Easter isn't just about chocolate eggs from eager-to-please bunnies (I've been told there's some religious alternative purpose, but we'll gloss over that for now), it's also a perfect excuse to discuss the oft-forgotten gem of our industry - the video game Easter Egg.
Easter Eggs are essentially secrets, hidden jokes or messages left by developers and designers for you to hunt out in game. They serve no purpose and have no reward other than the satisfaction that comes with finding something that most will have missed whilst playing. The first Easter Egg was discovered in a game released exactly 35 years ago this month - Adventure for the Atari 2600. By locating and manipulating a hidden "dot" players could gain access to a hidden room, which had the message "Created by Warren Robinett" - the game's programmer. Once this secret was found, Atari decided to keep it in game and call such secrets "Easter Eggs". The rest, as they say, is history.Click here to read more...
In videogames we all have our favourite franchises. As much as we crave the new and different IP, there's something reassuring and fulfilling that comes from a franchise. Previous instalments have allowed us to form a love affair with characters, mechanics, plot and gameplay that have created a melting pot of an experience that appeals to us as an individual gamer. From Angry Birds to Zork, there's a franchise out there for everyone.
But it's perhaps easy to forget when we clamber over the latest Mario or FIFA game that franchises themselves are a poisoned chalice, that hang on a knife-edge (or indeed insert over-used metaphor here) for developers, because they present a bit of a headache. And it's not a headache that simple painkillers can cure. Because franchise development is a bit of a paradox. Fans love your franchise for what it is, so you need to stick to that formula. But heaven forbid of course if developers don't progress the idea in future instalments. Because as fans, we always demand more, and never more so than when we are talking about our beloved franchises.
But how did we create this problem in the first place?Click here to read more...
The Casual Gamer. A now derogatory term used to pigeon-hole the vast swathes of gamers that have dared to show a fleeting interest in an industry previously reserved for the dedicated, committed and knowledgeable “few” that pursued it before it became “mainstream”. Or some such elitist bollocks.
Now, I could write an entire article exploring the separation of this industry, but instead this piece focuses more on accepting the diversity that tablet gaming, motion controls et al has brought the gaming industry, and how this has shaped the strategy and fortunes of one of its biggest players – Nintendo.
Before we get too far in, it's worth me just clarifying what I will be referring to as a casual gamer. For the purposes of this article when I say 'casual gamer' what I mean is the group of people who wouldn't list gaming as one of their top hobbies or interests, it is instead a minor method of enjoyably passing the time in between other activities. As such they have no need to know the industry in depth, and similarly may not know a lot of what others familiar to gaming may know.
These variances against a more "normal" (or indeed hardcore - shudder) gamer are crucial when you apply them to Nintendo - arguably the company now most synonymous with the casual gamer tag thanks to the overwhelming success of the Wii. No one can deny that the performance of Nintendo's previous console didn't do a lot of good for the games industry. It increased it's potential and target audience massively, and gaming is enjoying a boom as a result. It gets much more exposure and recognition nowadays, and that is partly thanks to the Wii's success in bringing in an additional audience.
But this success has been a bit of a double-edged sword for the gaming behemoth. And they've fallen on it quite a lot in recent years.
When you take a step back and look at the video game industry these days, there are very much two camps of people. No, not casual, and hardcore, you'll be pleased to hear, but those gamers who are passive about the state of the industry, and those who, are more perceptive of it and demand more. It would be easy to dismiss the passive camp, especially when those in the perceptive camp (myself naturally included) get on our high horses. But passive gamers have their place, and influence what games we see in our industry, so they cannot be ignored. And what that means in real terms for game developers is that they have a choice when it comes to their next game; safety or surprise.
Do they go bold, with new ideas and risk their fanbase, or do they play it safe and give the people what they know they want? You're probably already screaming at your computer screens the former, as by reading this, you're probably in the perceptive camp, yearning for a surprise. But is it really that simple? Or can we learn thing from a more safe approach?
