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Jack Gardner
Armor Games Studios, publisher of indie gems like Sonny and Pinstripe, and developer Massive Monster have announced that The Adventure Pals will be releasing early next month. 
 
The zany co-op platformer sends a pair of kids off on an adventure to save their grandpa from being turned into a hot dog. Players take on the role of one of the kids, either solo or in co-op, and ride off to do battle against the forces of wackness on the backs of their trusty giraffe steeds. Over the course of their adventure, they'll give semi sentient cupcakes to cats, make friends with rocks, and do battle against a whole host of strange baddies. 
 
The Adventure Pals features over 100 levels spread across five worlds. Each world holds a variety of quests and characters that range from zombie pirate cats to hot dogs that squelch out land mines to a very large and very insecure whale. Completing quests will level the adventure pals up and open ever more powerful abilities.  
 
As part of the announcement, Armor Games Studios and Massive Monster have released a 10-minute gameplay preview that you can view below:
 
 
The Adventure Pals releases on April 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC with a Switch version coming soon after that date.   

Jack Gardner
Well, this is unconventional. 
 
An upcoming film currently in pre-production under the name Atari will be offering investors the chance to buy into the film via a cryptocurrency called the Bushnell Token after Atari founder and subject of the biopic Nolan Bushnell. According to Vision Tree, the production and financing company behind the film, the decision will help generate hype for the project by getting fans and gamers invested both emotionally and financially in the film's success. Vision Tree aims to raise over $40 million with the Bushnell Token's Initial Coin Offering (ICO). Those who purchase these digital coins will reap some percentage of the film's earnings when it releases. Investors will also have some say in the creation of the film itself with the ability to vote on trailers, casting decisions, and more. It's unclear exactly how much power investors will have over the creative process.  
 
J.D Seraphine, the co-founder of Vision Tree, spoke about the benefits of using cryptocurrency to crowdfund a project. "Entertainment companies can engage directly with their audience and crowdsource financing at such a great scale now," he said. "We’ve seen success with our own films, namely Sirius, and we’re seeing many successful film projects continue momentum and traction through an ICO. We’re excited to be one of the first to utilize an ICO and a cryptocurrency to engage with audiences and finance a film in this way.”
 
Atari will focus on Nolan Bushnell's origins as a pinball machine repairman and tell the story of how he managed to create one of the most important gaming companies in history and what led him to walk away from it all a handful of years later. The film is being produced with the help of Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way production company. 
 
Bushnell feels that the move to finance the film in this way represents a forward-looking approach that explores what could be possible with blockchain-based currencies in the future. "Blockchain represents a new environment that needs to be explored in all its dimensions: games, movies, books, art, etc. It is an innovative approach, fueling economic models and matching support with funding. The idea that we have a new way to fund things is fascinating and powerful.”
 
Nolan Bushnell was recently the subject of allegations that he had contributed to a sexist work culture at Atari. In a number of publications throughout the years both Bushnell and former employees told stories about the culture of Atari that included naming prototypes after attractive women in the office and inviting female employees into hot tubs during meetings. The allegations cost Bushnell an achievement award at GDC 2018, a move which Bushnell applauded in a statement released in January.  
 
There's no word on when the Bushnell Token will be up for sale to the public, but keep an eye on the Atari film website for updates.

Jack Gardner
It was unclear whether Yakuza 6: The Song of Life would have a demo after Sega removed it from the PlayStation Network last month.
 
The demo was notable for its size due to the demo including all of the data for the full game. The idea was to allow those who played the demo to carry over their progress and trophies to the full game on release day. However, the demo was intended to cap progress at the end of the first chapter of Yakuza 6, but some players either didn't run into that cap or found a way around it. Once that became public knowledge, Sega pulled the demo.
 
It seems that some tweaks have been made to the demo to ensure no one can get access to the full game now. Players will be able to progress up to the end of the first chapter and then grind experience that will carry over into the full release. However, if you've already played through the demo, any trophies you've earned will be reset. 
 
