Monday, October 28, 2013

How To Survive, DKCR 3D, Phoenix Wright, Arkham Origins, Wonderfalls and Super Fun Night  

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Games: If you haven’t been paying close attention it’s probably been pretty easy to miss, but I would like todraw your attention to a recent XBLA to release called How To Survive, from EKO Software


In a nutshell, it’s a zombie survival game that takes place on a small chain of islands in the tropics.  It looks a lot like Diablo with a similar top-down perspective, and feels a bit like it, too.  However, the game places quite a bit of emphasis on finding food and water, and also hosts a respectable crafting system which allows players to create different sorts of weapons and armor (which actually show up visibly on the character) from random bits of junk.


I completed it last night and had a blast from start to finish.  The developers have created a very balanced product that feels like exactly the right size for something on XBLA, and there are loads of little nuances and interesting details that show it was created with love.  (Also, I’m a big fan of that ending.)

My review is in the can and should be out soon, but in the meantime, I could easily say that How To Survive is Recommended

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I’m sure this is old news to a lot of people, but I started and finished Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D on 3DS last week, and to my complete surprise, I thought it was magnificent.


I was never a fan of the original DKC on SNES (Admit it! The only thing it had going for it was snazzy graphics!) so I expected something along the same lines here, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Although it follows the same basic formula of a giant ape platforming from left to right, the developer has wisely stripped a lot of the crap out and boiled everything down to a refined, core set of mechanics. Diddy Kong acts as a hover-jump power up, the rhino makes a return in a few levels for some crate-busting action, but otherwise it’s all about mastering timing and jumps in beautifully-designed levels.


It’s pretty rare for me to do, but I actually completed every single level in the game because I enjoyed going through them so much.  There were definitely a few hair-pullers, but overall they struck a great balance between challenging and interesting design, and every level seemed to offer at least one or two things that changed it up.

People tell me that the 3DS version is the way to go since it removes any of the waggle that was required of the console version, so that makes sense to me.  Either way, this one is definitely Recommended.

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Although I’m not very far in either, just a quick mention of both Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies and Batman: Arkham Origins.

The original Phoenix Wright trilogy (and specifically, the first game) are some of my favorite titles of all time, but as the series went on, it was pretty clear that the developers weren't able to keep the high standard of quality that I expected, and I lost interest in the series.  Capcom decided to give it one more shot, though, and so far it seems like they are back on track. 


I’m only in the first case at the moment, but the graphics are super-sharp, the music is great, and the courtroom action has been satisfying.  Of course, a lot depends on how the story develops, but at the moment, I’m feeling hopeful.

I’m also at the very beginning of Arkham Origins…  I just started tonight (for review) and despite a lot of negative talk in reviews and on twitter, I’m liking what I’ve seen so far.  If nothing else it starts off better than Arkham City did, with a more measured pace and fewer things hitting the player all at once.  I’m also really interested with the premise of the Batman being hunted by at least eight different villains who are out to collect a $50,000,000 bounty on his head.


Like Phoenix, a lot will depend on how the game goes, but this beginning feels like it has its pieces in the right place.  That said, I’ve seen quite a few mentions of bugs, and at least two or three different people having problems with corrupted saves causing hours of progress to be wiped out.

Fingers crossed on both of these.

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TV: The wife and I just started a new (old) series called Wonderfalls.  It only ran for two-ish seasons, and the entire series can be picked up at Amazon for something like $18.  For fans of Better Off Ted, Dead Like Me or Pushing Daisies, it’s great stuff… 


The gist is that a slacker girl working in a gift shop near Niagara Falls starts having inanimate objects speak to her, and they give her cryptic clues about people nearby.  If she doesn’t follow their direction, they annoy her incessantly, so she’s often doing their bidding against her will.  The show isn’t nearly as sinister as that sounds, though…  The clues usually lead to someone in need of help, although the path the main character takes getting there is often a circuitous and embarrassing/painful/humiliating.

