Artwork by CitrusKing46
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Robotic Gaming Monthly, Topless Robot’s monthly column devoted to all your video and computer game needs!* And yes, we’re working on a Tuesday this month – at least for now – in order to better take advantage of newer game releases. And yes, now I also regret having already wasted the M. Bison joke in the intro to the first edition.
So what do we have this month for you? Well, there’s the problems with underwater cities, the annoyances of the Alien cast, wasted potential, potential used perfectly, dead children, lion men, colossi, bullets, bullets, bullets, Neil Gaiman, pills and little tiny blobs. You know, the usual stuff. Oh, and our thoughts on who should play Joel in the upcoming film based on The Last of Us! Intrigue!
*DISCLAIMER: Not all particular needs may be met. Sorry.
Well, it’s kind of a relatively slow month in gaming news again, what with the post-E3/pre-Gamescom lull having set in with the traditional summer lull also in effect for major game releases. And at one point I was thinking about actually having a Q&A with some of my fellow Roboteers to give me some gaming-related questions to talk about, but then a few notable items popped up that I could use. Which is kind of a shame, since the particular questions they gave me would’ve allowed me to use my original plans for a header image featuring a Xenomorph dressed up as a Touhou character, but oh well. Maybe next time.
So where to begin? Well, maybe I should just grab a stick and join everyone else in taking a whack at one of the biggest pi?atas of gaming industry trends these days: Pre-order bonuses. And the only candy in a pi?ata like this is something like black licorice, tolerated by some and treated like poison by others.
But what sparked several conversations about pre-order bonuses this month was a particular penis creature-shaped pi?ata called Alien: Isolation. After the initial announcement that the game’s pre-order bonus would be a set of missions involving Ripley and the rest of the crew from the original Alien – voiced by the original cast, no less – fans were pissed that it would be an exclusive pre-order bonus that they supposedly couldn’t get after day one. And thus, as expected, the vitriol started pouring out against the very concept of pre-ordering games.
The cast of characters, truly emotionally devastated over your hatred.
But with this outrage came comments that people who pre-order games are suckers and idiots. And that is where I have to draw the line.
I mean, the notion of pre-ordering a game was simpler back in the day. I could go into a store, tell them I wanted the new Mega Man game when it came out, and then pick up a copy they held for me. And why did I do this? Because from what I had seen, that Mega Man game would kick ass and I was looking forward to it.
Flash forward twenty years. The rules and circumstances have obviously changed a bit (sadly, the Mega Man games didn’t remain), but I still pre-order games for the exact same reason: Because I think they might be good games. And I hate people telling myself and others pre-ordering for the same reason that we’re idiots because we dared to actually think a game could be good. Apparently, having actual optimism in gaming these days is considered a negative trait. No, the cool kids like to assume that all games are utter s*** and refuse to buy them until they see some reviews, and even then they’ll just say “Whatever, maybe I’ll buy it during a Steam sale” like they don’t even care in the slightest about the actual game.
And yes, I understand that doing so may dangerously endorse the idea of bigger pre-order bonuses. But you know what? If you like a pre-order bonus, there is nothing wrong with that. If you think the game looks good, you were probably going to pick it up anyway, and that the bonus is a cute little addition, then go ahead and pre-order. You should not feel any shame in doing so. You should feel shame if you feel you actually need the pre-order bonus, because yeah, now you’re endorsing all the negative traits here. It’s not essential content. It won’t be.
So yes, you can argue all day about pre-order bonuses as just another scheme by them there fat cats to squeeze another buck out of you, but let us remember that the games themselves are still the most important part of all this, and that actually anticipating a game is not a reason to start hurling insults at anyone.
That being said…
Alas, all my words up there still have to share space with a particular elephant in the room this month, a game abusing the concept of pre-order bonuses that basically made me feel like I was in a sitcom and had just finished a lengthy talk with the police officers about how my roommate is a sane and rational man, whereupon said roommate then kicked down the door, entered the room and announced “GUESS WHO JUST DECAPITATED FIFTY KITTENS!!” while holding a sack that I wish were just simply leaking marinara sauce. And which game was it that now has to deal with the kitten police, you may ask?
Well, one might argue that Alien: Isolation is still a notable contender, since it’s withholding what feels like it should be a major part of a game: the Nostromo missions with the original cast. But Sega later announced what any person with half a mind could easily guess: That they were just going to release the missions later as DLC anyway. Besides, while the Nostromo bits probably would have provided a little extra story, it definitely won’t be anything essential needed to enjoy the core game. So despite the star power, it’s no more different than any other pre-order bonus. You could potentially bring up arguments about how bad DLC these days is because of this, but look, I’m already beating several horses to death this month, so beating on another one that’s already gathering flies just seems like overkill.
Perhaps my sights are aimed at Lego Batman 3 and LittleBigPlanet 3 instead, which committed the much greater sin of using multiple retailer-specific pre-order bonuses. Hey kids, did you want both a Plastic Man minifigure and a Lego Batwing miniset with your game? Well then screw you, you’re going to have to order two different copies at different stores. This is the type of crap that’s much, much worse than what Alien: Isolation has, and is the type of crap we should be fighting against, and yet neither game seemed to be even remotely vilified the same amount. Probably because neither game acted as good enough clickbait as Isolation, and also because a lot of gamers seem turn a blind eye to any flaw about any Lego game. Open your eyes, and condemn this crap as well.
Yeah, nice try, Amazon.
But no, as bad as that was, those bonuses are again non-essential to the actual games. No, for the real culprit in pre-order crimes this month, we have to leave America and head to Japan instead. Why? Because that’s where the anticipated upcoming survival horror game The Evil Within is due to be released with the pre-order bonus of “Gore Mode DLC”…because the full game is apparently going to be censored over there, and pre-ordering is the only way to get the full experience in Japan for now. Developers Tango Gameworks have insisted that the core experience will be unchanged, but considering that this is a horror game – where gore can be a fundamental part of the game’s atmosphere, as some have noted – and judging by what we’ve seen so far…
The final version has him spurting confetti and cookies instead.
…I kind of doubt it. So why did they decide to go this route? Because it was either release the original game with an 18-and-up rating, or edit it and go for a 17-and up rating in order to increase sales with a wider audience, because truly gamers that are one year younger make all the difference (though I admit it actually could, since I don’t know anything about Japanese game ratings and their impact on sales). Yes, they admit that this is simply due to sales and that they used the unrated version as an incentive to pre-order. They also say that the DLC will be available later, but didn’t say how long a wait it would be or whether or not it would even be free. Because truly they couldn’t just, say, release the censored version of the game and just have the Gore Mode as optional free DLC at launch, no sir. That’d be silly.
That right there is a complete piece of bulls***. It’s one thing to offer up some bonus side missions or a wacky costume or two as a pre-order bonus if it’s completely optional, but it’s another thing to actually withhold content that could have an impact on the game just to force more people to invest on day one. This is the type of crap that retailers like Gamestop drool over, and may actually be planning, alas. Note to all video game companies: If you are actually insane enough to invest in such crap, you sadly deserve to fail. That kitten blood is on your hands, guys.
