Puzzle Game Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Puzzle Game RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Into the Phoggyverse: Bit Loom Games on PHOGS! Inspiration, Co Op, and More https://www.gameskinny.com/havfg/into-the-phoggyverse-bit-loom-games-on-phogs-inspiration-co-op-and-more https://www.gameskinny.com/havfg/into-the-phoggyverse-bit-loom-games-on-phogs-inspiration-co-op-and-more Mon, 30 Nov 2020 15:32:50 -0500 Henry Stockdale

There’s genuinely nothing quite like PHOGS! out there at the moment. While most co-op games have you playing as separate characters or entities, PHOGS! revolves around playing as two heads of a conjoined dog, Red and Blue, in a manner reminiscent of the Nickelodeon animated series CatDog.

Developed by Bit Loom Games, PHOGS! was first conceived back in 2017. Having made the rounds at conventions for the last two years, publisher and co-developer Coatsink has confirmed that PHOGS! is now finally ready to launch on December 3, releasing on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Google Stadia, with backwards compatibility for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.

Spanning 24 levels between three separate worlds in a realm known as the “Phoggyverse,” you’ll need to overcome obstacles by working together, completing puzzles along the way in a game that promises a unique brand of challenge.

In preparation for the game's launch, we had the opportunity to speak with Bit Loom Games, who were kind enough to tell us more about this adorable new experience.



Henry Stockdale, GameSkinny: First, thank you for joining me. I actually played the demo back at EGX last year. For any readers unaware of PHOGS!, though, could you please introduce yourselves?

Bit Loom: We’re Douglas, Henry, and James, and we make up Bit Loom, a small studio based in Scotland, who are making PHOGS!

GameSkinny: As your studio’s debut game, it must be quite thrilling to finally launch it, but as a small team, have there been any specific development challenges you’ve faced?

Bit Loom: We’re incredibly excited to have the game out. It’s felt like such a long journey to get here. Most of the challenges we’ve had throughout development have been due to us learning how to build the game. We’ve also been ridiculously lucky throughout development to have the support of our co-developers Coatsink, who jumped in to help with art, animation, sound design, porting, and multiplayer implementation. This definitely helped ease the load for some part of the game that wouldn’t have been possible with just the three of us.

GameSkinny: We know PHOGS! revolves around an adorable two-headed doggo, each head called Red and Blue, and it's often been compared to CatDog. Did that show influence yourselves or were there other inspirations?

Bit Loom: While we all grew up around that particular era of cartoons, it definitely wasn’t something at the forefront of our minds while developing the game. We knew that we wanted a silly creature with two ends controlled by two players, and we wanted it to be something simple and friendly.

The dog element mostly came about because we thought that adding arms would look really strange, and it made sense as a creature that interacts with things primarily with its mouth.

GameSkinny: How did this idea turn into a playable concept at first, and what convinced you to take this further?

Bit Loom: We just started off getting the PHOG working and stuck them in a blank room with some boxes to push around, and we knew as soon as we started playing around with the character that we had something interesting.

It just immediately felt like we’d managed to find something fun and exciting that we wanted to explore further, and it was hard to stop coming up with ideas.

GameSkinny: Most co-op games involve you playing as separate entities, making PHOGS! rather unique in that respect. Was it a challenge to create an experience where the players are conjoined?

Bit Loom: If anything, I think it maybe made it easier to make, purely because the characteristic of being joined together generated so many ideas in itself. As well as the fact that it meant we never really had to worry about things like the players getting too far away from each other or setting off things in completely the wrong order since we had more control over where both players would be at any one time.

While it occasionally did bring its own challenges, such as trying to ensure both players had some part to play in each interaction. But we attempted to solve this by having lots of interactions [that] require both heads, such as turning a tap to activate something instead of just pushing a button.

GameSkinny: While co-op play seems to be the focus, we know that single-player options have been included too. Was it difficult designing a solo mode for it?

Bit Loom: Luckily, it felt kind of natural to play the game either way pretty much from the start. As we wanted the controls to be very simple and easy to pick up, we designed them around the idea of using a shared controller. This means the game can always be played on a single controller and while it requires a bit more mental gymnastics to coordinate with yourself, it’s definitely something you get more used to over time.

GameSkinny: Puzzle-solving will factor into gameplay, so how does this work in practice?

Bit Loom: We’ve tried to design puzzles that focus most on working together and using both of your heads. Some puzzles will be a case of using several objects or creatures you’ve been introduced to together in interesting ways, others may be more of a case of experimenting with something new to find surprising ways to solve problems.

From hosing water through your wobbly body to swinging across monkey bars in sync with each other, there are lots of ways to put the phogs’ unique anatomy to the test.

GameSkinny: Can you tell us more about the worlds we’ll visit and what differences they bring to gameplay?

Bit Loom: The worlds of Food, Sleep, and Play each have their own vibe and mechanics.

Food is bright and bouncy and has the phogs hosing water through their body in order to grow food for creatures to eat to overcome environmental obstacles.

Sleep is super cosy and all about putting creatures to bed and using light and shadow to solve more traditional puzzles.

Play is a manic mix of minigames with a bit of magic thrown in for good measure, where one minute you are playing golf, and the next minute you are inside a giant golf ball.

Every level introduces something new, and we hope people fall in love with the wonderful and weird characters along the way!

GameSkinny: Would you say it’s a particularly long campaign?

Bit Loom: Our focus with PHOGS! was to make every puzzle and level feel fresh and surprising for the player, with no mechanic outstaying its welcome. Being a puzzler, it can vary from player to player, On average, though, the story lasts around eight hours for new players. With all the bones to find and characters to meet, you can make it take quite a while longer if you don’t want to rush. When I play the game, I spend half the time choosing what hat my end of the phog wears!

GameSkinny: Have there been any considerations for DLC expansions or a sequel, or are you looking towards brand new projects once PHOGS! is out?

Bit Loom: Currently, we are taking it slow and focusing on PHOGS!. We have plenty of ideas but no solid plans for what the next big project is for Bit Loom. If people really love PHOGS! and want to see more, we might go back to the drawing board. We’ll have to see what happens!

GameSkinny: Last of all, would you like to share any messages with the fans?

Bit Loom: We cannot wait for everyone to play the game and meet the characters throughout the phoggyverse! I also have a question for the real fans out there: what other animal would you like to see become stretchy bellied and double-ended?

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Bugsnax Review: Hilarious Writing in an Unsettling World https://www.gameskinny.com/ldtjf/bugsnax-review-hilarious-writing-in-an-unsettling-world https://www.gameskinny.com/ldtjf/bugsnax-review-hilarious-writing-in-an-unsettling-world Mon, 09 Nov 2020 09:00:01 -0500 David Jagneaux

Bugsnax is one of the most bizarre video games I've ever played. Frankly, I'm not entirely sure how to describe it, which is troubling given my profession.

On the one hand, it's a surrealist adventure puzzle game in which you're sent on an expedition to research walking, sentient foods in the form of bugs amidst a mysterious disappearance, but on the other hand, it's like a weird fever dream of someone that passed out at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

It's all filtered through this lens of whimsical adventure that not-so-subtly implies there is more going on here than meets the eye. Despite the cheery attitudes of the denizens and seemingly innocent visual aesthetic, I couldn't help but feel absolutely creeped out every second I was playing Bugsnax.

This isn't a true horror game  not even close  but it's got that sort of "off" feeling that will likely stick with me longer than any actual horror game could ever dream to.

Bugsnax Review: Hilarious Writing in an Unsettling World

Instead of knocking out errands for strangers, you're hunting and capturing the little creepy crawlies and then feeding them like food to the island's denizens, Grumpuses.

A big part of what makes Bugsnax so creepy is what you end up doing almost immediately after arriving on the island. The game quickly devolves from a mystery thriller into a series of fetch quests and errands like any modern video game. Except in this case, instead of knocking out errands for strangers, you're hunting and capturing the little creepy crawlies and then feeding them like food to the island's denizens, Grumpuses.

After eating a Bugsnack, a Grumpus then has a body part transformed to resemble the Bugsnack. For example, after eating a Fryder (a spider with french fry legs), a character's arms suddenly become delicious french fries. It takes the phrase "you are what you eat" to a whole new level.

It's what immediately gave me pause when I first started playing Bugsnax. There's something about the way they smile and laugh with such cheery music playing in the background. It's as if the game is trying so hard to overcompensate in its portrayal of happiness to overcome how unsettling it really can be.

Most of Bugsnax could be summarized as trying to lure various Bugsnax into traps, but it gets very complicated later on. Knowing how certain Bugsnax interact with one another is super important. For example, the bull-esque Bunger will charge and head butt anything that smells like ketchup, so you can catch them in peace.

The plot in Bugsnax revolves around you, a journalist, sent to report on the wondrous world of Bugsnax found on Snaktooth Island. But once you arrive, the intrepid explorer that invited you, Lizbert Megafig, is nowhere to be found. Her sudden vanishing is a bit morbid to begin with, so the premise of devouring helpless bugs in the shapes of various food items doesn't exactly help.

As curious as the world is, though, most of the time I spent playing Bugsnax, I couldn't help but feel like it would have been better as a different genre or perhaps even as not a video game at all. The actual act of playing Bugsnax is by far the least appealing part.

I adore the vibrant world, creative premise, and unnerving underlying implications, but I couldn't help but feel like I'd have been more engrossed if it was just an animated series or more dialogue-driven adventure game. The strength here is the world and its characters, not the game mechanics.

Bugsnax also has one of the catchiest soundtracks you'll hear in a game all year.

Your character controls very floaty, and it's more than a little bit cumbersome to constantly juggle various pieces of equipment while in the middle of a hunt. In the past, the developers have cited games like Pokemon Snap and Ape Escape as inspirations for Bugsnax, but both of those boil down their ideas to an entertaining core to build upon. Bugsnax seems to try too hard to gamify itself in ways that it would have been better served to embrace non-gameplay elements.

