Zen Studios released their next set of Star Wars pinball tables, Heroes Within, just in time for Star Wars Day (May the Fourth Be With You). These hit pretty much every OS ever (including Kindle Fire HD? That’s really a thing? You play games on your “book”?!) on Tuesday April 29th. I got my hands on a review copy of the PS4.
The release was originally slated to only contain 3 tables but they must have had too many great ideas and “as a thank you to fans” ended up shipping 4 at the same price. The bundle costs $9.99 on consoles, or $1.99 per table on mobile devices. The 4 tables in the pack are Han Solo, Droids, Episode IV: A New Hope, and Masters of the Force. I’ll discuss each one order of preference least to favorite based on some playthroughs.
First off, anything where you have to listen to C-3PO chatter endlessly is a terrible idea, but at least they have a decent version his voice. In one mode of the game you actually get his head as a golden ball so you get to knock him around a bit while collecting pieces of his body from different spots on the playfield. That kinda made up for his annoying chatter.
This table is set atop a sandwalker that’s actually walking along while you are playing. Which sounds cool in theory but in practice having the sides around the actual table scrolling and flashing is really distracting trying to focus on what’s going on with the ball. It had some cool stuff on the playfield, but with the distracting periphery I’d rather play the other tables.
Episode IV-A New Hope
Zen is kicking it old school going back to the original movie, retroactively titled A New Hope. It’s nice to see Han, Luke, Leia, and Obi-Wan, but not having the actual actors do the voices is off putting. I wish licensing wasn’t so full of red tape and they could just use actual samples from the movies.
This table, as well as the Masters of the Force, has a light saber based launch, which I don’t like. I know its cool, and fits in the universe, but it just doesn’t have any resemblance to a physical plunger when you launch the ball. It just feels wrong. That’s my virtual pinball pet peeve…
The playfield on this one is pretty short. There are a bunch of center ramps for different rules as well as an underside mini playfield to make up for the length. With some practice it feels like the skillshot would be really easy since you just have to pick which ramp you plan to head up first. Overall solid but not my favorite of the 4.
This one had potential but the voice acting was even worse with lots of Han lines. Those coming from not Harrison Ford made hurt my brain while trying to concentrate on the game. They did get the look of the Millenium Falcon right, as well as all the other art and toys on the table.
The table features music from the Mos Eisley Cantina and an upper playfield with a shooting gallery of infamous bounty hunters.That was really neat, but I only managed to get into that mode once and promptly missed my shot. At least I’m not pretending Greedo shot first…
The enter your initials simulated Dot Matrix Display was a neat touch. Instead of just the usual scroll along to pick your letter this one looked more like target practice.
Masters of the Force
I’ll take Yoda and the Emperor over C-3PO any day! This is a really neat table. Its divided down the middle with the light and dark side of the force so even the left and right flippers are different colors (which takes a bit to getting used to). It showcases characters from all 6 episodes of the movie franchise.
I really wish this was an actual table (get on that Stern!). The playfield reminded me a bit of the recent Wizard of Oz (WOZ) table from Stern competitor Jersey Jack. The upper playfields are in similar spots with similar modes. Also some of the virtual features reminded me of what they are doing with LCDs like the crystal ball on the WOZ table. There’s a cube feature that reminded me a lot of Theater of Magic, so they’re picking awesome real tables for inspiration.
This was by far my favorite and really well done.
Should “Force” Open Your Wallet?
These were 4 very different and very solid tables. I like them all better than anything in the original Zen Star Wars pack and I’m glad they did away with that choose the light or dark side thing when you are actually playing. Even if you are more of a pinball fan than a Star Wars fan, these are all really fun tables, even ignoring the theme.
Especially with the bonus 4th table for the same price, I think these are worth picking up for Pinball and Star Wars fans a like!
From From the publisher that brought you Battlefield comes…uh… uh...
From the publisher that brought you Call of Duty comes… uh… uh…
From Mi-Clos Studios comes the mobile game “Out There.” Whoopeedo!
Your work day starts like this: You arrive at the office for a 9AM meeting. You’re walking to the conference room and get there 10 minutes early. You pull out your phone and say to yourself, “hmm, I can squeeze a quick game in before my meeting. Let me try this new game from Mi-Clos called “Out There.”
You fire up the game and the whole story can be summed up in the 3 minute intro of the game or in the following run-on sentence: You play an astronaut in the 22nd century where “mankind tries desperately to find resources beyond its exhausted planet” and while you were asleep in cryonics aboard the ship Nomad that connects Earth to Ganymed, a moon of Jupiter, “something happened” and you wake up “OUT THERE” (insert ominous, creepy, spacy music here). By the time you’ve gone through this opening sequence, you turn off your phone and you get to work because your meeting has started.
After the meeting, you decide to pay the Executive Bathroom a visit because your lactose intolerance kicks in from the 10 cups of coffee and milk you drank at the meeting. It’s 10am and you sit yourself down, drop your drawers, pull out your phone and decide to start playing more “Out There.” You pick up where you left off… adrift in space. Before you can get to playing, you have to go through a tutorial that explains all of the game’s elements to you. You pilot a spaceship that is in search of rare elements and you must mine these elements, repair your ship, mine more elements, craft new technologies that can be beneficial to your exploration, mine even more elements, monitor your ship’s oxygen and fuel levels, mine the most elements you ever thought existed, decide what you will do next and where you will take your ship, and finally, mine elements even more elements than before. By the end of the tutorial, you finally find out that this game also a great “twist a plot” mechanic that allows you to pretty much play a new adventure each time you play or replay it. You wrap up the tutorial and it’s 10:20 am and you realize that you haven’t actually played the game yet but instead, it’s time for you to put away your phone and get back to work.
