Throwback Thursday: Win Killer Instinct on Xbox One!

October 30, 2014 31 comments

KI

Many of our recent giveaways have shaded toward the strategic or thought provoking side, but sometimes it’s good just to whoop a little ass! And that brings us to this week’s contest as we’re teaming up with Microsoft and Double Helix Games to give you a chance to win Killer Instinct on Xbox One! Even better, the winner gets a code to download all of the Season 1 characters as well as a code for the Ultra Edition of Season 2!!! So let’s get to the W-W-W-Winning!

HOW TO ENTER

To enter, simply let us know who your favorite Killer Instinct character is in the comments section below. If you’re on Twitter, please include your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.

Sample Comment
Cinder
@ChicksDigFlames

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Thursday, November 6th. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT on Thursday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win.

Good luck!

PC Review: Dreamfall Chapters – Book One

October 30, 2014 Leave a comment
The EYE is watching.

The EYE is watching.

By: Ted Chow

Dreamfall Chapters – Book One is a story-driven, episodic adventure that continues off previous titles, The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Inspired by those past games, you will continue the long awaited journey in a much changed world where you’ve played a crucial part in unweaving the fabric of events. The first book, entitled “Reborn,” will bring a new story in the captivating series and whisk about a new air of mystery, reflection and a voyage of self-discovery.

CONTROLS (4/5)

The controls are provided in your default WASD standard, but a complete remapping of keys is available if you prefer. If you enjoy playing with a controller, you can also opt in with whatever you are most comfortable. Overall, the controls felt relatively smooth, although character movement and camera rotation can feel a bit weighted and idle to your inputs.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.25/5)

Dreamfall Chapters brings a level of dreamlike (almost transcendent) sense of artistic beauty with its stylized characters and environmental backdrops. It really pushes the fidelity in conveying a multitude of bustling worlds from cyberpunk metropolis to the more fantastical. Enough so that even my computer was struggling from optimization issues in areas of highly condense activity.

This doesn’t discredit the fact that the game is provided with great world building and makes you imagine the infinite possibilities. Combined with the orchestral and transcendent score, Dreamfall Chapters is a downright pleasure to listen to and really captures the tone and essence of the moniker.

GAMEPLAY (4/5)

If you have played games akin to The Walking Dead episodic series, then you will find many similarities to the overall format. Dreamfall Chapters – Book One is the first of five books in the series and follows the story of Zoe, Kian and Saga in a loose order. Your decisions and actions will come full circle by the end of the fifth book.

It is a tale of reflection, consequence and self discovery within a greater immersive theme. How your choices and actions affect your own personal playthrough are yet to be seen as the first book hasn’t shown too many instances of the results of your decisions. However, I am curious to see where it all goes and if there is true choice with a multitude of resolutions.

As far as gameplay goes, you will control the main protagonists and largely interact with the environment to progress the story. Dreamfall Chapters foregoes combat and skilled acrobatics for a more emotional journey with a heavy emphasis on dialogue and character interaction. You will spend a lot of time navigating through internal monologues and decisions that will have greater implications for your character down the road.

There is a level of depth in these interactions as you can really delve deep into the psyche of these individuals and develop emotional attachments. These internal monologues are also enriched by a cast of great voice actors that provide a level of personality appropriate to the characters. The character development portrayed in Dreamfall Chapters is a crucial part of the immersion, and it is truly fulfilling, even early on, to see the growth of the protagonists.

The world building in Dreamfall Chapters is a sight to behold as the world, especially Europolis, is eerily similar to our own reality. Social strife and issues are prevalent throughout and a multitude of ambiguous agendas are intertwined into the city’s utopian façade. The city can also be portrayed as a living being in itself with all the different cultures and philosophies shaping an ever-changing identity akin to nurturing the curious mind. Even listening to the NPCs that inhabit the world offers a great variety of breadth and curiosity to social causes.

If there is an encompassing theme that Dreamfall Chapters instills it would have to be the power of choice and the resulting fallout of said choices. It is interesting to see how an alternate humanity within the game could have followed down different paths, and it is even more interesting to see what triggers brought about these changes.

