Oops. Life happened.

Quick apology for all… one or two of you who were looking forward to my “2014’s Most Anticipated Games” post series. I’ve been done the list for a while now, but need to put some solid hours into writing/editing them. I’ll have that time during the break in classes in a week and a half, but until then I have a mountain to climb of school work and midterms. It’s been a crazy busy year so far with a lot of things on my plate and not exactly conducive to spending a lot of time writing on the internet about video games I want to play.

So it’ll be mid-February by the time I get around to writing this list and games are starting to come out. Heck, some are even out! So, I thought I would write some words about them. A few were never going to be on my big list, but I’m still ecstatic for. Some were on the list, but will be available far too long to be discussed in a “most anticipated” feature. Some will be released, but I still think it’ll be worth talking about them later.

So, to make up for my lack of tardiness, here’s a quick, short list of some highlights of the first 45 days of 2014.

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06.02.14

2014’s Most Anticipated Games: The Waiting Game Continues

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Developing video games requires hard work, determination, a little bit of insanity, and a whole lot of luck for a presentable product to be produced in the end. But games don’t always release when the gaming audience wants and games almost always release well after the developers want them to. Sometimes, a game just needs that extra time, whether it’s to make up for a lack of polish, to attempt to meet lofty expectations, to seek out a translation team with the right skill set (and the right asking price), or just due to a little too much feature creep. Therefore, there will always be games that slip past their release dates, that don’t quite make it out when the developer hoped they would (no matter how hard they tried).

It’s easy to be disappointed by delays, but I’m just thankful that, with everything that could go wrong, the games I’m excited for come out at all.

So….

Welcome to the prologue to my personal Top 25 Most Anticipated Games of 2014. I will get into those games very soon once the actual list is ironed out, written, and polished. Meanwhile, the nine games after the jump are all titles that I’ve written about in the past, but have yet to reach the consoles, tablets, computers, and/or handhelds they’re destined for. No matter the reason why they were delayed, I’m still anxiously awaiting their releases. I hope you will too after you…

Click the pictures.

Watch the trailers.

Enjoy the write-ups.

And get excited for what video games have in store for us in 2014.

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03.01.14

Calendar Flip: Goodbye 2013

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When this goes up, New Years celebrations will be starting across North America. It’s a time for people to get chummy, make resolutions for the new year, and reflect on everything that’s happened in the year that’s now past.

Well, at least that’s what it’s supposed to be about. In reality, I find it’s just a great day for young people to take one more step towards alcoholism and the slightly older crowd to abuse caffeine to power through the night in an attempt to stay up to the ungodly hour of midnight and watch a meaningless count down on television.

So whatever you’re drinking, let’s have a toast to the year’s closing and continue after the break to share warm stories about the wonderful year of 2013.

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31.12.13

As you may have surmised from the Instagrams and Vines and Tumblr posts of me losing my mind for the last month, I’ve attended and survived another Penny Arcade Expo, and I’ve been feeling pretty terrible about it.

Penny Arcade Expo (PAX for short) is the largest gaming show in the country… it’s so big that it’s now split into two conferences. PAX East (which happened in March) fills the Boston Convention Center and PAX Prime (which happened a few weeks ago) fills the Seattle Convention Center and all of the theaters and hotels in downtown Seattle.

To the extent that any gaming event can be described as “cool,” PAX is the coolest gaming event. It’s filled with fans who are there to celebrate things they love, it has none of the slick salesmanship of a trade show like E3, and only trace amounts of the competitive neckbeardery of a convention like Gen Con.

Even by PAX standards this was a pretty incredible convention for me. I announced a new game that I’m publishing and a number of publications called it best in show, I passed out tons of Werewolf sets, I spoke on five panels, Cards Against Humanity did a sold-out comedy show at the Triple Door, we launched the Bigger Blacker Box, and we built a 20-foot tall black cube outside of the convention center with a classical cellist inside. This year I even got upgraded to a VIP badge and was able to catch part of the Strip Search panel and the Omegathon for the first time.

