Monthly Archives: May 2016

Skymap Games has been developing the independent title “Bacon Man” for some time now, and with the game nearing its completion, Neal Laurenza agreed to be interviewed by me, Mustapha Price, to afford him the opportunity to highlight some of the game’s defining traits, as well as share some insight on the development process and the team’s overall experience.

The Quirky visual style is one of Bacon Man's many highlights.

The Quirky visual style is one of Bacon Man’s many highlights.

When asked to highlight features that Bacon Man offered that gamers could not find elsewhere, Laurenza confidently delivered those three things without hesitation. “Bacon Man offers a sense of humor that dates back to Ren and Stimpy…a lot of games can be funny, but not in a way that is subtle and maniacal.”

“Bacon Man” is an action-platformer where players control the wide-smiled Bacon Man as he travels the land hoping to reclaim his stolen throne. The complex platforming style of this game calls back to such familiar classics as “Mega Man X” and “Super Mario Bros” while also managing to forge a unique style of its own. Laurenza says, “Bacon Man will offer complex controls, but will not hold your hand. Bacon Man encourages the unique combination of exploring the world, and exploring mechanics.”

Neal Laurenza of Skymap Games with the Bacon Man booth at PAX East.

Neal Laurenza of Skymap Games with the Bacon Man booth at PAX East.

Another unique aspect of “Bacon Man”, is that the developers at Skymap chose to forego the option to add online multiplayer. Local multiplayer will be included as an all but primary feature in the game. When asked about the decision to remove online play, Laurenza said, “There is a disconnect when you cannot turn to your friend and see their teary eyes. We’re big believers in keeping that competitive element.”

Being at the heart of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) season, the stressful yet rewarding process of preparing a booth is all too familiar to the developers at Skymap. In preparation, Laurenza gathered a group of Southern New Hampshire University Game Design students to test the demo, and track down in game glitches and bugs so they can be removed in time for the expo.

“A successful PAX is a lot of things to a lot of different people,” Laurenza says. His team will be trying to find a healthy medium between media attention, and the approval of the consumer. They are also exploring the middleground element that makes up consumer media, such as YouTube and other social media platforms.

“Bacon Man” is going to launch in 2016 on Steam, Xbox One, and one other platform that has yet to be announced. Stay tuned for more details. Special thanks to Neal Laurenza for taking time to interview with me! For more EXCLUSIVE indie interviews and more coverage stay tuned for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

I’m not sure if Hearthstone is the type of game one reviews. But I know that it’s a game I want to talk about, for many many reasons. So let’s get started. Let’s give a little bit of background into Hearthstone, and my experiences with it. Hearthstone is a virtual card game based on Blizzard’s Warcraft franchise. While I myself have never indulged in Warcraft or World of Warcraft, I was big into card games as a kid.

Hearthstone as an idea is something I always wanted. All the fun of a card game with none of the work. None of the booster packs, and the manual shuffling, and arguably most of all, finding people to play with. If you didn’t know people who played Yu-Gi-Oh, you weren’t playing at all. Maybe you could go down to a local Toys-R-Us for one of those tournaments or something, but let’s face it, that’s kind of weird if you’re my age. It’s also a lot of work. Hearthstone saves you all of that trouble in a unique and streamlined experience.

Promotional Art for the Goblins vs Gnomes expansion.

To start, you are given one of nine classes, and you get to experience the tutorial using that class. Then you are given the opportunity to unlock and hone skills with all of the other classes. Daily challenges allow you to earn gold, and gold can be used to purchase card packs. Card packs can contain any five random cards from the set. There are currently three types of card packs you can buy. Classic, containing original cards, Goblins vs Gnomes, containing cards exclusively from that expansion, as well as the Grand Tournament or the newest expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods.

