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Review: Skyhill

Oct 06 // Stephen Turner
Skyhill (PC) Developers: Mandragora Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment Released: October 6, 2015 MSRP: $14.99 One man’s late-night extravagance ends up being his good fortune as Perry Jason’s penthouse suite shields him from a biological attack. Every guest and staff worker is transformed into a bloodthirsty mutant, leaving him the only human seemingly left alive. But without supplies and a wife lost to the city, he has no choice but to venture down 100 floors to escape this hotel-turned-house of horrors. Sounds easy, right? If only he wasn't already starving to death and in need of some makeshift weapons. Skyhill has the look of a horror game, but it’s a light RPG/roguelike/survival game at heart. You scavenge for food and items, combine ingredients for better supplies, all the while keeping an eye on your increasing hunger pains. It's not a scary game, especially with the comic book horror presentation, but it does an excellent job of handing the tension over to the player and their decisions. Every new floor is a gamble, every consumable carries short-term and long-term effects, and every push downward has to be thought out in advance. Essentially, Skyhill is about knowing when to hold and when to fold. [embed]313976:60617:0[/embed] Starting off in the VIP Room, which also serves as an upgradable home base, you work your way through each floor to reach the lobby (the end goal). Movement is done through a simple click on a room, but every location depletes a point from the hunger bar. Finding food is always the top priority; without it, movement depletes the health bar instead. Much of Skyhill is spent yo-yoing up and down the eponymous building, collecting random items, taking them back to the VIP room to craft better upgrades, then venturing back down to your last location. It might sound like a chore, but it's actually quite effective at creating an air of desperation; pushing forward due to a lack of supplies or a regained purpose. If you’ve played any survival games before, you’ll know what to expect from Skyhill’s crafting system. The tier system is easy to use, and it always tells you the items you need or already own. But keeping a hold of higher-tier items is a challenge, as you’ll always come across an elevator shaft that needs fixing with a certain item that you just created for something else. The same difficult choices happen with food supplies, too; eat the basics now for a short-term boost, or hold out to make bigger meal later on. It’s always a tough call. Of course, Skyhill wouldn't be a horror game without combat. Due to cramped environments onscreen, the game opts for turned-based attacks and statistics. Each mutant type has 2-3 body parts to attack, but the more damage you can inflict, the less likely you are to hit. Players can level up their stats – damage, speed, dexterity, and accuracy – by gaining XP after every fight. Though, honestly, the RPG elements don't really change up the combat, say, beyond landing more hits, and both end up becoming Skyhill’s weaker elements in the second half. Without an option to dodge (though you can retreat), combat is always tit-for-tat, and whoever gets the best string of hits wins. If there was ever a perfect representation of Skyhill’s negative traits, it would be found in the building itself; a rinse-and-repeat of exploration between two rooms and a stairwell. Skyhill never evolves, even close to the ground floor, preferring instead to throw more mutant attacks in the way. The only reason the final 50 floors are tougher is because they're more of a drain on resources; just more of the same without the breather. Still, Skyhill manages to be a decent stab at survivalist horror; rightfully using certain mechanics to avoid an even lesser game. It’s hard to imagine the combat working in real time due to the tiny spaces, or that if every room were visually more complex, it would lead to some tiresome pixel hunting. In a way, Skyhill is economical in what it does, even if it means being the old double-edged sword. That said, when you get right down to the core of it, see how the elements work in your favour or conspire against you, Skyhill admirably creates this tense game of hubris and courage, one that never lets up until you escape or, far more likely, die. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Review photo
'We're on an express elevator to hell!'
100 floors up, countless mutants on the way down, and only one way out of town. No, this isn’t your average council estate in Swansea. This is Skyhill.

Review: NHL 16

Oct 06 // Brett Makedonski
NHL 16 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: EA CanadaPublisher: EA SportsRelease: September 15, 2015MSRP: $59.99 In a genre plagued by incremental increases, this is NHL 16's greatest offering: An on-ice trainer that goes above and beyond. Hockey is a sport that's notorious for its inaccessibility to newcomers. Putting the biscuit in the basket is easy enough to understand, but where should my forwards be positioned when in the defensive zone? What kind of check should I execute when skating backward toward my goal? This training aid helps refine gameplay on-the-fly. It kind of teaches hockey, but more importantly, it teaches how to play NHL 16. For instance, when skating into the offensive zone, a cone will appear that indicates what part of the shooting lane is open and what part is blocked. A target may show up in the corner of the goal to tell you the smartest place to aim. Or, when playing defense, a box will cordon off part of the ice at your zone. Sticking to this area and covering the man in the box is what you're supposed to do. That's how hockey is played; NHL 16, simulation of hockey as it is, wants you to play it just like hockey. Those are two examples, but this on-ice trainer permeates every second of gameplay until you don't want it to anymore. It's a good thing too. I imagine EA had grown tired of players wildly out of position trying to line up huge hits. That's not how hockey looks, and it's not how a digital representation of the game should look. [embed]314010:60626:0[/embed] To its credit, the trainer doesn't stick to a low-level understanding of hockey. If it detects a seasoned player is at the helm, it'll start to adapt so as to offer more nuanced and advanced suggestions. Basically, everyone has something they can learn from this feature and it's incredibly unintrusive despite constantly being on the screen. It's the best part of NHL 16 because it actually enforces an understanding of doing what you're doing. The rest? Well, it's what NHL 15 should've been. Maybe it's unfair to hearken back to a previous game as a reference point, but fuck it. We make the rules around here. The on-ice product in NHL 16 is again solid and it includes the modes that last year's game should have shipped with. The actual hockey-playing in NHL 16 feels extremely similar to NHL 15. There are surely some physics and AI tweaks making ever-desired strides toward realism, but they feel mostly nominal. The game still plays well outside of the occasional rare physics bug. And this. Whatever the hell that was. With regard to the modes, they were mostly done right this time 'round. Be a Pro allows the simulation of shifts until it's your time to hit the ice again. (Curiously, the coach-assigned goals and ratings often seem off. Like, how do I have two goals and an assist, but a "C" ranking on offense for the game?) Likewise, the EA Sports Hockey League has been largely straightened out. Gone are the days of maxing out player skill through real-world currency. Now, everyone has to define their aptitude via a class of player that they pick. It's a smart design decision for the game's leading cooperative mode -- not to mention a surprisingly ungreedy one. Be a GM rounds out the most interesting modes that NHL 16 has to show. In it, you eschew the skates for a suit and tie. You're in control of an NHL franchise, and it's up to you to trade, manage, and motivate players. Games are simulated via a coach's drawing board where major events become markers like a "G" for a goal scored. The fascinating facet of Be a GM lies within the morale system. It's a bit paper-thin, but NHL 16 asks you to make unique speech decisions for different players. Over time, you learn what motivates your guys. Your star's ego might be too fragile for you to just outright yell at him; you may have to baby him instead. NHL 16 isn't perfect, but it's a substantial improvement over what released last year. Mind you, that's not some sheer brilliance; it's just because of general competence. The NHL franchise seems back on track, and it has even introduced the wonderful on-ice trainer. But, that trainer aside, it's tough to shake the feeling that NHL has just caught up instead of innovating. EA Sports spent this iteration making up ground. It was a necessary move, but not one that instills confidence that the developer has grown comfortable with the generational shift in consoles. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
NHL 16 review photo
Training wheels
In the mandatory initial matchup in NHL 16, I was forced to choose between last year's Stanley Cup Final contenders. I had to back either the Chicago Blackhawks who I very much dislike, or the Tampa Bay Lightning who I am ver...

Underwater VR in Narcosis might wreck my shit

Oct 05 // Zack Furniss
Oculus Connect 2 was simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking for me. Sure, I'd be able to step into worlds I could hardly fathom, but one of those worlds was the bottom of the gods-damned sea. Scrambling from a prior appointment to the event's seventh floor, I came across the room that contained Honor Code's Narcosis. Steven and Alessandro had both spent time with the demo at previous events, but it was my turn to explore the depths of his survival horror experience. I knocked on the door, expecting someone named Lawrence (making the rookie mistake of confusing the PR person for the game developer). When an excitable, charismatic Frenchman named Quentin opened the door, I started to apologize and walk away, thinking I had intruded on someone's private quarters. He assured me I was in the right place and led me to a computer, placing the Oculus Rift on my head and an Xbox One controller in my hands. The Los Angeles fire-air threatened to break my immersion from the start, but I wanted to be afraid, and I tried to block out my surroundings as best as I could. Another developer from Honor Code, the measured and engaging David Chen, came in as I was adjusting to the controls. They both made sure I understood how to maneuver my diver and then respectfully remained quiet as I made my way through an aquatic facility. Since you're wearing a helmeted diving suit, the Rift feels thematically appropriate. Having this gadget on your head is less distracting and more of a natural extension. Being able to lean forward and see oxygen gauges just beneath your eyes helps you accept you're really in this environment. I was peeking around corners as I approached them, sure that some ungodly being, whatever was responsible for the flooding of this base, was going to drag me even further into the depths. My demo was largely similar to the one Alessandro saw, though I spent more time slowly wading through a cave infested with long-limbed crabs the size of cars. I launched flares at them, watching them flinch into the darkness. How I hated having to slowly approach them to sidle past them to progress. Wandering around the sea floor is what messed with me most, though. Looking up and having no ceiling (be it cement or stalactites) to protect me was all it took for the stomach-eels return. I could no longer just stare ahead and keep progressing; I was turning around to make sure nothing was chasing me every few steps. Heat-induced sweat on my brow and the acute awareness that I was alone in a room with two men I didn't know was enough to keep me from full immersion, but if I had been at home, I'm not sure how I'd fare. An hour of wandering through sea caves as murderous cuttlefish tried to latch onto my face might be enough to break me. Coupled with the "Narcosis Moments" that the developers mentioned (hallucinations stemming from oxygen deprivation), I might not survive long enough to write about this again. But as much as digital submersion frightens me, finishing these games is my way of conquering this bizarre fear. I hope to play Narcosis when it releases next year for the entertainment, horror, and catharsis it could bring me.
Narcosis photo
Digital submersion is my one true fear
The ocean has never been particularly terrifying to me. Contemplating on a beach and staring at the blue sprawl fills me with a sense of calm, not horror. Snorkeling in a Hawaiian crater was one of the awe-inspiring mome...

