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Reviews

System: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: October 12th, 2013
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company


Author: Patrick

By this point I shouldn’t have to explain what this long-running RPG series is about. The coming of age story of an adventurous kid and their menagerie of bizarre monsters has been constantly repeated over the last fifteen years with a very gradual evolution in the gameplay. While I enjoyed Pokémon Black, White and their sequels, the lack of meaningful mechanical changes that came with staying on one console for too long started to set in and I was hopeful that X & Y would breath new life into some of the staler aspects of the series. Now that the series finally makes the jump to the 3DS, does it manage to revitalise the franchise with new features while still capturing the same je ne sais quoi as the other titles? Well I think it does, at least.

System: Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: October 22nd, 2013 (NA)
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix


Author: Austin

Some games like to take themselves extremely seriously. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of those games.

The non-director’s cut (editor’s cut?) of this particular Eidos title came out back in 2011, and at the time it had not a home on a Nintendo console, which meant that folks who aligned themselves exclusively with the big N missed out on the game. When Square Enix saw the Wii U, apparently they also saw an opportunity to release an updated version of the game to a new audience– tag-lined “Director’s Cut”– and test the third party waters on this latest home console and its strange controller.

Roughly 7 months after the initial announcement, the game is out, and there’s good news: It’s pretty dang good.

System: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: September 20th, 2013
Developer: Zeptolab
Price: $9.99

Author: Jack

Ever go to prom? Remember the overwhelming tension and excitement surrounding the build-up to the big day? Rushing to get a last-minute suit vest the same hue as your beloved sweetie pie’s dress, making sure that painful last payment on your limousine rental went through, flipping through your anthology for the optimal Ja Rule record on the way there to set the mood just right… ah, I can almost feel it as though it were yesterday. In fact, my prom was yesterday (I’m in the Navy), and the most vivid memory I have of that fateful eve was getting my mullet trimmed and cut into a bowl cut earlier that afternoon.

While there’s surely no surrogate to be had for a proper trim and cut, with the recent release of Cut the Rope from hitherto unknown Russian developer ZeptoLab, you can now come close to replicating the same pleasurable feeling I experienced at the hands of the barber in the comfort of your home with your 3DS stylus. At a price of $9.99 (compared to the lousy $17 run-around deal I got for a pretty standard bowl shape), Cut the Rope checks off every box a figurative contemporary downloadable game assimilates, and through sheer content and professionalism, releases as one of the most polished and notable puzzle titles to be consumed on the 3DS eShop. Om Nom.

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Making anything never felt so heroic. Sort of.


System: Nintendo Wii U/3DS
Release Date: September 24th, 2013
Developer: 5th Cell
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment


Author: Austin

Scribblenauts had pretty humble beginnings four years ago when it made its first public splash at E3 2009. Back then, the game was known as little more than an ambitious title from a somewhat-proven developer (5th Cell, who were at the time known for Drawn to Life and Lock’s Quest) that promised you the moon and seemed to be delivering on it. The game released to fairly warm reception despite some naysayers, and has since gone on to become something of a household gaming name like LEGO or Skylanders.

With Scribblenauts Unmasked— the latest, DC Comics-infused entry in the series– the spiritual parallels to a franchise like Skylanders have become even more apparent. The game feels unapologetically directed towards younger audiences, and while it’s obvious that any lay-gamer (or D.C. comics fanatic) would have a hayday merely playing around with the object creator, someone looking for real satisfaction on a deeper level probably won’t find it within Unmasked.


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Because nothing spices up a relationship like a little bit of adventuring.


System: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: October 1st, 2013 (NE), Q1 2014 (EU)
Developer: Neverland Co.
Publisher: XSEED Games (NA), Marvelous AQL (EU)


Author: Austin

There’s an implicit warning to the player the moment they start up Rune Factory 4, and it goes something like this:

“I really hope you like anime.”

Yes, the first thing you’ll lay eyes upon after clicking the game’s icon on the 3DS’ home menu is a fully animated music video where anime-styled characters are introduced and a Japanese woman sings a wonderfully cliché (in a good way, I might argue) tune in the background. If you had seen the video without any context, you may as well have assumed it was the theme song to a TV show or the title sequence of a film– and depending on who you are, that might be a joyous setting of stage for a game. Regardless, this opening is actually a very serviceable measuring stick for whether or not Rune Factory 4 will tickle your fancy.

Beyond that outer aesthetic layer, though, there’s a lot to Rune Factory 4: Players will be asked to tend crops, foster relationships (both romantic and platonic), tackle dungeons, learn to cook, forge items, take up chemistry– the list of activities, superficially, is extremely long. Quantity does not equate to quality though, and in the case of Rune Factory 4, the quality does prove somewhat unstable.


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If you’re in search of excellently executed ancillaries that push the puzzle genre past its minimally-accepted bounds, you’ll have to wait until Jupiter Corporation (Picross DS) gets the wigglin’ for T-Jigglin’.


System: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: August 8th, 2013 (NA)
Developer: Moving Player
Publisher: Moving Player


Author: Jack

Tangram game, perfect for boy and son, finally has a representative on the 3DS eShop! The ancient Chinese puzzler with seemingly infinite (though absolutely finite) configurations composed from the same eight blocks mirrors LEGO not only in open-endedness via face-value simplicity and accessibility, but as a developmental catalyst for pattern recognition and critical thinking in little children. With the glut of quality time-wasting and brain-exercising works available not only amongst the eShop, but the collaborative Internet as a whole, is the jungle-themed Tangram Style worthy of a place in your digital collection? Does it manage to power past the replacement-level iterative puzzler black hole problem that oh-so many no-name puzzle games fail to conquer?

