Thursday, May 1, 2014

MSP Interviews Happy Badger Studios at ASTL 2014

If you didn't know already, SuperPhillip Central is based in St. Louis, Missouri. Not only do we like to cover big name publishers and developers, but we like to share what is going on in our own gaming community, which by the way is rapidly expanding to immense proportions. The indie game community is ever growing, and it's not just on the West and East coasts, either. It's happening in the heartland of the United States as well, and much more than one might think it is.

This is an interview of Happy Badger Games' Ben Triola, conducted by the Mission Start Podcast at the recent AnimeSTL weekend show. If the name Ben Triola is familiar to you, it might be because of our own interview we conducted with him last year.

Review Round-Up - April 2014

Strike a pose, Iota!
How about you vogue as well?
April of 2014 was a month dedicated solely to the PlayStation Vita review-wise. This past month we looked into six unique Vita games. No worries if you think we're done-- there's more Vita-related reviews on the way.

We started things off this month by joining the Hot Shots crew on the links with Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational. The steep difficulty in later ranks made us a little agitated, but the game still received a great score of 7.5. Then we traded are golf clubs for go-karts with ModNation Racers: Road Trip. Some performance issues and a lack of online play were some detracting features from the game, but it still placed near the front of the pack with a score of 8.0. We then ventured from light and colorful to dull and drab with Resistance: Burning Skies. It makes a great case for first-person shooters on the Vita, but the game just isn't that fun to play. We gave it a middle of the road score, a 5.0. Super Monkey Banana: Banana Splitz did some things to right the struggling-in-quality franchise, but a poorly designed difficulty curve soiled our fun, giving the game a score of a 6.5. Finally, we tackled the two best games of the month, Tearaway (9.25) and LittleBigPlanet PS Vita (9.5), our game of the month.

Since we devoted an entire month to the PlayStation Vita, it's only fair we devote a month to its competition, the Nintendo 3DS. Look forward to reviews of Mario Golf: World Tour, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, and Disney Magical World, to name a few!

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational (PS3, Vita) - 7.5
ModNation Racers: Road Trip (Vita) - 8.0
Resistance: Burning Skies (Vita) - 5.0
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz (Vita) - 6.5
Tearaway (Vita) - 9.25
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita (Vita) - 9.5

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is without question
the best original game the Vita has to offer.

Central City Census - May 2014

We're already in May!? Where is the time going!? Nonetheless, we at SuperPhillip Central were quite pleased with the number of votes last month's Central City Census received. What was the topic? What were the results? Well, here's a refresher!

We asked all of you which eighth generation platform (i.e. the Wii U, the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, the Nintendo 3DS, and the PlayStation Vita) you owned the most games for, whether they be retail, digital, or a combination of both.

It's no surprise to us that the platform that has been around the longest, the Nintendo 3DS, acquired the highest amount of votes this time around. The Wii U is slightly behind with an exact quarter of the votes. Next up, the PlayStation 4 comes in at third. What's the most surprising to us is that the Xbox One is in dead last. Perhaps it was just because those who voted don't own the system, but we argue that the Xbox One has the most appealing exclusives thus far when compared to the PS4. Apparently, our voters don't agree. Regardless, what does our Central City Census for May have to offer in terms of a question?

Yesterday, Mario Kart 8 received a special dedicated Nintendo Direct for it. It came out of nowhere, but it was a pleasant surprise all the same. May's Central City Census asks if you're going to purchase Mario Kart 8 or not. Census closes May 31 at 11:59 p.m. CST.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita (Vita) Review

Our final review for our month of PlayStation Vita-centered reviews is LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. Does it have what it takes to the best reviewed Vita game yet? Let's find out with our review.

Sack It To Me-- Vita-Style!

