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Gaming News

My New, Healthier Mobile Game Obsession Is Fidel: Dungeon Rescue

October 19, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

Some mobile games play psychological tricks with you to get you to keep playing. Others hook you the much better way, simply by being great. So it is with the new iOS port of the stellar Fidel: Dungeon Rescue, which is billed as “the roguelike where you can rewind.”

My colleague Heather highlighted the game when it was released on PC last year. I’ve been waiting for a more portable option and am always ready for a good mobile game that’ll let me pay once (just $3) in order to have fun.

The gist is that you need to move a dog from one staircase in a room to the other, keeping him alive as you do. Rooms are laid out in grids and filled with enemies and traps, all operating under their own, often-hidden rulesets. Each move is a chance to proceed toward the stairs or toward death. The dog can’t cross his own path, but you can undo a step without penalty. Die too many times as you try and a ghost will come after you, so you can’t play too recklessly.

Let’s take a tour of a run I just made through the game on my phone this morning.

I started out with this:

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My first moves were bad. Each spider-kill cost me a heart and I was almost immediately dead.

I could have moved down the left side, grabbed the health and killed the red spider, but I wanted to instead exploit a rule I’d discovered: after three straight kills, red spiders flip over and die without costing you a heart. I’d also figured out that killing tiny spiders doesn’t cost you hearts, either.

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So I went up, stomped three kills and got the red spider to flip:

I took out the red spider and moved down the room:

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You may notice that the staircase had chains on it and a number. I wouldn’t be able to go through this staircase without gaining the requisite amount of points for my kills. Tougher enemies, of course, net you more points.

I zipped through the rest of the floor and moved on. What to do here?

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I initially didn’t understand what to do with the Nosferatu-looking enemies. I noticed that they sometimes seemed to fall asleep, but I wasn’t sure what was triggering that.

I poked around and then…a-ha!

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Lose all your health and they lose their aggression. Makes sense, given that they’re vampires. They also give you five XP for a kill when they’re like this, with no health penalty. A good deal.

Room cleared:

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As you gain points, your dog levels up, gaining more health hearts. As you pick up coins, you gain items, including bombs and health potions. They’re handy.

The next room had plants I could kill. The attack pattern on them is pretty obvious.

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Then I had a room with these spear guys who you can stealth kill if you’re crafty:

Here’s a room with a robot dog that mirrored my actions:

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Here’s one with gnomes that I thought I was supposed to corner into spike traps:

And here’s the room that finally killed me no matter how many times I tried:

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The game is great. It’s the kind of thing I feel good about playing on my phone. Highly recommended.

Gaming News

Several Excuses For Why I Am Still Playing Nintendo's Latest Mobile Game

October 18, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

When Nintendo and Cygames’ Dragalia Lost launched at the end of last month, I said it was a slick version of the same old mobile action role-playing game. Turns out a little slickness goes a long way, as I’ve been playing the damn thing every day since. Why? Let me pull out my list of excuses.

Excuse One: The Music Is So Damn Catchy

High fantasy meets bubbly pop is the best way to describe the majority of the music composed for Dragalia Lost. Each piece is expertly engineered to crawl inside your brain and live there forever. There are times I start up the game and spend several minutes just watching the little characters I’ve collected stroll along the screen as the main theme plays.

Each song on the Dragalia Lost soundtrack fits neatly into its place. The opening song lures the player into the game world. Pounding dungeoneering music transitions smoothly into pleading chants when a boss fight occurs. There’s even special music for timed in-game events. We’ve been through two since the game launched, each with its own unique sound.

Excuse Two: The Art Is So Lovely

For some people there is a style of art that instantly appeals to their sensibilities. Dragalia Lost’s art just makes me happy. From the chibi 3D characters to the traditional 2D art, I love each new image the developers produce.

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That includes the menu screens, even when they are cluttered with stats and announcements of special events. Here’s one of the new rotating opening menus from the newly-launched Halloween event.

And while I might find developer Cygames’ idea of what constitutes a dragon a little suspect at times …

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Silke is totally a dragon and not a girl in a costume.

… I respect the passion and effort put into their creations.

Excuse Three: Wondrous Stories

Nothing gets added to Dragalia Lost without some sort of story attached. Every character, from the lowest rank to the most powerful five-star ultra-rares, has a multi-chapter narrative that serves to expand upon their personality or provide backstory. The same goes for the collectible dragons. As players upgrade and strengthen their bonds with the mostly scaly but sometimes suspiciously human-looking creatures, a story slowly unfolds. It’s all pretty compelling stuff. So far it’s all been very well written, with humor and heart.

