Nintendo Switch Platform RSS Feed | Nintendo Switch RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Why the Expansion Pass Model is Made for Fire Emblem Mon, 22 Jul 2019 13:49:12 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Expansion Passes, aka Season Passes, have a bad reputation in some corners of the industry. They tend to consist of downloadable content that one would assume would be included in the game, like a set of items or an extra location to explore. Some toss in some highly desirable content alongside swathes of meh-ranked costumes or piddly add-ons, while still others lock important plot content or items behind the expansion pass paywall.

Nintendo started including expansion passes in the Switch era, beginning with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, then Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and soon again with Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

The two earlier expansion pass efforts fell into the "less than spectacular" category in many ways. Some aspects made up for in-game flaws, others promised a lot and didn't deliver, and BotW stole the Master Sword from us.

Fire Emblem, however, is almost designed for an expansion pass, with its reliance on deep, strategic stages, character development, and huge worlds we never get to see enough of. With the upcoming Fire Emblem: Three Houses' expansion pass being a first for the series, we take a look at how the concept complements the franchise's structure so well.

The Not-So Expansive Expansion Model

Nintendo was late to the expansion pass party, the one area many fans were pleased to see the Big N lagging behind in. But that all changed with Breath of the Wild.

DLC and expansion passes are supposed to, well, expand on a game's world somehow — through new missions, new locations, new items, or a combination of that and more. It goes double for open-world games like BotW, where a healthy expansion can go a long way in keeping players in the game world.

The expansions we got for Breath of the Wild did indeed add to the world with some challenging new missions, new Shrines, some new gear, and a bit more backstory. But it wasn't all that exciting.

Then there was the issue with presentation.

A good expansion pass is going to give you something you couldn't get otherwise, something special or highly desirable. It doesn't — well, it shouldn't — steal something hitherto integral to a franchise, imprison it behind a paywall, and then expect you to be happy about ransoming it back.

It probably shouldn't take your clothes either.

Unfortunately that's exactly what Breath of the Wild does with both the Master Sword and your rags. The Deku Tree conveniently keeps the Trial of the Sword, the only thing that can restore the Master Sword to its proper splendor, back from Link until you cross its palm (?) with real-world silver.

Granted, the Trial is an exceptionally well-designed challenge run, where having no clothes forces you to think strategically. It's the ultimate proving ground for the skills learned and employed in post-apocalyptic Hyrule.

That's exactly why it should have been part of the game itself, not bonus content: it's too closely tied to the game itself to function well as an expansion.

Then there's the Champions' Ballad. BotW is a curious one when it comes to plot. It probably has the biggest emphasis on story in any Zelda game, but 95% of it is entirely skippable. Those who do choose to engage in its plot find doomed, dead, but likeable characters in the Champions, and then you get to learn a bit more about them in the second DLC wave.

Only a bit, though. The main focus is the bone-crushingly difficult challenges associated with each Champion, leaving the plot bits seeming just a little like there could be more — a prequel, maybe, or a special episode for each Champion.

All these issues likely stem from Breath of the Wild's tortured development cycle. A game whose life was fraught with delays and challenges like BotW is bound to have cut content, content the dev team really wants to include somehow in the main game.

That's certainly how Breath of the Wild's expansion pass comes across. It's not bad, but it wasn't the smoothest entry into DLC the series could have had. Moreover, a game like that needs a much meatier expansion to make it worthwhile. This is why they're making a sequel to the game, as they wanted to make use of all the ideas they had for the original without resorting to piles of DLC.

Strategy Games Do It Better

Where Zelda scrambled onto the DLC wagon rather late, Fire Emblem has a history of adding new maps and quests via DLC. Starting with Awakening in the West, the series routinely added new maps or sets of quests wrapped around mini-side stories.

These kinds of additions are perfect for strategy/tactics games like Fire Emblem. By nature, the main games are very straightforward, with no deviating from the main path allowed.

Unlike open-world games or traditional RPGs, strategy games don't get much time to explore these relationships and other stories. Paralogues and support conversations have to be focused if they want to keep the player's attention, and with the level of depth added to (most) of FE's characters, there's always more than can be explored or explained or more ideas to cram into a map.

It's true the base game has lots of replay value, especially with the huge character rosters to choose from, but there's nothing like having fresh content to wrap your mind around. Some of the maps are duds, but others demonstrate more focused design and require greater strategy than the main games,

Strategy games live or die by the strength and diversity of their maps. Where BotW introduced a handful of new Shrines alongside its new content, any new quest content Fire Emblem introduces has to be centered on at least one new map that's going to take longer than the mini-mini-dungeons that the Shrines are.

It helps, too, that most Fire Emblem games have 30 maps at most, where BotW burns you out with more than 100 Shrines before asking you to get excited about extra, paid Shrines.

Fire Emblem's DLC maps help flesh out characters as well or let you interact with them in different (albeit usually fanservice-y) ways.

Fates's DLC packs built on the story and character interactions Fates rather bizarrely neglected, and Echoes followed this trend. Its DLC focused on specific character stories and relationships, while examining important bits of story background we didn't get much of in the main game.

You see the trend? When extra content in Fire Emblem intends to give you more of a certain character or more background about the world, it doesn't tease you with tidbits and move on.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses will likely do something similar, especially with the much greater emphasis on plot and characters.

Gacha-Blade Chronicles?

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was positioned in a more strategic way to make better use of an expansion pass. The series is still fairly young, assuming you count Xenoblade as something separate from Xenogears and Xenosaga, so there's less baggage associated with introducing extra, paid content. It was also a massive game to begin with, stuffed to the seams with a plethora of things to do.

The expansion pass promised to add even more to that — more quests, more items, more Blades, and eventually, further expansion on the plot. That new plot material was meant to be part of the original story, though Monolith chose not to include it. They went back and were flesh the game's story out even further. In other words, this is exactly what consumers expect from expansion passes.

What could be wrong with that?

In theory, not much. In practice, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a bit more ambitious than perhaps it should have been in a few areas. Aside from what would become Torna: The Golden Country, the additional Blades and Core Crystals were the expansion pass's most appealing aspects by far, along with materials for upgrading Poppi.

That's because those two areas ended up being some of XC2's more frustrating aspects, depending on the player. Blades are obtained via a gacha system, using Core Crystals of varying rarities that produce results corresponding with said rarity. Legendary Crystals are almost bound to produce a Rare Blade, Common ones might but probably won't, and so on.

The excitement and mystery of what might be inside a given Crystal fades a bit when you realize how prone finding Rare ones are to luck and timing, to say nothing of Legendary Crystals.

It turns to annoyance when you keep drawing Common Blades, not because you can't use them effectively in battle or send them on side missions. No, you can beat the game with a team of Common Blades.

It's annoying because half the best missions and characterization are wrapped up in Rare Blades. There's a complex algorithm that means you're eventually going to get a few Rare Blades, but not that many

The Poppi problem is rooted in something that should be fun: playing a retro-styled Salvager game called "Tiger Tiger", where you avoid sea creatures and bring up treasure. Winning with a high score earns points you put towards buying Poppi parts.

Only, upgrading Poppi so she's on the level of your other Blades would mean spending several hours playing the minigame, which ends up not being fun. At all.

The expansion pass offered a fresh load of Rare and Legendary Core Crystals each time it updated, special food items to take the guesswork out of which character liked what, loads of Poppi points, and some special Rare Blades so everyone could join in the fun.

That's good. But ideally, an expansion pass shouldn't exist to correct oversights or try and ease frustration over systems that work best on paper.

Leveling the Playing Field

We don't know specifics about what the Three Houses expansion will offer, but it's supposed to provide new outfits, helpful in-game items, new maps and quests, and eventually, new characters and story content.

It seems like standard expansion pass fare, but each thing on offer is perfectly suited for Fire Emblem — well, except maybe new outfits. Unlike BotW, those are purely cosmetic.

In-game items probably refers to things like the Seraph Robe or Mage's Ring, items that enhance a unit's stats somehow.

Earlier Fire Emblem games, even ones like Awakening that are deemed more accessible, are notoriously stingy with these items. Those skilled enough to amass a small in-game fortune could buy them at certain shops, but the rest of us poor souls would have to choose which characters deserve the boost.

Some might call granting extra items like this a cop-out, a sort of pay-to-win mechanic in single player games. If it ends up being these items, though, it's actually a smart way to emphasize the game's and series' key point: characters.

Every Fire Emblem game has at least one character you really want to use, but can't because they suck so bad or get outshone by a better example, i.e., Innes instead of Neimi, Jaffar instead of Matthew, anyone instead of Rinkah.

Even before the Fire Emblem Awakening controversy, Fire Emblem games were all about picking your favorite units and developing them to their fullest potential. These extra items would let you do just that.

It's a much more focused and useful example of in-game items in an expansion pass too. Outside of Xenoblade Chronicles 2's Core Crystals, the other items weren't really essential. Sure, some food items were rare, but you have access to so many different foods that it's easy to find something that raises Affinity between Driver and Blade.

Old New Worlds

There was Torna, though. Despite irking some with its heavy quest reliance, it offers massive insight into the main game's plot and important characters while managing to stand alone as a quality game in itself.

Equally as important, Torna played with the game's battle system. Changes in how Drivers and Blades worked together mesh perfectly with the story content, but they also give players who spent hundreds of hours in the main game a reason to sink even more time into the prequel expansion.

That's good expansion pass material.

That's what Fire Emblem: Three Houses will probably do, and it's about time.

Fire Emblem rarely does sequels. There are connected stories, like Thracia 776 and Genealogy of the Holy War, then Binding Blade got a prequel in the West's first Fire Emblem game, and Path of Radiance wouldn't be complete without Radiant Dawn.

Even with sequels and prequels, though, there are still countless aspects of these richly realized fantasy worlds that never see the light of day. Whether it's the multi-faceted nations of Elibe that Pherae and Ostia eclipse, the fractious relationships between Beorc and Laguz in Tellius, or anything to do with Begnion's past and future, there's a lot that can't be told in the best Fire Emblem games.

Strategy games have the unique advantage of each battle taking up a fair bit of time as well. Fire Emblem games are divided somewhat equally between storytelling and combat. That means there's much less chance of having a Torna situation or even a Champions' Ballad one, where interesting story content gets overshadowed by gameplay that's needed for padding the experience out.


Love them or hate them, a well-conceived expansion pass can make a good game even better, extending your enjoyment without costing too much.

