Thursday, November 28, 2013

Merch, Tearaway, Last of Us, Jacob Jones & Sleepy Hollow  


Gifts: I’m going to start things off a little differently tonight with some physical merchandise talk instead of games.  'Tis the season for gift-giving, so maybe a few of you out there will be in a market for stuff of this sort
By the way, the manufacturers of the items below sent me the merchandise free of charge for evaluation purposes, so I got to try these things out at no cost.  It doesn’t change my opinion of them, but I’m putting that out there in the spirit of full disclosure.  Take it as you will.

First up, a pair of “Turnover” sunglasses by Converse.  

Of course, wearing anything on your face will depend heavily on personal taste, but I don’t wear shades very often and these have been great.  They’ve got a little rubberized patch where they sit on the bridge of your nose, and the lenses (although they appear to be on the lighter side) are polarized, so they do a great job of cutting glare and keeping excess light out. Also, if you look at your iPhone wile wearing them, it looks all rainbow-y! Score!

I’ve dropped them a few times, but they show no signs of scratching or damage.  I also let the wife borrow them (she’s a more frequent shades-wearer than I am) and she’s been totally happy.  Not sure what else to say except that they retail for about $35 and that they're available right here.  Thumbs up.

Next, an actual ocarina.

Now, I've got zero musical talent but I have played almost all of the Zelda games, so I guess that counts as some kind of experience.  When I got the offer to review this thing, how can I possibly say no?

Once it arrived and got unpacked, I discovered that it was ceramic, with a very nice finish.  It’s smooth, heavy, and feels well-made.  That said, I’ve been completely paranoid about dropping it, because I’m afraid that it'll end up looking like a cracked coffee mug after one fall too many.  Thankfully, it comes with a glossy cord that can be wrapped around a neck or wrist for safekeeping. 

So how does it play?  Given that I’ve got no skill at this sort of thing, I was able to follow the included instructions (an obtuse musical manual and an accompanying DVD) and started playing some tunes on the first day.  It was pretty rough for sure, but that was more my fault than the instrument's.  With a little bit of practice, I’d be well-equipped to hit the next renaissance faire and feel good about it.

The model shown is going for $60, and they’ve got a number of other styles at different price points right here.


Games: all right, that’s enough merchandise shilling for one night…  Let’s talk about games.

So, PS4. Honestly, I haven’t turned it on since the first day.  

The launch games haven't really grabbed my attention and I’ve got a ton of stuff in the backlog, so once I fooled around with it for a bit, I turned it off and it’s been sitting idle ever since.  I don’t regret the purchase because I’m sure I'll have something to play on it sooner rather than later, but to nothing big to report there.

So if not anything on the PS4, what have I been spending time with?

On the Vita, I’ve been playing Tearaway for review and it is fan-effing-tastic.  I’m no fan of Media Molecule and I was quite skeptical about this one beforehand because let’s face it…  Little Big Planet pretty much sucks.  However, once I got my hands on Tearaway, but I was a quick convert.

It’s a really bizarre, interesting project that has the player (you) in the real world interacting with the character in the game as if you were a god from another dimension.  When the game character needs help, you can “poke” your fingers into the world by touching the rear pad, or you can manipulate moving platforms and such with the main touchscreen. 

Look close, those are fingers bursting through.

There are a million other ways to affect the game, like tilting the Vita, talking into the microphone, and so on. It's incredibly fun, fresh and unique. Love it.

Also, as the name suggests, the world and all its characters are made out of paper, so everything folds, pops, and rips the way they might if they were physically constructed in the real world – and as an added bonus, the devs included downloadable instructions to actually make your own characters and objects from the game – here’s mine above.

Apart from that, I finally completed The Last Of Us, and man, I’m glad I was able to get past the progress-halting bug that hit me earlier. Although I’ve never been an Uncharted fan and I wasn’t expecting much from this one, it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve played all year.

To begin with, the writing is outstanding.  The characters (all of them) are so incredibly well-written, and the game knows when to say something and when to show it.  The bits of dialogue that occur feel natural and not forced, and it’s quite easy to identify with, or at least to understand what these characters are feeling and where they’re coming from.

On the other hand, the combat seems to have escaped identification for some people. I’ve been listening to a lot of older podcasts now that I’m not afraid of spoilers anymore, and a common theme is that many expected full-on stealth play and were disappointed and/or frustrated when they didn’t get it.

I guess I’m not quite sure why people expected standard stealth, really.  Naughty Dog has never made a stealth game, and their historical focus has been on cinematic action.  

Going further, although the trailers show the characters hiding behind couches or around corners, I’ve never seen anything to suggest that the game should be received as a pure stealth title.  If anything, I see it as a hybrid – kind of a “hide until you can’t hide anymore, and then fight your way out” sort of crossbreed.

One particular podcast I listen to (Sorry, not going to name names here…  not trying to start an internet war) expressed displeasure that there was a certain level of randomness to the enemy AI, and that there weren’t clear visual indicators (like red arrows, etc.) when the player's characters were spotted.  So... it's slightly less gamey and artificial?

