Shacknews - Asif Khan

Semblance is a platformer in the truest sense of the word. The developers at Nyamakop started working on the game as part of a school project and are now close to releasing the game a few years later. Ben Myres sat down with Shacknews at PAX East 2018 to talk about Semblance. One interesting tidbit from the interview is about the game's core deformation gameplay mechanic. "The game actually started from a glitch and a bug. We were making a game just about the character changing shape," said Myres.

Semblance's gameplay is truly unique for a platformer in an increasingly competitive landscape of 2D side-scrolling games. The game is slated for a 2018 release and we look forward to getting to play the full version.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

The Donkey Kong Country series knows exactly what it is and what it sets out to be. While it looks like a certain other Nintendo platforming series, the DKC games set themselves apart by being a tad more difficult. Retro Studios has fully grasped this and arguably peaked with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, a 2014 Wii U effort that is largely remembered for being one of the most difficult games to hit that console. Think of Donkey Kong as the anti-Kirby in that respect.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on the Nintendo Switch is more than a way to offer a few new bells and whistles on a game that a good chunk of the gaming public might have missed the first time in 2014. For the purposes of this review, it's a chance to look back at and see what four years of perspective have done to Retro Studios' second take on the DKC license. And while many of Shacknews' original criticisms on the game still stand, some of the game's more artisitc elements have aged pretty well.

Getting Funky

The biggest addition to the Switch version of Tropical Freeze is Funky Kong. He's not just in charge of a shop this time around, but he's the face of his own difficulty level.

Funky Mode is far more forgiving than the game's normal mode. It's more than just giving each of the Kongs an extra heart, which is critical in boss battles that last for multiple phases. It's the ability to control Funky Kong, who has five hearts available to him. On top of a double jump and the ability to withstand spikes, Funky can also roll for an unlimited period and swim underwater without running out of air. This makes the game much more accessible to newcomers and novices and should make the game a little easier. Funky is especially useful in the later game, with its abundance of underwater sequences. He's also fun for veterans who want to go crazy and try to roll across levels at a faster pace.

But even with all of those assists available, Tropical Freeze isn't just about withstanding enemies. It's a tough-as-nails platformer and the game still proves to be challenging, even with the Funky Mode assists. Players need to be careful about making jumps, timing their barrel blasts, and also be able to withstand the occasional troll. One example saw me taking my sweet time aiming my barrel cannon, so a tree literally fell on the cannon and crushed me, forcing me to try again.

Also, no amount of assists can help with some of Tropical Freeze's most difficult stages: the vehicle levels.

Slipping on a Banana Peel

While Tropical Freeze adds a few new helpful features, this is basically the 2014 game ported over, warts and all. That means a lot of the more aggravating elements of the original Tropical Freeze will be present.

Getting the biggest issue out of the way first, mapping multiple functions to the same button can be a huge pain. There have been several instances where I'd try and toss an enemy, only to drop it and instead roll to my doom. Similarly, I would try and ground pound an area quickly, only to have my Kong start rolling off a nearby cliff. With multiple buttons available, especially on the Switch Pro Controller, it doesn't make sense to have the X/Y, A/B, and ZL/ZR buttons perform the same functions. The lack of customized controls really hurts here, especially when they can lead to cheap deaths. Tropical Freeze provides more than enough cheap deaths on its own without finicky controls to help on that end.

Then there are those aforementioned vehicle stages. The minecart stages are a staple of the series and while there are some inconsistent hitboxes that can be frustrating, the minecart stages are what they are at this point. They're hard, but doable. The rocket barrel stages, on the other hand, still handle about as gracefully as a monkey navigating a shopping cart. The rocket barrel flying out of control is almost unavoidable given the controls, which require players to frequently tap the jump button, but not too many times or else the barrel will slam into the ceiling. Instant deaths are a certainty with this thing, just because of the controls and how unresponsive the barrel can be. It's impossible to swerve out of the way of sudden objects and it's impossible to maintain any kind of steady course.

In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle

While Tropical Freeze can be a test of patience, the fact that much of the game looks gorgeous makes it a test worth enduring. The Kongs themselves are crisply detailed, as are all of their high-def surroundings. All of the environments are rendered beautifully, accompanied by both classic new tunes and remixes of old DKC favorites. Some of the stages even work in tandem with the background music, like an early World 3 stage that has ropes bouncing up and down and dancing to the beat of the music.

