Never Alone was developed by Upper One Games and E-Line Media and published by E-Line Media. It was released on November 18, 2014 for $14.99 on Xbox One. A copy was provided for review purposes.
Do you remember the arrival of the first tightly crafted indie Xbox sidescroller that disproved the notion that a Big Developer with a Big Budget was needed to create games of the highest quality? Neither do I, and that’s because it’s an event guilty of such unrestrained reproduction that it’s hard to recall its inaugural occurrence. Was it the release of Limbo? Mark of the Ninja? Braid? Something else? Regardless of what game kicked off this most welcome — even if now slightly clichéd — trend, it’s seemed apparent since its announcement that Never Alone would be the next game to continue the movement.
Its pretty graphics, intriguing setting and story aspiring to teach players something new caused many to think that Never Alone would be the next big little game. Maybe that’s an unfair burden to have placed on it. Maybe gamers should have instead anticipated only a game that would deftly introduce them to a culture that was heretofore both underrepresented and misrepresented in popular media. Certainly Never Alone does just that, offering a glimpse at the Iñupiat people’s ways that’s worth seeing. But while Upper One Games and E-Line Media have wonderfully succeeded in educating their audience, they’ve come up disappointingly short in entertaining it.
Terraria was originally developed by Re-Logic; 505 Games published the Xbox One port. It is scheduled for release on November 14, 2014 and will cost $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
I’m not sure when or why I began to think more sceptically about re-released and high definition remasters of past-generation games. Perhaps it was only recently, when the Xbox One became awash with them. First there was Minecraft, then all three current Telltale Games productions and now, less than two weeks later, we have Terraria (and in the retail space, Halo: The Master Chief Collection.)
I’ve always enjoyed Terraria, as I described at length in my review of the original Xbox 360 release. Because this is essentially still the same game — albeit with the addition of a number of key updates — it should come as no surprise that the original critique still stands. There are, however, some important new bits that make the Xbox One release different. Let’s unearth them.
Costume Quest 2 was developed by Double Fine Productions and published by Midnight City Games. It was released on October 31, 2014 for $14.99 on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. A copy was provided for review purposes.
Appropriately released just before Halloween, Costume Quest 2 has more tricks, treats and timed-button pushes. The sequel to Double Fine’s 2010 Costume Quest, this release picks up shortly after the first game. The two main protagonists, Reynold and Wren, return as playable characters with new companions to battle alongside with, and, not to be forgotten, the supporting cast from the first game, which play an important role in the time-traveling tale.
Defense Grid 2 was developed by Hidden Path Entertainment and published by 505 Games. It was released on September 23, 2014 for $24.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
Defense Grid 2 (DG2) is the long-awaited sequel to Hidden Path Entertainment’s popular tower defense game, Defense Grid: Awakening. The familiar alien-blasting action takes place on the Xbox One and looks great at first glance. A shining addition to the title is co-op and online play: the first game was a single-player experience with leader boards being your only interaction with friends. DG2 is not trying to break any molds or re-define the genre; it’s simply fulfilling the need for a solid tower defense game, and doing it relatively well.
Minecraft: Xbox One Edition was developed by Mojang and 4J Studios and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released on Friday, September 5 2014 for $20 and is also available to owners of the Xbox 360 Edition for $4.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
Well, someone had to do it. And that someone is me. Drawing the review for Minecraft: Xbox One Edition may have been the most challenging assignment of my XBLA Fans writing career, simply because there isn’t much left to write which hasn’t been written a million times before. When he reviewed the Xbox 360 version of this seminal mining/crafting/adventure game over two years ago, our reviewer opened with the throwaway line that even the most casual of weekend gamers must already have heard of Minecraft – and he was absolutely right.
So where does that leave us? Well, my review of the recently released Xbox One version will reinforce Minecraft‘s core elements for those already familiar with giving newcomers an introduction to those same elements. At the same time, I’m going to lay out some of the changes, no matter how subtle they may be, that differentiate this version from that of the last generation of consoles. Let’s dig in.
Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition was developed and published by Drinkbox Studios. It was released on Xbox One for $14.99 on June 6, 2014. It is also available on Xbox 360 for $14.99. An Xbox One copy was provided for review purposes.
