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Wii U

Disney Infinity 3.0 expands with the Star Wars and Inside Out playsets

Jun 01 // Alessandro Fillari
For those who aren't familiar, or maybe just a bit confused about what Disney Infinity is, this title brings players into an open world and unified experience to craft unique and original playgrounds for Disney characters from the past and present. Much like the Skylanders series, characters are acquire by purchasing actual figurines that can be uploaded into the game via a world disc, a real world scanner. While you can create levels and unique scenarios and share them with others online, you can also dive into unique playsets centered around specific Disney films and television shows. In its third year now, Disney Infinity has seen a number of upgrades and additions. With last year's expansion introducing Marvel characters, they've also spent some time upgrading the gameplay and general design. In order to do this, they recruited help from independent developers such as Ninja Theory, Sumo Digital, and United Front Games where they worked on the key areas of combat, racing, and additional character support respectively. With general development handled by Avalanche Software (note: not the same Avalanche behind Just Cause), they've found the creation of Disney Infinity to be a rewarding and satisfying experience. "The two words that come to mind are 'humbling' and 'gratifying," said the GM of Avalanche Software John Blackburn while reflecting on his work on Disney Infinity. "I feel so fortunate to work with all these brands, and it's a dream come true in a lot of ways[...] I'm pretty happy that people have responded to it in the way that have, and have accepted it and are looking forward to the new versions right now. I want to make sure we're doing a good enough job that we're really trying to make high quality kids and family entertainment, because that's been more and more difficult as a business to do. So it's very gratifying to see that we're doing it right." With the 3.0 expansion, new environments and characters will be added to the core game, such as the recently announced Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic (based on the prequel trilogy), Rise Against the Empire (original trilogy), The Force Awakens, and also Pixar's Inside Out playsets. While Star Wars will be largely combat and vehicle focused experiences, Inside Out will experiment more with platforming in surreal environments. Much like the film, the gameplay centers around the emotional state of a young girl named Riley and her changing perception and feelings. Set sometime after the film, players take control of Riley's emotions Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear, when she experiences a nightmare after falling asleep during a scary movie. The playset focuses on platforming gameplay through Riley's dreamscape, where environments and enemies take on a variety of different properties, such as warped gravity and the ground turning into hot lava. Each character has their own unique abilities and skills which will serve them throughout the adventure. After seeing the movie, I was itching for another trip into the bizarre and evocative world from Inside Out, and the Disney Infinity playset serves a great follow up to the film as it's basically the sequel to the film. Moreover, it fleshes out many of the settings and areas from the film, such as the dream productions studio where Riley's subconscious craft her dreams by way of old school film production. It's a very colorful and imaginative world, and it's likely the most unique playset Disney Infinity has had yet. The devs at Disney Interactive were very excited about what the new playsets can offer. "Every year a new fan is born," explained the VP of production John Vignocchi. "We're sitting here in the hallowed halls of Pixar, and everyone there will be someone who sees Toy Story for the first time, and we want to make sure that when they pick up Buzz Lightyear, or another favorite character, and when they play with them inside of Infinity, that he is just as cool as he was in the film." Even though I've only had some minor experience with Disney Infinity, I was quite surprised with the creativity found in these playsets. Perhaps this was coming off of my high after seeing Inside Out a month early, but I was very pleased with the translation from film to game. With the writers and directors from the film working with the devs, along with the same voice cast including Amy Poehler and Bill Hader, they wanted to ensure that it would be as faithful as possible. It's pretty crazy to see how much Disney Infinity has grown over the years. What was once a strange experiment trying to catch on to the Minecraft and Skylanders craze, has now turned into a title that's really come into its own. It's pretty impressive to see how much detail and content is packed in the title already, and with the new 3.0 expansion hitting this Fall, the Disney universe is about to get a bit bigger for fans to explore.
Disney Infinity photo
It's a small world after all
Who knew that Disney's strange and bizarre mishmash of characters into one large game would turn out to be such a big hit? I know, a Disney title with a bunch of Pixar, film, and legacy characters would've sold regardless, bu...

Nintendo Direct photo
A short 17-minute presentation
Nintendo had a pretty informative Japanese Direct session last weekend, but today, it dropped a brand new "Micro" session on us, with lots of news coming out of it. Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is confirmed for North America, a...

Review: Adventures of Pip

May 29 // Chris Carter
Adventures of Pip (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One, Wii U)Developer: Tic Toc GamesPublisher: Tic Toc GamesReleased: June 4, 2015 (PC, Wii U) / TBA (PS4, Xbox One)MSRP: $14.99 When Pip kicks off you're introduced to a tiny kingdom fated to be saved by a princess who can create and control pixels -- a sort of Star Wars-esque "Force" that guides the universe. Of course, an evil villain (the Skeleton Queen) wants it all to herself, and captures said princess, crafting the world in her image. It's up to Pip, a lone pixel, to save the day. The premise is fairly cool because it's not overly-meta, at least, not obnoxiously so as some recent games tend to be. It embraces the theme just enough to be adorable, and the queen in particular sports some very neat looking animations. The actual game is a platforming romp, and it's very quick to start. Pip will have to make do in his pixel form at first, which can jump and float, with the ability to kill enemies by jumping on their heads like Mario. Levels are designed with an SNES feel to them, mixing retro graphics, 8-bit, and 32-bit styles, which remind me of classics like Disney's Magical Quest. The main gimmick of course is the aforementioned evolutionary procedure. Using "Bitstream enemies" (read: glowing blue things), Pip can evolve into a boy. His new found abilities include punching and wall-jumping, and can be best compared to getting a mushroom in a Mario game. You can also devolve at will, sparking an explosion that does damage to enemies, and opens up certain walls. To get back to your boy-state, you'll have to find another Bitstream foe -- levels are designed around this concept so you won't get stuck. [embed]292813:58703:0[/embed] What I really like about this system is that it freezes the game when you change forms, adding a bit of tactical value to the act. Sometimes you'll need to kill an enemy to evolve mid-air, jump over a bed of spikes, then blow up a wall to land safely. There's also other nuances like the fact that pixel-Pip can bounce higher off springs, and so on. After several levels you'll also earn the 32-bit version of Pip, which can now use a sword to deal more damage and break blocks. Interestingly, 32-bit Pip cannot walljump -- so you'll need to devolve to the boy to solve some puzzles, and in turn, evolve again, and then revert all the way back to a pixel. It doesn't really get old or tedious. It takes just the right amount of time to switch back and forth, and again, the levels are designed directly around this concept. It's great. As you progress, a bit of wear and tear will set in. You'll save citizens from danger as collectibles of sorts, an endeavor that I tired of after the first few stages. There's also a problem with the level layouts themselves -- they're generally not memorable. While there is a great deal of interesting puzzle-platforming situations, I really can't recall any of them after completing the game, which takes roughly five hours to do. There also came a point where I stopped even trying to locate and open jewel chests to earn the only currency available in the game. The main reason is that the item economy is completely off-kilter, as vendors charge an arm and a leg for everything -- some items will take you an entire playthrough to earn, and they aren't even gamebreaking or special, which is nuts. Don't expect a whole lot of extras or options either. The PC version just has a pair of sliders to tinker with the sound and music volume, the launcher has a few resolution choices and a windowed option, and it sports three save file slots. That's it in terms of functionality. Adventures of Pip is an inoffensive platformer that doesn't do a whole lot wrong, but it won't stand out in your mind a few days after beating it. While it does last though, it'll bring a smile to your face. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Adventures of Pip review photo
From pixel to hero
I've always been fascinated by games that tackle evolution. Not necessarily the scientific principle, but the mechanic -- though a few titles like the brilliant E.V.O.: Search for Eden have managed to address both. Adventures of Pip which features a tiny pixel that turns into a real boy, and then a hero, isn't quite as groundbreaking, but it's still fun to play.

The great Wave 4 amiibo hunt is on today, and it's about what we expected

May 29 // Chris Carter
Here is the absolute worst part about the Wave 4 launch -- everything is coming out at the same time. Did you want Greninja and Jigglypuff, and missed the 15-minute online order window at 3AM EST? Tough. Unless you have a loving spouse or a family member to wait in line at another store, you have to choose between them. The same goes for Ness, an exclusive that you'll need to go to a GameStop location at opening to snag today. Silver Mario throws another wrench in the equation, as he was only officially announced roughly a week ago and tossed into the mix seemingly to watch consumers squirm. The GameStop I went to was completely sold out of everything but Pac-Man, Silver Mario, and the Splatoon amiibo when I arrived. In case you're wondering, the Splatoon series is looking exceedingly common. Charizard and Wario's rarity kind of jumps store-to-store, and I'd expect a Diddy-like situation in the future where they are rare at first, then become common. Pac-Man seems to be a confirmed common. Ness seems to be very rare, but I don't know if he's a unicorn just yet, unlike Shulk. Surprisingly, Silver Mario seems to be everywhere today, but who knows what his status will be next week. This is what the GameStop situation typically looks like elsewhere. Again, Robin and Lucina are as rare, if not rarer, than Marth at this point. Many stores didn't even have them, and my location only got two of each. I've been listening to testimonies all day, and the rub on Target is that although rumors circled that each store would get as many as 20 Jigglypuffs, most of them only obtained 4-10. One tip I've heard from the East coast crowd is that lots of folks are heading to Target, and not Toys"R"Us, so you might be able to sneak into a smaller line there. Though it must be said that the latter is not getting a lot of extra Greninja stock across the country, with most going to pre-orders -- call your store if possible first to avoid disappointment. For those of you who are in earlier timezones where retail locations haven't opened yet, the folks over at Amiibo News and Nintendo Inquirer have concocted a pretty killer shopping guide for today. If you're going out, good luck!
Wave 4 amiibo photo
Good luck
Today, Wave 4 of the amiibo shopping "experience" begins. We already assumed it was going to be hell on earth based on the pre-order process, and it turned out to be fairly uninspiring all around as shops opened across the US...

Very Quick Tips: Splatoon

May 28 // Chris Carter
General tips: Try out every weapon in the game. Too intimidated to play online with it? Go to the shop to give it a trial run in the training course. Play whatever you want, but know that early on, there will be a lot of rollers out there to deal with. Talk to the cat in town every day for the occasional bit of free gold. Try to recharge your ammo by going into ink constantly. If you can get somewhere by way of your squid form, do it. There are lots of advanced tactics in this game, but one is done by inking the ground quickly below you, squid morphing, and jumping away from your opponent. Repeat as many times as necessary. In the campaign, you can press any level to instantly super jump to it -- it's really useful for getting around quickly, and I didn't even realize it until the very end.   Turf War: This sounds self-explanatory, but when you're playing Turf War, look for a special (grenade or super attack) that can earn you more turf. For instance, the Splash Wall is a great defensive tool, but other powers will help you actually cover more ground. You always want to be taking turf, even while taking out enemies. Later on in a match, look around for areas that haven't been covered yet. It's safe bet that the enemy team hasn't even realized that this place exists, and likely won't return to it as the match ends. Always watch the GamePad map after a death. Is your ally deep into a base with lots of uncovered ground? Tap them to super jump to them. Mash the screen (gently) in case they die -- you'll jump over there anyway if you tap in time. You'll learn to see certain weapons on the map by the pattern they lay down. For instance, it's easy to spot a roller going in a straight line, switching the territory color. Learn to spot them and stay away if necessary, and get to higher ground. Ambushing people on walls is a great tactic to stay alive if you're outgunned. While running around a corner, quickly ink the wall and stick to it. Most players won't suspect an aerial attack from behind. Don't have enough time at the end of a round after a respawn? Paint objects quickly in your base. You won't have time to super jump or get to any useful location. Splat Zones: Always get to the zone immediately, but create at least one path back. If you have nothing to do and your zone is more than covered, consider ruining the other team's path towards their spawn. It'll significantly slow them down when returning. There are a lot of items here that particularly shine in Splat Zones, like Splash Walls. Use these to block off choke points and prevent enemies from rushing into your zone.
Splatoon tips photo
Jelonzo is the coolest
Just because Splatoon is a light-hearted online experience, that doesn't mean that it lacks depth. Here are some tips to help you along the path to ranked dominance.

