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Gunvolt and the sliding scale of perfection ⊟
Azure Striker Gunvolt is not a Mega Man game, and I mean that in the best way. While it clearly takes inspiration from the series – a blue guy gets weapons from wacky, colorful bosses – developer Inti Creates built on that foundation to create something more flexible, with more room for individual expression and variation on the part of the player.
In that way, it reminds me more of Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien… a game I needed an excuse to write about anyway!

Runner2 maintained the basic gameplay of its predecessor: jump, slide, kick, and block to the beat while automatically running through deadly gauntlets. The sequel improved upon its predecessor by adding more moves, along with totally optional branching paths, hidden items, and analog-controlled bonus loops. You can simply complete a stage – something that requires a total lack of mistakes. Or you can collect all the gold. You could get full scores on all the bonuses; you can even “dance” during free moments to boost your score a lot more. There are many different levels of perfection to achieve, starting with simple survival.
Developer Gaijin Games (now Choice Provisions) kept the gameplay tight and simple, but added multiple avenues for expert players to vary the experience and develop additional mastery. It had a nice side effect of encouraging replays and extending the life of the game.

Gunvolt features the same kind of dynamic, player-controlled difficulty. If you want to simply brute force your way through the levels, it’s not overwhelmingly hard to do so. It’s a lot easier than Mega Man on that level, that’s for sure. The platforming isn’t as extreme, and your shots essentially auto-target – you fire your gun to target enemies, then drain their health with an electric field that arcs to their location. Keeping your field charged is an interesting wrinkle, but rarely a life-or-death challenge. Well, technically. If you still have power, you can auto-dodge attacks (at the expense of some of that power) so I guess it may actually be the difference between life or death. But what I mean is that managing that power isn’t as tense as you might expect, outside of boss fights.
But those systems open up options for virtuoso play. You can play carefully and set up your shots from a safe location, but it’s more fun to dash through the levels at top speed and/or build up impressive combos once you’re comfortable enough. And then you can take on totally optional challenges – complete this stage in this time, etc. – to further test yourself. You can retry levels with new equipment, including the different guns earned from bosses, which vary the number of enemies you can lock on to and the way shots behave.
I like these kinds of systems, because they allow the player to find a difficulty level that suits their expertise and their style of play, without having to make the explicit decision to choose “easy” or “hard.” It’s the same game, but open to different approaches. And, like Runner2, it offers different ways to consider any performance “perfect.” That’s the kind of challenge that makes me want to return to a game.
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Gunvolt and the sliding scale of perfection 

Azure Striker Gunvolt is not a Mega Man game, and I mean that in the best way. While it clearly takes inspiration from the series – a blue guy gets weapons from wacky, colorful bosses – developer Inti Creates built on that foundation to create something more flexible, with more room for individual expression and variation on the part of the player.

In that way, it reminds me more of Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien… a game I needed an excuse to write about anyway!

Read more

Catching up with Magical Beat ⊟
I’ve had Arc System Works’ Magical Beat for a few weeks now, and I haven’t really been able to post impressions for various, totally not exciting reasons. But I wanted to make sure you all knew about this neat Vita puzzler, because its concept totally captured my imagination – and it’s a fun execution of that concept!
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Basically, Magical Beat is a Puyo Puyo-type falling block game in which you drop three-block units to match three or more adjacent blocks, clearing them off the screen and sending junk to your opponent’s side.
The twist is that you have to drop the pieces to the beat of the (J-Poppy, Miku-y) background music. I mean, you don’t have to; but you’ll want to if you want the blocks to actually go where they’re supposed to and not flop disappointingly into random spots on the screen.
This simple change in the puzzle game style – the rhythm element – makes Magical Beat feel totally different from any other puzzle game I’ve played, and makes me wonder why nobody tried such a mashup before.
Sure, there’s Lumines, but with Lumines it’s different. The music and the puzzling meld together in that game to induce a sort of flow state, guiding your brain into effortless block gymnastics while your conscious mind descends into a trance.

