Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dungeon Travelers 2, Ziggurat, and Resident Evil Revelations 2  


*

Welcome back to Coffeecola! 

First up, here are some links to content that @Gamecritics has published over the last week or so.




>@Gamecritics Podcast, ep. 134 – Guest-starring @Ind1fference




>@KayinAmoh’s review of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (multi)


>My review of Lost Dimension (Vita/PS3)


>@MikeSuskie’s review of Her Story (multi)


>@KayinAmoh’s review of Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy (Vita)




Now, let's get down to games…

First up, @AtlusUSA has released the Dungeon Travelers 2 demo on Vita. It's a really generous demo basically encompassing all of the first three levels. In a smart move, the data transfers to the full version once the player wraps it up, so the time spent is not wasted. I absolutely love demos like this, and I wish more companies would do it.



Anyway, the game. It's essentially a straight-up dungeon crawl very similar to Etrian Odyssey, although none of the do-it-yourself mapping is in here. The systems seem pretty interesting, and while there's always a certain amount of grind it a title like this, this is one of the first games I can recall that actually gives a clear reason to grind beyond pure XP.  Specifically, after defeating a certain number of monsters, their leftovers can be turned into an item which can be equipped on characters to give an ATK UP, DEF UP, and other things along those lines.

There are a few other nice little design tweaks to keep it feeling fresh and the writing has been clever so far, but (probably) the biggest thing people might immediately notice about it is the level of skin on display. Make no mistake, this is a fanservice game when it comes to the presentation -- most of the “monsters” are buxom ladies, and apparently the characters wear less clothing as they change into advanced classes.

I'm not going to lie, there's a lot of T&A going on here, but just as is true for books, music, and films, not every game is right for every player. People who are allergic to this stuff should probably stay away, but those who don't mind it or those who might want a good dungeon crawl should check this one out.




Sony’s having a big sale on a lot of titles right now, so check that out if you are so inclined. I already had most of the good ones, but I did pick up Ziggurat.


I was a little hesitant since it was coming from Milkstone Studios -- I remembered that they put out a bunch of garbage on XBLI – but the reviews seemed pretty positive and I had a few people on Twitter tell me it was good, so I gave it a whirl. I'm happy to say that they weren't wrong, and I'm looking forward to putting more time into it.

Basically, it's a first-person shooter, but structured like a roguelike where each dungeon layout is random and so are the enemy placements and pickups. It’s nothing revolutionary, but what I've seen so far has been well done, and the action comes fast and frantic. Feeling like I got my money’s worth so far, so heads up on this one and grab it before it goes back to full price if it sounds appealing.




The last thing I've had time for this week is Resident Evil Revelations 2 on PS4. Playing it cooperatively with the wife and we only just finished the first chapter, but it's been a great time so far. In fact, it’s probably the most enjoyment I’ve had with a RE in quite some time.

Where's Barry? RIGHT HERE!!

We’re playing in splitscreen, so it's not optimal but definitely acceptable. The setting is pretty standard evil scientist/gross experiment kind of stuff and the action is find-a-key/shoot-the-zombies, but I really don't mind since it feels like the series is coming back to its roots in a way that's long past overdue, especially after the nonsensical action-movie genre-mashup of the blowjobbing-a-giraffe RE6.

There's still quite a bit of game left to go, but it's gotten off on the right foot. I mean, I wasn't sure I'd ever be down for more Resident Evil after the last couple of games, but this one might have turned things around. We'll see.




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



*

Armello, a fantasy board game come to life from League of Geeks will have two additional characters when the title launches on September 1, 2015 for PlayStation 4, Windows, Mac and Linux. 

Zosha the female rat and Barnaby the male rabbit are the two newest characters to be introduced. Zosha goes into Stealth every sunset where she can outmaneuver her competition, avoiding aggressive heroes while also sneaking up on those who least expect it. Barnaby can come up with the perfect item to fit any situation, making him adaptable to many different strategies.

