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Home Free photo
Home Free

Dog adventure Home Free headed to PS4

The logo has a dog's butt!
Oct 13
// Jordan Devore
I was as pleasantly surprised as Darren to see Home Free, a survival game about a lost dog in a randomly generated city, reach its funding goal on Kickstarter in under a week. More good news: it's coming to PlayStation 4 in a...

Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: The Order of the Stone

Oct 13 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: The Order of the Stone (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: October 13, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit To its credit, Minecraft: Story Mode does a lot well. The use of Minecraft's engine and iconic visual style is a nice workaround to keep the Telltale Tool from showing its age. It's hard to complain about low-polygon models for a world comprised mostly of cubes. Despite having fewer moving parts to work with on the character models, the characters are as expressive as they need to be. By narrowing or widening eyes and tweaking eyebrows, the block people (and pig) can show a range of emotions in a cartoony sort of way. The voice work aids in bringing the low-fidelity characters to life as well. The cast is impressive, including the likes of Patton Oswalt, Billy West, and Paul Reubens, to name a few. Though the characters look similar in the beginning, each has a defined personality that comes through thanks to the actors. Much like a session with Minecraft proper, by the end of the episode my brain stopped seeing everything and everyone as a collection of hard-edged polyhedra and just accepted them as regular places and people. [embed]315133:60717:0[/embed] However, the all-star voice cast does highlight The Order of the Stone's biggest shortcoming. With such big names in comedy doing the dialogue, it's disappointing how little comedy there is in the script. There are a few gags that find their mark, but most are worth only a smile or a chuckle; none really stood out. On the other end of the spectrum, the drama doesn't really deliver either. The elements are there: life-or-death situations, uncertainty, mistrust. Still, none of the prototypical "big choices" felt like they carried much weight. Of the five choices shown at the end, the first is just a judgment call with an unknown and arbitrary outcome, two involve whether you want to be an asshole to a guy who doesn't deserve it, one won't have clear implications until a later episode, and the last is a decision on which of protagonist Jesse's two friends has a better plan for what's to come. The choices highlight an emphasis on the future. Put plainly, The Order of the Stone is heavy on exposition, setting up the backstory, characters, and events for the rest of the season. While necessary, it misses some opportunities to be memorable in its attempt to lay the foundation. Story Mode will probably be more of a hit among Minecraft fans than general Telltale fans. The Order of the Stone features a few Minecraft-specific gameplay bits and references. A couple times during the episode, players are presented with a problem, given some materials, and tasked with crafting a solution. Recipes are given for those who don't know what to make or how to make it, but other craftable objects are present as well. While trying to make a stone sword, I accidentally crafted a lever. After a playful rib about me not knowing what I was doing, the materials were returned so I could forge the weapon. Later on, the group has to hit a pressure plate beyond a hallway filled with arrow traps. Recipes and materials are given for a couple possible tools to use. It would be great if there were other hidden solutions to discover for those who know the source material inside and out. In addition to the crafting puzzles, there is one classic adventure game puzzle found toward the end of the episode. It isn't especially original or taxing, but along with the crafting it does represent a step in a more gameplay-oriented direction from the recent story-only Telltale series. So far, Minecraft: Story Mode is like a Saturday morning cartoon. Sure, there is conflict, but it doesn't feel dire. Sure, there are funny bits, but the comedy isn't sharp or intelligent. Sure, there is a story, but it doesn't feel like it matters yet. There is some hope for this series to be great in the future, but The Order of the Stone is just okay. The Minecraft-specific gameplay is a nice way to shake up the usual formula. The blank slate of the universe allows the tale to go wherever it wants. The voice cast is full of actors who can do great work. But the writing needs to be more engaging if Story Mode wants to be taken seriously among Telltale canon.
Minecraft review photo
Exposition mode
Telltale has seen ups and downs with its licensed titles. With Jurassic Park the studio was still figuring out what works and what doesn't. More recently, The Walking Dead and Tales from the Borderlands have shown the strengt...

