Blizzard Entertainment’s cinematic team has always been one of the best, and I’ve been consistently impressed by their work ever since I was dazzled by World of Warcraft’s opening cinematic, which still looks great despite being made in 2004. It’s no surprise that alongside all of the other releases and updates teased at this year’s Gamescom that Blizzard has managed to catch everyone’s attention with not only new details about updates across all of their titles, but a whole gallery of animated shorts.
Consoles, Handhelds, online content, you name it it’s all right here.
Although a few live-streams are taking place the weekend before, Gamescom, the biggest European video game convention, will take place in Cologne, Germany from August 22 to the 26. Open to professionals, journalists, and enthusiasts alike, you can expect to see appearances from the likes of industry giants such as Ubisoft, Microsoft, and Nintendo, as well as independent developers and even celebrities such as WWE star Bill Goldberg.
As for what to look out for, it looks like a good amount of the developers attending will be expanding on the titles that they showcased at E3. Nintendo has announced live-streams for both Super Mario Odyssey on the 23rd and Metroid: Samus Returns on the 24th, as well as a presentation on Fire Emblem Warriors and Xenoblade Chronicles, and will have some of their more recent titles such as Monster Hunter Stories available for visitors to try out for themselves. Ubisoft’s lineup is also filled with more in depth looks at their upcoming games like South Park: The Fractured But Whole and the new installment Assassin’s Creed. As for Square Enix, they promise “something big” regarding Final Fantasy XV, and Bandai Namco will be showcasing titles such as Dragon Ball FighterZ and Ni no Kuni II. The company that I’m most excited to see is Blizzard Entertainment, which promises a new map and an animated short for Overwatch, a new character in Heroes of the Storm, and even ice cream served by the Lich King to celebrate Hearthstone‘s Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion.
In addition to announcements and presentations, there will be numerous chances for guests to have some hands-on experience with the games being presented as well as cosplay events, tournaments, and other fun video game themed activities. For those who can’t make it out to Germany for the week to experience Gamescom firsthand, live-streams can be found on the websites of either the developers themselves or various gaming news sites.
Whether you prefer the age-old fantasy of knights and orcs or the bold new frontier of Space Marines and orcs (in space), Games Workshop’s “Skulls for the Skull Throne” weekend sale on Steam is sure to please. A wide variety of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 titles are up for grabs, with some of them being up to 90% off.
You can test your tabletop mettle and luck of the dice with the likes of Blood Bowl 2 and Talisman: The Horus Heresy, or you can opt for a more cooperative first person experience in Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide. If you’re more of a fan of real-time strategy, you can get your fix with Total War: Warhammer. You can even relive the glorious battles and infamous voice acting of Commander Boreale and his comrades in the Warhammer: Dawn of War series.
In addition to reduced prices on both new and old titles, Games Workshop is also including bonus content for a number of their more recent releases. These range from minor changes like cosmetic options and Steam trading cards to new levels, characters, and game modes.
If you still have some money left over from the recent Summer Sale, you can take advantage of these deals until the sale ends at 10 AM PST on Monday.
It was January of this year that, after an absence of around twenty years, I re-joined the world of Nintendo. After years of Playstations and Xboxes something told me I needed an alternative. Something unique that can only be supplied by Mario and his entourage. That intangible feeling of joy that is to video games as Disney is to movies.
So I dove head first into franchises I remember playing decades earlier as a small child. Mario is more captivating than ever, Link is rescuing Zelda in bigger and better ways, Mario Kart is now the best racing game in existence, Metroid has gone all FPS, Donkey Kong’s got a family, and now Mario can fight Sonic the Hedgehog in Super Smash Bros.
A lot has changed in the world of Nintendo. But, of course, a lot has stayed the same. Aside from a handful of new franchises the big guns are still as they always were. Mario is still king, Link, Donkey Kong and Samus are still among his primary supporting cast. With Nintendo’s mastery of reinvention none of these old names feel old in the slightest.
But what happens when Nintendo attempt to introduce a brand new franchise by reinventing an entire genre?
Splatoon. That’s what happens.
A fast paced four-on-four re-imagining of the online shooter. Machine guns are replaced by ink-spraying super-soakers. Soldiers are replaced by kids who become squids. And frowning intensity is replaced by wide-eyed joyfulness. The rules are simple and allow the fun to take centre stage. It’s immediate, it’s accessible and it’s exciting.
Two teams of four spray two different colours of ink and are given three minutes to cover as much ground as they can in a mode known as Turf Wars. Once you and your ‘Splatoon’ have laid down a path of ink you can then transform your Inkling boy or girl into a Squid with a touch of a button. Swimming through ink puddles with ease.
