Previous month:
July 2013
Next month:
September 2013

August 2013

Power Button - Episode 104: Co-op Games For Couples

Power ButtonFor this installment of Power Button I invited my fiancée Nicole to join me and Blake Grundman to discuss our favorite co-op video games with an eye on games that are perfect for couples to play together.  From actual multiplayer titles to single-player material played with two-player lives/levels swaps, we cover some of the greatest co-op games from the old and new eras of gaming.  Rescue Rangers, Katamari Forever, Sly Cooper, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, and more are all up for grabs.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button - Episode 104: Co-op Games For Couples

Opposites Attract In Saints Row IV Singalong

One of the fun traditions in Volition's Saints Row series involves the eventual singalong session that turns up at some point during each of the latter three games.  The player character loves to burst into song when appropriately moved; in Saints Row 2, for instance, A-ha's timeless anthem "Take On Me" inspired an impromptu karaoke momentSaints Row: The Third featured the boss and fellow Saints gang member Pierce crooning Sublime's "What I Got", and it's only right for Saints Row IV to continue the practice.  The boss and Pierce team up again to belt out the 1989 Paula Abdul hit "Opposites Attract", but since there are seven unique voices (four male, three female) that players can choose for the boss, there's a special version of the singalong made possible by combining all of the voice tracks.  For fictional characters, these folks sound like they're having a lot of fun.  It really goes to show how important talented actors are to the experience.  In lesser hands this kind of moment wouldn't work at all, but in this instance it's a wonderful bit and a true high point of the game.

New Nintendo 2DS Announced

Nintendo 2DSNintendo has finally found success with its Nintendo 3DS handheld console after a rocky start, but while plenty of people have found fun with the system's game library, not everyone is sold on the 3D functionality.  Moreover, small children are not advised to use the 3D options, so parents may not be so eager to spend $180 on a device that their kids cannot use to the fullest.  How does Nintendo solve this?  Here comes the new Nintendo 2DS, a non-folding non-3D variation on the 3DS.  It plays all 3DS and Nintendo DS games, but doesn't include the 3D screen or the clam-shell design.  Sleep mode is triggered by a manual switch rather than closing the system.  Suggested retail price in North America is $130 and it's due to release on October 12 in snazzy red and blue varieties.  Here's some of the company's press release:

Nintendo 2DS plays the entire library of packaged and downloadable games for Nintendo 3DS only in 2D. The system features a distinctive fixed, slate-type form factor, and optional carrying cases will be available in Red or Blue at launch at a suggested retail price of $12.99. Nintendo 2DS maintains many of the same hardware features as Nintendo 3DS: dual screens, game-play controls and touch-screen features. The system also has backward compatibility with the existing library of more than 2,000 Nintendo DS games, as well as access to wireless connectivity features like multiplayer online game play, fun Nintendo Video content and great digitally delivered games in the Nintendo eShop.

It's certainly a surprise announcement and the online community is quick to react negatively, but remember that Nintendo has aimed the 2DS at young children; specifically, parents buying a handheld system for young children.  By eliminating some of the costly features of the 3DS, Nintendo can offer the system at a lower price and deliver a product that careless kids are less likely to break (good luck snapping the hinge on a system that doesn't have one).  The 2DS isn't meant to slide into your pocket.  It's meant to go in a kid's backpack or Mom's purse.  The lower price is especially important when buying new handhelds for more than one child. 

There's also a secondary market for the 2DS: adults who don't want the 3D visuals.  Whenever I try to show my fiancée Nicole a 3DS game, she recoils like a robot trying to divide by zero unless I turn off the 3D.  Some people just can't look at the 3D screen in action without feeling ill.  While the 3DS's 3D can be disabled, offering a model that excludes it entirely for a lower price may help fuel impulse purchases.  So, all that said, if you're scoffing at the 2DS, remember that it's not for you.  Others will go for it, but I don't see it overtaking the 3DS itself as the primary product in the Nintendo handheld family.

