We've got a brand new website!
It's been a long time in the making, but we're excited to announce that we've launched a brand new website! The new design was driven by community member feedback and fine-tuned through lots of user testing.
Aside from the new look and feel, the new website features:
Improved Fundraising Pages
Everyone's fundraising pages have been reformatted to make it easier for you to tell your donors what Extra Life is, how their donation helps kids in your local community and celebrate all of the hard work you've put into your fundraising efforts.
More Ways to Donate
With more and more of your friends, family and community members supporting your fundraising efforts on-the-go, we've added Apple Quick Pay and PayPal One Touch to quicken the donation process.
We will have the option to donate in CAD in 2018 and are working hard on finding a solution in the meantime. Stay tuned!
We've removed about half of the required fields in the registration process. If we need your shipping information, we'll just message you at a later time! And when you're all signed up, the site will automatically send you over to your participant page so you can start personalizing it and making it feel like home.
Newly designed legacy avatars and achievement badges show others how committed you are to Extra Life and to saving kids' lives. Unlocking achievement badges is as easy as connecting your social accounts or personalizing your fundraising page.
The new website will be a work in progress as we continue to improve the participant dashboard, fundraising tools and broadcasting resources. We're even working on some custom leaderboards that allow YOU to see where you rank against other Extra Lifers raising money for your Children's Miracle Network Hospital!
Spend some time taking a look around the new website and let us know what you think!
For The Kids,
Mike, Liz, Lou & Jeromy
Team Extra Life
Children's Miracle Network Hospitals
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below and let us know!
For The Kids,
Team Extra Life
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
There is a game called Fishing Planet. It's been available for free as an Early Access game on Steam for the past two years. However, it's developers, also going by the name Fishing Planet, have decided that 2017 would be a good time to bring Fishing Planet to the PlayStation 4. Of course, that means they need to make a trailer and... well.... I present to you the most intense, gripping trailer for a fishing game - no, scratch that, ANY game - ever made.
So what is Fishing Planet? Essentially, players can fish just like they might in real life. Choose from a variety of lures and head out to your preferred body of water to catch that legendary big fish. Fishing Planet features online connectivity, so players can compare their catches and play with their friends. The fish boast extra fishy AI that help them behave like proper fish.
Fishing Planet releases on August 29 and if it is anything like the trailer, it will be the most intense fishing experience you will ever have short of hooking a shark or an alligator.
Sonic has spent last 15 years or so as gaming’s most reliable punchline. Poorly received modern titles have been exemplified by laughable storytelling, ill-conceived gimmicks, and, often times, broken gameplay. This left old-school fans to ask the eternal question: Why can’t Sega just make the games like they did on Sega Genesis? For the hedgehog’s 25th anniversary, Sega assembled a dream team of talented indie developers, all of whom have worked on Sonic-related ports and passion projects, to do just that.
On its surface, Sonic Mania takes the series back to tried-and-true basics. That entails 16-bit graphics and sound, classic side-scrolling platforming, and three beloved characters as opposed to 37 inane critters. But Sonic Mania prevails as more than just a polished highlight reel of the Blue Blur’s best moments. A slew of creative, new ideas experiment and expand on Sonic’s classic design for wonderful results.
Sonic Mania’s formula feels like the team designed it using two steps: Give players what they remember and then spice it up with a new take. The first Acts of classic areas like Chemical Plant Zone and Hydrocity Zone play largely the same with new twists sprinkled about. Changes include adding enemies and other elements that didn’t appear originally. One of my favorite examples was using the flame shield from Sonic 3 to spark raging oil fires in Sonic 2’s Oil Ocean Zone. Act 1 allows fans to re-familiarize themselves with old favorites while making them feel new again. Meanwhile, newcomers get a general idea of what these stages were originally like and maybe see why people loved them in the first place.
