Super Dungeon Bros – Preview

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Super Dungeon Bros is a four-player game that brings some of the best elements of some of our favourite multiplayer indie games. You can see the inspiration of games like Castle Crashers. Dungeon raid, rouge-like, co-op smashing games have been a regular staple on people’s top console indie games lists although not many have done them too well. The aforementioned Castle Crashers is probably the best example.

Super Dungeon Bros takes this action into a top down, slightly isometric 3D view. The aim is to beat traps and puzzles along with occasional enemies to raid the dungeon with your three other compatriots. This is both on and offline, so you can all share a screen in your house or your own screens online. The game also allows you to craft weapons so that you can customise how you play, as well as use each other as weapons. There’s quite a nice set of weapons too from ranged crossbows to swords, hammers and even some mad co-op attacks. But the main joy is the constant trolling that will come.

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[Spectral ghost boss… Far more interesting than the title it’s spoofing.]

You can pick your fellow Dungeon Bro up and throw him as a weapon. Which also means you can throw him across chasms, much like dwarf tossing. You can also just descend the game in to constant madness by lobbing your friends off the map and endlessly kill them instead. You go from having great fun, to experiencing great annoyance and eventually end with uncontrollable laughter… a staple of multiplayer gaming if there ever was one. All of this ends with boss battles and then carries on continuously.

Each level is procedurally generated. That’s right, 2014’s buzz word returns and in this case, you get the fun of different levels every time. Although they do follow a basic rule set across the three different worlds of the game, set to some fairly heavy rock music. The game’s story is that it’s set in Rökheim, which is described as “a giant scar of godforsaken earth where wars are waged in underground crypts built by the gods themselves”… *Insert generic town insult here* But they are all yours to loot, pillage and get coin! Dungeons are awesome like that.

Whilst we were at EGX Rezzed we got to have a look at the game at the ID@Xbox stand. It was interesting to see the dynamic of four friends sat down and slowly realise that they can play the game and at the same time, screw each other over. It’s something this writer remembers very fondly, that communal sense of hating someone for ruining the experience of a game, but it was so frequent and often that much laughter was had. That particular experience was on Halo 3, but we can see ourselves having similar experiences with Super Dungeon Bros.

[Rule One: Where there are skull and monk like creatures - Avoid.]

[Rule One: Where there are skull and monk like creatures – Avoid.]

Do not fear though, as despite it being on the Xbox stand, it isn’t an exclusive. As we watched a group of people try hard to throw each other off of a floating tower, the developers told me that the game will also come to Windows 10 and will benefit from the same cross platform play as Fable Legends is going to have between that operating system and Xbox One. Although the game is also coming out on PS4, PC (older versions of Windows) and Mac and is also cross-platform on those formats as well. Which led us to presume that there will be some Steam integration for this cross platform support.

The game we saw was the first every playable version of the game and we were quite impressed with how stable it was (given that we have seen some games lately that aren’t at all). The game is due to be released sometime towards the end of this year by US developer, React Games and Watford based Wired Productions. The game is being developed in the Unity engine too so it should be rather pretty without being too strenuous on a system.

It is early days yet for this game and there’s a lot that is sure to come over the coming months, especially with more game shows and the ID@Xbox banner behind them. The self-publishing vehicle already has a lot of great games that have been released or will be released shortly. This certainly looks like one game that will be an entertaining party choice for those of us inclined to troll our friends.

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WWE Network – Review

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This week is wrestling week at TheGameJar. Which means we’ve asked all our writers to share memories of wrestling games past and present. Today, instead of a game, Sean looks at an app which is making a lot of noise and gaining a lot of subscribers.

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The WWE Network app certainly has made a big impact since finally releasing in the UK. It’s also something that a lot of people have asked me about since subscribing. Is it worth it? What’s on it? Is it just all the new rubbish? Well we thought we’d answer that for you. If you watch WWE at all then you cannot escape the rhetoric of constant promotion and advertising on its programming. There are a lot of good things about it, but the one that’s made the most headlines is the lack of quality in the current product (see the 2015 Royal Rumble match). I can’t argue that, but there’s a great deal that’s excellent.

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[Current WWE NXT Champion Kevin Owens, who is making the Powerbomb a feared move again.]

