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Cheer Up! Card Game Preview April 4, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Previews.
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This past weekend, I was lucky enough to meet the guys from Cheer Up Games at CT GamerCon 2017 to do a live preview of their upcoming card game, Cheer Up!

You can download the game’s official rules here, but here’s a brief retelling of how the game is played: One player picks a question card, which, before being read, will tell players to draw two cards from each specified deck. So if a question card says A+B, it means players have to draw two cards from deck A and two from deck B. If a question card says C+C, it means players have to draw four cards from deck C.  Once each player has their cards, the question card is read aloud, and the players have to pick which of the cards in their hands they want to use to answer the question card. Before the cards are read, a rule card is drawn. This rule card adds a random modifier to the question, such as a requirement to answer the question with a heavy accent.

Once each player gives their answer, the person who drew the question card chooses which answer they liked best, and that player wins the round.

For example:

A question card could be drawn that says “What’s the worst thing you could be caught doing without pants on?”  The players won’t know the question at first, but they will be told C+C, so each player will draw four cards from the deck C.

Once everyone has their cards in hand, the question is read and after the initial laughs subside, the players then select which two cards from their hand they want to use to answer the question.

When the extra cards are discarded, the player who drew the question card will then draw a rule card. In this case, the players are told they have to give their responses in a heavy Rastafarian accent.

At this point, each player has a turn reading their responses. I’m sure you could just imagine hearing your friends say, “I wouldn’t want to be caught fishing and starting a tickle fight without pants on!” in a heavy Rastafarian accent.  The player who drew the question card picks the player with the best response.

Of course that is just one example of how a single round of the game will go, there are literally hundreds of other kinds of questions, rules and answers you’ll be able to play in this game!

Cheer Up! is a great icebreaker for getting to know new people, and a hilarious activity for long-term friends.  I will not accept any responsibility for players who end up single after playing the game with their significant others, but I will say that I am willing to play this game with my own girlfriend later this week.  I will make sure to update you all if I end up becoming single afterwards.

So why am I telling you guys all about the game now? Because starting at 10am today, Cheer Up! is going to be seeking crowdfunding through Kickstarter.

If you want to give the game a look for yourselves before checking out the Kickstarter page, you can try out the game by visiting its official website.

Based on the cards I’ve previewed, I can say the game’s content is currently suitable for mature audiences, however the developers have told me they are including an even more adults-only expansion pack they’re calling be Not Safe for Grandma version to Kickstarter backers!

We may have more coverage of Cheer Up! as the game continues its Kickstarter campaign so stay tuned to the site for more information.

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Let’s Play Mirror’s Edge Catalyst Closed Beta April 22, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Let's Play, Previews, Site Videos.
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Just a few minutes ago I promised you guys a preview of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and that is what you all are getting now. EA has started running a closed beta test of the new title, and we were fortunate enough to be picked.

This is the first fifty minutes of our gameplay as we explore the new City of Glass with our candid reactions through live video commentary.   We are previewing the game on the PlayStation 4.

Please post a comment if you would like to see us stream more of the game!

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is coming June 7th to PC, PS4 and the Xbox One.

The Legend of Zelda Tri-Force Heroes Preview July 5, 2015

Posted by Maniac in Previews, Site Videos.
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A few weeks ago, I managed to get some hands-on time with The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes on the Nintendo 3DS while waiting in line at Best Buy to demo Super Mario Maker.  The game had been announced just a day earlier during Nintendo’s E3 2015 Press Event, so it was quite a shock to be able to get some hands on time with such a new game, but I’m happy that I was lucky enough to preview it, because as a die-hard 3DS enthusiast, I’m always glad to see whenever Nintendo decides to innovate on my favorite handheld platform.

Just be aware, this is a preview of the game’s multiplayer mode.  Tri-Force Heroes can be played either alone or in a three-player cooperative mode, and Nintendo had three demo units of the game playable during the event.  Given how the demo units were set up, I couldn’t tell if the games were being played in a true local wireless multiplayer mode, online, or through some wired connection intended for 3DS development kits, but there was absolutely no latency during gameplay, and trust me, that’s a very good thing.

When you boot up the game, you are asked to pick a costume which would determine your weapon and item loadout.  I don’t know if costumes get unlocked as you play the game, or you will be able to choose any costume you wish from the first moment you start to play when the finished game hits shelves, but there was a lot of costume variety available to us in the demo.  I chose to wear the default Link garb, but one of my teammates chose an outfit which allowed for them to fire three arrows at once from their bow.  After choosing their outfits, all three players vote on which level you want to play, and the game selects the level based on the votes.  About ten levels were playable for the E3 demo, and my team chose to play the forest level.

