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Joe Danger: Special Edition Review

December 19th, 2011 by pixelsocks
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It’s the holiday season and there’s a hell of a lot of cheer going around. So I’d like to call you back to one of your less pleasant memories. Recall opening up your presents on christmas morning as a wee tyke. You’re drunk on the last six weeks of advertising and nothing eclipses your love for a toy car playset. There’s gonna be ramps and loops and racing and crashing, and it’ll be the best toy ever. Now recall what it actually was: a bunch of boring plastic that barely fits together and is fated for the first garage sale of the season. Remember that disappointment. Joe Danger: Special Edition promises to right that wrong, and for the most part it delivers.

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Orcs Must Die Review

November 30th, 2011 by pixelsocks
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It’s hard to believe that just a few short years ago tower defense was mostly confined to cultish flash games. Indies have have since stretched the genre into multiplayer, dropped player perspective to the trenches, and even stripped out the walls. Orcs Must Die is best understood against that backdrop. It’s a payoff game that emerges from so much industry to refine innovation into polish.

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Data Jammers: Fast Forward Review

November 16th, 2011 by pixelsocks
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Data Jammers: FastForward teases apart the difference between casual and easy, which is a lost nicety in modern gaming. It’s also concise, tightly designed, and pretty, but it’s best distinguished as a casual game with fangs. All this is comes as a surprise from a game whose closest evolutionary relative is the racing genre, but there’s just no accounting for indie creativity.

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Still Sick

October 31st, 2011 by pixelsocks
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Hello ladies and germs, but mostly germs. I’ve been playing realtime strategy against viral invaders for the past weeks, but it’s looking like I’m not very good at this. That said, being laid out by disease has given me a chance to give you two recent game recommendations for the terminally ill:

Batman: Arkham City
The flowing rhythm-based combat is fairly forgiving and doesn’t demand lightning reflexes. Also, the game’s 400+ Riddler trophies are so pervasive and the corresponding play so repetitive, it’s only really suitable for players who are just conscious enough to be bored.

Dungeon Defenders
Can you say infinite level treadmill? Furthermore, DD is flexible take on the tower defense genre, suitable for both strategic and tactical play. So while you lay dying, you can focus on low-pressure tower building, leaving the hectic action part to your automated defenses. Then, if you recover, you can start working on your melee skills. Now if they’d just get their banner feature (cross-platform play) working. Seriously guys, this is supposed to be a joke.

Hopefully those’ll keep you busy while I finish recovering, because it is seriously impossible to update when I just want to sleep.

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Indiecade Winners

October 18th, 2011 by pixelsocks
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It’s the holiday season, so games are coming fast and furious. Some of the best stuff isn’t produced by AAA developers, though. Indiecade, an independent games festival, Is there in the autumn months to remind you which games deserve watching, whether they have millions in their advertising budgets or not.

Actually, unlike GDC, Indiecade would prefer that you didn’t have a huge budget.

Thirteen games were chosen by a panel of experts for honors at this year’s festival, and these are games to watch. Some are finished, some are polished, and some are a little bit bizarre. So pick a category to suit your interests, and you may find a game to love.

Grand Jury Award
FEZ (Polytron Corporation)

Innovative Game Award
Hungry Hungry UFOs (Asher Vollmer, Sam Farmer and Ben Bharier)

Visuals
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (Superbrothers, Capybara Games, Jim Guthrie)

Audio
Proteus (Ed Key)

Impact
Johann Sebastian Joust (Douglas Wilson and Friends)

Interaction
Ordnungswissenschaft (Till Wittwer, Marek Plichta and Jakob Penca)

Game Design
Deepak Fights Robots (Tom Sennett)

Technology
Johann Sebastian Joust (Douglas Wilson and Friends)

FEZ (Polytron Corporation)

Special Recognition
The Swapper (Facepalm Games)

Developers Choice Award
Way (Coco & Co)

Audience Choice Award
The Depths to Which I Sink (Bigpants)

You can find all the finalists at the Indiecade main site.

