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Fantasy Life is a game about filling up bars. A collaboration between Level-5 (Dragon Quest IXNi no Kuni) and 1-Up Studio (Mother 3Professor Layton and the Last Specter‘s London Life mode), it’s filled with fetch quests, grinding up skills and crafting items and equipment. These aren’t ways to pad the game length or diversions from the main attraction — they’re the reason you’re here — and it’s not ashamed of that for a second.

And that’s okay, because Fantasy Life is a really good game about filling up bars. READ MORE

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Pier Solar and the Great Architects is a return to the 16-bit glory days of the JRPG genre and was originally released for the Sega Genesis in 2010, over a decade after the last official release for the system. It was conceived as an attempt to emulate the core concepts that made other RPGs of that era so memorable, and it largely succeeds in doing so, both for better and for worse. Pier Solar developer WaterMelon ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 to remaster the game in HD for release on modern consoles (along with — of course — the Dreamcast), and it is this “definitive” version of the game that will likely gain exposure to a wider audience as copies of the limited-run Sega Genesis version can be very difficult to find. READ MORE

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One of the more widely-disliked game mechanics available to designers is player elimination. Nobody likes being forced to the sidelines early while the rest of the players continue the game, especially if that game still has a while to go before it finishes. Sitting around and doing nothing while everyone else is occupied is the epitome of “not fun.”

Some games can make player elimination work, though. As a general rule, the shorter the overall run time of a typical game session, the less of a drag being eliminated early has on the experience. The other main way to overcome the elimination factor is for a game to be as fun to spectate as it is to participate. With that criteria in mind, how does a half-hour king-of-the-hill kaiju battle royale sound? READ MORE

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Recent titles in the Sonic the Hedgehog series have had varying levels of success, appealing to a certain crowds but never truly pleasing anyone. It’s almost natural that many would feel scared about the changes brought forth in Sonic Boom. The characters all have a distinctly different look than we remember, but maybe that’s a good thing. They’ve all followed such a distinct formula for so long that maybe some change is needed. It’s something to refresh the series, and prove to fans and naysayers alike that this might be the Sonic game we’ve all been looking for since he made the 3D jump. READ MORE

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Developer Shin’en has become known for two things during its long run of supporting Nintendo download platforms: fast-paced shooters and quirky games that get a lot out of limited hardware. Art of Balance is certainly representative of the second group, a simple-on-the-surface stacking puzzle game with a zen-garden aesthetic that allowed for some cool water and lighting effects in a minimalist environment. The first game was a WiiWare standout, and after a foray on the 3DS eShop, the franchise heads to the Wii U in a form clearly shaped by the experiences developing both previous entries. READ MORE

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Borderlands doesn’t step tenderly around anything, and the developers’ devotion to a joke or a theme is to be applauded. Dogged determination doesn’t always work out, though. Not every moon is our moon, and recreating the sense of slowness seen in footage from ours does not translate well to Pandora’s moon, Elpis. Some other additions and changes are good, however. I don’t ever want to play another Borderlands game in which my only option is to sell trash guns back to Marcus. Throwing them into the Grinder — and admittedly often receiving more valuable trash guns — is too enticing to empty my backpack every time I pass a vending machine. READ MORE

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There’s something calming about driving in video games. This is especially true of open-world driving games, many of which allow you to explore and learn more about the world you are (virtually) inhabiting. I do enjoy driving in Grand Theft Auto and the like, but it’s not the same. The original Forza Horizon and its recently released sequel are more my speed. It provides a similar feeling as sailing, but the sense of speed and (sometimes) laid back atmosphere the Forza Horizon games provide manage to scratch a different itch.

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In this episode, Andrew shows Henry and Graham the perils that lie within The Evil Within! Also in this episode: the North American arrival of Vib-Ribbon, the Japanese arrival of the New Nintendo 3DS, the retail arrival of Skylanders: Trap Team and the supernatural survival of Alien: Isolation.

To watch the show and chat with us live, check out this page every other Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern and follow us on Twitter for special streams.

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Most of the time, it’s the object of a review to evaluate a game on its artistic merits, like what it’s trying to communicate and how it goes about delivering on that vision. With some games, though, like this fourth installment of the Skylanders series, what we’re looking at is undeniably a product: a collection of bullet points loosely tied together and pressed on a disc for consumption by mass-market shoppers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for every game, but it does make the “film criticism” school of reviews largely inappropriate.

So I’m going to follow Trap Team‘s lead and package together some bullet points for you. READ MORE

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Looking to play some new games with friends this holiday season? While 2014′s already brought us gems like Mario Kart 8Fibbage and Starwhal, there’s more great stuff to come. Check out these six titles!

Screencheat

PC, October 21
If you’re a fan of local multiplayer, you’ve been there: in split-screen games, you sometimes can’t help but look at opponents’ screens to see where they are and what they’re doing. Screencheat turns this into a mechanic, forcing you to find people that way because they don’t actually show up on your own screen. It may be a bit tough for people to get their minds around for a while, but triangulating positions this way is a fresh idea, and we’re interested to see how it pans out.
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