Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The king returns, Lara Croft & Osiris, [embargo!], Undead Darlings, and Kingsman: Secret Service  

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To start things off tonight, here’s a link to our podcast discussing E3. The full crew covers the show, the press conferences, and the games that caught our eye.
 Also, if you'll recall what I said in my last update, I promised a huge surprise and I wasn't lying… Tim Spaeth is back on the show as a part-time host, and this episode marks his triumphant return.

I couldn’t be happier.


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So, let's talk about some games.

Witcher 3: This is going to be my last Witcher update for a while, I promise. I got back into it hoping I could push through until the end, and although I still really like the game, I just can't play it right now. 

I totally overdosed on the sidequests and I gotta put it down for a good, long while to recover. I still want to finish it, but I have clearly proven to myself that it is possible to have too much of a good thing.



Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris: I picked this one up on sale a while ago because I really enjoyed the first (Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light) and I'm definitely all about the co-op these days. Although it’s not as good as the first, it’s a pretty similar thing – basically an isometric action/puzzle game, totally playable by one person but greatly enhanced by the addition of partners. This time, up to four friends can adventure together.


The biggest gripe I have is that the screen feels too zoomed-out. Lara and her pals look like miniature versions of themselves, and it’s hard to discern depth in some areas. Some of the boss fights feel a bit cheap, too.

I don’t want to sound too negative, though… Many of the puzzles are pretty neat, and the co-op dynamics are still good. Lara can throw a grappling hook to some of her teammates to let them wire-walk across gaps, teammates can boost or pull each other up to higher areas, and a whole bunch of other little things pop up like that. There’s always something requiring a second person’s input, in a good way.


I've been grooving on it overall and I would have happily sprung for the DLC, but it's only sold as a season pass for about $30, which is three times more than what I paid for the base game. Squeenix’s pricing structure here is completely out of whack, and while I'm happy to complete the game, I'm going to pass on the extras.



[Embargo Game]: I got a pre-release code for this one on Vita (it's also on PS3) and I've been putting a lot of time into it. I can’t type up a formal preview at the moment, but I think giving some general impressions is probably fine…

Basically, you control a team of psychics, each with their own different kind of power. Pyrokinesis, flight, precognition, and so on. It plays out like an SRPG similar to XCOM and the like, although it’s not based on grid movement; characters can travel anywhere. However, the biggest twist here or is that this game takes quite a bit of direction from Danganronpa in that there’s a traitor(s) within the group, so it's up to the player to figure out who it is.

I'm going to stop talking about it now, but I will say that while the inspirations are clear to see, it definitely takes the material in a fresh direction. I’ll also say that at this point, it seems like a real winner.



Undead Darlings: I'm not a big fan of Kickstarters and I don't usually back them, although there have been a few exceptions here and there. That said, one was just announced today that I think will be of interest to a great many of you who read this blog. 


Coming from people who used to work at NIS, it's a dungeon crawler/visual novel and oozing with anime cuteness. These guys know their audience and I'm interested to see what they do with this. If this kind of content is up your alley, go check out their page and see what you think.

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…And now a bit of movie talk to round things out. The wife and I just watched Kingsman: The Secret Service the other day, and it kinda blew my socks off. I didn't have a lot of interest when it came out because the trailers made it look like a kids’ film, but we rented it on a lark, and I have to say, it was a total surprise -- it's basically the best James Bond movie that's ever been made.


In a nutshell, a lower-class British kid gets drafted into a super-secret spy agency and goes through the insane training just in time to help stop an evil mastermind from carrying out his nefarious plan. Simple and straightforward, but well-done.

Samuel L Jackson absolutely shines as the Apple/Google-like quasi-CEO bad guy, his henchwoman (Sofia Boutella) is awesomely deadly, there are loads of cool gadgets and the action sequences are amazing. Although it's quite graphic (unexpectedly so!) the fights are full of "oh my God" moments that thrill.

If you’re like me and dig spy films but have been unimpressed with the recent Bond flicks, this is the perfect remedy. Kingsman takes everything that's cool about spies, jacks it up to 11, and freshens everything from top to bottom. Total thumbs up.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Shallow Splatoon, Witcher Burnout, Neptunia's Charm & Jurassic World Boredom  

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So, E3 happened. HOLY SHIT, amirite? 