The fundamentals of Hearthstone are pretty key as well. The game works in a rather interesting way. You and your opponent control a “hero” with a special set of cards and a unique ability. Each hero has 30 health points, and when a hero’s health points reach zero, the other player wins. Each card in your hand has a “mana” cost, and each turn you gain another mana. Meaning that, no matter what cards are in your hand, you won’t be able to play some for several turns. The cap is 10 mana crystals.

There are three types of cards. Minions, which are little soldiers you can play to fight on your behalf, with attack, health, and special abilities of their own. Then there are spells, which can trigger nasty effects, destroying/summoning minions, healing, or doing damage. Then finally, weapons, which are the least common type of card. Weapons are made to be equipped to a hero, and allow the hero to do damage on their own.

Unless a minion has the charge ability, they have to wait a turn before they can attack, which sets up pretty crazy strategies and adds a layer of depth to how you play minions, and under which situations you do.

Enough of the tutorial though. Let’s talk some of my favorite aspects of this game. For one, I’m a college student living on campus for most of the year. It’s nice to find a game with a pretty strong community on campus, and have the opportunity to build more common interests with other people. It’s also a very on the go experience with mobile ports on numerous platforms, so it compliments my very radical schedule in a way that most games just can’t.

Hearthstone is always growing. The meta is forever changing, and cards are continually being added and patched, making for a real added longevity to the game. As long as you can adapt, you can continue to be good. For example, before this summer, there were five main types of abilities. Charge, which allows minions to attack without waiting a turn. Windfury, which allows minions to attack twice in one turn. Taunt, which forces you to have to destroy a minion before you can attack any other character. Battlecry, which is a special affect activated when a minion is summoned. And Deathrattle, which triggers something when a minion dies. Now there is inspire, which activates a special affect every time your hero uses their special ability. There’s discover, which lets you pick between three cards. There are also things like divine shield and stealth, which protect minions from damage. It’s an incredible ever changing experience that keeps you on your toes with its many expansions and updates.

Hearthstone is Free-To-Play, but not pay to win. While you can use real money to buy packs, and the rare adventure cards as well, every single card in the game can be achieved with nothing but gold. That means that by simply playing the game, you will not only improve on a tactical level, but you will actually be rewarded better cards as you go. The combination of brain and brawn at its finest. 100 Gold can get you a pack, while 150 gold can get you into the special Arena Mode. 700 gold can buy you one of five wings for any given adventure. The adventures reward special cards, so they’re worth saving for.

Promotional Art for Whispers of the Old Gods Expansion.

The weekly Tavern Brawl is pretty radical too! Every single week you can participate in battles with strangers or friends under special conditions. For example, the Boss Brawl is when each player will be randomly assigned one of two characters with special cards and abilities to replicate a battle from the Hearthstone adventures. It’s a good way to try cards you don’t have, as well as earn a free pack.

There’s also the Arena mode, which I can’t speak much to. I haven’t played it much despite now playing the game for half a year. It costs gold, and I save my gold for adventures. Because adventures are awesome and get you crazy good cards.

This game for sure challenges your mind, your patience, and your ability to adapt to ever changing tactical scenarios. If you want to play it, and you’re reading this, odds are you can! You can download it on the Play Store or App Store on most mobile devices, including tablets. It’s also available on PC and Mac. And it’s free! So there’s no reason not to.

Alright, that’s all for this post. If you already play Hearthstone, feel free to add me! Mustapha#1884

Thank you and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

“Fire Emblem: Fates” was one of the most anticipated games of the year, and now that it’s finally out, you may be wondering whether or not it’s for you. If you’re new and looking to jump into the series, Fates is a great way to start. Though with so many different ways to play, it’s a bit overwhelming as well. Fates comes in two different games, Birthright and Conquest.

Fire Emblem wasn’t always a series for an American audience. In fact, it wasn’t until the 7th installment in the series that the games even started to be localized for North American release. Ever since the games started being released in NA, major changes have been made. The strategy game series is most well known for its truly unforgiving nature. Between permanent death for units and the lack of freely attainable experience points, Fire Emblem is a game where every move you make counts. 

