Category: Features

The 10 Best Games of 2013 (That I Played)

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:


The first offering from Chucklefish Games, Starbound is still technically in beta. However, the developers are taking the Minecraft approach and allowing those who buy the game to get access to the game as it develops.. I’ve already spent far too many hours trying out the different races, building settlements and simply exploring. While the game has drawn comparisons to Minecraft and Terraria, I’ve been able to stay hooked on Starbound for much longer. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of surviving, looting the temples and fortresses of natives, and discovering new items that keep the game interesting. And since the game is constantly updating, I cannot wait to see how Starbound will evolve in 2014.

Bioshock Infinite

From the first entrance into Columbia, Bioshock Infinite managed to hook me enough that I ended up marathoning the game. The twists and turns that the story took me through had me stunned, and I still have to occasionally digest everything that happened in this game. I really enjoyed the alternate timelines that the game set up, which allowed it to explore some really interesting topics in the process. As the first AAA title to really capture me in 2013, Bioshock really set the bar high.


Media Molecule has mastered the art of creating fun and amusing environments, and Tearaway is no different. The studio’s first foray outside of the LittleBigPlanet series is filled with charm, and is probably one of the best uses of the Vita’s touchpad controls. I enjoyed feeling like I was interacting with the game in a new and unique way. The papercraft theme that runs throughout Tearaway is a real plus, especially since it directly influences the gameplay itself. Adding the ability to collect, print and make the different models in game is a nice little touch, and plays into the connection between the game world and our own all that much more.

Pokemon X

Believe it or not, the newest generation of Pokemon games is the first I have been able to call my own. Having never owned a GameBoy as a child, my experiences with the series have been limited to borrowing from friends, and for whatever reason, I was unable to keep an interest. Pokemon X changed that, and I found that I could not put the game down. The new additions to the game made it easier for me to stay interested, and I actually became very attached to my Pokemon team. New features like Pokemon-Amie definitely helped, and the new battle visuals made everything feel much more dynamic.


Part Tetris, part word search, PuzzleJuice was an iPhone app that I had discovered somewhat on accident. Offered as an app of the week at my local Starbucks, I have kept coming back to it as a time filler, but also as a mental workout. The game’s frantic pace requires you to juggle arranging the falling blocks while also clearing out lines by forming words. Its fun and amusing, and challenges you to test both your reflexes and your vocabulary. And if you find a word and don’t actually know what it means, the app allows you to easily look it up.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Trying to explain Animal Crossing to another person makes it sound like a life simulator, but the latest addition to the series feels like so much more. The new responsibilities of being your town’s Mayor add a new dimension to your game, and make you feel as though you get a lot more control over what happens in your town. Being able to travel to other friends’ towns to check out their layouts, villagers and ideas is just as fun, as is heading out to the Island to catch some bugs that can sell for big bells. Plus, villagers are just as fun to get to know, and are part of the reason I kept coming back. Because the last thing I wanted was to discover that Nan had moved while I was away.


Colorful. The first word to come to mind when I think of this game is always that, but Guacamelee is so much more. Filled with Mexican inspired graphics and an awareness of meme humor, this game is a Metroidvania adventure coated in a lot of character. While I played it mostly on my Vita, the cross-platform capabilities made the game just as fun on the big screen. The small little Easter eggs buried in the background with bring a smile to any player’s face as well.

Rogue Legacy 

Rogue Legacy was the game that made me remember how bad I can be at platformers, yet still made me want to play. Yes it’s a roguelike, and the ability to watch your lineage change and grow over time was very helpful. The addition of traits, which ranged from colorblindness to gigantism made the game feel so much more dynamic. Each had its own quirks that made playing each time a little more interesting, and added new challenges to each castle run. I’m still not very good, but in this game the goal is to go a little bit longer each time, which sometimes isn’t very long at all.

The Wolf Among Us

The latest episodic offering from Telltale Games, The Wolf Among Us is a gritty reimagining of classic fairytales. And while it’s only one episode in, it does a fantastic job of incorporating well known characters into the modern world. For fans of the Walking Dead series, its a great new foray into another universe, and will be familiar in how it plays. You can’t forget about the ending of the first episode.  This is another game that I cannot wait to see where it goes from here.

Gone Home

There’s no combat here, just simple exploration and discovery, and that’s what makes Gone Home so great. That, and how the game manages to deal with so many difficult issues, but in a way that makes every character involved feel human. Family issues, sexuality, lust, absence, everything plays out through voiced-over journal entries and the items you find in an empty house. The game’s story will feel familiar to almost anyone, and slowly unfurling the tale’s of the home’s residents will keep you glued to the game.

The Top 10 Games of 2013: Gabe Edition

More than any other year in recent memory, 2013 delivered a steady steam of diverse games from January all the way up through the holidays. We saw similar trends, certainly, with that damn bow making an appearance in so many titles that it lost any impact it could have had, but the variety in games this year was remarkable. More and more, video game writing is being compared to the best screenplays in Hollywood, and yet a few of my favorite games of 2013 got by with bare-bones narratives, instead opting to focus on delivering tight gameplay mechanics. Of course, with as huge a year as 2013 was, there are several games that barely missed the cut, but here are my ten favorite games from the past year.

10. Dragon’s Crown (PlayStation Vita)


It had been a very long time since I had played a good 2D beat ‘em up, and even longer since I had played a classic, sword-and-shield RPG that I found fresh. Vanillaware managed to do both with Dragon’s Crown on the PlayStation 3 and Vita, delivering a nearly 20-hour tale filled with political intrigue, fantastic character designs and some of the best combat I’ve ever come across. The experience changes completely based on which character players choose at the beginning, and boss fights are absolutely bonkers. Couple that with a unique looting system and cooperative play, and it was a no-brainer for my list.