On to the designers’ second step: Presenting the spicy new take. Upon reaching the second act, classic tunes take on a remixed form and everything gets flipped on its head. Chemical Plant Zone suddenly features giant syringes that inject goo into the chemical sea, turning it into a bouncy surface. Quicksand-like trash piles litter Sonic & Knuckles’ Flying Battery Zone. The designers did a masterful job of incorporating their own crazy ideas into the original templates. The new elements don’t feel out-of-place or negatively disrupt the zone’s original flow. Rather, they complement and, in some cases like Chemical Plant Zone, improve upon it. Unfortunately, the impact these changes have will be lost on players unfamiliar with the the old levels, though newbies should still find them enjoyable. But for seasoned players intimately familiar with the old games, Act 2 feels like an exciting and unpredictable treat.
A batch of imaginative new stages stand proudly beside the series’ best levels. I had a blast zapping through satellite dishes and playing powerball-style mini-games in the film-themed Studiopolis Zone. Mirage Saloon Zone has a cool blend of western aesthetics with magician elements. The new zones play wonderfully and sound just as good thanks to toe-tapping original scores composed by famed Sonic remixer, Tee Lopes. For Sonic diehards, the sprinkles of obscure nods to the series’ history offer even more sources of enjoyment and nostalgia.
Boss battles take place at the end of each Act instead of one per zone, meaning a lot of them. Thankfully, most feel inventive and offer good fun with only a couple of duds. They can also be as surprising as the stages themselves. One memorable bout pits a pint-sized Sonic against Eggman’s gashapon (a Japanese vending machine) style ship. Hitting a knob on the ship dispenses capsules containing mini versions of past Eggman contraptions, like the classic airship and drill car, that must be taken out first. A Puyo Puyo Tetris showdown ala Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine may be my favorite bout in terms of pure fan service.
Collecting chaos emeralds involves finding hidden ring portals leading to a UFO chase special zone inspired by those in Sonic CD. Fun and challenging, I especially like how the team intentionally rendered these stages in crappy polygonal graphics that harken back to the Sega Saturn era. I can’t express the same enjoyment for the return of Sonic 3/Knuckles’ “collect the blue orbs” bonus stages. Granted, I was never a fan of this mini-game even in its time, so take this as a very personal gripe. The rewards for beating these stages include new abilities, like Sonic CD’s Super Peel Out, AKA “the figure-eight run”. The high frequency of these bonus stages became irritating because of their low barrier for entry. About 25-30 rings opens them at each checkpoint, meaning you have to halt your adventure to visit them multiple times per stage. Those who enjoy these mini-games will probably be okay with this. I began ignoring them entirely towards the end in favor of continuing uninterrupted.
Outside of the main game, a time attack mode and the Sonic 2 versus competition mode, where two players race through maps, offer decent diversions. Chaos emerald collection stands as the main source of replayability, as does playing the entire game as Knuckles. You can also play the story co-op with a partner controlling everyone’s favorite two-tailed fox, Tails.
Somewhat surprisingly, Sonic Mania is a tough game. Some rust with playing classic Sonic may have been a personal factor, but completing stages often left me breathing a sigh of relief. At times, the game throws every obstacle it can muster to bring Sonic to his knees. Especially the latter stages, such as the Titanic Monarch Zone, a cool but barely comprehensible labyrinth of enemies and other forms of “ouch.” I saw the Game Over screen more often than I care to admit and never had more than 6 lives throughout the game.
On top of carrying over Sonic’s best qualities, Sonic Mania also inherits some of the series’ less savory traits. Forward momentum still takes an annoying time to get going when you’ve been stopped cold. You’ll hit hidden spring pads you’d never know to avoid until after Sonic’s been sent careening into a well-placed hazard. Underwater areas remain an anxiety-spiking series of traps seemingly designed to make you want to punch the screen. The end-level inverted animal pod once pushed me through the ground, killing me in a glitch befitting of the 90s. I found that my patience for this kind of stuff has waned since the that decade. Be prepared to scream “Oh, come on now!” at periodic intervals.
Sonic Mania retains everything that made the Blue Blur a household name in the first place, for better or worse. Thankfully, the hedgehog’s positive aspects shine brighter. This lovely-crafted celebration of Sonic’s most beloved era stands as his best outing in many years. Newcomers and modern fans get to enjoy a well-made look at an icon’s past. Long-time enthusiasts can feel a bit of vindication now that their hero has one good game under his belt (in this decade). On a personal and cheesy note, Sonic Mania made me the happiest Sonic fan since I bragged about the games in grade school.
