Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fifteen minutes of pure Hitman gameplay.

As a long-time fan of the Hitman titles, I'm really digging what Io is laying down with this Winter's digital entry.  Little tweaks to the HUD look helpful, and the simple fact that we're told you'll be able to customize your loadout before going in to a mission is (to me) a huge step up over Absolution, where the game's narrative constrained you to certain items no matter what you'd been holding in a previous scene.

Once upon a time, Hitman: Codename 47 was one of the most mind-bogglingly gorgeous games on the market. Those days are gone, but at least they've still got style.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Nine minutes of Below gameplay from PAX.

Bastion for Vita coming this year.

This is... really damned nice to hear.  It has been a helluva week at my house - profoundly stressful to the degree of emotional trauma - and this is just... really nice.

Lately it's seemed like the Vita is kind of being abandoned by even the delicious western Indies that have made it so appetizing for the past year, so this... is really nice to hear.

Gameplay from Blezzinski's Lawbreakers.

Hm.  A multiplayer shooter with tons of verticality and zany character designs.  How um... fresh and...

Yeah I can't even.

MGSV: The Conspiracy Pain.

This is hilarious.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hm. Volgarr the Viking looks... frickin' awesome.


Turns out Volgarr the Viking was announced for PS4 and Vita a long time ago.  I'm just hearing about it today because they announced a 3DS port and Destructoid reported it.

That is a great trailer.  It shows how brutally punishing the game is - one hit kills, and there are countless ways to screw up.  For most of the trailer, one wonders why the heck they would subject themselves to this... and then, at exactly the one-minute mark, it shows a player who has seen all the horrible things and deaths we just saw, and perfectly overcomes them with gorgeous sixteen-bit grace.

Yep.  Yep, I'd get into that. The game's been out on Steam since 2013, and has received a lot of praise.

Double Fine announces Headlander.

No platforms announced yet.  Metroidvania.
"Headlander is a a retro-futuristic, side scrolling, action-adventure game set in a world inspired by 70’s science fiction. It is a world of automation, a utopia gone wrong in which all of humanity have transferred their minds into robotic imposter bodies and are ruled by a deranged computer.

You are the last known human in the universe, and all that's left of you is a disembodied head. Seeking clues to your fractured past, you must travel through a hostile world of machines, using a special helmet that allows you to dock into and take control of any robotic host body. As you launch from one body to the next, you'll start to discover that things are not quite what they appear to be, and the fate of humanity has yet to be decided..."
IGN's got a few deets.  Also, is it weird to anyone else that Adult Swim is a bona fide video game publisher, now?  This is the second interesting thing I've seen with their stamp on it in like two days.  S'like they're trying to be the next Devolver.

Good luck with that.

Mercenary Kings "still planned for Vita, no ETA."

Well that's really nice to hear.*

*this was not sarcasm.  It is really nice to hear.  I'll play the crap out of that on Vita. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fuck you, 17-Bit.

I love Galak-Z.  Love it.  It's one of - if not the - best games of the year, and it was supposed to come to Vita, which would have pretty much made it the game of the Year.  But then, a week before its launch, they said nope.  No, the Vita version isn't happening.

Now, two weeks after the launch, they announce...

To which I can only reply

Ohmigosh a new Hyper Light Drifter trailer!

After today's Galak-Z news, I really needed this.  Spring 2016!  Yay.  Let's hope it... y'know... actually comes to Vita.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Super Time Force Ultra drops September 1st on PlayStation.

Shuhei Yoshida fights with the power of endlessly positive tweets and emoji.

Earlier today, when the September PS+ lineup was announced on the PlayStation Blog, Super Time Force Ultra was only listed for PS4.  Naturally, my heart sank.

Super Time Force Ultra, or STFU, is yet another of Capybara Games' critically-acclaimed titles (they made Critter Crunch, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and the upcoming Xbox One adventure Below), which sees you blasting your way you (gorgeous) 2D levels.  When you die, you go back in time and begin playing as a new character who fights alongside the previous, doomed hero - who does exactly what you did, when you played and died - and so on and so on until there are a half-dozen "yous" blasting the crap out of baddies and bosses together.  Sort of like single-player co-op.