Unbelievable announcements. Un-friggin'-believable. 

The Last Guardian, Shenmue 3, and Nier 2!  NIER 2!!! 

Instead of writing it all up, we covered the show in the next @Gamecritics podcast, and believe you me, that is one hell of an episode. Apart from the E3 stuff, we've got a massive surprise in store. 

The ep's not up yet, but SOON! Don't miss!


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So, against my better judgment (and the warnings of @ApricotSushi) I caved and picked up a copy of Splatoon. 

If nothing else, I give Nintendo credit for getting this game in the conversation and having it catch on with pretty much everybody in my circles -- I felt like I was missing out bigtime for not jumping in on day one. It also doesn’t help that I'm a huge fan of squids and the like in general, so it was tough to hold out.


Now that I've been playing for the last couple days, it's hard to ignore how undercooked and empty the game feels. There aren't very many levels, not very many weapons, and I was hoping for a lot more customization than there is.

The base game feels shallow, and success seems based more on luck of the draw than anything else. Despite often coming in first in terms of ink coverage, actually winning hinges on getting a team of high-level players. The matchmaking is brainless, and I’m often on teams of low-level people while going up against a squad of all-20s (the level cap) or close to it.

The ability to turn into a squid also feels too thin. Apart from moving quickly through ink and hiding, it doesn't really add anything very squiddy. I sat and brainstormed the other day, and came up with at least five or ten things the squid form could (or should) do. Stuff like having a tentacle grab to immobilize enemies, maybe a super ink-spray in squid form, or maybe an offensive rocket attack similar to the super-jump. There are tons of possibilities

Splatoon is really cute, it's got a cool concept, and it's the first genuinely new IP that Nintendo has done in quite a while, but it just doesn't feel like it's there yet. It especially doesn't feel like a $60 game, and with what little is included on the disc, I'm a bit resentful that some stuff is locked behind amiibos – even if I wanted to buy them, they’re nowhere to be seen.



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Now, for a Witcher 3 update.

I was hitting the game pretty hard for a while, giving as much time as I could. I think the writing is generally superb, I enjoy Geralt as a character, and a lot of really cool stuff happens in the story. However, the game is absolutely huge, and the longer it went on, the less excited I was about it.


At the moment, I’ve just wrapped up one major quest line in Novigrad but still have plenty of stuff to do there, and I haven't even been to the third area. Honestly though, I'm getting a little burned out on the game and I haven't touched it in a few days.

I think the appeal of the game is wearing off -- it's a little hard to describe, but it’s started to feel like there isn't enough depth to the gameplay. I know that sounds insane considering how large and detailed everything is, but I can't shake the feeling that at this point, I’m just going from point to point on the map, watching cutscenes to progress the story.

I would like to come back and see how it all wraps up, but people tell me I still have quite a bit of game left, and I need a little time away from it.


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Finally, I’m dipping into Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3 on Vita, a series I've heard about for quite some time but never tried. Basically, it's a JRPG about characters who are the embodiment of game consoles in a land that’s all about videogames. Sort of. I'm not grasping all of the intricacies, but that's basically about it.


On the one hand, I think the writing is actually quite funny at times, the characters are enjoyable, and it all looks very cute. On the other hand, it doesn't do a great job of explaining the various gameplay systems, and I suspect that it all boils down to typical JRPG grinding.  I'm guessing that it's not going to end up being my kind of thing, but I can definitely see why it’s become so popular with a certain crowd.


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So, Jurassic World.

The oldest son is with me for the summer, and he was jonesing to see it pretty hard. It wasn't on my list of things to catch in the theater, but he really, really wanted to go. So we went.

Seriously, don't see this movie! Don't go! I won't let you pass!! 

I had really low expectations for the flick, basically wanting nothing more than some cool dinosaur action, but even though I felt like I wasn’t asking for much, the film failed to deliver even that. I'm not going to get into specifics to avoid spoilers for those who may care, but it felt like a tired rehash of the first Jurassic Park, and most of the plot points were either too predictable or too insipid.

I was quite bored and found myself reaching for my phone several times. Looking around in the audience, I saw many people doing the same. The simple act of seeing a realistic dinosaur on screen isn't nearly as powerful as it was when the first movie debuted, so such a film needs to bring ore to the table these days.

