Walt Disney Studios has secured another classic LucasFilm franchise, announcing on Friday that it had reached a deal with Paramount Pictures to acquire distribution and marketing rights for future films in the action series created by Star Wars visionary George Lucas.
Disney bought LucasFilm--creators of both Star Wars and Indiana Jones--in October 2012 for $4.05 billion, though the company did not have full ownership of the Indiana Jones franchise until now. Financial terms of the deal were not specified.
As outlined in a report on Variety, Paramount will retain distribution rights for the first four Indiana Jones films and will receive "financial participation" on any new movies that come out of Disney.
A great to-do was made of Disney's purchase of the Star Wars series last fall, and three new films were announced in the process. The same can't be said for this deal, as no new films or other brand extensions were announced or even hinted at.
Still, it remains possible that Disney's acquisition of the Indiana Jones franchise could result in new video games based on the beloved action series. The most recent console Indiana Jones game was 2009's Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues. Facebook game Indiana Jones Adventure World, from social game studio Zynga, will close on January 14, 2014.
After Disney acquired LucasFilm in October 2012, the media giant signed a 10-year deal with Electronic Arts to make the Battlefield publisher the exclusive publisher of new games based on the Star Wars series. One of these products is Star Wars: Battlefront, a new entry in the shooter series currently in development at DICE in Stockholm, Sweden.
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Adventure. The word suggests danger, daring, and excitement, perhaps a journey into the perilous unknown. In Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW, you do indeed venture into dangerous realms, but all you find there is unadulterated drudgery. The game possesses none of the whimsy and imagination of the cartoon that inspired it. This is dungeon-crawling at its dullest and most rudimentary.
Princess Bubblegum has summoned the heroes of the realm, charging them with exploring the Secret Royal Dungeon beneath her castle and dealing with the rambunctious monsters who are not so securely imprisoned there. Unfortunately, she doesn't warn Finn, Jake, and the rest of the gang that it's more likely that the boredom will kill them than the monsters. You trudge through floors of the dungeon, hacking away at enemies and picking up piles of treasure here and there. That's pretty much it.
Of course, there are some great games that rely on this basic premise. Some offer you a diverse range of attacks that feel powerful and are satisfying to use. Some pit you against memorable foes who use attacks that require you to play smartly if you hope to emerge victorious. Some include deep character customization options. Some have terrific gear you can find and equip to make your hero increasingly more powerful. Adventure Time has none of this. The game takes a few cues from the landmark multiplayer arcade dungeon crawler Gauntlet, but despite having the benefit of nearly 30 years' worth of genre advances and innovations to draw upon, Adventure Time fails to even be as exciting a game as that old quarter-muncher.
Yes, there are a number of playable characters with different abilities. Marceline can float right over pits and traps, for instance, while the Ice King can freeze enemies. But no matter which character you choose, the exploration remains slow and tedious; the dungeons remain bereft of interesting places, enemies to fight, or items to discover; and the combat remains excruciatingly shallow and simplistic. No subweapon you might find and pick up in the dungeon, be it a kitten gun or a fire hose (that is, a hose that shoots fire) does anything to liven up the process of pushing buttons mindlessly until monsters fall before you. You can play with up to three friends, but then you're all just sharing a miserable experience.
After suffering your way through a number of levels, you're given the opportunity to return to the surface with the treasure you've collected, but there's little of interest to spend that treasure on. You can sink it into a few absurdly expensive upgrades to attributes like health and damage, each of which can be upgraded only two or three times. The problem with them being so costly is that you can't stash your gold anywhere. When you reenter the dungeon, you must give up any unspent treasure. This is an idea that works well in games like Rogue Legacy, in which there's a satisfying loop of earning more treasure in the dungeon, which lets you strengthen your character, which lets you earn yet more treasure on your subsequent dungeon runs. But in Adventure Time, spending time slogging through several levels of the dungeon, only to realize that you don't have enough treasure yet to purchase any upgrades and must try to slog through several more levels and collect still more treasure, just feels like punishment on top of punishment.
There's the rare moment of humor, like when the vampire Marceline remarks, right after you upgrade her health, "I can't die anyway!" But cutscenes and dialogue exchanges are few and far between, so even the most devout fans of Adventure Time won't find enough entertaining quips or goofy moments to reward them for struggling through the dungeon. The game's title may not provide justification for exploring the dungeon, but the much bigger I DON'T KNOW here is why anyone would play this game.
From December 1-15, subscribers can pick up Gears of War (normally $20) for free. In Germany and Japan, players will receive Halo Wars instead.
Then starting December 16 and running through the end of the month, subscribers can download Shoot Many Robots (normally $10) for free.
The free games are part of Microsoft's Games With Gold promotion, where subscribers can download two free games every month to keep. The program was recently extended to Xbox One.
Tranquility. I've always puzzled at the name of EVE Online's single server. It's an ironic moniker to lend to a world where hundreds of thousands of players jockey for resources, scheme, spy, and blow each other up. On that one server, wars wage in perpetuity. Scammers ply their trade outside crowded space stations. Fortunes are made and lost amid the bustle of a full-fledged economy. None of it feels particularly tranquil.
And yet, Carl Sagan once noted that from space, Earth--for all its chaos--is nothing but a pale blue dot. So it goes with EVE: step far enough back from CCP's sci-fi massively multiplayer online game, and a picture of tranquility begins to emerge. Ten years of steady growth. The recent release of a 20th free expansion, Rubicon. Throughout all, consistency of vision, commitment, and support. It's no small achievement in the winter of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game, when young games are born, live, and die, all in World of Warcraft's shadow. In the face of such competition, EVE's languid pace would seem a detriment, and yet, like the universe, EVE is ever expanding outward.