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Muramasa: The Demon Blade Review

October 11th, 2011 by pixelsocks
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Developers tend to have a signature–a type of game they make. Nippon Ichi makes grindy strategy games. Bethesda makes overambitious open world RPGs. Bioware remakes KotOR every few years. It’s not ubiquetous or anything, but when you’re in the biz, you tend to stick to what you’re good at.

Vanillaware’s makes a particular kind of brawler. They take a rich cultural tradition of myth, realize it lovingly in pixel art, and then insert some characters to punch everyone in the face. They did it to Norse myth (which didn’t really need more face-punching), and they’ve hit Japanese myth now with Muramasa: The Demon Blade. Mercifully, Vanillaware seems to have learned something between the two games, sparing Muramasa the ennui that ruined their first brawler.

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Mario Is Missing

October 5th, 2011 by pixelsocks
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Yeah, so work called, which cuts into my writing time. Please divert yourselves with this extraordinary video of that time Mario bought a portal gun.

Incidentally, there’s a whole series of these things on youtube.

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A little existential dread

September 30th, 2011 by pixelsocks
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I’m a little busy playing The Binding of Isaac to write something substantial. It’s ok though, because if you haven’t read this article, you really need to. It’s hard to describe succinctly, but it’s a sort of mix between a “state of the industry” talk and Childhood’s End. It’s a fair pile of text for the internet, but it’s frightening and sad and worth thinking about. Perhaps you’ll agree.

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Decide-O-Tron

September 26th, 2011 by pixelsocks
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If there’s one thing Penny Arcade seems to enjoy, it’s unleashing imaginary robots. So it is with the Decide-o-tron, a game recommendation app they recently added to the app store. The red robot imports data from your XBL and PSN accounts, mines it, and spits out recommendations.

Decide-o-tron does a passable job of making recommendations (except when it suggests a game you own on another platform), but that’s not the cool feature. Instead, the app’s remarkably comprehensive release list steals the show. I’ve long puzzled over how to add a ticker box to the site that tracks the next and last five new releases. I never quite worked out a way to do it without wasting half my life or paying Amazon to do it for me. Decide-o-tron beats me to that punch and adds handy features like filtering by genre and ESRB ratings. So at least somebody has that covered.

The app’s impressive database stretches all the way back to the GBA, so it also makes a decent library management interface, if you need such a thing. You can also rate your games to optimize the recommendations, though it’s fairly time-consuming to rate any substantial number of games. It’s actually simpler and generally more impressive to exploit the app’s “more games like this” button It’s secreted away inside the game descriptions, but does a remarkable job linking related titles together.

The Decide-o-tron has been available for a while now, though it wasn’t really usable until a crash fix upgraded it to unstable. There’s also a lot of room to grow, with the obvious missing feature being Steam integration. PC games are included in Decide-o-tron’s database, but you can’t import your Steam library, saving yourself hours of data entry.

Oh, and if you’re scoffing that it can’t possibly be hours, that just means you haven’t lived through a Steam sale. I’m not sure yet whether I envy or pity you.

Digression aside, Decide-o-tron also lacks common connectivity features. There’s no way to recommend games to friends, locally or otherwise. Decide-o-tron books no face and cannot tweet. In fact, the app’s sole concession to connectivity is the power to export your wishlist to email. Y’know, so you can re-input the list on Amazon, where people can use it.

I’m a little hard on the Decide-o-tron, but it’s only because it has such potential. Still, the app’s superheroic release date tracking already justifies its existence, and the devs can always add features, like a software engineer. For the time being, I wouldn’t say the Decide-o-tron will be a cornerstone of your gaming apps, but it’s worth a few minutes of your time.

Oh, and it’s free.

Edit: You can find a succinct (and scathing) evaluation of the technology here.

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Super Smash Land

September 22nd, 2011 by pixelsocks
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In case you’re under 20, that’s a Game Boy “de-make” of Smash Bros. If you’re under 10, a Game Boy is an ancient brick that adults used to play portable games. It could deflect bullets and play games at temperatures over 500 degrees. It weighed 20 pounds and WE LIKED IT THAT WAY!

I love a good de-make. Enforced simplicity really exposes a game’s core mechanics. Best of all, this is a real playable game, so you can give it a spin.

Now get off my damn lawn.

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