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We've seen our share of Humble Indie Bundles over the past year or two—independent developers who gather under the "Humble" brand and release a bunch of their games priced at whatever people want to pay.
The latest one, Humble Bundle #4, might be the best one yet—for any price you want, you can get Super Meat Boy, Bit. Trip Runner, Jamestown, Shank and Nightsky. Pay more than the average price (currently tracking at $4.61 on the Humble Bundle site), you get Cave Story + and Gratuitous Space Battles as well.
There's no shortage of gaming to be done this December, but these are all great games, for a great price. And not only will you be supporting indie devs, you'll have the option to give money to either the American Red Cross or Child's Play.
Check out their (endearingly cheesy and reference-laden) trailer above. It's funny, I was quoting that bit from The Rock all last weekend for some reason.
Humble Indie Bundle #4 [Humblebundle.com]
Klei Entertainment's upcoming Shank 2 brings a new brand of extreme slice-em-up to the stage with its co-op gameplay. We've already seen some of it in action off-screen, and it certainly looks like a lot of team-stabbin'.
Klei sent along a grip of new screenshots from both the single-player and teh co-op. I thought I'd share them here. Enjoy!
Inspired as it is by 1980s action-movie tropes, you can probably guess the plot of Shank 2's story mode. If your guess involves the hero renouncing his violent ways and trying to embrace a quieter existence, only to have his old life come back to wreak havoc in his new one, then you get a prize.
That prize is the opening chunk of Shank 2's single-player. What you may not be able to make out in this video is the additional depth of field in the backgrounds, which makes the world feel more alive than in the previous title. The character animations look noticeably smoother, too, adding a bit more nuance to the little gestures they make when idle. As far as gameplay, you'll now be able to pick up and use dropped enemy weapons like baseball bats and shovels. You'll also be able to counter enemy attacks—opportunities marked by big exclamation points—with moves that end in one-hit kills.
Released through the EA Partners program last year, Klei Entertainment's gorgeously gory sidescroller won legions of fans with its retro presentation and fluid animation. The one thing everybody wanted was co-operative play featuring the bandanaed badass and his cohort Falcone. Your pleas were heard and the video above shows off how that's going to look.
Co-op tasks a pair of players with protecting two ammo stashes from waves of the game's thugs. All of the various enemy types from the single-player show up, with big beefy boss characters interspersed throughout. The bad guys will try to set explosive charges to the ammo and, if they're successful, then one player will need to defuse the charge. In the event that one partner goes down, the other will need revive them. As you'll see, it's all pretty straightforward. But what you may not get from just watching is how addictively fun Shank 2's co-op is. And you should trust me on that, because the Klei producer on hand said that I made it farther than anyone else he'd played with yesterday.
The future of Klei Entertainment rested on the success of Shank, last summer's side-scrolling beat-em-up. The indie developer had seen moderate success in the past with games like N+, but Shank was another beast entirely. It had the power to financially ruin Jamie Cheng, Klei's founder, and Jeff Agala, its creative director, both of whom put their houses on the line. Such was their confidence in the game.
That confidence extends to Shank 2, which is scheduled for release on PC, XBLA and PSN in early 2012. Sitting down with Cheng at the game's official unveiling this week, he acknowledged that, despite strong sales, fans had some qualms with the first game.
"When we were listening to feedback we were like, 'Ok, yes, these are the things we can do way better,' " he explained. "We can drastically improve the controls and we can also continue raising the bar on the visuals."
The controls were a definite sticking point in the first Shank, a game which demanded extreme precision but often faltered when it came to elements like platforming and time-based attacks. Cheng said the team started from scratch with the goal of making the combat much more responsive.
Klei also added the ability to pick up the weapons dropped by enemies, Double Dragon-style. Enemy weapons, like baseball bats and shovels, have entirely separate movesets, thus giving you a lot more variety in combat.
The last big addition was the ability to counter an incoming enemy attack by hitting the grab button when a red exclamation point appears over an attacking enemy's head. Countering an enemy's attack will prompt a unique animation depending on how the enemy was attacking. For example, a baseball bat might be shoved down the throat of an adversary for a particularly gruesome death.
As for the visuals, though, no one really had a problem with them. In fact, hand-drawn graphics of the first Shank were universally praised as some of the best 2D graphics in recent memory, with smooth animations and remarkable levels of detail. But Cheng and the team wasn't quite satisfied, so Shank 2 will double the resolution on the characters, while adding more detailed particle effects, like fire, to the formula.
Another big note from fans and critics of the first game was the lack of online co-op play. Shank 2 remedies that as well, but not in a way you'd expect. The game offers a two-player co-op mode called Survival where players battle waves of enemies while attempting to defend objectives from rogue bombers.
After playing about 10 waves, I sensed an odd blend of Counter-Strike (players can purchase weapons and equipment with money earned from kills) and Smash Bros. (small, platforming-heavy maps).
