XB1 Review: Q.U.B.E. Director’s Cut

September 4, 2015 Leave a comment
You will encounter several different puzzle types in Q.U.B.E.

You will encounter several different puzzle types in Q.U.B.E.

By: David Tavernier

Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut (or QUBE for short) is a first-person puzzle game much in the same vein as Portal. Does it have the same quality as Portal? The answer to that is, while it isn’t quite as good it does hold up on its own.

Comparing QUBE to Portal is inevitable given their similarities. This is unfair, however, and to truly evaluate QUBE you must view it on its own merits. What comes next is such an analysis. I will try to judge QUBE by its various qualities and determine if it is a good buy or not.

CONTROLS (4/5)

Moving, jumping and manipulating puzzle elements are all quite simple in QUBE, and there was no point where I felt like performing tasks was overly difficult due to the controls. The triggers perform most of the manipulating of puzzle elements, with one extending blocks and the other depressing them, as well as performing other actions like activating a ball dropper or resetting a puzzle back to its starting configuration.

Sometimes the physics can be a little irksome, though. For instance, a ball that you are trying to bounce into a goal might not bounce as you’d expect it to, or pushing a ball with yellow steps may not force the ball into the appropriate location. Conversely, the physics of the game make it so that there are multiple ways of solving several puzzles, which is a good thing.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3.5/5)

Voice acting in QUBE is quite good. Along the way you’ll encounter radio transmissions from both a female and male voice. These are very well done and contribute to the space age atmosphere. By the end of the game, you’ll have a hard time determining who is telling the truth and who is lying, or whether the transmissions are the work of the completely insane. The background music is also good. It sounds futuristic, which matches the graphics in each environment.

Visually, QUBE is pleasant but not great. True to its name, all of the environments are composed of (mostly gray) cubes. The cubes that you can interact with are colorful, and this differentiates them from the gray backgrounds. The main character appears to be wearing some sort of space suit because while interacting with these cubes your gloved hands are viewable (gloves that change color depending on which type of cube you are interacting with).

GAMEPLAY (3.5/5)

The gameplay in QUBE is compelling. As you move forward you will face increasingly difficult puzzles of various types. The first puzzles will be completed by simply manipulating different types of blocks. Red blocks can move upward/downward or forward/backward up to three times. Yellow blocks can form three different types of stairways. And blue ones are like a catapult that will bounce you up into the air (straight up or at an angle sometimes).

Up next are puzzles that’ll be completed by manipulating blocks to bounce around a moving ball. Then there are puzzles that involve magnets that pull blocks backward and forward. Next are puzzles where you have to manipulate a moving orb that travels systematically. And so on, and so on. The different types of puzzles make sure that the gameplay doesn’t become stagnant as you move through the game.

There’s also an interesting narrative in QUBE. You are given two sides of the story, one from a male voice and one from a female voice. The woman tells you that you’re in space, while the man says you’re deep underground, and that you shouldn’t trust her. So there is a dichotomy and you have to choose who you will believe. As you progress, more of the strange story is filled in, and this helps drive you forward, making the impetus to complete puzzles more compelling.

OVERALL (3.75/5)

Q.U.B.E.: Director’s Cut features puzzles that will make you think, sometimes for quite a while. For $9.99 you get hours of perplexing puzzle gameplay, a solid story and a satisfying ending. If you are down for that kind of experience, QUBE could be the right game for you.

Throwback Thursday: Win Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain on XB1 or PS4!

September 3, 2015 286 comments

MGSV

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock (or a cardboard box), Konami released Hideo Kojima‘s latest stealth masterpiece, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain this week, and courtesy of the good people at Konami we’re giving you the opportunity to win a code to download the full game on either PlayStation 4 or Xbox One! So break out those exclamation points over your head and let’s get to the winning!

HOW TO ENTER

To enter, simply let us know what your favorite Metal Gear game is in the comments section below along with your console of choice. 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
Metal Gear Solid
@SniperWolf!
PS4

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Thursday, September 10th. 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!

