hot  /  reviews  /  video  /  blogs  /  forum

ds

 photo

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is a ton of fun


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

Preview: First look at LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

Apr 04 // Abel Girmay
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii U, 3DS, PlayStation Vita, DS)Developer: TT GamesPublisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentRelease: Fall 2013 The story of LEGO Marvel straddles a similar line to LEGO Batman 2; a comic book-style story with a liberal helping LEGO silliness. Like the recent LEGO City: Undercover, the story here is fully voiced. Speaking with TT Games producer Phil Ring, he said the team "wanted everything to feel alive, and more than what we had in LEGO Batman 2 where characters only spoke in cutscenes. We wanted bosses shouting at you and characters talking with each other, so we're recording a lot more audio for this game." Having a fully-voiced story also affords more opportunities for humor, outside of the physical comedy gags that are common to the series. It works to good effect, too -- the banter between the less than sharp Hulk and the always-on sarcasm of Iron Man played like a Saturday morning cartoon. Less-referenced Marvel entities will be making appearances as well. At the end of the demo, when Iron Man and Hulk help Nick Fury (modeled after the recent Ultimate/Sam Jackson version) take Sandman into custody, you could spot three day workers with Damage Control marked across their uniforms. Ring continued: "If you're a Marvel fan, there's plenty of small references like this you'll get, and if not, then what the hell, it's just three clean up guys in uniform." The script itself will see stewardship by Marvel writer Matt Hoffmeier, so there should be no shortage of Marvel cameos, references, and the like. The moment-to-moment gameplay of LEGO Marvel looks very much like a traditional game from TT. You'll run around the environment, smashing pieces and reconstructing them into new objects to move forward. That said, you do get a host of heroes and abilities to play around with. Full disclosure, our presentation was hands off, so I can't say how well the powers feel, but the combat didn't look particularly amazing. Really, it's those classic problem-solving moments that make better use of the hero license. Going up against Sandman, Iron Man and Hulk need to come up with a way to get past his giant sand wall. Hulk's brute strength won't work and neither will blasters. With a little searching, we get Iron Man to blast a nearby fire hydrant and generator, then have Hulk revert to Bruce Banner to reconstruct the pieces into a giant water cannon to solidify the sand so Hulk can break through it. It's the way each of the characters, and their abilities, play off each other in these puzzle-esque scenarios that gave the LEGO games their charm, and that much looks well intact here. Though TT is staying hush hush on some details, there will be side activities to partake in outside of missions, such as explorable miniature hub area of New York. "There is a hub world...you can go into new areas and explore including some places significant to the Marvel Universe and other like the Statue of Liberty, but it's all miniaturized of course...it's very much a LEGO world," said Ring. Basically, if you've enjoyed LEGO titles in the past, you should be right at home here. There doesn't look to be crazy breaks in series tradition -- just refinements and augments. And if you're a Marvel fan, then I suppose that only sweetens the package.
Marvel Super Heroes photo
A more traditional LEGO experience
Just when you thought they were out of good licenses to adapt for LEGO videogames, they pull one back in. Among others, we've explored the adventures of Indiana Jones, the far away galaxy of Star Wars, and the hallowed halls ...

PAX: Hands-on with Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Aug 31 // Chad Concelmo
If you are familiar with the Professor Layton games, you know how things work. Professor Layton and Luke (as well as some other members of the main party), explore various locations and meet an eclectic cast of some of the best supporting characters to ever grace a videogame in order to solve a series of mysteries. Along the way, the player must help them complete hundreds of progressively more difficult puzzles until all mysteries are complete ... and I am sobbing uncontrollably in front of my Nintendo handheld (seriously, the stories in the Layton games are genuinely heartbreaking!). With Miracle Mask, things start off on a similar note, but you will quickly realize how much things have changed. First, and most obvious, is the addition of 3D. Good news for people nervous about the sloppy use of 3D: the 3D effects in Miracle Mask are beautiful. The classic Professor Layton cinematics come even more to life and are stunning to watch with the added layers and depth the 3D effect creates. In addition to the cutscenes, the 3D works great in the actual game. After solving a puzzle correctly, when Layton approaches the screen and points at you with a congratulatory exclamation, he is really pointing at you. His finger comes right out of the screen! It is really cool and a nice touch. The benefits of the 3D are actually evident everywhere in the game. One major change to the game is the disappearance of static dialogue sequences. Replacing those beautifully rendered images are actual moving, fully polygonal characters. The change was jarring at first, and I kind of missed the old dialogue displays, but once things get going, you will love the new look. With this new style, everything feels more alive, as the camera can move around and every part of the character animates, as opposed to just their mouths. Also, again, the 3D looks great. This same style also moves into the actual locations. Instead of static images, the world is fully animated. You can't walk through it like you can in a normal 3D action/adventure game, but, when exploring, the camera moves ever so slightly and makes you feel like you are much more part of the environment ... rather than just looking at a beautiful painting of it from afar. These exploring sections also have another big change. The tap-tap-tap-tap-tap gameplay is gone! No need to tap everything with the touch screen to find a hot spot or hidden coin. Now, you drag a magnifying glass around the screen, looking for areas where the object "lights up," indicating there is something of note there (whether it be a puzzle, hint coin, or interactive item). Before you cry foul, this new technique works great. And it looks fantastic! As you slide the magnifying glass along the touch screen, a mirrored version of it appears on the top, 3D screen. The way important text is displayed closer to the screen and small pieces of the environment like rooms in windows are more pushed back in the 3D space is eye-popping and very polished. The demo was short, but one more difference that stood out was the inclusion of almost action-like sequences. One puzzle in particular wasn't even a puzzle at all! Professor Layton hops on a horse and chases a mysterious character. Instead of this being a traditional puzzle like you would normally see, the camera moved behind Layton as he chased the character through a vibrant village. Players are tasked with controlling Layton's horse to dodge barrels and navigate the maze-like streets. It was an interesting sequence and unlike anything that has been in the series before. All in all, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is looking great. As a giant fan of the series, this looks to be shaping into one of the best games yet. It looks beautiful, the 3D is surprisingly effective, and the puzzles are more challenging than ever. I can't wait to pick up the game when it releases for the Nintendo 3DS on October 28.
 photo

As great as the Professor Layton games are (they are really great!), the last four released on the Nintendo DS have been very similar. While the art direction, puzzle-solving gameplay, and surprisingly emotional stories have ...

Oh my GLOB: Hands-on with WayForward's Adventure Time

Aug 29 // Steven Hansen
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! (DS, 3DS [previewed]) Developer: WayForward Publisher: D3 Publisher Release: Fall 2012 Pendleton Ward has a firm affinity for video games, putting the deliciously named Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! in the enviable situation of a being a game adaptation of a successful property with direct input from the original creator. Ward wrote the story and signed off on WayForward’s original soundtrack, yielding a game that, from the onset, absolutely feels like you’re in an episode of the show. Hey Ice King! begins in Finn and Jake’s unmistakable tree house, with the pair waking up from a bad dream involving the enigmatic Cosmic Owl. Jake suggests Finn go down to a never-before-seen secret basement to smash things in order to raise his spirits and so begins the tutorial, following an adorable appearance by BMO, who chooses to join his pals on the adventure of the day as the touch screen, which serves as a map, loot screen, and stat layout. Down in the basement, you can smash teacups to your heart’s content (actually, I expected more) while learning the system, which is undoubtedly familiar to someone who’s played a 2D sidescroller. Y to punch (mash it quickly for a combo), down Y for a crouched kick, B to jump, down B for a slide attack, and so on. While you play through the game as Finn, Jake tags along, lazily nestling himself into Finn’s backpack, from where he can use his wonderfully stretchy arms for a weaker long range punch, with X. As the adventure progresses, Jake’s enthusiasm goes up and he’ll employ new powers, like the ability to make bridges for Finn to cross gaps over interminable trenches. Finn will also gain access to his sword later in the game, allowing him to dice up chumps. Once you get out of the tutorial, outside you’ll find your garbage mysteriously missing and who’s to blame? The Ice King, naturally, who has pilfered your garbage in order to construct a garbage princess. Finn resolves to track down the Ice King to find out what he’s up to and to teach him a lesson about stealing garbage. After a brief stop at a screen with water nymphs at a fountain explaining that these locations are where you can restore your health and save your game, it’s off to the world map, a top-down sort of overworld right out of an RPG. There are four areas of Ooo to explore, including Candy Kingdom, the Ice Kingdom, Red Rock Pass, and starting with the grasslands. On the overworld, you can stop at landmarks that stand in for Adventure Time locales, at which point you’re transitioning back into the 2D, sidescrolling view and able to talk to denizens and accept sidequests. Visiting the Village of the Housies, I met up with Princess Bubblegum, who told me there was a map cartridge hidden around that she could install in BMO if found; I heard that Donnie was causing trouble again, stealing mail; and I met a dog-house’s owner who informed me a big blue guy flew over and gave the dog fleas. While the central story thread involves solving Ice King’s riddles to catch up to the abominable no-man, you can essentially do what you like, when you like, albeit some of Ooo is restricted until Jake’s special powers are unlocked. Also on the overworld are floating shadows that represent random enemy encounters. Touch a shadow and you go into a 2D battle mode, in which you must kill all the things. Delightfully, someone has started strapping knives to bunnies and hammers to turtles, so they rank among your enemies, along with expected Adventure Time staples, like those obnoxious worms, King Worms, and dumb rocks. Clearing the space of enemies yields a chest, which vomits loot out with hilarious force. From the overworld, you’ll also have to go through transitional “dungeons” to get to different parts. Tracking down Donnie, for example, required me to go through one to get up to a higher hill. These dungeons are long, 2D stretches filled with enemies, some mild platforming, and occasional treasure, though you don’t have to off each enemy to reach the end. From BMO’s loot screen, you have access to healing items -- food -- which can be combined with condiments to great effect. Combing a hamburger and a ketchup bottle, for example, creates a restorative item that yields full health, whereas the hamburger on its own only gives you a fraction. Certain combinations, however, can actually drain your health. Apparently putting syrup on a cupcake was a bad idea, but it sounded good in my head. From the loot screen, you also have easy access to power-ups, which generally last about 20-30 seconds and give Finn some sort of boost, like quicker attack speeds or higher jumps. There are also some light RPG elements in the form of collectible wizard stars, which can be used to upgrade your base stats (health, strength, speed). Finding one also makes an empowering tune play, though it’s not as great as the Finn and Jake boss battle victory dance. It’s great, of course, to have more of an idea of how the base gameplay is going to pan out, with WayForward’s staple retro sensibilities coupled with Adventure Time flair. That last part is most important, however. Undoubtedly thanks to Ward’s collaboration and story writing, playing Hey Ice King! feels so much like watching an episode of the show. I was chuckling consistently while reading dialogue steeped in the show’s distinct lexicon and linguistic style. Seeing familiar faces, like the pitiful Neptr, or hearing LSP say “Oh my GLOB” in one of the game’s voiced one liners, makes you feel right at home if you’re a fan of the series.
 photo

If you’ve been reading Destructoid with any regularity, you know that we love us some Adventure Time. I side quite happily with my Dtoid kin, having been enamored with the program for some time now. Perhaps it was meant...

gamescom: LEGO LotR has a nice Skyrim vibe going

Aug 17 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
The hub world is in the Hobbit village, set during Bilbo's birthday party. From here you'll go down any number of paths to other areas from the movies, and even find new things taken from the books that didn't make it into the films. And you're not going through some magical door like in the LEGO Star Wars games. You're actually going down through pathways and exploring the world to get to where you need to go.  [embed]233298:44772[/embed]Each area has a distinct mood, from the pure happiness of the Hobbit village, to the rain of fire in Sauron's land. You'll be able to find a ton of puzzles, sidequests, items, and more simply by exploring the world. What really struck me about LEGO LotR was just how much detail each set piece has. Sure, there are LEGO items scattered all over, but the overall design just had a nice realistic feel at the same time. The team has put in 1.6 billion polygons just into the landscape alone, and it really shows. There will also be a quick travel option to get to other locations, which is great considering the scale of everything. After doing some exploration, we were taken to the castle siege scene from The Two Towers. The dialogue from the movies is all in the game, and while the cinematics are inline with the films, there are some goofy bits thrown in for fun. Remember when the archer kills the first orc before the castle gets attacked? In LEGO LotR, one of his friends starts to cry over his death. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli then become playable, and the player has to use each of their special abilities to prevent the invaders from climbing over the castle wall by knocking down their ladders.  It seems like each LEGO title just adds more gameplay features than the last, and LEGO Lord of the Ring shines from all that the team is putting into the game. The game will easily appeal to both Lord of the Rings and LEGO fans alike, plus it's going to be a great way to introduce kids to the LotR universe.  
 photo

LEGO Lord of the Rings is doing a number of things to really differentiate itself from prior LEGO titles. The biggest change is that this one provides a more seamless, open world design to the exploration, akin to that of Skyrim. 