Firstly there’s WWE NXT, which had been on Sky Sports before now. It’s a developmental brand for WWE that has transcended its status to become a bit of a cult hit. One hour focused on new and great wrestling talent, without the storyline flack that the two big shows seem to be filled with. The divas get a proper wrestling outing too, showcasing the talent the WWE has in its wings for the future, and talent that will be very familiar for those who follow the independent promotions where a lot of these wrestlers cut their teeth.

In fact it’s the lack of the two big shows on the network that’s the most disappointing. There isn’t the big back catalogue of Raw and Smackdown that there could be. For all of the 1000 odd shows that there are of Raw, there’s not even a tenth of it on there. Same goes for Smackdown. There’s no Sunday Night The list can go on There are probably reasons for this and some things are slowly being brought out, like WCW Monday Nitro. But there isn’t even a hint at almost a decade’s worth of television, which is very disappointing. Although there’s lots of classic WWE like Tuesday Night Titans, Prime Time Wrestling and Saturday Night’s Main Event.

The thing is, you’d need to be quite the wrestling boffin to want and know of these things. What WWE Network does really well is its Pay-Per-View content, it’s highlighting of classic and brilliant wrestling and its in depth look at some of the greatest stars we’ve had. WWE has produced some excellent, if not incredibly biased, looks at the careers of many wrestlers, factions and promotions.

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[Great shows like Legends of Wrestling show that smoking cigars is very cool.]

Everything from former stars like The Hardy brothers to recent Triple H documentaries, all with interviews from many people. Stand out ones include a look at Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Paul Heyman, both creative geniuses and arguably the greatest managers in the history of the genre. There’s some great specials from the vaults like the Legends of Wrestling roundtable chats which seem to be filled with lots of smoking… Seriously, everyone smokes in WWE apparently. There’s the excellent looks at now defunct promotions like ECW, WCW and AWA although again with a WWE bias. In fact one of the standout things, although stretched out over a full season it can get a bit repetitive, is the documentary of the Monday Night War. The television ratings battle between WWE (WWF at the time) and WCW which ushered in a golden age of wrestling and the Attitude era that we all remember so fondly.

The hardcore wrestling fans might be a bit disappointed at the occasional editing due to licensing purposes like music and the very fine cuts of events that we all love. But credit to WWE, it hasn’t been shy in putting tricky content out there. One former wrestler in particular is included in programming which is good as before terrible events, he was an excellent wrestler and is part of sports entertainment history. There are many disclaimers before most of the content that isn’t PG programming or programming they created themselves.

Technically the app on every console works very well. I’ve tested it on Xbox One, PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360. In fact the worst iteration of the app I’ve tested is the iPad version which also doubles as the generic WWE app for news. Although I’ve never had a problem finding content, everything is laid out in an easy to find manner, the quality of the streaming is excellent and very rarely drops and the PlayStation versions of the app include nice little chapter points to fast forward easily to specific matches. Why the Xbox version doesn’t have these I have no idea, because it really should.

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[Still my personal favourite Wrestling/Alan Partridge crossover.]

What this app does do is allow us to relieve what we loved as young people in the big and special nights. We can go back and watch Mick Foley being thrown off the cell. We can revisit the real Icon vs. Icon matches like Rock vs. Hogan and Ric Flair vs. Harley Race. We can look at those matches we never see nowadays like the hardcore matches, the first One Night Stand events and most of the ECW back catalogue and the original Hardyz vs. Edge and Christian ladder match. We can all relive our WrestleMania moments again and, thanks to the great value, you can watch all the new ones too without having to pay Sky £15 every time for just one show.

Whilst this can be for the purist, it’s great if you have young family members who are fans but can’t afford a Sky subscription or Pay-Per-View costs. It’s parental controls stop most things you don’t want them to see and you can relieve your best memories. Faces you’ve likely forgotten and ones that have never left you. Yes, there is a lot of content that is missing but arguably, a lot that’s missing isn’t worth being put on or is coming. Except for the huge gap in Raw and Smackdown replays, WWE Network hits the right button for fans of wrestling and those guys who remember what things used to be like.