But getting back to earlier; while I wouldn’t blame anybody if they actually didn’t pre-order a game like The Evil Within out of protest, and while I’m definitely not defending pre-order bonuses, what I am saying is to not let one company’s feces discourage you from pre-ordering games from saner folk if you actually like the look of what they’re putting out. And don’t let others tell you you’re an idiot for doing so. Besides, you know those people were the same kind of folk who purchased tickets for all their summer blockbusters weeks in advance before the reviews even came in. You know who you are, dang it.
Moving onto some news that only required one image to generate buzz, a little while ago 2K Games made the following tweet…
Oooo, what COULD this mean?! pic.twitter.com/P93Nl643SU
— 2K United Kingdom (@2KInternational) July 24, 2014
…In case you didn’t know, what we have there is a shot of an advertisement for a club in the underwater city of Rapture in one of the BioShock games. And yes, the guy in charge of the tweets apparently takes an approach to subtlety similar to the one a brick takes when heading towards your face.
But actually, let’s ponder that question engraved on the brick for a moment. What does this picture mean? Well, the most sane and rational explanation is that 2K is planning on re-releasing the original BioShock for next-gen consoles and platforms, possibly being remastered in the process. But that type of explanation is dull to talk about, so let’s jump straight into wild mass speculation: Is 2K Games planning a new BioShock game??
…Turns out the answer was no, they were just simply doing an iOS port of the first game, which I honestly did not see coming. Note to 2K: An iOS version of the game does not warrant any sort of teaser. But all the talk before said announcement still got me thinking. And while my version of “thinking” may suspiciously seem like “wrote a full article about this tweet before the official iOS announcement and didn’t want it to go to waste” I assure you that is absolutely not the case in any way, nosiree. Anyhow, as for what I was thinking…
Now, obviously several people winced over said possibility of a new game, largely because series creator Ken Levine has since quit the series and dissolved his development team, and additional series developers 2K Marin are defunct now as well. So naturally, the idea of a BioShock game minus almost anyone who helped make a BioShock game doesn’t exactly give people the highest of hopes. But honestly? It might be able to work. Why? Well, to explain might give away minor spoilers about BioShock Infinite’s ending, so fair warning before I go into this…
So long story short, one of the reveals at the end of Infinite is the discovery of a titular infinite number of alternate universes, each with their own set of constants. The message here being that there are an infinite number of BioShock games with an infinite number of stories to tell. While a bit anvilicious and on the meta side, as some have noted, I still thought it was a damn great ending that game me hope for every new potential incarnation of these games, each with their own unique takes on the core gameplay.
So when I saw the picture in the tweet, my immediate thought was that with a game that itself says it has an infinite number of possibilities, WHY THE F*** DO WE KEEP GOING BACK TO RAPTURE??
Yes, I loved BioShock. One my top five games of all time. And yes, the unique art deco sci-fi setting of Rapture contributed largely to my liking of it. And it had a terrific story as well. But by the end of the game, we had basically seen all we needed to of Rapture and the stories within it. BioShock 2 tried to expand upon it, and while got a few neat locales added (the propaganda-filled amusement park was a highlight for me) and at least one terrific sequence involving a Little Sister, it was basically pointless and didn’t expand upon Rapture any.
Potentially even worse was the Burial at Sea DLC for Infinite, which has you playing as versions of the game’s main characters in Rapture right before the events of the first game. Not even an alternate universe Rapture, the developers have specifically said this is the exact same universe as the first game. Not only does it feel like the developers are kind of contradicting their own game’s ending (sort of), but having finished Burial at Sea this month, I can indeed confirm that the game’s ending is basically a controversial bit that jerks off so heavily about how important the original game was that you can practically taste the salty jizz dripping all over the credits.
Next time, would you kindly not disappoint the hell out of me?
So look, 2K. We’ve done a world after Rapture, and we’ve done a world before Rapture. We’re done with it. I realize new ideas are scary and even an iOS version of Rapture is a safe and cozy blanket made of money, but all you’re going to get are confused looks from people wondering why you don’t use some of your blanket money to buy a new, fancier blanket. But again, this is assuming that you even still have plans to make a new BioShock game…and that it’ll be a shooter. After all, Ken Levine originally had plans for a BioShock on the Vita that would have been a Final Fantasy Tactics-style strategy game, believe it or not. Perhaps it would have been better to run with that idea. Because while seeing Rapture from a shooter’s perspective wouldn’t be anything new, Levine’s original idea would at least shake things up gameplay-wise, and perhaps allow for stories a first-person shooter wouldn’t be the best at telling (the initial civil war between Atlas and Ryan, for example). Or maybe we could even have an adventure game, like the film noir-inspired trek through a pre-dystopia Rapture that Burial at Sea promised us, but chickened out on.
Revisiting Rapture wouldn’t be so bad if we had a new genre to work with. It may be the same meaty chunk of Rapture, but hopefully switching the bread, condiments and such around can still give it a fresh and unique taste. But alas, all we have for now is BioShock again on your mobile device, which tastes more like a slightly wrinkly apple in your fridge that still surprisingly has some freshness and crunch to it…wait…Eve’s apple in the tweet, Apple, oh my god, I didn’t even see that until now. Well, question answered, then. Now somebody put a dunce cap on my head.
Moving on, hey, did anyone hear about this Comic Con thing that happened recently? Because word has it that amongst the arguments over superhero costumes and dropped jaws over Mad Max trailers, the creator of last year’s award-winning dystopian action-adventure video game The Last of Us, Neil Druckman, announced that Sam Raimi would be producing the film version of the game, and that they were in talks with Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams to star as one of the protagonists, Ellie, and they even unveiled the first teaser poster for it!
A larger poster contains an apology from Hollywood for the Need for Speed film.
As one might expect, though, suggestions abounded from the general public as to who should play Joel, the game’s other protagonist. Hugh Jackman is apparently everybody’s top pick, although I’ve also seen such names as Joaquin Phoenix and even Antonio Banderas thrown around. Hardcore Gamer even ran a story saying Bruce Campbell would play the lead (they got their info wrong, Raimi just said they’d find a place for Campbell in the film). But as someone who was a big of the game and thinks that The Last of Us could potentially make for a great film, I feel I should chime in with my expert opinion on which actor should play Joel in this major motion picture. So are you ready? My choice for the person best suited to play Joel in the live-action film is…
That’s right. No one. Why, you may ask? Because Joel shouldn’t even be in this film. At least not with Ellie apparently this close to being cast. Or more accurately, I guess you can say that both Joel and Ellie shouldn’t star together in this film. The simple reason being that casting both Joel and Ellie means exactly what I think it does: The film is going to be a straight adaptation of the game’s story. And given that most of the game’s praise came from its epic cinematic feel and incredible, well-presented story, to say that a film based directly on the game would be redundant is an understatement. This isn’t like adapting a comic book to a movie, which adds moving pictures, voices, even bigger visual spectacles, etc. Doing a straight adaptation would basically just be the game minus the gameplay, meaning that moving it to a different medium would actually be subtracting from the experience! And someone already beat you to that, Raimi…
…There. The game’s story in one six-hour film. I just saved you eleven bucks (well, another thirty or so if you had no plans on playing the game, but you should, dammit), you’re welcome. Now in fairness, The Last of Us takes place over the course of a year with some notable gaps in between seasons, but I kind of assumed absolutely nothing significant happened during those periods. I mean, if Joel and Ellie got into something as film-worthy such as a shootout with Nicolas Cage and a gang of C.H.U.D.s versus mad scientist Christopher Walken and his army of experimental Clicker/chupacabra hybrids in the middle of a fireworks factory during that time, I would’ve figured we’d at least get a throwaway line or something later on. Adding larger bits to the main story by this point just doesn’t make sense, and adding smaller bits is just pointless.