Magical Beat’s music, on the other hand, adds pressure, forcing you to be on high alert at all times while you juggle puzzle strategy and rhythm. It’s the anti-Lumines in that the music is almost a disruptive element, a way to make the game more challenging.
It’s not quite at “puzzle game classic” yet – it’ll need a few more iterations with additional single- and multiplayer modes to add variety – but Magical Beat really feels like a worthy puzzle game. It adds something new, or at least combines two old things in a novel way.
BUY PS Vita (Slim/Borderlands 2 bundle), 1-year PS Plus membership, upcoming games

Catching up with Magical Beat ⊟

I’ve had Arc System Works’ Magical Beat for a few weeks now, and I haven’t really been able to post impressions for various, totally not exciting reasons. But I wanted to make sure you all knew about this neat Vita puzzler, because its concept totally captured my imagination – and it’s a fun execution of that concept!

Read more

Don’t sleep on Siesta Fiesta

Siesta Fiesta takes one of the oldest, most iterated but least innovated genres in games, and makes something totally new out of it. And it does this in an upbeat, cute setting with a beautiful presentation that almost seems too graphically impressive for the 3DS. 

I didn’t pay much attention to this game before its release. I’m a big dummy, and I’m telling you now that you shouldn’t be like me.

Siesta Fiesta is basically a Breakout game with a simple twist that CHANGES EVERYTHING FOREVER: instead of requiring you to clear the whole screen to move to the next stage, each stage scrolls from left to right. The goal is not to break everything, but to break as much as you can to get a high score by the end of the stage - while still being careful to preserve your life.

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Shovel Knight: all diggity, no doubt ⊟
I usually prioritize work over games, unless I have a hard deadline for a review. Even then, most of the time. Whenever I get some free time, I’ll play a game for a bit, then turn it off, write a post, and go clean. I usually feel guilty and put the game down before long.
But that didn’t happen with Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight, I couldn’t put down. There is at least one original Tiny Cartridge feature that languishes unfinished in our drafts folder because I couldn’t not be playing Shovel Knight during the time I allotted myself for writing features. This never happens! That’s not a brag, either; I usually cannot relax, it’s a problem.
Shovel Knight is a game made by people who understand all my favorite games better than I do. It wears its influences on its sleeve gauntlet?, referencing everything from Super Mario Bros. 3 to Mega Man to Castlevania to Zelda 2 to Ducktales – but not just to elicit nostalgia. It takes elements from them because they are fun, mashing all the best of the NES’s classics into a surprisingly cohesive whole, with just the right amount of modern technique.
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Like, it’s pretty dang hard to get through each (long!) stage, but there are checkpoints throughout. If you want the extra challenge, you can destroy the checkpoint and get some treasure (treasure is used for weapon, armor, magic, health, and item upgrades), but you will definitely, definitely hate yourself for doing that.
Another nicety you wouldn’t find in a genuine retro game: infinite lives. When you die, you lose some money that you can pick up again, and you start over at the last checkpoint. An elegant system like this makes me wonder why games punished us with limited lives for so long, after the advent of home consoles obviated the need to incentivize putting more coins into arcade machines.

It’s also easy to get healing potions before any level (along with a potion that makes you temporarily invincible, or one that attracts treasure to you/wastes a space you could use for healing); though there were a few times I accidentally wasted my healing “ichor” deep within a level and got frustrated, it never compared to the frustration of having to, like, save up for them or worse, find them. It let me get on with the business of playing, and I appreciate that. The Troupple King that fills your Ichor Chalices for free will also treat you to a lovely dance if you ask.
More than anything, though, I think what makes Shovel Knight such an addictively transcendent game is the difficulty curve. It’s just… perfect. Rarely have I ever played a game in which I could so clearly, noticeably do just a little bit better every time I died. I miss a jump, die, and nail it the next time. I replay a level to farm treasure, and find myself flying through it like an acrobat, albeit a shovel-toting acrobat in heavy armor MOVING ON. 