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Hotline Miami 2 Wrong Number – Review

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Hotline Miami 2 follows on from the enormously successful indie game Hotline Miami. For those of you that have probably seen but not played it before, allow me to enlighten you as to the status quo. Hotline Miami is a 2D top down shooter that is played at a frenetic and unforgiving pace. The style, which takes an eclectic look at the 80s through the eyes of an unnamed man (known by the community as Jacket and is inspired by the movie Drive), is a colourful and vibrant psychedelic mind explosion that is beautifully married with extremely prejudicial violence and an amazing electronica-fused soundtrack.

[Where everybody knows your name... Or mask, rather.]

[Where everybody knows your name… Or mask, rather.]

It was quite simply marvellous and extremely difficult and frustrating all at the same time. Hotline Miami 2 sets itself to conclude the story of the first game, a story that was a strange mix of imaginary and forced coercion into violent acts by the mob, and delivered by a narrator that was so unreliable, he’d probably get a job as Middle-East peace envoy. In a series of flashbacks and fast-forwards, which are beautifully realised by some excellent old VHS tape and tracking effects, Hotline Miami 2 gives you the before and the after of the first game, putting in to perspective the events that caused the extreme violence that’s tricky but enjoyable.

Whilst this is an excellent mechanic of course and the story actually tells you very little of what is actually going on (which might frustrate those of you looking for closure), it’s the constant jarring between different times and characters that will sit most uncomfortably for those used to a more linear experience. It possibly could have done well to have these flashbacks in their own chapters with the book-writing journalist bridging the narrative gaps. But as a criticism of the method in the game, it can lose you, especially if you spend a while on a tricky level and suddenly get thrown into unexplained mid-80s Hawaii with a covert military unit taking out rebels.

In fact at times in these levels the game becomes quite nostalgic for the older gamer. It’s less “Honolulu Strangler” and more “Operation Wolf.” Remember that arcade game? That big heavy plastic gun controller with moving parts that was always five times the size of your hands, whatever age you were? The comparisons don’t stop there. Where the first game echoed the inspiration of Drive, Hotline Miami 2 throws in the crime and decadence of Scarface, echoes of Platoon and Apocalypse Now in military thrillers, and a very unique look at societies fascination for physical and sexual violence in film and how it can blur reality. You are still left with questions and guesses to the real reasons of what’s going on, despite the political power plays happening in the background and the shared psychosis of the chicken mask. If this is the last one then the story is open ended enough to leave you wanting more.

[Shopping on Black Friday always ended badly.]

[Shopping on Black Friday always ended badly.]

The gameplay however isn’t as good as everything else going on around it. Playing on a controller is difficult but once you get in to it, it’s easy to use. Thankfully that responsive challenging control method and crazy pace hasn’t changed at all, but everything around it is a bit trickier than before. Which would be great if it feels like an intention of the game, but it feels a bit annoying, like the game has just copied the AI across form the first game without improving on it. Most annoying is when there are many enemies off-screen that kill you very readily.

The controls to scan around the area are also fairly short in their stretch and there are several instances where the pathing of the enemies, especially dogs, gets caught up on something and starts spinning around. The new enemies that involve a bit more of a challenge are great but almost impossible when surrounded by more than one person with a gun. Sometimes the enemies feel a bit too awkward in their positions and dogs can be especially tricky if your timing is even a beat of a millionth of a second off when hitting the button.

Although your new characters can do cool things like stretching their arms to shoot horizontally in both directions, control a chainsaw and a gun at the same time, and barrel roll out of the way of fire, it’s the lack of the weapons and masks from the first game that sadly take away some of the replayability of the game. The level designs are good but ultimately don’t feel any different from the first. I personally would have loved more interactive things around the areas and the houses in the level introductions. They are there as newspaper cuttings, but a few more and maybe some more humorous spots could have bumped this further than being sequel that doesn’t change it up too much.

[For the stars of DuckTales, early fame led to a bad crowd.]

[For the stars of DuckTales, early fame led to a bad crowd.]

