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Yuke's Niche-s Its Way Into North America, Puzzle Fans

September 3, 2007 12:04 AM |

- Over at Gamasutra late last week, our new Features Editor, Christian Nutt had a chance to talk to Ken Koyama from Yuke's North American office - and it's pretty interesting to see the Japanese firm, "best known in the U.S. as the developer of the massively popular WWE Smackdown vs. Raw series for THQ", make a move into the States as a niche publisher - thus far debuting the relatively unsuccessful (as far as I know?) D1 Grand Prix.

The company was promoting its DS puzzle title Neves, which is 'seven' backwards, and is a tangram-based game licensed from Hanayama Toys, who first debuted 'Hanayama Lucky Puzzle' in 1935 - old school 'casual games' from way back - Koyama notes: "We have exclusive licensing with Hanayama, and they have a whole line of puzzle games that we could probably bring over to the DS."

Also notable is the possibility of Yuke's publishing anime-licensed titles it's created in Japan, like Berserk and Armored Trooper Votoms ("We're trying to see what we can do and what we can bring over"), as well as some honesty about why the company isn't located on one of the coasts ("One of the reasons we're in Chicago is based in the fact that the cost of living -- the amount of rent and stuff like that -- is a lot cheaper in Chicago than it is in like the West coast, or in New York. Obviously, that played a role for us to be in Illinois.") Neat interview.

Achtung! An Impending Wave Of Lumines DS/PSP Ripoffs!

June 28, 2007 4:02 PM |

- One of the cool things about the relative accessibility of Sony's PSP and Nintendo's DS is that you get some pretty sophisticated 'homebrew' programming for them, and even indie developers and publishers can make and release games.

But one of the issues with that low-budget 'clones' can quickly spring up, and European publisher Xider just put out a press release about an absolutely shameless (pictured) one, Luminator for DS - the catchy sounding 'Spieleflut.de' has more screenshots of the game.

The press release reveals: "XIDER Games will be making its first venture into the Nintendo DS format with Luminator DS, a puzzle-strategy game with a modern soundtrack and updated Tetris-style play which will banish your Rubik’s Cube to the attic permanently... Construction combos are needed as the player aims to turn their building blocks into valuable points... Luminator DS offers the player a constantly evolving challenge with two difficulty levels in ‘normal mode’ and three in ‘puzzle mode’, plus music to add tension and enhance enjoyment."

But come on - in what way can Xider think they can get away with this? The screenshots clearly reveal that the game even has similar style block designs and the horizontally moving 'scan thing' from the original PSP version of the most excellent Tetsuya Mizuguchi co-created puzzle game. And then there's the small matter of the first 5 letters of the title being 'accidentally' the same. So I'm presuming someone will do something about this.

- Anyhow, I was most of the way through finalizing this post when I noticed Got Game's PSP title 'Puzzle Scape', which has already shipped to stores, and boy, it's another borderline iffy Lumines clone/ripoff. As the publicity page explains:

"Escape to block-busting puzzles and pulsating beats in this exciting new puzzle game for your PSP system! Be entranced by brilliant, interactive evolutionary backgrounds from cells to dream-like landscapes in four unique themes over 40 levels. Level by addictive level, unlock fresh colors and luscious beats in either time and goal-oriented play or score-oriented play."

So nothing at all like Q's puzzler, then? Although having said that, as the Finnish creators at Farmind explain in an interview: "You manipulate the blocks that have already landed (not the ones that are falling) by swapping them horizontally. You must build a 2x2 square of blocks of the same color to explode them. If you add more adjacent same-colored blocks, they will create a chain reaction and explode as well." So there is at least a slight twist on the action - does that make it fair enough? Hmm.

Survival Horror For DS Infiltrated By Renegade Kid

June 8, 2007 6:19 PM |

x.jpg Just posted at sister site Gamasutra today, an intriguing interview with Austin-based indie DS developers Renegade Kid, which has just signed to publisher Gamecock with a very interesting-looking 3D survival horror game, Dementium: The Ward.

It really does seem like they're doing neat things with the hardware, as co-founder Jools Watsham (obviously adept with the ol' assembly language from old school days!) explains: "One thing that is really interesting are the dynamic lights, which fade off into and out of certain areas, particularly with the flashlight, which offers a great contrast. There is also this idea of fog, which adds a degree of atmosphere. We have some nice moody lights in there as well. Talking about the flashlight, we were amazed when we got that working... you can really light up enemy characters. It's all dynamic."

