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Joust

We have our share of problems in this field, that’s for sure. But sometimes, it’s good to take a look around, check out all the progress that developers and fans are making, and admit to ourselves that there’s no better time to be a gamer. Following up on our discussion of negative trends in the industry, here’s a look on the sunny flip side, with the trends that are currently making us oh-so-happy to be around games all day.

Unprecedented variety

It may be a stretch to call it an embarrassment of riches, per se, but there have never been so many choices for gamers. Indies are flourishing – and the best are rising to the top, gaining series mainstream attention (see: Fez, AntiChamber, Sword and Sworcery and many more). AAA games, which have begun rivaling mainstream action movies in terms of cinematic wizardry and polish (just take a look at Uncharted 3 and Mass Effect 3), have never looked or played better.

Game engines (and other game making tools) have started to become accessible enough for non-technical artists and designers to start sharing their ideas with the world, allowing for “personal” games that folks like Anna Anthropy have started to make popular. Experimental games and out-there gameplay ideas are starting to make their way into the public consciousness, thanks to exhibitions like IndieCade. Finally, “folk” games are starting to emerge from the abyss, with titles like Johann Sebastian Joust leading the way.

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Darksiders 2

Many people know Joe Madureira as the talented artist behind comic book titles like Battle Chasers (which he created), Uncanny X-Men (including his stint through The Age of Apocalypse), and more recently, the new The Avenging Spider-Man. But to others, he is one of the creative principals at Vigil Games, which unleashed Darksiders on the world in 2010.

We spoke to Joe Mad (as he is known throught the world of comics) at a recent Darksiders 2 preview event, and he talks about the gameplay, the voice casting, and what you can expect from the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Read on for the full interview.

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PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale comes out the gates swinging with an already impressive lineup of Sony characters, but we here over at G4 think we know who’s next to be added to this stellar list.

The number of fan favorite characters and Sony exclusives could easily fill out five arenas to the brim with fighters. Characters like Jak, Snake, and Dante are sure to make the cut, but what of some of the other characters within the pantheon of Sony titles?

Let’s check out our top five character who we want to see make it to the Battle Royal.

ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection Bonus Content and Trophy List Revealed

Wander – Shadow of the Colossus

One of the best games to ever grace the PS2 needs to make an appearance in anything with the word “All Stars.” With blade and trusty bow, Wander plays like Link from that other series as you take shots from across the screen only to unleash steel once your opponent closes the distance. For his special ability, a shrill whistle calls in your mighty steed, Aggro, to come trotting into the level to kick and bash anyone who gets in his way.

For an ultimate attack, imagine the stage transforming into the upper torso of a colossus. Fists swinging, the ground shaking, and everyone screaming for their lives; this screen-sized brute won’t simply leave by waiting it out. Like any good colossi, you’re going to have to kill it. As the once-giant killer, Wander turns into a protector as he tries to keep the rest of the team from taking out his big attacker.

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Welcome to G4's Knuckle Up, where we bring you a byte-sized view of our five favorite mobile games every week. The phone and tablet space is filled with incredible games that will keep you busy for minutes, hours, or even days -- we'll let you know what we're playing and why we're playing it. Here are our top five games this week:

GAME OF THE WEEK

BURGER CAT

iOS

Oh, Burger Cat. You roped me in with your simple, adorable premise, and then held me (willingly) hostage with your elegant and fun gameplay. At first, you may write off Burger Cat as too simple. After playing through later levels, however, the game quickly becomes giddily complex, and you’ll retract your original mindset.

The story goes a little something like this: Burger Cat loves burgers (pretty obvious). He loves them so much, he decides to add a special ingredient to them to give them that extra kick. That ingredient is nitro glycerin. KA-BOOM.

You’ll spend your time in Burger Cat utilizing different tools to alter the landscape in each level, and then releasing your feline hero into that landscape after making those changes. The goal is to get him across the map to the delicious burger on the other side, and you get a finite number of pre-picked tools to do it with. Some remove/add squares of land, others change the direction the cat walks in; fortunately, Burger Cat encourages you to get creative with placement, often giving you more than what you need to complete each level and making the game incredibly enjoyable for gamers of all ages.

This is a game that slowly unfolds all kinds of measured, deliberate awesome on you, so take a chance. Plus, the “cat + cheeseburger” formula is a known winner (based on the entire internet).