Sonic Mania was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and available now for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The PC version arrives August 29.
Afterthought Games, an indie game studio based in Michigan, recently launched a Kickstarter for their upcoming Violent Sol Worlds. The two-man indie studio is looking to raise $5,000 to complete development, with the goal of completing the title by December of this year.
Violent Sol Worlds is a top-down shooter where players are stranded on an alien world to send supplies back to the core worlds while surviving in the rough and tumble wilds. Players must scour the world for resources to craft defenses and upgrades while also shipping supplies home to get the support of the Aviro Corporation.
At the heart of Violent Sol Worlds is an AI director to help make sure that there are always new events and stories happening around the procedurally generated world. This AI ensures that players will feel consistently challenged, avoiding that pesky feeling of power creep in the later stages of open world games that leads to action feeling more routine. Players will clash with alien monsters and sentient beings, some good, some bad, all at the whim of the AI director.
Players can find vehicles and use them to explore the world. Exploration will unveil stories of ancient alien races and previous settlers sent by Aviro Corp. While Aviro might not care much for its settlers, those who provide the company with enough resources gain access to its space station and 3D printing technologies to make new weapons and gear.
Regardless of whether Violent Sol Worlds meets its modest goal, the developers have sworn that it will be finished. However, they can't guarantee that it will be finished by the end of December 2017 if they don't meet their $5,000 target. "This game is getting made one way or the other," Afterthought Games' statement reads, "it will just be better with your help. The only risk is that it could be delayed. We are shooting for a Christmas release, but as life happens delays are possible. We are pretty good about digging in and getting the job done in the time frame set in front of us, so we are not too worried about delays."
One of the really cool parts about Violent Sol Worlds lies in its connection to Extra Life. Phillip Brossia, one of Afterthought Games' co-founders, also volunteers as the Extra Life Guild president in Grand Rapids, Michigan and has been participating in Extra Life for the past four years. He shared Violent Sol Worlds in the forums and announced a plan to give 5% of the Kickstarter earnings to Extra Life!
Violent Sol Worlds will be coming to PC (hopefully) later this year. Afterthought plans to launch the final game with modding in mind - players should be able to pick up Violent Sol Worlds and find it easy to mod, both for veteran modders and beginners alike.
Have you ever dreamed about who would win in a no holds barred fight between Guacamelee's Juan and Trace from Axiom Verge? Or pondered the result of a conflict between the fish-man from Nuclear Throne and Captain Flinthook from... well, Flinthook? Bounty Battle aims to satisfy your itch for indie action by throwing 30 characters from various independent franchises together for one of the most unique grudge matches in gaming.
Developed by DarkScreen Games, Bounty Battle draws heavily upon fighters like Super Smash Bros. and PlayStation All-Stars to deliver its odd charm. Up to four players can select their characters from a roster of 30 fighters (20 indie guests and 10 original characters - with up to 18 additional contenders coming as free DLC post-launch).
Controls are simple and universal across all characters; no unique Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat combos to memorize in Bounty Battle. Players have a limited amount of energy that allows them to use strong attacks, special attacks, ultimate attacks, and dodge. As players rack up combos and kills, they earn Bounty Points. Those Bounty Points can be used to to perform devastating attacks or to summon a minion to aid in combat. Minions exist in the background and survive until your character falls in battle. Each minion has been taken from the game specific to each hero. While the fight rages on, players can pick up both positive and negative status effects known as marks. Colored energy orbs will occasionally fall from the sky, granting temporary boosts to speed, life, or stamina.
A number of different arenas will ship with Bounty Battle. These will include one arena for each indie guest on the roster, with possibly more coming for each DLC character. That makes for over 25 arenas at the very least! Players will battle over these locations in local co-op, arcade, challenge, and story modes.
Oh, yes. Bounty Battle has a story that explains how all these indie heroes appeared together. At some point, a flash in the sky heralded the arrival of a giant vortex above a multitude of worlds. This vortex introduced a new material to these worlds. Known as Ethereal Mana, people could use this material to communicate and even travel to those distant planets. This substance even granted seemingly magical powers to those who handled it. Eventually, the power of Ethereal Mana created strife and war across the worlds and a tournament was agreed upon that would decide the fate of the universe. Each world anointed a champion, each with a bounty on their head. The greatest bounty hunter in the universe would rule the cosmos. Each character will have their own unique ending, so players will have an incentive to play through the story mode multiple times.
