Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

PS Vita

Rollers of the Realm: A nice surprise

Jun 16 // Dale North
A female character doubles as a pinball (stay with me here) that can be launched into a play field or town to interact with enemies or NPCs by bouncing into them. You’ll guide our hero with flippers that have been placed in these locations. In the most basic example, hitting an NPC lets you speak with them in town. Hitting an enemy chips off at its hit points. If guards are blocking a gate, as was the case in the earliest level, you might have to hit them with shots to clear the way. Actually, in this case, I was able to summon my dog (also a pinball) and send him up as a distraction for the guards while I made a sharp shot towards an alternate access point into the next area. Just like in any good pinball game, there are opportunities to show off your paddle skills by launching multi ball play, or shooting through trap doors to access other locations. Expect bumpers, ramps, treasures, and bonus zones. Some of the paddles have life bars, which adds to the challenge. Completing a level requires a sharp shot to a goal zone once all objectives have been met. What’s interesting is that this character pinball is the first member of a party, and that each additional character has its own traits on the play field, just as different character types would in a traditional RPG. For example, a drunken knight hits harder and moves slower because he’s heavier, though that movement is erratic because he’s had a few too many before going into battle. I played a demo just to the point where I was able to add a third party member, a healer. This pinball also has a movement and abilities of its own to be used. As the game progresses and the levels become more challenging, use of two or more party members can be required to proceed. In one of the more interesting encounters I had to use the knight to force my way through barriers that the hero wasn’t strong enough to access. From there, the hero would take over, being more agile and fast. Rollers of the Realm is quite a bit more pinball than RPG, but the mix of elements makes feel like the biggest, most involved pinball table ever. As an RPG fan, i welcome the varied challenges. I’m not great at pinball, but after seeing what I did at E3 I’m sure I’ll be taking on the challenge anyway.   Rollers of the Realm is coming to PC, PS4, and PS Vita this holiday season.
RPG/pinball mashup succeeds
I tried my hardest to imagine what the combination of pinball and RPG would look and play like before meeting with Atlus at E3, but I kept coming to mental roadblocks so I decided to wait and be surprised when I got to see it...

Project DIVA photo
Quick hands-on preview
As Miku fans likely already know, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd is coming to North America this year, to both PS3 and Vita. It was through your support for the first title that this sequel's release is possible, Sega tell...

Freedom Wars: Eight-person action-RPG multiplayer goodness for PS Vita

Jun 10 // Dale North
Freedom Wars is fun. I played a few multiplayer missions recently at a preview event. This is a fully online title, but we went at it locally for now. I jumped in, cold turkey, on a rescue mission where giant alien mechs were stomping around and my teammates were working to cover me while I figured out the control scheme. We had to rescue 3 hostages successfully to reduce my personal sentence by 3,000 years. Not a bad start toward my freedom, eh? Freedom Wars is a third-person game with a nice, wide view so you're not always having to man the camera while fighting. That's great. The control scheme is also great, though you wouldn't imagine it would work so well on a Vita on paper. But everything's covered, from the two attacks (you have swords and ranged fire) to weapon switching to grappling. Speaking of the grapple hook, it works for traversal and as a weapon. For the latter option, you can rip enemies down to the ground or hold on to them while you shoot them with ranged weapons. Those weapons are everywhere, spread out over the field, so when you're not getting blasted, you can go and nab those pickups to add to your arsenal It wasn't too long before I took down my first large enemy. I was surprised to see that one of the hostages was housed inside! After bringing it down, I picked up the hostage and immediately ran to a safe pod while other players tried to cover me. From the minute you pick up a hostage, the enemies will do their best to take you and the hostage out.  I was the hostage carrier twice more, which kept the heat on, but we succeeded, and now I'm down to a nine hundred ninety-seven thousand year sentence. Nice. [embed]275880:54173:0[/embed] I didn't spend a lot of time with Freedom Wars, but I knew I had seen enough to be completely sold on it. It looks (like a PS3 game!) and plays great, gives me more reason to spend time with my Vita, and fits that multiplayer monster hunting craving I get every so often. There's even region-based competitive multiplayer competitions planned -- that should be good. But it's not just a single-player game. Sony tells Destructoid that there's a single-player side that is some 25 hours long. Great mission-based multiplayer with a bonus full-length action RPG on the side? Sold. Look for more details on Freedom Wars very soon. Here's hoping we hear a North American/European release date soon.
Freedom Wars photo
First hands-on
In upcoming online Vita action RPG Freedom Wars, you are sentenced to a million years in prison. Not a typo. In fact, everyone in this messed up future world is born with a million year sentence. But you can work that se...


Yes! PC version of Hotline Miami 2 will have a level editor!

Share levels with others online
Jun 09
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number will have a level editor on the PC! Fans can create their own demented levels, decorate it however they want to. And yes, you'll be able to share these custom created levels with other players. ...
It's okay, the children want to be thrown
Max hung out with Dave and Daniel of Spry Fox Games to check out their upcoming title, The Road Not Taken. From the makers of Triple Town, this puzzle roguelike puts the player in an adorable world, with dark undercurrents. ...

Galak-Z is like Spelunky by way of Macross

May 01 // Steven Hansen
Galak-Z is simple to get into. You boost your ship around with either the forward or reverse thrusters. You start out with a piddly little red laser (that actually looks pretty cool). You have a set of arrows pointing you in the general direction you'll need to be going to finish the level.  What started out as a finite space shooter turned into a procedurally generated roguelike when the team realized its procedural tools for level creation, meant to abet the process, worked well enough to do string together series of designed rooms into full on dungeons.  You'll have a set path to get through a level, but you'll want to explore the far ends of Galak-Z's space in an effort to accumulate cash for upgrades and give yourself a better chance at actually beating the game. [embed]274075:53692:0[/embed] The ship controls are already smooth and fluid. I was quickly ping-ponging around and firing lasers while thrusting backwards. You also have an allotment of missiles with which you paint over enemies, Rez-style, and let loose a barrage. But you'll probably want to save them for tougher foes. There's also conflict amongst the main enemy groups, as well as the third-party aliens, so you could drop in on massive space dogfights or try and lure vicious space creatures into a group of enemies and see if they thin each others' numbers. Enemies also have states of alarm and recognition, allowing you to get an upper hand or maybe even do a little bit of sneaking by. Combat is already solid and the roguelike elements should prove typically addicting. The art style, heavily influenced by 70's/80's sci-fi anime (largely Macross/Robotech) is delightful. It just pops on screen. Explosions look particularly fantastic and so do all the bold colors. I'm ready to lose a lot of time to Galak-Z, probably on the Vita.
Galak gunning photo
Galak gunning
Galak-Z has gone through some changes since we first heard about it. The space shooter from 17-bit Studios (Skulls of the Shogun) has jumped on the roguelike train. I mean space train. Damn. I messed that up.  I messed u...