XB1 Review: Goat Simulator: Mmore Goatz Edition

September 2, 2015 Leave a comment
When GOATZ ruled the Earth!

When GOATZ ruled the Earth!

By: Quinn Potter

They’re baaaaaack. Coffee Stain Studios is at it again, serving up another cup of brew, just the way you like it — wild and weird. Remember the wacky, wonderful world of being a goat from Goat Simulator? I know, how could they possibly top that, right? Well, add more goats… and zombies, and then call it Goat Simulator: Mmore Goatz Edition!

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

All the classic controls are here – go forwards, backwards, lick, head butt. These are easy to find and use. In the MMO version, there are a wide variety of new and different abilities. For example, instead of “baa-ing” in tank mode, you butt slam. (Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.)

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3.75/5)

Graphics are the same as before – not great. It looks like a game that might have been configured for a PC, but it comes across as mediocre on an Xbox or other engines that can display much sharper images. There are so many amazing new features that the fuzzy graphics detract from the enjoyment. Bummer.

The game, previously known for near-constant glitches has moved to even higher dimensions of glitchiness (Was that even possible?!). We expect glitches from these folks, so that’s actually ok. The glitches ensure the steady stream of hilarity.

Let’s take the boat ride. Boat A: Zombie Version: You’re a goat. You hop into a motorboat that’s being steered by a person. You have to lick the boat to stay on it. Really. After licking the boat, it will go incredibly fast, go off a jump, fly over an island colony, then glitch through multiple rocks before docking back where it started. (The driver, meanwhile, falls over mid-ride. Go figure.) Trippy stuff.

Boat B: MMO Version: You’re a goat. You hop into a small rowboat for two. There’s room for you (the goat) and the person rowing. The rower rows. And rows. Very, very slowly. He gently bumps into a rock. He rows faster, faster, and faster while stuck on the rock. Suddenly, the rowboat takes off across the landscape, through a forest, over the hills, and into the Renaissance (but that last part is another story).

Soundtrack is a bit weaker in this version (really, guys, you could have changed it up a bit). The goat sounds are still awesome, but some of the other creatures’ sounds are downright annoying (harvester robots in the gold fields, for example).

GAMEPLAY (4.25/5)

So, obviously, from the name MMOre GoatZ Edition this time you have a farce of an MMO. You’ll be heatbutting and buttslamming your way through the Renaissance. To pick a class, you’ll choose among tank, wizard, hunter, rouge – or microwave.  Each class has different skills, of course, and you’ll have plenty of fun exploring the options.

True to the MMO premise, you’ll receive a series of tasks/quests, updates on health, and an amusing chat channel (complete with players begging you to “join our guild”). Everything is just part of the set, however, not really connected. The chat repeats itself, your levels never impact your abilities, and the tasks you are assigned are somewhat meaningless.

Your true task is to simply wreak havoc and enjoy yourself, which you surely will. The more you explore, the more glitchy surprises you will find. (And you can play this locally with friends, so they can help.)

The “Z” part of MMOre GoatZ Edition is a play on DayZ. In this post-apocalyptic world, you’ll need a constant supply of food to survive. Zombies mindlessly drift through the city. You’ll want to avoid them, of course, or you will be infected. If you get hit enough times by zombies, you will die. When you re-spawn, you’ll start over from Day One.

It sounds pretty basic, but this can be endlessly amusing as you glitch through walls and use your hastily crafted mini-guns while the uninfected people party like there’s no tomorrow.

In “Z” mode, you’ll choose from three playing options: infect people with the virus, try to survive, or just roam around the city and have fun smashing things. In the city, you can explode out of cannons, fall down the endless pit, knock around some aliens, act like an actual goat (achievement: act like a goat), drive go-carts, go on bizarre boat rides and more.

OVERALL (4.25/5)

MMOre GoatZ Edition is not DLC, an extension, or an updated version of Goat Simulator. This is a stand-alone game that has tons of humorous surprises to discover as you gallop through parodies of MMOs and zombie-apocalypse survival games. It’s great fun for an afternoon with friends and it doesn’t matter if any of you have played Goat Simulator or not.