The full roster of Bounty Battle's guest fighters can be found below:
Juan from Guacamelee! (Drinkbox Studios)
The Crusader from Darkest Dungeon (RedHook Studios)
Thora from Jotun (Thunder Lotus)
Sheriff Lonestar from Awesomenauts (Ronimo Games)
Shield maiden from EITR (Eneme Entertainement)
Trace from Axiom Verge (Thomas Happ Games llc)
Pankapu from Pankapu (Too Kind Studio)
Captain Flinthook from Flinthook (Tribute Games)
Fish from Nuclear throne (Vlambeer)
The Unslain from Doko Roko (Okobu Games)
Tetrobot from Blocks that matter (Swing Swing Submarines)
Gully from Battle Chasers: Nightwar (Airship Syndicate)
Hermetic Champion from Tower of Samsara (Martelo Nero)
Harry from The Bug Butcher (Awfully Nice Studio)
Rudy fromBlubber Busters (Thar be Monster)
Rad Rodgers from Rad Rodgers (Slipgate Studios)
Otus from Owlboy (D-Pad Studio)
Marduk from Undungeon (Laughing Machines)
Eshe from Sundered (Thunder Lotus)
Violet from The Metronomicon (Puuba/ Akupara games/Kasedo Games)
DarkScreen Games has been working on the title for the past three years. The team consists of François von Orelli and Grégoire Laporte who collaborated with Benjamin Daniel for Bounty Battle's narrator and Jon Lankry's for the illustrated multiple endings. Bounty Battle will be closing its crowdfunding campaign next week, but it has already surpassed its fundraising goal of $30,000. If it makes it to $45,000, DarkScreen will be adding 12 more indie guests to Bounty Battle, each with their own arena and minion. If the project makes it to $60,000 more animated cutscenes will flesh out the story.
Bounty Battle is slated for release in late 2018 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Mac.
“Expect the unexpected” would have been an appropriate tagline for Batman’s first season. By the series’ end the Wayne Family name stands forever tarnished, a perennial ally turns becomes a major foe, and Harvey Dent’s scars may only be mental. The surprises keep coming in The Enemy Within. An eventful premier throws players for a loop right out of the gate with big shocks, difficult choices, and gut-punching consequences.
A year removed from the triple threat of the Children of Arkham, Penguin, and Two-Face sees Gotham on the mend. Bruce Wayne’s reputation appears largely repaired. Batman’s publicized partnership with newly appointed police commissioner Jim Gordon resulted in dramatically reduced crime rates. But that delicate peace breaks when a dangerous shadow from Gotham’s past reemerges: The Riddler.
I dug Telltale’s menacing take on this classic foe. Armed with a question-mark shaped sickle, this Riddler almost finds as much pleasure in slicing throats as perplexing victims with cruel conundrums–almost. He remains the long-winded, insufferable show-off, but now displays a nice, gritty edge. Riddler’s new character wrinkle as Gotham’s first costumed crook plays perfectly into his trademark narcissism and superiority complex. Believing himself better because he came first (among other reasons), his additional source of arrogance makes punching his teeth out all the more satisfying.
Riddler’s penchant for puzzles works well with Telltale’s mechanics and dialogue choices. One neat segment involves unraveling one of his death games. Gameplay in general gets a good showing in The Enigma. Combat now presents slightly more dynamic options, like selecting multiple interactive points during battle. Last season’s worthless finishing move meter has thankfully been dropped. I never put the controller down for too long–always a positive for a Telltale title.
Like Season 1, juggling the public perceptions of Bruce Wayne and Batman can create genuine decision-making crises. Choices feel less about right and wrong and more about which path might backfire less painfully. This creates a series of tricky moral tightropes to walk across. Batman’s relationship with the debuting Amanda Waller acts as a great example.
