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Review: Pro Controller U photo
Review: Pro Controller U
by Patrick Hancock

[Update: For clarification, this product is not made by ThinkGeek and simply retails on the site. The headline of this post has been changed to reflect this. Sorry for any confusion!]

The Pro Controller U really appears to be a wonderful deal at first glance. It's a controller that functions with the Wii, Wii U, and can even be paired to Android devices via Bluetooth. However, there are quite a few issues with this controller, one of which is a clear sign of sleazy advertisement.

Specifically, this does not function as a Wii U Pro Controller, despite what the name may lead you to believe.

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The best and worst games of 2013: Infinite March  photo
The best and worst games of 2013: Infinite March
by Jordan Devore

What a month! Now that March is well behind us (and we remembered to take a look back to ponder), I feel confident in saying that between BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider, and yet another Gears of War, we are well into this year of big-budget gaming.

Take a look at everything we reviewed in March -- there's a lot! What was your jam? What did you miss out on? I still need to grab copies of HarmoKnight and Luigi's Mansion for my 3DS. The poor guy has gotten dusty and now only I'm to blame for it.

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Behold OUYA's launch lineup of 104 titles photo
Behold OUYA's launch lineup of 104 titles
by Tony Ponce

[Image from brentalfloss the comic]

I wasn't interested in OUYA in the beginning, but I've warmed up to the tiny box. A console just for free or free-to-play digital distribution games? After the parade of shame and disappointment that is the home console space proper, I'm ready for a machine that encourages simple pleasures over whatever nonsense big companies want to shove down our throats this week.

OUYA started arriving at Kickstarter backers' homes a few days ago, but the official release is set for June 4 -- that's my birthday, if you were wondering what to get me. A hefty 104 titles will launch with the box, including Canabalt, Giana Sisters, and Final Fantasy III. In addition to games, there will be other software such as a TwitchTV app and various console emulators.

I don't recognize most of the names on the list -- I'm sure a lot of them are garbage. That's the nature of the beast, I suppose. We'll see how well the machine is received once it drops. In the meantime, check the full launch lineup below.

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First Ouya reviews hit the Internet  photo
First Ouya reviews hit the Internet
by Jim Sterling

An early handful of Ouya reviews have popped up online as the system makes its way into the hands of early adopters. There's been a steady buzz revolving around the highly hackable, Android-based home console, but initial reactions have been lukewarm at best. 

Although the machine seems to have some decent points, common complaints include a seemingly unfinished user interface, hardware that feels cheap in the hand, and a worrying amount of lag between the controller and the console. Engadget and The Verge both bring heavy criticism to the table, and ultimately advise against an investment at this stage. 

It's worth noting that the Ouya currently shipping seems to be a placeholder, with talk of the official June release featuring a more finished machine. Even so, those looking forward to getting an early one are being warned.

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Review: Alien vs. Predator: Evolution photo
Review: Alien vs. Predator: Evolution
by Jim Sterling

When the makers of Alien vs. Predator: Evolution saw the negative press and subsequent fallout regarding Aliens: Colonial Marines, they must have laughed. I imagine them bellowing obnoxiously, roaring their gleeful approval that no matter what their game will be like, there's no way it could be considered anywhere near as bad. 

Sadly, these hypothetical developers are wholly mistaken. Evolution is ironically titled, as backward and inefficient as it is. It manages to do the seemingly impossible and rival Colonial Marines in its awfulness. Just when Aliens fans thought things could only get better, along comes Angry Mob Games to demonstrate that, no, the franchise isn't done being pissed on yet. 

In fact, the flood's only just begun. 

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Android rip-off dev did not know who Yoshi was photo
Android rip-off dev did not know who Yoshi was
by Tony Ponce

A few days ago, we learned about Era's Adventures 3D, a new Android game that stars an unlicensed character model of Mario's faithful mount Yoshi. It sounds incredibly ballsy that anyone would pull such a stunt and not anticipate the consequences. As it so happens, the creator is claiming complete ignorance about Yoshi's identity.

In responding to Ars Technica, Era dev Botond Kopacz stated, "Actually this is an indie game developed by one developer, so due to the limitation of effort, I purchased a cute character from TurboSquid, one of the biggest 3D asset stores, without knowing the background story of the character Yoshi, since I'm not a Super Mario fan.... Once the game was released on the Play Store, after spending hundreds of hours in making the game, I started receiving 'kind' mails from Super Mario fans that I stole Yoshi, etc. So I started Googling and I realized that the character is really from the Super Mario series."

