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4:00 PM on 12.21.2014

Kyle MacGregor's sexy picks for Game of the Year 2014

And, suddenly, another year passed us by. It seems like 2014 had only just arrived, and already it's being hauled away, kicking and screaming, never to be seen or heard from ever again. It's important that we take this time t...

Kyle MacGregor


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Dear devs, stop it with tutorials all the way through the game photo
Dear devs, stop it with tutorials all the way through the game
by Nic Rowen

“THA'S HOW YOU RIDE A CARRRRRAGOR!"

Yeah, thanks asshole. I've already done this like two dozen times. You might have noticed I rode up to your mission marker ON a Caragor.

“WHEN UN' ORC IS DOWN, THA'S WHEN YOUR CARRRAGOR CAN POUNCE ON EM!”

DIE IN A FIRE.

I loved Shadow of Mordor. You know, unlike some people. I could ignore the generic revenge-driven plot, put up with Gollum's shenanigans, and embrace the hell out of the unique cast of orcs the game generated for me. Hell, I even loved the Arkham-style combat and the kill-crazy orc murder sprees it enabled. I'm not sick of that brand of carnage yet, not by a longshot.

But the game committed one unforgivable sin – It was still tutorializing basic mechanics well into the back half of the game. Every time it happened it was enough to make me want to pitch the game into Mount Doom's lava basement.

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For the love of God, please, no: Horrible game marketing strategies, part one photo
For the love of God, please, no: Horrible game marketing strategies, part one
by Brittany Vincent

When I was a young warthog, I didn't know diddly about the games I was buying. I simply made a beeline for the nearest video game section, be it PC or otherwise, and browsed until there was a title that immediately leapt out at me. I kept up with magazines and the like, but I remained mostly oblivious to the development cycles surrounding the titles I wished to procure, the personalities behind them, and in many cases, the content within them.

Sure, I'd check out Seaman in the back of an Electronics Boutique or lust after Monster Rancher Card Battle GB for Game Boy, opting to trade in half of my cartridges for a meager discount off the new title. But there was none of the "announcement trailer, character trailer, preorder trailer, launch trailer, trailer trailer, trailer trailer trailer" nonsense back then. There wasn't much of an opportunity for me to learn unless I truly went digging. And honestly, I liked it that way.

Don't mistake my nostalgia for bitterness. It's fantastic that we have so many opportunities to survey upcoming titles and appraise their quality before spending the $60 (and sometimes more) and ultimately being disappointed. It's only when these opportunities are used to trick consumers that I get heated. There are several ways that companies are marketing video games to this end, and while I can admit to falling victim to one or more of these marketing fads in the past, it's about time that we see them all put out to pasture. I'll be talking about a different stomach-turning technique each week. 

First up -- Emotionally manipulative trailers with accompanying musical covers and/or deceptive footage!

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Why I love The Last of Us multiplayer, in a nutshell photo
Why I love The Last of Us multiplayer, in a nutshell
by Kyle MacGregor

We're outnumbered, down to our last pair of lives. The clock is ticking, it's as much of a threat to my team's survival as the four armed men bearing down on our position. I don't like our chances, not one bit, but moments like this, they're the reason I play the game.

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I never thought Super Mario Bros. would make me so angry photo
I never thought Super Mario Bros. would make me so angry
by Kyle MacGregor

In a cramped beachside arcade, sandwiched between Galaga and Mortal Kombat 3, sits my white whale. It's surrounded by restaurants, a roller coaster, churro vendors, and a carousel, this sad little Super Mario Bros. arcade cabinet.

It isn't much to look at, with its chipped, gaudy yellow paint and weathered artwork. The monitor is tiny and its picture quality about as clear as mud. The buttons are sticky, and the stick is buttony. You could look right through it, and never even know it's there.

Maybe that's what I like about it, this unassuming relic with a dark side.

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Flyin' to my heart: Seven videogame songs that actually excite me photo
Flyin' to my heart: Seven videogame songs that actually excite me
by Brittany Vincent

It's tough for me to get excited these days. I ain't jaded, I just hate it. Actually, it's not like I hate everything. I simply feel anxious nearly every waking moment of my life. I need something to look forward to, no matter the context. If I know I'm going out for dinner with someone at the end of a long day, I'll count down the seconds. If there's an event in a month or so I'm particularly jazzed for, I'll plan it down to the very last detail. Because I'm always looking forward. I'm always waiting for the next email assignment, the next game, the next writing gig, and the next life-changing event. While I'm waiting, I need an appropriate soundtrack to set the mood.

