PAX Hands-On: Tales from Space: About a Blob

My favorite aliens are the cute ones. Fortunate for me, then, that the main character in Tales from Space: About a Blob is this little guy:

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The premise of the game is pretty simple, and also pretty awesome: you're that little alien blob, and you go around eating stuff. Like, a lot of stuff. Anything that's smaller than you, actually, is available for the eating. And, obviously, as you eat the objects scattered across the environment, you grow, and then that allows you to eat bigger things, which make you grow more, etc. Eventually, you're able to swallow the whole world.

If you're thinking this sounds a lot like Katamari Damacy, you'd be right. It's a pretty similar concept. But instead of rolling around and picking stuff up, you're eating it. Like a good American, right?

I'm not sure where in the game's story I was during the demo, but I wan't able to glean what the over-arching plot would be. For that, we have the official trailer, which is quite campy:

So there you have it. Aliens crash on the earth, science captures them, and they escape! And then they can eat stuff!

That trailer gives you a pretty good idea of the sense of humor in the game. The game knows it's ridiculous, and it relishes in that fact. I mean, who wouldn't love a billboard like this?

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The art style is pretty wacky, and I love it. When I first picked up and played the game, I felt like I was in a Nickelodeon cartoon like Aaah! Real Monsters or Rocko's Modern Life. Everything's got that off-kilter, rough look to it, and it works really well here. The backdrops to each level aren't too distracting but certainly add to the atmosphere and odd look of the game -- the animation style is different than the foreground and your characters, but they complement each other well. The character animations are also great -- your blob glides along quickly but smooshes, bends, splats, and contorts in a decidedly pleasing manner.  It takes a minute or two to get accustomed to the gravity in the game, but it's pretty easy once you know that your blob isn't really all that heavy and bounces around fairly easily.

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Your blob does do a lot of bouncing, especially if you're playing co-op with a friend -- which you should, since this is a game definitely better enjoyed in co-op mode. You're working together, but you can hit each other, bounce off each other, and jump in front of your partner to get the edibles on the level first. This will certainly make for some friendly -- or deadly -- competition between you and whoever is sitting beside you holding the other controller. It's nice to see another sidescroller take the idea of co-op play and make it both a friendly and a competitive experience, not unlike New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Like I said, I wasn't sure where I was in the progression of the game as a whole, but I didn't see myself getting bored with the basic mechanics of the game if I was playing in co-op mode. I would have liked to see some other sort of game mode or a plot device that would keep your hands on the controller, but I'm sure Drinkbox Studios has something up its sleeve for us.

I'm excited to see this game hit the virtual shelves. And, speaking of that fact, it's going to be on PSN exclusively; Drinkbox has just announced that they're part of the Sony Pub Fund program, which is great news for them. DrinkBox CEO noted in a recent press release that “Pub Fund has been a good fit for us. The royalty guarantee and other Pub Fund terms have allowed us to confidently focus on finishing our game while retaining ownership and artistic control over the project." I love independent studios that can churn out a game of this quality, and the fact that they're retaining all ownership of everything related to this game is something to be excited about. It'll be available at some point in early 2011. Get it!

Review: Greed Corp.

It's no doubt that downloadable, arcade-style games are picking up steam. And since their quality has been getting better and better, I'm sure this is a trend that's here to stay as more people open up to the idea of a shorter, cheaper, downloadable game.

Greed Corp., from Amsterdam-based W! Games, is the publisher's first game based in the Mistbound Universe. W! Games plans on building multiple games on this world, using the same story, artwork, and characters. This is a pretty interesting concept that both reduces costs for them, but also creates a connection between all the games. Mistbound should tie all of the publisher's games together and give them a sense of visual similarity. Check out the unveiling video of the Mistbound Universe below.

The basic premise of Greed Corp. is that we have basically destroyed the earth, and there are four corporations fighting for control of the little amount of land that's left. It's a turn-based strategy game and the goal is to be the last man standing. The world is represented in islands of floating hexagonal blocks that slowly crumble as they are sucked of their resources by the Harvesters you've built. You can also build armories, where you spawn your "Walkers" -- which are basically army infantry units -- and your Carriers to deposit Walkers in a far-off place. The fourth possible unit is your Cannon, which can blast the ground out from underneath your opponents.

The simplicity of having only four different units makes the game very easy to pick up and get to know quickly. But it also adds a lot to the strategy because you have to do more with less. For example, you might not initially think of the strategy of infiltrating the enemy's land to plant a harvester in the middle of everything and muck up the works, but it's a very effective strategy that you'll use often. It means the opponent has to move everything they have to somewhere else on the map, because the tile with the Harvester and those surrounding it will crumble to pieces, causing your opponent's units to fall down into oblivion.

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Each "team" has its own unique look and audio style, but essentially they all function exactly the same. Your campaign starts as the "Freemen," who are basically the hippies whose units are tree-based and their harvesters are windmills (though, yes, they still do the same amount of damage). The campaign plays through quite a few different maps, and can vary between 1 and 3 opponents. Though essentially the gameplay is the same for every game, the variety of maps and the challenge of evolving a new strategy to outsmart the increasingly intelligent opponents will keep you enthusiastically playing along.

After you've gone through the first campaign as the Freemen, you then progress through the other three clans' missions as well. There's a story that goes along with each campaign, but it's neither very interesting nor very important. All you need to know is that the three clans have been warring with each other since humans destroyed the planet, and you're trying to kick their butts.

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There is an online component to the game as well, but if you don't coordinate with a friend who has also purchased the game, you're likely going to be out of luck when trying to find a random game to connect to. There simply aren't enough people playing the game to be matched with anyone. I tried many different times but still came up with nothing -- only after I specified a set time with a friend who also had the game was I able to play online. The online games are basically the same as a single-player game; there are no gameplay differences. You're destroying everyone else's land, units, etc. You can also add in computer players to the game, which is a nice touch that adds a bit of difficulty. But I came to the conclusion that this is one of the few games where the single-player mode is actually more enjoyable than online. As you're progressing through the campaign, you have a discernible goal: finish this game so you can conquer the next. When you're just playing a quick game with a friend, you don't have that same sense of urgency. Unless, of course, you've coordinated some sort of Greed Corp. mega-tournament.

Greed Corp. is a pretty good-looking game. The textures are rich and the art direction gives the game an almost steampunk-type feel, like an intersection between old and new. This is the future but it also feels primitive. There isn't much in the way of animation, since there's such a limited number of interactions between the units and the land, but that's okay -- it doesn't need it. The jazzy, funky music certainly helps set the game's mood and it's quite enjoyable. I always found myself humming the music quietly after I'd finished playing the game. Though, of course, not loud enough for anyone else to hear. I hope.

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Overall, Greed Corp. is exactly what I think an Xbox Live or PSN game should be: quick to learn, easy to pick up, and addictively fun. The graphics don't need to be top-notch, though it's an added bonus that this game looks pretty good. The chess-like strategy dynamic of the game is a fresh take on this type of strategy game, and it's simple enough that it doesn't get tedious. You'll be crumbling your opponents' blocks pretty often. And, man, is that satisfying.

nine
out of ten

This is the Way to Go Out: Pandemic Says Goodbye

This is the only way to say goodbye to your former employer: Office Space style. The former employees of shuttered studio Pandemic are seen below smashing up their old printer. Just hope no one breathed in that toxic toner cloud...

[ via Joystiq ]

Fable III Trailer… Already?

It may seem incredibly early on in the development of the game, but there's already a (very teasy) trailer that's been released for the upcoming Fable III. Well, I guess that's not even that surprising, considering Peter Molyneux has already cooked up plans for Fables 3-5. You don't find out much, other than the fact that "the race for the crown has begun," because Albion needs a new king/queen. The trailer also hints that there will be plenty of decision-based outcomes, as we've come to expect from this franchise. The game is rumored for a 2010 release. Check out the trailer below.

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Tropico 3: Now With More Presidential Speeches!

Kalypso Media's Tropico 3 for PC and Xbox 360 is shaping up to be an interesting game. You play as El Presidente in the Caribbean country of Tropico during the Cold War. You can run your country like a bastardly dictator, or as a "generous statesman" that develops the country into a vacation paradise.

Recently announced was the ability to make speeches to your people to try to win over voters. If your country is bordering communist, El Presidente will address his citizens as comrades. You can make promises to your voters that, if you don't, will cause problems with your people. Check out the excerpt from the press release below and the gallery if images below that.

