Bans Backlash and Branching Out

 

Apple has followed in Google’s footsteps by removing Fortnite from its App Store.

On the 28th of August Apple confirmed that Epic Games’ developer account has been terminated for violating the company’s Terms of Service. Apple says this removal is standard policy for the terms of service violations that kicked off this whole saga. iOS players are now completely unable to update the game and play the new Chapter 2 Season 4. Despite a similar ban, players on android are still able to play by updating outside the Google Play Store. Although a judge supported Fortnite’s removal, they ensured Epic Games can still develop the Unreal Engine for iOS to prevent harm to third-party games (including battle royal competitor PUBG Mobile). Epic Games still shows no sign of bowing to the platforms demands so we can’t be sure when, or if, it will ever return to mobile.

 

Sony to bring more first party games to the PC audience.

This year we’ve seen Sony launch previous PlayStation exclusives Death Stranding, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Detroit: Become Human on the PC. In their recent 2020 Corporate Report Sony confirmed more of their games would follow suit. They highlighted online PC games as their biggest competition and hope this move will find their games a bigger audience. “Targeted outcomes include growth in active users, stronger retention and a shorter cash conversion cycle, from which expanded cash flow can be expected. We will explore expanding our 1st party titles to the PC platform, in order to promote further growth in our profitability.” Sony didn’t reveal what games are slated for PC release, but it seems more likely their older titles will find new life than that PS5 exclusives will make the list anytime soon.

 

Ubisoft faces criticism for use of Black Fist Imagery in recent release.

Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad is a mobile military RPG released on August 25th. It has since faced criticism for its use of the ‘raised fist’ image as a symbol for its antagonists UMBRA. In the game UMBRA is an organisation that, on its surface, promotes and “egalitarian utopia” but simultaneously commits terrorist acts to foster political unrest. In real life this symbol is associated with the Black Lives Matter Movement which has had similar accusations lobbed at it by alt-right conspiracists. In response to the backlash, Ubisoft has promised to remove the symbol in the games next update. They also apologised, stating the fist was chosen as it is a universal symbol of resistance and they did not intend any connection to Black Lives Matter but acknowledged its inclusion was insensitive and harmful.

Superheroes, Mysterious Objects and the Art of Giving

New DC games announced

DC Comics hosted an event last weekend and announced a number of projects. The online only event called the DC Fandome was created for the company to communicate with fans due to COVID-19 restrictions. New details on several upcoming films including Wonder Woman 1984, The Suicide Squad and The Batman were revealed and we also saw the announcement of two games. Gotham Knights,   WB Games Montreal’s new game is set after the apparent death of Batman and will let players explore an open world Gotham as Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing or Red Hood. The 3rd person action game lets players team up with a co-op buddy to battle villains and uncover the mysterious Court of Owls. The game is planned for current and next gen systems with a release date of next year.

Also at the Fandome was the first glimpse at Rocksteady’s long awaited new project titled Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. While details are currently scant, the colourful 4 player focused action game pits Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and King Shark against a Justice League turned bad. The game is currently scheduled for a 2022 release on next generation systems.

212 story high obelisk discovered in Melbourne

Players of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator have discovered a 212 story high obelisk in the suburbs of Melbourne.  The Verge reports that the glitch was traced back Nathan Wright who, as a University student had been working with Open Street Maps for a class task. When entering data Wright simply made a typo and typed 212 instead of 2. The data then made its way into Bing Maps which is used to generate the terrain in Microsoft Flight simulator.

Fall Guys Battle of the Brands

Fall Guys, the party game styled battle royale is one of this year’s breakout hits, selling over 2 million in its first week on PC alone. Developer Mediatonic has leveraged the games popularity to get a charitable bidding war going. The brand who donates the most money to the charity Special Effect will have a skin added to the game. Special Effect is a UK-Based charity focussed on assisting disabled gamers.  At the time of recording the highest bidder is FGTeev at $422,222.22USD.