Naturally Kopacz is planning to alter the model, but I nonetheless find it highly unlikely that a non-Mario fan who is nonetheless invested in gaming would not at least recognize such an iconic figure from the biggest gaming franchise of all time, even if he couldn't identify Yoshi by name. Has he never seen a T-shirt, webcomic, video, or news article that featured the green dino? You'd have to work extremely hard to keep yourself completely in the dark.

Nintendo's Yoshi sneaks on to Google Play in unlicensed game (Updated) [Ars Technica]

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Review: Star Wars Pinball photo
Review: Star Wars Pinball
by Brett Zeidler

It's been a couple years since Zen Studios first took on the Marvel license and subsequently released expertly crafted tables centered around the biggest characters and story arcs in the comic book giant's vast library. Each table outdid the last, and it seemed like there was no way they could do any better with the next tables. Then they did.

After fifteen tables and no signs of slowing down, the studio has done a brilliant job with the Marvel license, so what would the next logical step be for the masterminds at Zen? Well, Star Wars Pinball, of course.

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Valve fires employees from hardware and Android teams photo
Valve fires employees from hardware and Android teams
by Jordan Devore

[Update: Valve head Gabe Newell offered the following statement to Engadget: "We don't usually talk about personnel matters for a number of reasons. There seems to be an unusual amount of speculation about some recent changes here, so I thought I'd take the unusual step of addressing them. No, we aren't canceling any projects. No, we aren't changing any priorities or projects we've been discussing. No, this isn't about Steam or Linux or hardware or [insert game name here]. We're not going to discuss why anyone in particular is or isn't working here."]

Last night, word got out that Jeri Ellsworth had been fired from Valve. While I didn't think too much of it at the time, she was a part of the company's hardware R&D division and, as we learned today, she was not alone in being let go. What's going on at Valve?

Gamasutra is reporting that "several employees" have been laid off, including folks who were on hardware and Android development at Valve, with employees describing the situation as a "great cleansing." While unconfirmed, the number "25" has been brought up.

Considering the profitability of the company, it would seem that this has more to do with the direction Valve is heading in than anything else. Gamasutra suspects the cuts were due to company challenges as opposed to individual employee performance, which makes a lot of sense as new initiatives are underway.

Several out of work as Valve makes 'large decisions' about its future [Gamasutra]

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Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: 10 Year Anniversary photo
Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: 10 Year Anniversary
by Chris Carter

All this Grand Theft Auto anniversary talk makes me feel old. It feels like just yesterday I was listening to Michael Jackson, swerving around as Tommy Vercetti, and taking in the sights of Rockstar's faux-Miami setting.

I think a lot of people missed out on Vice City because it came out so soon after Grand Theft Auto III, and that's a shame. Just like Grand Theft Auto III on mobile devices before it, this new anniversary edition honors the franchise's legacy: so long as you're willing to put up with touch controls.

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Review: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition photo
Review: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
by Patrick Hancock

Baldur's Gate will forever be regarded as one of the classic PC RPGs. A lot of people never experienced it back in 1998, and it's not exactly the best-looking game anymore. To complicate things, it can be a pain to get the old game to run on newer machines, even after GOG.com began selling the title.

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition not only remedies these issues, it also adds a good amount of new content, making it way easier to recommend to someone who previously missed out.

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From the goat shack to Kickstarter: The origin of Stoic photo
From the goat shack to Kickstarter: The origin of Stoic
by Allistair Pinsof

A developer talking passionately about its game, a journalist receiving answers to questions without fail, and nothing in between keeping either side from doing what they set out to do. This is how it should be, but it rarely ever is these days.

Games have become more than entertainment. They are now multimillion dollar investments that can sink a company with 1,000+ employees or propel a humble one to graze the Fortune 500. Marketing, press representation, media tours, exclusive deals, sponsorships, trade show booths, partners, podcasts, blogs, downloadable content schedules, and social media presence have become part of the song and dance that is bringing a game to market in 2012.

But, over there -- way over there -- is a small studio called Stoic that is making a game like it’s 1999 again.

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OUYA interview: Julie Uhrman tackles consoles & critics photo
OUYA interview: Julie Uhrman tackles consoles & critics
by Jim Sterling

The OUYA console has generated a lot of discussion in the week since it was unveiled, and no small amount of controversy to boot. The Android-powered system hoped to raise funds via Kickstarter and had its wish granted in a stunning amount of time -- at the time of writing, OUYA has raised $4,895,999 ... with a goal of $950,000 and 23 days to go!