While Tangram Style certainly passes the base litmus test as a fundamental tangram simulator, too many bush-league problems mar what should have been an easy game to push through the development process. Tangram Style does not indeed exceed the bounds of the aforementioned black hole, and should only be purchased by T-Gram aficionados in search of familiarity– not puzzleheads in search of another brainy rush.


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The first Wii U-exclusive, Nintendo-published action game from esoteric developer Platinum Games is finally at North America’s doorstep.


System: Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: September 15th, 2013 (NA), August 25th, 2013 (EU)
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Nintendo


Author: Austin

“They can do it! They can do it! ‘Cuz they’re super sisters and brooooos!”

I encourage those with a passing interest in The Wonderful 101 to start their purchasing deliberation process by experiencing the game’s brilliant theme song. I suspect that anyone who cracks a smile or feels a sense of joy while listening to it will fall well within this game’s intended audience, and if you laughed aloud (like myself) while listening to the lumberjack-esque men sing very silly words written by game director Hideki Kamiya himself, then you can stop reading here and go wait eagerly for the game’s September 15th release date because this game is for you.

But if you’re not a dedicated part of the game’s intended audience and you view the package as a whole, you’ll probably begin to see some pretty substantial blemishes. Not enough of them to ruin the experience, but plenty to leave certain players frustrated and wishing the game had done a few simple things a lot more elegantly.

Read onwards to decide if The Wonderful 101 is for you.


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“If Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is like a holiday then it’s more of a guided tour than an adventurous escape”


System: Nintendo 3DS (and 2DS, I guess)
Release Date: August 11, 2013
Developer: AlphaDream
Publisher: Nintendo


Author: Patrick

Dream Team begins with Mario and Luigi off to enjoy a much-needed vacation at the sunny Pi’illo Island and this sets the tone for the rest of the game. It’s a refreshingly relaxed experience with a forgiving difficulty level, and chill bossa nova music courtesy of Yoko Shinomura. However, it’s also a bit too relaxed for its own good, as poor pacing and overbearing tutorials threaten to bring the adventure to a halt. Make no mistake – the latest in the Mario & Luigi series is still as fun as its predecessors, but it takes a lot of patience to get to the charming and creative parts.


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The #1-ranking Japan eShop game Bike Rider DX is now available in the North American eShop. Let’s see just what makes this game hailed as “the one-button platformer” such a big hit.


System: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: August 1st, 2013 (NA) – August 15th, 2013 (EU)
Developer: Spicysoft
Publisher: Spicysoft


Author: Spencer

As far as gameplay goes, Bike Rider DX is quite simple. You control a stick figure riding a bike on 2D plane while jumping onto platforms and over gaps and obstacles,. The bike rides automatically, so the only real control is pressing the A button to jump. You can also double-jump, as indicated by one of the loading screen tooltips (of which there are only two, due to the simplicity of this game), and even triple-jump if timed correctly, although I found this out completely by accident. Optionally, you can use left and right on the directional pad to adjust your bike’s position on the screen, which is helpful for this game as it is for the most part about timing jumps from platform to platform. You complete each course by reaching the finish pole, and you fail courses by falling into pits or crashing into walls or obstacles.

One-button gameplay might work in a game with more depth, involvement, or variety– like Kirby Air Ride, which had several different gameplay modes, objectives, maps, etc– but in a game where you are simply jumping over holes on 2D maps where the only real variance is the aesthetics, it just comes off as monotonous and repetitive.


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“This particular Pikmin pellet blossomed into a great big purple Pikmin, so give Reggie your $60 already whydontcha?”


System: Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: August 4, 2013
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 4, Monolith Soft
Publisher: Nintendo


Author: Jack

There seem to be two branching philosophies various game developers employ for their secondary and tertiary takes on intellectual properties.

The first take is the “disparate” sequel, where designers conjure up an intriguing gameplay concept and slap a brand well-ingrained in the public conscious onto it, majorly or even wholly changing core gameplay from a sequel’s preceding entry. While many consider this a less-than-affable way of spreading new ideas by exploiting referential IPs, it’s a path that’s lead to more than its fair share of iconic and revolutionary games (Resident Evil 4, Grand Theft Auto III, Jak II, and Dynasty Warriors 6 all being great examples).

The second and more oft-used take is the “retread” sequel, where the original strengths in a game are rehashed and expanded upon, with a sprinkling of nuance-extrapolation here, and a dazzle of fresh-gameplay-motifs-wrapped-around-the-same-core-gameplay there. Sequels made in this vein, in large, try to refine a presented idea with sheer heuristic redaction, letting time and outside perspective lend itself in the design and development process. Retread sequels often attract a fair degree of criticism; in many cases, retreads aren’t perceived to have strayed far enough from the origin, and while some games feel like they do just need more pure content iterated out, a lot of the time it just feels like we’re hopelessly doing the same thing a year later, a foot taller.

The work of Nintendo’s development teams has fallen into both camps, sometimes to aplomb, and sometimes to obscurity; they’ve (by popular consensus, mind you me) succeeded and failed with re-imaginings Super Mario 64 and Star Fox Adventures, and respectively waxed and waned with retreads Animal Crossing: New Leaf and New Super Mario Bros. 2.

So, where does Pikmin 3 fit into all of this?