Waller plays an exciting role acting as the controversial figurehead behind the Suicide Squad and leader of the shadowy government bureau known simply as The Agency. Her organization takes over Gotham’s authorities in pursuit of Riddler. Despite Waller and Batman sharing mutual goals, The Agency’s dubious history makes her difficult to trust. More importantly, a collaboration with her might chip away at Batman’s fragile relationship with Gordon. Do you jeopardize Gordon’s favor by working with Amanda in the name of the greater good? Or do you keep her at a distance and risk creating a powerful new adversary? Armed with years of comics history, I thought I knew that answer from the outset. As the episode progressed, though, my stance shifted in unexpected ways. Doing the “right” thing feels less obvious than ever, and I burned trusted bridges doing what I felt was necessary. Chalk that up to how Telltale skillfully paints choices with thoughtful coats of morally grey.
Additionally, The Enigma reminded me to consider suspending any prior Batman knowledge because things don’t always play out as predicted. Bruce’s uneasy dealings with the pale, green-haired “John Doe” highlighted that point. The first conversation with this enigmatic figure had me biting my lip with nerves the entire time, unsure of how to react. His underlying insanity keeps you on edge, but his apparent need for approval from Bruce generates sympathy as well. Could it be he just needs someone good to lean on and perhaps guide him? Somehow, Telltale turned the no-brainer of “how to deal with The Joker” into a complicated dilemma. His arc thus far seems to signal a potentially different outcome than what I’m expecting. I look forward to seeing this simmering story reach its boiling point.
A new on-screen indicator of a character’s shift in feeling gives immediate and helpful feedback during relationship milestones. I liked receiving validation that my current path may be working, as well as knowing exactly when I may have messed up with someone. A new post-game report card explains how big choices resulted in your current standing with someone, offering some good food for thought. I walked away from The Enigma pondering how to best improve certain relationships using the info given. Additionally, this provides a helpful reference to mix things up in future replays.
Choosing a path can be a fun roller coaster overall, but I took umbrage with one scenario towards the end. Without spoiling, somehow the choice of saving lives led to Batman seemingly becoming more vilified than if he allowed someone to die on his watch. Other characters failed to see the big picture, and that questionable writing almost made me scream at my TV.
Telltale continues to drop bombshells with a couple of shocking developments involving pivotal characters. These surprises do a nice job of keeping your emotions on guard. Exciting narrative threads emerge from these moments. One in particular concerns a potentially awesome new ally. I also love that The Enigma features its own self-contained arc, kind of like an episode of a Batman TV show. A central thread begins and ends here, providing an immediate sense of closure and giving the long-term stories some breathing room. The Enigma attempts to do a lot as a pilot and, impressively, accomplishes much of it with relative ease.
The Enigma starts Batman’s second season on the right foot. Boasting several jaw-dropping moments, intense conversation scenes, a great villain, and promising story developments, there’s a lot to love here. Tack on a healthy dose of interactivity, and you’ve got the answer to the riddle “how do you open a new season with a successful bang?”
Batman: The Enemy Within - The Enigma was reviewed on PlayStation 4. It’s also available now for Xbox One, PC and will launch later for iOS and Android.
If you've been watching the news the last few days, you might be feeling a bit down about the world. However, it's always helpful to remind ourselves that there are good things in out there waiting to be made or discovered. One of those good things is, of course, petting dogs. Well, someone made a game about doing that and it's free!
Will Herring, an animator, illustrator, game maker, and do-all-the-things-er, realized that petting dogs is easily one of the best parts about going to any party. Of course, that meant he had to capture that experience in a game. Enter Pet the Pup at the Party. Players take on the role of a socially awkward house guest who has mustered up the courage to arrive at a party. However, there are a LOT of people at this party and all of them seem to be strangers. What's an introvert to do? Why, scour the house for good dogs to pet while avoiding making eye contact with strangers!
"Legend tells of a ~very good puppo~ hiding somewhere in this house!" reads Pet the Pup's description, "the clock is ticking and you’re running out of small talk… can you find the pup at the party?" To find each pup, players have to follow the sounds of arfs and borks to their source in the party. 52 good puppos can be pet, each one become a part of an adorable gallery of good dogs.
You can download Pet the Pup at the Party for free on its website. Sit back, relax, and pet some good dogs. BORK!
