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Review: Skylanders: Trap Team

Oct 07 // Chris Carter
Skylanders: Trap Team (3DS, Android, iOS, PS3, PS4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Toys for Bob / Beenox / Vicarious VisionsPublisher: ActivisionReleased: October 5, 2014MSRP: $74.99 (Starter Pack) The premise is basically the same as it always has been with the Skylanders series. Once again an ancient evil (The Doom Raiders) has awakened, and it's up to the Skylanders and their new allies (the Trap Masters) to put them away. Players will do this by using all of the toys released so far, as well as the new Trap Master figures that can access unique crystal areas, and the trap pieces. To be clear, all of the toys from the first three generations of Skylanders can be used here, which is a pretty neat way to keep a collection relevant. At this point it's hard to believe that Toys for Bob is still coming up with unique characters and movesets, but pretty much every new toy I've used shines in its own unique way and has its own personality. Visually, Trap Team has taken some strides since Swap Force, which is a big accomplishment considering how great that game looked on newer consoles. Everything looks like a legitimate Dreamworks or Pixar animated film, and the idea of the franchise transitioning over to the big screen is completely believable based on the game alone. The script isn't as sharp as Swap Force, but it's still perfectly acceptable for kids, and completely skippable for adults. Gameplay-wise the series still holds up, with addictive hack and slash gameplay that deserves to be respected with any modern action release. Characters will naturally grow their abilities as time goes on and most of them will have a tool for every situation, making every toy feel fun and viable. Higher difficulties also help ease in veteran gamers who may view Skylanders as a kids-only franchise. On the other hand, there's nothing really new that justifies spending $75 to get the Starter Pack, which includes the game, the new portal, two traps, and two characters. It sounds ridiculous, but while Swap Force technically innovated with the ability to jump and a few other elemental mix-up mechanics, Trap Team doesn't really add anything exciting to the mix. Well, the "new" bit is found in the traps themselves, but I was pretty disappointed with how they actually play out. The concept involves the new Traptanium portal, which has a tiny slot to fix in plastic traps that are shaped like pegs. The game has 46 special villains in it that can be captured as you make your way through the story, and if you have a trap toy handy of the correct element (the game comes with the Life and Water traps), you can collect them to re-use from that point on. The trapped character also "talks" by way of the peg, which lights up in the portal. Traps are a bit of a letdown in two ways. One, the actual use of trapped villains involves summoning them for a limited amount of time as a playable character. Said time is linked by way of a special meter, and at the end of the day, it amounts to nothing more than a temporary power-up. It would have been much cooler to have each villain as a fully playable character at all times with their own level system and custom movesets. Whereas the hulking  giants and the swap combos fundamentally changed the game, traps don't feel nearly as innovative. Additionally, adding traps to the game is just too much in terms of the physical collecting aspect. While all eight elements of traps can be purchased now in stores, two "mystery" elements are not for sale, and thus those villains cannot be captured until those are released. While I'm generally okay with gating off small bonus rooms by way of elements, giants, swap doors and Trap Master crystals, gating off characters while juggling the similar looking trap toys doesn't really make for a fun time. Taking off and putting on toys feels intuitive. It doesn't matter if the toy is big, small, or has interchangeable parts -- simply placing a new character on a surface and playing instantly is a fun and well designed activity. The traps on the other hand will leave many people confused as to who is in what trap, and since they're only truly used at certain points of the game to capture enemies, they often feel like they're sidelined. Thankfully, all of the other mechanics I mentioned earlier from past games are still readily available, and you can still complete the game only using the traps from the base kit. In true Skylanders fashion there's plenty to do though, even for those who don't dig the traps. The Kaos Doom Challenge is probably the biggest addition, and expands the arenas from Swap Force into a full-on horde mode with tower defense elements. Why the series didn't have this sooner is beyond me, but it's a ton of fun to play with friends, and a great way to get more use out of your whole collection of toys. Skystones, the in-universe card game is also back in a bigger capacity, battle arenas are still in, and a few more minigames like a 2D platformer diversion are available to unlock. While I never really connected with the trap mechanic or the new Trap Master toys, Skylanders: Trap Team is still a well-oiled machine. On newer consoles it looks fantastic, the action gameplay is still exciting, and the charm is still there. I just hope that Activision and its ilk have more interesting concepts in mind for the next iteration.
Skylanders 4 review photo
Same great gameplay, not so great new gimmick
Toys For Bob has found some rather interesting ways to evolve the Skylanders franchise. While the conceit the first time around was simply interactive toys, the developer mixed things up with giants on the second go, and...

Mistwalker's new RPG is unlike anything we've seen before

Sep 07 // Kyle MacGregor
Terra Battle is an upcoming strategy role-playing game for mobile and tablet devices, but it doesn't bear much resemblance to Final Fantasy Tactics and the like. Actually, the battlefield looks more like a chessboard than anything, which Sakaguchi tells us is by design. It takes inspiration from shogi, a popular board game, otherwise known as Japanese chess and the general's game. One way of playing shogi involves capturing stones by flanking them on both sides, a concept developer Mistwalker is incorporating as the centerpiece of Terra Battle's combat system. In order to attack enemies in Terra Battle, players will need to make quick and purposeful finger-swipes to position their units on the battlefield. However, since characters cannot fight alone, players will need to bump into and corral their allies into formations around monsters. That's the only way to vanquish your foes and emerge victorious.  [embed]280518:55533:0[/embed] In some small way, Mistwalker is also taking notes from Puzzle & Dragons. Sakaguchi told us a story about how we went drinking one night with the team behind GungHo Online's incredibly successful mobile game, and how it helped spur him to create Terra Battle. Sakaguchi gleaned insights on how to build an experience for a vertical screen from swapping stories with these folks. The conversations helped him address challenges like how to condense a rewarding experience into something easily enjoyed here and there while on the go. These types of problems seem to genuinely excite Sakaguchi, who wishes to use his forays into the mobile world to explore new ideas in the medium. Part of that involves a more fluid development process, where, unlike console games, the developers can continue to add content long after the game first ships. Mistwalker is using a "download starter" model with Terra Battle, which means the developer plans to add new content upon the achievement of certain milestones. These upgrades include new music courtesy of famed composer Nobuo Uematsu, co-op and versus battle modes, and even a console game based on the world and characters in Terra Battle. Mistwalker seems concerned with the stigma attached to mobile games, and hopes to ensure Terra Battle is not overly simplistic. Something we were more anxious about was how the developer plans to monetize the game. Terra Battle will be free-to-play and uses a stamina mechanic that limits the number of battles players can engage in quick succession. Energy regenerates over time, but impatient players will always have the option to pay. This shouldn't be overly alarming, as the title is designed to be played in short spurts, but it's something to keep in mind. Sakaguchi assured us players will never feel forced to part with their money. We were excited by what we saw of Terra Battle and are eager to give this unique take on tactical role-playing games a try when it arrives on iOS and Android devices this October.
Mistwalker's new RPG photo
Terra Battle is something else
Hironobu Sakaguchi is best known as the creator of Final Fantasy; a man responsible for some of the most influential and well-respected role-playing games of our time. His sprawling worlds and epic adventures have touched mil...

Reviews In Review: Watch Dogs, Monochroma, Wolf Among Us

Jun 01 // Ben Pack
World End Economica Episode 1 (PC)Developer: Spicy TailsPublisher: Sekai ProjectRelease: May 5, 2014MRSP: $12.99 World End Economica has so much going for it: an interesting premise, a protagonist with an actual design and personality (even if it is a little rotten) and the opportunity to capitalize on a business rarely (if ever) explored in video games: stock trading. Unfortunately, it squanders the opportunity to capitalize on these great bullet points and winds up a generic, muddled mess of pacing issues, bland dialogue, and characters too difficult to connect with. Verdict: 4/10 - Read the full World End Economica Episode 1 review  Watch Dogs (PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: UbisoftRelease: May 27, 2014 / TBA 2014 (Wii U)MRSP: $59.99 Despite the fact that Watch Dogs hasn't made any meaningful impact on the genre, I found myself having a ton of fun with it. Between the deep levels of customization and the sheer breadth of content, there's no shortage of things to do. If Ubisoft can take the game's core fun factor and marry it with an actual "next-gen" experience the next time around, they'll have something truly special. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Watch Dogs review The Wolf Among Us: In Sheep's Clothing (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesRelease: May 27, 2014 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) / TBA (iOS)MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) Having said that, Wolf Among Us continues to wow me with all of the details therein. From the Little Old Lady who lived in a shoe in a random painting to Curds and Whey in a jar, there's lots of lore building, and all it makes me want to do is read the comics proper. While The Walking Dead always feels like more of a micro-tale with each individual group, Wolf Among Us feels like something greater, and bigger than Telltale -- and that's a good thing. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full The Wolf Among Us: In Sheep's Clothing review Monochroma (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Nowhere StudiosPublisher: Nowhere StudiosReleased: May 28, 2014MSRP: $19.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit The narrative itself is generally engaging overall, but it suffers from a few holes. Aside from being told that the little brother is in fact the protagonist's little brother, the player is given no intrinsic reason to want to help him, and in fact, the player can grow to resent the character. Otherwise, there is not a good reason given that the two brothers decide to walk to the city and infiltrate a corporation instead of staying home and calling for medical help. Verdict: 4/10 - Read the full Monochroma review Worms Battlegrounds (PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Team17Publisher: Team17Released: May 27, 2014MSRP: $24.99 Like most Worms games, you'll need other people to play with or risk monotony. Enemy AI still isn't the sharpest tool in the shed even this far in the game, and they can take far too long between turns, leading to boredom. Given the price tag of $25, it's perfect for those of you who haven't played a Worms game in years and have the itch. But if you've been playing along for the past few years, you might be able to skip this slightly upgraded collective of recent entries -- unless you're a fanatic, of course. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full Worms Battlegrounds review  
REVIEWS! photo
Plus World End Economica
Reviewer? I hardly know her! This week's reviews in review goes out to Steven Hansen. Check out the video and all the reviews below.

Reviews In Review: Wolfenstein The New Order, Transistor, Drakengard 3

May 24 // Ben Pack
Kero Blaster (PC [reviewed], iPhone)Developer: Studio PixelPublisher: PlayismReleased: May 11, 2014MSRP: $7.99 (PC) $4.99 (iPhone) If Cave Story was Amaya's answer to Super Metroid, Kero Blaster is his Mega Man X. It's dense and perfectly paced, just begging to be replayed over and over. If I were to have to introduce someone to the genre of 2D action/platformers, it is probably the game that I'd give them, as it starts off easy-yet-engaging, and ends with giant bosses, swarms of enemies on screen, and everything else you could want in the genre. It's a game you may beat in a day, but will be playing off and on for a lifetime.  Verdict: 9/10 - Read the full Kero Blaster review Moon Chronicles: Episode 1 (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: Renegade KidPublisher: Renegade KidReleased: May 15, 2014MRSP: $8.99 It's really difficult to give Moon Chronicles a strong appraisal one way or the other. It's far from a stellar experience, but isn't a bad one either. There just isn't anything here that hasn't been done better elsewhere, and I can't see anyone other than FPS-starved 3DS owners or hardcore fans of the original being too interested. Verdict: 6/10 - Read the full Moon Chronicles: Episode 1 review Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: MachineGamesPublisher: Bethesda SoftworksRelease Date: May 20, 2014MSRP: $59.99 In many ways, Wolfenstein: The New Order is "First-Person Shooters: The Game," but it gets most of the important details right. It's still weird to me seeing Wolf games developed over and over by new devs, but MachineGames did a great job adapting the franchise in its own way. With a few tweaks, the next iteration could be something truly special. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full Wolfenstein: The New Order review Drakengard 3 (PS3)Developer: Access GamesPublisher: Square EnixRelease Date: May 20, 2014MSRP: $59.99 It's not too challenge of a game all things considered, because the difficulty curve is meticulously designed to not overwhelm or frustrate players. It's well made to the point where you won't feel like everything is too easy, and if you really need that extra edge to overcome a certain task, you can go back and level-up with sidequests. If you want to do everything you'll probably find yourself around a 100-hour completion rate, but the story is roughly at the 40-hour mark. Drakengard 3 is a bit unconventional at times (like its developer) with tales of extreme hair cutting and dragon piss, but action fans will want to seek this one out immediately. Within 15 minutes I was drawn into its world and its cast of characters, and I wanted to see Zero's journey through from start to finish. If you like games like Nier, you'll loveDrakengard 3. Verdict: 8.5/10 - Read the full Drakengard 3 review Transistor (PS4, PC [reviewed])Developer: Supergiant GamesPublisher: Supergiant GamesRelease: May 20, 2014MRSP: $19.99 / £14.99 While Transistor initially feels like a whole new game, structurally it sticks closely toBastion. Both games feature a beautiful but abandoned city that has undergone huge tragedy. In Bastion it was called the Calamity; in Transistor, it's dubbed The Process. Both feature areas where the player can rest and take stock; Red finds special doors which take her to a deserted island where challenge rooms are located (much like the Proving Grounds in Bastion). If the game isn't sufficiently challenging, Limiters can be installed that will make things harder for Red but at the benefit of gaining extra XP or other bonuses. These can be installed like Functions, swapped in and out at access points, but work the same way as the Idols in Bastion.  Verdict: 8.5/10 - Read the full Transistor review R-Type Dimensions (PS3 [reviewed], Xbox 360)Developer: Irem, Tozai GamesPublisher: Tozai GamesReleased: May 20, 2014MSRP: $9.99 If you have any fondness for the series, or if you're just looking for a solid side-scrolling shooter that's about as hard as can be, R-Type Dimensions faithfully re-creates the original experience and before long you'll be wondering why you did this to yourself. Verdict: 9/10 - Read the full R-Type Dimensions review  
REVIEWS! photo
And more!
Look, E3 is coming up soon and that means we're about to get super excited about games. Let's take a minute and be thankful for the games we have right now, ok?

Reviews in Review: Mario Kart 8, Super Time Force and more!

May 17 // Ben Pack
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 1Publisher: NintendoRelease Date: May 30, 2014MSRP: $59.99 Mario Kart 8 is my favorite series entry since Double Dash, and if it gets arena battle tracks at some point by way of DLC, it will be a near-perfect package. Its vibrant visuals will hold up for years to come, ensuring that the game will withstand the test of time, and it will be a staple in my household for a long, long while. Verdict: 9/10 - Read the full Mario Kart 8 review Ether One (PC)Developer: White Paper GamesPublisher: White Paper GamesReleased: March 25, 2014MRSP: $19.99 Ether One nails its puzzles, atmosphere, and sound (ambient and voice acting). It also nails its story -- whether or not you decide to fully unravel its world and its mysteries -- culminating in a, well, refreshing, smart finale that will stay on my mind for years to come. Verdict: 9/10 - Read the full Ether One review The Walking Dead Season Two: In Harm's Way (iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesRelease: May 14, 2014 (PC, PS3) / TBA (iOS, Vita, Xbox 360)MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) Episode three was probably my favorite from season one of The Walking Dead -- so far, I'm feeling the same way about In Harm's Way. Based on the preview the next tale seems to be a buffer of sorts before an explosive end, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how Clementine's journey ends. You hooked me yet again, Telltale. Verdict: 8.5/10 - Read the full The Walking Dead Season Two: In Harm's Way review Super Time Force (Xbox 360 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Capybara GamesPublisher: Capybara GamesRelease date: May 14, 2014MSRP: $14.99 All told, Super Time Force is a satisfying run-and-gun game made even better with a fun (and funny!) take on time travel. It's as enjoyable to play as it is to look at. You'll likely be able to burn through the game in a few hours if you're not going for full completion, but it has such a winning personality that you'll find yourself coming back for more. Verdict: 9/10 - Read the full Super Time Force  review Demon Gaze (PS Vita)Developer: Kadokawa GamesPublisher: NIS America Released: April, 2014MRSP: $39.99 You'll have to have plenty of patience and a pretty good imagination to get the most out of Demon Gaze. The dungeon crawling is great and the NPC interactions outside of the dungeons are fun, but it's insanely challenging (even on the easiest setting) and the high level of repetition and mostly static presentation could get to you after some time. And you'll also have to be okay with the game's many horny NPC situations as they didn't skimp on the fan service. Verdict: 7/10 - Read the full Demon Gaze  review Cloudbuilt (PC)Developer: CoilworksPublisher: Rising Star GamesReleased: March 20, 2014MRSP: $19.99 Cloudbuilt is frustrating. It's frustrating to play and frustrating to recommend. I like the style, I like the parkour mechanics overall, but there's a lot of junk to contend with. The antagonistic design (minefields everywhere) is one thing, but the unforgiving checkpoints and limited lives lead to a lot of repetition. Meanwhile, the combat ends up about as unsatisfying as Mirror's Edge, with worse enemies that either absorb too many bullets or deflect them with shields anyway. If you want something that is going to fight you every step of the way as you shave seconds off of run times (and you have a strong pinky finger), this is for you. Verdict: 6/10 - Read the full Cloudbuilt  review JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle (PS3)Developer: CyberConnect2Publisher: Bandai Namco GamesRelease Date: April 29, 2014MSRP: $49.99 Overall, despite its shortcomings, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle is a colorful spectacle that both fans of the anime and future fans of the anime will want to pick up and experience, even if just to watch a man use only his upper body strength after hopping off his horse to hold his own in combat. It's funky, gorgeous, and oozing with style. And where it comes up short, it simultaneously delivers in terms of fanservice and content. You won't be putting it down for quite some time, unless, you know, you need some time to eat a few more breads in your life. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle review
REVIEWS! photo
Plus The Walking Dead, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Hey, what are you doing here! There's a ton of good games that came out this week! No wait, come back and watch this video for a couple of minutes, read the article, then you can go play those games.

Reviews in Review: Sportsfriends, Amazing Spider-Man 2

May 12 // Ben Pack
Bound By Flame (PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360)Developer: SpidersPublisher: Focus Home InteractiveRelease Date: May 9, 2014MSRP: $39.99 The game is actually on your side when it comes to whipping your character into shape, too, as if to compensate for dim AI and the repetitive grind that some may not find as rewarding as I did. There's plenty of loot scattered throughout the multiple winding passageways and easy-to-navigate dungeons, giving you numerous chances to craft new potions and other necessary items for use in battle. While gold isn't exactly in short supply, you'll still be faced with enough opportunities to make your own fortune rather than looking for your next payday. Verdict: 7/10 - Read the full Bound By Flame review Hitman GO (iOS)Developer: Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixReleased: April 17, 2014MSRP: $4.99 Still, I was more than enamored with the numerous nods to classic Hitmanmoments, additional costumes, and the amount of polish lavished upon this bizarre yet savory addition to the Hitman universe. It's not perfect, and it certainly won't appeal to everyone, but if you're jonesing for your next taste of the life of an assassin, Hitman GO is the hippest way to emulate everyone's favorite sharp-dressed agent.  Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Hitman GO review Republique: Metamorphosis (iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 5], Mac, PC)Developer: Camouflaj, LoganPublisher: CamouflajReleased: April 30, 2014 (iOS) / PC (TBA)MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) I had my doubts about the Republique project as a whole, but it's clear to me now after two episodes that Camouflaj "gets it." The studio is finding a way to improve upon the core tenets of the game while maintaining an episodic format, which many other developers don't tend to do. While I wouldn't recommend that everyone rush out and buy the Season Pass right now, I'm looking forward to seeing what the next episode brings to the table. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full Republique: Metamorphosis review Sportsfriends (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: Die Gute FabrikPublisher: Die Gute FabrikRelease Date: May 6, 2014MSRP: $14.99 Despite the fact that I don't think I'll be playing Barabariball or Super Pole Riders for very long, Hokra's level editor gives it legs, and Johann Sebastian Joust shouldn't be missed by anyone who enjoys having company over. It's a very uneven package in the sense that there could have either been a few more games and a few could have been better, but honestly -- $15 isn't a terrible price just for Joust alone. Verdict: 7/10 - Read the full Sportsfriends review Raiden IV: OverKill (PS3)Developer: MOSSPublisher: UFO Interactive GameReleased: April 29, 2014MSRP: $19.99 Raiden IV: OverKill could have used a few more extras, but the fact that you can get it cheaper than the Xbox 360 version when it launched (it's $20 now digitally as well) is a compelling reason for genre fans to pick this one up. While theRaiden series in general isn't my favorite collective of shmups, it's been a steady staple for over two decades for a reason. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full Raiden IV: OverKill review The Elder Scrolls Online (Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4, Xbox One)Developer: ZeniMax Online StudiosPublisher: Bethesda SoftworksRelease: April 4, 2014 (Mac, PC) / June 2014 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)MSRP: $59.99 ($14.99 subscription fee, with 30 days included in base game) I think right now, the most prudent thing to do is to wait for ZeniMax to iron out all of The Elder Scrolls Online's kinks (including how it handles post level 50 content to make it less grindy), and play the console version of the game. Not only will it arrive with all of the updates from the PC version in tow, but it'll also have full native controller support -- which feels more natural than a mouse and keyboard in this instance. Verdict: 6.5/10 - Read the full The Elder Scrolls Online review Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure (PC [reviewed], Mac)Developer: Big Finish GamesPublisher: AtlusReleased: May 7, 2014MRSP: $19.99 / £14.99 The humor doesn't always work and the puzzle design is still rooted in the series' 1990s adventure game roots, meaning it feels archaic in spots, but there are some welcome concessions to modern design with the flashlight and hint system. Tex Murphy might be alive in 2014 but he'll need to learn a few more tricks if he's to stay around for another adventure.  Verdict: 6.5/10 - Read the full Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure review  
Review recap photo
Plus Tesla Effect, Raiden IV: Overkill
Hey some dude in the comments said I should do this drunk so Max made me drink malt liquor. Anyway here are the reviews I reviewed last week (as well as a couple more that went up after the video).

