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Podcast Discussion / Episode 390: Words Mean Things Geoff
« on: Yesterday at 10:27:31 AM »

Cyberpunk is an indie game.

In this raw unedited episode, John and Neal give their predictions for the show that drives God ever further from His children, otherwise known as the Game Awards. But first, listener mail!

TalkBack / A Highland Song (Switch) Review
« on: December 04, 2023, 07:01:00 PM »

A narrative wonder filled with contemplative mountain climbing.

Developer inkle has a track record for making experimental narrative-focused games dripping with vibes, including the sky-faring 80 Days, the reverse murder mystery Overboard, and the language-translating Heaven’s Vault. Their latest game is the enigmatic mountain-climbing narrative adventure A Highland Song. Set in the Scottish Highlands, you control the young girl Moira who runs away from home in a mad dash to reach her uncle’s lighthouse and see the sea. The basic plot is relatively straightforward as your end goal is laid out right away, but through a few dynamic replays, impactful revelations and a wealth of tantalizing narrative threads add a gripping emotional weight to the whole experience.

A Highland Song tells a story that can only be told in games because the way it unfolds is all related to your play, building as you uncover new paths and figure out different connections. Moira initially has two maps that show off two different mountain peaks with hidden paths nearby. Matching the map to the right peak will give you the inclination of where the hidden path is and once you find the path, you can move to a new area, find a new map, and seek out more peaks and paths. It’s difficult to parse out the full scale and scope of the world, but that’s part of the overall point. You and Moira are desperately piecing together the right way to the sea and sometimes that can be disorienting.

Climbing and moving around the hills and mountains is straightforward, featuring a lot of context sensitive inputs that allow Moira to ascend, descend, run, and jump. Figuring out the right way to climb to a new height or safely get down to a new path in a valley requires planning and timing. Or you can just say “eff it” and jump down and incur some amount of fall damage (or lose all your health and fail). A day/night cycle and weather also factors into your maneuvering, so you need to keep an eye out on shelters to wait out storms and rest.

The flow of the game is glorious, and once I got a hang of it I was mesmerized exploring the gorgeous countryside, picking up intriguing clues and learning bits of wider lore that, at least in my time with the game, led to some gratifying and heartbreaking payoffs. This is a beautiful game with watercolor-esque backgrounds, impressive lighting, and gorgeous animation. The music complements the visuals with beautiful Scottish folk music (from acclaimed bands Talisk and Fourth Moon). I love the music, but I didn’t love the recurring rhythm game segments that highlighted the music. Especially in handheld mode, it was difficult to read the differences between buttons as you moved across the ground, tapping the right button as Moira ran over it. There are a lot of options to change the difficulty of different aspects of the game, including the rhythm game parts, but I generally like rhythm games and I was disappointed to have an issue with it.

Even with my relatively minor issues, A Highland Song is a powerful game filled with a distinct mystique. The overall goal requires playing through it a few times, but with each playthrough, you have more peaks and paths accessible right from the get-go. This is a game that is about optimizing your way through the mountains but also grapples with the reality that that level of optimization isn’t feasible. That ethereal otherworldliness lingers throughout every engrossing hour, beckoning you to find the most efficient path to the lighthouse while also tying up every loose end. This is a beautiful, gorgeous game that shouldn’t be missed.

TalkBack / Bluey: The Videogame (Switch) Review
« on: November 24, 2023, 02:03:34 PM »

A playful game ideal for Bluey’s target audience of preschoolers and grade schoolers.

The announcement of a Bluey video game felt like the logical next step for the Australian cartoon show that debuted in 2018 and exploded worldwide once BBC Studios gained the international distribution rights, leading to Bluey’s American success on Disney Jr. and Disney+. As a parent of young children, Bluey became a staple in my house, expanding culturally to the point where Bluey is more or less everywhere, showing up significantly more than I expected this past Halloween. It’s definitely a phenomenon, and now it has a video game to add to the saturation. Published by British games company Outright Games and developed by Spanish studio Artax Games (notably not an Australian studio, which is disappointing though BBC Studios holding the merchandising rights explains why), Bluey the Videogame is a neat little kid-centric sandbox trip through Bluey’s world, complete with full voice-acting, flexible four-player gameplay, and easy-to-understand controls.

Up to four players can join in, with the core family of Bluey, Bingo, Bandit, and Chili available to choose from. Regardless of whether or not you have four players, the unselected characters will still be around, leading you on to the next objective or just milling about. The structured meat of the game is found in four episodes that come complete with their own title card like the show itself. The writing here doesn’t rival the quality the cartoon reaches at times, but it does a good enough job of capturing the spirit as the kids put together an old treasure map from Bandit’s past. The episodes play out as very light point-to-point adventures where you solve simple puzzles and take on extremely light challenges. The lack of complexity makes it great for children, especially since I’ve seen an anecdotal surge in Bluey interest among parents of toddlers.

The episodic structure is neat, but it’s also over in about the same length as four episodes of the show (ETA 30 minutes). Beyond that, you can explore different locales from the show, most notably the Heeler house. In each area, you have a handful of collectibles to find. When all is said and done, there is probably about an hour or so of distinct content in this game, but the joy of this game is found in just messing around in the world even if playing Keepy-Uppy is disappointing in execution.

The reality is, for better or worse, as a game for adults, this is light, frivolous, and boring. But Bluey is aimed at an audience of children. To that end, it’s ideal. Full voice-acting means the game is approachable for a kid who can’t read yet (or well). The multiplayer gameplay allows for parents to play with their kids, made even better by how the game usually just needs one player to complete an objective, so you’re not spending all your time coaching the 2-year-old to succeed in Floor is Lava (I say this from experience). Bluey the Videogame feels like the developer actually put some thought into how to make a video game for the young children that this show is made for. It’s a success in that regard and it’s hard for me as a parent and a player to be frustrated at a game that works so well for my 5-year-old.

On Switch, the visuals are passable though not outstanding. In some moments, it mimics the show’s style perfectly. In others, it’s janky and stiff. My kids weaseled their way into some situations that necessitated rebooting the game, which is more of an illumination on the fact that kids play games in weird ways and they likely broke the game in a unique manner.

Bluey the Videogame’s worst aspect is how short it is. What’s there is enjoyable for its audience, even if it’s over so quickly. It does a good enough job of capturing the look and feel of the animated series, and even after completing the four episodes, my kids keep going back to mess around in the world. There’s a framework here that could make for some electric little kid gaming experiences and I hope to see the world of Bluey in video game form expand beyond this opening salvo. Bluey the Videogame is the kind of game Bandit would roll his eyes about but begrudgingly play with Bluey and Bingo anyway, and that’s okay, because Bandit’s the kind of dad that recognizes not everything is meant for him.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 389: A Game in the Life
« on: November 24, 2023, 05:20:57 AM »

Not currently available at your local grocery store.

