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Metroidvania

Iconoclasts photo
Iconoclasts

Iconoclasts finally gets a release announcement: Steam and Sony systems in 2016


Also drops the 'the' from its name
Jul 29
// Darren Nakamura
We have had our eyes on The Iconoclasts for a while now. It started development in 2010, and we have covered whispers of updates sporadically since then, including a rad mecha-worm boss fight using rail transport last year. G...

Review: Odallus: The Dark Call

Jul 16 // Jed Whitaker
Odallus: The Dark Call (PC)Developer: JoyMasherPublisher: JoyMasherMSRP: $14.99Released: July 15, 2015 Haggis's son has been taken by darkness, his village has been set ablaze, and his Gods have abandoned him, so he does what any father would do in this situation, brandish a sword and go on a killing spree. Along the way Haggis picks up axes, spears and torches to add to his arsenal of demon-dispatching weaponry; axes go in a straight line and torches ignite the ground much like throwing knives and holy water from Castlevania respectively. These sub weapons can be found and replenished via various chests along the way or at shops set up throughout the land in exchange for orbs enemies drop. Knowing when to use these sub weapons are key to success in Odallus, especially at the start of the journey as your sword is rather weak in comparison. Certain enemies and obstacles fall faster to sub weapons.  A weapon bag dictates how many of each weapon can be carried, luckily it can be upgraded by finding upgrades hidden throughout the landscape. Health, sword, and armor upgrades can also be found hidden in hard to reach places. Odallus is anything but hard as I was able to breeze through it in just over four hours. Health is carried over between levels, only being refreshed by finding health pickups in chests or by purchasing them at shops. Lives can be purchased at shops but there is little reason to as running out only causes you to restart the current level at the beginning instead of the latest checkpoint. The only real difficult part of the game is the final boss whose attack pattern was seemingly random and extremely cheap: the only way I was able to defeat him was to be equally cheap and abuse the final armor upgrades and their ability to make myself invulnerable for a brief moment while spamming attacks. Bosses in general are pretty easy, having predictable patterns and falling quickly to sub weapons or upgraded swords which is a shame because they all look so cool, mostly like hellish H. R. Giger creations. I found myself purposefully not being aggressive in boss fights just so I could see what attacks the bosses had in their arsenals. Like the bosses, many of the levels look awesome, even if some of them rely on Castlevania tropes such as a burning village or a dark forest. Graphically Odallus looks like an NES game, which isn't a bad thing, as the game honestly feels like a spiritual successor to the NES Castlevania games. While there are some commonplace level locations for this type of game, there are also some that mix up the formula a bit such as underwater levels and even a mine cart level. Riding in a mine cart, ducking stalactites, and jumping over other mine carts and gaps in the track are just as fun as they were in Donkey Kong Country, albeit a bit easier. The underwater levels play generally the same as the other levels, though jumping gets a bit of additional height. Jumping higher underwater when wearing armor may not make much sense, but it doesn't take away from the experience.  Each level has multiple paths to progression, though a lot of times they end up looping back to where they started in clever ways that prevent the need for backtracking. If you're like me and you always wonder which path you should go and worry about missing something, Odallus is pretty good about making sure you end up back in that area for one reason or another.   One thing I've never liked about metroidvania style games is the tedious, boring backtracking that is forced upon you if you're a completionist. Luckily here you're able to use a Ghosts 'n Goblins-esque map to jump between levels. The level selection screen also provides details on how many secrets are left to collect, if the boss is alive, and if you've unlocked the alternate routes. No levels are really secret as they are marked on the map when you unlock the levels that they can be accessed from. I had to repeat a couple of levels maybe two times to clean up on some secrets I'd missed, but for the most part your time isn't wasted to try to artificially extend the playtime.  Traversing levels at first feel mostly like a classic platformer; You have one jump, and getting hit knocks you back a bit, but unlike those games of old there are no bottomless instant-kill pits to be found. While cheap deaths plagued classic Castlevania games making them "NES hard," I was very pleased Odallus didn't follow in their footsteps. Another nice feature is the ability to grab ledges and pull yourself up; this leads to some interesting platforming and puzzles that I won't spoil here. Eventually you'll gain the ability to double jump, dash, and perform other actions to help you blaze through levels, though this is late into the game. Typically I'm team whip, but Odallus goes team sword and it feels great. Slicing enemies into pieces doesn't feel much different than using a whip, what is different though is the ability to parry an enemy's projectiles. Hitting a fireball or other projectile out of the air with a sword just feels awesome, Odallus definitely rewards aggressive play.  The entirety of the story plays out in an opening cutscene, hidden collectible runes, boss dialogue, and an ending cutscene. There are a few instances where the localization seemed a bit off on grammar, but it wasn't unintelligible. Just like the visuals, the music is very much NES-inspired. While the chiptune music is all right it certainly isn't as catchy as the music found in actual games available for the NES. Sound effects are seemingly more Genesis-influenced, as they sound more realistic and are often times brief voice clips much like Splatterhouse's effects. Odallus does nothing extraordinary in the audio department but what it does do works well enough. Only lasting four easy-to-complete hours and having a few minor localization issues are really the only hangups I had with Odallus, which aren't all that bad. Though JoyMasher has promised that a harder veteran mode will be made available in a few weeks, I just wish it were included at launch as this was a rare case of game being a bit too easy. Regardless of a few minor gripes, Odallus: The Dark Call is a worthy addition to any metroidvania fan's library and is worth the asking price. Do yourself a favor and play it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Odallus Review photo
The best Castlevania game in years
JoyMasher, the Brazilian team behind Odallus: The Dark Call doesn't have a ton of games under its belt, but that doesn't mean it can't produce quality content. Somehow the developer has done something Konami hasn't ...