When you first start the game, you’ll immediately notice how similar the game’s art style is to other Zelda titles.  I heard a pretty direct comparison of Tri-Force Heroes’ art style to the 3DS game The Legend of Zelda : A Link Between Worlds, but honestly the game reminded me a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Four Sword Adventures on the GameCube.  Given that this is a cooperative multiplayer game, that might have been what Nintendo was inspired by when designing this title, but that’s just my opinion.  I would try to describe the game’s art style for you, but I thought it would be a lot more appropriate to show you some footage of actual gameplay.  So, take a look and see for yourselves, and apologies in advance for the glare.

True to Zelda’s roots, levels would not be restricted to just a focus on combat, some sections of the game were puzzle oriented.  A particular puzzle required all three players to stack on top of each other like a totem pole to hit a target.  In this totem mode, only the player on the bottom could walk and only the player on the top could attack.  When each section was completed, all three players would stand on opposite sides of a glowing triforce to signify they were done, and then the next part of the level would load.  Many puzzles required the three teammates to be in perfect sync, so communication among my group was essential to completing the level.  This is fine for games played in local wireless mode, but I have no idea how communication will work for games played online.  To complete some puzzles, complex commands have to be given in short order.  It would be nice if Nintendo would allow voice chat with the 3DS microphone during online games, but Nintendo might be against that decision for privacy reasons.

Each level in the demo made up of several short sections and the ones we played were pretty short.  On average, my team was completing each section in less than a minute, and then moved on to the next one.  I would say it took us no longer than five to ten minutes to complete the entire forest level, but it might take longer for less seasoned players to complete it.  This was probably due to the fact that this game was designed to be played while on the go, so they decided to offer lots of levels, but with each level presenting a short experience.  All three players share a single health bar, so if one of your teammates gets injured or falls of a cliff, you better start looking for hearts while they respawn.  If the group health bar completely depletes, you’ll have to replay the entire section of the level until you get it right.

All in all I had fun playing this game, and I’m glad Nintendo decided to let people preview it during their Best Buy E3 event.  My group was made up of a seasoned Zelda veteran, a player who has only completed the original NES classic on their 3DS, and a person with no Zelda experience whatsoever, and we were able to get through our level without losing all of our lives.  I can’t wait to see if Nintendo decides to offer a demo for this game on the Nintendo eShop, because I would download it in a heartbeat.

So those are my thoughts based on the time I was able to spend playing the game.  Apologies for not having this on the site sooner, but the Fourth of July weekend had put me behind by a few days of work.  Don’t forget, you can watch our preview of Super Mario Maker here.

BEYOND: Two Souls Tribeca Film Festival Preview Part 2 April 30, 2013

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At some point yesterday morning my younger cousin gave birth to a seven pound baby boy who just so happens to share my name. As I looked at the pictures of the healthy baby boy I was emailed by my mother I was reminded of everything I had witnessed this weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival.

BEYOND: Two Souls follows the life of Jodie, played by Academy Award nominated actress Ellen Page. She was born with a deep spiritual connection to a ghost she refers to as Aiden.

This is Part 2 of a Two-Part preview from the Tribeca Film Festival.  If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can read it here.

Jodie and the homeless man who saved her life desperately run out to the supermarket to try to get the things they need to help their friend who is in labor.  However, it’s the middle of the night and the supermarket is locked up tight.  With no money and the market closed, the leader then admits he doesn’t actually have a plan and has no idea what to do.  In a truly sentimental moment, he exclaims to Jodie that he just wants the baby to have nice things like any other baby would expect to have.

Jodie says she has an idea and the player switches over to control Aiden.  Since Aiden is a ghost, he is able to pass right through the market’s walls, and manipulate some of the objects inside.  Jodie says there must be some kind of lock or switch that will open up the security gate, and the player focused on an alarm panel on one of the walls.  Aiden breaks the security panel and allows the two homeless people into the supermarket.

However, before they enter, Jodie gets a very bad feeling and asks Aiden to check the supermarket again.  Sure enough, after switching back to Aiden, we notice the security camera inside is still functioning, and the player makes Aiden destroy it.  With the security disabled and the camera destroyed, Jodie and her homeless friend take only what they need for the baby and are out of the market quick as a flash.  The older homeless man who was staying with them rushes into the scene to say that they were able to break into the abandoned building and everyone else is now over there waiting for them.  The scene fades as they follow him.

As the scene fades back in, the group has gotten back together in the abandoned building and the pregnant woman is deep into labor.  The baby is close and the woman could give birth any moment now.  She asks the men to leave and that Jodie stay with her.  Jodie admits she’s never delivered a baby before, but she was going to try her best.

