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Review: LEGO Dimensions

Oct 01 // Chris Carter
LEGO Dimensions (PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Traveller's TalesPublisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentReleased: September 27, 2015MSRP: $99.99 (Starter Pack), $29.99 (Level Pack), $14.99 (Fun Pack) Yet again, I'll explain how the toys are factored in, especially since LEGO Dimensions in particular can get confusing. For $99.99 you'll get the Starter Pack (reviewed here), which consists of the core game, three physical characters (Gandalf, Batman, and Wyldstyle), a physical Batmobile, and real life LEGOs to build the portal (called a Toy Pad). There are two major things to factor in here -- it's pricier than most toys-to-life games by at least $20, augmented by the fact that you're actually getting an actual miniature LEGO set. Straight-up, a lot of your enjoyment for LEGO Dimensions hinges on how much you enjoy playing with LEGOs as a whole. For example, to build the base, my wife and I spent roughly an hour. If you have a kid who plays with toys on a regular basis, this is a no-brainer -- for everyone else, that prospect may seem like too much of a task, and you're basically paying the premium for that. On the other end you have two additional purchasing options, Level Packs and Fun Packs, which are essentially DLC. The former unlocks a hub for $29.99 and comes with a character and two objects, and the latter unlocks a mission and one object. Oh, and then there's the Team Packs for $24.99, with two characters and two objects. Confused yet? Yeah it's all a bit much, and if you weren't averse to toys-to-life before, you probably will be now. But for everyone else, here's the rub -- you can play the entire story with just the Starter Kit, and for each franchise you buy a toy for, you'll unlock additional worlds. So for Portal, the only way to gain access to that DLC set is through a sole Level Pack, but some franchises (like Ghostbusters and The Simpsons) may have multiple Level or Fun Packs. No one ever said LEGOs or figure-based games was a cheap hobby, and now they've been Frankensteined together. [embed]313069:60565:0[/embed] But despite all that, LEGO Dimensions is one of the more interesting Traveller's Tales titles in years. As it turns out mixing up all of these properties involves some hilarious results, mostly thanks to the wit of the writing staff. Of particular note is Homer Simpson's breaking of the fourth wall to comment on cross-branding, and Batman's interactions with various characters like the Wicked Witch of the West. It surpasses the "that's so random!" realm of comedy and succeeds in melding all 14 (!) IPs together. The campaign's story is dead simple -- an evil entity wants to rule all worlds -- but the journey is where it excels. Due to the nature of the three starter characters you'll mostly play through the three hub worlds (Lord of the Rings, DC Universe, and the LEGO Movie), but you'll also cross paths with other worlds briefly, like the aforementioned Oz, Springfield, and Scooby Doo's realm. It's refreshing, and you never linger in one zone for too long. With this setup, it's far more fun than most of the other LEGO games, which tend to overstay their welcome over time with just one theme. LEGO Dimensions' use of the physical toys and portal is also a step ahead of its competition. For one, you can place up to six characters (most only allow two), one vehicle, and other objects all at once. Another cool mechanic involves the placement of the toys themselves during boss fights. Some encounters will actually force you to move your figures on the physical base to avoid attacks -- that's some serious Metal Gear Psycho Mantis-like stuff right there. Traveller's Tales succeeds in mixing up that type of gameplay all throughout the experience, and I never felt like I was missing out with just the Starter Kit. However, I couldn't help but feel like it was still an above average $60 LEGO game with $40 of additional baggage. Again, you're getting real LEGO blocks here, but I would have preferred a smaller premium to get them. Also, WB has planned out DLC and content packs all the way through May 2016, which leaves them plenty of room to develop another potential sequel next year. I'm sort of torn in LEGO Dimensions. It's one of the most expensive propositions in all of gaming right now, but the gameplay is there and the Starter Pack stands on its own. While the campaign can be a bit uneven at times, the always reliable LEGO charm and the innovation of the physical aspect of Dimensions allows it to excel. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. Only the Starter Pack was provided.]
LEGO Dimensions photo
An expensive, but fun hobby
As I've talked about in the past, I'm usually the go-to person for the toys-to-life genre. I'm a kid at heart, and occasionally, I can enjoy a silly kids movie for the fun of it. No series has encapsulated that silliness more...

