Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Misfits, Poison's Transgender & Joe R. Lansdale's New Book  

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TV: I don't usually start off the blog with a bit about TV or movies, but I think in this case I'm going to make an exception...

Earlier this week, my wife and I were in-between some of our other series, and we were looking to start something new. I had remembered reading something about a UK show called Misfits and while ago, but it was nothing specific -- essentially, that it was good, and that it was about juvenile delinquents or kids in rehab (or something like that) who gain special powers and then proceed to get into all sorts of trouble. We popped for the entire first season on iTunes for $12 or so, and sat down for the first couple of episodes.

People, this show is absolutely fantastic.

Now, apparently people in the UK and some super-cool folks on this side of the water have known about the show for a while, but it was new to me and after having conversations with some people on Twitter and otherwise, I'm guessing that it will be new to many of you, as well. Here's the scoop:

Five ne’er-do-wells are sent to do community service at a local neighborhood center, and while they are on their first day of trash pickup duty, a mysterious storm strikes and gives them all powers that (from our perspective, anyway) directly relate to their personalities in some way.


There have been many TV shows and movies that take the same basic "suddenly gained powers" premise, but the thing that makes Misfits stand out to me is that the characters are so flawed, human, and relatable. I've known people exactly like those on the show, and the things that happened to them and the way they use (and fumble with) their powers is totally believable… I could easily imagine a group of troubled teenagers getting into the kinds of sticky situations that happen on the show, and the fact that no one in the fact that no one turns out to be an intrinsic superman makes it even better.

The actors do a fantastic job in their roles, the writing is character-driven and feels genuine, and the plot and scripting overall is tight and engaging. We've been watching two or three episodes a night, and the show just keeps getting better.

Misfits is the goods. Highest possible recommendation.

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Games: Most probably due to her upcoming role as a playable fighter in Street Fighter X Tekken, pink-haired, handcuff-sporting Poison has been popping up all over articles, online and on Twitter lately. If you don't know who she is, Poison (to my knowledge, anyway) is one of the only transgender characters in gaming who's gained a solid level of visibility and a decent fanbase considering that her exposure over the years has been far less frequent than some of the other well-known faces that one would usually associate with Capcom, or fighting games.


I mentioned in another blog recently that Official PlayStation Magazine had published an article recurring to Poisoned with some transphobic language, and afterwards, had committed to correcting the mistake and doing the right thing. In case you missed that the first time around, you can check it out right here.

The next thing that caught my attention was a link to a well-done YouTube video that essentially takes every single piece of information relating to Poison and her background and pretty clearly settles the dispute about her status once and for all. Despite plenty of evidence suggesting that Poison has always been transgender, a certain segment of gaming has been trying to argue that she wasn't originally intended to be that sort of character, or that her identity varies depending on what region the game is being played in. You can see the video right here, and my hat is off to MegatonStammer for doing such a classy job with making his case and clearing the air.

Finally, my good friend @ApricotSushi posted a link to her blog, where she had posted a picture taken of a very special, one-of-a-kind custom arcade stick made for @Pikoeri. Fair warning, the pictures of this arcade stick might be considered NSFW in some circumstances, and since the hardware in question features Poison, you can probably guess what it looks like if you think about it for a little bit... Anyway, I thought it was rather clever and cool, so you can click right here to the source and check it out.

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Games: I'm in a bit of a holding pattern right now… Mass Effect 3 is coming up soon and I want to have a clear slate for when it arrives, so I'm trying not to start anything substantial at the moment. As a result, I've been putting some time into Mutant Blobs Attack, Army Corps of Hell and Hot Shots on the Vita, but it's been mostly at night before going to bed, or when I catch a few minutes turning some downtime at work. No hefty progress on any of them, and certainly not enough to bang out a review quite yet.



Otherwise, I went through Alan Wake’s American Nightmare on XBLA recently, and the review is in the can. It hasn't gone up at GameCritics yet, but it should be soon. If you are the patient type, then in a nutshell, I thought it was pretty decent from a run-and-gun perspective, but the series is still not living up to its full potential, conceptually.



After American Nightmare, I finally got around to the Missing Link DLC for Deus Ex: Human Revolution and finished that off with the ‘no guns/explosives/augmenations’ Achievement. It really wasn't that hard, and the adventure overall wasn't bad. I'm just now wrapping up the review, so look for that soon. If you need to know what I thought of it right now, in a nutshell, I'd say that it would be a good purchase for fans of the main campaign if you can get it on sale (got mine for half off) but the idea that this add-on actually takes place in the story is pretty absurd.

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Books: I haven't talked about writing or books for a while, so let's change that now.

My favorite author in the entire world is Joe R. Lansdale, and he’s got a new book available for pre-order over at Amazon. I could spend paragraphs talking about his work, his influence on me, and how much I admire his skill, but rather than doing all that, let me just say again:

He is my favorite author in the world. Full stop.


Google him, go to his website, ask any author who knows their stuff, and after you've done all that, then click on over to Amazon and pre-order his next piece, Edge of Dark Water.

I did.

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PR/NEWS/INFO

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J.U.L.I.A. FREE PUBLIC DEMO NOW AVAILABLE

Developer CBE software and Publisher Lace Mamba Global are releasing a free public demo for the upcoming science fiction adventure J.U.L.I.A. today: The demo is approximately 276 MB big and now available for download and free distribution.

The free demo allows players to dip right into the start of the adventure, experience the introduction to the game, solve the first few puzzles and travel to the first planet in the solar system the game is taking place in.

The upcoming science fiction adventure game J.U.L.I.A is scheduled for a UK and Irish retail release on March 02nd, 2012.

J.U.L.I.A. is a narrative driven adventure game in a science-fiction scenario: In the year 2430, Rachel Manners, a 35 year old astrobiologist and member of an elite group of scientists, which is sent off in a giant space ship to mankind’s most exciting space mission: to explore the first ever discovered extra-terrestrial life-forms.

Players are taking over the control of Rachel, and have to utilize the Mobot as well as J.U.L.I.A. During their adventure, they will visit six different planets.

Lace Mamba Global plans to release J.U.L.I.A. worldwide, starting in the UK and Ireland on March 02nd, 2012. The demo is available here: http://www.gamefront.com/files/21361597/julia_demo_setup_exe

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Introducing Break Blocks, a break dancing, action puzzle game. Proceeds from each sale donated to charity.

Greater Good Games is a two-man, independent game studio whose creators’ dream is to use their passion for making games to help others. The studio was co-founded by Dayle Flowers, a former Tripwire Interactive employee, and one of the driving forces behind both Killing Floor and Red Orchestra 2, and Noah Wood, an illustrator and game enthusiast. Greater Good Games was built upon a commitment to charity, and shares a portion of the proceeds from every single sale with the charity "Doctors without Borders". The Greater Good Games financial mission can be found at the finances section of their website (http://www.greatergoodgames.org/), to explain how that works.

Greater Good Games' debut title is Break Blocks, an action puzzle game which fuses the beat-based mechanics of games like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution with a color-based block puzzle. You play as a young break dancer who must defeat a cast of 13 of the world’s most notorious dancers by building colored blocks and clearing them to perform dance moves. Blocks are built in time with the beat and then placed on the circular dance floor. The object is not only to group primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) together, but also to connect them by using secondary colors (purple, orange and green) as a bridge to clear more blocks, and unleash more intense break dance moves.

Break Blocks will be available through the Greater Good Games website (http://www.greatergoodgames.org/) on February 29th, using a pay-what-you-want model.

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Sine Mora, the highly-anticipated shmup from Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture coming exclusively to Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, will be heading to XBLA gamers everywhere on March 21, 2012 for 1,200 Microsoft Points.

