Friday, March 29, 2013

PAX East 2013: Cult County


Renegade Kid was showing off their already-released and soon-to-be released titles at PAX East 2013, but they were also showing off another project, the newly announced Cult County.  While the demo was only an atmospheric one, we still have a footage of us wandering it and listening to direct game audio, too!

Cult County, says Director Jools Watsham, takes place in a small county in Texas, and the story involves a cult with an affinity for the occult.  He would not give in-depth explanations regarding the plot, and it seems likely the case because, as opposed to Renegade Kid's previous games, Cult County will be an episodic one.  Providing much of the plot now might spoil the experience later on.  Provided the games sell well, new episodes will be released in "seasons" over time.  So far, Watsham says we should be expecting as many as two seasons right now, three episodes a piece.  The first episode will run about four hours in length, but the length of other episodes will have to remain a mystery for now.

In the demo, I controlled someone wielding a wrench, which I could swing in front of me at my discretion.  Using the Circle Pad Pro, I was able to look around the landscape and the demo area with minimal effort.  The distant landmarks were distorted in a sandstorm, and what I could see looked worn and unkempt.  The building I walked around was boarded up and written upon, and when I attacked it with my wrench, it made an audible thump and recoiled the item back.  No clipping through the house, here!  Considering the size of the team, the graphics are certainly looking good so far, and we were told they were going to take this game slowly, so I expect plenty of polish from the team by the time it releases.  One thing is certain: the demo left me with plenty of questions I hope to see answered as we get closer to its release.

Cult County will be releasing on the 3DS eShop starting 2014.

PAX East 2013: Mutant Mudds Deluxe


At Renegade Kid's booth, Mutant Mudds Deluxe was one of two games on display that featured completed gameplay mechanics (the other being the already-released ATV Wild Ride 3D).  For those of you who have not heard of Mutant Mudds, the game is a retro-style platformer in which players control a young boy Max who is trying to rid the world of Mutant Mudds, evil comet-borne creatures which have taken over the land.  Using a water gun and jetpack with the help of his Grannie, Max must collect the Water Sprites in order to remove them from the world before it is too late.

Deluxe is the fourth iteration of Mutant Mudds, the first having been released on 3DS and then subsequently on the App Store and PC.  While this might seem like a bit too many ports, Deluxe has added a number of new features this time around.  For one, on the Wii U, the game is displayed in widescreen HD and will allow for play on the Wii U GamePad, but the biggest addition in Deluxe is a portal to access 20 new Ghost Levels.

In the Ghost Levels, the Mudds have become ghostly beings, and new monsters appear throughout twisted versions of the normal levels.  Platforms shift and move around from poltergeists unseen, and what is worse, the Ghost Mudds cannot be harmed by the water gun whatsoever!  Instead, Max has to avoid the monsters at all costs, which can be made even more difficult when players want to collect all of the diamonds in a level.  Thankfully, there is one power up, a dirt gun, that allows Max to harm Ghost Mudds in these levels, but the gun has limited ammo, so players better be conservative if they want to survive.

From what I played at PAX East, Mutant Mudds Deluxe felt very similar to that of the 3DS original.  Max moves at a decent pace across the screen, although with the widescreen image it might feel a little slower to some.  The graphics pop out quite effectively in its retro style, and the subtle blurring of each layer of the world helps make distinguishing which level is which easier, especially when there is no 3D display to use.  As for the ghost world, I found the challenge to be a notch higher than most of the game's original stages, and considering I was only in the first stages, they are going to be quite the challenge.  In other stages, even the Grannie stages, I could move gingerly across each area and attack each Mudd one at a time, but being slow in the Ghost Levels would do me minimal good, especially since I could not defeat a vast majority of the enemies in them.  Even the moving landscape itself was an obstacle that got the best of me, crushing me on a mad dash to the other side.  These stages will definitely require some retries to get through without a scratch!

The game felt very effective with the GamePad, and the additional stages look to change the gameplay in a significant enough way so as to keep the whole game fresh, and as a plus, the new stages do not require the whole game's completion to start access.  Mutant Mudds Deluxe looks like the definitive version of the game, and those who already have the 3DS version might find these additions good enough to warrant a double-dip.  I know I'm ready for it.

