Saturday, July 2, 2016

10 of the Best Multiplayer Games to Liven Up A Group Event

The following is a sponsored post by Dennis Star.

Planning a night in with friends and you’re looking for a few fun ideas to keep everyone entertained? What better opportunity to break out the console and get everyone involved in some virtual fun can you get!

Here are some of the best multiplayer games that’ll keep your guests occupied for hours.


MARIO KART 8

For almost every device Nintendo have released there has always been the highly anticipated unveiling of the newest chapter in their super fun ‘Mario Kart’ franchise.

‘Mario Kart 8’, which first made its appearance on the Wii U, is the most recent version of the action-packed racing game. Choose from a variety of popular console characters and race around a number of challenging courses whilst hurling shells, dropping banana skins and speeding your way to victory ahead of family and friends.

WII PARTY

There are plenty of fun little group games you can enjoy with Wii Party. There are different modes to play and you can even use your own home for some of the more interactive games such as Hide and Hunt and Time Bomb which utilizes the remote itself.

ROCKET LEAGUE

This truly addictive multiplayer lets players take control of a rocket-powered car which is used to try and score through the opponents’ goal. Think of it as explosive football action with cars.


WII SPORTS

It’s become somewhat of a classic and even after all this time the original Wii Sports collection is still an addictive and fun game for all the family to play together. Players can enjoy golf, bowling, tennis, boxing and baseball from the comfort of their living room.

SUPER SMASH BROS.

Whenever Nintendo characters get together you can always guarantee fun. With fighting game ‘Super Smash Bros’ up to 8 players can get in on the action at once making it the perfect choice for those looking to let off a little steam.

ROCK BAND 4

If you and your friends are looking to jam together then simply load up music game ‘Rock Band 4’ and belt out a tune or two. There are more than 1,600 songs to play along with spanning each musical decade.


BINGO

It's eyes down for a full house. Not as weird as a choice as you might think! The traditional game of bingo has been making quite the comeback in recent times. So why not create your own special home-based version for your next party to help spice things up? Get inspiration from some of the best bingo sites in the UK online and go from there.

JUST DANCE

Get your groove on and bust out some moves with Ubisoft’s rhythm game ‘Just Dance’. Join in with friends and take part in challenging routines together or try and out dance your opponents.

JACKBOX PARTY PACK

This excellent collection of 5 various games from the makers of the classic crazy trivia game ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ will keep you and your guests entertained for hours. The pack includes the original ‘Jack’ as well as Drawful, Word Spud, Fibbage and Lie Swatter.

FAMILY GAME NIGHT 3

With Hasbro’s ‘Family Game Night’ collection there’s no need to break out the classic board games because this party game has it all. There’s Clue, Twister, Life, Yahtzee, and Mousetrap to enjoy.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (PS4, XB1, PC) Anime Expo Trailer

October continues to shape up to be a marvelous month for gamers. Now, Namco Bandai has confirmed an October 25th release date for Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 in the Americas. Along with the release date announcement, this trailer was included, featuring new mechanics, characters, and settings.

Review Round-Up - June 2016

This month was headlined by two comic book properties. Leading the charge was LEGO Marvel's Avengers.
June is led by two comic book properties this time around! Six reviews were posted on SuperPhillip Central this past month, and before we march toward our PlayStation 4-focused month in July, let's look back on the month that was, June 2016!

This month began with a review of LEGO Marvel's Avengers, which teamed up to earn a B-. Then, we went to the underworld in Olympia Rising, scoring a C+. The highest reviewed game of June 2016 was Kirby: Planet Robobot, an impressive and fun Kirby romp earning an A-. The other comic book-related game this month was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, coming out of its shell and getting a C- for its effort. Also receiving a C- this month was Lost Sea, a PS4 and Xbox One digital release. Finally, we went to a safer version of Rio with Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, getting a medal and a B simultaneously.

As stated, we're in for an exciting month of reviews for July, as the PlayStation 4 will finally see the start of its many exclusives reviewed!

LEGO Marvel's Avengers (PS4, XB1, Wii U, PS3, 360, 3DS, Vita) - B-
Olympia Rising (Wii U eShop) - C+
Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS) - A-
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (PS4, XB1, PS3, 360) - C-
Lost Sea (PS4, XB1) - C-
Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Wii U) - B

The heroes in a half shell weren't on their A game, but they did bring a relatively enjoyable game all the same.

Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon (3DS) New Pokémon Reveal Trailer

We saw the new Pokémon in Pokémon Sun and Moon posted in a Japanese trailer and even before that via a leak. Now, we have an English trailer with English Pokémon names and moves. Which of these new Pokémon featured in this trailer look the best to you?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Wii U) Review

We've finally arrived at the final day of June. It's been a pretty busy month here on SuperPhillip Central, and it all concludes with one final review. This time we're taking a look at the Wii U release of Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

To see my thoughts on the 3DS version of Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, look no further than this link.

All of the fun of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games without the Zika virus.


Every two years since 2008, the all-star rosters of the Mario and Sonic franchises have come together to participate in the Olympics, whether it's the summer or the winter. Many of these games have essences of fun in the package, but overall critics find they don't quite nail what they were shooting for. As a fan of most of Mario and Sonic's Olympic outings, I entered Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on the Wii U with an open mind. The overall game ended up being one of my favorites in the series, but not without some glaring faults.

The main attractions event-wise are Football, Beach Volleyball, and a first for the Mario & Sonic series, Rugby Sevens. I call these the main attractions because they're most in-depth and enjoyable events in the game. Alongside the traditional versions of these events, there are also Duel events. These involve the same gameplay of the original events, but throw in some wacky stipulations and bonuses.

The new event Rugby Sevens is one of my favorites of the event bunch in this Mario & Sonic.
Duel events don't score players the same as the traditional versions. Instead, you accumulate reserve points through attacking foes with items and other means. When you finally score, you earn all of the points that are in reserve. Each side has their own points in reserve, and if the other team scores, their reserve points are cut in half. It's paramount to rack up lots of duel points in reserve and then score to stand a chance in these Duel events.

An unlikely duo tears up the sand together in Beach Volleyball.
For instance, in Duel Rugby Sevens, you not only get duel points for attacking opponents with items, but you also can rack them up quite quickly by running through rainbows that appear on the field when you have the ball. This causes your player to quickly spin around temporarily, allowing you to slam into opponents, simultaneously knocking them down while increasing your points. Once you reach the opposing side's scoring area, your accumulated duel points are officially earned.

Unfortunately, the three Duel events are about as wacky as the events get in the latest Mario & Sonic. A mainstay of these games since the original on Wii in Beijing was that of Dream Events, where the cast of Mario and Sonic all-stars played fantastical versions of various events across numerous Mushroom Kingdom and Sonic series locales. These are sadly not incorporated into Rio 2016, and it's quite disappointing, as those events really brought a lot to the series creativity and entertainment-wise. The Duel events, while still enjoyable romps, aren't satisfying enough replacements to Dream Events.

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games marks a turning point for the Mario & Sonic Olympic series. This is the first home console version without motion controls. Instead, you're using pure analog button goodness this time around, so the game is much more inviting to those who hated the waggling of the Wii Remote and other motion controls usages of past Mario & Sonic games.

The actual controls work and respond well for the most part. Events like the 100m where you have to mash on a button to accelerate and boost remain as simple as ever. More complicated events like Football and Rugby Sevens play well, too, though they do occasionally have the problem of not switching to the correct player near the ball when you manually change players. This can be very frustrating especially when you're trying to defend your side of the field.

Jam on that A or 2 button like you mean it! You've got a 100m race to win!
There are a lot of different button combinations and usages of said buttons to remember, but thankfully, you don't have to. At the beginning of each event, you can press the minus button to bring up the controls for both the Wii U GamePad and the Wii Remote, as well as general info on when to use a given button in the upcoming event and gameplay advice. With over 15 events in total, this is an absolute lifesaver. Well, technically, knowing the buttons of an event in a Mario & Sonic game won't save a life, but it's a real help-- then again, you knew what I meant probably.

Unlike the real Rio Olympics, the water in this pool is entirely safe to swim in.
The main single player mode in Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games has you playing as your Mii, competing against other Miis through all of the game's events, traditional and Duel events. You get a selection of three events to choose from at a time, and you play through them in one of two ways. Either you start with a qualifier, then if you're one of the top four scores or times of the seed you're in, you move onto the semifinals, and then the finals. Or you face off against an opponent or a team in a traditional tournament. Either way you're trying to gain a medal with the gold or 1st place medals being the best, of course.

Mii versus Mii in an archery showdown for the ages.
Sometimes after an event has been completed, you are challenged by a guest character. If you beat them in the event of their choosing, you unlock them for play in that events. It's a bit disappointing that you can't play as them in all events, but then again, on top of the roster of already large number of playable characters, there would be even more that would have to be animated for all of the events. Perhaps it was a budget or time issue. It's understandable, then, but still a little deflating all the same.