The paradox of selling The Beginner's Guide

Oct 03 // Darren Nakamura
When the game begins, writer and narrator Davey Wreden talks about a person he used to know named Coda. He builds a history between them: they met at a game jam, Wreden was fascinated by Coda's games, this one particular game was the first Wreden saw though it isn't the first presented to us, and so on. He inserts little details about the relationship, like how they used to argue about whether games need to be playable to be meaningful. Given the mundane setup, there's no reason not to take Wreden at his word. He speaks directly to us, letting us know our role. We are people playing a collection of art games, and he is our guide through it all. Everything fits as a nonfiction work. As we play further, we see the games get darker in tone. Coda crafts inescapable prisons. He has players destroy the machine that produces his ideas. He creates game worlds with obstacles that are impassable without altering the code. Not only that, but the time between each "release" increases. In the beginning, Coda's games have only a few weeks between them. Toward the end, he is spending months. Wreden takes notice, and he worries about his friend. At this point, I was a little worried myself. So Wreden went on to show Coda's games to others, thinking the validation of hearing how good his stuff is might work him out of his funk. This sets in motion the climactic sequence, a game built specifically for Wreden. After some grueling tasks only surmountable through attrition or reprogramming, we come to a hallway filled with messages. They are the first explicit thoughts we get from Coda, after a whole game of supposing from themes and symbolism. And the message is clear: Davey, stop trying to analyze me and stop showing my games off as if they were yours to share. This sequence hit me hard. "Oh god," I thought, "I've been wading through this guy's personal space this whole time without his permission." I felt like I just took part in something terrible. I felt a chill run down my body. I felt awful. Wreden addresses the irony himself, in his increasingly distraught voice over. By releasing The Beginner's Guide, he's doing the exact opposite of what Coda wanted, and he's a terrible person for it, but he just can't get it out of his mind and he needs help finding Coda, to find out what makes him tick. It was here I went back through other details I hadn't previously given much thought. In the original email chain Davey Wreden sent to Destructoid, he made it clear William Pugh, his collaborator on The Stanley Parable, was not involved in this project. At the time I shrugged it off as an unimportant piece of information for my purposes. Looking back on it, it only gave more credence to the whole narrative; Wreden wanted to leave Pugh out of this, making sure everybody knows he alone had done a very bad thing. But then I thought about one thing: the price. Wreden is selling The Beginner's Guide for 10 dollars. He took a collection of somebody else's games, which include a game about not sharing his games, and is selling it for profit. That's just unthinkable. Suddenly, the illusion popped. I had been taken for a ride. Coda is not real. He never was. Herein lies the paradox. As a complete narrative package, The Beginner's Guide had me fooled. I was so emotionally invested in the history and events because it felt so real. I felt genuine regret over my actions affecting a real person in this world. But the entire history surrounding Coda is a fabrication. It has to be. Wreden crafted a fiction so convincing I was sad and angry. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Isn't that worth 10 bucks? For me, there's no question. Of course it is. But the fact it costs anything pulls back the curtain on it. Would the experience be even more powerful if it were free? I think so. I would probably still think Coda is real if it weren't for this detail. The Beginner's Guide is easily worth the price, but it would be worth even more if it cost nothing.
The Beginner's Guide photo
Or, I'm sorry if you're real, Coda
The Beginner's Guide released a couple days ago, and it made me feel stuff. If you are not averse to having feelings, you might want to play it. More importantly, if you have not yet played it, you probably don't want to cont...

Ubisoft walked me through The Division, and I'm still unsure about it

Oct 03 // Joe Parlock
We were told we were “Team Cake”, and how Team Cake was totally the most successful team of that day. Cake had beaten every other team reliably up to that point, and so we absolutely had to live up to our delicious name. Of course, on the other side of the demo area I’m sure another Ubisoft rep was telling the other team the exact same thing. Our rep explained the controls, abilities, and goals, and made sure to constantly remind us to work as a team and communicate. That’s when it struck me that the demo was just as orchestrated as any E3 trailer with fake voice chat I’d seen before that. It was by far the most scripted, hand-holding demo I played at EGX, and that was a major problem for me. The game itself is a lot of fun when you have two teammates. Imagine the RPG mechanics of Borderlands meeting the tone and tactical gameplay Ghost Recon in a level structure similar to that of Payday 2. Set in a post-apocalyptic New York, our goal was to find some resources and try to evacuate. We could scavenge for new weapons and equipment to boost our stats, much like any other MMO, but on the whole we were ushered by the PR rep into a large open area in the centre of the zone. At the same time, the other teams scattered around the demo area were all trying to do the same thing. We had the choice of letting bygones be bygones, or we could “go rogue” and try and kill them. Of course, being a video game with a gun in it, every single person playing decided to go rogue. It turned into a weird mix of Payday 2’s extraction and a normal shooter’s King of the Hill mode. I decided to try to go the sneaky route to get the drop on the other teams. The stealth was very well done, and obviously modeled on the newer Splinter Cell games. I darted from cover to cover, and successfully sneaked past another team of players to deploy my auto-turret. During all of this, Laura and Mr. Stranger tried to deal with them head on. Whether they knew what I was doing and wanted to be a distraction or whether they were just caught in a bad situation, I have absolutely no idea, but it worked and for the time being we had the advantage over everyone else. This sort of strategy worked well in an environment where we were constantly told to work together, but how that’ll work out at home post-release is a different matter entirely. As the demo ended, I was acutely aware I didn't know anything new about the game compared to before I had tried it. I can’t tell you if The Division is going to be good or not. What I played was well-made, and I did enjoy it, but it was also so orchestrated, and the pressure of having someone from Ubisoft talking to me through my headset really made it difficult to play the game in a way I would have at home. My idea of seeing how it works in normal people's hands couldn’t possibly have happened in this environment. It felt like the Stepford Game Demo: I played a fairly long demo, against other human beings, with people I know weren’t paid by Ubisoft to act enthusiastic, and I still have no idea how it’ll hold up come release day when there are countless lone wolves and simply awful teammates added to the mix. I don't know how the MMO aspects will work, all I know is it was fun to shoot someone in the face... which is only apparently a small part of the game. It felt like being dragged into an ad rather than playing a game, and, unfortunately, I’m just as cynical about The Division now as I was when it was revealed. We’ll just have to wait and see whether my suspicions about it are true when The Division launches on March 8, 2016.
The Division photo
Go Team Cake!
The demo for Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division was one of the weirdest experiences I had at EGX. Ever since the game was announced, I have been cynical that what we've seen of it so far has been very controlled ...

Super Meat Boy composer refuses to license the original soundtrack for PS4, Vita release

Oct 03 // Kyle MacGregor
"You may also know that I did not do the soundtrack for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth," (another game created by Team Meat's Edmund McMillen) Baranowsky adds. "I made a decision a couple years ago to end my working relationship with them for many reasons that don’t really need to be listed here. I apologize for any disappointment this may cause my fans." Contrary to any rumors, Baranowsky maintains his broken relationship with Team Meat doesn't stem from creative differences, saying only "I didn't feel like the license fee and exposure through PSN they offered was enough to make me seriously consider accepting the deal. I decided to decline their offer. I wish them and the new artists the best of luck with the game." To replace the original soundtrack, Team Meat hired several musicians, including Ridiculon (The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth), David “Scattle” Scatliffe (Hotline Miami), and Laura Shigihara (Plants vs. Zombies). "That’s a pretty slick roster of artists," says Refenes. "We were lucky enough that they were all friends of ours and fans of Super Meat Boy. Their passion and love for the game can be heard in the work they put into making the game sound amazing. We’re honored to have them on the team for this version of Super Meat Boy." You can listen to a sample of the new score (Ridiculon's Hell Boss theme) right here. Super Meat Boy debuts on PSN Tuesday, October 6, free of charge to PS Plus subscribers.
Danny B no longer works with Team Meat
Super Meat Boy is finally coming to Sony platforms next week, but the game PlayStation owners will experience is slightly different than the one that launched on Xbox 360 and PC in 2010. Writing on Team Meat's official b...

Guitar Hero Live left me afraid to ever try playing live music

Oct 02 // Laura Kate Dale
On a gameplay level, Guitar Hero Live feels pretty new. Gone is the old five-button single row layout, replaced with two rows of three buttons placed next to each other. On screen you've got three note tracks scrolling, which will either show a white pick pointing down or a black pick pointing up to denote if you should play that note on the top or bottom row. It's a switch up that slightly more closely resembles guitar fingerings, and it feels like a new, manageable challenge to learn. However, what had a far bigger impact on my experience with GH Live at EGX was the impressive integration of full motion video, which is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to living out your teenage rock god fantasies. Firstly, my fears about modern implementations of full motion video were instantly allayed when actually playing the game. I can logically tell which camera pans are likely being used to mask transitions between videos as your performance rises and falls, but try as I might I could not actually see the seams. We seem to have reached a point where smooth transitions in full motion video gameplay are totally possible, and that's really reassuring to see. When I was doing well at Guitar Hero Live, I felt like a guitar shredding legend. The crowd went wild, the pit jumped, the crowd fought to lock eyes with me and everything felt amazing. It's amazing how much difference the switch from computer animated crowds to real human faces can make, but seeing actual people respond well to your performance felt awesome. We have not crossed the uncanny valley, and real human faces in video games have a special power to elicit an emotion. The scary thing about GH Live? It can invoke powerful negative emotions too. Toward the end of my time with the demo, I decided to see how far I could push the limits of the game. I slowly performed worse and worse as the song went on, and my god it got uncomfortable. First the audience began to look mildly confused. Then, they looked upset, personally let down by me. I glance at the bassist and he's trying to ask what's going wrong. I do worse. The audience grows upset, confused and angry. I glance at the drummer and she's freaking out. Mascara is running down her face as she mouths obscenities at me. The singer motions to have the stage hands pull me off stage. At this point, I quit the track I was playing. I felt terrible. My failure felt real. The anxiety related to letting down fans, the disappointment and the anger resting on my shoulders. I felt it all. My time playing Guitar Hero Live at EGX convinced me primarily of two things. If you're doing well, this game is going to be awesome. If you screw up, you are going to be made to suffer for your sins on the guitar. I think that's pretty damn exciting.
Guitar Hero Live photo
I felt like a badass for about 5 seconds
Back in my mid-teens I played drums in a hastily thrown together rock band. We mainly played pretty bad covers of other people's songs, occasionally writing our own tracks that went on far too long and were excessively simpli...

What does the Destructoid UK Team think of Tri Force Heroes?

