Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild Review: A new take on a classically loved game

By: Rachel Frederick

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After a long, painful wait, Zelda fans around the world can finally rejoice at the arrival of the new Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild game. While the game was first promised before the release of the Wii U, and then constantly delayed until now, the wait was officially worth it. Made for the Nintendo Wii U and the new Nintendo Switch, the creators decided to go outside the box for what fans know Zelda to be. Instead of going from Dungeon to dungeon, the game has now become an open world experience.

You can spend hours just climbing mountains, collecting ingredients, making food, taming wild horses, and generally exploring. I personally have had it for over a week at this point, have gotten through a lot of quests that are there, gone through a lot of the land, and seen many enemies. But I am still nowhere near being done. In true open world experience, while plugging along on the main story path, it is easy for something else to catch your eye to drag you off to a new adventure.

The main story itself is a beautifully woven story, with a lot of history that you uncover as Link tries to restart his memories from 100 years ago when the Great Calamity had taken his friends and made him go into a deep sleep until the start of the game. The other characters that you encounter are all so well thought out and make the story stronger, even just the random travellers you pass by. With all the side quests that you do for some of the people you meet, as well as the relationships you make with the different people of the villages that are trying to help you find a way to save Hyrule, the game will make you invested in saving this world. As well, the voice acting that has been created for this game is something a few people were worried would take away the quality of Zelda games, has added a whole new level of emotions and experience for the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game that anyone can pick up. Whether you are a huge Zelda fan like myself, who has to accept that some things for Zelda may forever be different – such as the hard acceptance that you will never have easy weapons that will never break again. The game is also really interesting for new gamers as well. It brings such a classic Zelda love, but all these new experiences that can bring in lots of new fans who can also experience the joy and excitement that past Zelda fans have felt for decades.

5/5

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Exclusive Experience at the Toronto Nintendo Switch Event

By: Jillian Thistle

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With the release of the new Nintendo Switch on March 3rd, Nintendo has taken the switch to a few major cities to show fans what the new console will look like. Toronto, ON, Canada was one of those lucky cities, and for the whole weekend they had the switch. On Friday and Saturday it was invite only, but on Sunday any true fan who was willing to wait was able to experience and try a few games from the Switch. I was fortunately lucky enough and wanted to retell of my experience.

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To get into the Nintendo Switch event was an ordeal itself. I arrived at 7:15am, Nintendo asked people not arrive before 7am, which at least 500 individuals must have ignored. By the time 8am hit they put up signs saying that they were at full capacity so there was no point in anyone else lining up. When I finally reached the front it was after 9am and all the passes for 10am were gone but I managed to get one from 1-3 and a neat Nintendo switch pin. At 12pm they started herding us into a large room so a line up could be properly attempted to get into the shows room. And at 1pm the line started moving.

When we went up some stairs they had a huge room built into the convention centre with dimmed lights and flashing purple and blue lights. Each game was set up at different stations with multiple Nintendo brand ambassadors at each station to guide you and through the demos or games. They had a large stage set up that they called up volunteers to play on and gave out some neat prizes. I loved the idea of the stage because it gave me something to watch while I was waiting in line up. Sadly, because the Zelda demos were 20 minutes long they gave tickets to the first few people to reach the booth, being towards the end of the line meant I didn’t get one. But I still got to experience a lot of other great things for the switch, these are some of my experiences of the games I got to play.

Console and controllers:

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The Switch console was a lot smaller than I expected it would be in person and it’s quite thin. I can easily see myself fitting it in my purse and taking to a friend’s house or on a long commute. The joy con was micro. I had to keep looking at the button to see what was what, I feel like it’ll feel more natural in time.

I found the controller felt very solid but I can see young children smashing them easily. The different placement of the joy sticks on the left and right controller didn’t bother me in game play at all, I didn’t even notice the difference. The Switch Pro controller was prefect, it looks a lot like the Wii-U pro, and for a small system the pro controller was very solid.

1 2 Switch:

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This was the game I wanted to play most. It seemed interesting and like a lot of fun to play with friends. Nick and I each got a Joy Con and two ambassadors showed us the cow milking game and the “marble” game. For the cow milking game, we both had to move the joy con like we were milking a cow. It made me feel really dumb, and it was pretty weird, so I feel like it would be great party game where you can poke fun at your friends.

The second game was the marble one. This felt more like a showcase of the HD rumble feature then a game to me. The joy con rumbled in a way that when you tilted it, it felt like there were little marbles moving in the controller. The point of the game was to guess how many marbles. Nick guessed right, I did not. It was pretty neat to see why I was wrong though, I held the joy con on a slant which was similar to having marbles in a box and turning the box so it’s corner is the lowest point, so the “marbles” clashed off each other often and made it seem like there was more in the “box”. Weird game, but it was pretty cool to see how impressive the joy con’s rumble is, especially since it was a big part of their presentation in January, and just how much the switch and its new controllers can do.

