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Review: The Walking Dead (S2): All That Remains (PC)

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

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The Walking Dead took 2012 by storm, winning Game of the Year awards from everyone between Spike’s VGA’s to Games Are Evil’s own Evilcast Podcast. As it turns out, the adventure game genre wasn’t dead after all and can actually tell a very compelling narrative. It was pretty quickly confirmed that The Walking Dead would be getting a season two which recently kicked off with its first episode, All That Remains. Telltale has been very hit or miss in the past, will they be able to maintain the high level of story telling this second season?

Yup, Omid is still around.

Yup, Omid is still around.

In Season Two you will play the role of Clementine, the young ward of Lee Everett through the events of Season One. The game takes place some months after the end of Season One and while Clementine is still young and vulnerable, she has noticeably grown up a little in The Walking Dead’s harsh zombie infested world. She grows up even more during the games opening sequence where a foolish mistake has dire consequences and Telltale’s grim storytelling picks up right where they left off.

Decisions you made in the first season and the 500 days DLC carry over into Season two which adds a personal touch that season one’s first episode didn’t have. That said, last season had a clear goal for the main protagonist pretty quickly. In this episode the theme is merely Clementine surviving. She doesn’t have a clear objective like finding her parents anymore. Thus you end up with a personal story with a character you’re emotionally attached to but without any ray of hope or light at the end of the tunnel. If future episodes don’t give you something to work towards, season two is just going to be a brutal display of characters you care about getting hurt. Not really a pleasant experience.

Yup, zombies are still around.

Yup, zombies are still around.

So far the “emotional narrative” of season two is purely fear. To Telltale’s credit, they nail it. Clementine is separated from her friends fairly early and being alone isn’t exactly fun. There is a moment where a mutual trust is established with Clementine that is suddenly and violently broken in a moment that completely changes the way she approaches other survivors from that point moving forward. Gone are the days where she feels bad about taking food from others. She is evolving into a survivor who takes what she needs to survive.

Like last season, All That Remains ends with a choice between two characters. This choice is made a little more interesting by the nature of the two characters and the events that lead up to the choice. At the time of my run through, the percentage of people going one way or the other were split 51% to 49%. Much closer and much more interesting this time around. Telltale is clearing learning from their past game and the way players behave.

The Walking Dead PhotoMechanically the game has had some small improvements. Most of the changes are superficial interface changes that help user interface have a more modernized feel. The changes feel less like those between sequels of a video game and more like the changes between seasons of a television show. This really is The Walking Dead: Season 2 and not The Walking Dead 2. Nothing revolutionary, but it cleans things up nicely.

All That Remains works as a good premier episode. It’s definitely more of the same, and it does a good job drawing fans of the series back in. It probably won’t do much for new players, though, just in the same way that you wouldn’t want to start with season 3 of Breaking Bad. Also, if you thought that season 1 was too much, season 2 is just gearing up to punch you in the gut.

The Walking Dead TableMore of the same. More of the same is good if you enjoy a good emotional punch to the gut. You should play this and be miserable playing it. Unless, of course, you play games for fun.

Release of the Week: Gran Turismo 6 (PS3)

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Gran Turismo 6If the console launches have taught us one thing, it’s that Friday is the new Tuesday. While most video games hit store shelves early in the week, the past month has been full of Friday releases.  The last major release of the year, Gran Turismo 6, is no exception. Unlike Microsoft’s marquee racing franchise, Sony’s first-party sim racing franchise will be releasing on the previous generation of hardware. It isn’t that surprising when you see the absurd sales numbers the franchise puts up. Gran Turismo 5 sold over 10 million copies and is easily the best-selling PlayStation 3 exclusive. Sony couldn’t make PlayStation 4’s fast enough for every Gran Turismo fan that wants to buy the game to also get the new console, so to old hardware it goes.

As you would expect from Grand Turismo, there are several new features in the game’s physics engine. Suspension, tires and aerodynamics have all been remodeled to give the player a better feel for the driving experience. The number of cars in the game is increasing to 1200, including everything from historic cars to the latest and greatest race cars. The total number of racing locations has gone up to 37, pushing the number of layouts available up to a full 100. You can’t argue with that amount of variety.