Our booth at PAX took about three months to plan and we hired a team of people who were dedicated to the project. Our total cost (after buying space for the booth, building the booth, hiring staff, musicians, airfare, hotels, etc.) was about $150,000, which is more money that I or any of the Cards guys or anyone we know has ever spent on anything.

This isn’t unique to us either - most of my friends who come to PAX do their most original, creative promotions there, and spend months of work (and a small fortune) preparing for the show.

But now it’s two weeks later, and after all that work, we’re pretty depressed about the whole thing, based entirely on a single comment by one of the founders of Penny Arcade, Mike Krahulik.

To understand what happened, you’ve really got to have some context. I won’t be able to give you all of that context in this post, but I recommend this Tumblr post which is so long and comprehensive that it had to be split into two parts: part 1 and part 2.

In summary:

  • Three years ago, Penny Arcade made a strip with a rape joke in it (a video game character says they’re “raped to sleep by the dickwolves.”)
  • People on the internet were upset by the joke, and complained to Penny Arcade
  • Penny Arcade (mostly Mike) made fun of those people and argued with them on Twitter
  • Penny Arcade sold dickwolves t-shirts to troll the people who were upset about it
  • About a year later, they apologized and pulled the t-shirts

Anyway, the “dickwolves” controversy was before my time at PAX, but even two years after the apology, it seems to just keep coming up.

After our panel on Sunday night, I was walking home to my hotel, and I caught up with Robert Khoo, the business manager of Penny Arcade. Robert and I talked shop for a little bit, and then at some point I congratulated him on an incident-free PAX, free (at that point) from any of the drama or controversy that always seems to pop up at these things. “Well,” Robert said, “there’s this panel tomorrow where I’m interviewing Mike and Jerry and we could still screw it up.”

And of course sure enough that’s exactly what happened. Robert asked Mike and Jerry if there was anything he had done that they regreted, and Mike said, “I think that pulling the Dickwolves merchandise was a mistake,” to a smattering of cheers in the audience.

I wasn’t at that panel, but word reached me that afternoon and I knew shortly after that a good amount of the work we had done for PAX had been washed away. After the show, nobody would remember the cube that I spent months designing or the cards and fortune cookies that we gave out, they would only remember that quote. I believe my exact words were, “Mike just fucked us.”

The next day, R. Stevens wrote:

It’s just so disappointing to see people I’ve known since we were all new and broke turn out to be such tone-deaf, old man bullies. [Mike is] Rush Limbaugh with tattoos. I could get over the original comic if they’d just moved on or apologized, but they had to make merchandise out of rape just to poke back at people and then encourage fans to wear it to a convention that supposedly has pro-woman policies.”

M.C. Frontalot wrote:

You know the really pathetic thing about being a nerd? Some shred of THAT EXACT defensiveness is your automatic response to any perceived attack, for years and years after school is over. It’s probably taken me most of my adult life to let go of those feelings. They still flare up when what I perceive as a personal attack seems entirely without justice. I wonder if, when the dickwolves shirts were conceived, those same feelings were flaring up in Mike (I see him a few times a year, at PAX, though I have never discussed dickwolves with him at all, so most of readings of his motivations are just empathy and guesswork). This weekend onstage, he said he regretted pulling those shirts from the store three years ago. I wonder if he’s still holding onto that regret for so simple a reason: because the original joke was fantastic and I know what’s in my heart as regards compassion + not assaulting people + HUMAN DECENCY, and fuck you for telling me how much I suck. And I’m going to keep saying fuck you no matter what, because nobody can put me in a headlock any more, and to back down – ever – might suggest to my enemies that I was wrong about the joke in the first place.

That’s why I think the original joke matters, even though most of the hundreds of people who’ve weighed in on dickwolves point not to the dickwolves strip but to Mike’s twitter snark, his comment thread arguments, the reaction strip, the news posts, and UGHHHH those fucking shirts. Mike, if you’re reading this, I’m begging you: turn your back on those shirts. Do it in public and do it because you mean it, not because you have a responsibility to the company.