Mutant Mudds Deluxe is expected for release around May/June of this year for the Wii U eShop.

PAX East 2013: Renegade Kid Interview

Last year, we got to speak with Jools Watsham, the Co-Creator and Director at developer Renegade Kid.  He was not there to show off any game specifically at the floor, but we did get to have a lengthy interview about his games and origins in game design, not to mention a preview of Bomb Monkey, his latest project at the time.

But this year, his company Renegade Kid took part in the Indie Megabooth, and we got to speak with him again, this time surrounding the games at his booth and those to come in the future!  Check our other articles for more footage and impressions.

ATV Wild Ride 3D is out now on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.  Mutant Mudds Deluxe is expected for May/June release this year on the Wii U eShop.  Cult County will begin to emerge on 3DS eShop in 2014.  We will have to wait on their other projects, but one will be seen sooner rather than later for 3DS.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

PAX East 2013: Toki Tori 2

Amid the myriad of independent developers at PAX East, only one of them had a booth setup with AstroTurf.  That booth belonged to Two Tribes, and they were there to show off the Wii U version of their latest game, Toki Tori 2.  While we were not able to get our hands on the game for impressions, we did interview Creative Director Colin Van Ginkel about the game, and we like what we see.

Toki Tori 2 stars our yellow feathered friend who is off on an adventure to find the source of corruption to the land and put an end to its mayhem.  Whereas the game's predecessor was a level-based puzzle platformer with an emphasis on using a collection of tools at Toki Tori's disposal, Toki Tori 2 is a full open-world adventure in which the only things the hero can do is tweet or stomp.  Two Tribes says that as a Metroidvania-style puzzle platformer, players will be able to solve puzzles at their own pace or difficulty level; while there is one main path, there are much more difficult puzzles available for the more hardened Toki Tori fan.  Furthermore, while our avian protagonist can only do two simple things himself, he can use those actions to influence the wildlife around him and help make progress to his goals.

The game will be releasing first on Wii U, and that version will make use of the Wii U GamePad for off-screen play and as a camera viewfinder.  The PC version will have achievements and a level editor , although the latter will be available on the Wii U version in the future.

Toki Tori 2 releases April 4th on Wii U and somewhat later for PC platforms. Check out its site here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

PAX East 2013: Shovel Knight

Enjoy Captain Sean Velasco's playthrough and interview of Shovel Knight here, and read our impressions below.


At PAX East 2013, I was able to play the demo for a currently-running Kickstarter project, Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight is the first game developed by new development company Yacht Club Games, comprised of ex-Wayforward developers with experience from A Boy and his Blob to Double Dragon Neon.  The game takes inspiration from a variety of 8-bit classic side-scrollers including Mega Man, Castlevania, and DuckTales in both its visual style as well as its gameplay mechanics. The demo began with a visual of the game's world map, and while the demo was restricted to King Knight’s medieval castle, Pridemoor Keep, I was informed that a select number of stages would be accessible at the beginning of the game, with more becoming unlocked as Shovel Knight completes each stage.

Shovel Knight stars the chivalrous Shovel Knight as he journeys across the land to save his beloved from the evil Enchantress. However, before he can reach her, he must first defeat her Order of No Quarter, which is made up of eight evil knights. While the story seems a tad simple, Captain Sean Velasco said that the final game would have a number of cutscenes before boss encounters and in between levels to help flesh out the story beyond a generic tale.

Even though story is important, players tend to play old Nintendo games for their gameplay, which Shovel Knight provides in spades. Anyone who has played a Mega Man game before will know how Shovel Knight moves, at least from a platforming perspective. Shovel Knight walks, jumps, and climbs ladders just like Mega Man can, and the stages are also filled with a number of platforming gimmicks that should help make each level unique. At one point in Pridemoor Keep, there were chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. When I walked underneth them, they fell down on top of me, dealing a great deal of damage. Later, I had to jump on top of similar chandeliers and then quickly jump off as they would immediately fall into the bottomless pits below. Another gimmick in the stage was a magic book that would conjure up magical page-platforms once it was struck; however, the book would only stay open for a limited time before closing, causing the platforms to disappear and Shovel Knight to fall to his doom. These were very creative gimmicks, and I look forward to seeing more of them in the final product.