“But wait a second, didn’t you just say two paragraphs ago that The Last of Us could potentially make for a great film? Why all the complaining?” I hear you asking. First off, congrats on paying attention, here’s a virtual cookie as a reward. Second, note that my complaints so far have been directed at this film being an adaptation of the game’s main story. Why just stick to the tale we all know? The game’s Left Behind DLC and American Dream comic book have proven that there are several tales to be told in the game’s world, the latter even proving that you can successfully do so in a different medium. Hell, according to the game itself, we have over twenty years of story concerning the game’s epidemic to work with. But much like the BioShock example from before, this feels like a case of wasted potential in favor of brand recognition.
So no, Joel probably should not be in the Last of Us film. Not even as part of a prequel, because Joel and Ellie meet for the first time at the beginning of the game. Maybe he could be in it if Ellie weren’t, but it looks like we’re too far in for that to happen right now. So sorry, Joel, but going with you in a straight adaptation would just make for a lousy film.
Well, unless they made like the live stage reading and threw in a musical number or two.
…And then Troy Baker performed “The Humpty Dance” for an encore.
Well, that was fun! Oh wait, parts of it were actually kind of depressing, now that I think about it. What say we head over to some video game reviews to either help wash off some disappointment (or possibly pile more on?)
Alright, so after experimenting with an initial offering of video game reviews last time, we’ve definitely made an attempt to expand things, to say the least. And by that, I mean we still basically still just have indie games and smaller fare (albeit no less important) due to the Summer gaming drought, but now we have more of it, so yay, let’s go!
Well, I’ve highlighted Digital Dreams’ intriguing Vita platformer before in various previews, so I was naturally hoping that the end result would not disappoint. And lo and behold, my prayers were answered as Metrico turned out to be quite the incredible piece of work!
The premise starts out fairly simply: After choosing whether or not you want to play as a boy or a girl, you set out to traverse through a surreal world made entirely of infographics where virtually everything around you can be altered by various statistics that you need to manipulate in order to get around. It starts out easy, with raising platforms based on how much you jump, how much you run, moving platforms around based on your X and Y coordinates, and similar bits. But as the game progresses, statistics based on other components and abilities you gain begin to add up like the amount of statistic-based office work that you haven’t gotten around to yet because you’re too busy playing a game about statistics.
Now you have to deal with altering the environment based on when and how many times you shoot, how many times you kill an enemy, how many times you die, how far you tilt your Vita in various directions, how often you hit the respawn button, how often you stop to have a drink, how often you blink, how often you…okay, maybe not that far.
My point is, the deeper the pool of tools you can alter things with go, the more complex the puzzles get and the more the game encourages experimentation in order to get through each stage, requiring you to notice patterns and plan everything out if you want to be successful, especially if you want to discover the occasional collectible. And that’s just the way I like my puzzle games, challenging but fair and properly testing every skill you’ve learned so far, culminating in a bit of genius of a final puzzle. The visuals are also particularly impressive, crafting scenery and backgrounds from ordinary graph shapes twisted into a sort of unique, abstract world. The music is also nice and appropriate, and the platforming is thankfully silky smooth and easy to control, though it arguably isn’t much of a portable game, if only because your office co-workers will probably wonder why you’re leaning around a lot in order to see the Vita’s screen in tandem with your movements.
If there are any negatives, the statistics based on using the Vita’s camera to scan for amounts of RGB colors feel a bit silly. Trying to search around your room desperately trying to find something with enough appropriate color to get platforms to go where you want can be annoying, especially if one currently happens to be living in a dingy basement apartment at the moment. It’s also sadly on the short side, triggering memories of the first Portal for me where I had just finished a sublime puzzle game only to find myself shouting “MORE!!! I DEMAND MORE!!!”
But the fact that I still wanted more is a positive thing, because it’s a testament to how much I enjoyed Metrico overall. It’s a fun and innovative puzzle-platformer guaranteed to please those looking for something new and unique, and I definitely recommend it. And seeing as how it’s free for PlayStation Plus subscribers this month, you now have no excuse for not picking it up, so get to it.
Road Not Taken
As of the time I write this, I have only made it up to about the halfway point in Road Not Taken. I have died over and over and over again in my quest to rescue countless stranded kids, with the game’s roguelike aspects kicking me in the balls repeatedly. Last time, I died because a hawk chewed my face up when I accidentally wandered in front of it while down to my last sliver of health. It is a tough son of a bitch indeed, and after writing this I shall immediately dive back in because I friggin’ love it.
Road Not Taken has you playing as a mysterious hooded figure called a Ranger, a person whose duties in this case involve heading into the woods every year to rescue children trapped by the remains of a ferocious blizzard. How to handle such a task? By navigating grid-based puzzles and using a magic staff to hoist objects up and move them around to clear paths and open doors in order to move children into their parents’ arms. Of course, this is made tricky by the facts that A. your Ranger picks up all objects to the sides of him at once, including those that can harm your progress or just get in the way at the moment, and lets go of them by flinging them as hard as he can in the opposite direction past as many empty spaces as possible, and B. every time he moves while holding up an object, a bit of his life energy gets drained. So the central mechanic here is trying to be as efficient as possible when handling objects in order to move them where needed, lest you find the life sucked out of you faster than the average person watching an E! reality show.
Oh, but it of course it could never still be that simple. And surprise! It isn’t. Every object you encounter, you see, behaves it its own specific way. You have creatures that move around the playing field in different ways depending on how you approach them, creatures that can damage you if you approach them in a particular way, creatures that bounce other objects out of the way when you fling them against each other, objects that harm you if you pick them up, objects that can’t be picked up if they’re next to anything else, objects that turn into immovable statues when flung against something, etc., etc., the list goes on and on.
And this isn’t even going into the crafting system, oh no, my friend. Put two logs next to each other and you get a campfire which allows you to pick up objects in the current room and move around without any harm. Don’t have enough logs? Move three particular spirits next to each other to craft an axe, fling that into a tree to craft a new log, then build a fire. Or maybe move three beehives next to each other to craft honey that gives you extra life. Or you might accidentally craft something bad, such as flinging a particular spirit into a cute and innocent rabbit and creating a demon rabbit that immediately assumes that you are a man who leaks carrot juice when bitten. Oh, and did I mention all of the levels are procedurally-generated, so what you have to work with changes every time? Yeah, good luck with that.