Winning events in the main single player mode earns you coins and rings that can be spent to push your luck at various stores. Here you can earn random goodies like Mii gear, music, and Miiverse stamps. You also earn Mii gear from completing a given event as well. To earn the rarest Mii gear, costumes of Mario and Sonic characters, you eventually unlock a mode called Carnival Challenge that sees four parade floats based on the characters of the Mario and Sonic series flow into the hub of the game. A random character appears on each float, and proposes a different challenge to you based off one of the game's events.

Pass the baton with perfect timing to get a super boost as fast as Sonic's speed.
This time around, it's not just about winning, but it's about doing so while fulfilling a challenge. For example, using Rugby Sevens again, one challenge requires you to score at least four conversions in one game. If you win the event but fail to complete the challenge, you don't earn a prize, and the cost for entry to try the challenge again doubles. Completing a challenge earns a costume piece from the character you beat, either a headpiece or a body costume of that character for your Mii.

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games sadly does not support online play at all. While playing the solo modes is fun by your lonesome, it's really not worth the cost of entry at full MSRP. The true Mario & Sonic experience lies within its multiplayer. The game even allows a buddy to play with you in the solo modes such as the tournament-style one I talked about earlier. It gives you double the chance to score the gold or 1st place medal, and it's just a ton of fun competing together for the same cause.

Such a multiplayer mode that can also be played in single player against the computer is Heroes Showdown. This pits Team Mario and Team Sonic against one another, ten characters on each side, in multiple randomly selected events. When an event is chosen, you select the character or characters on your team that you think are best fitted for the event. If you win, the other side loses the character or characters that were in the event. However, it goes the other way, too, with you losing the characters that participated in that event if your side loses. The mode continues until either Mario or Sonic, the captains of either side, goes down in an event. Heroes Showdown is an enjoyable romp that can get very exciting, especially with two players on opposing sides playing together.

One thing that cannot be denied about the Mario & Sonic Olympic series is that the games are absolutely phenomenal to look at each and every entry. This is no different with Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The graphics are colorful, vibrant, and crisp, and the performance is top dollar. You really get the impression that Nintendo and Sega have transported you to Rio... though a much more idyllic one than the real thing, without the Zika virus, sewer water in the swimming pools, and murder rates of the real place.

Sega pulled no punches with the presentation of the latest Mario & Sonic Olympic title.
On the music side of the equation, there are much less new remixes of various Mario and Sonic series music this time around, which is a tad lame. The majority of remixes come from past Mario & Sonic Olympic games. Still, the new content music-wise is fantastic, particularly the original stuff.

If you have a buddy or series of buddies to play the game with in multiplayer, Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games really shines brightly. If not, then you have a game that you shouldn't pick up right away and should instead at least wait until it drops in price. Regardless of when you get the game, you should, as the Olympic events here are represented quite well, motion controls are gone, the presentation is top notch, and you'll get a wonderful challenge from the AI. This is without a doubt one of my favorite of the Mario & Sonic Olympic entries, and it brings all the fun of the upcoming Rio Olympic Games without actually having to be there. And who the heck wants to actually be there with all the controversy and horrors going on there?

[SPC Says: B] 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lost Sea (PS4, XB1) Review

Before June closes for good, there are two more reviews to be posted here on SuperPhillip Central. The first is a tease at what's coming next month-- a month of PlayStation 4-centered reviews! The version played of EastAsiaSoft's Lost Sea was the PlayStation 4 build. See how the overall game is with the official SuperPhillip Central review!

More fun than Gilligan's Island! Less fun than Pirates of the Caribbean! 


Summertime is here, and many are taking vacation trips to tropical locales. The last thing people expect going to a tropical isle is to be marooned on an uncharted island or lost within the Bermuda Triangle. ...But it happens! All you need to believe this is see EastAsiaSoft's Lost Sea. ...Oh, wait. I've just been informed that Lost Sea is merely a fictional video game and not at all based on fact. Still, Lost Sea is a rather nice getaway if you've looking for a vacation away from home and you're stuck doing a "staycation" instead. Sure, it has some hair-pulling and frustrating moments and design flaws, but no one said being lost in the Bermuda Triangle was going to be easy!