Nintendo Download photo
Nintendo Download

Nintendo Download: Freedom Planet

Also, Smash Bros. DLC
Oct 01
// Chris Carter
At last -- Freedom Planet is hitting the Wii U after multiple last-minute delays! If you happened to get the demo during the Nindies@Home promotion you'll get 15% off the full game. Also on Wii U is that last bit of Smas...
Minecraft: Story Mode photo
Minecraft: Story Mode

Meet the cast of Minecraft: Story Mode with this trailer

'I'm a PC'
Oct 01
// Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode officially kicks off on October 13 with its first episode The Order of the Stone. Though we previewed it recently at PAX Prime, there haven't been any trailers for it since the teaser back in July. With ...
GameCenter CX photo
GameCenter CX

Japan is getting yet another piece of Super Mario Maker DLC

GameCenter CX's Arino
Oct 01
// Chris Carter
In addition to Famitsu's Necky the Fox, Super Mario Maker is getting another character in Japan. It's none other than GameCenter CX's Arino, who will don his suit and tie to take on Goombas and Koopas alike. To vent a tad, al...
Shovel Knight photo
Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight amiibo probably coming to US early next year

Really early
Sep 30
// CJ Andriessen
Shovel Knight, the greatest hero to wield a shovel since The Shoveler, is getting his own amiibo. That we know. We also know this future garage sale item will most likely be hitting stores in Europe this November. What we don...
Freedom Planet photo
Freedom Planet

Freedom Planet finally has a new Wii U release date

This week
Sep 30
// Chris Carter
Freedom Planet has had a rocky porting process to say the least. Just before launch recently, developer Galaxy Trial caught a major bug, and delayed the release a few times to an unspecified date. Now, we know that the g...
Armikrog photo

After multiple last-minute delays, Armikrog is finally out today

Unlocking on Steam shortly
Sep 30
// Chris Carter
Armikrog has had a rather rough past month, dealing with a few small delays before its original launch date. But now the last-minute bugs have been fixed, and it's set to unlock on Steam shortly. Caitlin is working on our review as we speak. It's only out for PC right now, but PS4 and Wii U versions are also planned for a later date. Armikrog [Steam]
Nintendo photo

Super Mario Maker has sold one million units worldwide

Sold, not shipped
Sep 30
// Chris Carter
Super Mario Maker has sold one million copies worldwide, Nintendo has announced. This is based on Nintendo's internal sales figures, which include physical, bundle, and digital units. Additionally, 2.2 million courses ha...
Super Smash Bros.  photo
Super Smash Bros.

Hey, there's a bunch of new Smash Bros. content available

That Brawl pirate stage is back
Sep 30
// Laura Kate Dale
Hey Smash Bros. fans, guess what? A bunch of new content for Super Smash Bros. just dropped on Wii U and 3DS. The Wii U version of the game has had the pirate ship level from Brawl ($2 or £1.79) added to the mix, ...
Inside amiibo photo
Inside amiibo

Dig into an amiibo card and this is what you'll find

RIP Walker
Sep 29
// Jordan Devore
In the name of science, Michibiku tore into a duplicate Animal Crossing amiibo card to see what the innards would look like. About what you'd expect, really: a little chip and not much else. "Surprisingly, the tech isn't that...
Ultra Smash photo
Ultra Smash

Mario Tennis fills the void left by Star Fox Zero

November 20, 2015
Sep 29
// Jordan Devore
Nintendo says Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash will release for Wii U on November 20, 2015. (Which, as you might recall, was when we were originally going to get Star Fox Zero before it slipped to 2016.) In response, people on Twitt...
Shovel Knight photo
Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight sales were dominated by PC, Nintendo platforms

32% on PC, 30% on 3DS
Sep 29
// Chris Carter
Recently at an event called Gaming Insiders, Nathan Vella of Capybara Games shared some indie sales figures with us, in an effort to shine a light on the indie industry. Apparently, Shovel Knight sold best on PC, with 32...