Preview: Pokemon Black and White Version 2

Aug 01 // Abel Girmay
Pokémon Black and White 2 (DS)Developer: Game FreakPublisher: Nintendo, The Pokémon CompanyRelease: October 7, 2012  The first addition we got to see was an optional series of side activities involving PokéStar Studios. Here, players will be able to take roles in -- and act out -- film scenes from a variety of genres. The way you shoot films is largely the same, however. Shooting a film plays out like a Pokémon battle except you are given a set of instructions which act as your script. Scripts simply require that you fulfill a certain battle condition, like defeating a Pokémon with a certain type of attack. If the Pokémon in your party do not fit the bill for the script, you can rent Pokémon to use specifically for filming. You can choose to ignore these battle conditions, which count as an ad-lib performance, carrying the risk of the audience disliking your performance; or it can pay off with the audience enjoying the film even more. Oddly enough, there is no way to gauge when an ad-lib can result in a better reaction, which will probably just discourage any sort of experimentation. These sequences can be really long, with most of them being long-winded speeches through text blocks. There's no point in going through all that and risk failing. The actual benefit to participating in film production is next to nothing.Apart from you own amusement, or the desire to possibly run into an old face or two -- such as Brycen, the ex-gym leader who has become a big film star -- there is no real motivation to participate. You do not earn money or items for a well-performing film, and you can not even earn experience for your Pokémon during the battle sequences. At least PokéStar Studios is completely optional, neither story relevant nor required to advance the main quest, but that just adds to the question of why it's here at all. [embed]232309:44551[/embed] A much better addition to the series is the Pokémon World Tournament, a tournament-format battle arena where you can face off against AI opponents to sharpen your battling skills. As a nice little touch for Pokemaniacs both old a new, the competitors you will be going up against are made up of the gym leaders from all of the Pokémon regions. That's every gym leader from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, and Unova (from Black and White 1) to test your mettle against. As an added bonus, if you manage to best all of them, you will unlock the Elite Four of each region as well. Need more of challenge, though? The Pokémon Company will also be recording the teams and loadouts of the 2012 Pokémon Video Game World Championship top contenders and finalists as a free download for Black and White 2 players to go up against in the Pokémon World Tournament. Essentially, the real-life counterparts to the Elite Four will be waiting for you once you've bested every other opponent thrown at you. Unlike the silly movie-maker sim, the World Tournament comes as a welcome addition to the game, and battling against Lt. Surge, Giovanni, and Dragon Trainer Lance is trip down memory lane I cannot wait to go down. Another addition over the first Black and White is an expanded Pokedex. This go around, it comes with a handy little feature that allows you to see all the possible Pokémon that can be caught in a given area, and records which ones you have already captured. It's a subtle addition, to be sure, but it goes along way to assisting and streamlining the process of catching 'em all. Similar to (but not at all apart of) the Pokémon Movie Studio are vignettes that unlock based on your completion rate of Black and White 1. Returning players will have noticed the surprisingly heavy emphasis on storytelling. More surprising was that it was actually pretty good. The story-heavy leanings of the first remain here, and these short films help fill in the gaps on the happenings of Unova from the first to the second game. For example, one includes a gym leader that you had to defeat in the first game popping up in the second as a side quest. This gym leader has since lost their gym in the two years that have passed, and you may embark on a side quest to help them get it back. If you played far enough in the first game to defeat this gym leader, you will unlock their vignette showing how it all went downhill for them. To unlock all of the clips, players need only make sure that they have a save file from the first in which they defeated every gym leader, the Elite Four, and Team Plasma in the final sequence. Considering the emphasis on story in the Black and White games, these little cinematics strive to go a long way to fleshing out the story further, and are a great touch. So while there may be some bad to go with the good in this latest iteration, it is looking mostly bright for Pokémon Black and White 2. PokéStar Studios' inclusion is a real head scratcher, but the World Tournament mode, unlockable vignettes, and expanded Pokedex do add a fair bit to look forward to. At the very least, the core collect-a-thon, battle-heavy gameplay is still the same, and for some, will be warrant enough to take the dive.
 photo

It has been two years since a small-town kid defeated the mighty Team Plasma, and in that time, the region of Unova as well as its people have changed. Bianca, no longer unsure of herself, has settled in nicely as an assistan...

Quick thoughts on the 3DS XL hardware

Jul 26 // Abel Girmay
Bigger, better, more badass As the name implies, the 3DS XL is indeed much larger than the original -- 90% larger, to be precise. Now if you were to guess that this is purely a cosmetic change, you'd be right, mostly. Since the hardware is still running at the same resolution as the original 3DS, games will not look as pretty stretched out over a larger screen, in theory. In practice, I was hard pressed to find any noticeable loss in visual fidelity when playing on the new hardware. Playing both DS and 3DS games, I found nothing really to be desired from the visuals. At least, nothing that the regular 3DS could boast over the 3DS XL. If you are the really picky type, there is a nice little option that allows you to have DS games run in their original aspect ratio. I had the chance to try this feature out with Pokemon White 2, and while the colors do seem a tad bit sharper when running at its original size, it simply felt like a waste letting the rest of the screen go unused. The only issue I had with the larger screen was that it seemed more difficult to get a proper viewing angle for the 3D effects. All in all though, I love the new size, and as 3DS owner who primarily plays his system at home, it is definitely the biggest draw. [embed]231985:44511[/embed] Push me, 'till I can get my, satisfaction... The buttons on the XL model have also undergone a redesign of their own. The A-B-Y-X button layout is the same, but each of them are raised a bit and have a more of a click, translating to a more tactile feel to each of them. The same is true of the L and R triggers, but the biggest change is in the bottom three buttons. The Home, Select, and Start buttons have replaced the soft touch pad of the original model in favor of actual buttons. Like the marginal improvements to the other buttons, the changes here are nothing to write home about, but the feel is noticeably better. The 3D slider has also received a makeover. Great as the 3D of many games are, there are plenty of times when players find themselves wanting to play in standard 2D. As any 3DS owner can attest to, this can prove needlessly frustrating, as the slightest nudge of the slider will turn the 3D effects back on. This go around, the slider snaps into a sturdy off position, ensuring the 3D effects will stay off until you want them back. It just feels right The last change worth mentioning is the extra viewing angle the top screen can snap into. Previously, the 3DS would snap into one of two positions, flat out or angled further back. The 3DS XL, however, can snap into a perfect 90-degree angle, laptop style. That addition comes as no startling reveal, but trust me when I say that it simply feels much better in practice; ideal for watching Netflix or adjusting your viewing angle for a better look at the 3D. Also, the stylus location has been moved from behind the system to back on right-hand side, similar to the original DS. This is without a doubt the least consequential of all the changes to the system, but it, oddly enough, does feel better. A more familiar feeling to those accustomed to the stylus location of the original DS, undoubtedly. Ultimately, the larger screen size is the single biggest draw to choosing a 3DS XL over the original. That being said, the lesser tweaks to the hardware should not be dismissed or scoffed at. Sure, they are marginal on their own, but when combined with one another, and especially when compared to what was on offer previously, it is honestly remarkable how much better the XL feels. Don't break the bank to upgrade, but those who have yet to adopt a 3DS will be given plenty of justification to shell out an extra $30.
 photo

Hardware redesigns are increasingly common in our industry. Consoles, handhelds, you name it -- there are plenty of variations on this generation's systems. Nintendo is no stranger to this, with a solid four versions of their...

E3: Hands-on with Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion

Jun 08 // Chad Concelmo
Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion was inspired by the classic Mickey platformer Castle of Illusion for the Genesis. This inspiration shows from the minute you start the game. The graphics -- while obviously improved for the slick 3DS -- look very similar. Even the animation and controls are very reminiscent of the original classic ... but I am getting ahead of myself. Not much is known about the story in Power of Illusion, but, as in Castle, Mickey is tasked with journeying through multiple Disney-themed worlds to put an end to the evil witch Mizrabel (who looks eerily similar to Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty). Along the way -- and this is the best part -- he will run into and rescue many Disney characters from different movies and TV shows. Seeing these awesome characters in the game was both surprising and exciting. As a huge Disney fan, I squealed with happiness when I found Scrooge McDuck and smiled when I talked to Rapunzel. The whole gang is included, and the game's creative director, Peter Ong, promises there are many, many appearances in the final game. To control, players use the slide pad or D-pad to move Mickey around the screen. Jumping is done with one button, and, like, Castle, a stomp is performed by hitting the jump button once again. You can also shoot paint and paint thinner projectiles by pushing the attack button. These controls, while very similar to Castle of Illusion, are only the very tip of the amazing iceberg. Like its console Epic Mickey counterparts, in Power of Illusion, Mickey can use paint or thinner to draw objects or take them away. This is done using the touch screen of the 3DS. When an object can be interacted with, it will appear glowing in the map on the bottom screen. By tapping this, a "paint" screen will be shown. In this screen, players will have to "paint," or outline, the object to make it appear, or erase it with the thinner to make it disappear. While only a few levels were shown in the demo, this technique was used to fantastic effect. Sometimes it was simple, just having to erase a vine blocking your path or painting a block to stand on. Other times things were more complicated. In one section, a series of cannons was on the screen that Mickey could launch himself with. Some cannons needed to be painted and some needed to be erased in order to form the perfect path to move on to a high platform. Since the action pauses when painting, some of the cannons had to be painted while in mid-flight. It made the sequence not just about strategy, but timing as well. To add more detail to a constantly deepening game, the painting mechanic is graded on how good of a job you do with painting the items. The better you do, the better rewards you get. For example, if you paint a stone column perfectly, fewer enemies will attack in the next section. If you do a bad job, more enemies may be waiting for you further on in the level. In addition, special painted objects can be found, unlocked, and carried with you throughout the game. As in Metroid, these acquired powers can be used at any time and help you access hidden areas and defeat enemies. In the demo, you could carry two special objects. One was a "Thwomp"-like enemy that would crush anything underneath it (even Mickey!). By drawing it anywhere on the screen, the monster will slam down and destroy anything underneath it. This is very helpful in defeating enemies that may be a little out of reach or guarding a tough platforming section. And, again, if you paint it perfectly, the enemy is more powerful and slams to the ground more times. The other item was a chest that would release helpful items such as money, more paint, or helpful hearts. The graphics and animation in the game are truly wonderful. DreamRift's other games -- Henry Hatsworth and Monster Tale -- have very similar, 16-bit retro graphics, but Power of Illusion seems to look even better! It's hard to tell in the screenshots, but parallax scrolling is in full effect, with backgrounds and gorgeous out-of-focus foregrounds looking incredible. And seeing this all in 3D makes everything look even more colorful and stunning. If this was the entire game, it would be great. But there is so much more! After rescuing the numerous Disney characters, they will return to your castle and find shelter in one of many rooms. These rooms can be upgraded to look more and more like scenes from the characters' respective universes. For example, I upgraded Scrooge McDuck's room and it was a perfect recreation of his office from DuckTales (complete with giant vault door!). And these upgrades aren't just aesthetic. After fully upgrading, characters will help out Mickey on his quest! Some may open a shop to sell helpful items, others may offer new powers, and others will assign side missions that can be completed for even more fun rewards! There is so much to do in Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion and so much to gush over. It truly is a beautiful game with fun gameplay, clever mechanics, and many surprising Disney appearances. I can't wait for Power of Illusion. As a fan of both retro 2D platformers and Disney, this game is a dream come true.
 photo

I haven't made a final decision as to what my favorite game at E3 2012 is yet, but Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the 3DS is right up there. When DreamRift's game was announced a couple of months ago, I was shocked. Inste...