While Nintendo's previous expansion pass efforts haven't been quite up to snuff for one reason or another, Fire Emblem: Three Houses looks set to change that. If it lives up to its promises, the expansion pass will be building on a history of additional content that already expands the games in meaningful ways, and then going further with brand-new story content so maybe we can finally get to explore just a bit of what lies beyond the pale of the main game.

Super Mega Baseball 2 Ultimate Edition Review: The All-Star Game Mon, 22 Jul 2019 10:51:39 -0400 Mark Delaney

While the MLB's popularity has waned in recent years, losing ground to the NFL and NBA among stateside sports fans, there's still an intense desire for baseball video games. It doesn't help that there are so few baseball games coming to the various platforms.

If you're determined to only play with licensed pro teams quickly and easily, you'll have to try PlayStation's annual The Show. However, if you don't mind a game with studio-invented teams and a deep customization suite for more determined creators, you won't find a better mix of arcade and simulation baseball than Super Mega Baseball 2: Ultimate Edition.

There's a chance you've already played Super Mega Baseball 2. It originally launched in May 2018, though after a year of DLC and the welcome landing spot the Switch has become for indies, the game has been repackaged as an Ultimate Edition complete with all the DLC on a new platform. This review was conducted with the Switch version, and it was glorious.

While Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are the system sellers for many people playing on Switch, for baseball fans, SMB2 is the killer app that is worth a Switch purchase all on its own. From top to bottom, the game is precisely what baseball fans would want, and to have that all on the go or docked is a supremely addictive fit.

In terms of modes and menus, SMB2 has most everything you'd want. You can play solo, in local play, or online. You can do so in pick-up games, season mode, and custom leagues. In these modes, everything from division and conference names and sizes to team names, jerseys, and fully customized logos is up to you. Names, looks, and even the eye-black and tattoos of every single player are customizable. 

It does lack a derby mode, but competitive online play is integrated in several ways, like front and center leaderboards, that help round out the modes on offer. The options to make a league your own whether playing alone or with friends is stunning for an indie game like this. Heck, it would be impressive even as an annual big-budget sim.

Without MLB licensing, you'll not have the chance to drop in and play as the Red Sox, Cubs, or the league's 28 other teams, but for the most patient and dedicated, the customization suite is so absurdly deep that you can certainly make those teams from scratch. Many players already play the game this way. The DLC that comes with this all-inclusive version amounts to new logos and stadiums, taking the game's customization options that much farther.

On the diamond, the game's wide-ranging difficulty options mean virtually anyone will find the right resistance from AI opponents. Dubbed "Ego," this system allows players to tweak the skill level of their opponents from 1-100, offering incredible nuance. If the game is getting too tough or too easy, you can simply adjust the Ego accordingly and try out the new level until you find the right fit.

As you improve, your opponents can come with you, or you can keep them as pushovers and turn a season into a one-sided home run derby. In many of its most important areas, SMB2 is defined by its player agency. 

There's also the dynamic mojo stat which measures a player's mental toughness. Players on hitting streaks will have higher mojo, while those hitting in the low .200s may be ice cold at the plate until a lucky swing turns it around. Pressure is also measured and works in tandem with mojo to deliver heroes and zeroes to every game. Step up in the bottom of the ninth with a high mojo player, and they may as well be David Ortiz.

All this agency wouldn't mean much without strong core mechanics, but again the game dazzles here, too. Pitching and hitting are very active systems, where you have to chase the spot of the ball whether you're at the plate or the diamond. Pitching feels phenomenal: you can really fake out opposing batters with intimidating control of the strike zone, while batters have to weigh contact versus power versus bunting. Complete control is also given to every baserunner individually or collectively, and each player is even given their own walk-up animations and songs. And yes, even these are customizable. 

Nearly every strategy you'd expect to see in the most expensive AAA baseball games are here, too, which rewards smart players with challenging situations meant to bring out the coaches in them. How to play the base paths, adjust your fielders, and creatively use substitutions are key to winning on the highest Ego settings for the most thoughtful baseball minds. 

The one area in which Super Mega Baseball 2 has not gone leaps and bounds beyond its predecessor and, for the matter, genre counterparts, is fielding fly balls. This system is largely automated, leaving you feeling like you've lost control of your vehicle in intermittent moments despite the awesome autonomy everywhere else. Whereas hitting, pitching, baserunning, and fielding with the ball in your glove cal all be as tough as you like them to be, with fly balls even at the highest settings, SMB2 holds your hand for seemingly technical but ultimately unexplained reasons. 

Screenshots of the game cloak all of this deep customization and true to form baseball IQ in a cartoonish and fun aesthetic. Player models got a bit more realistic compared to the original game which featured ridiculous proportions, but they still look something more like Jimmy Neutron characters than real humans, and that's fine. Metalhead Software surely couldn't attain photorealism, so they smartly made this style work for them instead, turning a neutral or negative element of the game into a positive. 

  • Impressive customization options
  • Great on-the-field play with wide-ranging difficulty options
  • Many modes and ways to play with friends locally, online, or alone
  • Creative mojo and pressure systems interact to alter athlete behaviors in fun ways
  • Fun, lighthearted visuals bring the world to cartoonish life
  • Fielding fly balls is curiously semi-automated, which stands out as the one area where players lose control

Super Mega Baseball 2: Ultimate Edition is the definitive killer app for sports game fans playing on Switch. More so, if you haven't played it on other platforms, it remains an excellent option there, too, even if you have access to PS4's The Show.

What's lost in MLB licensing is recovered tenfold in deep customization across the board, intuitive play on the field that rewards a high baseball IQ, and a lighthearted aesthetic which belies the game's as-serious-as-you-want-it design. Admitting it's an overused cliche, it also feels unavoidable; Super Mega Baseball 2 is a grand slam.

[Note: A copy of Super Mega Baseball 2 was provided by Metalhead Software for the purpose of this review.]

EXCLUSIVE Interview with Redeemer Devs, Sobaka Fri, 19 Jul 2019 08:00:01 -0400 Joey Marrazzo

In 2017, Redeemer, a top-down shooter, was released for PC to some mixed reviews. Critics said the game had heart, but there was a lot of room for improvement that could make this game a great one. 

Sobaka, the developer of Redeemer, listened and two years later, they are releasing Redeemer Enhanced Edition which is coming to PC, and for the first time ever, consoles.

During E3, I was able to talk to Sobaka and discuss their present, their past, and what is to come in the near future. 

Redeemer: Enhanced Edition

If you have played Redeemer or have seen gameplay of it, you know the combat is a bit intense and brutal. The people over at Sobaka had to do some research in order to get the action in Redeemer just the way they wanted. 

"We had played a lot and we had watched a lot of action movies so we didn’t really need a rehearsal. Just like in any good action movie – it is cool to smash faces! Games could be really cool without a bloodshed for sure – at the end it is all about fun!"

When Redeemer first hit the PC market in August of 2017, they not only listened to the critical reception but also the response from the players. Over time Sobaka was able to release some patches, added new languages, and even a Russian voiceover which was made by the community.

However, in order to give the fans the updates they wanted to see in the game, they had to find a new publisher. 

"At some point we were talking to BUKA and then we realized that we should release our game on consoles. Our PC publisher, Gambitions, didn’t see that this way. They figured it won’t be profitable. BUKA figured it the other way. Thus, we’ve reached an agreement with BUKA to port Redeemer to the consoles."

Now with BUKA controlling the publishing rights to Redeemer, Sobaka can bring the best possible version of the game to PC and introduce it to a whole new audience on consoles. 

While it could be difficult to satisfy gamers nowadays, Sobaka listened to what their core audience wanted to see brought to the Enhanced Edition of Redeemer and tried to deliver as much as they possibly could.

"Leveling system is the core part of this update and it was highly requested by community. Certain skills now improve as player uses them, for example, if you fire an assault rifle a lot, then by the end of the game you deal much more damage with it. On top of that, there is a plenty of perks now so player can choose whether to go for a shotgun or for exploding bullets."

Sobaka believes that this is the progress Redeemer lacked in its previous iteration. They knew that something in the game was missing, but didn't know how important it actually was to the player base until after it was released. 

Life of an Indie Game Developer

Mobile games have a bigger audience than any other style of gaming. Just think about it: everyone has a phone, right? 

Developing a game for mobile, and loading it full of microtransactions sounds like a great and easy way to make a lot of money over time. It's that easy!

Well, it isn't. 

Early in Sobaka's history, they were approached and offered a deal to make mobile games. This would've been great exposure for an indie developer and could put them on a great path to success, but Sobaka turned it down so they could focus on their dream game.

"The point is that mobile games are not that profitable as one might assume. For a steady income you should integrate a lot of ads and in-game purchases into your game to pullthe money out of users’ pockets - we believe there’s no creative component in such kind of work."

Not all heroes wear capes.

In addition to just wanting to get more money from the players, the mobile market isn't as easy to succeed in, especially as an indie developer.

"Beside of that, the competition on the mobile games market is pretty tough and a lot of major companies with a plenty of experience, huge budgets and numerous successful projects can easily “suppress” newbies."

When the newest generations of consoles launched (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), the people over at PlayStation wanted to make their new console the go-to place for indie devs to release their newest projects. 

That's winded down over the past couple years, hugely in part due to the release of the Nintendo Switch. The Nindies Program has helped plenty of smaller developers bring their projects to the front row so they could get more exposure in a sea of games that is always very crowded.

Or so we thought.

"There used to be less video games in general so it was easier for a decent projects to make it to the audience. On the other hand, the gaming audience is much bigger nowadays and I guess overall it would be roughly the same in percentage."

Being an Indie dev is pretty hard nowadays. There are a lot of people and smaller developers all competing to have their place on your gaming platforms.

"Millions of the talented indie developers are working on a games of their dreams just like we are. Eventually everyone is trying to win the attention of the more or less the same audience. It’s because of the responsibility why being an indie-developer is not that easy. If you have a steady job at a major company you don't bother yourself with anything apart from your task but if you’re an indie developer you have to deal with a millions of various issues swamping you."

Besides bugs in the game, competition is the biggest obstacle that all indie developers have to struggle with. 

Future of Sobaka

With Redeemer Enhanced Edition coming to PC and consoles, what is up next for Sobaka?

They are currently working on their next game, 9 Monkeys of Shaolin, which is what they call a "true rebirth of the iconic beat 'em up genre in vein of old-school video games."

The idea for their next project started a few months before they first released Redeemer for PC back in 2017.