Cheng seemed surprised by my CS comparison but acknowledged the similarities with Nintendo's fighter. "Smash Bros. is definitely there. There was another game that we were making that had that Smash Bros. feel and we ended up not finishing that game. It's definitely there. But we wanted the cooperative thing to come in." To that end, Shank 2 allows players to revive each other and to watch each others' backs when disarming bombs or buying equipment.
Based of what I played, it's hard to imagine Cheng and his team at Klei will be forced into hock after Shank 2 releases. I wouldn't consider this a vastly different experience from the first game but it does feel a lot tighter, with more satisfying combat. The Survival mode is the sort of thing I could see myself booting up with another friend when the prospect of another 50 waves of Horde in Gears 3 is too daunting, and the sure to be ultra-violent campaign will definitely occupy a weekend or two. Shame it's still at least three months out. I suppose I'll have to satisfy my blood lust in other ways.
Last year's side-scrolling slice 'em up Shank is getting a sequel, EA and Klei Entertainment announced today. They're calling it Shank 2 and it's coming to PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade and PC early next year.
Shank 2 will add online co-op play—"multiplayer co-op survival" actually—and a revamped combat system. New weapons, new dudes to kill... the works, apparently.
"What we did was rip the game apart and reconstruct it to allow us to have more responsive controls and better graphics," said Klei Entertainment founder Jamie Cheng. "We tore our combat system apart... and created new controls to be able to use the enemies' weapons against themselves."
Your first look at Shank 2—in single-player and co-op—is in the gallery above. More to come.
I've yet to play a Deathspank game. I want to at some point, I just haven't gotten around to it yet.
But I'm not sure how this trailer for Deathspank's third outing, The Baconing, makes me feel. Actually, I know exactly how it makes me feel, which is kind of uncomfortable and a tad hungry at the same time. It's rather odd.
If queasy hunger and heroes in thongs are your thing, The Baconing will be out August 31st on the PSN (where you can save a bit of money), XBLA, PC or Mac.
If you've been neglecting the Playstation Network's downloadable offerings, then perhaps you'd like to drop by and take a gander at the Playstation Store's wares in the coming weeks as the first annual PSN P event kicks off. Beginning August 9, the Play lineup will highlight four new action games hitting the Network in the coming weeks, along with a few gifts thrown in for good measure.
Users who preorder any of the Play games will receive a free PS3 theme per preorder. "Hey, Kotaku!" you say, "Just how do I preorder a digital game? It's not I'm having it shipped to my house! " To which I would say that you were quite correct, and perhaps the word "preorder" is a bit of a misnomer (and it's not even proper English! But that's my own petty qualm). Maybe "preorder" in this instance should be, "deposit some money before hand and promise that you'll buy the game", and it's only called "preordering" because that's the name they gave the shiny new button on the PlayStation Store allowing you to do this.
Also worth noting, is that each game comes with its own unique gift for purchasing during the promotion that you'll only get for buying on day one, detailed below. In addtion, Playstation Plus members get these titles for 20% off. And if you buy all four, you'll get PAYDAY: The Heist absolutely free. Just make sure you turn eighteen first.
August 23: Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition – This highly-anticipated action-fighting title from Capcom features 20 playable characters, HD graphics, more than 200 pieces of unlockable content, more than 100 trials and more than 100 challenges. When Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition is purchased through PLAY, purchasers will be able to unlock GILL, the self-proclaimed god, without having to beat the game with every character, as day-one DLC. Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition will be $14.99 and will be available for pre-order through August 18. The independent Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition "T" for "TEEN."
August 30: The Baconing – The latest action-RPG title from Hothead Games features the popular hero, DeathSpank, in an attempt to defeat the Anti-Spank and his army of Cyborques before they cast an evil shadow over Spanktopia. Discover exciting new worlds and battle hordes of enemies as you search to unlock the secret within the Fires of Bacon. When The Baconing is purchased through PLAY, purchasers will receive an additional co-op character, Roesha – One Bad Mutha. The Baconing will be $14.99 and will be available for pre-order through August 25. The independent Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates The Baconing "T" for "TEEN."
September 6: BloodRayne: Betrayal™ – This 2D side-scrolling platformer from Majesco Entertainment features 15 bloodthirsty levels where Rayne attempts to infiltrate a treacherous castle, take out a fiendish horde and stop an evil vampire massacre. When BloodRayne: Betrayal is purchased through PLAY, purchasers will receive a BloodRayne: Betrayal virtual item for their PlayStation®Home avatar and an exclusive dynamic theme. BloodRayne: Betrayal will be $14.99 and will be available for pre-order through September 1. The independent Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates BloodRayne: Betrayal "T" for "TEEN."
September 13: Renegade Ops – This top-down, driving shooter from SEGA features a huge variety of vehicles, guns and endless enemies. The game features Sandbox-style missions, so there are many different ways to play. When Renegade Ops is purchased through PLAY, purchasers will receive a Vehicle & Character Pack with two new vehicles and special weapons. Renegade Ops will be $14.99 and will be available for pre-order through September 8. The independent Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates Renegade Ops "RP" for "Rating Pending."