Firewatch photo

Firewatch is such a lovely looking game

Releasing February 9, 2016
Oct 12
// Jordan Devore
I'm supposed to tell you that Campo Santo's wilderness-set exploration mystery Firewatch will release on February 9, 2016 for PlayStation 4, Windows, Mac, and Linux. That's the news today. But I've fallen into an image gallery wormhole, and I'm taking you with me.
Indie in Berlin photo
Indie in Berlin

Fired Dead Island 2 devs leave Yager, start indie studio

Plus, hints at super secret project
Oct 12
// Steven Hansen
Three Yager (Spec Ops: The Line, Dead Island 2) developers have left the company to go indie as inbetweengames. This is a few months after publisher Deep Silver dropped Yager as the developer on Dead Island 2, just a few mon...

Fungal Asshole photo
Fungal Asshole

Indie dev's angry rant demonstrates the stress after being Kickstarted

Or is it all satire?
Oct 08
// Jed Whitaker
Having never heard of Elysian Shadows -- a 2D RPG that was Kickstarted for PC, mobile, Ouya, and even Dreamcast -- I stumbled across the above video of one of the developers, Falco Girgis, seemingly going off. Apparentl...
Broforce photo

Are you patriotic enough for this Broforce ballad?

Urge to salute... rising!
Oct 08
// Jordan Devore
Broforce is almost done with Steam Early Access. The run-and-gun game starring action-movie lookalikes will see a full release for Windows, Mac, and Linux on October 15, 2015. Next up? Hell. Literally! In upcoming levels, the bros will wage war against Satan. Sounds about right. Until then, get ready to shed a few tears while watching this loving tribute to America.
Telltale Borderlands photo
Telltale Borderlands

Tales from the Borderlands finale releases on October 20

Here's a teaser for it
Oct 08
// Darren Nakamura
You might have heard how the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands is now available for free. If you haven't, well, Telltale really wants to drive that fact home. That's how they get you. The first hit is free. You want...
Astroneer photo

Reshape planets with a friend in Astroneer

I'm so into this
Oct 07
// Jordan Devore
It's morning still. I feel way too groggy to let out an audible "whoa!" while watching a trailer for a video game, but Astroneer managed to elicit one anyway. Two, actually. It was the player-controlled terrain deformation th...
Indivisible photo

Skullgirls dev's metroidvania RPG Indivisible is looking pretty dang good

Up on Indiegogo, with a playable demo
Oct 05
// Darren Nakamura
Back in July we got a barebones announcement that Skullgirls developer Lab Zero Games has been working on a role-playing game called Indivisible and that it would begin a crowdfunding campaign for it late in September. It's ...
Home Free photo
Home Free

Dog RPG Home Free funded in five days

Kicks Arfer
Oct 05
// Darren Nakamura
Things have been looking kind of sad over on Kickstarter lately. Aside from the huge names making games like Mighty No. 9, Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained, and Shenmue 3, it seems like the ratio of successes to failures has i...

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...