Lunch rolls in at noon and you grab a bite and your phone. You find a nice place to eat outside under a tree and you start pull out your phone to continue playing. FINALLY, you’re about to play but wait, as you travel to the Dwarf Yellow Star, you get a message saying that on Day 9, you were on a wonderful beach but the whole thing was just a dream and that the reality is that an alarm wakes you to tell you that something’s broken on your ship and that you must fix it. Your drill needs repairing apparently. To repair your drill, you must mine for resources. To mine for resources, you must use your drill. Thankfully you can launch probes that can mine for you. Probe comes back and it’s filled with cargo of Helium. Great, if I only had balloons, I’d be able to throw myself a birthday party. You can’t use Helium to repair your drill so you move on to the next nearest planet. It’s Day 18 and you’re running really low on certain resources. You hope to yourself that the planet you jumped to has them… you launch a probe and nada, so you jump to another planet.
On the way there, you get a notice that it’s Day 27 and a small leak in liquid nitrogen has happened and that it’s too late to do anything about it so you say, “F-ck it, I’ll deal with it when it becomes a problem.” Your ship takes damage. You check your cargo and you have no resources to make the repair so you do what any astronaut would do.: you travel to the next planet hoping that it will have what you need. You get a warning that says that you don’t have enough resources to get there but would you like to risk it? You’ve got no choice at this point. Stay where you are and die or try getting to a new planet and maybe finding what you need. You risk it… That was the end of your journey and that was also the end of your lunch break. Now get back to work, slacker!
Exciting? Not really. This game teaches you about managing your resources while giving you the ability to pick your own adventure. Although that premise had promise, the fact that this is a mobile game is what kills it. Mobile games are meant to be consumed on the fly. Got five minutes in between meetings? Kill some zombies. Fling some birds at pigs. Crush some candy and annoy your friends by asking them to play. The fact that it takes 5 minutes to do anything in Out There is a big hindrance to anyone enjoying this game. If this game were an Indy or Arcade game on the console, I would be giving it a different review but it is not. It is a mobile game where you play on the go. When you’re sitting down to read and do a tutorial, you’re not going anywhere.
At $3.99 get a coffee, and skip “Out There.”
There have been at least 5 South Park games released on various platforms since the late 90s, mostly to mixed reviews. Can the new RPG South Park Stick of Truth finally break their mediocre games curse?
Setting the Scene
I picked up my copy as a physical disc for Xbox 360 (its also available for PS3 and PC). I wish it had been available for next gen systems, just to give my PS4 something to do, but it doesn’t really have any new features that could be improved with new hardware: it’s not like the South Park art style needs updated graphics hardware. I was really annoyed that there wasn’t even a book with the disc. At least give me a map of what button does what so I don’t have to keep googling it as I am learning the game! Damn kids and your downloads, get off my lawn!
The most recent season (Season 17) of South Park sets up the game. It has a three episode penultimate story arc that parodies Game of Thrones and the video game console wars in an epic Black Friday showdown. You don’t necessarily have to watch these episodes to play the game (I didn’t realize that was a thing and watched them after I played) but they do set it up really well and add to the jokes.
Entering the South Park Universe
The game basically amounts to playing through a 12ish hour episode of the show. There are many references to old episodes and lots of pop culture skewering just like the series. I am a South Park fan, though haven’t kept up with watching regularly since the seasons were in single digits. This wasn’t a problem for getting the jokes, and they brought back a lot of really old references, so I felt like I got most of the inside stuff.
In Stick of Truth you play as The New Kid and join forces with the usual cast of characters from the show. Each kid has chosen a character identity from wizard (Cartman), elf (Kyle), paladin (Butters), to all the other cliches from RPGs. As with most things South Parks its hard to distinguish where the line between parody and homage truly is.
As New Kid, you get to build your own South Park style image. There were enough options for skin color, hair, etc., that I probably could have made a South Park version of myself. While you can create a character that looks like a girl and give her a feminine name, the story line forces you into a male once you exit the character creator. For my character, I made the South Park equivalent of Trent Reznor. Pro-tip: I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about what to name your character.
You also choose your class up front and have the options for Fighter, Mage, Thief, or Jew. This determines what special weapons and abilities are available to your character. I played through as a Jew which granted special abilities like circum-Scythe, Jew-Jitsu, and the Plagues of Egypt.
Sights & Sounds & Systems
Probably one of my favorite aspects of the game was the audio. Both the music and sound effects were superb. They totally ripped off the Skyrim quest notification noises. For the score there were plenty of old favorites to be heard throughout the game like Chocolate Salty Balls, Montage, Kyle’s Mom, and Taco Flavored Kisses (which is now permanently embedded in my brain). They also seem to have all the original voices (which I guess isn’t too hard since most of them are Stone and Parker). Chef even makes an appearance, so they must have been able to cobble together his dialog from old episodes.
The art style is the same as the show as well. Mostly cartoony but every once in a while full resolution art is hanging in the environments. My favorite was the ad for David Hasselhoff’s nose in Tom’s Rhinoplasty.
The menu system for the game is basically a Facebook parody. You get achievements for gaining friends as you traverse South Park and they post to their walls and you can see it in your feed. Kinda neat but you could only passively interact and not post anything (wait come to think of it I wish a lot more people in my own Facebook feed had that problem!)
NO KITTY, THAT'S A BAD KITTY!!!
While the game was mostly a lot of fun, there were a few things that annoyed me.
The map was a nice way to see the layout of South Park but I didn’t feel like the markers for missions and other points of interest really stood out. This sometimes made it difficult to figure out where you were supposed to be going next.
To explore South Park, you enter all the various homes and businesses in the town. Most of the homes have a bathroom and it took about 3 hours before I remembered where the heck the door out of the bathrooms were. It just didn’t seem like the right angle/place you came in. There were also a few bugs, late in the game, where some of the battles no longer had music playing in the background.
Another annoying aspect was the game kept changing my damn clothes (not sure if that’s a bug or a reference to an episode I didn’t see). Your clothes amount to armor so you choose them for abilities. There were at least 3 or 4 missions that changed my clothes on me and then I had to go through a bunch of menus for 5 minutes to redress myself. One time I even lost my black eye, which I had given the character when I created him. WTF?!
