Shacknews - John Keefer

Long-time G4 television personality Adam Sessler is leaving the network for future undisclosed endeavors in the gaming industry, according to his representative. His last episode of X-Play will air later today.

"Adam intends to stay in front of the camera and continue as a key voice within the games industry. He also sings and is available for weddings and bar mitzvahs," Sessler's agent, James Molesky, said in an email, although it was not specified what his next project would be. He will play himself in the upcoming movie, "noobz," this summer.

Sessler's first airtime was back in 1998 as part of ZDTV's GameSpot TV, which eventually became TechTV. Sessler was one of the few who survived the massive layoffs at TechTV when it merged with G4 in 2004. He has also done the Sessler Soapbox podcast, and Feedback with other G4 correspondents. Sessler has also served as EIC of games content at G4.

While Sessler is best known for his time at G4, he did catch the eye of plenty of non-gamers in 2010 when he appeared on a billboard in Los Angeles wearing nothing but a pair of Gunnar gaming glasses.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The Binding of Isaac's large-scale expansion pack is coming in late May for the price of $3, according to Team Meat. It will contain 50 percent more content in all, so that seems like a pretty good deal for the price.

A NeoGAF thread (via Eurogamer) compiles information about the expansion from various tweets of creator Edmund McMillen. In all the expansion will include more than 10 bosses, 100 items, 20 enemies, five ultra-rare pick-ups, 10 new challenges, and a new character, among other additions. That certainly fits the bill as a so-called mega expansion.

We know that The Binding of Isaac won't be coming to Nintendo platforms, but last we heard McMillen was targeting Sony for a port of the game.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The promised free second update for Gotham City Impostors has hit today, offering a new map, mode, and language options. The update was a bit of a surprise, since the announcement didn't come with a release date, but this may just draw some players back into the game.

The update includes a new map called the "East End," and a game mode titled "Bounty Hunter." In the new mode, fallen Impostors drop coins that can be collected by the opposing team for a temporary buff. But if you stick around your comrades, you can grab the coin first and deny it to the other team. Plus, your Impostors can now speak in French, German, Italian, or Spanish.

You'll be prompted automatically to download both the compatibility update and the content itself separately the next time you start up the game. It's free, so no reason not to grab it.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Larry, that smarmy little Lethario in a leisure suit, will be returning to your computer in reloaded form, thanks to developer Replay Games achieving its Kickstarter goal of $500,000 earlier today, with seven days still left in the campaign.

With the achievement in hand, creator Al Lowe can get cranking on Leisure Suit Larry HD, with the intention of getting the game on PC, MAC, iOS devices, PS3, Xbox 360 and just about any other platform that has a controller or touch device of some sort. Fans of the series have voted on getting more content in the game, depending on how far the company can get past its initial goal.

More details should be available once the final amount has been tallied, and you can still donate until May 2. In the meantime, have fun watching Lowe trying to make a few PSAs for the campaign:

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Shinji Mikami has shared more details on his upcoming game, codenamed "Zwei." The title is the first game at his new Tango Gameworks studio, and he's serving as executive director and getting hands-on with development. The code name, he says, has nothing to do with the game content.

Mikami shared the details in an interview with Japanese magazine Famitsu (via Andriasang). The game is survival horror, as Mikami says he's most adept at that genre -- which only makes sense as the man who created Resident Evil. The game is still early and platforms haven't been decided yet, but Mikami says it will probably land on HD consoles.

That may make development seem slow, but Mikami is looking to speed up production now that the planning stages are finished. He says he's looking to staff Tango now, particularly with programmers. ZeniMax is purportedly supporting the project as a publisher, and sharing ideas, but mostly leaving Tango to its own devices.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Despite assurances of continued development just last month, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 has been officially canceled. The silver lining to this cloud is that the team is pouring many ideas from the now-canned project into Survarium, a free-to-play MMO that the team calls "more ambitious."

Developer GSC Game World made the announcement through a series of tweets on its Twitter account. It has also already set up an official site and Facebook account for Survarium. The first tweet read, "despite no official continuation of Stalker 2. it looks like the ideas and spirit will live on in the team's new game - 'Survarium'."

Since then, other tweets have revealed a new studio (Vostok Games), which contains the entire team from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, to work on Survarium. The studio calls it "more than just an MMO," with the option of player versus the game world as in S2. The company promises a developer diary for Survarium later tonight, and a Q&A tomorrow to shed more light on the project.

So why is the project being dropped? "All those asking about funding etc. That is not the issue," a tweet reads. "We were unable to secure the IP rights to continue with the Stalker franchise."

More details are forthcoming, but in the meantime the newly formed Vostok Games has released a short video explaining the changes. At least, as much as possible in such a cheeky way.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Human Head Studios has been dropping hints of a Rune revival. Now that Prey 2 is likely pulled from the studio's slate, the company is being a little more overt about its hopes to bring back the franchise.

"I can't reveal what we've got planned, but we fully intend to bring digital viking mayhem into the here-and-now," Human Head co-founder Ted Halsted said.

Halsted told Neogamr that the recent Facebook poll was to "gauge fan excitement" and learn more about what aspects of the original game they enjoyed most. He says viking combat is "where Rune's heart beats."