If you give people 30 seconds to name some successful iterative gaming franchises, they could probably list off a fair few. Series such as Call of Duty, FIFA etc are more recent examples of an ever increasing gaming phenomenon, whereby games are churned out regularly with only slight tweaks to previous instalments. They sell like hotcakes, and those perceptive gamers with a high enough pedestal condemn them for ruining gaming. And so ensues 99% of all comments section arguing on video game forums. The other 1% left for discussing how awesome a HD Secret of Mana (no, were not counting the iOS spit and polish) would be. Clearly.
But if these iterations are so allegedly awful for our industry, then why do they sell so damn well? Firstly, there's little getting away from the fact that some people don't view gaming as a progressive industry, and more a means to an end for their entertainment needs. They couldn't care less about the success of indie developers or the progress made in a particular genre, as long as they can play the latest instalment of their favourite game every year. And for the record that's absolutely fine.Click here to read more...
Dark Souls 2, the hotly anticipated sequel to From Software punishing RPG landed in the UK on Friday, and with a quick check on the online death tally, we're looking at over 52 million deaths worldwide already, so it's definitely starting where it's fore-bearer left off in terms of difficulty and unreserved harshness.
With this in mind, I've devised a list of survival tips that should assist you in at least dying less in your first few hours of this epic adventure. There's a mix here of mainstay Dark Souls tips, but also new insights that are specific to the sequel. Hopefully they will help you Go Beyond Death that little bit more. As usual, potential spoiler alert.
Picking your class doesn't have a significant impact on your character later in the game, as your ability to level up and alter your stats gives you lots of flexibility. However it does impact your early game as you will be restricted to the opening stats and available equipment much more.
So to that end, I would ask yourself one question, do you want to get in up close and personal in combat as a melee character or prefer a ranged magic user? If you want to be a melee character, then I would advise picking the Warrior character, as they have decent stats and start with a shield. I opted for the Knight, and regretted the lack of shield in the Tutorial - but if you can cope without it, and buy one later, the armour set as a Knight is pretty useful for early game.
If you prefer magic, then opting for a Mage class is pretty self-explanatory as an option. It's worth noting that if you don't select Mage class you won't get a catalyst to cast spells until much later in the game, so it might be that you opt for a Mage simply to give you options of magic, rather than just close-quarter combat. The choice is yours.
Oh and don't worry about your starting gift either. No item you get cannot be obtained normally throughout the game, so pick whichever feels like it might help you out the most early on.Click here to read more...
60 years is a long time, just ask my dad whose celebrating the milestone later this year. A lot can happen, and in fact a lot did happen since that post-war era with it's moody, atmospheric backdrop. There was also a very famous prison still in operation. And Daedalic Entertainment want to take us back there, to 1954, and, more importantly, back to Alcatraz. As such 1954 Alcatraz (a suitably named title I'm sure you'll agree) is their latest offering in their growing catalogue of Point & Click games.
You play as two protagonists throughout the game, the first of which is the imprisoned Joe, sent down initially for armed robbery, but a successful escape from his first prison landed him a spot in the world's most famous jail. Word's going around in Alcatraz that there's a plan to escape, and Joe wants in. But he's being monitored at all times, and Joe will soon come to realise that not only does every piece of info in Alcatraz have it's price, but also that not everyone on the inside is his friend.
Secondly you play as Christine, Joe's lover on the outside who is doing everything she can to help Joe in his escape attempt, whilst also dealing with the repercussions of Joe's armed robbery. She'll be dealing with the mob and the police in equal measure to keep everyone happy and more importantly far enough out of reach to discover what's really going on.
I won't bore you with the fundamentals of point and click gameplay, because with most games of the genre, they are the same. A combination of items here, using an item on a piece of scenery or person there - it's all fairly standard stuff. As with most Daedalic games, there is the option to have all interactive items/scenery appear at a press of the Space Bar. This speeds up your need to assess and trawl through each screen, but does obviously cheapen the game somewhat. Either way it's up to you, as the "Snoop Key" can be turned on or off in the options menu before starting or loading a game or during play.Click here to read more...
Whilst I'm a fan of some "me time", smashing a single-player game, there's definitely a different type of thrill to be had in sharing gaming with others. Multiplayer has been around for years in various guises, but there has definitely been a shift over the last few years, particularly in the last couple of gaming generations, to focus more on online multiplayer. Steps forward in technology have allowed for people all across the world to join together in their gaming experiences. And it has been widely embraced as a result, so many people worldwide now enjoy a spot of online multiplayer as part of their game time.