The writing is sharp and the cast is strong.  I can understand why it didn’t last long on television since it’s pretty quirky and smart, but we’ve been digging it so far.  Recommended.

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Ever since seeing Rebel Wilson in a few recent movies, the wife and I have been fans of her high-energy, high-confidence performances.  There really aren’t that many girls of size in Hollywood, so to see her pop up so often and in such enjoyable roles was a pleasure.  As such, we’ve been tuning into her new network show Super Fun Night, but although it started off with a decent first episode, it’s been more and more disappointing ever since.

Honestly, I think the writers are going in the absolute wrong direction.  Rather than showcasing Wilson as a strong person with self esteem and value, they quickly reverted to a constant string of food-oriented jokes and portraying her as more and more of a loser.

Who's this? Writers with the same old fat tropes and bullshit? No, we don't want any. 

Even worse, I thought it was great that she seemed to have a potential love interest with the main male character of the show, but it quickly died off as he paired up with SFN’s “hot but emotionally empty” girl despite his apparent distaste for her at the start.  I’m guessing from the latest episode that the writers are intending to break that off and eventually have his character hook up with Wilson’s, but it’s pretty lame that he couldn’t be interested in her until after testing out the “hot” one.  I mean, what’s the lesson here?  That men are never interested in bigger girls, or that bigger girls should be content with picking up someone’s sloppy seconds?

The whole thing is just disappointing and frustrating, and it seems like a horrific waste of Wilson’s dynamism.  I’ll still support her as an actress since I think it’s way past time for Hollywood to break its obsession with alarmingly-thin actresses, but I can't really get behind a show like this that seems to be plowing ahead with the same old tropes and stereotypes.




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Capcom, a leading worldwide developer and publisher of video games, today confirmed that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies is available to purchase digitally from today in the Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS™ for $29.99 / €24.99.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies sees the return of courtroom hero Phoenix Wright some eight years since his last appearance in the courts, The much loved gameplay and features from previous titles in the Ace Attorney® series return but for the first time in stunning 3D graphics, bringing the courtroom and characters to life and putting players directly in the heart of the action. Players will need to investigate each crime scene with the dynamic 3D visuals now making it possible to change views and zoom in on areas to uncover any hidden evidence or clues. In the court room the drama continues as players present their evidence, challenge witnesses and begin to unravel the truth behind each of the cases in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney -Dual Destinies.

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Dear opinionated gamer,
 We have upgraded and improved our official forums (with a little help from our Marvelous Online compatriots -- seriously, check out these forums, they're a huge step up!), and welcome you to join (or rejoin) us in discussing all things XSEED (or whatever other gaming or non-gaming topics you fancy!).


 This is a sacred, safe and peaceful place for you to share your thoughts and feelings about your beloved games, where everyone will be respectful and caring about each other's comments... in an ideal world.  Come on, it's a gaming forum! Crazy stuff happens. But we will be sure to do our best to make it as fun a place as possible for everyone.

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505 Games, a global publisher of video games, today announced the availability of How to Survive, a third-person action adventure game that tests players’ ability to stay alive in a world where the outbreak of an unknown virus has turned most of the population into ravenous zombies. How to Survive is available on the Xbox Live online entertainment network for the Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC via Steam by Valve® Corporation.  

 In order to make it through the day and night, gamers must learn to fulfill their most basic needs such as seeking food, water and shelter, as well as finding an incredible variety of items to combine into dozens of handmade tools and weapons - scrap metal, tubes, bolts, fertilizer, tires, harpoons, and empty bottles are just some of the many items scattered about, but how you use them determines whether you wind up dead, alive or undead.

How To Survive is priced at $14.99 for Xbox Live and Steam. A PlayStation® Network version will be available later this fall as will a Wii U™ version via the Nintendo eShop. The game has been rated “M” for Mature by the ESRB. Stay up to date with the latest survival techniques at https://www.facebook.com/HowToSurviveTheGame


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The clouds of war are gathering on PlayStation 3 and PS Vita as super genre mashup CastleStorm is making its way to both systems on November 5, 2013 in North American for $9.99 and November 6, 2013 in Europe for €9.99. The game will be Cross Buy entitled, allowing players to download the game on both systems at no extra charge.