NWR Reviews Editor, Jordan Rudek joins John and Neal to discuss his new book A Game in the Life. You can find store links where you can purchase A Game In The Life here. Next, Jordan and Neal dive deep into Super Mario RPG while John takes a nap. The boys wrap things up with a discussion of media bias and of course, a little Zelda talk.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 388: Neal's Trials in the Desert
« on: November 17, 2023, 08:46:41 AM »

Journey to Super Nintendo World

Neal returns from a successful expedition to Super Nintendo World to give his impressions of Universal's Nintendo themed park. Afterwards John puts his claim of being able to separate art and artist to the test and visits the wizarding world (while flipping off its original creator) to discuss Hogwarts Legacy on Nintendo Switch. Finally, we reply to your thoughts on the Legend of Zelda movie with some listener mail.

TalkBack / Star Ocean: The Second Story R (Switch) Review
« on: November 01, 2023, 05:23:30 AM »

A full remake in hand is worth two ports in the bush.

The Square Enix RPG series Star Ocean has been around for nearly 30 years but only recently made the leap to Nintendo platforms in the west. The Super Famicom original came to Switch (in PSP remake port form) in 2019 and now a fully remade version of the PlayStation sequel is hitting Nintendo Switch in the form of Star Ocean: The Second Story R. Unlike its predecessor, Second Story R is not an upgraded port of a PSP version. Instead, Square Enix and developer Gemdrops took the foundation and put together a modern remake with a gorgeous art style and presentation and refined combat and gameplay mechanics. It is a marked improvement from First Departure R that allows the quality of the ‘90s RPG to be easier to see in 2023.

Set 20 years after the events of the first Star Ocean, Second Story R kicks off by giving you the choice between two protagonists: Claude or Rena. Regardless of your choice, the pair will quickly team up and set off on an adventure to find out what’s up with the Sorcery Globe, a meteorite that landed on Rena’s home planet Expel and has brought about monsters and destruction. Your choices and decisions matter in the grand scheme of the plot and combat. Claude and Rena are locked in as playable characters, but the rest of your eight-person party can be filled out with a number of others, which can alter aspects of the story, leading to different endings. Similar to First Departure R, some of the finer details of party-building feel like they aren’t conveyed as clearly in the game itself, but it’s less obfuscated in this sequel.

Beyond the characters themselves, a robust skills and specialities system deepens them beyond the story. Skills all funnel into the action RPG battle system, where you upgrade special attacks and abilities to fine-tune your different party members using points accrued in battle. Separate from that are specialities, that factor into more than just battle. You use a different bucket of points earned from battle to do things like increase character’s blacksmith or writing ability. Some of the abilities unlocked fall in line with RPG tropes, like being able to cook healing items, while others are weird, like a book-making skill that lets your team publish a book and collect royalties on it. The full breadth is daunting, but if you figure it out, you can do some wild game-breaking things like be able to pickpocket the world and vastly improve your experience points by upgrading the training skill.

The action RPG combat is quick and snappy, in spite of the slightly too long load times on Switch. In the same vein as the Tales series, you run into a battle on the overworld and go into another screen where you actively attack, defend, and use abilities. The remake adds a lot of flourishes to the combat to make it better and more engaging, including the “break” system where you can stun enemies and Assault Action, where you can call in secondary characters (generally from other Star Ocean games) to help you out in battle. It’s a fine combat system and the new twists keep it from feeling stale. A few difficulty spikes would occasionally slow my progress, but that makes the inclusion of three difficulty levels all the more helpful.

The visual presentation might be the overall highlight for Second Story R, as it takes the original’s late ‘90s PlayStation art and modernizes it in a 2.5D blend spectacularly. All characters are sprite-based, rotating in the full 3D environments. Running around the overworld is often stunning, especially as the updated Motoi Sakuraba soundtrack blasts in the background. Those snazzy visuals help to paper over some of the slower pace in the opening hours of the 40-hour-long journey. It’s worth sticking around because the story opens up and gets more interesting in the back half. And honestly the slower pace is just because the game shows its Enix roots by having a lot of Dragon Quest-style vignettes in towns.

Star Ocean: The Second Story R is a great remake of a less heralded PlayStation RPG. Unlike First Departure R and some of the other ports and remasters out there, this is a smart, modern upgrade to a decades-old adventure. It’s an enjoyable action RPG with a wealth of player choice and a lot of charming quirky aspects. If you’ve ever been curious about Star Ocean and have an affinity for old-school action RPGs, this is a must-play. Even beyond that, the beautiful presentation might be worth the price of admission by itself.


Bookended by segues.

The 2D Mario Game Club squad plus Alex assemble to to discuss the very good new Mario game. They of course also get distracted by other stuff.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 385: Super Sonicstars
« on: October 20, 2023, 10:09:41 AM »

Stars Supersonic

Noted Sonic fan John Rairdin gives his initial impressions of Sonic Superstars. Surely this time he'll like Sonic. Meanwhile Microsoft completes their purchase of Activision, Blizzard, King, and most importantly, our hearts. Finally we round things off with some follow up thoughts on the New Super Mario series in the moments before we start Mario Wonder.

TalkBack / Subpar Pool (Switch) Review Mini
« on: October 19, 2023, 07:53:33 AM »

Mini-golf blends with billiards for your new mobile obsession.

A good mobile game can be hard to find, which made my past discovery of Holedown a pleasant revelation. This snazzy twist on Breakout and Peggle initially came out in 2018 on mobile (with a Switch release later). If you haven’t played Holedown, it’s worth checking out on your phone or your Switch. My affinity for Holedown was rekindled because developer grapefrukt games just released Subpar Pool - a spiritual followup to their previous work. Combining elements of billiards and golf, this excellent slice of arcade brilliance continually iterates into more absurdity and complexity.

It starts off relatively simple. Shoot your cue ball into other balls, hurtling them into pockets within a certain number of shots. Complete a few boards and you’ll complete a run. As you play, you unlock more themes and modifiers. The themes change the type of board you’re on entirely, including ones with teleporting walls and rotating conveyor belts. The modifiers make the game more ridiculous and/or difficult. “Fixed start” doesn’t let you place your cue ball at the start of a level, while the simply named “more balls” fills the board with more balls. On top of all this, you also unlock different ball types. You’ve got big ol’ Chonkers that are harder to move and you also have delicate Crystals that can shatter after they’re hit too much.

