Tag Archives: E3

Review: Unravel

unravel-cover-art
via Wikipedia

Unravel (2016)

PS4 / Rated E

Puzzle / Platformer

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Coldwood Interactive


When this little indie game from Coldwood Interactive named Unravel was first announced at EA’s 2015 E3 press conference, it immediately caught my attention.  A very nervous Martin Sahlin, the game’s creator, came out on stage and proceeded to introduce us to the game, and its adorable little star, Yarny. (Seen below)  I remember being instantly intrigued with its mechanics and instantly charmed by the games irresistibly cute visual style.  It later went on to release in early 2016, but it seemed to be a game that largely flew under people’s radars…including mine.  After about a year I finally dipped my toes into what Unravel is all about and I was met with a very charming experience with some unique platforming elements that make it standout from some of its peers.

As I mentioned before, the game stars a small red, cat-looking creature named Yarny, who is made entirely of yarn.  Yarny is constantly in awe and wonderment as he explores the objects and environments around him.  The game starts you in a small house that includes pictures of different locations that are important to the homeowner’s life.  Yarny explores these environments and collects memories along the way, slowly telling the emotional and nostalgic stories of the homeowner and their family throughout the years.

It is a very gripping story structure that drives you through the game.  There no cut scenes and a scant amount of characters, but the whole story is told through pictures and mirages in the environments that you explore.  Some of these stories were a little tough to understand, but the game does a fantastic job at capturing the various moments and emotions that families experience, whether it is the happy moments or the sad moments.  It is harrowing at times and will most likely relate to your life in some way.  Unravel, despite its simple concept, has a way of resonating with players, making it a special experience.

unravel-1
via Coldwood Interactive

The game is made up of twelve different levels spanning environments like forests, mountainous hilltops, and snowy valleys…to name a few.  These levels require you to use Yarny’s body made of yarn to get pasts its various obstacles and dangers.  Yarny can create rope to swing across gaps, make bridges, and maneuver objects.  If that was not enough, Yarny also unravels (insert title card) as you make your way through the level.  If you are overzealous with your yarn usage, you will eventually run out of yarn and Yarny will be stripped down to his basic frame.  To combat this, there are various “checkpoints” in the levels that allow you to re-spool, giving Yarny more yarn to work with.  I did not find myself running out of yarn too much, but it does add another layer of complexity to the levels and their thoughtful design.  In terms of overall difficulty, the game is not too challenging.  There are moments where the game will get you, but death is never really a burden given the generous checkpoint system.  You also can warp back to the latest checkpoint if you find yourself stuck.

One gripe I have with Unravel’s mechanics are the floaty controls that sometimes make tougher platforming sections a little frustrating.  There were some moments in the game were tighter controls would have been more helpful.  There is a trophy (on PS4) that requires you to go through each level without dying and I quickly found myself giving up because the controls were not as up-to-snuff as I would have liked them to be.  There is also the tiny issue of freshness when it comes to the game’s mechanics.  Unravel does a commendable job, for the most part, of giving you new challenges that change things up, but this evolution in gameplay starts to taper off when you get to the later levels.  Due to the game’s simplistic nature, it is tough to constantly give you new ways of using the mechanics at your disposal.

unravel-2
via Coldwood Interactive

But let us talk about the game’s main attraction: just how darn cute the whole thing is.  There is an enormous amount of detail that went into the game’s visual style from the environments to Yarny himself.  Everything has a tactile feel to it and Yarny looks super realistic.  Coldwood Interactive most likely drew some inspiration from Nintendo’s games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Wooly World.  The game’s score is also well done, meshing perfectly with the game’s heartwarming story of family and nostalgia.

Despite the few issues I had with the game’s mechanics Unravel still manages to invoke tons of feeling, something you do not see too much from puzzle-platformers.  The game’s eye-popping adorability is what pulls you in but it is the gripping and emotional story that convinces you to stay.  It is a relatively short, but powerful, experience that manages to do some cool things with its yarn-based mechanics.  Unravel is worth your time.  It is worth it alone just to see Yarny’s curiosity of the world around him.

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LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Demo Impressions

E3 is here and the gaming landscape for the coming year is slowly starting to be formed.  The big publishers have come out swinging and a ton of big games have already been announced.  One of these games, perhaps smaller compared to some of the other titles, is LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  The game, based on everyone’s favorite movie from last year, comes out at the end of this month but a demo has been made playable to the public.