A number of people announced their boycott of Penny Arcade and PAX, like Rachel Edidin, who wrote a piece for Wired called “Why I’m Never Going Back to Penny Arcade Expo.”

For Emma Story, a Penny Arcade fan who also designed and maintained the comic’s website from 2000 to 2004, this incident also proved to be the final straw. Story remained friends with Krahulik and Holkins after she stopped working for them, but this week, she publicly cut ties with Penny Arcade.

“Mike’s reaction when he’s criticized for this kind of behavior is always to comment on how he hates bullying, and how he sees himself as fighting back against a bunch of internet bullies,” Story told WIRED. For her, the primary conflict is about Penny Arcade’s continual abuse of power. “The unexamined privilege in [Mike’s] viewpoint is sort of breathtaking — the fact that a straight white male, a celebrity with countless followers who will agree with anything he says, doesn’t see that he is in a position of power over other significantly marginalized groups is almost beyond believing. What he is doing is bullying, no question, and it’s not excused by the fact that kids were mean to him when he was in school.”

In Krahulik’s mind, he’s still the underdog rebelling against an unfair world bent on keeping him down. Despite decades of success and influence, he’s never learned to distinguish between criticism and censorship or understood the relationship between power and personal responsibility. He’s an angry teenager with the clout of an industry baron, and he’s cultivated a horde of followers who respond to criticism with death and rape threats. This are the sorts of people Penny Arcade courts when it digs in its heels and goes to the mat in defense of its right to punch down.

So now it’s a few weeks later and tempers have cooled, but people (at least the people I know) are still not sure if they still trust Penny Arcade or will go back to PAX. A number of veteran Enforcers (the incredible volunteers who make PAX work) have told us that they’re done with PAX, vendors have pulled out of PAX East, and people want to know what we’re going do.

The way I see it, we have three options:

  1. Ignore Penny Arcade and just enjoy the rest of PAX. PAX is more than Mike and Jerry, in my experience it’s a pretty incredible community.
  2. Boycott PAX. This is something that we’ve seriously considered, and the benefits are obvious: if we remove ourselves from PAX and any association with Penny Arcade, their PR blunders can’t hurt us. 
  3. Protest. Protesting at PAX would mean participating in the convention and the culture, and using our place there to change it for the better.

I can rule out ignoring Penny Arcade and just doing PAX. This has been our strategy through the last few Penny Arcade controversies, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be working for us. We try harder and harder to do cool stuff at PAX and all anyone remembers after the convention is the drama. It’s also incredibly demoralizing for us; when Penny Arcade upsets people we get tagged too.

Boycotting PAX creates a huge problem as well: If all of the progressive people boycott PAX it will just become a carnival of rape culture and there will be no cool game show to go to.

That leaves us with the latter option, which is to protest. This year we put a “Safe Space” banner outside the entrance to our booth to indicate that we wouldn’t tolerate discrimination or harassment. Nobody came in to our booth wearing a dickwolves t-shirt, but if they did, we would have asked them to leave. If you’ve got a booth at PAX, I encourage you adopt a similar policy and make it known. Here’s the print file for our safe space banner if you’d like to use it. We will most likely be back at PAX East and PAX Prime 2014, but we’re going to use our place there to talk about what we think is right and fair, and welcome all kinds of gamers into our booth.

I’ll leave the last word here to Damion Schubert from BioWare, who absolutely nailed it:

To Mike, who is first and foremost a humorist, the Dickwolf shirt is a statement about free speech.  Comedians of all stripes tend to be among the most vocal defenders of free speech you’ll find in the world, because it’s almost impossible to do anything other than the Family Circus unless you’re willing to offend someone.  But in this case, the point was lost on Mike – the Dickwolf shirt was and is a bad idea because it effectively says to some in the audience (particularly women) ‘I’m on Team Rapist’.

[…]

Game culture is in desperate need of dedouchification, but you don’t change public opinion by preaching to the converted.  You don’t need to sell girls on Geek Girl Con that the concept of ‘fake geek girls’ is broken and insulting.  You don’t need to sell GaymerX attendees that trans gamers need understanding.  You need to bring this understanding to the gaming audience at large.  In America, that audience’s largest gathering is PAX.