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Or as I like to call him, Vampedward.

Even the gimmicky characters released for special events get their own storyline. Edward the butler, in his normal form, has several chapters of story to unlock. Edward in vampire form, released this week for Halloween, has his own tale to tell.

Excuse Four: It Doesn’t Beg For Money

There are things to buy in Dragalia Lost. It’s a free-to-play mobile game, so that’s pretty much its business model. The difference between this game and other collectible-character powered mobile role-playing games is there is nothing I feel I need to buy.

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I don’t get big flashy banners advertising sales or special time-limited deals. A small, unlabeled icon on the opening screen takes players to the store, where they can purchase premium currency or various upgrade items. Some of it costs real money or premium currency, though there’s stuff to buy with money earned in-game as well.

Even the store is adorable.

Dragalia Lost isn’t just chill about people buying stuff. It’s quite generous with the crystal dealies needed to summon new weapons, characters and equipment. The game constantly tosses the stuff at you. I’m six chapters into the main story, and its still raining gems.

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I am not averse to microtransactions in my free-to-play games. The game just has to earn it. When I drop $10 on some premium currency, it’s not because I feel like I can’t progress without doing so. It’s because I feel the game has earned it. So far Dragalia Lost has earned $10 from me. There may be more where that came from down the line.

Final Excuse: I Play What I Want

Look, I don’t have to explain myself to you people. I’m having a good time with Dragalia Lost. The stories are great, the art is lovely, the music catchy and the special events keep me coming back.

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Gaming News

A Brief Date With Fortnite

October 15, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Thanks in large part to God of War and the Final Fantasy Tactics iOS port, I’ve been gaming regularly for the first time in about a decade. As I emerged from my dumb hibernation to become a Gamer once again, I realized I could now fill a huge gap in my cultural literacy. I wanted to understand the game that enchants all the young athletes I cover, and that has reduced the nation’s youth into glazed-eyed automatons that express “joy” via one of five preprogrammed dances. So I downloaded Fortnite.

Kotaku Game Diary

Daily thoughts from a Kotaku Deadspin staffer about a game we’re playing.

I started a new game. I parachuted down from the sky. When I landed, I fiddled around to understand the controls, which were simple and intuitive. I beat up a small prefab home with a mallet. Then I went in pursuit of things to shoot. A bridge to the heavens caught my eye. I scampered up the pallets, only at some point there were no more pallets, so I jumped off. I drank some juice. I saw a cliff. I leapt off, died from the fall damage, and realized no respawn was coming. I deleted the app.

Gaming News

Organize Your Books, Movies, Music, and Video Games With Libib

October 3, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

I have a reasonable but not overwhelming amount of media: mostly books, followed by video games, followed by some collectible vinyls and CDs that I keep around. I also have friends who have rooms full of stuff: stacks of books and floor-to-ceiling bookcases that are nearly bursting from overuse. All of us could benefit from checking out Libib, a free service you can use to scan and catalog your books, movies, music, and video games.

Sign up for a “standard” account on Libib—the pro version costs $100 a year—and you’ll be able to register up to 5,000 items within up to 100 different “libraries,” or groupings of stuff. Setting up new libraries is an easy process via Libib’s website or its apps for both iOS and Android. (I prefer to use the latter, and I’ll explain why in a bit.)

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Once you’ve created a sample library and given it a clever name, it’s time for the fun part: summoning your inner Belle and organizing your stacks of stuff. On the iOS app, that’s as easy as tapping on your library and then tapping on the big plus icon in the upper-right corner of the app. When you do, you’ll be given the option to scan your items’ barcodes (yes!) or enter their details manually (no!).

The full title of my library is, “Books are like cats made out of paper,” in case you were curious.Screenshot: David Murphy

Dorky as it sounds, Libib’s barcode-scanning functionality is a ton of fun to use. It’s incredibly speedy and didn’t miss the mark with any of the books I tried. Each successful scan gets a satisfying “beep,” and you’ll be scanning multiple items faster than a typical experience at the self-checkout lane.

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Libib’s manual entry option, though much slower, is great for when you have rarer items that don’t come with barcodes. And this is all on you. Libib doesn’t perform any searches or lookups based on partial data you enter, so make sure you spell the title and author right (for your own records).

Screenshot: David Murphy

Once you have your book collection scanned—or at least a few—you can easily view your collection on Libib’s website or app. Pull up a book, for example, and you’ll see its cover (imported or shot manually); a thorough description of the book’s contents; key details like its ISBN number, page count, and publisher; and any reviews that you (not others) have written for the title.

