Sonic Forces didn’t exactly re-ignite the Sonic Franchise the way Sonic Mania did (you can read our review to learn where the former falls flat) but one of its unique aspects is how it let players create and customized their own characters. Today, thanks to some new “dank” (or whatever the kids call it) and free DLC, fans can now make memes a part of their created character’s identity.

The “Sanic” T-shirt was found within Sonic Forces’ files a little while ago, but is officially available as of today. T-shirt features a crudely-drawn rendition of the blue blur of a bright green background. If you don’t know what a Sanic Hegehog is, I advise you to A) Stay pure, for the love of all that is holy and B) Make sure to turn down the volume on your speakers or headphone while Googling, and be careful out there!

[Source: Sonic The Hedgehog On Twitter]

 

Our Take
This is an unhealthy proliferation of the “gotta go fast!” mentality, which simply isn’t true. You can go at whatever speed you like.

Cuphead is a gorgeous, tough-as-nails platformer that demands proper timing, patience, and perseverance in order to get through its difficult bosses. You could say it’s the Dark Souls of platforms (but you really shouldn’t).

Well, now Dark Souls is the Dark Souls of Cuphead, or something. Youtube channel 64 Bits has created Cupsouls, a short cartoon which transforms imposing bosses like Ornstein, Smouth, Quelaag, and more and reimagines them as Cuphead-style single-screen encounters. The animations are no slouch, either, and you can tell a lot of work wen into making sure both series got the proper respect they deserve in the video below. No, there’s no actual game on the way and no, that’s not going to stop us from wanting it.

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Super Smash Bros. For Wii U is a game full of loving details. From the stage and character selections to the items and trophies, it bursts with an adoration for all things Nintendo (including third party games!). Once you see the games’ stages and characters from angles the camera won’t normally let you see them, you’ll appreciate how much detail Nintendo put it the game even more.

Youtuber Shesez has once again worked is camera-bending magic to show us what various Super Smash Bros. For Wii U characters and stages look like close-up, and from angles outside of the forward-facing one in which they’re usually shown. The Midgard and Pikmin stages have some particularly interesting tricks to explore.

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The Pokémon Company has announced the series has recently shipped over 300 million copies worldwide, crossing a huge milestone that solidifies its place among the most popular game series in the world.

The announcement comes off the release of the two most recent 3DS games, Ultra Sun and Moon, (you can read our review of them here), which the company says provided the last boost needed to get the series across the finish line. The 300 million number includes all Pokémon-related software released from February 1996 (When Pokémon Red and Green first released in Japan) to November 2017 (when Ultra Sun and Moon released and the month you are currently living in if you’re reading this before December 1, 2017).

Only one other franchise has managed to ship over 300 million games: The Super Mario series.

[Source: Famitsu]

 

Our Take
PSA: You don’t have buy ’em all, you know. That’s not the catchphrase.

I have been playing Super Mario Odyssey a lot, and it’s a great game. You can read Reiner’s Super Mario Odyssey review right here, which echoes many of my own thoughts, but for a more personal perspective I wanted to share why its more than just a great game. To put it simply, it makes me happy.

When ranking Mario games, I still place Super Mario Galaxy at the top. That game took its genre’s namesake – the platform – and reimagined it, placing Mario on planets with questionable gravity. It was insane and still is 10 years later. I had a good time with the follow-up, Super Mario 3D World, but it lacked the personality of Marios prior. It felt familiar to a fault, despite having some fantastic platforming challenges. Super Mario Sunshine remains, to this day, the only 3D Mario game I did not complete to the 100-percent mark. It reimagined Mario’s core mechanic, jumping, in a radical way, but I was happy to put it down after completing the final Bowser confrontation.

Super Mario Odyssey is clearly a product of the Super Mario 64 school of Mario. It features a collection of large (but never overwhelmingly large) worlds that contain an impressive collection of secrets. I played a lot of 2D Mario growing up (Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, in particular) but it wasn’t until I played Super Mario 64 until that I felt like I was controlling magic. I still remember playing Super Mario 64 for the first time at a Walmart kiosk. I was blown away by being able to do a triple-jump while my father impatiently tried to hurry me to check-out, and an older man behind me patiently waited his turn.

Odyssey recalls some of my first Super Mario 64 experiences, not so much in its structure, which is familiar, but it in the way it is able to frequently surprise. The less said about the game’s finale the better, but it left me literally giggling while my daughter cheered beside me.

Which brings me to another reason why playing Super Mario Odyssey makes me so happy – my daughter loves it. She had a million questions for me while watching me play. I started a new game for her and she was excited when she was able to turn into a frog, but was ecstatic when she beat her first Broodal boss. When I took the controller back, she asked me every few minutes, “Have you saved Peach yet?”

