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Night In The Woods Review – A Colorful Adventure That Hits Home

Night in the Woods is about mistakes, recklessness, and friendship, all wrapped up in a colorful adventure game. You play as Mae, a 20-year-old anthropomorphic cat who drops out of college and returns to her hometown. With an emphasis on self-discovery, rebuilding old relationships, and understanding the struggles of a dead-end town, Night in the Woods is an enthralling experience that captures both the wonder of childhood and the dread of adulthood.

This narrative-driven adventure draws players in by allowing them to explore the town of Possum Springs and reconnect with Mae’s past. Upon her return, she begins to notice ominous happenings that tie into the ghostly folklore of the town, and soon her and a group of friends set out to find the truth. This tale unfolds gradually as players establish a daily in-game routine – interacting with friends, venturing into town, causing trouble – but Night in the Woods rewards your patience as it gradually brings the threads together.

Although the story is slow-paced, Night in the Woods shines in its smaller moments. Mae scribbles doodles in her notebook after certain events, which can be dark or hilarious. Making dubious decisions to let off steam, like breaking things with a baseball bat or knife-dueling your best friend, is childishly amusing in its recklessness. The plot also taps into complicated subject matter delicately, from dealing with issues of depression to a gay couple expressing frustration at being the only openly LGBTQ people in a small town. Ranging from heavy to irreverent, the way Night in the Woods handles a broad array of interesting situations is among its best qualities. 

Mae is particularly memorable because she is deeply flawed and complex. I chuckled often at her cynical wit, became endeared by her morbid back-and-forth jokes with her best friend Gregg, and related to her insecurities as she gives herself a pep talk in the mirror before heading to a party. While it may seem like she’s pumping the brakes on her future by dropping out of college, her reasons for doing so become apparent as the story progresses. 

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The natural, funny dialogue and characters’ evolution are more ways Night in the Woods sets itself apart. You notice subtle changes with the townsfolk from one day to the next, and hanging out with friends over time has them open up to you. Chatting online with friends uses just the right amount of abbreviations, and has a realistic flow. Dialogue options bring interactivity to conversations, but the choices mainly impact who you hang out with and which scenarios you witness. 

A number of simple-but-amusing minigames pop up through the story. Some of these include a rhythm game that occurs during band practice and shooting pierogis into a friend’s mouth with careful aiming. The rhythm game in particular has a Guitar Hero feel to it, which turns out to be fun and challenging as you attempt to hit the right notes in a timely manner. These quirky diversions add a degree of novelty and immersion, but aren’t challenging enough to interrupt your progress. 

Mae has bizarre out-of-body experiences through her dreams, which focus on exploration. In most of these dreamscapes, you platform your way through shadowy parts of town, searching for four different musicians to complete a puzzle. These are never difficult to complete, but are breathtakingly atmospheric as an eclipsed moon hangs above, and apartment windows glow in the nighttime. 

Talking to all the characters on a daily basis and revisiting locations can be tedious, but it’s often rewarding once you get there. I enjoyed listening to my neighbor’s short and strange poems, and looking for stars with a teacher on a rooftop as he explains the mythos behind different constellations in the sky. By overhearing conversations, I better understand the dismal economy of a town that no longer prospers as it did years ago, and how this affects its working-class townsfolk. 

Night in the Woods is a strange tale with an even stranger cast of characters, but it revels in its oddities. The excellent writing pulls off a realistic sense of cynicism, childlike wonder, and comradery between friends. With its careful balance between adult themes and youth, it captures a stage of life that is confusing, frightening, and thrilling. The sluggish pacing can drag, but players fill the time by building friendships and understanding the grim secrets of a town they once again call home. – The Feed

Nintendo Offers Official Image Of The Switch Home Menu

Nintendo's UK site recently posted a detailed spec breakdown of the Switch, and within it is an official image of the Switch's home menu.

