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  1. If you loved the PS2 classic Shadow of the Colossus, Devolver Digital and indie developer Acid Nerve's Titan Souls just might be right up your alley. In it, you play as a lone archer with just one arrow and a single hit point as you battle to take down mythical titans throughout the land. Each titan has a weakness that you'll exploit to help defeat them, after which you'll harvest their soul. The game is also chock full of secrets, hidden areas, and unlockable challenges for those who really want to get a lot of mileage out of their playing time. And last but not least, it's brutally challenging, so Dark Souls fans, this one's for you! Titan Souls is available for purchase today for $14.99 on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and PS Vita. Source: Press Release Will you be checking out Titan Souls today?
  2. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Hatoful Boyfriend

    Developer: Mediatonic, Hato Moa Publisher: Devolver Digital Platform: PC (GOG, Humble Store, Steam) ESRB: N/A (Teen suggested) Release Date: September 4, 2014 Visual novels are an astonishing genre for experiencing the likes epic adventure, space operas, and beautiful romance. Then, in 2011, developer Hato Moa explored brand new territory - bird“s love. Hatoful Boyfriend made a small splash a few years back (read our original review here), but the game itself was a pain to run on modern OSes. As such, many simply flew the coop before actually experiencing what the game had to offer. Fast forward to now when Medatonic took it upon themselves to cobble the game up in a new engine and present it to a massive audience on Steam and GOG. Now everyone can experience the splendor of Hatoful Boyfriend. But… what exactly is Hatoful Boyfriend? Well, put simply it“s a visual novel focused on a highschooler named Hiyoko who has just been accepted to the esteemed St. PigeoNation Institute. This is great, especially considering the fact the school overlooked her species during the application process. As such, she is the only human amidst a school of birds. Players guide Hiyoko through her time at school to improve her stats but also possibly find love with one of her feathered classmates. As far as visual novels are concerned, it“s not the weirdest thing that has ever happened (see PacaPlus) but still stands as an incredibly unique title based off concept alone. A visual novel tends to live or die by its writing - so how does Hatoful Boyfriend stack up in this department? The writing is a bit higher than average thanks to a witty, silly script. It is certainly not up to par with other big name visual novels but you“ll still find things to chuckle about while playing. Some typos and text alignment issues crop up now and again but it“s not a huge deal. The biggest surprise to me was that the text is basically left untouched from its earlier release. Honestly, any changes would have messed with the pure wackiness that was originally present. It takes about an hour or two to beat the game once depending on your reading speed. However, you could spend far more time playing if you seek out all 14 endings. Some are simple iterations on previous endings with an added scene, but are still worth looking into. Players will have to be incredibly devoted to seeing them all though as the built in options for skipping text are barebones. Fast forward doesn“t stop once you reach “new” text and seems to stop randomly on its own. So mostly you“re stuck fighting to fast forward enough past all you“ve seen but to stop once something new happens. As for other options that might be expected of a standard visual novel, well, they“re not included at all. Simple features such as displaying the CG alone during a scene are not available. You can check out all viewed art from the menu though. There is also no dialogue log. Most problematic to me was a lack of auto advance text function at all. You also are unable to check your romantic status with the various birds on the fly, although a sound cue plays when you do well with one of them. To be fair, that bit was never included with the original game either. All these other features would be super useful and I“d like to think they were possible with the given engine. The weirdest, and perhaps most hipster-ish complaint, is that this is effectively the same game that launched a few years ago. Yes, it runs on most people“s computers now but little was actually changed. There is a new non-protagonist ending scene, improved GUI, and such, but it“s still a port. With that said, the fact that more people can now experience Hatoful Boyfriend in all its odd glory is worth it. Sure, it“s a simple game that relies a bit too heavily on a joke, but it“s a mostly inoffensive, and surprisingly endearing, experience. Pros: + Incredibly unique dating aspect + Goofy writing + Surprising amount of endings Cons: - Lack of features expected from visual novels - Annoying skip button - Grammar and spelling issues apparently left untouched Overall score: 7 (out of 10) Good Hatoful Boyfriend is one of the most unusual games out there that is finally receiving the attention it deserves, although it“s a shame some basic visual novel functionality was ignored.
  3. Harrison Lee