Review: Splatoon

May 27 // Chris Carter
Splatoon (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No .2Publisher: NintendoReleased: May 29, 2015MSRP: $59.99 Players will start the journey as a measly level one squid in Inkopolis. You should learn the layout in roughly 20 minutes. It's not huge, but it has a lot of character, mostly due to the fact that other players are littered about the townside. No, this isn't quite like a Phantasy Star Online lobby with live players running around, they're more like static NPCs that draw upon the character's avatar, style choices, and Miiverse postings. If you're not keen on walking everywhere to play a specific mode, an easy-to-access map is located on the GamePad -- perfect. There is one annoying thing about the hub world -- the news station. Every so often at certain intervals, a fake "news" show will play, interrupting whatever you're doing. It displays the next set of levels that are up for multiplayer, and any other relevant events that are happening. A lot of you will probably think it's cute, and it is a neat idea, but sometimes they're literally repeating the same phrases on the same stages I've seen multiple times over -- it's not a dealbreaker, I just wish I could just skip through it. Shops, however, are anything but annoying, as I'm a full-on fashion addict. Whether it's the shoe, shirt, or hat boutique, I'm usually inside of a [digital] brick and mortar location ready to spend all of my cash on clothes I will never wear. These items are mostly cosmetic however, and even though they do have some stats attached to them, they're negligible at best. So if you aren't down with the idea of amassing clothes, you probably aren't going to be spending a lot of time in Inkopolis. [embed]291959:58680:0[/embed] It also must be said that the story mode isn't really linked to the hub world, which is mostly for multiplayer. Any acquisitions from the hub are strictly used in online play, though you can unlock some weapon blueprints in the campaign and you'll get a few bonuses to bring back after you complete the story. In other words, think of the single-player narrative as a staging grounds for playing online. The levels themselves are very well designed, and in line with a 3D Mario game -- which is definitely a compliment. There's a lot of variety found in every single stage, with mechanics like geysers, invisible paths, moving blocks, and a whole lot more. Gimmicks never outstay their welcome, and just as you've started to master a concept, Splatoon moves on to the next one. The pacing is superb. Boss fights aren't exactly innovative, as they all boil down to "kill the giant weak point three times," but they are fun to play. They remind me of less inspired Mario Galaxy or 3D World fights, even down to the enemy models. All in all you'll go solo for roughly 30 levels, which should last you 10 hours -- a little less if you rush, a little more if you go for all of the collectibles (which do a great job of worldbuilding, by the way). So how is the game actually played? By inking everything in sight, of course! Well, sort of. In the campaign you'll have access to just the Splattershot, which is like a rapid-fire rifle. You'll use your colored ink to defeat enemies and create paths, which can be crafted on most surfaces on the ground and most walls. By holding the L trigger you'll instantly morph into a squid-form, which isn't capable of attacking (outside of a special super ability), but can traverse quickly in ink. You'll have to master the art of offense as a kid and defense as a squid to really grasp what Splatoon has to offer. Other weapons essentially mirror other shooters (Splat Charger is a sniper rifle of sorts, there's also a grenade launcher and a light machine gun) outside of the Splat Roller, which is utterly unique. In my mind it's easily the most fun weapon to play with in the game, as you'll roll your way to victory, painting the town as you run and destroy enemies along the way. It seems broken at first glance, but it's actually pretty balanced, as skilled snipers and nearly anyone with a gun can counter it from high-ground, all the while earning points online (which I'll get to in a minute). Outside of the story mode there's also "Dojo," which is strictly a one-on-one offline affair, with one player using the GamePad, and another the Wii U Pro Controller. Your goal is to pop 30 balloons, and you'll have the ability to choose from every basic weaponset as well as five arenas. It's fun, but extremely limited, and felt like a momentary distraction from anything else. It was really disappointing once we realized that we can't play together online on the same console. As for the amiibo-centric mode, the only figure I had access to was the Splatoon Boy for the purposes of this review. It keeps the high going from the campaign, mostly because it is the campaign. Each figure features the same levels, but with a new weapon -- in the Boy's case, a Splat Roller. The rewards are mostly gold, with some cosmetic items and the rare weapon variant. So is it worth $35 to pick up the lot? Based on the Boy, I'd say "no," but it's a nice extra. Try the story first, and if you are really itching to play it multiple times, grab them.The main attraction of course is online play. The entire draw of Splatoon is simplicity in this regard. Matches are short, and they don't feature voice chat. In other words, even if you get spawn camped or dominated, matches are only a few minutes, and you don't have another team taunting you along the way. The core mode you'll be playing right off the bat is Turf War, which is a lot like Tony Hawk's Graffiti gametype -- kills don't matter, and the more you paint the battlefield your color, the higher your score at the end. Your personal score is how you level-up online, earn gold for clothes, and unlock the right to use new weapons. I enjoy lots of shooters, and in my mind, Splatoon has easily carved its own little niche around them. It's a more relaxing affair, both in terms of the zen-like qualities of the paint, and the online experience in general. It's refreshing to be able to try out new loadouts without fearing that they might not be viable, and the maps are fairly easy to learn as they are symmetrical. Don't worry though, there's plenty of room for advanced tactics, which the playerbase is already experimenting with just based on the Global Testfire events. My favorite trick that I discovered while playing online is to paint a wall while running from someone, quickly hide as a squid, and leap out from above as they turn the corner. Ranked play by way of the Splat Zones mode, unlocked at level 10, can be a respite from constant Turf War matches. Based on the current XP gain, it should take roughly a day's worth of playing to unlock, and although Nintendo automatically enabled it for my build of the game, a "certain amount of players" will need to reach 10 to play it. It's basically King of the Hill, with more of an emphasis on zone control and kills than Turf War. Your objective is to score as many points as possible while owning a point on the map, keeping everyone else out of the area. It's pretty great, but sadly, these are the only two current online modes. Nintendo has revealed that more are in the pipeline (Rainmaker and Tower are already confirmed), but for now, you'll have to deal with just two. Online play was smooth for me during the past two weeks of testing on pre-launch servers. I've played well over 100 games, and there were only a few sessions that were dropped during matchmaking. Once the game arrives we'll provide a launch-day report of the server situation, but for now, it's been wonderful. There are a few hangups with the way this component was designed though. When you're in the queue for a round, you can't quit -- not even with the home button. It's a bit odd, especially if you realize that you need to handle something in real life, as your only option is to turn the Wii U off. Additionally, you can't switch up your weapons while you're waiting for a game to start, as you can only do that in the previous menu. Also, after a match is completed, if you hit "yes" to quickly start a new match, you cannot change your loadout there either. It's odd, as nearly every other shooter allows you to do so, and it breaks up the pacing to constantly drop games (that you can't quit) to go try a new style. No voice chat actually isn't a big deal to me in unranked Turf War as it's going for a more casual type of gameplay, but it really should be an option in Ranked play. After all, Nintendo set up a grading system that sees your rank drop if you lose. I'd appreciate the ability to at least communicate with my team. Lastly, there's nothing implemented currently for AFKers (I guess Nintendo is relying on short matches to eventually weed them out), and there are limitations in the current build in regards to playing with friends. After matching up and playing a few games, the game will switch you around on opposite sides every so often. An update is coming later this year will allow friends to play together consistently -- odd. None of this really bothers me all that much, but I can see some of these problems being major issues for a lot of you out there. The thing that mostly bothers me about online play is that there's only a handful of maps and two modes at the moment. In some ways, Splatoon's online component is disappointing, and the lack of so many features will likely push other shooter fans away. But most of those shortcomings can be forgiven in my mind because of how damn fun it is. As a shooter it's refreshing, and as a 3D platformer it's up there with some of Nintendo's greatest creations. You'll quickly forget about the fact that you're playing Turf War over and over as you squid down an alley, leap across a gap, and shoot enemies in the air as you fall. All Nintendo needs to do is keep supporting Splatoon, because the foundation is fantastic. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. Nintendo also provided the Squid Boy amiibo.]
Splatoon review photo
A splash hit for Nintendo
If you think Nintendo hasn't been taking risks, you haven't been paying attention. Yes, most fans await the next Mario and Zelda announcement with bated breath during every E3 presentation, but the publish...

Review: Swords and Soldiers II

May 20 // Chris Carter
Swords and Soldiers II (Wii U)Developers: Ronimo GamesPublisher: Ronimo GamesReleased: May 21, 2015Price: $19.99 This time around, the playable armies of the Chinese and Aztecs have been replaced by Demons and Persians. Although the former two will be sorely missed (I'll never forget some of their sayings), the replacements have more than enough tricks up their sleeve to justify their inclusion. The way Swords and Soldiers II works is strikingly similar to its predecessor. As a strictly "one on one" affair, players will opt to build and research units, sending them in a straight line against another foe. If one gets close enough your units will start attacking their resource accruing units, and just like a complex RTS, your days are numbered as your enemy whittles down your base for a win. It's not just a "set it and forget it" style, as a constant array of diverse spells that can be used at any time keep you on your toes, and can change the tide of any given battle within a round. My favorite part of this scheme however is how quickly everything goes down. After you have the gold, units can be built instantly. Other than the select few instances in a match where you need to erect towers, no real "buildings" need to be created. It's all action all the time, but there is depth to it. While Soldiers does have a story mode, the heart of the game lies within its head-to-head versus and skirmish gametypes. [embed]292182:58551:0[/embed] The campaign is basically table-setting for everything else, giving you a rundown of the strengths and weaknesses of each individual unit, some ideas for how armies counter one another, all set to the tune of a really goofy story that illuminates some background on all three armies. It's not going to win any awards, but the jokes are occasionally laugh out loud funny, mostly due to the superb voicework that carries over into the other modes. Where the sequel mostly succeeds is diversity between the armies. Vikings mostly focus on spells, Demons, towers, and Persians have a health mix of both with their own unique trappings. Every time I started to embed myself in an army I felt like I was playing an utterly different experience, which is definitely a positive. Over time I ended up gravitating towards the Persians, who have some really cool abilities on-hand. I really love the invisible units that are only seen while attacking, but they're balanced, expensive to build, and have plenty of counters. I also enjoyed the low mana-cost cannon structure, which does nothing on its own, but can fire a low-damage, tiny genie-summoning canon shot across the map. I quickly learned that Demons could counter my stealth units by building barrel riders -- suicidal creatures that would explode and destroy them even if they were invisible, and were at a lower cost. In return I researched the bribe skill, which allowed me to take over specific units at a cost of gold and mana. There's hundreds of counters like that across the multitude of characters and strategies present in the game, and thankfully, it's never too overwhelming at any given time. After seeing a new unit you'll have an incentive to try out the army and use it yourself, which is really easy to do considering how open the research tree is at the start. If you want to spend all of your starting gold just to build one big unit -- you can do that. Likewise, you can bunker up with a defensive-strategy at the start, or "Zerg" rush with some low-cost units. It's surprisingly balanced and open-ended. Another new layer of depth is the gold and mana drop mechanic. On every map, airdrops will occasionally fall down and litter the map. You're presented with a choice -- let your gold gatherers stay within the comfort of your base for consistent riches, or brave the world for a massive reward. This is on top of micro-managing your army, spells, researching, and building responsibilities. It gets even more intense on one map in particular, where the only way to any resources of any kind is to pick up drops. Multiplayer is played by way of one mode -- a local versus setup where one player uses the GamePad, and another, the TV. Although the lack of online play is a bummer, Ronimo really chose a perfect platform that caters directly to the dual army conceit. In short, it's a perfect situation for my wife, who prefers the TV and the Wii U Pro Controller (though a Classic Controller Pro and Wiimote can be used), and myself, who vastly prefers the GamePad. I ended up plugging in some noise cancelling headphones so I couldn't hear her unit sounds (and vice versa), and it was a much easier setup than we achieved with the previous game, getting two PCs together, logging into Steam, and hoping we consistently connect to one another. There is one hangup though -- you can set your tweak a few extra stats in versus like your starting gold settings or change up build and cooldown rates, but you need to do this every round once you quit out of a session. It will work if you stay the same armies on the smae level to "rematch," but it feels like an oversight to have to switch it back every time. Your mileage may also vary if you don't have a friend to play with, but then again, that's where Skirmish comes in. If you don't have anyone on hand, you can opt to play with the AI. Surprisingly it's actually challenging, though I will say that the CPU cheats from time to time, like when it throws down an area-of-effect (AOE) ability on the ground, knowing that your invisible units will cross over it. Still, I can put everything on random and play skirmish for hours, despite the fact that there wasn't anyone to revel in my victories with on the couch. Although Swords and Soldiers II has a limited appeal for those of you who like to only game solo, it's a fine strategy title, and a perfect mix of brevity and depth. I'm likely still going to be learning the ins and outs of each army months down the line, which is a really great thing. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Swords and Soldiers II photo
Vikings, Demons, and Persians, oh my
Swords and Soldiers, released in 2009 as Ronimo's first game, was an underrated treasure. Although it was soon eclipsed by their subsequent release of Awesomenauts a few years later, it remained a staple in my house, as it was wonderously easy to pick up and play at any time. Swords and Soldiers II builds upon that foundation and adds just enough depth to keep things interesting.