All that being said, Bugsnax has a semi Adventure Time vibe going for it. On the surface, it's very light-hearted and colorful, with an aesthetic that seems appealing to kids, but underneath it all, there are some real layers and depth to be found both conceptually and in the game itself.

I particularly enjoyed how nuanced the puzzles became over time and how the game quickly evolved beyond just setting traps. You eventually get various different condiments and sauces for your slingshot to lure different types of bugs into traps, and intersecting patrol paths for bugs gets more and more important the further you get. A few of the puzzles can be pretty challenging and obtuse by design, which is a tad frustrating at times. 

Bugsnax also has one of the catchiest soundtracks you'll hear in a game all year, especially the theme song performed by artist Kero Kero Bonito. The quality of the writing and voice acting is also equally top-notch. It's tough to get through a play session without at least a handful of real belly laughs, especially if you appreciate the semi-awkward situational humor on display here or lots of great food puns, like me.

Bugsnax Review — The Bottom Line

Pros:

  • Hilarious writing is endearing
  • Charming visuals and music
  • Clever premise is oddly unsettling

Cons:

  • Game mechanics are a bit tedious
  • Some puzzle solutions aren't very clear
  • Setting and premise may have worked better in a different genre or media format

In a world where big console launch exclusives such as Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon's Souls, and Godfall are all vying for your attention, quirky indie games like Bugsnax rarely get much of the spotlight, but luckily, Sony seems to have supported this one from an early stage. I can say with supreme confidence that if Bugsnax looks like a good time to you based on its trailer, you'll very likely come away satiated after you've had your fill.

Bugsnax takes around seven to 10 hours to finish, depending on your speed, ability to crack puzzles, and the amount of exploration you do. Getting all the achievements or trophies could likely take even longer.

Bugsnax isn't the best version of the game it could have been, but it's still a really fun adventure.

[Note: Young Horses provided a PS5 digital copy of Bugsnax for this review.]

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Peaky Blinders: Mastermind Review — Hop It! https://www.gameskinny.com/pgpq4/peaky-blinders-mastermind-review-hop-it https://www.gameskinny.com/pgpq4/peaky-blinders-mastermind-review-hop-it Thu, 20 Aug 2020 04:00:01 -0400 Jonny Foster

Contrary to my self-proclaimed tea-drinking, crumpet-eating ways, I was a Brit that hadn’t seen a single episode of the award-winning British crime series, Peaky Blinders, when a copy of Peaky Blinders: Mastermind was dropped into my lap.

Despite its popularity and success, the show was never something that particularly grabbed my attention, and while Peaky Blinders: Mastermind was, unfortunately, unable to capture it for long, it did at least "peak" my interest in the show. 

Peaky Blinders: Mastermind Review — Hop It!

Peaky Blinders: Mastermind opens somewhat confusingly, jumping directly into a conversation between members of the Shelby family without establishing the setting, characters, or timeline. Without any context from the series, it’s unclear that this is actually a prequel to the show, detailing how Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy in the TV series) came to be the leader of the titular Birmingham gang. 

The core gameplay loop of Peaky Blinders: Mastermind puts you in simultaneous control of Shelby family members as they distract guards, beat up thugs, steal from rival gangs, and generally sow discord on the streets of Birmingham. 

To do this successfully, you need to grab the game’s timeline by the horns and wrestle it to your will, synchronizing actions together to slip through gaps in a patrol route or pull two levers at the same second to open an important door.

Actually, for 1920s Birmingham, there are a lot of lever-controlled doors...

While the idea of scrubbing through a timeline to sync up actions or tinker with a character’s path was the hook that drew me into Peaky Blinders: Mastermind, it’s regrettably a bit of a one-hit-wonder. 

Though the fairly basic movement puzzles definitely ramp up in their complexity as the game progresses, everything from fighting thugs to distracting guards to kicking down doors is achieved with a single press of a button — the same "action" button.

This leaves the gameplay feeling much more methodical than I feel it needed to be — simple mini-games for the various actions would have gone a long way towards providing some variance. Instead, every obstacle boils down to a “press 'A' here” prompt that isn’t satisfying or rewarding to complete.

Speaking of missed opportunities, the characters in Peaky Blinders: Mastermind are mere shells of their series adaptations. I’ve now watched a couple of episodes of Peaky Blinders on Netflix, and the difference between the two products is night and day.

Tommy's PTSD is featured in one level but with none of the backstory that we see in the show that makes it poignant, and Aunt Polly’s character is only a fraction of the bad-ass caretaker that she should be in Mastermind.

Without voice acting it is difficult to do these characters justice, but there just isn’t enough depth to the dialogue to make them relatable.

Two things Peaky Blinders: Mastermind does nail, however, are its visuals and score. 

The story beats have a simplified brush-stroke aesthetic that’s downright gorgeous, while the in-game environments, models, and animations are all pleasant to look at from your isometric perspective. 

Peaky Blinders: Mastermind also features an original score from Feverist, the band behind the iconic soundtrack of Peaky Blinders season one. It’s instantly familiar to fans of the series, while also being thematic and broody enough to feel appropriate to complete newcomers. 

Our short foray into the land of positives must come to an abrupt end, however, as I’ve yet to mention the game's controls. The keyboard controls for Peaky Blinders: Mastermind are an exhausting, infuriating mess. 

The game was clearly designed with controllers in mind — a point which it stresses when you boot up the title — so I can’t berate it too much, but suffice to say that I wouldn’t recommend you go anywhere near Mastermind without a controller. 

Once I switched to a controller, some aspects improved instantly, but the most aggravating problem — rewriting actions — sadly did not. 

For a game centered around a timeline feature and rewinding time to change or synchronize actions, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind has the horrendous habit of not letting you take control of a character when you want to. 

After multiple hours and hundreds of attempts, I’m still not entirely sure what the trigger is for actually being able to rewrite an action on the timeline, as the game seems to arbitrarily block you from taking control half of the time, no matter what button you press. 

This general jankiness with the controls really puts a huge damper on what is otherwise a short yet robust puzzler. When coupled with the lack of an interesting opening and poor character adaptation, though, this title gets harder and harder to recommend. 

Peaky Blinders: Mastermind Review — The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Interesting puzzling nature thanks to the timeline mechanic
  • Amazing aesthetic is true to the series
Cons
  • Flat adaptations of the characters
  • Frustrating controls
  • Lack of substance

With only 10 missions and a small smattering of collectibles, there really isn’t any replay value present in this short affair, which only reinforces the feeling that this title is severely lacking depth.

You can replay missions to try and improve your times, and the windows to achieve a Gold ranking on each are often as thin as the razors in Tommy’s cap, but I had no urge to return once the credits rolled. 

It’s a real shame that Mastermind fails to capitalize on the evocative theme and characters of the Peaky Blinders canon. Even as someone who hasn’t finished the first of its five seasons, I can already tell what a missed opportunity Mastermind is.

[Note: Curve Digital provided the copy of Peaky Blinders: Mastermind used for this review.]

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Pokemon Cafe Mix Pokemon List: How to Unlock, Recruit All Pokemon https://www.gameskinny.com/k6v70/pokemon-cafe-mix-pokemon-list-how-to-unlock-recruit-all-pokemon https://www.gameskinny.com/k6v70/pokemon-cafe-mix-pokemon-list-how-to-unlock-recruit-all-pokemon Fri, 14 Aug 2020 21:26:56 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Pokemon Cafe Mix is a super-cutesy puzzle game where you get to make cafe treats with Pokemon, which is great! Except you only have Eevee as your co-worker to start with. But our Pokemon Cafe Mix Pokemon list, complete with unlock and recruitment requirements plus the dish types each Pokemon specializes in, will change that! 

There’s a difference between unlocking and actually recruiting a Pokemon in Cafe Mix.

Unlocking them means they’ll start showing up as customers, but you’ll have to work on fulfilling their orders to increase your friendship ranking with them. Once the rating hits the required number of stars, they’ll join your cafe staff.

Fortunately, it’s not as random as it sounds. Once you’ve fulfilled 55 orders, you’ll unlock the Party feature. Once per day, you get a chance to invite two Pokemon to the cafe so you can work on improving friendship levels. The two chosen Pokemon are initially random, but you can spend 50 Golden Apricorns to shuffle them up and try to pull two others.

Pokemon Cafe Mix Pokemon List

EeveeEvee

Plain vanilla Eevee is your starting pal. But it still has a special ability that clears all surrounding icons and Pokemon in a puzzle.

It’s also got an alt costume you can trade Master Mode Points for in the Swap Shop, and as you’d expect, these are just for looks. Costumes don’t alter a Pokemon’s abilities.