They also said that the “super listening” wasn’t a good feature since it wasn’t specific enough, and did not give definitive information to illustrate enemy states.  I respect the person who was saying this, but I think they were pretty far off the mark. From my perspective, the game only supports stealth in small bursts, and it should be expected that combat is likely to occur at any point if the player get spotted, or if the player reaches a certain choke point where enemies are stationed. 

This brings me to another point, actually…  On a different podcast, I heard someone complaining that they weren’t able to “ghost” their way through the entire game.  Again, I’m not sure why that’s even a problem, since I never got the sense that this game was meant to be a no-kill, no-conflict experience.  If anything, that person should have realized that the characters are a man and a girl, and neither one are professional operatives or ninjas. As such, it seems unrealistic to think that they would be able to sneak halfway across the country without being spotted or without getting into a fight.

Despite being a game, I think TLOU takes a fairly realistic tone at times, and it’s just a fact of life that certain things are out of a person’s control.  It’s not a “unfair” that there may be certain enemies stationed near an exit…  they're just there.  It seems perfectly acceptable to me for the developers to sometimes say that the AI might be a bit random, or to tell the player “Sorry, but there’s just no way of getting through here without a fight”.

In any event, I certainly thought that some parts were tougher than others and a little tweaking here and there would've been good, but in general, I quite enjoyed both the combat and the narrative in The Last Of Us, and would have no problem recommending it to someone who was after a gritty, emotional experience as long as they weren’t expecting a pure stealth game.  You can expect to see this one on my year-end list of 2013's best.

Finally, the last thing getting my time these days is Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery on Vita. 

 I haven’t put much time into it, (just started this morning) but really liking it so far.  It plays a lot like Professor Layton, only with fewer puzzles and it looks like something that Double Fine would put out…  Kind of cartoony, a kind of quirky.  A little bit dark, maybe?  I’ll have more to say on this one later, but so far it’s keeping my attention.


TV: the wife and I just started watching Sleepy Hollow on Fox, and we buzzed through the first six episodes over the last couple of days.  I wasn’t sure what to think of it from the trailers, but once we started we were hooked immediately.

Although most people are at least vaguely familiar with the story of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, the writers on the show have taken great license with it, an expanded that story and the surrounding mythology greatly. 

In a nutshell, the story starts during the revolutionary war. The British are in league with the forces of evil (literal demons) and the Americans are resisting their attempts to hold the Colonies. At one point, the British summon Death (as in, the pale rider of the four horsemen of the apocalypse) and it embodies itself as a German mercenary.  Main character Ichabod Crane manages to behead it in battle, but falls himself.

200 years later, both Crane and Death are resurrected in modern times to continue the battle. If Crane wins, humanity survives. If the Horseman wins, it's the end times. 

It sounds a little complicated, but the writers do a good job of adding layers as they go, and although it may sound a little cheesy, it actually works pretty well.  There’s a bit of humor to the show, but there are plenty of dark moments and it’s interesting to see these various familiar pieces reworked into a brand-new mythology.

Also, zero romantic tension... Which is COOL. 
The other thing that’s really attracted us to the show is how diverse and female-positive it is.  Out of the four main characters, three are black and two are women.  Even better, those two women are quite strong and independent, easily capable of taking care of things on their own, and they often do so.  I think the show easily passes the Bechdel test, and although Crane is played by a white guy, other supporting characters are Latino or Asian and it doesn’t seem strange or forced at all.  I love this cast and the way the show puts this group of people together as the status quo.

All that stuff aside though, Sleepy Hollow is a fun, supernatural romp that strikes a good balance between horror, strong characters, and short bursts of comedy.  Recommended.


Tic Tactics Launch Trailer:


AquaPazza is finally available in North America, so seize the chance to fight and become a champion! And what's better than being a champion? Nothing. Literally, nothing is better. So be a winner and check out the launch trailer for AquaPazza! 

 Don't be fooled by the cute outfits and colorful hairstyles; the characters are skilled in a variety of deadly combat styles that you can use to kick some serious butt. (But when in doubt always sweep the leg.) 
Moreover, the Japanese voice track is left completely intact, so you can hear your opponents scream of pain in their original combat voices! AquaPazza is available now for the PlayStation 3 at the budget price of $29.99.

Check out the official website for move lists, character bios, and more!  


HOLD IT! The additional case ‘Turnabout Reclaimed’ for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies on the Nintendo 3DS system is available to download today. The extra episode will cost $5.99 / €4.99 / £3.99 and can be purchased directly from the in-game menu.

To provide an inside look into the swash-buckling shenanigans, Capcom has released a trailer that can be downloaded now from here. You’ll meet new client and pirate Sasha Buckler, who wants the Wright Anything team to help defend her friend on a murder charge. She takes Phoenix to the scene of the crime, the Shipshape Aquarium, to meet the defendant… a killer whale?!?

‘Turnabout Reclaimed’ is a full-length episode that tells the story of the first case Phoenix Wright took on after reclaiming his Attorney’s badge. Unravel the truth using all investigation techniques from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, including the Mood Matrix and Psyche-Lock. Series favorite character Pearl Fey returns to assist the team as they face off against the mysterious prosecutor Simon Blackquill.