EVE cultivates an appreciation for scales, vectors, and inertia, because it makes their mastery a matter of life and death. The game supports a healthy variety of pursuits, including nonviolent options like building, trading, or mining, but at some point almost all players must hazard a jaunt around EVE's tangled network of interconnected solar systems. Each system is a room of sorts connected by stargates that act as metaphorical doorways. They're spacious chambers, big enough to fit planets, asteroid belts, and space stations with a few trillion miles to spare, but danger always has a way of finding you in EVE. If you're lucky, it'll only come in the form of pirates or warring fleets that open fire on sight. If you're unlucky, it'll be a scammer, spy, or saboteur playing EVE's tacitly sanctioned metagame against you.
Conflict runs tangential to even the most pacifistic careers in EVE. After all, it's easier to maintain a lively spaceship market if players are always blowing each other up. But when things come to blows, it's actually a tidy affair. Ships can be piloted by clicking about in space, but most actions in EVE hinge on more mechanical commands like "maintain distance" or "warp to". It's a math-oriented system that hinges on numbers like distance, radii, and acceleration. Once the enemy has been targeted and the keys for weapons have been pressed, battles ebb and flow according to who can dictate range as their ships circle. Large-scale battles are as chaotic and complex as any sci-fi war scene, and skirmishes are thrillingly staccato. Victory in either is less a product of reflex than of strategy. The prelude to war--proper equipment, communication, teammwork, and patience--is usually the deciding factor. As often as a good fight seems to find the unwilling in EVE, it can prove elusive for those seeking it out. For every minute of battle or plunder, there are hours spent as prey eludes capture, as fleets circle and dance to the reports of their forward scouts.
Almost every player is an annalist of some sort, contributing anecdotes on forums, reporting from battle lines, issuing propaganda, or mapping political boundaries.
Indeed, EVE's pace is glacial indeed...right until it isn't. A dominant alliance might hold a third of the world in an iron grip for ages, until a spot of corporate espionage dispels it into the digital ether overnight. An interstellar bank could compound every investment it's entrusted with for years, until it suddenly absconds with billions. The universe's first Titan-class ubership may be a world-beater, until it's destroyed because the pilot chooses an inopportune moment to log off. They're the kinds of stories that make headlines outside of gaming circles, the kind that EVE is uniquely equipped to tell. Whether you're speaking to the allure of exploring EVE's vast universe, the machinations of its political scene, or even the prospects of the game's next expansion, that capacity for upheaval is a draw unto itself.
What's refreshing about EVE is how much of that change is user-driven. Player characters in the game are canonically immortal, their consciousness tied to clones that are awakened whenever they find themselves on the wrong end of the metaphorical photon torpedo. So-called pod pilots are the movers and shakers of the EVE universe, and enjoy a privileged position as mercenary demigods (consider for a moment the level of desperation that would drive a non-player character to enlist under a commander who, by definition, never goes down with the ship, and you'll begin to grasp the morbidity of EVE's lore). What gets moved or shaken is a matter of taste. It might mean battle, as a soldier or pirate. It might mean cleaning up after said battles, and pawning the salvage. Or it might mean moving goods from one place to another, and shaking whenever outlaws start eyeing your loot. Each endeavor can be pursued in the name of EVE's four hawkish NPC empires, a smattering of lesser powers, or the great host of player corporations.
Picking what banner to fly is always an important decision in an MMORPG, but in EVE, the decision can make or break the experience entirely. Should you have no allies, the vast reaches of space can be brutally lonely and unforgiving. Sure, there are hundreds of space stations to rest in, nominal communities strewn about the network of solar systems that dot EVE's pointillistic map. But though the game now allows you to walk the interiors of these structures, there's little humanity to be found inside. NPCs are still just portraits in the interface that proffer textual missions. Other players are just smaller portraits in your chat feed. The resultant sense of disembodiment impinges on every interaction in EVE, and it helps to explain the popularity of extra-game forums and meet-ups. Absent a few friendly faces, it's just not that easy to make regions with names like The Bleak Lands or Stain feel like home. Go figure.
Actually, Stain seems like Shangri-la compared to 0FZ-2H. That's the naming convention of zero-security systems, which fall outside the protection of NPC guards, and where EVE's player alliances battle for control of the game's open territories. Zero security also sees CCP's most brilliant and nefarious contribution to player-versus-player gameplay: regions, and the distribution of resources therein, are asymmetrical. Zero-sec space tempts with its more lucrative opportunities, but making the trip means leaving the safety of the empires. Inequalities exist among the lawless regions, too. The imbalance creates further incentives for players to band together, if only for the express purpose of evicting those ahead of them at the table.
Asymmetry must be in CCP's mission statement somewhere. It's certainly visible in the designs of EVE's spaceships: intricate, inventive crafts that range in scale from small yacht to small state. Asymmetry colors the use of those ships as weapons, too. At first blush, the more expensive, upper-echelon crafts seem overpowered. That perception holds true, until you develop an appreciation for asymmetrical warfare. There are no restrictions--mechanical or moral--on the size of fleets corporations can bring to the field, and with enough cheap frigates and cruisers, most foes can be felled. Barring that, there's always sabotage, as legitimate a tactic in EVE as any.
Big, expensive ships are also big, expensive targets, either for rival corporations or pirates that operate on the fringes of high-security space. Being blown up might not mean as much if you just wake up in a distant clone vat, but it can take a serious toll on your supply of ISK, EVE's currency. Ships that get destroyed are gone for good, along with all the expensive and rare equipment they've been kitted out with. That can include PLEX, an in-game item that represents real playing time in EVE (and a viable alternative to the game's $9.99 a month cost for dedicated players), meaning some losses can hurt a player's real wallet, too. Like most aspects of EVE, death is harsh and unforgiving, but the risks magnify the highs and lows in kind. A venture into the borderlands is a tense, calculated gamble, where every jump to a new system might expose you to predation.