The gameplay style is fairly traditional RPG. Its definitely skews to the on rails/short length side. There are a few optional side quest missions like collecting all the Chinpokomon toys (my fav was Velocirapstar) or capturing Man Bear Pig for Al Gore.
As with the story, the game play often makes fun of popular game franchises. You can tell the guys at Obsidian and South Park know their video games. I had to look up what Riposte was as its part of their battle system. Woohoo insult sword fighting a la Monkey Island. There’s also a “Hot Coffee” mission as an homage to the infamous Grand Theft Auto Easter Egg. To befriend the goths you need to learn to “dance” and similar to DDR there’s a beat match mechanic (with Guitar Hero sound effects if you miss notes) as you drink coffee and smoke cigarettes in time to their music. My favorite slam was their piss take on Bioshock’s audio logs.
The battles are setup so you can use magic, weapons or special abilities. The magic system is based on learning different farting techniques like Dragon Shout or Cup a Spell. These are kinda of a PITA to first learn but once you have it down its not so bad (again an instruction book with my disc would have been nice!). Farts are basically modelled after the Dragon Shouts in Skyrim.
Most of your enemies each only have 3 or 4 attacks, which are funny the first few times but get old after coming up 5 or 6 times in the same turn based battle. I’m pretty sure “Re-prioritizing Task List” from the gnomes arsenal is my own personal best weapon in my real life day job though!
In true South Park fashion this game is not for the politically correct or easily grossed out. In fact, there’s a hidden achievement called Too Far that I don’t think goes nearly as far as the alien abduction, Mr. Slave, or bedroom missions. Much like South Park, this game is only to be enjoyed when the kids are in bed.
So Should You Go On Down to South Park?
This is by far the best South Park video game I’ve played. It’s basically an interactive episode so I really enjoyed the story and jokes. The battles got a tedious after a while but I guess happens with a lot of RPGs.
If you like South Park just run out and get this now. If you hate South Park, you will hate this game. If you are somewhere in between you’ll probably enjoy it as long as you can stomach the over the top stuff. It's solid but with some bugs, so I’ll give it our second slot with Price Drop.
The Shadowrun expansion, Dragonfall, released on Steam in February. It is set in the free state of Berlin – headed by Monica Shafer. Naturally, your first mission goes horribly wrong.
If you haven't played Shadowrun previously, you first must create a character and customize to your liking. You may choose between races of either Human, Elf, Dwarf, Ork, or Troll. I personally prefer Elf – as I like to play as tall characters. (I made sure I was as tall as I could be in Final Fantasy XIV.) Afterward, you are tasked with choosing a job, class, or in Dragonfall terms, your “Archetype.” This could be either a Street Samurai, a Mage, a Decker, Shaman, Rigger, or Physical Adept.
Once this is taken care of, customizing the look of your character begins. Unlike other games with this feature, the customization is fairly limited. You are not given much variety here. If you're not wanting to spend too much time here, the game can automatically select a look for you, as well. From here on out, you can customize your stats (physical resistance, quickness, ranged combat, accuracy, etc).
Life Was Good Until...
The game opens up with your team leader, Monkia, gathering outside of Harfield Mansion. Your mission is to raid a data vault, but naturally, things go wrong when you come upon a military base underground. I hope you don't become too attached to Monika, because she'll be killed as she tries to gain access to the base – but not before she leaves you with a faint message.
My Turn, Your Turn, My Turn, Your...
I was never a huge fan of turn-based combat. Some games handle it better than others. I can manage it at times, but here, I am unable to to maintain my patience. I found myself more concerned (and spending more time) getting my team positioned in the right places, at which point, an obstruction blocks my weapon's fire, forcing me to reposition the team once more. When I finally got the system down, I found it lacking any sort of joy
The combat system is simple, at best.
What's it All About?
The world of Shadownrun is fairly immersive. I found myself more wanting to explore and see what I could find, rather than follow the objectives I had been presented with. I shared the same sentiment when playing the classic Dreamcast title, Shenmue.
Editor's Note: Many thanks to Kevin C. for writing up this review for 2old2play.
In Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Solid Snake makes his jump to next-gen in a stand-alone prequel to the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Does Hideo Kojima’s latest project have the chops to stand with its predecessors in this beloved and venerable series? It took less time than you think to find out.
Changing the Game
MGS vets will notice that a few things have changed since the series jumped to the new consoles. First, Kiefer Sutherland is the new voice of Snake, and he does an admirable job, but it’s still going to piss off the fanboys. Cardboard boxes are also apparently a thing of the past and players actually must be stealthy in a Sam Fisher kind of way: utilizing low-light areas, tall grass, and obstacles. Codec conversations were also omitted this time around in favor of regular radio and cassette player.
Just the Tip
MGS V: Ground Zeroes’ main mission is set entirely in an installation on the tip of Cuba. XOF bad guys, led by a dude named Skull Face, for obvious physical reasons, captured two of Snake’s allies in order to initiate a Trojan Horse attack on Snake’s FOX group. Snake’s mission is to rescue the allies, a boy named Chico and the explosive Paz, and deliver them to safety in time to eat lunch during a UN nuclear inspection of Snake’s mother base. Several side missions, all set in the same installation as the main mission, vary in mission objectives. One mission is a double assassination, one is a rescue mission, and there’s an intel grab. Nothing terribly groundbreaking here.
The Groundbreaking Part
Although the missions have sort of an old hat feel to them, this game is doing some brand new stuff that I have never seen in a video game, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I don’t know how to break this gently to the fanboys, so I’m just going to say it: the game is criminally short. The game is so short, in fact, that it isn’t much more than a demo. I personally have no problem with game demos, until somebody tries to charge me thirty fucking bucks for it...then it’s a problem. Konami is charging thirty dollars for a game where the main mission took me just 61 minutes to complete. Yeah, there’s a handful of side missions, but the play time on those is only 10-15 minutes each. That puts total game time somewhere between 2-3 hours to finish everything.