With that being said, for the negative aspects of how the game hasn’t grown or changed, it has a butt load of things that it’s absolutely excelled at. If you follow any games writer, PR person or general gaming related avatar on Twitter, you’ll know the Hotline Miami soundtrack is required Friday listening. Well, we’re adding another playlist to the Friday sounds. Hotline Miami 2’s soundtrack is not only longer, but also better and amazingly posited to the levels they are on. It’s actually a bit of an artistic masterwork when you see how seamless it is and how much the music keeps you in the game during the frustrating constant respawns.

The retro look at the 80s is also fantastic from video tracking and VCR sub menus when you pause the game, to the excellent use of Video Nasty cassette tapes as the level selections and the video rewinding effects to instigate flashbacks. It’s not style over substance by any means but the style is a key part of what makes Hotline Miami 2 a great game and as great as first one.

Hotline Miami 2 is once again an incredible ode-to-violence that will divide players between those who see it as a challenge, those who see it as masochistic, those who just love the look and sound of it and those who don’t have a damn clue what’s going on. There are some criticisms of the violence it portrays and that the sexual violence in the beginning is gratuitous and unnecessary. Which it is and the fact you can turn it off is an admission of that. The game hasn’t leapt on from the first and in some cases has taken stuff away that we would have loved. But what the game does best is put an incredible pop-culture visual over challenging levels that will dictate your Spotify playlists for many years. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I can hear my phone going off.

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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has fulfilled everything we expected and asked for in a sequel, which was “more of the same, please”. More music, more 80s style, more challenging shooty fun. But we probably didn’t realise that we’d have liked a bit more refinement, maybe a bit of cohesion between flashback sequences and bit more of an improvement in the AI. But you don’t get what you don’t ask for, right?

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  • Super awesome soundtrack
  • The conclusion and background to an intriguing story
  • More of the same from the first game

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  • Hasn’t changed enough, and removed some masked fun
  • Regular death from enemies outside of all vision
  • Narrative can be jarring in flashbacks

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There’s a great game here, and a game that when you look past the amazing soundtrack that we love, the visual style that we applaud and the unreliable narrative we all discuss, could have been better. Little things like the enemy AI, being shot from off screen too often and a lack of improvement in that area of the game holds it back a bit. But it is still a great game and terrific value.

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This review was based on the PS4 version of the game.

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LEGO Jurassic World – Preview

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Hold on to your butts… Clever Girl… Life will find a way… I’m getting these out of the way early so I am not tempted to fill this preview with many puns. But it’s true, there are numerous moments throughout the history of the trilogy (soon to be quadrilogy) of the failed Dinosaur theme park that have adorned our popular culture both visually and in quotes. Which is why it makes perfect sense for it to be a LEGO game. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before but if we’re honest, we’ve all wanted a great Jurassic Park game.

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[You know back in my day – the Cretaceous period – gluten intolerance wasn’t a thing.]

There have been people that have tried but in all honesty, LEGO as a video game franchise hasn’t produced a full on turkey of a game yet. So it’s good to see that the game we all wanted may well be best served by LEGO. In fact I’ve got a list of franchises that I would love to see in blocks. For now though, I can’t wait to build my first Dinosaur.

Yes, whilst there’s a lot that we’ll talk about with LEGO Jurassic World, the important thing is that you can build your own dinosaur and wreak havoc with it. Along with the dinosaurs from the movies, including the new movie, you’ll be able to unlock them all as you play the game. Much like in the films, Amber will contain dinosaur DNA for you to collect. This will unlock one of the twenty dinosaurs, which you can then use to create your own, much like the character creator that’s already there for custom players. Except in this case you’ll also get the abilities of that dinosaur’s part. Acid spitting? Sure thing. Finally giving a T-Rex long arms? It’s about time! And we’re told there’s an arena of sorts which you can pit your dinosaur creations against each other. Which, as a sentence, is pretty cool.

LEGO Jurassic World will have a lot from the new movie of the same name although right now we’re not allowed to know anything about it, because obviously that would spoil the movie. But the game follows the original three movies as well and there have been some very seminal movie moments in them. So we were given a few levels from the first movie to play.

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[Here’s a scene we all forget where human inability to do simple logistics ends in someone being eaten.]