As part of a 15 year anniversary celebration, Gran Turismo 6 will have a “Vision Gran Turismo” festival celebrating the Gran Turismo, the two-door sports car that is the game’s namesake. This festival will consist of the unveiling of new “Gran Turismo” cars as designed by some of the world’s top automobile manufacturers specifically to celebrate this event. There are even a couple concept cars from non-automobile companies such as Air Jordan and Nike.

It’s strange to think that a Gran Turismo game won’t be the best looking simulation racer on the market when it releases. Even so, it is definitely the most full featured game in the genre. Gran Turismo 6 will give fans plenty of content as they wait for the new consoles to build steam, or sit on store shelves long enough to scoop up. For more information on all the new features, check out the Gran Turismo website.

Release of the Week: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Zelda A Link Between WorldsWhile the new consoles dominating the conversation the past two weeks, a couple of key titles on other hardware hit store shelves. Chief among them was The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the Nintendo 3DS. The game is a return to the top-down view of the original Zelda games and takes place in the same world as A Link to the Past. The games share a relatively similar overworld, although A Link Between Worlds contains all new dungeons that make use of the handheld’s 3D functionality. Hopefully gamers with the new Nintendo 2DS systems won’t feel too left out.

A Link Between Worlds doesn’t contain the Dark World that occurred in the previous game. Instead there is a parallel  kingdom called Lorule which is ruled by a princess Hilda, as opposed to the classic Hyrule ruled by Princess Zelda. Unfortunately there is only one Link, so it’s up to him to save both worlds from the evil sorcerer Yuga. The sorcerer uses his power to turn Link into a painting on the wall. Luckily, Link finds a way to go in and out of this two dimensional form, allowing him to jump onto walls to get around bottomless pits and squeeze through cracks in the walls.

Unlike in previous Zelda games, your magic meter will refill on it’s own in A Link Between Worlds instead of requiring potions. This is good because bombs and arrows will depend on magic now instead of requiring ammunition. Rupees will also play a much larger role in the game. Items can be rented for a small fee, but Link loses them should be die. For a significantly higher price, Link can purchase items to unlock them permanently. These items are key to solving puzzles and defeating enemies, so unlocking them will ensure you have the right item at the right time.

The Nintendo 3Ds has had a strong year, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is just one more strong title to help cap off the year. It’s a great blend of nostalgia and utilization of modern technology. It should be a solid game for holiday traveling, standing in lines or just curling up at home. For more information, head to the official Nintendo website.

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

While the focus has been on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launches, Nintendo would like to kindle remind you about the Wii U. What better way to do that than with the release of a new Mario game? Super Mario 3D World, or “the one with the cat suits”, features Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad in some side-scrolling fun through the Mushroom Kingdom. In a call back to Super Mario Bros 2, each of these characters has their own unique controls and abilities. That’s right, Parachute Peach is back! Oh, and that cat suit? It allows players to run fast, use unique attacks and climb walls. And every once in a while… meow.

Tearaway (Vita)

Nintendo isn’t the only one that launched games against the noise of the new consoles. LittleBigPlanet developer Media Molecule released Tearaway on the PlayStation Vita. This third person platformer exists in a papercraft world and utilizes most of the Vita’s quirky features. You might need to stick your fingers up through the world using the back touch pad or even take a picture of some real-world object to create a skin for a paper animal. The game will definitely provide an experience you can’t have on any other platform.

Release of the Week: Xbox One

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Xbox OneLast generation Microsoft beat out both Sony and Nintendo, releasing their console a full year ahead of its competitors. This time around they’re last to store shelves, albeit only a week behind the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One’s biggest obstacle leading into its release has been its own messaging. In what the Internet has snarkily referred to as the Xbox 180, Microsoft has backtracked on everything from requiring an Internet connection to DRM that would prevent used games to including a headset with the console. Seemingly the only thing they haven’t backtracked on has been the inclusion of the Kinect, a hardware supplement which increases the price of the system by $100. Now they’re up against the PlayStation 4 which has won the messaging war, costs less and includes more powerful hardware.