Reviews in Review: Child of Light, Daylight, Kirby Triple Deluxe

May 04 // Ben Pack
LEGO The Hobbit (3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PSVita, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Xbox One, WiiU)Developer: TT GamesPublisher: Warner Brothers InteractiveRelease Date: April 8, 2014MSRPP: $29.99 (3DS, Vita), $49.99 (PS3, Xbox 360, WiiU), $59.99 (PS4, Xbox One) Still, there is a good bit to like about the game as well. If you've enjoyed the many other LEGOadaptations, this one is not without it's charm. The characters and backgrounds match the films well, and the game follows the story of the movies very closely, down to the questionable bonus material padding. Though again, being a bit limited by the original voicework may not allow for the normal LEGO slaptick-type humor, and a few scenes of real tension and whimsy from the films seem to fall a bit flat. Verdict: 6.5/10 - Read the full LEGO The Hobbit review Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)Developer: HAL LaboratoryPublisher: NintendoReleased: May 2, 2014MSRP: $34.99 Kirby:Triple Deluxe is yet another winning entry in the franchise. It delivers the core Kirby experience alongside of a few very well done extras, which is pretty much everything a fan could ask for. While the Kirby formula could easily be getting stale for some, it still represents a whimsical corner of platforming games that's centered around one central ideal -- fun. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Kirby: Triple Deluxe review Child of Light (PS3, PS4, PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: April 30, 2014 Child of Light will satiate pretty much everyone but the most hardcore of RPG fans, and even then, they'll find plenty of enjoyment. There are a few minor issues here and there that hold it back from instant-classic status that could be enhanced in a sequel or future work, but regardless, Child of Light is a noble effort from Ubisoft Montreal, and another win to put in the studio's diverse portfolio. Verdict: 8.5/10 - Read the full Child of Light review FRACT OSC [Mac, PC (reviewed)]Developer: Phosfiend SystemsPublisher: Phosfiend SystemsMSRP: $14.99Released: April 22, 2014 FRACT OSC is a game where you need to be willing to go in blind and just explore; this might be something that puts a player off within the first 10 minutes, as there's no tooltips or tutorial to tell them what to do, unlike most modern games. If you allow yourself to be drawn into the strange, geometric landscape and understand the structure of the puzzles and progression, then you'll be rewarded with a great experience. Verdict: 8.5/10 - Read the full FRACT OSC review Life Goes On (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Infinite Monkeys EntertainmentPublisher: Infinite Monkeys EntertainmentReleased: April 17, 2014MSRP: $12.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Life Goes On might not start with the most mindblowing hook, but the idea is solid and Infinite Monkeys develops it well. By constantly adding new tricks into its repertoire and not dragging itself out unnecessarily, it maintains a good quality throughout. Puzzle difficulty ranges from easy to medium-hard; it rarely gets diabolically difficult, and when it does it is only when completing optional objectives. Although it is not particularly nice to look at, the underlying gameplay is worthwhile for any puzzle platformer enthusiast. Verdict: 7/10 - Read the full Life Goes On review Borderlands 2 Headerhunter 5: Sir Hammerlock Versus the Son of Crawmerax (Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Gearbox SoftwarePublisher: 2K GamesReleased: April 15, 2014MSRP: $2.99 As with the other entries in the Headhunter series, Sir Hammerlock Versus the Son of Crawmerax is a short experience with a relatively low price tag. Although it does not complete Borderlands 2 with a bang, it does a decent job of rounding out the series and setting up for the next one. Those particularly interested in the path of the characters moving forward will enjoy what this DLC does toward that end, but most other Borderlands fans would be just as well waiting for the release of the Pre-Sequel this fall. Verdict: 6/10 - Read the full Borderlands 2 Headerhunter 5: Sir Hammerlock Versus the Son of Crawmerax review Daylight (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4)Developer: Zombie StudiosPublisher: Zombie StudiosRelease: April 29, 2014MSRP: $14.99 Overall I felt as if Daylight was made as a jump-scare machine with a loosely tacked-on plot. I never felt invested in Sarah or cared much for the mysterious man rambling through her phone. In fact, I was more concerned with getting Miss Ghost off my back so she’d stop screaming, more so out of annoyance than fear. Daylight would have benefited from a fresh set of spooks rather than intermittent scares and muddy plot lines, but at the end of the day if you’re looking for a cheap thrill you've found it. Verdict: 4/10 - Read the full Daylight review Destiny of Spirits (Vita)Developer: SCE Japan Studio, Q EntertainmentPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentMSRP: Free-to-play Released: March 25, 2014 As is the case with any free-to-play game, you really have nothing to lose but time by trying outDestiny of Spirits. It helps if you're a hardcore Sony fan and strive for some of the more unique characters, but otherwise the pace is far too slow, and the rewards are far too little for the amount of time you need to invest in it. Verdict: 6/10 - Read the full Destiny of Spirits review The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: BeenoxPublisher: ActivisionMSRP: $59.99Released: April 29, 2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't a complete disaster, and I can easily see fans of Spidey enjoying it at a deep discount. It's just a shame that Beenox somehow got worse at makingSpider-Man games over time, and that the powers that be insist on rushing them as movie tie-ins. Somehow, someway -- we will get our Arkham of Spider-Man games again. Until then, you can just pick up a used copy of 2004's Spider-Man 2. Verdict: 6/10 - Read the full The Amazing Spider-Man 2 review Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed])Developer:  Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixMSRP: $39.99 ($12.99 per month, with a free PS3-to-PS4 license transfer) Released: August 27, 2013 (PC, PS3) / April 14, 2014 (PS4) Despite those issues, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is my favorite MMO since World of Warcraft. It has a lot of things going for it, tons of content to explore, and best of all -- lots and lots of support. I have no doubt that the popularity of A Realm Reborn will continue to rise with every major update and expansion, and I wish Square Enix nothing but the best. I didn't think it was possible, but they have absolutely atoned for the original mess that was Final Fantasy XIV -- and then some. Verdict: 9/10 - Read the full Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn review
Reviews! photo
Plus LEGO The Hobbit & More
It's the end of the week which means that it's time for another episode of Reviews in Review. This week a TON of games came out, so if you missed any of our reviews just check out the video for a quick recap. Seriously, what else are you going to do for four minutes? This week I use some really bad accents.

Reviews in Review: FFXIV, Arkham Origins DLC & NES Remix 2

Apr 26 // Ben Pack
Batman: Arkham Origins: Cold, Cold Heart (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montréal / Splash DamagePublisher: Warner Bros.Released: April 22nd, 2014MSRP: $9.99 (part of the Season Pass) Cold, Cold Heart feels like a legitimate addition to the Arkham Origins lore, and not just a cheap cash-in. It's definitely a side story that's too big to be shoved into the core game, even if it doesn't really innovate in any meaningful way. While I wouldn't go out of my way to buy Arkham Origins just for it, I'd implore any current owner to take a look. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full Batman: Arkham Origins: Cold, Cold Heart review NES Remix 2 (Wii U)Developer: indieszeroPublisher: NintendoReleased: April 24, 2014MSRP: $14.99 This is something that I'm going to be playing for quite some time with friends every so often, comparing scores until the cows come home. I wish this mode was a bit more fleshed out overall though (two Mario games is a bit much), and I'd love to see it as a standard in future iterations of this franchise (SNES Remix, perhaps?). In other words, I wouldn't buy it just to play Championship mode, but it's enjoyable all the same. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full NES Remix 2 review. Disney Magical World (3DS)Developer: h.a.n.d.Publisher: NintendoReleased: April 11, 2014MSRP: $29.99 That's the theme of Magical World -- simplicity. There are no secret times you need to get to a club to hear a certain song, no special residents that will only grant you a rare item on a certain hour of a certain day (there is a clock, but its effects are mostly aesthetic). For those of you who like min/maxing turnip prices and the like, you won't scratch that same itch here. It's not like that's a bad thing in my book -- I think an increased amount of accessibility is great -- just be wary that it can affect the game's longevity. Verdict: 7/10 - Read the full Disney Magical World review Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)Developer: CamelotPublisher: NintendoRelease Date: May 2, 2014MSRP: $29.99 Mario Golf: World Tour's presentation is strong, especially when it comes to the varied characters and costumes. The course designs are colorful and exciting, and they're packed with little secrets to find. The low resolution of the shot grid is the only place where the presentation of World Tour lets you down. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Mario Golf: World Tour review  
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Review these Reviews in Review
Reviews in Review is back, and due to the fact that this is episode 2, it officially has lasted longer than that time Fox tried to bring back The Osbournes after it got cancelled.  Anyway, onto the reviews. This week I talked about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Batman: Arkham Origins: Cold, Cold Hearts, NES Remix 2, and Disney Magical World. Check 'em out.

Reviews in Review: Steins;Gate, Half Minute Hero 2, Trials Fusion

Apr 19 // Ben Pack
Trials Fusion (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: RedLynx, UbisoftPublisher: UbisoftReleased: April 15, 2014 / April 24, 2014 (PC)MSRP: $19.99 / $39.99 physical release with Season Pass (Xbox One, PS4) Trials Fusion is a good game -- and I can only see it getting better over time as user-made levels excel and DLC is released -- but what's there now, at launch, is a step down from Trials Evolution. It's disheartening, then, to see the game come in at a higher price point than its predecessor and also try to sell users on a $19.99 Season Pass in-game right out of the gate. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Trials Fusion review. Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars (PS Vita, 3DS)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: AtlusReleased: April 15, 2014Price: $39.99 As the game progresses, the ritual scenes become a bit longer and naughtier. Toward the end of the game, when you've maxxed out the bonds with the girls, the scenes of baby making become even more horny. You'll see hands against walls, rears out, with girls wincing. Again, nothing is happening as far as contact is concerned, but depending on your tastes, these scenes could be offensive. I've been around the block a few times and have seen way worse. For me, these scenes were more silly than anything. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars review. Steins;Gate (PC)Developer: 5pb., Nitroplus Publisher: JAST USAReleased: March 31, 2014MSRP: $29.99 And things will indeed get intense. Steins;Gate is a taxing game, but it's also quite beautiful, from the talented Japanese voice cast (no English dub, unfortunately) to artist huke's unorthodox visuals. It's an exemplary visual novel with a thrilling premise, memorable characters, and a fantastic "true" ending that may very well move you to tears. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Steins;Gate review. Putty Squad (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Vita)Developer: System 3 SoftwarePublisher: System 3 SoftwareReleased: March 11, 2014MSRP: $29.99 You should only pick up Putty Squad if you're a fan of the original, and have an unhealthy affinity towards platformers. Everyone else need not apply unless the game drops to a rightful price of $10 or less. Verdict: 5/10 - Read the full Putty Squad review. Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming (PC)Developer: Marvelous AQLPublisher: Marvelous AQLRelease: April 4, 2014MSRP: $19.99 Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming makes a number of improvements on an established formula. It's endearing, provocative, and silly. But it lacks variety and never quite recaptures the magic of its predecessor. No longer a breath a fresh air, The Second Coming settles for being an enjoyable lark. And I'm perfectly okay with that. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming review.
Review in Review photo
Review these Reviews in Review
"Reviews in Review" is a new show that releases every week where I will go over the reviews published this week on Destructoid, as well as give a score to the week in general. This week I talked about the reviews for Steins;...

Amazon announces its $99 set-top box Fire TV

Apr 02 // Jordan Devore
[embed]272769:53235:0[/embed]
Amazon Fire TV photo
On sale now with the Game Controller sold separately
Amazon has finally announced its long-rumored media device and it's available for purchase as of today. The $99 Amazon Fire TV supports expected streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Prime Instant Video, and Pandora, bu...

Epic Games announces new $19.99/mo Unreal Engine 4 subscription plan

Mar 19 // Dale North
Here's a message to Sweeney himself: [embed]272174:53046:0[/embed] Some notes from a Q&A session after the announcement: Sweeney says that free-to-play games will not have to pay any royalties While support platforms' source for past projects will be provided with the plan, console support and source will not be available. For console access, Epic negotiates on a case-by-case basis "We are not shipping an Unreal Tournament game" alongside this engine announcement
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$19.99 a month, 5% of revenue, starts today
Anyone can gain access to Unreal Engine 4 now with a new subscription plan, priced at $19.99 a month. This was announced this morning in a GDC press conference by Epic co-founder Tim Sweeney.  With this new plan, users c...

The best and worst games of the week - A Bravely January

Feb 02 // Wesley Ruscher
The Banner Saga (Windows PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: StoicPublisher: StoicRelease: January 14, 2014MSRP: $24.99 This game feels like a project created by artists. It's uncompromising to a fault. Tiptoeing its way around trite conventions and hackneyed design choices, I have no doubt that the team at Stoic created the game they wanted to make. By the end of the journey, I cared for my banner like a shepherd tending to his flock. I commiserated with their hardships, as the thread of despondency wove its way throughout virtually every aspect of the experience. Read the full The Banner Saga review  Nidhogg (PC)Developer: MesshofPublisher: MesshofMSRP: $14.99Release Date: January 13, 2014 Nidhogg is a perfect game wrapped in a not-so-perfect package. When playing locally against another human, it is the epitome of competition. Playing online is a mixed bag of lag, disconnects, and a weird chat system. Hopefully some of the bugs get ironed out over time, especially whatever stopped the tutorial from functioning, to make everything more functional as a whole. Read the full Nidhogg review  Muramasa Rebirth: Fishy Tales of the Nekomata (PlayStation Vita)Developer: MarvelousAQLPublisher: Aksys GamesReleased: January 14, 2014 (US) / January 22, 2014 (EU)MSRP: $4.99 I heartily enjoyed my time as a cat in Muramasa Rebirth, and I can't wait to see what the other DLC stories can do. Vanillaware ingeniously was able to tie the heart of the game into its first Genroku Legends side story, while giving it a fine heart of its own. It's so well done in fact, that I could easily see a full game starring Okoi one day. Read the full Fishy Tales of the Nekomata review  Two Brothers (PC)Developer: Ackk StudiosPublisher: Ackk StudiosReleased: December 3, 2013MSRP: $14.99 It's very much the type of game you play for the story, which has flashes of brilliance that can only be effectively realized in an interactive medium such as this. Unfortunately, it's tied to lackluster mechanics, technical problems, and a disappointing lack of polish. Two Brothers may not be an overall success, but its best moments are worth experiencing first-hand. Read the full Two Brothers review  Continue?9876543210 (Linux, Mac, PC[reviewed])Developer: Jason OdaPublisher: Jason OdaMSRP: $9.99Release Date: January 3, 2014  Continue?9876543210 truly does feel like a personal and emotional experience: someone else’spersonal and emotional experience. It did not connect to me the way it was seemingly intended to. Good “experience” games either have super simple controls so that the player never has to think about them, or the controls and mechanics tie directly into the game’s central themes. Continue?9876543210 does neither. Read the full Continue?9876543210 review  OlliOlli (PS Vita)Developer: Roll7Publisher: Roll7Release Date: January 27, 2014MSRP: $12.99 There's a lot to love about OlliOlli. The game is in the sweetspot of "simple to control" and "just difficult enough" to keep you playing without tearing your hair out. The Daily Grind and Spots challenges will keep the score-centric crowd happy, and Career mode will have you blistering your thumbs as you try to perfect each level. A masterpiece. Read the full OlliOlli review  Broken Age: Act 1 (PC)Developer: Double Fine ProductionsPublisher: Double Fine ProductionsRelease Date: January 14, 2014 (for backers) / January 28, 2014MSRP: $24.99 (with free update for Act 2) I haven’t felt this surge of nostalgia and excitement about a game in a long time, and I truly thinkBroken Age will be looked back fondly as one of the greats. That being said, the first Act is only a few short hours and ended on a nail-biting cliffhanger with no word on how long we’ll be waiting for the rest of the game. In some ways I feel cheated, but in the end it’s the heart of the game that matters - and that certainly isn't broken. Read the full Broken Age: Act 1 review  Dead Rising 3: Operation Broken Eagle (Xbox One)Developer: Capcom VancouverPublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease Date: January 21, 2014MSRP: $9.99 As it stands, there is literally no reason to get Broken Eagle. It's criminally short, you can't enjoy it with a friend, there are no real benefits if your character is maxed out from already playing the core game, and it doesn't add to the overarching lore in any meaningful way. Hopefully the other Season Pass offerings will be an improvement, since we still have three to go. Read the full Operation Broken Eagle review  Soul Fjord (Ouya)Developer: Airtight GamesPublisher: Airtight GamesRelease: January 28, 2014MSRP: Free, with microtransactions Soul Fjord started with a good idea, and even has a few redeeming qualities, but in the end, it is just too dull to be enjoyable for longer than a few minutes. The free-to-play aspects don't ruin the experience, but they don't particularly help it either. If nothing else, Ouya owners should probably give this a try since it costs nothing upfront, but this is not the system savior that we have been hoping for. Read the full Soul Fjord review Bravely Default (3DS)Developer: Silicon StudioPublisher: Square EnixRelease: February 7, 2014MSRP: $39.99 Bravely Default gave me an experience that seemed to put me right back in my bedroom in the middle 1990s, where I'd sit in front of a small Hitachi television set and play the day away with a Super Nintendo controller in hand, so engrossed that I'd forget to eat. It harkens back to a time where we were all in love 16-bit Japanese role-playing games, and couldn't get enough of them. Read the full Bravely Default review Call of Duty: Ghosts: Onslaught DLC (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Infinity WardPublisher: ActivisionReleased: January 28, 2014 (Xbox 360, Xbox One) / TBA (PC, PS3, PS4)MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs) I was pleasantly surprised by Onslaught, especially considering the fact that Ghosts was so underwhelming. Although it won't do too much to change your mind if you're an adamant Call of Duty hater, the new Extinction episode is promising, and there are three solid maps here for the taking. Read the full Onslaught review  Octodad: Dadliest Catch (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4)Developer: Young Horses, Inc.Publisher: Young Horses, Inc.Release: January 30, 2014 (Linux, Mac, PC), March 2014 (PlayStation 4)MSRP: $14.99 ($11.99 until February 6)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit n the end, I would not be surprised to hear that the Octodad community is thriving years down the road. It exudes a certain weirdness and charm that makes it stand out from a lot of other titles out there, and there are tools in place for it to live on past the point when the credits start to roll. Though it has some issues with framerate drops and its approach to control is definitely not for everybody, Dadliest Catch kept a smile on my face for most of its duration. Read the full Octodad: Dadliest Catch review Dungeon Keeper (Android, iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5])Developer: Electronic Arts, Mythic EntertainmentPublisher: Electronic ArtsReleased: January 31, 2014MSRP: Free It's a huge shame, because Dungeon Keeper is such a great franchise. I vividly remember getting hooked on the original for the very first time, and hooking in non-strategy fans with its unique perspective and visual style. But you're getting none of that here, as you're instead presented with a hollow freemium shell of what once was. Do yourself a favor and go to GOG.com and grab the original. Read the full Dungeon Keeper review Polk N1 Gaming SurroundBar
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Week ending 2/1
January has come and gone, but that doesn't mean there weren't some great games to play. Just look at all the amazing "indie" games that hit the PC this month. We had the fruition of two KickStarter campaigns finally see the ...

Review: Nvidia Shield

Sep 25 // Jim Sterling
Nvidia Shield Manufacturer: NvidiaReleased: August 29, 2013MSRP: $299.00 The first thing you'll notice about the Shield is how it refuses to compromise on the things handheld gaming systems most commonly acquiesce. This is a big lump of plastic -- it can just about fit in the pocket, but you'll look like you've got the world's worst thigh tumor. It's chunky, and possessed of not inconsiderable weight, but that's because it's a screen sat atop a full-fledged, console-level controller. There's very little difference between it and an Xbox 360 controller, with its full-size, clickable dual analog sticks, face buttons, bumpers and triggers on the shoulder, and D-pad. The center of the controller also features a large button to access Tegra Zone, a back button, a start button, an Android home button, and a button to bring up volume controls. The obvious downside to having a full-on controller as a handheld is that you're, well, carrying a full-on controller around with you. The upside, however, is you've also got the most game-capable handheld system ever made, able to do things other systems simply can't.  [embed]262335:50645:0[/embed] Where it's taken the PlayStation Vita over a year to get one first-person shooter to get it right, and even then it has to compromise, the Shield launches with a rock-solid alternative right out of the gate, one that doesn't have to skimp on functionality in the least. While Dead Trigger isn't exactly the most impressive shooter ever made, it's nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable to be able to play a handheld FPS that actually feels like a real FPS, rather than a developer's noble approximation. Games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Sonic the Hedgehog, and The Bard's Tale are all simply better here than they are on other Android devices, making the Shield a viable choice for those who want to try some of the souped-up Android releases, but aren't into the idea of touchscreens.  This is also where the Shield humiliates its closest comparative system, the Ouya. Like Ouya, the Shield is a dedicated gaming system that gives you physical controls for Android-powered games. Unlike the Ouya, the Shield's native controller is responsive, the system itself is incredibly powerful, games feel like they belong on it, and the system is overall just more pleasant to use. The Shield also has full access to the Google Play store, with a real Android OS that can run any app. Of course, games not designed specifically for Shield controls are awkward to run on a touchscreen with a great hunk of plastic hanging off it, but the fact it has the option to access so much more than the Ouya makes it a superior alternative.  Comfortable in the hands and capable of running games at their highest settings, Shield is a lot of fun to play around with -- and this is not taking into account its ability to run a range of emulators for old games that you totally already have the physical copies of.  So far, my only real complaint with the physical design of the thing is the D-pad. The Shield really did elect to imitate the Xbox 360 controller in every way possible, including a rather dreadful and imprecise directional disc-thing. For the most part, it's not too much of a problem to deal with, but it can make twitchy platform games more of a hassle than they should be, and it certainly doesn't make playing something like A Link to the Past any easier.  Android games specifically designed for the Shield are thinner on the ground, and while more Tegra-powered games are appearing on the Shield Store, it's going to need a lot more support. There are already some solid titles worth getting, with the aforementioned Dead Trigger, Vice City, and Bard's Tale all good choices, but there's a very real risk at this stage that the game's library could suddenly dry up. I hope it doesn't happen, but it's not uncommon for a handheld system to become a software wasteland in a short span of time.  As well as the physical controls, the Shield's screen supports multitouch, and you can even use the right stick as a mouse, bringing up a cursor for menu and web browsing. The left stick acts as a traditional console controller would, meaning you have three methods of input and can interact with the system as you would a console, PC, or smartphone.  The screen itself is a five-inch display that flips up and rocks a 1280x720 resolution. On top of such a large controller, it feels comparatively flimsy, but it's all solidly built stuff. Games, naturally, look pretty damn good on the screen, and it does a more than adequate job of showcasing the Tegra-4 titles it was built to support. Audio is where I was really impressed, however. The two front-facing speakers are situated neatly above the face buttons and D-pad, and are capable of blasting out some damn loud sound. Handheld systems typically fail when it comes to providing sufficient audio, but these speakers are frankly incredible.  Another plus point is the battery life. Up to 20 hours of life can be gotten out of the system when streaming content from a PC, with a fair few hours of regular use available too. I want to say you'll get at least five hours from the thing if you're running games from the device itself, and altogether I found this machine working far longer than any comparable device.  As well as utilizing a full Android OS, the Shield also run's Nvidia's own little playground, TegraZone. Here, you get quick access to your Shield game library, as well the Shield Store, which collects those Google Play games customized specifically for Shield controls. Not all of these games are as elegant as they could be -- some confusingly utilizing touch-only menus or requiring a full recustomization of the buttons (looking at you, Shadowgun Deadzone) -- and some of them are straight-up garbage. Still, the titles worth getting are really worth getting.  TegraZone's biggest feature, however, is its "PC Games" section, allowing users to stream games from their PC directly to the system using Steam. The feature is still in beta, something Nvidia warns users about with good reason. While a fantastic idea, it is currently unreliable, as well as a complete pain to set up. To even get a game to work, it requires diddling around on your PC first. You'll need to make sure everything is updated, download TegraZone to your computer, run your desired games at least once, ensure you've a fast enough wi-fi router, and potentially fiddle with your Firewall and DPI settings. Even when you have everything in order, sometimes messages can pop up on your PC that interrupt streaming, or the connection could terminate for unknown and seemingly arbitrary reasons.  The beta status also limits the amount of games that currently work, and even among the ones that do, only a few work very well. Sleeping Dogs, for example, puts a mouse cursor in the center of the screen while it streams, and an attempt to move it using the Shield's touchscreen will disable all controller input. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is just laggy, and suddenly stopped working completely after only two successful attempts to get it running. Also, the less said about Half-Life 2, the better.  However, all complaints aside, when the planets align and the thing actually works as intended, it's seriously impressive stuff. BioShock Infinite runs pleasantly, with only vaguely perceptible controller lag, while Borderlands 2 is almost perfect. If it weren't for the mouse cursor issue, Sleeping Dogs would also be triumphant, looking lovely on the Shield's screen and running at an impressively silky pace. When everything comes together smoothly, there's definitely a magical quality to the process.  A lot of critics have been down on the Nvidia Shield, but I honestly don't know why people have been so harsh. Games look great and run superbly, the controller is big but beautifully functional, and its wide range of features makes it superior to dedicated systems like the PS Vita in several ways. It delivers on several of the Ouya's promises better than the Ouya ever did, and while the PC streaming is still highly problematic, it at least works, and one would hope its post-beta performance is far better. Of course, it has to be said that it's an expensive little toy, with an asking price of $299, and that's really going to be the dealbreaker for a lot of people. For an Android system with an unsure future and no guarantee of continued software support, three hundred bucks is going to be too rich a gamble for most. As a piece of hardware, I feel the Shield fully justifies its asking price, but these days it's so much less about the hardware, and more what you can do with it. That said, having full access to Google Play, and its range of emulators (most of which work with the physical control options) severely opens up what the Shield can do beyond its "official" uses.  The Shield's biggest feature needs to get itself out of beta soon, and it will need a lot more Tegra-powered games under its belt before it can be a real competitor. However, the device is quickly becoming one of my favorite handheld gaming systems to date, and as a generally big fan of portable gaming, that says a lot. It was never going to appeal to everybody, but to the right buyer, the Shield may be the perfect handheld.  You've just got to be the really, really niche type of buyer it's gunning for. 
Nvidia Shield review photo
Come back with your shield, or come back on it
[Disclosure: Nvidia has provided Destructoid with a number of computers for PC game review purposes in the past. If you feel that may make our reviews of any of their products "biased" or "paid off," you are welcome to.] The ...