But I'm here today to tell you why I prefer my multiplayer a little bit closer to home. Why for me, local multiplayer is king when it comes to group gaming.
The first, and perhaps most fundamental reason why I prefer local multiplayer is because in my opinion, the best fun you can have is with people who you know. If you're playing against people you know, then that automatically brings a whole host of sub-plots, backgrounds, competitiveness, history and all-round fun that quite simply isn't there when you're going up a against faceless enemy number 2,549. And that's because before even turning on the machine, you're all bringing shared stories to the table, little comedy nuances and points of intrigue that could shape the gaming session.Click here to read more...
You don't have to look very far across the interweb to see pages and pages detailing the doom and gloom of the Wii U these days. Even here at Dealspwn we've been mixed in our opinions of Nintendo's latest console and it's future. But for all the naysayers and harbingers of misery there have also been many who point to a few AAA titles on the horizon that may yet save the floundering machine. And arguably the biggest of these flagship titles is Super Smash Bros.
But despite this franchise having legions of fans, and is almost guaranteed to be a sure-fire hit, could even this title be a double-edged sword for the Wii U? Could it potentially do more damage than good?
Let's start off with the more obvious, and indeed optimistic view of things. The Super Smash Bros' franchise is huge, it has sold nearly 23m units across it's 3 previous games, and when you consider that half those sales alone came from the latest installment on the Wii, it's certainly a franchise on the up.Click here to read more...
For many gamers, myself included, Resident Evil 4 presents a pinnacle of the series that hasn't been reached since, despite two big budget subsequent releases, as well as a smattering of other lower-key launches too. And as Capcom prepares this week to release Resident Evil Ultimate HD Edition for the PC, it raises into question again why people fell in love with and still adore Leon's battle against the Ganados above any others before or since. And more to the point, why has such a great game not been taken as a basis for later games, and built upon to produce an even greater game? Why do we keep coming back to a game released over 9 years ago for our fix, and how did Capcom not capitalise on it and make two stellar follow ups in Resident Evil 5 and 6?
The first reason for this apparent fall from grace is all in the build up. I remember a quote from Shigeru Miyamoto where he said he personally creates the first level in action games last, his rationale being:
“Your first level (or tutorial, or sequence, or whatever you want to call it) should serve as a prologue for the rest of your game. It should introduce many of the concepts your player will be interacting with through the rest of your game, and it should do so in a way that doesn’t alienate them right away.”
It's so important to get the first part of your game right, as it needs to set the tone and expectation for the rest of the experience. When thinking about Resident Evil, this means building up tension and anxiety and a feeling of helplessness. It needs to get your heart racing in a mixture of fear and adrenaline. Think about your favourite Resident Evil game and think about its opening sequence, whether it's the original's opening cut-sequence and first zombie encounter, or if indeed if it's Leon's experience in Resident Evil 4 in the creepy woods, the aggressive Ganados and of course the facing off against the entire village before the ominous bell tower tolls.Click here to read more...
Take your minds back 28 months to a time before Nintendo Direct existed. It was a time before Rihanna was number 1 with "We Found Love" (yes I looked that up), it was a different time. Before Iwata, Miyamato and the gang would get together infront of clean white backgrounds to update us on the latest goings on at Nintendo Towers. But before November 2011, we didn't have the fun, unique updates that are symbolic of the quirky nature of Nintendo. Little were we to know back then that these Nintendo Directs would also provide regular disappointment to those that watched them.
But why is it always this way? Well, for a few reasons really, and not all of them are down to Ninty themselves. Let's take a look.
Firstly we have to consider the purpose of the Nintendo Direct itself. Obviously they are there to provide key information about Nintendo's new software, hardware and to a lesser extent, their strategies. But who to? Whilst Nintendo's presentations are available to the entire region they are aimed at simultaneously, it would be naive to think that everyone knows about them, let alone tunes in.