At this point, it looked like the player had control of Jodie back, and we start to investigate the room.  Jodie turns on the heater so the room could warm up and make the woman more comfortable.  Then she walks over to the pregnant woman and a dialog begins as the woman enters her contractions.  Three dialog options present themselves, and now I know if I’m ever expected to play midwife in an emergency situation, my dialog options are to reassure the woman, then tell her to breathe, and then tell her to push.  In what has to be the first ever live birth scene in a video game, Jodie holds the homeless woman’s hand and talks her through it.  After some very tense moments, a healthy baby girl is born, and the new mother says she’s going to name her baby girl Zoey.  If you didn’t know you were looking at a video game at that very moment, you would think you were watching a baby show on Discovery Channel.

The two women and baby invite all the males back into the room, and none of them can hold back their excitement.  The baby is just perfect.  It’s a cute scene, and a really good payoff after all of the worries we’ve had in the previous scenes.  After all of that excitement, they all realize just how late it is, and decide to sleep in the building for the night, and the scene fades out.

Jodie wakes up in the middle of the night to the sight of her nightmares made real.  The building is on fire, and we have no idea why.  With Aiden’s help, she breaks the door down, and checks the other rooms if any of the other homeless people are trapped.  The player controls Jodie as she investigates the floor, and in the distance we hear cries for someone’s help.

The first person Jodie runs into is the leader, who is suffering from some smoke inhalation but is otherwise okay.  He says that someone else is on that floor, but more people, including the baby are up on the second floor.  He offers to go with her but Jodie says that she will get them all by herself and to get out of the building as fast as he can.  She checks the other end of the floor first before going upstairs.  The fire is raging hard, and the walls, ceilings, and floors are breaking all around her.  She checks another barricaded door and Jodie screams for Aiden to bust it down.  We see a controller shake prompt on the screen, and a wave of energy hits the door, breaking it.  The older man is on the other side of the room, and he tells Jodie that there are still others on the floor above them.  Jodie says that she will handle it and tells the man to get outside.

The staircase is barely together as Jodie climbs it to get to the next floor.  As she enters the room where the younger man is staying, we can see that there is a huge gap in the floor of the room between the door and the corner he is huddled in.  Jodie screams at him to jump the wide gap.  An Olympic jumper may be able to make this jump but he’s convinced he sure can’t, and he’s not going to try.  Jodie realizes he’s not going to move, and so she’s going to have to make him move.  The player switches control to Aiden, and at first we assume that Aiden is simply going to push the young man across the ledge.  Instead, Aiden takes over the man’s body.  A prompt comes up on the screen for the player to perform another controller shake very much in the same style interface as Heavy Rain, and the possessed man successfully jumps the gap over to Jodie.

No longer under Aiden’s possession, the young man then tells Jodie that the mother and her baby are in the next room, but the only way to get to them is through the window and across the ledge.  Jodie tells him to get outside and she’ll get them out safe.  Climbing out unto the ledge through the window, Jodie hangs on tight as she tries to get into the next room’s window.  Down below, we see the other members of the group are safe outside of the building, and they can only watch as Jodie enters the window for the room that the mother is trapped in with her baby.

Jodie gets into the room through the window to find the mother and her baby okay but completely trapped.  A jump from the window would be suicide and the only door out of the room is on fire, along with most of the floor around it.  Jodie tells the mother to trust her and to stay close.  Suddenly, a barrier of protection rose up to surround the three of them.  Now invulnerable, they are able to literally walk through the fire together.  It’s likely that Aiden possessed the ability to protect Jodie and anyone else in close enough proximity to her, and can make them invulnerable to harm for a short time.

Even though they’re able to make it through the fire into a safer area on the floor, they find themselves still backed into a corner.  With no way out, Jodie instructs Aiden to break the wall down.  We switch over to Aiden’s perspective and he does exactly that, punching a clear hole into the wall.  It’s not very big, but it’s big enough for the mother and her baby to escape.  Sadly, the building is becoming more and more unstable with every second, and Jodie is unable to follow.  With no other options, she heads for the window.  The jump would be fatal to any normal person, but Jodie can only hope that Aiden can somehow help her survive the fall.

For the second time in this preview, Jodie jumps.  Aiden’s power surrounds her, and her fall is slowed to help her to a soft landing.  At this point there is no missing or mistaking it, the homeless people saw firsthand that Jodie’s abilities are anything but natural.  However, they’re extremely grateful to be saved, and thank her.  As they shake off the smoke, one of the group members asks how the fire could have started.  Almost as if on cue, we find out.  The three college-aged jerks start beating on the group without any provocation.  One of them is holding a torch, saying that he said he would be back for them after the beating Jodie gave them earlier.  Too weak to fight back, Jodie is knocked to the ground just as the ambulance and paramedics arrive.

