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Wii U

Opening a treasure chest as Ganondorf felt wrong

Aug 30 // Jordan Devore
My favorite moment was opening a treasure chest as the long-running villain. He unceremoniously kicked it open and shoved his arm in while fanfare played. Perfect. Otherwise, slashing away at familiar The Legend of Zelda series foes -- and calling down lightning for further crowd control -- was good, albeit relatively mindless fun just as I had hoped. The mini-map would ping me to run off and hack away at some dudes, so I'd oblige, then move on to the next area. Sometimes, there'd be laser-shooting statues that needed to be bombed (or ignored). This went on until I ran into Volga, who had made his way dangerously low on the map and would have resulted in a "defeat" had he pushed much further. I whittled his health down just fine, dodging attacks without much difficulty until he morphed into a dragon and took away the majority of my hearts with a single fiery blast. …jerk. I may not have made it to the actual boss of the free-play stage I was on, much to my disappointment, but I was able to confirm that my anticipation of Hyrule Warriors is justified. The fact that it's out in Japan already is only making the wait for September 26 feel that much longer. This is Dynasty Warriors but with characters I can actually comprehend. At long last, I've found an Omega Force game I can get into.
Hyrule Warriors photo
Yet so, so right
During a Nintendo showcase event at PAX Prime, I wanted to say "screw it" and just play Hyrule Warriors for an hour (or more) but with only two demo stations available and lots of other nice games media types eager to ch...

I swam around as a snake and then I don't know what happened in Bayonetta 2

Aug 30 // Brett Makedonski
I played chapter five, titled "Cathedral of Cascades," which started off with me transforming into a snake and swimming to land. I was incredibly good at this part, probably because it was impossible to screw up. Being the rock solid reporter that I am, I inquired as to whether Bayonetta can turn into any other animals. Did you know Bayonetta can transform into a fucking panther? Maybe I would've if I played the original, but seriously -- a goddamn panther. Needless to say, the next couple minutes were blocked off for panther dashing. That line of people behind me? I didn't care so much about them; they probably got lots of panther time in the first game.  Once that novelty wore off, I continued with the demo and things got significantly more convoluted. Combat? Yeah, I had no idea what I was doing. I eventually fell into a rhythm with the dodge button, and felt semi-competent despite the fact that I probably wasn't. I managed to rack up gold statuses on a few sections. That euphoria vanished immediately when the Nintendo representative told me that there are two rankings above gold. So, it's kind of a really fancy C-plus. However, combat was the most intuitive thing in the world compared to the narrative. Cut scenes? They looked nice, but it might as well have been in another language for as little sense as it made to me. Nintendo gave me a whole list of things that I can't mention in this preview, but it need not worry because I don't have a clue what any of those words mean anyway. My massive heaps of ignorance aside, I had a good time with Bayonetta 2. Combat can be supremely satisfying when the pieces fall into place. The plot? Maybe it's good, I don't know. But, don't be concerned with all of that because you can transform into a sea snake and a panther. That's all that really matters. This wasn't a very good preview.
Bayonetta 2 preview photo
That snake part was crystal clear, though
Minor confession to make: I haven't played Bayonetta. Yeah, I hear it's good, but I just never got around to it. It happens. Heading into a quick hands-on session with Bayonetta 2, I figured my inexperience wouldn't matter much. Wow, was I ever wrong. Now a few hours removed from the demo, my head's still spinning from trying to discern exactly what the hell just happened.

Costume Quest 2 is still cute, trying to be more engaging

Aug 29 // Steven Hansen
[embed]280362:55487:0[/embed] I was starting from the beginning of the game, so the fights may ramp up in intensity, but I was able to make it through the first area on auto-pilot, just using the attack of whichever costume I felt like wearing. Still, I didn't mind the basic JRPG battles, either, as I was taking in the colorful world. Down in the starting bayou, I smacked alligators to retrieve pieces for a clown costume. You can zip around on what I'm pretty sure are Heelys, which someone recently told me still exist. One of the starting enemies had a digital clock in its chest and they were all set to 4:20 (you know, the weed number), though that's going to be changed to 2:30. 2:30. Tooth hurty. The main antagonist is a dentist. At the start of the game, a rip in time brings you to the dentist-ruled, terrifying, authoritarian future. He's collaborating with some evil witch. You're then rocketed back in time to stop him after a cyborg ninja crow teaches you how to fight. Also, there's a Thomas Jefferson costume. Its special move is the Declaration of Destruction. He throws it dramatically at enemies, who will put on reading glasses and look at it closely before it explodes. And Jefferson's out of battle ability, Diplomacy, is great, even though I never used it properly. I was only chastised, "This doesn't seem like the time for diplomacy," which amused me endlessly. You also duel a little, fiddle-playing boy in a devil costume using your goofy clown horn. Costume Quest 2 is just precious.
Preview photo
New costumes, from Thomas Jefferson to a pterodactyl
Costume Quest, like every Double Fine game, is charming. It's a fresh-feeling, low stakes take on the JRPG genre, more Earthbound than Final Fantasy. Though, as Chad put it in his review, it's "RPG Lite," accessible...

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is almost too cute for words

Jun 12 // Darren Nakamura
The hands-on demo at E3 did not spend any time on the story behind Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, but presumably, the titular curse is the reason Kirby once again finds himself in ball form, stripped of his usual power to eat everything. Instead, I jumped straight into gameplay. Players have a limited bank of clay to create platforms with the stylus, and if Kirby touches one, he will follow the shape and direction of the drawn platform. The clay rainbow is a bit sticky, so Kirby can ride upside on it before launching off the end. I spent a bit of time (probably too much) just making him do loops, just for fun. What gives Rainbow Curse a bit of a challenge are smoky, colorless areas of a level that disallow any rainbow drawing inside. They do not harm Kirby in any way, so he can travel through them, but it requires adept use of his abilities to turn him into a projectile, or keen exploration to find another way to launch him using the environment. Used well, these could inject puzzle elements into what is otherwise more action-oriented. Speaking of the action, there are a few particularly satisfying sections that require the player to charge up Kirby's dash to get through, at which point he cascades through a sort of chain reaction, sending him bouncing around like a pinball. It had an almost Sonic-like feel to it, where speed and exploding clay are used as a reward for figuring out how to complete an objective. Taking the idea of a malleable substance like clay, Kirby has the ability to morph into other objects. The trailer showed him as a submarine, a rocket, and a tank, but I did not get to try any of those out first hand. If it is like Canvas Curse, Kirby gains those abilities by defeating particular enemies, but at this point it is not clear if that is the case. For the most part, we already knew what to expect from Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Really, Nintendo could have done nothing but release the image of clay ball Kirby riding on a rainbow, and it would have been enough for fans. What little I played was as much of a delight as I had expected, and the clay aesthetic is particularly suited to the Kirby franchise.
Kirby Wii U photo
Claymation in games will never get old
Nearly ten years ago, Kirby: Canvas Curse graced our original Nintendo DS handhelds, showing us (once again) that Kirby games could be about things other than floating around, ingesting bugs, and vomiting stars. Canvas Curse ...

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker takes the core idea and runs with it

Jun 12 // Darren Nakamura
Most of the Captain Toad levels in Super Mario 3D World stuck to one general format. They stuck to a small, self-contained cube, they required the player to view the level from all angles in order to solve, and the goal was to get all of the stars on a level. While a lot of the levels in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker stick to most of that, there are a few notable differences. Now, instead of just hunting stars, Captain Toad is looking for gems as well. To fully complete a level in Treasure Tracker, the player must collect all of the gems, then touch the star, but acquiring gems is optional for those who just want to get to the end. The other big difference is that the levels are expanded, both in size and in scope. Though Captain Toad still does his fair share of walking around slowly, he now engages in other activities as well. One level I played had him riding a mine cart and throwing turnips. Another shows him fending off a huge, fire-breathing dragon. The second level I got to try hands on was a haunted mansion. Touch control on the GamePad came into play, where certain chunks of the level could be moved by tapping on them. These pieces have doors on them that connect to other doors in the level, so the main part of the puzzle was figuring out how to arrange the movable parts in order to use the doors well. One particularly satisfying section has Captain Toad luring a pillar of goombas underneath a door, moving to it, and squashing them all in quick succession. Keeping with the standards set in Super Mario 3D World, Treasure Tracker is visually vibrant. Even now, a year and a half after the Wii U's launch, seeing Nintendo games in high definition is a treat. The format of Captain Toad lends itself to this end; with small, discrete levels, the variety in art direction can only benefit. So far, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is looking pretty good. Nintendo has announced that it will also be one of the first titles to use amiibo, but we do not know the particular functionality of it. Regardless, we can expect to track treasure with Captain Toad at the end of this year.
Captain Toad photo
But it still doesn't jump with it
Super Mario 3D World was fantastic, and one of the reasons was its incredible variety throughout. Captain Toad made his first playable appearance there, with his levels acting as a sort of palate cleanser between Mario's runn...

Turning yarn Yoshis into yarn balls in Yoshi's Woolly World

Jun 11 // Steven Hansen
[embed]276339:54384:0[/embed] I walked out a Sony appointment with not enough time (before my next appointment) to go back to the E3 press room, but enough time to play a game. "Is there anything here I want to play?" I wondered. Smash? Okay, Smash. I haven't held a GameCube controller in like five days. I need my fix. But everyone was playing Smash so I went and played Yarn Yoshi. Good decision. Yarn Yoshi is as delightful as it looks. The way yarn platforms give slightly under the weight of your jumps gives off such a peaceful fluidity, like a long string of yarn undulating in sin waves. Hitting a knitted basket to knock out a bunch of yarn ball eggs was cute. Accidentally tonguing my co-op partner and turning them into a red yarn ball egg with eyes was a double entendre laden mistake.  While it's a platformer, exploration and collection -- unraveling secret yarn paths and wrapping up platforms with yarn to gain access to further areas -- are a big part of Yarn Yoshi. You'll sometimes find yourself stuck, with no way to continue. In this case, you can start tossing yarn eggs around and try to uncover hidden items to help you continue. The level I played seemed rather accommodating and not too tough, though with the added flurry of a co-op partner also running around and doing things I did find myself dangerously low on hearts towards the end. It also might just be that they wanted something easy for public showing (the trailer had some more challenging seeming levels).  Yoshi's Yarn goes as all out with the yarn aesthetic as Tearaway did with papercraft. The result is cute as hell. Yoshi's little yarn feet turn into little wheels when he runs fast. I could die. Keep making games out of strange materials, Nintendo.
Hands-on: Yoshi's Yarn photo
As cute and good and nice as you expected
Yarn Yoshi is a pretty good name. Yoshi's Woolly World is an okay name. Yoshi's Yarn is a better name and what the game should've been called for the sake of alliteration and Yoshi's Story symmetry (a yarn is like a story!!!). I'm going to keep writing Yoshi's Woolly World as Yoshi's Yarn. Sorry.