Bank robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is. If you are an activist who wants to enact social change in the gaming community, you need to go where the gamers are. You can set up talks, you can challenge the PAX guys to give you a booth like they did AbleGamers, you can organize protests, you can set up debates, you can wear coordinated T-Shirts designed to shame and expose douchebaggery in all its forms. Or, you can run away and hope somehow that the problem fixes itself. Turning the largest american consumer-oriented gaming show into even more of a sausage fest makes it pretty unlikely that that’s going to happen.

You know how you beat a free speech zealot? Challenge him to give you the megaphone.

I don’t really reblog on this tumblr. This is a space for me to share my thoughts, opinions, etc., not share other tumblr posts. You have a million other tumblr sites to follow that’ll do that.

But this is a tumblr post that basically wraps up my exact feelings and thoughts on a complex situation. Kudos to Max.

(Source: maxistentialist)

18.09.13

#1 - Kid Icarus: Uprising - Sora - 3DS

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"I’ve been so looking forward to your arrival, Pitty Pat."

  • Game of the Year 2012
  • The “Masahiro Sakurai” Award For Insane Breadth Of Content
  • Best Series Revival That Thankfully Was A Shooter

Kid Icarus: Uprising is one of the best Saturday morning cartoons I’ve seen in years wrapped up in video game form.

It’s got a healthy 25 chapter first season of 15-20 minute missions. It follows your typical monster of the week cartoon structure, fighting excellent bosses at the end of each chapter/episode. It’s got mid season twists, tangential story arcs, and multi-part episodes that end on a cliffhanger. It’s even got your stereotypical “way too serious for a kid’s show” episode!

What’s best about the unique handling of the pacing and story structure is that it allows the story to just be fun without sinking too much into long exposition or melodrama. The characters are memorable, well written, and gracefully localized, which is especially impressive due to the game’s overall goofy tone. It’s not a hilarious game by any means, but the dialogue between characters has a nice comedic timing rarely seen in gaming and will keep a nice smile on your face throughout each level. Kid Icarus even manages to give you all the plot, laughs, and charming characterization while minimizing the amount of cutscenes to a fraction of most titles.

After watching the season finale and going back to see a few reruns, I can’t describe the experience as anything but delightful.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is the best game that Sakurai has ever created.

There is an attractive style in which the man creates his games, as they usually end with an impossible attention to detail and more content than necessary or even healthy. Yet, Uprising is the first game to take advantage of all of the crazy nonsense Sakurai loves to put in his games. Yes, there are a ton of trophies in Kid Icarus, but every other mechanic feeds back into the core gameplay somehow, whether it be street passing, the over 250 achievements in the game, the sheer variety in its gameplay inspirations (see below), the secrets and hidden paths scattered throughout every level, and, weirdly enough, a very enjoyable online multiplayer deathmatch mode. Even if it just means gathering more weapons and items, Uprising manages to channel all these weird aspects Sakurai likes to sprinkle his games with to contribute to the game in a (somewhat) meaningful way,

Kid Icarus: Uprising is a weird, yet delicious mix of Sin & Punishment, The World Ends With You, Gears of War, Diablo, and Persona 3.

TWEWY’s difficulty system was always a highlight for me, as dropping Neku’s level to improve the drop rate was a really clever idea. Uprising evolves the concept to become straight up genius. Not only are you using the 90 point difficulty scale to dictate how much money you make and what loot drops, but damage values, enemy population, enemy type, attack patterns, costs for an extra life, and even your path through the level are all altered by where you put that slider. It’s absolutely insane, but it somehow works and allows you to fine tune the difficulty to be perfectly in line with your skill level.