It’s worth noting that I played the 3DS version, of course and found that the perfect venue. When I got frustrated, I could just snap the 3DS closed and open it again a few minutes later, able to jump right back in.
If you have even a passing interest in 2D platformers or action games, I can’t recommend Shovel Knight enough. It would be easy to mistake it for something that trades on nostalgia, especially with the pixel-perfect NES look and the instant-classic soundtrack, but it isn’t.
It’s a game that demonstrates mastery of the design concepts that made us love the games we’re nostalgic about. Plus lots of puns, shovel-based and otherwise.
Note: Eric experienced a couple of crashes/glitches when playing the 3DS version; I never had a problem. With free DLC on the way, I would expect whatever this is to be patched out as well.
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Shovel Knight: all diggity, no doubt ⊟

I usually prioritize work over games, unless I have a hard deadline for a review. Even then, most of the time. Whenever I get some free time, I’ll play a game for a bit, then turn it off, write a post, and go clean. I usually feel guilty and put the game down before long.

But that didn’t happen with Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight, I couldn’t put down. There is at least one original Tiny Cartridge feature that languishes unfinished in our drafts folder because I couldn’t not be playing Shovel Knight during the time I allotted myself for writing features. This never happens! That’s not a brag, either; I usually cannot relax, it’s a problem.

Shovel Knight is a game made by people who understand all my favorite games better than I do. It wears its influences on its sleeve gauntlet?, referencing everything from Super Mario Bros. 3 to Mega Man to Castlevania to Zelda 2 to Ducktales – but not just to elicit nostalgia. It takes elements from them because they are fun, mashing all the best of the NES’s classics into a surprisingly cohesive whole, with just the right amount of modern technique.

Read more

Tiny Review: New PS Vita ⊟
We used to do a lot of reviews in a list format that accentuated what was “fab” versus what was “butt.” I’ll be using a variation of that format for this review, based on how it compares to the original model.
I’ve covered a lot of Nintendo handhelds in the past, and comparing them is usually much simpler: this one’s big, this one doesn’t fold, this one has a camera, etc.; whereas Sony handheld changes tend to be less clear in their direction. Some things get better, some things get worse, some things are just different. It’s a lot more of a lateral move, I guess.
Basically, this format works well for a device that I really can’t make any strong definitive conclusions about. It’s a Vita!

PS Vita Slim on the right
Here’s what I like about it:
It’s thinner and lighter! As a result, it’s a lot more comfortable for my tiny baby hands to hold. All the buttons are the same size and in the same place, and the screen is the same size, so there’s no drawback related to the slight reduction in size. 
Also adding to the comfort is the new curved design. It’s a bit more contoured around the sides (as opposed to the original Vita, which is in no way contoured), an issue I didn’t even notice until I held the new one.
The connector between the Vita and the AC adaptor is a regular-ass Micro USB instead of whatever it was before. It should be much, much cheaper to replace in the event of loss or dog.
1GB of onboard memory makes the thing slightly more usable if you don’t have a memory card (even though you do have a memory card, since the Borderlands 2 bundle comes with an 8GB one). 
The little pulsating blue light is on top of the unit instead of on the PS button. I don’t know why I like that better. Maybe just because it’s different.
PS Vita Slim on the top
Here’s what I don’t like as much:
The LCD screen isn’t as vivid… at least, not when I’m staring at both of them doing the same thing. It looks great on its own, but I might be slightly spoiled by the OLED screen’s wildly oversaturated colors.
The front of the Vita is no longer one continuous piece of glass/plastic. There’s a visible bezel around the screen. This is good for fingerprints, but not as good for the overall aesthetic.
Still uses Vita memory cards instead of cheaper standards. Okay, that’s not really a gripe at the new model, but it’s not a discussion of Vita hardware without those expensive-ass memory cards.
In conclusion, such as it is: if you don’t have a Vita and you go out and get this one, you’re going to be happy! It’s comfortable, looks great, and happens to be a great value right now (with a free game and a free memory card). If you have the current Vita, I don’t think the incremental changes are enough to justify a new purchase. Screen aside, it’s an upgrade, but not a major one.
BUY PS Vita Slim / Borderlands 2 bundle, upcoming games

Tiny Review: New PS Vita ⊟

We used to do a lot of reviews in a list format that accentuated what was “fab” versus what was “butt.” I’ll be using a variation of that format for this review, based on how it compares to the original model.