    Review: Always Sometimes Monsters

    Developer: Vagabond Dog Publisher: Devolver Digital Platform: Steam (PC) Release Date: May 21, 2014 Rating: None (M suggested) Have you ever had a low-wage, menial job? Experienced the pressures and quandaries that come from being impoverished? Severed connections with the people you love and come to regret it down the road? Always Sometimes Monsters asks those very same questions and attempts to discuss a wide range of social issues, from sexism and homophobia to corporate greed and morally-ambiguous choices. It brings numerous issues to the forefront but doesn't offer any real answers, either by choice or because no answers exist. At the end of your time with this flawed RPG, you might find there aren't any true explanations as to why we are Always Sometimes Monsters. The game opens with a rather crafty character selection system. You can choose who you are (including sex, orientation, etc.) by simply walking up to a room full of people at a party. You can also choose who your partner is, regardless of your chosen character. ASM provides remarkably subtle and well-implemented ways of forming your identity without resorting to labels and sliders. No matter who you choose to be, the game fast-forwards a year after you've failed at writing a book and left your partner. One day, a wedding invitation from your old flame shows up. Do you choose to go to the wedding and try to reclaim your lover, or move on with your new life miles away? ASM is an RPG without the combat or complex mechanics of most of its genre colleagues. The game is more of a vehicle for narrative delivery than it is for personal enjoyment. The graphics are crude and simple (RPG Maker is still kicking). There are no voice-overs, and the soundtrack tends to repeat a bit. This isn't a technical masterpiece by any stretch, but that's not the focus. Vagabond Dog is all about the story, and that's where ASM will find its true fans. Instead of offering fancy visuals or dynamic gameplay elements, choice is made central to ASM's branching narrative. While it isn't perfectly well-written, there are plenty of genuinely saddening, joyous, hilarious, and heartbreaking moments scattered throughout the game. Some moral choices have less clear consequences, occasionally linking events that make little sense for the purposes of manipulating your emotions. I wasn't pleased with these instances (there's a doctor and a car that screwed me over) but found them few and far between. Frustratingly, characters seem to come and go at will. My best friend, whom I met within the game's first few minutes, randomly disappeared until I found him in a hospitable hours later. It was a bit of a random moment and didn't endear me to the guy all that much.....because I really didn't know anything about him. The only bits ASM told me were that he was a heroin addict and musician. I would have liked a bit more characterization but it's not as big of a complaint as is the game's tendency to gloss over side characters. You'll meet weird people, some of who I'd love to hear the back-story on, that exist only for minor fetch quests. On the positive side, ASM's freedom of choice does serve to highlight the morally-grey world we live in. I chose to occasionally steal some cash if I found it lying on a table. I also opted to rig elections and engage in some shady dealings at my ad agency. Every employment I had seemed to offer numerous unethical practices, almost absurdly so. The only ones that skipped on the dark places were the menial tasks, like making burgers and loading supply trucks. Those jobs completely sucked, which is likely ASM's commentary on the employment environment. When I failed to make money from my jobs, I got kicked out of my apartment, went hungry, and couldn't afford simple things like coffee or a bus ticket. It's actually a fairly nuanced portrayal of being dead broke, especially resonant with me since I'm a college student. While I hope I never encounter the same situations my character went through, ASM makes it readily apparent that poverty is never far away. Perhaps a bit too easy, but that doesn't seem to be the game's point. In fact, I'm not entirely sure of what ASM's overall message is. I think my stance on the game and its subject matter is that it doesn't particularly relate to my experiences. I don't identify as a guy who's had to bear the brunt of racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. That makes it more of an examination of these issues as an outsider, but without the substantive conclusions I was hoping the game would offer. For those who really dig and empathize with the narrative struggles of the characters, this is likely an unmissable RPG that rewards patience and consideration. On the other hand, I believe almost anyone can relate to the over-riding theme of finding your own fulfillment. While I do think the job portrayals were a tad overkill, their inclusions still hit home that much of life's routines are nothing but wasteful exercises in futility. We must find our own creative outlets and freedoms of expression in order to truly find happiness. Or so the game seems to say. I suppose ASM is one of those things that you'll have to play in order to decide what it means to you. Is Always Sometimes Monsters worth the time and effort to endure its idiosyncrasies, flaws, narrative gaps, and menial jobs? If you crave a story that actually remains relevant in our sociopolitical environment, absolutely. If you're looking, however, for an RPG that's just a fun game, you'll likely want to stick to other titles. This is a discussion piece and an attempt to highlight the flaws in our society, though it doesn't always make distinct conclusions. Still, I'd advise you to give it a go and discover your own life-changing revelations. Pros: + Relatively deep, nuanced story + Open to discussion of numerous issues + Great character selector Cons: - Not a whole lot to do - Simplistic presentation Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Always Sometimes Monsters is a title that begs you to consider all of life's complex social issues, though it's up to you to decide what the narrative means. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using Steam code provided by the publisher.
  4. Jason Clement

