Door Kickers: Action Squad Has Good Co-Op

If there’s a constant in the gaming universe right now, it’s pixelated side-scrollers. Door Kickers: Action Squad is pixelated, yes, but it isn’t another exploratory metroidvania style adventure. Action Squad is a co-operators special that’s for distant or couched friends to shoot bad guys with the not-at-all-questionable overarching theme of police buddies just busting up mansions and warehouses, going room-to-room, looking for hostages and bombs.

Action Squad doesn’t take itself seriously. There is a progression system of upgrades to purchase between levels. Both skill points on a tech tree of sorts, and among the purchasable gear options are just regular frag grenades that don’t care if you’re hitting a hostage or a hostage-taker and this is what you see if you’re thinking about buying grenades:

It's a Gear selection screen with the frag grenade unlockable selected. One of the features and benefits is

I haven’t chosen those yet, but they’re in-line with the type of parody of police work that Action Squad is going for, and there are definitely situations in the game’s levels that call for room-clearing explosives.

There’s a very fine line between parody and cringing, and while I think that Action Squad earns its comedic violence, I also cringe every time I hear the unfortunate suicide-bombing character charging and yodeling what is probably nonsense at the forgettable player characters.That’s a stereotype best left behind.

I won’t be reviewing Action Squad, but I can recommend it for anyone looking for a good game to play with a friend. It isn’t perfect, Action Squad has crashed once or twice over the three hours I’ve spent with it so far, but I like that a studio called “Killhouse Games” can prove they don’t take themselves entirely too seriously by working with PixelShard Labs on this project. The music is good, the sprite work is good, the gameplay is fun. I love almost everything about this game. It even seems to revel in your loss, because you still earn experience points towards leveling up your characters and then it throws out an exclamation mark that seems to indicate an excitement in your SWAT team dying:

Swat team lost

Once you restart the mission, the level layouts are the same, so you will sometimes need to figure out how you’re going to do things differently the next time. One level in particular stands out where I had to kick a corpse through the odd skylight in a room with another room above it. Dropping the corpse lured enemies to one side of their basement. Every time I dropped down through the basement’s skylight without first luring the two other murder-men waiting below, I would almost always cause a stray bullet to hit a door, that would then open and bring in two more killers which was about one too many to deal with. Even once I figured out this piece of the murder-puzzle I had to remember to turn on the generator and press the elevator call-button. Otherwise opening the door to the elevator shaft would release the two bonus slayers.

In a world where we need to get the people who enjoy the knowledge that the doors of the powerless are kicked down all the time, this is a good start for Killhouse Games to pivot away from the serious tone in the original Door Kickers. Oh, what’s that? You say they’re working on Door Kickers 2? Well, good luck to them on that.

One more unfortunate note, while Door Kickers was on Windows, macOS, and Linux, the Action Squad is only available for Windows through Steam at the moment. However, Action Squad‘s price is right at $14, and there are a ton of other modes, including one infinite Die Hard-esque tower with procedural generation

YouTube’s Advertising Hellhole Urges People to Waste Money on Mystery Boxes

Will Sommer for The Daily Beast:

Untold riches are promised on Mystery Brand, a website that sells prize-filled “mystery boxes.” If you buy one of the digital boxes, some of which cost hundreds of dollars, you might only get a fidget spinner—or you might get a luxury sports car.

For just $100, users can win a box filled with rare Supreme streetwear. For only $12.99, they can win a Lamborghini, or even a $250 million mega-mansion billed as “the most expensive Los Angeles realty.”

Or at least that’s what some top YouTubers have been telling their young fans about the gambling site—with the video stars apparently seeing that as a gamble worth taking, especially after a dip in YouTube advertising rates.

Yikes.

Tom Francis & The Egg Controller

Tom Francis is the developer of Heat Signature, games about ant eaters, Gun Point, and he’s made a ton of other stuff. Currently, Francis is working on Tactical Breach Wizards, which I’m very interested in. He’s also recently had to figure out how to solve for making business cards when you need each one to have a different design:

At one point I wanted to get business cards made that would each have a free copy of my game on them. That meant each card needed a different code printed on it. I had 200 codes, and one image with a blank space for the code to be written. The card company would happily take 200 different images, but they couldn’t combine the images and text for me – I had to do that. A solution for this should exist.

It does, actually, there are dozens. But all of them would require me to learn some new scripting language or tool that was far more complex than what I needed. This was a programming problem, and the only programming language I knew was the one I made the game in: it’s called Game Maker.

So, technically, I made a game. It’s a game where the only level is a giant room that looks like my business card, the menu system writes a giant code across it, then it takes a screenshot. Thirty times a second. You win the game by waiting for 7 seconds. Then when you quit, you have a folder full of 200 images, each with a different code on them, which you can send straight to the printers.