I’ve covered a lot of Nintendo handhelds in the past, and comparing them is usually much simpler: this one’s big, this one doesn’t fold, this one has a camera, etc.; whereas Sony handheld changes tend to be less clear in their direction. Some things get better, some things get worse, some things are just different. It’s a lot more of a lateral move, I guess.

Basically, this format works well for a device that I really can’t make any strong definitive conclusions about. It’s a Vita!

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Review: Kirby Triple Deluxe ⊟
Kirby Triple Deluxe has almost certainly been in the works since the early days of the 3DS. It’s absolutely loaded with 3D gimmickry – stuff going in and out of the screen with all the subtlety of those old 3D Three Stooges shorts. These days, nobody really puts in the effort to sell the “3D” aspect of the 3DS, and the arrival of the 2DS has all but deprecated the feature anyway. So this game must have been made before the world cooled on 3D.
Triple Deluxe is also really beautiful and polished, another point suggesting that it’s been cooking a while. 

The 3D gimmick is the distinguishing feature here that makes Triple Deluxe stand out from previous Kirbies. But it’s not an annoying 3D gimmick, and doesn’t rely on stereoscopic stuff at all. Like Mutant Mudds, Triple Deluxe takes place on two planes, one in the foreground and one in the background, and you can travel between them with special Warp Stars placed throughout. Not only does this look cool, it adds an interesting bit of complexity to the level design, along with the enjoyable tease of visible treasure just out of reach in the other plane. 
image via Maxxie
Stuff also flies in and out of the screen, like enemies, environmental hazards and the occasional splattered Kirby. The creatures in Kirby’s world are simple, and therefore scale really well. The whole thing just looks nice!
It plays “nice” too. Well, thanks for reading my professional, expert review, everybody! Okay, kidding, I’ll try to be a bit more coherent than that. What I mean is that Kirby has a bajillion copy abilities, as usual, and he has just SO MANY moves that he can do with each. Dash moves, air moves, charge moves… it’s like a fighting game. It’s no surprise, by the way, that there is a local multiplayer fighting game mode in which you can face off against other Kirbies using chosen copy abilities!
Let’s use one of the new ones, Bell, as an example. Kirby can swing handbells in a combo attack, throw them out as projectiles (a few different kinds of projectiles, for that matter), and launch an area of effect attack that sends sound waves out on either side. 
The fact that there’s so much to do with each ability, all of it feeling totally different, makes it inherently rewarding to play the game. It’s just fun to pick up a new ability and learn it.
image via I Heart Nintendo
There’s a super special ability called “Hypernova” that pops up in specific places, and turns Kirby’s eating power into a ridiculous vortex, allowing him to devour enemies, bosses, buildings, scenery, etc. 
I complained about the super abilities in the last Kirby game, and how they made it feel pointlessly easy. Hypernova is a lot more satisfying than that, partly because it’s used in really funny setpieces (like eating a pile of enemies through an enormous crazy straw) but partly because it’s not an instant kill switch, but rather a mechanic. Kirby’s Hypernova is used to destroy tons of enemies, but also to move huge objects around levels, like putting a giant snowman head on a snowman body.
In general, I think this is emblematic of the main difference between my experience with this game and with Return to Dreamland. The Wii game just felt too easy to me, and not just in the traditional, expected Kirby way. It felt like I was floating through the game totally unobstructed. 
Whereas Triple Deluxe offers, if not difficulty per se, enough friction that I actually feel the impacts of all those fun attacks I want to use, enhancing the fun. It may be a distinction only in my head, but it’s real to me. Whatever intangible difference there is between these two (very similar games), it led to one being kind of a blah experience and the other being my favorite traditional Kirby to date.
I smiled through every play session. Even the few times I died! And after I finished the game, I felt just lovely, refreshed. Like I’d taken a nap and had really vivid dreams.
MaxxBUY Kirby: Triple Deluxe ($5 off!), upcoming releases

Review: Kirby Triple Deluxe

Kirby Triple Deluxe has almost certainly been in the works since the early days of the 3DS. It’s absolutely loaded with 3D gimmickry – stuff going in and out of the screen with all the subtlety of those old 3D Three Stooges shorts. These days, nobody really puts in the effort to sell the “3D” aspect of the 3DS, and the arrival of the 2DS has all but deprecated the feature anyway. So this game must have been made before the world cooled on 3D.

