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Review: Super Mario Maker

Sep 02 // Chris Carter
Super Mario Maker (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 4Publisher: NintendoRelease: September 11, 2015MSRP: $59.99 The core theme behind Super Mario Maker is simplicity. Opening up with a rather lovely tutorial section, you'll be introduced to the creation process, which is as simple as touching an object with your stylus, and placing it in the on-screen grid. The entire experience can be played on the GamePad without the use of a TV, and never seeks to overwhelm the player. As the famous fictional Chef Gusteau once said, "anyone can cook!" and now anyone can create a Mario level. While Super Mario Maker doesn't give you everything your heart desires, you'll find plenty of toys to screw around with, from enemies like Kuribo's Shoe (which are actually Yoshi in select themes), to Giant Goombas that split into more Goombas, that can assist you in crafting objectives like P-Switch-centric puzzles, and even shoot 'em up levels with clouds or Koopa Clown Cars. You can create pipes or doors to send players into different areas of a level, tracks to craft moving platforms -- every basic Mario concept you can think of is here. The bread and butter of Maker is themes. You'll start with the original 8-bit Mario theme as well as the New Super Mario Bros. U series, then eventually work your way up to Mario 3, and the always delightful World. Themes (which have their own unique physics and in a few cases, movesets) can be shifted at the press of a button, including the ability to jump into underground, ghost, water, airship, or castle settings in every sub-franchise. It's awesome to create a level and see it switch to an entirely new gimmick within seconds. An "undo" option, eraser (which can be toggled with quick trigger presses), and a nuke-like reset button make everything easier. Costumes, however, are probably my favorite extra in Mario Maker, which provide players with a way to morph into other characters like Sonic, Pac-Man, or Mega Man. They're unlocked by way of amiibo, or another method I'll get to shortly, and have some unique animations and sound effects in tow, like Pac-Man's shift to an 8-bit sprite when he runs. Sadly, all of these costumes are limited to the 8-bit style only. The more you play it, the more you'll realize that limitations are a recurring issue with Super Mario Maker, despite its immense charm. [embed]306729:60161:0[/embed] Not all of these objects will be available immediately, either. Instead, you'll have to wait nine days to obtain everything, including major themes like Mario 3 and World. I can confirm that players will be able to fast-forward the Wii U clock a day ahead at a time to "unlock" the next set of items. But the process is still painfully tedious, as you have to play five minutes to "allow" the unlock, then switch to the main menu, then back to the game to receive the items, then play for another five minutes, and so on. Since this method is available, the entire requirement is rendered pointless. Having said all that, it wasn't really a dealbreaker in any way for me, and didn't have any direct correlation to my assessment here. However, there are a number of shortcomings inherent to Mario Maker's toolset even after unlocking everything. For starters, there are no assets related to Mario 2 outside of a select few re-skins. Not only is the entire theme missing from the game, but unique objects and enemies such as the iconic Phanto are nowhere to be found. Additionally, there is no way to eliminate the countdown timer (the max is 500 seconds), which takes the wind out of exploration-based creation's sails considerably. There's also a severe limitation in terms of how you can build out levels. Right now you can't choose to create a vertical-themed stage -- you have to go with the same horizontal blueprint the game gives you without fail. Maker also limits the amount of enemies you can have in any given level (for instance, only three Bowsers or roughly 100 smaller enemies) even in the 8-bit theme, which is a silly design. Mario Maker does have a few modes beyond the creation realm, thankfully, including a "10 Mario Challenge" mode that tasks you with completing eight levels in 10 lives. This essentially functions as the campaign, and brings players through a variety of different themes composed by Nintendo. The reward is two-fold -- you'll experience a fun pseudo-story mode, and obtain each blueprint for use later in the game's creation mode. They're relatively easy, but some of them provide mechanics very rarely seen in a core Mario game, and are worth spending several hours on alone. The online hub (titled "Course World") is probably where players are going to spend most of their time in the coming months. Having played other creation games with online functionality for years, I have to say that this is one of the better modules. There's support for everything, from bookmarking levels (with hearts), to viewing your "played" history, to queuing up your own creations, and sorting potential levels with qualifiers like popularity and newly shared. It's crazy to see what people have come up with already in the past few weeks, like re-creations of old school Mega Man levels complete with the 8-bit costume, to the classic "music videos" we've seen for years on end in games like LittleBigPlanet. My one gripe with viewing levels online is that they are automatically "spoiled" right before you start them. Basically, by looking at a stage, it will show the entire layout by default -- there's no way to "hide" this currently, and a lot of courses I played lost their luster as a result of this snafu. As a bonus of sorts, the hub has its own version of the 10 Mario Challenge -- a 100 lives version, which basically grabs levels online and mixes them into a custom world. This is probably my favorite element of the game, as it does a good job of curating content and giving it to you in a rapid-fire format. It also rewards players with costumes upon completion, so you don't need to use amiibo to unlock them. Super Mario Maker is a charming little creation tool, and I'm sure fans will come up with some amazing levels for years to come. However, it feels a bit more constrained than it needs to be, and is in dire need of updates or DLC to keep it going long term.
Super Mario Maker review photo
You can be Mega Man in it
Ever since I was five years old, I've been drawing my own Mario levels on graph paper. It's a pretty common story, because when I look at a series to give me a platforming baseline, it's usually Mario. Nintendo didn't ju...

