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Bury the Shovelware: N+



Man, it must feel like I'm just trying to pick fights this week. Allow me to explain myself: I love n+. It's incredibly fun, elegant, and well-made. JC gave the game a 9.5 / 10, and I'd say that's a pretty fair score. So how on earth does a good game get picked for Bury the Shovelware?

Throughout the duration of this column, we've learned a lot about shovelware. We've examined the sharing of blame between the publisher and developer, the curse of a license, the effects of critics' perception, and much more. Our top priority has been determining common attributes. One might ask what is the single, definitive trait common throughout all shovelware. The easy answer would be "it sucks." But to who? You? Me? Everyone? If you were to wander through the graveyard of the DS's library, even the loneliest tombstone will have a sympathizer or two. Particularly for younger gamers who might not know any better, cognizance is everything.

Thus, we must focus on the objective. As the swipe for this series states, "shovelware refers to any game in which time and effort were eschewed in favor of turning a quick profit." Theoretically, any game which shows compromise in any area for the benefit of time and/or money might be considered shovelware. Even if the game is a critical success, one can still identify flaws in its design. Without labeling n+ as shovelware, let's examine how its existence relates to the bottom-feeders of the DS.

Continue reading Bury the Shovelware: N+

Henry Hatsworth in the Trailer Adventure


Though there've been some great screenshots and amazing art released for Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, we've had to rely on old indirect-feed videos for previews of the action/puzzle hybrid in motion. Not so anymore!

EA put out this short trailer to show off Henry's upcoming adventures, and it pretty much looks as awesome as we thought the game would be, if not awesomer. The game even has a combo counter at the bottom right, just like one of our favorite 2D platformers, The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night!

Preview: Putting on our thinking caps in Mushroom Men

Gamecock graciously sent a preview copy of Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi, allowing me to play it in an environment as non-E3-like as possible: my own home. And now, playing through it again, I've found that the only real problem I had with my initial playthrough isn't actually a problem at all. Which leaves nothing but cool platforming. I played through the initial few levels and found my mushroom hero guy saving the world by, uh, knocking over some cans! And moving a shoe full of mosquitoes! And then a fish got in my way and I couldn't make any more progress. Fish.

What won't come through in screens is just how nice the game looks. The bizarre lighting effects and high framerate lend Mushroom Men an extraordinarily crisp appearance that is especially nice for DS 3D.

Gallery: Mushroom Men

Continue reading Preview: Putting on our thinking caps in Mushroom Men

Support your Order of Ecclesia

Dearest Shanoa,

We cannot tell you how pleased we were to see new pictures from the front. It has been too long since we were able to gaze upon your icy features and battle prowess, and we are happy to be afforded this new opportunity. We can only hope you are safe and warm, especially at night. We don't hear much of your battles against the eternal and unnameable evil here and we are hungry for any details on the Order of Ecclesia. Please send word when you can. Keep your eyes out for glyphs, and stay safe.

Love forever,

Your fans, who are, as ever, awaiting your release

P.S. We have enclosed a turkey and some pot roast, as we have heard that food is scarce in the field.


Like Castlevania? We do -- to an embarrassing degree. Check out our impressions of Order of Ecclesia from E3, settle in for a trailer, or go Behind the Boxart with a Konami graphic designer. But enough talk -- have at you!

DS Fanboy Review: N+

Metanet's N is a game in which the player is tasked with running very quickly through obstacles and jumping with high levels of precision in order to reach the exit door. It takes place in small, self-contained levels, uses simple, clean graphics, and has no real story to remember.

Though it first appeared as a freeware PC game and was then remade and enhanced as an Xbox Live Arcade game, there is no denying that N is an ideal handheld game. You really couldn't come up with a better design for an on-the-go game.

N+ from Atari is basically N, on the DS, with new levels. So, naturally, it works out pretty well.

Gallery: N+

Continue reading DS Fanboy Review: N+

Henry Hatsworth's adventure slightly less puzzling

MTV Multiplayer's Patrick Klepek got some hands-on time with EA Tiburon's surprisingly non-EA-like puzzle-platformer Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. His impressions can be summed up in the elongated sentence "I want more nooooooow."

Klepek offers the clearest explanation yet of the two-tiered gameplay. Defeated enemies are sent down to the bottom screen as squares in a "Planet Puzzle League-esque" puzzle game. In addition to the benefits provided by successful combos in the puzzle area, it is important to clear these squares quickly, or else they will go back up into the platform world as enemies again.

As for those combo benefits, Klepek gave an example: a lightning attack earned by pulling off combos, which allows Henry to damage an enemy severely. We think somebody pulled off a combo of John Madden-shaped blocks that afflicted us with the status of "being interested in an EA game."

N+ minus $10, plus 2 weeks

We've got good news and bad news regarding N+, Atari's handheld update of the freeware platformer N. The bad news isn't all that bad and the good news is awesome.

First, the kinda bad: N+ appears to have been delayed again, from August 12 to August 26. While it troubles us to think that the game is just never going to come out, we're glad it's at least not coming out on the same day as Bangai-O Spirits. The good news is that N+ will now launch at $20, which is an insanely good deal for a new, polished N with hundreds of new levels and a stylus-based level editor.

There's a third bit of news too, which didn't really fit in the "good news/bad news" thing we were trying to do, though it falls into the "good" category: Amazon orders will include a download link for a digital strategy guide.