Truth be told, it ought to be even riskier. To get a feel for what dangers lie in wait in the system you occupy, you need only glance at your local chat channel. Every present player is listed therein, from the most genteel miner to the scurviest pirate. After a decade of patches and fixes, it's strange that local chat has managed to avoid the axe. It has always felt like a temporary solution that has taken root, an anachronism so entangled in the rest of EVE's systems that it has become difficult to excise. The illusion that you're an interstellar explorer, or that there are unknown dangers around every corner, breaks a bit when every lowlife in the solar system is your Facebook friend.
Perhaps that's just CCP's vision of the future, some kind of acerbic commentary on our subservience to the computer. Considering the rest of EVE's interface, though, that's unlikely. The game, oft-labeled "spreadsheets in space," is still as impenetrable as ever, a technophile's fever dream of 3D overlays, extension lines, charts, and impossibly tiny fonts. It's clean and eminently customizable, and it leaves a lot of room for breathtaking views of nebulae and stars, but even 10 years in, I'm still unsure about some of its more esoteric functions. Yet with some practice, it's undeniably useful, even more so now that CCP has made improvements to wayfinding and interaction.
Player characters in the game are canonically immortal, their consciousness tied to clones that are awakened whenever they find themselves on the wrong end of the metaphorical photon torpedo.
All that considered, it's probably unsurprising that EVE seems to attract a, let's say, bookish sort of clientele. Almost every player is an annalist of some sort, contributing anecdotes on forums, reporting from battle lines, issuing propaganda, or mapping political boundaries. It all contributes to one of the most exhaustive and fascinating repositories of lore to be found in gaming, one that's created by developer and player alike. Heck, the game's most anarchic alliance--the aptly named Goonswarm--is also home to its most ardent archivists, members who log the minutiae of nearly every battle and political play. Even the most disengaged players sign their marks in EVE's ledgers, with purchase histories and entries on the "killed by" reports automatically generated when they die.
I've been on the wrong end of a fair number of those reports over the years. I remember the first time I quit EVE, so many expansions ago, before the arrival of opt-in high-security warfare that helped to fill the gaps between pirate raids and alliance battles. I was bored: in the wrong corporation, in the wrong part of space, and growing frustrated and restless. Unable to rouse a raiding party, I took my best ship and went looking for trouble alone. I found it in the form of two vigilantes. They locked me down and laid siege to my ship, whittling away my defenses while my guns struggled to track their speedier crafts. I pulled out every trick in my bag. I feinted, scrapped, and stalled desperately, but I was doomed.
It took a full hour and a half, but my vessel eventually succumbed. As klaxons blared and the hull of my prized ship rocked with the impact of missiles, I scrolled my mousewheel and zoomed out--zoomed out until it was just a pale dot, and tried not to think about all the ISK I'd just lost.
I was back within the month.
There's always a lighthouse. There's always a man. And now, there's also a gimmick.
Episode one of BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea isn't a story that sheds new light on BioShock lore, but is rather a story that stitches together two worlds in ways that don't enhance either of them. The original BioShock's underwater objectivist dystopia known as Rapture was a unique and fearsome place, a testament to the chaos and uncertainty that emerges when man worships himself at his own altar. BioShock Infinite's floating city of Columbia was both a monument to manifest destiny and a tombstone marking the human empathy that perished when the city was born. Burial at Sea uncomfortably merges the two worlds, and diminishes Rapture's enduring legacy in doing so.
Burial at Sea is about moments. Beautiful moments, sad moments, perplexing moments. They often tug at your heart or stimulate your imagination, but fail to coalesce into a lucid whole. The opening is such a moment. Elizabeth enters Booker DeWitt's office, but she is not the Elizabeth you once knew. It is December 31, 1958, a storied date in Rapture's history, and Elizabeth is not a wide-eyed young woman, but a femme fatale who slinks into the room seeking Booker's assistance. Booker lights Elizabeth's cigarette with his bare flaming finger, rather than a lighter. Elizabeth blows smoke from the side of her mouth and shows Booker a photograph of a young girl and the girl's doll. Elizabeth wants Booker--that is, you--to find this girl. You, too, know this girl, and her identity is the mystery that catalyzes this short, story-driven adventure.
It's a cryptic opening that shares thematic ties with BioShock Infinite: again, you are off to find an unknown girl for reasons that you don't yet comprehend. Striking visuals and sounds at first intimate suspense. Elizabeth's high heels clatter on Booker's wooden floor, and the office's half-closed window blinds cast a band of shadows on the dingy wall. And when Booker follows Elizabeth out of the office, suspense is briefly replaced by nostalgia. You are not in Columbia, but in Rapture. No gods or kings. Only man.
This is not the largely abandoned Rapture of BioShock. It is alive and thriving. I was drawn in at first; this was a side of the city I hadn't seen. Men in bowler hats discussed the philosophies of the day ("What does Ryan say? Petty morality? You can keep it"), and women occupied themselves by applying makeup outside of busy department stores. But it soon became obvious that these people weren't living in this world, but functioned only as audiologs, created for my consumption. Of course, you could say the same about the citizens of Columbia, who spoke their lines only when you neared them, and otherwise remained in their poses, silent as mannequins.
The result is an adventure with fantastic sights and sounds that don't come together in a meaningful way.
The difference is that BioShock Infinite was an entirely new world, and overheard conversations were part of the discovery process. As one aspect of a fully imagined adventure, BioShock Infinite's dialogue contrivances barely registered with me. In this 90-minute side story, I was struck by how scripted the conversations were. This is because I had discovered Rapture already. As wonderful as it was to see a vibrant city nearing its inevitable collapse, these people weren't telling me anything I hadn't heard before, or giving me new perspective. They living automatons parroting the same themes of individual righteousness that BioShock had already fully explored. The idea of melding the universes which contained Columbia and Rapture sounds fascinating because of what new insights into the human condition it could offer, but Burial at Sea fails to delve further than the series has already gone before.