    Review: Luftrausers

    Developer: Vlambeer Publisher: Devolver Digital Platform: PSN (PS3, PS Vita), PC, Mac, Linux, Release Date: March 18, 2014 ESRB: E for Everyone This review is based on the PS3 version of the game It starts out unassuming enough—your small, pixelated air craft is launched into the sky to take on an army of enemy naval ships, airplanes, submarines and more. A squadron of enemy aircraft approach from behind, but you're able to shake them off and take them down. While that's happening, a few small gunships start firing on you from the waters below. Dodging their fire, you swoop down, opening fire and blowing both to smithereens before realizing that an even larger fleet of enemy planes has descended upon your position. The sky is darkened and filled with endless amounts of machine gun firing every which way. A few guided missiles scream past in all of the confusion and narrowly miss grazing your aircraft by inches. And to add to all that, you face a barrage of incoming cannon fire from a massive battleship below. But despite everything, you avoid almost every shot... that is, until an ace pilot comes out of nowhere and blows you right out of the sky—your plane erupting in a blaze of glory amidst explosions everywhere. Welcome to Luftrausers. What was just described is what you can expect out of an average session of the game, if you can expect to survive even that long. If you're a seasoned pilot, you may get to see multiple battleships, submarines, and even a blimp or two in addition to all of that, making for some truly chaotic gameplay. At the heart of Luftrausers lies an aerial arcade shoot 'em up that, like many similar action-oriented titles, revels in its willful destruction. There's a certain similarity to Geometry Wars where, in that game, skill is rewarded in part with brilliant displays of beautiful fireworks-like explosions. And yet the thrill of explosions and chaotic action that results is only one aspect of Luftrausers. The central mechanic lies in building up your score by use of chained combos which result from shooting down other air- and naval-craft. Shooting down five planes quickly and consecutively, for example, will give you a 5x multiplier (which will eventually max out once you reach 20x). You'll then have just a few seconds to keep that combo going by shooting down or destroying something else, otherwise the combo breaks. But if you manage to keep it going? You'll be rewarded with potentially thousands and, if you're good enough, tens of thousands of points that will possibly land you at the top of the worldwide leaderboards. One of the best things about Luftrausers is how it exceeds at being easy to get into, yet being difficult to master; just about anyone could pick it up and start playing and know exactly what to do in just a few short seconds thanks to the simple controls and mechanics. In fact, when you first start the game, you simple press the up button and you're taken immediately into the gameplay. There's no drawn out narrative or exposition either; all you're given are a series of three short missions (of which there are 100 in all) each time you launch your craft, and they range from taking down certain enemy craft to score-based challenges and even ones with special conditions (i.e. taking down 10 enemy fighters while on fire). Completing these missions yield additional vehicle bodies, engines, and weapons that provide different bonuses or effects. For example, one body type is so sharp that it can cut through other ships with ease when you run into them and yet another type will drop bombs automatically as you fly. One weapon turns your gun into a single, deadly cannon shot while another gives you a wide spread shot of five bullets. Being able to mix and match different combinations is crucial to completing certain types of missions and it's a lot of fun to find out which combo works best for you. The game's 8-bit pixelated aesthetic lends to its charm and would look right at home on something like the NES, though the pixel art of the different military personnel on the option screens have already caused some controversy. They are intentionally designed to appear as fascist so as to evoke a feeling of the era from the 1900s to 1980s where military intelligence were able to ascertain that the opposing forces were studying and designing "secret weapons" though not quite knowing what they were. In light of this, Luftrausers' character designs have garnered much criticism for their supposed similarity to Nazi symbolism; Vlambleer claims in an apology on their site that they did not design the pilot (or anyone else) with that in mind, however. For what it's worth, I do agree that it's an unfortunate oversight on Vlambeer's part, but the designs are generic enough (perhaps except for the style of uniform; no swastikas, though, thankfully) that I didn't have any particular problem with it. That minor controversy aside, Luftrausers is quite the experience. Its fast, aerial dogfighting and increasingly complex naval battlefield during gameplay make for one of the most thrilling experiences I've played through this year. It might not make a huge splash for the first few minutes, but once you really start to get into racking up points through combos and attempting to take down some of the harder enemy crafts and such, the real fun starts and it becomes incredibly addicting. Too many times I would have a play session that would be extended by another 5-, 10-, 15-, 30-minutes or even an hour just because I had to give it one more try to finish the mission or reach x amount of points. If you love arcade-style gameplay and acquiring high scores and such, you owe it to yourself to play this game; its a complete blast. Now if you excuse me, I have a blimp to take down. Pros + Fast, addictive, aerial dogfighting action + Simple to learn, control, but difficulty steadily increases in-game the longer you survive + Music is pretty catchy, especially after long sessions of play + Leaderboards and plenty of missions offer lots of replay value Cons - Fascist art-style might be offputting to some - May only appeal to fans of arcade shmups and score attacks Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Luftrausers is one of the best aerial arcade shoot 'em ups to arrive in recent history. If arcade games and going after high scores is your thing, grab your helmet and get ready to take off, because this game is a blast. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  5. As the title says, yeah, expect savings of up to 25-85% off on Devolver Digital titles on Steam this weekend. For those of you waiting on those Hotline Miami and Serious Sam sales, now's your chance.
  6. Did you see the recent announcement of Hotline Miami 2 and feel an immense amount of gamer shame for having not even touched the original? If so, and you have access to PSN on Vita or PS3, then you're in luck! The port of the game is coming soon - next Tuesday, in fact. What might make this the best version to buy? First, there is an exclusive mask available which makes the game black and white minus the egregious red pools of blood. Leaderboards, touch controls, and Trophies have also been added in. Perhaps the best reason to consider this version is that you get all that alongside of Sony's Cross-Buy promotion. As such, if you buy one version you will then have Hotline Miami for both your PS3 and Vita. Feel free to check the PlayStation Blog for more info before the game's launch on June 25th.
  7. Marcus Estrada