 

 

CharmanderCharmander

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 2 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 3 stars
  • Skill: Remove Pokemon icons and gimmicks to the right
  • Speciality: Drinks

 

 

MinccinoMinccino

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 3 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 6 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks to the left
  • Speciality: Sweets

 

SnubbullSnubbull

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 5 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 4 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks below
  • Speciality: Small plates

 

SlurpuffSlurpuff

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 10 orders, first Cafe Extension
  • Recruitment requirements: 5 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks above
  • Speciality: Sweets

 

TogepiTogepi

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 25 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 3 stars
  • Skill: Clears surrounding Pokemon icons and gimmicks, then replaces them with a common Pokemon icon
  • Speciality: Drinks

 

MunchlaxMunchlax

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 25 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 9 stars
  • Skill: Clears surrounding Pokemon icons and gimmicks, then uses Megaphones near other icons
  • Speciality: Entrees

 

 

SquirtleSquirtle

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 35 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 9 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks to the right
  • Speciality: Small Plates

 

 

KirliaKirlia

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 45 orders, acquire second Cafe Extension
  • Recruitment requirements: 8 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks diagonally
  • Speciality: Drinks

 

StarlyStarly

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 55 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 6 stars
  • Skill: Clears surrounding Pokemon icons and gimmicks, then uses Megaphones above and below in place of other icons
  • Speciality: Sweets

 

SteeneeSteenee

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 65 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 5 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks above and below
  • Speciality: Entrees

 

BulbasaurBulbasaur

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 75 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 9 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks in an “X” shape, replacing surrounding icons with a common Pokemon
  • Speciality: Small plates

 

StoutlandStoutland

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 85 orders, acquire third Cafe Extension
  • Recruitment requirements: 9 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks below, then sets off megaphones for surrounding icons
  • Speciality: Drinks

 

MeowthMeowth

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 95 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 9 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks in a block to the left
  • Speciality: Entrees

 

Jigglypuff Jigglypuff

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 110 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 9 stars
  • Skill: Clears surrounding Pokemon icons and gimmicks, then replaces other surrounding icons with a common Pokemon
  • Speciality: Sweets

 

LucarioLucario

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 130 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 20 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks in a “+” pattern
  • Speciality: Sweets

 

Bellossom Bellossom

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 150 orders, acquire third Cafe Extension
  • Recruitment requirements: 6 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks above, then uses Megaphones around some icons below
  • Speciality: Drinks

 

Exeggutor Exeggutor

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 175 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 18 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks on both sides and above
  • Speciality: Drinks

 

Buizel Buizel

  • Unlock requirements: Complete 225 orders
  • Recruitment requirements: 12 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks diagonally
  • Speciality: Sweets

 

Pikachu and Event Pokemon

As of now, there’s a handful of additional Pokemon you can recruit, but in a different way. Most of them are part of limited-time events that yo have to wait for. If you’ve already missed one and haven’t served that Pokemon at least once, you’re unfortunately out of luck until the events roll around again. Pikachu is a bit different though.

Pikachu Pikachu

  • Unlock requirements: Complete day five of the daily login bonuses
  • Recruitment requirements: N/A
  • Skill: Clears surrounding and above Pokemon icons, replacing other surrounding icons with a common Pokemon
  • Speciality: Small plates

 

Sweets Pikachu Sweets Pikachu wearing a blue hat and holding sweets.

  • Unlock requirements: Purchase the Pikachu Pack (DLC)
  • Recruitment requirements: N/A
  • Skill: Clears surrounding Pokemon icons and sets of Megaphones around other surrounding icons
  • Speciality: Drinks 

Scorbunny Scorbunny

  • Unlock requirements: Play from July 1 - July 15
  • Recruitment requirements: 5 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks to the left
  • Speciality: Small plates

 

Sobble Sobble

  • Unlock requirements: Play from July 15 - July 29
  • Recruitment requirements: 5 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks below
  • Speciality: Sweets

 

Dragonite Dragonite

  • Unlock requirements: Play from July 29 - August 12
  • Recruitment requirements: 5 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks to the right. Occurs twice if you link two Cafe Skills
  • Speciality: Entrees

 

Grookey Grookey

  • Unlock requirements: Play from August 12 - August 26
  • Recruitment requirements: 5 stars
  • Skill: Clears Pokemon icons and gimmicks to the right
  • Speciality: Sweets

 

That's it for our Pokemon Cafe Mix Pokemon list. Now you know everything there is to know about how to recruit these Pokemon, as well as their skills and specialities. We'll update this guide with new events and in case old event Pokemon make a return, so stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Pokemon Cafe Mix goodness in the coming weeks.

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Pikmin 3 for Switch Sprouts Up in Surprise Announcement https://www.gameskinny.com/7qbxx/pikmin-3-for-switch-sprouts-up-in-surprise-announcement https://www.gameskinny.com/7qbxx/pikmin-3-for-switch-sprouts-up-in-surprise-announcement Wed, 05 Aug 2020 13:13:12 -0400 Josh Broadwell

In what’s becoming a new trend for Nintendo, the Big N dropped a surprise Pikmin 3 Deluxe announcement trailer on Twitter today. Pikmin 3 is heading to Switch on October 30, bringing along all existing DLC and a bevy of other new features.

Pikmin 3 Switch adds the option to play through the entire story mode in co op mode, so you don’t have to go it alone if you don’t want to. There’s a new set of difficulty options and a new lock-on feature to make targeting easier. That’s on top of the DLC missions from the original Wii U Pikmin 3 release, multiplayer matches, and new side missions starring Louis and Olimar from the first two Pikmin games.

Pikmin 3 very much follows in its predecessors’ footsteps, except you have three space adventurers to control instead of one or two.

You’ve ended up on a strange planet and need to gather fruit, which translates to building up an army of adorable and oh-so-fragile Pikmin to do all the work for you. Pikmin 3 adds two new Pikmin types to shake up the formula: Pink Pikmin that fly and Rock Pikmin that smash things.

Nick Chavez, Nintendo’s Senior VP of Sales and Marketing, said:

Pikmin 3 Deluxe brings this classic franchise to life on Nintendo Switch, introducing a new audience to its beloved characters and gameplay, while also welcoming back returning players with new challenges.

It’s not Pikmin 4, assuming that’s still happening. But it is a chance for what’s widely regarded as one of the Wii U’s underrated classics to get a second chance of life.

Like Nintendo’s other second chances for Wii U games, Pikmin 3 Switch will sell for the usual retail price of $59.99. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Pikmin 3 news as it develops.

[Source: Nintendo of America]

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Tricky Towers is the Next Super Rare Games Physical Release https://www.gameskinny.com/nnez8/tricky-towers-is-the-next-super-rare-games-physical-release https://www.gameskinny.com/nnez8/tricky-towers-is-the-next-super-rare-games-physical-release Fri, 22 May 2020 16:33:04 -0400 Daniel Hollis

Super Rare Games announced that the popular Nintendo Switch game, Tricky Towers, is coming as a physical release next week, with pre-orders starting May 28.

For those who don't know, Tricky Towers is a multiplayer physics-based tower building game. The competitive game tasks you with stacking your tower as high as possible, creating a stable tower, while also trying to topple your opponents' tower. Tricky Towers offers both local and online multiplayer, as well as 50 single-player trials to attempt.

You can see how ... tricky ... it is in the trailer below: 

The physical release, which is limited to 4,000 copies, comes bundled with:

  • The full game plus all six DLC packs on one cartridge
  • A 12-page color manual
  • Interior artwork
  • An exclusive sticker
  • Three trading cards from a five-card set

Super Rare Games are known for bringing highly-regarded digital games to physical release, most notably Nintendo Switch games. With popular titles such as The Sexy Brutale and Snake Pass being just an example of the many beloved titles granted a physical existence. 

Pre-orders open for Tricky Towers on May 28 and will retail for $32.99. You can find the store page here. Stay tuned to GameSkinny! 

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Embr Early Access Review: Fight Fire with Fun https://www.gameskinny.com/dmgka/embr-early-access-review-fight-fire-with-fun https://www.gameskinny.com/dmgka/embr-early-access-review-fight-fire-with-fun Wed, 20 May 2020 10:50:10 -0400 Mark Delaney

These days you can get pretty much anything through an app. Need a ride? Call Uber. Hungry? Postmates will be there in 30 minutes. Looking to get your face made into a cartoon? There are like 10,000 people willing to do that online right now.

It makes me wonder, "Where does it end?" Which jobs will we not outsource to a market of independent contractors? 

Built deliberately without unions or benefits, we've traded worker's rights for consumer convenience, and it's all starting to get a bit dystopian. In comes Embr to offer a sarcastic, darkly humorous future where even firefighting runs through an app. If only that possible future could ever be as fun as Embr is.

Embr Early Access Review: Fight Fire with Fun

Embr is a new game hitting Early Access for Steam and Stadia on May 21, making it the first-ever Stadia Early Access title. In it, up to four players can strap on their helmets and ride off in first-person co-op to the next home or business engulfed in flames. The cartoonish colors and bouncy soundtrack tell players right away that Embr is meant to be silly, and that's one of its best qualities.

Answering an app as an Embr Respondr, your task is to get people out of these burning buildings before they die, only instead of valor and community service, you're in it for the tips and the ever-desirable five-star rating.

Typically, there are two types of survivors inside any burning building: the apathetic phone-scroller, who doesn't even bother to look up as you pull them to safety, or the panicked survivor, who is running around the place like they're already on fire themselves. 

In both cases, your task is to get them outside to a safety zone. Sometimes there is more than one of these areas, and once the rescuees are in one, they're safe for good. No need to worry, the game even encourages you to chuck them across the threshold, provided they're at a safe distance from the ground.

It's getting them there that makes up this puzzle platformer disguised as a chaotic co-op experience. Using customizable loadouts of ladders, water hoses, trampolines, axes, and much more, players are expected to bring the right tools for the job and work efficiently.

There's a great sense of player choice in this aspect of Embr. Earning cash and unlocking and upgrading my gear has been one of my favorite parts of the game so far. It reminds me a bit of Sea of Thieves in that the game hardly suggests what to do with any of its items. It gives them to you and lets you use them how you'd like  "tools, not rules" as Rare calls it. Given there are always countless ways to solve each level, this sense of freedom is exciting.

Do you bash down the front door and spray your way up the stairs, or do you prop a ladder against the house and climb through the second-story window? Either way, there's never a level where you can totally put out the fire and you shouldn't bother doing so. You're here to rescue customers so they can tip you, not save a home from burning down.

You can merely quell the flames momentarily while you get people to safety, even if they're too busy tweeting to thank you. Electrical fires cause additional problems, while other obstacles like classic red barrels can make things worse too. Each level gives players a new mix of layout, objectives, and funny, frenzy-inducing obstacles.

Then there's the moral quandary of deciding how many people to save. Each level tends to have you rescue only some of the total number of humans left in the fire. For example, you might only need to save four of the would-be victims, or you can stick around for all eight. Hidden stacks of cash can sometimes be more enticing than the humans too, which only furthers the game's comically cynical view of late capitalism.

Billboards seen throughout the game do well to establish that cynicism too, like a takedown of Deadspin's recent fall from grace through an ad for "SportsShow: Just Sport. No Politics," or a beverage called H2Oh! with the tagline "It's almost water!" It's clear who Muse Games sides with in the ongoing struggle for consumer and worker advocacy, and it's not the bigwigs at the top.  