 
Splatoon 2:

We played this game with the Switch’s pro controller. The controller felt very natural to me and the tilt controller weren’t too hard to work with. We only got to play two matches but I really enjoyed them. I was very into Splatoon when it launched and it feels very much the same but a few enhancements to some of the weapons weak points. I played one round with a new weapon, it was similar to the first games splatter shot, its special was the new rocket pack. I enjoyed how balanced the weapon is. For a few seconds you’re high in the air and can fire large blasts of paint around, but once you’re done you start back at the same location you took off from, so while you’re strong for a few second someone can easily wait and splat you the second you’re done.

Next I played with the familiar roller. I found it was a bit slower than it was in the first game, however since I only played once I can’t be sure. Its new special attack was my favourite. You slam down and make a large semi-circle of paint splash around you. As a roller player in the first game I found that whenever I noticed someone was behind me I was helpless due to the slow turning speed of the roller, this really helps fix that weakness. I know that Splatoon 2 is going to be one of the main reasons I get a Switch.

Arms:

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As much as everyone likes to laugh at Nintendo’s new IP you shouldn’t knock it until you try it. Arms was very fun. I didn’t get to play long enough to get to learn how to play well but it was fun. A downside to the game is that you need two sets of joy con to play it, and besides matches against your friends there doesn’t seem to be much content. I’d like to keep my eye on this game and see what else is added to it, and what type of solo play is added. I can see this game being a lot of fun at tournaments or another great party game with friends.

Has Been Heroes:

I was looking forward to this game after seeing it played on the Nintendo treehouse and was very disappointed. I believe that the main reason I didn’t like the game was because of the girl that showed me how to play. Her teaching guide was press this, press that, and the game will do that. She showed me everything in the controls in less than 10 seconds and then didn’t pay attention to me clearly not getting the controls right. Nick had a better time with the game but wasn’t very impressed. I’m hoping to see more of this and maybe hear a price point before I decide if I’ll give it another try.

Snipper Clips:

Out of all the games I played this will likely be the one I get first when I get a Switch. At a price point of 25 US it’s half of the price of a full game because it has less content. I’ve always been a fan of puzzle games and I loved how Nick and I had to work together to solve the puzzles. It reminded me of portal 2’s co-op campaign but more cut and less yelling at each other. We got stuck in a level because we dropped a key item and couldn’t see to pick it back up and the game timed out. All in all, it was cute, fun, and a relaxing puzzle experience and a great new addition to Nintendo games.

Bomberman:

I got to play this for one minute and 40 seconds. All I can say is its bomber man, it’s fun, and the revenge carts make me very excited to play with a large group of friends. It will also be a great addition to the games that are coming out for the Switch. Having another Bomberman game is always a bonus!

 
In the end, this experience has made me even more excited for the arrival of the switch. I have been excitedly waiting for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but all the other games seem more than worth it as well! I know that I cannot wait for March 3rd.

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Pokemon Retrospective: Pokémon Silver & Gold

By Tim Parsons

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3 years after the release of Red and Green in Japan, Gold and Silver were released to the masses. The game added a new region, 100 new pokemon, two new types, an expanded story, and new game mechanics. But does the second outing fail to capture the fun of the original names? Or is it the icing on an already delicious cake? Let’s find out.

To be honest, I have a small bit of nostalgic love for the second generation of Pokémon. It was my first generation and the first game I ever played, so it was the gateway drug to my Pokémon addiction. But my love is well founded, because the second gen is a far improvement over the original.

The best thing of the game is the story. Obviously there’s the copy-and-paste story of the original game. Defeat the gym leaders and elite four, fight the villainous team, catch ’em all, and become the best like no-one ever was.
Unlike the original, there’s a post-credit story to bring trainers back, and we return to the region of Kanto. You fight the gym leaders again, raise your team’s level, and catch even more Pokémon. However, the final fight with Red is a great highlight of any Pokémon game, and makes you feel like you’re truly a Pokemon Master.

The added Pokemon are a great feature to the new games. New evolutions to Pokémon like Golbat and Onix are great additions to already good Pokémon, and the newly introduced baby Pokémon are adorable. The Pokédex has lots of powerful and great looking Pokémon like Houndour, Ampharos, Feraligatr, and Tyranitar. But there are also some derpy & worthless entries like Dunsparce, Sunflora, and Delibird. The colors were changed from the single hue, and add a lot of detail to the designs.

The new game mechanics were a blessing and a curse for the games, but mostly a blessing. The split between Special Attack and Special Defense helped the balancing issue greatly. Now a Pokémon can be a frail heavy-hitter, or a defensive light-weight. However, the damage dealt depends on the type of move. Fire/Ice/Thunderpunch are still special moves, making them useless for a lot of physical attackers that can use it.