The Ouya is a nice idea ... at least

Jun 25 // Jim Sterling
The most adorable console ever At a squat little 3x3", and designed as a cube with a curve toward the bottom, the Ouya is certainly a cute little thing. In terms of visual design, I like the box very much. Streamlining and ease of use is a core philosophy of the design, with a setup process so intuitive it'll take all but the least tech savvy of troglodytes to get it working. Simply pop the provided HDMI cable in the right slots, do the same for the power, and you're away. I do wish the included cables were longer, but for most homes, that shouldn't be a problem.  The back of the system -- and it's so small it's hard to even consider it a "back" -- has only ports for the power and HDMI cables, standard USB, micro USB, and an ethernet lead. The one single button is place directly on top of the unit -- a large round one for the power. It's really all you need.  Losing control Things fall apart at a basic fundamental level, however -- the controller. Reports of lag and a cheap, sticky feel to the controls were a major part of reviews of early "beta" units, and while the Ouya team has gone to lengths to improve these problems, they're still pretty damn noticeable. First of all, having to remove two separate faceplates to inset batteries on either end of the device makes no good sense to me, and the way the plates ostensibly slough off do little to discredit the "cheap" impression the lightweight plastic gives.  It only gets worse when you actually use the thing. In navigating menus, I found lag to be unnoticeable, and it was fine for playing regular action or role-playing games. As I got further into games like Deep Dungeons of Doom, however, where timing and precision become more important, the Ouya controller simply is not up to the task. Even worse, the face buttons tend to get stuck inside the removable faceplate fairly easily, requiring an extra flick to get them to snap out of their holes.  It's reported the controller lag gets worse the further away from the system you get. I was actually playing with the Ouya maybe three feet away from the controller, and still found it insufficient for playing games with any degree of precision.  The controller is also worthless when it comes to turning the system off. Every single time I attempted to remotely power down the Ouya via the controller, it switched itself back on. It got the point where I yanked the power cable out of the wall to make sure the bloody thing stayed off.  The real shame is that, as a controller, it's not badly designed otherwise. It feels comfortable in the hand, the analog sticks and buttons are well spaced out, and the touchpad is a nice idea, even if it is too small to be useful and suffers even worse lag than the buttons. Many recommend you pair the Ouya with a PS3 or Xbox 360 controller, and I find it hard to disagree -- though the lack of a touchpad may screw you over for some games that inexplicably demand its use in menu navigation. Inside the Ouya The UI is about as straightforward as you can get. Once you go through the process of downloading any firmware updates (which can take a long time) and entering your credit card information (which I don't appreciate being asked to do as a first action), you're tossed into a bright orange menu screen with four distinct items -- Play, Discover, Make, and Manage. They all do exactly what you expect, one being the game library, one being the store, one being for developer content, and one housing all the system settings.  Libraries and the store front are simply rows of pictures of games, not enticingly set out, but at the very least functional. The store front can be browsed by genre, though most space is given up to eShop-like gatherings of games by contrived type, such as "couch play for friends" or the confusingly titled "sandbox" group of games that have nothing to do with sandbox play. An elegant layout it isn't, but it's no worse than any other console storefront, and it's generally pretty quick to load as well.  Ouya mandates that every game provide a working demo, and while that's a noble goal, in practice it leads to a convoluted purchasing system. You cannot buy games from the Ouya marketplace, you can only download demos, and then purchase the full version within each game. Downloading The Bard's Tale involved downloading the free demo, buying the game from within its main menu, and then waiting almost an entire day for the "additional data" to download -- a process that hogged the wi-fi in the house, and kept needing to be jumpstarted due to "connection errors."  Downloading a large game like The Bard's Tale, by the way, exposes how little space the Ouya actually has for games. It wasn't long after nabbing the game that I started being informed the system was too full for anything else. An external hard drive is one storage solution, but in doing so, we must admit the Ouya is a console that needs a third party controller, and a third party storage solution, in order to be viable. Not exactly a great selling point.  Games, Games, and ... Amazing Frog  Ouya boasts over 170 games and counting, and while it's tantalizing to think of playing some awesome mobile games on an HDTV, it only takes a short while to remember exactly why iOS is given more attention as a gaming platform than Android. Most Android games are absolute crap, and some real garbage is already all over the Ouya. Even among the storefront's most promoted exclusives, there are maybe one or two games worth checking out for even a second. Others, like No Brakes Valet or The Little Crane That Could, are embarrassing.  Ouya's proprietary market does not have access to the full range of Android games available on Google Play, yet somehow it managed to get its hands on some astoundingly bad dreck. Amazing Frog. Have you tried Amazing Frog? I sincerely urge you, if you're getting an Ouya, to try Amazing Frog. Go try it now, and come back here. What the FUCK was that, right? It's not all bad, of course. In fact, Ouya's scored some nice games that I love playing on a television. Canabalt, Pix n' Rush, and Knightmare Tower are all great fun, and there's some benefit to playing them on a television with a sound system pumping out their genuinely excellent soundtracks. Even so, however, these games are all designed primarily for touchscreens, and as such there's always a sense of subtle disconnect between your physical button presses and the onscreen action, even outside of any perceptible lag.  It must also be said that some of the more graphically intensive games run like shit. The Bard's Tale and Chronoblade, two games that should benefit most from the Ouya, suffer choppy framerates and moments of complete performance breakdown. One hopes further patches can sort this all out, because right now, the games the Ouya needs most to showcase what it can do simply aren't making it look good at all.  And yet ... I still kind of like it This article has been about as unflattering as one could possibly get, but I want to make it clear I don't hate the Ouya -- not yet, anyway. It's true, I struggle to find almost anything truly good to say about the thing, and even my praise is littered with important caveats, but I can at least say it works, and for a crowd funded open platform designed with home developers in mind, working is something of an achievement.  As disappointed as I am with the Ouya right now, I still maintain a flicker of excitement for what it could still be, especially once (if) the market becomes populated with homebrew and garage developers. Of course, it could also become a Wild West of utter trash, the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace in console form, but it could also house some genuinely interesting and inventive things.  The Ouya needs a lot of work still, and one wonders exactly how much of that work can be done in firmware updates alone. As of right now, I'd urge all but the most curious to wait and see before dropping even the relatively minor asking price, but I'd still suggest everybody keep an interested eye on it. I honestly want it to improve, and grow into an excellent, successful platform. It's just not there right now, and it has some ways to go. 
Ouya reviewed photo
Impressions on the little console that almost could
The Ouya is on sale today, and I've spent a few days with the final retail unit. For $99, you can get your hands on a cute little cube that runs a selection of Android games, a handful of apps, and is designed for amateur dev...

The best and worst games of 2013: May Returns

Jun 03 // Jordan Devore
[embed]255225:48921:0[/embed] Zeno Clash II (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) The world of the original Zeno Clash was genuinely interesting, and certainly an example of less is more, but this time around it merely seems interesting, before revealing itself to be a bit shallow under the veneer of zaniness, though the veneer is certainly impressive and did succeed in keeping me eager for more. Zeno Clash II might be bigger than its predecessor, but it fails to be truly better. It's worth experiencing for those who loved the original, because it still contains a lot of what made that title unique, and the combat -- when not descending into huge brawls -- is wonderful. But in an attempt to spin a meaty, almost Argonautica-style epic, ACE Team might have gotten a wee bit lost, just as I did when I tried to use that good-for-nothing, half-arsed map. Read the full Zeno Clash II review Haunted Hollow (iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad) Haunted Hollow is a surprising little game. It manages to rise above the status of a throwaway mictoransaction-begging App by providing a deep and compelling system at the core of the experience. With a few more tweaks, it would be worth spending more time with, but as it stands, depending on your ability to play with others it may be a more fleeting experience. Read the full Haunted Hollow review Anodyne (PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux) Anodyne’s weaknesses would’ve been greatly justified by a solid narrative. Instead, we’re left with a semi-decent dungeon crawler featuring some rather attractive sprite art and great soundtrack. So while Anodyne’s minimalistic riff on Zelda is definitely unique enough to warrant a purchase, it unfortunately never comes close to inheriting the legacy of its father, too lost in its odd pretentiousness to ever arrive at the point. Read the full Anodyne review Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut (PS3) The foundation of Deadly Premonition, the stuff that matters, is still absolutely perfect as far as I am concerned. It is true, of course, that this perfection has been scarred somewhat by the faults found in The Director's Cut, and there's no denying that longtime fans may not be getting what they hoped for in this package. To newcomers or the severely dedicated, however, this is still a bloody great time, and remains one of those games that truly, desperately, must be experienced to be believed. Read the full Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut review Way of the Dogg (Android, iOS, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Way of the Dogg is a wasted opportunity. As someone who consumes pretty much all the media on offer in this game it doesn't even appeal to me, which should tell you that something's wrong. It's a shame, because with an "M" rating and a little more plot tweaking, this could have been something special. Someone call the popo -- this game just did a 187 on your wallet, foo. Read the full Way of the Dogg review Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo (3DS eShop) Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo is just what it advertises itself to be: a fun little portable game experience built for quick play sessions. It's not overly difficult, but does add challenging goals for those who wish to have them. There's a decent amount of content for such a little game, and I defy you to not have fun with it. Simple, addictive, and easy-to-control gameplay, coupled with the goofy looking cartoon-y characters make for great bite-sized fun. Read the full Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo review Jack Lumber (iPad, iPhone, PC [reviewed]) All in all, Jack Lumber is pretty straight-forward with what it's offering you. While it could have stood to include a bit more content with the PC re-release and a few enhanced tweaks, it's still an incredibly fun time-waster that happens to challenge you from time to time. You'll cut wood, you'll freeze time, repeat, and somehow it remains compelling. Read the full Jack Lumber review Poker Night at the Inventory 2 (Mac, PC (reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) If you are looking for a good poker game, then this is a no-brainer, but even if you aren't a huge poker player don't overlook this. The witty conversations and fleshed-out characters make this a fantastic little game, with very little holding it back. While it would be nice to not hear repetitive dialog, minor faults don't ruin Poker Night 2 as a whole. For five bucks (on PC) I highly recommend this gathering of fictional celebrities -- and I'm not bluffing. Read the full Poker Night at the Inventory 2 review Mars: War Logs (PC) Mars: War Logs is the kind of experience one can only call serviceable. It exists, it does what it does, and it performs its job suitably. It doesn't do anything terrible, but it never once goes above a basic standard of acceptability. It's very clear that it wants to ape the best action-RPGs of the genre, but its too basal and hurried to pull off a single remarkable thing. It's a shame because Spiders' last attempt -- Of Orcs and Men -- was genuinely great, a game that similarly failed to be all it wanted to be, but at least had an interesting story and some wonderful presentation.  War Logs, by contrast, simply exists. Read the full Mars: War Logs review Star Command (Android, iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5]) Star Command is an addictive sci-fi simulation experience, provided you're willing to stick it out until the second playthrough to get to the real meat of the game. There just isn't enough there the first time around to captivate the majority of potential buyers, as most of the initial gameplay boils down to a few repetitive, shallow actions. Still, good things come to those who wait, and if you're looking for a fun, cheap sci-fi game on the go, this is it. If you go in expecting a more zen garden-like experience than a real space sim, you shouldn't come out disappointed. Read the full Star Command review Gears of War: Judgment Call to Arms DLC (Xbox 360) Even with the VIP Pass, what you get is only total of six maps and two game modes, and the ability to play for double XP. For a game that is already light on multiplayer content, this really feels like a lazy, half-hearted effort to generate a quick buck from the fans of a dedicated franchise. While the Master at Arms game mode is fun and injects a certain level of enjoyable chaos to your standard free-for-all game type, and Blood Drive is a nice throwback to Gears of War 2, three maps and one new game type simply isn't enough for the price. Read the full Call to Arms review Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (3DS eShop) A part of me misses the classic arcade action that seemed poised to make a comeback at the start of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, but I'm still glad Nintendo decided to explore new avenues for the Minis. Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move retains some of the Lemming-like quality of the more recent MvsDK titles, but the drastic changes to the gameplay have resulted in a faster, more free-form experience. It can be as simple or as mind-bending as you want it to be; either way, you'll be satisfied for many hours on end. Read the full Minis on the Move review [embed]255225:48924:0[/embed] Game Dev Tycoon (PC, Mac) When Game Dev Story introduced the idea of a game development sim to Japan in '97 and then the West in 2010, it was a novel concept that made overlooking its flaws easier. While Game Dev Tycoon is a superior experience with a better interface for its platform, it still suffers from the same pitfalls of monotony and lack of player feedback that Game Dev Story suffered from. While I appreciate the perspective Game Dev Tycoon has given me on game development, from indie studios in debt to huge studios juggling multiple projects, it was never the game's sim elements that had me returning. It offers a pleasant walk down memory lane of past consoles and technology, but that's about it. Read the full Game Dev Tycoon review Victoria II: Heart of Darkness (PC) Heart of Darkness still contains many of the issues that hampered the core game, with the frequency of rebellions making the late game frustrating, as populations become extremely liberal and demanding, and the tutorials are still insufficient when it comes to explaining the game beyond the most basic principles. Put in the work, however, and Heart of Darkness will reward you for the effort. It's still huge and uncompromising, but there's no better way to experience Victoria II. The improved combat and naval mechanics were oft-requested, and Paradox followed through, while the new features make the studio's vision of Victorian war, politics, and economics all the more believable and grand. Read the full Heart of Darkness review Color Commando (DSiWare) Color Commando has initial shades of fun, but it's basically over before it starts. Despite the cheap-looking enemy designs, there is a decent amount of charm here -- the game just doesn't get an opportunity to develop it. If you're itching for a platform puzzle title and have exhausted all of your choices on both the DS and 3DS, Color Commando is a decent way to spend a couple of bucks, but otherwise, it's skippable beyond a shadow of a doubt. Read the full Color Commando review [embed]255225:48925:0[/embed] Metro: Last Light (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Metro: Last Light is a disappointment in several respects. That simply has to be said. Its design painstakingly addresses criticisms of Metro 2033 to such an overzealous degree that it actually undoes many of the things 2033 was praised for. The fact you have to pre-order or pay to access a game closer to the original's heart is also damn near inexcusable, and again I emphasize that I will not review a mode that has been tacked on in such a fashion. However -- and it's a big however -- Last Light is also a fine game on its own, and if we're to judge it without the shadow of 2033 looming overhead, we can say it's a game packed with structurally sound combat, a rewardingly fluid narrative, and an atmosphere that runs the gamut from intriguing to chilling. Read the full Metro: Last Light review Reef Shot (PC) Reef Shot could have been much, much more than what is offered. As a first-person adventure game, it does little to stimulate the player to keep pressing on, except perhaps to hopefully see more fish variety. If you're like me and want to just meander about the ocean floor and take some photographs of virtual fish to relax and enjoy yourself, Reef Shot offers very little. Read the full Reef Shot review Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: Blade Wolf (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Blade Wolf rides on the coattails of an interesting character, but suffers from some of the same issues as the Jetstream DLC in that it doesn't do enough. With all new environments and maybe some more of the aforementioned old-school VR mission action, this would be a must-buy. As it stands, only the most hardcore should apply here, but at least it offers up some good old-fashioned robotic chainsaw-hacking fun. Read the full Blade Wolf review [embed]255225:48926:0[/embed] Anomaly 2 builds upon the original in every way, leaving me to wonder if this is as good as the concept of a deconstructed tower defense game can get. Anomaly 2 is an immediate and exciting strategy game unlike any other, but over time the repetition and lack of depth leaves something to be desired. It’s a welcome distraction on a phone or tablet, but the limits of the game are quickly noticed when played in long bursts on PC. For fans of the first that looked past these shortcomings, Anomaly 2 is a bigger, smarter, and better looking game. Read the full Anomaly 2 review Eador: Masters of the Broken World (PC) Eador: Masters of the Broken World is laden with good ideas and myriad reasons for strategy nuts to go... well, nuts, but for every compliment I could pay it, there's a caveat. Strange design choices and a serious lack of polish mars the things it does so very well. For a while, I couldn't even play the damn thing it was so unstable. Crashes every few minutes, and a bug around every corner made it not worth my time. After a few patches, I finally managed to play it without fearing that I'd be dealing with a freeze or a crash every time I moved my hero, and I'm glad I stuck it out. It manages to capture what makes titles like HoMM or Kings Bounty so gripping without simply treading the same old ground. Yet it's still really quite flawed. Read the full Eador: Masters of the Broken World review Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D (3DS) Truthfully, as a retro gamer, while I never found the core game to be that challenging, attempting to get everything (including the extra mirror mode that restricts you to one heart and no power-ups) is one of the hardest quests you can ever embark upon in gaming. While I gave up in the original due to some motion frustration, I'm well on my way to utterly completing the 3DS version (I only have mirror mode left), and I'm loving every minute. If you missed out on Donkey Kong Country Returns the first time around, or you disliked the motion-heavy controls of the original, pick up this version. With solid tactile feedback, the 3DS edition of the game has cemented itself as one of my favorite platformers of all time without question. Read the full Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D review Dust 514 (PlayStation 3) Dust 514 has promises of greatness. It reaches high and attempts to accomplish something not many games have even tried to this day, which should be commended. But right now, it needs a few more major updates before it gets there. With a hefty amount of microtransactions that border on offensive, there is a very ambitious, competitive game underneath the sloppy veneer. Read the full Dust 514 review The Starship Damrey (3DS eShop) Despite being entertaining in its own way, The Starship Damrey ultimately fails to provide a hardcore, old-school adventure as promised. There's potential for an even more expansive campaign, which I hope Level-5 explores one day -- if Liberation Maiden can get a sequel, so can this! For now, rein in your expectations. Read the full Starship Damrey review Resident Evil Revelations (PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U [reviewed], Xbox 360) Resident Evil Revelations isn't as good on consoles as it is on the 3DS. It clearly wasn't designed for larger machines, and the somewhat clunky, rudimentary controls indicate that it would need to be rebuilt from the ground up to prove a superior alternative. However, it's still a fine game and still the best Resident Evil game available right now, and if you've not played it already, you truly ought to. If you've already tried it on 3DS, there's not a lot to bring you back, but any other Resident Evil fan would be best served giving it a go. Read the full Resident Evil Revelations review Plants vs. Zombies Adventures (Facebook) Plants vs. Zombies Adventures is fairly inoffensive fun, and serves as the appetizer to PvZ 2's main course. The implementation of sprays makes combat a bit more interactive, and there's a decent variety of plants to keep your strategy liquid. It could stand to implement a more forgiving energy mechanic, but unlike many other social games, it at least gives you something to do while you wait. Read the full Plants vs. Zombies Adventures review Reus (PC) The pace of Reus, starting players off with tutorials and then short games, ultimately growing into two hour sessions where all of human history plays out, off-sets the game's complexity. Its simple controls and clean interface also makes something that could have been an obstinate chore pleasant to get to grips with. At first I bemoaned the lack of more detailed menus and alternative control options, but I miss them not at all now. Reus is a game of logical, organic systems presented as simply as possible. It's a delight to play at every turn, and it strikes the perfect balance between providing new content and not overloading players. Beneath its unassuming appearance exists a challenging experience that will last a good long time. Maybe not as long as it took for humanity to grow from nomadic tribes to city-dwelling go-getters, but who the hell has time for that?   Read the full Reus review Sanctum 2 (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Arcade) As a whole, Sanctum 2 feels confused. It isn't quite as much tower defense as fans of the first game would probably hope for, since more of the emphasis this time around is placed on the first-person shooting element. It also hides way too much information from the player, leading to a lot of guess-and-check strategies. The game remains a refreshing hybrid of genres, however, and many of the frustrations temporarily wash away as you lay witness to the last enemy in the last wave die, proving that your strategic planning and accurate shooting have paid off. Read the full Sanctum 2 review Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PC [reviewed], PSN, XBLA) Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a funny game and a satisfying romp, with clearly influenced ideas that all have their own unique little spins. I'll fully admit that I went into it expecting another damp squib, but came away thoroughly impressed. While it sadly won't get much attention, given the fact it launched quieter than a church mouse with its mouth stapled shut, I wholly recommend it to fans, newcomers, and those who felt burned by the last awful game in the series. Not only is Gunslinger the best Call of Juarez game, it's a damn fine and worthy shooter in its own right. Read the full Gunslinger review Might & Magic Heroes VI: Shades of Darkness (PC) There are many games that will only appeal to "fans of the genre," but this goes farther than that and becomes a game that appeals to "fans of the series." It's not really a terrible thing, but it's not a great thing, either. If you like Might & Magic, you should definitely play Shades of Darkness. It's a solid expansion with an insane amount of new content; you'll be giddy for dozens of hours. If you don't play the series, however, this doesn't provide a great reason to check it out. There need to be more tool-tips with information and an introduction to the factions, lore, units, and abilities -- none of that happens here. Read the full Shades of Darkness review Leviathan: Warships (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed]) Leviathan is best enjoyed if you already have friends playing. It's a game that offers little to the solo player, despite the single-player campaign. With pals, it's an entirely different, much more entertaining experience. If you do have a tablet, then I recommend picking it up for that rather than PC, purely because of the much lower price. All versions are completely identical, so you won't be missing out unless you desperately want to play it on a larger screen.  Read the full Leviathan review Best Park In the Universe - Regular Show (iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5]) Best Park is spread over 15 levels, all of which feel roughly the same. Once again, the repetition begins to set in mostly as you face similar foes across levels that actually are quite different looking. More updates are planned for the game which will add extra levels, but for now, you'll have to deal with the ones you've got. It's a better attempt than prior efforts but Best Park in the Universe doesn't really aim all that high. As long as you're not expecting much, it's a decent beat-'em-up that somehow manages to produce a solid control scheme. If you're a diehard Regular Show fan, you may enjoy it. Read the full Best Park in the Universe review StarDrive (PC) For a one-man effort, StarDrive is impressive. It's huge, looks great, and it has a nice balance between automation and micromanagement. Lamentably it's also buggy, with crashes and glitches raising their head frequently -- though admittedly less now, since it's been out for almost a month -- explains its systems poorly, and it becomes extremely boring only a couple of hours into a game.  It doesn't add anything drastically new to the genre, and thus there isn't much reason why you should get it when titles like Galactic Civilization II are better and cheaper, or the contemporary Endless Space -- for all its flaws -- offers a more unique take on the 4X experience. Read the full StarDrive review Fuse (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The most troubling thing about this review is that I am possessed of self awareness enough to know it's going to look like a punishment. It's going to look like I'm one of the many disappointed gamers who saw the changes from Overstrike to Fuse and was prepared, from the outset, to hate it. I cannot disprove such a perception, if that is the perception you wish to have. All I can say is that I, a fan of Insomniac, had faith when I was assured Fuse would be just as good as Overstrike promised to be, and I was looking forward to playing it. To have my residual doubts about the game brought miserably to light was not pleasant, and certainly not desired.  Whether it's true or not, Fuse does feel every bit like another victim of the heavily focus-tested, leader following, perpetually terrified mainstream game industry. It's every cloying and desperate element of the retail console market, brought together -- fused, if you will -- to create a factory standard example of a game that tries to be everything the hypothetical mainstream consumer drools over, and ends up as nothing remarkable. Read the full Fuse review Dragon Fantasy Book 1 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita [reviewed]) In staying true to its roots, Dragon Fantasy Book 1 is a bit of a drag. I like the main characters well enough, but I'm not particularly interested in the glibly presented story or world, and some of the retro JRPG systems are super aggravating or simply mind-numbing. That being said, the game did grow on me in the last three sections, and I think the bridging of storylines -- and mechanics -- in Book 2 could prove a bit more fruitful. Read the full Dragon Fantasy review The Night of the Rabbit (Mac, PC [reviewed]) What got me through those instances was the menagerie of woodland critters (and an Alan Moore-inspired forest guardian), the sumptuous art, and the mystery that is slowly teased, but ultimately unravels in a quickly wrapped-up, anti-climactic ending that I could definitely have done without. Yet for all its flaws, The Night of the Rabbit may still be Daedalic's best adventure game. The issues are numerous, but the significant size of the game also offers up a lot of opportunities for it to redeem itself, which it does manage. The Night of the Rabbit still contains all of those classic "ah ha!" moments when you, at long last, cease to be dumbfounded, and the novelty of the magic spells surprisingly doesn't wear off, continuing to be implemented cleverly throughout the long experience. With a lot of patience, you could find yourself having a bloody good time. Read the full Night of the Rabbit review The Swapper (PC) I came away from The Swapper with nothing but amazement. From the first time you see the literally hand-crafted visuals until the final moment in the game, which is sure to give you pause for thought, you will be in complete awe. Brilliant puzzles with even more brilliant solutions compliment the philosophical plotline, leaving an unforgettable experience unlike any other. Read the full The Swapper review
May 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of May 2013
May was largely a quiet month for new game releases. Despite what felt like a slower schedule, especially coming off of a rather absurd April, here on Destructoid we did have a pair of 10s with the portable Donkey Kong Countr...