9. DmC: Devil May Cry (Xbox 360)

dante with angels

Unfortunately, a massive amount of backlash to the changes to protagonist Dante and the introduction of developer Ninja Theory all but doomed the Devil May Cry reboot from the beginning, but I immediately fell in love with its deep combat, dark humor, terrific voice acting and level design. It’s certainly a different beast than the original four games, but DmC deserves recognition for improving on the mechanics of the original series — such as the previously frustrating camera — while also introducing a new take on the relationship between brothers Dante and Virgil. The game hasn’t sold very well, but I’m still crossing my fingers for a sequel to the first great game of 2013, especially following the game’s cliffhanger conclusion.

8. Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)


After hitting a little speed bump with the underwhelming Shadow Dragon (a remake of the original game), Intelligent Systems came back in top form for Fire Emblem: Awakening. With a deep combat system and one of the best stories in the entire series, the game is a must-own for 3DS owners or anyone interested in tactical RPG’s. The basic narrative concept isn’t quite as unique as that of my favorite game in the series, Path of Radiance, but there is still plenty to love. And let’s not forget how gorgeous those cutscenes look!

7. Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360)


I wasn’t quite as high on Grand Theft Auto V as some of my fellow critics, as I felt that the story became far too predictable near the end, but there’s no denying that Rockstar hit a home run as the last huge release before the new consoles arrived. Trevor is one of the more entertaining game characters of all time, and the quick swapping between Trevor, Michael and Franklin was both innovative and intuitive. Not only that, but basic staples of the series like shooting and driving finally got significant improvements. It makes the previous game look like Ride to Hell: Retribution.

6. Gone Home (Mac)


I put it off for months, but last night I finally sat down and played through Gone Home. While I had heard great things from big-time journalists and close friends alike, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster the two-hour tale had in store for me. For such a deep, personal story to be told almost entirely through found journal entries, the writing simply had to be top-notch, and The Fullbright Company did not disappoint. Unless the company chooses to do something completely different, it could have the same impact on the interactive adventure genre as Telltale. Also, this is the only game to ever make me cry. It got to me.

5. Rayman Legends (Wii U)


It had more delays than Apocalypse Now, so it’s certainly a good thing that Rayman Legends not only reached the greatness of the previous game, but shot past it while singing “Eye of the Tiger” with a kazoo in the background. The Wii U version is still the definitive edition of the game, but it’s available for every platform known to man (unfortunately, no one knows about the OUYA), including next-gen versions to launch early in 2014. Rayman Legends is 2D platforming at its absolute finest, and it’s obvious that the team at Ubisoft Montpellier enjoyed making this game as much as I enjoyed playing it.

4. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PlayStation 4)


Assassin’s Creed III was not a good game, and in the months leading up to its successor, I found myself torn. I remembered how buggy and poorly paced Connor’s tale had been, but everything shown in Black Flag footage looked like a complete about-face for the series. Luckily, my fears were assuaged as soon as I began playing and found that not only had the game’s exposition been shortened a great deal, but the characters and setting were actually interesting and fun. What I thought would be a consolation as I waited for the now-delayed Watch_Dogs ended up being the best Assassin’s Creed yet.

3. Splinter Cell Blacklist (Xbox 360)


Ubisoft Toronto delivered my favorite entry in my favorite series with Splinter Cell Blacklist, perfectly blending the violent stealth-action of Conviction with the “don’t leave a trace” style of the earlier games. While the plot wasn’t anything revolutionary, it did a great job of giving the series new legs to stand on moving forward, with a few fresh characters joining the new Fourth Echelon organization and new actor Eric Johnson as Sam Fisher. Add in a ton of coop missions and the return of Spies vs. Mercs, and you have one happy Gabe.

2. The Last Of Us (PlayStation 3)


For years, people have been commenting on how much certain games resemble movies in their writing and cutscenes, but The Last Of Us felt more like a book; the game is almost 20 hours of depression, friendship and perseverance, but it’s much more than that. It’s easy to overlook the game’s excellent contextual stealth system or enemy AI, and the audio — both the music and the tremendous voice acting from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson — are among the best in the entire medium. The Last Of Us may leave you feeling devoid of purpose in your life, but you’ll be glad that you stayed along for the journey.

1. Bioshock Infinite (Xbox 360)


Not only is Bioshock Infinite my favorite game of 2013, but it’s my favorite game of all time. Never before has my jaw dropped as low as it did when I reached the conclusion of its heart-pounding narrative, and I’ve shown it to non-gamers as an example of the best of what video games have to offer. I immediately fell in love with the city of Columbia, and Booker and Elizabeth are two of the greatest characters ever created. The theories and questions that swirled through my head as I watched the credits roll brought a smile to my face, as I immediately knew that this was the game I had been waiting for all these years.

As I said before, there were a few titles such as Lego City Undercover, Metro: Last Light, Tomb Raider, and Pokemon X & Y that just barely missed my top ten, but if there are any other picks that you think I left out, or if you just want to call me an idiot, feel free in the comments below!








The Top 10 Games of 2013: A Personal List

2013 was a watershed year in gaming. It was a year that saw countless developers, whether swimming in oceans of cash or struggling to pay rent on studio apartments, pouring their best efforts into an overabundance of amazing experiences that, frankly, the gaming community at large simply didn’t deserve. With such a glut of unforgettable games released over the past twelve months, the act of declaring a definitive top 10 list comes off at best as an exercise in absurdity,  and it’s with that thought in mind that I present a list of the ten games I enjoyed the most in 2013.

10. BioShock Infinite (Xbox 360)


BioShock Infinite wasn’t the best AAA action game I played this year, nor was it the most visually or mechanically impressive, with textures right out of the pre-dawn ages (circa 2006) and artificial intelligence that doesn’t try even half as hard as the splicers in the original BioShock. But Irrational sure knows how to paint a picture. From its haunting opening moments involving a choral arrangement of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” to its shrewd commentary on the time we’ve all wasted on fruitless pursuits, BioShock Infinite is a shining example of this generation’s shift from games as games to games as art, and for that, it’s a game I think everyone should experience.

9. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS)


Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a testament to the players-over-profit design ethic that’s guided Nintendo over the past three decades: give players a simple goal and let them have fun accomplishing it. With its spooky environments, deliberately crafted environmental puzzles and emphasis on physical comedy, Dark Moon feels like a cross between a classic Sierra adventure game and a Saturday morning cartoon, and I still can’t help cracking up when I think about Luigi’s reactions to the various spiteful spooks that haunt him through the game’s 5 mansions. Pure joy, through and through.

8. Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale (3DS)


As we go breathlessly from day to day, trying not to collapse under the often maddeningly complex state of being known as adulthood, it’s easy to forget how simple life once was. When making friends was no more complicated than saying “hello” to a new kid on the playground. When storm drains were secret portals to the magical and mysterious. When the future was defined not by the ability to pay rent on time, but by the infinite possibilities borne from our dreams. If you’ve forgotten what that feels like and you’d like get it back, Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale will make you remember.

7. Guacamelee (PS Vita)


DrinkBox Studios nailed the Metroidvania formula with Guacamelee, with its vast, interconnected environments to explore, secret collectibles hidden everywhere, and plenty of sequence-breaking exploits for speedrunners to take advantage of. But what sets it apart from countless other Super Metroid wannabees is its unique, lovingly humorous take on Mexican mythology (you play as a recently-deceased farmer-turned-luchador, on a quest to save El Presidente’s Daughter from a sombrero’d skeleton with plans to merge the lands of the living and the dead.) Also, those snazzy, sassy trumpet anthems. When I reviewed the game in April, I called it “quite possibly the best game ever released on a PlayStation platform,” which apparently led to the review being featured on the PlayStation Blog. I stand by that assessment. If you love open-ended platformers, you won’t find better outside of a Nintendo console.

6. Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)


I didn’t review Animal Crossing: New Leaf this year, because I was busy packing all my earthly possessions and moving my family from California to New York when it came out. And I’m honestly not sure how I could have reviewed it, because it’s been kind of like a weird parallel to my own life this year — one in which all my neighbors are furries and I only have to pay bills when I feel like it. But in all seriousness, New Leaf has kind of been like the gaming equivalent of Chicken Soup for the Soul for me over the past six months… a warm blanket to wrap myself in during the extended periods of self doubt and loneliness that accompanied the biggest change I’ve ever made in my life. My wife and I are finally, slowly starting to make friends in New York, but for awhile, this (and FaceTime) were the closest things I had to human interaction. It’s hard to meet new people, but even when you’re at your lowest, Isabelle will always be waiting with a smile.

5. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D (3DS)


Super Mario 3D Land is my favorite Mario platformer ever, so you’d logically expect to see Super Mario 3D World somewhere on this list, right? Wrong. As much fun as I had with the game (a metric ton, I assure you!), it was on the wrong platform, and the lack of stereo 3D really dampened my enthusiasm for it after the 500th death caused by my inability to judge space within the game. Similarly, Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii was a beautiful game that was rendered almost unplayable by Nintendo’s insistence on shoehorning motion controls into the experience. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D eradicates those issues by giving the game the traditional control scheme it always deserved. Both in terms of artistry and game design, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of any other 2D platformer on the 3DS, even outclassing the three legendary SNES games that preceded it. The new levels and optional easier difficulty level are just icing on the banana bread.

4. Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)


The Fire Emblem games have always been one of Nintendo’s best kept secrets – expertly tuned turned-based strategy bolstered by well-crafted dialogue, a diverse cast of characters, and stirring musical scores from industry veteran Yuka Tsujiyoko. And though the story in Fire Emblem: Awakening isn’t particularly original, it transcends this limitation by inserting players directly into the narrative and trusting them to fill in the details through the relationships they forge and the decisions they make. Add to that a ton of non-essential missions, copious DLC, and dozens upon dozens of characters to customize and develop as you see fit, and this is one game that gives, and gives, and gives. I’m still playing it, almost a year later.

3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown (iPad)


XCOM: Enemy Unknown was my game of the year in 2012 — a superb modern update of a game I’ve been playing since 1994. Firaxis made Enemy Unknown even better when it released the Enemy Within expansion for consoles and PC in October, but it’s actually been the mobile release of the core game that’s kept me constantly coming back since it launched this summer. It’s never been better than it is on tablets, which is exactly why I bought an iPad Air this year instead of a PS4. Seriously. It’s that good. Also, don’t bother trying to catch me on the technicality that Enemy Unknown was originally released last year. My list!

2. SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt (3DS)


What more can I say about Swedish indie developer Image & Form’s western-themed mining platformer? It came out of nowhere and took me completely by surprise. It blends elements of Super Metroid, Dig-Dug, and Minecraft into something completely new. I love, love, love this game (and in fact, I gave it a 9.5 in my IGN review.) It doesn’t get any fresher than this.

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)


There’s so much to love about The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. I love how fluid it feels. I love the character designs based on concept art for the original Legend of Zelda. I love the Maiamai sidequest that hearkens back to Link’s Awakening’s hidden seashells, and the not-incredibly-difficult-but-still-awesome bosses, and the simple, challenging StreetPass battles that paid for several of Link’s most expensive tools. And I love the ending. But most of all, I love how Nintendo has cut out all the bloat that has been slowly taking over the Zelda series for the past 6 years and built a game that hearkens back to a time when developers trusted players to figure things out for themselves. A Link Between Worlds is a true masterpiece in every sense of the word, and it’s my favorite game of 2013.


Majora’s Mask: Stopping the Moon, 10 Years Late


Every time a new Zelda game is set to launch, I find myself drawn back to the series, eager to explore what’s changed over the past 27 years, and what has remained the same. Usually this culminates in a month’s worth of revisiting my favorite legends past – A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Link’s Awakening, Wind Waker, and Minish Cap – but every once in awhile, I’ll be motivated enough to go back and fill in some of the embarrassing gaps in my Legend of Zelda knowledge. This year, I finally completed The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, a game that manages to be excellent from beginning to end despite being the weakest of all the portable Zeldas. It’s a milestone I’m glad to have crossed, but I didn’t find it as cathartic an experience as when I finally completed Majora’s Mask for the first time. I guess it came along at the right time in my life.