Triple Deluxe is also really beautiful and polished, another point suggesting that it’s been cooking a while. 

Read more

Tiny Review: Hatsune Miku Project Diva f ⊟
The Hatsune Miku game, just released on PS Vita (PSN-only), is a really intense sensory overload experience, and a simple-to-understand but exciting rhythm game.
It’s also a perfect illustration of the difference between translation and localization.

In localization, a game is altered in some ways to make it not just palatable to the new target market, but legible in the first place. Sometimes this goes overboard (Eat your hamburgers, Apollo), but most of the time it helps, say, Western gamers understand the important parts of a game without having to rely on cultural background knowledge they don’t have.
A translation, on the other hand, just takes a product and puts it in a new language, with no regard for culture. Hatsune Miku Project Diva f is translated just enough to be playable: the menus and tutorial text are all in English, but everything else is exactly as it would be for a Japanese release.
Even the lyrics of the songs, which are one of the many, many, many elements filling the screen during gameplay, are presented not in English, but in transliterated Japanese syllables. You can read it, but not understand it.
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That’s the most extreme example, but there are more subtle things. Like the fact that the game just expects everyone playing it to know who Hatsune Miku and all her friends are. Normally with a Japanese licensed property, I’d expect some kind of introduction to the characters, or background about their story, something like that.
There’s nothing of the sort here. There’s an intro video showing all the characters interacting, but no explanation of who they are or why they’re doing any of these things. Miku is moving into a new house! She’s nervous! Okay?
I have a really limited understanding of Miku – just the basics, that she’s an avatar for a vocal synthesis software, and all her friends are different voices that can be programmed to sing whatever Japanese syllables, and that she’s become so popular that she headlines concerts. And even that’s more than I’d get from this game, which just drops you straight into hardcore Miku fandom.
And I think that’s the right choice. For one thing, the people who would buy a Hatsune Miku game in America are the people who want things as Japanese as possible, with only minor concessions for comprehension. Miku is a totally Japanese phenomenon, best appreciated over here (I imagine) by people who already have a working knowledge of Japanese culture.
And anyway, even as a relative Miku noob, I find the immersion approach to the phenomenon pleasant. I don’t know who the hell any of these people are, or who made all these songs that sound like anime ending themes, or anything, and the deep dive into this uncharted territory is fascinating to me. I might end up reading about all these Vocaloids now!

Oh yeah, so about the part where you play a rhythm game. Man, what an overwhelming thing. I totally get what air traffic controllers feel like from playing this video game about computer anime singers, and that’s definitely not an exaggeration at all. Basically, you tap the face buttons and occasionally the screen in time to icons on the screen. But those icons fly in from all over, often unpredictably, in rapid fire. And they display over brightly colored FMV. Under that, the lyrics in transliterated Japanese show up. And you get messages alerting you to a “technical zone” or “chance zone” (these vary, but basically they’re chances to get more points). 
This is not a rhythm game to wind down with at the end of the day. This isn’t something you can mindlessly tap away at. At least for me, Project Diva f demands full attention, and leaves me feeling temporarily dazed after every session. And I love it!
I mean, after I got through my first session and had a better idea what I was in for. That first time, I admit I wasn’t sure I had the constitution for it.
There’s a lot of other stuff in here, like a mode where you decorate your character’s room, a mode where you touch their faces to build friendships, and an edit mode where you can make your own videos and use you own MP3 songs!
But i haven’t messed with any of that stuff, at least not very much. The rhythm game is quite enough for me. Between the onslaught of visual and auditory information and the complete lack of context, it’s a little too much for me.
This article was made possible by the generous donations from our Club Tiny members and support from readers like you!
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Tiny Review: Hatsune Miku Project Diva f ⊟

The Hatsune Miku game, just released on PS Vita (PSN-only), is a really intense sensory overload experience, and a simple-to-understand but exciting rhythm game.

