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PAX 2017

Wow. After a weekend at PAX, what more can you say than ‘Wow’? Were you able to make it this year? Maybe we bumped elbows with you in the crowded Convention Center. With so many games to sample, SWAG to bag, and booths to check out, it’s hard to pick our favorite parts… but here goes: Almost Perfect Best of PAX 2017.

Pinny Arcade pin - Double Fine
Pinny Arcade pins
An idea stolen from the Disneyland playbook and then mastered, Pinny Arcade pins are a way to show support for your favorite games and creators. Buying these beauties is certainly a highlight of my visit each year. They’re not inexpensive though – being priced at $10-15 each. I have to make sure I budget aside a Pinny Arcade fund before going in. But the fun doesn’t stop there, you can trade with other attendees, PA staff and line enforcers – who, unlike that guy next to you in line, cannot deny a trade.

Indie MEGA Booth
One of my favorite sections – and where I spent a lot of my time – was this year’s Indie Mega Booth, and it lived up to the name. This northern section on the 4th floor of the convention center was jam packed with independent developers eager for the next young soul to sample their wares. Super Meat Boy Forever, Thimbleweed Park, Eco, Earthnight… there was plenty to get excited about! We even got a chance to interview one of our favorite developers, Ron Gilbert!

Life-size Dinosaurs
Yeah, really! Life. Size. Dinosaurs. Sure, it took an hour of standing in line at the ARK booth (okay, an hour of my wife holding my place in line while I wandered) but it was totally worth it to be able to mount a raptor and then a 16 foot tall T-Rex.

Nintendo’s Nindies Showcase

For the last three years now The Big N has been kicking off PAX weekend with its own event showcasing many of its upcoming Indie game releases called Nindies at Night. It’s a fantastic jumpstart to the weekend.

They keep this showcase going through the weekend of PAX and it’s always a great way to try this upcoming titles and talk sometimes even talk to some of the devs! This year, there were plenty of Switch offerings to pick from and I was even able to play one of my most anticipated indie titles, Wargroove!(In case you were wondering, it was fantastic)

The Nintendo Switch

You may think me referencing the Switch I’m talking about the games I played. But what I’m really referring to is how the Switch worked just like Nintendo intended it to.

As my friends and I would stand in line we would pull out our Switch’s for a few rounds of Splatoon or Mario Kart. This was already fantastic. But being able to hand a joy con to someone in line who didn’t have a Switch to play too? That made for a great experience. Or playing and then have others standing in line ask if they can join in on their own Switch! It just truly felt like the teaser video Nintendo showed us when they revealed the Switch was coming to life, and it was beautiful.

Super Mario Odyssey

If I’m being honest, the whole Nintendo both was great, Fire Emblem Warriors, Pokken, Rocket League and Metroid: Samus Returns were all fantastic. But Nintendo definitely had most of its Yoshi eggs in a specific basket, and it proved to be the right choice. Super Mario Odyssey is fantastic.

In my time with the demo, I played the New Donk City level because if there is anything with Odyssey I’ve had trouble wrapping my mind around with it’s the realistic looking people. Well, after playing the level I realized, I just didn’t care anymore. It works beautifully. Using Cappy to do things from attacking, using as a way to jump further and of course, capitalize(pun intended) on your surroundings. Being able to take over objects to perform different actions like flinging yourself to a further distance or taking over someone to perform a different task like driving an RC Car to pick up one of the many power moons.

The 15 or so minutes I was allotted to play in New Donk City got me even more excited for the release of the game in October.

Thimbleweed Park Interview W/ Ron Gilbert

Just a few weeks ago at PAX West i had the privilege to interview one of my gaming idols: Video game legend, Ron Gilbert. We talked about his most recent game, Thimbleweed Park, and it’s upcoming release for the Nintendo Switch. If you haven’t played it yet, do it! We thought it was a fantastic game!

Kris: So we’ve been big fans of your work for a long time one of my favorite earlier gaming memories is playing Day of the Tentacle which I know you’re a writer on.

Ron: Actually I wasn’t a writer on Day of the Tentacle…

Kris: Oh you weren’t a writer?

Ron: I wasn’t a writer, no. I think, I think, like, Moby Games has that wrong. Yeah, I was not a writer.

Kris: Okay, so were you like a creative…

Ron: I was, you know, obviously Gary and I did the original maniac mansion and then it’s, like, right at the beginning, I think… Gary and I said, “Hey, do it about time travel!” and that was like, that was it.

Kris: So, Tim Schafer gave you the…

Ron: Well, Dave [Winnick]

Kris: I didn’t know that, now I’ve learned something! But where I was going with that, too, is I remember playing Maniac Mansion, inside of Day of the Tentacle, and it being kind of hard for me at the time but still like being blown away by how creepy everything was and really loving it. So, one of my question is, “What got you into creating video games back thirty years ago, or however long it’s been?” Now, probably more than that.

Ron: Yeah, more than that, cause I started doing games when I was in junior high school, and what really got me into it was my dad was a physicist and so he had access to these like very early microcomputers before anyone could even dream of having them at home and I was really enthralled with them and I wanted to learn how to program, and I think when you’re a kid it’s like, you want to learn, you make games… you don’t make accounting software.

Kris: “Right?”