Hands on with Splatoon, a very Nintendo competitive multiplayer shooter

Jun 11 // Darren Nakamura
Splatoon pits two teams of four players against one another, but rather than a competition for the most kills, the goal is to use a paint gun (think F.L.U.D.D. from Super Mario Sunshine) to cover the arena with as much of a particular color as possible. Naturally, the other team is trying to get its color on the floor and walls as well. From that simple setup, a few additions make things interesting. At will, combatants can morph from kid to squid, which removes the ability to apply color, but allows for paint regeneration and different movement options. When traversing through an area with one's own team's color, movement is faster, while moving through an enemy color slows a player down a considerable amount. If a player shoots an enemy team member enough, the target will explode, dropping a splat of the attacker's color over a good area. What results is a game that has no explicit class system, but allows players to more organically take on different roles. In order for respawning team members to get back into the fight more quickly, an unbroken chain of the team's color helps, so one player may choose to stay back and defend previously claimed territory. Conversely, those on offense may find it useful to sneak by and cut off the enemy team's reinforcements. The GamePad is used both for aiming control and as a minimap of the battlefield. Tapping on team member here will allow players to tactically jump to one another. It takes a bit of time to execute, so it probably cannot be used to escape a sticky situation, but it beats trudging through opposing color when the action is further ahead. I did have some trouble getting the hang of the controls. Rather than a straight dual-stick setup, aiming is done via the tilt sensor in the GamePad. The right stick does have camera control, but I found myself fighting with it to try to look where I wanted. Additionally, my years of console shooter conditioning hindered me every time I expected to jump with the bottom face button, only to have to take a few seconds to remember it is on top. I asked if the controls would be customizable, and the Nintendo representative showing Splatoon said that the E3 build was set, but that it is still in development and custom controls will probably make it in the final version. As a result of the tricky controls (and this is my excuse), our team lost pretty badly. One of the other tactical features touted in the promotional material is the use of upgraded weapons and items depending on paint coverage, but we did poorly enough that I did not get to see any of those. Still, Splatoon was a lot of fun, and surprisingly deep despite its simple premise. This is definitely one to watch for any who long for a good competitive shooter on the Wii U.
Splatoon photo
Spray some ink, turn into a squid, the usual
Two days ago, if you had told me that Nintendo was working on a competitive multiplayer third-person shooter, I would have thought you were crazy. Imagining Nintendo venturing into the territory of blood-spattered 360 no-scop...

Mario Maker will make a level designer out of you

Jun 11 // Dale North
It's incredibly easy to put a playable Mario stage together in Mario Maker. The Wii U pad's touchscreen lets you use the stylus to pick tiles to drag and drop into place on a gridded 2D playing field. Bricks can become staircases with a few taps, pipes can be resized by dragging, and moving platforms can even be programmed to move different directions, all through simple stylus taps. Enemies can be dragged into the scene just as easily. And when it's all done, simply set Mario's starting point, hit play, and begin running through your own creation. It all comes together so easily that you'll feel like a proper level designer in no time. But playing my first creation wasn't as fun as I thought it would be. There was no real challenge from my enemies or platform placements. It might as well have been a straight run forward. Going back in, I played with jump distances, making it so that only a running jump would make these gaps. I also hid enemies in the cracks where one might fall from a run. While creating these challenges, new ones sprung to mind. I thought about making it so that moving Koopa would fall at about the same time Mario would come across a certain point in a stage. I also liked the idea of somehow requiring the use of the springboard to make it to platforms. My second creation was certainly more interesting than the first, though I was still having more fun in the creation stage than in the play through. I love the idea of making something horribly difficult and then passing it along to a friend to have them try to complete it. I'm sure that's just one part of Nintendo's plan for Mario Maker. They're not prepared to share much more than we saw today. When we asked about social and sharing features, we were told that we'd have to wait for more details. They would at least say that more stages and props from other games are coming. This demo let us create and play in either classic NES Mario and New Super Mario Bros U modes, and the creations could easily be switched to be played in either mode. I'd love to see them get creative and add more sets from games like Super Mario Bros. 2 or even Super Mario Land.  But even as it was today, from what little I played, I could see me spending a lot of time creating stages in Mario Maker. I hope I get to share some of my stages with you soon. Details are light right now, but we know that Mario Maker will be coming to Wii U some time in 2015.
Mario Maker photo
That Mario Paint feel
Mario Maker is a drag-and-drop level creator, letting you use classic (and newer) Mario game tiles and props to create your own stages. I gave it a spin here at E3 to try to create the next great Mario stage. I found that while making your own stages is quite easy, making a truly fun one takes a bit more work.

Hyrule Warriors is more Warriors than Hyrule

Jun 11 // Dale North
In an E3 demo, I set out as Zelda, charging into the field with her sword and her lovely battle dress (she's so pretty!) against countless monsters. Zelda was easily able to cut through hoards of them with her fencing-like sword strikes. She's very fast, so much so that it took me a bit to get used to seeing the princess getting around as well as she was. I mowed through the crowds a bit until Impa came along to help thin things out. We found a treasure chest (Zelda fanfare music and all) that contained a bomb item that gave Zelda unlimited bomb tosses. These could be used to push back the mobs, but could also clear passageways filled with obstacles. Later, I picked up a power-up that had the bombs growing to several times their original size for about 15 seconds. They were really fun to throw into a crowd. Zelda worked her way to a central keep that she had to capture. The zone closed off, leaving Zelda a bit stranded, working to fend off a circle of baddies. Luckly, Link came in to help clear the keep out. Things were fine until a massive King Dodongo came crashing through the keep wall. Remember this boss from Ocarina of Time? This one has the same weakness: bombs. Tossing several into its mouth had him collapsing, leaving him open for more sword slashes. The demo wrapped up with Zelda using her finishing move, a glorious light arrow attack. Hyrule Warriors plays exactly like Dynasty Warriors. Really -- there's no difference at all. But it's enough for me that the details were held down by the Zelda side. Characters, enemies, settings, and even strategies came straight from Nintendo's camp, making for a more lighthearted hack-and-slash than I'm used to. I don't think there's a lot here that will surprise anyone, but there's more than enough here to make fans of either franchise pretty happy. Hyrule Warriors will release for Wii U on September 26th, 2014.
Hyrule Warriors  photo
But that's okay by me
You knew that upcoming Wii U title Hyrule Warriors would be a blend of Tecmo Koei's Dynasty Warriors and Nintendo's Legend of Zelda. But I'm here to tell you that the gameplay is much more like Dynasty Warriors than I thought it would be. Not that that's a bad thing. The Zelda side is like the yummy icing on the top.

The new Super Smash Bros. characters each bring a unique feel

Jun 11 // Darren Nakamura
The new characters that are being shown in the build at E3 are Wii Fit Trainer, Mega Man, Villager, Rosalina & Luma, Little Mac, and Greninja. Unfortunately, the recently announced Mii Fighters, Palutena, and Pac-Man were not available to play. Wii Fit Trainer is a little tough to get a handle on at first, but it seems even worse for her opponents. Due to the unusual positioning that results from her yoga-like maneuvers, her attacks sometimes hit in unexpected places. For instance, one has her kicking one leg out to one side, while simultaneously extending her arm in the opposite direction, resulting in a multidirectional attack that could catch less experienced players off guard. Otherwise, she is light and quick like Peach, but not as floaty. Mega Man was another character that took some getting used to, but for different reasons. The sheer breadth of his repertoire is a lot to take in, where most of his moves are taken from the special abilities gained by defeating other robot masters. He is fairly small compared to a lot of the other fighters, and somewhere in the middle as far as weight goes. Villager felt a bit heavier and slower than I was expecting. As a small, heavier character, she did not have quite the mobility that I prefer, excepting her up-special, which allows her to take to the sky a la Balloon Fight, floating much like Kirby or Jigglypuff do. Some of her attacks appeared to have a random component to them, where she would occasionally drop a bowling ball on other fighters, but often it would be something less imposing. Of all the newcomers on display at E3, Rosalina & Luma handily take the title for having the steepest learning curve. Since Rosalina and Luma are separate entities, they can move independently from one another, and over the course of the match, I did not intuitively grasp the exact mechanics behind it. Additionally, certain commands will have different results depending on whether Luma is near to or far from Rosalina. The duo certainly has a lot of potential to be devastating in combat, but it would have to be in the hands of an experienced player. In contrast, Little Mac has an almost nonexistent learning curve. He runs fast and hits hard, with few frills on top of that. His drawback is said to be his poor aerial ability, but that did not really affect me much. I was too busy dodging and weaving, then landing powerful punches to really notice. Even though I tend to favor the floatier characters, I think I may have found a new character to use as my main. In all, I had a blast in my time with Super Smash Bros. With the GameCube controller, it feels just like Smash should feel. Even after going through several matches to try out most of the new characters, I wished I could have kept on playing. This cannot release soon enough. http://www.destructoid.com//ul/276398-/Smash3-noscale.jpg
Super Smash Bros. photo
Dibs on Little Mac
Since the first game in the series, one of the most exciting aspects of the Super Smash Bros. series has been watching for the appearance of unexpected characters. Back then, it came in the form of unlockables, but it evolved...

Costume Quest 2 isn't for the hardcore, but it's for the hardcorn

Jun 02 // Brett Makedonski
This time around, the action's set to pick up almost immediately after the original's add-on Grubbins on Ice ended. While the timeline's a bit fuzzy at this point, one thing is evident, and it's that Reynold and Wren are eager to get back to what they love most - Trick or Treatin'. Beyond that, Rice was hesitant to reveal anything about the narrative, giving the frustratingly boilerplate "We're not talking about that yet." The demo took place in the game's first area, a bayou that segues into a French Quarter part of town. It was a sample size that was adequate to show off what it has to offer, and it was all so wonderfully Costume Quest. The bayou had a kid that wanted us to find pieces for a pterodactyl costume. The French Quarter was filled with bustling NPCs that were itching to assign sidequests as jazz music filled the air. Houses by the swamp had doorbells that were begging to be rang -- some occupied by adults that were dishing out candy, others by Grubbins looking to ambush our pint-sized protagonists. Upon being attacked, we got a look at how the combat system has been altered. While Double Fine's touting Costume Quest 2 as having a "deeper and juicier" battle system, don't expect that to translate to increased difficulty. One of the defining traits of Costume Quest that made it so beloved was its accessibility, and that hasn't changed -- it's just gotten tweaked a bit to make things more interesting. One of the biggest moves was lending itself toward making combat more action-oriented. Now, when attacked, a perfectly-timed button press will result in increased defense and a counter-attack. Likewise, when on the offensive, the original had prompts flash on-screen that needed to be executed. Costume Quest 2 utilizes a system reminiscent of Super Mario RPG where coordinating a button press to the exact moment a strike lands will result in extra damage. It's not the most revolutionary of upgrades, but it makes combat feel more involved than ever before. Of the many costumes that are sure to be on display in the full game (which is coming to PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Wii U, Mac, and Linux), we were only shown three. Two of those were a clown that has some truly bizarre animations, and a superhero. The third was a humorous salute to the unplayable candy corn costume in the first game. This time, you can wear it into battle, but it does absolutely nothing, effectively reducing the team size from three to two. Rice commented that the nod is for players looking for an extra challenge, and those that complete the whole game with the corn costume in the party will unlock an Achievement called "Hardcorn Mode." Truth be told, that feat probably won't be all that difficult to achieve. Even though health doesn't automatically replenish after every fight in this installment, there are water fountains located around each map that fill your party's HP up. When I asked Rice if these would be a pain to get to between encounters, he didn't think so, but that he always wants to try to get one more fight in before retreating to a fountain. However, maybe the most welcomed modification of all has to do with the traversal of the locales. In the original, only the robot was able to zoom around thanks to the use of rollerblades, leading most to play with that costume equipped at all times. Now, rollerblades are always available by default, making getting around much more convenient. That's probably a good thing too, because according to Rice, the maps are going to be bigger and more involved than in Costume Quest. For all the changes that are going into Costume Quest 2, honestly, the biggest takeaway might be that it still feels so much like Costume Quest. That's a revelation that any fan of the original will be elated to hear. And, if you fall into that category, Costume Quest 2 has probably already won your heart and your sweet tooth.
Costume Quest 2 preview photo
Mo' candy, mo' problems
If there's one thing that the folks at Double Fine aren't known for, it's being pigeon-holed into making the same game. In fact, almost all of its titles are wildly different from one another. From the likes of Brüt...

