Yoshi's Crafted World Review - Simple Pleasures

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 03/27/2019 - 14:57

The diorama-like design of Yoshi's Crafted World falls somewhere between capturing how a child might imagine a world and being a joyful expression of imagination in its own right, with washi tape snails, cardboard cows, and fish made from paper planes set among carefully laid-out stages. Each set of two or three levels introduces a new theme and its own quirks to discover, from the various ways everyday objects are recycled into art to how those crafts might be concealing the collectible you're after. While the best ideas mostly stay in their own levels and don't really build upon themselves or each other, each area is a delight to explore on its own.

Crafted World plays largely like other Yoshi games. You gobble up enemies to get eggs, throw the eggs at stuff, and maybe find some friends and secrets along the way, all with unlimited lives and very little to pressure you. The big change in Crafted World is the addition of a dimension--while you still mostly move left or right in 2D, some paths allow you to move forward or backward onto a separate left-right pathway, and you can throw eggs forward and backward, too. Aiming into the foreground or background shifts the depth of field so you can better see what's around you, with the added effect of making the levels seem even more like 3D, handmade dioramas.

Because coins, collectibles, and other points of interest are scattered throughout the foreground and background as well as your immediate path, you're encouraged to engage with the environment in every direction throughout a level. Finding a secret can mean spotting a suspiciously empty space and hoping an invisible winged cloud is there like in previous games, but it also means keeping an eye on the horizon for collectibles poking out from behind background decorations or moving Yoshi forward a bit to get a better look through a cardboard building's window. It's hard not to wonder what might be behind a bush or off in the distance, and Yoshi's Crafted World fosters that inherent curiosity with small, endearing details.

Each set of levels has its own theme, from the jungle to ninjas to a haunted house. The 16 different themes comprise a wide variety of cute and creative takes on the craft aesthetic; the jungle's frog platforms jump using folded-paper springs, the ninja Shy Guys throw origami shuriken, and the haunted house features a large cardboard puppet Shy Guy that wields a cardboard scythe and chases you through a graveyard. Inanimate crafts are frequently juxtaposed with a moving or puppeted version--childlike bird cutouts in the background with 3D bird enemies in your immediate vicinity, for example--which only enhances the feeling that the levels are imagination brought to life.

Some levels have not-crafty additions to round out their themes, many of which provide interesting wrinkles to the standard Yoshi mechanics. One jungle level is an on-rails shooter that tasks you with throwing eggs at animal-shaped targets to score points; one of the ninja levels is set behind a moving shoji screen so that much of your platforming and collecting is done in silhouette, forcing you act quickly when the path to a collectible is revealed. Nearly every area has at least one non-standard level, and the variety helps break up the slower, more deliberate pace of the typical Yoshi levels.

Some ideas, like the shoji screen, make sense as one-offs, but most of the areas exist disparately from one another, and the most interesting ideas are never developed beyond their original incarnations. The ninja area (a clear highlight) has rotating doors that turn 180 degrees when you shoot them, revealing platforms you might need to progress or moving Yoshi to the other side of a wall where treasure awaits. They aren't tricky puzzles, but the front-to-back movement of the doors plays off 2.5D and visual depth effects especially well, and it's disappointing that they aren't used more and to greater effect as the levels progress.

The levels are designed to be replayed, though. After completing certain levels, you'll unlock the "flip side" version, which gives you the simple task of finding three Poochy Pups (as opposed to dozens of collectible items). The flip side gives you a closer look at the construction, from the tape holding things together to a pair of scissors left among the crafts in the background. While totally optional, the flip side has a different layer of detail that is charming in its own way--especially when you realize that the hard-to-reach tower that housed a collectible you're proud of getting is actually a milk carton.

The Yoshi games' usual relaxed approach suits this well. Breezy platforming allows you to put all your focus on taking in the scenery and keeping an eye out for hidden collectibles, and by extension, you can replay levels with a purpose--like seeking out an item you missed, which you know is somewhere in the middle--without having to slog through a frustrating or tedious beginning. By the same token, finding collectibles is a matter of being curious rather than completing difficult maneuvers. It's certainly not a cakewalk to find everything, but if you know what you're looking for and you're patient, it's satisfying and never so challenging as to disrupt the atmosphere of the game.

Breezy platforming allows you to put all your focus on taking in the scenery and keeping an eye out for hidden collectibles, and by extension, you can replay levels without having to slog through a frustrating or tedious beginning.

There are a number of ways to make the game a bit easier or more laid-back. The returning Mellow Mode, which gives Yoshi longer air time and more damage resistance, and two-player co-op are basic options, but I found myself gravitating toward Yoshi's costumes, which you can unlock using the coins you collect normally. The crafted costumes--favorites include a trash bin and a dinosaur skeleton--function as armor, giving you a few extra hits before you start taking damage. In addition to being adorable and fitting the overall vibe nicely, they're a good middle ground for those who still want normal jump distances but the freedom to walk into a few Shy Guys on accident.

Yoshi's Crafted World is at its best when it's relaxing and pleasant. The 2D-to-3D level design keeps you curious while the go-at-your-own-pace approach keeps the pressure off and leaves you to appreciate the small, imaginative details. Its most interesting ideas never evolve past their first introductions and are frequently confined to one or two levels, but individually, those levels both reward your curiosity and your willingness to slow down and look at what's around you--and it's those simple pleasures that provide the most joy.

Categories: Games

Diablo Fans Should Pay Attention To Warhammer: Chaosbane

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 03/26/2019 - 22:20

Publisher: Bigben Interactive Developer: Eko Software Release: June 4, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

In its 20-year history, developer Eko Software has experimented with a number of genres. Its catalog of nearly three dozen games includes endless runners, sports titles, top-down shooters, and puzzle platformers – and now the studio is once more trying something new with Warhammer: Chaosbane, its first loot-centric hack n’ slash game, set in the Warhammer fantasy universe. I had a chance to play the private beta, experimenting with its deep loot and progression systems, dabbling with online multiplayer, and learning the nuances of two of the game’s four playable characters.

Warhammer: Chaosbane is an isometric action/RPG that feels immediately familiar to anyone who’s played a Diablo game. In both games, you and some friends explore twisted dungeons, cut swaths through hordes of demons, collect and equip loot to enable you to defeat tougher enemies, and repeat. Character progression is at the center of both games but Chaosbane sets itself apart with its Warhammer title. It’s set in the long-running Warhammer fantasy universe, which spans novels, tabletop RPGs, and video games, so Chaosbane’s world, and the forces of Chaos that threaten it, are a treat for franchise fans.

To fight back against the Chaos hordes, players start the game by choosing from one of four character classes – Konrad Vollen is the Imperial Soldier whose abilities emphasize close-quarters gameplay; Prince Elontir is the High Elf Mage whose arcane powers – ranging from hurling fireballs to calling down bolts of ethereal lightning on foes – encourage ranged attacks; Bragi Axebiter and Elessa are the Slayer and Wood Elf Scout classes, respectively, although they were locked during the private beta. Each character has their own backstory, but character development ends after the game’s expository opening cutscenes, taking a backseat to Chaosbane’s moment-to-moment gameplay. It’ll be interesting to see if each of these characters changes throughout the game’s campaign.

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Chaosbane’s plot stays the same for each of the classes you can choose from: Your character serves Magnus, a soldier who has united the world’s warring factions and leads the fight against Chaos. At the beginning of the game, a sorceress puts Magnus under a curse, and players are tasked with tracking her down in order to reverse it. You complete the same missions regardless of which class you chose at the start, a design decision that supports the game’s multiplayer (see sidebar). In the game’s early hours, your task is to exterminate a cult that’s set up shop in the sewers beneath the city. There is plenty of enemy variety here: swarms of gremlin-like creatures dance around you like flies, often serving as distractions from slower, heavier-hitting enemies that lumber out of the shadows. Just as combat begins to feel comfortable, a mission doles out new enemy types that made me sweat a little and forced me to try out new attack combinations.

Warhammer: Chaosbane is also a multiplayer game, giving players the option to play in local and online co-op with up to four players. The difficulty spikes during co-op sessions with enemy health bars scaling to the number of players in the game. Loot seems to be fairly distributed during co-op sessions – items drop for all players, so you don’t have to worry about someone stealing your hard-earned gear. There’s incentive for playing online, too, as each additional player in the session boosts the amount of experience earned at the end of a quest.

We tried jumping into online co-op during the private beta, but our first session ended abruptly when our random co-op partner lost connection, which froze our own game, forcing us to restart the dungeon. Subsequent attempts to join games with other players ended in failure. We enjoyed romping around the sewers with our online friend – so hopefully this is a feature that gets ironed out for launch.

Harder enemies, like a large Cthulhu-inspired sewer monster that spits poison gunk at you, require dodging out of the line of fire. Without a designated dodge mechanic, though, these enemies aren’t as fun to encounter; with so many enemies on screen, it’s easy to accidentally click a bad guy instead of an empty space, leading to a handful of deaths when I couldn’t move out of harm’s way. This is a minor grievance, but it occurred more frequently the longer I played, as the game pits you against increasingly larger hordes of enemies.

