Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nintendo Announces 2DS

In a move that will have gamers across the world checking their calendars, Nintendo have announced the latest addition to the 3DS family, the 2DS. At first glance, it looks like any number of fake handheld mockups that have popped up over the years, but this is real and set to launch on October 12, the same day as Pokemon X/Y. Pokemon is going to be a gargantuan release, and there are still plenty of people without a 3DS. The 2DS will sell for $130, $40 cheaper than the base model 3DS. With no hinges or 3D functionality, it makes it the perfect pickup for young children who are prone to dropping things or whose mothers are worried about the 3D effect somehow damaging their eyesight (were there any conclusive studies done on this?). 

It'll appeal to more than just younger kids of course. The cheaper price tag will appeal to anyone on a budget and the lack of stereoscopic 3D won't make a difference to those who never cared either way, but the new design couple with Pokemon mean Nintendo are bringing out the heavy artillery on the younger demographic. I can't help but wonder why Nintendo didn't take this opportunity to include a second circle pad as it doesn't look like the Circle Pad Pro will be compatible with this new model. In any case, Nintendo have once again shown us how brilliant they are at making millions by doing almost nothing.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt

SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt, is a blend of Metroid, Spelunky, and Dig Dug set in an Old West town populated by steam-powered robots, and it's just as good as it sounds. Priced at $8.99, this recent addition to the already impressive eShop selection has all the markings of a true gem. 

Set in a small town called Tumbletown, players are introduced to a robot named Rusty, who, having been called to town by his uncle Joe to claim the underground mine, finds himself crashing down into it as the ground collapses beneath his feet. Here he's greeted by an NPC named Dorothy who informs him that his uncle, who had been down in the mine for quite some time, had passed. After prying a pickaxe from his uncle's dead, rusty hands, the player is tasked with digging their way to a lever in order to free a path to the surface.

Tumbletown serves as the game's central hub, with entries to each level of the mine as they're discovered and a number of NPC characters with goods for sale. The various types of gem and ore littered throughout the mine can be sold to Dorothy for cash used to buy upgrades from NPCs like her dad, Cranky. As the total value of ore sold to Dorthy rises, so does the player's trade rank. With each level, a new upgrade is unlocked, and after enough levels, new buildings and NPCs are also added.

The central mechanic of SteamWorld is, unsurprisingly, digging, so anyone with an aversion to this particular mechanic should probably give this game a pass. Digging is sluggish to begin with, but becomes more streamlined as Rusty's gear is upgraded. The first comparison to Metroid can be drawn at the map system, which grows as the player explores the mine. While the size of the mine is limited, it's big enough to be a mystery worth exploring down to the last corner. (Warning: this game may cause otherwise stable individuals to exhibit severe obsessive-compulsive behavior.) There's a genuine sense of discovery when happening upon a cave or orbs, which are the other currency used in town. Players will have to think about each move when digging, as it isn't impossible to dig one's own grave, leaving no alternative but to self-destruct.

It isn't all casual digging though, as there are fossilized creatures waiting to pop out of the dirt whenever Rusty comes within radius. Deeper sections of the mine are home to humanoid enemies and even machines. (Is this how it will end for our species, buried beneath the earth while robots claim the surface?) Upon death, creatures will drop lamp fuel, health, or water. The limited lamp fuel creates a sense of urgency, challenging the player to dig as far or gather as much loot as possible before it goes dark. There's no real penalty for running out of light, but it does make it difficult to climb back to the surface and instills a sense of danger even if no dark-specific threats emerge. Health is important for obvious reasons. If HP drops to zero, all loot is dropped on the spot and half of the player's current money is spent on repairs. The dropped loot can be recovered however, which is huge considering there is a limited amount of ore in the mine. Finally, Rusty is able to convert water to steam for charged jumps, drilling through hard rock, and to launch his fist. These functions are a few of the secrets uncovered by Uncle Joe and left for Rusty to discover, but why? 

