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1:15 PM on 04.16.2015

The original Kickstarter game, High Strangeness, is set for release on May 6

Ever since the big Kickstarter boom of 2012, there's never been a short supply of developers looking to get their next title going through crowdfunding. From metroidvania action-RPG titles referencing the golden years of game...

Alessandro Fillari



Narcosis explores the horrors of the deep ocean with intense VR gameplay photo
Narcosis explores the horrors of the deep ocean with intense VR gameplay
by Alessandro Fillari

Last year during Game Connection Europe, Steven had some special hands-on time with developer Honor Code, Inc's upcoming underwater survival horror title Narcosis. As a psychological-horror survival game, players find themselves vulnerable and alone on one of our planet's most mysterious environments, the deep ocean. And with this setting that's equally unexplored within the gaming medium, a horror title is an intriguing proposition. Steven agreed.

In a recent meet-up with the developers, I spent time with an updated build of the game using the Oculus Rift. The developers hope that the technology will help amplify their harrowing journey to the depths of the ocean. During my hands-on, I found that exploring the unknown is equally as tense as facing the mysterious creatures that inhabit the lowest points on Earth.

With the elements against you, and no help on the way, you'll have to fight to survive the horrors of the deep ocean.

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Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China gives the series a fresh perspective photo
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China gives the series a fresh perspective
by Alessandro Fillari

It's not often we see a major player in the big leagues of yearly releases reinvent itself in a more modest and distinct way. With Assassin's Creed titles expected every year, it's been a bit of a challenge for Ubisoft to keep things interesting for players. And after last year's rough launch for its first true current-gen outing with Assassin's Creed Unity, the company now plans to try something a bit different with its popular brand.

Though there's still another major release coming this year, Ubisoft has hopes that the Assassin's Creed Chronicles trilogy will switch things up. At a recent press event, we got to learn more about this surprising smaller-scale reinvention of Assassin's Creed, and how it has echoes of classic titles such as Prince of Persia. Speaking with the developers from Climax Studios, they seek to reinvigorate the AC experience in the 2.5D perspective while retaining the tried-and-true action-stealth gameplay the series is known for.

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Mekazoo has a cheeky rhyme for tricky gameplay photo
Mekazoo has a cheeky rhyme for tricky gameplay
by Brett Makedonski

“When in doubt, switch them out.” Sage-like advice, really. That’s what Mekazoo’s creative director Jarrett Slavin had to tell me to do when I showed obvious struggles playing his demo. I’m no stranger to platformers, but this one has a learning curve about it that’s difficult to grasp, but so rewarding once you find a rhythm.

His suggestion was one that developers Good Mood Creators coined whenever someone seemed to temporarily forget that Mekazoo features a dual-animal system. It’s easy to fall into the trap of cruising right along with your game-assigned, tech-glimmering creature -- so much so that repeated failures of a section are likely less a case of “you’re bad at this game” and more “you need to try with the other animal.”

Half the reason that Mekazoo players have a tendency to put strategy on the back-burner is because the game looks so damn enchanting. Sporting a “2.5D” aesthetic, the camera has a way of wrapping and zooming around  in a controlled frenzy that adds depth to the levels. When it’s time to slow things down again, a standard two-dimensional approach is taken.

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Beyond Eyes abstracts the world as perceived by a blind girl photo
Beyond Eyes abstracts the world as perceived by a blind girl
by Darren Nakamura

I have been following Beyond Eyes since I first heard about it a year and a half ago. Videogames can be powerful tools for relating experiences that may otherwise be difficult to comprehend. Blindness both fascinates and terrifies me; I know I would be utterly useless without my sense of sight, but others manage impressive feats despite the disability.

So when I heard that Team17 was bringing Beyond Eyes to PAX East, I had to go and check it out. Despite starring a blind girl, it makes excellent use of color in telling her story. Not only that, but it uses other visual tricks to represent her perception of the world through hearing, smell, and touch.

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Talk turns technical with Masquerada: Songs and Shadows' Ian Gregory  photo
Talk turns technical with Masquerada: Songs and Shadows' Ian Gregory
by Rob Morrow

While at PAX East, I was fortunate enough to schedule a chat with the co-founder and creative director of Singapore-based Witching Hour Studios, Ian Gregory, to talk about the studio's beautiful upcoming "pause-for-tactics" 2.5D isometric RPG Masquerada: Songs and Shadows, planned for release on PC, Mac, and consoles (TBD) sometime in early 2016.

