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Jack Gardner
Stardew Valley stands as one of those rare projects that's both a solo developer project and a title that aimed to revive and popularize an entire genre. Released in 2016 by Eric Barone (aka ConcernedApe), Stardew Valley became a sensation for its well realized vision of a rural farming community rich in character and the family farm that players restore to glory that helps to bring them all together. Barone conceived of the project as a way to correct what he saw as a failing in more recent Harvest Moon titles - and his work proved to be extremely popular. To date, Stardew Valley has been ported to almost every system out there (and it just recently received an update that adds horses in hats and multiplayer)!  
 
Does Stardew Valley surpass Harvest Moon as the most important farming sim in modern gaming?
 
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: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 'Gerudo Desert Party' by Reuben6 (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03720)
 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it!
 
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
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
With only a handful of weeks to go until prom, what's a monster to do? If your answer is a mixture of cursing and insane schemes to woo the reckless forces of evil that dominate your highschool, then Monster Prom might just be the game for you. Developed by Beautiful Glitch and published by Those Awesome Guys, Monster Prom stands out from the crowd as the very first multiplayer dating simulator. That odd combination of traits actually comes together as an effective and entertaining party game for up to four players either locally or online. 
 

 
The goal of Monster Prom is, aptly, to find a monster to successfully ask out to prom. The simple premise can play out over three weeks, a short game that lasts about 30 minutes, or a full game over six weeks that takes an hour to run its course. At the beginning of each game, players select one of four characters to be their avatar and then plunge into the hormone-riddled halls of Monster High. The choice of the avatar, as far as I could tell, doesn't matter much, but immediately after character selection players answer a series of questions from "the stupidest pop quiz ever" to determine stat bonuses and a starting advantage with one of the six romantic options. 
 
And what options there are! Players can choose to woo a ghostly party girl, the sizzling demon, a reserved hipster vampire, a good-natured jock werewolf, a business-oriented medusa, or a despotic mer-princess. The cast of romance options interact in hundreds of unique ways to the point that after dozens of playthroughs I only encountered a handful of repeat situations - and that was just in the pursuit of one particular character!
 

 
Though there are six potential romance options and a maximum of four players, it's easy to see how Monster Prom could become a high stakes game night drama between friends. At the beginning of each round, there's the option to randomize turn order or participate in a real-world game based on an onscreen prompt to determine the order. That method becomes important because when a player chooses an activity it locks it off from the other players until the next round begins. That leaves the door open for a lot of negotiating and competition for places higher up in the turn order. There are also random events that can happen where a romance option could ask a player what they think of a rival, presenting a perfect opportunity to hurt or help them attain their ideal prom date.  
 
Each week in Monster Prom allows players to choose an activity in the morning, a place to sit during lunch, and another activity in the evening. Which location players choose to go will result in a boost to their stats. For example, going to the auditorium will increase their creativity by two points. After each segment of the week, players will interact with some of the members of the school and have to decide how to handle the resulting hijinks. Having a high number in a stat increases the likelihood that a given option that relies on that stat will succeed, though players will have to infer what stat their option might rely on from the situation's context. Correctly solving a situation will net the player another stat boost and possibly improve their relationships with classmates. 
 

 
Mechanically, Monster Prom doesn't have much going on. You won't find mini-games here. Instead, the fun resides in the myriad of situations and the joyfully crass and humorous dialogue. While that might not bring in players who need a kinetic sense of movement and purpose to feel engaged with a game, Monster Prom's charms will undoubtedly be received by those who live for scintillating word play and strange scenarios (i.e. those who are familiar with the text-heavy dating sim genre). 
 
The various scenes of Monster Prom all play out primarily through cleverly written text, but the art stands as the secondary aspect of any given scene. Beautiful Glitch have shoved an awful lot of joy and vivacious energy into the still images and character expressions that play out over the course of a game. If there might be one gripe about the artwork it's that sometimes conversations with the same characters can reveal that certain stances are reused with different outfits. It's not a terrible problem, but something that can become noticeable after several sessions of play. Overall, the visuals leave me wanting more of them, and that's never a bad thing (I would buy a graphic novel done in this style in a heartbeat).
 
Conclusion:
 
Basically, Monster Prom was handcrafted for people who loved the silly situations of the pigeon dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend and subsequently found themselves wishing they could play the game alongside incredulous friends to see what kind of hijinks they could get themselves into. Your reaction to the previous sentence really should tell you everything you need to know about whether you'd like Monster Prom. It's a glorious love letter to dating sim shenanigans mixed with the fun of either helping or backstabbing your friends in an effort to take a date to prom that I found quite enjoyable. It's certainly niche, but Monster Prom revels in the glorious absurdity of that niche. 
 