Ron: “…you get a game so I just started, you know, doing that and I would, you know, I’d go down to like the local pizza place and I’d play the arcade game then come home and I tried to replicate them on my computer so that’s just how I got started doing it.”

Kris: “Yeah, very smart too to think, like, let me go here and play this and then try to recreate it, that’s awesome. So out of all the years you’ve been making games all the different games you’ve made, what would you say is one of your favorite projects? Would it be Thimbleweed Park?

Ron: I think my favorite games to work on were actually the adventure games that we did for kids at Humongous Entertainment.

Kris: Yeah, Spy Fox?

Ron: Yeah, Spy Fox and Putt Putt and Pajama Sam. I think in some ways those were like the most fulfilling games to make because, you know, they were real, true adventure games and, you know, just going after that kid audience, I mean kids just just devoured those games.

Kris: I remember playing them, as a kid, and actually I was at that age where I may have been a little too old. Like, I didn’t need the “Welcome” aspects of it, but I still enjoyed it.”

Ron: Yeah

Kris: It was still fun, it wasn’t dumbed down because I was a kid.

Ron: Yeah, that was very important to us. They’re kinda simplified, but they’re not dumbed down.

Kris: That was fantastic. Because nowadays it seems like a lot of games that are made for kids are just dumbed down, it’s just so boring like “This is what you do…”

Ron: Just tap, tap, tap.

Kris: It makes me sad, cause in the 90s a lot of the games I grew up on… weren’t. Like, even Nintendo and stuff, sure they made it family friendly but they weren’t easy.

Ron: Yeah, exactly, they were actually very hard.

Kris: So that makes sense. I’m sure for many kids, myself included, we grew up on those, they even came out on the Wii, like 10 or 11 years ago.

Ron: I think I think more people, far more people have played, you know, Putt Putt, Pajama Sam than have ever played Monkey Island. I mean, we sold literally millions of copies of those things, yeah, and so I mean I have no doubt that more people play that but it’s like I’m known for Monkey Island even though far more people play these other things, y’know?

Kris: I guess I can see that and now as adults that’s what we think about more. Ron Gilbert. Monkey Island. It makes sense though, that it would hold such a fondness for you. But, I mean, moving on to Thimbleweed Park. What made you decide that that was your next project after all the other stuff you worked on?

Ron: Well, Thimbleweed Park, you know came about because Gary Winnick and I, you know, we did Maniac Mansion together. We’re just sitting around we’re talking about the charm that those little games have. You know a lot of modern adventure games are good and I enjoy them but they’re missing that weird charm that those games had and so we were just talking about what is that charm? What made those charming and then thinking about well, you know, what if we made one of those games again, kind of like we made them back then, could we figure out what that charm was?

Kris: Yeah

Ron: and that’s where it kind of all started and, you know, of course Kickstarter is a great place to go for that kind of stuff and you know we’ve gotten a lot of money so I think there were a lot of other people that were also interested in that.

Kris: I would agree, I know, as I mentioned Monkey Island… not Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle was one of the first games I ever played. I grew up on Space Quest and eventually it evolved. Space Quest was like my first point and click game. And one of the first games I ever played with one of my best friends. And then that evolved into, we played Monkey Island, we played Codename: Iceman, and, y’know, we played all these other point and click games. But it seemed like the genre had died in the 2000s especially. But the last couple years it’s kinda seen a resurgence. And Thimbleweed Park is like that perfect throwback to that time…

Ron: Oh yeah, very much.

Kris: Because those games didn’t take themselves too seriously, but yet they were serious and fun, and I feel like Thimbleweed Park is that.

Ron: Oh yeah, very much so, it is a very, very serious story, kind of. But that’s true even on Monkey Island, and if you look at the story of Monkey Island, it’s a very serious story, it’s just that it’s just kind of comedically told and there’s these comedic elements that ride on it.

Kris: It made it easy to stomach as a kid, I guess. You know you can look at the darkness, but it’s so funny! So, having used Kickstarter for Thimbleweed Park, is that something you’d do again in the future?

Ron: Maybe. You know, I think that Kickstarter… I mean Kickstarter is not like a solution to all your problems and so, you know if you get money from say a publisher, you know there’s a lot of upsides to that… there’s a lot of downsides to that. And when you get money from Kickstarter there’s a lot of upsides to that… lot of downsides to that. If you pay for the game yourself out of your own bank account lotta upside to that, a lot of downside to that

Kris: A lot of give and take.

Ron: yeah, and so you kind of gotta to decide and I think, you know, whether I would use Kickstarter again would probably depend a lot on what the game was I was building. Yeah, is it the kind of, you know, story that I can tell to Kickstarter backers to kind of get them excited?

Kris: That makes sense. So I know your first console that Thimbleweed Park was released on was Steam, PC, Xbox – what pushed you in that route first and then Sony and Nintendo later?

Ron: I think the thing that pushed us to Xbox first was, you know, we had went around to Sony and we went to Xbox and we talked to them and Microsoft just seemed really, really excited about it and they were really willing to really promote the game when it came out and a lot of stuff so it really was was just kind of their excitement for the game that’s kind of what kind of pushed us to them first but we’re out on Sony now, we’ll be out on the switch next month.

Kris: I appreciate hearing that too, about any of the “Big 3” when they’re actually easy to work wit, and they want your game there.

Ron: It makes it a lot easier.