Watsham's comments also show handsomely how the rise of the DS helps the rise of the indie developer (albeit a higher-end indie developer than just a 'bedroom programmer', perhaps): "Generally speaking, the average DS game can be created by a team of 4 to 8 people. This of course depends on your timeline for the game, or how ambitious it is... We have 3 core staff and 5 outsourced. The thing to remember is that those outsourced members didn't come on until about half way or third of the way into the project."

What Happens After A Game Ends? Nothing

June 7, 2007 6:42 AM |

x.jpg The folks at The New Gamer have been musing on life after completing Puzzle Quest - or rather more specifically, life trudging around the game world purgatory after the final boss has been defeated in the super-addictive title.

Writer G. Turner explains of the DS version: "The credits roll, and you continue on, searching for some real closure, a real battle or some sort of finality to the tale. And then you end up in my predicament: Endlessly roaming the monster-strewn lands, clinging to arbitrary landmarks like level numbers, town capture counts, et-cetera – constantly marching across the landscape looking for something of substance... I keep hoping that, finally, my character will have some complete and utter impact on the lands, that all those I've interacted in will pronounce the lands free of evil, free of conflict and that they can finally live their lives in peace."

Wow, this sounds like a downright karmic bummer: "I don't like putting down games because of apathy or attrition. I much prefer doing so because the game knows better. The creators draw a line in the sand and say 'You won't get much more from here on out. It's time to let go.' But Puzzle Quest instead simply piled on side-quests and menial objectives, hinting at something more, something that might bring the lands together or weave all of the subplots together in a brilliant final scene, or even simply transform the map in some manner." Instead we're somewhere, out there...

GameSetJapan: Vicious Microbe Wars Hit The DS

May 28, 2007 8:11 PM |

- Import store NCSX continues to reveal some fascinating and fairly obscure DS games coming out of Japan, and the latest is called 'Kurikin: Nano Island Story', and is, we kid you not, a microbial life combat game, apparently created by Media Kite.

NCSX explains of the title: "Wee beasties are on the rampage and it's your prerogative to make sure they are marshaled properly to destroy other wee beasties. In the early missions, players control masses of nano creatures known as "kin" that look like dispersions of dust on the touch screen. The top display features a magnified examination of the kin, some of which look like paramecium while others look like clams with movable shells. To send the beasties into war, scribble a circle around them and then swish the stylus in a direction to mobilize them against enemy forces. "

What's more, you have to watch the solution you're swimming in to get an idea of battle tactics, apparently: "Similar to actual microbial life forms, the kin in the game are affected by temperatures and PH level. Some kin do better in warmer temperatures than others while an alkaline PH may lower the viability of certain kin." This is probably a bit quirky for Western release, but that's a shame, because it sounds pretty intriguing.

Wander Around Disney Parks For DS 'Pirates' Booty?

May 22, 2007 12:08 AM |

- Disney is getting _really_ interesting in the game space recently, and here's the latest example from the House Of Mickey:

"Timed to the release of the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End video games, Disney Interactive Studios announced today a partnership with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to release exclusive content for the upcoming Nintendo DS video game at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort."

Specifically: "Beginning May 22 with the release of the video game, Disney park guests who bring their Nintendo DS and a copy of the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End DS video game with them during their visit can download new video game content at specific "X-marks-the-spot" hotspots hidden near the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions. This download unlocks new content such as unlimited health and "savvy," as well as fun extras, including additional costumes. This special content is only available to Disney park visitors and can be accessed with a Nintendo DS."

Personally, I love the idea of wandering around a Disney park with my DS to get extra content in specific places, especially if that content can only _ever_ be unlocked that way and it's cool and bonus. Not sure about unlocking 'cheats' that way like unlimited health - that seems a bit potentially game breaking. But hey, as long as the extra costumes are neat and the game itself is decent, I'm not complaining. More ideas like this, please!

Descend Swirling Into The DS Maelstrom

May 3, 2007 9:21 AM |

- Over at The2Bears, they've spotted a cool piece of DS homebrew, called Maelstrom DS, and clearly an abstract 3D tribute to classic arcade title Tempest.

Excerpting from the tech information: "Much of the code for MaelstromDS is the same as that in the original GBA version, the major change being that the DS has 3D hardware built in, and therefore there is no need for the code to transform the scene into 2D lines. Additionally, the view can be moved by touching and dragging the screen."