Oct 01 // Laura Kate Dale
Joe Parlock - Pleasently Surprised Compared to a lot of people, I am an incredibly new Legend of Zelda fan. I didn’t play my first one in the series until earlier this year, starting with A Link Between Worlds. With the simple, responsive gameplay and fantastically designed puzzles, Between Worlds really made me fall in love with the series; I'm currently playing through Ocarina of Time on the 3DS for the very first time and am having a lot of fun with it. When I heard that there was to be a new Zelda with three-player co-op on the 3DS in the same style as A Link Between Worlds, I was immediately excited. Fortunately, I got to try Tri Force Heroes out with Destructoid’s own Laura Dale and an unsuspecting member of the public at EGX 2015 in Birmingham. Because Laura is apparently evil and cares little for the suffering of the less experienced of us, she guided our little team in to what was apparently the hardest level in the demo. There was lots of lava and lots of enemies, and considering the noise in the convention hall made communicating difficult, we died a lot. But god damn was it fun. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Portal 2’s amazing co-op mode: Working with other people to solve puzzles (or, rather, frantically yelling “PICK ME UP DAMN IT” over the blaring noise of the Nintendo stage at EGX), making in-game gestures to help each other understand what was going on on the screen, and having far too much fun killing my own teammates were all incredibly fun. Other than that, it felt just like the dungeons in A Link Between Worlds as their own expanded game. The boss fight saw us have to take the aggro of a big wormy thing, and then quickly pick each other up to do damage. It was just as well designed as anything from Between Worlds, and really made use of the co-op elements well. I do have one minor concern about the game, though. Much like Portal 2’s co-op, I’m not convinced Tri Force Heroes will have the staying power that makes games like Ocarina of Time and A Link Between Worlds so popular. Playing with somebody who already knows the solutions to all of the puzzles could potentially be a frustrating experience that could only be exacerbated as time goes on. I can’t imagine playing this with random people on the Internet would be much fun six months after release as it could be on launch. Overall though, I was blown away by my time with Tri Force Heroes. Not only did it prove to be a competent Zelda game to this newbie, it scratched that puzzle co-op itch I’ve had for four years now. I'm probably going to pick this up on day one, and I just need to convince Laura and Destructoid UK’s Vikki Blake to let me chuck them in lava come launch. I’m very excited. Laura Dale - Cautiously Optimistic As a long time dedicated fan of the Zelda series, I have been pretty excited for Tri Force Heroes since its announcement at E3. It may not be the sprawling single player epic I had initially hoped I would be playing at the end of this year, but the idea of dragging my friends into playing Zelda with me certainly has its own charms.  At E3 a few months back I focused on playing some of the demo's more entry level missions and exploring the grander scope of what the game is trying to do. You can have a read of those overview thoughts here. With my time with the game at EGX, I was more interested in trying the hardest level on show and seeing how far I could push the game in ways it perhaps was not meant to be pushed. I came away pretty pleased with the level of challenge offered to core players, but a little concerned by some of the multiplayer dungeon design. So, let's start with the positives. The volcano dungeon we played through at EGX was tough. A strong mix of puzzles and combat, I was most surprised to see how many of the puzzles risked injury and death if not completed in a timely manner. In place of simply sliding block puzzles, we instead had sliding block puzzles in tight spaces with lava spewing from the floor below. The challenge was not just work out how to complete this puzzle, but execute your solution as a team, with a very minor margin for error, or face punishment.  The added level of risk involved in executing puzzle gameplay really encouraged team discussion, forming solid plans of attack before moving and working together as a team very quickly. Team communication was vital, and that was a very pleasant surprise. I'm glad to see even seasoned Zelda veterans are going to have a hard time successfully navigating these dungeons. The boss of the volcano dungeon we faced was a particular highlight, standing toe-to-toe with many of the series' more memorable bosses in terms of mechanics. The boss would at any one time have eyes that glowed matching the tunic of one player. That player would be chased by the boss, but the other players wouldn't. Those players not being chased would have to get behind the boss, form a tower and attack the bosses raised tail. If you successfully harm the boss or it successfully harms you, the player being chased will switch up, instantly requiring the team to scramble and reformulate their layout. The boss was challenging, hectic, and just fast enough to pose an ever-present threat to the team as a unit. One of the more concerning aspects that popped up during my time with this demo however is that it was possible to get the team into positions where they could not progress, and using up one of the team's three continues was the only was to restart the section we were trapped in. From progressing from the starting platform before every player has picked an item from the pedestals provided to throwing a player onto a platform from which they could not get themselves back, there were a couple of places in the dungeon where careless play could result in an unwinnable situation. While this is currently just a demo, I would like to see a penalty-free way for the team to return to the beginning of the current room in the dungeon. Still, the more of Tri Force Heroes I play the more convinced I am that mechanically, this Zelda game is going to be what I am after. Challenging temples, frantic gameplay necessitating minimal margins of error, and boss designs that feel fresh and unique. Yep, I'm pretty pleased with what I'm seeing of Tri Force Heroes.
Tri Force Heroes photo
A lot of laughing and dying occurred
At the tail end of last week, UK editor Laura Dale and news team member Joe Parlock both whisked themselves away to the EGX games convention in Birmingham to play a bunch of unreleased video games. Looking for multiplayer gam...

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst feels different to the first game, but still fun

Sep 30 // Joe Parlock
The demo for Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst started off with an exposition cutscene. I play as Faith (same protagonist as the first game), and am being released from a prison in the city of Glass (not the same city). If I don’t find employment within two weeks, I will be re-arrested and taken straight back to the slammer. The setup felt a lot more in-your-face than the subtlety the original game’s backstory had; gone is the covert government surveillance and governmental corruption, and in are the contact lenses which project advertising into your eye. But whatever, I had running to do and only 13 minutes of demo to do it in. After a short tutorial, I was let loose on a small area of the map. The area itself wasn’t too big, with the rest of the city available and open in the full release of the game, but it was still an order of magnitude bigger than any space I’d seen I the first game. It was almost daunting, being presented with such a big space when I was used to the linearity of the first game. I was given the choice of three different missions: I could hack a billboard to put my own pro-Runner propaganda up, I could deliver a memory stick for the criminal underworld (and fight a load of guards at the same time), or I could just race Icarus, my new runner buddy. The map system is nicely done, and it gives the game’s iconic runner vision a whole new lease of life. Faith’s ability to see where she needed to go in the world has always been designated by objects tinted red. Catalyst takes that originally fairly useless but still pretty effect from the linear first game and puts it to great use in this open world successor. A lot of previews of Catalyst have said the game feels more or less exactly like the first game. The controls have been retweaked slightly, but other than that I’ve been led to believe Catalyst just expands what the first game did. While that may be true for those who only played Mirror’s Edge a few times, I did notice some very big differences in how it felt to play. The biggest one is the entire thing felt kind of floaty. Jumps lasted longer, climbing over fences took longer, and a lot of your movements are based around getting higher in the space. For example, in the original game if you hit an object like a fence or a vent at the right height, you would quickly vault over it to maintain your momentum. In Catalyst, the vault is still there, but holding down the jump button (like I was used to in the original game) made me climb up onto the object and jump off of it to get a bit of extra height. It was a change that took a lot of getting used to, but once I had it opened up plenty of new routes for me. The cost of this new maneuverability is Catalyst doesn’t feel as grounded as Mirror’s Edge did. There was originally a lot of weight to Faith’s movements, and you couldn’t build up that much height without using bars or ledge, but in Catalyst it sometimes felt like gravity didn’t really matter to Faith, and that she’d float off away from Glass at the first chance she was given. Another major difference to Catalyst is the massive changes to combat. The new combat is built around maintaining flow and momentum, rather than having to stop and do a lot of punching like it was in the first game. It all seems to be context-sensitive as well; when I was nowhere near any guards, pressing the attack buttons would do absolutely nothing. So does this new system actually let you incorporate combat into your flow? Not really. It feels so much better than the first game, for sure. I wasn’t pissed off when I had to fight, and it was incredibly cool pulling off the cinematic takedowns. It’s fun, but it still has the problem of stopping you dead in your tracks. One positive thing is triggering attack animations extended my jumps too, and even saved me from one point where I was certainly about to die. Picture it as a less extravagant version of the homing attack in modern Sonic the Hedgehog games, and it’s easy to imagine where the uses for combat would come in. It’s worth keeping in mind the original game is absolutely ingrained into my muscle memory at this point. On the whole, it plays just like the first game: once you’ve got flow built up, traversing this open world feels fantastic, and the new skills Faith has really add to the experience. Swinging around vertical pipes, leaping off of chain-link fences, and incorporating some combat into my run were a lot of fun. Catalyst more than feels like a decent successor to Mirror’s Edge. The plot elements from the first game are taken and expanded to make Glass an interesting world to explore, and the most obvious parts of the movement in the first game are still there and have been refined. The combat is better (though not as improved as I was hoping), and the controls definitely feel less awkward. I genuinely did enjoy my time with Catalyst a lot more than I was expecting to. There’s just a few changes to it that make Catalyst feel like a simplification of the original game's systems. People who have played the original once or twice will certainly appreciate those simplifications, but for me it felt like the potential skill ceiling was a fair bit lower than the original game. I can't see myself pulling off the same sort of stuff I can in the original, because of the very small ways freedom is taken away from you. We will see whether I’m right when Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst releases on February 23, 2016. It's still definitely one of my most anticipated games, that's for sure.
Mirror's Edge: Catalyst photo
I've played 250+ hours of the original
When Mirror’s Edge came out in 2008, nobody really knew what to make of it. The game was a valiant effort at doing first-person parkour well, but a lot of people were put off by some awkward controls, bad combat, and pe...

Project Big photo
The original Project Big pitch video
This is an early animation test for Uncharted's Nathan Drake wherein he looks much more like a YouTube celebrity, a version of Sunset Overdrive's lead who missed the punk-by-way-of-Blink-182 phase, than the classically rugged...

Review: Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Sep 29 // Kyle MacGregor
Persona 4: Dancing All Night (PS Vita)Developer: Atlus Publisher: AtlusReleased: September 29, 2015MSRP: $49.99 Taking place shortly after the events of Persona 4, Dancing All Night opens with Rise Kujikawa and a couple members of the gang in a dance studio. The former idol is mounting a comeback and has enlisted her friends as backup dancers to perform at a large music festival. Of course, things quickly go awry. A cursed Internet video has droves of people falling into comas, and to top it all off, members of Kanamin Kitchen, the pop group headed by Rise's frenemy Kanami Mashita, have gone missing. We soon find out the women have been transported to an alternate dimension called the Midnight Stage, where a mysterious voice and hordes of Shadows hold them hostage. Kanamin Kitchen's captors prey on idols' identity crises and try to make them fall in line with the image of what people think believe are, or want them to be, rather than wage any sort of painful personal struggle. The Investigation Team naturally comes to the rescue, except in this world they can't use their Personas to fight. The only way to beat back the Shadows and save Rise and Kanami's friends is to dance. It's a contrived plot device to shoehorn in rhythmic gameplay based on Sega's Hatsune Miku: Project Diva series, but honestly, who cares when the end result is a damn good time?  [embed]311909:60472:0[/embed] The mechanics at work here are nothing revolutionary. Notes appear in the center of a circle and fly outward toward six zones on circle's perimeter in formations based on music. Players are tasked with keeping the beat, the success or failure of which will determine things like high scores, whether new levels are unlocked, and earn in-game currency for purchasing items and costumes. Dancing All Night functions perfectly, and its three main difficulty settings all feel appropriately challenging. Regardless of which you choose, a poor performance will result in a quick hook, though a mediocre one may allow you to complete a level without passing. This can be a powerful motivator, and definitely kept me coming back to some of the tougher stages. On top of the standard fare, there's also an even harder (hidden) difficulty setting awaiting dedicated players. So good luck with that! Aside from the joy of watching familiar faces like Teddie and Chie cavort around in ridiculous outfits, what makes Dancing All Night a blast is the music itself. One of my favorite aspects of the Persona series is composer Shoji Meguro's handiwork, which is obviously thrust into the spotlight this time around. After completing both the story and free dance modes (plus redeeming some downloadable content) I've unlocked 36 songs, spanning everything from original Persona 4 tracks to spin-off theme songs and even a live performance. However, while that may conceptually seem like a decent-sized selection, it doesn't always feel that way. Half of the soundtrack is padded out with remixes that may or may not resonate with players. While I absolutely loved many of them, there are others I will seldom play again. I found it difficult at times to appreciate versions of songs I've adored for years, only to have some DJ somewhere strip the track of nearly all its personality and transform it into something else entirely. Dancing All Night's uneven score wasn't the only facet of the experience that wasn't as compelling as it could have been. The story is somewhat plodding at times and suffers from repetition, following multiple groups that tread similar ground for most of the game. While there are some pensive themes at work, endearing new characters, and a dramatic finale once the narrative threads begin to converge, the plot doesn't quite live up to its source material -- which is probably expected, given how phenomenal that is. This fusion of visual novel of rhythm game isn't exactly perfect, but speaking as someone who loves Persona (and Shoji Meguro's work in particular), I really enjoyed my time with this one. It might be pure fan service, but sometimes maybe that's enough. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. Several DLC tracks were also provided by the publisher. ]
Review: P4D photo
Your prize cow
Persona 4 was a story about acceptance. We all have a dark side, some aspect of our personality we dislike about ourselves, something we choose to repress and hide away from the rest of the world. This isn't the healthiest pr...