"A few months before releasing Redeemer we started to plan our next move. We didn’t know how Redeemer was going to perform but we already had quite a bold idea to develop a third- person game remotely similar to Hellblade. It would have been an expensive and pretty complicated project to sell it to publishers. Then we started toying with the top-down camera, and ended up getting a side view. We set it up a bit and it started to look exactly like beat’em up game players would instantly recognize."

When it comes to certain games, players already know what to do and there is no need to guide them. That is exactly the case for 9 Monkeys of Shaolin. It is reminiscent of a brawler that you would play as kids, but modernized with a cool art style. 

While they had the idea for 9 Monkeys, you still need to make some money in order to start the next project. They were hoping that Redeemer would help finance their next game.

"Before making any next moves we have to earn some money. Redeemer didn’t make it quite well. It made some but you can’t even hire anybody else for this money. We’re going to release 9 Monkeys of Shaolin on consoles so we might have a better shot this time. If we still don’t make enough money… well we’ll just start it over with a new game and another concept. As soon as we make money we will see what to do next."


Both 9 Monkeys and Redeemer have plots that are based around the main character avenging deaths of their loved ones. Sobaka prefers to keep the story simple. 

"Revenge is a classic and clear plot idea. Although we want to come up with something trickier, let's agree that a simple story about relentless revenge has its own charisma in it."

While you might have to wait until Q3 2019 to get your hands on 9 Monkeys of Shaolin, you don't have to wait any longer to play Redeemer Enhanced Edition because it is available NOW! 

Redeemer Enhanced Edition is available for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch!

I would like to thank Sobaka for taking the time during their busy week of E3 to talk to me.

Etherborn Review: Grappling with the Unknown Thu, 18 Jul 2019 09:00:01 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Barcelona-based developer Altered Matter has been working on its physics puzzler Etherborn for several years now. It's a game built around the concepts of finding truth in the unknown while working through vast, multi-stage puzzles and defying gravity in the process.

If those two mechanics sound rather different from each other, that's because they are, and it's a split that stays with the game throughout. That split isn't necessarily to Etherborn's benefit, though there's still enough for patient puzzle fans and 3D thinkers to enjoy here.

Into the Ether

Normally, you wouldn't expect to read much about a physics puzzler's story, but Etherborn tries to be a bit different in that regard. All the running up walls and piecing stages together is loosely based on an equally loose story about an enigmatic being's search for truth.

What truth? Well, that depends.

The being, a cluster of nerves forming a tree in the chest and brain, apparently has an emptiness that must be filled, though it isn't aware of the emptiness and doesn't know what fills it. So, like you do, it starts listening to a geometrically abstract, pulsing, golden Thing that talks philosophy and promises to reveal all the unknown that needs to be known.

As you progress through each stage, that changes to the Thing telling you about the nature of the universe and how humans came to try and dominate it. Eventually, that turns into how people lost their relationship with — and place in — nature by turning to language, using it to name and dominate creation whilst simultaneously rejecting all other paths in the process.

The existential bits don't get developed fully enough to contain real meaning before Thing switches gears to something akin to an environmental message, which also isn't fully developed.

Moreover, it's all a little confusing. That's not because it's a deep, philosophical message on the nature of humanity. No, there isn't anything here that hasn't been said before, and with more impact.

It's because each message is wrapped up in convoluted writing, writing seemingly designed to suggest the profound by straying into purple prose, when something more direct could convey meaning better.

Or: Humans feared what they didn't understand and tried controlling it through limiting the unknown.

And that's every scene with narration.

Those who want to engage in the message on offer here will find it doesn't work with this style of game anyway. The being's goal is to navigate through each stage by putting things in order. Chaos gets tamed through the player imposing their will on creation, manipulating it to their own desires for a goal they aren't even fully aware of — the exact behavior the game tries telling you led humanity astray in the non-gameplay portions.

Were there some big payoff with insight into the human condition that isn't already commonplace in contemporary media, these narrative issues might be easier to overlook. As it is, conversations with Thing are just where you stop paying attention until the scene changes again.

Fortunately, you don't really miss anything if you do stop paying attention. These segments end each stage, while opening up new segments on the giant tree you travel up and around on your journey towards...whatever it is (or isn't).

In other words, the narrative has little to no bearing on the actual gameplay. Whether that's good or bad depends on your perspective, since it makes dealing with the annoyances and gaps in logic easier. However, it also begs the question of why bother building a puzzle game around this kind of plot when the plot doesn't even matter.

Climbing the Walls

All this probably makes it sound like Etherborn is a mess. Well, it isn't.

The puzzle design is consistently brilliant. When you hear "physics puzzler," you might think something like Human Fall Flat or something similar. Etherborn is more like Super Mario Galaxy, only gravity will kill you as often as it's your friend.

The goal in each stage or stage segment — since some levels are divided into multiple areas — is, obviously, make it to the end. To do that, your character will need to collect shining, faceted, sphere-like objects and place them in specific areas to impact some aspect of the immediate area.

That sounds simple, but Etherborn quickly ramps things up by giving you multiple options of where spheres could go and only a few to work with.

It translates to working out the correct order for progression, which ends up being as much a part of the puzzle as the actual jumping, climbing around, and so on.

At times, it's rather intricate as well. Some parts have multiple steps required to finally reach a sphere you need to activate another area, which has its own puzzles and finally leads you to the stage's end.

Your character doesn't just walk around on the regular floor to get to each area, though. In fact, depending on perspective, there isn't a regular floor at all.

The game's central feature is letting you walk up walls and around stage segments, with the physics changing depending on what surface you're on. For example, jumping might take you "up" when you're walking around normally. Run up a ramp onto the wall, and jumping takes you sideways.

Should you jump without a surface to land on, gravity takes hold. It can be the only way to reach that next area — or it can send you smashing against some barrier.

Keeping your footing and using gravity to your advantage fast becomes the game's chief challenge, especially since the being can't survive long drops. Fortunately, the game lets you start back where you fell, so there's really no harm in failing again and again.

That tiny thing in the vast emptiness of space? That's you.

The whole thing is a creative exercise in 3D thinking, as you try to work out which angle you need to approach a given situation from. There are plenty of moments where you find yourself wandering, having tried countless ways of reaching a certain point, when you make a random jump onto a nearby wall or platform that opens up a completely new segment of the stage. It's a good feeling and indicative of the game's clever design.

It should be a given by now, but Breath of the Wild this is not. Each puzzle has a specific solution you must work out, with no grey areas. (And yes, it's ironic that a game cautioning against black-and white-approaches to existence uses a very strict black-and-white approach to design.)

Etherborn doesn't let you cheat either. Obtaining a sphere by free-falling doesn't count, so you have to plan all your movements with care.

Falling Down Again

The scope of each stage and that strict level design do come with a few flaws, though. Many stages and areas seem a bit bigger than necessary. They look great, and there's a definite atmosphere for each. Yet it's a huge pain — and inconvenience — to navigate these massive areas time and again while you're figuring out how each stage works.

The being's movements don't always help alleviate this particular issue either. The walking pace is glacial, and though running does improve things a bit, it's still not enough to make for quick traversal of each large area.

It might not sound like a huge issue, but so much repeated movement and backtracking to finish a stage means there's little incentive to hurry on to the next one. Etherborn isn't a game meant for marathon play sessions, except for the very patient.

Turning sometimes contributes to this issue. Your movements are rather on the wide side, meaning there's no such thing as a sharp turn in Etherborn. The game's insta-try-again feature keeps it from being too punishing, but it's still annoying to fall off a ledge on accident because changing directions requires a wide swing.

There were a few points where the character clipped through solid objects and fell to its demise. There were also some areas the game had difficulty dealing with movement, mostly around the specific spots where you can transition from one surface to another.

Similarly, some platforms behave a bit oddly from time to time. One major feature of many puzzles is platforms that extend out when you approach them, blocking your way from one angle, but potentially acting as a path from another.

The issue is how the game recognizes when they should extend. For the most part, it works as it should. There are times when a platform that should extend, based on your proximity to it, won't. Whether that's by design because it's not how the maker wants you to solve a puzzle isn't certain, but there's no apparent pattern to which ones won't move unless you approach from the right angle.

Look, But Don't Listen

There's no denying Etherborn's visual style is striking, skillfully employing a minimalist approach that still manages to create mood. A big part of that is the color scheme, with each stage standing out as much for its visual identity as its puzzles.

The game's soundscape is a bit less inspiring. Most of the tracks are very short, so you're going to hear them a lot as you work through each stage. That's fine for some tracks, but others are discordant or have an easily identifiable loop point that means it's time to reach for the volume button.


The Verdict

  • Excellent puzzle design
  • Clever use of visual elements
  • Overly convoluted, and inessential, narrative elements
  • Stage scale and character movement don't complement puzzles

Etherborn is one of those games that defies easy scoring. From the number and the negatives, you'd be forgiven for thinking this is game you should run away from. But if you're a puzzle fan, enjoy thinking in 3D or just want to try something new and have a good bit of patience, it's worth checking out.

[Note: A digital copy of Etherborn was provided by Altered Matter for this review.]

Luigi's Mansion 3 Gets a Spook-tacular Release Date Wed, 17 Jul 2019 10:41:54 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Luigi's Mansion 3 was one of Nintendo's primary E3 showpieces, taking up a great deal of the showroom floor and surprising people with how polished and varied its gameplay was — yet its release date remained a mystery after the show ended.

It's a mystery no longer, though. As the headline not-so-subtly suggests, Luigi's Mansion 3 is launching October 31 — Halloween itself. It's a break from Nintendo's norm as well. Halloween 2019 is on a Thursday. Typically, major retail games release on a Friday, so this is an intentional move seemingly to make sure consumers can enjoy the game in the ghostliest context possible.

Nintendo also released a very brief trailer to accompany the information. While it doesn't showcase anything new, it does officially reveal King Boo as the game's main antagonist — or, at least, as one of them.

The tweet links to the series' official website as well, presumably for more information about the game. However, at the time of writing, it appears said site is down.

Despite the game releasing soon, we still don't know all that much about it. Mario and co. go missing in a haunted hotel, Luigi must find them using new abilities, there are boss ghosts — and that's about it. Whether the other characters are playable and what other surprises await are still an enigma wrapped in a mystery.

Luigi's Mansion 3 is up for pre-order on all the usual sites, though there aren't any bonuses on offer. It's also part of the Nintendo Switch Voucher program (which we've detailed before), open for Nintendo Switch Online members and offering a slight discount on two select digital games.