The flying mode, occupying the first half of each chapter, is just straight up Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. And that is AWESOME. Flying across the screen during these on rail sequences is natural to control, fast paced, and full of enemies, making for a completely chaotic experience that will leave you sweating bullets every time you transition to…

…The completely strange third person, over the shoulder shooter sections that make up the second half of each mission. Due to the touch screen this may sound clunky, but just as detailed options are available for tuning your controls as there are for the difficulty. After a few minutes of tinkering and a little practice to make sure, you’ll be mowing down enemies with your arsenal of weapons, vehicles, and ridiculous special abilities without problem.

Speaking of the weapons: have I explained yet that, besides having nine different weapon types that have a completely different playstyle, each weapon you find in the world has random stats associated with them? Because loot games are always fun, right? Usually that’s a groan worthy comment, but when you have an intricate fusing mechanic (ala Persona 3) for your weapons, it makes creating, customizing, and charging into battle with your ultimate weapon immensely satisfying.

It may toss a ton of mechanics into the mix, as expected from Sakurai, but, again, it somehow works. Kid Icarus is a better game for every single one of those mechanics and the combination of them all makes for an entirely unique experience.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is the best fucking game that came out in 2012 and ya’ll are gonna have to deal with it.

(Source: youtube.com)

02.04.13

#2 - Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward - Chunsoft - 3DS/Vita

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"I may be gone, but I’m aaaaaaaaaaalways watching. Maybe I’ll see you again some day… Have a nice tragedy!"

  • Best [Insert Every Award For Storytelling and Localization]
  • The “Metal Gear Solid 2” Award For Most Improved (Yet Paradoxically Still Worse) Sequel
  • Winner of the “No, Not That Type of Visual Novel” Award

Wow.

Just wow.

Play 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and then play Virtue’s Last Reward. This is less of a recommendation and more of a requirement. I don’t really give a fuck what your opinions are on the Visual Novel genre. Just get over your insecurity about a genre you barely understand (like I did) and enjoy two of the best looks into the thriller genre of storytelling that this medium has ever seen. Because both of these games have this whole storytelling business down.

You want to know how much I love these games? I was disappointed by Virtue’s Last Reward. Disappointed! It’s not nearly as good as 999 in my eyes, yet here I am just barely stopping myself from naming it the best damn game of 2012. It’s that fucking good.

I don’t really have much to say about that game beyond my slight grumblings about the puzzle structure and how I wish they were as good as 999’s puzzles. Other than that it’s just straight up insane rantings of an overly excited fan. So just play the games.

They’ll blow your mind.

P.S. While writing this post, I figured out what the hell Virtue’s Last Reward actually means and I’m kinda freaking out a bit.

01.04.13

#3 - X-COM: Enemy Unknown - Firaxis - PS3/360/PC

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"Remember, we will be watching"

  • Best Series Revival That Thankfully Was Not A Shooter
  • The “Fire Emblem” Award For Most Challenging/Rewarding Title
  • The “Fire Emblem” Award For Best Moments of RNG Bullshit

It’s a weird thing to pin all of the success of Enemy Unknown on one mechanic, but it simply would not be as successful without permadeath. In an experience built around multilayered stress and situations being straight up fucked, permadeath is what holds the whole thing together.

Your entire run through the game can hinge on who you bring to battle and who makes it out alive, so each investment decision outside of battle is absolutely critical. Spend all your money on weapons and armor and you’ll soon have countries, which act both as income and lives (in a way), dropping like flies and a crippled base, preventing you from upgrading equipment further or progressing through the plot. Keeping countries safe and your base in peak condition is a full time investment though, so pool too much resources into them and your soldiers are going to die. Every element of the entire game wraps back to one simple fact: winning missions is what matters and you need every advantage you can get to keep your your soldiers alive.

Thankfully, the actual game part of X-Com is pretty damn good. There’s not much to say about it, really. There are some dumb scripting, bad bugs, and line of sight issues, but they are mostly a fleeting frustration unless you’re examining the game under a microscope. All in all, the tools given to you during the gameplay and your upgrade paths for your characters are excellently balanced and each encounter is a tough and challenging experience right up until the end game.