What does the Destructoid UK Team think of Assassin's Creed Syndicate?

Sep 29 // Laura Kate Dale
Joe Parlock - Somewhat Disappointed I’ve been a huge fan of Assassin’s Creed ever since the first game came out, and I’ve made sure to play every one of the major releases in the series. From Assassin’s Creed through to Unity and Rogue, I’ve played every one of them, and for the most part have enjoyed all of them to varying degrees. Like everyone else ever, I had major problems with Unity: it was buggy, I wasn’t a fan of the weird time-jumping sections, and I thought the game’s combat was ridiculously stacked in the ranged guards’ favour. Unity is one of my least favourite games in the series, but it still had positives. It removed the ship-combat that Assassin’s Creed III had introduced, and felt in a lot of ways more like a historical Watch Dogs or even Splinter Cell than a Creed game. Assassin’s Creed has a habit of every other game being fantastic and improving massively on the one that came before. Assassin’s Creed II took the slightly repetitive and basic gameplay of Assassin’s Creed, put it in a new setting, and gave the missions so much more variety, while Black Flag improved on III’s ship mechanics.  That’s why going into the Assassin’s Creed Syndicate demo at EGX 2015, I was expecting a refinement of what Unity introduced. I was hoping for better combat and fewer bugs, while still retaining that fantastically detailed and crafted world. I was wanting from Unity. Unfortunately, Syndicate is not the refinement I was hoping it would be. The demo I played at EGX put me in the shoes of Evie Frye, the sneakier of the game’s two leads, as she tried to infiltrate a building to kill her target. The area was crawling with Royal Guards, as well as my target’s own personal bodyguards. One of Evie’s tricks, and a new addition to the series, is the new “stealth” button. At the press of a button, Evie will pull her hood up, letting her turn practically invisible as long as she remains still. When it first started, Assassin’s Creed was all about social stealth. Blending into crowds, making sure you’re not too conspicuous in front of guards, making friends and allies in the environment to help you win, that sort of thing. The stealth button really felt like too much of a simplification to me considering the rooftop gardens and huge crowds that mask your approach being such a staple of the series before now. To get in and do the stabby, I was shown a whole load of different approaches: I could use an Assassin disguised as a guard to pretend to arrest me and walk me straight to the target, or I could go and save the captain of the real guards, who would then let me recruit them for my own purposes. So I sneaked my way around to the chief constable, making sure to avoid any Royal Guards along the way. A great new addition in Syndicate is the line launcher, which lets you scale buildings much faster than you’ve ever been able to before. It felt a lot like the lifts and rope pulleys scattered around previous games, but usable whenever I wanted it to. It really added a lot to the movement system, which was already one of my favourite changes made in Unity.   Once I’d saved the constable, I was able to ignore the Royal Guard. They were on my side now, and I could recruit them to walk with me straight to the target. I made sure not to cause too much commotion before making it to her, as I knew I might need my new pals to help deal with her own guards. And that’s when it all got a bit broken. The demo I got to try at EGX is an old one. It’s buggy and the performance isn’t great. Normally for demos at shows like EGX, you accept that the builds aren’t representative of the final product and will have problems that are ironed out come the game’s full release. However, considering the state Unity released in, I think it’s relevant to talk about just how buggy my experience with Syndicate was just over a month before it launches. I managed to make my way to the target on my own, taking out the target’s own guards without too much hassle. Once I was in range of my quarry, I summoned my new Royal Guard friends and triggered what I was expecting to be a huge fight between the factions, during which I could slip through and kill my target. I’d done it before in other Assassin’s Creed games; ever since the first one you’ve been able to hire brawlers to cause distractions for you. As it was, nothing happened. Every single person in that room stood still for a short time, and then a load of them dropped dead. The animations hadn’t played, but the damage was suddenly applied to compensate. All my hard work of saving the constable and making my way to the target had been for absolutely bloody nothing because of a bug, and that was when it hit me that what I saw of Syndicate was the same as anything I’d seen in Unity. The line launcher was a cool new addition, but everything else was the same or worse. The combat was the same, the setting felt nowhere near as detailed as Unity’s Paris (and is also very visually similar to Paris, which only added to the feeling of seeing this all before), and the new stealth system felt like such a step-back for the series. I’m sure I’ll play Syndicate eventually. Victorian London is my dream setting for the series (behind 1960s Mods vs. Rockers, that is), but I’m not expecting it to be the next Black Flag by any stretch. I ultimately walked away from the demo disappointed that it seemed like Ubisoft haven’t fully understood what made Unity as lackluster as it was. Laura Dale - Mostly Positive My thoughts on Assassin's Creed Syndicate were far more surface-level than Joe's, mainly due to my far more casual past experience with the series. The first Assassin's Creed game I played to completion was Assassin's Creed III when the Wii U launched, followed by incomplete playthroughs of most of the other entries in the series. I enjoy the core gameplay loop enough, but I don't need to dedicate the time to complete one of these games every year. For me, if I'm going to play another Assassin's Creed to completion, I'm going to need to be drawn in by something unique. I've been somewhat hoping that the setting and female playable protagonist in Syndicate would be the change up I needed to get back in to the series. From my time with the game at EGX, I'm fairly confident that I will actually play this Assassin's Creed to completion. First up, it's important to note that I did not bump in to any of the bugs that Joe faced in his demo of the game. While this doesn't invalidate any of his criticisms, I left the demo feeling far more confident in the game's level of overall polish and presentation.  For me, the appeal here was all down to setting, tone and character. The cobbled streets of London meshed well with the historical image of the town that a few decades of history lessons in England had instilled in me of the town. From the dingy streets that would have felt at home in Sweeny Todd to the guards at the Tower of London, everything felt tonally where it should be. This felt like an Assassin's Creed setting I actually had some historical context for, and that really added to my connection to the game world. Really, it was the smaller details that drew me in most. Actually seeing a Great British Pounds Sterling icon (£) pop up in game when I collected in game currency was such a novelty that I could not help but smile. When it came to the EGX build of the game, we were given control of the series new female protagonist Evie. While the character was clearly built for stealth gameplay, to the point that their ability to go unseen bordered on narratively ludicrous, I ended up having the most fun ignoring this stealth focus and running in metaphorically guns blazing. Getting to run through the gardens of the Tower of London as a badass looking lady, smacking royal guards around the head with a cane and expertly zipping away to a roof before backup could find me felt simply divine. I know simply changing the gender of the playable protagonist shouldn't make a huge difference to my feelings on the game, but it really did. Getting to be a badass lady assassin is something really blooming cool. While I suspect Joe's breakdown on the mechanical aspects of Syndicate will be of a lot of use to longtime fans, as someone who lightly dabbles with the series the most important thing to me was the change in feel. As a British lady who grew up primarily aware of English, London-centric history, getting to explore that version of London as a badass cane-wielding woman really served to reignite my interest in a series that by all accounts I should enjoy more than I seem to.
Syndicate photo
We Brits have opinions on stuff
At the tail end of last week, UK editor Laura Dale and news team member Joe Parlock both whisked themselves away to the EGX games convention in Birmingham to play a bunch of unreleased video games. Top of their lists? Assassi...

Hot Pokemon ass photo
I know it's innocent, butt...
Just because you call it the "Hip Pop Parade" doesn't mean you're not selling a load of hot Poké ass. Starting October 10, Pokémon Center stores will be selling limited, butt-centric goods featuring Pikachu, Pip...

Cities: Skylines After Dark exposes the sexlessness of being an incompetent planner