The camera pans up over Josie’s body as we hear the paramedics shouting orders at each other, the other homeless people huddled around her.  It’s almost as if we’re watching this scene from Aiden’s perspective.  The paramedic’s shout at each other they’re not getting a pulse, and the further up the camera pans, the brighter the screen turns, until finally the screen becomes completely white.

The screen then fades to black and the words To Be Continued… faded into the bottom of the screen.

And there you have it guys, thirty-five minutes of the game BEYOND: Two Souls, broken into two parts.  That’s nothing though.   The final version of the game promises to tell a complete story of Jodie’s life from when she is a very young girl up to when she becomes an adult.  David Cage confirmed the full game will be about ten hours in length, and the accompanied trailer announced an exclusive edition of the game will be available through GameStop, as well as exclusive DLC.

BEYOND: Two Souls is coming October 8th, 2013 exclusive to the Playstation 3.

BEYOND: Two Souls Tribeca Film Festival Preview Part 1 April 29, 2013

Posted by Maniac in Previews.
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At some point this morning my younger cousin gave birth to a seven pound baby boy who just so happens to share my name. As I looked at the pictures of the healthy baby boy I was emailed this morning by my mother I was reminded of everything I had witnessed this weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival.

BEYOND: Two Souls follows the life of Jodie, played by Academy Award nominated actress Ellen Page. She was born with a deep spiritual connection to a ghost she refers to as Aiden.

The section of gameplay that we saw was called “Homeless.” At this point in the game, Jodie has lost everything. She has no family, no money, no food, and she is now forced to live on the streets. As the scene opened, the audience saw a familiar environment very similar to what was outside of the theater. An unnamed urban landscape covered in snow came up on the screen. A lone police car drove the snow covered streets as more snow fell from the sky. Personally, this opening reminded me of the environment to Quantic Dream’s 2005 hit, Indigo Prophecy (Faherenheit) more than anything. Alone, Jodie shambled through the cold, trying desperately to stay warm. From her appearance, she looked like she didn’t have much time left before she froze to death. Her movements were slow, as she desperately tried to hold on to her life.

She makes her way to a lone payphone on the sidewalk, picks up the receiver and began to dial. She never says who she is calling, but it is quite clear that Willem Dafoe’s voice was on the other end. Previous material announced Willem Dafoe plays Nathan Dawkins, the scientist who has followed Jodie’s mysterious case since she was a small girl. Jodie says very little on the phone, but mentions that she didn’t have much time left. On the other end we can hear Nathan pleading for Jodie to tell him where she is so he could go get her and bring her somewhere safe. She hangs up the phone and collapses a few seconds later.

The player then took control of Aiden, and started to investigate the area around Jodie. In an alleyway near where Jodie collapsed, a single homeless man was investigating a dumpster for food and supplies. Suddenly, the player made Aiden blast some of the adjacent trash cans, getting the homeless man’s attention. The homeless man then started to investigate the area to see what could have knocked the trash cans over, and as he walked out of the alley he saw Jodie’s lifeless body. Immediately he rushes to pick her up and the scene fades out.

As the scene fades back in, we see brief flashes of Jodie’s nightmares. We see fire, and hear someone in the distance screaming for her to jump! We don’t know if these could simply be some of Jodie’s fears of perhaps visions of the future. As she wakes up, the homeless man who saved her offers her some coffee he made. He explains that she had passed out and he had brought her to his shelter. He seems like a genuinely nice person who looks out for other homeless people like himself. He asks her some questions, and the player can choose to answer or evade them however they wish.

After the conversation, Jodie looks free to investigate the area. In the distance, there look to be other homeless people seeking shelter there as well, but the player doesn’t instruct Jodie to talk to them right now. Instead, Jodie sees a blinding light coming from outside, and walks over to investigate it.

The player walks Jodie out from under the bridge and into the blinding light outside. We see that the shelter is located under a bridge several stories above a busy highway. If she were to fall, it would be quite deadly, if not from the drop, then from the cars that surely would not be able to stop or get out of the way in time. The player is then prompted to either jump or to back away from the ledge. The player chose to jump.

Jodie leans forward, but as she starts to drop an invisible force stops her fall. It is obvious that Aiden does not want her to die. In a scene that Ellen Page should win this year’s Academy Award for, Jodie pleads with Aiden to let her die. She says she has nothing, no food, no money, no family, and as she bursts into tears she says all she wants is to end it. As she backs away from the ledge, the homeless man who saved her steps outside to inform her that they ran out of food. We don’t know if he saw what happened on the ledge or not, but it is highly unlikely that he did. He then asks her to go with him so “she can see how things work around here”. With nothing else to do, Jodie goes with him.