Review: Skylanders: SuperChargers

Sep 28 // Chris Carter
Skylanders SuperChargers (3DS, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: Vicarious VisionsPublisher: ActivisionReleased: September 20, 2015MSRP: $74.99 (Starter pack, two characters, vehicle, base, game) To be frank, I was worried about the state of Skylanders after Trap Team. I mean, sure, it was a great action game and still had its charms, but I was starting to think that Activision had been scraping the bottom of the barrel with its newest gimmick. With the vehicular-based focus however, Vicarious Visions has turned the formula on its head again, going back to basics with old-school, sensible tendencies. The focus here is vehicles, and not just cars. Land, sea, and air-based transportation is at the crux of the experience, with the Starter Pack providing the former. To be clear, there are elemental gates for ancillary content (forcing players to use certain toys to access some areas), but the fact that the entire core game can be completed with one land vehicle, and the vast majority of sidequests are accessible with just one sea and air toy respectively is a massive step up from past titles. Yes, you will have to spend a bit of extra cash to get everything, but I was completely satisfied with the main campaign on its own terms. Speaking of the toys themselves, they're still at the top of their game. All of the vehicles sport moving parts, and take me back to my Micro Machines days, racing cars across a table with glee. There are fewer new characters this time around in favor of the vehicles, which is fine in my book, as they're much easier to wrap your head around with three distinct varieties. Just like before, two players can play together on the same console with two different Skylanders -- here, a vehicle can be added to the mix with the new portal. Yes, that's one vehicle. While I initially thought it was a limitation, it actually feels like a more deliberate design choice, as sharing a ride is much more fun as a co-op experience. [embed]312286:60536:0[/embed] One person drives, and the other shoots -- it's that simple. With the touch of a button you can switch roles, should someone else want to take the driver's seat. Movement is intuitive, as the driver is only focusing on traversal, and the shooting bits cleverly make use of a reticle to avoid the need for the driver to always be in sync with their partner. In short, it allows everyone a ton of freedom, but it isn't too overwhelming of a prospect to hop from car to car. The story this time around doesn't require any prior knowledge of the series, which simultaneously works in its favor and hurts the setup. Once again, Kaos (who is still charming as "Not Invader Zim," but is getting a bit old at this point) reigns supreme, it's just that this time he's taken the noble Eon captive, leaving your ragtag team of Patrick Warburton and company to save the day. It's a plot that belongs in a Saturday morning cartoon, but the sleek visuals and upbeat performances sell it well enough. During the 10-hour campaign, you'll find plenty of variety when it comes to mission types, enemy patterns, themes, and gameplay. One moment you might be diving underwater in an obstacle course of sorts with a submarine, and the next, you're up in the air dogfighting, Star Fox style (yes, you can barrel roll). The pacing is excellent, and boss fights are seen in a whole new light as vehicular confrontations. But this time you'll have Mario Kart-esque races as a distraction as well, which are easily the best pieces of side content yet for the series. The entire affair feels thoroughly integrated into the game itself, without feeling like a tacked-on "me too" mode. One race for instance features a level populated by two giant dragons, who constantly are visible throughout the track, and occasionally pop out to cause havoc for the participants. Each level feels like it was given a sufficient amount of love, to the point where I'd put many of them on par with classics like Diddy Kong Racing and some of the best Mario Kart games. That's not to say that it completely measures up to its contemporaries. The item system feels limited, and the combat system in general (all cars can use their standard attacks during races) is disjointed, as some elements from the campaign don't quite work in this gametype. Plus, you'll need to buy a certain number of toys to access every track. No, it's not perfect, but again, as a side mode, it does its job and then some. Online play for the campaign and racing modes also don't hurt its case, on top of the revamped Triple Triad-like Skystones mini-game. I'm utterly surprised that Activision hasn't run this franchise into the ground yet. Skylanders: SuperChargers reinvigorates my interest in the series, and I'd go so far as to say that I wouldn't mind a full-on SuperChargers racing spin-off in the same vein as a proper Mario Kart game (note that the Wii and 3DS editions are racing games, essentially). After all, a little competition never hurt anyone -- maybe they can put that Crash Bandicoot license to good use. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. The Starter Pack and a few additional toys were provided as well.]
Skylanders review photo
Back to business
Year after year, I can generally count on the Skylanders games. I had zero hope for Spyro's return back in 2011, but every single iteration has been a competent brawler. While Activision can be accused of running franchi...