Sine Mora caters for all audiences with its varied levels of challenge, but one thing is for sure: regardless of the difficulty level it is played on, everybody will discover plenty of ways to be obliterated in the game, as shown in the latest trailer titled “From Dust to Dust”: http://www.blogger.com/goog_1763002849

Co-developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and Digital Reality, and published by Microsoft Studios, Sine Mora is a dieselpunk shoot 'em up that provides a unique take on the genre, where time is the ultimate factor. Mixing classic shooter sensibilities with next-gen presentation, Sine Mora is a gorgeous shmup that appeals to both hardcore and casual gamers alike. Coming exclusively to Xbox LIVE Arcade, Sine Mora features over 60 combinations of planes, characters and time manipulation devices to complete every beautifully-crafted stage with scaling difficulty. All of this is set to an epic score of soaring heights, composed by Akira Yamaoka, acclaimed for his works onShadows of the Damned and the Silent Hill series.

For more information about Sine Mora, please visit the official website: http://sinemoragame.com/, or follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SINE_MORA.

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Cute and cuddly dancing bears are headed to your mobile device! StormCellar, a publisher of entertaining children’s Apps for mobile devices and tablets, along with CrazyBird Studios, today announced plans to release 3D Bears, a children’s App that lets you dress up loveable bears and take them out on the dance floor for some silly fun. 3D Bears features simple and approachable gameplay specifically designed to maximize entertainment for young App users (even toddlers). Dress-up and dance when3D Bears comes to the App®Store, Android Market and Amazon AppStore this March.

3D Bears, which provides unmatched App animation and production quality, is the brainchild of some of the most creative and award-winning producers and artists in the children’s entertainment industry. Collectively, the Stormcellar team brings more than 50 years of experience to the table with the team having a hand in major projects such as Disney films Hercules and Mulan, feature films Stuart Little and Titanic, children’s TV seriesSpecial Agent Oso, Fatherhood, Hey Arnold, Little Mermaid and video games Star Wars: Demolition, Ready 2 Rumble 2 and NBA ’08.

3D Bears will be available on the App Store for iOS devices and on the Android Market and Amazon AppStore for Android devices, optimized for the Samsung Galaxy, the Motorola Xoom, and the Kindle Fire.

For more information about 3D Bears, please visit www.3DBears.net. Like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/3dbears. Or visit our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/3dbears

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After wrapping up the beat-em-up gore-fest that is Shank 2 (available now on PC, PSN, and XBLA!), indie studio Klei Entertainment is going in a stealthier new direction with their next project. Without further ado, we're pleased to reveal Klei's next endeavor, Mark of the Ninja ... a text adventure!

(...or is it?)

Check out http://www.markoftheninja.com/ to find out for yourself.

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RED 5 STUDIOS ANNOUNCES FIREFALL BATTLEFRAME TRAILER CHALLENGE

Chance to Win a Trip to PAX East 2012, an Alienware™ Laptop, or ASTRO A40 Audio System

Red 5 Studios™ announced today the launch of its Battleframe Trailer Challenge, a contest for creative gamers to show off their video-making ability, explore brand new Firefall footage, and compete for awesome prizes – including a trip to PAX East 2012. Red 5 is accepting entries now until March 16th, when the winners are announced. Contestants can submit their completed trailers via Youtube at the official contest page: http://bit.ly/firefallchallenge

Participants will be given previously-unreleased raw gameplay footage along with a handful of music tracks. They’ll have until March 16th to craft a flashy trailer/commercial that highlights their favorite battleframe and submit the Youtube link for entry. Red 5 encourages contestants to enter and promote their trailers as early as possible, as the winners will be decided using a special Red 5 algorithm that incorporates the “likes” and “views” of each Youtube submission.

• First Place: An all-expenses-paid* trip for two to PAX East 2012 in Boston, along with $500 spending money.

*Red 5 will cover up to $1,500 per round-trip ticket ($3,000 maximum).

• Second Place: An Alienware M14x laptop containing an Intel Core™ i7 processor, 4GB DDR3 Memory, and GeForce 555M 3GB Graphics Card.

• Third Place: An ASTRO Gaming A40 Audio System featuring a Firefallbranded A40 Headset and MixAmp™ Pro.

Participants can visit http://bit.ly/firefallchallenge to download the official “asset package” and find additional contest details and rules.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Vita Games!  

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Games: Hey there! Welcome back to Coffeecola.

One of my good friends often says that he is "up to his ass in alligators" when he's got a lot on his plate, and that's a pretty effective way of summing things up for me at the moment. I thought this past week would be a slow one with a lot of down time for me to catch up on projects, but as is often the case, things did not go as planned. Instead, everything’s basically been piling up since Tuesday, and I see a lot of reptiles circling in the water…


Before I dash off to start taking care of business, I did want to post a quick message and say that although I was waffling for a while, I decided to go ahead and pick up a Vita on launch day. It was a little bit of a learning process coming to grips with the new interface and the redone menu system, but it's drop-dead sexy and I'm pretty excited about the possibilities here. We will be having some in-depth impressions about the hardware and such over at GameCritics, so I'll skip the tech specs and all that stuff for now.

I did have a few things to say about some of the games, though…

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Army Corps of Hell - I haven't put very much time into this one, only about an hour or so. I've heard from a number of people that it gets pretty repetitive and I can see that happening in the future, but I'm really enjoying it at the moment.


Basically, it's Pikmin in Hell with a pure combat focus. The player can switch between three types of minions -- soldiers for close-up, spearmen for distance attacks, and mages for… mage-ing. You do a lot of switching between your troops while taking out lesser demons, and then some impressive-looking boss battles pop up occasionally.

Like I said, I haven't put much time into it, but it's working for me so far.

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Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen - A complete piece of crap. This game is almost exactly like the original Tenchu (PS1, 1998) with a very minor cosmetic touch-up and a few sim elements thrown in.


While Tenchu kicked all ass back in the day, games development has come a long, long way since then, and for Bandai-Namco to release a game that could easily pass as a PS1 title is completely unacceptable. The graphics are crude, the lock-on during combat needs tons of work, the camera frequently goes crazy, the touch controls are unpredictable, and there's a ridiculous amount of repetition in the missions and environments. There are some good ideas here but there's just no excusing how poorly it was produced.

I'm going to be trading this one in for credit towards something else ASAP.

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Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack - This one is download-only from the PSN store, and I strongly suggest that every Vita owner take the time to pick it up at their earliest convenience. It's great, and probably the best Vita game I've played so far.


The gameplay is sort of like a mix between a 2D platformer and Katamari Damacy, but the art style is super-clean and colorful, and every level offers something a little different. The developers were clearly trying to take advantage of everything the Vita offers technically, and they've done a superb job of making it all feel sensible and natural. More than any other game I've played, this one feels as though it was specifically made for the Vita itself, and that's a quality I think other developers should emulate.

Total thumbs up. Buy it right now.

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Uncharted: Golden Abyss - I've never been the biggest fan of Nathan Drake, but I needed to pick a third title after taking advantage of the Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale at Amazon, so this one was my "why not?” choice. I chose… Poorly.


I didn't spend very much time with this title before trading it back in, but this isn't the kind of experience that I want to have on a handheld. The touch controls felt very forced and awkward, too. I don't have much good to say about the Uncharted formula in general, so I was glad to see this Vita version go and I don't miss it a bit.

It's Uncharted with touch controls. So… Whatever.

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Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational - This is the same Hot Shots that's been around forever, so if you are a fan of the series, then this is a no-brainer. It looks great, the controls are very smooth, and it's basically the only golf series that I ever pick up.


On the other hand, I have to say that I've really gotten used to so many games offering character customization these days, so to go back to something as limited as Hot Shots is pretty jarring. Not being able to create my own character is fine since the game is structured on unlocking more powerful golfers as the player progresses, but not being able to completely change outfits or accessories doesn't make me very happy. Sorry Clap Hanz, but simple palette swaps don't cut it.