This simple transformation from ‘kid now’ to ‘squid now’ is just one example of the depth of tactics and strategy that are available in Splatoon. A simple game to learn, but like all great Nintendo games, very difficult to master. The primary function of Squid form is to be an equivalent to sprinting. But only if you stay in your own colour of ink trail. Stray into enemy ink and you will slow to a halt. Provided you do stay in your own ink squid form will also reload your ink supply. A vital element to master. Maintaining the balance between covering ground and keeping your ink cannister topped-up is a fascinating balancing act. Transforming into a squid will also effectively hide you from opponents. A great way of ambushing and disorientating them. Once you put all of these functions together you can make the colourful battlefield your own. It’s at moments when you manage this that an absurd ink-splattering platform-action game becomes a tactical shooter to rival any on the market.
That transforming into a squid hides you is, I suspect, a design choice that has reasons beyond being able to ambush your foes though. Nintendo are ever-aware of the fact that their audience isn’t entirely made up of the battle-hardened group of shooter fans who have traipsed the war torn landscapes of Call of Duty, Battlefield, Counterstrike, Gears of War and the like. Being able to hide and take a second or two out is, I imagine, a great feature for people of all ages who are new to the frenetic world of online shooting. It is with these people in mind that Nintendo have also omitted voice chat from Splatoon’s feature list. I can personally attest to how toxic and unwelcoming the environment of online shooters can be. Hordes of mic’d up mini Rambo’s ranting into your ear makes up 90% of the voice chat I have encountered in years of online multiplayer shooters. Nintendo, in my opinion, made the right choice in leaving out voice chat. Splatoon is a happy place. Those who wish to make it an intense and angry one have been blocked off quickly and efficiently.
But those who want a deeper more thoughtful experience aren’t ignored. It isn’t all throwaway frivolity. Just as transforming into a squid gives you strategic gameplay options Splatoon gives you Inkopolis. A central hub in which you can purchase gear and weapons with varying abilities, power-ups, secondary weapons and specials.
You are started off with a basic gun called the Splattershot Jr, a basic automatic weapon that is easy to handle and to understand. With Splat Bombs as a secondary weapon, and a protective shield called the Bubbler as your Special which becomes available after a meter has been filled.
From there, with each rank, you unlock new load outs. Sniper rifles and shotguns are both represented with paint-filled equivalents. The Splat Roller is perhaps Splatoon’s most singular weapon. A giant paint roller that covers ground quickly and efficiently. Imagine any type of weapon you have seen or handled in shooting games before and Splatoon will likely have it’s own version. Secondaries come in the form of things like the Splash Wall which can block off routes for the bad guys, or the Sprayer which is all about covering ground with ink. Splat Bombs and Ink Mines only cover a small radius with ink but are deadly to unsuspecting foes.
Specials are available once you have amassed enough points in one life. The Ink Strike is a deadly air-strike that is both deadly and great for inking up areas of the battlefield defended by the opposing team. Or the more thoughtful Echolocator. Which brings up the location of all of your foes allowing you to hunt them or steer clear of them. Just two examples of the tide-turning options available when you have filled your meter.
And then you have the fashion of Inkopolis. Clothes are not just for show. Each headpiece, outfit and pair of shoes comes with one locked-in ability, such as faster respawning or ink saving among others, and then up to three more abilities that are unlocked as your rank up each item. Find the right combination and your Inkling will walk into battle looking good and packing a tactical advantage.
Are you a front-line squid killer? A master of the choke-point massacre? Only interested in the objective? Or just want to help out your team mates? Whatever your style of play Splatoon has a variety of options to suit.
Splatoon also has a single player mode which shouldn’t be ignored. It’s short and sweet and feels not unlike Super Mario Galaxy with paint guns. A mixture of shooting, puzzles, and platforming that serves to get you up to speed with the basics of the game. It is unmistakably Nintendo which is to say funny, clever and engaging.
Of course, joyous though Splatoon is, it’s not all perfect. There are just two multiplayer modes, and a mere six maps – available two at a time on a four hour rotation. This lack of content will be remedied over the coming weeks as promised free DLC arrives to fill out the games suite of options (already the game has seen the addition of Splat Zones, a Domination-style mode, and a new map.) Switching up weapons and gear can be a frustrating counter-intuitive task as well. In service of Splatoon’s fast paced all-action nature any option to agonise over loadouts is removed between rounds. Forcing you to exit back out to the main menu to re-fit your Inkling. It’s a sign that Splatoon is an online shooter from a company who don’t make them. But it’s about the only indicator you’ll find that this is Nintendo’s first real crack at the genre.
Some may also turn their nose up at the motion controls used in the game. Though I would personally recommend sticking out the learning curve. Because once it clicks it feels like the only way to play the game. It’s a design choice born from the fact that the game, first and foremost, tasks you with covering ground with Ink. The precision required to eliminate enemies will come in time, but motion controls lend themselves to the vast sweeps needed to ink the floor and win Turf Wars.