As Jodie and the homeless group’s leader start to walk the streets, he explains to her that they need to make five dollars. That would be enough money to buy food and whatever else they would need for now. He sits down on a spot on the corner next to a cup, and Jodie sits next to him. It looks like they’re going to panhandle for money. Jodie asks how long it normally takes to make five dollars and he says depending on people’s charity it could be a few hours or a week. You can talk with him more if you like, but the player decided to get up and try panhandling from a different spot.

Jodie walks down the street a bit more, and we are presented with different options Jodie has to make money. As she walks past an alleyway, a very sleazy looking guy offers her ten dollars for her company. The player is presented with the option to accept his offer, but the player turned him down, and Jodie walked away from the disgusting offer. Jodie walks past another possible panhandling spot, this one near an ATM station, but the player chose to keep going further down the road.

Down the block, another homeless guy is also trying to panhandle, only he happens to be doing it with a guitar by his side. She asks him if he can play, and he says that sadly its far too cold and his hands are too numb to play. She asks if she can borrow his guitar for a bit, and he says that’s fine. She picks up the guitar, and starts to play. In one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen in a video game, Jodie plays the guitar and sings a beautiful song by Beck as onlookers pass by. As the song continues, the day fades into night, showing time is passing by in the background but the song continues uninterrupted. The song finishes, and Jodie’s made fifteen dollars. During the Q&A session after the demo, David Cage was asked about this scene, and he said that it was just something that he had come up with when talking to Ellen. They motion captured her playing David Cage’s own guitar while singing all in one take.

Fifteen dollars in hand, the homeless group’s leader heads into the supermarket to buy food. As he goes in, Jodie stands across the street to keep watch. As he comes out, we can hear some pretty nasty voices taunting him. Not wanting any harm to come to him, Jodie rushes across the street to investigate. Three college aged men, one of them holding a video camera, are beating the homeless man and videotaping themselves doing it. She warns them to back off, but they’re not intimidated by this young girl and attempt to attack her.

We quickly find out that Jodie is no pushover. It may be combat training, the assistance of Aiden, or some other kind of supernatural or purely explainable reason, but Jodie kicks their asses. As each of the young men attacked Jodie, the screen slowly turned to black and white and slowed down for a brief second. This was not explained in the preview, but looked to be some kind of player prompt to intervene. From the looks of it, if the prompt was responded to quickly enough, Jodie would deflect, block or counterattack. If the player missed, the screen flashed red for a brief second, indicating Jodie may be taking some damage. While the game’s interface looked very similar to Heavy Rain’s in a lot of ways, this kind of combat sequence was not used in Heavy Rain, and as such I cannot fully explain how I think it works.

The college boys run off, taking their video camera with them. Jodie picks up her friend, who has a few bruises on his face, but is alive. They pick up their food and head back to the bridge, where the homeless group enjoys their food together. This is the first time we’re introduced to some of the other people staying under the bridge with them. One of them is a young man who has been staying with them for a few months. Another is an older gentleman, who has been homeless for several years. Finally, we meet a young pregnant woman. Her boyfriend would beat her, and she ran away from him because she was concerned for the life of her baby. They ask Jodie about her life, and the player chooses that Jodie will tell them about her gift. She doesn’t go into specifics, except to say that she’s special, but that she really feels like a freak. The group doesn’t read too much into it, thinking that maybe she may have had a bit too much to drink.

The pregnant woman says she should be due any day now, but she’s concerned because the baby hasn’t been kicking in a few days. Jodie says that she can check on the baby if she’d like, and the player switches over the Aiden to investigate the woman’s tummy. As Aiden investigates, we can hear what sounds like the echo of the baby’s heartbeat. The player switches back to Jodie and she tells the pregnant woman that her baby is fine. The group goes to bed.

Jodie wakes up to the sounds of screaming, the woman is in labor. Waking up, the group checks on the woman, and quickly realize that they don’t have the facilities for her to give birth in. They have no blankets, diapers or even hot water. One of the group members says they should take her to a hospital, but the pregnant woman screams out, “No, no hospital. I’m afraid they’re going to take my baby from me.” The leader tells the young man that there is an abandoned building not far from there, and to break into it however he can. He then says that he has a plan and he asks Jodie to come with him.

And that wraps up Part 1 of this preview of BEYOND: Two Souls. Stay tuned to the site for Part 2!

BEYOND: Two Souls is coming October 8th, 2013 exclusive to the Playstation 3.

Halo 4 Preview May 11, 2012

Posted by Maniac in Previews, Site Videos.
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diskreader117 has been following the progress on Halo 4 pretty closely and joined by Maniac, they discuss Halo 4 for the Xbox 360.

Sit back and enjoy the conversation we have about the game’s single player, multiplayer, and a whole new co-operative campaign that are on the way. We also talk about the history of Halo, the game’s backstory, and just what plot threads might get explored that have been left by previous Halo games.

Halo 4 is coming November 6th, 2012 exclusive to the Xbox 360.

