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Project Spark

We just discovered an awesome little game/tool called Project Spark.  I remember back at E3 they showed off this new tool that would allow players to create their own games, build their own worlds, and (hyperbole) revolutionize the way games are played.  Well, it’s now available for people to try on Xbox One and Windows 8.

I was skeptical, but after playing around for a few hours I am totally loving what this thing can do.  I’ll try and explain a very broad overview of Project Spark, but you really need to watch the video I made to truly understand.  It’s a long one, so use the times below to jump to different parts that may interest you:

  • Creative mode (01:30-12:25)
  • Someone made the Original Fable RPG (12:31)
  • Pinball (17:47)

Project Spark Create ModeCreate Mode

The possibilities in Create Mode aren’t endless, but they are closer than anything else I’ve experienced.  Creating any kind of game from a platformer to a fully realized RPG is as simple as hand-crafting the terran, adding props, and “scripting” (Koding, as Project Spark likes to call it) the gameplay.  Utilize Kode is simple because everything is built with intuitive ‘when’ and ‘do’ statements.  When X occurs, do Y.  The interface offers visual cues to follow, and if you have any experience playing games you will know what to look for when trying to make the game play how you would expect.

Add, subtract, expand, erode, smooth, blockify — it’s all there.  After playing EverQuest Landmark for so long, I felt like Project Spark was almost too easy.  Not that Landmark makes things difficult, but Project Spark’s terrain tools are so natural feeling that I really sort of with Landmark could be this easy.  Project Spark’s limitations are really only in what props can be placed.

Project Spark Zombie GamePlay Mode

Play everything from a fully realized RPG, 3D platformers like Mario 64, or side-scrollers like Donkey Kong.  All of these can be made in the create mode then be shared and played.  I get a huge Warcraft 3 custom game vibe from Play Mode.  Looking at all the Tower Defense, Defend the point, and mini-RPGs out there it’s like the perfect ‘game’ to play when you are itching for that custom map experience.

Marketplace

Project Spark is free to play, so the developers are making their money via a marketplace.  You can buy tokens or earn credits.  Both will let you buy assets to use in-game when building.  You can buy individual props (everything from barrels to characters like a Knight) or new textures.  You can buy entire packages to make castles, new spell effects, new abilities, sounds, etc.  If you are serious about making games and love to get feedback from people who vote on them, etc., then you will love Project Spark’s marketplace.  I’m unsure as to whether or not there will be monetization for people to be able to sell their creations or not.

Check out the video above for a more in-depth look at Project Spark.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

We have been playing a lot of the new Donkey Kong lately and both of us are loving every minute of it. There aren’t a lot of couch co-op games anymore so it’s always nice to find one that we can both enjoy. Here are some of my thoughts about the game:

krankyThe Good Stuff

The overall presentation is fantastic. Everything from the theme, the visuals, and the music is just top-notch.  The frigid viking animals that show up to cause trouble are immensely more interesting than the little totem people in Donkey Kong Country Returns. I would like to see the return of the Kremlings and K. Rool but these guys are more than welcome for now. As I mentioned before, the music is just fantastic and easily one of my favorite parts. There is a nice mix of the classic DKC stuff along with some new pieces.

The gameplay is immediately familiar to anybody who has played the classic DKC games or Returns. You can roll to gain speed and take out baddies, jump on their heads, grab vines and barrels, and ground-pound. They seem to have gotten rid of the blowing mechanic from Returns but honestly I doubt anybody will miss it. You can also play the game completely waggle free with the gamepad or Wii U Pro controller. The forced waggle of the previous game was a major detraction. They also seemed to add back deeper water levels and mechanics, including a breath meter and and some new aquatic moves. [Read more...]

Super Mario 3D World

super-mario-3d-worldKeen and I have been playing the new Mario game off and on since it came out and whenever we can find the time. The short of it is that we both really love the game and we think it’s great and all that. I’m sure anybody that comes across our site knows about Mario games and how they work so I’m not going to bother going into that and rather I’m just going to highlight some of the things we like and don’t like.

The Gameplay

3D World’s platforming mechanics are great. The game is kind of a blend between classic side scrolling games and the newer 3D games. Several of Mario’s signature moves are available like the long jump, backflip, side flip, wall jump, roll, etc. The only things that I really find missing is the triple jump and the ability to grab onto ledges. That last point might kind of defeat the purpose of this kind of game, though, since it’s more about getting through a platforming level rather than exploring one. It all seems to control very well, though, and for the most part any time you die is going to be directly tied to your competency level and not the fault of the game.

There are four playable characters initially: Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach. Each character actually controls fairly differently, too. Mario generally seems to have the best handling, Luigi can jump higher, Toad is faster, and Peach can float a bit mid-air. Pretty much the same kind of stuff you might remember from SMB2. Unfortunately, Yoshis don’t seem to have made it into the game, which is a bit of a bummer. There is an additional unlockable character but I won’t spoil that in case some people get bothered by that kind of thing. [Read more...]