Nonetheless, there's true power in seeing known characters and places in a novel light. Again, Burial at Sea is about moments. An angelic walk down a sterile white corridor turns to horror as you come face-to-face with performance artist Sander Cohen, whose painted mustache and piercing brown eyes remain ever menacing. I will remember his theater for its red velvet curtains, its stoic audience members, and its smoky air--not to mention, for the horrors that I witnessed there. I will also remember Burial at Sea's ending, though not just for its symbolic and visual impact, but also for how plainly the game telegraphed it.
On the whole, however, Burial at Sea comes across more as a who's who of Rapture than as a powerful story on its own. And I say "story" rather than "game" purposefully: combat is more of an afterthought here than it has ever been in the BioShock games, and the action elements aren't easy fits in a world that wasn't thematically or architecturally designed for them. Granted, vigors are called plasmids here, but there's no obvious explanation for why they're named as they were in Columbia, or why they differ from the original BioShock's plasmids. This alteration is an overt contrivance, given how Burial at Sea otherwise goes out of its way to present its version of Rapture as otherwise adhering to the history we've already learned. And even outside of thematic and historical concerns, characters don't always act in consistent ways. For example, after urging you to turn a valve, Elizabeth then acts shocked that you've turned it, even though it was her request--and even though the game requires that you do it to continue.
Soon after you arrive in Frank Fontaine's derelict department store, you find gear that allows you to perform melee attacks on splicers from a good distance away, which makes Burial at Sea remarkably easy. Nevertheless, there are other methods of killing your foes, including a new weapon called the radar range, which looks like a desk fan and emits beams of deadly energy. You can also take splicers down from above: BioShock Infinite's skyrails and skyhook take on new names, but they function the same here as they did in Columbia. They're significantly less enjoyable to use in the confines of Fontaine's store, however, where there is too little space to traverse, and no open vistas to instill the joy of grinding the rails. Elizabeth's ability to tear holes into space-time and bring helpful objects like gun turrets and ammo stashes into existence is also an odd fit: Elizabeth provides a brief explanation, and Booker immediately starts to order Elizabeth to create tears, as if he innately understands the full extent of their potential in a matter of seconds. This unwieldy cramming together of elements that don't mesh comes to a head in the final boss battle, during which taking to a skyhook can result in a quick demise for reasons that aren't readily apparent.
BioShock Infinite's ending implied an endless multiverse of possibilities. Infinite men. Infinite worlds. Infinite stories of oppression, self-discovery, and redemption to tell. Columbia itself is an intriguing place soaked in history and delusion, with a lifetime of tales its citizens might have told. Rather than telling those tales, Irrational Games focused on a flawed what-if scenario and crafted an equally flawed story to fit it. Burial at Sea seems a prime example of the tail wagging the dog, and the result is an adventure with fantastic sights and sounds that don't come together in a meaningful way.
Sony has announced that the PlayStation 4 will be released in Hong Kong on December 17 for HK $3,380 ($436). Twenty-three titles will be available for the system at launch and are listed below.
In addition, Sony announced that special Dynasty Warriors 8 with Xtreme Legends (HK $3,880) and Killzone: Shadow Fall (HK $3,780) bundle sets will be available at launch in "limited quantity."
A range of PS4 peripherals will also be available at launch, including the Magma Red and Wave Blue DualShock 4 configurations, as well as the PlayStation Camera, DualShock 4 charging station, and PS4 vertical stand.
The PS4 will be released in North America this Friday, November 15, before the next-generation console comes to Europe on November 29. The console will launch in Sony's home country of Japan on February 22.
PS4 Launch Titles for Hong Kong:
- Call of Duty: Ghosts
- Tottemo E Mahjong
- Basement Crawl
- Battlefield 4
- FIFA 14
- Need for Speed: Rivals
- NBA Live 14
- Escape Plan
- Killzone: Shadow Fall
- Sound Shapes
- The PlayRoom
- NBA 2K14
- Dynasty Warriors 8 with Xtreme Legends
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
- Just Dance 2014
- Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition
- Lego Marvel Superheroes
- Blacklight: Retribution
The announcement came during the Day of the Devs event in San Francisco and on the private backer forums for Broken Age. Ward will be voicing one of the characters in Broken Age, and the reveal was accompanied online by a video showing him in the studio recording lines and improvising with Tim Schafer.
As announced earlier, Hynden Walch (who voices Princess Bubblegum in Adventure Time) Jack Black, and Jennifer Hale also play characters in the game.
Broken Age made headlines earlier this year as the most successful video game Kickstarter (and one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time) up to that point. And Pendleton Ward's cult hit Adventure Time is featured in the upcoming game Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW!
The Day of the Devs event runs until 8PM PDT today, and you can watch the remainder on the Double Fine Twitch channel here.
The Mario & Sonic series has always, and perhaps bizarrely, mixed accessible minigames, topical sporting events, and gaming nostalgia. It's an odd but enduring mix, one that's given us Charmy Bee cameos in a stylised re-creation of England's capital city for London 2012, but sadly the mascot duo's fourth outing falls flat.
In Mario & Sonic's first outing on the Wii U, developer Sega starts with a major change for the series: Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games demands that you make use of the Wii MotionPlus across its collection of 20 Nintendo and Sega characters and 25-odd minigames. The hardware boost ensures an extra degree of controller fidelity in new and returning Olympic events including skiing, figure skating, and curling. And while the move creates an additional expense for families with only a few regular Wii Remotes kicking around, the MotionPlus helps bring a touch of finesse to a previously waggle-intensive series.
It's the forced addition of the GamePad that serves to complicate matters, shifting the series away from its simplistic roots. At best you've just got to explain each individual mechanic to a group all holding different configurations of controllers, but at worst you've got to contend with groups of irate children arguing over why one gets to have a GamePad and the others don't.