I don't regret that I went because my son had a great time and I'm happy for that, but as for me, I couldn't wait to get out of the theater and left feeling highly unsatisfied.

Not recommended.



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Monday, June 8, 2015

The 2015 Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show  

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The Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show took place in Tacoma, WA this weekend, and I had the pleasure of attending for the first time. While I've been to most of the other local shows that happen in the Seattle/Portland area, I've managed to consistently miss it for the last few years. Not quite sure how, but I'm glad that I finally made it down this time, because it was fantastic.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I was provided free admittance to the event as a media attendee.)



The convention center where the event took place was easy to find, and very accessible. While not a huge show compared to some others, the space was a good fit.  



We got there as the doors opened on the last day, so the venue was relatively empty for the first few hours. I'd imagine that the 9AM start was probably too early for most of the folks coming to a show like this, but since my son still wakes up before the sun rises, we were here bright and early. I'm glad we got here right away, as it filled up fast. 



Speaking of the son, this is my guy playing Creature From The Black Lagoon, which had a very cool light-up hologram of the monster. When activated, it looked a bit like it was underwater and surfacing. Also, I'd like to call your attention to the stepstool he's standing on.  If you're a parent attending an event like this, bringing your own stepstool is a must. The kids can fully participate, and you don't ruin your back trying to lift them up to every game. 



This is me playing the brand new Walking Dead table. A really cool machine with great LED animations and a zombie that teeters over when hit with the ball. However, as cool as the table is, I included this picture to show the strap I rigged up to carry the son's stepstool around with us at the show. It's just a bungee cord and a rope, but it meant I didn't have to constantly have the thing in in my hand, but it was always accessible. (Also, kudos to this exhibitor for having their own step stashed under the machine.)



One of the coolest parts of the show were the banks of super-vintage pinball tables. I had never seen machines of this kind before in my life, and they were quite classy and cool. It seemed like most of these were from the '50s and '60s...



Here's a top-down view of one of the older tables. The overall design is much simpler and there's none of the bells and whistles that became so commonplace later. It almost reminds me of an electronic billiards table in some ways. 



Another older table. Look at the size of the gap between the slippers, and how short and stubby the flippers are. Also, take note of the point values there. Racking up seventeen million on one ball? Not gonna happen...



Almost all of the older tables had a second plunger below the one that traditionally launches the ball onto the playfield. I was confused about what it was for at first, but it turns out that you push the lower plunger in, and the ball is lifted up into position to be hit by the upper plunger.


  
This coin slot was sealed, but the price of a play is still clear to see...



Getting back to some of the more modern machines, here was another gem I'd never seen before, and it was a pretty cool one to find on the floor.



I tried a dozen times to get the egg on this Jurassic Park table to crack open, but I never managed it. maybe next year!!



It's tough to get a real sense of how massive this pinball machine is without seeing it in real life, but my son can't  even reach the flipper buttons on this Hercules table. The ball itself was about the size of a billiards ball, and the table surface must have been at least six feet long, if not longer.



If memory serves, this machine was from 1974. A cool bit of nostalgia from the time period, but look at the score... Nothing digital there, those are old-school number readouts with a max of 99,999.



Besides pinball, there were a good number of vintage arcade machines at the show. This one, Blue Shark, threw me for a loop -- the characters of the game were displayed on a TV set on the bottom of the machine's screen and reflected onto a plastic backing on the upper half to make it look like the sharks, octopi and other creatures were 'swimming'. A really unusual design, to be sure.



This was the repair table in the middle of the floor. It seems like a big part of being a pinball table owner is being able to fix the machines and keep them running, and this area was well-stocked with all manner of things to keep the lights on and the bumpers pinging. 


From start to finish, I had a great time at the show. I will definitely attend next year, and would highly recommend it to anyone who might be in the area when it happens again in 2016. For more information, please visit the Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show website, and tell them I sent you! 

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Monster Hunter X, Helldivers Complete, Huge Witcher Is Huge, Review Links, Podcast Links  


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Welcome back to Coffeecola. Let's get to it.

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Whoa whoa whoa!!!  Wait a second!!!

