LeaveIt2Beaver
Hey Extra Life Community -
 
We have some exciting news to share! In an effort to help make fundraising more fun, more accessible and ultimately easier, we’ve added two new applications to the Extra Life experience. Now you can fundraise through Facebook or on the go from your phone!
 

Extra Life Facebook App
Fundraising has never been quicker or easier than with the new Extra Life Facebook App. It installs in just a few seconds and allows you to opt-in to automatic status updates, upload Extra Life profile and cover pictures and ask your entire Facebook network for donations in just a few clicks. To start fundraising through the Extra Life Facebook App, login to to your Extra Life account, and click "Fundraise with Facebook" in the participant dashboard.
 

 
Extra Life Mobile App
Manage and share your Extra Life experience on the go with our new Extra Life mobile app. This free app lets you fundraise and connect with others through SMS, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Email. You can update your Extra Life page and check your fundraising progress all from the palm of your hand.

Download the app here: iPhone | Android
 
We’ve also spent the last couple of months improving the mobile experience on the Extra Life website so give the new apps a try. We want to hear what you think so send any feedback and ideas to community@extra-life.org or comment below and let us know!
For The Kids,

Mike Kinney
Team Extra Life
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
Jack Gardner
Telltale has announced that next Friday will be a big day of revelation for fans of both The Walking Dead and Batman. They will be holding a panel in the Hydra Theatre of the Grand Hyatt during PAX West. Those who attend in person will be able to ask the panel questions after the various announcements and might be walking away with a giveaway for sitting through the presentation.
 
We don't know exactly what will be shown regarding The Walking Dead at the panel, but the earlier reveal of the third season during E3 left many tantalizing possibilities. We know that this season will feature two playable protagonists, one of which will be series mainstay, Clem. Many expect at least one of the reveals during PAX West to be the fall release date that was hinted at during the initial announcement. 
 
 
Telltale will also be hosting a Crowd Play event using the new in-game Crowd Play feature that they've developed to make Telltale games a more multiplayer experience. This year, attendees of the Crowd Play event will be able to cooperatively play through Batman Episode 1: Realm of Shadows before receiving an early, exclusive look at the upcoming Episode 2: Children of Arkham. Giveaways will follow this event as well, and the press release included a winky face after that bit of information. Not entirely sure how to take that, but you might want to go to the Crowd Play event if you can.
Jack Gardner
Greg Johnson, the original designer of ToeJam and Earl, and his new Humanature Studios launched a Kickstarter for ToeJam and Earl: Back in the Groove in early 2015 that managed to surpass its funding goal with $508,637. For much of 2016, the developers had been silently working on the game with sporadic updates, but yesterday the studio broke their silence. Humanature Studios has announced that Adult Swim Games would be publishing the title for PC and consoles.
 
The new game follows ToeJam and Earl after they steal the Rapmaster Rocketship to joyride around space with their ladyfriends, Latisha and Lawanda. Unfortunately, while joyriding they press the Big, Red Button (never press the big, red button!) which opens a black hole, hurling their ship across the cosmos and scattering their ship across a strange planet. 
 
Back in the Groove tries to capture the nostalgia of the original console titles while presenting the series in a new, updated light for those who never had the opportunity to play the older games. Players can choose from one of nine playable characters: ToeJam, Earl, Latisha, Lewanda, GeekJam, Peabo, and Earl’s mom, Flo. Back in the Groove also features couch co-op and online co-op so players can tackle the randomly generated worlds, funk zones, and secret locations. The soundtrack consists of 13 remixed songs from the original games and 13 wholly original songs making it a tasty treat for those who dug the original tracks.
 
 
ToeJam and Earl: Back in the Groove releases for PC and consoles sometime in 2017.
Jack Gardner
Call of Duty 2 has now joined the roster of backwards compatible titles on Xbox One. This marks the second title from Infinity Ward to be added to the list of Xbox 360 games that play on Xbox One. Black Ops was added back in May. 
 