I died an embarrassing amount in Hotline Miami 2

Apr 17 // Brett Makedonski
The first half of the demo took place in a level that was reminiscent of most of the first game. Tight corridors leading to room after room of roving henchmen, all waiting to be methodically and maniacally murdered. What made this section special is that we got to see some of the new masks that will be available. A representative from publisher Devolver Digital challenged me to select one that restricted me to only using my fists. After some hesitation, I chose one that equipped me with a chainsaw permanently mapped to one mouse button, and an ally whose only purpose was to pick up ammunition for the firearm assigned to my other mouse button. The second part of the demo is where things got a bit more unique. Rather than taking place within a confined and segmented area, it was largely open with very little cover. That means that guns were an extremely risky proposition, as it wouldn’t take much sound to bring another enemy running. Without anything to hide behind to bottleneck them through, it was necessary to rely heavily on melee attacks, making the whole affair quite challenging. [embed]273390:53447:0[/embed] The other aspect of the second level that was interesting is that there was no mask to choose from. This is because the playable character was a different one than in the first stage. While there are multiple characters to play as, we don’t know why yet, as Dennaton isn’t talking much about the story. In fact, they weren’t even at the show; the member of Devolver Digital that demoed the game with me said they stayed home to keep working on the game, so I had no chance to try to squeeze anything out of them. While there might be slight variations to Hotline Miami 2, my core experience from the original was intact in that I died a lot. I mean a lot. Like, an embarrassing amount considering that there were people in line behind me waiting to play. If anyone that was there is reading, I’m sorry, but I have a feeling that it was par for the course for the entire weekend. The sequel’s going to be just as frantic as the original, and let’s face it -- that’s what everyone wants from Hotline Miami.
Hotline Miami 2 photo
I bet everyone did
Anyone that has even the slightest bit of familiarity with Hotline Miami knows what defines it. The neon-swathed visuals, the gratuitous violence, the quick and unforgiving gameplay, and the blaring soundtrack all made the ga...

Hyper Light Drifter's co-op mode will have you dying over and over

Apr 11 // Brett Makedonski
This is because the two players are tied together in an integral way. If the secondary player dies, he'll keep respawning to the detriment of the first player. That's because each respawn knocks a sizable chunk of health off of player one. When he dies, it's game over. There's no sort of system where one can go on without the other. If your buddy sucks, well, that's your direct disadvantage. If you had the slick idea that the weaker player could just stay out of the fray, that probably won't happen either. Enemies spawn from all over the place, and the ones with ranged attacks will make this strategy particularly not feasible. In all actuality, you probably won't even notice if your partner's bad, because you'll both be too busy dying. Score is tracked based on the number of monsters killed, and rounds seem like they'll go by lightning-quick. Talking with Heart Machine, they said that a score of fifty to one hundred is a solid round, and anything over one hundred is "venturing into high score territory." [embed]273164:53368:0[/embed] The reason that failure always feels imminent is because the enemies deal out surprisingly high damage. Everything could be cruising right along, and then you take a few unexpected hits and it's all gone off the rails. Health can be picked up after enemies are disposed of, but it's not generously handed out. The best strategy to employ is to get into the thick of it and hope for the best. Speed is one of the essential elements, as the dash feature will have you zooming across the screen from enemy to enemy. Also, two special attacks can be equipped at a time that draw from a mana pool. You have freedom with these, as we saw a selection of about six that could be switched out on the fly. But, chances are, within minutes, you're going to be dead. Failure's inevitable for even the most successful of runs. When that happens, you'll have no one to blame but your co-op partner. And while it doesn't seem like this mode will steal the show from the core game, it's just one more thing to sweeten the pot and make us want Hyper Light Drifter even more.
HLD preview photo
And over and over
Hyper Light Drifter is on the top of a lot of people's lists of most anticipated games. For good reason, too. The quick-paced, action-RPG with a retro aesthetic looks like it's going to be an absolute pleasure to play. I...

To Leave is one of the neatest games I played during GDC

Apr 03 // Steven Hansen
[embed]272809:53244:0[/embed] To Leave (PC [previewed], Mac, Linux, PS4, Vita)Developer: Freaky CreationsPublisher: Freaky CreationsRelease date: 2014 To Leave is artsy, forward in its metaphor. The main character, Harm, is attempting to get out of a rut, out of a harmful life. The way to do this is to take his flying door and get the heck out of his bog of despair. But escape is hard because the door is fragile and if you hit something, you get sent all the way back to the beginning of the game, the bottom of the city Harm lives in. The progression is glorious. This isn't Super Meat Boy sort of rapid repetition that encourages white knuckle runs as fun. These white knuckle runs can send you back to the beginning of the game. Now, there are checkpoints of sort in the world. You're not replaying the whole game after each death, but it's a tense set up and that sees you failing early and often. And then you keep on keeping on, getting better at wresting yourself from the slop. If you want to ignore the metaphor, the base game is exciting to play. If you run out of Drive (a gauge filled by collecting those blue spirit things), you enter an extra atmospheric Hopeless mode with weird music and sludgy controls. Otherwise, you're clinging to your door, avoiding obstacles with the sort of floaty controls. And enemy patterns don't just reset at respawns so you can't just muscle memory or power your way through levels. I jumped forward in the game to a harder level and just compulsively died and started over, trying to run before walking.  To Leave is also artistic. Just take a look at the screenshots. Nothing is tiled and art isn't reused. There are a number of different themed sections as well. "We want to show Ecuadorian craftsmanship," Palacios explains at my surprise. I couldn't quite put my finger on why the game looked so different, despite it's interesting art style, until I realized. And all those benevolent looking stone faces are cool as heck. Then there's the music, which is a huge focus. You can check out some of the samples right here. Even through a laptop's speakers in a semi-trafficked area, the score helped to immerse me in the world. I just wanted to keep listening to it. GDC is always refreshing and playing To Leave was a perfect example of why I love it. The mechanics are tight, the artistry is interesting, and the angle feels new.
Preview: To Leave photo
Ecuador's first indie game
GDC is full of neat games. There are sentai management sims. Body building cats. Hyper Light Drifter. But one of the neatest games I played during GDC is To Leave, which creative director Estefano Palacios says is the first i...

Preview: Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes

Jan 07 // Chris Carter
Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes (3DS, PS4, Vita, Wii U)Developer: 8bits FanaticsPublisher: Nicalis, Inc.Released: TBA 2014 1001 Spikes is a retro enthusiast's dream. You'll control the titular Aban in his quest for more treasure, as the game takes you through a series of levels in the style of the world map from Ghouls 'N Ghosts. It's a full quest, complete with a narrative, collectibles, danger, and well crafted levels full of fiendish traps. It also plays wonderfully, most notably due to the "two button" jump system. You can press one button to jump high, and another to jump at a standard height, like most 2D platforming protagonists would. This allows you to control your jumps and make precise landings on any platform -- because, you know, they're probably filled with spikes. It's a simple nuance but a welcome one, and as someone who has been playing platformers for over 20 years, it feels fresh -- in other words, it combines all of the good times you had with retro games with a solid framework to make it more fair. The full game will feature nine characters, including Nyx from Nyx Quest, Commander Video, and the President Thompson/Sugimoto duo from Tempura of the Dead. My experience with co-op has been great, as there's a slight trolling element in this current build that allows you to throw projectiles at fellow partners to stun them. It isn't game-breakingly annoying however like a few other titles, since the maps are generally pretty large, and the camera zooms out at a decent length to give everyone their space. In addition to legit four-player co-op for the entire campaign, 1001 Spikes will feature a "Golden Vase" mode (among other multiplayer gametypes) which plays similarly to Spelunky's deathmatch gametype mixed with Halo's Oddball. There's a giant vase in the middle that drops coins as you carry it while running, but everyone else is gunning for you in one giant trap-filled map. It's fleeting fun, for sure, but there's a method to its chaos, and solid platforming skills will win out more often than not. The map I was able to test had varying degrees of height, with multiple doorways to enter (Scooby-Doo teleportation style), tons of spike traps, and fire-breathing wall hazards. The spikes in particular were cool, as they triggered a trap on the opposite side of where it was stomped -- so a fleeing player could run all over them to play defense even though he can't technically use his hands while holding the vase. The final game will sport leaderboards, as well as a sound test mode and a few other secrets (hopefully we'll hear some more progress on the level editor). It expands upon the original game in a big way with a multitude of modes and characters, and everything I've touched so far has me pretty excited to try the real thing. In short, it plays like an NES game with tons of content stuffed into it, and I'm perfectly okay with that.
1001 Spikes photo
This is shaping up to be one of my favorites of 2014
Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes was a great concept. It launched way back in 2011 on the Xbox Live Indie store for a whole dollar, and remains one of the best games on the marketplace to this day. But the folks over at Nic...

