We found ourselves quite taken with puzzle-platformer Etherborn after our hands-on preview back in March, so naturally jumped at the chance to interview Creative Director and Altered Matter Co-Founder, Samuel Cohen, about the project on the eve of its launch.
"I’d even build my ideas in Lego first so I could easily see and manipulate the structures before we spent time and effort putting them in-game."
Early on I realized that when creating a game, you have to think about where you put the limits. In a platforming game, the first limit can even be the direction of gravity. But if you multiply that by six (one per axis), you’re probably going to have a couple of headaches. You can solve that limitation by creating others, like making linear levels, or basing your movements on a stamina bar, or even not making a platformer at all. But with Etherborn, the point was precisely to create ambiguous and explorable stages that would act as navigational puzzles, which means the stages could very easily fall apart due to the tiniest of things. One wall a bit too high, and you may be able to reach it jumping horizontally from the other side of the world. One too short, and you might be able to fall into an unintended platform. So yeah, in the end, many, many hours were spent on each corner of the game because in our case they’d make a vast difference on the end result.
We find the game to be a very meditative experience; did you build it with specific intent towards encouraging mindfulness?
I wouldn’t say there was an intention of going towards the specific concept of mindfulness, but I get where this question comes from, because in a way, it intersects with our objectives. We did build the game with the intention of stimulating the players' sensibility, with a kind of design and art that would encourage a less focused play style. If you try to be too stubborn finding the correct paths and the solutions, the game can actually become harder. Since we’ve been watching literally hundreds of players since we started showing the first prototypes at events, we’ve seen an entire spectrum of behaviour and reactions at this point.
And what seems to always get the best results is when players just try to flow with the levels, explore a bit here and there, visualize the landscape in their mind, and try alternatives if their first ideas were not getting a result. Then it’s going to feel far more comfortable and the game should click in terms of “what do I have to do now”. But as humans, we usually don’t operate like this, myself included. We are very stubborn creatures and need answers right away. For this reason, we wanted to use all of the artistic elements of the game to express that you can just take your time, experiment, and figure out everything at a slower pace. The story also talks about the necessity of putting yourself and your world into question, although told in a relatively abstract way, so I think that helps add to the meditative tone.
Meet the Altered Matter team, who you can learn more about here.
How did you come to work with FoxNext? Have they been involved in the game’s development at all, or only its promotion?
FoxNext were planning on starting their Indie Fund and at the onset were looking around for potential games that they believed matched their vision - games that are innovative and a little different, but already have a bit of a track record. We’d been successful on FIG, won a few awards at events and even had a decent announcement so we had some traction already. But we were constantly in fear of not being able to deliver the finished game to all major consoles and PC at the same time. Their help ensured us more breathing room to finalize the game across all platforms and also time to polish and launch at a better time. They have also helped us with the production and planning for the final steps of development and the release, but full creative control of the game and it’s promotion was with us.
With your first project now in the bag, what’s next for Altered Matter?
It’s still a little hard to believe the game is actually out so we’re still stuck in a bit of haze and looking at what the world thinks of our first creation. Depending on how the game does in the next few months will pretty much determine our own future. We have ideas of what we could try next of course, but these are just tiny sparks of light in the back of our minds.
A huge thank you to Samuel for taking the time to extensively answer our questions during what we're sure is an incredibly busy launch period!
For more on Etherborn, check back in with Pass the Controller tomorrow to read our review.
After months of persistent rumours, last week Nintendo finally revealed the purported Switch Mini to be the Switch Lite, scheduled for release 20 September. Strictly a portable console, Switch Lite is of a smaller stature and lighter weight, while boasting greater battery life to keep you gaming on the go for longer. At a cheaper RRP to boot, you’d think everything was gravy, but that’d be to overlook the lack of TV support, detachable Joy-Cons, motion controls, HD rumble, and an IR camera. Keeping that upstairs, do the pros outweigh the cons?
Switch Lite: The Switch that doesn't switch.
Do I need a Switch Lite? Absolutely not. My original Switch is still serving its purpose well, both at home and on the road, but that hasn’t stopped me coveting one since the redesign was announced.
The sleek new addition to the Switch family is, in my opinion, a much better-looking console than its bigger brother. The lack of removable Joy-Cons and the addition of a proper d-pad give it a solid, more premium look and perhaps make it a bit more robust, too.
I have no problem with Nintendo muddying the waters by making a Switch that doesn’t switch. I use mine as a handheld most of the time, and had the Lite been available at launch, the lower price, longer battery life and appealing design probably would’ve swayed me to go that way from the start.
The only part I don’t like is the smaller screen. Some of the more visually demanding games already feel a little cramped on a regular Switch’s 6.2-inch display, so to reduce it even further to 5.5-inches could be pushing it.
But, as I said, my original Switch is still serving me well, so I won’t be getting one. I’ll wait for the inevitable release of a ‘New’ Nintendo Switch instead.
Sticking with this guy is probably for the best.
I've never been into the portable side of gaming so, from a purely personal standpoint, the best outcome for me would be the Switch Lite bombing catastrophically, reaching the unenviable status of Atari E.T. cartridges and (fingers crossed) Google Stadia. It's not that I actively want Nintendo to fail, I'd simply prefer them to concentrate on the things that I might care about.