Fundamentally the people who are aware and watch Nintendo Directs are going to be those working in the industry, aspiring to be in it, or already have a distinct interest in all things Nintendo. Which means right from the off, Nintendo have a fairly tough audience to please. And not least because the perception of the big N in recent years has been waning. Just ask Matt what he thinks of the Wii U, give him the soap box, stand back, and you'll see what I mean. But ironically this perception doesn't mean the audience wants Nintendo to fail, in fact it wants the complete opposite, and this heaps the pressure on any announcements of any kind. Because we as a group turn up full of hope and expectation of that big story, that new strategy that is going to revert the fortunes of one of the pillars of the gaming community.Click here to read more...
With Nintendo delivering their first Nintendo Direct of the year, there was a fair bit of information for Mr Iwata to get through. Below is a topline of the key highlights for you. Let us know what you think. The full presentation can be seen here.
The first reveal was for the latest Smash Bros title for Wii U and 3DS. Little Mac from the Punch-Out series is set to feature as a playable character for the first time. As his name suggests, this newcomer will be a shorter playable character than most allowing him to get in low shots and jabs, and his all-powerful uppercut move. From the trailer you could spot an interesting counter move a la Marth and Ike from the previous installment. As well as a Power Meter that he can build up to increase his attack power, his Final Smash move was also revealed to be a transformation into Giga Mac from the Punch-Out game on the WiiClick here to read more...
Why ever bother with a remake? With the constant drive these days for new and exciting IPs providing different experiences, it's sometimes easy to forget the merit of a good update to an old favourite. Once we get past the negative notion of them simply being a lazy, easy buck to lace developer's pockets, and look a bit deeper, we see remakes can actually be equally beneficial to us as consumers and the industry.
But of course, only if they're done well, and boy have there been examples of good and bad over the years, and even some quite recent ones too. So in this article, let's explore what makes a good remake, and why, and who seems to be following this path and who's fallen off the wagon slightly.
Let's hit the obvious head on before we start. Doing a remake presents a unique opportunity to present a previously-released game on a new console - usually in a new generation. As such it opens up a ton of opportunities for developers that weren't there when they first made the game - better hardware, game pad/machine functionality etc. So to make a good remake you need to ensure you're maximising these new benefits. And one sure-fire way to do the complete opposite is to simply port a game. And it's even worse if you do it badly. When this happens it's really hard to argue against the main criticism of remakes I mentioned earlier - the developer simply cashing in. SEGA ported their Dreamcast hit Sonic Adventure to Gamecube, and then later to PSN and XBLA without any real focus on what could be achieved on these system, or even how the game played with these new and different controllers. And of course there's the shockingly bad port of the original Street Fighter II onto the ZX Spectrum - which looks horrendous and sounds and plays even worse.
Now I'm not blind in saying that ports don't play a role in videogames. Of course they do, they can broaden the audience, and thus appeal of a game instantly by releasing it on more consoles, and for developers this is a more cost-effective way of people experiencing their creations than developing a new game from scratch. But in the grand scheme of a remake, and more importantly what makes a good remake, ports present a missed opportunity to do things differently. And we'll look at these opportunities now in more detail.Click here to read more...
Developers: Avidly Wild Games
Publishers: Avidly Wild Games
It's been nearly three and a half decades since the release of Rogue - a text-based Dungeons & Dragons style game. Its launch seemed innocuous at the time, but its focus on traversing dungeons, equipment, fighting enemies, and the fact that if you died you had to start the whole adventure again (now coined 'perma-death') garnered legions of fans, and as such this style of game became a sub-genre for 2D RPGs - the roguelike.
Our Darker Purpose is Avidly Wild Games' first stab into this sub-genre, available now on Steam after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Set in the Edgewood Home for Lost Children, you play the role of Cordy, a lonely student, who after the disappearance of all the teachers, must battle through the hordes of warring factions of children to make her way to the top of the building to seek The Administrators to find out what has happened to everyone.
It plays as a 2D adventure game from a top-down perspective, with you having to move around and fire at enemies. When you come into contact with an enemy, obstacle or projectile, you take damage, and when your health reaches zero it's game over. In your arsenal as well as an infinite ranged attack, you also have a fixed number of juice boxes to refill health, and chalk which works as a one-time use area attack against enemies in close proximity.Click here to read more...