Microsoft is a software company, and software is where they have the upper hand. The Xbox One’s snap functionality allows you to run additional programs on the side while you are playing games. You can do everything from looking at game guides in a browser to watching TV while still playing your favorite games. The Xbox One’s voice functionality is far more robust than the PlayStation 4’s and when combined with Kinect it will allow multiple users to sign in by face alone and have their voice commands processed contextually based on who is issuing them. Finally, Microsoft has made a big deal about Xbox Live’s cloud functionality which allows some game processing to be offloaded onto their network.

Microsoft’s goal with the Xbox One is to dominate the living room. There is as much focus on Skype, Internet Explorer and various video services as there has been on games. They have made searching for and using these programs as easy as possible with the combination of voice and gesture controls. Even typing in those nightmarish Xbox Live codes has been made easier by incorporating QR Code scanning with the Kinect. The console has an HDMI pass-through so you can connect your cable box and even control it with kinect using an IR blaster, similar using a universal remote. Unfortunately DVR functionality isn’t included, but that is due to Microsoft’s inability to strike deals with cable companies. Finally, SmartGlass software will add second screen functionality via phones, tablets and Windows 8 computers.

With the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 being fairly similar, messaging is very important. Despite some early fumbles, the Xbox One still looks to have a strong road ahead of it. The success of the console may lie in whether or not they can  capitalize on the technology in Kinect in a way that resonates with both gamers and the more casual audience that might want the device for services. To learn more about what the device can do, check out the official Xbox One website. Of course, what would the console be without games? Here are some of the notable Xbox One Exclusives.

Forza Motorsport 5Forza Motorsport 5

The popular Microsoft racing franchise will be the first title to really take advantage of the Xbox One cloud. Using what they’re referring to as “Drivatars”, the cloud will capture the driving styles of your friends and using AI to simulate them even when they’re offline. You will no longer race against soulless AI opponents who stick to a given line no matter what. Instead there will be an element of unpredictability in your opponents. One thing to be aware of is that Forza 5 will only have 200 cars and 14 circuits available, down from the 500 cars and 27 circuits of Forza 4.

Dead Rising 3Dead Rising 3

The bizarre zombie survival game about building unique weapons and wearing ridiculous outfits is once again an Xbox exclusive. Dead Rising began on the 360 before going multiplatform for the sequel.  Not only can you modify weapons, but this time around players will be able to modify vehicles. This will be an important part of exploration and getting away from the three times as many zombies that can be displayed on screen at a time. In an interesting optional use of Kinect, zombies in Dead Rising can respond to loud noises the players make, triggering a rush of zombies. This can be used by the player to distract zombies, although it would be interesting to see how the game handles it when your dog starts barking at the mail man.

Ryse Son of RomeRyse: Son of Rome

This Crytek game follows a Roman General named Marius Titus as he commands Roman infantry against the barbarians. Using optional voice commands, players can verbally order the infantry while engaged in combat. Previews for this game have been very mixed, so it would be worth waiting to see the critical reaction before picking it up. However the game undeniably looks visually stunning. That is, as long as you have the stomach for gore. Ryse will give a glimpse into just how brutal the next generation of violence in games can be.

 

 

Release of the Week: PlayStation 4

Monday, November 11th, 2013

PlayStation 4It’s been seven years since the release of the PlayStation 3 back in 2006. As far as technology goes, that was a lifetime ago. That was before not only the iPad and the rise of tablets, it was before the iPhone, app stores and the rise of mobile gaming. We have now seen eight different iPhones and five generations of iPad. Sony must now compete with not only the formidable Xbox One, but with an Apple that has inadvertently disrupted the gaming landscape. And that is without mentioning the wild card in Valve’s Steam OS coming next year.

As with last generation, the PlayStation 4 edges out the competition in terms of pure processing power. Why the gap isn’t as extreme as it was last generation, it is not an insignificant lead. The big test will be to see if Sony has worked on it’s network infrastructure and can provide a competitive service. This time around gamers will have to pay for PlayStation Plus in order to play their games online. This means the sluggish network, crummy voice chat and significant outages of the past will be inexcusable. So far they’ve promised improved features such playing while downloading, remote play with the PlayStation Vita and life broadcasting gameplay with services such as Twitch and Ustream.