Unlocking all this variety happens as you complete different challenges that ask you to execute certain goals. Some are as simple as completing a run on a theme, while others ask you to bounce a ball into another ball and then into a pocket, or go back and forth through a teleporting wall multiple times. It just keeps going, always giving you some new twist that demands you tweak your strategy and play a different style.

All of this allows every run to feel wildly different so Subpar Pool stays fresh over time, making it an ideal mobile game. On Switch, it’s still super fun, but it truthfully isn’t the ideal system for this game. I, for one, am now playing it on my phone after playing it on Switch. Not to say it’s a bad experience on Switch, just that Subpar Pool is best made for cranking out a round or two on your phone as opposed to sitting down and spending hours at your TV. Subpar Pool absolutely rocks no matter where you play it, though.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 384: The New Super Mario Quadrilogy
« on: October 13, 2023, 07:57:24 AM »

Part 3 of the 2D Mario Game Club

In the final part of our 2D Mario Game Club leading up to Super Mario Bros Wonder, we discuss the New Super Mario Bros series. And also for some reason Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate. Were these games good? How do they compare to the rest of the series? Can they inform our expecations for Wonder? Is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate better than anything Arzest has ever made? Let's find out!

TalkBack / Wild Card Football (Switch) Review
« on: October 10, 2023, 04:00:00 AM »

Baffling play calls in a second-half collapse keep this from being a first ballot Hall of Famer.

The last time a Nintendo platform had an NFL football game, current reigning league MVP and Super Bowl Champion Patrick Mahomes was a 17-year-old high-schooler. Hundreds of NFL players had their careers begin and end without ever appearing on a game for a Nintendo system. Even if Saber Interactive’s Wild Card Football only has the NFL Player’s Association license (so it has real players and no real teams or stadiums), this is an important release on Nintendo Switch as it’s the first time America’s most popular sport has appeared on America’s most popular gaming platform. It might not be the simulation-heavy experience that a Madden provides, but it’s a fun stab at bringing football to a Nintendo system after all these years, even if it doesn’t totally stick the landing.

First and foremost, this is purebred arcade sports, with 7-on-7 games in lieu of football’s traditional 11-on-11. Players are cartoony and impossibly bulky. Playbooks and mechanics are simplified. Quarters are two minutes long. At times, it feels NFL Blitz-esque, with over-the-top bomb passing plays and vicious tackles. The big twist is the “wild card” part of the game. In most games, you have a deck of game-changing cards that can speed up your players, make your opponents more susceptible to drops, or do even wilder stuff like push the opposing team back five yards or make them lose a down. Some of them even unleash player abilities, like making the ball carrier invisible or have them turn into a giant for a few seconds. It adds a high-key chaotic aspect to the proceedings, layering in a good dose of strategy as you and your opponent both have cards that you can use to try to cancel out the other one’s hand.

With how fun the card manipulation can be at times, it’s a shame the actual football it supports doesn’t land. I enjoy the passing part of the game, as it does a good job of taking the tried-and-true controls of football games through time and distills them into a pleasant arcade form. Timing passing routes and trying to outsmart defenders is good. Unfortunately the running game boils down to a timing-based button press. Land it, and you’ll bust through the crowd. Miss it, and you’re more or less doomed to lose yards. It’s especially maddening because in my experience, the CPU - even on lower difficulties - seems to nail the timing every time. Also the AI for the CPU seems busted overall, making baffling decisions with regularity, ranging from not calling timeouts near the end of a half to not going for two when down by two.

Beyond the gameplay, there just isn’t a whole hell of a lot to do in Wild Card Football. Offline, a basic season mode with the built-in teams (collected by their real-life teams but named for their starting quarterback) is the only non-multiplayer experience. Two player local matches are enjoyable, though at this point, I can’t fully vouch for the longevity. The meat is found online in the Dream Squad mode, which is Wild Card Football’s Ultimate Team mode. You unlock packs of cards to build up your custom team of NFL players, taking them to compete online against other humans or the computer. The full breadth of the online competition and micro-transaction elements aren’t accessible yet, but I have spent a lot of time in the Tour mode, which allows you to unlock new cards by playing the CPU. This isn’t a mode I would play much of if it weren’t for the fact there is almost literally nothing else to do, but I’ll admit it’s been fun. The Tour mode puts you into different game variants, whether it’s with or without Wild Cards or even a race to a specific score total.

The pressure put on Wild Card Football to be the one single NFL game on Nintendo Switch might be undue, but regardless, this opening kickoff for a potential sports franchise fades down the stretch after a promising start. Parts of the game are good, making for a decent multiplayer game and a lacking solo experience due to limited modes, a borderline worthless running game, and janky computer-controlled opponents. If you’re hard up for playing as your favorite NFL players on your favorite Nintendo platform, this is an acceptable placebo, but here’s hoping Nintendo gets a high first-round draft pick for their next console so they can pick a more well-rounded football game.

TalkBack / Talking Cozy Dino Farming with Paleo Pines Developers
« on: October 09, 2023, 11:26:48 AM »

Paleo Pines brings real-life dino science into an adorable farm setting.

If you have followed Nintendo World Report over the years, you might know we have a dinosaur guy in the form of longtime staffer Zach Miller. Naturally when a dinosaur game hits Nintendo systems, we unearth Zach's fossils and see what we can do. We sent over some questions to the team behind Paleo Pines, a new Nintendo Switch game that combines the likes of farming sims with ample dinosaurs. It was a pleasant surprise when we found out that the developers at Italic Pig took into account actual dino science into their largely cartoony and colorful game. So here's some questions and answers with Executive Producer Aimee Beimers (and a guest appearance by Animator Yazz Herron).

Nintendo World Report (NWR): What led you to make Paleo Pines? Were dinosaurs always the focus? When did the idea of linking dinos and farming come into play?

Aimee Beimers (AB): The concept originally came to life out of a Game Jam in 2019 from its original creator, Jordan Bradley.  The concepts struck a chord with so many people and within the Italic Pig studio that the game as we know it today began to take shape in those early days of development.  It was in the summer of 2020 that we really hit upon the core vision for the game beyond befriending dinos:  as a whole it is a love-letter to childhood, and those long breezy summers we all remember. This vision helped tie everything together – mechanically, visually, and in the audio too. Paleo Pines as we know it now was born.

NWR: I see a lot of different gameplay "types" in here, from Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley to Fantasy Life and Jurassic World: Evolution. How do they all feed into each other? What is the player trying to accomplish each day?

AB: These games have a lot in common, even if they don’t look like it at first! Within each, you generally start out as a new member of a community- an island, a town, a city or anywhere and begin to figure out what you need to do.