Something else I have never personally seen in a game is the dev placing himself prominently as a character in one of the side missions. Check this out, Hideo Kojima not only puts himself in the game, but once the mission is over he hangs out with Snake in the chopper on the menu screen and fucks around with the mission list. I’ve seen devs put themselves on posters in Duke Nukem 3D, while Doom 3: BFG had messages from the development team in email form on the marine’s PDA, and even Rare used likenesses of their guys as faces on the bad guys in Goldeneye, but they never put them in a fucking helicopter next to the main character! What kind of egomaniacal dick puts himself in his own game? The good news is that you can kill him.
The game looks great, the voice acting is top-notch, the graphics are fluid and very smooth, and the story is engaging. However, charging folks $30 for a demo is a classless fucking money-grab and sets a very dangerous and expensive precedent for future games if this kind of thing gains traction.
Fuck Hideo Kojima’s overpriced demo and wait for the full game.
Currently available for the Xbox One and PC and later this month for the Xbox 360, this Titanfall review is based on play from the closed Alpha, open Beta, and the retail release Xbox One versions of the game.
Nothing Really New, Just Nicer to Look at
When the Xbox One was officially announced, there was a lot of armchair critiquing within the various gaming circles that I associate with on which game would be THE game that would be this generation’s Halo or Gears of War. Forza brought us the drivatar system that, when it works, is a great way to play bump cars against 15 or so other AI competitors that mimic your douchebag friends’ abilities to T-bone you at the start of a race. Dead Rising 3 brought us so many details in graphics and the missions were totally…. ZOMBIES!!! KATANA!!!! Must kill them!!!! What was I saying about Dead Rising 3? Oh yeah, there are just way too many fun-filled zombie-related activities in that game to keep you focused on doing any of the missions that it is a paradise for someone like that has ADH-SQUIRREL!!!
Aside from these two Xbox exclusives, there were smaller exclusives as well as the cross-platformers from the Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Assassin’s Creed franchises that you could play to help you justify purchasing a next-gen console. With quite possibly the exemption of Forza 5, these were all the same games as their predecessors and there really was nothing new, they were just nicer to look at. If you don’t believe me, come to San Diego and I’ll give you my Wii. You can play a system that’s at least two generations back. I hear they have Hannah Montana Extreme Wrecking Ball releasing for it the moment Hannah Montana gets out of rehab.
Enter the Titan
At the same time that the Xbox One was announced at E3, another game was announced to much fanfare -Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment. While other games were bragging about how they were exclusive to this or that console or how they would be getting DLC first over the other consoles, Titanfall quickly made a hole in this virtual room of games by garnering enough gaming awards to err, uhm, fill a Titan and then some. Electric Playground Best of E3, Electric Playground Best of E3 (Shooter), CNET 12 Most Exciting Games of E3 2013, IGN Best Shooter to name a few and this was while we were all still wondering what the game truly was about.
Was it going to be good? Was it going to be fun? What exactly was it about? The details were sketchy but the one thing that kept people coming back for more was the fact that this game had giant mechs in it called Titans. GIANT MECHS CALLED TITANS. Nuff said and if you can’t get behind playing a game with Titans, you should come to San Diego and I’ll give you my Wii so that you can play Hannah Montana: Dora the Explorer Deathmatch - it’s a fighting game on rails - and we will forget that you ever called yourself a gamer.
What Does the Vince Say?
The game was quickly met with skepticism upon the announcement that the game would have a campaign mode called multiplayer campaign and that it would be played over the multiplayer space instead of the traditional “Johnny likes to play with himself” space that all other game campaigns occupy. Additional skepticism grew when Respawn CEO and Chief Titan Pilot Vince Zampella announced that the game would be 6v6 instead of the typical team numbers found in other FPS games. A lot of my people went from armchair critic to armchair game developer with this news, bashing the 6v6 mechanic as being lame and saying that it would never work. Boy were they wrong…
Although there is a story/plot, Titanfall is like a great porn movie. You don’t watch it for the story until AFTER you’ve watched all of the “action” scenes. Wait, did I just type that out for everyone to read? Crap, my delete button doesn’t work so the site editor may have to censor that or let it stay…
What I mean is that although there is a story and although the story does have some depth to it, it’s not deep enough (what is it with this porn analogy - doh, analogy!) it takes a back seat to the action that happens in the game. As soon a chapter starts, you’re on a jumpship itching to plunge to certain death but now without first start kicking virtual butt. Depending on which chapter you are playing, the game mode is either Attrition (Team Deathmatch) or Hardpoint (Domination) - see there we go again with the porn analogy and if hardpoint domination doesn’t remind you of a porn movie, come to San Diego and I’ll give you my Wii. It doesn’t remind me of porn either.
The story elements are simple enough to follow along. You are part of either the IMC or the Militia and you fight the other side to try and prove who has the bigger Titan. That’s where Titanfall kind of misses its mark - If you are getting it to play single player, don’t. Single player doesn’t exist. You will be disappointed.
Thankfully, Titanfall’s campaign includes an element that it utterly excels in - multiplayer. You have to play the campaign if you want to unlock the Stryder and Ogre along with a few other perks along the way but you really aren’t simply playing campaign. You’re playing multiplayer as well in a very meta kind of way. That’s what makes up for a somewhat weak story in the campaign and by the time you finish campaign, you will be ready to take on the quagmire that is multiplayer and unlike other FPS games where you are either good or not, you will find something to be good at in Titanfall.
Whether you like to hunt and take out other players or Pilots or whether you prefer to molest game AI in the form of Grunts or Spectres, Titanfall’s got you covered and then some because just when you think that you are dominating on the battlefield, you get notification over your Comms that, “Your Titan is ready.” Then you hit that down button on your D-pad and it’s a whole new world of hurt! You go from a sack of blood and bones to a nuclear-powered, bipedal tank with guns that make Doom’s BFG look very tiny. You become an unstoppable force of nature that wreaks havoc on - “ENEMY PILOT ONBOARD YOUR TITAN!” Excuse me while I take care of this minor inconvenience. Okay. I’m back and that’s better. As I was saying before I was interrupted, you become a badass inside of a mech the size of a building and life is good!