Of course, the biggest draw for the PlayStation 4 initially will be the price. The console will only cost $399.99 as opposed to the Xbox One and Kinect which will be going for $499.99. Sony has its own camera that is somewhat comparable, but is not including it with the console. While charging for multiplayer will be a change, PlayStation plus also includes free games and at least in the current generation has proven to be a good value. With more power, a cheaper price tag and an early win in the PR battle, the PlayStation 4 is off to a good start.

You can find out some more information about the PlayStation 4 on the official website. Of course, all the hardware in the world won’t matter if there isn’t anything fun to play on it. There are a full 23 launch titles, so there is plenty to choose from. Here are some of the first pary offerings that you will only get on PlayStation 4.

Killzone Shadow FallKillzone Shadow Fall

Killzone is about as big of a first party shooter franchise as you are going to get on the PlayStation. While it hasn’t ever caught on as must as Halo did over on the Xbox side, it has been a franchise notable for pushing hardware to the limit. Shadow Fall is making good use of that by leaving the gray worlds behind and injecting some color into the franchise. While the story may not blow you away, this game will certainly give you some eye candy on the new hardware.

KnackKnack

Knack is a game designed by the PlayStation 4’s lead architect, Mark Cerny. This action platformer is about a creature who can incorporate items called relics and other substances into his body, growing and gaining abilities. This will be useful as humans battle against a  resurgent race of goblins. Knack is the big family friendly game on the PlayStation 4 and should help show off how the console handles particle effects. The Two-player coop will give you a reason to pick up a second controller if you feel inclined.

RESOGUNRESOGUN

This fast paced Defender-esque game is from Housemarque, the developers behind the early PlayStation 3 hit Super Stardust HD. This shoot em up puts you in a space ship and tasks you with saving the survivors of a colony from an alien invasion force. You’ll get various power-ups such as lasers, overdrive and screen-clearing bombs as you maneuver through the hordes. The best part of RESOGUN? The game comes free with PlayStation Plus.

 

 

Release of the Week: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (360, XBO, PS3, PS4, WiiU, PC)

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Assassin's Creed Black FlagAssassin’s Creed has become Ubisoft’s annual money maker. At one point, back before the first game was released, Assassin’s Creed was being planned as a trilogy of games. Black Flag will be the sixth game in the main series while another ten or so spinoffs have helped illustrate just how important this franchise is to the publisher. The series has been so successful that Ubisoft is basing its entire portfolio on open world games, with upcoming titles such as Watch Dogs, The Division and even The Crew.

Unfortunately, annualization tends to diminish the quality of games in a series. While Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood received critical acclaim, Revelations and Assassin’s Creed III have taken been steps backward. Black Flag is going to attempt to right the ship, so to speak, as the franchise moves forward into the next console generation. The game features a new assassin, Edward Kenway, and a new modern-day storyline after the conclusion of Desmond’s story in the previous game.

The biggest change Black Flag will bring to the series will be its setting. Taking place in the Golden Age of Piracy, the game will take place in the Caribbean. While most Assassin’s Creed games have focused on exploring gigantic cities, Black Flag will greatly expand on the naval gameplay introduced in Assassin’s Creed III. Edward Kenway will board ships, steal treasure and drink rum with various famous pirates. Exploring cities will still play a part, including leaping off tall buildings in Havana, Kingston and Nassau.

While the past few Assassin’s Creed games have slipped a little in terms of critical reception, the series has no the less remained solid. When new consoles launch, it typically takes a while for quality games to catch up with the new technology. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag may be one of the best launch games a console has ever had, especially from a third party. Whether or not Assassin’s Creed is still appealing is another story. For more information, check out the official Black Flag website.

