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BATMAN: The Telltale Series – Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available On: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, mobile
We Played On: PC

After the minor letdown of the third episode of Batman: The Telltale Series, I felt the latest installment had a lot to do to redeem itself.  I needed to be impressed with not only the plot twists and turns, but also with how much control and agency I felt I had over the course of Batman’s experiences. Luckily, Guardian of Gotham did just that.

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Planet Coaster

Planet Coaster Review

Posted by | PC, Reviews | No Comments

Available On: PC

Creating your own amusement park should never go out of style. Frontier Developments’ new self-published title Planet Coaster captures the magic of roller coasters and theme parks from classic games like RollerCoaster Tycoon and Sim Theme Park. Planet Coaster succeeds as a modern update to a classic formula thanks to intuitive controls and an aesthetic that keeps everything light and fun.
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Watch Dogs 2 Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
We played on Xbox One

I came into Watch Dogs 2 with a skeptical mind because I’ve been burned by Ubisoft hype before. Fortunately, all of my concerns faded away quickly as I was whisked away to a virtual San Francisco to live the life of a hacker vigilante. I may be finished with the game, but it has definitely left its mark on me. Watch Dogs 2 is, unquestionably, one of the best games I have played in a very long time.

The Story

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Players take on the role of Marcus Holloway as he joins the “Hacktivist” collective known as Dedsec and embarks on a crusade against a corrupt company gathering citizen data and selling it to the highest bidder (among other nefarious acts).

His crusade comes in the form of a quest for followers as he cruises around town completing tasks to impress the people of the internet. Completing tasks nets Dedsec followers who download their app and give the hackers a portion of their phone’s processing power. Eventually these huge numbers will give them the CPU power to hack into their target’s systems and bring them down.

This is a simple premise that would fall flat if the missions were not interesting. Fortunately, they more than pass muster. The missions that you take on in just the first dozen hours ofrso of the game involve such tasks as faking the delivery of a rap song to a reasonable facsimile of the pharma-bro Martin Shkreli, infiltrating a close-enough version of the church of Scientology, and stealing “Kit” and driving it on a wild rampage to help film a re-cut version of a movie trailer. In the meantime you can snap selfies in front of famous locations, race go-karts, and even do timed deliveries a la Crazy Taxi.

I felt compelled to keep plugging away at story missions long into the night more than once. I wouldn’t say that this is going to raise the bar on open world storytelling, but I  was very invested in their mission very early on. The idea of companies gathering too much intel on their customers and selling it happens under our noses right now. So seeing a group of hackers battle against it felt great. I genuinely wanted to see how it would turn out for these guys.

San Francisco

It is impossible to discuss Watch Dogs 2 without addressing the setting. This game takes place in a well rendered representation of the city of San Francisco. It isn’t a one to one rebuilding of the city in virtual form, but it includes all of the major neighborhoods and most of the major landmarks that you wouldn’t expect to see in the game.

Driving around the expansive map was impressive, and the varied environments did a great job of keeping the game from getting repetitive. I hope that the Watch Dogs 2’s success in rendering San Francisco convinces other companies to set games there. It really is a great place to play.

The Gameplay

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Watch Dogs 2 is an excellent open world game. The cheap comparison would be to try and weigh the game point by point with Grand Theft Auto. But, those comparisons really aren’t fair. First, GTA is genre-defining so nothing can really keep up with it in comparison. Second, the player’s role in the games’ narrative (Criminal vs Vigalante hero) is so different between the two games that it makes them feel like wholly separate games to me.

The core mechanic in Watch Dogs is, as it always has been, hacking. Players use their phone for virtually everything they do. You can hack just about every electrical device that you see in order to overcome challenges.

The gameplay loop of hacking through different cameras to gain access to new areas returns from the first game. But, the list of hackable objects (and the things you can do with them) has increased this time around. My favorite is the ability to hack an electric panel to short out slightly so it draws a guards attention only for you to activate a second power to deliver a non lethal shock to knock them out. There is even an option to cause some people’s phones to detonate like grenades (They must have had Galaxy phones I guess).

The true highlight of the game, however, are Marcus’s  quad-copter drone and his remote controlled “car.” These devices can be let lose at the push of a button and give Marcus greater reach than he would on foot without exposing him to bullet fire. As the game progressed I found myself relying on those devices to do all of my dirty work. I barely entered most compounds unless I was required to but by then, all the hacking had been done. I thought they would have been a distraction, but they are amazing additions. I can’t wait for future Watch Dogs games to see what other drone-type devices they can think of.

Online Multiplayer

The online multiplayer is cleverly done and helps to simulate a world full of hacktivists – each with their own motives and goals. Sometimes those goals align neatly. This results in cooperative missions where players can team up to break into some intensely guarded compounds. Sometimes those goals don’t align. That results in another player entering your game as a bounty hunter tasked with eliminating you.

The multiplayer was largely broken at launch for the game, so I was unable to try it. But, its goal was to seamlessly integrate other players into your world on a shared map of San Francisco.