While the plot and missions you embark on remain the same for each character, both classes I played had enough nuance in their skill trees that made starting over with a new character feel worthwhile. Prince Elontir, whose passive ability allows you to guide a ball of damage-dealing mana with your mouse, played very differently from Konrad Vollen, who baits enemies into close-quarters with an ability that increases damage within a certain radius around him. I’m excited to see if both the Slayer and Wood Elf Scouts offer experiences unique from each other, as well.

There are more than 180 skills to mix and match in Chaosbane, but the number of skills you can have active at a given time is locked to your character’s level. At first, we made Prince Elontir a jack-of-all-trades magician, kitting him with a mixture of low-level elemental spells, but once we’d unlocked a few stronger versions of spells, we replaced a few of our weaker abilities with a high-level fire power. High-level spells require more skill points to equip, and your character has an exhaustible number of skill points to allocate, so choosing which spells to equip and which to bench is always a hard choice.

Chaosbane’s skill trees and character progression are deeply tied to its loot systems. Just like in Diablo, there’s a lot of loot in this game, which you find in chests and enemy corpses as you explore dungeons. I expected to find item sets, which you typically expect from a loot-centric game, but I didn’t come across any during my time in the beta. Each piece of gear does have its own unique attributes, though, like ability cooldown reduction and increased drop rate for high quality gear, that offer a healthy variability in customization. You need to equip your best items early and often: even in just five hours of play, the difficulty ramped up significantly, so making sure I had the best loot equipped before and during missions became a critical part of my gameplay loop. 

That said, inventory management isn’t always breezy. New items are starred on the inventory screen, and while there’s a handy feature that allows you to compare highlighted gear to your currently equipped gear, the interface frustratingly lacked an option to organize loot by type. 

After a few hours of play, I felt that cutting through hordes of enemies in the sewers, gathering loot, and speccing out my characters was fun... but it started to feel easy. So easy that I didn’t really have to think about numbers as I made progression and gear choices. 

That’s when we realized I was playing on normal mode. 

Chaosbane offers nine levels of difficulty, and normal is third from the easiest. Higher difficulty levels were locked for the beta, but for fun, I kicked it up one notch from normal to hard. The spike in challenge is significant. Smaller enemies hit harder, and mini-bosses feel like actual threats. It’ll be fun to play the game when those higher difficulty levels are unlocked, where paying attention to stats and skills will likely reward numbers-focused players.

For a studio that’s never developed a loot-based dungeon crawler before, Chaosbane’s beta is a strong indication that Eko Software is prepared to take on the challenge. I enjoyed its progression grind, and I expect to spend dozens more hours experimenting with new gear and abilities once the full game is available. 

Warhammer: Chaosbane launches on June 4 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. If you need something to scratch your itch for monster-hacking and loot-snatching, Blizzard just re-released an upgraded version of the original Diablo on PC. Last year, the company revealed Diablo Immortal, a sequel to Diablo III for mobile devices. Blizzard hasn't announced a release date yet.

Categories: Games

Lovecraft horror comes to the red planet in this new first-person adventure game.

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 03/26/2019 - 21:27

Publisher: Rock Pocket Games Developer: Rock Pocket Games Release: October 31, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

H.P. Lovecraft's vision of horror is everywhere, even on Mars. In Rock Pocket Games' forthcoming Moons of Madness, a discovery made on the red planet has produced unexpected complications, and you're about to find out what it can do to humans. You suit up as Shane Newehart, a technician at the Invictus research station. Your goal is to keep the station up and running until the Cyrano transport ship arrives with new recruits. As you fulfill your duties, bad things start happening.

Moons of Madness is slated to launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 31. The trailer below does a great job of showing you just how much this mysterious discovery can mess with your mind. Rock Pocket Games describes Moons of Madness as a "first-person, story-driven cosmic horror game where the scientific exploration of Mars meets the supernatural dread of Lovecraft."

Click here to watch embedded media

Categories: Games

Died To Be Wild

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 03/26/2019 - 18:35
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: SIE Bend Studio Release: April 26, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4

The latest cinematic story trailer for Days Gone, Sony's newest post-apocalyptic zombie game but this time with motorcycles, sets the stage for the upcoming open world game. Players get to see how protagonist Deacon started off before the apocalypse and what made him the zombie hunter he is today.

Check out the story trailer below.

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The roads are definitely running red with blood, both zombie and human, so it makes sense to always stay moving. Jeff Cork recently got a chance to play a big chunk of Days Gone and reported his impressions of the first five hours of the game.

We're just a few short weeks away from Days Gone's release exclusive on the PlayStation 4 on April 26.

Categories: Games

Four Reasons Rick And Morty Fans Should Be Excited

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 03/26/2019 - 15:00

Developer: Squanch Games Platform: PlayStation VR, PlayStation 4

Justin Roiland is one of the co-creators of the hit show Rick and Morty. In 2016, Roiland helped found Squanch Games where he hopes to bring his brand of insane humor to the interactive space. Squanch Games’ first title is the VR-compatible Trover Saves The Universe. Last week at GDC, we went hands-on with Trover, and it left us doubled over… in a good way. Here are four reasons Rick and Morty fans should take note of Trover Saves The Universe.

Familiar absurdist humor

This is Trover’s strongest element, and Roiland’s expertise shines through the game. The story revolves around a maniacal alien named Glorkon who kidnaps your dogs and uses their life essence to fuel his scheme to destroy the universe. If that sounds absurd, that’s because it is. You are a silent protagonist who remains glued to an easy chair. However, you also have the ability to teleport around environments and control Trover, a purple creature who uses a lightsaber-like weapons to slice up any alien who stands between him and Glorkon. Much like Rick and Morty, Roiland’s expletive-ridden humor feels a bit improv-heavy, but these creatures’ creative insults had me repeatedly cracking up. At one point, while I was trying to solve a puzzle, Trover got frustrated with the puzzle and encouraged me to just smash down the door blocking my way. At other times, he would comment on my behavior, and enemies would react when Trover killed their friends.  The game’s dialogue doesn’t seem to repeat itself, and every character in the game always has something new and funny to say.

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Your choices matter

We know you’ve heard that a million times before, but Trover doesn’t promise an epic campaign with a morality meter and a massive branching narrative. Instead, NPCs respond to the smaller actions you take to comedic effect. At one point in my demo, a guy named Upgrade Tony asked me to kill a bunch of wild anklebiters. I saw several of these creatures behind a fence and made quick work of them. However, when I returned to Tony, he broke down crying and called me a monster because I had just killed his pets. Apparently, the anklebiters he was talking about were somewhere else. I could have gone to find these creatures instead and then Tony wouldn’t have been upset with me. Alternatively, I could have killed both Tony’s pets and the wild anklebiters and his commentary would change to reflect that as well.

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                                                                                                             The action isn’t offensive

Admittedly, this isn’t a glowing compliment, but humorous antics are the star of the show here, so I was willing to give Trover’s generic action a pass. Since Trover is designed to work in VR, all of the action takes place from fixed camera perspectives. With the tap of a button, you can fly into the air to get a bird’s eye view on the action, but movement is still limited. The action is also fairly simplistic. Trover doesn’t have any interesting combos, and I got through most encounters by simply mashing on the attack button. Fortunately, the controls are responsive and some simple platforming challenges help break up the action.

VR is comfortable and optional

As I said before, Trover Saves The Universe is built with VR in mind; you move between predetermined points within the world. Thankfully, these transitions aren’t jarring. I rarely use VR, but I had no problem with any queasiness. Squanch Games doesn’t employ any fancy VR tricks, but that means this isn’t really a game you “need” to play in VR. Naturally, VR helps immerse you into the world, but the best part of Trover is its humor and that remains the same no matter how you absorb the rest of the game. If you have a VR headset, you can jump between VR and TV modes on the fly.

Trover Saves the Universe launches on PlayStation 4 on May 31 and on PC on June 4 via both the Epic Game Store and Steam. All versions of the game sell for $29.99, and based on our early look, that seems like a reasonable price.

Categories: Games

A Pulpy Planet Of Adventure

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 03/26/2019 - 12:59

Publisher: 505 Games Developer: Typhoon Studios Release: 2020 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Spacefaring players have no shortage of sci-fi themed exploration experiences to choose from these days, ranging the gamut from resource-intensive collect-a-thons like No Man’s Sky to hardcore simulations like Elite Dangerous. The developers at Typhoon Studios are using their collective experiences working on high-profile franchises like Far Cry and the Batman Arkham games to distill this concept into a charming, smaller-scale experience. 

Journey to the Savage Planet doesn’t throw you into a universe of possibilities, choosing instead to focus your exploration on one planet in the middle of uncharted space. As an employee of Kindred Aerospace – which proudly proclaims itself the fourth-best space-exploration outfit – you leverage your character’s botany and cartography skills to explore and catalog the life on a planet supposedly devoid of intelligent life and deemed habitable by the higher-ups at Kindred. When you first step out of your landing craft and look upward, the monolithic tower extending high into the sky suggests that maybe Kindred got the fourth-best intelligence on this planet – someone has already been here. 

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Finding a way into the tower is the main objective, but how you get there is largely left up to the player. Creative director and Typhoon co-founder Alex Hutchinson describes the game as what would happen if “Metroidvania met Subnautica and had a love affair with Far Cry.” As you explore the world, scanning its flora and fauna and collecting various resources to upgrade your equipment, the world offers several solutions for its environmental and platforming puzzles. Maybe you use your jet pack to circumvent a series of vines impeding your progress or study the nearby creatures to discover that throwing one of them into a mouth-like vortex next to the vines grants passage.  

