Games for Aid, E3 Hype, and Capcom Copyright

Send Aid to Palestine

Itch.io a website for indie game developers to sell and download indie games has a special bundle for $5 you receive over 1,000 games from over 800 content creators. All the profit raised will be donated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. UNRWA will provide further food assistance to over one million Palestinians in territories with heavy destruction. They are also helping provide emergency mental and physical health protection for those in the region. If you’d like to buy games and help aid Palestine click here to contribute.

Capcom sued for using unlicensed photos in games

The Japanese video game developer and publisher Capcom are in some deep water with a photographer suing the company for copyright infringement. Judy A Juracek has accused the company of using unlicensed photos from her book in multiple games such as Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry. The images are from Judy’s copyrighted book published in 1996 called Surfaces which features over 1200 visual references for different creative artists. It’s taken Judy some time to take action on this claim as she wasn’t positive about the infringement relating to both major games Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry, however it wasn’t until Capcom’s ransomware attack that her suspicions were confirmed. Judy’s lawyers are asking for $12 million in damages as well as up to $25,000 for each photograph used.

The biggest week in gaming is just around the corner. E3 kicks off on the 12th of June for 3 days of video game announcements, release dates and more. Starting with Ubisoft, Devolver Digital, and Gearbox showcasing their latest titles leading up to the event. EA have also dropped their latest game announcement Battlefield 2042. To stay in the loop with all the heavy hitters of the games industry such as Xbox, Bethesda, Square Enix, Capcom, Bandai Namco and more Zed Games have put together a calendar so you can follow along at home.

The week in gaming releases:

June 10:

• Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade [PS5]
• Ninja Gaiden: Master Edition [Switch]
• One Hand Clapping [PC]
• We Are Football [PC]

June 11:

• DariusBurst: Another Chronicle EX+ [PS4, Switch]
• Guilty Gear -Strive- [PC, PS5, PS4]
• Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart [PS5]

June 13

• Lumberhill [PC]

June 17

• Police Simulator: Patrol Officers [PC]
• Roguebook [PC]

Abyss of Neptune Review

Developer: Abyssmal Games, Synodic Arc
Publisher: Synodic Arc
Music: Abysmal Games
Platforms: PC (Steam)
Released: 27th April 2021
Genre: Survival, Horror

You’re in the infamous Bermuda triangle, sent by Divers Investigating Various External Signals (D.I.V.E.S. for short) to check out a strange signal in the depths of the ocean. The voice of the AI, D-NA is robotic, and comforting, guiding you through your tasks. It’s hardly routine of course, as you are encouraged to gather dynamite and then use said dynamite to blow up an entrance in an underwater cave.

And as you enter the cave, well, I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to realise that caves and explosives don’t mix. You are cut off from the outside, and radio doesn’t work through solid rock. So, now truly alone, you have to continue your investigation into the mysterious signal. And this entire, mysterious, massive underwater facility you have found yourself trapped in.

Abyss of Neptune is a survival horror game that takes place entirely underwater. With a hidden story, freaky monsters, and a fair bit of fear, all wrapped up with a beautiful and rich environment, it’s easy to become submerged in this game.

Abyss of Neptune has a few mechanics to worry about. Other than being able to swim in all directions, and getting the hang of the floaty controls, you of course have to keep an eye on your health and oxygen levels. It’s easy at the start, less so as you progress. Doors and machines within the mysterious facility are often damaged, missing parts, or need power. So there is a fair amount of minor repairs, and battery-seeking you need to do. But I think one of my favourite things is that there are puzzles. They’re small, and not too challenging to solve, but the room you’re in is eerie, dark, and there’s a strange sound that keeps getting closer.
Getting my hands on a harpoon was reassuring to a degree, but the number of bolts you have for it is limited, and using a harpoon isn’t the easiest thing on the planet. If you stay calm you can manage, and I didn’t find myself panicking much, but I definitely was on edge.

