GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.
Give Glitchspace a little time to grow on you. Loading up this puzzler for the first time is a mystifying experience to say the least, for reasons beyond the obvious. Developer Space Budgie has included absolutely nothing in the way of tutorials or guidance to help you figure out the interface. That's a big problem, because this early access game currently available via Steam is one of the more unique games you will encounter this year, an initially aggravating but eventually engaging mix of an experimental first-person game like Portal and visual programming.
Space Budgie calls Glitchspace a "first-person programming game," and that description does the game justice. You play as a nameless explorer wandering through a dreamy cyberspace world beset by random glitches that make it impossible to move from point A to point B. Reprogramming the environment as you go is the only way to get around falling off the edge of the world into oblivion. The game environment is made up of stable white blocks and unstable, "glitching" red ones that can be edited via the use of a visual programming language called Null, which allows you to manipulate these red blocks in just about any way you can imagine. You can shrink them, extend them, rotate them, make them immaterial, make them solid, turn them into bouncy platforms, and even create them out of nothing. So you're both programmer and player at the same time.
The 11 levels included in the current (alpha 1.4) build of the game throw out devious pitfalls that require serious thinking to get past. You generally run into chasms that cannot be crossed without twisting or turning a red block in such a fashion that you can use it as the next platform. Visual programming consists of a simple system. Everything is handled by dragging and dropping various commands, which are illustrated in little boxes adorned with plug-ins that allow you to connect commands into linked programming strings. Some blocks are decrypted, so you just right-click to bring up partially locked programming options, which are easier to figure out because you have already been given some of the puzzle pieces. Others are encrypted, which forces you to hit the E key to bring up a fuller list of options and then do pretty much everything from scratch before blasting the changes into existence with your shooter-style programming gun.
This early access game currently available via Steam is one of the more unique games you will encounter this year.
Either way, the goal is to create a logical programming string that makes a block dance to your commands. Some strings are simple, with just a few conditions. Others are more convoluted, with a dozen or more different conditions involving all manner of programming lingo: setting true or false and negative or positive, turning collision detection on or off, selecting a vector, scaling objects, applying force to objects, and so on. It doesn't necessarily help to have any programming experience, but it sure doesn't hurt, especially when you move beyond the two or three hours of the straightforward story levels into the much more grueling and open-ended sandbox mode of play.
Glitchspace is ingenious. Levels begin with basic maneuvers that require just a couple of manipulations to raise up a block or extend it toward you, but gradually progress to much more difficult situations where you need to play with a series of blocks, use one to trigger the action of another, and so forth. Thinking is paramount. The game features a relaxed atmosphere that is almost meditative in the way that it encourages you to focus. Elevator mood music and quasi-psychedelic visuals encourage a Zen approach to everything, too. You're supposed to be inside a computer, but it feels more like you're on some kind of high-tech acid trip. This place is a long way from Tron.
That said, Glitchspace is far too unwelcoming at the outset. The game comes with no tutorial or even any sort of documentation, so you're on your own when it comes to learning how to program. Without the assistance of a YouTube video, you may not have a clue as to how to manipulate the interface controlling the various programming options. The developers need to provide more information to players before the final game is released. Right now, programming is too bewildering in the beginning.
Once you get the hang of the visual programming mechanics, Glitchspace soon becomes a mesmerizing experience. The game is also remarkably stable and full-featured for an alpha build costing just $6.99 at present, providing you with many hours of play in the campaign levels and the more hardcore sandbox option. If some of the issues around accessibility are addressed through the addition of a tutorial, or even a quickie video illustrating basic programming concepts, Glitchspace could become one of the more inventive puzzle games to arrive on the PC in some time.
The 1.4 alpha build reviewed here features 11 levels offering two or three hours of gameplay, along with a complex sandbox mode that can occupy many more hours of your life.
What's to Come?
While the developers aren't clear about what additional content will be added to the final game, expect new levels and some fine-tuning of the existing puzzles.
What Does it Cost?
$6.99, available via Steam.
When Will it Be Finished?
No final release date has been announced at present. The game is largely bug-free, and all of the features seem to be in place, though, however.
What's the Verdict?
If you're up for something unique and innovative, the game is well worth the $6.99 asking price, even in alpha.
