Dear Developers, Don’ Use ‘Retro’ Save Systems!

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Thanks to Games with Gold I recently acquired Earthlock: Festival of Magic by Snowcastle Games, and while I was never a big JRPG fan there was something about the old school presentation of Earthlock that perfectly triggered my nostalgia nerve center.  Well it did until I ran in to a boss that I wasn’t ready for, and since I hadn’t seen a green save frog in a long time it wiped out an hour’s worth of play time.   I returned the favor by wiping it off my Xbox One’s hard drive.

To all the developers out there please use modern saving schemes.  I understand that Earthlock was trying to harken back to a simpler time, but the reason saving was terrible back then was because they didn’t know any better, or there was a limitation with their software.  No one pines for the days when they would have to play the same hard area over and over again because they were stuck between save points.  No, our brains forget those play sessions so we don’t turn in to uncontrollable rage monsters.  At the very minimum include a retry button so that we can get through the boss and get to a save point.

Oh well, other then the save game deal I have nothing else to write about Earthlock: Festival of Magic since I didn’t play it enough to properly review it because I literally uninstalled it.  I have a lot of other games to play, and they respect my time enough to save my game at regular intervals.

Dead Rising, The Game I Should Love…

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Dead Rising turns 10 this year, and to celebrate Capcom is re-releasing the old games and the new Dead Rising 4.  When the original Dead Rising was announced for the for the Xbox 360 I was supper excited.  It was like they reached inside my brain and then created a game just for me.  I mean it was a game where you could use just about anything for a weapon while roaming around a large open mall that was infested with the undead, and the game delivered on that promise.  However, it also delivered a constantly ticking clock so that you could not take your time to enjoy all the free form zombie killing action, a terrible save system, and bosses that were next to impossible to defeat.  I don’t think I have ever been more disappointed in a game.

It turns out I am not the only one who felt this way, so they had to make drastic changes to the next Dead Rising games.  Because of that I hear that things got better in the second and third games, and that they are completely getting rid of the countdown clock in the upcoming Dead Rising 4, but after the way the first game let me down it is hard to get excited about the franchise again.  Who knows maybe Dead Rising 4 will be the zombie game that gets everything right, but unless I get the game as a gift I won’t find out.  It is hard to trust something that has broken your heart.

Mad Max: Fury Road Is Still Amazing Without The CGI!

The video above is a bunch of the special effects shots from Mad Max: Fury Road but without any computer alteration, and it is really impressive.  I need George Miller to make like five more of these movies!

47 Is Up To His Old Tricks In Bangkok!

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After taking a step backwards in Marrakesh, Hitman is back firing on all cylinders in Bangkok.  While not everything about Episode 4 was perfect, it did go a long way to alleviate my fears that this murderous episodic journey was headed down the wrong path.  Marrakesh seems to have been more of a stumble than a change of direction.

In Hitman: Episode 4, Bangkok, 47 is tasked with delivering justice to a rich daddy’s boy musician that literally got away with murder, and the lawyer that circumvented the law to keep this rich brat out of jail.  Doing so will not be easy since they are both in an exclusive hotel with tight security, but as always 47 is more than up to the task.

What makes this episode work so well is that it uses the Bangkok map so effectively.  You have to use all the areas available to get to your targets.  Not to mention the Hotel must have been laid out by a crazy person.  The poor guests must always be getting lost, but the non-linear design forces 47 to stay on his toes and always be looking for his next route.  It also seems like they tweaked the opportunity system, so that it kind of clues you in to what you can do, but without completely spelling it out for you.   The security in this Hitman episode is really on the ball as well, so just because you are in disguise don’t think you can just go anywhere you want.  You will still have to stay out of sight and plan out your hits.

This bump in difficulty is appreciated.  The other maps have all been fun, but for the seasoned Hitman player they have all kind of been on the easy side.  That is not to say Hitman: Bangkok is hard, but just that it is not the relative breeze the other mission have been.  It is good that they are making the player get better at taking out targets.  All of this to say that Hitman: Episode 4, Bangkok, was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to visit Colorado later this month.

Cars Can Fly In Furious 7!