Super-solid golf, but it feels a little behind the times.

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A couple more things before I start chipping away at the to-do list…


Episode 70 of the GameCritics Podcast is now available for download. This is Tim Spaeth’s goodbye episode, and he will no longer be the host of the show from this point onward.

However, I do want to be completely clear in saying that the GameCritics Podcast is not over!

While Tim will certainly be missed, Chi, Mike, Richard and I have been taking a look at several prospective hosts who were interested in taking over the reins, and I believe we will have an announcement to make pretty soon. Stay tuned!

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Finally, my Yakuza 3 review went up a while back, and we've got an interesting piece from @ApricotSushi on Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom up as well.

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(P.S. - Although I haven't laid hands on it yet, I've been hearing some very positive chatter about Binary Domain from Sega… if you're the kind of peron who reads this blog regularly, then you'll probably want to make a note of it somewhere and make sure that it doesn't get lost in all the coverage surrounding Mass Effect 3. As for me, I intend to sit down with it at the earliest possible opportunity. Impressions to come.)


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PR/NEWS/INFO


ATLUS today announced plans to bring Persona 4 Arena, the highly anticipated fighting spinoff of the award-winning Persona series of roleplaying games, to North America this summer for Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system.

Developed in partnership with genre master Arc System Works, Persona 4 Arena uses gorgeous, hand-drawn, high definition 2D anime-style fighters and colorful, over-the-top special effects to bring to life characters from the acclaimed, highly popular Persona 3 andPersona 4. Backed up by an original, hardcore fighting engine from one of the most respected 2D fighting game developers in the industry, Persona 4 Arena represents the biggest, most noteworthy expansion of the esteemed series to date.

Persona 4 Arena is scheduled to release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems this summer. For more information, visit http://www.atlus.com/p4arena.

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BLINK 182 NOW AVAILABLE FOR UBISOFT’S ROCKSMITH

WHAT: Ubisoft announced today that Blink 182 DLC is now available for download for Rocksmith.
Songs included in this pack are “Dammit”, “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things.”
Each song will be available for individual purchase for $2.99 each on the Playstation network. Each song will be available for individual purchase for 240 Microsoft points each on Xbox Live.

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THE SECRET WORLD’ TO LAUNCH JUNE 19, 2012

Independent developer and publisher of online games, Funcom, today announced that the highly anticipated massively multiplayer online role-playing game ‘The Secret World’ will launch on June 19th, 2012. Originally slated for an April launch, Funcom has decided to invest more development time into the title in order to apply even more polish before launch.

Feedback from hands-on press events and beta testing has proven very positive, and Funcom intends to spend the additional development time focusing on polish and tweaking to maximize the potential of the game. The beta feedback so far is showing very positive reactions to core game features such as the role-playing systems, combat, missions, dungeons, story and immersion. Among the beta testers surveyed, almost 9 out of 10 say they will play the game at launch.

’The Secret World’ is published by Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA). Those looking to join the ongoing beta test can sign up via the official site at http://www.thesecretworld.com/.

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Sins of a Dark Age Announced

Ironclad Games presents a real-time fantasy strategy experience like no other: Sins of a Dark Age. From the studio that brought forth the genre-blending gem and 2008 PC Game of the Year, Sins of a Solar Empire, comes a new strategy hybrid focused on team-based “Hero and Commander Strategy” gameplay.

In Sins of a Dark Age, players join an online team consisting of one Commander and a small group of Heroes who work together to accomplish a specific scenario goal. Go head-to-head against an enemy team in a short, fast-paced multiplayer match or work cooperatively against the AI in custom scenarios. Earn rewards for yourself and your clan, climb in ranks, and watch and share your most glorious replays. Players can choose from an ever-growing pool of heroes, commanders and factions each of which supports unique capabilities.

Sins of a Dark Age is easy to learn and accommodating to both new and veteran players of any strategy genre and is designed to minimize griefing and other common causes of hostility in the community. The innovative match design means never missing out on a match or a session being ruined by players dropping out: instantly rejoin games or jump into shorthanded battles to save the day and earn bonus rewards for yourself and your clan.

Find out more at http://www.sinsofadarkage.com/ and register to reserve your name and for a chance to win a beta slot!

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MechWarrior Tactics Announced
An all-new MechWarrior® title for PCs will hit North America in 2012 from Roadhouse Interactive and A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games as newly formed publisher Infinite Game Publishing announced MechWarrior Tactics (www.mwtactics.com) today.MechWarrior Tactics, set in the BattleTech™ universe in the year 3025, is the latest evolution of turn-based strategy and blends tactical gameplay, deep collectability, unique online features and is set against visually stunning environments for the supreme MechWarrior battle experience.

MechWarrior Tactics allows players the freedom to collect and purchase vital combat and cosmetic resources to outfit each Mech, assemble a lance of four Mechs, and then go online for epic multiplayer showdowns competing for large payouts and top billing on global leaderboards. Master each Mech chassis and develop endless new configurations in your Mech Bay. Assemble a lance for the ages and keep one step ahead of both your friends and enemies.

More about MechWarrior Tactics can be found at http://www.mwtactics.com/.

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CD Projekt RED has released a brand new teaser trailer offering another look at their hotly-anticipated RPG, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition, coming soon to the Xbox 360 console and PC. The video runs a minute long and features in-game footage of the game’s beautiful environments and intense melee combat. It serves as the perfect primer for the critically-acclaimed series’ console debut. The game launches April 17 worldwide for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and for PC.

To check out and share the teaser trailer for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition, please click on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJiMtPzY568

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Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior's Rise (XBLA) - Launch Trailer

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RENOWNED COMPOSER JON HOPKINS PROVIDES SOUNDTRACK TO VESSEL


Independent developer Strange Loop Games, in collaboration withindiePub, today announced that their upcoming liquid physics puzzle game, Vessel, features a full-length soundtrack created by electronic music prodigy Jon Hopkins.

Boasting both Ivor Novello Award and Mercury Music Prize nominations for his score to the sci-fi hit "Monsters" and his album with King Creosote, "Diamond," Hopkins is an internationally renowned artist who has worked with other top artists like Brian Eno, Coldplay and Imogen Heap.

Vessel combines 10 tracks from Hopkins' albums "Opalescent," "Contact Note" and "Insides," with an adaptive music engine that breaks down the tracks into their respective elements, remixing them dynamically to match player's progress through the game.

Vessel will be available on Windows PC March 1 for $14.99 via Steam andStrangeLoopGames.com. Vessel will also be released on Xbox LIVE® Arcade and PlayStation®Network at a later date. For more information, please visit: http://www.strangeloopgames.com/

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Aksys announced today our partnership with Nintendo that will bring The Last Story™ to North America, exclusively for Wii™. Developed by legendary creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, and his studio, MISTWALKER, in conjunction with Nintendo, The Last Story has players taking charge of a band of mercenaries and journeying with them into a sprawling cinematic adventure. The Last Story is scheduled to ship in North America this summer.

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On March 16, MMO landmark EverQuest will be celebrating its 13th birthday in a huge way by officially going free-to-play! Through this brand new membership system (Free, Silver and Gold), players of every type will now be able to play EverQuest in a way that best suits their needs. Former, new and current EQ players will be able to dive into the 18 expansions and countless game updates that have released since its initial launch in 1999.

EverQuest's new free-to-play system will be available to all PC players worldwide, including options for Free, Silver ($5.00 USD) and Gold ($14.99 USD) memberships. A matrix further detailing the three new EQ membership levels is available here:http://everquest.station.sony.com/free/.

For more information about EverQuest, visit: http://everquest.com/everquest.vm.