It seems Nintendo have "fixed" one glaring issue with the Switch (the poorly designed dock which Sam alluded to) at the cost of functionality. This is absolutely fine if you just want to play Skyrim on a train, but I suspect no-one has done that more than once, and even then only to say they've done it.
If you're a fan of gaming on the go, you might get a lot more out of Switch Lite. Sure, it lacks some of the features of the Switch and may be a little more cumbersome than a DS, but we can't expect too much from a company who willingly hired and promoted a guy named after the antagonist of their biggest franchise.
Pictured: Bowser Bowser wins Doug Bowser's heart by sharing his best princess abduction tips.
First things first, the Switch Lite is not aimed at me, and that's OK. In the past I've never opted for one of Nintendo's snazzy, reworked consoles, missing out on the Game Boy Advance SP and even the DS Lite back in the day.
As recently as the 2DS Nintendo has proven there’s a market for something like this though, and it's encouraging that the company is still pushing more options for consumers (and making a spot of money at the same time).
The company has struggled to meet its massive yearly projections and it feels as if Nintendo is the underdog, despite it making over $11billion a year, and this move is one which keeps them on parents' minds for Christmas time.
A "pro" version could come next Christmas, but in the meantime this gives developers confidence there are no plans whatsoever to leave the Switch console family languishing like Ninty did the Wii U, hopefully meaning there are more long-term third-party projects on the way.
In terms of the console itself, not having detachable Joy-Cons is a bit of a shame, but otherwise the tighter size and canny cost-saving measures seem smart and should bring plenty of joy (despite the cons, ba-dum-tss), to young'uns this Christmas.
2006 brought us Nintendo's original Lite handheld in the DS Lite.
So much speculation, so many supposed leaks, and finally, here we are: the Nintendo Switch Lite!
As you may be aware, I've been on the fence with the Switch since its release some two-odd years ago. Is the Lite the answer to my prayers? In short: I think it just might be.
I was one of the ~17 people to own a Wii U in the UK - I still have it by the way, along with a healthy backlog of games to start/finish. Do I feel burnt by it? No, not at all. Did I feel let down by Nintendo's lack of long-term support? Oh, yes indeedy.
But the Lite offers new hope to this cynical old bastard. I really don't get much time to play games at home these days, so a dedicated portable device seems the way to go - and the Xbox, 3DS and Wii U are all ready for a trade-in, too!
The only thing left holding me back are the games on offer (I need at least five big hitters before I’ll drop coins on a console), but with the impending release of both Fire Emblem and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, I think we might finally be there.
Gimme a good Zelda bundle on day one and I'm ready to come back home, Nintendo.
Considering the Switch Lite launches on the same day as Link's Awakening, it's baffling that there doesn't appear to be a bundle for Rob.
What are your thoughts on Nintendo's Switch redesign? Let us know with a comment below.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time inspired a hatred of water-based levels within many members of the N64 generation; its Water Temple was, and still is, an incredibly divisive dungeon which to some sours an otherwise near-perfect game. We’re (mostly) cool with water levels, but not so much the other design staples to follow.
Using Peachette to avoid all contact with the ground is the correct way to play winter levels in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe.
I have no issue with stories that take place in the ocean, like BioShock, but I always feel a certain degree of unease when I'm faced with an underwater journey in an otherwise dry game.
Whilst sub-aquatic sections aren't as ubiquitous in real life as I'd been conditioned to believe by the plumbers and hedgehogs I grew up with, not being able to swim has likely compounded my anxiety. Mario's ability to breathe underwater - a fitting trait for someone in his line of work - makes those levels the most palatable, whereas Sonic sits at the other end of the spectrum with that pant-shitting music that kicks in as he horrifyingly starts to drown.
Games about swimming are far fewer in number than games about war, and with good reason. As a community we've decided that being shot is more entertaining than taking a dip, yet developers often force us to stop having fun at predetermined moments anyway.
Tomb Raider is perhaps the biggest offender, forcing us to dive underwater in each and every instalment. Lara Croft is a terrible human being who gets her kicks from shooting live ammunition at the kindly old man who raised her, by the way - that’s the kind of person that likes to go swimming.
Listen at your own (and your pants') risk.
No one likes to be shushed. Whether at the library (if indeed they’re still a thing?) or perhaps a family gathering, people want the freedom to do as they please.
The same can be true with games, and nothing irks me more than a mandatory stealth section, especially when it flies in the face of the all-guns-blazing approach you were perfectly happy with up to now, thank you very much.
Stealth can be forced in, even to some success, as seen with the likes of Mass Effect 3 and Marvel’s Spider-Man, but when it's optional, and especially if you don't know it's optional, that's when things get really interesting.
In games like Deus Ex or the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, which admittedly emphasise player choice as an ideal, the option is there to go sneaky if you want to take it, or you can just run in and shoot the place up.
In the end there's a satisfaction to finding out you can squirrel out if a situation, if that's what you want to do, but to mandate player behaviour more often than not feels unnatural and just reminds you that you're playing a game.
Deus Ex and other immersive sims do stealth right - they make it entirely optional.
Character creators have always been my least favourite part of any game they’re in. I can tolerate a dodgy level or mission-type because they’re usually a temporary grievance, but with character creators the pain is instant and often permanent.