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You can also set a status for the book—”Not Begun,” “In Progress,” “Abandoned,” or “Completed”—as well as a rating (one to five stars), custom tags (to help you find similar items later), and any notes you want to add (favorite quotes, the page number you stopped reading at, et cetera).

In addition to tagging, you can create custom groups for items based on any theme you want (“stuff I swear I’ll get to”) and indicate how many copies of the book you own. Pay for Libib’s pro service, and you’ll even be able to track who you lent all your media to. Don’t let anyone walk away with one of your favorites.

Gaming News

Pokémon Go Doesn't Want You Playing Outside During Typhoons

October 1, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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This weekend, a typhoon hit Japan. Pokémon Go players noticed something: a warning system.

Players were alerted of rain and strong winds. These warnings, however, aren’t new and have been appearing over the past few months. Guess some folks are just noticing!

The above Tweet pointing out the warning system this weekend went viral.

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Here is the warning message in English.

In-game, it was raining as well.

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Professor Layton On Mobile Could Really Use A Stylus (Or An iPad)

September 28, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Screenshot: Level-5

The first game in the Professor Layton series, 2007’s Curious Village, is now out in a beautiful HD version for smart devices. It’s a nice way to revisit this excellent puzzle game, but trying to play something designed to use with the Nintendo DS precision stylus on a phone with a finger can be annoying.

One of the great breakout hits of the Nintendo DS era, Level-5’s clever combination of brain teasers and intriguing stories introduced us to Hershel Layton, he of the overly-lengthy top hat, and his young assistant Luke. The two traveled all over England and, eventually, the rest of the world solving supernatural mysteries. After six DS and 3DS-exclusive entries, the series returned last year with Layton’s Mystery Journey for both mobile and 3DS. And now, the one that started it all is out for iOS and Android, with a nice HD upgrade to the graphics.

Screenshot: Level-5

I’m a huge Layton fan, but I haven’t played the first game in a decade, so it’s been fun to go back and revisit the puzzle-solving duo’s original outing. It’s a credit to the beautiful design of the game’s puzzles that I remember them so strongly. Every time another puzzle pops up, my first thought is, “Oh, it’s this one, this one was great!” My second thought is remembering the answer. Oops. The experience is definitely not the same the second time around, even with over 10 years in between playthroughs.

The only puzzles that I’m spending more than a few seconds on, this time around, are the ones that relied less on thinking about a problem and having a single a-ha moment, and more on doing a bunch of busy work. Unfortunately, playing Curious Village on an iPhone 6 makes that more difficult than doing it on a Nintendo DS. I think I’d even take the 2004 launch DS, versus using my finger on a phone screen.

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The mobile version doesn’t change the puzzles or the layout from the DS game; your screen is split horizontally into two halves to mirror the DS layout. The many animated cutscenes can be played in landscape mode, taking up the entire screen, if you want. The walking-around scenes, full of their tiny little details that must be clicked on to find secrets and puzzles, are exactly as they were on the DS.

Screenshot: Level-5

But clicking precisely on these things with a large human finger is quite different than using the smaller, more accurate DS stylus. To find hint coins and other items, you have to tap on small features of the world—the tiny top of a chimney, a barrel under a window—and it’s much easier to do this with a stylus than with a finger. It’s also less tiring.

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So, will the prospect of playing more Layton on my phone—this one, and the other five entries, should Level-5 continue with the series—get me to buy a capacitive stylus? Perhaps. Another option might be to play it on a tablet. I loaded up Curious Village on an iPad and found that it was much easier to identify potential points of interest, then click precisely on them with a finger, when the playfield was blown up to massive size. This experience was much more fun than playing on the phone, in part because of the novelty of it—like playing on a Nintendo DSi XXXXXXXL.

If you’re a Layton fan looking to play this inaugural episode again, the mobile version is excellent, provided you don’t mind jabbing with your finger. You could also get a stylus, or play it on a device with a screen larger than a standard phone’s. If you’ve never played it before, this might be an excellent time to jump in, because unlike me, you don’t already know all the puzzle answers.

Gaming News

Nintendo's New Mobile RPG Is A Slick Version Of The Same Old Thing

September 28, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Nintendo and Cygames’ Dragalia Lost is a very pretty mobile game. The characters are lovely, the music is gorgeous, and its overall presentation is quite charming. One could almost forget it’s just another generic character collecting mobile action RPG under all of that polish. Almost.

Nintendo’s done some pretty innovative things since moving into the mobile space. Super Mario Run applied set level structure to the endless runner game model to create something slightly different. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp gave fans a new (though sometimes expensive) way to interact with beloved characters while expressing their creativity.

