ReviewMango | ReviewMango http://www.reviewmango.com Your freshest source for gaming news, reviews, previews and editorials. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:03:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Free-to-play Indie Game SanctuaryRPG Available for Download http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/15/free-play-indie-game-sanctuaryrpg-available-download/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/15/free-play-indie-game-sanctuaryrpg-available-download/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 19:55:56 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=4936 A strategic, turn-based, monster-slaying, dungeon crawling adventure awaits you with the free-to-play, ASCII-art styled epic that is SanctuaryRPG. Developed by Black Shell Games this RPG adventure was built similar to[...]

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A strategic, turn-based, monster-slaying, dungeon crawling adventure awaits you with the free-to-play, ASCII-art styled epic that is SanctuaryRPG.

Developed by Black Shell Games this RPG adventure was built similar to that of classics such as Nethack and Zork, whilst inspiration arose from the roguelike and Japanese RPG genres.

With over 40 original 8-bit chiptune tracks composed just for the game, over 160 class and race combinations and a whole range of lethal weapons to utilise in dynamic combat, SanctuaryRPG contains hours of text-based gameplay.

SanctuaryRPG is free to play (or you can choose an optional donation) and can be downloaded here: http://www.PlaySRPG.com

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realMyst: Masterpiece Edition – Review http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/15/realmyst-masterpiece-edition-review/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/15/realmyst-masterpiece-edition-review/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:29:52 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=4784 Back in the early 1990s, the now-popular puzzle genre was still in its toddler stage. Few games dared to stretch their “puzzles” beyond one-step problems that served more as time[...]

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Back in the early 1990s, the now-popular puzzle genre was still in its toddler stage. Few games dared to stretch their “puzzles” beyond one-step problems that served more as time wasters than challenges. Going against the grain of the period, the folks at Cyan (now Cyan World) dared to delve deep into this unexplored version of gaming and managed to create a masterpiece that would go down in video game legend. That game was the eminent PC classic Myst.

Of course, having been released in 1993, the once mind-blowing visuals haven’t exactly aged well. Sure, the game still retains a certain appeal, but nearly all of the past allure of Myst has been lost. Realizing this, as well as the public demand for a Myst HD remake, Robyn and Rand Miller, the sibling developers responsible for the original Myst, released realMyst: Masterpiece Edition, a retouched version of their magnum opus. The rerelease not only adds better visuals but implements a wide array of new features that take Myst to a whole new level.

realMyst adds, among other things, full freedom of movement. Beforehand, Myst had been a scene by scene point and click, with movement being controlled by no more than clicking on a directional arrow. With the promise of being completely free to explore the beautiful worlds of Myst, I looked forward to what realMyst had to offer. As a longtime fan of the original, I thought Myst was already perfect and beautiful in a nostalgic, almost cheesy sense. Unfortunately, after delving into the game’s new features, I must say that I am pretty disappointed. This new version of Myst promised to take a game that is near and dear to my young, pure heart, and turn it into a whole new experience with improved graphics and completely free movement. But as I continued to play this “Masterpiece” version of Myst, all expectations I had for this game were systematically obliterated.

I THOUGHT MYST WAS ALREADY PERFECT AND BEAUTIFUL

I’m going to start with movement. You use the regular WASD keys to move in any given direction and point the mouse in the direction you wish to turn. Sounds simple enough, right? Its simplicity on paper makes it so much harder to understand how these people managed to screw up turning. You see, when you want to turn, you need to hold down the right mouse button. I don’t know why this was put into play; the game developers would literally have to go out of their way to add a tedious feature like that. And the worst part is, you only need to do this sometimes. When walking, you can swipe the mouse left or right to turn without any other input. Again, its apparent simplicity is actually somehow confusing in practice (“Do I need to use the right mouse or not?!”).