Venturing onto a new planet without a weapon sounds like a death sentence, so your pioneer is equipped with a pistol for when things get rough. Most enemies keep to themselves unless provoked, but Typhoon has also created some combat challenges for those who prefer to shoot first, ask questions later. An active reload system and overclocking system give your pistol some dynamism, and you can upgrade it over the course of the 10-12 hour game to make it more formidable. If you’d prefer to keep your weapon holstered, Hutchinson says the studio wants to service your playstyle as well.  "As a former Maxis employee I have a great fondness for non-violent paths through games, and we're trying very hard to make a path through where if you work at it you can avoid all the combat in the game,” Hutchinson says. “We haven't gotten there yet, but you can avoid most of it."

Meant to be a lighthearted, humorous take on space exploration, Journey to the Savage Planet leans into its pulpy sensibilities – seeing the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew overlaid on top of the action wouldn’t feel out of place. The live-action messages from the Kindred CEO that play in your home base over the course of your missions recall the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Each of the creatures we’ve seen are weird, as are the items you equip in your non-shooting hand. You can eat the futuristic food substitute Grog to replenish your health, or you could toss it to lure creatures around the environment.

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Journey to the Savage Planet’s carefree sense of humor and inviting world make it one to keep an eye on. “It's meant to be something you play alongside your endless space wizard game like an aperitif, an amuse-bouche on the side,” Hutchinson says. “We're hoping the humor resonates, we're hoping it's something different in the marketplace that's familiar in terms of mechanics that's easy to pick up and play."

Categories: Games

Graffiti Dreams

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 03/26/2019 - 01:45
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: PixelOpus Release: 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4

Earlier today, Sony posted a story trailer for Concrete Genie, their new game about being a kid and creating life using wall graffiti. This time around, the trailer focused a lot more on story and the artstyle, resembling a kind of Laika-style movie such as Kubo and the Two Strings. Or maybe not, that's just what it looks like to me.

Check out the new trailer below.

Click here to watch embedded media

We get a pretty good sense about the game from this trailer, including a story mode with actual dialogue and some sense of how the gameplay reinforces the themes and vice-versa.

Concrete Genie, which was announced at Paris Games Week 2017, has a release window of sometime this year, but no exact date has been nailed down so far.

Categories: Games

Time Trouble

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 03/25/2019 - 22:55
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Developer: NetherRealm Studios Release: April 23, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

During today's State of Play stream, Sony revealed the newest trailer for Mortal Kombat 11, this time focusing heavily on the game's story mode. This one in particular focuses on the time-travel aspect of the game, bringing together the characters from the 1990s with their modern versions. Zombie Liu Kang is not really a fan of old school Raiden it turns out and Kung Lao learns the hard lesson that just because you cut off someone's head doesn't mean they're gone for good.

Check out the trailer below.

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You can check out our always-updating roster of Mortal Kombat 11 characters right here to see if your favorite is in the newest iteration of the game. Mortal Kombat 11 releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on April 23.

Categories: Games

Baba is You Review - Game-Changer

Gamespot News Feed - Sun, 03/24/2019 - 19:00

Much as we ride roller coasters because we like to be frightened, we solve puzzles because we like to be challenged--and the more complex the puzzle, the more satisfied we can expect to be when it's finally solved. Baba is You has a prodigious capacity for frustration. This deceptively simple-looking indie puzzle game, by Finnish developer Arvi Teikari, swiftly approaches the heights of difficulty scaled by such vexing modern classics as Stephen’s Sausage Roll and The Witness, and shares with those games an uncompromising attitude that isn’t afraid to alienate newcomers intimidated by a challenge. It’s a puzzle game fan’s puzzle game in other words, as grueling as they come. It’s a sharper mind than mine that can make it through its later puzzles without misery. Whatever Baba is You’s shortcomings are, ease isn’t one of them.

Baba is You has an appealing conceit. The basic gameplay resembles an '80s top-down puzzle title like Sokoban or Adventures of Lolo: you control a kind of sheep or rabbit character called Baba, who moves around a fixed environment, pushes objects, and pursues a goal. But many of the rules that govern the game--including what can be traversed, what can be moved, what’s hazardous, what’s the objective, and even what’s under your command--are represented on screen as blocks of text arranged into phrases that work as commands. These blocks can be manipulated and the phrases rearranged, empowering you to eliminate restrictions, neutralize threats, and redefine the conditions of victory. In this way, the solutions for the puzzles in Baba is You are found through rewriting the terms of each problem.

Most words refer either to things (such as “wall”, “lava”, or “flag”) or to properties of things (such as “stop”, “push”, or “win”). When a thing is connected to a property with the verb “is,” that thing adopts that property, and can be modified with various conjunctions, prepositions, verbs, and adjectives, all of which follow the logic of a programming language. For example, suppose on a stage “Baba is you,” “flag is win,” and Baba and the flag are on opposite sides of a lake of lava. If “lava is hot” and “Baba is melt,” then Baba can’t pass the lava to reach the flag. But if “lava is push,” you can push the lava out of the way to reach the goal. Better yet, if “lava is you,” you can reach the flag as the lava, leaving Baba behind entirely.

Baba is You is never better than in these moments of sudden realization--when it dawns on you that you can rewrite the rules and change, get rid of, or become the obstacle in your path, allowing you to figure out what can be done to solve a challenging puzzle. Most of these moments occur early on, as you familiarize yourself with the game's mechanics and start to understand the way that it wants you to approach its puzzles. Baba is You encourages lateral thinking by the nature of its design, and after 15 or 20 stages, you begin to get a feel for its peculiar problems and the oblique strategies they require. The game’s surprises are genuinely delightful, but they are primarily front loaded.

The aesthetic is lo-fi in the extreme, though not without its charms. Its crude lines and simple blocks of color look like a child’s rendition of a NES game in crayon, every letter of the words that make up the commands scrawled in a shaky hand. In later, more complex puzzles, when instructions are crowding the screen and different objects are teeming all around you, scrutinizing this primitive style for clues can feel a bit like looking for codes in an abstract expressionist painting.

Less successful is the music, which is bland, simplistic, and incredibly repetitive. Modeled after retro game soundtracks, it sounds like a poor approximation. It had such an adverse effect on my concentration that it wasn’t long before I muted it and listened to my own music.

As the game progresses, and especially as the language involved gets more complex, words are ushered in whose meaning seems vague and whose purpose remains hazy, and that can make certain puzzles infuriatingly obscure.

Baba is You is lean, stark, and conspicuously light on instruction. New words and conditions are introduced without commentary; what things mean is never explained, and how things function is yours to learn in practice. Such hard-lined rigor makes you feel your intelligence is being respected. It also has the tendency to leave you completely bewildered and confused. The genre’s best games aspire to teach you how to solve their puzzles as they are presented to you, parceling out crucial information elegantly, and subtly, as you proceed from one challenge to the next. The ideal is a kind of unspoken guidance, acquainting you with rules and parameters in a way that feels totally intuitive and clear.

Baba is You doesn’t always do this so well. The earliest levels of its overworld map--including a preliminary stage that offers control prompts for how to navigate, undo actions, and reset--show a few simple approaches to the game’s unique brand of problem-solving. But as the game progresses, and especially as the language involved gets more complex, words are ushered in whose meaning seems vague and whose purpose remains hazy, and that can make certain puzzles infuriatingly obscure. It’s one thing to be confounded by a puzzle, and quite another to be uncertain how the puzzle works or what the puzzle wants. Often, I thought I knew what an ambiguous word did only to find that it didn’t actually do what I thought. More than once I solved a puzzle without understanding why.

For instance, every level has a “you.” Usually it’s Baba, but it can also be a wall, flag, or a little red avatar called Keke. It’s clear almost immediately that you can assume control of any number of different objects by replacing the noun in the sentence that ends “is you,” and that, what’s more, something has to be defined as you in order to continue playing at all. Less clear to me was that “you” is always a property rather than a thing. This means that, while “Baba is win” can be a condition of victory, “win is you” and “you is win” are not. So much of the vernacular of the game I picked up only in fits and starts. For example, I only know from happening upon it that “crab and Baba is you” will allow you to control both a crab and Baba despite being grammatically incorrect, while something like “Baba is you is win” doesn't work as expected.

This matters because you need some sense of why something does or doesn't work in a puzzle game in order to truly own your accomplishments. In one later puzzle, I managed to walk over a body of water unharmed by pushing a pillar into the water and stringing together the phrase “pillar on water is sink.” The property “sink” usually seems to make anything that touches the sinkable object disappear. I have no clue what happened here. Of course, I am sure this does “work out” in the technical sense, and that there is an explanation I’m simply not getting. But I shouldn't have to stumble through a fog of incomprehension in order to find the solution to a logic-based problem. Why does “box has box” clear a path through a lake of water? I couldn’t say, but I gathered it was what I had to do eventually. This feels fundamentally different than merely being stumped, and it doesn’t satisfy in remotely the same way.