The main gameplay loop of Lost Sea has you exploring procedural generated (read; randomly concocted) islands made up of different hexagon-shaped parts. The goal of each island is to at least collect one tablet strewn about the island and bring it back to the dock where your ship is. Doing so will open up a new island at random for you to move to.

Picking up more tablets per island is always to your benefit. That way you have a grander choice of islands to choose from. Some islands are more difficult than others, while other islands house rare treasure that you can collect, permanently adding it to your assortment of golden goodies.

Along the way of venturing across the wilderness of the islands, you'll come across countless monsters and enemies that need defeating and will make no hesitation to come after you. As you reach new worlds, the enemy variety increases as does the difficulty to dodge their attacks. Through defeating enemies, your avatar earns experience points that can be used to purchase new abilities and bonus benefits from the captain of the ship at the dock. These include things like the ability to sprint, a chance for enemies to drop healing items, increased health and stamina, and a lot more.

All you have is a sword to slice and slash through danger, but that's really all you need!
However, you're not the only person marooned inside the Bermuda Triangle. No, there are folks sprinkled around the various islands of Lost Sea that can join your cause and assist you on your journey home. While these crewmates don't have any attack abilities of their own, their worthiness comes from the side benefits they give you. For one, they can carry tablets so you can keep your hands free to attack enemies, destroy boxes and barrels, and slice through various foliage. Some have the ability to build bridges, mine items, unlock treasure chests, and some even have an ultra-helpful halo over their heads, allowing a one-time revival of your character if they lose all of their health. Though crewmates are not without their drawbacks. They will sometimes get caught on geography in levels, making you go back for them, and secondly, they aren't invincible. Once their own health is whittled away, they're gone for good.

Three pairs of arms are better than just one, especially when it comes to transporting tablets.
Lost Sea is pretty unforgiving under its welcoming cel-shaded art style, chipper music, and cute aesthetic. Your character's death results in losing all of their abilities, earned experience, earned ship upgrades, and progress, This means you have to restart anew as a new character, but thankfully, if you've reached a certain world, you can warp to the beginning of that world when you start as a new character instead of having to play from the very start of the game. However, you do have to gain experience and abilities all over again, and it can be pretty hard to get reacquainted to losing abilities you had like being able to sprint, for instance. It can also feel like the winds have been taken out of your sails when you realize all your progress save for worlds you've reached and what treasures you've discovered are gone.

Fi, fi, fo, fum, these giants are slow and somewhat dumb.
One big problem with Lost Sea is the total lack of a quick save feature. When you start an adventure, there is no means to save your progress. Considering that a given island can take 5-15 minutes to complete, there being multiple islands per world you have to visit before facing the boss, and all of the five worlds there are to complete, and you have a lengthy play session ahead of you. You have to do everything in one sitting, which is incredibly old school and antiquated as a feature for a 2016 release. That aforementioned quick save feature that is missing here in Lost Sea could have made the game much more manageable, less stressful, and more fun.

The visual style used in Lost Sea makes dying and starting over much less of a pain. (Though it's still a big pain.)
Lost Sea's performance at least on the PlayStation 4 is quite good. The cel-shaded visuals of characters look mighty fine, and the environments are bright and suitably cartoon-y. I only encountered some slight stutter, but this occurred so rarely that it was negligible. The sound side of lost Sea features some catchy music to explore the various islands with, and the quick, one-word responses by crewmates sound charming, especially when they come out of the PS4 controller. Overall, Lost Sea's presentation is nowhere close to a shipwreck.

Nonetheless, overall as a game, Lost Sea is frustrating because beyond the irritating design choices and flaws here, there's a really good game to be found. It's just the game's apparent desire to punish those who want to play in spurts as well as its harsh penalties upon death make for a game that is a tad challenging to fully recommend and be 100% engaged with 100% of the time. Lost Sea is the type of video game that neither sinks to the bottom of the ocean like an anchor, nor does it float lifelessly to the top. It's just somewhere in the middle, struggling to have players enjoy it completely.

[SPC Says: C-]

PlayStation 4 review copy provided by EastAsiaSoft.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (PS4, XB1, PS3, 360) Review

Welcome to the last week of June here at SuperPhillip Central. What's planned is a variety of reviews to send this month off in style. This next review is for a game in one of my favorite comic book properties. It's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Platinum Games-- what could go wrong?

A shell of a time or a shell of a headache? 


