Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition

The way Street Fighter V works has always been odd. Anyone who buys this new Arcade Edition gets the first two seasons of characters. Okay, that’s weird. To get access to newer characters coming out this year you can unlock them with the in-game currency, Fight Money, which ends up being kind of expensive in terms of time, or you can just end up paying real money for the whole season of characters.

Everyone who already owns Street Fighter V gets a bunch of new modes with the free version of the update.

If the business model doesn’t make you want to throw your stick through the window, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition is out now for $40 on Steam for Windows and the PlayStation 4, or an eye watering $70 for the version that includes all of this upcoming season’s worth of characters, but not any new stages which also cost Fight Money.

Nintendo’s Cardboard Toy Builder: Labo

Nintendo announced a collection of do-it-yourself cardboard construction kits and games for the Switch today, they’re called Labo

They’ll be available in two different kits, each one holds the Switch and Joy-Cons to make something new.

Toy-Con 01 is the Variety Kit for $70 and includes 5 different cardboard projects for building a house, RC cars, motorcycle handlebars, a fishing rod, or a piano.

Toy-Con 02 is the Robot Kit and is entirely focused on building a cardboard mech suit for some smashing mech games. This set will be $80.

Labo looks like a lot of fun for anyone interested in building fun toys, and both kits will be out on 4/20/18 here in the US, and 7 days later in Europe.

Nintendo also has some trials set up in New York City and San Francisco for parents with kids 6-12. Check here for details.

Keza MacDonald got to check these kits out early:

The more complex constructions are a telescopic fishing rod with a working reel, attached to a base with elastic bands and string for realistic tension; a cardboard model of a piano with springy keys; an abstract motorbike, with handles and a pedal; a little house. Each contraption is made out of cardboard and string, and transforms into a digitally augmented toy when you slot Joy-Con controllers and the Switch screen into it. The piano, especially, is quite amazing, and takes about two hours to build. The infrared camera on the Joy-Con controller can see reflective strips of tape on the back of the keys, which come into view when a key is pressed, telling the game software to play the right note. Cardboard dials and switches modify the tone and add effects to the sound.

The principles behind each construction – Toy-Cons, as Nintendo calls them – are explained by cartoon characters, putting a child-friendly spin on coding and engineering. On the Switch screen, you can view a cross-section of each model that illustrates what the Joy-Con camera can see and how it works. This educational element is geared towards curious children, but it’s also illuminating for an adult – seeing how these toys work only increases your appreciation of their ingenuity.

The most complex construction, which will be sold separately, is a cardboard mech suit that transforms your entire body into a Transformers-style robot in the game, translating your punches and kicks into building-levelling virtual smashes.

It’s great that some of these kits can take two hours to build, that’s on the order of some of the more difficult Lego sets. Although, the Switch’s battery might be very low after getting through construction.

The video ad also includes some projects that Nintendo hasn’t talked about yet, like a camera, maybe those will be in future sets.

I’m pretty psyched for these kits, but it’s going to be a few years before my son is ready for playing with the finished projects.

Ex-Theme Hospital Developers Making New Theme Hospital

If I said “Two Point Hospital” out-loud you might think I was discussing some asinine venture-funded startup designed to revolutionize the medical experience for anyone wealthy enough to afford it. Thank goodness, Sega and Two Point Studios are just making a new hospital management game using developers who have worked on Theme Hospital before. EA still owns the Theme Hospital name, so that’s why it’s called Two Point Hospital instead. It’s supposed to be out late this year, and there’s a Steam page for it.

Vive Pro Announced at CES Without a Price & A Disgraceful Anniversary for Valve

HTC announced a Vive Pro with higher resolution goggles than their original SteamVR virtual reality headset, built-in headphones (they were previously available separately), a more comfortable strap, a second camera and microphone are now built into the headset, and an official wireless module that is sold separately.

The resolution is the biggest thing here. The first Vive was only 1080×1200 pixels for the display going to each eye. The Pro is 1440×1600 per-eye. This should help to eliminate some of the issues the original had with text and other details. HTC also promises that it’ll be easier to adjust the headset to suit your eyes.

I still feel like it’s wrong to announce a thing without a price or any dates for when it’ll be available, but there you go. Maybe they’re trying to get out ahead of an upcoming Oculus announcement. I’m glad that the Vive is still a going concern because I don’t want anything to do with Oculus after the Palmer Luckey debacle. It would be even better if this means that HTC will lower the price of the original Vive but they might just put the Pro at a higher one and be done with it for now.

HTC also has their own store for software called Viveport available with or without a subscription. It’s available inside the headset now, and the gimmick is that there may be previews available of the different experiences it offers.