It’s deep, is what I’m trying to say. It’s a game with a large amount of strategy designed so that every level feels fresh and different in one way or another, where experimentation and different techniques are encouraged at every turn. So far I haven’t had one game where I didn’t die and leave a frozen corpse for all the woodland creatures to gawk at without first learning at least one new secret (all handily stored in a notebook you can bring up at any time), be it information on a new object or some sort of crafting recipe. And thus every time I died, I never felt frustrated, but rather eager to go back in with some new bit of knowledge that went further towards helping to create some sort of strong codpiece that would allow the game’s aforementioned ball-kicking to hurt slightly less each time.
The amazing art and graphics certainly help as well. Everything around you is designed to feel like something straight out of a story book and a fairy tale, dripping with charm and pleasing to the eyes in every regard. Of course, this also goes towards providing a nice contrast towards the darker bits of the game. Aside from the fact that you can quit a level at any time and leave children to die because the mayor will still pay you for finding at least half the kids (he’s not getting my vote for re-election, dammit) despite you being wracked with guilt, there’s also a lingering sinister undertone in the spirits that torment the Ranger constantly, including one particular ghost who pops up from time to time, suggesting deeper tragedies for our protagonist.
The game also encourages you to interact with the fellow villagers in between levels and offer them gifts, which you earn through successful rescues to become friends or even lovers with them, for which they reward you with new crafting recipes, charms or objects you can actually ban from appearing in levels. But at one point, after finally having secured a lover, I saw her become ill and I was forced to choose between using the goods on me to pay the plague doctor for medicine (but not before they creepily tell me how many levels are left remaining before I die) or offering them towards the in-level altars that could actually revive me and send me back to the moment before entering the level as opposed to the start of the game. Spend your money on tools to make rescuing kids easier and help loved ones, or spend it on a bit of insurance and save yourself? Tough choices indeed.
I’m getting angry looks from LYT suggesting that I should finally wrap this particular review up, but I can’t help it, there’s just so much to work with! So any flaws? Well, the game’s procedurally generated rooms can result in the random chance of getting a layout that feels a bit unfair, like when I finally move five bear statues next to each other in order to clear the path to the next room, only to find that room has paths that can only be cleared from the other side and not even any kids in the area to save. Having to bump into objects to get info on them also means occasionally accidentally bumping into something that harms you, which is a tinge annoying, and every time I came across a room requiring me to group deer together in order to clear a path, it just made me go “F*** it” and had me go searching for another way around, because deer can be an absolute pain to handle. Seriously, screw deer.
Jeez, that was a lot of gushing I just did there. But the fact that I had so much to say serves to highlight just how good Road Not Taken. It’s an immersive, challenging, and fun game that’s potentially destined to be an indie classic. So yes, I cannot recommend it enough, especially since the PS4 version is also free on PlayStation Plus this month as well. I’m starting to think someone at Sony secretly either loves me, loves pain, loves honey or loves potentially dead children. Or all four, in which case he’s probably truly a fellow Roboteer.
Sharknado: The Game
When we took our first look at Sharknado: The Game a while back, LYT commented that there’s no real equivalent in video games for “so bad it’s good”, right before I shouted the name “Deadly Premonition“ back at him. But aside from that one example, he was fully correct, we don’t really have an example of “so bad it’s good” in video games. And since this was the game that sparked that thought, I was kind of curious if Sharknado: The Game could actually reach such a status much like its proud papa, and to make a long story short…hells no.
Based upon the recent second film, Sharknado is an endless runner. Oh, of course it is. That’s basically the discount route all licensed games these days seem to take these days. I really did not want to make my first mobile game review that of an endless runner – the portable equivalent of a gritty military shooter – but maybe the game would actually introduce something new, I thought, and again, hells no. You start out as the film’s hero, Fin, running through the streets of NYC dodging parked cars and sharks both on the street and falling out of the sky, collecting coins along the way, occasionally grabbing weapons that automatically make chum out of the great whites in your path. Then you grab a surfboard power-up and advance to a section where you’re surfing through a flooded street, dodging sharks swimming towards you (a scene which I was disappointed to not see in the film, dang it), before finally grabbing a chainsaw power-up and advancing to the final section.
There, you ride on the back of a shark in the actual sharknado where you massacre as many of the finned ones as needed while dodging stereotypical NYC scenery (apparently New York has an infinite supply of busted Statue of Liberty heads). And while this may sound exciting, all three sections basically play exactly the same: You have three rows to run in, and you swipe the screen to move Fin to the row that won’t kill him. Yep, boilerplate endless runner across the board, right down to every stage being the exact same section in a row, same for more obstacles and/or things moving slightly faster.
“So a video game based on a movie is a piece of crap, and in other breaking news, Michael Bay is a total hack” I hear you saying. But shove a robot scrotum in your mouth and pipe down for a second, because I never said Sharknado is truly bad. It isn’t that good either, mind you, just not utter crap. It may be as generic as they come these days, but at no point did I ever feel that the game was incompetent or unchallenging. It is at the very least a functional, middle-of-the-road endless runner with middle-of-the-road graphics (save for “The Ballad of Sharknado”). It’s like having a meal entirely made of bread. Decently-made bread and nothing really bad for you, but a dull meal nonetheless.
Actually, it does also have a nice touch in that you also gain chum (a.k.a. continues) based on the number of sharks you kill, and coins you collect can be spent on weapons that you can unlock and upgrade to appear more often in the game, meaning it does give you a choice on whether or not you want to play it safe and just make it to the next level safely or go out of your way to gather cash and kill sharks, albeit risking a bit more. Nothing big, but a decent bit of margarine on this bread.
But then I noticed a large patch of mold on the bread that has suspiciously taken the shape of a shopping cart. Yes, it’s the magical cantankerous tumor of mobile games everywhere, microtransactions!! F***, I should have known. Especially when I noticed the amount of chum you need to continue each time increases with each death, from 1 to 3 to 5 to 10 and so forth. Need more chum but are too lazy to earn it in-game? Then just pay enough money to buy ten more endless runners and you can have an assload of it! Same goes for coins! The insulting part is that I never had any actual problems accumulating chum in-game, so I knew exactly who this was aimed at: The non-gamers, the soccer moms and elderly of the world, the ones who just aren’t that good at video games in general and that games like these take advantage of. Oh, and did I mention the game already costs three dollars as is? That was already the last straw, but then the game’s loading screens – quick as they are – start mentioning jokey bits about stages they cut out and various little flaws the game has. And at that point I noticed that Sharknado was basically the equivalent of latter-day Simpsons episodes, pointing out its own flaws as a substitute for actual humor. And thus the last straw had now broken the camel’s back.
If Sharknado: The Game didn’t have microtransactions, I might have vaguely recommended it with a “s’okay” or something to that effect as an average endless runner. But for insulting its audience’s intelligence (which SyFy already does fine as is, thank you very much) in such a way, I cannot recommend this one now because that tilts it to below average, notably so. Send this one out to be sliced up by a D-list celebrity and forget about it.