Amazon photo
Amazon

Amazon offering downloads for Nintendo games now


Officially links Nintendo ID
Sep 01
// Chris Carter
Just in time for Super Mario Maker's release on the horizon, Amazon is offering up downloads for select Nintendo games. In essence, you'll buy the content, then link your Nintendo ID to the service, and the code will auto-pop...
Space Dave! photo
Space Dave!

Space Dave! adds eyeball blasting with a Galaga twist


Sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that
Aug 30
// Jonathan Holmes
Woah Dave! was a pretty big success, though it's looking like the next title on the Dave! series won't be content to simply give us more of the same. While Dave's first adventure was heavily influenced by the 1983's Mario Br...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Decepticons dominate in Splatoon's latest Splatfest


Autobots, you don't have the touch
Aug 30
// Jonathan Holmes
Yesterday's North American Spatfest was a unique event, featuring the first of hopefully many brand tie-ins with an outside property. Splatoon's transforming squid kids were tasked to join either team Autobot or team Deceptic...

Mario Maker PAX photo
Mario Maker PAX

I made a terrible Super Mario Maker level at PAX


I had 20 minutes!
Aug 29
// Myles Cox
Super Mario Maker is playable on the show floor at PAX, and it turns out Nintendo is giving players a rather generous amount of hands-on time with the game. If you're patient and don't have anything else to do (also if y...
Special edition photo
Special edition

Xenoblade Chronicles X gets a special edition with a USB stick


Sick USB stick
Aug 29
// Steven Hansen
Xenoblade Chronicles X is getting a collector's edition along with its December 4 release in North America (it launched in Japan earlier this year).  The $90 version includes the game, a 100 page art book, a tiny illustr...
Super Music Maker photo
Super Music Maker

The greatest song ever made has been recreated in Super Mario Maker


Trust me, this one won't let you down
Aug 28
// Jed Whitaker
A level called "All the costumes unlocked! :)" has been featured by Nintendo in Super Mario Maker, that tricks people into thinking the level will let them use some of the many unlockable costumes in the game. Instead plays the greatest song ever known to man.  I don't want to ruin the surprise, so just watch the video above and enjoy. 
Hive Jump photo
Hive Jump

Hive Jump, coming in 2016 on Wii U, has amiibo support


Looks like a cool shooter
Aug 28
// Chris Carter
Watching this trailer for Hive Jump brings me back to old school shooters like the ones based on the Aliens franchise. I'm really loving the art direction, focus on multiplayer, and gunplay, but it appears as if we...
amiibo photo
amiibo

What other indie amiibo would you like to see now that Shovel Knight is confirmed?