Review: Read Only Memories

Oct 02 // Ben Davis
Read Only Memories (PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: MidBossPublisher: MidBossReleased: October 6, 2015MSRP: $9.99 The story of Read Only Memories begins with the appearance of a peculiar robot named Turing, who breaks into the player character's apartment after their creator, Hayden, was mysteriously kidnapped. Turing decides that the player character, who is a journalist and a friend of Hayden's, is the most statistically likely to be able to help them. Thus begins the search for Hayden in the technologically advanced, cyberpunk-inspired city of Neo-San Francisco in 2064. In this futuristic setting, scientists have discovered many new ways of enhancing the human body through cybernetics as well as genetic modification, meaning it's common to see people with robotic limbs, blue skin, rabbit ears, and other such bizarre enhancements walking around as if it's completely normal. Not to mention the ROMs, robots like Turing, which are just as commonplace and are on the verge of becoming sapient, able to think and feel as humans do. As expected, anti-hybrid and -cybernetic groups such as the Human Revolution have begun to pop up warning people of the dangers of such technologies. [embed]313479:60589:0[/embed] During the player's search for Hayden, they will meet a colorful cast of strange and interesting characters and be asked to participate in some rather shady activities, sneaking around the law in an attempt to learn secrets and uncover truths. Some characters can be trusted while other cannot, but they're all able to provide leads, information, and other helpful things if the player can successfully persuade them. The gameplay largely consists of your typical point-and-click adventure mechanics, nothing really new here but it works just fine. People and objects can be interacted with by looking, touching, talking, or using an item. Interacting with the same thing multiple times might yield different results, so sometimes it's a good idea to look at, touch, or talk to someone or something more than once. There's also a wide variety of items at the player's disposal, which can be picked up and used in certain situations. There is no item combining to be done, however, and pixel hunting is not a problem since anything that can be interacted with will be highlighted by mousing over it, so many of the more annoying adventure game elements were left alone. Much of the gameplay centers around conversations and choosing dialogue options, but there are plenty of puzzle-solving sections as well. These include direct puzzles, such as looking at a map and closing off intersections in order to divert a cab back to the player, as well as more indirect puzzles like trying to find the right item to gain access to a house or figuring out how to coerce someone into giving up information. None of the puzzles are too obtuse, and some of them are rather forgiving if the player messes up at first. The story features several branching paths and alternate endings, depending on how the player chooses to interact with characters and how successful they are at figuring out puzzles. It's possible to befriend or make enemies with several of the characters, so try and decide who will be the most helpful and choose the appropriate responses. Breaking the law and causing mischief seem to be unavoidable, but how it's done is up to the player. As most of Read Only Memories involves reading text, I found the writing to be entertaining and engaging, if overly-technical at times. They did a great job of giving every character a thorough backstory, making each of them interesting and relatable with their own quirks and behaviors. I particularly enjoyed Turing's fondness for painting and the player character's strange obsession with plants. There were, however, a few groan-worthy references and an occasionally disappointing lack of variety in dialogue options. Read Only Memories originally set out to do one thing: foster the inclusion of diverse characters, especially those of the LGBT persuasion. Thankfully, the end product is much more than just that. The characters' sexualities and gender identities, which include plenty of gay and straight, trans- and cis-gendered individuals, are revealed in a natural way or left up to the player's imagination. Meanwhile, we have a story built around mystery and intrigue, with topics of crime, technology, and politics taking the forefront of the discussion in the lives of these characters who just happen to be a certain way. Personally, I felt the LGBT themes were handled appropriately and naturally without being too heavy-handed, but I'm sure some will disagree with me. I would recommend Read Only Memories to anyone who enjoys point-and-click adventure games, as it's an excellent addition to the genre, borrowing many of its key elements while ditching some of the more obnoxious ones. It's also a great choice for anyone who is looking for more diversity in their video games, as it does a wonderful job of promoting inclusion without making it the sole focus. Plus, there's an awesome, adorable little robot friend to hang out with, and who doesn't want that? [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Read Only Memories review photo
Cyberpunk chic
MidBoss, the team behind the LGBT-centric gaming convention, GaymerX, has been having quite a successful time lately. After reaching its Kickstarter funding goals at the end of 2013, the team has been hard at work creating it...

