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Co-Op Quick Look: Dying Light Companion App

Dying Light was released last week, and we’ve been having a ton of fun with it so far. You may or may not know that Dying Light also got a companion app for Android and iOS, but unlike a lot of game-related apps, this one is actually really useful.

The basic concept of the Dying Light Companion is that you are commanding a crew of scouts that you send out into the city to complete missions. The loot they collect during those missions can be put into a care package that you send to your in-game character in Dying Light. It’s definitely worth your time for the amount of medkits you’ll be able to collect and send your character.
You can see our quick look in the video below.

You can get the Dying Light Companion on Android here, and on iOS here. And if you want to see the Co-Op crew play some Dying Light, we have a playlist over on the YouTube page you can check out here.
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AZ Screen Recorder is a Free, Awesome Screen Capture App

One of the cooler features of Android Lollipop is the ability to enable screen capturing without rooting your device. For Co-Op Critics, that means I can do some gameplay capture and commentary for mobile games, which I’ve been wanting to do for some time. And I’m happy to say that I found an app that has almost everything I’d want in a screen recording app.

AZ Screen Recorder is a very simple and intuitive app that lets you record what’s happening on your mobile device’s screen. You can adjust the quality of the recording, record audio via the device’s mic, and best of all, you can export directly to YouTube.

So last night, after downloading the app, I recorded this quick video of me playing Zen Pinball:

Pretty great, right? And I’m not just talking about me getting 4 million points on my first ball, I’m talking about the quality of the recording. The app works pretty much seamlessly, and uploaded pretty quickly as well.

My only complaint about this app is that because it’s recording from the mic, it’s recording the game audio that’s coming out of the speakers, as well as any noise I’m making. That’s fine if i want to do commentary, but as you can hear in this video, whenever I brushed over the mic area of my Nexus 9, you could hear it.

But that’s a small complaint for an app that is so easy to use. And did I mention it’s completely free? Because it is, and what the devs are giving you for nothing is pretty amazing.

I will be getting plenty of use out of AZ Screen Recorder, and you can expect more frequent posts about mobile games in addition to the console and PC stuff we talk about around here.

You can download AZ Screen Recorder on the Google Play Store here.

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Exiting the Tomodachi Life

Though I’m an online creature, I don’t think that the online version of me is radically different than the meatspace version of me that occupies the physical world. The same brain directs both versions of me, even though the brain has to adjust to how each version of me interacts with and receives feedback from its respective world. The same soul is reflected in how the digital and physical me interacts with the people who inhabit each world.

Since I never made a distinction between the digital and the physical me, I never saw the point of playing social simulations like The Sims, Animal Crossing, or Harvest Moon. Furthermore, the physical act of playing social simulations like The Sims or Animal Crossing seemed particularly tedious; there didn’t seem to be the type of feedback that more active games like character action-adventure games or sports simulation games or first person shooters can provide.

So, I was surprised at my own reaction to what I saw of Tomodachi Life, specifically when the Giant Bomb crew played it on an episode of their weekly show, Unprofessional Fridays. The game’s quirkiness appealed to me, and for a while, it kept me glued to the game on my commute to work every morning. One morning, I found that Jesus of Nazareth, whom I had invited to live on island, named Tummy Isle Island, had been arrested for adding hot mustard to foods around the island. No explanation was given for why Jesus had made this his mission, and the other residents of Tummy Isle Island had muted reactions to this news. Another morning, Jesus attempted to break the world record of facial distortion by stretching his face but failed by an inch. Did Jesus go on his hot mustard mission because he failed to break this world record, or was it because I fed him something that he didn’t like the day before? Another morning, one resident dreamed an ill-fated romance between a brownie and a stack of pancakes. On a different morning, another resident dreamed that he was a bobblehead on a dashboard of a car that was racing through a dark forest. One night, my own avatar dreamed that he was a snail crawling along a blank white floor. These snippets sound like gibberish when I recount them to anyone else.

Though quirky and kooky stuff have a fairly limited lifespan (I’ve seen the dashboard bobblehead dream multiple times from different residents, so it seems like something with which the game likes to populate its characters’ dreams), that wasn’t what ultimately caused me to  finally put Tomodachi Life aside. Instead, it’s something that should seem impossible for a game that’s as theoretically personalized as Tomodachi Life: the feeling of homogeneity.

For a while, my game felt personalized enough that I wasn’t left wondering about the game’s nuts and bolts. The goal is to keep the avatars I’ve populated Tummy Isle Island with as happy as possible by meeting their essential needs (food, clothes, shelter, companionship). I populated my world with a mix of celebrities (Shaq, the Giant Bomb crew), my family members (my wife, son, brother, and sister-in-law), my friends, and fictional characters (Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s Rei Ayanami, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Geordi LaForge, Yotsuba&!‘s Yotsuba Koiwai, and Left4Dead‘s Zoey and Louis). Though I inserted my wife and me into the game, but there’s no obvious guarantee that they would become sweethearts and eventually husband and wife. (Except, if you think about the game’s logic, there is, but we’ll explore that later.) As in real life, my wife’s avatar proposed to me, and I felt awful when I botched my wife’s avatar’s proposal to my avatar by tapping the screen at the wrong time.