Review: NERO

May 13 // Brett Makedonski
NERO (Xbox One [reviewed], PC, Wii U, 3DS)Developers: Storm in a TeacupPublisher: ID@XboxReleased: May 15, 2015 (Xbox One), TBA (PC, Wii U, 3DS)Price: $19.99 But to spend a little more time in NERO's world is a wondrous thing. The omnipresent phosphorescent set-dressing strikes a dissonant chord against the subject material, but works in an odd mutuality. When hope seems like it's sure to slip away forever, the aesthetic inspires in an underlying way. Hey, maybe things will turn out all right after all. As this is a foray through a child's mind who's going through uncertain realities, nothing about NERO is metaphorically black and white. The journey is paced however you see fit. Meandering about is enticing, as everything about it begs for exploration. Backtracking is likely to occur often, as you realize you've been staring at the lustrous sky for too long and forgot to pay attention to your surroundings. Every time this happens, you'll fall a little more in love with NERO. Wandering off the beaten path has its benefits beyond taking in more scenery. NERO is a first-person puzzle-solving game, but it can be very light on the latter if you so choose. The majority of the puzzles are tucked away in areas that aren't even necessary to venture to. Those who opt to complete these brain-teasers will be awarded with an extra slice of narrative. [embed]292028:58522:0[/embed] Honestly, those who take the quick and narrow path through NERO are robbing themselves -- not just of a few puzzles, but of the core experience. It's a game where you slowly figure out that aimless wandering is the aim. It's something that requires some marinating, soaking in the world to fully appreciate it. Approaching NERO with a destination in mind is a mindset that will result in disappointment. Likewise, those who appreciate clearly drawn lines will similarly feel frustration. NERO is intentionally ambiguous at all times about its narrative, but its tone is always striking. Different thematic accents constantly punctuate different scenes; the ones that don't happen to arch over the course of the entire journey. For all the discussion it's sure to raise regarding plot, it's undoubtedly a story of love and loss, grief and guilt, companionship and family, and coping when the world is so goddamn unfair. All that being said, NERO isn't perfect. Detractors will knock it for a short run-time, flat textures, frame rate stutters, and lack of puzzle variety. However, isolating those issues is akin to missing the forest for the trees. There's something greater at play here, and letting yourself become immersed in NERO will likely render those shortcomings moot. Even after finishing, it's difficult to pin NERO down to a concept or feeling that's easy to explain. It's a game that prioritizes emotion above all else, and it does so wonderfully. But as the boy at the heart of this tale learns, emotions are tough to understand, and thus NERO is tough to understand. You'll just know that you felt something, and that sensation alone is worth the journey.
NERO review photo
A strange and distant land
I don't know why I kept playing NERO. That's not a statement meant to express disdain. I literally don't know what -- but something -- drew me to keep trekking through this sad, enamoring world. Its gravitas has a gravity abo...

Review: Forgotten Memories: Alternate Realities

May 07 // Jed Whitaker
Forgotten Memories: Alternate Realities (Android, iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 6 Plus], Playstation Vita, Wii U)Developer: Psychose Interactive Inc.Publisher: Psychose Interactive Inc.Released: April 23, 2015 (iOS) / TBA 2015 (Android, PlayStation Vita, Wii U)MSRP: $4.99 Rose Hawkins wakes up after being shot in the face, only remembering that she was searching for a missing girl named Eden. She doesn't recall who shot her, how she is alive, or where she is.  Upon exiting the room Rose is greeted by a hallway formed in red curtains, the kind you'd find at any theater. An antique dictation device is waiting for her, and a message plays automatically from a woman named Noah who has been waiting for her. Noah knows Rose by name, and promises her more information on Eden if she can free her nurse friend from the asylum she is about to enter. Rose comes face to face with Noah in a throne surrounded by mannequins one last time before entering the asylum, Noah still talks through audio dictation for some reason. This is the kind of tone you can expect from Forgotten Memories. [embed]291661:58457:0[/embed] Like any psychological survival horror game, the story is deep, twisted and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Most of the lore you'll come across in case files, notes, and a couple of cutscenes. Forgotten Memories is very old school in this regard, but still manages to have an engaging story worth searching for. Old school is a  word that can be used to describe most parts of the experience, for better or for worse. I almost didn't finish the game due to how difficult the game is, just because the developers felt the need to shove in old school mechanics for old school sake. Saving the game requires tracking down a computer and using a floppy disk, an item that is extremely limited in the game. While classic survival horror games used this save game mechanic, most notably the original Resident Evil series, it sucks for a game on mobile, especially when the game is brutally difficult. Forgotten Memories' app store description originally warned prospective buyers to only purchase the game if you are a hardcore gamer due to the level of challenge involved. They weren't joking -- I almost didn't finish it to how quickly and often I'd die. Luckily I must not have been the only one as the developer quickly released an update that included an easy mode. It provides players with unlimited saves, more ammo, easier enemies and more medkit pickups, among other tweaks. Even with this easy mode I found myself in situations with a sliver of health, no medkits and some distance between myself and the nearest save point.  Touchscreen controls were a mistake, plain and simple, and hopefully they don't carry over to the Vita and Wii U versions of the game. The left side of the screen controls character movement, while the right side controls the camera and aiming. The first place touched on the left side of the screen acts as a center axis, and Rose will move in the direction of your fingers position in reference to said axis. Camera and aiming control seems inconsistent on how much movement there is, often times leading to needing multiple swipes just turn around. On the right side of the screen are also icons that allow you to run or go into an aiming mode with your flashlight or weapon. With a weapon drawn tapping anywhere on the screen will cause Rose to attack. The pipe, the only melee weapon I found in my playthroughs, can be used three times consecutively to perform a powerful combo attack that pushes enemies backwards. Since this piece of junk is your main weapon, combat boils down to letting enemies get close enough to attack, performing the combo, rinse repeat. It leaves a lot to be desired. Shitty controls aside, Forgotten Memories nails the survival horror atmosphere unlike any game I've played in years. Haunting violins can be heard as you search for clues and keys, pounding drums mixed with noise play during combat, and the intro music is haunting, a mainstay of the Silent Hill series. I found my heart beating in my chest with my breath held as I ran past enemies to escape rooms. Hearing distorted singing coming from a shadow-like child that is just down the hallway where you need to go is fucking horrifying. While it is indeed a horrifying affair, it ends all too abruptly at just under an hour and a half on my first playthrough.  Having been in development for years, Forgotten Memories feels like it was purposely cut short to allow for sequels or download content. That being said, the pacing is tight and there is no filler whatsoever, but it still feels like the first chapter of a longer game. Aside from the brevity, awful controls, and dull combat, the game is easily recommendable for those looking for that Silent Hill feel. Though only the desperate should pick up the mobile version, or those that have a compatible controller, otherwise wait for the console and PC releases sometime this year. While the graphics are some of the best I've seen on mobile, they can only be better elsewhere. Forgotten Memories: Alternate Realities is about the best you can do for survival horror currently, if you can stomach the control scheme. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Forgotten Memories review photo
Horror-ible controls
Survival horror has always been one of my favorite genres, with Silent Hill being the absolute king. When I heard about a game inspired by and with voice actors from Silent Hill 2, arguably the best in the series, I was ...

Here's everything from the Splatoon Nintendo Direct

May 07 // Chris Carter
[embed]291747:58462:0[/embed]
Splatoon Direct photo
The demo is out today
Nintendo just ran a Splatoon-centric Direct presentation, and it provided a ton of information on the soon-to-be-released shooter. First, to play ranked modes online, you have to reach level 10 (as was previously announced), ...

Review: High Strangeness

May 06 // Chris Carter
High Strangeness (PC [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: Barnyard Intelligence GamesPublisher: Midnight CityReleased: May 6, 2015MSRP: $9.99 High Strangeness is a simple tale of a young man named Boyd. He has a cat, he lives a simple life -- until shadow people invade his hometown and set into motion a series of events that will change his world forever. Sound familiar? Strangeness is meant to evoke the feeling of an old school RPG, using elements of both 8-bit and 16-bit adventures, meshing it into what the developer calls "the 12-bit realm." It definitely has an EarthBound-like feel to it, with snappy jokes, real-life oriented weapons like a flashlight and firecrackers, and an otherworldly plot. The writing has the charm of a typical Pokémon game, with cute jokes that are often very meta in nature, but not to the point of just repeatedly spouting obnoxious memes. I never really felt any attachment to the cast or the setting, but the era-appropriate dialog definitely helps along the way. Boyd will fight said shadows mostly by way of his flashlight melee attack, but he'll also have a few other tricks up his sleeve, like the aforementioned firecracker bombs, a set of CDs that basically function like Zelda's arrows, and more far-out weaponry like the power to control a shadow clone. Combat mainly consists of old school hit and run gameplay, with a stamina meter in tow to prevent you from mashing the attack button. It's rudimentary, but it works, especially when  you start to experiment and realize that every weapon is viable. My favorite bit about High Strangeness is the fact that you earn upgrade tokens for every kill (even normal enemies). Since these item or skill enhancements are actually quite useful, it creates a nice incentive to get your hands dirty as often as possible. [embed]291545:58443:0[/embed] The main gimmick however is definitely the concept of plane switching, which you'll unlock roughly 30 minutes in. With the press of a button you can phase between the default 16-bit world and an 8-bit realm, fundamentally changing the way everything works. Some enemies will be easier or tougher depending on what world you're in, and mechanically, basic gameplay changes as well. Boyd can use combos and run in the 16-bit era, but only attacks with one thrust at at time and moves in a grid-like fashion in 8-bit, and so on. The switch isn't instantaneous (it takes a few seconds) so it's not worth it to constantly change, but it is fun to see enemies in a new light or try out new tactics at will. Plus, some puzzles can only be solved by toggling planes, so you'll need to do it every so often -- thank goodness it doesn't get annoying. Because the game is faster paced in the 16-bit visual style I vastly preferred it over 8-bit, and felt like the latter could have used a few extra touches in terms of a unique feel. While it does have a certain amount of charm, High Strangeness is a very linear adventure. Puzzles usually don't take more than a few minutes at a time to solve, and when all is said and done, you'll probably breeze through it in roughly five hours. There is a very cool final boss at the end, but sadly, there's no additional difficulty settings or a New Game+ option, so what you see is what you get. There are also a few wrinkles, like the health and stamina UI that doesn't stay locked in one place, and moves if you get too close to it on the screen. Since the game has some dead space due to the constrained aspect ratio, I wish there were an option to keep it static. Additionally, I wish there were a "quick item switch" button, since pausing the game to change secondary weapons isn't ideal. High Strangeness might be a brief adventure that feels a bit shallow at times, but it's very easy to digest. Because of the short nature of the game it doesn't waste your time, and it's very easy for anyone -- retro enthusiast or not -- to pick up and play. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. I did not back the Kickstarter campaign.]
High Strangeness review photo
Taming strange
[Disclosure: High Strangeness was developed in part by Destructoid community member Ben "AgentMOO" Shostak. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] Back in 2009, a smal...

Review: Cosmophony

May 05 // Darren Nakamura
Cosmophony (Android, iPhone, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], PlayStation Vita, Wii U)Developer: Bento StudioPublisher: Bento StudioReleased: May 5, 2015 (PlayStation systems)MSRP: $4.99 The setup is about as simple as it gets. Fly/glide/hover/whatever down a seven-lane tube. Avoid smashing into obstacles. Optionally shoot black triangle "enemies." That's about it. There are a couple of different measure for success. Getting through a level without dying is enough to unlock the next level. Doing that while destroying every black triangle along the way is worth a full rating. Each level can be played in Practice Mode or Normal Mode. Aesthetically, Practice Mode takes out the color and some visual effects, but the big difference is that it allows the use of checkpoints and gives the ability to fast-forward or rewind to replay tricky sections. Normal Mode is the real deal: make it through a level from start to finish; any mistake means restarting from the beginning. [embed]291451:58420:0[/embed] Cosmophony's unique hook is that it functions as a rhythm game, but the reliance on rhythm is hidden at first. In the early levels, there is a lot of room for error. Firing a shot at nothing carries no penalty and timing is irrelevant as long as moves are made before crashing. Often I would take out enemies before they were even on screen by spamming the fire button knowing which lane they would be in. That changes by the third level. There is still a little bit of leeway allowed for certain decisions. There is space to overshoot, moving three lanes left instead of two. However, after playing and replaying the same sections a few times, it dawned on me that every button press corresponds to a musical element. It's not just the shooting, but also the movement. Once that became clear, I was able to reach the zen state of concentration where my fingers were doing what they were supposed to be doing before my conscious brain could tell them. So few games hit that sweet spot, where the sound and light and difficulty all come together to create an intense mental experience. Level three of Cosmophony does that for me. Sadly, that falls apart for me at the fourth level. The difficulty ramps up consistently across the levels, but it goes too far to be enjoyable. Where previous levels allowed room for minor error and contained lighter sections for the player to refocus, it turns into a relentless exercise in rote memorization and execution. I was no longer finding my happy place where time slows down; I was only finding frustration. Cosmophony is like a firework. As it's flying up and sending out sparks, interest builds. Once it detonates it's an awesome show of color and sound. After that it's over and everybody goes home. It's short and intense, but it stops being interesting once it oversteps the line between fun and frustrating. I played it and enjoyed it until it felt unfair, and now I probably won't ever touch it again. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Cosmophony review photo
The difficulty sure ain't phony
I had been lulled into a false sense of security. I finished the tutorial and the first level of Cosmophony with a perfect rating in about 15 minutes. "Four more levels of this?" I thought. "Child's play." Cut to an hour and ...