E3: Unchained Blades is an RPG for the hardcore

Jun 07 // Jayson Napolitano
First, the premise. Unchained Blades takes place in a world where people are granted a single wish if they can complete a trial and reach the Goddess Clunea. Our main protagonist, Fang, the emperor of dragons, approaches Clunea without a wish, but rather a demand that she divulge the name of the strongest creature in the land so he can defeat the beast and take the title for himself. Offended by Fang’s arrogance and bad attitude, she banishes him and strips him of his dragon powers. Now, bent on revenge, Fang acquires allies and explores massive titans that litter the land in search of powers to help him reach the Goddess once again and exact his revenge. As it turns out, Fang is only the protagonist of one of the game’s four chapters. Each chapter features a different cast of characters, all of whom are beautifully animated and voiced (at least from what we heard today, the quality of some of the voice-acted story bits have been questioned). We were also introduced to Hector, a golem who wants to reach Clunea to wish for a human form (apparently his golem form is too big and intimidating for his liking), Lapis, a medusa who wants to be rid of her curse of turning people to stone (she has clothing that covers the snakes on her head), and Mari, whose motives are unknown. All of these characters come together in the final chapter for what’s been promised to be an epic finale. In terms of what you’ll see, towns are navigated through a menu, allowing players to interact with NPCs and perform a variety of fetch and monster-hunt quests that reveal some backstory about the game world and the characters that inhabit it. You can also craft items and stay at an inn operated by a strange half man, half woman doll. Dungeon exploration happens in first-person in a classic Wizardry-inspired style. Even strafing is intact. The dungeon we saw was the innards of the Titan of Daris, which had a fire theme, but other dungeons have water and desert themes to name a few. The dungeons are large with multiple floors with lots to explore. Fortunately there are shortcuts that are accessed as players progress to aid in exploration of the latter areas of a given dungeon. The 3DS version of Unchained Blades (it will also be released on PSP) will display a helpful map on the bottom screen as you’d expect. Players will encounter puzzles and enemy encounters as they proceed. Battles happen in a separate screen, also in first person. One of the innovations here is that enemies can be placed in different positions, including head-on and to the side. There are spells and attacks that target different areas around the party, so this adds a strategic element to the battle system. We were told that these battles are intended to be hard, and when first entering a dungeon, you’ll likely only be able to complete a few before needing to head back to town to heal up. You’ll eventually level up and be able to progress more rapidly, but be ready for what XSEED describes to us as a “punishingly difficult” experience. The whole “Unchained” part of the game’s title comes from the fact that you can acquire enemies as followers. Most enemies can be unchained, and your chances improve as the enemy's health decreases. Each character can have up to three followers assigned, and benefits include attacks or healing during battle or stat increases. Unchained Blades is a 50- to 60-hour adventure and is due out this year as a downloadable title for both the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Portable. Based on how great the soundtrack for this game is, I’d probably have played this anyway, but consider me sold after seeing it in action today. Unchained Blades seems to combine the nostalgia of classic first-person dungeon crawlers with a compelling cast of characters, some amazingly vibrant anime-style graphics, and one of the best handheld soundtracks of the year. Have you been following Unchained Blades and have any thoughts about the game? Will you be picking it up later this year?
 photo

I doubt it surprises anyone, but my excitement for Unchained Blades stems from my love of the game’s soundtrack, which was released last year. While it features a main theme by Nobuo Uematsu that sounds a lot like Iron ...

E3: New details on Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Jun 07 // Chad Concelmo
First thing I want to get out of the way: There were no partners in the extended demo we saw. This got me nervous. What is a Paper Mario game without the myriad of fun and unique partners that can join your party in the game? No word on whether partners will be in the final game -- outside of the one lone screenshot in the gallery that shows someone named "Kersti" who may or may not be an actual partner -- but in the demo, at least, they were absent. I am holding out hope they make an appearance in the final game. Also strange and a little troubling: There are no experience points in Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Yeah, I know. Between this and the lack of partners, things sound scary for this new sequel to the charming RPG series. BUT NOT TO WORRY! From what we were shown, the game still looks pretty great. A few details: -Replacing experience points are other ways to "level up" your character. By discovering secrets, hidden chests, or helping out NPCs, Mario is awarded bonuses that will boost his maximum heart points. This replacement is a little odd for fans of the series, but, in practice, it looks like it will work just fine. -The "stickers" from the title really do make up a bulk of the gameplay. In battles, you don't have normal menu-based selections like usual. You actually attack, block, and use special moves by selecting stickers from your giant sticker book and placing them on-screen. The stickers seem to be everywhere in the world, but I am curious to see what happens if you ever run out. Can you not attack? Can you "recharge" your stickers somewhere? -Usually, only one sticker can be used in a battle at a time, but there is a fun new mechanic during battle that's let you use your coins to take a chance on a slot machine. When this slot machine is activated, Mario can try for more sticker slots to attack more than once. Also, if all three slots are matched, a huge bonus is awarded, like coins or more stickers. -Environmental stickers look like the most fun in the game. At times, Mario will run into giant objects that are rendered as if they are from the "real world." Seriously, there is one point where he finds a fan that looks like an actual fan. He can collect these items and bring them to a magic wall and transform them into stickers. From here, he can use these stickers to solve puzzles later in the story. It's a pretty cool addition and seems to add a lot to the game. -As far as the look of the game, the graphics look just as topnotch and stylish as the previous games in the series. We obviously couldn't see the 3D effect, but I imagine Paper Mario being the perfect game to display this featured effect. -The general gameplay is also the same gameplay you know and love. Battles are turn-based and involve hitting the buttons at the exact right time to do extra damage or block attacks. -Only a tiny piece of the game was shown, but a town was talked about during the demo. This is a good sign, as I want the final game to be as robust, long, and RPG-like as the older games in the series. The Paper Mario RPGs have always had such great stories set in such a huge world, and I don't want to lost that in the transition to a handheld. Final thoughts: I thought the demo of Paper Mario: Sticker Star was really solid, with great graphics and a welcome, refreshing sense of humor that the series has always been known for. But I am not going to lie that I am just a tad bit worried. Not that the final game won't be great. Nintendo makes great first-party games, and this looks to be no exception. I am just worried that the final game won't be as epic in length and scope as the previous games in the Paper Mario series. With no experience points and the chance of no partners, I am slightly concerned that some sacrifices were made to put the game on the 3DS. Also, I still have yet to see a giant variety of worlds and characters, which also gets me a little nervous. But I only saw a short demo. All these fears could be put to rest when the game releases this holiday season. I can't wait!
 photo

Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the 3DS is not playable on the show floor at E3. Let me say that again: Paper Mario: Sticker Star is not playable. WHAT THE HECK, NINTENDO?! Of all the games here at E3, I was really hoping to ge...

E3: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate preview

Jun 07 // Daniel Starkey
I had about 30 minutes with the game, and it took some time before I began to notice the poor controls. It's the little things. When you jump and catch a ledge, for example, you can't drop straight down. Movement options are limited, especially against larger opponents, ultimately leading to frustrating bouts. I understand that the game expects me to try harder to not get hit, but for that to even matter I need the tools to do that.Mirror of Fate isn't a total disappointment, however. I can honestly say that it's one of the most beautiful DS games I've ever seen, and the 3D effect adds quite a bit to the experience -- if you can find that elusive sweet spot. It does drive home a critical flaw with the system itself, though, especially how it relates to Dawn of Sorrow.Both of the screens on the original DS had the same resolution and were roughly similar in terms of graphical fidelity. In Dawn of Sorrow, all of the action is taking place on the bottom screen -- the touch screen. Mirror of Fate has the opposite setup. Because the 3D function only applies to the top screen, developers will naturally use that for the core game and the touch screen for auxiliary information. So things like the Magic Seals, which added a lot of flavor to Dawn of Sorrow, can't be implemented as effectively on the 3DS.If you're the kind of person who's willing to sacrifice tight controls for some really slick graphics and an interesting take on the Castlevania series, then Mirror of Fate might be worth a look.No solid release date has been given, but you can expect Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate to drop sometime this fall. 
 photo

I am exceptionally wary of ridiculously titled games. They have a tendency to be exceptionally awful. Still, I made an attempt to swallow my prejudice and dig into the latest installment in the Castlevania series.  I pla...

 photo

Seriously, just watch the video that's made up of all in-game footage. It feels so good knowing there's an open world Spider-Man game once again. Hopefully the end products ends up being worth it. What I played was awesome, ...

E3: What's new with Skylanders Giants

Jun 05 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Skylanders Giants (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii [Previewed], 3DS] Developer: Toys for Bob Publisher: Activision Release: Fall 2012 Skylanders Giants introduces 20 new characters in all, 12 regular-sized heroes and eight giants. All of the previous Skylanders toys will still work with Giants, of course, and your stats and customizations will carry over too. Plus, the level cap has been raised to fifteen, allowing you to level up all your previous Skylanders characters even further. Another new feature for the actual toys are how the new designs can actually light up when placed on or near the Portal of Power device. Best of all, you won't have to worry about replacing the batteries as (presumably) the Portal of Power will recharge them. In terms of gameplay, it's the same Skylanders you know as far as combat is concerned. The levels keep that elemental theme going too, where only certain Skylanders characters can enter certain areas. What's largely different this time around is that there's more emphasis on exploration and replayability. You'll be able to find hidden areas and enter buildings where you'll find items and other collectibles for your characters. As far as the new giants are concerned, they definitely pack more of a wallop and have their own unique attacks, like being able to pick up large boulders that they can chuck at enemies. You'll still have to swap with the normal Skylanders characters, as the giants can't access all areas due to their enormous size. Developer Toys for Bob showed off three of the new characters. One was called Pop Fizz and is a crazy magic class who throws around different types of potions to hurt enemies, and his alt attack sees him sampling his own mixtures, transforming him into a beefed-up monster (akin to a Jekyll and Hyde transformation). Two of the other new characters were giants. The first is Tree Rex, a gargantuan walking tree monster thing. The other is called Bouncer and he's basically Gizmo Duck from Ducktales/Darkwing Duck. Seriously. He's a giant that wears a power suit and moves around on one wheel. Unlike Gizmo Duck, Bouncer has some real badass attacks ranging from a laser eye blast, shoulder-mounted grenade launcher, and even (literal) finger guns. Drop-in/drop-out cooperative play is still a feature, and up to two giants can fit on one Portal of Power. Four-player versus mode is still in here too, plus there's a survival mode called Battle Arena where up to two players can fight wave after wave of enemies. That's a very basic overview of just some of the new features hitting Skylanders Giants. I don't know how Toys for Bob did it, but I kind of adore the Skylanders series. It really was a great idea merging toys and videogames in such a way that it all serves a real purpose. Needless to say, fans of the original Skylanders won't want to miss Giants.
 photo

Did you know that last year's Skylanders: Spryo's Adventure had the best single-year sales of any new children's IP ever in America? I figured the game would do well, but not to such a crazy extent! Obviously, Activision has ...