First up, we got to takeover as extinct-species-poop expert Dr. Ellie Sattler who gets to delve into some LEGO dung and cure a Triceratops with lollipops and fruit. You can then control the Triceratops in order to bash things and complete the mission. It’s standard LEGO stuff until the storm starts approaching. Yes, THAT storm from the movie that so excellently screws over Dennis Nedry’s escape from Isla Nublar. There is a dynamic weather and day/night system in LEGO Jurassic World, which will enable things in the exploration phase of the game to change randomly, as well as in levels to suit the film’s transposed dramatic moments.

Our next dramatic moment involves our favourite lawyer getting eaten. The scene of the T-Rex escaping the disabled electric fence and bullying a couple of kids (stupid T-Rex) in an upturned car is replicated very well. Highlights include the original voice work from the movie (including the wise-cracking Jeff Goldblum), constructing a distracting musical box that plays a version of John William’s excellent theme, and the special abilities of the characters. Dr. Alan Grant’s Velociraptor claw can cut through foliage whilst Lex Murphy, the screaming granddaughter of John Hammond, can scream which will break glass.

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[Objects in this mirror may be more blocky than they appear.]

Finally, we see the cheeky and broken-legged Ian Malcolm being rescued by Ellie and warden Robert Muldoon, before being chased by the rampantly annoyed T-Rex. You can also shoot things in to its mouth for an added bonus, but I was personally gutted to see our favourite mirror joke not make an appearance. Again this kind of level design is something that LEGO has done very well before and LEGO Jurassic World is no different.

Whilst the mechanics of play may slightly change between the games, it is a truly tried and tested formula that lends itself to a lot of nuances in Jurassic Park. One of which is the return to a more expansive open world and hub system. The Tolkein franchise games (Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) all had a sense of the journey and the excellent areas of Middle-Earth. Whilst the two recent super hero franchise games have an open-ish world, it wasn’t the in depth and changeable areas that the Tolkein ones were, in my opinion anyway.

LEGO Jurassic World combats that by having two hubs and both the islands from the movies to explore, Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna. You’ll have the dynamic weather mechanic and of course the parks themselves. Mr. DNA, the theme park’s mascot, will be guiding you along the way as well as giving you education bite-sized Dino facts.

Mostly, I’ll be excited to replay various things from the movies and by association, watch all of them again. Too often I only watch the first one because it’s on TV conveniently on the same day and time that I order pizza. With LEGO Jurassic World, we appear to have ticked many boxes: Movie dialogue, excellent music, interesting levels replicated in LEGO and the beautiful South American islands of prehistoric genetically re-introduced doom. So if the early levels are any indication, then the LEGO franchise has found another new home in it’s chameleonic existence, and hasn’t jumped the Megalodon just yet.

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Not a Hero – Hands On Preview

NOAFT

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Not a Hero will have a lot of attention coming its way. Developer Roll7 won a BAFTA for their skateboard game OlliOlli and their platform shooter is equally as addictive.

The game may hark back to the days of classic platformer design, things you’d likely see from a Spectrum, Commodore and occasionally 16-Bit consoles. But the look is very much of the 80s vibe. From the days when gaming’s limited colour palette meant bright and fun level designs.

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[Bunnylord is not afraid to get his paws dirty.]

The premise is intriguing and continuously funny (I’ll explain that statement later). The idea is that the not-so-evil visionary, Bunnylord, has decided to go back in time to become Mayor. Mostly because the world got in to such a state in the future that only he could change it by going back to the past. When he is there, he hires a group of mercenaries to eliminate those opposing his leadership. You are those mercenaries.

You’re not technically the bad guys though because Bunnylord is right and although his methods might be one you’d attribute to an evil megalomaniac, you are in fact cleaning up the town. And if you’ve played OlliOlli or any other Roll7 game, you’ll know that it’s something you’ll be doing at a frenetic pace that requires precision timing. Not a Hero does this perfectly with gameplay that’s reminiscent of the best shooting platformers of the 8-bit and 16-Bit age like Robocop Vs Terminator or that decent Batman game. You have very simple options but it’s the timing that makes it work. You can shoot, which is the easiest thing, get in to cover and shoot, fly through a door and tackle enemies or execute them.

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[Someone took the Blue Pill, we see.]

