Dead Cells is a Great Metroidvania

Rogue Legacy was a new style of metroidvania. It reset the castle when your character died, just like Rogue and Nethack, and randomly generated a new castle when you came back to life. Dead Cells has those generated dungeons and also changes out the progression system and combat to be somewhat Souls-like. I love the variety of weapons and effects that speak a little bit more to Symphony of the Night while the art reminds me of the  Neo Geo classic, Garou: Mark of the Wolves.

It is in Steam’s Early Access program, but it felt very far along to me, much further than most other Early Access games.

Dead Cells is $17 in Early Access on Steam for Windows.

Block’hood Neighborhood Builder Out

This neighborhood building sim, Block’hood, from Plethora Project and Devolver, looks like it could be good. Just now out of Steam’s Early Access program with a story mode and promises of more to come.

If you want to build a neighborhood in a sandbox mode or build and grow old with your boar friend in the story mode, you can do so on Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam. It’s supposed to be $15 but the price hasn’t been updated yet and is still showing as $10 (before the launch 25% discount) for me.

Owlchemy Labs Scooped Up By Google

In your latest sign that VR software development is totally unsustainable as a standalone business, Owlchemy Labs has been bought by Google:

Today, we’re thrilled to welcome Owlchemy Labs to Google. They’ve created award-winning games like Job Simulator and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality which have really thoughtful interactive experiences that are responsive, intuitive, and feel natural. They’ve helped set a high bar for what engagement can be like in virtual worlds, and do it all with a great sense of humor!

This doesn’t bode well for Owlchemy’s future output. I look forward to their shares vesting and the developer’s inevitable exit back to independent companies who actually make games again.

IO Interactive Dropped From Square-Enix

Square-Enix put out the amazing Hitman (2016) last year, I love that game and it’s disappointing to hear that Square-Enix is dropping IO and probably will end up keeping IO’s creations:

To maximize player satisfaction as well as market potential going forward, we are focusing our resources and energies on key franchises and studios. As a result, the Company has regrettably decided to withdraw from the business of IO INTERACTIVE A/S, a wholly?owned subsidiary and a Danish corporation, as of March 31, 2017. This decision has resulted in booking of the extraordinary loss amounting to 4,898 million yen, including disposition of the content production account related to the business and impairment loss of intangible assets, in the financial results for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017.

As a result of this the Company started discussions with potential new investors and is currently in negotiations to secure this investment. Whilst there can be no guarantees that the negotiations will be concluded successfully, they are being explored since this is in the best interests of our shareholders, the studio and the industry as a whole.

That loss is almost 43 million in US dollars. To paraphrase Moe Szyslak, you don’t leave the lid off of a pickle-jar like IO Interactive.

Ben Heck Got That Nintendo Playstation Working

Last year Ben Heck attempted to repair a Nintendo Playstation prototype. It was a console developed in partnership between Sony and Nintendo during the Super Nintendo era. Before Sony decided to go their own way and the project was scuttled, this prototype was developed and made its way into the world.

Last year Heck managed to get the unit loading regular Super Nintendo games. He now has the prototype loading homebrew games off of the disc drive.

Valve Destroys Steam Gifting

Valve’s Kristian (no surname given) with a Steam blog post titled “Steam Gifting Changes”:

Today we’re announcing changes to gifts on Steam. The gifting process has had a bunch of friction in it for a while, and we want to make it easier for you to share the games you love with friends. Steam Gifting will now be a system of direct exchange from gift buyer to gift receiver, and we will be retiring the Gift to E-mail and Gift to Inventory options.

The post goes on to elaborate about enabling the scheduling of Steam gifts, which is new and should have been in years ago, but also has a few more changes that aren’t good:

Declined Gifts Resolve The Way They Should
In the old system, a declined gift would sneak back into the giver’s inventory and remain on their bill. Now, if a recipient already has the title, or just doesn’t want it, they can click decline and the purchase is refunded directly to the gift giver.

A refund of a declined gift should be an option, but it shouldn’t be the default.

Picture this: Sally buys Fran Civilization V on sale. Fran decides she doesn’t want Civilization V. The only thing that can happen now is that Sally gets her money back.

Two other things that should be options, in addition to a refund for the gift purchaser, are:

  1. Fran gets the refund as Steam credit (or cash, which is probably better), so that Fran can decide what she would rather have. This is what normally happens if Fran gets a gift that she returns from a store.
  2. Fran sends the gift back to Sally. Sally is presented with the options of keeping the gift in her gift inventory to decide what to do with it later, or Sally can keep the gift for herself, or Sally can return it for a refund. This means that Sally doesn’t miss out if she bought Civilization V during a sale and would like to do something else with the gift without losing out on the sale price.

I also wonder how this will work out for developers. If a gift is refunded 5 months or a year from now, how is Valve going to claw those dollars back from the developer’s future profits?

Safe Cross-Country Gifting
No more worrying if a Gift to E-mail or Gift to Inventory is going to work for a friend, gifts sent through the new system will always work on the receiver’s account. When there is a large difference in pricing between countries, gifting won’t be available and you’ll know before purchase.

This is Valve working around a problem they had where people in countries that had lower prices on games could purchase games for people living in countries where game prices were artificially inflated.

For example, games can be very expensive in Australia or Canada so folks in the United States would buy games for their friends overseas. There’s absolutely no good reason for the price of games to be inflated elsewhere, they’re digital goods and aren’t extra difficult to virtually ship. It does make sense in some cases to drop the price when the local economy can’t support purchases, however.

Either way, this is a really shitty move on Valve’s part. They talk a lot about decisions only being made in favor of the people buying games from them. This is not benefiting anyone but Valve and publishers.

The Internet Archive’s Collection of Classic Mac Software & Simple Beep

The latest episode of Simple Beep, a great podcast that recently popped up on my radar, has a great retrospective on some classic Mac games and reminded me that I had yet to post about the Internet Archive’s classic Macintosh software collection.

There are a ton of great games like Prince of Persia and Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, edutainment like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, and some boring software, and they all work using in-browser emulation, which is an insane feat. It even loads up on an iPhone although that would not be a good way to use any of the available software.

If you’re interested in even more, make sure to listen to that episode of Simple Beep and check out their links to other games.

Nintendo’s New Nintendo 2DS XL on July 28th, $150

Nintendo’s got a new version of their 2DS handheld coming out on July 28th. The New 2DS XL has many of the features of the big boy New 3DS XL, like the clamshell design, c-stick, and faster processor, without the 3D functionality that almost no games are taking advantage of anymore. It looks good in that two-tone black and turquoise color scheme.

Japan also gets a second color scheme at launch:

As somebody that recently upgraded their 3DS XL to a New 3DS XL it’s good to see Nintendo continuing to support their handheld platform after the Switch was launched. Though, of course they will have to consolidate handheld development onto the Switch, if it continues to be a success.

Crash Mode is Back in Danger Zone

Last year’s Dangerous Golf from Three Fields Entertainment tried to take the best parts of Burnout‘s amazing crash mode and apply them to an extremely simplified game of golf. It wasn’t what I had hoped it would be, but it had almost all the right pieces and they kept working on the game after it was released.

This time, they have the right pieces in place because their new game, Danger Zone, is about cars instead of golfing indoors. They even have smashbreakers back and they’re called smashbreakers again. I am excited for crash mode again. Three Fields, don’t fail me now!

Danger Zone will be out next month for Steam on Windows and the Playstation 4.