So Many Me
I think it’s safe to say that I may have played one too many indie games when it gets to the point where what once would have been wholly unique concepts start to feel a bit same-y. “Hey, here’s a new puzzle-platformer where you have to manipulate various clones of yourself in order to navigate obstacles!”, they say. And the immediate reply in my head is “You mean like The Swapper? Or Life Goes On?” So I’ll admit that the initial pitch for So Many Me didn’t excite me much at first, but upon playing it, I found the game slowly but surely began to grow on me like some form of fungus growing off of the filth on my body that accumulated because I spent too much time playing games like this.
The story begins fairly simple. You are Filo, a little, green, adventure-seeking blob who stumbles across an opportunity to help save the world from an evil force, but his eagerness to get going has him stumbling into a magic pool that creates several clones of him scattered across the land. So now Filo has to find as many clones as he can and (begrudgingly) accept their help in the whole world-saving deal. It also kind of helps that Filo and his clones can transport into blocks whenever they want, thus providing the game’s core mechanic of having to use as many clones as possible to form various ways to get from Point A to Point B.
It starts out simple, naturally. Form blocks to cross pits of spikes, form blocks to hold down buttons, form blocks to cover up rocket launchers, etc. Of course, as you progress, the game throws even more obstacles at you in the form of pollen-producing plants that prevent you from transforming, laser-guided turrets that blow you to smithereens if even your breath enters their targeting range, and bosses and enemies who would love nothing more than to mash Filo into a jello salad. You also get new transformations over time that allow clones to temporarily transform into trampolines, balloons, and miniature suns to get past said obstacles. So combine all of the above with huge levels that promote exploration and provide a good challenge in order to find every little secret, extra clones to help out, and currency for upgrades, and you have quite the nice and meaty puzzle game.
Of course, this is a puzzle-platformer, and while So Many Me has the “puzzle” part down pat, it sadly stumbles a few times during the “platformer” bit. Some of the initial enemies aren’t exactly all that challenging, namely a yappy dog-like creature and an alien that moves back and forth as slow as an incredibly bored tortoise, and both are dispatched of easily without the need for any of your cloning abilities simply by jumping on their heads. They don’t provide a challenge and seem to only exist because platformer law dictates you have minor enemies like this, I suppose.
Checkpoints are also kind of confusing, largely because the wide open levels can make it tough for the game to judge where the best place to respawn you is. A few times, I was spawned right next to the puzzle I was just attempting, and in other cases, spawned far away from it. But the bosses take the cake in annoyance here, typically preceded by auto-scrolling sequences in some cases. Not only are those annoying as hell, especially in moments where I was trying to keep up with a boss and did too well, so that I died when I touched them, but there are also moments during the actual fight in which you die and have to repeat the auto-scrolling sequence all over again. Even the rules for combating the bosses are never made clear. One bit had me piloting a bird friend who can drop bombs, but it couldn’t damage the boss during the initial auto-scrolling session. So when the last bit with the boss is another such section, I kept finding myself dying when I got to the end for some reason. Turns out now you can damage the boss with bombs, and they were dead within five seconds. Bit of an annoyance there, to say the least.
But despite all that, I kept coming back to So Many Me. The amount of strategic thinking required to figure out where to deploy which clones and when to transform and recall them simply to pass one obstacle made for a fun and challenging puzzle game that I can definitely recommend, even if it does initially seem like yet another clone in a world filled with games about clones.
Sokobond is the type of game that kind of derails me a little, if only because it’s kind of a tough nut to talk about and might make for a quicker review than most. What we have here is a minimalistic grid-based puzzle game now released on Steam, where the goal is to move an atom around and bond with other atoms in order to eventually create a molecule. The catch is that atoms each have a select number of electrons that determine how many other additional atoms can bond to it, and atoms will permanently bond once they move directly next to one another. At least I think that’s how it goes, I was never the best at science in school.
The good news, though, is that you don’t need to know much about science in order to play and enjoy Sokobond. In fact, the game can actually teach you about science, as successful completion of a level provides you with a quick tidbit about what molecule you just created (so if anyone ever says video games can’t teach you anything, shove this in their faces). The rules are easy to figure out on their own, and gameplay requires nothing more than being able to operate the arrow keys. So of course it’s simple to figure out, but then the “hard to master” part whacks you upside the head. Each room in Sokobond gets tougher as you progress, throwing tricky layouts that you need to maneuver around and new elements such as areas that can split or strengthen the bonds between atoms as you pass through them. And the difficulty curve is just right, providing a good level of challenge.
But with the most basic graphics possible, extremely simple controls, and a decent ambient soundtrack, what else is there to discuss? It’s just a really great puzzle game with no real flaws in it. Typically, how I judge the success of a puzzle game is when I ask “Can I compare this game to crack?” and if I awaken out of a haze hours later at my keyboard only needing to stop for something trivial such as sleep before eventually going back for just one more hit in order to solve that one frustrating puzzle, the answer is a triumphant “Yes.” So congratulations, Sokobond, you found the correct formula to get me addicted to your game, appropriately enough.
We close our reviews this month with a look at Wayward Manor, a collaboration between developers The Odd Gentlemen – the folks behind the successful indie game The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom – and legendary fantasy author Neil Gaiman. So an entertaining puzzle game about a 1920s haunted house trying to scare away its tenants laced with an expertly-crafted and intriguing tale by Gaiman had the potential to be one the year’s most legendary games.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get that game. What we got instead was a disappointment.
Wayward Manor has you playing as an unseen ghost finally freed from captivity and enlisted by the spirit of the titular manor in order to rid it of The Budds, a dickish family it’d rather not have living in it. So basically, think a Neil Gaiman version of Beetlejuice, minus any excitement that would suggest. To achieve this goal, you have to tackle a various succession of rooms each containing various family members and scare them by exploiting their weaknesses, eventually building up enough scares to trigger one final big scare that sends everything in the room flying around in a supernatural maelstrom, and also thus resulting in clipping so bad you’ll somehow swear that everything else in the room is a ghost as well.
The concept itself has potential, with you triggering various highlighted objects in order to lure the current family members around until you can get them into a position to deliver a good scare in different ways. But alas, the execution falls flat. For one, the pool of objects you can interact with is pretty shallow, and you’ll have figured out how everything works immediately after being introduced to each set of devices. Each family member has their own props to work with, but they still mostly operate similarly. And once you’ve figured out every device early on, the game becomes a cakewalk as the challenge never really increases. The game tries to stick multiple family members in the same room at times, but since none of the props needed to scare each of them conflict with one another, nothing ever gets in the way. It doesn’t make for a challenging puzzle, just two small puzzles that I have to solve.
The only real challenge comes from the control at times, when selecting a certain object becomes a pain because the game accidentally thinks you want to select the object in front or to the side of it. And did I mention you can’t actually fail at a puzzle? You can honestly just dick around with the most obvious solutions again and again and still succeed. Well, at least you can’t fail on purpose, since on at least one occasion I lured someone into an odd position and the game froze, forcing me to quit.
