Happening now on GameLuv

Secret of Mana Gear coming to Spelunker Z in August

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I’m really trying to hang in there with Spelunker Z until the next zone of levels are added. They’ve teased the expansion a few times but are padding out the release with new cross promotion gear. After the tie-in with Atlantis no Nazo ended last week they rolled out a collection of items based on something called M.S.S Project. Best I can tell it’s a group of “internet famous” YouTubers in Japan. So, like, Yogscast but with more masks. Anyways, you know it’s a legit foreign phenomenon because there’s no English Wikipedia page I could find to explain it.

The bigger news for Square fans outside of Japan (and in Japan too, to be honest) is the teaser image above for their next collaboration. Despite trying to be sneaky with the obscured image it is so totally Secret of Mana/Seiken Densetsu 2. That’d be more exciting if I ever played it but at least it’ll be gear from something recognizable. Like the image says, that stuff is coming August 4th so you have plenty of time to make a Japanese PSN account, friend me, download the game and play through it with me before the new loot hits. Who’s with me!!? …

Hands on with Mondrian: Abstraction in Beauty

I got to play a preview version of Mondrian: Abstraction in Beauty over the weekend and recorded a few rounds while I tried to talk about it. There isn’t a lot in this build beyond the core gameplay but it’s still a nice little riff on Breakout with a lot of promise. I go over those promises in the video but you can also check out this post for a more thoughtfully worded version when I wasn’t distracted with 360-degree Breakout.

Mondrian: Abstraction in Beauty is being developed by Lantana Games and will be out on Steam, itch.io, and IndieGameStand this August. I’ll most likely be back with more after it’s released.

Gawp at the Smoldering Remains of PlayStation Mobile

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If you were wondering what would happen to the PlayStation Mobile marketplace the day after its July 15th execution, all you need to do is look above. The “PlayStation Mobile” button remains on the Vita storefront (presumably until the next firmware update) but it only leads to this stripped down store page with some unceremonious text.

Thanks to everyone who developed, shopped and supported the PlayStation Mobile marketplace. It was fun and weird and probably not all that successful for anyone involved but it was great that it ever existed.

Explore the Art History of Games with Mondrian

Lantana Games, the indie studio behind Children of Liberty – one of my long-running favorites from the IGF — have just announced another new game in a completely different genre. Mondrian: Abstraction in Beauty is a block-breaking, Arkanoid-esque game which takes its name from the famous artist but doesn’t strictly adhere to his style. Think of the name as the inspiration rather than the definition of the game’s art style which traces the history of video game art itself.

Starting out in the 1970’s, the game mimics the technological limitations of video game hardware at the time, rendering the playfield in simpler, starker colors. As video games evolve, so does Mondrian’s style, stopping at the blacks and greens of ancient terminal displays, the pulsing reds of the Virtual Boy and so on through the 1990’s. Aside from the visual treatment there’s also a museum interface with 15 initial galleries featuring “works from acknowledged masters of the medium” making Mondrian a potential all-in-one video game art history lesson.

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It’s the art aspect that grabbed me but I’m happy to see they aren’t simply redressing Breakout. Mondrian may play like a classic block-breaker but it lets you revolve your paddle 360-degrees around the space, bouncing the ball all over the screen. Forty different power-ups, paddles, balls, and borders are also unlockable to keep things interesting and the brick layouts are dynamically generated from a pool of 40,000,000 possible combinations.

With the base game in place, Lantana will support Mondrian after release with free and paid content including stages only accessible if you own specific games. How they’ll verify previous purchases is unknown but it’s a clever ideal that cross-promotes indie games and lets those devs customize Mondrian to match their individual games. Mondrian: Abstraction in Beauty will be released on Steam, itch.io, and IndieGameStand in August 2015 and I’m hoping to get access to a preview build soon.

It is Totally Time to say Goodbye to PlayStation Mobile!