But the real point of this is about an Egg Controller, which, you should read the rest of here.

ConEmu is the Terminal Sanity Windows Needs

If you’re a weirdo like me you have about three or four operating systems running on your desk at any time, but your command-line roots run up against the limitations of Windows 10‘s built-in terminals constantly. There has got to be a better way!

Well I’m glad you asked, because there is a better way! Once you’ve got your Windows Subsystem for Linux all set up through Microsoft’s app store or other means it’ll finally be time to run those beautiful Bash terminals in tabs and maybe you’d like to have those bash terminals cooperating in the same window as your cmd.exe and PowerShell terminals. The answer to that all is ConEmu and it’s really just a very powerful, open-source, front-end for all of your terminals. Or consoles, because it’s ConEmu and not TerEmu.

Classic FPS Blood Getting Updated

Well I suppose this is more firey than bloody… Screenshot provided by Nightdive

There are family-friendly classics like Katamari Damacy getting remastered this year, and then there are the games we played as teenagers who thought that the coolest thing in the world was getting a little bit violent with our incredibly ridiculous games that just look silly compared to more modern gorefests like Soldier of Fortune. Blood falls into the latter category of goofy gore games.

For all of the once-youngsters who enjoyed it in 1997, Blood is being re-upped for modern systems by the old game professionals at NightDive. Here’s part of what their Daniel Grayshon had to say about the update, which sounds like it won’t be a big bloody change to get Blood on modern platforms:


Regarding the upgrading effort, Daniel said: “Blood stood up extremely well over time and we are taking care to preserve all the qualities that made the game so special. It really only needs minor updates to provide a better user experience for contemporary audiences. By using some of the functions of Nightdive’s KEX engine, we’ll be able to provide compatibility with today’s video standards, with DirectX and Vulkan support.”

He continued: “Similarly, we’ll provide compatibility with the current audio standards. We’ll add support for modern networks, Steamworks, and GOG Galaxy to bring this original game to more players. As part of this, we will preserve the accuracy of the game behavior. While these upgrades are relatively minor, we are confident that they will provide fans with a better, current generation gameplay experience.”

The only disappointing about this update is that the improvements won’t be open-source. Other games that Nightdive worked on have made it to other operating systems and platforms, and they do good work. However, like the original Blood this work will be frozen in time once Nightdive moves on.

That’s true for all commercial updates, releases, and remasters, but other games that were originally using the BUILD engine, like  Duke Nukem 3D, have had commercial and unofficial support through open-source projects once their individual game source code was released. Blood has never had it’s source officially released, which makes any work on it a little bit more crucial for preserving the game than other big BUILD engine games like Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior.

Nightdive hasn’t said when you’ll be able to check out their modern port of Blood, but you can also play the original unmodified version (and the sequel Blood 2) through Steam ($5) or gog ($6).

Katamari Damacy ReRoll Out Now on Switch & Steam

Katamari Damacy on Steam for Windows, the prince is just getting started at 6cm8mm

Katamari Damacy has had a troubled history of ephemerality, but the first game in the series has finally been re-released as Katamari Damacy ReRoll. It is a bare-bones update, the game was never a graphical showpiece, but the focus here is on making Katamari available again for the first time in over a decade

The unique gameplay of Katamari Damacy is still just as fun. Rolling things up to make a bigger katamari (ball) is so relaxing. The bigger your Katamari, the tinier the prince pushing the ball is by comparison, but the bigger ball also lets you and him roll up larger and larger objects until you’ve gone from rolling up erasers and pencils to rolling up continents and planets.

The Steam for Windows version of Katamari Damacy ReRoll suffers from some limitations due to how old Katamari’s design is. There is no autosaving, and it’ll warn you about that, so you need to return to a house on the main planetary menu to manually save between levels.

Another limitation shows up when you launch ReRoll on Windows for the first time. ReRoll appears in a tiny window on your screen, and you can’t access the options to change the resolution until you complete the first level. That might be difficult if you’re trying to play on your couch. It’s not a huge issue, but it was a surprise that Katamari didn’t immediately choose a resolution to match the desktop.

Katamari Damacy ReRoll is a can’t miss classic. At $30 it’s ten dollars more expensive than it was when it was originally released at the bargain price of $20, but Katamari is worth every penny. I can’t think of any game as hopeful and vibrantly silly. ReRoll is out now on the Nintendo Switch and Steam for Windows.