The game takes place in a Venetian-inspired fantasy city called Ombre, and as it happens, is the only place in the game's world where magic exists. However, discovering and donning rare masks are the key to learning and harnessing that magical power. Gregory describes the mask's function in the game as that of "batteries," storing built-up magical energy to be released in the form of the different classes' skills and abilities.

Players follow the story of Inspettore Cicero Gavar as he returns from exile to solve a kidnapping that, as the game's description states, will  "shake up the foundations of the city." Cicero, your starting character in the game, is a Maestro, a hybrid class that draws from the skills of all three main character classes.

The three main classes available in the game are the Sicario, who fills the role of an assassin; the Pavisierre, the tank in the group; and lastly, the Dirge, a bard-like character who can cast both summons and buffs. Each class will have access to eight to ten different abilities, all of which possess their own skill trees.

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RIVE was my favorite twin-stick shooter at PAX East photo
RIVE was my favorite twin-stick shooter at PAX East
by Rob Morrow

When I learned that Netherlands-based Two Tribes Studios (Toki ToriToki Tori 2) was bringing its snazzy metal-wrecking, robot-hacking, twin-stick shooter RIVE to PAX East this year, I jumped at the chance to set up an appointment to see the current state of the game.

I finally caught up Two Tribes co-founder Collin van Ginkel at the RIVE booth where he sat me down for a little hands-on with the game. I'd had some time playing an earlier version that was released last fall before leaving for the show, but what was on display at PAX East this year had obviously seen some major improvements.

For starters, the demo on hand had my previously ground-based, spider-like vehicle transformed into a nimble spacecraft, dodging and blasting its way through an asteroid belt on route to the facility to where the rest of the demo takes place. The addition of side-scrolling flying sections was a pleasant surprise and I hope that in the final version, there's even more of them.

The touchy but precise movement controls while flying were a little tricky to get used to, but by the time I had passed (collided with) a few asteroids I had full control of my ship, chewing through all that was in my path and easily outmaneuvering the spinning, laser-firing turrets that appear towards the end of the section.

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It's easy to zone out in the open ocean of Windward photo
It's easy to zone out in the open ocean of Windward
by Darren Nakamura

The PAX East expo floor is one of the least peaceful places to play a game. There are sweaty crowds, children who haven't learned to use their inside voices, and booths blasting dance music and/or eSports commentary. And yet, at the back of the floor sat Tasharen Entertainment's booth, where I was able to don some headphones, relax, and lose myself in the high seas of Windward.

Before I knew it, half an hour had passed, a line was forming behind me, and I felt like I had hardly scratched the surface of the genre-blending ship game. I needed more time with it to get a really good feel for it. I started up the Early Access build the other day and the time melted away. I managed to get six hours of play in that same day.

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Gigantic made me gigantic in the pants photo
Gigantic made me gigantic in the pants
by Jed Whitaker

At PAX East this year I walked past many of the larger booths and gave them little attention, as I am typically more interested in indie games. I got invited to a press-only demo for Gigantic -- a game I only knew of by seeing the signs for the booth on the show floor -- by fellow Destructoid editor Rob Morrow, so I went to see what it was all about. I'm glad I got to get hands-on time with the game, otherwise I wouldn't know just how fantastic Gigantic is.

When I first laid eyes on Gigantic it was breathtaking. The colorful graphics pop off the screen and are reminiscent of something you'd expect to see from Pixar or DreamWorks. The characters are all unique and really stand out from the equally colorful environments. The animation of character movements are all really fluid, especially for the game only being in alpha.

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Just Shapes & Beats is bullet hell without the shooter photo
Just Shapes & Beats is bullet hell without the shooter
by Kyle MacGregor

"Congratulations, you just survived the tutorial," Just Shapes & Beats coder Mike Ducarme teased the small crowd clustered around Berzerk Studio's PAX East booth. A quartet of us had just run the gauntlet, bobbing and weaving our way through an imposing cannonade of pink missile fire.

We barely managed to scratch out a victory -- and that was only the tutorial? Glancing around the throng, there was a clear sense bewilderment and excitement among us. We wanted to see more.