The LittleBigPlanet series' mantra has always been "Play, Create, and Share." Each installment in the series, which debuted in 2008 on the PlayStation 3, has added an increasing amount of intuitive creation tools to allow users to hone their skills and build some insanely creative levels and even games. Who could have foreseen that one of the greatest and most complete versions of LittleBigPlanet would be on the small screen, specifically the PlayStation Vita? Who could have also foreseen that the series creator, Media Molecule, would not be the main developer for this near-ultimate iteration? That's exactly what has happened with LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, Sackboy's second arrival on a portable PlayStation system.

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is set in the world of Carnivalia, and spans five unique areas featuring multiple levels. It all revolves around a no-good puppeteer bringing havoc and chaos to the once peaceful world. Through relatively short and completely skippable cutscenes, the story is told with series hero Sackboy in the leading role to help save the day yet again.

Someone's having a bad hair day!
The developer-made story levels will no doubt inspire and impress aspiring level creators. It's simply amazing what one can do with the tools provided by LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, as the levels the developers have created for the story readily show. Any and every creation, be it a level, a boss, a mini-game, a cutscene, etc., is able to be made by players. The near 70 tutorials in the creation mode assist with those creators who don't have a clue where to start.

Those that do not care for the floaty jumping physics of the LittleBigPlanet series will not find themselves satisfied with how the Vita installment plays either. However, these physics do not make it so deaths come easily. Levels and gameplay are both designed to work with the limitations of the physics rather than going against them.

If you didn't like the jumping from past games,
you aren't going to like it here either.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita uses the front and rear touch screens of the Vita in many of its story mode levels. You can use the front touch screen to drag a platform over for Sackboy to reach a higher ledge. You can use the back touch screen to push certain objects out from the background for Sackboy to interact with. There's even some tilt functionality thrown in, and even then, that doesn't give the feeling of being thrown in for novelty's sake.

Don't mind Sackboy, he's just posing
as Delsin from inFamous: Second Son.
Simply completing each of LittleBigPlanet PS Vita's myriad of levels across five worlds is a relatively simple challenge. However, when one goes to attempt to ace level, meaning successfully reaching the end level scoreboard without losing a life, the challenge ramps up quite a bit. While there's no LBP 1 Bunker-type acing difficulty, many levels will require multiple runs to perfect them.

In addition to acing levels, there's the also optional goal of acquiring all prize bubbles. Prize bubbles are hidden or placed in hard-to-reach locations. These unlock costume pieces for your Sackperson, stickers, as well as other adornments to enjoy. Finding all of the prize bubbles in a given level is also a rather trying task, but it's also a very rewarding one, too.

Costumes are transferable between the
PlayStation 3 and Vita versions. 
The majority of the time it is impossible to collect 100% of all the prize bubbles your first time through a level. This is because many levels require you to place special stickers onto certain objects that trigger certain events, such as opening an otherwise locked door. These special stickers are generally found in later levels, so there's a touch of backtracking to be found, as is usual in the LittleBigPlanet series. Furthermore, there are numerous levels that have one section dependent on having two players. These optional areas possess prize bubbles, and require both players to work together for a common goal. Thankfully, those areas from past LittleBigPlanet games where up to four players are necessary are not to be found in this Vita version.

The Grabinator allows Sackboy
to pick up certain objects.
Even after you've exhausted every other task in a level-- beating it, acing it, and collecting all prize bubbles-- you still can compete against the world via individual online leaderboards for each and every level, including the platforming and non-platforming bonus levels. Getting near the top of the heap is a rather satisfying accomplishment, and it adds to the already immense replay value that LittleBigPlanet games always contain.

Sackboy may not be Nintendo's Satoru
Iwata, but he's still about to drop the bomb.
There's usually one key to acquire in each level. These unlock said bonus levels that generally don't involve the traditional running and jumping that the series is primarily known for. Instead, there's such challenges as playing a game of whack-a-mole by using the front touch screen's multi-touch surface to try to score as high as possible, as well as a game that has you trying to build as a high of a tower as you can out of differently colored shaped blocks.