The GamePad is incorporated in various ways, and like with many aspects of the Mario & Sonic series, there are both ups and downs. Biathlon, a new event for 2014, mixes cross-country skiing on the Wii Remote with a shooting range, letting the player at the top of the pack shoot via the GamePad while forcing others to use the more complicated Wii Remote. It's a sporting event that hasn't been well translated into a party game, suffering too much from the fact that it's the person who's already ahead that gets placed in the most advantageous situation.
Bobsleigh is another example of an event that's complicated by the GamePad's involvement, only one that's far more endearingly preposterous. The leader steers the vehicle with the GamePad while barking orders at up to three other players, who lean their Wii Remotes to the left or right to help steer around corners. Sitting cross-legged in a row on the floor isn't required, but it does make this event a lot more fun.
Snowboard slopestyle, meanwhile, has you take turns to get the highest score on a downhill run, with points awarded for speed, jumps, and grinds. You steer with the GamePad, and flick the touchscreen to perform tricks. It's simple but fun, and is pleasantly different from the more traditional downhill skiing.
Many returning events are identical to their previous incarnations, though some have been spruced up a bit. Hockey, a particularly drab addition in Mario & Sonic's last wintry sojourn, fills in the hole left by the absence of soccer and beach volleyball, now functioning as a kind of cut-down NHL that has you darting around a tiny rink making chaotic overpowered shots while a Shy Guy sits in goal at each end. It's a lot more fun than you'd expect from such a rudimentary implementation, but it's also hard to imagine it being something you'd want to play multiple times.
Figure skating pairs easily takes the crown for the barmiest minigame. Two players are judged on synchronising their movements, and while you're each allowed to hold a Wii Remote, it's when you play together by holding hands around a single controller that the real silliness kicks in. Having one player clumsily spin around the other in real life while an onscreen Daisy pirouettes elegantly around Dr Eggman is enough to put a smile on anyone's face, although you might need to encourage your immediate friends and family members to finish a glass of wine before joining in.
There are highlights, then, but too many events prove to be a disappointment. I've always found it particularly difficult to feel anything but boredom for this series' ski jumping and speed skating modes, and the downhill slide offered by skeleton is handled with more panache by skiing and snowboarding. But it's Sochi 2014's Dream Events that are especially lacking, with the series' former fantastical twists now reduced to half-baked spins of preexisting events wrapped loosely in the aesthetics of the Sonic or Mario series. Snowball scrimmage is the worst of the lot; it's a crude third-person two-versus-two battle with flat snowball-firing guns.
The Mario & Sonic series has been an inclusive experience, catering to all players of all skill levels, but Sochi 2014 complicates that simplicity.
Developer Sega attempts to add value with a flurry of other modes, with Legends Showdown acting as the game's campaign. As opposed to the technically involved London Party board game of London 2012, Legends Showdown simply peppers a cluster of events with the odd cutscene, as a quartet of characters face off against shadow versions of themselves. Each area is capped off with a boss battle against one of the Sonic or Mario series' more obscure characters, including E-102 Gamma, Birdo, and Jet the Hawk. The mode is completely dull.
Medley Mania is similar to Legends Showdown, but presents clusters of events without any narrative context, and Action & Answer Tour mixes individual events with a quiz show . You must complete various feats during randomised events, such as exposing a picture hidden in smoke with curling stones. It's the most successful additional mode in the game by a country mile, forcing you to keep a little something extra buzzing around your head while competing.
The game also adds online competition to the series for the first time, but only via four events: Olympic events freestyle ski cross, snowboard cross, and short track speed skating, alongside multi-vehicle Dream Event winter sports champion race. You can be matched into games alongside strangers or people from your friends list, and online multiplayer is tied together with a national metagame. Winning points in an event goes towards a ranking for your country, with the game displaying the national rankings on the main screen and also via in-game updates on the GamePad.
The Mario & Sonic series has been an inclusive experience, catering to all players of all skill levels, but Sochi 2014 complicates that simplicity. The game's long-winded tutorials have a wearying effect, and the most enjoyable events--which are the simplest, coincidentally--are essentially identical to events from previous years. There are dribs of fun to be extracted from the overall package, but from the outset, it's hard to shake the feeling that this is a series that has now thoroughly outstayed its welcome.
The Mario & Sonic series is the perfect example of the kind of charming, bite-sized, and all-inclusive entertainment that defined Nintendo throughout the Wii's golden years, but a lack of creativity and a poor implementation of the Wii U GamePad ensure that Mario & Sonic's fourth outing in six years fails to secure a podium finish.
In spite of the fact that it was “Unofficial Batman Week” around the GameSpot offices last week (MANvsGAME’s Jason Love ran a marathon livestream session of the three console Batman games, Batman t-shirts abounded and a small canine in a Batman costume wandering around…), the Marvel universe has my attention at the moment. Lego Marvel Super Heroes has arrived.
And it shipped with a free Loki keychain.
You can’t argue with a free Loki keychain.
While a full review is in progress for Monday, I’ve been playing the game for the past couple of days and having a great time, TT Games having lovingly crafted a sumptuous meal for Lego and Marvel fans alike. With roughly 150 characters to unlock and play as--including side characters such as Aunt May, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson and pop culture tropes such as Howard the Duck (who comes equipped with a rocket launcher)--there appears to be something for everyone here.
This, and the pleasure of exploration, make for the joy of this game. Granted, this isn’t the brainiest title you’ll pick up this year, nor will it be regarded as subtle or nuanced (the game's relatively simple plot centers around preventing Doctor Doom and cohorts from collecting cosmic bricks to build Doom’s Doom Ray of Doom), there’s an undeniable joy in what can be called the "Lego Formula." In the Lego Formula, you’ll readily jump into the level, smash or blast everything destructible around you, battle your enemies, see what Lego pieces can be picked up, what machines can be assembled or what superpowers can be used to solve the on-screen puzzles and move on from there. Yes, it’s an established method and the Lego franchise has long done this, but you’re fully immersed in the Lego-ized Marvel universe as you do this, unlocking more and more content in the process, and it’s still as rewarding as it ever was.