The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a video game series was at its highest point in the early '90s where Konami developed a slew of well received and well regarded games. Since then, however, good Turtles games have been few and far in-between. Now, it seems that the Turtles are in good hands with a good developer, Platinum Games, masters of character action combat games. Nonetheless, with the developer's known quality, it makes it even harder to have to say that the latest game starring the heroes in a half shell, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, is more of a dud than what fans would expect of Platinum Games.

Right away, however, Mutants in Manhattan gave me what I wanted story-wise. It had the Ninja Turtles interacting with one another with funny quips and humorous one-liners. It had them investigating why Shredder's Foot Clan and Krang have teamed up to commit crimes all across the city, and it all culminates in an epic showdown. It feels like an adventure from the comics, and the scenes that bookend each level are well done and enjoyable to watch.

The cel-shaded art style of Mutants in Manhattan shows great detail, making it feel like you're playing an interactive comic book. Environments look nice enough as well. However, one part of the presentation package that doesn't work so well is the frame-rate, which can dip to low numbers in especially-packed-with-enemies-and-objects areas. Meanwhile, the music plays well with the game, though I couldn't hum you any song from it. It's mostly generic rock noise.

Brothers in arms and in half shells, ready to stop Shredder and Krang.
While the overall presentation of Mutants in Manhattan is serviceable, other parts of the game don't work out so well. Combat is usually one of Platinum's strong suits. In Mutants in Manhattan, however, it's a mixed bag. For one, you have usually four Turtles at once participating in battle against Foot Soldiers, Stone Soldiers, and Krang UFOs, and this can be very messy to look at. It can be hard to follow what's going on the screen at once, especially when all of four Turtles are engaging in kicking some enemy butt. The flashy visuals distract, and it can sometimes make it where seeing an enemy's prompt before they're about to attack somewhat difficult.

Battling with foes, you have a strong attack and weak attack to use. You also have four Ninjitsu abilities that are more powerful moves, but they require a cool-down period to use once again after they've already been used. Ninjitsu abilities can be mixed and matched between Turtles through the loadout screen from the menu in between levels. You'll want to have good Ninjitsu skills equipped, as even with these moves unleashed on foes, many enemies take WAY too long to defeat.

Just a typical Tuesday night in Manhattan, four bipedal Turtles taking on sword-wielding ninjas.
In addition to offensive abilities, the Turtles have ample defensive maneuvers to dodge and evade enemy advances. The back right shoulder button is used to guard. If timed correctly, your turtle can slip around the back of a foe and hop on their back, leaving the foe defensive while you pummel away at its head. The timing here is a bit tricky, and again, the craziness of battle with everything going on makes the timing hard to ascertain exactly. Using the guard button is a great way to avoid attacks, but using it too much causes a gauge to empty. As a turtle guards, it spins in his shell. Spin too much in too little of a time span, and your turtle ends up being vulnerable as it enters a dazed funk.

They may not be horses, but Michelangelo and Leonardo can still ride these enemies like cowboys-- er, cow-turtles!
When a turtle loses all of his health, they wind up hiding in their shells, requiring another turtle to revive them, or else they get sent to a pizza room where they must gobble up pizza to restore enough health to be sent back to battle. If all four Turtles end up in the pizza room, it's either time to use a continue or it's game over. The game difficulty selected means that on harder difficulties the time to revive a turtle before they return to the lair is shortened severely. Easy mode gives you ten seconds to revive a turtle while very hard only gives you three seconds.

These Stone Soldier enemy types are annoying due to how much health they have, a common problem in this game.
Items are found in Mutants in Manhattan all over the levels. You usually earn them from green orbs sprinkled around levels, as well as occasionally from fallen foes. Entering a manhole in a given level takes you to Splinter, where he offers various items for a price, specifically battle points earned from fighting enemies and completing missions. Most offensive items are completely throwaway in comparison to just normally attacking an enemy, and it's disappointing to see that. Meanwhile, you can stock up on pizzas that refill health when necessary.

Mutants in Manhattan also falters in its length. The game has but a small nine levels, and at least two of them are too long for their own good, as if Platinum Games realized its game was too short and needed to pad its length, and tediously so. These occur in the sewers. Sadly, even Platinum Games can't make trekking through the same similarly designed corridors without much level variance fun. Fancy that.