PS4 Launch Day Game Roundup

We spent most of the morning setting up the system and working through general placement logistics. It’s a real mess up here and with the Xbox One due out soon it’s only getting worse. I’d show you a picture but I doubt Keen would ever own up to this cord jungle.

After the initial patching and mass downloading of free stuff we decided to check out some of the launch exclusives and share some quick impressions before we eventually get to reviewing.

Knack-PS4

Knack

This game is getting pretty badly panned across the board but Keen and I don’t quite share that sentiment. I mean, sure, it’s nothing mind blowing but it is enjoyable all the same. We put in several hours of the co-op and were enjoying ourselves the whole time.

It’s part platformer, though only lightly, but mostly action-brawler. You run around levels as the titular character and bash on bad guys while collecting various artifact pieces that increase your size. It’s actually pretty neat to see the character grow over time and completely decimate foes that earlier were giving you grief. So far it seems to be pretty linear but there are a few secret areas along the way for you to collect. In co-op mode the second player plays as a robot version of Knack and can fight alongside and even heal you. It’s all on one screen and the camera follows player 1 which means P2 has to keep pace or get left behind. It all works out pretty well, although Keen screamed at a few of his off-screen deaths.

Really my only complaint about the game is it’s take on difficulty. Being the typical fun-hater than I am, I put it on hard from the get-go. Unfortunately the game seems to go for the whole pseudo-difficulty of just making everything that hits you take all of your life. It can be a little frustrating, especially with no block, and having to re-do segments several times due to cheap deaths can make your co-op partner rage. Or maybe that’s just my experience.

Killzone-Shadow-Fall-PS4

Killzone: Shadowfall

I played the first two games and the PSP game but I haven’t touched the series since then. Having missed out on 3 and the vita game I have no idea what is currently going on story-wise in the game. Something about the Helghast’s planet getting made uninhabitable by the Vektans so now they have to share Vekta. I need to hit a wiki page or something.

Anyway,  this evening I played through the first few segments and I’m really enjoying it so far despite the confusing narrative. The game looks absolutely fantastic and runs very smooth. It definitely makes me excited to see what the system will be capable of down the road. There are a lot of really neat lighting and visual effects.

In the first main level you initially have to sneak in with just a knife and take out guys with stealth all while avoiding cameras, etc. You also get a handy little echo-location type device which can spot enemies through walls, but it will emit a large sound and alert enemies if you activate it for too long.  One cool thing you can do is jump onto a guy from above, stab him in the neck, and then throw your knife at another guy in your field of view. It’s very reminiscent of the kind of thing you could pull off in FarCry 3. The first gun I got was a really awesome combo weapons. The first configuration was some kind of automatic weapon that shoots little blue things and the second form turns it into a long range rifle that charges up and releases a powerful shot.

Probably the coolest thing I’ve seen so far is the little drone that follows you around. It can do basic stuff like hacking terminals for you but it can also order it to kill enemies, stun them, defend you, and create a zipline. The last one is actually pretty awesome. If you need to get access to an area below you then you can order it to shoot a zipline which you can slide down. The drone, which I think is actually called an OWL or something, can also revive you if you die. Provided you have adrenaline or something.

More To Come

We’re also going to be trying out CoD: Ghosts and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag this weekend and we will be sure to write up our impressions of them. Since the PS4 can stream straight out of the box we might even look into doing that as well, but so far our internet connection hasn’t been very cooperative. I think Keen also has plans to try out DC Universe and some other free-to-play titles as well.

It’s been a pretty smooth launch so far and we made it through the whole day without bricking our system. Take that .4% failure rate!

Rayman Legends

Keen and I picked up Rayman Legends a few days ago — it’s crazy fun! Usually Keen is pretty awful at console games but he is, surprisingly, not so bad at this. He’s actually getting better over time. Who knew? Anyhow… just dropping by to throw out some thoughts about the game.

rayman legendsSo Pretty…

This game looks nuts. I don’t think too many games use the hand-drawn graphics style these days but it looks fantastic and runs totally smooth. We’re playing on the Wii U version, arguably the definitive version, and it looks great. I can’t imagine the visuals being any different on the other systems, though. The game isn’t quite as nice looking on gamepad-only play but it’s still good. It’s unfortunate that there’s no online multiplayer, though, ’cause I’d love to see how the game runs with 5 people playing at once.

I Bet There’s A Secret In That Bottomless Pit

Running through levels together is a blast and looking for all the collectables is actually something we’re doing together. Usually Keen can’t be bothered to collect everything or doesn’t have an interest but there have been several instances where he says “Let’s replay that level I think I can get them all”. Playing co-op is great because usually I’ll be the first person to run off an edge or into a hazard in search of hidden stuff and I have the fortune of having the more cautious player to reel me back in.

So far from what I can tell the game mechanics are the same. You run, jump, slide, etc. We haven’t unlocked any new abilities yet, if they even exist. Even so it’s an incredibly fun game and the levels are really well done. Especially if you love trying to speed through them. We actually really love the music-themed levels. As you run through, all of your actions (i.e. jumping, sliding, hitting) are timed to the music and beat. It’s really thrilling and we find ourselves humming the tunes even when we’re not playing. [Read more...]