Impressions: Rainbow Moon (Vita)

Dec 03 // Ian Bonds
Rainbow Moon (PS3, Vita)Developer: SideQuest StudiosPublisher: EastAsiaSoftReleased: July 10, 2012 (PS3) / December 3, 2013 (Vita)MSRP: $14.99 When Rainbow Moon released last year, it was to little fanfare, and less-than-favorable reviews. Some strategy fans seemed to enjoy it, at least, as proven by this Vita port almost two years later. And let me be straight with you: this is a port in the strictest sense of the word. Very little has changed between the original download on PS3 and this PSN title for Vita. If you missed the title previously, it's your typical open world SRPG, full of random battles as well as foes you can see on screen to fight with. What sets Rainbow Moon apart is the ability to choose whether or not to engage in the random encounters with unseen foes with a simple button press, as well as choosing to walk around or up to the foes you can see. Battles themselves are set up on a grid-like system, moving square by square, turn by turn, tactically moving around your enemies for your best advantage. It's the most basic form of a strategy RPG, but it works well, which is good considering you'll be doing it a lot. As before, Rainbow Moon hinges most of it's gameplay on grinding to level up, only to grind further for items to improve your battle stats so that you can grind again on higher level beasties. So, what has changed? Well, for starters, there's cross-save, allowing you to continue your quest on the go from your console version, and vice versa, which is quite nice if you prefer your grinding while on the go. Also, much of the game has been streamlined, at least as far as menus go. Scrolling through through menus, matching collected items to upgrade weapons, and organizing your inventory seems faster. In fact, Rainbow Moon actually seems best suited for the handheld, as it's short quests, simplistic battle structure, and save anywhere features work best in short bursts. However, the port doesn't really take advantage of the new hardware at all. Touch screen functionality is non-existent, and while most won't gripe too much with that, it does seem odd that it's been completely neglected. Graphically, you're looking at the same game from PS3, and the short, colorful characters are beautiful, with plenty of background animation and expressive characteristics to give the world a fully-alive feel. Sadly, I wish the characteristics of you and your party members last throughout the game -- as before, whenever you add someone to your party, all manner of personality interaction with them disappears. It's as if once you gain a party member, they're merely another body with which to fight your foes, and their storyline ends with them joining you. And therein lies the biggest problem here, just like the PS3 version. While there is plenty to do in this over 50+ hour epic quest (and even more in side quests), the story itself is largely unremarkable. You arrive, monsters are there, you fight them...and that's pretty much it. While there is plenty to do as far as number of quests and missions, the reason behind why you're doing it is left mostly ambiguous. What you're left with is a game that has you grinding for the sake of defeating enemies, so that you can grind again to defeat higher-powered enemies -- and so on, and so forth. If that sort of thing appeals to you, now you can have it on the go. Aside from that, there's not much reason to chose one version over the other.
Rainbow Moon photo
Pretty much the same, but portable
Strategy RPGs seem to thrive on handheld systems. While many are released on console, it often takes a port to a portable build for gamers to take notice. With a sequel already in the works, EastAsiaSoft has seen fit to port last year's Rainbow Moon from PS3 to Vita, and the experience remains mostly intact from the console version. This is both to its credit and its detriment.

Hands-on with the new PS Vita, remote play PS4 test

Sep 20 // Dale North
The new Vita is lovely. I feel like the design has been improved all the way around, from front to back. The first thing you'll notice is that it's so much lighter than the original Vita. It feels like there's next to nothing inside, but it manages to do so without feeling cheap. The new Vita is also thin and svelte, making the original seem a bit clunky in comparison. The rear of the unit is sleek looking, but still has a nice, rounded grip. Between this and the reduced weight, the new Vita is easy on the hands. I already know I'll like it better for extended play.   And while we're on comparisons, know that Sony wouldn't allow me to photograph the Vita screens. I tried so many times. There's nothing to hide, though. The new LCD screen looked fantastic with every game I tried. On the TGS show floor there's no fair way to compare old and new screens,  though I doubt the new LCD will beat the OLED one. While games looked bright and colorful on the new Vita, it doesn't look to have the OLED's wide viewing angle or color depth. That all said, as an avid portable gamer I can honestly say I would be perfectly fine with the new Vita screen. I wouldn't feel like I was missing something by using it over the older model. Finally, the new buttons are nice. The face buttons in particular feel fast and responsive -- a nice improvement. The start, select, and PS buttons are now full circles, and are easier to press.  Remote Play of PS4 games on the Vita went off without a hitch in my demo session. I was able to play Knack on the Vita while seeing it run exactly in time with the PS4 screen. It never missed a beat. Perfectly tight, no hiccups. The control scheme of Knack is pretty simple, so the Vita had no problems handling button assignments.   The visual quality of the streamed PS4 game on the Vita screen was pretty nice, though a close look would show that compressed video was coming across. But at a quick glance you wouldn't be able to tell that you were looking at a stream. Again, at least in this demo environment, play was absolutely lag free. Impressive stuff. The new Vita is a very nice little system. I don't think many will miss much over the previous model, screen included. Japanese gamers will be able to buy the new Vita on October 10 for about $195. We have yet to hear confirmation of a western release. I'm sure we will soon enough, though.  
New Vita test photo
Full hands-on at TGS
Forget about that short time I had with a retail demo unit last week. This week at Tokyo Game Show I've played with the new Vita multiple times with several different games. I've put it through its paces as best as I could here. I've even tested PS4-to-Vita remote play. Read on for our impressions of the new PS Vita model.

Giving the PS Vita TV the full rundown

Sep 19 // Dale North
The PS Vita TV is small -- about the size of a thick mobile phone. Tiny enough to fit in a pocket and compact enough to fit in even the smallest home. But when connected to a network and a television it does some pretty big things for the PlayStation videogame catalog.  Working my way up through its gameplay modes, I started with PSP play. I'm quite excited by the idea of backwards compatibility for play on televisions, but the look of titles like Patapon and Gran Turismo on a large HDTV shows just how far we've come since their initial release. Up against some of the other format options the PS Vita TV provides, PSP titles look blocky and blurry. These are games running at a lower resolution, but they don't all have the retro charm that PSOne games do. Despite my love for the PSP and its library, seeing these and other PSP and PSOne titles in action next to Vita games was a bit of a bummer.  They did play beautifully, though. The Dual Shock did the trick. It also did the trick for menu navigation. The Vita TV's UI looks a lot like that of the Vita, down to the page flipping to move between open apps.  PS Vita games look fantastic on the PS Vita TV. Those that have been daydreaming of a way to be able to play Vita games on their TV will be pleased. Soul Sacrifice Delta looked yummy, as did Danganronpa 1-2 Reload. And wow: God Eater 2 was eye-poppingly beautiful on Sony's HDTVs. I feel TV play of vita games alone is worth the price of entry. I can't wait to see how my Vita collection looks and plays on the big screen. Finally, I gave the streaming PS4 remote play functionality a try. Sony had upcoming game Knack running on a PS4, and showed that a simple option selection on the PS Vita TV had the game streaming almost instantly. Knack played perfectly via remote play using a Dual Shock controller, just as it did when I played it on PS4 at E3.  But the image quality takes a hit. With streaming play, gone is that high end gloss the PS4's graphical muscle provides. The meat and potatoes of the images are still there, but you can see compression easily, and colors and details suffer. The resolution was certainly lower than the original. It certainly doesn't look bad. Remote play of PS4 games looks just like watching a nice HD stream of gameplay on the internet.  But quality of signal is not the point here. Flexibility is. Having second-room access to your $400 PS4 for only $100 more is pretty attractive. Plugging in a tiny box will be much easier than disconnecting and reconnecting your PS4 in another room. There's also plenty of opportunities to be explored with remote play and multiplayer. And who knows what Sony has up their sleeves with Gaikai streaming tech beyond remote play.  Sony has yet to confirm the PS Vita TV for western markets. The device is sure to do well in Japan and Asia on the gaming side of things, but I hope they realize that with the addition of video and other content services, westerners would be happy to plunk down $99 for one.
PS Vita TV hands-on photo
Hands-on at TGS
Seeing the little white Sony box that came out of nowhere last week was a top priority for us a Tokyo Game Show this week. I put the PS Vita TV through its paces today at the show, trying everything from PSP to streaming PS4 play out on it. It does so many things, but does it do them all well?