In addition to bonus levels, there's a whole section of LittleBigPlanet PS Vita dedicated to retro-style arcade games. Much like the bonus levels themselves, these quintet of arcade games contain plenty of variety as well. These are so feature-rich and feel so complete that it's no wonder Sony didn't try to sell them individually as PlayStation Store games. Instead, they're all available to unlock within LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. My personal favorite game, Tapling, has you tapping the touch screen to make your character jump through various levels of increasing difficulty. Regardless, all five of these arcade games are winners, and will also add to the replay value of LittleBigPlanet PS Vita.

Some levels are races to the finish.
Can you get a high score?
All of the developer-made content alone would be worth the price of admission for LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. However, as fans of the series as well as those familiar with it know, LittleBigPlanet is a tool for creating games. With the first installment back in 2008 on the PS3, levels were primarily the only easy thing one could make. Now, it's essentially anything one can put their mind to (with some limits, of course).

While there are plenty of helpful tutorials, some more helpful than others, the level creation tools are so instinctive that it's quite easy to come up with something all on your own that you can find satisfaction with. Like any game, such tools require trial and error and multiple sessions testing your works, but the intuitiveness of these creation tools are terrific. One might think incorporating touch-centric controls in a level would be arduous, but it's just as simple to learn as pretty much everything else in LittleBigPlanet PS Vita's wide assortment of tools.

Even programming is made easy
in LBP's creation tools.
When you're ready to publish, you can do so and share your creations with the world. Levels that receive a wide variety of positive feedback can be seen in the "Cool Levels" section, but know that even if you make the most splendid level in existence, you still might not get much in the way of attention. Still, other users can come across your level or the hundreds of others with the game's exhaustive search tools, including finding levels that were most recently published, which have the most positive feedback, which have the most plays, and you can even search via keywords.

A fantastic feature for this second portable version of LittleBigPlanet is that you can actually download levels to play for later. This is fantastic because the community options available to you are only accessible when connected to the game's servers. For a system you aren't always playing at home or somewhere with a reliable connection, you can have user-created levels that are saved onto your memory card, able to be played whenever and wherever.

One false move will ensure
a shocking situation.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita shines as not just a great showpiece for the PlayStation Vita hardware, but it's also one of the best games the system has to offer. Additionally, it ranks with the best the LittleBigPlanet series has to offer, which is mightily impressive. The abundance of content made by the developers and users across the globe make LittleBigPlanet PS Vita a more than worthy game to add to your Vita library. Throw in the copious amounts of intuitive level creation tools and possibilities, and you have a game that will last you for years. LittleBigPlanet PS Vita may be on a little screen this time around, but it's certainly a big winner.

[SPC Says: 9.5/10]

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) Nintendo Direct Trailer

A surprise Nintendo Direct was released this morning, and it showcased plenty of new features, items, characters, and tracks to temporarily satiate the appetites of Mario Kart 8 fans across the globe. At the end of the Direct, this new trailer for the May 30 release was shown.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tearaway (Vita) Review

We continue our PlayStation Vita-focused month of reviews with Tearaway. It's a fantastic title, but it also does the Vita hardware's functionality proud. See how with Phil's review.

A Cut Above the Rest

With all of the unique features that the PlayStation Vita hardware has, there's really been no game that has really delved into presenting each feature successfully. The launch title Little Deviants attempted this, but it was in greatly segmented mini-game form. Leave it to the amazing minds at Media Molecule, the same developer behind the awesome LittleBigPlanet series, to create an adventure that not only makes terrific use out of the PlayStation Vita's functionality, but does so in a way that has no stench of feeling shoehorned in. This adventure, Tearaway, is not just a sublime showing of the Vita's hardware, but it's also a fantastic, endearing, and charming game in its own right.

