Master of The Free World Productions | Jumpcut Entertainment Network

‘Do The Bartman’ In Minecraft With The Simpsons Skins

Update: Microsoft has announced that The Simpsons skin pack is now available. 

Original Story:

Minecraft on Xbox 360 and Xbox One has quite the colorful cast thanks to a number of licensed skin packs. We’ve traveled through time and space with Doctor Who, visited a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars, and built super-powered landscapes with Marvel heroes and villains.

America’s favorite family is next to get the blocky treatment. Microsoft has announced that 24 skins from The Simpsons, including Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie will be arriving soon. 

The full list of skins hasn’t yet been revealed. We’re sure to learn more (including the price) as we near the DLC release in late February. Let's just hope Kang and Kodos make the cut.

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Aaru’s Awakening Review – A Beauty That Handles Like A Beast

Traditional hand-drawn animation feels like a lost art, but Aaru's Awakening is an incredible reminder of the magic inherent to this antique craft. Modeled after ‘70s comics and animated films, every vista and enemy in Aaru’s Awakening was painstakingly drawn with pencils on paper before it was scanned into a computer – in many cases the original pencil lines are still visible. The game is awash with vibrant visuals that lend an art-house vibe, but the unconventional platforming mechanics need a little more time on the drawing board.

Aaru's Awakening is an old-school platformer that immediately drops you into a series of brutal jumping challenges. Sadly, the world isn’t nearly as exciting to navigate as it is to look at. Checkpoints are too sparse considering the series of surprise death traps you rarely see coming. I like thinking on my feet, but Aaru constantly throws you for a loop with unexpected crumbling floors and other surprise dangers that send you back to a checkpoint and force you to replay several platforming sequences you’ve already mastered. This trial-and-error experience is more frustrating than rewarding.

The one notable twist on all this jumping is a unique teleporting mechanic; you fire off a series of energy balls that act as destination markers for teleportation. I enjoyed zipping around the screen using Aaru’s teleport, rebounding balls off walls to reach otherwise inaccessible platforms, and even using this teleport to slip through cracks in the walls. Unfortunately, this tricky puzzle-like mechanic adds one more wrinkle to a platforming system full of creases, and during the hectic platforming sections it’s too easy to send yourself teleporting into a bottomless pit or row of spikes.

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This challenge is all the more frustrating thanks to an unusual control scheme that makes you feel like a brand new gamer. Aaru can dash forward and shatter walls, but he doesn’t always dash in the same direction that he’s moving. Buried in the menus is the option to change that, but since there are a several instances where you need to dash in the opposite direction than you’re moving, this isn’t very practical. This one gameplay choice bucks 30 years of platforming know-how and common sense, and I had trouble rewiring my brain to adjust to this offbeat control system.

Ultimately, Aaru’s Awakening is a beauty marred by convoluted controls, an insignificant story, and trial-and-error gameplay. Lumenox Games has given us a great reminder that some of the old arts shouldn’t be abandoned, but the rest of the game’s design doesn’t seem to have received the same level of attention. As it stands, Aaru’s Awakening is more entertaining to watch than it is to play.

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Camilla Luddington On Playing Lara Croft And The Difficulties Of Pretending To Drown

Many will recognize Camilla Luddington from her recurring roles on shows like Grey's Anatomy, Californication, or True Blood, but gamers know her as Lara Croft.

Luddington provided Lara's voice and motion capture performance for the 2013 reboot, and lent a new level of grounded believability to a character that had previously fought dinosaurs and skateboarders in underground caverns. As part of our ongoing Rise of the Tomb Raider coverage, we had a chance to speak with Luddington about how her and how Lara's life has changed since their experience on Yamatai.

Game Informer: This time around, Lara is a more prepared, more confident adventurer. Are you playing a much
different Lara than who you played in the first game?

Camilla Luddington: I think so. One of the things I think is really interesting about her is she is wounded by her experiences in the
first game. She feels as if she has gone into a secret world and that
normal life is now impossible for her. Now she is consumed in a way
to chase artifacts and uncover mysteries even more so than
the first game. There is this drive behind her in this game to let the
world know that she is not lying. She didn’t make these things up, and
she doesn’t have to feel like she imagined something. That drive
behind her and the place she is coming from is a little bit different
and I think it makes her more than just a survivor like she was in the
first game. She realizes that being a tomb raider is who she is meant to
be.

Were you familiar Lara Croft and Tomb Raider prior to the 2013 reboot? Are you a fan?