A Binding of Isaac amiibo would be rad
Aug 28
// Chris Carter
Now that the Shovel Knight amiibo is officially official, the floodgates have presumably been opened for other indie collaborations. While we aren't 100% sure that he'll appear in Super Smash Bros. as a guest character, ...
Mario Maker photo
Mario Maker

Get a better look at the different styles available in Super Mario Maker


The 'World' style still rocks
Aug 28
// Chris Carter
Nintendo is still feeding us information for Super Mario Maker, and this time, it's a quick look at the different styles available. As most of you know by now, the game has the original Super Mario Bros. 8-bit theme ava...
Lost Reavers photo
Lost Reavers

Project Treasure on Wii U is now known as 'Lost Reavers'


Still looks up in the air
Aug 28
// Chris Carter
I could go either way on Project Treasure, which has recently had a name switch into Lost Reavers. Shooting mummies with machine guns in a dungeon crawling format looks awesome, as do the Souls-esque boss fights, but the fre...
amiibo photo
amiibo

8-bit Mario, Dr. Mario, Olimar, Ganon, and Zero Suit Samus amiibo up on Target


Grab 'em
Aug 28
// Chris Carter
[Update: looks like most of them are gone. Try accessing them on a mobile browser or through the Target app.] Still collecting amiibo? You'll find the Classic 30th Anniversary Mario, Dr. Mario, Olimar, Ganondorf, and Zero Sui...