RealMystMasterpieceDock

Plus, when your mouse goes to the far side of the window, it will turn you no matter what. With all of these stupid turning features colliding at once, you end up spending the first 30 minutes of game play wondering if your mouse is screwed up, if the game is lagging, or if the turning is just challenged (hint: it’s the last one). Not to mention that you can drag your mouse across the entirety of your desktop, and your character will do no more than glance left (if you’ve got your mouse sensitivity turned WAY up). Since this means your mouse (with the right button pressed) will repeatedly go into the far side of the window (another way to turn), turning will often become twitchy or erratic. Hopefully, an update will fix this glaring issue, but it shouldn’t have taken that long to unlock the dark secrets of turning the player-character.

Next on the list is exploration. One of the most exciting aspects of this new version of Myst is that you get to walk around the island unhindered, with full free movement. Well, the movement IS fully accessible, but “unhindered” might be a strong word to use when describing exploring realMyst‘s world. The walking was fine speed- and control-wise (except for the infernal turning mechanics), but it just felt a bit clunky. For example, in the beginning of the game, you walk up a small set of stairs. However, you need to line up just right, and basically squeeze through invisible walls on an average-sized staircase. It is as if your character is a small hippo. This gets very slightly annoying every once in a while, but in the end, it wasn’t really a big issue, and it was quickly over shadowed by the fact that I could walk around the island of freaking Myst. Sure, there were countless invisible walls to deal with, but in the end, being able to actually walk down that path to the sub or climb up that ladder to those switches gives the game an extra level of fun. I wish they had made the movement a bit more fluid, but in the end, this is little more than a remastering of the classic Myst; it is just surprising that they added this feature in the first place.

“UNHINDERED” MIGHT BE A STRONG WORD TO USE WHEN DESCRIBING EXPLORING realMyst‘s WORLD. YOU NEED TO BASICALLY SQUEEZE YOUR WAY UP AVERAGE-SIZED STAIRCASES; IT IS AS IF YOUR CHARACTER IS A SMALL HIPPO

For a game with the word, “masterpiece” in its title, this retread has some pretty severe issues–and I haven’t even covered the minor issues. My favorite is when you try to turn on motion blur. Even when you walk, the screen vibrates like you are sprinting on top of a steam engine. Then there is the occasional lag when walking, and the addition of a flashlight, which isn’t so much bad as it is pointless (the only time you struggle with the dark is when you are supposed to find a way to see in it. A flashlight defeats the purpose of these puzzles). Both of these are probably worthy of more gripes than serious criticism, but they’re worth noting (especially for those who played and enjoyed the original game).

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But after all, this is just a redone version of Myst. Maybe it isn’t perfect, and maybe there are some pretty obvious issues. But in the end, taking a point ‘n’ click, non-rendered game and turning it into a fully-rendered FPS is no small feat; while there are some outstanding problems, this new and improved version of Myst accomplishes its goals decently enough. The original aspects of Myst, such as the pen-and-paper puzzles, the exploration, and the triumph of completing a seemingly impossible puzzle are all kept in tact, and in some ways even improved. It succeeds in providing the nostalgic feel of the original while the improved movement and graphics make it feel fresh and open. Objects of interest stick out enough to draw your eye without being distracting or obnoxious; in the old game, the arrows you clicked to maneuver would literally shove your face DIRECTLY in front of an object that you needed to see. Since the freedom of movement in the new version meant doing this would be impossible, the slight contrast between essential items and the game world is just enough to show you that certain objects are important.

I guess you could say that it was near-impossible to fail terribly with a Myst reboot. Unless you screw with the gameplay itself, all you can really do is have varying levels of success; and it looks like Cyan World has done a pretty decent job.

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Overall, this new edition of Myst has its flaws. It can be awkward to control and almost comically under-thought at times (turn on motion blur for extra hard mode). When you weigh the benefits and detriments, though, the sum comes out in realMyst‘s favor. The added movement, improved graphics and optimization all take the Myst we know and love, and somehow almost makes it better. And in the end, if you find the WASD style movement annoying or just unnecessary, then just go into settings, and switch back to classic mode, which is just like the old fashioned Myst we all cherish.

Whether you are a veteran of the game or have never even heard of it, Myst is an amazing puzzle game that has shaped the world of puzzle games as we know it. With the improvements of the Masterpiece Edition, it only gets better.