To learn more about CastleStorm and the team behind the game, check out the developer diary on the Zen StudiosYouTube Channel.

CastleStorm is a super genre mashup of 2D physics destruction mashed with tower defense brawler! CastleStormwas born out of the fond childhood memory of building and destroy Lego castles, and currently available on Xbox LIVE® Arcade and Steam for $9.99.

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CONTRAST, the multi-award winning puzzle/platform game for PC, PlayStation®Store and Xbox LIVE® Arcade developed by Compulsion Games, today captivates us with its music through a new video, featuring the sublime voice of Laura Ellis.

Delivering a captivating ambiance of the brilliance of film noir mixed with the tease of burlesque and infusing a sultry jazz soundtrack, CONTRAST enthrals with every plot twist.  A unique game mechanic allows players to shift in and out of the shadow dimension playing light against dark as you make your way through a mysterious adventure. Today’s trailer reveals one of the tracks from the original soundtrack of the game, House on Fire performed by the talented jazz singer Laura Ellis. The lyrics were written by Compulsion Games and the music was composed by the talented audio team from WaveGeneration Audio, all originally scored for CONTRAST.

CONTRAST will be available mid-November, and will be available in two packages: the standard digital edition, and a Collector’s Edition which includes the Original Soundtrack of CONTRAST as well as the CONTRAST “Programme”, a 52-page art book containing the art commented throughout by the development team.


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Rising Star Games has just released Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut: Ultimate Edition across North America on the PlayStation®Network for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system.

 Brewed from the creative mind of Hidetaka "Swery65" Suehiro, Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut: Ultimate Edition is truly deserved of theUltimate branding, containing full game and all of the previously-released downloadable content in one solid package for $29.99!

Included with Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut Ultimate Edition:
Espresso Suit - Tolerance to Hunger and Tiredness x3
Field-Ops Suit - Increase HP and Attack Power x3
High Roller Suit - Money Rewards x3
Happy Songkran Suit - Money Rewards x3
Special-Ops Suit - Increase HP and Attack Power x2 - Tolerance to Hunger and Tiredness x2 - Money Rewards x2
Catgirl Outfit - Character skin only
Friday Night Outfit - Character skin only
The Blue GT - Enhanced Handling
The Devil's Red - Increased max speed and faster acceleration
The Green Drifter - Expert car, drifting capabilities
Chibi Chibi Bang Bang - Vehicle skin only
Greenvale Real Estate - Take up roots, rest, and recover from the comfort of your new home in Greenvale!

Also, While Agent York is seeing "FK" in his cup of coffee, we're seeing "VC:" Visual Companion. Clear as a crisp spring morning. The Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut: The Official Visual Companion is the sweetener to the large cup of coffee that is the Ultimate Edition. The 350+ page, highly-interactive Visual Companion is available now on the App Storefor the Apple iPad.

And like a knife, carving it's way into a plump, orange pumpkin, Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut will carve its way into the hearts of PC gamers when it releases on October 29 on Steam, with new features and additional content over the PS3 release.

For more information on Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut, please visit:www.deadlypremonitionthegame.com. For more information on all RSG titles, please visit the official site: www.risingstargames.com.

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Devolver Digital and developer Mommy’s Best Games announced that the bombastic 2D shooter Serious Sam Double D has been upgraded to Serious Sam Double D XXL on Steam! All the fantastic new content from the Xbox LIVE Arcade hit have made their way to Steam in a free title update to all current owners of the game.

Serious Sam Double D XXL is also on sale this week for $2.50 as part of Steam’s Weeklong Deals promotion. Store Page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/111600

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AbleGamers Charity is thrilled to announce the first annual AbleGamers Day will be held on October 26, 2013. The festivities began on the 25th with the largest online streaming event in AbleGamers history, which leads up to an Accessibility Arcade in Loudoun County, VA.