It’s also a perfect illustration of the difference between translation and localization.

Read more

Danganronpa: The Ultimate High School Murder Mystery ⊟
Note: This isn’t really a review of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc for PS Vita, because I’m nowhere near finished with it. I have put in enough time that I’m confident about having played a representative sample, but I didn’t want to be disingenous about having a complete picture of the game. I’m still playing it! I don’t want to rush!
I always want to be a visual novel fan, but it rarely works out. I bailed out of 999 after I got stuck during a plane ride with no idea how to solve a puzzle. I’ve tried over the years, but the only ones that really stuck were the Phoenix Wright games (and Jake Hunter).
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc just refuses to let me lose interest. It’s utterly crammed with weird gameplay mechanics, constantly introducing a new minigame or adding a layer of complexity to one that’s already been introduced. That’s not always a good idea, but it’s always interesting.
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Danganronpa is basically 999: The New Class. Fifteen teens, all “ultimate” masters of a skill that lends itself to an anime stereotype (the Ultimate Baseball Star, the Ultimate Pop Idol, the Ultimate Fanfic Creator) are locked in a sealed school, watched at all times by an evil, remote controlled teddy bear named Monokuma. Their only hope of escape: if a student can murder another without being caught, that student will “graduate” and be set free. 
Chihiro Fujisaki, Ultimate Programmer (via dontmindmeyo)
So you, as “Ultimate Lucky Student”/regular dude Makoto Naegi, work with the others to search the school for clues – both to the overarching mystery of why anyone would do this, and to the more immediate mystery of whodunit in each chapter.
The game is neatly divided three ways: sometimes you’re searching the school for clues to move the story forward; sometimes you have “free time” and you can chat with other students to build friendships, Persona style; and at the end of every chapter you present your evidence in a “class trial” to identify which of your fellow students is a murderer.
The “free time” and investigation segments are pretty self explanatory, although while I was playing the other day Eric was telling me he was maxing out relationship levels with some of the other students, and I didn’t realize those existed. Whoops! But the trials, while focusing on reading testimony and presenting evidence to point out contradictions, veer wildly from Ace Attorney territory in execution.
Under the threat of a (generous) timer, you listen to testimony, then choose a “truth bullet” to fire directly into a statement, making sure to tap the screen to get unimportant background statements out of the way. Then after you’ve successfully identified the culprit, you dismiss their final protests in a rhythm game. Then you recount the events of the murder by placing comic panels in the right order. I’m probably forgetting some stuff in there.
via TempoKnight / Fuck Yeah, Controversial Characters
Basically, it’s a total smorgasbord. And it’s fast and twitchy and exciting, while also requiring logic and thought. I don’t think all of those things need to be in the trials, and I don’t think they’re all perfectly executed, but enough of it works, and some of it works really well!
The outcomes of the trials are so far hella surprising too. The plot throws in twist after twist in a valiant effort to keep players from figuring everything out too early. Maybe this exposes me as a dumbo, but the first case completely surprised me at least twice!
Not only are the cases cleverly written, but the characters are interesting too. The game definitely started with the templates of “anime stereotypes,” but even that is a sort of misdirection, as the cardboard cutouts (oh, and they’re literally flat on screen like Parappa characters) slowly reveal themselves to be somewhat multifaceted people, some likeable, some weird jerks, but all more than just the stereotypes they represent. They aren’t always treated with respect in the story, and I don’t just mean because they’re murdered. It’s a spoiler to discuss it further, but I’ll say that I was disappointed with the way one in particular was characterized.
Oh, and somehow, despite being an incredibly grim story with lots of really awful murders, endless despair, and such, Danganronpa manages to be pretty funny! I appreciate that.
Bearing in mind my self-acknowledged lack of visual novel expertise, even I can tell that Danganronpa is Spike Chunsoft desperately throwing everything it can into a game in an effort to force the genre to evolve. While the resulting mashup of everything on earth can be pretty uneven, the experience, I guess, averages out to something really great.
This article was made possible by the generous donations from our Club Tiny members and the support we’ve received from readers like you!
BUY PS Vita, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, upcoming games

Danganronpa: The Ultimate High School Murder Mystery ⊟

Note: This isn’t really a review of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc for PS Vita, because I’m nowhere near finished with it. I have put in enough time that I’m confident about having played a representative sample, but I didn’t want to be disingenous about having a complete picture of the game. I’m still playing it! I don’t want to rush!