E3: Putting the 'amazing' back in The Amazing Spider-Man

Jun 05 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
The Amazing Spider-Man (Xbox 360 [previewed], PlayStation 3, Wii, PC, 3DS, DS)Developer: Beenox / Griptonite Games (DS)Publisher: ActivisionRelease: June 26, 2012 (US) / June 29, 2012 (EU) By pressing the Web Rush button, Spider-Man will move toward whatever your reticule is pointed at. He'll swing, run, crawl, and do everything it takes to get to the destination you selected all on his own. It's important to note that you're not locked into the path you just made, and you can either press the Web Rush button again to move somewhere else or just take control of things yourself by moving the analog stick. Additionally, holding down the Web Rush button will slow all the action down to a crawl, allowing you to carefully plan a route by either highlighting a pre-selected option (indicated by a yellow Spider-Man silhouette) or just looking and pointing at an area yourself. Beyond the Web Rush stuff, merely swinging around the beautifully recreated New York City is just so much fun. The camera stays tightly on Spider-Man, in a cinematic-like fashion which makes web slinging that just more enjoyable. The camera can get jarring at times, and those of you who can easily get dizzy will want to take some breaks while playing. Combat-wise, the action is very fast paced. Spider-Man makes use of Lucha libre type attacks that are performed with ease. Plus he can stun enemies with his webbing attack, which you'll be happy to know won't be tied to any sort of web cartridge-based limitations. I took on a few missions during my demo time, the main mission being the Rhino fight. You can't hurt the Rhino directly, instead you have to get him to charge at you and jump at the last possible second so he slams into a heavily armored SWAT truck, thus getting stuck and allowing you to wail on him for a bit. You have to do this a few times, with the last attack on Rhino sending him flying up into the air. A fun fight, but it sucked that the battle was limited within a small enclosure. I would have enjoyed the fight more had it been out in the open-world setting. I hope this was not an indication of how the other main boss fights will play out. On that note, however, the last thing I did was fight against a robot drone that was flying through the city. The robot is unleashing all sorts of attacks toward Spider-Man as the player gives chase. You need to jump on its back when near enough in order to knock it out of commission. The battle is pretty chaotic, to the point where it was hard to keep track of the drone's location at times. This is the sort of battle I'm hoping we see throughout the game. All in all, I'm really looking forward to The Amazing Spider-Man. The game picks up just after the events of The Amazing Spider-Man movie, and you can be sure to expect plenty of classic villains, and a lot of side missions, too. You'll even be able to find and collect a variety of Spider-Man comics, all of which will be readable in the game. Developer Beenox is taking the series back to the direction they should have never veered off course from to begin with. While it's hard to state for certain this early if they'll match what Rocksteady did with the Batman series for comic videogames, I can at least say they're putting the Spider-Man franchise back on the right path again. Plus, you can play as freaking as Stan Lee. How cool is that?!
 photo

The Spider-Man videogames have been a roller coaster of real fun highs and "Why did I just waste $60 on this?" lows. Thankfully, The Amazing Spider-Man is somewhere in the "real fun highs" category, at least based on what I ...

Preview: LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes

May 22 // Dale North
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, 3DS)Developer: Traveler's TalesPublisher: WB GamesReleases: June 19, 2012  The Joker and Lex Luthor have teamed up to spring all the bad guys in Arkham Asylum with a deconstruction weapon that can tear open the blocks that make the prison. Gotham City's heroes, Batman and Robin, swoop in for riot control, and they handle the job quite well at first, but it eventually becomes a situation where the Justice League needs to be called in.  The gameplay in LEGO Batman 2 is delightfully simple. I steered a LEGO mini-figure version of Robin in a cooperative session with another attending press member playing as Batman (LEGO Batman 2 supports drop-in/drop-out play for a second player at any time) in the fight against Arkham's worst, kicking, punching, grabbing and throwing my way through them. A simple combo system lets you string attacks together, but more advanced attacks come from character-specific suits that add new abilities for combat and navigation. Early on we saw that Batman has a electricity suit that lets him power-up to do special takedowns as well as power up equipment for puzzle solving. I liked Robin's acrobatic suit, which lets him throw poles into surfaces to swing on and jump from, enabling him to reach higher platforms. The poles can also be used as a baton-like weapon, but it pales in comparison to the suit's hamster ball ability, which lets Robin roll around to smash baddies and other obstacles. These are just a couple of the many suits available. This high level of accessibility combined with some depth in abilities and combat means that you can sit down to play LEGO Batman 2 with a child and you'll both will have a good time. I certainly did. I really enjoyed the dynamic presentation of the two-player session. The split-screen isn't static, and will move around to highlight the action, with the division constantly moving depending on where each player stands. If both players are near each other, there is no split, but as they move apart, the dividing bar will tilt and spin freely, and the camera will zoom in to highlight the action. This makes for a cinematic presentation, making your co-op session look something like an animated movie. For the first time, all of the LEGO game characters have been fully voiced. The work I saw in a presentation and gameplay was top notch, with Superman and Joker being the most notable. The dialogue is packed with wisecracks and jabs, making for some pretty funny cutscenes. In one scene, Superman teams up with Batman to head to Lexcorp to get some answers. Superman opens the door for Batman, which has him groaning. Inside, the receptionist asks for their names. Superman asks, "Seriously?" After names were given, the receptionist asks if these were their last names. Batman jokes that even Luthor's receptionist is evil. Spoiler: Luthor's receptionist actually is evil, as she soon transforms into a sub-boss robot made of the hardest substance known to man. Hilarious. After I played through the demo mission I was able to get a taste of LEGO Batman 2's open-world. Set in Gotham City, heroes can explore freely, taking on missions, picking fights and trying out any of the 70 playable characters. We saw all types of weird experiences in this open world, ranging from crazed Batmobile cruising to Wonder Woman riding on the back of a lion. It all came together for me when I saw LEGO Superman take to the skies, cruising over Gotham's skyscrapers as the Superman theme queued up in the background.  Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes will be released later next month for just about every current game platform on the market, save for mobile.
 photo

Batman's back (in LEGO form) and he brought his friends along for sequel in LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. Not just Robin, though. Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are among the blocky heroes, and The Joker and ...

 photo

Preview: Pokemon Conquest


May 02
// Steven Hansen
I made the harrowing decision to pass on Pokémon Black and White when they released, which I never expected to do, as an avid fan of Pokémon. It’s still a choice that doesn’t sit quite well with me (...

Preview: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Apr 30 // Ryan Perez
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (3DS, PC, PlayStation 3 [previewed], PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360) Developer: Sumo Digital Publisher: Sega Release: TBA 2012 Upon selecting a racer, more than one moment saw me pointing to a character and saying aloud, "Oh yeah, I forgot Sega made that game!" Of course, the expected Sonic cast was present: Tails, Knuckles, Dr. Robotnik (I don't call him "Eggman," because this is America, goddamnit). Joining them, though, were characters whom I had forgotten even belonged to the Sega family: Amigo (Samba de Amigo), Beat (Jet Set Radio), and B.D. Joe (Crazy Taxi). It was at that point that I realized Sega actually had a shit-ton of variety and eclecticism within their body of work, and this little racing game was, in a lot of ways, a testament to that. Now, even though I've had my fair share of Sega consoles (everything except for the Sega CD), I can't call myself a "Sega kid." I got my hands on every piece of hardware I could while growing up, no matter the company. Still, that didn't keep the warm feelings of my childhood from brewing in my gut, especially once I took to the roads of the Panzer Dragoon course. While I did play the game in a relatively early state (alpha, to be exact), it was little snippets of nostalgia like these that made me realize that Sega fans were going to be in for a real treat. Considering how much of the company's history the previous All Stars Racing game encapsulated, I can only imagine this follow­-up will provide more of that iconic imagery. "Shit yes," says my 13-year-old, malnourished inner-self. So the nostalgia is a great hook, but how does it play? Well, the "Transformed" in the subtitle actually has significant meaning. During each race, courses will change their structure after every lap. So, naturally, each character's vehicle morphs into the appropriate form. On the Panzer Dragoon course, the first lap had me clattering over a creaky wooden bridge -- a favorite in professional racing, of course. On the second lap, though, a fuckin' dragon burst out of the water and destroyed it! No worries, because B.D. Joe's cab flipped its wheels and presented a nice set of propellers for the water below. Upon reaching that area for the third time, instead of sloshing into the lake, Joe's Chevy Impala took to the skies like Doc Brown's DeLorean, but with less time traveling and more ... well, craziness, I suppose. The elaborate changes in courses not only provided a fresh pace to the otherwise-bland genre of "kart racers," but they also quelled the boredom that can sometimes present itself after the third lap on the same track. Seeing as how I only got to try out two courses (the other being a downhill Super Monkey Ball-themed one), I'm anxious to see what other creative twists Sumo has added to the track selection. Amidst all of this reverential Sega imagery and the nostalgic glow it emanated, I couldn't help but feel a bit of remorse in the end. Seeing the diversity of Sega's franchises under one roof (or skybox) sort of brought to light the tragic reality that, well, while the company has a quality portfolio, it has continued to face more and more hardship. I mean, Transformed featured a roster of characters from games that had absolutely nothing to do with each other -- all of them great, to boot. It now makes less sense to me than it ever did why Sega has taken such a tumble down the staircase of this industry. Goddamned Nintendo has thrived on the same names and faces we've known since the late 80s, yet they have managed to accumulate an Olympic-sized pool of gold bullion. Mascot-themed games provide a rather decent retrospective of a company's history. Super Smash Bros. showed us Nintendo's backstory, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale will compile Sony's, and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed does that very thing for Sega. The result is a relatively fun and robust experience that makes you think, "Wait a minute ... if they made that game, then what the hell is the problem?" Oh well, perhaps I don't have the full picture. In fact, I know I don't. For all I know, the Sega execs of old might have blown all the company's money of cocaine and classy hookers. What matters is that, while Sega has taken hit after hit, despite all rules of logic and reality, games like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed show that they can still make a fun and engaging title ... complimented by a cast from their own great games. Sumo Digital has put a lot of care into making this game its own great experience, even going as far as building the engine from the ground up, as well as implementing their own physics into the gameplay. Transformed plus liquor is a combination that's bound to be worthy of a friendly, split-screen gathering ... err, I mean "fun for the whole family." By the way, this preview taught me one important fact: Max Scoville is rather graceless at competitive racing games. So if you find yourself at a bar with him, and he's downed a few slippery nipples (yes, that's a real drink), the handheld version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a sure way to win a "wager of the pantsless variety" with him. You didn't hear that from me, though.
 photo

Few developers have a large enough catalog of praised franchises that they can make entire games featuring a variety of their own iconic characters. Nintendo is obviously the leading company that has made a habit of doing th...