After I posted this update originally, @ElPrezAU hipped me to the fact that a new Monster Hunter was just announced!! (Also, @ApricotSushi utterly failed in her duties by not sharing the info!!) 

It's called Monster Hunter X, and the reveal trailer IS RIGHT HERE!! Now, normal Coffeecola will resume below while I commence freaking out for the next 72 hours or so.


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First up, here are links to all of the reviews that we published at @Gamecritics last week.


>Project CARS (PC) by @MikeSuskie

>Lifeline (iOS) by me!

>Omega Quintet (PS4) by @Unangbangkay

>Goat Simulator (XBO) by @GC_Danny

 >Sayonara UmiharaKawase+ (Vita) by @MobilesWorking

>Homeworld Remastered (PC) by James Davenport

>Toren (PS4) by me!

>Axiom Verge (PS4) by @ODellHarmonJR


Whew! That was a lot of reviews!  ^_^


Also, if you're in the market for a podcast, our Monster Hunter Monstravaganzapod finally went up right here. I think it's aimed a little more towards people who want to learn about the series, but hopefully there's some interesting stuff in there for vets as well.

Speaking of Monster Hunter, I was a guest on the Magic Hour podcast, and I was thrilled to be featured on the same episode as Adam Evanko, generally known as YouTube’s Gaijin Hunter.  @Gamerparent (host of the podcast) does a great show that takes kids into account, so if you've ever wondered how Monster Hunter relates to parenting (and it sure does!) come tune in.

Now, for the games…




Helldivers: I've been putting a lot of time into Helldivers since it dropped, and I'm thrilled to say that I finally unlocked the last piece of gear after a really, really intense battle this afternoon.


The level of difficulty was literally called "suicide mission" and it started out as just the wife and I, though it clearly needs a squad of four – three at the very least. However, there’s a way to send out a "distress signal" in the game, so if you find yourself in a mission and in need of backup, it prioritizes your session for randoms to join.

Almost immediately, a rando dropped in who was one level higher, and seemed to be focused on playing a support role. No one had headsets at first, so we were just going with the flow until things started heating up. (It was about 45 seconds into the mission.) At that point, he put his headset on and started trying to coordinate our efforts, so I put mine on and did the same, and it turned out that he was a pretty cool guy. Helldivers is a phenomenal game when playing with people who know what they're doing, so with my wife and I handling heavy assault, it worked out great.


Later on we were joined by another random guy – as he jumped in the shit with us, he asked if any of us spoke Spanish (nobody did) and he gave out a hilariously over-the-top shriek of despair, but kept on playing anyway. Despite the language barrier, everyone was focused and putting out 110% effort. We took a lot of defeats but we finally pulled it off after the fourth or fifth attempt, and getting the final unlock was a sweeeeeeeeeeeet win.

If you haven't played Helldivers already, it is by far my co-op game of the year, and one of my favorites from 2015 overall. It's really not meant for a single player, so people who don't want to group with others won’t get much out of it. That said, finding other people is incredibly easy and I've had many, many great experiences with randoms. Despite being a bit of a misanthrope myself, I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, and wholly support doing it co-op.

So. Damned. Good.




Dying Light: I find it ironic that I just praised the "Be The Zombie" mode in Dying Light last week, and as soon as I said that, the game released a new batch of DLC and something in the patch completely screwed up zombie mode. 

If you jumped on after I gave it my recommendation, you probably were wondering what the hell I was talking about because the game sucked, and in its current state, it does. Once it’s working again, I'll mention it here. For the time being, don't even bother with it.




Witcher 3: I put the Witcher down for a few days to take care of some things, and finally came back to it last night. I have to say, it felt suuuuuuuper overwhelming because the game is so unbelievably huge.


How huge? After doing the first area, I rode around from town to town collecting quests (not doing quests, just collecting them) and it took me a good two hours to hit every one so that I could figure out what my plan of attack was. Once I finally logged every request that I could, I decided to do all of the quests in order, from lowest level requirement to highest, and then started some of the appropriate story content.


I'm still really digging the game, even though it feels like I'm probably going to have to chip away at it over the course of several months… It just feels so incredibly big, I don't think I'll be able to have this be my only game… I'm guessing it will take more than a hundred hours, easily.

I genuinely want to see and do everything because it's all been great so far, but like, damn.

So big.