Summary

  • Improved graphical optimization
  • Added WASD movement controls
  • Preserved all aspects of old Myst while adding new ones
  • Dodgy controls
  • Occasional out-of-place invisible walls

7.5/10

(For clarification, the original Myst gets a 10.5 out of 10 score.)

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Battle on-the-go with BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Bursting Onto PlayStation Vita this June http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/14/battle-go-blazblue-chrono-phantasma-bursting-onto-playstation-vita-june/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/14/battle-go-blazblue-chrono-phantasma-bursting-onto-playstation-vita-june/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 21:06:57 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=4891 With the March PlayStation 3 release of BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma behind us, those handheld users among us can now look forward to the PlayStation Vita release set to arrive this[...]

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With the March PlayStation 3 release of BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma behind us, those handheld users among us can now look forward to the PlayStation Vita release set to arrive this early summer in North America.

Featuring all the playable characters and features from the PlayStation 3 version, this Vita addition will also include an additional story, an enhanced Abyss Mode and a recap of BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift.

Five new playable characters will be found alongside the original cast, as well as unlockable character Kagura Mutsuki, and from May 2014 two downloadable characters, the scientist Kokonoe and the villainous Terumi.

Whilst BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma’s story mode features over 30 hours of gameplay, the Vita version will give you access to an all new story set in an appropriate and relaxing setting: the beach.

So, ever wondered what would happen if Noel, Ragna and new characters Celica and Kagura found themselves hanging out on a sandy beach together, bathing suits and all? Well now you can!

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma will be available for PlayStation Vita, both on the PlayStation Network and through retailers, on June 24th, and is out now for PlayStation 3.

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Digital Synesthesia: Characters and Themes http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/11/digital-synesthesia-characters-themes-part-second/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/11/digital-synesthesia-characters-themes-part-second/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 20:28:46 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=4786 I’m not going to lie. This segment was excruciatingly difficult to write. Revisions and dropped paragraphs, to say nothing of the ability (or lack thereof) to find a starting point. Yes, it[...]

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I’m not going to lie. This segment was excruciatingly difficult to write. Revisions and dropped paragraphs, to say nothing of the ability (or lack thereof) to find a starting point. Yes, it is indeed that time. I am going to be very negative in this article. In my last article, I examined all of the good examples of themes and how they held up during play. But without some juxtaposition, some contrast, it’s all a little bit fluffy and meaningless. So I’ll start nice and easy… with a game I happen to really like! Metal Arms: Glitch in the System for the original Xbox.

Metal Arms: Glitch in the System told the tale of a planet of robots and the struggles of a rebellion against a despotic iron fist. Your role in this war is to play as Glitch, a mysterious robot found in the depths of the planet. It is heavily implied that you have some connection with the ‘Morbots’. A hyper-advanced robotic race that created the planet, but have since gone extinct. What possible technological advantages could Glitch have? What miraculous and unheard of technology does his small android frame contain!? He has.. a symbol on his head.. and he can pick up temporary shield power-ups.. that the enemies have permanent access to.. and.. well, he’s got a cooler helmet than the other robots. Okay, okay. So you’re exactly the same (if not vastly inferior) to many other robots within the game and at no point does this implied connection ever factor into the story, nor is it even acknowledged beyond the introduction. This was a huge mistake on the part of the developers because now, not only are we unable to relate to the plight of our allies, we’re also stuck with a protagonist that has no stake in the war or any other arcs and progression. The game wanted to be a good old Rebels vs Empire story but couldn’t align its protagonist with its themes.

This is an article about gaming, and it wouldn’t, no, couldn’t be complete without some mention of zombies. Which steers us over to State of Decay. A game that seems to want to be The Walking Dead, in that it is attempting to focus on the humans more than the zombies. It gives its NPCs personality quirks, moods that change depending on events and consequences or benefits depending on how well a survivor is coping. Except.. not really. Most of the game will be spent solo since any NPC you bring along will be almost entirely useless. They’re only good for combat, but combat isn’t particularly difficult or risky. They can’t carry supplies and there’s no easy way to trade items between you and them. That’s one mark that does NOT encourage a more personable experience.