Superb attention to detail shows what a Lego variant of a Marvel world can truly be and for every landmark, location or item that you ever loved in a Marvel movie or comic book.
Where Lego Marvel Super Heroes truly shines is in its warmth and attention to detail. The game’s humor is light, playful and genuinely fun, the writers reveling in the implied cheesiness of the comic book genre and the super hero characters therein and hamming up the dialogue to make the cutscenes enjoyable. Background jokes such as Lego workers trying to sweep up the destruction from the last level’s epic battle, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson constantly bringing Nick Fury and other heroes snacks and the Hulk growing frustrated with a computer that he winds up smashing, keep the mood where it needs to be. Superb attention to detail shows what a Lego variant of a Marvel world can truly be and for every landmark, location or item that you ever loved in a Marvel movie or comic book (such as the Helicarrier, Asteroid M, downtown Manhattan, etc.), there’s usually a Lego version of it that catches your attention and proves fun to explore.
It’s been fun to see the Lego games grow over the last decade and Lego Marvel Super Heroes is no exception. Improved modeling, lighting and details make the game visually inviting, responsive controls make the simple act of moving around enjoyable and improvements in the combat engine have turned what seemed to be two Lego figures slap-fighting in the early Lego games into a genuine fight between the two characters being shown on screen.
Unfortunately, a few glitches have interrupted my fun. A small, unexplained black square briefly appeared above my characters’ heads towards the end of the game and a graphical glitch showed both the dead and alive versions of the Thing on screen simultaneously, the protocol calling for a dead character to explode in a shower of Lego bricks, disappear and come back again a moment later.
Between the visceral joy of pounding your opponents into dozens of exploding Legos, unlocking every character you can and taking down a set of flying Hulkbuster armor via the Iron Man 3 “House Party” protocol (wherein half a dozen Iron Man suits fly in to assist you), there's always something fun to do in Lego Marvel Super Heroes. This is the blend of Lego and the Marvel universe you’ve been waiting for, a joyously geeky concoction worthy of your attention.
I’ll have the full review come Monday.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Lego version of Carnage to unlock and frighten a metropolitan populace with…
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate should, in theory, be amazing. The recent pair of Batman games from Rocksteady Studios are the best featuring the caped crusader in years, if not decades, and mixing the constants of the Arkham games with a bit of Metroid-inspired design sounds like a winning formula. The prequel to Arkham Asylum, set after the console version of Arkham Origins, pits Batman against three familiar faces: Joker, the Penguin, and Black Mask. Each villain has taken control of a section of the Blackgate prison, amassing small armies along the way. Of course, only Batman can quell the uprising, but not without a little help from Catwoman, whose inside info is the key to identifying important locations within Blackgate. After the two penetrate the front lines, you're off to the races, free to tackle the three sections of the prison in any order you wish.
Blackgate does have a lot in common with its older siblings, but everything is presented in 2.5D rather than full 3D. Despite the change in perspective, close-quarters combat remains fluid and simple; relentlessly attack enemies, and press the counter button when a warning icon flashes above their heads. It's a straightforward dance that's effortlessly strung together in a simple but satisfying way. You aren't controlling every facet of the action, but you are performing complex combo attacks and acrobatic takedowns with ease. Occasionally, advanced enemies with weapons or increased defenses appear, and you may have to stun them with your cape or leap over them to attack from behind, but overt button prompts make it easy to keep things moving right along.
Unfortunately, it's not all good news. One of the few problems with combat occurs when you're dealing with a variety of enemy types. Quite often, fights take place on two planes, but you don't have control over which plane you're fighting on. Instead, Batman attacks the closest enemy regardless of whether the opponent is in the foreground or background. Following the simple attack and counter formula works well enough when against common enemies, but that which makes multi-plane combat easy, however, breaks any attempt at strategy when fighting complex enemies. Stunning one enemy, only to attack a different enemy on another plane by accident, for example, is an all-too-common occurrence.
As you might expect, you eventually encounter well-known villains from the Batman series, and these boss fights come in two flavors. Mid-boss encounters, such as Bronze Tiger and Solomon Grundy, largely stick to the pattern of counter and attack found in typical fights, but the three big bosses are puzzle oriented in nature. These somewhat complex scenarios typically have strict conditions for success and extreme punishments for failure. A single misstep against Black Mask or the Penguin leads to near-instant death. Tackling these puzzles requires a trial-and-error approach, which doesn't work well with near-instant deathblows. Worst of all, you have to wait through an extended loading screen and start over a room or two before the boss fight. Until you know exactly what to do, it takes longer to get back into a boss fight than it does to fail.
When you aren't fending off clowns and thugs, you spend the majority of your time exploring the prison depths in search of the villainous trio. A sprawling map, filled with hidden passages, dangerous obstacles, and encrypted security panels, represents each of the game's three sections. Catwoman points you in the right direction, but once you're inside, you have to rely on the map and Batman's detective vision to find your way around. Entering detective mode by tapping the Vita's touchscreen reveals an X-ray-like representation of your surroundings. Perches, enemies, and other common elements are highlighted to stand out, and you can analyze each object's properties by touching them for a few seconds. It's important to search the screen for hidden objects that weren't immediately recognized in detective mode, and it's the most common way to not only discover solutions to environmental puzzles, but also the locations of secret rooms and items.
With mostly enjoyable combat and the discovery-driven model of exploration, Blackgate looks great on paper. However, the implementation of the latter feels rushed and chaotic, often leading to frustration with the level design, and most critically, the map. This is, for the most part, a side-scrolling experience, but you're often driven into an air duct in the background, around a corner, or onto an elevator, deviating away from the typical side-on perspective. This shouldn't be a problem, but thanks to the top-down map, and a constantly-shifting relationship with your surroundings, it is.