Review: Disney Infinity 3.0

Aug 28 // Chris Carter
Disney Infinity 3.0 (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Avalance Software / Ninja Theory / Studio Gobo / Sumo Digital / United Front GamesPublisher: Disney Interactive Studios / LucasArtsRelease: August 30, 2015MSRP: $64.99 (Starter Pack) / $34.99 (Play Set) / $13.99 (Characters) As is tradition in my toy-to-life reviews, let me break down how everything works. For $64.99, you'll get the Starter Pack, which includes the Twilight of the Republic campaign Play Set, the game, Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano figures, and a USB base. You're basically getting the 10- to 15-hour Republic story on top of the creation-centric Toy Box feature that the series is now known for. Rise Against the Empire and Force Awakens Play Sets are going to arrive at a later date, and Inside Out's Play Set will be available at launch. This review is only assessing the Starter Pack, but look out for coverage of other Play Sets in the future. Phew! With that out of the way, let's move onto the content actually included with the base game. At this point, it's safe to say that the collective of developers involved with the project has figured out how to craft a meaningful combat system. To prevent people from mashing buttons, delayed combo attacks have been implemented, as well as mechanics like juggling, and a launcher that's initiated by holding down the attack button. You can also launch an enemy with a lightsaber and juggle them with a blaster, then when they land, use a combo. [embed]307321:60117:0[/embed] In other words, it's easy for kids and parents alike to both enjoy themselves -- the more skilled party will be able to dig deep enough into the ability system and customization elements, and the other party can mostly just wing it. It's a much better balance than the LEGO games, which tend to be just family-friendly. In Disney Infinity 3.0, "hard" mode is akin to a normal setting in most action games, and "Extreme" can be rather tough at points, though artificially so with gigantic life pools for regular enemies. The characters themselves feel fresh, especially the force-wielding ones like Yoda and Anakin, who have access to force push and pull maneuvers on top of their unique super abilities and powers. For instance, Yoda can knock an enemy up in the air, use his super to instantly dash to someone across the room, combo them, and then dash back to catch the other foe. It's not as advanced as other top-notch action games, but it does feel like a marked improvement. As for the story pack, Twilight of the Republic takes a more traditional turn, compared to the one-map sandboxes of past Play Sets. Here, you'll fly between different hubs with your ships, consisting of individual planets like Naboo, Tatooine, Geonisis, and Coruscant, as well as the vast expanse of space in Star Fox-esque sequences, complete with barrel rolls and quick turns. I really dig the variety on offer here, because while the current Star Wars characters can't move about as freely as say, Iron Man or Spider-Man, the hubs all feel unique in their own way. Additionally, Disney is boasting that all Star Wars characters are compatible with all Star Wars Play Sets, which helps (albeit partially) solve the issue of having a bunch of toys that don't work, similar to how the Marvel worlds functioned. You still have to earn tokens to unlock the use of other characters, but they're more easily accessible, and you only need to find one rather than a series of them. Having said that, it's a bummer that the base game didn't come with more than just Star Wars. It would have been great to see a fully fledged Disney property (like Mickey's Toontown) since 1.0 was heavily Pixar-infused, and 2.0 was a Marvel joint. If you're keen on playing with every toy though, the Toy Box is still available. Not only can you create levels on your own with various setups like racing, adventure, and arena action, but you can also easily find stages online to play with one of the best hubs in the business. What makes Disney Infinity so great is that Disney curates content for you in addition to all of the usual fixins, and provides easy access to top-rated creations -- so it takes very little effort to find the "good stuff." I had access to a limited amount of levels pre-launch, which includes a Gravity Falls level with a log ride and roller coaster, as well as a rhythm memorization minigame, a seek-and-find puzzle, a stealth sequence, and of course, classic platforming levels. If you pre-order the game, you'll also net the Toy Box Takeover Play Set, which really should have been included in the base package for everyone. It's essentially Diablo, Infinity style, and you can use every character in the game. It's far more fun than "Escape from the Kyln" in 2.0 as it contains a procedurally generated dungeon in it as well as a host of fixed story levels, and will last you roughly three hours. Some purists are probably seething at the idea of fighting Darth Maul to the tune of Gitchee Gitchee Goo, but I'm completely okay with it, and I assume your kids will be too. Just like its predecessor, Disney Infinity 3.0 feels a bit limited by the lack of variety in the Starter Pack, but the good news is that the studio is still on track with its core mission to create an action game for all ages. Twilight of the Republic is still a fun way to spend your time, and the Toy Box Mode should keep you busy even if you don't intend on buying any more pricey add-ons. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. All current Star Wars figures were provided as well for testing.]
Disney Infinity review photo
Use the toys, Luke
It's only been two years since the release of the first Disney Infinity, which managed to become a massive hit before venturing into Marvel territory in the second game. Now, Disney has tapped the Star Wars market, and i...

Pokken Tournament photo
Pokken Tournament

Pokken Tournament may not be coming to western arcades after all


Dave & Busters spoke too soon?
Aug 27
// Chris Carter
I haven't been to a Dave & Busters in years, but the rumor that Pokken Tournament may be heading west by way of arcade location tests would have been enough to get me out there. Sadly, it looks like that may not be happen...
Amiibo photo
Amiibo

UK retailer GAME just announced a Shovel Knight amiibo


Could he be coming to Smash?
Aug 27
// Laura Kate Dale
Holy heck, it looks like Shovel Knight is getting an amiibo. Announced via a tweet made by GAME Brighton, a local branch of the UK's biggest dedicated gaming retailer, the tweet was promptly deleted but appears to be very off...
Nintendo Download photo
Nintendo Download

Nintendo Download: Sin & Punishment (Wii U)


Also, Runbow
Aug 27
// Chris Carter
The Wii U is getting a lot of awesome stuff this week, including Runbow, Sin & Punishment, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. You'll also find Brave Tank Hero, FullBlast, and Pixel Slime U. Disney Infinity 3.0 wil...
Gunman Clive HD photo
Gunman Clive HD

Here's what Gunman Clive HD looks like on Wii U


Coming next week
Aug 27
// Chris Carter
I really enjoyed both Gunman Clive games, as they were excellent little platformers that distilled so much of what made the genre great. The fact that they were sold for only a few bucks helped, but if you weren't keen ...
Nintendo photo
Nintendo

Is global voice chat finally coming to Nintendo consoles?