The PlayStation version brings in three new characters - Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, Sir Galahad from The Order: 1886 and the nameless traveler from Journey - but those are just kinda' perks.  This is one of those games I was super-pleased to hear was coming to Vita.

Well, thank goodness, they've updated the post.  Super Time Force Ultra comes to PS4 and Vita on September 1st, and there are some other games in the PS+ lineup too.  While Mutant Mudds Deluxe didn't exaclty blow my skirt up - I'll give Xeodrifters from the same developer a shot.  I mean, free's an appealing price point.  Additionally, Grow Home (PS4) certainly looks like a must-play.

When was the last time I was kinda' hyped for a Ubisoft game?  September 2013, that's when.  And look how that turned out.

Damnit. Until Dawn reviews are quite positive...

Game Informer gave it a ninety. GameTrailers eighty-five, and GameSpot eighty.  What really turned my head on it, though, is Jim Sterling giving it a ninety-five.  He didn't even give Grand Theft Auto V ninety-five.

I had pretty much written the game off after that last gameplay clip I saw which... has since been pulled, but... the game these reviewers are describing sounds like an awesome game to play with Kayla.

I funded this.

And it feels good.

It's quite cool for something to go from an ethereal promise that might not exist without support to real, and in your hands.

As usual, it makes me doubly disappointed in myself that I didn't jump on Darkest Dungeon when its Kickstarter happened.

Friday, August 21, 2015

What I've Been Playing.

Hello, dear reader.  It’s been too long. 

In the past few weeks, I have blitzed several games, and barely breathed a word about it.  Not sure why.  Stressful job?  Sure, let’s go with that. 

Let’s go chronological.  Batman: Arkham Knight

Where Asylum and City was an honor and homage to Batman’s history and mythos as rendered by other famous creators, resonating powerfully with our expectations of and affection for the character, Knight singularly celebrates (developer) Rocksteady’s own contributions to Batman’s canon and style – which is a blessing in some places and a curse elsewhere – particularly as it applies to its female cast.  Elsewhere, it moves away from part of what makes Rocksteady’s previous games so special in pursuit of a grander world. Asylum was an intimate – and thus engaging, affecting, immersive – affair with its tight interior level designs and rich details, and City blended generous open-world exploration and thrilling batsuit flight with repeated incursions into supervillain bases that echoed the fine-grit, personal touches of Asylum.  Comparatively,Arkham Knight feels very distant – nearly all of it taking place in the overworld, with brief, occasional (high-quality) punctuations of interiors.

It’s good.  It’s solid, but apart from the one spoiler-rific thing no reviewer will spoil for you (which is spectacular, pays huge dividends and makes up for a very uneven story) and gliding over a much larger swath of Gotham – the glittery towers of Founders Island reflecting the lights of the city below – it’s not memorable.  It has its moments.  It has some beautiful moments that, at one point, made me want to proclaim that Arkham Knight does for action-adventures what BioShock did for first-person shooters – but no, this game is not that special. 

It’s solid.  It’s good.  It’s not up there with the best of 2015, in competition for Game of the Year, but it sits comfortably at the same quality level of City and Asylum – albeit with some different weaknesses and strengths.  I give it seven out of ten.  Eight, with its excellent presentation.

I finally played Rocketbirds.  I tried out the demo, years ago, enjoyed its presentation and loved its music, but it never whittled down to a price point I was prepared to go for.  The gameplay just seemed a bit... flat. 

Well, I had a big chunk of PSN money burning a hole in my PSN pants, so I fired it at Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken before The Swindle dropped, and played through it in a day and a half.  The presentation remains excellent – the flash-animation cutscenes blow Galak-Z’s flash-animated cutscenes out of the water, for example - and its soundtrack is still excellent.  There’s a lot of flavor – and who doesn’t love chicken?  No one, that’s who.  Here, put on some headphones and watch this.  This is the game’s opening.

