Monday, April 2, 2012

Binary Domain, iOS vs Console, The Walking Dead

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Games: To start things off this week, here are some links to my most recent reviews.

First, here's my take on Containment: the Zombie Puzzler, currently available via Steam. It may come as a shock to some of you that I actually reviewed something on PC, but I saw the game in an early state last year and it immediately clicked with me. I'm happy to say that the final version is quite good, so this is one of those rare times when I was glad to be sitting in front of a mouse and keyboard.

If you're in the mood to read another review, here's my opinion on I Am Alive, the post-apocalyptic survival/climbing game from Ubisoft. It's had a tumultuous road to release and undergone quite a few changes along the way, but I walked away extremely impressed despite a number of rough edges and minor issues. I realize it's early in the year, but I'm pretty sure this one is going to end up on my ‘Best of 2012’ list come December.

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Games: I finally made time in my schedule to sit down with Sega’s Binary Domain, and even though I've had my eye on it since last year, the end result ended up being even better than expected.


It's a third-person shooter, and the gist of it is that robots are being illegally created to resemble humans, so a special “Rust Crew”  assault force is sent into futuristic Japan to apprehend the person whom authorities think is responsible. Of course, this simple grab-and-run mission goes off the rails almost immediately, and the adventure turns into the player's unit struggling to reach their target while being constantly attacked by the city’s robotic security forces.

So far, it comes off like a nonstop action movie with plenty of banter between the characters, some great set pieces and lots of variety in the action. It could have easily been a standard shooter, but actually firing the weapons feels totally rewarding and exciting due to the extremely smooth handling in the game, and the way enemies crumble into bits. It's incredibly satisfying to take out a robots leg from across the room, watch him fall on his face, and then shatter his upper torso while he's flailing around.


I've probably got at least half of the game to go (just a guess) but it's been an absolute pleasure to play the entire time, and it's one of those special titles that I can't wait to get back to when I'm not sitting in front of the TV. I've heard some people say that it wears out its welcome a little bit at the end, but that definitely hasn't been a problem so far. 

LIKE LIKE LIKE.

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Games: In "absurdly late to the party" news, I finally got an iPhone about two weeks ago, and I've been catching up on everything in the app store that I've been missing. I kept a little list of titles that I have heard people talking about, and friends over Twitter have been great with some awesome suggestions… I've got more than enough stuff to play with for the time being, and I'm considering doing a big iOS rundown in the near future. However, as I've been spending time with all of these neat games, it's been giving me some perspective that I've been missing in terms of the direction the industry will be going.


I think it's fair to say that I'm mostly a sitting-on-couch-controller-in-hand gamer, and that's really where I feel most comfortable and engaged. With all the changes in gaming lately, it's been a bit of a scary place for me (and those like me) who may not exactly be excited about abandoning a style of play that's served us well for so long. Besides a download-only future and the bogeyman of motion controls, all the chatter about apps being the future of gaming on handheld devices was something that was deeply concerning to me. However, instead of hiding under my blanket on a pile of cartridges and jewel cases, I decided to dive in and get to the bottom of this.

This will probably be totally obvious to those of you who took the plunge before I did, but you know what? There's no way apps or the iPhone will ever replace bigger games and console-style development. Don't get me wrong, I'm not slagging on the portables... I've had a great time with Solomon’s Keep, Steambirds, Draw Something, Spider… Hell, I've even logged some time with Angry Birds and Tiny Tower, the latter of which isn't even really a game. These things are all great for five or ten minutes at a time, and using touch controls for projects like this is a great fit.


That said… this kind of gaming is a world apart from what I enjoy on the PS3 or 360, or even the Vita for that matter. There's just no comparison. They are different beasts, each fulfilling a different role, and now that I've got access to basically everything, it's easy for me to see that there is room at the table for everyone and the popularity of apps is certainly not a death knell for the kind of games that I enjoy the most.

It's pretty clear to see now that all those stories and all that media hype about iOS taking over everything were just a lot of hot air. My money? I’m betting on peaceful coexistence.

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Games: Ordinarily, I would file this under the PR section down below, but it's such a great deal on so many great games that it really deserves a little bit more spotlight. Anyway, the fantastic folks over at Atlus have slashed the prices on their PSP titles and made them available on the Vita online store. This is a hell of a lot of top-notch gaming for pennies on the dollar. If you've got a Vita and it’s gathering dust (like mine is) thanks to the giant post-launch dead zone, catch up on some of these gems.