At the end of July, McDonald's held a Twitter giveaway. It was an innocuous event that took on pop culture significance because what they were giving away, their discontinued Szechuan sauce that had been used to promote the Disney film Mulan, played an integral role in the premier of Rick and Morty Season 3. This made the sauce a particularly prized commodity in the public consciousness - everyone wanted some of that sauce.
In early August, McDonald's announced the winners and one of them happened to be Robert Workman, writer at comicbook.com and host of the ARG Podcast. Workman decided that rather than use it on food or drink it straight from the bottle, he would put it up for auction on eBay to help pay off some bills and give the rest to Extra Life, among others.
Workman explained his decision in an interview with Inquisitr, “I intend to help out the Extra Life Foundation, which a few friends take part in every year with their once-a-year marathon; and Ablegamers, which my friend Steven Spohn is part of. It depends what the total amount is but I’m going to help these guys out. I may find a third organization depending on the total tally.”
That eBay auction has now concluded with the sauce going for a sizable, undisclosed amount. Workman initially committed to donating 10% of the auction to Extra Life, but the auction quickly ballooned to a larger amount than he had initially anticipated. He decided to include more charities and give each charity an equal part of the proceeds. He shifted his giving strategy to benefit Extra Life, AbleGamers, Take This, Gamers Outreach, and Ronald McDonald House Charities, splitting 25% of the auction between the five charities.
Workman shed more light on his decision to auction off the sauce rather than keep if for himself in a Twitlonger post:
According to Workman's Twitter, the winning bid was placed by deadmau5 who should be receiving his sauce shortly. Enjoy it for all of us, deadmau5!
[Correction: This article originally stated that the Szechuan sauce sold for $15,350. Mr. Workman reached out to alert us that the coveted McDonald's sauce had been sold for less than the going price and for an undisclosed sum of money.]
After Bungie concluded their work on Halo: Reach, they turned their eyes toward a game that a small segment of the company had been fleshing out for years. That game would eventually become Destiny after overcoming numerous development challenges. Destiny's devs had to contend with a malicious engine that required obscene amounts of time to load changes, stratospheric expectations, a rough split with its long-time composer, and the decision to scrap the entire story with less than a year left of development time. The stakes were high. But when Destiny released to the public, Bungie thought they had a winner on their hands - Destiny was, after all, the most pre-ordered game in history! Unfortunately, the critical reception was mixed. Despite this, Destiny certainly accrued a huge following over the years, which led to Jason Pfitzer from Northern Heart Games, this week's guest, to nominate Bungie's FPS MMO hybrid.
Looking at Destiny several years after its launch and subsequent revisions - is it one of the best games period?
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: Destiny 'Hope Rising' by Jillian Aversa and zircon (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03002)
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 follow Jason on Twitter, @JasonPfitzer, and be sure to check out the game he has been working on at Northern Heart Games! Pinbrawl is a competitive, four-player pinball melee. Having played it at multiple stages in its development, I can confirm that it's very fun.
If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
Like Gone Home before it, Tacoma’s intriguing setting and compelling storytelling largely supersede its relatively light gameplay. Fullbright’s sophomore outing trades the nostalgia of the 1990s for a fascinating, mildly unsettling, near-future space setting. As a lone contractor, mega corporation Venturis hires you to visit the deserted space station Tacoma to retrieve the ship's AI, ODIN. But the intrigue in that task pales in comparison to learning the captivating stories of Tacoma’s distressed crew, who disappeared after an accident. Tacoma’s mission doesn’t always fire on all cylinders, but its highpoints in characterization help carry it to the moon and back.
Tacoma’s story unfolds by watching decrypted scenes of the team recorded using augmented reality. A simple polygonal model represents each person. Think of it like watching a holographic ghost, with characters distinguished by designated colors and physiques to compensate for a lack of physical details. The age of recordings range from a few days old to several months or even a year. Witnessing past celebrations, emotional turmoils, and intimate moments stirred up emotions ranging from optimism, foreboding, and, at times, even voyeurism.