Instead of the awkward, or should we say challenging, control methods of other violent games like Hotline Miami, Not a Hero is incredibly easy because it operates with only one or two buttons, and very rarely are they operated at the same time. Like OlliOlli, the time that you hit the button and the moments you choose to pop out of cover, or jump out of a building is more important than the shooting itself. Scenes of buildings with a slightly isometric front on view give a great indication of what’s around you as well as an interesting city landscape dominated by “Bunnylord for Mayor” signs. He’s not evil, he’s cute…

Until he starts speak to one of your nine characters that is. This is where the game is continuously funny and incredibly sweary. A lot of people have put a big importance on procedural generation within games, however that’s been limited to the gameplay and the levels. Just check Steam Early Access or Kickstarter and you’ll see that procedural generation is now massively prevalent. Not a Hero has put some procedural generation in the speech rather than the levels, or at least you could say some randomisation. What happens is certain key words are replaced and changed when Bunnylord is talking to you and given you orders, leading to often hilarious and new passages of dialogue every time you play. It gives a new lease of life around the game repeatedly, especially when the levels are so gosh darn replayable.

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[It’s important to utilise cover against the gangs you’re cleaning up. You know, so you don’t die?]

We are introduced to the world when Steve, a former assassin, gets involved with “mayoral candidate from the future” Bunnylord, and becomes his campaign manager. Then begins the slanted 2D, or 2 and one quarter ISO-Slant technology as Roll7 call it, craziness of the cover-shooter… Which actually isn’t limited to shooting. Samuari swords, kick ass Tarantino-esque moments, jumping out of 5 story windows directly in to a van (which was a very enjoyable part of the demo we played) and a various cacophony of comedic 8-bit violence. The missions themselves are normally a fixed objective but you do get, much like in OlliOlli, a list of secondary things that you can accomplish in the level. Things like 3 executions slide tackle 5 enemies, that kind of thing. And these are occasionally randomised as well so that brings another new level of challenges to the game.

In our play through with Cletus, our shotgun gave us some great range. Being able to shoot through doors and enter a room straight in to cover like a violent pixilated ballet gave us great hope for the rest of the game. The characters all have their own weapons and unique personalities and I’m not sure there’s a better, non-evil, humanitarian potential candidate for government than Bunnylord in all of existence. I kind of hope he hijacks our actual national election and given the pictures on the official website I don’t think he’s beyond that, especially as the release date on Steam (PC) is May 7th… Election day. Coincidence? I think not. Whoever becomes mayor, the PS4 and PS Vita will see a release later in the year.

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Mortal Kombat X – Interview with Hans Lo

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The last time I saw and played Mortal Kombat X was back in August at Gamescom. Then we had a great little sneak peek and play with new character Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. Last week, more was announced as the story mode revealed multiple characters in a story set 25 years after the events of 2011’s Mortal Kombat. We sent Sean down to London to chat with Hans Lo, Senior Producer of the series form NetherRealm Studios, and asked why they’ve decided to leap in to the future…

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I think it was part of the creative freedom [of the series]. It was part of discussion within the group, everyone was talking about next-gen hardware, next-gen this, next-gen that, and it kind of stuck in our head: “Next-Gen… Next-Gen…” So we started making up next-gen characters and obviously if we do that we have to ask how far in the future do we want to go? A few years? A lot of years? A hundred years? So we kind of played around with that, tried to figure out what would be the most compelling story around that idea. In the end we said 25 years, you’ve got a bunch of young kids who think they know everything and have the out-to-conquer-the-world mentality. But it’s not so far out in the future that the original warriors aren’t going to be these decrepit old guys saying “Back in may day we used to do an uppercut”, we didn’t want any of that. So it seemed the best way, the easiest way to keep the iconic characters around whilst introducing new characters.

With the new generation and new characters, are you hoping that a lot of people that haven’t played the game for a while that now have these newer consoles will look at this and go “oooh I used to like that!”

I think that’s always a plus. We do have classic characters for the hardcore fans who really like those characters, but at the same time we wanted to do something fresh and new and that’s something we always do. Looking back, what have we done in the past, what works with mobile, what can we build upon, what can we improve upon. So adding a new set of characters seemed like the right thing to do, bring a bit of fresh air to the story.

But of course they keep their roots in the previous iterations of the story. Are the characters move sets of dictated by their backgrounds?