Class of Heroes -- now $14.99 (was $39.99)  
Crimson Gem Saga -- now $14.99 (was $29.99)
Hexyz Force -- now $14.99 (was $29.99)  
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble -- now $14.99 (was $39.99)
Knights in the Nightmare -- now $14.99 (was $29.99)
Riviera: The Promised Land -- now $9.99 (was $14.99)
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona -- now $19.99 (was $39.99)
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2: Innocent Sin -- now $29.99 (was $39.99)  
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable -- now $19.99 (was $39.99)
Yggdra Union -- now $9.99 (was $14.99)

(Also, the good people at Spikysnail games would really like you to watch this trailer for The Splatters. I've mentioned it before, and I'm looking forward to it finally hitting XBLA in April. Anyway, if you've got a moment, take a look... I'm pretty sure you haven't seen anything like it.)

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TV: The wife and I finally got caught up on The Walking Dead, season two last night. I had been holding off so that we could watch all the episodes in a row, but then one thing after another came up and you know how that goes. 


Anyway, when the show was airing, I remember many, many people complaining about the middle of this second season and how unhappy they were with it. I tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible so I don't remember the details of why people were upset, but after having watched it myself, I have to say that I'm a little confused... I thought the show was quite good overall, and I'm very much looking forward to the next season.

SPOILERS BELOW… YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Of course, that's not to say that the show was perfect. I really enjoyed much of the character work that was done, but there were a few times when it seemed like the writers were making some pretty ridiculous choices for the sake of cheap "drama". For example, when Glenn was lowered into the well with the zombie at the bottom of it, that was completely stupid. There was no reason they couldn't have threaded a rope around the walker without sending someone down, and the entire thing seemed designed just to put Glenn in danger for an episode that would have otherwise been mostly talking.


The other completely stupid thing that didn't sit well with me was the way that Lori took off after Rick, Glenn and Hershel when they were at the bar in town. She's constantly talking about how someone needs to be there for their son Carl, yet she takes off instantly with no regard for him. Furthermore, she's never gone on runs or missions on her own in the history of the show (at least, as far as I remember) and I didn't see any real reason why she should be so concerned for Rick in the first place. He's proven time and time again that he's a hard-core survivor, and the town he was in was supposed to be relatively safe, not to mention that he went with backup and weapons. I didn't see any logic in Lori flipping out and taking the car. At came off like the writers needed a quick way to put her in danger, and this is all they could come up with. Bad bad bad.

There were a few other times during the season where I felt like certain dialogue was off, or certain things that happened didn't make perfect sense, but it's an incredibly enjoyable show overall and I think it's usually pretty excellent stuff.

…And that scene with Sophia coming out of the barn? God damn, what a moment.

While I'm talking about TWD, take a peek at this collection of memes over at io9. Pretty funny stuff, and I can honestly say that they aren't too far off the mark with any of them.


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PR/NEWS/INFO
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The Ablegamers Foundation is set to make its first booth appearance at this year's Penny Arcade Expo East (PAX-E 2012). The nonprofit organization that brings accessibility to millions of disabled gamers will hold a booth on the main floor of the Expo (North Hallway) displaying some of the greatest technology available to those with disabilities who want to get into gaming.
AbleGamers will also be holding a panel called “Why Socially Enabled Games are Important to Gamers With Disabilities” Friday, April 6th at 6 pm in the CAT theater with a few surprised panelists from one of this year's hottest games with the most controversial endings…

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Bringing their gaming expertise and reputation for innovation to an expanded audience, Crytek GmbH (Crytek) today announced the arrival of Fibble – Flick ‘n’ Roll, a brand new physics-based puzzle game available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Creators of award-winning titles such as Far Cry and theCrysis series, Crytek’s debut game for mobile devices retains the top-notch production values associated with the company whilst offering an accessible gameplay experience that anyone can enjoy.  
Fibble – Flick ‘n’ Roll places players in control of the cute, but curiously brave, Fibble – an extraterrestrial who has crash-landed on earth and become separated from his crew in the process. Use the simple and intuitive touch screen controls to help Fibble find his friends, and combine the unique skills of the crew as you navigate 30 levels spread across the rooms of a suburban home. With achievements to accomplish, online scoreboards to climb and groundbreaking gameplay at every turn, Fibble – Flick ‘n’ Rollis a mobile adventure not to be missed!

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Developer Pigsels Media and publisher Lace Mamba Global today announce the availablility of a free public demo of Coloropus, the recently released colour-based puzzle adventure game for PC and Mac. The demo offers approximately 1 hour of gameplay time and allows players to experience the beautiful atmosphere and story of the game, see how the story takes off and to solve first puzzles.