Patent hints at new external device
Aug 27
// Vikki Blake
Nintendo may finally be introducing voice chat to its hardware. Though it's unclear if this relates to current or upcoming systems, Nintendo has filed a patent for an external device designed to enable in-game voice chat. 
Kerbal Space Program photo
Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program is landing on Wii U


Landing, crashing, burning up in orbit
Aug 27
// Joe Parlock
Kerbal Space Program, a game about planning out a really complex space mission only to make an innocent astronaut drift endlessly in the dark, cold void of space, is coming to the Wii U. The trailer uploaded by Nintendo is a...
Minecraft Wii U photo
Minecraft Wii U

Minecraft: Story Mode headed to Wii U, too


It's something
Aug 26
// Jordan Devore
Telltale Games supporting Wii U? A Minecraft title on a Nintendo console? What's going on? The studio is bringing its upcoming Minecraft: Story Mode to Wii U this fall, according to The Verge. The episodic adventure series is...
LEGO Dimensions photo
LEGO Dimensions

Check out all of the upcoming worlds in LEGO Dimensions


The sheer number is staggering
Aug 26
// Chris Carter
While it's true that LEGO Dimensions needs a number of add-ons to truly access all 14 upcoming worlds, the sheer amount of properties on offer is staggering. It's also a bit more interesting on paper compared to other to...
Nintendo photo
Nintendo

Which of these upcoming Nintendo games are you most excited for?


For me, it's Star Fox Zero
Aug 26
// Chris Carter
There's a bunch of cool-looking games in this updated "road map" that Nintendo sent us a few days ago, but all in all, I'm mostly stoked for Star Fox Zero, which is now set for a November 20 release. The Star Fox series ...