Most levels' structure have you getting calls from April O'Neil to check out various disturbances in the general area. By using a Batman: Arkham-like T-Vision to scan the area of enemies and objectives, you can easily find where these disturbances are. When you arrive at the location, you initiate a mission. These can vary from level to level, and they're random which ones you get (which for trophies that require you to do a certain mission a specific number of times, this results in TONS of grinding for the hopes of the RNG being kind to you). Missions can require you to protect three ATMs from being assaulted and robbed by Foot Soldiers, to team up with a second turtle to bring a Krang bomb to a designated location, or to deactivate several time bombs in the general vicinity.

After completing a set number of randomly assigned missions, the area where the boss of the level is hanging out at is unlocked. Boss battles are some of the most fun combat scenarios in Mutants in Manhattan, having the Turtles take on familiar foes like Bebop, Rocksteady, Slash, Karai, Krang, and yes, the nefarious rival of the Turtles, The Shredder. The harder the difficulty selected, the more life bars a boss has. Additionally and occasionally, a second boss can join a fight midway, making it so you have two targets to take down instead of just one.

Even with four Turtles fighting against one, that still might not be enough to take down Rocksteady.
As stated already, Mutants in Manhattan isn't a long game with its nine relatively short levels. However, if you frequent online, you can enjoy multiplayer with up to three other people, either in your own lobby or joining another's game. This makes for a more fun experience if you can get players to mesh well with one another, as the Turtle AI in single player isn't the brightest. It's just a shame that offline you can't play cooperatively with a local player in split-screen, something that past Turtles games are almost synonymous with.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is an okay entry in a video game series that once was always a sure thing regarding its quality. However, with a developer known for its excellent work behind many of its games, just "okay" doesn't seem good enough here. In fact, it's quite disappointing. With combat that can be hard to follow, repetitive gameplay, a short campaign, and little to do outside of grinding for trophies, Mutants in Manhattan isn't the shell of a time I was hoping for.

Bummer, dudes.

[SPC Says: C-]

Monday, June 27, 2016

SPC Interviews: Ben Cook (Last Stitch Goodnight)

I generally interview developers from all over the world on SuperPhillip Central, but this next interviewee is a special one. Living in the St. Louis metropolitan area and being a fellow game developer myself, I find it important to seek out talent within the area and promote it. One of the developers I know within the St. Louis game development community is Ben Cook of Well Bred Rhino, his own upstart.

His latest game, Last Stitch Goodnight, is available to recommend on Steam Greenlight. The game looks both exciting and intriguing. Thus, I felt the desire to ask Ben about the development history behind the game, what makes it so worthwhile, and delve into his own background as a game developer. Welcome to SPC Interviews!

Phil Stortzum (PS): What is your game development background?

Ben Cook (BC): Spacemen and pterodactyls.

In 5th grade a friend and I made a game called Flair and Bock.  Bock was the pterodactyl, Flair the spaceman.  It was built in World Builder on a Mac Plus, and had static images coupled with some simple text parsing.  Flair fell down a hole, and it was up to Bock to… it was terrible.  Actually, I think it was long enough ago that I can rewrite history on that one.  It was awesome.

I’ve been captivated with game design ever since.  Small, quick games evolved into group projects (that may not have taken off but were still a blast), and then those projects evolved into All the Bad Parts, a brawler I released on Xbox 360.  The whole experience has been an incredible learning opportunity, but working on Last Stitch Goodnight has been the most fun, most rewarding part of the journey.  I feel like I finally have built up the vocabulary I needed to design the game I’ve always wanted.

PS: Since you’re working alone on Last Stitch Goodnight, how did you gain all of the skills needed to make this game on your own?

BC: I am a giant fan of screwing up.  Repeatedly.  Whether it’s a new art program, writing code for collision detection, or even recording voice over work, I’ve always approached any task with the mindset of “I could probably figure that out”.  Then I would spend 3 months running into obstacles (except for the collision detection one) until I finally had a break through.  In that sense, working solo is almost a benefit.  There is no one to lean on, there is no one to help make excuses, there is no one to blame.  It’s all me.  SO I HAD THE POWER INSIDE ME ALL ALONG!  It was just buried under years and years of screwups.

The biggest gift from all of this is that it reignited my passion for drawing.  I think right now we are being trained at a really young age that we should be just one thing.  THIS GUY is an artist.  THIS GIRL is programmer.  YOU are a motorcycle stunt driver, NOW JUMP THROUGH THE FLAMING CIRCLE OF DEATH!  It’s all rubbish.  It lets people put us in convenient boxes.  If we really love something, and we are willing to push ourselves to keep improving at it, then we can do nearly anything, be it code or art or writing.

PS: How long has Last Stitch Goodnight been in development?