The Accessibility Arcade is a staple of the AbleGamers community outreach program where our assistive technology experts hold a one-day opportunity for people with disabilities and their loved ones to come out and see all of the various cutting-edge assistive technology available on the market today. Electronic Arts, winner of the 2012 AbleGamers Accessible Mainstream Game of the Year, will be offering copies of games as prizes at the event. “The launch AbleGamers Day will bring great value to the community of gamers with disabilities,” said Kelsey Wesley, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist, EA. “Our hope is that AbleGamers Day will be an ongoing event that raises awareness for many years to come.”

This often life-changing equipment can often be expensive and inaccessible, but during these events everything is available for hands-on demonstration to anyone who has or has a loved one with a disability.

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Midnight City, the recently founded indie label of Majesco Entertainment Company (NASDAQ: COOL), an innovative provider of games for the mass market, is proud to announce Scientifically Proven’s Blood of the Werewolf will be slashing its way onto Steam (PC) on October 28. Classic 2D platforming partnered with a stylistic reimagining of horror’s most iconic creatures and monsters provides an old-school challenge with new-school flair.

 Blood of the Werewolf is rated T and will release on Steam for PC via digital download on October 28, 2013 for $9.99.Blood of the Werewolf is also planned for console release in Q1 2014.

For more on Blood of the Werewolf, please visit our Steam page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/260250   
For more information, please visit our website: www.midnight-city.com
For more on Scientifically Proven, please visit: www.scientificallyproven.com and follow @BotWerewolf for updates.

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Midnight City, the recently founded indie label of Majesco Entertainment Company (NASDAQ: COOL), an innovative provider of games for the mass market, is proud to announce Blue Isle Studios’ Slender: The Arrival is coming to Steam on October 28, just in time for Halloween. The only official Slender Man game, The Arrival puts you in the epicenter of the mystery surrounding the enigmatic internet persona that has captivated and terrorized millions. Slender: The Arrival wraps players in a dark, foreboding atmosphere and a story fraught with terror, paranoia and other-worldly forces. Not for the weak of heart, Slender: The Arrival is also compatible with Oculus Rift, offering a truly heart-pounding and immersive experience.

Written by the creative team behind Marble Hornets, this latest iteration in the Slender Man universe builds on the canon established by the original web-series, with some new twists and extended content. Players take on the role of Laura, an unsuspecting realtor helping her friend Kate sell her scenic property, but things quickly take a turn for the worse when Laura arrives to find Kate missing. Follow the clues and document your experience via camcorder as you unravel the mystery while evading the ominous forces that shadow your every move. The road is long and full of peril – implied, imagined and, of course – real.

Slender: The Arrival is rated T and will release on Steam for PC via digital download on October 28, 2013 for $9.99. Slender: The Arrival is also planned for console release in Q1 2014.

For more on Slender: The Arrival, please visit our Steam page: http://store.steampowred.com/app/252330
For more on Blue Isle Studios, please visit: www.blueislestudios.com
For more information on Midnight City, please visit our website: www.midnight-city.com

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!



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



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 dagersystem.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter @dagersystem.

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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 - http://community.defiance.com/en/2013/10/09/feature-spotlight-dark-matter-arkfalls/. 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: http://youtu.be/-Wyk-hQl_Xw

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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 (www.twitch.tv.com/dsvolition).

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 www.saintsrow.com or our social channels:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/saintsrow
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/saintsrow
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/saintsrow 

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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®

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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!

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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 http://www.IndieVanGameJam.com

ABOUT THE SHOW:
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.

ABOUT US:


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 chad@binarysolo.com & Zeb L. West, Producer zeb@binaryso.com 


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Friday, October 11, 2013

Portland Retro Gaming, The Last Of Us, and Cronos  

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Events: Just this past weekend I made the trip down to Oregon for the Portland Retro Gaming Expo.


I went last year and had a great time not only because it's great to see the old stuff I grew up with, but also because it's family-friendly event, it’s not nearly as crowded as PAX, and the vibe is mellow and relaxed.