However, while the game’s platforming and stage progression feels much like a Mega Man game, Shovel Knight does not have a Mega Buster to attack enemies from a distance. Instead he uses a shovel, which requires the knight get in close and personal to attack his foes. If the slashing attack is not enough, pressing down in a jump causes the knight to thrust his shovel downward to strike enemies from above much like Scrooge McDuck from DuckTales or Link from Link's Adventure. This short-range weapon changes how players must navigate the world and confront enemies. During the demo, I encountered a shield-wielding solider that could block all of my attacks, so I had to get close wait for him to lower his defenses in order to hit him. Another enemy I had to face was a large fire-breathing Gryphon. In a Mega Man game I could stay away and attack from afar, but in Shovel Knight I had to get right in its face to attack, which was dangerous, as it would also swipe its claws at me on occasion. This mechanic made each hit feel more personal and made me feel like the knight fighting courageously against my enemies.

The shovel is not only used as a weapon, but it is also used to dig up treasure, destroy dirt blocks, and pogo off of obstacles to reach higher ground. Occasionally in the demo I would come across large dirt blocks that blocked my path. By attacking the dirt or downward striking the ground with the shovel, the dirt block would break way, which opened access to hidden areas or safer, alternate paths. Also throughout the stage were a number of dirt piles that contained wondrous riches, although most were hidden in secret areas in the level. At the end of the demo, all the treasure was added up and my score was placed on a leaderboard, on which I barely made it. If this score system is used for all of the stages and they continue to have all of these hidden areas, then this will definitely extend the life of the game beyond the initial playthrough.

Besides the pivotal shovel, the game offers alternate weapons a la Castlevania that must be found in each stage to be used in the game.  In the demo, I found a fire rod on the opposite side of a large pit, requiring some slick chandelier platforming to cross. With this ability, I was capable of launching fireballs at enemies without needing to get too close, making my next Gryphon encounter to be much easier.  Having learned that Shovel Knight will not be getting powers from the bosses themselves, I hope there will be a greater variety of items to acquire within each stage, but we will have to see what Yacht Club Games decides to do with these extra attacks. 

After walking through the usual boss hallway, I faced off against King Knight himself. The regal Knight jumped around the room making it difficult to po-go off him. He would also occasionally stop and then dash across the floor at incredible speeds. He would also summon trumpets to appear high on the screen to praise him and rain down hazardous confetti onto the battlefield, which I had to avoid in order not to get hurt. All of this fast motion and confetti made the battle quite the challenge with the close range shovel. Luckily, I had the Fire Rod sub-item that gave me the upper hand to take him down. It was definitely a tough but enjoyable battle.

Shovel Knight not only plays like an old school platformer, it looks like one, too. Everything in the game is fully spirited with an 8-bit NES style. The game also restricts its color usage to NES limitations in order to give it a more authentic feel. Despite being an “NES” title, the sprite animations were much smoother, and everything ran much better than they would be able to do on an actual NES. This made the game feel both retro and modern at the same time. Following with the game’s NES inspirations, the game’s music is comprised of chiptunes to sound just like other Nintendo games. Sadly, due to the convention hall’s loud noises, I was unable to full hear the music, but I enjoyed what I could hear, either way.

Without a doubt, Shovel Knight looks and plays the part of being a classic 8-bit adventure. While it takes inspiration from other great platformers, Shovel Knight managed to feel fresh and unique with its shovel mechanic and fluid animations. I cannot wait to take out the rest of the Order of No Quarter and to see what other challenges Shovel Knight will face. Go support Shovel Knight on Kickstarter, and it will find its way to PC, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS late 2013.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

PAX East 2013: Animal Crossing: New Leaf

At PAX East, Nintendo was all about pushing their newest 3DS releases, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, but they were also hyping up their next major 3DS release: Animal Crossing: New Leaf.  Unfortunately, Nintendo did not provide a playable version of the game, but they had a representative on hand to show the game off in a guided presentation.  This would be the first venue in which the English version of the game was shown.