Monster Prom is available now on PC.
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Chucklefish, the developer/publisher known for its work on Starbound and Stardew Valley, announced a partnership with Shanghai developer Pixpil to bring the post-apocalyptic adventure Eastward to audiences everywhere. 
 
Eastward has humble beginnings as an independent project built by Pixpil's three founding members around the work of pixel artist Hong Moran's mesmerizing work. The game stands as a love letter to classics like Earthbound and The Legend of Zelda. It's a narrative heavy experience mixed with action-RPG elements. 
 
The adventure takes place in the not-too-distant future at a point when the human population has shrunk to dangerously low levels and monsters stalk the husks of abandoned cities. Players take on the role of John, a digger who unearths a hidden facility beneath his mine. In that facility, he finds a mysterious white-haired girl. This discovery sets John on a path that will take him away from his village and through countless dangers. 
 
Since the company's founding in 2015, Pixpil has grown along with the scope of Eastward. The developer has brought on Joel Corelitz, the composer of The Unfinished Swan and Gorgogoa, to compose the soundtrack and the ever-amazing Hyperduck Soundworks to handle sound design. 
 
 
There's no release date quite yet, but the trailer certainly has a lot of phenomenal pixel animations that are a real joy to see in motion.

Jack Gardner
Growing out of a prototype conceived for the Super Nintendo, Super Mario 64 hit the gaming landscape like a thunderbolt of Italian stereotypes in 1996. Shigeru Miyamoto had managed to push back the launch of the Nintendo 64 from its prime holiday release window in 1995 to give a handful of precious months to finish development on Super Mario 64. It was a massive gamble, but the release delivered a landmark example on how to create a 3D platformer on consoles that shaped generations of games and gamers. 
 
Looking back on it over two decades later, can Super Mario 64 still be considered one of the best games period or has time taken its toll?
 
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: Super Mario 64 'Toadstool's Groove' by Tetrimino (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03215)
 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it!
 
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
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Runbow pits up to nine players against one another online in variety of game modes that use color to create and destroy platforms in a variety of interesting ways. the general premise can be summed up in the phrase, "if you can't see it, it doesn't exist." Waves of color splash across the screen and the platforms that match the current screen color vanish until the next color sweeps the stage. It's a simple premise, but the execution makes it special.
 
While up to nine players can play together online at one time, the Switch version of Runbow supports up to eight players in local co-op with the PlayStation 4 supporting four players. Together, players can compete in Run, Arena, or King of the Hill modes in either private games with friends or open your party up to other players from around the world. 
 
Runbow also has a single-player Adventure mode with over 140 different levels that take players on a quest to save Poster District from the villain Satura. A separate challenge mode is available that has players swallowed by a gigantic creature and attempting an escape from the beast's colorful innards. Both modes can be tackled solo or with friends.  
 
The more players splash around in the colorful world of Runbow, the more fun stuff they can unlock. In addition to concept art and costumes, there are 19 unlockable guest characters, including Shovel Knight, CommanderVideo, Shantae, and Lilac.
 
 
While Runbow originally released in 2015 on the Wii U and PC (as well as last year in 2017 for Xbox One), the Switch and PlayStation 4 versions have had a bit of a bumpy road to release. The Headup Games and 13AM Games teams have apologized and pushed back the release date that has yet to be specified. The two studios stated that the delay was to spend more time optimizing the game for each respective system. The delay is "just a matter of weeks" according to the developers, so hopefully it doesn't leave too many people flustered. 

Jack Gardner
Neutronized might not be a huge name in the gaming industry, but they've been steadily working on quirky, interesting projects since 2010 from their Italy-based studio. In 2016, they released a cat-focused platformer called Super Cat Tales for iOS (or Super Cat Bros. on Android). Super Cat Tales drew heavily from the heyday of 90s platformers with many people drawing parallels between the mobile title and the high points of that generation like Super Mario World and Kirby's Dream Land 3. Professional reviews, like those from Touch Arcade, gave the game perfect scores with headlines like "Don't Paws, Play This Nya-ow."
 
Super Cat Tales was about Alex the cat on an adventure to reunite with his siblings. The sequel stars Alex and company taking on the evil Lord Iridium and his army of tin soldiers that have attacked Neko Land with a fleet of clockwork airships. The robotic forces of Lord Iridium seek a special metal hidden within the feline's planet and is rumored to be the power that holds the entire world together. Using the different powers and abilities of the various cats that join Alex in his fight, players must traverse the world and thwart Iridium's plans before the invasion destroys everything.
 