If you've never been, it takes place in the Oregon Convention Center, and the floor is roughly divided into two sections. The first is the sales floor when there are all sorts of game-oriented arts and crafts, in addition to all of the vintage stuff that you might be after -- everything including consoles, games, arcade parts, toys and so on. The other half of the hall is the free play area, where there are dozens of home consoles set up for anyone to play, in addition to arcade machines and pinball as well.



It's wonderful to see these classics in action, and it was especially nice to go this year because my youngest (page 4) finally understands pinball and was able to play with a purpose, so seeing him get lost in the flashing lights and clacking flippers was a true high point as a parent.


The event runs well into the night both days, and there are also panels and other events happening at the same time. If you're ever in the area when the PRGE is happening, I definitely recommend it… It's great to get such an intense blast from the past, and it's one of the things I look forward to all year.



See you there in 2014!

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Podcasts: Although the @Gamecritics crew will be recording another formal podcast episode this Friday, we've been experimenting with Google hangout and streaming that to YouTube, and tonight was the first time that we made it available for public viewing. It's rough as hell and a work in progress, but in case you're interested, you can click this link and check it out. It's a good chunk of talk and we had a couple of surprise guests who don't usually make it onto the proper podcast.

In case you weren't watching it live, will definitely be doing it again and will be open for questions and comments while we record.

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Games: Although I've been dabbling with a few things here and there, what I had planned to focus on was The Last of Us from Naughty Dog.

I'm sure that it’s old news by now to many of you reading this, but I didn't have a chance to play it earlier due to other review obligations, and since I'm sure it's going to be brought up in discussions as we get ready to close out 2013, I figured I should probably get around to it.

That was the plan, anyway.

The part I was enjoying.
I got about four hours into it, and although I’m not much of an Uncharted fan, I found myself really enjoying the game.  The story and characters were interesting, the opening scene was amazing, and apart from a few issues here and there, I was glad to go along for the ride.

Then, I got to Bill’s area.

There’s one particular scene where the main characters are being chased, and they need to go inside a room to take cover from enemies.  Every time I got to this point, the game hard-locked my PS3 and I could not continue.  At first I thought it was just a random freeze, so I re-loaded and tried again with the same result.  I tried again, and again, the console locked up.

The part where I got stuck.
At this point I went online to see if anyone else had had a similar problem, and I immediately found several messages on different forums from people complaining about the same issue.  (I hadn’t heard much about this, but apparently plenty of people are having issues with TLOU.) There were some suggestions on how to get the game back on track, and I tried them all – I turned off cloud saving, I tried to make sure that Ellie went into the room first, I started the entire chapter over and made my way back to the same point…  Nothing helped.

I would genuinely like to continue playing the game but it’s just not possible, and I’m not going to start over from the beginning with no guarantee that I won’t get stuck in the exact same place, or in some other place afterward.  I’m calling it quits for now, and I’ll probably started again when it becomes a free game for PS Plus members on the PS4…

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Movies: Finally, just a quick shout out to the movie Cronos from Guillermo Del Toro.

I remember seeing this film at my local video store (in VHS, no less) when it first came out back in 1993 or so, but although I picked it up off of the shelf several times, I never rented it. Now that I'm a fan of his, I only recently remembered that I had never seen it, and quickly made up some popcorn before downloading it from iTunes.

The gist is that an old man finds a device which is capable of providing everlasting life, but course there’s a downside.  Of course there’s more to it than that but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, although I will say that it ended up being something entirely different from what I was expecting.  Still excellent, but very different.

Recommended!


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


BetaDwarf Entertainment, an award-winning independent game studio, today announced it will hold a tournament for its debut title, the co-op action RPG Forced, from October 11 to October 13, 2013. The tournament, co-sponsored by a number of high-profile partners, provides gamers with the early opportunity to win gear and experience the fast-paced multiplayer gameplay that made Forced a hit at this year’s PAX Prime and Gamescom. The game will officially launch on Steam and other popular digital distribution platforms for PC, Mac, and Linux on October 24, 2013. Forced will also see Wii U and next-gen releases in 2014, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launches planned.