Kris: Yeah, I can imagine.  So skip over Sony a little bit and go to Nintendo. Has it been easy working on the switch? Porting it over?

Ron: Yeah, from a hardware standpoint the switch is like really easy for us. then we’re using a custom engine, you know, we’re not using unity or anything and so getting all that over to Switch was really not that hard at all and we had started the iOS version and so I had written all of the code to deal with touch controls.

Kris: Nice!

Ron: So getting all that over to the Switch was all fairly easy.

Kris: That’s kewl, yeah I know I’m excited to play it on the Switch so I can play it everywhere I go. That’s what I love about my Switch now is how easy and accessible it is.

Ron: I don’t think my Switch has been in its dock more than, like, 10 minutes since I bought it.

Kris: Right? I put it in my dock at night, and then charge it and take it – it’s with me right now.

Ron: Yeah, just to charge it.

Kris: Another thing about the new Thimbleweed Park you can tell playing the game there was a heavy influence from shows like that X-Files and Twin Peaks,what other influences? That is correct, right? Those are a couple of the influences?

Ron: Yeah, mostly Twin Peaks. Yeah, I mean the fact that, you know, Agent Ray and Reyes look like Mulder and  Scully that was actually kind of a shock to us.

Kris: Oh really, so it wasn’t planned?

Ron: Yeah, because no it’s like we, you know, create those characters and we put the Kickstarter up and I swear like the second comment on the Kickstarter page was “Oh, they look like Mulder and Scully” and I went “oh shit” it’s like  I did not even think of that, you know, and so yeah I mean I didn’t really even watch the X-Files, you know. I mean I’ve seen some episodes and stuff but I was never really a fan so I would say far more influences has been Twin Peaks and David Lynch.

Kris: Yeah, it has that vibe. David Lynch is […?]

Ron: Yeah, he is. Have you ever seen Eraserhead?

Kris: I haven’t.

Ron: You HAVE to go watch Eraserhead.

Kris: I’ll do that.

Ron: It is the bizarrest thing…

Kris: I can only imagine, because Twin Peaks and I watched Mulholland Drive, and I’ve never been so confused than after watching Mulholland Drive. I’m still confused by it. Would you say, what other influences did you draw from?

Ron: Well… when I when when we were putting this putting the Kickstarter together and first like plotting everything out I was also watching True Detective right and so there’s the whole… there was, at least the first season there was a really kinda nice… there was an animosity between the two leading characters.

Kris: I haven’t seen the show but I’m familiar with it.

Ron: Yeah there’s a lot of animosity between them. There was a lot of mistrust between them and, you know, we wanted a lot of that to come out in the way Ray and Reyes kinda see each other. Whereas Mulder and Scully, I mean they’re friends right?

Kris: Well they slept together.

Ron: You know one of them’s a skeptic, one of them, whatever. I mean they’re friends, right? And we wanted there to be a little more animosity and also, uh, Stephen King was a big influence because you he does a really good job of writing these very kinda creepy stories that all take place in these small towns where there’s a whole lot kind of going underneath you know everything. I think those are really our three big influences.

Kris: And you can see that! True Detective I haven’t watched to truly get that.

Ron: Watch season one, ignore season two.

Kris: That’s the one with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey?

Ron: Yeah

Kris: I’ve heard its good and the second season isn’t good – i’ll have to watch it. Now that you’re pretty much finished with Thimbleweed Park, I know you’re finishing with the porting, are you going to make another Thimbleweed Park?

Ron: Yeah, I don’t know, I don’t tend to think about my next project until I’m totally done with my current one and had some time off, so as soon as these two ports are done, I’m gonna go, like, actually what I’m gonna do as soon as these ports are done and I’ve had a little vacation I’m gonna like download the Unreal Engine and because I’ve never played with it and I’m gonna spend like a month just understanding the Unreal Engine.

Kris: yeah?

Ron: I mean nothing may come of it but I just, I want to understand it. So that’s kind of my vacation in a way.

Kris: And as a programmer I’m assuming that that’s fun in itself.

Ron: Yeah, it is, yeah. It’s been more fun than laying on a beach.

Kris: Yeah, I agree, I mean I don’t program but anytime I’m playing with anything electronic I have more fun than laying on a beach. So I hear you. One final question for you: Who was your favorite character to create in Thimbleweed Park?

Ron: Probably Ransome the Clown.

Kris: ‘Cause he’s the best!

Ron: Yeah, he’s kind of an asshole.

Kris: He’s fantastic. He’s what you want a clown to be. An ass, and not a creepy happy clown!

Ron: I think the thing with Ransome that I really want to do with him is I wanted to make sure he had no redeeming qualities, right? And you’d look at, like in the Simpsons you know there’s Krusty the Clown and he’s kind of a jerk, but you can tell he’s got a heart.

Kris: He has redeemable qualities.

Ron: Yeah, he does! I want to make sure that Ransome is just an asshole. Period. That’s all he was.

Kris: And you’ve succeeded.

Ron: (laughter) Well, thank you, I think, I think thank you.

Kris: No, it is a success! Because he’s laughable, in a good way, in a bad way-good way. Well I appreciate your time – very much, it really is an honor to meet you. I know, not just myself but a lot of us grew up on your work and this is why I like doing this is the hopes to meet people who created my childhood and my adulthood.

Ron: Right.