The demo focuses on one level in particular that occurs pretty early on in the game.  It takes place on the planet of Jakku and puts you in control of Finn, Rey, and BB-8 shortly after they meet up with each other for the first time.  Just like the movie, this meeting only lasts for a couple of seconds before they notice a group of Stormtroopers lurking around in search of Finn, a runaway Stormtrooper trying to break apart from his once evil ways.  You quickly grab Rey’s arm and start to run amidst the crowded streets of Jakku, thrusting you into the level’s start.

lego star wars force awakens 1
via Digital Trends

Before I go further, it’s worth mentioning that the game is strictly based on the events of Episode VII.  The cut scenes and characters are fully voiced using the movie’s audio.  However, it’s been noted that there are some side stories to be told, ones specifically created solely for the sake of the game.  TT Games got the actors from the movie to come in to do specific voice work for these missions, which is pretty cool.

Upon starting the level, I quickly started to mess around to see what’s new this time around.  Anyone who has played a LEGO game before should feel right at home in terms of gameplay.  You still roam around the level bashing stuff and collecting studs.  There’s obstacles that block off secret areas until you go into free play, where you can play as all the characters.  You can also collect minikits that reveal more secrets up finishing a level.  It’s pretty standard fare for any Lego veteran.  Not much has been changed up to rock the formula.  The three characters you start out controlling are Finn, Rey, and BB-8.  Finn is your average blaster-wielding character who also has the ability to use a grappling hook to reach hard-to-access areas. Rey is more of a melee character, using her staff to devastate enemies up close.  Not to be outdone, she can also throw her staff to take enemies out from afar.  BB-8 isn’t a typical character, but he has some abilities that can come in useful.  First off, he can sneak through small openings to reach secret areas.  He also has a stun attack that can electrocute enemies.  Finally, he can operate rotary switches, opening up new parts of the level.  Your probably not going to use him much, but he sure does look cute flying around the level making those signature beeping noises.

lego star wars force awakens 2
via Digital Times

As I started to make my way through the first part of the level, I was quickly introduced to the multi-builds.  In previous games, you can destroy objects to reveal piles of Lego bricks, which you could then build up to create useful objects.  With multi-builds, you can build different objects using the same pile of Lego bricks.  You indicate the direction in which you want to build the Lego bricks and then you proceed to put them together just like you normally would.  After your done using the first object, you can then break it down and build the other option.  It’s an interesting mechanic that encourages experimentation.  Sometimes you will build objects that are completely useless in the grand scheme of the level.  Other times you will have to build all the different objects in order to progress.  The mechanic was demonstrated a couple of more times over the course of the level, which was pretty neat.

After making my way through the first area, I then stumbled upon a broader combat zone, in which I was quickly forced to get to cover to avoid incoming fire from a group of First Order Stormtroopers.  This is the part where the firefight mechanics were shown off.  The game quickly turned into a lite-cover based shooter where I was able to move from cover to cover, finding opportune times to attack my enemies.  While behind cover, you can pop up using the left trigger and then shoot using the right trigger.  The controls weren’t hard to master and I soon found myself mowing down a bunch of troopers.  This is an early section, but I didn’t find this sequence particularly difficult.  I worry that these sequences will get repetitive as you get farther in the game.  I hope they either find new ways to freshen up the gameplay or they limit these sequences altogether.

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Once the Stormtroopers were neutralized, I kept on making my way towards the Millennium Falcon.  I was then introduced to SN-1F4, another droid character.  It’s a miniature sifter droid, so it doesn’t do much besides reveal secrets in the sand.  I used the droid to reveal some Lego bricks which helped construct a turret, a piece of heavy artillery that allowed me to shoot down some X-Wing fighters from the sky.  Once the coast was clear, the path to the Millennium Falcon was finally made clear.  In the movie, the reveal of the famed freighter was a special moment but in the game, there was hardly any fanfare upon the ship’s discovery.  It’s not that big of a deal but it’s those kinds of movie moments that I want captured in Lego form.

This led to the aerial portion of the level, in which you pilot the Millennium Falcon.  Just like previous Lego games, the first part of the sequence was totally on-rails.  As I made my way through, I eventually stumbled upon an open area where I was granted free reign.  The controls took some getting used to, but I eventually got the hang of them as I flew around blasting down more X-Wings.  I eventually reached the final portion of the level, which switched back to on-rail flying.  As I escaped from the inside of the Star Destroyer ruins, the level came to a close.  I got a glimpse of Kylo Ren’s character as he was sulking around in his Darth Vader themed room.  Staying true to the movies, one of his officers came to inform him about the BB-8 getting away, which infuriates Ren, sending him into a room-trashing tantrum.  It was good to see that the bouts of Lego humor are still what makes these games so appealing.

lego star wars force awakens 3
via Comic Book News

I was only able to play through one level, so it’s unclear how many different levels are going to be in the main game.  If I had to take a guess, we’ll probably get around fifteen with the addition of side levels.  It’s also unclear if we are going to get an open world.  Not much has been said about this, now common, aspect of Lego games.  We might get some hub-worlds in lieu of one big open area.