In Tearaway, you play as either Iota or Atoi, both messengers trying to reach the sun, which just so happens to use the Vita's front-facing camera to keep a visual of your face in the middle of it. The choice of which messenger you choose has no real bearing on the story at all. It's simply a choice between a male messenger or a female messenger. However, whichever messenger you play as won't have a trouble-free journey ahead of them. To add some excitement into Tearaway, mischievous little creatures known as Scraps are let loose into the world. These are the sole antagonists in the game.

One iota of courage is all
your messenger needs!
While Tearaway is primarily a platforming adventure, your messenger's journey begins with him or her unable to jump. It's one of several abilities that must be unlocked through story progression to learn. However, don't think that Tearaway isn't a great game already just because of the inability to jump. As you move through the game, you learn multiple abilities, such as something as simple as jumping, the ability to roll, and your messenger is also given such tools as a camera and a device that sucks up enemies or shoots out wind.

Big brother's watching you, Iota!
The opening section of the game introduces you to some of the uses of the PlayStation Vita's hardware functionality, specifically the front and rear touch screens the system possesses. The rear touch screen is used in Tearaway at certain paper floors. Here, you can have a virtual version of your finger shoot up through the paper, slide it around, and interact with the world. Whether you're slamming your finger into Scraps to defeat them, lifting up a barricade for your messenger to walk under, or sliding a platform to create a path for your messenger to cross, Tearaway's back touch functionality is ingenious and executed rather well.

This early puzzle requires you to
use your finger to slide this platform.
It's not all without its minor hangups, though. Certain platforms can be activated with a tap of the rear touch pad. When your messenger is on top of them, they are launched into the air. The issue here is that on more intricate platforming perils, where you must time your tap correctly in order to cross larger chasms, it's all too easy to accidentally strike the rear of the Vita, sending your messenger into the air at the most inopportune moment. This usually leads into death as an aftermath. Now, while you have unlimited lives in Tearaway, this is frustrating for the few no-death trophies Tearaway contains.

Who knew inanimate things like
this level could have a crush on Iota?
The front touch screen has its uses as well, primarily in creating objects out of paper for various NPCs. For instance, the first opportunity you have to unleash your creativity is with the king of the squirrels. He's missing his crown, so he requests you create one for him. This is done through entering a special menu where you can drag a piece of colored construction paper onto the work space, and then draw the shape of the crown. Once you have a shape that is fully connected, you cut it out with a tap of an on-screen button.  You can use multiple construction paper pieces for a design, such as adding differently colored gems to the squirrel's desired crown, as long as they're all layered on top of each other. Not only can you create designs from paper for various NPCs, but you can also customize the look of your own character with custom designs or pre-made ones unlocked through purchasing them with confetti.

Through using the front touch screen,
you can create these ramps with a swipe of a finger.
There's numerous NPCs to help out in Tearaway, and while most are optional, it usually behooves you to assist them, as the rewards are always beneficial. One elk wants a more interesting skin pattern, so you use the Vita's camera to take a photo. The photo turns into a skin texture for the elk, satisfying his request.

I'm in a game!
Ma, I've finally made it in life!
Alongside NPC requests, each of the 13 or so unique areas in Tearway, all of which are interconnected and can also be fast traveled to via bookmarks, there's a checklist of things to do in each area. For example, you can use your messenger's camera to take photos of brightly colorless objects, thus restoring color to them. This adds its design into your papercraft collection. This isn't just to get 100% in Tearaway either, as each found papercraft model has the ability for you to follow step-by-step guides to create the models in real life. Aside from papercraft objects, there's presents to find, Scraps to defeat, and confetti to collect. Getting 100% in Tearaway is not just a great feeling, but it's an absolutely fun optional task that never comes across as a grind.

Some NPCs just want their own mustaches.
Is that really too much to ask for?
Tearaway isn't exactly the longest game out there. If you're just going to blaze through it, it might last you but a handful of hours. However, attempting to complete everything Tearaway has to offer will reward players with about 15 hours of content. It also helps that Tearaway is rather enjoyable to replay every once in a while.