Summer Games Done Quick 2020

Games Done Quick have just wrapped up their Summer Games Done Quick event which has raised over $2.3 million USD for Doctors without borders. Now in its tenth year the popular speedrunning event was run entirely online after being delayed due to COVID-19. Whilst the event may be over you can still check out this year’s runs on Games Done Quick’s Youtube channel.

Boomerang Fu Review

Developer: Cranky Watermelon
Publisher: Cranky Watermelon
Music: Paul Kopetko & Zorsy & Marskye
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC (Windows)
Released: 13th August 2020
Genre: Couch Co-Op, Local Multiplayer, Party Game

Ready… Set… SLICE!

Boomerang Fu is a slice and dice with your friends kind of couch co-op (that reminds me of fruit ninja, maybe that’s because of the fruit characters). With its cute little character design, you and your boomerang must face off other players to be the last one standing. Each round shows off engaging maps that you must manoeuvre in order to survive the wrath of a stray boomerang. This awesome game isn’t much on the story side of things and more of a party game that’s all about local multiplayer madness. Cranky Watermelon is an Australian studio that promised cute cartoonish food related characters and they definitely delivered on that promise, you can play as an eggplant, avocado, banana, a donut or even as a highly caffeinated coffee cup among other characters.

The game play is frantic and fast paced which is exactly what you want in a couch co-op. There are over 30 different maps that have a variety of different interactable elements such as traps, switches that open or close passageways as well as teleporters that can transport you across the arena setting you up for a surprise attack on an unsuspecting player. There are a few different modes with customizable rules just in case you want to slow things down or ramp it up. One of the modes involves teaming up with a pal to take on another group, there’s also a Golden Boomerang mode where you must hold onto the gold boomerang the longest to win each round.

When you first jump in you notice that the controls are really simple and easy to learn as there are only three buttons you need keep track of, dash, throw, and slice. As you play there are more mechanics that you get introduced to such as power-ups that stack together after each round. Some of the power ups are teleport, explosive, fire, ice, disguise, shield and many more.

Initially I was overwhelmed by this stacking of power-ups because I felt that I wasn’t clearly instructed on that mechanic and I thought that I might have to alternate between abilities that I gathered so I felt a bit caught off guard when an avocado not only threw an explosive boomerang but one that also split into multiple of them, thus ‘sliceploding’ me into oblivion.

Rounds last somewhere between 5 seconds and 15 seconds making this game one that requires focus in order to win the most rounds. Cranky Watermelon was inspired by games such as Overcooked, Towerfall and Love is in a Dangerous Space Time to give you an idea of what the experience is similar too.

Paul Kopetko not only developed this game but also had a hand in the music which has this futuristic, trap electronic music vibe that pumps you up nicely for some boomerang slicing action. My only negative comment to make is that the music is rather repetitive in game and after a while I found myself feeling a bit worn down by the high intensity, especially since the gameplay is already hectic enough, which I guess comes from the Overcooked inspiration.

Overall Boomerang Fu is the frantic, fun, and feisty little couch co-op that is ideal for any game loving household, especially if you enjoy kicking your friend’s butts on a game night. Boomerang Fu is also relatively affordable at a little over $20 of the Nintendo E-shop, I played on the Nintendo Switch and I feel this game is designed really well for console, so my recommendation is to play with either the Switch or Xbox One. I really enjoyed my time with Boomerang Fu and look forward too many more nights attempting to make fruit salad out of my friends.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on 19th August 2020

Epic Lawsuits, Atari Launch and Skateboard Tricks

Epic Games files suit against Apple and Google following the removal of Fortnite from their digital platforms

A recent update to Fortnite on mobile violated both Apple and Googles Terms of Service by providing an alternative payment option for V-bucks which also gave players a discounted rate. In response the game was removed from both stores. This was not unexpected however as Epic then filled separate suits against both platform holders and launched a pre-prepared campaign including a video which mocked the classic “1984” advertisement by Apple placing the tech giant in the place of the Orwellian Big Brother. The suit seeks to challenge Apples 30% take of all transactions and their control over the iOS platform.