The map is, by far, the most frustrating element of Blackgate, because it fails to provide the kind helpful information you'd expect to find. In a multistory environment with complex webs of air ducts, grapnel points, and hidden rooms, a map that fails to indicate what floor you're on is next to useless. Quite often, you're told to go to a specific room, but even if it appears that you're within the boundary of said room according to the map, you may in fact be floors and a complicated journey away. You may even need to come from an entirely different entrance to the building, but you won't figure any of this out until you spend lots of time analyzing every inch of your environment, chasing trails that lead to dead ends, and eventually stumble upon a hidden path that doubles back to the goal, albeit a floor above where you started. Then, nine times out of 10, when you finally make it to the goal, you have to head to yet another far-away location to briefly interact with an object to restore power to a generator, disable a security device, or something similar.
Essentially, your journey is as follows: make your way from point A to point B, fight some enemies, head to point C to interact with an object, then return to point B to fight a boss. This pattern is common, and it's also frustrating, due in no small part to weak pathfinding and an utterly confusing map.
When you've grown tired of the typical mission, you have plenty of opportunities to seek out hidden objects, represented by a question mark on the map. Most of these are out of reach until you've acquired the proper tools: the batarang, line launcher, gel launcher, and batclaw. All of these tools are used to interact with objects and, with the exception of the line launcher, act as variations on the same principle: impact another object and apply some kind of force upon it. With the line launcher, you can create zip lines that allow you to fly across the environment, and even use it as a tightrope to reach areas overhead. Since Batman can't jump, the line launcher and the starting grapnel gun are your only means of vertical movement.
The Metroid-inspired world design, where tools are the key to reaching certain areas, is a welcome element, but the rewards for your explorative efforts are deflating. Most of the time, the items you find are one component of a four- or five-part object. It's a disappointing experience after struggling with the inadequate map and the need to endlessly analyze your environment. If you could analyze your environment while on the move, maybe the process wouldn't feel like such a chore, but as it is, you have to stand still to scrutinize your surroundings. In all, you spend far too much time stopping and starting, when all you want to do is solve puzzles, fight, and grapnel your way through the world.
And this is the major conflict within Blackgate's design. When you're making forward progress, interacting with your environment, and occasionally fighting, it's a simple but enjoyable gameplay experience, but once you're forced to wrestle with the map while backtracking, and attempt to collect enough pieces to assemble a new batsuit, things start to fall apart, and Blackgate becomes a slow and frustrating slog. There is a New Game Plus option to explore after beating the game, in case you want to tackle the main villains in a different order, but there are too many frustrating elements to make that an attractive option. The first few hours of Blackgate provide an exciting glimpse of what might have been a great game, but it slowly falls apart, hour by hour, villain by villain.
Speaking with GameSpot at a recent press event, Blow said such a project could still be an "art game" even though it would require a larger development team.
"I've thought about making an MMO, which would probably require more people," Blow said. "I could do an art game with a bigger team now. Because I have...by doing the smaller team you get more experience."
Blow created Braid alone and is working with six others on The Witness.
If Blow were to create an MMO in the future, it would not be an art game "in the same way" as Braid or The Witness, he said. Still, Blow contended that it could contain a similar level of creative expression to his past work.
Blow has spoken critically of MMOs in the past. At the 2007 Montreal Games Summit (via Gamasutra), he said that "MMOs are notorious for having relatively empty gameplay," keeping players hooked with "constant fake rewards."
Those eager to see Blow's take on the MMO genre may want to pare back their enthusiasm, as he said such a game "might come a little later." He also said that he would like to make a game that doesn't take five years to create.
For his immediate next project, Blow said he might want to do a game with an emphasis on community participation along the lines of Klei Entertainment's Don't Starve.
"That'd be fun," Blow said, noting that it would be a challenge for such a project, just like his MMO concept, to be considered an art game.
"It has to be an art game in a different way. It can't be an art game in the cinematic way of 'you walk in and here's the final polished expression that's very tailored' which is what [The Witness] and Braid are," Blow said. "But it can still be an art game in the sense that we're really going for something specific in the systems that we're building. The more experience as a designer I have, the more I'm interested in that part of it."
The Witness will be released in 2014 as a timed-exclusive for the PS4.
I vividly remember finally nabbing that final star in Mario Galaxy 2. It had taken weeks of planning the perfect route, and timing each and every button press to guide Mario across that agonising collection of spinning platforms and deathly gravity traps. In a way, it was an oddly torturous experience, but--for that feeling of elation upon reaching the glorious golden star--an entirely worthy one. Sonic Lost World so desperately wants to capture that feeling. The trouble is, where Galaxy presented its more difficult challenges only to those who actively chose to pursue them, Lost World bombards you with arduous platforming trials at every turn.
The first level, for example, is a take on the classic Green Hill zones of past Sonic games. Long grass-covered cylinders and floating planetoids are home to complex spring arrangements and rolling spiked balls that leave just the tiniest of gaps for you to squeeze through. Then there are the enemies--some heavily armoured, others camouflaged onto walls--that lie directly in the path of speed boosters and at the end of long spring-aided jumps. It's all the inordinately tricky platforming of Galaxy without any of the gentle trials needed to ease you into it.
That's odd considering this is a game that shamelessly lifts ideas from its plumber-fronted rival. Each of its levels are filled with the same free-floating islands and gravity-based trickery that made Galaxy such a success, and even includes those super tricky tunnels and half-pipes that slide you along at a pace while you nudge into rings and avoid deadly spikes. Frozen Factory throws slippery surfaces into the mix, with one wrong move hurtling Sonic off into space, while Tropical Coast throws you into a lush tropical environment filled with some familiar-looking planetoids. Even the boss battles are similar, with one fireball-dodging session an almost like-for-like replica of Mario's Bowser battle atop a small planet.