In Gibbet Hill, you reunite this pumpkin
with its body multiple times to spook crows.
The world of Tearaway is completely composed of paper. The trees are made of paper, the platforms Iota or Atoi jump on are made of paper, and even the waves of the ocean are made of paper. Tearaway is breathtaking visually, although there are certain instances in the game where frame-rate issues become apparent, particularly at the Windigo Fissure. The music of Tearaway is occasionally subdued, sometimes mysterious, but always appropriate for each given situation your messenger comes across and each given area your messenger visits. The voice acting that your nebulous guides dish out are rather charming and accentuates Tearaway's tale rather well.

It's a killing field here!
Iota is tearing all these Scraps a new one.
Tearaway makes proficient use of nearly every hardware feature the PlayStation Vita possesses, and it does so without feeling too gimmicky. Whether you're putting yourself into the game through taking a selfie, using the front touch screen to roll out a path for your messenger to safely cross, or tilting the system to slide platforms around, Tearaway is always inventive and never boring. It's the quintessential PlayStation Vita game to show off the system's features. The adventure may not last as long as one might like, but Tearaway is easily a classic case of quality over quantity. To "cut" to the chase, Tearaway is without question a must-have for any Vita owner.

[SPC Says: 9.25/10]

Nintendo's E3 2014 Plans: Or Get Over Yourselves, Gaming Press

Today, Nintendo announced its plans for early June's E3 2014 event. Its plan of attack is to have another presence at E3 just like it did last year. Not only this, but a showing of games via a prerecorded video, a multiple day Super Smash Bros. tournament, a demo for Super Smash Bros. at Best Buy stores across the nation, and various livestreams, the one particularly of the note is the one with Nintendo Treehouse. However, this news has not really been covered so much as it has allowed many members of the gaming press to whine and moan for the sole reason that they aren't being directly catered to like they feel they deserve to be.

The main reason the press is so negative about Nintendo's announcement of its plans for E3 is that Nintendo is essentially circumventing the media. The press, ironically enough, feels entitled to getting information from a press conference. Some of this is the same press that continues to call gamers entitled, all the while they feel entitled to having Nintendo give them news first so they can report it to us lowly gamers. Now, they have to watch the prerecorded stream with the rest of us. Poor babies... That said, I sort of like Nintendo giving the proverbial middle finger to the press.

The thing of it is is that the press has been extremely negative about Nintendo for the longest time now, so this aforementioned middle finger is rather refreshing. Obviously, it's not meant to be that, but that's what the press thinks. What should be great news for gamers, the fact that information, content, and events are being directly distributed to them, is getting all sorts of hatred from the gaming press because they're unable to report it first, because they, after all, are entitled to getting the news out first, getting a lot of traffic from Nintendo's news, and getting all those lovely clicks. It's so easy to pick on the loser, the company that isn't doing well, that it just starts looking like pushing a crippled kid out of his wheelchair.

Is it really any wonder why Nintendo has decided to completely bypass the press, the same press that continues to dogpile on the Wii U and to a lesser extent, the 3DS? The same press that writes continuous articles on how Nintendo should go third-party? The same press that writes that company CEO Satoru Iwata needs to step down? The same press that writes how Nintendo is always behind the times? The same press that basically makes Nintendo damned if they do and damned if they don't? The same press that-- well, you get the idea hopefully! While Nintendo is definitely not immune to criticism, it seems to be the target of such all too often.

I have no idea why Nintendo is wanting
to go over the heads of the gaming press.
(This was posted today conveniently after
Nintendo's announced plans for E3 2014.)
By bypassing the press, Nintendo is effectively giving out news its own way, without the need to bring up poor Wii U sales when that topic shouldn't even be brought up in the first place, or without the need of bringing unnecessary negativity and spite into the fold. The news will be shared in an environment that Nintendo can control. There will be no technical mishaps such as when Shigeru Miyamoto was demoing live the swordplay of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. There won't be any moments of awkward silence or embarrassing slip-ups.

