SHELTER

It was in the rapids that I lost my first cub.

There was no warning, just the sudden sense of shock as a vast wave swept through our pack, submerging us all in a rolling tide of water. Darting to the shore, I immediately counted my remaining children, silently noting a missing face. Waiting for a few moments, I clung to the hope that it had perhaps gotten itself stuck on some kind of branch or stone and would soon appear, so we could continue on as a family… However, there was no choice but to continue trekking through the wilderness – if not for progression’s sake, but for the hungry four that trailed, squealing at my feet.

Shelter is not in any form a conventional game release. Developed by independent studio, Might and Delight – best known for 2012’s Pid – it is, essentially, a badger life simulator. With no emphasis on controls or direction, the game places you into the role of a mother badger (or, sow), who must care for her five, individually patterned cubs that dance playfully around their earthy sett. Digging roots and catching smaller prey, you must keep your family fed as you travel the land, fending off danger and always keeping a close eye on the safety of your pack.

The true aspect that instantly attracted me to Shelter was its beautifully simple art style. Rendered in a very basic, I-hate-to-say-retro ruggedness, the game relies heavily on its immersive world and bright, organic patterns that certainly draw you into an atmosphere of pure, untouched nature. It becomes very clear how much Might and Delight opted to focus on character and personality throughout this experience, creating a game that feels almost as if you are playing through an intricate landscape painting – whereas, say, a studio that had tried to emulate realism in its graphics would have fallen far short of the mark, leaving us with a cold, artificial copy.

Shelter is a world that drinks deeply from your sense of concern and nurturing, quickly cementing a strong bond to your pack, without the need for introduction or additional information that most modern games rely so heavily upon. An atmospheric, acoustic soundtrack drips and fades along your journey, complimenting each subtle note of season, whilst also inspiring fear and dread with every passing danger. It is these small, immersive details that all combine so perfectly into an experience that can become heavily entwined in emotion throughout play. The huge sigh of relief as you finally manage to pounce on that elusive fox you’d been stalking, giving your cubs that little, extra boost; the careful, measured steps through the undergrowth, terrified of the hawk that circles above – the little moments and spikes of sentimentality that shape every minute along the way.

This is not by any means a long game – I counted roughly four or five stages in total – however, it certainly warrants the time spent exploring and indulging in its rich, lively environments. The gameplay itself could perhaps be compared to one giant escort mission, but it is important to note that the cubs are by no means a burden upon you, rather travelling companions that you honestly feel indebted to protect. In full circle, I began this review detailing the death of one of my own, and it was a hard blow of loss that far surpassed any other title I have played of similar ilk.

Beside being a great new addition and real victory for Steam’s Greenlight, Shelter inspires an appreciation of the hardships within nature and, ultimately, motherhood itself – a must play for any who wish to escape the decaying, urban shadow that haunts so much of our lives, for a small glimpse into the untouched circle of the animal kingdom.

Buy it on steam here or from the website here

Visit Might and Delight’s website here

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MISTS OF PANDARIA: CINEMATIC TRAILER AND OTHER NEWS

Ever since Blizzard announced their fourth expansion, Mists of Pandaria, I felt uneasy. “They’re going to include Pandas? They’re not going to be good characters at all!” Trust me, after watching this, I had no doubts that this will be a good expansion.

This trailer might be what Blizzard needed. It seems like many people have now changed their minds. Have you? I certainly have. I’m leaving later to pre-order this, just so I can have it day one. I’ll be writing more reviews and articles about this expansion, once it comes out this September.

Along with the trailer, Blizzard revealed two things: First, that all races are going to be playable, no matter which expansions you own. If you only have Warcraft and Burning Crusade, don’t worry, you can still play a Worgen. You won’t be able to create a Death Knight, though. Even the Pandaren will be available, but no Monks without Mists. It’s likely that the continent of Pandaria itself won’t be available to people who don’t purchase MoP, but the starting area for our beloved pandas will.

The other news is something that excited me a lot. One of the problems that I felt that this pack was going to suffer was the lack of a major threat. Cataclysm had Deathwing, Wrath had the Lich King and Burning Crusade had Illidan. But now, Blizzard told us who’s the last boss now. Watch out, spoilers. It’s no one else than Garrosh himself. That’s right, we’re finally going to be able to kick some Hellscream ass.

Are you as excited as I am for Mists of Pandaria? You can pre-purchase it here, as I have done already.