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In the opening few minutes of Furious 7 Brian O’Conner(Paul Walker)’s son throws a toy car out a minivan door and says that it flew.  O’Conner responds that cars can’t fly, but Furious 7 goes about doing its best to prove O’Conner wrong.  Much like O’Conner’s son and the toy car, Furious 7 is just a boy playing with his toys.  In this case the boy is director James Wan, but the effect is the same: cars doing impossible things in a seemingly random series of events.

I generally like to give some sort of movie plot synopsis or plot teaser, but in this case there really isn’t one.  The Furious crew does random stuff while Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) tries to kill/stop them.  Also Djimon Hounsou plays a bad guy too.  Not sure what his goal was other than to be not good.

Any time any of this movie’s actors were tasked with acting or setting up the movie’s ‘plot’ Furious 7 ground to a halt.  It was stilted and cliché.  I mean it was almost unbearable.  However, once the cars started literally flying the movie started figuratively flying.  It was so much fun to watch these characters do impossible things all with wide grins on their faces.  For Furious 8 I hope they skip the ‘talking’ scenes all together and just come up with crazy set pieces because that is what the Fast & Furious franchise is now.  Mind-bending-ly awesome car stunts.

I am not sure if Furious 7 is a good movie or not, but once the chit chat stopped I enjoyed myself quite a bit, and that has to count for something.  I don’t know what sort wild things James Wan has planned for Furious 8, but it will be hard to top what he put on screen with Furious 7.  If you want to believe that cars can fly, Furious 7 might just be what you are looking for.

I Am The Knight! With Batman: The Telltale Series!

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While cinematically Batman has been having a rough time lately, in the world of video games he has been doing quite well thanks to Rocksteady Studios’ Arkham series.  It looks the Dark Knight’s excellent gaming run is going to continue with Batman: The Telltale Series.  I played the first episode and witnessed the second during the PAX West group play and it is amazing!  While the Arkham series was all about giving you the moves to feel like you were Batman doling out justice, Telltale Batman is all about getting in to the mind of Batman.  What it is like to be Bruce Wayne making hard choices.

Gameplay wise Telltale Batman doesn’t differ that much from other Telltale games.  It is still a choose your own adventure title with Quick Time Events (QTEs) for the ‘action’.  While at first it seems odd to take the action out of a Batman story, this is the first game to really get in the head of Batman and let you pick how he deals with the threats against Gotham, or even better whether Batman is Bruce Wayne’s alter ego or the other way around.  It is like the ultimate motion comic.

Stylistically Batman: The Telltale Series looks a lot like Telltale’s other comic book to game outings with a heavy cell shaded look.  Though much like The Wolf Among Us this just adds to the game’s living comic book feel.  It looks like one of Batman’s on page adventures.  Which is to say pretty great.

I guess how much you like Batman: The Telltale Series will depend on how much you like Batman.  If the Dark Knight is not your thing, playing a game where you get behind his eyes isn’t going to do much for you.  If you are like me on the other hand, and love Batman, Batman: The Telltale Series is a must play.  It is another impressive game from Telltale.  At this point after Batman and The Wolf Among Us, DC should just give Telltale license to do all their characters.

Looks Like The Paladin Took Care Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. For Me!

I recently watched the Man from U.N.C.L.E., and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I was going to review it, but then I remembered that The Paladin already reviewed it a year ago.  Instead of doing all the work of writing my own review I am just going to link to his since we pretty much agree.  Plus it can’t hurt my ‘click’ rate (sadly it probably can’t help it either).

The Paladin dug The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Paladin’s PAX Wrap Up

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Like Shmee I also attended PAX West, formerly Prime, and like him I came away with a few games to recommend. While there really wasn’t a game of show for me in either the Board Game or Video Game categories, there were some interesting and fun games you should check out for yourself.

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911 Operator by Jutsu Games out of Poland made me upset, not because it was difficult or controversial. No, I was upset because I was on the phone with a guy who had cut off his leg, begging me to tell his wife he loved her, while the stupid ambulance driver took his sweet time navigating Seattle’s streets probably trying to find a Starbucks first. 911 Operator felt frantic, but meaningful and I was proud at the end of the demo that no one died on my watch – not even one-leg guy.

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Lightspeed Frontier was a fun little game in the IndieMEGABOOTH by Crowdwork Studios. I had fun flying around in this procedurally generated, rouge-like game (Shmee’s favorite genre right now). Plus I rammed another ship, killed it, and impressed the devs who were cool guys. You can download the demo now, so give it a try.