Steam wasn't always the hottest power source around. Legend speaks of an old world run on magical force called electricity. Old Uncle Joe kept goin' on and on about all this freaky tech down in the depths of the earth, but they just thought he had a few screws loose, probably from spending too much time down in that mine of his. But with Rusty's help, he's able to posthumously prove this technology's existence. SteamWorld  is like a reverse Cave Story, where instead of some mysterious "other world" residing on the surface, it's buried beneath miles of dirt. Each new upgrade serves as a new mechanic with which to further explore this old world while solving cleverly designed puzzles, much like the way Metroid's Samus grows her abilities by finding ancient Chozo statues. Rusty will need to be in peak fighting condition for an epic endgame boss battle.

SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt will provide around five hours of enjoyment on the first run though, which is a little on the short side but it's a wholly unique, perfectly paced little game that never feels dull. There's also some replay value in the fact that ore locations are random with each new game, and given that so much time is spent digging around for ore, the game is well suited for speedrunning as players try to dig the optimal path to each objective.  And it seems to have gained some steam, prompting the folks at Image & Form to begin working on a sequel. This is a truly great game that should be downloaded immediately by anyone reading this. If you can't afford it then go donate some plasma, download this game, and play it through while you recover.

Released: 2013-08-08
Publisher: Image & Form
Developer: Image & Form

Thursday, August 8, 2013

This feature length film revolves around a Game Boy knockoff

And calling it a knockoff is generous. Stuart Ashen, a popular youtuber known for reviewing all manner of cheap, generic, rip-off, and potentially hazardous merchandise stars in Ashens and the Quest for the GameChild, a feature length film in which he embarks on an epic journey in search of the beautiful piece of machinery pictured above. If you're a fan of his work, you'll definitely enjoy it. It's not half bad.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Get The World Ends With You: Solo Remix at a discount until August 18th

iPhone Screenshot 2

If you still haven't played The World Ends With You, well, shame on you. For a limited time, the iPhone and iPad ports can be had for $9.99 and $10.99, respectively. Now you have no excuse not to play this masterpiece. 

If you're unfamiliar with TWEWY, be sure to check out our review of the original DS version.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Gaming on a Budget: The Best eShop Games For Only Two Dollars

The 3DS eShop may not be the number one stop for those looking to game cheaply on the go, especially compared to the mobile marketplaces which boast thousands of games completely free of charge, but it shouldn't be completely discounted, as there a handful of quality titles to be found for next to nothing. Many of these titles first appeared in the DSiWare store, but seeing as many gamers went straight from the DS Lite to the 3DS, and because most eShop exclusive games cost more than two dollars,  they may as well be included. Following are the best dirt-cheap games available for download on the 3DS. 

Escapee GO! by Gevo Entertainment GO! manages to create and maintain a sense of tension throughout it's entirety with a few simple mechanics. Players navigate maze-like levels as Claire, an escapee from a mysterious facility while collecting powerups, completing objectives, and avoiding baddies. It's a surprisingly unique concept for such an inexpensive game and there's never a dull moment. Full Review

Gunman Clive by Bertil Hörberg on platforms, shoot enemies, defeat epic bosses, and save the girl. Gunman Clive is a gamer's game, and one that any fan of the industry's classics is sure to enjoy. It's tight level design and consistent pacing make it a satisfyingly challenging experience through and through. It debuted on smartphones, but the addition of two unlockable characters make the eShop version the definitive choice. Full Review 

10 Second Run by Gamebridge

Make it to the end of the level in ten seconds. 10 Second Run is based on this simple premise, but manages to make it surprisingly enjoyable and challenging. The art and game mechanics are minimal, but the level design is where it shines. This one will get the adrenaline going. Dozens upon dozens of deaths will occur all to the player's fault, and that is what makes 10 Second Run satisfying to finish. There is a perpetual challenge in trying to beat one's previous record for each level. Full Review