There are also several stages that experiment with different ideas. There are levels that use a more indie-style art aesthetic, with the Kongs rendered in basic greens and yellows. Other stages have the Kongs running around in the background. Certain minecart stages will have players rolling down a spiral path, with the camera making sure to pan over to incoming objects from the background.

One of my favorite elements of the DKC series has always been trying to get off the beaten path and explore and that's all here in Tropical Freeze. All of the stages have either bonus stages or secret exits that open up entirely new areas. The bonus levels often contain some of the game's more interesting elements, like a stage with a different art style or a chance to run wild with Rambi, making them feel like they're worth hunting down.

Tropical Vacation

Tropical Freeze isn't perfect by any means, but having run through it a second time, I feel like it's aged well in the last four years. The challenge can be soul-crushing, but it's satisfying to finally make it across that one jump or beat that one boss. There are enough tools available to make the journey a little bit easier this time around, but not so much to completely diminish the challenge outright.

Tropical Freeze won't stand with the all-time great DKC games, but it's a perfectly fun romp through Donkey Kong's island in its own right.


This review is based on a download code provided by the publisher. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will be available in retail and digital stores on May 4, 2018 for $59.99. The game is rated E for everyone.

Shacknews - Sam Chandler

Sea of Thieves has received its first update for the month of May, Update 1.0.6, and the patch notes cover a whole lot of juicy morsels for pirates to sink their teeth into. Included in the update is new stock for many of the vendors, a handful of fixes, and a little nerf to Merchant Voyage farming.

Sea of Thieves Patch Notes 1.0.6

This latest update has gone live, despite the server still being down as of this writing, so keen players can begin installing the new bug fixes and content in anticipation for when the servers switch back on. For those on PC having some difficulties getting the update, check out our guide on how to update Sea of Thieves on PC.

Download Sizes:

  • Xbox One: 1.36GB
  • Xbox One X: 1.36GB
  • Windows 10: 1.25GB

Customization Variety

  • Regional Stock - Shopkeepers in different regions now only stock certain item sets, due to some mistimed deliveries.
  • Strike a Pose - We’ve expanded our clothing range to include the Executive Admiral, Grand Admiral, Rotten Bilge Rat, Castaway Bilge Rat, Corsair Sea Dog, Ruffian Sea Dog and Imperial Sovereign sets.
  • Ship Shape - Multiple sets of ship cosmetics have been added to the shipwright stock. Now you can purchase and equip Grand Admiral, Castaway Bilge Rat, Ruffian Sea Dog and Imperial Sovereign ship customisation sets.
  • Ohh, Shiny! - Visit the weapon shops at the many outposts to find their stocks of Grand Admiral, Castaway Bilge Rat, Ruffian Sea Dog and Imperial Sovereign weapons. Fancy a new weapon style? We’re sure one of these will take your fancy!
  • “Launch Crew” Eye of Reach - In celebration of being at sea for a month, we've added a special weapon to the store. This limited edition item will only be available for two weeks, so grab yours while you still can at a very reasonable price of 1 Gold

Updates

  • Tutorial Invulnerability - Players are no longer invulnerable during parts of the Tutorial when first launching the game. This should resolve confusion around players seemingly being invulnerable at outposts. We take all reports very seriously, so please log a Support Ticketand we will investigate further.
  • Skeletons Accuracy - When shooting cannons from islands at long distances, Skeleton accuracy has been reduced. We read your feedback that it was a little extreme... #SkellyOP!
  • Merchant Voyages - It is no longer possible to force Merchant voyages to request delivery to a specific outpost. Now you'll have to earn your cheddar.
  • Sneaky Climbing - The bell on the small ship has been moved to the other side of the ladder, to avoid accidental ringing. We're redecorating! With the Ammo Crate and Bell moved, what are we moving next?

Fixed Issues

  • [PC Only] Rebinding to the F key will no longer soft lock the radial.
  • This has been a top reported issue to Support, and we believe this is now resolved. If you are still encountering issues with this rebind locking the screen, please log a Support Ticket and we will investigate further.
  • Stow and Disengage can now be rebound to the same button on a controller
  • Incorrect company icons will no longer be displayed for a split second if trying to get reputation from two different Trading Companies.
  • Joining a dead player whose ship is parked at an active Skeleton Fort will no longer prevent the joining player’s radials from being opened.
  • Recent Players list will no longer be delayed in updating players from other crews.
  • Hunter of Cursed Crews and Hunter of Fort Skulls Commendations now track.
  • Voyage inventory message is now translated when there are no voyages in the inventory.
  • Loot items can no longer be dropped behind the Captain’s table on the small ship when trying to place them on the table.
  • Ships’ ropes now cast shadows on the deck.
  • Musical instruments can now be used immediately after interacting with parts of the ship.
  • [PC Only] Half Vsync option now works as intended.
  • Resolved an issue which could cause players to fail to migrate and remain on low population servers.