I wrote about that experience a few years ago, back when Invisible Gamer was barely a thing and I hadn’t earned the 3 dedicated readers I have now. Give it a read below, and  see what’s special to me about Majora’s Mask. And maybe in the comments below, tell us what some of your favorite Zelda games are, and why?


The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask turned 10 this year, and to celebrate, I promised myself I’d finally complete it.

What’s that? No, you read right. Despite being one of the biggest Nintendo fans you’re likely to ever meet, I’d never actually made it through Eiji Aonuma’s directorial debut. That is, until tonight.

10 years ago, my world was a vastly different place. My mom was still alive. I hadn’t been married, or divorced. 9/11 hadn’t happened. And I was still in high school, and working my first full time job…at Funcoland. Despite the fact that high school was quickly coming to an end and I was supposed to be making major decisions about “my future,” I was vastly more concerned with showing my friends that I didn’t need the upcoming Playstation 2 to stay in the game. That my N64 still had plenty of life in its 4 year-old carcass, thank you. Conveniently, the day the PS2 was unleashed on North America – October 26th – it was accompanied by one of the worst selections of launch titles to ever disgrace a game console; Nintendo dropped Majora’s Mask the same day and made my argument pretty easy to support. Majora required 8 megabytes of RAM, for chrissakes, how could it not be amazing?


As it turned out, I’d actually been playing the game for a couple of weeks before it shipped. Thanks to a Nintendo rep who took his job way more seriously than any of us did, Funco had a demo cartridge at the beginning of October, for customers to try before commiting to a pre-order. Unbeknownst to those customers, however, was the lie implicit in the cartridge’s “not for resale” label: this was not a demo, but the full game, and I’d been taking it home every night, working my way as far as Snowhead before my own copy arrived and I had to start over from scratch.

Majora’s Mask, despite its premise of a world-ending calamity in the form of “THE MOON IS FALLING!”, tells an incredibly nuanced tale about knowing who your real friends are, and it’s absolutely brimming with sidequests directly related to fulfilling this conceit. Forget dungeons: they’re present, of course, but the real meat-and-potatoes of Majora’s Mask is these sidequests. Unlike its predecessor, Ocarina of Time, Aonuma’s game demands real detective work from players hoping to bring order back to the lives of Clock Town’s citizens. Characters have specific, intersecting schedules, and though the world is set to end three days after Link’s arrival, players won’t be able to see the game’s complete ending without addressing everyone. This is only possible because the game plays out like an extended version of Groundhog Day, with Link’s magical ocarina giving him the ability to reset the “doomsday clock” at any time.

I’m not entirely certain why I stopped playing Majora’s Mask shortly after I received my own copy, but It’s likely these sidequests, and my absolutely loathing the idea of not “saving” everyone, that ultimately caused me to put the game on hold for 10 years. But I’ve finally come back to it. I’ve filled out every slot in my Bomber’s Notebook, collected every mask, and stopped the moon from falling. I’ve finished Majora’s Mask! Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how to feel about finally getting to check this off my list, but I do find the circumstances under which I’ve completed the game highly appropriate. Majora’s Mask is awash in nostalgia for a bygone era – one of simplicity, of nuclear relationships, of knowing exactly who you are and where you fit in the world – that has quietly been subsumed by anonymity. The last time I played the game, I knew myself and everyone I interacted with. Today, with the ubiquity of the Internet, we’re all hiding behind Majora’s Mask, hoping that maybe, if we do something big enough, someone will notice us.



A Link to the Fans: Eiji Aonuma at NY Comic Con

This weekend, fans in attendance at Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds panel at New York Comic Con got a wealth of insight into the game’s development, along with a bounty of new details about its story, setting, and new features… and even some vague hints about the future of the Zelda franchise. And it all came directly from the mouth of longtime Legend of Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma, for whom the panel presented a first-ever opportunity to interact directly with fans.

Aonuma began the discussion by thanking attendees for their enthusiasm, then took a brief moment to praise the artistry he’s seen in Zelda Miiverse posts on the Wii U. The audience seemed to hang on Aonuma’s every word, and he clearly enjoyed the attention, grinning earnestly at with each frequent round of applause he received.

After a few brief notes on the recently released The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Aonuma switched gears to the main topic of the panel: the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Over a montage of newly revealed production art, Aonuma used a discussion of dual worlds in previous Zelda games to introduce Lorule, an alternate dimension that exists alongside Hyrule in Link Between Worlds. Despite earlier speculation, Aonuma insists this isn’t the same Dark World that existed in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (with which the new game shares a nearly identical map of Hyrule), but it does appear to serve the same narrative purpose. Lorule is a dark reflection of Hyrule: the kingdom has fallen to the forces of evil, and the people are in despair.


Hyrule and Lorule.

Ruling over this fallen kingdom is Princess Hilda, a dead ringer for Princess Zelda in all but the color of her hair. According to a new trailer that debuted at the panel, Hilda lures Link into Lorule and forces him to do her bidding by kidnapping Zelda and holding her hostage. Whether or not she’s acting out of evil or altruism for her kingdom is unclear at this point. Also unclear is the exact nature of Yuga, a sorcerer who possesses the ability to turn people into paintings. We’re guessing from his orange hair, large nose and slanted eyes that he may be related to Ganondorf, but whether or not that turns out to be the case, he’s almost certainly responsible for Lorule’s sad state of affairs.


Hilda and Zelda.

At some point in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Link will gain the ability to turn into a drawing of himself, allowing him to merge with walls. This makes for some interesting puzzles like those first revealed at E3, wherein Link can walk along walls and slip between the bars on dungeons windows, but the so-called Merge ability is also used to move back and forth between dimensions. In a newly revealed gameplay segment shown at the panel, Link uses the Merge ability to slip through a crack in a ramshackle building in Lorule, only to emerge inside a locked house in Hyrule where an embarrassed woman is modeling a new dress. According to Aonuma, there are many such places that can only be accessed by slipping through the cracks between Hyrule and Lorule, and this should make for some interesting new puzzles.