Scurrying around each level makes replaying for better scores and more cash enticing, especially as you unlock better gear and can clear prior areas much faster. If only I was able to enjoy it all with others. In my time with the game ahead of its Early Access launch, I wasn't able to find any co-op partners.

It seems the game doesn't yet offer crossplay — hopefully, that's planned for later  so I was left fending for myself during the review period. I expect that problem will be solved quickly, but it does mean I'm missing an important portion of the Embr experience.

Speaking of what's missing, given that the game is in Early Access, there are currently several areas that need improving. Though the core gameplay is a joy, the controls can sometimes feel a bit too loose. Some of this is deliberate, like a ladder that can easily topple over if you don't prop it up well, but just climbing the ladder feels off too, and not in the same broken-for-laughs way.

I love the physics-driven gameplay of Embr. Being able to move the contents of any room around to solve platforming problems and complete objectives is inventive and rewarding, making me feel like I'm thinking outside the box often. But controls need to be tightened up. There's a fine line to walk between floaty and unwieldy, and currently, Embr is stumbling to the wrong side.

In the menus, the ability to rename loadouts is apparently not working at all. This isn't a huge concern as at launch, you start with two loadouts and one of them is the default loadout that you'll quickly outgrow, but it does remind me that this game isn't done yet. There are also too few levels right now, so hopefully those keep getting added over time.

Embr Early Access Review  The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Inventive and chaotic gameplay
  • Fluid level design lets players choose their playstyle and change it on the go
  • Cynically comical world-building
  • Enticing upgrade tree
  • Welcome accessibility options
Cons
  • Wrinkles to iron out such as unresponsive menus and a dearth of levels
  • Controls are a bit too floaty at the moment

I noticed the game has several smart accessibility options right away, including a fine-tuned difficulty slider, reduced gravity (I assume to make trampolines less deadly), and even a profanity filter. With that last one, Embr is a game my son and I can enjoy together, and I wish more games offered such a feature.

I know to expect growing pains in an Early Access game, so today, I don't consider them dealbreakers for what is otherwise another great game in a string of titles that take stressful jobs and turn them into colorful romps with friends.

If you've enjoyed games such as OvercookedTools UpMoving Out, and Get Packed, there's every reason to expect you'll also enjoy Embr. Grab a seat in the firetruck, because Embr is just getting warmed up.

[Note: A copy of Embr was provided by Muse Games for the purpose of this Early Access review.]

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Lovely Puzzle Game A Fold Apart Coming to PS4, Xbox One https://www.gameskinny.com/9pvty/lovely-puzzle-game-a-fold-apart-coming-to-ps4-xbox-one https://www.gameskinny.com/9pvty/lovely-puzzle-game-a-fold-apart-coming-to-ps4-xbox-one Thu, 14 May 2020 16:39:07 -0400 Jonathan Moore

A Fold Apart is a narrative puzzle game that everyone should have the chance to play. Luckily, Lightning Rod Games has (finally) announced that it's coming to PS4 and Xbox One on May 19. The game is already out on PC, Nintendo Switch, and Apple Arcade. 

Developed by a small team of industry veterans that have previously worked at studios such as Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft, A Fold Apart is a more-than competent puzzle game with a big heart. It's about long-distance relationships and how people "navigate the complexities" inherent to those relationships. Considering the world we currently live in, it's more relevant than ever before.

Gameplay in AFA revolves around solving puzzles by folding paper, where the stages are the actual sheets of paper. Edges can be folded from side to side and from top to bottom. Stages can be flipped over and upside down. Emotions are made tangible by the stages and puzzles themselves, and the world is filled with beautiful art. It's a unique take on the genre, and it's one that has received tons of praise from critics and players alike.  

Featuring over 50 stages (puzzles), the game takes about four hours to complete. 

I've spoken at length about A Fold Apart in my review for the game, as well as in my PAX 2020 preview. So be sure to check those out if you want to know more about the game's intricacies and why it's a timeless indie gem. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more on awesome games like A Fold Apart.

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Moving Out Review — So Many Ways To Move It, Move It https://www.gameskinny.com/btqda/moving-out-review-so-many-ways-to-move-it-move-it https://www.gameskinny.com/btqda/moving-out-review-so-many-ways-to-move-it-move-it Thu, 23 Apr 2020 14:44:07 -0400 Jonny Foster

Moving Out is the newest party game published by Team17, set to rival Overcooked for the mayhem-inducing physics-based local-multiplayer crown. While the charm and appeal of Moving Out certainly mirrors Overcooked, beneath the surface beats a different rhythm. 

Here, the name of the game is removals. You and up to three other players are tasked with moving fragile boxes, hefty furniture, and even livestock into a moving van before the timer runs out. 

As you might expect, things aren’t easy. There are all manner of traps, hazards, and trials for you to navigate around on your way to the moving van. 

 

Moving Out Review — So Many Ways To Move It, Move It

Sometimes ghosts will haunt the mansions you’re moving items from, chasing and stunning your movers, while smaller houses often have awkward twisting hallways that make moving a bed or sofa nearly impossible. 

In these situations, grabbing the furniture with a partner and throwing it out of a window is often the best course of action — not to mention such teamwork is gleefully destructive fun, too. In fact, Moving Out is littered with destructible knick-knacks that make the world feel more interesting and alive. 

Only specific items need to be packed during each level — though you can interact with pretty much everything you see — and hurling a chair at a nearby TV because it’s in the way of the table that you need is exactly the sort of bonkers nonsense that makes Moving Out so enjoyable. 

To change things up, there are also dynamic levels that take place on moving vehicles, on a river — with passing logs, a la Frogger — and more. The level variety is actually really impressive considering the fairly limited scope of a moving company being the game's conceit. 

Much like Overcooked, there are three tiers of rating for each level — gold, silver, and bronze medals — but there are bonus objectives this time, too. Each level has three additional objectives, such as “break all the windows” or “jump over the pond," which add a good level of replay value and competition. 

Completing these objectives also unlocks Arcade levels that will test every fiber of your resolve and patience to complete. 

Of course, not everyone will enjoy the level of challenge that Moving Out provides, and others still may struggle to compete under the standard ruleset. Thankfully, this is where the game's fantastic accessibility options shine. 

Moving Out features a wide array of accessibility options, from extending timers and level skips to single Joy-Con controls and less hazardous levels. Honestly, if I could only praise a single aspect of Moving Out, it would be the extensive lengths taken to improve accessibility. 

The humor is another strong area for Moving Out; whether it’s the fact that you’re labeled a “Furniture Arrangement & Relocation Technician” (F.A.R.T) or the 80’s-themed instructional videos, it’s hard to keep a straight face while playing. 

The catchy soundtrack is also wonderfully 80’s-inspired, with disco tracks that you’re sure to find yourself humming along to. 

Moving Out Review — The Bottom Line

Pros:
  • Like Overcooked, gameplay is fast-paced, frantic, and fun
  • Wide range of accessibility options make Moving Out fun for everyone
  • Clean aesthetic with surprisingly deep character customization options
Cons:
  • Controls, mechanics, and level-designs can get a little frustrating, making some levels more of a slog than they should be

Unfortunately, not everything about Moving Out is a resounding success. Here, cooperation is far more important than in Overcooked. Heavy items will be difficult to fit into the moving van if they aren’t packed first, some items can’t be moved or thrown at all without a second helper, and so on. 

Not being able to function efficiently in a conveyor belt fashion feels like a weakness in the game mechanics; Overcooked is equally insane and raucous, but any job can be undertaken by one person if the other chefs fall into lava or get distracted by a pack of thieving rats.

In Moving Out, however, there can be a lot of waiting around for other players to return if they get caught by a ghost or walk a little too close to a passing car. 

On the flip side, my partner found the increased emphasis on teamwork more engaging and this is now her preferred party game, so your mileage may vary.

Whatever your preference is, Moving Out certainly provides the same flavor of co-operative tension and burst-out-loud laughter as Overcooked. With 30+ levels in varied environments on top of tons of bonus objectives to strive for, there’s lots to enjoy in this entertaining party hit.

[Note: A copy of Moving Out Was provided by Team 17 for the purpose of this review.]

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A Fold Apart Review: Scoring Heart and Soul https://www.gameskinny.com/5olqi/a-fold-apart-review-scoring-heart-and-soul https://www.gameskinny.com/5olqi/a-fold-apart-review-scoring-heart-and-soul Fri, 17 Apr 2020 11:00:02 -0400 Jonathan Moore

There is perhaps no game that better captures the intricacies of being in a relationship than A Fold Apart. Focusing on the emotional pitfalls of distance and how communication colors our understanding of one another, it ultimately speaks to the higher sphere of connection between two people. 

Heartfelt and touching, A Fold Apart is a manifesto to the strength of love. 

It's difficult to put into words how I feel about A Fold Apart. The degree to which it so accurately captures the complexities of love is borderline baffling. To say it is merely a puzzle game is to misrepresent the elaborate rhythms pulsing beneath its wonderfully-realized veneer. 

A Fold Apart Review: Scoring Heart and Soul

Before you understand how A Fold Apart works, it's important to understand it is a game about long-distance relationships. Separated by an interminable distance, a couple wades through the ebb and flow of day-to-day communication, and the story plays out across two distinct worlds: the real world and the emotional world. 

In the real world, the couple communicates primarily through text messages. Though many of the messages are routine or even mundane, they accurately convey the reality of an average relationship. While that could be construed as a knock on A Fold Apart, it's precisely the opposite.

It is a reason the game excels. 

There are moments in A Fold Apart that could have been taken right out of my conversations with my wife, as if text messages were pulled straight from my phone. And there are other moments further along that I know will resonate with players in a similar way. It's these tiny anchor points that resonate so deeply throughout the narrative. 

The other portion of A Fold Apart takes place in the emotional world. As the couple shares stories and hopes for their life together, miscommunication inevitably sneaks in, becoming the germ for fear, doubt, and guilt. When these emotions derail a conversation, whichever of the characters you're controlling tumbles into the emotional world. 