Battlefield 4 (360, XBO, PS3, PS4, PC)

EA’s premier first-person shooter will debut Frostbite 3, the new engine that is powering several of EA’s next generation games. Battlefield 4 turned some heads when it showed off the Siege of Shanghai multiplayer map in which players can trigger the destruction of a skyscraper. The games will see the return of Commander Mode, a feature that allows one player on each side to open an RTS style map and give orders, drop supplies and call in missile strikes against enemies. The game is looking good despite inventing silly buzzwords to sell itself such as ‘Levolution’.

WWE 2K14 (360, PS3)

New name, new publisher, same good old fashion wrestling. This year will feature a new single player campaign called “The 30 Years of Wrestlemania”. Players will attempt to not only which a match, but complete primary objectives and bonus historical objectives along the way. Additionally there is a “Streak Mode” where you can either defend or attempt to defeat The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania.

Review: The Wolf Among Us – Episode 1: Faith (PC, 360, PS3)

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

thewolfamongus_logo_on_background

Telltale shocked everyone last year with the release of The Walking Dead. They somehow took a downloadable licensed adventure game and made something that won not only the EvilCast’s Game of the Year, but even Spike TV’s annual Video Game Awards’ Game of the Year award. It was so surprising that famed video game analyst Michael Pachter had to literally eat his hat. The game’s success warranted extra DLC beyond the first season and recently got the go head for an entire second season. In the mean time, Telltale is hoping to deliver a very similar game in the form of The Wolf Among Us.

BigbyBusinessOffice

Following the lead of The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us will consist of five episodes released over the span of several months. The game is based on the Fables comic book series by Bill Willingham. The comic book’s world consists of fairy tale characters who have been displaced from their fairy tale worlds and forced to live secretly among normal people throughout New York state. In The Wolf Among Us, the player controls Bigby Wolf. The former Big Bad Wolf acts as a sheriff among the fairy tale creatures, making sure they’re safe and stay hidden from normal people.

Mechanically, the game is very similar to its zombie slaying predecessor. On top of navigating your character, you also control a cursor which is used to hover over and interact with key objects in the environment. It can be a little awkward, but isn’t a problem after a little practice. The same system is used in action segments, which can be a little unnerving, but the system is fairly generous when it comes to getting the cursor over the the correct spot and ignoring the incorrect button presses. Action sequences were certainly tense and exciting, while also not a resulting in a frustrating barrage of fail states.

Toad_ToadJr

Visually the game is presented in the same comic book aesthetic as their previous adventure titles, but with a lot more color. Thick black lines and distinct bright colors really give the impression that you’re existing inside of a comic book. These deep dark tones add to the film noir style of the game and allow it to be gritty, while still being rich with color. It’s a welcome change to the gray and brown color palettes that dominated most of this generation.

The main appeal of The Wolf Among Us is its story and the way player decisions will drive the story. Despite being centered around fairy tales, DO NOT play this game around children. It is very, very dark. As sheriff, Bigby Wolf must keep order among a group of refugees that have fallen on hard times, that are both restless and nearly immortal. Every character has turned hard as an outcast and the game is full of harsh language, adult themes and extremely graphic violence. It can be every bit as nasty as The Walking Dead, just with fewer zombies.

BigbyFight

The decision making is no joke, either. There is nothing as direct as choosing which character lives or dies, but while investigating a crime you’ll need to chose between two time-sensitive leads. These choices are almost more difficult than the life-or-death decisions, as you have no way of telling what the outcome will be ahead of time. Each chapter concludes with a summary of key choices and how you compare with other gamers. Only then will you get an idea of the full implications of your actions.

If you played The Walking Dead, you probably already know whether or not you’ll like The Wolf Among Us. The games are mechanically very similar with the main difference being which comic book the story is based on. After one episode, The Wolf Among Us isn’t quite on the emotional level of The Walking Dead, but only in that it tugs on heart strings instead of snapping them. I would also say this game has more humor, although it’s dark and dry enough that not everyone will appreciate it. The novelty of this type of experience has worn off a little, but it’s certainly worth playing if you’re in the mood for a dark adventure game with a decision-based storyline.

A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher.

The Wolf Among Us is The Walking Dead in sheep’s clothing, sans zombies. The extremely dark and unnerving plot isn’t for everyone, but is a satisfying and engaging experience for those would like a gritty film noir story with fairy tale characters.

