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Interview: Ex-Armor Games Dev Reviving Incredible Flash Franchise

Throughout the 2000’s, Armor Games dominated the Flash games industry. One of their most valuable developers was Antony Lavelle, who created a slew of great series such as Indestructotank, SHIFT, and the narrative platformer K.O.L.M. Though originally intended as a trilogy, Antony left Armor Games after the second installment. Now, however, he’s aiming to finish off the story with a grand remake of everything K.O.L.M. up to this point, along with the final chapter, through Kickstarter.

With fond memories of K.O.L.M. prancing through my head, I asked Antony to answer a few questions. His answers give some incredible insight into the struggles and successes of an independent developer.

First off, thanks for talking to us. I never knew you by name back when I played flash games in high school, but reading through your past works it’s astounding how many of my hours were occupied by your games; they were some of the most polished, well put together games on the internet.

We know you created several hit flash games for Armor, like SHIFT, but tell us a bit about yourself; how did you get into the industry? What are your favorite games? What about developing them appeals to you?

When I was in school I used to mess about making small Flash animations, It was just for fun and I started including simple scripting in them, eventually branching out to make Dragonball Z and Metroid fan games. Then in university I started entering the competitions set up by Armor Games with moderate success.

Then a friend and I made a game called IndestructoTank that really took off. At this point I was unemployed with a one year old daughter, so when Armor offered me a job with the first task being to make a sequel to IndestructoTank, it was pretty awesome. I dropped out of university before my third year to take them up on the offer.

My favourite game of all time is Metroid Prime, followed by Shadow of the Colossus, and I think it’s likely to stay that way for quite some time. As for my own games my favourites are K.O.L.M., the Upgrade Complete series, and a game I made called I Was Hungry But There Were Cannons. I much prefer making light hearted games, but K.O.L.M. is my favourite because it’s the most substantial. And it’s a genre I love.

What was it like working with Armor? Was leaving a tough decision, or did it feel necessary for your career? What have you been up to since?

Working for armor was great, Dan, the CEO is a really nice guy. While there my main point of contact (as I worked from home) was John Cooney, one if the best Flash Game developers ever, so I learned a lot from him and had lots of fun too. It was hard, but rewarding.

Leaving coincided with John’s leaving and the overall shift in how Flash games were funded. Armor needed to move me to a less stable contract, and for me the priority was supporting my family, so I instead took up a desk job programming a free to play game in the UK. It’s a much less creative role and much more rigid. The people there I work with are amazing, and again I’ve learned a lot, but I don’t feel like I can keep it up.

Tell us a bit about your Kickstarter. What are the specific challenges you face here, and how can everybody help?

The big issue I’ve met is lack of response and interest from games media sites. Other than a Journo I spoke to early on for a quote, I haven’t received a single response from enquires, it’s incredibly disheartening. Though it looks like it won’t be successful, the response from my friends, family, and peers in the industry has been incredible–it’s just a shame that without big coverage from the games sites, this will only go so far.

Flash games were a great opportunity for independent developers, and gave many (including yourself) a way to get their work seen. How different was the development process for K.O.L.M. then and now?

Well now making the game requires a lot more knowledge of Maths and 3D Engine stuff than the original, which was fairly simple by comparison. Lighting, textures, asset loading and 3D Models really complicate the process. It’s a massive headache but very very rewarding when you see the end result of what you’ve spent an afternoon on.

Where did you first get the idea for K.O.L.M.?

I wanted to make a game that was kind of like my favourite series of games, Metroid. and as a working title named the files kolm. Well I just never got around to changing it until the game was practically done, so I went with it. As of the second game I retrofitted the M to not mean Metroid, it might have been a little short sighted of me.

K.O.L.M. is a huge shift in tone from your other games. I was a huge fan of the SHIFT series (the Shaft parody song will never leave my mind) and Upgrade Complete carried on that irreverent sense of humor. What was it that compelled you to turn around and make such a somber, story-driven flash game?

I much, much prefer to make games with a humorous edge, it makes the process of making them as quick and fast as Armor required all the more fun. Large games have far too much riding on them to take a risk basing it on a single joke (like Upgrade Complete) so I made the most of it.

K.O.L.M. 2 ends on a huge cliffhanger; as devastating as it is for the player not to see what happens next, how hard was it to walk away without making the third game for so long?

At first I was always under the assumption that I’d be making the third in the series next month or the month after, or just after the next project, but the time stretched out and then I left. It felt terrible to be honest, I’d always had in the back of my mind all the ideas I had for giving it a decent finish. K.O.L.M. 2 had a bit of a lull in the middle I wanted to make up for (the remake would correct this, too) and I wanted to end it on a bang. Didn’t happen, and that sucked.

