March ends just like it began, a whole bunch of smaller titles with just a couple of “major” titles that will probably only appeal to a select group of players. That’s okay, I’m sure you’re all still playing Resident Evil 4 anyway. Hey? Did that one part scare you? Yeah, me too. I also liked the part where you did that thing and then the thing appeared and then Leon was all like, “Woah“.
Speaking of saying “woah“, yesterday was the last day to purchase anything on the 3DS and Wii U eShop. As much as digital distribution has put so many games into our hands, the ability for publishers and distributors to remove them permanently is a sad situation. I mean, can you imagine if Valve suddenly went out of business? That’s a terrifying thought. Oh man, now I just had a thought about what will happen to my digital libraries after I die? Great, now I’m having an existential crisis; thanks Nintendo.
MLB The Show 23 (PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 28th
Developed by: San Diego Studio
Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment/MLB Advanced Media
Manny Machado is NOT on the cover this year; pass.
Crime Boss: Rockay City (PC – Epic Games Store Exclusive/PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 28th
Developed by: Ingame Studios
Published by: 505 Games
This looks like a game that the guy in your Introduction to Cinema class, the one that really likes Boondock Saints, would really enjoy. Hey, what movie do modern douchebag’s like? When I was in my 20’s it was easy to point to Boondock Saints or anything by Kevin Smith, but what about the 20 year old’s today? Is it stuff by Eli Roth? Like, do those guys just talk about how awesome Green Inferno was, or something? Oh yeah, I should talk about this game. Eh, I don’t to.
Assault Suits Valken DECLASSIFIED (Switch) – Releases Mar. 30th
Developed by: M2
Published by: Rainmaker Productions
This one is kind of a cheat because Assault Suit Valken is actually an old Super NES game that was called Cybernator in North America. I guess they took out some stuff and edited the game for content, so this new release has all of that cut content plus a bunch of digital goodies like concept art.
DREDGE (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 30th
Developed by: Black Salt Games
Published by: Team17
DREDGE is a fishing simulator…with a twist. LOL, it’s so weird; DREDGE is just, like, a little bit different than other fishing simulators. It’s just, like, a little bit quirky.
Infinite Guitars (PC/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 30th
Developed by: Nikko Nikko
Published by: Humble Games
Holy crap, this is finally coming?! I mean, it is according to their Twitter bio.
The Last Worker (PC/Quest 2/PS5/PSVR 2/Switch/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 30th
Developed by: Oiffy/Wolf & Wood Interactive
Published by: Wired Productions
I’m on vacation this week so let’s just use the Steam description for these last two;
“The Last Worker is an immersive narrative adventure centered around a lone worker’s last stand in an increasingly automated world. Kurt works for the world’s largest retailer and is forced to choose between capitalism or activism“.
LUNARK (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 30th
Developed by: Canari Games
Published by: WayForward
“A pixel-art sci-fi adventure set in the midst of a rebellion against a totalitarian regime, LUNARK is a modern take on the 2D cinematic platformer genre of the ’90s. Run, jump, hang, climb, roll, and shoot your way through gorgeous and mysterious locations“.
Ports and Re-releases:
The Last of Us Part 1 (PC) – Releases Mar. 28th
Forza Horizon 5: Rally Adventure (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 29th
Get ready to race your favorite rally vehicles through the beautiful deserts of Mexico and probably smash into piñatas or something equally racist. This is a real thing they do in this game, I promise.
Metal: Hellsinger – Dream of the Beast (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 29th
The metal music FPS game Metal: Hellsinger is back with two brand new songs, a new impossible weapon, and new outfits. Is this any good?
There are tons of smaller games to check out this week, some look great while others look, um, not great. Hey, at least everyone tried.