Throwback Tuesday: Win Chrono Phantasma EXTEND on PS4!

September 1, 2015 87 comments

BBCEThings got a little hectic late last week, so the Throwback Thursday set for then is going up today and is thus being renamed, Throwback Tuesday. Genius, right? Well, at any rate, we’ve got some codes from Aksys Games’ recent PlayStation 4 release, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma EXTEND, burning holes in our virtual pockets, so please take them off my hands!

HOW TO ENTER

To enter, simply let us know what September release you’re most looking forward to playing 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
MGSV The Phantom Pain
@SnakeBauer

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Tuesday, September 8th. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT on Tuesday. 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: The Flock

September 1, 2015 Leave a comment
Marco!!.. Polo!!

Marco!!.. Polo!!

By: Ted Chow

A horror-inspired indie title, The Flock is an interesting cat-and-mouse game that has a concept with a countdown population all leading to a finale of sorts. However, is it good business practice to display a game’s life cycle before the servers shutdown? Will players be dismayed by the fact that the game will go down, or will they come together as a community to receive any substantial conclusion? Only time will tell, but it is one experiment that looks destined to go in the do’s and do not’s of video game development.

CONTROLS (3.5/5)

The Flock is a first-person horror experience that really promotes inducing paranoia and suspense with the limited field of view.  The movement of your character will feel like you’re crawling and shifting through the ground as you stalk your prey as the flock. If you are accustomed to first-person shooters, the controls should feel similar to that experience. Overall, everything felt smooth and customizable, albeit a bit simplistic.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3/5)

As far as graphics goes, The Flock hits a level of ambience in the game’s environment that oozes in the creep factor. From the dark corridors to the post-apocalyptic world, The Flock is able to capture the curiosity of the player. However, the game isn’t without noticeable flaws in the textures department and special effects that hide the obvious. Levels can feel rudimentary and model details can be lacking in depth. The soundtrack does add to the horror aspect of the game, but it is quick to fade in its novelty.

GAMEPLAY (2.25/5)

While the controls and graphics may help the game, the gameplay in the The Flock is rather lackluster to say the least. With no single-player mode or proper explanation as to the game’s lore, you are pitted against other flock creatures in order to secure an artifact that gives you the power of the light bearer.

The light bearer wins if he survives and accumulates other artifacts, while the flock wins if they kill the bearer. The light bearer also needs to continue to move otherwise his light will dissipate and make itself vulnerable to attacks. It’s essentially a cat-and-mouse game that was great in concept but poorly executed as this is the extent of the gameplay.

Along those lines, it’s worth noting that the game suffers from some connection issues as well as a lack of players for a multiplayer-only game. The novelty of chasing after the light bearer wears thin after you have played the handful of maps available at launch. While suspenseful on your initial playthroughs, The Flock doesn’t have anything to keep a player invested in the game except for the population countdown to server closure.

Even with the grand finale touted by the developers, having to accumulate over 200 million deaths in sparsely active multiplayer can feel like an eternity for even the most faithful of players. A strong community is needed to enjoy The Flock, but at its current state, enticing people to invest time and money to play a game to that finale where everything ends is both bold and torturous.

With the game considered to be in a released state, it is hard to make the case that the game offers anything substantial to players coming into The Flock. The gameplay is barebones as it is, and it may have been best if it had stayed in early access or an alpha release. The point system after every match is arbitrary and doesn’t contribute to anything in terms of decreasing the doomsday counter.

Matches can be relatively short and widespread enough that it can feel barren. Luckily, your creature will have some wall hacking abilities to see other flock allies for a limited time. However, with no sense of accomplishment after each match or in general playing The Flock, the game can feel rather unsatisfying.

OVERALL (2.75/5)

The Flock has an interesting premise with a first-person cat-and-mouse dynamic; however, the game feels lacking in modes and overall polish. It is a shame as there is a lot of potential with the idea, but as constituted The Flock isn’t worth the price of admission — hopefully that’s something that can change in the future.