She is such an iconic character that I assume everyone is familiar with the character. Also, for me when the first
game came out, I was probably like 12 or 13 or something like that and
my older brother actually had the game. I remember that he rarely let
me play, but I would sneak on sometimes. I was familiar with the
game really through him because he was a gamer. I grew
up with the games being played around my household and admittedly I’m
really bad at my own games, which is really depressing. I’m slowly
inching towards the end even now. I’ve seen it played the entire way
through. But yeah I kind of grew up around her, so I do think she iconic. I kind of assume everyone knows who she is.

If you went back in time and told that 12 year old version of
you that one day you would be Lara Croft, what do you think she would
say?

I think she would say, I need to play the game more because I was
never allowed to play it [laughs]. I think I would use that as an excuse to
grab the controls from my brother and say, "Actually I’m going to be Lara
Croft, so you need to have me play the game."

How much has your role changed between the 2013 Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider?

It’s very similar. It was facial capture the last time around, except
there really weren’t dots on my face. I think there might have been at
one point – maybe for the trailer. Obviously they took facial capture,
they just probably did it in a different way. This time around we are
using something called Mova
which is really exciting because it just captures so much more of what
you are doing in a scene and makes it just so much more realistic.

I’ve kind of spoken about it before, but just to put it in terms for
people to understand, facial capture is usually 90 points of reference
on a face and what Mova is a fluorescent paint that gets airbrushed on
your face and you can see it under a fluorescent light. It actually
captures 7,000 points of reference. For me, like I said, it’s just
constantly so exciting to see that because when I get to see a little a
bit of what we captured it just looks incredible. It blows my mind; you
can really feel the mass effect. More of your performance is in the game
than ever. Not everything is motion captured, but Mova is just
something that makes it just a little extra exciting.

Lara is a very physical character. Do you have to train to be Lara Croft?

I don’t technically have to train, but I have someone on set who will
show me, kind of like I did in the first game, the way to hold certain
weapons so that I’m not holding them wrong. I realized very quickly from
the last game that it was a lot more physical than I thought it was
going to be and so for myself, I did things like circuit training or
even biking or running. Those are things that just help me maintain the
endurance through an eight hour shoot of motion capture. Where things
get really technical or kind of aggressive, they will have stunt people
in and kind of go over that because it needs to be choreographed in a
way that they feel like stunts are properly performed and better. It is
taxing and exhausting, but it’s fun and I want to do as much of it as I
personally can.

For stories on getting recognized as Lara in public and how Luddington can't dress up as Lara for Halloween, head to page two.


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OlliOlli Will Be A Cross-Buy Title On Wii U And 3DS

Roll7 and Curve Digital have announced that OlliOlli will be arriving very soon on Xbox One, Wii U, and 3DS. For those planning to pick the game up on a Nintendo platform, you’ll get a bit more bang for your buck.

OlliOlli will be the second title eligible for cross-buy on Wii U and 3DS. If you purchase the game on one of the platforms, you’ll unlock the other via Nintendo ID.

Curve Digital is the first third-party to have access to this feature. OlliOlli is only the second title announced to support it, with the other (Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars) launching the same day.

OlliOlli comes to Wii U and 3DS on March 5. Xbox One players can have at it on March 6. For more, on OlliOlli, check out our review.

 

Our Take
It’s great to see Nintendo starting to move toward cross-buy. This is a feature that needs to become pervasive in the company’s ecosystem. It should also extend to virtual console titles as soon as possible. This is a move in the right direction, but the sooner Nintendo goes all in, the better.

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Where Is The March PlayStation Plus Games Announcement?

You might have noticed that we’re in the final week of February (leaving us just a few days to collect this month’s PlayStation Plus games). Normally by this point, we know what’s on tap for the following month.

Unfortunately, we may not know until next week, as a Sony representative stated on the PlayStation Europe blog. “Sorry to keep you good folks waiting,” writes Sony’s Fred Dutton. “I appreciate you’re all really keen to see the line-up and that it’s frustrating having to hang on a bit longer than usual. Alas, we’re still not quite ready to make the announcement. I can’t give you a firm time at present as to when the post will go live, but we’re working to get it to you as soon as possible. It may well be next week at this stage.”

This is also a good time to make sure you’ve downloaded February’s games. They are scheduled to rotate out when the store is updated on Tuesday, March 3.

[Source: PlayStation Blog via Gamespot]

 

Our Take
We want to know what next month’s games are just as much as you do. However, even if the titles are announced after Tuesday, we still have most of the month to nab them.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin Gets New Gameplay Trailer

Bandai Namco has released a new
gameplay trailer for the upcoming overhaul of Dark Souls
II.

