Hey, gang! Jon here, bringing you this week’s Circle Roundup.
This week’s big release was Prey. I’m 20 hours in and this is my GOTY so far, and I say this as someone who completely dismissed this title after seeing the first trailer. I wrote it off as yet another derivative sci-fi horror game set on a post-calamity space station. To be fair, the premise actually is quite generic, but it’s executed so damn well. It’s like eating microwave pizza for years and finally tasting a pie from Lombardi’s or Totonno’s.
And since pizza is by far the most divisive food, I look forward to arguing with all of you about which New York pizzeria is best at our upcoming Barcade event.
Also for this week: Gita Jackson checked out the cannabis-based Bud Farms: Grass Roots despite having a general aversion to ganja, Michael Thomsen gives us a second opinion on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Anthony Agnello explains how Ghosts ‘N Goblins made dying funny, Chelsea Stark reports that Google bought out a well-known VR developer, and Michael Andronico has a list of best gaming desktops for 2017.
And with that, the Roundup!
Gita Jackson reviewed Bud Farm: Grass Roots and dug it. One would think it’d just be Farmville for potheads but Gita found that, against her very low expectations, it’s a well-crafted game. Remarkably, the game even got her caring about her clients. Potential customers each have their own names, portraits, and unique needs. Bud Farm: Grass Roots has got heart, and if there’s anything we love at the Circle, it’s heart. Not like Wiz Khalifa’s weed game. That game sucked. Read Gita’s review here.
Michael Thomsen reviewed Mario Kart 8 Deluxe recently. While Matt Gerardi loved it, Mike found the game wanting. A core mechanic (and indeed, a PR draw) of Mario Kart is the drift system, which encourages players to brake hard into a corner and cut down the lane in hopes of gaining a nitro reward. Eventually, seasoned players figured out zig-zagging technique that gave them constant speed boosts, which the Mario Kart designers discouraged by modifying the mechanics and altering tracks. As a result, the races of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are tamer affairs than the anxious wheel-to-wheel sprints of older titles, and its victories are gentle. Read Mike’s review here.
Anthony Agnello wrote about how Ghosts ‘N Goblins added humor to failure. In the old days, videogames had you die a lot, either to eat up your quarters, make the game skillful, or a combination of both. This is liable to piss you off, and Ghosts ‘N Goblins has certainly had many controllers smashed in its name. But it also made dying hilarious. When Arthur suffers a hit, he’s forced to chuck lances at zombies in nothing but his underwear. When he gets hit in his underwear, he crumples into a pile of cartoon bones. Ghosts ‘N Goblins imbued a comedic element to videogames that didn’t exist before. Read Anthony’s article here.
Chelsea Stark reports that Owlchemy Labs, the developer behind Job Simulator and Rick and Morty Simulator: Virtual Rick-ality, has been acquired by Google. This, Owlchemy Labs said, is “REAAAAALLY BIG”. Well, if you get picked up by the most valuable brand on the planet, there’s no other way to put it, is there? Also, Owlchemy Labs is based in Chelsea’s hometown of Austin! Woohoo! Read Chelsea’s report here.
Michael Andronico has got his list of 2017 gaming PCs for your perusal. Whether you’re interested in mod-ability, compactness, affordability, or you want to go all-out and get a Godzilla rig that can simulate the Mega City from The Matrix, this list has got it all. Check out Mike’s list here.
And now, for news outside of the Circle. . .
Absolver is a hand-to-hand combat game with some interesting mechanics. For one, it’s card-based, so there’s a little bit of pre-planning going on. Second, everyone wears cool masks, which isn’t a mechanic but I’m counting it because it looks badass. Watch the new combat trailer here.
Bethesda implemented a notoriously draconian review embargo on game critics last year, which is a shame because it’s ultimately hurting Bethesda the most. Prey is an awesome game that could’ve benefited from the huge signal boost that comes from a bunch of glowing day one reviews. This doubly pains me because (1) Prey, not BioShock (Ed. – Fighting words!), is the true successor to System Shock and (2) it features Asian American lead characters, voiced by Asian actors. Read Jason Schreier’s take here.
In some more bad news, Square Enix has dropped HITMAN developer IO Interactive. Square Enix reported a whopping $42 million loss in the past financial year, which prompted its decision to float IO Interactive. This also means that all current and future IO Interactive projects have been put on hold, which includes future HITMAN episodes. Sadly, this isn’t the first time a critically acclaimed (and New York Game Award-winning) franchise among gaming enthusiasts has struggled to reach mainstream success. Read more here.
Vanquish, the crazy over-the-top third person shooter from SEGA in 2010, is getting a PC port. I just heard about this game a few days ago and it looks awesome. I’m definitely planning on picking this up, but if you’re looking for a long campaign, this ain’t it. In true Japanese fashion, Vanquish is a short stint that’s meant to be replayed over and over for high scores and achievements. See the relaunch trailer here.
One of the things I love about videogames is how well the medium lends itself to meta-entertainment. I love watching videos of players trolling other people in online games, especially when it’s well-edited. Enter, YUNG MAESTRO. If you want to watch a hilarious video of people getting ambushed in Dark Souls 3, check it out here.
And that does it for this week! Tune in next week to see Jeffrey Mizrahi’s very first Roundup!