xcom

June’s Xbox Games With Gold Line-up is Pretty Damn Great

Microsoft confirmed their Games With Gold line-up for June earlier today, and it’s a meaty beast.

Xbox One owners will receive four games, two of which are backwards compatible from Xbox 360. Coffee Stain Studios’ Goat Simulator will be available all month long, with Ubisoft’s open-world racer The Crew replacing last month’s Costume Quest 2 on June 16th.

The Xbox 360 offering is perhaps the most impressive, with 2D platforming masterpiece Super Meat Boy available during the first half, and critically acclaimed strategy RPG XCOM: Enemy Unknown taking over on June 16th.

I’m in one of those weird spots, where part of me is extremely happy for anyone who doesn’t own these games, and the other part is like.. fuck.. I have all four of these already. Can’t win ’em all, but hot damn, that’s a great line-up next month.

downwell

Downwell Now Available on PS4 and PS Vita w/ Cross-Buy

Minimalist vertical Spelunky-like Downwell took mobile devices and PC by storm last year, ending up on many Game of the Year lists. I tried it myself and gave it an honorable mention, so yeah, it’s good and you should definitely play it.

Today, Downwell-mania is running wild on PS4 and PS Vita for $4.99, with cross-buy support for both consoles. While most games clarify that cross-buy is supported on their store page, there was nothing of the sorts for Downwell. However, the game’s publisher Devolver Digital did confirm with me via Twitter that cross-buy is, indeed, a thing.

And let me tell you, the Vita version is amazing and may be the best $5 I’ve spent all year. I’m sure the PS4 version is fine too, and it does have this neat little touch where the color of the game changes the color of your DualShock 4’s light, but this game is definitely at home on Sony’s handheld.

If you’re unfamiliar with Downwell, it’s a simple concept where your chubby little dude falls down procedurally generated wells and kills things with gunboots. The gunboots not only act as a method of blowing shit up, but slow your descent as well. Tactics and stuff, right?

It’s fucking hard. Like, really hard. But it’s good! Like, really good. The soundtrack is also catchy, so that helps with all the dying somehow.

Any interest in Downwell?

hitmango

Weekend Gaming: What are You Playing?

It’s been an incredibly long week, and with visiting family leaving today I decided to jump in to Hitman Go: Definitive Edition on PS Vita to clear my head. It’s a neat puzzle game, and definitely not at all what I expected.

I’ve never been a huge Hitman fan, so it’s odd that the one game that’s not so Hitman-like is actually the one that’s drawn me to the series. Now I’m tempted to grab the HD trilogy on PS3 while it’s only $4.

I’ve also been playing a good amount of Stories: Path of Destinies on PS4 (also available on PC), which I reviewed earlier this morning. It’s a really fun Zelda/Bastion-style game, but the story plays out like a choose your own adventure novel. Really cool stuff.

I picked up Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, Dark Souls 3, and Valkyria Chronicles Remastered on PS4 a few days ago, but I don’t think I’ll get to them this weekend. I also rented Doom from Red Box to check out the campaign, liking how fast and fluid it was, but returned it before finishing it up. It’s a fun game, just not what I wanted to play at that exact moment in time.

Chances are this weekend I’ll just stick with Hitman Go on Vita and maybe piddle around in World of Warcraft. The girlfriend and I unlocked the ability to fly in Draenor (thanks to a good friend of ours), so leveling alts has been a breeze. We’re basically leveling from 90-100 by flying around Draenor, picking up treasures, and completing optional objectives. Easy peasy. So far I’ve managed to get my Worgen Shadow Priest and Night Elf Moonkin to 100 in a handful of hours.

What about you folks? What are you getting in to this weekend?

stories

REVIEW: Stories: The Path of Destinies

Stories: The Path of Destinies
Developed by: Spearhead Games (a Montreal-based studio featuring talent from Assassin’s Creed 2, Assassin’s Creed 3, and Dead Space 3)
Published by: Spearhead Games
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), PC
Price: $14.99
In a nutshell: A Link to the Past meets Bastion in a charming choose your own adventure novel.

Choose your own adventure novels were popular among the middle school crowd growing up, but rather than trying to act as a hero, I had more fun getting the characters in to trouble. However, I quickly discovered that authors never truly anticipated a child wanting to witness the darker side of adventure or derring-do, and thus my curiosity was rarely rewarded.

In Stories: The Path of Destinies, failure is the only option.

As the fox pirate Reynaldo, you’ll explore a cluster of floating islands in an attempt to best a crazy frog emperor and his army of menacing ravens. How you get there, though, is entirely up to you.

In the opening moments, Reynaldo stumbles upon a magical book that not only records his deeds but allows him to flip its pages in reverse and begin his adventure anew — complete with all the weapons and skills he’s unlocked along the way. Much like re-reading a choose your own adventure book, this allows you to see different outcomes and use what you’ve learned to make better decisions on subsequent playthroughs.

