I choose you, Pokemon in Minecraft!

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That’s all of 1996’s Pokemon Red recreated in Minecraft. That’s not just the environments, or the characters, frozen in Minecraft like a blocky Madame Tussaud’s. As impressive as that would be, this is the full original Gameboy game faithfully (some would say obsessively) programmed into Minecraft with no mods used. That’s 357,000 command blocks stamped out over 21 months for Reddit user MrSquishy to make his mark in history. You can grab the map yourself to try out in Minecraft. The creator warns people that his Pokemon recreation requires a bit more resources than the normal Minecraft map, and there may be some bugs, although some are intentionally recreating glitches from the original handheld game.

Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days is the Quentin Tarantino cartoon we missed in 1992

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That image is from Big Star Games’ upcoming game based on the Reservoir Dogs. You remember the diner assault in Reservoir Dogs, right? What about the shootout at the docks? How about the time-bending powers? Well, you’re going to see them in Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days for the Xbox One and PC later this year. Take a dash of Hotline Miami’s overhead ultra-violence and mix with a dash of 2014’s Super Time Force and you get a Reservoir Dogs that gives the criminals the power to rewind time and do-over bits of their heists.

Say Mr. Orange holds up a car for the getaway and gets shot in the gut. Hit the “Time Back” power and the player can now control Mr. White, and armed with foreknowledge and a big gun, he can go around the other side of the car and kill the driver before she shoots. Tragically, that means the rest of the story will be very different from the one in the movie, but destiny will likely force Michael Madsen to dance to Stuck in the Middle With You no matter how much you mess with the timeline.

Someone was listening while everyone complained about No Man’s Sky

, | Games

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on– Oh, look, a massive update for No Man’s Sky! Look at all that new stuff: base building, creation sharing, ship collecting, class specialization, land vehicles and exocraft, races, new stuff to buy, new stuff to build, new ways to shoot at things, meaningful survival mechanics, permadeath. Permadeath! The thing that makes all games even more replayable! Even persistence for the various places you’ve discovered, such as Wlkjtulappd, and Berlkdipbiesy, and Yiplyustokpydy. As you recall, those are all planets in the Bfeudisklonklorrl system. Remember the Bfeudisklonklorrl system? Remember all its purple planets with their pink skies? Yiplyustokpydy was definitely my favorite. I guess if I’m going back, I should rename it to something like Chickworld or Tomholme or Yes Album Cover #317.

The update also includes the obligatory visual improvements, such as horizon based ambient occlusion. Whatever that is, it’s something that wasn’t in No Man’s Sky before.

Scroll through this splashy page to see what Hello Games has done to their aimless game-less space game. Because from where I’m standing, waiting on the Steam download to finish, it looks as if there might be an actual game in there now.

Black Orchestra is no evening at the Pops

, | Game reviews

The last twenty years of boardgame design have taught us that there is a lot more to do with dice and cardboard than rolling to see whether or not you end up on Park Place. But to some extent this progress has enforced a sort of orthodoxy: games have to have brisk pacing, constant interactivity, and victory conditions that give first-time players a decent chance of winning, or they get quickly relegated to the shelf in favor of the latest hotness (unless they have cool miniatures, in which case apparently all faults are forgiven).

So what if a game gave you none of these, and on top of it, had a somber theme that would probably put off half the people to glance at the box? How about if it also condemned you a lot of solitary mucking about without a clear way to achieve your objective, only to have a chance to win come and go so fast you didn’t even get to plan for it, after which you settled into the despair of knowing your best chance to win has come and gone, and thought about all the ways that you could have seized that opportunity? Or instead, you planned carefully and cleverly for an opportunity that never happened? Welcome to Black Orchestra, a fantastic game that breaks many of the rules of Euro game design that we’ve swallowed without question for twenty years.

Quite literally, welcome to the resistance. Continue reading →

Best worst thing you’ll see all week: Catfight

, | Movie reviews

The titular fight in Fist Fight, a dopey Charlie Day vehicle, is a classic example of the barroom brawl as a rite of masculinity. It’s played as a redemptive act by which two men come together and earn mutual respect. It even saves all the teachers’ jobs at a beleaguered public school. Spoiler. But there’s no reason to see Fist Fight (the delightful Jillian Bell excepted).

