It wasn’t that long ago that developers The Game Bakers released Furi, a shoot’em up boss rush with a hint of character action and bullet hell and a kickin’ soundtrack. While you’d think the the developers would follow it up with something in the same vein, but instead they’re taking quite a different path with their new title, Haven.

Check out the teaser trailer for the game below.

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“Haven is an Adventure RPG about everyday love, rebelling against the rules and also, food,” the developer writes. “You play as two lovers who escaped to a lost planet. The only thing that matters to them is to stay together.”

The Game Bakers say that Haven has been in development for about two years and more details will come soon, but one of the screenshots does shot an RPG-like battle system with different command options. Between the art and the soundtrack, Haven looks like something to look forward to when it releases on PC and unspecified consoles in 2020.

Publisher: EightyEight Games
Developer: EightyEight Games
Release: 2019
Platform: iOS, Android

Luca Redwood is responsible for the mobile hits 10000000 and You Must Build A Boat. Both are addictive, match-three games where players navigate perilous caves and dungeons, fighting skeletons and dragons by sliding rows and columns of items along a puzzle board. Redwood is now hard at work putting the finishing touches on Photographs, a new puzzle game, but this time the focus is story. Photographs is very different from Redwood’s previous projects, but no less engaging. We got a chance to play through a large portion of the game and came away with five reasons you should keep your eye on Photographs.

Unique Narrative Structure

While Photographs is a puzzle game, it ditches the match-three mechanics from Redwood’s previous two releases in favor of delivering a meatier story. Photographs is told over the course of five brief vignettes that follow different characters through traumatic or transformational points in their lives. The first story follows an Alchemist and his granddaughter and opens on them living a quiet life in their wooded home. The girl falls ill, and the Alchemist’s search for a cure becomes an all-consuming obsession. This sorrowful and tragic tone permeates the game’s other four stories to varying degrees.

Impressive Variety in Puzzle Design

Photographs explores five completely unique puzzle types. In The Alchemist, you control two players on a 5×5 grid. Both characters move together, so you must navigate them around various obstacles and traps until they slot into their respective goals. It’s easy enough to get stuck, so thankfully the game has a handy tool to rewind to any previous move you’ve made.

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The puzzles themselves are tightly woven through the stories. For example, when the Alchemist’s granddaughter becomes sick from exposure to a poisonous weed, the game’s traditional sliding puzzles change so that players must navigate the girl around carefully placed weeds on the board.

A later story, The Athlete, follows a young girl who is forced to make difficult decisions to stay competitive as a diver. The early puzzles are straightforward; there is a dotted line shooting off your character and you have to adjust the angle of your launch so she’ll land in a pool of water. However, when things get dicey and more competitive in her story, you’re asked to make more complicated ricochet shots that require careful planning. When she still struggles to compete, that’s when her puzzles, and her story, get interesting.

Multiple Endings

The final game will have a host of different endings depending on choices you make. There are no real choices during the vignettes themselves, but after the five stories are over, you make a series of choices that dictates which ending you’ll see, and then you play through a short epilogue that ties things together. Based on what we played, Photographs does a great job at meshing narrative and game design. We look forward to seeing how the game can play out differently.

The Music

The soundtracks in 10000000 and You Must Build A Boat were fun and catchy, but ultimately forgettable. This time, Ben Prunty’s soundtrack is a standout element of the experience, and it brings a dreamy, atmospheric tone that will be familiar to anyone who has heard his work on FTL. I recommend keeping this game on your radar if for no other reason than to listen to some excellent music. I’d also encourage headphones if possible when the game eventually finds its way to mobile devices.

Excellent Pedigree

Photographs is structured quite differently from Luca Redwood’s past games with much more attention paid to fleshing out a collection of stories and characters, but at its core it’s still a puzzle game. Whereas Redwood was previously a one-man studio, there are now three people working on this game. It might not sound like a huge team, but with what we’ve seen from Photographs so far, the larger team really shows in the presentation.

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Photographs will release for PC, iOS, and Android sometime in 2019. You can read what Luca Redwood had to say about Photographs when Kyle Hilliard interviewed him, and you can watch us play the game in an episode of New Gameplay Today.
 

Square Enix recently released their financial reports for the last quarter and took questions from investors about how the company is doing business. In one of those questions, the publisher behind games like Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Tomb Raider, and more indicated that there are some big things on the horizon.

While the company refused to go into details, for the upcoming 2020 financial year, Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda asked people to look to the road to E3 later this year for more announcements. On its own, this is a fairly innocuous statement, but it is combined with an expectation of extremely high revenue income in the third quarter, which would be around winter of this calendar year.