I have played mountains of multiplayer shooters. I have left piles and piles of virtual dead in my wake across the worlds of Call of Duty, Battlefield and Gears or War among others. I have loved almost every second of those games. And though I recognised the saturation in the market I never felt any less eager to play the newest iteration of those games. I am a fan of the shooter. And aside from anything else this is why I love Splatoon. It reinvents and reinvigorates the genre, it makes a grey and brown world of death and decay a brand new one filled with colour, life and vitality. At the end of each round when a fat dancing cat named Judd informs you of a win or a loss you won’t realise it, because it all feels so new, but you are playing a fantastically well-realised shooting game. A rival. Not an alternative. And this is why I have played it for hours and will continue to play it for days, weeks, months and years. Not because it is a cute diversion or a cheeky pastiche of a genre. But because it is a fantastic representation of a genre that marches to the beat of it’s own drum.
This was why I came back to Nintendo after so long. That is Splatoon in a nutshell. Not, as I thought, to find an alternative. But to find games that wear fun as a badge of pride and back it up with quality.
Quality over quantity…
1 day, 3 hours, 58 minutes and 48 seconds. According to my Bungie online profile that’s how much time I have spent in Destiny’s ravaged wasteland of a solar system. In that time I have taken 5185 lives. Participated in 112 games. Earned a Crucible medal score of 11,345. A Grimoire score of 1340. Reached the level limit of 20 and surpassed that limit to earn a ‘Light score’ of 24. And all around me I see people at level 26, 28 and apparently out there now, somewhere in the wasteland, walk a handful of level 30s.
Basically what I imagine you are taking from this is NUMBERS. Lots of figures and tallies and scores and levels. And here is another for you, $500m.
That, apparently inaccurate figure, is what Destiny cost to create and promote. But accurate or not it is that number that is most pertinent. Because it is that number, or whatever number it is parading around in place of, that accounts for the impeccable presentation of Bungie’s new venture.
The genres that Destiny attempts to meld are three that deal implacably in numbers and figures. RPGs and MMOs are both spaces in which you are often presented with lists and page upon page of numbers and inscrutable statistics. And the games core genre, the ever popular FPS, comes with it’s own sub-set of figures and stats to pore over. Firing rates, reload speeds, impact ratings, stability ratings.
In every aspect of Destiny and it’s worlds though it is that one figure, $500m, that shines through. Because at no point in the game do you find yourself experiencing ‘number-blindness’. Somehow, through Apple iOS-like witchcraft, Bungie manage to make all of the systems and options open to you make near-perfect sense. The presentation in the menus – somewhere you will spend plenty of time – is a joy to behold. Everything is where you expect it might be and everything does what you think it might do. Every number or word or picture can be hovered over to provide a description of what it is. And all of this allows you to focus on the real meat of the game. The thing that, when you hear Bungie (creators of Halo) are involved, you automatically think of. Shooting aliens and space-soldiers.
Thankfully that aspect is as utterly flawless as the presentation. Think Halo and then add $500m and that is how Destiny feels. You’ll plough through gun after gun, each more powerful than the last, and you’ll pop off head-shots one by one. And it has never felt better. Over a day of my life now has been spent in the company of this game, trawling the same areas, shooting the same things and completing the same gameplay loops. Yet it has not even started to creak. It’s not even threatening to get less entertaining. A new upgrade leads to another new upgrade leads eventually to completing an upgrade tree which leads to a new upgrade tree. All the while giving you new abilities to toy with and game-plans to test out. When you slide into combat, unleash a few shotgun blasts and overwhelm crowds of enemies with a super-ability it is impossible not to get a rush of excitement and find a daft grin invading your face. And that represents just one of the infinite ways in which you might approach a situation. With three classes (Titan, Warlock and Hunter) open to you, each with different abilities and specialities, there lies before you hundreds of hours of levelling, upgrading and experimenting.
Despite all of that there is another way in which Destiny is reminiscent of Apple’s ubiquitous iOS. Now, I know little of the world of smartphones. All I know is I have one and you can do stuff on them, and sometimes the stuff people do on them is leaked because that’s what clouds do.
Something I do know is that Apple’s stylish gadgets and beautiful interfaces don’t offer the range of options or depth some smartphone connoisseurs hunger after. And herein lies Destiny’s biggest gripe.
You will find yourself, after the story mission draws to an underwhelming close, faced with a few options. Strike missions, raid missions, patrol missions, story missions with modifiers, bounties and the excellent multiplayer PvP arena. But you will very quickly exhaust all of them. And that is when you find yourself with but one option; do it again. And again. And again. And again.