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ATLUS UNVEILS FULL COLOR, HARDCOVER ART BOOK FOR UPCOMING "GAME OF THRONES" RPG; FREE WITH PRE-ORDERS FOR A LIMITED TIME AT SELECT RETAILERS

ATLUS (Index Digital Media, Inc.), in collaboration with Cyanide Studios, today unveiled a limited pre-order bonus art book for "Game of Thrones™," the upcoming RPG based on the internationally bestselling book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin and the critically acclaimed HBO® television series, Game of Thrones®.

Only available from select retailers while limited supplies last, the "Game of Thrones: Visuals from the RPG" art book stands as one of ATLUS' finest bonuses to date, offering sixty-four full color pages of sketches, renders, photos, and screenshots from the game accompanied by compelling text and commentary from the game's developers. The book will also include rare behind the scenes materials, like a portrait of the development team signed with a special message from author George R. R. Martin himself. The art book--measuring 8.5" wide and 11" tall--is hardbound, meticulously composed, and printed on premium stock, a true labor of love worthy of the series and its fans.

"Game of Thrones" is currently scheduled to release on May 15 for Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, and PC. "Game of Thrones: Visuals from the RPG" will only be available in limited quantities from Amazon (US and Canada), GameStop, EB Games, and the HBO Shop®. For more information, visit http://gameofthrones-thegame.com/. Expect frequent news updates, content additions, and more between now and the game's release!

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Interview with: Ross Brierley, of Laughing Jackal  

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Games: Regular readers may recall that I've mentioned the Fighting Fantasy games a few times, and I'm a really big fan. At the moment there are two titles available for download for PSP on Sony's PSN service: Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death, and Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

(Sadly, these titles are not yet available for PS Vita.)

In any event, for those who aren't familiar with these titles, they are based on a series of books written by the co-founders of Games Workshop back in the 80’s. Although I had never personally seen these books, apparently they’re quite similar in nature to the famous Choose Your Own Adventure novels with an added element of role-playing stats and combat.


As someone who grew up loving the CYOA paperbacks, finding titles to play on my PSP that were essentially the same thing blew my mind -- rather than turning the concepts into a clunky platformer or simplistic action game, the good people at Laughing Jackal translated the books themselves into text-based adventures with short minigames replacing the dice-rolling and combat that real-life readers would have performed.

For people who aren’t afraid of a little text and using their imaginations, it's fantastic stuff. I reached out to Ross Brierley, Community Manager of Laughing Jackal, and he was kind enough to take a few moments out of his day to answer some questions about the Fighting Fantasy games and what Laughing Jackal is doing now.

Here's what he had to say.

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Thanks so much for speaking with me, Ross. To start with, how did the idea of making PSP games based on reading come about?

When Laughing Jackal first started developing its own games, one of the early ideas which was put forward was to do something along the lines of the adventure gamebooks, but on DS. With the two screens and the ability to hold it like a book, it seemed a very good fit. Plus, there was the added benefit of the development being fairly straightforward so we thought that it would be a great starting point to help us find our feet as a developer.

However with the success of our first PlayStation Mini, Cubixx, we decided to concentrate on that platform and we put the gamebook idea on hold. The idea stayed in the forefront of our minds and when the opportunity came to port Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy series to PSN it seemed too great an opportunity to miss.


Now that the games have been out for a while, how has the response been? Have people been confused after purchase, or are the fans mostly those who remember the books?

The reaction so far has been really positive.

Last month Warlock Of Firetop Mountain was the highest user rated Mini on the European PlayStation Store with a mighty rating of 4.76 out of 5. While we’ve had a few reviewers who weren’t so keen on the heavily text based nature of the games, most people seemed to understand what we were trying to achieve and liked how faithful we have been to the original books. We’ve received particularly positive comments in relation to the few innovations that we’ve added such as the new optional combat system and the log book.

The impression I get is that most of the fans of our adaptations enjoyed the original paperback series (like I did) and appreciate how faithful we have been to the books’ gaming system. We also get quite a few comments and messages from people thanking us for introducing them to the world of Fighting Fantasy books which is really very satisfying. We always set out to try and develop the books into console games in such a way as to appeal to new and seasoned gamers alike, and I would say that on the whole we’ve been pretty successful.


Since the Fighting Fantasy games are mostly text and simple drawings aside from the minigames, how many people does it take to create one?

There’s usually a team of 10 of us who work on the adaptations throughout the course of development. Obviously with games from the Fighting Fantasy series, the art and in programming take up the lion’s share of the workload and they’re handled by our artist Jake Cooper and our programmer Paul Carpenter. The rest of us handle everything else in terms of production, submissions, testing and proof reading and so forth.

After devouring both titles available now, I'm desperate for more... are there any plans for additional installments, or what can other Fighting Fantasy PSP fans like myself expect in the future?

We’re currently very busy with several other projects at the moment including a new unannounced PS3 game and a port of one of our more recent Minis to the iPhone but we would like to come back to the series when we get time. We’ve already earmarked Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom as the next book that we’d like to get our teeth into but of course our development plans will depend on the continued sales of Warlock of Firetop Mountain and Talisman of Death which, incidentally we are releasing as a bundle pack on the European PSN Store, which should be available now.

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Infinite thanks to Ross Brierley for taking the time to speak with me, and my most heartfelt appreciation to Laughing Jackal for providing me with an intensely enjoyable trip down memory lane. However, they do more than the Fighting Fantasy titles. Their other titles available on PS3/PSN/PSP include Cubixx HD, OMG-Z, Orbit, and some commissioned work for several titles from the Shin Megami Tensei series in addition to others. Their most recent offering is Hungry Giraffe, a brand-new PS Mini title.


For more information on Laughing Jackal, please click on over to their website, and for more on Hungry Giraffe, you can check out the press release and a link to a video below.

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The Hungry Giraffe roams free throughout PSN (VIDEO)


After the 20th February’s general release of Hungry Giraffe in Europe Laughing Jackal are pleased to be able to announce that the 21sts general release in North America went smoothly and that the Hungry Giraffe now roams the savannah of the PSN Store, freely available to all (not just the PSN+ subscribers!) for only £2.49/€3.49/$3.49.


Of course you’ll still need the skill to keep him fed because believe he is a very Hungry Giraffe. Fortunately for the few of you who have never owned a giraffe before Laughing Jackal have prepared a guide to caring for your giraffe. After all, an unhealthy giraffe is no fun at all.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Coffeecola - Original Formula  

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Welcome back!

Tonight, Coffeecola resumes its normal late-night shenanigans after putting things on hold to run Broken Love. A whole lot of interesting things were popping up during that time, so tonight will be mostly about me clearing out the backlog of stuff I wanted to talk about or link to earlier. Hold tight!

(Also, before I get into it, here's a link to the A Jumps, B Shoots podcast that I was recently on. The topic is New vs Used games, and these guys put together a pretty entertaining show. If that sounds like a good way to spend an hour, check it out.)

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Games: So, the Mass Effect 3 demo. I hesitate to bring it up, but I can't let it pass without making at least a few brief comments.

Wait, WHO are you, again?

First off, I really hope that the game addresses Ashley’s radical make over... if the game hadn’t told me that's who it was, I never would have recognized her, and I don't mean that in a good way. Secondly, female Krogan head coverings? Really? I mean, they're already commoditized in the story, so that little touch felt like a bit too much. Again, I hope that the game covers this aspect in some detail. Third, the combat. The controls felt kludgey to me, and I actually got bored before the demo ended. I sincerely hope that the game doesn't overdo the corridor shooting. After all, there are a million shooters out on the market already and the combat has never been the main reason I enjoyed ME.

As for the multiplayer... it's multiplayer. I am reserving judgment to see how the final implementation shakes down, but it seems as though there are plenty of opportunities for micro transactions and the content that was shown wasn't compelling to me at all. Of course, I'm not much of a multiplayer person to begin with, so I really hope that BioWare’s claim that the campaign doesn't require multiplayer holds true.