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New Games This Week: Prototype

When you think of Prototype, you probably remember the ridiculously deep set of superpowers, the horrible infection devouring Manhattan, and the gleeful destruction of both life and property that was almost impossible to avoid. You also probably remember protagonist Alex Mercer, the maladjusted scientist who viewed his miraculous powers as a curse to be overcome and avenged. To be blunt, he was a bit of a dick.

Prototype 2 promises much of the same, but with one crucial distinction: you don't play as Mercer. The new lead is a soldier named James Heller. And he's not just replacing Mercer as the game's hero; he's actively trying to hunt Mercer down and kill him. The first game's hero is now the sequel's big boss.

Dave Fracchia, VP of Radical Entertainment, explains that Heller's introduction and Mercer's new role as the bad guy reveals a deeper truth about the franchise. "The star of Prototype is the Blacklight Virus itself, and how it effects everyone differently," Fracchia asserts. "If you look at movies dealing with viruses it's often about how that virus has infected all sorts of people throughout the world. So we realized that's who the star was. Being able to tell the story from another angle got us very excited, and got us thinking about other protagonists."

Radical didn't want to drop Mercer entirely, though, especially after memorably reconstituting himself at the end of the first game. "We didn't want to lose Alex's potential story," Fracchia says, "so one of the guys in the room came up with a brilliant idea - what if Alex created the next Prototype?"

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Fez

I present to you the hidden language behind all the puzzles in Fez. Journey into this 2D platformer and you might get lost among the hidden symbols lurking around every corner. With these translated codes, you’ll finally be able to take your gameplay to the next dimension.

Once you unlock the secret to Fez, there’s no turning back. This is my warning to you. Grab a friend and a pad of paper as you explore the lush pixelated landscape and poke at every mystery you find. Part of the journey and what makes Fez such an amazing game is slowly solving every mystery that you come across. Having the key won’t solve all the problems presented to you in the game, but you’ll just have to hard crack the monolith just like everyone else.

Turn back now, young readers. The secret world of Fez is about to be revealed.

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Who doesn’t like a good videogame Easter egg? There’s nothing like playing a game and discovering some incredible secret you had no idea about, like the sinister messages scrawled on the walls of Portal’s Aperture Laboratories, or John Romero’s bloodied head on a stick in good old Doom II.

Then there are the secrets that most of us don’t discover, the ones so insanely tricky to find that only a handful of people ever find them on their own. Some secrets were buried so deep into their games they became the stuff of legend, the magical old wives’ tales of gaming – before the Internet came along and made nothing a secret, right? Which I guess makes this article detailing the labors behind seven particularly insane videogame secrets no more than a big fat part of the problem.

Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Nintendo Power once ran a contest offering the kind of immortality a Zelda fan could only dream about: his or her very own room in A Link to the Past. Unfortunately for winner Chris Houlihan, his special room was so obscurely hidden that for years most players had no idea of its existence.

The Method: This is only possible with the haste-bestowing Pegasus boots equipped. You have to sprint through a specific sequence of around ten screens until you reach the well hidden under the bush just inside the castle walls. Not only is the route so specific, but also you can’t take any damage along the way, you have to cut through the bush from the south side, and you need to do it all in a matter of seconds. There are other confirmed methods, but they’re all just as oddball and obscure.

The Reward: You fall into a room with 45 blue rupees scattered around it and a plaque which reads “My name is Chris Houlihan. This is my top secret room. Keep it between us, OK?” And that’s just about it, I’m afraid. Still, fanfare or no, it’s a cool secret - especially if your name is Chris Houlihan.

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Indie

The indie world often runs at the speed of lightening which is often faster than me at 7AM before my first cup of coffee. With such a downpour of indie news and games recently in the past week, I thought now would be a good time to take stock of everything that’s going on in the world of indie from events, news, and the games you need to be playing now.

I also never pass up on a chance to talk about

What You Should Know

Speaking of the woman who makes all the geeks swoon and happen to share my love of Kingdom Rush, Felicia Day will be the host of this year’s IndieCade ceremonies. Having just launched Geek & Sundry, it seemed like a match made in virtual heaven as some of the top indie developers and rising talent within the field. And as always, G4 will be there to cover all the great games coming to beautiful downtown Culver City this fall.

Oh geez. If Felicia is going to be there this year, I’m going to start picking out what to wear now. Bowties are cool, right?

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MassDiGI

San Francisco, Austin, Toronto; when it comes to centers for game development and instructing the gaming innovators of tomorrow, MassDiGI wants to add one more city to that list – Boston.

