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5:00 PM on 11.16.2014

The Talos Principle makes me feel smart and dumb

Back at E3 2014, I got a brief chance to get my hands on The Talos Principle while talking to one of its writers Tom Jubert (FTL: Faster Than Light, The Swapper). In the presentation, Jubert explained the intended approach to...

Darren Nakamura


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Dungeons II takes a humorous approach to being the bad guy photo
Dungeons II takes a humorous approach to being the bad guy
by Alessandro Fillari

Being the bad guy has its perks. With an entire force of orcs, goblins, and other nasty creatures at your bidding, more gold you can count, and a near infinite supply of dark magic at your disposal -- it seems like you've got things pretty much handled in your conquest of the world. But fate seems to have other plans. And with a snarky disembodied voice mocking you and narrating your journey, it certainly looks like your quest for power will be a lot more difficult than you thought.

This is what you can expect in the upcoming sequel to Dungeons. During a private session at a press event by Kalypso Media, I got to spend some hands-on time with their upcoming Dungeon Keeping/RTS hybrid title Dungeons II, that aims to take a light-hearted and comedic approach to being the evilest villain in all the land.

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Crookz brings 1970s style and swagger to heist gameplay photo
Crookz brings 1970s style and swagger to heist gameplay
by Alessandro Fillari

What happened to the style and cleverness that came from heist thrillers? I remember watching films like Ocean's Eleven and Thief, that had little to no action or shooting. But now, these high-pressure and tense moments just seem like over the top spectacles. Due to the success of Grand Theft Auto and Pay Day building entire gameplay scenarios around such high-pressure and intense moments, it's likely that 'heist' is now synonymous with shooting and explosions.

But what about the methodical and low-key approach to pulling off such crazy scores? Well, that's what the developers at Skilltree Studios have in mind for their take on pulling off big scores. With Crookz, they seek to take a different approach to heist gameplay, while doing it in authentic and funky 70's style.

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Mushroom 11 is the next great puzzle-platformer photo
Mushroom 11 is the next great puzzle-platformer
by Jordan Devore

Everyone I know who's tried Mushroom 11 won't shut up about how good it is. After clearing the first two levels today in a preview build, I'm joining them. 25 minutes well spent.

This is a puzzle-platformer unlike any I've seen before. You guide a green blob through a post-apocalyptic world -- up cliffs, through tunnels, over toxic sludge -- by erasing parts of it. Each time you click on the ooze, you'll trim its cells and fresh replacements will pop up somewhere else; do this enough and it'll start to move (though not always in the exact direction you want).

It's fun to aimlessly "push" the blob forward across the ruined world, but traversing obstacles requires careful planning, quick improvisation, or both. In one puzzle, I anchored the organism to the perimeter of a cave suspended above lava and chipped away at it in such a way that a makeshift limb stretched down and left toward solid ground without falling straight to its fiery doom.

A later section, a boss fight against a giant mutant spider, involved launching the blob off a seesaw and navigating up and around the creature's jabbing arms. Sequences like this are frenetic. You have to rapidly erase cells to maintain momentum but you can't overdo it; the blob won't rematerialize mid-air. Brute-force attempts at puzzle solving proved futile by the second level.

All that said, I'd recommend watching footage or, better yet, playing the game yourself next year on PC/Mac/Linux (pre-orders come with a preview). It's tough to convey what makes Mushroom 11 such a treat in text, but pick it up and you'll understand the appeal in seconds. Tell your friends.

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Metrocide is a thinking person's Hotline Miami photo
Metrocide is a thinking person's Hotline Miami
by Rob Morrow

Sydney-based independent studio Flat Earth Games has released its top-down cyberpunk-noir contract killing simulator Metrocide via Steam Early Access at the reduced price of $6.99. The final version of the game, which should be available in around six weeks, will cost $12.99.

To coincide with the title's Early Access launch, game creators Leigh and Rohan Harris have released a second developer walkthrough to demonstrate some of the more complicated hits you'll be tasked with completing in the third zone of the game, Hilldale.

In this latest video, viewable below, anti-hero T.J. Trench is far better equipped than he was in the last. Sporting a high-powered silenced rifle and remotely detonated explosives, T.J. can now take down targets from a safe distance, but there's a catch -- depending on the contract's criteria, visiting the crime scene may be necessary for cashing in on the reward. You may want to think twice before striking from a distance; it's going to be difficult to pick up that briefcase with several heavily armed police drones hovering over the body.