OUYA impressions: Hands-on with the early backer unit

May 07 // Casey Baker
Right out of the box, the OUYA is a device that quite literally screams, "Give me a chance!" The moment an early backer opens their little shoebox, they are greeted with a large red insert with lettering that tells you in bold white, "THANK YOU FOR BELIEVING." While it's a nice gesture, believing and seeing are two completely different realities. As soon as you pull away this insert, you're greeted with the sleek little console and the controller. The controller is positioned in such a way as to make it appear broken, the intent obviously to show you that the batteries go beneath the controller's faceplates -- but the vibe it immediately gives off is that you've just purchased a third-world country knockoff of other, more popular consoles. The Console: So far, so good The OUYA itself is a small, quiet little device. Etched on the side of the early backer units is a list of the largest contributors to the Kickstarted project, including Minecraft's Notch. So that's pretty neat. The console has an HDMI port, a regular USB port, a micro USB port, an Ethernet port, an audio out jack and the adapter plug socket. It's a relatively simple little piece of hardware, and turning it on is as straightforward as pressing the button that takes up most of the real estate on top of the device. I actually like the design and simplicity of the console. It fits in well among my other beastly devices, and it doesn't demand that its presence is known every time I boot it up. If I had one nitpick to make, it might be that my chosen Blue Rigger heavy-duty HDMI cable makes it pretty difficult to keep the tiny console standing normally the way it's supposed to, but this is more of a personal complaint since the box it came in provided a perfectly good, albeit somewhat short HDMI cable. I just happen to prefer my own more durable, longer cables. The OUYA Interface: Not quite sophisticated... Unfortunately, the 'cheap knock-off' vibe of the OUYA never really goes away upon boot-up. While the console provides you with everything you need to get started for the first time, including the requisite adapter, HDMI cable, and even batteries for the controller -- the initial boot-up after a required ten- to fifteen-minute update reveals an interface that is so simple and so laggy that it calls back the early days of the Xbox 360 dashboard. You are given four main options: Play, Discover, Create, and Manage. These are pretty self-explanatory, and have also been covered before so I won't bore with all of the details. Most importantly to gamers, within the Discover option you're given various categorizations of downloadable games, such as Staff Picks, Genres, Favs, and finally the Sandbox which are basically games that are either recently uploaded or haven't really gained the attention of other games. In my experience, a lot of the games in the Sandbox section are probably not going to garner much notoriety except maybe for how terrible they are. But I'll get to that later. The upside of all of this is that downloading games and apps is a relatively painless process, and it unsurprisingly resembles the same sort of process of downloading games to a Droid phone and instantly launching them. The majority of games on offer are also pretty small affairs and don't generally go beyond 100 MB except in cases where the Tegra 3 chip is using its graphical processing power to output some relatively impressive graphics -- if you set your expectations within reasonable limits. The Controller: Lag and then some After first booting up my OUYA and launching into my first couple of games, I quickly learned a few of the controller's fatal flaws. The first is the fact that it's a Bluetooth wireless controller, and not an incredibly great one at that. There is noticeable lag in most games, and it can be really frustrating in downloads like Canabalt that require fast-paced manipulation of the buttons to get through the never-ending obstacles. The lag isn't even totally consistent, either -- in some games it is a constant issue, though in others (e.g. Beast Boxing Turbo) it is barely noticeable except for when anything blocks the path between the controller in your hand and the device itself (such as, oh I don't know, a coffee table, or this computer I'm writing this on...). Completely weird issues with control due to lag also pop up from time to time and threaten to completely ruin the experience. Lag issues seem to be improving day by day, though after extended play the interface and some of the games still seem to get bogged down by lag. The second big issue with the controller is how the magnetic faceplates sit upon the main body of the thing. Because of the looseness of the faceplates, the face O, U, Y, and A buttons tend to stick under them, causing an immediate issue that disrupts way too much playtime. The faceplates themselves do a good job of staying in place, but the controller's design fails because of the extra space in the faceplate button holes that allows the buttons to stick under them. Julie Uhrman has noted this issue and has promised the the company is working on further renovating the controller for launch to deal with it, but only time and the hands of more enthusiastic (read: younger) gamers will tell if the magnetic faceplate thing is even a good idea to begin with. A final issue with the controller is the touch sensitivity of the front pad. The pad works as a barely functioning fingerpad, with an onscreen cursor only sort of following your finger movements. You can certainly get through menu prompts with this pad by double tapping on them, but just getting the cursor to hover above the menu prompt is a huge fight to get it to do what you want. The one positive thing I can say about the controller is that the company definitely got down the basic form and correct heft of the thing. It feels good to hold, and because of the aluminum faceplates, it has a heaviness that is just about right on target with other console controllers. Besides the actual functionality issues, the controller avoids most  pitfalls that would continue the 'cheap knock-off' theme. So that's good, I guess? Moving on. The Games and Apps: triumph or tribulation of the indies For having 104 games available at launch, it's rather disconcerting that about 10 of those games currently on display are at a level that actually seems feasible for enjoyable play. A great deal of the games that you'll find on the OUYA (primarily in the Sandbox section) feel similar to so many Xbox Live Indie throwaways. They're games made by beginning developers that are barely playable and not very fun. In a way, I suppose this should be expected as par for the course -- one can only hope that if the OUYA does succeed financially, more good indie developers will be attracted to the thing and thus much better choices will be available. This isn't to say that there are no good games available. The problem that comes with these valid choices falls in the free-to-play model that the OUYA has adopted. In some cases, you'll get a chance to play a few minutes of the game before it begins demanding money from you, whether through in-app purchases or in simply asking you repeatedly to buy the full game even before the demo is over. In many ways, playing OUYA games reminds me of when I was a kid and I'd buy a floppy disc of 101 shareware games from Fry's Electronics, and most of them would be total shit but then you'd find Commander Keen, and it'd be fun until the demo session expired and you'd either have to figure out how to get money out of your parents to pay for the game, or you'd learn from a friend how to crack the game and get the full version by other means. In other words, the pay model used feels like taking a few giant steps backward. Speaking of illicit means of downloading games, the OUYA offers a few emulators for systems such as the NES, the SNES, the Nintendo DS, and the N64. Admittedly, I did check out the SNES and N64 emulators, though only for SCIENCE and only with roms of the games I own already on the Wii and Wii U's Virtual Consoles. The N64 emulator outputs gorgeous HD visuals though as expected it functions erratically and has severe sound issues, while the SNES emulator works pretty well save for the controller lag rearing its ugly head yet again. Regardless, there have certainly been better options in the past on the old Wii's homebrew channel for those really into the whole emulation scene. Among all of the mediocre to terrible choices for gaming, a few diamonds do shine through. Oddly, the games that I find myself returning to still are the games that keep it very simple yet have great gameplay mechanics and no noticeable controller issues. A few of these games that I'd personally cast the spotlight on are Vector, an already free flash runner on PC that feels very much like a two-dimensional Mirror's Edge, and my personal absolute favorite, No Brakes Valet, a hilarious experience with incredibly simple DOS-like graphics that tasks you with parking a ton of cars in a lot by trying to both control them and slow them down as they go careening in from the left of the screen. No Brakes Valet is especially notable because it exemplifies what I believe the OUYA should be all about -- games that can be played with friends on your TV that focus on having fun and aren't too concerned about impressing you with graphical prowess. Similarly, there is another experimental 'game' that I can imagine being great fun with a group of drunk friends (and one that caused my partner to repeatedly declare that it was 'possibly the stupidest game he had ever played') called The Amazing Frog? -- an experience in which you try to guide a frog around his world of bouncy castles, fans, and explosive cars/barrels with often hilarious results. Your frog can either run forward or jump, and pretty much everything it does is incredibly clumsy. The point of the 'game' is to try to get the poor guy to go flying as far as possible. It's weird and purposeless in the same way as Noby Noby Boy, but also can be pretty hilarious. Currently, there are only a couple notable apps on the system, but I'm happy to report that they work rather well. Twitch.tv has an incredibly quick boot-up and streams pretty nicely, though the interface leaves a bit to be desired. Tune In Radio shines as a really great app to find both radio stations and podcasts, and it works as expected. The apps on the OUYA get me excited for what will be released after launch, as this little system may become my go-to for Netflix and other streaming services. Conclusion: Maybe we should believe harder... If the OUYA can truly improve its sloppy, inconsistent, and ultimately laggy controller and work on professionalizing its interface a little bit, there may be hope for the cheap little console yet. The open-ended developer friendly nature of the device is enticing, not so much for me developing anything personally as I threw my programming coat up on the rack at the age of 13 with the advent of C++ over QBASIC, but for anyone else with an interest in developing and releasing games without dealing with evil publisher overlords. The possibility of developers releasing awesome, simple experiences on the machine in the future excites me to no end, and I hope that the OUYA does succeed if for no other reason than to allow talented devs another outlet to rise from obscurity. About the lag, though -- it's simply got to go or the thing's going to most certainly crash and burn when released to a wider, less tolerating audience.
OUYA impressions photo
Lagging behind the finish line
When the OUYA was first revealed on Kickstarter last July, my curiosity was instantly piqued. Being the kind of gamer who values sheer fun and general style and aesthetic over pure graphical processing power, the more I read ...