When I start a game, I want to start the game, not spend half an hour worrying about eyebrow alignment and my avatar’s body mass index. Because I usually rush through these things in order to get to the good stuff, like in Mass Effect, I often end up creating a face that only a Systems Alliance can love, which I then have to stare at for the rest of the game, thus souring the experience.
For my first Skyrim playthrough I made a very generic-looking Nord character, which I rather creatively named Liam. It didn’t suit him, and instead of immersing me further it had the opposite effect whenever I saw it crop up in letters and messages.
By the time I realised how silly it was, I was dozens of hours deep and unwilling to either continue or start all over again. I have since tried restarting, at a much later point in time, with an Argonian named Bask, but there are only so many times one can clear Bleak Falls Barrow...
Liam the nondescript Nord probably looked something like this.
What typical gameplay sections can't you stand? Whether it's wonky driving stints in non-driving games, or maybe tedious escort missions, be sure to let us know with a comment below.
Somehow we’re already into the second half of 2019. After getting over the disturbing realisation that the unrelenting passage of time is all too quickly sending us towards an inevitable death, we took a minute to discuss our favourite games released so far this year. Check ‘em out!
Chris | Guacamelee 2
I dismissed the original Guacamelee as nothing more than one of the countless gimmicky indies that litter digital storefronts, but I rushed to download the sequel - not even six months after it's eventual Xbox One release this January - for reasons completely unrelated to needing a game to discuss in this here Team Talk… Ahem.
Whilst the developers clearly had a lot of fun writing the story, I'm happy to report that the gameplay is all business. Complex systems are disguised as simple mechanics, thanks to intuitive controls, and challenging sections never feel daunting, as muscle memory builds quickly once you get into a rhythm.
The fusion of Mexican wrestling culture and old school platformer is an odd one, for sure. I mean, I like both morphine and ice cream, but you don’t see me blending the two together to create some brain-ruining horror-shake. I hold myself to higher standards than that.
Thanks to DrinkBox Studios’ superior ingenuity though, it works! Guacamelee 2 is refreshingly lighthearted, unashamedly immature, and charmingly addictive. Kinda like morphine. That last part, anyway.
James | Metro Exodus
While a newcomer to the Metro series when I sat down at a preview event earlier in the year, the legacy of the series was long-established as one filled with claustrophobia, survival-horror-tinged action beats and a rich lore to draw from, being based, as it is, on a series of books.
Little did I know how accessible the game would turn out to be and how much fun I'd have with it, despite the frequently underwritten female characters and the odd technical hitch here and there. It certainly did enough to earn a well-deserved 10/10 in my review, anyway.
Its success shows the power of single-player narrative experiences today, even when they aren't exclusively on PlayStation, and the people at 4A Games seem to have the balance right between storytelling and actually providing an engaging gameplay loop.
Of course, the move by publisher Deep Silver to release the PC version exclusively on the Epic Games Store soured the experience for many of the master race, but at least they honoured existing Steam pre-orders. That’s good, right?
Will we see another Metro adventure in the future? While there are no more books to draw on, there are certainly more stories to tell, so here’s hoping!
Liam | Chippy
I’ll be honest and say I’d never heard of Chippy until a Steam code popped into my inbox whilst I was sunning myself in Spain, but after watching some footage and reading about its main concept - which sees you dismantling hulking bosses piece by piece until you’ve exposed their vulnerable core - I was eager to get cracking.
The problem was, like some sort of fool, I’d left my laptop at home - I just knew a Switch, a 2DS XL, a small library of books, and a family wouldn’t be enough to keep me busy by the poolside! Fortunately, the wait was worth it, as Chippy really is quite something.
A twin-stick shooter of the bullet-hell variety, it’s one of those addictive games that has you coming back for more despite repeatedly kicking your arse, which is a strange phenomenon for me, given that I normally avoid those like the plague.
Game of the mid-year might be a bit of a hollow victory seeing as my pickings were incredibly slim (shout out to Swords and Soldiers 2, Crackdown 3 and the fun-yet-frustrating Band of Bastards), but Chippy definitely deserves the nod, if only for forcing me to roll up my sleeves and finally ‘git gud’.
Rob | Heaven’s Vault
How quickly is this year disappearing, folks? As summer's sticky heat reaches me up on Ditchling Mountain, Brighton, I ponder Sam's latest topic: what has been my game of the first six months of 2019?
I had a great time at Rezzed once more, thoroughly enjoying Codemasters' latest DiRT and F1 games - review for the latter on the way - but my personal highlight has to be Inkle Studio's Heaven's Vault.
Honestly, I don't think I've ever been so spellbound by an adventure outside of the Zelda series. Inkle's recipe is thus: one part branching narrative; one part third-person adventure; one part point-and-click; a large dollop of beautiful art/animation; a heaped teaspoon of ethereal soundtrack. I think we can all agree that makes for a most delicious gaming soup, no?
Put it this way - it's going to take one helluva game to knock Heaven's Vault off its perch when it comes time to decide my overall game of the year. Bon appetit!
What's your favourite game of 2019's first six months? Let us know with a comment.