Performance Improvements

  • Repetitive actions from players will no longer impact the network stability for other players.
  • Frame rate lock option is no longer disabled when vsync is enabled.
  • Significant reductions in time taken to return from the Ferry of the Damned.
  • Images in all Chests now load gracefully when browsing.
  • Multiple server crash fixes. Further improvements and optimisations for all platforms are ongoing.

These notes come direct from the Sea of Thieves Release Notes page, which also includes a little foreword from the developers. Probably the biggest takeaway from this update is the inclusion of more cosmetic gear for players to work toward, which is important given the horizontal progression that is deeply ingrained in Sea of Thieves.

Players who were abusing Merchant voyages will find that it’s become a little more difficult to reach Pirate Legend, which is a shame given how tough it can be to level the Merchants. However, this update comes at a time when players are anticipating The Hungering Deep, Sea of Thieves’ first large content update that will include all new activities for players to experience. It could solve some of the grind when it comes to the later stages of reaching Pirate Legend. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on a release date.

These updates have been extremely regular and the team over at Rare seem to keep on top of community feedback and communication. Hopefully this will draw in some new players, and perhaps even convince some sea sick pirates to get back into Sea of Thieves in May.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Even though Apocalypse was the final expansion for Battlefield 1, EA and DICE still have more content planned for the future. That means it's a good time to jump in on DICE's throwback World War I shooter. For those who decide to do so on the Xbox One, there's a special offer currently in place for the game's first DLC.

As part of the latest round of weekly deals, Battlefield 1's They Shall Not Pass DLC is going for absolutely free. This is the first of the Battlefield 1 DLC packs, so this is for anyone who's just adopting Battlefield 1 for the first time or those who have managed to hold off on buying any of the game's DLC packs.

They Shall Not Pass includes four maps, new tanks, and the Frontlines game mode, which is a cross between the Conquest and Rush modes. Players also get access to the French Army.

For those interested in more of the Battlefield 1 package, Battlefield 1 Revolution, which contains the base game and all of the DLC packs, is currently on sale for $15.

The Battlefield 1 Revolution sale will last through next week, while the They Shall Not Pass DLC free offer is set to run through May 15.

For those looking to go a little more old-school, the Battlefield 4: Dragon's Teeth DLC is also going for free from now through May 15.

Shacknews - Asif Khan

QuakeCon is one of our favorite events of the year at Shacknews and it is coming back to the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center on August 9-12. The organizers had previously announced that the BYOC (Bring-Your-Own-Computer) area wouild be twice the size. Sadly, we haven't head much about registration, until a tweet from the official QuakeCon Twitter account yesterday.

QuakeCon attendees can make room reservations at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center by calling 1-817-778-2000 or going online to: https://aws.passkey.com/e/49568787. A special room rate of $185 per night is available when you reference QuakeCon 2018, but you still have to wait and see if you will be able to land one of the coveted BYOC spots. 

As always, keep it locked into Shacknews for all your QuakeCon news. We will be attending the event again this year and will keep our readers updated on QuakeCon 2018 registration news as it breaks.

Shacknews - Brittany Vincent

Nintendo has always been about offering new and inventive ways to look at things, and its latest offering, Nintendo Labo, is no different. The concept is unique, to say the least: A series of Nintendo Switch-based peripherals that, instead of being cast out of plastic like all those Wii Sports toys you remember seeing everywhere, are made out of cardboard. The kicker is that you build them all yourself.

Yes, that means you're paying for a box full of cardboard sheets, the special Nintendo Switch cartridge required to help you learn how to build each item, and the miscellaneous odds and ends like rubber bands and string to bring it all together. While it may sound like a lazy cash grab to some, it's a world of possibilities for others, especially anyone looking for creative ways to interact with their family or learn a little more about coding and maker-themed gaming on their own. Labo is an interesting monster, and one that will continue evolving into bigger and better things as time wears on.

