Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

The Independent Games Festival (IGF) is a celebration of gaming's hidden gems. On March 27th, five games will compete to win the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. Every weekday until then, Shacknews will be highlighting a finalist, exploring what makes each game so unique.

This is one of the most humbling experiences I've seen in games. Richard Hofmeier's Cart Life tasks you with running a retail cart--albeit with a lot of personal baggage along the way. Whether you play as Melanie, a recent divorcee that lost her job, or Andrus, an immigrant in search of a new life, you'll have to overcome the struggles of everyday life as you try to scrape on by with your meager earnings.

Cart Life does a great job of conveying the stress of operating a cart, through timed exchanges, having to manually calculate and distribute change, and hilarious typing exercises that distill the banality of cart set-up. But, it's the human aspect that makes Cart Life so special.

As with all simulators, there is a certain addictive quality in maximizing profit, looking for growth opportunities, and operating the best business you can. But, don't forget that Melanie needs to pick up her daughter from school every day. Watch out for Andrus' cat, who must be hidden away from the motel operator. Don't forget to take care of your characters, as they must eat, sleep, and unwind with a drink and smoke (or two).

Although the cheerful chiptune music may mask it, Cart Life is an overwhelmingly heavy game that places a tremendous burden on your shoulders. There is hope for these characters, even if it means taking the bus, foregoing a meal, and worrying about paying your rent on time.

Cart Life is now available on PC. A freeware version is available direct from the developer. A special edition is available for $5 on Steam.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Ubisoft has released a few assorted Might & Magic games since it bought the series from the defunct 3DO in 2003, but the core RPG series that started the whole lot was left fallow. It's back now, though. Ubisoft today announced Might & Magic X Legacy and yes, it's still first-person and turn-based.

Might & Magic X will give you a party of four to adventure around with, battling monsters, delving into dungeons, plundering treasure, disarming traps, and all that classic RPG jazz.

The story follows on from events in Might & Magic Heroes VI, from the turn-based strategy side-series previously known as Heroes of Might & Magic. The city of Karthal is in political turmoil, or somesuch, and apparently "Your actions will determine the fate of the city."

The game will be on show at PAX East this weekend, so hopefully we'll learn more. Trailer!

Shacknews - Andrew Groen

This week, we are offering StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm multiplayer tips. Yesterday, we focused on the Zerg and their race-specific strategies. Today, we look at a few tips for playing the Terrans. Be sure to check out our single-player and multiplayer reviews for the game.

Create Walls: Every base has a ramp (or at least a choke point) that leads down from your base to the rest of the map. You can use two supply depots and a barracks to wall that area off and ensure that Zerg players can't destroy you with the dreaded Zerg Rush (ditto for Protoss Zealot rushes.) With supply depots in the way, the Zerglings will have to try to chew their way through while one or two marines slowly pick them off. If the Zerglings seem like they might get through, no problem, just bring a few SCVs over to repair the wall. Later in the game you can stall the enemy army by building a wall of supply depots at your expansions. These can be lowered to allow your army to pass, or raised to block the enemy.

Complement Marines and Marauders with Medivacs: The best tool a Terran player has in their arsenal is the Medivac. They both heal units and also provide a great transport option which you can use to drop your troops inside your enemy's mineral line. More importantly, they can be combined with the Stimpack ability to create an incredibly powerful force. Marines, Marauders, and Medivacs (called an MMM build) are the most popular Terran composition. Stim juices them up to do huge damage, while the Medivacs heal the damage they take.

Stutter Step Your Marines: If you let your marines stand still while shooting Zealots or Zerglings then they'll get eaten up quickly. You can extend their life by shooting, then quickly moving back a few steps, then shooting again (repeat forever.) Marines have a brief pause between their shots that you can use to put some distance between you and your opponent (without losing any of your damage output.). After targeting an enemy unit, right click to make your marine(s) run away. Then press "S" to make them stop. They'll automatically target the enemy unit that is in range. Run, stop, shoot. Run, stop, shoot. Master this maneuver and your marines and Marauders will be much more dangerous.