Super Mario Maker 2 is out this week, promising to build on the Wii U original by offering new tools for players to execute on more complex ideas. Gears 5 has been revealed to house a new creation suite for making and sharing maps, first in the new PvE Escape mode and later the Horde and PvP modes. Nintendo even doubled down on user-generated content by showing off the ability to create dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Switch during a Nintendo Treehouse Live stream (which Liam particularly appreciated).
Raid mode was a brilliant addition to Resident Evil, especially considering it originated in 3DS game Revelations.
Rob | Fire Emblem
Another tough choice this week, folks. I can think of at least a hundred games I’d like to see get level editors, be it The Last of Us, GoldenEye 007, Crazy Taxi, or MegaDrive classic Streets of Rage. One series stands out in particular, though, and that’s Nintendo’s Fire Emblem.
I must admit, I’d never played Fire Emblem until 3DS cracker Awakening - and what a place to start - but have been enthralled by the series ever since! So, with that in noggin, why did I pick it over the gems above?
Anyone who’s played Chucklefish’s Wargroove will already be able to attest to the power of level creation in a top-down strategy game. What better way is there for Nintendo to further the FE franchise, then?
Imagine dropping Chrom and the gang down in homemade levels, using styles ranging from the more recent 3DS games, to the sexier graphics of Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, to the GBA classics. Throw in the tones of the upcoming Three Houses on Switch, plus the ability to battle associates locally or online in these Frankenstein constructions, and Nintendo could well have another Mario Maker on their hands.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is out soon, but there's no sign of a level editor, much to Rob's chagrin.
James | Portal
Tucked into The Orange Box as a niche passion project before finding surprise success, Portal did more than enough to warrant a full sequel. Of course, since Valve apparently can't count to three, that's where the story has ended - but imagine if we, the gaming masses, could take up the torch and run with it.
If you need convincing this sounds like a good idea, I direct you to 2015’s Portal Stories: Mel, a popular free mod for Portal 2 that adds a new character and an older, prototype Portal Gun.
While it's unlikely we’d see a flourishing community of new spin-offs straight away, if Valve were to provide the relevant tools, the barrier to entry would be a lot lower and could lead us to a Mario Maker-esque experience before you know it.
Imagine discovering the joys of creative new mechanics - the sort we've seen in games inspired by Portal like Q.U.B.E. 2 and The Spectrum Retreat - interwoven with elements we already know and love. It might need a bit of quality control, but the thought of endlessly returning to the brain-teasing test chambers of Aperture Science is too exciting a possibility to pass up.
Portal Stories: Mel is a mod of professional quality.
Chris | Rainbow Six Siege
Editing tools in a PvP environment can cause tension between parties if one is given an unfair advantage over another, as I once found out by hiding a few sneaky Energy Sword and Active Camo pick-ups in Halo 3's Snowbound map.
There’d be no such advantage in Rainbow Six Siege, not least because there aren’t any pick-ups, but even if there were, attackers and defenders switch sides after each round so it wouldn’t be an easy task to engineer a competitive edge - not without it coming back to bite you later, anyway. Add to this constantly changing level geometry, thanks to the weapons of map destruction (proud of that one) available to both sides, and any balancing issues will eventually resolve themselves.
These player-created maps would need to be restricted to just-for-fun custom matches, as imaginative souls would no doubt find ways of gently tipping the scales in their favour, but the greater level of creative freedom this restriction would afford should result in some interesting designs that could give rise to new, improvised game modes.
As you can see, Siege maps generally don't stay whole for long.
Liam | FIFA
Forget VAR (video assistant referee), what the beautiful game needs is a bit of artistic licence. A map editor in FIFA might sound like a terrible idea to purists, but I think it could make for some interesting – not to mention humorous - kickabouts.
FIFA 19’s kick-off mode already lets you tweak the rules to make things more entertaining, so why not take it one step further and let us quite literally move the goalposts?
You could add pits to trap unwary players, get rid of penalty areas entirely, isolate creative midfielders on an island in the centre circle, or even have pitches tilted on an extreme gradient so each half one team faces an uphill struggle.
On the other end of the spectrum, a stadium editor/creator would also be a great addition for fans of low ranking clubs to finally get an accurate representation of their ground in the game. As someone who occasionally enjoys a nice lower league romp to the big time, being able to ditch the generic stadiums FIFA assigns such clubs would be a most welcome option.
For many players, this’d add another layer of authenticity to a franchise that prides itself on recreating the beautiful game - at least the parts we see on TV, anyway.
Imagine the glorious chaos you could cause in such an open space...
Which game do you think would benefit from getting a level or map editor? Let us know in the comments below.
Almost three years ago, Chinese developer Surgical Scalpels announced that they were partnering with PlayStation to bring the ambitious Project Boundary to PS4 and PS VR. Now the tactical, zero-gravity online FPS is back simply as Boundary and focused on a standard (non-VR) launch. We recently spoke to Surgical Scalpels Co-Founder, CEO, and Technical Director, Frank Mingbo Li, about these changes and much more.
There's an incredible level of detail on display in Boundary's new trailer.
You’ve changed the game's title from Project Boundary to just Boundary since the original announcement - can you offer any insights as to why you made the switch?
Project Boundary internally [refers to] a [development] project and was more focused towards the game as [an] actual project we were working on, rather than anything related to a back story or some sort of secret initiative or organisation within the game itself. Changing it to just Boundary made more sense for the full release and kept it simple yet intriguing at the same time.