This particular trailer gives players
a taste of what to expect from The Forlorn, Dark Souls II’s newest NPC invader.
If The Forlorn’s behavior in the trailer is any indication, he’s just as adept
at appearing at inopportune moments as normal human invaders.

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For more on Scholar Of The First Sin, which releases on
April 7, check out our preview that includes a rundown of all the new features.
To see more gameplay, check out this video of the update’s new enemy locations.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Born In Blood – From Software’s Road To Bloodborne

From Software’s upcoming gothic-horror action-RPG Bloodborne looks like a dynamite spiritual successor to the Souls series. If you look back into From’s history, however, you’ll see that the Souls games themselves were successors of sorts from a dark-fantasy game type that From has been making since its first game release in 1994 (From was originally a business software developer, moving into games with the advent of the PlayStation).

From’s forte – dark fantasy – has the potential to be brutally realized with Bloodborne in March, but looking at the constant iteration of these concepts and ideas from title to title through the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 era is an interesting dungeon crawl. While the current era of From’s success in North America spun into action with Demon’s Souls in 2009, there are a few titles and series that were setting the formula in place long before entering fog gates and rolling off cliffs became everyday gaming occurrences.

The King’s Field series(You can watch us Replay some King's Field here), is sort of a “rough cut” of what would eventually become the Souls series. The first title never made it to North American shores, but the rest of the mainline games in the series did. Slightly different in scope as it’s a first-person action-RPG, there’s still the hallmark challenge, focus on exploration and discovery, and lack of NPC-driven story and dialogue.

One of the easily identifiable shifts to the Souls games is the switch to third-person and a substantial increase in the speed and flow of combat, but the King’s Field series was experimenting with the amazing atmosphere and dark environments that would come to define the Souls series in the years that followed – but technology at the time simply wasn’t up to the challenge of conveying the worlds that From was dreaming up.

Outside of the King’s Field series, From was also behind another small series of dark-fantasy dungeon crawlers – The Shadow Tower franchise. While North America missed out on the second title of the two-game set, Shadow Tower Abyss, the first appeared on PlayStation in 1998. Similar to the King’s Field games, these action-RPGs featured first-person combat and a noticeable lack of player guidance and direction.

I recall playing the original title on PlayStation when it released, and it was an almost surreal experience – with no automap to guide me, a difficulty curve far beyond every other title I owned, and a complete disregard of my many inevitable deaths, I can’t say it was a formula that resonated with me at the time. It stayed mostly unplayed in a lonely jewel case in favor of other titles. Shadow Tower Abyss was only released in Japan, but one can see many of the striking, varied environments that would be realized in the Souls series peeking through.

These slightly esoteric and lesser known titles paved the way for 2009’s Demon’s Souls, a title that would place From’s dark fantasy in the critical and commercial limelight. At a time when games were becoming more and more streamlined with extensive tutorials, difficulty sliders, and designed around ensuring player success, the Souls games resonated with players hungry for challenge and discovery.

With Bloodborne coming to PS4 in less than a month, will we see yet another dramatic shift as From continues to refine and revolutionize the concept of the dark-fantasy action-RPG? While everything we’ve seen thus far leads us to believe Bloodborne is deeply rooted in the concepts and mechanics that make the Souls games great, I’m of the mind that the horror environment is going to be From’s strongest expedition yet, taking the subtle elements that we get glimpses of in the Souls games and placing them directly in the spotlight – and it will be able to enjoy the power of current-gen consoles as well.

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Special Edition Podcast: Rise Of The Tomb Raider

As we're nearing the end of our month of coverage on 2015's Rise of the Tomb Raider from Crystal Dynamics, we wanted to give our community a chance to ask the lead developers behind the new game any lingering questions. While a strong majority of those questions were about the game's exclusivity window for the Xbox One and Xbox 360, the team can't comment further than they already have in our coverage, which you can see by clicking here. We spoke with game director Brian Horton about the team's approach to the new game, how gameplay is changing this time around, and dozens of other questions from the community.

Listen to the podcast below to learn more about Rise of the Tomb Raider from the game's director.

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Click on the banner below to enter our hub for exclusive content covering Rise of the Tomb Raider.

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Top 10 Worst Side Activities

Everyone has come across a side activity in a game that they find infuriating. Whether they're out of place, overly long, or just poorly made, engaging with them feels more like a chore than a game. These are the 10 worst side activities, excluding "collectathon" style diversions, Game Informer's editors and interns have had the displeasure of engaging with.

