Monday, April 30, 2012

PAX East 2012: Kairo

In the Indie Megabooth there was more than one puzzle-focused first-person adventure.  Whereas Antichamber was bright and focused on the shifting of perception, Locked Door Puzzle's Kairo takes a more monolithic, architectural sojourn into the abyss.  We got to speak with the man behind Kairo, Richard Perrin, and we asked him about the influences behind the world and what we can expect from the ominous landscapes around us. [Check out the preview after the break.]

PAX East 2012: Guacamelee!

At the Indie Megabooth, we got to see the newest flavor of juice from Drinkbox Studios.  While the company was showing off its Steam version of Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!, we got to try out the first playable build of Drinkbox's adventure brawler, Guacamelee!  We had some time to speak with Graham Smith, the Producer behind the game and COO for the company, and we got some tantalizing details about the game and chickens, too! [Check after the break for our preview.]

Thursday, April 26, 2012

PAX East 2012: Runner 2: Future of Rhythm Alien

In the Indie Megabooth (which I proceeded to call the "Mega Indie Booth"), developer Gaijin Games showed off the first publicly-playable build of its newest game: Bit Trip Presents Runner 2: Future of Rhythm Alien.  Acting as a sequel of the original BIT.TRIP RUNNER, Runner 2 changes the game's style up and adds much more to the already solid game design from before.  We got to speak with the Creative Director himself, Alex Neuse, about the game and how his company has been working out these last couple years. [Check out the preview after the break]

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

PAX East 2012: Snapshot

In the Indie Megabooth, developer Retro Affect demonstrated the near-complete version of their big title, Snapshot.  Originally developed as a prototype for the Independent Game Festival in 2009, Snapshot has since been developed into a full, expansive game, and it is now finally nearing completion.  We got to try the game out and speak with the company's software neurosurgeon, Dave Carrigg, about the game and the story behind its creation.

Monday, April 23, 2012

PAX East 2012: Antichamber

At the Mega Indie Booth, we got to play a number of games and speak with a few of the minds that helped produce them.  One of the games there was Antichamber, a first-person exploration puzzle game which steps out of reality and into the mind of Escher and beyond.  We got to speak with its creator, Alexander Bruce, who helped disclose the inner workings of its creation and explain where he got that snazzy pink suit!

Unfortunately, we did not get the chance to play the game, but from what we witnessed, it will surely be one crazy ride once it releases later this year for PC and Mac. For more information, check out the official site here!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

PAX East 2012: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3

Just outside the Mega Indie Booth at PAX East stood a large booth demonstrating one of the show's highlight debuts: the third game in Penny-Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness.  Following Hothead Games' first two adventures, many thought a third entry in the series would never arise, but thanks to a forum topic bringing up the idea to take it to Zeboyd, the project has reemerged.  We got to speak with both Robert Boyd and Bill Stiernberg, the entirety of Zeboyd Games, about the project, and we also got to try it out for ourselves. [Check after the break for impressions and a gameplay video!]

PAX East 2012: Crimson Dragon and Steel Battalion

At PAX East, Microsoft's booth was surrounded by large Kinect setups, demonstrating a number of games that had just come out such as Kinect Star Wars and games that are on the horizon.  We were unable to get any interview or direct playtime with these games, but we do have two gameplay videos for you to enjoy.

Friday, April 20, 2012

PAX East 2012: Dust: An Elysian Tail

The winner of DreamBuildPlay in 2009, Dust: An Elysian Tail has been in development for some time and has kept most of its features a secret. At PAX East 2012, we had a chance to play this game at Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade booth and speak with the man behind the game, Dean Dodrill.  Check after the break for the impressions!

PAX East 2012: Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition

At the Xbox booth at PAX East, Microsoft got to show off its upcoming showcase titles for Xbox Live Arcade, and among them stood one of the most recognized PC games of recent days, the ultimate sand-box game, Minecraft.  Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition was playable at the showfloor, and I got to get a quick spin with the title.  We also got a short but sweet interview with Josh Mulanax from Microsoft to give us some of the lo-down on 4J and Mojang's collaborative XBLA effort. [See after the break for my brief impressions]

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PAX East 2012: Jools Watsham (of Renegade Kid)

While at PAX East 2012, we got to see a number of developers discuss the Nintendo 3DS and how its StreetPass function worked in context of gaming communities.  One of those developers was Jools Watsham, Creative Director of Renegade Kid, the company behind the eShop hit Mutant Mudds.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

PAX East 2012: StreetPass Network

Ever since the 3DS launched last March, a number of gaming groups have sprung up all around the world, all for one purpose: to play video games and have fun streetpassing each other!