When asked about why the company expects such a huge boon in the third quarter, Matsuda wouldn’t answer.

Along with Square Enix’s self-professed mission to try and shorten the time between announcements and releases, which may be quite relative coming from a company that infamously will announce games five to six years before they hit store shelves, it seems like Matsuda is hoping to reveal something big this year and sell it before the end of the calendar year. Considering Kingdom Hearts III is already out, there’s very few options for what could cause a surge in operating income that quarter.

One possibility is Square Enix’s announced but thus far secretly veiled Avengers project. With Avengers: Endgame releasing this year and no further Avengers movies announced, Square Enix likely feels a lot of pressure to get the game out in 2019. Another option is the Final Fantasy VII remake. The original intention was to release the game in parts so as not to cut anything, but after firing the original developer contracted to work on the game, Square Enix brought development into its own studios, and stated they won’t be talking about it until Kingdom Hearts III is out. Now would be as good a time as any to show what that game is now that it’s been rebooted, if the first part is ready to go.

In the same report, Square Enix explained that both Just Cause 4 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s initial sales did not meet expectations, which they attribute to both games lacking “novel experiences” that players could connect with in a competitive landscape. It is unlikely their big title is a game in either of those series.

What do you think Square Enix is planning?

Kingdom Hearts’ convoluted story is a punchline for many gamers who haven’t played the franchise, but fans who’ve stuck around since the beginning have a punchline of their own: Donald Duck.

The series defined clear expectations of Donald from the get-go in 2002. Donald is your team’s mage, and he’s supposed to heal you with a flick of his wizardy wand when you’re too busy blocking enemy attacks to heal yourself, the operative phrase being “supposed to.” I can’t tell you how many times an intense fight ended in failure because Donald decided to go rogue. “Oh look, Donald is unconscious again,” I’d grumble … because it’s inappropriate to swear at one of Disney’s darlings. 

Oddly enough, Goofy has never earned the same criticisms – his role has always been the team’s extra muscle, so I don’t fault him as much when he’s slow to throw a potion at me. Goofy is also easy to understand, whereas Donald always sounds like he’s choking on a pack of cigarettes. These few simple reasons explain why Goofy has traditionally been more lovable than Donald.

Kingdom Hearts III offers a satisfying experience for longtime fans, delivering conclusions to decades-long plot points and furnishing the most fluid, magical combat system in the series, but its crowning achievement might be that it redeems a character that many have often found superfluous and annoying.

Donald Is Actually Useful On The Battlefield 

The combat remains largely the same as it was in previous entries – you can still win most fights by spamming the attack button and performing occasional dodges. But Kingdom Hearts III adds a number of new flourishes that disguise the button-mashing with colorful, bombastic Disney magic. One of these additions is the ability to perform special team-up moves with Donald and Goofy that give the characters renewed utility in combat.

Donald’s moveset includes three flashy attacks: Flare Force unloads a barrage of fireworks at surrounding enemies; Donald Meteor rains destructive boulders upon targeted monsters; and Fusion Fire creates a vortex of flames that drains your opponents’ health to zero. Each of these attacks can devastate enemies, and using them turned the tide for me on more than one occasion. In fact, (and without going into spoiler land), Donald Meteor was the last move I used to fell the final boss, at a moment when my health was critically low.

Watching Donald perform his grand magic made me appreciate his role on the team more than I did in previous games, and it made me forgive those fleeting moments where he couldn’t heal me.

He’ll Help You Find Your Groceries

In a game as littered with collectibles as Kingdom Hearts III, Donald is a godsend. You spend a good chunk of time cooking stat-boosting cuisines with Remy from Ratatouille, but before you start the oven, you have to find hidden ingredients across each of the Disney worlds. These collectibles don’t often stand out against the popsicle-colored locales you visit, making them easy to miss. I was thankful that Donald would periodically announce that ingredients were nearby, otherwise, it’d be easy to miss them. And then I’d have less cuisine.

Similarly, Donald helps you locate easy-to-miss Lucky Emblems throughout the game. This challenge asks players to photograph hidden Mickey Mouse-shaped icons in the environment. Sometimes these take the form of watermarks plastered clearly on the side of objects, but often they’re more devious, asking players to line up objects in the environment. Donald will occasionally alert you to nearby emblems (making me wonder where he was when I painstakingly collected all 101 Dalmatians in the original Kingdom Hearts!). 

These are small details, but they do a lot to make Donald more useful from a gameplay perspective. And by extension, I felt more connected to the little fella than I have in previous games.

Donald Makes For Some Of Kingdom Hearts III’s Funniest Moments

I didn’t like Donald all that much in previous games, because he seemed one-note, and that note was obnoxious. But in Kingdom Hearts III, Donald offered something I didn’t expect: laugh-out-loud humor.