After going through both MP and 1P parts of the demo, I think I might have canceled my pre-order if I wasn't already slotted to review. The vibes just don't feel right here, but I feel somewhat obligated since I covered the first two and ME1 is one of my favorite games of all time... I definitely want to see how the trilogy turns out, even if it ends up being a train wreck. Or, it could be awesome. I mean, that is possible. Maybe it's not very likely, but it's still possible.

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Games: What else have I been playing? Driver: San Francisco and Warriors: Legends of Troy. Neither one of these are games that I would have picked up without hearing some positive chatter from other people, but they both have turned out to be winners in my book. I'm cooking up full reviews for both, but in a nutshell:


Driver – It’s the car game for people who don't like cars. It's got an interesting story that mixes fantasy elements with a 70’s cop show theme, there are some unique gameplay mechanics (you can leap out of your own body and into someone else's at will) and the soundtrack is absolutely killer.



Warriors - Basically an interactive retelling of The Iliad and the events of the Trojan War, this title takes the basic Dynasty Warriors formula and slows it down, takes out a lot of the over-the-topness and spends a lot of effort detailing the various personalities and conflicts that occur. The gameplay is fairly static and it encourages grinding for cash to buy upgrades, but putting it on Easy and just plowing through each level is like getting the most interesting history lesson possible.

Also, bonus points for their interpretation of the Amazon warrior Penthesilea, who is quite possibly the strongest character in the game.

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Games: Binary Domain from Sega has demos available on PSN and XBL, and I definitely suggest that you check it out.


A lot will depend on how much variety there is in the missions and environmental design, but I see a great deal of potential here between character customization and team management. The controls also felt quite solid to me, although I did not have a headset available to test out the voice commands. Apparently, players can shout out orders or answer questions from their teammates, but the same function is also accessible via the controller if so desired. If you ask me, there is definitely a "sleeper" feeling to this one… take a look and see what you think.

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Games: A trailer has just been released for Far Cry 3, and you can see it right here. I can't say that I enjoyed FC1 and FC2 was not a favorite of mine either, but I like the premise on display this time around and you never know, the third time could be the charm.

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To round things out, here are a few quick links you might want to take a look at.

@xMattieBrice takes PlayStation: the Official Magazine to task for some transphobic writing. I am quite happy to report that the editorial staff steps up and tries to set things right. Yay!


@TevisThompson has written an incredible essay on Zelda and what's wrong with it. There is no way I can do it justice with a quick summary, so do yourself a favor and click on over.


This link has nothing to do with gaming, but as a parent of two children and someone who is 100% in support of GLBT folks, I found this short story to be very touching and a great example of parents doing it right.


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PR/NEWS/INFO

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Bethesda is pleased to announce that Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition is now available in retail stores across North America.

With the release of the Ultimate Edition Bethesda Softworks presents the definitive edition of Fallout: New Vegas®. This complete package, which includes the full version of Fallout: New Vegas as well as the Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues and Lonesome Road add-on packs, allows you to experience everything that New Vegas has to offer. Each of these four main add-on packs combined ultimately raise the level cap to 50. To sweeten the pot, you’ll be armed with the latest cache of unique weapons, ammo types and recipes from the most recent add-on packs Courier’s Stash and Gun Runners Arsenal.

You’ll find there are more friends – and enemies – to make whether you’re a seasoned explorer of the Mojave, or playing the game for the first time. You’ll be able to explore the Sierra Madre Casino, Zion National Park, Big MT research crater and the treacherous Divide – all of which are now open for exploring. On your journey you’ll discover there are also more consequences to be responsible for, and more opportunities to live in glory – or infamy – throughout the Wasteland. The choices you make will be as influential as ever.

Fallout: New Vegas is rated M for Mature by the ESRB. For more information on Fallout: New Vegas please visit http://fallout.bethsoft.com/.

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We’re pleased to announce that the Skyrim Creation Kit is now available. Along with the Creation Kit, we’ve also released the Skyrim High-Resolution Texture Pack as a free download. Both the Creation Kit and High-Resolution Texture Pack are available free via Steam.

With the Creation Kit’s release, fans can now upload, download, and install custom content through the Skyrim Workshop on Steam making sharing mods easier than ever before. You can access the Skyrim Workshop via mods.elderscrolls.com.

Experience The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as you’ve never seen it before with the Skyrim High-Resolution Texture Pack. Make sure your system requirements exceed Skyrim’s recommended specs before attempting to install, including Windows Vista or 7 operating system, a minimum of 4GB of system RAM, and a DirectX 9.0c compatible NVIDIA or AMD ATI video card with at least 1 GB of RAM and the latest drivers.

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Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack is a side-scrolling PS Vita puzzle platformer about an ornery mutant blob that, after being held captive in a lab that can only be described as something out of a retro sci-fi movie from the early '50's, escapes into the world and sets out on a path to destroy and consume everything! A follow-up to last year's PlayStation®Network title Tales from Space: About a Blob, Mutant Blobs Attack will contain a wide range of exciting new features and gameplay modes designed exclusively for the PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system.

Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack features new levels, new powers, new PlayStation®Vita controls, new gameplay modes, new puzzle solving elements, a new (faster) blob player character, and more.

For more information, visit the official Mutant Blobs Attack blog at http://www.mutantblobsattack.com/, follow the game on Twitter @MutantBlob, and like DrinkBox Studios on Facebook.

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ATLUS ONLINE LAUNCHES OPEN BETA FOR KNIGHTS OF THE SKY, NEW FREE-TO-PLAY BROWSER-BASED MMORTS. Live the fantastical life of a Sky Castle Lord... all within the comfort of your favorite browser!

ATLUS ONLINE, a division of ATLUS dedicated to massively online gaming and entertainment, today launched the Open Beta for their upcoming free browser-based MMORTS, Knights of the Sky, compatible with all major browsers.

Knights of the Sky is ATLUS ONLINE's first browser title, a massively online real-time strategy game offering deep tactical gameplay. With no files to download or install, players can instantly step into the role of a Lord and take charge of a Sky Castle, airships, and territories! Thanks to its real-time resource management, challenging wars, and engaging plotline, Knights of the Sky is sure to please casual and hardcore gamers across the world.

The newly launched Open Beta provides gamers the opportunity to experience the game before the official launch. Their participation will provide developers invaluable feedback to refine and improve the game. Returning Closed Beta players will notice numerous bug fixes and enhancements, along with Quick Battle feature and increased Level Cap.

To register, play, and find more info about Knights of the Sky, visit the official website at http://knightsofthesky.atlusonline.com/.

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Dear Steam Users and Steam Forum Users

We continue our investigation of last year's intrusion with the help of outside security experts. In my last note about this, I described how intruders had accessed our Steam database but we found no evidence that the intruders took information from that database. That is still the case.

Recently we learned that it is probable that the intruders obtained a copy of a backup file with information about Steam transactions between 2004 and 2008. This backup file contained user names, email addresses, encrypted billing addresses and encrypted credit card information. It did not include Steam passwords.

We do not have any evidence that the encrypted credit card numbers or billing addresses have been compromised. However as I said in November it's a good idea to watch your credit card activity and statements. And of course keeping Steam Guard on is a good idea as well.

We are still investigating and working with law enforcement authorities. Some state laws require a more formal notice of this incident so some of you will get that notice, but we wanted to update everyone with this new information now.

Gabe

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Twisted Pixel announces the 3rd in a series of themed challenges for Ms. Splosion Man beginning on Valentines day. The challenge shows up in the opening menu of the main game, but only for the duration of the contest, which runs February 14th - 27th. Twisted Pixel has teamed up with Omaha Steaks for a big meaty challenge sure to make your mouth water.

In this challenge there are 33 panes of glass that taunt you with their fiendish transparentness. Can you find and break them all? Each one missed will add 10 seconds to the finish time, so players need to keep a sharp eye! Since breaking glass doesn’t satiate the need for sploding meats, the fine folks at Omaha Steaks have graciously offered to supply the prize for this challenge. The five (5) fastest U.S. times on the leaderboard by end of day February, 27th will win an Omaha Steak Filet prize pack!