The magic is in the 6v6 (human vs. human) vs AI vs Titan mechanic found throughout all modes of this game. If you’re like me after a few drinks and can’t aim without spraying the whole area of your TV screen hoping that you will randomly land a shot on something, don’t worry, you can always hunt down the AI Grunts or Spectres. If you prefer perform on a higher level and have the reaction time of a tweaker strung out on speed, there are 6 human enemy pilots on the opposite team that you can hunt but you have to be quick. Unlike other games that give you limited sprint abilities, the pilots in Titanfall go through rigorous physical training and can sprint indefinitely while jumping great heights with the help of jump packs. When you’ve racked up enough points from Grunts, Spectres, and or Pilots, you get rewarded with a Titan that you can call in earlier than the requisite 2 minutes. If you are a pacifist and decide to just wait it out, your Titan will be ready in 2 minutes with little to no effort.
So there’s a little something for everyone and when you call in that Titan for the first time, remember to look up in the sky because it will be like your first kiss - an experience you will never forget. Respawn spared no expense either. Turn your sound up too… The rendering of your Titan piercing the atmosphere, producing a sonic boom, and landing on the ground is an experience in itself that you need to completely consume.
Respawn Entertainment did a spectacular job with this game but they haven’t stopped working. Issues like trying to find matches, getting disconnected from your party, party chat dying at random times, etc. pop up from time to time but unlike the other EA game that I will not mention by the name of Battlefield 4, Respawn is proactively doing all that it can (and as fast as it can) to put the player experience first. They have not only set the bar in a game where we expect to be wowed, but they are also setting the bar in the kind of support that all other game developers should be providing. Bravo Respawn, bravo!
I mentioned a few other games at the beginning of this article but none of them truly capture the essence of next-gen gaming as much as Titanfall does. Titanfall really feels like you are playing a next-gen game and as I mentioned above, it has something for everyone to enjoy… even non-FPS gamers like all of you that are coming to San Diego to take my Wii. You will find something to enjoy in this game so if you have an Xbox One but haven’t already picked this game up, pick it up because you are missing out.
The view from the ledge of the clock tower, home to the master thief Garrett, shows a city in distress. Dissenters are being hanged in Stonecutter Square, a plague called “The Gloom” is ravaging the population, Moira Asylum is overrun with terrifying creatures, and Baron Northcrest is up to some evil and twisted shit. What this city needs is a hero; what they get is a thief.
Friction in the Workplace
The master thief and his impetuous protege, Erin, are off to steal a gem for a client in the prologue. Erin, resentful about Garrett’s preaching, and Garrett, preachy over Erin’s resentfulness, start squabbling on the roof of the job site which attracts the local guards. Shit goes downhill very quickly and Erin falls to her death. Garrett wakes up one year later being carted into town by a couple of beggars, which also goes downhill very quickly forcing Garrett to slip away in the shadows. Garrett reconnects with his old fence to sort out what happened in the time he lost and to discover Erin’s fate. The master thief has some work to do.
A Thief and His Tools
Garrett has an established reputation in the city, and his wanted posters are everywhere and, no, you cannot tear them down. Garrett starts off with a bow and a lockpick set, both of which can be upgraded later. The bow is ideal for taking out enemies at a distance, which is handy because Garrett is the world’s worst melee fighter. The fact that he refuses to carry anything more deadly than a blackjack only further compromises his combat usefulness. I guess it’s honorable to drive an arrow into someone’s head as long as you don’t use a sword. Garrett has access to some nifty arrows with a variety of uses: water arrows put out torches, choke arrows knock out dogs and birds and extinguish flames, fire arrows ignite flammables, blast arrows explode, broadside arrows make holes in guards, and sawtooth arrows make larger holes in tougher guards. Garrett also uses primitive flashbangs and can hurl bottles for a distraction. The blackjack is used to knock out folks from behind. It’s almost useless in actual combat, so don’t let it come to that: the loading screen is quite lengthy if you let him die.
Garrett can also purchase a razor, wrench and wire cutters from the arrow vendor outside of Basso’s office. The razor allows Garrett to liberate paintings from their frames, the wrench opens grates and the cutters disarm traps. You should buy these as soon as you can afford them. Garrett’s claw, procured from Erin in the prologue, is used to access those hard to reach places.
Experience gained can be used to upgrade Garrett’s abilities. These upgrades can also be purchased from the Queen of Beggars, who acts as sort of a sage for the master thief. She holds court just around the corner from Basso’s place of business.
Players utilize the clock tower as Garrett’s stash box and base of operations. Any unique or particularly valuable items are added to Garrett’s collection in the tower to be fawned over at the player’s convenience. Basso sends birds carrying messages to the tower on a regular basis.
Thief was developed by Eidos Montreal, the company responsible for bringing us Deux Ex: Human Revolution, and published by Square Enix. Like Deus Ex, Thief is a very dark and shadowy game. The city itself is under a perpetual supernatural nightfall, which works in Garrett’s favor. Keep Garrett in the shadows for maximum effectiveness-extinguishing torches and candles when possible. Thief provides players a light meter in the bottom left of the screen that indicates whether Garrett can be seen or not.
Garrett’s trail for the truth takes him through the run-down wood and stone streets and rooftops of the city, into the Baron’s mansion, inside a brothel, down to a couple of underground cities, and into the bowels of a mental institution. Some environments include puzzles that must be solved to progress, but nothing too mentally strenuous. The game borrows the level-grading system from the latest Splinter Cell game, rewarding players for either being sneaky, opportunistic, or predatory. Some bonuses can only be taken advantage of utilizing one of these three particular play styles.
As far as stories go, Thief tells a pretty good one. I felt genuinely motivated to both progress the plot and pick up side jobs from Ector and Basso. Most of the performances felt appropriate for the time and personality of the the character with one glaring exception: Garrett. Our master thief is unenthusiastically voiced with a modern, non-regional American dialect, making him stick out like a sore thumb. The protagonist should never be the least interesting person in the game.