The menu appeared briefly, possibly accidentally, during one of Nintendo's Treehouse live streams that was airing during the Switch reveal event, but this offers a much better look. The text for the image reads, "From the HOME Menu, you can start games and select game settings. In addition to managing friends and user accounts, you can also change your system settings here." The blue icon at the bottom is where you will go to manage your screenshots, which are taken using the lower button on the left Joy-Con.

The site offers additional details and specifications, which you can see here. It's not new information, but it's a good round-up. The Switch launches March 3 for $ 299. for our impressions of the console, head here.

[Source: Nintendo UK]


Our Take
It looks nice and clean, and simple. I hope managing and sharing screenshots is easier on Switch than it is on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. I also hope you can customize the game icons, which is something you can do on both 3DS and Wii U, so I am optimistic. – The Feed

Resident Evil 7 Welcomes You Home In Latest Atmospheric Trailer

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard has been slow to share its many mysteries with fans, and that trend continues in the game’s latest trailer, which managed to sneak online earlier today. Within, we hear an increasingly troubling narrator describe the virtues of coming home, even as we observe that home as filtered through the Resident Evil worldview. Enjoy the creepy video below.

Resident Evil 7 is now only a few days from launch on January 24, when it will be playable PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Learn more about the game by watching some of our hands-on impressions and gameplay

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Dead Rising 4 Review – Home For The Holidays

If misery factories like The Walking Dead have taught us anything, it’s that people are crappy and that they’re the real threats in a zombie-infested world. That may be, but some of us would rather experience the end of days like The Last Man on Earth, using the apocalypse as an excuse to ride a tricycle around while wearing a tuxedo jacket and snow pants. Dead Rising has straddled the line between horror and humor since its inception, and that hasn’t changed with the fourth entry – but it’s not shambling in the footsteps of what’s come before. Even though we’re back in Willamette with Frank West, Capcom Vancouver has infused the series with fresh ideas and some of the best action that it’s had in a decade.

Frank can’t seem to stay out of the game, in more ways than one. Capcom has introduced new heroes in the Dead Rising series with each numbered entry, but they don’t have the same staying power as the war photographer. Like a lot of people, I get a kick out of the lovable doofus. Sure, his jokes are enough to make dads nod appreciatively, but there’s something compelling about a hero that’s always just on the edge of failure at any given moment. His return to the scene of the first game is fitting, though he can explore far beyond the mall’s confines this time around.

I’ve personally been less interested in Dead Rising’s storylines than in its settings and characters, and Dead Rising 4 hasn’t changed my opinion. Yet another conspiracy needs investigating, with double crosses and intrigue. Why have the zombies returned, even though the infection was supposed to have been stopped with the Zombrex drug? Is the military involved? Why on earth would you live in Willamette, anyway? Frank gets pulled into the mystery by one of his photography students, and before long his instincts kick back in. Players who have been around for the long haul may recognize a few names here and there, but you can easily start the series here and not feel completely lost.

Even if the campaign’s conspiracy feels a little rote, Willamette is the best playground that’s been offered yet. It has everything you’d expect to find in a small town, from quirky shops to hardware store and homes – and the all-new Willamette Memorial Megaplex mall. Best of all, it’s easy to navigate. Unlike Dead Rising 3’s network of blocked-off freeways, the roads are clear – zombie hordes notwithstanding – and you can circle the map without leaving your car. You want to get out to explore the various shops and interior spaces, though. Dozens of weapon blueprints and other collectibles are hidden within the well-detailed environments, and you can do so at your leisure.

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Capcom Vancouver has been streamlining the core of Dead Rising since it took over development duties with Dead Rising 2. Frank has loosened up since the first game, where he (and players) had to keep a close eye on his watch to make sure that time didn’t run out. Each subsequent game in the series has relaxed those timed elements, with DR4 eliminating them altogether. I’m sure there are going to be some people who cry foul at not having a rigid deadline in the background, but I appreciate the decision. Willamette is a big place with a lot to explore, and it’s nice to have the freedom without feeling like the meter is constantly running. You can take things at your own pace, knowing that when you’re done looking for panic rooms to loot or photographing graffiti, the next mission is waiting.

