Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yakuza, Aliens: Infestation, Quarrel, and Caspar Babypants  

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Podcast: For fans of the GameCritics podcasts, tonight is a double feature.

First up, Episode 68 of the regular show. Topics include X-Men Destiny, Rayman Origins (a.k.a - the episode that demonstrates why I am the coldest, most unfeeling Francophobe critic on the ‘net) and quite a bit of discussion about being employed as a games writer, writing reviews for free, and how the two relate to each other. Also, for those keeping track, this is the third-to-last show that Tim Spaeth will ever be hosting, so if you are a Tim fan (and really, who’s not?) then make sure you catch him before he's gone.

If one podcast wasn't enough, then tune in to the resurrection of GameCritics After Dark. This particular offshoot is an episode focusing solely on Zelda: Skyward Sword and features a different cast. This time around, the program is hosted by @RichardNaik, he’s joined by GC regular Mike Bracken (@HorrorGeek), and they are hashing things out with guests Jeffrey Matulef (@MrDurandPierre) and Michael Abbott (@BrainyGamer). If you're hungry to hear more about Zelda, this is the ticket.

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Games: Not much to report in terms of gaming.

I'm still trying to complete Yakuza 3 before anything big comes in for review, and I'm almost done. If my guess is correct, there are only one or two chapters left, so I'm hoping to wrap it up tomorrow.

So... Come here often?
I've got to say, out of the three Yakuza titles I've played so far, this one has definitely been the weakest. It's strange to say that because there have been some tremendously emotional moments at certain points in the story, but the game loses its way in the middle and starts to drag... it's just started to pick up again now that I'm closing in on the end, but there were certainly (at least) three or four hours of gameplay that could have been removed from the critical path and the game would have been better for it.

The meandering middle is made worse by the fact that the developers have tinkered with the combat engine and made it quite dull and repetitive -- in the previous two games, there were always new moves to unlock, and this constant growth kept the combat feeling exciting and fresh. This time around, it feels as though there are fewer moves, and of the moves that are still here, many of them are tied up with the "heat" status.

Basically, what this means is that there are many attacks that are not usable until the player enters a special powered-up mode. Even after entering “heat”, many of the moves that become accessible are impractical to use, or only work in very specific circumstances. For example, I unlocked one move that lets my character jump off of a fence to tackle an enemy… and I haven't ever used it, even once. I don't want to get into too much detail here, but the bottom line is that I've been using the same combos for about eight hours and I'm pretty damned sick of the combat right now.I've never, ever felt that way in the previous two games, so I'm quite disappointed in how things have shifted for the worse here.

I'm hoping that the end will make up for some of the dead space I had to plow through to get there, but we'll see.

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Games: I'm still putting some time into Aliens: Infestation, as well. It's actually a pretty cool title and there’s a lot to like if you’re a fan of the films. On the other hand, it's a little rough in spots and I question how appealing it would be to someone who has no love of the franchise.

That's right... The Space Jockey makes an appearance.
For example, there are too many hard-to-hit enemies taking cover behind large crates, and there are certain points at which the player must use the "Flamer" weapon to burn through certain doors. Using fire against aliens is ridiculously underpowered, so of course the developers triple the number of aliens between Point A and Point B when the Flamer is equipped. I also had the game completely crash on me in the middle of fighting a boss, which was pretty frustrating.

I don't mean to sound too negative because Infestation is clearly a love letter to the franchise from people who care about doing it justice, and I really respect that. There is definitely some good stuff going on here, and anyone who considers themselves an Alien fan should own a copy -- just go into it knowing that not everything here is roses.

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Games: I just wrapped up my review of Quarrel for XBLA and submitted it earlier this evening. Look for that to go live soon. For those of you who don't know, it's basically a puzzle game that combines Scrabble and Risk with a few other strategic elements added to the mix.

A war of words!
It's a pretty good time playing with friends over Live, and it's only $5… it's got a few issues, but it's hard not to recommend at that price for people who intend to play with other people. On the other hand, I wouldn't really recommend it for solo players -- as is usually the case in games of this type, playing against the AI is an exercise in frustration.