How about interactions at home? You can’t. You can tell them to leave, ask them to follow you or swap places with them. There’s no way to just speak with the few last humans on earth and just see how they’re doing. This is — somewhat — forgiven due to the random events where you can help a depressed survivor by showing them the zombies aren’t a real threat, or by training them in survival skills, but it feels more like a waste of time because a depressed survivor is not a burden at all. Supposedly an angry or scared survivor may lash out and injure another survivor, or do other drastic things, yet I’ve never had this happen and I treat my allies like dirt! State of Decay is trying to be a zombie game that creates the same touching sparks of humanity in every good piece of zombie media, but cannot do that through its current mechanics.

I’ll start to close this off because, while I’ve highlighted flaws in two very good games, it shows that simple maladjustment in themes and concepts and characters are usually benign, only a superficial scrape on a game’s quality. Metal Arms is a cute shooter with a refreshing aesthetic and surprisingly retro take on the genre, while State of Decay is possibly one of the best zombie games to come out for quite a long time. But it’s easy enough to see that minute decisions have diminished what these games could be like; Metal Arms could have engaged players with a narrative that hit a bit closer to the protagonist’s heart, while State of Decay could’ve used its NPCs as more than just drains on your resources.

Hm.. putting it like that, I may have just discovered that State of Decay is an incredibly subtle metaphor for raising a large family in suburban America.

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Studies show aggression in games is ‘Linked to Incompetence’ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/11/studies-show-aggression-games-linked-incompetence/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/11/studies-show-aggression-games-linked-incompetence/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 14:30:53 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=4859 New research shows that aggression is not strongly linked to violent imagery, not as strongly as frustrating or unfair game mechanics. While this may seem like a no-brainer to many[...]

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New research shows that aggression is not strongly linked to violent imagery, not as strongly as frustrating or unfair game mechanics. While this may seem like a no-brainer to many of us as gamers, the study may be the first of its kind.

Researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute and the University of Rochester gathered up volunteers to take part in tests that required them to play both violent and non-violent games. Often with frustrating stipulations. The disparity in player aggression was found out when determining whether or not a player had mastered the controls or mechanics at the end of the play session.

Players experienced feelings of aggression if they struggled with the controls or difficulty of a game, regardless of violent content.

One test had volunteers play Half-Life 2 for short 20 minute sessions. Two versions of the game were used, one was the untouched off-the-shelf copy. While the other had its violent content removed, shooting enemies ‘tagged’ them and caused them to simply disappear, rather than the fantastic ragdoll break-dancing and blood shower we’re used to. However, some volunteers were not given proper tutorials in how to play the game, thus feeling more aggressive at the end of the session as opposed to the volunteers who experienced the violent version of the game.

Players revealed that having aggressive thoughts spoiled their sense of enjoyment.

As I stated earlier, this is all rather obvious to anybody who is at all familiar with video games. But this study at least affords us some legitimacy, now that we have some exploration into our chosen medium that can at least curb some fervour. This study comes at a contrast to another recent survey carried out by the Brock University that suggests violent imagery holds back the ‘Moral Maturity’ of 13-14 year old gamers who spend in excess of three hours a day playing violent games.

Study carried out by Oxford Internet Institute & Rochester: http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2014/140408.html

Study carried out by Brock University: http://dr.library.brocku.ca/bitstream/handle/10464/4115/Brock_%20Bajovic_Mirjana_2012.pdf

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Experience the Blocky World of Middle-earth with LEGO The Hobbit Release http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/10/experience-blocky-world-middle-earth-lego-hobbit-release/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/10/experience-blocky-world-middle-earth-lego-hobbit-release/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 16:41:38 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=4836 Experience the same unexpected, perilous journey through Middle-earth as Bilbo and company as you venture to reclaim the Dwarven Kingdom of Erebor, but with a twist that only the Lego[...]

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Experience the same unexpected, perilous journey through Middle-earth as Bilbo and company as you venture to reclaim the Dwarven Kingdom of Erebor, but with a twist that only the Lego franchise can bring to the mix.