To participate in the tournament, simply download the Forced demo from Steam and follow the info here: forcedthegame.com/tournament. Here you will also find more information about the tournament, including exact timing and prizes.
View the tournament trailer here: http://youtu.be/foX4NJQQ3Xc
Learn more about Forced’s unique multiplayer mechanics in the newly released “Spirit Orb” trailer: http://youtu.be/p-C3efKGjJs
Like the game on Facebook: www.facebook.com/forcedthegame
Follow BetaDwarf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BetaDwarf
Watch on YouTube: www.youtube.com/betadwarf

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The 2013 IndieCade named this year’s award winners, including the Grand Jury Award going to Quadrilateral Cowboy, created by Blendo Games. IndieCade recognizes superior examples of story development, visual, technological, audio and all-around independent game titles as well as creators who have greatly contributed to the independent gaming field.

Ten of the winners, including the Grand Jury Award, were announced at the Red Carpet awards show on Thursday, Oct. 3. The Grand Jury Award allows IndieCade’s Distinguished Award Jurors to select a game that they feel deserves a special citation for overall excellence. This could be a game that couldn’t fit into any other category, but the jury each year determines the criteria for assignment of this award. Past recipients could have included Gravitation (2008), Moon Stories (2009), Groping in the Dark (2010), Fez (2011) and Unmanned (2012). This year the jury chose from more than 850 games from six different continents.  On Sunday, Oct. 5 the Game Changer, Audience, Developer and Media Choice Awards were announced at the closing party.

This year’s IndieCade included the debut of two new awards: The Media Choice award, given to the game the most media members selected as their favorite, as well as The Trailblazer Award, given to a relative newcomer who has shaken things up and used games in original as well as innovative ways. 

“Every year IndieCade’s awards recognize a diverse array of titles and some of the brightest developers in indie gaming, increasing awareness for this exceptional craft,” said Stephanie Barish, CEO, IndieCade. “It is an honor to identify these amazing projects and we are proud to provide a platform which helps distinguish these games and their creators.”

The game and developer winners this year are:

         Grand Jury Award: Quadrilateral Cowboy – Blendo Games

         Visuals: Kentucky Route Zero – Cardboard Computer

         Audio: Gone Home – The Fullbright Company

         Impact: Dog Eat Dog – Liwanag Press

         Interaction: Spaceteam – Henry Smith

         Game Design: NIDHOGG – MESSHOF

         Technology: Spin the Bottle: Bumpie’s Party – KnapNok Games & Redgrim

         Story/ World Design: Kentucky Route Zero – Cardboard Computer

         Special Recognition: Porpentine’s Twine Compilation – Porpentine
         The Trailblazers Award: Tracy Fullerton

         Game Changer Award: Anna Anthropy

         Developers Choice Award: Killer Queen Arcade –  Joshua DeBonis & Nikita Mikros

         Audience Choice Award:  Slash Dash –  Nevernaut

         Media Choice Award: TowerFall – Matt Makes Games

For more information, visit http://www.indiecade.com/

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In 1993, a rash of ritual voodoo murders took place in the swamps and back alleys of New Orleans. With local police baffled, only one man was equipped to solve the case: Gabriel Knight, owner of a French Quarter bookstore, struggling novelist, and an unwitting descendent in a long line of shadow-hunting Schattenj√§gers. Armed with little more than a sacred dagger and talisman, his N'awlins drawl, and his own irresistible brand of charm, Gabriel Knightquickly became a gaming sensation when Sierra On-Line released his first adventure, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers®, in December 1993.

Twenty years later, the charismatic Schattenj√§ger is making a welcome comeback thanks to the work of Gabriel Knight® creator Jane Jensen's indie development studio, Pinkerton Road LLC, which licensed the Gabriel Knight IP from Activision Publishing, Inc.. The Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th anniversary edition is planned for a mid-2014 release as a digital download for PC, Mac®, iPad®, and Android™. The game is being reconstructed from scratch with all new retina display quality visuals and voice recording, in a development process overseen by Jensen.