Sep 28 // Steven Hansen
[embed]312756:60532:0[/embed] 17:28 I dragged one of our cat trees -- the one with the abandoned dumbbells weighing it down -- and set a pillow in front of it so I could sit in the middle of the living room, closer to the TV. I do not have my contacts in or the energy to put my contacts in. I am sitting on an inflatable, portable seat one might take to sit on bleachers in a stadium and my lower half is wrapped in a throw blanket. My feet tap at the entertainment center and I worry I will turn the Xbox One on. Fuck. I actually just turned the Xbox One on. This isn't even even a joke (not unlike much of my humor). I started writing fearing I’d forget whatever fevered nonsense was my dreamt-up angle and I just kicked the fucking thing on. Jesus. I am a slightly less put-together city planner than whomever drew up the East Coast. 17:36 The newsfeed in the new "After Dark"-tinged menu reads: "Problems Loading/Creating Cities? Click Here for the Solution!" After turning the Xbox on I am anticipating problems and feel like preemptively asking for the solution. 17:38 All my strength is going towards not choosing the "Diamond Coast" map for a new game because its "Suitable area for building" is 69%. I already can’t figure out which map best represents Tokyo or remember what "boreal" means. Google tells me. Google also tells me Diamond Coast is a place in Ireland, which I bet is a lot like Japan, so that’s why I have picked it after all (and not for the 69). 17:43 Oh my god the tutorial text is so small. 17:45 Building roads and also not drawing penises with the roads, a good start. 17:49 Oh god, not only are there curved roads, but there are elevated roads. This has become roller coaster tycoon. This is not like Japan at all. I have built an enormous ramp to nowhere, to the end of the known world. Oh god, there are tunnels, too? I tried to connect a tunnel to the outside world but it’s just a half-mile dead end under the outlying freeway. And it connects to a giant series of roads in my town. I thought this would work. 17:55 It’s nighttime now and it looks very ominous. The people are wanting for every single basic necessity: power, water, waste treatment, internet, a fancy cheese shop. It is a miracle they found their way into town at all. The elevated road to nowhere is lit up, dotted on both side with street lamps, but they are not plugged in, there is no power grid. They must be getting power by much more arcane means. 18:06 Japan is clean and forward thinking. I erected a wind turbine. A water pumping station and sewage treatment plant sit on the fraction of coast I have available, far from the inept roads and angry citizens. I think I correctly put the waste dumping bit down stream so as to not feed them poop. The water pipes and those two facilities make an amateurish rhombus. Nighttime again and the wind turbine glows in the distance away from civilization next to...palm trees? I do not think Ireland has palm trees and I do no think that Tokyo has palm trees, but my childhood home in San Francisco did have a giant palm tree in the backyard. Things don’t always make sense. My citizen’s thirst and high-maintenance demand for electricity sated, I zoom into this mess to hear dogs barking and birds chirping. It almost resembles a suburb, just drawn up by a child with limited spatial awareness and even less Lego blocks. The "needs" bubbles hovering atop each household look like guns. No, citizens. You are supposed to be Japan, not America. Cease this gun lust. 18:13 Those were not cartoon guns; they were sewage pipes. I have messed up the sewage. Peoples' homes are filled with shit. 18:21 I fixed it. I forgot to supply power to the sewage treatment plant. Unfortunately by the time I did it was in the most roundabout possible way and I ran out of money. I do not know what is more ominous: 1) the game’s zoomed-out soundtrack or 2) the din of suburbia when you zoom into multi-level blue homes and the lives of little people who don’t know their lives are being governed by an idiot who turned the Xbox on with his foot and has a quarter-mile, below-ground tunnel leading to a dead end. The streets look like the Windows 3D pipes animated screen saver or a badly played game of Snake. 18:29 The sound design in this game is terrifying. The commercial district is a roar of trucks and storefront shutters. The yakisoba joint advertises "tasty noodles" but that is a lie. It has no water running to it as I have run out of money. The game is warning me of bankruptcy. It offers me a $50,000 bailout with 0% interest, 0 monthly cost. If only real life would be so kind. I reject it. I would rather let my citizens suffer than accept charity. 18:42 I tried to continue the road to nowhere and bring it down into a new industrial sector and, good lord, look. Cars are driving up it now and doing impossible 180 degree turns and I feel ill. 18:51 I have reached a population of 500. I am a "Little Hamlet," in that I too am poisoned by inefficacy and unable to avenge Tokyo by making it in this video game. My state is rotten. 18:53 I consider building a hospital across from two landfills. 20:01 Someone has died. I have built my first cemetery. I bleed money. I have taken as many loans as possible. I cannot seem to build enough firehouses. My city burns. Businesses demand more educated workers. It asks to build public transport, but I am poor. I raise taxes and people riot. My city of 3,500 does not have the glorious neon of Tokyo. The endless high rises and suffocating streets and touts and steep stairwells. My citizens tweet hashtags unironically, like morons. 20:12 I build a cemetery (for real this time; the bodies must have been rotting) and hundreds of green smiley faces erupt from local residences. Same. My city of 5,000 is a far cry from Tokyo's 13.35 million. And, as evidenced, I am not so competent to tell you how dramatic things like setting different daytime and nighttime budgets for utilities go on to affect your success. Really, I don't think Cities has ever been too challenging, as it has twice now accommodated my complete lack of forethought and neighborhood building by way of penciling in the margins and connecting with carets and arrows. But the day and night cycle itself is quite beautiful and the additions like prisons, taxis, bus terminals, bikers, and international airports all work towards making a more robust simulator helping you build whatever nightmare town your heart desires. Me, I'm going to dip into the mod sections and recreate High Planes Drifter.
After Dark impressions photo
More like 'shitty planning'
And here I thought being a public official would get me laid. It turns out any clout built up by being the sole city planner gets et up when the citizens' homes are filled with sewage because of your incompetence. Having just...

Review: A Fistful of Gun

Sep 28 // Stephen Turner
A Fistful of Gun (PC) Developers: FarmerGnome Publisher: Devolver Digital Released: September 23, 2015 MSRP: $12.99 A Fistful of Gun is a bombardment of the senses. It’s your usual post-modern, knowing wink to the camera fare; very loud, very brash, but also raising a smile with its constructive asides and one-liners. So, an evil railroad tycoon has made a deal with the devil, but he’s about to get some karmic retribution from a diverse group of gunslingers. Along the way, these 11 wronged men (well, more than 11 if you count a whole regiment sharing a single horse) will take down anyone who stands in their way – KKK members, bandits, soldiers, Indians, voodoo men, the whole clichéd lot. And that’s it for the threadbare plot, really. The Story Mode is a marathon of randomised arena-based firefights, each one barely lasting more than a minute or two. Sometimes, you’re given an objective to complete in addition to killing everyone on screen, be it pushing a cart to its destination, duels and assassinations, or saving a hoedown from a stampede, to more loopy scenarios like Peyote trials and Bomb Fiestas. And since you can choose your next challenge, it’s always refreshing to see the variety and difficulty on the player’s own terms. [embed]312707:60526:0[/embed] Graphically, the Western setting is merely functional. Each location has its share of destructible environments, but it all looks intentionally sparse. Being a twitch shooter, you’re required to keep your attention on several things at once: your gunslinger, the bullets headed your way, and the tiny aiming reticule. The pixel art is charming when it’s calm, but when things erupt in spectacular fashion, it’s hard to keep track of the tiny characters and the aiming reticule is usually lost to the earthy colour palette. A Fistful of Gun is a difficult game, but it does offer plenty of risk/reward strategies in the way of power-ups, handicaps, and character playstyles. Causing havoc in the neutral zones might offer more money or lives, but you’ll also earn a wanted level and choice to either fight a fairly unstoppable Sheriff or take a fairly humiliating challenge like getting through the next level with an unpredictable hog or an explosive piñata on your back. Usually, if you can successfully weave in and out of trouble, you can pick up various whiskey bottles that can slow down time or give you extra damage. Horses give you extra speed and since this is a one-hit-kill kind of game, they allow you a second wind at the expense of their life. The main gimmick here is the different unlockable gunslingers. Each man has their own unique control scheme or weapon use. So for example, Abel can fire off six rapid shots in a row, but has to reload the whole cylinder before firing again. Virgil’s blunderbuss has to be charged for maximum effect, while Duke has a chaingun at the expense of movement speed, and Billy’s gun can only be fired by pressing the right key shown above his head. Some are clearly more favourable than others, and a select few are there for the added challenge, but nobody ever comes across as overpowered. While they all have to be randomly unlocked in the campaign, everybody is available straight away in Arcade Mode, and it’s also in this mode that A Fistful of Gun becomes more accessible, more fun. Basically, it’s an infinite gauntlet of arenas, where you’re rewarded with modifiers to take into the next battle – explosive bullets, faster movement speed, better accuracy, etc. But more importantly, it also benefits from having local co-op. It’s through that brief glimpse of partnership that I saw A Fistful of Gun at its fullest potential. Online is a mix of Arcade and Versus Modes (no co-op SP campaign, sadly) for up to nine players. Though, on launch weekend, the servers were dead. Ideally, it’s played best with a friends list, but if you don’t have a posse to call upon, then you won’t have much luck with public games; not to mention a lack of instant game matchmaking (which is supposedly being rectified in the near future). It would be pretty ridiculous to mark down A Fistful of Gun over a lack of consumer interest, but as a word to the wise and since many of its modes are reliant on co-op, it does currently come across as half a game. No, A Fistful of Gun’s only major errors lie in its repetitive and muddied action, all blasted through an ADD pacing. It’s still fun and humorous, but that relentless nature condenses its longevity into just a couple of sessions. If you’ll pardon the ham-fisted metaphor, A Fistful of Gun can best be described as a stick of dynamite with a short fuse; explosive and disposable in the brief time you’ll spend with it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Review photo
'My mistake... Four HUNDRED coffins'
Ah, another day, another pixel-art indie game with a Wild West theme. That said, A Fistful of Gun could’ve been set on the Moon and you’d be too busy dodging bullet hells and listening to arcade cabinet music to e...

Virtual reality never worked for me until I got to try the HTC Vive

Sep 28 // Joe Parlock
It’s worth noting at this point that this was the second day of a very loud, badly-lit event, and I was absolutely knackered. My eye was about as bad as it could be without being totally blind, and so I was in the prime condition to try and prove Valve wrong with its absolutist claims. I even took my glasses off, I was so ready to catch them out. I was getting ready to feign interest in the game as the goggles were lowered over my head. I’d had practice with the Rift after all: politely try and finish the demo and contain my disappointment at yet another bad VR experience. But as my eyes adjusted to looking out into space, I realised that holy shit... It worked. Me and my janky eye (powered purely by the godawful energy drink they were handing out to EGX visitors) were able to actually enjoy VR for the very first time. It was strangely emotional, looking around with nigh-on perfect head tracking and seeing a whole world which wasn’t the one I was sat in. I’ve heard plenty of reactions to using the Vive: people crying, people shaking, but it felt different to me. A part of me was impressed with the technology, but a bigger part of me was relieved that my condition maybe hasn’t precluded me from the VR future after all. I couldn’t quite breathe, and every time I managed to talk it was peppered with swearing and “oh my god”s. Those reactions were not earned by the game itself, as fun as Elite may be I had no god damn idea what I was doing, but by how VR had just been opened up to me at last after spending the last year convinced I would have to let it pass me by. I found myself completely immersed in my little spaceship, and I totally forgot about the huge convention going on just outside that room. I wasn’t in that small, cramped booth any more, I was in space. I would try and find the enemy by leaning over the back of my chair (and almost falling off), the HUDs of the spaceship flickering on as I turned to look at them… it wasn’t the small cinema experience I’d had with the Rift, and it wasn’t blurry even without my glasses. It was the VR experience I had built up in my head during the last year of people bragging about it to me, and holy fuck it worked. After Laura and I had played Elite on the Vive, all I could really do was stare at her in disbelief. I had felt slightly left out when she reacted in the exact same way ten minutes before, when coming out of the previous demo. There was a weird mix of “holy fuck that tech is amazing” and “holy fuck that tech works for me.” I was still thinking about it well into playing other games throughout the day. So while I can’t really confirm or deny Valve’s claim the Vive works for everyone, I can confirm it worked for me, the guy who even blue-red 3D glasses don’t work for. The Vive’s technology is amazing for everyone who’s at all interested in virtual reality I’m sure, and for VR connoisseurs it’s probably the best headset currently in development, but that doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just relieved something finally works for me. Thanks, Valve. You’ve done well with this. Remember, you can read Laura’s impressions on the HTC Vive too. She’s got way more experience with VR than I do, and she still thinks the Vive is a game changer.
HTC Vive photo
Me and my broken eye were in space
A long time ago, Valve and HTC boasted that their upcoming VR headset -- the HTC Vive if you’ve somehow managed to miss it -- would cause nausea for "zero percent of players." That sort of absolute statement got me inte...