Review: Runbow

Aug 26 // Chris Carter
Runbow (Wii U)Developer: 13AM GamesPublisher: 13AM GamesRelease Date: August 27, 2015MSRP: $14.99 The concept is so simple, anyone could pick it up. Runbow is predictably all about running. It's not an auto-runner thankfully, as you'll have full control over your character by way of directional movement, jumping, punching, and if you wish, taunting. Since the latter ability isn't needed, it's essentially a two-button game. But there is depth here, as the punch button fractures off into multiple powers, granting players a horizontal dash if done in the air, an upward Street Fighter-esque punch, and a downward butt slam. All of these are functional when it comes to knocking around your foes (more on that later), but they're also great platforming tools as well. The uppercut in particular is excellently designed, and have saved me from pit deaths on more than one occasion. Every character in the game (of which there are a ton) has the exact same moveset, but it works that way -- there are a lot of nuances as it stands, and no one has to learn the ins and outs of different runners. Said nuance is found mostly in the way that platformers themselves are presented, in a number of different color schemes. A "wave" of color will periodically sweep over the screen, eliminating objects with that same hue. So for instance, there might be a combination of red, yellow, and blue blocks, and in three second intervals, said waves will eliminate each color in succession. So it's up to players to not only master the moveset, but pay attention and memorize patterns. [embed]307647:60143:0[/embed] The best part of Runbow is its variety. There's a staggering amount of modes available for players of all skill levels, and a few of the meatier ones are satisfying even if you're going at it solo. One such game type is "Adventure," which tasks you with defeating an evil monochrome boss who feels left out, amidst all the other colorful world inhabitants. You'll progress through over 100 levels to complete the story, taking on a number of different objectives within the campaign itself. The bright, vivid color scheme makes things more interesting, as well as appropriate sound effects, I don't normally talk about game soundtracks as they generally don't stick with me for very long, but Runbow's is one of the best I've heard all year. Just give it a listen. Levels can range from boss fights, to enemy skirmishes, to races, to even hunts. Even with no AI option, I had a great time playing through the story with friends and by myself -- it's never boring, and you have the option to go for the best clear times (which in turn can unlock new characters). It's delightfully old school and frankly, one of the best single player party games I've played in quite a while. Of course the party modes are core to the experience, which includes races, arena battles, and King of the Hill modes. The former is more of a traditional platforming experience, with levels that scroll like in Mario games, and plenty of enemies, pitfalls, and hazards to deal with. It's set at a rapid-fire pace, so if someone dies, they're out for that level, and they don't even have to wait long since most stages take 30-45 seconds to complete. It's fast, it's fun, and optional power-ups make things even more enjoyable if you have an array of skill levels playing. Arena and King of the Hill are more like a Smash Bros. experience, as all combatants will need to kill enemies by way of punching them into oblivion (or make them fall to their doom). This is where the butt stomp and uppercut shine, as you'll have a tool for every occasion in combat. All of the aforementioned modes are playable by up to eight people, with almost any combination of controllers (GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remotes, Wii Classic Controller, and Nunchuk). The "Colour Master" mode allows for a ninth player who uses the GamePad to add in hazards themselves, competing against the other team of runners. It's not as strong as the other modes, but it's a nice distraction. Finally, the Bowhemoth mode is the most challenging game type on offer, and will be an exciting prospect for even the most hardened platforming veterans. My first win took me 33 minutes and 73 deaths to complete, and it's also playable both solo and with friends. You can't save mid-session, so you'll have to make do with one full run with as few deaths as you can spare. Online play couldn't be tested at the time of this writing, but the fact that it's included in an indie game like this is a godsend. For the price, I'd still recommend Runbow for solo players, as long as you really love platforming. Even if you only enjoy the genre just a little though, it's still a fantastic party game. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Runbow review photo
Run like the colors of the wind
There's been a renewed interest in party games this generation, and I'm loving it. While I'm all for any number of engrossing solo experiences that take a hundred or more hours to complete, on an equal level, I want to chill out and play with friends. Luckily, Runbow is a rare example of a title in the genre that stands on its own, no matter how many people you bring to the party.

Shovel Knight photo
Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows looks wonderful


Free expansion coming soon
Aug 25
// Jordan Devore
Plague of Shadows looks like the perfect excuse to get back into Shovel Knight. It's a free expansion that remixes the game to tell an alternate story about the Plague Knight. Between his customizable bomb-based moveset and s...
Hyper Light Drifter photo
Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter now on track for spring 2016


Still looks superb
Aug 25
// Jordan Devore
Heart Machine has settled on a spring 2016 release for its lovely action-RPG Hyper Light Drifter. Windows and Mac versions will come first, then consoles "as quickly as possible." Certification for the latter takes extra time...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Splatoon's soundtrack is two discs, features 61 tracks


'Splatune'
Aug 25
// Chris Carter
Man, the official Splatoon soundtrack sounds amazing! First off it's called "Splatune," which would be reason enough to buy it, but it's 61 whopping tracks. That includes 37 full songs, 14 sound effect tracks, and 10 "ji...
amiibo photo
amiibo

This surreal Super Mario Maker commercial is worth a quick watch


Also, an amiibo trailer
Aug 25
// Chris Carter
If you ever wanted to watch a Dave Franco stand-in briefly play Super Mario Maker, while his world is depicted in a creepy surreal manner in front of him, this trailer is your huckleberry. Even though it is a commercial, it ...