Splatoon 2 Review

When The first Splatoon came out I don’t think anyone knew what to truly expect. And it’s unlikely many expected it to be as much of a success on the system as it was. But a success on the Wii U, wasn’t much of a success sadly.

Out comes the Switch. The first video we ever saw, on the day they announced that the Nintendo Switch was its official name, they showed Splatoon in that demo reel and even with the minimal details we got that day, you could tell Splatoon was going to get the attention it deserved finally. With the Switch’s break out success, Splatoon’s sales will definitely be at a place they should always have been at, because Splatoon 2 is a fantastic follow up to its predecessor.

If you aren’t familiar with Splatoon here is a very quick synopsis. You play as an Inkling. Whether you pick a boy or a girl, they play the same. You can transition from you human-like form into a squid and swim through your color ink seamlessly to both move fast and recharge you ink. Your goal? To cover everything with ink and splat anyone who tries to stop you! Many may write this game off as a childish shooter, but its layers of depth, and just pure fun should be plenty of reason never to be one of those people.

If you played the original Splatoon you know one mode well, Turf Wars! They have made a glorious return! With a decent amount of levels to play on and plenty of weapons, both new and old, Turf War is even better then before. The shooter concept boiled down to the simple seeming idea of covering turf works so well, it’s hard to stop after just one match. You always find yourself saying just one more! Because the formula just works so well! The Ranked and League battles add even more to keep you coming back for more. And with the occasional Splatfast that The Big N plans on supporting for years to come, Turf War is easily better then ever. But this time around, Turf War isn’t the only mode and in my opinion, isn’t the one that shines the brightest..

That would be the new mode, Salmon Run. If you’ve ever played Horde Mode in Halo, or Zombies in COD, you’ll have a slight idea of what you have in store with the Salmon Runs. You’re goal is to collect golden eggs and deliver them at the drop point. You only get golden eggs from the many different bosses that come up. Some bosses aren’t too problematic, others are oh so frustrating (Im looking at you Flyfish!) But each one of them always feels great to beat and gather those gold eggs! The better you do during the online battles, the higher your pay rate goes, which helps you get bonuses quicker and quicker! These range from coupons to get boosts to experience and coins, to even getting exclusive gear! This makes taking part in Salmon Runs even more worthwhile. Where I feel the Salmon Run mode really shines is the sense of camaraderie that you get working with others to beat these runs! As the difficulty gets higher, you have to play even smarter and communicate even better. I’ve got to say, playing this local with 3 other friends with Switches is prolly my new favorite thing to do on my Switch! The actual online Salmon Run isn’t always running, which is a bit of a disappointment since it is so good. But you can always play it locally as long as you have other friend’s with Switches around.

There’s even a single player story mode to play through if you are looking for something to do in your spare time. It’s not great, but it’s better then the first Spaltoon’s single player offerings.

Splatoon 2 may not be everyone’s cup of ink. But if you have even the most remote interest in shooter types, give it a try. The game is just a ton of fun when you get going. It makes for easy pick up and play sessions and the multiplayer, both online and local, is just a blast. The amount of gear you can obtain and the versatility in the weapons give plenty of different play styles to experiment with. All in all Splatoon 2 is a game that should be in the collection of most Switch owners

Conclusion

If you are looking for a good multiplayer experience for your Switch, Splatoon is it. It’s a good take on the common shooter genre. There is plenty of content to keep you coming back and with Nintendo planning to support the game in to the future, Splatoon should have a nice long life on the Switch.

Pros:

  • Fantastic Multiplayer
  • Salmon Run is a Great New Mode
  • New Weapons Are a Nice Addition
  • Local Mulitplayer with Multiple Switch’s Works Very Well
  • Nintendo Plans to Support the Game for Years to Come
  • The Story Mode has Much More Content Then the First Games.

Cons:

  • But the Story Mode is Still an Obvious Afterthought
  • Connection Stability Can be a Problem
  • Too Many Connection Issues and they lock ya out for a bit.

 

The Nintendo Switch: Six Months (Almost) Later

Can you believe it’s already been almost six months? I know I can’t. It seems like just yesterday Bigfoot and I were sending messages back and forth speculating about what features, games, apps and other things Nintendo’s new hybrid console would bring! So the question now is, has the Switch been able to live up to that massive hype train that it was able to build up the 6 months before its launch? In short I feel the answer is, yes.

The Good

Let’s start with one word: Zelda. If you have picked up a Switch it’s almost guaranteed you’ve played Zelda. And what an adventure it is. The massive world was a fantastic showcase of how an open world game fits so perfect on this hybrid home/handheld console. It made it so easy to sink hundreds of hours into the beautiful world.

And that is where the Switch truly shines. Just as it was advertised, being able to seamlessly undock my system and continue my adventure on the go is beyond fantastic. It’s something 15 year old me dreamed about doing, and now it’s a beautiful reality. Someone else needs to use the TV and you are in the middle of a race on Mario Kart? No worries, I’ll just pause my game and undock my Switch! Get home from riding in the car and want to keep your adventure going in Cave Story, but on a bigger screen? Dock that bad boy back up! It’s just so flawless. It legitimately makes me happy.