The frankly magnificent shooting mechanics will make this a joy for some, but a startling disappointment for others. Because the open world that was promised is simply a handful of hub-worlds. Beautiful and expansive and breathtakingly rendered, but very quickly explored. Earth, the Moon, Venus and Mars. Each distinctive and each with variations of enemies. But none hiding anything other than the same missions to do ad infinitum.
The story itself will take about 8 hours to complete and it makes little sense, to the point where you wonder if they even had a writer on the project or just some ideas on pieces of paper swirled around in a particularly small hat. The voice acting is as laughably bad as I have ever witnessed. The magnificent Peter Dinklage, who plays the beloved Tyrion Lannister in HBOs sex-and-dragon-athon Game of Thrones, voices your AI companion ‘Ghost’. And clearly he had no inkling this game may prove to be popular. It has since become the most successful new IP launch in history. So it is now safe to say Dinklage’s lacklustre performance has been witnessed by at least a few people by this point. His disinterested delivery, not helped by terrible dialogue, even spawned an internet meme before the game had been fully released. ‘That wizard came from the moon…’ – the fateful piece of dialogue in question – is a line that the love-child of Meryl Streep and Daniel Day Lewis would have problems imbuing with life though.
Destiny, then, is a dramatically mixed bag. With presentation and gameplay as polished and perfected as I have ever seen, and yet content that doesn’t quite match in terms of quantity. You will find yourself in the same places, hurtling back and forth in shiny armour or a hooded cloak or a coat, with your breathtakingly powerful weaponry on your Star Wars-esque hover-bike. You will be tasked with killing X amount of robots or beasts or surveying a piece of land or scanning a piece of equipment. You will strafe around the Crucible in PvP matches for hours on end. You will earn new weapons, new armour and new upgrades but you will be doing the same things with them.
So we come back to numbers and figures. 1 day, 3 hours, 58 minutes and 48 seconds. And I am itching to add more days, hours, minutes and seconds to that tally. Which I think speaks for itself. Even as the games flaws stare you in the face you smile back. Because it’s just so much fun to do.
Now if you will excuse me I have my eye on a gun I want to buy. I intend to shoot the same things I have already shot so I can earn enough currency so I can buy it and then shoot the same things again. And frankly I can’t wait!
In December 2013, MultiMediaMouth hosted the first ever Panel Royale in front of a live audience at Loading Bar in Soho, London. Host Eoin Mason is joined by BAFTA Breakthrough Brit Nominees Sophia George and Mitu Khandaker, Indie Game Writer Laura Kate Dale and games journalism veteran Guy Cocker in discussing what has gone on in the games industry in the past year.
The Venue: Loading Bar
Something not mentioned in the prologue video, the Q&A was not recorded because of battery loss on the cameras. From this, I would like to thank my panelists, the audience and Loading Bar for what was an amazing experience overall.
Being able to have gone to every Eurogamer Expo, I have been able to see the show’s evolution from a small time random bits-and-bobs game show to somewhat of a well-oiled machine showcasing the weird world of gaming has been an enjoyable one and for its flaws of still not feeling like it has a definitive direction of what it is in terms of positioning in the British gaming calendar, it is still an experience that I enjoy going to every year to see what the latest games feel like and also what is on the horizon, especially from the ever growing indie section, now named after Eurogamer’s PC and Indie game convention Rezzed.
Let me preface this by saying I did not really get to play what many to be considered the big games like your Call of Dutys and Battlefields and anything. It certainly because I didn’t want to, I have just never liked the idea of queuing when I would rather be just playing games. So others around the wide gaming space have better coverage of that stuff and that’s fine.
Instead I am here to tell you about my highlights from the 6th Eurogamer Expo as well as little dollops of interview goodies.
Xenolith is a fusion of the double joystick shooter with instead of shooting, you change shapes to attack enemies. And it is tense!
Snowbolt Interactive’s small team have developed something challenging, fun and also really intriguing. Enemies come at you and you switch your ship’s front shape with a simple button press. It becomes less simple as you fly past enemies with the wrong shape and you have to remember which one is which before your ship gets damaged.
As the levels start to go longer, the challenge goes up, making you think about how to go about getting to the shapes and which ones are worth attacking to gain points and which ones aren’t for your own survival. It makes for something really interesting and, with more levels and variations being developed, could be a really intriguing title to look out for in the next few months.
It’s not expected out until next year but until then, I encourage you to give the thumbs up on the game’s Steam Greenlight page.
I also interviewed Matthew Simpler, one of the developers from Snowbolt about the game and how people have taken to it on the Expo floor.
Ethan: Meteor Hunter
Here’s a game that benefited loads from being shown in public.
I first played Ethan Meteor Hunter at Rezzed this year and it was a game that had great intention and looked charming enough and had a cool idea with the main character getting crystals to enhance his telekenisis ability to move blocks for puzzles.