So you have to make your way through a partially functioning, maze-like facility that is deep underwater and filled with overgrown coral, damaged machinery, and the remains of the people who used to occupy it.

And the monsters of course.

But you can hide in lockers, so that’s not too bad.

There is a lot of visual atmosphere to this game, with dark rooms, foreboding shapes made of coral and destroyed equipment, and strange, eerie sounds. But, I understand this might not be the most popular of opinions, but I found it soothing at times. The sound of water bubbling, and my movement through the water, combined with the visuals of my air bubbles drifting away from me with each exhale was kind of relaxing. Probably not what they intended, it is a constant reminder of the fact that you’re very much underwater, and the quiet doesn’t help, so if you have some fears of cave diving, spelunking, or deep water, this probably isn’t the game for you.

I haven’t finished this game yet, and I understand it to be a rather short game, with about 2-3 hours of gameplay. But I’m a cautious scaredycat, so it is taking me a little bit longer than that. But I am really enjoying the atmosphere, the amount of detail the team put into this game, and the usage of less-is-more in appropriate areas. I love finding the remnants of emails from the people who worked in this facility, and piecing together what happened. It’s not exactly revolutionary, but it is fun. And they’re not dragging out unnecessarily, which I really appreciate. It would be very easy to stretch this out for hours longer under the guise of forcing the player’s mind to work against them, but that can be boring and exhausting. So I enjoy the pace it has set. It’s a good balance for a small game.

And, this is the thing that gets to me, this game is free. Is it perfect? No! No game is. But it’s well-made, has a great atmosphere, and a good balance between suspense, puzzles, and action.

So, why not dip your toes into Abyss of Neptune?

Beyond Blue Review

Developer: E-Line Media
Publisher: E-Line Media
Music: Curated Playlist
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows, Linux and Mac
Released: 17th April 2020
Genre: Adventure, Educational, Simulation, Indie Game

“Beyond Blue takes players into the near future, where they will have the opportunity to explore the mysteries of our ocean through the eyes of Mirai, a deep-sea explorer and scientist. She and her newly-formed research team will use ground-breaking technologies to see, hear, and interact with the ocean in a more meaningful way than has ever been attempted. The game features an evocative narrative and exploration of an untouched world.” – E-Line Media Game Description

Beyond Blue is evocative and heartfelt in its design. E-Line Media have a statement that says, “Inspiring Players to Understand and Shape the World.” And that is exactly how I felt about Beyond Blue. This wonderful ocean research game was inspired by Blue Planet II and you really do feel the passion and love for the ocean throughout its narrative and educational aspects.

You as the player Mirai love whales and spend time with a family of sperm whales with their new born calf Andrea. You follow Mirai on her personal journey above the water as well as her professional life underwater where she hosts live streams called OceanX Streams, collecting samples from the ocean floor, tracking marine life and of course discovering the mysteries of the ocean. All this to help educate the wider world about the “blue heart” of the planet.

There are in total 8 dives each one lasting anywhere between 15 minutes and upwards of 45mins depending on how much you like to explore. Mirai has her home base which is a futuristic submarine that she returns to examine findings and complete reports. It’s also where Mirai contacts her sister back on land where she is trying to help support her sister in taking care of their grandmother. This ties closely to the research Mirai is conducting on a family of sperm whales, the pod has a new mother and daughter duo whose family also consists of a grandmother.

Beyond Blue is so educational that while I was playing, I learnt that sperm whales live in family units and that the females will stay together forever while males will leave until they are of breeding age. Sperm whale females build strong and lifelong bonds with each other and those bonds will transcend generations. Grandmothers will pass on valuable knowledge to their younger family members. Mirai intends on studying the baby sperm whale well into adulthood and throughout her life to understand more about the species.