Then there’s the game line up. Sure, at launch it was a bit scarce. But Zelda’s massive adventure made up for that ten times over. Then it wasn’t long before the quality titles started coming out. Binding of Isaac, Mario Kart 8D, Minecraft, Arms, Overcooked, Splatoon 2 and Sonic Mania just to name a few. The quality of these games is so high it’s hard not to be happy with them. Sure, all but Arms and Sonic are re-releases or ports. But is that such a bad thing, to have that wonderful hybrid console option? Especially if you haven’t played them or loved them enough to buy them again! And with the near future having games on the horizon such as Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battles, Pokken Tournament DX, Rayman Legends, Mario Odyssey, Stardew Valley, Thimbleweed Park and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the future looks very bright for the Switch! Not to mention that’s just a small handful of games announced.

One last note in the good column, Splatoon 2’s newest mode, Salmon Run is oh so good. Be on the look out for our upcoming Splatoon 2 review for more but I will say this, one of my new favorite gaming sessions is getting 3 more friends together and playing some Salmon Runs. It is freaking fantastic.

The Not So Good

It’s hard for me to put anything in this column, but there is one thing that the Switch hasn’t done so well yet that has to be mentioned. And that is it’s online features.

Before I start my small rant I will say this, I’m giving them time to sort this out. I hope and pray that by the time their service goes to a paid service, we have a full fledged online service. But as of right now, it’s just severely lacking.

The fact that we still have to use friends codes, maybe not 100% of the time, but a lot, is just sad to me. The lack of being able to do basic things like send a message to a friend, create parties or chat with ease… is just sad. For a system with such a push to play with your friends, I wish this was all easier. And the recent release of Nintendo’s online chat app is pitiful. We shouldn’t need so many cords to chat in 2017, not to mention being tied to an app that has to be running in the forefront with the phone on to work!! But that being said there is potential here. The ability to look at your friends playtime of games is a nice little feature. Plus the fact that the system notifies you when a friend is online and what they are playing is a really nice feature. But there is a lot to improve here. I just hope they do it before the launch of the paid service in 2018.

Conclusion

The positives for the Switch far outweigh the negative. Because in my opinion there aren’t that many real negatives.  I honestly believe Nintendo will remedy the few flaws to the best of their ability. On the other had there is so many good things. The system just plays so flawlessly. The display is beyond pretty. The game selection is solid for it only being six months in, with no end in sight of awesome additions. Nintendo is supporting and pushing the system so hard it gives me a ton of faith in its future. So at this point, almost 6 months past what was possibly my most hyped console launch to date I can comfortably say that the Switch is a success.

Oh and I still love the sound the Joy Cons make when you click them on;)

Thimbleweed Park-a-reno

This review has been updated with our thoughts on the Nintendo Switch version: Thimbleweed Park was great on PC, but PC was like its home, that is where Point & Click games started and spent the majority of their life. I can gladly say it’s transition to the Switch was a flawless one.

Whether playing it with a Pro Controller or Joy Cons, docked or undocked, the game plays very smooth. (With a nice explanation of the controls and shortcuts early on) Where TWP really thrives is in handheld mode with its use of the touchscreen. Making for very quick and clean response time.

The game continues to play just as well on the Switch, as it has everywhere else. If you are a big fan of buying everything you can for the Switch like we are, and love point and click games, this should be an instant buy-a-who.

Some people are so good at what they do and such a unique way of doing it, that their name becomes synonymous with what it is they do. M. Night Shyamalan’s movies, John Grisham’s suspense novels, Peewee Herman’s children’s show, and Ron Gilbert’s point and click adventure games. You might remember we highlighted Grim Fandango back in December’s point and click month, and this month I was thrilled to get a copy of Thimbleweed Park for your review! TWP, developed by Terrible Toybox, was crowdfunded through Kickstarter and is a spiritual successor to such games as Maniac Mansion. Ron Gilbert was a key player in creating some of my favorite childhood games including “Day of the Tentacle”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “Secret of Monkey Island”, “Total Annihilation” and he had his hands in more current games as “The Cave” and “Penny Arcade: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness” (which I want to play, but have yet to…) The big question is, are our memories of point and click adventure games tainted by nostalgia? Or do they hold up today?

Starting up TWP I found it interesting that I was offered the choice of difficulties: casual or hard. I’m not really sure what difference casual offers yet, but I’m quite accustomed to these types of games so picked ‘hard’. After this I was presented with a small tutorial of sorts that described what all the different buttons and commands are for. Already being familiar with the SCUMM engine, this part was a bit dry – might be better suited to throwing into a help menu. Also, it’s become quite common to make tutorials in-game, so you can get used to playing by doing instead of just reading. I guess the first part of the game is kept very simple for this reason. You’re quickly introduced to the story: someone is murdered and their body is left to pixelate in some reedy pool. A not-so-classic comedy whodunit ensues.

Though utilizing pixelated graphics, TWP still rises far above it’s predecessors with graphics that have been beautifully done. I feel like it would have been lacking in style to create this in 3D. Not only does this play on my nostalgia, but I think even those who’ve never played the older games could appreciate it.

The years haven’t hurt Gilbert’s humor, from a foul-mouthed (though censored) insult clown to the niece of the local pillow factory magnate – who simply wants to program games for Mmucas Flem Games – there are plenty of opportunities for humor and, despite sounding a bit embittered at LucasArts at times, it’s well done!