A-ha moments are precious things. Their relief can feel miraculous--but only so long as you understand what you’ve done and feel you’ve earned the victory. For the most part, Baba is You’s most brutal stages do offer this balance of challenge and reward. By puzzle 50--there are 200 in all--levels are flipping upside down, rules are compounded elaborately, and sentences are sprawling out to command things like “wall and hedge and key and flag is word,” to take one real late example. It can be torture, but of course in a puzzle game such torture is fun. Baba is You is among the most seriously arduous games of its kind I’ve played, and when its rules are clear and its instructions legible, it’s gratifying in a way only hardcore suffering can be.

Categories: Games

Atlus Drops Teaser Trailer For Persona 5: The Royal

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 03/23/2019 - 18:07

Atlus has been teasing something called "Persona 5 R" for some time, but their latest teaser trailer gives us a bit more info the title.

Now titled Persona 5: The Royal, it's not clear whether this is a sequel, expansion, or updated version of Persona 5, but I'd lean toward the latter. The Royal takes place in the same locale as Persona 5 and introduces a new red-headed character, who doesn't seem to be into the methods of the Phantom Thieves (according to a translation from Gematsu) and would rather solve her problems on her own. Whether they'll be an ally, foe, or (in a longshot guess here) a new playable character remains to be seen.

It isn't a ton of info to go on, but don't worry; Atlus also announced we'd be getting more info on April 24, the date of the "Persona Super Live" concert in Japan.

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Categories: Games

Breaking Down The Massive Alliance War Mode

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 21:32

Publisher: FoxNext Games Developer: FoxNext Games Los Angeles Release: March 28, 2018 Rating: 12+ Platform: iOS, Android

Marvel Strike Force, the mobile hero-collection RPG from FoxNext, is about to receive its biggest update yet. Since its launch last March, Marvel Strike Force has grown substantially, adding tens of new heroes and several new features over the course of its first year. However, it's been rare that an all-new mode has been implemented, but that's just what players can look forward to next week.

Joining an active Alliance is a critical part of getting the most out of Marvel Strike Force; completing raids and Alliance-wide milestones deliver some of the best rewards to boost your roster. However, FoxNext is ready to take the incentives to the next level with a feature that has been teased through a giant "Coming Soon" spot on the menu since launch: Alliance War.

Alliance War has been on the menu since the early days of Marvel Strike Force for a very good reason: The team created the mode the same day they drew up the concepts for the game itself. "As live-service games mature – and certainly this is what we’re trying to do in this case – you kind of think about it the way you might concept a pilot for a TV show; you don’t just think about what will happen in the pilot, you think about what will happen over the entire course of the show, hopefully running many, many seasons," FoxNext VP and GM Amir Rahimi says. "That was the approach here. We wanted to not launch with Alliance War because the game was going to be a big enough challenge to get out there, but really design the game for Alliance War and design them hand in hand."

In Alliance War, your Alliance of 24 players takes control of its own helicarrier. The goal of the mode is to attack an opposing Alliance's helicarrier while defending your own in head-to-head matches. You do this by using your ever-growing roster of heroes and villains. Battles play out much like they do in modes like Arena; you set a defense team to protect the room, but when the opposing Alliance attacks, your characters are controlled by A.I. However, you control your offensive attack like you do in any other Marvel Strike Force mode.

Each helicarrier has 12 rooms, with each providing different benefits. For example, the Med Bay provides health buffs to attacking and defending characters, while the Armory gives global attack buffs. Others have specific bonuses for attackers or defenders, making them less valuable overall, but more valuable in specific situations.

Each room has two slots for players to work together to defend the room with their characters. Each player can leave 8 teams of characters to hold down that room for a total of up to 16 teams for the opposing Alliance to work through before it can take the room. The mode is designed to force players to use their entire rosters, something that should give players who have kept their teams well-rounded an early advantage.

Be prepared to use your whole roster when Alliance War goes live.

You must be strategic about which characters you use where and when, as each character can only be used once per war. This means that if you leave your best character behind to defend a room, they cannot be used on offense. In addition, if you use a team to attack a room once, you cannot do so a second time. If you can't fill out a room you're defending, you can either leave fewer characters to at least give some resistance, or you can leave it empty and the game will fill the room with weak, yet better-than-nothing SHIELD minions.

According Rahimi, this particular layer of strategy is among his favorite parts about the mode. "What often happens is you’ll encounter a room and you’ll do this calculation in your head about, ‘What’s the minimum team strength that I could bring in to beat this opponent?’ and that’s a very different way to think about the game than before,” he says. “You don’t have to bring five characters into a battle. Now teams of one all of a sudden become interesting. So if it’s a room full of SHIELD minions and my Crossbones is powerful enough, he becomes really interesting because his ultimate can just clear that whole room out. Or just teams of two that synergize well become interesting, like Ant-Man and Wasp synergize really well."

Certain characters also have a new "Military" trait, which means their origin stories have some involvement with or service to the military. So far, the only characters to possess this trait are Captain America, Captain Marvel, War Machine, and Winter Soldier. This means these characters possess various abilities that buff them in Alliance War. Just as some characters like Night Nurse are great in raids, these military characters will be great in Alliance War. Some characters who have military experience, like Punisher, don't have the trait yet, but FoxNext says that may change in the future.

Once the war begins, attacking Alliances must start at the top deck and work through rooms, so you can't just jump right to the bottom. Once you defeat one player in a room, you can see what room is beneath that one; if you defeat both players in a given room, that room is destroyed and all buffs and bonuses granted from it to the opposing Alliance are lost. Destroying a room also grants big point bonuses, which determines the winner of the Alliance War. If you're defeated in the room you're defending, don't worry: You can still attack with the remaining characters.

Since destroying rooms weakens the opposing team and each room has different point values, choosing which rooms to attack first adds a layer of strategy and requires coordination throughout the entire Alliance. To mix things up, Alliance leaders can reconfigure these 12 rooms however they see fit prior to a war starting. “The goal of this feature for us is to keep players playing forever and ever and ever,” Rahimi says. “That’s why we added a lot of things like moving the rooms around. A lot of the depth of complexity is in the service of infinite replayability.”

One of the chief concerns of any mode like this is that it can easily become pay-to-win. Just like every other mode in Marvel Strike Force, Alliance War operates on an energy system. Energy caps at five attacks at a time, with that regenerating over time. No outside currency can be used within Alliance War outside of Power Cores, but even then, you're capped on how many times you can refresh energy using Cores. This is done to help level the playing field. "Once the war starts, we want it to be as even of a playing field as we possibly can,” Rahimi says. “You can use your Power Cores to refresh twice, but you’re capped."

Another way FoxNext is helping level the playing field is through a sophisticated matchmaking algorithm for Alliances. Looking for Alliances with equal overall power isn't fruitful, as one powerful outlier player could throw off the entire balance. Instead, FoxNext's system looks at individual players within Alliances and matches them up based on how well individuals will face off.

Because this mode is more involved than even raids, FoxNext is limiting the number of wars that happen per week. Rather than having a war every day, players can probably expect a few wars each week. FoxNext says that even once you understand the flow of Alliance War, being a fully participating member of your team could consume up to an hour a day.

At the end of each Alliance War, both teams are awarded with Alliance War shop currency. Just as Blitz, raids, and Arena have their own shop and currency where you can buy character shards and gear, Alliance War does as well. However, the quality of Alliance War's shop is going to be more valuable to players. “The Alliance War shop will definitely be the best shop in the game in terms of value and by far the best source of orange materials,” Rahimi says. “Players are definitely going to want that currency.”

With so many moving parts and so much to learn with this new mode, players are probably going to want to get started as soon as possible. Thankfully, they don't have to wait long for that placeholder menu slot to activate; Alliance War comes to Marvel Strike Force on March 26.

Categories: Games

Ethereal Review - Stay In Your Lane

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 16:00

By restricting traditional movement and thrusting you into carefully constructed 2D mazes, simply getting around Ethereal's levels presents challenging conundrums that are deeply satisfying to overcome. Despite some uneven pacing and technical issues marring the overall experience, Ethereal is a delightful game that contrasts a soothing ambiance with intricate and challenging puzzle designs.

Ethereal's opening is mysterious, but not in the best way. Starting in a monochrome world with harsh black and white streaks across the screen, it's difficult to make sense of your surroundings and options. It's an unnecessarily confusing introduction to Ethereal, which otherwise takes care to slowly introduce new mechanics before nudging you towards increasingly complex puzzles.

Outside of its central hub, Ethereal is wonderfully colorful. Your avatar leaves inky streaks of color behind them as they move, corresponding to a limited but carefully chosen palette that paints the walls around you with bright hues. A fish-eye style lens warps each world near the edges, making it feel like you're traversing a wrapped around globe rather than an endless 2D plane set on top of a harsh white background. Ethereal's stylings are subtle but work well together, producing a distinctive look that never wears thin.

Movement in Ethereal is central to its puzzles. You're restricted to sliding across 2D planes, with carefully placed walls blocking your progress. You overcome them by hopping through the closest wall either above or below you, shifting you into an entirely new row to move across. It's slightly confusing to wrap your head around at first, but getting the hang of seamlessly moving around each stage is satisfying to learn. Identifying patterns in level layouts lets you quickly zip around each of them, allowing you to reach your objectives with ease and comfortably map a route to your exit once you're done.