In retaliation Apple has informed Epic Games that their access to development tools for both iOS and Mac will be terminated later this month. This would affect not just their games but any further development of the Unreal engine on these platforms.  An injunction has now been filled with the court to stop Apple from taking these actions while the original suit is pending. According to Epic’s filing:

“If the Unreal Engine can no longer support Apple platforms, the software developers that use it will be forced to use alternatives. The damage to Epic’s ongoing business and to its reputation and trust with its customers will be unquantifiable and irreparable.”

Australian launch for Atari VCS

Good news for those waiting for release information on new consoles later this year. The Atari VCS has been given a timeframe and Australian price. In November for $699 or $849 you’ll be able to buy the new console. For $699 you can get the retro inspired console and no controller  while the $849 version sports both a classic and modern controller.

Bluemouth Managing Director, David Provan who is the Australian distributor had the following to say about the release

“At a time when we are all looking for fresh and innovative ways to consume various forms of content (both new and old), the VCS combines nearly 50 years of entertainment into one stylish creation, opening up our lounge rooms to near infinite content possibilities from one device.”

The Atari VCS comes with 100 classic Atari games and a new version of Missile Command.

Classic Tony Hawk move renamed

The upcoming remake of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 will rename the “Mute grab” to be the “Weddle grab” after its originator Chris Weddle,  who is deaf. In an Instagram post Hawk addressed the name change

“They referred to him as the “quiet, mute guy.” So it became known as the mute air, and we all went along with it in our naive youth. In recent years a few people have reached out to Chris (who still skates) about this trick and the name it was given. He has been very gracious in his response but it is obvious that a different name would have honored his legacy”

Apple, Amazon, and Animal Crossing

 

xCloud and Stadia violate App Store guidelines

It has been suspected that issues would arise as Microsoft’s xCloud service, and Google’s Stadia, turned their focus towards Apple devices, but it has been confirmed by Apple that such services violates the App Store guidelines, and cannot exist on iOS in their current forms.

In an official Apple statement: “The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search.”

The main reason cited for rejecting xCloud and Stadia on the App Store is that they offer access to apps Apple can’t individually review. Back in March, Apple offered a very similar justification when they were asked about potential anti-trust issues with Apple’s Arcade game subscription service, which the company runs.

In a statement from a Microsoft spokesperson: “Our testing period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to games on iOS via the Apple App Store. Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content. All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalogue are rated for content by independent industry ratings bodies such as the ESRB and regional equivalents. We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform.”

Twitch Prime will become Prime Gaming

With Amazon rebranding the company’s live streaming platform. Although they are dropping the Twitch name and focusing on the Prime part of the brand, the service will continue to offer the same benefits subscribers are already used to. This includes a free monthly Twitch subscription you can use on your favourite streamer, exclusive in-game content, and free games that you keep forever.

Nintendo has reported selling 22 million copies of their March release: Animal Crossing New Horizons

The Switch game continues to be the driving force behind Switch hardware purchases since its release. With an operating process of $3.39B in revenue, and Switch sales up 166%, Animal Crossing New Horizons is now the second best-selling Switch game, running behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Nintendo states that of all the new Switch consoles that were played for the first time during the last 3 months, more than half of them played New Horizons on the first day.

The Flame In The Flood Review

Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: Curve Digital
Music: Chuck Ragan
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Released: February 24, 2016
Genre: Survival

Flame in the Flood takes place in an apocalyptic world ravaged by a great flood. The focus isn’t on action, towering ruins or cool weapons, rather on nature reclaiming itself. Nature is your greatest enemy and ally in this game, propelling you down the river but trying to stop you every step of the way. You play as scout, a young survivalist, following a radio signal down a perilous river. You aren’t a fighter but have good survival skills to navigate danger and make what you need. Your only companion is your loyal (and near indestructible) dog Aesop, who finds resources for you, alerts you of danger, and even carries a secondary bag. Aesop can’t fight but also can’t get hurt so it’s a fair trade off.