The Destructoid Wii U Game File Size Guide

Apr 30 // Chris Carter
GameFile Size 1001 Spikes 122MB Affordable Space Adventures 1GB Armillo 1.7GB Art Academy: SketchPad 524MB Assassin's Creed III 17GB Batman: Arkham City 19GB Ben 10 Omniverse 2.8GB Bayonetta 11GB Bayonetta 2 14GB Bit.Trip Presents: Runner 2 966MB Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker 1.2GB Castlestorm 294MB Citizens of Earth 3.7GB Darksiders II 9.3GB Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut 13GB Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze 10GB Dot Arcade 83MB Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two 7.3GB Dr. Luigi 108MB Edge 110MB Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Revenge 2 15GB Hyrule Warriors 7.6GB Kirby and the Rainbow Curse 2.8GB Lego City Undercover 21GB Mario Kart 8 6.3GB Mario Party 10 3GB Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games 9.7GB Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars 418MB Metroid Prime Trilogy 6GB Mighty Switch Force! HD 330MB Monster Hunter Ultimate 3 6.0GB Mutant Mudds Deluxe 31MB Need For Speed: Most Wanted 6.1GB NES Remix 387MB NES Remix 2 100MB New Super Mario Bros. U 2.3GB Scram Kitty and his Buddy On Rails 89MB Ninja Gaiden III: Razor's Edge 5.3GB Nintendoland 2.7GB One Piece: Unlimited World Red 11GB Pokemon Rumble U 537MB Pikmin 3 4.5GB Punch Out!! 4GB Pushmo World 507MB Rush 175MB Shovel Knight 173MB Splatoon 1.8GB Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed 5.7GB Steamworld Dig 89MB Super Mario 3D World 1.6GB Super Mario Galaxy 2 1.6GB Super Smash Bros. for Wii U 15.7GB Tank! Tank! Tank! 1.5GB Tekken Tag Tournament 2 16GB Toki Tori 135MB Toki Tori 2 536MB Wii Party U 5GB The Wonderful 101 10GB ZombiU 5.6GB
Wii U File Size Guide photo
From MB to GB
With the rise of digital distribution, hard drive constraints are becoming more problematic than ever. It's never fun purchasing a game only to find out you don't actually have space for it. Here is a constantly-updated list ...

amiibo tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits is severely underwhelming

Apr 30 // Chris Carter
amiibo tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits (Wii U)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoReleased: April 30, 2015MSRP: Free (requires at least one amiibo) To even utilize amiibo Tap, which is a free download, you'll need an amiibo figure (MSRP: $13) -- full stop. After booting it up you're greeted with a menu noting that you'll have the opportunity to play various NES and SNES games (that are conveniently located on the eShop for purchase) by tapping a toy to the GamePad. Easy enough. The strangest thing about the app however is that it doesn't recognize specific characters. I mean, a lot of them are third-party or don't even have retro games, so I understand that much. But I thought for sure (despite the fact that it was already announced as randomized) if you tap a Mario character to the pad you'd unlock a Mario demo, but instead, it just opens up a random game. Once your amiibo is linked to that game it will automatically start up another demo with subsequent taps. For people with large amiibo collections, it's pretty confusing to keep track of. The demos themselves are straight-forward three minute "bits" if you will, with nine in all for every game -- to clarify, yes, that's nine 180 second sections per title. If you look at the video below you'll see a demo reel for The Legend of Zelda: A Link the Past, teleporting through various portions of the game, from intense scenes to boss battles. There's a timer on each sequence to prevent you from playing too much of the game, which is understandable. [embed]291278:58394:0[/embed] My opinion is that this whole app was rushed out of the gate, for any number of reasons. It would have been really cool to unlock new games by way of amiibo purchases, especially for figures that don't really have any functionality outside of a Super Smash Bros. NPC. A small homage to Super Princess Peach, the DS game, would have been cool, as would a new bite-sized demo for something like "Super Rosalina." The entire app isn't even future-proofed for new amiibo due to the lack of specificity, so there's no point in keeping it around to see how it will change when new figures come out. In its current state, it's not even worth downloading, as it's essentially a convoluted demo delivery service. If you have Super Smash Bros., just stick to the straight-forward Masterpiece demos.
amiibo tap impressions photo
Specific amiibo don't even align with franchises
When I first heard about amiibo Tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits, I thought it was a cool idea at first, and a good concession for fans who may have missed out on a ton of amiibo opportunities this year. After actually playing it, I'm coming away extremely underwhelmed, and I'll likely uninstall it later today.

Nintendo, your work isn't done on Mario Kart 8

Apr 25 // Chris Carter
New crossovers: The sky really is the limit for new franchises. While I initially wanted a full-on "Mario Kart All-Stars" for the next game, I soon realized after playing the Animal Crossing pack that Nintendo could just keep supporting 8, and it would be more than good enough. With a real online infrastructure and a visual style gorgeous enough to withstand the test of time, we don't have to wait years until a new console iteration. Keep the crossovers coming. Samus, Fox McCloud, Kirby (with his Warpstar) -- all of them would fit perfectly into the Mario Kart universe, and I can see some really ingenious tracks down the road due to Nintendo's rich history as a character factory. One request is to just go all-out for the new characters though -- no "half Mario half new" -- just go all-new. Just inject F-Zero into the game already: We've seen the Mute City and Big Blue homages, but really, with F-Zero considered by many to be the definitive racing experience over Mario Kart, that's a huge market ready to be tapped. I'm not even talking about a "Pack" here -- more like a full-on expansion in 2016 featuring cast members from F-Zero, at least 10 tracks from the series, and extra elements like new characters and planets. Use that as a barometer for gauging interest in a new F-Zero game. Miyamoto himself said last year that "the struggle is that I don't really have a good idea for what's new that we could bring to F-Zero that would really turn it into a great game again." I have an idea -- fans already like what you've done with the franchise in Mario Kart 8, so think about expanding on it. A real battle mode: Finally, we come to my one big problem with Mario Kart 8 -- a lack of a real battle mode. No, that sorry excuse of "racing with balloons" doesn't cut it. I want real, tiered arenas that are all-new. Although I loved the core game as a racer, it really loses a lot of its spark due to the fact that so many fans grew up only playing the battle minigame. It cuts down on the replay value for fans as well, as I remember plenty of Mario Kart marathons that would have ended after a few hours if it wasn't for someone suggesting that we play "just a bit more" within the confines of the arena. I'm hopeful for these additions because Nintendo has shown it knows how to to DLC right. For $12 right now, you'll net seven characters (Villager counts as two!), eight vehicles, and 16 tracks. For reference, the game shipped with 32 courses. While I wouldn't trust a lot of publishers with this charge, Nintendo has the opportunity to really make Mario Kart 8 one of the longest-lasting games in the series, as the company has proven that it knows exactly what it's doing.
More Mario Kart 8 photo
More crossovers and a real battle mode
When Nintendo announced its DLC plans for Mario Kart 8, there was a combination of collective groans and cheers across the internet. The latter group was on the right side of history, it seems. When the first DLC Pack dr...

Review: Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2

Apr 23 // Jordan Devore
Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 (Wii U)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoReleased: April 23, 2015MSRP: $7.99 ($11.99 bundled with DLC Pack 1) First up, let's run through exactly what's included in DLC Pack 2: Characters: Villager (male and female), Isabelle, and Dry Bowser Vehicles: Streetle, City Tripper, P-Wing, and Bone Rattler Vehicle Parts: Paper Glider and Leaf Tires Crossing Cup tracks: Baby Park, Cheese Land, Wild Woods, and Animal Crossing Bell Cup tracks: Neo Bowser City, Ribbon Road, Super Bell Subway, and Big Blue Whereas last time we got two characters who looked like retreads of the existing lineup (Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach), here there's Dry Bowser as the lone offender -- but he's so awesome on his badass, metallic, skeletal bike that I'm not even going to complain. Isabelle is a cute addition to the roster and, hey, cute is fine. But the Villager duo is where it's at for my money ($7.99). The boy's patterned pants are the best. Like, I went so far as to jot down a note about them between races. That might sound silly. It is. But for a game packed so full of little flourishes, you've got to appreciate the attention to detail. I particularly dig how Animal Crossing's iconic "Oh shit!" piano sound plays when you fall off course as one of these characters. I don't have much to say about the three other new vehicles, but admittedly I'm not one to dissect stats and stick to certain builds because they are technically superior. Aesthetics matter, too! With that in mind: the Streetle has a chubby beetle-esque frame; the City Tripper reminds me of a Vespa; and the P-Wing has got a cool sort of Speed Racer thing going for it. It wasn't long at all before I returned to old favorites like the Sport Bike, though. [embed]290911:58308:0[/embed] "The tracks," you might be thinking. "Get to the tracks already! That's what we care about." Yes, yes, I agree. No more stalling. (And thanks for the segue!) First up is Baby Park, a short and sweet oval-shaped course modeled after a bustling theme park. During its seven micro laps, you will probably be hit with a bunch of items and hit back just as hard. It's equal parts chaos and joy. Whether in first place or last, everyone's so bunched together that it feels like you're in the middle of the pack, always. I somehow took first place in an online match and it was as if I had cheated death himself. Cheese Land, a desert area with edible-looking rock formations, makes terrific use of the game's depth-of-field effects for its sprawling vistas. This track has come a long way since its debut in Mario Kart: Super Circuit for the Game Boy Advance, that's for sure. Unquestionably pretty, but not necessarily a standout track in my mind. Wild Woods, however, stands out. It might even be the standout. It's this oasis hidden deep within a lush forest and there's a little village of Shy Guys and Toads and they've got a waterslide which you of course get to race across. Someone at Nintendo finally figured out that driving down waterslides in Mario Kart is what rainbows must taste like: magic. Next is Animal Crossing, which closes out the Crossing Cup. It's a relatively simple area that shifts seasons to dramatic and delightful effect. Northern lights glimmer during winter in one playthrough, while cherry blossoms flow in another. Seeing this world and these characters rendered so beautifully has me giddy at the possibility of a new Animal Crossing on Wii U. Just, wow. Neo Bowser City kicks off the Bell Cup with a rain-soaked neon cityscape. It's a nice change of scenery from the usual castles and lava we associate with Bowser, but the layout didn't feel all that unique. Still, I have to commend the designers for coming up with these places that feel seem like tracks in a racing videogame and more like cross sections of living worlds. Hundreds of races later, we might still be picking out fresh details in the environment. Ribbon Road, another upgrade of an old Game Boy Advance track, might be my favorite. It's miniature Mario Kart in a child's bedroom, complete with those wind-up dudes from the end of Super Mario World, swaying jack-in-the-boxes that you'll need to glide around, and a monstrously large movie poster for "Kung-Fu Lakitu" plastered on a wall. It's a pitch-perfect theme and the course itself is continuously exciting to navigate. What a keeper. Super Bell Subway isn't as visually arresting as its predecessors but speeding through an underground subway makes for a good time all the same. This can be one of the more rewarding courses depending on if you're (un)lucky enough to get sandwiched between two trains. Finally, there's Big Blue, a track that translates well from F-Zero (and I'm not just saying that because of the fist-pumping theme song). It's another one of those long, one-lap tracks people either love or loathe. I adore 'em. Between the competing conveyer belts, the waterslide-like pathways and, yes, that amazing song, I thought to myself "So this is what it feels like to truly be alive." Is this all working up toward a future F-Zero game or are DLC cameos in Mario Kart 8 as good as it gets for fans? Ignorance might be bliss. The free new 200cc option isn't a part of DLC Pack 2 (and as such I'm not factoring it into this review), but since it's out on the same day, I figured you'd want to know at least a little about it. As expected, it is exhilarating. Also as expected, it takes some getting used to. I'm not even sure the AI is fully ready for it. The action moves at such a rapid pace that you need to rethink your routes and strategies (and possibly your vehicle of choice) or risk crashing into walls or falling over the edge frequently. Repeat after me: "there is a brake button." The free update also adds more costumes for Mario Kart 8's Mii character which you can unlock by scanning supported amiibo. I saw someone online with a Kirby sitting on their head and that was neat for a second before I got shot to hell with shells. Your results may vary. As with DLC Pack 1, Nintendo has shown what great downloadable content can look like and that it doesn't need to arrive on day one or even month one. While not every new track is memorable, there is a consistent quality here and a few of them represent Mario Kart at its best. It was a treat to see other Nintendo properties dip into the game last year and that novelty hasn't worn off yet. This is the future of the series. It has to be. [This review is based on a final build of the DLC purchased by the reviewer.]
Mario Kart DLC review photo
Animal Crossing is in the house
Nintendo is back with more crossover content for Mario Kart 8 and even as an on-again, off-again fan of the series, today feels reminiscent of waking up on Christmas morning confident that the present you most wanted this yea...

How to make Ryu an interesting character in Super Smash Bros.