The added types of Steel and Dark work great to fix the balancing against Psychic types and give Fighting types more to do. Steel is amazing, but Dark is a bit tricky since it’s attacks are special based, and most Dark types are physical attackers.

Breeding is a great help for those trying to complete the Pokédex, now that anyone can have all the Eeveelutions, the Tyrouge line, and baby Pokémon.

The Apricorn balls aren’t very special, since a good Ultra ball usually does the trick.
Shiny Pokemon are a cool trophy, but they happen so rarely that I didn’t get a shiny until my third playthrough of Emerald. The color change looks good on some Pokemon, but weird on others.

If there’s one flaw, I must bring up about these games, it’s the level scaling. After the fourth gym, you can either complete the Olivevine and Cianwood cities before Mahogany and the Lake of Rage, or visa-versa. Because of this, levels are pretty low on both sides, which lead to a lot of level grinding for the Olivevine and Mahogany gyms. This is also a problem in the elite four. Every playthrough I had resulted in me having the level grind with wild pokemon for hours before all my pokemon were at a viable level to take on the elite four. It was really tedious and frustrating. I didn’t find the Kanto gym leaders too hard, but level grinding for Red was a giant pain. Despite being a big flaw, this hardly hinders the overall game experience.

Overall, the second generation is a big step foreward from the first generation, and still hold up fairly well with the modern games.

Pokemon Gold & Silver get 3 1/2 Pokeballs out of 5

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The Elder Scrolls: Legends – Truly Legendary? Or just another Disappointing Myth?

By Thomas Rahal

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With the recent surge in the popularity of CCGs/TCGs among game developers and designers, largely due to the release of Blizzard’s Hearthstone 2 years back, there have been many attempts at reinventing and improving the formula. While some of these have been successful – and others not so much, there a quite a few whose prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled. Today’s suspect is The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Bethesda’s new spinoff in the Elder Scroll franchise and developed by Dire Wolf Digital. Let’s get started, shall we?

Gameplay:

First and foremost, The Elder Scroll: Legends – or TESL for short, is a strategy card game where you build a deck and pit yourself against other players and AIs – artificial intelligences. In each deck you may have anywhere from 50 to 70 cards with up to 3 copies of any card – except Uniques, which are 1 copy per deck. While games such as Hearthstone have opted for smaller decks, this design choice allows for greater variation among decks, while still having about the same chances of drawing a specific card when using 3 copies. There’s a wide variety of decks that you can build as you acquire more cards, and many of them can be viable on ladder – the ranked play system. But deck building and preparation is only half the battle, the “best” decks with all of the “best” cards will not ensure success in The Elder Scrolls: Legends.

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The deck editing mode, featuring the “Free-to-Play” deck that I got to the Legend Rank with -on the right

In order to win a game in TESL, the standard method is to reduce your opponent’s health to zero, while preserving your own. How you choose to do this is up to you, you can beat them down in the early stages of the match, outlast them until dominating the late stages, or anywhere in between. You could even wait until their deck is completely empty of cards, which results in an immediate loss when they try to draw a card at the start of their turn—although this isn’t viable with 50 card decks -yet…, it can happen. There are pros and cons to every deck and every strategy.

There are quite a few things in TESL that do a great job differentiating it from other “choose your attack target” card games, despite seeming like other CCGs such as Hearthstone. The first aspect would be in the board layout itself, the dual lane system. In TESL, there are two lanes in which you can place your creatures/minions. Creatures in one lane can only attack enemy creatures in the same lane. This seemingly minor change results in a fairly complex decision making process of deciding where to put your minions and when to do. A huge creature getting you down by continually eating your creatures? Put them in the other lane instead. Want to outplay your opponents? Predict their strategy for future minion placement and subvert it, forcing them to take the difficult and risky routes to -possible routes, giving you control and the upper hand. If the strategic possibilities of two lanes didn’t strike your fancy, then factor in the reality that at least one of the lanes will have special effects added to it in most games, such as buffing creatures placed in it, giving you extra mana, or hiding your stuff from attacks for a turn, and you have a plethora of possibilities in store while giving a lot of cards value where they might not have had any otherwise.
The other game changing aspect that sets The Elder Scrolls: Legends apart from other current card games would have to be the Rune mechanics. As your health reaches certain thresholds for the first time in a match – 25,20,15,10, and 5 health a “rune”, will break and you immediately draw a card. This helps prevent situations where a player has almost nothing to do as their opponent beats them down without restraint. Add in the “Prophecy” mechanic present on many of the game’s cards, which lets a player play a card with Prophecy immediately -for free! if it’s drawn via Rune breaking -even on the opponent’s turn, and you have a battle of wits, my friends! Cards with Prophecy are generally only cards that disrupt you opponent on their turn and/or prevent your opponent from decreasing your health further. This system brings in decision making on whether or not you want to attack your opponent’s health directly, creating a “health matters” system where health is a resource more than ever. Not to mention always giving losing players a chance to come back if their opponent makes a mistake, depending on how that losing player built their deck in the first place. It also discourages super aggressive strategies that don’t interact much with your opponent’s minions at all, while not making those strategies obsolete, they just require more thought and care in how they’re played. In fact, I got to the highest rank in TESL -the Legend Rank by mostly playing an aggressive free-to-play deck that focused on summoning and buffing an army of minions distributed across both lanes, using hard removal to take care of priority targets that would simply end me if they lived.