What new ideas are you bringing to the tactical FPS genre? Is there anything in particular that PS4 players can look forward to that they can’t experience in other shooters on console?
Well, there’s the Gyro assist aiming system. According to some gamers who tried it [at] PSX in 2017 . . . it was one of the standout features, [since] console gamers can finally play an FPS without fearing PC gamers' mouse advantage.
We also [have] a very cool feature which lets you customize the ammunition in your weapon clips between armor piercing, high explosive and EMP rounds. I haven't really seen that level of customization in a tactical FPS so that is something else we're bringing to the table.
Will we ever see Boundary on non-PlayStation platforms?
Yes, we have a vision to deliver Boundary to PC and other platforms if all goes well. We’d love to see Boundary on more than one platform if we’re able to, but right now we want to make sure we are delivering a solid player experience on PS4.
Can we still just expect to see Boundary launch sometime in 2019, or do you have a more specific release window to share?
The whole team is working very hard in targeting a 2019 street date. We know its a pretty big year in gaming this year and [there's] lots of work for us to do in the meantime, but we’re pleased with the progress so far.
Thanks to Surgical Scalpels' Frank Mingbo Li for taking the time to talk to us.
If Boundary sounds like your thing, keep an eye out for its releases on PlayStation 4 later this year. In the meantime, get every details on the game fresh from its (re)reveal.
VR rhythm game Synth Riders sees players enter a neon-chrome playspace inspired by the '80s and move their bodies to hit notes in time to the synthwave soundtrack, all in a way that's conducive to dance. This has seen the game garner a cult following and allowed the team to support its community with significant post-launch content free of charge. We spoke to Synth Riders' Abraham Aguero about all this and more.
Having just expanded the soundtrack from 16 to 21 songs and introduced a suite of new modes, all via a free update, what are your plans for continued support moving forwards?
We have more music packs lined up as we move forward. We are big believers in giving our fans great value for money, so our plan for the moment is to bring more content to the game, while keeping with our current pricing. However, we also intentionally wanted to help foster a community both in terms of beatmap editors and game modders. We get a lot of great feed from both of these communities who love the ease with which they can create their own tracks or modify the game. This in turn helps us get greater awareness and greatly helps expand the experience of the game.
Courtesy of the same free update, Synth Riders is now the first game to feature native integration of the YUR.fit software - how does it feel to help keep people in good health whilst they enjoy playing the game?
I think this is a huge evolution for Synth Riders. We were approached by Cix Liv, who not only co-founded YUR.fit, but also the in-game video streaming technology, LIV. Cix noticed the number of Streamers who played Synth Riders and recognized the synergy between playing the game and losing weight. We have always been interested in exploring this VR fitness niche, but Cix is building a whole business around it.
He has a great clip on Facebook that summarizes his vision for VR fitness, which he believes is a game changer because it combines fitness and fun. Players who enjoy active games like Synth Riders or Beat Saber are actually improving their health while they play. YUR.fit now helps these enthusiasts understand the degree to which they are burning calories. Synth Riders is stoked to be working so closely with Cix and his co-founder Dilan who have really helped us on a number of strategic and marketing levels.
Was the fitness element a consideration when development started, or more a happy side effect of the game’s involved motion controls?
Well music and dance was always a central component of our game. From our perspective we wanted our fans to have fun and get fit. YUR.fit wants fans to get fit and [have] fun. There is a subtle difference but the two are very closely linked.
Does the success of Beat Saber - a game with which yours shares many similarities - mostly excite or concern you? Is there something which really sets Synth Riders apart from the competition?
This is a question that we get asked a lot. Many people who had not heard about Synth Riders immediately think we are just jumping on the Beat Saber bandwagon. The reality is that we were both developing our games at the same time. Beat Saber came to market about two months before us and it wasn’t until they emerged that we realized the game existed. Personally, I think Beat Saber is a great game. At this stage whatever helps enhance the industry is great for everyone, so to be compared with Beat Saber is a compliment.
When it comes to the differences between our games I think it boils down to fighting a foe or dancing with a partner. The fundamental difference can be found in the titles of the game. Beat Saber plays off the word beat, which references the rhythm element of the game, but also the boxing component. You [literally] have to beat the game with your saber. With Synth Riders you are drawn into a dance. Because your hands are transformed into orbs [(instead of sabers with some range to them)] it forces you to move more of your body. Once you begin to master our game you really have to be dancing, you are playing with the game, as if it is a dance partner, you are not opposing it.
You’re currently working on an Oculus Quest release; how’s that coming along? Also, do you have any plans to bring the game to PlayStation VR in the future?
We have done a lot of work getting the game ready for Oculus Quest and if you ask our team it’s pretty much ready to go. We are just waiting for the greenlight from Oculus. When it comes to demoing the game, working with Quest is a breeze because the set up is so simple. Because our game is so active the fact that Quest doesn’t have any wires or cords frees up the player and helps them really get lost in the game, which is huge.
In regards to PlayStation VR, we have been approved as VR game developers and are hoping to have the game on PlayStation by mid to late fall.
As previously mentioned, you’re currently in Early Access - when can we expect to see the full release?