Apr 19 // Patrick Hancock
Sprite GIFs used are all from the Street Fighter Wiki. Give him an EX meter and EX moves So, let's assume Ryu has his Hadoken, Shoryuken, Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, and some fourth move like a counter or his Joudan Sokutogeri. What would make Ryu unique isn't so much his actual set of moves, but what he can do with them. Give Ryu an EX meter, similar to Little Mac's KO meter, and allow him to build it up and use it. It could build just like it does in Street Fighter IV, by connecting with attacks or getting attacked. Spending this meter can work in a few ways. One would be double-tapping the B button to use an EX move instantly. Double-tapping is weird and I'm not sure it would work in Super Smash Bros., but it's an idea. Another option is to allow Ryu to consume an EX bar to make his next move an EX move. For example: when there's at least one bar of EX glowing, Ryu can hold B to drain it and store it, similar to how many characters store a charged up move. Then, the next special move Ryu executes will be an EX version of that move, with different properties.  If Nintendo really wants to get fancy, it could even work with Capcom to include Street Fighter V's mechanic of spending an entire EX meter to make a character "super-charged" until he is knocked down.  Art by DeviantArt user kupbot Make Ryu's alternate costumes like Bowser Jr.'s Whether Nintendo meant to or not, they set a precedent with Bowser Jr. and his alternate costumes. Ryu is a perfect candidate for this method of alternate costume since there are plenty of Shotokans for Nintendo to choose from. Since each character has seven alternate costumes, here is what I've come up with for Ryu's alternate costumes: Ken, Akuma, Dan, Sean, Gouken, Sakura, and Evil Ryu. Let's be honest, Ryu is boring. He's the "guy on the box." Sure, he's recognizable, but most people tend to gravitate to someone else in Street Fighter. He's a wonderful beginning character and incredibly important to the franchise, but I will be way more willing to use Ryu if I can actually play as Sean or Dan. Sure, it may only be an aesthetic change, but to some, aesthetics really matter. Speaking of which... Give Ryu custom moves from other Shotokans While it is incredibly disconcerting that Mewtwo does not have custom moves at the moment, I am still holding out hope that DLC characters will eventually come with or get their own custom moves. Considering it's one of the biggest new features in this entry of Smash Bros., it only makes sense to do so. Assuming Ryu does get some customs, why not take them from the characters that make up his alternate costumes? Here's some basic ideas: Hadoken custom move ideas: Dan's wimpy Gadoken Gouken's angled Hadoken Sean's basketball (I really like Sean, okay?) Fireball multi-hit Shakunetsu Hadouken Tatsu custom move ideas:Note: This is assuming Ryu's basic Tatsu moves him horizontally  Dan's multi-hit Dankukyaku Stationary Tatsu Vertical Rising Tatsu Shoryuken custom move ideas: Ken's fiery Shoryuken Sean's Dragon Smash The multi-hitting Shoryureppa Since the fourth move could be a multitude of things, I'll just stop here. I think the point is clear: there are a ton of variants on these moves, and it would be a shame to see them go to waste! Two different Final Smashes Luckily, Street Fighter's Ultras convert directly to Super Smash Bros.'s Final Smash. So why not give Ryu two of them? Everyone already expects the Shinku Hadoken to be his Final Smash, but what if, by hitting B and a direction, he could execute a different one? He could have the Shin Shoryuken or even the Shinku Tatsumaki Senpukyaku.  I honestly have no idea if this would be possible, but it sure would be cool! The bottom line is, Ryu is possibly going to be in Super Smash Bros., but without going the extra distance, he'll be a character not many people will be interested in playing. If Nintendo and Mr. Sakurai give Ryu the same care and attention I know they are capable of giving, Ryu could be a favorite character for many players. Roy on the other hand...
Ryu in Smash done right photo
Listen up, Nintendo!
Street Fighter's Ryu is currently rumored to be coming to Nintendo's newest entry into the Super Smash Bros. series, thanks to some hidden files in the most recent update to the game. It makes a lot of sense; Capcom...

Captain of my own destiny: Micro-goals and player liberty

Apr 19 // Anna Anthropy
Every level of Captain Toad is a dense little 3D dollhouse. (In fact, you start to wonder why it wasn't released on the 3DS, where I wouldn't have had to constantly flick my attention between the TV and the thing I was holding.) The player's job is to steer Captain Toad -- or later Captain Toadette instead, once she's submitted herself to being rescued by the character who isn't femme-presenting -- through these little dollhouses. It's refreshing to see Nintendo finally catch up with more progressive developers, who allow playable women characters in their games, but only after male characters (or micropayments) have "unlocked" them. I'm not actually sure the game ever awards Toadette the rank of full Captain. Captain Toad or (Ensign? Admiral?) Toadette move through each dollhouse, avoiding (or occasionally vegetabling) threats, discovering new ways to get around the place, and ultimately attaining the shining Star at the end. That's the point of each little dollhouse, its ultimate goal. But there are "micro-goals" too: three special coins hidden in each little house. They're sealed, like plucky detectives in Nancy Drew novels, behind breakable walls, or tucked into secret nooks or out-of-the-way paths. Their purpose is to encourage (and reward) more thoroughly exploring each dollhouse, turning it over and over on your touch screen to peek into every part of it you can see. That's a legitimate way of playing the game -- call it a "deep" rather than "wide" play style -- and is legitimately rewarding to a certain type of player. That's not usually how I play these games, though. Playing Captain Toad, I was more interested in just seeing as much as possible - the wide rather than deep style of play. I wanted to see all the dollhouses. I wanted to see lots of neat, new things in succession, and not to be stuck on any one for too long. (Certainly the fact that I wouldn't be able to play the game once I'd left my friend's house made me reluctant to linger.) But this style of play is legit too. A design that incorporates both simple unlock-the-next-level goals and extra, optional micro-goals is, theoretically, one that accommodates both styles of play. If I want to see new things, I prioritize the overarching goal that will get me to the next level. If I want to feel like I'm really plumbing the depths of each individual level, I prioritize the micro-goals. But more realistically, my play style -- and probably most players' -- incorporates elements of both: going for a challenge coin when I see how to do so, but not replaying the same level over and over until I've gotten all three. Where the design fails in this case is when it turns out these optional micro-goals aren't optional after all, and that you can only see so much of the game without prioritizing them. My friend was way more challenge-coin-oriented, but even so, the available levels eventually petered out. "Did you unlock any more?" he asked me. I had seen a level or two later than he had. After a point, Captain Toad explicitly enforces the "deep, not wide" style of play where it teases that it will accommodate both kinds of play. And it's not the only Mario (or "Mario universe?" "Mario galaxy?") game to be structured this way: this is the way they're designing them these days. I also bailed on Super Mario 3D Land before seeing the end because it wanted me to replay past levels and harvest more hidden coins. Maybe the hope was that after playing "wide" for long enough, I'd develop enough of an investment in the game to play "deep" when I was forced to. Nope. I stopped playing. Oh, I stuck on for a few more levels, a few more tollbooths. But then I got tired of these forced intermissions between the stuff I wanted to be doing -- seeing new stuff -- to do stuff I was bored of: retreading old territory. I was up to the challenge of the new stages. I was capable, ready, and excited to do more. But the game was unwilling to let me, and I got bored, and I gave up. Surely that's not the outcome the developers were hoping for: player gets bored, gives up? I think it's a failure when additional goals are used to narrow, rather than broaden, the player's experience. One of the games I've been spending a lot of time with lately, Alto's Adventure, a snowboarding game for the iPad, has a few different levels of overlapping goals: get as far as possible in a single run (survive), get as many points as possible on a single run (perform tricks), complete the current "missions" the game has given you (perform specific tasks). Some of the missions are long-term: perform 10 backflips using a character who has a difficult time gaining air. Some of them are really specific: smash a rock during a chase scene. While I'm playing for the overarching goal of travelling as far as possible, these extra goals give me opportunities to explore wider aspects of the game systems. I might have never attempted a triple-backflip if the game hadn't suggested I try it, in addition to my already-established goal of getting farther, seeing more. And not all games need extra layers of goals: Monument Valley doesn't need "missions" to distract from its sparse vignettes. But when extra challenges are deployed, it should be in the service of expanding the player's experience of the game, rather than forcing it. Maybe if you're a garden fungus, the only way up the ladder to the rank of Captain is doing whatever authority tells you without question. Maybe Toadette is the real brains here.
Captain Toad photo
Where playground meets obstacle course
A friend of mine got a good deal on a Wii U recently. That meant that I finally got a chance to play Captain Toad. It's really humbling to know that people at Nintendo have also played Monument Valley. I played through a bunc...

Mewtwo in Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS is on the juice

Apr 15 // Jonathan Holmes
Mewtwo has grown up a lot since his Melee days, where his design was largely based on his big-headed origin in Pokémon Red/Blue. Since then his legs have gotten bigger, his arms have gotten longer, and his head has gotten a lot less bulbous. In Melee, it seemed like a lot of his psychic attacks were there to compensate for his baby proportions. Now that he's become more physically formidable, that added psychic flair seems less like a necessity and more like a sassy style choice.  He's also a good head taller than Lucario, his former replacement. That's sure to make a lot of long-time Mewtwo fans happy. Seeing him tower over his crowd-pleasing, dog-faced protege feels appropriate, given his status as the original uber-Pokémon.  Mewtwo was only just released to the public today, so it will be a little while before we discover the details around his various moves and properties. From what I've played so far, he has two major changes in his normal move set. His neutral A combo now ends with a swipe that that sends enemies flying, and his down air A is now a down thrust punch that really packs a wallop. Both changes are quite fitting given his newly gained girth and stature.  [embed]290541:58195:0[/embed] As for his Smash Ball attack, he takes the form of Mega Mewtwo Y and dishes out some potential instant-kill damage with a fast-moving psychic shadowball. It's strange that his beefier Mega Mewtwo X form is nowhere to be seen here, but maybe I just haven't found him yet. If you've discovered anything else about Mewtwo, or any other aspect of the latest changes to Smash Bros. for the 3DS and Wii U, let us know in the comments. I heard Diddy got nerfed today, but I've been too busy having fun with Mewtwo to find out. 
Mewtwo in Smash photo
'It's what you do with the gift of life that makes you who you are'
A new era of Smash Bros. has arrived. Speculation about who's going to be next icon to join the all-star roster can become a daily part of our lives again. Starting today with the original uber-Pokémon Mewtwo, the age ...

Review: Affordable Space Adventures

Apr 04 // Patrick Hancock
Affordable Space Adventures (Wii U)Developer: KnapNok Games, NifflasPublisher: KnapNok GamesRelease Date: April 9, 2015MSRP: $19.99 Affordable Space Adventures is all about atmosphere. The entire game is dedicated to immersing gamers into the universe the developers have created, and it works brilliantly. The player (or players) are first shown an informational video by Uexplore, the company that creates and monitors spacecrafts. From there, any and all plot is revealed by simply playing the game. It immediately becomes obvious from the first level's surroundings that something has gone wrong and that you're now stranded on the planet Spectaculon. Luckily, according to Uexplore, Spectaculon has "no dangers*."  That is not the case. So, the only thing to do on Spectaculon is to explore, and hopefully find a way off the planet. The Small Craft™ is pretty banged up, but slowly starts to repair itself over time. As new things get repaired, a quick system message introduces how it works, and then it is up to the player to figure out how it helps them progress through the game's obstacles. Don't be fooled, there is story progression, but detailing any of it here would ruin it. It's all told through gameplay and a single ending cutscene and I can't comment enough about how the game never breaks its immersion.  [embed]289938:58054:0[/embed] Affordable Space Adventures is a true two-screen experience. The television displays the Small Craft™ and its environment, while the Wii U GamePad displays the ship's many systems. One can change the output levels of various ship systems like thrust, stabilization, weight, among others that become available as one makes progress. Each system has an effect on the ship's output levels of heat, electricity, and sound. This makes the player truly feel like a pilot, since many times these systems need to be adjusted on the fly.  One of the first things available, and perhaps the most crucial aspect of the Small Craft™, is the Scanner. Using the Scanner, players can scan alien artifacts to learn more about them. Specifically, what each artifact will react to. Some will react to sound, others to heat or electricity, some react to all three. To bypass the artifact, one can reduce their output in those three categories below a certain threshold, displayed on the GamePad. For example, if an alien artifact reacts to any level of sound or heat, players can begin to thrust, and then completely turn off the thruster before approaching the artifact to simply cruise by undetected. Alternatively, if one needs to do the same thing in a downwards direction, they can simply turn off everything, plummet downwards, and re-ignite the engine once their past the artifact. Just uh... be careful with that second one. The brilliant thing about Affordable Space Adventures is that it doesn't ever break its dedication and tell you how you should be using something. The initial system message makes sense within the universe, since it would need to tell pilots how to use certain mechanisms. The game never goes "Hey player! Why not try sliding on the ground past this enemy, with all your systems off? Great job!" It leaves them to their own devices and allows them to figure it out themselves.  The progression is flawlessly done. A new system on the Small Craft™ will be repaired, then a few levels will instruct you the extent of those systems and the various ways they apply to the world. Then, a new system will be introduced, and the cycle repeats. However, just like my math teacher used to say, nothing is ever left behind. Mechanics become layered on top of one another, forcing one to use what they learned previously in addition to the new mechanic. Naturally, the levels towards the end of the game will especially press players to utilize everything at their disposal to pass harder and harder obstacles. There is an easier difficulty available, but the standard difficulty is a good mix of challenge and progression. In addition to the difficulty, the design of the entire game feels just right. The temperature mechanic that is introduced later on does feel somewhat confusing compared to the others, but other than that every mechanic feels natural and easy to comprehend. Puzzles organically get harder with no discernible extreme spikes, so you should feel a strong sense of progression constantly throughout.  In multiplayer, up to two other people can join in and control different aspects of the ship. The game adjusts the responsibilities based on how many people are playing, but flying solo is easily the preferred method of play. Divvying up the responsibilities feels more like each person is playing a fraction of the game instead of adding a fresh take on the experience. Communication plays a large part, but it just doesn't add anything to the core gameplay. One individual in particular controls the scanner/flashlight, which is certainly an important job, but only controlling that is incredibly dull. Two players feels better than three, but both feel worse than solo play. Many of the puzzles are physics-based, and I did encounter some wonkiness during my playthrough. There were a couple of occasions where items got stuck and could not be moved, forcing me to restart the level. Luckily, each individual level is never too long and doesn't require one to repeat very much if something happens. The entire game will take people around five hours to complete, and there's hardly a dull moment throughout. The sound design deserves special mention here, since it really elevates the atmosphere to an incredible level. Sound is muffled/off when underwater, enemies creeping in have an especially eerie tone play, the bweeps and bwoops from the GamePad console are spot-on, everything feels and sounds perfect. A lot of what makes Affordable Space Adventure so endearing is the little things. For example, if it is raining or if you have just exited a wet situation, the Small Craft's™ windshield wipers activate. Or the fact that the player has to start the engine and all other systems manually if it has been deactivated for any reason. Even the loading screens are pages from the manual that comes with the Small Craft™, including Uexplore's mascot, Splory. All these small things go a long way to keep one interested. Affordable Space Adventures is a game that can only work on the Wii U. Its two-screen experience is exactly what the system was designed for and the result is a unique breath of fresh air that might actually force people to hold that breath in certain situations. The multiplayer doesn't pan out too well and there were some physics glitches, but this is a game that Wii U owners need to get their hands on. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Affordable Space Adv. photo
What a deal!
It isn't too often that a game makes great use of what makes a console unique. More often publishers and developers are looking to get it out on as many platforms as possible, which makes console-specific ideas feel tacked on...

