Features

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While many releases are packed into the last three months of the year, there’s more than enough going on in the rest of the calendar that can be easily forgotten by the holidays. Progress Report is our way of remembering: a quarterly look at the laudable and notable in the games industry. This edition covers July, August and September. Check out the previous installment here. READ MORE

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I have two copies of Project X Zone.

It’s a common occurrence for the hobbyist importer: an eager import turns to regret when that game you thought you’d never see gets announced for a Western release. And sometimes, like with Project X Zone, it’s hard to avoid. After all, there’s a lot there that just didn’t make sense for a localization. But I’m here to help you keep this sort of thing to a minimum! If you follow these six easy guidelines, it’ll make your importing experience a lot less painful. READ MORE

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My very first Serotonin was about how good games make failure fun. The concept was, through good design, it would encourage players to switch strategies and try again, rather than frustrate them to the point of quitting. I seem to have come full circle with this edition; the latest triumph my group had over Dungeon Defenders was an arduous, brutal journey of frustration, death and Game Overs. This went beyond a game making failure fun. This was an exercise in constant futility, humiliation and bewilderment. I would never have gotten through this one level had it not been for the excellent group dynamic of which I was lucky to be a part. Sometimes good game design isn’t enough. READ MORE

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Hades has recruited minions of evil in an attempt to obtain Merlin’s magic crystal, which would allow him to take over the Magic Kingdom as his own personal summer home. Merlin can’t fight them off alone, so that’s where you come in. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to intercept these baddies via magic portals and use your spells to thwart them.

This is the narrative behind Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, an interactive experience that can be found in the Disney theme park in question, first introduced in 2012. Sorcerers is a curious variation on a collectible card game, in that there is no actual purchase to play other than entry into the park itself. Those interested in playing simply need to visit the firehouse in Main Street USA (or the outpost behind one of the shops in Liberty Square) and talk to one of the cast members there. READ MORE

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Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the second season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

I wrote about the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead a little more than a year ago, covering exactly why the choices in that game matter despite how little impact they might have on the overall story. It was a near-perfect execution of choice in games, simply because it didn’t throw in your face how “important” or “world-changing” your decisions were. Often, it would simply ignore them right before your very eyes. Despite that, those decisions still lingered, and turned just another zombie story into something unique.

It ultimately created a sense of trust between the writers and those who experience that story. Unfortunately, The Walking Dead: Season Two violates that trust in the worst ways possible.

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The Mystery Machines series looks at platforms that didn’t stay around quite long enough for most to know their stories. For more, check out the archive.

Portable gaming has always been an anomaly when compared to the rest of the industry. While technical prowess is prized above all else on consoles and computers (for better or worse), handhelds rely on their own set of rules. Long battery life and a compact design are far more important than processing muscle when gaming on the go. When these machines were new to gaming, these unspoken criteria were still developing. Nowhere is this bewildering reversal more apparent than in the Atari Lynx, the former console titan’s only major handheld system. READ MORE

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It feels as if the world of games is catching up with the Multitap vision lately. It’s great, right? Games are just more fun if you can play them with friends in the same room, and more and more developers are taking advantage of this by making titles specifically designed for this context. This is especially true with games that support more than four players. A niche that was previously catered to only by a handful of games over the years has seen a full batch of interesting, fun titles in the just over two years since I wrote about them the first time. Let’s take a look at the best of them! READ MORE

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Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the second season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead was my top game of 2012, so my expectations for the sequel were about as high as they could be. After finishing it and letting the impact settle, I can safely say it met every expectation I knew I had and surpassed expectations I didn’t know existed. This will land a spot in my top ten at year’s end for many of the same reasons its predecessor did: top-notch directing, excellent pacing, professional voice acting and brutal choices that force your inner moral compass to show itself, one way or another. The Walking Dead: Season Two retains much of what made the first game successful, but deviates so far from the story arc of Season One that it becomes a totally different experience and is richer for it. READ MORE

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Everyone does Top 10 Games lists. The problem with those? Usually, they’re full of games that earn a place because of nostalgia or industry significance. Here at Snackbar Games, we like being a little more practical: if you’re looking to just have fun, what games should you pick up and play today? This time, we remember the days before Steam with a look at pre-2004 PC titles.

System Shock 2

Can a game made 15 years ago still be scary? Yes, very much so. System Shock 2 is still just as terrifying and sinister as it was when it first released back in 1999. Best of all, the gameplay holds up surprisingly well, providing you with a tense shooter that may surprise in more ways than you might expect. If you’re curious about the predecessor to BioShock or just want to check out an exciting shooter from a team that made them best, you won’t be disappointed. - Andrew Passafiume
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It’s easy to see why Ancient Rome is a fertile inspiration for many game designers. The Romans’ interest in politics, military tactics, art, architecture and religion all offer different elements that can be mixed together into an interesting whole. Stefan Feld’s 2011 title Trajan mixes six aspects of Roman culture, but ties everything together with a mechanic that is decidedly African instead of European. READ MORE