In Monstropolis – the Monster’s Inc.-inspired world – one-eyed Mike Wazowski takes a crack at stand-up to make Boo laugh. 

“Ah! I can’t find my contact!” Mike shouts, to no applause.

“Aren’t you supposed to be good at this?” Donald asks.

Damn, Donald! As much as Kingdom Hearts III is about hearts hopping between bodies and bad guys in black coats dealing with existential crises, it’s also about Donald Duck trying to prove he’s the sassiest waterfowl in the universe. I can’t remember the number of times I laughed at his snappy digs at Sora.

In one memorable scene, Sora and the gang are trying to figure out whose hearts are inside Sora.

“Don’t you know how many hearts you have inside you?” someone asks.

“No. Sora can’t count,” Donald replies.

The play-fighting banter between Sora and Donald makes for some hilarious moments in Kingdom Hearts III, but they’re also beautifully juxtaposed by scenes of warmth and true friendship. Again, no spoilers here, but there are many scenes where Donald picks up Sora when he’s feeling low. Those occasions are so relatable – we’ve all had friends help us when we’re down. That’s why these moments with Donald are some of the most emotionally resonant and heartwarming scenes in the game. 

Kingdom Hearts III gives us the best characterization of Donald yet. For players who see the Xehanort saga to its conclusion, it is hard to reduce Donald to a joke. Sure, there were still times I wished my companion would just heal me quicker, but those moments are far outweighed by the number of times he helped me make short work of enemies in combat. And find my groceries. And make me laugh.

Check out a six-year-old’s impressions of Kingdom Hearts III. If you haven’t started playing, we made a handy guide full of quick tips to help you on your journey.

Do you love anime? How about One Punch Man – a show about a powerful but aloof superhero wannabe? Well if you do, you aren’t alone. The team at Respawn may have hewed too close to a character from One Punch Man in their design of Apex Legend’s Wraith. See if you can spot the similarities between Wraith and One Punch Man’s Speed-o’-Sound Sonic, in the comparison shot above.

This isn’t the first hint that Respawn contains some anime fans. Titanfall’s story of a soldier befriending his robot companion may have taken inspiration from Gargantia of the Verdurous Planet, a show that follows . . . a soldier fighting alongside and befriending his robot companion.

Read our review of Apex Legends, or you can learn about the game’s LGBTQ characters here.

[Source: Reddit]

 

Clearly Respawn likes their anime – and this could just be a fun coincidence more than anything – but it’s neat to see where developers draw their inspirations.

Twitch has announced that one of the benefits of Twitch Prime will now include Apex Legends loot, similar to how the service provides items for games like Overwatch, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Fortnite. Players who have a Twitch Prime membership, or an Amazon Prime membership connected to Twitch, can get a legendary skin and five gear packs.

Pathfinder players will find the legendary skin to be the most attractive option. The five packs might also be good for players looking for just more general cosmetic variety but haven’t been keen on paying for it in-game without knowing what they might be getting.

Apex Legends is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. 

Yesterday, UCONN alum and two-time WNBA Champion Renee Montgomery posted a silly photo on Twitter that pictured her modeling for an undisclosed NBA2K game.

While the image that follows it displays the 2K19 Xbox One bundle, fans have taken to her post to inquire about a possible WNBA feature in the upcoming (but unannounced) 2K20. 2K has yet to announce the game or any of the new features.

[Source: @Da20one]

 

The WNBA made its first video game appearance in EA’s NBA Live 18, and has been a relatively neglected feature in the series since. NBA2K, however, remains the most popular of the two basketball franchises, and its possible inclusion of WNBA athletes could make future titles more appealing to female basketball fans. Additionally, this choice has the potential to place a much-needed spotlight on basketball’s all-female league. Personally, if female athletes join the already expansive team roster of 2K, this would be fantastic. I come from a sports-loving family, and the WNBA hardly ever gets the recognition it deserves. 

Blizzard has announced that the newest map for Overwatch is now live for all players, having ventured from the public test realm onto every other server. Players can now play on Paris, the city of love and a tall, pointy tower.

The new assault map means you’ll have to be pretty aggressive to win and not get distracted by the insane amount of new art assets dotted across the map. Revolutionize your strategy by storming the enemy base and putting people in guillotines! Well, maybe not that last part.

The map is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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PUBG Mobile launched its new crossover mode with Resident Evil 2 today, called Zombie: Survive Till Dawn.