Both games so far are relatively short; as flash games, they take about a half an hour each to clear the first time. Is K.O.L.M. 3 going to follow that trend of being a short, tightly-paced narrative, or are you expanding the scale of the game beyond its flash predecessors?

K.O.L.M. 1 and 2 would make up Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of the remake, with added areas to explore and an extra upgrade in part 2. You could rush through them in a similar time to the flash games, but you’d miss out on a whole lot. This is actually encouraged as part of the speed running challenges, as I’m a huge fan of Super Metroid speed runs, and want to incorporate tools for recording them into the game. Kolm 3 would be roughly double the length. A perfect, flawless speed run of the whole game would take about 80-90 minutes, but you’d only end up with about 20 percent of the content. A full run would take hours. So still a short game overall, but the main quest would only be part of the package. There would be the K.O.L.M.I.A.M. levels to complete, as well as a third game mode I’ve got under my hat that I made a prototype of a few weeks ago. It’s great.

Although K.O.L.M. and its sequel operate on the same basic mechanics, they’re kept fresh by focusing on very different elements–for example, there are no enemies in the second game, as it focuses more on puzzles that use two characters at once. Without spoiling too much of the story, how do you plan to shake up the gameplay of K.O.L.M. 3?

K.O.L.M. 1 was about following orders, K.O.L.M. 2 was about working together. The theme for K.O.L.M. 3 will be knowing who to trust. That, and entering the dark areas below with a real lighting engine opens all kinds of doors for skirting the horror genre 😉

This is clearly a passion project; your Kickstarter expresses just how much finishing this series means to you. What does K.O.L.M. represent for you, as a developer or artist?

K.O.L.M. represents a tribute to everything I like best in gaming. The progression, some optional story, exploration, and feeling more empowered over time. And Robots.

A number of people I’ve talked to have found meaning in Robbie’s story so far; the relationship with his mother caused a good deal of discussion and hit home with more than a handful of those who’ve played. Did you intend to speak on a personal level to players, or was it an unintended side effect?

I think a lot of people can relate to wanting to impress their parents, even if they don’t always deserve it. You can have the worst parents in the world and still ache for their admiration. Parents have immense power raising children, and need to treat the responsibility right. I think Robbie’s naivety is a rather unsubtle version of this sort of childhood scarring. It would be nearly impossible to do it full justice though, so I’m not going to patronize people by trying, when my own upbringing was pretty good. I really love the dynamic though.

Playing through the demo, it’s incredible how much more compelling K.O.L.M. is just with the voice acting and 3D environments. You did mention, however, that a lot of elements were toned down to make the demo browser-friendly. About how close to the actual polished, final product would you say the demo is?

Well the demo was made as a result of the Kickstarter stalling some. I made it over the course of 4 days, meaning there are a lot of rough patches. You can’t skip the upgrade sequences, and the voice of Robbie wasn’t ready yet as Chris had to have some teeth pulled out. The fact it’s been so well received is very flattering. I see so many flaws with it! You can’t even restart the engine without refreshing the page it’s embedded in 😛 But I’m glad I did it.

Having Chris O’Neill on board to voice Robbie is a great plus; how did that casting choice come about?

I’ve worked with Chris a few times in the past as we were coming up on Newgrounds. He’s a great guy, and has a lot of fans, even if I wouldn’t show 90 percent of his stuff to my daughter. He’s an extremely hard worker, and an incredible voice talent. I’m lucky he offered.

Along with the remastering of the first two games, Oculus Rift support, and the reintroduction of K.O.L.M. In a Minute, would there be any content added to the games themselves, or are you concerned that would disrupt the story’s pacing?

There will be lots added, but nothing to get in the way.

Every developer, even the bigshots, has games or developers they admire. If you could have the opportunity to work on any title (either already released or currently in development), or with any developer, which would you choose?

My dream from childhood has been to work on an official 2D Metroid game. Other M disappointed me. I really hope they go back to how it was, but it’s their series!

Thanks so much for talking to us, and best of luck with the Kickstarter. Any last words you’d like to say to everyone?

It’s not looking great at the moment, but I still appreciate every pledge. It’s heart warming how many people have come out for me. Thanks!

The Kickstarter is nearly at 50% with just a few days left; please, check out the demo of the game he wants to make here, and if it’s something you’re interesting in, consider supporting! You can also find any of the flash games we talked about in the interview on several places on the internet for free, so check them out if you need further assurance of Antony’s level of quality.

