Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pikmin 3, Army of Two, Mario 3D Land, Castles in the Sky & Tinman Games  


Links: In case you missed 'em, I just had a couple of fresh reviews go up. The first was for The Wolf Among Us: Ep. 1 - Faith, hot off the press from @TelltaleGames. The other was for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified from 2K Marin. Spoiler: I loved both.


Games: Anyway, 2013 is a strange year.  It’s now October, and ordinarily I’d be up to my neck in review games at this time, but I’m actually drifting between assignments with nothing really due…  I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, though, so I decided to jump into a few things that have been lingering on the backlog.

During the day, I’m playing Pikmin 3.  

My 4yo absolutely loves it, so he made me swear to not play it unless he was around to watch.  Given how little free time I have during the day, it’ll probably take me six months to finish, but he’s absolutely into being my hands-off co-pilot, so how can I say no to that?

As far as the game itself goes, the graphics are absolutely beautiful and the general design makes a return to the template that was established in the first Pikmin.  It was a wise move, since I’ve always felt the first was superior to the second, and that feeling is now validated.

However, it’s not all peachy-keen…  In a bizarre twist, the developers have ensured that every possible Nintendo peripheral is compatible with the game -- maybe even the WiiFit Balance Board -- and by doing so, the result is that none of the potential setups are satisfactory. 

Using the Nunchuk and Wiimote is the most accurate and natural, but the map and a few other functions are still tied to the touch pad.  This seems to be the “optimal” control scheme, but it means that I’ve got a piece of equipment in each hand while balancing the touchpad in my lap.  Using only the touchpad isn’t good either, because it feels clunky and isn’t as precise as using a Wiimote.  It’s possible to use a Classic controller, to bet that still leaves the problem of needing to use the touchpad, and the only option left is to try the off-screen play on the pad itself. I know that @Gamecritics host to @Shoinan recommends it, but I haven’t tried it yet because it makes it too difficult for my son to see what’s going on.

Frankly, I wish the developers had put their entire focus on the touchpad and made sure that it worked more efficiently than it does.  It’s certainly the most streamlined and simple solution, and it’s a real pain to have to keep all of the old Wii peripherals around.  In every respect except the controls I’m quite satisfied with Pikmin 3, but the clunkiness of these controls is pretty inexcusable.

So, since I’m only playing Pikmin 3 during my son’s waking hours, the wife and I decided to finally start Army of Two: The 40th Day on 360 for our ‘quality time’.

Neither of us are huge shooter fans, but we enjoyed the first game as a co-op experience back in the day, and something on the lighter side after we’ve put the little one to bed is not unwelcome.  It’s also appealing in that you can play the entire campaign cooperatively, and there is a definitive endpoint.

We’re fairly early on right now, only two or three chapters in, but it’s been pretty much what we expected so far, and I don’t say that as a bad thing.  The co-op mechanics are pretty solid (one distracts while the other flanks) there are lots of little interesting diversions sprinkled throughout the levels (can you save all the hostages?  Can you kill all the guards without being detected?) and I have to be honest -- I love that the developers included the option to give a high five or a hug after an intense firefight, and stopping for a minute to play rock-paper-scissors when the mood strikes is even in there, too.

The audio is crap, it’s missing subtitles and some other really obvious options, and it’s pretty much nonstop shooting in general, but it delivers on its premise and in this particular situation that’s good enough for us.


Portable-wise, I started Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS.  Anyone who listens to the @Gamecritics podcast will know that I don’t give Nintendo very much slack and that I’m really, really sick of how relentlessly they keep coming back to the same franchises over and over again, but I’ve got to give them credit… 3D Land is a pretty great game. To be fair, I was absolutely not interested in the recent NSMB games, so I think I was a little justified in ignoring this one at first, but I’m glad I gave it a chance.

The gist of it is that it’s been expressly designed to take advantage of the 3D function of the 3DS, and the level designs are very reminiscent of SM64, or to some of the simpler areas in Galaxy.  The developers play with depth and with vertical space quite a bit, and many of the areas feel like they’re trying out new ideas.  In general, there’s a very strong feeling of playfulness, or of renewed energy from the designers; it’s as if they remembered what made these games so great in the first place and are getting back to it.