Heralded by many as the greatest World War II shooter of all time when it released back in 2005, Call of Duty 2 holds a great degree of nostalgia for many fans of the FPS genre. It's pretty fantastic that Xbox One owners now have the opportunity to play the classic for themselves. 
 
 
You can view the full list of backwards compatible games on Major Nelson's blog. You can vote on Xbox 360 titles that you want to see become playable on Xbox One and the current several front runners are all Call of Duty titles (with the exception of Skyrim at number two). 
Jack Gardner
The Japanese YouTube channel for the Resident Evil franchise has posted two videos showcasing Resident Evil 4 running in 1080p and 60fps. The remaster includes all bonus and add-ons that have made their way to the game in its subsequent re-releases since 2005. The bonus content includes New Game Plus, Ada Wong's side missions, a Mercenaries mode, assorted weapons, and outfits.  
 
The first video shows Leon Kennedy dealing with an onslaught of parasite-controlled villagers known as Ganados in the introductory level. It's definitely interesting to see what arguably became the most iconic scene of Resident Evil 4 rendered in HD (and with a player who very clearly knows what they are doing). 
 
 
The second gameplay segment delves into a slice of action from the mid-game in which Leon Kennedy and Ashley Graham need to navigate puzzles in a while the robed cult members of Los Illuminados advance up castle halls with shields and flails.
 
 
Resident Evil 4 HD will release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on August 30. It will retail for $19.99 and be available both digitally and in disc form. 
 
For an in-depth discussion, check out The Best Games Period episode dedicated to Resident Evil 4 featuring game developer Erik Scott.  
Jack Gardner
Starting this September, Sony's PlayStation Plus subscribers will be hit with the first price hike the service has experienced since it's 2010 launch. This change goes into effect on September 22, though people who have already paid will only be effected when their subscriptions renew.  
 
The price increase will be based on the tier of service. Yearly subscriptions, previously $49.99, will be $59.99. Three month subscriptions, previously $17.99, will be $24.99. The monthly subscription will remain at $9.99. 
 
Sony clarified their reasoning behind the price increase: 
 
 
Sony then clarifies that those who do not wish to pay more for PS Plus can cancel at any time. As a reminder, make sure that if you don't wish to renew at a higher price that you turn off the auto-renew setting on your PlayStation account. 
 
What do you think? Is the first price hike in over five years warranted for a service that gives out several free games per month on top of other online perks or does this feel like an overreach from Sony?
 
Jack Gardner
Come Friday, the BioWare forums that have been in operation for the past six years will become read-only. After two months, the read-only period will end and the forums for the Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and legacy franchises like Jade Empire and Knights of the Old Republic will be no more.
 
In their announcement of the forum closure, BioWare stated that the decision was difficult:
 
Our players are important to us. Your feedback, stories, and love for our games drive and inspire us.
 
In the past, our forums were the only way we could speak to you directly. They allowed our developers to talk with fans, and gave our players the opportunity to talk with each other about our games. But with the rise of social media and geek culture, there have never been more ways for us to connect.
 
EA and BioWare figure that since there are other online communities on sites like Reddit or Tumblr where fans of their games have joined together that makes their forums obsolete (with the exception of the Old Republic forums, which will continue to operate normally for the foreseeable future). Being able to meet fans at events like PAX also factored into their decision, according to their statement. As a result, people working at BioWare or EA have been spending less time on the forums due to having to cover all the other avenues of information. 
 
Some private boards will be spared the forum purge for future betas and special projects. 
 
It's truly the end of an era for BioWare as it moves in a new direction. That direction might not be healthy for fans, especially those who made the BioWare forums their own community. "This is our home now, and while it may seem strange and confusing I believe we're going to settle in just fine," said BioWare forum user Kolomir back in 2010 when BioWare moved to the forums currently in use.   
 