...and that story presentation was enough to propel me through the game’s rather tepid action, which allows the player almost zero strategy or expression in how they take out foes.  You wander through a (stylish, lovely) 2D military base, and when you step into a screen with an enemy on it, you either shoot first or they do.  If you shoot first, they’re blown off their feet and susceptible to follow-up shots.  If there are two of them, things get dicey – as the one in front will absorb shots will the other fires at you – and if there are two on either side of you, you need to get comfortable with the timing of shooting, turning, shooting, turning back and shooting again before the first guy gets up.  Also there’s jetpack stuff that’s kinda’ fun – but equally shallow.

Nice presentation and inoffensive, ineffectual gameplay.  Not bad.  Five out of ten.  Six, with that sweet soundtrack and presentation.  Personality goes a long way.

The Swindle is perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the summer, thus far.

Its missteps are those of any young indie studio – one gets the sense it wasn’t heavily playtested, as its tutorial is essentially nonexistent.  I’d be more comfortable with that, were it a Roguelike in any real sense beyond the procedurally-generated levels, but it’s not.  It’s a straight 2D stealth-action-platformer-RPG with a timer, and the player really needs to know that the Bug tool is more important than Queen Important of Significantland, and central to one’s ability to enjoy the title and reap its greatest pleasures.  And its pleasures are great – and worth the frustration one experiences before a kindly Internet-dwelling benefactor gently guides them towards the Bug.

Once you’ve got the Bug and a working understanding of the game, it’s lovely.  Since Mark of the Ninja, there’s been no shortage of discussion on what makes a great stealth game – most of it focusing on how the developer can communicate to the player what this enemy’s area of perception is and how much of an impact one’s next move will have on their artificial intelligence – and while The Swindle is no slouch there, it’s how well the game covers the Three Moments of Stealth that really steals my heart.

Those moments are beautiful, when they work well.  Moment 1: the observation.  Clinging to a wall high above a room filled with clockwork guards, spotlights and deadly traps, planning your attack – or choosing to avoid it entirely and find a different path.  Moment 2: the execution – pulling the trigger on your tools, disrupting enemies, blowing generators and explosives, and dropping down to dash forward with nothing but a blackjack and some skill.  Moment 3: the satisfaction of pulling it off, and bopping down the next hallway, in pursuit of the next Moment 1. 

The Swindle pulls this off.  Its platforming isn’t as smooth and sweet as MotN, its framerate can falter occasionally on Vita, but it’s...’s easily the best stealth game on the Vita.  Better than Stealth Inc (and its sequel), better than Shinobido 2.  Absolutely check out The Swindle.  Very nice presentation and art direction.  Decent soundtrack.  Great sound effects for when you bop a robot on the head with your blackjack (it’s a sharp, hollow bok! sound), and wonderful satisfaction when you slip out of a bank with six figures in your pocket.  Eight out of ten. 

Fallout Shelter now takes up eighty per cent of my time spent with my cell phone.  I check twitter and gaming news sites as an afterthought, because you have to tap your dwellers who’ve leveled up (which earns you caps), or they’ll just sit there, not levelling up, and you have to move the lady dweller out of the residence after your dude with the best stats knocks her up to make room for the next lady who needs to get knocked up.  (Protip: put her in lingere, which raises her charisma stat, and she’ll get knocked up faster!  Then send her back to the kitchen.  Oh, how far we’ve come.)
I never played Farmville, but I imagine it’s something like this.  Something you can’t just sit there and play, but you must play once an hour, or once every half-hour or so in order to keep your facility running at peak productivity.

It has microtransactions.  I can imagine a vault layout, and the very, very patient player who might be able to level up their dwellers’ S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skills to the point that they can survive a day or two in the wasteland, but I’m not that patient and my vault doesn’t have that layout.  I don’t want to calculate how much I’ve spent on this free game, but I think it’s safe to say I could have paid off my preorder on Fallout 4 with the amount it’s siphoned off my credit card. 

It is addictive.  It is satisfying when a herd of deathclaws busts into my vault, rampages into the power room on the first floor and six power armor-sporting, mini-nuke packing badasses turn around and wipe the floor with them, and I’m slowly levelling up the stats of a woman I’ve named Alice – just Alice – after Milla Jovovich’s character in the Resident Evil films.