Castlevania boxart: Order of Colada



Further proof that Konami's decision to dump its anime-inspired art direction was the right choice for the Castlevania series! This boxart for Order of Ecclesia, revealed at the game's Amazon product page, puts the previous two entries' covers to shame, especially the Konami's Best packaging for Dawn of Sorrow.

Also, we're amazed (and a bit confused) to see that the game will feature a giant plastic cocktail sword as a wieldable weapon! Why fumble with a vampire slaying whip when you can brandish a rapier that doubles as a drink stirrer?

Jump past the post break for comparison shots of the previous two Castlevania DS games' boxarts!

See also: Promotional Consideration: Behind the boxart

Continue reading Castlevania boxart: Order of Colada

Stafy vs. the Cloud in a Hat

Some developers use the extra screen on the DS to display a map. Some use it to display an inventory. Still others put commands and special attacks on the touchscreen. For Densetsu no Stafy 5, at least in one area, TOSE decided to use the second screen for a giant, sentient snowball in a hat. Or maybe it's a cloud? A cloud makes more sense.

The little guy appears to create strong winds with his breath whenever he's awakened. When sleeping, he generates a strong current of total cuteness. In fact, if there's anything the latest Stafy screens have in common, it's that the bottom screen is tuned for optimum delivery of cuuuuuute.


Boing! Docomodake DS bounces to Europe this fall

As the mascot of Japanese cell phone company NTT docomo, Inc., Docomodake is obviously serious business in his homeland, as the above mountain of plushes, keychains, and cell phone straps attests. In Europe, the chubby mushroom is virtually unheard of, but that hasn't deterred Ignition, who announced this morning that they would bring Boing! Docomodake DS to the region this fall (a listing for the game at Gamestop exists, suggesting a U.S. release is also likely).

Playing as Papa Docomodake, players must track down the other anthropomorphized fungi that make up the Docomodake family, and get them all back to a festival in the Docomodake Forest. To do this, he'll be able to deploy miniature mushrooms who can be used as projectiles to see off enemies, or to form makeshift platforms and ladders. It looks like a fairly light-hearted slice of platformy fun, not to mention cute -- the first screens are waiting for you in our gallery.

Gallery: Boing! Docomodake DS


[Via press release]

Castlevania trailer: watch it again for the first time


The last Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia trailer certainly made the game look good -- but, in the form we saw (taken by pointing a camera at a screen at Konami's E3 booth), the trailer itself could have looked better. This direct-feed version of the OoE trailer corrects that single issue, leaving nothing between you and awesome monster fighting.

The trailer features a bunch of new monsters, and a bunch of monsters reused from previous Castlevanias. But that's okay, because not only do we expect it, Konami got those sprites right the first time! You can also see Shanoa doing wacky glyph-based attacks like turning into a were-panther. But enough talk -- have at you!

Prince of Persia: The Fallen King's stock is rising


Okay, so the character art for Prince of Persia: The Fallen King falls between chibi and noooooo. And the bright, colorful environments don't fit in either the new, serious-business Prince of Persia franchise or the classic side-scrolling series. And, in fact, it doesn't look all that hot in stills.

Despite all that, and against all odds, The Fallen King looks amazing in motion. It's somewhere between the original Prince of Persia and a Mario game, with stylus integration (the one part about which we aren't quite sure). The smooth movements recall the famous rotoscoped animations found in the original game, the levels look interesting and varied, and the aesthetic actually gives the whole thing a sort of storybook feel that fits with the concept of The Sands of Time.

It's kind of too bad: we were so comfortable hating this game.

Gallery: Prince of Persia: The Fallen King

A deeper look at Prince of Persia

While it's uncertain that anyone would really want to take a deeper look at Prince of Persia: The Fallen King, there are usually some masochists out there willing to take one for everyone else.

Oh, wait. That's us. Damn. Well, we looked. And maybe this look has merit in motion, as many DS games just don't look great in stills, but the problem here really seems to be the muddiness of the shots. Sometimes, it just seems like everything is running together, and that's just not attractive. Others look better, just with dwarfed characters. They're tiny. It'll be interesting, to say the least, when we at last see video on this one.

Gallery: Prince of Persia: The Fallen King

E308: Get intimate with the Order of Ecclesia

There's just something refreshing about Castlevania. As long as we're not discussing Judgment (sigh), the games retain the look and feel that has marked the series for the last several years, but the style keeps improving in subtle ways. Not convinced? If the new shots in the gallery don't grab you, try some of the gorgeous video we've seen from Order of Ecclesia.

E308: Mushroom Men puts the 'fun' in 'fungus'

I got to look at the DS version of Mushroom Men at the Gamecock EIEIO event in March, but I didn't get to play it. Today, though, I arrived at an odd middle section in one of the demo rotations, and basically ended up being left alone in a room with a DS and the game. Aside from a very weird screen-flipping mechanic, it's a beautiful, inventive 2D platformer.

As a heroic sentient mushroom (a meteor has fallen and made stuff sentient that ought not be) you wander around an environment made up almost exclusively of trash and junk. The first level is a tutorial that leads you through the interactive map (which features red dots that mark waypoints), the weapon system, and combat. The map's dots mark the location of other mushrooms that need to be rescued from bugs or other enemies, much like the rescue-based level design in Drawn to Life.

Gallery: Mushroom Men

Continue reading E308: Mushroom Men puts the 'fun' in 'fungus'

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