The BioWare forums will be inaccessible after October 26 of this year.
Jack Gardner
Supergiant Games released Bastion on Xbox 360, followed shortly by a PC release, back in 2011. It smashed onto the indie scene with isometric action and light RPG elements. The art design from Jen Zee, the musical work from Darren Korb, and a groundbreaking narration preformance from Logan Cunningham arguably reframed indie games in the public consciousness. However, that work was five years ago. Does Bastion still hold up in 2016?
 
Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative.
 


Outro music: Bastion 'A 'Kid-pella' by Andrew McLaren, David Lane, Dorothy Hayden, Ryan Billington, and Square Law (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02673)
 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
Jack Gardner
While many know Humble Bundle for its charity game bundles, they also put together bundles of books in the Humble Book Bundle. This month, titled 'The Joy of Coding,' sixteen books on coding are available. $1+ frees five books, $8+ releases six additional books, and $15+ unlocks the final five books of the bundle. 
 
$1+ Tier
Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners by Al Sweigart The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction by William E. Shotts, Jr. Learn You A Haskell for Great Good! by Miran Lipovača Learn You Some Erlang for Great Good! by Fred Hébert The Book of F#: Breaking Free with Managed Functional Programming by Dave Fancher  
$8+ Tier
Eloquent JavaScript, 2nd Edition: A Modern Introduction to Programming by Marijn Haverbeke The Principles of Object-Oriented JavaScript by Nicholas C. Zakas Land of Lisp: Learn to Program in Lisp, One Game at a Time! by Conrad Barski, M.D. Realm of Racket: Learn to Program, One Game at a Time! by Matthias Felleisen, David Van Horn, Conrad Barski, M.D. If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript by Angus Croll Write Great Code, Volume 1: Understanding the Machine by Randall Hyde  
$15+ Tier
Python Playground: Geeky Projects for the Curious Programmer by Mahesh Venkitachalam
Think Like a Programmer: An Introduction to Creative Problem Solving by V. Anton Spraul
The Art of R Programming: A Tour of Statistical Software Design by Norman Matloff
Clojure for the Brave and True: Learn the Ultimate Language and Become a Better Programmer by Daniel Higginbotham
Write Great Code, Volume 2: Thinking Low-Level, Writing High-Level by Randall Hyde
 
By default, the bundle benefits the Electronic Frontier Foundation. However, every Humble Bundle now comes with the option to select the charity of your choice to benefit from what you pay for the bundle. Just click the big Choose Your Own Charity button at the bottom of the bundle's page and search Extra Life to benefit Extra Life with your purchase! This can be done with every Humble Bundle, too. 
 
This is a pretty fantastic opportunity for those interested in game development or software design to obtain some learning materials on the cheap. Often coding text books or lesson guides can prove to be expensive, but the Joy of Coding Bundle seems to cover a wide variety of topics in some impressive depth. For the cost of one of these text books, you can both donate to Extra Life and obtain not one, but sixteen textbooks to satisfy your curiosity and further your understanding.
 
Humble Indie Bundle 17 is also in full swing this month! The video game bundle includes: Lethal League, The Beginner's Guide, Galak-Z, Nuclear Throne, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, SUPER TIME FORCE ULTRA, and more before the month is up. As with the book bundle, those interested in the Humble Indie Bundle can select Extra Life as their charity of choice.
Jack Gardner
Blizzard definitely took some notes from WALL-E while crafting their first animated short since shortly before the release of Overwatch. Titled 'The Last Bastion,' the new animation spans over seven minutes and conveys its story with no dialogue whatsoever. The short delves into the backstory of everyone's favorite turret-based robot, Bastion. 
 
And honestly? This might be Blizzard's best Overwatch short to date. It's gorgeous and might just make you feel some feelings.
 