Bonus Gift: PAYDAY: The Heist – This gritty, first-person shooter from Sony Online Entertainment lets players take on the role of a hardened career criminal executing intense, dynamic heists in constant pursuit of the next "big score." A voucher code for PAYDAY: The Heist will be provided as a bonus gift to players, ages 18 and older, that purchased all four PLAY titles, for redemption when the game releases. The game can also be pre-ordered separately starting September 20, 2011. PAYDAY: The Heist will be $19.99. The independent Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates PAYDAY: The Heist "RP" for "Rating Pending."
All in all, is this a sweet deal from Sony—or even that appealing coming right off the heels of XBLA's Summer of Arcade? Unlike XBLA's summer promo, none of the four marquee titles are system exclusives, and at press time, only Street Fighter 3 is confirmed to hit the PSN first—but only a day before. Is the focus on action titles scratching an itch somewhere for you? Sound off and let us know what you think— I personally have yet to try a Deathspank game (though I've always wanted to), and I'll probably pick up Street Fighter 3 (on the PSN a day before XBLA) because I'm pretty sure they can't update it any more than this. In accordance with this line of thinking, I plan to purchase whatever version of Street Fighter IV is available when Street Fighter V comes out.
There will be a new DeathSpank game this summer and it will involve a quest for the Fires of Bacon. It will also be a greatly improved follow-up to last year's downloadable DeathSpank adventures, two comedic riffs on Diablo.
Like Hothead Games' previous DeathSpank third-person action games, the new one will put players in charge of a silly self-important dope of a hero, the titular DeathSpank. Our hero spends his games beating up packs of bad guys who are mostly walking fantasy-genre jokes. He will gather loot, collect weapons and take many more odd jobs from odd characters.
The folks at Hothead gave us news of The Baconing early, and the normal course of action would be for us to take their info, cut out the boring parts and get to the meat of things. But at the risk of stretching a pun badly, we need to quote their press release extensively, to retain the flavor of this summer-scheduled downloadable game that's planned for PC and consoles:
DeathSpank returns for an all new adventure in The Baconing as he faces his most dangerous foe yet in the Anti-Spank as he tries to locate the Fires of Bacon. Players will settle in for the fun and familiar Monkey Island meets Diablo experience as the Vanquisher of Evil sets out to meet new acquaintances and some old friends in an all new science fiction post apocalyptic world with lots of exciting surprises, quests, puzzles and enemies.
Battle four all new bosses like the Minorque, fight alongside a new sidekick named Bob from Marketing, tame an all new insane level of difficulty and visit all new locations such as The Forbidden Zone, The Forest of Tomorrow, Barnacle Lake and others as you seek out to find the locations of the infamous Fires of Bacon to once and for all destroy the evil power of the thongs.
Enjoy the feel of countless gameplay improvements to the combat system. Dizzy enemies with the shield bash, deflect ranged weapons back at enemies and use devastating charged attacks to send a message to foes. Players will feel more in control of the battle situations than in previous DeathSpank games, providing gamers with opportunity and choice when engaging the enemies which stand in DeathSpank's way.
DeathSpank begins the game within the confines of the city of Spanktopia which will eventually lead him to the first opening boss fight with the Minorque…let the quests of Justice begin. Get ready for an all new and improved adventure with everyone's favourite Vanquisher of Evil in "The Baconing!"
New levels, new moves.... and Bob from Marketing.
The developers at Hothead tell Kotaku that this new game, which was made without the involvement of the lead character's creator, Ron Gilbert, should be more satisfying to play than last year's games. While the earlier DeathSpank adventures were funny, their enemy-bashing, loot-collecting gameplay got dull quickly. (It was their script and attractive cartoon graphics made them worth playing.)
For this new game, Hothead says players can expect smarter enemies who flank our hero and smarter enemy healers, who will strive to keep their hordes alive against the game's ridiculous hero. Combat areas will now include cover points for DeathSpank to hide behind. An internal document about the game states that "player's will now feel compelled to use tactics and strategy to defeat their opponent."
Hothead is promising more than 100 new quests, a new story, more than 70 characters (mostly new), more than 80 new weapons, new areas and a new, tougher difficulty level. They also, disturbingly, list the following special moves for the new sidekick, Bob From Marketing: "Laser eye beams; Eat dead bodies to restore health; Eat live bodies as an additional attack option." The main missing detail was co-op... it seems like it should be back, but Hothead hasn't said. We're checking with them and will update this story when we find out.
We wish we could show you how the new game looks, but Hothead hasn't coughed up any screenshots yet. You can expect to see more as the game's summer release approaches. For now, admire this photo of bacon.
(Looks like today is the day for new Hothead game news... they've also announced a new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game.)