Counter-Strike: GOes F2P, Adds Battle Royale Mode

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the latest update to the classic Counter-Strike gameplay, and it is now free-to-play, and the game’s developers at Valve have added a battle royale mode called Danger Zone. Unfortunately that mode doesn’t involve crashing cars through puzzle-y intersections.

All of these updates are out now, and Valve has an FAQ about the free-to-play mechanics of the game.

Everyone who owned CS:GO previously now has “Prime Status,” which apparently puts you into a different match-making hopper with other “Prime Status” players. It sounds worse than it is, though, since it’s possible to get to that tier through playing the game and reaching the 21st rank, as the FAQ explains:

Prime Status is an upgrade available to all CS:GO players. When you have Prime Status you are matched with other players who also have Prime Status, and Prime users are eligible for Prime-exclusive souvenir items, item drops, and weapon cases.

There are two ways to upgrade your account to Prime Status; reach Rank 21 by earning XP and add an eligible phone number to your Steam account, or purchase the CS:GO Prime Status Upgrade in-game or through the Steam Store.

I suppose then the question is “how long does it take to reach Rank 21?” and the answer is probably “a long while” otherwise they wouldn’t be charging $15 for it.

Rival Megagun Is the Competitive Shoot-Em-Up Game Teens Crave

This is Rival Megagun, it’s a competitive multiplayer vertical-scrolling shooter. I love it.

Twinkle Star Sprites was the first competitive multiplayer vertical-scrolling shooter I ever played, it’s a Neo Geo classic.

The thing that makes these games special is that they are unique multiplayer novelties. There are fighting games, there are shooters, there was even Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo if you’re into competitive multiplayer puzzle games and have good color vision. As far as I know there are just two examples of the competitive multiplayer shoot-em-up, and Rival Megagun is much more approachable than Twinkle Star Sprites, although both games are available via modern digital download services with online multiplayer today.

Rival Megagun does even more to differentiate itself from it’s one rival. Megagun has more interesting characters, better music, and you have a dedicated button to send bombs and other interesting weapons to your competitor’s side of the screen. Even better, Rival Megagun lets you transform into a giant boss monster space ship and fuck your opponent’s shit up.

Grab a controller, get a buddy, fight to the death to save the world from the Harvester aliens that are here to destroy us all. Rival Megagun is $15 on Steam for Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and it’ll be out on the Switch soon (December 6th.) It’s a delightful novelty.

If you fall in love with this tiny genre (of two?) then you should try the version of Twinkle Star Sprites that DotEMU put out, it’s good and $8 on Steam for Windows.

Ben Heck Found a Use for the Neo Geo Mini

Ben Heck left The Ben Heck Show at Element 14 and is back on his own channel. SNK’s cash-in on the mini console wave produced a mostly disappointing miniature arcade machine that doesn’t even wear the red and white color scheme we’ve come to expect. Heck’s first big project post TBHS is tearing down the Neo Geo Mini with his expert commentary and then rebuilding it as a portable, with the correct colors, in these two videos:

Watching Heck work is always fun.

Hitman (2016) 2 (2018) is Ready for Disguises and Murder

The all-caps sequel to the all-caps Hitman (2016) is out, Hitman (2016) 2 (2018) is io interactive’s first murder simulator post-expulsion from Square Enix and apparently this iteration has a magic briefcase. It also has all of the missions from the first (2016) game upgraded a bit for people who already owned that. If you don’t, they’ll make them available for a twenty.

There’s a freely-downloadable prologue on Steam for Windows that lets you play those upgraded Hitman (2016)’s campaign missions, if you have access to them, as well as redone training missions from Hitman (2016) that include the new features like vegetation you can hide in.

I loved Hitman (2016) for all its quirks, it’s the best goofy action game where you can dress up and get shot for pulling a fire alarm. Although this game drops the episodic format, Hitman (2016) 2 ( 2018) still includes the scheduled elusive targets that were the reason I returned for many more silly one-off assassinations every month.

PC Gamers’ Phil Savage likes this sequel well enough:

Mumbai is like a better version of 2016 Hitman’s Marrakesh, with large, bustling crowds that border more restricted areas that, crucially, are more enjoyable to traverse. A construction site that doubles as a movie set is a particular standout, with a clever placement of guards that ensures that—even with the right disguise—you’ll need to take a circuitous path or scale the unfinished elevator shaft. A great Hitman level forces you to adapt and respond as you go, and Hitman 2’s environments excel at providing the routes and options needed to adjust your plan on the fly.

Hitman (2016) 2 (2018) is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam for Windows at $60 all the way up to an eye-watering $140 for the ridiculous edition that includes a briefcase with a rubber duck inside.

There was a version of the previous Hitman game for Linux and macOS but I haven’t seen anything promising those ports for this sequel.