Stories' desert area houses a mystical stone said to give unlimited power. For a hefty price, no doubt.

Stories’ desert area houses a mystical stone said to give unlimited power. For a hefty price, no doubt.

For instance, in the early goings you’re given the option to help a friend in need, or leave him for dead in favor of seeking out a powerful weapon that could swing the conflict in favor of the rebellion. Both lead to different outcomes (generally bad ones), known as truths, and open up additional areas and storylines on your next attempt. Following my gut on the first go saw Reynaldo rush in to a suicide run, which ended as you’d expect, but it unlocked an entire sub-plot on my next attempt surrounding a mysterious stone that promised unlimited power — and we all know where that’s headed.

Had I chosen differently, I’d have missed out on a significant sub-plot entirely. Sure, Reynaldo died, and sure, it was my fault. But bad choices or not, they were mine. They mattered. For the first time in a while, my decisions in a video game weren’t predictable and I felt encouraged to explore them from all angles — even if it meant accidentally killing a man by poking him in the chest with a sword “for emphasis.” It was awesome.

Accompanying a fairly memorable ensemble of characters is the witty narrator, who dips in to his bag of tricks to not only voice the entire cast, but provide snarky quips and comic relief during actual moments of gameplay. The narrator knows what truths you’ve experienced and doesn’t hesitate to remind you of your less than desirable outcomes, but he also steps back to take jabs at Assassin’s Creed, makes nods to Star Wars and Tomb Raider, and questions your every move with his lovably dry English humor.

The floating islands found in Stories are vibrant and familiar, but they're definitely easy on the eyes.

The floating islands found in Stories are vibrant and familiar, but they’re definitely easy on the eyes.

Each playthrough lasts about an hour, largely depending on how much time you want to spend exploring the game’s variety of beautifully designed, cel-shaded environments. While this doesn’t sound like much, it was the perfect length for Stories’ gameplay hook. There are nearly 25 different endings, so trust me, you don’t want to go through that in 5-hour chunks. An hour allowed me to choose a few different paths, learn a thing or two, level up Reynaldo, and immediately hop back in for another go in hopes of a better outcome. In fact, I found myself so enthralled by Stories’ method of choice-driven storytelling that I “beat” the game straight through four times in one sitting.

By my 5th playthrough though, I had gotten so tired of the opening sequence that I wish Stories allowed me to skip the dialogue for moments that I’ve already witnessed before. Some sequences do feature additional dialogue from the narrator, reminding me of what happened the last time I made the same choice, but there are a few that are the same throughout (especially if I wanted to re-play the game the same way, but only choose a different path near the end).

I also ran in to an issue with the game’s default aspect ratio, and it cutting off my stamina meter completely. It didn’t affect the graphical fidelity at all, but it was as if the outer inch of the screen was zoomed out beyond its border. There’s no in-game option to alter the border of your television, and with my HDTV being roughly 3 years old I’ve yet to come in to contact with a game it doesn’t agree with, so I’m not sure what the issue is.

Combat is a light mix of the Arkham combo system and Metal Gear Rising's counter attacks. It's fun, but nothing new.

Combat is a light mix of the Arkham combo system and Metal Gear Rising’s counter attacks. It’s fun, but nothing new.

Combat is fairly well done, featuring an Arkham-style combo system and a counter mechanic more akin to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (pressing toward an enemy and attacking, rather than having a dedicated counter button). Different enemy types require different strategies, like removing shields from the defender ravens, or dodging the blasts of explosive ravens who detonate when struck by Reynaldo’s sword.

Speaking of swords, there are four in total, and each act as both a magical weapon and a key to open their respective doors while exploring. Swapping between them is as easy as pressing the d-pad, so it was simple enough to go from bathing enemies in bursts of flame with my fire sword, to increasing my attack speed with the void sword. Should my health drop, I could switch to the wind sword to cast a healing spell. The hand-to-hand combat is fluid and accessible, and collecting crafting materials and enhancement gems rewarded additional playthroughs with stronger weapons and helpful passive benefits, like increased item drops and faster attack speeds.

I genuinely had a good time with the combat, although it failed to provide anything new and exciting. It was a pretty dry version of the old Arkham system, where well-timed presses of the attack button were woven between counter attacks and evasive maneuvers. Had this been the central focus of Stories, I doubt I would have stuck around longer than necessary, but I’m thankful that it works as well as it does while allowing the choice-with-consequence storytelling to take center stage.

It wouldn't be an action RPG without menacing green fog.

It wouldn’t be an action RPG without menacing green fog and protruding crimson shards, right?

When you’re not out scouring for crafting materials or battling against an unkindness of ravens, Stories: The Path of Destinies is a lot like Bastion-meets-A Link to the Past, with a visual dash of Torchlight. There’s even references to the Zelda series’ hero breaking pots, and Reynaldo can swiftly ascend to nearby platforms using his hookshoot.

