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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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The good news is that Sega's speedy ball-roller (and party game collection) Super Monkey Ball is now officially coming to PC, confirming a recent leak. The less good news is that Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a re-release of the not-especially-great Wii game in the series. Still, it was held back by its extremely awkward tilt-centric Wii controls, which will most likely be excised from this re-release. Whether they'll be doing anything about the bland level design is unknown. Below, a quite frankly baffling teaser trailer, showing nothing of the thirteen year old game.

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Because everyone else is doing it and nobody is powerful enough to stop them, Ubisoft are launching their own games subscription service this September 3rd. Uplay+ will cost $15 a month (with UK and EU pricing still unannounced) and get you access to much of the publisher's catalogue (present and past) and most DLC, but slim-to-nonexistent pickings in the way of third party games. Today, they unveiled their full list of 108 games that'll be available at or near the service's launch. You can check it out on the Uplay+ site, or in alphabetical order (thanks, VentureBeat) below.

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Rather than have players suffer through matches where cheaters are cheating up the place, saving bans for future punishment, Overwatch should soon shut down games mid-round as soon as it detects skulduggery. That's a solution Blizzard are currently toying with on the test servers, director Jeff Kaplan explained last week, and it sounds great. When faced with cheaters, I have always found some catharsis in knowing they'll eventually be whacked but I'd rather see immediate bans. Game over, get that git out of my face.

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Once more unto the beach, dear friends, though returning to Assassin's Creed Odyssey is usually a cheery experience, last episode's detour to Hades aside. Judgement Of Atlantis is the third and final part of the Fate Of Atlantis arc, and likely the the last ever DLC chapter to the open-world hack n' slasher. Out now, it finally lets players rise out of the Greek afterlife and into the sci-fi high life. Poseidon, king of the Isu, has appointed Kassandra (or Alexios) as his right hand badass and set them loose to clean up Atlantis. That probably means stabbing. Below, an infotacular trailer.

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Feature: Drinks all round

Premature Evaluation: Griftlands

You can buy drinks for reprobates in Griftlands. The mingling crimefolk of this sci-fi card game hang out in bars and harbours, lounging on static screens hoping to sell you stuff, or waiting for a fight to break out so they can jump in for either side. There are hairy bouncers, froglike bartenders, and scar-faced bandits. Cultists, bent cops, and bounty hunters of all kinds. This is basically a card game based on the pondlife of Mos Eisley cantina, and as a deck-building roguelike of Slay The Spire flavour, it’s too short-lived to confidently recommend just yet. But it has enough character that I’ll happily pull up a stool and sip my spacejuice as developers Klei finish things off. And while I’m at it – bartender - drinks for all my new friends!

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Ubisoft have defended their decision to source some of Watch Dogs: Legion's soundtrack through spec work, saying it's "completely voluntary" for fans to create music hoping Ubi might pick it and pay them for their work. Ubi announced this "opportunity" last week, saying they will put ten fan-made tracks into the game. I suppose it is voluntary, as much as any other work is voluntary. My main objection isn't even that Ubisoft are seeking spec work for their big-budget game, it's that they're using spec work as marketing to build brand engagement. They're encouraging exploitative labour practices with a goal not much different to a competition offering Watch Dogs t-shirts as prizes for drawing cool hackers.

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The digital dreaming of Rez Infinite and music-matching of Lumines lock into the block-spinning puzzling of Tetris next week with the PC launch of Tetris Effect, a trippy take on tetrominoes from some of the folks behind those other two fines games. Tetris Effect debuted on PlayStation 4 in November and I'll be very glad to have a go myself, given some of the lovely things I've heard about it. Hell, forget hearing about it, see it in this trailer.

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Last time on the BoC: Due to a prolonged water shortage during a goblin siege, the dwarves finally breached the underground to slake their thirst. Despite attacks by giant bats and a mishap with a captured goblin swordsman, great treasures were unearthed below - basement founder Lorbam retrieved a feather from Tol, the great winged worm, as well as using herself as bait to catch a mighty jabberer alive.

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You take your eyes off Fortnite Battle Royale for one minute, and the kaiju kicks off. Also a kaiju gets added. And a big mech.

The goliaths haven't actually done anything yet, but the timer floating in the sky suggests they're about to. As does the way we're nearing the end of season nine, and how season finales have historically not been kind to the people of Forniteland.

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Feature: Devotion to the "public interest"

China forced one horror game publisher to close, but the whole region felt it

Much like the phantoms that materialise and disappear within the dusky corridors of Devotion, the game itself felt like an apparition. Launched in February, the solid Taiwanese horror game vanished from Steam just weeks afterwards, due to the discovery of in-game talismans that contain derisive references to China’s President, Xi Jinping. Facing a firestorm of criticism, its studio, Red Candle Games, hurriedly hunkered down, announcing that it was putting the game through rounds of quality checks before releasing it again. But it's now four months later, and the game still hasn’t been restored on Steam. But Red Candle aren't the only studio that has to wrestle with China's strict censorship.