After the first day of fundraising, however, cynicism kicked in. The console has been accused of potentially "scamming" users, while Ben Kuchera of Penny Arcade wrote a very skeptical article urging users to be cautious. Opinions are divided, with some hoping to trust the developers, and others planning to keep well away. 

I went straight to the source of the debate -- chiefly developer CEO Julie Uhrman -- to discuss the potential of OUYA, the plans for its future, and whether or not the accusations leveled against the project are worth considering.

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Kickstarter for Ouya Android console surpasses $3.5M photo
Kickstarter for Ouya Android console surpasses $3.5M
by Jordan Devore

The buzz for the upcoming Android-powered game console Ouya has been out of control lately, and much of that has taken the form of contributions for the system's Kickstarter campaign. At the time of writing, it has brought in $3,564,131 with a whopping 28 days left to go.

In the project's first update, the Ouya team says it's working hard to figure out how to handle the issue of all that extra money; talk about a wonderful problem to have. "Now we want to blow you away. The biggest thing for us right now: we are working on our stretch goals, what we can do if we raise more money. It might take us a few days to figure that out, and we want your help."

Personally, I really like the open spirit of the Ouya, but I'm skeptical that the games will be able to deliver in the long term. That's not as much of a concern for many of the Kickstarter contributors, clearly, though it's a concern I have seen expressed elsewhere and one I'd love to see proven wrong.

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$99 hackable Android console Kickstarter: $75k in 1 hour! photo
$99 hackable Android console Kickstarter: $75k in 1 hour!
by Dale North

The Ouya is a $99 Android-based game console that would come with free-to-play games and a development kit. Or, it will be once they make enough cash on Kickstarter to get it going. I think they'll be fine, though: They've raised over $75,000 of their $950,000 goal in one hour this morning!

The organizers say that they love console gaming, but have seen the market push developers away and more toward mobile gaming. This is their answer to the current situation, making games less expensive to make and buy. Their only condition to developers on the Ouya: at least some gameplay has to be free. That shouldn't be a problem, as just the whole industry seems to be moving that direction. 

Aside from the Android OS (4.0), the console would be Tegra3-based, have 1GB of RAM, 8GB of flash storage, and sport HDMI and USB connectors. The concept image above shows a lovely wireless controller.

So, big, TV-sized, free-to-play games out of a little Android-based console? For $99? No wonder they've raised $75k in an hour. In fact, the pledge number jumped up to over $92,000 while I was writing this blog!

Are you down for an Android-based console? 

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E3: Microsoft introduces Xbox SmartGlass photo
E3: Microsoft introduces Xbox SmartGlass
by Jim Sterling

Microsoft has today announced Xbox Smart Glass, a new bit of tech that will "transform the devices you already own and love." Smart Glass is, essentially, a feature that allows all your entertainment systems to communicate and and work together to enhance the way you watch films, listen to music, and play games. 

Working with your Xbox 360, iOS, and Android devices, Smart Glass is designed to immerse the user in their entertainment. This can range from starting to watch a movie on a smartphone and then having the 360 resume it at home, to more interesting gimmicks such as watching Game of Thrones on the 360 while having your tablet sync up and portray a map of the series' world, giving you detailed information on the show you're watching as it happens. 

In games, you could spot an interesting object while having a round of Halo, and information about that object can beam straight to your handheld device. It was also revealed that you can use a portable gadget to select plays in Madden. Naturally, this can open up some interesting new ways to enjoy a game. 

Smart Glass sounds pretty interesting, and has certainly livened up an otherwise dreary conference. Very interested to see how it turns out.

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Sony announces two Android-based tablets photo
Sony announces two Android-based tablets
by Conrad Zimmerman

It was only a matter of time before Sony joined the rapidly developing tablet market. Today, they have announced two new tablet devices they plan to be releasing this fall. Code named "S1" and "S2", the tablets will run Android 3.0 and will be Wi-Fi and WAN (3G/4G) compatible.

The "S1" tablet features a 9.5" screen and a wedge-like shape Sony says, "realizes stability and ease of grip as well as a sense of stability and lightness, offering comfortable use for hours." Meanwhile, the "S2" has two 5.5" screens in a clamshell design. 

The dual-screen setup is intriguing. It's hard to judge just from the image (which may not even be the final design) but with 5.5" screens, I would expect it to be very portable and excellent for typing. It could also have some real problems with compatibility. Unusual hardware design is the bane of Android's existence, the other edge of the open-source sword, making it a constant challenge for application designers to make their code work with everything. Add one more to the pile, I guess.

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