If you were one of the players who made it past the chapter one cut off point, you will not be able to load that data for the demo. However, the full version of Yakuza 6 should still load that data so you can pick up where you left off. 

Jack Gardner
Titan Quest may have been out for over a decade, but it has just released on consoles for the first time. Players can now experience the Diablo-like ARPG based on mythologies from around the world. 
 
Crafted by Brian Sullivan, one of the co-creators of Age of Empires, players travel across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia in an attempt to stop the long imprisoned Titans from destroying the planet. With the help of the gods themselves, it might just be possible. Titan Quest is notable for its story having been written by Randall Wallace, the mind behind the film Braveheart. 
 
 The console version features completely overhauled graphics that bring the 2006 game up to modern graphical standards. It also supports online co-op play for up to six players. That's right, up to five of your friends can run around the ancient world doing battle with mythical creatures. With controls remapped to console gamepads, it's never been easier to play. 
 
 
Titan Quest is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A Nintendo Switch version is currently in development, but the official word is that it will be released when it is done. A couch co-op mode is also on the way. 
 
What do you think? Will you be picking up Titan Quest?

Jack Gardner
Asher Vollmer programmed Threes in a shockingly short amount of time in 2013, but then assembled a team that would come to be known as Sirvo to refine the idea over the next year. Threes humbly released in 2014 for $2 on iOS and Android. Since then, people have been playing it like crazy. Mobile developers point to it as one of the best puzzle games out there. What is Threes? It's a game where players slide together 1s and 2s to make 3 and two 3s to make a 6 and so on. Despite it's seeming simplicity, the first player to reach the "end" only managed it a couple of months ago after years of playing the satisfying sliding game.
 
So what's the deal with Threes? Is it one of the best games period? Naomi Lugo joins as a co-host to get to the bottom of this conundrum.
 

 
Outro music: Threes 'Threes Is the Bees Knees' by timaeus222 (http://ocremix.org/song/26532/threes-is-the-bees-knees)
 
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 
 
You can follow Naomi on Twitter @NaomiNLugo where you can find her thoughts on Detective Pikachu and Isle of Dogs. You can also find her work on Extra Life (that's here!) and Twin Cities Geek!
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday

Jack Gardner
It turns out that some rumors do come true! Last week, we reported on a rumor that had Geralt of Rivia entering the fray in the upcoming Soulcalibur VI as a guest fighter. Bandai Namco has since confirmed that rumor with a slick trailer showing the White Wolf in action. 
 
After stumbling through a mysterious portal, the witcher Geralt finds himself fighting against the sword-obsessed denizens of Soulcalibur's world in a desperate bid to return home. It turns out, luckily, that all of his tricks seem to work in this new universe. 
 

 
The trailer shows Geralt employing his various sign magic in combination with his trademark fighting style. It also shows Geralt crossing swords with Mitsurugi on the flagstones of Kaer Morhen. That's just cool as heck.
 
Also, Nightmare rides a night-mare. 
 
 
There's still no release date for Soulcalibur VI, but we know it will be releasing later this year for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Expect to see a hard release date when E3 rolls around later this year. 

Jack Gardner
You really have to listen to this. 
 
Today, Josef Kenny released his own take on The Beatles' song "Eleanor Rigby." This new version combined the classic track with the battle music from Pokémon and.... Honestly, it works so well that it's kind of astonishing. 
 

 
Josef Kenny works as an independent musician focusing on mixing, production, and remixing. Gaming and music are clearly near and dear to his heart with gaming related and inspired music posted to his Soundcloud as far back as five years ago.
 
It's a pretty fantastic remix.

Jack Gardner
Threes might be one of the best mobile games ever created and it was designed by Asher Vollmer and his team at Sirvo back in 2014. (Edit: Vollmer put together Sirvo after creating Threes - Guildlings will be Sirvo's first game as a studio.) Since then, Sirvo has been quietly plugging away at Guildlings. Announced over two years ago, the team has made progress and finally issued a release window for this coming summer. 
 