Paleo Pines makes good use of the trope with a fun blend of the usual standards; you’re new to the valley but you’re fixing up an old property. You don’t know anyone, but you’re throwing yourself into the community as soon as you can! You’re immediately given clues as to your quests and can get stuck in right away.  

The similarities to Jurassic World are clear - finding dinos, building pens, and caring for them - but in Paleo Pines, we live by the rule that it is Survival of the Kindest.  Our dinos don’t attack one another and live in harmony on your ranch.  

As with games like Slime Rancher and Pokémon, Paleo Pines hugely appeals to the collectors.  Even with farming and exploration being huge parts of the gameplay, befriending a wide range of dinos seems to have the most appeal with our players! What we’ve discovered is that Paleo Pines goes beyond this simple mechanic and our players form real bonds with the dinos they befriend - a joyful experience that should be credited to our dev team for putting so much personality into each dino!

Another aspect of Paleo Pines that we were keen to ensure was in the game is the idea of passive game interaction - we wanted a world where you have jobs to do and areas to explore, but other things you don’t ALWAYS have to be doing. We have players that simply have a hard day at work and have told us they sit on a bench in the game and just soak in a herd of dinos playing in the valley for 20 minutes as a way to relax.  

We’ve tried to ensure that a player’s day can be what they make of it - they can explore, follow on with a quest, venture out to befriend more dinos, farm on their ranch, seek out townsfolk… they day is full, but without stress - unless the ultra-rare dino you’ve discovered doesn’t like the treat you give them, of course!  There’s something in Paleo Pines to appeal to everyone who enjoys farming, creature collector and exploration games.  

NWR: I'm absolutely tickled by the list of genera in the game. Carnotaurus is my favorite dinosaur! I'm also impressed that you have some notable (and relatively obscure) non-dinosaurs in the game, like Desmatosuchus! Was it tough to pare down your list? Were there any critters that didn't make the cut that you were sad to see go?

AB: It was very tough to pare down our list! Our decision on which to include was based on the dinos that we knew would offer the most gameplay for players in the regions we have launched with. The Spino is definitely a fan favorite that we want to get into Paleo Pines eventually!

NWR: Similarly, I'm very appreciative of your attention to detail with these animals. Despite the very cartoony aesthetic, I'm surprised by how recognizable they are. How did you match the art style with the real design and look of the dinosaurs?

AB: We were lucky enough to have the input of a real-life paleontologist to turn to when our modelers and animators had questions!  Natalia Jagielska was brilliant in allowing our team to reach out throughout the production and has even done an analysis for us of several of our dinos to evaluate how close to known scientific fact they are.  It was this knowledge that we layered over the wholesome style originally created by Jordan Bradley.  

NWR: What are the different "classes" or "jobs" that the dinosaurs have?

AB: Every dinosaur in the game will have two skills - one farming and one wild skill. Farming skills can be tilling the soil, harvesting, planting seeds and watering crops. They make handling your daily farming chores so much easier! When exploring the world of Paleo Pines, dinosaurs can also assist by smashing rocks, stomping logs, slashing bushes and sprinting - meaning you can discover new and hidden areas! It's not so straightforward, though. Before a dino will do any work for you on the ranch and beyond, you first need to befriend them and earn their trust!

NWR: How do you find and befriend new dinos?

AB: Dinosaurs can be found all over; some roam in herds across rolling hills, others lurk alone in waterfall clearings. It's your job to get out and discover them all! If you decide to try and take one home, you will need to befriend them. Mari will take you through the process of feeding treats and soothing creatures until they are ready for the secret ingredient - a delicious poppin in their favorite flavor! If the dino takes the treat and likes it, you have made yourself a new friend and can seal the deal with a little pat on the head or boop on the nose. After the befriending process, you can begin to work on building the trust of your new best friend until they trust you enough to allow you to saddle them up!

NWR: How large is the game world? Is exploration a big part of the gameplay?

AB: Paleo Pines is an expansive island with three different biomes holding two marketplaces and a bunch of NPC homes! From the forested Dapplewood to the sandy Ariacotta Canyon, there are tons of areas populated with 38 different dinosaur species - some of which you'll need to look extra hard for or even enlist a dino's help to unblock! Of course, everyone plays differently, and there are certainly people who get so distracted by cute Styracosaurus’ that they haven't even begun to explore, but your main goal for coming to the island was to help your best friend Lucky find other dinos like her, and to do this you will need to fully explore Paleo Pines!

NWR: Launching a game on multiple platforms is always a challenge. What was the process for making this game for Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, and PC?

AB: For most of the development we worked exclusively on PC, not knowing which consoles we'd eventually be asked to support. However we'd always expected to port it in general, so we had a framework in place to abstract important platform features like save data, achievements and so on. When the time came, we had to write implementations of that for each platform, then deal with features unique to particular platforms (e.g. PS5 activities). We also had to optimize for each platform without disrupting the others.

Switch was a special case, so we had a partner to help us port the game, and in particular to optimize - it started out very beautiful, but running at what felt like 2 FPS. We had to duplicate all our levels in order to make the necessary changes for Switch without affecting the other platforms.

Our approach to porting to different platforms is probably very similar to other developers, but the biggest challenge for us was ensuring that the visual experience on the Switch was comparable to the PC version - or at least as close as it’s possible, given the nature of the Switch console.  This was a very high bar to meet and we’re very pleased with the result.  

NWR: What are your favorite dinosaurs and did that lead to any biases during development as far as how different dinos were used and implemented?AB: The people closest on our team to the dinos are the animators so we put this question to Yazz, who was responsible for animating many of the dinos in the game.

Yazz Herron:  As an animator, it's always easy to start to find favorites among the herd. Archaeoptryx, for example, was so fun to animate that he quickly came into my top three! Although every dinosaur got the same amount of love and attention, there may just be some secret animations that belong to a few favorites of mine! Have you ever put a picnic table in your gallimimus pen?

NWR: What is a fun dinosaur fact you uncovered during development that stood out to you?

AB: The one that’s stood out to us time and time again is the two ‘dinos that aren’t dinos’ in our game - Postosuchus and Dimetrodon are in the game but aren’t scientifically dinos.  We get a lot of reminders of this!

TalkBack / Pizza Possum (Switch) Review Mini
« on: October 09, 2023, 07:12:34 AM »


The tension that emerges when you’re chased is foundational to modern video games. Pac-Man in its maze glory is built around that notion. Collect the dots and avoid the ghosts. Don’t get caught. That simple premise has been expanded upon all over the place, whether it’s the memorable stealth of a Metal Gear Solid or the underrated brilliance of the Silent Realm in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Pizza Possum, a new game developer Cosy Computer, takes that concept and builds the whole game around it. You control a pizza-loving possum on a quest to snatch a giant pizza from a bunch of dogs. It’s simple and effective.