Review: Wave 4 amiibo Shopping

Apr 03 // Chris Carter
Wave 4 amiibo Shopping (GameStop, Target, Toys"R"Us)Developer: NintendoPublisher: SatanReleased: April 2, 2015 (Shopping), May 29, 2015 (Wave 4)MSRP: $12.99, Your Soul and Dignity GameStop: What started off as a great plan ended in shambles yesterday. On April 1, GameStop announced to the world that Ness was a exclusive to the store. I heard the collective groans of potential buyers everywhere, as I've seen this phrase a hundred times over -- "I don't even like amiibo, but I think I'm just going to get Ness because he's my favorite." When GameStop further clarified that "online and in-store orders would go live at 3PM EST" the following day, everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. Unfortunately, corporate had other plans for the rollout and didn't actually tell anyone publicly. While the entire internet waited for 3PM EST as they were told, I obtained a memo from GameStop that morning that I shared with our readers. In short, it basically stated that the 3PM EST online announcement was a lie, and that pre-orders wouldn't actually go live until "later in the day" at an unspecified time. Instead, GameStop was going to push people in-store to get them to pre-order, with priority going to those people who could shirk their responsibilities or their jobs and head to a retail location. That was problem numero uno, and a very scummy tactic on their part to bait and switch. Problem numero dos happened shortly after. As it turns out, having every single GameStop location in the country try to process orders at the same time is a bad idea. Based on my experience in-person and testimonials across the country, it took roughly one hour for the first customer in line to get processed. Then yet another issue promptly reared its ugly head. What GameStop had done to speed the process up is provide one giant SKU for all of the Smash amiibo line, so you could just get them all and walk out. It was a great idea in theory, but the SKU wasn't actually its own allotment, it was directly linked to all of the other separate amiibo listings. When it came time for the second person to put in their order across the country (after another 30-60 minutes), Robin and Lucina were instantly sold out, and their "package" order was instantly canceled, forcing them to retry another order. At that point, everything was sold out except the Splatoon 3-pack, and in some cases, Ness, who took another hour to go through. I was at my GameStop for over two and a half hours and walked out with an order for the Splatoon pack. The customers at my location were rather accommodating and understanding, and we had a great time talking about the world of gaming with the manager. But other stores weren't so lucky, as I can attest to pictures of broken displays, store damage, and one case of a customer being ejected by shopping center security. Sure enough, GameStop's system completely crashed that evening, and no online orders went up for that day. At this point it looks like anything online at GameStop may not even happen at all. If you couldn't leave work, school, or an appointment to go in-store, tough. Target: Oh Target, we meet again. Rosalina was one of the worst experiences yet in terms of amiibo hunting, as she went up completely without warning in the middle of the night on Target's website and sold out within minutes. There was no indication that online pre-orders would even open, and after they sold out Target took to Twitter to basically state "tee hee, no more pre-orders, you'll have to hope she's in stock at our store at launch." It was so bad that Target obtained a memo from corporate the morning of her release, noting that Rosalina would never be restocked. It looks like the exact same thing happened with Jigglypuff yesterday morning. With no warning at roughly 10AM EST, Jigglypuff went from an unannounced figure to a Target exclusive, to being completely sold out in the span of about 30 minutes, before most of the people on the west coast could grab their morning coffee. Target also gave the same "you're screwed until May 29" response when asked about future pre-order rounds. Another exclusive launch bites the dust. I sense a pattern here. Why is Nintendo damn secretive about amiibo news? Toys"R"Us: Lastly, we arrive at yet another exclusive amiibo in the form of Greninja at Toys"R"Us. Yesterday, outlets reached out to the retailer to find out when pre-orders may occur, and the standard response was "from 7 to 9AM EST." I set my alarm for 6AM just to make sure, so I could report on it when it did drop. Of course, we all know that life doesn't work out how you want it to, and they went up at 3AM EST for around 15 minutes. Luckily I had a guardian angel in the form of our own Brett Makedonski, but thousands of others weren't so lucky. Joining the ranks of Rosalina, Greninja was the latest amiibo go up in the complete dead of night while most of America was sound asleep and completely sell out. I've said it multiple times, but regardless of "port strikes," "unforeseen demand," "retail fumblings," or other issues not attributed to Nintendo, most of the problems with each wave stem from the mere fact that Nintendo itself is making these exclusivity deals in the US. The shocking thing is that it saw how poorly these deals went down with prior waves and decided "screw it, let's do more." They actually had a good thing going on with the Gold Mario figure, so it's puzzling that they'd regress like this. They provided enough stock to last four or five pre-order rounds, Walmart announced it before it went online, and most importantly, it's a variant figure that already exists in two forms. If you want Mario you can readily find him without having to hunt down the gold version. If you want Marth, Ike, Robin, or Lucina for Codename S.T.E.A.M's DLC -- sorry, you're out of luck unless you feel like importing. Which, funnily enough has caused stock issues overseas, as some of my friends who own small businesses are reporting that US customers have drained all their allotments. Back in 2014 directly following the Marth, Villager, and Wii Fit fiasco, a Nintendo rep answered fan questions regarding amiibo during a Reddit Q&A session, and noted that exclusives will happen "as long as retailers are willing to pay" -- I don't expect that to change anytime soon. It's a shame, because while most of the people reading this are fairly savvy consumers (savvy enough to read a tech or gaming blog at least), I'm just thinking about all of the young Nintendo fans or clueless parents who have no idea how scarce amiibo are. While every Wave has had its snags, Wave 4 is the worst storm yet. Nintendo really needs to rethink its strategy, as well as take some direct cues from Activision's Skylanders and Disney's Infinity lines. One of the core issues is secrecy. Nintendo has this thing where you aren't allowed to know what is going on pretty much at all times. While Activision often shows you the entire lineup for a Skylanders series at the start then releases it in waves (you get a really cool poster thing that has everyone on it!), Nintendo sat on reveals for months. That secrecy may work for games that can be purchased digitally without fear of a shortage, but it is very clear that Nintendo is out of its depth here, and something needs to change.
Wave 4 amiibo review photo
April Fools came late for Nintendo
Yesterday, Nintendo unleashed hell on earth pre-orders for Wave 4 amiibo figures. The current lineup includes Robin, Lucina, Ness, Pac-Man, Charizard, Wario, Jigglypuff, Greninja, and three Splatoon flavored toys. As someone who follows this craze partially for reporting purposes and in part due to personal interest, it was the absolute worst day yet for amiibo fans.

Who would you elect to be the next Smash Bros. DLC character?

Apr 02 // Jonathan Holmes
Chris: Waluigi C'mon now, this villain (anti-hero) is due for the spotlight. He hasn't even had his own debut game yet -- despite the fact that New Super Mario Bros. 2 totally should have starred Wario and Waluigi -- and he's just wacky enough to fit as an eccentric DLC character while fitting the Mario theme of many other existing cast members. His signature tennis racket could serve as the basis for his Smash attacks, his taunt could be a rose pose, and his air-dashes could be something wacky like swimming in the air like Faust from Guilty Gear X. The sky is the limit for Waluigi. Laura: Captain Toad and Ghirahim I'm personally throwing my votes in for Captain Toad from Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker and Ghirahim from Skyward Sword. Why Captain Toad? He's cute, he's adventurous and I'd be fascinated by the idea of a character who couldn't jump. Would he use a jumping item? Would he be land locked? How would that work with certain stage hazards? I want to see Nintendo tackle that challenge. Why Ghirahim? I know Smash Bros. needs more sword fighters like I need a hole in the head, but I've always been a fan of his presentation as well as his combat fluidity. He's fast, agile, magical and able to constantly misrepresent his location. Mix that in with fast aerial-sword combat and I'm totally on board. Oh, and his Final Smash transformation form is already sorted. Brittany: Bayonetta Honestly, the only character I've been waiting to see in Smash Bros. will probably never find a home there, but a girl has to keep up hope. My darling Bayonetta, as deadly as she is lovely, is practically begging for inclusion. With plentiful combos and deadly Wicked Weave attacks, she'd string up the competition as the mane event. I'd love to wrap my fingers around my controller and untangle a victory with her. Plus, there's the potential of seeing an amiibo figure released in tandem with making her available, and I live for the thrill of chasing those things. Then I could finally put Cereza on a shelf and call her mine forever. That's not creepy, right?  Jed: Birdo, Jason from Blaster Master, Mark from Monster Party Why Birdo? You know why, because I'm a dinosexual. Jason from Blaster Master -- one of my favorite NES titles, and one of the best Metroidvania games, would work great in Smash too. In his home series, Jason can travel on foot or in a tank, which could make him play like a mix between Bowser Jr. and Wario's motorcycle in Smash. The only big difference being that he could shoot projectiles while in or out of his tank. That's the "Jason difference." He also likes frogs. Mark, the boy hero from the cruelly overlooked Monster Party, was the first character that I'd ever seen reflect projectiles with a baseball bat. Ness is a wannabe poser next to him. Mark also turns into a flying dinosaur-like demon bat that breathes fire. Who cares about Ridley when you could be playing as Mark! Ben: Dillon, Mallo, and Sakura Samurai Nintendo had a ton of new IPs on the 3DS, and I'd like to see them have a bit more faith in their new ideas. In particular, Dillon's Rolling Western, Pushmo, and Sakura Samurai were all really neat, creative games with fun characters who would fit well in Super Smash Bros. Dillon is already in Smash as an assist trophy, but I still think he'd make a great fighter. Some of his moveset could be similar to Sonic's, but there's plenty of other unique attacks they could give him. Perhaps he could even set up gun towers around the map that other players could destroy. Sakura Samurai would easily work as another swordsman fighter, and Mallo from Pushmo could be really interesting. I'm not sure what his attacks would be, but I'm sure Nintendo could think of something fun. They made the Duck Hunt dog into a fighter, after all! [embed]289889:58026:0[/embed] Holmes: Star Man (from Pro Wrestling), Tingle, Chorus Men, The Wonderful 101 Like Ben pointed out, the Duck Hunt dog's appearance in Super Smash Bros. of the 3DS and Wii U tells me that anything is possible for the game's future cast. That said, out of my four picks, the only one that I think has a fighting chance is Chorus Men. Tingle is amazing, but he's something of a one-note tune in most people's eyes. Star Man is the greatest wrestler in videogame history, but Sakurai made it pretty clear that he doesn't want to add new characters to Smash unless they are part of an actively running Nintendo franchise. That's rule will probably doom The Wonderful 101 to exclusion as well. On the other hand, Rhythm Heaven is a hugely popular series in Japan, with a new release in the franchise coming up this year. The games haven't done half bad in the rest of the world either, especially if you count memes as a badge of success. I've already voted for Chorus Men once today on the Smash Bros. site, and I plan to continue to do so for the rest of my life, or until Nintendo closes the polls.  Summa: Bo Jackson (Tecmo Bowl) Before our sports games got all fancy with their simulation stat packing, I was filling out notebooks of game results and meaningless numbers that my best friend and I use to produce after weekend-long dual tournaments played out on Tecmo Bowl. If you played this legendary game, then you know that nobody dominated more than Bo Jackson. Want a move list? How about a spiked football to the head? How about an up-the-gut rush that knocks your opponent unconscious and utterly useless? If Nintendo wants to play with my nostalgia heart, then introduce this virtual God amongst men. Patrick: Snake There is only one answer to this seemingly limitless question: Snake. I'm not even a Metal Gear Solid fanatic (the only game I've played is Ground Zeroes), but his Brawl incarnation is so unique and freaking satisfying that I find myself missing Snake every time I look at the character selection screen. His play style is nothing like anyone else's; people said Duck Hunt Dog would play similarly, but he just doesn't. His move set doesn't need any changes, just make an HD model for him and boom! He's back. Kyle: Chun-Li "Nintendo vs. Capcom" isn't an actual thing, but it really should be. It really, really should be. You see, I have this strong desire to spinning bird kick Diddy Kong in the face. Or kikoken Diddy Kong in the face. Or lightning kick Diddy Kong in the face. The point is, Chun-Li is awesome and Diddy Kong deserves to die in a fire. Make my wildest dreams come true, Nintendo/Capcom. Darren: Bubsy April Fools!
Smash Bros DLC wishlist photo
Don't say Shrek...
Nintendo's April Fools Nintendo Direct was no joke. While there wasn't a whole lot there that would interest people who aren't existing fans of the publisher, there was something for just about everyone who already enjoys Nin...