That is where you complete the game's puzzles, the physical manifestations of emotion. 

While the real world is often vibrantly cheery, bright, and full of life, the emotional world is often represented as a twisted Tim-Burton-caricature of a Pixar film. Buildings cant and crack, and thunderheads loom ominously in the distance. Hues are distinctly depressive, and the music is often melancholic. 

As for the puzzles themselves, things begin easy enough, with the tutorial teaching you how to fold each postcard-sized frame horizontally, from both right and left. You then learn how to flip the frame and fold again to create new pathways toward your goal. You then learn how to unfold to create even more pathways, by which you fold, unfold, and flip once again. 

These core principles follow you through many of the game's early chapters and stages. Eventually, things become more complex, and you find yourself folding corners, folding vertically, using blocks, and turning puzzles completely upside down, throwing your character from one side of a puzzle to another. 

Thankfully, puzzles evolve with the narrative's growing complexity, requiring you employ all of the skills you've learned along the way. Yet, they're never insurmountable. 

If you really get stuck, the game has a nifty hint feature that you can use at your leisure. Get stuck, and you can pause the game to get a hint. If you need, the hint system can even solve the entire puzzle for you, slowly metering out pointers at the click of a button or the press of a key. 

I reviewed A Fold Apart on PC, so I can't speak to how it feels on mobile devices or the Nintendo Switch. I can say, however, that the game controls delightfully. Both mouse and keyboard and controller are supported on Steam, with each providing an entirely different yet agreeable feel. 

On controller, you use the left thumbstick to move your character across a 2D plane and the right thumbstick to fold the paper. "A" locks in the fold and "B" unfolds. The bumpers flip the postcard from one side to the other, while "Y" rotates the card. 

Movements and actions on a controller are incredibly fluid and intuitive. However, on mouse and keyboard, solving puzzles feels perfectly tactile. Specifically, it's the action of moving your mouse to an edge, clicking to grab it, pulling the mouse to fold it, and releasing the mouse button to confirm the fold. It's a small subtly but one worth exploring in a game all about feel.  

I used a controller across my first playthrough, but my entire outlook changed by using a mouse and keyboard on my second. In no small way did it feel like I was legitimately folding paper. 

A Fold Apart Review — The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Fantastically unique puzzles
  • Realistic, emotive writing
  • Moving soundtrack
  • Four couples to play as
Cons
  • Some hard-to-read 3D text
  • Puzzles often explore the same emotions
  • Some puzzles are very (very) short

There's so much more I could say about A Fold Apart, from its moving soundtrack to its wonderful and fitting artwork. I've said some of those things in my preview of the game, which is certainly worth a read if you want to know more. 

A Fold Apart is an indie gem. To be frank, I've rarely been captured by a game like this; historically, I fall off the wagon at some point near the beginning. But A Fold Apart charmingly weaves so tightly into your conscious that it's impossible to forget. 

Some of its puzzles are on the wrong side of short and rely too heavily on negative emotions, while some of the font takes more effort to read than it should. The text message boxes also stand out as somehow anachronistically simplistic, but perhaps that's a tick in my design brain being picky. 

However, the game is so incredibly charming and so accurately depicts the rigors and pleasures of being in love that I can't help but adore it. The first title from Lightning Rod Games isn't perfect by definition, but even with a few tiny blemishes, it's only a fold apart. 

[Note: A copy of A Fold Apart was provided by Lightning Rod Games for the purpose of this review.]

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Lightning Rod Games Unfurls Release Date for A Fold Apart https://www.gameskinny.com/odxww/lightning-rod-games-unfurls-release-date-for-a-fold-apart https://www.gameskinny.com/odxww/lightning-rod-games-unfurls-release-date-for-a-fold-apart Thu, 09 Apr 2020 12:32:09 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Lightning Rod Games announced its romance-and-paper puzzle adventure release date today. A Fold Apart launches on April 17 for Apple Arcade, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.

The news was accompanied by a gorgeous and bittersweet trailer highlighting the games' central points: learning to navigate long-distance relationships and solving paper-themed puzzles.

You'll take control of one of four couples and navigate the highs and lows of keeping that relationship alive when you're apart. The game is about communication and learning to adapt, as much as its clever puzzles — but it's about those, too.

A Fold Apart tasks you with solving over 50 of them, some of which actually started as handcrafted paper puzzles in real life. Flipping and folding elements of the paper puzzles helps bring both partners closer together, even if it isn't literally bridging the distance.

For a game that's been in development for more than four years, Lightning Rod Co-Founder Mark Laframboise said that he never imagined how the meaning of A Fold Apart would change between inception and release. 

When we first started developing A Fold Apart in 2015, my goal was to tell a touching story about the romantic, sentimental, but fundamentally lonely feelings that my significant other and I experienced while living apart

We never would have imagined that we’d be releasing the game in an environment where nearly all of us around the world are physically separated from loved ones and experiencing that loneliness firsthand.

...Creating A Fold Apart was a way for me to navigate those difficult emotions and I hope that the game can help others find some hope and comfort (and, most importantly, fun!) in these challenging times as well.

GameSkinny Editor-in-Chief, Jonathan Moore, explored those emotions firsthand at PAX East, concluding, "I think A Fold Apart will be one of the few games that accurately captures what it's like to love  no matter the distance."

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for our review of A Fold Apart on launch day, April 17.

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Murder by Numbers Review — A Blast in the Past! https://www.gameskinny.com/hef9f/murder-by-numbers-review-a-blast-in-the-past https://www.gameskinny.com/hef9f/murder-by-numbers-review-a-blast-in-the-past Mon, 09 Mar 2020 17:09:16 -0400 Jonny Foster

Murder by Numbers had me hooked from the moment I laid eyes on it.

A detective-themed visual novel with Picross puzzles featuring legendary composer Masakazu Sugimori — best known for the Phoenix Wright series and Viewtiful Joe — is a combination that a nerd like me could only dream of. But boot up the game and you're met with an outstanding anime intro that will blow you away.

I'll give you a few seconds to recover. 

Whereas Murder by Numbers could have buckled under its own weight, thankfully, everything holds up to the quality and caliber that I was expecting. Murder by Numbers is something truly special — and I say that as someone that bought my copy as soon as it was available.

Murder by Numbers Review — A Blast in the Past!

The comparisons to the Phoenix Wright series are instantly evident. Not only do the visuals share the same motif of hand-drawn 2D sprites, speech boxes, and thick lines, but the gameplay is very similar, too. 

You'll hunt for clues, solve puzzles, question witnesses, and present evidence to unravel each mystery. Murder by Numbers has a more grounded narrative and cast, though, which often plays to its advantage.

There are enjoyable pop-culture references throughout that establish the mid-90's setting. Everything from Miss Marple to MC Hammer gets a mention, while the game's clothes, cars, and other titbits scream reinforce that aesthetic. A younger audience may have less appreciation for these nuances, but the art-style representing them is lush, vibrant, and drop-dead gorgeous. 

With good reason, too; Murder by Numbers' characters have been designed by Hato Mao, the star behind Mediatonic's previous endeavor: Hatoful Boyfriend

The characters may be drawn brilliantly, but the writing is where Murder by Numbers really shines. SCOUT, the lovable AI side-kick to our protagonist, starts off as a simple robot who doesn't understand that humans aren't always literal. SCOUT soon learns, though, to recognize — and execute — the nuances of lying and much, much more.

In fact, the cast almost universally finds personal growth throughout the game's four cases, but it would be a disservice to Murder by Numbers to spoil those.

What I will highlight is that Ryan is a scarily accurate portrayal of an abusive, gaslighting ex, and K.C.'s tender charm and quippy flamboyance paint a wonderfully well-rounded picture.  

Some characters definitely grate at times, but there always seems to be another side to them that develops along the way and explains their behavior. It shows that humans are complex, multi-faceted beings with much more going on than we can immediately understand — a powerful lesson we can all learn from. 

The writing is often so good that you often find yourself playing long after your puzzle-solving capabilities have abandoned you and your brain has turned to mush. 

As much as that is a compliment of the writing, it is also a small shortcoming of the gameplay. Picross puzzles are certainly enjoyable for a while, but I would have preferred more puzzle variety than the smattering that Murder by Numbers occasionally provides.

There is an Easy mode and various hints if you're not feeling like the Riddler, however, and the game provides bonus puzzles for hardcore geeks that want to find and solve everything (like me!) 

This keeps Murder by Numbers accessible and interesting to a much wider audience than it might otherwise, which is no small feat for a puzzle game. Less than $15 for 10-15 hours of enjoyment is a pretty sweet deal, too! 

Finally, let's talk audio. I've written entire articles before on Masakazu Sugimori's superlative command of music, and their talent is as evident here as it's ever been. 

The soundtrack is lively, bouncy, and upbeat. It's inspirational and uplifting when the moment is happy, it's imposing and harsh when the pressure is on, and it's cold and gloomy when the protagonist doubts themselves. 

I could go on and on but to save us all a few hours: the soundtrack is fantastic. Pump it directly into your veins and it will grant you immortality... probably.

Murder by Numbers Review — The Bottom Line

Pros:
  • Top-class writing that's constantly evolving to keep you entertained and enthralled
  • Gorgeous graphics and audio; some of the best in any visual novel to date
  • Simple puzzling fun that's accessible to all players
Cons:
  • Character sprites and music don't always match the situation 

 

There are a couple of instances where Murder by Numbers stumbles, such as when a lively tune takes over in spite of the threatening circumstances that proceed a puzzle. But this seems to be a small oversight as most occasions retain the imposing tracks that played before starting the puzzle. 

Another minor issue I ran into was with the character's expressions; they're limited by the number of sprites drawn for each cast member, and they could all use at least one more sprite to capture a wider range of emotion, often more. And though Mediatonic has mostly matched the expressions to dialog, there are a few notable occasions where someone's face just doesn't quite match their dialogue.