Nintendo Switch Hardware Update Boasts Improved Battery Life Wed, 17 Jul 2019 10:00:20 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Following on from last week's Nintendo Switch Lite reveal and rumors of an enhanced vanilla Switch, Nintendo announced there will, indeed, be a new and improved regular Nintendo Switch.

The improved Nintendo Switch will be sold as Model HAC-001(-01), and it's expected to start shipping in the middle of August. 

It looks like consumers will also be able to tell the model difference based on packaging; the new model is shown (left) in a red box, where the original came in a white box  plus there are some other differences in how the product is shown off.






As we reported on last week
, after new FCC filings surfaced, these improvements aren't related to graphical enhancements or anything of that nature. Instead, it's all about improved battery life, likely thanks to the changes in storage and the new processor mentioned in those Class II FCC filings. Otherwise, the system itself is the same.

What's more, these improvements mean the enhanced Nintendo Switch will actually outperform the Nintendo Switch Lite in terms of battery life.

Nintendo provided a comparison of how the three systems stack up:

As can be seen, the HAC-001 Switch model almost doubles the battery life of the original and offers a definite improvement over the Switch Lite as well. That's just with Breath of the Wild as a reference point, too. It's one of the Switch's most demanding games and sucks the battery dry rapidly. Other games aren't quite so greedy, hence the estimate that battery life could last up to nine hours. 

That's not the only new thing coming to the Switch. On October 4, Nintendo fans are also getting two new sets of Joy-Con: Neon Purple/Neon Orange and Blue/Neon Yellow. These will retain for the usual $79.99. Just as a reminder, the Nintendo Switch Lite won't have removable Joy-Con, so these new sets are only for the original Nintendo Switch and its enhancements.

Harvest Moon: Light of Hope Special Edition Complete Out Soon Tue, 16 Jul 2019 14:13:22 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Natsume's Harvest Moon: Light of Hope made its debut a couple of years ago, but it's getting repackaged in Harvest Moon: Light of Hope Special Edition Complete for release on July 30. It'll be a digital and physical release for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch for $29.99.

The news originally comes from a Natsume press release via Gematsu. The Special Edition Complete includes "special features made specifically for consoles," though Natsume doesn't elaborate on what those are. It also introduces a brand-new character in Soleil. Soleil uses Gem Sprite magic to help on the farm, be it gathering materials or tending livestock, and is playable in co-op mode.

All four previously released DLC packs will be bundled in with the Special Edition Complete too.

  • Decorations and Tool Upgrade Pack
  • Divine Marriageable Characters Pack
  • New Marriageable Characters Pack
  • Doc and Melanie's Special Episodes

Previously, these were available separately for $3.99 each.

Light of Hope tried steering a difficult current between previous recent entries like A New Beginning and Skytree Village while maintaining some of the classic Harvest Moon games' charm. It wasn't completely successful in this attempt, though, with Light of Hope receiving a less than stellar reception, both critically and from consumers.

Some of the issues came from the rather confusing split between Marvelous and Natsume, where Natsume's Harvest Moon now is separate from the Harvest Moon (Bokujou Monogatari) many grew up playing.

Light of Hope has the player work to rebuild a broken-down harbor town and brings back features like town design from earlier entries. In particular, it was accused of simply rehashing the older games' concepts without trying to do anything new with them, along with several bugs and loading time issues that kept the experience from being as smooth as it could be.

Still, including the four DLC packs means players who do pick up the Light of Hope Special Edition Complete will have plenty of content to work through, not to mention more marriage candidates than they could shake a cow at.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD Confirmed for a Fall Release Date Tue, 16 Jul 2019 10:23:23 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Note [7/16]: Sega has indeed confirmed the new Monkey Ball remake is coming to North America on October 29, titled Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. Nintendo provided a new cinematic trailer for the game as well.

The original story is below.

Super Monkey Ball chatter has been rife recently, with rumors of new installments following Taiwanese and Korean ratings for a new game in the franchise. Japanese publication Famitsu has confirmed that, indeed, Tabegoro! Super Monkey Ball is a thing and will release October 31 in Japan for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, with a Steam version set for a December release.

The game is a remake of the Wii launch title, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, which was the first game in the series to allow players to jump over obstacles on a course.

It also included a ton of mini-games, such as the fan-favorite Monkey Target and roughly 50 others, which some argue are more important than the series' story content.

Being a Wii game, Banana Blitz also incorporated motion controls, doing away with the control stick or D-pad as methods for getting an encapsulated monkey through the obstacle courses. Whether the remake will also use motion controls isn't known yet, though Famitsu is set to print in a few days and might provide more information then.

Should it require motion controls, then it seems Tabegoro! would make it on the list of Nintendo Switch games you won't be able to play easily on the new Nintendo Switch Lite.

It seems unlikely the game would be motion-control only, though. The only danger for the Wii was throwing a Nun-chuck through the TV screen by chance. Flailing around trying to frantically save a monkey from falling off the edge probably wouldn't go down as well in public or on a crowded transit system.

For now, there's no word on whether the West will see a release for Tabegoro! Super Monkey Ball, but given the series' popularity in years past, chances are, we'll be hearing an announcement from Sega on the subject soon.

Super Mario Maker 2 Review: Everything Promised and More Mon, 15 Jul 2019 14:52:55 -0400 Ashley Shankle

How much do you have to play a game before you say it's one of your favorite games?

Sometime during my past "85 hours or more" of Super Mario Maker 2, it's made its way into my favorite titles of all time. Which isn't a surprise; it just replaced the original Super Mario Maker in my heart.

Super Mario Maker 2 takes almost all of the best features from the original Wii U title and brings them to the Nintendo Switch along with a host of new creator tools and features. If the first game was your cup of tea, the second is going to be a whole pitcher.

Along with the host of new creator tools such as new enemies, Snake Blocks, the Super Mario 3D World style, new themes, and slopes (!!), comes the ability to browse and play fellow player-made courses (levels), and a fancy new story mode to play through. Anyone who even remotely enjoys the Mario games can find something enticing here to sink their teeth into.

Not keen on creating courses? You can simply spend your time with the game playing through its story mode, which features 100 courses showcasing much of what's possible in Super Mario Maker 2 (and a few things that aren't); or stick to the endless player-created courses available.

There's more than enough gameplay to be found in the game even if you don't want to get all creative with it and start making your own courses, but the creator toolset is itself a joy to play with. For some, like myself, the allure of creating courses is more powerful than the pull to play them. It's fluid, it's fun, and best of all it's easy to bring your ideas to life using the game's course maker.

Course Making

In Super Mario Maker 2, you build your courses using a sprawling grid-based layout that allows for hundreds of elements on a single area or sub-area. You can extend the course as long as you like, and you can create a sub-area (which can be the same size as the primary area) that is vertical instead of horizontal.

There are five distinct game styles to choose from, specifically Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U, and the brand new Super Mario 3D World styles.

With each style comes more than just a change in scenery and music. Some styles have different tools available, and the gameplay mechanics differ between them.

For instance, in the Super Mario Bros. style, the player is unable to slide down slopes and koopa shells can't be picked up. In exchange, it has the Big Mushroom item, which turns Mario gigantic and makes him able to break through certain types of blocks.

Another example lies in the Super Mario Bros. 3 style, which has its signature Super Leaf item and Shoe Goomba enemy, but the player is not able to do spin jumps as they're able to do in the latter three styles.

Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U, and Super Mario 3D World are all more complex gameplay-wise than the previously mentioned styles. Spin jumping is featured throughout all three, but wall-jumping is only available in NSMBU and SM3DW and this is really only scratching the surface.

The hefty differences between each style allow course creators a constantly-surprising level of freedom when working up their next idea, but the Super Mario 3D World style is the least fleshed out of the three.

While SM3DW is technically the fastest of the five available styles, it's missing a number of tools available in others. It has its own unique set of tools to work with, but it's the most restrictive of the set and it is not possible to swap a course between SM3DW and any of the other styles.

The sheer variety of themes available in Super Mario Maker 2 was my biggest source of excitement before it came out (aside from slopes), and I am very happy to say they exceeded my expectations in every regard.

Course themes don't just set the stage here, some of them outright grant different gameplay experiences.

You've got Ground, you've got Underground, you've got Sky and Airship and Castle and Ghost House and Underwater all from the original game but you've also got the new Desert, Forest, and Snow themes. That's 10 themes!

Two of the new themes, Forest and Snow, are most notable because they bring new gimmicks without having to switch the course to nighttime.

The Forest theme has adjustable water akin to the lava in Castle theme courses — and, of course, the water doesn't outright kill you. This makes for some real weird courses, let me tell you.

The Snow theme does what you think: it makes the ground slippery. The bane of all those who call themselves gamers, but some course creators have found some creative ways to make use of this mechanic without it feeling like torture.

Amidst all this is the new ability to switch a course area or sub-area between day and nighttime. Daytime functions as normal, but nighttime brings out a whole new slew of gimmicks to work with.

A Ground night course? No more 1-Ups for you, those suckers are now Rotten Mushrooms that will chase you and deal damage.

A Forest night course? The water's now poison and insta-kills you just like lava.

A Desert night course? Well... it really depends on the course style! It gets real windy on the desert at night, apparently, and the direction and duration of wind gusts varies per style.

The sheer magnitude of uses that these new styles, themes, and related gimmicks have in conjunction with the size of the overall creator toolset cannot be understated.

Some may have claimed that your imagination was the limit in the original Super Mario Maker, but that is something you really feel here with the sequel.

With Yamamura's Dojo present to give players creation tips and tutorials, anyone can get into creating courses with minimal set up and knowledge. Players can also do local co-op and create courses in docked mode, which is both fun and relatively easy to work with as long as both creators are communicating.

Playing Courses

There's more new here than just the shiny new story mode. Story mode is great in its own right, but the bulk of the game consists of trying your hand at player-made courses, which can be done solo, in online multiplayer, or with other players locally on other Nintendo Switches.

Super Mario Maker 2's online multiplayer modes, co-op and versus, are the big new kahunas to its gameplay variety. In co-op, players work together to finish courses; in versus, they go against each other with the first to reach the goal.

In theory, these modes should be great. I know a lot of people like them even now, but to me, these are currently the biggest blemishes on Super Mario Maker 2's otherwise blemish-free existence.