StreetPass is a wireless feature on the Nintendo 3DS which causes 3DS devices to communicate with each other without direct contact or any effort on either side of the communication.  The primary program for this, the StreetPass Mii Plaza, collects this data and allows gamers to trade puzzle pieces and assist each other in an RPG game called Find Mii.  Over the past year, however, other games such as Dead or Alive: Dimensions, Mario Kart 7, and Kid Icarus: Uprising have utilized StreetPass functions in some way, and many more games are still on the way.

We attended the StreetPass Network panel at PAX East where we and other attendees got to hear about how the groups work and their opinions on the StreetPass function and how it brings gamers together.  We have a full video of the main panel itself, and that will be released in time.

For now, we wanted to post an interview with Joshua Lynsen and Jordan White, the founders of StreetPass DC and StreetPass NYC, respectively.  In our long but informative interview, we got to hear more elaborately why they created StreetPass groups, how they run the groups, and their personal opinions on the 3DS and games coming out this year.  For more information, you can go to their websites and join in the StreetPass fun, or if you are not nearby a current StreetPass group of your own, check out StreetPass Network's website for more information.

PAX East 2012: Double Dragon Neon

When people talk about old-school arcade beat-em-ups, particularly one with two brothers with red and blue jackets on, the majority are talking about Double Dragon, a series which has been in hibernation for a number of years.  Wayforward Technologies and Majesco Entertainment recently announced, however, that the brothers had arisen from their slumber to kick city gang butt in their newest game: Double Dragon Neon!

PAX East 2012: Black Knight Sword

Grasshopper has been the source of many unique games over the last few years, and 2012 is looking to be no different, except now the developer is making games for downloadable distribution!  After working alongside Digital Reality on Sine Mora, the collaboration continues with the dark fantasy, Black Knight Sword.  I got to play it at PAX East 2012, and from my time with it, I was impressed with the style if a little concerned about its gameplay variety. [Check after the break for my brief impressions]

Saturday, April 14, 2012

PAX East 2012: Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

Sega's booth at PAX East featured a number of games, but one game truly stood out as the most off-the-wall of the bunch: Arkedo Studios' Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit.  At the showfloor, we got to meet the mastermind behind the small-but-deadly game company, Camille Guermonprez, and I got to ask him a few questions about Hell Yeah and Arkedo itself.  See our preview after the break.

PAX East 2012: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II

Of all the lines at Sega’s PAX East Booth, the line for Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II was one of the largest.  Fans of the blue hedgehog all wanted to try out his newest adventure, but at the same time, there was cautious optimism.  After the mixed response to Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, Sega claims to have gone back and rebuilt the game’s physics to be closer to the Genesis Sonic titles, although not entirely so. We had a chance to try it out on the show floor, and there were definitely some improvements.

Check out the video here for an interview with Sega's Ken Balough! [Impressions after the break]

Friday, April 13, 2012

PAX East 2012: Mario Tennis Open

At Nintendo’s PAX East booth, I managed to get hands-on with Nintendo’s new 3DS sports title, Mario Tennis Open. Developed by Camelot, Mario Tennis Open is the newest handheld Mario Tennis game and the first Mario sports game on the 3DS. While Mario sports titles have not been my forte, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get into the game.

While the latest Mario Tennis games were filled with over-powered trick shots, Mario Tennis Open felt more like the original Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64 with more focus on basic tennis skills and polished experiences rather than super-power gimmicks. Instead of using uber flashy special moves, the matches I played were won based on skill and timing. This was handled nicely with the game's easy-to-use controls. It felt natural moving the characters around the court with the circle pad, and making various shots with the face buttons was easy. Mario Tennis Open also features buttons and combo shortcuts on the touch screen, but I preferred using the face buttons since looking at the touch screen took my eyes off the action on the top screen.

The build at the show floor appeared to be the final build as it was filled with various modes and gameplay options. Besides the usual single player matches, there are Multiplayer Matches, which include Online Multiplayer, and Special Games which are designed to harden one’s abilities on the court. While old favorites like Ring Shot have returned from older Mario Tennis games, my favorite Special Game mode was the new Super Mario Tennis. Here players rally the tennis ball against a large screen scrolling through a level from Super Mario Bros. When the ball hits an object on the screen, it acts like if Mario hit it in-game. When my tennis ball hit a block on screen, the block broke apart. When I hit a Goomba, it got squished. My favorite part was when I hit a Warp Pipe and was warped into a secret underground chamber. The game even gave me points based on how high the tennis ball hit the Flag Pole. Of all the modes in Mario Tennis Open, this one surprised me the most and had me smiling the whole time.