The revamped Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers will feature the same mature storyline and puzzle solving as the 1993 version, with research assistant Grace Nakimura, the inept Detective Mosely, and the local color of New Orleans supporting Gabriel's paranormal investigation. Stunning high-res (2048x1536) 3D graphics will replace the original 640x480 resolution pixel art, presenting the authentic New Orleans environments with more detail than ever before. The remake will also have a remastered soundtrack by Robert Holmes, the game's original composer, and will include special edition content.

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Today CCP released the latest of its promised updates to DUST 514, titled Uprising 1.5. As always, CCP remains committed to improving and tweaking the core game experience of DUST 514 as well as incorporating community feedback.  Uprising 1.5 is the latest installment in the series of these rapid-fire updates.

Uprising 1.5 focuses on new and expanded Corporation Roles as well as a revised New Player Experience and the all-new Squad Finder.  Some of the updates include:

Revised New Player Experience: Initial tutorials have been completely revised, now following a task-driven structure that rewards players for demonstrating proficiency in joining battles, creating fittings and training skills. Rewards are granted in the form of militia dropsuits, vehicles, weapons and modules.

Squad Finder: Squads are designed to help get players grouped up and battling together in DUST 514. The new Squad Finder will list all available squads that are not yet deployed into battle and are waiting on new players to join them.

New Corporation Roles: Corporation CEOs and directors can now distribute specific roles to other members within the corporation. The roles that can be assigned are: Accountant, Personnel Director, Terrestrial Combat Officer and Terrestrial Logistics Officer.

More details can be found in CCP’s Uprising 1.5 dev blogs on the Squad Finder feature, Corporation Roles and the New Player Experience. Full patch notes available here

DUST 514 brings intense infantry combat, large-scale warfare and deep character advancement to the PlayStation 3 in an exclusive free-to-play massively multiplayer shooter. Set in, and integrated with, the massive universe of EVE Online™, players wage war in the next generation of first-person shooters, where a single victory could prove the crushing blow to a galactic empire of thousands of online gamers. For more information, visit www.dust514.com

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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 - http://community.defiance.com/en/2013/10/09/feature-spotlight-dark-matter-arkfalls/. The blog highlights the objectives and provides useful tips, tricks and strategies to surviving and gaining valuable rewards.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Defiance, Mighty Switch Force and Sakura Samurai  

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This weekend is the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. I had a great time last year, and in case you missed it, here's my coverage. I’ll be swinging by sometime this weekend to check out the scene again… If you're in the area, it's worth the drive. 

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The latest Etrian Odyssey game just released, and it's called The Millennium Girl. If you missed my review of it, you can see what I thought of it right here. It's not the best in the series but it's still a great game, and very worthwhile if you're an Etrian fan. 

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So although I completed the review for Defiance a while ago, it's a pretty big game apart from it being an MMO. I didn't have time to complete the campaign when I was submitting the review, but now that I've had a little bit of free time in my schedule, I was eager to get back to it. I'm happy to say that I finally completed the campaign, and that the game is 100% solo-able. In fact, it's maybe a little too solo...

Overall, everything I said in my review still stands and there were no big shifts or revelations later on. I think it's a great game, and it's currently going for something like $10 on the download services, which makes it a pretty incredible value considering how much content is there and that there's no monthly fee.



The action-based gameplay really drew me in, and the fact that you can complete the entire campaign on your own was a huge, huge plus. I definitely saw advantages to being able to meet people in the world and do things cooperatively, but I don't ever want to be tied to that because my game schedule is so erratic. To me, Defiance is the perfect blend of online and off, and I fully expect to see this model continue in future online games. In fact, it's already happening. Based on what I saw with Destiny, it seems to follow the exact same template, albeit with a budget that's probably 10,000 times greater than what Defiance had.