Both online cooperative and versus are plagued with lag, lag so bad I'm curious how anyone can fully enjoy these modes as they stand because that just seems like lunacy.

Every single co-op and versus match I've gotten into, I've chugged around at a uncomfortably variable speeds, sometimes feeling like I'm moving one pixel per second and sometimes a whopping 20 pixels per second. Sometimes I move at totally normal speed for a few seconds straight  amazing! ... Not.

I would love nothing more than to enjoy these modes for what they are, perhaps even with local multiplayer (which isn't available outside of the Course Maker, so you have to download a course to do it), but I hate feeling like I'm moving through molasses, and it's hard to understand the people who do enjoy the game's online multiplayer as it stands.

Outside of these two modes that will hopefully be fixed are Endless Challenge, the game's replacement for the original's 100-Mario Challenge, and, of course, just sifting through trending, popular, or new courses for a good time.

Thanks to the new Boo! option, which functions as a foil to Liking something, Endless Challenge is more bearable than much of what a player would run into in the first game's 100-Mario Challenge.

There are still plenty of sub-par courses you'll run into, but courses that receive enough Boo!s don't get put into the Endless Challenge pool very often. It's curation at its most simple, but it's made playing the mode more enjoyable than its predecessor.

There's not much else to say about playing courses but "It's Mario." Because it is, in fact, Mario, and if you're familiar with the series at all, this is an easy title to jump right into without having to worry about the more in-depth mechanics put on display in Expert and Super Expert difficulties.

There is more than enough content in Easy and Normal for players of any skill level to take on without having to stress about pixel-perfect jumps, kaizo blocks, and all that jazz.


Super Mario Maker 2 is exactly the sequel players of the original Wii U title were looking for, at least for this fan.

I put hundreds of hours into the original Super Mario Maker; I bought a Wii U for that game, but after my dog's well-placed paw put my Wii U out of commission a couple of years ago, I'd been high and dry. All I've really wanted was more SMM.

Aside from the janky online multiplayer, Super Mario Maker 2 is basically the perfect sequel, and like its predecessor, the series once again has opened creative doors I never even knew were there.

  • Easy to understand and use course editor
  • Literally limitless courses to play
  • Co-op course making is surprisingly fun, provided you communicate
  • All the new maker tools aren't just comprehensive, they're perpetually surprising
  • Online multiplayer, both co-op and versus, is a laggy mess

If online co-op worked worth a heck, Super Mario Maker 2 would be an easy 10 out of 10 GOTY hoedown throwdown; it'll still probably be my game of the year.

I have a serious weakness for this game. However, even with the (totally optional) less-than-optimal online multiplayer, it's still a fantastic time for both casual and hardcore gamers with a soft spot for Nintendo's mascot.

[Note: A copy of Super Mario Maker 2 was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.]

Amazon Prime Day Deals: Gaming, Hardware, and More Mon, 15 Jul 2019 11:14:35 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

It's that time of year again, when Amazon puts hundreds of random products on sale for members of its Prime program. This year, Prime Day lasts for two days, running until July 16 at 11:59 pm PST.

From video game console bundles to gaming PCs, games, SD cards, and more, there's a lot on offer for techies and gamers, so we've rounded up some of the best deals to save you the hassle of endless scrolling.

Nintendo Switch Prime Day Deals

The Switch doesn't get much in the way of discounts yet, but Amazon is offering a bundle similar to one we've seen before, plus some discounts on controllers.

There are some games discounted for this Prime Day too:

PlayStation 4 Prime Day Deals

There's a slightly sweeter Prime Day bundle for the PS4, one that includes a console and two highly praised games.

And, of course, there are some game deals as well.

Xbox One Prime Day Deals

While there aren't any snazzy hardware deals for the Xbox One, there are still some game deals to choose from.

Tech Prime Day Deals

As always, there are plenty of tech and hardware deals to go around this Prime Day.

Chief among them is a top-of-the-line GPU:

Then there's the usual PC and accessory sales:


We'll update if there are any other major deals that go live before Prime Day(s) end. However, it's important to keep in mind that Amazon doesn't label many of these deals as time sensitive, despite the fact that they are. It's always possible the prices listed here could be higher or lower when you go to the product page.

Minecraft Bell Guide: What It Is And How To Get It Fri, 12 Jul 2019 16:26:07 -0400 Ty Arthur

The ever-expanding Minecraft just keeps getting new block types and items to play with, from the elusive Heart Of The Sea to the brand new Bell added with the 1.14 update.

If you've tried to make a Bell to see how it works, you've probably run into a pretty big snag -- currently, there is no crafting recipe for a bell at all!

Hopefully this will change down the road, but for now your options to find or trade for a Bell are extremely limited. Let's take a look at where you can get your hands on this nifty new item.

How To Get A Bell In Minecraft

Right now, there are only two options for acquiring your very own Bell, and both may take some time depending on random variables:

  • Find one that randomly spawns in a village
  • Trade for one with an armorer

For the first option, head to a village and you may find they already have one that's spawned at the center meeting area. You can take their Bell if you want, but you can't just pick it up -- you have to mine it with a pickaxe to steal it out from under the villager's noses!

Whether the village has a Bell or not, there is also a small chance that the village's armorer will have one or more on hand to trade for 36 emeralds.

Now that you know where to get your hands on a Bell, what exactly are they used for?

Villagers can ring the bell automatically on their own to alert everyone that a  raid is in progress, or you can do the same by hitting the side of the bell (even with a projectile).

Using the Bell changes villager behavior in the surrounding area in these ways:

  • Ring it while villagers are asleep to wake them up
  • Ring it while they are awake and they will all go hide in the nearest building
  • Ring it raid mobs are within 32 squares of the bell and those mobs will have the glow effect applied

Found any other uses for the Bell or come across a crafting recipe that actually works? Let us know in the comments section so we can get this article updated!

Need help with any other part of the game? Be sure to check out the rest of our a Minecraft guides here:

How To Make Fireworks In Minecraft Fri, 12 Jul 2019 15:25:17 -0400 Ty Arthur

Just because the 4th of July has already come and gone this year doesn't mean you can't add some eye-popping fireworks displays to your Minecraft experience! 

Below we list out all the ingredients you need for crafting a basic firework rocket, as well as extra items to add for varying effects.

Why exactly would you need to make Minecraft fireworks? Besides the nifty explosive effects for purely aesthetic purposes, they can also be used as fuel to propel the elytra wings, or placed as ammunition in the crossbow. Let's dive in and see what you can start crafting! 

Minecraft Fireworks Crafting

Making a basic firework rocket is simple, as you only need one gunpowder and one paper.

This basic recipe can be modified however, as the rocket's flight duration will change depending on the amount of paper you use. So for instance using gunpowder x 1 and paper x 3 results in a rocket with three times the flight duration of a rocket made with a single piece of paper.

That's just a basic, hum drum firework that isn't very exciting though. So, what if you want to change the color and shape of the fireworks?

How to Change Firework Shapes and Colors

In this case you need to craft different fireworks star items first using dyes for colors and then add them to the basic fireworks recipe. In addition to dyes for colors, there are also extra effects to add with various items.

The table below shows five different types of firework stars to craft, and here are all the extra effects we've discovered so far:

  • Diamond: Trail effect
  • Glowstone Dust: Twinkle effect
  • Fire Charge: :arger fireworks explosion
  • Gold Nugget: Star shape explosion
  • Feather: Burst effect
  • Mob Head: Fireworks explode in creeper shape

Beyond those special additions, note that you can also add a fade effect to rockets.

To make this type of firework with fading explosions:

  1. Take the base firework star you made
  2. Add another ingredient in the crafting screen as listed in the table below
  3. Use the modified fireworks star in your end firework recipe with gunpowder and paper

Note that for some of these modified fireworks recipes you actually need more than 1 stack of gunpowder to make the final firework rocket. Those exceptions are also listed in the table below.

For instance for the "Burst Green" firework star with the "Fade To Yellow" effect added, you need these items for the final recipe:

  • Gunpowder x 3
  • Paper X 1
  • Burst Green Fade To Yellow Twinkle Fireworks Star x 1

Here's a brief run down of five different kinds of fireworks that can be made using the combinations of crafting materials listed above:

Firework Star Type Recipe Fade Recipe # Of Gunpowder Needed
 Small Brown Twinkle Gunpowder x1
Cocoa Beans x1
Glowstone Dust x1
 None 1
 Creeper Shaped Magenta  Gunpowder x 1
 Magenta Dye x 1
Wither Skull x 1
None   2
 Burst Orange  Gunpowder x 1
Orange Dye x 1
Feather x 1
Rose Red x1  2
 Star Shaped Blue Trail Gunpowder x 1
Lapus Lazuli x 1
Gold Nugget x 1
Diamond x1
 Rose Red x 1  2
 Burst Green Twinkle Gunpowder x1
Cactus Green x 1
Feather x 1
Glowstone Dust x1
Dandelion Yellow x 1  3


Using these options as a template, you can mix and match your colors and effects to create a range of fireworks options.

Found any other potential fireworks recipe combinations that we missed using different crafting materials? Sound off in the comments below and we'll get them added!


Need help with any other part of the game? Be sure to check out the rest of our a Minecraft guides here:

Nintendo Switch Games That Don't Support Handheld Mode Thu, 11 Jul 2019 13:19:58 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

The Nintendo Switch Lite announcement dropped yesterday and confirmed long-rumored changes to the hybrid console, including its lack of detachable Joy-Con controllers.

Fusing the controllers with the system like the Switch Lite does means system owners can only play games in handheld mode since it'd be impossible to engage in docked or tabletop mode otherwise. Unfortunately, it means there are some games and features Switch Lite can't play natively, and we've put together a list of those for your convenience.

Note that the system itself can still run these games. It would just require an extra pair of Joy-Cons connected via wireless to the system for full functionality (and, by extension, a charging dock for the Joy-Con to keep them going).

Switch Games that Don't Support Handheld Mode

  • 1-2 Switch: The game requires detached Joy-Con, HD Rumble, and the Gyroscope for many of its mini-games.

  • Just Dance: All the available games in Ubisoft's dancing franchise only support TV and tabletop modes. As mentioned, you can still play Just Dance on the Switch Lite, if you synch an additional pair of Joy-Con.

  • Nintendo Labo + Labo VR: The Labo spinoffs require detached Joy-Con for play, so in a slightly baffling move, the product aimed at younger gamers won't work very easily on the system aimed at younger consumers.