During a stage demo, Aonuma also revealed the existence of smaller dungeons scattered throughout The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Link will plunder these dungeons for huge stashes of rupees, which are more important now than ever before. This is because, unlike in previous Zelda games where essential tools are locked deep inside dungeons, nearly every item tool has been made available for rent or purchase by Link from the very start. For example, the bow can be rented for 50 rupees, or purchased for 400. While having all of Link’s equipment available for purchase up front sounds hauntingly similar to something that might’ve been born at a PopCap planning meeting, it gives players the unique experience of being able to complete the game’s dungeons in any order they choose.

That’s a concept that hasn’t been seen in this series since the very first Legend of Zelda, and it’s lead to some interesting questions for a company that has been criticized in recent years for holding players hands a little too tightly. How are new players going to cope with a game that is so wide open? And how will Nintendo balance the game’s difficulty between those who need frequent help, and those who want none of it?

As Aonuma explained to a fan who brought up these concerns in a post-panel Q&A session, the difficulty in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds comes from learning how to use the right tools to solve specific tasks, and then re-learning the same tools when new challenges require a different way of thinking. This might sound like a headache for players used to the “Zelda 64″ school of design, but longtime fans are sure to appreciate how shameless A Link Between Worlds is about throwing Navi out with the bathwater.

Due to time constraints, the Q&A session had to be cut short, but not before an exuberant Aonuma got a chance to drop a few tantalizing hints about what’s next for the series. In response to a fan who asked what to expect from the first original Wii U installment of the series, Aonuma responded only by suggesting players look to the unique design elements of Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds for an idea of what future installments might be like. And for fans eagerly awaiting news of a Majora’s Mask 3DS remake, Aonuma had only this to say: play through A Link Between Worlds, and you might get your answer.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds launches in North America and Europe on November 22nd.

Max Impulse: Going for a Boost

The GRID Lab at Ohio University is tucked in the basement of a building, unknown to most students. The room is filled with television screens, gaming systems and computers, ready to create, study and test games. For the members of Betwixt Games, the lab is where they work on their game: Max Impulse.


Inspired by futuristic racing games like F-Zero, Max Impulse takes racers to a variety of terrains across the universe, from Heaven’s Gate on a gas giant, to Devil’s Tongue, which has players racing on and around a volcano. The aim is to go beyond the racetrack though, by not only giving players interesting tracks to race their gravity-defying machines, but also by creating interesting characters and stories behind the races.

Burke actually welcomes the comparisons to the F-Zero series.

“Most people try to say, we’re this and they’re that.” he says. “I think there is definitely a hole in that genre, and when people actually play it, they’ll notice a difference right off the bat.”

Max Impulse began as a class project for the university’s game design and animation program. Creative Director Matthew Burke and Art Director Emily Zink had already worked together on another game project, known as Neglect, and their approach to Max Impulse had largely been shaped by their previous work.

Neglect taught me a couple of lessons.” Burke says, “It was a great idea, but that sort of concept didn’t really work in a vertical slice. It was too big and we didn’t really have the expertise.”

Burke wanted to make a system that would just work at its core, and then from there they could create any level.


For Max Impulse, Burke pitched an idea for a capstone project that would work well with a small team that had limitations from the programs they use. The game is built in Maya, and the team lacked a full-time programmer, so they let that dictate the scope of the project. The result was the antigravity racer, set in locales that would show off the creative team’s skills.

“I wanted to make crazy, upside down tracks. It has made it a little more interesting,” says Burke.

What began as a smaller-scale class project has now grown into a full game. The team produced one level that was presented at the Ohio University Student Expo, and their second is starting to come together as well. The team has decided to expand the amount of levels, and would love to someday release the game for sale. There’s just one small problem: they have been developing Max Impulse with a free educational software license for the Unity game engine, and to sell the game, they would have to purchase a full license that would cost about $2,500.

“Even if the ten of us put in $100, we wouldn’t even be able to afford Unity.” says Burke.

In addition, the team wants to get a full time programmer on board, so that they can develop better AI for the game. And getting the licenses now would help them out on future games, or even expansions to Max Impulse.

Betwixt turned to Kickstarter to find the funding they need. The team has broken down exactly what the funds will be going to, and everything made beyond their goal will be going into making the game bigger and better. They aim to at least get the game on Mac and PC when it releases, which will be sometime next summer. Even if the Kickstarter fails, Max Impulse will carry on, it may just not be released quite how the team would like.

You can find the Max Impulse Kickstarter here.

A Link to the Future: A History of Innovation in Portable Zeldas


Fans were all in a tizzy over the recent revelation that The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds would allow players to tackle dungeons in any order  –  an approach that hasn’t been featured since the original Legend of Zelda. But are Aonuma and co. merely testing the waters with the latest entry in its beloved series, or does this signal a sea change for a series that many players feel has become stale over the past two decades?  Nobody knows for sure but Nintendo, but if previous portable Zeldas are any indication, it’s very likely the latter. Let’s examine the many ways portable Zeldas of generations past have influenced their bigger cousins on the N64, Gamecube, and Wii… and take a quick look at some series experiments that might best be left in the dustbins of history.

The_Legend_of_Zelda_-_Link's_Awakening_LogoThe Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Platform: Game Boy, Game Boy Color, 3DS Virtual Console
Year of first release: 1993

Of all the portable Zeldas, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening might still be the most influential, despite its having been released over 20 years ago. For starters, it was the first Zelda game to take Link beyond the reaches of Hyrule. This gave the development team room to experiment, whether by including characters from other popular games of the time like Super Mario World and Sim City, or by featuring a story that had absolutely nothing to do with Princess Zelda, Ganon, or the Triforce — both concepts that would ultimately lead the series to one of its most memorably unique entries, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. And let’s not forget, Link’s Awakening was also the first Zelda game to feature series staples like learnable songs, an extended item-trading sequence, and the fan-favorite fishing minigame.


For the frog, the bell doth toll.