These small gripes might keep it just out of reach of a perfect score, but Murder by Numbers is an exceptional title that joins the list of games I'll be recommending to anyone that will listen for years to come. 

It's just that good. 

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A Fold Apart Reminds Us That We're Never Too Far From Love https://www.gameskinny.com/4whvg/a-fold-apart-reminds-us-that-were-never-too-far-from-love https://www.gameskinny.com/4whvg/a-fold-apart-reminds-us-that-were-never-too-far-from-love Tue, 03 Mar 2020 17:21:16 -0500 Jonathan Moore

It's been a while since a game easily and truly moved me. As many of us surely have, I've ridden the emotive waves forged in the wake of games like The Last of Us and To the Moon, but those washed over me once I began the journey, not beforehand.

With A Fold Apart from indie developer Lightning Rod Games, it all began with a trailer. 

With its striking complimentary colors and Pixar aesthetic, the trailer quickly drew me in. It made me laugh and cry in less time than it takes to finish the first several puzzles of the game. A minute, to be exact. I showed the trailer to my wife, and she had a similar reaction, tearing up and reaching over for my hand as we watched.  

Fast forward to PAX East in Boston some weeks later, and I was able to finally go hands-on with the game that so quickly captivated me. As soon as I hit "Start," I wished my wife was right there beside me so we could experience it together. 

A Fold Apart, at least in my currently limited experience, is a game brimming with emotion, which makes sense considering its spirited genesis. 

According to Co-Founder Mark Laframboise, who led me through the first five puzzles of the game at PAX East, AFA is "a game about long-distance relationships in a world of folding paper," where thousands of miles can feel like millions. 

Coming up with how to translate that feeling of hopeful detachment into a video game didn't come immediately, but after working through a few iterations, the team was able to construct the clever design underpinning A Fold Apart. 

"I really wanted to make a game that told the story of a long-distance relationship," said Laframboise, "but I wanted mechanics that matched it. The original pitch was that if you have a character on one side of a piece of paper and a character living on the other, they're in basically two different worlds. But when you fold the paper, you merge the two worlds together."

In practice, it's a smart idea that works exceedingly well for a puzzle game, and one that's easily recognizable across generations and bridges the gap between cell phones and postcards. 

The story of A Fold Apart revolves around an architect and a teacher. Separated by an undetermined distance, they communicate through text messages. Smartly, those interactions are represented not by characters staring at phones, but by characters traversing through charmingly designed levels in what Laframboise calls "the emotional world." 

Here levels consist of linear pieces of paper that also look a lot like postcards. They then feature puzzles, which represent various emotional states, such as joy and sadness, reverie and gloom. Solving the puzzles, then, helps the characters navigate the emotional waters of distance and ultimately come together. 

The opening puzzles are rather tranquil, meant to ease you into the world and acquaint you with the game's relatively simple mechanics and controls. Coupled with the game's soothing music and contrasting colors, everything works in concert to relax you, at least in these early stages. 

Laframboise says there are 58 total puzzles in the game, bringing the running time to about three to four hours for most players. In my time with A Fold Apart, I was able to play through the first five puzzles, with one doing its best to stump me. It gave me a glimpse of what I hope is to come in later levels, with more complex emotions leading into more complex puzzle design.  

Currently, A Fold Apart is set to release on Apple Arcade, the Nintendo Switch, and PC sometime in March or April, according to Laframboise. It will release on PS4 and Xbox One "sometime after that," bringing it to almost every major platform, Google Play notwithstanding. 

It's true that perception and circumstance can color our expectations. Perhaps being far from my wife while playing A Fold Apart has led me to expect too much from its overarching narrative. But I don't think so, especially considering the emotional power of its trailer.

Though I'll find out soon enough, I think A Fold Apart will be one of the few games that accurately captures what it's like to love  no matter the distance. 

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South Korean Ratings Point to Catherine: Full Body, XCOM 2 on Switch https://www.gameskinny.com/v80v2/south-korean-ratings-point-to-catherine-full-body-xcom-2-on-switch https://www.gameskinny.com/v80v2/south-korean-ratings-point-to-catherine-full-body-xcom-2-on-switch Wed, 19 Feb 2020 11:14:09 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Over the weekend, Nintendo Switch ratings for Atlus' puzzle game, Catherine: Full Body, and Firaxis' turn-based strategy game, the XCOM 2 Collection, were spotted on the South Korean Game Rating and Administration Committee website. The ratings were originally filed in January.

Apart from meaning the games have official South Korean ratings, it means official announcements might be around the corner. Unlike so-called leaks and dodgy retailer postings — which are right only some of the time — a published rating means the game is probably going to be released sometime soon.

That's why we'll probably be hearing more about Tales of Arise sooner rather than later. And the ratings leaks for Doom 64 late last year ended up being true. 

Catherine: Full Body would be Atlus' first title for the Switch. It's... certainly an interesting choice for the first title, but hopefully that, plus the recent survey recognizing fan demand for titles on the platform, means we can look forward to more Atlus games on Switch in the future, other than Shin Megami Tensei V.

#BreakFreePersona this isn't, but it's a start — and no one even had to beg for it.

XCOM 2 Collection is a bit more at home on the Switch. After all, the system already has three squad-based tactics games — Valkyria Chronicles 1, Valkyria Chronicles 4, and Mario+Rabbids. Having all the additional XCOM 2 content in one package would be very convenient (and affordable) as well.

Whether we'll be hearing official announcements for Catherine and XCOM 2 on Switch in an upcoming Nintendo Direct, we'll just have to wait and see. Either way, what with The Witcher 3 on Switch, Bioshock: The Collection, and plenty of others, it seems like last year's April Fool's joke of "Everything's coming to the Switch!" was rather prophetic after all.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Switch port news as it develops.

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Areia: Pathway to Dawn Review — Wandering Through the Wasteland https://www.gameskinny.com/4yika/areia-pathway-to-dawn-review-wandering-through-the-wasteland https://www.gameskinny.com/4yika/areia-pathway-to-dawn-review-wandering-through-the-wasteland Wed, 22 Jan 2020 11:10:51 -0500 RobertPIngram

The word "ambition" is generally used in gaming when referring to large games with complicated plots and intense gaming mechanics. While this can no-doubt be true, I feel the same should be said of games that try to do a lot with very little. It is an ambitious task to try to create a compelling and engrossing gaming experience without the luxury of an expansive set of bells and whistles.

By these standards, Areia: Pathway to Dawn is an undoubtedly ambitious title. Developer Gilp Studio dives headfirst into the pool of excellent games that use environmental storytelling and puzzle-solving to create an immersive world. What makes this such a lofty goal is the lack of a safety net these games provide.

A big-budget, AAA game that misses on some of what it tries to do may still result in a perfectly fine gaming experience. When a smaller ambitious project goes even a little off course, it can have significantly more harmful effects.

Unfortunately, Areia: Pathway to Dawn misses the mark just a few times too many to make for an enjoyable gaming experience. The misses take away from the hits and result in a game that is fine, but where your time could be better spent on one of the more polished entries in the genre.

Areia: Pathway to Dawn Review— Wandering Through the Wasteland

Areia is far from the first game to place you in control of a voiceless character in a pretty, abandoned setting set on your way with minimal guidance. Allowing the player to learn about the world and how it operates by exploring it is a great way to draw you in and make the world engrossing. However, the opening stage to Areia simply gets it wrong.

Levels in the game generally consist of identifying a landmark in the distance then making your way towards it, solving problems and overcoming obstacles along the way. The primary obstacle placed before you as you progress toward your first landmark is jagged shells in the sand.

Stepping on the sharp shells won't kill you, and it won't entirely stop your progress. Instead, the uncomfortable ground reduces your movement to a slow, jerky progression. In the early phases of the level, this can be a little annoying if you miss a jump and have to slowly fight your way through to the other side. At the end of the stage, it becomes more of a problem.

Faced with navigating a path through the shells while moving into a strong headwind, I accidentally backtracked into the shells. While the headwind merely slows you down in normal settings, with the reduced movement of the hostile terrain, it meant my character was slowly blown backwards, further and further into the sea of shells.

I was left to decide if working with the wind and hoping to be blown clean through would be quicker than acting like I was caught in a riptide and moving horizontally relative to the wind's gusts. Ultimately, I did the latter, but it took ages and set a sour tone for the game.

Clunky Controls Undo Clever Concepts

Games like Areia need to have a strong base for their challenges and puzzles, and this is one area where Areia excels. The primary system of puzzles in the game is a variation on the riddle that tasks you with connecting three different utilities to three different homes without crossing any lines.

As you travel the world, you encounter small shrines with nodes, paired off by color spread out around them. By creating a link from each node to its matching partner, you complete the puzzle and activate the shrine.

This is introduced with a simple puzzle of two colors on opposite sides of the shrine, but as you progress, the puzzles grow more complex. By the time you near the game's conclusion, you're dealing with four colors, changes in elevation, and a new way to move your character around the world.

The act of solving each puzzle is fun, and the design behind the puzzles is excellent. Unfortunately, as the challenges get more difficult, the game's unwieldy controls become more of a problem. What is a minor annoyance as you wander up and down some early-game sand dunes is a source of proper frustration as you struggle to follow the more-complex paths you need to create your final chains.

Areia: Pathway to Dawn Review — The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Engaging puzzles offer an enjoyable mental test
  • Beautiful worlds to explore when played on maximum graphic quality
Cons
  • Loose controls make precise navigation frustrating
  • Lack of clarity on some stages makes progression confusing 

A major draw for Areia: Pathway to Dawn is its price point. At just $10, it provides a game on par in length with many games that would cost you between two and three times as much. With that consideration in mind, it becomes easier to recommend as a game that will require neither a massive investment of your money or your time to experience in its entirety.

With that said, I still fall just short of recommending the game to anyone but the most devout fans of the genre. While there are plenty of little touches to like about Areia, and it is a game that was clearly developed with love and ambition, it ultimately falls short of the mark too frequently to receive a full-throated backing.