The free public demo is available for PC (approx. 44 MB) and Mac (approx. 60 MB) and can be downloaded from the game’s official homepage: www.colorop.us/#download. Additionally, a Flash version of the demo can be played online.

Coloropus is available for purchase on various download platforms such as GamersGate (£9.95) as well as in retail stores throughout the UK and Ireland. The retail version is priced at £14.99 and additionally includes a soundtrack CD and a poster.

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Reverb Games will have a booth at this year’s PAX East, featuring a slew of great titles across our publishing and agency roster. There is even an unannounced title that we’re certain no one will want to miss. Come check us out at booth 808! In addition to a yet-to-be announced artistic re-envisioning of one of the most iconic gaming properties of all time (that you HAVE to see – we’ll have playable there to boot), we’ll have the following titles to show off:
Dungeon Defenders (XBLA, PSN, Steam) – The guys at Trendy Entertainment will be unveiling some very special DLC coming to PC version of one of the best-selling digital titles of the past year. It’ll be playable on the floor, ready for four-player co-op madness.
Primal Carnage* (PC)– The online phenomenon is coming closer and closer to release as it joins Reverb Publishing’s roster as the best dinosaur game the industry has ever seen, throwing humans and prehistoric foes in an all-out deathmatch.
Sine Mora (XBLA) – The high-flying shmup is one of the best reviewed titles of 2012 (http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/sine-mora), so if you haven’t played Digital Reality’s latest game, now is your chance.
Black Knight Sword (XBLA, PSN, Steam) – A dark and twisted re-imagining of classic 2D platformers, the legendary Suda51 adds style and intrigue into a another fantastically presented digital title of epic proportions from Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture.
Bang Bang Racing (XBLA, PSN) – Rife with obstacles and tricky terrain, this is a racer built for anyone. Boost, jump and cut corners to win it all.
JAM Live Music Arcade (XBLA, PSN) – Zivix has taken the music game genre and turned it on its head by making the player the mixmaster. A slew of great tracks from Owl City, Modest Mouse, Atmosphere and more across big and indie music names make for great, malleable mixes.
Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad (XBLA, PSN) – 2XL has a passion for racing games, and they’ve poured that heart and soul into a downloadable title that offers all the features you’d expect from a full-fledged retail title.
Shoot Many Robots* (XBLA, PSN, PC) – Tried-and-true veterans of the industry Demiurge Studios have put their PC porting to the test (as the studio that handled the PC version of Mass Effect) by beefing up the game for PC with a ton of new features and content.
Girl Fight (XBLA, PSN) – Kung Fu Factory has taken casual fighters to task with their all-girl cast of psionic fighters sporting genre defining psi amps, all with slick, 60fps graphics.
Wheels of Destruction (PSN) – Indie developers at Gelid Games have taken the best of car combat and class-based warfare turning it into a fresh PSN exclusive.
Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat  (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)– Pitting two legendary warriors from different eras against each other just got even cooler now that both Deadliest Warrior downloadable games have come together in a seamless retail package with loads of extra content.
Country Dance All Stars (Kinect) – GameMill introduces the premiere dancing game for country music enthusiasts, chalk full of country stars like Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and Lady Antebellum in over 30 tracks.

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Just to let you know Zack Zero 1.01 update is live. We've taken all customers suggestions and press reviews to make some improvements and, of course, fix the bugs the game had.

Here is the list of the general fixes, polishing and improvements in Zack Zero 1.01:

Now you can slightly move the game camera with the right stick.
The Level Up screen doesn’t appear while you are playing. Press the SELECT button to access it.
Jump and double jump system improvements. Now it’s a lot easier to jump and use double jump.
Improved the ability to switch between background and foreground platforms.
Improved combat gameplay, now it’s easier to change between Zack’s forms and launch continuous attacks.
Adjusted Zack health and reduced some enemies damage, improving the combat gameplay.
Zack Zero doesn’t take damage when falling from high places.
When Zack falls to his death repeatedly in the same zone, the video where Zack is falling will show only for the first time.
Highly reduced the number of leaderboard messages.
Fixes for game levels to improve the gameplay in some parts.
Fix for freezing/crashing issues if you start a game while connected to PSN.
Fix for missing particle effects.

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UFO Interactive would like to invite you to download tracks from their upcoming title, Zombie Slayer Diox. http://ufointeractivegames.com/2012/03/zombie-slayer-diox-soundtrack/

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Machinarium Hits GOG.com for Just $9.99. If you love imaginative games, unique visuals and point-and-click adventures, you should pretty much go completely bonkers for Machinarium. 