The launch of LEGO The Hobbit has been announced for April 11th in the UK and will let players experience a blocky, breakable and hilariously light-hearted Middle-earth as you traverse through the first two films of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Along the way you will encounter many a quest and be thrust into epic adventures as you navigate 16 levels, visiting key locations from the films as you go, such as Lake-town, Dale, Erebor, Bag End, Goblin-town, Mirkwood, Rivendell and High Pass over the Misty Mountains.

One of the main features in the game will allow you to take advantage of the Dwarves’ hilarious abilities as you belly bounce, mace swing and rough-house your way towards your objective, all whilst satisfying their greed by mining for gems. Including the Dwarves there are 90 characters in all to use on your quest, each possessing an unique ability.

The third adaptation and final in the trilogy, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is to have its own LEGO game release at a later date.

LEGO The Hobbit is available from April 11th for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U and PC.

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The Last of Us: Remastered coming to PS4 http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/10/last-us-remastered-coming-ps4/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/10/last-us-remastered-coming-ps4/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:24:17 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=4844 Even though it’s been a more-or-less “official” rumour for a few months, we now finally have official proof of a The Last of Us release on PS4. Over at the PlayStation Blog yesterday,[...]

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Even though it’s been a more-or-less “official” rumour for a few months, we now finally have official proof of a The Last of Us release on PS4. Over at the PlayStation Blog yesterday, Naughty Dog community and PR strategist Arne Meyer announced the “Remastered” edition of TLOU, coming to the PS4 at some point over the Summer.

It has been confirmed to run at 60 FPS and 1080p resolution, as well as with ”higher resolution character models, improved shadows and lighting, upgraded textures, along with even more improvements.” All in-game cinematics will also come with director commentary.

Additionally, the port will include the Left Behind single player expansion, the Abandoned Territories multiplayer map pack, and the Reclaimed Territories pack – of which more details will be made available soon.

Pre-order incentives include:

  • 100 Supply Points (XP) for use in Factions mode
  • Two special bonus skins for Joel and Ellie which will be unlocked after your complete the single player campaign
  • Increased Crafting Speed for use in the Single Player Campaign
  • Increased Healing Speed for use in the Single Player Campaign
  • 9mm Reload Speed Increase Upgrade for use in the Single Player Campaign
  • Rifle Clip Capacity Increase Upgrade for use in the Single Player Campaign

Considering how good The Last of Us looked on 8 year old hardware, it should be quite a treat to get a glimpse of Naughty Dog’s first next-gen release, even if it is just a port.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated on the latest The Last of Us news as it happens.

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The Mandate: “Battle Orchestrator” Demo Breakdown http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/09/mandate-battle-orchestrator-demo-breakdown/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/09/mandate-battle-orchestrator-demo-breakdown/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:49:45 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=4801 If you’re desperate for an epically strategic space opera, The Mandate is sure to grab your attention. Though still undergoing significant development, the latest gameplay teaser showcasing the “Battle Orchestrator”[...]

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If you’re desperate for an epically strategic space opera, The Mandate is sure to grab your attention. Though still undergoing significant development, the latest gameplay teaser showcasing the “Battle Orchestrator” mechanic is but a taste of the sandbox sci-fi RPG goodness yet to come.

The futuristic title is the first game from Perihelion Interactive. The indie company consists of internationally based veteran game developers from EA, Ubisoft, 2K Games and Funcom. Drawing inspiration from the likes of X-Com, Fallout, Mount & Blade, Sid Meier’s Pirates! and Star Trek Online, the developers seek to create a unique and fresh experience that can easily contend with more well known sci-fi titles. I like to think of the final product as a mesh of Homeworld (if anyone remembers that title) and Starcraft with the added scope of Mass Effect.

And the setting is indeed quite grand. Set centuries after humanity abandoned a ruined Earth, players will be called to action in a galactic dystopia on the brink of anarchy. Rebel factions are ready to topple the weakened Tsarist-inspired Empire whilst pirates and scheming aristocrats fill the widening power vaccum.  So in her desperation, the young Empress Anastasia looks to raise the untested, dishonored and crestfallen to serve her cause–a move with which the loyal Lord High Admiral Suvarov is uncomfortable to say the least.