Speaking of the different characters that inhabit Thimbleweed Park, one of the many things I enjoyed about playing was that you weren’t pigeon-holed into playing one character from start to finish. From the outset (well, very shortly after the outset) you’re able to switch back and forth between the two main protagonists, Agent Ray and Agent Reyes. But it doesn’t stop there, in later scenes you control the characters mentioned above, as well as several others in a search to determine who the killer is.

Another modern twist that has been carefully crafted for our auditory pleasure: Thimbleweed Park has voice actors and it’s great to be able to listen to the zany dialog, instead of just reading it all. Though it can get repetitious listening to some of the dialog read over and over (and over… hey, i was stuck!) you can skip a line by pressing the period button on your keyboard.

As much as I loved finding all the “dead” ends in early Sierra games, like the Space Quest series, you’ll appreciate that Thimbleweed Park won’t let you die, or progress into the story without some key piece of equipment, leaving you hoping and pleading that you saved the game long enough ago that you don’t have to start from the beginning. I might’ve taken this fact for granted as I played, except that I was reminded of it in length, early on in the game, by a pair of plumbers dressed as pigeons.

All in all, Thimbleweed Park didn’t just live up to, it far exceeded my memories of how much I enjoy point and click adventure games. It’s as epic as getting roundhouse kicked in the face by Chuck Norris, while ninjas in My Little Pony costumes flip cartwheels all around you, and fireworks blast in the sky, while under your feet the earth quakes because it too has been waiting forever for a new retro point and click game. I really hope this is just the beginning of things to come. If this is a glimpse of what Gilbert and his team still have in store for the industry, then I would gladly contribute to Terrible Toybox’s next Kickstarter. Sign me up.

Thimbleweed Park is available to download for $19.99 from Steam, GOG, Xbox One, and the Mac App Store. Also, you can get your TWP gear over at FanGamer – hey, if you’re bored and want to send us a PinnyArcade pin, I won’t complain.

The Switch: Inital Thoughts

It’s finally here.

We were the ones with our home page set to Nintendo NX rumor pages. Then in October it was announced that this secretive new card in Shigeru Miyamoto’s hand was to be called the Nintendo Switch. Thoughts, dreams, and hopes were flying – what would this new console bring to the table? Like a dry sponge, we were wanting to soak up any new drop of information.

When preorders were opened up in January we took no chances, it was an easy decision. Krispy and I waited outside the store for over 10 hours to slap down some money in order to ensure we were on the list. We were far from alone, as Tatsumi Kimishima revealed in an interview with Time magazine, that “we are seeing that launch day preorders have nearly reached the maximum available.” The only question that we battled with was, do we go with a traditional grey or neon blue and red? Oh, the struggle was real, my friends.

From the moment we signed our names on those preorder slips, Earth seemed to have entered a black hole. Time seemed to go by half as fast as usual. It was unanimously agreed on that March 3rd would never actually get here. Like a bad sequel to Groundhog Day, we seemed cursed to live in the February 2017 for the rest of our lives.

But lo and behold, the day finally arrived, and we were there once again at midnight to pick up the object of our endearment: The Nintendo Switch! Standing in that GameStop you could watch the dreary face of each and every queue-standing customer turn into a stifled grin as they clutched their treasure and rushed out the door. I’m pretty sure I heard at least three geeks utter “My Precious…” as they stroked the box lovingly.

When I got home, it was late… Time, instead of being mind numbingly slow, had decided it had a lot of catching up to do! Suddenly it was 3am and I was supposed to be at work in the morning. I would have to say good night to Link, or maybe I could undock it and play just a little while longer.

Aesthetically, the Switch is beautiful. It’s sleek and clean lines will look wonderful along with your other game consoles. I was really concerned that I wouldn’t like the joy-cons, especially with larger hands. I mean, one of my favorite controllers is the original Xbox controller. “They look tiny… there’s no way those are going to fit well in my hands.” I was positive that the only way I’d be able to play was with the pro controller. I have never been so happy to be proved wrong. While there’s a bit of a learning curve getting to know the button configuration – which is true with any new system – the controllers feel right at home in my hands. I haven’t even bothered to test out the grip that lets you put them both together yet. You can arrange your hands however you like since the two pieces are separate. I tend to not even have my hands raised when playing, rather just keeping them at my side, and it’s super comfortable.

Another concern we had was battery life. I’m more apt to play on the TV, so haven’t had a chance to test it to the full in handheld mode. The joy-cons, though, last for hours of play with no problem. That audible “click” when you pop them back into the console at the end of the night is oh, so satisfying.

Though launch day titles were underwhelming in terms of quantity – Zelda, 1-2 Switch, Fast RMX, Bomberman – they more than made up for it in quality – Zelda, 1-2 Switch, Fast RMX, Bomberman.

Bomberman R has all the features that make Bomberman great: it’s simple concept, easy to use controls, fast and furious gameplay. On top of that it’s just simply a blast to play with a group of friends in local multiplayer battles. The story seems like basic fluff thrown in to fill up some time, but it’s cute animation style and charming characters makes me look forward to the cut scenes.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild, in case you’ve been under a rock for the past month, is gorgeous. They’ve hit the mark perfectly with this one. I can’t emphasize enough, that if you’re going to buy just one game for the Switch – buy Zelda! There is a reason why everyone rates it so highly.