It seems 2013 was the year that Matt Gardner (Senior Editor of Dealspwn and resident Slash lookalike) revealed his hatred for me, or perhaps more specifically his passion for seeing me suffer. Just a simple trawl back through the games he assigned me to review last year yield a collection of games that in the main were harder than your average. Couple it with the fact that 2013 was also the year I finally finished Dark Souls and a look back on the year makes me realise what a ruddy hard slog it was.
Not that I’m complaining of course – some of those games were bloody brilliant – but such exposure to challenging games made me take a big step back. Often in gaming we praise the difficult game, the one that is a challenge, to the point where difficulty has become almost synonymous with quality in a game. But in reality, is this really the case? Throughout 2013 ,the difficulty in the games I reviewed has been high, but the quality hasn't always been there. I've reviewed the very good - games like Spelunky - down to the really quite bad - step forward A-Men 2. So clearly this theory of 'difficult equals good' doesn't always ring true, in fact I believe now more than ever that this way of thinking is completely wrong.
To start with we have to look at why we like “difficult” games, and then dig deeper to see how this is being used in today’s games, for better or worse.
One school of thought is that our love of a difficult game stems from our early gaming days. A time when technical limitation rather than designer choice made mid games saves rare or even non-existent. Where a game had to be finished in one sitting, lives were limited, and a mistake was costly – no hiding behind a bin for three second for that bullet wound to the head to heal back in the 80s, no siree! And we loved those games, those early experiences, and for those of us old enough to remember them, nostalgia sometimes clouds our judgement for what we really want in a game. Everyone knows we love the good old days. Everyone knows older games were harder. Well therefore everyone likes hard games. Strike one for the prosecution.Click here to read more...
Developer: Revolution Software
Publisher: Revolution Software
It’s very rare that my fiancée is more excited for a game than me. Normally it’s me explaining to her why you should pre-order, why a console needs to be had on launch day, and why that musical chest I got free with The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds is so friggin’ awesome!
But for one franchise in particular she becomes just like me. The geek within rises, and she gets super excited. Step forward Broken Sword. Now luckily for me we’ve been waiting a long time since the last Broken Sword game – longer than our entire relationship in fact, so this is the first time I’ve bore witness to this excitement. I thought she got excited for Zelda, but Broken Sword is in another ballpark. Apparently this is a big deal – she funded it through kickstarter no less - so I’d better do it justice, or so help me that “big day” next year might never come.
No pressure then right? So, eyes down and concentrate.
For those not in as unique a relationship as mine, Broken Sword first hit the gaming scene way back in 1996. It focused on two individuals – local girl Nico Collard and American George Stobbart – who team up to solve a Parisian bombing, with many twists and turns along the way. The original game was your standard 2D point and click adventure, with sequels sending our heroes further afield to more varied locations, and adopting different gameplay mechanics – and even embracing 3D – with mixed success.Click here to read more...
Platform: Wii U
Developers: Nintendo EAD
On Wednesday 18th December, Nintendo gave its final Nintendo Direct of the year, and in it announced the launched of a collection of minigames based on Nintendo Entertainment System favourites. This collection – made available on Wii U straight after the Nintendo Direct itself – would boast over 200 minigames of some of the most memorable moments of key games from Nintendo’s inaugural home console. But at £8.99 for a bunch of minigames that are over 20 years old, is NES Remix really worth your time and money, or is this just a cheap, dated version of WarioWare?
The main premise of the game takes much from the aforementioned game starring Mario’s arch-nemesis. Only this time, rather than the games being split by the type of action you have to do in the game, they are split by the games themselves. At the start 6 games are unlocked for you – Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, Excite Bike and Balloon Fight. The idea being that each minigame takes place in one of these games, with a set specific objective, or multiple consecutive objectives. Like Warioware the games are short, sharp bursts of fun, with you up against the clock.
When you complete a minigame, you are awarded a ranking out of 3 stars based on your clearance time, tapping into the Angry Birds perfectionist in all of us to pick up the maximum ranking on each minigame. More stars mean more unlocks of minigames, as well as unlocking different games to play – such as The Legend of Zelda and Ice Climbers. However perhaps what’s more rewarding, is collecting stars also adds to the special ‘NES Remix’ list of minigames.Click here to read more...