What if videogame consoles were Transformers?

Mar 28 // Mike Cosimano
Megatron: Xbox One In Dark Cybertron, IDW's first major Transformers-only crossover event, Decepticon leader Megatron did the impossible: he switched sides and joined the Autobots. Megatron has gone from trying to conquer the universe to exploring it with the wacky spacefaring cast of More than Meets the Eye (currently the best ongoing series in comics). It felt like a real stretch at the time (because it's a simple change in character that is going to sell a lot of comic books, like Bucky Cap or Lady Thor) but the issues released since then have justified his change of heart. Many Transformers stories have tried to make the audience feel sympathy for Megatron, but none have ever been so successful. More than Meets the Eye successfully reconciles the 'violent despot' characterization we all know and love with the new 'tired old revolutionary' Megatron used to soften his previous deeds, crafting a new version of the character that feels absolutely definitive -- against all odds. This reminds me of the Xbox One. When the console was first revealed, there was a sizable amount of justified backlash. It was a device for busy rich people: expensive, packed with irrelevant features, saddled with baffling limitations, and bearing a hidden $60 per year cost. Everyone was worried they wouldn't be able to play their single-player games if their Internet went down, or that the evil camera would watch them have sex in front of their television. Both fears were not totally unfounded, leading to an enormous backlash and low pre-order numbers. In order to save the system, Microsoft had to pull an about-face, reversing almost every controversial decision. Since then, we've seen the Xbox One drop the Kinect along with $100 off the MSRP, reach out to indies with the ID@Xbox program, and chase weird exclusives like Phantom Dust. Ever since Phil Spencer took over the Xbox division, the company has made positive strides towards fixing its reputation. It's not hard to see the parallels between Megatron (as written by James Roberts), Megatron (the character in More than Meets the Eye), and Phil Spencer's work on the Xbox brand. When you want to make a change, be it financially motivated, a creative decision, or an emotionally motivated faction change, there has to be some revisionism. You have to convince yourself that the past doesn't matter, and then you have to perform the Herculean task of convincing everyone else of the same. For the moment, it's almost impossible to tell whether Megatron or Microsoft were successful. We won't know how successful the Xbox One will be until well into the life cycle of the Xbox Two, and I honestly don't know where Megatron's character development could go from here. Either way, I'm looking forward to both. Tailgate: Wii U Tailgate is a relic. Not long after coming online, he fell into a sinkhole on Cybertron, only escaping his predicament after a six-million-year-long power nap. Physically, he is older than almost every character in More than Meets the Eye, but he approaches the Lost Light's various adventures with a childlike enthusiasm. Which makes sense -- he's technically two weeks old when the comic begins. Tailgate used his age to fabricate a series of stories, even claiming he was a bomb disposal expert. He's gone through some real trials over the course of the comic -- including almost dying of old age and saving half of the Cybertronian race in one week -- but he's come into his own, accepting his true role as a waste disposal 'bot and letting go of his tall tales. It's hard to hear the word 'relic' and not give the Wii U a little side-eye. When the console launched, it was months away from being outdated, with online decisions that were utterly baffling in the Xbox Live era and a launch library that was primarily a series of efforts at reclaiming old glories and ports nobody asked for. Hell, look at the name of the thing -- Wii U. Smarter people than me have been pointing this out since the console was revealed, but I'll be damned if that isn't the most transparent attempt to move units I've ever seen. The Wii U smacked of an old man trying to convince the kids he was cool, not realizing he was a kid at heart the whole time. All he had to do was embrace his inner child and the people would come running. There's something futile about chasing old glories, especially when they're made up. Nintendo has never been good with third parties. Remember that "historic partnership" between EA and Nintendo? Remember when Call of Duty: Ghosts coming to Wii U was a big deal? Where's Advanced Warfare? Where's Battlefield 4? The Wii U was a joke back when it was trying to be just another videogame console; another machine for you to enjoy those big tentpole releases. Today, it's genuinely beloved, even if the rampant amiibo shortage threatens to overshadow Nintendo's recent successes. Is the Wii U selling well? Of course not, that door closed when it launched with a crappy Mass Effect port and didn't have a killer app until a year into the console's life cycle. And Tailgate lost any chance of becoming an Old Cybertronian legend the second he fell unconscious. But we've got Mario Kart 8 now, and Tailgate defeated a genocidal despot by sticking a finger in his robo-brain. (God, I love these comics.) Accept your limitations, and use them to move forward. Can't wait for whatever NX is! Drift: PlayStation 4 Everybody on the Internet goes through a phase where they make an awesome self-insert character for their favorite thing. You know the type: mysterious, silent, unkillable, tortured past, maybe a bit of a dark streak? We've all done it! Be honest with yourself. Maybe post your original character in the comments. Now, imagine a world where you were paid to make that character an official part of your favorite thing. Hell, the character even gets a toy! And the best part? The character will be just as badass as you imagined: no watering down. That's Drift. And -- surprise surprise! -- when he premiered in the pages of the mega-event All Hail Megatron, everyone realized he was a cynical attempt at making a new fan-favorite character. Thankfully, he was redeemed in More than Meets the Eye, recast as a lovable hippie. Now, Drift is actually a fan favorite, despite being universally disliked when he first appeared. (Ironically, we've actually come full circle with the super racist Drift in the fourth Transformers movie) And, let's be real, nobody really liked the PlayStation 3 when it first came out either. It cost too much, the infamous "PS3 HAS NO GAMEZ" meme had a ring of truth to it (even though Resistance and Metal Gear Solid 4 were great) -- everything about the console reeked of post-PS2 swagger. But, much like the Wii U, the PS3 stumbled out of the gate. Compare that to the PS4, a console that came out swinging, easily taking and holding the lead. Now, I can't verify this for myself, but I've heard enough talk from enough different people that it makes sense: the PlayStation 4 is a Sony Computer Entertainment of America joint. That's why you're seeing people like Adam Boyes and Mark Cerny take the stage during E3 press conferences, and that's why the company is going after Western nostalgia properties like Grim Fandango. This change in power seems to be working: the PS3 never saw positive press the likes of which we saw when Jack Tretton confirmed the PS4 could play used games. Sometimes, it's smart to let go of the wheel and let somebody else take over. I'm not saying Shane McCarthy (the creator of Drift) is a terrible writer, or that Sony Japan doesn't know how to make a console. The PlayStation 2 is the best console of all time! But every so often, giving control of your creation to someone with a different vision works out best for all involved. It's just a simple matter of seeing that maybe you aren't the right person for this job. I mean, the PlayStation 4 has sold twenty million consoles so far, and Drift's resurgence in popularity got him another mini-series. Leaving your pride at the door works, as it turns out. Maybe that's the crux of all three of these consoles: pride. The Xbox One isn't trying to shove terrible ideas down our throats, the Wii U is no longer convinced it can be something it's not, and the PS4 isn't asking for $600. In many ways, success is about letting go of that pride, learning to accept your limitations and playing to your strengths. And it may have taken a little while, but I feel like each console is currently taking that to heart. I like where these consoles are at right now, and I think we've got a fantastic generation ahead of us. Also, Transformers are great. Thank you.
Transformers photo
Blast(er) Processing
This isn't clickbait. This isn't some article cashing in on hypothetical fan art of an Xbox turning into Megatron or a post about those awesome Mega Drive/PlayStation Transformers. This is my life, you fools. I've spent time ...

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker's amiibo functionality adds a small incentive to replay every level

Mar 21 // Chris Carter
[embed]289368:57872:0[/embed] Like the checkbox that appears after grabbing every crystal and completing the extra objective, it's easy to become addicted to filling out every entry. It sounds like an overly simplistic little thing, but it emboldened me to replay every map again and find that damn Pixel Toad. It's a nice way to get people to return, and it doesn't hurt that the core game is already great to begin with. Get a quick look at the functionality in the video above, and note that other amiibo function as power-ups of sorts, earning you extra lives with a tap. Of course, the best part about this particular amiibo mechanic is that Toad, the physical toy, isn't impossible to find. While retailers knew ahead of time that select exclusives wouldn't be replenished for weeks, if not months (I'm looking at you Target), Toad is readily available at every location I've visited. Heck, even his scalped price online is roughly $18, a far cry from the $60 or more asking price of the Trinity and other select rares to this day. I'm also a fan of the way Shulk was handled in Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, since you can replicate the amiibo bits by way of Play Coins and StreetPass. If Nintendo is going to add amiibo support in future games, it needs to either plan ahead of time if the figures are going to be retailer exclusives (Meta Knight's unique features in Rainbow Curse being lost to most of the market is still a tragedy), or allow unlocks through other means (no one is missing out not having Shulk for Xenoblade).
Captain Toad amiibo photo
Oh, and you can actually buy the figure too
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker launched its amiibo compatibility this week, and I've found a new reason to revisit the game. It's as simple as adding in a "Hide-and-Seek" mode, enabled by tapping the newly minted Toad amiibo ...

Review: Mario Party 10

Mar 16 // Chris Carter
Mario Party 10 (Wii U)Developer: Nd CubePublisher: NintendoReleased: March 20, 2015MSRP: $49.99 (standard game) / $59.99 (with Mario amiibo) If you've played a party game before, you'll have the general gist of Mario Party 10. This time there's a lot of uncertainty as to what control schemes are supported, so I'll break it down -- Wiimotes. Yep, just Wiimotes. You don't need Motion+, you don't need any Classic Controllers (including the new Pro), and you don't need anything other than Wiimotes and the occasional GamePad depending on the mode. What you'll immediately notice about 10 is the stark improvement in the visual department. The sharper and more vibrant engine makes the game feel more alive -- it's a huge upgrade from 9, which was dated upon arrival. Everything from Yoshi's bold green hues to Donkey Kong's amazing hair is crafted with care, and you'll notice the difference everywhere from the map screen to the minigames themselves. Sadly, developer Nd Cube (who took over for the now defunct Hudson), is still stuck on the vehicular based concept from the last game. Every single time you play the core "Mario Party" gametype, on every map, every round, you'll progress in a shared vehicle that goes from point A to point B, with everyone facing the same exact challenges and the same boss fight at the end. The idea was divisive in Mario Party 9, and I expect the same thing here. Personally, I'm a little more used to the mechanic, but it still severely limits the longevity of the game as a whole. If everyone is sharing the same rolls and movement, rounds are extremely dull as there is very little choice on any given player turn. For instance, in the past it was key to see where others were going, and either split up or chase them down individually. Even in the latter situation you'd get to experience all the trials and tribulations of the board with them -- but in the vehicle, they may pass over all the "cool stuff" leaving you with tiresome rolls and nothing to show for it. The other limitation is that every game on every board is estimated at roughly 30 minutes. There's no modification of turns like in the pre-vehicle games, so even if you wanted to have an hours-long session or a short 10-turn round, you couldn't -- you're at the mercy of the car. Right now there are a scant five levels on offer -- Mushroom Park, Haunted Trail, Whimsical Waters, Airship Central, and Chaos Castle. I haven't found a secret stage yet despite playing all of them. Having said all that, the minigame quality in general is markedly better than that in 8 or 9. At this point Nd Cube seems to be more at ease with the Wiimote technology, offering up a variety of different activities that aren't just waggle-fests. It's not truly innovative since only a small handful of Bowser games use the GamePad, but I'm happy with the variety on display with Mario Party 10. There are lots of traditional sideways NES style games, single-button games that actually rely on timing, and there's a good balance of easy to pick up bashes that require input rather than luck. One of the other core modes that does shake things up in a big way is Bowser Party. This one is five players, with four using Wiimotes in the traditional manner, and Bowser on the coveted GamePad. The concept is to have "Team Mario" run away from Bowser while the Koopa King chases them down, rolling multiple dice after the entire team has had their turn. If he catches them, he gets an opportunity to decrease their health (by way of "hearts") before they get to the end of the board and win the game. While the idea is fun, I ultimately had mixed results. Some games are skewed heavily towards Bowser, and some are skewed towards the team. While the majority of them are balanced, I had a string of bad luck as Bowser once with terrible rolls that didn't let me catch up for four turns in a row, and when I did, my two subsequent games were luck-based or favored Team Mario. As a result, I never even interacted with them for half the game through no fault of my own. I know there's always going to be an element of "Mario Party luck," but that's a little over-the-top. In another game things went exactly the opposite, as Bowser was able to catch up almost every turn. There's even an in-game challenge for catching and killing the entire team on the first go. The ending is also anti-climatic as heck, since the final confrontation isn't a boss fight, but a "find the star" micro-game that lets Bowser hide it with one of three enemies, and players take turns finding it. As you can probably tell, Bowser Party also uses the vehicle. To add insult to injury, you can only use three maps in this mode as opposed to all five. It's odd, as the boards are only tuned in a minor fashion to accommodate extra Bowser-only features; they aren't fundamentally redone in any significant fashion. There's absolutely no reason why all of the maps couldn't be used in Bowser mode, or why there couldn't be an exclusive map for it. It's enjoyable particularly because it allows a fifth player to get in on the action, but there's a lot of room for improvement if there's a Mario Party 11. Now onto the last mode, and for some, the most anticipated: amiibo Party. This one features a smaller board with a more traditional style of "trade 20 coins for one star, the person with the most stars wins." Except here, the idea is to facilitate huddled up party play, where everyone is gathered around the GamePad -- it's also stuck at a hard 10 turns to get people in and out faster. As a nice touch you can use the Bowser amiibo to unlock a mini Bowser mode within the system, and every player gets "tokens" that function like old school power-ups in earlier Mario Party games that are much more interesting than the other modes. I'm torn on amiibo Party as a whole though. While it's nice to have a classic mode in tow, the maps are small. Like, very small, to the point where a dice bonus can nearly get you around the entire board in one turn. You can change the theme and modify a few of the on-board minigames by using an amiibo (for instance, Rosalina changes it to a galactic theme), but the boards themselves remain tiny. With maps that were even a little bit bigger, this could have been a major game-changer and the bonafide side-core mode for people who don't like the vehicle. There's also the interesting little gimmick of having to put down the amiibo to roll, and place it back on the GamePad to "acquire" an item. It's a little thing and one I actually don't mind doing, but I'm sure a lot of people will find it annoying to have to group up on top of the GamePad. The main idea of keeping your customized amiibo from game to game or house to house is neat. Thankfully the extra minigames (accessed by a separate main menu) elevate everything by quite a bit. In addition to getting daily rewards for supported amiibo, you can also earn extra currency by tapping any amiibo to the GamePad on a daily basis, once per day. The bonus games are pretty killer, including Badminton Bash (1-4 players), Jewel Drop (1-2), solo Bowser Jr. challenges, the typical minigame-only tournament setup, and single-player Bowser minigame face-offs. The former two are easily my favorite, as Badminton is basically a mini-Mario Tennis. There are no real options and there's only one court, but it's fun nonetheless. Jewel Drop deserves a special shoutout, as it's a modified match-four version of Puzzle Fighter, Puyo Pop, or whatever other genre staple you want to compare it to. It only supports two players but the level of depth involved is insane, and I ended up playing for hours on end once without realizing how much time had passed. There is a "Toad Shop" that lets you buy the staple two extra characters and CPU difficulty, on top of extra cosmetic items like new cars, music, and art. If you're the type of person that doesn't care about fluff though you'll exhaust Toad's inventory in just one day of play, especially if you're keen to use the amiibo as bonus points. Mario Party 10 has an admirable bundle of minigames and sidegames, but the lack of interesting boards and half-measure amiibo Party mode hurt the overall package. There is simply not enough meat on the core game modes, seemingly in favor of adding in a hodgepodge of concepts that are isolated from one another. It's time to give up the vehicle concept, Nd Cube, as it inherently limits the sprawling nature of the maps we once played for years on end. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. All of the current Mario Party 10 amiibo were also provided.]
Mario Party 10 review photo
Not the Narnia of Partias
I haven't enjoyed the past few console editions of Mario Party. I felt like 8 was rushed to the Wii as an excuse to show off the technology, and it ended up being a generic waggle-fest that was a stark drop in quality co...