Sonic Boom plays pretty much exactly as I expected

Jun 02 // Brett Makedonski
I attempted the quick, zoomy level first because I knew that it'd be the one that felt the most like the Sonic that I knew. Unfortunately, it was the roughest around the edges. Sonic Boom isn't necessarily equipped to deal with fast camera changes and dexterity-dependent platforming, making this mode nothing more than an exercise in frustration. There were several paths to take along the way, each one leading to more or less rings. Every route I took was nothing more than blind luck, as it felt as if the level was a blur. It seems that to succeed at these, it'll take a lot of repetition and memorizing, because skill didn't seem as if it were a factor. Luckily, things started to look up a bit when I took on one of the campaign levels. Sonic Boom's supposedly geared more toward exploration and combat than platforming, and it showed. A taste of the combat came first, as Sonic and Knuckles tried their hand at melee attacking a group of enemies. There's a combo system in place that assigns letter grades based on performance, but it looks to only be based on number of hits and not variation of moves. Also in play is some sort of collectible currency (apart from rings) that go toward what I expect will be an upgrade system, but the developers were unwilling to talk about it at the time. While the fighting didn't feel terrible, it wasn't great either. Because of the relatively simple nature of the enemies, it was still easy to succeed, but in a way where I never felt completely in control of the fray. I couldn't put my finger on the reason why, but it may have had something to do with the depth perception, possibly stemming from the camera angles. Truth be told, the camera would be the biggest complaint of the entire demo, as it served as the biggest hindrance. Switching between characters and using their abilities to explore offshoots of the areas for extra collectibles was a fun exercise that added a twinge of cerebrality to the mix. However, often times, actually jumping to the necessary platforms was mostly an estimation, as the camera didn't give a correct frame of reference as to how far was needed to go. Mitigating this effect a bit is the inclusion of the EnerBeam, which acts as a whip that can latch onto certain attachments. This helps take the guess work out of some maneuvers, and adds a level of forgiveness. When not engaged in combat or exploring, Sonic Boom likes to bridge the gap with puzzles. The ones I saw were rather elementary, mostly using two characters in conjunction. It all worked fine enough in singleplayer, but I suspect that a cooperative partner would enhance this sensation exponentially. For what it's worth, during these puzzles, I found myself more interested in staring at the screen on the Wii U's GamePad than the television in front of me. I don't know what that might indicate, but it happened. By the time I reached the boss fight, I had a feeling for what Sonic Boom had to offer. The dust-up with Eggman featured him in a giant suit and shooting rockets which either crashed into Sonic and/or Knuckles, or came to rest on the ground. The goal was to pick up the undetonated ones and use the EnerBeam to fling them back at the evil doctor. It wasn't the most original take on a boss fight, but it wasn't bad. Actually, that was my experience with Sonic Boom in a nutshell. It's doesn't look as if it'll break any new ground, it doesn't look like it'll be Sonic's chance to reclaim his long-vacated throne, but it doesn't look like it'll be lousy either. Anyone that's forgiving enough to look past some of the obvious shortcomings might find an enjoyable experience underneath. Just know that you'll have to take the bad with the good.
Sonic Boom preview photo
Not great, not terrible
[Update: Apparently, just this morning, Sega decided to subtitle both Sonic Boom for Wii U and the upcoming Sonic 3DS game. Sonic Boom on Wii U is now Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, and the 3DS title is S...

Mario Kart 8: What's old is new and what's new is old

Apr 30 // Steven Hansen
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoRelease Date: May 30, 2014 Then there are two new items. The Crazy Eight is 8's Lucky Seven, flitting all the items around your person. The Super Horn promises maybe the biggest Mario Kart shake up in a while, which is funny in and of itself. Using it blasts a radial sound wave in all directions that will shake up nearby drivers but also destroy shells and other things that would otherwise mess you up. Yes, that includes the blue shell, if your timing is right. It's supposedly a rare and infrequent item. I got it twice in my first race and then never again in my next seven. It might be possible to up that frequency, however, as Mario Kart 8 gives you Smash Bros. levels of parameter setting. You can choose green shells only or bananas only or red shells only. You can even change the frequency of powerful item drops and have a race filled with blue shells and lightning strikes. You can also restrict kart types. [embed]273929:53681:0[/embed] This customization extends to the new online Tournament Mode. You can create a tournament, give it a name and set the parameters: teams or no teams; tournament duration and frequency; controller restrictions (for example, Wii U gamepad only), and so on. Then, it doles out a lengthy code number you can give to friends to help them find it. You can also freely (without numbers) just join up into active tournaments. Another online addition is Mario Kart TV, which, miraculously, lets you upload (short) clips straight to YouTube (through your own YouTube account). Your last 12 races are automatically recorded and there's a mild editing suite to choose how you want to share your matches. It doesn't pull from straight gameplay, but records everything that happens in a match and then shows it off with tighter camera angles not too dissimilar from how the auto-race looks while you're waiting for other people to finish. You can choose which racers to focus on (by default, it just shows highlights of you), what events to focus on (items or drifting or big hits), and how long of a highlight reel to make. Full race recordings won't be able to go to YouTube, but can be uploaded to the Mario Kart 8 Miiverse. 30, 45, and 60 second clips can go directly to YouTube. While making new things out of the familiar, Mario Kart 8 also makes the familiar feel foreign. Courses stick to the underwater and gliding shtick from Mario Kart 7, with the addition of disorienting gravity sections that see you driving perpendicular to the ground. And this commitment holds up in the modernized versions of past stages, which have been, in large chunks, redesigned to accommodate these new gameplay modes. It's a bit uncanny to see stages once taken as muscle memory trip you up with these non-traditional racing bits. It's different and weird and loud, but it's probably the way to go when you can't count on the Mario Kart fans of the last 20 years to sustain the series. And committing to these sections fully also has them appear in shorter bursts and feel more cohesive than in Mario Kart 7, which sort of felt like, "okay, here's this long, tedious water bit." Plus there's a stage called Electrodome which, despite not (unfortunately) being related to Videodrome, gave me an interesting mental image for a Cronenberg Mario Kart. Mario Kart 8 might not be that, but it's obvious that Nintendo is totally comfortable with transitioning the series into something much more colorful and frenetic. Yes, it is Mario Kart, but it does feel a bit different. Maybe all that pretty bloom lighting is just messing with my eyesight.
Mario Kart 8 newness photo
What if you could counter the blue shell?
Mario Kart 8 has unveiled two "new" characters. They are Baby Rosalina and Pink Gold Peach. What the heck, right? You're probably rolling your eyes at the lack of surprise with Baby Rosalina (who's joining Baby Mario, Luigi, ...

The next Skylanders borrows a little from the Pokemon series

Apr 23 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Skylanders Trap Team (3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [previewed], Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Toys for Bob (last-gen) / Beenox (current-gen, 3DS)Publisher: ActivisionRelease: October 5, 2014MSRP: $74.99 (Game, Portal, figure, two Traps) The story sees Invader Zim Chaos trying to take over Skylands ... again. This time, however, he's going to enlist a group of villains trapped in a prison made out of Traptanium, the hardest material known to Skylanders. Chaos' plan works, sort of -- he's able to free the villains, but they all just escape instead of joining up with him. Enter the Trap Masters, the main draw of Trap Team. These Skylanders are bigger than normal core characters, but not as big as the Giants. The Trap Masters are skilled with all things Traptanium, and all their weapons are made out of the substance, shown off as see-through crystals in the game and the toys themselves. There's going to be around 50 new Skylanders, made up of a mix of these Trap Masters, new core characters, and reposed fan-favorite Skylanders. And of course all the previous Skylanders, Giants, and Swap Force heroes will work in Trap Team. Now here's the surprise, there's going to be over 40 playable villains as well that you'll have to physically capture, so to speak. "Pretty much the biggest thing we've done is this idea of constantly innovating," executive producer Jeff Poffenbarger told Destructoid. "Bringing toys to life was the first initial big innovation. We can certainly just continue to do that, but for us we asked ourselves 'What would even take that a step further?' We know we can bring toys to life ... but we also wanted to figure out how to reverse that magic. So you can bring toys to life, but how do we bring life to toys?" All of the escaped villains can be converted over to your team. Take them on, defeat them, and then capture them in a new special crystal toy. So yeah, kind of like Pokemon. Once an enemy has been defeated, players are told to insert a special crystal into the new version of the Portal of Power. It's actually a really cool effect, as the audio from the TV gets outputted into the Portal itself (and vice-versa) as they get sucked in and out of the adventure. Villains will also give you feedback, help, and advice from the Portal when not in use. One of the first major bosses is called Chompy Mage (pictured in the lead image), a crazy old guy who fights with a sock puppet on his hand (kind of like the Ventriloquist from the Batman series.) He can summon little tiny monsters, and later in the battle he'll transform into this giant jumpy gross monster thing. After he joins your team, all the power sets he used on you are now yours. While some villains are powerful in this way, there will be some with more passive abilities. One example shown was a mini-boss troll that can use a gun to freeze opponents. He can't really do damage, just freeze enemies. Those playing by themselves can actually hotswap between a Skylander and a villain with the press of the button to take advantage of this ability. Or say a parent can play as the ice troll to let their kid be more of the main star in the game. Traditional co-op with multiple Skylanders is still in the game too. So a cool concept, but here's where it gets kind of dumb. You can only save one villain into a Trap toy at a time. That I kind of don't have a problem with. You can at least store villains at a new hub location so you can swap villains in and out as desired into a crystal. The dumb part is that the Trap toys are all elemental based. So you can only store an ice based villain inside of an ice Trap toy, for example. My main concern is that this is going to get more expensive for fans than ever before. I'm just hoping the Trap Hero toys will include their respective Trap toy too. Plus these things are tiny compared to even the tiniest Skylander figure, and could potentially get lost really easily. Collectors be warned: There will be multiple variants of the Trap toys themselves as well. That said, you don't have to capture the villains, just like how you don't need all of the elemental types of Skylanders to beat the games. So what happens if you don't want to -- or just can't -- capture a villain after defeating them? Toys for Bob is still figuring that out, having kids and adults of all ages try out the game to find the best solution for everybody. Otherwise players can expect similar approaches to the mini-games, competitive multiplayer, the cross-platform saves, and the return of the jump mechanic from the past games. The visuals are just as gorgeous as ever, especially on the current generation of hardware. You know how you've always wished that the CG sequences from a game was what you were actually playing? That's Trap Team, essentially. The great visuals extend down to the toys themselves too, looking more detailed than ever. So yeah, Skylanders Trap Team. If you're a fan of the series, you already know you'll be picking this one up. I did want to make some special mentions of other playable characters before you leave. There's Chopper, a new core hero who's a little tiny T-rex with a helicopter rotor on its back. It can fly in the air and shoots swarms of missiles like it was straight out of Robotech. Then there's a duo team of villain trolls who control a walking chainsaw tank. Just let that visual sink into your head. Also SPOILERS Chaos himself is playable.
Skylanders Trap Team photo
Skylanders Trap Team has you capturing and reforming villains to your team
The developers at Toys For Bob are back in the saddle with Skylanders Trap Team, the next entry in their hit toys-meet-videogame franchise. This time the hook involves you capturing villains and enslaving brainwashing reform...