For those unaware of the Animal Crossing series, Animal Crossing is a life simulation game in which players control an avatar as he or she ventures into a town whose occupants are all animals of various species and demeanor.  Whereas in previous games you were just a fellow villager with some big loans to pay, New Leaf gives you the ability to be the mayor!  Now you can rule the village with an iron fist...or something softer, if you prefer.

As mayor, you have the ability to help improve the village to better fit your interests.  You can pay for installations of benches, light-posts, even bridges along the town's river.  Those projects might get pricy, but starting the projects allows other occupants and even your friends online to offer more Bells (the game's currency) to the cause.  Not only can you start building projects around town, but you can also set up special ordinances, such as later open hours for the town's shops or cleanup crews to ensure the village is void of weeds.  All of these choices are on you, the mayor, so there is a bit more to do than just wander around town and play messenger with the other villagers.

Besides your mayoral duties, you can also better yourself with specialized clothing from the long strip of stores in town.  New to this version is the ability to buy shoes and socks and then some to completely customize your look along the way.  There is also a thrift shop in which you and other villagers can leave items to be sold to everyone else; the shop-running alpacas can even make alterations to those items to make them fit your house's design, which by the way is entirely modifiable on the outside and inside thanks to all of the additions you can purchase in-game.

If the town gets too boring for you, you can go take a ride with Kapp'n to The Island, a remote tropical island where the old former mayor and a lot of kappas reside.  There, summer fruit is freely available, and a plethora of souvenirs can also be purchase but not with Bells.  On The Island, you need to play mini-games in order to get special currency for the stores there, all of which last no more than a few minutes each.  Also at the tropical paradise, you will be able to swim in the ocean for the first time in Animal Crossing history, and with that, you will be able to capture deep-sea fish for display.

There is plenty more random additions to the game's content, but there is certainly more to this game than a simple iterative release in New Leaf.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf releases on Nintendo 3DS June 9th.   

Monday, March 25, 2013

PAX East 2013: LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins


At PAX East, Nintendo was putting plenty of emphasis on their latest Wii U release, LEGO City Undercover.  In that adventure, players assume the role of Chase McCain in his efforts to catch the criminal Rex Fury after he escaped from prison.  Nintendo also showed off another TT Fusion game for the Nintendo 3DS, the prequel LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins, which releases next month.  After having played it for a short while (a bit longer than what was allowed for recording), I have to say that the game fits LEGO City Undercover's style but gives me more concerns whether it will match the overall quality.

The Chase Begins also stars Chase McCain as he enters the LEGO City police force for the first time.  Taking place a whole two years before the Wii U original, the game shows a lot of the same characters but in different roles.  Having played the Wii U game for some time, I can tell that the two games are very connected, although it also spoils some of the 3DS game's story in the process.  I do not think I have seen a LEGO game with this type of of story connection before, but then again, we have not seen TT Games make a LEGO game without a licensed property before, either.

In the time I had to play the game, I was briefly introduced to the main characters in the game.  The story plays out much like LEGO City Undercover, in that the cutscenes are humorous and quirky, exactly what you would expect from a LEGO game.  Once the cutscene had completed, I was given the orders to pick up some donuts and return them to the Police Station.  It was here that I was finally able to enter the game world.

LEGO City looks similar to how it appears in the Wii U version of the game, although there are some changes to how it is presented.  For one, the framerate appears slightly less than the Wii U world, but it does not dip too much from that point, even in vehicles.  Cars and people travel around the city constantly, but there is a significantly smaller line-of-sight for our hero than in Undercover.  There is an ever-present blue haze that covers the city in the distance, and it is not that far from the playing field, either.  Passerbys and cars vanish and reappear even closer than the fog, which might present a problem when it comes to speeding vehicles through the city.  The fact that the activity is still as present as it is, however, does show some attempt to keep LEGO City as consistent between versions as possible.

The game uses the touch screen as a map and communicator device, which works well enough, but it also is used to display hints and notifications from the game to the player.  This would be as good a place as any for information, but the problem is that when said notifications appear, it cuts off the entire map in the process.  Examining the map is pretty necessary for missions, but when the help notices appear and cut the map off, it can slow down playtime waiting for the message to disappear (unless I did not know there was a way to remove the note manually).  Outside of the message issues, the map looks and works as effectively as the GamePad screen on the Wii U version of the LEGO City games.

Once I got the mission moving along and had free reign in the city, traveling was more interesting, and driving had a good sense of speed, especially with the 3D display on the 3DS turned on.  The humor is still there in dialog, but outside of cutscenes, there is no voicework, only text.  The music is a little compressed, but the music itself is true to the police television show theme that is prevalent in the LEGO City series.  Controls are solid for the most part, even if some vehicles turn sharper than they should (then again, I was driving a donut van, after all).

After my short time with The Chase Begins, my opinion on it is still on the fence.  The game has plenty of things that match the Wii U game, and if the game mimics a lot of the elements of the open-world console game, it should be a solid experience.  However, there are clearly things that reduce the quality of the game, although most appear to be presentation-focused rather than gameplay-based.  Also, considering this was the start of the game, it could improve as the pacing of notifications and the like as time progresses.  For now, it is clear to say that if you liked LEGO City Undercover, you might enjoy The Chase Begins, too, bearing in mind the cutbacks made to make a 3DS version of the game.

LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins releases exclusively for 3DS on April 21st.

PAX East 2013: Late Day 3 Report

Well, it has been a day since we got back from Boston, so I might as well let you all know what we did on our last day at PAX East!

First off, we got there late, thanks to the whole checking-out situation and finding a place to park near the convention center.  Apparently everyone else had that same issue, as it added as much as a half-hour to our trip to the convention.  Because of that, we missed most of the Who Wants to Be a Nintendoaire panel we intended to go to that morning.  At least we got to see the last couple moments of the panel once we got there.  We would have gone to another panel or two, but we had a lot to cover, so we spent the rest of our time at the expo hall.

It seemed more crowded for a Sunday this year.  Perhaps more people had not seen everything during the first couple days.  Either way, we got to play and look at a few more games: Capcom's Lost Planet 3, Capy's Super TIME Force, Nyamyam's Tengami, Facepalm Games' The Swapper, Red Barrels' Outlast, and Experimental Gamers' Boot Hill Heroes.  We even got to see the final presentation of Twisted Pixel's next project: LocoCycle.  Looking back, we did cover more this Sunday than last year's PAX East, but even so, we could have done a bit more if we had the energy to interview more people.

We will have a full postmortem after the videos are all uploaded, but from the looks of it, that should be a while, thanks to all the videos we have to get edited.  Expect impressions with the videos, so long as one of us played the game we recorded (unfortunately, we did not play EVERY game we are covering here, but we have plenty of games for you to see up ahead).

The drive back was solid, but we had issues thanks to our GPS system and its crazy ideas.  Oddly enough, we matched the time getting up to Boston, which has not been the case in the last couple years in which the return trip was faster, but either way, it was a smooth ride outside of some glitches here and there.

Stay tuned, everyone! Our videos are going to start rushing in as early as tonight!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

PAX East 2013: Day 2 Report

One more day to go, and so far things are looking pretty smooth, although we can definitely do a lot tomorrow to make this whole trip even better.

We walked from the hotel this time to the convention center, and it was very tiring.  Thankfully today was full of panels to attend for us, so we were not exactly too tired out.  We went to the Radio Free Nintendo panel, the Precipice of Darkness 4 panel, and the Retro Game Roadshow panel.  All three were very well done, so I was glad to attend them, for sure!

As far as games we played and recorded, we got to try out Double Fine's Dropchord, and we got to see Apotheon and High Strangeness in the Indie Megabooth.  Among the other games we captured, we got some Saturday Morning RPG, Muteki's Dragon Fantasy: Book II, Bread Brothers' Sully: A Really Serious RPG, and of course Zeboyd Game's Precipice of Darkness 4.  We might have played other games, but at the moment I cannot recall them.  Oh, and Tony got Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, but that's beside the point.