The final build of Armello including Zosha and Barnaby will be playable for the first time at PAX Prime. PC gamers have until July 31 to purchase the game on Steam Early Access, after which the title will not be available until the official release.



*


Deep Silver and inXile today announced that the acclaimed post-apocalyptic PC best-seller, Wasteland 2 is coming to the Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, and the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system on October 13th in North America. Wasteland 2: Director's Cut will be playable at gamescom 2015 at the Deep Silver booth in Hall 9.

Wasteland 2: Director's Cut takes last year's critically acclaimed PC release through a complete visual overhaul; it features a more sophisticated lighting system, upgraded environments and improved textures as well as brand new, higher quality character models. All major speaking parts and NPCs have also received new voice-overs, and weapon sounds have been revisited in order to provide more variety and punch. inXile has implemented additional gameplay advances such as improvements to combat encounters, additional passes to balancing, enhanced cut scenes plus all-new "Precision Strike" and "Perk & Traits" systems. Most importantly, the game's UI and control scheme have been completely reworked and optimized for consoles.

Key Features:
· The Director's Cut: Overhauled graphics with fully redone character and level art, voice-over expanded with tens of thousands of lines, and new features make this the definitive version of Wasteland 2.
· Turn-Based Tactical Combat: Tackle explosive and deadly squad-based combat encounters against the wasteland's raiders, mutants, robots and more that will test the limits of your planning and tactics.
· Your Squad Your Way: Don't feel like finding the key for a door? Pick the lock, bash it down with your boot or just blow it open with a rocket launcher!
· A Huge Reactive Story: With hundreds of choices and consequences at your disposal, with both short and long term reactivity to the players choices and 80-100 hours of gameplay, no two players will have the same experience.
· Huge & Customizable: Dozens of hours of gameplay. Hundreds of characters. Thousands of available combinations for your Rangers' appearance. More than 150 weapons. Dozens of skills!
· Enhanced Classic RPG Game Play: Classic RPG game play ideas updated with modern design philosophies.


*

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The updated EMP!  

*


Stuff: A friend I met via Twitter came to Seattle today, and we decided to meet up at the EMP to hang out and spend a few hours in meatspace. It was good timing since the museum had revamped quite a bit of its content since the last time I had been there. I took a few pictures...

So, as you'll be able to tell from most of these images, the high point was the new Star Wars exhibit. 




A rough Yoda model used for rehearsals. 





Amidala, of course. 





Palpatine's 'creepy guy' robe, pre-Emperorization.





The actual costumes. Not shown are diagrams that gave an idea of how the actors were strapped into these things. It looked really, really uncomfortable.





Leia's Boushh costume. I still love that mask.





I'm sure pretty much everybody in the Western world knows what this is.  





Female and male Tusken Raider costumes. I don't recall seeing the female used in the films. 





That vest is still sharp.





This picture doesn't really convey the scale of the costume, but it was frickin' huge. 





The signage said that 56 of these were made for the movies. That didn't seem like a lot to me... 





I'm sorry, I didn't mean to use the flash on my phone! It was an accid... ::GACKKK::




At this point, we transitioned into the rest of the museum. The Sci-Fi part on the bottom floor has been totally redesigned, and almost all of the displays were new.





The T-800 endoskeleton.





The shuttle that Ripley escapes in from the first Alien film. 





Sarris from Galaxy Quest.





One of the smaller bugs from Starship Troopers





They had a whole wall of firearms taken from various TV shows and films.





One of the O-O-O-O-G Dungeons & Dragons materials from the early '70s.





What, you thought I'd finish without an appearance from Boba Fett? 
COME ON. 



Overall, it was a great day and Even though we were there for several hours, I felt like we breezed through it pretty quickly without absorbing as much as we wanted to. I'm definitely going to head back on the next rainy day and spend a few more hours...


*

Monday, July 20, 2015

Helldivers, Godzilla, Lost Dimension, Etrian Untold 2  

*

Hey hey! Welcome back to Coffeecola!