BigbyColin

Release of the Week: Batman: Arkham Origins (360, PS3, Wii U)

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Batman Arkham OriginsOn paper, super heroes should work very well in video games. Unfortunately licensed games rarely get the attention required to make a solid video game as they are often rushed to ship along side a movie. Marvel has only seen middling success and we would all do well to just forget about Superman 64. Thankfully the Batman IP always seems to get a little more love, and Warner Bros. together with Rocksteady Studios built a solid franchise with Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Not only has the series been a critical and commercial success, but it has changed how developers throughout the industry approach hand to hand combat.

This week will see the continuation of the franchise with Batman: Arkham Origins. This prequel game will be the first of the series not developed by Rocksteady and instead will be handled by Warner Bros. Games Montreal and will be their first game beyond the Wii U port of Arkham CityBrink developer Splash Damage is also lending a hand as the multiplayer developer. That’s right, this will be the first Arkham game to feature multiplayer.

The story will surround a Gotham City ravaged by gang warfare. A younger Batman is working as a vigilante against these crime lords while trying to stay one step ahead of a corrupt Gotham City Police Department. The crime lord Black Mask has begun to consolidate his power and is quickly becoming the ruler of the city’s criminal underworld. Black Mask uses his wealth to place a bounty on Batman’s head, which attracts the attention of the world’s most deadly assassins.

The gameplay for Arkham Origins is similar to that of it’s predecessors. Detective vision and the combo-heaving combat system both returns, although some new gadgets should help add some variety. New Game Plus and I Am the Night modes will give fans of the single player game to keep playing after finishing the game and the new multiplayer mode will add a bit more.

The main multiplayer mode shown off so far has been Invisible Predator Online. This mode revolves around a 3 vs 3 match between Bane and Joker’s henchman engaged in a team deathmatch to eliminate all of their reinforcements. Players that do well will unlock their gang’s boss who has their own special abilities.  The Kicker is that two players will control Batman and Robin as they attempt to take out both gangs and earn enough intimidation points to send both sides running home.

It will be interesting to see if Warner Bros. Games Montreal can pick up the series where Rocksteady left off. Will this game be another hit, or is this a sign of another franchise becoming annualized and starved of creativity? Either way it’s still Batman punching people in the face, so good times will be had. Check out the game and its full cast of villains at the official website.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (Vita, 3DS)

Developed by Armature Studio, Blackgate is the portable companion game for Origins. This game takes place three months after the the events of the console games. Spoiler alert, all of the criminals get locked up and then escape from prison 3 months later. Sheesh. This game is an item-based 2.5D side-scroller with cut scenes that look like hand-drawn comics.

Rocksmith 2014 (360, PS3, PC)

The age of plastic instrument games may be over, but it looks like the age of real instrument games is just beginning. Ubisoft’s Rocksmith franchise allows you to plug in virtually any electric guitar or bass instead of using specialty plastic instruments like Rock Band or Guitar Hero. Additionally, the emphasis is on actually teaching players how to play the songs. This is even more true in Rocksmith 2014 as the game will include over 85 lessons to help players learn their instrument.

Release of the Week: Skylanders Swap Force (360, PS3, Wii, WiiU, 3DS)

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Skylanders Swap ForceSkylanders has become a dominant factor in the video game industry. It may become as disruptive in its popularity as Pokemon once was. The toy-based game continues it’s momentum after launch with a staggered release schedule for its companion toy figures. These figures have become popular among gamers and toy collectors alike and special edition figurines have further driven the franchise’s popularity. This week will see the release of Skylanders: Swap Force which introduces a new base for importing characters and brand new swappable characters.

The most important new feature of Swap Force are the swappable characters. In total there will be sixteen new swappable characters, each of which can have their top and bottom halves separated and recombined with other characters to generate up to 256 different combinations. The top halves of each character will contain their elemental identity while their bottom halves will contain their form of movement. For example, Night Shift is an undead Skylander who can teleport. Boom Jet is an air Skylander with rocket as a form of movement. These characters can be swapped to create Night Jet (an undead rocket) or Boom Shift (an air teleporter). In addition to the swappable characters, 16 re-posed versions of Skylanders from previous games in the series.

