Video Games

March 30, 2015 | 4:45 p.m.

Google’s ‘Ingress’ and ‘Endgame': What’s next?

The view of downtown Pasadena, as seen via "Ingress." (Niantic Labs)
Lord Ogre — that’s not his real name — wanted to lose weight, so he started playing “Ingress.” Silussa — not her real name — wanted to better know Chicago after relocating from Portland, so she started playing “Ingress.” They were just two of the approximately 2,000 attendees who descended upon downtown Pasadena on Saturday for an “Ingress” meet-up. “Ingress” is a game-meets-social-experiment from Google, one in which players battle for the virtual control of real-world spaces such as a church, a mural or a Metro stop. A mobile phone becomes a sort of interactive game board, pinpointing a players’ real-world location and overlaying it with a game of alien warfare. “It’s like Risk,” said Andrew Krug, who flew in for the gathering from the Washington, D.C., area. “Except in real life.” For Google, “Ingress,” born in the technology giant’s Niantic Labs, […]
March 30, 2015 | 8:06 a.m.

‘Halo 5′ gets a release date, two new trailers

Halo 5
Two new trailers, each showing similar events from a different point of view, give a peak into the potentially opposing storylines of “Halo 5: Guardians.” The bad news? They’re live-action and don’t tell us how the game actually looks. The good news? “Halo 5: Guardians” now has a release date. “Halo 5: Guardians” is set to launch Oct. 27, and all indications are that it will showcase a more human quest for its stars. The teasers premiered during AMC’s finale for “The Walking Dead” on Sunday. In one, future solider Spartan Locke is seen walking toward a statue of “Halo” hero Master Chief, but the voice-over indicates that Master Chief is now viewed as a traitor. Toward the clip’s end, we see a wounded Master Chief as Spartan Locke raises his weapon. The other, below, flips the script, as Master Chief slowly […]
March 27, 2015 | 4:26 p.m.

Nintendo delays the release of the Wii U’s ‘Zelda’ game

Legend of Zelda
Early footage of the Wii U’s take on “The Legend of Zelda” franchise has wowed fans, showing the game’s hero, Link, riding off into the wilderness on a horse and then soaring into the air to fire a magical bow. Fans, however, are going to have to wait a while to go adventuring with Link. Nintendo of America late Friday revealed that the game is no longer on target for a 2015 release. After stating in December that the game was to be available this year, Nintendo reversed course and said the title needs more development time. “I must apologize to you all that were expecting the game by year’s end, but we are no longer making a 2015 release our number one priority,” said the project’s leader, Eiji Aonuma, in a video posted to Nintendo’s social networks. “Instead, our priority is to […]
March 27, 2015 | 5:00 a.m.

‘Bloodborne,’ where death becomes a comfort

Death lurks at every step in "Bloodborne." (From Software/SCEA)
THE PLAYER There are some games I simply cannot play. That sentence is one that is unique to the interactive medium. There are certain genres of movies and TV shows I like less than the other – scary things and I don’t always get along – but I can watch them. I was never a fan of the Faulkner books forced upon me in school, but I can read them. But the work of Japanese game design master Hidetaka Miyazaki? I’m pretty sure I can’t play it. I’ve spent better parts of the last four days with “Bloodborne,” a Gothic fantasy epic with lots of human-like ghouls getting slashed to bits by a blade. I thought, at first, I would review it, but reviewing it has turned out to be impossible. I simply cannot advance far enough in “Bloodborne” to […]
March 23, 2015 | 5:30 a.m.

SXSW 2015: The gaming world tries to get inside our heads

"1979" (ink stories)
THE PLAYER AUSTIN, Texas — Discovery at South by Southwest isn’t what it used to be. More than 2,000 bands make it hard to cut through the din here, and it doesn’t help when cellphone providers and beer companies are making some of the loudest noise. Having attended SXSW now for 12 years, I can safely say that excitement happens on the fringes, far from whatever brand is hoping for a slight edge in attracting the attention of more than 30,000 attendees. The gaming portion of SXSW is entirely on the fringes. Though the industry is a powerhouse that’s estimated to bring in more worldwide revenue than the film business, a brief Miley Cyrus appearance at SXSW showcase sponsored by Converse shoes appeared to generate more attention than anything the gaming portion of the fest offered. FULL COVERAGE: South by […]
March 18, 2015 | 6:00 a.m.