- DROP – System Breach (PC) – Releases Mar. 28th
- Gripper (PC/Switch) – Releases Mar. 29th
- Anyaroth: The Queen’s Tyranny (PC/Switch) – Releases Mar. 30th
- The Great War: Western Front (PC) – Releases Mar. 30th
- Norn9: Var Commons (Switch) – Releases Mar. 30th
- Ravenbound (PC) – Releases Mar. 30th
- Saga of Sins (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Series X|S) – Releases Mar. 30th
- Total Tank Generals (PC) – Releases Mar. 30th
- Yukiiro Sign (PC – No English language option/Switch) – Releases Mar. 30th
Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 years ago:
BattleBlock Theater (Xbox 360) – Released Apr. 3rd, 2013: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: The Place Beyond the Pines – Starring Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Bradley Cooper
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Tyler, The Creator – Wolf
*Click here to listen to the album*
San Diego developer The Behemoth got their start in the video game industry by releasing their title Alien Hominid on the flash game site Newgrounds. That title quickly became one of the most played/downloaded games on Newgrounds, prompting the two developers, programmer Tom Fulp and artist Dan Paladin, and a third partner John Baez, to start their own company. After developing an HD remaster of Alien Hominid for consoles, The Behemoth teamed up with Microsoft to release their breakthrough hit Castle Crashers. With the first two games, The Behemoth solidified themselves as a purveyor of old school video game sensibilities, where sharp skills and fast reflexes rewarded players. For their third game, BattleBlock Theater, the team once again partnered with Microsoft to bring the title to the Xbox Live Arcade in April of 2013.
Heavily inspired by the Alien Hominid PDA game, BattleBlock Theater is a 2D platformer where players must collect gems as they run, jump, and punch their way through levels filled with multiple hazards. Aside from gems, players can also find golden yarn balls as well as a golden top hat, both of which can be used by players, along with the gems they find, to purchase new weapons/accessories and unlock new skins for the player character.
The premise of BattleBlock Theater is fairly straightforward, if not a bit quirky (a staple of The Behemoth’s games). Players start the game on a boat sailing across the sea in a vessel called the S.S. Friendship. One night, a terrible storm pushes the vessel off course and causes it to crash land on a seemingly deserted island. However, the hundreds of passengers soon realize that this island is home to hundreds of large cats who imprison the passengers and force them to take part in feats of dexterity for an enthusiastic audience.
There are eight chapters in BattleBlock Theater with 9 levels each to finish, followed by a final, timed, boss level, before players move on to the next chapter. There are also three more, very difficult timed levels, called encores, that players can attempt if they’re feeling masochistic. After finishing three levels in a row, players are sent back to the chapter hub world where they can purchase new weapons and unlock fellow passengers using the gems and yarn balls they collect.
One major feature of BattleBlock Theater is the ability to create levels and share them online with the community. These can be single player levels or they can be for one of the many multiplayer modes that BattleBlock Theater features including ‘Soul Snatcher’, in which players steal each others souls, ‘Muckle’, in which players beat each other up, ‘Challenge’, in which players try to get a higher score than their opponents, ‘King of the Hill’, in which players control specific blocks, ‘Color the World’, in which teams compete to color the most blocks, ‘Grab the Gold’, in which players grab the most gold, ‘Ball Game’, in which players must put a ball in a basket, and ‘Capture the Horse’, in which players must steal their opponents horse and ride it back to their stable.
BattleBlock Theater received favorable reviews from critics when it was released, with particular praise given to the extensive multiplayer modes. Critics were also very impressed by the game’s level design and overall gameplay design, but noted that it seemed to fall short of other contemporary indie platformers like Super Meat Boy and Braid. Sales figures aren’t very easy to come by for this game or Castle Crashers, though BattleBlock has appeared to have sold over 3 million copies on Steam, where it was ported in 2014, though it’s tough to say that it’s had as much of a cultural impact than Castle Crashers.
BattleBlock Theater is a fantastic puzzle platformer that should ABSOLUTELY be part of your game library. You can find it on Steam, as well as on your Xbox One/Series X|S through backwards compatibility (though the online features appear to have been shut down on consoles). The Behemoth would follow-up with the multiplayer strategy game Pit People, and are currently working on Alien Hominid Invasion, a new, co-op heavy version of their first game.