One of the big problems that plagued the highly successful Threes was how easily the minimalist design was able to be replicated by cloners and knock-off artists. The market was flooded by these games to the point that some of the clones became headline stories in their own right without any credit ever being given to Threes. With Guildlings, Vollmer and his team designed with a focus on narrative, visuals, and things that are all-around much more difficult to rip-off. 
 
Guildlings is about a bunch of teenage rebels who embark on an adventure. Calling themselves Guildlings, they explore the land of Worldaria getting into all kinds of shenanigans. Sirvo has designed Worldaria to be a mix of modern technology and concepts paired with magic. Each of the Guildlings has their own magical powers and access to asocial network run by magic. The locations and regions of Worldaria reflect that magic as well ranging in description from the surreal to the mundane.
 

 
One of my favorite elements of the world that they have teased so far has to be the Lanternions, creatures that serve as light posts and the defenders of travelers. They're not fast, but that's because they are made heavy with the memories of all the travelers they couldn't save. They're precious and I love them.
 
As the intrepid leader of the Guildlings, players steer their journey across Worldaria and try to figure ways out of any tricky situation in which the team might find itself stuck. The core game consists of exploring an expansive location followed by the time spent traveling to a new location. Players will want to be careful with their decisions, though, because some could have unintended results.
 
At one point, the team was looking into implementing Inkle Studios' Ink language to create an series of interconnected pieces of content, possibly to have a persistent flow of consequences. Inkle was recently in the news for their latest game that uses the same language to power a text adventure on the PlayStation 4.
 

 
Asher Vollmer and his crew at Sirvo Studios know how to design a solid game and have the track record to prove it, which should be reason enough to get excited about Guildlings. Expect to see the first part of the adventure, titled Guildlings Act One, debut on mobile devices this summer.

Jo Ellen
After the completion of the 4th annual Extra Life United event, my family and I are in awe of all the Extra Life community has accomplished. I wanted to write and share this note on behalf of the Enmon family.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU Extra Life GAMERS! Somehow these words just do not seem to be adequate enough to thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for Extra Life. The amount of money that was raised this year was phenomenal – Eleven million plus is just amazing. We never could have dreamt that “the little girl from Orange, Texas would leave such an amazing legacy”.  
 
Our family had such a wonderful time meeting so many new gamers, returning gamers, spectators, and their families at Extra Life United at Children's Hospitals Week.
 
What a year for amazing things to happen - raising eleven million plus dollars in 2017; raising $40,000 at Extra Life United leaving Jeromy Adams speechless on stage, as well as having in attendance a Cow, Fairy, Unicorn, Dinosaur, a bottle of Hot sauce and many illuminating hairstyles! WOW just WOW, all of this and more will be cherished and remembered.
 
 
 
As we reminisce about the past years, we cannot help but continue to thank Jeromy Adams and his family for his Dream!  What a dream ride it has been and continues to be! We can only imagine what the future will hold for Extra Life and #forthekids.

 
 
We want to send a great big THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts to Liz, Mike, Lou, Jeromy and staff for planning such a wonderful event. To Tori’s Angels, we say THANK YOU, for providing your expertise to the process and to the event to ensure that it ran smoothly.
 
Our family has discussed the event in great detail and we have an announcement. This year the Enmon Family will be awarding  ELU Scholarships to applicants, to help defer some cost of the Extra Life United / Children's Hospitals Week trip in 2019! We hope that by helping in different ways, that perhaps some of the burden will be lifted for those who may otherwise be unable to make it to ELU in 2019. We will keep you posted as details become available.
 
Thank you again for all of the love you continue to give to our family.
 
Victor & Jo Ellen Enmon
Christin & Justin Hommel, Corbin and Adilyn
James and Stormy Enmon




Jack Gardner
You're on the run and every move counts. A shadow follows in your exact movements and pausing for too long to figure out a puzzle could prove deadly in the minimalist cat-and-mouse game Echoplex. 
 