Frank’s new exosuit is one of the game’s back-of-the-box selling points, and it’s a nice addition to his arsenal. These military suits let him hit harder and run faster, providing a brief-but-satisfying feeling of near-invincibility. Battery life is woefully short on these things, however, making them more of a temporary power-up than anything else. You can also upgrade them in silly ways, such as combining the suit with a frozen-drink dispenser, which allows you to hurl tornadoes that turn vast multitudes of zombies into undead popsicles. I get a kick out of these fleeting moments of raw power – getting a 3,000-hit combo in the exosuit is easily within reach – but finding them and a suitable upgrade opportunity is disappointingly rare. For a game that’s otherwise so generous with giving players opportunities to feel powerful, it felt oddly restrictive.

The new combo weapons are fantastic. I rarely bothered to pick up mundane tools of destruction like RPGs or shotguns – you can use those in most shooters, after all. Few games give you the ability to turn enemies into piles of Christmas decorations with the wave of a wand or summon a legion of explosive garden gnomes. Improvised weapons and combo-weapon components are piled all over the world, and I rarely found myself unarmed. Something is almost always within reach, even if you have to resort to swinging a vacuum cleaner around for a little while.

More familiar tools are also given an upgrade in Dead Rising 4. Frank’s camera has been tricked out with a couple of new lenses, including night-vision and a spectrum analyzer. They’re both used to great effect in new investigation-oriented gameplay, where you have to do a little bit of detective work. These sections pop up in regular intervals throughout the story, challenging the player to find a series of hidden clues in a highlighted area. You might need to get a password for a laptop, which you can find by using a special lens on a notebook and snapping a photo. They’re a fun change of pace, though had a tough time lining up the correct shot on a few occasions.  

The most significant tweak to the series is in how different weapon types are slotted to specific buttons rather than being dumped into a common inventory. Before now, players could keep one item in their hands at a time, whether it was a shotgun, mannequin limb, or hand grenade. Now ranged, melee, and thrown weapons have dedicated buttons. It’s a big change to how you play, and works nicely. When you’re picking off some renegade soldiers at a distance and are swarmed by a few zombies, you can instantly knock them away with a spiked bat, then resume your shooting without having to cycle through your inventory. It comes at the cost of a little item flexibility – you can’t swing a cash register at zombies and then hurl it when you’re done – but I think it’s a small tradeoff. Killing hordes of the undead is still a visceral thrill, whether you’re doing it with a spiked bat or plowing through crowds in a hybrid tractor/wheelchair.

Capcom Vancouver has diligently iterated on the franchise, revisiting and tweaking elements that haven’t quite worked. That makes one of Dead Rising 4’s prominent stumbles stand out even more. Previous games have featured memorable encounters with special deranged survivors, which served as bosses. They’re called maniacs here (so long, psychopaths), and they all are disappointments. Before, these challenging fights were bracketed with cutscenes, showing why a clown may have lost his mind, and then paying off the fight with a gory climax. They were surprisingly poignant at times, conveying some of the damage that people endured during the zombie outbreaks. The maniacs in Dead Rising 4 have no fanfare; they don’t drop any exclusive weapons, and have no memorable qualities, aside from the fact that they might be wearing matching outfits. I always looked forward to meeting the next weirdo in the previous games, but dispatching each new maniac felt more like ticking a checklist once I realized how little they added to the world.

Players also can’t play through the campaign with a co-op buddy, which is something the last few games have supported. It makes sense from a storytelling perspective, but I can understand why some fans might be disappointed. A new dedicated multiplayer mode is set exclusively in the mall; you have to level up a new character there, but the campaign and multiplayer mode have some crossover. Your blueprints carry over to multiplayer, and there you can unlock longer-lasting weapon variants that migrate back to single-player. It’s a fun diversion, but the real meat of the game is still in the single-player experience.