Preview: Thundercats for the DS is a simple beat 'em up

Apr 17 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Thundercats (DS)Developer: Aspect Digital EntertainmentPublisher: Namco Bandai GamesRelease: August 2012 The game follows the plot of the new cartoon series somewhat loosely, and sees you in control of Lion-O at the start of the attack on Thundera by the Lizard army, lead by Mumm-Ra and former ally Grune. You move from left to right where you can perform basic ground and air attacks with your trusty Sword of Omens. Enemies will come in different attack patterns, and you can't move forward until everyone has been killed. As you kill enemies, you'll fill up your Sword of Omens meter which once filled lets you shoot a blast of energy from the sword, instantly killing everything in sight. I like to call this attack the "Ho blast," as the sword only fires once Lion-O finishes saying Thunder, Thunder, Thunder ... Thundercats HO!. No, I'm not sorry for my horrible jokes. Activating the Ho blast is done by touching the Sword of Omens located on the bottom screen. Surrounding the sword on the touch screen are fellow Thundercats Tygra, Cheetara, Panthro, WilyKat and WilyKit. Once you've found your allies through the story, they'll be able to jump on screen and perform a special move to kill everything on screen. You have to collect Thundercat symbols scattered around levels in order to utilize your ally's abilities first though. You can also collect Thundrillium crystals scattered in a level which goes to unlocking artwork straight from the show. The voice actors from the series will even have some voice overs in the DS adventure. There will even be a section or two where you can drive the ThunderTank! That's about it, really. Your main attacks are pretty basic, and fighting through the hoards of lizards is very easy. The little touches developer Aspect Digital Entertainment put in that calls back to classic beat 'em ups is pretty cute though. You can't move back left, enemies will drop whole cooked turkeys as health pickups, there's a score meter up top, an onscreen prompt appears telling you to continue moving right, and there's even a score tally at the end of each level. The only thing that can hurt this package is if Namco tries to charge more than $19.99 for it. Honestly I can totally see myself recommending this to my little cousins addicted to their Nintendo handhelds, so long as it's reasonably priced that is. THUNDERCATS HO!
 photo

As a big fan of the old school Thundercats, I was pleasantly surprised by how good the new Thundercats series is. Namco Bandai is working on a simple beat 'em up for the DS that ties in with the new series and it's not that b...

PAX: Kingdom Hearts 3D, now with even more Jeff Bridges

Apr 08 // Tony Ponce
As you may have heard previously, Kingdom Hearts 3D for the 3DS features many new Disney worlds to explore, including The Grid from Tron: Legacy. During my hands-on at PAX, I was able to play a build set in The Grid, to get a feel for the new battle mechanics, and to meet Sora and Riku's newest allies. According to the story, Sora and Riku must pass through a series of trials before they can become true Keyblade Masters. They must save the various Disney worlds from the threat of the Dream Eaters, the newest antagonists replacing the Heartless and Nobodies from the previous entries. There are two types of Dream Eaters: Nightmares and Spirits. Obviously, Nightmares are the baddies, whereas Spirits are your friends. In fact, Spirits serve as your AI partners in this game, replacing Donald and Goofy, as well as introducing a Pokémon-esque monster raising twist. I was really disappointed to see these freaky little pinkish blobs tailing behind me through my adventure, but hopefully, the dynamic duo pop up later down the road. So here I am on The Grid, smacking foes with my Keyblade and collecting experience orbs. The fighting is pretty similar to previous titles in the series, with the exception of a new technique that allows you to quickly dash through the air, stick to a wall, then rebound down a different direction. This ability helps speed up the flow of the game and opens up new aerial offensive maneuvers, but the handling takes a little getting used to -- while zooming around, movement is a little finicky. For my demo, I only got to play as Sora. Apparently, both Sora and Riku are off on their own separate but linked adventures, but you can only play as one at a time. A timer in the bottom corner of the screen lets you know how much longer before your current session ends, after which you'll immediately start playing as the other character. Points you accrue during one play session can be spent to enhance the abilities of the other player for the duration of his session. Once that session is finished, you'll return right back to where you left off with the first guy. It sounds a bit confusing, but think of it as a single person shuttling two cars down the highway. Now let's talk about Jeff Bridges. The characters from the movie -- Kevin and Sam Flynn, Quorra, CLU, Rinzler a.k.a. Tron -- are all here in surprisingly great detail. There is an element of exaggeration in their features, but the character models are pretty damn impressive. This was a Japanese build, so the voices weren't in English. I don't think Jeff Bridge's Japanese VA fit him all that well -- Jeff is very mellow and chill, but this dude was very gruff and deep. It was so bizarre, but really cool at the same time. Whatever, though. You get to fight alongside El Duderino himself! And with CLU, you get younger Jeff Bridges absolutely free! Speaking of the voice cast, the English one hasn't been formally announced yet, but Haley Joel Osment is definitely coming back. I don't know how that will work, given that the guy is in his 20s and probably doesn't sound like a squeaky, bright-eyed youth with high hopes and aspirations anymore. I guess that's what sound editing is for. Kingdom Hearts 3D is set for a July 31 launch date in the US. Play it because Jeff Bridges.
 photo

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance has Jeff Bridges. Boom. End of preview. ... Fine, I'll tell you more about the rest of the game.

Multiplayer and more with Kid Icarus: Uprising

Feb 22 // Wesley Ruscher
Kid Icarus UprisingDeveloper: Project Sora                Publisher: NintendoRelease: March 23, 2012Twice the the Pit, twice the multiplayer madness.Beyond Uprising’s single-player escapade lies two multiplayer modes --available online or locally -- for stylus soldiers to duke it out in: Free-For-All and Light vs. Dark. Each mode allows players to take their best weapon and power setups into the field for some heavenly warrior-on-warrior action. Up to 16 slots can be customized ahead of time (or prior to battle), with a 17th slot designated as a random weapon and power distributor. Once a desired setup is selected, players will enter a practice arena where they can test their selected gear while waiting for the contest to begin. Each mode supports six players, with the game assigning CPU determined fighters to fill any slots left vacant. In Free-For-All, the objective is rather simple: have the highest score at the end of the match to win. Score is controlled by the weapons each player has equipped. The more powerful the weapon, the higher the value it possesses. When one player kills another, that value is thus added to their score. So, while more powerful weapons contain higher values, they run the risk of building an opponent's score faster, which can be disadvantageous to novice players.Light vs. Dark -- a team based mode -- was by far the most original of the two offerings. At its core, it is a 3-on-3 battle to the end. What separates it from being run-of-the-mill is the life meter that each team shares during the match. When a player dies, their team’s overall health reduces based on the value of that member’s weapon. Once the meter is completely depleted, the player who died last becomes either Pit or Dark Pit (depending on their team affiliation), is given a new weapon at random and has increased strength and agility for the duration of the match. From this point on it’s up to the opposing team to hunt down the rival Pit and kill him to secure the victory. While both modes offer their own levels of fun, I found Light vs. Dark to be the more well rounded of two multiplayer experiences. The combination of a shared life meter and the strategy needed in weapon selection provided an engaging multiplayer affair. Like Free-For-All, there is a definite risk-versus-reward component, which keeps this mode -- well, both actually -- from coming off as just another deathmatch shooter. Don’t like your weapon, then make a better one. In our single-player preview, it was mentioned that over the course of Pit’s adventure, the angelic warrior would stumble upon countless amounts of weapons from nine different classes -- each with their own unique properties and stats. And while going through the game at higher intensities (the game’s difficulty system) and playing multiplayer rewards players with stronger and better weapons; what’s a player to do when the doubles start piling up? That’s where the Weapon Fusion system comes into play. While a player cannot craft a weapon they have not found in the game (further encouraging players to up the intensity) the ability to take one weapon and pass on its beneficial stats to a pre-existing weapon type serves as the main motivation for constantly crafting. For example, some weapons contain properties which increase a player’s running speed while equipped. Being able to transfer this ability to a large weapon (i.e. clubs or cannons) is beneficial because these weapon classes hinder both Pit’s speed and endurance, making him more susceptible to enemy attacks. Once two weapons are merged, both are lost but each new weapon created can be endlessly forged with others to the heart’s content. Unfortunately this part of the preview was hands-off, but with what seems like an almost infinite amount of weapons and an easy to navigate menu -- which breaks down weapon fusion results prior to fusing -- it’s simple to see how one could spend hours on end making the perfect weapon.  Make some bling, then share it on the streets. Uprising’s Street Pass mode merely functions as an extension to the weapon crafting system. Taking any weapon available, a player can turn it into a gem to be shared with whomever comes in contact with their 3DS. On the flip side, once one is received, a player has three options for that gem. It can be directly changed into the weapon it represents (for a price), fused with another gem in possession, or outright converted into hearts -- the games form of currency -- to be used elsewhere in the game. The Street Pass mode is simple, but the fact that any weapon can be received from the kindness of stranger feels like a fun, mysterious way to trade -- though I guess one could always be a dick and share their most worthless weapon. I guess I’ll have to wait till PAX East to find out. Putting the foot down -- final thoughts. Between the single and multiplayer offerings in Kid Icarus: Uprising there is a lot of content to digest. The weapon fusion system, paired with the Street Pass functionality, looks to provide an addictive component to an already solid game. I enjoyed my time with the multiplayer and though the ground component of the single-player was my least favorite experience when I previewed the game back in January, it transitions itself better than I would have imagined in a competitive scenario. Look to take flight with Pit this March 23, when Kid Icarus: Uprising soars into stores for the 3DS.
 photo

It goes without saying that Nintendo has a lot riding on the revival of their winged warrior in Kid Icarus: Uprising. It’s the first major, first-party release of the year for the thriving 3DS and something even more...