For all of the latest assets and game information, visit the Capcom press site. The full game of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is available to download now for the Nintendo 3DS system in the Nintendo eShop for $29.99 / €24.99.


With donations still coming in for Operation Supply Drop's annual fundraising campaign to get video games to the troops for Veterans Day, the 8-Bit Salute, the military gaming charity crushed last year's paltry $58,000 in games and gear raised by over five times with the grand total of the time of this posting of $282,721. The donations will be sent out as a part of Operation Supply Drop's end-of-the-year 8-Bit Salute fundraising drive to build video game stuffed care packages for soldiers deployed to combat zones and recovering in military hospitals.

The major donors for this year's event include a staggering donation from Popcap Games of over $100,000 of t-shirts and codes for their titles, GameStop donating over $40,000 in Playstation 3 bundles and console titles, Zombie Studios for donating $25,000 of in game currency for their free-to-play smash hit Blacklight: Retribution,Hidden Path Entertainment for donating $20,000 of Steam codes for their titleDefense Grid: The Awakening, and Intel donating over $20,000 of their handbuilt form-factor PC "NUC" units...with one major donation still being totaled as we speak!

For more information about how you or your organization can help get video games to the men and women of the Armed Forces, please visit


Persona 4 Arena: Official Design Works Featuring the art of Shigenori Soejima!

Fight and survive, heading towards the one throne waiting at the end in Persona 4 Arena! The fighting game spin-off to the legendary Persona 4 RPG is an instant classic! Now this spectacular art book collects the artwork behind the landmark title, including character designs, rough sketches, storyboards and pinups. All this plus character profiles, story summaries, creator interviews and more!

Now Available
Price: $39.99
ISBN: 1-926778-81-2
ISBN-13: 978-1-926778-81-5
Format: Softcover
Page Count: 176 Pages, Colour
Size: 8.25" x 11.75"
©Index Corporation 1996,2011 Produced by ATLUS

Order Now At!


Hey there, amnesiac adventurers!

We are delighted to announce today that our action RPG title, Ys: Memories of Celceta, has launched exclusively on the PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system.
The timeless and much beloved Ys series spanning quarter-century-old Ys series brings together a special celebratory package for its fans with the Ys: Memories of Celceta Silver Anniversary Edition.
This Limited Edition release contains a 3-CD collection of original and arranged music spanning the entire history of the franchise, a cloth map detailing the lands of Celceta, a logo- emblazoned compass, and 'Adol's Travel Journal' containing 130 pages of adventuring strategies and artwork, all within an exclusive commemorative package.

The standard edition of Ys: Memories of Celceta is available for a suggested retail price of $39.99, and the Ys: Memories of Celceta Silver Anniversary Edition is available for a suggested retail price of $59.99. The game is also available for purchase as a digital download from the PlayStation®Store for $39.99.


To celebrate our latest Ys family launch, all 3 of our previously-released Ys titles on PSP (Ys SEVEN, Ys: Oath in Felghana, Ys I&II Chronicles) are now 50% off on North American PSN for the next two weeks, ending 12/10!


Take to the Skies! Air Conflicts: Vietnam Is Out Today for PC, Xbox 360® and PlayStation®3 Are you ready to enter the cockpit and throw yourself into battle across the deadly skies of Vietnam? Well it’s time to do your duty, asAir Conflicts: Vietnam launches today for retail in North America and Canada. Experience the explosive conflict of Vietnam by piloting incredible fighter jets and helicopters, destroying enemy artillery and guiding your squadron to victory.

View the trailers below for a look at the fearsome combat aircraft you’ll encounter in the game and see how they tear up the skies in action-packed flight combat.

Air Conflicts: Vietnam is out today for PC, the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system.

Download the ‘Aircraft Showcase #1’ trailer for Air Conflicts: Vietnam here
Or view it on YouTube here
Download the ‘Aircraft Trailer #2 - F4 Phantom’ here
Or view it on YouTube here


CastleStorm DLC Now Available on PlayStation 3 and PS Vita

From Outcast to Savior and The Warrior Queen DLC are now available for download as Cross Buy content for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita in North America and Europe ($2.99, €2.99).

From Outcast to Savior features a brand new Royal Guard faction, new environments, an unlikely Hero, 20 new battles, new weapons, Skirmish & Survival levels and new trophies! Lead your army into battle across stunning new environments including Stonecrest, The Royal Airport, The Skyship Harbor and the Bladgard Icefields in your quest to capture the mighty Viking warrior, Chief Ramhorn.

The Warrior Queen reveals a new Viking Elite troop class, plus huge additions to the arsenal of weapons available for the destruction of your enemy’s castles. We’re not joking around here: Meteor Showers, Exploding Barrels, Stormbringers, Golem Hostages, and FROZEN SWORDFISH. Throw in 20 new battles and new trophies and you have an excellent addition to your favorite super 2D physics destruction tower defense brawler mashup.


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