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Legendary Flash Series K.O.L.M. Being Revived via Kickstarter

The internet did a beautiful thing for us gamers. Through flash games, several independent developers were able to create simple games and have them played around the world. While many of those games were good, some really stood out above the rest. K.O.L.M., a story-driven platformer, stood out. K.O.L.M. and its sequel were developed by Antony Lavelle for Armor Games, but he left Armor before he could finish the final part of the trilogy.

The games we got were wonderfully atmospheric platformers that had us control Robbie, a broken robot, as he tried to regain his abusive mother’s affection. It was a heart-wrenching, surprisingly human series that left off on a massive cliffhanger. Now, through Kickstarter, he’s aiming to remake and expand the flash classics into beautiful modern classics along with finally letting fans know just what happened to Robbie and his sister; and he has a playable demo available!

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Type: Rider is a Steam Gem

The Humble Bundle is a wonderful thing. With how expensive gaming is nowadays, the ability to get several games on Steam for just a few bucks is very nice, no matter how good they end up being. Thankfully, a lot of big titles like Fez and Guacamelee frequently make an appearance. However, my favorite part of a bundle is coming across a game I knew nothing about, and finding it incredible. This happened just recently with Type: Rider, a game about the growth of written language over time published by a Arte TV in France and developed by Cosmografik. It’s a short platformer with enough creativity to provide several solid hours of interesting, challenging gameplay.

You can find Type: Rider in the Steam store for 6.99.

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3DS Articles Videos

Fire Emblem: Awakening is more RPG than Strategy Game

Fire Emblem: Awakening was one of the games that put the struggling 3DS firmly back on its feet. Though the Fire Emblem franchise had been pretty small, especially in America, Awakening broke those bonds and ushered in a burgeoning new fanbase. One would assume Intelligent Systems had hit the sweet spot in the strategy game’s design–however, along with the huge wave of new fans were a large portion of long time fans who expressed disappointment in Awakening. When I finally got a 3DS, I found myself in that camp. Naturally, I got incredibly anal about the situation and picked apart the game to try and figure out just what I felt I was missing! I realized that, fundamentally, Awakening changed not only the franchise’s gameplay, but perhaps even its genre.

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Hex Heroes is the Game the Wii U Was Made For

I stumbled across a game on Kickstarter the other day, and it’s beautiful; Hex Heroes is, in their words, a Party RTS (or par-tee-ess) for the Wii U, with a PC version also in the works and music by Grant Kirkhope. It uses the GamePad to bring a new depth to the RTS genre; one player on the GamePad does your standard construction and RTS commands, while up to four people on the Wiimotes control units that gather resources, explore, fight enemies, and so on.

The trailer they released doesn’t show the prettiest game; it was thrown together in a matter of hours, and as such the models are rough. However, the finished models they’ve been showing in Kickstarter updates have been gorgeous, and what the trailer does show is the innovative kind of game that the Wii U was made for. It also contains a lot of cameo characters, such as Shovel Knight and the Game Grumps crew. It’s nearly funded (73k out of 80k at the time of this article) with 24 hours left in the campaign.

Personally, this instantly became one of my most anticipated games, and they’re nearly funded; just 24 hours to get the last ten percent! If you like what you see, head on over and show some support!

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Post-SSB4 Nintendo Direct Discussion Stream

As we all know, tonight was a big night for Nintendo fans; we finally received a slew of new Super Smash Brothers information in the form of a direct focused exclusively on the crossover fighting franchise. Just like the E3 blowout last year, we’ve assembled a team of YouTube Smash speculators to talk about the new info and what it could mean for the game to come.

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Video: Is Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes too Short to Justify?

With the release of Ground Zeroes (the first, much smaller half of Metal Gear Solid V) the internet seems ablaze in controversy; it’s hard to see a single review of the game where the comments aren’t filled with angry gamers cursing Kojima for releasing a game with a main story under two hours, and even angrier fans who think the game more than justifies its lower pricetag. The debate has been so fervent that it led me to question the way I value games; just how much does the length of a game matter when it comes to price, and is there a point where quality can’t redeem a short campaign?

How about you guys? What do you value in an experience?

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Articles Videos Wii

Jack-All About Xenoblade Chronicles: A Retrospective

Xenoblade Chronicles was all over the internet for a while; considered the poster child of the Operation Rainfall movement to localize a group of interesting RPG titles that originally weren’t coming West, it represented in part the hardcore gamer’s desire for deep gameplay on the Wii. Though two other games, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower, followed after Monolith’s grand-scale RPG, they weren’t hyped nearly as much. However, once Xenoblade actually hit shores it fizzled out a bit; though reviews were phenomenal, few copies were released in the States, and it managed to remain somewhat niche. A lot of gamers, even if they were hyped for the game before release, never got around to playing it due to the limited release or reservations about its quality.