To be a vault hunter means a life of tough, dirty, bloody work. Mostly bloody, but still, it's a lot of exhausting labor for that precious loot. Naturally, after fighting through a full game and plenty of content packs filled to the brim with rambunctious bandits, enormous monsters, and ambitious, murder-happy villains, the vault hunters could do with a little vacation.
In the final Borderlands 2 Headhunter downloadable content pack, called Sir Hammerlock vs. the Son of Crawmerax, we see our fatigued antiheroes taking a trip to beautiful Wam Bam Island, where they hope to kick their feet up, get some sun, and enjoy a fruity cocktail with Sir Hammerlock. But just as you start to feel relaxed, Hammerlock is snatched away by a neon-blue claw and dragged underground, leaving you to lock and load, and get back to work.
So much for that vacation.
Sir Hammerlock vs. the Son of Crawmerax ends the Borderlands 2 legacy, putting the cap not only on the Headhunter packs, but on any more content for the game. Thankfully, Son of Crawmerax delivers a proper end to the Borderlands 2 saga. This is both the lengthiest of the holiday-flavored Headhunter packs and the best, providing a challenging story boss, a hilarious side mission, a gorgeous, sizable new area to explore, and plenty of humorous narration from enemies and beloved characters.
A bright, blue sky envelops Wam Bam Island, a paradise adorned with white, sandy beaches, jungle flora, rocky cliffs, and an underwater dome surrounded by multicolored coral where clown fish thrive. You warp onto the island next to a small resort made up of huts and buildings raised on stilts and crowned with thatched roofs. The resort is split by a colossal water wheel, and is decked out in bright Easter colors of pink, yellow, and light blue. In the distance, an angry volcano erupts, belching smoke into the sky. Don't get caught staring too long at the environment; the areas are crawling with new and returning enemies, and all of them are eager to see your head on a pike.
This is both the lengthiest of the holiday-flavored Headhunter packs and the best.
Making a comeback from the game's first DLC pack, Captain Scarlett and her Pirate's Booty, are pirate bandits, this time sporting tropical apparel. The flying varkid insects also make a return to not just annoy, but also inadvertently aid you in your hunt for Hammerlock. New enemies include craboids, which are crustaceans that come in two varieties: small and irritating, snapping at your shins from under shallow pools of water, and large and surprisingly fierce. The dark recesses of the island are inhabited by natives, whom you battle on sandy beaches and in their home village nestled deep within a shattered dome. These warriors defend themselves with large wooden shields while throwing spears, distracting you long enough for their dimunitive witch doctors to fling a slag-charged spell in your direction.
It's impossible to become one of Pandora's chosen gun-toting badasses without making a few enemies in the process. Veteran vault hunters may remember Crawmerax the Invincible, the titanic crab worm that appeared in the optional mission of the Borderlands DLC pack The Secret Armory of General Knoxx. Long after his father's defeat, Crawmerax Jr. has emerged seeking revenge, and since the original four hunters have hung up their guns, he decides to set his claws on Pandora's new group of vault hunters instead. Whether you're still running to the hills from the flying rakks, or you're the undisputed terror of skags, Crawmerax Jr. is a challenging foe, who mimics many of his father's moves and abilities. He slashes and bites, and bores into the sand causing massive shock waves while his army of craboids attempt to soften you up. But you are well rewarded in your victory with a wealth of loot, chests to unlock, and a small version of Crawmerax Jr.'s head to wear as a mask.
It's impossible to become one of Pandora's chosen gun-toting badasses without making a few enemies in the process.
Finishing the story mission isn't the end of your island adventure. With Crawmerax's lineage ended, a new enemy appears, hungering for vengeance. In the optional mission, you are contacted via radio by Sparky Flynt, son of Captain Flynt, one of the first bosses you kill in Borderlands 2. Furious at you (and apparently his father), Sparky gathers six people who have been harmed by the latest group of vault hunters and turns them into assassins, sending them out one at a time with the goal of putting an end to your stay on Pandora. The optional quest isn't that strenuous, because the actual goal is to leave you in hysterics as you come face-to-face with all of Sparky's, ahem, formidable assassins. You don't know what to expect to come out of these reunions, but it's worth taking the time to see each one to its comical end.