A Mini Falafel Adventure photo
A Mini Falafel Adventure

Freeware metroidvania A Mini Falafel Adventure playable now


Get that Game Boy aesthetic
Jul 07
// Darren Nakamura
Look, we're all still a little peeved that Nintendo has neglected to make a 2D Metroid game in more than 10 years. However, while Nintendo has consistently jilted its Samus fans, we have been spoiled for choice in terms of o...

Five great (not) Metroid games you can play right now

Jun 19 // Jonathan Holmes
Guacamelee! Available on just about every console but the 3DS, Guacamelee! is more of a brawler than any Metroid title to date, but if you think of protagonists Juan and Tostada as luchador versions of Captain Falcon and Zero Suit Samus from Smash Bros., then it's a little easier to take as a Metroid-like. There are actually fan mods that can make that kind of thing a reality, but only on the PC version. The good news is: every version of Guacamelee! has tons of action, atmosphere, and weapons-as-tools-for-exploration gameplay, just like Metroid! There are even statues of Chozo and Metroid-looking characters in a few places, one of which grants the power to morph into a "chicken ball," which you use to crawl through some tight spaces and lay "egg bombs." Still skeptical? Our own Chris Carter recently said "I think Guacamelee! is literally the most Metroid out of all of those games," so there you go.   Environmental Station Alpha At first, I was only interested in Environmental Station Alpha because it reminded me of Metroid. More specifically, it reminded me on Minitroid, the now abandoned Metroid fan game that seemed to be the perfect antidote for all the ways Other M made me poisoned. Now I don't dislike Other M as much as some. The game turned Samus into an emotionally stunted nerd, but I can relate with nerds, so no problem for me there. Most of my problems with Other M come from the fact that it does so much to hold your hand, and left so little to the imagination. That got me down. Minitroid worked to do the opposite of both of those things, which made me happy.  So does Environmental Station Alpha, which feels a lot like a lost Metroid prototype from the old days. It's got cute but creepy alien environments, a bunch of neat power-ups, and more questions than answers about the protagonist and their world. If the game had been on the 3DS, maybe it would have found more of an audience.  Xeodrifter While it's never been confirmed, I'm pretty darn sure that Xeodrifter is a 2D demake of Moon, another title from developer Renegade Kid. A lot of people say that Moon is like a cross between Metroid and Metroid Prime Hunters. If that's the case, then it would make sense that Xeodrifter is a Moon demake, as it wears its love of Metroid and Super Metroid prominently on its sleeve. One of the ways that Xeodrifter harnesses the original Metroid feeling is by dropping brick walls in front of the player. The game allows you to fly from planet to planet in a cute little ship. but that sense of freedom is balanced out by danger at every turn. Most planets are so hostile and difficult to traverse at first that chances are you'll be running for your life back to the ship in no time. The first Metroid did something similar. Though it may be hard for many Metroid veterans to imagine, most people who pick up the game for the first time do not run left to get the morph ball first. They run to the right, like almost everyone does in a 2D action platformer, only to find themselves stumped in the end. Only by returning to the start and trying something different can you obtain the tools you need to move on. Thankfully, Xeodrifter is so densely packed that backtracking rarely takes very long, so you'll rarely feel like you're time has been wasted. Eventually, your tenacity and optimism will be rewarded to the point where there is no obstacle that you can't overcome. That brand of feature pacing is one of the basic principles behind Metroid-style games, but that's pretty much Xeodrifter in a nutshell. It nails the Metroid basics and never wears out its welcome.  