The HTC Vive is an absolute VR game changer

Sep 28 // Laura Kate Dale
[embed]312714:60520:0[/embed] Over the past few months I've heard people evangelizing the leap in technology that the Vive represents. Stories of developers crying, journalists shaking, and the general public speechless. I went into my hands on demo with the Vive dubious. I came out a shaken, crying, speechless VR evangelist. So, where to start. I was brought by a couple of staff members into a large, square, empty room. A small computer sat tucked away in one corner. Otherwise, the roughly 12-square-foot room I was in was completely empty. Before trying out the headset, I was handed a pair of controllers and shown how they worked. The controllers featured a pair of clickable track pads on top, triggers underneath, and a weird angular antenna on top to facilitate 1:1 motion controls. Oddly, considering how closely I had been following the Vive, this was the first time I had actually seen the Vive's dedicated motion controllers. Once I had a handle on the controller layout, I was told to put on the headset. Much like the competition, it's a single set of elasticated and solid straps that's fitted by sliding it simply over the top of your head. The Vive was by far the most comfortable of the VR headsets I have worn to date, although it lacked the retail Oculus' built-in headphones. As a result I also had to find the pair of external headphones once the set was covering my eyes, ensuring they were on the correct ears so that sounds would emanate from the correct locations. This is a very real drawback to headsets without built-in headphones. Straight away, as soon as the demo selection screen was booted up, I could see that the Vive was going to be a step above the competition. The 1:1 motion tracking of the pair of controllers was superb, with no disconnect whatsoever between where my brain new my hands were, and where it could see them in game. Head tracking was unbelievably fast and responsive, and I had no issues at all with needing the headset centered. Everything was working flawlessly right off the bat. The first demo shown off had me stood on the deck of a sunken ship underwater. I could walk around the deck by walking around the room, with a checkered grid of blue lights appearing if I got too close to the physical edges of the room. I wandered around the ship touching fish, interacting with the ship using my hands, and eventually stood face to face with a whale, who followed me with his eyes as I walked around the deck.  I looked down off the edge of the ship into the dark chasm below, and I felt a pang of terror flood my system, quickly stepping back from the sense of height. This first Vive demo was the first time I have found myself truly immersed in a VR world, an experience best equated to a Star Trek Holodeck. I was walking around a world, interacting in a way that felt tangible. I felt a physical connection between my body's movements and the world I was exploring. I truly felt like I was exploring another world. This connection to the game world was in part due to the impressive tracking of my body in 3D space, but also in part just down to the technical specs of the device. The resolution was crisp, the field of view was wide with minimal visible edges, the audio was coming from the right locations relative to my position in the world, and everything was responsive enough to avoid pulling me from the world. This was everything VR immersion could hope to be. Over the course of the following thirty minutes, I explored a number of virtual worlds. I built machines out of physical parts, stretching them to fit my needs and slotting them into each other. I finely chopped vegetables and put them in a pan to make soup. I drew physical waves of glowing art into the air and explored them from differing angles. I was drawn into a virtual space that felt unbelievably real to me. I even explored an Aperture Science lab and caused untold havoc. Then, I had to remove the headset. It dawned on me I was in an empty room. It dawned on me I had spent the past half an hour wandering in circles around an empty room. It dawned on me those experiences, which had felt so real, were gone from the room that had been my escape from the busy, loud, stressful convention that once again surrounded me. I found myself shaken in a way VR had not previously left me. This was a game changer. With all this said, the experience I had with the Vive left me dubious if that same magic could be captured in a consumer setting. As stunning and immersive as the experience was, I could see the places where a home VR experience is likely not to stack up. The demos shown were all set in set-piece environments that were single square boxes, which limits the experiences available to the player. Most consumers don't have an empty room in their homes that's as large as this room was available to use as a dedicated VR room, which it currently feels like the Vive would need. The encouragement to walk around the room also meant I had to constantly be aware of the cable attached to the back of my own head and trailing behind me on the floor. These are all serious barriers to replicating the experience I had in a home setting. Still, I walked away from my time in the Vive headset sold that a Holodeck-esque VR future is attainable. The experience I had was the first time a video game has ever truly made me forget the physical world around me, immersing me entirely in a new set of worlds I felt unbelievably connected to. Compared to my demo experiences with the Oculus and PlayStation VR, my demo of the HTC Vive felt like something in an entirely different league. If only that were an experience I could bring home and replicate.
Valve VR photo
The demo left me shaking like mad
A few months back at E3, I was lucky enough to be able to get my hands on both the retail version of the Oculus Rift, as well as the PlayStation VR, back then known as the Morpheus. As a big fan of VR in theory, if dubious ab...

I used the Oculus Rift to high-five a dead alien in Surgeon Simulator

Sep 27 // Zack Furniss
The Oculus Connect 2 event felt very rushed, so I hurried to my demo appointment for some hands-on time with the Rift. A Hollywood-looking Oculus employee charmingly asked what type of genre I wanted to start with. "Horror," I quickly blurted out, anxiously wanting to experience some spooky VR. He looked taken aback, and quietly said "Well, we don't -- well, I guess aliens are scary..." and booted up Surgeon Simulator. It's not what I would have picked, but I went with it anyway. After fitting the headset onto my noggin and the Oculus Touch controllers onto my meathooks, I opened my eyes and found myself aboard a space station. There was an extraterrestrial splayed out on a table, its midsection an open maw hungry for my hands and tools. Beyond the corpse was a window peering out into the void of space. Glancing about the room, I took stock of what surgical instruments I would require. I needed to remove an explosive, glowing orb from the alien's stomach before it destroyed the station. As I used my real-life hands to direct their in-game counterparts towards my first tool, Hollywood began recommending I grab the bonesaw. I turned my head in his general direction (remember there was a whole reality between him and I) and told him "Quiet, nurse. I am the doctor now." I heard a combination of a grunt and a giggle and continued on my way. I grabbed a hatchet and began cutting into the alien. Again, he protested and I cut him off with a "Shhh..." I let go of the hatchet and realized I was in a zero-g environment. It casually drifted away from me as I turned to my next tool, a four-pointed device that looked like a shuriken. With all my might, I flung it into the alien's stomach(?) and watched as it began ricocheting off of the various surfaces in the room. Glass was now floating all around me, but I waved it away in annoyance. Next, I grabbed a clock and started smashing it into the alien just to see what would happen. All that happened was a mess that I told Nurse Hollywood to clean up when we were done. Time was beginning to run short, and I begrudgingly reached for the bonesaw. I hacked into the ribcage-looking protusion and used both hands to grab the orb, and chucked it out the garbage shoot. It drifted outside the window and exploded non-chalantly. To celebrate, I grabbed my alien friend's cold (I assume) dead hand with my left hand, and gave him a high five with the right. His hand drifted back slowly and without purpose, and Nurse Hollywood, sounding quite afraid, whispered "What just happened? Did you just..." And I nodded triumphantly. I took off the headset and handed it back to the wide-eyed man who wasn't sure what he had just watched. The combination of the Oculus Rift and Touch lent Surgeon Simulator more presence, and it helped me role-play (something I don't really do outside of D&D) even with a stranger staring at me the whole time. Something about shutting out the rest of the world makes you feel more involved, though it's tough to ignore outside factors. That's why Nurse Hollywood became one of my surgical instruments; if I was going to look ridiculous in front of him, he was going to be part of it, dammit. 
Surgeon Simulator photo
Up high! Down low! ...Alien?
Surgeon Simulator is the type of game that easily lends itself to stories. The precise mechanics involved provide anecdotes wherein each player can fondly recall specific moments of their playthrough. Though my time as a...

Podtoid 306: Tales of Tokyo Game Show

Sep 27 // Kyle MacGregor
Things we talked about: Japanese food and booze Metal Gear Online Airplanes Mobile gaming Weird Japanese shit Pokkén Tournament  Arcades Shinjuku Golden Gai Cat Cafés  Badweiser Donski doesn't tip Recent Episodes Podtoid 305: The Voice of God Podtoid 304: The Phantom Pain Podtoid 303: A Good Amount of Cocaine Podtoid 302: Virtual Reality is the Future Podtoid 301: The Least Interesting Man in the World Send any and all questions, tips, and Donski hentai to [email protected]
Podtoid: Tokyo Game Show photo
Kat Cafe Edition
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. Brett and Steven return from Tokyo Game Show to tell us about their adventures in Japan.

Bullet Train is the ultimate 10-minute light gun game

Sep 27 // Zack Furniss
My brief time with Bullet Train had me equipped with and Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch. The Touch had a pleasant heft to it that I wasn't expecting, and it didn't do that weird clicksquish thing that some controllers do when you squeeze them. A cheery Oculus representative gave me a brief tutorial as the demo began, but her instructions made it seem more complicated than it actually was. I began on a moving subway. An authoritative man spoke to me through the headset, telling me that as an agent, I needed to become acquainted with teleportation technology. Using a face button on the controller in my left hand, I could simultaneously slow down time and aim at a (Oculus) rift and quickly warp through space. After this, I was taught how to pick up weapons (by using a button near my ring and middle fingers with either hand), which felt natural in a way I hadn't anticipated. Since teleporting and dudeshooting are all I was going to be doing, I was ready. Fwiiiish. The subway doors slide open, the two pistols in my hands becoming deleterious paintbrushes capable of crossing out whoever I came across. I dilated time, various rifts opening for me, beckoning for me with large text decrying SHOTGUN or GRENADES, as if I was window shopping for more murderous methods. Like an inexperienced lover, I initially chose to deal death in the most simple yet effective ways I knew how. Point, shoot, teleport, repeat. Once I acclimated to not having traditional movement, I realized that without the use of my feet, it was up to my hands to bring satisfaction to this gunfight. Some of the best first-person shooters are about circle-strafing, jumping, positioning -- the spaces in between every trigger pull -- but Bullet Train doesn't occupy that same space. Here, it's about holding a pistol in one hand and a pump-action shotgun in the other, firing each, then slowing time to throw the pistol into the air, racking the action of said shotgun, catching the pistol, and resuming the bullet buffet. These moments are what make Bullet Train work. Racking a shotgun with one hand à la Terminator 2. Freezing time, pinching bullets, and flicking them at your enemies. Snatching rockets out of the air and flinging them back at the flying robot boss. Unloading pistols at two enemies and then dispatching a third by hurling your guns at him. It'd all make you feel incredibly cool if there wasn't someone holding a cable attached to your head. If I was at home, I'd probably be barking out horrible one-liners with a dumb grin on my face. What doesn't work is that the teleporting is disorienting, but not in the way one usually associates with the Oculus Rift. While everything felt incredibly intuitive (and I didn't get sick), teleporting doesn't make you face the direction you're pointing toward. The rifts are basically set up in a circle so that you can fight the steady trickle of men as they spawn in the center of the room. But something about teleporting across the room and abruptly turning around doesn't feel right. I don't think warping is the solution to fast-paced movement in all first-person games. It gives Bullet Train a Time Crisis feel, which isn't necessarily a negative, but would make it difficult to play something like this for longer than a few hours. I simultaneously hope this concept develops into something more refined, but also pray it isn't the template other studios follow. At Oculus Connect 2, I heard attendees complaining Bullet Train was getting too much attention when virtual reality has the potential to be a portal to so many different worlds. To me, first-person shooters were inevitably going to be a highlight for goggles that can take you to alternate dimensions. So long as we see these places through prisms other than down the barrel of a gun, I don't see the harm in highly-polished festivals of testosterone. P.S. Here's a bonus of picture, Rift-clad and full of sex appeal:
Bullet Train photo
Be a badass for 10 minutes
The other day at Oculus Connect 2, Epic Games announced its newest VR demo, Bullet Train. Instead of a simulation following legislators dealing with the political red tape surrounding the bullet train between Los Angeles to S...