Life is about choices after all, and the perceived notion that those choices will come to define the person or entity. Whether the game is trying to convey any particular message is up to the player to analyze and decide, but it is unquestionable that all entities will come upon divergent crossroads that they must choose and live with whatever transpires.

If there’s a complaint about Book One, it would have to be how short the experience was and the longing to see how your decisions affect the world and characters. Hopefully the other books will be released at good intervals to relieve the compulsion of wanting to know how the story evolves.

Beyond that, the story has kept me intrigued and longing to see how everything unfolds for our protagonists. Multiple playthroughs will definitely be needed in order to go through all the different story arcs and divergent paths for the complete experience.

OVERALL (4.25/5)

It was definitely hard to be cognizant of spoilers as there is so much to discuss and explore within the given story. That is the sign of good narrative, however, and I hope to those that do enjoy a good story download Dreamfall Chapters – Book One and experience your own personal journey in the embodiment of the protagonists.

What would you do if this was your reality, and how would your choices affect those around you? Only time will tell, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to dream.

Nintendo 3DS Review: Demon King Box

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment
Hello, I'm Large and Intimidating. Who might you be?

Hello, I’m Large and Intimidating. Who might you be?

By: Matthew Striplen

Welcome to the mystical realm of Demon King Box, a land where the powerful Demon King has been sealed into the aforementioned box. This premise sets the stage for the truly bizarre and often nonsensical adventure as the Demon King seeks to reclaim his former glory. Level up and conquer in real-time!

CONTROLS (3.75/5)

I’m happy to say the controls are the most polished aspect of the game. Players will use the touchpad almost exclusively for a very simple and intuitive experience. When in combat, one need only drag their troop of choice directly onto the desired lane on the battlefield.

Outside battle, however, the experience gets a little more awkward. The level selection screen, in addition to being poorly laid out, navigates clumsily. Also, troop upgrading feels a little strange. In order to give food to a troop, you must keep the stylus pressed on the desired item. I frequently found myself scrolling the page instead of feeding. Although this may be a small issue, little technical problems like get under my skin after a while.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3/5)

Demon King Box doesn’t stand out visually, but that is not to say it looks bad. Characters and environments are depicted in typical Japanese anime style. The quality of the character designs is overall very good, though the depictions of female characters tend to be a little over the top bust-wise. Take the thumbnail for the 3DS menu for example. It features a very scantily clad demon, who has no special significance in-game, other than breast size. Oh well…

The soundtrack provides plenty of excitement throughout the game. No complaints here. Very little voice acting is present and is exclusively in Japanese. This usually occurs when a commander uses an ability, but no subtitles are present. Though the spoken lines are minimal, knowing what’s being said would be nice.

GAMEPLAY (3.5/5)

Despite its intense WTF Japan-inducing exterior (more on that later), Demon King Box is a pretty standard real-time/RPG strategy game. Battles consist of deploying troops and watching the chaos ensue, but be careful, because you can only bring five different troop types with you. Each troop can be sent into one of three lanes, or if you’re sending a large troop, one of two lanes. Large troops can consequently deal and receive damage from the two small lanes they overlap, as seen above.

Food plays an integral role in Demon King Box, and its uses are twofold: leveling up troops and creating new troop types. Each enemy troop drops a specific type of food, and thankfully, the enemy troop list is visible from the level select screen. Additionally, each food type is worth a different amount of experience points but does not have any other differences.

To create a new troop, a certain number of two specific foods must be combined. While the multiple uses for food is an interesting concept, I was hoping for a wider array of effects to provide an additional layer of gameplay.

Deploying troops requires Spirit Points, which is the iteration of mana for this title. This accrues slowly over time, but additional Spirit can be gained by defeating enemies. This creates an unusual gameplay snowball effect.

If the player gains the upper hand in battle, they will get a surplus of Spirit, which ensures continuation of success. Conversely, if the player gets outnumbered, especially early on, defeat is inevitable due to the insufficient Spirit to deploy anything. If, by some chance, you survive long enough to gain sufficient Spirit you’ll likely be completely swarmed by that point and any deployments will be immediately destroyed.