The titular fight in Catfight is an outrageous, loudly foleyed, and drawn-out slapstick routine that would make Roddy Piper and Keith David proud. It’s dumb. Sloppy. Overblown. Director Onur Tukel shoves your face in it. It does not redeem anyone. No jobs are saved. It’s pointless. It’s not even funny, although I’m not sure it’s supposed to be.

What is funny is watching Anne Heche and Sandra Oh play their singularly unpleasant characters with a two-fisted doggedness, especially when they’re not throwing punches, taking falls, and setting up work for their stunt doubles. Both actresses come roaring out of their comfort zones, swinging wildly, and often connecting. These are two reprehensible characters, the likes of which women rarely get to play in the forefront (see also, The Bronze). Move over, bad moms, teachers, and santas. Heche and Oh have something to show you.

The real conflicts here are the conversations and social interaction. Tukel’s script is less about the catfight and more about reversals of fortune, told in the context of satire with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It doesn’t entirely work but it sure is timely. I can’t tell if the joke about trees named Bernie, Hillary, and Donald is pre-election or post-election, but I think Tukel meant for me to wince. He makes political hay with the issues of war and healthcare, the yin and yang of government: fighting and nurturing, killing and saving, masculine and feminine. But with fart jokes. Like I said, it has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

“Cute isn’t truthful,” Anne Heche sneers. Catfight is not cute.

Catfight is currently in limited release as is available for VOD on Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube.

Victor Vran is fracturing worlds while meeting Motorhead

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A new expansion has been announced for Victor Vran. The Fractured Worlds addition will send players to a plane existence formed out of the pieces of various planets that have collided and broken apart. The new narrative will four dungeons that change on a daily basis, The Fracture, an endless dungeon with new challenges, and an increased level cap from 50 to 60. Victor will gain an additional Destiny Card slot and a new item, Talismans, will offer powerful combat abilities.

Victor Vran: Fractured Worlds is scheduled to launch later this year. At around the same time, the previously announced Motorhead: Through the Ages DLC will also be released for Victor Vran. A bundle of the base game, the Motorhead and Fractured Worlds expansions called Victor Vran: Overkill Edition will be made available.

Check out Tom Chick’s review of Victor Vran here.

Watch how you mentor your henchmen in Middle-earth: Shadow of War

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One of the most satisfying things about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was meeting some low-level scrub orc, Gutterbum the Wretched, barely good enough to wear rags and carry a stick into battle, then bumping into him ten hours later as Gutterbum the Almighty, encased in the finest armor, wielding a mighty sword, and commanding a throng of minions. That was your handiwork. You forged Gutterbum in the crucible of your making. You raised him up from a nothing to a somebody as you tore around Monolith’s open world brawler. There was an odd sense of pride in seeing that orc again, now made formidable thanks to your own choices. He might kill you, but you made him that good, darn it!

Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the upcoming sequel, brings back the vaunted Nemesis System that made enemies grow with the player, but Monolith has expanded the way it works. Captured and turned bad guys will also evolve depending on the player’s actions. That’s not always going to be a positive thing, however. As the game’s creative director, Michael de Plater explained to PC Gamer, these allies may even grow out of their relationship with you. Their stories will have more meat on them compared to the first game’s rather generic buddies.

“We’ll say what’s a good story: does that begin with burning someone to death, or failing to rescue them in a mission so it makes for a betrayal, or you revive them so they feel loyal? What’s a good story? From that story we can mix and match different elements, whether it’s the writing, or what his fighting style is, or if he’s going to betray you. We’re always trying to make these really emotional, powerful stories.”

Middle-earth: Shadow of War launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in August 2017.

Pixel Privateers nearly sinks under the weight of all that loot

, | Game reviews

So much loot! More loot after every mission. Loot left over after the last mission. Loot I forgot I had. Panels and panels of colorful little icons, some green, some blue, some a couple of shades of purple, and some that eye-catching orange/yellow. There are even some reds. Reds! The rarest of the rare. Epic, even! No, wait, I think orange/yellow is epic. Red is an artifact, which transcends rarity because rarities are adjectives and an artifact is a noun. Loot, loot, loot! Normally all this treasure would be a cause for celebration.