This is a game that shamelessly lifts ideas from its plumber-fronted rival.
Lost World's copying isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you're going to take ideas from anywhere, it might as well be from Galaxy. Sometimes this approach works. You might have to use gravity to guide a giant apple into a mincer on a small planetoid, carefully avoiding enemy fire before leaping into the stream of juice to catapult to another area. Or, you might have to deftly guide a Sonic snowball around a series of intricate platforms, much like the levels in Galaxy where you manoeuvre Mario atop a giant ball.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time Lost World lacks its rival's finesse. Sonic's raw speed sits uncomfortably alongside the gravity-based platforming, making it far too easy to suddenly leap off into oblivion. And while you can at least slow Sonic down to a more sedate pace, his overly twitchy movement makes it tricky to land on certain platforms, or perform the precise movements needed to nab one of the many red coins hidden amongst a level. Plus, a loose sense of depth means it's difficult to jump precisely onto switches to free trapped critters, and line up jumps, making the already difficult levels more taxing.
Lost World's own ideas often fall flat too. Rings placed alluringly up the sides of walls can be reached with a spot of parkour, but its implementation is clumsy. All too often I found myself cursing at the screen as Sonic failed to leap smoothly from a platform to a wall-run and frustratingly plunged to his death in endless space. The wisp powers of Sonic Colors, such as drill, which lets you burrow through the ground to collect extra rings, and rocket, which lets you jet off to distant planetoids by aiming with the motion sensor, make a return, but they're more of an amusing aside than an integral part of Sonic's arsenal.
Then there are the new powers, such as eagle, which uses the motion sensor to fly Sonic through the air, but does so erratically, with an imprecision that makes collecting the bonus rings it puts tantalizingly within reach a nightmare. Each power is time limited too, and in the case of eagle, if you drift off course because of the frustrating motion controls, you're dropped off the planet to your death. Again.
Lost World fares better in its 2D sections, where some of the classic Sonic platforming magic makes an appearance. Zipping Sonic through loop-the-loops and smashing badniks to free the cutesy animals trapped within is great fun, with the depth and control niggles far less of an issue here. And while the challenges aren't all that imaginative--avoiding falling blocks and navigating banks of bouncy springs--they're way more enjoyable than the frustrating mishmash of speed and exploration found in the 3D sections. Unfortunately, here too a misjudged level of difficulty stifles progress; I defy anyone not to develop an unhealthy hatred of the all-seeing owl that unleashes an insta-death flurry of bats when you wander into its evil, gazing spotlights.
The fact that these moments are thrown into the main story arc is baffling and immensely frustrating too. At least you're not missing much when it comes to the story, which plays out like a Saturday-morning kids' show, complete with grating 90210 voice acting and a gross overuse of the word "bro." Plus, while it's not going to win any awards for its art style, Lost World's colourful visuals are easy on the eye, and even raise a smile or two during its more esoteric moments, with the candy-based platforms of Desert Ruin being a particular highlight.
Sonic Lost World desperately wants to be Mario Galaxy, but in overtly coveting the great Italian plumber, it smothers the talents of its blazing blue hedgehog.
If you opt for the 3DS version of Lost World don't expect a dramatically different, or better experience: both the story and zones are the same. There are some redesigned levels to accommodate the 3DS version's simplified powers (reminiscent of the shield-based power-ups from Sonic 3), but the same design, control, and difficulty issues remain.
That some inoffensive visuals and a few fun 2D sections are the highlights of a largely 3D game is telling. Sonic Lost World desperately wants to be Mario Galaxy, but in overtly coveting the great Italian plumber, it smothers the talents of its blazing blue hedgehog. There were moments when I thought it might all come together, when Sonic's fun, if slightly erratic, speed would be matched to levels that were intelligently designed to make the most of it. There were some brief glimpses of that, but for the most part, Sonic Lost World is confused and derivative, and tries far too hard to be clever without any clever design to back it up.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is one of the funniest and freshest role-playing games of the year.
Score: 8.0 / great
Lars Gustavsson talks Levelution, making environments destructible and the importance of incorporating story elements to make a truly interactive Battlefield.
This week Jess and Zorine try to find the horror in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and end up getting drunk and shooting at their friends
Tekken director Katsuhiro Harada weighs in on where he thinks PlayStation will end up, Major Nelson says keyboard and mouse capabilities for Xbox One could happen and Call of Duty: Ghosts is set to be demanding on PCs.
Fan favorite Take5 was disqualified from the MLG Columbus Championship qualifier for using standins.
Jimmy "DeMoN" Ho, Take5's team captain, just broke over Twitter that his team has been disqualified from the Major League Gaming Columbus Championship qualifiers for using an unregistered standins in their match against VexX Gaming yesterday. VexX will, according to Ho, move forward in the bracket due to Take5's forfeiture.
When GameSpot eSports asked Major League Gaming for a comment, Executive Vice President Adam Apicella told us:
"Take5 reached out to us about a roster change on 10/3. We let them know they could make additions to their roster prior to their first match. However, they made no additions to their roster. On 10/7, the day of their first match, they played a match with 2 stand ins that were not on their registered tournament roster, resulting in a DQ.
Their original tournament roster consisted of:
On the night of 10/7 Arteezy and Demon did not show up and were replaced by players that were not on the official roster."
A comment on Reddit appeared shortly after the news broke that alleged Take5 had used Arif "MSS" Anwar, the new mid player from Evil Geniuses, in their match. When GameSpot asked Ho whether he could confirm or deny the allegation he declined to comment.
The MLG Columbus Championship will take place on November 22nd to 24th at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. The tournament will feature nine of the best Dota 2 teams from around the world, including the International 3 winners Alliance, Na'vi, DK, Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid, and boasts a $50,000 prize pool.