I kind of get why HTC might want a separate storefront from Steam, developers aren’t always going to be eager to go through Valve’s process for every kind of software and Valve might not want a billion short VR experiences crapping up their money hog. As it is, HTC claims over 1000 pieces of software in their store. I don’t think anybody wants to visit it, but maybe the interactive demos in VR will be useful.

It’d be better if Valve lowered the barrier for software to get onto Steam while increasing the level of moderation for absolutely disgraceful shit like Dating Lessons, the VR software from some MRA shitbags who want to turn normal men into people who “won’t take no for an answer.” That garbage is still available for sale a year after I wrote about it.

Bruce Dawson’s Xbox 360 Prefetch Bug

Bruce Dawson once worked for Microsoft where he found a bug in the Xbox 360 that he was reminded of by the Spectre and Meltdown exploits:

A game developer who was using this function reported weird crashes – heap corruption crashes, but the heap structures in the memory dumps looked normal. After staring at the crash dumps for awhile I realized what a mistake I had made.

Keep reading.

Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch) Review

Odyssey

1996’s Super Mario 64 was the first, and the last, 3D Mario game I completed before playing Super Mario Odyssey. 21 years separate these games but they are inexorably linked. I will never forget the first time I saw Mario 64 in motion on a Nintendo 64 kiosk at a major league baseball fan appreciation day. It was an unbelievable triumph of translating the 2D Mario games into a 3D world, even for someone who was in the process of turning into a jaded teenager,

Super Mario Odyssey is a complete continuation, and improvement, on that same exuberant, fun, platforming that impressed everyone, even that horrible teenager, in 1996.

It isn’t perfect, but there are very few meaningful caveats in recommending Odyssey.

The first issue is that while the story is told in fun cutscenes that don’t wear out their welcome, it is just a slight variation on the same tired plot that Bowser has captured Princess Peach, again.

This time Bowser wants to force Peach to marry him, and he has a crew of unlikable rabbits (the Broodals) working as his wedding planners. They’re the mini-bosses scouring every kingdom on the planet for flowers and everything else Bowser wants at the wedding with Peach. Mario has to stop the wedding with his new friend in Cappy, your living hat guy from a kingdom of living hat people. Cappy ends up replacing Mario’s iconic hat, and most of the ranged attacks that Mario would otherwise acquire via pick-ups. When Mario launches Cappy he’ll possess any enemies that aren’t wearing hats (and the occasional bystander frog) in the kingdoms that they travel to.

Mario and Cappy travel onboard a cap-shaped flying machine, the titular Odyssey. It acts like a flying RV on their journey to each kingdom where they will try and cut off Bowser’s minions before they can get everything ready for the wedding.

The Odyssey is powered by collectibles, moons, they’re hidden in each kingdom just like the stars were in Mario 64, except there are hundreds of the moons scattered everywhere. Just like in Mario 64 It’s still a delight to find each moon. My almost-2-year-old son absolutely loves the music and animation that plays each time Mario collects one. I’m not quite as enthusiastic about it, but that reaction epitomizes the Super Mario Odyssey experience. It’s almost all fun, mostly all of the time. You’ll only need a very few per-kingdom to move on but I constantly found myself collecting “just one more,” and before I knew it I had collected dozens to hand in to the Odyssey.

Mario is still on the hunt for coins, of course. Each kingdom that Mario and Cappy visit also has a purple currency specific to it. The inverted pyramid desert level has inverted purple pyramid tokens, for example. You can spend these at the shop in each kingdom and get new costumes, gear to decorate the Odyssey inside and out, and some power-ups. All of the costumes are charming and wonderful like the old Doctor Mario outfit, or more appropriate for the kingdom you’re in like the sombrero and poncho outfit pieces. In each world one of the costumes will unlock a special area with at least one moon, but you can also skip the stores if you’re not interested in Mario Teaches Capitalism Jr. It’s 2017 so I should say there are no loot boxes, premium currencies, DLC, or anything with real money besides purchasing the game.

The worst problem for Odyssey is that the motion controls are abysmal. You have to wiggle the controllers in a circle to get your cap to spin in a circle and slam into every enemy around Mario when he’s surrounded, or just aggressively shake them to get Cappy to home-in on a slightly distant target after launching it.

It’d be different if the controllers that come with the system, the Joy-Cons, weren’t attached to the sides of the Switch while you’re playing in handheld mode. But they  are, and it definitely doesn’t feel like you should be shaking the entire system. There is a work-around for the motion controls most of the time. You can spin the left analog stick in a circle, before launching Cappy, to get that spin attack without shaking your system. This takes a bit longer to perform the action but it still gets it done and is more reliable than the motion controls. Although the homing action is only necessary for some of the more advanced platforming areas, there isn’t any work-around for it that I’ve found.

