Free Games

  • Epic Games

    • Surviving Mars

      • 2018
      • City building simulation from the developers of the Tropico series modelled after real Martian data that has you building a colony on Mars by manufacturing resources and constructing buildings to ensure the survival of the colonists
      • This was given away by Epic back in October 2019, so you may already have it in your library

Security updates are available for Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches now

  • The updates aren’t flashy, and they haven’t released the fancy new watch-unlock for masks yet, but they fix a nasty vulnerability where attackers could use a malicious website to execute arbitrary code on your device, giving them the ability to hijack it
  • You’re safe if you’re running at least iOS 14.4.1, watchOS 7.3.2, and macOS 11.2.3

An estimated 60,000 US organizations, along with hundreds of thousands more worldwide, have been hacked recently thanks to holes in Microsoft’s Exchange mail software

  • A previously unidentified Chinese cyber espionage group that Microsoft dubbed Hafnium has apparently been using a combination of four newly-discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server to gain complete remote control over affected systems
  • This has allowed them to siphon email communications from targets ranging from small business and local governments to banks, police, infectious disease researchers, and defence contractors
  • According to security researchers these hacks have been going on since at least January, and though Microsoft released emergency security updates on March 2nd there are still many organizations that have not yet patched their systems, leading to the Hafnium group amping up their attacks and actively scanning the internet for vulnerable systems
  • The worst part is that even if you’ve installed the security updates, if you were already compromised there is still a high chance that the hacking group has installed remote access tools on your server
  • Microsoft has commented that they’re working closely with the US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), along with other government agencies and security companies, to provide guidance and mitigation for its customers, and encourages anyone impacted to contact their support teams for help and resources
  • In the meantime the CISA has issued an emergency directive ordering all federal departments and agencies to either update the software or unplug the servers, and they’re urging scanning all Exchange Server logs with Microsoft’s detection tool to help determine if you’ve been compromised

Rumours of an upcoming Apple event are ramping up, with signs pointing to it occurring on March 23rd

  • We’re expecting more information about iOS 14.5 and App Tracking Transparency, as well as the release of the now-essential Unlock With Apple Watch feature for times when FaceID fails because of a mask
  • Other rumours circling have the release of AirTags, Apple’s Tile-like tracker, popping up around this time
    • I’ve also seen a new beta feature called “Item Safety Features” that will alert you if there is a tracker following you that you don’t own, so that they can’t be used as easily for nefarious purposes
  • And there have been suggestions that new iPads will be coming with mini-LED displays and faster processors
    • This one seems especially likely after reddit user nanosplitter21 found an iPad case on a shelf in Target marked as being compatible with the “New iPad 11” (2021)”, and when they tried to purchase it the till said it could not be sold until April 6th

Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media is officially complete, and they’ve publicly welcomed Bethesda, id, Arkane, and more to the Xbox team

  • The announcement wrapped up by saying that more Bethesda games are coming to Game Pass later this week, adding more value to the juggernaut subscription service
  • As of March 12 we’ll be able to play the DIshonored and Doom series, Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 4 and 76, Prey, Rage 2, Elder Scrolls Morrowind, Skyrim, and Online, The Evil Within, and the new Wolfenstein series
  • It’s a good time to have an Xbox

You might have heard that Denuvo software has come to the PS5- well the good news is it’s not as bad as you may have feared

  • Denuvo anti-cheat software made a bad name for itself causing performance issues on PC games like Doom Eternal and demanding the ability to access a worrying amount of information on your computer
  • The Denuvo piece on PS5 is actually a pretty different beast- it’s a lot more like the anti-cheat and anti-piracy software that was available on the PS4 (which was also by Denuvo)
  • All that’s happening here is that code from the same company (but not the same code that caused problems on PC) is being made available in the PS5 tools library, making it easier for developers to prevent hacking and modding of their titles