PS4 Review: Calvino Noir

August 31, 2015 Leave a comment
Style over substance.

Style over substance.

I’ve always had a meticulous, even deliberate nature when it comes to gaming. I don’t just want to clear levels, I want to clear them with a minimum of mistakes — it’s why I routinely finish games with consumables/boosts maxed out; rather than use them I’d rather try again until I do it right. That has made me a natural at stealth games, and it’s what had me ready to dive into the ambience-soaked Calvino Noir, which promised no shortage of stealth and subterfuge.

CONTROLS (2/5)

Certain genres struggle to make the move from PC to consoles, but we’re usually talking about real-time strategy and that ilk. Calvino Noir, however, rips the user interface directly from PC and plops it onto the PS4 with unfortunate results. Every time you get near objects you can interact with prompts will appear on the screen — places to enter cover, pick locks, choke guards, etc. — but what may be easy with a mouse is an imprecise slog with a controller.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to incapacitate a guard. You sneak up behind, the “fist” appears and you try to select it, except you choose entering cover instead and are quickly whisked back to the last checkpoint courtesy of a bullet. Rather than assign a button to an action, you have to use “L1” to toggle through your available options and then select it with “X.” Not being able to simply attack a guard with the press of a button will lead to dozens, if not hundreds, of deaths.

There are other issues that, under different circumstances, would rate as significant, but compared to what’s going on with the UI they can be written off as inconveniences (relatively speaking). You cannot issue move commands, meaning you’ll need to individually move all three characters to set points to advance the story and hit checkpoints. At best, it’s time consuming. At worst, it means avoiding the same hazards repeatedly.

Ironically, the cursor to issue the move commands on the PC version remains, its lone function now to serve as a loose guide as to which direction you’re headed.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.25/5)

For all of its shortcomings, Calvino Noir does it right on the presentation front. The darkened streets and buildings, the torrential downpour, the interesting architecture and harrowing backgrounds, it’s all done exceedingly well. That being said, there are a few missed opportunities to have the environment affect the gameplay. Crashing thunder could drown out your footsteps, but it doesn’t. And for as dark as the game is, you never need the flashlight to see.

Working in lock step with the graphics is the musical score, which favors some very light jazz that serves to complement the mood. The dialogue is slathered in the cheesy clichés that have come to define the genre. Even if the story isn’t much, delivery is solid, and it’s easy to have a chuckle at some of the lines. It’s good stuff all the way around here.

GAMEPLAY (2/5)

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with Calvino Noir‘s story, it isn’t going to move the needle, either. It manages to check all the usual boxes: world-weary lead (Wilt), simple job gone wrong, sinister maneuverings behind the scenes… check, check and double check. Paired with excellent gameplay it’d make for a perfectly satisfying jaunt, but that’s not the case here, and the story isn’t near compelling enough to entice gamers to overlook it and keep going to see what happens next.

Beyond the aforementioned control problems, the game is undermined by poor stealth mechanics; a real problem when you’ve developed a stealth game. At its core, a lack of transparency is Calvino Noir‘s undoing, and it’s a failure that occurs on multiple levels.

Stealth games by their very nature are meant to frustrate, forcing you to plan your movements and advance with patience and precision. What the good ones do, however, is provide all necessary info to succeed in that endeavor: guards’ line of sight, noise levels made by various actions, enemy awareness and so on. Calvino Noir does none of this, making it incredibly difficult to advance since you never really know if what you’re doing is being seen and/or heard.

Even when you seem to play by the rules, the game is still quick to dismiss your efforts. I lost count of how many times I snuck up on a guard, his detection meter not even starting to fill, and then when I went to knock him out he’d magically turn and shoot me dead in one fell swoop. The guards’ sixth sense is the theater of the absurd, detecting you from several floors above or spotting you hidden in the shadows. How? No clue. But it happens over and over and over again.

Lack of direction is prevalent in other areas, too. You’re equipped with a flashlight, which, as noted, you don’t need to see. So, what’s it for? To find collectable coins. And what does one do with said coins? Upgrade your characters… from the main menu. All of this I learned from emails with the developer. The game itself never mentions it. Even when upgrading, I was left to guess what the two icons represented: one appeared to be speed, the other? I’m still not sure, but it looked like an ear.