As it’s one of my favorite games of the past few years, I decided to take a look at Xenoblade Chronicles for the pilot of a new show I’m doing. Let’s start a discussion below; did you ever get to play it? What were your thoughts?

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Princess in Another Castle Launches Indiegogo Campaign and Trailer

A while back, Kennedy Baruch announced a feature-length adaptation of his popular short film Escape, about a girl in a troubled home who uses games as a means of coping. As I’m sure you’re all aware, making a full-length film is a daunting task, and costs a lot of money. That’s why Baruch has just launched an Indiegogo campaign for Princess in Another Castle, along with a trailer. While Escape was great, he wants to use the funds to greatly increase the production values and tell the story far better this time around. After the first day they’ve reached just over 10% of their goal, but there are a lot of stretch goals to make the movie the best it can be. So take a look, check out his plans for the film, and see if you’d like to help this movie come to fruition!

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Articles Indie PC Retro Videos

An Analysis of Evoland, a Zelda and Final Fantasy Inspired Indie Title

Growing up, I was extremely into games, especially Zelda and RPGs like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. I used to–and still do–sink hours and hours into these titles. Over the last year I got a new computer and started tearing into Steam, and it wasn’t long before I came across an interesting title–Evoland, one of thousands of retro-inspired indie games that parodies beloved franchises. The main hook was the way the graphics and gameplay evolved over time, from NES to Playstation. I heard wildly inconsistent things about it, and with the low price point Steam games have, I couldn’t help but jump in. While it only took a few hours to beat, I felt there was a lot to discuss about the successes and shortcomings of Evoland–mostly the shortcomings. As per usual, I felt I could best express my thoughts through video. So I made one, discussing the various elements of Evoland, how they come together, and why I think it ultimately had a lot of missed potential.

I’m all about discussion, so join in the comments below.

If you want to see more of these videos, check out my channel.

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Interview with James Guy, Creative Director of Lobodestroyo

A couple days ago, we stumbled upon a Kickstarter for a game called The Legend of Lobodestroyo vs. La Liga De Los Villanos—thank god this is written, or I would have butchered that title. If funded, the game will feature a very Banjo-esque wolf named Mutt as he Lucha’s his way through a colorful collectathon, gaining powers like in Mega Man and Metroid. It’s an incredibly charming premise, made by a team of programmers and animators who’ve done work at theme parks and other major entertainment companies.

With a helplessly endearing humor and one of the best soundtracks I’ve seen from a Kickstarter game, it’s piqued my interest in a big way. While the animations and aesthetics are a bit rough (the point of the Kickstarter is to help them buy better tools so they can fix these things) the game’s personality is fully intact and charming, and that’s something you can’t buy. I contacted the Creative Director James Guy (one of the nicest designers I’ve had the pleasure to talk to) and asked him to answer a few questions.

This is clearly a passion project for all of you; you stated in your Kickstarter that you all work in the tech industry, just not for games. How did the team members wind up getting together, and what was the moment that made you all decide to create a game?

Our team members all work for the same company now and have been together on various projects for different clients over the years. As a group of gaming enthusiasts, it wasn’t long before we started talking about our dreams of getting into the games industry. It wasn’t until last year, when Kickstarter really came on our radar, that we decided we should just knuckle down and go for it. So here we are!

The game’s hub has a decidedly ‘Old Mexico’ theme; not surprising, considering the role that Luchador culture plays in it. However, the worlds included in the game vary greatly in theme (my favorite of which is the Disney Land parody). Is the Lucha theme only prevalent in the hub, or does it intermingle with the themes of each of the separate worlds as well?

The lucha theme serves as the framework for the story and a lot of the initial areas explored, including the game hub world. Costa Lucha is very much a living, breathing city though, and the influences from all over become more prevalent the more you explore. The game worlds themselves each have a very diverse and unique theme deliberately. We have tried to get the classic archetypes in there (woodlands, fire world, ice stage, etc) but mix them up a bit by adding a spin to the settings to keep thing interesting.

One of the most exciting things I’ve seen (or heard) of the game so far was the music by Gooseworx. The music in the trailer is absolutely fantastic. How has it been working with Gooseworx, and how integral is the music to the game you’re creating?

Gooseworx is certainly what you’d call a ‘good get’. The guy has talent pouring out of him and is extremely enthusiastic about the project. His sound is EXACTLY what we are after and I am so glad to have come across his work. I reached out to him after I downloaded a few of his tracks, which was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had if I don’t say so myself!