So does Wayward Manor have any positives? Well, the art style and graphics (when they aren’t clipping) are quite good, nice and cartoonish and fitting the game’s tone of comedic horror. The narration from the house itself is also terrific and sets the stage nicely, and as mentioned in the beginning, the game does indeed have a lot of great ideas, it just doesn’t know how to use them. It also doesn’t know how to use Neil Gaiman, who seems to have written most of this during a tea break or such. He doesn’t give any real time to actually develop the family within, so their personalities can basically be summed up with one word apiece. Of course, given that the game lasts for all of two hours, tops, there wasn’t much time to do a whole lot in general.
Wayward Manor is, alas, another case of wasted potential. With more care and time put into it, I honestly believe it could have been a terrific game. But instead it just feels lazy, a game that could have done more but didn’t. So best to make like the manor and kick this one out and away from you as far as possible.
Ahh, that was more like it. Although I still haven’t gotten an answer from any of you if you’d like me to still review some older or old but still-recent games as well. Again, I know my backlog probably isn’t much, but there probably are a few games I should tackle here. Anyhow, time to go from the present to past now with a trip back to 1990…
And now, time for the Retro Gaming Mag Spotlight! And this month we grab an issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment from October 1990, meaning that we have finally jumped away from the EXTREEEEEEEME parts of the ’90s and back into the regular ’90s…albeit during a period that still had one foot in the TUBULAR parts of the ’80s, if the advertising inside is anything to go by. It also means we finally get to talk about an older magazine that covered computer games in addition to video games, so yay! However, I’ll admit that I’m not quite familiar with VG&CE’s specific history, save for when they dropped their computer game coverage in ’94, changed their name to Video Games and took on a less serious approach in order to appeal to the younger crowd to complete with magazines like Game Players (which as mentioned last time, ironically did the opposite later on). And yes, they definitely take a more serious approach (well, mostly), as we’ll see…
We start off with a cover of…well, it should be some exciting Wing Commander action, but yeah, this was an era in which capturing certain images for your cover didn’t exactly translate well. Case in point, a snapshot of the action on the game’s cover, which was already pixelated to begin with, blown up a bit to fit on a magazine cover. Still looks action-packed, but the general look of some text and pictures simply splashed over a scene from the game isn’t exactly all that pleasing on the eyes.
Also, before we continue, I should note that having grown up with consoles in my youth and barely any computer gaming mags until the latter half of the ’90s, my own personal experience and knowledge with computer games from this era is somewhat limited, so forgive me if I make any mistakes, forget to highlight anything notable, or such and such.
– We start off as usual with a letter from the editor, Andy Eddy, and…well, remember when I said they took a more serious approach? This was not the best subject to do so with, as Andy goes on to condemn the then-recently released famous puzzler Dr. Mario for basically encouraging kids to play recklessly with drugs and pills. He is completely serious about this. I mean, wow, saying that Dr. Mario encourages potential pill-popping was something we’d say as a joke in response to claims that Mortal Kombat encourages violence. I do realize that Andy was a still-fresh parent at the time of this editorial concerned with his child’s well-being, and I’m a large supporter of more major kid-friendly games myself, but this is…well, just plain ridiculous.
That said, according to his Wikipedia page, Andy and his family once appeared on The People’s Court when a negligent doctor forgot instructions saying to not use a seasick patch on kids under twelve, thus ending up giving his daughter hallucinations. So I’m terribly sorry if the preceding came off as tasteless (especially since it doesn’t mention whether said incident happened before or after this editorial was written, which could make a difference), but even so, it still seems incredibly silly to dis a game like Dr. Mario for such a reason because really, no one else would truly see a game such as this promoting bad behavior. Then again…
– Moving on to reader mail now, and we have one particular letter for a cover they did promoting a story on the then-upcoming NES Total Recall game. Now, we’ll skip over the fact that they did indeed once give a cover story to what would turn out to be one of the most infamously bad video games ever made, because the person writing in made like the general public and didn’t care about the game, she just loved the artwork on the cover of the magazine and was wondering if there was a way she could get a copy of it. A bit of a coincidence, because in discussing future ideas for highlights in this section, one Roboteer suggested highlighting the artists who worked on these magazines due to the amazing talent they could have. So how about that? Well, VG&CE’s artist in this case was Jim Auckland, who did indeed do some fine work, although they apparently hired several other freelance artists to do work for them as well. We sadly don’t get to see a lot of truly astonishing work in this issue, but its good to know that it was a bit of a constant for the magazine.
– Next is the “Tip Sheet”, your standard section where gamers write in to ask for help and strategies on how to beat certain games that have stumped them. And apparently we didn’t get the brightest audience this month, as it basically leads off with people simply asking for cheat codes, warp zones, and in the case of RoboWarrior, problems that are just a bit too vague or non-specific. Seems to me that these folks might have had trouble actually turning their game systems on, let alone playing with them…
– Time for the news! The big lead this month was apparently Commodore’s introduction of the CDTV, one of the earlier attempts to introduce a CD-based gaming platform to the general public. I honestly have no memory of this ever happening, and judging by this apparent clip of games released for it, it was probably best I never had any. I can’t seem to find any information on whether or not the CDTV was a complete failure, though, nor anything saying it was a success. For that matter, the game for it they chose to highlight – a version of The Case of the Cautious Condor, one of the first CD-only games – didn’t appear to make any notable dent in gaming history as well. Basically, it seems like all of this CDTV news was reduced over time to simply “a thing that happened” which makes their decision to downplay the additional news about the launch of the Super Nintendo/Famicom in Japan like it was something insignificant seem even more hilarious in retrospect.
– As for token proof that this was the pre-Internet age, we also got news about Sierra On-Line (the folks behind King’s Quest, Police Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, etc.) celebrating their 10th anniversary with a contest to win a trip to their headquarters in California. How to win? Simply send in a list of how many Sierra games you can remember, and the person with the most complete list wins! Needless to say, this wouldn’t exactly fly in an age where I can summon a list of every Sierra game in less than a few minutes. Then again, these days major gaming companies are lucky if they can give away free games as part of a contest, let alone a freaking vacation…
– Lastly for news, we get some lists of the top arcade games out at the moment, where beat-’em-ups were still the big trend among coin-ops at the moment as evidenced by the lingering successes of Final Fight and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; news of a hands-free controller for the NES for physically impaired gamers, because we cared even back then; and info that Michael Jordan was planning to co-design a line of games with Electronic Arts (again, the pre-evil EA that still had a soul). How much involvement Jordan had in any final games, I don’t know. What I do know is that it all culminated in Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City, a surprisingly good 1994 platformer for the SNES that was sadly overshadowed by more of a bigger joke of an unconventional video game starring a pro basketball player that came out around the same time. Sorry, Mike.