Collecting the Celestial Weapons – Final Fantasy X HD

When Final Fantasy X launched in 2001, gathering the gang’s most powerful weapons was gated by two of the worst side activities ever devised. The chocobo race was broken, originally requiring players to earn a negative total time to unlock a piece of Tidus’ celestial weapon. Dodging lightning to earn a piece of Lulu’s wasn’t much more fun, requiring a grueling feat of endurance that was easily ruined by the slightest lapse in concentration.

While Square Enix corrected the negative time glitch from the chocobo race in the HD version, they didn’t fix its controls or make the lightning dodging any shorter or easier. To make matters worse, Final Fantasy X HD adds the Dark Aeons of the international version as gates to getting most of the remaining weapons. The Dark Aeons are a cool idea, but they require a hearty helping of grinding and sphere grid manipulation to get past. Ultimately, getting to the best weapons in Final Fantasy X HD feels more like being bashed in the head with a brick than any sort of welcome challenge. 

Non-Social Link Side Quests – Persona 3 and 4

The side quests from the two most recent main entries in Atlus’ excellent JRPG series aren’t necessarily bad. The busywork isn’t anything that hasn’t appeared in scores of other RPGs, and the excellent social links are technically side content. However, the real rub with the more uninspired quests from Persona 3 and 4 is that they’re a woefully mediocre and lazy addition to an otherwise excellent pair of games.

The series does such a great job of character-building through the social links that getting handed a quest to go kill more enemies or collect items is borderline insulting; even unlocking new gear can’t make the fetch quests feel worthwhile. Taking part in them without careful planning can also cause players to miss parts of the game that are more worth engaging in. To top it all off, the game is plenty long enough without them, meaning they’re mostly just a bunch of useless padding.

Planet Scanning – Mass Effect 2

A lot of people may have hated the Makko, but at least the space-tank had some imagination and a good idea behind it. There’s no good idea or imagination to be found in scanning planets in Mass Effect 2. Even when scanning a planet spits out a side-mission, it still only comes after a minute or two of staring at a neon grid and waiting for the controller to rumble.

BioWare eventually released a patch to make the scanning reticule bigger and the planets turn faster, but even a faster scan doesn’t change that it’s still a required part of not getting everyone killed at the end of the game. Apparently the price to pay for bringing everyone home alive is unadulterated boredom. 

Created Player Skill Drills – NBA 2K

There was a time when I was fascinated by the create-a-player modes in sports games. Unfortunately, when I finally gave the NBA 2K series a shot, I was left a little surprised at just how bad the skill drills for my prospect were.

It isn’t for a lack of variety that the 2K series’ self-improvement options feel flat, but rather from a lack of usefulness. There’s just no reason to play anything but the easiest one, which means running through cones and dunking a ball over and over. It’s not a problem exclusive to NBA 2K, but at least Madden attempted to overhaul its drills in Madden 15 via The Gauntlet. 2K, on the other hand, seems content to let players dodge cones for the foreseeable future.

Nightlife – Most Games It Appears In

Are you a fan of creepy lap dances from polygonal people? How about playing a bad rhythm game while listening to underwhelming club music, or maybe even just watching your character dance in an endless loop? Do you enjoy seeing a character at a virtual bar hammer home drinks until the screen gets blurry for a few seconds?

The answer to all those questions is probably no, and that’s because nightlife-based side activities in games are almost universally terrible. From Mass Effect to Grand Theft Auto, the strip clubs and bars of virtual worlds just seem more like creepy sideshows than meaningful world-building or commentary – especially when they aren’t the centerpiece for whatever mission happens to tear through them. 

Earning Money – Fable Series

Instead of constantly doing quests and finding loot, the Fable games force players to hang out in town and earn enough gold to buy property or fill the royal coffers. At some point the bank fills and it’s reasonable to just walk away and do things, but a fair portion of the time before that is spent playing a lute on the street or hammering away at swords. The boring, recycled mini-game design and slow rate of income is so outstandingly annoying that many players started messing with the time and date settings of their consoles just to get it out of the way. 

Rifts – Saints Row IV

From its hilarious takes on how people actually behave in virtual worlds to its tongue-in-cheek commentary on video games’ approach to sexuality, Saints Row IV has plenty to enjoy. The rifts, however, are one of the few elements that seem downright antagonistic to what the game was trying to achieve. 