As part of GOG.com's renewed mission to bring the best "newer" games -- and awesome indie titles -- to its catalogue, Machinarium is now available for just $9.99. As always, DRM-free and for the same price worldwide.

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Fitocracy, the social platform that gets you addicted to fitness, leaves private beta today with the launch of the free Fitocracy app, available for download from the iOS App Store.  The highly-anticipated app arrives as the world’s fastest growing and most active online fitness community eclipses a quarter of a million users since launching in February 2011. By tying the level-up and quest mechanics of popular RPG games to fitness goals, Fitocracy gets users of any fitness level excited and addicted to working out.
Users receive achievements and badges for hitting workout milestones, and can keep track of their own personal records in anything from yoga to weight-lifting. Fitocracy’s quests also reward users for trying new things in the gym, be it barbell squats or a new sport.

Co-founded by Brian Wang and Dick Talens in 2010, Fitocracy’s mission is to make fitness a more fun and addictive experience. Play Fitocracy to push your boundaries, complete fitness quests and challenge your friends. Official Website |  Facebook | @Fitocracy

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We are pleased to announce today that we will be bringing the dungeon-crawling RPG title, Unchained Blades, to gamers in North America on both the PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system and the Nintendo 3DS™ hand-held system in 2012.

Unchained Blades follows the story of the dragon emperor, Fang, who after being stripped of his powers by the goddess Clunea, embarks on a journey for revenge and to regain his true form. Arrogant and vengeful, Fang is joined in his quest by a cowardly golem prince, a shy medusa clan priestess, a young phoenix clan maiden, and many other mythical beings seeking to meet with the goddess.    

 Due to the collaborative nature of the game's design, each of the 13 main characters was created by a different artist. The main character Fang was designed by Pako, most famous for his work on the Shining Force series, while other characters were fashioned by artists such as Toshiyuki Kubooka (Lunar), Shinichiro Otsuka (Summon Night), and Kazushi Hagiwara (Bastard!!), to name a few. As such, each character has its own distinct and signature style.    

In Unchained Blades, players journey through the game with a party of up to four characters, moving through dungeons in a first-person perspective and engaging in turn-based combat along the way. Using the game's unique "Unchain" system while in battle, players are able to try and convince monsters to follow them. If they are successful in using the Unchain system, the enemy monster will then join their party and help them in the future by blocking attacks or supplying players with special offensive abilities. Each character in the player's four person party can hold up to four "followers", ensuring plenty of combat variety. The game has also been completely redubbed with new English voice-overs and boasts over 60 hours of gameplay.   

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The Japanese parallel world of Akai Katana is slashing its way onto North American shelves and to get fans excited, publisher Rising Star Games has created an all-new teaser trailer, which can be found here.  
Releasing exclusively for Xbox 360 this spring, Akai Katana comes as a stunning HD addition to the shmup (shoot 'em up) arena, set in a parallel world resembling Japan's Taisho period. Discovering the powerful blood katana, the world's empire has resorted to human sacrifices in order to unleash the swords' immense destructive power against neighboring countries. However, when the bloodshed turns towards the families of a small group of swordsmen, a rebel uprising begins. With new fighter planes and the powered up swords at their disposal, this small band now fights back against the tyrannical empire.

Akai Katana is published by Rising Star Games and developed by CAVE Interactive. Players will be treated to a complete side-scrolling shooter experience, combining intense bullet-hell gameplay with an open and easily accessible mechanic, all presented in HD.

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The award-winning Monkey Tales series of educational games are now available on the App Store for all Macs running OSX 10.5 or later. Created in partnership between Die Keure, Belgium's leading educational publishers, and Larian Studios, a game developer with over 15 years of award-winning game development experience, the Monkey Tales series of games is for any kid that ever dreamed of having monkeys help with their homework. The games are available for $14.99.
 Developed in concert with teachers, schools, and universities, the Monkey Tales series of games are engaging, fun video games with a robust learning component tailored to every child. Each game adjusts difficulty on the fly as the child plays it, ensuring the experience is never too difficult or too easy. All the game mechanics used in the series are based on proven educational methods as well as four years of research and development involving teachers, schools, and universities.
 The Monkey Tales series consists of five math-focused games for ages 7 to 12. Each game is adapted for grade level and complies with US Common Core Standards and the 2009 Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA) standards to help reinforce the topics covered in the classroom.
Monkey Tales Games are available for purchase for PC at www.monkeytalesgames.com and now available through the App Store in OSX here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/monkey-tales-games/id499557521?mt=12

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Wal-Mart would like you to know about their current giveaway of 2011’s leftover titles. Click http://offerpop.com/gamecenterhq/91000 and check it out.

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