    Hotline Miami 2 Gets a Trailer

    During E3, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was not found on the show floor. Instead, it was housed outside of the convention center where most would not look. We certainly didn't spot it at the LA Convention Center, at least! But the game was there and a teaser trailer has since been released. What's new with Hotline Miami 2? There are more playable characters, 20 chapters, and some new musicians on the soundtrack. Of course, all the intense amounts of gore on display as well as the top down gameplay perspective are still there. After all, these are some of what made the game so successful to begin with. So far Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is slated for release this December on PC as well as consoles. The Vita was specifically mentioned as one device getting the game.
  8. Shadow Warrior may be on people's minds lately due to a re-imagining being revealed by Flying Wild Hog. While that game will be available in 2014, players can get a shot at the original right now. The classic PC game Shadow Warrior from 1997 was added to Steam today. Not only was it brought to the marketplace, but it is available to any Steam users at no cost. Yep, publisher Devolver Digital decided to let the game go up for free. According to the official Shadow Warrior Twitter, this is not just a promotion and the game will remain free. It's a pretty interesting way to help drive interest in the rebirth of a franchise, but it might have made more sense to launch this closer to 2014.
  9. Marcus Estrada

    Duke Nukem 3D Rises Again

    When you think of Duke Nukem can you only recall the travesty that was Duke Nukem Forever? If so, get those images out of your mind as the series existed long before then. Back when the man still had people happy to call themselves fans, there was a game called Duke Nukem 3D which managed to become the de-facto Duke Nukem experience for many. Today Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition has hit Steam thanks to Devolver Digital. As the name implies, this is a collection of not only the main game but also the following three expansion packs: Duke Caribbean: Life's a Beach, Duke: Duke It Out in D.C., Duke: Nuclear Winter. This collection of a game which initially released in 1996 also sees a few modern amenities. Steam cloud support as well as achievements are integrated into the package. Apparently the game is not available with Steamworks-based multiplayer play yet, but Devolver Digital is working on it. They also hope to make other expansion packs available as well. Here is the launch trailer that shows what "mature" games were like in the 90s:
  10. Harrison Lee

