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By Stephen Hilger, April 10, 2014 0 News, PC, PS4

Supergiant Games, makers of the indie hit Bastion, have recently unveiled a release date for their upcoming turn-based action RPG: Transistor.

On the developer’s website, Supergiant has stated that Transistor‘s release date will be May 20. The game will be available for both PlayStation 4 and PC for $19.99.

Most importantly, Supergiant will be discussing Transistor in even more detail this weekend at PAX East. What a coincidence! Some of our very own Pixelitis staff will be there too. Stay posted for more information and discoveries.

Transistor seems  visually similar to Bastion but the aesthetic leans towards sci-fi rather than the frontier-western-dystopia we all know and love. In addition to its addicting simple gameplay, Bastion also made a name for itself with its narrator-driven story and stellar soundtrack. While Transistor seems to be a very different game than its predecessor, the game is certainly in good hands.

I think we’re in for a treat come May 20.

By Stephen Hilger, April 10, 2014 5 Features, Humor, Staff Musings

(Editor’s note: Following Tuesday’s major Super Smash Bros. reveal, our very own Stephen Hilger decided to channel Captain Falcon in what he believes would be the F-Zero superstar’s feelings on his glaring omission from the game’s roster. Think of this as a humorous editorial, rather than the ravings of a madman…)

To Whom It May Concern,

I debated for hours whether to address this letter to Nintendo, Namco Bandai, Sora Ltd, Masahiro Sakurai himself, the fans or my fellow smash bros, but since you’ve all stopped replying to my calls, tweets and Xanga messages, I thought I’d publish my thoughts for all to see.

Now reader, if you have the time, I’d love to show you my feelings

One question in particular bothers me:

WHY HAVE I NOT BEEN CONFIRMED FOR THE NEXT SUPER SMASH BROS?!

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By Stephen Hilger, April 7, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

When Shadow of the Colossus first came out for the PlayStation 2, it was not immediately touted as the instant classic that it is today. It didn’t reach Citizen Kane levels of appreciation until at least a generation later.

But is Shadow of the Colossus one of the best games of all time?

While games like God of War revel in action and gratuitous satisfaction, Shadow of the Colossus is a very minimalist work despite its grandiose battles. There’s no urgency for the player to arrive at the next colossus fight, but exploring the world created by Fumito Ueda is an absorbing and rich experience. One might get frustrated at the game’s lack of direction, yet the game’s freedom makes all victories, failures, and discoveries feel organically unique to the player.

Really, I don’t need to sing the game’s praises past that. The graphics live up remarkably well, the soundtrack is captivating and the design of both the colossi and the Wanderer is top notch.

My only qualm with this game is the horse, Agro. I’ve mentioned how poorly this steed controls before, but I genuinely feel like Agro is the only thing wrong with this game. I do appreciate the realism the game tries to offer by causing the hero to often lose balance and struggle with his sword while on horseback, but there’s no reason Agro should control like unresponsive tar.

Otherwise, yea, the game’s a masterpiece.

By Stephen Hilger, March 31, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

 (Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Throughout Super Mario Bros.’ history, Nintendo has been constantly prodding at Luigi’s feelings of inadequacy. Finally, after a decade of being in Mario’s shadow, Nintendo threw Luigi a bone and gave him a starring role with GameCube launch title Luigi’s Mansion.

While this was certainly a nice gesture by Nintendo for the faded, lime-green plumber, Luigi now had the crushing responsibility of selling the GameCube. His game would ultimately get compared to Super Mario 64 and had the task of following the golden legacy of the Nintendo 64. No wonder he looks so scared on the box art.

Luigi’s Mansion was the first small disc I put into my GameCube, and while it didn’t set any legendary standards like Mario 64, it’s still a very fun game. I remember being blown away by the visuals. The mansion itself was full of wonderfully minute details. I remember spending hours vacuuming every nook and cranny to see what surprises were creeping up in the dust-filled corner.

The ghost-capturing concept was unique, and while the mansion was by no means scary, I was always on the edge of my seat. Though in retrospect, the giant baby ghost was kind of unsettling.

The game’s a bit too short, and I can’t fully recommend a game where the ‘A’ button simply lets you know how scared you are. But, if for some reason you missed this title and are brave enough to venture into the overlooked corners of the past, you might find some gold. Or dust.

By Stephen Hilger, March 24, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Fighting games seem to draw a very polarized audience.

On one side of the spectrum, you have the competitive players who will spend days studying combos and placing characters into competitive tiers. And then you have the people that simply treat the controller’s buttons like a game of Whack-a-Mole, waiting to see what their character does as a result of their random button-mashing.

Oddly enough, Soul Calibur II rewards both styles of play.

Nowadays, I feel that some fighters are purposely hard to pick up and play in order to wane off button mashers. Randomly mashing attacks will get you virtually nowhere in a game like Street Fighter IV or Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

With Soul Calibur II, the game certainly plays better if you know what you are doing but the fighting commands are simple enough (horizontal slash, vertical slash, kick) that anyone can learn how to play properly simply through his or her own intuition.

More importantly, while I greatly enjoy the first and third Soul Calibur, the second installment is the definitive experience. Launching on all three systems (Gamecube, Xbox and PlayStation 2) was a great idea that was only further reaped by the guest character unique to each system.

While I could think of better candidates for Microsoft and Sony than Heihachi and Spawn, a game that lets you play as Link is doing something right.

By Stephen Hilger, March 18, 2014 0 Features, Opinion, Retro, Staff Musings

For all intents and purposes, a story’s protagonist is one of the most important pieces of the narrative puzzle. In games, that distinction carries even more weight, as everything the hero experiences, so does the player – what they see, hear, feel and do.