– On to one of this month’s featured articles, we get a look at Konami’s LaserScope, the NES peripheral designed to be a voice-activated replacement for the NES Zapper, a futuristic device designed to make the gaming experience feel more immersive and exciting and yeah, if you’ve ever seen an Angry Video Game Nerd episode, you can tell how this all eventually played out. The end result was basically a faulty piece of crap that is now comfortably buried alongside the rest of the NES peripheral glut, which the article even mentions by bringing up the U-Force and Power Glove, and which they mention as being innovative. Which I suppose is true, but note they never mention them being truly good…
– The “Yea & Nay” section comes next, a little bit highlighting the current highs and lows in the gaming industry. And dang, if you thought Nintendo took a lot of flak these days from the press, VG&CE definitely does not go easy on them here. They boo Nintendo for not having announced a release date for the Super Nintendo in America yet, boo them for suing Galoob over the release of the Game Genie (which was actually quite the stupid lawsuit), and cheer on the Master System for receiving a price cut that would give what they felt was the more powerful console compared to the NES a way to appeal more to gamers. In the end, the Super Nintendo’s launch was a success, sales of the Game Genie still went on (albeit after having been briefly stopped in the USA), and the Master System still didn’t end up beating the NES…well, not in America, anyway.
– Time for some console game reviews (yes, the console & PC reviews were separate)! These were preceded by one of the classic “Genesis does what Nintendon’t” ads, and as the reviews showed, if there was one thing the Genesis truly did that Nintendidn’t back then, it was pump out classic shoot-’em-ups. This month alone brings us the high-scoring Phelios and Insector-X, but the clear winner here was Thunder Force III, receiving nines in every category and ending up as the best-reviewed console game of the month. It was a golden age for the genre, but the NES was still no slouch and provided some winning games as well in the form of Battletank and Mission: Impossible, a game based on the 1988 revival of the TV series that was notable for A. Being one of the very few legitimately good games based on a live-action TV series ever, B. Being as hard as a boulder shielding itself in a cabin made of petrified wood, and C. Notably punishing you for harming innocent bystanders in the game, which the reviewer actually notices and brings up as an example of criticisms against video game violence and as a potential flaw for providing only a light punishment. Not an invalid point, but one that feels a tad odd to bring up…although a similar issue was noted in the review for Devil’s Crush, another praised game for the TurboGrafx-16 that was a pinball game noted for its occult imagery and loads of gore, but in that case I think I actually would be concerned about giving such a game to younger kids or the squeamish. The TurboGrafx-16 also produced the only dud of the month, a volleyball game called Sonic Spike that in retrospect is not notable in anyway, so let’s move on.
(Also, the layout of the reviews can be a bit awkward here, so sorry for all the links to two separate pages.)
– We then get a feature that Nintendo Power made a bit famous, namely the strategy guide with detailed maps made of shots from the game itself. I always loved those maps, since they allowed me to actually imagine the game in action even if I couldn’t get my hands on it, which sounds odd but still meant a lot to me. This month VG&CE gives us maps and tips for a few sections in the NES games The Battle of Olympus and Ninja Gaiden II, the latter being especially appreciated considering the legendary difficulty of the series. Trust me, you needed all the help you could get.
– We also get a token section for handheld games covering the Game Boy and Atari Lynx, which doesn’t quite feature the depth that the other reviews have because handhelds were still seen as “lesser” platforms back then by a lot of press (and still kind of are, with happy friends like Candy Crush not helping). One notable highlight was Chip’s Challenge, a puzzler which debuted here on the Lynx, was eventually ported to several other formats and personal computers, and was apparently remembered fondly enough to spawn a spiritual successor from the original creator, Chuck’s Challenge 3D, released this very year…albeit not to same level of acclaim as seen here for the original, alas.
– Now we get a special on the results of a recent survey VG&CE took concerning the preferences of gamers at the time, full of so many statistics that it almost gets confusing. But it does help paint a notable difference between the landscape of PC gaming then and now (as will a lot of stuff this issue), namely by pointing out that computer gamers tended to prefer genres that allowed for more intellect and strategy, as seen by their list of top games, and didn’t prefer hand-to-hand combat or martial arts, along with a lot of action-heavy games (thus giving an additional reason as to why a lot of gaming mags didn’t cover PC games in the fighting game and platformer-fueled mid-’90s).
But it also notes that most PC owners did indeed own a video game console as well or were planning on buying a new one, suggesting the unification of both brains and brawn as the worlds of PC and console games seemed to edge closer and closer, bringing us all into a glorious unified melting pot of gamers with similar interests…which sadly never happened because somewhere along the way a good chunk of PC gamers devolved into a bunch of elitist dips***s who spit on console gamers because of reasons such as their graphics being 10% prettier. I looked up to you then, PC gamers. You had an air of dignity and intelligence to you, and respected console games quite a bit. What the f*** happened?
– Finally, we get to our cover story, a preview of Origin Systems’ then-upcoming Wing Commander. Now, I admit that as someone not familiar with the simulator genre, I’m probably not the best to talk about a game like this. But even I can recognize the sheer impact and legacy Wing Commander has had on the gaming world, be it the importance of an emphasis on story and cinematic sequences (moreso in later games) as well as revolutionizing and popularizing space combat with it comes to games. Anything else I can say would probably be putting my foot in my mouth, so I’ll just leave the full article here for those of you with fonder memories to enjoy. Take it all in, folks.
– Now for a Winter computer game preview, and in no way do I have enough time to mention the majority of games they featured here, important or not. I will comment on how the layout gets a bit awkward here as well, especially when it comes to screenshots. We get a screenshot of The Secret of Monkey Island on one page, but the actual bit talking about it comes four pages later, including ads. And even then it only gets a three-sentence paragraph devoted to it, because they clearly knew that in no way would some sort of comedy adventure game about pirates ever be the sort of gigantic success that would stand the test of time. No, clearly, the future of gaming shall be foretold in…
– …An article on ten hot gaming trends, based on what the author had seen at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. Since I hate to clutter this up even further with a small list inside of it, I’ll just say that while he definitely correctly saw multimedia publishing, multisystem publishing and modem capability as big things (though he credits the Game Boy with providing inspiration for the latter, oddly enough), he also suggests licensed games becoming a popular trend, which I laugh my ass off at; electronic board games, which I don’t think set the gaming world on fire back then (although the amount of hours I’ve logged on Ticket to Ride say otherwise today); NES accessories, to which I divert your attention back to the LaserScope article; and sequels, which kind of makes me want to have the author hand in his journalism card. Buddy, saying that sequels in a medium like this might be a trend is like a weatherman in Alaska saying that it might snow this winter (it also doesn’t help that a chunk of the games he highlights as examples are more spin-offs and spiritual successors than full sequels, I’d say).
– We now have an article highlighting the wide range of electronic football games popular at the moment or soon to be popular in the ’90s, thus highlighting the innocent time in which the industry was actually allowed to have more than one football game per year before Mr. Madden devoured up all the money for himself. Sigh…
– We finally get to the computer game reviews, and LucasArts’ adventure game Loom automatically leads the pack as the MVP this month. The pirate over there wearing the button should be able to tell you more about the game, but while it was a critical darling hailed for its unique gameplay, it sadly didn’t have the same impact with the average gamer back then, although nowadays it stands as a cult classic. We also get high praise for the first-ever Railroad Tycoon game, which would unknowingly help spawn several simulators using the name “Tycoon” as a cash-in, Centurion: Defender of Rome, an earlier simulator putting you in control of the Roman army, and DragonStrike, a Dungeons & Dragons game combining bits of RPGs and flight simulators which kicked ass because dragon combat, enough said.