Assassin's Creed Liberation HD coming to PSN, XBLA, PC

Reworked from the ground up
Sep 10
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
That's right! The Vita darling is going all HD for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC early 2014. Development started shortly after the Vita release thanks to how the fan base reacted so positively to it after the E3 reveal...

Galak-Z explores the nooks and crannies of space

Sep 01 // Brett Makedonski
The most notable feature of the combat system is that it's really pretty difficult. Even two small enemy ships can cause problems, while some of the bigger ones can feel downright impossible. It's obvious that Galak-Z will require a lot of retreating while attacking, as an outwardly aggressive approach probably won't yield success. This is where the juke comes in particularly handy, almost to the point of seeming overpowered at times. Despite Galak-Z's setting, it's not subject to the vast expanses of nothingness that are commonly associated with space. Rather, it takes on a bit of a metroidvania vibe, as it requires that you work your way through different sets of caves to find upgrades and to eventually advance. It's a mechanic that will need to be explored in detail, but seems likely to mesh well with the style of game. 17-Bit intends to bring Galak-Z to PC, PS4, and possibly PS Vita. As it is now, it appears as if it'll shape up nicely with a bit more polish and refinement. It looks like Sony definitely has another strong indie title in its repertoire. 
Galak-Z preview photo
Shoot everything along the way
"It's the perfect game for fans of 80's anime," 17-Bit's Raj Joshi told me about Galak-Z before I was given a chance to play it. Admittedly, it seemed like a weird statement at the time. At first glance, the Asteroids-esque ...

Samurai Gunn might be my favorite game at PAX

Aug 31 // Brett Makedonski
For all the frantic pace, it never felt uncontrollable. Rather, the way in which you could quickly plot your attempt at your next victim was simply amazing. Realizing that another player's engaged with a different target, and you can easily get over there to dispose of one of both of them felt downright magical upon execution. That magic quickly fades when someone else had that same idea, but this time at your expense. The rounds are kept short, as the first person to ten kills wins. That certainly doesn't take long at all. A showdown might be triggered between the two top-scoring players, which places them on a flat two-dimensional plane, left to jump toward and away from each other until one can finally land the coup de grâce. Showdowns are almost like chess matches in a way. That's all there is to Samurai Gunn. Simple? Definitely -- that's the charm. But, that also comes packaged with an undeniable sense of giddy joy the entire time you play. It's easy to pick up, but difficult to put down. In fact, I think I'm going to go play it again right now.
Samurai Gunn preview photo
It's so ridiculously funn
I didn't really know what Samurai Gunn was before today. It has one of those sort of cliché names that's easy to pass over if you don't have a particular reason to care. After playing it on the PAX show floo...

Murasaki Baby is strange and wonderful

Aug 22 // Dale North
Gently guide her with your fingertip and she'll follow nicely. Pull her arm too hard and she'll resist a bit.  And like a baby, the more you encourage her, the more bold she'll become. While you have to work to get her to follow your finger at first, she'll start to enjoy the walk on her own before long. Before you know it, she'll charge full speed ahead on her own. But when danger is just ahead, you'll have to use the touchscreen to slow her down a bit.  The entire game uses touch control. While you're usually using one finger to drag this baby along, there are times when you'll have to glide your finger across a gap to have her hop over it. And when strange things try to come after her or her precious balloon (you lose when the balloon is popped), you'll have to fend them off with a fingertip. I batted down strange insect-like safety pins that tried to attack her balloon early on.  Just like a baby, this one is always cautious, and scared easily. She's in a world that can change on the fly, so there are lots of opportunities for her to be scared. As her guide, it's your job to make her feel safe. This could mean that you have to move a hanging lamp into a cave to scare away bats, or flick away hanging tentacles.  Babies can change moods very quickly, noted Gianni Ricciardi of developer Ovosonico. Playing on this, swiping the back touchpad of the Vita can change the world for this baby. The baby, the ground, and often other elements stay in place, but the backdrop changes as your fingers glide across the back of the Vita. While strange, the look of these worlds is supposed to represent a baby's different moods -- happy, sad, scared.  When you come across another balloon in the game, it can be popped, adding another world background for you to flip to. Some of these worlds contain solutions to platforming puzzles. For example, one world had smog that blocked the baby's path. By switching to a background that contained a windmill, I was able to blow the smog away to progress. The world of Murasaki Baby looks like a sketchbook came to life, complete with scratchy shading lines a focus on black and white imagery. It's just as striking and beautiful as it is strange. Some really nice work has been done with shadow, light and depth. Screenshots don't do it justice.  Riccardi told me that in this early alpha stage they're trying to optimize frame rates to make play more responsive. The game played fine, though some jumps were slow to respond. The engine that powers this lovely art and animation is still new, and it's somewhat taxing on the Vita's hardware, so they're still figuring it out.  The first level I saw was definitely strange with its hanging tentacles, creepy creatures, and freaky objects. Ricciardi told me that the first level is called the "tentacle boy level." When I asked why he pointed to all the wriggling and dangling tentacles on the screen and sort of smiled.  Ricciardi explained that there will only be four worlds in Murasaki Baby, and that the player could finish the game in one sitting of about 4 hours if they wanted. He said that he is looking for a short and powerful experience, one that has players growing an emotional connection with this baby they're dragging around.  What's most interesting to me is that he chose to tell the story without words or narration. The baby's actions and the things you discover together tell the story. And with the particulars left out, Ricciardi hopes that each player will have their own interpretation of Murisaki Baby's story.  Murasaki Baby's dark charm worked on me. We'll see it's release on PS Vita some time next year.
Murasaki Baby photo
Vita's new baby dragging game
PlayStation Vita title Murasaki Baby looked to be pretty dark and twisted in its debut trailer at Sony's gamescom press conference earlier this week. Now that I've played it, I'd say that it isn't quite as dark as it first ca...