DRAGONVALE

Back in 2006, I saw the trailer for Viva Piñata for the first time. The first thing that came to my mind was, what the hell? Three years later, my friend lent me Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise for the DS. And I absolutely loved it! I then proceeded to play both Xbox versions, and 100% one of them.

But now, Backflip Studios has released a game that surprised me in a way that no iOS game has. I first started DragonVale a few weeks back, I played the tutorial and I was done with it. But two days later, while I was bored and had nothing to do (like usually) I whipped out my iPod and loaded the game and damn, I was hooked.

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But what makes it so damn addictive? I believe it is it’s simplicity. The concept of the game is very basic, you have a “garden” and you have some dragons. But then, you can breed those dragons, and you have a ton of different types of them, such as Mountain, Sun, Cold, etc. They will then generate money for you, which you can use to improve your island so you get more visitors, buy new species, harvest food, and more.

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Don’t worry, the dragons won’t stay all cute for ever. They actually do get badass.

Remember the old ninja saying that patience is a virtue? This game will test you on this to the maximum. Sometimes, when you breed your precious pets, you’ll have to wait 12 hours for them to finish breeding, and then another 6 hours for the egg to hatch. Although this might sound discouraging, it’s actually really great, since you can do other things meanwhile. Also, some dragons will generate money so fast that you’ll have to keep checking back constantly. Oh, and I’ll let you in on a little secret. While I was writing this, every time I finished a paragraph I’d go back into the game for a few minutes. Tee hee!

There are 30 levels, and you’re gonna have a fun, yet tough, time getting there (I’ve been playing this game for about 20 hours total and I’m still at 12). There are over 60 variations of dragons, with the developers constantly updating the catalog. Sometimes they’ll even release holiday specials, such as the Love dragon or the Firework dragon!

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Their designs are just awesome.

The bad thing about this game is, you probably won’t be patient enough. For example, right now I have to wait 8 hours for my dragons to finish breeding, and though I have much to do in those 8 hours, I keep going back to the game and expecting them to be done, with no results. Although there are methods of skipping these waits, you basically have to pay for in-game stuff and I don’t really like that.

Another fun thing about the game is going into your friends’ garden, and instantly thinking: “I want my island to be much more badass than this!”. The social aspect of the game really adds some competition.

Do you think the game sounds cool? Then head on over to the App Store and download it, for free!

TWO DAYS UNTIL E3…

In a couple of days, the massive event E3 will kick off, which means we’ll get to hear a ridiculous amount of announcements. In fact, there are so many rumors of what we’ll see that it is staggering. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Nintendo: 

Nintendo’s show is going to be primarily focused on the introduction of the Wii U (and hopefully we’ll see a name change), its features and the games. Until now, we’ve heard that a launch title will be Super Mario Bros. Mii, but thats about it. We know that Valve and EA are competing for providing a network service for Nintendo, so I guess we’ll find out more about that. There has also been a rumor floating around that says a Star Fox – Metroid fusion is on the works, which I believe seems very cool. Oh and a personal favorite: Pikmin 3.

On the other side, we will also see new gamed for the 3DS. Titles such as Luigi’s Mansion 2, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance and Pokémon: Conquest. However, I really hope that they reveal the next Super Smash Bros. (which is rumored to be cross-platformed.)

Playstation:

So far, we’ve heard about Sony’s Super Smash Bros. ripoff: Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, but not many details have arisen. Also, an Assassin’s Creed for the PS Vita has been announced. So far there’s not much Sony exclusives that we know about, but don’t worry: they’re likely to announce many things. Perhaps we’ll get to see a small peek of the PlayStation 4.

 Xbox:

There are only two things worth talking about for the Xbox: Halo and Gears of War. Game Informer released an image teasing the next Gears, which we now know is going to be a prequel to the trilogy, featuring Cole Train and Damn Baird and Kilo Squad as the protagonists. And Halo 4 will start of where we last left it off: wandering in space. So far we have seen a couple of images featuring new Spartans, but not much.

 Non-exclusive games:

Where to begin… We have Assassin’s Creed III, Resident Evil 6, Skyrim: Dawnguard, Dead Space 3, Lara Croft, Black Ops II, Borderlands 2, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, Crysis 3, Darksiders II, Metro Last Light and Far Cry 3.

No matter what type of gamer you are, which console you prefer, or which genre you usually play, E3 will surely have something for you.