Christmas is a special time for a lot of us – it’s a period where we spend time with friends and family, and maybe indulge in a few things that we wouldn’t think of doing for the rest of the year. But this strange change in habits is not limited to bad jumpers and eating sprouts, but I find it also impacts the type of games I play greatly too. As I reflect on another Christmas gone by, and await the next 360-odd days until the next one, I thought I’d share my observations of a gaming Christmas – and it would be good to share yours too.
The most obvious change at Christmas time, with the arrival of a plethora of distant relatives, is the amount of people to play games. And as gaming becomes more and more widely embraced, this means the life of the local multiplayer receives a well-deserved lifeline. The beauty of the local multiplayer is in its variety. Party games, competitive multiplayer and even co-op play provide a wide range of different experiences that suit multiple people huddled around the same TV with a controller in their hand. Suffice to say that no matter how good online gaming is, a headset is a poor substitute for the look on your brother’s face when you beat him, and proceed to ceremoniously wind him up .Click here to read more...
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was my first ever Zelda game. It will always hold a special place in my heart not only for being the game that introduced me to one of the greatest franchises I ever have had the pleasure of playing, but also for being a fantastic game in its own right. So when a straight sequel was announced, I have no shame in revealing that I was very excited - kiddie at Christmas excited.
But how would I find a sequel to a game that I have placed on a pedestal for two whole decades? Would it be able to live up to the game I held so dear, and would there be enough difference in this game to make it a classic in its own right?
Like most Zelda games, we begin with Link oversleeping – Hylean heroes apparently need their ten hours of beauty sleep a night. After being woken to go and do some work, our hero gets accidentally caught up in a very familiar plot involving kidnap of Sage descendants to a mysterious parallel land. It’s up to our hero to collect some well-known jewels, and a famous sword to go off after them.
So yes, story-wise this won’t win any awards for individuality, in fact its parallel to Link to the Past’s story is equalled in the mirroring that also occurs between Hyrule and the game’s mysterious parallel land known as Lorule. And Lorule itself is essentially the Dark World from Link to the Past, right down to its music, design and enemies.Click here to read more...
With the new 3DS title A Link Between Worlds being released just last week, and with a Dealspwn review still a work in progress (early impressions are very positive though), I thought I’d compile a Top 5 that should whet your Zelda appetite, and hopefully provoke plenty of discussion. So without further ado I present to you the Top 5 Best Zelda games.
NB. There may be some light spoilers, but to be honest if you’ve not played these games yet, then shame on you!
The original game received a lot of unfair criticism when it was released, due to its new direction in art style, its apparently low difficulty level, and all that sailing between small islands of interest. However what lay underneath was a game that was packed full charm, even from Link himself – normally a protagonist void of emotion and character. It also introduced a parry mechanic which added a new dimension to combat, which created a much more fluid fighting system, and a more energetic and flexible Link than we were used to seeing.
Essentially it was an adventure that never took itself too seriously and was probably the most fun Zelda that has ever been released. Upon realisation of that, you understand the new visuals worked perfectly with the game’s core design and allowed for a really enjoyable experience.
When the HD version released this year for Wii U, we finally had the game we’d always hoped for, with Nintendo addressing many of the technical criticisms, and adding in a new Hero Mode to really up the challenge. Unmissable.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 | PS Vita
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Namco Bandai
The aim of A-Men 2 from Namco Bandai is to take us back to a simpler time. A time when games were all about the puzzles, where the game design presented intelligent problems, and the solutions required your own ingenuity and patience. They tend to go hand in hand with a sense of difficulty and perseverance – the game must provide a challenge otherwise a puzzle is anything but what its name suggests – but it’s all about balance. You want a game that challenges you, but keeps you wanting more. It’s a very fine line that can be very hard to keep to – maybe even more so in a puzzler. So how well does Amen-2 do in this regard?
The core of the game is that you are tasked with getting your groups of “A-Men” from their starting points in the level to the helicopter pick up point at the end. To make the helicopter appear, you need to have cleared a certain amount of enemies from the level to allow for a safe landing. But even with the helicopter here, getting to it is normally easier said than done. In true puzzler style, there are many obstacles between your elite team and their goal. To add to the difficulty, your units cannot sustain any damage from enemies or drop from more than one level above, or they will die. Any death to any unit will result in a level restart.
Click here to read more...