The best and worst games of 2013: Hyperdimension April

May 02 // Jordan Devore
The Organ Trail: Director's Cut (PC) Organ Trail: Director's Cut has a few things going against it. It's a parody game, which is always a risk, and it involves zombies; an increasingly tiresome creative crutch. But through wit, ingenuity, and good old fashioned sadism, it manages to succeed against the odds and provide a truly rewarding spin on a number of classic ideas. For the price, you really couldn't ask for more. Read the full Organ Trail: Director's Cut review Ms. Splosion Man (iPhone [reviewed with iPhone 5], iPad) When you add it all up, buying all three worlds solely through in-app-purchasing amounts to less than the asking price of the original XBLA game (less than $10). But there's something really wrong with the way the system is presented here. Simply put, if it's a paid app, the game should be fully unlocked -- especially if there are microtransactions already in place -- and especially since there is no warning of this withholding of content before you purchase the game. It's a shame that there's such a weird barrier between the player and actually playing the levels they want. With a bit more tweaking of how many coins it takes to unlock each stage, or the elimination of the system entirely, Ms. Splosion Man would be one of the finest games on the entire App Store. Read the full Ms. Splosion Man review BattleBlock Theater (Xbox Live Arcade) If you absolutely positively hate platformers, I'm not so sure you'll enjoy BattleBlock Theater. UnlikeCastle Crashers which had the benefit of the simplistic, pick up and play beat 'em up genre, you get more out of BattleBlock the more you're willing to put into it. Positive reinforcement is gained through skill and triumph rather than simply bashing things in mindlessly, so in that regard, the universal appeal is a bit lower than most of Behemoth's older titles. But as long as you're willing to give it a chance, you'll reap the rewards of a fairly deep, interesting game that was built with a lot of heart. I can't wait to see how Behemoth follows this up, and I hope it doesn't take five years to do it. Read the full BattleBlock Theater review Toki Tori 2 (PC, Wii U [reviewed]) Although charming and admirable, Toki Tori 2 at times is almost too minimal. Puzzles never really reach maddeningly difficult levels until more than halfway in, but often times it's hard to feel inspired to move to the next area -- or bother discovering it -- if there's no real incentive for doing so outside of general completion. Read the full Toki Tori 2 review Evoland (PC) Evoland makes for a thoroughly enjoyable few hours, and I'd recommend it to any Zelda or Final Fantasy fan in a heartbeat. While a few of the referential jokes cross over into cringe territory, most of them hit the mark, and there are a few little gags that really encourage a smirk, if not a real-life, out-loud chuckle. It's incredibly difficult to fault what's on offer, but it's quite easy to lament what isn't there -- chiefly a lot more of what's on offer. Read the full Evoland review Edge of Twilight: Athyr Above (iOS) Athyr Above comes across predominantly as a game on the wrong system. With some design tweaks, it may have enjoyed a far better time on something like the PlayStation Vita, which can handle a game clearly more suited to physical buttons. I've got nothing against the touch interface, and enjoy quite a few iOS games, but Edge of Twilight clearly has no place using it, not if this is the best it can do.  Read the full Edge of Twilight: Athyr Above review Dungeon Hearts (PC [reviewed], iPad) Once a game of Dungeon Hearts is won, new soundtracks unlock (five total). This would a stick instead of a carrot if it weren't for how great of a musical score it is. Along with the graphics, the music is a clever homage to the days of SquareSoft but manages to have an identity of its own. I can extend that statement to the entire game. Dungeon Hearts takes the Final Fantasy worship that has inspired many a RPG Maker indie and does something far more inspired and enjoyable with it. On a positive note, Cube Roots has been very active on listening to feedback on social networks and even provided a noteworthy update four days after release. Whether you are a fan of fast-paced, challenging puzzle games or an old-school RPG fan, Dungeon Hearts' charm will rub off on you. And if you are a fan of both of those things, you won't even mind its shortcomings, in time. Read the full Dungeon Hearts review BADLAND (iPhone, iPad [reviewed]) Much of the fun that comes from BADLAND is from the anxiety it will cause you in narrowly avoiding an insane deathtrap with your last fuzzy after watching a whole mess of clones explode throughout a rough patch of poisonous plants. LocoRoco this game ain't, as it's nearly impossible to save ALL of your community and so it becomes quickly necessary to focus on the ones that you just might be able to save and let the stragglers fall by the wayside or get burst into pieces by razors blades, gears, or javelin spikes. Read the full BADLAND review Tactical Intervention (PC) For those of us who remember the days of hostages falling down canyons and giant APCs glitching through walls in Counter-Strike, Le has made a game for you. It's unfortunate then that the game is buried under a myriad of problems, from dated, ugly presentation to shooting that feels clumsy. With how Le has talked up the game over the years, it's not a surprise that it's so ambitious. And with the many delays and last minute open beta, it shouldn't be a surprise that it's a total mess. Read the full Tactical Intervention review Receiver (Windows [reviewed], Mac, Linux) Just like the skate. and Monster Hunter franchises, Receiver focuses on the player's mastery of the game's unique mechanics. It will take some time and dedication to truly "master" the game, especially considering that each pistol demands the player to spend a lot of time with it just to understand how to reload the damn thing. By the same token, Receiver is one of those games that feels so incredibly satisfying once it is finally understood and everything clicks. Then you remember that a group of talented people made it in a week and you question what exactly you're doing with your life.  Read the full Receiver review Slayin' (iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad) Slayin' is one of the best games I've played on iOS in some time. I'm really glad that it keeps In-App-Purchasing down to a minimum, and delivers enough thrills (retro or otherwise) to justify the meager price tag. If you're a fan of retro games and prefer gaming in small chunks, give this a shot immediately. Read the full Slayin' review Guacamelee! (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], PlayStation Vita) The game fully supports PS3/PS Vita crossplay, and you can use the Vita to control Tostada in 2P co-op on the PS3. The perks don't stop there either. Collectibles, a horde mode-style dungeon, side quests, a new difficulty mode upon completion, and plenty of other secrets help with the replay value. None of those bonuses would mean squat if the Guacamelee! didn't provide a fun world to mess around in, which it does. Right from the start, Guacamelee! offers up a sugar skull-covered playground to delight in and devour with mucho gusto. It's a game I'll be playing and replaying again for some time to come. Read the full Guacamelee! review Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory (PlayStation 3) It reeks of laziness, but that pales in comparison to what is easily the worst part of the entire experience. The quest system. Ugh! Poorly implemented and only there to waste your time, a seemingly endless number of errands awaits just to artificially lengthen the game. Rarely challenging, never interesting, these fetch quests exist only as arbitrary roadblocks that will need to be surmounted before the story is allowed to advance. Dwelling somewhere between mediocrity and greatness, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. It just isn't a very good one either. A nuanced, rhythmic, and generally entertaining combat system awaits alongside a nascent story for those that can endure more than their fair share of suffering. Read the full Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory review Afterfall: InSanity Extended Edition (PC) InSanity was never going to be a great game. It would have struggled to be considered a good one. It did, however, have that certain special something, possessed of enough charisma to at least make me debate whether or not it was a bad game. That is, until the gear shift and rapid decline, at which point I gave up trying to be nice and settled in for an absolutely terrible time. It's a shame, because it had its hands all the tools necessary for underground success, but failed to prove itself consistent enough to stand out from all the other obscure, low-budget, bottom-feeding action games on the market. Read the full Afterfall: InSanity Extended Edition review Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: Jetstream DLC (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Hardcore fans will most likely want to experience Jetstream because it's more Revengeance, but if you were lukewarm with the core experience, more of the same probably won't wow you in any way. Platinum Games doesn't really do DLC all that often, and the studio really need to up its game if it wants to dive into add-ons in the future. Read the full Jetstream review Tekken Card Tournament (Android, iPad, iPhone [reviewed on iPhone 5], PC) If you're actually interested despite the constant paywalls, the good news is there will be physical cards this Summer with QR codes to add to your digital deck. If you're a card game fan like myself, finding a group of people to play this with in a social gathering and getting free digital cards may be more enticing than ponying up for microtransactions. But again, that isn't available yet. In many ways, Tekken Card Tournament is a shame, because it's actually a decent, simple little card game. If someone laid a real-life starter deck in front of me, I'd actually play it for an extended period of time, but as it stands, it's not worth slogging through the mictrotransaction and "energy" nonsense to do it. Read the full Tekken Card Tournament review Sonic Dash (Android, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad) Sonic Dash isn't a bad game, but it could stand to be much better than it is in its current state. With more zones and less weighty in-app-purchases by way of an update, Dash could be one of the more enticing endless runners on the market. As it stands, you might find yourself picking this up, and running right past it after a fleeting sense of enjoyment. But said time with it will undoubtedly be enjoyable, nonetheless. Read the full Sonic Dash review Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (3DS) Soul Hackers is not a full-on remake, and more of a re-release. But you know what? Considering how well the game holds up even today, that's ok. Soul Hackers may have a number of antiquated principles and mechanics, but none of them are unprecedented or that difficult to deal with. So long as you're willing to put up with a bit of age, you'll be diving into one of the most accessible and enjoyable Shin Megami Tensei games in the series. Read the full Soul Hackers review Pandora's Tower (Wii) I previously called this title a "middle," but maybe that's doing it a disservice. Curious gameplay issues abound, only some of which I touched upon, in addition to the visual and voice acting mishaps. Still, it's bursting with so much content that you are bound to find a morsel that tickles your taste buds. There are even shades of that infamous NES-era challenge, though the difficulty thankfully stops shy of being completely overwhelming. It's just a damn fine videogame. Pandora's Tower is a bittersweet end to the Wii's life: a taste of the kind of software that could have carried the console during those slow months. As it stands, it won't be anything more that an engaging action RPG with a clever hook. But I suppose I can live with that. Read the full Pandora's Tower review Age of Empires II HD Edition (PC) Yeah, it actually took me longer than I’d like to admit to notice and fully grasp the importance of that inclusion. It’s only been a few days since the game dropped and there are already a pretty decent set of HD texture packs, gameplay tweaks, and tons and tons of other goodies. In the same way that Skyrim took my initial investment of 75 hours and magically extended that to something in the neighborhood of 500, the Workshop for AoE II is an amazing bonus. And, combined with access to multiplayer via Steam, it's really the only addition the game needs. All told, while a little frustrating if you’re not into tons of micro-management, Age of Empires II HD with the Workshop and updated multiplayer features is an excellent title. The brilliance of the game’s design is still there, you just might need to look past its age to see it. Read the full Age of Empires II HD Edition review Call of Duty: Black Ops II: Uprising DLC (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) One arena withstanding, Treyarch had a lot of fun with this map pack, and it really shows. From the joke-ridden Studio and Magma, to the surprisingly refreshing Mob of the Dead, there's a lot of solid content on offer here in Uprising. In terms of raw layouts, pretty much every map on offer here delivers solid FPS action, and there wasn't one arena in particular that I outright disliked. I feel like at this point in Call of Duty's history, the design needs to be a little bit more out there to really sway new users, but for fans and enthusiasts alike, you really can't go wrong with these maps. Read the full Uprising review Terraria (PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade [reviewed]) Terraria is an incredible experience, and no game has filled me with the same sense of wonder and drive to explore in a very long time. In this port to consoles, those feelings are preserved, but perhaps not as elegantly as they could have been. The control scheme turned out better than expected, but the multiplayer functionality is far from ideal. Still, I cannot recommend this enough to anybody with a heart for exploring the unknown and an inherent passion for discovery. Read the full Terraria review Cities in Motion 2 (PC) Though these issues hamper the overall experience, Cities in Motion 2 is a jump in the right direction, and is a significant improvement over its forebearer. It's more polished, though the occasional minor bug cropped up from time to time, and Colossal Order cut the chaff while adding in new, oft requested features such as the timetable system, which allows players to tailor the departure times of vehicles to cater to demand -- or lack of demand -- during certain times of the day, like the morning or evening rush hour. I didn't expect the game to grip me in the way it did, and I certainly couldn't have predicted how excited I would become at the prospect of getting people to their jobs in time. Cities in Motion 2takes a mundane and, frankly, boring subject matter, and makes it genuinely compelling. It has made my dreary real-life bus journeys a tiny bit more interesting. Read the full Cities in Motion 2 review ShootMania Storm (PC) Shootmania Storm is a community-centered first-person shooter with next to no community. It's an unfortunate situation, but one that the game finds itself in nonetheless. Though the menus are clunky and the game doesn't do much to welcome new players, the core game of Shootmania Storm is so wonderful to play that I can't help but want to always improve. It has a remarkably high skill ceiling, even if the basic controls seem simple at first. I believe the phrase is "easy to understand, difficult to master." Yeah, that fits this game perfectly. Read the full ShootMania Storm review Sacred Citadel (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) A nice presentation helps make things a little more interesting, but there's still no escaping the fact that Sacred Citadel fails to inspire much passion. It's an okay game, a solid arcade throwback, but it's a mere face in a crowd and doesn't stand out very much. It'll give you five or so hours of satisfactory action, dishing out amusement and annoyance at varying points, and while I think it's worth checking out for Sacred fans, most brawler connoisseurs would be better off sticking with the classics.  Read the full Sacred Citadel review Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger (3DS eShop) Like a lot of country music, The Last Ranger suffers from being repetitive and overly simplistic at times. Thankfully, it's very well performed, infectious, and packed with plenty of personality. If you play in occasional 20-30 minutes burst, you may never grow tired of this composition, but if you try to marathon through this album of outlaw armadillo hits, you'll be tempted to put the thing down for good. Read the full The Last Ranger review Injustice: Gods Among Us (Android, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad) As mindless as it is, Injustice iOS is a very easy way to get reacquainted with your favorite DC Comics characters. It would have been a much better experience as a straight $4.99 download, with the ability to unlock every character in the game through straight progress, but despite that wasted opportunity, you really can't go wrong with at least trying out this free game. Read the full Injustice mobile review Fish out of Water (iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5]) If you're looking for a new time waster, Fish Out of Water is a decent experience, despite its lack of depth. If you require something with a little more meat on its bones, feel free to wait, because in all likelihood, just like Jetpack Joyride, this will go free at some point given the fact that in-app-purchases are already featured. Read the full Fish out of Water review [embed]252288:48312:0[/embed] Dead Island Riptide (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Is Dead Island Riptide a fun game? At times, yes. In terms of raw combat and power fantasy, it's just as good as Dead Island ... and it's just as bad at the same time. The bottom line is that there's no excuse for it not being superior. Being "just as good" isn't good enough, especially not whenDead Island had things on its side that Riptide doesn't. Those new to the series entirely will likely not notice the problems quite so much, and be as forgiving to it as newcomers were to Dead Island. While Riptide banks on you having loved the first, in actuality you have a lot more to gain if you've never touched it.  If you played the first game, however, I'd recommend waiting for a real sequel, because Riptidefails to get away with pulling the same trick twice. Read the full Riptide review God Mode (PC [reviewed], PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade) As mentioned earlier, God Mode is the type of game that grows on you. The biggest complaint I have is a lack of variety, which is to be expected of a budget title. What Old School Games did include in this straightforward, arcade-centric shooter shows promise of a more fleshed-out project. There's also a hint of personality with a goofy narrator, but the execution isn't quite there.God Mode is an easy recommendation to make for those who want relatively mindless entertainment -- just don't go in expecting much more than that. Read the full God Mode review Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall (PC [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) While The Knife of Dunwall's missions may not reach the heights of the Boyle's masquerade or the Golden Cat, the first mission -- which sheds more light on Dunwall's grisly whaling industry -- is undoubtedly one of the best designed game-spaces in both the DLC and game proper. It both encapsulates what makes Dishonored such a delight to play and introduces a few new things, including the horrific Butchers -- a particularly nasty enemy who requires a wee bit more thought that most to dispatch. The new protagonist and plot may have been underwhelming -- and completely unfinished until Arkane releases the next piece of DLC -- but I'm less disappointed due to the polished gameplay. Daud has less tricks than Corvo, and damn do I miss the talking heart, but it all goes towards making The Knife of Dunwall a more focused package. Read the full Knife of Dunwall review LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins (3DS) The long load times from the Wii U version are also back, but with a vengeance! I'm talking load times that will trump even the earliest of PSOne Classics, sometimes dipping into the two minute mark. In addition to serving as an overall nuisance, it also makes going into buildings and loading new areas a chore -- and when load times impede exploration, you know it's really bad. Considering how other 3DS developers have done more visually with their titles, it's a bit odd to see a game like LEGO City suffer on the 3DS, especially given the aforementioned aesthetic sacrifices. If you're a diehard LEGO fan, odds are you'll get some form of enjoyment out of The Chase Begins. For everyone else, you're better off skipping it entirely, or picking up the superior Wii U version of the game. It's one thing to pare down an experience on a portable: it's another to sacrifice its integrity in the process. Read the full The Chase Begins review Monster Loves You (PC) If you go into Monster Loves You with the knowledge that this is really an interactive story for children, then you can get plenty out of it. It's quick to get through and packs the same kind of charm and sweetness as a good kids book but it really is a game designed for younger gamers. If you're looking for in-depth mechanics, then there's really not much on offer here but given the target audience, that is understandable. Read the full Monster Loves You review Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Arcade) Monaco: What's Yours is Mine truly is a game for anyone and everyone. It is simple enough to pick up and immediately understand how things work, while at the same time offers the complexity to have multiple players spend a few minutes sitting still, devising a self-titled "Best Plan Ever" complete with tracing the plan on the screen with fingers, saying “Ready? GO!”, only to see it backfire in seconds. Regardless of whether you plan on flying solo or with some buddies, do yourself a favor and go play Monaco. I know I'll be doing the same for a long time into the future. Read the full Monaco review Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Redemption (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Across all three parts, it took me a little over four hours to complete the content in total (with a few more hours tacked on for 100% collection/completion). But however you choose to buy this DLC, whether it's by way of the Season Pass or piecemeal, I'm not so sure the two first halves are worth putting up with to get to this. In fact, despite my enjoyment of the final chapter it's probably best to just wait until a proper Game of the Year Edition hits and play the side story that way. Ubisoft had major potential with King Washington, and sadly, there were a few missteps that prevent me from recommending the package as a whole. If you've already picked up the first two parts and are on the fence about Redemption though, it's probably a good idea to just bite. Read the full The Redemption review The Sims 3: University Life (Mac, PC [reviewed]) University Life is decent on its own as an expansion, but when you stack it up against the other eight for The Sims 3 it really doesn't jump out as being that special. It's better than Seasons, but it's not game-changing. If anything, this just serves as a sign that the series is getting long in the tooth, and EA needs to think about releasing a complete edition to make all of this stuff more accessible to more players. Read the full University Life review Robot Unicorn Attack 2 (iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 4S]) Every added element invites you back into the core game, where you lose yourself to the sights and sounds, literally chasing your dreams. And with the incorporation of community events, you feel a pleasant connection, touching the lives of others as they are touching yours. It's a heartwarming thought to know that, rather than trying to eclipse someone else's high score for your own self-satisfaction, you are working together for the benefit of the whole. Nothing about this game can bring me down. Not even the curiously long load times when you open the customization menu -- which I'm sure will be improved via update later down the road. Simply put, it lifts me like few other games have. And you too can be as content as I am right this very moment. Read the full Robot Unicorn Attack 2 review Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R (PlayStation Vita) If it wasn't for the major omission of new features, the lack of online play, and the fact that Plus R is coming to consoles for free, I would have enjoyed Guilty Gear on the Vita a whole lot more. The fact of the matter is, the game still holds up even today, and the series is still relevant, tight, and competitive. So long as you aren't bothered by an utter fumbling of features in this port, you're still getting a solid fighting game that should at the very least, function as a portable training simulation for the console version. I'm pretty torn on the review given the omission of such a major function, but ultimately Guilty Gear is a great game, and that core was preserved here. Read the full Accent Core Plus R review Signal Ops (PC) Signal Ops is far from the game it could have been. The concept is great and for the most part delivers, but the Bolt character class and his job of carrying a radio does a lot of damage to the overall design. It feels incredibly restrictive, refusing to let the player go where they please and take their time getting there. It definitely has some moments of brilliance, but they are often quickly forgotten.  Read the full Signal Ops review Strike Suit Infinity (PC) Strike Suit Infinity is a solid deal, given its lower price point. It doesn't claim to be anything but a wave-based, score-centric space-arcade game, and that works in its favor. The simple design allows the game to focus on its wonderfully satisfying mechanics, even if they aren't communicated very well through the poor tutorial. If the crashes can be ironed out, what will be left behind is an absolutely great way to marvel at space and its beauty while blowing the crap out of some big, hunking space ships for that ever-so-tasty high score. Read the full Strike Suit Infinity review Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) In an odd move, the game is only available currently in its fully priced form -- so if you own the original, you need to purchase the $39.99 disc or full digital game with no option to purchase a discounted DLC package. As a result, it's really tough to recommend the game to anyone who felt lukewarm with the original given the fact that it's essentially the same experience, just with a new island. The small extras almost feel like a bribe of sorts, and Capcom could have done much better than this. Then again, it works both ways as you could rent the original, save a file, and then reap these benefits with Dark Arisen as your first experience. While I can't wholly recommend Dark Arisen to anyone but the most hardcore of Dragon's Dogma fans, if you haven't touched the franchise yet, this is a perfect opportunity to do so. Despite the issues, the series is an intriguing prospect that does many things right, and shouldn't be missed by action or RPG fans alike. While Capcom could have done a whole lot more with this expansion, the fact of the matter is the solid game underneath is still faithfully preserved. Read the full Dark Arisen review [embed]252531:48411:0[/embed] Don't Starve (PC) Playing Don't Starve can be infuriating. There's absolutely no guidance, and the initial punishing difficulty only increases. It demands that players figure things out for themselves and progress through exploration and experimentation rather than being spoonfed hints and tips. Its uncompromising nature will undoubtedly leave some unsatisfied and irritated, but for those who are willing to work and take risks, it pays off. The feeling of accomplishment when you manage to fend off countless cruel beasties, survive unrelenting foul weather, and fill your belly is potent. Mastering the wilderness is a difficult road, but from it comes a sense of empowerment. Of course, you could still lose it all in an instant. Such is the fickle nature of Don't Starve.   Read the full Don't Starve review Soul Sacrifice (PS Vita) Soul Sacrifice, true to its driving idea, is a game of compromises. There's a staggering wealth of content, but it can be tiring in its repetition. Battles are frantic and fun, but can be exhaustingly annoying if you choose the wrong friends. Very much like the game's Lacrima system, however, many of the sacrifices one must make to enjoy the game are negligible in the long run, and there's nothing that should stop one having a damn good laugh and getting utterly hooked on an adventure that really can be played until the Vita's batteries run dry.  Read the full Soul Sacrifice review [embed]251865:48405:0[/embed] Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The result of all this is a deep and well crafted premise in a somewhat shallow game. Blood Dragon is well made, and thoroughly entertaining to lovers of the eighties, but in many ways, it becomes a victim of its own success -- the core ideas are so fun, so lavishly crafted, one aches to see them in a game equal to their quality. Blood Dragon is a good little game, and I highly recommend checking it out, with the caveat that it's one of those games that does a few things well enough to inadvertently highlight its own flaws.  As critical as I may be, however, I'd rather have Blood Dragon exist as it does than not exist at all. A game this delightfully stupid can only make the world a better place, and I sincerely hope this isn't the last we see of Rex Colt.  Read the full Blood Dragon review Star Trek: The Video Game (PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) As predicted, this is yet another movie tie-in game that feels rushed and incomplete. Oddly, it has nothing to do with the plot of the upcoming film, so why it was rushed to coincide only proves it was made merely to cash-in on the popularity right at the film's release. With as many mechanics that it borrows from other titles, and how poorly it implements them, it should be beamed directly into the trash compactor. Sloppy, glitchy controls and graphics, tedious gameplay, and spotty co-op makes for one adventure you'll wish would boldly go away. It's dumb, Jim. Read the full Star Trek review Witch and Hero (3DS eShop) Outside of an interesting final battle, a decent twist ending, and an unlockable hard mode, there isn't that much substance here. You'll keep bumping over and over until you've bumped your way to the final boss (really, the only good part of the game) -- then if you want, you can bump some more. Variety could have really done wonders here. Even with a small budget, tiny nuances like sword animations, items in the shop, and mini-boss depth could have gone a long way. Witch and Herotakes a simple, charming concept and somehow manages to make it repetitive, dry, and unfun. Given the price, you're better off skipping this retro-centric experience in favor of the endless sea of classics on the 3DS eShop. Read the full Witch and Hero review Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U) When DC Comics’ most popular heroes and villains appeared in 2008’s Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Aquaman was nowhere to be found. Thought of as a laughing stock with a shaky history in videogames -- the less said about Battle for Atlantis, the better -- Aquaman was tossed aside. Now, Aquaman is a total badass. Injustice shows a lot has changed in the world of DC since 2008. It also shows there is a lot that can still be changed in fighting games.For a game weighted down by genre conventions that are further imposed by fictional characters that have been around longer than most of our lifetimes, Injustice is full of the type of grand ideas we stopped seeing in fighting games since the late '90s. Whether it becomes embraced by EVO players or not, it's a nice shot in the arm for a genre that often feels niche to a fault. Read the full Injustice: Gods Among Us review
April 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of April 2013
This review recap is brought to you by Daft Punk's Alive 2007, which fueled the incessant copying and pasting efforts needed to put one of these together. I don't feel like I've blinked since I started working on this, but it...

Review: Sonic Dash

Apr 12 // Chris Carter
Sonic Dash (Android, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad)Developer: HardlightPublisher: SegaReleased: March 4, 2013 (iOS), TBA 2013 (Android)MSRP: Free (with microtransactions) Sonic Dash is one of "those" mobile games. You know, the endless-runner type that doesn't have a finite goal, and entices you with in-app-purchases to help you get "just a little further." But despite the fact that there's no endgame in sight, like Temple Run, it can be a great way to waste time in-between some of the more meatier offerings in the mobile market. Where Dash truly shines is the set of very responsive controls, which I've found to be some of the best in the runner genre. Instead of a convoluted and dead-zone prone tilt method, you simply control Sonic by swiping left or right to switch between three lanes, up to jump, and down to slide. That's it. It all works wonderfully well, and for the most part, Sonic does everything I want him to do with no issues. It's a stark departure from market leader Temple Run's forced tilt system, and an appreciated one. [embed]247989:47437:0[/embed] Another area that wasn't skimped on are the aesthetics of the game, which are surprisingly beautiful on the iPhone 5 (users are reporting issues with earlier iPhone models). The draw distance is fairly well done, Sonic himself looks colorful and great, and the world is faithfully recreated and translated to Sonic Dash quite well, to the point where it doesn't feel like a knock-off in any way. With the right team, a full-on game using a modified version of this engine could easily be a reality. But aside from that solid veneer, the lack of inspiration or effort starts to seep through the cracks. Mechanically, Sonic doesn't die if he hits an enemy with rings, which is a nice touch, but if he hits a wall, he instantly loses that run (barring your use of a revival power-up). It really kills the pacing of the game to say the least, when you add in the fact that certain checkpoints must be made to "bank" coins, lest you lose all of your progress during that part of the run. Losing a large amount of currency you've earned not only makes the player feel like he's wasted his time, but it also feels like an incongruous design to have one method "sort of" eliminate the run, and another method end it instantly. A lack of variety also hurts the experience significantly. You'll encounter a whole two environments throughout the game: the Green Hill Zone, and the Seaside Hill Zone. That's it. After a few hours, looking at the same exact scenery that you've already seen a million times at the start of nearly every Sonic game devolves the experience into a chore. Like Sonic Generations, a solid variety of stages would do nothing but help the game, and I sincerely hope that more levels are in the cards for a future update. In-app-purchases range from "not needed" to "pretty damn annoying." After every run, a "tip" will come up on the screen, usually having nothing to do with that particular run, that advertises an IAP of some sort. This was less acceptable when the game had a $1.99 pricepoint, but now that it's free, it doesn't bother me as much. Honestly, if you keep doing the challenges (of which the rewards have been upped since launch), you shouldn't feel the need to buy anything outside of the exorbitantly-priced characters, which are optional anyway; if you don't want to earn the stars to buy every character, it'll cost roughly $15. Sonic Dash isn't a bad game, but it could stand to be much better than it is in its current state. With more zones and less weighty in-app-purchases by way of an update, Dash could be one of the more enticing endless runners on the market. As it stands, you might find yourself picking this up, and running right past it after a fleeting sense of enjoyment. But said time with it will undoubtedly be enjoyable, nonetheless.
Sonic Dash review photo
Temple Run with Sonic in it
Not content with taking the Doodle Jump formula and simply placing Sonic in it with Sonic Jump, Sega has tapped a new mobile avenue, the 3D endless runner. Surprisingly, this sub-genre is the one that actually suits Sonic the...