Review: Nova-111

Aug 25 // Darren Nakamura
Nova-111 (Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One)Developer: Funktronic LabsPublisher: Funktronic LabsReleased: August 25, 2015 (Mac, PC, PS4)MSRP: $14.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Conceptually, it's a little hard to wrap one's head around at first. Thankfully, Nova-111 eases players into the ideas a little at a time, introducing new mechanics throughout the six-hour campaign. Some science experiment has gone wrong and messed up time. Now it's all wonky (that's the technical term). Set on a square grid, each player movement counts as a single turn. For every turn taken, any enemies also get a turn. So far, it sounds pretty standard, but here's the wrinkle: some objects act in real time rather than being set to a schedule of turns. The first example are the stalactites. If the player bumps one from the side or travels underneath it, then it will begin to fall at a steady rate, whether the player (and enemies) are moving or not. It sets up a particularly satisfying scenario: get chased by an enemy, run under a stalactite, then stop dead and just watch as it crushes the pursuer. [embed]307759:60125:0[/embed] As it progresses, Nova-111 adds more and more combinations of real-time and turn-based gameplay. Some enemies' movement is turn-based, but when attacked set off a countdown timer before exploding. Some will grab the player and must be defeated quickly. Eventually, some enemies move in real time, independent of turns taken. It's a real brain bender at times. Just when I thought I had a good handle on the situation, taking things slowly and flawlessly taking out the dangerous aliens, I'd get thrown into a situation where I needed to react quickly and I'd fall apart. The combination of real-time and turn-based gameplay forces me to think differently than I ever have before. It takes two ideas I've known for years and turns them into something that feels totally new. Nova-111 doesn't stop with that basic idea. Through the course of the game's three main areas, new enemies, terrain, and mechanics are presented. There are doors, switches, sliding blocks, oil, teleporters, fire, stealthy bits, and more, each interacting with the weird time scheme in its own way. While tactical combat and puzzles are the main points, exploration also plays a role. The overarching goal is to collect the 111 scientists scattered across the game, most of whom are in fairly well-hidden locations. At first most of the secret areas are accessed by passing behind false walls, but the best are in plain sight but require solving a more taxing puzzle. The art design supports the exploration aspect well. At the beginning of a level, most of it is covered in a sort of fog of war. Any square in line of sight and within a certain range is uncovered, and the uncovering effect (and environments in general) look fantastic. I spent a lot of time in the early levels moving very slowly, just taking in the artwork as more of the world was revealed. The exploration aspect isn't all rosy. Individual levels are broken up into several smaller areas, but each area cannot be played independently. It isn't obvious which area a missing scientist may be in, so going back through old levels for 100% means replaying a lot unnecessarily and wasting a lot of time bumping into walls. The levels take between 20 and 30 minutes apiece, which is just too long for me to want to replay. I would have preferred if each bite-sized area were shown on the level select screen, with its completion statistics displayed. Those who aren't daunted by having to replay entire levels will enjoy the New Game+, which is essentially the same experience but with several cheats available to be toggled on or off. Where previously some care needed to be taken to conserve abilities, New Game+ allows players to go wild with them. Even though I don't see myself replaying Nova-111 for full completion any time soon, I liked what was here. It has a sharp look, some chuckle-silently-in-my-head comedy, and gameplay unlike anything else I have experienced. It forced me to think in a totally new way, which is increasingly uncommon with most established genres. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Nova-111 review photo
Champagne supernova
Genres and mechanics have names for a reason. When something comes up often enough, it's worth developing a shorthand and grouping things together that feel alike. In the past few years, mashing up genres has become the new i...

Fatal Frame Wii U photo
Fatal Frame Wii U

Fatal Frame Wii U is an eShop exclusive in North America


'Free-to-start'
Aug 24
// Jordan Devore
Fans speculated that Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water would be a digital-only release on the Wii U eShop in North America. Unfortunately, they were correct. Nintendo confirmed its launch plans (October 22, $49.99) in a 2015...
Star Fox Zero photo
Star Fox Zero

Star Fox Zero box art revealed, with no Platinum Games logo


Bayonetta 2 didn't have it either
Aug 24
// Chris Carter
Star Fox Zero's official box art has been revealed, and people are pissed. Can you guess why? Take a look at the box in the gallery below. Yep, Platinum Games, who is co-developing the title with Nintendo EAD Group No. 5...

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