The voice acting is fantastic, all the characters really come alive with the phenomenal voice work of Anna Akana (Ant-Man), Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Pirates of the Caribbean III), Ally Maki (10 Things I Hate About You), and Mira Furlan (Babylon 5). These talented actors really help bring the educational elements of Beyond Blue to life.

In between dives quotes from researchers, marine biologists, oceanographer and underwater explorers also known as aquanauts appear throughout the game. There is also this incredible video feature that you unlock throughout the game that is called ‘Ocean Insights’ which are a series of short videos from the real world based around real scientists sharing their love for the ocean, it’s secrets and most importantly sharing their discoveries about our natural water world.

The great thing about these Ocean Insights is that the videos you unlock usually relate to something you have discovered on a recent dive. Honestly unlocking these little mini educational videos was my biggest driving factor for completing a dive. I wanted to hear more from people like Dr. Sylvia Earle the founder of Mission Blue and resident explorer for National Geographic not to mention a bunch of other awesome National Geographic residents you get to hear from.

When exploring in game I found the mechanics to be surprisingly intuitive and the UI Hud to be so smooth an effective. Beyond Blue is considered to be an indie development however the player movement and visual design would suggest a much bigger production. It might not be high graphics but it certainly doesn’t need to be with such a smooth interface and wonderfully designed player movement.

I did have a minor issue with loading a saved game however, when I first logged back in after taking a break the game froze when I selected ‘continue’ so I did unfortunately have to get task manager involved to close the game and start up again this time opting to load a previously saved game instead. I’m not sure if this is an issue isolated to windows versions of the game or my PC just sucks but keep that in mind if you stumble across the same problem.

The music gives off ethereal ocean vibes while diving, creating this really paced atmospheric energy peacefully guiding and encouraging you explore further into the depths. When you are onboard the sub however you get this exceptionally curated playlist of ocean inspired music from a variety of different artists as well as the ability to unlock more tracks throughout game play.

Beyond Blue is touching, awe inspiring, educational, and also a challenge for us to rise to the occasion and protect this vulnerable underwater world. There is so many wonderful things to appreciate about our little blue planet and its vast seascapes and Beyond Blue has done an exceptional job of bringing the ocean closer to us so that we may learn and engage more with our ocean environment. If you are lover of the planet, get Beyond Blue you will almost certainly learn something and experience the vastness of our oceans.

Pre E3, Sonic, Mario and Some Sludge

E3 season is upon us

While E3 doesn’t officially start until the 12th of June companies have already started ramping up coverage. Sony has done a deep dive into the upcoming sequel Horizon: Forbidden West showing off the gameplay for the first time. Alongside it we’ve also had fresh looks at Dying Light 2 and Far Cry 6 as well as announcements for Dragon Quest III HD and Dragon Quest XIII. The God of War sequel has been pushed back to 2022 and confirmed to be a cross generational title, shipping on both PS4 and PS5.

And continuing before the show even begins, we will have the Indie Live Expo, Guerilla Collective, a reveal of the next battlefield and Geoff Keighly’s Summer Game Fest Launch just to name a few events.  To help you navigate all these events at and surrounding this E3 please check out our easy to follow, regularly updated calendar of all events, in local time.

Sonic 30th anniversary

It has been three decades since we first met the Blue Blur and Sega is going all out in celebration. On June 23rd they will be hosting a virtual symphony of Sonic music available to watch for free. Additionally they revealed for the official Tokyo 2020 Olympics video game your athlete will be the option to compete in events wearing a Sonic costume, Sonic DLC for Two Point Hospital and the ability to play the 1996 arcade fighting game Sonic the Fighters withing arcades of the upcoming game Lost Judgement.

Sonic Colors Ultimate was announced along with Sonic Origins, a collection of 5 early sonic games and a teaser for the new Sonic Game from Sonic Team.

And don’t miss out on the 30th anniversary Jewellery collection! You too can adorn yourself with a necklace featuring a jewel encrusted Sonic, Knuckles, Tails or Shadow!