Review: Pro Controller U

Apr 07 // Patrick Hancock
[embed]247806:48005:0[/embed] The Pro Controller U may look like it's just a haphazard combination of the Wii U Pro Controller and an SNES controller, but it is actually comfortable to hold. It is a perfect weight, not feeling too heavy or too light. It feels slightly lighter than a PlayStation 3 controller and the wireless Xbox 360 controller, if that helps to put it in perspective. Whether or not you like your analog sticks to be both on top, both on bottom, or asymmetrical is a completely personal preference, but be aware that this controller has both analog sticks on top. Personally, I find the analog placement to be quite comfortable, with no problems whatsoever. The triggers and bumpers, to borrow Xbox jargon, also feel very nice, and are laid out just as they are on the Wii U Pro Controller. Even the SNES buttons are replicas of the originals, with X and Y being concave while both A and B are convex. The controller feels really nice to use, and that's about where the niceties end. First of all, allow me to reiterate a previous statement: This does not function as a Wii U Pro Controller. Despite using the words "Pro Controller U," this is not a Wii U Pro Controller in any capacity. I tried using it in ZombiU's multiplayer mode with no success. There's even an eensy teensy tiny line in the included pamphlet titled "TIPS FOR PRO GAMERS ONLY" that says, verbatim: "The Pro Controller U does not function as a Nintendo Pro Controller. This is correct.", as if they knew people would be disappointed and needed to console them with that last reaffirming yet disappointing remark. I expected a "We're sorry" after that, but alas none is present. Even if it just acted as a wireless Classic Controller and functional Wii Remote that pairs with Android devices, it would still be a really useful product. However, the controller I received malfunctions when trying to play games. After spending about two hours playing Xenoblade Chronicles with the Pro Controller U, I noticed that the main character, Shulk, would take a few stutter steps even after I stopped moving the analog stick. "Not a big deal," I thought to myself. Then about 30 minutes later, Shulk was stuck moving forward indefinitely. The left analog stick was sitting comfortably in the default position, yet there Shulk was, running head first into a wall forever. This digital input issue seems to mainly happen when changing the controller from Wii Remote mode to Classic Controller mode using the switch on the back of the device. For whatever reason, switching back and forth almost guarantees that the digital input will get stuck, rendering the controller unusable for most games. To be fair, you should never really need to change the controller between the two modes while in the middle of the game, and if you do, it can sometimes be reset by rebooting the system. The controller can also function as a Wii Remote with the flick of the switch on the back of the controller. This works exactly as you would expect, allowing a game that only uses a Wii Remote control scheme to be played on a more traditional controller. The problem here is that the buttons cannot be reconfigured and the SNES-like buttons are spaced far enough apart to make them awkward to use in conjunction as you would while performing a running jump in a platforming game for example. In addition, the D-pad will register a downwards input if your thumb is on the lower half of the left and right sides. This becomes a huge issue when playing platformers -- your thumb is bound to naturally press the area that activates a downwards input while attempting to move left or right, causing the character to lose all momentum in games like New Super Mario Bros. U. Pairing the controller with a bluetooth device is easy, as it just needs a third-party Wii Remote app to work. I used the "WiimoteController" app on my Galaxy Nexus and it paired easily and quickly. Not that any of it really mattered, since the D-pad and analog issues still persisted. I did get a pretty decent score in Canabalt, though, since that game only uses one button. The Pro Controller U is not only a terribly sleazy and misleadingly-titled controller, but it's also a barely functional one. Given the analog issues combined with the D-pad issues, it doesn't matter if it connects to every single gaming device known to man, since it would be unusable for almost every game. It's a shame, too, since if it were a functional controller for the Wii, Wii U, and Android devices, it would be a stellar device.
Pro Controller U review photo
Not for U
[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 ...

The best and worst games of 2013: Infinite March

Apr 06 // Jordan Devore
Etrian Odyssey IV (3DS) Etrian Odyssey IV the best series title yet, and an excellent place to start if you've never played one before. It is, by far, the most accessible series game yet, with its Casual mode and its wide-open, free-exploration gameplay. And for the first time, despite being a dungeon crawler at heart, an Etrian Odyssey title feels like a sprawling adventure.  For series fans, everything you love about Etrian Odyssey is here, and then some -- better music, art, monsters, and mapping. You will not be disappointed. For everyone else: fans of classic dungeon crawling, fans of planning and plotting, or fans of a sizable challenge, I cannot recommend Etrian Odyssey IV enough. Read the full Etrian Odyssey IV review Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus (PlayStation Vita) On top of the technical issues, there's barely anything new that's been added here to justify another purchase. It's a shame, because I really enjoyed the original Ninja Gaiden 2 and Sigma 2. Team Ninja really missed the opportunity to add a killer feature like the ability to replay Time Attack missions with extra characters or enhance Ninja Race, which would have justified a double/triple-dip. With the removal of content like Japanese audio and online co-op, this game doesn't offer enough to truly justify the "Plus" in its name. Team Ninja really needs to get its act together going forward, or the Ninja Gaiden series will be beyond repair. Read the full Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus review March of the Eagles (PC) There still remains some obstacles to an enjoyable evening of name-calling and war-declaring, unfortunately. Throughout my multiplayer matches, there's been players dropping, a shoddy "metaserver" that simply didn't work, the need to connect directly via IP as if we were still in the '90s, and the weirdest issue so far: the checksum of half the players changing, stopping us from being able to play together for about 30 minutes. Get past that nonsense and it's bloody marvelous. If you have the patience.  I'd happily recommend March of the Eagles based exclusively on the multiplayer, but if you prefer your gaming to be a solo venture, then it might not really offer quite as much. Those looking to get stuck into a historical war and not a lot else may still find conquering Europe and giving ol' Bonaparte what for entertaining, though, and as a game doesn't tend to go on for longer than eight hours in single-player, it won't devour your life.  Read the full March of the Eagles review Driftmoon (PC) [...] diehard RPG fans like myself will find things like the lack of party controls and the basic skill tree a bit too simple when compared to games like Baldur's Gate orThe Witcher. Driftmoon is, in its own right, an adventure worth having though, largely thanks to its witty writing and absolutely splendid humor. It’s a bit of salvation in a genre that seems to be limping by these days. Driftmoon is very obviously a labor of love. A lot of time and dedication went into creating it, and it shows. Though it may fall short in some areas, this is a classic RPG through and through. Beginners and veterans alike should take note and try out the demo at the very least. Read the full Driftmoon review Alien vs. Predator: Evolution (Android, iPhone, iPad) In fact, as I think about it, I have to give the devil his due. AvP: Evolution is actually worse than Colonial Marines -- ever so slightly worse. At least getting from A to B in Gearbox's insulting mess was relatively stress-free and didn't cause me to want to break something. For that roaring triumph, Colonial Marines now gets to enjoy not being the worst Aliens game to be released this year.  Congratulations to AvP: Evolution! You've managed to be marginally worse than an unfinished, buggy, outsourced piece of trash. You must be very proud.  Read the full Alien vs. Predator: Evolution review Tomb Raider (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Tomb Raider could so easily have gone wrong, and its opening gambit looks like it's heading down a most erroneous path. It starts off with some ambushing QTEs and absolutely pummels Lara Croft into the dirt to such a degree, you'd almost suspect the developers were getting off on it. This first impression is an awkward obfuscation, however, one that soon erodes to reveal a savvy, thoughtful, and above all, immensely enjoyable game. In fact, I'm happy to go on record as saying this is the best Tomb Raider game I've played. Tightly produced, competent in both its puzzling and its combat, this is one reboot that manages to be unequivocally superior to its predecessors. Read the full Tomb Raider review Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires (PlayStation 3) The Empires series is generally considered the best type of Dynasty Warriors spin-off, but with Koei's latest efforts smacking of no effort at all, this particular release comes across as unnecessary and pointless, especially with Dynasty Warriors 8 already out in Japan and inevitably preparing for a Western launch in a matter of months. This is still a decent enough game if you literally cannot get your fill of Warriors games, but for this lifelong fan of the series, Koei's been delivering too much of too little for a while now, and I'm about at the end of my tether. Read the full Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires review Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Hangman (iOS, PC [Reviewed]) As a first episode, The Hangman does more right than it does wrong. The influence of Jane Jensen, and Phoenix Online's previous work on its labor of love, The Silver Lining -- itself inspired by the hey-day of adventure gaming -- makes Cognition feel very much like what I suspect Sierra Online would have been putting out now if they were still around. Most importantly, I'm eager to get stuck into the second episode.  Read the full Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Hangman review Dollar Dash (PC, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade) Dollar Dash is a serviceable game, even if it doesn't aim very high. If you're bored of constant deathmatches in Spelunky's multiplayer versus mode, or you've saturated every last round of Bomberman and the many clones it spawned over the years, Dollar Dash will give you a few evenings of enjoyment. Read the full Dollar Dash review Mass Effect 3: Citadel (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC) For those of us who are heavily invested in the series, for whatever reason, it means putting away something special. This was a modern sci-fi epic that attempted, at least, to give the player a voice. I don’t think this trip quite took the path that anyone thought it would, but it’s been an interesting ride. If this is how BioWare wants to close Shepard’s chapter, I can live with this. It’s not a perfect finale, but it’s one that highlights the best we’ve seen from the series so far, and it’s not without its own set of endearing idiosyncrasies.  Read the full Mass Effect 3: Citadel review DmC: Devil May Cry: Vergil's Downfall (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) In a way, Vergil's Downfall represents the game DmC might have been -- less fluff, more style. But at the same time, like many areas of DmC, it lacks substance. You'll fight very samey enemies across five areas that also bear a resemblance to stages from the core game, which at the end of the day, just isn't quite enough to justify DLC pricing for everyone. If you loved DmC, you really can't go wrong here. But if it wasn't everything you had hoped for, Vergil's Downfall will do little than give you a glimpse into the stylish Devil May Cry of old, at least from an aesthetic perspective. Read the full DmC: Devil May Cry: Vergil's Downfall review God of War: Ascension (PlayStation 3) Ascension had challenges coming from every direction from early on. Some of the franchise's core mechanics have grown a bit tired over the past years, which had gamers questioning the need for another title. Beyond this, some questioned the need for a prequel story. Most of all, the idea of a multiplayer addition was initially off-putting to vocal series fans. But, like Kratos, Sony Santa Monica ripped through every one of these challenges with their bare hands to bring us a game that is so fantastic that it should make anyone that ever questioned them feel bad for doing so. God of War has never looked or played better than this. Kratos has never been as deep or interesting as this. They've set the bar so high that I have no idea how they'll be able to follow this one up. Sony Santa Monica should be proud. Series fans should be proud.  Read the full God of War: Ascension review Kersploosh! (3DS eShop) With a bit more content and some tweaking, Kersploosh! could have been one of the best games on the 3DS eShop, because as it stands, it's a hard sell for people who like their experiences padded with more content. If you're okay with a short, enjoyable journey to the bottom of a well though, it's more than enough. Read the full Kersploosh! review The Bridge (PC) The Bridge surprised me multiple times during the eight or so hours I played it. It surprised me with the devious simplicity of the level design, the dark theme that permeates the entirety of the game, and I was especially surprised by how satisfying the game was as a whole. Some of the puzzles are a bit of trial-and-error since the more complicated mechanics take a certain amount of experience to fully understand. The difficulty can also be a bit wonky at times, alternating back and forth between "hard as a five star Sudoku" and "easy as a word search." Read the full The Bridge review SimCity (PC [reviewed], Mac) There is some promise for this to be a good game, but promise alone isn't enough. Even if they do manage to get their servers back online and functioning, I still know that if something goes wrong on their end I will lose all of my saved games. My cities are at the mercy of EA's servers and my Internet connection, and while there are some nice things to be found in SimCity, the need to always be online and feeling forced to play with other people ruins the experience.  I wanted to like this game, I really did. At first I started to enjoy it, but soon all I found was frustration. I can't recommend this game to anyone, and I don't want to play it anymore myself because I am afraid of seeing all my efforts lost due to server issues. It's a decent game if it worked right, but the online dependency, forced multiplayer, and DRM ruin it.  Read the full SimCity review The Banner Saga: Factions (PC, Mac) Consider Factions for what it is: A testing ground and potential cash cow for Stoic's upcoming commercial release, and a fun sample of what's to come. If I were not in the middle of Fire Emblem, I may continue to play Factions -- hell, I may play a random match here and there, anyway. This unorthodox release that has Kickstarter backers in a frenzy is not worth getting so worked up over, as it suggests the single-player Banner Saga may be a gem -- a gem that some will have Factions users to thank for helping make it what it is. Read the full The Banner Saga: Factions review ATV Wild Ride 3D  (3DS eShop) In many ways, ATV Wild Ride 3D is stuck in the 90s, but that isn't wholly a bad thing. It does everything that it advertises -- it allows you to ride ATV vehicles on some pretty neat courses, in 3D. Just don't expect much more than that. Read the full ATV Wild Ride 3D review Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds (Xbox Live Arcade) With its colorful characters, gorgeous sprite graphics, 8-bit tracks, and multiple game modes, there's a lot to love here. I must admit, while I wasn't familiar with the fighting game on which it's based, I'm seriously hoping it passes through localization, as I'd love to play that title as well. Whether playing couch co-op or online, it's a great way to spend an afternoon with friends, though hopefully they'll patch for having a more stable connection for the latter. Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a simple game that anyone can pick up and play, but belies a deeper feel for combos like a traditional fighting game would, while adding a minimal skill tree for damage and speed boosts like an RPG. It's deep without being too deep, which makes it just the right amount of fun. Read the full Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds review Richard & Alice (PC) There is a lot of text to get through, but Richard & Alice is a well-paced adventure. Dialogue-heavy moments between the titular characters are broken up by Richard, under player control, interacting with his room, emailing the prison staff, attempting to fix the AC, all the time still chatting to Alice, and then there are the flashbacks which are evenly paced throughout.  Despite being a short tale, there are multiple endings and subtle, easy-to-miss pieces of information that make Richard & Alice worth at least a second playthrough, something I just did this afternoon. It isn't required, however, as this is a complete story, and all the endings have something to offer both in terms of the closure they provide and their emotional weight. Read the full Richard & Alice review LEGO City Undercover (Wii U) For all its faults, charming is absolutely the word best describing LEGO City Undercover. While more could have been done to exploit the sandbox scenario, and while it sticks a bit too nervously to formula than it could have, Undercover is nonetheless a frequently pleasurable, occasionally hilarious little romp in a new LEGO world full of potential. Should TT Games get another chance to revisit this idea, I hope for -- and expect -- a lot more of an expansion on the concept, and a lot more focus on the fresh elements that provide Undercover's highest points. As for this first try, we have a pretty damn good effort that I'd love to see more of.  Read the full LEGO City Undercover review Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS) Your mileage may vary; from various impressions around the net, a lot of folks have already voiced their approval. And that's fine. I'm happy if you are able to look past the complete exclusion of any of the traditional Castlevania values and appreciate the Western-focused approach, even if it isn't original in the least. I simply cannot share in your enthusiasm. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate is not the fusion of old and new Castlevania designs that was teased; it merely cements MercurySteam's ambition to keep the Lords of Shadow sub-series as distant from the main branch as possible. Not the worst thing in the world, but still quite disappointing. Read the full Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate review Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (PS3) In short, Gust definitely seems to be straddling the line with Atelier Ayesha, showing that they have the talent to construct a plot which doesn’t rely on swimsuit competitions, yet aren’t quite ready to dedicate themselves to the taxing demands of a full RPG adventure. What we’ve left with then is a game without an audience. Fans of traditional RPGs will be turned off by the minimal exploration elements; fans of anime babes in skimpy costumes are unable to get their fix, while fans of generic cutesy anime nonsense really don’t command the buying power to make Atelier Ayesha anything more than a niche title. Read the full Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk review Naruto Powerful Shippuden (3DS) It may not be a perfect brawler, but it's certainly a fun one, and one that any Naruto fan would enjoy. Don't let the art style dissuade you from enjoying the action here, as the RPG-esque elements of stat boosting and defense increases add a special something that future games in the genre should take note of. The humor may also not be for everyone, but if you're like me, you'll love the fact that the game doesn't take itself seriously. It fits the art style as well as the general goofy nature of the characters and situations. Plus, with it being based on Rock Lee's spin-off, you're already getting a unique experience gamers haven't yet tapped into. It's the ideal mix of fun and funny, without being too over-the-top. Read the full Naruto Powerful Shippuden review Super House of Dead Ninjas (PC) This is one game that I know I'll be playing long after this review is finished with. The instant challenge and frantic pace makes it perfect to just pick up and play for 15 minutes, while the tight controls and potentially limitless number of floors makes it easy to pour hours into. If you're not convinced, then check out the free version and see if it floats your boat. I do have one caveat, however. Whatever you do, don't play this with a keyboard. It's possible, but you'll just be giving yourself another unnecessary and fairly unpleasant challenge. Thankfully,Super House of Dead Ninjas comes with native controller support, and after a few initial hiccups, it seems to work perfectly now. Read the full Super House of Dead Ninjas review The Showdown Effect (PC) The Showdown Effect's success will ultimately be dictated by the number of players that stick around. They need to host the games, and they need to provide the challenge for other players. Unlike Magicka, it's a multiplayer, online-only experience, and that's something of a risky endeavor for a small studio. It's a game that deserves to be played, however, and it's one that's a hilarious spectacle to watch too -- something that Arrowhead clearly realizes and is keen to exploit with its Twitch.tv integration. Maybe I should make one of those video thingymabobs? Nah, I don't need any more people laughing at how awful I am.  Read the full The Showdown Effect review Dead Space 3: Awakened (PC, Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3) Speaking as a fan of Dead Space, I feel I could skip Awakened and miss absolutely nothing of value. While some of the new ideas are nice, the sense of disappointment that none of them are capitalized upon offsets any good they do, while the story is nothing you couldn't explain in a single Tweet. While the gameplay is as solid as anything found in Dead Space 3, it could also be acquired simply by replaying chapters of Dead Space 3.  Dead Space 3: Awakened is a whole lot of not much at all. Read the full Dead Space 3: Awakened review Darkstalkers Resurrection  (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) If you're opting to play online, the netcode is extremely solid, and I had a chance to play around 50 games with little to no interruptions or issues. The GGPO-powered online system works just as advertised, and with eight-player lobby support, YouTube upload functionality, and an online tournament mode, Resurrection really shines online. Although the visuals deserved a much larger upgrade than a lazy filter, the fact of the matter is, the engine still holds up amazingly well, and the netcode is near perfect. If you've always been curious about this franchise, now is the time to take the plunge -- if you're a fan of old-school 2D fighters, you won't be disappointed. Read the full Darkstalkers Resurrection review Vampire Crystals (WiiWare) After beating the final boss, the story pulls a Ghosts 'n Goblins and forces you to replay the entire campaign for the true ending, only now the levels take place at night and enemies are unfathomably more aggressive. I died three times during the revamped first stage before dropping the controller and saying, "No more." Clearing the three worlds once only requires a handful of hours, but the tedium that sets in early on makes it feel like far more time has elapsed. There was no way I was suffering through all that again. I can appreciate the classic arcade spirit of Vampire Crystals, but it does little to mask the shortcomings of old-school design while adding its own set of issues. Playing it single-player is chore, but convincing a group to play with you might be even more laborious. There just isn't enough meat on these dusty old bones. Read the full Vampire Crystals review Ridiculous Fishing (iPad, iPhone [reviewed]) Yes, perfect is the word for Ridiculous Fishing. Everything comes together to deliver a cohesive whole that works to alternate between making you smile, making you wonder, and most of all, making you want more. Thankfully, the game is quick to offer more. Just when you think you've seen the end, there's a new area, new item, a new kick in the storyline, or new fish to savor.  Ingeniously designed, continuously compelling, painstakingly crafted, dripping with personality, packed with content -- I like everything about Ridiculous Fishing. Read the full Ridiculous Fishing review Gears of War: Judgment (Xbox 360) Gears of War 3 was still a great little game, but represented the kind of step down indicative of a series that's running out of steam. Gears of War: Judgment puts paid to that impression, proving there's plenty of vitality in Epic's flagship yet; provided it's willing to try some new spins on its established formula. OverRun alone is worthy of praise, but there's just so much stuff going on in this package, there's something for all followers of the series. A few of Judgment's experiments may not be as fondly received as others, but overall it's hard to complain about a game that tries so much, and succeeds in almost all its endeavors.  Read the full Gears of War: Judgment review StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (PC) Heart of the Swarm is a fantastic addition to the StarCraft series, and quite frankly feels on par with a $60 game. It brings almost nothing new to the table, but there's nothing wrong with sticking to a formula you know works well. If you enjoyed Wings of Liberty, or just like RTS games in general, there's no reason not to pick this one up.  Read the full StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm review Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS, Wii U [reviewed]) Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate definitely isn't for everybody. It requires a lot of time and dedication that some people simply can't put forth. It will take a while to get used to the controls, to determine which weapon is best for you, and to discover the tiny nuances to the gameplay. After all is said and done and the big monster is slain, however, nothing is more rewarding. Encountering monsters in Monster Hunter isn't like most other games. Monsters will take your breath away shortly before they take your life away. This is a game that will force you to learn from your mistakes, lest you repeat them and achieve the same failure as before.  While the visuals are far from stunning and the online lacks any sort of host migration, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is one of the best and most rewarding experiences in a long time, and will certainly keep you busy for a while. Read the full Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate review Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Betrayal (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The Betrayal tries to offer more variety than The Infamy did thanks to its high flying antics, but it never truly transcends those ideas on a base level. If it offered a full sandbox with ridiculous spirit powers, it could have made for a pretty amazing superhero sideshow. Instead, the powers feel fairly limiting, as do the worlds they take place in; which feels like a wasted opportunity. Perhaps if the third part can bring the craziness up to 11, this "what if" story will pack a little more punch. Until then, you may want to hold off on going all in, or even partly in, at this point. Read the full Tyranny of King Washington: The Betrayal review Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS) In many ways, Dark Moon's ScareScraper is one of the best multiplayer modes I've ever played. There's so much variety to it, and the formula of combining the cooperative nature with competitive, playful elements is genius. My wife and I couldn't stop playing, and every time I had friends over who owned a 3DS, I beamed a download play version to their portables for a quick few rounds. If Dark Moon was just a single-player experience, it would have been a fleeting, yet enjoyable adventure. But with the addition of an infectious multiplayer element that can't be replicated anywhere else, it makes Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon even better than its predecessor, and one of the clear-cut best games on the 3DS. Read the full Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon review Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 (PC [reviewed], Xbox 360, PS3) There is an enjoyable camp quality to the script, which is full of nonsensical twists and tough guy talk ("We've got a major shit sandwich!") that takes itself way too seriously. I can see some appeal in getting together friends and having some drinks while playing. The constant waypoints and enemy icons make me think that being inebriated would make for an acceptable challenge. Nevermind online, which is composed of 2 maps, 1 mode (Team Deathmatch), and 0 active servers. The task set before Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is not a hard one: make sniping fun. Apparently, City Interactive didn't get the memo, filling the game with a never-ending sequence of following an NPC guide through uneventful, recycled, and ugly environments. Even at four hours, Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 requires a level of patience and commitment that even the best snipers won't be capable of. Read the full Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 review Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360) While the game isn't a genuine sea change from its predecessors, it stays true to the franchise's foundations, and makes up for any lack of innovation with the grand, beautiful spectacle that is its hallmark. The iterative refinements Cyberconnect2 have implemented over the series' history have helped to deepen the gameplay as well, bringing a more satisfying competitive experience while still maintaining accessibility. Though it stumbles somewhat due to unfortunate narrative placement, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a must-play for any Naruto fan, as well as anyone looking to have a good time wallowing in fun anime ridiculousness. Read the full Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 review The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Wii U) It's easy to believe Terminal Reality had the skeleton in place for a unique and enthralling take on the Walking Dead franchise, but with a deadline looming, added absolutely nothing to the bones and tossed out something woefully undercooked. Survival Instinct clearly isn't finished, and has no business expecting money from any paying customer. It's the kind of hurried, jury-rigged game that risks dealing damage to a property -- an especially sour note considering all the excellent work achieved by Telltale's The Walking Dead. By contrast to 2012's adventure game, Survival Instinct cashes in all the property's goodwill to churn out a botched, incomplete, hideous little waste of time and energy.  Read the full The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct review Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity (3DS) It's always tough to judge whether or not a game should be commended or punished for streamlining a series that previously catered to a niche audience. In this case, it simplifies the experience a bit too much, but given that this is the most accessible game yet, it could lead to more potential fans, which is always a good thing. Although it may not be the best game in the franchise, Gates to Infinity is still an enjoyable dungeon crawl, and a beautiful-looking game to boot. So long as you can deal with an easier adventure, this is another mystery worth solving. Read the full Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity review BioShock Infinite (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) As a game, BioShock Infinite has its successes and its falterings consistent with any suitably complex piece of interactive entertainment. As a story, as an exercise in drawing the player into a believable and relevant world, as proof of exactly what a videogame can mean to a person ...  Well, I already said it. BioShock Infinite is damn near perfect. Read the full BioShock Infinite review HarmoKnight (3DS eShop) [...] HarmoKnight is a wonderful bundle of charm and joy that doesn't really punish failure but rather encourages perseverance and dedication. There isn't even a "Game Over" when you die! Instead, the screen reads, "Oh Dear..." Reminds me of a mother who picks up a child who fell off the jungle gym, dusts him off, and gently urges him to try again. It's such a minor touch, but it's nonetheless uplifting. Maybe I'm sentimental like that. It's been seven years since Game Freak last made a non-Pokémon title. HarmoKnight feels like the promising start of many wonderful new experiences to come, so I can only hope we don't have to wait another seven years for a follow-up. Read the full HarmoKnight review Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360) Satisfying gameplay is the crux of the Tiger Woods franchise. All the new modes in the world wouldn't matter if it didn't feel so amazing to actually play. Luckily, Tiger Woods PGA 14 stays true to the core gameplay, and adds a very worthwhile mode with Legends of the Majors. All of the other new bells and whistles are either mediocre or long overdue. The game is hard to recommend to someone who picked up last year's outing, except perhaps to the big golf enthusiasts among you who would appreciate the Legends of the Masters mode more than anyone else. If you're like me, though, and haven't picked up a Tiger Woods game in a while, PGA 14 has the classic gameplay that made the series stand out from its competitors, even if it is starting to show its age graphically. Read the full Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 review Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Wise Monkey (iOS, PC [Reviewed]) Though The Wise Monkey is not all it could have been, it's a strong second episode. Much of it, however, felt almost like filler. The murder of Erica's brother and The Hangman case remain effectively untouched throughout most of this installment, and it does worry me that it has now set up even more mysteries while answering absolutely nothing. I don't doubt that it will all tie together somehow, but Cognition throws so few bones to the player that even the enjoyment of speculation is fruitless.  Read the full Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Wise Monkey review Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The core of Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is still decent. It's a serviceable game, and provides the kind of no-frills, unimaginative action that can at least provide cathartic fantasy violence. If that's what you want, however, you're better off getting the last game -- one that felt more refined, offered more compelling interaction, and will likely be available to purchase for peanuts these days. The Devil's Cartel, by contrast, is buggy, unnecessary, and outstays its welcome before the credits close.  Army of Two has never been an especially bad series, it's just never been an especially good one.The Devil's Cartel is the ultimate example of this. Is it bad? Not especially. But it's a far, far cry from good. Read the full Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel review Sword of the Stars: The Pit (PC) The Pit is very difficult and has that same feeling of "okay, just one more run" that both Binding of Isaac or FTL: Faster Than Light have, but it still feels a bit "been there, done that." The Easy difficulty setting in conjunction with being able to save at any time are great boons for new players, while both the Hard and Insane difficulties are present for you crazy masochists who enjoy that kind of punishment. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Sword of the Stars: The Pit, there just isn't anything that is really mind-blowing. It is a well-polished roguelike that doesn't stray far from expectations, but instead stays in a rather comfortable zone from a game design perspective. Read the full Sword of the Stars: The Pit review Dead or Alive 5 Plus (PSVita) When it comes right down to it, one of last year's best fighting games on home consoles has become one of this year's best handheld fighters. Play control is never hampered by the more cramped constraints of the small button layout, graphics aren't sacrificed on the smaller screen, and just about everything from the feature-rich home version is included here, with a few noticeable exceptions. While not all the extra modes are fantastic, there's something to be said for extra content at all in a port, and the cross-save and cross-play functionality is a welcome addition to any Vita game. Read the full Dead or Alive 5 Plus review DLC Quest (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Indie Games) Still, for less than five dollars, there's enough charm to justify the entry fee. The game's dialog induces anything from smirks to cringes, while the retro-themed graphics and music are joyful in their simplicity. It's a cheap game, with a rudimentary premise, that does enough to keep its joke fresh and feels inherently validating for a player who's grown weary of the game industry's less savory practices.  At the very least, you'll get your money's worth, which often cannot be said for the many games DLC Quest owes its creation to. Read the full DLC Quest review
March 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of March 2013
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 ...