amiibo photo

Retailer-exclusive amiibo may be showing up at other stores

Greninja, Shulk, and Lucario
Sep 28
// Chris Carter
One of the worst things Nintendo ever did in terms of exacerbating the amiibo situation is make so many retailer-exclusive deals in North America. While everyone all over the world could find any amiibo in any location, the U...
Wayforward photo

Sup Holmes goes back to school with Wayforward's Austin Ivansmith

Sup Holmes every Sunday at 4pm EST!
Sep 27
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] [Art by Kokosac.] Today on...

Review: Hold Your Fire: A Game About Responsibility

Sep 27 // Jonathan Holmes
Hold Your Fire: A Game About Responsibility (Wii U)Developer: Alkterios GamesPublisher: Alkterios GamesReleased: September 24, 2015MSRP: $1.99 Hold Your Fire's central hook won't be a surprise to most of you. It's right there in the title. Still, the concept itself is sort of interesting. It's a top-down shmup where every spacecraft you encounter could be an enemy, or it might be an innocent passer by. You can't tell until they fire at you first. If you shoot a non-enemy ship, you die instantly. If you let an enemy ship pass you by, you die instantly. If you get shot by an enemy ship, you die instantly. This puts you in a pretty tense position. That tension, along with the amusing text-based dialog and the surprisingly interesting musical score, are the three reasons why I played the game for as long as I did... which was for about 25 minutes. It took maybe five minutes of trial and error to get the hang of how to take out enemy ships. After I had that figured out, it was time for a 20-minute run of pure repetition and absolutely no new ideas. Ships appear at the top of the screen and move straight to the bottom of the screen. Sometimes they fire at you, also straight down. If they fire at you, you should move in front of it after it fires and shoot it. That's it. That the entire game as far as I can tell. If something else happens after twenty minutes of that, then I'll be happy to amend this review, but the game has given me no indication that it ever changes things up. There is a score counter and a death counter (which stopped working once I hit 4/9 deaths), but other than that, it lacks any sense of progression past its first wave or two of enemies.  The success of Canabalt and Flappy Bird may have convinced some lot of game developers that a simple, one-note game design can lead to an acceptable product. That may be true for other games, but in this case, it didn't work out at all. Adding any level of variation to the enemy patterns, bullet patterns, or literally any other potentially fulfilling dynamic to the design could have led to this game being worth a buck, maybe two, but that's not what the developers at Alkterios Games did here, for reasons that only they likely understand. What if a fast food restaurant sold you a new $2 hamburger called "Hold the Fat: A Burger About Eating Responsibly" that was packaged in a regular fast food hamburger box, but when you opened the box, all you got was a small, one-sided, badly drawn picture of a hamburger? That would be funny for exactly as long as it would take for you to realize that you stomach is still empty and you're $2 poorer for having experienced the "joke." This is the game equivalent of that so-called burger. It's nearly impossible to recommend.  [Addendum: I had a hunch that it was impossible that a developer would include this little content in a game for sale on the Wii U eShop, and I'm happy to say that it looks like my hunch was right. It's come to light that issues with my external hard drive may have resulted in me missing out on a large portion of the game. We're looking into the issue as we speak, and hope to have the review amended accordingly soon. In the meantime, do not take this review and review score as a full reflection of what Hold Your Fire has to offer.]
Hold Your Fire photo
Hold your purchase
Back when the Nintendo Entertainment System first launched, console games had developed a reputation for being "landmine purchases," meaning that they look safe until you touch them and they blow up in your face. E.T. fo...