I have to say that I’m in love with the strategic depth of TESL, which gives it a very high skill ceiling, while still keeping the complexity up front low enough for new players to come in and learn – “easy to learn, hard to master”. But that’s not all that makes up The Elder Scrolls: Legends, moving on!

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A typical “mid” to “late game” board state in The Elder Scrolls: Legends

 

Aesthetics and Story:

As I’m sure you can tell by now, TESL takes place in, and draws inspiration from, the Elder Scrolls universe. You know, the one where The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and all the ones before it took place. That said, everything in the game -including the cards, story, music, battlefield, etc. takes inspiration from the main series in their designs, and this is done beautifully. The melodies and rhythm of the music sounds epic and grandiose while the art fully encapsulates the look of the Elder Scrolls world. No cards feel out of place, oozing of Elder Scrolls flavor; the Breton spell casters use wards to deflect damage, the siege catapult needs a full lane of friendly minions to operate it, the dragons feel powerful to play and fight with, and some sneaky Khajiit pilfer the theoretical wallet of the opponent when they strike him/her -gaining benefits. Dire Wolf Digital did an excellent job of translating the aesthetics of their source material, to the game.

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The flavorfully big “Siege Catapult”, and the unique legendary dragon, “Odahviing”.

With regards to the linear story mode, it isn’t so much of an actual “story mode”, as it takes the role of a tutorial, teaching you the basics and giving you cards and basic decks as you progress through it. While it does have some RPG elements, the choices that it offers you at the end of some story matches, represented by the cards gained when picking one or the other, do not appear to affect the story in any meaningful way in my experience. Not to mention that, while you may replay every story match out of the 20 if you want to, you can’t pick anything at the end of each one after replaying it. I won’t go into the details of the story, but in short, it’s short and sweet, but doubtfully canon to the universe as a whole. It does however, point to a possible continuation of your character’s story in future expansions.

Free-To-Play Aspects:

Just about every online card game is labeled “free-to-play” these days, with only a few of them really living up to that status, in not subtly requiring money to make any progress competitively, or just in general. Thankfully, TESL does an excellent job of allowing the player to not spend money in order to make a decent deck. Having first playing the game on the 4th of August, I was able to make it to the Legend rank -the highest rank on the competitive ladder without spending any money whatsoever -a free-to-play run, if you will. This included the time it took me to play through the story mode and many arena challenges.

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Be warned, it’s still a lot of work, free-to-play run or not.

There also exists “Soul Gems”, which is its own currency used for crafting specific cards. Soul gems are generally acquired, along with gold, through Arena prizes, but you can also break down the cards you already have yet don’t want. While the buy and sell cost don’t perfectly line up -legendaries break into enough for an epic, an epic into a rare, but a rare doesn’t break into a common? the soul gem prices are still reasonable when rounding out your collection with epics and legendaries, costing 400 and 1200 soul gems respectively. “Did I mention that you can farm the Practice AIs for up to 300 soul gems a day? While it can seem slow, with a 5-minute match getting you 15 gems against the Expert AI – which isn’t hard in my opinion, you may find that the AI can give you enjoyable gameplay against themed decks during your grind, if you choose to do it. Either way, you’ll find that if you put in the time and effort, The Elder Scrolls: Legends can be a good game to play without spending a penny.

The Verdict:

Bethesda’s and Dire Wolf Digital’s Elder Scrolls: Legends so far proves itself to be a phenomenal digital CCG with a ton of strategic depth, while still staying open to new players without too high of a learning curve, teaching them through its story mode. It also stays true to its source material, oozing with flavor that also comes through in the story mode while also hinting at future expansions as part of one of Bethesda’s best and most story-rich franchises. It even happens to be friendly to people who want to spend absolutely no money on the game, but not without patience and effort.

There are a few technical flaws/bugs that I didn’t get to discuss in depth, but they aren’t anywhere close to being game breaking or unbearable. Keep in mind that this is a game in open beta, where Dire Wolf Digital is still ironing out some stuff. You’ll also want your ISP -Internet Service Provider to not mess around with your bandwidths and online capabilities, as this is an online game hosted on remote servers.