There was lots to enjoy about the demo but it left some concerns as well.  The Lego series hasn’t been privy to change.  The classic formula has pretty much been the same for years now.  There are some new mechanics being thrown in this time around, but it’s hard to say if they will be enough to make this game stand out from the rest.  If you’re a fan of the Lego games, especially the Lego Star Wars games that gave the series legs, then you will most likely want to give LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens a try.  It’s looking to be a charming retelling of the big movie with a lot of cool stuff packed in for Star Wars fans.

lego star wars force awakens 5
via Segment Next

Fallout 4 Welcomes You to Post-Apocalyptic Boston

Vault hunters, the wait is officially over!  Fallout 4 has been officially revealed this morning after what seemed like a long 24 hour countdown.  What greeted us at the other side of that countdown was a very good looking cinematic trailer introducing us to what looks to be Boston, along with some other things.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

The trailer begins with the camera zooming out of the TV with some classic jazz playing in the background, a familiar sound to any fan of the series.  The camera than moves around what looks to be a destroyed house, fizzling in between shots of pre-apocalypse and current day.  Over a radio, we hear a man talking about Vault-Tec, but we do not hear to much as the man starts to sound more worried as the trailer goes on.  Perhaps they have a hand in what happened.  We also get to see a German Sheppard walking through the house, which makes it seem like he could be one of our trusty companions.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

Things take a turn for the worse as the bomb alarms start to go off and people start to panic.  We hear the iconic, “War. War Never Changes,” as people scurry to and fro in attempt to make it to the vaults.  What we see in the trailer is a shot of Vault 111, which looks to be the vault that players will start from at the beginning of the game.  This is evidenced by a shot of a vault hunter exiting the vault after all is said and done.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

What he sees is a wide expanse of war-torn wasteland, in what looks to be the Boston metropolitan area.  The fact that the game is taking place in Boston was not explicitly stated, but some shots of various landmarks as the trailer goes on reveals that the game will in fact be taking place in Boston, and possibly some surrounding areas.  Other things we see as we view some shots of the wasteland is what looks to be a futuristic looking pirate ship.  We also see a huge dreadnought looking thing fly high over the sky towards the end.  I would not be surprised if this has something to do with what Vault-Tec was working on before the war, but we do not know for sure.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

Finally, the trailer ends with the dog walking up to a abandoned gas station, which holds a lot of familiar sites for Fallout fans.  We see a Nuka-Cola vending machine, along with a Vault Boy bobble head and some comic books that we have seen from previous games.  The centerpiece of the shot however is the piece of Power Armor that hangs in the middle of the garage.  The trailer ends with a Vault Hunter walking down the road, crossing path with the dog.  The hunter bends down to pet the dog, and the two venture off into the sunset.  Trailer ends.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

It was everything that we were expecting from the heavily anticipated trailer.  We did not receive any information in terms of release date, but that will most surely come at their press conference on June 14th, along with a 20-30 minute demo.  However, we did find out that the game will be coming out for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.  Pretty much expected.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

The trailer obviously leads us with some questions…and a whole bunch of excitement.  I am already on board as I am sure a lot of other people are as well.  More info will be coming in the foreseeable future, but in the meantime, we have this trailer to watch over and over again…

The Next Fallout: The Countdown Begins

Today, almost out of nowhere, we got a mysterious tweet from Bethesda Game Studios, the people behind the massively popular Fallout franchise.

All it takes is a little digging around to realize that the countdown appears to be teasing the announcement of the heavily anticipated Fallout 4.  Previously, it was leaked that the game was going to take place in Boston, but those rumors where shot down by Bethesda shortly after those accusations were released.  However, there is still a good chance that Boston could still be home to the next addition to the franchise.  We also have heard that Guillermo Del Toro’s production company is behind the game’s cinematic trailer, that could be released as early as tomorrow.

Notice how the countdown clock is pulled directly from the loading screen in Fallout 3?
Notice how the countdown clock is pulled directly from the loading screen in Fallout 3?

The rumor mill has been churning and it is only going to get busier as the countdown ticks down to tomorrow’s big reveal.  Is it going to be the announcement of an HD remake of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas?  I sure hope not, but rest assured, all signs point to the announcement of Fallout 4.