I hope you loaded up on all your favorite Flappy Bird clones and weather apps because the PlayStation Mobile marketplace officially died yesterday on the Vita. Actually, it’s more like it’s slowly being strangled to death. July 15th marked the last day for new content releases (of which there were none) and as of September 10th purchase via web browser and re-download of previously purchased content will be disabled.

In honor of the dysfunctional storefront, which I periodically kept an eye on, I recorded one last look at all the game and app categories. Dramatic readings of busted game descriptions ensues. Unfortunately, when I stopped to eat dinner the microphone got muted and so there’s a 30 minute chunk with no audio. I pop back on at the 1:14:00 mark, and yes, I recorded 90 minutes of this derelict marketplace. I really did like it, for good and bad reasons.

Brave Wave Lovingly Remastering Classic Soundtracks

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This may look like just another vinyl OST post but there’s even better news to report. Japanese music label, Brave Wave Productions, has announced a new series that will offer definitive editions of classic soundtracks in as pure and authentic a form as possible. How are they going to pull it off? By working with everyone they can get their hands on including researchers, consultants, engineers, developers, license holders and the original sound teams.

As an example, their first offering in the Generation Series will feature Street Fighter II and its original arcade soundtrack. Rather than dumping a ROM, Brave Wave’s team will work to extract the music directly from the CPS-1 and CPS-2 arcade boards and remaster from there. After polishing up both versions they’ll get the blessing of original composer, Yoko Shimomura, before releasing the double album on vinyl and CD. The loving care doesn’t stop with the music as Brave Wave is collaborating with Matt Leone from Polygon.com and Yoko Shimomura to fill the liner notes with historical tales about the game and its soundtrack.

Street Fighter II is one of my all-time favorite soundtracks so I’m super excited about hearing a new high quality edition. I’m also excited about what comes next from the Generation Series. I can think of dozens of soundtracks I’d love to see restored, namely vintage Castlevania, Metal Gear and a handful of old PC games. What are some soundtracks you’d love to see Brave Wave give this special treatment to?

A Hands On Preview of PONCHO

What is PONCHO? Since I first saw it six months ago all I knew was that it looked gorgeous and was mysterious as can be. Having finally laid hands on a preview build of the game I’m happy to bring you some of an answer to that burning question. Like that indie darling, Fez, PONCHO is a mysterious, 2D, platforming adventure with brain-tweaking dimensional gameplay and lush pixelart visuals. But those high level characteristics are where the similarities end.

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At the outset you’re given the most succinct of explanations: mankind rose up, created self-sustaining robot life… and then went extinct. Centuries later you wake up into a new world as Poncho. Cities have fallen into crumbling ruins, nature has taken over and the remaining machines may have evolved on their own. Part of the game’s charm are the tiny, pixelated details like robotic caterpillars that wriggle like clockwork and mechanical frogs that bound out of the bushes. Did mankind create robot animals or have the machines grown to fill in the gaps? It’s just another of the questions that so easily cross your mind as you poke around while the perfectly fitting, lo-fi chiptune soundscape washes over you.

Besides being the only robot in sight wearing a poncho, you also have the unique ability to leap between Z planes — background, middleground, and foreground — at the press of the shoulder buttons. The story intro and tutorial for this mechanic make for a damn striking first impression but I don’t want to spoil any of that. The defining difference with the gameplay compared to similar titles like LittleBigPlanet or Mutant Mudds is that you can change planes anywhere there is line of sight between the overlapping layers. The effect is mesmerizing as planes ripple back and forth, changing transparency and scale as you rapidly move between them.

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Beyond mechanics, the real point of PONCHO is simply to explore, and I love that. You arrive in a forest and you can head any way you want, periodically running into scholarly bots who spew existential quips about the meaning of life and the absence of the Maker. As you explore you’ll find shimmering pickups scattered around and cleverly tucked behind the multiple planes. Eventually you’ll come across a warp gate that lets you access new zones but you’re always free to come back because, chances are, there’s still stuff to find. Those pickups can be swapped for keys (from one of the best shopkeepers ever) and used to unlock new paths. There’s also an NPC who shows you how to awaken his dormant followers and rewards your efforts with a new ability.