But overall, my opinion is that The Elder Scrolls: Legends is a fantastic game that has a ton of potential, while already being able to stand up to more popular games such as Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering with its deeply strategic gameplay and aesthetics -and no potentially game ending cards based on random effects. I’m not a fan of review scores, as standards can vary among people, but on a scale from 0 to 10, I will give it the following score since it still needs refinement:

9/10

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DLCs Transform Destiny into the Game We All Wanted

By Sarah White

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When I first played Destiny I wasn’t overwhelmed with a sense of excitement, I wasn’t itching to go back and play the game again and again for hours on end. When I first played Destiny it felt like I was playing a subpar unfinished game. I tried to follow the games plot, but that only left me scratching my head. Some of the game mechanics didn’t make sense to me, what was strength, discipline and intellect?  What are all these things I can’t buy because I don’t have the required rank which I’ve never heard of? For all the hype that built up around Destiny prior to its release, the end project was lackluster.

The other week I took a stroll through EB Games looking for a game to pick up and play during my two week break between semester and work term. Then I saw Destiny: The Taken King which included the Dark Below, House of Wolves as well as The Taken King itself. So I bought it. When I began the first DLC, the Dark Below, I wasn’t expecting much of anything. Just more of the same game I played before. I’m going to try my best to articulate why I felt that I was suddenly playing a different game.

After I completed the first couple of missions, it felt like I was playing the real version of Destiny. The one they promised in the trailers and all the promo before they released the shell of the game that I ended up playing. It felt like the core mechanics of the game itself had changed – when in actuality it hadn’t. I found that before I played the DLCs, it was very hard to level up by replaying old missions or doing the uneventful patrol missions. I didn’t often play in the Crucible – an online arena, Team Death Match or Free for All type matches, because I knew my character was not well equipped to fight against stronger players, despite the level advantages being turned off. I did not play strikes because I found them extremely difficult and ultimately it wasn’t fun.

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But with the addition of new quests and new storylines to follow, suddenly following the games plot didn’t seem so taxing. The new quests opened up new doors and new opportunities to level up and grow your character to its fullest extent. I was levelling up with ease and progressing my way through the plot of the various DLCs and before I realized it, I hit the max level. I think this was in part to some updates that had been made to the game to allow users to level up their character by experience and not purely by their Light level.

It was then that I realized the game really comes to life once you’ve hit the level cap at 40. When you’re level 40, you have access to all the best gear which can improve your Light – another factor which dictates how difficult your quests are, as most usually show a recommended Light level. Once you have a high enough Light level, new strikes and events are available that are tagged as level 41 or 42 that would give even the best players a challenge.

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My advice to anyone who, perhaps, hasn’t played the game yet – buy the DLCs with the game. Otherwise you’re going to be like I was, feeling like you just played this unfinished product that leaves a sour taste in your mouth. This is a game where the DLC does in fact add to the game – for those of you who read one of my earlier articles on DLCs. It can be argued that in the case of Destiny, the DLCs complete the game for someone who maybe isn’t as interested in the competitive online modes.

All in all, the DLCs for Destiny far surpassed my expectations for them. So far in fact I’m probably going to buy the latest DLC Rise of Iron when it comes out on the 20th – something that surprised me when I realized I wanted to buy it.

Destiny (before DLCs) – 5/10

Destiny (after DLCs) – 8.5/10

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Pokémon Retrospective: Yellow

By Tim Parsons

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Game Freak’s next step in the Pokémon franchise took heavy inspiration from the Pokémon anime, in that it’s Red & Blue with an anime makeover.

Once again you play a ten-year-old boy, but instead of getting one of 3 starters, you start off with a Pikachu that follows you around. Your new friend travels with you, and becomes more friendly, the more battles you win. You’re able to get all three of the starters throughout the game, and instead of one of the original three starters, your Rival gets an Eevee at the start, the evolution of this Eevee depends on which battles you win or lose against him. Team Rocket also get Jessie & James from the anime, and the gym leaders have different teams to reflect their anime counterparts.

There’s actually a mini-game that I found myself addicted to. By getting a Pikachu that can use surf, you can play a surfing game similar to Excitebike. You control Pikachu as they ride the waves, doing flips and tricks along the way. The more flips you do, the more points you get, but the game starts moving faster. It’s a small feature, but a fun mini-game none the less.

Besides those few changes, there isn’t much I can say about it since everything else is similar to Red & Blue, but I find that I like Pokémon Yellow a little bit more for the few changes it makes to the original games. The differences while small help to make it still feel like a new game and give you different opportunities in the Pokémon world.

Pokemon Yellow get 3 Pokeballs out of 5.

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Sandbox Selects – Our Favorite Indie Games

Compiled by: Dylan Hardy

Indie games have been on a steady rise over the past few years and for a lot of people, some of their favorite games ever come from this genre. They come in all shapes and sizes – from truck simulators, bright coloured puzzles, to 8-bit dungeon simulators. No matter what kind of tastes you have, there is definitely an Indie game out there for you.