Luckily for me I can turn to some of my favorite videogames to provide a bouncy soundtrack that gets me hyped enough for my next challenge...or at the very least, thinking about how to kickstart my life so that there is another challenge to look forward to. 

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I miss demo discs photo
I miss demo discs
by Nic Rowen

It's hard not to sound like an old man when you go off on something like this. Decrying modern advancement in favor of some kind of nostalgic never-was is always a terrific way to seem out of touch. Intellectually, I know that the past is usually not as good as you remember it was, and you never appreciate what you have in the present as much as you should. But with that said, I really miss demo discs.

Also, get off my lawn, whippersnapper.

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Not-review: Devil's Dare photo
Not-review: Devil's Dare
by Jonathan Holmes

[Note: Destructoid's robot mascot, former news manager Conrad Zimmerman, and I appear briefly in the opening cinematic for Devil's Dare. We'll be giving out Steam codes for the game tomorrow on Sup Holmes if you want one.]

Secret Base it probably most well known for its incredible mock-ups for theoretical Ghostbusters and The Avengers games for the NES. It's clear that the developer has a passion for adapting live-action fantasy/sci-fi icons for classic games, even when they don't legally have the right to.

This passion is strewn all over Devil's Dare, its latest release on Steam. Horror is the theme here, and no expense was spared to pay tribute to all the modern horror icons, both familiar and obscure. Of course there's a boss based on Jason Voorhees, but you might be more surprised to see a tribute to both Baxter Stockman's and Jeff Goldblum's disgusting fly-man monsters. At least, I think that's what's going on here. It's hard to be 100% sure, which is part of the fun. 

Devil's Dare is like classic, Glenn Danzig era-Misfits in game form, except it seems to be intentionally ridiculous, where Glenn might not have been as self aware. The references to horror classics, the low-fi aesthetic, the tension, and the levity all come together to form something larger than the sum of its parts. Even better, it plays a lot like a traditional four-player arcade beat-'em-up but with Smash Bros.-style flash and simplicity. This isn't the kind of crossover that Nintendo is likely to publish, but it will likely appeal to many of its fans.

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Lone Survivor is one of my favorite games about psychosis photo
Lone Survivor is one of my favorite games about psychosis
by Jonathan Holmes

[An aside: We're giving out Lone Survivor Humble Bundle and Wii U eShop codes on Sup Holmes today at 4pm EST. Today's guest is Ron Gilbert (Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island). Chuck the Plant appears in both Lone Survivor and Maniac Mansion, so it sort of makes sense, at least to me.]

Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut has been out on PSN and computers for a while, though it just made it over to the Wii U a few days ago. This post was originally going to be an impressions piece on how the Wii U port came out, but before I knew it, I'd gushed about how the game depicts psychosis with incredible nuance and sensitivity. It's a good thing too, as there isn't much to say about the Wii U port other than 'it's got remote play and it's nice to be able to plug your headphones into the Gamepad.'

Jasper Byrne, the one-man development team behind Lone Survivor, must know more about psychosis than what you can learn from TV and movies. That's the only way I can imagine how he pulled this off so well. 

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This is why I love Vib-Ribbon photo
This is why I love Vib-Ribbon
by Jonathan Holmes

Vib-Ribbon is a game by NanaOn-Sha (Parappa the Rapper, UmJammer Lammy) that was originally released on the PS1. It came to the United States for the first time just recently, by way of PSN. The original game allowed you to take the disc out of the PS1 and replace it with any CD. You could then play levels based on the sounds found on that CD. That's part of why the game has such minimalist visuals. The game's code had to be small enough to be stored in the PS1 on its own. Hence the black and white vector-based graphics. 

It's amazing how NanaOn-Sha was able to create such charming and memorable characters with just a few lines. Vibri, the game's star, is a lovable scamp with tons of personality. With this article, I will do my best to follow in his footsteps by using as few lines as possible in my effort to convey to you the joy of Vib-Ribbon.

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Confessional: I make up my own stories for games photo
Confessional: I make up my own stories for games
by Nic Rowen

So here is a dumb thing I do: I make up my own stories in games.

No, I'm not just talking about RPGs like Fallout or Skyrim where the entire point is to go out and make your own mark on the world. I'm talking about just about every kind of game. Action titles that already have stories, multiplayer shooters where there shouldn't even be a narrative; hell in a darker moment in my life, I once tried to make a fictional justification for I.Q.: Intelligence Qube, a puzzle game where you rotate giant cubes floating in a void. HELP ME.