As time passes and I continue to solve the avatars’ problems, the avatars’ levels rise. I think my avatar is at level 14; Shaq’s probably at level 13. The game’s simulacrum breaks not from the fact that the avatars’ measure their growth in levels, but from the homogeneity that this mechanic forces upon the avatar. At each level, the player is forced to give the character a gift from a limited selection, a catchphrase for when the character is angry, happy, or sad, an apartment design again from a limited selection, a song from a limited selection of styles, or some pocket money from the player’s own in-game funds. In the physical world, I can’t rap or sing opera. But, my avatar in Tomodachi Life does because I simply ran out of things I could give him as he gained levels. The player is limited in the number and type of gifts we can give the avatars; almost all of the avatars, including Jesus of Nazareth, on Tummy Isle Island have cell phones I had to give them something, and Jesus didn’t seem like the type to have a punching bag. Similarly, my wife and I both rap, sing opera, have cell phones, and have the same apartment designs. The distinctions between characters gets filed down by the limited variety of things we can do when the characters level up. In order to keep the avatars unique, I can either give them pocket change that they won’t use from a pool I need to use to buy things to keep the avatars happy or homogenize them.

Once the game’s own obstacle to avatar growth became clear, I was given the mental space to wonder how and why my avatars formed their connections. It was fairly obvious why my wife’s avatar formed a relationship with my own avatar: we were the only avatars on Tummy Isle Island for a while. Oddly enough, neither avatar ever formed a connection with my son’s avatar, even though I had designated in the Mii Creator that he was our son. This left me in a weird position of wondering what happens when our avatars have a baby in Tomodachi Life when our actual kid’s avatar is already in the game and seemingly estranged from our avatars. And this doubt led me to where social simulation games die: GameFAQs.

The moment I’m tempted to open a guide to understand the game’s nuts and bolts, the game’s illusions are dispelled. And because the mini-games in Tomodachi Life are shallow, the mechanics of clothing and feeding the avatars shallow, and the lifespan of quirkiness fairly limited, I took the cartridge out of the 3DS XL that I ostensibly bought so I could play Tomodachi Life with a small sense of relief.

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SQUIDS: Odyssey Makes a Great Transition from Mobile to Console

Way back in 2011, I reviewed an iOS game called SQUIDS, a turn-based RPG that combined solid mechanics, bite-sized missions and an undersea aesthetic designed to appeal to gamers of all ages. SQUIDS was a micro transaction supported game that struck a nice balance with its currency system, so you could actually progress without having to spend additional money if you didn’t want to. The Game Bakers also released a sequel called SQUIDS: Wild West, which was also well received.

Fast forward to 2014, and developer The Game Bakers has brought SQUIDS to Nintendo’s 3DS and WiiU platforms. This new iteration is called SQUIDS: Odyssey, and it brings the first two games together and some additional content as well. There are no microtransactions this time around–the game is a $14.99 digital download from the eShop. I spent a good amount of time with the WiiU version this past weekend, and I’m really impressed with how well the game has been adapted for Nintendo’s console.



SQUIDS: Odyssey retains the same story and core gameplay from the original games. Players control a group of squids who are thrust into the role of both protectors and recruiters when their underwater home is threatened by a mysterious Black Ooze that corrupts undersea creatures, turning them evil. Players control a party of squids that consist of different classes–Scouts (speedy rogue), Shooters (ranged combat), Troopers (tanks) and Healers. As you unlock more characters in the game, you can swap them in and out of your party, and customize that party for each type of level you’re facing. In addition to customizing your party, you can level up your characters, as well as find and purchase gear that gives characters bonuses to certain stats.

Each bite-sized level features enemies that must be defeated and hazards that must be navigated. So in addition to making sure you have the right members in your party, you also have to make sure you’re using them strategically. You move the squids around each level by pulling back their legs and aiming them in a certain direction. There are obstacles littering each level, and some levels have area that you can actually fall off. So each turn is spent positioning your characters to not only defeat enemies, but support one another and navigate the level effectively.

What’s impressive to me about SQUIDS is that all of the systems in the game are well balanced and simple to understand. None of the systems I mentioned above ever feels overwhelming, and each time I failed to complete a level, I knew exactly what I did wrong. More impressively, the game has transitioned well from a microtransaction-based model to one in which all of the currency is unlocked through playing. Gear and upgrades are reasonable priced, and because you can go back and play any level you’ve beaten, you can always grind for more loot and currency before taking on more challenging levels.

On the WiiU front, The Game Bakers have flawlessly adapted SQUIDS for the console. You can play with either button-based controls or touch controls on the GamePad, and at any time, you can switch the TV mode off and just play entirely on the GamePad. This game actually feels like it was made for the WiiU, and it uses the GamePad better than most of the games I’ve played on the console.

All in all, SQUIDS: Odyssey is a great adaptation of the series that is perfectly at home on the WiiU. It’s a game you can play with your kids, or enjoy as an adult, and it’s got plenty of content for the $15 asking price. Definitely worth checking out. And if you need any hints or tips as you play through, the devs have put a complete strategy guide up on The Game Bakers website. You can check it out here.