Seven things I loved about playing Watch Dogs

Apr 23 // Alessandro Fillari
Watch Dogs (PS3, PS4 [Previewed], PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U (Q4 2014))Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: May 27, 2014Set in the city of Chicago, Watch Dogs lands players in the role of Aiden Pierce, a gifted and resourceful hacker with a some serious baggage. After a failed assassination attempt on his life leaves a family member dead, he embarks on a vendetta across Chicago to find out who was responsible. Utilizing his hacking skills to use Chicago's city wide surveillance and service operations system, ctOS, Aiden bends the city to his will to root out the culprits, while keeping an eye on the citizens and suspects at large.1. The Windy CityThere aren't too many games set in the city of Chicago. As vast and dense as it is, you'd think there would be more games having players explore the city streets. So that's why it's a refreshing sight to see an open world title plant its feet in the Windy City as it's known. While of course it's not designed to scale, they do capture many of the familiar locales and attractions of Chicago -- from Millenium Park, Navy Pier, and many of the iconic skyscrapers -- the developers at Ubisoft wanted to set a title in a city that wasn't too often visited by games."[Chicago] feels fresh, the autumn, the setting," Belanger told Destructoid. "The architecture is both modern and old, and this creates a visual richness. Also, the surveillance system in Chicago is one of the most advanced in the U.S. Narratively, in terms of organized and population density, it give credibility for our story."Don't expect to stay in the city and suburbs of Chicago for the entire game, however. Aiden's missions will sometimes take him out of town to the local wilderness, away from the heavy traffic and dense ctOS infrastructure. This also presents interesting situations where players will have to rely on their other core skills, such as driving, shooting, crafting, and a little less on the hacking.2. The Brooding HackerEvery conspiracy thriller needs a central character, and Watch Dogs has got it with Aiden Pierce. Looking to find the man responsible for the assassination attempt on his life, Aiden Pierce will hack, shoot, drive, and amass resources to find the answers. Known as "The Vigilante" around the city, he's got the skills to track, hunt, and fight his prey on the streets of Chicago, all while keeping a low profile using the ctOS to his advantage. Along the way, Aiden Pierce will meet other hackers and dangerous individuals who will either hinder or assist him in his vendetta. While collecting resources and funds, players will be able to acquire new weaponry, spend skill points to boost his core skills such as combat, driving, hacking, and crafting abilities, and spend cash to get new vehicles and clothing (over 40 different options). When worse comes to worst, Aiden's no slouch in terms of combat. Wielding a baton and an assortment of firearms and gadgets, he'll take down waves of gangsters and cops who want him out of the picture.3. Hack The PlanetObviously, hacking your environment is the name of the game in Watch Dogs, and the developers at Ubisoft Montreal have pulled out all the stops to allow players full access to the city infrastructure. With the press of a button, players can manipulate city services to their whim, take control of security systems for intel, and even take out enemies with clever environmental manipulation. As you rank up and acquire more resources, you can invest in new upgrades for your hacking skills, which can open up even more opportunities. If you think causing traffic accidents was interesting, wait until you set off an explosion from a steam pipe underneath a busy street, or cause a mass blackout across the city. The level interaction is vast, and Watch Dogs offers an impressive amount of freedom for players.4. Walk around the right corner, and you can find anythingOne aspect of Watch Dogs that I really admire is that the people in this open world actually matter. In other open world titles, NPCs are mostly just cannon fodder or walking dummies to humiliate, maim, and otherwise ignore. While you can still grief and be a menace to the in-game society of Watch Dogs, it's good to remember that the citizens of Chicago all have identities. They have names, occupations, quirks, the list goes on. While this isn't to make you feel bad about harming them, it does highlight the reach you have when utilizing ctOS. Having information on a whole city brings you many different opportunities."The goal was to have a lot of density," said Belanger while discussing the opportunity players have at their disposal. "There's gameplay in every street corner. Those people, you can unlock side-content, story -- it's about fulfilling that fantasy of surveillance. We didn't want to gamify it, we wanted to make it a choice for players."Aiden's phone can tap into the devices of people in the city, and from there you have an all access look into their lives. While many of the options you have are purely voyeuristic, such as listening to calls and reading text messages, there are cases where you are presented with a choice. In one instance, I came across a woman on the street who was recently diagnosed with a disease. When I looked deeper into her data profile, I ended up stealing about $1,200 from her bank account. I immediately felt bad about it, but these newly acquired funds went to paying for my new gun, and then I moved on to the next person. The best part about this instance is that these tiny moments of narrative are scattered across the whole city. Some are minor, but others can pull you into something bigger with serious consequences.5. Mess with the Best, Die like the Rest (Multiplayer)As seen back in the E3 2012 reveal, Watch Dogs takes a very fluid and blended approach to multiplayer. After reaching a certain point in the story, Aiden will be able to contact and come into conflict with other hackers. Just like him, they have access to ctOS and high powered phones to bend the city to their will. If you haven't guessed, the other hackers are actually other players, and at any time they can invade your game to either steal vital information and resources, or simply eliminate you as a threat.This asynchronous approach to multiplayer makes things fluid and feel natural, and it all ties back to your primary resources and skills. Instead of playing as a fresh-faced wannabe hacker, you'll be playing as Aiden online. Of course to avoid confusion, others online will see you as a regular NPC that blends into the crowd. During my time online, I stalked another player to steal vital information from him. While he was aware of my presence in the game space, they didn't know where I was. I stalked the guy in my muscle car, stole his intel remotely via my phone, and made my getaway while he was none the wiser. I felt pretty sneaky, and I made out with a hefty amount of EXP to rank up. But then that excitement faded as I was invaded by the same guy minutes later. He T-boned my car at an intersection and filled me up with bullets from an assault rifle. It's good to remember that revenge is also an option in the online mode. But of course, if you're not up for facing other online, you can decline the in-game prompts or disable the online mode altogether.6. The devious power of a Companion AppMuch like other recent titles, there will be a free companion app for mobile devices called ctOS - Mobile. Wait, before you scroll down to the next point, just hear me out. ctOS - Mobile isn't just a simple app that relays supplementary data about the game as it also functions as an extension of the multiplayer experience. With your tablet device synced to your game, a friend can challenge you to a special ctOS - Mobile match. During these special scenarios, players in-game can either race against the clock across Chicago, or face off against waves of enemies, while the person with the tablet has complete control of the in-game ctOS infrastructure. This may all sound simple, and sorta gimmicky, but I can say that this mode felt very different from the traditional multiplayer. It felt way more devious and cruel, in fact. With control of ctOS, the player with the tablet can lay traps and swarm players in game to the point of exhaustion. During a racing mission, I was having a pretty pleasant time, but after the player on the tablet got the hang of the system and acquired more resources to spend on ctOS operations, I was running into barricades left and right while being swarmed by Chicago police. It felt exhausting and pretty scary to be on the receiving end. Moreover, players with ctOS - Mobile can taunt those in game by hacking into electronic signs and leaving messages. Much like the multiplayer features, the ctOS - Mobile game mode is entirely optional.7. Strange Days have found usIf you've been following this game in the last few months, then you probably saw a picture of a giant robot spider running around Chicago. Don't worry, Watch Dogs won't jump the shark or go Indigo Prophecy on you. Throughout Chicago, Aiden can take a break from busting up gang hideouts and uncovering conspiracies to unwind and expand his resources and skills by taking part in optional missions and games. Some of which are secret poker matches, street races, and even a clever take on Alternate Reality games, which task players with collecting holographic coins or shooting holographic space aliens in the streets of Chicago. "We wanted to support the fantasy of having a phone, and playing alternate reality games was a part of that," Belanger stated while discussing the colorful side missions. "It's an homage to older games, but it's also a lighter side -- even though the tone of the story is serious, we wanted to show that it was still a game. They fit the story, in the sense."Now, here's where things get strange. Across Chicago, there are sly merchants that sell "Digital Trips," which are special VR missions that Aiden can undertake. Not to be confused with the AR games, these missions are instanced and task players with goofy and bizarre challenges. Such as controlling a giant mecha spider as it rampages across Chicago, or another mission that's a nod to Carmageddon, where you get behind the wheel of a demonic car and mow down possessed humans across a hellish version of Chicago. This all may sound really odd and not in keeping at all with the game's tone, and that's OK. In the thematic sense, they help to illustrate the divide and detachment we have with reality because of our reliance on technology, which is in keeping with the game's central story. But in regards to game design, it's just good ol' dumb fun. And that's fine by me.Well, those are the things I really dug with Watch Dogs. Unfortunately, things weren't all great in the Windy City. Despite the fun I had with messing other players and the citizens of Chicago, I still found a few issues that bothered me. Many of them are purely technical, such as the unusually long load times, which are painful after failed missions -- but also how clunky platforming and free-running abilities feel. It feels like a scaled down version of Assassin's Creed, to be totally honest. This is especially troubling when meeting some objectives that require you to run to specific marks and make certain climbs. The accuracy for the traversal just isn't there. Of course, the big concern is the obvious visual downgrade. There was a bit of controversy last month about how different the game looked after its appearances at E3. Unfortunately, I can say that the game does look a bit off the mark with what was shown at E3. Moreover, the draw distances of assets can be somewhat of an annoyance, as you'll see cars and people phase in and out at a somewhat short distance. Don't get me wrong, though -- the game still looks pretty and runs very well. I was playing the PlayStation 4 version and the title runs at a solid 30FPS with little to no drops, and it looks very smooth in action. But, I'm still a bit disappointed to see how it doesn't quite reach those same visually heights we were originally shown.But in any event, I still came away quite impressed with what I played in Watch Dogs. I had my reservations at first, I assumed this would be more Assassin's Creed than anything else, but I found myself pretty intrigued with being a sneaky hacker in a city full of possibility. The attention to detail is strong, and the amount of content packed into the vast cityscape is impressive. With apparently over 30 hours of single-player content, in addition to the full potential of online multiplayer, there's a certainly a lot to uncover. It's a long time coming, and I'm definitely looking forward discovering how far Watch Dogs takes things when it comes out next month.
Watch Dogs preview photo
And a few things that I didn't love
The delay of Ubisoft Montreal's new open world IP, Watch Dogs, surprised many. With only a month away from launch, and a rather bold marketing push for the holiday season, Ubisoft appeared ready, but then we found it wasn't. ...