The trouble was, it was sluggish, frustrating and never easy to really get a grip with. Many other people agreed so Seaven Studio went back to work, redeveloping controls, systems and art assets and brought it back to the Eurogamer Expo.
Seeing it again, it almost feels like a whole new game. Everything feels more stable and the moving of blocks is less frustrating and flows a lot better. It is still a simple platformer at its core but it feels adjusted enough to be able to keep a better eye on its progress
Here’s an interview I did with Seaven Studio’s co-founder Olivier Penot about the progression of Ethan and the possibility of a PS4 version of the game.
Fists of Awesome
You don’t see many games in the ‘time travelling bear punching lumberjack’ genre anymore, which is a real disappointment. So the arrival of Fists of Awesome comes as a breath of fresh air to a genre that lacks no love.
To be serious, Fists of Awesome is I Fight Bears’ attempt to take the Streets of Rage/Final Fight etc experience to the iPad in a way that makes sense, rather then just placing buttons on the screen and focusing the effort there. There is a bit of fine tuning to be needed with how responsive the iPad is to actions you do in certain occasions but overall, it worked rather well and is something that I commend them for at least giving a try.
Also, as mentioned, the development company is called ‘I Fight Bears’. If that isn’t enough to get you to support it, well, there’s really no hope for you.
Here’s Nicoll Hunt with more about the craziness of his game, set to come out later this month on iOS.
In Christmas Shotgun Defense, one of the games you can play on the Achtung Arcade, you play as newlywed gay couple Josif Stalin and Karel Marx who, for no reason whatsoever, have a baby together. Marx sees this as a miracle and tells Stalin to shoot everything that comes near it, including sheep, lions, princesses, the army and AT-ATs. You earn money to buy upgrades for bigger weapons that can kill enemies faster and get you money quicker. Oh, and it all ends with the car from Outrun blowing up the manger they are staying in, which was located on a motorway.
If that doesn’t tell you what lies in the mind of McPixel creater Sos Sosowski, then I have no idea what else to tell you.
The machine isn’t exactly a collection of new games, more like a collection of his Gamejam games and then crazier, dumber variations of those games. Sos has taken this from trade event and convention alike from his native Poland just simply to have people play it and stuff like that is kind of great. He calls them ‘shit games’ which I prefer to take in the best way possible.
Listen to the interview which…well, interview might be generous, more like strange conversation with questions thrown in here and there.
To set this up, Redshirt was my last game at Rezzed this year. It got me so long, I had to be dragged off. I had said to myself again and again and again I wouldn’t play it. I even told its creator, Mitu Khandaker, I wouldn’t because I would get addicted.
So I played it again.
Redshirt is basically Star Trek adapted to the social media generation. You start as a minnow on a space station in the middle of nowhere and use your Spacebook friends and connections to write statuses, organise events and form relationships so you can climb to the top and get the hell out of there before you get deployed potentially deadly circumstances.
The scariest thing is how accurate Mitu achieved the underlining aspect of why social media is addictive. It has become so integrated into our lives that everything has to be determined through Facebook. People’s relationships aren’t official until they are on there, you don’t want to risk annoying one friend because you think it’ll be a trickle effect towards others. All she needs to do is accurately reflect how awkward it is when you add your parents and it’ll be the most accurate social media simulator ever produced.
As a result, it grabs you from the start, setting you various challenges to accomplish and ways of growing your character’s job and social skills
The iPad beta for Redshirt was what impressed me the most. It does not sacrifice the quality of what is already on the PC version and makes selecting options and going about your business seamless and easy. When I do manage to get the real thing, that’ll be the more likely format even if it fills the ‘One More Turn’ aspect I get from PC games like Football Manager and Civilisation.
You can preorder the game on the official website, which will get you into the beta. Good luck for getting out of the beta, though.
I spoke with Mitu herself talking about her recent Breakthrough BAFTA nomination and about the entire concept of the game itself. (And yes, I did say I was at Rezzed. I have no clue how that happened but hey!)
Thomas Was Alone was one of the big indie successes of last year, earning Mike Bithell not just critical and award success (a Writer’s Guild nomination being the latest) but gave him the opportunity to support himself for his next project rather than rely on a publisher. It was always a curiosity to find out what Bithell and his self-named studio were going to go for next.
Volume is about as different from rectangles and shadows as you can get. An overhead stealth game, modeled intentionally around games like Metal Gear Solid, you collect gems, avoiding killer robots by using various distraction tools, lockers to hide in and sneaking past walls. Unlike games like Metal Gear Solid and others in the genre, you cannot destroy or kill. You have to use the tools you have, your whistle you can use and a sound distraction, which you can fling and attract robots towards.
The ambition is there and the lack of violence makes things more interesting, making you look around and see what you can pick up or hide in rather than sneak behind for the stealth kill or shoving someone in a locker. It’ll be more interesting to see what is added before the game’s release in the next year and what capabilities the presently unnamed protagonist will have in his arsenal to sneak past the robots who want to flood him with bullets.