This Week In Gaming History

March 6 – 1996 – Ripper – DOS, Macintosh

  • Ripper is an interactive FMV adventure that is played out in the New York of 2040.
    • Brutal killings reminiscent of Jack the Ripper soon get personal and you, crime reporter Jake Quinlan, must solve the mystery.
  • The game plays much like other Take 2 Interactive works, such as Black Dahlia.
    • Solve puzzles and react quickly in combat settings to survive. There are 4 possible endings, and 3 hours of video footage.
  • Thank you to Jeanne and J. Jones for this interesting trivia I found on the Moby Games site.
    • Your CD-Rom drive may not be recognized if it is not designated as Drive D.
      • In addition, it appears that Ripper was not made as a Windows “native” game.
      • While it will run within a DOS window when started in Windows, problems with stuttering sound and lagging graphics are common. The game plays best from the DOS prompt using a Boot Disk.
    • If at the command prompt you accidentally type RIPER (one P) instead of RIPPER (two P’s), instead of going into the game you are greeted with a movie of a rotting apple!
    • Features an all-star cast including Christopher Walken, Burgess Meredith, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Paul Giamatti, Jimmie JJ Walker and Scott Cohen.
      • Ripper also features music from the Blue Oyster Cult.

 

March 7 – 2000 – ChuChu Rocket! – Dreamcast (North America)

  • ChuChu Rocket is an action puzzler, designed predominantly as a multi-player game.
    • You have indirect control over mice, and must guide them to the safety of a rocket, and away from a cat.
    • You do this by placing arrows on the ground, which they will follow.
    • The multi-player game is a frantic all-against-all duel, in which each player’s mice will only follow instructions of their own colour.
    • You can play this mode on your own against CPU opponents, or take on a series of predefined puzzles
  • After closing their hardware development branch, ChuChu Rocket! became the first video game released by SEGA on another console, namely the Game Boy Advance, in 2001.
  • The Dreamcast and Game Boy Advance versions of ChuChu Rocket appear in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

March 8 – 2011 – Dragon Age II – PS3, Windows, Xbox 360

  • Plot:
    • One of the key events early in the first game was the destruction of the village Lothering by the Darkspawn.
    • However, we weren’t told that there was at least one person who survived the onslaught: a human named Hawke.
    • Having become a refugee, Hawke travels to an area known as the Free Marches – more specifically, the city of Kirkwall. Hawke’s family shares the fate with many other Ferelden refugees; the authorities of Kirkwall are suspicious of the newcomers, and the path to financial stability is anything but easy.
    • Meanwhile, the appearance of the mysterious race of Qunari heralds more trouble to the inhabitants of Kirkwall, as does the growing tension between the Templars and the mages.
    • Hawke is caught in the middle of these political and social conflicts – what shall be the hero’s own path?..
  • Dragon Age II uses a “framed narrative” format: the story is narrated over a decade later by one of Hawke’s companions.
    • Similarly to Alpha Protocol, the narrative is rather flexible; motivations and events vary depending on the player’s moral choices during the game.
    • The game also adopts the “wheel-based” dialogue system from Mass Effect games: short responses that reflect different tones and attitudes the player wishes to choose for Hawke.
    • Also similarly to Mass Effect, the main character’s race and name cannot be changed; however, everything else (appearance, gender, classes) can be freely customized.
  • The combat system is quite similar to the one used in the previous Dragon Age game (which, in its turn, dates back to the combat style used in Baldur’s Gate), though it has been noticeably sped up.
    • Hawke can only be human, but the player can customize his or her physical appearance and character class (warrior, mage, or rogue).
    • The player controls Hawke and up to three active party members, either “programming” their actions by assigning actions that should be taken under certain conditions (for example, healing a party member if his HP drops below 20%), or issuing commands to each character manually.
    • The ability tree is also similar, the player being able to learn new abilities as the characters level up. Many abilities from the first game return, but some are absent or replaced with new ones.
    • The abilities are divided into various disciplines, which correspond to the fighting style of the character.
  • Cancelled expansion
    • An expansion to Dragon Age II, named Exalted March, was planned, but cancelled before announcement.
    • Bioware’s reasoning was that other opportunities for the franchises came up, and that there was no room for it because Bioware’s team sizes are fixed and all of them were busy with projects.