BC: Last Stitch Goodnight is the biggest, most ambitious, most sincere game that I have ever made, and so far it has mercilessly devoured about four years of my life.  You always run the risk of losing yourself into a project, the eternal passion project.  In this case, however, I think the four years sacrificed were well spent to summon it into existence.  Last Stitch Goodnight has grown bigger than me.  I will be very proud when it starts stomping small villages.

PS: What have been the hardest challenges with making this game?

BC: Learning Unity?  Marketing?  Mixing humor and horror?  Never giving up?  Never surrendering?There are a ton challenges, but the biggest is probably to keep pushing yourself.  Part of it is the day to day, pushing yourself to keep plodding along.  But a bigger part of it is pushing yourself past “that works”, pushing yourself to find something new and unique.

PS: Where did the inspiration come from for Last Stitch Goodnight? Are there any games that you’ve played that influenced its design?

BC: Game Development is a great opportunity to take a hard look at the world.  First you try to figure out HOW the world works so you can code it.  Then you can explore the space you created to figure out WHY it works.  That’s my biggest influence.  We live in a huge, expansive universe, full of mystery and the unknown, and I’ve only got five measly senses to experience it.  Last Stitch Goodnight lets me examine some of the weirder corners of the unknown.  It’s basically an existential crisis, except it’s one you can work through by hitting robots with a lead pipe.

As for games, we have such a rich history of games, I like to think all of the great ones have left a subtle mark on me.  The deconstruction of relationships in the Bioshocks, the universe building of Dark Souls, and the breathing worlds of Witcher and Elder Scrolls all spring to mind.  The two that stand out the most, however, have to be the tone and exploration of the Castlevania and Monkey Island series.  They seem completely different, but they both established a world you visit, as opposed to a world built just for a game.

PS:The visual style of Last Stitch Goodnight is very appealing. What can you tell me about how you went about going with this style? Was it the first style you settled on, or did you have more you decided not to use?

BC: I started with a clean, crisp, fresh drawing pad, and then I drew the same character over and over and over.  For about 200 pages.  I tried a handful of different angles, a top down, a full side shot, bigger hair, but in the end I settled with something I could live with and I could crank out. Then I started filling the world with characters and abnormalities as fast as I could think them up.

Fast forward a year later, I’m showing off the game to some local game developers, and suddenly I found myself making excuses for a few pieces of art.   That’s a big sign in game design– any time you feel like you need to make an excuse, you need to fix it.  OR you need to drive across the country and explain your excuse to everyone who plays your game.  So I went back to the drawing board and redrew all the characters.  It set me back about 3 months, but it helped teach me an insanely important lesson on game development:  if you really want to make something as great as you can, nothing can be sacred or set in stone.



PS: How will you encourage players to keep playing the game after it’s finished? Do you have any replay value in mind?

BC: At launch I plan to have the full storyline, tons of side quests, and as many secrets and treasures as I can cram in.  So hopefully people will keep going back to explore every spidery corner.  But I also have BIG, DIABOLICAL PLANS!

If people genuinely like the game, I would love to keep living in Last Stitch Goodnight with them.  I would love to add new quests after release, new chunks of story, new things to interact with.  Video games can be viewed as disposable, so I want to give them a game that can stick with them, a game that can give them something to think about long after they’ve finished it.

PS: What do you hope players feel while playing Last Stitch Goodnight?
Intense, burning curiosity.  The kind of burning curiosity that needs a topical cream, and you can’t

BC: Intense, burning curiosity.  The kind of burning curiosity that needs a topical cream, and you can’t help but show it off to your friends just to get their reaction.

The one thing I hope they DON’T feel is safe.  Or trusting.  I want to keep surprising them the whole way through.

PS: How difficult is it to distinguish yourself from other independent developers out there?   What are you planning to do to garner attention towards your own game?

BC: Streaking, primarily.  I figure I’ll focus on small sporting events and work my way up to visits from foreign dignitaries.  If I want to be serious about this, I’ll have to get “Last Stitch Goodnight” tattooed somewhere, but I guess that is to be expected; I’ve been told that branding is very important.

Beyond that, I’ll be screaming about it from the rooftops, sharing it at conventions, and playing it with podcast hosts.  I plan on putting in a lot of legwork, but my biggest ambassador will always have to be the game itself.  I just have to keep pouring as much dedication and love into it as I can until I can prove it’s worth everyone’s time.