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Chasm feels like a love letter to Super Metroid and Dark Souls photo
Chasm feels like a love letter to Super Metroid and Dark Souls
by Rob Morrow

Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to check out the alpha build of Discord's enchanting procedurally generated action-RPG platformer Chasm. Now that I've finally had some hands-on with the game, I'd like to share my impressions.

We've talked about this gorgeous game on several occasions, but for those of you still unfamiliar with it, Chasm's list of influences should shed some light on what the team is going for. When asked which titles served as inspirations for the game, director James Petruzzi listed off classics such as Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as well as The Legend of Zelda and Mega Man. Additionally, and this is something I would not have picked up on without poring over the game's newer screenshots, some not-so-subtle salutes to From Software's Dark Souls.

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Civilization: Beyond Earth makes weekends disappear photo
Civilization: Beyond Earth makes weekends disappear
by Darren Nakamura

The Civilization series is famous for playing out in unplanned marathon sessions, where "one more turn" quickly turns into five more turns, which turn into another hour, before the player finally looks away from the screen to see that it is starting to get light outside. Knowing this, I'm not sure what I was thinking starting the preview build of Civilization: Beyond Earth on a Friday night.

By the time I finished for that session, I had played for eight hours straight and it was then four in the morning. Then I went to sleep, woke up four hours later, and started playing again, eventually logging almost a full day's worth of play time in a single weekend.

Yes, this is still Civilization through and through, but there are some new concepts included that impact gameplay in significant ways. Though there are clear connections, Beyond Earth is far more than just a reskinning of Civilization V.

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Neverending Nightmares is eerily evocative, and set for release on September 26 photo
Neverending Nightmares is eerily evocative, and set for release on September 26
by Alessandro Fillari

It's certainly an exciting time to be an independent game developer. With the rise of Kickstarter allowing anyone with the knowledge, the skills, and an idea to find support, we're seeing a larger breadth of games come out that try something a bit different. One such game is Neverending Nightmares, and last year Jonathan Holmes wrote up a nice post about its Kickstarter campaign.

After a few ups and downs, the Kickstarter for this evocative horror title managed to make its funding goal. With release set for September 26, the developers are finally ready to unleash their survival horror game that's far more personal than most would realize. At PAX Prime 2014, I got the chance to check out an updated build and chat with some of the talent behind the game.

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Co-published by Devolver, Breach & Clear: Deadline isn't just another zombie game photo
Co-published by Devolver, Breach & Clear: Deadline isn't just another zombie game
by Rob Morrow

Something about the video I posted on Gun Media and Mighty Rabbit's title Breach & Clear: Deadline didn't sit well with me. I kept thinking about it the day we ran the story.

After revisiting it that night, it still didn't hit me as to why Devolver Digital had decided to co-publish this game. I just kept feeling that I was missing something important here. So, the next day I decided to reach out to Mighty Rabbit to see if I could take a look at the game in person.

To my surprise, co-founder Josh Fairhurst was nice enough to set up an appointment for me to meet the team on Labor Day. After arriving at Mighty Rabbit's studio, I was given a hands-off walkthrough of the same gameplay segment recently shown at gamescom.

In the team's own words, Deadline is a "strategic tactical action RPG in a modern day setting, featuring Special Forces weapons, tactics, and equipment vs. horrific monsters."

From what I saw during my time with it, I'd say it could be described as having a combination of elements from Rainbow Six, Left 4 Dead, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and a pinch of Diablo's loot grinding for good measure. 

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If you ever get to play Upsilon Circuit, the world will be watching photo
If you ever get to play Upsilon Circuit, the world will be watching
by Jordan Devore

At PAX Prime, I got my first and what could be only opportunity to try Upsilon Circuit.

You see, once it goes live, eight people will be able to play at any given time. That's eight people, total. And the "permadeath" here is actually permanent. You lose? Your turn is done.

While everyone else watches, waiting for their coveted chance in the spotlight to hack away at monsters and explore, they can directly influence the direction the game takes. The audience has control to, say, spec out players' skill trees, or spawn a deadly trap.