(You can check out Gooseworx’s Soundcloud here)

Another endearing quality of the game that we get to experience in the trailer is a completely lovable humor. Was the dry humor written by you, a group effort, or is one of the programmers the team clown?

The humor in the game is very much an amalgamation of all of us on the team. We are a dry bunch with a shared sarcastic and self deprecating sense of humor. Hopefully we can get as much of that into the game as we can. The narrator in the trailer is actually the voice of ‘Dorado’ the luchador spirit that lives inside Mutt’s belt. In the trailer he was voiced by a terrific voice actor named Tim Simmons who we hired through Great guy to work with and highly entertaining to sit in on a recording session with!

You cite Metroid, Mega Man, and Banjo-Kazooie as the main inspirations behind the game’s design; a lot of people have reminisced of the Rare platformers of old, but this is the first time I’ve heard of the arm-cannon duo being brought into the mix. It’s unique, and the way you describe it is intriguing; what was the appeal in these franchises specifically that made you think they’d work together?

In Mega Man and Metroid you earn abilities of the bosses you defeat, and use your new abilities and moves to retrace your steps and gain access to new areas… These are traits we wanted to include in our game from day one. While this is far from revolutionary in the action-platformer genre, we want to play up the fact that we are leaning on these classic mechanics and infuse that logic into the Banjo/Mario 64 style gameplay as much as possible. The mask system we are developing will let players switch between the various abilities on the fly, allowing Mutt to perform alternate moves depending on which one of the boss masks he has equipped. Physical changes to the player character will also represent how much the player has accomplished in the game. Upgraded boots, trunks, gloves and capes will alter the appearance of Mutt in addition to the various elemental masks the player obtains from boss battles.

What’s been the most exciting part of working on Lobo?

Coming up with the idea and then fleshing out the various worlds has been a personal favorite of mine. Pairing classic themes with interesting locations and then populating those worlds with missions, characters and enemies. Getting to craft my own creative world is extremely liberating and fun.

What’s been the most frustrating part of working on Lobo?

Honestly, I underestimated the amount of stress maintaining a campaign like this is. Making sure to send a thank you to everyone who supports us; staying on top of comments and emails; trying to get the press to take notice of our little project… its a lot harder than I thought. Its fun, and I enjoy getting to reach out to our backers and supports. I’ve met some great people and learnt loads from this exercise. But I wont lie, it can be rather frustrating at times.

Does the whole team have a similar gaming background, or do you all have different tastes?

We are all across the board. Some of us are PC gamers, others prefer consoles. Personally I prefer a solid single player campaign game and stay away from the multiplayer stuff. But that’s certainly not the norm for most of the guys on the team. We have guys with favorites ranging from dance/rhythm games, to shooters to turn based RPGs. Pretty much everything gets played between all of us.

Does the team have a mutual love for Lucha and wolves, or did it simply seem like a fun character and combat style to play with?

Haha no, that’s just me. I’ve always had a fondness for the luchador aesthetic. Not really sure what it is about it, but the whole thing has just always been really cool.

Any last words to everybody out there?

If there was anything I wanted to say to the backers and the supporters we have, it would be a solid thank you. Crowd-funding is a humbling process but an extremely rewarding one outside of the pledges and well-wishes. I have made some connections with an amazing cross-section of the gaming community. People who dig the games that I do, and support efforts like Lobodestroyo. It’s been a great opportunity to talk with people all over the world that I would never have had the opportunity to otherwise. While it makes me sound like a fuddy-duddy who just realized what the internet is, I have to say that it’s just amazing to me how things like this bring people from all over together..

As of the writing of this interview, the Lobodestroyo Kickstarter is sitting at just under 10k left to go, with three days left. It’s been climbing at a steady pace, but they could use all the help they can get; if you have even the slightest interest in this game, please chip in just a few bucks or share it with your friends. The rewards are pretty nifty; from having your name in the game as graffiti or even an NPC, to even having a collectible gold N64 cart. Not to mention that with a Wii U version guaranteed, you won’t be stuck with a PC or Mac version if your computer can’t run it. This game is being made by some really great people, so please—check out the Kickstarter and see if you like what they’ve got going.

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Wii U Indie Platformer, Lobodestroyo, Nearing End of Kickstarter

Kickstarter has become the indie developer’s best friend over the last few years, with games like A Hat in Time and Mighty No. 9 meeting incredible support from fans who are more than happy to throw a little change behind the developers. Well, Lobodestroyo is trying to do the same, and in my opinion it’s one of the best-looking ones yet.