Check back tomorrow for tips on playing the Protoss, as well as some Heart of the Swarm-specific strategies.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

The wizards, warlords, Winter Orbs and Whippoorwhills of Magic: The Gathering are returning once again this year in a new downloadable Duels of the Planeswalkers game. This year's instalment, Magic 2014 - Duels of the Planeswalkers, is adding a new platform to its hand, coming to Android as well as PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

The 2014 iteration will bring 10 new decks, 15 new encounters, 10 new puzzles, and one mysterious new game mode. It'll have a sampling of the cardboard game's 2014 'Core Set' too.

Duels of the Planeswalkers, if you've missed it, is an adaptation of the immensely successful and staggeringly long-running collectible card game. It's faithful and provides enough Magic to scratch the itch of recovering addicts, but doesn't let you create your own decks from scratch. Instead, you unlock decks and extra cards to customise them by beating opponents.

The announcement trailer introduces Chandra Nalaar, one of the five planeswalkers who'll appear in the 2014 Core Set. It's fair to guess we'll see her and the others in DotP, then.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Ooh, I don't know, these comic books today, introducing new characters like there's no tomorrow. Why can't we stick with the characters we all know and love, like Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Krypto the Superdog, and Matter-Eater Lad. No, no, we need to introduce new people, apparently! So things will be with DC Comics fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us, but the DLC season pass announced today will at least offer four DLC characters for the price of three.

The $15 season pass will be available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at launch, but not Wii U. On top of the aforementioned yet unannounced four extra playable characters, you'll get the exclusive Flash Point Skin Pack with alternate costumes for Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Deathstroke.

Developed by the Mortal Kombat reboot gang at NetherRealm Studios, Injustice is coming to Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii U on April 16.

Hey, here's a recent trailer introducing the magical Raven:

Shacknews - Matt Cabral

Our last extended look at Beyond: Two Souls displayed the title's ability to deliver the sort of high-octane thrills ordinarily reserved for Jerry Bruckheimer films. From its foot chase atop a speeding train to its exploding gas station, the preview provided more adrenaline-pumping moments in a few minutes than Heavy Rain did in its entire running time.

During a recent visit to Quantic Dream's Paris studio, however, the highly cinematic game showed us a decidedly different side; one that yielded a surprisingly strong survival horror vibe, complete with monster-in-closet moments and the reveal of a potentially significant--and possibly supernatural--plot point.

Our hands-on session begins in a car, where stars Jodie Holmes and Nathan Dawkins (played by Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe) chat en route to some sort of top secret research facility. Sadly, we're unable to listen in because, well, Quantic won't let us; their conversation apparently contains major spoilers, so we're not allowed to put our headphones on until they've exited the vehicle and walked to the building. Despite the absence of audio, however, it's obvious the pair isn't out for a casual stroll; walking to the facility--which, by the way, is on fire--they pass heavily armed military personnel as well as some terrified-looking folks in hazmat suits.

At the entrance, Jodie appears to receive some encouraging words and a pat on the shoulder from Dawkins. The scientist then leaves, we're given the go-ahead to don our headphones, and Jodie enters the burning building. With a push of the left stick, we direct her toward an elevator, passing plenty of broken glass, blood stains, and sparking electrical fixtures along the way. The foreboding atmosphere is affective. So much so that we half expect a virally-infected canine to come crashing through a window, Resident Evil-style. When we arrive at the lift, we're introduced to what designer David Cage earlier in the day referred to as a "discreet, intuitive, fluid UI." Like Heavy Rain, Beyond incorporates a fully contextual interface. Unlike its predecessor's potentially immersion-breaking prompts, however, Beyond's inconspicuous cues won't be accused of pulling players from the experience.