The cast of Conquest (Left) faces the cast of Birthright (Right).

The cast of Conquest (Left) faces the cast of Birthright (Right).

That has never been more true than it is with the new Fire Emblem Fates, as decisions no longer just change gameplay. The storyline is now impacted by your decisions as well. Who stays and who goes is entirely up to you.

Fates does however, afford you the opportunity to play the “Casual Mode” which allows you to forego the permanent death component in exchange for overall smarter AI and a lower stakes experience. Despite being a long time fan, I myself tend to do a casual playthrough first, just so I can soak in the story details and experience the characters without the added pressure.

But the most important thing for a new Fire Emblem player to understand while playing Fates, is that each path you take has major mechanical differences. While the path of Fire Emblem Fates: “Birthright” might be slightly simplified, it is not necessarily a representation of the Fire Emblem that longtime fans are used to. There is quite a bit put in place to help the player. “Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest’ is far closer to classic Fire Emblem. It has very finite resources throughout the game, and the classes are much closer to the original games. Which should you play?

If you consider yourself a fan of strategy games, but not necessarily an expert at them, Birthright may be the choice for you. It’s a good way to get comfortable with Fire Emblem without diving in completely. You can still play with the permanent death option, but there are more resources in place to prevent units from dying.

If you’re looking to challenge yourself, play Conquest. it will offer a very traditional Fire Emblem experience, with the classes longtime fans are used to.

All in all, “Fire Emblem Fates” is an experience that will welcome players with open arms, but includes a highly customizable experience to make the transition far less jarring. So if you own a 3DS and are looking to join in on the Fire Emblem craze, pick it up, take it for a spin. You’ll find that there’s a lot more fun in strategy than meets the eye. For more on Fire Emblem and many other titles, stay tuned for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

The classic Super Nintendo Role-Playing Game (RPG) “Earthbound” makes its return as a virtual console game only on the New Nintendo 3DS console. This game combines the best of classic RPG elements with light flattering humor, and most importantly, the masterful storytelling of Shigesato Itoi. Despite being a second installment of a trilogy only fully released in Japan, “Earthbound” stands strong even as it stands alone.

Earthound cast gathers around in Saturn Valley!

Earthound cast gathers around in Saturn Valley!

From the time the game starts, the music and scene set an unfamiliar eerie tone. The actual in-game sequences of the beginning put you in control of a confused Ness as his coming of age experience unfolds. The neighbor, Pokey (a mistranslation of a perhaps more well known character named Porky) knocks on Ness’ door, requesting help in finding his lost brother. And from there, the adventure unfolds. Exploring a world slowly becoming more and more threatened by the looming presence of the alien forces of Giygas.

At a glance this seems like a simple story, but it is expanded by Ness and his psychic abilities. Ness, being destined to defeat Giygas must ally himself with many different people from all around the entire world. Be it to gain access to different areas or fighting alongside players “Earthbound” is a game full of infinitely useful characters, playable or otherwise.

Thanks to its modern setting, there is plenty of room for quirky humor in this game. That can be seen almost immediately by the fact that players fight corrupted dogs and crows in the beginning portion of the game. Or swapping out the swords and shields for bats and yo-yos. Even switching health potions for hamburgers makes this game very different from the Final Fantasies and Dragon Quests of that era.

Despite this the game doesn’t lose any of its storytelling quality. It is still quite capable of achieving the same degree of epic emotional charge, and perhaps is able to do so because of how truly relatable it is. Not everyone can relate to taking a sword and doing battle with demons. But the story of a boy traveling to new towns and meeting new and scary people is one that rings true for many. Making friends who become family while facing adversity is something that can be understood on a pretty universal level. “Earthbound” captures that better than most traditional RPGs could.

The combat of “Earthbound” is unique, swapping mana for Psychic Power, and spells for more precise character specific techniques. While it still follows the formula of a turn-based RPG it does break a lot of traditional boundaries.

The visuals pop, with saturated colors filling the world with life and character. The vibrant soundtrack and wonderful sound work make for a very fun living world.

“Earthbound” is a gem. A true classic in the JRPG genre that should be experienced by all gamers. New Nintendo 3DS owners should certainly give this game a purchase if possible. For more on classics like Earthbound and many others stay tuned for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

“Mortal Kombat X”, the tenth installment in the critically acclaimed fighting game series, launched last January on PS4 and Xbox One, and now, Netherrealm is launching the XL edition of the game. “Mortal Kombat XL” is now available for Xbox One and PS4, sporting more content than ever before. But is it worth the purchase?

“Mortal Kombat X” was among the most critically acclaimed of last year’s releases, sporting a very diverse cast of characters with exceptional powers and abilities, and varying fighting styles to allow numerous ways to control even a single character. This versatility keeps fresh, unique, and stylized gameplay while still being comfortable and familiar to longtime fans of the series.

Sub-Zero looms over these interesting new cast members.

Sub-Zero looms over these interesting new cast members.

Unlike most other games in the genre, “Mortal Kombat X” offers something that most fighting games don’t. The game features a deep, immersive, narrative driven story mode, picking up where its predecessor left off. The story chronicles Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, along with many others in their attempt to defeat the Elder God traitor known as Shinnok. The story features full motion captured cutscenes, and some spectacular sequences, translated into quicktime events making even the cutscenes somewhat interactive.

Perhaps the thing that this series is most well known for is its impressive amount of sheer brutality and gore. “Mortal Kombat X” is one of the most graphic games available right now, not sparing any quarter when it comes to showing exposed intestines, spinal columns, and much much more. This game is not for the faint of heart, and should be approached by the squeamish only with the utmost caution.

XL offers quite a bit more in the way of content. All Downloadable Characters are included with the game, as well as extra costumes for your playable fighters. Characters like Triborg, Jason, Predator, and even Goro are playable.

For players with less interest in the downloadable content in this game, perhaps purchasing the original might be more preferable. This also affords the player the opportunity to only purchase certain characters if they see fit. Any player who would like to be considered a “Mortal Kombat’ superfan, “Mortal Kombat XL” might be a game worth trying. “Mortal Kombat XL” is available now for PS4 and Xbox One.

I myself had quite a bit of fun with Mortal Kombat X when it first came out. The game has longevity, though I don’t agree with the way Netherrealm handled micro-transactions this time. It was a bit more reminiscent of the way Street Fighter handled its DLC and it felt a little bit gratuitous and perhaps even greedy. Still, it’s a game worth playing, you just have to decide whether or not the DLC matters to you. Thank you for reading and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

Even before the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) gamer hype is at an all-time high during the summer. This is due to high profile launches, that a lot of industry analysts would call “system sellers” as they can drive home console sales in ways that most other titles simply cannot. The following are some must-buy games launching over the summer to keep you occupied and having a great vacation.

This starts on May 10 with the launch of “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End”, which will utilize the unique yet somewhat traditional development style of Naughty Dog, to create an immersive 3rd person adventure experience, starring Nathan Drake.

This title, intended to be the final game in the critically acclaimed series, is an effective example of interactive storytelling and immersive world-building despite being in an already realistic and established setting.

Drake returns for one last adventure by Naughty Dog!

Drake returns for one last adventure by Naughty Dog!

A mere three days later on May 13 Bethesda launches the long awaited title “Doom” which is a first person shooter action game that reboots the genre’s pioneer series. This action game puts a major emphasis on destruction, cathartic violence, and fantastical gore. While these elements may be a turnoff to some players, others will find solace in a game that stays true to its roots with a trusted developer like Id Software keeping everything in order.