PS: How challenging is it to have your game on Steam Greenlight when there are so many others seeking approval by the community as well? Any tips for other independents out there?

BC: It’s crazy exciting that so many people are finding a way to express themselves through video games.  That said, standing out really is about solving two problems:  letting people know you exist, and making people care. Gamers are savvy; you have to earn their respect

My recommendation to other folks would be to plan a few announcements.  Pour as much of yourself as you can into the game AND into the announcements.  Share your progress with the world.  Talk to Phil.  Above all else, let the world know you are a human, and not just some corporate machine.  I have to believe that people like authenticity.

PS: What thing or things are you most proud of concerning the development of Last Stitch Goodnight and in general with the game?

BC: My proudest moment is probably when it gained sentience.   I always think of anything artistic as a chance for you to (FIGURATIVELY) lop off a bit of yourself and see how it lives on its own.  This project has gone out of its way to show me that this is true.

I came into the project with a rough idea, but it keeps growing in ways I could never have predicted. Enemies, weapons, and rooms all spring to life.  Whole subplots show up out of nowhere and demand to be part of the bigger story.  When I finally got to writing the final scene, I had a blinding epiphany out of nowhere, and suddenly the entire project made sense.   The whole game was leading me to something, and I just needed to give it enough time to tell me.

PS: If there is one takeaway you want players to have after playing Last Stitch Goodnight, what would that takeaway be?

BC: Hope in the face of adversity, monstrosity, and absurdity.

PS: Do you have a future project in mind for after Last Stitch Goodnight is complete? If so, what kinds of ideas do you have rolling around in your head?

BC: I’d love to explore space more, and investigate humanity’s significance in it.  Space is the perfect irony, a giant empty void that is filled with EVERYTHING.  I just need to find a way to work pterodactyls back in.

PS: Is there anything else you’d like to add or anything you’d like to say to my readers before we wrap up?

BC: Last Stitch Goodnight has been a giant journey for me, and I cannot WAIT to share it with you all!

===

My special thanks to Ben Cook for taking time to answer my questions. To reiterate, his game, Last Stitch Goodnight, is available to recommend to Steam via Greenlight, so if you like what you see, please do so!

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Back from a Short Break Edition

I'm back from an extended weekend for a new installment of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs! Just click on the VGM volume link to be taken to that song's YouTube video!

This week I'm dedicating this edition to colorful mascots. We start off with Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. Then we take a trip with Klonoa in Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil. Following that is a voyage to space in Bomberman 64: The Second Attack. Then, Blinx the Time Sweeper represents the original Xbox, and Mario Hoops 3 on 3 wraps things up.

As always, check out the VGM Database for all past VGM volumes featured on this weekly segment. Now, on to the music!

v1171. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (PS1) - Warp Room


To celebrate the announcement of Crash Bandicoot's original three games getting the remake treatment on the PlayStation 4, here is a song from the third game in the series, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. This catchy tune plays in the room where you transport to the game's various levels.

v1172. Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil (PS2) - Moonlight Museum Ver. 1


Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil is a severely overlooked PlayStation 2 platformer from a series that doesn't get its due diligence. Sure, some gamers have gotten to experience the glory of Klonoa, but not enough! This ethereal theme from Klonoa 2 plays in the Maze of Memories. The alternate version of this song can be heard here.

v1173. Bomberman 64: The Second Attack (N64) - Planet Select


The theme that plays on the planetary map in the intergalactic adventure Bomberman 64: The Second Attack, Yasunori Mitsuda of Chrono Trigger, Cross, and Xenogears fame composed the music for this game, as one of his more under-appreciated roles. Good luck finding a copy of this game if you don't have one already. Used, cartridge-only copies can easily go for $150+!

v1174. Blinx the Time Sweeper (XBX) - Forgotten City


Some platforming stars have stuck with us to today: Mario, Sonic, and even Rayman. However, most have not. The Xbox's Blinx the Time Sweeper is one of the latter, and actually saw two games devoted to the time-shifting feline mascot. Still, while the games weren't the most interesting around on the Xbox, the music was quite good, as Forgotten City is a nice example of.

v1175. Mario Hoops 3 on 3 (DS) - Bowser Castle


A heavy metal version of the castle theme from the original Super Mario Bros., Bowser Castle's theme is pure rockin' awesomeness. Masayoshi Soken, the composer for Mario Hoops 3 on 3 would go on to compose many of the pieces for the expansion to Final Fantasy XIV. How far he has traveled as a composer in this industry!

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