Is it really any surprise that the bigger, richer sequel to a highly praised title would be even more impressive? The team at Neutronized have upped their game visually and the trailer really showcases that change. As players progress through an overworld filled with stages from various lands, they'll encounter a variety of new mechanics and situations. At one point, the trailer shows the grizzled cat Sergeant McMeow piloting a clockwork tank through a robotic factory.    
 
Overall, Super Cat Tales 2 just looks like a really good time, and you should keep an eye on it.
 
 
Super Cat Tales 2 will release sometime in 2018 for iOS and Android.

Jack Gardner
All aboard the HMCS Britannic for a foray into madness courtesy of the mysterious Mr. X. The ship has all the modern conveniences as well as the ability to fly and travel through time. Also, any one of the other guests might be out to kill you. Looks can be deceiving in Murderous Pursuits, a game of refinement, role-playing, and, of course, MURDER.
 
Murderous Pursuits puts players into a given section of the Britannic with up to seven of their friends who have taken the identities of other ship guests. Without drawing too much attention to yourself either from ship guards or other players, each guest must hunt down and kill their rivals in creative and sneaky ways. Of course, you should try not to make too much of a scene, since it might draw the attention of the guest stalking your trail. Take your time to explore the space, find insane (but concealable) weapons, and find the right time and place for your target's demise. 
 
Developer Blazing Griffin will be launching the game next week, but hopes that the open beta they have planned for this weekend can help iron out any remaining wrinkles in their game. The beta will begin tomorrow, April 20, at 7pm EST/4pm PST and run until Sunday, April 22, at 12am  EST/9pm PST. You can install the beta client from the title's Steam page. 
 
 
Murderous Pursuits releases for PC on April 26.

Jack Gardner
Frostpunk gives players the task of guiding the growth and survival of New London, the last city on Earth. In order to survive in the face of an unending winter that has largely wiped out humanity across the globe, the final remnants of the human race have turned to using the power of steam. 
 
Starting from a collection of shelters in a somewhat sheltered valley, players guide New London to greatness and sustainability by managing the expansion of the city, deciding on the policies regarding food, water, and the most precious resource of all: heat. Players will be responsible for deciding how heat is distributed throughout their city, a power that can mean the difference between life and death. 
 
As the city grows, more conflicts and problems will arise from the general population. Players will have to establish laws and policies that govern the populace. Do you prioritize healthcare or building maintenance? Do you make sure everyone is fed even at the cost of increasing police presence? 
 
Another wrinkle on top of everything else, the population has to have hope. Everyone in New London is well aware of the precarious nature of their survival. The more desperate the situation becomes, the less hope people have and the more likely the city is to revolt or have various problems. As players progress, small decisions will add up and lead to decision points that will alter the entirety of society forever. How far is too far to maintain order and stability in a city that represents the last shot at the survival of the species?
 
Once players advance to a certain technological level they can explore the surrounding world by sending out expeditions into the blinding frozen wastes. These are risky endeavors that could go down in flames and ice or discover a treasure trove of new citizens, technology, or resources. It can be hard to get society to that higher tech level, but the higher end of the tech tree brings automated drones and airships that can be a huge boon to New London.
 
 
Frostpunk releases on April 24 for PC .

Jack Gardner
Surprising most of the world, MapleStory's recently announced sequel, MapleStory 2, won't be a deep dive into the sticky situations of the Canadian syrup industry. Many expected that the sequel to the long-running, free-to-play MMORPG would abandon its side-scrolling roots for a more serious look at the syrup allegory hidden within the maple-flavored heart of its setting. However, the sugary spirit Nexon has presented in the sequel's trailer seems to be quite different from what some were expecting. 
 
Instead, MapleStory 2 will focus on crafting and advancement in social prestige while bringing the series into 3D. Of course, this doesn't mean that all vestiges of the once cutting syrup exposé originally suspected by certain segments of the public will be absent. The name itself hews closely to the original, and the series retains the lighthearted and colorful nature that always spoke of the deliciousness of pancakes or french toast lavished in syrupy goodness. True, that particular style might be drawing more from Minecraft than the mechanical underbelly of the syrup industry, but it's certainly more tonally consistent with the wider whole of MapleStory 2 than what we can only imagine would have been an increasingly dark journey into the depths of corporate cover-ups and staggering quantities of embezzled syrup. 
 