As you play the pack, you are joined by the original vault hunters, who pipe in through your radio offering to aid you in your search for the missing Hammerlock, while provide entertaining back-and-forth dialogue. With Handsome Jack defeated, the tone of the conversations is unusually friendly. Mordecai talks about his new pet, Talon, which captures the adoring affection of Lilith. Her determination to befriend the bird, despite its tendency to occasionally bite her, leaves Brick bewildered. Though their presence was brief, they kept me smiling throughout most of the story mission. I'm going to miss those guys. Also making an appearance is Crazy Earl, who offers some assistance after asking for one last favor.
The pack comes in at around three hours, but there are plenty of reasons to visit Wam Bam Island more than once. You can fight Crawmerax Jr. a second time, which ups the difficulty but provides rarer loot. Defeating him again also unlocks a room filled from floor to ceiling with loot chests. You can fight through the areas while hunting down the new skins, which dress your character up in bright, tropical hues. Lastly, somewhere on the island lies a buried chest, filled with even more booty to plunder.
The second trip to Pandora has been a long and entertaining ride. Handsome Jack is gone for good, and this latest content pack ties up any remaining loose ends. Sir Hammerlock vs. the Son of Crawmerax is a short but entertaining episode that ends on a high note, with things finally looking brighter for the battle-weary vault hunters. Perhaps now they can start on that well-earned break.
The roster in indie fighting game Skullgirls Encore grows by one character next week, as Big Band--the game's first male fighter--joins the fray.
Described as a "high risk, high reward" type of character, Big Band is the second of five characters being released as DLC for Skullgirls. The DLC comes as a result of a successful crowdfunding campaign last year that saw almost $830,000 pledged to developer Lab Zero Games.
The eight characters included in the base game, as well as the first DLC character (Squigly), are all female, although a second male is planned as DLC. What sets Big Band apart from the rest of the roster, in addition to his gender and being a former cop who was injured and then rebuilt with a huge, mechanical body, is his ability to parry attacks. Doing so does subject him to do some damage, but the ability opens up new techniques in battle.
Big Band will be available for free for a limited time following release. The DLC that includes him (as well as a new stage, story mode, and tutorials) will be released on the PlayStation 3 and PC this Tuesday, April 22. The Xbox 360 version of the Big Band DLC remains in Microsoft's certification process as of this afternoon, meaning Lab Zero won't be able to announce a release date until next week at the earliest.
Skullgirls was originally released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2012 before being removed from both services late last year when a partnership between Lab Zero and publisher Konami came to an end. The game was then rereleased as Skullgirls Encore this past February, with existing Skullgirls owners being entitled to a free copy.
After being shut down altogether several years ago, the BioShock movie may again be moving forward, as evidenced by several domain names registered last month by Sony Pictures.
The domain names, as found by Kotaku, include bioshock-movie.com, bioshock-movie.net, and bio-shock.net. All three list Sony Pictures in their registration information. Sony was never publicly involved with previous attempts to develop a BioShock film, but these registrations suggest it may now be looking to do so.
Back in 2008, Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski was set to direct a BioShock film being financed by Universal Pictures. A year later, reports circulated that Verbinski was thinking of backing out, which he did after production was halted due to concerns regarding the budget and the R rating Verbinski wanted. 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was then tapped to direct, but the movie again fell apart, with BioShock creative director Ken Levine stating last year that he was responsible for ultimately axing the project.
"And so they brought another director in, and I didn't really see the match there," Levine said. "Take-Two is one of those companies that gives a lot of trust to their creative people, and so they said to me, 'If you want to kill it Ken, kill it.' And I killed it."
"Which was weird, having been a screenwriter going around begging to rewrite any script to being in a position where you're killing a movie that you worked so much on," he added. "It was saying, 'You know what? I don't need to compromise.' I had the [BioShock] world, and I didn't what to see it done in a way I didn't think was right."
Kotaku raises the possibility that Levine himself could be involved with writing a script for the movie. He is currently working on a script for the new Logan's Run movie, and he has said he would consider working on a BioShock screenplay following the completion of BioShock Infinite.
The studio Levine founded, Irrational Games--developer of the original BioShock and BioShock Infinite--was shut down in February. Levine and a select number of employees planned to start a "new venture" under the 2K Games umbrella that "focus[ed] entirely on replayable narrative." The BioShock property, meanwhile, remains in the hands of 2K.
Earlier this year, concept artist Jim Martin published concept art he had created for the BioShock movie, providing us with some sense of what had been envisioned when Universal was involved with the movie's production.