This bite-sized game tasks you with eating food to unlock doors that progressively lead you to the large pizza at the end of the quest. You also need to avoid patrolling enemies so you don’t get caught. The arcade focus makes it a high-score chase, as you earn more points the longer you survive, but even if you fail, you start off at your last checkpoint and continue to make your march for your big meal. It blends the thrill of the hunt that fueled Pac-Man’s arcade glory with a friendlier structure that will make it more possible for gamers of all skill levels to make it through. True completion requires multiple successful runs and you also unlock different items and gear as you complete runs.

A co-op mode, where the second player controls a raccoon, amps up the comedy as well. It makes the proceedings far more chaotic, but Pizza Possum thrives in chaos. Initially, I was very careful about every move I made, but at a certain point, I realized just embracing the nonsense was the way to go. So my possum wound up hurtling past guards, gobbling all food nearby as I made use of items and hiding places to ward off the chasing dog cops. In those moments, Pizza Possum is electric.

This game might not last long, but it almost seems aware of its limitations. Pizza Possum invites you to stop by, enjoy the bedlam and pandemonium with or without a friend, and then leave satisfied and fulfilled, like you yourself gobbled down that giant pizza the titular possum craves. This snack is incredibly enjoyable.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 383: Alex and Neal Embrace Their Inner Pupa
« on: October 06, 2023, 09:34:41 AM »

And John gets a new air conditioner.

Neal and Alex enjoy what may be a surprise late contender for Game of the Year in Cocoon. John meanwhile has mostly been playing with his new thermostat which can likely run Doom.

TalkBack / Paw Patrol World (Switch) Review Mini
« on: October 05, 2023, 11:45:41 AM »

All dogs are barking.

As the parent of two children right in the middle of the prime Paw Patrol demographic, I looked at the new video game Paw Patrol World with curiosity. I’ve plodded my way through some mediocre licensed games with my kids already, but the concept of an open-world kids game seemed interesting. Could this be the right gateway towards the onslaught of open-world games across all video games? For the most part, it’s successful. Publisher Outright Games and developer 3DClouds essentially made Grand Theft Auto for preschoolers. It’s not much more than that, but that’s exactly what Paw Patrol World should be.

The setup is simple and approachable. You are the Paw Patrol. Here’s the city of Adventure Bay. Go save people and collect dog treats. Few barriers exist to let your kid engage with the likes of Chase, Rubble, and Tracker. You toggle between the core gang of pups at the press of a button. You can opt to drive around in their vehicle or just walk around. The primary quests involve you just following around an always-on icon for the Paw Patrol’s boy leader Ryder. He gives you repetitive quests that typically involve picking the right dog for the job and then rapidly pressing a button. It’s fluff, but it’s fluff that my 5-year-old was really into, especially as more notable series locales start popping up along the way.

I was handed a controller a few times and can clearly say that adults do not need to play through Paw Patrol World on their own. And that’s fine because this game isn’t for adults. An argument can be made that good games should transcend age, don’t dumb down games for kids, and so on and so forth, but very rarely is a game truly for all ages. Even some of Nintendo’s greatest generation-spanning triumphs aren’t all ages. My kids adore Kirby games but I’m not expecting a 3-year-old to take down the final boss in Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Paw Patrol World is a game that my kids can romp through all on their own.

It doesn’t need to purely be a solo journey though. After a brief tutorial, you can drop in at any time and active co-op. The screen is split and each player can select a pup (they can be the same pup if desired). You can go do your own stuff, but you can also automatically warp near the other one at the press of a button. It’s exactly the kind of co-op you’d want in a kid-centric open-world game.

Paw Patrol World is a smartly made entry-level open-world video game that does a good job of capturing the appeal of Paw Patrol in video game form. It’s primarily for the younger sect, but it does that by being a playground to explore as opposed to a steep challenge. You play in the world of the TV show in a way that makes this a gateway to the wider world of (mostly quality) video games. As a parent I sometimes need to make compromises. If my kids want to play the cop dog game instead of Roblox, I’ll chalk it up as a win.

TalkBack / PictoPull (Switch) Review Mini
« on: October 03, 2023, 08:23:08 AM »


An indie dev made a Pushmo game and it’s out on Switch now. If you miss Pushmo, you should check it out.

That’s basically all you need to know, but if you want some more details, let’s start where it all began: the 3DS eShop. You see, back in those days of yore, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems made a brilliant downloadable puzzle game called Pushmo. They followed it up with two sequels on 3DS in Crashmo and Stretchmo as well as a Wii U game called Pushmo World. Those games were all soundly great, but as of early 2023, none of them are available to buy. Like clockwork, developer Screen Smith Studios released PictoPull on PC following the Wii U and 3DS eShop closures. Several months later, it’s now coming to Nintendo Switch. This is the RC Cola of Pushmo, but it’s more fulfilling than the average off-brand soda.

150 puzzles split across a number of worlds are playable here and while I had some early doubts with the puzzle design, they follow an enjoyable difficulty curve that throws in enough twists to keep it enjoyable. While it doesn’t have the polish of Pushmo, it feels close enough to scratch the itch that Nintendo removed from the public world. I fought with the platforming a little too much, especially when trying to pull off diagonal jumps, but thankfully you can easily rewind a puzzle if you flub a jump and fall all the way back down.

The later puzzles get very complex in a way that reminded me of some of the complicated excess of the original Pushmo. Even with the ability to glance at the full puzzle at the press of a button, it’s still easy to get lost in a giant mural. The Steam version offers a level editor that isn’t found in the Switch version. That’s disappointing, but for the price of this game, it’s not a major loss.

PictoPull isn’t quite as good as its inspiration, but it does the job. It was nice to play this style of puzzle again. PictoPull will do as we wait for Pushmo to have its Crashmo 99 renaissance.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 382: Sports Talk With John
« on: September 29, 2023, 08:09:09 AM »

We recorded this AFTER the Xbox leak.

We got a review copy of the new NOT FIFA game FC 24. John played it like the massive sports person that he is. Meanwhile Neal was playing things John is well known for not liking, such as F-Zero. It's a weird start to the episode. The fellas then turn to some listener mail and a quick discussion of the recent Xbox leaks from the FTC hearing.

TalkBack / EA Sports FC 24 (Switch) Review
« on: September 28, 2023, 05:29:36 AM »

Turns out when you put effort into a Switch port, it’s pretty good.