  • Super Mario Party: Many of the latest Mario Party entry's mini-games require all the features the Switch Lite won't have, like HD Rumble and detached Joy-Con.

  • Fitness Boxing: Unlike Arms, this boxing game makes you play with detached Joy-Con and, thus, would require an extra pair of controllers should you wish to play it on your Switch Lite.

Switch Games with Alterations in Handheld Mode

There are a few other games that can still be played in handheld mode but might not be quite as convenient.

  • Super Mario Odyssey: Mario's 3D, globe-trotting adventure makes use of HD Rumble at times to clue players in to a Power Moon's location. Granted, there's usually some kind of sparkle effect that lets you know something good is hidden nearby, but Switch Lite players will need to be more observant to find them.

  • The World Ends With You: Final Remix: In handheld mode, Square Enix's cult classic only lets you use touch screen controls and won't recognize Joy-Con inputs. It's a different setup from the DS original, which  lets players use both button inputs and touch screen controls.

  • Pokemon: Let's GO Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let's Go Eevee!: The Switch reimaginings of the original Pokemon adventures lose some functionality in handheld mode and will lose even more with the Switch Lite. Since the Switch Lite won't have gyro sensors, it means aiming and throwing a PokeBall are limited to the left control stick.

The eShop lists mode support for some upcoming games, like The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition, as "TBD." It's highly unlikely these major releases won't support handheld mode. However, it's a good reminder to get in the habit of checking eShop listings for those considering a Switch Lite purchase.

Stranger Things 3: The Game: How to Find All 50 Hidden Gnomes Thu, 11 Jul 2019 13:15:33 -0400 Mark Delaney

Stranger Things has captured the zeitgeist yet again. Though its time in the spotlight is more fleeting than other prestige TV series due to the Netflix binge model so many fans employ, this time we got a fun tie-in game to go with it, complete with 50 elusive hidden gnomes sprawled across Hawkins.

Below is every gnome in Stranger Things 3: The Game and where to find them, including their name, number as designated in-game, and which hub and specific location in which you can uncover their little red hats.

After this, you'll unlock the Home a Gnome achievement/trophy on Xbox One, Steam, or PS4 (sorry, Switch players), not to mention your garden will look spectacular.

Before You Begin

One tip we definitely want to stress is that you need not worry about getting every gnome on your first run. Some areas hiding gnomes are blocked off until certain characters can access them with their unique skills, like Joyce's boltcutters or Erica's McClain-like ability to move through vents.

For that reason, we suggest getting whichever gnomes you can get as you play through, but go back and clear the streets only after you have all 12 characters unlocked. Because they're numbered and named, it's easy to see in the game's menu which gnomes you're still missing and which you'll need to find once you can go anywhere you need.

Where to Find All 50 Gnomes in Stranger Things 3: The Game

Gnomes 1-10

Gnome #1: 

  • Name: Johnny
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In Mike's Basement near the stairs exit

Gnome #2: 

  • Name: Christine
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: South outside of Mike's house

Gnome #3: 

  • Name: Doc
  • Hub: Hawkins Mall
  • Location: West outside of the mall near the loading area

Gnome #4: 

  • Name: Indiana
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: East of the pool near the shed

Gnome #5: 

  • Name: Chunk
  • Hub: Weathertop
  • Location: Near the exit of the underground lair by the door with the three large fluid tanks

Gnome #6: 

  • Name: Elvis
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Tucked behind trees near the library

Gnome #7: 

  • Name: Jack
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Inside the library starting area near the computer

Gnome #8: 

  • Name: Flynn
  • Hub: Starcourt Mall
  • Location: In the parking lot near the green car

Gnome #9: 

  • Name: David
  • Hub: Weathertop
  • Location: North of the antenna, enter the underground lair and follow it to the end

Gnome #10: 

  • Name: Baskin
  • Hub: Starcourt Mall
  • Location: Behind the counter of "Scoops Ahoy!"
Gnomes 11-20

Gnome #11: 

  • Name: Macdonald
  • Hub: Driscoll Farm
  • Location: Easternmost section of the outdoors

Gnome #12: 

  • Name: Clint
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: In the Hardware Store behind a chained door which Joyce can open

Gnome #13: 

  • Name: Marty
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: In the Hardware Store, eastern corner of the first room

Gnome #14: 

  • Name: Mikhail
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: In front of Town Hall, tucked between two bushes

Gnome #15: 

  • Name: Denver
  • Hub: Driscoll Farm
  • Location: Head inside the barn, leave via the opposite door, head left to find a secret passage which houses Denver

Gnome #16: 

  • Name: Drago
  • Hub: Hess Farm
  • Location: Head into the secret lab, craft three mechanical cranks to use on doors lacking them, which opens a door to Drago

Gnome #17: 

  • Name: Fletch
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In the Abandoned House, crawl into the vent with Erica and use the computer. Enter the following numbers when prompted: 57257, 73797, 77927, 87742, 14847 

Gnome #18: 

  • Name: Norman
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Inside Granny Perkins' house

Gnome #19: 

  • Name: Herbert
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Granny's house again, this time inside the basement behind some rocks which Lucas can destroy

Gnome #20: 

  • Name: Burt
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Inside the pool area behind the chained door which Joyce can open

Gnomes 21-30

Gnome #21: 

  • Name: Seth
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Visit the florist. Move the golden bear statue until it faces the flower pots, then crawl through the vents using Erica and move the rat to face the sink. This opens a door which houses Seth

Gnome #22: 

  • Name: Rutger
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Inside the girl's locker room beside the public pool

Gnome #23: 

  • Name: Cruise
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Visit the store Circuit Shed and open the chained door with Joyce and solve the light puzzle

Gnome #24: 

  • Name: Charles
  • Hub: Hawkins Lab
  • Location: Enter the vent with Erica and solve the puzzle

Gnome #25: 

  • Name: Kitt
  • Hub: Hawkins Lab
  • Location: Enter the lab and head up-screen to find Kitt behind some trees

Gnome #26: 

  • Name: Huey
  • Hub: Hawkins Lab
  • Location: Find him in the room which features a timed pressure pad puzzle

Gnome #27: 

  • Name: Falco
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Hiding in a bush near Dustin's house. Get behind the fence to find Falco

Gnome #28: 

  • Name: Glenn
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Crawl through the vent in the hardware store with Ericafight off the pair of enemies inside and retrieve Glenn

Gnome #29:

  • Name: Sonja
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In Max's backyard

Gnome #30: 

  • Name: Ripley
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Inside Town Hall in the aide's office
Gnomes 31-40

Gnome #31: 

  • Name: Tony
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Inside Town Hall, head to the gymnasium, hack the terminal 

Gnome #32: 

  • Name: Charlene
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Inside the City Hall cellar behind the door that needs to be hacked. Clear the rocks with bombs and fight the rats. It's at the end of the corridor.

Gnome #33: 

  • Name: Willie
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Inside the Town Hall in the bathroom behind the sink 

Gnome #34: 

  • Name: Arnold
  • Hub: Murray's Warehouse
  • Location: Stay outside and follow the fence until you see Arnold's red pointy hat

Gnome #35: 

  • Name: Falken
  • Hub: Murray's Warehouse
  • Location: Head into the second area and activate switches 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8 to open a new area to find Falken

Gnome #36: 

  • Name: Bastion
  • Hub: Starcourt Mall
  • Location: Beside the bottom of the escalator

Gnome #37: 

  • Name: Magnum
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Head into the newspaper office, the Hawkins Post, and find Magnum on the east side of the office

Gnome #38: 

  • Name: Clara
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Inside Mike's House, find Clara beside the fridge

Gnome #39: 

  • Name: Deckard
  • Hub: Hospital
  • Location: Go to the second floor and use Erica to bypass a vent and find Deckard

Gnome #40: 

  • Name: Tommy Lee
  • Hub: Starcourt Mall
  • Location: In the docking bay dungeon area, you'll eventually pass several vents. Crawl into the first vent that stands alone with Erica again.

Gnomes 41-50

Gnome #41: 

  • Name: Adora
  • Hub: Hess Farm
  • Location: In the middle of the shed

Gnome #42: 

  • Name: Samantha
  • Hub: Hess Farm
  • Location: In the basement, use Erica to get behind the vent on the left

Gnome #43: 

  • Name: Alexandre
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In Dustin's House behind the pressure pad puzzle door, there's a vent, so you know, use Erica

Gnome #44: 

  • Name: Papa Gnome
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In the pool area and inside the women's locker room there is yet another vent, so yes, use Erica

Gnome #45: 

  • Name: Gunther
  • Hub: Hawkins Fair
  • Location: In the woods behind the house of mirrors

Gnome #46: 

  • Name: Tubbs
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In Max's House and in the bathroom, use Erica to get into the vent 

Gnome #47: 

  • Name: Coleman
  • Hub: Hawkins Fair
  • Location: Play Whack-a-Mole to win an additional 10 tickets (two wins at five tickets per win) besides those you need for the story. With ten tickets, speak to the fairground worker on the right willing to reveal the World's Smallest Person, which is actually Coleman here

Gnome #48: 

  • Name: Slash
  • Hub: Hawkins Fair
  • Location: In the Funhouse from the first floor, use the following exits southeast, northeast, southeast, northeast, and southeast. You'll come to a room with Slash inside

Gnome #49: 

  • Name: Freddy
  • Hub: Hawkins Fair
  • Location: In the Funhouse and on the fifth floor where you can check your answers with the clown painting on the wall, Freddy is in the green room to your right

Gnome #50: 

  • Name: Jareth
  • Hub: Weathertop
  • Location: In the shed, crawl into the vent with Erica yet again and exit via the right door to find your last Gnome, Jareth.

Now that you've found all 50 hidden gnomes, it's time to count up how many puns and '80s pop culture references those little statues featured. No help for you there, I'm afraid. This author was born in 1989. 

Stranger Things 3: The Game Review: A Great Companion for Fans Thu, 11 Jul 2019 09:38:14 -0400 Mark Delaney

Chances are good that you're watching Stranger Things 3 this week. If not, chances are pretty good that you aren't because you've already finished the eight-episode season.

For the biggest fans, the fleeting binge may not feel like enough, but luckily it doesn't have to be this season. Stranger Things 3: The Game, developed by BonusXP and published by Netflix's burgeoning gaming division, is a fun retro take on the popular show's third season.