Child of Light is a return to classic JRPG wonder

Apr 03 // Alessandro Fillari
Child of Light (PS3, PS4, PC [Previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U)Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: April 30, 2014Set in 1895 Austria, the story of Child of Light focuses on a young girl by name of Aurora. Born into royalty and daughter of the Duke, Aurora one day contracts an illness and falls into a deep sleep. Upon waking, she finds herself alone and in an unknown land not of this world. When she meets a mysterious firefly named Igniculus, she sets out on a journey to return to her own world, while restoring the balance within the mysterious new land she finds herself in.Child of Light takes players across a bizarre and ethereal landscape filled with danger and curious individuals in need of help. Blending together classic JRPG gameplay with platforming and exploration reminiscent of games in "Metroidvania" style, players will traverse the land in search of answers, while battling foes looking to cause harm to Aurora and her friends. Speaking with Jeffrey Yohalem, lead writer for Child of Light and also Far Cry 3, he talked about influences from classic fiction and role playing games, the themes of escapism and unity, and surprisingly, how Child of Light has many parallels with Far Cry 3. "I grew up reading fantasy books, The Black Cauldron, The Great King, Narnia Chronicles, the OZ books...I love stories of people who wandered into other worlds, these secret spaces in our home and our woods," said writer Jeffrey Yohalem. "And to me, this was an opportunity, a once in a lifetime opportunity I think, and I jumped at the chance to make it."The art style of Child of Light takes many influences from classic storybooks, artwork, and animated films from our youth. Using the UbiArt engine, the same technology used by Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends, the game artists were able to bring their concept art and original designs and implemented them directly into the game. Because of this, translation into actual in-game assets wasn't required and it allowed for the developers to work straight off the artist's concept work to create a more pure and cohesive visual aesthetic.And does this game look stunning. I was an admirer of the art style from Rayman Legends, and the same tech is used even more effectively here. As Child of Light is more about exploration and traversal, you'll be able spend more time and admire the visuals. While I was only playing the first few hours, I saw a number of environments that took place in dense forests, ancient ruins, caves, and a seemingly abandoned town populated by crows wearing top hats. The visuals look mesmerizing and dense, and it goes to show that 2D graphics are in a league of their own.As a narrative focused game, Child of Light focuses on Aurora's journey and how she grows as an individual. While at first she believes her adventure to be a dream, it eventually becomes something real to her and shapes her as a person. Yohalem wrote Child of Light as a critique on escapism within fiction, but also as a tale of the hypnotic pull of nostalgia. And strangely enough, his previous title Far Cry 3 share many parallels with this new one. "Far Cry 3 was also like that. That island could be a real place, but we turned it into a very surreal place, you know that it doesn't quite exist -- it could be like an episode of The Twilight Zone," said Yohalem while discussing the theme of escapism. "Far Cry 3 was sort of punk [in reference to its critique on escapism], in that it's an attack on escapism. Child of Light is sort of a hopeful proposal. Here's what a game could be, in that it is worth loving, that there's more to life than addiction ."When exploring, Aurora can jump, fly, and dodge enemies in the field, while finding treasure chests and other secrets located around the landscape. Also, your ally Igniculus can be controlled by the right stick, mouse, or by another partner with a second controller. Co-op play focuses on controlling Igniculusm who can interact with the environment and restore Aurora's abilities. The firefly can emit a powerful light that can heal Aurora's wounds, open locked chests, activate switches, and even stun enemies. However, when the enemy gets the upper hand, you'll have to do battle.While Aurora is a stranger in a strange land, she's still more than capable of looking out for herself and going toe-to-toe with foes. With the help of Igniculus and other party members she meets on her journey, she'll gain power and resources to take down whatever obstacle is in front of her.The battle system takes many different influences from classic JRPG title such as Final Fantasy and Grandia. Battles are turn based, and actions and turns are determined by a single time gauge on the bottom of the screen. There are two phases, Wait and Act. During Wait, character and enemy icons move across the time bar to reach the Act phase, and when it's your turn to Act, you can select a move and engage. Timing is everything during battles, and while they're not twitch based, you'll have to think ahead and plan your moves in advance. During the Act phase you can prepare a move and your character will ready up -- but if an enemy attacks you during Act, your move will be cancelled and it will send you back to the Wait phase. Of course, you can take advantage of this as well to cancel enemy moves. There are a variety of different physical attacks, magic, items, and special skills -- but they each have their own unique charge period during act. So you must choose your move wisely. Winning battles will earn you experience points, and getting enough exp will level your characters. When you level up, you acquire skill points which can be used to unlock new moves on each of the character's unique skill trees. You can augment character strength, magic power, defense, acquire new moves, and much more. The trees are fairly dense, it'll likely take awhile to unlock everything. But wait, your character augmentation doesn't end there. Over the course of the game you'll acquire Oculi, which are small gems and crystals. Many of these Oculi possess elemental and stat boosting properties that can buff your weapons and armor. Moreover, you can combine and mix different Oculi to create special rare types with special boosts to your characters. This all may sound complex, but I assure you it is not. The game eases you into the combat and character growth nicely, and even newcomers to the genre will be able to pick it up right away. If anything, combat feels a bit too easy. Even though it was still early in my adventure, I was clearing through enemies and bosses with no trouble at all.Moreover, players can even use Igniculus during fights, much like how they would in the field, to stun and slow enemies in battle. To be honest, it was very easy to take advantage of it by slowing a rather strong enemy's charge on the time gauge, and cancel his moves at the right time. Thankfully, Child of Light features a hard mode, which significantly buffs up the combat. Fans of the genre will likely want to start off with this mode.It's safe to say that Child of Light might be seen as somewhat of an unusual title coming from such a big name publisher. Of course, there's the stigma of big publishers not caring too much about small titles that go for something a bit different, but Yohalem spoke very highly of the publisher and the experience. "Ubisoft has just been so supportive of what we wanted to do. They've been really hands off and supportive of this title, every bit of writing for this game was exactly how I wanted it to be and what I intended it to be," said Yohalem. "But it's also frightening, and I think you do your best work in that situation. You have to make sure every idea has been looked at all sides by everyone. I'm really proud of Ubisoft and what the team created."I came away from Child of Light very surprised, and intrigued. It was a game that was definitely seeking to recall elements of nostalgia and wonder from our youth, but at the same time bringing a perspective imbued with wisdom and insight that comes from age. While I did have some issues with the difficulty, and particularly some troublesome technical glitches that caused some annoying stuttering during cutscenes and battles, I still feel there's a lot to admire about this title. It's definitely something that will stick out in Ubisoft's current 2014 lineup, as they've got a number big budget titles set for release. But I tell you, it's very refreshing to see so much faith in a title that's got so much charm and heart.
Child of Light preview photo
An epic tale of nostalgia
Last year, the news of Ubisoft making an old-school throwback to the JRPG genre took a number of people by surprise. When Destructoid got the chance to check it out, there was a healthy amount of curiosity around it. Not too ...

Mario Kart 8 is stunning and fierce in HD

Apr 03 // Alessandro Fillari
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoRelease Date: May 30, 2014Picking up where Mario Kart 7 left off, and pretty much where all the others did too, the various characters, creatures, and other residents of the Mushroom Kingdom once again compete in a series of races to decide who's the best kart racer in all the land. Along with the returning roster, Bowser's Koopalings (from Super Mario World ) are all fully playable and help to expand the large and diverse lineup. Moreover, characters missing from the last title (such as Baby Peach and Baby Daisy) are also reintroduced.As the first Mario Kart title on the Wii U, and in HD, the developers were able to take advantage of the new technology to really flesh out and expand upon the classic Mario aesthetic. As with Super Mario 3D World, the HD visuals here really make the familiar Mario art style pop. The graphics are crisp, detailed, and very dense in design, and not to mention this game runs at a rock solid 60FPS and at 720p -- which not only benefits the gameplay, but also the visuals. While they are a wonder to look at, there were times the visuals felt a bit too busy and got distracting. Not too often, but there were moments where they might've went a bit overboard with the bloom and flashing lights. With that said, it still looks stunning in motion, and these screenshots don't do this title justice.As seen in the previous entry, verticality played a big impact on races with the hang-glider attachment and how you could clear gaps and soar over other racers. In MK8, they've expanded upon this in a big way by including actual vehicle transformation to take advantage of new terrain and pathways on the courses. Each track features multiple pathways and routes, and some of these will call for a change of vehicle. Some tracks feature underwater routes, gliding, and the brand new anti-gravity tracks -- and there's even a few that throw in every possible option. As you've likely seen from the various trailers and screenshots, anti-gravity is a big focus on the races, and many of the tracks will have racers swooping across the course sideways, upside down, and any other way you can think of. At first, it was a bit jarring transitioning to anti-grav mode, but I really got into it after a lap or so. Not only that, racing strategy changes up quite a bit. During this phase you have to keep momentum, and knocking into racers is a great way to get a speed boost. Racers who aren't usually aggressive will learn quickly that you'll have to get mean to get ahead. As you can imagine, anti-grav tracks can get pretty hectic, as you're going through loops, twists, and other turns, racers are going with the flow while beating into each other to eek out a speed boost. It was pretty crazy, and these moments offer the most intense moments Mario Kart racing has ever been.One of the most impressive features of Mario Kart 8 is the robust customization options. As in past games, you can deck out and customize each of the karts to fit your tastes and preferences. You can switch out to different karts and motorcycles that focus on speed, power, or handling, and can even swap out wheel types to fit whatever track you plan to race on. In MK8, they takes things a bit further by allowing players to mix and match different parts, chassis, wheels, and the like from different racers. Want to have Toad on a more level playing field with the other heavy hitters? Then deck out his vehicle with a heavy frame. A staple of the Mario Kart series is having courses from previous titles return, and MK8 hasn't held out on fans one bit. Tracks such as Moo Moo Meadows, Mario Circuit, Cheep Cheep Beach, Toad's Turnpike, and Rainbow Road (N64 version) are playable in Mario Kart 8. To take advantage of the new visuals and gameplay, many of these courses have been altered -- for the better. For instance, Toad's Turnpike now has anti-grav tracks, which presents interesting opportunities for players. During my race, I used the anti-grav tracks to overtake my rivals, while avoiding heavy traffic and hopping across a series of trucks to gain the lead. Many of these tracks feel new, and the gameplay additions make me curious what else has changed for the other retro tracks. In addition to the new racing gameplay, Nintendo has also expanded player profile options and online play. As you can expect, MK8 features online races, leaderboards, and many other features to give players access to constant competition. In addition to this is the new Mario Kart TV feature. After the end of each race, your best moments are saved and shown to you in a highlight reel. And these aren't simple gameplay captures, your finest acts are shown in dramatic and epic fashion, with snazzy camera angles and fancy editing thanks to the Lakitu Bros., who man the cameras during every race. Many of these moments feature quick shots of players performing cool stunts, epic takedowns with powerups, and last minute victories. Of course, if players are particularly proud of a moment or the whole highlight reel, you can save and share them with friends. While Nintendo was a bit tight lipped about what else MKTV offers, what I've seen so far looks to be very interesting, and should make online and co-op play even more satisfying.One thing that I really appreciate is the attention to detail. Throughout each race, there were callbacks and references to everything in Mario and Nintendo lore. It felt like a giant, and pardon the cliche, love letter to the whole series. I'll be honest, I haven't been this jazzed with a Mario Kart title in a long time, and playing this title made me really look forward to seeing more.It sounds like I'm gushing, I know, but I was completely taken with it. I'm not much of a racing fan, so I was always appreciative of the Mario Kart series for giving me something accessible. As brief as it was, this hands-on time showed that the series hasn't lost its touch one bit.
Mario Kart 8 hands-on photo
I haven't been this jazzed with a Mario Kart title in a long time
As an institution within the videogame racing genre, Mario Kart has always been an example of what arcade style racing is all about. Focusing on simple, pick up and play gameplay, while still offering high level skill based ...

Chariot is a great indie platformer with one royal hook

Mar 25 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]272106:53126:0[/embed] That's easier said than done though, because it turns out the king is kind of high maintenance. (What king isn't, I guess?) He's more concerned with being buried with as much wealth as possible rather than actually being laid to rest. Each level features a ton of jewels and treasure to try to collect in an effort to appease him. This accumulation of fortune won't go uncontested, however. There are enemies that ambush you with the sole intent of taking whatever you've earned thus far; you won't die from enemies in Chariot. While you have attacks to fend them off, killing them won't be your aim. As executive producer Martin Brouard put it "you just want to get the hell out of there." Aiding your efforts to find treasure, fight off monsters, and navigate your way through the levels is the inclusion of gadgets. One gadget can be selected per level, each of them performing different, yet vital functions. The Canary attracts and blows up enemies, the Peg holds your rope for a few seconds, the Attractor pulls everything closer, and the Repulsor pushes everything away. Just because any particular level has an easily identifiable way to the exit doesn't necessarily mean it's the best path to take. Exploration leads to increased wealth and introduces some varied mechanics. For instance, life paths can only be touched by the characters, meaning that the king's casket will dangle precariously underneath. Conversely, death rails can only be touched by the coffin, leaving the characters to swing from its ropes below.  However, the mechanic that is going to ultimately define Chariot is the way that it treats co-op play. Players can have a solo go at the game, but according to Brouard, only about 80 percent of it can be beaten alone. To finish it, you will need a partner. It's worth noting that Brouard made mention that seriously skilled players will be able to complete Chariot by themselves through unique manipulation of the platforming environment, but this won't be the standard case. Compounding the issue, Chariot only offers offline co-op play, so those with no one interested in joining will have a tough time. I can't help but wonder how wise of a design decision this is. It seems like an unnecessarily high barrier to entry, and that's before considering that some people may buy the game not knowing that condition exists. Regardless, it's sort of admirable that Frima Games is sticking to its guns and crafting the experience that it wants to make. All in all, Chariot looks like it's shaping up to be a wonderful platformer for Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Wii U. The adventure is designed to be a grand one to share. You just better make sure you have a willing friend lined up.
Chariot photo
You get couch co-op whether you like it or not
[Update: Frima Studios has reached out and informed us that it miscommunicated its statement about not being able to clear the game solo. The game can be beaten singleplayer, but only about 80 percent of the optional&nbs...