They’re influenced; they’re not to the point where they’re completely cloned. It’s not “I’ve seen Johnny Cage do this and it’s exactly the same move” it’s more like it’s themed and flavoured. But at the same time they’re going that have their own unique moves. It’s not going to be a literal – half the move sets for Cassie come from Johnny and the other from Sonya. It’s more like there’s two or three here that are reminiscent but the move set is wholly unique to her. We definitely want to make each character stand out. Creating characters that have personalities of their own and have moves that match with those personalities.

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Moving on to the game, everything’s there that the hardcore MK fans like, from new executions, new locations, etc. How do you bring the new stuff in to the game and the story so it compliments each other?

Obviously the characters is part of it and some of the environments are introduced in the story. But then at the same time we’ve done a couple of stories now in our games and one of the thing’s we’ve learned is that chapters based on characters seem to work really well. One is that it gives you a chance to learn about the characters back story and it gives you world experience with who they are, where they come from and what their personalities are like. The second it also gives you a chance to play characters that you normally wouldn’t have picked on your own. It exposes you to the different characters and different abilities those characters have. What we’ve also done this time around is add the interactive cinematic experience which means as you’re playing through the game, watching the story, there’s going to be times where you’ll have to get involved, act and guide the story and personalise it a bit to how you want to play the game.

When playing through the first chapter I caught on too late and missed a few buttons, but it didn’t ruin my gameplay or reset me to an earlier point. The game leads you in the same point in the story so the cinematic interactivity didn’t impact the result. I asked why?

We don’t want to penalize you for missing these things either but if you want to go back and play again and say “ok so I’m going to fail this one but pass this one just to see how it plays out.

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The characters in Mortal Kombat X will have three different styles of play. Before a match you can select what kind of style you want  to play, whether you’re a blockbuster move kind of person, a movement blocker, and so on. The game adapts the style and moves to how you play based on your choice. Is this just for the single player vs modes against the AI/People and online or is there more?

You’ll be exposed to some of it in the story. It’s not going to be a situation where you get to a fight and you can choose what you want because it fits best. But outside of the story you’ll be able to choose what best fits you, against the computer or friends. At that point you can decide which variation is best for you, that’ll match your style of play.

This year sees the introduction of the Living Towers. The towers, formerly the challenge tower, will update regularly as to what matches are available on either an hourly, daily or weekly basis. So you’re doing these challenge themed events that will be different each time randomised and planned. Why have you decided to invigorate that area of the game?

Well this is the evolution of our challenge tower that you’ve seen in the previous games. That was a very big tower, very long and while we got a lot of great feedback from people enjoying it, we found out a lot of people couldn’t make it all the way through, some people found it was a little intimidating. So we thought maybe we’d do these smaller towers and to keep them fresh we’ll make them living towers so they update with challenges from time to time like the hourly ones will be very quick easy challenges, the daily ones will be a little longer and take a little more work and the weekly event ones will be more difficult. No one is required to do these but if they want to they can and if they want to come back a little later there’ll be a new challenge for them.

The biggest thing, with mobile coming as well, is the faction system. The games kind of interweave the impact on each other. Tell us a little bit how you decided to make that interconnectivity part of Mortal Kombat X.

Well we wanted to make it more social and that’s kind of what the driving force behind the whole faction idea was. The idea of being part of a group. Because people like to be part of a group, contributing to part of it. So that’s the attitude we had when creating the factions. You can contribute however you want to contribute. If you want to play mobile and achieve points that way. If you want to play online matches, you can achieve points that way. If you want to play offline on console, you can achieve points that way. Contribute how you want, play how you want. The fact that mobile opens up more combat that you can play anywhere, anytime, you’re no longer restricted to “Oh I’ve got to be home at four so I can play the game” but more “… I’ve got some time to kill.” Take out your mobile device, kick back and play. It’s all tied to your WB Play ID so as long as you’re using the same ID on whatever device, the points will all add to your faction.

And you’ll be able unlock characters and bonuses on both the console and mobile versions of the game this way?

You’ll get these challenges that pop up from time to time and you’ll unlock the character if you complete them. It’s a way to keep rewarding the players and engage them.