    Review: Hotline Miami

    Developer: Dennaton Games Publisher: Devolver Digital Platform: PC Release Date: October 23, 2012 Rating: N/A (suggested 17+) I drive up to a specified location in my nondescript DeLorean. A brief menu flashes before me, offering a choice of animal masks. I choose one and watch the driver briefly pull it over his head. This mask grants him a knife from the very start. Once I push open the door to the target building, everything else is a blur of violence, adrenaline, power, and regret. Welcome to Hotline Miami. Hotline is one of 2012's most talked-about indie releases. From the minds behind Seizure Dome and Ad Nauseam comes this upstart little game. When you first fire it up, a neon-washed menu screen written in Cyrillic greets you. The text flits about the space in a drug-induced motion. It's trippy and so 1980's that it hurts. From there, things only get stranger. The main character, who's never given a name, is a vigilante. He accepts his missions from a telephone that records messages from a mysterious sender. Every instruction set uses odd euphemisms and outright lies to detail where you're going and who to kill; you're always out to slay bad guys. Or at least, I think they're bad guys. The farther you progress in the story, the more you begin to question the character's sanity. Is any of this really happening? Are the bad people actually bad people? When you reach Hotline's conclusion, you'll still be left with more questions than answers. I will spoil nothing of the plot for you, because this game deserves to be experienced. The plot, however confusing and disorienting, is well-paced and constructed. The player will never discover the truth to what's going on; only enough to make theories about each and every character's involvement in the overarching story. By and large, however, you aren't playing Hotline for the story. You're playing it because of the vicious combat. I have seldom seen melee brawlers as intense as Hotline. Each level is broken down into self-contained stages that need to be cleared of gangsters. Charging in the front door without observing the level's layout and enemy patrol patterns is a death sentence. Strategy is key, though fast reflexes and adaptability are just as important. You could try to memorize patrol patterns and weapon drops, but both elements change each time you play that segment. This wildcard always makes each and every engagement as much about planning as it is improvisation. Use what you have and you might just survive another shootout. For each and every enemy you kill, you get a score bonus. Kill faster and you score more. The more you score, the more weapons and masks you'll have access to. Puzzle pieces and additional secret masks are also scattered about the levels. If you look carefully, you can find plenty of secrets scattered about the play areas. Every new mask earned is like a badge of accomplishment for the amount of work you'll likely put in. While the new weapons are nice, they don't have the same feeling of reward that a mask brings. Hotline's visuals and soundtrack are top notch. The pixelated-graphics offer a fantastic, retro experience. While it's not quite 8-bit, I love the overall feel of the visuals. The neon-drenched environments feel like the 1980's. The soundtrack also bleeds old-school charm. It features the talents of bands like M.O.O.N. and Jasper Byrne. It fits the mood of each mission and interlude perfectly. In some ways, the audio and visuals are what truly make Hotline so special. While I love Hotline for what it does right, there are a few things I'm not in love with. Chief among them are the numerous bugs present during my experience. Whenever more than one person started shooting, my framerate dropped to a near crawl. Sometimes, throwing my weapon didn't register a hit. A few times, I didn't execute an enemy even when I spammed the space button. None of these glitches really prohibited me from enjoying this game. In its current state, I'm still in love with it. All of the gameplay elements and narrative pieces (bugs aside) serve to moralize in a way you might not expect. Each enemy is simply a small set of sprites until you kill them. As is typical of shooters, they are dehumanized until they're dead. When you see the aftermath of your actions, you slowly come to understand just how terrible the main character is. While you could argue that Hotline loses some of that impact with the scoring system, I think Dennaton uses that for ironic effect. It wants to show you how senseless video games are when it comes to violence. Unlike Spec Ops: The Line, Hotline really doesn't need to make blatant explanations of why the crimes you're committing are wrong. You, as the perpetrator of chaos, know that what you're doing is horrific. Once again, you're a pseudo-villain. I say pseudo because there are plot elements that suggest that things may not have been your fault. At other times, the game bluntly accuses you of terrible, bloody murder. I can't say which is correct. There is no right answer in Hotline; it's up to you to draw your own conclusions. While Hotline Miami isn't the best game of the year, I will say that it is one of the most important. On a much smaller budget and with more subtlety and stylistic flair than Spec Ops, Dennaton has managed to criticize the world of video game violence while simultaneously embracing it. It's a maddening, but fitting, contradiction. Nothing is what it seems in Hotline Miami. Pros: + Incredible audio and visuals + Interesting narrative and plot twists + Deep, complex combat system + Adrenaline-inducing Cons: - Quite a few bugs to contend with - Difficulty spikes can be cheap Overall Score: 9.5 (out of 10) Fantastic I recommend experiencing Hotline Miami at least once. It's exciting, powerful, and one of this year's most important games.