X-COM is one of the few games to capture that raw stress created by permadeath and channel it correctly. Its inclusion makes every decision, movement, and upgrade a calculated risk and reward decision that requires you to consider your strategy for not just the next few battles, but for the rest of your playthrough. Not since Fire Emblem 7 have I played a game that pulls it off so well.

01.04.13

#4 - Journey - thatgamecompany - PSN

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"…"

  • Outstanding Achievement In Artistic Design
  • The “Super Metroid” Award For Excellence In Minimalistic Design
  • Best Wandering Around And Looking At Things Simulator

Almost two decades ago, a little accident called Super Metroid was released. I only call it that because Yoshio Sakamoto, Gunpei Yokoi, and the rest of the miniscule development team at Nintendo R&D1 somehow crafted a brilliant experience that has yet to be matched. The game’s commitment to minimalistic design was far ahead of its time, yet it managed to perfectly execute it in a fairly complex action platformer. Necessary tutorial and exposition were both completely woven into the exploration, such that every new enemy encountered, secret discovered, and door opened equally increased your knowledge of the world around you and your confidence in controlling Samus. Simply put, this level of world building and melding of gameplay and narrative is rarely seen in games, largely due to the insane attention to detail necessary to create such a natural experience.

So, if you can follow the format of my previous points, you know that a comparison is going to be made between Super Metroid and Journey. A strange couple, but in a lot of ways they have a very similar approach to delivering narrative and world building, but they unfortunately have completely different goals.

Your abilities in Journey are severely limited to make each interaction meaningful and it works surprisingly well. If I chirp at this wall painting, it will react and reveal a glimpse into the past. If I run up to this seaweed like structure, my scarf increases back to full, which tells me more about the odd plant like structure than any amount of exposition could. By limiting my communication, a player avatar falling over and crumbling into dust implies a darker side in this tale instead of merely focusing on the player disconnecting to go play another game. This is how the story is told in Journey and it makes for a refreshing three hour ride of gameplay-as-narrative experiences.

Yet, Journey’s simple and more accessible route offers little in the way of actual “gameplay.” After looking back on your time with the game, you feel like those limitations that offer you those rich insights into the world actually hamper and lessen your experience, making it feel more like a touching narrative wrapped around an early gameplay demo. It might just be me nitpicking, but I feel like Journey is the stepping stone to a much larger and breathtaking game.

That experience was what I wanted out of Journey. Even if I loved my time with the game, I wanted a game that featured the same perfect weave of narrative and exploration, of discovery and exposition, but with a more fulfilling gameplay experience. Even with all that Journey accomplished, I guess I just couldn’t help but be disappointed in the end result.

And I guess I just wanted a new Super Metroid.

31.03.13

#5 - Persona 4 Arena - Arc System Works / Atlus - PS3/360

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"Make sure you take care of that Persona… It’s your other self, after all."

  • Best Competitive Multiplayer
  • The “Super Smash Bros” Award For Best Fanservice
  • The “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts” Award For Weirdest Genre Change

Look, I just wrote a full post about how great Skullgirls (a fast-paced, charming, and eloquent fighting game) is and I can do that again about Persona 4 Arena (a fast-paced, charming, and eloquent fighting game) if you want me to. But the two games pretty much hits all of the same notes and both do their part to push the genre every so slightly into approachable territory. Sure, it might need some major balancing, but the game is still a blast to play regardless, even with some atrociously bad matchups.

The only real reason P4A is higher on this list than Skullgirls is because it’s Persona 4 sequel. I can’t help it. Persona 4 is the game I have simply enjoyed the most during my time here on Earth. Any sort of media that will expand upon that universe and attempt to recapture that feeling of playing the original will immediately grab my attention. Even with the absurd genre shift from a high school simulator JRPG dungeon crawler to an anime fighting game with a significant visual novel story, I still can’t help but fall in love with Persona 4.