 
MapleStory 2 looks adorable and fun regardless of what one might have expected prior to the announcement. Players can sign up for the beta until May 6, and the beta itself will run from May 9-16.

Jack Gardner
Square Enix continues the trickle of Kingdom Hearts III news with a new trailer that shows off a collection of mini-games based on the handheld LCD systems that were popular in the 80s. Players take on the role of Sora and Mickey as they complete various tasks related to original Mickey Mouse cartoons from back in the day. 
 
The trailer shows four different mini-games titled The Barnyard Battle, The Karnival Kid, Giantland, and Musical Farmer, respectively. 
 
 
The Classic Kingdom trailer comes courtesy of the Kingdom Hearts Union X fan event being held in Anaheim, California. 
 
Kingdom Hearts III will be coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The release date has not officially been revealed quite yet, though there are hints that it could be coming sooner rather than later. I'd put money on us learning that information sometime during E3 2018. 
 

Jack Gardner
Pokémon Go released in 2016 as part of a collaboration between Nintendo and Niantic Labs, a game developer that grew out of a Google initiative designed to explore the potential uses of the technology used to create Google Maps. The mobile phone game caused an unprecedented fervor in the general public, gaining a worldwide following in the hundreds of millions. Though plagued by technical issues at release, becoming the subject of criticism for the public behavior of the player base, and botching some high profile events, Pokémon Go continues to receive updates and has maintained a consistent base of support from around 65 million people. 
 
Given the sweeping social impact Pokémon Go had, would it be fair to call 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: Pokémon Silver 'Lucky Coin' by Schtiffles (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03476)
 
Kevin Slackie can be found on Twitter @KSlackie talking about game design and meeting Ray Wise.
 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it!
 
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

Marcus Stewart
Sixty seconds. That’s how long each life lasts in Minit, a unique title that puts a spin on Zelda-esque design using devious time management. As a hero doomed to exist in one-minute intervals, players must make the most of their time to unravel the mysteries of the black and white world. Though the experience winds up being as brief as the title suggests, it's time well spent. 
 
Beginning each life at the hero’s house, the goal is to explore as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Once time expires, the character dies and players restart back home. Exploring far off areas only to be kicked back to the beginning sounds restrictive, but I loved the fun sense of urgency this creates. A satisfying feeling of accomplishment arises in trying to quickly map out the world. The best reward, though, comes in obtaining new equipment. 
 
Items such as a sword that cuts through obstructing bushes or speed-boosting shoes save precious seconds. They also open up previously inaccessible areas, creating new routes to hasten treks. Life may be fleeting, but thankfully progress is permanent; each new item becomes an lasting part of the inventory. That means that despite repeatedly starting anew, significant gains are made. The relief in finding a breakthrough tool with just seconds to spare can be exhilarating.  
 

 
Minit’s most inventive aspects directly play into its time limit. One elderly NPC takes ages to reveal the location of a secret spot. To allow time to read his full message, players must find a faster way to reach him. Another segment involves finding a character’s lost credit card by playing a cute game of “hot and cold”. Though the entire game acts as a race against the clock, I would have liked to see more situations that more directly, and creatively, challenge player speed. Minit’s puzzles are perfectly acceptable, though few stand out as anything special. 
 
The final boss stands as my biggest gripe in terms of not taking advantage of the timer. Though a solid fight, it ignores the game’s urgency by allowing players to restart at the exact spot in the fight that they died. Not to armchair design, but can’t help but feel the boss should instead be dropped by a single, tough-to-find weakness that you only get one minute to uncover. 
 
Though Minit hides a decent amount of side content that players must go out of their way to find (including a secret-laden dungeon), the critical path ends much sooner than I would have liked. In fact, there’s no indication that the end is near until the boss falls and the credits roll. Maybe this premise would lose steam in a longer game, but I can’t help but feel Minit wrapped up when it was just hitting its stride. 
 
This brevity does highlight Minit’s lack of a real story. The game begins, you assist random folks who sort of point the way, then then defeat a final foe you didn’t know existed until it appeared. That’s barely a complaint, though, as a narrative was the last thing I cared about with this game. 
 
 
Conclusion:
 
Every bite-sized run through Minit is an engrossing endeavor. The time limit creates an effective hook that makes an otherwise solid adventure more engaging. However, the short length,  inconsistent use of the clock, and sparse storytelling sometimes makes Minit feel like a neat proof-of-concept rather than a fully realized game. Despite these complaints, I had a good time–even if it lasted as long as my hero’s lifespan. 
 

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