The legacy of EA Sports on Nintendo consoles has been murky at best in the past decade. The company’s two popular mainstays have either been largely absent (Madden) or half-assed (FIFA) since the dawn of the Wii U. FIFA on Switch debuted in 2017 and while the game itself was relatively good, it was built on a custom version of EA’s Ignite engine (as opposed to EA’s Frostbite engine that powered other versions) that led to the game being a limited version of the long-running soccer experience. After that 2017 debut, every subsequent FIFA release on Switch was merely a “Legacy Edition,” as in it was almost identical to that 2017 release outside of roster updates. Finally, more than 2400 days since the Switch launched, EA Sports is putting in some honest effort into the Nintendo Switch version of their soccer game, now called EA Sports FC due to a licensing disagreement with FIFA. The results are fantastic with a few caveats, as this game stacks up favorably to all other releases of EA Sports FC across other platforms and even includes some neat Switch-exclusive touches.

If you’ve only played EA soccer games on Nintendo platforms, then EA Sports FC has a boatload of modes you never knew existed. You can hop into the action quickly with the Kick Off mode, letting you set up a match with custom rules easily. You can even share the joy and play against a friend with each of you just using one Joy-Con. In addition to the soccer games themselves, a variety of offline and online modes let you fiddle with the sport in almost any way you want. Two different Career Modes exist, one where you control a manager and one where you control a player. Controlling a manager is akin to your typical franchise mode in other sports games and while I had fun with that, I really enjoyed my time in the player-focused career. I made myself a preposterous-looking man and controlled just them in games, which was far more compelling than I expected.

Beyond Career Mode, the full scope of the microtransaction-laden Ultimate Team is playable on Switch for the first time. While every sports game now has a mode like this, I still don’t enjoy it all that much, but generally speaking you can play around with this card-based competitive mode without dropping tons of money. You generally just have to grind for resources. Say what you will about the concept of Ultimate Team, but it’s nice that Switch owners actually have the agency to decide whether or not they want to engage with it.

Ultimate Team is a mode you can only play online, which does make that element a challenge for the hybrid Switch system. I have so far been relatively impressed with how seamless reconnecting back to EA’s servers has been. When you come out of sleep mode, all you have to do is click in the right stick and connecting back online happens relatively unobtrusively. As a comparison, this is a better experience than I’ve had playing EA Sports’ latest Madden on PlayStation 5, which has been way more frustrating to connect back to EA’s servers when I boot up the game from rest mode.

Thankfully, even if a lot of modes have online functionality, you can still do a lot in this game without being online. Seasons and tournaments have a mixture of offline and online functionality while also letting you toy around with all kinds of teams and rosters, including a wealth of women’s soccer teams. One of the biggest additions to EA’s soccer games in recent years is the Volta Football mode. After making an avatar, you then play shorter arcade-y games primarily against others online, unlocking new gear and stat points along the way. It’s a cool mode that is very dependent on the Switch EA Sports FC community to be populated. That’s the same story for the Clubs mode, where you use that same avatar to play in games with your online club that you can create with friends. That leads to one of the major downsides of this Switch release: it has no crossplay. All the other releases have some form of crossplay with another console, so Xbox players can play with PlayStation players. The Switch stands alone though. Likely there’s some technical reasoning behind it, but it’s still a big disappointment that might cut the longevity of this game off at the knees. Truth be told, given EA’s history, they shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt with their Nintendo support.

Still, the Switch version of EA Sports FC retains some Switch-specific options. The Local Seasons mode (which was a bullet point in the 2017 FIFA game) allows you to play 1-on-1 games against another Switch owner with the game over a local wireless connection. In handheld play, you can also use the touchscreen to zoom in on the action. That’s neat even if a tad impractical mid-match.

FC24 is only the second ever appearance of EA’s Frostbite engine on the Nintendo Switch, so we were extremely interested to see how it would scale down. The overall results manage to impress despite some caveats. Perhaps the most surprising feature is that both docked and handheld mode output the maximum resolution possible in either of those configurations. Docked turns in a full 1080p and handheld hits the Switch screen’s native 720p. No evidence of dynamic scaling in any of the shots I counted across both cutscenes and gameplay. That being said both of these do run with no anti-aliasing whatsoever, so you’re getting a very raw image that will show obvious stairstep artifacts on straight diagonal lines. Still, getting maximum resolution on a third-party late generation Switch game isn’t common. Obviously the visual details have been cutback to hit that goal and some players don’t hold up as well in closeups, but during gameplay everything looks quite nice.

The biggest concession to make this happen is a shift to 30fps. Prior legacy versions of FIFA on Nintendo Switch did hit 60fps but of course those were unique versions of the game, not running the same engine as the more powerful consoles. It is an unfortunate change, but in a game like this where the action is viewed from far away, prioritizing resolution is in my opinion the right choice. It is also worth noting that this frame rate is rock solid during gameplay. The only time we can see drops is during replays and cutscenes. This is likely caused by the lower camera angle showing more geometry and the depth of field effect used for these sequences. I did also test out the pro camera angle setting, as that features a lower angle than the default camera, and found that the frame rate stayed locked there as well.

EA Sports FC is a tremendous leap in the right direction for soccer games on Switch. It still isn’t on the same level as other versions, but this is the narrowest the gap has been in more than a decade. If you’re looking for a way to play a great soccer game on a portable system with a few compromises, this will get the job done. Hopefully this is the start of EA Sports putting out more of their library on Nintendo platforms, because I’m heartened by how EA Sports FC turned out.


I'm sure recording Monday night will be fine.

John, Neal, and Alex gather at the beginning of what would surely be a normal and not exciting week. Neal gives his thoughts on the Nintendo Direct (having been busy listening to a wide assortment of brass instruments), and John finally has a chance to talk about Starfield. The gang also catches up with their listener mail discussing the price of various online subscriptions.

TalkBack / Metroid Prime: Federation Force Is Great, Actually
« on: September 21, 2023, 12:34:04 PM »

Or how not to launch a spinoff.

2015 was a year of transition for Nintendo for a variety of reasons. The Wii U was definitively a sales bomb, regardless of how well received Splatoon and Super Mario Maker were when they launched to critical and fan acclaim that year. The 3DS was doing okay, but as the system entered its fifth year in the wild, it creaked under the pressure of being Nintendo’s only successful console on the market. We were still two years away from the Nintendo Switch, even if 2015 was the first time we heard mention of the NX - the codename that begot the Switch name when Nintendo revealed it was fervently entering the world of mobile game development.