One notably-praised game here to regret, though, was Sierra’s newest adventure game, Codename: ICEMAN (yes, insert Top Gun joke here, ha ha). The reviewer refers to it as the toughest Sierra game released to date, and most would agree with that statement…except for the fact that it’s tough for all of the wrong reasons, relying on several cheap deaths and putting way too much emphasis on trying to make a “realistic” spy thriller a la Police Quest, meaning that you have to learn CPR, make sure you do everything by the book, and successfully operate a submarine because of contrived reasons. Let me put it this way: The fact that the review recommends that you buy the ten-dollar hint book as well does not suggest that it’s the quality game they make it out to be, to say the least.
…And that basically does it for this particular issue. As usual, a big thanks to Retromags for making the archiving of these glorious gaming mags possible. Make sure to give them your support, even check out the full issue featured this month right here if you want, so god bless ’em! Next up, the past month’s most notable video game trailers!
Now, as usual, time for a nice assortment of this month’s game trailers to act as the dessert to whatever meal we’ve served up this month. Or alternatively, consider this an appetizer before Gamescom gives us a potential buffet to work with next month. Anyhow…
So last month I had a little call to arms saying that we need more action games (or games in general) like the upcoming Fortnite that didn’t take themselves too seriously and focused more on a fun, vibrant atmosphere. And lo and behold, just after that came a new video for Fortnite showing off its gameplay. Long story short, Epic’s little mixture of crafting and shooting bits still looks quite awesome and I can’t wait to see more of it in the future as it develops.
And again in the category of fun and vibrant upcoming action games, we have Gearbox unveiling their new free-to-play shooter Battleborn, which really looked colorful and impressive and thus was naturally met with scorn by everyone because Gearbox screwed up Aliens: Colonial Marines, thus Gearbox is Satan now. Because of course. Look, Colonial Marines may have played more like Colon Marines, but I still dare to look at this game at not admit it has at least some potential to be quite wicked.
And again in the category of fun and vibrant upcoming action games, Gigantic may fall more under the MOBA category instead, but still has that cartoony art style that exudes charm from every area and a nice range of intriguing characters/classes so far. It also has two giant Guardians that your opposing teams get to fight alongside, so consider it MOBA of the Colossus if that helps. And it should.
And AGAIN in the category of – okay, sorry, if I knew that anything I ever wrote actually had the ability to accurately predict or even shape gaming trends, I probably would’ve made a passionate plea for Psychonauts 2 or a PS4 Sly Cooper instead. But we still ended up with a nice mess of games like Toxikk, a back-to-basics arena shooter aiming to be so old-school that even its spelling is from the ’90s. It does lack the same type of visuals the other games here have in common, but the trailer still sets a similar tone nicely. I do worry it might be a bit too old-school though…I mean, advancements like classes were still made for a reason, you know.
– Hyrule Warriors
Well, Nintendo released a ton of trailers this month focusing on various characters and weapons for their upcoming Zelda/Dynasty Warriors mashup, so I may as well choose to highlight one featuring a character I actually care about. Really, any game that lets me smack the crap out of entire armies with Midna (or Shiek) definitely has to be good on at least some level, so this is definitely a plus.
– Randal’s Monday
So Jeff Anderson of Clerks fame will be making a move into video games now, voicing the titular protagonist of the upcoming old-school point-and-click adventure game Randal’s Monday. And no, it’s sadly not the same Randal that you’re thinking of. It still looks like a solid adventure game (albeit very obviously made on a more modest budget), but now all I can think of is something like a point-and-click Mallrats adventure game, where Brodie and Quint set out to solve a series of zany puzzles and quests in order to achieve their goal of helping William finally see the sailboat.
– htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
…No, I have no idea how to correctly pronounce the title, either. All I know is that you control a pair of fireflies trying to lead a mysterious antlered girl through a post-apocalyptic world while avoiding shadow monsters and…okay, in retrospect, that probably isn’t helping things seem saner. Look, it’s a Vita puzzler from Nippon Ichi that looks intriguing, let’s leave it at that.
– The Sailor’s Dream
Simogo just revealed their newest mobile adventure game, and considering that I thought Device 6 was an astounding piece of work and that Year Walk was a bit overrated, pretentious, and confusing, this new offering from them could go either way. Considering that they say the game won’t feature any puzzles and instead focus on story, I’m a bit worried it’ll be more like the latter, but we’ll see.
It’s a dodgeball party game in which you can send people plummeting to their doom and where you get to battle whales, the devil and a bus. If I need to say anything more, something’s definitely wrong.
– The Deer God
Well sure, games like Goat Simulator and Bear Simulator may seem interesting, but I think it’s safe to say a deer simulator like this blows them out of the water. Mind you, you play as a dead hunter reincarnated as a deer, so I don’t know if it captures the experience accurately, but hot dang, just look at how gorgeous it all is. Cernunnos in all his glory would be proud of how of how incredible this vision of nature looks…
– Styx: Master of Shadows
You know, so many games over the years have had you killing goblins so many times that you almost feel sorry for them. So as way to help give goblins a good name again, here’s Styx, in which you play as the titular goblin in a stealth game where the goal is use all the abilities at your disposal to avoid the evil humans and make it through the Tower of Akenash. So make those stinking humans look like fools and show then who’s truly king of the fantasy world, dang it!
– Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
I’ll be honest, I actually didn’t watch all of the new trailer because as someone still looking forward to this game heavily, I didn’t want any spoilers in slightest, especially for a game revolving around murder mysteries. So I’ll just naturally assume that the whole video ended with a glorious display of fireworks and titties.
Retro Game Showcase: Mendel Palace
Well, we already showed an ad for it back in the Retro Gaming Mag Spotlight, so I figure we may as well give an additional spotlight to Mendel Palace, an NES game from 1989. What makes it quite notable is that it’s the very first video game from Game Freak and Ken Sugimori, whom you may know as the developers and character designer who would later go on to help create a small little gaming franchise for Nintendo. In 1989, however, they were behind a game where you flipped tiles over in order to defeat evil dolls. Notably less softer in advertising and appearance compared to the original Japanese game and with a few retooled levels ’cause that’s what ‘Murica wanted (or so they thought), Mendel Palace has been forgotten by most, but is still a fun and challenging puzzler with a neat gameplay mechanic that basically lets you pull the rug out from under enemies and send them flying into the walls in a satisfying way, along with multiple types of tiles across 100 levels allowing for a good chunk of variety. A forgotten game, but a good game nonetheless from the people eventually behind much bigger fare.
And thus we reach the end of another edition of Robotic Gaming Monthly. Thanks for dropping by, feel free to leave any comments offering suggestions, questions, additional discussions on what we talked about, or messages about how much we suck (which will result in a boot to the head, mind you), and remember, never pay for extra gore and instead consider goring the guys who want you you to pay extra (may we suggest a giant drill for that?)! See you next time!
Previous Editions of Robotic Gaming Monthly: