Monthly Archives: August 2012

Review: Thirty Flights of Loving – The Sequel to Gravity Bone

I’m not really sure what the title means. I’m not really sure what the game means. It’s only 15 minutes long, I know that. And it’s kind of the sequel to the stellar Gravity Bone, I know that too.

Thirty Flights of Loving is… a Quake II mod, pretty much exclusively created by BLENDO Games founder/mastermind, Brendon Chung. It features blocky characters that speak like they learned English from the teacher in Charlie Brown’s class. It’s set in the same game universe as Gravity Bone, but at a different point in the life of the super spy(?) main player-character, Citizen Abel. It’s worth every penny of the $5 asking price. Continue reading

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Rediscovering OnLive… After It’s Already Too Late

E3 2010. I have a secret backroom meeting with the VP of OnLive, set up for me by a site that currently pretends I’d never worked for them. I’ll admit: I was not really looking forward to it. OnLive had a LOT of negative press at the time, mostly due to the whole button-delay-due-to-lag thing that was probably blown way out of proportion. But whatever.

He showed me OnLive working on an iPad. He showed me their new universal controller. He told me about how they were expanding to the U.K., where pings are around 50 instead of the U.S.’s ~200. He let me play Homefront on a tablet. He gave me a micro console, and an OnLive press pass (which I promptly abused by “purchasing” every game in their library). The best part, to me: there was no lag. Sure, the E3 setting means that there will always be the most pristine network and gameplay environment (don’t want to give press people a bad impression!), but I was impressed. I headed home with high spirits about the platform, ready to tell the world all about how great OnLive actually was.

Sadly, my micro console only came with an HDMI cable, and I was living in the past with a 21″ pre-HD console TV. Sure, I could play my hundred-or-so new games on my computer, but my laptop gets so hot that it burns off my thigh hair, so it’d have to be a pretty amazing game to be worth the pain. Nevertheless, I was able to test out the micro console at a friend’s house… where OnLive performed even better than at my E3 meeting. Then, back to my SD life, I promptly forgot about OnLive. Just like everyone else, it appears. Continue reading


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24 Hours With My New 3DS: The Things I Wasn’t Warned About

Coworker: “I need to get rid of my old 3DS since I bought the XL. Want it? How about $50?”

Me: “YES. Yes I do.”

And that is the story of how I finally, finally joined the 3DS Owners Club.

It’s pretty cool. It does almost as much as my iPhone, and with graphics that are almost as good. Also: buttons! Screens! But there are a few little unforeseen quirks, possibly because Nintendo is one of those rare companies that has lived in its own little world, it’s own little bubble separated from the rest of time, space, and society, for the last hundred-or-so years. It is arguably the best (if you go by quantity and quality of games) – and definitely the most important – handheld system on the market today. What has my first day been like in 3DS Land? Well, it might have been a lot like yours. And if you don’t have a 3DS yet, well… there are a few things you should know first. Continue reading


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The Leaked Screenplay for Polygon’s Documentary, “Press Reset”

red phone ringsBrian Crecente picks it up with urgency. eyes steely. sweat on his brow.

BRIAN CRECENTE: This is Brian.

VOICE ON PHONE: Brian! Chris Grant. I was just in a meeting with some very powerful people. You ever heard of The Verge?

CRECENTE: Oh yeah, that’s that… no. I haven’t.



GRANT (unperturbed): They’re this multi-million dollar media empire. They want to give us a whoooooole lotta money to make the best video game site on the internet. I want you to run it with me. We can hire anyone we want, and it’ll launch in just a few months. Interested?

CRECENTE: Dude, I’ve been trying to find a way to get away from Ashcraft for months. Hold on a sec. (Covers phone with hand, yells over his shoulder to an off-screen Stephen Totilo.) Yo, Steve!

STEPHEN TOTILO (his head pops around a corner from the kitchen – he has cupcake frosting on his lips): Yeah?

CRECENTE: I’m moving to San Fran with Chris Grant to start a new game site. You good to take care of Kotaku?

TOTILO (a wicked smile spread across his face): Oh, I’m more than ready.

CRECENTE (nervously): O… kay. Great. It’s yours! Good luck! (back into the phone) Chris? Yeah, I’ll do it!

(in the background, we hear Totilo already talking into his Blackberry)

TOTILO (as the screen fades to black): Hey, B-A? Got any new ideas for that “What’s Japan’s Fetish This Week?” feature? I’m thinking we should bring it back…



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Dark Souls Is Hard Mode Only Because It’s Low-Budget and Poorly Designed


You’ll see these words a lot in Dark Souls.

New area? Turn a corner, stabbed, die. Trying to get back to your dropped souls (Dark Souls‘ multi-function money/experience unit)? Fall off an awkward ledge, die. Accidentally try to cast a spell that has no charges left? Look confused at your own incompetence, die.

Eventually you hardly notice the backtracking. You explore 1% of a new area, then you fail. You get back to where you died before with fewer problems, get another 1% farther, then die again. Rinse. Lather. Repeat until you can’t take it anymore. If you’re lucky (it almost always feels like you have to be more lucky than good), you’ll reach a bonfire, one of Dark Souls‘ save/checkpoints. These are nearly always off the beaten path, frustratingly hidden in a little corner nook. A lot of people bought this game. Few will ever beat it, let alone invest the hundreds of hours necessary for that platinum trophy.