Our plan is to come out with a full release by this summer, when we will have more songs to offer and some other exciting developments, which are currently under wraps. But stay tuned. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks to Abraham Aguero for taking the time to answer our Synth Riders questions!
Check the game out on Steam, the Oculus Store, and Viveport if you're looking to have some fun whilst working on your fitness. Oculus Quest and PlayStation VR fans should also keep their eyes peeled for Synth Riders' impending release on both platforms.
For a chance to win 1 of 5 Synth Riders Steam keys, enter our giveaway.
With Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled right around the corner and Team Sonic Racing just in the rear-view mirror, kart racing games are currently enjoying somewhat of a resurgence. You can’t beat these classic kart racers in our eyes, though.
Look at that hectic, team-based goodness!
Chris | Mortal Kombat: Armageddon - Motor Kombat
Whilst Mortal Kombat: Armageddon's Motor Kombat isn't a fully-fledged kart racer, it does have all the necessary traits to qualify, including the use of a K where a C would suffice. Mechanically, it plays just like a toned-down version of Mario Kart (which one might expect from a mini-game which is, essentially, a toned-down version of Mario Kart), with death traps, shortcuts and power-ups.
There are ten available characters to choose from, each with their own special ability that can be unleashed after grabbing a pick-up, similar to more child-friendly titles starring plumbers. These abilities are based on the characters' special attacks; Scorpion drags an enemy back with his spear, Sub-Zero freezes someone, Johnny Cage lobs a useless ball of green goo… you get the idea.
The limited number of tracks and racers would work against Motor Kombat if it was a full release, but as a side activity in a fighting game, it's perfect for some light relief between bouts. The one criticism I could throw its way is the choice of racers - in a game featuring just about every Mortal Kombat character of its time, having Bo' Rai Cho as one of the featured ten is baffling.
Everyone's favourite character is in the back there.
Liam | Mario Kart DS
One of the best Mario Kart DS features - apart from being a great accompaniment to the footy - was the ability to play local multiplayer matches (albeit with limited tracks) with only one copy of the game.
As cash-strapped teenagers relying on handouts and birthday windfalls, this was a godsend back in the day. It allowed me and my few DS-owning friends to compete in epic tournaments without having to splash out on multiple copies of the game.
It was also the only entry in the series where you could add a self-designed emblem to your kart, introducing a personal touch to proceedings. I'm still rocking the badge I came up with nearly 14 years ago (based on a private joke between me and my brother) and whenever I boot up the game and see it splashed across the front of Luigi's bonnet, it always elicits a childish smirk.
Its age, plus the fact it wasn't a full home console release, might make it easy to forget, but some of the biggest features we take for granted in modern entries - re-imagined retro tracks, alternative kart designs and online multiplayer - debuted in Mario Kart DS, making this unassuming entry a pioneer in the series' history.
Mario Kart: Teaching kids to dodge oncoming traffic since '92.
James | Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
I've been playing Mario Kart for years. From the twists and turns of Toad's Turnpike to the cunning boost shortcuts of Dry Dry Desert, the quintessential kart racer has brought many fond memories. If only there was some way to revisit them all in the same game...
Thanks to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you can do just that, hopping into the two retro courses mentioned above along with fistfuls of others, including classics from as far back as the SNES!
This entry isn't just a nostalgia-fuelled victory lap though, also boasting plenty of new courses alongside new features like auto-drive and auto-accelerate, finally making Mario Kart fool-proof for even the youngest of Nintendo fans. Like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate after it, there's a whole host of characters here as well, including the Bowser kids nobody’s ever even heard of.
The easily shareable, totally authentic driving experience of playing multiplayer with just a single Joy-Con (clipped into a plastic wheel holster, if you're a true pro) makes Deluxe tons of fun across both conventional races and a host of battle modes.
Put your foot down now, ladies and gents, 'cause this one leaves its competition in the dust.
Mario Kart 8 introduced elements from The Legend of Zelda for the first time.
Rob | Mario Kart 64
This one’s an easy choice for me: Mario Kart 64 stands atop the infamous Choco Mountain, far above all other karters.
Playing solo had its share of lovely moments, but multiplayer is where the game really shines. I grew up sharing a room with my boisterous older brother, and when we weren't mimicking WWF (WWE) wrestlers at home, we were playing Mazzer Kart 64.
Grand Prix's were always a highlight, as we struggled to muscle each other and AI out of the way, off the track completely, or into unfortunate obstructions like penguins, gofers and crabs. Every now and then my younger sister would join in as well, as together we attempted to exact revenge on older bro for whatever shitty nicknames he'd given us that week.
It also came in handy on a night out a few weeks ago, when yours truly was challenged to a race by a rather menacing drunk at a bar in Brighton. Thankfully, he was dispatched so beautifully that he calmed right down and offered to buy me a pint!
Moral of the story? Mario Kart 64 isn’t just for 1997 - it's for life.
Split-screen Mario Kart 64 holds fond memories for many.
Which is your favourite kart racer? Is it another Mario Kart game, or something more exotic? Let us know in the comments.
Telefrag VR is a no-nonsense 1v1 arena shooter boldly said to deliver "what other studios are afraid to touch". Set in a world where futuristic gladiators fight for the glory of a Roman Empire which never fell, inspired by greats like Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament, Polish developer Anshar Studios are aiming to bring a frenetic and competitive FPS experience to virtual reality whilst preserving player comfort.