I asked a few members at Sandbox Gaming to give me their favorite Indie Games. Some you might have heard of, but if you haven’t, I suggest you at least give it a look on Steam! Without further ado, here is Sandbox Gaming’s favorite Indie Games.

  1. Thomas Rahal (Committee Member) – The Legend of Grimrock

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The Legend of Grimrock brings back the good ol’ dungeon crawling RPG, hosting plenty of dark and winding corridors and oodles of secrets, riddles, and puzzles. Combined with tense, grid-based combat, party customization – I had an all-bald party of Nappa, Mace Windu, Walter White, and The Last Airbender one time, and a mysterious yet unnerving atmosphere, The Legend of Grimrock pushes all of my hidden wall buttons in all the right ways.

  1. Kyle Heath (Volunteer) – The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth

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One of the best indie games in my opinion is The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth. It’s a rogue-like which means that it’s different every time you play and with over 250 achievements you’ll be playing for a long time. If you haven’t checked it out before then I urge you to do so. Afterbirth is an expansion made for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. This expansion brings in opportunities for more items, new enemies and floors, as well as new bosses to try and defeat. As well as a new mode called Greed Mode which is said to be much harder than the original story. So if you like an extra challenge, this game is definitely for you.

3. Sasha Power (Volunteer) – Don’t Starve/Don’t Starve Together

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Imagine if Tim Burton made an indie survival game, and then decided you could play it with your friends. The result is Don’t Starve and Don’t Starve Together, a hands-off “old game” hard title from Klei Entertainment. Outside of some light questing elements, the focus of these dark, yet lighthearted games are how you’ll survive. I’ve died in every way imaginable – from enraged Beefalo to swarming spiders, and yet I keep coming back for more.

  1. Amanda Sproule (Volunteer) – Party Hard

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Party Hard is a pixelated game with a simple premise: murder everyone at a party so that you can get back to sleep. Sounds easy enough, but the randomization of the levels keeps the gameplay fresh and interesting. I like it because the traps in the game randomize every time the level is restarted, meaning that your method must be changed every time a level is restarted. Every time you play the game you get something different. There are only 19 levels available in the game, however I like that the Steam Workshop allows for user submitted levels.

  1. Christian Legge (Volunteer) – Guacamelee!

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Guacamelee! blew me away. From the very start it’s fun, fast-paced, funny, and freakin’ awesome. Throughout the game you unlock abilities that let you explore more of the world, but you never feel held back. It’s always exciting to beat a boss or overcome a hard platforming challenge, and with the large number of collectibles there’s always something new to do.

  1. Craig Ryan (Committee Member) – Nuclear Throne 

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Nuclear Throne is a top-down 2D shooter with rogue-like elements, developed by Vlambeer. The game features a group of mutants surviving in the apocalyptic landscape, full of terrifying creatures, interdimensional travel, and an overabundance of weapons. Nuclear Throne is brutally punishing, and incredibly frustrating, but still its players tend to go back for more. It definitely invokes “one more run” feelings in its players, and after almost 200 hours, I barely make it to the final boss one in every ten runs. If you’re looking for a fun, challenging experience with lots of weapons, look no farther than Nuclear Throne.

  1. James Reid (Board Member) – Stardew Valley

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Stardew Valley creator, Concerned Ape, took the simple and basic concept of the Harvest Moon franchise and started making his own version of the game. What started out as a simple way to practice game development turned into a 4 year development process, leading to the release of one of the best selling Indie Games of 2016. The gameplay is simple but fun, characters are lovable, music is serene and peaceful and the game design and mechanics are great. This game is so well polished, it’s hard to believe it was made by one man. The amount of dedication he put into and continues to put into this game, more than equals the amount a full team at a major game company can do.

  1. Kate Oxford (Volunteer) – Undertale

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Undertale is my favourite indie game because it keeps me coming back for more. The opportunity to kill or spare key characters can change the course of the entire story. That, plus the HUGE range of secrets there are to discover, makes the game wonderfully replayable. Additionally, the mechanics of saving your game are also a part of the universe, and past playthroughs can affect future games. Most importantly, this pixelated RPG runs through the full gamut of emotions – I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve been genuinely terrified. It leaves you feeling connected to the characters and the world.

  1. Dylan Hardy (Committee Member) – Project Zomboid

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Project Zomboid is a top down zombie-survival RPG game where your primary goal is to survive. However, what makes this game so darn fun is the scavenge and craft system. On top of this system you have RPG elements you choose for your character every time you start. Each decision you make before jumping into the game matters, so you have to choose wisely. Every time you search a house, you never truly know what you’ll find. The fact that this game keeps track of your hydration, hunger as well as health, makes the game feel tense, something that I love in games. Plus, its art style and soundtrack just help make this game more atmospheric. If this is your type of game, I’d recommend you to check it out!