My apologies for the hiatus! I wish I could say it was due to something exotic like taking a trip to Tahiti or winning the lottery, but it was just a simple case of life catching up with me.

I was working too many hours, not getting enough sleep, having my oldest son over for the summer, and having too much of a backlog when it came to everything. I needed to take a few things off my plate for a while, and the blog was something that was temporarily expendable.

Now that things have calmed down a bit, I'm ready to get back into the swing of things. So, let's start off with some games. What have I been playing?




Since I've been so busy, I've been spending a lot of time with my recent go-to, which is, of course, Helldivers. It's really easy to jump into the game and get a satisfying 30-45 minutes in, and then walk away feeling like something got accomplished.


Even better, the developers have been steadily supporting the game since launch, and the most recent update introduced three superbosses for players to tackle. These guys are incredibly tough, and pretty much impossible unless you're dropping in with a full squad, correctly kitted out. The wife and I took one of them down with two randos, but the other two bosses slapped us around and took selfies while they did it. We will get our revenge, though.


If you haven't already taken the plunge into Helldivers, now is a great time. All of the  major game updates are included for free if you buy the base game, and the DLC is really affordable and super useful, although totally not necessary.

Also, the game has been so successful that Sony is putting out a hardcopy version in August which includes some special gear not found anywhere else. It's possible that the new stuff will be available to the fans via separate purchase on PSN, but no announcements have been made there yet.




Besides that, I took some time to review the brand-new Godzilla game from Namco-Bandai. As much as I wanted it to be good… it's crap. 


There are a few cool things in there for hardcore Godzilla fans, but they're buried under so much bullshit that it's not worth the time and effort of unlocking them. If you want to read more, here's a link to my review, which just went up.




In other review news, I wrapped up my piece on the Vita’s upcoming Lost Dimension. It's still under embargo so I can't spill too much here, but the embargo drops 7/27. Look for my complete writeup then. 


However, in a PREVIEW sense, I can say that fans of strategy RPGs will want to check it out, although there are a few caveats that go along with that. More later.




Finally, it took me too long to get started, but I'm now deep in the middle of Etrian Odyssey Untold 2: The Fafnir Knight on 3DS. This one also under embargo at the moment, but if there’s one series you can count on to be absolutely reliable, it's EO.


In a PREVIEW sense, it's another installment in the long-running series, and fans will know exactly what to expect: dungeon-crawling, mapmaking, and orchestrating nuanced combat abilities between party members. All great stuff.


However, one thing that I AM having a problem with is that it seems like series artist Yuji Himukai did not do the art here. I may be incorrect, but the style looks different to me, and I'm 99% sure it's a different person. I'm a big fan of Himukai’s art style, and it's tough getting over this new look. It's not bad, but the character art is definitely not as sharp as it has been in the past. 

Character art aside, I'm still really enjoying it in a PREVIEW sense, and would totally recommend it to anyone who's already a fan, or to anyone curious about it. The game has a reputation for being uber-hardcore, but the "easy" setting here is really, really, really easy, so it's pretty much the most approachable it's ever been. Have no fear.



*

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Swamped!!  

*

Hey y'all, sorry for the lack of updates lately... It's been kiiiinda crazy around here and I just haven't been able to find the time. Or rather, I haven't been able to stay awake at night long enough to get stuff done.



Things should be quieting down this week, tho. My hope is to get my schedule back to a semblance of its former normalcy and then get back into my usual groove.

Coffeecola is definitely not dead, I just need a brief hiatus to get everything back up to speed. Lemme catch my breath and I'll be back to the usual once-a-week refresh.

Thanks for your patience, and see you soon!

*

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

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

*

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.


*


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.

*

…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.

*

Monday, June 22, 2015

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

*

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!


*


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.



*


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.


*


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.


*


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.



*

Monday, June 8, 2015

The 2015 Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show  

*

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! 

*