From left to right: Empress Anastasia,

Central characters of “The Mandate”. From left to right: Empress Anastasia, Lord High Admiral Suvarov (voiced by David Bradley, who notably played Walder Frey from “Game of Thrones”), and presumably a Rebel Leader yet to be revealed.

Whether players choose to serve the Empress, the rebels or their own selfish needs is uncertain. Especially since the choices have only been hinted at, and the developers have to yet disclose their choice system. But what is assured is that players will take on the role of a captain of an evolving and dynamic ship. Such a leader will command a crew of officers personally selected and honed, taking them into epic space battles, boarding operations and galaxy exploration. The Mandate adds another immersive dimension by rooting the drama in the player’s relationship with the crew. The captain’s subordinates and the galaxy map will adapt and react to the strategic choices players make and the battles won and lost.

The galaxy map is part of the “Battle Orchestrator” game mechanic. As shown in the teaser, this holographic simulator is the access point into The Mandate universe. It can be paused and returned to at any time, allowing captains to strategically plan out their deep space skirmishes, using any advantages provided by their environment like asteroid cover or line-of-sight. The footage was crafted using the Unity game engine, so the speed of ships, their turning rate, the weapon firing rate, etc, are not representative of the final gameplay/pacing.

Perihelion Interactive aims to make "The Mandate" as immersive as possible.  Even implementing "The Articles of War" used by the 18th C. British Royal Navy and terminology of that period.

Perihelion Interactive aims to make “The Mandate” as immersive as possible. Even implementing “The Articles of War” used by the 18th C. British Royal Navy, and space ships inspired by the terminology of that period, as can be seen here.

Regardless, there is still a lot of ground the developers have to cover before the final product is unveiled. But so far the game looks incredibly promising.  The Kickstarter page is chock full with information for The Mandate, as is the official website and wiki. Updates on the game’s ever expanding lore and story, as well as developmental teasers are sure to appear on those sites as well. And even though the Kickstarter goal has been reached, people can still opt to support the game through Paypal, though I’m unsure if the pledge bonuses will still be available.

A final uncertainty is how the actual game is to be implemented. When I first saw a promotional video by popular youtuber Angry Joe for  The Mandate, I was under the impression that the game was going to be some kind of cutting-edge online RPG. But according to Perihelion Interactive’s latest press release:

[The Mandate] can either be played solo, or with five other friends for additional strategic and tactical challenges. Perihelion has designed the game to be a no-compromise experience for multiplayer and single-player, and players should not notice a difference in enjoyment level or depth playing either alone or with friends.

This probably means that the final product is a stand-alone title, and not maintained like an online RPG with servers.  I still don’t understand how the multiplayer is going to be maintained and implemented, but I’m certain the developers will release more information to clarify the situation in the future.

And in any case, the game is basically centered around space-borne Russians! What’s not to like?

The Mandate is set for a PC release sometime in 2015. A final release date is yet to be confirmed.

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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Trailer – Rolling, Dual-Wielding goodness http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/09/hotline-miami-2-wrong-number-trailer-rolling-dual-wielding-goodness/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/09/hotline-miami-2-wrong-number-trailer-rolling-dual-wielding-goodness/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 22:45:00 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=4807 If you’re anything like me and have played through the original Hotline Miami, you’re already champing at the bit to blow some more brains out to yet another epic soundtrack.[...]

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If you’re anything like me and have played through the original Hotline Miami, you’re already champing at the bit to blow some more brains out to yet another epic soundtrack.

Thankfully, today’s new Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number trailer has all the brain-splattering action — and the awesome soundtrack — to tide you over for a little while.

New features can be seen such as the ability to roll out of a dodge, dual-wielding weapons, and what at first glance looks like coop but is in fact a brother and sister duo whom you’ll be controlling simultaneously.

Hotline Miami 2 is heading for a murderous launch in Q3 2014 for PS3, PS4, PS Vita and Windows PC.

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Digital Synesthesia: Themes and Systems http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/08/digital-synesthesia-themes-systems/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/04/08/digital-synesthesia-themes-systems/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 23:46:38 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=4637 It’s been too long since I’ve written a self-indulgent piece that’s largely a wade through meandering topics that are rather unnoticed by many developers, simply because it’s a difficult thing[...]