The announcement of Fallout 4 might seem like a sure-fire guess, but what about the release date?  Some say that it would be crazy for the game to come out this year, but others hint at the possibility that the game might be coming to fans sooner that you would think.  In my opinion, I would believe that the game is pretty far in development.  Just think about it: Fallout: New Vegas came out in October of 2010.  This October will mark five years since the game’s release, which means the studio has probably been working on the next Fallout for a while now.  Bethesda has also noted that they will be debuting a 20-30 minute demo at E3 this year, which also leads me to believe that the game is already in an alpha state, or something more.  I am going to guess that the game will be coming out this year, around the holiday time frame, which seems par for the course in terms of the studio’s releases.  However, with the emergence of game delays, we can never be too sure.

Side note: if you dig deeper into the countdown page’s source info…you find this:

caption
Masterbrain huh?

Does the Masterbrain ring a bell for anyone?  If you remember, the Masterbrain was the robotrain that controlled all of the other security robots in the Vault-Tec Headquarters.

masterbrain

In Fallout 3, players could shutdown the Masterbrain, which in turn would shutdown the security robots in the facility, letting them explore the administration levels of the Vault-Tec Headquarters in peace.  As of now, I have no clue if this will mean anything in terms of Fallout 4.  However, with this and the standby screen, there seems to be a lot of references to Fallout 3.  Weird…

Update – 6/2/15 @ 4:02 PM EST

Upon further inspection of the html source code of Bethesda’s countdown page, I saw this little tidbit of information:

html institute

We see a reference to “institute,” which possibly confirms two different things.  First of all, it confirms that this will most likely be the announcement of Fallout 4, since “institute” has been tied to Fallout 4 as a code name.  It also leads me to believe that the game will indeed be taking place in Boston, since the institute, also known as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before the Great War, is a mysterious organization in the commonwealth (post-apocalyptic New England area) that possesses pretty advanced android technology, capable of creating beings more intelligent than humans.

We shall stay tuned, and this post will get updated as information gets released.

A More Genuine Video Game Award Show

Over the past couple of years, video game award shows have been anything but special, or entertaining for that matter.  They have mostly been a bunch of PR babble and celebrities paid to act like they actually play and enjoy video games.  Spike TV has been the channel that has hosted the video game award shows over the past couple of years, but that was not the case for this year.

Geoff Keighley, a video game journalist of GametrailersTV fame, was the brains behind a new type of award show.  One that was independent, and free from TV.  It would be an award show for the gamers, run by gamers.  The industry would play a big part in them.  Thus, for the first time ever, The Game Awards was brought to life as an internet only broadcast, taking place at the AXIS Theater in Las Vegas.

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Numerous members of the industry, as well as journalists and fans alike, crowded the theater to watch the inaugural year of the award show.  For the first year, the show actually felt genuine, and not fake.  (However, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the audience cheer heard on the live stream was fake).  The Game Awards did a lot of good things, and they took some steps in the right direction.

However, after forty minutes and only one award handed out, you know there are still some problems that hover over the show.  The show had more of an E3 vibe to it than an award show.  There were countless “World Premieres” as developers showed off their newest trailers and sneak at games to come in the future.  There were some cool announcements here and there (including some new ones) but they mostly got tiresome as we hit the later parts of the show.  The show also lasted a whopping three hours.  It was a little on the long side, and their seemed to be a lot of filler that clogged up the show in between.

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With that being said, how about we actually get to some of the stuff that took place during the show…

The ceremony kicked off with a pretty neat musical performance by Koji Kondo, one of the main music composers at Nintendo.  He played the piano as Mario appeared on the big screens behind him.  It was a cool little retro homage to the early days of gaming.  Then Reggie Fils-Aime (the President of Nintendo of America), the crowd favorite, came out to start the show.  He then directed our attention to a video that had Shigeru Miyamoto highlighting some of Nintendo’s biggest releases coming next year, including the likes of Majora’s MaskMario Maker, and Star Fox for the Wii U.  The show was off to a good start.

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Kiefer Sutherland, who was the voice of Snake in the Metal Gear Solid series, came out to introduce the mastermind behind the series, Hideo Kojima.  Sutherland’s presence was actually a nice surprise.  His little talk about where games have come was even better.  Kojima gave us a little sneak peek at the new Metal Gear Online.  The little trailer showed some of the tactical strategies you can employ as a team to carry out your mission.  The game looks beautiful, but the online components don’t seem like they fit the Metal Gear style.