Aliens: Colonial Marines PAX East 2012 Preview April 11, 2012

Posted by Maniac in Previews.
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It has been seventeen weeks since the nuclear reactor on LV-426 went critical. The Sulaco was officially considered destroyed in orbit above the planet. Your job is to find out what went wrong.

Aliens: Colonial Marines is the unofficial third installment of the Alien series. The game follows the story of the second movie, Aliens, and tells the story of just what happened after Ellen Ripley, Dwayne Hicks, and Newt defeated the alien queen and took off into much worse movies.

You play as a marine selected as part of the team to investigate what happened to the marine squad who were at LV-426. They were not expecting to see the Sulaco, a ship they expected to have been destroyed, still intact and orbiting the planet, almost like a ghost ship. With no protection, you cross the glass-enclosed umbilical connected to the Sulco’s docking port. Since it’s fully enclosed you can really see the detail of the damage on the ship and the fear the vacuum of space can break through any moment.

Upon entering the Sulaco the player is greeted by several marines in triage, all with major injuries and with only one medic to attend to them. For the brief moments we were in this room, I asked myself, where had I seen it before? Then I realized this was a recreation of the cargo bay Ripley had fought the alien queen in, in the climax of Aliens. How could I tell this room was where the alien queen battle had taken place? The lower half of Bishop was still on the ground.

The player is then tasked with investigating the ship and find the ship’s logs, which might shed some light on just what happened on board. Of course on the way through this ghost ship, you torch through a previously sealed door and find yourself face to face with alien resin all over the walls. Yes, you are not alone on that ship. Eggs are all over the floor, opened. Hugger corpses are as well, and if you have seen any of the alien movies you know that if the huggers are dead that means they had…hugged someone.

You find someone alive embedded in the wall, and with the tap of a button you start to break him out of his prison with your plasma torch. As you start the process, an alien comes out of nowhere and leaps out at you! You give chase through the tight cocoon corridors, not knowing just what else is in there waiting for you. After defeating the alien, you go back to free the cocooned man. As you break him out, your superiors inform you over radio to get out of there and just forget the log book, but you won’t have any of it. You go further into the transformed section of the ship, eventually coming across the log inside one of the ship’s computers.

With the log secured and your freed companion in tow you decide to leave the ship via the umbilical you came through on. As you cross the halfway point your companion starts to act funny and begins coughing up blood. It looks like a hugger had indeed gotten to him. As the alien begins to burst out of his chest he pulls a grenade out of his pocket and detonates it, blowing himself up and severely damaging the umbilical, making the atmosphere vent out into space! Holding on for dear life, your only hope for survival is to crawl your way back into the Sulaco inch by inch!

We also got to play the game’s multiplayer component against the developers. The game features team deathmatch and pits a team of aliens against a squad of marines. As we played the marine squad we got access to all the firepower you’d recognise from the movie in the loadout options including pulse rifles (with grenade attachment), shotguns, and of course there was a minigun you could find on the map. Marines also had access to motion trackers, which could be brought up by tapping on a bumper, at the cost of lowering your weapon.

Upon seeing both of the multiplayer factions in action, I want to mention that it seemed the sides were imbalanced in multiplayer. The alien team was far too powerful. While they did not have any long-range firepower, the level design, their ability to climb to walls, and their ability to see enemies through walls made them powerful as hell to begin with. Couple that with their increased speed, heavy damage attacks, special attacks, and what seemed to be more resilience to damage and it didn’t make for a very balanced game. That having been said, it would seem that reducing the maximum health for the alien team would balance it out and make the teams more even.

Aliens: Colonial Marines is coming to PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U.

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Fable Heroes PAX East 2012 Preview April 10, 2012

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While at PAX East this year, I was fortunate enough to be checking out the Xbox booth while a game of Fable Heroes was being set up.  The people demoing the game were in need of four players, and I was more than happy to take a controller and give it a look.  I had never played a Fable game before, but I was quite familiar with the game series.  In fact, I even previewed Fable: Legends at E3 last year, and I was excited to see just what was in store with this new game.

I have to admit, this game was a lot of fun to play.  We set up a four player game with four controllers on the same Xbox 360, but the technician promised us that four player multiplayer would also be available through Xbox Live.

At the beginning of our game, all four of us chose from a preset selection of characters.  The appearance reminded me a lot of handmade puppets, which gave the game a fun aesthetic charm.  The level design reminded me of bright sets, not dissimilar to what you would see in a puppet show.

The controls were as follows.  The game featured a light attack, heavy attack which was slower but did more damage, and a powerful area attack, which was great for if you ever got swarmed, but cost you life.  There was also a dedicated button which changed the expression on your character’s face.