The game’s cooperative mode is also perfect for the style of cooperative play I enjoy with my young daughter. She is an active participant in the action, but not so much that she hinders my progress. I can still play with the reckless Mario platforming abandon I have been cultivating since 1996, and while she controls Mario’s hat, she is able to move around, attack enemies, collect coins, and just generally help. To play Mario and hear her say, “Dad, I am going to take care of those Goombas for you. Let me know if you need help,” just fills me with fatherly pride.

During one particularly harrowing boss battle, my daughter stood up beside me emphatically shouting, “Jump!” every time an obstacle came near. It was the way I felt when I played Mario 64 with my brother, eagerly cheering one another on as we tried to toss Bowser into the mines that circled his arenas.

Nintendo is an expert at playing off the nostalgic impulses of the players that grew up on its adventures (i.e., me), and that is true with Super Mario Odyssey – but it does feel new. It’s not a retread of Super Mario 64, but rather recalls the way I felt when I played Super Mario 64 20 years ago, and seeing some of those same emotions through my daughter’s eyes has been an exciting trip.

You can quantify all those important gameplay elements like how it controls well, its consistent framerate, its gorgeous visuals, and its pace of reward is impressive, but ultimately, as I play it, it just makes me feel calm and happy, which is exactly what I wanted from a new Mario adventure.

For more of our Super Mario Odyssey features, click the links below.

The developers of the popular, Black Mesa mod for Half-Life (which rebuilds the game from scratch in the Source engine) have announced they are pushing the much anticipated Xen levels into next year, but will have an update to improve the rest of the game next month.

Seems like just yesterday we were announcing that Black Mesa was going to be releasing soon… in 2012. Since then, the mod has released without the Xen levels, gone from a free mod to a paid product, and made a number of improvements along the way. In the most recent community update for the paid mod, project lead Adam Engels said that while they were hoping to release the last few levels for the game this year, that’s not happening. Engels did not announce a new date, but said “we have an internal deadline we are confident in, and we will be getting everyone more details as we get closer to that date.”

Instead of the last few levels, the team will release an update that will layer on some new visual effects and features they have been working on concurrently with the Xen levels, and hope to test in December before making them final once Xen releases. This includes lens flares, godrays, and everyone’s favorite, four-way texture blends! For the full breakdown of what players can expect next month, head over the game’s blog on Steam.

When that update hits, the team will also have additional details about where they stand on the Xen levels, and when players may be able to finally see the journey of this long-awaited mod come to an end.

 

Our Take
I played the original Black Mesa mod a while ago and enjoyed it quite a bit – enough that I’m contemplating giving it another go once the new levels hit. Here’s hoping they come out when there aren’t a ton of major games coming out. Oh, who am I kidding: That’s “Always” now.

The Xbox One X is finally here, and we decided to put the new system through its paces by playing an original Xbox title with some explosions in it. Andrew Reiner, Jeff Cork, Kyle Hilliard and I are here to put Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge through the ringer with SEVERAL explosions, a devastating betrayal, and a list of the Top Ten Pool Hunks in Cinema History.

Then, we take a look back at Black, the original Xbox FPS from Criterion Games. The Burnout developers’ take on a gritty, over-the-top shooter still holds up today as the most realistic, beautiful, and viscerally satisfying shooter ever released. That’s my opinion and you can’t tell me it’s wrong.

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Bungie is making some tweaks to the way players earn experience in Destiny 2. Though the changes may sound like minor number changes, they should greatly speed up the rate at which players level up and (more importantly) earn Bright Engrams.

The change is likely in response to a thoroughly examination of how players earned experience in Destiny 2 user EnergiserX posted on Reddit. In their post, Energiser noticed how, the faster players earn XP by killing enemies, the more of that experience seems to disappear. While this has the largest effect on those who quickly grind repeatable activities like Public Events most (cutting around 95 percent of their experience gains), this also affected players who simply played the game as intended, cutting their experience in half.

Hours after the post went live, Bungie announced that it had reviewed the data on their end, found this to be the case, and is replacing that system entirely. The amount of experience players earn for all activities has changed, and players should see that the experience numbers they see when they defeat enemies and complete activities should match the experience they earn in the backend. Over the next week, Bungie “will be watching and reviewing XP game data to ensure that these changes meet our expectations, as well as yours.”

 

Our Take
I’m very tempted to think this was Bungie getting caught doing something intentionally rather than an accident. Many of the changes in Destiny 2 seemed aimed to disincentivizing players to spend too many hours playing the game in a given week or grinding, and this experience scaling seems in line with that philosophy. Also consider that the thing players are grinding experience for in the endgame (Bright Engrams) is also the thing they can buy with actual money. Those two elements combined make me skeptical that this was a flaw in the system, but it’s hard to know at this point. Either way, Bungie did respond to this backlash expediently, which is good.

This year has delivered an abundance of excellent, massive gaming experiences. You can easily lose yourself for days in titles like Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But if you don’t have dozens of hours to sink into a digital world, 2017 also has a fantastic selection of quality games with less daunting commitments. 

We’ve singled out 10 of the best games of 2017 that clock in at 10 hours or less. These are still complete and engrossing titles – they just require a smaller time investment.