March 9 – 1998 – Yoshi’s Story – Nintendo 64

  • Loosely based on the Super Famicom/SNES game Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Yoshi’s Story follows the adventures of six Yoshis as they search through sunny woods, dark caves, soaring mountains, steaming jungles, vast oceans, and gloomy castles for the Super Happy Tree, which has been stolen by the dreaded Baby Bowser.
    • Yoshi can walk, run, swim, leap, flutter, and fire his payload of eggs. The action takes place in storybook “pages” made up of bookmaking materials and other familiar textures, including cut-paper forests, denim clouds, inflatable plastic islands, and stacks of colored spools.
  • The game pioneers use of the Rumble Pak as a key element of the gameplay experience, the player being able to feel invisible but treacherous currents when Yoshi swims through oceanic depths.
    • The Rumble Pak can also help the player locate hidden fruit or other objects by rumbling when Yoshi smells something.
    • With a light touch of the Control Stick it becomes possible to float on a leaf, ride a friendly dragon, and tiptoe past a swarm of angry bees.
  • Cancelled GBA Port
    • One of the first Game Boy Advance demos was a level from Yoshi’s Story.
    • However, it was eventually decided that the downgrades would be too significant, so it wasn’t made into a full game.

March 10 – 2009 – MadWorld – Wii

  • MadWorld is a stylish action beat-em up game, that puts player in the role of a police detective gone rogue and taking part in a violent TV show, in which contestants are encouraged to mutilate each other in increasingly violent and gruesome ways.
  • The game’s unique presentation is achieved through a three-colour palette scheme.
    • All the environments, objects and characters are rendered in black and white, as if drawn in a comic book.
    • The only other colour present is red, which accounts for the gallons of blood flowing from the victims of Jack, the game’s protagonist.
    • Aside from being inspired by comic books, MadWorld’s presentation is also taking hints from the competitive TV shows, with two over-enthusiastic hosts commenting every event happening in the game.
  • The core of the MadWorld experience is a series of challenges, player must take part in.
    • Each challenge presents a confined arena, in which player should score points by defeating his enemies in the most elaborate way possible and take part in the so-called Bloodbath-Challenges, which present additional rules and timed mini-games (like ManDarts or ManGolf) for racking up the points.
    • Once a sufficient amount of points was met, players must fight a unique boss enemy for the current challenge.
    • When boss is defeated, the player will be free to proceed to the next challenge.
  • The game also features a heavy use of quick time events in conjuncture with Wii motion-sensitive controls for the finishing moves, mini-games and general tasks, such as avoiding being hit by the enemy.

March 11 – 2014 – Titanfall – Windows, Xbox One

  • Titanfall is a first-person multiplayer shooter for up to twelve players simultaneously.
    • Set on a war-torn planet with two factions (Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) and the Militia), it features battles between pilots on foot or boarding large mech-style Titans.
    • The game can be played in six game modes: Attrition (team deathmatch with hostage rescuers against kidnappers), Capture the Flag, Hardpoint (capture and hold three locations), Last Titan Standing (last player alive wins, all players start in a Titan), Pilot Hunter (score for the team by killing pilots, not Titans – at the end of the match there is an epilogue where respawns are disabled and the losing team needs to reach an evacuation point/dropship for additional experience points), and Variety Pack (mix of all game modes).
    • There is also a Campaign mode for each faction with a mix of different game modes and bits of story between each mission.
  • The game is fast-paced and while on foot pilots are able to wall jump and link jumps in a parkour style using a jet-boosted belt.
    • In a general game players start by choosing a pilot type.
    • Some of the available weapons include assault rifles, SMGs, shotguns, sniper rifles and smart pistols.
    • During the match a timer counts down (generally three minutes) until a Titan can be deployed.
    • The timer countdown can be shortened by killing other players.
    • When a Titan drops down from the sky a pilot can board it. Playing as a Titan has completely different movement, but it is still agile.
    • The pilot’s double jump is for instance replaced by a dash as a Titan cannot jump, crouch or seek cover.
    • A Titan has very different weapons and is much stronger to take on other Titans.
    • It can be ejected at any time when under attack and it is possible to issue commands to have it follow or guard you.
    • Other players can attempt to board and throw out a player.
    • These can be repelled by activating electric smoke and a Titan has also distinct abilities such as the vortex blocker to stop incoming projectiles, gather them and return them in midair.
    • It is also possible to crush pilots.
    • When a Titan is destroyed a new countdown timer is started.
  • Other game elements include burn cards (up to three per match) for temporary power-ups and AI-controlled minions with three types: grunts, marvins and spectres.
    • The game has a persistent experience system and pilots can level up.
    • This influences for instance the loadouts for both pilots and Titans prior to each match.
    • The available slots for pilots offer room a primary weapon with mod and/or attachment, an anti-Titan weapon, sidearm, tactical ability (for instance cloak, stim or active radar pulse) and kits with specific abilities for different tiers.
    • For a Titan the loadout consists of the chassis, primary weapon with mod, tactical ability, ordinance weapon and different kits.