Obscure Atari Lynx Game Revives Plok

ZakuThose of you who have read PTB for a while know that I have a soft spot for 1993's Plok from the Super NES era of video games.  Starring a little guy with detachable arms and legs as weapons, Plok went on to become a colorful footnote in video gaming history even as recent attempts at a comeback have mounted.  Somewhere along the way, however, Plok turned up in a most unlikely place.  A homebrew game for the Atari Lynx, Zaku, features Plok as a special guest boss.  Developed by Super Fighter Team and released in 2009, Zaku challenges players to survive sixteen side-scrolling shooter stages in the tradition of Gradius and R-Type.  I can't imagine how Plok became mixed up in all of this other than to guess that Zaku's creators are fans of the character just as I am.  Check out this segment of a complete playthrough of Zaku from YouTube's Osman Celimli in which Zaku takes on the menacing Plok (and his Union Jack jetpack!).

Sony Cuts PlayStation Vita Price, Plans Indie Blitz

PlayStation VitaIf you've held out on buying a Sony PlayStation Vita because the price was a bit too steep, then you're in luck.  The company announced today that it's cutting the price of the handheld to $199.99 in North America and €199.99 in Europe.  That's a nice savings, but what's especially worthwhile is that the pricey memory cards (which, as you'll recall, are required for saving game progress, downloading digital versions of games, and basically storing any content on the device at all) will also see a slight price cut.  That's some of the best news of all here, as those memory cards are very expensive and are a significant hidden cost when joining the Vita club.

Moreover, Sony also announced a bunch of indie games are headed to the Vita.  Expect to see Hotline Miami 2, The Binding of Issac: Rebirth, Joe Danger, Rogue Legacy, Wasteland Kings, and Volume on the system.  Borderlands 2 is also on the way to the Vita, and while it's not an indie game, it's also the only major publisher title for Vita that was announced today, so it seems to me that the Vita has completed its transformation into the handheld system for indie titles.  I am pleased with this, as I'll take any kind of engaging Vita content I can get.  It's a nice little system and deserves a better following, and while I don't normally seek out indie games (I still hope to see a real Ratchet & Clank adventure for the Vita before it's all over), I've been slowly coming around to the whole indie scene thanks to games like Retro City Rampage. I'm also aware that using the phrase "indie scene" has just put me back to being hopelessly out of touch, but I'll catch up again given enough time (just like the Vita).

Xbox One Launch Day Release List Revealed

Xbox OnePreordering a new console is part of the process for early adopter gaming fans, but what good is a shiny new box without games to play on it?  Microsoft has a list of games that are intended to release on launch day with the Xbox One.  Featuring a variety of genres from action to puzzle to fighting to sports and beyond, these are the first games headed to the new console.  Here's the list:

  • Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag (Ubisoft, Ubisoft)
  • Battlefield 4 (DICE, Electronic Arts)
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward, Activision)
  • Crimson Dragon (Grounding/Land Ho!, Microsoft Studios)
  • Dead Rising 3 (Capcom Vancouver, Microsoft)
  • FIFA 14 (EA Sports, Electronic Arts)
  • Fighter Within (AMA Ltd., Ubisoft)
  • Forza Motorsport 5 (Turn 10 Studios, Microsoft Studios)
  • Just Dance 2014 (Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft)
  • Killer Instinct (Double Helix, Microsoft Studios)
  • LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (TT Games, Warner Bros. Interactive)
  • Lococycle (Twisted Pixel, Microsoft Studios)
  • Madden NFL 25 (EA Sports, Electronic Arts)
  • NBA 2K14 (Visual Concepts, 2K Sports)
  • NBA LIVE 14 (EA Sports, Electronic Arts)
  • Need for Speed: Rivals (Ghost Games, Electronic Arts)
  • Peggle 2 (Popcap, Electronic Arts)
  • Powerstar Golf (Zoe Mode, Microsoft Studios)
  • Ryse: Son of Rome (Crytek, Microsoft Studios)
  • Skylanders: Swap Force (Vicarious Visions, Activision)
  • Watch Dogs (Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft)
  • Zoo Tycoon (Frontier Developments Ltd., Microsoft Studios)
  • Zumba Fitness: World Party (Zoë Mode, Majesco)