La-Mulana La-Mulana is like the most evil, alienating, and suddenly fantastic areas of the original Metroid, but for 12 hours. It will require you to draw your own map. It will leave you completely stumped as to which way to go next. It will also blow your mind when you stumble into a new area that will make you think "what did I do to deserve this?" for better or worse. Through equal parts luck and hardcore action-archaeology skills, you'll most likely end up in heaven or hell, and it all feels like one big happy (or not so happy) accident.  That style of "anything goes" world design was something that few Metroid games were really willing to embrace after the first title. It seemed that later games were too afraid that players would feel alienated if they were given a truly disorienting, unpredictable world to explore. La-Mulana, and its upcoming sequel, are not encumbered by that fear. They aren't afraid to hurt you, because they respect you. They believe that you're strong enough to tolerate some pain, and that your unwillingness to accept defeat will keep you coming back for more. Axiom Verge In a lot of ways, Axiom Verge takes all the elements that these (not) Metroid games and maxes out on them. It looks so much like Metroid that even Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime couldn't help but shout about it. It offers multiple questions about the protagonist and the world he's invited to explore while giving few concrete answers until much closer to the end. It isn't afraid to provide the player with road blocks, but it also goes out of its way to reward the player for defying conventional thinking, to the point where actually "breaking the code" of the game becomes a legitimate gameplay mechanic. The problem for Nintendo fans is, Axiom Verge is currently not on the Wii U or the 3DS, and given how it took one-man development team Tom Happ about five years to make the game in the first place, chances aren't too high that we'll be getting in on Nintendo consoles any time soon. Unless, of course, Nintendo decides to step in and lend Tom a hand.  I have to wonder how fans would react if Nintendo announced it was aiding in the publishing of Axiom Verge, and allowed the developer to create some Nintendo-exclusive Metroid-tribute section with a Samus-like character in the lead. In the end, all most Metroid fans want is the opportunity to play a game like Axiom Verge but with Samus as the lead. If Nintendo were to recognize that by allowing Tom Happ, Renegade Kid, Joakim Sandberg, or any of the many other talented developers who have proven that they understand what we love about Metroid to take a crack at the series, I have to wonder if fans would still be salty about side games like Metroid Prime: Federation Force. 
Metroid photo
Pacify your Metroid urges (Metrurges?)
When it comes to Metroid, I'm an entitled baby, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. When I heard that the next official game in the series was going to be like the Metroid Blast mini-game from Nintendoland mixed with s...

Bloodstained Kickstarter photo
Bloodstained Kickstarter

Bloodstained Kickstarter ends with over $5.7 million pledged


Hit all stretch goals, set records
Jun 12
// Darren Nakamura
It doesn't feel like it has been a month since we were first asked "sword or whip?" or we first heard the term "Igavania," but here we are. Koji Igarashi and company launched the Kickstarter campaign for Bloodstained: Ritual ...
Bloodstained Vita photo
Bloodstained Vita

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night will get a PS Vita version


By the same team doing the Wii U port
Jun 06
// Darren Nakamura
Back when Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night hit its Wii U stretch goal a week ago, it also revealed that for an additional half million dollars it would come to the PlayStation Vita. I was pretty sure it would hit that b...
Bloodstained Wii U photo
Bloodstained Wii U

Bloodstained hits Wii U stretch goal, Vita stretch goal revealed


I'm interested in this
May 30
// Darren Nakamura
Though the Kickstarter page for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night still lists the current total at under $3 million, a recent backer update revealed that adding in non-Kickstarter PayPal funding brings it up to that mark. So ...
IGA plays photo
We had no sword or whip
Nearly 25,000 people have backed Castlevania: Symphony of the Night assistant director and subsequent series producer Koji "IGA" Igarashi's Kickstarter project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. This, despite the fact that ...