Do you worry that the fast pace and gravity-defying movement might cause motion sickness in some players? Have you found that basing movement on dashes and teleportation, rather than smooth locomotion, helps to prevent that?
Thanks to Detached, we understand the motion sickness problem very well. On the basis of these experiences, we decided to implement in Telefrag VR the so-called dash movement, which aims to reduce the problem, while maintaining the dynamics of the game, which is our priority. However, during the open beta on Steam, players clearly indicated that they expect us to add smooth mobility as an alternative. The request for smooth mobility came from a group of hardcore players. So to keep the . . . accessibility, but also give space to be better and more open for involved players, we've added a second mode of movement!
I think the fact that players from the beginning have an alternative to the movement and that the game itself is built (maps, gadgets) to eliminate the effects of motion sickness is the best form of counteraction and we feel that we have done everything we could to make players feel comfortable.
Telefrag VR revolves around 1v1 deathmatch duels, but would you ever consider upping the player count and/or introducing additional modes like capture the flag?
The most legendary and exciting ([due to] the high stakes) duels in Quake 3 Arena were 1 vs 1. We decided that we would like to submit a tribute to this form of rivalry through our game. In addition, there are design considerations related to VR itself. We do not want the player to feel overwhelmed by the number of stimuli in Telefrag VR, our goal is to make the game fun from the beginning. At the moment we do not have plans for adding new modes, we are completely focused on the essence of our game: intense 1 vs 1 arena shooting.
Big, elaborate weaponry is central to any classic arena shooter, and so far you’ve showcased three guns which meet that expectation, but will there be additional weapons in the final game?
As you rightly noticed, the rich, interesting arsenal is one of the basics of FPS games. It will be the same in our game.
There are two more weapons ahead of us. The first of these is the Laser Pistol, which is the perfect weapon for all those who value precision. So if you loved Rail Gun duels in Quake 3, then this is definitely a weapon for you. The last weapon from our arsenal is [the] Particle Cannon – this weapon shoots a straight, continuous lightning bolt punishing anyone foolish enough to stand out in the open. Come in too close, and the alternative mode will snap and follow you. You can thank Quake 3's lightning gun for that treatment
To sum up, in Telefrag VR, players will have five weapons at their disposal, each with two shot modes. And another one… you can use [two] weapons (one per hand) at the same time. This allows for more variety of attack during moment-to-moment gameplay. Just imagine it, shooting at the opponent with one weapon and firing the teleport with the other to change position.
We’ve only seen one map so far; can you share any information on any of the three as-yet-unseen maps you’ve teased on the Steam page?
[An upcoming] teaser which we have prepared reveals a bit behind the curtain [on] the remaining battlefields. In order not to reveal everything, but also [further tease] the secret, I will mention that the next maps after Fallen Champion, which you could see in the Announcement Trailer, will be: Mobius Villa and Lazarus Grotto.
Mobius Villa is the perfect reproduction of the ancient architecture of Rome. The traditional Roman domus contains specific elements like peristyle, atrium and beautiful sculptures on every corner. It's slightly different from Fallen Champion, [where] construction was focused on wide-open spaces. Here, we are dealing with a completely different picture of the futuristic Roman Empire - Calmness and prosperity can be seen at first glance.
Lazarus Grotto: Do you remember Dagobah from the most popular movie saga? . . . This comparison perfectly reflects what can be found on this swampy planet. Dirty wetlands arouse anxiety, so you better [not] leave the playing field. Nobody knows what can be hidden in the nearby wetlands. The arena winds around a rock formation, which allows you to fight on several levels.
But these are not all galactic battlefields. Closer to [Telefrag VR's] premiere we will reveal more.
In what ways has your previous VR game, Detached, helped in shaping Telefrag VR?
From the design side, thanks to our previous game, we have understood the problem of motion sickness and how to reduce it, as well as how to create maps to maintain the proper, but also clear dynamic gameplay.
With Detached, we've been at the biggest gaming events, thanks to which we've learned to better observe how players play and how to ask them about feedback so that they do not give us only compliments, but accurate information. The fact that our previous game for some time was in Early Access taught us how to work with the community.
Finally, thanks to Detached, we knew what we did well in the game, but also the areas in which it required better quality. In a nutshell: without Detached, Telefrag was never there!
Telefrag VR is launching simultaneously on HTC VIVE, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR with cross-platform multiplayer - does that extend to the PS VR version, or is it just between the PC headsets?
We decided on full cross-play. We really want all VR enthusiasts to be able to play with each other regardless of the platform. There is no denying that the simultaneous premiere with the cross-play function from the beginning is a huge challenge for our company, but also an exciting learning experience. Keep your fingers crossed for us, especially for the QA team!
Are there any plans for an Oculus Quest release?
I must admit that at the moment we do not have such plans. If something changes, of course, we will inform you!
Are you able to narrow the release window yet, or can we still just expect to see Telefrag VR launch at some point in 2019?
The premiere is very, very close! Telefrag VR will be released this summer, as you've noted on several platforms at the same time - this is our goal and we are totally focused on it.