FIFA 14 is actually included with all Xbox One console preorders in Europe, while Killer Instinct will be offered in several varieties at different price points depending on how much of the game you want to buy up front and how much you prefer to put off as future individual content purchases.  Free FIFA will do wonders in Europe where soccer is king, while making Killer Instinct available at the price of a normal game where all content is available without further charge is a smart move that will hopefully throw off some of the game's free-to-play stigma.  Peggle 2 is a Xbox One exclusive for now.  That about sums it up; there's some good stuff on this list, although most of it is destined for a multi-platform release, so don't feel too left out if you're pining for Watch Dogs or Need For Speed: Rivals and aren't joining the Xbox party.  We've come a long way from the days when a list of launch titles included only one or two games, so no matter what you're feeling are about the Xbox One, I'm happy that Microsoft and its partners have put together such a varied list of options for launch.

Plants Vs Zombies 2 Senior Producer Bernie Yee Talks Monetization, Development, And Bonk Choy

Plants Vs Zombies 2After years of speculation and old fashioned waiting, fans of PopCap's famed Plants vs Zombies are finally enjoying the sequel, Plants vs Zombies 2: It's About Time, now that it's arrived exclusively (for now) on the App Store for the iPhone and iPad.  The new game keeps the core experience of lovable plants lashing out at invading undead hordes while adding new mechanics such as the plant food boost option, touchscreen-based power-ups for quick zombie extermination, and a pack of new plants with their own unique attacks.  Time travel sets the stage for a series of levels based around eras such as ancient Egypt and cowboy adventures in the wild west.  It's not all smiles and sunshine, though; the most controversial aspect of Plants vs Zombies 2 has to be the inclusion of paid upgrades bought with real money instead of in-game coins.  The plants have gone freemium allowing PopCap and publisher Electronic Arts to offer the game as a free download with the expectation/hope that players will kick in a few dollars for additional plants and enhancements.  PopCap Senior Producer Bernie Yee recently had the chance to sit down and answer some of my questions about Plants vs Zombies 2, and I asked series superfan and my Power Button podcast co-host Blake Grundman to kick in his questions as well.  Here's what Bernie had to say about the free-to-play aspects, elements left on the cutting room floor, when the game will come to additional platforms, and so much more.

PTB: What is your background and role at PopCap?  What were your responsibilities on PvZ 2?  

BY: I’m the Senior Producer. Game development is a collaborative process – designers come up with ideas and systems, the artists come up with a visual world, and the  programmers implement it.  Inevitably, there are more things we want to do, than we have time to do.  Sometimes this means that we  have to make hard decisions on what to cut and what to keep. Producers work to make those tradeoffs, and keep things aligned with the product vision and the schedule. We work across all the disciplines, and with the business folks, to make sure we know how things are going at all times, to raise warning flags, and to solve problems.

PTB: How did the PvZ 2 project start?

BY: After the original game, we wanted to follow it up. (This was before my time on the project, by the way.) So folks at PopCap spent a lot of time prototyping new  ideas. Nothing really stuck until the team prototyped the Plant Food system.  The team felt  like this was the mechanic that preserved a critical element of the game – the charm and whimsy of the original characters – and gave it a new dimension. That kicked off actual production, and everything fell into place after that. And by “falling into place” I  mean, all the sweat and tears that is game development.

Continue reading "Plants Vs Zombies 2 Senior Producer Bernie Yee Talks Monetization, Development, And Bonk Choy" »

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate Coming To PS3, Xbox 360 In HD

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of FateKonami and MercurySteam brought the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow world to the Nintendo 3DS earlier this year with the Castlevania - Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate title to bridge the gap between Lords of Shadow and its upcoming sequel, Lords of Shadow 2.  Considering that the original Lords of Shadow is a Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC title, it stands to reason that fans of the original may well have missed out on Mirror.  That won't be a problem for much longer as Konami has announced that it's bringing Mirror to the PS3 and X360 as a downloadable title in October with a high definition upgrade.  Get ready for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HDMike Futter at Game Informer has the news.