10. Rachel Frederick (Board Member) – Never Alone

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Never Alone is a puzzle platformer game that is based on Alaskan indigenous stories which are the basis of the eight chapters. You play as a young Inupiaq girl or her new fox friend as you try to find the reason for the blizzard storm. With the overlaying story telling that happens within the game it quickly gets you hooked to the story line and leaves you wanting to learn more. It also has a two player opportunity as well. So if you love puzzle platform games, and want one that has beautiful scenery, a great story, or cute characters, this game is definitely a game for you.

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Pokémon Retrospective: Pokémon Red & Blue

By Tim Parsons

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The Pokémon franchise has become a staple of entertainment for all, from kids from the 90’s to today. It’s grown to be the third highest grossing game franchise of all time, and with the seventh generation of games, Sun and Moon, coming to the 3DS in November 2016, I can’t think of a better time for a retrospective review of the main Pokémon games. This series will look at the mainstream Pokémon games (Red, Gold, Ruby, etc.), the sister games (Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, etc.), remakes, and several spinoff games. Without further ado, lets take a look at the games that started it all, the first generation’s Red and Blue.

The story is very basic and gets repeated in every subsequent game. You play a ten-year-old boy who is given the chance to go out into the world of Pokémon with your very own partner. You have a Rival that challenges you from time to time, you are given the task the catch every Pokémon, collect all the gym badges, defeat the Pokémon League and become the best like no one ever was. Along the way, you must defeat the villainous Team Rocket, and their leader, Giovanni, through several encounters throughout the game.

Off the bat, I’ll say that this is the first time playing these games for me. For someone who has been a fan of Pokémon all his life and can’t remember a time without Pokémon, I started with the second generation games, so I have no nostalgic love of the originals and will not be as forgiving of their shortcomings. And sadly, there are quite a few of them.

Before you get your torches and pitchforks ready, know that I actually liked these games. It’s great to find how this series started out and it’s good to see how the games have only gotten better with time. To start with the positives, the most I can say is that it’s a Pokémon game. It’s always fun collecting different monsters, choosing the few that will aid you on your quest to become a Pokémon master, and watching them grow.

To start with the Pokémon designs, most of the original 151 designs hold up great in the new game. Pokémon like Nidoking, Arcanine, and Blastoise look great, but in every game there are lazy designs, such as Krabby, Voltorb, Rattata, and Ditto. An odd complaint I have is Venusaur’s back sprite. What the hell is that? It looks nothing like Venusaur. It’s a small gripe, but it’s always bothered me.

The story leaves a small bit to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, the main story of battling Team Rocket, all the gym leaders, and the reveal of your Rival as the champion are all fine and good, I’m talking about after the main story. There’s simply nothing to do. You can train all your Pokémon to the highest level if you want, or catch the rest of the pokemon you didn’t get in the main story, but besides that there’s a lot to be desired. Luckily, this would change in later games.

There’s no easy way of saying this next part, so here I go. THE MECHANICS SUCK!!! There are a lot of bugs in this game that bother me. For example, Critical hits and 1HKO are based on speed, so if you have slower but bulkier Pokémon, chances are you’re going to die a lot. Moves are dictated as physical or special depending on the type of move it is. For example, Normal moves are always physical, like Hyper Beam and Swift, while Water moves like Waterfall and Crab Hammer were special. This left Pokémon with stats conflicting with their types a very hard time, like Poliwrath and Lickitung. Another thing, the Special Attack and Special Defense are the same stat in the original games. So a Pokémon like Alakazam is not only incredibly tough to take down, but can do massive amounts of damage and even wipe out your whole team. Moves like Bind, Wrap, and Fire Spin keep the opponent from moving from 2-5 turns. Killing a Pokémon with Hyper Beam means you don’t have to recharge the next turn.

There are a lot more complaints I could make, but it would take up too many pages.

Like I said, I genuinely like these games. It’s great to see where my favorite game franchise started. The games are a lot of fun, but in my opinion they fall short compared to more recent games, including their remakes, which we will get to.

Pokémon Red and Blue get 2 ½ Pokeballs out of 5

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Feathery Justice: Aviary Attorney brings Meaning to Fight or Flight

By: Ashley Quirke

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If you’re a fan of Phoenix Wright – or just a bird lover, like myself, then you’ll be hooked on Aviary Attorney by Sketchy Logic Games. You play as Jayjay Falcon, the owner and operator of Aviary Attorney, who, along with his pun-loving assistant Sparrowson, do their best to solve the crimes of 1840’s Paris.