The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons & The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Platform: Game Boy Color, 3DS Virtual Console
Year of first release: 2001

On a surface level, the two Zelda: Oracle games appear to have done little to influence subsequent games in the franchise, which is a shame considering the unique ways the two games work together. But consider this: the Oracle games were the first mainline Zelda entries built outside of Nintendo headquarters, with development handled by now-defunct Capcom subsidiary Flagship. Sure, previous third-party Zelda games left a lot to be desired, but the Oracle games remain just as captivating as anything Nintendo has developed internally, and the Flagship partnership paved the way for future outside developers to leave their mark on beloved Nintendo franchises like Metroid and Super Smash Bros. In fact, Nintendo thought so highly of Flagship that it hired much of the shuttered studio’s staff after its untimely demise, and Oracle director Hidemaro Fujibayashi has led the development of nearly every game in the series since, including the superb Game Boy Advance entry The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, and the series’ Wii swan song, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.


Oracle of Seasons: the first Zelda game to feature hicks getting drunk off apple cider.


The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of first release: 2007

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was dismissed by fans upon its original release for ditching the series’ traditional button-based control setup for a stylus-based input system that could only ever work on the Nintendo DS, and most continue to ignore the game to this day.  But its most-maligned feature was also its most influential. The concept of a direct interface between player and character led to the immensely rewarding 1:1 swordplay and unique puzzles that made Skyward Sword such a refreshing change of pace.

Phantom Hourglass is also the first game in the series to feature real-time item selection via the touch screen, which, as fans of Ocarina of Time 3D and Wind Waker HD will tell you, has improved the flow of both games significantly. Who’d have thought a silly little touch screen would’ve done so much for gaming? Oh, wait.


You’ve got the touch!

If it ain’t broke…

Of course, not every experiment Nintendo has undertaken with the Zelda series has been for the best. Phantom Hourglass‘s bland central dungeon, to which players are forced to return repeatedly throughout the course of their adventure, was dismissed as a way for developers to extend the game’s playtime without actually creating fresh content, and the concept inexplicably returned in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (and, to an extent, Skyward Sword.) And who could forget those awful microphone-based puzzles in the DS Zelda games? I get mad just thinking about those.

There’s also the matter of multiplayer. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords and its sequel Four Swords Adventures introduced an amusing mix of cooperative and competitive play to the series, but subsequent multiplayer Zeldas never really took hold in players’ imaginations, and the feature hasn’t returned in years. Rumors have suggested there’s some kind of multiplayer component to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and while Nintendo hasn’t said anything publicly about it, it’s a mystery that’ll be solved soon enough: the game releases on November 22nd.

What are some of your favorite mechanics in the Zelda series, and how would you like to see the franchise evolve for future iterations? Sound off in the comments below, and please… leave Tingle alone!

Before the Storm: Invisible Gamer on E3 2013


It’s almost here: E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the mecca of video games and the herald of a new generation. From Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony to the indie hits of tomorrow, E3 represents the future of gaming; this year quite literally, as two new home consoles will be unveiled and playable for the first time. There are no Invisible Gamer boots on the ground in the Greater Los Angeles Area this week, but we’ll still have coverage of the show as it progresses. Before things kick off this morning with the Microsoft press conference, however, we thought we’d bring you a little idea of what we think, what we hope, and what we fear might happen. Nathan and Gabe give you their thoughts on what to expect at E3:

[Editor's Note: These predictions were made before Microsoft's press release regarding always-on connectivity, used game licenses, and Kinect's required connection. -Brien]


Xbox_One_TV-GuideConference: Monday, June 10
9:30am Pacific / 12:30pm Eastern

Nathan: As an owner of all five of the major current platforms (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Vita, and 3DS), I tend to be a Playstation 3 gamer more than anything else. I was, however, a heavy Xbox gamer in the previous generation. Right now, it comes down to one thing for me: exclusives. I bought my Xbox 360 solely for Kinect Star Wars (yes, you read that correctly) and Alan Wake. Microsoft, give me a reason to switch brand loyalties again with new exclusive titles, or at least give me enough exclusives to be a multi-system guy again in this next generation.

Gabe: Don’t mention Halo. It’s going to be hard to do for a company with such a clear flagship franchise, but Halo 4 has only been out for 7 months. If Quantum Break isn’t ready to be shown yet, don’t mention that either, but blow us away with whatever Black Tusk is working on, Ryse (which I’m still skeptical on), and all of these unannounced exclusives that were promised at E3. Microsoft has been doing quite a bit of talking after the Xbox One was revealed, and it needs to back it up. Is Respawn Entertainment’s first game really an exclusive, and is it multiplayer only? Of course, finally shooting down the anti-consumer and anti-privacy rumors surrounding the system is also a “must.”

Conference: Monday, June 10
6:00pm Pacific / 9:00pm Eastern

Nathan: My predictions and hopes for Sony would be that they (a) deal with the major issues that plagued Microsoft recently by discussing how they plan to handle used games and any form of online game authentication and (b) provide me with a reason to be happy about owning a Vita. That latter is where I expect my greatest disappointment. I was one of those early adopters of the Vita who preordered the 3G version just to get it a week earlier than the regular launch day. Since then, I have “platinumed’ Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Resistance: Burning Skies, but other than Uncharted, Wipeout, and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, there have been very few games that I’ve cared to pick up for the handheld. In fact, the only games I still own physically are Uncharted and UMVC3, and the former is just because I prefer to own Uncharted games in physical form, even though it is available via PS+. At this point, PS+ has hit most of the Vita games I care about. Give us more than just remote play.

Gabe: The biggest concern for Sony should just be to keep up the momentum at the conference. They’re going on last, and we’ve already seen two huge exclusives for the PS4 at the system’s reveal event. The Last Guardian has been rumored, and that would be something special, but Bungie’s Destiny getting its first gameplay reveal at the conference is going to be the biggest draw. With so many people still in the dark about what the game really is, showing it off at the biggest stage in gaming is sure to create some buzz. As far as the Vita is concerned, Sony has to announce more exclusives, not cross-buy games. Gamers aren’t going to rush out to get a Vita if the games are also on the PS3, so more titles like Killzone: Mercenary need to be announced. And for the love of everything sacred, do not show anything that reminds us of Wonderbook.