Preview: Mixing it up with MLB 2K12

Feb 17 // Samit Sarkar
MLB 2K12 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [previewed], PC, Wii, PSP, DS, PlayStation 2)Developer: Visual ConceptsPublisher: 2K SportsRelease: March 6, 2012MSRP: $59.99 (PS3, 360) / $69.99 (360 Combo Pack with NBA 2K12)It's unclear at this point whether Take-Two will renew its exclusive licensing agreement with Major League Baseball. But even if this is the last MLB 2K game, the developers at Visual Concepts aren't phoning it in: they're focusing on fixing gameplay instead of buzzword-filled new features, and I give them credit for that. It's not a flashy approach, but if they pull it off, I expect fans to give the game a better reception.Visual Concepts has fixated on the pitcher-batter confrontation, the heart of baseball. Unlike McGilberry in his perfect game, real MLB pitchers constantly mix up their strategies for attacking hitters. That's what separates them from minor-league hurlers: they rarely abuse a pitch or return to a particular location in a certain situation. They have to adapt because they're facing MLB hitters, who got to the big-league level by punishing pitchers who became predictable. If you tend to go with, say, a splitter in the dirt on 0-2, and a shoulder-high fastball on a 1-2 count, hitters in MLB 2K12 will quickly pick up on that habit and learn to lay off. In addition, if the pitcher you're playing with has four or five pitches in his repertoire, and you consistently stick to one or two, batters will come to expect them -- and when a hitter knows what to look for, he's much more dangerous. (The game determines the baseline frequencies for each pitcher -- whether he tends to throw a certain pitch 8% of the time or 28% of the time -- from his Inside Edge scouting data.)MLB 2K12 gives you a good deal of feedback to tip you off to your tendencies. Analyst Steve Phillips might point one out with a comment. The visual feedback is more immediate and noticeable. All of your pitches are lined up on the left side of the screen as circular icons with numerical effectiveness ratings. If you're beginning to overuse a pitch (that is, throwing it too often compared to the Inside Edge data), the icon's background will turn from a neutral teal to yellow. That's a warning that you're becoming too predictable. If you continue to throw that pitch, the background will eventually become red, which lets you know that hitters are starting to look for it above your other options.It's also important to mix up your location and keep hitters on their toes. Going to the down-and-away well too often will cause that corner of the strike zone to turn black, which is a sign that you should go elsewhere. It'll be tougher to hit your spots, though, since Visual Concepts has tweaked breaking balls to be more realistic. You won't get the same sharp break on a 12-6 curveball if you start it above the strike zone as if you start it chest-high. At any time, you can pull up a screen showing exactly how many pitches you've thrown in each area, as well as Inside Edge data that illustrates a pitcher's real-life pitch frequencies. In practice, the adaptive hitting AI indeed made my life miserable when I began to overuse my fastball. A pitch's effectiveness rating also drops when you give up hits with it, and it varies from hitter to hitter. I only spent an hour or so with the game, but I had a couple of long innings because batters began to hammer my outside-corner heater after they learned to expect that pitch in that spot. That was doubly true for Albert Pujols. He smacked my fastball in his first at-bat for a single, and when I faced him again two innings later, I noticed that the fastball's rating had decreased. It appears that MLB 2K12 will really force you to adapt just as real pitchers do.Visual Concepts hasn't neglected hitting, either. Criticisms of past MLB 2K games always mentioned that they lacked hit variety -- it seemed as if you'd keep seeing the same soft liners to infielders. New ball physics this year have greatly improved hit variety and distribution, and it's all tied to the pitch that was thrown and the way the hitter made contact, just as it should be.Throwing in the field has also seen a significant upgrade. The new throw meter dynamically responds to your fielder's position. If you're charging a slow roller and you cue up a throw that your fielder has to make on the run, the green section of the throw meter will be much smaller than it would have been had you allowed him to set his feet before throwing to first. Of course, the meter also depends on the skill of the fielder in question, so someone with a more accurate arm will have a larger "sweet spot" even if someone's upending him with a slide as he's releasing the ball. The one new mode in MLB 2K12 is called MLB Today Season, and it's a spin on the traditional season setups in sports games. It allows you to play along with a real-life team, one game at a time. Let's say you're a Dodgers fan, and they lost the first two games of the 2012 season to the Padres. The MLB Today engine will import the exact scores and statistics from those games into your MLB Today Season, and you can pick up from there with the next game on April 7th and try to alter the course of the Dodgers' season.MLB Today Season forces you to play game-by-game, so you can't play at any pace other than that of your team's real-life counterpart. But by the end of September, the real Dodgers might be languishing in fourth place while your in-game Dodgers are celebrating an NL West crown!My Player has also seen a tweak in the direction of NBA 2K12: you'll select a role for your player that will affect the way your attributes develop. Speedsters won't hit a lot of home runs, but they'll be able to run down balls in the gap and steal a lot of bases. Sluggers, on the other hand, won't be fleet of foot. I'm still not sure that MLB 2K12 will be a legitimate competitor to Sony's MLB 12 The Show. But I liked what I saw, and it appears that the competition will be as close as it's ever been between these two franchises. Here's hoping Visual Concepts finally gets it right.
 photo

This is the third year in a row that 2K Sports is holding its Perfect Game Challenge for its MLB 2K series. They're changing the format this time, but previously, the first person to throw a verified perfect game would win $1...

Preview: Devil Survivor 2 is great, has high-set boobs

Jan 30 // Dale North
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 (Nintendo DS)Developer: AtlusPublisher: AtlusRelease: February 28, 2012 Death and disaster is back for this second game. Something like an earthquake strikes Tokyo right about when a group of high school teens find a crazy video website called Nicaea. This online site lets its users watch movies that depict their friends' deaths. They quickly find that these "death clips" are more like predictions for the future, so they set out to prevent their deaths as well as the deaths of others, armed with the newfound ability to summon demons from an application on their cellphones. It turns out that the Tokyo earthquake was not the only disaster in Japan, and while investigating this the teens run into a strange government organization that seems to know all about the demons, phone apps and other disasters. The group reluctantly joins forces with this organization while trying to make sense of it all.  DS2 brings a new story and some small gameplay improvements to the original forumla. The battle system is almost exactly the same as that of Devil Survivor, so fans of that neat mix of strategy and turn-based action are going to eat this one up. You'll control four teams throughout the game, each consisting of one human and two summoned demons. As in the first game you're free to trade these demons out and participate in an auction to acquire new ones. You can also fuse demons to create new ones, and you're open to pick from your favorite abilities from the two for your new creation. Fans of deep customization and endless tinkering are going to be in heaven while hell goes on all around them. There's a new focus on characters and relationships with the game's Fate system. As the story progresses, the main character and his friends, Io, Daichi and Joe, will have conversations that put you in the driver's seat, guiding their interactions. As you get to know your friends and others, you form this Fate with them, and from there your interactions can eventually open up different abilities and effects. This will remind Persona fans of the Social Link system, and much like in those games, creating strong relationships will benefit the player in the long run. This new system certainly makes dialogue time more interesting. Devil Survivor 2 is a great looking game, even on the aging DS. I hope they redo this game with an Overclocked version for the 3DS, like they did with Devil Survivor, but as it stands now, it's still looks and sounds great, even on the small screens. The game's art style is attractive by any measure, but fans of ridiculous breasts will enjoy DS2's character design. One of the main characters, Io Nitta, has boobs that seem to defy gravity. As the game progresses and more characters are introduced, each female seems to up the ante. These girls and Atlus' character designer make no apologies about the chests in this game. Look for our full review of Devil Survivor 2 next month, and get your DS charged up for its release on February 28.
 photo

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor was like a dream come true for me. One of my most-loved game makers took my favorite genre (strategy role-playing) and fused it with the demon collecting fun and turn-based battles of other ...

Preview: Two hours of flight with Kid Icarus: Uprising

Jan 19 // Wesley Ruscher
Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS)Developer: Project SoraPublisher: NintendoRelease: March 23, 2012  I have to say, it felt a little surreal playing a near finished copy of Uprising earlier this week. While the game excited both fans and the press alike, all the way back in the Summer of 2010, it's sort of became Nintendo's version of Sony's Last Guardian -- a game that should now be titled the "Lost Guardian." Luckily, Nintendo fans have escaped the same fate with Kid Icarus: Uprising, and can finally take Pit on his much anticipated legendary adventure this March 23. Without getting into too much the story, Uprising follows the events of the original NES game. The evil Medusa (who was destroyed by Pit in the first game) has been reborn and, like all evil villains, seeks to destroy mankind. This is where Pit comes in; he's a hero, so naturally it's up to him to save the world. It's a simple premise, but one that sets the stage for an adventure that hopefully is not as forgettable as his past endeavors. Set in a world loosely based off Greek mythology, it only takes a fleeting moment to be captivated by the beauty that Kid Icarus: Uprising brings to the 3DS. There's a certain magic that Nintendo is known for and the team at Project Sora -- lead by Kirby and Super Smash Bros. designer Masahiro Sakurai -- has created a game that not only stands up to some of the companies most respected franchises visually, but also ushers in a new level of 3D fidelity that has yet to be witnessed on Nintendo's portable powerhouse.It's kind of a shame that no video or screen can truly capture how gorgeous Uprising is -- as soaring the skies and blasting enemies (classic and new alike) is even more spectacular in 3D mode. From the lush vistas visited in the beginning levels to the spectacular, psychedelic-like flight amongst the stars -- battling space pirates -- it's hard not to be taken back by just how impressive the 3D visuals are in the game's flying sequences. Where Uprising loses a little of its visual pop though, is in the land-based sections of each chapter. Every chapter in the game is broken up into two parts: flight and ground. While the ground levels are impressive in their own rights, they fail to capture the exhilarating intensity of the flight sections for mainly two reasons: freedom and chaos. Having freedom is never a bad thing, and in Uprising's case this still holds true for the most part. It's just that the each flight section is an on-rails shooter (akin to Panzer Dragoon or Sin and Punishment) and because of that, Uprising guides its players through amazing set piece after set piece. A literal roller coaster of visual and shooting splendor, that is hard to replicate on the ground.Chaos on the other hand, is the game's biggest visual detractor when it comes to the 3D department. In flight the chaos is controlled. The ground, on the other hand, opens up more complexity to the combat -- especially when the games difficulty, called intensity is turned up -- and (in my experience) causes the 3D's sweet spot to constantly shift with the frantic movement of one's hand. While I know, the 3D can be turned off, Uprising does such an amazing job with the immersive technology, it's hard not to want to play the game this way throughout, regardless of how intense the action is. Increasing a chapter's intensity is by far Uprising's biggest gameplay hook. Ranging on a scale from 0.0 to 9.0 (2.0 is the game's default level) and adjustable in increments of one tenths, players can alter the difficulty of any chapter in the attempt to earn more of the games currency; hearts. The higher the intensity, the higher the rewards in chapter -- both in terms of hearts awarded and weapons discovered. For players who just want play Uprising for the story, they can (for a price of hearts) drop the intensity below 2.0. I was told it makes the game a cake walk, making it perfect for the casual player or those who want to better understand a chapter's layout. I had a chance to play the game at intensity well beyond the 2.0 level and while I made it through the first chapter somewhat unscathed, I was easy fodder on later stages due to the increased and more relentless enemy AI. Those looking for a Nintendo game that will test all their reflexes should look no further.So for those wondering how Uprising plays... well that is sort of a mixed bag. For the most part combat is relatively simple. The circle pad controls movement, the L button attacks, and the stylus aims. It can be a little cramping, but for those who prefer to game at home, the stand announced for Japan is coming with the US version and does alleviate some of the hand-numbing issues. During combat, depending on the proximity of an enemy (regardless of being in flight or on the ground) Pit's attacks will alter. When enemies are far, his weapons act like a gun -- providing ranged attacks -- but when up close, he instead changes his tactics to melee strikes. Holding down the L button creates a rapid fire shot -- highly useful on the smaller airborne enemies -- but when the reticule is left to build, a powerful charge blast can be released to decimate larger foes. Knowing when and where to switch from ranged to close attacks, as well as when to charge an attack becomes ever important in the games later stages and when the intensity is turned up to insane levels. In my travels through Uprising I came across a few enemies that were more than a handful if I tried to battle them with the wrong style of attack. There's a want to try to just blast everything to bits, but surprisingly there is actually a lot of depth to Uprising's combat, especially when playing the ground game. Using the stylus to control Pits movement on the ground does come with a slight adjustment period, but after a level or two it all becomes second nature. Flicks of the stylus control Pits head and the camera, while the circle pad handles overall movement. For those who played Metroid Prime Hunters on the DS, there is instant level of familiarity in this setup. On top of the standard move set, quick flicks of the circle pad afford Pit with some useful dashing abilities and, like the Smash Bros. series, when timed properly with an attack create a much stronger offensive strike. Helping to build Pits offense are nine different weapon types: blade, bow, cannon, arm, claws, palm, orbitar, club and staff. The blade is Pits standard, all-purpose weapon, but with the variety available there is a solution to be found for any of his problems. I got my hands on the lightning quick, melee focused claws; the tactile and powerful cannon; and the long ranged dual-blasting orbitars, but it wasn't until I got Pit's paws on the cumbersome club that smiting fools turned into a "guilty pleasure" for me. With the Black Club (pictured below) fully charged, I was able to launch devastating cannon balls that were great for clearing out enemies. Having such a powerful weapon makes Pit nearly unstoppable, but there is a price for this unbound strength. Due to its massive size, Pit's agility and stamina are greatly reduced throughout the level. Often after dashing, I found Pit out of gas and in need of a moment to recuperate -- leaving him vulnerable to attacks. Choosing the right weapon for a chapter can be tricky at first -- as only after death can one be switched out for another. Thankfully, Uprising encourages multiple playthroughs, due to its intensity level rewards and constantly improving weapon drops. In my playthrough, I came across multiple variants of each type of weapon. Players will also find identical named weapons, but they will differ in their value and bonuses (i.e. 2X speed, or no fall back from enemy damage) making them unique in their own special way. When weapons start piling up they can be sold -- as well as purchased -- in what is called the Arms Alter. It's just one of the many ways to constantly keep upgrading Pit's arsenal.Speaking of upgrades, weapons aren't the only way to improve Pit's prowess. Powers, which can be found during any given chapter, are perks that can give Pit the upper hand in his quest. There are a variety of powers ranging from the Sky Jump -- which lets Pit jump high -- to the Mega Laser -- which as it sounds shoots a deadly blast that can help the angelic warrior out of a tight situation. What makes Pit's powers extra unique is in how they are quipped. Similar to Resident Evil 4's items storage system, each power comes in the form of a puzzle piece (varying in size and shape) and has to be carefully fitted in a confined equipment square. Up to four arrangements can be planned ahead of time, with one formation equipped at time. There is even an auto-fill that selects the overall best configuration for those who don't want to put too much effort into it. The auto-fill is fairly simple though, and does not allow a player, to say, choose an optimized offensive configuration for example. I feel like I only scratched the surface with Kid Icarus: Uprising and to be honest I left a few things out. For example in some levels -- which I can't say which -- there are vehicles for Pit to pilot (though I can't tell you what they are like either). That being said, Uprising is one of the deepest games to hit the portable market in quite some time and should please gamers of all types. Expect more to come in the next few months about Nintendo's much anticipated 3DS game that is set for March 23. I, for one, am definitely excited to find out more.  
 photo