When a bonus mode is better than the main game

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

Experience Points .24: Deadly Premonition

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

Obscure Video Games: Rabbit

Sep 26 // Obscure Video Games
At this point you're probably wondering "Why would anyone name a fighting game Rabbit?". I think most folks would assume it was a mascot platformer if they hadn't seen a screenshot. Well, the hook in Rabbit is that each character has an animal spirit that helps them fight, similar to the "Stands" in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. One of the characters has a rabbit spirit, hence the name. But you could play a few matches without seeing the rabbit spirit, so it's still kind of an odd title choice. The best part of Rabbit (besides the pixel art) is the quirky line-up of characters. Here are some of my favorites: Fighter Name: Little EddySpirit Animal: Peccary (I'd never heard of it either.) Eddy is the illegitimate son of Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-il. As you can see from his onesie, he's also a proud member of the adult baby community. When he's not cracking skulls, Eddy makes his living as an Elvis impersonator. Fighter Name: Hou-enSpirit Animal: Wolf Hou-en was once an actor in the Chinese opera, but the constant howling eventually drove him insane. Now he's a professional Juggalo who murders children with the help of his lovable, mentally-challenged pet "Fleabag". Fighter Name: EgithSpirit Animal: Ox Egith puts the sass in assassination. He uses money made from killing people to run an orphanage. I'm seriously not making this up; it's in the FAQ. So, if you need another 2D fighting game for your Sega Saturn, then Rabbit's not a bad choice. It doesn't have the biggest roster, but otherwise I think it's nearly as good as any fighter made by Capcom or SNK back in the '90s. Now watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. [embed]311326:60445:0[/embed]
Obscure Video Games photo
What's your spirit animal?
I have a hard time reviewing fighting games. There's not much of a plot, and they tend to all be very similar in their basic mechanics. However, Rabbit is an interesting game that doesn't get much attention, so I think i...

Tokyo Game Show 2015 games of the (tokyo game) show

Sep 25 // Steven Hansen
[embed]311262:60422:0[/embed] Metal Gear Online (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain) The Phantom Pain came out not even a month ago and it is just the start. We've not even seen the full brunt of the push-back to early glowing reviews. I've only reached the "first ending" myself. There's a lot to unpack, digest and though we are already full Metal Gear Online is still homing in next month like a chocolate mousse impaled by a Stinger.  That the online component makes you feel like an NPC, that you can feel the hilarious shame of getting knocked out, strung up, and ripped off the battlefield like a tooth tied to a slamming door is cool. It is online competitive multiplayer with just about the full gamut of single-player options and all those idiosyncrasies add up to a unique feeling competitive game just as they did for the single-player. Couple it with some one-life, no-respawn modes and, yes, Metal Gear Online is Metal Gear, online. Runners-up: Gravity Rush Remastered, Super Rude Bear, Monster Hunter Stories, Phantasy Star Online 2, Street Fighter V.
Big in Japan photo
Big in Japan
Like a kidney stone through the urethra of my life, another Tokyo Game Show has passed. We saw some great things in Japan: katsudon, vape stores, attempted park fights, coming at the king, and video games. Some of those video...

Review: Undertale

Sep 24 // Ben Davis
Undertale (PC)Developer: Toby FoxPublisher: Toby FoxReleased: September 15, 2015MSRP: $9.99 Undertale is the story of a human child who falls into a deep underground cavern filled with monsters and must find a way to escape back to the surface. The monsters had all been banished there by the humans long ago, so tensions are high whenever a human drops in to visit. The player quickly meets two monsters, a flower named Flowey and a motherly cow/rabbit monster named Toriel. They seem nice enough, but they are monsters after all, so should they really be trusted? The journey through the caves is filled with puzzles, turn-based random encounters, and a whole lot of humor. The outstanding gameplay mechanic here, though, is combat. It's a unique system, and even though encounters are random, they don't occur often enough to become an annoyance. In fact, I usually found myself looking forward to my next encounter. [embed]312265:60496:0[/embed] The turn-based combat in Undertale works very differently from most other RPGs. While attacking or defending, a box will appear with a short mini-game to complete in order to determine the amount of damage given or received. Attack mini-games involve stopping a moving bar along a slider at the perfect moment for maximum damage. The majority of defense mini-games play out a bit like a bullet hell; enemies will usually send out a volley of projectiles, and the player must move their heart around to avoid getting hit by anything. Bosses each have their own slight alterations to the defense mechanics, and the game does a good job of changing things up from time to time so that it's not always strictly bullet hells. Attacking is not the only option, however. There are two other choices, Act and Mercy, which will provide much of the core combat gameplay for many players. The Act option offers several ways to interact with the enemy, which change depending on which monster is being fought. These can range from friendly actions such as "Compliment" or "Hug" to meaner things such as "Pick On" or "Ignore." Choose the wrong interaction and the monster might become more aggressive. Choose the correct interaction and the monster might become happier or no longer wish to fight. When this happens, the Mercy function opens up and the fight can be ended non-violently. I honestly enjoyed trying out every possible option anyway, even if I already knew what to do, just to see how the monsters would react. Basically, it's the player's choice whether to destroy the monsters or show them mercy. Killing monsters grants money and XP which can raise the human's LV. Sparing monsters is only rewarded with money (and perhaps a new friend). It's entirely possible to play through the entire game without killing anything and remain at LV 1, and it's also possible to kill everything. But keep in mind that every decision has consequences. Aside from combat, there are also puzzles to be solved in order to navigate the caverns, but for the most part these are very light. I can't imagine many players will get stuck on any of the puzzles, and actually some of them are solved by the monsters themselves because they doubt the human's abilities. The puzzles aren't particularly impressive, but they're used more as a way to keep things interesting as the player is exploring rather than trying to stump them. One of Undertale's greatest strengths is its wonderful cast of characters and its extremely witty sense of humor. While the main character is sort of a gender-neutral blank slate for the player to inhabit, the monsters are anything but. I quickly fell in love with just about every character I came across, even some of the common enemies, since it's possible to have conversations with them during battle. Everyone in Undertale is so memorable and interesting, I just wanted to hug them all (and I did hug some of them!). The humor is spot-on as well. I haven't laughed out loud this consistently during a game since EarthBound. Between listening to a long conversation of terrible skeleton puns, having a flexing contest with a muscle-headed merhorse, cooking and eating a cup of instant noodles in the midst of battle, finding out how item names like Butterscotch Pie or Spider Donut are abbreviated, and hundreds of other hilarious moments, my face was starting to hurt from smiling and laughing so much. The thing that really hooked me, sealing the deal for Undertale being such a phenomenal game, was how it deals with player choices. I don't want to spoil much in this regard, but there are multiple endings as well as many moments and lines of dialogue which can be altered depending on the player's actions, and some of the things the game remembered seriously surprised me. It's really difficult to talk about what makes Undertale so great without spoiling anything, but if the concept sounds interesting to you at all, I highly recommend checking it out. Don't let the somewhat plain-looking graphics turn you off, because the game more than makes up for that through its superb gameplay, characters, and writing (not to mention the excellent soundtrack!). And actually, many areas, objects, and characters are surprisingly beautiful and well-drawn, so even the lackluster art style started to grow on me after a while. Undertale provided me with many hours of laughter, happiness, and warm, fuzzy feelings, all the while surprising me with some truly sad and shocking moments out of the blue. It's the kind of game that I'll want to replay many times in order to see how all of the various choices play out, and I'm sure I will remember it fondly for years to come. I hope everyone else can find as much joy from playing Undertale as I have! [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Undertale review photo
Pure happiness
Every once in a while, a game comes along that takes you completely by surprise. I noticed a lot of people talking about Undertale recently, and how great it was. The screenshots looked a little underwhelming, but I decided t...

Destiny is looking better than ever after one week of The Taken King

Sep 21 // Alissa McAloon
Rather than draw background from the original hodgepodge of a story, The Taken King builds off the plot from The Dark Below expansion. After killing Crota in the Crota's End raid, the Hive prince's daddy Oryx is out for revenge. Oryx stomps into the solar system with a massive spaceship and an army of Taken soldiers. The return of the Hive monarchy also means Eris Morn is once again a major player, and she's somehow gone even further off the deep end this time around. The difficulty of The Taken King spans largely from Oryx's Taken army. The Taken are just that; familiar enemies that have been stolen and corrupted by Oryx to present new abilities and new challenges. Taken Phalnaxes now fire bursts of energy from their shields that send you flying through the air, and sometimes to your death. Taken Psyons spontaneously divide and multiply, and Taken Minotaurs are invisible. And yes, Invisible Minotaurs are just about as terrifying as you'd think. Additionally, Oryx's army has invaded Destiny's year one content. While running strike playlists, the enemies will sometimes be replaced with their Taken variants. You'll be spending a lot of your time running strikes to grind up your light level, and Taken invasions thankfully keep that from getting dull. The first few minutes of The Taken King introduce more narrative bliss to Destiny than the game saw in its entire year-one cycle. Characters that once only populated the tower and sold the occasional item now drive the story of Destiny forward. Bungie finally took full advantage of the vocal talent it had on roster by letting Nathan Fillion's character Cayde-6 take point. Cayde's screw-the-rules approach to taking on Oryx often clashes with the more uptight ideas of the Warlock and Titan vanguard. This bit of rebellion propels the story forward and makes the whole experience way more engaging than Destiny's original "select mission, shoot aliens, don't ask questions" approach to storytelling. Aside from the overhauled light level system, the best change to come to Destiny year two is how missions are handled. Before, any story mission was just highlighted on the world map, while multi-part quests were handed out as bounties. Some of the early plot missions are still delivered this way, but the majority of missions are instead given as quests. A new quest tab in the menu is home to a variety of quests that range from crucible objectives to extended story missions. Exotic weapon quests now show up here, rather than taking up a precious bounty slot. Quests are usually multi-step experiences that require players to complete an objective and then report back to a character in the Tower or Reef. The system works wonderfully to deliver a steady stream of objectives and direction without being intrusive or demanding. The new subclasses are also pretty cool. I main a Warlock and the Stormcaller class is almost too much fun. It's hard to resist cackling like an idiot when your Warlock is gliding around chaining lightning bolts between enemies. I haven't been able to Stormcall in PvP yet without getting my butt handed to me, but I'm sure someone a bit more skilled could easily dominate with it. The Titan's Sunbreaker class is just as fun. Hurling flaming hammers at enemies, both in PvE and PvP, can quickly turn the tide of battle in your favor. I still haven't rolled a Hunter, but I've been in fireteams with some using the new Nightstalker class. Their super ability, Shadowshot, allows them to silence, slow, and tether enemies to a fixed point. Used in conjunction with any of the other two new subclasses, Shadowshot is a thing of beauty. So far, The Taken King has brought a lot of improvements to the overall Destiny experience. If you haven't taken the leap and tried Destiny yet, now might be the time to do it. I know I'm a bit more in love with the game than Chris Carter, but maybe this will be the expansion to change his mind. His review will be coming in the near future, but in the mean time, check out Destructoid's reviews for Destiny and its first two expansions, The Dark Below and House of Wolves.
Destiny: The Taken King photo
Warlock is still the best class
It's almost been one week since Oryx got his claws into Destiny and things couldn't be better. The Taken King expansion, along with the 2.0 patch released earlier on, reworked Destiny's entire leveling system and quest progr...