Level progression is fairly steady as long as the player is in predator mode. Going stealthy drags the game to a near standstill while crouching, waiting, and timing movements. Since Garrett is not a particularly gifted fighter, and players are rewarded more handsomely for being stealthy, Thief can be a very slow-moving game. The introduction of supernatural elements to the series may cause some Thief veterans to cry foul, but it didn’t necessarily spoil the game for me.
Thief gets points for environments, story, gadgetry, NPC performances (the Thief-Taker General in particular) and providing gamers with an authentic and interesting atmosphere in which to do business. However, the game’s crawling pace, lackluster protagonist performance, and limited replayability force me to advise waiting for a sale. It’s a good game, it’s just not a great game.
If you played any of the previous Lego games from Traveller’s Tales then you pretty much know what to expect. If you saw any of the Marvel movies, especially The Avengers, then you pretty much know what to expect. The game is called Lego Marvel Super Heroes...what did you expect? That’s not to say there aren’t a few surprises along the way. Don’t discount this title as a movie tie-in as it does have it’s own storyline and it’s a good little game to boot!
Did you hear that?
Traveller’s Tales Lego games almost always entertain me. My first experience, probably like many others, was with the Lego Star Wars games. It was as if chocolate met peanut butter but in game form...and with Lego and Star Wars. The game was light, fun, humorous and, for me, set the standard by which I judge all other Lego games. I loved how they were able to tell the story through simple minifig body language. The key to those games and others was that you knew the story. You didn’t need the words to move it along. The environments and characters were familiar and when you minifig shrugged or tilted his head you knew exactly what they were saying.
Then Traveller’s Tales broke that “magic” when they introduced voices into Lego Batman 2. At first, voices from my minifigs was a tough pill to swallow. In fact, I had a hard time playing it at first and I kept putting it aside. It dawned on me one day when I was watching my nephew play the Star Wars game why TT added them. My nephew knew the Star Wars story and knew in a basic sense what he had to accomplish to get past that mission. These newer games had new untold stories and I could see how that might leave the younger players lost. I finally accepted these little plastic people talking to me and other characters in the game so when I first loaded up Lego Marvel Super Heroes and heard voices such as Agent Phil Coulson’s (voiced by Clark Gregg) it was a pleasant surprise.
That is actually how I could classify this entire game; it’s a pleasant surprise. In my opinion, Marvel as a universe on whole always had a lighter take on its characters and storylines than it’s main rival DC. If I were to compare Lego Marvel Super Heroes against Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes I would say the same thing. This game is light, fun, doesn’t take itself too seriously and maintains the better game play elements from previous games. It doesn’t try to do anything radically different but in this case that is perfectly fine. I remember constantly dying in the Indiana Jones games trying to jump to a swinging rope or onto a ledge. I wasn’t timing it wrong, I was off the sweet spot by what seemed like a fraction of a millimeter while the camera angle continually worked against me. Those games became a chore to slog through quite quickly. Not once did I feel that way about Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
The story is basically several Saturday morning cartoon plot lines back when Saturday morning cartoons were good. League of villains trying to takeover and destroy the earth. League of good guys banding together to stop them. Through the course of the main missions you will play as Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine, Spiderman, Thor, Storm, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Mr. Fantastic, Human Torch, The Invisible Woman, Black Widow, Hawkeye, The Thing and more (watch for a recurring cameo). All uniquely voiced and all with distinct personalities based on their comic book personas.
Always look on the bright side of life
This is still a Lego game so their minifig personalities are based more on the lighter Marvel Universe comics than the other more mature versions of themselves. That should be expected as this is a game geared for kids, and the kid that thrives in some of us “older” kids, and it enhances the fun. The dialog between characters is ripe with inside jokes and even some more geared for the adults. When Director Fury commands you to get those gosh darn snakes off his gosh darn helicarrier or goes into a Pulp Fiction type rant I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle. When The Human Torch comments that the rainbow bridge leading to Asgard just makes him want to race (which is exactly what I thought when I watched the first Thor movie) I had a good little laugh mainly as I can’t stand that Rainbow Road level in Mario Kart. The best lines aren’t all saved for the heroes, the villains have a few of their own as well.
Typically when I play these games I break everything I can to make sure I get 100% of the studs needed and as many extras as I can find. I play this way so that when I play with my kids, who only like playing in free play, a number of characters are already unlocked and the mission becomes secondary to just having fun. This time, while I tried to get 100% of the studs needed I also tried to stick to the mission at hand and not venture off. When I finished the game in about 12 hours I had just over 20% complete. It isn’t a long game when looking at the main mission alone but that other 80% leaves a lot of game left to explore.
Below the line
There are a few disappointments with this game. Same couch co-op is there, like many other Lego games, but for some inexplicable reason online co-op is absent. Why would that be left out? This is the perfect game for online co-op and Traveller’s Tales included it before on other games so there is no reason why it couldn’t happen with Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Playing couch co-op is what I love to do but the rotating split screen has got to go. It sounds like a great idea on paper as it gives you the whole screen to work with but it will work against you more than a number of times while you play. As the split rotates around to follow you or your partner's character, the camera shifts as well forcing you to continually adjust aiming or you’ll risk suddenly losing sight of your target. In Free Play, which is all about changing to the right character, the selection screen flips to whatever side of the screen you are on or plunks itself in the middle. More than once Mrs. Soup and I cursed this scheme while we played. While the character selection is color coded it never seemed to pop up where we expected it would.
Lastly, the control scheme seems off. Normally, this hasn’t been an issue in most Lego games but for some reason I had a bitch of a time controlling my minifig when walking, flying or driving. At their normal pace everything was fine but when they all of a sudden get their giddy-up you had to hang on for dear life. I found myself, more often than not, easing off as soon as the minifig sped up. This annoyed me as many a time you had to walk your little yellow avatar to the next mission. I have an issue with walking in games from point to point to start a mission. I understand that there are many side missions to be discovered along the way but I should be able to just choose the next mission without wasting five minutes getting to the next start point. I know, five minutes....”stop whining Chunky”...but when my game time is getting harder and harder to carve out of my day that extra 20 minutes or so of just walking is 20 minutes I could use to finish a mission, pick up the dog crap in the backyard or do the dishes to earn some all important brownie points with Mrs. Soup!