Nintendo Direct: Tuesday, June 11
7:00am Pacific /10:00am Eastern

Nathan: Nintendo appears to be intending to do their own showcase of games without the fanfare of E3. Given how little I’ve found to excite me in Nintendo’s last few E3 presentations, I’m hoping that this focus on game demos and such will finally show us something to get the hardcore gamers in the audience excited for a Nintendo product.

I was an early (pre price-drop) adopter of the 3DS and a somewhat early adopter of the Wii U. At present, I only actually own one 3DS game, and it’s a 3D console port (Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition), while the only other games to have truly justified my purchase have been Super Mario 3D Land and Resident Evil: Revelations, the latter of which is no longer a 3DS exclusive. With the Wii U, it is even worse. The only Wii U exclusive that I have cared about at all was the survival horror title ZombiU, and the only other games I’ve picked up have been multiplatform titles like Injustice: Gods Among Us or the aforementioned now-multiplatform Resident Evil: Revelations.

Nintendo: Give me some exclusive titles that provide a reason to be happy to own either of your flagship systems right now.

Gabe: Personally, I think the opportunity to let me see all of Nintendo’s upcoming games without all the buzz words that are so prevalent in an E3 is going to be awesome, but it makes no sense for a company trying to drastically improve its sales. The Wii U is struggling, and Nintendo is promising an impressive number of quality games at the conference, but they’re showing them through a Nintendo Direct event that is watched by those who already own the system. Of the games Nintendo has already said will be on display, the 3D Mario and Super Smash Bros. are my two biggest exclusives, and both Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101 really intrigue me. I’m also really hoping that a Retro-developed Star Fox game gets announced for the Wii U, mixing in a small amount of Adventures-style ground exploration with classic dogfights. Last year’s Nintendo press conference was absolutely terrible, with Nintendo not even revealing one of its biggest games until after it was over, failing to mention many huge 3DS games, and focusing far too much on multi-platform ports. They’re in trouble, but this E3 could give them a serious boost.


What can we really expect from E3? Who will bring the biggest surprises? Who will have the weakest show? Sound off in the comments below!

The Psychology Behind Collector’s Editions


They line shelves, stand watch over living rooms and adorn walls. From the statues, to the art books, to the hardcover game guides, the gaming community loves their collector’s editions and other collectables. Some cost hundreds of dollars, and many will scour bargain bins and eBay auctions to find the ones they missed.

It could be said that the very first collector’s edition was the first copies of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. Those who pre-ordered the game received a limited edition box with gold “collector’s edition” card, and a golden game cartridge. Over time, the extras expanded into behind-the-scenes documentaries, art prints, game soundtracks, and replicas of in-game characters and items. With the rise of digital content, collector’s editions today often include special costumes, side content and even access to future DLC or other games.

While all these bonuses have become an expectation with every AAA game release, why is it that we have become so drawn to collector’s editions?


From a psychological perspective, the interest in collector’s editions is a complex one. There are essentially four different types of collectors and all four types are represented in the gaming community, according to an article by William McIntosh and Brandon Schmeichel in Leisure Sciences. The first is those who are simply passionate collectors. No price is too high for them to get the next item for the perfect collection. These are the people who actively search for those rare classics, and are willing to pay any price to get them. Inquisitive collectors are more focused on the investment side of collecting. They see their collections as something that will increase in value over time, either for themselves or for their heirs. They pick their purchases accordingly. You see these collectors with what they may deem as every game worth owning on a system, and selling the entire bundle for a fortune. They may also be searching for items in high demand, and then turning them for a profit later. Then there are the hobbyists, who collect simply because they enjoy it. The shopping, the hunt for the perfect addition, is just part of the hobby. And then there are those who see the items they collect as statements. These are the expressive collectors, who may simply shell out the extra cash for a collector’s edition because they love the series.

Though there are different types, and though most may actually fall into several of these categories, at the core of each type is some sort of self-fulfillment need that is motivating them. Many times, this need stems from what is known as terror management theory, a social psychology concept that attempts to explain the reasoning behind human behavior. Terror management theory explains that the actions of people are motivated by the need to reduce awareness of one’s own mortality. Many times this is done by participating in culturally valued activities, or by believing that their activities will allow them to have some sort of immortality beyond their death. In a consumer culture, purchasing and investing has cultural value, so collector’s editions allow us to participate in something of value. We see the items inside as symbols of our participation in culture, and many of us probably have a bit of pride in showing items in our collections to friends.

Another theory for the motivations of collecting is that people use their hobby as a way to receive feedback on if they are succeeding. Known as compensation theory, collectors can set out a task and set goals that allow them to get the feedback they are lacking. This allows us to develop a more positive sense of self as we set goals that are more tangible.


Part of the process of collecting anything comes with gaining knowledge. For most of us, we start learning what constitutes a good or bad deal. We start finding other people who are interested in games and consult them on what good or bad prices are for certain editions, or if a game is worth purchasing at all. Beyond the act of finding information, collectors also gain the identity of becoming an expert in their area, and the community of other people who also are interested.

In the end, many of us end up with collector’s editions for a variety of reasons on the surface. At the core, though, we all have similar psychological motivations. From it all we gain both a broader individual identity, as well as acceptance into a group. Not bad benefits from buying the latest game with all the perks.

Invisible Gamer Reacts: Xbox One


For better or worse, the next generation of home video game consoles is (nearly) fully upon us. Yesterday morning, Microsoft debuted the successor to its wildly successful Xbox 360 console, the Xbox One. Opinions on the presentation varied wildly here at Invisible Gamer, but one thing’s for certain: this next console cycle won’t be anything like the last one.

So. What’d we think about yesterday’s unveiling?