I've never seen a horror game quite like Noct

Sep 21 // Jordan Devore
Noct photo
Creepy thermal imaging
I've heard of Noct. Looked at it. Read about it. But, somehow, I didn't realize until today that it's built for multiplayer. Publisher Devolver Digital even describes it as "a 2D top-down multiplayer survival horror game." Wh...

Japanese arcades aren't just fun, they're museums

Sep 21 // Chris Carter
At the suggestion of a few locals, I decided to give the "Try Arcade" and "Hey Arcade" a go (among others), which are two of the biggest arcade locations in Akihabara -- though everywhere from Shibuya to Shinjuku has their own arcades. Although I've been told that arcade attendance has been hurting somewhat in the past five years due to the rising popularity of consoles and mobile gaming, there's plenty of Japanese residents frequenting arcades, to the point where you'll never be wanting for a challenger or playmate. Of particular note is that the popularity of fighting games has seemingly never dropped. From the old school Street Fighter II Turbo machines all the way up to recent iterations, plenty of fans are lining up to get a chance to play them against a worthy foe. Out of every series there, the two most popular I noticed were Ultra Street Fighter IV and Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator, which had completely full cabinets and lines behind them. In Japan players don't really "coin up" with putting a credit on the cabinet, so you kind of just wait your turn and try to get in when you can. But tried and true fighters aren't the only thing on offer -- I was completely taken aback by how much variety each arcade contained in general. They had everything from rooms full of rhythm games, to racers, to UFO catchers, to card games, to units that used touch interfaces or had full-on mouse support. One of my favorite experiences was a huge room full of Gundam cabinets, which allowed players to face off on two teams with Zakus or Gundams respectively, controlling their avatar like a real mobile suit complete with a pod seat, pedals, and two joysticks. Hell, one place I went to had a urinal video game in the bathroom. Out of everything on offer however, the most poignant sections for me had to be the retro floors. One particular aspect that we aren't talking about nearly enough in the gaming arena is preservation. Thousands of arcade units every day are slowly withering away, and once they're gone, they're gone. Thankfully, publishers tend to reintroduce their older games to a new generation by way of marketplaces like the PSN and eShop, but so many titles have fallen by the wayside, or worse, in landfills. Japanese arcades do their part in preserving the past, whether it's by way of taking care of the original cabinets or keeping games alive with other methods like the Nintendo VS. System. I was able to relive some of the first memories I've ever had with gaming, and even play something that I've always wanted to all my life, but never had the chance to -- the original Goonies game, which never came out in the West on a console. Goonies II (which I did own), came out on the NES, oddly enough. Also, playing DoDonPachi and other Cave shooters in their original arcade form was magical. Pretty much everything you could want is housed in Japanese arcades, so if you happen to make the visit out, I highly recommend checking them out. Whether you're a hardcore fighting game fan or want to try something new, it's worth the trip.
Japanese arcades photo
To Akiba and beyond
In the US, arcades are mostly a relic. On the east coast where I grew up, other than the overpriced Dave & Buster's (and perhaps DisneyQuest, which is being closed down after 18 years in 2016), it's really tough to f...

So, let's talk about Metal Gear Solid V's ending

Sep 18 // Chris Carter
As it turns out, a lot of people I talked to during review week didn't actually see the real ending. They assumed that when Huey left Mother Base, that was it. But there's a secret conclusion beyond that, which unlocks after a certain amount of missions have been completed -- you know, those retread ones on higher difficulty settings, and/or a combination of Side Ops. If you need a refresher, watch it here: [embed]311489:60440:0[/embed] I was lucky enough (well, it wasn't luck, it was skill and hard work, haha) to see this ending before I completed my review. But like everyone else, I have mixed feelings towards it. For one, especially with the removal of the post-game Eli mission, it definitely feels like Konami cut funding for Kojima and his team. It was likely that it happened when all the drama surrounding Kojima first started, and the publisher probably felt that his team wouldn't be able to deliver the game on time. Who knows, maybe the microtransactions were added in as collateral to make back a portion of the massive Phantom Pain budget. We may never know the full details for sure (it's a good bet that Kojima had to sign an NDA), but we do know that the production was troubled. In that vein, while I did enjoy the 30-ish minutes of tapes that sufficiently linked Metal Gear Solid V with the rest of the games in the series (featuring heavy conversations that essentially close out Zero's storyline), they were just that -- tapes. This may be the last game in the entire series, and fans were left with a text crawl and tapes to provide most of the details. That isn't to say I thought it ruined the game -- far from it. I actually enjoyed listening to that audio, particularly the logs with Zero and Skull Face, and I was literally on the edge of my seat as some revelations were uncovered. As a fan, it was basically everything I could ask for. Plus, Guns of the Patriots was a fine enough true ending for the entire franchise. As far as the Big Boss twist goes, I'm on the fence. I don't think it cheapens the character, because he still exists, and causes trouble later on throughout the storyline. Additionally, Metal Gear has always dabbled in the concept of "the legend" being stronger than the actual person (especially in Snake Eater), so it makes perfect sense within the confines of the series. Also, if you've been following the game for the past few years, Kojima and company have been hinting at this for some time, in a fairly clever manner. Even small nods like Kaz saying "what about him?" in a trailer, referring to someone else other than Big Boss, and the medic scene in the helicopter at the end of Ground Zeroes were clues. I feel like this long game only partially paid off for Kojima, but I disagree with those who say that the ending "sucked." Still, my initial years-old prediction of the last part of the game being a remake of the first MSX title, featuring a surprise appearance by David Hayter as Solid Snake to Kiefer Sutherland's Big Boss didn't happen, and it would have been pretty cool to see. But what did you think? I've already seen angles from all sides of the debate, and since the game has been out long enough, I figured this was the perfect time to gather some thoughts on the issue.
Metal Gear Solid V photo
Did it?
Enough time has passed, to the point where we can safely talk about the ending to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. As a common sense sort of reminder, this post below will contain spoilers. The comments will contain spoilers. This is a spoiler-heavy post about spoilers. Spoilers.

If you enjoyed Resident Evil HD, you'll probably like the Zero remake

Sep 18 // Chris Carter
As for my hands-on session with the game, I ended up coming away satisfied. As a whole it looked even more detailed than Resident Evil HD (the fur on spiders was particularly impressive, as were the flame and steam effects), and the action was incredibly smooth, especially when coupled with the updated control scheme. You're still going to brave the unknown with Rebecca and Billy, and in addition to a quick switching mechanic, you can also control the non-playable character with the right analog stick -- so, just like the original, there's no dumb, meandering AI that sits there while an enemy gets carte blanche to lay into them. Some people probably aren't going to take to a lot of the legacy features though. Like the last remaster there's still the same "door opening" sequences (originally built for tension, but are now admittedly a tad dated), there's still cheesy cutscenes done in the style of the original game (in other words, they aren't upgraded in any way), and although the controls have been given a makeover, it's still very much an old school Resident Evil game. According to Tsukasa Takenaka that's completely ok. When asked if he considered Resident Evil Zero an essential title in the series, he responded, "of course! The thing about Resident Evil is the more you play, the more you get out of it. So with Zero, you're really getting that whole backstory on the first game, such as Wesker's motivations, the story of the mansion, and more. It's unfortunately one of the less played games in the series, but I think it's really important and essential to the overall big picture." I went on to ask about Capcom's strategy to focus more on remasters and remakes, and how that was going for them. Takenaka noted that "overall yes it's been a positive move. We really want to respond to fan feedback, and those fans asked for more remasters. It's a priority for us to answer that call." I immediately followed that up with asking him what Resident Evil game would be his ideal remaster project, to which he replied, "Outbreak, definitely." Good man. As a fan of Wesker I definitely wanted to ask for more information on the upcoming Wesker Mode in Zero, and Takenaka had a few things to say on that front -- "yes, Wesker Mode is going to be the toy you play with after you're done with the game. It's a stress reliever, a lot like the rocket launcher or infinite ammo options in some of the other games. Here, Billy is replaced with Wesker. He has kinetic powers, and a powerful dash, but Rebecca is unchanged. He's kind of like a power-up, and he's based on the Resident Evil 5 version of the character, which is voiced by DC Douglas. Puzzled as to why the remakes haven't featured a full-on Mercenaries mode in the style of the newer entries, Takenaka said that he really wanted the team to add new features, and not tread on old ground again. Going on, he stated, "well if you remember, Zero had a mode called 'Leech Hunter,' and we're of course keeping that in with the remake. But we wanted to do something new too, so Wesker Mode was born. Also, the camera angles don't really work very well with Mercenaries, since we're going by the old game's camera." Takenaka then shared his vision for these remakes (with a reminder that Resident Evil 2 is being remade as well -- sadly, he wouldn't respond to my inquiry for details on that project), noting that his main motivation was to allow younger fans to "catch up" if they missed out on the older entries or didn't own the hardware necessary to play them. "This is not a signpost of a future direction" he added. Really, if every old Resident Evil game up to the fourth main iteration is remade, I'll be happy. I'd love to try out Resident Evil 3 in HD, and if Takenaka has his way, Outbreak HD on a modern online network. Capcom is trying a whole lot of things right now with mixed success, but this seems to be working, and the fans seem to want it.
Resident Evil Zero photo
Hands-on with producer Tsukasa Takenaka
Resident Evil HD was pretty freaking great. Finally, Capcom stopped fumbling around with the franchise (I liked some parts of 6 well enough, but could have done without it), and went back to its roots. It's a polari...

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