31.03.13

#6 - Skullgirls - Lab Zero Games - XBLA/PSN

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"The world will always be cursed by a Skull Heart, and so it will always be cursed with Skullgirls…"

  • Outstanding Achievement In Animation
  • Most Intelligently Designed Game
  • The “BloodRayne: Betrayal” Award For Best Game That Was Largely Ignored

If you listened to the gaming press, Skullgirls is nothing more than a promising indie title that couldn’t hope to compare to the other, larger budget games in its competitive genre. Yes, Skullgirls features a beautiful Michiru Yamane soundtrack, unparalleled animation, and one of the best tutorials in the genre, but much of the dialogue around the game’s release (beyond sexualization, albeit parody driven, of a few characters, which is another debate entirely) was dominated by how atrociously difficult the AI was, how stereotypical and dull the story mode was (featuring little voice acting and almost no animation), how lacking a move list destroyed the game’s integrity, and how the slight cast of eight wasn’t worth your time investment. Most reviews were comfortable with picking Skullgirls apart and criticizing each little bit, drawing a conclusion about the game as a whole, and slapping a score on it.

Notice how I haven’t mentioned the versus gameplay yet, which is basically the point of a fighting game. Unfortunately, most reviews didn’t seem to focus on it either.

Quick aside: I can say, with certainty, that Street Fighter II is one of the best games of all time. By that, I don’t mean for its day, I mean as compared to fifty years of video game history. It’s that good.

Yet, I can understand if you don’t agree, especially if you’re basing this off of The World Warrior. Small roster, unclear moves, terrible story, and input reading AI, if you break the game down and remove the fact that it was breaking new ground, it was pretty much a terrible experience. The game may have been drastically improved over three years of iteration, but it’s just not as feature filled as one would expect from a modern game.

The fact that Street Fighter II is still played by many people today purely for its versus mode is, clearly, irrelevant.

I can say, with its brilliant design and innovative gameplay mechanics, Skullgirls is a better game than The World Warrior and, with several years of enhancement, it may just become better than Super Turbo too.

31.03.13

#7 - Awesomenauts - Ronimo Games - XBLA/PSN/PC

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"Mr. Zork requires shiny objects"

  • The “Castle Crashers” Award For Best Couch-Coop
  • Best Theme Song 
  • The “Monday Night Combat” Award For Least Annoying DOTA Game

MOBAs/DOTAs have never cut ties with their RTS roots and it has severely hampered my enjoyment of the genre. The mechanics have grown and evolved into a competitive RPG of sorts, but the feeling and the approach of an RTS is still there. Movement is still clunky and imprecise, the game is full of unnecessary complexities, and there is a ridiculous amount of knowledge you must absorb about the game before playing.

One big difference that allows RTS’s to still be enjoyable is they craft an eloquent and enjoyable 10-50 hour tutorial called a “campaign” to teach you the ins and outs of each faction while simultaneously giving you some story or whatever. DOTA (or other, barely different games) give you dozens upon dozens of characters (see: factions) with minute differences that you should learn the ins and outs of immediately before you play or you’ll be feeding the other team and you’re a fucking asshole piece of cock shit.

Or whatever the kids use for insults these days.

And this is where Awesomenauts comes in. This game is a gigantic middle finger to MOBA/DOTA’s established conventions, as it provides the same basic experience without all the bullshit. The game removes the base level confusion immediately, destroying much of the barrier to entry through a more limited roster, more straightforward progression/upgrade mechanic, and more focused objectives: Kill bots and towers to progress, Kill enemy players to get money, kill creeps for health, and don’t die. That’s it.

It may just seem simplified down, but the other major revelation in Awesomenaut’s design is what makes it a winner: It draws upon the conventions of an action platformer instead of an RTS. I know that’s just swapping one genre’s complexities for another, but if there is a genre I and many others have burned into our skulls, it’s the platformer. Jump arcs and character weight. Mid air directional changes and double jumps. Hovering and jumping through platforms. None of this needs any explanation to the player, as it’s all second nature to anyone who has played a classic Mario, Mega Man, or Metroid game. Best of all those skills are transferable. If you want to just jump and shoot your way to victory, that is totally valid for half of the cast.

In the end Awesomenauts is just an immensely fun and approachable game in a genre where that is truly a rarity.

31.03.13