I would definitely recommend it to any 3DS owner, to including people (like me) who were a bit tired of Mario, or people (also like me) who never use the 3D function.  The vibe of the game is great, and it’s totally enjoyable with the 3D fully turned off.


Indie-wise, I recently played through Castles in the Sky, from brand-new development studio The Tall Trees.  I hesitate to call it a game although I’m certainly not about to get into that particular debate… That said, I do think it’s more accurate to describe it as something of an interactive poem, or bedtime story.

The whole thing takes about 10 minutes or so to get through, and the player is mostly reading text as they navigate a cute little character up through the sky, bouncing from cloud to cloud.  I think it’s probably ideal for playing with a young one as they sit on a parent’s lap, and I appreciate the inherent charm it has.

Although there are a few things about it that I think need some polish, it’s a nice first effort from these guys and they’re only asking $1.50, not to mention that comes with a soundtrack and some wallpapers.  I don’t regret the time I spent with it, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.


Also, just a quick shout-out to @TinManGames.  I have very few reasons to play games on my iPhone these days, but the titles put out by this studio are some of my favorites, and I pick up every single thing they do.

Essentially, their games are interactive Choose-Your-Own-Adventure titles that take place in different settings…  Fantasy, scifi and horror, of course, but they’ve also teamed up with Ian Livingstone to do a couple of Fighting Fantasy titles, and there’s even a Judge Dredd iteration – and that one is fantastic, by the way.

At last count they had something like 17 different titles available on the app store, so there’s definitely something for everyone.  Their production values are great, too.  I’ve got nothing but good to say about these, and I’ve got a permanent folder on my phone reserved just for them.  The next time you find yourself without a 3DS or Vita and you’ve got a few minutes to kill, give PvZ2 a rest and try one of these…  You won’t be disappointed.

Finally, here’s a link to a video created by RandomRob, a long-time reader of @Gamecritics and generally swell guy.  Like me, he’s also a Lost Planet 3 fan, and he’s done a great job of explaining why it appeals so strongly to a certain type of gamer. If you’re still on the fence, check it out!


DAGERS has turned to the voice of one of PC gaming’s most beloved characters to liven up its entry into Intuit’s Small Business Big Game contest. The contest, which runs until December, called on small business owners to submit a 90-second video describing what they do.

Josh Straub, editor-in-chief at DAGERS, enlisted voice actor Robert Clotworthy to be his voiceover stand-in. Straub has a speech impediment due to cerebral palsy. Clotworthy is most notable for his work on the StarCraft series as the voice of Terran Rebel leader Jim Raynor.

Now that the video has been posted, DAGERS needs votes to get into round three. That round takes the top twenty entries and lets fans vote again for the grand prize winner. Straub added, “I hope gamers around the world will appreciate the video’s message and share it with everyone they can. Whether or not we win, the message of DAGERS is important, and needs to be spread.”

The contest’s grand prize is a 30-second television ad underwritten by Intuit to appear during Super Bowl XLVIII.

View DAGERS’s full entry, including the video, here:
DAGERS, based in Plymouth, Minnesota, is the Web’s number one source for game accessibility information. We provide up-to-the-minute reviews, previews, editorials, and news stories focused on game accessibility. DAGERS was founded in 2011 by Editor-in-Chief, Josh Straub. Visit us on the Web at or find us on Facebook or Twitter @dagersystem.


Dark Matter Arkfalls, launched alongside the Castithan Charge Pack DLC are an entirely new breed of Minor and Major arkfalls in Defiance that are raining down across the Bay Area. Each event puts the player in an incredibly tense and exciting situation where players must race against time to defeat increasingly difficult waves of Dark Matter soldiers, destroy arkfall cores, and in the Major "Extraction Force" battle - take revenge on The Monolith itself.

The Defiance team has included a detailed spotlight on Dark Matter arkfalls here - The blog highlights the objectives and provides useful tips, tricks and strategies to surviving and gaining valuable rewards.
Here’s some YouTube coverage as well - Trailer:


Fans of Saints Row IV can soon indulge themselves in some appropriately freaky stuff as the long awaited  Enter the Dominatrix DLC will be available this month on October 22 from Deep Silver. Favored pets-  er-  fans who have purchased the Saints Row IV Season Pass will automatically receive Enter the Dominatrix. For players wishing to purchase the DLC standalone, they are able to do so for $6.99.