Killzone: Mercenary is the gold standard of portable FPS

Aug 21 // Kyle MacGregor
Killzone: Mercenary (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Guerrilla CambridgePublisher:  Sony Computer EntertainmentRelease: September 10, 2013 (NA), September 4, 2013 (EU)MSRP: $39.99 Killzone: Mercenary is pretty remarkable. Over the past several weeks I had the opportunity to experience the title during its closed multiplayer beta and check out one of its nine single-player missions. Even after spending hours upon hours battling in the trenches, I continue to be amazed at how good it feels.  It's astounding how closely Killzone: Mercenary resembles its console brethren. Unlike previous attempts to bring other big first-person shooter franchises to the PlayStation Vita, it's clear the team at Guerrilla Cambridge care about what they're making. The developers don't seem content just to churn out any old portable shooter. They're trying to meet the high standard set forth by its excellent predecessors, and, aside from a few minor gripes stemming from the limitations of the platform and its inability to perfectly mimic a DualShock controller, it looks like they're doing a fantastic job. Despite feeling very similar to Killzone 3, it's also a total breath of fresh air. In addition to giving players a new perspective as guns for hire working on both sides of the Helghast-ISA conflict, Killzone: Mercenary is forging ahead on its own path. Single-player missions still revolve around the cover-based shooting. Fans of the series are already well versed in that. However, there's a new twist in that mercenaries' duty involves collecting intel. Now, there's a couple ways of doing this. You can beat information out of enemy captains through interrogation or hack terminals. Personally, I'm partial to the latter. Terminal hacking involves these fun little geometric puzzle matching sequences that provide a welcome reprieve from spraying bullets and dodging enemy fire. It's refreshing, really. [embed]260196:50066:0[/embed] Collecting intel is important in that it helps unlock bonus Valor Cards. Now, what are those exactly? Well, each player is assigned a card every day that represents their performance compared with the rest of the community. When a player is killed in one of Killzone: Mecenary's three multiplayer modes, they will drop an instance of their card. These can be collected by other players for monetary bonuses. The higher the value of the card, the more cash players will earn. Furthermore, cards can be collected to form Poker hands, which net even more money. The Valor System actually changed the way I approached the game. It encourages a more aggressive style of play where those on the front lines are rewarded for getting into the thick of battle. However, there's also reason for caution. Will you risk running out into the open to snag a card? One of your felled foes' comrades likely has her sights trained on the card just waiting for you to walk into her cross-hairs.  The system of risks and rewards is an interesting representation of how mercenaries risk their lives for a paycheck. Should you be willing to take that gamble, you'll have an opportunity to enlist in Killzone: Mercenary's open beta over the next couple weeks. PlayStation Plus subscribers can get in on the action right now, whereas everyone else will have to wait until next week.
Killzone: Mercenary photo
Get money, get paid
There's a common thread running throughout Killzone: Mercenary. From the single-player campaign to the online multiplayer, the entire experience is seamlessly tied together by one thing: Money. It's all about the next paychec...

The first 10 hours of Dragon's Crown are action packed

Jul 24 // Chris Carter
Dragon's Crown (PlayStation 3 [previewed], PlayStation Vita [tested])Developer: Vanillaware / AtlusPublisher: AtlusReleased: August 6, 2013MSRP: $49.99 (PlayStation 3) / $39.99 (PlayStation Vita) From the very first gameplay trailer, it was evident that Dragon's Crown was a technical brawler -- in other words, it had fighting-game tendencies, and a deep level of tactical design embedded within it. I've only extensively tested the Fighter and the Wizard so far, but I've experienced a full party with every other class via NPCs (you can resurrect NPC helpers by finding "bones" in dungeons) -- and the synergy is immediately apparent from your first group confrontation. For instance, every single class has a different key mechanic. The Dwarf can throw enemies, the Elf has a limited number of arrows to use, the Amazon doesn't stop attacking, and the Sorceress can create health-bearing food and debuff foes. The Fighter has the ability to block, and with specific upgrades, can shield party members from damage as well as buff them momentarily. The Wizard took some getting used to, because like the Sorceress, he has to "charge" Dragon Ball Z style to replenish his mana. At first, it was a bit overwhelming to have to constantly top off my mana pool before I could unleash my best attacks, but very quickly I learned that this was yet another design choice to help differentiate the cast. The Wizard has to constantly be on the move, and find safe havens to recharge -- he's the definition of a glass cannon, and that's represented here far better than most games that simply diminish a spellcaster's defensive capabilities and call it a day. Speaking of specific upgrades, every time you level up you gain a skill point, which can be used to buy a skill to augment your abilities. In typical RPG fashion these skills usually consist of upgrades like "more health," if you're looking in the Common tree -- each unique class tree is a completely different story. Frankly, I was blown away by the options presented in each specific party member's tree. The Wizard has the ability to command pretty much every element you can think of, levitate, summon wooden golems, and a whole lot more. The Fighter could specialize into a defensive tanking build, or go more aggressive, with tons of options for both. In other words, given the extensive skill tree, the customization and naming options, and the ability to assign your character an English or Japanese voice, no two characters you meet will be the same. Because of this dynamic, it'll make completing multiple playthroughs with different characters that much more exciting. Going from the Fighter to the Wizard within an hour of each other was incredibly jarring, as I had to initially balance my mana and whack enemies with my relatively weak cane when I was in a jam, whereas I could just wail away with the Fighter without reprisal. But very quickly I started speccing into mana regeneration, buffing my mana charge ability, and giving myself the power to leech MP by hitting enemies with my cane. My Wizard morphed into a completely different playstyle at that point. Although I'm mostly questing on the PS3, I did get a chance to test out the Vita version as well, and I have great things to report. Barring the fact that four-player local co-op on one portable screen is obviously not possible like it is on the PS3, I have to say the Vita version has a few improvements on its console counterpart. For starters, pointer control is fine tuned to suit the Vita. In Dragon's Crown, a neutral NPC named "Rannie the Thief" will follow you around collecting gold, as well as unlock chests and doors. In order to control him, you'll use the right analog stick to aim a mouse-cursor like hand, tapping the stick to queue up an action. While I didn't have any issues using this on the PS3, you can simply tap the screen on the Vita to utilize the pointer, allowing Rannie to open doors and chests with the greatest of ease. Should you choose to use it, right analog support is also available on the Vita, with the L button confirming an action in lieu of clicking in the stick. The Vita's OLED screen is also gorgeous as usual, and fits the action quite well for one player, despite the general sacrificed real estate. While cross-buy and cross-play are sadly not a part of the package, I have tested the cross-save function between the Vita and the PS3, and it works as advertised. Well, that's basically all I can talk about right now! Expect a full review on July 31, a week before the retail version hits on August 6.
Dragon's Crown preview photo
There's so much depth here it's insane
All things considered, Dragon's Crown is one of my most anticipated games of the year, if not the most. As many of you know, I'm a massive fan of action games as well as brawlers, old-school games, and of course, Vanillaware....

Wii U delay brought way more content to Rayman Legends

Jul 17 // Steven Hansen
Rayman Legends (Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita) Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier Publisher: Ubisoft Release: September 3, 2013 "When we look at it now, honestly, the delay was a good thing," lead game designer Emile Morel said. "Right now, I don't see what more we could add to it." Seems all these recent months spent weren't idly wasted on thumb twiddling, because Legends is bloated with great content. The Invasion levels are a mixture of existing assets. Legends is separated into different, self-contained worlds, each meant to "feel like an adventure," and provide some of the cohesion and framing its predecessor lacked. In the Invasion levels, the disparate worlds collide in an unholy union. Each main level has its own Invasion level that will unlock at various points in the game when it can be assumed your skills are up to snuff; for example, an early Invasion level might not unlock until you clear a more challenging world. Each Invasion has a 60-second time limit in which to save three Teensies that are strapped to bottle rockets at the end of the level. If your seconds start spilling over, Teensies start getting astronomical with a punctuality that Nicholas Cage would admire. 60 seconds. These challenging, fast-paced levels seem to be a nice analog for some of my favorite Origins levels, the rhythmic chest chasing levels. They require deft timing. Things get complicated in harder Invasion levels when Dark Rayman begins tailing you and you have to avoid him without sacrificing momentum or timing. As for the remastered Origins levels, "some of the levels we changed them almost entirely," associate producer Greg Hermittant noted. I played a few of the early ones which were much intact, save for the aesthetic boost with Legends' look and lighting, and the addition of Teensies to save scattered throughout the levels. Apparently some Murfy functionality was even added to some of the remastered Origins levels. "When they asked me what's the best version," Morel said, "pick the system you like to play on." Indeed, the main dividing factor in the Rayman Legends experience comes down to whether you want to use a touchscreen or not. While I find the touch screen functional to be novel, I also find it slows the game down more than the traditional controls, in which Murfy is mapped to a face button and will automatically go approximately where he should be. "We wanted to make sure when players start a level with Murfy they wouldn't groan and want a more classical level," Morel explained. "We want to keep the rhythm of Rayman." Using Murfy with the Xbox controller was relatively painless. "You have one more button to press, but you can play very fast." Having to occasionally watch out and direct Murfy definitely added a new wrinkle that I could sort of appreciate as I got into the groove and worked the extra layer into my strategy (I did all the speed runs in Origins), though I'm still hard pressed to say the addition is entirely wanted.  The 3D bosses at the end of each world also add a small, but welcomed layer to the experience. At the end of the newly shown off Fiesta de los Muertos -- which you play much through after having been transformed into a chicken -- you fight a giant, 3D luchador who menacingly sits behind the field of play and tries to squash you with his fist. Legends is the biggest Rayman ever and I'm beyond excited to play it to death.
New Rayman Legends stuff photo
More, more, more: That's how Rayman Legends likes it
Rayman Legends is finally almost here. The delay of the Wii U version after the announcement of PS3, 360, and Vita ports seems worlds away, but I'm finally about to embark on the evolution of the gorgeous, 2D platforming good...