The Rating

Watch Dogs 2 is rated M for mature and for good reason. You have the option to play as a non-lethal hacker, but failing to do so leads to almost GTA level shooting sprees. The language in this game is also off-the-charts bad. I heard more F-words in some cut scenes than non-F-words.

The Takeaway

Buy with confidence. Watch Dogs 2 is one of the best games of the year.

Pixelkin's 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

Pixelkin 2016 Holiday Guide

Posted by | Feature, Mobile, PC, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox One | No Comments

Here are our recommendations for games that would make good gifts this holiday. Click on your platform below and you’ll get a list of games, broken down into games that are great for all ages, and those that would be better for older gamers. Each listing includes a snippet from our reviews of the games. Remember DON’T FORGET GIFT CARDS! Sometimes these make better gifts than specific games, especially if you’re not quite sure what some one would want.

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Pixelkin 2016 Holiday Guide: PC

Posted by | Feature, PC | No Comments

Great for All Ages

 

armello

Armello
Armello is a complex, but really good digital board game. I found it satisfying to simply play against AI characters, but multiplayer was fun too. There’s no chat, so you don’t have deal with any objectionable behavior from other players. The developers recently released an expansion pack that adds more characters that you can play as. I really liked this game and very much recommend it for someone whose looking for a strategic board game experience, but can’t get the friends together to have one. Though you could all play Armello together from any location.

burly men at sea

Burly Men at Sea
It’s the perfect type of game to simply relax with. The dialogue and the sense of humor were great. The burly men, themselves are pretty entertaining, but some of the other characters were even more so. My favorite was the grim reaper. Burly Men at Sea is funny, fun and short. Typically short games aren’t well-liked, but the length is perfect for what it is. It’s easy to pick up, play through making different choices and put down again. The art style fits perfectly with the whimsical charm of the game, and the whole package makes for a really great gaming experience.

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Civilization VI
Civilization VI is the perfect next step in the series. It’s got a great amount of changes that improve the gameplay, while still feeling like the same game at its heart. This is a must-buy for existing Civ fans. If you’ve been wanting to dip your toe into the turn-based strategy genre, you can’t really find anything better. Just be prepared to tell yourself, “just one more turn” over and over and over.

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Epistory: Typing Chronicles
It’s a captivating indie RPG that uses all the right tools to create an enjoyable experience. The fact that your typing skills will gradually improve is just a bonus to enjoying a nice story and a beautiful world. If only Kiki had ridden a giant paper fox.

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FIFA 17
FIFA 17 is a gorgeous game that includes all of the football action that fans of the sport would expect. This is a must own for fans.

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Flat Kingdom
The wide variety of different types of platforming, the fun art style and the solid mechanics make it a worthwhile play. Additionally, there are a decent amount of collectibles and bonus quests to keep the completionist occupied for at least a little while.

 

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Four-Sided Fantasy
Four Sided Fantasy is not for the faint of heart. This game is hard. Even when you think you’ve got it, there will be a a new challenge. The developers have said that one of their inspirations was Portal. I love Portal. I played a ton of Portal, but this game is way more difficult than Portal, at least for me. But I love that it’s difficult. There are times when I want a game I can easily move through, but other times I want to be challenged. This game is a great challenge.

 

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
This game has been out for awhile, but it’s got a thriving community that continues to grow.

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Industry Manager – Future Technologies
Industry Manager – Future Technologies was really fun. It still seems weird saying that. I enjoyed the ability to micromanage every detail of the company I created. I got lost and had to stop myself, or I would have played much, much, longer. If you like games like Sim City or Civilization, you’ll probably enjoy this. It has the same type of complex gameplay, but in a new way.

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Karma Incarnation 1
Karma is a journey through a gorgeous world. The psychedelic visuals and interesting character designs make it stand out in the crowd of point-and-click adventure games. Even with the frustration some of the puzzles muster, it’s still an experience worth taking a look at.

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Kerbal Space Program
The soft music and cheery Kerbals help keep you calm, even when one minor mistake causes catastrophic results. As complex as the science gets, Kerbal Space Program desperately wants you to succeed. For once you’re not racing toward galactic conquest or defending against alien invaders. You’re reveling in the simple joy of applied learning and scientific discovery. For Science!

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LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Besides the main gameplay there are gazillions of characters, vehicles and other collectibles to find through out the game. That’s the same tried and true formula that has been working in LEGO games for more than 10 years. At the end of the day it is a LEGO game and it’s Star Wars. That’s all you really need to know.

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Planet Coaster
Planet Coaster includes all the amenities you remember from the theme park genre – guest AI, advanced coaster construction, thematic pieces and scenery, and being able to ride everything – and then improves them all with a very user-friendly interface and seamless sharing integration. The gameplay is more intuitive than ever without losing any of the key features that make the genre so compelling. Planet Coaster is absolutely the RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 you’ve been waiting for.

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 trouble in zombopolis: part one

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Overall, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a ton of fun, just like the first one was. The tagline for the game is “Bigger. Badder. Bigger.” I usually find taglines like these to be a little bit too much bragging, but in this case, the tagline is completely fitting.

