The 2013 PAX East show floor was rife with crazy crowds clamoring for a chance to play the big games, but one odd figure stood out from the crowds. Imagine if Barney the Dinosaur had a little brother who forewent the path of children's education and instead pursued hip beats, melodies and orchestrations of the newest, coolest music. That was Beatbuddy, the instantly lovable yet perplexing character rocking the show floor.
Nobody knows exactly who or what Beatbuddy is, but we do know that he lives inside a world where everything is musical. However, the Prince of Music, monarch of the music world, is so caught up in his fame and glory that he neglects a treacherous infestation of parasites corrupting the natural music ecosystem. Now, it's up to Beatbuddy to step in and restore harmony (literally) to the land.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing touts everything you've come to know and expect from an action-RPG. It’s loaded with skills and spells, collectible weapons and armor, quests and discoveries. Sure, it’s reminiscent of those that have come before but, Van Helsing is its own beast, steeped in rich lore with enough innovation to strike out on its own. But what’s so incredible about the adventures of Van Helsing?
“The atmosphere, I think it’s very special,” says Linda Bozoradi, one half of the public relations conduit for Neocore Games. The other is Orsolya Toth, and both have been leading us through the brooding introduction to Van Helsing.
“A steampunk universe in an action-RPG is not a common thing,” Toth states. She’s not wrong. The world of Van Helsing is a strange one. Stuck somewhere between the mystical ways of the old world and the mechanical wonders of modernization.
The cinematic prologue sets the stage as a winding red line curves across a parchment map of Europe. It snakes through Paris, Venice, around the southern tip of Greece and through Istanbul. Each location accompanied by brief descriptions and hand-drawn renditions of an encounter in the region: Gaston the Butcher, The Shadow Casino, the Crimean War Dragon and The Krakken. As the latest in the long line of monster-hunting Van Helsings, our protagonist narrates these adventures, revealing his current assignment in the form of a mysterious letter asking for his family’s famed assistance in the land of Borgovia.
“So, you guys wanna…play my game?” Mark of the Ninja Lead Designer Nels Anderson asks in a playful voice, his brow raising inquisitively and his hips swinging side to side in rhythm with the last three words of his question. It makes for a silly little dance that the XBLAFans crew gathered around him can't help but laugh at. We're about to play a stealth game tucked inside the walls of the Indie Megabooth here at PAX East, but Anderson, with his improv dance move, doesn't exactly come off as sly.
No, Anderson can't or won't bring himself to be sneaky about Mark of the Ninja: Special Edition. His excitement over having us play his latest creation is such that he's not going to follow in the silent footsteps of the game's titular ninja. So he doesn't lurk back in Klei's personal Indie Megabooth crevice; he's energetic, and it's not long before he puts a controller in my hands. Now our attention turns to the screen where all of the requisite sneaking will be performed.
Whereas its contemporaries have tended to make the ninja into an action hero who's so far over the top that he'd likely make the cast of The Expendables blush, Mark of the Ninja has always emphasized the ninja as a virtually unseen agent of death and/or stealthy sabotage. Whether approaching levels as a killer who isn't detected until its too late or an infiltrator who isn't detected at all, players had to stick to the shadows and remain as invisible as possible in order to achieve any kind of measure of success. It was a great system, but one that meant enemies presented but two choices: players could kill them or avoid them. Mark of the Ninja: Special Edition adds another option to the mix.
It's been exactly one year since RedLynx's smash it Trials Evolution hit the digital store shelves. The game was released to universal acclaim. Our own review gushed …