March 12 – 2018 – Oedipus Dating Sim – Windows

  • “Thousands of years ago, lived a man named Oedipus, king of Thebes and slayer of The Sphinx.
    • A man whose fate was to kill his father, Laius, and then marry his own mother, Jocasta.
    • But what if he could have gamed the system and cheated his own fate?”
  • With the generous help of three fates and Dionysus, the Olympian god with his own TV show, your task is to find a date for Oedipus
    • But it won’t be as straightforward as it seems. At first, you won’t know their true identities.
    • Once you romance each character to a certain level, their true identity will be revealed to you.
    • After that, you must avoid pairing Oedipus with Jocasta.
    • A piece of cake, right? Well, other complications will certainly arise and maybe, with a little ingenuity, you can even end up with Jocasta and not be punished for it. But how?
  • This game was designed with replayability in mind.
    • That means that there are many different choices to make, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.
    • While the overall structure of having 15 days with 4 time periods each remains the same every time you play, each character’s American name, location in the Casino Hotel and alcoholic beverage of choice will change.
    • If you have additional questions not answered by the dialog trees, you can also try typing the question directly to the character.

Tidbits

  • Tesla has admitted to California that their ‘Full Self Driving’ mode is not actually capable of being fully self driving
    • The feature costs Tesla owners up to $10,000 to unlock on top of the original purchase price of their car, but according to correspondence between Tesla’s general counsel and the California DMV it is not an autonomous system, and currently no features on the car make their vehicles autonomous
  • Utah legislature has passed a bill mandating a default “porn filter” on any electronic devices sold in the state starting in 2022
    • What exactly that might entail is anyone’s guess, and how they plan on enforcing it is an even better question
  • T-Mobile announced that, starting April 26, they’ll be selling their customers’ web and mobile app data to advertisers unless they specifically opt out
    • A spokesperson said “We’ve heard many say they prefer more relevant ads so we’re defaulting to this setting,”, and I’m sure this has nothing to do with advertising companies paying top dollar for tracking information going forward
  • Apex Legends hit the Nintendo Switch on Tuesday, and early reactions are that is just isn’t very good, running at both lower resolutions and frame rates than other platforms and leaving its players at a competitive disadvantage
    • Worst part is that, though you can opt to only play with other people on Switch, by default you’re thrown into the wild with all the players on other consoles that can see and react better than you can
  • Daylight savings is coming up this Sunday, and since it happens twice a year it’s a good reminder to do general maintenance like clean your gutters, change the batteries in your smoke alarms, and rate/review us!

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PS2J News 332 – Track or Not To Track

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Algo Bot

      • 2018
      • Puzzle game that has you maintaining a pan-galactic colony ship by managing a cute robot through a visual programming language
    • Little Big Workshop

      • 2019
      • Management sim with an open-ended sandbox experience where you start with a small tabletop workshop and expand to a desk-filling factory, running multiple production lines and managing your cute workers
  • Epic Games

    • Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition

      • 2018
      • 2D platformer and Metroidvania based on the Afro-Brazilian warrior of the same name that has you traversing the world by warping between white surfaces
      • Trials of Fear Edition adds a bunch of things like new areas, a new boss, new powers, and a new secret ending
  • Sony

    • Concrete Genie

      • 2019
      • Action-adventure game where you discover a paint brush that can bring your art to life, infusing them with different personalities and powers depending on how you draw them
    • Control Ultimate Edition