Behold OUYA's launch lineup of 104 titles

Apr 02 // Tony Ponce
Abbigale and The MonsterA Fist of AwesomeAirstrikeAmpGearAround the Rock Disc GolfA Space Shooter For 2 BucksBarley-BreakBeast Boxing TurboBloodBubblrBunibon 2CanabaltChomper DeluxeCombat DemonstrationCommand Crisis: CallsignConSoul - x86 PC EmulationDeep Dungeouns of DoomDonut Get!DubwarsEMUya - NES EmulationEscapeEscape F2PEVACFarm InvasionFinal Fantasy IIIFist of FuryFlying CarForsaken PlanetGamius Type IVGiana SistersGod Of BladesGrowGuns N Glory WW2GunslugsHappy VikingsHexicheckersHighway RallyIce RageiMech OnlineJelly BounceJsidd Code FactoryKing of BoozeKing of the HillKinito NinjaKnightmare TowerLemming Rampage 2Lord of PortalsMaze CityMonocle ManMosaicMulti SpaceMupen64Plus - N64 EmulationNatural SoccerOne Tap HeroOrbiterOrgan TrailPaper WingsPhoenix RevivalPinball ArcadePingo: Puzzle PokerPixel Pig DeluxePix n Love RushPolarityPowerups That KillProton PulsePuddlePuzzle 2QuizaniaRadiantRage RunnerREDRegular Ordinary BoyRiding RhodriSaturday Morning RPGSave the PuppiesShuttle RushSkymaze 3DSophia's WorldSpace BuggersSpace Repair IncSpace SokobanSpace Tech Quality AssuranceSpin WarsSquare OffStalagflight (Julie Uhrman's favorite game)Star ShippingStriker Soccer Euro 2012Stupid Zombies 2Subatomic Kangaroo World TourSuper Daddio 2SuperGNES - SNES EmulationSwindlerSyder ArcadeThe Amazing FrogThe BallThe Little Crane that CouldThe Secret Universe of AlphaThe VestibuleTower MasterTwitch.tvVectorWizorbWord ShakerZombies & Trains Ouya Launch Games List [30PlusGamer] (Thanks, Zak!)
OUYA launch lineup photo
Includes games, emulators, and TwitchTV
[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 disappoin...

First Ouya reviews hit the Internet

Apr 01 // Jim Sterling
"Ouya's best 'exclusive' at the moment is Final Fantasy III, a game that came out in 1990 and is also available on a variety of other platforms," writes David Pierce of The Verge. "That doesn't count. This platform desperately needs a game like Grand Theft Auto, or Shadowgun, or Assassin's Creed, or Bioshock... or something. Thing is, you could plug your Android phone or tablet into an HDMI cable and play a bunch of those games on your TV, often with a controller.  "Shadowgun, Grand Theft Auto, Asphalt 7, and a surprisingly large number of other high-quality games are available in the Play Store. But Ouya's going its own way with the Ouya Store, and it pales tremendously in comparison." Ouya demands that any game available for the system must be free to download -- a noble suggestion, but one that leads to every game turning into a money trap. As Pierce notes, "Every game is free to download, but then dumps on your head a load of nags, pop-ups, and pleas for upgrades or in-app purchases -- some games are $4.99, some are $15.99, others just constantly implore you to donate $0.99 so the developer can have a beer. "Worst of all, it makes buying things impossibly easy," he continues. "You enter a credit card when first setting up your Ouya, and there are often no confirmation boxes or checks against you spending thousands of dollars. Oh, you hit Upgrade because it's right next to Play and the controller's laggy? Perfect. Thanks for your money." Engadget concludes that anybody expecting more than a beta will be disappointed.  "The version of OUYA shipping now should be considered a beta release, and anyone hoping for anything more is in for some disappointment. It's simply not ready for retail. The system is rough around the edges in many ways, quite literally when regarding the controller, but the interface and menus also could use work. "And then there is, of course, the game selection. There are quite a few titles here worth playing, but virtually all of them have been seen elsewhere in one form or another, which makes the initial offering a bit hard to get excited about. Additionally, the vast majority are what we'd broadly call "mobile" games: simple experiences and simple graphics that are fine for casual play, but lack the kind of immersion you might want when you get settled in at home on your couch." Destructoid is currently talking with the Ouya people about getting some hands-on with the box, though they've gone a bit quiet lately -- one hopes not due to this early coverage.
Ouya reviews are ugly photo
Initial reaction is ... not glowing
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 rea...

Review: Alien vs. Predator: Evolution

Mar 04 // Jim Sterling
Alien vs. Predator: Evolution (Android, iPhone, iPad [reviewed])Developer: Angry Mob GamesPublisher: Fox DigitalReleased: February 28, 2013MSRP: $4.99 AvP: Evolution is a fairly unremarkable beat 'em up at its core, giving players a Xenomorph and a Predator with which to carve slices out of human soldiers and, occasionally, each other. Its campaign regularly swaps out the two alien creatures, with short and simple missions that usually involve clearing several rooms of enemies and moving on.  Combat is a simplistic affair, consisting of unremarkable combos chained together by virtual button taps, and executions carried out on weakened enemies through fundamental quick-time-event sequences (basically just swiping the screen). As a Xenomorph, players strike with claws and tail, while the Predator gets to use blades and ranged weaponry. As each character earns points, it can unlock new body or armor parts to enhance attributes, and a few new abilities such as counter attacks or temporary "rage" statuses. As you may expect, the level system allows Evolution to make liberal use of in-app purchases, allowing you to trade real-world money for more Xeno or Honor points. Fortunately, the campaign and side missions can be used to farm these points for free, and doing so isn't that huge of a grind. Nevertheless, the game does what it can to entice you with microtransactions -- not that it could ever be considered good enough to come close to tempting.  The biggest issue with Evolution is that it's disgustingly sloppy. To call the combat braindead would practically be praising it, given it's a sluggish, repetitive, utterly undemanding case of prodding the screen until everything's dead. Execution animations are canned and unvaried, accompanied by irritating sound effects. Attacks are as slow as they are unresponsive, many of the QTEs often failing to register, and the framerate is so inconsistent the game regularly fails to recognize your combo input.  An awkward camera and unwieldy movement controls add to the frustration, especially once the game starts trying to include stealth missions and awful first-person vent sequences that feel like trying to catch a greased watermelon in a bathtub of liquid butter. Graphical glitches aren't uncommon, and sometimes the game gives up trying to be a game entirely and just fills a room with an overwhelming amount of enemies in the hopes of being challenging.  No thought has been given to balance. Executions are important, as they refill health and kill enemies quickly, but surrounding opponents can continue to attack during the animation sequence and are regularly able to send you back to a checkpoint while you're trapped in a grappling QTE. Some areas are trial-and-error of the worst kind, requiring progress through a certain route but forcing you to learn that route by reloading a checkpoint time and time again. The Predator's weapons are slow to charge and regularly fail to lock-on to targets, rendering them largely impractical. Most of the special abilities are pointless, in fact, at best doing little to the enemy forces, and at worst leaving players vulnerable to attack.  I gave up on the campaign during a sequence that dropped the framerate so badly, I couldn't chain a single attack, while surrounded by opponents who repeatedly pummeled me to death. This is not a one-off occurrence, either. The game struggles to respond to the simplest commands, and even when it does, player characters are so slow to act the enemies usually get a cheap jab or two in the moment you try and do anything. Another favorite tactic is for the marines to box the player into a corner and simply poke their victim to death. The whole thing's a mess, and success is more down to luck than anything approaching skill.  The upsetting thing is that Evolution looks like it could, with effort, be a good game. The fundamental ideas at play are all workable, and if the game controlled well and had a bit more nuance to it, the tools are there for a genuinely fun brawler. Little touches, like an execution in which the Xenomorph pulls out a Facehugger and practically pie-faces an enemy with it, are pretty damn amusing, but ultimately serve to showcase what a massive waste of potential the whole thing is.  That's what Alien vs. Predator: Evolution is. A waste. A waste of potential, a waste of time, and definitely a waste of money. At least it feels more finished than Colonial Marines did, but that doesn't stop it being equally as bad. Simply trying to move around the environment or land a single attack is a constant, unreliable frustration, and it's not down to the touch controls. I've played 3D touch-controlled brawlers before, and there are far better ones than this. This was just badly made.  In fact, as I think about it, I have to give the devil his due. AvP: Evolution is actually worse than Colonial Marines -- ever so slightly worse. At least getting from A to B in Gearbox's insulting mess was relatively stress-free and didn't cause me to want to break something. For that roaring triumph, Colonial Marines now gets to enjoy not being the worst Aliens game to be released this year.  Congratulations to AvP: Evolution! You've managed to be marginally worse than an unfinished, buggy, outsourced piece of trash. You must be very proud. 
AvP: Evolution review photo
Survival of the shittest
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 t...

Who is Yoshi? photo
I'm having a hard time believing that
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 antici...

Review: Star Wars Pinball

Feb 26 // Brett Zeidler
Star Wars Pinball (Google Play, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen StudiosReleased: February 26, 2013MSRP: $9.99 (XBLA and PSN), $2.99 per table (Mac App Store), $1.99 per table (Apple App Store and Google Play)  At first glance, The Empire Strikes Back looks empty. There's a few lanes on the sides, a couple of ramps, and a big, flat platform in the center of the table that takes up most of the real estate. The player doesn't know it yet, but that giant, empty platform is where all the action is going to happen. Once the player hits two barricades ("Star" and "Wars") in the dead center of the table, a flap opens up right above the flippers that, when the ball is locked inside of it, starts the player's choice of one of five Empire Strikes Back scenes (this table's version of missions). Depending on their choice, various 3D models will appear on the platform and finally bring some life to the table. The coolest example has an AT-AT walking across the platform where the player needs to help the snowspeeder bring it down. Each mission has two parts, and should time run out (or some other misfortune occurs), a checkpoint is created at the start of the second part of the mission. This a new and, believe me, entirely welcome addition for aspiring pinball wizards such as myself. Empire also introduces a new mini-game that actually takes you completely out of the table and into a first-person mode where you control Luke Skywalker himself. There's what I like to call a micro-loop behind those "Star Wars" barricades mentioned earlier; going through it enough times to spell "Training" and locking the ball in the center slot starts up the mini-game. Featuring the scene from A New Hope where Luke learns to use the force on the Millenium Falcon for the first time, the player uses the plunger and flipper buttons to reflect blaster fire. It's pretty cool, but it feels slightly out of place even in a fantasy pinball table. The next table is probably the one everyone is most excited for: Boba Fett. Once everyone saw him in the original films, Boba Fett stole the show and became one of the most popular Star Wars characters. I can see the same thing happening here. Fett's table is centered around the concept of playing as the bounty hunter himself, where the player must receive either Empire missions from Darth Vader or missions from Jabba the Hutt, earn respect for doing so, and defeat each of his bounty hunter rivals. It doesn't matter which missions you do, as they give the player a choice of five missions that are exactly the same and only offer more points and respect (all you have to do is hit every single lane). The higher they go, the less time the player gets to finish the mission. Experiencing the rare moment of hitting every lane in rapid succession and locking the ball/bounty onto Slave I truly makes one feel like the most badass bounty hunter in the galaxy. It's moments like these that will make the Boba Fett table the obvious fan-favorite and most rewarding of the three tables. Boba Fett features set pieces from his two short appearances in the films, such as Vader on his imperial ship (representing the left half of the table), Jabba's Palace (the right half), the sarlacc pit (which the ball can actually fall into), and Han Solo in carbon freeze hovering above said pit. The ramps and lanes are inspired by pieces of Fett's suit that will make even his biggest fans truly pleased with the love and care put into the creation of his table. The Clone Wars table is the dark horse of the three. Going in, I wasn't expecting much. Upon first firing it up, Clone Wars is the only table that has the classic intro text scroll. I thought was a really cool touch, especially as it was read by an announcer who also happens to narrate the entire game. This is by far the busiest table, with lanes and ramps stacked on top of each other on just about every visible inch of real estate, invoking a cramped, claustrophobic, and hasty feeling while playing the table. It's this quality of sheer fastness that makes one initially think it would be the most challenging of the bunch, but that turns out to not be the case at all. Clone Wars practically throws points at you, letting the player easily get five to ten million points just in the first handful of minutes alone, and it's not a demanding task to get far beyond that within a short amount of time. After spending so much time on Empire Strikes Back and Boba Fett (tables that will certainly put your pinball wizardry to the test), dominating a table for a change was a nice break from the difficulty of the other two tables, and seeing a new palette of colors was a refreshing change of scenery. Each table is chock full of beautiful art, character cameos, and tracks pulled straight from the films' soundtracks. These first three tables are a bold and equally stellar introduction to Star Wars Pinball, and they'll keep you more than busy until Zen Studios drops the next batch. At about $10, this is a bit more expensive per table compared to the usual $10 for four tables, but the package is certainly worth the asking price. If you're not a fan of Star Wars, but love pinball (or vice versa), Star Wars Pinball will make you a fan. Zen Studios has created the most interesting and content-rich tables yet, with their obvious love of the source material piercing through each of the fantastically crafted tables.
Star Wars Pinball review photo
The Force is strong with this one
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 ...

Valve layoffs photo
Around 25 people reportedly affected
[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 chang...

Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: 10 Year Anniversary

Dec 11 // Chris Carter
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: 10 Year Anniversary (iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 4], Android)Developer: Rockstar NorthPublisher: Rockstar GamesReleased: December 6, 2012MSRP: $4.99 Yep, Vice City is back. This new mobile version still features the same sexy 1980s veneer, and still features the wise-cracking mob scumbag Tommy Vercetti (Ray Liotta). Visually, the game has been updated a bit, and the new look suits the neon and bright pastel veneer quite well. Draw-distance issues while driving aside, the new lighting effects and smoothed-out engine really allow the game to pop like it never has before. Like the scheme used in the mobile version of GTA III, the controls for Vice City are a little better than you would expect, but still have the standard touch-precision issues. Movement is done by way of a virtual analog stick that appears wherever you put your left thumb. While it might sound great on paper, I've had instances numerous times where I've attempted to run away, only to have the d-pad shift to another spot on-screen. Outside of movement though -- and barring one unfortunate virtual button placement (the handbrake is near the "exit vehicle button," which can make for some funny mission failures) -- everything pretty much works how you'd want it to, with on-screen buttons for each potential action. Considering everything except the movement button can be sized and placed anywhere on the screen, you should be able to find a comfortable medium. Although there is controller support on the Android version of the game, the iOS version (which was reviewed here) had no such feature -- so if you're on an Apple device, you'll have to settle for touch controls. Smaller bonuses are included in the mobile package, such as the ability to autosave (with iCloud save support on iOS devices), the aforementioned customizable layout, a tap-to-shoot targeting system, and the ability to create your own custom radio station using your iTunes playlist. The tap-to-shoot scheme takes some getting used to, but it does work, and everything else also works as advertised. Outside of these ancillary additions to the anniversary version, by far the best addition is the Mission Retry function that debuted in Chinatown Wars, and was cemented by The Ballad of Gay Tony. Straight-up, I think it's a required function that should be in every GTA going forward. Nothing is worse than failing a mission a few seconds away from victory, only to start over at the hospital and have to find your way to the mission marker again. It absolutely killed the pacing in earlier games, and this addition alone is a great reason to visit Vice City again. As far as the core game goes, everything is intact. The soundtrack, the quirky Rockstar charm, the Scarface-influenced setting -- it's all here. I really enjoyed replaying some of my favorite missions from the PS2 classic, and even rediscovered a few new scenarios that I didn't experience originally. To be clear, there's nothing new content wise in this version, but the sheer scale of the GTA games makes it easy to come across a feeling of freshness. Although the game does show signs of aging even with the updated engine, fans of open-world games should still be able to enjoy Vice City with an open mind ten years later. If you hate GTA games because you feel like they're too "bland," Vice City is your gateway drug. It oozes more charm than pretty much any game in the series outside of possibly San Andreas (provided you're a fan of hip-hop culture for that entry), and the smaller scale of the city makes it a much more manageable affair. If you're curious about the franchise, this is a great starting point before GTA V hits next year.
GTA: Vice City review photo
Wanna be startin' somethin'
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 th...