You learn to spend your Souls as soon as they are acquired. Never saving for the future, you are a lower middle-class gas station attendant receiving an unexpected inheritance from a distant relative. Easy come; easy go. But the little windfalls add up. Your level increases, quickly at first, then slowly. Your armor becomes thicker. Your sword longer, stronger. Enemies that once challenged every reflex in your body begin to fall easily. You see sights you would never expect out of a grimdark game like Dark Souls. You start to have real, actual fun.

Then you come across an enemy that seems impossible. It’s not even a boss. It’s just another random goon. Why can’t you win? Are you in the wrong area for your level? This is totally possible – Dark Souls‘ open world gameplay lets you die anywhere you want, and as soon as you’d like (especially if you snag that Master Key as your starting loot). But maybe… maybe it’s not even your fault. Continue reading


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Review: Skyrim: Dawnguard – Is This Worth $20?

The biggest question that needs to be answered with Skyrim‘s first 360-exclusive-for-a-long-time-then-finally-hits-PC-but-we’re-still-waiting-on-the-PS3-version DLC expansion, Dawnguard, is, “Is this worth $20?” The intended audience has likely already invested dozens – if not hundreds – of hours into the world of Tamriel. And the game’s infinite procedurally generated quest system means that you’ve already been blessed with all the extra, non-essential game content you could ever need.

But then you remember The Shivering Isles, Oblivion‘s $30-and-worth-every penny DLC expansion. You recall Sheogorath, the Sean Connery-esque god of craziness. You remember the two distinct questlines, each offering a completely different experience for those forward thinkers with multiple save files for easy backtracking. Dawnguard has none of that. Dawnguard has vampires – creatures without souls. How fitting for an expansion lacking that same valuable asset. Continue reading

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EA Does First Charitable Thing in Their History, Eurogamer Talks Them Out of It

EA’s Medal of Honor Warfighter is coming out in October. To help promote the game, EA’s marketing people wanted to come up with something more unique and original than the usual YouTube/TV commercial/game magazine advertisement campaign. “What’s related to our game that we could sell?” one marketing person said to another. The light bulbs go off above their heads at the same time as they turn to the camera: “GUNS!”

That’s right, EA decided to partner with a handful of real, actual weapon manufacturers to make authentic Medal of Honor branded merchandise. You like shootin’ them brown people in authentic, real-world locations, Mr. ‘Murrica? Well how about you buy that same gun you love to use in the game to shoot stuff in real life! They’re also selling clothing, and various other weapon accessories like scopes, clips, and the like. Oh, and don’t forget the sweet tomahawk pictured above. For charity! Continue reading


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The Unintentional Consequences of Sony’s Cross-Buy

At Sony’s gamescom conference on Tuesday, they made an announcement that is sure to make the thousands of Vita owners very happy: if you buy any of the three upcoming PS3 releases PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal, Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force in Europe), or Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, you get the Vita version absolutely free. They’re calling it Cross-Buy, and if you’ve tried Sound Shapes, you’ve already seen it in action.

This is great news for current Vita owners who, besides Sound Shapes, haven’t really had a lot to look forward to recently. This is also great news for people on the fence about getting a Vita in the future; if you are buying any of these titles on PS3 anyway, then you’re basically getting a free packaged-in game with your shiny new Vita. The problem with Cross-Buy, though? While it won’t degrade the perception of value of a standard AAA PS3 console title (that will be a solid $59.99 at least until the next console generation), the perceived worth of a Vita game will go down even farther than it already has. Why would anyone pay $40 for a Vita game when you can get the always-superior PS3 version too for just $20 more? Continue reading


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Sound Shapes: On Death Mode

I’ll admit: I had mentally purchased Sound Shapes the second I discovered that the game featured three brand new Beck songs. I will also admit (reluctantly) that I didn’t know this fact until I was looking up Beck on Wikipedia to see what he’s been up to lately. Why was I doing this? Well, my at-work internet is heavily firewalled, meaning that Wikipedia, Yahoo! Finance, and single-player Hearts are the only reprieve I have from long, quiet nights in the press release factory, where I spend 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., five nights a week.

By the time release day finally came, I was pumped! Of course, PSN was down… but the next day, I finally got to dive in. Sound Shapes is very much like if you had Super Meat Boy’s difficulty layered over Loco Roco‘s mechanics, and then played trippy chiptunes (triptunes?) in the background, escalating in musical complexity as you progressed through the levels. You stick to walls, and there is only a jump button and a roll-faster-but-you-can’t-stick-to-anything button. Simple. Pure. Delightful. Continue reading


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Girlfriend Mode and Casual Sexism in the Game Industry

An interview with Borderlands 2 lead designer John Hemingway posted on Eurogamer this morning showed off a new character class for people that are maybe new to shooters. It’s a punky female robot-tank summoner with a cyborg arm – the Mechromancer. The best part for FPS noobs? It comes with an entire skill tree tailored specifically for them. Shoot at the enemy and miss? No biggie – your bullets will ricochet off nearby walls and hit them anyway. This is honestly a terrific idea to get siblings, friends, your mom, really anyone unfamiliar with first-person shooters into the game with you. In fact, it’s called “Best Friends Forever” mode. Cute! I hope other games borrow this idea.

Unfortunately, Hemingway referred to it colloquially as “girlfriend mode.” You know, because girlfriends (and, by extension, girls in general) aren’t good at these hardcore shoot-y games, RIGHT?! Despite Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford’s assertions to the contrary,  it seems like that has been an internal nickname at Gearbox for quite a while. If your Lead Designer is spouting it off casually to members of the games press without a second thought, you can be pretty sure he never considered the implications. Continue reading


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