Each stage tasks you with obtaining a series of color-coded shapes in sequential order. It's easy to see where most are placed as soon as you enter a level, but reaching them in the order required is rarely straightforward. Although levels are small, they are labyrinthine. They are sometimes made overly complicated, with unnecessary routes and obstacles littering the peripheral of the main stage and baiting you into considering red-herring routes. Misdirection is a core principle of well-designed puzzles, but Ethereal doesn't make it easy enough to rectify a foolish misstep. You'll typically have to redo all your previous moves in reverse to get back on track, which is more confusing than it should be. It quickly becomes frustrating, making each error feel more like a waste of time than a constructive learning experience.

Thankfully, Ethereal's 24 unique puzzles don't struggle with variety. Early ones simply rely on the freshness of the game's movement to generate complexity, but it's not long before new interactions change how you think about moving through each level. One will rotate the level by 90-degrees, for example, turning previously insurmountable walls into new points for you to hop between. Another creates a black, negative space that offers a larger range of movement, which gives you the ability to move walls and alter a level's layout.

These mechanisms are introduced intelligently too, by first appearing in the hub world that precede levels designed around them. Their simple introduction whets your appetite while the larger puzzles they're used in build upon their numerous possibilities in inventive ways. At first, each stage is centered around only one of these mechanics at a time, but puzzles get increasingly challenging as Ethereal starts combining them. The difficulty curve can feel a little steep around the half-way point, and remains a little uneven up until the end, but Ethereal rarely feels unfair, only dipping into frustration when technical issues get in the way.

There were numerous instances where, after interacting with one of the aforementioned mechanisms, a bug inexplicably transported me to another end of the level--often in a position that made movement impossible. In these instances, the only solution is to restart the level entirely, which is frustrating given how long some stages can be. Having to tediously repeat numerous movements in order to return to the same spot you were before is frustrating enough, but occasionally encountering the same bug numerous times in the same level is infuriating.

Ethereal's soothing ambient soundtrack and delightfully catchy sound effects do alleviate the frustrations to a degree, while its ever-changing aesthetic is suitably elegant and effective at keeping you engaged with its puzzles and not distracted by unnecessary visual information. The soft water colors of each stage shift with each objective you reach, eventually being diluted into a simple monochromatic theme once you've finished. It's an effective way to measure your progress through a stage and help inform you of what color shape you've just cleared from the stage without the need for a HUD. Ethereal's visual simplicity echoes its ease of control but doesn't compromise its beauty in the process.

Ethereal's 24 puzzles shouldn't take that long to complete, only overstaying their welcome when technical issues force you to repeatedly restart them. Although there are also a few uneven spikes in difficulty, the game's inviting visuals and soothing sound effects dress puzzles that are intelligently designed around your limited mobility. Ethereal is a satisfyingly challenging and unique puzzle game that serves as a delightful way to spend an afternoon.

Categories: Games

A Long-Sought Sequel Comes Out Of The Coffin

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 03:30

Publisher: Paradox Interactive Developer: Hardsuit Labs Release: 2020 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Back in 2004, Troika Games released an uncut diamond with Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, a moody, choice-driven role-playing game set in the White Wolf pen-and-paper universe. The game released in a state of disrepair, not unlike an energy-drained vampire desperate for blood, but dedicated fans glamoured by its atmospheric world and unique premise gave it new life, rounding out the rough edges and even restoring scrapped content. The game’s reputation continued to grow while the franchise collected dust inside a coffin, but now it’s primed to emerge from the shadows. 

With Troika long since disbanded, franchise rights owner Paradox Interactive handed the resurrection duties to Hardsuit Labs, which includes Bloodlines writer Brian Mitsoda among its ranks. This makes the studio well-suited to handle the delicate work of updating the series with new hooks while maintaining the elements that have earned the original loyal fans. 

Rather than pick up where the original game left off 15 years ago, Hardsuit instead chose to tell a new tale set in a city never really explored by the World of Darkness fiction – Seattle. With its pervasive cloud cover, unceasing rainstorms, and vibrant nightlife, it’s a perfect city for bloodsuckers to take residency. The setting may be new, but the politics among the various vampiric clans should be familiar to anyone who played the first game. 

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The story follows an innocent protagonist swept up into this supernatural subculture when a group of vampires go rogue and illicitly perform a Mass Embrace, descending on a bunch of pedestrians in Pioneer Square in the middle of the night and converting them into vampires. This action goes against the vampiric code, so the Camarilla wants to hunt down these “thinbloods” to learn what happened and put them out of their misery. As one of these targets, you must evade capture and navigate the faction wars to learn who turned you into a vampire and why. 

The world of Bloodlines 2 operates much like the original, with certain parts of the city and its outskirts operating as hubs ripe for exploration and story missions. These spaces feature plenty of vertical spaces and alleys to keep your nefarious deeds in the shadows, and even a series of underground passageways and basements that were actually the ground level of the city in the mid 19th century before the Great Seattle Fire swept through and the city planners decided to build on top of the ruins.

As a fledgling vampire, you start off with a small suit of supernatural powers. Activating your heightened senses highlights points of interest like the investigation mode in Batman, which is also helpful for identifying prey when it’s feeding time. Depending on the choices you make, you can also learn how to levitate and glide through the air, control bats, manipulate objects with your mind, or even turn into a mist cloud to move through pipes to new areas. You don’t start as a member of any particular vampire clan, but as the story plays out you can align yourself with certain factions and even learn new vampire powers from them. Make certain decisions, however, and you may alienate another clan and cut off an entire progression path. 

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Vampires are formidable predators, and this prowess is on display during first-person combat sequences. Much of the skirmishes are focused on hand-to-hand combat, with players taking advantage of their supernatural agility to dodge incoming attacks and close the gap between them and their opponent quickly. Guns are occasionally interjected into the mix, but most of the time you’re relying on your supernatural gifts to survive these scraps. During our demo, we saw the player pull off impressive feats like running up a wall to pounce on an enemy from above. 

Embracing Mods

Paradox Interactive and Hardsuit Labs are well aware the mod community played a critical role in fixing up the original Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. To honor that legacy and reward their steadfast loyalty, Bloodlines 2 will support modding from day one. 

You can always choose to cap off your fights by feasting on the weak, but you need to be careful about how much blood you drink at any given time. If you mortally wound a person during feeding you can take on other accruing effects like madness. Over time, you could eventually compromise your humanity and make your hunger more uncontrollable. Going down this beastly path will also have implications with your dialogue choices. 

After years of thinking a Bloodlines sequel was an unrequited dream, it’s nice to see the franchise get the sequel it long deserved. We hope to learn a great deal more about how Hardsuit Labs hopes to live up to its legacy in the coming months.

Categories: Games

New Sniper Assassin Map Coming Next Week

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 17:08

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Developer: IO Interactive Release: November 13, 2018 Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Agent 47 will soon be able to add a few new targets to his hit list with the release of a new Sniper Assassin map. Next week, players can a shipping yard in Singapore, with the goal of thwarting a hostage transfer.

Sniper Assassin is a separate mode in Hitman 2, in which players trade mobility for methodical, creative kills. As a sniper, players have to complete objectives – in this case, stopping the Heavenly Guard from moving hostages to a cargo ship – at long range while (hopefully) remaining undetected. This map doesn't seem to have much at all in common with the extravagant party level Hitman 2 shipped with, but it also rewards players who make use of their environment and seek out hidden objects. 

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The Hantu Port map is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on March 26 and is part of the game's season pass.

Categories: Games

A Squirrel Can Murder You In The Red Lantern, A Dog Mushing Game On Nintendo Switch

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 16:00

While at GDC 2019, we got a chance to speak with The Red Latern game director Lindsey Rostal from Timberline Games about the narrative-survival game coming to the Nintendo Switch in the summer of 2019. “It was a pretty great way to unveil something that I've been toiling away on in the dark... of Los Angeles," Rostal says about appearing in the latest Nintendo Showcase. The game tasks players with journeying with your dog sled team across a (procedurally-generated) harsh Alaskan landscape, where you get lost while training for your first Iditarod race.

“We have a strong narrative background," Rostal says of Timberline Games. "I’ve made branching games and I wanted to find a new way to have a more dynamic narrative. Something that worked more in a streaming context and for a larger variety of audiences." You aren't racing in the game, you're struggling to survive against the wildnerness. Due to the randomization of the game's elements, your runs through the game vary wildly, but you can definitely get lucky.

"It’s a fun way to write. You don’t know what’s really going to happen. There’s likelihoods and there’s relationships between animals in the environments and everything like that," Rostal says. "But things are changing all the time. The unexpected nature of the world is really exciting. You’re like, 'This is likely to happen, but [then again] this squirrel might murder me... It can happen."

Rostal describes the tone of the game as "darkly comedic". While there's the tension ice might break beneath you, you're running low on med packs, and a moose might stomp on you, she says a lot of the game's lighter moments come from the narration. The main character (voiced by Horizon Zero Dawn's, Ashly Burch) will be editorializing the world and contextualizing situations like the tension between a squirrel and your team of dogs. “It’ll probably be an entertaining and weird game," Rostal says about the fact that the character will be talking for their dogs in a lot of situations.