These genuine feelings stemmed from the well-written dialogue and stellar voice performances from the likes of Carl Lumbly (Alias, Justice League) and Greg Chun (Overwatch, Nier: Automata). Tacoma’s crew feel like actual, relatable people trapped in a horrific situation, not just NPC’s spouting lines. Connecting players to each team member are the familiar personal burdens each carry: Tragic personal losses; the pressures of appeasing a high and mighty family; coping with professional failures; long distance parenthood. The ways those stresses influence their responses to the larger situation feels logical and nuanced, as do the emotional interactions between characters.
The sympathy and endearment these performances generate act as the driving force behind exploring every inch of Tacoma. You don’t need to see and hear everything to finish the game but I wanted to. I felt compelled to read every email and pick up every object in the hopes it would shed more light on these people. Before long, my motives shifted from a purely objective curiosity to legitimately hoping the crew had survived their predicament. That emotional connection also adds weight to the otherwise predictable and well-worn revelation about the nature of the disaster.
Tacoma’s alien setting makes picking up garbage feel more worthwhile than it did in Gone Home. I lived through the 90’s, so I inspected objects in that game primarily for nostalgia. With Tacoma, Fullbright presents an almost eerily plausible future with unique ideas such as corporate loyalty becoming a form of spendable currency. AI’s advanced enough to pen their own autobiographies (seriously) are trusted to oversee major operations like hospitals and residential blocks, guiding and advising the humans within. This future is both exciting and terrifying, but you’ll miss out on much of it by ignoring the random junk around you. I enjoyed having an incentive to rummage through trash bins.
From a gameplay standpoint, recordings have a neat investigative quality due to a rewind and fast-forward mechanic. Replaying scenes to catch important details reminded me of combing through videos in the indie hit Her Story, especially using older conversations to add context to more recent ones. I would have liked for recordings to demand a little more deductive skills in gathering info, but I get that Tacoma wants to tell a story and not hang players up on puzzles. On that note, problem-solving in general never comes close complicated; you’re typically just looking for codes to open doors. Even still, Tacoma offers more active involvement than its predecessor, and that’s ultimately a good thing.
In a nice touch of realism, several recordings feature multiple conversations occurring simultaneously in different areas. Additionally, characters may enter or exit discussions in progress. Thus, replaying scenes multiple times and following different team members around is a must if you want to experience the full narrative scope. A fun nosiness comes from watching a scene, seeing someone walk away, then replaying the scene again and following that person to see what they’re up to. Overall, this conversation system feels like a cool and smart spin on interactive cutscenes, especially for this genre.
Tacoma possesses more complicated gameplay than Gone Home, but you still wouldn’t be off-base if you said it only consisted of walking around and eavesdropping on NPC’s. While that might seem shallow, the wonderfully written characters bring value to that experience. Tacoma largely succeeds in presenting a fascinating world worth exploring, backed by novel storytelling mechanics. Your stay is brief, but once you get to know Tacoma’s crew, you’ll be glad you stepped aboard.
Tacoma was reviewed on Xbox One and is also available now for PC.
Godzilla has always been a popular character in video games. The giant, rubbery lizard-dragon has stomped his way across more consoles than most franchises can shake a stick at, though not always to the greatest success. Recently a new game was revealed called City Shrouded in Shadow that seems to feature not only Godzilla, but a slew of monsters from Japanese pop culture.
So far the confirmed roster includes the following from their respective series:
Legion (Soldiers and Plant)
Patlabor Mobil Police Franchise
That's a pretty huge roster and one might be forgiven for thinking that it looks like the roster for a fighting game. In a way, A City Shrouded in Shadow is a fighting game, but players won't be doing the fighting. Instead, players take on the role of one of the civilians trapped in the city as this battle royale of monsters takes place. As either Ken Misaki or Miharu Matsuhara, players must make their way out of the city as it plunges into chaos.
A City Shrouded in Shadow is much more interested in the drama caused by the appearance of these monsters rather than the monsters themsleves, which is certainly a different take on giant monsters in video games. That makes A City Shrouded in Shadow stand out from the crowd.
Currently, A City Shrouded in Shadow is only set for release in Japan on October 19, but it certainly seems like the kind of game that could gain a substantial cult following in the west if it has the storytelling chops to back up its ambitious premise.