In a crowded gaming market where games like Lost Ember and The Sojourn exist, there are simply better options out there that look to scratch the same itches that Areia: Pathway to Dawn does, only they do so more capably.

If you do throw down your 10 bucks and boot this up, you're not likely to be disappointed with the money you've spent, but you're not looking at an experience you'll be raving about to all of your friends either.

[Note: A copy of Areia: Pathway to Dawn was provided by Gilp Studio for the purpose of this review.]

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Wattam Review: Wattam I to do With You? https://www.gameskinny.com/d0w1g/wattam-review-wattam-i-to-do-with-you https://www.gameskinny.com/d0w1g/wattam-review-wattam-i-to-do-with-you Tue, 17 Dec 2019 15:33:42 -0500 Jason Coles

Wattam is one of those games that should probably become part of a mandatory syllabus in gaming. It’s a game that perfectly captures a feeling while using very few words.

There’s no violence to indulge in, no racing or, other nonsense, and Wattam's puzzles are fun rather than frustrating. The point of the game isn’t to be hard or even challenging; it’s simply meant to be.

Wattam exists solely to be played, and playing it will put a smile on your face. Wattam is here purely to inspire joy, and it succeeds in every possible metric with that in mind.

Wattam Review: Wattam I to do With You?

If you’re unfamiliar with Wattam, it’s understandable. The title comes from the mind of Keita Takahashi, who created the Katamari games. Takahashi makes experiences for players to take in, rather than games. It sounds a little pretentious, but it seems to just be his design philosophy.

It doesn’t matter how you specifically interact with any of his worlds, just that those worlds are entertaining  and a bit different.

The distinction here is that Wattam is a more emotional journey than Katamari. While Katamari has you rolling up balls of stuff to create new celestial bodies because your dad is a layabout, Wattam has you reconnecting with old friends, and solving their problems along the way.

You start off as a green cube with a hat called the Mayor. He’s all alone at first until he discovers his friend Stone. You then find Rock, and you continue to discover new friends as you play through the game.

Your interactions with the world vary depending on the character you’re controlling, and, as such, switching between them is incredibly easy, and also vital to your success. You can hold hands, dance around in circles, and occasionally do other context-sensitive things like eat, poop, and flush, depending on what you’re controlling.

You can also  and this is the most important thing  lift your hat up revealing an explosive present which can send you rocketing through the sky while laughing.

Explosions Unite Us

What makes it so enjoyable is the incredible undercurrent of hope flowing throughout the game. Every time a new friend comes back to you, you get a welcome back message, and as you uncover the mysteries of the world and its setting, there’s always talk of cherishing the things that you have, even in the face of adversity or loss.

I can’t talk about a lot of Wattam without spoiling it, but the game often feels like a hodgepodge of multiple titles instead of one. You flit between different one-off mechanics just because you can. You’re welcome to use those mechanics in your time with the game, but they’re not needed again after their initial use. It’s fascinating, and it’s fleeting — and it's one of themes that Wattam deals with.

Though I may be reading into some of it, the tones weaving through Wattam are all fairly obvious. I could easily talk about how it dips into the idea of rebirth and cycles of karma. I could talk about how there is an obvious reference to the myth of the Tower of Babel, and how language can separate us, but explosions can unite us in luminous, colorful light.

Wattam Review — The Bottom Line

Pros: 
  • More charming than Paul Rudd
  • Wonderful music 
  • Good story
Cons
  • A bit short 
  • The gameplay won't appeal to everyone

Wattam manages to deal with a multitude of things while wrapped up in an adorable and vivid shell. It’s incredibly easy on the eyes, and the trademark charm of Takahashi is present throughout. Plus, the soundtrack capital "S" Slaps. It flows brilliantly as you go from place to place and even character to character. In a phrase, it’s wonderful.

Wattam is a delight to play, to watch, and to take part in. It tells a story full of hope in a world that is so frequently without it, and it's all about connections (it's not Death Stranding, so stop it).

The happiness you'll get from playing Wattam is reason enough to embark on this strange quest, but the emotions you'll feel along the way are the true gift that Wattam gives. It is a world that asks you only to accept it's strange logic and rewards you with pure joy, and that's a really good deal. 

[Note: Annapurna Interactive provided a copy of Wattam for the purpose of this review.]

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The Sojourn Review: A Little Bit Goes a Long Way https://www.gameskinny.com/iqgms/the-sojourn-review-a-little-bit-goes-a-long-way https://www.gameskinny.com/iqgms/the-sojourn-review-a-little-bit-goes-a-long-way Thu, 19 Sep 2019 13:42:20 -0400 RobertPIngram

In a world that seems to be in a neverending race to the next big release, sometimes what you really need is to step back and bask in the joy of simple mechanics set to flawless execution.

Sure, flair can be fun, and when done well, a big game offers unique and thrilling experiences. But all that flash also provides cover, allowing gamers to overlook small problems as minor inconveniences in a larger, excellent whole. 

When a developer makes the decision to keep things simple, they are taking a risk. By only offering players a few simple ideas, any failure to execute on those ideas becomes impossible to miss.

I recently looked at Vane, a puzzle game which tries to employ simple mechanics but becomes weighed down by errors in execution which turn it into a frustrating experience. For all its flaws, most disappointing is that it left the impression that there was space for a visually arresting game with simple controls and clever puzzles to flourish.

It created an itch it wasn't ready to scratch.

With The Sojourn, that itch is soothed.

Basic Doesn't Mean Boring

If you're looking for a game where you can fall into the rhthym of fast-paced button mashing and thumbstick flicks, The Sojourn is not the game for you.

The game unfolds, quite literally, at the pace of a casual walk. Your goal on any given level is simple: make your way to the exit. Of course, this is a game, so it's not as simple as walking over to it.

Each level presents a puzzle to be solved, and rarely does a level not require you utilize a new mechanic or uniquely implement a prior one to do so. This is the key to what separates The Sojourn from similar titles which fall flat. Despite the fact you are rarely asked to perform incredible feats of digital athleticism, and what abilities you possess are added to your repertoire at a leisurely pace, each new puzzle will get your gears turning as you puzzle out the riddle in front of you. 

Embrace the Darkness to Follow the Light

While I'm not going to delve too deeply into the game's slowly-expanding array of tricks because this is a game best experienced fresh, a look at the game's broader ideas can help demonstrate its appeal.

At its core, the primary concept which underpins most of the mechanics in The Sojourn is the existence of both light and dark, different versions of the areas you explore. For the most part, the two are similar, with just a few small differences. For example, one noticeable change might be the existence of bridges in darkness, which can be used to cross chasms in the world of light. 

More importantly, though, you gain the ability to interact with statues when in the dark.

Initially, there is just one type of statue, though others are discovered as you progress. These initial statues allow you to switch places with them when activated. This is an essential mechanic because your time in the darkness is limited by the number of steps you can take. By swapping with a statue placed closer to the area you need to reach, you can expand the range in which you can travel.

That's just one of the ways the statues are required to solve the puzzles of The Sojourn. Soon you will encounter stages where the statues serve as keys to open gates, or are duplicated in machines, or have runes which let you activate them in the light.

With each new function, the complexity of the puzzles you face goes up, all while requiring the simplest of inputs.

A Beautiful World for a Beautiful Game

The Sojourn is such an elegantly executed game that it deserves an elegant world in which to play it, and once again, it delivers.

The visuals are often beautiful, colorful, and occasionally surreal. Just wandering around the gorgeous levels is as an enjoyable experience as a walking simulator. And just as those games, there are often wonderful monuments to gaze at. 

The game takes a similarly esoteric approach to storytelling. Rather than relying on NPC dialogues or extended cutscenes, the game uses environmental storytelling and the occasional brief on-screen message. You find yourself drawn along through the puzzles while absorbing what you can of the world with each new level.

Pros:
  • Engrossing puzzles continue to find intriguing ways to challenge your brain with each new level
  • A beautiful world is stunning to explore as you reason your way through puzzles
  • Simple starting mechanics with a slow-but-steady increase creates a smooth learning curve for players
Cons:
  • Slower pace may not be ideal for all gamers
  • Plotting often requires players to put pieces together, which may leave some players behind

I came into The Sojourn without any lofty expectations. Perhaps it was a case of once bitten, twice shy after having my hopes dashed in a similar experience with Vane.

While I may not have come in expecting much, The Sojourn took little time to set its hooks and win me over, and my first sitdown with the game lasted a full 90 minutes longer than I had budgeted for. It was only a complete inability to remain awake at such a late hour which finally saw me quit back to my desktop and finally go to bed.

While The Sojourn falls just short of being a game that everyone needs to play, as there are some gamers who just know from the description of "slow and serene play" that it's not their cup of tea, it's worth your time if anything about the game sounds intriguing to you.

You won't be disappointed by the time you spend navigating its puzzles and taking in its beautiful world.

[Note: A copy of The Sojourn was provided by Iceberg Interactive for the purpose of this review.]

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Why We Need a New Katamari Damacy https://www.gameskinny.com/ywv8e/why-we-need-a-new-katamari-damacy https://www.gameskinny.com/ywv8e/why-we-need-a-new-katamari-damacy Fri, 07 Sep 2018 14:57:22 -0400 Bryant Pereira

According to a post on ResetEra, Bandai Namco recently filed a trademark for Katamari Damacy Reroll. While no information has been officially announced, the title of the trademark hints at the possibility of a remaster or HD collection. The last Katamari game to release on consoles was Touch My Katamari for the PlayStation Vita in 2012. Two mobile titles, Tap My Katamari and Amazing Katamari Damacy were released in the past two years.

Other than the obvious reasons -- like six years passing since a console release and giving me an excuse to sing the incredibly catchy theme -- there couldn't be a better time for a new entry to the Katamari series.

In a console era brimming with hyper-violence, realistic graphics, and a focus on competitive gaming, giving gamers the opportunity to unwind and lose themselves in a world of quirky wonders is especially welcome. Of course, games like Donut County and the upcoming Untitled Goose Game, are scratching that itch a bit, but they still don't satisfy that feeling of rolling up every object and person in sight.