We have another day to play and see as many games as possible.  Whether we do that or not, we'll have to wait and see.

As a tip to those going to PAX East's Convention Center: make a lunch if possible.  Less time and less cost!

See you tomorrow!

Friday, March 22, 2013

PAX East 2013: Day 1 Report

The first day at the expo has reached its end, although how long we stay in the convention center at the moment has yet to be seen, but my feet are screaming in pain and so I will be brief.

First of all, the shuttle from our hotel was pretty poor.  We were apparently the last of three stops on the shuttle route, and we were passed twice because of it.  When the shuttle finally got to us, it had been nearly an hour, and to top it off, we ended up on the exact opposite side of the building.  We ended up getting there around 9:30am, and because of that, some places got really cramped real fast.

In terms of what games we saw, we got to play LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins at Nintendo's booth, and we also got to see a demonstration for Animal Crossing: New Leaf.  We went over to Yacht Club Games and saw the early build of Shovel Knight, and right next to them we talked with Media Molecule about Tearaway in their paper-covered booth.  We dipped our fingers into the Indie Megabooth and stopped by Renegade Kid to try Mutant Mudds Deluxe and their newly-announced title Cult County, and right around the opposite side, we talked to Colin from Two Tribes about Toki Tori 2 (we'll play that game soon enough).  At Capcom's booth we got to see the newly-announced Ducktales Remastered and played some Resident Evil: Revelations.  Partly through the day, we played Two Brothers and spoke in-depth with Ackk Studios.  All of this will be shown in our videos as early as next week.

In terms of panels, we went to a panel on Independent Journalists in the Gaming Industry, and there we heard from a number of independent journalists about getting into the business or striving for their own path.  It was very informative, and I am glad I went there.

I may have missed some things we did, but right now, I'm being rushed to finish the post.  That and I'm rather eager to grab dinner.  Anyways, fun day and expect a crazier day tomorrow.  Ciao!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

PAX East 2013 Report: Day 0

Hello from Boston!

That’s right, we here at Third Rate Minion are visiting Boston for the next Penny Arcade Expo!  That means in the coming days, you can expect posts from us about the goings-on at the showfloor and panels we attend.  That also means expect a deluge of video content in the coming weeks leading into April and hopefully before May.

There is a lot going on this year.  The Indie Megabooth is massive even compared to last year.  Every one of the main three console producers are going to be there, even with Microsoft and Sony’s next-generation consoles on the horizon.  Publishers are making more announcements and public debuts than ever before, and that means the crowds will be even more intense!  Sure going to be a fun year, even if it gets us exhausted in the process.

Our trip was vastly better than last year’s, which had an additional hour thanks to the massive Easter traffic combined with Hartford rush hour traffic part-way into the trip.  This time, though, with only an occasional back-up here and there, the trip was a solid one, even with the foggy and snowy weather that appeared all over the place.  Our hotel is not the same as last year due to price, but I think it may have been a poor choice to change from the last hotel.  Well, we are going to have to live with it, and so far service has been decent otherwise.

See us tomorrow night when we give you our first day overview from the convention center!  In the meantime, feel free to watch our Ocarina of Time playthrough, which we just finished a few days ago! /shamelessplug

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Third Rate Game Play: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 2D / 3D [Finale]

Game: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 2D/3D
System: Nintendo 64 / Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Nintendo EAD / GREZZO
Publisher: Nintendo
Player: Tony / Alex
Experience: Tony has beaten it multiple times. Alex has not.

Check after the break for the full article!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Third Rate Game Play: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 2D / 3D [Part 10: Biggoron Sword]

Game: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 2D/3D
System: Nintendo 64 / Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Nintendo EAD / GREZZO
Publisher: Nintendo
Player: Tony / Alex
Experience: Tony has beaten it multiple times. Alex has not.

Check after the break for the full article!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Third Rate Game Play: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Part 9: Spirit Temple)

Game: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 2D/3D
System: Nintendo 64 / Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Nintendo EAD / GREZZO
Publisher: Nintendo
Player: Tony / Alex
Experience: Tony has beaten it multiple times. Alex has not.

Check after the break for the full article!