Review: The Beginner's Guide

Oct 01 // Darren Nakamura
The Beginner's Guide (Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Everything Unlimited LtdPublisher: Everything Unlimited LtdReleased: October 1, 2015MSRP: $9.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit The Beginner's Guide opens on a de_dust-like Counter-Strike map with Wreden narrating. It isn't Wreden narrating to save money on a voice actor or Wreden narrating the in-game story. Davey Wreden is narrating as Davey Wreden, telling a story about his personal life. He was once friends with another game designer named Coda. Ever since meeting at a game jam, he had been fascinated with Coda's work. Most of the games are short, five to ten-minute affairs involving walking and philosophical musing. All were built in Source, but the art styles vary. Coda never released his games publicly, but Wreden hounded him to play each one upon completion. What we play through is Coda's entire body of work, presented chronologically. All the while, Wreden offers insight about game design, from the nuts and bolts of the tools used to the deeper symbolism of a particular segment, whether it was intentional or unintentional. [embed]313130:60582:0[/embed] Unlike a lot of these narrative-focused games, which allow the player to passively experience the story, absorbing or ignoring as much as desired, it's the kind of experience that demands intellectual engagement. I mean that literally; Wreden explicitly asks the player to send him critical analysis, providing an email address toward that end. There is exactly one puzzle in The Beginner's Guide, and it is repeated a few times. It involves two doors and solving it requires an irreversible step. When solved, the entrance is sealed and the exit is open, providing only one possible path: forward. Wreden's interpretation of this puzzle involves a symbolic closure of the past, marking something as "complete" and putting it out of mind. While I was playing through, my mind went to thoughts about having to take risks in order to progress and the idea of finding comfort in familiar things.  The structure provides a strange sense of immersion only a few games can manage. I am not the avatar of the character in these environments navigating through them; I am the guy sitting at his computer, playing a game while another guy talks to me about it. The story being told is a history that took place in the real world, and together we are piecing together the deeper meaning behind these weird art games. The roundabout immersion is ironic in a way. Normally making it clear the player is just someone playing a game adds a layer of disconnect. Since the reality matches with the premise in The Beginner's Guide, it actually drew me into the meta-narrative even more closely. I realized about halfway through just how emotionally invested I had become. I found myself marveling at Coda's creations just as Wreden had done before me. I spent time reading every note posted in one section even after being told I didn't have to. I wanted to understand the person who made these just as much as Wreden. I was grateful for his aid when it came to surpassing the intentionally frustrating or impossible barriers. I had to see it through to the end. And then, just as my emotional investment hit its peak, the revelatory climax rolls in. Maybe Coda isn't the enigma Wreden paints him as. Maybe he just wants to be left alone. Wait, maybe he wouldn't want me playing his games. Maybe I'm violating his personal space by participating. Maybe I'm an asshole for doing things against someone else's wishes. Maybe I'm a bigger asshole for writing a whole review about it. My involvement as just the guy sitting at his computer playing a game is non-negligible at this point. I've been thinking about this game a lot for the past 36 hours. It demanded I think about it, at first only superficially, but later more substantively. I mulled over a lot of questions when I should have been sleeping. I continued thinking right when I woke up. I think I dreamed about it in between. I won't spoil with the explicit questions here, but I'm sure we will be talking more frankly soon. On the surface, The Beginner's Guide is a game about game design and critical analysis. Digging deeper, it provides a window into the mind of a man I might not have fully understood otherwise. It does all of this in a way only a video game could. More than anything else, it has caused me a lot of introspection, a feat few games ever achieve. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Beginner's Guide review photo
Start here
The Stanley Parable is famous for its fourth wall-breaking narrative, taking the maligned "walking simulator" genre and showing how effective it can be in the hands of a capable designer. When writer Davey Wreden surprise-ann...

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 ...
RPG Maker MV photo
RPG Maker MV

The next generation of RPG Maker arrives this month

You can make the next Corpse Party!
Oct 01
// CJ Andriessen
RPG Maker, that RPG creation tool you say you're going to use to make the greatest role playing game ever but then don't, will see its next iteration launch on October 23 with RPG Maker MV. At $80 you can create the next gre...
Home Free Kickstarter photo
Home Free Kickstarter

Control an abandoned dog in the city in action-RPG Home Free

Control your tears watching the video
Sep 30
// Darren Nakamura
The first few moments of the Kickstarter trailer for Home Free bring up sad memories of the Futurama episode "Jurassic Bark," which I apparently cannot even read the Wikipedia entry for without getting misty-eyed. Dogs, man. ...
Humble Bundle photo
Humble Bundle

Can't say I love this Humble Indie Bundle

It has Skullgirls, at least
Sep 29
// Jordan Devore
The Humble Indie Bundle 15 doesn't speak to me, overall, but that's not to say it won't work for you. It might! The lineup is varied, which has me curious to see what games will be added. Pay what you want: Sir, You Are Bein...
The Beginner's Guide photo
The Beginner's Guide

The Stanley Parable writer's new game releases this week

The Beginner's Guide
Sep 29
// Darren Nakamura
Normally, what we have here would hardly be worth a post. All we have are a handful of weird screenshots, a barren teaser website, and the following description: The Beginner's Guide is a narrative video game ...
Mushroom 11 release date photo
Mushroom 11 release date

Mushroom 11 spreads its spores on October 15

National Mushroom Day
Sep 28
// Darren Nakamura
Back when I first played Mushroom 11, more than a ago at PAX East 2014, it was a cool concept. Judging by the launch trailer below (and Brett's preview from earlier this year), Untame has really expanded on that concept, work...
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...
Frog Fractions photo
Frog Fractions

Where in the world is Frog Fractions 2?