And now, the part you’ve been waiting for: the WTF Japan-ery. The majority of the story problems stem from very poor translations — hopefully the Japanese version has fewer mistakes. These usually take the form of awkward wording, but they can sometimes render a sentence unintelligible. My favorite mistranslation has to be the description of the Milk M (Certified) food: “Only the milk produced by Milk Mum is delicious and nutritious. Drinking it every day can enhance breast.” … because Japan. Not only is the sentence hilarious on its own, but it is completely out of context for the rest of the story.

The only two mission varieties are “All Enemies Dead!” and “Enemy Hero Routed!” If you’re a little unclear on what those mean, I don’t blame you. In the first variety, all you have to do is destroy the enemy army, simple as that. For the second, the army spawns infinitely, so the enemy hero, which serves as commander, has to be destroyed.

You also have a choice of several heroes, unlocking more as the game progresses. The hero choice determines your HP and special abilities, both of which can be improved via food leveling. These abilities range from temporarily buffing troops to dealing direct damage to the enemy hero.

For a Nintendo eShop exclusive, Demon King Box has a decent length to it. Throw in a bit of level grinding and you’ve got yourself a 6-8 hour adventure.

OVERALL (3.5/5)

Demon King Box is a good, entry-level RTS title. The mechanics are easy to learn, and the difficulty is never too great. While the faults, notably the mistranslations and awkward menu layouts, are not too numerous, the game doesn’t go the extra mile. That being said, the current price ($3.99) is reasonable considering the length, and Demon King Box provides a comfortable learning environment for newcomers to the genre.

XBLA Review: Anna: Extended Edition

October 28, 2014 Leave a comment
Nothing creepy about that place at all...

Nothing creepy about that place at all…

By: Robert Snow

New to Xbox Live Arcade from Kalypso Media, Anna: Extended Edition is a great, mind-bending puzzler that will have you spending hours searching everywhere for clues. You will need your thinking cap for this one because the crazy solutions are hard to find.

CONTROLS (4⁄5)

The controls are well mapped and allow the player to easily find items they’ve picked up for use in solving puzzles and progressing. All the items are mapped on a wheel brought up by the right trigger, though you may also use the d-pad to quickly browse through items without the wheel. You’ll need to press every button in order to orient themselves as the game does not give instructions on how to proceed.

When it comes to moving the character, it is a little delayed and unresponsive — and you might find yourself moving slower than expected as there is no indicator to let you know when you’re crouching. The flashlight lags behind the camera when moving around in the house, which can be quite annoying to say the least, and it’s quite difficult to place the aiming reticle on small objects because the right stick is touchy when moving the camera. In general, you’ll just end up pressing the “A” button repeatedly in order to find objects around the map.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.75/5)

The graphics are quite good for an XBLA title with very few screen tears and a decent frame rate. The opening setting outside of the house is quite beautiful, and the setting progressively gets worse as you play through the game giving the player a dynamic playground. The various features of the house that change are well designed. For example, the hands that come out of the ground are vividly creepy.

The many sounds played throughout the game set a scary tone in that they are clear, audible and impactful. These sounds bring life to the environment and make it feel like the house is alive. The music played also morphs throughout the game, setting different moods depending on where you are in the story.

GAMEPLAY (4⁄5)

Anna: Extended Edition begins by dropping you into a beautiful meadow next a house, and you must find out how to get inside. Most of the story or explanation of what is going on is in your journal, which can be used to aid in solving puzzles. Basically, you are a man trying to find a woman named Anna, who you keep inexplicably seeing in your dreams.

To progress you must find objects and clues around the environment that must be used through the house to discover the truth behind Anna. The game forces you to be creative in how they combine and use said items. That being said, some of the situations in which items are used do not make sense and are sort of farfetched. For example, a tree branch is used to break through some rock, which doesn’t really make sense.

Anna can definitely be considered difficult. You really need to pay attention to what is written in the journal and all the clues you find if you want any chance at advancing through the house. This game will give you a good 10 hours of gameplay, even more if you have trouble with puzzlers.

There is a substantial amount of reading to be done to understand what is going on in the story. There are multiple books throughout the house that provide clues as to what the player should do. The journal coincides with what the player is doing so it is wise to read it you’re having trouble figuring out what to do next.

OVERALL (4⁄5)

The combination of graphics, sound and gameplay all work together in Anna: Extended Edition to create a chilling experience. Be prepared to use critical thinking if you want to conquer the challenge.

