On Jumping the Shark 86 we are joined by Cedar Hill Games founder and former Bioware designer, Tobyn Manthorpe. Cedar Hill Games just published the excellent Emissary of War for the iOS and Tobyn joins us to talk about the game, what he’s learned about iOS publishing since delivering his first game, Pistols at Dawn, and what he likes about being an independent developer. A good time was had by all, and he even stuck around for the second half of the show, in which we discuss what we’ve been playing, a list that includes Madden ’12, Deus Ex, Quarrel, the 7 Wonders board game, and Fruit Ninja. Definitely stay put for Bill’s excellent analysis of Madden.
Since a massive hurricane has impeded my ability to do much of anything this weekend, and I’m lucky enough to still have power, I decided to try my hand at Bastion’s “new game plus” mode. It’s an old RPG concept done right – upon completing the story, you’re allowed to dive back in to the main game from the very beginning, only you can keep your stuff (like all of your weapons and upgrades, distillery spirits, and fragments). I beat the game awhile back, but this was my first time back in the saddle.
Everyone talks about how awesome the story/narration is in this game, and they are absolutely right. In fact, a “plus” playthrough allows you to focus more on bits of narration you may have missed, enriching the storyline. Of course, you’re also able to take a peek at the “other” ending than the one you chose, which is also nice (and achievement-worthy).
It’s really the gameplay that shines in a second go-round, however, as you’re really able to get a feel for each weapon, fully upgrade everything you’ve got (something I wasn’t able to get close to the first time through), and play with the “idols” that make the game harder (but in turn, give you XP bonuses). This is one of the tightest, best-designed and best-balanced downloadable games on the market. While I must say it was the story, art, etc. that drew me in at first, it was this interplay between choice and challenge that glued me to my couch for five hours of an extra playthrough.
It got me thinking, of course. I would absolutely love to see more games offering this sort of mode (yes, I know my beloved Mass Effect 2 and Ocarina of Time 3DS already do). Imagine a Metroid-style game that lets you totally time-attack the world by letting you start out with all of your gear, or an FPS that allows you to completely tweak the challenge level in ways you prefer. Games in every genre stand to learn a lesson from Supergiant’s fantastic debut.
It’s birthday week in the Barnes household, my wife and I had our second young’un tuesday which is my excuse for not contributing much lately. But being the devoted workhorse I am, the show went on at Gameshark.com this week and I’ve got two items there ready for perusal.
First up is my review of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. I absolutely hated this game. I found it unbelievably empty-headed (and empty-hearted) and any notion that it’s somehow “artistic” really makes me question the standard that many critics have in terms of what is or isn’t artistic. The game’s concept of art is completely facile. The story isn’t “abstract”, it’s nonsensical and incomplete. The vaunted adaption of Enochian scripture is little more than a source of proper names. The Nephilim are depicted as freaking jellybean creatures (pictured above) frolicking with beach balls, for f**k’s sake. On top of it all, the gameplay is crude, simplistic, and totally uninteresting. There is literally no reason to play this game over Bayonetta. Or Devil May Cry, for that matter. My score is the lowest on Metacritic, and I 100% stand by my assertion that a 33 is about what it deserves. Calling this piece of s-h-i-tut “art” is liking calling a god damned Precious Moments figure “sculpture”. Or a Twilight novel “literature”.
The other item of note is this week’s Cracked LCD. It’s a review of a nifty card game called Barons, issued by a small company called Cambridge Games Factory. They did a fantastic San Juan-derived card game called Glory to Rome a couple of years ago that had HORRIBLE artwork they are now fixing through a Kickstarter.com project. Hopefully they’ll get around to beautifying Barons too, because it deserves it. Quite a lot of game for under $20.
Apologies for being off the news desk, but this Madden thing has taken up most of the week but tomorrow I get to actually talk about Madden which I am itching to do. Tonight’s podcast should be fun.
Anyway, yesterday, as you may have heard, it was reported that GameStop went all Watergate Break In on Deus Ex: Human Revolution on the PC, by cracking open the cases of several copies of the game and swiping out the On Live coupon that was tucked inside.
This directive came from on high as reported by Ars Technica. Ben even posted the memo from http://onlivespot.blogspot.com (pictured).
After this went down and the negative press started to to seep into GameStop HQ, it was decided to simply remove all “regular PC copies” of Deus Ex Human Revolution from shelves because On Live is a “competing service”. In other words — Square didn’t tell GameStop it had included the coupon, GameStop hated the idea of selling a game that promoted a service that is a direct competitor so it simply cracked open the game without telling its customers and sold it as new.
It’s always the cover up that gets you.
If GameStop had simply come out and made it clear to shoppers that it was removing that coupon, this is a non story.