      • 2020 bundle version of the 2019 release, including the Foundation and AWE expansions, brand new to the PS5 and Xbox Series in February
      • Action-adventure game that revolves around the Federal Bureau of Control, a secret US government agency tasked with containing and studying phenomena that violate the laws of reality. You play as the new director and use your powerful abilities to defeat the deadly Hiss
      • This is a messy one- the developers set it up so that only people that own the Ultimate edition can get a free upgrade to the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles, so players that bought it in the first year of release are left out in the cold
        • They also stated that save files could be brought forward to the latest consoles from the original release if you bought Ultimate Edition on the last-generation consoles, but just yesterday they announced that there is actually no way to bring your old save file to the next-gen consoles
        • Now Ultimate Edition is being made free on PS4 and PS5 two weeks after it was just on sale, but unlike ManEater they aren’t offering any refunds for people that jumped on the deal, even if they haven’t booted it up yet while waiting for the PS5 release
    • Destruction AllStars

      • Brand new 2021
      • Vehicular combat game billed as a “global sports entertainment event where stars & cars collide”, where each hero vehicle has different abilities and once your car has been destroyed you need to survive on foot
  • Microsoft

    • Gears 5

      • 2019 optimized for the Xbox Series
      • Third-person shooter that takes place months after the events of Gears of War 4 that has you uncovering the origins of the Locust and the truth behind your family history
    • Resident Evil

      • 2015 HD remaster of the 1996 release
      • Survival horror game that helped define the genre, where you play a member of the elite task force S.T.A.R.S as they investigate the outskirts of Raccoon City following the disappearance of your team members
    • Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition (also on Epic)

      • 2018
      • 2D platformer and Metroidvania based on the Afro-Brazilian warrior of the same name that has you traversing the world by warping between white surfaces
      • Trials of Fear Edition adds a bunch of things like new areas, a new boss, new powers, and a new secret ending
    • Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb

      • 2003
      • Action-adventure game that has you taking the role of Indy as he travels to 1935 China to prevent a powerful artifact from falling into evil hands, pitting you against evil Nazis and the Asian underworld
    • Lost Planet 2

      • 2010
      • Third-person shooter set 10 years after Lost Planet: Extreme Condition where terraforming efforts have started to change the face of the planet but mankind is still locked in a civil war for thermal energy

Apple’s released updates for pretty much all of their devices except for Mac, including bug fixes, security updates for vulnerabilities that may have been exploited in the wild, and a new Unity watchface inspired by the Pan-African flag

  • Some people online think the security updates may be related to the GreyKey iPhone hacking device, but we have yet to see any solid reports
  • Related to the new watchface, as part of Black History Month Apple has also introduced a limited-edition “Black Unity” Apple Watch and sport band, using the colours of the Pan-African flag and inscribed with messages like “Black Unity”, and “Truth. Power. Solidarity.”
    • They also have plans to use their apps like Maps and Music to spotlight Black businesses, musicians, developers, writers, influencers, and news stories

Facebook is apparently preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple for an unfair approach to privacy and default apps

  • Facebook is claiming that the App Tracking Transparency features, allowing users to opt-out of being tracked, are unfair because they don’t appear for Apple’s built-in apps
    • The problem here is that Apple doesn’t track users or share data for advertising purposes, so it doesn’t really apply
  • Facebook will apparently also be focusing on Apple’s refusal to allow other messaging apps to be set as the system default, claiming that limitation is an effort to prevent people from switching to competing brands
    • I’m sure this has nothing to do with them lobbying Apple in September to allow Facebook Messenger to be the default messaging app and being soundly rejected
  • The big bullet point here seems to be that Facebook’s accusing Apple of making changes to line their own pockets, while the reality seems to be that all Apple’s doing here is giving us control over how Facebook monetizes us
  • We’ll have to see if these actions actually get filed, but a lot of it just seems like an tantrum because Facebook will have to start asking permission before harvesting data from iPhone users

In related news, Google is actually pulling the tracking features from their iOS apps