I’ve been a fan of Dead Rising since the first one, and my enthusiasm has only grown over the years. I enjoyed getting dirty in Dead Rising 4’s madcap sandbox, and I’d expect that people who have kept up with the series will also have a great time wreaking havoc in Willamette. Players who wanted to get into it before but were put off by the time constraints should definitely give it a shot, too. In many ways, this is the game that people who just wanted to be a one-man zombie wrecking crew were probably hoping for all along. – The Feed

PSA: You Can Get Gone Home For Free This Weekend

Gone Home is a deeply impactful, powerful game (you can read our review of it here). It's intensely personal and swaps intricate systems for an emotional kick.

If you haven't played it before, developer Fullbright is offering the game for free this weekend on its page. Should you so choose, you can still pay for the game. During this free period, all proceeds from the game will be donated to Lambda Legal, a legal organization advocating for the rights of the LGBT community.

For more on Gone Home, you can watch us play through the game with Fullbright's Steve Gaynor and Karla Zimonja.

[Source: Steve Gaynor on Twitter] – The Feed

Test Chamber – Trespassing Into A Stranger’s Home In Hello Neighbor

Hello Neighbor is an upcoming stealth horror game from Dynamic Pixels, where you're tasked with the strange objective of breaking into your neighbor's home. Your ominous neighbor is hiding a dark secret which remains locked up in his basement, and it's up to you to solve the mystery.

Jeff Cork, Suriel Vazquez, and I had a chance to play an early pre-alpha demo for the game. Keep in mind that because this is an early build of an unreleased title, there are several glitches and bugs, but we were amused nonetheless by this unique concept. Watch us use radios to break windows and flee from tomatoes being thrown at us, as we continue to creep into a man's home uninvited.

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Hello Neighbor is slated for a summer 2017 release on PC.

For more Test Chamber, click the banner below, or check out our hub. – The Feed

You Must Break Into Someone’s Home In Horror Game Hello Neighbor

Why is your neighbor so suspicious? Does he have a secret locked up in his basement? Something ominous is happening next door, and it's up to you to get to the bottom of it in Hello Neighbor.

This stealth horror game tasks you with uncovering a strange mystery after recently moving into a peaceful suburb. To find out what your neighbor is really up to, you trespass into his home looking for answers. Your neighbor is an intelligent AI who will learn from your mistakes and counter your movements, so staying out of sight is a must. 

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It's a premise similar to Hitchcock's Rear Window and the film Don't Breathe, which also deal with themes of spying on neighbors and home invasions. Hello Neighbor releases in summer 2017 for PC. – The Feed

PlayStation Plus In June Includes NBA 2K16 And Gone Home

Part of the June PlayStation Plus lineup has been announced. While we wait for the full lineup, here’s what you can expect on PlayStation 4.

Here’s the full rundown for the month:

PlayStation 4
NBA 2K16
Gone Home

PlayStation 3
Siren: Blood Curse (Episodes 1 – 12)

God of War: Chains of Olympus
Little Deviants

You have until June 6 to grab your May games. You can check out that list in our previous coverage. – The Feed

Clash Royale takes home top prize at inaugural Google Play Awards

This week, Google took the time to honour the best Android apps and games at the inaugural Google Play awards. …

Gamasutra News

How The Coalition Became Gears Of War’s New Home

When Microsoft purchased Gears of War from Epic, fans were surprised that a mysterious and unproven studio in Vancouver called Black Tusk would be handling the development. After shifting away from their teased new IP, joining forces with Gears veteran Rod Fergusson, and changing their name to The Coalition, there were a lot of questions about what the new development studio would mean for Gears of War. While visiting The Coalition for our April cover story on Gears of War 4, we spoke with the studio's director of operations Mike Crump and new studio head Rod Fergusson about the full journey to become the new development home for Gears of War.

Watch the video below to learn how a relatively untested team is training to make the next Gears of War.

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To learn more about Gears of War 4, click on the banner below to enter our hub of exclusive content. – The Feed