***************PR/NEWS/INFO***************




Armello, the Kickstarter-funded title from League of Geeks, will launch on PlayStation 4 in September 2015 in addition to the previously announced PC release. This fantasy board game come to life combines deep, tactical card play, rich tabletop strategy and RPG elements. 

Set in a vibrant magical world with a tinge of darkness, Armello thrusts players into a Game of Thrones-esque struggle for power in epic single or multiplayer action. Players take on the role of a 'Hero' from one of the four animal clans and navigate their character across the procedurally generated board as they quest, scheme, explore, vanquish monsters, perform the Mad King's royal edicts and face off against other players, with one ultimate goal in mind - storming the palace and becoming King or Queen of Armello.

Players start in their clan grounds and traverse the board with a set number of action points for each turn to spend on moving their character from tile to tile. Each tile presents different consequences including exploring a dungeon, gaining or losing health, claiming a settlement for your own or granting stealth. With more than 100 beautifully animated and illustrated cards, players can cast spells, recruit followers, uncover ancient treasures and execute treacherous plots as they quest for the throne!

The Early Access build of Armello is now available for Windows, Mac and Linux on Steam andHumble Store for $24.99 USD. 
More information about Armello can be found at: http://armello.com/ 

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Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Avalanche Studios unveiled the Mad Max Savage Road Trailer, showing Max who is left for dead as his cherished Interceptor is stolen by the merciless Wasteland tyrant, Scrotus and his warboys. Max must rebuild a powerful new war machine to escape the deadly Wasteland and can only do that with the aid of his quirky sidekick and expert mechanic, Chumbucket.  

 To view the new Mad Max Savage Road Trailer, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsYIpYow7D0

Mad Max will be released on Sept. 1, 2015 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
  
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Persona 4: Dancing All Night Coming this Fall with Special "Disco Fever" Edition
Out of nowhere, a solitary bass line pierces the endless quiet. And then a magnum opus of the most funked-out tunes spring to life for the beginning of the Persona 4: Dancing All Night (P4D) launch in North America! That's right - the story-driven music game featuring all the characters fromPersona 4 will reach the Americas this fall!

When it hits stores, there will be a super special edition aptly named the "Disco Fever" Edition. The details are fully described in the press release below, but if you're looking for the tl;dr version of it, IT'S FULL OF PERSONA AMAZINGOSITY. Yes, that's a real word. It works in Scrabble, trust me. Regardless, there's a lot of incredible content in the "Disco Fever" Edition that ATLUS has become known for.

Not to mention we have some screenshots and the lyrics video for the game's opening theme! The press release, video, and screenshots can all be posted immediately! Also, if you missed it in the sidebar to the right, we have the finalized (but still pending ESRB rating) box art too!

YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMzorzZEk6g 


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 Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Witcher 3, Being The Zombie in Dying Light, Lost Dimension's character videos  

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Welcome back to Coffecola!
Got a couple of quick hits on deck tonight. Let's get to it.

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Witcher 3:  Like many of you, I picked up a copy of The Witcher 3 a couple of days ago, and while I haven't had a lot of time to spend with it, I like what I've seen.

Frame of reference: I played a couple of hours of Witcher 2, and I really couldn't stand it. The combat was bizarre and clunky, I felt like the story didn't bother letting me in on what was going on, and it didn't strike me as something that I wanted to work hard to crack open. That said, I thought the concept of being a Witcher seemed pretty cool and the game certainly had some style, but it just didn't click.


With this new installment, the developers appeared to have taken notice of the criticisms of their last game, and fixed (as far as I can tell) almost everything. The intro does a much better job of introducing the characters and explaining the world, the tutorials are greatly improved and explain the systems at an appropriate pace, and the combat feels much more manageable and intuitive. It's good times!

Speaking of the combat, I've seen quite a few people comment that the fighting is ‘bad’ or not up to the level of a Souls game. Common sentiments seem to be that it gives insufficient feedback for hits, or does not have enough precision. I get that, I do, but it seems a little bizarre to me to criticize a huge open-world game like this for having a level of combat that should more properly be expected from something in the character-action genre. And look at Souls -- Fromsoft clearly spends most of their time and attention on the combat, as that is an absolute core part of any Souls experience. In the Witcher, it seems pretty clear that the experience is about the open world, the story, and role-playing through a scripted adventure. Complaining about lack of precision in combat here  feels a bit like complaining that there's not enough narrative choice in Tetris. It's not what the game is about, so why get hung up on that?