In any event, I absolutely recommend it (especially at the low price it's at now) but there are a few caveats.

The first thing is that it's not a graphical powerhouse. If you're someone who gets hung up on having the best graphics, then this game isn't for you. The user interface is also supremely crappy, and the menus are entirely too complicated and difficult to navigate. Honestly, the whole user interface could use a major overhaul.

Also, although MMO players used to long-long-term grinding may disagree with me, I felt like I was finding way too many common weapons, and very rarely did I find a weapon that was worth using, especially once I had passed the halfway point in the campaign. Some of the rewards given by the story quests were pretty good, but most of the loot that was dropped was worthless after a while, and I would've appreciated finding a better variety of useful stuff. Finding a gun that’s just like what I already have except for two extra bullets in the clip isn’t a great find.

The last criticism I’ll make is on the last boss. The final encounter was incredibly difficult, and I almost quit without finishing before getting lucky after 40 minutes of repeated failure. It's strange that for an MMO, the game makes you play the last fight by yourself, so there are certain builds and equipment types that will be essentially worthless against the brutal final encounter.


This boss doesn't look like much, but he will Mess. You. Up.

For example, I spent most of the game using a stealth/sniper build, and that is absolutely ineffective against a boss who rushes you and can see you even when you’re invisible. Luckily, I was able to respec and had a couple of high-powered submachineguns in my inventory… If not for those, it would've been impossible for me to win, and that would've been a bitter way to end the game which I have otherwise greatly enjoyed.

Overall, I'm glad I put the time into it, I appreciated what it had to offer. My complaints aside, I do recommend people who are generally averse to MMOs (like me) to go check it out… Just make sure you keep enough money to respec and a couple of rapid-fire combat shotguns in your inventory for the final encounter.

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What else have I been playing?

I finally got around to checking out Mighty Switch Force on 3DS. It's made by WayForward, who are both brilliant designers and incredibly flawed designers, so picking up one of their games is always a bit of a risk.




I didn't know a lot about this one beforehand, but it boils down to being an action-platformer with a heavy dose of puzzle elements thrown into it. The main character is some sort of Sci-Fi police agent, and she can shift blocks in the environment back-and-forth between being solid and insubstantial. General gameplay feels solid, with the environments being cleverly spiked with objects that need to be phased in and out in order to progress.

The downside is that little “cannon” blocks which shoot the character across the level are introduced, and the game does not allow the player to freely move the camera around in order to plan a path ahead. When the levels started getting less platformey and more puzzley, I found myself getting massively irritated because sending the character through the cannons requires good timing to connect a string of them in a row. I would often catch the wrong one, or just miss a crucial one entirely, requiring a restart. 




There were also choices about which way to go in the cannons that were difficult to make with the speed at which they need to be made. Being able to pan the camera around and get a good look would have alleviated this problem entirely, and a few of levels were incredibly rage-inducing because of this.

I fully admit I needed to go to YouTube to look up a solution for one particular level that was a huge pain in the ass (level 15) but in general I liked it when it wasn’t pissing me off. I wasn't sure about whether or not I would be up for the sequel (already on the eShop), but I think I'm going to go for it.

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Finally, I just started playing Sakura Samurai, also on the 3DS. I'm pretty early, but It seems worth the cash so far… Essentially it's a very simple, stripped-down project, but it’s satisfying.




The player takes on the role of a young samurai who must rescue the cherry blossom princess. This is done by moving him around the map, and in each location there are a collection of bad guys made up of different warrior classes. Swordsmen, halberdiers, archers, and so on.

Gameplay is mostly dependent on having good timing in order to avoid the incoming arrows and sword attacks. Nothing complicated about it, but it can be a little tricky to get the timing down. Once you get a handle on it, the game starts flowing right along and it's just so cute and focused on doing what it does that it's hard not to like.




I'm hoping that the game is short enough to prevent it from going stale before it ends, because I'm guessing that the mechanics don't get much deeper than what I've already seen, but I do like it and it feels like a good fit for portable hardware.


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