He also suggests that the story of the sequel will focus on a more brutal Ragnar, since the end of days (Ragnarok) has come. It will still be a third-person action game, but Halsted says the combat is still "evolving." The company wants to make the game more like modern titles with more tactical options for the action. Plus, thanks to the fan support of multiplayer, he says it will focus on that aspect and clan features.

As for how the studio will fund the project, many guessed a Kickstarter fund was only a matter of time after the word broke of a possible feature. "We certainly wouldn't rule out Kickstarter," Halsted said. "As a developer, we're pleased that there's a wide variety of funding methods for modern projects, from Kickstarter to investors to the traditional publisher model."

While Human Head hasn't officially been taken off Prey 2, Bethesda's delay announcement was harsh, to say the least. It claimed the game had "not progressed satisfactorily" and "does not currently meet our quality standards." An anonymous source told us that the studio had stopped work on the game last November due to a contract dispute, which would leave plenty of time for pre-planning of a Rune sequel.

Apr 25, 2012
Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Following up on the imaginative work in its post-apocalyptic Steampunk world of Machinarium, Czech Republic-based indie developer Amanita Design has given birth to another memorable new world. Botanicula blends together a traditional point-and-click adventure with a world of oddball creatures to create an astounding experience.

Botanicula takes place on a lush tree filled with living plants and insects. Evil shadowy parasites are looking to suck the life out of the world's last seed. To stop them, five friends who aren't exactly what anyone would consider the blueprint for heroes join forces. There's a feathery flying insect, a mushroom, a poppy seed, an acorn-shaped bug, and a twig. Each of them has a unique ability that can useful depending on the situation.

Botanicula's narrative unfolds without the aid of text or dialogue. The story is told through a series of animated events, wacky gestures, and grunts and gibberish. Most of it is played up for laughs, yet the story remains coherent and compelling. Seeing the five friends panic wildly at the sight of a ferocious beetle conveys how dangerous the outside world is, yet maintains the game's lighthearted tone. It's not often that I see a well-told story without text-heavy dialogue, but Botanicula pulls it off without any trouble.

The point-and-click mechanics veer towards the traditional side of the genre. Interactive objects are easily identifiable with the mouse and almost all of them contribute to the main objective in some way. No red herrings to be found here. Much of Botanicula is spent on fetch quests in which the five heroes must find a number of objects that will help them proceed to the next chunk of the world. One of the game’s first objectives, for example, is to find five keys scattered in the area.

Searching for objects starts to feel repetitive, as evidenced by going from finding keys, to finding lost children, and then to finding birds. The game counters the potential onset of any doldrums with its astonishing art design and fresh instances of humor. The biggest laughs can be found after uncovering hidden scenes throughout the game. One such instance found Mr. Twig sticking his eye through a hole, only to find the creature inside ready to poke him in the peeper. The game employs several instances of this slapstick style of humor, especially once the main characters encounter civilization. These comedy bits, along with the accompanying sound effects and score by Czech band DVA, help make this game feel like an animated short.

Traveling through Botanicula's world is like wandering through an animated nature documentary. The game features dozens of plant and animal species, each reflective of their own unique nature. The game is at its best when focusing on exploration. Poking around could lead to creatures bursting into song or curiously looking at their surroundings. Thoroughly picking through every inch of space is encouraged, as each new species discovered yields a collectible card in reward. There’s enough wildlife to fill a zoo and trying to find them all is an enjoyable challenge.

Point-and-click enthusiasts will love what Botanicula brings to the table. The game's art style is truly something to behold. The vivid colors and imaginative creatures bring the nature-filled world to life, while also adding to the eye-catching dream sequences and flashbacks. Even with the ominous parasites occasionally making their presence known, this adventure is a lighthearted romp through a colorful world.

[This Botanicula review is based on a PC copy of the game provided by the publisher.]

Shacknews - Steve Watts

As promised, the demo for Dragon's Dogma has hit both the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. Capcom's whack at the action-RPG genre lets you sample two missions and the character customization features.

The two missions give you pre-set characters to slay monsters with -- the Fighter in a battle against a Chimera, and the Strider against a Griffin. Your tinkering with the character-maker doesn't impact your demo play, but you will be able to import your character and Main Pawn to the game once it releases.

If the sample convinces you to pick up Dragon's Dogma, you'll get another demo goodie: access to the Resident Evil 6 demo. However, that offer only extends to Xbox 360 players, and the demo won't come out until September.

Dragon's Dogma is coming to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on May 22. No PC version has been announced, but the company has hinted that enough demand could bring one to market. To that end, the Capcom forum thread requesting one is up to a whopping 56 pages.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Sega is cross-marketing its Total War games, by letting you download a free pack in Total War: Shogun 2 by playing the iOS title, Total War Battles: Shogun. Upon completing the campaign in the mobile game, you'll get a key-code to download the Sendai Clan Pack for Shogun 2 via Steam.

Playing as the Sendai in Shogun 2 gives you a few stat adjustments; you'll get +10 to diplomatic relations and a 2-turn reduction time surrendering castles, plus -1 resistance to occupation and -3 unhappiness from differences of allegiance. Not a bad trade-off as a free giveaway for finishing the mobile title.

Finally, the iOS game will be adding a skirmish mode sometime soon. This will let you pick a difficulty level and go straight into battle, complete with the full roster from the campaign mode and new legendary units. So once you have finished the campaign and cashed in your free DLC, you can keep battling without all that story getting in the way of the bloodshed.

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