While good Nintendo games were continually coming out, a few mainstays had been in weird states of transition. Take the Legend of Zelda series, which was being populated by remakes and spin-offs while we all waited for Breath of the Wild to come out. Or more relevant to the topic of this video, take Metroid, which was a beloved hardcore franchise that was seemingly on life support for a decade. Following an early 2000s run that saw three numbered Metroid Prime games, two Prime spinoffs, and two new 2D entries, everything landed with a thud following the release of the Wii game Metroid: Other M. Aside from the well-made Metroid Prime Trilogy collection on Wii, the Metroid series was languishing between indifference and irrelevance. Until E3 2015, where Nintendo announced a new entry in the series and somehow turned indifference into anger and fury.

But I’m not here to stoke that anger - or I guess I am since I’m not mad at Metroid Prime: Federation Force. I’m here to tell you that Metroid Prime: Federation Force is great, actually, but at the same time, the announcement and reveal of the game justifies concern and confusion among fans of the decades-old series. It’s a shame that a quality work such as Federation Force was widely dismissed. I want to spell out what went wrong in its rollout and why this is still a game worth celebrating regardless of its sad place in history.

With 2015 being such a transformative year, Nintendo’s presence at E3 was some amount of a last gasp. The past few years of the notable convention were a series of ups and downs, especially during the Wii U era. In 2012, the launch year for the home console, their booth was packed to the gills with Wii U demo stations, but was conspicuously absent of people. The naive, optimistic young Nintendo reporter that I was back then was stoked at how short the lines were, but in retrospect, it was a harbinger of the lackluster Wii U sales to come. E3 2013 and 2014 were steps in the right direction, with the former highlighting a solid lineup consisting of the likes of Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, and several Smash Bros. reveals. 2014 was arguably Nintendo’s strongest of the Wii U era, hosting a Smash Bros. tournament and demo as well as the fervent reveals of Splatoon and Mario Maker.

That brings us to E3 2015. Following on the heels of the moderate good will of 2014, Nintendo followed a very similar script, kicking things off with the 2015 Nintendo World Championships that included novel competitions and the reveal of EarthBound Beginnings on Wii U Virtual Console and a mysterious game called Blast Ball.

It didn’t take long for folks to piece together how much Blast Ball looked like a first-person Metroid Prime HUD. Within moments, there was hope and speculation for something new in the Metroid series. It had been a half-decade since Metroid Other M and almost a decade since the last brand new Prime game. Surely, Nintendo had something up their sleeves to satiate the Nintendo fans that stuck around during the dismal Wii U era.

As everyone would learn the next day during Nintendo’s E3 2015 Digital Event, this was not your father’s Metroid Prime. This wasn’t really anything that Metroid fans asked for. It was Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a co-op-focused shooter that put you in the mech suit of Galactic Federation soldiers. Samus was nowhere to be seen in the sub-minute-long reveal. This was just a new adventure in the Metroid Prime universe, aiming to launch nine years after Metroid Prime 3 and six years after Samus’ last non-Smash appearance.

To say Federation Force’s announcement was met with a thud is disrespectful to thuds. And even as someone who loves Federation Force, I get it. Metroid as a series had been dormant and there was no promise of more adventures with Samus. There was just this quirky co-op spinoff. Pair that with the rest of the E3 show for Nintendo, which was filled with question marks or poorly received reveals. Star Fox Zero was a headliner. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes paired with Federation Force as another late-in-the-game multiplayer-focused 3DS game. Animal Crossing finally got a Wii U game...that was an amiibo-centric board game. Mario Tennis was back with what we would come to learn was a clear low point for the entire sport of tennis. Metroid Prime’s return in spinoff form was already starting from behind, but the rest of Nintendo’s lineup wasn’t doing it any favors.

I remember being hopeful for Federation Force. The game looked fun! Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon developer Next Level Games was working on it! But at the same time, Nintendo revealed a new game in a beloved series that appeared to play incredibly differently than the acclaimed entries, without any promise or mention of anything else in the works. Federation Force was a red-headed stepchild at announce because of this. And it sucks because Federation Force is great, actually. It’s just different from 2D Metroid and Metroid Prime.

The fan response teetered between confusion and anger. YouTube videos had massive amounts of dislikes and even the optimists were waiting for a Metroid Prime 4 announcement that never came. Hindsight being 20/20, Nintendo likely didn’t have another Metroid game to show during 2015. Metroid: Samus Returns was in development but still over two years away from launch. Metroid Prime 4 was but a twinkle in the eye of series producer Kensuke Tanabe, as even the initial development of the game didn’t likely start until early 2017. There wasn’t anything concrete to reveal alongside Federation Force, and even Tanabe’s comments about the future of the Prime series after Federation Force weren’t enough to cut through the noise.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force was doomed to fail because of the context in which it was announced. There was no rebounding from the deafening furor of the E3 reveal, even if frankly the core gameplay looked fun as hell in multiplayer during the Treehouse segments. The fact that the only playable demo was of Blast Ball was even more of a death knell for the early reception. Blast Ball’s cute, but it’s insubstantial. For better or worse, Federation Force is a sobering tale of how to not announce a spinoff to a longtime franchise.

Nintendo tried to rehab the reveal before the August 2016 launch in a March 2016 Nintendo Direct. It was debatably too little too late, but Tanabe clearly had a passion for this series and this concept. Federation Force ventured to show a different part of the universe, expanding it beyond Samus and Metroid by highlighting the battle between the Galactic Federation and the Space Pirates. Samus was finally confirmed to be a part of the game, but not playable. The attempt at salvaging a dreadful reveal was the best it could be, but it wasn’t enough.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force launched on 3DS on August 18, 2016 to a MetaCritic score of 64, by far the lowest ever for a new Metroid game. It’s worth noting that the second and third highest critic scores actually come from Nintendo World Report’s leadership. Our current Director John Rairdin gave the game a 9/10 and I reviewed it for the magazine Nintendo Force and gave it an 8.5. It does feel fitting that John and I are working together on a video called “Metroid Prime: Federation Force Is Great, Actually.” We have the receipts to prove we mean it.

Now the naysayers have a point because the context for how Federation Force was revealed fell flat and over the course of the year between announcement and launch, Nintendo had no real ability to satiate the desire of fans for a “real Metroid game.” But with the hindsight of years after launch, what makes Federation Force good? Let’s dive into the gameplay and legacy of Project Golem.

First off, the first-person shooter controls on 3DS work great. This does use the nub C-stick on the New 3DS as camera control, but that nub doesn’t work that well. Even with the middling second-stick, the combo of Circle Pad movement, lock-on, and gyro controls make aiming feel wonderful. It takes a lot of learnings about Metroid Prime controls and makes something that lands around the best of both worlds, taking the original Cube controls and the Wii motion of Prime 3 and the remastered Trilogy. Developer Next Level Games clearly can make the 3DS sing after their work on Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and even with the chibi art style, this is a good-looking 3DS game.