'The Last Bastion' tells the story of Bastion waking up over a decade after the great Omnic Crisis that threatened to overwhelm the world with army of robots controlled by rogue AIs. For unknown reasons, Bastion had gone dormant during that time and seemingly would have remained that way. However, Ganymede, Bastion's little bird friend, seems to reactivate the robot while building a nest on its shoulder. Retaining its orders from over a decade ago, Bastion sets out to fulfill its programming. 
 
 
I'm not going to say that Blizzard should just make a division dedicated to cranking out animated movies, but I'd throw my money at them if they did. 
Jack Gardner
A new and interesting take on augmented reality games, Mr. Robot:1.51exfiltratiOn allows players to interact with the world of Mr. Robot via a messaging app for iOS and Android. The game takes place in real time over the course of a week as players talk with members of the underground hacker group, fsociety. In the game, players will use the E Corp messaging app to interact with original characters and characters from the USA show with the goal of recovering data vital to uncovering E Corp's plans. 
 
 
To create 1.51exfiltratiOn, Telltale Games teamed up with Night School Studio, the developer behind the recently released and well-received Oxenfree. The game through messaging app idea presented some very unique challenges, especially when extended over the course of a week in real-time. Players interact with the game by using the E Corp app and using its various features or selecting one of several responses to incoming messages to see how all of it plays out. While that not seem as fleshed out as allowing players to write their own messages, the hurdles of predicting text responses needed to be narrowed down.
 
"Night School Studio is one of the most promising small developers in the industry, and seeing Telltale alumnus and writer Adam Hines writing alongside the team at UCP (Universal Cable Productions) and USA on an interactive story with our partners at NBCUniversal makes us proud to present this to MR. ROBOT and Telltale fans everywhere," said Steve Allison, the senior vice president of publishing at Telltale Games. "There's a distinct Telltale style to all of the character interactions that our fans will find familiar, and fans of the show will be engrossed all through the night as they race to help fsociety pull off the unthinkable." 
 
 
Mr. Robot:1.51exfiltratiOn is available now for iOS and Android devices.
Marcus Stewart
There’s a reason not many superhero games place players in the average shoes of the hero’s normal alter ego. How many people are itching to transcribe interviews as Clark Kent or partake in science projects as Peter Parker when they could be performing superhuman feats as Superman and Spider-Man, respectively? Telltale Games tackles this challenge in their episodic Batman game by attempting to make the events of Bruce Wayne’s life as important and exciting as the Dark Knight taking on the crooks of Gotham. While acting out the role of the brooding billionaire doesn’t always get the blood pumping, some promising narrative set-ups and tense decision-making keeps the Bruce Wayne experience from being the drag it easily could have been.
 
Realm of Shadows begins on a high note. A break-in at the mayor’s office leads to a showdown between the Bat and armed mercenaries. Batman’s full display of combat prowess during this sequence translates to Telltale’s signature style with mostly successful results.
 
Quick-time events consist of fast-paced button prompts and analog swipes to capture some of the rush of hand-to-hand combat. It’s a more engaging gameplay experience than in previous Telltale titles, and while I wouldn’t call any of the prompts difficult, they’re a solid test of your reflexes that demand your attention. Batman’s arsenal of high-tech gadgetry is also on display and sport unique mechanics, such as moving a reticle inside the center of a circle to fire the grapple hook.
 
Nailing a QTE provides some level of satisfaction, but players can blow every prompt and scenes still proceed largely as planned with insignificant differences and only handful of hard fail states sprinkled about. It’s like getting a trophy for participation: you still win even if you don’t try. A new finishing maneuver attempts to counter this by offering a small incentive for getting things right. Successful button inputs fill a meter that when activated, unleashes a stylish - and often brutal - conclusion to confrontations, such as Batman violently smashing a thug’s face in.

 
Finishers are a good idea in theory, but the lack of freedom in using them takes much of the fun out as Telltale clearly pushes players to activate the move during specific moments. In one encounter, I purposefully failed every prompt to see if I could complete the scene without triggering my finisher so that I could save it for another fight. The result was a fatal gunshot and a game over screen. There’s little satisfaction in working towards a mandatory reward. Maybe this hand-holding only occurs in this pilot episode. I hope so, otherwise you could easily do away with the meter altogether and present these maneuvers like any standard button prompt.
 