  • Many of Google’s apps still have yet to submit their data privacy labels to the App Store, which will show what data they’re gathering, but in the meantime they’ve announced that rather than ask users to allow themselves to be tracked Google will instead remove tracking altogether
  • Google’s warned that app developers may see a “significant impact” to their Google ad revenue on iOS after the new policy takes effect, but if tracking is so important to their business then they could always leave it in and use the permissions prompt to justify it to their users
  • The fact that they’d rather stop than ask permission is pretty dang telling

Microsoft revealed plans to double the price of Xbox Live Gold this week, drawing so much fire that they reversed course 15 hours later

  • In their planned rollout their cheapest option would have stayed at $60, but cut down to 6 months instead of the current 12
  • The prevailing theory is that this change would have been to push more people toward Game Pass Ultimate, which offers the benefits of Gold with the Game Pass subscription service that’s pretty solid but not necessarily for everyone
  • On the plus side, now instead of doubling the price of Gold they’re keeping prices as-is and also making changes for free-to-play games to allow them online without a Gold membership
  • So it at least shows that they’re open to criticism and willing to make their services a little better instead of much worse

Disney’s making changes to its Disney+ lineup as part of their Stories Matter initiative, an effort to reckon with the company’s history of racist stereotypes and negative depictions

  • Several titles with problematic content like Peter Pan, Aristocats, The Lady and the Tramp, and Dumbo, have been removed from profiles set up for children, though they can still be viewed from regular accounts
  • When watched they also display a strong condemnation of their contents, saying that the stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now, acknowledging the harmful impact, and saying they want to learn from it and spark conversation so that parents can make sure their children have a good mental framework in which to place these movies
  • Conversations about race and stereotypes aren’t easy to have with kids, but you can’t just throw those types of racist caricatures at impressionable minds willy-nilly without doing some harm in the process

This Week In Gaming History 2000’s Edition!

January 23 – 2001 – The Typing Of The Dead – Sega Dreamcast (North America)

  • This is essentially the same game as the arcade light-gun rail-shooter House of the Dead 2, except they’ve turned it into a edu-tainment typing trainer.
    • Instead of guns, your characters have keyboards strapped to them, and instead of shooting the zombies that constantly jump out at you you’ll need to type out the words attached to the zombies in order to kill them before they crack open your head and feast upon the goo inside.
    • The game ranks you on your typing speed and provides various tutorials and other edu-tainment sundries.
  • Otherwise it’s pretty much the same game as House of the Dead 2.
    • Much like the Resident Evil series, the zombie hordes have gone from infesting a vaguely gothic creepy old mansion to infesting a vaguely gothic decaying city, and its your job to stop them and save the human race (as usual).

January 24 – 2000 – Crazy Taxi – Sega Dreamcast (United States)

  • Crazy Taxi is an arcade-like racer where the player takes the role of a taxi driver who weaves his way through crowded streets, across sidewalks, and even underwater, in a wild and frantic race to deliver passengers on time.
    • The courses are largely set inside cities crowded with general traffic and pedestrians (which can’t be run over, they dive away).
    • The main goal is to bring as many customers as possible to their destination in time.
    • Available customers are marked through circles and the color represents the distance and the fare they offer.
    • Green means long rides with plenty of money, and red ones are very short.
  • In the main Arcade mode, there is a timer that quickly runs down.
    • It can be replenished by picking up customers.
    • While driving reckless maneuvers are encouraged.
    • Players can disregard all traffic rules and customers give extra tips for speedy and dangerous driving, but these can only be cashed when the customer arrives at his destination in time.
    • By the same token, the reward at the end of a ride is based on the amount of time left, as each customer also has a personal timer.
    • The city is filled with slopes and jumps, and the game uses a very loose driving model.
    • No damage can be done to the car, so driving as fast as possible is encouraged.
    • While driving players can toy with the gears to perform two special tricks: a crazy drift and a crazy boost to speed up more quickly.
  • Next to the Arcade mode, there is an Original mode and Crazy Box where specific goals need to be met on closed down courses.
    • In the regular modes, it is possible to disregard the usual timer and play for a fixed amount of minutes.
    • At the end of the race, the player is rewarded with a license, either D, C, B or A, with S for outstanding performance.
    • Next to the interactive courses from the arcade version, there is a new course for home consoles.
    • There are four cabs and drivers to choose from.
    • The cars have different statistics and the drivers’ different attitudes while racing.
    • The game has a soundtrack featuring The Offspring and Bad Religion (not for the Xbox 360 version).