Some people might be disappointed to hear that there is no RPG mechanic in this game, but I did happen to notice something RPG-esque hidden within Mario Tennis Open. Within the game’s Club House, players can customize their Mii character with various items such as clothes and rackets, which can be purchased or unlocked by playing matches. While customizing the game’s Mii, I noticed that select clothes had various stats attached to them; upgrading you Mii’s abilities by equipping better attire sounds a lot like an RPG to me. Even though I only had a peek at this area, it could be quite helpful at making your Mii character match your play style when challenging people online. It might not be a full scale RPG, but at least it’s something.

If you have ever heard the music from Mario Tennis before, you’ll find that Open’s soundtrack sounds fairly similar to it although it now has a few references to newer games like Super Mario Galaxy. As for the game’s audio, each character is fully voiced with grunts and one-liners that are also a staple in Mario sports titles.  The announcer could have been better, but it did not detract from the experience.

Graphically, the game looked just as good as its console predecessors, with fluid animations, detailed characters, and varied environments. The frame rate remained the same no matter if the 3d was on or off, although I am not sure if this will change when played online. One interesting feature was the ability to change the game’s camera angle from overhead to over-the-shoulder by simply tilting the 3DS upright. While it didn’t change the gameplay, it offered a viewing angle that amplified the game’s 3d effects.  There is additional use with the gyro sensors, but I did not test them out thoroughly in my time playing the game.

Mario Tennis Open felt like another great addition to the Mario Tennis franchise. While the touch screen and gyro features have not really changed the game, returning to plain, solid tennis gameplay did. With online multiplayer and special games like Super Mario Tennis, Mario Tennis Open seems to be another great serve by Nintendo to get people excited about the 3DS. I would like to see more of the Mii customization system and online services before making any final judgment on it, but those of you sold already should look out for Mario Tennis Open for the Nintendo 3DS this Spring.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

PAX East 2012: Bomb Monkey

[This preview is also posted on]

When Renegade Kid first entered the digital distribution scene, it released the well-received platforming adventure Mutant Mudds on the Nintendo eShop.  Now, Renegade Kid is continuing its releases with a puzzle game starring a monkey with a tendency to throw bombs.  This game has been kept under wraps for the last month or so, but at PAX East 2012, I was able to get a brief but satisfying preview of the game’s early build with Renegade Kid’s Jools Watsham.

Bomb Monkey stands as a unique 3DS Download Software title because it does not make use of the 3D screen, at least in the form I played.  The 3DS is held on its side, with the D-Pad facing the player.  At the top of the rotated touch screen is our simian protagonist, and from the bottom of the screen, a tower of colored stone blocks rise.  If any part of this rising tower reaches the monkey, the game is over.  In order to prevent this, players move the monkey along the rail at the top of the screen with the D-Pad, and pressing down releases what he holds toward the rising blocks below.  The game also has touch-screen controls for those who find the D-Pad awkward, but for me the D-Pad was sufficient.

However, just dropping blocks will not diminish the others below, but that is where the Bomb part of Bomb Monkey comes into play.  Every few blocks, Bomb Monkey pulls out a large bomb, which upon colliding with a block explodes into a cross explosion, reminiscent of Bomberman’s weaponry.  Any block that is hit with the explosion will be destroyed, and any connected group of like-colored blocks, when ignited, will be destroyed at once.  To make things even more complex, there are a number of unique blocks which affect the bomb’s explosive path.  Blocks which are covered in chains must be hit twice by an explosion to be destroyed, and that can lead to some broken combos.  Amid the blocks are boxes with arrows pointing either left and right or up and down; igniting these boxes cause great explosions which cover an entire row or column, depending on the arrows’ directions.  Over the course of the game, bombs covered with the letters B O M and B again, when all collected, will cause Bomb Monkey to go into frenzy, throwing ten bombs in a row for complete block demolition!