In any event, I'm looking to put more time into it and seeing where it goes. Oddly, it reminds me of Dragon Age 2 in many ways, except that it doesn’t feel like it’s wasting my time and the devs know the proper way to begin a grand adventure… So a win!

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Dying Light: The wife and I just finished the campaign in co-op, and we had a great time with it. While it was a bit of a bummer that the absolute final mission has to be done alone, the previous 99% of playtime was definitely made better with a partner. Not that it’s bad solo (it’s not!) but having someone to watch your back and hold your virtual hand in the skeery parts is always appreciated. If you're looking for a good co-op game, it definitely comes recommended.


Once we wrapped up the game, we still wanted to poke around with it for a bit. We haven’t bought the ‘hardcore difficulty new area’ DLC (I need a lot less hardcore anything in my life these days) and the upcoming arena combat DLC isn’t out yet. However, the “Be The Zombie” DLC was out, and free, so we gave it a whirl.


…And it was AWESOME.

So, in this mode players become a super-powerful "Night Hunter" zombie who's actually pretty analogous to Venom from the Spider-Man comics… He’s really dark, goopy, and has lots of nasty tentacles. He also invades the games of other players.

Now, I'm not usually someone who likes to do PVP come up and I'm definitely not one of those Souls players who get off on ruining someone else’s day, but there are a couple of really cool things about this mode.

First, players have to opt in if they want to be invaded by someone who's playing the zombie. I'm totally on board with that because it means someone has consciously decided to open their game up to this sort of encounter, so I don't have any guilt or bad feeling about crashing in to stab them with tentacles.

The other cool thing is that it's a totally separate game mode, and when I (as the zombie) decide to invade someone, it takes everyone involved to a separate environment so it doesn't interrupt their campaign progress.


Once in this new environment, it's one superpowerful zombie versus up to four human players. The zombie has to kill the humans X number of times, but the humans can win by destroying the zombie’s gross spawn nests. 

1v1means things are pretty heavily weighted towards the zombie, but 1v2 or 1v3 is a lot more tense. While the zombie can drop down from above and has powerful tentacles to strike from long distance (in addition to other powers) the humans have UV lights that cripple the zombie and make him vulnerable to attack. It's a balanced mode and has a lot of exciting back-and-forth, and I really enjoy that the zombie plays and feels so differently than the character from the normal campaign. 

In fact, this mode reminds me quite a bit of Evolve, except that it's a lot more fun and instantly accessible by removing all of the boring parts and getting straight to the action.

If you have Dying Light and haven't tried this mode yet, I absolutely recommend that you give it a shot, especially since the DLC is free. If you’ve never played Dying Light but you’re interested in asymmetrical design or you like the idea of being a powerful predator hunting puny humans, rent the game and try that DLC. It's a pretty wild time, and way more fun than I would've ever expected.

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One final note, Atlus is readying the release of a new turn-based SRPG called Lost Dimension


Don’t know a ton about it, but I dig that genre and these character videos look pretty cool. Seems like it might be a good fit for the Vita… I’ve got my eye on this one.


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That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Avengers, Kid's TV, Splatoon, Darksiders, Race The Sun and Demons' Souls  

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Welcome back to Coffeecola!



For a little change of pace tonight, I’m gonna start with non-game stuff.

 First up, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron!

We wanted to avoid the crowds of opening day, so we waited a good little while and caught it on an early matinee. Not gonna say much about it other than that we had a great time – plenty of spectacle, awesome special effects, and another super-solid Marvel movie in the can. Totally worth the price of admission.


Oh, and about the controversy regarding female characters? I gotta say, I felt like the backlash against Joss Whedon was really, really overblown. Black Widow was kidnapped for, like, 5 minutes (maybe?) and the mutual discussion of fertility with the Hulk felt natural and not-a-big-deal to me.

And as far as Hawkeye’s wife "being in the kitchen" and all that, she's… a housewife. They do exist. She's also the smarter of the pair, and she's clearly the emotional center that keeps Hawk’s head on straight.