As the pair scours the city for clues, they are met with some absolutely delightful and memorable characters. From nervous rabbit prosecutors, to pompous lion aristocrats, to cocky rooster rivals. Each character very much has their own personality, which adds a lot of flavor to a very dialogue heavy game. Because of this, it’s not a slog to get through all the text. It’s a lot of fun to read through and see what each character has to say. There are puns aplenty, dad jokes, and even Phoenix Wright references – Step ladders anyone?

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The puns never end, and I love it!

Speaking of Phoenix Wright, the game plays very similarly to it, with an investigation phase followed by a trial phase. Each case gives the player a certain number of days to investigate a number of areas. It’s up to the player to decide where to visit, who to question, and what to do with the information. Normally, each area visited costs a day of investigation time, so players must choose wisely in order to accomplish as much as they can before trial day.

Aviary Attorney is one of those games where a player’s choices and decisions affect the outcome of the game. There are multiple endings, some good, some… not so good. The game is forgiving, thankfully, in that you can re-play any day of the game that you want at any point in time. If you get an undesired ending to a trial, it’s nothing to go back in time and fix your mistake! JUSTICE FOR ALL!

So whether you’re a die-hard Phoenix Wright fan who’s looking for a game in a similar vein, a super sleuth in the making, or (like me) just someone who loves birds, I cannot recommend this game enough. Between the colorful characters, interesting cases an incredible humor, you won’t be disappointed!

9/10

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Overwatch: First Person Shooters Never Die!

By: Dylan Hardy

If you’ve read any of the multiple Hearthstone articles I have written, you can automatically assume I am a Blizzard Fanboy – you’re right. From the days of World of Warcraft to my current addiction to Hearthstone, my love for the company is deep. When they announced Overwatch, a first-person shooter in 2014, I was a little on the fence but faithful knowing that Blizzard’s flair on the oversaturated genre would be enough to pull me back in. It was.

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So let’s start with the basics. Overwatch is a tactical objective based FPS with a very bright, colorful art style. There are a total of four class types – Offense, Defense, Tank and Support. Each of these classes are unique and to make the decision even deeper, each character in each class is completely different, ensuring there’s at least one character in the game to suit your type of play. On top of this each character has a special which is an overpowered move that pretty much ends up in at least one enemy dying if done right. The goal of each game is some sort of team objective, either controlling a hardpoint, or escorting a payload through multiple checkpoints. The thing that makes this game so interesting though is the ability to change your character as many times as you want per game, with each one of your deaths leading to the enemy team having to deal with another character they aren’t expecting. This constant adaptation made every single game I played in the game unique and entertaining.

So far there are twenty-one characters in Overwatch and all of them are playable in their own ways. Some characters’ benefit greatly on defending objectives, such as Bastion, who has the ability to transform into a mini-gun turret, or Torbjorn who is able to construct turrets to help defend control points. Others benefit with being able to push objectives and get in behind the competition, such as Tracer, who has the ability to burst in any direction up to three times. Every single character is unique and none of them had me thinking “Well this other character’s ability is just a better version of this”.

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I found myself playing Tank or Support the most, specifically Reinhardt and Lucio. Both of these characters in my opinion are the best of their class. Reinhardts got a huge barrier that blocks explosions and bullets from the enemy team, as well as a close range hammer that deals a lot of damage. His special is a large earth shaking attack that knocks down enemies and leaves them open for assault. He’s so good at controlling points and leading the charge that I found myself playing him in every game mode. Lucio on the other hand is a super unique support class. He is able to heal and provide a speed boost to surrounding teammates. I found him way better than the other supports as he was always able to get the team to the objective sooner and if behind, get the team to the objective to contest hardpoints or get us back in the game. His ultimate gives surrounding teammates a large shield that makes them pretty much unkillable for a few seconds which can be the difference a lot of the time in team fights. Plus, you know, he’s pretty much Jet Set Radio.

My biggest frustrations come from extremely annoying teams consisting of Bastions, Torbjorns and Meis. All and all, these characters are played generally in a way to annoy players. There is no greater frustration than watching Bastion hide away in a corner and just mow down your team, or not being able to get an accurate shot on Torbjorn’s turret before it kills you. Mei has the ability to seal herself in an ice block and heal herself or put walls up to limit movement, so dealing with her constant pestering is rage-inducing. On top of these character frustrations comes a lot of frustration with players as well – there were many times where I’d watch my offense teammates just constantly run into fire over and over just milking the enemy team’s ultimates.

The frustration wasn’t enough to keep me away though as I kept coming back for more games. Overwatch also offers fantastic party systems with group voice chat. I found myself using other applications for communications, however, as the “ ` “ button was just awkward to hit mid game. The more friends you have in your party the better as well, as Overwatch gives you bonus experience for being in a party.

Overall I was very impressed with Overwatch. I made the right choice to preorder it and if you didn’t get the chance to play it in the previous betas, this game is something to look out for in the coming year. It’s well worth the forty dollars on PC and I promise that you will have a blast.

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