It boasts vibrant visuals that overflow with a southern Americana aesthetic. The colours are rich and the shadows are intimidating. This style, with help from the soundtrack, creates a charming folksy setting that’s relaxing even when fighting for your life. Sometimes (usually during a thunderstorm at night) I would be unable to make out an area in the dark and an enemy would jump out. While annoying, it probably came close to the vision you’d actually have in that situation and it kept me on my toes. The animal designs are great, stylized, and threatening when they need to be. Though uncommon to meet, the designs for NPCs are full of character!

Flame in the Flood offers two modes of play, campaign and endless. Campaign has Scout searching for safety down river and will take around 6 hours, assuming you don’t die. The game does allow you to return to checkpoints when you die but these are pretty spread out, so you still feel the sting of losing progress. The game consists of either sailing down river or gathering resources from the locations on its banks. Thankfully, the game doesn’t have time to get boring because just staying alive requires managing so many things. Additionally, each world is randomly generated so each game is a different journey. Endless mode operates basically the same as the Campaign but with none of the story-beats and no ending. It’s best for people who want to achievement hunt or challenge themselves.

Flame in the Flood doesn’t offer a tutorial and just throws players into the thick of things. Mechanics are simple and don’t need an explanation, but it can take some time to work out how to deal with enemies and treat different conditions. While having a tutorial would certainly make things easier, discovering new ways to handle problems is one of the most rewarding parts of this game. Plus, what’s a survival game without a dozen deaths under your belt before you beat it?

There are seven things you need to manage in order to survive your journey: hunger, thirst, temperature, energy, sickness, injury and raft integrity. To improve one usually requires resources that risk/reduce another, creating the delicate balance key to survival games. It’s easy to keep track of everything on the HUD, they even included a portrait that shows how close Scout is to death.

The crafting system in this game is one of the best I’ve played with. There is a logical path from basic items to late game ones. The scarcity of items, and the risk of obtaining them, is well balanced throughout your journey. Some things definitely don’t work as simply as they should like, when checking the stats of a particular clothing item it needs to be equipped, not just in inventory. This would only cost me an extra second or two, but I found myself annoyed each time. Thankfully the few flaws were never enough to take away from my experience with this game.

The soundtrack for this game is incredible and stands out for being comprised of acoustic country songs with strong vocals. This soundtrack, created by singer Chuck Ragan for this game, is heart of this game. It would still be enjoyable to play with different songs but would not be the same game and would not be the same experience. I fell in love with this game in one of my earliest attempts. I was bleeding out, incredibly thirsty and clinging to life on a raft held together with string. I was disheartened and ready to give up, when River and Dale began playing bringing a thunderstorm with it. I collected the rainwater and sailed down the rapids to the next town with more supplies. I lived for many days after that and made it twice as far as my other attempts. These songs are hopeful, emotional and always kick in at just the right moment.

Flame in the Flood doesn’t offer too much story and that is usually what I look for in games. However, its world is so captivating that I had no problem feeling emotionally engaged. The story doesn’t offer much replay value but that’s what endless mode is for! If you’re a fan of the survival genre, you should definitely check it out, if you want a rich world to get lost in, you should definitely check it out, and if you want a beautiful acoustic soundtrack you should definitely check it out.

Reviewed by Maylee Flannery @MayleeFlannery on 5th June 2020

Superliminal Review

Developer: Pillow Castle
Publisher: Pillow Castle
Music: Matt Christensen
Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Released: November 12, 2019 (Windows), July 7, 2020 (Others)
Genre: First Person Puzzle

Are you filled with feelings of self-doubt? Do you find yourself prone to minimizing massive dilemmas or for allowing the smallest problems to get blown completely out of proportion? At the Pierce Institute, our patent-pending SomnaSculpt technology provides safe and effective dream therapy while you rest in the comfort of our flagship clinic.