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The final game I’ll talk about is Identeco a Cyberpunk RPG that is now in Beta by Humanoid Games. We played this and it was a lot of fun. Thematically its similar to the RPG Shadowrun, just less grim and without the fantasy elements of Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, or Magic. Mechanically it felt a little more like D&D with a little more meat to it. I enjoyed our playtest and was impressed with the system. I suggest you download their Beta and give it a try yourself.

Some honorable mentions would be Cowbots and Aliens (which Shmee talks about in his post) and Ice Cool, a fun dexterity game with penguins.

Course there is so much more that goes on at PAX; panels, events, swag, and just being with friends, bro. Most of it would be hard to explain without context or not being in a sleepless state kept awake by energy drinks. Still, I plan to go back next year to plumb the depths and come back with more great games to try.

PAX West 2016 Wrap-Up!

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Another PAX West (formally PAX Prime) has come and gone, and I am exhausted.  There is so much to see and do that it just overwhelms the senses.  Every show that I have gone to is different, and this year was mostly about just hanging out with my friends.  One big reason for that was the huge indie game presence at PAX, and a lot of them were similar, so nothing really stood out.  Indies are usually well represented at PAX, but this year they were everywhere.  Word to the wise for all you indie game creators out there: if your new game features the terms rougelike or procedurally generated, your game had better be amazing.  There are like eighteen million (not exaggerating) procedurally generated rougelikes out there and they are all pretty much the same.  They are not bad, but just not good enough to care about.

Which is why the only indie game that I really ended up enjoying was an old school four player party game called Death Squared from SMG Studios.

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In Death Squared each player tries to move their cube to their colored circle.  Once all cubes are on their circle the ‘room’ is complete.  The problem is by moving your cube you are causing problems for the other cubes, so you all have to work together.  It is so simple, but so well executed.  This looks to be a must buy.

For board games I was starting to feel the same way that I was feeling about indie games.  They all have different settings, but in the end they are pretty the same three or four games.  However it took a trivia game called America by Bezier Games to prove me wrong.

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I generally am not a big fan of trivia games, but America’s excellent design makes it a ton of fun.  Pretty much there are three tracks for every question: the State the question takes place in, the year the question happened, and the amount of something in the question.  You get more points for getting it right, but if you are close you get points too.  That way even if you don’t know the answer you can guess based on whether you think other people know the answer or not.  It is great.

Like I said above with this year kind of being different it took a while for me to come up with a game of show, but I ended up picking Cowbots and Aliens.

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This game saved VR for me.  Every VR experience I have had thus far has been kind of so-so.  Some of it has looked cool, but none of the games have been better because they were in VR.  Cowbots and Aliens by Wizard Games Inc. was different.  It puts you in a saloon where you can use anything in the room as a weapon.  You can flip tables, deflect bullets with spittoons, break bottles over counter tops, you know pretty much everything you have ever wanted to do in the wild west while fighting an Alien Squid.  It was a blast.

The best panel by far was Telltale’s group play of Batman.

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It was so fun to control Batman with a thousand other people.  If you have not picked up their Batman yet, you should.  Like everything they do it was well done.  I can’t wait to play the rest of this great game.

That was pretty much my PAX West, and while I will need a few days to recover, I can’t wait until next year to do it all over again!  I wonder what PAX West 2017 will be like?

What Was The Point Of Preacher’s First Season?

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I am not one for spoilers, but I have decided that I have to talk about how the first season of Preacher ended, so take this as your spoiler warning.  The show ends with a town wide explosion.  Which is similar to the comic book (in the comic it was only the church), but the comic book did it in the first two pages not after eleven hours of television.  We had no attachment for anyone in the comics yet, so the explosion just set the tone for the wild and crazy graphic adventure.  In the show we know everyone, so they just killed a bunch of people we have some sort of interest in.

What was the point of the first season then?  To show that Jesse is kind of a jerky know-it-all?  Trust me if they had followed the comic books people would have come to that realization anyway.  I don’t think Preacher needed a prequel, or this prequel at any rate.  It didn’t show us anything relevant or new about these characters.  It did show us that they are going to try and be as weird as the comic books, but just at a much slower pace.  Maybe the writers just wanted us to be asking the same question as Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy, “What is the point of it all?”.