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Seasons After Fall

Seasons After Fall is captivating and challenging. If you’re a fan of puzzle platformers like Ori and the Blind Forest and Unravel, you’ll likely find this game to be a similarly enjoyable way to spend a few evenings.

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Song of the Deep
Song of the Deep isn’t the deepest Metroidvania I’ve played, nor even my favorite underwater game (look up Aquaria). The game makes up for its light, simple combat with fun, varied puzzle designs and a beautiful world to explore. Song of the Deep has a satisfying challenge curve that remains fun for its 10+ hours, and the grand story will keep you invested in Merryn throughout her journey.

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Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is like a love letter to 90s RPGs. I could easily see myself playing Stardew Valley for months to come as I rotate my seasonal crops, upgrade my gigantic farm, and start a family. Even if you’re not a fan of the farming genre, Stardew Valley will make you one.

Unravel EA Access

Unravel
Unravel is beautiful. While its story isn’t spelled out very clearly, there is a strong sense of family and love that connects each scene. I think it would be a really nice game for a parent and child to share because of the lovely settings and warm atmosphere. Plus, if you get really into it, you can try making your own Yarny as an art project.

 

Great for Older Gamers

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1979 Revolution: Black Friday
1979 Revolution: Black Friday is a game that gives you an enjoyable story with plenty of twists and lots of great characters. But perhaps the best aspect of the game is the potential it holds for using a game to teach real history to its players. I’m hoping iNK Stories can take me somewhere else in the future.

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Batman: The Telltale Series
This is a classic episodic story done in Telltale’s tried and true method. Not all of the episodes have been released yet, but the one’s that have are great.

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Battlefield 1
Battlefield 1 stands out from the crowd of recent science fiction based shooters. It is a must own for anyone who enjoys the genre, but has been hungry to put down the laser rifles and charge into the war zones of the past.

BioShock: The Collection

BioShock: The Collection
What is there to say about this one? It’s and HD compilation of all of the BioShock games, as well as all of the related single-player DLC. If you were a fan of the originals, this is a great way to experience them. If you haven’t played them, they are well worth picking up.

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Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is pure fun. Fans of the series should buy this one right away. You will not be disappointed. Everyone else should, at least, look into buying this game as its price drops because the single-player campaign is excellent.

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Event[0]
Event [0] is not only really fun to play, it’s also so different from anything else out there right now. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with Kaizen, especially the non-sequiters that had nothing to do with my progress. I could’ve sat at my desk and chatted with him all day. The game has a wonderful sense of humor and breathes new life into all of the HAL 9000-like plots floating around the game world right now. Event [0] rises above the rest with original gameplay that kept me enthralled and wanting to come back for more. I highly recommend it.

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Firewatch
In summary, I loved this game. I don’t usually consider replaying something the minute I put it down, but I’d like to spend more time with Firewatch. It’s worth every minute.

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Gears of War 4
Gears of War 4 is an example of a game doing one thing and doing it extremely well. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a shooter that’s more polished than this one. The depth of the story was surprising to me and is actually more interesting than you’re standard sci-fi fare. Straight-up shooters aren’t really my thing, but I enjoyed playing the game. If you’re a big fan of shooters, then you’ll definitely want to give the game your attention.

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Overwatch
Overwatch is an amazing game and is a worthwhile addition to anyone’s library. This is especially true if you’re a fan of competitive shooters. This game is going to be a big deal for a very long time and it will definitely be worth it to jump on the bus with the rest of us.

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Oxenfree
Oxenfree was a really enjoyable game to play. It stood on the edge of horror without falling in, yet maintained its suspense far better than most horror games do. Oxenfree is many things: charming, eerie, poignant, and, most importantly, worth your time.

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Titanfall 2
Fans of the original Titanfall should grab this game as soon as possible. It is an upgrade in almost every way. Otherwise, I would only buy it if you were interested in playing the multiplayer. The single player campaign is a lot of fun, but it is really short. That makes it hard to justify a full price game.

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The Turing Test
The Turing Test is great execution of first-person puzzling. The rate of difficulty rose at a good pace and the puzzles were not only complex, they were satisfying to complete. I really enjoyed the game despite the fact that I couldn’t get comparisons to Portal out of my head.  But then, there are a lot worse games to emulate than Portal.

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Watch Dogs 2
I came into Watch Dogs 2 with a skeptical mind because I’ve been burned by Ubisoft hype before. Fortunately, all of my concerns faded away quickly as I was whisked away to a virtual San Francisco to live the life of a hacker vigilante. I may be finished with the game, but it has definitely left its mark on me. Watch Dogs 2 is, unquestionably, one of the best games I have played in a very long time.

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World of Warcraft Legion
World of Warcraft has been around for a long time, but with the release of Legion, a new expansion pack, the game has been revitalized and might be attractive to lapsed players as well as new ones.

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XCOM 2
Despite some technical difficulties, XCOM 2 is a dream come true for turn-based strategy fans. Thanks to the new resistance angle I felt far more invested in the story of rebellion. Expanded customization options helped me love and cry over my beloved soldiers more than ever. As a sequel it improves on every aspect while keeping the soul of the franchise intact.