SomnaSculpt: We’ll make your dreams come true!

A first-person puzzle game, you play as a client experiencing dream therapy. Many are familiar with ‘dream logic’, where impossible things happen, strange rules are accepted, and you just don’t really know what could happen next. Superliminal is like that.

Doors appear and disappear. Objects can appear flat, but become 3D with just the right angle. Big objects become small, and vice versa. It’s a topsy turvy world, and within it you must solve puzzles in order to progress, with the friendly voice of Glenn Pierce reassuring you, and the less-friendly robotic voice of the orientation system coaching you, to guide the way. The environment is clinical, but friendly. Safe, interesting, and just a little bit silly.

Until… something goes wrong. And you find yourself solving puzzles not just to progress, but to escape, with the dream becoming more and more confusing, erratic, with the still-calm voice of Glenn Pierce trying to help you, but it comes with a sense of someone trying to keep a level-head while things go very, very wrong.

The main mechanic of the game is the utilisation of ‘forced perspective’. Real life examples include when people take photos of themselves with the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the background, staged in such a way that it looks like they’re holding it up.

In Superliminal, that is turned up to 11. If you pick up or place an object further away from yourself, it becomes bigger. If you move it closer, it becomes smaller. With this you can create platforms to climb up on, enter toy-like buildings, or even shrink yourself down, and vice versa.

You’ll find objects painted in perspective, or in pieces, and you have to align yourself just so in order to bring that object to life. Floors won’t exist unless you put something on it, sometimes objects will duplicate instead of being moved or manipulated. I had a particularly challenging time in a room with a giant apple. The game teaches you to look around, literally change your perspective, and knowing that you must solve each puzzle. Some are a bit easier than others, there’s a few rooms where I found myself walking around in circles, trying to find the moment when the solution would just click.

But sometimes I would have a literal headache, trying everything I could think of, wandering around, hoping for the solution to reveal itself. A couple of times I would solve it by accident, with a sense of ‘oh… that was it?’.

It is mindboggingly clever how they managed to execute these mechanics, and for the first few minutes I just played around, marvelling at it and all its possibilities. And for the most part it was utilized in really fun and clever ways. I found myself getting deeper and deeper into the game, into the dream, as things got more and more twisted, unpredictable, progressing and finding a way forward somehow while feeling like the ground I stood on was about to fall beneath me at any moment, like the crumbling edge of a cliff.

The auditory experience was at odds with the erratic world I was experiencing, but it kept me grounded. The music was relaxing, clinical, like something you would hear in the waiting room at the dentist. It was understated, easy to tune out, but it always reminded me that I, the player, was definitely within a clinic at all times. Trapped within dream therapy. That relaxing jazz music felt quite sinister as the game progressed.

In addition, there are sounds specifically for giving you a sense of scale. You’ll hear a cute little boop sound when you pick up or drop objects, however you’ll realise just how gigantic you made the object as the sound of it falling fills the room. It’s not when it hits the ground, it’s when it’s falling through the air. What does that sound like? Like a big thing falling.

I enjoyed playing Superliminal, it was a lot of fun, with a lovely, consistent artstyle that ties everything together, an impressive feat as you see how lighting, tone, and setting changes throughout the game. The usage of forced perspective as a mechanic is fascinating, and unique. I love unique, when it’s executed well. It didn’t hold my hand, the game already told me everything I needed to know to solve these puzzles. I started off curious and excited to even more curious and nervous when the tone of the game shifted.

But it felt like there could’ve been more. More depth, more symbolism, more story. It felt anti-climatic. But thinking on it further, the ending wasn’t bad, and I liked the message it presented. I finished the game feeling cheated. It’s all just a dream, right? But…I’ve been thinking, does that make the dream unimportant?

Reviewed by Zahra Pending @Degari_rose on 5th of August 2020