My plan is to max her on almost everything, weigh her down with sixty stimpacks and just see how long she can survive out there.

Maybe if she goes three or four days without coming home, she’ll actually start collecting good weapons.  Like chainguns and such.

Or maybe the only way to get them is to give Bethesda money.  In which case fuck you Bethesda.
Four out of ten for the gott-damned micro-transactions. Six for being so gott-damned addictive that I actually used them.

(Kayla’s obsessed with it too – nearly quit when deathclaws killed almost half of her vault, but couldn’t stay away for long.  She bought the 40-pack – which, at only twenty-five dollars, is a fifty per cent savings on precious lunchboxes!)

This week, I pulled the trigger on two more Vita games which couldn’t be more different.  Resident Evil Revelations 2 is... well, I’m not quite sure I’ve played enough of it to sound off, yet.  It seems a solid reminder of what Resident Evil used to reliably deliver, and the pleasures thereof – but man I miss manual saving.  Oh, and there was this one part where a garbage-crushing thing activates while you’re inside it and you have to climb on top you get out, and while the walls were closing in the framerate dropped to single digits.

That sucked.  Six out of ten, so far. It’s pushing my Resident Evil 4 nostalgia buttons.

The other game is Curses N’ Chaos, the single-screen brawler Tribute Games (Mercenary Kings, Wizorb) have been working on instead of putting Mercenary Kings on Vita like they promised
I like it.  I like it a lot, in fact.  It doesn’t really soothe the sting of not having Mercenary Kings on there, but it’s a very pure experience – very simple, very challenging – with a mere four attacks at your disposal, a litany of randomized tools to unleash on your enemies that drop from defeated foes and a satisfying alchemy system to create new tools. 

Like Revelations, it’s still too early to really sound off on it – I still haven’t beaten the second stage!  But I’m stillthinking about it.  Its eight-bit sprites are tiny, but its animations are so expressive.  Its music is wonderful.  Its action is frantic, vicious and satisfying, and gosh I wonder what happens if I build a power ring and take that into the level with me..?

I shall have to find out.   Interim score, seven out of ten.  Eight for the wonderful animations.  Seven-point five for using eight-bit sprites instead of sixteen.

Oh.  Also.  Galak-Z

 Galak-Z will get a proper review.  Its locomotion mechanics are good enough to place the game among platforming luminaries like Super Mario World, inFamous 2 and Mark of the Ninja.  Just moving in this game is beautiful, elegant, expressive fun.  Its teeth-gritting challenge, vicious foes and highly interactive worlds – densely populated with strategic opportunities as they are – ensure its minute-to-minute, second-to-second gameplay is more orgasmically pleasurable than any other game mentioned in this post.  Pulling off crazy stuff in Galak-Z is some of the most satisfying action gaming of the past few years.  It is fun, fun, fun, fun.  Constantly and consistently.

It is the Game of the Summer, no doubt, and in direct competition with Dying Light and Bloodborne for Game of the Year 2015.  Ten out of ten.  Nine-point five for the awful cutscene animation – which 17-Bit insists is intentional, but is just off-putting.

Still.  9.5. 

Monday, August 17, 2015


First, I love that there's a word for it.

Second, I really enjoy Let's Speak English.

Two trailers.

First, this story trailer for the Uncharted collection actually kinda... works on me.

Second, the cast for The Hateful Eight is ridonkulous.

Is anyone else surprised that Tarantino is following a western with another western?  No complaints here.  I also like that, from the looks of it, a huge chunk of the film is going to take place within that cabin - which puts me in mind of The Farmhouse Scene or The German Bar Scene in Inglorious Basterds - two of Tarantino's greatest accomplishments, if I do say so myself.  Some good actors, a single, lived-in set, and a thrill a minute.

I can dig it. Oh, also, have you seen the trailer for Del Toro's Crimson Peak?

That's happening.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Season 4, episode 5 of Galak-Z.

The other day I said that Galak-Z's "seasons" are its difficulty levels,  The very next day, 17-Bit tweets...

I just... find that edifying.  Yay me!