Click here to watch embedded media

The announcement trailer for the game ends with a bear attacking a sled dog, which was shockingly grim for a Nintendo Showcase. "The horrible thing is I don’t think I realized that it was as dark as it was… I probably should have put a trigger warning on the trailer," Rostal says. "We wanted to set the stakes. When you're going up there to change your life and you're setting out to do something that’s a little naïve and a little crazy."

The small team at Timberline games have fallen in love with their game's environments, saying they joked about creating a “screensaver zen mode" to let players soak in the scenery while using the gyro controls when the Nintendo Switch is in handheld mode. When bringing up the idea of creating a version of the game compatible with Labo VR Rostal says "You never know! If they give me a parka version I’m in."

Categories: Games

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review In Progress

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 13:00

While Bloodborne tweaked the combat dynamics of Dark Souls to encourage aggression, Sekiro rewrites the rules of engagement. The building blocks of its combat are recognisable, but this only serves to lure Soulsborne veterans into a false sense of security. Sekiro's combat is incredibly demanding, asking you to study your opponent, find the perfect moment to engage, and execute a split-second follow-up that, if done right, will end the battle in a matter of moments--or if done wrong will end you just as fast.

This might sound akin to what every other From Software game asks of you, but Sekiro pushes these demands further than Dark Souls and Bloodborne ever did. Over the years, From Software fans have become accustomed to the language of Soulsborne games; we recognise scenarios and are wise to the tricks, we can identify viable strategies more quickly, and since the skills are transferable, we can execute these strategies with a measure of confidence. But Sekiro challenges this expertise. It invites you to try and then shows you how little you're actually capable of. Sekiro is affirmation that From Software hasn't lost its bite; that its games can make you feel vulnerable and strike fear in a way few others can. It's a heart-pounding, palm-sweating, and nerve-wracking gameplay experience that instills tension the likes of which I haven't felt since first playing Demon's Souls.

Souls players predominantly hide behind shields and adopt a hit and run approach to combat, and Bloodborne's attack-focused dynamic was a response to this. Similarly, the crux of Sekiro's combat has its origins in Dark Souls. The Poise stat was used to govern how resistant a player was to being staggered or stun-locked by an attack. Sekiro reworks this into a defensive attribute called Posture and uses it to underpin its engagements. Attacks chip away at Posture and will eventually break through the defense, leaving an enemy open to a Deathblow or to having their health attacked directly, which in turn makes their Posture slower to recover. However, this is a very laborious way to wear enemies down, and they will often defiantly counterattack to deal big damage to you. Instead the goal is to deflect an attack the moment before it hits you, which wears down Posture considerably faster.

For low-level enemies it takes just a few encounters to get into the rhythm of it, but as more foes are introduced, it becomes much trickier. Each one has a variety of attacks that have specific tells and counter timings, so spending the time to learn how they all behave and how you should react is vital. Thematically, this style of combat is also coherent with the subject matter of the game in a way that I really appreciate. Battles are measured--a ballet of back and forth movements, the outcome decided by a deadly flourish--swift and precise, as any contest between swordsmen should be.

However, the true test is when you're faced with Sekiro's boss enemies. Calling these encounters "challenging" would be a severe understatement. The attacks these enemies unleash are deadly, to the point where just a single blow can often be enough to kill you. Their moves can be as erratic as they are diverse, and for some of them parrying is simply not an option. Occasionally a red kanji symbol will briefly appear to signal that an unblockable attack is on its way, and in this situation the options are to either jump, dodge to the side, or hope you can sprint away fast enough. In a single second you'll need to identify the attack and execute the appropriate action to save yourself. Bosses have the most Posture and usually require you to land multiple Deathblows on them before they fall, so attempting to simply chip away only draws the battle out. The longer you spend in the battle, the more mentally taxing it becomes. The stress of repeatedly nailing split-second counters begins to mount and just a single slip-up is all it takes to lose everything. As a consequence, these boss battles feel designed to force you to engage with the enemy, to take the fight to them and hope that you've got what it takes. In the moment it can feel unbearably frustrating to keep banging your head up against the challenge, but that frustration pales in comparison to the sheer exhilaration of finally breaking through. After almost every boss battle I completed, I was so overwhelmed by the adrenaline that I had to put the controller down and give myself the time to settle.

Death isn't necessarily the end, however, as Sekiro gives you the option to either submit and die to respawn at a checkpoint, or revive on the spot and continue fighting. This mechanic makes the game just a touch more forgiving by allowing you to recompose yourself and get back in the fight, but it comes at a cost. Each death and each revival has an impact on the world around you. More specifically, it has an impact on the characters you've met on your journey. To explain exactly what that is would be to spoil one of the most interesting parts of Sekiro, so I won't do that--and also, at this point I'm not completely sure what the ramifications and consequences are, such is the mysterious nature of it all. However, the fact that death has a consequence beyond making you lose experience and money is fascinating.

In battle, your character, Wolf, has his fair share of tricks. He's equipped with a prosthetic arm that is capable of having different sub-weapons grafted to it, and they're essential in giving yourself an edge in combat. There's an axe that, while slow to swing, can break through shields; a spear that allows you attack from further away, and can be used to pull weaker enemies towards you or strip armor; firecrackers which can stun enemies; or a flamethrower that can inflict burn damage.

Using these prosthetics comes at a cost, however, as they consume Spirit Tokens. These are scattered around the world and can be purchased using Sen, the in-game currency awarded for killing enemies, but you can only hold a limited quantity of them while in the field. This limitation reinforces the idea that they are to be used as part of a strategy instead of relied on as the primary way to defeat enemies. Using them unnecessarily could mean that they're not available when you need them most. Resources such as scrap, gunpowder, and wax can be found to upgrade your prosthetic arsenal and open up new ways to use them.

Wolf's own shinobi abilities can also be developed by spending experience points gained from killing enemies. Unlike previous From Software titles, there isn't a steady stream of new weaponry; the katana is your mainstay throughout, but new Combat Arts flesh out how the sword can be used, and they have a more active role in skirmishes. Whirlwind Slash, for example, lets you control space, while Ichimonji is a heavy overhead strike that has a long windup but dishes out big posture damage. Again, they're designed as an additional strategic consideration. Only one of these can be equipped at a time, so this forces you to think about what you're taking into battle and be methodical in utilizing it. Shinobi Arts, meanwhile, allow you to access skills such as mid-air deflections, vaulting over enemies to deliver backstabs, and specific counters for deadly special moves that enemies will occasionally execute. These various upgrades aren't diverse enough to support dramatically different playstyles, but they do offer just enough room to find a favourable loadout and then develop its effectiveness.

Wolf also has a suite of Innate Abilities, some of which come into play outside of combat. It's here that Sekiro really distinguishes itself from previous From Software titles by revealing itself to be a stealth action game--one that proudly wears its origins as a spiritual successor to the Tenchu series. Most areas have a heavy enemy presence so the odds are stacked against you. Engaging in open combat will draw attention to your presence, so the smarter strategy is to thin out the opposition by systematically picking them off. In previous From Software games, this would involve an awkward kiting process where you edge closer to a single enemy and use items or ranged attacks to lure it into a safer zone to do battle. However, Sekiro has mechanics to support stealth play more directly. You can use your grappling hook to take to the rooftops and scout out a location, taking a note of enemy placements and watching their patrol patterns. You can skulk around buildings, pressing yourself against surfaces to peek around corners. You can shimmy up walls and hang of ledges to reposition, leap off elevated points to plunge your katana into enemies below, or slither under raised buildings and into grass, creeping towards unsuspecting victims. Innate Abilities such as Suppress Presence will make your footsteps quieter, while the ceramic shard item can be thrown to make noise and manipulate movements to your advantage. Being effective with stealth can allow you to circumvent standard combat encounters entirely, so it's in your best interest to take it slow and steady. Enemy behaviour can be inconsistent, however. Sometimes they'll stare through you as if you're not there, and other times they become hyper aware and capable of perfectly tracking your movements during an alert phase, even when you're behind walls or hiding on roofs. They're not particularly sophisticated, but their lethality means they're not to be taken lightly.

The absence of modern stealth conveniences means you place greater scrutiny on your surroundings, and you'll notice just how thoughtfully they've been constructed

There's a simplicity to Sekiro's stealth mechanics that is refreshing. There's no Detective Mode or on-screen indicators to signify how much noise you're making, and instead you're entirely reliant on your basic senses. The absence of these modern stealth genre conveniences means you place greater scrutiny on your surroundings, and you'll notice just how thoughtfully they've been constructed.

The geography of From Software's game worlds are much lauded, with praise heaped upon the way seemingly disparate locations slowly reveal themselves to be interconnected and part of a cohesive whole. That strength of world design is present in Sekrio, and the fact that it's more immediately visible within these contained locations makes taking the stealth approach even more satisfying. Buildings are placed together to encourage exploration and reconnaissance, with roofs almost touching so that you can leap between them and scope out all angles. They overhang just enough that you can take a running jump and use your grappling hook to swing up and across for better vantage points. Pathways diverge and reconnect, creating that satisfying feeling of venturing into the unknown and then emerging into the familiar. Thick tree branches protruding out from the side of mountains can be grappled to and used to sneak into the heart of an area undetected, or around it entirely. There were more than a few occasions where I spotted a temple in the distance, traced the pathway there back to where I was standing, and followed it to discover a hidden area.