All in all, this launch was a win. I’m enthusiastically watching as Nintendo fills the store up with new games and most looking forward to original Indie multiplayer titles as they are released in the coming months

What did you think of the Switch? Was it worth the time waiting to pre-order? .

The Swindle

Break in, whack the security, hack the computers, steal all the loot. Somewhere in between (and quite often) try not to curse at your TV when you die for the umpteenth time in a row. And finally stop Scotland Yard from unleashing an all-seeing security system (codenamed the Devil’s Basilisk), because that would really put the kibosh on your life of crime. Oh, and you only have 100 days to do it. That’s the premise behind this indie gem, The Swindle, out for PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Steam, and Wii U.

It sounds simple, and it’s really quite a lot of fun, but don’t expect a walk in the park. You’re going to have to use all the skills at your disposal, along with scouting out alternate entrances (sometimes making your own… via a well placed bomb) and occasionally just taking the upper road and walking away. Why? Because in this procedurally generated world, sometimes you’re faced with your own Kobayashi Maru – it may be more worth it to leave half (or 97%) of the cash and walk away with your life and decency intact, rather than to die pennyless and let your replacement take over.

The Swindle has a great feel to it, thanks in great part to the game’s art style. That was the first thing to draw me in, I loved this rendition of a steampunk London. It’s simple characters pack a lot of heart, even the robotic guards look like they’ve been pieced together in some cybernetic security factory somewhere. For the most part your character moves, jumps, wall slides and hacks computers with grace, but there were repeated times where I would jump and attack, only to find that I somehow attacked in the opposite direction to how I was pushing. This usually led to all sorts of alarms going off, and me running for the door. Also, if you’re trying to hack a downed drone and it’s right next to a door you’ll likely also open the door – which tends to put you in plain view of the guard on the other side. Queue the alarm sirens and the police!

Though you’ll initially start the game with no skills, except being able to clumsily open unlocked doors, pick up cash if it’s laying right in front of you, and be able to halfheartedly swing your billy club, every time you score some loot you can buy skill upgrades. I gave an uneasy laugh reading the descriptions on the upgrades – they’re going to remove my eyes and replace them with cameras? Cutting off my legs to replace them with cybernetic components? *shiver* They each have something humorous and interesting to read, and they fit, for sure – and though being a bit macabre, I thought they were funny.

There are a couple priced low that everyone needs and you can pick up in the first level – computer hacking skills, double jumping skills… steampunk girls only like guys who have skills! Gosh! After that it’s up to your play style. I would recommend getting the first two hacking skills before you progress on to the second zone, otherwise you won’t be able to open any of the front doors. Also, you can unlock computer bugs that can be planted at hacked workstations. They continue to siphon funds straight into your bank account, usually at the rate of £30-50/second. Go ahead, plant a few bugs and then just go take a pee break, make yourself a sandwich, or some other menial task. If you’re lucky it’ll just keep raking in the money. That 15 minute shower with 3 concurrent bugged computers could rack up £108000, not bad for an honest days work.

If I had to recommend another skill totally worth saving up your cash for, it’d be drone hacking. Just like in the real world, a drone in The Swindle comes equipped with a camera. Unlike in the real world though, they usually also come standard with a machine gun. Some just give a hefty electric shock, others explode. Early on in the game when your baton swings through the dingy air and cracks into the delicate housing of one of these bad boys it goes flying to the ground, and you walk over it victoriously. But after unlocking this skill, yes, you still smash the heck out of them… but instead of walking past them, you can hack the programming and it’ll become friendly. Much like a subservient guard dog, it’ll follow you around and attack it’s old allies. The loads of upgrades, which allow for differing styles of play, is a big boost to how much I enjoyed this game.

Computers systems, drones, doors, and security systems are all hacked by means of a QTE (quick time event) that prompts you to press a direction on your controller. It’s okay if you press the wrong direction on the most basic of these, but messing up when hacking a mine and you’ll explode. If you were hacking a security system, it’ll alert the police.

There is quite a variety of enemies, as well, from the basic robot guard on the first level who just paces back and forth and is easily convinced to play dead with a baton to the back of the head, to bigger, beefier guards on the next level who will take a couple hits before he drops. Then there are the flying drones that were mentioned. On and after the third level you start to run into some droids wearing gas masks – I didn’t realize it at first, but if you hit these guys they release a cloud of gas which will cloud your vision. Sure, you could still hack a computer just by guessing the controller sequence, but the cloud is also poison and it will kill you shortly. So run for the escape! The other enemies worth mentioning are the police bots that come around shortly after the alarm goes off. It’s not worth trying to kill them, I haven’t found a way to do that – though I haven’t tried a bomb yet. They’ll just continue attacking and soon you’ll have the flying police cruiser with Gatling gun to deal with, so best to just run.

Overall, despite minor bugs I found The Swindle was a ton of fun to play, with extensive upgrades, and random generated levels. We definitely recommend playing it. Though take your time and make sure your skills are built up before rushing into the later levels, or like me,  you’ll probably find yourself in the middle of a rage quit.

Win a Copy of Gurumin 3D!

UPDATE: This contest has now concluded. Thank you to all for your entries! Look forward to more contests like this in the coming future!