There’s a variety a really neat islands to explore, featuring lava caves, the inner workings of a castle, and mystical areas smothered in protruding crystals. I had a lot of fun zipping between floating airships and exploring the remains of a forgotten temple, and my enjoyment was propelled by my desire to improve Reynaldo’s weapons and see what misadventure he ended up in next.

Dashing about and exploring each of the floating islands was a blast, but I found it odd that Stories’ combat was seemingly flawless while something as simple as breaking objects in the environment triggered a distracting amount of lag. It was never, ever an issue in combat. Not once. But if there were crystals or pots nearby that could be housing valuable materials, breaking them infrequently dropped the framerate to a crawl for a short amount of time.

Despite its similarities to other games in the genre, Stories: The Path of Destinies is a pleasant surprise, filled with humor, charm, and a lot of heart. I loved its characters, its vibrant visuals, and the fantastical floating islands on display, and I was excited that my choices always seemed to matter, no matter how unkind and unfortunate they were to ol’ Reynaldo.

It’s an action RPG for fans of The Legend of Zelda, Bastion, and Transistor, or for anyone who just wants to experience a pleasant fairytale.

*So where’s the final score? There isn’t one. I did spend a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. Read the review and judge for yourself if it’s worth playing.

Full disclosure: This review was done using a PlayStation 4 copy of Stories: The Path of Destinies provided by the developer’s PR company, Evolve PR. I pride myself on providing unbiased reviews to fellow consumers and constructive feedback to hard working developers. Whether or not I pay for the game is completely irrelevant. 

flashsale

PSN Flash Sale Features Deals Under $5

From now until Monday, PlayStation owners can dive in to a selection of PS4, PS3, and Vita titles for less than $5. There’s even a few PSP games thrown in to the mix!

What’s up for grabs?

Notable deals include:

  • The Banner Saga (PS4, no confirmation of cross-buy yet) – $4.99
  • Hitman Go: Definitive Edition (cross-buy w/ PS4 & Vita) – $3.19
  • ArcaniA: The Complete Tale (PS4) – $4.99
  • Don’t Starve: Console Edition + Reign of Giants (PS4) – $4.74
  • Don’t Starve: Console Edition (cross-buy w/ PS4 & Vita) – $4.49
  • Killzone: Shadow Fall (PS4) – $4.99
  • Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved – $4.94
  • Grow Home (PS4) – $2.79
  • Murdered: Soul Suspect (PS4) $4.49
  • Nidhogg (cross-buy w/ PS4 & Vita) – $4.49
  • Outlast (PS4) – $4.99
  • Rogue Legacy (cross-buy w/ PS4 & Vita) – $4.24
  • Sound Shapes (cross-buy w/ PS4 & Vita) – $3.99
  • Surgeon Simulator: A&E Anniversary Edition – $2.59
  • Terraria (PS4) – $4.99
  • The Jackbox Party Pack (PS4, PS3) – $4.99
  • The Jackbox Party Pack 2 (PS4, PS3) – $4.99
  • Transistor (PS4) – $4.99
  • Hitman HD Trilogy (PS3) – $3.99
  • Journey (PS3) – $4.49
  • Okami HD (PS3) – $4.89
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PSP/Vita) – $4.99

I picked up The Banner Saga and ArcaniA: The Complete Tale on PS4, and Hitman Go on Vita for around $13. I never finished Killzone: Shadow Fall, and $5 is a great price, but I was put off by its massive 40gb+ file size. Maybe another time.

Picking anything up?

*You can check out the full list of discounts over at the official PlayStation Blog.

draenor

World of Warcraft Expansion Warlords of Draenor Now Part of the Base Game

With the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion Legion scheduled for an August 30th release, Blizzard has decided to include the current expansion, Warlords of Draenor, to the core game’s $20 price tag.

That’s $20 for World of Warcraft and its Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, and Warlords of Draenor expansions, plus a free month of paid game time. Not bad if you’ve been on the fence for the last 12 years.

Blizzard is also offering a free redemption code for World of Warcraft to anyone who attends a screening of the upcoming Warcraft film, which releases on June 10th. You know, the film directed by Duncan Jones… the son of David Bowie? I can’t wait.

quiet

It’s Been Quiet, and Probably Will Be for a Little While

Between reviews I’ve been trying to post little tidbits of news or discussion pieces that I found interesting, but lately I haven’t been doing much of anything. Of course there’s a reason, though.

Those of you that know me outside of Cheap Boss Attack know that I’ve been spending most of the last five years helping my mom take care of my terminally ill dad. Unfortunately he passed away on Wednesday.

I’ll just say it’s been a tough five years, and I’m sure Cheap Boss Attack will be pretty quiet for the next week or so while I wrap my head around a (figurative) million different things. I currently have 4 games to play through for reviews, but they’ll just have to wait for now.

Thanks to all of you who’ve already poured in your support via Twitter or Facebook. It means a lot to my family and I.