Konami will be celebrating Halloween in style, as Mirror of Fate HD will be released on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network on October 31. The title serves to fill in the story of the Belmont clan, with three different playable characters.

I wasn't all that thrilled with the original 3DS version, as I'm not much of a fan of the Lords of Shadow corner of the Castlevania universe.  However, what really put me off was my inability to reliable see what was happening on the 3DS's screen.  The game's dark visual style made it difficult for my to track what was happening.  The game seems better suited to a large television running in HD, and I wouldn't be surprised if this release wasn't part of the plan all along (in fact, the game's developers have been quoted before as saying that they developed the game in HD and then stripped it down for the 3DS release).  It may be worth a second chance if you gave up on it before, and fans of the series who missed it the first time around will want to check it out. 

The Staggering Costs Of Disney Infinity

Disney InfinityThe long-promoted Skylanders-type game featuring popular properties such as Monsters University and Cars, Disney Infinity, launched today in North America for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and PC.  Disney is banking hard on kids demanding all of the many add-ons and accessories needed for the full play experience.  Like Skylanders, Disney Infinity characters are bought at retail in packs and plugged into the game via a NFC interface.  The catch, of course, is that these characters, packs, and accessories are not exactly cheap.  Kotaku has done the math and figured out how much it'll cost to buy into the launch packs of Disney Infinity.  Hint: a lot.

I'm using GameStop prices her, since they generally stick to MSRB as far as games go, unless they're used. they've got the starter pack at $74.99. That's the bare minimum you can spend.

Do you have more than one child? Do you want to play the adventure playsets in co-op mode? Since only characters of the corresponding property can exist in an adventure playset, you'll need at least one other figure from each of the game's three starting worlds.

That means you'll need either the Sidekicks Pack or the Villains Pack. Retailing for $29.99, these packs contain three villains or additional heroes from each of the three starting worlds — Davy Jones, Syndrome and Randall Boggs, or Barbossa, Mrs. Incredible and Mike Wozowski.

Assuming you only need one version of the game, we're up to $104.98.

The running total goes on and on across more packs and the Power Pack discs which add more options to the game.  All totaled, you'll need to $252.90 at a minimum to truly get started with Disney Infinity.  Be sure to read the full article to see just how quickly the costs add up.  Once upon a time, buying a game would entitle players to the full experience.  Then came downloadable content and expansion packs.  These things add to the game, but they're not required.  Now we're into an era where buying a game is just the launch pad; players need more and more little plastic trinkets to actually get something out of the product.  Y'know, it occurs to me that Disney has taken inspiration from an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Watch this clip from Episode 421, Monster A Go-Go, to see Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV's Frank unveil their latest invention: Johnny Longtorso, the action figure who himself is sold separately.

I don't know when the NFC toy/game bubble is going to burst, but at this rate, it'll be messy (and expensive!) when it does.

Power Button - Episode 103: WayForward Director Austin Ivansmith Rewrites History With DuckTales: Remastered

Power ButtonLife is like a hurricane when WayForward's Austin Ivansmith, director of the recently released DuckTales: Remastered, joins Blake Grundman and I for an hour to talk all about the development of the game.  You'll hear about how the project began, how closely involved Disney and Capcom were with the development process, what inspired the addition of new elements, how the new game matches up with the original Nintendo Entertainment System release, what it's like to direct legendary voice actors like Alan Young and June Foray, which line of Scrooge McDuck dialogue Disney ordered to be changed, how the rearranged soundtrack was composed, what Remastered means for the future of the DuckTales brand, if a mobile or handheld version of the game is in the cards, whether or not everyone involved is interested in creating new editions of other classic Capcom/Disney collaborations from that era, how to handle negative reviews, and so much more.  It's over an hour of conversation that'll answer the DuckTales: Remastered questions that you didn't even know you had.  Special thanks to Austin for coming on the show!  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Power Button - Episode 103: WayForward Director Austin Ivansmith Rewrites History With DuckTales: Remastered