It’s similar to A Hat in Time in that it’s a love letter to platforming collect-a-thons, but there’s a healthy dose of Metroid and Mega Man influences in its game design, with bosses giving you extra powers and open levels that get larger and richer to explore as you gain new abilities. It’s also got buckets of Luchador personality and a humor all its own. The game is guaranteed to go to the Wii U if they meet their goal, with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as stretch goals, but they need some help to get there.

Source: Kickstarter

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Nintendo Retro Reviews

Throwback Thursday: Mega Man Review

[Throwback Thursday is a series where we look back on games from the past in reviews, retrospectives, and more. We will have something every week for your retro enjoyment. You may even discover something new to love!]

What can I say about
Mega Man that hasn’t been said? Nothing.

10/10, next review.

…or, I could try and keep my job and actually write something. Let’s see, um…I guess the most interesting topic of conversation to me is why
Mega Man, being older than myself, is still so relevant today. It comes up in game design discussion just as often, if not more, than the original Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, and even the timeless NES classic Bucky O’hare. Games have advanced so much since then (I’ve lost count of buttons since the SNES) so why would this old relic even be worth going back and playing?

I don’t know, really.

But I guess I should at least try to say why, in my opinion, this game still works so well after over 25 years full of technological and conceptual advances in game design. After all, everybody always marvels over it’s difficulty. But wasn’t Kid Icarus also difficult? People don’t reflect on that game nearly as fondly as Mega Man. So what’s the difference? Heed my unjustified opinion.

I really think the success of
Mega Man comes from its ability to put its titular character’s success squarely on the shoulders of the player. If you die on any of the many screens that make up a level, you don’t restart on that screen; you gotta go all the way back to the beginning—unless you managed to get to the one checkpoint halfway through the level. Or if you died to the boss, in which case they’re nice enough to let you just fight the boss again. You can’t just brute force your way to the checkpoints like in modern games either; you lose your three lives (or five, if you’re a cheater like me playing on the GameCube Anniversary Collection) and you have to go all the way back.

Getting to the end of this game requires you to learn the levels, memorize the patterns, and be able to make it through unscathed. So, with such harsh difficulty, why is it fun? The controls. Unlike
Kid Icarus, where the level design, enemies, and controls will often screw you over, nearly everything in Mega Man gets out of your way; you can’t say the controls are confusing, because it’s a two button jump and shoot sytem (plus rapid fire, if yer GameCubin’). You also can’t call them imprecise, as there is absolutely no inertia and you move at a constant pace. You miss a jump or fail to dodge? It was totally your timing, dude. It’s all you.

This produces a different feeling from those games that kill you with randomly spawning enemies that drop on top of you; it’s frustrating, but it’s frustrating because you’re being challenged. Ice Man’s level design is making fun of your mama, and it won’t stop til you dodge everything and dismantle him in the most inhumane fashion possible.

This being said, there are a few moments that really feel out of your hands; well only one for me. And that’s Fire Man. It’s not that he’s impossible to beat—if you have the attack he’s weak against and full health, you can just shoot away. But holy hell, is it even possible to dodge his attacks? Whereas most of the boss Robot Masters have noticeable patterns that while very difficult to dodge are still avoidable, Fire Man seems to just blast away. Maybe I’m missing something.

Either way, he stands in stark contrast to the vast host of other great bosses; the greatest example is probably the Golem, or Yellow Devil, who is often called back in later games. He is insanely difficult to dodge, but it’s totally possible, and it’s one of the most intense fights in any classic game ever. Just watch a pro fighting Yellow Devil; the amount of skill on display is ridiculous.

Capcom set out to make a game that would test a player’s skill and will. It appeals to that most basic instinct in gamers, and there are very few games that ever manage to truly tap into that competitive edge in a single-player experience. Add to that the incredible soundtrack and colorful visuals that, while not the most technically impressive ever made, work perfectly for the world and experience it’s creating, and hardly detract from the gameplay.

I can only think of two specific instances in the game where I felt like the game was the slightest bit unfair; the aforementioned fight against Fire Man, and one enemy spawn in Wily’s Castle where those stupid little spring things basically have you cornered on a ladder. Both are extremely minor slights in the context of the game. While I’m not the biggest Mega Man fan (and this is actually my first time playing), there really isn’t anything in this game that I think needs improvement or change.

I can’t speak for everybody, but for people who fit my exact demographics (21 year old white guy with some exposure to classic titles, a fetish for RPGs, brown hair, and a sense of apathy for grading scales) this game is pretty much nothing but enjoyable. Sure, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but for what the game is trying to be it nails absolutely every one of the notes it goes after in my eyes. Besides, I’m sure you all already have your own opinions on it, anyway.

