During the summer of 2013, RedLynx’s massively addictive racing-platformer Trials Evolution grabbed ahold of me and refused to let go, thanks in large part to the game’s exposure through YouTube personalities Hutch and SeaNanners. The XBLA and PC title succeeded through its simple gameplay and cheesy presentation, and its emphasis on leaderboards, user-created content and a few relentlessly difficult tracks made it one of my favorite games from the past generation. For the next installment in the long-running series, RedLynx has taken our favorite motorcycle men into the future, and though I’m not entirely sure what is being combined with what, Trials Fusion is a fantastic sequel that is more than worthy of carrying the series into the next generation.
The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s gritty, unflinching take on a post-pandemic United States, was a great step forward for interactive storytelling when it released last summer for the PS3, featuring unparalleled character development and some truly amazing sound design. However, it was frequently padded out by the same repetitive combat we’ve seen time and time again from the developer. Nearly a year after the game’s release, Naughty Dog has finally released the game’s sole piece of single-player DLC, titled The Last of Us: Left Behind, and though it’s significantly shorter than the core game, it finally delivers on the promise the developer set out to fulfill: to tell a moving story that’s not hampered by all the video game cliches that so often thwart such efforts.
When SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt launched on the 3DS eShop last year, it blew pretty much everyone away with its cyber/western/retro flavored mashup of Dig Dug and Metroidvania. Reviewers had a ton of fun with the game – IGN named it the Best 3DS platformer of 2013 (go read my review!) – but we also had fun working silly/obligatory puns into our reviews like “Dig It” and “Dig Deep.” Now SteamWorld Dig is about to launch on PSN, and to celebrate, we’re giving away 3 North American download codes courtesy of developer Image & Form Games!
To enter, all you have to do is reply to this post with your best attempt at a SteamWorld-related pun, then sign it with your Twitter handle (you have to be on Twitter!) and follow @nvsblgamer and @ImageForm. We’ll pick three of the punniest comments below and DM you a free copy of the game to play on your PS4/Vita (cross buy, baby!) once the North American PSN update goes live later today, March 18th.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: there’s nothing really new about Yoshi’s New Island. I know, that’s shocking, right? Just like in the original Yoshi’s Island, you’ll run around with a tantrum-prone infant on your back, flutter like a baby bird that’s just fallen out of the nest, and toss freshly laid eggs at winged clouds (think about that for a minute.) You’ll lick dirty coins, gobble up happy little flowers, and chase down annoyingly agile, anthropomorphic stars decked out in tap shoes ten sizes too big for them. And you’ll accomplish all these feats of wonderment in a sickeningly adorable world that looks like it was dreamed up by the star student of Miss Bendahan’s Kindergarten art class. In short, no self-respecting adult would be caught dead playing Yoshi’s New Island. Which is completely fine with me, because while they’re in the corner respecting themselves, I’ll be having a blast with an excellent new take on an enduring classic.
When I originally reviewed Retro City Rampage back in 2012, I praised its breathless callbacks to ’80s and ’90s pop culture and classic, top-down GTA-inspired gameplay while lamenting its confusing mission objectives and frequent difficulty spikes. It was a game I desperately wanted to love, and indeed, I’d fallen hard for it after my first hands on at E3 2011. But by the time I’d finished the final game and watched the credits roll, the only emotion I could muster was frustration.
I hadn’t originally intended to revisit RCR when it landed on the 3DS, but thanks to an unexpected invitation to an eShop developer event in late January, I had a chance to sit down with Brian Provinciano, the game’s developer, and discuss my problems with the original release. Much to my surprise, Provinciano told me the issues I’d brought up had all been addressed for the 3DS version, which was being re-branded as Retro City Rampage DX. Now that I’ve played through it, I’m happy to say that RCR DX is a huge improvement over the original, and a pretty easy recommendation whether you’ve played it before or not.
High school. It’s tough, right? Not only are you forced to waste your days away inside while old people drone on about pointless topics you’ll forget completely within a year, but you’ll have to do it while carving out a place for yourself in a social hierarchy consisting entirely of sociopaths. “Trust us,” they’ll tell you. “It’s for the greater good.” High school comprises the most important of your formative years, because it’s during these years you’ll learn the greatest lesson of all: the race to the top is paved with casualties, and the only way to succeed is to be as self-centered, cunning, and ruthless as you can while crushing the dreams of as many of your peers as possible.
Looking back at the games released last year, I can’t help but be amazed at the sheer variety we had at our disposal. From new consoles to PC to mobile devices, there were not only a wide range of platforms, but a huge variety of games to play across them. Thinking through all the games that fell into my hands in 2013, I’ve found that my favorites were just as varied, and there were so many more that I simply didn’t get a chance to play. But just because I missed out on some of the biggest titles this year, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t have some amazing experiences in gaming.
In no particular order, here are my top ten for the year:
When Crystal Dynamics debuted its Tomb Raider reboot at E3 2012, it was hard to ignore the game’s emphasis on stomach-churningly visceral violence — a trend that, as it turned out, would characterize the vast majority of AAA action games released over the next 12 months. From a visual effects standpoint, it was easy to understand why developers were chasing the old ultra-violence: the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 had been on the market for the larger part of a decade, and they’d spent that those years learning how to make the two consoles sing. But it wasn’t the human viscera that made Tomb Raider feel so disturbing; rather, it was the constant beating down of its heroine, Lara Croft — rendered with heartbreaking vulnerability by actress Camilla Luddington — that had media and consumers alike wondering: had Crystal Dynamics stepped beyond an acceptable level of cartoon violence and into the realm of misogyny? And was this okay for a mainstream action game?