There’s a lot to unpack here and more that hasn’t been mentioned. If you’re interested check out all the 30th anniversary celebration details at: www.sonic30th.com

Sludge Life Refused Classification

Publisher Devolver Digital have announced that Sludge Life a quirky first person adventure game first released last year has been refused classification in Australia and therefore will not being seeing its planned Switch release in our country. While the details on the ruling have not yet been released by the Australian Classification Board the publisher is happy to point out the game is still available for purchase via Steam and the Epic Game Store.

Mario Brothers Movie Extended Edition

28 years after its original release fans of the film ‘Super Mario Bros.’ can finally check out an extended version that had never before been seen outside of the production team. Titled ‘The Morton Jankel Cut” after the films co-directors the new version of the film cuts in nearly 20 minutes of additional footage including a rap by Iggy and Spike.

The new cut was put together by a group of fans along with film restorationist Garrett Gilchrist and took 2 years to put together the current cut mostly from vhs sources.  The whole film is available online at archive.org

Releases

June 3 – The Magnificent Trufflepigs [PC]

June 8- Chivalry 2 [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO], Edge of Eternity [PC], Backbone [PC], The Elder Scrolls Online [PS5, XSX], The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood DLC [PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO]

June 10 – Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade [PS5], One Hand Clapping [PC], Chicory: A Colourful Tale [PC, PS4/5] – June 10

E3 Event Calendar

All the hottest events to check out over this year’s E3 period!

This list will be updated whenever possible.
By default all times are in AEST(UTC+10) but if you subscribe to the calendar you can alter it to any timezone you wish.

Pokemon Shuffle

Developer: Genius Sonority
Publisher:
Nintendo & The Pokémon Company
Music:
Tsukasa Tawada
Platforms:
Nintendo 3DS, Android & iOS
Released:
18th of February 2015
Genre:
Single Player Puzzle Game

Pokémon Shuffle is a puzzle game similar in its mechanics to Candy Crush or Bejewelled. Players must battle against different types of Pokémon. During each fight you may bring up to four support Pokémon with you. Here comes the match thing with other thing mechanic, you must match three or more of the same Pokémon to each other, either in horizontal or verticals lines when that happens damage is dealt to the Pokémon you are battling. The higher number of Pokémon you can match in a single move the more damage you deal and the faster you knock out the wild Pokémon. It also helps if you can have support Pokémon that are super effective against the Pokémon you are battling. For example, bring water types to battle a fire type will deal more damage. You progress through each stage by defeating Pokémon and capturing them. You have a higher percentage of capture at the end of each round based on how many moves you have left. There is a limited number of moves you can make for each battle. So, if you have 10 moves and you KO’d in 2. Those left over 8 moves will be added to your likelihood of Pokémon capture. And that Pokémon can be added to your collection and brought with you to other battles. After all that you get in-game coins and Pokémon gain EXP.

All the Pokémon in Pokémon Shuffle are from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, Kalos and Alola regions. Meaning that there is also Mega Evolutions and Mega Stones that you can acquire from battling trainers as well. Players can unlock expert levels as well. Which will limit you not only by move count but also by time. The Pokémon up for grabs in the expert levels are more rare and definitely more sought after. Pokémon Shuffle operates on a free-to-play system which basically means that everything is free up front but if you want addition features you must pay. In relation to Pokémon Shuffle, you are required to have hearts to attempt a stage. Now you only start with 5 and you must wait a certain amount of time for one heart to recover and so on. You can purchase more hearts and you can also purchase power-ups, such as extra moves. Mostly however if you didn’t want to pay you don’t need to you, you get login bonuses and daily challenges as well as special limited-time stages to try out.

Pokémon Shuffle is very cutesy in its art style making my think of Animal Crossing there is also a childlike nature to it making it very safe and appealing to young kids. I do find the game to be very repetitive at times and other times I find it really addictive making me want to reattempt a battle to capture a Pokémon. The further you get into Pokémon Shuffle the more patience you need to not spend money. So, if you are someone with the tendency to spend on mobile games, I’d be careful with this one.