Samus wants to be in Shovel Knight

Mar 11 // Jonathan Holmes
What Samus Wants photo
Like Stella, Samus wants her groove back
When we last checked in with Samus, she was trying to score an interview with Tim Rogers, co-creator of Videoball. Despite the fact that she's been appearing in videogames for over 25 years, he still didn't know who she was....

Mario Party 10 amiibo photo
One of these isn't even out in March
Our Mario Party 10 review is coming next Monday, but for now, I can talk about select elements of it. After weeks of speculation on the supported amiibo for the newest franchise entry, I've narrowed it down by way o...

Review: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars

Mar 04 // Darren Nakamura
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars (3DS [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoReleased: March 5, 2015MSRP: $19.99 Once again, various minis are scattered across stages, and they must touch all of the coins and get to the exit. The "why" of it is unimportant, it's the "how" that is the focus. Minis cannot be controlled directly. A mini will start walking forward once tapped with the stylus or if another mini walks into it. Most of the player's job is to manipulate the environment in order to allow the bots a safe path to the exit. To that end, there is a handful of tools at the player's disposal. There are girders that can act as platforms, ramps, and walls. There are springs that allow the minis to clear gaps or reach new heights. There are conveyor belts, lifts, and pipes that will move the little toys around the map. A tenet of Game Design 101 is to gradually introduce new elements to the player, never overwhelming but eventually creating something complex. Tipping Stars adheres to this idea strictly. Each world features a new environmental piece: the first level introduces it, the next few levels mix it with everything else, and the last few levels require the player to demonstrate mastery in order to move on. [embed]288509:57600:0[/embed] There are a few common threads that tie the worlds together. Each has eight levels. The seventh level always features a Mario mini holding a key and a locked exit. Not only does the player have to complete all of the usual objectives, but he has to have the robots lined up in the correct order, or else the keyless one at the front will just bump stupidly into the lock while the one with the key cannot access it. The eighth level acts almost as a boss encounter, where one mini becomes possessed and must be bopped with a hammer before the stage can be completed. It adds motion to the otherwise stationary puzzling of choosing which pieces go where. Despite the fact that Tipping Stars follows all of the rules of good game design, it lacks anything special to make it noteworthy. The puzzle design is straightforward to a fault. Solutions never require lateral thinking and as a result I never felt any sense of accomplishment upon completing one. Instead of making me feel smart it just made me feel mechanical, like one of the minis marching aimlessly ahead. Oh, I finished that puzzle. Onto the next one. That isn't to suggest that Tipping Stars is too easy. Some of the later levels (and especially the bonus levels) can be quite difficult. However, the difficulty is often in timing and execution rather than in strategy and foresight. For some puzzles, it's possible to see the solution but still muck it up by not poking the minis at exactly the right moments. The level editor from Mini-Land Mayhem! makes a comeback, with the expected incremental upgrades that come with the new hardware. Levels can be shared on Miiverse, and more player-created levels can be saved than before. Basic levels can be created right away, but a lot of cosmetic alterations and the higher level equipment must be purchased with stars.  Stars are the in-game currency, and are generally earned by completing puzzles. Higher scores earn more stars, but each level only grants up to three stars. The key to the economy is that it's not possible to gain enough stars to buy everything by playing the built-in levels alone. To make up the difference for some of the higher-priced items, stars can also be generated by playing user-generated levels, having one's own levels played, or by "tipping" another creator for particularly well-made content. The most commendable addition to Tipping Stars is the inclusion of cross-buy and cross-play. A purchase on either 3DS or Wii U will net a download code for the other, and saved levels can be transferred between the two. It's nice to see Nintendo testing out the idea, even if it's on a mundane title. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is not bad. It is essentially Mini-Land Mayhem! with visual and technical upgrades. It never instills any sense of wonder or accomplishment, and it often feels more like work than play. It's a very paint-by-numbers affair; for a puzzle game it doesn't actually require much thinking, only doing. It is a game that exists, and that's about as much as there is to say about it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Mario vs. DK review photo
»\_(ツ)_/»
A little more than four years ago, Nintendo released Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! on the original DS. It continued the series' focus on the miniature Mario robots, to the chagrin of fans of the platforming in the ...

Exclusive: Dot Arcade is a new full color videogame for Wii U

Feb 25 // Jonathan Holmes
James isn't working on the game entirely on his own. He's partnered with talented programmer and composer Andrew Lim to help bring the game to life. James tells us Dot Arcade "...started off its life as a physical system prototype! It was essentially a wooden box with an 8x8 LED grid and a SNES controller plugged in. A perfect accessory for any coffee table." Hearing that, my mind immediately turned to Tenya Wanya Teens, a game I've been excited about but unable to play for years. It hasn't been released to the public, and is only available at events due to its unique, lightbulb-intensive controller. James knew what I was talking about, stating "Tenya Wanya Teens came up as a topic a few times during our development -- I think there's a really similar spirit behind that as there is with Dot Arcade." So how did James and Andrew get around the limitation that comes with creating unique hardware for a game? It wasn't an overnight process. According to James "...creating and manufacturing physical hardware is really complicated for just two dudes alone. But the dot games were a sensation with everyone we showed them to, and co-workers at Andrew's day job nearly made it a ritual to have lunch session showdowns for the highest scores. It's definitely the type of game that brings people together, and I remember that's one of the things I mentioned hoping to put special focus on as far back as when I appeared on Sup Holmes." Luckily for us, that passion for bringing people together just happened to be a perfect fit for Nintendo's latest home console. James said "We wanted to find some way we could share the dot games with the rest of the world, and Wii U seemed like the right fit. It was important that the experience emphasize the more intimate GamePad screen, but also beneficial to broadcast gameplay to others in the room on T... and taking it a step further, share scores with friends anywhere through Miiverse! So we started development on the collection of games, Dot Arcade." Dot Arcade isn't one game, but a collection of three games -- Mr. Snake, Dodge Club, and Rally Driver. Each uses the same 8x8 screen of virtual flashing lights to display the action. It's something like the classic Lite Brite art-toy with a mind of its own. Each game has it's own "cabinet artwork" created by a featured guest artist like Jordan Canales and Jeremy Hobbs. While the game wont be out until "probably next month," James isn't shy about letting us know about his future plans for the series, such as "...secret extra cabinets for each game." and a plan to make "...Dot Arcade into something like a bit Generations series and introduce Dot Arcade Vol. 2 with three new games/featured artists... and so on, as long as there's an audience with interest!" It will be interesting to see how enthusiasts react to Dot Arcade. James is well aware that "The end result is a bit tricky to describe" and"static screenshots don't seem to do the games justice" but he's hopeful they'll still find their audience. Like so many successful solo designers before him, James loves videogames, and he's made a game that he and his friends really enjoy. That gives him faith other people will enjoy it too, as according to James, Dot Arcade is "...the most raw form of video game -- there's no story other than what's implied by the cabinet art, and there's no real game graphics to speak of, just a focus on having fun manipulating an object on the screen. They're entertaining in a way that's shared only with the most vintage of video games. " Some cynics assume "vintage" games are all trying to pass off a lack of ambition as "8-bit cool", but that's not the case with Dot Arcade. James and Andrew worked hard to make sure the games provide something fresh while remaining true to the fundamentals, stating they've "...even paid special attention to detail throughout the experience, and kept everything authentic to how it worked on our physical hardware. The beeping / buzzing sound effects, frame-by-frame input feedback, slowdown with many objects on screen... as well as details outside the gameplay, where the menu music on the TV and GamePad are different, but complement each other in unison. We've only seen first party Nintendo games try to pull this off." I take Dot Arcade to be the riskiest type of "retro" game. It's not the type of game many are nostalgic for, and like James said, it's not a game that can sell itself on screenshots and characters alone. Like the 16x16 pixel Zelda demake from a while back, Dot Arcade gets by on a combination of the strength of its design and the imagination of its players. The fact James has enough faith in himself and his potential fans to put out a game like Dot Arcade speaks to love of videogames and the people who play them. 
Dot Arcade photo
James Montanga abstracts upon the abstract
Two of James Montagna's most well known games are Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?!! and Wonder Momo. These games sold because of their characters. Wonder Momo had built up a strong following thr...

The hunt is on for the Meta Knight amiibo, here is what I found

Feb 20 // Chris Carter
Some stores were handing out tickets, but many, including mine, were not. Confusion was abound, because at the first store I went to, someone in line stated that they were told that the location had "fourteen" on-hand. It turns out that there were actually five total figures that were available for non-preorders. In other words, nine were on hold. The second store had 10 total, with only five available on-hand. Other reports I'm getting from friends range from five to 10 maximum on-hand for non-pre-orders. If you live in a rural area, you may be able to still snag an extra figure slightly after opening. If you're familiar with the Lucario situation at Toys"R"Us, this is basically the same exact thing. At the first store, the line was roughly 20 people long -- since I showed up near opening I did not get one, but thankfully I was able to get in on the first set of pre-orders, and my package is scheduled to arrive today. I have not been able to verify whether or not Best Buy will trickle in stock over the coming weeks, or whether the figure is like Rosalina, where stock is outright not being replenished. A manager at the first store noted that they "should" be getting restock, but he wasn't entirely positive. He also gave a quick tip out to consumers -- call or check back on Wednesday and Friday mornings at your location, because that's when new stock comes in. So where can you get it in the meantime? You can try to check the product's stock page throughout the weekend to see if any missed pre-orders spill over, or try to check your store for stock here. If you're calling your store or going in person, use this SKU -- 1375009. You can also find him at Amazon UK, Amazon.FR, and Amazon.DE, or check out our amiibo hunting guide for more ideas. Japanese sites are having a difficult time keeping him in stock. Good luck!
Meta Knight amiibo photo
Good luck
[Update: Get this. One amiibo hunter is reporting that you can get $5 off any Wii U or 3DS game nationwide if your store does not have Meta Knight in stock. Even if your store denies you, it doesn't hurt to ask!] Today, ...


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