This is one of the few games that also rewards exploration to the extreme. Launching Cappy enables Mario to perform a series of dives and jumps that can be used to ascend to places he wouldn’t normally be able to get to. I’m not that great at doing this, but if you are then you will find that Nintendo stocks all of these off-the-beaten-path areas with coins. The harder it is to get somewhere the more coins you’ll find, and it’s absolutely great that they do this.

More minor explorational feats are rewarded with moons, but you always feel smart just for finding one by instinct, even if it is really just good game design that lead you there.

Most of the kingdoms Mario and Cappy visit are terrifically designed, a few are bizarrely unexpected in a Mario game, and New Donk City ended up being my favorite. It’s very strange seeing Mario interact with a city of humans that look very different from his bizarro adult toddler form, but that level also goes places that I absolutely didn’t expect. There are things in many of these kingdoms that I wish I hadn’t known about going into them, because they’re so incredible and unexpected that I felt like the surprise was spoiled. I’ll say that even after rescuing Peach there is still more to do in the game, and I definitely have spent more time with it, and leave it at that.

I don’t feel like anyone else could have made Odyssey, there just hasn’t been another 3D platforming game that achieves half of what Odyssey does in the 21 years since Super Mario 64 was released. Almost every kingdom has unique enemies to possess and delightful puzzles to complete. I’m not the first person to say it, but, each kingdom feels like it could be the basis for an entire game that another developer would make and drive the mechanic into the ground before the game is finished. Super Mario Odyssey is a wonderful adventure that really made me happy to have the Switch. As a parent it was a fun game I could share with my son around. As an adult human in 2017 Odyssey is some fantastic sunlight brightening up a terrible year.

5 out of 5 musical Marios for Super Mario Odyssey

Campo Santo’s Next Game: In the Valley of Gods

Campo Santo, the developers of Firewatch, announced their next game, In the Valley of Gods. Here is how they describe it:

In the Valley of Gods is a single-player first-person adventure. Explore a remote and ancient valley in the Egyptian desert, uncovering treasure and treachery in pursuit of a discovery that could bring you fame and fortune—or leave you for dead, buried beneath the sands.

I loved Firewatch, I’m looking forward to playing In the Valley of Gods in 2019.

ScummVM Project Hits 2.0

Full ThrottleThere is a large volunteer workforce on the internet that keeps their favorite games alive. You might know that I’ve been working on the ioquake3 engine for the past 12 years to keep people playing Quake 3 and help the other games and mods that use that engine stay alive. ScummVM has been in development since 2001, It is the definitive way to play the original releases of old LucasArts adventure games like Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle as well as so many others.

Yesterday the ScummVM project hit version 2.0. It’s a big milestone that added support for 23 “brand new old games,” as their update calls them, as well as improving support for their roster of existing games.

One of the “brand new old games” is Starship Titanic, an adventure game that was designed and written by Douglas Adams.

You can download the 2.0.0 version of ScummVM for free directly from the developers for Windows, macOS, Linux, and so many more platforms. To play many of the games you’ll need to own them

Battlegrounds 1.0 for Windows on the 20th; Xbox Game Preview PUBG Is Crap

The good news first, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will exit Steam’s Early Access program in four days on the 20th (or 21st depending on your time zone) of December. The 1.0 release will have the new desert map, Miramar, among many other changes.

The Xbox One version of Battlegrounds is also out on that platform’s Game Preview program for $30, which is similar to Steam’s Early Access, but word is that performance is miserable and the port is extremely buggy to start. That’s not unheard of for a game that isn’t finished yet, and it won’t have the new desert map or reach 1.0 this year, but Microsoft is making a big deal out of the release. It’s the first thing you see on the Xbox.com website.

Eurogamer’s Richard Leadbetter:

In terms of first impressions, PUBG is borderline horrendous – an assault of low quality artwork, jarring pop-in and disappointing performance. Input lag also feels off – whether that’s down to deadzone issues on the analogue sticks or the variable frame-rate remains to be seen (it’s something we’re looking into) and in this respect at least, it’s the same story whether you’re gaming on a standard Xbox or the X.

This is one of the few exclusive games Microsoft has this year, and while supposedly the developers have been aided by Microsoft, it isn’t clear yet what is going on with this Xbox port. It’s worse than the original Windows version in Early Access.

Of course it’ll get better over time, but this could be worse than what most console players expect.