What's more: "Finally, the transparency of the outside of the tunnel is achieved by drawing the tunnel twice. Once with the polygons set to solid and the front faces drawn, then with the polygons set to half transparent and the back faces drawn. This is necessary because the DS cannot correctly handle multiple transparent polygons drawn on top of each other." Cute tech information, fun title!

Why Animal Crossing Is Shenmue Without The Plot!

May 1, 2007 3:04 PM |

- So, we've started a new feature over at our GameCareerGuide.com educational site, which includes analysis of the design of major titles from interesting folks. The first one is an in-depth analysis of Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS from the saintly (and just slightly crazy) Eric-Jon Waugh.

It's actually called 'Ambition And Compulsory Design In Animal Crossing', and here's a brief extract: "Animal Crossing is sort of an anti-game - if by "game" we're talking about a goal-oriented production where you collect 100% of the allotted trinkets before blowing up the last boss real good. Or if we're thinking of a sandbox, where the player is left unsupervised to conduct middle school science experiments with a game's reality. Neither is this a "god game", where you're given an omnipotent and omniscient overview of a certain scenario - resulting in a sort of a sandbox through a telescope."

"The best way I can think of to explain Animal Crossing, strictly in modern videogame terms, is Shenmue without the plot. This isn't a minor distinction, though the reasons aren't as straightforward as they sound. In Shenmue the plot serves as a vague MacGuffin, creating a cognitive dissonance in the player between what knowledge of videogame law and the protagonist's sense of honor (a fun parallel, that) compels the player to do, and what alternative paths the gameworld thrusts before the player." The full piece is lots more 'wacky' fun along those lines!

Why Pogo Island Is An Interesting Exercise In Connectivity

April 30, 2007 5:20 AM |

- A relatively unheralded Nintendo DS release of recent weeks has been EA's multi-game puzzle title Pogo Island, in which you can "... Hone your skills at five classic Pogo games, including Poppit!, Word Whomp, Squelchies, Tri-Peaks Solitaire, and Phlinx."

The 'Pogo' of which this speaks is EA's tremendously successful casual game website - as I speak (8.10pm PST on a Sunday night) there's allegedly 261,000 people online), and, though the game itself is on the average side, featuring basic-looking DS versions of the Puzzle Bobble and Bookworm-style titles which are a big hit on Pogo - the points-based connectivity is very interesting.

As the IGN review notes: "For those who use Pogo.com, EA added a pretty cool ability to upload earned tokens from within the adventure to your [Pogo] account using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. This function links the DS game with the Web-based network in a limited fashion, but if you're always on Pogo.com trying to earn tokens to enter their weekly cash drawings, this is a nice way to bulk up your odds of winning the prize money."

Of course, the game itself isn't that hot, and none of the titles even have online multiplayer connectivity. But the idea of earning points on your handheld to do something on the web (or away from your DS), with information transfer via DS Wi-Fi, seems like a potent one - and for hardcore Pogo addicts, that alone may be enough to get them to go and buy EA's product. More of this, plz!

GameSetPics: Honeycomb Beat's Breakfast Goodness!

April 26, 2007 10:01 PM |

Sure, we at GSW get sent some strange promotional items from time to time, but this latest one - which came in a larger box filled with packing, and mystified us, soon sorted itself out as a cereal-based tribute to a recently released Hudson game for the Nintendo DS:

So this would be a custom breakfast food box for DS puzzle title Honeycomb Beat, in which you "...Solve puzzles by clicking on honeycomb tiles to match their color to the playfield." Actually, Konami/Hudson already sent us the game a few weeks back, but their authentic-looking cereal packaging is neat - and it really has honeycomb cereal inside (Post brand, for those intrigued).

Uhoh. Our dachshund Rollo has discovered the secret wrapped inside the mystery, like Charlton Heston in Soylent Green. Yep - 'Honeycomb Beat is EDIIIIIIIBLE!'.

OK, that's great. You can step away from the box, we've finished modeling it now, Rollo. Rollo? Rollo? (Frenzied crunching noises ensue.)

[Oh yeah, so this reminds me - if you'd like to send GSW relevant and/or weird stuff (games, books, CDs, promo stuff), here's our snail-mail address: GameSetWatch, c/o Simon Carless, CMP Game Group, 600 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. And editors@gamesetwatch.com get us, too. You know what to do!]