I always want to be a visual novel fan, but it rarely works out. I bailed out of 999 after I got stuck during a plane ride with no idea how to solve a puzzle. I’ve tried over the years, but the only ones that really stuck were the Phoenix Wright games (and Jake Hunter).

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc just refuses to let me lose interest. It’s utterly crammed with weird gameplay mechanics, constantly introducing a new minigame or adding a layer of complexity to one that’s already been introduced. That’s not always a good idea, but it’s always interesting.

Read more

Threes is your new iOS jam ⊟

We don’t talk about iPhone games too much on TC, but sometimes I’m driven to because they’re so dang fucking good, like Threes is. It’s definitely a tiny game on a tiny device (or an iPad WHATEVER) so I don’t think it strays too far from our mission! And you should totally get it if you can!

Threes is the work of Puzzlejuice designer Asher Vollmer and Puzzlejuice/Ridiculous Fishing/Solipskier artist Greg Wohlwend, which tells you right away it’s a) going to have a clean, colorful look, and b) it’s an intuitive-as-hell puzzle game.

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Tiny Review - Zelda: A Link Between Worlds ⊟
You don’t need us to tell you The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is amazing. Almost every reviewer (except maybe Destructoid) agrees it’s top tier, and you likely have the 3DS game shipping your way if it’s not already in your hands anyway. But since some of you insisted on Twitter, we’ll play our part as the arbiters of what’s fun on handhelds.
We’ve previously talked at length about all the changes Nintendo’s made to the Zelda formula have all been for the better: the Link-turns-into-a-drawing mechanic allows for new and creative puzzles, immediate equipment rentals let you explore the way you want to, and the game is full of welcome tweaks to streamline the experience. Since we’ve gone over all that, let’s just get to the usual bullet list of arbitrary observations.
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Four things that are fab:
Rumor Guy. I wish he had more gossip, or that he was in every single Nintendo game just talking a whole bunch of mess about other characters.
The music that plays during that minigame in which you have to rush across the map before time runs out. Actually the whole soundtrack is choice.
Everything about the Thieves’ Hideout. The clever way you sneak in (piece together a tune sung by nearby hoodlums), the escort puzzles, and the boss. One of the best Zelda dungeons of all time.
A collect-a-thon I enjoyed! The game makes you actually want to find Mother MaiMai’s 100 children and trade them in for weapon upgrades.

thousands of pro bloggers care to differ
Two things that are butt:
Predictable weapons. Most of them are carried over from A Link to the Past. I prefer having weird items, like Phantom Hourglass' Bombchu Bag or Twilight Princess' Spinner.
The Swamp dungeon was no fun. No surprise there.
Score:

image via hellfire_dj
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Tiny Cartridge’s review of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is based on a copy provided by Nintendo.

Tiny Review - Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

You don’t need us to tell you The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is amazing. Almost every reviewer (except maybe Destructoid) agrees it’s top tier, and you likely have the 3DS game shipping your way if it’s not already in your hands anyway. But since some of you insisted on Twitter, we’ll play our part as the arbiters of what’s fun on handhelds.

We’ve previously talked at length about all the changes Nintendo’s made to the Zelda formula have all been for the better: the Link-turns-into-a-drawing mechanic allows for new and creative puzzles, immediate equipment rentals let you explore the way you want to, and the game is full of welcome tweaks to streamline the experience. Since we’ve gone over all that, let’s just get to the usual bullet list of arbitrary observations.