The game’s early build seemed fairly complete, having at least three modes available to try out.  There is an Endless Mode, in which players play Bomb Monkey until they ultimately fail.  Once I had explored that mode, Jools sent me and my brother to 2-Player Battle Mode, using one handheld.  One player controls the D-Pad, while the other controls with the four face buttons.  Here, the game plays similarly to that of the normal mode, but as you blow up larger combos, more blocks randomly descend on the other player.  I will admit that I lost, but I was close, darn it!

The game also has a 2-Player Cooperative mode and a special Rescue Mode, where Bomb Monkey must help destroy cages to free his friends (hopefully they can stand explosions!).  When pressed about leaderboards, Jools said the game would not have online features of the sort.  Considering that, the game appears to be more of an offline affair, so those expecting online multiplayer or shared leaderboards should lower their expectations a little.  Bomb Monkey will not be as deep or as large of an experience as Mutant Mudds, and the game, without having an actual price announced, will be aiming a bit lower than Renegade Kid’s first eShop title.

Despite those missing features, the game stood out as an addictive experience.  The concept seems simple, but the added modes and different blocks make the game more puzzling than your basic falling block title, especially when you are the one dropping the blocks which can ultimately become your downfall.

Bomb Monkey is nearing its completion, and barring any major problems, it should be out in the coming months.  Be there or be square (and you know what happens to square things in Bomb Monkey!).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

PAX East 2012 Day 3 Synopsis

Ah, finally home at last, and finally time to tell you what appeared for us this last day at PAX East 2012!

Our day began with an interview of Zeboyd Games, the proud developer of The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3, and from there we ventured into the Mega Indie Booth and shot footage of a number of games we had not gotten to the days before.  While interviews were scarce today, we did get what we could of particular games so we could show them all to you in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, we went to the Square-Enix booth for some extra coverage.  N-Space's Heroes of Ruin was unable to be recorded, but I got to play some of it briefly.  Let me say its 3D is superb, and it looks like there will be plenty of scavenging to be done for the best loot.  Footage was shot for Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy (which was a big crowd-gatherer, thanks to Penny-Arcade themselves), Quantum Conundrum, and Sleeping Dogs.  I wish we could have had more from them, but time was not entirely on our side today.

We got to grab footage of some Kinect tiles being shown, particularly Crimson Dragon and Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor.  We returned to Nintendo's booth for some extra Mario Tennis Open footage, and we got a couple minutes more footage of Wayforward Technology's Double Dragon Neon!

As we neared the end of our time at the show, we spoke with smaller developers Muteki and Wither Studios, and with them we got to see sneak peeks on their upcoming projects, Dragon Fantasy Book 2 and Crowman & Wolfboy.  Expect to see more of those games soon!

In terms of panels, we opted to relax and listen to the Penny-Arcade Q&A 2 panel, and from there we made a quick look around the floor once more and made our way back home...which took at least an hour longer than anticipated.  PAX Easter sounds great, but we hope this will not be a regular occurrence, unless our cars can turn into jets!

Anyways, with all of that completed and our tired bodies in need of hibernation, we ask you all to wait a little while as we prepare our many videos from PAX East 2012.  Our video-editing minion is prepping the coffee maker as we speak.

On that note, to those we met at PAX, it was great to see you all!  And to those who could not make it, we hope the videos bring you a bit closer to the crazy convention that was PAX East 2012!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

PAX East 2012 Day 2 Synopsis

Well, another day is done, and what a day it was!  Between a multitude of interviews, playthroughs, and delightful conversations, we found today more eventful than perhaps the entirety of our first trip to PAX East two years ago.  And now, while I am capable of using the Internet and my ancient laptop together, here are the quick notes for how our second PAX East day went.

First, we ventured to Naga Theater where we watched the StreetPass Network panel, complete with discussion from n-Space and Jools Watsham in regards to StreetPass in software.  Following the panel, we were able to have two insightful interviews with both the StreetPass group founders and Jools Watsham.  Of course, attempting an interview in a hallway where the Epic Games panel was being lined up was probably a bad idea, but we had fun regardless.

After the interviews, all of us decided to have a bit of lunch together, and there we got to witness firsthand one gamer's first live impressions of Mutant Mudds.  We also got to try out Renegade Kid's newest, unreleased project, Bomb Monkey, and without saying too much, it was a blast for everyone at the table (it almost had to be forced from one of our grasps).  Keep an eye out for that when it releases soon!