Awarded Most Innovative Game and Best Art Direction at Lisboa Games Week IndieDome 2017, Echoplex offers players a set of 27 levels that weave their way through an FMV storyline full of mystery, intrigue, and horror. Since that showing last year, Output Games has revamped the user interface, added new puzzle mechanics, and tightened the gameplay. 
 
Echoplex puts players into the role of an engineer at the Clonochem Corporation manufacturing the strange and mysterious product Continuum. After calling a phone number he finds on a severed arm, he finds himself trapped in a simulation that continually loops and soon begins to fill with more versions of himself - until one of them begins to chase the original. 
 
That chase sits as the fundamental building block of Echoplex. Run over a switch that shuts a door? You might have to wait for the shadow following in your exact footsteps to trigger the switch again to move on.

The founder and director at Output Games, Tyron van Vuuren had this to say about the unique FMV approach to storytelling:
 
 
 
Echoplex is available beginning today for PC.

Jack Gardner
A Kickstarter that succeeded in 2015 will be paying off later this year when Shape of the World releases on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One - and now the Nintendo Switch, too.
 
"I’m thrilled to officially announced that Shape of the World is coming to Nintendo Switch this year," said Hollow Tree Games' founder Stu Maxwell, "nobody on the team expected the game to look so nice on the Switch, we’re really happy with it… We can’t wait to see what everyone else thinks." Maxwell also works as a senior VFX artist at The Coalition, the studio behind Gears of War 4. 
 

 
Part first-person exploration and part surreal art piece, Shape of the World places players in a technicolor world filled with psychedelic flora and fauna. That world expands and grows as players progress through it. Waterfalls, mountains, mysterious monoliths, and more procedurally sprout from the surrounding terrain, making each foray into the world.  
 
Shape of the World is intended as a relaxing, stress-free experience. There won't be any enemies or challenges beyond the thrill of evergreen exploration. Players can interact with animals, plants, and the various ruins that dot the world to uncover its secrets. Hollow Tree Games has also included a soundtrack that follows progress through the procedurally generated world.
 
 
Shape of the World will launch on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One in the next few months.

Jack Gardner
Subset Games really knows how to design a solid game. FTL: Faster Than Light demonstrated that the team possesses the chops to create a game capable of sucking people in for dozens of hours with engaging strategy that often asks players to make tough decisions. Those tough decisions, the kind upon which hang life or death, form the central thesis of Into the Breach.
 
Into the Breach takes place in a far flung future where Earth has flooded, reducing its landmass down to a handful of islands and unleashing the Vek, a collection of horrific kaiju from deep underground. Humanity created fleets of giant robots capable of fighting the Vek to defend the last cities on the planet, but it doesn't seem to be enough. Overwhelmed and on the brink of total annihilation, one last, desperate plan was conceived: Send one experienced mech pilot back through time armed with the knowledge to prevent humanity's doom and win the war against the Vek. 
 
The scenario, penned by Chris Avellone, the creative mind behind Baldur's Gate and Fallout: New Vegas, sets the stage for the roguelike elements of Into the Breach. When players manage to defeat the Vek, they are able to send a pilot of their choice to another timeline to continue the fight. Death, on the other hand, results in the last pilot to die engaging an emergency jump to a different timeline. That pilot brings all of the skills and experience they have acquired to the new timeline, giving future playthroughs an edge over the previous ones. It's a helpful feature, as players will need every tactical advantage they can get to make it through Into the Breach. 
 

 
While the decision making in FTL largely centered around preparing for battle, Into the Breach puts almost every decision into the turn-based tactics battles themselves. Each conflict with the kaiju takes five rounds. After those five rounds, the towering monstrosities retreat back into the dark depths from which they came. Players have two basic things to do during those precious few turns: Keep their mechs alive and prevent the kaiju from damaging cities. If a mech's health drops to zero, the pilot dies permanently. If a building takes damage, the power grid takes damage, too. Players lose the entire timeline if the power grid drops to zero hit points. These simple goals quickly become complicated by bonus objectives and map conditions. Each mission can grant reputation, which can be spent on various upgrades after completing an island, or power to replenish and reinforce the power grid's health and defenses.  
 