January 25 – 2005 – Playboy: The Mansion – PS2, Windows, Xbox

  • Live the life of Hugh Hefner in this “Virtual Hef” simulation.
  • As a young Hugh Hefner, it is the player’s goal to build the Playboy empire through sexy parties and putting together Playboy magazine every month.
    • Build friendships and business contacts with celebrities, political figures, musicians, sports stars and more through hosting events and charming over people.
  • On the business side, Hef has to hire a staff to take photos and write articles for the magazine.
    • The “Playboy Photoshoot” mode allows the player to take the role of photographer.
    • On the personal side, invite friends into your inner circle, and find a girlfriend… or two…. or more.
    • The better the parties Hef throws, the more fame he gets, as well as more interesting people to fill the magazine.
    • More money means a larger staff, and more items (toys and furniture) for Hef to display in the Mansion.
  • Doing well in the game earns Hef points which can be used to purchase extra features, such as cheats and archive photos of Hef and past issue covers.

January 26 – 2003 – Devil May Cry 2 – PlayStation 2

  • Devil May Cry 2 is the sequel to Devil May Cry and once again casts you as Dante, the demon slayer.
  • You control Dante as you battle demons through various levels, ultimately reaching the conclusion and to find out just why these demons are trying to kill everyone.
    • To aid you in your quest, you once again have your trusty sword and various attributes, as well as new moves, like running on walls, aerial kicks, and multi-directional shooting.
  • This time around, Dante is not alone, as you have a partner, named Lucia.
    • Just as much of an asskicker as Dante, Lucia utilizes a kind of knife which she can rapidly throw at her enemies.
  • All the special skills from the first game are here, again activated by your Devil Trigger, which has been improved for the sequel’s release.

January 27 – 2004 – Cops 2170: The Power of Law – Windows

  • COPS 2170 is a tactical strategy game of squad combat with RPG elements set in a futuristic cyberpunk world.
    • It is a prequel to Paradise Cracked, an earlier game by the same company.
  • In the game you control Katy, a new officer fresh from the academy that aims to make a solid career in the police force.
    • You will control her as your main character and recruit additional partners to undertake several missions, which usually involve combat across the urban sprawls of the future against several factions and gangs in the city.
    • As the game progresses a plot starts to surface involving a deranged criminal who aims to bring the city to its knees.
  • You can control up to 6 characters and additional backup NPCs, each with their own stats and equipment and issue orders to them on squad-based turns.
    • Since you are part of the police force there’s no resource management and instead the equipment availability is decided by your rank, which depends on the conditions in which you complete each mission.
    • The game uses a fully polygonal engine and features branching mission objectives and different outcomes based on your in-game actions.

January 28 – 2003 – Black & Bruised – GameCube, PlayStation 2

  • Black & Bruised is a cartoonish take on boxing with 18 different boxers, each with their own personality and fighting style.
    • There are five different modes including multi-player, exhibition, and a story mode told with CG with each boxer’s life story is played out in story mode.
    • Each boxer has a different special attack and power-ups can be picked up to use in matches.
    • There are 30 different facial expressions for each boxer reacting to punches and misses giving them a life-like appearance.