Axiom Verge photo
Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge is relatively the same on PC, with one helpful upgrade


On Steam this week
May 13
// Conrad Zimmerman
Axiom Verge releases tomorrow on Steam. If you've read my review of the game from its earlier PS4 launch, you already know that I think it's a solidly designed exploration-based platform title. I'm happy to report that it's j...
Bloodstained funded photo
Bloodstained funded

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night fully funded in less than four hours


$500,000 and counting
May 11
// Darren Nakamura
Full disclosure: I backed this at the $60 tier. I almost went for the $125 tier, but "No," I said to myself. "Let's be reasonable." The Kickstarter campaign for Koji Igarashi's Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has only been ...

Castlevania's IGA back with 'dream game' Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

May 11 // Steven Hansen
Bloodstained stars Miriam, an orphan stuck in the middle of "a classic tale of magic, or rather faith and belief, versus science," Igarashi told me through a translator. A group of alchemists, fearing its waning relevancy as science captures the 18th century setting, try to warn against the world losing faith. Start fucking loving science, they warn, and a bunch demons will take over. When that doesn't happen, egg on face, the alchemists start fusing demonic crystals into orphans to call the demons to earth, attempting to instigate a global annihilating "told ya so." The demon crystals have a, "natural inclination to expand, eat away at hosts' bodies," not unlike bad videogame companies, perhaps. "Stained glass" acts as an artistic motif reflected in the art style, but those pretty shades in characters' skin are also the basis of gameplay. Enemies drop materials, which are forged into gems, which can be formed into weapons. Rare materials can be forged into ability crystals that can be stuck in Miriam's body. They can also be combined in a number of ways, like adding a strength+ attribute crystal to a double jump for a double jump attack move. Igarashi explained the new system would be a little less repetitive than old Castlevania's, naming Aria of Sorrow specifically, where "you're just grinding on the same enemy to create the same thing." Why stained glass? "Stained glass is already cool-looking as it is, but stained glass weapons is badass." A recent walk through Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has me in agreement. Igarashi, "wanted to have a more colorful palette," and so on top of the stained glass, you have a blue-heavy protagonist, purple tinted key items (candles, keys), and an active blood orange sky in the background (thanks to parallax scrolling) inspired by an 18th century Icelandic volcano eruption that killed 23,000 Brits and bore a "bloody sun rising." All of this is framed by classic Gothic gray. If the mock up is any indication, it could look lovely. That's a "could," of course, because the game has not been made yet. Igarashi is someone you can likely depend on to make a Castlevania-style game. Inti Creates has been delivering for a long time. And Bloodstained isn't even held hostage by its Kickstarter, though it's meant to fund the last "20%" of development (and make for physical, pressed Xbox One and PS4 discs). Still, it's a way's out. Igarashi hasn't been gone from Konami much more than a year and shopping this proved difficult, hence last year's "hold." Igarashi "scoured the globe" and "pitched every major -- even minor -- publisher on this concept." "There was a ton of interest, but for various reasons, from, 'we do distribution for Konami and...don't want to anger them,' to 'Oh, this looks like a Japanese game.' But they didn't realize Igavania games sold better in America than any other territory." Incidentally, despite the widening popularity of the term "metroidvania," the team is eschewing the "castle" and "metroid," opting for the term "Igavania," explaining, "We want to make sure we don't anger Nintendo, and Igavania is a more accurate name." This project will likely irk someone at Konami regardless -- "Konami doesn't know about it," Igarashi said last month -- perhaps even more if it proves successful, like Mighty No. 9 or the recent not-Banjo-Kazooie platformer from ex-Rare folks, Yooka-Laylee. Given those examples (or Double Fine Adventure Game, or a number of others), it feels like a sure thing, but Igarashi does seem a bit more unsure after constant publisher rejection. "A lot of them were more interested in AAA stuff," he said. "There's a big disconnect between what the publishers are giving people and what the fans want." Inafune's success, specifically, "proved that the Western audience would put its money where its mouth is and support the creators that it loves." Igarashi doesn't expect he'll generate "anything close" to Mighty No. 9. He remains modest about the whole thing. "I spent the last year trying to make this work because I believe that's what the fans are telling me. And if the Kickstarter campaign shows that's not the case, then in the end the publishers were right and I was wrong." "From Iga-san's perspective," the translator, explains, "the most frustrating, saddening part is that he did his due diligence. He tried to work within the standard publisher model." It does seem surprising that Mr. Castlevania shops around a Castlevania and no one bites. Then again, why did Igarashi have to leave Konami in the first place to make this sort of game? "In the good old days, it used to be, as a producer you'd put your neck out on the line to make a game and if it's didn't work out, then you'd be done," Igarashi explained. Speaking specifically of Konami, at least as far as he left it a year ago (and somehow it was in a better state then), "Recently, there's more of a delicacy at [Konami] towards how they handle IP to the point where rather than maybe making new games, 'let's just not touch it'" becomes the mantra. "Or, 'we have to do it a bigger way." The 3D Castlevania, perhaps. Igarashi thinks it's "more risk averse" because someone used to, "pledge it would be okay, and it was their responsibility," but given that he would've have pledged on a new Castlevania, or Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's likely ending relationship with the company, I'm not sure that's all of it. But Konami is in the past now. Inti Creates is making Bloodstained under Igarashi's direction. "We had several developers that were interested," he explained. "We needed a team that was both capable, but more importantly passionate. "They said, 'Listen, ever since becoming an independent studio, we've wanted to do three games.' One was a Mega Man type game, which they're now doing. The second was an Igavania game. And the third is a Zelda-type game, which they will probably never get a chance to do," Igarashi chuckled. Nintendo seems more open these days, though. Igarashi did dredge up some past, scoring the composer of Symphony of the Night, Michiru Yamane. "I basically tricked her into joining the campaign by getting her really drunk and making her promise she would help," Igarashi said. "You think that's a joke, but it's the truth." I believe it. And I believe Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night's campaign shouldn't have a problem, "proving that this is a concept that the fans really want." I mean, all you have to do is ask "Sword or whip?" and they flip.
IGA's metroidvania photo
Publishers wouldn't touch it
Last year, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night assistant director and subsequent series producer Koji "IGA" Igarashi left Konami after nearly 25 years with the company. At GDC that year, Igarashi ended his interesting Symphony...