Some people obviously disagree, but I felt like nothing in the film was particularly offensive in that regard, and certainly not enough to drive Joss off of Twitter. And, as I mentioned on the day that we saw the film, the very first thing my son said as we left the theater, unprompted, was that "Black Widow rocks". So, I guess to my six-year-old she still seems like a strong, capable woman worth looking up to, and I would agree.



Speaking of things to watch, I asked Twitter for TV recommendations that were fun for both parents and kids. We got a number of really good animated shows name-checked (which was awesome) but I was surprised to see that there were barely any suggestions for live action.

For example, we really like watching The Flash, Face Off, America's Funniest Home Videos, any sort of animal documentary, pretty much anything on Food Network, Dirty JobsDr. Who, Star Trek and so forth… But we’re out of stuff to watch!

Anyway, if you have a favorite show to watch with your kids, drop me a line and let me know… I'm looking for more ideas, and I'm sure there are a million things out there that would fit the bill.



Okay, enough of TV and movies. Let's talk about games.

The release of Splatoon is nearly upon us. My son and I took part in the demo that ran last weekend, and it seemed promising. There wasn't anything to see outside of the team vs team multiplayer, though. It was fun enough for the two hours that we played, but I can't say that I was dying to play more of it. I would be interested in checking out the solo campaign, though. The characters are cute and who doesn't like squids?


That said, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, and one of the hosts suggested that if Splatoon had been on any system other than Nintendo, people wouldn't have given it a second glance. I gotta say, I think I agree. If it had come out for $10 on PSN, or as a steam early access release, I doubt anyone would've cared about it, but it's about to become the subject of a lot of attention thanks its visibility and ‘new IP’ status with the Big N.




In case you haven't checked out the free releases for PS Plus members lately, one of special note this month is Race The Sun. I heard about it when it hit PC a while ago, but after having played it on the Vita, it feels like it was made for Sony's handheld.


Basically, the player controls a solar-powered ship which must zoom across the landscape as quickly as possible before the sun sets. It's very minimal, has a very austere visuals (in a good way!) and lends itself to short play sessions. I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first, but after repeated plays I think it's pretty awesome. And, since it's free right now, there's no excuse not to pick it up.



Finally, the wife was looking for some new stuff to play and she decided on a couple of recent classics. The first? Darksiders from the now-defunct Vigil Games.


I liked it a lot when it first came out in 2010, and I have to say it's still pretty incredible. The graphics look great, the gameplay is still engaging, and everything about it really pops. It feels like it hasn’t aged a bit in the last 5 years, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a slightly more adult-skewing Zelda-flavored game.

As I watched the wife roll credits on it, I was (again) struck by how cool the ending cliffhanger was. It sucks that the developers didn't follow up directly and instead went with their Death-themed sequel. I felt that one went off the rails with a bad case of the bloats, but the first one is still dynamite.



After Darksiders, the wife moved onto Demon’s Souls. She's already been through Bloodborne and Dark Souls II (vanilla) so she’s pretty experienced with Fromsoft games these days, and knowing how much of a fan she is, I told her that Demon’s was a must –play. Which it is.

As expected, she took to it right away and blew through the first area, no problem. In fact, it was quite a long time before she even died, so I think she'll be just fine for the course of the adventure.


I haven't played it myself since the game came out in 2009, so getting the chance to revisit was pretty amazing. Although the graphics are a step down from the more recent releases and some of the systems are still crappy (those godawful menu symbols!!) the game gets a hell of a lot right, and it's fascinating to see how the series has deviated from some of the initial designs.

For example, the opening cinematic and beginning of Demon’s spell out exactly what's going on in the land, and the player’s situation is crystal clear. There are also a ton of speaking NPCs, both in in the main hub and out in the world… I had forgotten how much of a role these faces played, honestly! I'm also still a massive fan of the Nexus… I think it's probably one of my favorite locations in any game, ever.  

I can’t wait to see what the wife makes of the story, as I think it's probably the best-told and most satisfying of the series so far.

The last time I checked, Demon’s Souls was on PSN for something like $5, which is an absolute steal for something that I consider to be a true masterpiece. If you’re a fan of the Souls games and haven’t checked it out, you’re missing what I consider to be the finest one.



Thanks for reading! 

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