By including the expansive main cast as playable characters, giving players all of Hawkins to explore, and combining old-school charm with modern accessibility, Stranger Things 3: The Game makes for a great companion to the TV series. 

If you haven't watched the show's third season yet, you should do that first, as the game adaptation mostly tells the same story. It does make some very gaming-specific alterations, however, like offering many side missions and a lot more combat than the show makes time for. It's designed for co-op too, so while you can switch to any character you want, you'll always have a buddy handy as either AI or someone next to you on the couch.

Outside of those sorts of changes, it adheres very closely to the show, including even precise dialogue segments taken right from episodes. It's clear BonusXP didn't just have the plot outlines but had seen the whole season, and that sort of approach feels as nostalgic as the series. Tie-in games like this are disappointingly few and far between nowadays, but Stranger Things 3 makes a case for their resurgence. 

The artwork isn't exactly period-accurate. The show takes place in 1985 while the game, though retro-styled, looks more like a project from 1993 or so. For fans who don't like retro games and lack the nostalgia no matter how far into the annals of console history a game goes, ST3 thankfully modernizes the 16-bit open-world hubs with conveniences like fast travel, improved waypointing, and much more forgiving checkpoints. Controls are smartly set up too. With several characters offering unique abilities, the game wisely swaps to them automatically when you need them, and at any point, you can swap to whichever character you'd like, or even move back and forth between your last two like a favorites menu.

What remains intact from the era of games which ST3 mimics are very difficult boss battles. Usually how to defeat them is spelled out well enough to not frustrate, but there's a difference between knowing how to beat an enemy and executing that plan. In BonusXP's tie-in, the latter can be a real obstacle some times, just like the old days.

Even then, a few late-game bosses don't as clearly spell out the tactics needed, which is a harsh reminder of how games used to be and how far we've come from such annoyances. Every major battle from the season appears here as a boss, and they get harder as you go.

When you're not fighting bosses, combat can still be more than mindless button-mashing, even if it's not as trying as the bosses. Controlling crowds of flayed rats, armed Russians, and spillovers from the Upside Down involves some smart thinking and pairing of the right heroes while using their moves in effective ways. You recharge energy for devastating special moves by drinking New Coke, because even the game couldn't escape the influence of product placement.

For the biggest fans, it's not going to be just playing as favorite characters that is so exciting: it's getting to live in Hawkins as those characters. The overworld plays host to several good-sized hubs, like the suburbs, the Starport Mall, Hopper's woods, and more, and many of those have hidden areas which act as puzzle and combat dungeons, thus expanding the size of each area even more.

It's a thrill to go sightseeing to Joyce's general store, or Billy's pool, or especially the Hawkins Lab which has hosted so many classic moments. The game brilliantly takes you on a tour of every corner of every street and into every home and store by the end.

Getting familiar with the map really rewards you with a sense of place in the once quaint, always fictional town. You'll feel like a resident, or more accurately, 12 residents.

All the kids, younger and older, as well as Joyce and Hopper, are playable, and most of them are faithful avatars to their TV counterparts. With a few of them, it seems like BonusXP didn't quite know how to make them fighters, so their move sets end up feeling foreign, like they don't quite capture who they are. Nancy uses scissors, apparently because she's an office clerk. Why Max's normal attack is a high kick is another confusing example, though others, like Steve's ice cream cone lobbing or Eleven's Jedi powers, are welcome and powerful.

All of this comes while the series' unforgettable music plays in the background to perfectly set the stage, even as the game purposely withholds some flair that would be possible with a more modern approach.

  • Features 12 playable characters and every sight you'd want to see in Hawkins
  • Combat is fun against goons and a proper challenge against bosses
  • Music and the open-world go a long way to make you feel like you're a part of Hawkins
  • A few boss battles are needlessly obtuse
  • Some characters' abilities seem out of left-field

If you like neither retro games nor Stranger Things, you're probably safe skipping this one, but for anyone who likes either and everyone who likes both likely a great number of people  Stranger Things 3: The Game is a fun homage to the old school and a proper tie-in game that will hopefully bring about more similar projects.

The TV series appeals to a wide age range and the game surely will too. Bring someone skilled for the boss battles and this will be a frustration-free extension of your season three binge.

[Note: A copy of Stranger Things 3: The Game was provided by BonusXP for the purpose of this review.]

Nintendo Plans to Update the Original Switch with New Chips Thu, 11 Jul 2019 09:28:13 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Nintendo just announced the Nintendo Switch Lite this morning, but another new hardware upgrade surfaced as well, this time for the original Nintendo Switch.

The folks at The Verge spotted a new filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a Class II change to Nintendo's original Switch license. Class II changes with the FCC are for existing products getting minor upgrades that don't drastically alter the existing framework or performance.

The filing states the Nintendo Switch is getting a new SoC (system on chip, or in layman's terms, processor) and a new NAND memory type; for the less tech-savvy among us, NAND memory is a type of flash memory.

Flash memory uses less power, so an upgraded NAND type potentially means longer battery life for the Switch and, combined with a better processor, possibly even lower heat output, which is especially good given the many reports of Switch units that crack near the heat vent.

The new processor could very well be the rumored new Tegra chip we reported on last week. If so, it could be a way to get around in-game slowdown and improve load times. Longer load times aren't terribly common, but they do still pop up from time to time, like when Stardew Valley first came to the Switch and, more recently, with the Dragon Quest Builders 2 demo.

On the downside, if these changes end up improving the system, it means original adopters are left high and dry with a system that's not quite as efficient. On the upside, if the rumored new Tegra is going in the base Switch system, then it's possible the Switch Pro (rumored to be in development alongside the Switch Lite) would have yet another different processor that would set itself further apart from the vanilla console.

Either way, it's certainly shaping up to be a busy year for Nintendo, with new system models, plenty of remakes and remasters this fall, and two new entries in the flagship Pokemon franchise all due out within a few months of each other.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 Review: A Textbook Example Of A Sequel Done Right Thu, 11 Jul 2019 09:15:02 -0400 David Jagneaux

Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the perfect sequel. To be clear: that doesn't mean it's a perfect game by any means, but if you enjoyed the first one or had some specific, common issues with it, then you're very likely going to love this follow-up. 

More so than most any sequel I've seen in recent memory, it takes everything about the first game, improves it, expands it, and makes it better from top to bottom all without feeling redundant. It's actually pretty impressive.

Dialogue Boxes Galore

I never put a whole lot of time into the original, but I played enough to approach this review with some ground-level expectations. Despite being familiar with the previous game, an avid consumer of JRPGs, and fan of the core Dragon Quest franchise, I was not prepared for the sheer volume of text in this game. I'm not exaggerating. If you told me Dragon Quest Builders 2 has more lines of dialogue than The Witcher 3, I'd probably believe you. 

The premise here is that you're a rare and talented "builder" that possesses the unique gift of being able to, you guessed it, build stuff. That means busting out your book to jot down crafting recipes and blueprint ideas precisely when the narrative demands it. 

Truth be told, the story is all but meaningless after the first couple of hours, at which point you finally get to leave the starting island.

The game's broken up into several large themed islands with self-contained quest progressions that gradually teach you the game's various layers such as planting, mining, and so on. Each island has its own set of resources and eventually, you'll unlock access to anything and everything back on the main starting island, which is a bit like your home base as you recruit villagers to come back with you.

Building With Purpose

What originally attracted me to the Dragon Quest Builders franchise as a whole is the fact that it puts the addictive "collect, craft, build" gameplay loop from popular sandbox games such as Minecraft into a package with a clearer, more structured design. Instead of being a pure sandbox, you've got NPCs to chat with, a story to progress through, dedicated chunks of content to do, and a driving sense of purpose. Eventually, you can ignore it all and treat it like a pure sandbox, too, so it's kind of the best of both worlds in a way.

The downside to this is that even after a dozen or so hours, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is obsessed with teaching you. Even if it's something you figured out on your own, sifting through countless dialogue boxes over and over is tedious. I usually am very much against not reading the dialogue in games like this; I'm a writer so, of course, I appreciate good prose, but it eventually gets monotonous and patronizing in this case.

All of the writing is cute and charming, but sometimes I just wanted to get on with things already.

From a gameplay perspective, Dragon Quest Builders 2 feels really good. It uses a sort of middle ground between being top-down and isometric with a camera that can pan and zoom a bit to get the right angle. Thankfully, it helps establish a good sense of scale for how large the settings often are.

You'll spend most of your time completing simple checklist-style quests, but once you get a bit into the first non-starter island, things open up more. You'll start building up villages and recruiting NPC villagers that can go with you on adventures, along with your combat buddy, Malroth. 

As a first for the series, you can even assign tasks to villagers, too, like collecting certain items or even working on completing structures by following blueprints. Being able to offload a lot of the busy work to your helpers is a huge quality of life improvement.

Learning New Tricks

Speaking of changes and new features, the biggest addition here is multiplayer. Just like Dragon Quest 2 itself added a party to the game instead of the original's single protagonist, Dragon Quest Builders 2 adds NPC companions and player companions as well.

Combat received an overhaul as well by letting you attack much more quickly, removing the damage you'd take from touching enemies previously (it was super annoying,) and increasing the intensity a bit across the board. It's still just mashing attack and moving away from enemy swipes, but it's less tedious at least, even if not remarkable.

In terms of moment-to-moment gameplay, though, the biggest improvement to me is the enormous inventory expansion. No longer do you need to constantly drop things off in storage or sift through chests to find items. You've basically just got bottomless pockets this time around. Add in a Breath of the Wild-style glider, teleporters spread across islands, and a flute to help find rare items and it really rounds out the sequel package here in a great way.

And you can swim now, too!

  • Great improvement on the original in basically every way,
  • Lots of wonderful quality of life improvements,
  • Tons of stuff to do with dozens of hours of content,
  • Normally tedious stuff is handled very well.
  • Combat is still a bit boring,
  • At its core, it's still more of the same,
  • Story is extremely forgettable, albeit well-written.

At the end of the day, you probably already decided whether Dragon Quest Builders 2 was for you from reading the features list summary on Wikipedia or the storefront page of your choice. This doesn't reinvent the blocky cube wheel, and it doesn't do a whole lot to stand out other than refining its existing formula, but for fans of the original, that should be more than enough.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 releases on July 12, 2019, for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

[Note: A copy of Dragon Quest Builders 2 was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review.]

Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble Plays Like A Big Expansion Rather Than A Major Sequel Wed, 10 Jul 2019 18:14:55 -0400 Ty Arthur

Ready for another tactical Japanese arcade-style rumble as adorable armies clash on the battle grid? There's plenty more of that in-store with Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble, which manages to keep nearly all the same pros and cons of the previous 2017 title.

It isn't often that a game's biggest strength is also its main weakness, but that's the case here, as this is more of a big expansion than a true sequel in any sense of the word.

That being said, obviously if you liked Tiny Metal then it will be welcome addition anyway, but be aware you are getting a lot more of the same here, with a few added bugs inherent to any new release.

What's New And What's The Same With Full Metal Rumble 

 World map exploration (kinda)!

First things first: the graphics are essentially identical with Full Metal Rumble. The map terrain is the same, the unit models are the same, and even most of the unit voice work and sound effects are the same (the metal tank units still proclaim "Wham, bam, thank you ma'am!" when firing).

We've also got mostly the same cast of protagonists this time, with a few new additions as the stories for Wolfram and Nathan continue.

In terms of overall gameplay, this is essentially just 39 extra campaign missions that play out the same way as in the previous Tiny Metal entry.

There are some upgrades, however, which straddle the line between "beefy DLC" and "actual full sequel."

You get to manually move across the world map on different land or air vehicles to start new levels this time around, although this is really a cosmetic enhancement and not a game-changer by any means, as there's nothing else to do on that map but choose your level.

Full Metal Rumble also adds in some differing superpowers and abilities between heroes that nerf or buff various unit types, so you can change up your play style a bit on each level depending on what type of unit you prefer to use.

 Fuel and ammo resources to manage!

Easily the biggest change is the addition of ammo and fuel to manage for all of the units, and the lack of that element was a frequent complaint from Steam players for the previous game.

This is where the strategy changes from base Tiny Metal, although to be honest in the single-player campaign it rarely comes up in the first half of the game because units won't last long enough (and the maps aren't big enough) for those two new resources to matter much.

In skirmish mode where you can choose the map size however, resource management comes into play far more often. I would have to assume it will play a key role in multiplayer as well but wasn't able to confirm with my pre-release copy.

Unlike the first game, multiplayer is apparently going to be available immediately (it appears on the main menu anyway), but we'll have to wait and see if its fully up and running at launch; returning players will sadly recall it took nearly a year for multiplayer to actually become available in the original Tiny Metal. Things appear to be different here.

Finally, some of the AI has been tweaked. Units (thankfully) aren't nearly as suicidal as they used to be, but anyone who breezed through the first game will still find the campaign to be too easy in many places. 

There's only one major area where that difficulty spikes out of nowhere. Mission 33 is simply insane, even on easy mode, but the developers have already stated a patch will arrive shortly after launch to fix that issue. 

For the Tiny Metal veterans, the real difficulty will be in completing the secondary challenges in missions, like never losing a unit to retaliation or completing each mission under a certain number of turns.

Working Out Some Bugs

 Nope, that's not the key to use at all :)

As with the first game, there have been some bugs in the pre-launch version that need to be worked out shortly after launch.

For instance, commander super abilities currently stay active forever instead of lasting one round, which is supposed to be fixed on Day 1.

I also came across a handful of small annoyances, like stuttering when opening up the build menu or constantly getting throwback into the menu when you try to exit on one early level.

Those aren't too bad, but there's one that is particularly annoying: the game shows the Delete key as the way to move back in menus, but it's actually bound to the Backspace key.

Since there's currently no ability to change key bindings, that is extremely annoying until you figure out the key is just listed wrong. Until I figured that out I was having to ALT+F4 out of the game in some menus to start all over.

The Bottom Line 

 For Artemesia!!

  • Tactical battle that's easy to get into but hard to master
  • Unique and adorable art style
  • If you loved the first one, this is more of the same
  • The new resources and world map aren't as big of changes as you'd expect
  • Bugs, bugs, bugs to be squashed after launch
  • If you hated the first one, this is more of the same

Right now there aren't a ton of games in this genre to choose from, which makes Tiny Metal worth your time even despite the problems.

If Wargroove didn't scratch the tactical itch for you and you've played your GBA ROM of Advance Wars into the ground, Full Metal Rumble is really the only way to go right now.

There's also one big plus here: it's coming to the Switch as well as Steam. If you want an all-ages friendly strategy game for your console, do yourself a favor and pick this one up, while keeping your fingers crossed that big patches arrive shortly and multiplayer is actually available on day 1.

[Note: A copy of Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble was provided by Area 35 for the purpose of this review.]

11 Best Terraria Mods for Starting a Fresh Sandbox Adventure Wed, 10 Jul 2019 13:43:42 -0400 Jason Coles

Terraria is a fantastic game in its own right. Despite being released nearly 100 years ago in 2011, it still pulls in a lot of players and is a must-play for many gamers. Thanks to some brilliant PC players, you can mod this wonderful little indie title, and thanks to mods, things can get incredibly strange incredibly fast.

To help you keep your game going on forever, here are some of our favorite mods. 

It's important to note that some of these don't play nice with each other; we've marked these to help you keep track and marked them with the "(overhaul)" designation. As they do so much to the core game itself, they can't work in harmony, unfortunately. 


Of all of the mods out there in the big wide world, few are as helpful as tModLoader. This is because simply installing this one thing allows you to search for different mods, install them, and generally help you keep on top of this crazy experience.

Most of the mods in this list can be found within tModLoader, so make sure to hit this one up first by going here

It’s an incredible tool and a must if you want to play Terraria with some of the quality of life mods, so make sure you grab this before anything else. Keep in mind that with great power comes great responsibility, so if you overdo it and install too many mods, then you can cause the game to crash. So, take it easy, and take it slow; that way, you should have no issues.

Also, some mods just aren’t capable of playing nice, so make sure to pay attention to what you’re doing.

Calamity (overhaul)

The Terraria Calamity mod adds a ton of new content to the game (shown here)

Calamity adds in huge swathes of stuff. Not only are there over 20 new bosses, hundreds of new enemies, and a bunch of new gear to collect and craft, there are even more modes.

These include things like bosses having one-hit kills, and even modes giving you fantastic special abilities. It even boosts the power of the throwing weapon class, which helps it more viable in the mid- to late-game.

Thorium (overhaul)

Thorium adds in new biomes, new bosses, and new events. While Calamity tends to put the focus on the things that happen after Moon Lord, Thorium decided to flesh out the run to the final boss instead. It also adds in two new classes, the Healer and the Bard. These are both more suited for co-op play and help to make the game feel a bit more like an RPG.

N Terraria (overhaul)

N Terraria answers the question: What if Terraria was a full-blown RPG? It adds classes, races, NPC companions, and more quests. It’s a great way to change the feel of the game and give it a bit more direction; it’s a must-have for those who don’t like the freedom to do whatever they want.

Super Terraria World (overhaul)

Super Terraria World is a bit like N Terraria. It turns the game into an RPG complete with skills, NPCs, and quests. It’s also constantly being updated thanks to its popularity, and even adds in things like additional chatting from NPCs and extra stock. It’s a very impressive endeavor.

Terraria Overhaul (overhaul)

Terraria Overhaul does a great job of changing up a lot of the core framework of the game. Rather than adding in as much as some of the other options, it opts instead to change how things work, for example, you can dodge-roll thanks to this mod.

It changes the way a lot of the game works and can help to make it feel completely fresh, instead of just adding in too much stuff.

imkSushi’s Crafting Mod

Crafting is an essential part of Terraria, so it makes sense that there would be a mod or two focussed on that aspect of the game. Well, imkSushi's Crafting Mod is probably the best of the bunch, as it allows you to craft wherever you want, whenever you want.

It just streamlines things a bit and helps you avoid the somewhat tedious affair of organizing your forges.

Recipe Browser

Recipe Browser makes crafting thing far easier to digest. It lets you see everything you can craft and tells you what items you need, and even tells you which enemies can drop those items. It makes effectively serves as an in-game wiki, which should help you stay in the game longer.

Boss Checklist

Boss Checklist does what it says on the tin, but it’s a great way of keeping track of all of your different worlds. It’s not flashy, but it is incredibly useful.

Fargo’s Mutant

Fargo's Mutant adds in a few NPCs who make fighting bosses far simpler. Farming a boss can be a pain in vanilla Terraria, but this mod adds in NPCs who sell items that can summon a boss or even multiple bosses. It is a great way to get that grind going without all the stress. It adds in some exceptionally useful items too, such as the Instavator, which automatically creates a hellevator wherever you throw it.

Universe of Swords

Everyone likes swords, at least, that’s what Universe of Swords assumes. It adds in an ungodly number of new weapons for you to use. This includes swords that shoot out grenades when swung. It’s a bit bombastic, but it’s a lot of fun.


There you have it, that's a list of some of the best Terraria mods out. However, there are an innumerable amount of them out there, so have a mess around and see what works for you. Let us know which ones we left off the list and why they should have been included! 

Get Lost with Stranded Sails, An Indie Survival Game Coming to Consoles Wed, 10 Jul 2019 13:18:26 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Developer Lemonbomb Entertainment and publisher Merge Games recently announced the successful Steam indie Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands is heading to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in October.

It'll be available on consoles both digitally and physically, though only the Switch and PS4 are getting the special Signature Edition. What that edition entails hasn't been revealed, but it's designed as a collector's edition.

Stranded Sails is billed as an "open-world exploration farming adventure." It sounds like SEO cramming, but the game's premise actually delivers by blending all those elements together, taking inspiration from Harvest Moon, The Legend of Zelda, and My Time at Portia to deliver a unique take on those styles.

Like any good exploration story, survival is key to Stranded Sails' gameplay. Players will have to grow and harvest their own food not just for themselves, but for the others in their island settlements as well; feeding the masses also happens to be an important part of managing each NPC's happiness. It's an open-ended cooking system that lets players experiment with new ingredients and develop new recipes too.

The trailer shows off a surprisingly wide variety of crops and resources as well, from the standard food and environmental resources to what looks like herbs and flowers.

There won't be just one base of operations, though. The islands under exploration are ripe for development, and players will work on expanding their camps into proper settlements while also developing their shipbuilding skills.

All this is centered around a primary plot and dozens of sub-quests as the player tries to uncover the truth behind the curse darkening the island shores. That naturally requires traveling to different islands using said ships and exploring various dungeons that appear to be full of ghost pirates.

We don't get to see much of the game's combat just yet, but it's looking like Stranded Sails has a lot to offer and balances it pretty well.