Home of some of the most prestigious schools and development studios such as Irrational Games, the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) is looking to create an environment where students looking to get into the industry start in college and finish with a real job in a development studio right down the road. One such group of students took a step closer to realizing their dreams of creating their own blockbuster game when they won this year’s Game Challenge.

Started last year and based out of Becker College, this innovative group of educators stretches out across more than twenty other campuses in the region and incorporates local business and government to support the efforts of the students looking to gain real world experience. MassDiGI looks to get your hands dirty in the field as you take classes by bringing the real world games to you.

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Video game endings, like the culmination of most pieces of media, vary wildly from piece to piece. Forget, if you will, about Mass Effect 3 for just a moment. Try and erase it from your mind. Because as heinous as you think the ending may be, it's certainly not a unique beast.

And while it's a personal belief that a bizarre finale shouldn't wreck the complete experience, there have been some particularly jarring conclusions over the years. From unresolved cliffhangers to unsettling revelations, they run the gamut between confusing and just plain absurd.

In the interest of exploring options beyond BioWare's latest hot-button issue, we present five bizarre, shocking, and/or lame endings we could scrounge up.

Psi-Ops

Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

Offense: Non-Closure/Cliffhanger Ending

Nick Scryer, an amnesiac sent to infiltrate the terrorist organization known as The Movement, was saddled with an impressive arsenal of telekinetic powers to aid in his mission. Squaring off against former PSI-Ops, he was able to paint the walls with their brains, set them on fire, and hijack their bodies to act as his own pawns. It wasn't a terribly deep game by any means, but it was fun in the way only some shooters can be. And after hours of cleaning house with Scryer's impressive powers, expecting some kind of thrilling and explanatory conclusion, players were greeted with the infamous trio of words “TO BE CONTINUED.”

After some particularly weighty content exploring the involvement of special artifacts in some of the world's biggest tragedies (World War II, for example), one would have assumed some sort of closure would have been a courtesy, not Midway's sequel-securing way out. Of course, a sequel at this point is all but out of the question since the company has closed its doors, leaving fans in the dark. What happened to Nick, Sara, and the artifacts so many agents scrambled to recover at the game's climax? The world may never know.

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Commando Kiwi

After five months of development, culminating in a six day marathon session held at the 2012 Gadget Show Live, Commando Kiwi walked away as winners of Epic Games and Train2Game’s Make Something Unreal competition. The four finalists, picked from last November’s Epic Game Jam, were tasked with building an original iOS game based on the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks. For their efforts, Commando Kiwi won a full source Unreal Engine 3 license for iOS to be used for a future project.

Industry heavyweights such as Peter Molyneaux, Jon Hare, and Cliff Bleszinski offered advice, mentoring and constructive criticism to all four teams with the final judging performed by Fighting Fantasy creators Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. The four games ranged from third person action adventures to tower offence to first person combat puzzlers, with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain: Lost Chapters from Commando Kiwi chosen as the game that showed the most commercial potential and best adhered to the Fighting Fantasy gamebook upon which it was based. All four games will be made available on the App Store within the next few months, with a portion of proceeds going to The Prince’s Trust.


G4 spoke to Epic Games European Territory Manager and Make Something Unreal Live mentor Mike Gamble via phone and to Kiwi Commando Producer and Team Captain Jonny Robinson via email about the competition.

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Sniper Elite V2 Pre-Order Bonus: Hitler

On the day of his birth, we take a look back at the video game history of the man who's so fun to kill.

Videogames have produces some fantastically evil baddies throughout their history, from Kefka and Kerrigan to Glados and Ganon. And yet one boss appears time and time again who trumps them all. But as one of the most hated and evil human beings to walk the planet, it’s little wonder why Adolf Hitler and his tiny moustache keep showing up in videogames.

Perhaps it’s in part because WWII makes for an attractive setting, with Nazis being the only enemy to garner less sympathy than zombies. But even then, Hitler wasn’t exactly fighting on the frontlines where most WWII games take place. Hitler is that special sort of evil though, the incomprehensibly irredeemable sort that can draw a player in. Because deep down everyone wants to take a shot at him. So what better way to celebrate the day of his birth, than by recounting his plentiful digital deaths?

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Welcome to G4's Knuckle Up, where we bring you a byte-sized view of our five favorite mobile games every week. The mobile space is filled with incredible games that will keep you busy for minutes, hours, or even days -- we'll let you know what we're playing and why we're playing it. Here are our top five games this week:

GAME OF THE WEEK

DARK LEGENDS

Android

Games like Pocket Legends and Star Legends have rocketed Spacetime Studios into a small class of elite mobile MMO developers, which is why it’s no surprise their newest foray Dark Legends also belongs in that ultra-elite group. While Spacetime could have easily rested on its laurels and created a game with similar mechanics to their previous efforts, Dark Legends takes lessons and improves on what came before it. As a result, it’s both fun and deliciously dark.