Everyone can play, but U.S. participants are only eligible to win the steaks due to edible goods shipping regulations. For more information on the fine products from Omaha Steaks, please visit www.omahasteaks.com and follow via twitter @OmahaSteaks

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BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND ships to retailers!

Aksys Games, a publisher of interactive entertainment software, is proud to announce that the next installment in the premiere 2-D fighting game series BlazBlue, BlazBlue Continuum Shift EXTEND, ships to retailers today! Now is your chance to grab it as a PlayStation®Vita system launch title, the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system from Sony Computer Entertainment, or the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. Packed with a fully revised character cast, all new modes of gameplay, and new story scenarios, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND will quench your thirst for the power of the Azure. Take your BlazBlue action to the next level with the Limited Edition version for the Xbox 360® or PlayStation®3 system, which includes a special 2012 calendar, 40-page art book, and 17-song soundtrack CD!

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND has been rated ‘T’ for Teen by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). More information about Aksys Games and BlazBlue can be found at http://www.aksysgames.com/.

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Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom ships to retailers!

Aksys Games, a publisher of interactive entertainment software, is proud to announce that the hit Japanese otome game, Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom for the PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system, will be shipped to retailers today. Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom is a visual novel based on the historic Shinsengumi of Japan featuring beautiful art and multiple endings. Grab your PSP® system and get ready for a romantic adventure you’ll never forget. Or for a little extra special magic in your digital relationship, pick up the Limited Edition for a 72-page art book and a CD soundtrack along with the game!

In Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom, a young woman by the name of Chizuru comes to Kyoto in search of her missing father, and soon encounters danger and the Shinsengumi in quick succession. When it becomes clear the Shinsengumi are also searching for her father, Chizuru is put under their protection. But odd things are afoot in Kyoto—possibly even supernatural happenings. Can Chizuru navigate this maze of mortal danger and political intrigue? Amidst so much mystery and death, can she find romance?

Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossomhas been rated ‘M’ for Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). More information about Aksys Games and the Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom can be found at http://www.aksysgames.com/.

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Capcom today shared new information and assets regarding the FINAL FOUR playable characters appearing at launch in the highly-anticipated Street Fighter X Tekken game, available for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in North America on March 6, 2012 and March 9, 2012 in Europe. Without further ado… bringing the final launch line up to an impressive 38 characters… fans can now welcome the addition of Street Fighter’s M. Bison and Akuma as well as Tekken’s Jin and Ogre!

Also announced today, the release date for the PC version of Street Fighter X Tekken has been confirmed for May 11, 2012. More details on the PlayStation Vita version will be shared in the near future.

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EXPERIENCE EXTREME OFF-ROAD RACING WITH MAD RIDERS

Ubisoft® announced that Mad Riders™, an adrenaline-fueled off-road arcade racing game, is coming to Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®Network and PC this spring.

Mad Riders, developed by Techland, will see players performing amazing aerial stunts and racing at breathtaking speeds on over 45 stunning tracks from all over the world. To gain the edge on the competition, players will need to use their Boost skill wisely and take advantage of shortcuts hidden in the tracks.

For players who want to take the experience online, Mad Riders has extensive competitive features and leaderboards, allowing players to test their skills against the rest of the world. Thanks to an intuitive drop-in system, players can compete in three exciting multiplayer modes playable up to 12 players.

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SONY ONLINE ENTERTAINMENT ANNOUNCES FIFTH ANNUAL G.I.R.L. SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

2012 Art Competition Celebrates Women's Advanced Education and Industry Experience within Gaming

Sony Online Entertainment LLC (SOE) today announced that it is now accepting applications and submissions for its 2012 Gamers in Real Life (G.I.R.L.) Game Design Competition. Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the G.I.R.L. Scholarship prides itself as being an active catalyst for inspiring women's involvement in the video game industry, as well as for providing an open gateway for those pursuing careers in the field of creative and applied arts.

Since its inception in 2008, the G.I.R.L. program has granted scholarships to four winners through its annual "Game Design Competition," each of whom has made an impact within the gaming and art industries.

SOE will award one winner of the 2012 G.I.R.L. Game Design Competition with a scholarship in the amount of $10,000 to be applied towards tuition and other educational expenses at the winner's school of enrollment. Winners will also be given the opportunity to participate in a paid internship of up to 10 weeks at SOE's headquarters in San Diego for hands-on experience working on one or more of the company's games.

"The goal of G.I.R.L. has always been of opportunity, education and recruitment to get more women into the gaming industry," said Laura Naviaux, senior vice president of global sales and marketing, Sony Online Entertainment. "Over the last few years, we have been nothing short of impressed with the hundreds of amazing submissions from talented students nationwide. Now in our fifth year, we can't wait to see the creativity that comes out of the G.I.R.L. program."

Submissions for the 2012 G.I.R.L. Game Design Competition will close on March 29, 2012. To apply, applicants must register with Scholarship America®, SOE's scholarship administrator, and submit their application for evaluation, as directed here: https://www.scholarshipamerica.org/gamersinreallife/.

For more information about G.I.R.L., please visit: girl.soe.com. To follow G.I.R.L. on Twitter, go to: https://twitter.com/SOE_GIRL or to join G.I.R.L. on Facebook, go to:http://tinyurl.com/SOE-GIRL.

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He’s a captain. He’s a commander. He’s CAPTAIN COMMANDER, off to save his men (and their orifices) from evil aliens. Brought to you in stunning 2D, Captain Commander’s 8 bit graphics will transport you to the farthest reaches of the universe in Adult Swim’s latest free online flash game produced by Pixeljam.

Take control of the next great galactic military hero - Captain Commander. Blast your way across an alien planet and rescue captured soldiers from an abundance of uncomfortable probing. The Captain is proficient with guns, hand to hand combat, and alien vehicles so there will be plenty of havoc to wreak as you destroy the native population.

Play Captain Commander!

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Broken Love – Adoration of Games That Didn’t Quite Get It Right - Part 4  

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If you’re just joining us now, then welcome.

If you've been following along since part one, welcome back.

Although there are dozens and dozens of games that could have been written up over the course of this series but didn't get mentioned, it's time to bring Broken Love to a close. For now, at least.

Cubivore? Alpha Protocol? Knights Contract? Siren? Don't worry, I'm sure your time will come...

Anyway, it's been a lot of fun and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who contributed. The feedback I've gotten been very positive as well, so clearly there are a lot of players out there who don't mind spending time with something that's a little rough around the edges -- and you know what? It warms my heart. It really does.

Anyway, thanks for reading and you can look forward to Coffeecola resuming its usual brand of late-night chatter with the next update.

…. But for now? One last night of hot, sweaty, slightly uncomfortable and partially awkward love.


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Prisoner of War by Nick Kummert
Twitter - @nkummert
Blogger Extraordinaire

2002's Prisoner of War is clearly low-budget and poorly executed from the second you boot it up. The stiff characters animate like marionettes, dim-witted AI saps all the intrigue out of sneaking around, and the squirrelly camera can lead to a lot of unintentional mishaps. Prisoner of War also fails to portray the horrors of war with its hands-off, Rated-T depiction of punishment in a prison camp, and by turning every Nazi soldier into a cross-eyed buffoon -- but looking past all the flaws, I enjoyed every second of it.


The part of Prisoner of War that really hooked me was the constantly ticking clock.

An early mission required me to grab a key from the guard barracks. I waited until nightfall to make my daring attempt. It wasn't until after I crept across the camp that I realized all the guards were sleeping, making the theft impossible until daybreak.

Another lengthy mission later in the game came undone when I accidentally missed morning roll-call, resulting in a camp-wide search of all the hiding places.