The movement type for each Skylander will be important as certain areas of the game will only be accessible to characters with a certain movement. This is similar to how content was gated by element type in previous games. In addition to these movement types, all Skylanders are now able to jump, adding some mild platforming mechanics to the series. While jumping doesn’t sound like much, the simple addition of a little vertical movement helps add some depth to the environments and should make your time in the Skylanders world that much more enjoyable.

While Skylanders has been consuming more shelf space than some entire platforms, this year it will be sharing some of that space as it gets some competition from Disney Infinity. Are swappable figures and jumping the answer they need to keep ahead of the powerful Disney brand? Even with the competition, I wouldn’t count on Skylanders going away any time soon. To check out the new Swap Force figures, head over to the official Skylanders webpage.

Other Games

Not much else is coming out this week. After all, who has the gall to compete against one of Activision’s pillar franchises? Oh yeah, Activision. The publisher is also releasing Cabela’s African Adventures and Wipeout: Create and Crash. These stealth launches are so stealthy that neither game has an official website.

Release of the Week: Beyond Two Souls (PS3)

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Beyond Two SoulsWorried that the upcoming console generation will limit the release lineup for the current generation? Sony would like to assure you that there is still plenty of life in the PlayStation 3. This week will see the release of Beyond Two Souls, a psychological thriller from Quantic Dream, the developers behind the critically acclaimed Heavy Rain. With their last game performing far better than expected, Beyond Two Souls is getting some extra support including voice acting from Academy Award nominees Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe.

The story of Beyond Two Souls will be the game’s biggest draw. It follows the life of Jodie Holmes from the age of 8 until she is 23. Over those 15 years you will explore the special connection she shares with a spiritual entity who goes by the name of Aiden. Jodie is the only one who is able to communicate with Aiden and their connection grants her supernatural abilities. The story will be non-linear and jump around to different points in Jodie’s life instead of taking place in chronological order. The story required  an over 2000 page script and 174 days of motion capture.

The interface for Beyond Two Souls is far less invasive compared to the quick time event system of Heavy Rain. Rather than large button prompts, players use a gesture based system where they must flick the analog stick in the correct contextual direction. The entity Aiden also helps Jodie by scouting out the environment, choke or possess an enemy combatant or grant her special visions.

Like Heavy Rain, the results of action sequences won’t ever result in a game-over screen. The story will progress, even if you fail to preform a certain action. As the complex narrative unfolds, it will take into account the player’s actions. With a spiritual entity following around the main protagonist it’s no surprise that death is a central theme of the game, and part of that means that Jodie can die. However that affects the narrative, it won’t be in the form of a game-over screen.

It’s clear that Beyond Two Souls will appeal to gamers who want an immersive story without the twitch control of a third person shooter. The game may be the story telling swan song as Sony transitions its first party efforts towards the PlayStation 4. As such, it’s definitely worth checking out for any PlayStation 3 owner who enjoys story-centric games. For more information, head over to the Beyond Two Souls official PlayStation webpage.

Pokemon X/Pokemon Y (3DS)

Nintendo just has to do things on their own schedule. While the rest of the video game world releases games on Tuesday, Nintendo releases them on Sunday. Except apparently Pokemon, which hits your local Pokemart this Saturday. This will be the first iteration of the series on the 3DS and will include new features such as sky battles, Mega Evolutions and just because everyone else is doing it, horde mode. A new service called the Pokemon Bank will allow you to store Pokemon on Nintendo servers for a $5 a year fee. If you’ve played Pokemon before, you’ll feel right at home as Nintendo’s portable powerhouse chugs along.

Just Dance 2014 (360, PS3, WiiU, Wii)

Apparently Ubisoft’s dancing game powerhouse is going to be sticking around. The fifth Just Dance game will be getting a year instead of a number in the title. Thankfully the game comes with a Battle Mode, which should be the go-to tool to solve arguments between co-workers. Nothing like a good One Direction vs. Nicki Minaj dance-off to decide who brings in doughnuts on Friday.