But it's all about giving gamers what they want, after all, right? That's the narrative being built and manufactured by the press and various message board personalities. By not having a traditional conference, Nintendo is not giving gamers what they want. Forget about a Super Smash Bros. tournament, demos of said game at various Best Buys around the country, and livestreams with developers-- we need a press conference that is usually all fluff that most gamers can't even go to directly. Only the press can. Oh, there's that press luxury again that many journalists think they're entitled to. It's something that they're being denied of at this upcoming E3, and it was something they could say in their heads, "We have elite connections and ordinary gamers like you don't and must get your info from us!"

Coming directly to you.
Many of the articles being posted today don't really only share the news of Nintendo's forgoing of a traditional E3 press conference. No, instead many feel the need to add some unwanted commentary, and jump to conclusions. Obviously Nintendo has nothing much to show-- that's why its not doing a conference. Obviously Nintendo is afraid of presenting what little it has in a live showing. No, these types of articles simply perpetuate the idea that journalists are truly the entitled ones, and if they do not get their way, they will take their little ball and run home. This is the same kind of behavior that is funnily enough what has made Nintendo circumvent the press with these types of E3 plans and Nintendo Direct videos to begin with. It's just that many members of the press have their heads so far up their own asses that they can't even realize it's their fault Nintendo is doing things its own way.

What should be a positive for gamers (Nintendo reporting directly to them, giving a rare look inside the company, and doing many other pro-gamer things like demos at Best Buy) is being manufactured by the press as a negative, when it is really not. The only negatives here are the gaming press and their pathetic sense of entitlement.

Monday, April 28, 2014

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Nothing Like the Smell of New VGMs in the Morning Edition

Welcome to the last SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs segment of April! This edition is rather special, as it features five totally brand-new games being represented by five themes. The games on the docket for this week include: Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Soul Calibur II, and Kirby: Triple Deluxe, just in time for the game's release on Friday. So sit back, relax, and let the VGM goodness take you away to your special place.

v611. Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (PS3) - Metropolis

There's little in the way of kicking off a game better than what Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction delivers to players. Players are thrust into Metropolis amid an enemy attack from outer space. This bombastic music plays during this skirmish, as Ratchet blasts enemies to smithereens, grinds rails, and performs feats of platforming wonder.

v612. Soul Calibur II (PS2, GCN, XBX) - Raise Thy Sword (Nightmare Theme)

Nightmare is one of our favorite fighters in the Soul Calibur series. While the series has reached its fifth installment, we, along with a mighty number of others, prefer the second installment of the series over any other. Soul Calibur II had an exclusive character for each version. Without a doubt the most popular version was the GameCube one, with its inclusion of The Legend of Zelda's Link.

v613. Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS) - Fine Field

Just in time for its release on Friday, we have the opening level theme of Kirby: Triple Deluxe for the Nintendo 3DS. Suitably cheery and peppy, Fine Field's jaunty little tune is bright and bouncy, perfect for the level it plays in. Additionally on Friday, Mario Golf: World Tour hits the 3DS platform as well. It's going to be a good day for gaming.

v614. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan (3DS) - Gale Force

The incomparable Yuzo Koshiro was at the helm for Etrian Odyssey's fourth mainline installment of the series. Gale Force is a fast-paced battle theme that certainly gets the blood pumping and the head bobbing back and forth. The combination of strings, brass, and guitar make for a marvelous mixture of musical splendor.

v615. Mario Party: Island Tour (3DS) - Banzai Bill's Mad Mountain

If you didn't tell us, we would believe that this theme from Mario Party: Island Tour, Banzai Bill's Mad Mountain, was from Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. It's not, of course. It plays during the second board of Island Tour, a very short board that has players racing to the goal. However, the catch is that whenever a player rolls or lands on a Banzai Bill space, that Mario enemy launches from a cannon, knocking away all players in its path.