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Music: For you parents out there who need something to listen to that's appropriate for kids, but not annoying enough to drive you crazy, let me give a quick thumbs up to a disc from Caspar Babypants.

Catchy and Kid friendly!!
The album is titled Here I Am!, and has a number of catchy tracks that are both friendly enough for even the littlest children, but steer clear of the saccharine inanities that make want to jam and icepick in your eardrums. Interestingly, the band was started by Chris Ballew of the Presidents of the United States of America, so there is certainly some solid musicianship and a pretty good cool factor going on here. My son can be pretty picky about what he listens to, but he took to this CD right away.

In our house, there's no higher recommendation.


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PR/NEWS/INFO

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Law & Order: Legacies is now available for PC and Mac! Play the show as you investigate crimes and prosecute the offenders. Will you prove the suspect guilty, strike a plea bargain, or will the jury let him walk? Law & Order: Legacies features all-new stories (ripped from the headlines, of course!) and reunites your favorite characters from across the Law & Order franchise, including Rey Curtis, Lennie Briscoe, Jack McCoy, and SVU's Olivia Benson. Get the game now and play Episodes 1, 2, and 3 with Episodes 4-7 coming very soon!

Law & Order: Legacies features a brand new content delivery system that allows you to download all of the series' episodes through the game's main menu! When a new episode is available to download, you'll be notified through the game itself. You can become a Law & Order Legacies series owner for just $19.99 and get the first three suspense-filled cases immediately.

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New Expansion to The Lord of the Rings Online™ Launching Fall 2012

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment unveiled today The Lord of the Rings Online™: Riders of Rohan™, the latest expansion to the award-winning free-to-play massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) developed by Turbine. Riders of Rohan expands the online world of Middle-earth where players join forces to ride into the Plains of Rohan. Riders of Rohan launches in the Fall of 2012 with an increased level cap, the vast plains of Rohan including iconic locations such as Amon Hen and Fangorn Forest, the new Mounted Combat system and much more!

NEW FEATURES:

 Experience the Riders of Rohan – Join with the Rohirrim and ride across the sprawling Plains of Rohan; witness the breaking of the Fellowship at Amon Hen; forge alliances with the Ents of Fangorn; and aid Éomer, adopted son of Théoden, as he seeks to protect his homeland from the growing Shadow.

 Introducing Mounted Combat – Ride into Combat atop your loyal War-steed as you defend the people of Rohan from the forces of Isengard and Mordor. Customize your War-steed’s armor and level its skills over time to aid you in mounted defense of King Theoden’s lands. Mount your steed and gather your fellows to fight against Warbands, contingents of roving warg riders that have been scouted all over the Plains of Rohan! It falls to you to head off and defeat this new threat before they over take the land.

 Advance to level 85 – Continue your legend in the next chapter of The Lord of the Rings Online. Experience new adventures in the epic story, and gain new skills and deeds as you face new challenges on your journey to 85!

The Lord of the Rings Online is the ultimate adventure. This award-winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game delivers an interactive experience brimming with life and filled with the familiar people, places and monsters from the most famous fantasy of all time. From the picturesque surroundings of the Shire to Moria, the most fearsome underground realm ever imagined, players can experience the world of Middle-earth for free! For more information, visit www.lotro.com.

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If there’s one thing we all hate, it’s thieving gummy bears. Those jerks are out to ruin us all, but they’ll have another thing coming when they mess with the wrong bad-ass bison. Take revenge on those candy crooks in Adult Swim’s latest free online flash game, Burrito Bison Revenge, developed by Juicy Beast.

Just when you thought you were free from Candy Land forever, you realize that those gummy bear-stards stole your wallet! Jump back into the action and smash, crash, and explode your way through the candy defenses to reclaim your stolen property. Once you've claimed your prize jump over to survival mode to continue your revenge by launching as far as possible and destroying as many gummies as you can.

Play Burrito Bison Revenge!