Review: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition

Dec 06 // Patrick Hancock
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition (Android, iPad, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Overhaul GamesPublisher: Beamdog / AtariRelease: November 28, 2012 (PC) / December 2012 (Android, iPad, Mac)MSRP: $9.99 (Android, iPad) / $19.99 (Mac, PC) The writing of Baldur's Gate has always been one of its strongest aspects. The story remains unchanged and still holds up. The main plot begins with bandits mysteriously trying to murder the main character in the midst of an iron shortage in the area. Enhanced Edition also includes the "Tales of the Sword Coast" expansion integrated into the main game. While the plot is good, I've always felt as if it were the characters and their interactions that really kept me going through the 50+ hours of gameplay. Protip: Include Minsc in your party. There were already a large amount of characters to recruit in the original game, but the Enhanced Edition adds three more into the mix: Rasaad the Monk, Neera the Wild Mage, and Dorn the Blackguard. Neera quickly became my favorite of the three and one of my favorite characters overall thanks to her unique spell, "Nahal's Reckless Dweomer," a last-ditch effort in which Neera chooses one of her other spells and attempts to cast it. However, this usually fails and the result is completely random; sometimes it's great, sometimes it wipes out the entire party. Rasaad and Dorn fit into the universe just fine and don't feel as if they're ham-fisted in for the sake of new content. You encounter all three new characters within the first two hours of gameplay, and just like with every other NPC, you can accept them into the party or refuse and continue without them. If they are in the party, they will occasionally feel the need to pester you and give you opportunities to ask about their history after resting or entering a new area. It's nice, but it sometimes happens about three or four times in a row, which gets quite annoying. [embed]239662:45947[/embed] The game itself runs on a better version of the Infinity Engine and boasts "over 400 improvements." It definitely runs more smoothly, though there are still some issues with path finding. The user interface is also cleaner and easier to comprehend, though it is far from perfect. Overall, it feels less "janky" than the original, which will definitely be a boon to new players. The AI in general is a bit hit-or-miss. You can tweak it to act according to preset actions, but sometimes there isn't one that fits exactly what you want. If perhaps there were a way to set specific reactions to events, a la Dragon Age: Origins, then the AI for ranged combatants and mages would be much better. There's also a modified in-game tutorial to help explain the Dungeons & Dragons systems at play. It will seem tedious for anyone who has played similar games in the past, yet plenty of game systems go untouched in the tutorial. There are two very lengthy manuals as well, so I'd recommend checking them out if you're confused. The game also crashed on me once during the main campaign, and I've heard other reports of crashes during The Black Pits. Though you should be doing it anyway, save often! The game is hard enough; you don't want to repeat a large segment of the game due to a crash. Oh, did I neglect to mention that this game is brutally, soul-crushingly hard? Allow me: this game is brutally, soul-crushingly hard. There we go. Character death isn't permanent in most cases, but reviving a character requires traveling to a Temple and paying gold to bring them back. But if you take too long to fulfill an NPC's quest, they might turn on you and try to murder you. On top of that, if your created character dies, it is officially game over. Save always. Pause during fights. And, as Minsc would say, "There is strength in numbers, and I am two or three, at least!" The biggest content addition is The Black Pits, an arena-based series of combat trials separate from the main game. It is possible to jump straight into The Black Pits without playing the main game, and it will assign you a party of six to play with. There are 15 arenas of increasingly difficult enemies to get through, which might sound like a complete chore at first. Luckily, the witty writing is still in full effect in The Black Pits. The wizard Baeloth has taken you to these pits and grows continually interested in yet disgusted by your ability to put on a show for the crowd and slay the enemies. In between rounds, you'll get the chance to rest and buy more items from vendors, each with a distinct personality and something to say about both Baeloth and the arena itself. It's a fun distraction from the main story and will take you a few hours to get through, depending on how well you handle yourself in the arena. It's also fully voiced, as opposed to the spotty "sometimes voiced, sometimes not" nature of the main game. Though it may be hard to tell from screenshots, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition really has upped the visuals. Sure, they don't look ultra spectacular, but when you go back and play the original, you'll be shocked as to just how much of a difference there is. A large reason for the improved visuals is support for way more resolutions, including widescreen. The game looks better and you see more of it. Unless you zoom in. Don't zoom in. There are also new cutscenes, replacing the old 3D ones that most people would cringe at nowadays. These new cinematics are hand-drawn and though relatively infrequent and brief are a joy to witness. More character portraits and player voices round out this enhancement, both nice additions, especially if you've trod this ground before. Baldur's Gate was, is, and always will be an RPG classic. The writing is full of wit, the characters and their interactions are exceptional, and the tried-and-true D&D gameplay is deceivingly complex. Sure, there are some minor issues like character AI/pathing, overly chatty and intrusive party members, and the occasional crash, but they fall short of detracting from the overall RPG euphoria. Whether you've run through the game multiple times or have always wanted to, it's as easy as ever to recommend Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition to anyone.
Baldur's Gate EE review photo
Miniature giant space hamster approved
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 ol...

From the goat shack to Kickstarter: The origin of Stoic

Oct 03 // Allistair Pinsof
Through the funding platform of Kickstarter, talent gained by working at established studios, and the courage to leave one of the biggest developers in the South, Stoic is bringing games back to where they should belong: A place where fans can play games in their favorite genre without it being watered-down for mass appeal. It's a place where developers can do what they wish without concern of upper management disagreeing. And, a place where a journalist can tell a developer’s story without PR backwash and zombified media training getting in the way. This is Stoic’s story. The Goat Shack It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I’m standing in an abandoned, outdoor marketplace. It’s a ghost town made of quaint wooden shacks that are beat down but not without a rustic charm. I am looking for Stoic Studio. They are here, somewhere between a rundown North Austin bar and public restroom, where Stoic’s coffee press is dumped and washed daily, lies the little Kickstarter that could.This tiny, white, unmarked building with the faded wood paneling and a slanted ceiling is what Stoic calls home, during most waking (and some nocturnal) hours of the week. Their friends jokingly call it “the man cave” or “that storage unit from Snow Crash.” Macs line the tables, concept art cover the walls, and various Viking paraphernalia fills the rest of the tiny space. It's claustrophobic, but, like a child's clubhouse, there is a comfort that comes from it. With such a gathering of big studio talent and a successful Kickstarter campaign, I expected something a bit more glamorous and modern. Instead, I found a garage-like workplace that makes me nostalgic for the early days of PC game development, when a classic was made not in the top story office of a skyscraper, but in a den of unshaven, overworked nerds. Maybe it's my age, but I often romanticize ID Software working from a garage and Richard Garriott programming away in his bedroom. These images convey a rare personal touch to game design. “One of our friends said, ‘Hey, you should put up a website and tell your friends.’ We didn’t even have time to tell our friends, and yet everyone is linking to our website saying, ‘Hey, these guys are working on something new!” Arnie Jorgensen, art director on The Banner Saga, says. “Meanwhile, we are working out of some old goat shack.”Six months after Stoic's founders John Watson (technical director) and Alex Thomas (creative director) left Bioware Austin and founded their new studio, Arnie joined the club. With Alex designing the combat, John forcing the code to fit their ambitions, and Arnie designing characters and icons with a painterly eye, the three started to gain confidence in what they were making. And if they fail, it will at least be on their terms. No More Dragons! While working small contract jobs, John and Alex started to build a strategic game that harkens back to their old favorites. One doesn’t have to look further than the shelf behind Alex’s desk to get a glimpse at The Banner Saga’s influences: Fire Emblem, X-Com, Myth. Look above that and you’ll see an assortment of animation classics, ranging from the works of Japan’s premier animation company Studio Ghibli to classic Disney. Sleeping Beauty isn’t a film you ever hear developers cite, but these guys have a way of fitting it into every other sentence when describing the game’s art style.Alex didn’t want to just make a turn-based strategy game. He wanted to make a very pretty one.“We were looking for teams to do this and we found that no one does this stuff anymore,” Alex says. “This stuff” being hand-drawn, rotoscoped animation: A style of animation where footage of actors (or one’s reluctant wife) is used as a framework for animated movement and action. The result is a lifelike representation of the fantastical. Hair flows and clothes sway realistically, giving the warriors of The Banner Saga soul and texture.Between the intricate six-on-six strategic combat and early Disney art style, Stoic was on to something. It wasn’t until Arnie joined that they found the last and most important ingredient: Vikings.“I come from a family in Denmark which is the Viking [mecca],” Arnie says, eyes brightening as he grows increasingly giddy to discuss his favorite subject. “I’ve seen stuff like this since I was a kid. We used to have smorgasbords. All the family we brought over have names from the Viking days. Alex had this really great story idea, and I thought, ‘What if we put that into this?’”For such an influential mythology, there aren’t many games about Vikings. Perhaps, it’s because developers in the past thought of them as big, dirty, bearded men that don’t make for the most sympathetic characters. Stoic wants to depart from stereotypes and prove these developers wrong.“Before Skyrim, there were no Viking games, really. No significant ones. Once Skyrim came out, the only thing we wanted to do was not retread on what they did with dragons and stuff,” Alex says. “Our game is much more personal. It’s about the caravan that you are traveling with and less about the enemies that you are fighting. There is no villain in this story.”Leaving Triple AAAIn the ‘90s, programmers slaved away in their parents’ garages and hope that someday their work would earn the attention of a large studio that would hire them. Stoic is a developer made of industry veterans that left a large studio so that they could pursue a game in a glorified garage and build their own studio. It’s a sign of the times. In a year when over a thousand game developers were laid off in Austin, this risky venture seems almost safe. Almost.But why would these guys risk it all for a creative endeavor with limited appeal?“Once you get enough experience, every developer wants to make their own game,” UI programmer Brian Mumm says.Well, what about security?They all laugh. “What security? Not anymore!” one shouts. The laughter continues.“The illusion isn’t an illusion for some time. You have security during development, but almost every game overreaches and everyone is laid off at the end,” John says.  “You can see it coming a year out before it starts.  It shouldn’t be a surprise for anybody, not unless it’s their first job.”Around the time Stoic’s Kickstarter went up, three new recruits were hired -- one was part of a company-wide layoff at Bioware Austin; the others trying to preemptively dodge one. Additional programmers and a dedicated quality assurance lead put their Kickstarter funding to good use while improving the quality of the game. With their history and fields of expertise, Stoic became a legitimate studio instead of three friends on a mission. Even with a larger staff, there are some niceties of big studio culture that the fellows miss.“There used to be a guy down the hall that would do whatever you needed,” programmer Jeff Uriarte says. He worked on Warhammer 40000: Dark Millennium Online at Vigil Games until layoffs struck earlier this year. “So, in a way, you can’t rely on other experts ... ”Jeff looks at the other guys occupying the shared desk space. He smiles. “But getting to do it all yourself is fun, too!”For the experienced founders, Stoic is a place where they can express ideas with purity and integrity of vision that often gets filtered out at larger studios. For the new recruits, they get to show off the full expanse of their skill sets and push themselves further than any major developer would ask. The group jokes about pointless tasks and last minute cancellations of long projects at their old studios, but there is a bitterness that can be sensed underneath. However, Brian still thinks about big studio culture in an optimistic light.“Even if you just want to be a better artist, you are surrounded by artists that are amazing. That’s always a bonus, but we’ve done that for ten years or so,” Brian says. “That experience is what lets us do this.”“Jeez, Brian you said that with passion!” Arnie interjects.Brian looks dumbfounded. But then the a collective laugh cuts through the awkward silence.Stoic may be a tiny studio, but it’s one made of friends who are willing and ready to listen to any idea someone has to offer. Free from oppressive corporate culture, the guys (and girl) at Stoic jump at any opportunity to laugh. It comes much needed after working 12 hours a day for a month, including weekends.What’s an extra $50,000?Back in April, Brian Mumm still had a desk at Bioware Austin. After overhearing that his past colleagues had a Kickstarter up, he became curious and checked the page. He was rooting for them, as funding went past their $100,000 goal and toward $700,000. He wasn’t the only one.“Everyone was refreshing the page, getting excited,” Brian says, recalling when the news broke. “It happens all the time now -- you see people leaving a studio to start up a studio. No one generally has hard feelings about it. That’s a big move to go out and do something on your own.”Joining shortly after the Kickstarter announcement, clearly Brian wanted to do something on his own, too. He says it wasn’t hard to adjust to his new home since it contained some old friends.“When you have two people focused on something and they are allowed to have autonomy and make decisions, it goes really well.” Alex says. “You try something and adjust quickly. You don’t have anyone giving you demands from on high.”Alex is the first to admit that his Kickstarter was successful due to timing. Set on making The Banner Saga, Alex wanted an extra $10,000 so he could outsource some animated scenes in the game. John did the research and found that $30,000 is the most a successful Kickstarter game could receive at the time, so they boldly raised their goal to $30,000. But then Double Fine happened. Double Fine, a San Francisco studio known for its rabid fanbase, quirky adventure games, and commercial failures, asked for $100,000 and received $1 million in under 24 hours. All of a sudden, Kickstarter wasn’t just a place for small projects asking for $30,000.“Now we are going to be on the bottom of the site and look like schlubs asking for a low amount,” Alex says. “It looks like we don’t need the help; like, we just want some extra money. We went up to $50,000.”But then something else happened. GameBreaker.tv ran a story that Stoic formed a studio. The report hyped up the big names and impressive resumes attached to the yet-to-be-named Viking strategy game. This started a misconception that Stoic was a big company that split from Bioware. John, Arnie, and Alex started Googling their names everyday to see what people were saying. The team thought that it would use this hype to their advantage and double its Kickstarter goal.“We knew what the scale of the game was -- it’s a small indie game. But if we don’t ask for enough, people will think, “Ah, it’s some casual piece of crap,’” Alex says. “So, we went up to $100,000 and it just grew the size of the game.”Time was the biggest factor for The Banner Saga’s successful Kickstarter, but it wasn’t the only one. The notion of a grid-based strategy game centered on Vikings excited many, but there was one audience that went head over heals for the concept.“Our biggest backers are from Scandinavia. They are really excited about this,” Arnie says. “For some reason they are over the moon. Finally, a Viking game without crazy dragons!”Being familiar with publishers and partner programs, Stoic is wary of selling out to a publisher. They’ve all been on the other side of the industry, and they would like to hold on tightly to their property this time.“Kickstarter let us fill in the gaps that we couldn’t afford to do ourselves,” Brian says. “[A publisher is] going to get a 50-percent cut or more and they own the IP, especially if they are putting up the money. It will be more like 95-percent.”“And they will disappoint the people who contributed to the Kickstarter in the first place,” QA lead Leslee Beldotti adds.Outsource MastersThe project has continued to expand since Alex and John started worked on it from their bedrooms in July 2011. It’s now a trilogy with a free-to-play multiplayer game attached. In early promotional footage, the game was voiced by a friend at Bioware with music performed by Arnie himself. Alex handled every frame of animation, while each played a role of a character class for the rotoscope filming on Arnie’s front lawn -- occasionally with a neighbor in the background yelling, “What the hell are you doing?”Now, the bulk of the animation is being done by Powerhouse Animation Studios (Clerks: The Animated Series, Epic Mickey 2), voice acting is outsourced to Iceland to give the characters a distinct, foreign sound, and the music is composed by Journey composer Austin Wintory. Stoic received 30+ offers from composers but decided to reach out to Wintory: A dream choice that happened to share their vision.“We had to meet expectations again when the money rose. Whether it succeeds or not is going to depend on where you start from,” Alex says. “If you have a good team and concept, you may make your goal. “After pulling off one of the most successful Kickstarters of last spring, Stoic received many unsolicited job applications and invitations for collaboration. One stood out: An opportunity to be on a Kickstarter panel and visit the company’s headquarters. The three flew out to New York and got the answers from the Kickstarter team that they’ve been curious about, such as “How much do you plan to interfere with projects in the future?” To which Kickstarter replied, “Not much.”“Marketing is 50-percent of it. Most developers are shit at talking to people because they are so focused. They are so in their head about the game they are making that they forget to talk to people,” Alex says.  “Running the Kickstarter we didn’t think it’d take eight hours out of every day. Every time we didn’t say anything after a few days,  our pledges would plummet. So we would have to make a new post every day and that takes an entire day because we are making a video and all this other stuff. Man, we suck at acting. Every time we made a video we have to do 50-60 takes.”Alex is shy about discussing his finances, but he says that most of his savings have been invested into Stoic. Kickstarter pledgers should be happy to see how their money is being used. The team is expanding the project by smartly outsourcing elements to companies they met through other jobs to increase production time -- they call themselves "outsource masters," due to the large amount of outsourcing during developing Star Wars: The Old Republic. Despite support from pledges, Alex is firm on not letting them influence the project.“A lot of them tell us to not listen to people and just make the game they pledged for,” Alex says. “‘I don’t want to play backer number 12’s game, I want to play your game!’”“If you let a committee design your game, you’re going to end up with a massively boring piece of crap,” John adds. Post-Kickstarter “Fiercely independent” is a joke in this industry where even those who code from goat shacks and bedrooms need to negotiate with gatekeepers to get their product onto Xbox Live Arcade, Steam, and other digital platforms. Stoic isn’t oblivious to this, nor any other complicated practice that plagues designers. Alex and John know small studios like Stoic. Stoic’s founders see their friends struggle for recognition while acquiring debt. Despite these realities looming around The Banner Saga, the team insists that staying independent through Kickstarter is the only way to go.“Our main motivation, other than having an idea we liked, was to do a game our way. If you sold to a publisher, usually that means that’s the end of your studio as you know it,” Alex says. “It will continue to exist in name but it will change in nature dramatically.”And with that, Alex cleans off the picnic table -- the outdoor chairs were locked up today -- and joins the rest in the goat shack to listen to the new battle track that Austin Wintory emailed. Alex clicks play. Everyone goes silent. The music swells the room, while each member nods and smiles to what they are hearing: The sound of their vision coming to life. The vision that Kickstarter made possible.If this is the type of world that Kickstarter is paving for developers and journalists, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
 photo

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 rar...

OUYA interview: Julie Uhrman tackles consoles & critics

Jul 16 // Jim Sterling
"I love games," Uhrman said when I first asked what drove the development of OUYA, "but I especially love TV games. I don’t think anything can compare to the lean-back, take-it all-in of playing games on a big screen with great HD graphics and mind-blowing sound. I was frustrated to see other game screens gaining ground because those platforms were more open to developers. From my perspective, we were witnessing some of the best and most creative minds in game design abandoning consoles as they shifted focus to mobile and social platforms." "Then I saw another device using Android as an embedded operating system, and thought --huh -- maybe that could work for a game console. The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. And when I spoke to other people in the industry, they felt like I was on to something." The concept of the system seems to run counter to the way console gaming traditionally operates. While Sony and Microsoft jealously guard their consoles, OUYA will gladly let you hack it without voiding your warranty. Closed systems and digital rights management have no place with this device, and gamers have embraced the concept. However, was that OUYA's goal? A statement against current console models. Apparently not.  "No, our intent is just to make a great game console," Uhrman responded. "It just happens that many of the things that make OUYA great -- its openness, affordable price -- also make it unique among game consoles. We’re okay with that. We don’t think consoles are dead, but we do think that it’s time to challenge some of the basic assumptions that have guided the thinking of the console makers until now. Who says it can’t be done differently?" One thing that's caused concern is the idea of OUYA as an open, hackable device, and how other developers will view that. After all, can you imagine some of the major publishers flocking to a system where users can tinker around with its innards? Companies currently put DRM into DRM-protected games, they're that paranoid. Nevertheless, Julie remains unworried.  "Many great developers and publishers are already putting their content on Android devices -- and OUYA will be just as secure. The openness is really in comparison to other alternatives for getting games onto a console. Developers making games for OUYA will find that the submissions and publishing process is straightforward and transparent, OUYA presents a clear 70/30 revenue split, developers can determine how to price and monetize their games as long as a component of the game is free to play. OUYA is a more open system than what we've traditionally seen in the console market place." Uhrman added that OUYA is built with developers in mind, that the platform holder respects games as an art form and, therefore, wants to make it as easy as possible to have studios publisher their games. The removal of barriers seen in other systems is intended to promote a broader, more diverse range of content, something that the CEO deems "very exciting."  An interesting aspect of OUYA is the addition of a controller, a unique feature for a system that mainly publishes touch-controlled games.  "Yes, the controller is a big change -- and an essential one," emphasized Urhman. "Games designed for touch will still work on OUYA -- because our controller is designed with a touchpad. But we expect many developers will want to take advantage of the responsiveness and precision of a true game controller. And, some of the designers we’ve spoken with believe that our controller might inspire new types of gameplay." The controller aspect was one of many issues Ben Kuchera had with the console when he wrote about it, and his thoughts echo the sentiment of a few other pundits in the media. I asked Julie how she's been addressing these concerns, and what she made in particular of Ben's assessment.  "I don’t really want to give him any more attention because I feel like his premise was off -- he seemed to be wanting to review us like a final product on the market and we have been very clear that this is a product in development," she stated. "Kickstarter will provide us with the resources we need to bring OUYA to market. In essence we will use Kickstarter to make our dream -- which is now shared with almost 40,000 Kickstarter backers -- a reality." "We agree with the skeptics who say that the proof is in the pudding -- we will prove ourselves when we have a real product in people’s hands. We know we can deliver. But for now, we have a real functional prototype (we show it playing Shadowgun in our video). We also have a real business model which we have made incredibly clear -- we can produce our consoles at the price we are asking, and we will share revenue on games with developers (just like mobile and social games work today). And it’s worth noting that Notch, personally made a generous donation to our Kickstarter campaign on day one." "Ultimately, my take on Ben Kuchera’s article was that he was reacting to all the positive attention that we had received from the media and the support we got on Kickstarter, and wanted to kick the tires a bit. And maybe he didn’t give the Kickstarter audience credit for understanding that this was a project in development, although from the comments we received on our page, I think that’s selling those backers short." Urhman further adds that the team "presented exactly what [they're] going to deliver," although the pressure is definitely felt to give backers what they're expecting. Part of that has been in gathering community feedback, as was seen with a survey asking players what games they'd like to see supported. Some of the titles suggested -- Battlefield and Mass Effect to name but two -- seemed a little too ambitious, but OUYA is planning to be a powerful little machine.  "See the Tegra 3 video we linked to from our Kickstarter to see just how powerful that chipset can be. And, we’ve been meeting with Nvidia to discuss strategies for maximizing it." "Consumer feedback is important to us. The great thing about Kickstarter is that -- beyond helping us fund our project -- it has allowed us to communicate with our future customers while the product is in development. We’re taking notes on everything they say and we’ve even had a survey up asking them which games they want to see. We got more than 45,000 answers, and currently have the Top 20 linked to our KS FAQ question: What kind of games will be on OUYA so that game fans can rank them. The community is setting its sights high for OUYA, and our role is to deliver a console capable of supporting a great gaming experience. We are laser focused on doing that." So what's the current plan with OUYA, now that it's had its funding generously topped and scrutinizing eyes are trained on the results? Right now, the team plans to "stay the course" and work on producing the system. Julie proudly names supporters including Brian Fargo and Adam Saltsman, and clearly is very excited by the system's potential. Whether this system bears fruit or becomes a warning sign for future Kickstarter projects remains to be seen, but I'm fascinated by the whole thing and certainly hope to see something successful happen.  "You can’t attract that caliber of interest without being on to something," boasts Julie.  I certainly hope so. 
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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 s...


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