Hyper Light Drifter is gorgeous and punishing

Mar 18 // Alessandro Fillari
Hyper Light Drifter is a 2D action-RPG title with a deep focus on exploration and combat. Players take on the role of an unnamed Drifter who must raid dungeons, collect loot, and try to survive in the unforgiving landscape. As seen in many of the trailers, HLD places emphasis on atmosphere and mood. We explored a level on an eerie mountain pass as we made our way to a suspicious shrine at the top. Along the way, we were ambushed by local wildlife and magic users. The Drifter has many skills at his disposal, his sword and gun combo allow for swift action close range and at a distance.Heart Machine wasn't shy about sharing its influences. The Legend of Zelda, Diablo, and even the more modern Phantasy Star Online have been a massive influence on the gameplay aesthetic and makeup. It is a skill based game that focuses more on player reflex, timing, and quick thinking. While the staples of RPG gameplay are present, such as character growth and stat boosts, the game is about skill at heart. "I think a lot of people miss this genre in specific, they love older top down SNES titles," said Lead Designer Alex Preston while elaborating on the combat system. "It's much more about honing your skills. In fact, we've actually built the entire game to allow players [if they want] to not upgrade your character." As evident in the footage released some time ago, the action is very fast and twitch based. Controls were simple and responsive, and you'll be utilizing the Drifter's weapons and special skills on the fly. Initially, players will come across single foes that don't pose too much of a problem -- but then things change when you come face to face with enemies in large groups. And let me tell you, things get incredibly chaotic when fighting ten or more foes looking to take the Drifter out. The key to combat is staying on the move, and the dodge mechanic allows players to move in and out of the action with ease. While this wasn't present in the playable build, exploration is big part of the game and the developers at Heart Machine wanted to make player choice a big part of the experience. The Drifter will have access to a town hub, where he can purchase new equipment, restock on materials, and take up quests from the town's populace. While this my call to mind classic tropes from Zelda or Metroid, the developers were very clear about making the game open. "We're keeping it pretty open, we're not going to lock players behind too many item walls or anything like that," said Preston. "There's no order of dungeons you have to go to, so if you want to head north, south, east, or west -- you can do that." Even though it's still a ways off, Hyper Light Drifter has already garnered a loyal following beyond its Kickstarter backers. After the announcement of their delay, they received a lot of positive feedback from fans. "We can't be thankful enough of the fans," said Preston. "When we delayed the game from our initial June release date, they were very positive and wanted the best for the game. It's crazy that we have fans, we couldn't be more grateful for all the support." With Hyper Light Drifter still a ways off, the folks at Heart Machine still have plenty of time to fine tune and add more content. I was quite impressed with my brief time with the game. I wanted to try another go, but the line got pretty long and I had to let go. This game can't come out soon enough.
Hyper Light Drifter photo
Developers of Retro Action-RPG talk influnces and development
In recent times it seems as though games in 'retro-style' are on the rise. Perhaps this is nostalgia at work for a bygone era of gaming, or maybe there's an endearing spirit and honesty from gaming's past that still...

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: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (Wii U)

Nov 03 // Ian Bonds
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (Wii U)Developer: Black Forest GamesPublisher: Black Forest GamesRelease: September 5, 2013 MSRP: $14.99 On the surface level, there's not much different between the version we reviewed last year and the version now available on the Wii U. The dream-switch mechanic is still at the heart of the adventure, with each level hinging on its precise usage to traverse obstacles in every world. Switching between the "cute" and "punk" versions of the sisters changes how the entire world looks, and the music also switches to fit the personalities of each sister. The game is beautiful in HD on the Wii U. The stark diversity between the two worlds is breath-taking, and the colors and characters pop with eye-catching contrast. Likewise, the score is fantastic, and the differences with how the same theme changes styles with the dream-switch interface is truly inspired. However, if that becomes too distracting, you can choose to have the music remain the same through the switches. So, what does the Wii U version do differently? For starters, there's an "easy" mode available, which offers a lot more checkpoints mid-level, and allows for the boss levels to not be kept behind locks dependent on how many gems you obtain in the previous missions. Granted, Giana Sisters' easy mode is everyone else's "normal" mode, but if you're really sadistic, there's also the unlockable Score Attack, Time Attack, Hardcore, and Uber Hardcore modes from the previous versions, ready to blister your thumbs off your hands. There's also a ton of gallery images unlocked when you grab large gems, if you're in to that kind of thing. Control using the GamePad is perfect, as switching between the two personas is seamless and fluid, either through use of the right Z-trigger, or the dash or spin moves. There's even Off-TV GamePad play, though all is not perfect. Currently there's no audio for the Off-TV mode. Black Forest says this should be fixed with its next patch, which is due any day now. Also, while switching between sisters is seamless in-game, the actual load times for each level before you start are very long. All that said, however, you've still got an excellent, beautiful platformer for the Wii U. If you haven't picked up any of its other iterations, this is the perfect time to do so, and the perfect platform to do it on.
Giana Sisters photo
Twisted Sisters
Last year, after a very successful Kickstarter campaign, Black Forest Games was able to take what started as a Mario rip-off with the Great Giana Sisters and turn it into a unique, beautiful platformer. After being one o...

The open ocean makes Assassin's Creed feel fresh again

Oct 08 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [previewed], Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: Ubisoft MontrealRelease Date: October 29, 2013 (NA) / November 1, 2013 (EU) The biggest change, and possibly the most refreshing for the series, is your pirate ship the Jackdaw. The setting of Black Flag has you in this near-seamless open-world experience as you sail across the Caribbean ocean. Your ship is as much a character as the Assassin himself. Because of this you're going to want to upgrade your ship every chance you get. Sure, you're able to ram ships smaller than you and obliterate them instantaneously -- an immensely satisfying pastime, by the way -- but it's the ships that are at your same level or higher that you can't mess around with. You really have to play smart and use tactics when challenging other ships thanks to all sorts of odds. Multiple enemy ships can gang up on you if they see their buddies in trouble, you have to be 100% aware of your surrounding lest you slam into a cliff wall, wind direction can screw with your aiming, plus storms can turn the ocean violent at a moment's notice. The combat is nowhere near as straightforward as the hand-to-hand combat, which is arguably getting stale -- not just in Assassin's Creed, but a majority of games like it. The whole "being surrounded by a group of enemies while they take turns striking at you" concept has always bothered me though, to be clear.  The weather effects going on all throughout the ocean gameplay look immensely gorgeous. I played Black Flag on a PlayStation 4 development console, and the power of next-gen really shows when waves are roaring and the water splashes on your ship's deck.  There are Spanish and English forces you have to contend with out in the open ocean, but thankfully for you these two huge empires are at war with each other. It's not uncommon that you'll come across the two sides battling it out. You could enter the battle, but I would just wait for one side to destroy the other before making my move, like any good pirate would do really. Plus, taking over naval forts will give you some major backup fire if you lure enemies into their firing zones. Destroying ships will gain you items, but boarding them will grant you far greater rewards. Once an enemy ship is boarded, you'll have to kill several survivors still on board before they surrender and the ship becomes yours. From here you can then use the ship to repair your own, or have it join your fleet for use in the companion app. One thing to note here is that if you're engaged with multiple enemy ships, they all will stop their pursuit once you've engaged in a boarding. I'm not sure if I'm really okay with this, as it hurts the immersion, but then again you'd just be obliterated with your entire crew preoccupied with the boarding process. The companion app, by the way, is something I'm going to be using a lot of. The ships you capture can be sent off to do whatever it takes to gain more money for yourself. You'll give them orders, and after a period of time they'll have a glorious return or they may not come back at all depending on how strong their opponents were. I love apps like this where I can be somewhat productive on a bus or train ride, and then come home to actual rewards in the main game. The other ocean stuff is great as well, again because of how different it all is. Specifically I'm talking about the underwater diving and the shark hunting. The diving portions are pretty intense, as only have so much air you can hold in one breath -- not to mention all the other dangers. There are pockets of air you can refresh yourself with (such as the diving bell), but it's always a race against time. You can also get caught up in currents that will blow you away to who knows where. Then there are the sharks. So many sharks. You're helpless against them, and you'll have to hide as best you can to get past them. The role gets reversed when you go hunting for them, though. In fact all the hunting is fun, largely thanks to how up close and personal you can get with creatures on land. Chase an ocelot and when close enough, stab them in the back of the skull with your hidden blade! Sure, you can use your guns but stabbing things is so much better. Hunting, it should be mentioned, will go towards upgrading your character and your ship. While I can't say enough good things about the ocean mechanics of Assassin's Creed IV, I do have to point out a couple of small annoyances. Specifically there were two missions where I had to follow an enemy ship without being spotted. Like the on-foot versions of this objective, you have to stay out your target's range of vision displayed on the mini-map. It's one thing when you're on land, running on rooftops or whatever to stay out of sight, but, uh, how can you miss a giant ship tailing you? The first instance of this happening is set during the day when you're going through an entire enemy zone. There are ships all over on patrol, some that are looking dead at you at times but it's okay you're not in their range. The other mission was set during the night within a swamp where you had to follow a target while also avoiding enemy camps. If they were to spot you they'd raise an alarm and you'd fail the mission. I failed it quite a few times, mostly due to the on-foot portions of this mission. It's the same design problem you've experienced before where the developers are trying to push you forward on a specific path, but if you stray off it you'll fail. Or in this case the path wasn't obvious until you failed it once or twice. So legacy issues still exist, and I know a lot of you that are vocal about the game on Destructoid, but I think ultimately you should give Assassin's Creed IV a chance due to the new rating system. After each mission you can give it a rating of one to five stars. It's an optional feature, and one that I hope players take to heart in order to give Ubisoft some  feedback on what people really like, and what they can finally hopefully maybe evolve, or at least please stop doing.
Exploring AC IV photo
Ruling the seas as a pirate assassin
I recently got to play a solid few hours of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and was able to do whatever I wanted, outside of the select core missions Ubisoft wanted to specifically show off. There was a lot to do, but I wante...