Out of the Box

There are currently two Nintendo Labo kits you can purchase at present: the Variety Kit and the Robot Kit, both which need to be bought separately. The Variety Kit includes five projects: two RC cars, a piano, a motorbike (two "handlebars"), a house, and a fishing rod. The Robot Kit is a lot bigger project that requires a lot more doing, as it's a far more challenging process to complete than any of the smaller toys in the Variety Kit. It comes with enough materials to make a backpack-like device that hooks up to your hands and feet by way of string so that you can control a giant robot on-screen. If it sounds frustrating, know that it absolutely is -- and this could be the make-or-break moment for some users if they happened to begin with this project first. It will absolutely wear on you, as it did me, but it's the most nuanced of the Labo projects and one of the coolest things to show others when you've finally gotten it completed. 

The Variety Kit is the easiest to put together and the most appropriate for solo players or anyone looking to add kids into the mix. It starts life out as a set of cardboard sheets with perforated patterns that you need to punch out. This is where you need to be careful, because even though you're dealing with cardboard, it's not the most durable thing I've ever worked with. If you're planning on making these projects with kids, you'll want to supervise their cardboard-punching -- and even your own, because if you're not careful, that's a project ruined. Same goes for the items like rubber bands, grommets, and other miscellaneous bric-a-brac necessary to put these items together. Lose any of them, and you'll be in for a frustrating afternoon, unless you've got a suitable replacement or easy access to a replacement kit.

Give Me Some Variety

When you have all your cardboard items punched out, you simply need to follow along with the Switch's instructions -- that's where the game card comes in. It serves as your guide to putting together all the pieces as you make your way through the kit. The Switch software acts as an interactive model of what you're attempting to do with the cardboard, including panning, zooming, and pinching to see more of what isn't immediately clear with the Joy-Con controllers or touch screen. The Switch component makes for an excellent guide, with clear and concise instructions, so at no point will you be fumbling around thanks to the Switch or the directions given.

No, if you mess up, that's on you. Popping out, folding cardboard, and assembling it in the correct fashion is where things get a little frustrating. Some projects, such as the RC car, can take 20-30 minutes on your first try to assemble, but if you're spending time with kids expect that it could take far longer. The entirety of the Variety Kit can even take an entire afternoon if you're not handy with cardboard or paper or you have guests who can't pay attention very well. But your mileage will certainly vary, and some the most frustration can come from simply trying to build things when you're just not great at it. The bottom line is, not everyone is good with things that require them to be handy. And while it's not difficult per se to build Labo projects, it can be frustrating, and it can certainly be time-consuming.

But when it all comes together and you test out the adorable yet functional Labo toy piano for the first time or watch the RC car you made on your own rattle across the floor, you're filled with a sense of accomplishment that's not easily matched. Even if there's a sense of frustration that comes along with some of the projects, there's also pride that goes along with it, because you've crafted something of your very own. Sure, it came from plans and schematics that you needed to follow, but you assembled it, and that's something worth celebrating. After spending the better part of a day doing my best to get the Robot Kit up and working, I can tell you from experience that it was a monumental achievement, or at least it felt like one. If you ever need to embark on a day-long journey that's guaranteed to come with some gratification at the end, then set out to create the Robot and see how fantastic you feel at the end of it all. It's a haul, and if you come out at the end of it alive, you're going to feel like a champ. 

Tinkering Around

Unfortunately, building your Toy-Con projects and the robot are the main focus of the entire Labo collection thus far, as the games that you can actually play with them are small, largely uninspired arcade-type experiences that don't have much longevity. You're not going to want to leave your RC cars built, for example, to watch them continue to putter around the room.

The appeal is very obviously in the fact that these are creations you put together on your own, not the fact that you can play short games with them. The Toy-Con house, for example, pays host to a mini game where you take care of a small animal, depending on what you attach to the house. There's bowling and racing with mine carts, but neither feel like fully-fledged games at all. The motorcycle game is a little cooler, but given its small selection of race tracks (though you can scan in items to create your own) and short length, you'd be better off playing a racer on the Switch. The fishing rod got me the most mileage in terms of gaming, but the Toy-Con Piano gave me the biggest smile aside from the Robot, which was more of a few minutes of clomping around my living room and scaring my dog.