The game takes place in the world of vampires, and we’re not talking about lame, sparkly dudes wooing sad little milksops. On the contrary, it’s a very Vampire: The Masquerade style of world (True Blood also comes to mind). Dark Legends focuses on the very sexy side of bloodsucking, and you’ll create a character to roam the streets and discover a sinister plot unfolding as you explore.

Spacetime’s well-executed character leveling system is intact, as well as a revamped mission setup with an energy system. Run out of energy, and you’ll have to either buy it via IAP, or rest your character for a spell. The costumes and different vanity looks certainly speak to the wild looks and characters you might see in the underworld of the undead, which I personally can attest to, as my character is currently rocking an Elvira-esque gown with a giant afro and dual wield machetes. Suck it, Team Edward. Dark Legends is your master now.

(P.S. - Don’t fret, iOS users. Dark Legends will be hitting your iPhone or iPad in the coming weeks!)

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After slaughtering the entire pantheon Gods, a plethora of ancient heroes, and a whole zoo of mythological creatures in three God Of War console titles and two handheld games, there are only so many enemies left that Kratos can rip the head from in his newest adventure, God of War: Ascension.

As we all know, Ascension looks back at Krato’s younger years before he became the bloodthirsty, badass that he is today. But this also means that the Gods, heroes, and creatures he meets in the new game cannot coincide with the ones he kills later on. If Timecop has taught us anything, messing with the past is never a good idea.

Whoever the soon-to-be Ghost of Sparta strangles and eventually kills with his bare hands this time around, they cannot make any sort of impact to the story moving forward. This means Hercules gets a free pass and Hades can breathe a little easier since they bite the big one later in the series. So who’s left for Kratos to rip apart piece by bloody piece? Plenty.

Here are some of our picks for mythological creatures and heroes who might meet their terrible fate at the hands of young Kratos.

Mythology

Typon and Echidna - "Mother of Monsters"

When you happen to be half nymph, half snake and you’re hubby, Typon, just happens to be one of the titans of old, you’re kids are most likely going to be a little messed up. On Mother’s Day, she gets calls from Cerberus, the three-headed mutt of Hades; the Chimera, the fire breathing lion, goat, and snake monstrosity you encounter in God of War III; as well as the dreaded hydra. Let’s not get into the baby shower you have to throw for those things. The lady with the pretty face and the dad with eyes of fire sure have some ugly kids.

But these kids are famous. Echidna, not to be confused with the little animal, brings not just herself but a whole army to get in the way of our anti-hero in training. Better yet, many of her offspring never make it to any of the later games. You might have taken out Cerberus, but what ever happened to his two-headed brother, Orthrus? A young Kratos could learn this monster taming skills from taking on this slightly lesser beast.

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Skyrim

Though Japanese RPGs have a firm template in place for how each release from that stable should be approached, Western RPGs have always been scattershot. Isometric visions of apocalyptic wastelands, sprawling high fantasy tales rife with warring factions, and even the gambles that mimic a J-RPG, right down to the party's mannerisms and four-disc spread of content – remember PlayStation's Shadow Madness?

All the different approaches, however, do not necessarily demonstrate that the genre has been moving forward. In fact, despite the staggering success of games like Skyrim, there are some building blocks that could surely be rearranged to compile a more ambitious role-playing game. I've rounded up three key components I believe would work swimmingly, and could improve upon player engagement and immersion factor – and in doing so, create a better RPG overall.

Getting To Know You

First, let's look at the factor of player interaction with that of the faithful battle party. An immediate example that comes to mind demonstrating a step in the right direction is BioWare's Mass Effect/Dragon Age stable. While both franchises aren't without their own respective flaws, they go to great lengths to offer aspiring party leads choices, back stories, and camaraderie. More specifically, character relationships – some that could obviously be expanded fully, but relationships nevertheless.

Both titles assign more than a face, class, and skill set to the faces that comprise your battle party – they give meaning to your conflicts and serve as a means to ignite that explorer's spark. You wan to see Tali for who she is beyond the mask. You're moved to sympathize with Thane Krios. Your underlings become treasured – such as you completely losing it at critical junctures of Mass Effect and its sequel, where one party member must be lost, and others' loyalties demolished.

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