We might have our next clue
Sep 24
// Jordan Devore
The jig is not up. We still don't know the secret identity of Frog Fractions 2, the Kickstarter-funded sequel to the most interesting game I played on November 9, 2012. For all we know, it's lurking among us with an unassumin...

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...

Divinity redux photo
Divinity redux

Divinity: Original Sin should be the next great couch co-op game

Enhanced Edition coming to consoles
Sep 23
// Jordan Devore
If I'm going to play Divinity: Original Sin -- and I'm told that I absolutely should -- I'd prefer to do so cooperatively on a single screen. That's the topic at hand for this Enhanced Edition trailer. To recap, Enhanced Edit...
Kickstarter photo

P.T. lookalike Allison Road turns to Kickstarter

Fingers crossed
Sep 21
// Jordan Devore
There's a chance Allison Road can fill the heartbreaking void left by P.T., and I sure am rooting for it. But it's going to be a real challenge for the small team at Lilith to meet such lofty expectations. The game's Kickstar...

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...

ATLUS photo

Atlus picks up indie RPG Cryamore

Indie RPG also changing platforms
Sep 17
// Kyle MacGregor
Atlus will now be publishing Cryamore, the Kickstarter-funded RPG from indie team Nostalgico. The Shin Megami Tensei publisher has apparently been courting the studio for some time, offering the development team help to finis...

Review: Leo's Fortune

Sep 16 // Darren Nakamura
Leo's Fortune (Android, iOS, Mac, PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Windows Phone, Xbox One)Developer: 1337 & SenriPublisher: Tilting PointRelease: April 23, 2014 (mobile), September 8, 2015 (Mac, PC, PS4), September 11, 2015 (Xbox One)MSRP: $4.99 (mobile), $6.99 (non-mobile) Originally released on mobile last year, Leo's Fortune is now playable with a controller elsewhere. It's equal parts precision platformer, speed platformer, and puzzle platformer, alternating between the three to keep the experience fresh throughout. Leopold is a slippery guy, which aids in the speed sections. Certain areas have ramps and curves built in, giving Leo a playground to jump, inflate, and dive toward the exit quickly. Of the three styles of platforming present, this is the most exciting. The other two styles slow Leo down considerably. With his inflate ability, he can not only jump and launch off walls, but he can also slow his descent, giving himself greater control in spiky sections. Here, Leopold's slipperiness can get him into trouble; he will sometimes maintain momentum from a speed section straight into a trap. It can be difficult to make the small adjustments necessary for the precision segments, because pressing in one direction for more than a split second will send him careening in that direction. The puzzles are a welcome change of pace, though they never really tax the brain. For the most part, they are the same kinds of physics-based puzzles we've seen elsewhere. They're certainly not bad, but they're never mindblowing either. [embed]310626:60351:0[/embed] All of this is tied together by an after school special-esque story. Though the specifics of the big twist aren't exactly predictable, it's clear throughout that Leopold is barking up the wrong trees and stands to learn a life lesson. It's almost like one of Aesop's fables; it comes with the moral of appreciating people over possessions, which is a great message to teach children, but feels trite to those who have heard it before. In that way, the story mirrors the puzzle sections. It's totally serviceable, but I'm not particularly impressed by it. Where Leo's Fortune excels is in the presentation. Leopold's fuzz and a lot of the environmental effects are fantastically animated. Leo slides as he moves, meaning he doesn't have any walking or rolling animation, but despite that he exudes personality, particularly through facial expressions. I love the look he gives when he inflates. So what we have in all is a beautiful platformer with ups and downs (literally and figuratively), a mundane narrative with a good message, and some real difficulty toward the end. The whole game probably only takes about an hour or two to finish (with full game speedruns clocking in at about 45 minutes. It's not a must-buy, not even for platformer fans, but it's a cute little game that most people can find some fun with. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Leo's Fortune review photo
Favors the bold
Coins. Plenty of games have them scattered around to collect, but few explain why they're there in the first place. If they're so valuable, why did somebody just leave them there? Leo's Fortune gives a reason. The titular mus...