Collect characters! Buy orbs to get new characters! Bunny Boy! Bunny Boy? Well that changes everything.

Dragalia Lost is easily the least original mobile game release we’ve seen from Nintendo. Players create teams of colorful characters obtained either through gameplay or by spending in-game currency in a randomized gacha machine-style store. These teams are used to take on a series of bite-sized action RPG levels featuring very basic game mechanics. Players swipe to move, tap to attack, and press buttons to activate skills or temporarily transform into a giant beast.

Kotaku Game Diary

Daily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.

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When not wandering through quickie action RPG levels or reading the game’s story chapters, Dragalia Lost gives players a whole lot to manage. Character levels can be upgraded. Weapons can be upgraded. Dragon forms can be upgraded. Dragon skills can be upgraded. Weapons can be upgraded. There is so much upgrading, and in order to upgrade players need upgrade materials, so grinding levels and special event dungeons is a must. There’s a Castle section where players can erect buildings to hep generate resources. It’s pretty basic stuff.

So many tales to tell.

What Nintendo and developer Cygames (of Granblue Fantasy fame) bring to the table with Dragalia Lost is lovely art direction and a strong focus on telling stories. There’s the game’s main narrative, which involves a prince of a mighty kingdom searching for the power to bond with dragons in order to save his people. Then each collectible character who joins the player’s entourage gets their own personal story that unfolds over multiple characters. Bonding with dragon companions in the Castle area’s Dragon Roost unlocks dragon stories. There’s a great deal of fiction to absorb between all the routine battles and upgrading.

The characters look nice. The music is a quirky mixture of traditional instrumental action and Japanese pop, which I enjoy quite a bit. Dragalia Lost is a great-looking and great-sounding video game. It’s just one I feel like I’ve played before.

Gaming News

Doctor Who Infinity Tells Amazing Stories For A Match-Three Game

September 10, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Before it was reborn in 2005, British science fiction mainstay Doctor Who survived 26 years of flimsy sets, questionable costumes and laughable effects by telling great stories with excellent talent. That’s also what raises Doctor Who Infinity above the match-three game that serves as its foundation.

Released in early August on Steam and more recently on iOS and Android from Tiny Rebel Games, Doctor Who Infinity is a match-three game, which initially put me off. Not that I am averse to lining up gems to make them disappear. It’s just match-three games aren’t known for their narrative delivery. Plus I’ve played plenty of Doctor Who-flavored match-three in the form of Doctor Who: Legacy, the popular mobile game also developed by Tiny Rebel.

Daily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.

But I am a lifelong Doctor Who fan, so I couldn’t resist the call of a new game for long. I secured a copy of Infinity from Steam, started it up, and was pleasantly surprised to discover it’s more of a storytelling game that uses match-three as a hook, rather than a match-three game that happens to feature Doctor Who characters. It’s episodic interactive fiction where each episode features its own professional writer, comic book artist and voice talent from the show.

The first episode, The Dalek Invasion of Time, begins with an extensive narrative/tutorial voiced by Michelle Gomez, the Scottish actor who plays Missy (the female version of evil Timelord The Master) in the show. Gomez’s performs carries the same playful menace as it does on the telly. British novelist George Mann, who wrote the story for the episode, captures the character’s spirit perfectly, and Gomez makes it sing.

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Comic book artist and writer (and Doctor Who storyboard artist) Mike Collins contributes visuals to the episode. It’s really like flipping through an interactive comic book. One that just happens to break up the narrative in order to play a few rounds of match-three.

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And the match-three action isn’t bad. It’s certainly not basic. Rather than simply disappearing gems, each board features some sort of gimmick pertaining to the story. In the screenshot above from the game’s second episode, The Orphans of the Polyoptra (written by legendary Doctor Who scribe Gary Russell and voiced by third Doctor companion Katy Manning), the player must match orange gems near patches of rubble to destroy them. Once the rubble is cleared, the freed citizens can head to safety.

Later in the same episode, the Doctor must match pillows beneath falling bombs in order to keep them from killing civilians. What seems like basic match-three in screenshots is actually a very clever and often quite challenging little puzzle game. It’s exactly the sort of thing a Timelord would appreciate.

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Doctor Who Infinity is currently available on Steam, iOS and Android. The mobile version is a free download, with episodes costing $4.99 each, while additional Steam episodes are $5.99. There are three episodes available now, with at least two more due out by the end of the year. If Tiny Rebel Games can keep securing amazing voice, writing and art talent, I’m down for whatever adventures they send my way.