Hempuli Oy’s Baba is You came out last month and has received nothing but praise, since. Baba is a puzzle game that is about re-writing the language of the game itself when you (Baba,Baba is You, remember?) move blocks of words. The developer, Arvi Teikari, is behind a ton of other games.
I think one of my absolute favourite things about this, beyond being a completely original and utterly brilliant puzzler, is how meticulously balanced it is in terms of offering progress. The difficulty curves up in each set of levels, getting pretty steep toward each groups’ end, but it unlocks the next set before you’ve completed them all. The difficulty of the next group dips back down again as it also introduces new rules, meaning that even if you’ve become completely stuck in one place, there’s likely somewhere else you can continue playing. Offering both super-difficulty and progress is all too rare, and something to celebrate.
An Ape has escaped, but he isn’t a friendly little hominid with a siren. No, this is a vicious one from Gabe Cuzzillo, Matt Boch, and Bennett Foddy, oddly enough. Ape Out is an overhead smash-em-up with noisy drums and it looks like much fun for anyone who enjoys escapism.
The whole game has an algorithmic masterpiece of a score by Matt Boch, frenetic drums that grow louder and faster as the violence increases, or dip into a lull at times of calm. Each death is greeted by a triumphant crash of cymbals, so you feel like a conductor in your own mad orchestra of carnage. You, somehow, feel part of the creative process. The way you smashed three men together, just so, leaving a blush of red over the blue carpet, and adding just a soupçon of orange viscera from your own wounds. “Ah, exquisite,” you think. “Perhaps I was always meant to be a great improvisational artist.” But there is no time to pause and admire your work, for you must knuckle on and create another.
Ape Out is $15 on the Nintendo Switch, and various stores for Windows, like itch.io, Humble, and Steam.
Ace Combat is a beloved series to me. I have a box full of the collector’s edition joysticks from a decade and a half ago when I found out how great the series was on PS2 and graduated to the Xbox 360 version. Dogfighting doesn’t require those sticks, it’s perfectly fine on any gamepad since the Dual Shock 2, but it felt even more glorious to fly through the arcade dogfighting skies of Ace Combat with joysticks and throttles.
After the ignominious spinoff Assault Horizon distanced the series from the shores of the strangereal eight years ago, Ace Combat 7 is finally available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows via Steam after a short period of console-onlyness. Brendan Caldwell called it well, for Rock Paper Shotgun:
…the story explodes outward like an expanding foam, into a complex sequence of nonsense and counter-nonsense. There is a space elevator. There are deadly drones. There is a princess. At one point you, a professional fighter pilot called “Trigger”, are relegated to a prison base, yet still expected (and trusted) to pilot an immensely expensive instrument of war over hostile AA guns. “Your mission,” says your new commander, “is to atone for your crimes.”
I won’t say why this line is uttered to you, because one of the biggest joys here is laughing out loud at the wall of batshittery that hits you with each mission, like a volley of missiles. But I will say this: Ace Combat 7 is the best JRPG so far this year.
The PlayStation 4 version of Skies Unknown also features an exclusive VR mode consisting of an Ace Combat 4-inspired mini-campaign. There are only three missions, and their objectives are less complicated than those of the main campaign, but even so, the experience of flying from the cockpit of a plane is engrossing. The feeling of speed and height is literally dizzying, the ability to freely look around and track a target with your gaze is terrific, and the act of pitching and rolling your plane is so effective at eliciting a feeling of actual g-force that I personally had a hard time doing more than one mission at once without breaking out into a nauseous sweat. It’s a shame that there’s no option to play the main campaign in VR–the head tracking and freelook alone would be incredibly useful–but the mode is a great addition nonetheless.
Ace Combat 7 is out now for your typical $60 on Xbox One,PlayStation 4, and Steam for Windows. The “launch edition” for the Xbox One includes a digital copy of the 360‘s Ace Combat 6 and other goodies. The PlayStation 4‘s version of the “please don’t wait until there’s a discount” edition includes the aforementioned VR mode, Ace Combat 5, and the goodies. Sadly, Steam users on Windows only get the goodies and are told to get fucked if they’d like to play the older games. All launch editions expire on the 18th. There are also some kind of season pass shenanigans with three missions exclusive to it.
Somehow, it’s still not as bad as the Anthem purchasing grid. Although Anthem doesn’t support real-world weapons manufacturers, Ace Combat 7 is at least veritably fun. Hm.
More usually a feature of games that have spent far too long in early access, No Man’s Sky feels like a game that’s made for people who already play No Man’s Sky. When an available game’s opening is reworked and reworked, iteration colliding with iteration, both the developers and current playerbase seem to lose track of accessibility, and that is woefully apparent in No Man’s Sky’s latest incarnation. Already being a very familiar player, I knew to just wearily restart the game three times until I got a planet that wasn’t outrageously toxic with Sentinels that attacked on sight. Three times it took me to get a habitable starting location where I could wrestle with all the daft new faff. None of this would be communicated to someone coming in cold, who would be left to assume that either the game was idiotically difficult, or broken.
The game’s controls and feel especially overloaded as Walker says:
Each menu seems to have contradictory controls, leaving me never knowing if I’m supposed to be left clicking, holding down left click, or pressing E, F or X, and even something as simple as moving items between your inventories is now a confusing jumble of both. Once where you could open a green box on the ground by just pressing a single key to get its contents, now you have to press X and select a menu to move some “rusty parts” out of the way, before it then dumps the item inside into a menu of its own choosing. It’s like they went through every single system and pondered how they could make it far more of a fiddle.