Lacking any type of self-awareness or creative commentary, the rifts just feel out of place in a game that prides itself on poking fun at other games. Even if they’re focusing on super powers, there’s nothing fun or funny about playing the same bland mini-games over and over. They’re a punchline that never actually gets attached to a joke. It’s like a friend who works at a different studio left a checklist of features for their game at Volition, and the Saints Row team accidentally used them.

Den Defense – Assassin’s Creed Revelations

Den Defense is terrible for many reasons, but its biggest sin is anchoring players to the top of a building and forcing them to watch NPCs march to their deaths. Its basic premise also doesn’t fit with the idea of what the Assassins are. Even at such a late point in Ezio’s storyline, the Assassins and the Templars are far from engaging in open conflict in the streets of a crowded city; yet, that’s exactly what Den Defense suggests they are doing. In the context of where the series was at the time, Den Defense’s lack of quality seems like the least offensive part of the problem it creates. 

Cash Run – Watch Dogs

Cash Run looks like something you’d see in a movie or TV show that is desperately trying to appeal to the demographic that associates coins and floating, spinning things with video games. Watch Dogs also isn’t a game about climbing around, and its context-sensitive parkour controls make being accurate – the entire point of the Cash Run game – rather difficult. In a game where one of the side activities involves blowing things up with a giant robot spider, Cash Run is painfully bland.

Hacking Computers – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

In Black Flag anyone who plans on finding out what happened to the first civilization, or snagging more than just hints at what’s going on in the real world following Desmond’s death, has to transform into the worst officemate around. Luckily everyone in the highly advanced Abstergo offices protects their computers with mind-numbing mini-games based on spinning a globe, playing a bad version of Frogger, and arbitrarily selecting numbers to make a line wiggle. They got the naval combat in Black Flag so right; they probably should have just made you pilot a ship to hack the computers instead.

Go your own list of worst side activities? Leave it down in the comments below.

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This Week In Mobile: Upper Cuts, Rockets, And Wolves

There is a lot of variety on mobile this week and the best part is nothing is iOS or Android exclusive! Everyone can enjoy this week’s selection of games that range from puzzle games, visual novels, RPGs, and even fighting games.

GAROU: Mark of the Wolves
Developer: SNK Playmore
Platform: iOS, Android
Price: $ 3.99

Garou is the final game in the Fatal Fury fighting game series and features a unique and well-balanced roster of characters. The fighting action largely works well enough on the touch screen alone and you can also plug in a gamepad/fight stick accessories for better control. The big draw with Garou is that it is the first SNK fighting game port to feature online multiplayer.

Flop Rocket
Developer: Butterscotch Shenanigans, LLC
Platform: iOS, Android
Price: Free 

In Flop Rocket you must guide a fragile rocket ship through a randomly generated cave by tapping the ignition and adjusting its angle via a slider. Each run has a mission that you have 3 attempts to complete and offers currency that you can use to permanently upgrade your ship. I tried Flop Rocket out for myself and found that it actually controls pretty well. 

Heavenstrike Rivals: A Monster Tactical TCG!
Developer: Square Enix
Platform: iOS, Android
Price: Free

Heavenstrike Rivals is a PVP card game featuring over 200 cards to collect and ranked and unranked matches to participate in. New cards and events will be added in over time to keep the game feeling fresh. There is also a single player story mode for Heavenstrike, but you do need to be signed in online in order to play it. While there are in app purchases, they appear to not be terribly intrusive and you can play the whole game without paying.

Ones!
Developer: Magic Cube
Platform: iOS, Android
Price: $ 0.99 (launch sale price, normally $ 2.99)

Don’t be fooled by the similar name, Ones! is not a Threes! clone and it isn’t developed by the same developer. Ones! is a match three puzzle game with falling blocks, but the twist is that your three pieces when placed next to each don’t clear off the board. Instead, your three matching pieces consolidate into one piece a level higher than the original three. The goal is to chase high scores by making as many high level pieces as you can before the board fills up.

Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf: Complete Edition
Developer: Bulkypix
Platform: iOS, Android (Episodic Version on Kindle, HD Remastered Version on Steam)
Price: $ 9.99 (first 48 hours sale price, will revert to $ 12.99 soon)

Lone Wolf is a visual novel adaption of a popular gamebook series and now there is new edition that compiles all four stories into one complete package. Essentially you read novel sections of the story and make decisions as you go. As you can see above in the screenshot, whenever combat occurs all the action is fully rendered and easily accessible to those familiar with RPGs. Lone Wolf was recently highlighted in our Entry Guide To Visual Novels feature so it comes highly recommended.

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