The second half of the Saints Row IV season pass and final mission pack, How the Saints Saved Christmas, will be released later this year.

Fans will also have the opportunity to ask the developers questions during a three-hour livestream playthrough of Enter the Dominatrix on October 23 starting at 1pm Central Time on Volition’s twitch channel (

About Enter the Dominatrix 

The canceled Saints Row the Third expansion sees new life as the first DLC mission pack for Saints Row IV. In this alternate take on the Zin invasion storyline, Zinyak and the legions of his alien empire trap the Saints in a virtual world run by a mad AI program known as the Dominatrix. In order to thwart her nefarious schemes and escape to the real world, the Saints will have to counter her army of gimps and sex-workers, shut down her demented simulation, and make unlikely allies along the way. Includes behind-the-scenes commentary and the return of some fan-favorite characters.

For more information about Saints Row, please visit or our social channels:



Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. announced Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Collection will be available in the North and South America on November 5, 2013 for the PlayStation®3 and Xbox360®.

Set to end with the release of the final chapter of the heroic Dracula trilogy in February 2014, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Collection immerses gamers in Lords of Shadow lore and boasts over 40 hours of award-winning gameplay.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Collection comprises:

•       Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Users guide Gabriel Belmont, a holy knight charged with protecting innocents from the malevolent Lords of Shadow, as his murdered wife's spirit guides him to his ultimate destiny. Included with the first chapter are the 'Reverie' and 'Resurrection' DLC chapters.

•       Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate HD - The second chapter of the series continues the story 26 years after the events of the original Lords of Shadow, as Gabriel's descendants confront their destiny.

•       Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Demo – Whetting appetites for February's epic conclusion, players also have their first chance to play as Dracula in the epic Lords of Shadow finale, via this exclusive demo.

The compilation features the original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and available via voucher code will be Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate HD and the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 demo, as well as both the Reverie and Resurrection DLC packs.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Collection will be available on November 5, 2013 for $39.99 for PlayStation®3 and Xbox 360®


NIS America is thrilled to announce that the newest installment of the fan-favorite strategy RPG series, Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness, is now available for purchase across North America on PSN and at retail stores. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nippon Ichi Software and 10th anniversary of the Disgaea series, Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darknessbrings back the popular trio from the first game: Laharl, Etna, and Flonne! With a completely new storyline, it offers game system refinements that will entice new players, while still offering the same kind of hardcore, over-the-top, endless gameplay that is sure to please longtime fans! Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness will also feature various DLC to keep players entertained for even more sleepless nights this fall!


Austin-based indie video game developer Binary Solo will launch the Indie Van Game Jam Kickstarter on October 7th, 2013 for a 30 day funding campaign attempting to raise $46,000 to film an 8-episode web series about the Indie Game Scene in North America. Funders can access the Kickstarter campaign at

Picture Man vs. Food meets Indie Game: The Movie. Indie Van Game Jam is a documentary web series about the studios, games and personalities of developers who have turned away from the corporate publishing system and struck out on their own to create the games they love. Each episode is a travelogue where Zeb West and Chad Stewart from Binary Solo choose an indie developer and set off in their Indie Van to pose a question to them about game development. Now for the twist: along the way, they attempt to answer the question themselves through a ‘game jam’, which tries to literally create a video game in the car that answers that question. When Zeb and Chad arrive at the indie studio, they will show the tragic or triumphant results of the van-made game to the developers for judgement. Along with the episode, the results of the game jam will be available online as a $0.99 or free download. The all-star line-up of indie developers includes Austin’s Stoic Games, Boston’s Indie Game Collective and many more.


Binary Solo was founded by Chad Stewart and Zeb West in Austin, Texas in 2013 to create compelling, story-driven games, and to celebrate and explore the vibrant scene of independent game development. Chad is programming and president, Zeb is production and design. They also act as the faces and personalities of the Indie Van Game Jam. For more information, photographs or interviews please contact: Chad Stewart, President & Zeb L. West, Producer 


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