Of course, nothing was included about the character and story in the demo, saving all that info for GamesCity later this month. It’ll be interesting to see what all that is because the foundations are there for a very interesting game. If you’ve followed Mike Bithell on Twitter, you know that one thing he is good at in relation to the game is being a complete tease about it.
I did an interview with Mike, talking about the game, the success of Thomas Was Alone and his relationship with Sony, with the game will come out for PS3, PS4 and Vita next year.
A game that relies on sound alone is an intriguing one. It’s also a game that would be difficult to pull off unless you really have put work into making it work.
Incus Games’ attempt at least has a good pedigree of potential behind it, working together with charity Special Effect and gaming headphone company Turtle Beach to in essence, make a game that relies on your sense of hearing. Sure, you can see whether it’s night or day in the gaming world but the most important part is hearing the world and hearing what actions to take and when to press the keys to defend and attack.
Since the game is still in development, it is still unknown how the story will form and the world will be built from this first game, but it’s something I will certainly keep an eye on and I encourage others to do the same.
More info about the game and the newly formed studio of Incus Games can be found here.
I had a word with the game’s composer Stephen Willey about the project as well as how important adapting the soundtrack around the core components was.
War for the Overworld
I have a good amount of love for the Dungeon Keeper duo of games, mostly for their simplicity and easy to grasp concept and controls. They were an easy gateway into the Real Time Strategy genre for those of us who weren’t ready to take on the grand armies of Rome or take on a Zerg rush just yet.
So a group of fans across 22 timeframes decided they weren’t going to wait for Dungeon Keeper 3 to come out and decided to get on Kickstarter and did their own. The result is War for the Overworld and in the nicest way possible, it’s pretty much Dungeon Keeper, something I have zero problem with.
The levels that were shown at Eurogamer were a basic tutorial level and a level where you take down your first rival overlord. These levels were easy to get into and not a problem whether you are familiar with the series the developers love or whether this is your first time into the simulation experience.
This is a game I want to see become a success partially for my own nostalgia but also because it is great to have this style of game being made again. I love Civilization and Starcraft as much as the next guy but there has never been something more satisfying then taking down the core of a fellow overlord and making his territory yours by throwing waves and waves of creatures at it.
You can preorder the game now on their website.
Formed in 2009, Shark? are a Brooklyn based band who received critical acclaim in 2012 for their Kickstarter funded album True Waste and who feature on the soundtrack for the much anticipated GTA V. I recently got a chance to speak to member Kevin Diamond…
Antony Heald: From an Englishman’s perspective, although you’re based out of Brooklyn your sound seems to come straight off the SoCal beaches and into the studio. How did you come about your sound and what influenced you?
Kevin Diamond: That may have something to do with the fact that I was born and raised in Nantucket. MA, an island off the coast of Cape Cod. Someone once told me, when they found out where I was from, that it explained the “deranged surf-rock pixies thing” that I did. Not sure if it does or not, but I guess it makes sense. In general this band was formed to play music that was fun and felt like a party, so that I could sneak evil thoughts into peoples heads while they dance.
AH: Your track California Grrls appears on the soundtrack of quite possibly the most anticipated video game of all time, GTA V. How did it come about and on a scale 1-10 how excited were you once you realized it wasn’t a prank?
KD: We’re thrilled. I lost several long weekends in College to Grand Theft Auto 3. I still remember the first time I stopped playing GTA3 and got into my car to drive to class, and I had to remember I wasn’t in the game anymore and running over people on the sidewalk was frowned upon. So to be involved in GTA V in this way is just amazing.
AH:Being on the GTA soundtrack is going to bring a lot of new listeners to your music, what would you recommend they listen to in order to understand who Shark? are?
KD: As far as our influences go, I’d point to The Replacements, Pavement, The Pixies, Husker Du. But I hope people already know those guys. I’m more influenced these days by my peers, some bands we’ve played with recently that are doing amazing things are Speedy Ortiz, Sleepies, Sleeping Bag, So So Glos, Lost Boy ?, Big Ups. The current music scene is really invigorating, at least in the northeast of America where we normally play, and everytime I see one of these bands live I just feel like I need to work harder and make better music.
AH: Listening to Wither which you recently leaked, it seems to have a different feel to True Waste. How do you feel the band has changed between the two albums?
KD: I recently explained the difference between True Waste and the new record Savior this way: True Waste was made with too much money and not enough time. Savior was made with too much time and not enough money. It’s more lo-fi, we literally recorded in the basement of a church in like a closet. We spent 9 months mixing it. It sounds like we made it, so it’s more personal, a little more slip-shod, and a lot more interesting, to me. I hope people agree.