I'm down with Dragon's Crown

Jun 14 // Jayson Napolitano
I had a blast playing Dragon's Crown on the show floor. I tried out the Dwarf and Elf, and got a good sense of what makes the characters so different. It was admittedly pretty hectic, but I never really lost site of what I was doing with my character, which some people who've viewed the trailers have begun to worry about. Players will be able to store 20 different characters per save slot, which should allow you to sample all of the game's character classes and then some. While this is a traditional beat 'em up, you will level your character by collecting experience from enemies defeated and achievements made in a particular level, and skill points will be used to acquire and level up skills. There are common skill trees that all characters can use, and class-specific ones as well. You have the opportunity to dabble in new skills or power up ones you've already acquired, which will allow for a lot of customization.Online matchmaking will happen so that similarly-leveled characters end up together. You can work in any configuration in terms of local and online play, so if you have two of your buddies at your house and one across town, you can all still play in a single game together. While the game will release on both PlayStation 3 and Vita (with both versions being nearly identical), there unfortunately won't be any cross-play between the two versions. If you're without friends (it's okay), you'll find bones scattered throughout the game that can be resurrected into computer-controlled companions who you can name and are of equal level to you, although they don't level up.From there, you hit the central hub city where you can access shops and other areas of interests where you can pick up quests. Each quest takes you to a different area that has its own back story, narrated by a suitably fantasy-esque voice (the day-one DLC available for the game will contain different narrator language packs). With the dwarf, I was able to pick up heavy objects and hurl them at my enemies, while the elf was able to shoot a devastating barrage of arrows in a number of directions (including up), but arrows are not unlimited, so watch for them on the ground when you're running low. There are power attacks that will require a short cool down period, adding an element of strategy. And best of all? There are mounts! I was able to ride both a powerful sabertooth tiger and a ice-spitting reptile of sorts.One of the most interesting gameplay elements was the ability to use the analog stick to bring a cursor on screen to interact with elements in the game. You use this to open treasure chests and to interact with elements in the background, such as opening a door to access a side area where you can obtain extra treasure, or perhaps even find some secret areas.In terms of replayability, you can dig deeper into dungeons on repeated playthroughs, play at increased difficulty modes, and access an end-game randomly-generated dungeon to level up your characters and acquire exceedingly rare treasure. There will also be a player-versus-player arena to test your characters against those of your friends.In all, the game should take approximately 12-15 hours to complete if you do everything. It's out on August 6, and there's an art book available to those who pre-order (the art is one of the best things about the game, from the backgrounds to the characters, to the beautiful world map). Get on it!
Dragon's Crown photo
Impressions from the E3 show floor are good!
Dragon's Crown is easily one of my favorite games of E3. It's been on my radar for years, back when it was being published by UTV Ignition, but I've kept my distance lately with the visual style controversy. I had the opportunity to really dig in here at E3, and I like where it's headed.There's a lot more to this game than its polarizing visual style, so let's check it out.

Hohokum photo
Weird name, amazing game
Hohokum is one of the games at E3 that might just convince me to buy a PlayStation Vita already, even if it is also coming to PS3 and PS4 next year. Playing it on Vita with a nice pair of headphones seems like the only way t...


LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is a ton of fun

Jun 06
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
I am so jealous of kids growing up this day and age. They have the coolest videogame consoles, the Internet, iPads, and now LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. Combining Marvel, one of the hottest movie proprieties right now (and not t...

Tearaway is a must-own for the PlayStation Vita

May 20 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Tearaway (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Media MoleculePublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentRelease: October 22, 2013 (NA) / October 23, 2013 (AU, NZ) / October 25, 2013 (UK, IE) The Tearaway demo placed me at the very start of the game. I first got to create my custom Tearaway protagonist, choosing my gender and various facial features. From there, my custom hero was mailed off into the human world in an attempt at establishing relations between the two worlds. Something goes awry though, and the hero is forcibly sent back into the world of Tearaway, an event which causes a tear in the sun. This hole in the sun is now a gateway into the human world, and the player's face will be constantly projected into the world thanks to the Vita's front-facing camera. Yes, your face is shown off live in the sun at all times, kind of like that Teletubbies baby but less creepy. [embed]254022:48704:0[/embed] Once back in the paper world, your ultimate goal is to find a way up to the reach sun and the player. Unfortunately, the whole sun incident also unleashed monsters, so you and your character must work together to clear out them out. One early example of how this can work is by leading these monsters to a specific area in the level. Once there, the real "you" will place your fingers on the back touchpad and "pierce" through into the game's paper world. You'll see "your" fingers pop into the world as you glide them around and smash into the monsters. Defeating these monsters will give you confetti, which will go towards unlocking customization options and other features. That whole thing with the fingers popping up into the world is what helped to inspire the idea for Tearaway in the first place. "The original jumping off point was just, I wanted to use the back touch to show fingertips coming into the world," creative lead Rex Crowle told me. "I was obsessed with this visual because you just couldn't do it on any other device, it wouldn't make any sense. So that was kind of the initial starting point, and then, through doing various game jams and stuff, we expanded that out and into thinking, 'Well, it's a handheld world, let's have fun with the fact that you're holding the world in your hands.'" Later in the level, you'll have to tap on the back touchpad in order to help your character jump up to platforms you can't normally reach otherwise. In another part, you'll use the front touchscreen to cut up pieces of paper and create a crown for a character. Once the crown is placed, you'll then be able to take a picture of him and share that online. I have to stress that none of these touch controls felt gimmicky at all. They felt natural and were super easy to use in conjunction with the face buttons. You can be controlling your character with the directional sticks all while sticking your fingers into the world through the back pad. The visuals from the world design to the characters themselves are just splendid as well. Everything looks like a stop motion video, presenting this abstract vision that's very pleasing. It's like what you would imagine paper to look like if it was suddenly brought to life with magic. All this is complemented with some great music, giving off a very folk-like sensation. Media Molecule is continuing their trend of creating wonderful original ideas in an industry where everyone is trying to copy each other for the quickest dollar. Plus, they're incorporating some wonderful ideas that make the best use of the Vita features, with which no one else is really doing anything all that special. I can't sing Tearaway's praises enough.
Tearaway preview photo
Making the best use of all the Vita's features
Last week, I got to preview a bunch of current-gen games, which we can expect to see during E3, at a special pre-show event that entailed several different game companies. The Sony showcase in particular had a handful of game...