Poncho Miso photo
Poncho Miso

Miso and Ponchos with Henry, Danny, and Jack

Sup Holmes every Sunday at 4pm EST!
Sep 27
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] When Sup Holmes ends somed...
Mario Maker photo
Mario Maker

Angry Sun, Tetrimino, and Windows logo data found in Super Mario Maker data

A Windows logo amiibo please
Sep 27
// Jonathan Holmes
Hunting for hidden data on big name Wii U games has yielded some pretty accurate predictions on future DLC in the past. Ryu's inclusion in Smash Bros. for the Wii U and the 3DS was discovered way before it was announced, and ...
amiibo Retro 3-Pack photo
amiibo Retro 3-Pack

The amiibo Retro 3-Pack is out today, comes with all four Game & Watch variants

Here's some pictures
Sep 25
// Chris Carter
Today, the Retro 3-Pack amiibo set went on sale, consisting of Duck Hunt, R.O.B., and Game & Watch. It's available for $34.99, and in an unprecedented manner, Nintendo seems to have overproduced this particular set, as it...
Mighty No. 9 photo
Mighty No. 9

Mighty No. 9 has settled on a release date

Here comes the shade
Sep 25
// Jordan Devore
Mighty No. 9 has a new release date: February 9, 2016 in the Americas, and February 12, 2016 everywhere else. That goes for physical and digital versions on Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U, and digital only on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and...
Portal song photo
Portal song

'You Wouldn't Know' is the third Portal song by Jonathan Coulton

From LEGO Dimensions
Sep 25
// Darren Nakamura
The reveal of LEGO Dimensions earlier this year was kind of bizarre. How can Traveller's Tales get all those different licenses? Jurassic Park, Scooby Doo, Batman, and Portal 2? It's like every kid's toy chest in video game f...
F-Zero GX photo
F-Zero GX

F-Zero GX announcer will appear in new indie racing game

Fast Racing Neo
Sep 24
// Chris Carter
We've covered FAST Racing Neo before -- it's a really cool looking racing game that is seeking exclusivity on the Wii U. Now it's about to get a whole lot cooler, as F-Zero GX voice actor Jack Merluzzi has signed on...
Nintendo Download photo
Nintendo Download

Nintendo Download: Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

Also, Extreme Exorcism
Sep 24
// Chris Carter
The 3DS is taking the center stage this week, but the Wii U has a few releases to tide you over. First up is Extreme Exorcism, as well as Starwhal, The Ignition Factor, Hold Your Fire: A Game About Responsibility, Beatbuddy, ...
Super Mario Maker photo
Super Mario Maker

Nintendo patches Super Mario Maker invincibility glitch

No more spike exploit
Sep 24
// Chris Carter
Because people will literally find anything, a glitch was uncovered in Super Mario Maker that allowed players to become invincible. You can trigger the glitch by building a door above a spike pit, then power-up Mari...
Art photo

True hardest Mario Maker level asks: Will you save your son?