What Remains of Edith Finch
Estimated time to finish: 3 hours
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (review)
This narrative-focused experience from developer Giant Sparrow follows a young woman named Edith as she explores her eccentric family’s house. With novel gameplay moments and storytelling techniques, players see the world through the eyes of different Finches through the years – and witness the bizarre fate that awaits them all.

SteamWorld Dig 2
Estimated time to finish: 9 hours
Platforms: PS4, Switch, Vita, PC (review)
If you love exploration and upgrades with some undeniable Metroid influence, then Image & Form’s SteamWorld Dig 2 is for you. Robotic heroine Dot digs down through the dirt to find resources, and then spends them on a variety of clever weapons, bonuses, and enhancements that make her even better at digging. Though it’s fun on all platforms, SteamWorld Dig 2 is especially good for portable play on Switch or Vita.

Night in the Woods
Estimated time to finish: 9 hours
Platforms: PS4, PC (review)
Anthropomorphic cat Mae has dropped out of college and moved back in with her parents. Infinite Fall’s Night in the Woods is a 2D side-scrolling adventure game about Mae figuring things out and reconnecting with her hilarious friends and family. However, it’s also about a sinister mystery lurking beneath the desolate small-town charm.

Tacoma
Estimated time to finish: 4 hours
Platforms: Xbox One, PC (review)
What happened to the crew on the space station Tacoma? While the answer to that question is important, the real draw of this game from Fullbright (developer of Gone Home) is learning about the intriguing characters and their relationships through a system that lets you view their recorded interactions.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Estimated time to finish: 8 hours
Platforms: PS4 (review)
Nathan Drake has been the face of Uncharted for years, but The Lost Legacy proves the spirit of the series can live on through other characters. Naughty Dog puts Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross in the starring roles, but the gameplay and setpiece moments hit the same spectacular notes Uncharted is known for.

Battle Chef Brigade
Estimated time to finish: 9 hours
Platforms: Switch, PC (review)
Match-three puzzles meet hack-and-slash action is this surprising hybrid from Trinket Studios. Kind of like the show Iron Chef crossed with the game Bejeweled, players alternate between playstyles as they gather special ingredients and then prepare dishes for a panel of judges. Battle Chef Brigade is strange, intense, and unlike anything else you’ve played this year.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Estimated time to finish: 8 hours
Platforms: PS4, PC (review)
Senua is an ancient warrior struggling with psychosis, so players can never be sure of their surroundings in Hellblade. Developer Ninja Theory deftly uses sound design and visual tricks to impart fear and uncertainty throughout Senua’s journey. These aren’t just gameplay gimmicks; Hellblade uses them to confront serious (and sometimes uncomfortable) issues relating to mental health.

Observer
Estimated time to finish: 6 hours
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (review)
A cyberpunk detective story starring Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, Hobo with a Shotgun), Observer uses jump scares and a grim atmosphere to create a unique, narrative-driven horror game. Players jump into character’s minds to extract information, resulting in dream-like scenarios that developer Bloober Team has crafted to toy with your perception of reality. Fans of sci-fi and horror will love seeing how the genres collide in Observer.

Little Nightmares
Estimated time to finish: 4 hours
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (review)
Fans of Playdead’s Limbo and Inside should definitely play this puzzle/platform adventure from Tarsier Studios. As a tiny girl named Six in an oversized world, you navigate seemingly mundane obstacles like drawers and shoes, all while avoiding nightmarish horrors. The unsettling (but not gory) imagery makes Little Nightmares memorable, and the rising and falling tension keeps you engaged from beginning to end.

Everything
Estimated time to finish: 3 hours
Platforms: PS4, PC (review)
In Everything, developer David OReilly gives players the ability to hijack any object. From living creatures to inanimate structures, you hop from entity to entity in order to see what wonders (or horrors) the universe holds. The unbelievable wealth of things to possess and control is a major draw, and the relaxed approach to exploration makes for a delightfully weird game.

None of the trailers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi have given us a look at Supreme Leader Snoke’s crimson protectors, the praetorian guards, yet toy manufacturers can’t stop pumping them out. Hot Toys has gone all in on these mysterious warriors, offering fans enough parts and helmets to create the entire lineup that will supposedly be lining the walls of Snoke’s throne room.

These figures retail for $205 each, and are scheduled to ship between July and September 2018. Although you’ll want six guards to create the scenes shown, the praetorian guard only ship in two versions. Each of these figures ships with multiple helmets, hands, and weapons, allowing for the entire lineup to be created.

The praetorian guards’ weapons are different than we’ve seen in Star Wars, favoring old-school blades and whips over anything suitable for long-range affairs. You can pre-order the figures now, but I would hold off on buying them until you watch the movie in December. They look cool and deadly, but how much screen time will they actually get? Here’s hoping they serve more of a purpose than Emperor Palpatine’s royal guards did in the original and prequel trilogies.