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It’s been too long since I’ve written a self-indulgent piece that’s largely a wade through meandering topics that are rather unnoticed by many developers, simply because it’s a difficult thing to systemise and even then can only offer a subtle benefit to the cohesive whole of a game’s structure. This is by no means rooted in academia–merely the musings of someone who has a brain that runs at a Terahertz. Here be dragons.

In my recent Explodemon review, I panned it for being a mediocre experience that couldn’t find an identity for itself. Its charm couldn’t save it from simply being unable to capture a spark that made the games it wanted to ape so great. But–but!–I’m not here to sob over the smoking corpse of Explodemon. I’m here to talk about something it did right and how that special somethin’ translates into other games; i.e., where it’s been done better (and worse). I am talking about a game’s Theme, which you may feel is rather simple and perhaps couldn’t be done wrong. Right? Well… it’s all well and good to say that a game is about something, with some ancillary mechanics maybe nodding to its core. But is it always so simple? Let’s discuss how Explodemon did it and some other good examples while we’re at it.

First of all, the bombastic hero was… well, a menace to society. He was destructive and near-sighted, unable to negotiate any solution that doesn’t fall into mighty combustion. This is not just systemised by having you explode by pushing a button, but also with the involuntary explosions that can happen if you go too long without blowing something up. Do you see how that emphasises his instability and unreliability as a saviour? Of course, the game doesn’t convey this perfectly. You rarely destroy anything but aliens and their machines, with the exception of lots and lots of crates. So even with this implied instability you’re still making no negative impact on the gamespace. It’s one step forward, but two steps back.

Finding more examples of good theme representation is a rather tricky task, because to know what games succeed, you have to pick apart what a game is about (which is rarely something you can instantly notice at first glance). So I’ll turn to DayZ (the Arma II mod, not the standalone). This well-known zombie survival game is notorious for its abysmal UI and dull, incredibly dreary gameplay that largely involved walking across vast maps full of nothing. But this is not a DayZ review, this is an acknowledgement of its oppressive atmosphere.

The whole time you’re in DayZ‘s world, you’ll be listening to soul-crushing dirges and watching the horizon for erratic movements. You’re living on borrowed time. To punctuate this, everything you do is basically an expenditure of a resource that you simply don’t have. Food, medicine and even time itself is depleting and you can never rest. See how the mechanics of DayZ connect with the overall theme? It’s an emotionally exhausting game, with every action counted as a direct benefit or detriment to your survival. An excellent example of a cohesive mesh between a game’s systems and its themes.

Now for a second good example, because I’m simply oozing positive emotion today (maybe I should see a doctor for that), and it’s the first Prototype game! The game features a protagonist that has been transformed into a monstrosity, unwillingly becoming a killing machine. He wants to find the people who wronged him and take his vengeance out upon them. Some people express distaste at a protagonist who whines about how people are being mean to him, but then elbow slams a dear old lady to acquire health. However, by his own admission, the protagonist (Alex Mercer) is a monster. A murderer. A terrorist. He acknowledges how far gone he’s been taken from any semblance of humanity; he doesn’t want your sympathy. He just wants the player to understand what he has become and not once does he try to frame any of these destructive sprees as “just” or even “righteous” action.

In game, you will be curing the city of devastating infectious hives that spew out murderous monsters, thereby saving some of the population, but at the same time, you’ll destroy military bases which weakens the defense of the city and causes more death and suffering. Both acts are rewarded with Experience Points which contextualizes both of these actions as a favourable action. The important part is that they are not “good” or “evil”. They simply help you get closer to your ultimate goal (answers and revenge), which reinforces Alex Mercer’s theme of an amoral monster that now only has one purpose in life.

All three of these games present a core theme and then integrate it with the game’s mechanics. This weaving gives the player a sense of what the protagonist perceives as good or desirable, or to evoke emotions in a player and entice them to think a certain way. The mechanics contextualise the experience and actions available and that contributes to the core of the game.

In my next Digital Synesthesia article I’ll be talking about some games that might not do so well in this department. But for now, take a break, reader. You’ve earned it.

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