The foundation of this seamless, streamlined control scheme is built on players simply doing what seems obvious or natural, with occasional guidance coming from tiny white dots placed near interactions. One such dot, for example, sits near the elevator's control panel; a push of the right stick toward the dot begins an interaction. In this case, we learn the elevator is stuck, leading us to call on Jodie's supernatural sidekick Aiden for help. A press of the triangle button puts us in control of the entity, while using the dual sticks controls the character and camera just as they would in a first-person shooter.

From this perspective, we push Aiden through the door and down to the jammed elevator car below. Upon passing a fresh corpse on the floor, we discover a crate's keeping the door from shutting. We lock onto the object with L1, then pull back and release the two sticks--sort of like shooting a slingshot--to knock the object out of the way. With the puzzle tackled, we again assume the role of Jodie and call the elevator. It still doesn't line-up perfectly though, so we use the DualShock's six-axis feature to trigger her jump down.

With a bit more help from the contextual dots, we access the laboratory level, where a seemingly dead guard uses his last breath to warn Jodie of the danger ahead. The moment provides a modest scare, but pales in comparison to what comes next. As Jodie passes through an air-locked hallway, which wouldn't look out of place among Doom's hell spawn-cluttered corridors, a corpse briefly rises in her wake. Shortly after this shock, she's confronted by the white-eyed stare of another ghastly figure peering through a window. We're told by the Sony rep overseeing our demo that these ghouls aren't zombies, but hallucinations used to convey Jodie's fragile mental state.

The corridor's exit door is locked, but we're again able to exploit Aiden's ethereal skills to pass through it and open it from the other side. Now in the bowels of the research lab, Jodie discovers a corpse and we're introduced to Aiden's ability to channel the last living moments of the dead. Upon aligning a pair of glowing blue orbs hovering above the body and then tethering them to Jodie, we see a flashback of the man's grisly end; the brief, black and white cinematic is difficult to decipher, but it's obvious his death was delivered with swift violence.

Following a short puzzle, which sees Jodie and Aiden collaborating to remove a ceiling grate and navigate a ventilation duct, we get a clearer picture of what felled this unfortunate victim. Now navigating a room engulfed in flames, we utilize our Aiden to tap into the final moments of a fireman's life. The potentially story-spoiling scene (you've been warned) sees the firefighter and his partner brutally slain by piercing tentacles; you know, the sort of snaking, spiky limbs usually used to scare our pants off in sci-fi horror films.

On top of this nightmarish reveal, the flashback displays the location of a fire extinguisher dropped by one of the men while having his ribcage rearranged by the ... monster? Leveraging this intel, we have Aiden push the object through a wall of fire, toward Jodie's feet. We extinguish the flames, but our progress is halted by a plate glass window. We toss a chair through the glass by gesturing the controller to the right three times, but we're told we could've also overcome the obstacle by having Aiden hurl a table through it.

We're asked to relinquish our headphones and controller just as a screaming man, engulfed in flames, flails and falls before Jodie. It's an abrupt end to a largely linear and directed demo. Its affective horror vibe, intro to fresh mechanics, and imagination-piquing narrative beats, however, already have us anxiously awaiting our next outer-body experience with Beyond.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Shooting men in the face can be fun but what if it hurts people's feelings, and why can't we be friends? Thankfully, Warframe has the answer: co-op missions against AI (which is probably not advanced enough to suffer distress). The free-to-play third-person shooter from The Darkness II developer Digital Extremes launched into open beta today, so we can all enjoy nice, safe face-shooting.

Warframe plops you into the eponymous Warframes, mighty ancient combat armours. They're essentially classes, each with different powers and attributes. In them, you'll go marauding around with your chums on missions, from raiding artifacts and wave defense to rescuing hostages and capturing VIPs. Along the way, you collect loot to upgrade and unlock stuff.

Monetisation will come from selling instant unlocks of, as far as I can tell from a quick look, upgrades, weapons and warframes which can mostly be unlocked slowly for free too.

Hit the official site for more information and to play.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

There isn't really a dearth of highly scripted linear first-person shooters. Yet, 4A Games manages to create something truly engrossing with its follow-up to Metro 2033. Metro: Last Light doesn't captivate by innovating--instead, it shines through sheer polish, offering best-in-class visuals, satisfying battles, and an intricately detailed world to explore.