Legend of Dungeon creator Robot Loves Kitty is billing this as part online game show, part action-RPG. At PAX, I saw more of the latter than the former, but Upsilon Circuit's Max Headroom-esque digital host Ronny Raygon was set up on a nearby television to talk smack to attendees. He got into an argument with some kid about whose glasses were cooler.

Before you ask who would pay for something like this -- for a chance, maybe, to play once -- know that it's going to be free. In speaking with Robot Loves Kitty's Alix Stolzer, it sounds as if a large part of the monetization will be geared toward trolls or audience members who otherwise want to screw over the player characters, not help out. I told her that was a good idea.

It's still early days for Upsilon Circuit and there are a lot of unknowns, but what was shown at PAX gave me confidence in this somewhat crazy, definitely ambitious project. If the game catches on and finds a stable audience, it's going to be a fascinating experiment to take part in.

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Costume Quest 2 is still cute, trying to be more engaging photo
Costume Quest 2 is still cute, trying to be more engaging
by Steven Hansen

Costume Quest, like every Double Fine game, is charming. It's a fresh-feeling, low stakes take on the JRPG genre, more Earthbound than Final Fantasy. Though, as Chad put it in his review, it's "RPG Lite," accessible for all ages.  

Double Fine doesn't want to sacrifice that, but does want to make Costume Quest 2's combat a bit more engaging. I was engaged with Paper Mario (or Final Fantasy VIII) style timed button presses that help your attacks do a bit more damage. Similarly, a well timed tap on defense will reduce the damage you take. This engagement, though, make things a bit easier so long as you can hit those button presses. 

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Crookz puts a '70s heist movie spin on tactical gaming photo
Crookz puts a '70s heist movie spin on tactical gaming
by Dale North

A tactical game with a '70s heist movie theme? Finding something like that at gamescom is about as unlikely as finding a videogame trailer with porn star Ron Jeremy in it. But here we are with both. 

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The Talos Principle explores philosophy and lasers photo
The Talos Principle explores philosophy and lasers
by Darren Nakamura

Nestled in a parking lot across the street from the convention center in Los Angeles was Devolver Digital's phalanx of air conditioned campers. The publisher had a good mixture of highly anticipated titles like Hotline Miami 2 and Broforce, and more recently announced titles. The Talos Principle is one such game, and as usual, Devolver knows how to curate good content.

Though it is being developed by Croteam, which is probably best known for its over-the-top first-person shooter series Serious Sam, The Talos Principle has more in common with Portal. Its first-person puzzle platforming is not built off the most mindblowing ideas, but it is only part of the focus. The rest is on a deeply philosophical narrative, courtesy of Tom Jubert, who delivered a fantastic story in my favorite game from 2013: The Swapper.

Suffice it to say, I left the camper with fairly high expectations for this.

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2:00 PM on 06.09.2014

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

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number will have a level editor on the PC! Fans can create their own demented levels, decorate it however they want to. And yes, you'll be able to share these custom created levels with other players. ...

Hamza CTZ Aziz



Platformer Narcissus aims to bring back the arcade experience photo
Platformer Narcissus aims to bring back the arcade experience
by Beccy Caine

Narcissus, or so the myth goes, was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. Renowned for his beauty, but also for being somewhat of an ass, he was lured to a pool of water by goddess of divine retribution Nemesis, where he became fixated with his own reflection. (And then died.) The inspiration for Alex Johansson’s Narcissus is truthfully less dramatic, evoked by watching his little brother jump between stepping stones on a river near his home, reflection in tow.

The game was part of the Leftfield Collection at the EGX Rezzed Expo in March and I happened to run into the developer in the closing minutes of the expo. I was met with a unique take on a runner game complete with beautiful pixel art and an 8-bit soundtrack intent on replicating a lost experience.

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Throw children and provoke raccoons in The Road Not Taken photo
Throw children and provoke raccoons in The Road Not Taken
by Bill Zoeker

Max hung out with Dave and Daniel of Spry Fox Games to check out their upcoming title, The Road Not Taken. From the makers of Triple Town, this puzzle roguelike puts the player in an adorable world, with dark undercurrents. It's up to you to save the village's children from perilous evils using sheer wit, and the ability to throw things around. Coming this year to Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, PC and Mac (via Steam).

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