Def Jam Vendetta (PS2/GameCube) – Released Apr. 1st, 2003: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Head of State – Starring Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Dylan Baker, Nick Searcy, and Lynn Whitfield
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: The White Stripes – Elephant
*Click here to listen to the album*
Following the critically panned WCW Backstage in 2000 for the PSX & N64, Electronic Arts was looking to redeem themselves in the wrestling genre. This time the company would partner with a proven developer in the genre, Japanese company AKI Corporation, creators of Virtual Pro Wrestling and developers of the N64 classics WCW vs. NWO: World Tour and WWF No Mercy. What wrestling promotion would EA and AKI be working with this time? None! Instead, the companies would work with an unlikely partner, Def Jam Records.
The origins of Def Jam Vendetta started in the offices at Def Jam Records where employees and artists would play Madden together, for hours and hours at night. One Def Jam executive, Kevin Liles, noticed that Def Jam’s music was being licensed for a lot of games, including EA’s Madden, and wondered why they weren’t making their own games. Reaching out to EA, Liles began talking to the company and suggested the two of them team up on a project. Two developers, Josh Holmes and Daryl Anselmo, had just finished working on NBA Street, an arcade basketball game that was heavily inspired by hip-hop culture. The two were in the middle of developing their next game, a kung-fu inspired fighting game, when they learned that another developer, Paul Lee, was worried about a cancelled WCW game the company was slated to develop with AKI Corporation. Holmes & Anselmo approached Lee about collaborating, and they started putting together a fairly traditional wrestling game.
Feeling a bit uninspired creatively, the team, on a whim, found out that Def Jam was interested in collaborating with EA and one executive said “what if we have rappers fighting each other“, which was NOT the creative spark that Holmes & Anselmo were looking for, with Holmes stating that it was a terrible idea. Regardless, the top brass at EA wanted this to happen and the two were put in touch with Def Jam’s Kevin Liles; soon Def Jam Vendetta was born.
Eventually, Holmes was convinced after seeing the passion that so much of the team had about the game, from the lowest levels of the company to the highest, and particularly from Def Jam themselves. While Def Jam Vendetta was a wrestling game at its core, the game’s big raw was that players could fight against, and play as, real life rap superstars. In order to accomplish this, Holmes would need to meet with the artists and convince them it was a good idea. He recalled talking with stars like DMX and Method Man, bringing along scripts and a demo. The rappers almost immediately agreed, but would often tell Holmes that the dialogue was terrible and give them ideas on what they would say.
There are two main gameplay modes in Def Jam Vendetta, a standard arcade mode in which players fight each other or against the computer, and a story mode in which players watch cutscenes and fight through a slew of contenders, including famous rappers. The story mode is how you would unlock new fighters and locations, and allowed you to upgrade the stats of certain characters. The story is fairly simple, players take on a stereotypical fighter, advance them through an underworld fighting tournament that is, basically, pro wrestling, and in the process meet women while trying to win back another woman who is dating the head of the tournament, D-Mob.
The collaboration between EA, Def Jam, and AKI Corporation produced a surprise hit when Def Jam Vendetta came out in April of 2003 for the PS2 and Nintendo GameCube. Critics were mostly favorable towards the game, calling it a vast improvement over WCW Backstage Assault. The gimmick of having real life rappers was seen as a bonus, though some critics were a bit let down that the characters didn’t have gimmicky moves based on their lyrics and persona’s, calling it a missed opportunity. The game was a commercial success as well, becoming a PS2 best seller and would spawn two sequels, Def Jam Fight for NY, and Def Jam Icon. Playing Def Jam Vendetta today is difficult, as there is no modern console port, making an original disc or emulation your only options.