Our Verdict
Mega Man
Incredible challenge, great soundtrack, and clever level design
If you don’t want your balls busted, this isn’t for you

3DS Articles Videos Wii U

In Defense of Sonic Lost World

Sonic Lost World, the first in the Nintendo-exclusive Sonic titles, just released. While I don’t own the game myself (seeing as how it just came out yesterday, and I recorded this video a few days ago) I have played it a number of times at conventions. With all the reviews coming out bashing the game for shoddy controls, I was a little peeved; while playing, it was very clear to me that the controls were one of the strongest parts of the game. I could write a long article about these discrepancies in the reviews, but instead I made a video that I think gets my points across much more clearly.

Our Verdict

3DS Articles Nintendo Videos

A Special Gamnesia PSA for Pokémon X and Y

Today is a momentous day. Potentially the most heavily anticipated 3DS game to date is out today. Gamers everywhere are locked in their rooms, assisting little creatures move into cramped yet affordable housing. That being said, passion can be a double edged sword, and every time a new game such as this is released, people are hurt.

Yes, some physical damage can be incurred, as fervor is high, but far more deadly is the emotional damage incurred between even the closest of friends. This year, we’re trying to help–in our small way–keep the damage caused to an absolute minimum.

Our Verdict


Retro Reviews

Throwback Thursday: Animaniacs (Genesis) Review

[Throwback Thursday is a series where we look back on games from the past in reviews, retrospectives, and more. We will have something every week for your retro enjoyment. You may even discover something new to love!]

This is a story all about how I accidentally found one of my favorite Genesis games ever. My roommate and I were bumming around the old games stores in SoHo (a New York neighborhood with tons of said stores) looking for some classics that we didn’t have. While we were drooling over Banjo-Kazooie, Mega Man 3, and several other gems at insanely high prices, my buddy happened to find this game for ten bucks. We’re both diehard fans of the Animaniacs, and as I do Let’s Plays on my YouTube channel, we decided we would take it home and record a blind playthrough.

“It’ll probably be terrible and we’ll get a few laughs out of it”, we thought. Oh, how wrong we were.

Konami’s adaptation of the beloved Warner Brothers (and sister) cartoon was one of the most fulfilling games I’ve played on the Genesis to date; while we expected a platforming disaster, we were greeted with a crisp looking (and sounding) game with clever puzzles and bosses and some legitimately funny cutscenes. It is important to note, however, that this version is nothing like the (vastly inferior) Super Nintendo version. That being said, let’s get into the game.

Right off the bat, it seems like the staff at Konami were also Animaniacs fans; as soon as you boot up the game, you’re greeted with a cutscene full of the screwball humor the animated trio are known for. From Dot’s vanity, to Wakko’s brashness, to Yakko’s complete Groucho Marx schtick, the characters are absolutely nailed. The same can be said for the rest of the cast seen throughout the game; it’s hard to think of a character from the show who doesn’t make an appearance in this game. Well, aside from Chicken Boo, but I adamantly believe that he was simply in disguise somewhere. Rita and Runt, Mindy and Buttons, Pinky and the Brain; they’re all here, and even those who don’t talk still carry the essence of their character in the way they move and interact with our protagonists. This may only matter to fans of the show, but seeing as how I am one, I appreciate the effort.

So, what’s the goal of this game? The Warner Brothers (and Sister) want to open a shop full of pop culture items from famous movies. To what end, who knows. The point is, it provides them with a chance to play through levels built around parodies of extremely well known films (with a slight preference towards producer Spielberg’s classics, though unfortunately there’s no Schindler’s List level) to collect the souvenir at the end. Once you break out of the water tower they’re held in (which serves as a brief introductory level) you’re free to go to any of the four studios in order, with Ralph the security guard trying to catch them at every turn. The studios include parodies of Indiana Jones (as Dirk Rugged, with references to Jaws and Jurassic Park films tossed in), Star Wars, a collection of Westerns, and a collection of horror films. The final level is Hollywood itself, where you collect a ‘Felix’, their stand-in for an Oscar.

The gameplay is simple enough; you move, jump, switch Animaniacs, and have an action button. Each Warner has their own abilities: Yakko, being the biggest, can push and pull blocks, as well as attack enemies with his signature paddleball. Dot, being the beauty, kisses things. This does any number of things and is often useful in surprising ways, such as stunning a vampire. Don’t ask. I suppose this leaves Wakko as the brains, I suppose because he’s smart enough to realize that some things just need to be hit with a hammer. And hammer he does; switches, elephants, bomb fuses, all are vital puzzle elements that Wakko utilizes. He is by far the most utilized character in puzzles.