AH: Savior is your new album coming out October 1st, what should fans new and old expect from it?
KD: Fun songs about existential dread.
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Think back to 1999. Do you remember the game came with your PS1? What was it? Tony Hawk’s? Crash Bandicoot? Both great places to start, but no, the game I’m thinking of is a real gem, a game that brings you into a fantasy world full of dragons and portals. Of course, as you’ve read the title of this article you know I’m talking about Spyro 2, a game full of fond memories for many, but how does it stand up to games today?
Well, I dunno. How’s I s’posed to know
This action platformer is of course the sequel to the equally popular Spyro the Dragon. Using a variety of ways to negotiate levels (walking, charging, jumping, gliding and hovering) it’s gameplay is similar to its predecessor, but possibly slightly smoother. Your objective is to gather gems, orbs and talismans to complete each stage, with various power-up towers that give special abilities (such as unlimited flying, superflame and invincibility) to take on different challenges. Additionally, some levels give you a time limit in which to destroy certain targets, adding a certain level of depth in the types of obstacles you face.
Level 1: Story
In the Dragon Realms, Spyro and Sparx are sick of the rain. They think they deserve a vacation, so they travel to a world called Dragon Shores. While this is going on, in the world of Avalar, the Professor, Elora the Faun and Hunter are working on a portal designed to bring them a dragon, their only possible saviour from the evil, self-appointed dictator Ripto (The game was billed as Ripto’s Revenge in the US) who himself was brought to Avalar by a malfunction in an earlier portal. Ripto set about taking over Avalar with his minions Crush and Gulp, something he was able to do unopposed because of the land’s lack of dragons. Spyro, after being bought to Avalar must collect the Talismans and orbs from each world to destroy Crush, Gulp and eventually Ripto himself to restore peace.
Level 2: Presentation
Spyro 2 is a nice looking game that stretched the PS1’s hardware much further than the previous edition. It is by no means the best looking, but everything you see stands out, with each level having a clear, defined theme (Glimmer is a mine, Colossus, a place of worship and Breezy Harbour, a midnight cruise) increasing the desire to explore the levels rather than just completing basic objectives. As well as enhancing the gaming experience, this makes it a lot easier to find hidden objectives and mechanisms required to complete a level (For instance, one world you explore has to be filled with water in order to reach platforms that are otherwise inaccessible). Over the course of the game you get to explore three homeworlds with seasonal themes (Summer Forests, Autumn Plaines and Winter Tundra) with between six and ten individual levels on each. Autumn Plaines has always been a personal favourite of mine because some stunning level design that really stands out opposite other games released in this period.
Seriously, how can you NOT love this?
Level 3: Gameplay
Like the visuals, the gameplay is very smooth, with quick, easy transition from one action animation to another, and although the camera speed and change of angle is a little slow for my taste, it may well appeal to other gamers. Your health is indicated by your little dragonfly friend, Sparx who is worth three hit points indicated by his change of colour from Yellow to Blue to Green before disappearing. If you get hit while he is not around a life is lost. Sparx’s health can be replenished though by eating butterflies found throughout the game. Each world features different challenges given to you by a host of different characters, some of which require the use of power up towers, (as mentioned before, enabling you to fly or shoot high powered fireballs, opening up parts of the levels previously closed off to Spyro) although a number are basic object/character retrieval tasks. Spyro is a far more versatile little dragon compared to the original game. Right from the get-go, Spyro has a hover ability to get a little extra air at the end of a glide. His other abilities – swimming, climbing and headbashing – must be bought from Mr Moneybags for an, ahem, small fee…
Final Level: Boss approaching! Boss approaching! (Minor Spoilers)
Crush is the first boss, and isn’t very difficult. He will send out electrical waves for you to avoid. When you knock him to the ground it creates shockwaves that cause rocks to fall onto him. After three hits, he shoots fireballs for you to avoid instead and three more hits cause him to send electrical waves and fireballs at random. One more hit makes Crush rather desperate, as he chases you with his club. Avoid his blow and he sets of a rock fall that leaves him buried for good!
Bu-but this is… this is a… this is a kid’s game!
Gulp, the second boss, isn’t as stupid. He has little pterodactyls to lay eggs that land on the ground and reveal… explosives. Not sure how that one works, but anyway, the explosives can either be used by you or by Gulp. First, the birds (yesIknowtheyarepterodactylsjustrollwithit) will drop a barrel which you can charge into Gulp but if you’re too slow, he’ll swallow it and use it against you. Next, the birds will drop bombs. A quick burst of flame on these and they’ll explode after a short time. Finally, the birds will drop small rockets. These are the easiest to attack with because they can be aimed by eating them and pressing triangle. After you beat Gulp, he falls over and Ripto falls out of his throne into the not-so-bottomless pit, and that appears to be him done for…
As the story goes on, you realise that Ripto wasn’t killed (It’s pretty obvious, considering that he appears in the next cutscene.) You must go forth, and vanquish the evil that is about to be no more! (You might want to work on that speech.)
