Slime-San:
Blackbird's Kraken
Jul 20
Posted by Mark at 16:08

There's a lot to be said for the Expandalone.

It's a format that ticks a lot of boxes that the business side of gaming likes, but in a way that doesn't put players off. It lets the publisher make a Service Game and recieve the longer-term revenue stream associated with it, but by being more than simple DLC players feel so much like they're getting exploited, but less than a sequel meaning you avoid coming down with the relevant '-itis' and fatiguing the series.

On top of that, because the Expandalone isn't reliant on the presence of the original it can reach a new audience- a new entry point for people, rather than limiting yourself to people who already bought the main game. A good example would be Death of the Outsider, the expansion for Dishonored 2.

This is where Blackbird's Kraken comes in. An expansion to the now only two-and-a-half-month-old Slime-San, a precision platformer, much the same as Super Meat Boy. The objective is to fling your fragile protagonist from one end of the level to another, bouncing off walls and avoiding sawblades and projectiles as you go. In each of these levels, there's a bunch of bananas hidden somewhere, and if you can pick it up, you can use it to buy new characters with their own physics.

The gimmick Slime-San brings to the table is tied into its limited colour pallete. Everything is either white (and therefore just a platform), red (which kills you on contact) or the same colour as the protagonist, green- and by holding the left shoulder button, you can pass through these objects as if they weren't there- time even slows when you use it.

This is all paired with a double jump, as well as a mid-air dash.

If this sounds complicated, it is. The precision platformer really lives on its simplicity, and giving you two tools to use in the air, both of which are functionally very similar, overcomplicates things. If you couple this with inconsistent-feeling rules on how they can be used in tandem (sometimes you can use your second jump after you've dashed, sometimes you can't. Even then, if you'll pardon the pun, that can be all up in the air if you've walljumped) it can be challenging for the wrong reasons to traverse even relatively simple levels.

These abilities and the level design try to push together the speed of Meat Boy, but the puzzles of something closer to Switch- or die trying, and these things don't necessarily go together. Very often the reaction to landing a jump is a case of OHGODWHATDOIDONOW, rather than more instinctively feeling the character's intertia and rolling straight into the next one, and that's on the rare occasion that you don't feel like you've succeeded by accident.

Bafflingly, all the levels are bundled into batches of four, but your progress doesn't save until you've beaten them all. While the four levels tend to share some common theme, this save structure means that once you've bluffed the third one, if the fourth frustrates you into quitting out, you've got to do the first three again later. If you do subsequently bluff the fourth one, but miss the bananas in the second, then you have to go through all four again to have another go.

A short tutorial aside, Blackbird's Kraken drops you in at the deep end, and doesn't really give you a lot of time to get used to the mechanics. When the DLC was announced, much was made of the quirky way it's being released- as an Expandalone for a nominal fee, or as a free addition to people who already have the main game.

So unlike the Dishonored DLCs, which dial back a little bit and start you from zero again with a new storry and a new lead character- effectively a new, short game. Blackbird's Kraken is simply Slime-San's next hundred levels, and as such it's harder to see this as an Expandalone- if you've got the original game and you're prepared to overlook its flaws it's more and it's free and that's wonderful- alone, it's very hard to see the point.
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Jul
19
Posted by Mark at 13:50
So that's what the 'F' stood for.

Announced on the Bethesda Blog, all three DLC packs for last year's Doom reboot are being reduced to the low, low price of nil across all platforms.

The three packs- Unto The Evil, Hell Followed and Bloodfall- were all expansions to the multiplayer mode, which has also seen a number of tweak, notably around the previously random Unlock system now becoming more predictable, with specific level-ups and challenges now unlocking specific rewards.

Considering this, it's not known if the extra maps are free free, or if this is the start of sneaking microtransactions into the game, as we do know that the company are after someone to help them do that better.

Either way, if you've not already bought Doom and you're still unsure about it, there's a free weekend starting tomorrow for XBOne and PC players and PS4 players next weekend, before the game gets a permanent price drop.
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Jul
17
Posted by Mark at 17:18
Featuring characters from BlazBlue, Persona 4 Ultimate Arena, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH and RWBY, "BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle" is coming out next year on platforms to be confirmed. Here's a trailer:

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Jul
13
Posted by Mark at 16:18
A couple of days ago we mentioned that Slime-San, one of those precision platformers that are so popular amongst the indie developers, was getting a free expansion.

Blackbird's Kraken, as the expansion is called, is being release not only as low-price expandalone, but also as a free expansion to everyone who already owned the original game. The announcement also mentioned that there's a Switch port on the way, too.