Definitely the hardest Mario Maker stage
Sep 23
// Steven Hansen
False prophets are not new. Jordan told you all that this was one of the hardest Super Mario Maker levels, but it's all twitch-based reflex video games 101. Any gamehead worth her salt could polish that bad boy off, at least...
amiibo cards photo
amiibo cards

The first amiibo cards are up for pre-order

Animal Crossing Series 1
Sep 23
// Jordan Devore
Amazon is now taking pre-orders for the Animal Crossing amiibo cards. Be strong. 100 cards are in Series 1 and they're being sold in packs of six for $5.99. Currently, Amazon is limiting orders to four packs per person, thoug...
Super Mario Maker photo
Super Mario Maker

If you see this level in Mario Maker, run away

Mastery required
Sep 22
// Jordan Devore
Bomb Voyage blew my mind. While watching Bananasaurus Rex's triumphant run, I could hardly fathom what I was seeing on-screen, much less imagine myself ever possessing the skill needed to pull off those tricks in perfect sequ...
Coximano Challenge photo
Coximano Challenge

The Coximano Challenge: Super Mario Maker

It's a metaphor for life!
Sep 22
// Mike Cosimano
I used Super Mario Maker to drive one of my good friends into the arms of alcoholism. When Myles Cox (the Destructoid Video Boy who had his day) and I workshopped the idea that would become the Coximano Challenge, we fig...

Review: Extreme Exorcism

Sep 22 // Jed Whitaker
Extreme Exorcism (PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Golden Ruby Games Publisher: RipstoneRelease Date: September 23, 2015MSRP: $12.99 If you've played one of the many indie couch competitive games that have become popular in the past year or two, you know the drill here: gather three of your friends together and fight to the death. The gimmick in Extreme Exorcism is that winning a round causes a ghost to replay your previous actions, including firing weapons that can kill your enemies, or even yourself depending on the various customizable settings. By default each player can carry up to three weapons at a time, which spawn in predetermined places around each of over 45 stages. Weapons range from basic punches and kicks to rocket launchers, boomerangs, and magical staffs. While the variety of weapons is nice, nothing really feels original, though familiarity makes the game very pick-up-and-play friendly.  Matches are fast and furious, especially when playing with the maximum of four players. Each time someone wins a round, a ghost will spawn of their previous win, and ghosts stay on screen until exorcised via the purple wings weapon that spawns from time to time. The fact that you can potentially have ghosts from four different players running around the screen firing off rocks and kung-fu kicks in every direction makes for some hectic games.  [embed]311776:60466:0[/embed] For those of you without friends in real life, there is an arcade mode and the challenge mode. Arcade mode is a series of matches in each level of the game where you're required to kill so many of your previous ghosts to unlock each level. The first ghost is spawned by killing a possessed chair, which is super simple as the AI isn't anything special, as it doesn't need to be since you're fighting your ghosts. Arcade mode is simple enough to be enjoyable alone, but can be played with up to four players as well, working together towards an enjoyable fight with a boss in the final level.  Challenge mode, however, is for one player only. In 50 different challenges you'll be tasked with completing different goals such as killing 100 chairs with three lives, or completing five rounds only using a boomerang. The challenge mode lives up to its name. It is easily the most challenging part of Extreme Exorcism and will test even the most seasoned players. I was able to unlock every challenge, but completing them is a different story, though I didn't really feel pressed to complete them given that there is no real reward other than feeling accomplished, and achievements if you care about those.  If anything, Extreme Exorcism is a game for those who have tried TowerFall and Samurai Gunn at their parties and want something even more hectic, and bustin' makes them feel good; otherwise players new to the genre may feel a bit overwhelmed with the amount of on-screen action. As for me, I'll stick to the classics for my get-togethers. Simplicity is what appeals to me when I'm trashed and I'd rather not projectile vomit from my eyes trying to keep up with all those ghosts. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Review: Extreme Exorcism photo
No head spinning here
Four teenagers enter a haunted house and get killed by each other until ghosts show up. No, it isn't the plot to House on Haunted Hill but the mechanics of Extreme Exorcism, the new couch competitive game from Golden Rub...

Super Mario Maker photo
Super Mario Maker

Mario Maker invincibility glitch discovered

Firewalk with me
Sep 21
// Jordan Devore
As outlined by GameXplain, there's a glitch in Super Mario Maker that grants invincibility. The process involves taking damage and walking through a door placed over spikes. The trick is in the timing -- you can't enter the d...

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