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XSEED Games is pleased to bring gamers freshly-sliced story details about their upcoming and highly-anticipated PlayStation Vita action-platformer title, Sumioni: Demon Arts. Literally translated from Japanese as “Ink Demon,” Sumioni: Demon Arts is set in a fantasy world where players guide an ink figure through a landscape painted on a canvas backdrop in classical Japanese “sumi-e” style. The game uses the PS Vita’s touchscreen controls to allow players to manipulate the game’s world, creating platforms or summoning magical allies with the swipe of a finger.

In Sumioni: Demon Arts, players are given control of Agura on his quest to destroy Seimei and save Japan. Along the way platforms, strings of fire and jets of water can be drawn into existence at will on the PS Vita’s touchscreen, and Agura’s two Inkgod companions can each be summoned to perform massive, screen-filling attacks.

Sumioni: Demon Arts, developed by ACQUIRE and published by XSEED Games, is currently in production and will release on the PS Vita system in spring 2012.

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Two of videogaming’s most iconic characters are entering the ring and going toe to toe. Exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions of Street Fighter X Tekken, Capcom’s very own Mega Man will be joined by Namco’s mascot, Pac-Man.

For the first time, the version of Mega Man featured on the original Mega Man 1 box art will make the jump from the cover to be a playable character, with Pac-Man taking on all challengers as he rides atop Mokujin.

Mega Man and Pac-Man join the previously announced PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita exclusive characters, Cole from Infamous plus Toro and Kuro.

Street Fighter X Tekken will release for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on March 6 in North America and March 9 across Europe with PlayStation Vita and PC versions to follow.

For more information on Street Fighter X Tekken, please visit: http://www.capcom-unity.com

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GamesAid is delighted to announce that the inaugural littleBIGbunch successfully closed raising significant funds from its launch on December 14 through to closing on January 2.

“Over 20,000 gamers registered for the bundle and when deciding where their money went, the funds were split pretty evenly between GamesAid and the Developers, which is great as ultimately it is the guys who make the games that enable the whole enterprise to take place,” offered Ian Livingstone, OBE and Trustee of GamesAid.

He continued, “Mommy’s Best Games, Oddworld Inhabitants, New Star Games, Mode 7 and Curve Studios deserve all the kudos and respect for their support and to the thousands of gamers who embraced and supported this venture, GamesAid extends their heartfelt thanks.”

GamesAid is now planning littleBIGbunch 2. “We are not planning on releasing dozens of packs in 2012, rather to release a couple of packs of awesome games and let the gamers decide where their money goes. We would be delighted to hear from any Indie developers who are up for this and they can get in touch with me,” offered Graeme Struthers, Trustee at GamesAid.

Indies looking to get in touch with GetGames: Graeme AT getgamesgo DOT com

All member of the UK Videogames Industry are encouraged to support GamesAid and become members by registering online atwww.gamesaid.org

All fundraising donations are gratefully received at www.justgiving.com/gamesaid

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To enter Wal-Mart’s giveaway of a Death’s Head mask from Darksiders II, go HERE.
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Dead Island’s latest DLC, Ryder White, offers a unique new perspective into the incidents in the main story of Dead Island: This time the player will get the chance to play as Ryder White, the antagonist of the main game (SPOILERZ!) Learn more about his motivations and why, from his point of view, he did what he had to do. This fresh take on the Dead Island story shows Ryder White both as a military man and a loving husband.

The DLC stars Ryder White as a newly playable character and offers a single player campaign with several hours of story content with twists and turns that will shed new light on the game’s happenings. Two blueprints and weapons will further expand the already impressive arsenal of Dead Island.

The DLC will be available on February 01, 2012 for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC. It will be available for 800 Microsoft points on Xbox LIVE Marketplace or for $9.99 USD on PSN and Steam.

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Valve, creators of best-selling game franchises (such as Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal, andTeam Fortress) and leading technologies (such as Steam and Source), today announced the beta release of the Steam application for iOS and Android devices.

With the Steam app, gamers around the world may chat with Steam friends, browse community groups and user profiles, view screenshots and user-generated content for their favorite games, read the latest gaming news, stay up to date on unbeatable Steam sales, and more.

Those who wish to join the beta just need to download the Steam app (free of charge) and log in to their Steam account via the mobile app to express interest in the beta. Gamers will be added to the Closed Beta as the service ramps up.