January 29 – 2001 – Oni – Windows, Macintosh, PlayStation 2

  • Plot:
    • It’s 2032.
    • The planet is now ruled by the World Coalition Government which annexed 80% of the countries, with the remaining quickly dragged into the WCG.
    • While their official goal was to solve humankind’s problems, it was about money.
    • Massive spending bankrupted poorer countries, and soon all traces of individual government disappeared.
    • For those who were poor, the situation didn’t improved one bit, and for the richer, maintaining the status was done at the expense of their privacy and personal freedoms.
    • To make things worse, life outside the major cities, far from the atmosphere processors is nearly impossible, as the so-called “Wilderness Preserves” are poisoned, and those who venture into them risk a painful death.
    • Konoko, fresh out from TCTF (Technology Crimes Task Force, a secret police to take cyber drugs and weapons from the streets, as well as explore the induced technophobia to operate and investigate on a blank check permission) academy is placed under the command of Terrance Griffin and Dr. Kerr and linked to a SLD – an android – called Shinatama, who is neurally linked to her.
    • However, Konoko knows next to nothing about her past, other that she was orphaned at the age of three and felt “different” to other people while was being brought up under the wing of TCTF.
    • After many years in training, she has finally the chance to prove herself to Griffin and the TCTF, and so, heads for a warehouse rumoured to be under the control of the Syndicate, a criminal organization which grew exponentially after a young man called “Boss Muro” climbed to the top of the organization.
  • Inspired by the classic Anime series Ghost in the Shell by Shirow Masamune, gameplay is a mix between generic third-person shooter and a classic beat’em up.
    • While Konoko has at her disposal several hand-to-hand acrobatic moves (with more unlocked as the player advances), she can also find weapons in the levels, and the decision to go armed or bare-fisted is only up to the player.
    • Each weapon either draws from ballistic or energy cell clips, the number of rounds in each clip depending on the weapon: a Black Adder (a short, one-hand machine gun like an Uzi) can get 30 rounds from a ballistic clip, while a Mercury Bow (a sniper railgun sans scope) only two.
    • Combined with the limited availability of clips, this adds a strategic element to the game, as the player can only carry a weapon at a time, so if a powerful weapons runs out of ammo, the player must choose between keeping the weapon and fight hand to hand with the enemies until Konoko finds fresh ammo clips, or discard it for a lesser gun that uses different ammo.
    • However, if the player runs out of ammo completely when facing a tough challenge, Konoko can “overdose” on hypo sprays (used to heal damage) by using them over her natural health bar, which provides her with faster movement and tougher blows.

Tidbits

  • Reddit took to the stock market this week to inflate the price of stocks like GameStop in order to stick it to hedge funds that have been banking on the prices dropping soon
    • It got to the point where trading had to be frozen multiple times, and the popular trading app RobinHood took the potentially illegal position that their users are now no longer allowed to buy those stocks, only sell
    • Because of this multiple government officials from both sides of the aisle, including AOC and Ted Cruz, have called for an investigation and potential sanctions against RobinHood
  • CDPR has released modding support tools for Cyberpunk 2077, with promises to keep them up to date as patches continue being developed, so we should hopefully see some interesting things added to Night City as time goes on
  • In local news, Edmonton has a new Smash Bros inspired burger joint called Burger Brawl, that has two chefs pitting burgers against each other elimination-style each weekend with new challengers announced each Thursday. Check them out at burgerbrawl.ca

Looking forward to playing The Medium this weekend

  • The Medium is a psychological horror game played in third-person as Marianne, a medium who can travel into the spirit realm.
    • Being able to inhabit both worlds aids puzzle solving.
    • Her psychic abilities may also be used against hostile forces and are recharged by interacting with energy spots called spirit wells.
  • The Medium is developed by Bloober Team, who came up with the idea in 2012.
    • Bloober meant to enhance the immersion by changing their traditional perspective from first- to third-person and taking advantage of Xbox Series X/S’s background streaming.
    • They modelled the supernatural setting after Zdzisław Beksiński’s dystopian surrealist artwork.
    • Lead designer Wojciech Piejko said The Medium imparts the message that “there is no universal truth”.
    • Composers Arkadiusz Reikowski and Akira Yamaoka were tasked with scoring the physical and spiritual plane, respectively.
    • Using synthesiser and analogue sounds, Reikowski likened his approach to that of Stranger Things and Chernobyl.
    • Yamaoka worked on the Silent Hill franchise, which inspired the game, including its fixed camera angles.
    • He was persuaded to take on the music when Piejko gave him a gameplay demonstration. Singer Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, also of Silent Hill fame, will contribute vocals.
    • Troy Baker voices the primary antagonist, known as the Maw, for whom another actor performed the motion capture on stilts.
  • The Medium was originally announced for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U in 2012, but for want of better technology, reappeared in May 2020 as a Microsoft Windows and Xbox Series X/S title.
    • Originally scheduled for 10 December 2020, the release was eventually delayed to 28 January 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic

 

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