Sekiro takes place in Japan, in a land known as Ashina. As a consequence, it is by and large more grounded in reality than the likes of Lordran or Yarhnam. The location remains both striking and memorable, however. Encircled by an ever-visible snowy mountain range, Ashina is built up of dilapidated temples scattered around, housing mercenary warriors and corrupted monks, among other dangerous foes. Man-made pathways dissolve into perilous valleys, where mountainsides must be scaled to reach remote forests patrolled by club-wielding ogres. Fortified castles tower above abandoned towns seized by an army. Ornate statues fill the homes of royalty, while questionable characters linger in the dungeons below. Without spoiling it, Sekiro also takes the opportunity to delve into the supernatural and pull from Japanese mythology.

That juxtaposition of the real and the fantastical is echoed in the story Sekiro tells. It begins simply, with a shinobi that is called into action to save his kidnapped master and uphold his iron oath. But beneath the surface there's more at play--Ashina is a nation on the brink of collapse, its people beset by a mysterious stagnation, and you have the power to decide its fate--familiar themes for From Software. However, the story quickly moves from the realm of warlords driven by ambition to one of mythical bloodlines, demonic monsters, and otherworldly spirits. While the story is undoubtedly told in a more direct fashion than Dark Souls and Bloodborne, there are still numerous nuances to explore, and mysteries to solve, perfect fodder for a rampant community that has built up around From Software's games to mine. Softly muttered lines from Ashina's denizens hint at turmoil from days gone, while item descriptions speak to arcane practices. Talk of far off lands colours in the world around Ashina, while vague mentions of enigmatic figures leaves you questioning what unseen forces are involved in the events that are transpiring.

The unflinching way Sekiro punishes you for missteps and the repetition of trial and error are clearly suited for people of a certain temperament and with a very specific, slightly masochistic taste in games. These are the people that are willing to endure devastating defeats for hours on end and watch as their progress is undone time and time again, just so they can have the intoxicating thrill of overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge that awaits at the end. In that respect, Sekiro is unmistakably a From Software game--but one unlike any we've had so far. When all is said and done, though, it's the combat that has left the deepest marks on me, for better and for worse.

Atop Ashina Castle I stood before a swordsman. It wasn't my first attempt at the duel; we'd been trading steel for close to six hours, and each time the swordsman ruthlessly cut me down. I became desperate. I started making bad decisions. The losses were really getting to me. But I persevered.

My plan was a familiar one, honed through years of repeated Dark Souls and Bloodborne play: observe, dodge, wait for a slow attack, and use the opening to strike--it never fails. He swung his sword and I was out of range. The recovery on the attack was slow so it was the perfect opportunity to land a blow--I'd done it hundreds of times by that point. Except, this time it was different. As I charged in, he quickly corrected himself and fired an arrow, then chased behind it to close the distance and delivered a crushing blow. I lost my composure and finally snapped.

I picked myself up off the ground and rushed at him. He began an onslaught of attacks and, after six hours of learning his style and developing the muscle memory, I just started parrying on instinct. Each one of his swings and each arrow he fired was met with a perfectly timed raise of my sword. Every unblockable attack he lunged at me with was sidestepped or hopped immaculately. I watched as his Posture deplete, edging closer to the breaking point, and at the same time I could feel my breathing become more rapid, my thumbs beginning to tremble. I wore him down and delivered a Deathblow, backed away, and did it all over again, and a third time. In that final moment when I pierced through him with my katana, I was completely overcome with emotion. After six gruelling hours of failure, the winning battle lasted just six minutes. I'm not too proud to admit that I cried, and I'd do it all over again.

Sekiro marries From Software's unique brand of gameplay with stealth action to deliver an experience that is as challenging as it is gratifying. At the time of publish I haven't completed Sekiro. While I have invested upwards of 30 hours into it, there are still a few more locations I need to explore and bosses I need to beat before the credits roll, and I'm excited to do it. This review will be finalized in the coming days.

Categories: Games

Mutant Academy

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 21:59

Publisher: Bandai Namco Developer: Double Fine Productions Release: Summer 2019 Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

As a developer, Double Fine may have one of the most consistently diverse portfolios in gaming. The studio has virtual reality games, graphic adventures, real-time strategy titles, 3D platformers, RPGs, and more. Double Fine constantly changes genres to work on new things and give their own spin on existing ideas. If only by the theory of diminished options, Double Fine would eventually find themselves ready to tackle the roguelite action genre, which they’re applying their trademark charm and personality to with their announcement of Rad.

It’s the post-post-apocalypse, meaning that the world has been ended twice over, and isn’t in a good shape. Despite the toxic poison covering the wilds and the inevitable monsters produced by it, hope springs eternal. Thanks to effigies strewn about the wasteland called Respirators, there is a small chance that humans can once again move out of their settlements and encampments back into the rest of the world. To do that, however, requires brave youth sacrificing themselves by agreeing to activate those Respirators and fighting off the monsters along the way.

To survive the poisoned atmosphere, the teenagers sent outside have to undergo an overhaul to their DNA which makes them susceptible to mutations from the radiation affecting the world. These mutations are essentially perks, giving the adventurous teens extra power in completing their quest. These mutations may manifest in ways like giving your player a cobra head which spits poison, a third arm that can be thrown and returned like a boomerang, eggs that hatch followers to attack your enemies, and more. During each run, you max out at three active mutations, each assigned to a button at your fingertips. You could end up with mutations that synergize extremely well together and destroy everything in your path or you could end up with three mutations that barely help you. The mixing and matching of possible mutations can have unforeseen effects, like becoming a Cobra person means your egg-babies also have tiny cobra heads, too.

In addition, you can obtain an unlimited number of passive mutations that can also change your build up in different ways. Some passive mutations might add health, but only against certain elements like fire, and just remains on the side until or unless needed. Like other run-based roguelites such as Binding of Isaac, players can hope for the best, but it’s going to be skill that gets you across the finish line in the end.

When a player dies, the run starts over back in the game’s origin town named the Fallow. One teenager didn’t make it, so another teenager takes up the mantle, but can buy supplies, buy upgraded weapons, or withdraw from the bank before they go. In concert with the various shops throughout the game, players will see progress between runs to help do things like forge and create better baseball bats to have less reliance on the randomness of mutations.

One side effect of the DNA blending machine the teenager becomes is that, as they traverse the wasteland, grass grows under their feet Okami-style. The grass stays on the ground for the entire floor, meaning you can always tell where you have been without having to memorize each procedurally-generated map. The grass also helps in battle – the teenagers move faster when walking on grass, which means that you need to move and strafe around enemies rather than stay in one place.

Rad has an immediate and obvious 1980s rock ‘n’ roll style, aggressively bouncing between Mad Max and Heavy Metal in its influences. Director Lee Petty explained that he simply loves that style and era and it definitely fits with the aesthetic of a radioactive wasteland. According to Petty, the game also has a bit of a message about the older generation sacrificing the younger one for their own mistakes with society and the environment. While it’s relevant in modern times, Petty points out that it was relevant in the 1980s, too. It is the kind of trope that unfortunately never really goes out of style.

Over the course of the game, the environments will vary, so you won’t just me crossing the desert for the entire journey. While I didn’t get a chance to see the other biomes, Double Fine explained that venturing further into the game will start revealing lore about the game’s prior two apocalypses. A mysterious teenage girl narrates your expedition, which will also be explained more as you proceed to unlock respirators.

Much like the player backtracking over the grass trail behind them, Double Fine’s Rad is certainly not reinventing anything in the genre. It is very much in the same vein as games like Binding of Isaac or Dead Cells, but with enough personality that it will probably keep players interested for the length of the adventure. It won’t be long until everyone can find out how rad it is for themselves when Rad releases this summer on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

Categories: Games

An Early Look At The Upcoming Multiplayer Shooter

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 19:47

Developer: Blind Squirrel Games Release: 2019 Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Even three years after release, Overwatch is still regularly adding new characters and drawing huge crowds, so players are clearly interested in well-made, character-driven shooters. Drifters is being developed by Blind Squirrel, a studio that has previously worked on ports for several popular triple-A games like the BioShock Collection and Prey. Its first original game, Drifters, is a free-to-play hero shooter that is hoping to mesh the serious competitive nature of Overwatch with the more arcadey experience of Super Smash Bros.

A 5v5 team game, Drifters is all about knowing your roles. The goofy loot-hungry marauders you play as all have their own strengths, weaknesses, and playstyles that are important to understand if you want your team to make off with the biggest haul at the end of a match. You’ll have characters that run the usual gamut of classes: tank, healer, assault, sniper, and support.