Despite all of the flaws, I love No Man’s Sky particular brand of exploration, quirks and all.
The miniaturizing nostalgia shrink ray is sprayed at everything now: Cars; entertainment systems both super and conventional Nintendo; iPads; arcade cabinets… There’s also now a The C64 Mini, not a Commodore 64 Mini or Classic Edition, but strictly The C64 Mini. Apparently they couldn’t get the name Commodore 64.
This miniature device that definitely isn’t a Commodore 64 also isn’t out yet in the U.S., but it is out almost everywhere else and I wouldn’t trust an American to review it, so here is Dr. Ashens’ review:
It sounds like this The C64 Mini isn’t going to be beloved like the original unless the firmware is updated in some fundamental way and they also recall and replace every joystick. Still, it is fun to hear someone who is familiar with all of the 64 games it ships with go over each one.
The husk of 3D Realms has published a new BUILD-engine game, Ion Maiden, developed by Voidpoint. In Steam’s Early Access program, It has the atrocious Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison character from 3D Realms’ twin-stick shooter, Bombshell. I completely forgot about that game before it was even released.
It’s a game about screaming around at outrageous speeds, hammering the Use button on any object or wall that looks out of place just in case, and of course spreading enemy gibs about the walls and floor. It feels so fluid, so natural, and such a blessed respite from the bum-following misery-trudge that is so much of modern first-person shooting. It’s ludicrous in every way, enemies aiming with ridiculous skill, and you tasked to work out how to deal with that.
Ion Maiden’s Early Access preview campaign is $20 on Steam for Windows and Linux. As good as it is, I’d be unlikely to get it without seeing the finished game, which is scheduled for late this year.
Kevin Gammill: With the Creator’s Update and Game Mode right now, we’re primarily focused on biasing the game versus the rest of the operating system, from a GPU and CPU perspective. So for some of the other system resources, we can get into a roadmap discussion on the next call, but really right now Game Mode is about biasing the game from a GPU perspective so it gets more of the cycles if it’s in the foreground, and from a CPU perspective both biasing to get more CPU cycles as well as avoiding what I’ll call thread contention for the game.
At any time a user can call up the Game Bar and enable Game Mode for any title or game they would like. That’s kind of option one. And then at the same time we will have what we call kind of an approved list or whitelist of games that we feel super-comfortable about and we want to enable out of the gate.
Kind of the way I look at it is that any increase is a benefit, without question. Even it’s as low as, say, a 2% increase in framerate, if you’re running a hundred frames per second, I will take those extra two frames per second without question.
This is a strategy for getting gamers to switch to Windows 10 and use the built-in game bar overlay for a possible 2% increase in framerate, or a slightly more stable framerate overall. A framerate increase at all is very unlikely, because driver developers at Nvidia and AMD are already very focused on that. I wish the interview addressed the system rebooting in the middle of a game for updates, because that is a real problem for people playing games on Windows today.
Brendan Caldwell has this unforgettable travelogue of a flotilla that is now traveling for the next three months through Elite: Dangerous’s uncharted systems:
The whole trip is estimated to take three months — and that’s just the outward journey. Officially, the expedition ends when the flotilla (or what’s left of the flotilla) reaches Beagle Point, a distant system on the farthest spiral arm from Sol (here’s a map of the journey plan to give you some idea of the distance). After that, the explorers are free to go wherever they want. Many will stay and explore the virgin systems of the far reaches. Some will simply head back to the “bubble” — the tiny region of space inhabited by humanity and populated with stations like Zillig City.
“Boredem is quite a weak word for what I’m expecting it to feel like,” says Kaii. “It’s more like complete tedium. It’s going to be very important to break it up. That’s why we’ve got all these waypoints along the way that are incredible locations, getting out in the buggy, bombing about. You can do like 100, 150, 200 jumps maybe and then take a nice break at the waypoints. That’s basically how you have to do it. Not all of us have the patience and fortitude of Erimus, who can do that trip in the space of a month.”
Windows 10‘s privacy settings very much need to be frowned at. Essentially: unless you pay close attention to the fluffy options offered when you first install Microsoft’s new operating system, it’s going to quietly track your behaviour and use it to fire targeted ads at you, as well as keeping tabs on your location history, data from messages, calendars, contacts and God knows what else. It is a bit scary, despite coming off the back of Microsoft’s own pledge to offer ‘real transparency’. You may or may not be OK with this yourself, but in any event at least some of this stuff can be turned off after the fact. I’ll explain how to do that below.
There’s a whole list of things you may want to do in Alec’s article. I disagree with his suggestion to stop using a Microsoft account for login, it’s a great feature that certain settings are shared between my laptop and desktop Windows installations, Cortana is similarly useful, but everything else is sound.
Additionally, the peer-to-peer sharing of Windows updates is gross just like the Blizzard updater and should be disabled.
To disable p2p sharing of Windows updates, do this:
Go to the Settings program from the start menu:
Click Update & security on this screen:
Click Advanced Options:
Click Choose how updates are delivered:
Click the first toggle option and set it to off:
Now your computer won’t share updates with others.