Thanks to Szymon and Jakub from Anshar Studios for taking the time to answer our Telefrag VR questions.
If you're interested in their virtual reality arena shooter, be sure to wishlist it on Steam and keep an eye out for it on the Oculus and PlayStation stores.
What’s being considered a rather tame Electronic Entertainment Expo is now coming to a close, though even a slow E3 is sure to have at least a few standout moments, of which we’ve picked our personal highlights.
Liam | Nintendo Treehouse livestream
My favourite part of an otherwise disappointing E3 was Nintendo Treehouse Live. This stream offered an opportunity to see actual gameplay for Nintendo’s upcoming games, countering the deluge of cinematic trailers that made up most of their Direct presentation and all of the other shows.
I was particularly pleased to hear Animal Crossing: New Horizons will feature the full suite of same-screen, local wireless and online co-op. Being able to work together in real time rather than in shifts, as was the case for me and my deputy in New Leaf, just makes sense and will hopefully alleviate some of the more monotonous management tasks.
Despite having initially dismissed it as a gimmick, the new dungeon creator in Link’s Awakening also grabbed my attention and looks like a fun new addition to an already impressive game. It'd be even better if Nintendo let us share these creations with other players, à la Super Mario Maker, but there didn’t seem to be any mention of such a feature.
Visibly wandering Pokémon in Sword and Shield, at least in the games’ designated Wild Area, was another bit of good news from the livestream. Like many, I’ve come to dread all of the random encounters and so this is a very welcome change.
Chris | More on DOOM Eternal
DOOM as a series always failed to grab me, at least until the 2016 reboot, at which point I became immediately enamoured with its fast, fluid movement which is somewhat reminiscent of Halo. That in itself probably wouldn't be enough to keep me around, but the gunplay is just as smooth and yet incredibly weighty at the same time - then there are the gloriously explicit executions, which never get old.
Eternal boasts more weapons (and associated upgrades), abilities, enemies, executions and environments, taking us all the way from the depths of Hell to the heights of Heaven, like Dante's Divine Comedy with guns and gore in place of self-reflection and enlightenment.
Bethesda have teased that we'll discover the origins of this iteration of the Doom Slayer, and I'm eager to see if we'll be battling against both angels and demons. It's just the kind of silly sci-fi story which never fails to draw me in.
When it comes to multiplayer, I can usually take it or leave it, but DOOM Eternal’s new competitive BATTLEMODE also has me intrigued. Assuming it's properly balanced, the unique 2v1 demons vs. Doom Slayer mode could prove to be an entertaining time sink.
James | Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk?!
Matrix star and altogether nice guy Keanu Reeves is so hot right now, popping up in Netflix film Always Be My Maybe last week, Toy Story 4 next week and soon the eagerly-anticipated third Bill and Ted adventure.
What we didn't expect, but are oh-so-grateful for, was his spontaneous appearance at the Xbox E3 showcase. He graced us not just in digital form as Cyberpunk 2077’s Johnny Silverhand - keeping up the tradition of him playing characters called Johnny after both Utah and Mnemonic - but in person to the melting of timelines and hearts around the world.
While a celebrity E3 appearance isn't unheard of, it's usually Snoop Dogg smoking a spliff while trying out Battlefield, Elijah Wood trying to convince us of his creepy vision for Transcendence, or some WWE wrestlers hidden under the Microsoft stage.
Keanu was different. A perfect blend of "well obviously he's in it" realisation and a wry smile as the now-iconic silhouette of 2019 Reeves appears through mist, he not only looked the part but brought a level of excitement and enthusiasm not seen anywhere else at the event, besides perhaps Tango Gameworks’ Ikumi Nakamura at Bethesda.
When we look back on E3, Keanu will be a stand out for years to come, because he, as one eager audience member said, is breathtaking.
Rob | Breath of the Wild 2 and Spiritfarer reveals
Oh dear. This year’s E3 was a bit of a moist squib, wasn’t it. Whether it be Sony’s absence, Microsoft’s lack of interesting games - c’mon, we’ve all had enough of bloody Gears and Halo by now - or Nintendo’s sequels and remakes (Link’s Awakening does look lovely, mind), everything had an air of predictability about it.
Still, it wasn’t all bad, and Bethesda probably fared best in my eyes. DOOM Eternal looks to continue the glorious, frantic shooting of 2016’s DOOM, whilst GhostWire: Tokyo’s teaser left me exceedingly intrigued. Conspiracy? Check. The occult? Check. Shinji Mikami? Check. This one can’t come along quickly enough!
Personally, though, the announcements of Breath of the Wild 2 and Thunder Lotus’ Spiritfarer are the indistinguishable highlights.
The former is self-explanatory: I’ve been a huge Zelda fan for as long as I can remember and thoroughly enjoyed running around Breath of the Wild’s rendition of Hyrule, so cannae wait to get stuck into another predictably top-notch adventure. Will it be the Majora’s Mask to BotW’s Ocarina?
The latter is a charming, side-scrolling 2D management game centred around coming to terms with death, where Thunder Lotus’ trademark hand-drawn visuals blend with a melancholic tale of goodbyes. It’s set at sea, you can go fishing, and there’s a sidekick cat. I’m sold.
What was your E3 2019 highlight? Let us know with a comment.