Eric The Unready (PC) – Released Mar. 1993: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Born Yesterday – Starring Melanie Griffith, John Goodman, and Don Johnson
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: The Jerky Boys – The Jerky Boys
*Click here to listen to a sample* (Not available on Spotify)
Our final notable title this week is the text adventure game Eric the Unready from Legend Entertainment. Long time readers may remember Legend Entertainment from our discussion on 2003’s Unreal II: The Awakening (and is the reason why I’m highlighting this particular game). Founded in 1989, Legend Entertainment was made up of former Infocom devs, including Bob Bates and Mike Verdu. They found success early on with two text adventure games Spellcasting 101 and Time Quest, but things really took off for them in 1993 with the release of the critically acclaimed Eric the Unready in 1993.
While point & click adventure games from Sierra and LucasArts were tearing up the PC charts, Legend Entertainment still clung to the old school text adventure format that they were, frankly, the masters of (Infocom famously created the Zork series one of the most popular text adventures of all time). With Eric the Unready, the team dove headfirst into the comedy genre, one that their rivals at Sierra and LucasArts were well versed in, with a big emphasis on parody. The team at Legend were clearly inspired by Monty Python and the Holy Grail (like most nerds in the 80’s and 90’s), with the famous troupe’s signature comedy stylings all over Eric the Unready (is it a coincidence that some Python alumni had made a movie in 1989 called Erik the Viking that featured a doofus protagonist…maybe, maybe not). Eric the Unready just packed, PACKED, with jokes and pop culture references. As a would-be comedy writer myself, I was giggling uncontrollably at all of the word play, puns, and silly references and parodies. It truly is a TEXT adventure game, with thousands of lines of dialogue and descriptions.
In Eric the Unready, players take control of a accident prone, doofus of a knight named Eric. In the opening cinematic, players learn how Eric stumbled into fame by defeating a rival knight by accidentally getting his lance stuck in a tree and shaking it so furiously that dozens of apples fell upon his opponent and knocked him unconscious. Since ten, Eric has been “helping” out in the kingdom of the good King Fudd. After a silly encounter with a farmer and his pig, players are greeted by King Fudd’s daughter, Princess Lorealle the Worthy, who gives Eric a ride back to the castle. The next day it is discovered that the princess has gone missing, perhaps kidnapped, which is really bad timing because her father is about to die (based on an ancient prophecy) and she is set to inherit the kingdom…unless she isn’t there during her father’s death. DUN, DUN, DUN!!!!
Foul things are afoot, of course, and Eric haplessly stumbles upon all of it, making a mess of things along the way. Eric the Unready was a smash hit with critics who called it “perfect”, “a rare treat not to be missed” and “a masterpiece”. During the end of year accolades, Eric the Unready was generously rewarded by several PC gaming outlets where it won, and was nominated for, several “Game of the Year” awards, “Strategy Game of the Year” awards, and “Adventure Game of the Year” awards (not to get too ahead, but Day of the Tentacle also came out in 1993, so WTF…). In 1996, Computer Gaming World would include Eric the Unready on its list of the 150 greatest PC games of all time, placing it 103rd, as well as placing it 9th on “Funniest PC Games of All Time”, 11th on “Most Memorable PC Games of All Time”, and 7th on “Most Rewarding Endings of All Time”.
For as many accolades as this game got, I had NEVER heard of it until I started researching Legend Entertainment for my Unreal II write up. Hell, I had never even heard of Legend Entertainment before that either. That’s possibly because Legend Entertainment was only hot for a very, VERY, specific moment in PC gaming history, the early 1990’s, when adventure games dominated the platform. Since I was in my tweens in the early 90’s I likely ignored Eric the Unready because it was, clearly, marketed towards a more adult audience. That isn’t to say the game is racy (well it kind of is, oh, and it’s racist too, obviously), it was just made with jokes and themes that an adult would find funny more than a 12 year old kid who just wanted to play Mega Man and Final Fantasy. Thankfully, GOG has Eric the Unready easily available for purchase and I was able to enjoy it’s fun, but completely archaic, story & interface. I didn’t get too far, some stupid bard kept being a dick to me, but I enjoyed the time I spent with it, maybe I’ll check out a guide to help move me along.
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