Gabe Gurwin, Editor: I think Microsoft made a good decision to start with entertainment and then add in games. The announcement of 15 exclusives within the first year, along with much better Kinect technology, has me excited. Still, it would have been nice to see more than one exclusive title at the reveal. Also, the used games restrictions and whatever online requirements they have are so anti-consumer it’s not even funny. I want a console that appreciates the gamer, not one that says I have “permission” to play a game. I don’t care what the manufacturer thinks: if I buy a game, it’s mine.

Amy Elyse Brighter, Editor: I wanted this to be about games, and it wasn’t. At the same time, I think we’re seeing what Microsoft wants its brand to be: an all-in-one entertainment center. From what we saw today, they’re nailing that, especially with the media switching. Of the games they did show, I wanted to see some gameplay, and a few more teases of what to expect from their new IPs. We’ll have to wait a few more weeks for E3 for that.

Also, I’m not a huge fan of the name. I get the idea behind it, but I think it’s slightly confusing for the average consumer.

Michael Burns, Founder: In my house, the Xbox 360 gets used just about as much as the PS3 – both are essentially movie boxes, for the most part. I don’t need another movie box; I’ve already got a million of them. Sure, it’s nice that this single box can play Blu-ray movies and stream HBO Go (unlike with my current setup), but this whole idea of a single-box approach Microsoft tried to sell yesterday doesn’t really work for me, because guess what? Even if you’re an Xbox-only household, you can’t play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One, meaning you’re going to have to keep your 360 plugged in so you can continue accessing all that great content you’ve been amassing for the past 8 years.

As far as games coming out for Xbox One (and PS4, for that matter), I don’t think it’s going to surprise anyone here that the more the industry looks forward, the more I look back. I don’t care about Call of Duty, driving sims or sports games, just like I don’t care about Killzone or really anything that Sony debuted at the PS4 reveal: I like games that are games, and the industry these days doesn’t make games so much as it tries to make interactive movies. Nintendo might be in dire straights with the Wii U, and maybe their software doesn’t appeal to the audience that would make the Xbox One and PS4 successful, but at least they’re still making actual games. I mean, have you seen the 3DS’s library, lately? Hot damn!

If I actually felt compelled to buy into Microsoft or Sony’s vision of “next gen” and I had to make a decision today, it would be PS4 all the way, because I’ve already got a core component of that ecosystem – the PS Vita. But honestly, I don’t see much value in either of these systems right now, other than the twinge of tech lust inside of me that wants to buy everything all the time. Wii U notwithstanding , this will be the first console generation that I take a wait-and-see approach, and I know I’m not alone in that. And if both Microsoft and Sony can’t convince someone like me that I need to have their latest tech, I don’t know how they’re possibly going to convince the broader audience that has already amassed plenty of other tech that does largely the same thing as these new platforms.

Game|Life‘s Chris Kohler, summing it up as succinctly as ever.

Nathan Butler, Editor: For each of the two most recent console generations, I have owned each of the three major consoles and both major handhelds. I’ve tended to favor Sony this generation, focusing on the PS3 and its exclusives (Uncharted, Eye of Judgment, etc.), but I picked up the Xbox 360 for its Kinect Star Wars Limited Edition console to play that, Alan Wake, and the handful of other exclusives that have gotten my attention (far and few between, those.)

I came into the Xbox One reveal with few expectations, looking for something that might draw me out of Sony’s camp for my primary console of the next generation. I saw nothing that even remotely did so. In fact, their approach to games that (a) require installation and (b) require a full-price CD key, in essence, to be played, pretty much guarantees that I won’t be playing much on Xbox One if/when I pick one up. I feed my gaming habit mostly by buying and selling on eBay, and by trading in old games toward preorders at Gamestop, so that I can limit my out-of-pocket cost for any new game (a month with several new $60 games doesn’t really work on a teacher’s salary.) The chill that Xbox One’s approach is likely to bring to that market is a deal-breaker for me.

Sure, it will finally have a BD player. Yes, the new Kinect looks like what Kinect was supposed to be in the first place. None of that balances out the used game angle for me. I understand why Microsoft is doing this, but I don’t think the company has any real sense of the impact this decision will have when it comes time for consumers to choose which new console to purchase.

Xbox_One_TV-GuideXbox One: The most advanced TV box ever…until the next one!

Brien Bell, Managing Editor: I tried to be open-minded about the reveal of a new Xbox. It’s no secret that my loyalties tend to run toward a certain Japanese hardware manufacturer that doesn’t begin with the letter ‘N’, but I like to think that even the most fanboy-ish among us can remain impartial when it comes to deciding which console suits our needs. Having both current-gen HD consoles in my household, I appreciate the Xbox 360′s design sensibilities, the ergonomics of the controller layout, and the (relatively) easy-to-use Dashboard. But so far, I’ve found little reason to be excited by the prospect of the Xbox One. A few reasons:

  • My living arrangements: whether in the main room or the bedroom, Kinect has never been a viable prospect. I’m not about to re-arrange furniture to accommodate swiping from screen to screen, no matter how useful it may be (turns out, the new Kinect has a wider field-of-vision, making this a non issue – Michael). Also, on the topic of Kinect, I’m just not interested in voice commands, and I won’t be if they’re part of the PlayStation 4, either. It’s just not something I want.
  • Cord-cutter: one of the big focuses of the reveal was the television integration; having recently cancelled my satellite subscription, this feature is almost meaningless. I have some interest in the ESPN content that’s still exclusive to Microsoft, but that’s not what I’d buy a console for.
  • “Xbox, Games… Xbox?”: Games are what I buy a console for. We already knew that E3 was going to be where they would showcase their full lineup of software, but the lack of any actual gameplay demos at this event was pretty alarming. Call of Duty was the show-stopper, of course, and has been at most Xbox events for the last several years. Yesterday’s event would’ve been a great place for the first playable demo on the new hardware, which was (ostensibly) right there on stage. But it just didn’t happen.

Xbox has a plan. It’s probably even a good plan, for those who want an all-purpose machine. But for me, until there’s a more compelling reason than Quantum Break, I don’t feel the need to pick this up day one, or evangelize it to my non-gaming friends, which is really what Microsoft is banking on.

And there you have it: our initial thoughts on Xbox One. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!