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Magnetic: Cage Closed let me fling myself around with physics photo
Magnetic: Cage Closed let me fling myself around with physics
by Darren Nakamura

"It's not a gravity gun; it's a magnet." Guru Games, developer of Magnetic: Cage Closed, stressed this to me at PAX East. It works like a real magnet, with fields radiating out in all directions, rather than affecting only a forward-facing space.

In practice, it functions similarly in a lot of cases. Attract to pull objects closer, repel to push them further. It's a bit of an oversimplification, but the magnet gun is central to solving the puzzles found in Cage Closed. However, puzzles aren't all the title has going for it; Magnetic also features more action-oriented sections, branching pathways, and a focus on player choice.

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Dropsy challenges perceptions of beauty, proves that love really can conquer all photo
Dropsy challenges perceptions of beauty, proves that love really can conquer all
by Rob Morrow

One of the highlights of my time at PAX East was sitting down and chatting with Dropsy’s creator, Jay Tholen. Jay’s a quiet, thoughtful man with what seems to be unlimited creative energy at his disposal. His sometimes offbeat, but unquestionably engaging creative force shines through in his surreal point-and-click “hugventure” Dropsy. At first glance, the Devolver-published game may seem as though it could be reduced to a psychedelic walking simulator built to shock or surprise the player, offering no real substance beyond that.

For some players that will surely suffice, and they’ll be very happy playing that game. That’s part of the sly brilliance Tholen’s weaving into Dropsy, in that it can be enjoyed, or perhaps more accurately said, interpreted, on many different levels.

In some ways it functions like a mirror – the observer, or in this case, the player, unconsciously injects something of themselves into the experience, ultimately shaping their perception of what the game is really about. Which is quite refreshing in that the game doesn't lead you by the nose, telling you what to think; it offers plenty of room for your own interpretations.

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CrossCode is a beautiful 16-bit ball-filled adventure photo
CrossCode is a beautiful 16-bit ball-filled adventure
by Jed Whitaker

CrossCode is one of those games where I've heard mention of it by word of mouth, saw videos of it, but never though much of it. Then, I got bored and decided to try out the demo and boy, am I glad I did, because the game is wonderful.

The world of CrossCode reminds me of A Link to the Past in the sense that it has dungeons filled with puzzles, and an overworld replete with items waiting to be found which upgrade the protagonist's weapons and stats. The demo, which can be downloaded or played in-browser, is fairly lengthy for an early product that is looking to get crowdfunded. It includes a story mission, a dungeon and an overworld area to explore. Each portion feels really polished with gorgeous 16-bit graphics, a nostalgia-inspiring chiptune soundtrack, and an interesting story complemented by engaging gameplay. 

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We Happy Few's bright exterior hides a dark secret photo
We Happy Few's bright exterior hides a dark secret
by Darren Nakamura

For a while, the general aesthetic in games was dark and grimy, with muted colors to convey dismal feelings. The more recent counterculture of color was welcomed, bringing happiness back to the medium. But a funny thing happens when colorful palettes are taken a step too far. Add too many big smiles, bright eyes, and soothing pastels, and the mood turns from joyful to creepy.

We Happy Few cashes in on this uncanny area past whimsy. Its world is so bright that it feels alien. Indeed, behind the vivid color of Compulsion's newest creation is a dark place. It may be pretty, but it is eerier than any run-down mansion on a stormy night.

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SMITE's Xbox One alpha is off to a great start photo
SMITE's Xbox One alpha is off to a great start
by Chris Carter

There aren't a whole lot of fully featured MOBA games on consoles. While a handful of them exist, some faring better than others, there's going to be a bigger push this year with games like SMITE and Gigantic heading to the Xbox One.

Although I heartily enjoyed my time with SMITE on PC, I didn't stick around for an extended period of time, instead opting to head back to League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm.

That may change when SMITE hits Xbox One later this year, based on what I've played of the alpha build.

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Cosmochoria is a perfect blend of serenity and chaos photo
Cosmochoria is a perfect blend of serenity and chaos
by Patrick Hancock

Cosmochoria is a Kickstarter success story that is now about to see the light of day. It's a mix of exploration and tower defense all wrapped up in a warming, yet occasionally stressful package. There's a strong sense of wonderment to the randomly generated universe, and the art style is totally cute.

My time with Cosmochoria at PAX East brought a huge smile to my face, and if it wasn't for an upcoming appointment, I would have played for probably an entire hour or so!

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