 

2016 was a whirlwind of great titles. We hope you had a chance to enjoy some new and some retro. We feel that if we helped you to find something to play, then our year was successful. With that in mind we have partnered with Mastiff to offer you a copy of Gurumin 3D! You could rush to the Nintendo eStore to buy it (We thought it was worth it), or follow the rules below:

  • Contest is open starting 12/12/2017 until 12:00am PST 1/1/2017
  • No purchase is necessary, and will not increase your chances of winning.
  • Open to all US residents, because I’m not sure this code will work for anyone else.
  • Grand prize is one (1) copy of Gurumin 3D for the Nintendo 3DS, redeemable thru the Nintendo eShop. Total value of the prize is $14.99.
  • Odds are determined by number of entries. Maybe it’ll be 1:1000000, maybe it’ll be 1:10.
  • Winner will be selected by random drawing on Jan 1, 2017, and will be contacted by whatever method the winning entry was made. Winner will be posted on this post and our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds.
  • Selected winner will be disqualified if they are not found to be following AlmostPerfectGamer when announcement is made, at which time another winner will be selected.
  • Follow us on Twitter at AlmostPerfectG1 and retweet the announcement along with a comment of what your favorite game of 2016 was for 1 entry
  • Follow us on Instagram at AlmostPerfectGamers and comment with your favorite game of 2016 for 1 entry.
  • Tag a friend! If you tag a friend and they enter, you’ll get another entry and of course they get an entry too. Don’t be taggin’ fake accounts!
  • Read the review! We enjoyed playing it and want to tell you why. Go to our site, read the review, and then look for the animated gif of in-game screenshots near the bottom. Use our site’s contact page to tell us the last item in Parin’s inventory. You’ll get 1 entry for this.

 

Almost Perfect Favorites of 2016

Every year in the video game industry hundreds, actually more like thousands, of games are released. Across the home consoles, handhelds and smart devices we now see a plethora of games from Big Budget titles to Free to Play phone games every year that offer us a ton to play.

By the end of the year we each have games that we really enjoyed throughout the year and plenty of others we never had a chance to touch. Here at Almost Perfect we decided to compile lists of 5 of our favorite games from this year plus our individual game of the year winners at the end of the month.

We hope you may find some joy in some of these titles as well! Maybe play something for the first time! Click the links below to check out either Bigfoot or my favorite games of 2016.

Krispy’s Favorites of 2016
Bigfoot’s Favorites of 2016

Final Fantasy: A Saga of Greatness

The Final Fantasy series has been around for quite a long time. In that time we’ve seen 14 main games in the series, 2 of which were MMORPGS, prequels and sequels to some of our favorite titles, multiple spinoffs across many platforms and even a few movies. In that time I’m sure everyone has had a chance to pick a favorite in the series. Whether it be one of the more commonly picked choices like Final Fantasy 7, or a more obscure one like Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest on the SNES, you really can’t make a bad choice for a favorite.

Next week marks the release of the 15th title in the series and seems to have given us a lot to be excited for. We have waited a long time for this game and I for one, can’t wait to see how much the wait paid off. With this release just around the corner it has had me thinking about the series as a whole a lot and which game is truly my favorite. The first FF i ever played was 7 and frankly, it changed the way I played, and felt, about video games from that point forward. Even though it wasn’t my first foray into the RPG world, it was the most eye opening for me. From this point on I was hungry for more vast, open world RPGs with the strong narrative that 7 had. So I played the rest of the games in the series that were out at this point (it was already up to 9 by the time I finally played 7, and sadly was never able to get my hands on a copy of 6, and have yet to play it as of the writing of this article.) The one that stuck with me from that point on, that I still think about regularly and replay more then any other FF, is Final Fantasy 8.

That may come as a surprise to many. I know that it is considered to be one of the weaker entries in the franchise by the masses but I can’t help my love for this game. From the first minute of the game I was engrossed. That opening video left me in awe. I wanted to know more about these characters! That rivalry that we got a small glimpse of… And those swords!! I couldn’t wait to dive in and what followed has stuck with me to this day. The game really had so much to offer. The weapons were some of the coolest looking in the series. I mean, yea the buster sword is awesome, but a Gunblade?! The extra flair it added by actually having a command prompt that would make it even stronger if timed right was just awesome.

ff8_chars

Characters like Rinoa, Quistis, Zell and Seifer were all so memorable in their own right. I still laugh at the chicken-wuss scene. The Guardian Forces were so cool in this game and to this day are some of my favorite versions of some of the summons. Not to mention Triple Triad!! If you played FF8 and didn’t fully love Triple Triad then maybe you didn’t do it right! I can still turn on FF8 just to play TT. I always have such a blast playing it and getting all the rare cards.

triple_triad_win

FF8 may not have been perfect. Is the draw/junction system one of the stronger in the series? No. But it did add a certain uniqueness in how you could build your characters. And yes, the last act of the game may have been a bit convoluted. But the game as a whole was just so good. The music, the summons, the characters, the locations, the AMAZING battle between the Gardens and not to mention Triple Triad!! I without a doubt found a lot to love in this game. Maybe if you go back and play it now, some 18 years after its release, maybe you will too. Maybe not. Either way I find it to be one of the most enjoyable in the series.

Whatever your favorite Final Fantasy is, the excitement for a new FF is always invigorating. That hope that this new entry may be as good as your favorite is enough to get excited in and of itself. If you’d like to share with us what your favorite Final Fantasy was or maybe just some of your favorite memories from the series as a whole, do it! Feel free to sound off in the comments below.