Last Light takes place one year after the events of 2033, with Artyom once again looking for the Dark Ones. And although there is quite a bit of backstory to wade through, newcomers and fans alike will be able to instantly appreciate the unique setting of Metro--a post-apocalyptic world where nuclear war has forced Russian denizens to seek shelter in underground subway systems.

4A brings the Metro universe to life with absolutely stunning visuals--on a high-end PC, at least. (We didn't see the console versions demoed.) What really sells the experience isn't necessarily the tech, however. You can simply absorb the world by looking around. Pay attention, and you'll notice how everything in the world has been jury-rigged from garbage and scraps to accommodate humanity's new lifestyle. From gates to boats, humanity has come up with rather interesting solutions for living underground.

The world feels alive, and during your expeditions to the game's many towns, you'll feel tempted to simply watch how NPCs interact with one another. In one part of the game, you'll walk through a cabaret show. I saw one complete act, and decided to move on as the second act was beginning--but I wondered: how long could I have stayed there?

While it's easy to get tricked by life in the "streets" of the Metro underground, there's quite a lot of turmoil to deal with. Above-ground, nuclear fallout is responsible for horrifying mutants--and poisonous air that kills without an air filter. The irradiated fallout provides Metro some of its most exhilarating moments. As you traverse the destroyed Russian cityscape, you'll be constantly pressed for air filters. Lasting only a few minutes, the game forces you to be mindful--and incredibly resourceful, scavenging bodies and searching hidden corners for every last filter you can find.

Although there are some knuckle-biting moments fighting mutants, I found myself enjoying the challenge of fighting against human enemies far more. While the monsters overwhelm with brute force, the human opponents of Metro are much more cunning. The AI feels incredibly responsive to your actions. If you're ever detected, you'll see the AI moving foes into cover, looking for opportunities to flank you. As their numbers whittle down, you'll see them adjust their tactics. One time, I was especially impressed to see that two enemies were scanning the area with their flashlight, as they walked around backs against each other. Seeing the AI constantly engaging with new tactics makes combat utterly satisfying.

With a beautiful distopyian sci-fi setting, and an interesting mix of human and mutant enemies to fight, Metro: Last Light perfects the formula that Valve introduced in Half-Life. And given the studio's silence on Episode 3, Last Light may be the closest thing we'll get to a proper Half-Life follow-up. That's not meant as a mark against 4A's talent--rather, it's proof that Metro: Last Light is shaping up to be something rather remarkable.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

With PAX East kicking off tomorrow, half of this week's news has revolved around the expo organised by Penny Arcade, the games you can see there and the games you can play. Most fitting of all is the debut trailer, however, is the release of the debut trailer for Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4, the retro RPG created by the webcomic gang and made by Cthulhu Saves the World developer Zeboyd Games.

Zeboyd's going a bit more open-world and non-linear for its second entry in the series, which it took over from Hothead Games, with alternate routes and secrets. The studio also had a bit more influence on its story, as this time it wasn't already planned before it started.

This time around, you can recruit and train monsters to fight for you too. Gotta catch 'em all!

PAOTRSPOD4 is due to launch this spring on PC and Xbox Live Indie Games, priced at $5.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Hey, you! Have you played Natural Selection 2 yet? If you fancy giving the FPS-RTS a go, today's your lucky day, as it'll be free for all and sundry to try and play on Steam from this morning until Sunday. To put a cherry on top, developer Unknown Worlds is cutting the price by 50% for the weekend too, bringing it down to $12.50.

From 10 a.m. PT today, everyone will be able to download NS2 through Steam and play until 1pm PDT on Sunday. The 50 percent discount will run all the way through to 10 a.m. PT on Monday.

Unknown Worlds released NS2's biggest update ever at the end of February, so if you heard about the game during its long pre-order beta period or at launch, hey, it's a bit different now.

Here's an exciting new trailer to celebrate the event: