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Halloween Week: Top Tricks and Treats

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Happy Halloween!  What more fitting end could there be for our themed week than keeping with this holiday’s greatest tradition?  Most people today will be taking to the streets in creepy costumes to hunt for tasty offerings.  As addicted gamers, we have a special kind of Trick-or-Treating for you to enjoy.

Minecraft XBLA Update Now Available

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The moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived.  The original Minecraft 360 release, though quite fun and very successful, was lacking a few of the more enriching features native to the PC version.  Update 1.8 released early this morning, and contains the following features:

-Creative Mode:  Allows for flying, infinite supplies, and quick removal of blocks.
-Hunger Meter:  Food isn’t just for replenishing hearts anymore, but for keeping up strength when building.
-New Food:  Melons, chicken, steak… yum.
-More Monsters:  Endermen, Cave Spiders, Silverfish
-New Crafting Items
-Different terrains (new worlds only)
-Expanded Host Privileges

The update is free, and a download prompt will appear automatically the next time you open Minecraft on the 360.  Though the creative mode does take some of the fun out of finding materials for building, the new additions are a great improvement over the more basic version of the game.

 

Boss Battles vs. Linear Gameplay: An A-G Debate

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All gamers have their conflicts.  A few of them have become notorious for sparking never-ending “flame wars” within the various online venues built for gamers to discuss issues and events in the industry.  We’ve decided to host our own A-G Debate series, in which various staff members will share their opinions on gaming and dispute the finer points of the medium.  Today, editor Bradley Russell and I sat down to settle a debate he has become dubiously known for bringing up whenever possible:  Are boss battles out of date, or a well evolved game mechanic?

Nintendo Releasing New Super Mario Bros 2 DLC

It’s official.  Nintendo has finally jumped on the DLC bandwagon.  In a newly released Nintendo Direct video, Nintendo of America President (and beloved fan-favorite spokesman) Reggie Fils-Aime introduces three new “Downloadable Course Packs” for the Coin Rush Mode in the 3DS’s New Super Mario Bros 2, which was released in August.  For the competitive online gamer, challenging coin collecting courses will feature worldwide leaderboards.  Each of the map packs retails for $2.50 USD and will be available on October 4th.

 

Halo 4 Video Shows Map Remake with New Twist

343 Industries continues their ongoing litany of content videos to promote the upcoming Halo 4, releasing in the US on November 6.  Fans have had the privilege of videos covering everything from voice recording to weapons design, and now the as-yet-untested developers have pieced together a short video showing off their remake of the Halo 3 map Valhalla (itself a remake of the classic Halo map Blood Gulch).  From what is shown in the video, the reds and blues are still fighting over their two bases in the middle of a box canyon.  But there is also a new piece of tech to alter the dynamics of the battle:  a man-shaped mech tank called the “Mantis.”

Kirby’s Dream Collection Wii Review – A Token From a Lost Era

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Publisher:  Nintendo
Developer:  HAL Laboratories
Release Date:  September 16, 2012
Platform:  Wii
ESRB:  E 10+

Several months ago, Nintendo announced plans for a collection of classic Kirby games to be released in honor of the 20th anniversary of the franchise, which made its first appearance on the Gameboy in August of 1992.  Since then, our little pink hero has been on plenty of adventures on almost every Nintendo system released to date.  Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land have seen recent success on the Wii, and hopefully we will one day get a Kirby 3DS title to round off the series.

Kirby has aged relatively well, despite never reaching the staggering success of other famous Nintendo franchises.  And there’s nothing like an anniversary collection to remind nostalgia junkies how fun the classics can be.  Kirby’s Dream Collection contains Kirby’s Dream Land (Gameboy), Kirby’s Adventure (NES), Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (Gameboy), Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (SNES), Kirby 64:  The Crystal Shards (N64), and Kirby Super Star, which includes a variety of mini-games.  Also on the game disc are specially made challenge stages and an interactive series timeline.   The Special Edition collection also includes a compilation soundtrack CD and a small “celebration book” dedicated to Kirby’s evolution and impact throughout the years.

Darksiders II Argul’s Tomb DLC Coming This Week

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Darksider’s II, released just last month, will be getting its first packet of DLC, named “Argul’s Tomb” later this week.  The new gameplay area is described by publisher THQ as “an additional challenge for gamers of all levels,” though they do specify that it will be directed toward players who have completed the first three main game zones.  The new area features two dungeons, wrought with new enemies and exclusive items for the dedicated loot-collector.

Free download codes for Argul’s Tomb were included with all new copies of the Limited Edition of Darksiders II at release.  The content pack will be priced at 560 MS points or $6.99 (USD), a somewhat high price for the limited contribution to the game.  Argul’s Tomb will be available for download this Tuesday, September 25 for Xbox 360, PC, and PS3 (North America only; available in Europe on the 26th), and will be included on the disc for the Wii U version, which launches along with the Wii U in November.

Source:  Darksiders.com

Darksiders II PS3 Review – Death Becomes You

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Publisher:  THQ
Developer:  Vigil Games
Platforms:  PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii U (Not yet released)
Release Date:  August 14, 2012
ESRB:   M – Mature

In an industry that feels as if it’s been overrun by generic, repetitive action-shooters, a studio willing to take a leap of faith and bring a fresh new IP into the fold is more than enough to garner some attention.  With the release of Darksiders in 2010, gamers who have grown weary of endless Call of Duty sequels got a taste of what used to make gaming great:  an imaginative story, challenging gameplay, fun combat, and a worthwhile experience independent from online multiplayer gaming.  There just aren’t enough good, well-known single player campaigns out there.

At first glance, Darksiders II is a compelling package.  The game is heavily improved from its predecessor and shamelessly borrows elements from some of the best games in the industry- Portal, The Legend of Zelda, God of War, Diablo, and even Gears of War.  The main protagonist, Death (yes, as in the scary shadowy figure with the scythe, only more badass), is much more agile and acrobatic in combat in comparison to his other horseman brother, War, from the previous outing.   Vigil has made some great refinements to the story, characters, and gameplay in this sequel.  But are these adjustments enough or does Darksiders II prove to be a shallow grave?

New Super Mario Bros 2 3DS Review – A Long-Lived Success

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Publisher:  Nintendo
Developer:  Nintendo EAD
Platform:  3DS
Release Date:  August 19, 2012
ESRB:  E – Everyone

How many Super Mario Bros games have been made to date?  I’m not sure, but it’s definitely a high number.  Maybe the highest number of any video game franchise.  The original Mario Bros game was probably Nintendo’s first and most endearing hit, released for their new (at the time) Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985.  The name “Mario” instantly became synonymous with the home video game console.  The game had such a simple, fluid design that fit so well on the devices of the era.

And after 30 years, it still fits.  The graphics have changed, the music has improved, and the story has become marginally more complicated.  But at its core, New Super Mario Bros 2 uses the same mechanics as its distant ancestor.  It delivers the same experience and is, in many ways, the same game.  A game which, in nearly three decades, people have never stopped playing.  Why is that?  Some people may put it down to nostalgia or sensationalism, but what really makes a game enjoyable after being rehashed for so many years?

Minecraft: So Simple, So Addicting

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To the average console gamer, Minecraft is probably perceived as one of those well-known but not fully understood fads that has to be experienced to be appreciated.  I must admit, that’s how I always felt about.  A multiplayer PC game about building stuff didn’t really hold much value for me.  But eventually I came across a group of people online who convinced me to get the Xbox 360 version of the game and join them for some fun.

In a world that has been (perhaps overly) saturated with video games of every genre featuring excitingly varied gameplay, breathtakingly realistic graphics, grand orchestral scores, and stories to rival any Hollywood blockbuster, why is it that an independently developed PC game that is in essence the digital love child of Legos and Lincoln Logs could become so popular?

Sometimes simple is better.