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Feature: I'm not crying

Have You Played… Rime?

What an unexpected journey that was. I certainly didn’t expect the direction Rime went in. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but washing up on an island as a small boy, with a beautiful fox friend to help guide the way as you solve puzzles, sounds absolutely lovely, right? But what a turn it took in the final couple of chapters. What. A. Turn.

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A bin-man, a talking rat and a smoking jacket walk into a bar - less a joke, more a setup for an adorably grimy SNES-styled RPG. Kingdoms Of The Dump hit Kickstarter today, where its devs, Roach Games (a pair of real-life janitors writing what they know, I suppose) are asking for funds to see it to stinky fruition. It looks a charmer, too - a high fantasy adventure set amongst the Dump Kingdoms of the Lands Of Fill. Someone's gone and taken out (and not returned) the king of Garbagia, so it's up to young Dustin Binsley and friends to clean up. See a lovely trailer below.

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Dim Bulb's quiet and contemplative story tell 'em up Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is still out there, trudging down America's dusty depression-era roads, collecting and telling stories. Today, it has a few new ones to tell. Today's Gold Mountain Update adds an official Chinese localisation, produced by a crew of dedicated Chinese-speaking fans led by one Ryan Zhang. More importantly for English-speakers, it adds a new set of stories to the game, focused on the lives of Chinese Americans and their alchemized folklore as they became woven into America's fabric.

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Google's DeepMind AI division will likely end up making the next generation of military killbots, but before then, at least they'll provide new challenges for the esports crowd. In January, their "AlphaStar" StarCraft II agent trounced a crew of pro players ten to one. To make sure it wasn't a fluke, they've unleashed AlphaStar on the European public. According to this official blog post, AlphaStar is limited to Europe for now. StarCraft II players can opt for a chance to have their next 1v1 partner partner swapped out for an unfeeling machine that's less likely to insult your mother.

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It got a little lost in last week's flurry of activity, but SolSeraph -- ACE Team's tribute to genre-blending SNES gem ActRaiser -- is out, though sadly not heralded by a celestial chorus. Staying close to its inspirations, it's half hack n' slash platformer, half real-time strategy about a god reclaiming their land from monsters and demons in the name of their human followers. I've not had a chance to play it for myself, but trusted ActRaiser fans and platformer aficionados alike haven't had much good to say. Perhaps it just wasn't weird enough for ACE Team? Below, a launch trailer.

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The makers of Devotion today said they might re-release their really-quite-nice horror game at some point, if the controversy dies down, but Red Candle Games have no plans for a re-release "in the near-term". Devotion was pulled from sale after some Chinese players were upset by it containing a forbidden meme comparing Chinese president Xi Jinping to fictional honeyguzzler Winnie the Pooh, which has since led to that government cancelling its Chinese publisher's business license. It is a good'un so fingers crossed we'll get another chance to play it. And fingers crossed for the government retribution to end, obvs.

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If you've been following our Nate's attempts to build a Dwarf Fortress zoo in the Basement of Curiosity, you might think it couldn't get much worse between the paved-over Bird Hole and the monstrous bristleworm. Oh it can. Two words: petting zoo. A future update will add the ability for folks to pet animals, y'see.

"Oh god," Basement of Curiosity head keeper Nate Crowley responded.

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Remember that thing you like from 10 years ago? It’s probably getting a sequel. Shenmue 3. Evil Genius 2. Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2. The calendar of upcoming games is packed with throwbacks that will revisit the worlds we left behind over a decade ago. Oddworld: Soulstorm is heading back to the strange homeland of Abe the skinny green freedom farter. Mechwarrior 5 is booting up a bipedal destruct-o-bot that was powered down in the year 2000. If your favourite childhood game is not getting a sequel, it's probably getting a glittering remake.

Reviving forgotten entertainment relics is nothing new (hi, George Lucas) but the recent glut of resurrections has made me wonder: why are developers and publishers so keen to go back to old ground? Why do they want to chase this sense of nostalgia? So, I asked them.

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Feature: Plop Ten

Steam Charts: Bubbling Trousers Edition

It's another dire old week in Chartland, with the last breaths of the Summer Sale ensuring, with the exception of spots #4 and #5, that all the usual suspects dominate. But we won't let that change us! We're better than this! We're going to have fun anyway!

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The best way to experience Steam's torrent of new releases is @microtrailers, a Twitter bot which indiscriminately tweets about (most) launches with cut-down six-second versions of their trailers. With no curation and no adaptive algorithm, it gives a raw look at the range of modern games, the big-budget alongside the no-budget, the flashy alongside the plain, the serious war game alongside the horny anime puzzle game. It's so great that Valve copied it for their Steam Labs experiments. Troublingly, when Valve launched their algorithmitated Micro Trailers last week, the original Twitter bot went down. Did they kill it to replace it with a worse version? Naw, relax! It was a technical hiccup and the Steamy treat is back, baby.

