there's no real way to DVR anything. So if you're a TV junkie and record 5-10 shows per day, you may not be ready to shed your service just yet. Sling TV is in its early phases with exclusive preview access, but is fully expected to launch in roughly two weeks, and over the next month or so Dish will roll out the apps for the Amazon Fire TV and Xbox One. At this point I can heartily recommend giving it a try if you don't already subscribe to a cable service, as $20 for the first month isn't a huge pill to swallow on top of a free trial week. Microsoft even has a deal with the company that allows Xbox One owners to get an entire month free. Maybe you'll end up cutting the cord, maybe you won't. Check back later for a look at the full launch and Xbox One impressions. [These impressions are based on a trial subscription of the service provided by Dish.]
Sling TV thoughts photo
Based on early-access impressions
Earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, Dish announced a rather interesting prospect called Sling TV. As one of the first companies to embrace Internet TV, its new subscription-based service will stream live telev...

Flappy Bird photo
Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird Family is just as bad as you'd expect

It has a few more birds now
Aug 01
// Chris Carter
There are probably enough Flappy Bird articles out in the world, don't you think? But goddammit, I needed something gaming related to do with my Amazon Fire TV!
Flappy Bird Family photo
Flappy Bird Family

Flappy Bird returns as a multiplayer console game

...on Amazon Fire TV of all things
Aug 01
// Kyle MacGregor
Flappy Bird has returned as Flappy Bird Family for the Amazon Fire TV platform. The endless tapper has seen some improvements over the original iOS release, including local multiplayer and more obstacles. It is available...

Grand Theft Auto Trilogy now on Amazon Fire TV and Kindle Fire

Buy GTA: San Andreas and receive 2000 Amazon Coins
May 15
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
The Grand Theft Auto Trilogy is now available on Amazon Fire TV and Kindle Fire. GTA III and GTA: Vice City are $4.99 each, and GTA: San Andreas is $6.99. There's a special going on however where you can just buy GTA: San And...
Amazon photo

Clint Hocking, Kim Swift join Amazon Game Studios

What are you up to, Bezos?
Apr 02
// Jordan Devore
Amazon's acquisition of Killer Instinct developer Double Helix Games was unexpected and the company has only just begun making moves if a recent pair of hires is any indication. Kotaku is reporting that Portal designer Kim Sw...
Amazon Fire TV photo
Amazon Fire TV

These are the games Amazon is developing

For Kindle Fire and Fire TV
Apr 02
// Jordan Devore
The Amazon Fire TV went on sale today and for a lot of us, it's a case of too little, too late. We already own one if not multiple devices that can stream all of the weird things we enjoy watching in the privacy of our homes...

Amazon announces its $99 set-top box Fire TV

Apr 02 // Jordan Devore
Amazon Fire TV photo
On sale now with the Game Controller sold separately
Amazon has finally announced its long-rumored media device and it's available for purchase as of today. The $99 Amazon Fire TV supports expected streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Prime Instant Video, and Pandora, bu...

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