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Titan Souls – Hands On Preview

tspft

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Titan Souls is a very interesting game by three man team Acid Nerve and is being published by Devolver Digital. What started originally as a game jam project between friends has grown up somewhat and will make its debut on PC, PS Vita and PS4 in April. The premise is simple. Boss battles. The game is a series of boss battles against you, your spritey little adventurer. There’s the added bonus that you don’t have to do much either as all of the bosses have one hit point/health point. So one shot and they are dead! Excellent.

["No Salesmen Please"... Phew!]

[“No Salesmen Please”… Phew!]

The problem with this is that you only have one hit point too. So one shot and you’re dead, although you respawn outside the boss battle room to try again. It’s made slightly harder by the fact you only have one weapon, an arrow. You can charge up your shot to fire from distance and POW! Except you only have the one arrow so you have to go and get it back or press the recall button to magically pull it back to you.

The art of boss battles is one thing that hasn’t been lost in gaming. By that I mean that, unless you play everything on such an easy level you could accidentally sneeze and hit the shoot button in something’s face, you have to study, learn and adapt to beat a boss within a game. It’s one of the things that stories are made of, how you defeated the boss, how you did it differently, how quick you did it. Boss battles are a narrative part of the gaming experience.

Titan Souls is no different. Each boss is unique and you have to adapt your approach for each one. For example, a boss with a heart in a load of slime globules will divide into more globules and that makes for a tricky area to move around in. Some bosses need to have a bit of puzzle solving applied before you strike. It’s these little nuances in boss battles that makes Titan Souls quite enjoyable.

["Follow me, I'll take you back to your FarCry 4 DLC!"]

[“Follow me, I’ll take you back to your FarCry 4 DLC!”]

One hit point and one shot may sound masochistic but the sense of achievement for beating a boss in that way is a very rewarding feeling. It’s made even better when you’ve worked out a plan and pulled it off. Or even if you surprise yourself, like I did, by accidentally killing a boss with the arrow as it was being recalled and the boss was in the line of sight. And from this you’ll absorb that bosses soul, much in the way video game characters have absorbed spinning etherial particles and exploded ever since the movie Highlander’s Connor MacLeod said “There can be only one!”*

*Disclaimer: Sean may or may not have said this rather loudly while playing.

Titan Souls is also very well put together visually. The 16-bit inspired RPG look is pretty but also uncluttered. It doesn’t detract at all from the game, the battles or anything, yet it’s atheistically pleasing. You might feel it’s more of a Pokemon style look rather than an old top down RPG one, but the actual surroundings feel more like a Lara Croft-eqsue forgotten temple to these behemoth bosses. Vines and waterfalls over stone and tribal architecture, along with murals and ‘open sesame’ doors.

The bosses as well are all incredibly individual and look great, really putting the imagination to work in the artistic approach of the game. I faced the aforementioned Heart-Glob (if it doesn’t have a name yet then I’m coining that one), a laser cube that’s adorned like the Hellraiser puzzle box and a frozen pink thing stuck in a seemingly impenetrable ice cube. There’s 18 in all and you don’t need to kill all of them to complete the game so you can approach it however you want. The best thing is that you can’t even predict the bosses when you first play. They are all so different in look, style and attack that there’s a certain excitement at what you’re going to find next.

[The Return of Audrey II]

[The Return of Audrey II]

It’s a game that has a simple premise and a simple look (which is actually very hard to pull off). The gameplay itself is challenging and something that makes you think about how you approach a situation or a battle. Not just in the tactical sense but also how you react to your plan going south, as all plans normally do. It will certainly be one of those games where you have to beat everything just to feel like you’ve accomplished something, especially as it’s a game that’s happy to kill you repeatedly for your troubles.

The PS4 and PS Vita is getting this game along with PC but it has to be said that it really does suit the controller with its simple aim, shoot and dodge mechanics. It puts itself very nicely in to your hands. It may not keep you busy for a long time, but it has a lovely look, and an interesting charm to the idea of boss battles. It kind of makes you a little nostalgic to the way boss battles used to be in platform games, and how rewarding they were before a singular omnipresent antagonist. Enjoy it when it comes as it’s a nice example of a gaming staple being given a new and interesting life.

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