Much of the game’s charm lies with its characters. Five were on display, but three more are still being added. All the heroes look diverse and interesting: 

  • Sumo is your tank – a large fish with a wrecking ball for an arm. He gets in close with his shotgun and keeps enemies at bay with his AOE ultimate that has him swinging his wrecking ball and knocking players around like pinballs.
  • Ziggy is a cartoonish purple wisp whose ultimate rains down lightning blasts from the sky in an overhead strike. He likes to hang back and pick people off from a distance with his sniper rifle.
  • Zola, a healer, wields a burst-fire energy weapon and can see enemies through walls when she stands still. Her ultimate removes that restriction and gives you free rein of her abilities to make quick work of unsuspecting foes.
  • Magne is all about crowd-control, armed with saw blades and turrets that work great in tandem. The blades magnetize the enemies and the turrets home in on the magnetic targets. Magne’s ultimate whips up an AOE vortex of magnetic energy.
  • Resistor is a punk-rock robot with a rocket strapped to his back. He is all about controlled chaos. His shots tend to scatter and only hit the general area you’re aiming at, but he can be deadly in the right hands. He puts that rocket to good use for his ultimate where you get to control it in flight to find a target on the other team.

We only had the chance to see these five characters, but eight will be available at the game’s launch. The characters all had a fun, irreverent charm, and they mesh well with the spacey environments reminiscent of Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank series.

With a rogues gallery of characters to choose from, the game has plenty of variety. They might not necessarily have deep lore guiding them like in Overwatch, which speaks to Drifters’ Smash Bros. inspirations, but those inspirations extend beyond its characters.

“The thing we like about Super Smash Bros. is how the characters react to the action” says creative director Haydn Dalton. “We have a lot of stuff that either knocks you back, causes you to skid out of control, or sends you 40 or 50 meters away. Players can use their jetpacks to recover and do all these acrobatic feats, and when you knock people into walls you really feel it. There’s almost a cartoony aspect to it. We want to make sure there is a little bit of comedy to the game.”

Drifter’s mobility is its hook – quite literally. Characters come equipped with a grappling hook and jetpack that lets them not only close the gap between players but also make a swift getaway. Grappling seems useful for getting around quickly when you need to get across the map to a new objective or to get into the firefight, and the jetpack, as you’d expect, is good for giving you that little extra distance when you’re trying to make a jump. It’s also good for simply getting a new vantage point on the opposing team. This added momentum looks to bring a fresh approach to the hero shooter.

The map we saw was a large space freighter floating through an asteroid field, and it looked fairly expansive, but not so large that navigation was a burden. One fun feature of the game was that every time you respawn, instead of being plopped down somewhere in the level, you are loaded into a cannon on a nearby ship, and you aim at the level to pick where you’d like to launch yourself. It was silly, but in keeping with Drifters’ attitude.

Drifters will feature five different game modes at launch including variations on the standard deathmatch, king of the hill, and capture the flag. The mode we saw, Plunder, was a twist on capture-the-flag. You are tasked with exploring the map to locate treasure hidden in breakable objects littering the area, which, once captured, must be deposited at a drop point. You then need to hold off the other team before your “plunder” is cashed in. The first team to manage this five times wins the match.

Speaking of loot, when you successfully airlift your cargo, your team members are all rewarded with small cosmetic bonuses after the match. You can also unlock different loadouts for the characters that don’t necessarily make you stronger, but do alter the play style. Characters have different attacks and weapons with their own strengths and weaknesses that you can tailor to your preferences along individual skill trees.

“There will be some vanity stuff in there, but we’re actually going to focus on a tech tree-style upgrade system, so you can invest in the way each character’s guns work,” says Dalton. “For example, you can change what type of shotgun your character carries. Guns will all ultimately do the same amount of damage, but they will deal it out in different ways, which might fit your play style. So, some shotguns might blast wider but not as far, and some might do a little less damage but fire faster.”

The world of Drifters is rich with detail, and to support that world, Blind Squirrel has teamed with Vault Comics to flesh out the characters in a tie-in comic series. This frees up the team to focus on creating characters with cool abilities that are first and foremost fun to play. If the setting has you wanting more, then the comic can fill in the blanks.

Drifters will have three maps (Blind Squirrel aims to roll out more if the game does well) and five game modes. The game shows a lot of promise; the characters were visually distinctive and the action looked frenzied and fun. Blind Squirrel is still looking for a publisher, so much of this game is subject to change by the time the game finds its way out on PS4, Xbox One, and PC by the end of the year.

Categories: Games

Cadence Of Hyrule, A Rhythm-Based Legend Of Zelda Title, Announced

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 16:35
Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Brace Yourself Games Release: Spring Rating: Rating Pending Platform: Switch

Today at the Nindies showcase, Nintendo revealed a semi-sequel/spinoff to the indie hit Crypt of the Necrodancer set in The Legend of Zelda universe. Titled the incredibly wordy Cadence of Hyrule – Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda, the game takes Necrodancer's gameplay and puts a Legend of Zelda skin over it in terms of music, monsters, and graphics in general.

Not a whole lot was shown of the game, but it does appear to star Cadence from the original game with Link and Zelda as separate playable characters. Cadence has been transported to the unfamiliar land of Hyrule, but there are still some familiar people and mechanics for her even in the new kingdom.

Necrodancer's gameplay puts the player in a procedurally-generated dungeon that they have to explore by moving and attacking at the beat of the music. The game has been fairly popular on PC and even got a Switch version fairly recently, which Switch owners can check out if they're curious how this new Zelda-themed spinoff is going to play.

Cadence of Hyrule – Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda releases on Switch this Spring.

Categories: Games

Hypnospace Outlaw Review - Dot Com Detective

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 01:00

For those of us who already spend our entire waking life tethered to the internet, the concept of Hypnospace will seem like both the logical conclusion to our always-online existence and its literal nightmare scenario. Hypnospace, the titular technology of Hypnospace Outlaw, is a social network you can access while you sleep, thus solving the problem of its users failing to update their status due to having to close their eyes for eight hours a day. It's both ingenious and terrible, and serves as the all-too-horrifyingly-plausible premise of this quite clever, quite funny, simulated '90s web browsing puzzle game.

Log on to Hypnospace and you find yourself jolted back to the late '90s internet age where every page belonged to a webring, had a visitor counter, and blared tinny MIDI music on loop every 15 seconds. The Hypnospace web portal is a walled garden, to use the modern term, split into themed zones that play host to whatever it is people make websites about. Or rather, what people used to make websites about.

It's 1999, the frontier era of the internet, before it was dominated by corporations, where random people stole some HTML and threw up a page dedicated to whatever random things interested them at the time. There's a kind of ramshackle energy at play--whether it's in Bill Aldrin's House of Sound and his raw music reviews or Gus' Temple of Serenity and his earnest new age-isms--that will make those of a certain generation (i.e. me) nostalgic for the looser, weirder, more experimental, yet more innocent internet that we seem to have lost in the years since.

You navigate these sites as a kind of moderator in the employ of Merchantsoft, the startup behind Hypnospace. You're dispatched jobs to track down incidents of content infringement, harassment, illegal activity, and so on, removing the offending text, images, or links from the pages you find them, and issuing warnings to the users who posted them.

Initially, you're assigned specific zones to monitor, and early cases are a simple matter of browsing the pages in each zone until you encounter the relevant material. The pages themselves are mostly spot on in terms of their portrayal of late '90s amateur internet culture and reading through each new page becomes a source of constant amusement. What you're being asked to do as a mod in these early cases isn't especially interesting, but that's fine, because the writing across the board is so sharp.

Things soon get more complicated, and fulfilling each new task requested by your manager becomes more of a puzzle that you really need to work to solve. These puzzles are mostly satisfying to work through. You'll be plugging in search terms to track down potential leads, cross-referencing data and Hypnospace user IDs, reading blog entries to identify clues that might suggest how you could try to crack someone's password, exploring unlisted zones and installing new kinds of software. It quickly becomes a game of internet detective where you're saving documents to your virtual desktop and bookmarking pages of interest to return to later.

Where it suffers is when this sleuthing distracts from the writing. Getting stuck and browsing through the same pages again and again rarely makes any of the jokes funnier. As you progress through the cases, weeks and months pass and you'll see the passage of time reflected as users update their pages--occasionally even in response to your moderating actions--while new pages appear and old ones close. Such updates are welcome, and remarkable given the sheer quantity of pages you're able to browse by the game's end, but you're still going to be looking at the same stuff many times over before you're done.

Hypnospace Outlaw loves the internet, warts and all. It loves how the internet is really still all about weird online communities and their rivalries, feuds, and splinter groups, and how one person's ideas--both good and bad--can gather momentum and spin out of control. It also loves how trivial much of the internet really is, and how we should both celebrate all this made-up nonsense and acknowledge how much of our time with the internet is just frittered away on garbage. It also very accurately simulates that "down the rabbit hole" journey where one click leads to another, and before you realize it, you've spent the night chasing links and can't remember whatever it was that prompted the expedition in the first place.

There are glimpses of darkness through the nostalgic haze, and it's in these moments that you realize that this isn't really just about the internet of the '90s. The cowboy arrogance and shady dealings of Merchantsoft is analogous to many tech startups of today that promise to liberate but only oppress. And in a frightening near-future vision of the gig economy, you're paid in Hypnocoin, a virtual currency accepted at Hypnospace's commercial partners, and only receive payments for reporting violations of Hypnospace's code of conduct. These elements may feel ahead of their time for a game set in 1999, but they make a fair point about where we've taken the internet in the intervening years.

As an exploration of early-ish internet culture, Hypnospace Outlaw demonstrates how far we've travelled online over the past 20 years while at the same time asking whether we've gone anywhere at all. The bandwidth may have improved since 1999 but the content can look all too familiar today.

Categories: Games