The level loaded up and we suddenly were a bunch of puppets inside of a giant puppet stage.  With enemies swarming all around us, the other players and I hacked and slashed our way through.  With the area attack button costing life, it added some strategy to the typical fight.  Enemies would drop gold and hearts, and the game did keep the scores of all the players to be tallied at the end of the level.

As we progressed through the level we reached some chests.  The chests offered some pretty awesome power ups which gave a jolt to the gameplay.  The first power up I received was one that made my character enormous, which allowed me to do much more damaging attacks (and be much bigger than the other players) at a cost of speed.  I also saw someone get the opposite power up of that, which made them very small, but the developer assured them that their attacks and movement was now much faster than normal, but their attacks were not as damaging.  However, not all chests are full of rewards.  Chests can also turn on you and become an enemy when you activate them, so be cautious.

As the level ended we reached a fork in our path and the technician told us that one path lead to a minigame, and the other lead to a boss fight.  Well, didn’t have to tell us twice, we were doing to do the boss fight.  The boss was pretty big, and only vulnerable at certain times, while quite capable of devastating attacks.  My fellow players died on several occasions during this fight.  In death, your character does not truly die, but becomes a ghost which can be revived upon collecting a heart piece.  As we defeated the boss, the level came to an end.

The technician promised me that Fable Heroes was going to make use of some exciting new features.  It would have some integration with the upcoming Fable game for the Kinect, Fable Legends.  It’s also going to be the first Xbox Live Arcade game to offer 400 Achievement Points, double what a current Xbox Live Arcade game currently offers.

Fable Heroes is expected to release exclusive to Xbox Live Arcade for the price of 800 Microsoft Points.

Ms. Splosion Man iPad Preview April 8, 2012

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As I’m sure you can tell from the video I took of Chainsaw’s live performance, I spent a lot of time at PAX 2012 at the Twisted Pixel booth. Let me tell you, I had a blast.

Twisted Pixel was showing off a lot of their classic games to the PAX crowd in exchange for prizes and praise by the developers. However, they did a lot more than just promote games that have already been released, they were also allowing demos of their latest project, Ms. Splosion Man for the iPad.

Ms. Splosion Man was a sequel to Splosion Man, which were both Xbox Live Arcade exclusive releases.

iPad in hand, I was given the chance to experiment with the controls. The game had a dynamic thumbstick, there were only two directions that Ms. Splosion Man could go, left or right, and moving your finger in the appropriate direction from wherever you felt comfortable holding the device seemed to work pretty well. Ms. Splosion Man does not jump, she explodes, and that is accomplished by tapping on the screen. Up to three explosions can be done before she runs out of juice and you’ll have to run around a bit in order for her to fully recharge.

Now, I’m ashamed to admit it but I went into playing this game on the iPad having never played the game (or its predecessor) on the Xbox 360. Because of that I paid very close attention to the instructions that the technician told me, but there were still several things I had to find out for myself, like wall bouncing.

The level I played was a very difficult challenge map. I have no idea if it was exclusive to the iPad version or if it had previously appeared in the Xbox 360 version (UPDATE: It was level 1-6 on the Xbox 360 version). The developer told me that this was one of their harder challenge maps (but not the hardest) and I was being timed and hopefully would complete it in under three minutes.

Having no familiarity with the Splosion Man control system, it took me a very short while to become accustomed to the way the game controls, but had I played the Xbox 360 version I probably would not have needed that time. In fact, since playing this demo on the iPad I went back and played through the trial of Splosion Man on Xbox Live Arcade and found I had the game’s controls down pat already.

I was able to complete the level, deaths and all, in about ten minutes, but that was not having any previous knowledge of the control system or how to navigate the level. Had I known the solutions to the puzzles before reaching them my time probably would have been a bit shorter. The solutions to the puzzles are not laid out for the player, but the level design does its best to hint to the player the solution on how to progress, of which there was only one (at least in the level that I played). The fact that I was able to complete the level cold was quite impressive.

Framerate was pretty solid, and there were plenty of great effects used. It wasn’t the smoothest game I ever played on a handheld device, but there were no hitches, slowdowns or framerate drops.

I don’t know which version iPad I demoed the game on but Twisted Pixel promised me that they would be releasing the game for iPhone, Windows Phone 7, PC (through STEAM) as well as iPad. No price point or release date was announced, but they said they were aiming for the summer. They also didn’t know if the game would support Apple Game Center integration for achievements.

I also asked if Twisted Pixel was planning on bringing any more of their already released games to multiple platforms following the release of Ms. Splosion Man (like for example, Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley), and while they made it clear to me that only Ms. Splosion Man was officially announced for the multiplatform re-release, that didn’t exclude the possibility that other games may get ports further down the road.