Super Mario 3D World is an absolute blast to play

Oct 04 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
[embed]262766:50720:0[/embed] Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD TokyoPublisher: NintendoRelease: November 21, 2013 (JP) / November 22, 2013 (NA) / November 29, 2013 (EU) / November 30, 2013 (AU) First, watch the trailer above that was released the other day showing off a ton of gameplay. It's impossible to not feel happy after watching it. There's so many new power-ups! In fact, that's what developer Nintendo EAD wanted to really push with this latest Mario. Power-ups, power-ups, power-ups! How many power-ups are there? Let's count it off: Mushroom Fire flower Tanooki suit Super star Cat suit! Meow meow meow! Cherry cloner Boomerang suit Missile launcher hat thing Propeller Block ? Block hat HOLLOWED OUT GOOMBA CORPSE! Kuribo's shoe as an ice skate!  Bombs Baseballs?! Potted Piranha Plant Explosive soccer balls Not all are technically power-ups, but they are all weapons Mario can use. And I'm sure there are more that haven't been revealed yet. Okay, now for the gameplay. Nintendo had me start off in World 1, which, by the way -- you can run across the world map itself now before entering a stage. You can move from level to level in any order you want, offering a choice in how you want to tackle the world much like the next Zelda is for the 3DS. There are also some big enemies on the map, but Nintendo wouldn't tell me what would happen if I encountered them. Each of the playable characters have special abilities by the way. After running as Mario for a few seconds he'll gain a speed boost. The same goes for Toad, except he moves even faster. The Nintendo rep that was with me noted that Toad would be great for speed runs. Luigi can jump higher, and Princess Peach can float through the air for a few seconds. It's much like Super Mario Bros. 2 in terms of all their abilities.  I played as Mario, and he was pretty reminiscent of how Mario controlled in Super Mario Galaxy -- except he felt a little more floaty, making him a bit slower to perform his acrobatic moves. I was trying to get a feel for Mario's new physics when I ... fell off the map. In the very first 15 seconds of my hands-on time I freaking fell of the map. I'm glad I did though, as I found out the death music is the same death song from Super Mario Bros. 3! A later level had the dungeon theme from the first Mario Bros. game in it. So yeah, expect plenty of throwbacks. Back into the level, I made my way forward where I spotted some cat Goombas that I squashed along with using the hefty amount of POW blocks to obliterate them all. Then I got it. I got the cat suit that made me feel like a ninja. Mario's agility and speed increases, plus he can now run up walls, perform dive bombs, and scratch enemies to death. Power-ups will also help open up hidden areas in levels, of which there are a ton. There's a device that can only be turned with the cat suit power, and turning this device will raise a tower that will let you reach a hidden star. There's three hidden stars in each level that you'll have to collect if you want to 100% the game. The most important part of the cat suit is that it allows you to climb up a flag pole at the end of a level and get the max points. It's kind of cheating, but hey, you're going to want all the points when playing co-op. Multiplayer is similar to the New Super Mario Bros. titles in that characters will spawn within a floaty bubble, they can pick up and toss other players around, and it's all drop in/out co-op too. At the end of each level players are given a total point score, and whoever was the winner will be given a crown. Yes, a crown! The winner will wear that crown in the next level, but if they're hit by an enemy the crown drops and someone else can grab it. You'll lose the crown entirely if you fall down a pit while wearing it too. There's no purpose to the crown, except to rub it in to your teammates. The next part of my demo saw me go into the first world's end castle. Here I was introduced to the explosive soccer balls. They'll appear on the map, and you'll just need to run into them to kick them towards whatever direction you're facing. The soccer balls explode upon impact. This part of the level is designed to give you a feel for the mechanic, as the next part of the stage sees you taking on Bowser. He has a sick new ride, and you have to destroy his vehicle by kicking the explosive soccer balls he throws out back at his ride. The level is auto-scrolling too, and you have to keep up otherwise you'll be killed if you fall too far behind. The level also appears to just go on endlessly until you're able to destroy Bowser's car. After defeating Bowser, we went to a desert-themed world with the first level set within that shadowy area you saw from the trailer. This level is more of a side-scroller, especially with the shadow effect going on. It's here where I used the Potted Piranha Plant too. Just pick it up and the plant will bite whatever comes near it. Careful though, as the plant will even snap at your co-op buddies. They won't lose a power-up or anything, but they will be knocked back a few feet. At one point in this level there's a wall of purple enemies that are blocking the path. You can just jump through them to move on, but you get hurt doing so. To get through them safely you'll need to blow into your GamePad's mic. Kind of a stupid feature, if you ask me. The last level I played through had the cherry cloner power-up. Pick it up and there will be two Marios. Pick up another and get three Marios. Then four, then five, and then six. The Nintendo rep wasn't able to tell me if you can have more than six. With six Marios, all of which had the fire-flower ability, I obliterated everything in my path. Nothing stood a chance against so many fireballs. It's kind of tricky controlling all the Marios at once, especially if they get split up from the pack. If one gets hit, they'll simply disappear. I wonder if we'll ever see a level that offers the cherry power-ups and the ability to equip each one of them with a different power. That might be too much power for one plumber to yield though. I am so happy for Super Mario World 3D. It's exactly what I've wanted out of a Mario game for years now. I'll lose my mind if they bring back the feather cape too which is, as we all know, the best Mario power-up of all time. Period. 
Super Mario 3D World photo
So many new power-ups!
I played Super Mario 3D World at E3 this past year and for whatever reason it just didn't interest me at all. Yeah, it's neat and it's about time they made a 3D Mario game with mulitplayer, but the demo made it feel like yet ...

Create & share custom matches in AC IV's multiplayer

Oct 01 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Customization is back for the playable characters as well. There's different outfits you can put on your killer, and from there you can customize a character even further with the different style of clothing, face paint, taunts, and more. There's hundreds of thousands of different permutations as I was told during my hands-on time.  As for the game modes, I checked out three of them. Domination sees two teams trying to take over three neutral zones in a map. Manhunt saw one team trying to hide and blend in with the crowd, while the other team needed to hunt the opposing team down. My favorite mode was Wanted, a free-for-all where each person is randomly assigned a contract to kill another player. You have to be super aware here, as you're being hunted while you're hunting for your own target. If you've played the multiplayer in the past, well expect more of the same here. Not that that's a bad thing mind you. For more on Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, check out my recent interview, our in-depth hands-on preview, and stay tuned for more coverage coming all this week.
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Then stab everyone in the FACE
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag will of course bring back the ever growing multiplayer versus mode, and like always, we can expect plenty of new content. New maps and characters are a given, but the biggest surprise with thi...

Yes really: Child of Light is a JRPG from Ubisoft

Sep 10 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Child of Light (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Ubisoft MontréalPublisher: UbisoftRelease: 2014 The story follows princess Aurora, a young girl from 1895 Austria and the daughter of a Duke. One day she falls ill, but instead of dying she wakes up in the lost continent of Lemuria. She's tasked with recovering the sun, moon, and stars which have been stolen by the evil Black Queen, but it's also a story of Aurora, her evolution as a character and her quest to return to her father. Gameplay sees you exploring the world, solving puzzles and lending a helping hand to those that need it. And of course, there's the whole RPG fighting mechanic in place, transporting you to a battlefield with each enemy encounter and taking turns attacking one another through the active-time battle system. There's a bar on the bottom of the screen during battles to display when it's someone's turn to attack, at which point you can use items, attack, or defend yourself from the enemy. You'll encounter numerous characters that will join your party, and for the demo I recruited an old man to my team. How big the party can get wasn't detailed, but you'll be able to level up various skills for your characters, plus equip different items/weapons to your team. Pretty traditional stuff here, with the exception of one key character: Igniculus. He's this blue flying fairy-like creature that's kind of like Murphy from Rayman Legends. Player one can switch between Aurora and Igniculus whenever needed to solve a puzzle or help out in battle. That, or a second player can join your game and control Igniculus right alongside player one. Igniculus is needed to solve various puzzles, and he can also help distract enemies while in the open world or even during fights. You probably won't want to avoid fights that often though as you'll need to level up as much as you can. I got to the first boss in my hands-on time on the PC in combination with a PlayStation 4 controller and thoroughly got my ass handed to me. The overall theme of the game is very fairy tale in nature, but don't let that fool you. As gorgeous as this game is in motion, there's a very dark theme to it and isn't meant to be taken lightly. A lot of inspiration comes from grown-up fairy tales, the ones that don't hide the dark stuff kind of like Disney movies. Kids can appreciate them, as can adults. The fairy tale nature even extends to the writing of the game, as all the dialogue is written out in rhyme and ballad form as if everything said feels like a poem throughout. The developers promise that the game will be pretty "meaty," in that there will be a lot on offer to please JRPG fans. Yeah, it's still weird saying JRPG and Ubisoft in the same article. So how did something like this even happen? Jeffrey Yohalem, writer and co-creater on Child of Light told me that "in October, Pat Plourde, the creative director on Far Cry 3, came to me and said 'I want to make a JRPG and I've been looking at some fairy tale references, like Arthur Rackham drawings, and I want something that kind of feels like that, that has that kind of mood.' He also had some music from Final Fantasy that he really liked and so he played that for me and we talked about it. We got in room together and created this world, the characters, and this story. "During that time as we were developing it I really felt like this is it. This is something that I really want to make, it speaks to me as an artist and I dropped everything else that I was doing and joined Pat to do this." It was also a conscious goal from the beginning of the project to create something that was the complete opposite of Far Cry 3. Their aim was to create something soft, poetic, and even feminine. To that point, they really wanted to make a difference with the portrayal of women as there's "a serious lack of representation of strong female leads in games." That said, both games are also similar in that they're coming-of-age stories set in dream worlds. Ubisoft had over a dozen games on display in its digital fall preview event Destructoid attended, and the last thing I expected to see was a JRPG from Ubisoft. That said, Child of Light was easily a highlight of the event for me, and says a lot about how Ubisoft gives a lot of freedom to its developers to follow passion projects like this amidst the heavy triple-A focus of the company. Hopefully this one is able to deliver on its lofty promises.
Child of Light photo
Made by the team behind Far Cry 3
Yeah, you read that headline right. Trust me, I was having a hard time wrapping my head around it too, but sure enough, a Japanese-style role-playing game from Ubisoft. Even stranger, Child of Light is by writer Jeffrey Yoha...