The need to maintain a keen awareness of the schedule at the camp adds suspense (and an extra step of planning) to the proceedings that isn't like any other stealth game.


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Too Human by Joshua O'Neal
Twitter - @joshoneal
Freelance Writer

It took nearly a decade, three console generations, and some “epic” help for gamers to get their hands on Too Human. This flawed gem from developer Silicon Knights was anything but a watershed moment for the developer. I believe this game failed with the core gaming demographic is because of two things: Denis Dyack and combat controlled by the right stick.


Denis Dyack was very outspoken leading up to the release of Too Human. He posted on NeoGaf, beat his chest on the now defunct 1UP Yours podcast, and was turned into the boy who cried wolf. Gamers were tired of hearing Denis rave about his opinions on a “one-console future” and how the gaming press hurts the industry. Instead of becoming a patron for his game, he became a shining example of why some publishers and PR are afraid to let developers become involved with the promotion of a title. At the end of the day Denis Dyack's mouth hurt Silicon Knights and Microsoft Game Studios’ bottom line.

As for the right stick combat? In 2008 fans of the Action-RPG genre were used to button-mashing on consoles. Too Human set out to give players a new way to play. The game was designed so that whichever way you moved the stick, the main character attacked in the same direction.


I felt this was a vast improvement over other games in the genre of the kind that are still being produced today. For example, both Dragon Age 2 and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning use the same old button-mashing. Of course, Too Human’s right stick combat was panned by critics, and by the time Silicon Knights released their next game (X-Men: Destiny) they’d gone back to the same button system every other game in the genre used.

Too Human is one of my favorite games of this generation, and one that I think gamers should revisit. In a world where gamers criticized Dragon Age 2 for being a button-mashing quick-time-event disaster, I believe that Too Human's combat would be a breath of fresh air. Of course, my love of the game still doesn’t excuse the stupid Valkyrie cutscene every time you die...


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Super Smash Brothers Brawl by Giancarlo Saldana
Twitter - @giansaldana
Freelance Writer & Editor, GamingUnwrapped.com

Nothing beats turning on the old Wii and playing a game of Super Smash Bros. Brawl with friends. Despite being critically and commercially successful, Brawl is a game that does a lot of things right, it’s broken in the sense that it tends to irritate gamers out there wanting a balanced and traditional fighting game experience.

Anyone familiar with fighters knows that there are characters that are just stronger than others, and that the community creates tiers based on their performance in tournaments. Of course, there are some players that will tell you to ignore tiers and to play with your favorites. This same community also tends to love using the word “broken” when describing a character, his moves, or the game’s engine that allows certain unfair and unavoidable things during a match.


The object of play is to win rounds by using your attacks to knock your opponents off the stage. The problem with Brawl is that the game’s engine is floaty and gives its aerial characters more of an advantage when recovering. It seems that the developers also overlooked other things such as infinite attacks and combos that can be exploited with ease. For example, Ness, one of my favorite characters, is vulnerable to Marth’s infinite grab that prevents him from escaping no matter how many buttons you mash. Your opponent can easily just grab and hit you until he decides to finish you off with one swift forward attack.

Even if you play the game casually, you will realize some characters are just too overpowered. One of these is Meta Knight, a floaty character that has more pros than cons. Most of his attacks are hard to block, they have disjointed hit-boxes, and have more priority than other moves in the entire game. His unfair advantage has even led to some tournaments banning him altogether. Examples like these have even led players to tweak the game’s code and release their own version of the game with modified presets and physics.


Some play it for fun, others play it for cash, but I play the Smash Bros. games for the nostalgia I experience when hearing its music and revisiting familiar worlds. Having grown up alongside Nintendo, experiencing a playable anthology of its history truly makes up for all its flaws.

Nowadays it seems that no one wants to play this four year-old game anymore; some players can’t take it seriously as a fighting game, and others just don’t use their Wiis that much. Not only that, but the lag during wi-fi matches saps some of the fun away too. Still, I have hope the next game will be just as good as, if not better than, Brawl.

With plans announced to develop a new Smash Bros. game, let’s see if its creator Masahiro Sakurai can make the next one not only fun for all players, but also less frustrating for those who like to treat it as a decent, balanced fighting game.


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Rondo of Swords by Michael A. Cunningham
Twitter: @FinalMacstorm
Editor-in-Chief, RPGamer.com

During 2008, Atlus USA released a flood of small, niche RPGs. Among that flood was a little DS game known as Rondo of Swords. At first glance, Rondo looked like a simple Fire Emblem clone, and many dismissed it as such. Those who were willing to tackle it found a brutal tactical RPG with a very unique combat system.


Drawing the strongest comparison to Fire Emblem are the team-based grid combat and low-res graphics. That’s where the similarities end. The game is turn-based, but in lieu of simply moving a character next to an enemy and attacking, players use the “route maneuver” system. In this system, characters travel along a path that can contain multiple enemies. This could mean having a party member move through and take out an entire group of enemies in a single attack. This method of combat is not without risk, as certain units have an ability called “zone of control” that can stop an attack mid-stream and leave the attacker vulnerable.

Combat options are not limited to the route maneuver system, as there are also characters who can cast spells, use ranged attacks, or perform other special moves. As characters attack or perform other helpful actions, they build up a momentum counter that will boost stats, but also make that character more of a target. There are also no generic filler characters here in terms of gameplay; each offers their own unique style of combat.

Rondo of Swords is light on story, so don’t jump into it expecting a narrative wonder. This one is all about the gameplay, and like I said earlier, it can be brutal. For the few people who actually played Rondo, it would not be a surprise to learn that many rage quit before seeing ending credits. At least one mainstream reviewer openly admitted that the game beat him, instead of the other way around.

Rondo offers no difficulty options; it only offers pain.


As someone who tends to shy away from difficult games, it’s unusual that I not only enjoyed Rondo of Swords, but also finished it. While tough, it avoids a lot of things that tend to annoy some like perma-death. It also allows players to restart a level if things aren’t going well, keeping all experience in the process. Though easy to abuse (especially with certain characters) Rondo is a game that will make you think about your moves or pay the price. It moves beyond the norm and crafts a gameplay experience unlike anything else.

It may lack in graphical quality, have a shallow story, and an awkward interface, but if you’re looking for something different, challenging, and unique you should really consider picking this one up.


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And with that, Broken Love has now come to an end.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for playing.

Now, take this warm washcloth and go clean up.

Oh, and don't forget to leave your money on the table before you leave...
Tips appreciated, and tell a friend.


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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Broken Love – Adoration of Games That Didn’t Quite Get It Right - Part 3  

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If you play games with any regularity, it's inevitable that you'll eventually come across a roughly-made, unbalanced, unpopular, or straight-up broken title that you grow attached to regardless of how low the score on Metacritic drops.

Maybe there’s a certain character that resonates with you, or a unique concept that no other game has captured. Maybe there’s one puzzle that lit your brain on fire, or maybe you adore a unique visual style. Whatever the reason, I'm betting that every gamer out there has at least one of these awkward, ugly ducklings that they hold dear -- and I've invited a group of guest writers to kiss and tell.

Tonight, there is no shame and no judgment. Tonight, there is no regret. Tonight, I invite you to join us in embracing things that may not be worth $60, but hold priceless value in our hearts.

Tonight, we revel in Broken Love…Part 3.


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Folklore by Anne Lee
Twitter - @apricotsushi
Junior Editor, VideoGameWriters.com

It’s a well-known fact that Japanese RPGs have been on their last legs for years now. Ever since we entered the current console generation, Japanese developers have struggled without success to bring us a truly mind-blowing next-gen RPG experience.

Even as a die-hard fan of the genre, I can admit that they’re starting to feel stale – it’s as though Japanese devs are kicking and screaming like an impertinent child at the thought of moving away from the formula that produced so many gems back in the day. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some great new additions in recent memory. Folklore is one such title – an overlooked action RPG that despite its flaws, remains at the top of my favorite JRPGs of this generation.