El Presidente’s Speech Feature:

• Speeches are held before elections and are a great tool to sway some voters in your favor.
• When a speech is created, El Presidente (the player) outlines the general directions of the speech (what problems to address, which faction or superpower to praise, what promises to make). His secretary creates the speech from these notes.
• Some parts of the speeches are automatically generated according to the political context of the election. For example in a country leaning towards communism, Presidente may address his people as "comrades".
• If the player doesn't keep his election promises, he will bear consequences later.
• El Presidente is also able to praise himself in his speeches.

Tropico 3 will be available from September 2009 on Xbox 360 and PC, for more information, screenshots and the teaser trailer please visit the official game website www.tropico3.com.

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Mass Effect 2 Post-E3 Footage Goodness

BioWare just released a new video that includes Mass Effect 2 game footage that was shown at E3, along with some developer commentary and insight into the game's upgraded planet exploration, combat and character interaction.

Mass Effect 2 is the second game in a planned trilogy, and is set to be released some time in early 2010.

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GTA4: The Lost and the Damned Trailer, Soundtrack Info

A new trailer is available for The Lost and the Damned, the upcoming Downloadable Content pack that expands on Grand Theft Auto IV. We get a glimpse at the newest badass in town, Johnny Klebitz, who is a member of the biker gang The Lost. Johnny played a side role in some of the missions in the first GTA4, and Joystiq postulates that we'll be journeying back through virtual time to the Blow Your Cover mission. Check out the trailer at the bottom of the post.

Also announced today was an expanded soundtrack that will be available once you've downloaded The Lost and the Damned. MTV detailed the new additions, which include a brand new show DJed by Funkmaster Flex on The Beat 102.7, a new show on Liberty City Hardcore, and additional DJing by Iggy Pop on Liberty City Rock Radio. All the stations will feature new music, which, interestingly, will be played before all the stuff you've heard before. So you get to experience your fresh-from-Xbox-Live content as soon as possible.

The Lost and the Damned will be available on February 17 and is only available for Xbox 360.

[ Via Joystiq ]

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Coming June 2009; New Trailer

A new trailer for the Ghostbusters video game was recently released. The game, which will be released by Atari and developed by Terminal Reality (PS3 and Xbox 360) and Red Fly Studios (the ports to Wii and PC), is due out in June 2009. It was originally slated to be published by Activision for October 2008, but when those plans changed, Atari stepped in as the publisher and moved the release date.

Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, who wrote the original films, will be writing the plot and providing the voices, along with Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson from the original cast as well. A few other members of the cast of the first two movies will also be playing minor roles. According to Forbes, "players will step into the shoes of a new recruit to the team, and will help the four heroes fight off enemies that include all the ghosts from the original two films."

Check out the new trailer below:

Still Alive (Theme From Mirror’s Edge) – The Remixes: Album Review

EA's Mirror's Edge looks to be a pretty epic game. Your name is Faith, and you live in a city that appears to be a utopia. You are a Runner, a highly skilled courier who delivers sensitive documents so they don't fall into the wrong hands. And in this secretly decaying society, you've just been framed for murder. Check out the trailer at the bottom of the post for some sweet gameplay footage.

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On November 11, coinciding with the launch of the game, EA will release an album comprised of the Mirror's Edge theme song, "Still Alive," and five remixes from various artists. The original song is performed by Lisa Miskovsky, a Swedish singer who, apparently, has been pretty successful in her home country. Her untouched version of the song is featured first. Following that are remixes from Paul Oakenfold, Benny Benassi, Paul van Dyk, and others.

The original song is by no means a terrible song, but not one you'd expect to be presented as the anthem of a game that could be as ground-breaking as EA says it is. My first thought was that it reminded me of the song "The Call" by Regina Spektor (featured at the end of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), although I am not sure whether I was reminded of it because both of these songs sound similar or because they both felt rather out of place. The song is rather soothing and somewhat slow-paced, both of which are characteristics you think wouldn't be associated with an action set in an unhappy society. The sound is very polished and produced, so much so that you can see the sugar slowly dripping off of it. A slow piano background, a soothing electronic-sounding chorus, multiple layers of lyrics: it's all there to add up to an adequate Lite Adult Contemporary hit ("Your concrete heart isn't beating / And I've tried to make it come alive"). Listening to the song out of the blue, you'd have no idea it would be featured in a game (other than the fact that the name of the song is the same as the one that ended Portal), but knowing that it will be in Mirror's Edge prompts the image of an epic cutscene, perhaps depicting the downfall of Faith's city or the story of the hardships she has faced in her life. Certainly this will not be playing while you're disarming any snipers.

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Benny Benassi's remix is up next, and it kicks off with a techno beat that gets you ready for the rest of the album. This first remix isn't spectacular or particularly unique. It sounds like many techno songs I've heard before. But it is pretty catchy, and much more upbeat than the original song. The techno-tastic bleeps, boops, and zwangs are happening for a full two and a half minutes before any pieces of the original song start to poke through. Of all the songs on this album, this is certainly the one that you can see in a movie dancing scene, with epileptic seizure-inducing lights flashing and tons of cute people all enjoying themselves. But this song also sounds more like someone gave Benny Benassi the song and said, "here, do something with this and make it cool."

Junkie XL's mix follows, which starts out sounding like a children's lullaby but turns into a slower-paced, more mellow techno-y song than the previous one. This version plays off of the song's own melodies and feels more natural than the Benny Benassi remix. This version is also only 20 seconds longer than the original song (at 4:40), so it doesn't begin to feel too repetitive. The image that comes to mind when listening to this remix is of a long, somewhat sad ending scene of a movie where, perhaps, two characters are realizing they are better off without each other. So, while it is a sad occasion, it is offering closure to both of them. Okay, way too specific, I know. But you can get an idea of the pace of this song. It really play's off the lyrics of the original rather than focusing on inserted electronic beats, which makes it feel more real.

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Paul Van Dyk plays with the song on track 4, which, to be honest, is the only name on this album I immediately recognized. And the song is easily recognizible too -- it sounds very much like many of Paul Van Dyk's songs. But it feels like something is off for parts of this song. The underlying beats and currents of the song don't bend to reflect Lisa Miskovsky's lyrics and inflections. But this is most certainly a classic techno song; slow buildup as the beats get louder and more intense, to a break in the intensity when the lyrics kick in, then building back up again. The mood of this song definitely feels darker and more "metallic" than the others so far, and feels like it could be used in a battle scene inside a place such as a warehouse.

The Teddybears' remix follows Paul Van Dyk's, and from the first 5 seconds I could tell that this was my favorite so far. It has a deep bass beat that reminded me of K-Os' Sunday Morning. Out of all these 5 remixes, this did turn out to be my favorite upon repeat listenings. It's the most original and, like the Junkie XL mix, feels more natural than the others. It's also not overwhelmically technical sounding -- there's more than just electronic noises repeating over and over. If you have a subwoofer or some quality speakers, you're going to want to turn the bass up for this song. The Teddybears mix could almost fit into a playlist of hip hop songs and sound like it fits right in.

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I've never heard of Armand Van Helden, but he gets his hands on Still Alive next. And the results are pretty enjoyable here as well. He really plays around with Lisa Miskovsky's voice, which also differentiates this song. There's a solid bass base (ha ha...) throughout this song, which doesn't seem at first like it would fit with the lofty piano that's in the original song, but the contrast works well. If this song were just a tad more intense I could see it being featured in some bad ass Matrix-type gunfight scene. But it's not quite there.

It may sound like I'm being pretty harsh on the individual songs here, but this is an enjoyable collection of songs. I can't say that I would be likely to listen to Lisa Miskovsky's original song on a regular basis, but the remixes could well make their way into party playlists in the foreseeable future. The last two songs are especially fun. The album will be available November 11 on all the major music download services with "standard Amazon and iTunes pricing in effect," says Dana Sissons, Senior Publicist at EA, which we're assuming means 99 cents per song. If you feel like you need to add to your techno and/or remixed-song collection, I would probably recommend at least checking out these songs. Especially the Teddybears mix.

8.4

/ 10

LittleBigPlanet Utilizes PS3 Key Features; Not For 360

GamesIndustry.biz recently sat down with Media Molecule's co-founder Alex Evans. Media Molecule is developing the upcoming PS3-exculsive LittleBigPlanet, which we're sure is going to be a monstrous hit.

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