Outside of fisticuffs, players also dabble in detective work. This boils down to inspecting points of interest and literally connecting the dots to see if clues add up, such as linking a bullet hole with a headshot victim. Since these are introductory puzzles, don’t expect your deductive skills to be pushed to their limits, but the design shows potential and fits nicely within Telltale’s framework. I hope to see these puzzles grow in complexity in future episodes, but the offerings presented here are acceptable as an appetizer. The same dot connecting feature mechanic extends to planning an assault against a group of enemies. Unfortunately, with only a handful of options (do you hurl a guy against some stairs or smash his head into a column?) and the lack of ill-advised choices you don’t feel smart or clever here because you're just choosing variants of the same cutscene.   
 
That leads to my big issue with the Batman side of things in this episode: choices don’t feature much consequence. Either you die outright and have to start over or a missing a prompt means nothing. There’s great opportunities here to make decisions have some weight via combat. In one scene, I dodged gunfire from a gangster only to take him down soon after. Failing to dodge the gunfire in the scenario results in Batman taking a bullet, but it’s irrelevant because everything proceeds as planned anyway as if Batman wasn’t shot at all. Make it so that getting wounded leads to altered scenes/gameplay where an injured Batman has to cope and produces tougher gameplay - anything to make me care that I messed up a sequence.

 
Decision-making is more substantial in the lengthy Bruce Wayne segments. Batman’s narrative centers Harvey Dent’s mayoral campaign, which Bruce supports morally and financially. The success of Dent’s campaign hinges on which characters Bruce chooses to interact with and he how he behaves doing so. Whether it’s mingling with an influential family to gain their support or addressing the media during a crucial press conference, your actions paint Bruce in either a favorable or less savory light that reflects on Dent’s image.
 
The focus is very much on Bruce in this episode with his various dilemmas serving as the foundation for a majority of the narrative. It sounds boring on paper but, thankfully, most of the choices you confront feel important and aren’t so much about right and wrong but rather different methods of approaching situations. Are you confrontational towards a mob boss’ thinly veiled threats or do you play along and project the appearance of submissiveness? Is it more effective to release crucial evidence publicly through Vicki Vale and the media or to trust Jim Gordon and the police to perform their duties? Unlike Batman’s combat, which needs clearer punishments, the shades of grey for Bruce Wayne is appropriate. I like how decisions feel more like choosing a preferred method instead of just simply doing the objectively right thing, and the consequences have enough weight (or at least hint that they will) to make them matter.
 
Realm of Shadows does a commendable job of planting intriguing narrative seeds set to bloom in future episodes. Chief among them: A dark secret that could irreparably damage the reputation of the Wayne family. The most surprising twist occurs when Batman’s world bleeds over into Bruce’s normal life during a moment I won’t spoil here. Toss in the mysterious re-emergence of Bruce’s childhood friend, and upcoming installments are already brimming with storytelling potential.
 
 
 
Conclusion:
 
Realm of Shadows is a solid introduction that thus far delivers on its promise of making the decisions of Bruce Wayne feel as important and engaging as Batman’s. The narrative shows promise as do gameplay elements such as crime scene investigations, but the lack of player freedom and consequence in combat leaves that aspect feeling somewhat flat. All in all, this is very much another Telltale adventure game and that extends to their increasingly dated graphics engine. There’s plenty of narrative intrigue and affection shown for the property to make Realm of Shadows a surefire recommendation for Batman fans. Anyone else, especially those burned out on the Telltale experience, need to ask themselves if the license alone is enough to carry them into another episodic adventure series. 
 
Batman: The Telltale Series Episode 1 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is now available for Xbox One and PC. It’s also coming soon to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS and Android
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