Folklore received heavily mixed reviews upon its release back in 2007. Though it was praised by many for its dark atmosphere and emphasis on lore, it was hit hard by some for its incessant back-tracking, messy storytelling, and hit-or-miss Sixaxis controls. Though it was never deemed a complete failure (and surprisingly, got more than a couple 9/10’s) there was something about it that doomed it for the bargain bin. Now, five years later, this wholly unique PS3-exclusive has been all but forgotten.

It’s hard to put Folklore under a critical eye and not find a number of glaring flaws, but even for what it does wrong, Folklore exudes charm. Not often do you find a dark (both literal and figurative) JRPG that doesn’t focus on a teenage prettyboy protagonist off to save the world. No, Folklore deals very intimately with themes of death and loss, and even throws some murder mystery into the mix. Aside from that, Folklore’s greatest legacy is in its atmosphere. From its Celtic-inspired score to the foggy town of Doolin and the various Netherworld realms traversed over the course of the game, Folklore has a tight and cohesive vision that utilizes western mythology and locales unlike any other seen in a game coming out of Japan.


The gameplay requires players to capture and utilize the powers of various creatures found throughout the Netherworld, each with its own unique ability and powers that can be leveled up. It’s an intriguing take on the traditional action RPG. I’d also say that never before (or since) have we seen the Sixaxis used in a way that feels so integrated into a game, rather than just being a token add-on.

It breaks my heart that Folklore never saw the sales or recognition that it deserved. Even with its numerous flaws, it remains the most unique JRPG offering of this generation in my eyes. Japanese developers would do well to take a closer look at all the things Folklore did right and expand upon them – if they did, I dare say we’d start seeing some new and intriguing JRPGs at last.


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Killer 7 by Sparky Clarkson
Twitter - @SparkyClarkson
Staff Writer, GameCritics.com

It would be easy to dismiss Killer7 as a game where the style overwhelmed everything else. The gameplay is a bizarre hybrid, fusing first-person shooting with on-rails exploration and some of gaming history’s dumbest puzzles. The intense cel-shading gives certain levels an almost abstract look, and this disorienting quality is only enhanced by the game’s ostentatiously bizarre story and ideas. To reach the end of most levels, the player must pay a bouncer a tooth to enter a nightclub linked to a parking lot linked to the next room of wherever he just was. Also, he must shoot the naked purple people in their weak points before they explode and kill him.


The shooting is done by the Smith syndicate, a group of seven assassins with different talents and weapons who transform into each other by bursting into clouds of blood. This seems quite normal, in comparison to their support staff and enemies. The helpers include a manservant in full bondage gear, a rapist nurse/maid, and several blood-spattered ghosts who seem to be reading a double-babelfish of their dialogue through a voice scrambler lodged in a garden hose. The enemies include a pedophiliac organ-harvester, the entire nation of Japan, and a cult messiah in a space suit.

For a game about assassins, Killer7 has surprisingly miserable combat. It’s genuinely amazing that the same team that made the outstanding, clever boss fights of No More Heroes produced the inscrutable, frustrating encounters that populate Killer7. Most of these fights aren’t even bad in some way that serves a symbolic point; they just seem to have been made by people who had no idea what they were doing. The need to stand still while shooting gives the gameplay some similarities to the contemporaneous Resident Evil 4, but the on-rails movement made Killer7 inflexible and sometimes needlessly difficult, even if it did allow for some neat camera angles.


Despite its flaws, Killer7 bristles with moments that confound and amaze, revealing new layers of meaning each time I play it. Its mechanics at least succeed in getting the player to understand the Smiths, making each one seem real and unique, and the game’s climax is all the more affecting as a result. Killer7 is a work of art that could not have been expressed as effectively in any medium other than the videogame. Although the title is difficult and demanding, any player willing to surmount its barriers will find himself richly rewarded.


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Brink by Kyle MacKinnon
Twitter - @MacKinnon_Kyle
Freelance Writer

"It's complicated" isn't just a Facebook relationship status; it's also the quote I'd put on the back of the box for Brink.


Having bought the game at launch, the full price of $60 initially left a bitter taste in my mouth. The game was broken, and that's a statement made after installing a day-one patch. Maps wouldn't completely load, for instance, and getting kicked out of games was fairly common. There's a litany of other issues, too: terrible AI, a heavy handed tutorial, and weapons that feel like they were pulled from a cereal box all mar any potential enjoyment… Hardly a review that'll have a box quote pulled from it.

Six months after release, Brink clicked. To put that into perspective, that's was in the midst of "Game Flood 2011" - the time when AAA titles hit store shelves with fury. After blazing through shooter after shooter, I stumbled back into Brink one night. The art style alone is refreshing: it's a little Borderlands and a little Gears of War. Aesthetic's one thing and how it plays is another.

Everything Brink offers players is an attempt at making sure goals are met (and not killing everything in sight) is rewarded. Whether that's the "S.M.A.R.T." moving system with an Assassin's Creed flair, ensuring class differences don't revolve around the firepower of weapons, XP incentives or offering multiple objectives, it's obvious Brink isn't your typical shooter. Where Brink really sunk its teeth into me was in requiring teamwork.


In other shooters, a single player can drastically alter the flow of a match. Not so here. Teamwork reigns supreme; trying to go it alone will result in a massacre. Squad versus squad is, for me, far more interesting than constantly attacking. Brink isn't a twitch shooter any more than Call of Duty is an indie game series. Skill and teamwork are rewarded, and unlike its closest relative, Team Fortress 2, there's not a market economy revolving around head-wear. That may turn some off, but, for me, it means play reigns supreme. It's a bona fide game.

Far from the one night stand I had with the latest Battlefield and Call of Duty installments, I keep coming back to Brink after an extended courtship period that’s turned into a nice dinner and a glass of wine in the early evenings. Yes, she's an abusive one: at times, even brutal, but I'm a sucker for a bad romance.


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Pathologic by Mike Dunbar
Twitter - @MikeDunbar

The semi-broken game that holds a place in my heart is Ice-Pick Lodge’s 2005 game Pathologic. It’s a game in which you play as a healer in a turn-of-the-century Russian town that is stricken with a deadly plague. Your job is to find out what’s going on, and cure the illness. The catch – you have twelve days to do it in, and every morning you are given a new person to save and new quests to complete in those 24 hours.


It’s semi-broken as an Englishman because its translation is mess – lyrical and alluring at best, incomprehensible at worst. It’s also because the user interface is a confusing mess and its atmosphere is so dense and muggy that the feeling of bleak drudgery it etches out in the narrative is achieved just a little too well in the gameplay. The graphics (despite brilliant art design) are clunky, and the difficulty will be prohibitive to most players. However, the game offers a redeeming factor to help balance out each one of these flaws.

For instance, the game is a beautiful blend of narrative and ludology. There are hard decisions you must make every day for survival that trump any little-sister moment in Bioshock. For example, will you sell your gun to buy bread today before its value skyrockets the next day and you starve? Will you kill a man to eat? Will you trade razorblades for medicine from a child? Will you dig about in trashcans in full view of people?


The plot is admirable and the execution is just as good – the whole story is presented as a play within a play, with directors and understudies around every corner to explain to you your role in events. The interface is confusing, but the map in particular is the focus of an amazing fourth-wall breaking event late in the game which made all my problems with it dissipate in amazement.

Overall, I’d compare it with something like Twin Peaks at its darkest in terms of the background atmosphere. That’s how dark it is. This game is truly survival horror, with a capital S on survival. I could go on for pages, but I will say only this: buy it, try it, and even if you don’t get as much out of it as I did, it will be a unique experience you will not find anywhere else.


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Part 4 to come!

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