After that, we then got our first award of the night, which went to Trey Parker for Best Performance in a Game.  Trey Parker did a ton of voices for the game South Park Stick of Truth.  The best part about the whole thing was Tim Schafer, the presenter of the award, who cracked some jokes about the fake nature of past video game award shows.  It was actually pretty funny and clever.

the game awards 1

It was then Fullbright, a small independent studio known for their hit game Gone Home, who took the stage to give everybody a surprise teaser for their new game Tacoma.  Coming in 2016, the game looks like it has an retro art-deco atmosphere to it.  If it’s anything like Gone Home, it should be pretty interesting.

Then there were more announcements and sneak peeks, which was slowly becoming the theme of the show.  We got a look at Bloodborne, a PlayStation exclusive RPG that borrows a lot from the Dark Souls games.  We also got an announcement of Banner Saga 2.

Some other highlights of the show included EA’s Peter Moore, who came up to announce Hazelight Studios, a new development team working on a next-gen game.  We got a little teaser, but it only showcased two men on a train car looking off into the distance.  Nothing much, but still intriguing.  We also got a cool laser light musical performance that showcased some old video game music of yore.  It was weird, but a good kind of weird.

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Nintendo was the big winner of the night, taking home three awards by the end.  They won Best Fighting Game for Super Smash Bros for Wii U, Best Developer, as well as Best Sports/Racing Game for Mario Kart 8.  They also ended the show with an exclusive look at the next Legend of Zelda game for the Wii U.  The sneak peek showcased some of the open world traversal features that they were working on, as well as the scope of the game itself.  The game looked pretty, and the fans loved it as well.  Nintendo had a great night at the awards.

Probably one of the best moments of the show was when the Industry Icon award was handed out.  The new award was designed to honor icons in the industry who have put in a lot of work to get them to where they are today.  It was Sierra, the studio behind classics such as Kings Quest, that got the spotlight.  The founders of the studio, Ken Williams and Roberta Williams, received the award.  There was a video that showcased some of the work that the two worked on, featuring some of the history of the studio.  The two really deserved it.  They also brought out some developers working on the revival of the series, aptly named Kings Quest.  They gave us a look at the stylistic 3D re-imagining of the series.  Some thought that this game took the prize for game of the show.

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Some other notable awards included Best Shooter, which surprisingly went to Far Cry 4, Best Indie Game, which went to Shovel Knight, and Best Handheld/Mobile Game, which went to Hearthstone.  However, the award of the show, Game of the Year, was saved for the end.  Geoff Keighley came out on stage and announced the winner, which was Dragon Age Inquisition. The game, which has gotten high praise the past couple of weeks, seemed like a sure lock for the award.

The award show concluded with a nice, and surprisingly intimate, performance from Imagine Dragons.  It turns out that they are pretty big video game fans, as evidence by their performance of some of the music from the Legend of Zelda.  They were also joined by Koji Kondo, who played piano in the background.  Kondo was a good sport through it all, and it was a nice conclusion to the show.

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As I said before, the Video Game Awards 2014 was a big step in the right direction.  The show has rallied a lot of support from the industry, and it seemed like they were free of the PR antics that plagued past shows.  There is still a lot of work that needs to be done however to make it spot on.  Nevertheless, the show was still entertaining after all.  But, I got tired of “World Premiere” by the end of the show.  They need to cut that stuff out.

Here’s the full list of winners from the night:

JURY VOTED

GAME OF THE YEAR: Dragon Age Inquisition

DEVELOPER OF THE YEAR: Nintendo

BEST INDEPENDENT GAME: Shovel Knight

BEST MOBILE/HANDHELD GAME: Hearthstone

BEST NARRATIVE: Valiant Hearts: The Great War

BEST SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: Destiny

BEST PERFORMANCE: Trey Parker as Various Voices, South Park The Stick of Truth

GAMES FOR CHANGE: Valiant Hearts: The Great War

BEST REMASTER: Grand Theft Auto V

BEST SHOOTER: Far Cry 4

BEST ACTION/ADVENTURE: Shadow of Mordor

BEST ROLE PLAYING GAME: Dragon Age Inquisition

BEST FIGHTING GAME: Super Smash Bros Wii U

BEST FAMILY GAME: Mario Kart 8

BEST SPORTS/RACING GAME: Mario Kart 8

BEST ONLINE EXPERIENCE: Destiny

FAN CHOICE

MOST ANTICIPATED GAME: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

ESPORTS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Matt “NaDeSHoT” Haag

ESPORTS TEAM OF THE YEAR: Ninjas In Pajamas

TRENDING GAMER: TotalBisquit

BEST FAN CREATION: Twitch Plays Pokemon