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Feature: Fortknight

Have You Played… Stronghold?

With Stronghold: Warlords recently announced at E3, now seems as good a moment as any to look back on the game that kicked off Firefly’s seemingly endless series of castle ’em ups back in 2001. In fact, I’m genuinely astonished to learn that Warlords will be the ninth game in the series, as despite loving the first instalment, I’ve managed to play precisely none of the rest. Stronghold was a very literal tower defence game, with some light-yet-satisfying citybuilding and management elements. It also had the vague feeling of being a 14th century take on Home Alone, as you would build up your castle, then surround it with concentric layers of horrid traps in order to thwart waves of pikemen, macelads, swordboys and horseblokes.

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Feature: A spiritual experience

How not to cut trees in Woodcutter Simulator 2011

I am not a religious person, but I must admit some phenomena can’t be explained in a rational way. Like the inconceivable vastness of space. Ghosts sightings. The Brexit. Or United Independent Entertainment’s decision to release Woodcutter Simulator 2011 on Steam in the year of our Lord 2019.

I discovered it by chance, a tweet by our dearly departed John Walker casually appearing on my timeline. And I realized that, as the former reviewer of Pure Farming 2018, it was my duty to play it. Destiny called. And now here I am, booting up the game, and readying myself to play… Holzfäller Simulator 2011?

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What you need when strip mining the landscape and turning it into a network of roads and railways and factory towns as far as the eye can see is for it to be set against a very beautiful backdrop showing exactly what kind of lovely nature you’re chewing through. At least, I assume that’s the thesis behind Voxel Tycoon, because I see all those tiny trees and cacti and the shining turquoise water and do feel as though it would be perversely satisfying to make a wonderfully efficient road grid over the top of it all. Take a look at the trailer, you'll see what I mean.

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You know how it is. Sometimes you’re just guarding the world with your boyfriend and then he tries to grasp at more power than is allowed and in doing so gets stuck between the worlds of the living and the dead. We’ve all been there. So, too, is Shaya, the protagonist of utterly gorgeous game Atma. Trace mantras onscreen to get past obstacles and enemies, reset all the spirits that your beau accidentally unleashed into the world, and mostly just luxuriate in how pretty the whole thing is, as you can see in this trailer.

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Screenshot Saturday! A day for developers to peel back the curtain for a little look at what they’ve been working on, and then for me to pick through the day after (because timezones) and ooh and ahh at it all. This week: mesmerising synchronised swimming, a very powerful tool, and some adorable mushrooms.

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The ocean depths are a pretty good Metroidvania setting, seeing as we know so little about them. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me that much if the bizarre glowing creatures of Outbuddies really were down there, just waiting for a lost explorer to stumble on them. Submerge yourself in the trailer’s neons and the skulls that are apparently littered all over the place on the ocean shelf. Again, not surprising.

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Feature: Read more

The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for hanging out in a field playing board games. Or for reading the best writing about videogames - although not much grabbed me on that front this week.

Here, have something about radically political board games instead. Did you know the suffragettes made a board game about feminism and police violence? Regardless, Renee Shelby's piece for ROMchip is worth checking out. The game involves a blend of politics, territory control and hostage negotiation. I'm sad that apparently only one copy still exists.

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Farm-o-gather (o-fight, o-fish, o-explore, etc. etc.) type games are good at devising ways to get your characters out into the wilds of nature, but I think getting shipwrecked on an island is a new one. Such is the predicament of our protagonists in Stranded Sails – Explorers Of The Cursed Islands, though. Luckily, this island doesn’t look very cursed at all, and is full of smiling pals and lovely plots of land to grow veggies and search out adventure. And sometimes find angry ghosts. But I’m sure that’s fine.

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A kaleidoscopic fall; a world jarred by spiked lights, rocks, and scan lines; and an inescapable mirage are among the “other moods” from Connor Sherlock’s latest volume of walking simulators, titled Peak Bleak Blues (and other moods). To experience them you’ll have to get inside and hike about, stumbling upon all kinds of wonderful or ominous or wonderfully ominous oddities or just feeling the wide-open expanse of place. But you can still get a sense of each of them, like flipping through a travel brochure, thanks to this handy trailer.

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Duncan Robson’s video game clock supercut Hours Played is intended to eventually become a functional timetelling device, streamed to sync up to wherever you are in the world, created entirely from clips of clocks from games. Robson crowdfunded last year to create a proof of concept of the first hour, but ended up with a little over two. I’m going to embed it right here so that you can rifle through it or leave it open to tick away in a side tab. If you’re wanting to use it to keep track of the minutes passing, you’ll have to start it at precisely 12:56pm.

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