The Darkness II NYCC Preview November 1, 2011

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While at the New York Comic Con I was privileged to demo the game The Darkness II, which I have been highly anticipating for some time.  A sequel to 2007’s The Darkness for the PS3 and Xbox 360, the Darkness tells the story of Jackie Estacato, a mafia hit man who on his twenty-first birthday inherits the Darkness, supernatural powers passed on to him by his family.  With these new powers he avenges the death of his girlfriend Jenny and takes control of the Estacato crime family.

Two years later, Jackie finds himself sore, beaten, and nailed to a wall, which is exactly how the game’s demo began.  More than just the mafia are aware of the dark powers that lurk within Jackie, a Brotherhood which wishes to possess the powers within him once again have him held captive and begin to torture him with the intention to take the powers from him for their own nefarious purposes.  The demo is then presented as a series of flashbacks from that moment, which the game developers assured me are being taken out of sequence from the final version of the game.

Jackie awakes to find himself inside the fanciest restaurant in New York City.  Out of the pages of a Martin Scorsese script, the game automatically moves Jackie as the events around him progress, allowing the player to change his perspective to get a better view of whatever he’s looking at.  As he passes by all the wise guys he makes it to his table in the back and sits down, two beautiful identical twins are at the table waiting for him.  As they engage in uncomfortable small talk, one of the twins immediately gets assassinated, and a van can be seen through the window driving at a hundred miles per hour straight for the restaurant wall!

Jackie is hurt, but not out.  His right hand man grabs him and starts to drag him to safety.  With no way to protect himself during the following shootout, he hands you a gun and says to cover him while he gets you out of there.  Then the game really begins, and you need to defend yourself as waves of enemies make their way into the restaurant, practically turning it into a war zone.  One nice improvement over the previous game is that with one weapon Jackie can aim with sights, allowing for better accuracy with each shot.  Halfway through the sequence, your assistant hands you a second weapon with the hope that you can do more damage with two, and indeed you can.  No longer able to aim down the sights any more, it’s a fair trade-off, as you can now fire faster and can sustain shooting for longer without having to reload.

Jackie is dragged into the kitchen, just as a molotov cocktail is thrown into it.  Combined with a gas leak they were just smelling, the entire kitchen is engulfed in flames and Jackie is severely injured.  As Jackie views his burns all over his body, the voice of Mike Patton, who is reprising his role as the voice of The Darkness, is heard, urging Jackie to release him once again.  With the push of a button, the Darkness is released, and Jackie is at full strength once again.

The next part of the level serves as a tutorial for all the new game mechanics.  The Darkness no longer works the same way as it does in the first game, you can no longer switch powers around like you could previously, and instead you are given different capabilities with it immediately, such as the ability to slash at enemies and object.  This gives you the ability to break through barriers and can act as a melee attack.  You also have the ability to pick up object and hurl them at enemies, which the game developers likened to the Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2.

We flash back to the present, and Jackie continues to be tortured by The Brotherhood.  He is taunted by his failure to save Jenny, and his inability to control the Darkness.

The game then switched to the New York City Subway.  Previously serving as strictly a hub world in the first game, the subways were now filled with enemies gunning for Jackie and his powers.  It is at this moment the player is made aware that Jackie’s weakness is light, and it is imperative that he destroy all the artificial lights in the subway tunnels or else he could fall more susceptible to gunfire.  However, Jackie was not alone anymore.  His friend, the Darkling, was assisting him through the subway, jumping on enemies to distract them and spouting insane statements.  The game developers promise that this new game is unlike the previous as it is treating the Darkling in a whole new way.  The Darkling, as previously depicted, were spawned minions which had different special options.  They would die easily but could be just as easily respawned.  Now, there is only one Darkling and he has a whole new personality.  The game developers assured me that they wanted us to have an attachment to the little guy, and let me tell you, I was feeling attached.

The game faded to white once again and we were snapped back to the present.  As he continued to be tortured, I thought for a moment that the big bad may succeed at taking the Darkness from Jackie, but you can’t keep a powerful hero down.  Amassing his last bits of strength (as well as a quick button press), Jackie was able to free himself from his constraints and upon killing the lights in the room, use the Darkness to save himself.  As the big baddie sulked away in failure and fear, he promises he will return, and “visit his Aunt Sarah.”

That sentence lingering in the air, the demo ended.

I couldn’t be happier about the progress with The Darkness II.  After having seen it previously at E3 earlier this year, I was treated to a whole new section of the game which has impressed me even stronger than the last time I saw it.  The game is inspired by a comic book property of the same name, and from the looks of it, that comic series is being done with the utmost of respect, and should expose a ton of gamers to the comic series, just as the first game had exposed me to it back in 2007.

Darkness II NYCC 2011 Booth

The Darkness II is coming Feb, 2012 for Xbox 360, PC and PS3.