Alt Play: Jason Rohrer Anthology by Sabarasa

alt play dsiware gravitation"Art game" is a term thrown around often in the gaming world and doesn't seem to have a clear definition. For some, it carries a negative connotation, describing a game where ninety percent of the effort went into the aesthetics, leaving behind a rickety structure daring to call itself a game. To others, an art game is one that makes the player feel something. These tend to fall into two categories: Those which are overly preachy and pretentious, and those that are vague enough to be open to interpretation and don't lecture the player. Semantics aside, if any a game were to rightfully call this genre home, it's Alt Play, consisting of Jason Rohrer's Passage, Gravitation, and Between. Passage and Gravitation are fairly short experiences (five and eight minutes, respectively), single-player experiences while Between is strictly a two-player experience. There are no instructions or clear objectives in any of these works. They're more interactive experience than game, and are not the kind of game one would play for any extended period of time as they're just not made to be that kind of game. They're rich commentaries that will be played once or twice, then perhaps not again for months, if ever. Those adverse to artsy fartsy games should give this one a pass. Otherwise, it's two bucks well spent.

Undead Storm by Gamebridge

Undead Storm is classic arcade zombie-killing action wherein the player takes control of one of four characters to survive five increasingly difficult waves of zombies among three different locations. The game uses 3D models for characters and the environment, which is uncharacteristic of budget games. It plays like a slow-paced twin-stick shooter, which only adds to the tension as the hordes of undead swarm the player. There is a multiplayer function, turning it into a fun co-op zombie-slaying experience. With a variety of enemies, weapons, achievements, and an unlockable "scream" mode with significantly higher difficulty, there's a lot of playtime packed into this arguably underpriced title.

Ninja Karakuri Den by Genterprise

Ninja Karakuri Den is a single-screen arcade-like game that bears an uncanny resemblance to Retro Game Challenge's Haggleman and with only three actions--an air dash, sword slash, and shuriken--manages to make the player feel like a bad-ass ninja. Jumping is automatic, and happens whenever the ninja lands on a platform, each of which can only be used once. When one disappears, another appears in a random spot on the screen. To summon the portal to the next stage, each of the floating gears must be destroyed. There are, of course, enemies attempting to sabotage the player at every turn, and will continually spawn as time passes. There are a total of sixty levels in the game, with each fourth level pitting the player against increasingly difficult boss ninjas. There are unlimited continues, but the game keeps track of how many consecutive stages were cleared before the first game over, as well as the score. This creates an interesting dynamic where the player can choose to fast-clear each stage, or hang around killing enemies as they spawn for as long as can be managed (there is no time limit). There are plenty of reasons to play Ninja Karakuri Den more than once, making it an obvious choice for gamers on a budget.

Glory Days: Tactical Defense by Odenis Studio Days: Tactical Defense is, uncontested, the most technically impressive game on this list. It's a military themed tower defense game wherein various weapons are placed along various paths leading to the player's base in order to prevent the enemies' advances. These units can be upgraded, and need to be maintained as they take damage from enemy fire. In terms of units, Glory Days does nothing to distinguish itself. However, Most games in this genre are sprite-based, while this one uses three-dimensional landscapes which look quite impressive. The more unique aspect is how map navigation is handled. Instead of touching a specific area or navigating along a two-dimensional grid to place a unit, the player rolls a wire frame cube along the ground to the desired location. It works better than it sounds, and is a blast to launch off of hills or bounce into the stage's boundaries while waiting for the next wave of enemies. It's the little things.

Pop Island: Paperfield by Odenis Studio by the same studio that made Glory Days, Pop Island: Paperfield may share the game's engine, but it is a very different game indeed. In short, it's capture the flag on crack, and is purely a blast to play. Players take control of one twelve characters, each with its own land/air/sea advantages, to navigate the terrain of the game's three levels capturing flags, popping firecrackers at enemies to knock them awry, stealing their flags, and finding special weapons to really shake things up. Games like these are best enjoyed with friends, and this one thankfully supports up to seven others using download play! Pop Island: Paperfield is pure fun, and easily worth two dollars.

For gamers looking to get the most game for their buck, the eShop is surprisingly fertile with cheap, quality games. This list represents a tiny fraction of the cheap games on the eShop. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comment section below! 

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