In Pixel Privateers, an otherwise really good game, it’s cause for a sigh. Continue reading →

Free arctic expansion is ice, ice, baby for The Curious Expedition

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The Curious Expedition, the 19th century survival and exploration game from Maschinen-Mensch, has more rugged content for aspiring adventurers. The Arctic Expanse adds the snowy doom of ice floes, polar bears, and dog sledding to its catalog of ways to expire. It’s The Terror in pixels. Mostly, the update offers players what they’ve always wanted.

– New things that will very likely cause your expedition trek to die a gruesome death.

The Arctic Expanse update is free for all owners of The Curious Expedition. You can watch Tom Chick play the base game here.

Nintendo Switch game cartridges will not be winning any taste awards

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The game cartridges for the Nintendo Switch taste terrible. “Of course they don’t taste good,” you say. “They’re not meant to be eaten.” It’s more than the normal plastic flavor. There is an acrid bitterness to the little cartridges that was first reported by Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb when he jokingly put one in his mouth. Soon after, other people were trying the cartridge taste test and reporting similarly bitter results. Is it purposeful? Does the awful flavor have a reason? Nintendo has confirmed with Kotaku that they did indeed manufacture the cartridges to have a repulsive flavor.

“To avoid the possibility of accidental ingestion, keep the game card away from young children. A bittering agent (Denatonium Benzoate) has also been applied to the game card. This bittering agent is non-toxic.”

Denatonium benzoate is the most bitter compound known to humanity. If you say Nintendo Switch games make you gag, you won’t be exaggerating.

Epic’s Unreal Engine is auditioning for a spot in Hollywood

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Game engines being licensed to movie production companies isn’t a new thing. Whether it’s an actual game being shown in a movie, or a game engine being used to assist with special effects or pre-visualization, movie makers have been using the talents of game studios for years. It’s a perfect match. Game engines are fast, designed to work with off-the-shelf hardware, can produce great scenes, and are usually cheaper than higher-end tools. At this year’s Game Developer’s Conference, Epic Games had a new proposal for Hollywood: real-time special effects using Unreal.

In their GDC presentation, Epic Games showed off a number of ways their software could be used by film and television studios. By partnering with The Mill and their “Blackbird” stunt car, Epic demonstrated how producers could use Unreal to overlay a completely computer-created car into a scene and even change the car on the fly. Andy Serkis talked about how his effects company uses the Unreal Engine to render a virtual character in real-time in the The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Tempest. Epic even used a scene from Disney’s Finding Dory to illustrate how their Unreal Engine VR Editor supports Pixar’s Universal Scene Description toolset.

Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford also came on stage and showed off some bits of something called Borderlands 3.

Let go and let gravity in Steep’s opulent winter wonderland

, | Game reviews

Once when my little sister was nervous about flying, I tried to reassure her by explaining that when planes land, they’re literally falling. Planes generate lift by moving forward, with the amount of lift proportional to their speed (I might have even used the word “Bernoulli” while explaining this; I can be a bit of a show-off). If a plane doesn’t have enough speed, it stops generating lift. That’s called stalling. So when a pilot lands an airplane, he doesn’t fire up the engines and point the nose at the runway. That’s called crashing. Instead, he reduces speed until the plane isn’t generating enough lift to stay airborne. Now the plane is falling. Ideally gradually. And ideally onto a surface amenable to airplanes, like a runway. But falling nevertheless. It’s the easiest thing in the world. Falling.

“That’s not reassuring,” she noted. Probably because falling and crashing are synonyms more than falling and landing are synonyms. Continue reading →

Microsoft intends to find out how many Xbox One games we can play in one month

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Microsoft has announced Xbox Game Pass, an all-you-can-consume game service, coming to Xbox One and Scorpio. For $9.99 a month, Xbox Game Pass allows subscribers to download and play any of the program’s titles onto their consoles for as long as they remain active members. It’s like EA Access, but Xbox Game Pass includes multiple publisher partners. There are over 100 Xbox One and backwards-compatible Xbox 360 games from 2K, 505 Games, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Capcom, Codemasters, Deep Silver, Focus Home Interactive, SEGA, SNK, THQ Nordic, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Microsoft Studios included in Xbox Game Pass with more planned to be added. Subscribers will also be offered discounts on DLC for the games in the program.

Xbox Game Pass begins testing today with selected members of the Xbox Insider Program community. The full program will launch later this spring.