In the time spent playing, the player is the hero.

Over the years, playable characters have evolved from dots on the screen to the three dimensional characters we now know and love. But what makes us love them? What invests us in their desires and makes us want to guide them there with our controllers?

Ultimately, the necessary qualities that make a successful hero depend largely on the game, and even then, taste in character is subjective. While Mario is the perfect candidate for his happy platforming games, some people might opt for Leon Kennedy as their knight in shining, horror-filled pleather.

That being said, there are traits that make a bad hero; not in the sense of their morality, but in their ineffectiveness.

For example, I’ve recently been playing a hefty amount of Square Enix’s Bravely Default, and for a game developed by a company known for compelling stories and gripping characters, I’ve been taken aback at how bland some of the heroes are.

Considering that particular Japanese role-playing game is more than 60 hours long, characters are very important. I don’t want to ride an airship with just anybody.

Rather than simply dispensing rage, it’s probably a good time to take a step back and attempt to objectively analyze what makes a good hero and what exactly about some of the cast of Bravely Default doesn’t stack up.

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By Stephen Hilger, March 17, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Whatever happens in life, I take a strange comfort knowing that I will never beat Battletoads & Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team.

I purchased a copy of Battletoads: Double Dragon well after its release, though it was still in the early enough 2000′s that a store selling SNES cartridges in a bin wasn’t an ultra rare thing to do.

The game, as the title suggests, allies Double Dragon‘s Jimmy and Billy with the Zitz, Rash and Pimple of Battletoads fame. Both parties are side-scrolling legends, so this crossover title was a bit of a supergroup among videogame ultra-stars from the 90′s.

While Double Dragon is one the quintessential beat ‘em up series, Battletoads is more well known for its infamous difficulty over innovation.

What stems from combining the two is essentially an awesome game that’s just slightly less difficult than the traditional Battletoads experience.

I could never get past the third level, but in a way, I don’t want to. This is one of those games you’d spend hours trying to beat with a friend, accidentally beating up the other’s character which would then lead to a real-life kerfuffle.

This kind of game will always be fun, though it is a requirement to play with a friend. And if you guys get past level three, can you tell me what happens? Those girls with the whips are tough.

By Stephen Hilger, March 10, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

What is there to say about the game that had everything? Diddy Kong Racing rooted itself on the Mario Kart formula and reached for the stars. In the era where everyone was aping both Mario 64 and Mario Kart, Rare somehow managed to one-up both games with Banjo-Kazooie and Diddy Kong Racing.

Racetracks in the game featured a wide variety of themes ranging from dinosaur-filled deserts to an aquatic, pirate-paradise. Items, when stocked, were upgradable which added a nice bit of strategy to the otherwise thoughtless process of using items. And though the hovercraft handled like burning garbage, the option to race by land, air or sea is one more racing games should offer.

All this praise, of course, excludes the main thing the separates Diddy Kong Racing from all its competitors: the adventure. Diddy Kong Racing managed to make its single-player experience an engaging adventure game that used racing to glue everything together. The hub world is full of collectibles and secrets, and is just fun to explore.

Other than the tragically forgotten Crash Team Racing, I have yet to see another racing game that seamlessly meshed this many genres.

It’s also funny to see Banjo and Conker in their humble beginnings. I only wish some of the other characters got their own games. I would’ve love to play a game as that awesome turtle. Or maybe a side-scrolling brawler as that crocodile that looks like Roger Klotz.

By Stephen Hilger, March 3, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

My NES library was handed to me at birth, including a modest library of titles ranging from the legendary classic Mario/Duck Hunt to the abysmally atrocious LJN Beetlejuice (though the soundtrack is pretty catchy). Wrecking Crew was in the upper tier and, to this day, is one of my favorite early memories of Nintendo.

The title stars Mario and Luigi supposedly in their side-job as construction workers. Nothing can be that simple for the Mario brothers though, so their blue-collar workdays are filled with traps, monsters, and bipedal eggplant-men.

The goal is destroy all breakable things before the time runs out or you become a victim of one of the sentient produce. Some constructions (such as ladders) have multiple uses so one must plan ahead the order in which they will “wreck” things.

Like any puzzle game, it gets more complicated as you go on, but the whole thing is wonderfully simple 8-bit fun with a great, nostalgic soundtrack. I think it’d still be popular today; in fact, I could totally see it working well on a tablet or smart phone. Touch screens and demolishing things always seems to work well.

Also, I believe this is the game that inspired the birth of Wario. The recurring antagonist is a yellow-dressed, chubby fellow named Foreman Spike. It’s interesting to see where ideas are formed. And who knows? Maybe we’ll see Foreman Spike in Mario Kart 27 on the Wii U 2.

By Stephen Hilger, February 27, 2014 0 , , , ,

It’s risky bringing retro back to modernity. While Capcom is no amateur at rejuvenating old series, Strider is a bit more obscure and harder to handle than a better known franchise like Street Fighter or Resident Evil.

The paradox of Strider Hiryu himself is that he’s been around forever but has only starred in a handful of games, including this self-titled 2014 installment. Despite his smaller library of games, Strider has gone on to make cameos in dozens of games, most notably the Marvel vs. Capcom series. In a sense, he is the Boba Fett of videogames; earning most of his screen time and stardom due to excellent character design.

That being said, there’s no doubt that the Strider games have made their mark on history. But how does this new entry from Double Helix hold up? Does Strider finally belong in the spotlight, or is this spotlight twenty years too late?

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