Luckily, there's a lot more to Labo than what comes prepackaged with the set. The Toy-Con Garage is the coolest part of the entire set, and undoubtedly what will keep players coming back for more long after the honeymoon period with these cute little iniquities comes to an end. The Toy-Con Garage lets you make your own creations via the Labo's node-based programming language. It takes some getting used to, but as you crack it open and learn the ins and outs of the language, the world becomes your oyster. You can reprogram existing Toy-Con projects, create your own objects, and more. The sky's the limit, so long as you know what you're doing, and that's what will ultimately keep Labo owners on board.

Making Your Own Fun

Nintendo Labo isn't perfect, but it's certainly on the right track, especially when it comes to getting kids interested in coding and science. Adults will breeze through some of the projects, but others are ridiculously challenging and can take up most of the day, which means you definitely get your money's worth with both sets. Kids who can stay on task will get to play with their own custom creations, and parents can be happy that their children are learning important skills along the way.

I'd love to see more of Labo coming down the line, in the form of new kits and even cooler ideas as the year wears on, but I'm still reeling over what a great job I did getting through it all and running the gauntlet with its debut products. If Nintendo can tweak the included games to make a more substantial set of electronic components, Labo will evolve into a near-perfect experience. The adult in me is totally here for that. The kid in me, however, just wants more fish to catch. 

Shacknews - Brittany Vincent

The return of the original Xbox controller is here. The "Duke," as it's known, is finally back on the market, and you can welcome it into your hearts and homes as of today. Created by Hyperkin for both Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs, it's a licensed controller, and the first one ever to display a classic Xbox design and logo. If you didn't preorder one when the controllers went up for grabs a few months ago, hopefully you'll be able to snag one now, because this baby is a beast. It's been two years since confirmation that the Duke would be coming back, and now it's time to hail to the king.

“It’s a bizarre experience, to see a joke on Twitter become a real product,” said "father of the Xbox" Seamus Blackley. "Seeing all these gamers so truly happy to get the new Hyperkin Duke is pretty goddamn superb.” You can see the controller in action below. It's glorious, and it's about time we see it back in action. 

What's not superb, however, is the fact that there seems to have been a customs delay when it comes to some of the GameStop shipments. If you happened to nab your controller via GameStop, you may not have it in your hands today -- that's what happened to me, with GameStop touting that the product won't be out until May 15, so take from that what you will. Instead of celebrating a happy moment today, Blackley has been fielding angry tweets from upset customer wondering where their Duke is. 

So if you're waiting around for your Duke to arrive, it looks like you're not alone, and hopefully the problems that arose with GameStop preorders are resolved soon. In the meantime, you can still purchase a controller via Microsoft, so head on over and see if you can procure one here. Hurry though, because these won't last long.

Shacknews - Brittany Vincent

Sometimes, it's what you can't see that kills you. In the case of Tiny Bull Studios' Blind, you take up the role of a woman who's lost her sight as she's forced to face her darkest fears, all the while using echolocation as a means for survival. Of course, it appears this woman wasn't born blind, but she ends up waking up in a strange room and discovering that she can no longer see. I can think of few more unnerving situations, and that's just the setup.

Similar to the game Perception, Blind finds you wandering around the strange new area you find yourself in using sound waves that only reveal object outlines for a brief few moments. With the "Warden" around to tell you where to go, you need to navigate a mysterious mansion, solve the many puzzles it houses, and then face off against a so-called "worst enemy," though there's no indication as to what that may be. I hope it's not a nest of spiders.

The VR-only title began life during 2014's Global Game Jam, which hosted a competition for developers using the theme "we don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." From there, after winning several awards, the prototype was shown off at GDC 2014 and picked up by indie label Surprise Attack Games.

If Blind looks like your cup of tea (get it?) it'll be available later this year for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, OSVR, and PlayStation VR, with about four or five hours of narrative-driven puzzle gameplay. Just don't expect a seeing eye dog to help you out of this predicament.

Shacknews - Charles Singletary

Welcome to Happy Hour, our new Twitch gaming talk show. The show normally airs on Mondays and can be viewed in a VOD after we go offline. This week, the gang chats about Tomb Raider, State of Decay 2, Atari VCS, Call of Juarez, and more while playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Join the Shacknews TeamSpeak server if you'd like to get in on the action. We are going live at 7 PM ET on the Shacknews Twitch channel. Check it out!

Watch live video from Shacknews on www.twitch.tv

Did you know that the Miramar map is coming to PUBG on Xbox One?

Shacknews - Brittany Vincent

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