It wasn't clear what the deal was with the DLC at the time, so we asked the publisher. They said this:
Slime-san's new free update (and stand-alone game for others) won't be included in the Switch version, but it will follow some day later on after we brought the game to Xbox One.
Now we know.
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Toby
The Secret Mine
Jul 05
Posted by Mark at 17:15

A situation involving monsters, it seems, when combined with small, out-of-the-way villages, only really ever go one way. Towards the former kidnapping and hiding the residents of the latter- and that's exactly what's happened in Toby: The Secret Mine.

Toby, of course, decides he's not going to stand for this, and sets off to rescue his friends- following the paths of previous would-be rescuers, he heads into the nearby forest, where he discovers many of his neighbours are a long way from home.

We're in puzzle-platformer territory here, much the same as Limbo or Braid, but with slightly fewer pretentions of telling some ground-breaking, medium-redefining story- just getting straight into the platforming and the puzzling.

The platforming is quite simple, and early on, so are many of the puzzles, mostly equating to rubbing up against something that prevents your progession, then tracking back to find the hidden crate you'd walked past and then pushing it forwards, but it's not long before that changes, with later levels not only pushing your platforming skill but also creating increasingly complex puzzles.

In fact, Toby isn't shy about changing up its gameplay as you progress- discarding one type of puzzle for another well before you get bored of it.

The decision to stick to an art style where almost everything is flat black- as if the entire scene is being lit from behind, casting the foreground into shadow- allows the backgrounds to shine. Although, it can make it difficult to see different types of terrain or other traps before you're on top of them and on occasion it can be difficult to tell the difference between a usable platform and an object in the extreme foreground, which can lead to a lot of cheap deaths.

(Tellingly, there's a trophy for dying 100 times, but none for completing the game with a minimal number of deaths)

It also means that the game can over-rely on hiding objects and routes in blacked-out areas that only become visible when you enter them, which works for the hidden Friends you rescue as you go along (Just the 26 of them, which is a pleasing number of collectables for a game of this length), but can annoy when an important area is hidden this way.

These are minor issues, though- Toby keeps its gameplay varied, and doesn't outstay its welcome.
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Jul
03
Posted by Mark at 16:27
If you enjoyed precision platformer Slime-San- which Ben did, when he did a First Play- then you can look forward to a sort-of free, sort-of expansion!

Subtitled Blackbird's Kraken, the DLC features a short campaign of 25 levels replete with the obligatory collectables, as well as a house to customise, a submarine-based variant on the main game, and of all things, a mini-FPS.

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Interestingly, Blackbird's Kraken is going to be free on release for existing owners of Slime-San, but will be available on its own for $4- although there's been no word as to what happens if you buy the main Slime-San game after this date.

Incidentally, the Switch version is "nearly done", but they also don't say if that's just the base game or the expansion too.

Blackbird's Kraken will be available on PC from July 20th.

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Jun
10
Posted by Mark at 10:57
They've done a new IP!

It's a multiplayer third-person adventure title, where up to four players investigate various exotic locations as an Egyptian witch queen has resurrected all sorts of monsters.

It's explained slightly better in this 1930s-style trailer:

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It's due 'soon' on PC, XBone and PS4, and we'll be seeing gameplay footage during E3.
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Jun
05
Posted by Mark at 16:11
Fallout Shelter was a mistake.

The eagle-eyed folk at Gaming Bolt have uncovered a job listing at Bethesda Softworks' Montreal studio, for a 'Game Performance Manager' to- quote- "join the team that is pushing the bleeding-edge AAA freemium game development."

The entirety of the listing focuses on monetization, revenue and data mining, suggesting that the business model is going to be getting a much greater focus in their future titles.

While it's likely that this hire specifically is going to be for either Fallout Shelter or their more recent CCG The Elder Scrolls: Legends, the listing also calling for the ability to "manage multiple complex projects with diverse groups" suggests that microtransactions will be infecting the main series games sooner, rather than later.

There may be more on this at Bethesda's E3 show this weekend.
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May
30
Posted by Mark at 14:53
Well, we asked if you wanted us to cover the ratings for Dave's Go 8 Bit DLC spinoff show, and the people spoke. Which means we get to be the bearers of bad news!

The show's first episode didn't make the top ten programmes shown on Dave for the week of 15-21 May. The tenth most popular show for the week- Live At The Apollo, immediately before Go 8 Bit, clocked up 227,000 viewers.

Additionally, the main show itself only pulled in 378,000- low considering the first series only dropped below half a million once and while the other programmes on the list saw lower viewership than normal, the following day's Taskmaster hits its usual ratings of 830,000.

It's not all doom and gloom, however- 11PM seems to be the time Britain switches its TV off for the night, so the bar is lower and given that the show seems to have been made on a budget which may run into the thousands of pence, the show may not be considered to have failed- the superficially pricier Unspun With Matt Forde also never troubled the top ten, and that's got not only another series on the way, but it got a bonus emergency one in the run-up to the election.