This leads to the player approaching each mission as potentially game-ending. Sure, perhaps using a rocket punch to kill that kaiju might accomplish an objective for reputation or save a friendly mech, but it will likely also damage the power grid bringing the timeline that much closer to failure. However, maybe that loss is worth it if you can get enough reputation to later purchase more power for the grid or maybe complete a bonus objective that provides more power. 
 
Each mech in the three machine team possesses different abilities that often do more than just straight damage. These abilities can push enemies, pull them, create a defensive shield, launch barriers, distribute damage in unique patterns, and much, much more. This leads to a delicate balancing act in battle, where every tool at the player's disposal must be employed to move enemies into positions where their attacks miss or hit one another in an effort to minimize damage to the power grid. 
 

 
One aspect unique to Into the Breach is that enemies move and prepare attacks before the player's turn. The game presents all information to players upfront. All attacks hit and do full damage. This allows players to sit back and plan their moves carefully while knowing what the outcome of their actions will be. Of course, that can lead players to make mistakes; something that can lead to absolute disaster in the space of a single turn. Subset included the option to reset a turn once per battle to give players some degree of leniency.
 
While the tactical elements of Into the Breach outshine the competition, it stumbles when it comes to narrative. FTL: Faster Than Light allowed players to name their crews and contained numerous side stories and scenarios that tickled the imagination. Those decisions invested  like a much larger game. Subset Games' sophomore outing ditches much of that. This leads Into the Breach to feel more sterile and empty with a world where the stakes aren't terribly dramatic.
 
The cast of characters is composed of a handful of pilots and the four administrators of the remaining pockets of humanity. The pilots mostly speak in reaction to what's happening in battle with one-liners, remarking about how the battle went, or to give a final word to the player as they die. The administrators give comments at the close of every mission. None of that feels intimate; by the time the credits roll, the player does not know any of the characters beyond what stats they can give a mech.
 

 
That's a shame, because one could imagine a version of Into the Breach where pilots have downtime together between battles to interact with one another and the administrators to show character development outside of their statistics. Chris Avellone is a great writer, one that I think excels at that kind of interaction, so the dearth of narrative outside of the overall scenario baffles me. Perhaps miscellaneous content wound up being cut to reduce development time or it created too much of a barrier between the player and the pitch-perfect strategy of the battles. Whatever the reason, the loss of that storytelling aspect hurts.
 
Returning composer Ben Prunty hits a high note with his work in Into the Breach. The music manages to convey mood and tone quite effectively, adding an ever escalating sense of urgency without becoming too overbearing. Prunty strikes a balance that allows players to focus and plan while also encouraging decision-making with an encouraging forward momentum. It's great stuff to listen to if you want to make progress on a task and avoid distractions.  
 
 
Conclusion: 
 
Into the Breach combines the colossal conflicts of Godzilla and Pacific Rim with the turn-based tactics of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. However, the unique spin on the formula that sets it apart from its gaming brethren put it in a class all its own. Instead of killing, the systems in the game have players employing tactics that create Rube Goldberg-like chain reactions to save the civilians of a doomed world. The satisfaction at achieving a flawless victory or pulling through to the end and successfully defeating the Vek cannot really be overstated. Into the Breach stands as a high point in strategy gaming that should be pulled out in game design classrooms for years to come.
 
That being said, it's hard not to see the possibility for it to have been more. The lack of a compelling narrative beyond the minute-to-minute gameplay experience feels like a missed opportunity. Perhaps a future update or sequel could add something along those lines to bolster the perfect mechanics.
 
If you have any regard for turn-based tactical games, Into the Breach is absolutely a must play game for you. 
 
Into the Breach is available now on PC.

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