The level design is a bit hit and miss; the levels are very distinct, and while they are cleverly designed for the most part, there are a few moments where our progress was impeded not through a difficult puzzle, but by an inability to figure out what the puzzle even was at times. For example, there’s one screen where Wakko has to knock a switch out of the rafters at the top of the screen; the problem is that the switch is placed behind the life counter, and is so out of the way that it’s nearly invisible. We found it by pure accident, and there were a few more cases where we had to resort to trial and error to figure things out. A good majority of the time, however, the puzzles were simple yet challenging.

At the end of each level is a boss fight, and this is one of the game’s biggest strengths. Each fight is very unique and well made. From being pursued by Ralph through a deadly obstacle course, to a multi-part pie-flinging train chase, to a vampire fight, they’re all intense, difficult, and incredibly rewarding upon completion. Which is interesting, considering that most of the levels are really without conflict; you encounter dangerous obstacles far more often than enemies; in fact, I believe there are actually less normal enemies in the game than there are bosses.

The graphics and sound are also nice; the colors pop, the walk cycles and animations of all the characters are fitting, and the soundtrack fits the atmosphere of each level remarkably well. I don’t think I’d listen to any of the Animaniacs music on my mp3 player, but it never wore on me during our playthrough. We found ourselves humming along several times. The only downside to the presentation is in the cutscenes; while they’re written very well, the fact that this is a video game and you have to watch the text scroll across the screen kills some of the pacing, and some of the lines just aren’t the same without the voice acting behind it. There are some classic Pinky and the Brain zingers, though.

There is, of course, no real postgame or 100% bonuses. This is the Genesis, after all. It took us about 6 hours to play through the game the first time, although that was with us being stuck on the final boss alone for nearly two hours. Yes, the final boss is that hard. You’re going to die a lot your first time through, but I imagine that without incident you could get through the game in under three hours if you were talented and didn’t screw up all the time like me ‘n my buddies.

The big question remaining now is whether or not we were just blinded by the fact that this was the Animaniacs. Personally, I think we stayed pretty unbiased. When the game had flaws, we did get upset with it, and there were a few times where we were tempted to quit due to the lack of conveyance with some of the puzzles. Clearly, the game is better if you know the characters. However, I think it still stands on its own as a well-designed and entertaining title. It takes the gameplay basics of many Genesis sidescrollers and expands upon them in creative and charming ways. Even when the design is lacking in some areas, it’s got that personality that sets it apart from other games and makes it a somewhat memorable experience.

Animaniacs for the Genesis is by no means a masterpiece of the Genesis era, but it’s hard for me to think of many games of the time that I truly enjoyed playing more. We found our copy for ten bucks, so if you want to get your own copy to try it out, I’m sure you can get it for just as cheap. Hopefully somebody out there had their interest piqued at least a little. That wraps up this review.

Goodnight everybody!

Our Verdict
Challenging puzzles, unique bosses, great writing
Doesn’t always convey well, some solutions are nonsensical

3DS News Trailers

A Brand New Kirby Game is Coming to Nintendo 3DS

In a completely unexpected turn of events, Kirby popped up at the Nintendo Direct today in a new announcement. They only showed a brief trailer at the end of the direct, but we saw a couple details; it looked like, at least so far, Kirby has no companions with him, so this could be a wholly single player experience. Near the end, Kirby was hit by an obstacle that flattened him against the 3DS screen, presumably killing him. It looks a lot like your standard Kirby setup with a graphical style similar to Return to Dreamland. Iwata announced a 2014 release.

Source: Nintendo Direct

Our Verdict

3DS News Trailers Videos

Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies Demo is Out Today

During today’s Nintendo Direct, they briefly discussed the latest entry in the Ace Attorney franchise, Dual Destinies. While they didn’t tell us anything game-wise we didn’t already know, and they mostly rehashed the game mechanics and release date, they did announce something exciting. If you boot up your 3DS today, you can download a demo of the game now.

I don’t have one yet; everybody avenge my loss and get that demo.

Source: Nintendo Direct

Our Verdict


News Wii U

Pikmin 3 Mission Mode DLC is Available Now

The Nintendo Direct today had a lot of good tidbits in it, but one of the more exciting ones for me (being a new Wii U owner who just picked up this game) is the announcement of some DLC missions for Pikmin 3. There are going to be several waves coming, but the first (centered around treasure hunting) is out now, so go grab it already! If you’re not sure you want to pay, they’re offering Stage 6 free for everyone to see if they like the DLC; if you do, stages 7 through 10 are available in a pack for just $1.99.

I know what I’m doing as soon as this Direct’s over.

Source: Nintendo Direct

Our Verdict