DLC's lack of topicality means it can be re-run in the day- as shown by it getting a repeat on Saturday mornings, in the slot Videogame Nation used to occupy on Challenge, meaning while it may not be the headline success Taskmaster or Red Dwarf are, it may still be adding enough value to Dave's schedules to be worthwhile.
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Akiba's Beat

May 16
Posted by Mark at 13:45

Following on from the provocatively-titled Akiba's Trip, Akiba's Beat brings us back to Japan's nerd-Vegas Akihabara, where, on a random Sunday, some massive speakers have appeared on the side of the train station. Nobody, mind you, seems to have noticed, save for Asahi Tachinaba- protagonist and inevitable NEET- and one other person who seems far too happy about the matter.

It's in front of the speakers where he meets Saki Hoshino, another one who is able to see the speakers, and her familiar Pinkun, the most annoying thing in the world. She explains that the speakers are the manifestation of the delusion of someone nearby- specifically, the overexcited man from earlier, who is pining for the earlier days of Akihabara, when it was a hub for audiophiles to pick up equipment, rather than the videogames and anime place it is now.


When the source of a Delusion is found, a door to their Delusionscape appears- a dungeon, if you like, to the overworld of Akihabara- and at the end of the Delusionscape is a boss which must be defeated in order to snap the individual (or "Deluser") out of their Delusion, and return Akihabara to its proper state.

With that Delusion cleared up, the day comes to an end, and everybody goes back home. The next day, however, is Sunday again, and there's another Delusion on the other side of town. Asahi and Saki team up again to get to the bottom of the appearances of the Delusions, and see if that's got anything to do with the days repeating.

The design of the Delusionscapes are closer to those found in dungeon crawlers- boxes full of enemies connected by corridors- and don't really offer a great deal to explore or even experience, something which is made all the more obvious by them being simply platforms floating in space, making the limited scope of the dungeons very clear.

Combat is action-focused, with the players' party transporting to a closed arena to fight an arbitrary number of monsters. Standard attacks clock up Skill Points which are spent on more powerful Skills, unlocked by levelling up and triggered by a flick of an analogue stick and tapping the Skill button. A limited number of Action Points also limit you to four actions before having to step out of the way for a short period. While it's hardly going to give Souls or any 'proper' fighting games any sleepless nights, it does make it a little bit more involved than just bash-bash-bash.

Blows that land fill the Imagine Meter, which can be deployed when complete for a short period of hightened attack power- a song can be selected to replace the background music, and hits made in time with the music during the verse increase the damage done when the chorus comes around.

There's also missed potential in the game not supporting multiplayer, as the Action Points could lead to some fun couch co-op teamwork situations, especially as more Skills unlock.

The questlines which take you from Delusionscape to Delusionscape are less interesting, however. These tend to involve little more than running from one end of Akihabara to the other to hear a small amount of dialogue, before running back to hear a bit more, then somewhere else for a tiny bit more, before the game relents and lets you access the next Delusionscape- this is exacerbated by the time loop narrative meaning that often the same thing has to be cycled through a few times in order to unlock the associated Delusionscape.

Sidequests which pop up in between milestones in the main quests don't fare any better, being the same but without the relief of a Delusionscape, or at least no new ones of their own.


The Akihabara of Akiba's Beat is an incredibly small number of anonymous, built up streets, lacking in any meaningful landmarks beyond two large empty spaces, one of which makes up nearly half the overworld. The area is too small to be Grand Theft Auto's Liberty City, and each area- seperated by loading screens- isn't differentiated enough to be The World Ends With You's Shibuya. It might be faithful to the real location, but in practice it just means you spend all your time getting very lost and abusing fast travel to get from place to place- this makes it even more like an exercise in admin than an adventure.

(Acquire also weren't able to licence the shops and adverts in the town, which you probably won't notice unless you're really invested, with only one name really relating to a company you'd have heard of in the West)

The plot, which takes you from Delusionscape to Delusionscape, also takes in the many subcultures Akihabara has played host to from its current love for idol singers, to less recent maid cafes and gothic lolita fashion trends, spending some time with each individual Deluser and showcasing what gives each of the subcultures its appeal- while still being able to take a friendly pop at them, even if it does tend to think it's a lot funnier than it is.

As such, each different Delusionscape brings its own thing to the table- not only does each one have a new setting, the change in art style reflecting the current Delusion, but also adds a new mechanic, even if these are things as simple as 'dead ends' and 'doors'. The wider game is also good at adding new things as you go along, introducing sidequests and later a trading card system to boost your stats. Even if those things aren't as original as they could be, there's always something new around the corner.

Ultimately a lot of Akiba's Beat is going to pass straight by a lot of people- what you're going to get out of this really relates to how into your otakudom you are, and even then how much you want to go around an off-brand version of Akihabara. If you do, it's certainly a perfectly enjoyable game, and you'll get a lot out of the setting, but it's a tougher sell to anybody who's not into the virtual tourism.

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