Review: Environmental Station Alpha

Apr 28 // Jed Whitaker
Environmental Station Alpha (PC)Developers: Arvi Teikari, Roope MäkinenPublisher: Hempuli Oy  Released: April 22, 2015 MSRP: $7.99 As a robot sent on a special mission, you'll spend your time exploring a space station filled with different environments, from a forest to a volcano and even a surprisingly well-done water level. Along the way, players will find clues via computers that hint at the previous happenings of the station, upgrades that help you access news areas, and general power upgrades. Most areas contain multiple bosses, and a plethora of secrets to find. Alpha doesn't stray far from the basic Metroidvania formula. Search until you find a boss, kill it, collect an upgrade that allows you to advance to the next area -- then repeat. That isn't by any means a bad thing. You're free to roam as you see fit, but computer terminals will mark areas on your map that give a general idea of where to go; you only need to figure out how to get there. The station is huge. Luckily, there are teleporters that can be activated to jump around areas when needed, cutting backtracking time. Even with a map and this convenient means of travel, I found myself getting lost more than once, especially later in the game when I was forced to retrace my steps to find where the next area was. The fact that you were given these general locations to guide you early on and are no longer provided them later in the campaign feels like an unfortunate design oversight. Finally finding where you need to go can be rewarding, or tedious depending on the amount of time needed. A lot can be done with pixel art, and Environmental Station Alpha is proof of that. Each biome has a unique look and feel and is far more detailed than the retro games that influenced it. Leaves fall around you in the forest biome, bubbles appear in the water, and sparks fly in the volcano biome. Each area has a nice unique effect that really complements the action well. Combine this with a soundtrack that will get stuck in your head, and you have an all-around decent presentation. Throughout the game you'll acquire various upgrades that range from a double jump, to a dash to a hookshot that feels rather similar, to the bionic arm from the original Bionic Commando. The hookshot is really a key item, as the moment you get it you're expected to use it often to traverse each of the station's biomes. Thankfully the hookshot mechanics are solid, allowing you to swing to and fro finding the next boss with ease. While you constantly gain upgrades throughout the game, boss battles never seem too easy or too hard, as their difficulty scales well. Each boss feels unique from the others, having different attack patterns and varying weak points. Since these big bads aren't pushovers, I was neck and neck with many of them, often times at the end of my health bar when I finally defeated them. These confrontations are some of the most satisfying boss battles I've had in a game in some time.  After finishing the initial story a ton of post-game content waits to be found on and off the station, but locating it won't be easy. A cryptic alien language must be decoded and then used to subsequently translate various clues. Following said clues will lead you to multiple endings and a post-game boss. While all this certainly extends its shelf-life, the amount of effort required to translate the hints, which themselves are rather vague, isn't for everyone. Those who persevere will be able to get their save files up to a 202 percent completion when all is said and done. Overall, Environmental Station Alpha didn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to Metroidvania games, but it certainly helped satisfy my appetite. The amount of secrets and post-game crypticness might be great for some, and it does extend the playtime quite a bit, but as a completionist I found it to be more legwork than I'd like. Call me crazy, but I don't like tons of cryptography in my games. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Environmental Station 	 photo
Robots, viruses, and ghosts, oh my!
Metroidvanias are all the rage in the indie scene these days, in part because Nintendo seemingly doesn't want to make a new Metroid game, and Konami turned Castlevania into a God of War clone. Environmental Station Alpha may ...