SXSW: ‘Flame in the Flood,’ ‘Jotun’ draw inspiration from history

Early renderings for Scout from river-set game "The Flame in the Flood." (The Molasses Flood)
THE PLAYER Quotes from T.S Eliot and Theodore Roosevelt aren’t the texts one expects to see in the middle of a video game, but “The Flame in the Flood” has literary ambitions. Set in the American South, “The Flame in the Flood” is a journey of survival on a river. It takes place in the future – probably. The look is a bit timeless, with an art style that appears crafted from construction paper. The colors are muted, the world is rural and boney wolves are lurking in the darkness, their red eyes flashing in the shadows. The game, the first from six-person indie studio the Molasses Flood, was shown at the South by Southwest games festival in Austin, Texas. It wasn’t the only game at the conference to boast a backdrop of cultural exploration. Whereas “The Flame in the […]
March 17, 2015 | 10:26 a.m.

SXSW: Game Oven has a touching swan song in ‘Jelly Reef’

"Jelly Reef" is a mobile game in which players must guide jellyfish to safety. (Game Oven)
THE PLAYER “Jelly Reef” looks adorable. At the start, players will have a school of jellyfish — all of them wide-eyed and smiling. Then, in a matter of moments, they will all be dead. This wouldn’t be so harrowing if they didn’t start to frown first, a simple touch that turns this accessible mobile game into one of pure dread. Ultimately, it’s as much about nurturing tiny gelatinous reddish and orangeish critters as it is about reaching a goal. “Jelly Reef” is also the swan song from the three-person Netherlands-based studio Game Oven, a company that in its brief existence specialized in pushing the boundaries of the mobile experience. The studio’s previous game, “Bounden,” sought to teach two players how to dance as they were connected via one phone. Following on-screen prompts, participants would twirl around each other, and those averse […]
March 17, 2015 | 6:00 a.m.

SXSW: Meet ‘Smooth Operator,’ a kissing simulator

Get cozy with another person in "Smooth Operator," coming soon for mobile devices. (Beardo Games)
THE PLAYER Even at a progressive game conference such as South by Southwest, there’s a lot of death. “Everything is killing, dismemberment and sniping and blowing things up,” said Kate Thomas of Portland’s Beardo Games. It was a bit of an exaggeration, as at SXSW there were also games about avoiding zombies, but it’s no secret the game industry loves to digitize disaster. Beardo, however, has a game about making out. It was easy to spot “Smooth Operator” on the show floor, as brightly animated tongues twisted and turned and slid around the screen like reptiles protruding from human mouths. It’s a slightly silly, somewhat tricky game of hand-eye coordination, but don’t worry if things go bad. There’s no messy saliva to stress over. The game, in development for about a year, is pegged for a spring release on iOS […]
March 16, 2015 | 4:46 p.m.

SXSW: Is the game industry scaring away new players?

Activision's investment in "King's Quest" is a sign that big publishers are playing attention to the indie market. (The Odd Gentlemen/Sierra)
THE PLAYER Women and minorities are ignored. Prices are too high. Games are too long and too difficult.  These aren’t the complaints of disgruntled consumers but observations from top gaming executives at the South by Southwest games festival in Austin, Texas. On Sunday in front of an audience at the Hyatt Regency, the panel of experts explored why the industry has been failing at converting non-players into players. The main culprits: An over-reliance on $100 million-plus blockbusters, a difficult learning curve and a lack of diverse narratives. FULL COVERAGE: South by Southwest While Wall Street analysts and industry boosters like to cite financial figures that show the game business as one that’s bigger than the film industry, such numbers mask an uncomfortable reality: the number of dedicated gamers is not growing. “The actual universe of gamers isn’t expanding that much,” […]
March 15, 2015 | 9:37 a.m.

SXSW 2015: ‘Dragon Age’ tops casual, freewheeling award show

'Dragon Age: Inquisition" took top honors at SXSW's Game Awards. (BioWare/Electronic Arts)
THE PLAYER Character-driven fantasy title “Dragon Age: Inquisition” won top prize at the 2015 South by Southwest Gaming Awards, a freewheeling ceremony that showcased independent titles but ultimately gave the big awards to those in the major leagues. “Dragon Age,” the role-playing game from BioWare and Electronic Arts, was named game of the year. The awards, held as part of the South by Southwest gaming festival in Austin, Texas, at the city’s ACL Live at the Moody Theater, boasted an extended segment in which footage was shown from 30 risk-taking independent games. FULL COVERAGE: South by Southwest Among the indies shown were “Apotheon,” a side-scrolling action game set among Greek mythology; “That Dragon, Cancer,” a narrative game centered on the hardships of dealing with a terminal illness; “Hyper Light Drifter,” a vintage-looking and chaotic action game; and “Nova-111,” a sci-fi strategy […]
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