PC Review: Dungeon of the Endless

October 27, 2014 Leave a comment
What's behind the door?

What’s behind the door?

By: Ted Chow

Dungeon of the Endless is an isometric dungeon crawler that pays homage to older titles such as Rogue with its procedurally generated dungeons and brutal difficulty. If you enjoy the challenge of controlling characters and delving deeper into dungeons with only one life, then Dungeon of the Endless will put you to the test with the labyrinthine mazes and nasty concoctions of monstrosities. With elements of an RPG, the game offers plenty of reason to care for your subordinates, as an extra hand is a necessity if you plan to live.

CONTROLS (4/5)

The control for the game comes in your standard WASD schematics. Panning the world map can also be done with the arrow keys. Most interaction is done with the left and right mouse buttons and short-keys are available for using items, accessing your inventory or viewing the tactical map. The keys cannot be changed, but I found the current setup to be sufficient for the majority of your journey.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/5)

While the game doesn’t have all the bells and whistles you’d see in a standard AAA video game, it does have personality with the 8-bit artistic flair. The intention is there to pay respect to a past generation of games that brought about the first dungeon-crawling experience that we are so accustomed to in this generation. Some of the assets can look a bit too pixilated at first, but with subsequent playthroughs it tends to sink in and becomes less of an issue.

The soundtrack provides a serene yet out-worldly score that makes it feel like you’re travelling through water dripped caves of unknown territory.

GAMEPLAY (4/5)

Dungeon of the Endless takes you to a deserted planet where your spaceship crashes and leaves you trapped in a derelict state. You choose from amongst two of four different characters at first and unlock new companions along the way.

All characters have special skills and abilities and level differently compared to each other, much in the way of a standard RPG. Like any RPG, you can equip new items that you find to your characters with bonuses to additional stats or unlocking of new abilities. Replaying the game with different characters will provide a different experience every time as you strategize around each character’s innate strengths and abilities.

The main goal of the game is to reach the final floor with the one life you have. If a character dies he or she is permanently gone and can’t be brought back to life. At the same time, you’re responsible for protecting your crystal core that will continuously be threatened by aliens whenever you open more rooms to find the exit. Once the exit is found, you have to bring the crystal core to the exit point while fending off a multitude of enemies spawns. The game is over when all characters die or your crystal core is destroyed.

In your quest to tackle the challenges in Dungeon of the Endless, resources are administered to you upon entering a new room. Think of entering a room as taking a turn. The resources that you accumulate are Industry, Science, Food and Dust.

Industry is used to build your resource generators, defense turrets and other miscellaneous structures within rooms. Science is your currency to upgrade new technology to aid you in defending the rooms from aliens or providing buffs. Food is for healing characters or leveling them up. And finally, Dust is your build capacity and is needed to build anything. All resources can also be gained by defeating aliens or unlocking treasure chests.

The resource system in Dungeon of the Endless is unique in it that leftover resources on any particular floor are carried over to the next. This provides additional strategy by tempting you to accumulate as much as you can by delving farther than the exit point. This isn’t without risks, however, as continuously opening new rooms on a particular floor will spawn more deadly aliens that could spell the end for your characters. So tread carefully as you never know what the next room or floor will bring.

With co-op support, you and your friends can journey into the unknown together. And given the procedural nature of the dungeon layout, each journey will be a random one from the innate difficulty to the loot your party finds.

Leaderboard stats are given upon completion or death of your entire party. Additional achievements and game art pieces can also be collected throughout the game for the diehard completionists to extend your play time.

OVERALL (4/5)

Dungeon of the Endless provides a great mix of procedural dungeon crawling and strategic depth with every playthrough. If you enjoy a game that offers plenty of randomness and replay value both for yourself and a co-op partner, then this dungeon experience will most definitely whet your appetite.

PS3 Review: Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star

October 24, 2014 Leave a comment
No thanks. I prefer to keep my “mental world” clean and healthy.

No thanks. I prefer to keep my “mental world” clean and healthy.

By: Uma Smith

Although North Americans are getting more exposure to Japanese video game content, not all titles make it over here. That being said, this can cause potential confusion on the players’ perspective. Take the recent PlayStation 3 JRPG, Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star. Its prequel, Ciel Nosurge never saw the light of day in the West. With this missing piece, can players still be able to enjoy the uniqueness and content offered by Ar Nosurge? Let’s find out.