The soundtrack is simply delightful each stage you progress through provides a new sound for each stage theme. It’s almost as if each stage has music to mimic certain Pokémon types which is really cool. There are also many traditional Japanese instruments throughout with classical Japanese drums and rhythm. There is also sweet melodic guitars and ukuleles to enjoy. Tsukasa Tawada has done a fantastic job of making gaming music that does what it should, set the scene and not irritate you when it loops.

I have to say even though Pokémon Shuffle doesn’t have the greatest online ratings and despite it being a pretty old game now, I don’t think it’s aged badly. I love Pokémon and almost any game that somehow incorporates that universe will suck me in. It’s definitely a great game for the train or to fidget with. I love the daily login in systems because it keeps me going in to attempt some more stages and if you want to spend money sure and if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I’ve had a great time with Pokémon Shuffle because I got the itch for having to Catch Em’ All.

Streaming Games, D&D, and Woman Gamers on the Rise

Netflix Making Moves into Games
In the early hours of Friday the 21st of May, The Information published an article claiming Netflix had approached “veteran game industry executives” over the past weeks looking to hire someone to “oversee an expansion into videogames.” Within 3 hours Netflix had informed several outlets that they were seeking to expand on the success of games like those based on Stranger Things and the interactive stories of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and according to GamesRadar Netflix is looking towards a subscription based service akin to Apple Arcade. This confirms what Netflix’s COO and Chief Product Officer Greg Peters announced in April;

 “There’s no doubt that games are going to be an important form of entertainment and important modality to deepen that fan experience…”

Switch Not Getting GamePass
In documents released in the Epic v Apple legal battle a discussion has been unearthed between Microsoft and Nintendo around the topic of bringing xCloud – the Game Pass streaming service – to the Switch. While the documents were heavily redacted it implies, according to gamesindustry.biz, that Microsoft was willing to compensate Nintendo to fulfill Microsoft’s Head of Gaming’s Phil Spencer’s ambition of “…bringing [sic] Game Pass to any device that somebody wants to play on.” from 2019. Sadly, at least for Spencer, according to the documents talks seem to have dissolved into corporate politeness with Nintendo declining Microsoft’s offer.

D&D Goes Bumper in 2020
In a bumper year for tabletop gaming Wizards of the Coast has boasted that 2020 was their best year ever and 7th consecutive year of growth. With more interest than ever in Dungeons and Dragons, and increased sales even after releasing free content for the “Stay at Home Play at Home” initiative the company has announced crossover content and more in the future. Demographics released show a fairly even split in age, and a 60:40 split between the sexes showing that while this hobby is perceived to be male dominated, the ratio is changing.

Research Released about Women’s Experience of Gaming
In response to an increase in women playing games, recent research by Lenovo and Reach3 Insights have revealed that while, on average, women play the same games as men, they receive a disproportionate amount of harassment based on their gender. Of the 900 women surveyed from China, America and Germany 70% faced judgement of their skills in game based on their gender, 65% experienced gatekeeping and 44% received unsolicited relationship asks while gaming. 59% of those surveyed also said they used non-gendered or male identifiers when playing online to avoid conflict. The research concludes with 71% of women agreeing that increasing the presence of women in gaming ads could foster more inclusive behaviours in gaming.

Upcoming Game Releases.
On May 27th, the psychedelic, genre-busting beat ’em up Kung Fu Jesus comes to PC. And the pixel art, Police Action RPG Pecaminosa come to PC, and Switch.
On May 28th, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World comes to PS4, and Switch.
On June 1st, the co-operative espionage adventure game Operation: Tango is coming to PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. And Stonefly, a Ferntree Gully take on a mech adventure is coming to PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch.
And the life sim, Hokko Life, is coming to PC on June 2nd.