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So long Relativity, hello Manifold Garden

Name change alert
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Human Resource Machine heading to Wii U

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Review: Dropsy

Sep 15 // Zack Furniss
Dropsy (Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows [reviewed])Developer: Tendershoot, A Jolly CorpsePublisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: September 10, 2015 (Windows, Mac, Linux) / TBA (Android, iOS)MSRP: $9.99 Last week I said that Dropsy's music was "brimming with the earnestness you feel when you're about to tell someone you love them for the first time." I'd like to extend that statement to include the entirety of the game. While it's hard to swallow that idea when it is juxtaposed against the titular clown's disquieting countenance, I assure you that his adventure is more uplifting than it is horrifying. Some background: Dropsy had always looked different, and had a hard time communicating with his fellow humans. Animals, however, always found a fast friend in him. This ability to talk to creatures furred or feathered gave him a skill to perform and please people with. Through use of this talent, Dropsy convinced the crowds to love him. He and his parents were Big Top circus performers until a mysterious accident set the tent and their reputations ablaze. Daddy Dropsy survived, but Mommy Dropsy didn't. A short cinematic conveys all of this to you, and your first "quest" is to leave a memento on your mother's grave in the cemetery on the other side of town. Though it starts off on a somber note, Dropsy quickly becomes an exploration of what it means to bring happiness to a stranger. Dropsy wants to hug everyone to show him that he loves them the way he hopes that they can love him, but most people aren't keen on the idea. By helping each NPC in the game by way of light puzzles, you can eventually earn that sweet, short embrace. Whenever Dropsy meets someone in need, thought bubbles appear over their heads to convey what it is they want or need. The difficulty lays in trying to parse what exactly these small pictures mean, and it can be frustrating at times. But the beauty of this is that it places the player right in Dropsy's clown shoes, effectively showing you how hard it is for the poor guy to communicate. If each character could just verbally tell you what they required, this would be a short game. But that isn't the world Dropsy lives in. Though there is the aforementioned main quest, Dropsy is non-linear in such a way that you can wander the entire city (a beautifully pixelcrunchy mish-mash of city, desert, bayou, and forest) within the first few minutes. People that you meet early on might have secrets that you won't unravel until the back half of the game, which I completed in about five hours. You'll gently float through town with your queue of animal buddies, spreading love to all who will receive the message. Most puzzles are solved by having the right item stored in Dropsy's overalls. These often won't require too much of you, though there are a couple of tricky scenarios in the latter half of the game. There are a couple of pixel hunts and logic leaps that aren't immediately apparent, but that is mostly in regard to side quests. You don't have to make everyone happy in order to complete Dropsy, but I recommend having multiple saves so that you can go back and earn all of those sweet hugs before the ending sequence locks you out. While many suspected that this would be a horror game before it came out or that there would be some disturbing twist halfway through, that never ends up being the case. Instead, this is a celebration of the small victories we achieve when we become even the slightest bit closer to someone. Dropsy's appearance lends itself to terror and has lead to his alienation, but his presence brings an indomitable cheer to anyone who gives him a chance. Every so often, Dropsy subverts this tone with an emotional kick right in your heart's crotch, and it hurts in the best way. In the interest of being as earnest as this game, I felt a hope while playing Dropsy that I don't usually associate with gaming. This a point-and-click where your main interaction with the world is a hug button. You can play as a dog who has a map with all of his favorite places to pee, who wiggles his eyebrows when he finds a new place to mark. You can re-unite families or learn more about your own. There's an optional button in the menu to turn on the sound effects for your clown shoes.  This levity, this world, and these people are going to be with me forever. If you've ever complained about there being too much violence in gaming, or that games are all the same, and you don't play this... I hope somebody hugs you.
Dropsy photo
The best hugventure you can embark upon
I finished Dropsy about a week ago. Though an increased workload at the ol' day job slowed down this review, I'm grateful that I had extra time to put together these thoughts. Most would take that to mean that Dropsy&nbs...

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