Hands-on with Assassinís Creed IV: Black Flag

Aug 21 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: Ubisoft MontrealRelease Date: October 29, 2013 (NA) / November 1, 2013 (EU)While much of the narrative is still being kept under wraps, Assassin’s Creed IV is both a continuation of the present day Abstergo storyline, but also set before Assassin’s Creed III’s historical storyline. Taking place during the 1600s in the golden age of piracy, players will take on the role of Edward Kenway, a former royal navy sailor who breaks from the authority and enters the dangerous life of being a pirate and assassin in the Caribbean. Edward’s character feels more like a return to Ezio’s roguish and arrogant personality, compared to Connor’s stoic and earnest poise in ACIII. Much like previous titles, Edward journey will take him from humble beginnings to a notorious assassin with an army at his disposal. And of course, there will be a complex conspiracy to unravel.A major goal for Black Flag’s shift in narrative focus and setting was to not only give a greater level of diversity in gameplay and exploration, but to also expand the Kenway family arc and create an alternative to the Ezio saga. Speaking with the Lead Writer of Black Flag, Darby McDevitt, he talked at length about the AC team’s desire to take the franchise to the golden age of piracy.“When we finished Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the small team got together and thought about what we wanted to do next,” said McDevitt. “When we looked at the technology we had, the new engine being developed, and the new naval battles we were making for ACIII; we sort of made hints about doing a game as Connor’s grandfather, to create a Kenway family saga.” The current build had us exploring the waters around Cuba and the major city of Havana. Players can expect to sail freely around the game world, exploring small islands and caves for treasure, engaging in missions set in the three main cities and small port towns across the Caribbean, taking on the Templar and Spanish armies in naval and melee combat, and taking part in underwater diving and traversing through abandoned ruins. While you're free to go anywhere you desire, some areas of the map are populated with powerful ships and Templars that can easily overpower you without the proper resources. Even with my somewhat brief time with the game, Black Flag felt much more refined and thoughtful in its presentation and gameplay. ACIII in particular was criticized for poor pacing and heavy focus on the main missions, so having ACIV offer much more freedom and giving players the drive to explore, loot, and interact with the world at your leisure makes the experience feel fresh, but still familiar and comfortable.Naval combat was a much loved feature from Assassin's Creed III, and fans will be delighted to know that Black Flag takes the sailing gameplay even further with open world exploration. You'll be able to outfit your ship, the Jackdaw, with new armor, weapons, and bonus abilities to take on the challenges of the high seas. McDevitt was well underway with writing much of the plot of Black Flag upon ACIII’s release, and seeing the kind of response naval combat got from fans helped reinforce their resolve for the pirate setting.“We were already confident about it and we knew it was good decision based on how it all came together, but we felt relieved to see the response to ACIII’s naval gameplay,” said McDevitt, while elaborating on the expanded naval gameplay. “Of course, we upgraded it vastly, went from ACIII’s sectioned out approach to a seamless open world in Black Flag all without any loading, that was our challenge on the tech side.”Not only has the game engine been upgraded, but the gameplay has seen some sizable improvements related to the naval traversal, combat, and crew expansion, so much so that it feels like it could be an entire game on its own. The developers cite other pirate and open sailing games such as Sid Meyer’s Pirates! and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker as influences for the upgrades to the naval and exploration gameplay. Edward Kenway will be able to recruit new crew members, plunder opposing ships, and stretch out his influence across the Caribbean and the east coast of North American with sub missions taken on by crew members with captured Templar and Spanish ships.And all of this is done through seamless transitions without the use of loading screens (besides the start up). With the previous games being limited by technology and having to section out the various locations, McDevitt cites the change in setting as the biggest motivator for Ubisoft to upgrade the game engine. Because of the increased focus on travel across the three major cities, open waters, and underwater gameplay, the player’s experience would become jarring with transitional loading screens. As fans have no doubt seen in the various videos throughout summer, players can board enemy ships in real time during naval combat and engage the opposing crew in traditional melee and long range combat. Switching from naval combat to on foot traversal and combat was entirely seamless, and it feels natural and smooth. Actually getting onto the ship can be done in a number of ways, such as swimming or using the masts and ropes of your own ship to cross. The amount of options are pretty staggering, but of course you can forgo boarding and just destroy the ship. Which of course would be at the loss of resources.My time with the game made me a believer. Despite the sheer amount of data the game has to render, Black Flag manages to look stellar throughout. Graphically, the waters while sailing move in realistic fashion, and the engine handles high seas action and combat without much drops in visual performance. Even before release, this title will no doubt be the best looking game of the series.The world of Black Flag feels alive, and unlike past games, it feels like you’re interacting with a living breathing world that goes about its business whether you’re there or not. There’s ocean life to interact with, traveling merchants going about their business, and stranded sailors looking for help. Even while sailing you can come across the Spanish and Templars armies engaging in naval combat, and you can choose to take advantage of the chaos by looting the surrounding waters, or you can choose surprise both sides with your upgraded ship and crew. Another new change is that the in-game economy will now see some revisions. To be blunt, Ubisoft’s redesigned much of the economy to ensure players aren’t sitting on mountains of gold with nothing to spend it on. Players have to take part in making investments towards your crew’s overall growth, maintaining trade routes throughout the Caribbean, and acquiring new goods for your ship and for Edward‘s arsenal. From the looks of it, the road to being a notorious pirate/assassin with political and trade influence will be perilous, and also quite expensive.Unfortunately, during my time with the game, I came across one troubling issue that happened often to me and with others during the press’ session. The current build of the game, playing on some pretty high end PCs, were prone to several lock-ups and crashes. Each station playing the build of ACIV crashed several times and had to be rebooted. I’m sure many haven’t forgotten about ACIV’s game crash during the Sony E3 Press conference, so it’s troubling to see that the crashes are somewhat common, even during traversal on the open waters. I sincerely hope that Ubisoft can remedy the bugs with Black Flag, as this game apparently has a lot going for it and the amount of detail they’ve put in is awe inspiring. It would be quite a headache if this issue were to become common in the retail release.In many ways, Assassin's Creed IV feels like the biggest step forward that the franchise has taken in quite a long time. I came away pretty damn impressed with what the developers at Ubisoft managed to pull off. I just hope for their sake, and for the consumers, that they can squash the game ruining bugs that plagued my time with the game. Despite this problem, the value that Black Flag expresses is still apparent, and even long time fans who felt burned by the last entry may want to keep their eyes on this one.
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A pirate's life for me
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has seen some pretty bizarre events occur. From off the wall historical conspiracies, conducting time travel by way of DNA, and ancient precursors looking to destroy humanity; it's amazing...

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Gameplay video of Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer


Video preview of what's new
Aug 16
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer has finally been revealed, and I got to capture some footage during my hands-on time. Three maps are shown off here, as well as some of the stuff you can summon from the Assault and Support packages. I cover the basics of what I got to experience, but for a more in-depth look check out my hands-on preview of the game.

Hands-on with Call of Duty: Ghosts' multiplayer offerings

Aug 15 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
[embed]260120:50036:0[/embed] Call of Duty: Ghosts (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [previewed], Wii UDeveloper: Infinity Ward / Treyarch (Wii U)Publisher: Activision:Release: November 5, 2013 Guns, Call of Duty: Ghosts has them. Here's all the categories along with the few weapons we got to use:  Assault Rifles: Honey Badger, SC-2010  Sub Machine Guns: MTAR-X, Vector CRB  LMG: M27-1AR  Marksman Rifles : IA-2  Sniper Rifles: L115  Shotguns: MTS-255 Riot: Riot Shield Six weapon classes, with the addition being the Marksman Rifles category offering weaponry good for mid- to long-range distances. You're able to attach a three-round burst to these guns, but aiming gets wonky with it. Various attachments can be added to all the weapons like under barrels, scopes, and the works -- and that goes for the Riot Shield now too. There are three possible attachments for this, with the one I saw giving you a portable radar system on your shield.  Then you have your secondary weapons like pistols and launchers, lethal items such as the I.E.D. and the Canister Bomb, plus tactical weapons such as the thermobaric grenade and the 9-bang grenade. The 9-bang will have a bigger flash-bang effect the longer you hold it, and at max charge it'll give you an EMP burst.  Perks have been overhauled in a big way, and there's roughly 40 to choose from now. How many you can bring with your character depends on the number associated with each perk. Similar to Black Ops II, it's all based on a point system. Here, you have a total of eight points to spend on perks for your character. So, for instance, both Sleight of Hand and the Agility perks are two points each. Take those two and you have four more points left to spend. You can actually have 11 points were you to drop your secondary and equipment items.  Here's a list of all the perks we were able to see, along with the seven categories.  Speed: Sleight of Hand, Agility Handling: Strong-Arm (throw farther, decrease cook time), On the Go (reload while sprinting) Stealth: Takedown (kill without revealing location), Off the Grid (undetectable on mini-map) Awareness: Scavenger, Wiretap (upgrades Sat Coms by hacking into active enemy Sat Coms) Resistance: Tac Resist (resistance to tac bombs), Blast Shield  Equipment: Fully loaded (max ammo) Elite: Ping (activate sonar ping upon killing an enemy), Deadeye (consecutive kills increase chance to deal more damage) Strike Packages are back from Modern Warfare 3, and come in three flavors: Assault, Support, and Specialist. There are 12 total Assault streaks, with the highest being a 15-point streak. The ones I got to see in my hands-on time were Sat Com at three kills, your dog body guard at five kills, and Maniac at nine kills. Maniac sees you summoning a care package where you'll equip a juggernaut suit and be given an increase in speed. The tradeoff is that you only have a knife, and your health won't regenerate.  Support has 12 total streaks to choose from, with the highest point streak at 16. Unlike Assault, your point streak won't reset when you're killed. At four kills you'll get to drop a Sat Com, which I should add are the replacements for UAVs from past games. It's also worth mentioned that the reason Sat Coms are available for both packages here is that you can stack Sat Coms as a team to get better radar detection. The first Sat Com will give you radar detection based on your teammate's line of site. Two of them will give you a more traditional UAV-like system, with a third one that refreshes the radar faster. At four, you'll be given the ability to see the direction enemies are facing on the mini-map.  A Night Owl can come in at nine kills, and it's this floating little companion that acts as a mini-radar and as a Trophy system as it will take down missiles that come near you. Plus, it'll stick around even after you die. The last thing I got to mess with was the MAAWS at nine kills. It's a shoulder mounted rocket launcher which spits out two rockets that you guide with a laser.  Finally there's the Specialist class, which will be the same as before where you can stack Perks on top of each other with each successive kill you get.  Rounding out all your customization features is the new create-a-soldier feature where you can modify the look of your solider, right down to playing as a female. It's all purely cosmetic, and none of it affects gameplay but it's there with 20,000 different possible visual customization if that's your sort of thing. You can create up to ten soldiers, and each can be leveled up to a max of prestige level one. Other noteworthy changes to the gameplay are the ability to lean around corners, and knee sliding. With leaning, just walk up to the edge of a wall, hold the aim button down, and you'll peek around the corner. It's seamless and easy to get in/out of it, but not really the most ideal thing to do in a fast paced combat situation. Knee sliding is fun, though -- you can trigger that at any time while running by pressing down on the crouch button. You can continue to shoot when going into your knee slide, as well as when you're vaulting over obstacles too. 14 maps will come with Ghosts; 15 if you pre-order the game. The big twist now is that each map has some level of destructibility associated with it. It's not as extensive as Battlefield 4's system -- more that certain walls or structures can be knocked down. Plus there are some events you can trigger too, like causing a satellite to fall from space into the map.  There's going to be seven new game modes added, and I got to check out two of them. Cranked is this badass, super-fast-paced mode where you are given 30 seconds to kill someone after getting your first kill upon spawning. Fail to kill someone in that timeframe and you'll explode. Succeed, and your clock resets to 30 seconds for you to repeat until failure. Your speed is amplified while cranked so things get nuts very quickly. Then there's Search and Rescue, a variation of Search and Destroy, with a little Kill Confirmed thrown into the mix. It plays out just the same as S&D, where one team has to plant a bomb while the other has to defend. The twist now is that instead of being taken out of the match completely, there's a chance for you to come back. Killed players will drop a dog tag, and if a teammate recovers the tag you'll instantly respawn. If the enemy team get the tag though, then that player is out for good. Visually, there's really nothing to write home about. Sure, certain parts of the map do look good -- but nothing about this screamed "next-gen." I played Ghosts on the Xbox One (or at least a PC that was on par with the Xbox One specs) and couldn't help but laugh when thinking about how gorgeous something like Battlefield 4 or Titanfall will be in comparison. It's not bad-looking, of course -- just don't go expecting the most realistic thing ever. Thankfully the audio design is able to make up for the visuals as everything has been overhauled on that end. In reminded me a lot of Black Ops 1's audio design, and you're going to be able to really read where enemies are just by paying attention and listening. Along with that, your teammate's in-game audio will now specifically call out enemy locations instead of just giving you a general idea like in the past. So yeah, that's the multiplayer in a giant nutshell. Lots on offer, and it'll certainly do the job of pleasing the Call of Duty audience. I will admit that I didn't think Infinity Ward was going to match the very high bar that Treyarch set with Black Ops II's multiplayer, but after some extensive hands-on time I can say they definitely nailed it.
Call of Duty: Ghosts photo
A deep dive on what's new, and what's the same
Call of Duty: Ghosts' multiplayer has finally been revealed, and it's the biggest overhaul Infinity Ward has done since the first Modern Warfare. What I got to play at the reveal event was pretty fun, but then again that's no...

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Checking out all the new gameplay features in Black Flag
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag takes us to the age of pirates, and because of that Ubisoft's Singapore studio was tasked with creating the full on ocean simulation. I spoke with lead designer Sebastien Berton who walked me ...

Batman: AO multiplayer photo
Batman: AO multiplayer

Batman: Arkham Origins multiplayer mode revealed


Becoming the Invisible Predator
Jul 31
// Casey Baker
A common pattern for when a successful single-player IP has turned into a series is to tack on a multiplayer bit of some form. Unfortunately, when this happens, the multiplayer portion is often a half-assed attempt thrown in...

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