For those unaware, Katamari Damacy is a game that puts players in the minuscule shoes of The Prince of Cosmos, as he takes his magic ball and rolls different objects up around the world to increase the size of said ball. The reason for doing so? Well, your father accidentally destroyed all the stars in the cosmos and needs to replace them. Simple enough, right?

One thing that made the Katamari games so enjoyable is the way they plop you into this vibrant world with the most outrageous, nonsensical background story you're expected to live and breath from beginning to end. From the King of the Cosmos' hilarious and belittling conversations with you to the bizarre cries and sound effects of picking up stray cats and alarm clocks on the side of the road. Did I mention the phenomenal soundtrack?

Controlling the magical Katamari ball with dual stick controls is surprisingly smooth and intuitive. While it takes some getting used to, running across town picking up pieces of candy (at first) to literally pulling out homes and trees from the ground is extremely satisfying from beginning to end. The artistic flair and inescapable charm will only be accentuated on modern day consoles. 

The PS4 and Xbox One are capable of displaying vast worlds with amazing detail and superbly realistic graphics, but that doesn't mean that the additional graphical power wouldn't make a new Katamari title striking and breathtaking, too. We've seen that games like Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 can push console capabilities to their limits while staying true to their specific art style. Series creator Keita Takashi was so impressed by Bluepoint Games Shadow of the Colossus remake he tweeted them asking to remaster Katamari as well.

Pushing graphical fidelity aside, the current console generation can also give Katamari fans more of what they really want -- objects to stick to their Katamari. With better processing power, the outlandish levels can be filled to the brim with even more unique and creative items to get in the way and ultimately become a beautiful glowing star in the sky. 

Don't think we've forgotten about how Katamari and the Switch would be a match made in heaven. The pick-up and play capability of the Switch suites the gameplay of Katamari perfectly. Each level only takes about 10-15 minutes to complete (not including collectibles), and the low-stress, wacky play style fits excellently with handheld play. Touch My Katamari and the mobile games gave us a taste of what portable Katamari can be, but we're ready to see that taken to the next level. The delay of the Nintendo Direct this week has us on the edge of our seat when it comes to possible announcements.

Whether an HD collection, a full-on remaster, or a new entry to the series, the time for a new Katamari Damacy game is upon us. Unless of course, it's a gacha-styled game playing on the 'Reroll' part of the title, in which case, we'll be patiently waiting for our beloved King of Cosmos to bless us once more.  

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Unravel Two Review: Can Two Yarnys Form a Close-Knit Camaraderie? https://www.gameskinny.com/s4x69/unravel-two-review-can-two-yarnys-form-a-close-knit-camaraderie https://www.gameskinny.com/s4x69/unravel-two-review-can-two-yarnys-form-a-close-knit-camaraderie Tue, 26 Jun 2018 10:34:22 -0400 Edgar Wulf

Unravel Two is a sequel to the platforming game of the same name (bar the "Two", of course), which is developed by Coldwood Interactive and published by Electronic Arts. This sequel follows the story of not one, but two Yarnys, both of whom can be controlled by either one or two players in local co-op.

The tale begins with the red Yarny from the first game being washed ashore on an island by a horrendous storm. There, the red Yarny immediately befriends a blue Yarny and their threads conjoin via a mysterious light, which will guide them throughout the rest of the game.

This connection is significant, as many of Unravel Two's puzzles revolve around clever use of the thread.

Thread Carefully

Unravel Two's first chapter, which acts as a tutorial, is likely the game's weakest segment, with hardly any puzzles and no real challenges to overcome. That is usually not a problem for most games -- an introduction to a game's mechanics is often welcome, especially if it's targeting a younger audience -- but I quickly grew bored with and had to push myself toward, what I hoped would be, much more engaging levels ahead.

Subsequent chapters can be accessed via the game's Lighthouse, which is unlocked after completing the tutorial and acts as a hub from there on. And what's more, after completing Chapter II, the first set of bonus levels is unlocked in the Lighthouse. These are short, increasingly challenging levels which revolve around saving other Yarnys from captivity. Successful completions of each bonus level reward players with additional options for customizing a Yarny: such as thier appearance and color.

The bonus levels, however, are completely optional and can be ignored entirely. 

A Yarn Good Time

Unravel Two begins to the shine the further you get into it by adding more complex puzzles to the platforming formula; thankfully, it gradually becomes satisfyingly difficult.

Puzzles are sufficiently challenging, requiring constant switching between Yarnys (which is seamless) during a solo run, as well as incorporating the use of a thread and surrounding objects. And although most puzzles usually don't take more than a few minutes to solve, there's a handy feature that provides helpful hints at the push of a button. I seldom used it and depending on your experience with platformer/puzzlers, you may never use it either. However, it's a great option to have for younger players -- and one that doesn't sully the experience for more seasoned players.

Likewise, there's also a feature that slows down time during platforming sequences. This mechanic is especially useful for attempting the game's time trials, as the amount by which time is slowed can be adjusted in the options menu.

And as you might have guessed, there is no combat in the game, but certain enemies are present, all of whom must be avoided. As ridiculous as it may sound, fleeing from a humongous turkey ready to peck your yarn out is no joke.

Weaving a "Story" Within Beautiful Locales

From the moment you start Unravel Two, it's obvious the game is pleasantly beautiful. Even though it's nothing that will blow you way, there's a serene atmosphere about the game, which is further accentuated by a captivating musical score.

Overall, chapters are diverse, with distinguishing locales, events, and puzzles unique to each particular stage. Like with many games in the genre, the scenery of Unravel Two consists of several layers -- some backdrops being gorgeous indeed -- and differentiating between objects in the foreground from those in the background is never an issue.

Story doesn't play a pivotal role in Unravel Two, but there is enough context provided to keep you and the Yarnys moving forward. 

Yarnys themselves seem to exist in a parallel universe -- indicated by the many human characters only appearing in phantom-like forms throughout the game. The mysterious light, on the other hand, acts as a mediator between the two worlds, capable of affecting the human world after certain puzzles are solved -- and saving the human children from a distress as a result.

There could be a deeper meaning to the game that I simply missed. Nonetheless, the ending leaves you with a positive sensation -- as if you've accomplished a good deed in the end.

The main story shouldn't take more than four to five hours to complete -- but it feels sufficient. More playtime can be added by attempting time trials, gathering collectables scattered across chapters, and completing bonus levels -- many of which are more challenging than those found in the main chapters.

Final Thoughts

Although I enjoyed Unravel Two, I found certain climbing sections awkward, lacking animation in comparison to the rest of the game. The tutorial also felt like a drag and the story wasn't overly engaging.

However, even without dialogue, I enjoyed the cute interactions between Yarnys, the relaxing atmosphere accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack, and coming up with solutions to the various conundrums in a magical world.

There is a lot to like about Unravel Two and the few shortcomings don't compromise the overall adventure.

If you've made up your mind, Unravel Two is available digitally on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and for more reviews on latest releases stay tuned right here on GameSkinny.

[Note: The developer provided the copy of Unravel Two used in this review.] 

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Felix the Reaper Presents a Fun Dance With Death (Preview) https://www.gameskinny.com/3g670/felix-the-reaper-presents-a-fun-dance-with-death-preview https://www.gameskinny.com/3g670/felix-the-reaper-presents-a-fun-dance-with-death-preview Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:00:41 -0500 Kat De Shields

If you would describe yourself as having a “dark sense of humor,” you’ll certainly want to keep an eye on Felix the Reaper.

Created by Kong Orange, a development studio based in Denmark, Felix, the titular Reaper, is a suit-wearing, be-bopping harbinger of death. Your job is to help him boogie down in the shadows to stage the deaths of unwitting souls in his midst.

According to Felix the Reaper’s website:

“Felix The Reaper is a romantic comedy about the life of Death. It's brought to you on PC as a 3D shadow manipulation puzzle adventure game of dance, dying people and dangerous love.”

Felix is madly in love with Betty the Maiden, and he’s working on his dancing skills to win her over. As a field reaper, he visits the human world to make sure people die the way they are destined to.  

As a character, Felix is a very likable remix of the classic Father Doom trope that usually goes along with the Grim Reaper. On multiple occasions, I found myself shimmying in my seat as I went about solving the puzzles ... and I’m sure you will, too.

Solving the puzzles requires managing toggles that move certain objects, picking up things and moving them, and -- most importantly -- managing the sun’s direction so you can safely walk in the shadows. Field Notes at the start of each level give you an animated clip of your objectives, and it is up to you to complete the task to move Felix one step closer to completing his deathly duties. As if Felix’s constant twirling and dancing weren’t enough to make you feel good, Kong Orange also threw in words of encouragement when you’re on the right track.

One of Felix the Reaper's many puzzles

It's a game that makes you feel good about Death. 

Your performance stats for each level are tracked, and there’s opportunity to go back and try to complete the puzzle with fewer moves, with fewer sun turns, in less time, and so on. It appears that the game will also include a “hardcore elite reaper trainee version,” but this wasn’t accessible in the demo.

At first glance, the game’s aesthetic has a distinct Roman Dirge feel to it. Fans of Lenore: the Cute Little Dead Girl, and Johnen Vasquez’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac will feel right at home with the dark comedy Felix the Reaper presents. However, a wildly dancing protagonist (no seriously, he dances constantly) and a colorful setting add an energetic overtone to smooth the darker edges.   

Completing puzzles in Felix the Reaper unlocks bonuses like this disco floor

You get your very own disco floor when you successfully complete an objective. 

The game’s aesthetics are furthered by the music. Kong Orange collected a diverse set list, and each level has its own tune. A feature I appreciated is the radio panel within the in-game menu which allows you to toggle back and forth between tracks you’ve discovered thus far. 

Although there’s no release date, you can keep up with Felix and the development team’s journey on the Felix the Reaper website, where you can check out trailers, behind-the-scenes footage, and other fun things related to the game.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Felix the Reaper news.

*The developer provided GameSkinny with a press demo for the purpose of this preview.*

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