Killzone: Mercenary is the FPS the Vita has been needing

May 20 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Killzone: Mercenary (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Guerrilla CambridgePublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentRelease: September 4, 2013 (EU) / September 10, 2013 (US)  Right off the bat, I just have to say Mercenary looks gorgeous. There's a ton of detail in the levels, and everything looks great running on the handheld. The controls are pretty exceptional as well, offering a nice mix of touch and button inputs. The touch controls are fairly minimal, such as swiping the main screen in certain ways to perform a melee, touching enemies to launch missiles at them, or selecting weapons like your grenade. Double tapping the rear touchpad also lets you sprint, but you can simply press one of the front buttons to pull off the same thing. Single-player has you assuming the role of a mercenary who's working both sides of the conflict between the ISA and Helghast. While that initially sounds cool, it's not like you're given the option of choice. There's a set story in place, and you'll be merely hopping between the two sides at certain points as you progress. [embed]253452:48694:0[/embed] The demo Guerrilla showed off dropped me halfway into the story, where you've gotten caught up between the two conflicting sides and have to escort some kid who's important to both the opposing forces. It was an escort mission, but it didn't appear like you had to protect the kid at all as the enemies were pretty focused on me. That's a good thing, as the kid was on my ass the whole time and not really trying to hide behind cover, which was pretty silly given all the bullets flying around. Plus, the AI didn't seem that bright either. On the multiplayer side, Mercenary will allow up to eight players to fight it out over Wi-Fi in deathmatch, team deathmatch, and Warzone matches. Multiplayer also features a new Valor Card system where you can collect cards from another player's corpse. These cards are tied into the ranking and money system of the game, so you'll definitely want to be collecting them to stay ahead of other players. Single-player and multiplayer share a joint bank account too, and any money earned will go towards your being able to purchase new weaponry in multiplayer. It all looks pretty promising, but the sour taste left in my mouth from other shooters leaves me hesitant. I'm sure others feel the same way, so I asked Laura Dilloway, environment artist on Mercenary, what they're doing to reassure fans. "We worked with Guerrilla Amsterdam and their games are exceptionally high standard, so they wouldn't let us put anything out there that was sub-par," Laura told me. "So if you love the Killzone games previously then I think you'll love this one. "We've always set out to make the definitive first-person shooter on a handheld, that's always been our aim. We're not going to let anything go out unless we're 100% happy with it. Hopefully we have produced something people will enjoy." Laura also told me that the campaign will last around seven to nine hours spread over nine different levels. On top of that, there are three difficulty levels and of course all the multiplayer offerings. It's definitely a meaty package, and with this one being developed by a studio that has some experience with the franchise for a change, I have way more faith that Mercenary can deliver.
Killzone: Mercenary photo
A good first-person shooter on the Vita?
The PlayStation Vita is a great system with a slowly increasing library of great titles. The exception being in the first-person shooter genre, that is. You'd think that after one of these big game companies made a handheld w...

CounterSpy takes inspiration from classic side-scrollers

May 19 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
CounterSpy (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita)Developer: DynamightyPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentRelease: 2013 The story draws inspiration from the Cold War era, when the United States and the Soviet Union were a button press away from unleashing nuclear winter upon the world. "If you abstract yourself from how scary it was, it was this super fascinating time from a historical perspective," co-founder and lead designer David Nottingham told me. "You had these two opposing sides that represented these very, very different ideologies. They're both pursing these kinds of crazy goals of like 'let's build all these nuclear missiles!' Some of the crazy plans they were putting into place when you read about when files get unredacted after 30 years is almost as bizarre as some Bond plots." David felt the time period would be a great area to play with, but they're not going for historical accuracy here. They're creating a fun world, as if CounterSpy was some long-lost TV show from that era. Some of the inspiration of also comes from titles such as Shadow Complex, Flashback, Metroid, Impossible Mission, and Prince of Persia. Those last two games in particular had a lasting impact on David, mesmerizing him at a young age from how they let players infiltrate environments. The action espionage game is primarily set as a 2D side-scroller, but there are points when the perspective switches to open the environment up. These camera changes happen when you take cover, which you'll want to do in order to take out guards safely. You can attack guards from the 2D perspective too, but you may not see them coming until it's too late due to the limited view. Every level has you infiltrating a rocket launch site, and there's a countdown timer indicating when the rockets will launch. Your objective is to reach the launch pad and sabotage the controls before the rocket takes off. There are computers that you can damage along the way too, which will delay the countdown and buy you more time. Levels also have blueprints and files which can go toward unlocking experimental weapons. CounterSpy has some limited Cross functions between the PlayStation 3 and Vita versions, where if you find these blueprints in one version they'll be automatically unlocked in the other. Not the best Cross feature ever, but there's going to be more things announced in the future. Employing a unique art style like this isn't easy, so it's a good thing a partnership with Sony goes beyond just PR and marketing. "Our resources are super limited, and there are certain things that would be kind of though for us to do on our own," David stated. "Like, character modeling is one of those things where it's really hard to do right. We were actually able to work with Sony and have them create the character model for those guards. It's just one of those things when you're doing something stylized you can look at something 2D and think, 'Oh, that looks awesome,' but you never know how it's going to look as a 3D model. [Sony] just hit it out of the park straight away. "For us, that's nice to have. It's more than just PR and marketing. They can actually help with some of the development. They're making a big push to work with smaller independent developers like us." I think Dynamighty is doing something really special here. I am a little worried that all the levels will be rather repetitive if you're being tasked with the same goal in each. Hopefully there's a lot of variety to how you can accomplish your goals.
CounterSpy preview photo
Infiltrate to sabotage weapons of mass destruction
The first thing you'll notice about CounterSpy is its unique art style. Really, you can say that about a lot of the indie titles Sony has been picking up lately, but there's something extra special about this one. That probab...

Doki-Doki Universe photo
Doki-Doki Universe

Doki-Doki Universe is more than just flying around on poo

It's about emotions and stuff
May 18
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Doki-Doki Universe is a simple game to grasp but a hard one to describe at first. Basically, you play as a robot named QT377665 (or QT3 for short), who's just discovered that its entire line has become obsolete thanks to thei...

Preview: Never the same levels in Cloudberry Kingdom

Apr 16 // Abel Girmay
Cloudberry Kingdom (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Mac, Wii U, PlayStation Vita)Developer: Pwnee StudiosPublisher: UbisoftRelease: TBA Cloudberry Kingdom is platformer. You run, jump, dodge, and otherwise navigate your way from one end of the screen to the other. So in that sense, you know exactly what's on offer here. That said, it takes cues from modern genre classics, such as Super Meat Boy. That's to say, it can get hard -- very hard. The levels are actually pretty short, but success is dependent on your ability to keep one continuous flow and rhythm going throughout the level. Unlike Super Meat Boy, challenge isn't what the game is built around. The big draw of Cloudberry Kingdom is in its randomness; an algorithm that randomizes every facet of the game is the focus. So while the difficulty curves in the same way each time, the enemies, traps, power-ups, and more switch up. What's cool about this is that it really changes the way you play, especially in a competitive setting. Topping leaderboards, showing up friends, or even just outdoing yourself has little to do with the traditional tropes of pattern memorization, and all about how adaptive your reflexes are. The best way to appreciate this is to dig into the tools yourself  to see the ridiculous amount of factors the game takes into account, which you can then edit to create custom levels. While the actual geometry of a level is not adjustable, there are a bevy of options. The setup here is deep, yet easy to understand. Everything in a level -- its length, enemies, traps, platform types -- can all be adjusted by a simple set of sliders. You simply go through a list, and adjust the frequency of each. And if you want to be like me, you'll crank everything up to max on your first try. If you're feeling that brave (read: stupid) Cloudberry softens the blow, with a handy AI that can take over a run through a level. This isn't the New Super Mario Bros. type of AI assist, mind you. The computer will only show you how to get through a level, but there's no actual game progression. "You might see a level and say, 'Oh this is impossible'. But the computer can come through just to show you that there is always a way through a level," explained Fisher. It's deceptively simple if you only give it a quick gander, but spend a little time and you'll see that there's quite a bit working under the hood of Cloudberry Kingdom. If you enjoy a good platformer, then it's well worth keeping your ear to the ground for this one.
Cloudberry Kingdom photo
From crowdfunding to major backing
The challenge in creating a platformer is figuring out what you could do differently from everyone else. While the same could be said about any genre, you have to admit that it's especially challenging for plaformers, a genre...