For more information, please visit http://store.steampowered.com/mobile

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It’s time to put those Zombie Apocalypse plans in action! Digital Reality and developer Candygun Games, along with PC distributor partner Kalypso Media, have announced that their frightfully fun zombie defense game, Dead Block, is available now on PC across several distribution networks (see the list below).

Dead Block is an engaging, campy and humor-filled title that mixes zombie killing with tactical defense strategies, letting players defend their territory by discovering new weapons to strategically rock ‘n trap the invading zombie horde.

Play along other survivors in co-op mode for the most addictive co-op zombie combat experience in Dead Block. For more information, please visit the Dead Block website at www.deadblock.com, follow the characters on Twitter, subscribe to ourYouTube channel and ‘Like’ the game on Facebook.

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DEVOLVER DIGITAL LAUNCHES “PITCH FORK PARKER” PROJECT

- Indie Game Development Initiative Set for GDC 2012 -

Devolver Digital’s Fork Parker, infamous Chief Financial Officer and champion of the 1%, has thrown down the cash-filled gauntlet to challenge the next generation of indie game superstars. The eccentric money man at the pioneering publisher is offering completion funds and a publishing deal to the three best game prototypes, demos or pitches presented to the Devolver Digital team at this year’s GDC in San Francisco, March 5 – 9th.

WHEN

GDC 2012
San Franicsco, CA
March 5th – 9th

WHERE

The Devolver Digital Indie Bus trolling the Moscone Center during GDC 2012

HOW

Email pitchfork@devolverdigital.com with information on your team and project to setup a meeting with Fork Parker and the Devolver Digital team at GDC 2012.

WHY

Glory, Cash, Free Nachos

Devolver Digital and Croteam previously launched the successful Serious Sam Indie Series project which included unique takes on the iconic franchise from indie developers Vlambeer, Mommy’s Best Games, and Be-Rad Entertainment. The collection of indie games was launched in anticipation of the triumphant launch of Croteam’s uber-epic Serious Sam 3: BFE. In addition to partnering with teams on new and unique concepts pitched at GDC, Devolver Digital is also interested in forming new relationships with talented developers to create similar games for an as-yet-announced new IP coming from the Austin-based publisher.

Devolver Digital invites those developers unable to make it to GDC 2012 to come visit them at the BandPage Hotspot during the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX immediately following GDC 2012. At the event, Devolver Digital will be demoing the Serious Sam Indie Series along with several other projects currently in development.

“The only thing I love more than money is working with talented indie developers to make their sweet ass games even sweeter,” said Devolver Digital CFO Fork Parker. “Attractive twenty-something ladies and lobster nachos are pretty high on the list too.”

Appointments to visit Fork Parker and the Devolver Digital team can be made through pitchfork@devolverdigital.com. For more information on the Pitch Fork Parker initiative visit www. pitchforkparker.com or devolverdigital.com/pitchfork or tweet the man himself @ForkParker.

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Spacetime Studios Sires Vampire Themed Mobile and Desktop MMO: Dark Legends

Spacetime Studios takes its mobile and desktop Legends franchise into a frightening new world with Dark Legends. Players will embrace the secret societies of vampires to challenge the hordes of undead, werewolves, demons and humans that hunt them. The title will be released for Android, iOS and Chrome in the first quarter of 2012.

Fans of the popular Legends franchise, Pocket Legends and Star Legends, will discover a gameplay evolution in Dark Legends that draws them even deeper into the experience. The combat system delivers fast paced, action oriented gameplay that includes new mechanics such as charge attacks and the ability to drain enemies. A wide breadth of solo and multiplayer content will also be available.

The most significant change is a much deeper focus on narrative. In addition to story communicated during the 3D multiplayer missions, players will periodically be given the option to complete quick action missions with a single tap. These missions use brief cut scenes to create an interactive storybook, where players experience the life of a vampire up-close and personal.

The company's goal for Dark Legends was to combine casual, strategic advancement content with their award winning real-time 3D multiplayer system to create a blend of gameplay never before seen.

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