OVERALL (2.25/5)

I had high hopes for Calvino Noir, but while the game offers a compelling world, the actual gameplay is anything but. Unfortunately, the whole thing is just a frustrating mess, and it’s debatable how many of its problems a planned patch can solve.

PS4/XB1 Review: The Swindle

August 28, 2015 Leave a comment
Careful landing that jump, you could put yourself out thousands..!

Careful landing that jump, you could put yourself out thousands..!

By: Jeff Cater

Your footsteps patter against the loose tile roof, and the moon lights the world around you. The security bots are on their way, and you’ve only precious seconds to reach your escape pod. Not far now! We’ll just do a sweet double-jump here and… wow, I was up much higher than I had originally thought. Accidental deaths, loot snatching and cash management are all part of The Swindle, a cyberpunk caper brought to us by Size Five Games and Curve Digital.

CONTROLS (4/5)

While there’s no tutorial to get you started, the controls are pretty much identical to the majority of platforming games out there. The A button will let your character jump or double jump (if you’ve saved enough to unlock it), and “X” swings your club into the soft neck of a robotic police officer. If you press Y, you’ll interact with a part of the environment, usually a door that can be opened and closed at will, which is very handy for divvying up enemies and making taking them out much more manageable.

It’ll only be a few short minutes before you’re comfortable with the controls, but there were a few times where I could’ve sworn that my Xbox One controller flat-out hates me or that the game simply didn’t register my second jump input.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/5)

The entirety of The Swindle is a true example of hand-drawn beauty. Most of the characters feature a darker, grittier color palette and all have several different accessories that’ll (randomly) be assigned to them once they make their appearance. Don’t like your thief with the top hat? Chuck him off a building and the next guy might have a monocle or a sweet coat.

Playable characters and NPCs blend perfectly into the levels design and always feel right at home. Sometimes detail can be lost in the heat of a moment — for example, an explosive mine may blend in absolutely perfectly, and you won’t notice until it’s absolutely too late. The frame rate is steady, and I never noticed a drop even when making a dashing escape through several flashing alarms and angry robots.

The sound is fun and the soundtrack is stupendous, but aside from the typical grunts, screams and alarms there isn’t that much else here. The music does appropriately ramp up when you’ve set off an alarm, and it can almost certainly drive you into a panic if you’re caught unprepared.

GAMEPLAY (4.5/5)

In The Swindle, you are after an AI device called The Devil’s Basilisk, held in Scotland Yard. Basically, it’s an anti-thievery system that will, without question, halt all theft for all time. You have 100 days (with more purchasable later in the game) to sabotage Scotland Yard and keep thievery on the rise.

To do this, you must guide your thief (or thieves, most likely) through room after room in house after house, stealing any bundle of cash the careless inhabitants left strewn about. Along with cash laying on the ground, you’re able to hack computers (probably pirating software!!!) for cash and crack safes. Once you’ve picked the place clean, it’s time to make a getaway, so it’s back to your fancy flight-pod and then home base to purchase upgrades.

Probably the first thing you’ll notice is the extreme cost of some of these upgrades. Even to unlock the next tier of levels costs money (a large amount that rises with each tier), so deciding between an upgrade or a new set of houses can be difficult if you’re strapped for cash.

This game could push many people away after the first hour, because the difficult jump is absolutely insane between the first tier of levels and the second — it’ll likely have you traveling back to the previous areas to grind a bit more cash for some upgrades.

This is made important because of the perma-death feature of the game, as you will lose thieves and you will lose lots of money and time in the process. That being said, it’s still great fun slamming doors into robots, scaling slyly down walls and escaping with a overstuffed bag of cash.

OVERALL (4.25/5)

The Swindle is simply great, albeit a bit unforgiving at first. Once you get the hang of things, however, you’ll find a real treat of a game here. I mean, we’ve got to keep thieves afloat.

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