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

In consideration of having a turn-based battle system, Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star plays out quite well with its effective controls. Movement with the d-pad is responsive and accurate. Meanwhile, there are three attack commands assigned to the face buttons while the remaining one is allocated for defending.

The latter function is important since the whole idea behind the battle involves determining how long your partner can unleash a magical song attack, which essentially wipes out several enemies. Hence, the more she’s protected, the more powerful her attacks. So while the control scheme is straightforward enough to learn, it is also intuitive enough to make the gameplay very enjoyable.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.25/5)

Filling the screen with cel-shaded characters and anime-style artwork, Ar Nosurge proves that the PlayStation 3 can still dish out some nice graphical presentation. Of course, there are occasional designs from enemies that could use some sprucing up. Nevertheless, the overall appearance produces a stellar impression, especially with the variety of solid and colorful backgrounds.

The musical score effectively blends the futuristic setting of this game. Additionally, the J-pop tunes keep the overall feel both exciting and upbeat. And whether you choose the original Japanese or English dubbing, the voice acting definitely hits the spot when it comes to delivery in audio excellence.

GAMEPLAY (3.75/5)

Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn centers around our main character, Delta, who is defending against an alien invasion from a race known as the Sharl. To protect themselves, humans have built a city called Felion with an added barrier that is unbreakable on account of magic. Meanwhile, a religious faction known as the Genomirai Church is siding with the Sharl to take on humans living outside of Felion. As this is happening, Delta comes to the rescue to fight off these terrors.

Interestingly enough, Ode to an Unborn has elements from games usually found in separate genres. Specifically, you’ll come across action-packed battles against aliens, cooking up some alchemy recipes, and even engaging in dating simulations.

From what you create with alchemy, you can turn around and sell your products to stores. So it’s not just battling creatures, which is fun by itself, but there’s also other gaming elements that add variety. While this could be a risky path to take, it actually works out pretty well in terms of retaining players’ attention spans.

Expect the leveling system to be deep and complex. Particularly, the more battles and experience you engage in, the more upgrades and leveling up that you get to perform on Delta. Furthermore, he’ll be able to enter into his female teammate’s mind in hopes of unraveling her potential, which includes increasing HP and having more powerful magical powers.

This will take some trial and error since it is all dependent on your interactions and her following responses. But once you develop this trust from her, you will end up with a stronger connection, thereby allowing you to unlock your team’s full capabilities.

Each area has a fixed number of enemies ready to take you on. As such, you won’t have the regular occurrence of surprise encounters as you would in the Final Fantasy games. Within the battle itself, you’ll be attacking enemies and guarding your female partner. meaning you’ll have to incorporate both strategy and timing to your approach of attack. At the end of it all, there isn’t much difficulty most of the time when facing these enemies. This can have a detrimental effect since the game can be in danger of losing its appeal on account of its limited challenge.

Where the charm lies with Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn is the dialogue. The interactions between characters can be enthralling, especially with the humor attached. But for players who want to quickly jump straight into the action, these conversations can drag on and, unfortunately, cannot be skipped. If you can look past this, the story will really have you hooked, especially when you end up needing to find out what’s going to happen next.

OVERALL (3.75/5)

Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn is pretty enjoyable even if you haven’t had the opportunity to experience its prequel. If JRPG’s fulfill your entertainment needs, then this title will not only quench your thirst, but it serve as an “ode” to your PlayStation 3.

Throwback Thursday: Win Defense Grid 2 on XB1 or PS4!

October 23, 2014 68 comments

DG2It’s that time again. Time to acquire some awesome gamage for the cost of free. And this week, we’re teaming up with our old friends at 505 Games to bring you Defense Grid 2 on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4! Now let’s tighten up those defenses and get to winning!

HOW TO ENTER

To enter, simply let us know what your favorite tower defense game/series is in the comments section below. Please include your console choice (XB1 or PS4) and, if you’re on Twitter, your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.

Sample Comment
Iron Brigade
@ItsStillTrenchedToMe
XB1

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Thursday, October 30th. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT on Thursday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win.

Good luck!

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