Muramasa for Vita is amazing, plays great

Mar 27 // Steven Hansen
This is one of the prettiest games I’ve ever seen. Like, look at these screenshots, and then imagine something infinitely better, thanks to meticulous animation and other visual flourishes. The copper haze of a setting sun, pink cherry blossom leaves fluttering on the wind. Man, I’m as much of a sucker for cherry blossoms as I am for rain-slick neon signage. It’s the best foliage. The Japanese mythology inspired aesthetic is such a treat. For the similarly uninitiated, Muramasa stars two protagonists, an amnesiac ninja being hunted by his own alleged former friends, Kisuke; and a princess, Momohime, whose body has been possessed by an evil spirit. The two characters are making their ways in opposite directions (east to west, west to east), all the while trying to collect all 108 Demon Blades. Collecting Demon Blades is an important part of the game. Either character can have three equipped at any given time and each carries its own special move. The blades wear down with use -- particularly when deflecting attacks or using special moves -- and will eventually “break,” requiring it to be sheathed and you to switch to a different blade. After a while in the sheath, broken blades will repair, incidentally sapping your soul in the process. They are demon blades, after all. There are two types of blades, quicker ones and slower long blades, which also help differentiate the 108 amongst each other beyond their special moves, which get decidedly complex for the better swords. In addition to finding blades throughout the game, they can be forged from enough souls and other items, from the start menu. The environment is littered with other items, including cooking supplies. With the purchase of cookbooks, you can do into certain locations and order food, actually pressing square to take bites or dip individual sushi rolls in soy sauce before scarfing down. It’s kind of amazing. The cook in me dug it. You can also go to hot springs patronized by monkeys and chill with them to replenish your health. Best game. I tried out both characters in a couple of separate, early boss fights, and I dig the combat a lot. The jump button is now mapped to “x,” versus the Wii version that employed a fighting game styled “press up to jump,” and it works well. The boss fights are lengthy varied, and multi-tiered -- switching betwixt blades and using different specials in conjunction with combos helps to that end, too. There also two gameplay modes, one of which is suited to a more hack and slash, level up style, and the other of which calls more precise swordplay. Other environments are strung together 2D exploration, with a sort of overworld hub linking various locations in the game. Rather than have enemies bandying about, the game uses something like a random encounter mechanism, in which you’ll be attacked by a group of enemies, have a quick brawl, and keep on keeping on. Otherwise, the there is a lot of exploration off of the beaten path available as you collect money or items or find out of the way locations to talk to various NPCs, all of whom feel interesting and worth talking to due to the incredibly original art style. If you haven’t played Muramasa yet, Muramasa: Rebirth is a welcomed point of entry. Even if you’ve played it, you might want to check out the fresh localization and banging visuals, as well as the additional, post-launch content. It’s a perfect game for handhelds.
Muramasterful photo
Hoping to breathe new life into an underrated gem
God damn this game is pretty. Vanillaware’s 2009 Wii title Muramasa: The Demon Blade inevitably pops up in just about any discussion of the best Wii games. It’s sitting on my shelf, snug in its shrink wrap, becaus...

Metroidvania-brawler Guacamelee! is guacamazing

Mar 15 // Steven Hansen
Guacamelee! (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita)Developer: DrinkBox StudiosPublisher: DrinkBox StudiosRelease: Spring 2013 Juan, a down on his luck agave farmer living in a shanty, is the misfit star of DrinkBox's new title. As some element of fortune would have it, Juan becomes imbued with the awesome powers of a luchador. Just in time, too, as El Presidente's daughter, whom Juan has been crushing on since boyhood, has recently been kidnapped. Are you a bad enough hombre to save her? It's the tired damsel in distress premise, admittedly, but the game wears its old school influence on its sleeve. It draws from the "Metroid-vania" well, which means expansive maps filled to the brim with secret offshoots and alcoves, many of which are inaccessible without the right moves. Plus, I lost any sort of glazed over "been there, done that" derision once I saw the game in motion. The art style is just too charming, featuring tightly angular geometry reminiscent of paper craft, and bold, solid colors. I particularly love the minimal, angular effects that the power moves give off. Where Guacamelee starts putting its spin on the Metroid-vania formula is with its heavy combat orientation. Often you'll be locked in rooms and have to dispatch waves of enemies to progress. There are even combat challenge rooms. As soon as I started playing, I could see why: the combat is a blast. The impressive, fluid animations decorate a clinical, precise action game. Different power moves, which are unlocked during progression, are mapped to the circle button, while square allows for regular attacks, and triangle for contextual moves like the invaluable throw. Those wanting to max out there money yields can try to string together a higher and higher combo by linking up to three regular attacks with stamina-restricted power moves and throws. Throws are particularly fun, but also incredibly useful, as enemies can be thrown into their cohorts, stunning them and proving you valuable breathing room. There's also an equally useful dodge mechanic, mapped to the right stick, which can dodge everything but fire attacks. You'll need it. In my brief hands-on I encountered an impressive array of baddies that required different means of dispatching, keeping things engaging and taut. My favorites were definitely the bleached-white skeletons in yellow ponchos and sombreros that reminded me of Death in Adventure Time. They're tough, fast buggers. Even a few different enemies on screen can pose a challenge, especially when they're split between planes of existence. Key to Guacamelee is the World of the Dead, from which the enemies originate, which draws heavily from Día de los Muertos, the “Day of the Dead.” Initially, accessing portals will switch between the worlds of the dead and living, but eventually you'll unlock the ability to do so manually. This in turn opens up new wrinkles in the gameplay. Certain areas which might’ve proven previously inaccessible can be accessed and the mechanic also allows for some exciting, precise platforming, as the worlds of life and death have different platforms. The mechanic can also lead to some anger-inducing grieving, as the title allows seamless, drop-in/drop-out two player local co-op. I only tried combat sections co-op -- enemies will scale to take a bit more damage -- so I’m not sure how the precision platforming will be tested with a friend, but beating things up in tandem was a blast, especially when you link throws together to add insult to injury. I was also quite partial to the female luchador who serves as Player 2, though I think that can be said about most of the character design and enviable animation work. One cool addition is the ability to use the Vita as a controller for the PS3 version of the game. It can be used in a tandem with a PS3 controller for those who have a friend, but only one DualShock 3. It can even be used solo, with the added bonus of having the map displayed on the Vita’s screen at all times. This could prove invaluable for completionists aiming to explore every nook and cranny, eliminating the wasteful opening and closing of the map via select while playing with a PS3 controller. Being a completionist in this instance may just be well worth it, too. DrinkBox’s Chris McQuinn furtively hinted that the chicken’s abilities get better the more of a completionist you are, so perhaps some mad chicken powers wait at the end of the rainbow. Also a Hard Mode. Guacamelee is releasing simultaneously for PS3 and PS Vita and will feature cross saves between the two systems. No word yet on whether the game will be cross buy. DrinkBox and Sony’s Pub Fund partnership doesn’t mention cross buy contractually, so the details there are still being hammered away. Otherwise, those itching to get a spicy taste of the game can check it out at PAX East.
Guacamelee! photo
Holy Guacamelee, Batman! Este juego es muy bueno.
One of my favorite parts about Mexican cuisine is its cohesiveness. It's a property found in all my favorite types of foods: Italian, Chinese, etc. You take a swath of semi-disparate elements, tie them together with a sauce, ...

Auto-loading more stories ... un momento, corazón ...