All in all, besides the points listed above, this is a fun game. Given that Lego Marvel Super Heroes can be found for $30 or less at this point I recommend picking this title up-especially if you enjoyed other Lego games, have kids and want to play with them, have something they can play together, enjoy the Marvel universe or all of the above.
In February 2012, Double Fine made history when they became the largest crowd funded game in Kickstarter history raising over $3.4 million dollars in just three months. They exceeded their initial goal of $400,000 in mere hours; proof that the world is indeed still hungry for an old school Tim Schafer point-and-click adventure game.
The original plan in the Kickstarter pitch? The game would feature a small development team and be completed by the fall of that same year. That didn’t quite happen in practice but now, just under two years later, backers and anyone who wants to buy a copy can get their hands on Episode One of Broken Age on Steam. Episode Two hopefully follows later this year.
Tim Schafer of Double Fine and the internet’s reaction to him making an Adventure game
A Clicking of Age Story
Broken Age follows the lives of two adolescent characters, Shay and Vella, in their transition from carefree children to the harsh reality of adulthood. Denis Leary’s “Life’s Gonna Suck When You Grow Up” would be a great theme song for the game! You can play as either character and switch back and forth whenever you like. In Episode One, the stories are for the most part separate and there isn’t any interaction between the characters.
Shay appears to be alone on a spaceship that caters to his every need like an overbearing nanny. His parents are omnipresent via screens that are close ups of their faces and they frequently nag him for things like brushing his teeth and eating right.
He is expected to have a daily dose of adventures which are little contrived scenes where he plays hero to stuffed animals his mom knits for him. You quickly get the sense he is growing bored with the monotony of lone space travel and is looking for ways to go on real adventures.
Vella is a teenager from the town of Sugar Bunting. She was chosen to represent the village in the Maiden’s Feast, a great honor. It turns out the Maiden’s Feast is when the villages dress up their girls in local finery (Vella’s baking village dresses all the girls up like cakes) as potential sacrifices to Mog Chothra, a beast that terrorizes all the villages of the land once a year. Vella believes this is an absurd tradition and tries lobbying others to kill Mog Chothra instead. I’ll stop here for spoilers.
Keep It Down Now, Voices Carry
Broken Age has quite the all-star cast of characters. Shay is voiced by Frodo himself, Elijah Wood. Jack Black and Wil Wheaton play some scene stealing characters. There are also some of my favorites from cartoons such as Richard Steven Horvitz (aka Invader Zim and Raz from Double Fine’s game Psychonauts) and Cree Summer (Penny from Inspector Gadget and Elmyra from Tiny Toons). Although my favorite where the heck have I heard that voice moment from the game was trying to place who voiced Ginny Westcott. She’s been in many Double Fine games and Day of the Tentacle, but where I actually recognized the voice from was the damn talking LeapFrog Letter Factory thing all my nieces and nephews had on their refrigerators. And now, once again, the letter A song will be permanently embedded in my brain!
CEO of Harmonix Music Systems Alex Rigopulos not only voiced a character but he actually plays some version of himself (the character’s name is Alex) in the game. This honor was one of the special backer funding options and brings me one step closer to my dream of a Double Fine and Harmonix team up on a game!
So How About That Gameplay?
Broken Age is a traditional point-and-click adventure. It uses a single click context based system so you really only need one button. There are a few different cursors which you can learn the context of pretty quickly. There is no in game hint system nor does it have the special button you can press to see all the interactive objects within a room. I tend to like having that special button in adventure games but there wasn’t much trouble with pixel hunting or too many rooms with lots of interactive objects so it wasn’t too bad without it here.
According to my Steam stats, the game took me 5.4 hours to play which isn’t too bad for a two episode adventure game. 10-12 hours for the full game seems reasonable. The puzzles were about right in difficulty and I didn’t need to cheat at anything. Any time something started to get frustrating I just switched back to the other character and tried something different for a while.
The gameplay is the traditional: walking around talking to people and finding stuff to solve puzzles. It also features one of my favorite adventure game cliches: how many times can I click through options to keep getting terrible jokes? Woohoo, lots of awesome space cereal names! It also has the traditional “fun” phrases you get when trying to combine objects or solve puzzles at random. My favorite was every time I tried to use a talking plastic knife on anything I wasn’t supposed to I got:
Shay: “I don’t want to stab that.”
Knife: “I do!”
Walking Around in a Painting
Double Fine went with a very specific art style for the game that is best described as walking around in one of lead artist Nathan Stapley’s paintings. Having seen lots of concept art and screenshots as a backer, I was skeptical of it being a little too dream-scapy. However, once you are in the game it works really well and you do get lost in the story book worlds. It can sometimes be a little difficult to figure out which parts of the landscape you can interact with verses which you can’t though, especially in the cloud area.
Peter McConnell, who also worked on Schafer’s other games Brutal Legend and Grim Fandango, composed the game’s score. It really captures the mood for the different locations and actions in the game and contributes to keeping you fully immersed in the world.
If you enjoy point-and-click adventures in general you are sure to enjoy this one. It features many elements of old school ones as well as updated graphics and an all-star cast. While thus far it doesn’t replace any of my old school Lucas or Sierra Games as a new favorite, it’s solid and I can’t wait for the next episode. I give it New rating, but my only caution might be to wait until the next episode releases so you can play it altogether since Episode One ends on quite a cliffhanger!
2old2play scored a review copy of Zen Pinball’s latest table(s): Super League Football for the PS4. Before you get your hopes up for getting to sack Peyton Manning with a silver ball, by football they mean soccer. I tried looking up what European’s call pinball, but apparently its just pinball.