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Tiny Review: Tearaway ⊟
Tearaway feels like a AAA game. I don’t necessarily mean that in terms of production values, but rather in the sense that, like the stereotype of modern big-budget games, Media Molecule’s Vita platformer is strictly linear, guiding you from spectacle to spectacle as smoothly as possible. It is, to use the common comparison, an amusement park ride, complete with occasional keepsake photos.
But I’m not denouncing this game, despite its trivial combat, nonexistent challenge and rudimentary puzzles. For once, that kind of handholding is okay because Tearaway uses this AAA framework not to show us, like, how simultaneously cool and sad war is or whatever, but to show us something beautiful.
And it’s really, really beautiful. 

Three things that are fab:
As you play Tearaway, you find “blank” items and characters that, when photographed with the in-game camera, unlock a papercraft model on tearaway.me. You can make physical mementos of the things you saw in the game! The commingling of the physical world with the in-game world is not only appropriate to the setting of the game (which puts your face inside the sun and has you poking your fingers into the world to move objects via the rear touchpad), it results in cute stuff on your desk.
Tearaway makes some of the smartest use yet of the Vita’s various inputs. The aforementioned rear touchpad use is hilarious and cool, and accompanied by lots and lots of touchscreen stuff. It’s all totally intuitive, as you pull on tabs to unfold paper staircases and pull rolled paper bridges out between platforms. And, of course, draw and cut out decorations to apply to yourself and other characters.
The ending isn’t exactly a shock, but talking about it too much might still be kind of spoilery. So I’ll just say it’s gorgeous and perfect.

Three things that are butt:
Combat really is simple to such a degree that it’s unnecessary. Occasionally some little cube guys will show up, and you dodge them, then pick them up and throw them. Every time. Later, you get even more attacks you can use, and the enemies don’t really get any more complicated.
As cool as the rear touchpad is in this game, it’s still the rear touchpad, and can be finicky. It frequently just lost track of my fingers while I was pushing a platform around, or tracked another finger I didn’t realize was on the touchpad.
The in-game camera item is great, with all kinds of optional filters and lenses that you can unlock… but the other camera, the one that, like, shows you where you are on screen while you’re moving around, is pretty frustrating. Even though death is totally not a big deal in this game, it’s annoying to die because the camera swung around right before a pit.
Score:

A moose whose pelt is a picture of my cats
BUY PS Vita, Tearaway, upcoming games
Tiny Cartridge’s review of Tearaway is based on a copy provided by Sony.

Tiny Review: Tearaway ⊟

Tearaway feels like a AAA game. I don’t necessarily mean that in terms of production values, but rather in the sense that, like the stereotype of modern big-budget games, Media Molecule’s Vita platformer is strictly linear, guiding you from spectacle to spectacle as smoothly as possible. It is, to use the common comparison, an amusement park ride, complete with occasional keepsake photos.

But I’m not denouncing this game, despite its trivial combat, nonexistent challenge and rudimentary puzzles. For once, that kind of handholding is okay because Tearaway uses this AAA framework not to show us, like, how simultaneously cool and sad war is or whatever, but to show us something beautiful.

And it’s really, really beautiful. 

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Vacation

Crying • Get Olde

Get Olde is my favorite chiptune release of the year, and I don’t want you to miss it — not like Dannel and I almost did, when someone sent us a link weeks ago and we forgot to check it out. Absolutely play through the entire thing, then do it again and again and again.

I struggled in deciding whether to declare this 2013’s best chip album so far, or dull my praise by qualifying it as my favorite. I don’t want to burden Crying’s debut release with impossible expectations and undeserved resentment from fans of other groups, so I’ll settle for the latter statement.

My tastes in the genre are very specific, and this surprise release from the Purchase, NY trio hits them all — chirpy Game Boy tunes paired with traditional instruments (Ryan Galloway on guitar, Nick Corbo on drums), servicable vocals, playful but personal lyrics, and catchy choruses.

Crying’s frontwoman Elaiza Santos goes far and beyond servicable, though, lending the kind of female voice to a video game life’s soundtrack that I haven’t heard much outside of Leeni on "Nice Young Man" or Jane Pinckard on The 1UP Show’s theme song (not actually a chip track, but I always imagine her singing over this cover).

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  • Source Bandcamp