Axiom Verge photo
Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge explores PC starting May 14


Cross-buy PlayStation Vita release to follow
Apr 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Following its recent debut on PlayStation 4, Tom Happ's indie Metroidvania Axiom Verge is wandering to Windows PC on May 14, the developer announced today. Destructoid's Conrad Zimmerman was quite fond of the game, despite so...
Metroidvania photo
Metroidvania

This cute Metroid-like hits all of the right notes for me


Environmental Station Alpha
Apr 21
// Jordan Devore
Here I was ready to call this the cutest little Metroid-like and then Holmes reminded me of the darling Minitroid. That helpful son of a... Actually, the point might stand -- I'm really feeling Environmental Station Alpha. T...
Ori is doing well photo
Ori is doing well

Good vibes: Ori and the Blind Forest is profitable


Moon Studios is one to watch
Apr 09
// Jordan Devore
Oh thank goodness: Ori and the Blind Forest "was already profitable a week after release," according to Moon Studios' Thomas Mahler, and publisher "Microsoft is super happy." Ori wasn't just a delight, it was also something o...
Elliot Quest Impressions photo
Elliot Quest Impressions

Elliot Quest's Wii U port is quite buggy


Most bugs are edible, others aren't
Apr 06
// Jed Whitaker
Elliot Quest is a retro-inspired Metroidvania title that feels right at home on the Wii U, as it takes a lot of inspiration from such NES classics as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Kid Icarus. I'd even venture to ...
Monster Tale Ultimate photo
Monster Tale Ultimate

Monster Tale Ultimate coming to 3DS


Juggle monsters to death in stereoscopic 3D
Mar 29
// Darren Nakamura
Monster Tale was a great little metroidvania on the original DS. Despite its cartoony look, it featured engaging combat that focused on juggle combos. It felt almost like a 2D version of the Batman: Arkham Asylum combat, wher...
Amazing Ori art photo
Amazing Ori art

What a wonderful world: Ori and the Blind Forest


Best-looking game of 2015? Quite possibly
Mar 18
// Jordan Devore
After finishing Ori and the Blind Forest, a heartfelt Metroidvania-style adventure for PC and Xbox One, I wondered just how the hell I managed to know so little about it going in. What a thrill. There were moments -- not mere...
A.N.N.E photo
A.N.N.E

Put your one true love back together in A.N.N.E


Metroidvania and space shooting goodness
Mar 16
// Jed Whitaker
As someone who never got into non-linear Castlevania games and had never finished a Metroid, I've recently been really turned on by metroidvania games. Aroused, even. A.N.N.E takes the genre a step further and mixe...
Castle in the Darkness photo
Castle in the Darkness

Beard View: Castle in the Darkness


'Maybe I'm just good and you're not'
Mar 09
// Jed Whitaker
This weekend I was at PAX East and had been busy shooting some videos with our lovely bearded editor-in-chief when this was uploaded, so in case you missed it, check out the latest Beard View in which I show off one of my fa...
Death's Gambit photo
Death's Gambit

Kill immortals for Death in Death's Gambit


Death is beautiful
Feb 27
// Jed Whitaker
Death's Gambit is a beautiful Castlevania-like title just revealed by developer White Rabbit that pits you as Death's agent sent to end the lives of immortals. Clearly a bit of influence from Shadow of the Colossus can ...
Renegade Kid photo
Renegade Kid