The table runs $2.99 USD on consoles (you get to pick your team, but more on that later) or $1.99 USD for mobile and PC. I took it for a test drive on the Playstation 4 and tried out each team.
As with anything I get to review as an early adopter of next gen systems, I had to wait 45 minutes for system updates and downloading the game itself before I could actually play. I still don’t understand why my PC and XBox 360 are lightning fast over wireless for updates but PS4 and WiiU just can’t get it together. All of the machines are within a foot of each other on the same network. Is this some sort of net neutrality precursor in the video game industry?!
Can I actually play pinball now?!
Once installed the title screen music for Zen Pinball on the PS4 is pretty annoying.Annoying to the point where I hit mute while I was browsing menus and waiting for the rest of the tables to finish downloading. The Zen interface seems pretty much the same on the PS4 as on Android or the WiiU so nothing really new there. Just a front end to download whatever tables are available and change some settings.
Super League Football is technically only a single new table but you can buy different versions (basically skins) of it depending on your team preference. The gameplay is nearly identical no matter which club you pick. The differences are in aesthetics of the table like pictures of the current squad on the playfield , team logos on bumpers, and the mascot off to the side.
The clubs in the image below are available at launch and Zen is hoping to get more to sign on in the future.
Choosing a team sets your allegiance and gains points for you club in the online leaderboards. Sales of the specific table you chose are reported directly back to the clubs as well, for bragging rights. Or you can just play as Zen Studios if you don’t want to choose a side.
I played soccer in my youth and have even been to a World Cup game but never got into the league teams. Instead of phoning it in and talking about “ludicrous displays” IT Crowd style, I checked in with my Scottish friend that actually follows soccer (because I am a real journalist unlike most “news” channel hosts) about which tables to check out. He confirmed that the problem with Arsenal is that that they always try and walk into the net. Then said something about Liverpool being tosser chihuahuas and the Italian league being corrupt. Also that Real Madrid has Ronaldo, currently the best player (and highest paid according to wikipedia) in the league. I was sad to find he was not the same Ronaldo I knew when I actually followed soccer nor is he Coach Z in the latest Homestar Runner Dangeresque film.
Since “research” did not help me pick a favorite table, I went with who has the coolest mascot. Any team with the creepy soccer head guy is immediately off the list (I’m looking at your Liverpool and Real Madrid). I was between AC Milan’s devil or AC Roma’s wolf. Final edge wolf as I can’t resist anything with cute googly eyes. The Zen table gets a bonus shout out for a sheep mascot and replacing the players with a bunch of pasty white guys who I assume are the development team. FC Barcelona gets honorable mention for least annoying club anthem.
Even if you don’t really care about the soccer theme its still a pretty cool table with a lot of interesting things going on. Zen likened it to a “modern version” of Midway’s 1994 physical pinball table World Cup soccer:
World Cup Soccer (Midway 1994), is one of the greatest pinball tables ever created, and we have long been thinking about creating a modern day version football pinball table that would capture the essence of the game in today’s climate, include the biggest clubs and players, and create an exciting level of competition that makes club football so entertaining. Working with the biggest clubs in the world and involving players like Lionel Messi, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, Gerard Piqué, Francesco Totti, and Andrea Pirlo, really takes this pinball experience to another level.
World Cup Soccer is a fun table and would get my ultimate vote for best mascot with Striker but these tables are a good modern virtual substitute.
Play the stupid game already!
The tables have the usual ramps, bumpers, and targets you’d expect in a pin. The ball actually looks like a soccer ball instead of the normal silver. It makes it a lot easier to see when there is spin on the ball as its speeding toward you and fits nicely in the overall theme.
The really interesting part of this game is the mini playfield. It simulates a goal complete with goalie and defenders which you can decrease the number of by hitting a series of target and ramp shots.
The ball launch animation is a virtual player kicking the ball up the ramp. Being a pinball purist I don’t really like it when virtual tables do something there’s no way you could do on a physical table so I wasn’t really a fan of that mechanic. Plus the novelty wears off after like the first two balls. #thatswhatshesaid
A somewhat unique feature I did like is the table has extra flippers in the outlanes where you can take a sort of corner kick for a last minute save. I apparently have cat like reflexes when it drains down the left side but I don’t think I ever made a recovery if it was draining right.
The audio for the table simulates the din of the crowd as if you were at a real soccer match. Sounds cool in theory but is pretty annoying in practice. Thankfully they did at least spare us anyone in the crowd having Vuvuzelas or I probably would have had to play with mute on. Each team does have its own anthem playing in the ambient noise as well. There seem to be different modes in the game and sometime it focus on the crowd noise and other times it plays the anthem. Both are equally annoying. The commentating also seems extra repetitive but maybe that’s because my greatest pinball skill is hitting precisely the same shot over and over again which is usually the exact opposite of the real shot I’m aiming for. I must have heard the multi-ball comment “Its almost like there’s two balls on the pitch” about a bazillion times after playing for a few hours.
If you get halfway decent at a table, there is also a game within the game where you are actually playing matches in a season against other clubs as you play. If you can manage not to lose all three of your balls in the allotted time of the match you win or lose your match with your opponent depending on who scored more goals. Matches are set in two halves with halftime multiball session in between the two.
At the end of regulation if you lost all your balls, you see if you won your match and you’ll move on to another week of play. There are 10 matches against 5 different teams in a season and different teams have varying degrees of difficulty as opponents.
I did find you can hack your way into getting through a game by just catching the ball on a flipper and holding it till the clock runs out. I feel like they should have added a cheat rule for that that would tilt if you tried to hold on a flipper for say longer than 30 seconds.
Final Pin Spin
The table is fun even if you could care less about soccer but overall I’d say you can wait for a discount.The gameplay is solid but ultimately the sounds drove me crazy. I do however give Zen props for mixing up their target audience with this as a departure from their recent Superhero and Sci Fi tables. It's not terrible but I’ve liked a lot of their other tables better.