XBLA Previews

PAX Prime: Super T.I.M.E. Force doubles up the term ‘blast from the past’

Posted on by Anthony Swinnich in Previews, XBLA, XBLA Previews | 1 Comment

Capybara Games has gone back to the 80s in the newest preview build of Super T.I.M.E. Force. By 80s, I mean 80,000,000 BC, or the Cretaceous era. That’s right — it’s a pixelated shooter with a unique hook, and now it includes dinosaurs. Continue reading as soon as you’re done fist-pumping.

The basis of the game hasn’t changed from the build at PAX East 2012. The game is a side-scrolling action-shooter in the vein of Contra, where you’re tasked with blasting through as many enemies as possible until you reach the end of the level. The enemies are usually placed in the most inconvenient place possible for the player — a flamethrowing enemy at the bottom of a ramp and out of view, pointing his weapon toward the top, for example — so you’ll likely die many times when tackling a level for the first time. However, dying is actually a big part of how the game plays. Restarting allows your previous attempts to repeat their actions alongside you as “ghosts”, meaning their bullets will kill the same enemies they did the first time through. It’s not uncommon to see an entire gang of ghostly soldiers around a player who died more than a few times on a difficult stretch. If you can prevent them from perishing then you’ll be able to save them and add their life back into your total. That spot will also serve as a checkpoint to restart from, should you fail again in the future.

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PAX East: Sprinting a Familiar, but Welcome, Second Lap with Bit.Trip.Runner2

Posted on by Anthony Swinnich in Previews, PSN, PSN Previews, XBLA, XBLA Previews | Leave a comment

The reveal of Bit.Trip Presents: Runner2 was a bit of a surprise to me. Gaijin Games’ head honcho Alex Neuse assured me that the studio’s next game would be “something totally different” from the Bit.Trip series way back at PAX Prime 2010. Also, the story concluded rather soundly with the release of Bit.Trip FLUX. Despite these details, it’s hard to complain about there being another Bit.Trip game. After playing the first 19 levels at PAX East, I can safely say we seem to be in for the good kind of trip.

Gaijin hasn’t done much to alter the core formula of what was the most successful game in the series with its sequel. It’s an auto-scrolling platformer with a small plethora of moves to remember. What begins as simply jumping over pits eventually evolves into kicking through obstacles and sliding under ledges. The demo build builds your arsenal slowly, teaching the player the tricks they’ll need to survive one at a time. Anyone who has played a Bit.Trip before can tell you that the later levels can be complex and challenging, sometimes maddening, so this gentle curve is welcome.

Runner2 isn’t just more of the same, though. Some of the core moves have new twists that add to Commander Video’s repertoire. You can now jump while sliding and kick while jumping, which were sorely missed in the original. The level design will expand to include these wrinkles as well. There are new moves as well, though their functionality isn’t finalized. The Commander can now dance for point bonuses and a timed-button pressing minigame is housed within Sonic the Hedgehog-esque loops. Read more

PAX East: Murdering Monsters in Hell Yeah!

Posted on by Mike Wall in PC, PC Previews, Previews, PSN, PSN Previews, XBLA, XBLA Previews | Leave a comment

“We’re going to kill monsters. There will be blood. We’re going to torture them.” That was the mantra behind Arkedo Studios’ Hell Yeah!, a game that would look right at home on Nickelodeon if the network turned a blind eye to the game’s ocean of blood.

Hell Yeah! isn’t a high concept, pretentious game looking to change how the world feels about games or life. Studio Head Camille Guermonprez said the bloodbath was designed around one simple question: “How fun can it be to kill a monster?” The developer is quite candid about the inspirations for his Metroidvania adventure. “We wanted to make a video game. The stuff that made us want to make games.”

Hell Yeah! is set in a cheerfully demented version of hell where Ash, the prince of the underworld who also happens to be a skeletal demon rabbit, has gone on a monster-killing rampage because the tabloids have posted risqué pictures of him. It’s an escapist fantasy born out of months of tedious contract work where Arkedo had limited freedom. It was a stifling environment for a studio designed around being creative and taking risks. “The project was based out of frustration,” Guermonprez said, recalling the doldrums of the contract days. “We’re happy to have been frustrated. It was worth it.” Read more

PAX East: You Are the Wyvern in Crimson Dragon

Posted on by Dave Voyles in Previews, XBLA, XBLA Previews | 3 Comments

Nostalgia can be a funny thing. Gamers often look back on games or consoles that defined their childhoods with rose-tinted glasses that often adjust their view of history. I fondly remember placing the disc for Panzer Dragoon into my Sega Saturn for the first time in 1995. The first stage opened with the beautifully orchestrated track Flight, and an oceanic ruin appeared before me as I rode gracefully on the back of an armored dragon. I remember thinking “This is it. This is the next generation of gaming.”

I went back to play all three of the Saturn’s Panzer Dragoon titles earlier this year, and soon came to the realization that while they do not hold up by any means visually, the gameplay and incredible soundtracks are still in tip-top shape. We haven’t had a title in the series since Panzer Dragoon Orta’s appearance on the original Xbox in 2002. Imagine my amazement when walking across the show floor at PAX East this weekend I spotted what seemed to be a Panzer Dragoon game on display at Microsoft’s Kinect booth.