"I can't believe I'm actually flying!" These are some of the first words that Nintendo's, once forgotten hero, Pit utters in disbelief during the opening moments of Kid Icarus: Uprising -- his long awaited return to the foref...

VVVVVV for the 3DS is... well, it's VVVVVV

Dec 21 // Casey Baker
VVVVVV(Nintendo eShop)Developer: NicalisPublisher: NicalisRelease: Q1 2012 If you've never experienced the gloriousness of VVVVVV, I can assure you right now that this is a worthy addition to your 3DS library, even if it happened to be a lazy 2D port. In a nutshell, VVVVVV is a platforming game with the seemingly simple mechanic of switching gravity so that your character is either traversing on the ceiling or on the floor. Except, as you quickly learn whilst traveling through the Metroidvania-style levels, this simple mechanism is exploited in every imaginable way to make the game as difficult as possible yet still somehow addictive enough to seem like the next checkpoint is just... within... reach... Fortunately, VVVVVV is not simply a port. While the graphics stay as steadfast and simple as ever (with pretty much everything rendered in a rudimentary ASCII art style), the addition of a third dimension does make the game pop out a little more and give you just a little bit more depth perception. Just don't go into this game expecting a Super Mario 3D Land abundance of depth detail, or even the same sort of detail given to Pushmo. The game is still simple ASCII art, after all. Expect a nice level of layered 3D much in the same vein of Nintendo's 3D Classics and you'll be fine. The biggest addition to VVVVVV for the 3DS comes in the extra "player-created" levels that are accessible at any time in the main menu screen and are never locked out to you or dependent on your progress in the game. There are tons and tons of levels in this list, including levels created by indie designers such as Minecraft's Notch. I got a chance to check out some of these levels, and I can assure you that they are all ridiculously hard and you will die many, many times. I asked Tyrone if there would be a level editor to create even more levels, and he told me that while no plans for such were in place just yet, it really depended on fan feedback and how popular the game becomes on the eShop. Will VVVVVV be as glorious on the 3DS as it has been on PCs and Macs across America? Possibly. It will definitely make you want to either throw your 3DS across the room or try that damn level just one ... more ... time ...
 photo

During the eShop preview event, Tyrone Rodriguez of Nicalis was on hand to demonstrate the 3DS iteration of the revered, renowned, and hard-as-balls VVVVVV. I can confirm here officially - the game is still as insanely difficult and as infuriatingly addictive as ever. As for new additions to the VVVVVV gameplay structure, well...

Colors! 3D lets you doodle in three dimensions

Dec 21 // Casey Baker
Colors! 3D (Nintendo eShop)Developer: Collecting SmilesPublisher: Collecting SmilesRelease: January 2012MSRP: $6.99 (US) I sat down with Jens Andersson, the founder of Collecting Smiles (and lead designer for The Darkness). He handed me a 3DS and showed me a few of the tutorial parts of Colors! 3D to help me understand how someone is even able to paint and draw three-dimensional images. Colors! 3D relies on five layers/planes on the Z-axis -- at any time, you can switch between any one of the layers and begin drawing and painting to your heart's content. What I really love about this is that it allows you to basically create diorama-like images where, for example, clouds float in the background while an animal grazes in the foreground and a windmill sits somewhere between those two planes. What's also really cool about this is that, at any time, you can press left on the digital pad and the application will begin to rotate the image so that you can look at all five planes at once and understand immediately where they sit in 3D space. Though the DS homebrew application's pressure-sensitive screen is no longer a part of the application's paintbrush thickness designator, deciding how thick you want your paintbrush is made incredibly easy with a slider on the right side of the screen. In fact, sliders for both thickness and opacity of your paintbrush sit on the right side while color selection and paintbrush type are found on the left. From there, you can pretty much go nuts with your doodles or sketches, while more advanced options sit in an inventory at the bottom of the screen (including a mode where you can take 2D images from your 3DS camera to work from). When you want to switch planes, simply press a button that allows you to switch from one to the next; if you paint with the 3D enabled, you can generally tell which plane you're painting on without having to keep checking by rotating your image. If this all sounds a little complicated, spending five minutes with the application is probably enough to get even the most casual of doodlers over the learning curve, as all of the controls feel intuitive and easily accessible. After the tutorial, Jens switched gears a little and showed me the collaborative mode with a fellow artist. In this mode, you and up to three other local users of Colors! 3D can jump onto a canvas and demonstrate your own creative talents on the painting, and the program saves your work even if one of you jumps offline. Having an actual artist on the other end, I was more than a little hesitant to add anything to the already cool painting he had begun, so instead I listened in and watched on my screen as changes to the painting were made in real time. Finally, Jens showed me one more cool feature that'll be great for the younger crowd: the ability to download images that are basically coloring book templates from the Colors! Live site. The great thing about these templates is that you simply cannot color outside of the lines. Though there is no "fill" button that cheapens the experience by instantly adding swatches of color, you don't have to worry about accidentally coloring over lines or creating a mess of an image based off your own low level of skill. You can color in areas with wild abandon and your work will look amazing. Jens even intimated to me that there are subtle little filters such as shaders that add a little bit more polish to what you're coloring in. My initial impression of Colors! 3D was incredibly promising. I've spent hours in the eShop's (unrelated) Inchworm Animation Studio making ridiculous little doodles, and though this application won't include animation besides the ability to watch one's work being created, the aspect of creating awesome little 3D diorama-like images or using 3D in new and interesting ways has me excited for the possibilities... ... especially the idea of creating horrible three-dimensional nightmares of corgis, Ekans, and flying Chou Aniki musclemen with fellow Dtoid staff.
 photo

One of the most exciting eShop games I had a chance to preview last week wasn't actually a game. It was an application and a continuation of a fan favorite DS homebrew app that never carried over to DSiWare (though it did mak...

Mighty Switch Force has an 'Ugly Checkpoint Dog'

Dec 15 // Casey Baker
Mighty Switch Force (Nintendo eShop)Developer: WayForward TechnologiesPublisher: WayForward TechnologiesRelease: December 22 (EU),  TBA (US) In Mighty Switch Force, you control your cyborg character in a way that's reminiscent of the Mega Man X series (a similar shooting mechanic plus tight and responsive but not overly difficult jumping) while trying to find all five Hooligan Sisters throughout each level. The biggest twist comes in a form similar to earlier WayForward games (such as Mighty Flip Champs) -- a simple mechanic that progressively offers more complex and engaging situations. When you first begin, you're not given any sort of tutorial on what you must do and instead have to figure out how to traverse the levels with special platforms that "flip" in and out of the foreground depending on a button press. As you beat each level, a new twist is added to the mechanic, such as enemies that can only be killed through smart use of the platforms or specialized platforms that give you added abilities when you interact with them. The art style of the game is wonderful, with interesting enemies and all kinds of activity in both the foreground and background. In one stage, for example, I noticed a running monorail repeatedly charging through in the distance while everything else was happening up front. The 3D is implemented quite well -- it's predominately sprite-based with layered 3D, sort of like the 3D Classics updates only with more depth and thought given to events happening in the background. The game will feature a total of 16 levels, with the added challenge of clearing each level under the par time. Though the levels are initially pretty short, they become more complex as you get further and new mind-bending puzzles are thrown in at every juncture. Fortunately, you have your trusty "Ugly Checkpoint Dog" (it's actual name) popping up whenever you reach a new puzzle segment, twitching spasmodically and wagging its tail while waiting patiently for your death. This game will not be a particularly lengthy excursion by any means (maybe a couple hours for the first playthrough), though the great art style and generally fluid and responsive gameplay will keep you coming back for more. Personally, I'm excited for Mighty Switch Force, and at a price that promises to be quite a bit under the $10 mark, I don't think this infectiously humorous and entertaining game should be passed up. As an added bonus, the soundtrack by the esteemed Jake Kaufman will be released for free the same day as the game! Enjoy a free track right now! Jake Kaufman - Mighty Switch Force OST - "BGM - Yummy"
 photo

During a session with some of Nintendo's first- and third-party 3DS eShop game developers yesterday, I got a chance to check out the (incredibly promising) future of the eShop. I first got some hands-on time with WayForward's...

