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Just another day in the pixel mines.

Queasy Games

Music games can generally be divided into two broad categories: games that ask you to take part in making the music, and games where the music drives the gameplay. Sound Shapes straddles the line between those two types of games while layering an incredibly satisfying, abstract take on 2D platform games on top as well.

As you know if you've read our previous coverage, Sound Shapes turns you into nothing more than a small, sticky circle, caught in a world full of simple, abstract shapes rendered primarily in stark, solid colors. The goal is to roll and hop around to collect floating coins dotted around the game's rooms while avoiding enemies and their attacks, which are helpfully highlighted in a deadly red.

It sounds simple, and it is, as far as the gameplay is concerned (though the designers do a good job of stretching the simple concept as far as it can go, with levels that force you to make smart use of the jumping and sticking mechanics). But what makes the game really stand out is the way that each coin you collect activates a note that gets layered into a constantly evolving, mesmerizing backbeat that follows you from room to room.

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Beautiful? Yes. Playable? Somewhat...

Sony

I've never taken hallucinogenic drugs. I've always kind of wanted to experience the type of transcendent, out-of-body experience I've heard other people describe when on them, but I've always been a little too concerned with the potential long-term effects on my brain chemistry. But now I've played Dyad, so I'm no longer so concerned about what I'm missing out on.

Playing Dyad is like diving to an interactive version of the Star Gate sequence from near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. An ethereal avatar sits at the bottom of a long tunnel of neon-colored enemies that are constantly flying out toward the screen. The avatar can rotate around the edges of the tunnel to avoid those colored enemies, or "hook" herself onto them to pull herself down the tunnel more quickly. While the first few levels are sparsely populated with just a few well-spaced colored dots, the tunnels quickly fill up with new, more threatening enemies and features like speed-boosting zip lines and invincibility spheres.

The levels each have varied goals—racing through a tunnel as quickly as possible, staying alive as long as possible, killing as many enemies as possible while invincible—but they all rely on carefully riding a razor's edge line between risk and reward. Crashing into enemies will cause a momentum-killing collision, but sliding by just to the side can give you energy for a dashing lance attack. Riding a speed-boosting zipline will get you to the next checkpoint faster, but limit your movement and make it that much harder to interpret what's coming quickly.

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Click here to read This Acid-Trip Game Looks Amazing, Even When I'm Playing It Wrong

I've never experimented acid or done any kind of psychedelics. People say it's great, except for all the flashbacks and stuff. From my never-tripped point-of-view, Dyad looks like it simulates an chemically altered mindstate pretty damn well. It's got a lot more going for it than just that, though. More »

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Click here to read This Is How You Bring a Manga to Life!

There are a lot of surprises in One Piece: Pirate Warriors but none are quite as impressive as how good the game looks. Much like Sega's Valkyria Chronicles, the entire game is rendered in a cell-shaded art style, with all the shadows made to look as if done via a colored pencil. The result is the perfect visual style for a game based on a Japanese manga-turned-anime. More »

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Pinball FX 2

A round-up of recent games I’ve been playing and enjoying (you’ll find all of them here).

  • Driver: San Francisco (PS3/360) — This is possibly my favorite game that came out in 2011 (or a close tie with Forza 4). An absolute blast to play, with so many fun side missions, all focusing on driving and stunts. 
  • Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (XBLA) — No reason not to get this if you liked the original Alan Awake game. Nice follow-up.
  • Pinball FX 2 (XBLA) — Having a lot of fun with the new Epic Quest table (pictured above), which even adds a few RPG elements.
  • Law & Order: Legacies (iOS) — The gameplay is reminescent of the inerrogations in L.A. Noire — which I liked — and it’s great to have the show’s theme play throughout. It’s available on a bunch of platforms, but it’s perfect for iPad, which is how I’m playing it.  

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Click here to read <em>Ni No Kuni's</eM> Cutscenes are a Gorgeous Way to Start your Monday

I'm quite taken by Level-5's upcoming RPG Ni No Kuni. A big reason for that is the helping hand the developers have had from animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli. So watching three of the game's cutscenes is definitely something I can recommend. More »

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 This Game Begins at the End and is Played in Reverse. With a Guitar.

Matt Gilgenbach is the kind of forward thinker who makes a video game to propose to his girlfriend, fakes his way onto an MTV reality show (or so he told me), and creates a video game like Retro/Grade that is played entirely in reverse. More »

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Click here to read <em>Ninja Gaiden 3</em> Could Be the Hardest PlayStation Move Game Ever

Today at Gamescom in Germany, Tecmo's Team Ninja revealed that Ninja Gaiden 3 was getting physical with the PlayStation Move, finally allowing the player and Ryu to commiserate over how difficult it is to slash at enemies for hours on end. More »

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