Actually getting onto the showfloor, we ventured to the Mega Indie Booth, where we got to try out Retro Affect's Snapshot, Gaijin Games' Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, Locked Door Puzzle's Kairo, and Drinkbox Studios' Guacamelee!  All were good in their own right.  Snapshot felt like a Super NES game upgraded for HD resolutions, and the photo mechanics have plenty of potential.  Runner 2 feels like BIT.TRIP RUNNER but incorporates a bit more; we will see if we can play it some more tomorrow for an even more in-depth experience.  Kairo was intense mentally, and the minimalist architecture acted as a unique muted style to the harsh contrast of Antichamber, which sat beside it.  Meanwhile, Guacamelee's cooperative mode was a bit early, but despite that, the game moved smoothly and shows great promise.

At Microsoft's booth, we got to try out Dust: An Elysian Tail and Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition.  The former was fairly difficult but came with the delight of great animation and a smooth game experience; its creator confirmed that the demo was probably a bit hard for a demo though it did show a lot of the game's elements adequately.  Meanwhile, Minecraft was a bit of a complicated endeavor.  The controller does not replicate the keyboard as well as it could, but having 4-player split-screen felt like a good enough trade-off for now.  The game did crash a couple times while we were there, but what can you do with an earlier build?

We got to look around the showfloor some more, and in that final moment, we were able to try out Rock Band Blitz.  It is a different breed compared to its predecessors, and it might require a second playthrough tomorrow for me to get my impressions fully placed on it.  So far, my impressions are leaning more positive, although I need to continue to restate that it is no band simulator this time around.  Not even close.

Anyways, that summarizes our second day at PAX East 2012.  Tomorrow, we will be dropping by the showfloor one more time before we get ourselves headed back to the dark place in which we, or whatever you call your home.

Until then, have fun with fun stuff!

Friday, April 6, 2012

PAX East 2012 Day 1 Synopsis

Well, after a long unfortunate drive up to Boston, we finally faced the first full day of PAX East.  Now, I don't have much time to post readily here on the site this weekend, so I continue to recommend looking at our twitter feed for more timely updates on the event.

But, for those of you who prefer to see things on blog posts and want to know what we'll be showing online in the coming weeks, here is a brief list.

The show began with my presence at the NWR Connectivity Jeopardy panel, in which I placed second.  It seems my knowledge of Resident Evil games helped me out with that, but the victor had a much better Penny-Arcade knowledge.  I will not be at tomorrow's Radio Free Nintendo panel, but I recommend it.  Those guys are pretty awesome.

We were unable to get into the Main Hall for the Penny-Arcade Q&A, but we were able to drop by Merman Theater, where we watched it broadcasted.  It still amazes me how much love is at this expo and between all PAX-goers.

From Sega's booth, we got to try out Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II and found it to be much improved over the first episode.  We even have an interview to post in the near future.  We also got to try out Arkedo's Hell Yeah! which was pretty boss and diabolically cute.

At Nintendo's booth, we struggled to scan AR cards from Kid Icarus: Uprising, though we did get a pack of Series 1 cards to take away.  Also, Mario Tennis Open was pretty good; its Mario Classic mode is pretty neat (and you'll agree when you see it).

We got to speak with Antichamber-creator Alexander Bruce, so expect something from that game when we emerge from Boston next week.  We also got to look around at the immense lines over at any 2K Games showing that was there (and don't forget the Assassin's Creed 3 or Aliens: Colonial Marines line, phew!).

The last thing that comes to mind is the Precipice of Darkness 3 panel, which proved to be very insightful and delightfully humorous, too.  Those guys have some skill, let me tell you.  We may have some tidbits of that panel up on the net at some point, too.

Okay, my leg is falling asleep.  That's the sign to stop for tonight.

Time to watch Adventure Time!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

PAX East 2012: Here We Go!

We are but a day away from the first exciting day of PAX East 2012!  Now is the time for everyone to start heading their way to Boston, and we are a small fraction of them.  We're anxious, giddy, and a little manic as we await the show before us.

Now, we will not have videos from the show until after the show is over, but do not worry, viewers!  We will be providing live tweets regarding the trip and the show itself as well as some pictures, if our phones can find a signal, that is.  Either way, we will provide a day-by-day post to give a brief synopsis of what we did and what to expect from us in video and maybe audio form once the show calms down.

To follow our live tweets, just click on the Twitter symbol to your right to get sent to our twitter page, or if you can't turn your head, try clicking here.

In the meantime, relax and enjoy the Easter weekend, or if you happen to be at PAX East, too, then enjoy the event and game on!