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PAX East: Skulls of the Shogun Shows All of Its Cards

Posted on by Dave Voyles in PC, PC Previews, Previews, XBLA, XBLA Previews | Leave a comment

We last saw Skulls of the Shogun during 2011’s PAX East. Since then, developer Haunted Temple Studios has come a long way towards improving not only the game’s aesthetic, but also refining the gameplay for a larger audience.

The presentation is stunning, from the whimsical and offbeat dialogue, to the smooth animations as my characters gallop gracefully across the battlefield before striking into battle. Haunted Temple’s professionalism and love for all things Japanese even extends to their media kit, which is reminiscent of a Sega Saturn jewel case; perhaps it’s a love letter from studio lead Jake Kazdal’s years spent in Japan.

At its heart, Skulls is a turn-based strategy game heavily inspired by the Nintendo DS’s Advance Wars series. Players take control of a recently deceased and stubborn samurai general from feudal Japan who refuses to finish his transition into the afterlife. Along the way, he recruits other spectral soldiers to do his bidding and fight by his side. Should your general die, the game is over, but his pawns are disposable and are always willing to die (again) for their cause. A low barrier to entry is a key element to the game, as players are limited to three unit types, each with their own distinct advantages.

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Pax East: Hands on Deadlight: Out of This (Undead) World

Posted on by Mike Wall in Previews, XBLA Previews | 2 Comments

Games are all about empowerment. They stick the player in perilous situations where most real-life people would almost certainly fail, and provide the tools to defy all the odds. No soldier is as bloodthirsty as the protagonist in Call of Duty, a scrawny boxer would never crawl into the ring with Mike Tyson, and I’m fairly certain my right winger would comfortably hold the NHL single-season scoring record with his 345 goals.

But what would it be like to really live in a post-apocalyptic world infested with zombies? That’s what developer Tequila Works is exploring in Deadlight. It’s not a game about finding a cure or eradicating the zombies. “You’re not saving the world. The world is already dead,” said Creative Director Raúl Rubio. This 2D adventure has more in common with the original Prince of Persia than Left 4 Dead. Zombies, which the game calls ‘shadows,’ should be avoided at all costs.

“It’s not focused on zombies; [it's] focused on surviving in a world that is dead,” said Lead Designer Lucas González Torres. That description extends well beyond the fact that the world is crawling with zombies. The entire world feels desolate and abandoned: filled with dilapidated buildings and crumbling highways. It’s set in an alternate version of 1986, and you play as Randal Wayne, a Joe-everyman kind of guy who seems completely unremarkable in every way, except for the fact that he is one of the few people who survived the unknown calamity that destroyed civilization. Read more

PAX East: Hands on Super T.I.M.E. Force: A Blast To The Past

Posted on by Dave Voyles in Previews, XBLA Previews | 2 Comments

Canadian dev team Capybara (Capy) Games, most notably known for their recent iOS hit Super Brothers EP: Sword and Sworcery, revealed their newest title, Super T.I.M.E. Force, to an unsuspecting audience during the IGF Awards show at GDC. Unsure of what to make of the surprise attack, and with little information to go on, I was uncertain of what to expect when I had my first opportunity to experience the game at the PAX Indie Mega Booth.

Grabbing a seat alongside technical director Kenneth Yeung, I picked up a controller and selected the first of three playable characters: a machine gunner whose special attack was a multi-shot burst, similar to the spread gun in Contra. Speaking of which, Contra fans will instantly feel at home with this game’s pixilated, nostalgic appearance, punishing one-hit deaths, and chaotic on-screen action.

Dying just a few moments after my adventure began, my screen began to rewind quickly and started me at the beginning where I had the opportunity to select a character again. This time I chose the female with the laser-powered rifle that could blast through surfaces, destroying enemies behind cover. To my surprise, my first character was also present, albeit in ghost form and fighting alongside me. Even better, all of his actions still had a direct effect on my game, so each shot fired could still kill enemies.

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PAX Prime: Tribes Ascend Hands-on Preview

Posted on by Dave Voyles in PC Previews, Previews, XBLA Previews | Leave a comment

As far as FPS titles on the PC go, the landscape over the last decade has shifted greatly from what gamers of the 90s knew. Call of Duty and Battlefield titles dominate the market now, as well as consoles, where the crown was previously held by arena-style franchises including Quake, Unreal Tournament, and Tribes. After a nearly 10-year hiatus, however, Tribes is looking to take back that crown and rejuvenate the arena-shooter market. What separates the Tribes franchise from others are two key features: jetpacks and skiing. Although jetpacks have been implemented many times in newer popular titles, most notably in Halo: Reach, they haven’t been done in unison with Tribes’ s smooth skiing mechanic. For those of you unfamiliar with skiing in Tribes, it is exactly what it sounds like: graceful movements utilizing your character’s moment to propel oneself across a vast and open map. Read more