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Is classic Survival Horror considered old fashioned now? photo
Is classic Survival Horror considered old fashioned now?
by Dale North

I like to be scared. I'm not some kind of dark-obsessed weirdo, though. I just really enjoy the feeling of being tense or terrified, so much so that I used to think that there was something wrong with me. Maybe there is.

A few years back, after a nearly year-long kick of reading freaky books, watching horror movies, and replaying some of my favorite survival horror videogames, I decided to do some digging into why I like to be scared. It turns out that the typical reasons are fairly tame; some folks like the huge pile of satisfaction feels they get from being able to work through tense or scary moments. It's a break. An escape. Something new and different. 

Being armed with the knowledge behind these feelings out doesn't change that I'm still drawn to them. And I've found that survival horror games are still the best way to get that high. I regularly replay the classics. I chomp at the bit for new ones and devour them when they're finally released. I'm hooked.

But I'm starting to feel a bit old-fashioned in my love of these games.

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The game trailers with the most feels photo
The game trailers with the most feels
by Dale North

I'm easy. And I think you are, too. Those debut game trailers get me every time. It usually goes like this:

Stirring, slow beds of strings and woodwinds underlay a dramatic shot; an extreme closeup of some unknown character. Or, maybe a well-known one. Just the eyeball, or just the face. Pan out. Wide, lush landscapes that take the breath away. Maybe sunny and bright. Maybe foggy and mysterious. The music increases in tempo and loudness. Quick cuts! Sword slashes. All-white flashes. Strings crescendo as they build via agiato. The heart rate quickens. Fast. Faster! Then, boom. Quiet. Black screen. Some sounds, or maybe some dialogue. Slow, slow text. Subwoofers do something. Fade...

Logo. 

[breathlessness]

AAAAAH!

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Shadow of Mordor's Nemesis system signals the true beginning of this generation photo
Shadow of Mordor's Nemesis system signals the true beginning of this generation
by Nic Rowen

It's bad enough dying a humiliating death at the hands of some random orc, but "Azdush the Dung Collector?" Really? He couldn't have been "Azdush the Shield Breaker" or "Azdush the Invincible?"

I could have taken a bit of consolation dying to someone with a straight-up badass name like that. But The Dung Collector? I knew I'd never live it down, and his constant taunting certainly made sure of that.

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If I made my own racing game... photo
If I made my own racing game...
by Dale North

With both Driveclub and Forza Horizon 2 hitting the streets this month my mind is fully in racing game mode. We racing fans are spoiled this month with two very nice titles, and I'm racing my days away in them. As of late I am this close to getting a speeding ticket IRL.

I think about racing games a lot. While I'm Destructoid's resident JRPG guy, I've always loved racing games. I've been playing them regularly since Pole Position (yeah, I'm old), and I'm perfectly open to racers of all sorts, from casual kart games all the way up to full-on simulations. 

But lately, after spending time with Driveclub and Forza Horizon 2, I'm hung up on what my ideal racing game would be. Both of them hit positive marks for me, but there are plenty of things I'd change or do differently. And I have some ideas of my own that no one has managed to work into a racer yet. 

So here's what my racing game would look like.

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Why does the term 'gamer' feel important? photo
Why does the term 'gamer' feel important?
by Jonathan Holmes

Earlier this morning I told my Twitter followers I was thinking of starting a post about why the term gamer might be "dying" or an article about positive representations of schizophrenia in videogames (like, all two of them). A couple of people wanted me to do the schizophrenia one... but mostly just because they didn't want me to do the gamer one. I got the feeling that they didn't want another ugly, negative post about videogame culture to exist. 

That said to me that this "gamer" term has some inherent power to it. It makes people feel something, for better or worse. Compare it to terms like "golfer" or "golf journalism." Imagine if golf pros and commentators were to declare that the term "golfer" is dead. The collective golf community would likely raise an eyebrow, shrug, and get back to golfing. That's not what we're seeing in the "gamer" community right now.

Right now we're seeing groups of once-unified "gamers" look at each other with disappointment, anger, and frustration. The thought is "you're not what I wanted you to be." The gaming press is saying that to game consumers. Game consumers are saying that to game developers. Game developers saying it to the gaming press. It's a constant three-way of pure disdain.

This disdain is born from the budding awareness of how different the goals, perspectives, and priorities of those three groups are. The illusion that we're "all just gamers" has been shattered. That said, the term "gamer" will likely never die. It's just not working as an applicable catch all for everyone who is passionate about videogames. Not anymore. Not after all of the misuse it's seen. That doesn't mean we have to give up on it though. 

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