The individual missions have a lot of variety, whether you’re trying to corral beasts, protect areas, or find items. I might have said some things when this game came out about it feeling like a natural extension of Metroid Prime and I’ll admit that’s a little crazy talk, but it still feels like it fits in that world. The three planets you visit could easily be a part of the places you explore in the prior Prime games. There’s the ice planet Excelcion, the machine ruins of Talvania, and the volcanic Bion. They assuredly fit the typical tropes of the franchise, especially since most places have long-gone ancient races that left everything in tatters as Space Pirates swoop in to mine the remains.

Now we get to elements of Federation Force that probably sunk it further into a spiral of doom. This is designed to be a multiplayer game, but it truly works best with a full team of four. The difficulty stays consistent no matter if you have one, two, three, or four players. With four, it’s well balanced, staying challenging but not impossible. With two or three, the difficulty can ramp up considerably. As a single player, you have the ability to toggle a mod on or off that gives you double firepower while receiving half damage - making it a great way to level out the challenge if you’re rolling solo. You can even have drones join you too.

By the time Federation Force launched in 2016, the 3DS was more than five years old and was showing its age considerably, especially in terms of online play. I don’t remember the exact specifics of the online landscape the day Federation Force came out but I don’t recall any positive random player experiences. Unless you have a quartet willing to hop online with you, you likely had a bad time trying to find partners to ride the wave beam that is Metroid Prime: Federation Force. It’s a damn shame because when I did pair up with a full squad, I had an absolute blast. But also I ran a Nintendo fan site at the time so finding that group was relatively easy. Even if this was the Metroid game everyone was hyped for, the active online player base wasn’t really there for it on 3DS in the summer of 2016.

Even Blast Ball had a bad beat by the time it came out as part of the final game. While the multiplayer mode is novel in how it is essentially Metroid Prime Soccer, the mode’s lunch was stolen shortly after announcement by the launch of the now-monolithic Rocket League. You could debate about the veracity of comparing the full-fledged online-focused Rocket League to the throwaway side mode of Blast Ball, but no matter what, Blast Ball was done bigger and better a year before the game was even publicly released. Federation Force’s release has a lot of self-owns from Nintendo along the way, but it was truly a perfect storm of Murphy’s Law.

Even with the generally poor reception despite the quality and competency of the game’s core, Federation Force is now a part of the world of Metroid. Maybe it’s a sad chapter, but it’s a chapter nonetheless, filled with a chibi art style and a weird plot obsession with making things bigger that pays off with a final boss being a giant morph ball Samus who is possessed by Space Pirates. And then you fight Master Brain, which may or may not be tied to Aurora Units and not the Mother we all know and love. There’s even a story tease with the mysterious Prime villain Sylux showing up to steal a Metroid. Maybe that will play into Metroid Prime 4? Or maybe we can look forward to another 15 years of wondering who the heck Sylux is and why they matter.

I loved Metroid Prime: Federation Force when it came out and I still love it to this day. It might not be the Metroid game we all wanted, but it’s a fun game for what it is that was released at the absolute wrong time. The multiplayer is awesome when the stars align, and the general variety and story are fun and interesting. You can dismiss this game all you want and while I’ll join you hopefully waiting for Metroid Prime 4 to continue the spectacular solitary adventures last seen in 2007, I’ll always have a fondness for this game and perchance to dream of a world where this was an addition to the world of Prime and not seen as a lone forgotten offshoot. The Federation Force died so Samus could run again. Here’s hoping we don’t have another moment in time like that again.

TalkBack / Picross S+ Bringing 3DS Games to Switch in 2024
« on: September 11, 2023, 11:00:00 PM »

The forthcoming release will collect all nine Picross e games that are now inaccessible after the closure of the 3DS eShop.

The next game in the Picross S series will be Picross S+, a collection of all nine Picross e games that were originally released on the 3DS eShop.

Due out in 2024, Picross S+ will contain the content from Picross e for an estimated price of $4.99 (and equivalent pricing). The other eight releases will be available as DLC for an estimated price of $4.99 each. This will be the first time Picross e9 will be available outside of Japan.

Additionally, developer Jupiter released Logiart Grimoire into early access on PC. The game features Picross-like puzzles and builds off of it with puzzle fusion where you combine the objects you create in puzzles to solve different challenges. Logiart Grimoire will also come to Switch after the early access period.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 379: Super Mario Land, World, and Land 2
« on: September 08, 2023, 10:59:08 AM »

Part 2 of the 2D Mario Game Club

The gang returns to talk about Mario's arrival on the Super Nintendo, along with his two Game Boy titles. Has Super Mario World truely stood the test of time? And are the land games good or just delightfully weird. Find out in this episode of NWR Connectivity!

Podcast Discussion / Episode 378: Sea of English Majors
« on: September 01, 2023, 01:13:38 PM »

And somehow Tears of the Kingdom shows up again.

Alex joins Neal and John to discuss the release of Sea of Stars and our incredibly positive opinions of it. Even John played it... for a few minutes. Alex then touches on his review of Bombrush Cyberfunk before we turn to a small backlog of listener mail.

TalkBack / Little Nightmares 3 Announced for Switch Release in 2024
« on: August 22, 2023, 10:30:06 AM »

Supermassive Games takes over main development duties for the third installment of the Bandai Namco series.

Little Nightmares III is coming to Switch (and other platforms) in 2024, adding co-op play for the first time in the series.

Supermassive Games is developing the title, following their work on porting Little Nightmares II to Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. They also worked on The Dark Pictures Anthology games for Little Nightmares publisher Bandai Namco as well. The series creators Tarsier Studios were bought by an investment group that is owned by games holding company Embracer Group, which is likely why they are not involved with this next entry.

The game follows friends Low and Alone looking to get out of The Nowhere, a locale filled with nightmares of the little (not-so-little) variety. The gameplay hook about Little Nightmares III is that it is playable in co-op with two players. That even extends to the single-player, where the second character is AI controlled.

In addition to the new video game, Bandai Namco also announced a six-episode podcast series called The Sounds of Nightmares that tells an original story in the world. The first two episodes are available now.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 377: Neal Embraces His Inner Sad Dad
« on: August 18, 2023, 10:57:53 AM »

And John can't spell Asobi.

John and Neal reunite after a series of scheduling issues. Without John's weekly guidence we find that Neal has been led astray by the temptations of the world and purchased a Playstation 5.

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