On May 24, Blizzard Entertainment, the developer behind the “Warcraft” franchise will be releasing their first person shooter “Overwatch”. “Overwatch” combines the team elements found in a game like “Team Fortress 2” with the over the top antics that can sometimes be associated with Blizzard. All in all this is shaping up to be one of the summer’s biggest releases. The open beta took place over the course of the last week, and reception was so strong that Blizzard extended the beta by an extra day. This over the top shooter had an incredible presence at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX East) and reception has been all but unprecedented.

Overwatch's Tracer strikes an awesome pose!

Overwatch’s Tracer strikes an awesome pose!

Also on May 24, the long awaited sequel to the first person parkour-esque platformer Mirror’s Edge will arrive. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst will take things to the next level with new technology and hopefully even more fresh and progressive storytelling. Originally set to release in February, this game’s delay can only mean that the developers took the right amount of time to see to a truly polished final product.

Jun. 10 brings a new installment to a popular series. “Kirby: Planet Robobot” is a side scrolling action platformer for the Nintendo 3DS that will make use of amiibo functionality as well as the 3D visuals to make for a truly deep game, that requires a lot of critical thinking and well timed combinations to see players through its many challenges. The game will launch with its own series of amiibo custom made to truly emphasize the cute and charming visuals of the “Kirby” series that we have all come to know and love.

On Jun. 21st, the long awaited indie space exploration game known as “No Man’s Sky” will finally take center stage, introducing one of the largest explorable worlds in video game history. While this game will operate on realtime online multiplayer at all times, it is truly a single-player experience. While you share the world with others finding specific friends is close to impossible. This game truly replicates the vast void of space but fills the world with enough to keep any curious mind occupied.

These are the highlight titles that can be expected over the summer, and with E3 coming up, we can expect even more great announcements. Be it more information on Nintendo’s new console, the NX, or more information on Playstation VR, the world of games is as fast moving as ever, with the summer being a great time to go out and start playing. And a great time to stay tuned for news from Mustapha’s GAME ROOM!!!

3DS owners look out! Mario is back and Luigi’s seeing double. As the fifth installment in Alpha Dream’s Mario and Luigi series of Role-Playing Games, Mario and Luigi Paper Jam has big shoes to fill. But those shoes become bigger when the crossover game incorporates elements from the popular Paper Mario series. Fans of both will be drawn to the unique visual style and upbeat comical writing. But they may be slightly confused and even somewhat disappointed by the lackluster storyline.

Mario and Luigi meet Paper Mario for this wild adventure.

Mario and Luigi meet Paper Mario for this wild adventure.

Paper Jam begins with Luigi tipping over a book that unleashes the denizens of Paper Mario’s own Mushroom Kingdom, into the “real world.” Two Princess Peach’s, two Marios, and-you guessed it-two Bowsers. Now a trio of heroes with their Star Sprite guide must pursue and defeat this koopa alliance.

To be blunt, you don’t play a Mario game for its story. That’s simply a fact. But one would play this game for its vibrant worlds, and yes, it’s stellar combat. This simple and easy to grasp RPG system gets shaken up with even more quick time reflexive action. Using the A button to control Mario, the B button to control Luigi, and the Y button to control Paper Mario, there are numerous dynamic combinations. But the game avoids feeling too fast thanks to its turn based restrictions. You never lose the elements that make it a Mario game, but the RPG traits are woven in, in a way that feels authentic, effective, and most of all consistent.

As I previously mentioned, this game gains quite a bit from its beautiful environments. While it rehashes a lot of the themes of previous Mario games, each area has a good combination of paper and cardboard environment pieces, and rounded pieces to match the style of the game’s main setting. This is complemented by the comfortable overworld controls. Worried that controlling the jumps for three characters might feel clunky or weird? The X button serves as a simultaneous jump for the brothers, even giving a bit of a flutter.

Arguably this game’s greatest trait, is its humorous writing. From the Paper Toads that crowd the world to Bowser and his baddie crew, you’re never short of a few laughs. Even a real and paper princess bonding over the tedious nature of Bowser’s kidnapping tactics. When you see Bowser Jr. and Paper Bowser Jr. start hanging out, your heart will melt. It may be the cutest thing ever. The only character who allows their dialogue to fall flat is Starlow, but that may be my bias, as I’m team Luigi, and Starlow’s vocal disdain tends to irritate me.

To conclude, while elements of the Mario and Luigi series are lost in Paper Jam, new elements take their place, and make for a very powerful experience. More characters, more personalities, more clever writing. This is without a doubt one of the 3DS’s better experiences, recommended for anyone looking for a fun, light-hearted, simple role playing adventure.

If you haven’t gathered it by now, I’m a bit of a Nintendo fan. That will become more clear as time goes on. But I am still very much immersed in every aspect of the video game medium. Just because I like Nintendo doesn’t mean I will overlook crucial flaws in their game design either. I am here to objectively review games based on design principles.

Thank you all for reading this review of Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam, and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

With an innovative world, specialized combat, and a powerful narrative about discovery of self, Xenoblade Chronicles cements itself as the greatest RPG (Role-Playing Game) of our time.

Wii U Eshop: 20.00 USD

New Nintendo 3DS XL: 40.00 USD

Monolith Soft has done it again. As a follow-up to the critically acclaimed Xenogears and Xenosagas series, Xenoblade Chronicles has a lot of heritage to live up to. But this sort-of-sequel manages to forge its own path, becoming a fantastic standalone experience.

The game centers around Shulk, a young man living in a time of great turmoil. With the robotic menace known as the Mechon launching attacks on his home, he must take up the legendary “Monado” sword and forge his own destiny.

The adventure of Xenoblade Chronicles takes place on the back of a titan. The Bionis, a titan made up of completely organic matter, was defeated by its machine counterpart, the Mechonis. Upon the death of the Bionis it became home to many species, including the human-like Homs. This is important, because it sets the stage for incredible exploration, as you scale the titan throughout the adventure. The Bionis has many different environments, from the grassy plain that makes up its knee and upper leg, to the forest that makes up its chest, to the snow-covered mountain that makes up the head.

This makes for several unique design choices, as the shift of the Bionis’ body can influence the geography of the world. This is a strong influence, as it makes for one of the most traversable worlds in video game history, with not a single area in the game being off limits. If you can see it, you can reach it.

The combat system in Xenoblade allows for three party members, and focuses on a more real time experience as opposed to the traditional turn based style of most RPGs. You can circle enemies, and use your special attacks known as “arts” to get bonus effects and do extra damage. This, accompanied with the very intense battle music allows for a very thought heavy experience with a strong focus on teamwork and attention to detail.

The narrative of Xenoblade Chronicles rewrites common RPG tropes and molds them into brand new story-telling concepts. The characters are consistent, and due to their interpersonal relationships, easily some of the most relatable characters in video game history. This is especially present with main character Shulk’s best friend Reyn. Reyn is a very strong metaphor for innocent immature eyes watching complicated events unfold. He allows emotion to dictate his actions and through this, becomes a very strong narrative tool. This is balanced out by Shulk’s collected nature, which allows him to be the decisive leader-figure for this journey.

Xenoblade Chronicles has one of the most traversable terrains in video games. This is only complimented by the vast array of enemies and the incredibly simple yet deep combat system. Experiencing the world both through exploration and narrative opens the door to many opportunities, as Xenoblade Chronicles becomes truly deserving of the best RPG of our time.

That being said, now is the easiest time to get your hands on Xenoblade. It is available on the New Nintendo 3DS as well as the Wii U Eshop. Having played both, I think the New 3DS version is more fun for me to play. However, textures tend to look blurred, and stunt the game visually. While it may not be the most graphically appealing game out there, Xenoblade Chronicles has quite a bit to offer. Hopefully, you’ll give Shulk and friends a chance! Thank you for reading and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!