The new game type, which comes as part of the 0.11.0 patch, still pits you against 59 other players, but in a 30-minute match taking place over the course of three days and two nights. A number of Resident Evil 2 enemies also make an appearance, including lickers and undead police officers. Infamous bosses like G1 and the Tyrant will appear as well. G1 spawns in PUBG Mobile’s version of the police station from Resident Evil 2, and the Tyrant crops up randomly at night around air drops.

During the day, you can farm zombies for resources, but when the sun sets, enemies become more aggressive, making PvP interactions a little trickier with new threats and reduced visibility.

While playing the new mode, players can earn Leon and Claire skin sets, and in-game Ada and Marvin costumes inspired by the characters from Resident Evil 2.

While you wait to take down Mr. X (who’s the scariest part of Resident Evil 2), check out our review of the survival horror remake. We also wrote about how Capcom’s has breathed new life into Claire.

Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Codemasters
Release: February 26, 2019
Rating: Everyone
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also on:
Xbox One, PC

Efficiency is the goal in rally racing, from your co-driver’s no-nonsense pace notes (while under duress, I might add) to the fix-only-what-needs-fixing-now scramble of repairs between stages. Even when you’re hurtling down a country road in Poland reacting at speed to the semi-unknown, moving the steering wheel only as much as you absolutely need to is the difference between surviving to the next turn and sending yourself into a race-ending skid. This model of efficiency gives Dirt Rally 2.0 focus, channeling your efforts in the right direction and guiding you when you need it most.

Codemasters’ titles from the last few years have presented their own career mode wrinkles. Dirt Rally 2.0 certainly features a more fleshed-out racing organization than the first title, complete with staff to hire and car upgrades, but it isn’t the same as those in the F1 series or even the core Dirt franchise. Dirt Rally 2.0 is not as involved as those other Codemasters titles, but I appreciate that it cuts to the chase. Upgrading your staff gets you tangible improvements. Instead of a nebulous two-percent increase in performance, for instance, an upgraded staff takes time directly off your repairs and penalties for flipping off the track. That kind of specificity spurs you to put your credits where you need it most. 

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Upgrading your car parts centers on each car individually. For instance, your rallycross car in particular wears through the clutch and dampers faster, so those are the areas you can upgrade first. While there’s something to be said for the freedom to do whatever you want, at the end of the day I had more credits in my bank to spend on getting other cars and upgrades because I didn’t feel pressured to spend them on stuff that didn’t make a material difference in the end.

I like how the game approaches how your car parts wear down, allowing you to quick fix them during an event at the cost of imparting more wear (something upgrades decrease). Wear also factors into the used cars (which you can test drive beforehand), which come needing their own repairs – something which would be helpful to know before you bought them.

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As prepared as I was with upgrades and repairs before an event, I was always nervous when starting a stage, even if I’d done it before. The track degrades in career events, which influences your tire compound selection and adds another variable to consider while driving. I tended to make my big mistakes at the beginning of a stage; even in the long, 10-minute-plus stages, I became more confident the longer I drove. I attribute this to both getting in a driving rhythm and with understanding how the car feels on the different surfaces. It’s also the game doing a good job in giving consistent feedback so I can subconsciously take into account the pacenotes, weather, surface, car handling, braking power, and other variables in an instant and usually make the right decision. Perhaps the outlier in this is the tarmac surface, which I struggled to get a handle on and was more slippery than I expected. I also would have liked more vibration through the gamepad to further differentiate the racing surfaces and conditions, adding another dimension.

While the staff setup and gameplay are Dirt Rally 2.0’s strengths, it’s only adequate in other areas. The multiplayer has timed events and championship sessions you can construct, but that’s the minimum you’d expect. The FIA World Rallycross Championship licensed season has no bells and whistles (and frankly I tire of going through all the successive heats in rallycross), and the random stage generation of Dirt 4’s Your Stage has been removed, cutting down on the number of stages you can race.

Dirt Rally 2.0 doesn’t have every feature under the sun, but I trust it. I know I can put together a good team that’s going to help me win events, and the gameplay delivers, letting me skate that line between confidence and foolishness without knowing the difference.

Score: 8.75

Summary: Codemasters delivers another captivating rally title that will have you swearing in fear and delight.

Concept: Add more career-type elements to the racing, which remains the real meat of the franchise

Graphics: The game is gorgeous overall. Objects occasionally pop in, but it’s not distracting. Lens flare and other graphical effects, however, can force you to favor certain cameras depending on the situation

Sound: The co-driver’s pacenotes are informative and excellent, even including this quip: “Is that a puncture on the right rear?” He knows damn well it is

Playability: Even without the luxury of being able to rewind after crashes, the game has enough assists and other ways to customize the difficulty so you can enjoy it at any skill level

Entertainment: Codemasters delivers another captivating rally title that will have you swearing in fear and delight

Replay: Moderate

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