Xeodrifter rockets to PS4, Xbox One, Vita this spring


Poor Wii U
Feb 24
// Kyle MacGregor
Xeodrifter is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and Vita this spring, Renegade Kid announced today. The minimalist "Metroidvania" launched on 3DS and PC late last year, earning high marks from our own Jonathan Holmes, who said it might be the Mutant Mudds developer's "best game yet." The studio also just put out a special edition on Steam, which features a dev diary and soundtrack. Xeodrifter [Steam]
Axiom Verge photo
Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge debuts on PS4 in late March, other versions to follow


The spirit of Metroid lives on
Feb 23
// Jordan Devore
There are plenty of upcoming Metroid-like games, but there is only one Axiom Verge, and it's almost here at last. Creator Tom Happ shared new details in a blog post today including the PlayStation 4 launch date (March 31, 201...

Review: Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore a Fedora

Feb 23 // Jason Faulkner
Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore a Fedora (PC [reviewed], Linux, Mac)Developer: Glass Bottom GamesPublisher: Glass Bottom GamesReleased: February 20, 2015MSRP: $14.99 You control firefighter turned private investigator Emma Jones and her sidekick Franky, the titular fedora-wearing cat, as they begin a case involving a death and a missing will. That’s the intro; a phone call and you’re off. Emma and Franky are obviously great friends, but there's no establishing motive or history for their friendship to start you off with. This instantly removed me from the story because it turns the dialog into a huge inside joke. As the game continues you find out a bit about the two’s history, but by that point I was no longer immersed because it felt exclusionary, like I was hanging out with a pair of people who went to grade school together and constantly referred to things I was never a part of. The writing itself is of dubious quality. Some of it is genuinely funny and engaging, while other times it feels stilted and dull, as if the developers just needed more length to the script. Most conversations you take part in have at least a couple branching paths, but inconveniently you can’t switch topics while talking to someone. You have to finish your discussion, close the dialog box, and then go through the whole thing again until you reach the other branch you want to go down. With some branches being embedded in other branches it was a pain at times, especially for someone who likes to read as much dialog as they can in a game. The majority of your time in the game will be spent roaming the city searching for clues. This is really where the game both shines, and becomes incredibly frustrating. The city and interiors of buildings are great looking, and I really liked the 3D spin on the traditional “Metroidvania” setup. [embed]288062:57459:0[/embed] However, the omission of any sort of cartography took one of the things I really like about this game and made it into something that became more and more maddening as I played through. Imagine having to memorize all of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s map, but with turns and corners. So instead of know that to get to the Library you have to go right and up, you have to memorize, take a right turn, go right, take a left, keep left, and you're constantly going to new locations as you find more clues. Progressing through the game is primarily a case of using Emma’s non-lethal revolver to solve puzzles, and gathering clues from various locales and using the information gleaned from them to question people to find where to go next. The revolver can be equipped with various specialized rounds, bubble rounds to reveal hidden levers and areas, fire rounds to burn certain materials, knockdown rounds to knock things down and propel you through the air, and several others. The revolver must be changed out or reloaded individually by clicking to first remove them then clicking on the empty chamber to reload it with the selected bullet type. The biggest problem I had with the gameplay and probably the whole game is that it never really tells you anything. Sure Franky might give you hints at certain points, but I went almost the whole story without knowing you could just hold the “R” key to reload without having to click all four chambers, which was one of the things I found supremely tedious. A tooltip stating that fact would have saved me a lot of sighing. Hot Tin Roof isn’t terrible by any means, it just seems as though Glass Bottom Games had certain things it wanted to put in a game only to realize it had to actually make all those things fit together and the studio never really quite figured out how to make it flow naturally. The first part of the game definitely showcases their best work, and in contrast the latter parts of the game seem tedious with platforming sections and a marked departure from the humorous, exploratory tone of the initial sections of the title. My enthusiasm as I went through Hot Tin Roof slowly diminished until the only reason I felt compelled to finish it was for the mere sake of completion. There’s quite a bit of good stuff here, I loved the city and the 3D effects in it, and I would have loved to see it on a platform like the Nintendo 3DS where its playstyle would be more at home. All in all this game isn't a horrible experience, and for those that can get past the disjointed feeling of its various components there's a decent time here to be had. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
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