Guacamelee is an already well-reviewed and very fun game, so adding a dash of super, a bit of turbo, and a pinch of championship creates a slightly more delicious version. The folks at Drinkbox Studios have updated the title with a variety of new features, all of which are enjoyable for everyone, including Guacamelee veterans. The sense of humor involved with Guacamelee is great, and pays homage to Metroid, Mario, and Castlevania titles constantly. This is a classic side-scrolling experience and it really is one of the better titles to surface via the ID@Xbox program thus far.
Contrast is developed and published by Compulsion Games. It was released on Xbox One for $14.99 on June 6, 2014. It is also available on Xbox 360 for $14.99. An Xbox One copy was provided for review purposes.
A shadow is the absence of light behind an object. Shadows know nothing else besides darkness and only exist in attachment to another. Shadows emit fear, mystery, the unknown. A shadow adds another layer to an object, a person. Often over sought, we often only view what’s on the surface, we don’t think twice. What’s on the surface is rather accordingly never as it seems, yet a shadow can show exactly what it seems. The warping of light and spacetime; the peeling back of our layered complexities; and questioning of what is reality are all captured by the beautiful artistry of Contrast.
Set in turn-of-the-century Paris, Contrast tells the story of a young girl, Didi, as she sets out upon the nocturnal Parisian streets to bring her family back together. Her mother works late nights at the gentleman’s club, and her father is deep in debt with the gangs. Didi just want to have one happy family again. Tagging along is her shadowy companion Dawn, who uses her mysterious powers to warp into the shadows and complete complicated platforming puzzles based upon the manipulation of light and shadows cast on the walls. Thus, the game becomes an existential experience that comments on family, science and emotion.
R.B.I. Baseball 14 was developed by Behaviour Interactive and published by MLB.com. It was released on April 9, 2014 on Xbox 360 and June 24, 2014 on Xbox One for $19.99. An Xbox One copy was provided for review purposes.
Baseball, America’s pastime, has long been a revered genre of video games, with some real gems appearing over the years for both simulation and arcade fans alike. The original NES R.B.I. Baseball and its successors remain well-liked, and this revival of the series by MLB.com looks to reignite this passion and to give all gamers — especially those console gamers without any baseball game choices at all — the opportunity to take their favorite team all the way to becoming World Series champions. R.B.I. Baseball 14 sets out knowing it must strike a balance between the classic controls, gameplay and nuance of the original, while also being a fun, accessible game for those baseball fans new to the series.
Sixty Second Shooter Prime is developed and published by Happion Laboratories. It was released June 18, 2014 on Xbox One for $4.99. An Xbox One copy was provided for review purposes.
ID@Xbox is shaping up to be an excellent and very welcome platform for independent developers to bring their beloved games to the Xbox One platform. With the program, we’ll see exciting creative directions and artistic expressions. But then there comes along a game such as Sixty Second Shooter Prime that brings out the worst plague of the mobile market today: cloning.
Sixty Second Shooter Prime is a twin-stick shooter that tasks the player with traversing a two-dimensional plane, blasting away hordes of geometric enemies, each with different patterns and tactics the player must evade. The catch? The player has only 60 seconds and one life. Rack up as many points as you can while collecting powerups and multipliers and try to topple your friends’ high scores. Sound familiar?
Valiant Hearts: The Great War was developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and published by Ubisoft. It was released on June 25, 2014 on Xbox 360 and Xbox One for $14.99. An Xbox One copy was provided for review purposes.
All Quiet on the Western Front aside, popular media has largely ignored World War I over the years. It’s that other world war that happened before World War II and didn’t get a Steven Spielberg movie inspiring the video game industry to make oodles of games about it. With 2014 being the 100-year anniversary of the war’s start, Ubisoft Montpellier thought it was the perfect time to step in and make a game about the brutality of trench warfare. Well, that’s half-true, at least. Valiant Hearts: The Great War is as much about this incredibly violent and semi-forgotten war as it is about those who fought it and what it took from them.
First-hand stories like those taken from Audio Director Yoan Fanise’s great-grandfather’s letters from the front helped the team add an air of authenticity to Valiant Hearts‘ campaign, which follows the war-time experiences of five characters of differing nationalities. The puzzle-adventure game’s comic book art style can feel incongruous during the game’s more somber moments, and some of the sillier game-y elements further highlight the disparity between the austere story and its lighthearted presentation. Somehow, though, Ubisoft fuses it all together into an experience that will make you feel the horrible pains of those consumed by this “great” war, and the friendships that somehow develop through it.