Preview: Fractured Soul: Deep Void

Nov 29 // Wesley Ruscher
Fractured Soul: Deep Void (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: Endgame StudiosPublisher: UTV Ignition GamesRelease: Summer 2012 The world of Fractured Soul is set amidst the cold bleak confines of outer space. In this solitude of the final frontier you are thrust into the role of Jake Desaul, a man trying to come to grasp with the state of perpetual limbo that has befallen him. See, Jake has acquired a neat trick which has granted him the ability to switch between two physical bodies -- which conveniently enough are located on each screen -- and he must use this new skill to unravel the mysteries that have surrounded him. As in any typical platformer, Jake has the standard running and jumping mechanics at his disposal, but he also possesses a blaster for the baddies and a jetpack for those oh so hard to reach places. My initial hands-on demo threw me into a relatively straightforward level. Enemies only appeared on one screen at a time and switching screens -- with the shoulder buttons -- provided the strategy needed in avoiding enemy fire. It's a simple mechanic for dodging conflict, but I found later levels ramp up the combat with aggressive foes on both screens simultaneous. The puzzle-platforming aspect in this first area was juvenile at best. My progression was halted until I switched screens to climb a ladder that was only available on the other, but later levels really ramp up the difficulty and involvement of both screens. There are many areas where you will have to switch back and forth between screens to navigate a series of platforms. With not every platform available on one screen, there is a lot of liberty for Fractured Soul to mix up the unique aspect of having to traverse the game on two screens.Each game world contains its own special twist on the game's design to help spice up the difficulty and freshness. There was a world completely submerged in water -- slowing Jake's movement speeds -- an ice stage -- complete with a slippery floor -- and a brutally difficult reverse gravity level which really makes one think when jumping and switching states. These changes in each level's dynamics really helps in making every one stand out from the last. Puzzle-platforming isn't the only form of action in Fractured Soul. Side-scrolling shoot-'em-up fans should be excited to know that there are some horizontal stages that provide an intense amount of fun. These levels were by far the most enjoyable one I played -- mainly due to my infatuation with the genre -- thanks to the game's primary mechanic of having to navigate both screens. As waves of enemies fall, jumping back and forth to destroy every enemy fighter is as challenging as fun. Fractured Soul: Deep Void may not be the most visually polished game to land on the 3DS, but it shows the promise for being a unique and challenging experience. It ditches the 3D crutch that has supported many of the handheld's games and instead focuses on what Nintendo's handheld does best: two-screen gaming. With a launch set for next summer, fans of action, platformers, puzzle, and even old-school shoot-'em-ups may find something special when Fractured Soul arrives.
 photo

The Nintendo 3DS is a system built around two simple concepts: portable 3D and dual-screen gaming. Unfortunately, the latter usually finds itself lent to making our experiences less intrusive by acting as a placeholder for ma...

Preview: Planet Crashers 3D

Nov 22 // Wesley Ruscher
Planet Crashers 3D (Nintendo 3DS) Developer: Renegade Kid Publisher: UTV Ignition Games Release: March, 2012 At first glance, Planet Crashers 3D recalls found memories of some of Nintendo’s finest games. It sports the charm of Animal Crossing and mixes it with the rotating planet terrains of the Super Mario Galaxy series. The worlds I saw were bright and colorful and full of eccentric characters that should strike a chord with anyone looking for a light-hearted RPG romp on Nintendo’s little device. Though Planet Crashers 3D supports a joyful look from top to bottom, RPG fans should pay attention. Underneath the modest hood is a fairly deep character customization system that allows for a lot of freedom when designing a protagonist for saving the universe. There’s much to adjust; from eye and skin color all the way to hair and outfit style. It’s not at the level of a Saints Row: The Third character creator, but you will be surprised at the various amounts of freaks that can be birthed in this humble system. Once my hero was ready, I dropped into the game’s home area, Lush Greeny, and began to explore the vivid surroundings. As I ran around, I was really taken back by how impressive the depth of the 3D is. With small planet worlds to explore, the constant rotation allows for the background layers to stack and increase the 3D sensation. The graphics may be on the more simple side of things, but each of the three worlds I saw had its own distinct personality which helped make them memorable. The second world I saw, Haunted Reach, evoked a very Nightmare Before Christmas feel in both its look and music. Running around town I talked to a few of the NPCs -- which carry the typical banter one would find in an RPG -- checked out a few shops, and eventually took a quick dive into one of the dungeon areas. As you collect quests from characters or a quest board in each area -- in the hopes to learn enough about the threatening evil to progress to the next world-- eventually you will make your way into the game’s main areas for combat. Inside Haunted Reach's dungeon I encountered a pair of bizarre and skinny Santa Claus-looking enemies. Combat in Planet Crashers 3D is performed in a traditional turn-based manner, so anyone familiar with the genre's tactics should find combat a breeze. These were the only enemies I encountered, but I was deviously surprised that I was thwarting the likes of a jolly old St. Nicholas with a giant pencil rather than the typical fodder that is expected. It’s the little quirks like this that remind that the same folks who made the haunting Dementium games haven’t lost their creative touch even when changing up genres and themes. Planet Crashers 3D is a warm and friendly dungeon crawl that supports visual style made for the Nickelodeon crowd. Dismissing this game on looks alone may be a big mistake as there is a deep customizable RPG to be found underneath all the cute fuzziness. My time with it was short, but the nostalgic feeling it imparted has put the game on my radar. And really, why not as it covers two things the world could always use more of: RPGs and 3DS games.
 photo

It goes without saying that Nintendo’s handheld needs games. As the system has been out for roughly eight months. one genre -- more than others -- that could use a little kick on the butt is the one that found such an i...

Resident Evil: Revelations looks fantastic

Oct 31 // Steven Hansen
Resident Evil: Revelations (Nintendo 3DS) Publisher: Capcom Developer: Capcom Release: February 7, 2012 Much of Revelations is said to take place on an enormous, derelict ship, which I imagine will lend itself nicely to the game’s aim of returning to the horror elements the series is known for. Also back are various series mainstays, including Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, who will be joined by a handful of new faces, including the fourth playable characters, the pair Keith Lumley and Quint Cetcham. When Chris and his partner Jessica go missing, Jill and BSAA operative Parker Luciani are dispatched to the ship to find them. Lumley, Asian and the taller of the two, and Cetcham, Caucasian, were described as “a pair of otakus.” In the gameplay segment that featured them, they appeared to be in a snowy, mountainous environment and had some surprisingly oddball dialogue -- the terms “yo” and “for real?” were used -- brought to life by some bizarrely camp English voice acting. In the developer-played demo of these two characters, also showcased was the Genesis Bio Scanner which, aside from scanning the environment and enemies, is a necessity for locating the new Invisible Hunters, a pack of which ambushed the pair. Aside from the supposed return to horror, the most interesting aspect of the game is the promise of “the best Resident Evil story.” While that could be taken as a company simply doing their job in hyping and heralding their product, it becomes a much more reasonable assertion when you factor in the external writer brought on to handle the script. The script was written by Dai Sato, who has worked on such anime series as Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Ghost in the Shell -- some of the most popular anime ever created, especially among Western audiences. Cowboy Bebop alone is THE BEST THING. Needless to say, I’m intrigued. What’s more, Sato, who has been doing more writing for videogames as of late, is actually a longtime Resident Evil fan and was completely excited to work on the project. One other interesting tidbit is that the game features full voice work in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Japanese. You can also mix and match subtitle language and voice acting, which is a neat addition, especially for anyone studying any of these as a second language. Personally, I’ll be playing in Italian (with English subtitles) should I get the game -- and not just because Jill’s Italian voice actress sounded the sexiest out of the bunch. My actual hands-on time with the game was limited to Raid Mode, Revelations’ local and online cooperative multiplayer component. I’m told the game plays similar to Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, and it doesn’t play much different from either of the last two main, console Resident Evil games. Your characters stop to shoot and melee, unless you’re outfitted with the Circle Pad Pro, while the touch screen displays a map and your inventory. There are a wealth of gameplay customization options, including three button layouts (four including the Circle Pad Pro’s unique mapping), first-person or over the shoulder aiming, and even different colored laser sights for the visually impaired or fantastically stylish. There is also an option to increase, by two levels, the depth of field provided by the 3DS’s display outside of the 3DS’ inherent slider. When I bumped it up to either option past “normal,” the display was always a mess and difficult to see for me, but on its normal setting I thought the 3D actually produced a nice effect. I was rather impressed by the graphics as well. At various points there were a good deal of enemies on screen and the animations were particularly fluid. Raid Mode is sort of a linear version of the increasingly ubiquitous “horde” mode. You progress through 20 different levels, on two different difficulty settings, and your aim is to survive and kill all the creatures along the way. Zombies and other monsters occasionally drop keys that allow you to progress further, as well as ammo, which can be appropriately scarce. One you clear a level of all enemies and reach the end, you’ll find a rotating, floating gold coin, which you hilariously punch, causing it to shatter, in order to complete the level. Stage ranking is basically based on how quickly you complete stages, though a whole slew of other statistics are shown after completing a stage and you’re rewarded with new guns or parts after each level, the quality and rarity of which are mostly contingent on your performance, even if there is a bit of a randomness factor. I played a good deal of Raid Mode and enjoyed my time with it. Even early on, it has a certain addictive quality to it that encourages you to want to keep playing it, especially when I tried the seventh level and lost several times over. (Though that might just be stubbornness that compelled me to continue.) The difficulty doesn’t scale, so some of the earlier levels, which are already a bit of a breeze, might be unfairly easy in multiplayer, but the fact that the seventh level bested me multiple times, though I was going solo, is enough to show there’s going to be a sufficient challenge to the game -- and I wasn’t even in the harder difficulty setting which was still locked on the units I played on. Raid Mode was definitely fun, but I’m still more excited to see more of the campaign mode, especially with the promises of great writing and good old fashioned scares. Of course, if you really want the latter, it’s recommended you play the game with some headphones on and in the dark. Got to set the mood.
 photo

Much to the dismay of a certain contingent of fans, the Resident Evil series has slowly moved away from its survival-horror roots and towards a more action-oriented style as of late. Those pining for the days of claustrophobi...

Hands-on with the Nintendo 3DS Circle Pad Pro

Oct 31 // Steven Hansen
The 3DS augmented with the Circle Pad Pro was surprisingly lightweight, though it adds plenty of bulk to what is meant to be a portable system. The contours added to the back of the unit almost made me feel like I was holding a SEGA Saturn controller and gave the unit a rather sturdy feel. I found my right middle finger naturally resting under the right contour, which actually caused a bit of discomfort during my time with the unit. I tried remedying this by resting both middle and index fingers on the two sets of right and left triggers, as one might with a console controller, but I couldn’t comfortably fit both fingers over the limited surface area, as the original shoulder buttons are still quite tiny. More troubling is how tenuous my grip on the second nub felt. I’m not sure if I have particularly long fingers, but the second nub felt uncomfortably close to my thumb and I couldn’t find a comfortable way to rest my thumb on the nub and operate it without feeling like I’d slip off at any given moment. There was just something about operating both circle pads at once that left me feeling inexplicably off kilter. Maybe I just need more time to get acclimated to the Circle Pad Pro or maybe these concerns are somehow unique to how I hold the 3DS, but they were there. Playing Resident Evil: Revelations, specifically, with the Circle Pad Pro, took some getting used to. This was a bit of surprise, as I figured I’d be more at home with the ubiquitous control scheme the Circle Pad Pro affords. In fact, I managed to have more trouble aiming and shooting using the Circle Pad Pro than without, though my proficiency with the scheme did slowly improve as my time with it went on. Aiming also seemed a bit sluggish when using the Circle Pad Pro at the normal aiming speed and I had to go into the game options and turn it up to the maximum setting to alleviate the problem, at which point the controls felt a bit more responsive. The biggest difference to Resident Evil: Revelations’ Circle Pad Pro control scheme is the ability to move and shoot at the same time, the lack of which, for some reason, seems to be a big criticism of the most recent Resident Evil titles by a certain subset of the gaming community. If you count yourself among this contingent, then the second nub is obviously going to be the way to go. The Circle Pad Pro did its job and though I don’t feel like it added anything to my Resident Evil: Revelations experience, I recognize that plenty of people might prefer what has become a ubiquitous control scheme for shooting games. As for the unit itself, it feels solid, but it remains to be seen if the slight discomfort and instability I experienced is just something that needs to be overcome or something that could prove more disconcerting.
 photo

September 6, 2011. A day that will live in infamy. Nubageddon. The day Nintendo announced the “Slide Pad Expansion,” the second nub’s cradle attachment. Now officially known as the Circle Pad Pro, presumably because…it’s for pros (?), I got to play a videogame using this incredibly divisive piece of plastic.


  Around the web (login to improve these)




Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -