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Chivalry: Medieval Warfare review (Xbox 360)
2 years ago

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare review (Xbox 360)

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare was developed by Torn Banner Studios and published by Activision for Xbox 360. It was released December 3, 2014 for $14.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.

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Within the first five minutes of booting up Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, I was absolutely certain that I would hate it. After a year packed full of dazzling next-generation titles delivered via the might of Xbox One, I was ill-prepared for Chivalry's low-res textures and clunky combat; in fact, the whole thing repulsed me. Regardless, I ploughed grimly forward like one of the stoic feudal knights to whom Chivalry pays homage, chopping, hacking and bludgeoning my way through one foe after another – and as the body count mounted, so did my respect for this brutal, bloody title.

Battles take place between the rival forces of the Mason Order (bad/red) and the Agatha Knights (good/blue) as they vie for control of their fictional kingdom. Whilst it is possible to play against up to seven AI bots, the real fun can be found in multiplayer battles featuring 12 human combatants. Each player chooses a class from the four available, including an archer and three melee fighters ranging from light through to heavy in terms of their weaponry and armour. More on that later, though; let's cut right to the bone and find out if Chivalry is worth your hard-earned cash.

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Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron from Ice review (Xbox One)
2 years ago

Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron from Ice review (Xbox One)

Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice was developed and published on Xbox One and Xbox 360 by Telltale Games. It was released December 3, 2014 for $4.99. A copy was provided by Telltale for review purposes.

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Having recently played through the first episode of Telltale Games' Game of Thrones, I'm pretty thankful for XBLA Fans' new approach to reviewing episodic games. No doubt you're wondering why, and the answer is simple – because whilst this episode shows a lot of promise for the rest of the season, it is generally uneventful in isolation and scoring it as a standalone game would be quite a challenge.

The season begins during the Red Wedding and introduces us to a new family in the form of House Forrester. These loyal followers of House Stark are immediately thrown into a difficult position both at home and away because of their allegiance. This first episode does a decent job as the introduction that it aims to be by placing us in the shoes of Lord Ethan, his sister Mira and the house squire Gared. Thankfully, Telltale has created a generally likable cast of heroes in this trio. Lord Ethan is suitably believable as our main character, stepping into his father's shoes following the outcome of the Red Wedding. His sister Mira occupies an interesting and entirely different position as the handmaid of Queen-in-waiting Margaery Tyrell, whilst the final character is the house squire, Gerad.

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Xbox Live on Xbox 360 down again, second time this week
2 years ago

Xbox Live on Xbox 360 down again, second time this week

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On Monday, December 1, 2014, services on Xbox Live for the Xbox 360 were temporarily unavailable for several hours as users were unable to connect online. Xbox One users were unaffected by the disruption of the service. The hacker group Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack and had this to say:

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Xbox.com's Support page did not issue any service alerts on the first outage.

On December 5, 2014, services on Xbox Live were once again halted for the Xbox 360 as users were unable to connect online. This time around users have been sporadically able to connect but have not been able to keep up a connection for a significant time. Lizard Squad has once again taken credit for causing problems to the Xbox Live services, saying this recent attack came at the behest of a follower.

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The Jackbox Party Pack review (Xbox One)
2 years ago

The Jackbox Party Pack review (Xbox One)

The Jackbox Party Pack was developed and published by Jackbox Games. It was released on November 26, 2014 for $24.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.

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With Christmas rapidly approaching, it may come as no surprise to see more and more party focused games begin to appear. Leading the way on Xbox One is Jackbox Games' rather generous The Jackbox Party Pack, which features all three previous Jackbox releases, plus two (almost) entirely new games. Jackbox has built an excellent reputation primarily on the success of its standout title You Don't Know Jack, the latest (2015) version of which is included in the here.

The Jackbox Party Pack promises the kind of risque laughs that have been made popular in recent years by accessible, engaging tabletop games like Cards Against Humanity. Achieving the kind of belly laughter that these board games provide on a console has always been challenging, and often disastrous – let's find out if Jackbox have got the balance right.

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Kalimba preview: Totem fun
2 years ago

Kalimba preview: Totem fun

Kalimba

Kalimba is one of those games that you will refuse to put down until you've finished the current level. “Come on…I have to be able to beat this!” you’ll say as you restart again and again. It’s also a lot of fun.

Eight levels and a boss battle were available in the pre-release beta, and already the challenge and fun on display has proven this is going to be a game to watch for. Originally known as Project Totem, this puzzle-platformer from Press Play features both single-player and co-op modes in which you guide two (or four in co-op) differently colored totem pieces through psychedelic worlds. The graphics are all made out of stark, thick lines and bright colors and are mostly made up of triangles. The "trixelated" art style almost made me wish I was still in school so I could draw these characters in the corners of my notebooks.

Beginning puzzles range from the challenge of having to move both characters simultaneously to avoid two sets of obstacles at once to making sure the right-colored character moves through the right-colored barriers. There are all kinds of other challenges that are introduced as you move through the colorful worlds, as well as mini-game rooms where you can try to improve your skills. In the eight levels available, more kinds of challenges and obstacles continued to build at a nice pace, with seemingly new gameplay additions coming in on almost every level.

The first boss battle was a real wild ride too. While still using the same gameplay mechanics, it throws everything on its head to make the platformer's more laid-back puzzle vibe turn into almost a SHMUP-style action game.

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Opinion: We'll never need a Minecraft 2
2 years ago

Opinion: We'll never need a Minecraft 2

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Earlier this year Microsoft acquired indie developer Mojang for $2.5 billion. It was a big move, and it left many fans wondering how it might effect Mojang's hit game Minecraft. In a recent interview with IGN, Xbox head Phil Spencer talked about the desire to meet the needs of the game's community. He said that Minecraft 2 may not make the most sense, and his words were followed by every fan of the game breathing a sigh of relief. Minecraft already does what it was created to do perfectly, why would it ever need a sequel?

Why it works so well

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From the beginning, Minecraft was a game all about building. Not only was the gameplay about letting you create whatever you wanted, but the game itself was designed to be built up into something better. If you look at its original release and look at it now, it's a very different game. Thanks to Mojang's constant support with free updates, the game was able to constantly grow into something more grand. Content is constantly being added, and bugs are always being squashed. A sequel could never improve on the Minecraft formula, because its formula is all about improvement. A sequel would be a radical shift away from the pre-established normal of the game, changing it from a single evolving entity to a standard game series with annual static sequels.

Now that Microsoft owns the game, the company's best course of action to keep customers happy would just be to keep the updates rolling. Minecraft is now on more platforms than ever, catering to millions of players. Everyone who has purchased the game bought it knowing it would receive updates, that the developers would be adding more fun content. It's essentially an Everlasting Gobbstopper: for a one-time price you get something you can never finish and that will remain good for years to come. If a sequel comes along it will make the original go stale, forever stopping progress in your old worlds. It'd be like a new Skylanders game that wasn't compatible with last year's figures, or a new box of Legos that didn't fit your old pieces. New content shouldn't intend to be a rigid standalone package; it should be an addition to the big Minecraft toy box.

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The Boston Festival of Indie Games showcases fresh Xbox titles
2 years ago

The Boston Festival of Indie Games showcases fresh Xbox titles

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The Boston Festival of Indie Games held its second convention on Saturday, September 13 after a successful Kickstarter. The convention features up-and-coming indie developers making games for consoles, PCs, mobile devices, virtual reality and tabletop. XBLA Fans had the opportunity to attend and see what goodies might be in store for Xbox in the near future. These are the games that we got to see in that short day.

Keep in mind, while most of these are in the works to come to Xbox platforms, not all of them are confirmed Xbox releases yet.

High Strangeness

High Strangeness screenshot

This paranormal adventure game from Crystal Labs swaps between game console generations. By pushing the right trigger, you swap between eight bits and 16 bits with authentic graphics and mechanics from that generational "dimension."  For example, in the SNES-stye 16-bit dimension, you can move diagonally and use more combat moves, whereas the eight-bit dimension leaves you with a simple jab attack and only four directions to move in. While the world stays the same, you will have to occasionally swap to defeat certain enemies trapped in a particular dimension. However, most of the game can be completed in both bit variations, so you can enjoy the game in whichever generation feels more comfortable.

Retro fans will notice the resemblance to classics like The Legend of Zelda once they experience some of High Strangeness' puzzles and combat. You will need to throw switches, move blocks, catch patterns and uncover secrets to get through it. During the demo, I experienced that classic moment during which a friend figured out the puzzle over my shoulder and walked me through it. That's what lead developer Ben Shostak was going for. "A lot of retro-like games out there are using a lot of the style and references, but we're using the actual design and gameplay," he explained.

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Fenix Rage preview: Don't think, know
2 years ago

Fenix Rage preview: Don't think, know

"Can it really be that easy?" is the question you'll ask after completing Fenix Rage's first stage. It's a stage with that most simplest of video game objectives: move the player-character from left to right and reach the end goal. Accomplishing as much takes only a few seconds, since there are no enemies present and the distance between start and finish could practically be measured between your thumb and forefinger. Still, developer Green Lava Studios managed to insert an optional side objective into the stage. It's possible but not necessary to collect a cookie during this almost literal hop, skip and jump from beginning to end. You would have to go out of your way not to obtain the optional cookie in this first level, but it is optional all the same.

Collecting each level's cookie and successfully reaching the end goal naturally becomes more challenging the deeper you get into the game. In fact, it was only a handful of stages later before I was dying multiple times in the pursuit of another tempting cookie. So it's somewhere in the game's opening Red Forest zone that you'll get your answer to your question: no, Fenix Rage is most certainly not that easy.

Fenix Rage Crystal Caves

Much has been said about the game's meeting at the intersection of Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Meat Boy. And yes, Fenix is a diminutive blue creature that is not unlike Sega's depiction of a hedgehog. He has a dash ability that gives him some of the speed for which Sonic is known, and successful navigation of the game's 200+ levels — a few dozen of which I've completed — requires liberal use of it. That really doesn't even come close to doing justice to the frequency at which you'll be pulling the right trigger while simultaneously pressing the B button to perform a dash. As long as there is room to do so, it's possible to dash (and jump) endlessly.

Some levels require you to abuse the maneuver in order to take linear horizontal routes to avoid certain death by touching electrical beams above and below you. Others have blocks of ice that can be melted due to the heat generated from the friction of moving at such rapid speeds. Others still send a giant, unstoppable enemy chasing after Fenix the moment you nudge him forward from the start point. At first you might think you're dashing enough times to win this deadly race, but you're not. Oh, you're so not. If you're not dashing seemingly as many times as is physically possible, you're going to die.

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Passing it on: The Behemoth's Gold Egg Project
2 years ago

Passing it on: The Behemoth's Gold Egg Project

John Baez doesn't want Asteroid Base's money. It's as if the three men who make up the studio are old friends of Baez's, and on this day they just happen to be patrons of his business. Their money is no good here.

They are not old friends, though. Baez, president and co-founder of indie game studio The Behemoth, only first met the members of Asteroid Base during PAX Prime of 2013. He noticed their still-in-production game Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime had picked up a few awards and had a certain individuality to it. Lovers has a way of causing onlookers to gravitate towards it that's not entirely unlike the way the game's pink Death Star has a penchant for attracting the attention of enemy spaceships.

In the game, a pair of benevolent astronauts pilot a neon spacecraft around the universe, wishing only to survive. But then something catches their eyes, something they can't ignore. A group of evil robots known as "The Haters" have ensnared innocent bunnies and locked them away in jail. The astronauts refuse to stand idly by while innocent creatures suffer, so they show some initiative, scrambling around the bowels of their craft and tinkering away at control stations that unleash firepower of a magnitude that they can only hope The Haters are unable to repel. Despite the protagonists' violent response, Asteroid Base sees the titular lovers as good Samaritans. The pair have somehow survived this long on their own out in the frightening yet awe-inspiring uncertainty that is space, even managing to thrive in it without any support from large, external entities. Now they want to help other space-faring beings like them do the same.

The Behemoth's Gold Egg Project

The Behemoth knows the feeling. Founded in 2003, the San Diego studio responsible for such hits as Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers chose to go it alone in another dangerous environment. The developer released its games sans publisher in the competitive console gaming space. The Behemoth found success, but it wasn't easy doing it through self-funding — Baez mortgaged his house, and co-founder Tom Fulp kicked in some of his personal savings to help finance development in the early days. But they did it, and they were successful enough that they're now in a position of strength.

A few years ago, Baez and Company used that strength to quietly start something called The Gold Egg Project. Gold Egg is a funding initiative meant to help other indies bring their games to market, but unlike a traditional publisher, The Behemoth doesn't take any of its beneficiaries' profits — it only wants to help them. Now The Behemoth is helping Asteroid Base, and Baez hopes the studio will one day pass it on.

Being indie

The Behemoth Castle Crashers Knights

For almost as long as there has been game design there have been independent game designers. The term "indie," while well-established today, is newer. It means something; it's just that no one seems to be able to agree upon exactly what that something is. So it was for The Behemoth back in 2005 when the tenderfoot studio's Alien Hominid was winning Independent Game Festival Awards for Innovation in Art, Technical Excellence and Audience Choice.

Baez recalls of that time that "there was a lot of controversy [as to] whether we were indie or not, solely because we were on a console. Other developers said, ‘You can’t be indie because you’re on a console.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, we’re indie because we funded it.’ Now that’s our definition of indie."

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Opinion: Clementine is ruining The Walking Dead Season 2
2 years ago

Opinion: Clementine is ruining The Walking Dead Season 2

Warning: This post contains spoilers from both seasons of The Walking Dead

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The first season of The Walking Dead was phenomenal. It provided one of the strongest narratives in video game history, full of memorable characters and emotionally charged moments. All around the world players instantly latched onto the harrowing and heartwarming tale of Lee and Clementine. The bleak world and tough choices made the game stick with you days after you played an episode. The overwhelmingly positive reception put Telltale on the map, moving them from a company that made niche adventure games to one that can handle some of today's biggest franchises. The Walking Dead was a success in so many ways, meaning an eventual sequel was a given.

Despite standing on the shoulders of its amazing first season, The Walking Dead Season 2 is not living up to that potential. I loved every aspect of Season 1, which is why I'm disappointed I can't find Season 2 nearly as captivating. So far, three episodes have released, and like last season they've all received critical praise. Unlike last season, I'm not feeling the hype; the story's not engaging, the characters are underutilized, and the format's becoming stale. The game's saving grace is Clementine, but even that may be a problem.

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