So, Ripto. He’s not dead, in fact he’s very much alive. Explaining this boss battle is gonna be a little difficult.
But let’s try anyway.
Using the orbs you collected, you must defeat Ripto. Hunter flies around dropping green, red or blue orbs, and each has a different power.
Collecting three red orbs give you superflame, collecting three blue orbs gives you supercharge and three green orbs gives you plasma breath. Ripto though will compete to collect these orbs before you, and he has his own collection of powers to use on you. Three red orbs for Ripto cause him to fire red electricity from his scepter. Three blue orbs will surround him with blue, electric orbs. Finally, three green orbs will cause him to emit hot waves of spherical, gaseous green ‘fire’ from his sceptre. After you defeat Ripto, he will magic up some robotic Gulp: one of your five-a-day. Gulp has his share of orb-powers: Red makes him do a giant superflame, green makes him shoot light-blue electricity ball out of his horns and green gives him laser-vision. (Have you kept up so far? No? Good. Me either!)
Robot gulp explodes and sends Ripto, Spyro and even Hunter flying, causing him to drop all the orbs. You can see hunter sliding down the wall in the background, which I always thought was pretty funny. Ripto gets up and turns a gold orb into a robot bird, and Spyro follows him by using a gold orb to give himself superflame AND superflight. Ripto turns the floor into lava, just like your childhood games, only a lot more deadly. You must shoot Ripto with your superflame a few times, which is frankly pretty simple stuff compared to what I’ve just had to explain.
Ending (Minor spoilers)
Ripto sinks in the boiling hot lava, and the gem from his scepter powers the superportal which the Professor uses to take you to Dragon Shores. Time for a well earned vacation! The credits roll as a camera takes you through the lands you explored through the game.
Buuuut we’re not done yet.
Bonus round – Completion bonus!
After the credits are finished, you find yourself in Dragon Shores. There is a NPC standing at the door. You must have 8,000 gems and 55 orbs to go through the door. Once you go through, you will find various mini-games you can play to get tokens:
Roller-Coaster: Ride a roller trying to pop balloons.
Target Practice: Using the superflame, shoot targets that pop up from the ground.
Water Dunker: Using a rock, shoot a target and dunk enemies from the game!
Tunnel of luuuuuurve: Not really a minigame, just take a ride in the tunnel of love.
Each minigame will give you 1-3 tokens. If you collect 10 tokens, then you can access the theatre, where you can play any cutscenes from the game. Congratulations! You’ve completed the game!
Well, not quite.
There are 64 orbs and 10,000 gems in the whole game. That’s 9 orbs and 2,000 gems you still need to collect. After that, you open the door to the permanent super-flame. This gives you the superflame forever! And now, we’ve finally finished the game.
Buuuuut, not really. (You’re getting pretty sick of these, aren’t you? I can feel it through your monitor.)
Throughout the game, there are 16 hidden skill points. These are random little things you can do which give you an extra life if you do them. The difficulty ranges from extremely easy (Landing on top of an idol) to extremely hard (Beating Ripto without getting hit. It took me around a month to perfect that one.) Once all the skill points are completed, you get an extra page in your guidebook for the Epilogue and Extinct Creatures of Avalar pages. The extinct creatures of Avalar are just monster sketches that never made it into the game.
And before I leave you, I will give you one last part of my review:
╚evΣl 0 – g╚i╦ChS
This game has quite a few glitches, although none of them are gamebreaking, which are all triggered by pushing the game’s margins i.e. Jumping to a very high platform.
One of the most famous (and most useful) glitch from Spyro 2 is the double jump glitch. This is triggered by pressing square while jumping (holding X). This glitch can be very hard to pull off, but once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike. The glitch gives you a little extra height and distance from a jump, making those infuriatingly large gaps easier to negotiate.
The second most used glitch is the swimming in the air glitch. Unfortunately, I can’t explain it very well, so this video found on youtube will do so.
As you can see, this glitch makes you fly, or “swim,” in mid-air. This can get you into some pretty sweet places!
Although this may be intentional, I’m going to include it anyway: If you start a new game after playing a save with the permanent superflame, you can start the game with permanent superflame! This can make it much easier to do challenges, and you achieve a lot more a lot faster than in your first playthrough.
And now, we are at the end of the review. Now, the question is going to be answered: Does this game stand up to games today?
For it’s time, Spyro 2 was an amazing game. Today, many people prefer games such as Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and the like, but if you’re a fan of games like Little Big Planet, Crash Bandicoot and Gex, you’ll love this game, packed with hidden depth and a sizeable lifespan. I give it as close to perfect marks as possible, highly recommended.