And the first few times I played any season, I was getting my ass handed to me.  Season 2 was mean, but doable.  Season 3 was absolutely brutal compared to season 2, and season 4...

For days, I didn't think I could do it.  Most of the techniques and strategies that paid off so well in the previous seasons just weren't tenable in season 4, because - while there's a definitely leap in enemy strength, damage and intelligence between each season - the enemies in season 4 are ridonkulous.

They are artful dodgers, zipping back and forth and holding steady for just long enough to loose a salvo at you that tears off way more of your health than you're expecting.  There are mechs in season 4 that will cut through two layers of your shields and shear a chunk of health off with a single blow - it's insane - and I had almost accepted that I would, simply, never beat the 4th season of Galak-Z, and never even get to see season 5 when it drops later this year.

Last night, though, I sat down for some season 3 action.  Season 3 is, to me, the sweet spot for Galak-Z's challenge.  After beating it, seasons 1 and 2 didn't offer enough resistance to prove thrilling - and the enemies of S3 are still some mean mother (shut yo mouth)s.  So I danced through the season, with lots of nice close scrapes and beautiful victories, and finished episode 5 with ten Crash coins.

At this point, I had options.  I could either restart a season 3 (or 2, or 1 for shits and giggles) run, or I could bet those ten coins on an attempt at Season 4.

That monster.

I took the bet, launched season 4, cashed in those coins for over two thousand scrap aaand... nothing.  No interesting upgrades.  But I was able to get the +1 shield perma-upgrade, and the upgrade that makes my shields recharge faster.

All through that season, I was unable to really deck out the Z.  I didn't get the engine upgrades I prefer, I didn't get a single buffs to my mech, and I ended up with a set of laser upgrades I'd either never used (scatter shot) or liked (burst fire) before.  But the scatter muzzle, combined with the Huge Blast bullet shape and burst fire... they became very interesting.  It let me basically treat the ship as the mech, jamming right into enemies' hostile little faces to unleash a rapid-smack torrent of energy, tearing through shields and hulls like tissue paper.

Everything was going beautifully - well, my health had been whittled down to a single bar, but still, I made it to episode 5!  Going in to the episode, Crash didn't have any health to sell me.

I stayed mostly in stealth mode until I fought Crash's shop inside the level - again, no health to sell me! - and did my best to stay off the bad men's radar as I scrounged around, desperate for a single drop of health to see me through the game's ultimate challenge.

Nothin'.  Nada.

I ended up in a fight with three Void Raider mechs, whose swords do insane damage.  One went down with me, but a charged slash from another ripped through my shield and took the last of my health.

Bam.  Dead on the game's final mission.

Then the continue screen pops up.  I had eight Crash coins.  Did I want to cash them in on a restart (and hopefully get some better gear!) or bet on the amount of health they'd give me, heading back in to mission five immediately in exchange for five coins, and risk the Recovery Crate run?

When you continue in Galak-Z, you don't just continue.  You spend the crash coins and you head back into that level with... nothing - but your health is refilled.

Just your base ship, no laser upgrades, no engine upgrades, no shield upgrades - not even the ability to transform into a mech - because all that is locked away in the Recovery Chest, hidden somewhere in the level.  Against enemies who were (at the very least) tough enough to kill You, Master Pilot, you'll have no chance without your gear - so you have to sneak through the level, evading enemy patrols, until you find your gear.

Your gear is always guarded by some mean mother (shut yo mouth)s, and... well - this is what happened.

I have never killed fewer enemies in a Galak-Z mission than I did in my recovery run of season 4, episode 5.  Enemy spoilers, obviously.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

26 HD Odin Sphere Leifdrasir screenshots.

So pretty!  Click to enhugen.

 *new environment.  New boss.
*new boss.

*new environment.  New pooka chef. 

 *classic melodrama.

 *awesome hair.

 *cultural stereotype.
 *new environment.
 *new map design.
 *new environment.
*new items.

 *new boss.
 *fruits are an important part of this balanced breakfast.
 *new skill layout.
 *new special move.
 *fearsome abs.
So gorgeous.
(So gorgeous.)