Opening Turn – Catlateral Damage

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Video games have a long, storied history of allowing a person to step into the shoes of some of the worst people imaginable. Sometimes it’s by design, such as in the case of the psychopathic crime simulator Grand Theft Auto or in equally psychopathic archaeological crime simulator Uncharted. Sometimes it’s by choice, such as in Mass Effect where you can make the conscious decision to be a jerk. And sometimes it’s by complete accident, as in pretty much any game that doesn’t take into account the law of unintended consequences. For example, I’m certain that in the process of throwing all those fireballs around, Mario has probably caused a forest fire or two. Or even in something so completely oddball as Katamari Damacy, you’re basically dealing with someone being a jerk on a large scale by being one on a smaller scale.

Anyway. Catlateral Damage is just one more game where you play as the worst asshole possible. Only this time you are also a cat.

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Opening Turn – Shovel Knight

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Ah, the 8-bit era of games, that weird and wonderful time when neither the plot nor premise of a game had to make any kind of sense whatsoever. This was the era of plumbers doing mushrooms and throwing fireballs at turtles with abduction fetishes. This was the era of speedrunning porcupines, of bubble-spitting dinosaurs, of a game in which one boss was literally a fried shrimp. All that is to say that I have very fond memories of this era, as these were some of the first games I ever played.

Lately, there has been a resurgence of interest in creating games that pay homage to that era, or to update those games for a modern audience. The past couple of years have seen remakes of games like Ducktales and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as retro-themed games like Mercenary Kings and Retro City Rampage, among many, many others. We’ve even got books like Ready Player One that actively celebrates retro gaming culture in all its forms. What I’m saying is, there’s no shortage of games and other media specifically designed to ‘take you back’ to that area. So what does it take to stand out in that crowd?

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Immune to Silence: Refining the Classics

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Everything old is new again.

This old idiom, while applicable to a great many things both artistic and not, has a much deeper meaning for those whose musical passion lies in the revitalization of old video game music. For these musicians, it isn’t so much that trends move in cycles, but rather that they are playing an active role in interpreting old music for audiences in new and interesting ways. Whether through the preservation of the original styles or by the creation of new and novel interpretations of classic game tracks, it’s clear that the growing interest in the video game music community is exceeded only by the amount of talent that those in the community draw from.

Enter The Returners, a band whose name (on top of the obvious reference) literally means ‘the ones who bring something back’. In two years since the band’s inception, they have made a name for themselves playing sets at Nerdapalooza and its spiritual successor Orlando Nerd Fest, as well as an impressive number of shows at smaller venues in and around their home base in Austin, Texas. Most recently, they played at PAX South, opening for The OneUps and Paul and Storm. The combination of high profile conventions and several local shows has succeeded in earning them a growing fanbase and a similarly growing anticipation for their first recorded album.

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Just a Minute: Wake the Cat

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So, what is the most necessary and adorable thing in the world? That’s right, cats. Wake the Cat is the result of the Internet being obsessed with all things fluffy and adorable, compressed into a puzzler that revolves around physics. Of course, the temptation is too great to let a sleeping cat sleep–the entire premise of the game is based on this. As such, it is your solemn duty to send a ball of yarn spinning over to the precious feline and wake her up. No cats were harmed in the making of this addictive game.

Wake the Cat certainly seems like it was built with fans of LolCats and every click-hole corner of the internet in mind, by focusing on the internet’s lowest denominator: cat cuteness. It is the creation of Halfpixel Games and published by Chillingo, and can be purchased for both Android and Apple products. Credits to Andrey Galkin and Kirill Altunin for publishing and designing this adorable timesink. Art and animation were overseen by Georgy Notyag, while music is composed by Mikhail Kotov.

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Better Late Than Never: Star Command

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For anyone who grew up watching Star Trek, having a tablet is kind of a window into the future. Or, maybe that is just me and my inherent dorkiness–you know, whatever spins your warp drive. Anywho…

Star Command is a tactical role-playing game for iOS, Android, and PC. You control the crew of a starship by taking on the role of a captain. This pixelated isometric wonder is all about exploration and keeping your ship flying and your crew alive. It is the player’s job to make the necessary upgrades to the ship to keep on flying, and train up the best crew to fight hostile alien forces.

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Opening Re-Turn – Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition

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Normally, I don’t review multiple versions of the same game. These days, if a game comes out on multiple platforms, a) those versions aren’t terribly different from each other, and I’ll note any differences I do know about in my original review, and b) I usually only have time to play a game all the way through once. It’s only in a very special kind of circumstance when I play the same game through more than once on more than one platform.

It does happen though, and this is one of those times. I happened to come across a copy of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls: Ultimate Evil Edition for Playstation 4 (which from here on I will just call Diablo III  for ease of conversation). I knew that the game was different now than the original was when it launched, so I was looking forward to seeing just what those differences involved.

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Opening Turn — Sentinels of the Multiverse

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Super heroes against dastardly villains? That’s pretty much a resounding ‘I’m in’, from a whole lot of people. Sentinels of the Multiverse is a wildly popular tabletop card game that has gotten so much traction in the gaming world, that it had successful Kickstarter to bring it to the digital stage. Greater than Games, in collaboration with Handelabra Games, has made this a reality. Available for Android, iOS, and PC via Steam, this game is one with high expectations from a rabid fan base.

Sentinels of the Multiverse is a cooperative game in any iteration, and on mobile device, it can be played through ‘pass and play’ to continue that legacy. Want to fly solo? No problem, as all you have to do is hang on to your tablet to make that a reality.

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Opening Turn — Terra Battle

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Secret time–I adore innovative tactical role-playing games. They are my favorite video game genre. So when a mobile video game is developed by Mistwalker (yes, the company of Hironobu Sakaguchi–may you worship at the altar of all that is Final Fantasy), you may color me intrigued. Terra Battle is for iOS and Android, and is a tile-based TRPG. It functions as a collectable card game and a puzzler as well as its headlining genre.

The game itself is populated with content released based on how many people have downloaded the game via a “Download Starter” created by Sakaguchi (based on the success of Kickstarter campaigns, but without the players directly financing advancement). For example, Nobuo Uematsu composed music for the game after 1,000,000 downloads. Familiar names and a genre I love formed a sort of careful optimism that I carried as I started to play the game.

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Opening Turn – Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

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I didn’t intend on writing about another Assassin’s Creed game. This isn’t because I don’t like the series. It’s pretty obvious that I have a certain fondness for it. I wasn’t going to write about it again because I thought I had said pretty much everything I needed to about it. I thought that, to be quite frank, the series didn’t have any surprises left for me anymore. I thought that playing through new games in the series was going to continue to be a seasonal comfort food for me: something I could rely upon to be a constant experience that was continually refined in each new game in the series. And while that’s a nice thing to play, it’s a relatively boring thing to write about.

Well, I was proven wrong, and not for the reason you’d probably think. While everyone has been talking about how much of a mess Assassin’s Creed: Unity has been, what with all its bugs and various parts of the experience not living up to expectations, I’m going to write about the other game in the series that came out at the same time, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue.

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Once Upon a Time: Child of Light

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Child of Light is a twist on a very classic method of storytelling: the fairytale. With a storyline that seems familiar, and yet different enough to stay engaged, the narrative arc of this game is one that is as broad-sweeping as the tales from our childhood. This is a coming of age story, where our protagonist Aurora learns her life lessons through an epic journey. At first, she strives to go home to the familiar and safe. As the story progresses, she makes hard decisions and grows, mentally and physically. Aurora has her trials and finds friends in he most unlikely of places.

Child of Light is a game for one or two players. Player one takes on the role of Aurora, the princess far flung from her family and home. If there is a second player, they take on the role of Igniculus, a spirit of light (‘firefly’). This co-op mechanic allows one player to control the heroine, and the other to shine the way and help get to places that the heroine cannot travel alone. Without the second player, a singular player must control both Aurora and Igniculus.

Ubisoft Montreal developed this piece, and it was published by Ubisoft. Released in early 2014 , Child of Light can be played on Windows, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

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