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Moving platforms are also present and you probably guessed they aren’t the traditional kind. These platforms jump in and out of the three planes and were incredibly challenging for me to navigate. The color coding as they move is helpful but in my time with the game I never managed to really nail it. It’s a bit of a bummer but for a game with no combat (love it!) I suppose some aspect of it has to be challenging. PONCHO is no slouch when it comes to precision platforming and while I am no master, the moments where I got into a groove sure made me feel like one.

This build has a few other surprises that I’m not going to detail but they do hint at a bigger game and more narrative. The complete history of this post-human world may never be laid bare but it looks like we’ll take part in some interesting stories on the search for the Maker.

I’m thrilled to have finally played PONCHO and even more excited to say the magic didn’t wear off. I’m just as clueless as before about what’s happening but still as excited as ever to explore and find out. Developer Delve Interactive and publisher Rising Star Games just recently announced the game will be out on Steam this September with Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Vita versions alongside or close behind. I have a hands on video of PONCHO up if you want to see the game in action (which you should) and will be back once it’s released with more Now Playing impressions as I work through it.

Release Date Announced for PONCHO, more coverage this week!

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This is just a super quick post to get the details out there. PONCHO, a mesmerizing indie puzzle/platformer I’ve been eyeing since I first discovered it back in January, finally has a release date! It’s coming in September to PC and developer Delve Interactive have confirmed the game is also in the works for PlayStation 4, Vita and Wii U, along with Mac and Linux support alongside the PC version.

Even better, I’ve been given a preview build of the game on PC and I’ll have a written piece as well as a video up later this week.

Original Shawn Version: I’m writing somewhere else again!

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I’ve been a fan and follower of Original Sound Version for so long I can’t remember how I even found the site in the first place. Over the years it’s been a great source of news and coverage of video game music. So when they tweeted a few weeks ago asking for interested writers my reaction was that comical pantomime where you look left, look right and then point at yourself for confirmation.

And so now I’m writing for OSV! Much like I do here, my posts are about interesting new things and stuff I love. So far I’ve written about the PlayStation Mobile game Oh Deer! that features music from Streets of Rage 3 composer, Motohiro Kawashima, and a browser plugin that helps scrobble music from streaming sites to your Last.fm profile. I’ll eventually be doing some reviews as well and hope to feature some of my favorite tracks and albums like I used to do here with ‘MahMusic’.

So that’s where my writing energies have been lately. I’ll try to post here with links to my OSV stuff like I used to when I was writing at other sites. And of course, there’ll be some crazy junk I get way into that has nothing to do with video game music that’ll still pop up here. For example, I streamed an hour-long playthrough of Fantavision for the 4th of July from a PlayStation 2 after I found out my PS3 died.

More details (and no macros) emerge on Xbox Elite Controller

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I admit, after the halfway point in Major Nelson’s podcast segment about the Xbox One Elite Controller, I lost interest. That’s right around the point where Xbox’s David Prien confirmed it will not support macro programmability. That was my big question about the $150 controller but it may still prove to be worth it for the sake of comfort. I’ll have to get my hands on one first to be sure.

That’s really the only bummer that came from the segment which revealed loads of tidbits about the controller. There’s talk of magnets, visiting top Xbox players in their sweaty homes, interesting uses for the swappable controller profiles and OTA updates. The talk also touches on reworked bumper buttons, the story behind the carrying case, a new use for the sync button and a surprising amount more.

If you’re as interested in the controller as I am/was it’s worth a listen. The controller segment lasts about 50 minutes and starts at the 7 minute mark. Oh, and my original post about the controller still covers most of the basics so check that out too if you need to know more.